Sensing a Shift

When I first started out on this adventure, I pictured myself as the heroine in my own archetypal journey. I knew I was beginning as The Fool, but could see myself taking on The World in no time. I was sure that by diligently walking the path placed before me, that of a life traveling to new places, meeting new people, and spending a lot of time alone in introspection, I’d be able to conquer the necessary tasks allowing me to learn and grow into a better, more giving, and more purposeful person. I’d basically architect my best life.

Fast forward 13 months, and I have indeed made much of my travels. I have many new friends, have experienced countless new places, and have even started to encounter those who find some hope in my stories based off my introspection.

Thing is, I don’t feel anywhere near finished with this journey, and even worse, I’m disconcerted at what I AM sensing.

That being: The path I am supposed to be walking is shifting, and this is throwing me all out of whack.

As I said, I thought observing new places and spreading my energy out as wide as possible would force me to extend and challenge myself. I figured by constantly throwing myself into a world of discomfort, and thus constantly having to swim through that world back to a comfortable place, I’d reach my end goal of architecting my best life.

However, I’m seeing now that I need a bit of self care and comfort along the way, and admitting this need, and then changing up my plans to meet it, is terrifying.

I believe the main reason I’m scared of this shift is because I’m afraid that altering my path means I’ve either A. failed or B. started to move in the wrong direction and away from growth.

Now… it’s not as if I’m NOT excited about, and grateful to be, traveling. It’s that with each step I take, I further realize that a new place, or anything external, isn’t solely responsible for my growth. As I’ve said before, it is up to me to change myself for any progress to be made, and I’ve proved to myself I can do this work anywhere and at anytime if, of course, I put in the effort.

What I’m seeing my new path shift to, may seem obvious considering the tagline of this blog, but I assure you I’m just realizing its fullness and importance in these past couple of days. The new focus being to work as hard as I can to align with that which makes me my best self as much as I possibly can.

I believe this practice of aligning with what is best is a combination of awareness (“What is this experience?”), reflection (“How does this experience help or hinder me?”), and acceptance (“Can I surrender to this experience and learn and grow from it?”). I can practice this wherever I am and in any situation I find myself, for the practice happens within me.

The main cause of this shift is that through this practice I’ve noticed traveling to new places while working is extremely exhausting for me. When I’m doing so, yes, I’m lucky be able to travel and work, but with each new place I not only have to physically get to the location, but I have to figure out every day logistics like meals, laundry, internet… you name it.

Therefore, if I’m traveling to multiple new places in a week or month, I’m doing this logistical dance over and over again, and it takes up a lot of my physical, mental, and emotional space. With this space taken up, I surely can’t do the self-work needed. Instead I’m just focusing on finding homeostasis. Distracting myself perhaps? Hmmmm.

When I’m in one place for awhile, however, I see that I can put together routines that make the every day life more efficient. So if I’m accepting the shift my path needs to take to allow me to align and be my best self, I see that going forward I have to travel to fewer new places and instead work to get back to familiar places where my routines are already set.

This means choosing comfort instead of courage, and in these times I question if choosing comfort is indeed the courageous act. Can you see my struggle?!

I thought about this a lot when I returned to The Gorge last week. I observed how I was SO relieved to be able to anchor in, work, and rest knowing the basics of the world around me. I knew where the grocery store was, where my favorite places were, where there would be free and good wifi. I also recognized how privileged I was and am to be able to feel this relief, and, being honest, I don’t want THAT to go to waste. But, again, I digress.

When talking to a local friend she mentioned how it’s as if being back in The Gorge now, I have more friends and go out more than when I lived here. Thing is, she’s right!

By being back in the familiar I can turn off the parts of my brain that are struggling to create structure because my structures are already in place. Instead I can use that energy to open myself up to new experiences and people. I can even open up to familiar friends but in a better way.

show at the hood river ruins
Live music at a local venue.
kelly and Lis
I get to go see live music with a friend when I’m in a familiar place. Woohoo!
Jacob Williams Winery
So lucky to be able to hang with friends in a beautiful place like this!
Jacob Williams Winery door
Enjoying a tasting with friends at Jacob Williams Winery.
terrier lying in the yard
Im sure Lyla would be happy to have me back.

I now see this opening up is just as much a part of the work as confronting the discomfort of a new place or person. In fact, it seems a deeper level of the onion to peel away.

The universe echoed this hypothesis when earlier this week I was invited back for potential housesits in both New Mexico for two to three months this upcoming winter, and Oakland for a month next Spring.

If these invites had happened earlier in my journey, I wouldn’t have considered them. Instead, I would have told myself that I needed to “get out and see new and different things”. Now I see that exposing myself to the uncomfortable and new is important, but it’s only the first step. I now have to take my practice deeper while in these familiar places.

I suppose, then, that I still am the heroine on this journey, but the meaning and way to the destination has leveled up. Perhaps this moment of reflection was one of those crisis moments where I assess the learnings I’ve gained and use them to better direct my aims?

When I think in this way I no longer wallow in the feelings of failure and doubt, but, instead I see how much I AM succeeding. I also see I’m doing so on my own terms, and, even better, doing so beyond all measure.

How cool is that?

Self Work: A Story

When anyone claims to be on a journey towards finding and knowing self, we think they must be making huge life changes like meditating 2 hours a day, eating only raw foods, or removing all excess from their life and living in solitude. But, I assure you that my path towards knowing myself better, and becoming a better me, is really about making simple, everyday life choices consciously and, when appropriate, differently.

An example occurred about a week ago when I was making my way from meeting my new nephew in Upstate New York to Hoboken, NJ (which for those not familiar with the area is about 2 – 3 hours away).

Taking this route was quite normal for me as I used to live in NYC and often went upstate to visit my family. Thus, when I embarked on the usual train ride from Middletown, NY to Hoboken, NJ, I didn’t expect any life lessons. I was simply looking forward to shutting my eyes for a few hours and resting.

That wasn’t the case.

On the day in question there was work being done on the train tracks, and so we needed to take a free shuttle bus to a more busy train station to avoid said work. This wasn’t abnormal either. In fact, I’d done it several times before without event.

Unfortunately on this day, our shuttle was late and we missed the next train putting us passengers an hour behind schedule. When I boarded the next shuttle, and realized we’d miss yet another train putting us now two hours behind schedule, I started to consider taking a cab the hour drive from somewhere in Northern New Jersey to Hoboken.

When this idea came to mind, I felt my heart start to race at the panic of being two hours late. I consciously chose to calm my thoughts. I then reminded myself it was Saturday, I had nowhere to be, and I wanted to save money. So, I came to the conclusion that getting a cab was unnecessary. I was disappointed in this realization, because I was SO TIRED and just wanted to get back to Hoboken to rest.

In this simple moment, I surrendered to the universe and accepted my fate of having to get home late putting the cab idea out of mind. Then, I disembarked the second shuttle bus to wait the hour for the next train.

As I was on the elevator to the train track with the other late passengers, a man about my age said, “Does anyone have the Uber app on their phone? I’ll pay for our ride to Hoboken. I can’t be late for work or I’ll lose my job.”

This was an ordinary moment, you see? It was a moment when most people would choose to ignore this stranger. I mean, who gets into an hour long cab ride with some strange man? Many of us would instead continue along the certain and safe path of catching the next train.

The old me would have made this choice, anyway. But the new me? The new me was conscious, and I saw the opportunity to get back faster while both saving money AND helping a fellow person out. So, I consciously chose differently.

“I have the Lyft app on my phone. We can split the cost of the ride,” I said.

“No. I’ll pay for it. Trust me you’re doing me a huge favor,” he replied.

With the free ride confirmed, I saw the universe supporting my decision. The man seemed normal enough, AND he was echoing thoughts I myself had had only a few minutes ago.

I took a chance.

Several minutes later our Lyft driver, Jean, whisked us away toward Hoboken. During the hour long ride, I watched as we became a unit. Jean laughed at the fact that Sean (the man from the elevator) and I were complete strangers taking a cab through New Jersey, and he told us about his band, his wife, and his work.

Sean, a bartender in the West Village neighborhood of NYC told us how he once talked to Lady Gaga who is best friends with a co-worker, and then described his history in bartending.

Jean was conscious about getting Sean to his train and to work on time. All of us were curious about each other. We were in it together.

We were human together.

You’ve heard me wonder here before about the point of these very short term, but intense, connections I make.

In this case, in the moment when the three of us were saying goodbye (PS Sean made his train on time!) I, again, lamented having this deeply connective moment which felt like it should last forever, end right in front of my eyes.

These moments make me emotional every time. I start to believe that surely these beings were meant to stay in my life to keep me human and connected. Then they are gone! It’s very hard on me.

This time, however, as I felt the impending loss, I also remembered that our human connection never fades, as long as we keep it alive within us. It can and should remain with us, even when the individuals who help reunite us with the connection are no longer near. This IS the point of these moments; to remember and internalize that connection to others and ourselves.

If I had decided to stay on the safe route of the train, I’d never have felt the warmth and laughter of other people experiencing life. I’d also never have those feelings to look back on when considering my own life.

In one moment I made a conscious, but different, choice which gave me a huge payoff that would extend beyond just the moment.

Now, as I reflect on this story while basking in the beauty of The Columbia River Gorge (where I’m housesitting for a dear friend) I again see that how we choose in the simple life moments, determines how we’ll make the bigger life choices.

Further, if in these simpler moments, we choose to be conscious and choose more for ourselves instead of for what we want others to think of us, we can then make the bigger life choices more confidently and more purposeful. I see it all as a practice to get us to a place where we’re confident and loving of who we are.

In the end, isn’t that what doing “self work” is all about?

Backwoods brewery flight
Cheers to that!

Experiencing Old Parts of My Life Anew

I knew that when I arrived back from Europe I’d find little rest. I was aware of the activity upon activity I had lined up which would whisk me about the North East, and, in truth, I was excited for the upcoming time with friends and family. What I didn’t realize, however, was that despite my lack of repose, I’d still be able to reflect, to continue to grow, and to find the inspiration needed to continue my journey.

This has been a special finding.

I always assumed my life-long mental and emotional fatigue was due to a lack of sleep. I do a lot, which I know is my choice, and I always figured my activity level was what wore me down. Thus, I’m invariably thinking about how to get more and better sleep so I can FINALLY, after 37 years on this planet, feel rested.

This morning (I’m drafting this post on Sunday June 23… My niece’s 12th birthday!) I woke up from a deep sleep just like the type I’ve been wishing for. It was great, except that I didn’t FEEL any more well rested than other mornings. Bummer.

As I bounced around these past couple of weeks from New York City to Providence, RI to Boston, MA to East Hartford, CT, and then finally to Fremont Center, NY, I found myself developing a hypothesis that would address this lack of feeling better even when I had more and better sleep. This morning my hypothesis seemed confirmed:

Maybe my feeling of fatigue isn’t caused by a lack of sleep at all. Maybe I’ve been expending too much of my energy on activities and people that drain me, instead of on those that fill me up.

The reason this thought came to me is because as I’ve been traveling around the past few weeks, I’ve been super conscious of who and what activities I give my energy to; choosing to spend more energy on people and things which fill me as opposed to those that leach off my light.

As a result, I’ve noticed the direct effects of my fatigue level lessening which I simply haven’t felt just from getting more or better sleep.

What are the activities and who are the people I’ve been spending my energy on? Here let me show you.

Lis and Clewi close up
Clewi and I arrive at our AirBnB in Providence, RI.
friends in the stands at Fenway park
Our crew has a relaxing afternoon at Fenway Park.
Family at dinner
The family gets together for dinner in MA. PS that’s the niece who just turned 12!
Lis in front of a pond.
Enjoying nature at A.W. Stanley Park
View from Wickham Park
The view from Wickham Park in Manchester, CT (my new favorite place!)
View of trees and hills
The view from my brother and sister-in-law’s house.
Pond in the country
More of my brother and sister-in-law’s beautiful property.
Lis holding her baby nephew
Me holding my new nephew, Nolan Christopher!

After these most recent travels, I’ve come to realize that simply getting more and better sleep is not enough for this self-proclaimed empath to feel my best. Instead I have to both get good rest AND monitor where and who my energy is shared with in order to feel alert, and to decrease my overarching cloud of tired.

What gives my hypothesis even more credit is that for the past few weeks I’ve been staying in places where I used to live full time, and where I am used to feeling my normal level of fatigue. Yet when I applied my new exercise of deciding where to place my energy while in these old and familiar environments, I noticed how much more calm and connected I felt.

So you see, my external environment was pretty much exactly the same as it was for the first 22 years of my life, but I was able to feel different while in it.

In addition to these findings, as I moved about these familiar locations as the 37 year old woman I’ve become, I couldn’t help but think on who I was all those years before.

While visiting my old roommate in Connecticut, for example, I thought back to my early twenties and to who I thought I wanted to be at that time. That Lis of 15 years ago believed she should stay at a full-time job, get married, buy a home, have children, and retire quietly with grandchildren waiting for her. For years I imagined my life starting, and ending, in Connecticut. Now, I can’t even conceive of many of these events occurring. It was a truly odd sensation.

I had a similar experience when I was back in upstate New York as I thought on who I was in grade and high school. I saw how, back then, I gave so much of myself away in order to try to conform to the narrative, and to attempt to be accepted and loved. I also saw how all of that energy was wasted as it went towards creating a false persona whose only goal was to “fit in”. Further, I saw how putting all my energy towards trying to gain the approval of others is what has sucking my energy dry all my life.

My perspectives have indeed broadened as I experience old parts of my life anew. But, most importantly, as I continue this journey I see how I’m taking control of and falling in love with my own narrative.

I’m now confidently deciding who and what gets my time. I’m also deciding who and what I want to be, and I’m deciding where I’m going and why.

This is an incredibly empowering realization, and I believe I owe it all to listening to my gut and stepping off the path most traveled.

With all of these new empowering beliefs and inspirations to guide me, I simply can’t wait to see where MY path takes me next.

Best of all, I have no doubt it’ll be to exactly wherever I’m supposed to be.

Insights from a Life Well-Traveled

My last day in Lisbon I had coffee with my first Lisbon Airbnb host and her daughter. Although I don’t believe I’ve mentioned them here before, they were quite instrumental in my falling in love with their city, country, and way of life.

Book lined living space
The walls of the entire flat looked like this, lined with books!

I remember sitting in our favorite neighborhood pastelaria, reflecting on how we met. I had arrived in Lisbon on a Sunday afternoon, then made my way to the Campo de Ourique neighborhood where I’d be spending my first two weeks.

I easily found the address and rang the bell. After entering I hiked up to the first floor to be greeted by a lovely woman with welcoming and comforting energy. She let me into her apartment, and asked me to sit down with her and her two daughters who were visiting for Mother’s Day.

At first, I felt like an intruder, but after several minutes in their presence I realized I was in the exact place I was supposed to be. I told them of my travels, and they each told me of themselves.

My host was a retired professor of philosophy, and each daughter had earned PhDs of their own. They were not only both highly accomplished, but come to find out, one of them had taken a turn from her life of research to open a co-working space for independents and artists. The space even included an adjoining art shop!

Art Shop in Lisbon
The Oficina Impossivel Shop

At that first meeting I marveled at their lives, but also at how they seemed to move through them with so much more ease than I ever had. That’s not to say I believe their lives and accomplishments were easy, but more that they moved through them with ease.

Over my days there I watched these three women move in and out of each other’s worlds. They stayed up late (by my definition) to have a connective, un-rushed dinner. Why weren’t they worried about getting enough sleep?

They maintained high functioning lives while sleeping in to get proper rest. Why weren’t they concerned about finishing all their tasks each day?

They even showed love and hospitality to a strange woman (NOTE: I’m referring to myself here). Shouldn’t they instead focus on conserving their own energies?

How did they do all of this without anxiety, guilt, and fear to drive their ambitions?

How could I be like them?

At that last coffee, I noticed a similar shift in myself. I recognized how I rushed around much less than when I had arrived 4 weeks prior. I reflected on this further after we said our “goodbyes for now”.

When I left our coffee date, instead of taking the quickest path back to the apartment I was now staying in, I wandered to a favorite book store to buy a book of poetry. I then decided to stroll back to the apartment without haste.

When I got back to the apartment I chuckled wondering: Who WAS this wild woman of leisure?

Statue in a park
Maybe taking in amazing art like this helped.
Gulbenkian Garden
Surely this type of view during lunch can’t hurt.
Magical looking tree
I bet you seeing magical trees like this shifted the old perspective.

So what happened to cause this shift? Know that it wasn’t as if my daily responsibilities had lessened. I still had the same amount of stuff “to do”, so why was I able to stroll without stressing about my task list?

The answer I’ve come up with is that I was able to learn from the culture around me, and to reorient my priorities. I then aligned my actions with these newly realized priorities.

Said more simply, while in Portugal I was better able to define for myself what in life really matters, and then made my daily tasks and actions line up with these priorities.

For example, having that coffee with my new friends mattered more to me then reading a business book I was trying to finish the same day. Accepting and, more importantly, truly believing in this new point of view allowed me to let my anxiety melt away so I could be present with my higher priority, my friends.

Going along with this theory, I also believe that filling my cup up with books of poetry was more important to me than completing the task of reading said business book. Thus, I could now opt for the former without regret.

Lastly, I believe I would not have adopted this practice had I not been outside the comfort zone of my home country.

By taking myself OUT of an environment which supports my old worry filled behaviors, I was able to see more clearly what actually contributes to a more fulfilling life. This instead of only seeing, and trying to mimic, how others live their lives, and hoping that meant getting it right for myself.

Ahhhhh…. the beauty of a life well-traveled.

I now feel better equipped to assess actions which fill me up versus those I do to distract myself with worry, and I have to say, this seemingly small shift in perspective has made a world of difference.

I look to continue these practices of asking myself what really matters, and aligning what I do to match those priorities. Plus, I look forward to seeing where it takes me!

Finally, I don’t believe you have to have a well-traveled life to reap these benefits.

In fact, I’m curious. Have you done something like this in your own life: travel or not? How have you gone about making yourself uncomfortable and learning to be better from it?

Let me know in the comments below!

Notes From the Lisbon Airport

Here I sit at a coffee shop in the Lisbon airport (NOTE: the airport code for Lisbon is LIS… just sayin), getting ready to fly back to the States after 6 weeks here in Europe.

Wow… I just spent 6 weeks in Europe!

In significant moments like these I want to be in a different mental and emotional space than I currently am.

I want to be in a reflective state, one where I’m deeply considering the immense amount of inspiration I’ve gathered over my time here.

I want to write clearly and concisely about all the new perspectives I’ve gained, and about how much “better” I am due to them.

I want to share romanticized scenes of European travel, and tell you how one can’t know the extent of how amazing it is unless they travel here themselves.

Sunset from a sailboat
The sun sets over the Tagus River… pretty romanticized if I do say so myself.

I can’t do any of this though, because it’s not what’s really going on inside of me.

Trust I DO have reflections, inspiration, new perspectives, and memories of the beauty that’s surrounded me. Trust too that I may even be able to share more about these moments with you in the coming months.

Ceiling detail at Chiado palace
Just some of the beauty of Lisbon.

However, what’s really going on with me right now is that I’m tired… bone tired.

I’m the kind of tired where your entire being is running solely on adrenaline; where all you can think about is how delicious it will be to lay your head on a comfy pillow, but also where you cringe at your inability to even consider how you’ll muster up the energy to make it to that next pillow.

Yeah… that tired.

I’m not just tired from traveling to 4 countries, staying in 8 different cities, and taking 5 flights all in 6 weeks (while working full time).

I’m tired because despite doing all this physical movement I’ve been going inward as well.

Allow me to explain.

I didn’t realize how much WORK working on oneself is. I thought I could just follow the steps, take risks, complete the tasks, and “whammo!” self work achieved.

What I’ve learned is that self work IS partly those things. But, in addition to all the external shifting, there is a whole world of internal shifting that is happening simultaneously below my surface.

Said more simply, self work doesn’t just take place in the active moments, but it is also happening internally as well.

For example, when doing self work I could be focusing on being present and experiencing a lovely moment in a new book shop when out of nowhere I notice anger slide over the happiness in my heart.

In this example, the emotion comes on randomly, perhaps triggered by a word or picture I glanced at. If I’m engaging in self work, it’s up to me to notice these emotional shifts, accept or resist them, then move on to the next awareness.

Now, consider this. All I described just now is only happening in just one moment, and it’s exhausting enough to imagine.

When I’m in self work mode, however, I don’t just have this one moment. I have to go through this process moment after moment after moment; as each random emotional shift occurs.

Couple that with the physical tasks of walking through the shop, being present, and enjoying my time and you’re looking at a lot of activity going on as I walk through a book shop!

Livraria almedina store front.
One of my favorite bookshops in Lisbon.

Nonetheless, I’ve chosen to do this self work, and I think it’s this choice coupled with the external travel and events which leaves me… well let’s just say I’m exhausted.

St. Antonio festival street of people
Surely I’m not tired from having this outside of my window for 4 nights straight.

Giving myself permission to recognize how tired I am, I’m taking time over the next few days and weeks to just be.

I plan to focus on resting, celebrating with friends, and reconnecting with my heart. I’m taking this shavasana to rest and allow all that I’ve learned to integrate into my being.

Time out market in Lisbon
I’m taking a time out!

So, here’s to a few days of enjoying life for what it is and not trying to make it what I think it should be.

Wish me luck!

Oh, and tell me what you think about my analysis here in the comments, please! I want to know how you do self work and integrate what you learn?!

Cheers!

A Year Later – Reflections From My First Year on the Road

This post will not be perfect. I want it to be. As the official post noting my “year living on the road” it damn well should be. But alas, if there’s one thing I’ve learned from a year living without a permanent address, it’s that nothing, and I mean nothing, is perfect.

Take the view above which I’m seated in front of while I write. It looks pretty damn perfect. When I pictured myself living and writing in Europe, this is the scene I imagined; clear skies, water views, quaint buildings… it has it all!

However, what it doesn’t show is the reality of the working class citizens who live here. Nor does it highlight any of the injustices that the disenfranchised face, nor the cracked paint I’ve hidden from view. Seeing these not-so-perfect seeming aspects of any scene would mean setting aside the desired perfection of what’s in front of us, to allow the truth to be revealed.

I suppose I’m rambling on about this because this process of setting aside my desire for perfection to allow truth to be shown is what has been my main lesson from this past year.

How have I learned this lesson? On June 2, 2018 my friend and I drove out of White Salmon, WA into the unknown. Since then I’ve seen a whole lot. To give you a better idea of what I’ve been up to, I’ve:

  • Stayed in 5 countries, 11 states, and well over 30 cities.
  • Road tripped the west coast of the U.S., the east coast of the U.S., and drove a wandering route from Albuquerque, NM to Oakland, CA.
  • House sat at 8 different homes for 15 different pets.
  • Met countless new friends.
  • Written 54 blog posts on The Lis Experiment Blog
  • Started The Lis Experiment YouTube channel and posted 19 videos so far. (NOTE: Please Subscribe!)

Yeah… I’m tired.

During this time I’ve seen tremendous beauty, experienced boundless inspiration, and created relationships I hope to grow throughout the rest of my life time.

River in rocks
Along a hike in Switzerland.

I’ve also witnessed unfathomable poverty, sat uncomfortably with the evidence of my country’s painful past, and sank into the despair of great loss.

museum exhibition information
The main exhibit at the Navajo Nation Museum

When someone goes on a journey like the one I’m lucky enough to be on, we picture it as perfect. We see them as living in exotic locations while meeting the most amazing people and only having to work a few hours a day.

We picture the perfection we desire to see.

What we don’t see are lonely moments without distraction from our demons, the frustrating times of not being able to order a coffee due to language barriers, the freak outs of trying to rationalize why the hell you’re sleeping on friends’ couches as a 37-year-old professional.

We push these truths aside.

A year ago, when I wrote the first post on this blog, Being Me Anywhere, I had no idea what I was getting into. I was certain I’d grow and learn and come out better for my efforts. I was aware I’d have to look my imperfections in the eye and not blink for the growth to take place.

What I didn’t expect was how addicted I’d become to the feeling of joy which fills my being each time I accept these imperfections as who I am. I also didn’t foresee the internal effort needed to push through the force of shame to not only be comfortable with my short comings, but to also see them as my strengths.

This has been a key factor in my journey. I doubt myself constantly, but I know now that doubt is a gift, not a curse. It propels me forward. This seeming flaw, is actually necessary for me to continue.

A year from now, I have no idea where I’ll be or who I’ll be with.

I do know I still won’t have reached perfection, though.

The funny thing is… I no longer want to.

Skimming Across the Lake of the World

I talk about reflection… a lot.

I’ve found that traveling around, much of the time alone, sparks these deeply reflective vibes I have. Since I’m in this mode so often nowadays, you can see why I was excited to receive the below note from a dear friend:

“Travel is so life-affirming and transformative, especially when traveling alone for some reason, I find. Something about you skimming like a stone across the lake of the world – not quite in and of the places you’re visiting… I don’t know. it becomes an excellent mirror for self-reflection, that lake.“

My excitement had many different catalysts. However, the parts I want to dissect today are those of skimming across the lake and the lake itself.

What AM I doing?

Lis sitting drinking an espresso
Surely a question this profound means coffee.

Traveling around the world… for what? Self-reflection? Can’t I just do that in one place? Why does one need to be alone for it?

To the main question: what am I doing? I didn’t fully know when I started this post, but by the end we get there. Read on.

I do know that I am on this journey for self-reflection, and that I’m unable to have the same magnitude of self-reflection when in one place, constantly surrounded by others.

By traveling the “lake of the world” I experience so much more than I would standing still in my comfort zone.

Couple this with “skimming across” said lake, and I find as I skip about, never quite in or of, I take on the role of the observer.

In this role, I can see and appreciate without preamble or bias many seemingly everyday occurrences.

Statue in the park
A statue in front of the park. Notice the Saturday market in the background.
Tiles on the train station
Tiles adorn a building near a rural train station.
Across the water from Porto
The view from Porto, Portugal.
River and Sun setting
Looking back at Porto at sunset.
Flowers in front of building
The front of our AirBnB rental in Porto.
Bridge over water too an island in a park
A bridge to a tree filled island in a Porto park.
Red flowers
Flowers in front of Porto
View of the Porto river from up high
A view north from the park.

I not only take in these new scenes, but I work to perceive them completely on my own terms without any direct outside influence.

Bringing the two sides of the equation together, the breadth of experiences gained as I travel and choose to take on the role of life observer, and the development of my own perspective on these experiences, is helping me to truly find and DEFINE myself.

By going outward into the world, I’m going inward into myself. The lake reflecting back, ftw!

Could one go through this process without putting themselves on my journey? Absolutely. In fact, I believe what I’m describing is a wordy description of a simple meditation practice… but I digress.

The result of the process of observing then developing perspective is a person who not only loves and honors themselves fully, but whose cup is so full they can’t help but extend love and support to the world around them.

Sign that touts "The Weight of Distraction"
What would happen if we lifted the weight of distraction?

I believe once you recognize your own grace (which I’m working on doing as I skim the lake of the world), it’s impossible not to see that you are part of a greater whole, a well-spring of grace. I also believe it’s impossible to miss the realization that if the greater whole is suffering, so too, are you, and therefore you work to help the world around you (to also help yourself).

As I was having these thoughts, the below quote found me (NOTE: for more on me and Einstein, click here).

A human being is a part of the whole called by us universe, a part limited in time and space. One experiences oneself, one’s thoughts and feeling as something separated from the rest, a kind of optical delusion of one’s consciousness. This delusion is a kind of prison for us, restricting us to our personal desires and to affection for a few persons nearest to us. Our task must be to free ourselves from this prison by widening our circle of compassion to embrace all living creatures and the whole of nature in its beauty.
~ Albert Einstein

I held my breath as I read the quote a second, then a third time. I wasn’t sure why I had this reaction at first. I just knew the words resonated with me on a deep level and I had to share them in this piece.

Now I understand why they were so meaningful. They explain better than I ever could what it is I AM doing.

I’m breaking myself out of the prison of delusion. I’m freeing myself by widening my circle of compassion. I’m learning to love and embrace myself through skimming across the lake of the world, so that I can embrace and love the whole.

To say I’m humbled by the power of these words is an understatement.

To say I’m obligated to keep going is not.

Remembering Courage

I remember the first time I heard the definition of courage I’ve come to love. I may have told you this before, but humor me for a moment.

I was sitting on a comfy couch, I believe while doing a housesit in Sunny Southern California, and was watching one of my favorite shows on Netflix, The Last Kingdom. The main character, a warrior, was talking to a less experienced soldier on the eve of a major battle.

When the younger man admits to the main character that he’s afraid, the main character tells him something along the lines of, “Courage is finding the will to overcome your fear. Nothing more”. The next day in the midst of battle when the junior man cowers before an enemy, the main character yells to him: “Use your courage!” The younger man finds his courage and overcomes. The battle is won, and the series continues.

These scenes impacted me so deeply they are what I reimagine each time I hear the word courage.

I’ve written a bit about courage here before when I shared a quote from Brené Brown’s book, Dare to Lead. It was being reunited with this quote recently, through sitting on a comfy bed in Lisbon watching her Netflix special, which jolted me back into remembering to use my own courage.

I think it’s pretty courageous of me to be traveling around several foreign countries alone, but I don’t always remember to, as Brené mentions:

Choose courage over comfort.

Sure I remember to do so in the BIG life moments, but it’s when I don’t remember to do so in the smaller ones that I falter. By being courageous, and thus vulnerable, in only one area of my life, I create incongruity, and thus angst, in other areas.

For example, I may choose to travel alone around Europe, but also choose NOT to be brave enough to try to order my morning coffee in the local language. I’ll tell myself how brave I am overall in order to quell my shame, then I’ll make the excuse that “everyone speaks English anyway” so there’s no need for me to order in the local language.

In reality, I’m simply too scared in this smaller seeming moment that I’ll screw it up and be laughed at OR worse, that I won’t screw it up and receive a reply I don’t understand and thus will have to admit to my lack of knowledge. This imbalance of choosing courage on one end of the spectrum but not the other is what I believe causes much of my anxiety.

Thus, choosing courage over comfort in all of my life moments has been a mantra of mine since being reunited with these ideas.
When I spent last Saturday exploring Lisbon both alone, then meeting up with friends to explore with them, the exercise of choosing courage over comfort came to life.

I spent the morning hours muddling my way through ordering coffee and treats in my terrible Portuguese, but then succeeded beyond measure.

Coffee and pastry
A delicious espresso and a pastel de nata as my reward. mmmmmm.

I spent the afternoon hours first venturing into the cramped tourist land of Central Lisbon to see the famous St. Jorge castle. The castle was nice and all, but wasn’t really what I expected. It had amazing views of the city, and tall brick structures, but it wasn’t the grand event I’d hoped for.

I normally would have stayed longer at the castle because I should AND to “get my money’s worth”, but I instead left early to sit in quaint a cafe on a tight Lisbon street and enjoy some pizza and beer (or cider, rather).

Lis in front of the view of Lisbon
Me and a view of Lisbon.
Castle grounds
I loved the castle grounds.
Fish sculpture
A fun sculpture on the castle grounds.

It doesn’t sound courageous to leave behind history for vices, BUT I assure you that’s the point! To let go of the “shoulds” and do what I want is not an easy thing. It involves me betting more on myself than on the opinions of others, a bet I haven’t taken much in my life. In fact, I’ve told myself I’ve insured my own safety by not betting on myself. I’m kinda done telling myself this, but back to the story.

The friends I was meeting, an English woman and man about my age who have lived in Lisbon since March, arrived at the cafe and ALSO decided on a pizza and beer before we took in any culture. They were inspired by my leisure and wanted to stay out of the now very hot Sun as long as possible.

Being honest and courageous was paying off!

We weren’t in too much of a hurry to get to The National Tile Museum of Lisbon, and since one of the friends used to come to Lisbon in his youth, he wanted to show us the Flea Market (or market of thieves) where his father took him. His desires rewarded me with a wonderful view of books everywhere!

Books on bookcase
Books everywhere! This is just one example.

After the market, the three of us walked down the steep, crowded, and winding streets to sea level, where we continued our now flat, but incredibly hot walk. Along the way I noticed when I would think to be funny or quirky in order to try to “win people over”, my comfort zone.

Instead I chose courage and self honesty. I listened more than talked. I walked in the internal discomfort of this choice, but found that it didn’t take long to find solace and ease in the practice. I watched my mind become more quiet and myself become more present. I was even able to rediscover some wonder along the way.

mural along a walk
Some Lisbon street art.

We enjoyed the tile museum immensely. It was a simple, focused place, and with the practice of choosing courage, I saw with fresher eyes. The gardens were awe inspiring, and the mix of indoor and outdoor was perfect for a hot day:

Pink flowers above a doorway
The entrance to the museum.
Garden courtyard with a large fountain.
The courtyard garden at the museum.
Tile walls of an outdoor courtyard
Tiles line the walls of the courtyard.
Tile picture of a soldier
A piece at the National Tile Museum

When we parted ways later that day, I continued to keep my practice top of mind. I realized how I often think of fear as being afraid of “real” and “big” things, but then remember how so many of my everyday existence can be motivated by it.

I know a large part of my behaviors and reactions I’ve put into place due to a fear of either experiencing disappointment from myself or others or a fear of not succeeding or a fear of personal discomfort of any kind. I see now how much energy I waste trying to avoid these fears.

As I continue this journey I look to become aware of these everyday fears and eradicate them with the simple power of choice.

Can it be as easy as choosing courage in our moments of discomfort?

Come on, I didn’t say the choice was an easy one!

A Short Stop in Switzerland

This time last week I would have been writing to you with this view before me:

Buildings with Mountains in the background
The view from Gilles and Claudia’s flat.

That’s the French Alps you see in the distance, and it’s also the view from my dear friends’ apartment in Lausanne, Switzerland. I landed in Lausanne on a Thursday afternoon, and by Sunday was making my way to Lisbon, Portugal. The time in-between, however, was far from wasted.

Since the three of us were free to adventure on Friday, we rented a car and headed to Gruyères and nearby Broc. Our plan was to take in some nature in Broc, then visit the H.R. Giger museum while also perusing the medieval town of Gruyères where the museum is located. It was a great plan for the day, and we kicked if off with some coffee in Broc.

Espresso with cream
I usually don’t take cream with my espresso, BUT this cream is made with the same milk that’s used in Gruyere cheese. When in Rome.
Landscape sign pointing out mountain peaks
These signs are all over in local towns. They point out the mountains in view and their respective heights (in meters).

Our hike was nothing short of amazing. The trail, which closely followed a river, sat at the bottom of jagged, striated rock walls on both sides of the water. These elements allowed for spooky caves to venture through and beautiful bridges to cross. The ascent culminated in a view of a large dam and reservoir for us to admire.

A river running through rock
The river nestled between the rock.
Rock
Check out the striations.
A cave to walk through
A spooky cave awaits.
Bridge
We walked down and across this bridge. The scene felt straight out of a film.
A dam and water
Gilles, Claudia, and I take a breather at the dam.

Despite the jaw dropping beauty at every turn, what most appealed to me was the signage placed at critical points in what seemed like backwoods areas.

signs
There are no roads for cars in sight, but there are plenty of signs pointing out how to get around on foot.

The Swiss are a walking folk, so hiking 6 kilometers then strolling (that’s a lie, the Swiss don’t stroll, they walk like any good New Yorker might) several more to the next village isn’t a stretch.

We American, French, and German folk are not Swiss, thus at the end of our hike we opted for the bus back to the car. Along our short bus ride, I noted a few people walking the area, and a quaint, cozy feeling came over me. It was just so cool to see people living in and walking through seemingly remote sites as if it they were in a bustling city. It shows a level of trust and community, and a oneness I think.

Winding trail
That trail you see in the foreground leads to a house… not kidding.

Back at the car, we made our way to Gruyères and the museum. As you can imagine, the sites were still amazing. The museum itself was impactful. For those that don’t know H.R. Giger is the creator of the Alien films. The museum showcased these and other works of his, as well as his private collections. His work is extremely detailed, but also houses a great deal of balance of machinery, humanity… and the occult. Did you know Giger drew a Tarot deck? Nor did I, dear reader. Nor did I.

What impacted me the most, however, was my imagining his frame of mind. I asked myself if someone who created such arts, and had such successes with them, was happy. Or were they so driven to create a world, or so tormented by their imaginings, that they never found peace?

Welcome to Gruyères
The sign welcomes us to Gruyères.
Gruyères
Gruyères Streets!
Church
A view from the Gruyères Castle

Experiencing these beautiful places and the delicious treats they offered was lovely, but it was nothing in comparison to what my friends and I did throughout the day and later that night (and for the rest of the weekend, really).

We talked to each other. Lovely, enriching, detailed, adult conversations were had. Not once did a television screen go on (I don’t think they had one, actually). Not once did we allow ourselves a chance to be distracted. Instead we shared and debated and learned from each other. It was my version of heaven.

The inspiration only continued on Saturday when we met a friend and walked down to the Lausanne market. We picked up goods for the dinner we were making that night (Tarte Flambée or Flammekueche, depending on your heritage), one of the most important being cheese.My friend tried to acquire this cheese no less than 4 times before succeeding. (It should be noted there were cheese stands throughout the market, but the best cheese purveyor had quite the line in front of him most of the day. Finally, the line died down and we were able to purchase… what can I say… you have to love the French and their love of quality ingredients.)

We spent the afternoon walking through the Olympic Museum Park, then along Lake Geneva, again talking, sharing, connecting. Then the friend returned for our dinner, and we spent my last night in the city debating our profession and other highly important topics (which I honestly can’t remember, but I’m sure they were important).

Olympic Park
This is a view of the Olympic Park. You can see the flame in the middle which burns year round. The lake in the background is Lake Geneva.
Tarte Flambee with onion
One of the two we made that night. This was the more traditional recipe.

When I woke up on Sunday, I was sad to be leaving, but I was also happy in realizing I had learned my lesson, and because I was much more invested in manifesting a great time in Switzerland, a great time was had.

I said goodbye to my friends at the train station while sincerely hoping to see and talk to them again soon. I then turned into myself, considering the month ahead in Lisbon… but that is for another post.

Regret, Awe, and Being Myself

I write to you on my last day in Budapest where I find myself oozing conflict.

On the one hand, I’m mesmerized with my ability to BE here and live a normal existence. On the other, I’m concerned I’ve spent too much time inside; both inside buildings and inside my head.

I’m asking myself things like, Did I work too much while I was here? Should I have gotten out and DONE more? Was I a good friend to my host during my time here? What is causing this feeling of regret?.

Ah ha, that’s it! I’m regretful of my time here. Even though I saw much of the city and had a great time with my friend, I feel I failed somehow. Failed to do what? I’m not sure exactly. Here in lies the conflict, I suppose.

In truth, I saw and did a lot despite working the weekdays away and ensuring my friend’s dog had a bud to hang out with while his human was at work.

For example, I saw a good deal of Budapest’s downtown:

bridge
Looking across the Danube to Buda from Pest!
Keleti Station
Keleti Station

I enjoyed delicious treats:

coffee
A coffee and a treat
Lis and Cris with beers.
Stopping for a beer and some more treats.

I saw loads of local street art:

graffiti
Loved all the local graffiti. This is on the way to the train station in the neighborhood.

I even venture north to the town of Szentendre where we enjoyed strolling the town, taking in the sites, and wine tasting a bit:

Szentendre sign
Szentendre train station sign.
Ivy on the side of a house
Loved the ivy throughout town.
town square
The town square.
Ice cream shop
Loved the front of this ice cream shop.
Danube River
A view of the Danube.

All this, and still I’m regretful.

I think in large part this feeling comes from my not being present in my time here. I chalk this lack of presentness up to my slipping back into a role. Allow me to explain.

Being granted the gift of spending time with friends you’ve known for 30 years allows you to see who you are now versus who you were in your past lives.

I believe all of us play some sort of role starting from the time we are very young. We do this to fit in to the culture and society that surrounds us because standing out from that culture threatens our survival (or at least that’s how our brains see it).

While here with my dear friend, and while being in this uber reflective internal mode, I’ve noticed the roles I’ve played clearly. I’ve seen where I’ve bended to others’ needs my entire life, ignoring my own in order to ensure peace and connection. I’ve seen how I’ve emptied my cup in order to maintain the illusion of normalcy and conformity, and I’ve seen how doing all of this has drained me of my fervor for life.

Please note that I realize this is no one else’s doing except my own. All of us who play these roles choose them, whether we realize it or not. Now that I’m out of the solitude of the road, and am interacting with others again on a consistent basis, I see how much I neglect the person I am when I’m around others. I see I’ve been doing this for as long as I can remember. I see how many of us are doing this time and again.

To bring it back to my current regret: perhaps as I slipped in and out of this role play while here in Hungary, I didn’t allow myself to fully BE myself. And, perhaps this is the regret that I feel today.

Have no fear, there has been much positivity and action inspired by this feeling. I’ve started considering what I need from my adventures to fill my “empty for far too long” cup. As I have these considerations, I reach out to others I want to meet up with on future adventures and do the research I need to empower the journey ahead. I’m starting to figure out how to fill my cup and be myself, and that’s pretty awesome.

By doing all of this I hypothesize that I can better hook into, and be present with, the adventures ahead of me. I think that by considering what people, activities, and places fill my cup and make me ME, then by putting those things on my plate, I can be much more present with myself and others. Further I can fill my cup thereby reigniting my fervor for life!

Yes, I believe it is through this practice that congruency occurs, and instead of using my energy by wondering if I’m doing each moment and place “right”, I’m using it to BE in the moment and place fully.

For now, this is just a hypothesis; albeit a highly informed one. I plan on testing it out by continuing this practice of considering what I need to fill my cup and be myself then taking action to put the things I come up with into place in the coming weeks.

Let’s see how I do going forward. Maybe the next time I write to you from my last day in a place I’ll have less regret and more awe in my heart.

Honestly, considering this in more depth today, I already do.


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