“Time passes swiftly and opportunity is lost”

Life is funny.

Sometimes, you make a joke about something and find that it turns out to be semi-propehtic.

A few weeks ago, I got an email from WorldNomads.com about a travel writing contest. The prize for 2,500 well crafted characters was a 10 day trip to the Balkans, a bunch of travel gear, and mentoring from the travel writer Tim Neville.

I’ve never been one to apply for things. I don’t like forms, I don’t like DEADLINES, not winning, fishy terms and conditions, trying and failing… I never believed that real people could actually win anything, but this contest just seemed so achievable, so fair.

I made it my mission to get it done. The maximum 2,500 characters is less than 3/4 of a page, so it was too short to make any excuses. Three days before it was due, I had a scrap of paper with some standout memories. I made a pot of coffee (bad idea- coffee is too strong for me) and sat down for 7.5 hours and started collecting information from photos, journal entries, wikipedia, facebook, all with the intention of crafting a winner of a story. I finally squeezed something out, reread it 2o times, sent it to three pals whose opinion I trust, and went to sleep. I figured I would reread it the next morning, take suggestions from my friends and tune it up with fresh eyes.

On Monday I realized I still had an extra day and thought I could take that time to really polish it some more, so I spent all of yesterday thinking, rereading, and editing and it got to the point where I was ok with sending it off. I was having dinner with my guy after work and said, “oh man, I have to submit that thing tonight. How great would it be if I just forgot?” HAHAHAHA. When we finished eating I had to get to a work meeting at 8pm that I thought would end at 9, but it ran until just before 10. I got home around 10:10. I stood around talking to my sister and laughed about the Friends episode she was watching (the one where Chandler pees on Monica, omgz). Drank some water. Washed my face. Brushed my teeth. blablablablablablalbablablabla. I’m in my PJ’s and talking to my sister again. I notice that her face is swelling and she’s getting a mysterious allergic reaction. I follow her around as she tries to address it with some benadryl. I sit down on my bed, check my phone, it’s 11:02. “AHHH SHIT! I missed the deadline.” I missed the 11PM deadline.

I ran down to my computer to check if there was a 5 minute grace period. No. There is no grace. So there we go.

I was mad. I felt a burning, blood boiling feeling in my chest. I felt like flipping out and screaming, but am too internally inclined for that kind of thing. So I went to sleep, but not before making a melodramatic instagram post that felt very childish joining the stream of social justice posts that my intelligent and big hearted friends composed. It felt like a big step to let my real feelings out so I’m not going to be too harsh with myself about it.

I’m taking this whole experience as a reminder that :

  1. IF you want something, you have to do it, you have to see it ALL THE WAY through.
  2. Sharing your feelings is ok.
  3. Four months is a long hiatus from writing on a blog that was supposed to be home to daily musings– this is my opportunity to get back in the game.
  4. Don’t watch Friends, or anything, ever.

For the purpose of closure, here’s what I would have submitted:

            A wrong turn in the verdant cliffs of Tredrez led us to the steps of a 16th-Century Gothic church. After a few hours of the kind of frolicking around that would put a mountain goat to shame, the comely little creperie across the way was our preferred sanctuary. Laurent, the Indonesian-born son to a French father and Japanese-American mother was my WWOOF host and tour guide. I was getting all the cultural bang for my buck.

           We found ourselves rambling through this ancient terrain after an impromptu decision to trade the drought in Le Mans for the coastal breeze and brisk waters of Brittany. The picturesque hay bales and endless sunflower fields of the countryside were delightful, but Brittany was like living inside of a poster for a dream getaway.

          There was no google search for highly rated restaurants or charming B&B’s. There were no maps or itineraries. After a brief phone call from Laurent to his Colombian friends, we threw our backpacks into the mustard-gold Peugeot and set out to meet them. These friends scooped and delivered us to the beach to wash off the day’s sweat. I took the sand-blonde pony standing against the backdrop of sailboats as a good omen.

           The evening delivered a heaping plate of Breton culture. Melodious clarinets, saxophones, flutes, and trumpets told stories of the Celtic people as hundreds of hands and feet operated in unison and absorbed the timid in an ocean of surprisingly accessible and thoroughly mesmerizing movement. Competing crepe stands, people crowded around kegs, and arguing children filled the spaces between notes with a consistent roar. Locals, tourists, past, and present swirled and churned until someone lost their footing and delivered us back to linear time.

          The next morning, an oak slab table accommodated our curative breakfast of bread, cultured dairy products, and single source espresso. We offered effusive thanks and hugs before taking one last trip together to the Sunday flea market down the street. After sorting through the usual suspects of old vinyl records and clothing long repressed in attics, passing by those who deal in guinea pigs, and admiring dented brass figurines, I scored a pointed bamboo hat for one euro. It would serve me well in the rows of parched crops that needed tending, but not before dropping by Brest to visit some friends and their goats on the way back home.

Gradual vs. Sudden

The debate of gradual versus sudden enlightenment is at the center of discussion for some people, whether “Buddhist” or “arm chair philosophers”, and everyone in between. For various reasons, we think that talking about this will actually bring us closer to “attaining” peace, or even better, to “convincing” another person of our beliefs!

“ha ha ha ha ha ha haha” is all I wish to say (and a thousand more hahahahas as well).

I’ll try and explain this is a somewhat linear fashion…

I just got home from a Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) session. I’ve been going since the beginning of this year in order to deal with feelings of anxiety and depression. I’ve been plodding along and doing the work and reading the books and reflecting and journalling…

A couple of sessions ago, my therapist and I decided it was time to start tapering our sessions down because I’ve been doing well.

This hasn’t been an easy year for me in many ways, with the most dramatic event being my father’s death. But even though life didn’t slow down or get “less stressful,” I’ve managed to find some refuge from the thoughts that have been bullying my for much of my life.

In conjunction with consistent CBT, I’ve become increasingly involved with zen and a teacher and community that are situated a mere 5 minutes walk from my house.

Most of my waking thoughts have been centered around self-improvement.

…and with all this effort, there have been stretches of time where I felt I was making no progress, where I felt I was suffering more than previously, where I thought maybe I was just irreparably damaged…

These stretches of the mundane have been punctuated by moments of intense joy and lightness, profound insight and gratitude, and this evening is a perfect exemplar of it.

Sitting and chatting about what’s gone on in the past three weeks, filling out a questionnaire which I’ve taken periodically since the first day I stepped into therapy, realizing how far I’ve come in the past 11 months, it all made me want to just ….

klfhjsdklfsdlfhsd dksfjsdlfkjdsfljsdlfkj dlsfkjs

-jump for joy

-sing

-shake those who trudge through landscapes of despair!

-laugh laugh hahahahh laugh

-and other such things

all this because it seems to easy and obvious now that I’m standing on this side of the pain/worry/doubt. I can’t believe I spent years of my life worried about this and that and planning and scrapping those plans, and brooding, and replaying, and wondering…. and not living how I want to live.

note to self and all who will listen: JUST TRY IT! JUST DO IT.

But of course, unless your ears are open and ready to hear, my words are just words.

Unless you’re ready to trust and try and leap, then you’ll find yourself standing in the exact same place one year from now.

It gets so boring.

 

Returning to the point of “sudden vs. gradual enlightenment”:

we’ve heard this all before. it’s both, it’s neither. Enlightenment is not a SUPER HIGH, it’s a lightening, a shedding, and when the weight comes off your shoulders, whether you toss it off, or it slickly slides, or fizzles and dissolves, that lightness will make you want to dance and sing, and those watching you may think you’ve lost it, or you’re under some strange influence, when really you are FREE, FREE, FREE of influence, of permanence, of impositions of mind, of ignorances and biases.

It took effort, it took trust, it took taking on forms and processes and structure, and in the end, it is all tossed out without lament.

 

amen.

 

 

Things I Learned Today

Where there is fear, there is opportunity for growth.

The most mundane of experiences can be life altering if you let them.

Leave your house extra early before heading to a new place.

Eat something nourishing before close encounters with bureaucracy (related: don’t eat an entire bar of chocolate on your commute home).

Make wise decisions about what you choose to have a mental breakdown over.

Don’t trust google maps to take you where you need to go.

Never give up.

*****

I am exhausted by the anxiety attack I had while trying get my brake light tickets dismissed at the neighboring village court. I’m glad that I learned a lot of valuable lessons, even if I had to become an actual crazy person to get there. Hopefully that won’t be repeating itself.

Tomorrow evening, I am going to the Animal Collective show in NYC. Been looking forward to it for months. Just want to get my dance on and be home by midnight, you know what I mean?

 

Closing thought:

What are you saving yourself for?

(a question to myself…though I offer it to ~You~ as well)

 

Overdrive

Today was one of those days that showed me just how much my mind can go into overdrive over minor deviations from what I expected.

I set out to work, and by 9:10am I had acquired three tickets;

  1. Left brake light out
  2. Right brake light out
  3. Expired insurance card

(Don’t know when that happened/can’t believe I forgot to print the new card)

I rushed from one place to the next, all while having my mind go through every worst case scenario imaginable (how can both go out at once? maybe it’s an expensive electrical problem…maybe I can’t afford it…maybe I won’t be able to handle the consequences of this situation!!!!!!!!!!!!!)

I went to the mechanic and asked him to give it a look. He changed the bulbs and I paid him $10. So far so good.

I printed the current insurance card.

I got through the work day; finished making the incense burner I was working on in pottery class.

Then I rushed through rush hour to get to the closest Police Precinct so I could hand in all these documents and have this business done and over with.

Not so fast.

It doesn’t work that way.

~You have to go to court. Court just closed. Court isn’t in this town, it’s in that town. Ugh, don’t you know this stuff, lady?~

I felt depleted and defeated.

I really needed a big glass of water.

*******

Now that I’ve gulped it down, and realize that I’ve amplified the stress level of this situation from a 2/10 to an 7.5/10, it’s easier to calm down and get back to the pressing issues.

There’s a girl who has to study for a hiking guide exam. There’s a girl that has to work on her plant based cooking course. There’s a girl that’s gotta eat some dinner.

THERE’S A WOMAN THAT’S GOT TO CHILL OUT.

 

h a ha ha h a h aa ha hah ha what a funny day it’s been.

 

 

Personal Victory!

There’s so much to say, and lots of distractions to keep me from going as deeply as I could. I’ll try and keep it simple, do things one at a time.

This morning I went on a run which provided me with a series of revelations. A shift has occurred.

I’ve never done much running. I thought it was boring, tiring, painful. Why would I subject myself to that?

Then, two weekends ago, I saw my dear friend run her first marathon and I got so inspired by watching all those people challenging themselves. There were half-marathoners and 5k runners there, too, and they were all pushing their personal limits.

Since then, I’ve had this idea that I’d like to run around the lake that is near my house. Some days I thought I can do it, easy peasy. Other days I thought I’ll never be able to do it.

Today I decided I’d try. I knew it was unreasonable to expect to run the whole way around without stopping, so I just told myself I would go and walk whenever I really felt I needed to.

I ran a little over a mile before I took a break to take off my sweater. I’m still learning how to dress for this whole thing. As soon as I started running again, it felt so much easier. That fist mile was a warm up.

Then the thoughts started. I kept going between doubting my ability to continue and realizing that it was entirely my choice. I ended up with a mantra: “I CAN, but will I?”
It helped me accept that I was physically capable, and put my mental resolve into the forefront. I asked myself if I would keep running if it meant I could save someone at the end of the road and in the same breath told myself that I was running with no worries. I was running because I chose to run, because I wanted to, because I was FREE.

What a feeling.

I ran about another mile before I took a walking break along the edge of the lake where I captured the gorgeous morning face of nature. Then I ran. Then I walked a moment. Then I ran to the edge of the park and walked the rest of the way home, allowing all the thoughts and excitement to settle.

photo-4

Today I learned that running is a very good metaphor for many things in life. There are too many tiny lightbulb moments to that happened while I was moving my feet one after the other. The biggest take away is that the mind and body function best when they work as one, with one common goal, with equal faith in one another. What “going out for a run” means to me now is proving to my mind that my body can do it, and giving my body the support of my mind. I am training cooperation between the two, learning to balance their roles, and allowing my spirit to guide me wherever it cares to go.

photo 5.PNG

***********

Yesterday I went pumpkin picking with my family. We had a nice, wholesome time. The weather was gorgeous, the pumpkins were lovely.

We stopped by a Polish restaurant  on our way home. The pickle soup was a winner. I have to make my own…as soon as I make some pickles. We got poppyseed cake at the deli and enjoyed it with some tea when we got home. My sister and I made plans to try our hand at making a whole bunch of traditional cakes together, while learning about the history of their origin and all that fun culinary stuff.

**************

As for Saturday, it was quite something.

I had dinner at “The View” restaurant which is on the 48th floor of the Marriot in Times Square. The whole floor spins 360 degrees in one hour. It’s quite stunning. I wasn’t expecting to be as enchanted as I was.

photo
Just after sunset

After that, it was time to see Cirque du Soleil’s Paramore, which ended up being another exciting experience I really wasn’t expecting to be so mesmerized by. The acrobats were amazing, the singers phenomenal. I got lost in time and space for two hours.

So I had fun on Saturday, courtesy of the generosity of a relative stranger. And as much fun as I had, it’s just not my scene. The city exhausts me. I’m grateful and lucky to have experienced what I did, but I woke up the next day feeling as though I had been beaten, and in a way I had been beaten…with excess and excitement. I do best with small doses of fancy things; I prefer my low-key life. I prefer spending a day in the mountains instead of day around 12 million people. At least I know for sure now that I’m not missing out on too much.

Anyway, now it’s time for another “work week.” I’ll try and make this grind-time as pleasant and positively productive as I can. I wish the same for you.

Godspeed.

Hesitation, after all

Good morning, life.

Alarm set for 6am. Ten minutes spent deliberating whether the person I was yesterday was right to set my alarm and sign up for a 7am yoga class. Maybe the me of today was privy to something (the benefits of more than 8 hours of sleep, perhaps?)

But now it’s 6:33am and I’m showered and sipping on green tea and about to head out the door into a rainy, rainy, dark day. And now that I’ve written that, I’m rather excited…

***************

I wrote that last Sunday, a day which turned out to be very FULL.

Here I am, 6 days later, and I haven’t written a single word mainly because I’ve been busy/tired/lazy. Sigh.

Leonard Cohen’s new album “You Want it Darker” has been streaming on NPR and it’s everything one could ask for. I’m listening to it for the third time in a row.

POTENT.

****************

This week has been full of novel experiences. It’s good. It’s necessary. No need to be afraid, just to grow, onward, forward, out and in.

Examples of personal wins that involved changing that way I do/think about things:

-Running 1.5 miles spontaneously as soon as I woke up on Thursday (and not hating it!)

-Going rollerskating with a friend even though I wanted to back out because I was sleepy (I got a second wind and had fun)

-Talking to two friends that came to my yoga class about the mysteries of the universe for an HOUR after we enjoyed a great yoga practice together.

-Texting a few friends even though I usually feel too tired and shy to reach out to people out of nowhere.

-About to head out on an adventure of sorts with someone I barely know.

Today is going to be another one of those days where my preconceptions will be challenged and hopefully shattered.

I will report on what happens tonight at some point tomorrow. Hopefully my thoughts are more coherent by then…

Anthropocene

(Looking to the stars I can barely see, seeing them looking back at me)

I think I’m ready to be free!

Do you even know what that means?

Nothing is asked of me, there is no past or future to heed, I am full and perfect and

I AM READY TO BE FREE.

Dinosaurs have come and gone,

catastrophes, plagues, wars, jealous gods,

and I’m here,

READY TO BE FREE.

I sing and dance with childish grace, heart to heart in warm embrace.

Yes, I know you know.

I AM FREE.

Objects in Motion

This weekend, I watched my dear friend run her first marathon.

Well, she didn’t run it. SHE FLEW.

I stood bundled in three sweaters, a pom-pom topped hat, and a yellow raincoat, holding back the fluids that wanted to seep out of my nose. It was worth it.

It was beautiful, she was beautiful, as were all the people who were there, runners and runner-lovers.

I’ve been derailed from all my routines (exercise, writing, meditation) as a result of this small bout of illness and mini-weekend-getaway.

but, Tomorrow is a new day, and even though this one really wore on me, really tested my resolve, I’ll get out of bed when my alarm rings.

[the label on my alarm says “Best day ever!!!!! Get excited, kid!” —groan!]

 

 

Realities of a Body

I am sick today. Boo hoo, poor me.

I made an extra garlic-and-oregano-y pesto, a near gallon of ginger/cinnamon/pepper/clove/lime tea, and am sipping some homemade chicken broth in hopes that it’ll somehow fix me up before tomorrow.

I don’t have time for being a vulnerable human!