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Finding My Feminine

I was gladly traveling in London and Paris while the debacle of the Kavanaugh hearings were unfolding. I did not hear or see much of anything until one day I opened Facebook to a slew of posts referencing Kavanaugh’s impulsive and juvenile responses to the accusations from Dr. Ford. And in contrast, her cool, collected posture in the face of what was likely a pressure cooker. Watching just a half hour of the shit show was enough to bring me back to the reality of what’s happening in our society – at home and abroad.

Over the past year or so, I have chosen to, for the most part, stay silent concerning the #MeToo movement. With exception, when the movement began, I posted one blog about my own sexual assault while in college – a memory I had blocked until May of 2017. I have been marinating in the up and down emotions of that trauma ever since, attempting to shield myself from the outside influences from the hashtag movement. I wanted to go through my own healing process and come to my own understandings of how my story shaped my life and how I could learn and grow from the incident.

At first, I thought resurrecting and coming to terms with the events of the night of my assault was my solution – my key to freedom from a heaviness that weighed on my heart for over twenty years. And while I did feel a not insignificant load lift, the truth of what happened so many years ago simply nudged the door open, allowing a sliver of light in. It turned out to be just the beginning of what has been a consistent and growing understanding of the contrasting Masculine and the Feminine energies – in myself and the world.

Let me come clean – I am not a feminist. I have struggled with the #MeToo movement since it began. Something just hasn’t sat well with me. It seems to put women in the role of victim, taking men to task and retaliating at them for all the wrong they have done. Frankly, it feels like a lynching of the Masculine. The I am woman hear me roar voice stronger than ever, castrating anyone with a penis. “Time’s up” seems to be a masculine response to a masculine issue. In my opinion, women have far more to gain from an I am woman, watch me love and forgive battle cry.

I am by no means suggesting that women stay silent. We need to keep exposing all the dirty, ugly reality of the massive disrespect for the Feminine. But maybe we can focus less on the stories of what happened to us as women and more on what those stories are teaching us and how to heal and move forward.

I don’t believe we can simply stand on our Goddess podiums and point fingers. We need to turn some of this scrutiny on ourselves. When I realized how much I myself contributed to a society that values, above all, the shadow masculine qualities of power, achievement, prestige and social status, I cried for days.

I am the queen of take control of the situation and kick ass. Get it done because you can’t rely on anyone else to do it for you. But for the past 18 months or so, more and more, I’ve been forced to surrender. To find my strength not in fighting but in faith. To turn it over to something bigger than me. To find fluidity and dance with grace. To embrace my mercurial moods and shifts. To sit with myself – my Feminine self – over and over again and watch my own resistance to it. In a world that doesn’t seem to honor this way of operating, I continue to learn to embrace everything fluid and divinely Feminine about me. For She is a part of my essence, more than I could have ever imagined.

Yet everything I learned growing up became a shield to protect the sensitive, feminine, highly intuitive woman that’s always been inside me. I learned to play in the sandbox with the men – I was the ‘guy’s girl’. I drank beer. I watched football. I thought it was the only way to succeed. I wanted men’s attention, their praise. Simultaneously, I shunned women that were too ‘girly’. I dismissed many women as petty and jealous. I always ‘just got along better with the guys.’ This worked for a long time. Except in romantic relationships. Because I was a wounded female, I attracted wounded males, with a couple of exceptions. I tried to play the games these men would play but wasn’t very good at it. Mostly I got my heart broke.

As I began to dismantle the masks of masculinity that I wore, I uncovered more of who I truly was. Returning to my most authentic Feminine form has been and continues to be a lot of work. A lot of reprogramming. But I’m finding the more I honor and respect my Feminine the more I meet men willing to do the same. I’m learning not to hate men and expect the worse from them. I’ve begun to cut them some slack and allow them the space to heal, as I have needed to do the same for myself. At the same time I’m raising the bar a little higher than what previously has been acceptable in all of my relationships.

We need men and their ‘dude’ ways. The strength, stability, confidence and purpose a self realized man brings to the table is attractive. It’s valuable and it’s necessary. We need more of these ‘real men’ in the world and we need to help them get there by encouraging them to heal themselves and embracing them as they go through their own grieving process. The more we shame and degrade them, the more they will feel the need to ‘man up’ and defend themselves with the shadow side of the Masculine. The side that puts the accumulation of power, prestige and wealth on a pedestal.

Yes, men need to take responsibility for assaults and abuse they’ve perpetrated. Especially those that have taken advantage of their rank and position. However, women, so do we. How have we diminished the most beautiful and sacred Feminine qualities of ourselves to fit into this society? How have we stepped aside, stepped down and allowed it? How have we given away our power? And most importantly, where have we failed at honoring ourselves?

We don’t need to change the rules, ladies. We need to change the game. We can start with changing ourselves.

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I Didn’t Love the Food In Paris.

This may come to a shock to most people, but I did not love the food in Paris. I know it would seem appalling to not indulge in the copious amounts of cheese and bread that have made French fare so famous. To the extent that I could, I did. But damn, I missed vegetables. I tried to eat at all the places recommended to me by friends and those who have wisely tread the Parisian path before me in search of the best falafel, gelato, and avocado toast – but the amount of carbs were overwhelming. Even the healthy recommendations (Fragments and Wild and the Moon) while lovely, were laden with carbs. Croissants, banana bread and baguettes made their way into most every meal. Most of Paris’s health options involved a lot of grains and beans, which do me no favors either. I thought I found salvation at a restaurant in the Gare duNord on my way back to London where I saw ‘seasonal roasted vegetables’ on the menu. I had high hopes for some artichokes (these seem to be a popular vegetable in Paris), maybe some carrots and onions and green beans or broccoli. Imagine my disappointment when I received white potatoes, a few carrots, of course, artichokes, and white beans steamed hidden beneath a rich butter sauce. My heart sank. My belly ached. I desperately craved a big ass salad.

I did have my very first macron (salted caramel for the record) and while it was pretty divine, my life would be complete without having another. The croissants I had for breakfast each day, 3 in total, and an additional piece of bread at dinner each day was enough to put me in a coma. I slept more than I have in weeks in Paris. At least eight hours a night – maybe nine.

Maybe this is because, for the most part, I’ve been off sugar and carbs since six weeks prior to my trip and I’ve felt quite amazing. My energy didn’t slump late afternoon as it used to and the consistent belly bloat I used to experience disappeared. After my week in Europe, the bloat was back. With a vengeance. It’s weird but for once, I didn’t care so much about food. I just cared about feeling good.

I gave myself ‘permission’ to eat whatever I wanted in Paris. By the second day all I wanted was some steamed broccoli and avocado and olive oil. I met a lovely man – an Italian jewelry designer – who was in town for fashion week and from whom I bought the most beautiful ring. We agreed Italian food would be much more agreeable for me. We very well may be the only two in the city or in the world who don’t love to eat in Paris.

What I do love in Paris is everything else. I love the lights. The sounds. The smells. The sights. The architecture. The Seine. The people. The sky. The beauty. Everywhere. Beauty. I love walking in Paris. I love the pace of Paris. I love the energy. I love the way Paris seems to enjoy life. The food was last on my list when it came to the most delectable gifts of this city. It is hard to encapsulate in words what Paris is. She is there in Her most resplendent way. Shiny. Bright. Joyful.

I don’t know why people say Parisians are rude. Maybe it is because the people with those opinions are assholes who expect everyone else to speak their language. I try to visit other cultures with as much reverence as possible, understanding I am the visitor. I don’t expect people to speak English and feel humbled and grateful they do and are willing to assist. And the Parisians were always willing to help when I lost my way or didn’t know North from South from East from West – which was often.

Traveling solo, per usual, I met the most interesting people I may not have otherwise, namely a couple of Americans. One, a best selling novelist who has written a book based on her love affair with Paris and Peter Jenning’s ex-wife, a truly fascinating woman. Another, a man from Brentwood, twenty minutes from my home in Los Angeles. It was nice to connect with people who understood my language implicitly. Mostly we discussed what a mess America seems to be in right now and how pleased we were not to be there.

As liberating as it may be to travel solo, I’ve been there done that. By day two in Paris, I was wishing I had someone to share those croissants and rose in the middle of the day with. As I wandered the cobblestone streets of the Marais grateful for my latest adventure, I felt the familiar tinge of loneliness. I walked it away, traveling 11 miles by foot to take in all the sights and sounds of the city of light, convincing myself it was better to have the freedom to go where I pleased without the consult of another. But I couldn’t walk away the thoughts of what it would be like to take in the gifts of this city with someone special.

While I was glad to be distanced from the political debacles of the States, I missed home. I missed Zeus and his early morning kisses and snuggles. I missed routine. I missed sweet potatoes and soft boiled eggs and avocado for breakfast. I missed spinach and broccoli. For the first time in the longest time – maybe ever – I feel content and settled where I am. I love my life. Not anymore for the many exciting adventures I am fortunate enough to take – but for the beauty in its daily messy and mundane.

2016 – A Reflection

There is so much I could say about 2016. Yet when I try to encapsulate my adventures of the past year into words, I fail. The closest I’ve come to describing my sentiments is “Whoa.” Since February, I have not slept in the same bed for more than three weeks and sadly, not for reasons some people traditionally use beds. I’ve prayed and meditated in India, surfed in Sri Lanka, hiked amazing mountains in Colorado, and made connections all over the world with friends old and new. I completed a good portion of my book yet also come to find that as poignant and insightful as my tale may be, without the clout of millions of followers on social media, it likely will not get published and reach those I so hoped it would. Unfortunate for me as right now, the last thing I want to do is play this social media game. It’s been weeks since I’ve been active on Facebook and I can’t say that I miss it. Ironically, however, I’m sure I’ll make a post or two about this blog. Otherwise, how else will anyone know I even wrote it?
This year has forced me to question who I am and who I want to be. Likely, given the current events of the past month, I am not the only one. I’ve had moments where I’ve felt the most expansive and light I’ve ever felt yet weeks later, shrunk into a contraction until only a shell of the woman I used to know remained. It’s been a study in contrasts to say the least.
2016 delivered so many answers yet even more questions. And lessons too many to recount here. Just when I thought I was content and safe and had shit figured out – WHOP! Right upside the head. Not once have I been allowed to forget that I have shadows and darkness that require my attention, care, and love. Pieces of me that I have been ashamed of and condemned are demanding to be tended to  with kindness and acceptance. To be integrated into my whole being as opposed to being pushed away and neglected. I can no longer beat them back and command they go away. I must lay down my arms and surrender. One day, feeling particularly defeated, I wrote – I’m tired of trying. And seamlessly the next words flowed from my fingers through my pen and onto the page – Then stop trying. 
I am making yet another move to find a place that feels like home. A place that will honor where I’ve been and nurture where I want to go. In my clearest moments, I am certain Los Angeles is this place. Yet, I watch doubt creep in when others fire questions my way. Where are you going to live? Do you have a job? What are you going to do when you get there? Do you have savings? I sense my blood pressure shoot up simply writing them down. When I feel strong and stable my reply is a definitive I don’t know, full of trust and calm. But repeating these questions in my head (a scary place to be) and overthinking (one of my greatest gifts) instantaneously triggers at times a debilitating fear that convinces me I’m destined for a lackluster life plagued by depression. Where I want to be seems so very far far away from where I am. And no Google map will get me there. I’m not even sure where ‘there’ is.
I’ve taken to wearing a ring lately that I picked up some years ago. On it, unbeknownst to me at the time, is an Alcoholics Anonymous anthem: I promise to take it one day at a time. I’ve never had a dependency issue with drink or drugs aside from caffeine, yet something in those words resonate deep inside. Lately, it’s what prevents me from feeling completely overwhelmed and helpless. I don’t know what will happen next week, next month, and sure as shit not in 2017. Thinking about a master plan feels too daunting and riddles me with anxiety. I am not sure what’s right. I can only be certain of the next right thing. A day at a time. And I know if I continue to do the ‘next right thing’ life will continue as 2016 ensued – a grand adventure. No matter where I am. #adventureon

Rocky Mountain High

My time here in the mountains has been nothing short of epic. Six weeks, twelve hikes, live music, dancing, friends new and old, and lessons that continued to come my way. I wish I could say I have mixed feelings about leaving. I don’t. As in – I don’t want to leave. While Austin has been wonderful for the past three years, I feel like its time has come. That I’ve gotten from it what I needed.

What I’ve found in the mountains is balance. Here, amongst friends, family, and the wisdom that Mother Nature has shared, I got a glimpse of what it’s like to not live under the spell of an eating disorder or neurotic body consciousness. Let me be clear, I’m not ‘managing’ my issues or learning how to tolerate them. For the first time, I actually believe I can overcome a mental struggle that has plagued me my entire adult life. Up until recently, I’ve honestly believed positive body image and true health – both inside and out – would be a life long karma I’d have to tolerate. But here, I have a glimmer of hope that it’s a seed I can burn for good. At least get it nice and charred.

Since being here, I’m not attached to going to a gym or working out. I hike my ass off (literally) on a weekly basis yet can’t help but feel like walking amidst the trees, hearing the sounds of nature, and breathing fresh air every day does my soul more good than my body. I’m active without having to think about it and days I’m not, while sometimes my agitation or neurosis doesn’t hesitate to make itself known, for the most part, I feel like I just need the rest. Here in CO I eat fruit and drink beer with abandon. Because savoring a juicy, local CO peach in the middle of August after a 3,000 foot climb to a lake a color blue like you’ve never seen before surrounded by 14,000 feet of pure earth and sometimes snow is just right. And a beer once you descend well – there’s nothing more right than that. Especially if it’s a local draft. Yet as alluring as the mountains are, the thought of starting over in a new place, yet again, is not appealing in the least.

Not an unfamiliar feeling, what’s surfacing more than anything as I approach my final days here in CO is fear. I have no idea what’s next. I would love for this book to become a New York Times bestseller and put me on a new trajectory for the career and life I desire. But there is the reality of that not happening. And there’s also the reality of unemployment and travel for the past six months. It’s been an absolute blessing but now I’m faced with a question that, whether we are aware of it or not, we answer in every moment of our lives, with every decision we make – NOW WHAT?

Big picture, I know the answer to this question. I have dreams and goals and ideas I want to realize. Big ones, at that. I want to shape my new reality instead of being at the mercy of what my bank account or someone else in my life demands. However, what to do in the meantime? The ‘little picture’ demands things get taken care of. Things like rent, car insurance, and grocery shopping. There’s a lot of praying going on right now. For guidance, for the right opportunities, and yes, for a fat check. I want to continue moving forward and not backward and in between there is space. Space to create, space to play, and space to worry. In this space, faith gets challenged. So I do the things I can to bolster that faith as much as possible. I am forced to let go of control and continue to listen. Hard.

For now, there is a big question mark at the end of my personal sentence. I have no clue what the next months will bring. I feel like I am living an Ani DeFranco song – I’m thirty-two flavors and then some. A mixed bag of happy, sad, fearful, anxious, excited, nervous, clear, confused. I’ve stopped placing judgment on or identifying with my moods and instead, committed to simply witnessing them. And not just witnessing them – but using discernment about what they communicate to me. Often times, I’ll take a look at my P Diary app (this is an app that tells a woman where she is on her cycle) to see if my mood could simply be a function of hormones. Or I ask myself, what did I eat – or drink? Often times, if I’ve had one too many cocktails (which, for me can be one cocktail), I may feel depressed the next day. To understand that there are several factors that affect my mood means I am not at the mercy of emotion as I used to be. Once I get a sense of what’s really going on with my roller coaster ride, I can then assess what action to take to best alleviate or manage what I’m feeling. If anything. Truth be told, sometimes I’ll just turn on some weepy music, allow myself to stew in my own sadness and throw myself the proverbial pity party. Because maybe I just need a good cry gosh darnit.

In all my uncertainty, here is what I do know. I am vulnerable. I am resilient. I am empowered. Three words I never would have used to describe myself even a year ago.

Vulnerable no longer means weak or insecure or powerless to me. It means open and soft and willing to listen. Resilient no longer means powering through life, trying to make things happen the way I want them to. It means staying steady in the face of change – an unmovable force for good and an unshakeable example of faith. And empowered simply means that I, and I alone, am responsible for my thoughts, my actions, and ultimately, my life. I feel confident I will weather the storms ahead with more grace, strength, and, purpose than ever before. Sitting here, on my last day in the mountains, I am certain, I will never end this journey of self-discovery and growth

Is The Shit Show Necessary?

I’ve been here in Ridgway, CO about two weeks now. I’ve spent most of that time adjusting – to the altitude, a slower pace of life, not having every convenience at my fingertip (except for Amazon Prime – thank you Amazon Prime), and a different way of life in general. I would say I’m acclimating quite nicely.

Now that I can somewhat breath again, I’ve been spending time hiking, writing, resting, exploring, and meeting new people. One random afternoon took me past a Pilates studio in town. I stared in the window salivating at barres, mirrors, wood floors, and Reformers. Somehow, I had to get in there. I could feel my hamstrings and core getting weaker by the day and knew I needed to get myself back into some sort of routine. While I certainly feel better when I look better, it’s also important for me to keep what tend to be my weaker muscles strong so I can do all the other activities I love without low back and knee pain. Such as hiking. In case you didn’t know, there’s a lot of hiking here in Colorado.

I looked up the studio on line and not five days later I was meeting with the studio’s owner. Somehow we completely skirted over any talk of Pilates and dove right in the deep end. We shared stories of body insecurities, negative self-talk, and guilt over feeling the way we did knowing we are blessed to have the bodies we do. I immediately felt connected to this woman. At one point in the conversation she questioned whether or not everything needed to fall apart for us to evolve and create anew. My answer? Yes. Absolutely.

It’s one of the first pieces of wisdom I learned from my teacher. We only change when it becomes too painful not to. Let’s face it. Change sucks. The human condition prefers to be comfortable. To live in the stable and the known as opposed to the nebulous and unfamiliar. With a handful of exceptions, humans are, by nature, risk averse. We don’t like to take chances unless we are confident our gamble will produce a successful outcome whether it’s in business, relationship, or life choices.

There are no shortage of quotes on the challenge of living outside your comfort zone and the great reward that can result. Life begins outside your comfort zone. Your life does not get better by chance – it gets better by change. If there is no struggle there is no progress. We know this. Our intellect understands that the only way to evolve is to change. Yet, most often, we prefer to stay the same even if it produces an undesirable outcome.

Most times, if we remain stagnant despite all signs pointing to a need to shake things up, something will come along to deliver a swift ass kicking. It can be anything from an emotionally painful break-up to a life threatening accident. Or it may simply be the persistent pain of living day in and day out under the same conditions of disappointment, abuse, or general malaise. One day we wake up and just can’t tolerate it anymore. We are done.

It’s a phrase I hear more and more. I’m done. What follows it varies – I’m done feeling badly about myself. I’m done with this relationship. I’m done playing small. And in its emphatic form such as I’m SOOOOO done with this job. The pain of staying the same MUST BE greater than the pain of change. Saying we’re DONE is our proclamation to the Universe that “what is” is no longer acceptable. Things must change.

It would be great if our lives didn’t need to fall to shit in order for us to shift. Usually, however, we need to be forced to alter our way of doing things or adjusting the lens through which we view the world. The good news is, like any other skill, navigating change can be developed. And the more adept we become at managing the discomfort of change, the more likely we are to take risks and, as one of my favorite authors, Brene Brown writes, dare greatly. Make no doubt about it – risk is a learned aptitude. The more you rehearse, the better you get.

Try to cultivate an attitude of gratitude for all the events in your life that seem devastating. I am a firm believer that God, Spirit, Allah, Universe – whatever you want to call it or believe in – does not hand out anything beyond our capacity to endure. You know, the whole what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger philosophy. Someone, somewhere, is trying to wake you up. Pay attention and use adversity as a path to growth, wisdom, and change. The more you accept change as inevitable and the more you work your capacity to handle adversity, turmoil, and discomfort, the easier and more fruitful your life will become. Shit show and all.

Staying Steady In The Wind

I haven’t been posting here much because most of my writing energy has been directed toward my book these days. However, to satiate your unyielding curiosity as to how I’ve been since my return from abroad and my subsequent journey, I offer you this blog. Truly it’s a self serving endeavor to check-in with myself and assess where I am so I can make honest and thoughtful choices for the second half of my summer.

I’ve been feeling like I need a respite from my constant motion of the past few weeks. It’s been a while since I’ve felt the peace and quiet of my family’s lakeside retreat. My friend’s home here, despite being in the city, offers a beautiful respite from the hustle and bustle of appointments, social engagements, and sitting in traffic. It is homey yet, clean and spacious and I’m always comfortable here. The energy of her space is zen and her kitchen fully stocked with everything I need to get all homebody and cook, instantly making me feel easy. She has a lovely pool in the backyard, which doesn’t hurt. I feel like I could stay here for days and not have to go anywhere. My definition of a true home.

I had a very L.A. kind of day today. It’s Sunday and I woke up on the first day of my cycle, feeling very internal and a need to protect and honor my feminine energy. I allowed myself to slip back into bed for a bit after my practice to linger and breath deep with one hand on my forehead and the other on my belly. Once out of bed I made my coffee and a very weekend breakfast for me – protein pancakes. I wrote some. I social media-d a bit. I took my time moving about, cleaning up and decided while a full on workout was not the right choice today, walking and some nature would do me some good. Here in LA, we like to call that a hike. There are no less than 50 other people ‘hiking’ with you but it did the trick and it’s close by.

I made a conscious decision that if I were to listen to any music on my jaunt up the hill that it would have to be mellow and introspective. Krishna Das was already pulled up in Spotify so that’s what began playing. Yup. I’ve become that girl. The one that listens to and sings music that most people only hear in yoga class. All the time. Mantras, kirtan, harmoniums, chanting. You name it. I play it.

Just before I reached the summit of Fryman Canyon, I was particularly moved. I’m sure it was the perfect storm of my weariness, the music, and hormones, but I needed to pause and sit to reflect. It didn’t take long for gentle tears to stream down my face. I’d had this feeling many times before, so now I knew what it was. It was not a gush of pain needing to find escape. It was simply feeling wanting to be known. Uncertainty. A deep longing to land somewhere but not yet knowing where that somewhere should be. Sure I had a sense that I belonged back here in LA or maybe even outside the city on the east coast, but I know that sometimes, my hopes and wishes may be shoved aside for a grander plan. One of which I am happy to resign myself to knowing if I do, that is where I’ll be happiest.

I noticed this little flower blowing in the wind. It was the only one around. It seems everything else had dried out and died as a result of the drought. It was a beautiful, albeit small, burst of brightness amongst dry desert dust. Although it was being tossed to and fro by the breeze, it was sturdy in its position. It was firmly rooted in the earth and come hell or high water, this little flower would not only survive, but flourish. It was nature’s perfect reminder – a representation of myself. Although I may be blowing about from coast to coast, home to home right now, I am not without purpose. Unlike my wanderings of the past, I am firmly rooted in my faith and supported by Divine guidance. I know I will withstand the torments of shuffling and uncertainty to continue to grow, flourish, and succeed. I stood up reassured of my path despite not knowing exactly what it might look like.

Upon rising from my seat, I felt my butt being poked with little spikes. I reached back to find I had sat on some sort of cactus like brush. Don’t think Mother Nature doesn’t have a sense of humor. She does. I smiled and shook my head. A gentle reminder to not take this stuff too seriously. Keep putting one foot in front of the other and remember to laugh every now and then. With that I continued my journey, tears dried, a smile on my face and determination to do whatever pleases me today. Tomorrow, I will continue my adventure the same way – step by step with awareness of what’s best for the next moment – as I board my plane to Colorado.

 

Am I Fun?

As I made my way out of the coffee shop this morning, the brief encounter with the slightly mad looking man with crazy disheveled black hair went something like this:

Crazy Man: Hello.
Me: Good morning.
Crazy: You look like you’re a fun person.
Me: I don’t know how fun I am right now.
Crazy: I think you’re fun.
Me: Thank you? Have a good day.

For the record, I don’t really think this man is crazy. I believe him to be one of those rare birds who is unafraid to call it like he sees it and enjoys offering kind, audible comments that make people smile. I love these people and actually believe they, not us hiding behind furtive glances and beneath silent comments, too afraid to tell someone they’re pretty or handsome or we like their style, are the sane ones. I also do not believe our meeting to be an accident.

There was power behind this slightly unusual interaction. I could feel it by the sadness that sprung in me immediately, like an almost dead plant that comes alive after receiving a fresh pour of water. The trickle of tears I knew would fall if I repeated our conversation aloud. This small exchange struck at the heart of something I’ve been wrestling with since my return to Austin and there are two people in this world that I wanted to talk to about it. These gems were the type of friends that would do exactly what I needed them to in that moment to help me get to the crux of my emotions – listen. They also happened to be the numbers that responded with voicemail. More often than not, an unavailable friend is always someone up there nudging and encouraging me to figure it out on my own. Get your ass in your chair and write about it.

For the past ten days or so, I’ve battled with a feeling that isn’t foreign to me. I felt it before I left Austin and was hoping, with eyes fresh from travel abroad and a new perspective, something would shift. But it seems it hasn’t. There’s a sense of sadness that I can’t shake when I’m back in Austin. I’m hesitating, but if I’m honest, I would classify it as a mild depression. Before I left I was convinced an unfulfilling job and inauthentic life was the source. It’s one of the main reasons I flew the coop.

I learned a lot about myself in my three-month sojourn. I experienced a lot of healing and found forgiveness and peace like I have never known. I returned to the States excited to make a fresh start and my first week back, I felt energetic, alive with enthusiasm despite a pretty much non-existent jet lag. Elated by the comforts of home, I was filled with gratitude for all the gifts of my life. I was up early, practicing deeply and sharing time with loved ones. Inspired and motivated by opportunities in front of me, I anticipated my life guided by love and authenticity. You would’ve had to scrub the smile off my face with steel wool and bleach.

Within 48 hours of being home in Austin a switch flipped. While the gratitude I feel for being back in my space, a seemingly endless array of clothing to chose from, and long mornings to write has not been lost, there it is again – what I can only describe as a quiet malaise. A small veil of heaviness has steadily begun to lay over the light, enthusiastic woman I experienced merely weeks ago. She seems time zones and almost worlds away.

To my logical mind, this doesn’t make any sense. There’s a part of me that loves Austin – biking down to the trail, walking in nature so close to the city. The space I’ve cultivated. My friends. I have a list of reasons to enjoy this town. So why, aside from the occasional moments likely prompted by a cocktail, does the joy filled girl – the one the crazy man seemed to discern beneath a slightly sullen exterior – seem so elusive in Austin?

As I’ve discussed with many friends here, some of who feel the same, I can’t quite put my finger on why I lack the same joie de vivre being back in Austin. Together we’ve mulled over potential culprits. (One being the absence of Uber and Lyft. Seriously. I have no car and am thus relegated to areas I can walk, bike or bum a ride off all too generous friends.) I have no need to rattle off a list, as it is not my objective to defile this city. On the contrary, I spent many an hour trying to convince my overseas friends to come visit because the city is so wonderful! And I still believe that. But something is preventing me from experiencing it.

Was the ‘newness’ of my first week back in the States the culprit of my perma-grin in Los Angeles? Was avocado every morning after a three-month depression enough to make me giddy? Or did time with my teacher contribute to my love of life? Did I still consider Los Angeles as time off – an extension of my travel abroad? A week more of carefree living despite being within the borders of my homeland?

Or is something deeper at play here? Did my unconscious response to the kind sir on the patio of Café Medici signal a certain unwillingness to have fun and be lighthearted? What is the weight my heart bears that seems to effortlessly disappear when I am in Los Angeles? While Austin is a great city, is it like an ex-boyfriend? Someone I love deeply yet ultimately, not right for me? Did Austin, like any good relationship, serve its purpose? Is it simply time for me to move on?

I don’t have the answer and so I will continue to adventure on, asking myself questions along the way. My job is to be brutally honest with what I’m feeling and continue to live authentically. Maybe that will land me back in Austin. Maybe Los Angeles. Maybe somewhere that hasn’t crossed the limited capacity of what I allow my mind to imagine. Wherever it is, I know it will be the right place, at the right time. And in that place, there will be fun. Lots of it.

20/20

Often times we only appreciate things in hindsight. When I was practicing and learning from my teachers, or meditating in the Matrimandir, or cooling off under a waterfall, or taking a walk through an empty magical forest, or lapsing up a delicious green curry, or teaching in a foreign country, I couldn’t imagine the longing I’d have for those moments weeks later. As they were happening, I couldn’t know how much I would miss them. My trip seemed to be a strange mix of longing for the past and worrying of the future. The times when I was fully immersed in what I was doing right then and there were sprinkled in like bits of candy floating through an ice cream sundae. And like a child when I uncovered those rare morsels of present moment awareness, I devoured and savored them but may not have fully appreciated them until they were gone.

Are time and comparison a requisite for appreciation? How can we possibly comprehend the meaning or depth of something without the context of time? Can we truly recognize the preciousness of a moment, a person, a kiss, a meal without comparison to another person, kiss, or meal? Is it possible to understand the beauty of a moment in the very instant it’s happening?

I don’t have the answer to that. If I did I wouldn’t keep reminding myself to enjoy the present moment. Or reminiscing about my past adventures in India, Sri Lanka and Thailand

Just a couple of weeks ago, I was sitting in a garden oasis in the middle of Luang Prubang, enjoying the most random mix of music – first Billy Joel, then Bob Marley, Sublime and oooo – is that Steve Miller Band I hear?

Anyway, as I sang the first few lines of For the Longest Time, out of nowhere a few tears slid down my face. (In those days, it could have been sweat beads. There was all sorts of liquid coming out of my pores in that heat.) I can’t say for sure, but I believe singing the song aloud conjured up the innocence of my childhood and the carefree days of living without much responsibility for my life. As I continually contemplate, what’s next? I recalled times when I didn’t have to answer that question. Even though the drama and turmoil of my teens seemed important at the time, life didn’t have the weight it does now.

That moment in Laos emphasizes the very thing I’m writing about here. I knew my final week was upon me and that soon, my journey would be considered the past. And maybe I didn’t do all I could to honor my present.

Joni sang it best – you really don’t know what you’ve got til it’s gone.

May we not wait for time to march on to savor every person, taste, and experience that life offers us or prove to us that the moment we have now is magical. May we truly seize the day and find appreciation without comparison and gratitude without prerequisite.

It is my hope that you and I know what we have while it’s here.

My Freak Flag

I imagine it’s different for everyone but if you gave me the choice between traversing up a steep mountain or wobbling back down, I’d take the ascent any day simply to avoid unpredictable rock and dirt or a rapid unexpected butt tumble. I may be digging a bit deep, but as I walked around Pai Canyon in Thailand I wondered if my hiking preferences in any way correlated to my approach in life. Does my eagerness to climb and effort and my corresponding hesitation to let go and put it on cruise control manifest off the mountain?

Associated or not, my answer is yes. Yes. And yes.

I’ve noticed this before and even joked about quite recently. The path of least resistance? I have no idea what you’re talking about.

Don’t get me wrong. My work ethic and discipline have served me well over the past three decades or so. But the toil and trouble philosophy I’ve become used to is a hard habit to break, even when it’s not welcome. My attraction to effort seems to unconsciously dictate my choices and often prevents me from enjoying the art of doing nothing.

On that mountain, it became very clear that it comes down to one thing plain and simple – fear.

Fear if I just relax things won’t get done. Fear if I don’t go sightseeing I’ll regret missing something. (I believe the kids these days call that “FOMO” or fear of missing out.) Fear if I don’t write today I’ll forget about the profound realizations or blog that so eloquently flashed across the screen of my mind. Fear if I don’t get a quieter room I won’t sleep well and be cranky. Fear if I eat one more piece of bread, my tummy will lose its flat physique uncovered during my Ayurvedic cleanse. Yup. That fear still has its grimy grip on my consciousness. And, last but not least, that indomitable fear that resides deep inside each and every one of us whether we’re conscious of it or not – the fear of dying. Trust me, it’s there.

I do not advocate being fearless altogether. That’s just dumb. Fear has a purpose. It warned me not to take the unchartered descent down the canyon with bad knees. The scar on my right leg served as a fresh reminder of the consequences of being fearless. Fear also cautions you not to go down a dark alley in India alone. It warns you to leave an abusive relationship.

But when fear begins to involuntarily dictate life decisions, quite frankly, it sucks.

There’s a title reserved for those who are so fearful they dominate every situation in an attempt to ensure things go their way. They are stubborn and unable to understand other points of view or respect differing opinions. They’re called control freaks. You may know one.

My freak flag flies high as I approach the end of my travel journey. I am clear on the force pulling on the cords, raising the flag. It’s my fear of the unknown – the road that lies ahead of me when I return. I’m not sure what it looks like. Or how I’ll manage it. Even before I get home I am on the computer scheduling, contacting, and creating work for myself. If I don’t, what will I do? I can’t just return home and laze around, idyllically dreaming my days away. Or can I? Maybe, just maybe, my days will look completely different than they used to.

To combat control, I’ve been calling up surrender and faith in my morning meditations. Yesterday I attended a yoga class here in Chiang Mai whose focus was 2nd chakra – the energetic center that rules fluidity, adaptability as well as joy and pleasure. It is represented by the element of water. A smile crawled across my face knowing this was not a coincidence. As if I needed a reminder, I was reassured I will always find what I need on my mat.

 

 

 

 

 

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