Guest Post by Brandon Fell
Change can be a million things. The word change can radiate a range of impact wider than the pipes set forth in Mariah Carey's rendition of "All I Want for Christmas Is You", (which I'm administering a free pass to play year-round by the way), yet as drab as a motivational speech from Ben Stein. Think about the last time your company underwent a change. They probably invested time (which is money), resources (which is money), and money (which, is money). In summation, they spent a lot of money to facilitate a smooth transition from point A to point B. Yet, for some reason that little 6 letter word typically projects a state of fear. Sometimes it may be warranted, other times not so much. You can change the sheets on the bed (blah), change your major in college (crap), change jobs (double-crap), and lying just beyond the horizon in my little world, change something that up until a few months ago would have induced an eloquent response along the lines of me telling you where you could go shove an ambiguous object. Of course, that something is coasts (alert the troops! Hide the women and children!).
Never in my 28.74 years on this planet would I have even entertained the idea of anything but east coast living. And for beautiful reasons. Family, friends, PSU football games with childhood friends, Philly sports, in a word: home. So as I set out to embark on a fairly extreme domicile uprooting, a guy with 28+ perfect right-side years on his resume moves from a place of comfort, a place of the known's, and armed with what I could only try to describe as a little voice of reasoning who lies somewhere between the white angel on your right shoulder and the red devil on your left shoulder. For shits and gig's, we'll put him in a blue outfit. Kinda like Papa Smurf. He's not supposed to represent good or evil, he's just here to say "hey man, check your shit." Roger that Papa, I hear you man, but like a LeBron James pre-game chalk toss, poof...I'm gone.
It is fitting that I traded in my sexy Infiniti (tear drop) for a Nissan X-Terra which, as I've come to find out, was first marketed by Nissan as everything you need, nothing you don't. After folding the rear seats down to make a big open space, I look back at my personal belongings - my life, if you will - and see everything I need, and by default, nothing I don't. Ironic isn't it? What do I need? Clothes? (My golf clubs, c'mon). Support from family and friends in my wake? Open arms and support awaiting me in Frisco. (I realize you people don't like the word Frisco. Well, I don't like being told I threw snow balls at Santa Claus. Check mate.) Anyway, here I am rolled up into a support sandwich. We're here for you B! We ALL love you! (Ok it isn't nearly THAT dramatic.)
While this change bears lengthy exchanges with Papa Smurf, what lies on the left side patches up these reservations in a way that, put simply, if everyone was fortunate enough to have someone like her, one wouldn't need to search very far for excuses to smile, and the argument against the glass half full would forever be deemed obsolete. We will be eagerly trading in the gift of sporadic anticipation and excitement to see each other over the last year and a half, the 3,000 miles, and the 3 hour time zone difference for the chance at a forever.
See? Change doesn't have to be so scary, does it?
In a nation where we read to the right, look left to right at stop signs, and even do the Cupid Shuffle to the right, the right, the right the right the right, going against the grain won't always give you splinters.
See you on the left side.
(But don't worry Mom. I'll be back.)
Guest Post by Janice Nicol
Hello, Grateful Lifers. Trish recently joined me for happy hour cocktails at an SF bar to celebrate my 30th birthday, a few hours before my second celebration destination: Disney World. As I was dashing out to catch a red-eye to Orlando, she left me with a pointed question: what’s it like to kick off a very adult decade in the land of children’s dreams?
I’m reporting back for y’all here. First, know that although I would love to feel the lifelong magic and excitement for Disney’s grand imagination that others do, I just don’t. I haven’t seen a Disney movie since Aladdin, circa 1992. I also don’t have kids. I’m not married, honeymooning, or being proposed to any time soon. Essentially, I’m the Magic Kingdom’s least likely customer. But when my kid-at-heart partner sprung the idea on me a few months back, the destination met my criteria of 1. warm (too much San Francisco fog!), 2. cheap airfare, and 3. somewhere I’ve never been. So, I bought some white cutoffs, borrowed a friend’s metallic gold fanny pack, packed five types of sunscreen, and ventured east.
My boyfriend and I arrived at our Port Orleans Riverside room armed with a park hopper pass and detailed Google Calendar breakdown of our strategy for conquering all five parks in our four Florida days. This plan was bolstered by three apps that algorithmically optimize a park’s itinerary based on live open-sourced wait times. We were ready to conquer the Kingdom in a way no child could. That said, the cast member who checked us in gave me a ‘Happy Birthday’ button -- the ‘i’ in Janice dotted with Mickey’s visage -- which meant that every Disney employee we encountered wished me some variation of “Happy Birthday Princess!.” The ever-supportive BF stood by me as I sported that button for four straight days.
From our first destination, a lazy river loop at Typhoon Lagoon, to the last, one more Space Mountain ride as the clock struck midnight, I loved relinquishing control of my happiness over to Disney. Sure, they couldn’t quite accept my life choices -- I was frequently welcomed as Mrs., despite two last names on the res and visible lack of ring, and I was impelled to open a pretend engagement ring on-screen for four hundred Monsters Inc comedy show attendees -- but the illusion of a simpler world was too lucrative. Life could be sensory, playful, gravity-free.
Guest Post by Kim W.
In June, I went to France and I didn't eat very much cheese. This is ridiculous because within the geographical borders of France you will find a high concentration of the things I hold most dear:
- Wine. The national motto is Liberté, Egalité, Drunkité
- Language. A beautiful language that I hack to bits with my wicked Franglais. (NB: "Drunkité" is not a word.)
- Food. Cheese, chocolate, pastries, bread, truffles, more cheese.
I went to France with the express goal of eating my face off, but I didn't. It was really hard to undo years of turning down dessert and making 'sensible eating choices'. I couldn't shake the rules I'd created for myself.
Too many pit stops at the office candy bowl? No problem. Candy bowl entirely off limits.
Caloric intake too high? Only coffee at coffee shops, nothing else. Stop drinking calories (alcohol excluded, of course). Don't go shopping without a list of things you actually need. Don't even step foot into a store you can't afford. Don't sing and/or dance unless everyone else is also singing and/or dancing.
It's easier to walk the straight and narrow with a few little boundaries. Don't do this, don't do that. Just some bumpers to keep me from throwing a gutter ball every time.
But the innocent guidelines start to add up to something not so helpful. In his description of Netflix culture, CEO Reed Hastings says that any successful company must avoid "barnacles" that can slow down a fast-moving business. It should also make tough decisions without agonizing, and focus on great results rather than the process.
I've been collecting barnacles, collecting process. Agonizing over whether or not to eat the cheese.
I've even collected barnacles when it comes to writing. I already wrote this post once, actually. It fell into the exact same format as all my posts for TGL. Notice the seemingly unrelated anecdote at the top, followed quickly by a bulleted list? (Throw in a teensy joke in a parenthesis.) And let's not forget the overall cautious tone, because God knows who's reading this, and I don't want to offend anyone, and things on the internets last forever. It's hard to escape your habits.
In "Several Short Sentences About Writing", Verlyn Klinkenborg doles out a hit parade of advice that ostensibly relates to prose, but easily doubles as advice on living life:
Writers at every level of skill experience the tyranny of what exists.
I scrapped the post and started over. Well, scrapped the last half, at least. I really do love bulleted lists.
Then, I went to a concert. Even though I don't normally go to concerts because they're loud, scary places where the appropriate level of singing and/or dancing isn't immediately clear. But it was one of my favorite bands, complete with a tiny, adorable, French female vocalist. Towards the end of the show she did something pretty standard for a concert - asking for audience participation. She asked everyone to close their eyes and feel the beat. I expected her to end with an imperative like, "Dance!" or "Jump!", but instead, she encouraged everyone to, "Close your eyes... feel the beat... now do whatever you want!"
So I did. I danced like an idiot, came home, ate some dessert, and wrote about shedding barnacles.
Guest post by Brandon Fell
Have you ever sat at work staring at the clock, performing the best Samantha you can to try and make the hands spin faster? Fought the traffic to get home only to wake up the next morning and fight the traffic into that place you didn't want to be? Kinda like Groundhog Day, except you can replace a cute furry creature with your life? I call this rock bottom, and it serves as a fairly strong indicator that you may want to explore other options. The good news resides in the last word of that sentence - options.
Recently I've embarked on a career-180, rendering my original PSU undergraduate degree one very expensive four (and-a-half cough-cough) year, um....experience. (Love you mom and dad).
But you know the saying, as one door closes...
...force another one open! No one is going to hand you anything, but you will always find people who are eager to help, provided you present yourself with an attitude that is worth helping. That's where the hard cheese comes in. Recall what your parents told you to say when posing for pictures when you were little. Cheese! And cheese hard! There are but 2 facial expressions conveying positive emotions that are recognized universally across all races, religions, languages, and geographic locations. As you may have guessed, one is smiling. I've stormed my way into a whole new industry, equipped only with eagerness and cheese. And it's gotten me farther in a couple of months than 4+ years working a "normal" job. The difference lies in doing what you want to do.
Temporarily set aside factors such as income, schedule, and taking a step or two backwards. If it is truly what you want to be doing, these things will follow suit. For now, they are about as useful as the combination locked inside the safe. Dad always told me, "if you enjoy what you do, you never work a day in your life." He's 2 years from retirement, and if you ask him, he'd tell you he's still awaiting his first day on the job.
But I digress.
Am I the best trainer? The smartest? The most cutting edge? Hell naw. Not even close. But I relish in helping people reach for their personal goals. And who doesn't love service with a smile? How about service with a genuine smile? The genuine smile of someone who once thought that hours at work felt like days, but now flips through calendar days like the pages of your favorite book?
It also doesn't hurt having an abundance of love and support in your corner; family, friends, partners. Albeit I received the overwhelming "do what makes you happy", there was consensus surrounding a new career associated with my fervor for fitness. You may be familiar with my partner; one who wears many hats in my eyes. She's evolved from random summer-time co-camp counselor, to long-time acquaintance, to friend, to girlfriend, to best friend, to damn-we-really-have-something-here. As an ideal partner would, she's had my back since day 1, well before our current status, or dare I say, the Holy Grail of all relationship statuses...FACEBOOK OFFICIAL (puhhhlease). She sees what makes me happy and goes beyond encouraging me to pursuit my dreams. She volunteers and whores my personal training services out regularly - acting like my agent - if you can imagine Jerry Maguire snorting rainbows, unicorns, and glitter. But she made taking a life-altering leap feel as routine as telling her I love her; effortless, natural, and just flat out right.
So when you decide to take your leap - career or otherwise - don't forget the hard cheese. It's highly contagious...and as of today...no known immunizations exist.
**(blushing) Editor's Note**: Thank you for bravely sharing a piece of your story, B. Whatever it is that makes your pulse race, go for it! I'm so proud of you and your new life adventure, and honored to be a part of this journey with you...it's all happening!! (And for the record, my dear readers, yes--he is as dreamy as he sounds). xo.
Guest Post by Julie M.
Hello Grateful Life readers! My name is Julie and I blog over at Swim Bike Running on Empty. Trish and I have known each other since our Penn State days and I’m so glad she’s asked me to share a story with you all today.
Life as we know it is unpredictable. I am a Type A to a T and no matter how much I try and plan my future something always seems to come along and…change things up. This past year, I committed to being more present. To live in the moment. And it’s a good thing I did, because life really threw me a curve ball when my husband was offered an amazing job in Edmonton (that’s right: Canada) that was far too good to pass up.
So in July 2012, I resigned from my job. The job that I’d had for almost seven years, straight out of college. The job I loved and looked forward to everyday. The job that I felt practically defined me as a person.
We sold our house in less than a day, moved in with my parents for a few weeks and then in late August, I hoped in the car with my mom and two dogs and we had the road trip of our lives as we drove from Pittsburgh to Edmonton. We stopped along the way to visit family and friends, and with the exception of Starbucks, existed entirely on food we had made and packed with us, i.e. no fast food. We drove through the Badlands, Mount Rushmore and Yellowstone. We hung out with elk in Jackson Hole. And we managed to only spend 2.5 hours at customs when crossing the border. But that’s another story for another time.
Following a series of sanity-testing events, we slowly settled into life in Edmonton and I started to wonder what my future held. For months, I had been focused on the logistics of our move without thinking too far into the future. I was yearning for friends to call family in Edmonton and a routine.Something that doesn’t just happen overnight.
As luck would have it, our road bikes were damaged in our move. (Thanks, movers, for literally tossing them from storage into the back of a moving truck with zero regard to their cost and care.) Thanks to Google, this led us to a bike shop down the street and around the corner that only leaves me to believe that someone up above has a plan, because before I knew it, we were at the shop a few times a week for spin classes, runs, coffee, pastries and great chats with people that would slowly start to become our Edmonton family.
Fast forward a few months, and I have started a new marketing job in downtown Edmonton. I am regaining structure in my life but still lacking my sense of purpose. Until one day when it all seemed to just click. Now is the time to go after one of my life goals, I thought. Now is the time to become an Ironman.
For those that aren’t familiar with the Ironman, it’s a triathlon consisting of the following: a 2.4-mile swim, a 112-mile bike ride and a 26.2-mile run. Some say it’s the most grueling – both physically and mentally – athletic event in the world, and I can’t WAIT to see what it brings for me.
Finishing an Ironman is a goal that I’ve had since 2007 when I had the opportunity to be on the Ironman World Championship race course in Kailua-Kona, Hawaii, for work. Something inside me that day just felt alive. And when I saw athletes in their 80’s competing that day, I vowed (maybe out of spite?) that I, too, would compete in – and FINISH – an Ironman.
So on August 25, 2013, I will line up at the start of Ironman Canada in Whistler, British Columbia, to race my heart out and fulfill one of my biggest goals in life. The road to the race won’t be easy. I’m averaging 20-25 hours per week training (which you can follow on my blog) and when I’m not swimming, running, biking, lifting, or doing yoga, I’m focusing on eating healthy, recovering correctly and sleeping. Ahhhh, sleep. But you know what? It will be worth it.
Life works in mysterious ways. Just when I thought I may never find my niche, especially in a new country, everything came together and fell into place. While my job no longer defines me as an individual, I am able to pursue a passion of mine and make a new name for myself. And boy, am I glad for the opportunity to do so.
My challenge for you all is to seize the moment and trust that everything happens for a reason. You never know what new adventure awaits you if you open up and put trust in yourself to pursue your dreams…
Guest Post by Jessica Y.
I am a hoarder, especially when it comes to clothing. I have tried to live a hoarder free life but for some reason I have never been able to resist buying a bright colored pair of flats, a vintage 70s dress, or a pair of Levi's (I currently own 17 pairs). In February, I moved into a much smaller place, where I had to downsize my life in half and it wasn't till I started packing that I became aware of how much clothing I really owed, and more importantly how much of it I’ve never really worn. Seriously, why must a girl own 9 identical brown cardigans?! Although it felt rewarding downsizing my wardrobe, I still had a hard time letting go of all the clothes I never wore. During this process, I thought of some fun, creative ways to make sure all my clothes could be given a second life, and I wanted to pass them along to all of you grateful
5 ways to give your clothing a second life:
1. Throw a clothing swap party!
Invite your friends over and have them bring their unwanted clothing, put out some snacks and drinks, and swap around. Everyone leaves home with great "new" pieces.
2. Turn your clothing into a DIY project!
My friend in New York recently sent me a photo of how she took her unwanted dresses and tops and turned them into home decor using embroidery rings! Pintrest is a good place to look for other ideas like this.
3. Sell and Trade
- Crossroads and Buffalo Exchange are great places to get some extra cash for your unwanted clothing, or get store credit and update your wardrobe. I always wind up finding great scarves, purses and jewelry at these consignment shops.
4. Give a gift!
One year for my birthday my friend gave me the cutest dress, it was a dress that I had always borrowed from her when we lived together years back. Every time I wear it I always think of all the good times we've had.
There are great alternative places to donate your clothing: Out Of The Closet is a second hand store who's proceeds go to benefit the Aids Healthcare Foundation and Dress For Success is a non-profit organization that provided suits and interview development to women, it's a great place to donate your unwanted work clothes.
I encourage you all to shop smart, and think of the lifecycle of a garment when you make a purchase.
Guest Post by Lindsey P.
When I first sat down to write this post, it was tough picking which thing-that-I-am-grateful-for to share with you all. Then I thought about Trish, and I knew this post had to be about laughter. Trish cracks me up. We are part of a book club, and I have been known to cry from laughing so hard at some of the things she says.
Tons of studies have been done on the health benefits of laughing - even WebMD agrees, so it must be true, right? I am definitely grateful for every chuckle, snort and guffaw. So in no particular order, here are a few things (other than Trish) that are guaranteed to make me laugh:
Probably the funniest show ever. Have you seen it? Even if you have, watch it again and you'll catch a new joke. I am beyond excited for the new season airing on Netflix this May.
Also it inspired me to buy this tea. Watch 'The Sword of Destiny' and you'll understand...
Friends who laugh at the same dumb things you do.
It was recently a friend's birthday, and the night evolved into a celebration featuring favorite things past and present. Cue the unicorn shirts, pastel sunglasses, Guinness cake, BBQ, martinis and Brad Pitt movies. And balloons!
When someone else finds the same weird thing funny, laughter seems to snowball.
My own clumsiness
I have the unfortunate luck of frequently spilling things (food, drinks, glitter), as well as tripping. I've dumped juice, pasta, a burger and a raspberry tart inside my purse at one time or another. I once broke my foot while skipping. And while that wasn't funny at the time, thinking now about how ridiculous that sounds makes me chuckle.
This little lady.
My family's dog, Chauncey, is CRAZY (she barks her head off if anyone outside of my immediate family is in the house, and will chase tennis balls until her feet fall off). She is also crazy funny. She will bark at her own reflection in the mirror, she likes to play hide and seek (where you hide one of her toys and she has to go look for it) and she makes so many different noises I swear she's trying to talk. I'm sure all of you other pet owners will agree, having a pet is a definite source of amusement.
Have you ever listened to this guy? I mean really listened? Hilarious. He rhymes Kodak with Kodak. Ok, confession, some of the songs I like in more than an ironic way, but if I'm having a bad day putting on some of his music is a guaranteed smile.
Also, he wears pants that look uncomfortably tight.
So what about you, Grateful Life readers? What's the best way to get you to laugh?
Guest Post by Kim W.
In Part One of this post I gave an example of how I was secretly holding a grudge. Below are the full details of the lies I tell myself to cover up my nasty grudges.
Secret Grudge 1: Personal Interpretation
As discussed in Part One, my husband might think that he’s said something innocuous, but oh no, my wise lady parts know better. I am therefore obliged to explain what he really means, which is usually not so innocuous.
"Bozo said he didn’t like my clown makeup, therefore he thinks I’m ugly."
I know what he really meant. I’m a people-person, I read people. When people speak, I listen carefully, and I truly understand the subtle message behind their words. We are so strictly bound by formalities that people aren’t free to say what they really mean. I hear the truth. I’m empathic.
The Insidious Truth:
No, you’re not. Perhaps you may actually be sensitive to what’s going on under the surface, but you cannot use empathy as an excuse to take things personally. Or to layer your own interpretation on someone else’s intention. In The Four Agreements, Miguel Ruiz says, don't take anything personally:
"Nothing others do is because of you... When you are immune to the opinions and actions of others, you won’t be the victim of needless suffering."
I cling to my own interpretation of other’s words. When I recall an event, I don’t play back what really happened, I recall my version of events. Which is usually more hurtful than reality. When I hold on to that hurt, I’m creating a grudge from thin air.
Secret Grudge 2: Keeping a List
I can recite, without pause or breath, every single word of negativity anyone has ever said to me. Ever. Back to the first grade. It may be my super-hero power.
"Bozo said my juggling was sub-par, and that my red nose was so last season, and that no one could mime his way out of a box like him."
I’m just telling it how it is. I’m not adding my own opinion to what Bozo said, I’m just reporting. Just the facts, ma’am. Wouldn’t want to forget any of those horrible, soul-crushing nasties, now would I? This is just good record keeping. Nothing to see here. Move along, move along.
The Insidious Truth:
No way in hell am I an unbiased observer of the events of my life. There is no journalistic integrity when it comes to your friends and family. I don’t want to to acknowledge the emotional undercurrent, so instead I focus on the easy part: 'the facts'. They sure are a lot easier to gossip about. Reliving the play-by-play bypasses a lot of necessary introspection. Sometimes the introspection leads to realizing the word or action wasn’t so bad, and I can let it go. Or introspection shows me that, in fact, it was that bad, and it’s best to bring it up with the person in question. But skipping that introspection, can quickly lead to keeping a ‘grudge list’.
Secret Grudge 3: Conditional Demands
All I ever want out of anyone is a heartfelt apology. I crave apologies. I’d shoot apologies directly into my veins if I could. Other people may want something else, like recognition, or someone admitting they were wrong, or even a hug.
"If Bozo would just admit he had no place taming that lion, we could put this all behind us."
It would be so damn easy if he just did admitted it. How can Bozo not know he was wrong? How can Bozo not see it? How can Bozo not do this one simple thing!? One day Bozo will see the error of his ways and everything will be ok.
The Insidious Truth:
No, he won’t. Well, perhaps he’ll have a near death experience as he falls into the jaws of that lion, and his flash of insight will be, "I should have apologized". But it’s unlikely. What’s more likely is that Bozo doesn’t know he’s hurt you (or he does and his own personal hurt makes him feel justified in his actions) and you’re carrying around this secret demand, letting it pollute all your interactions. It’s ok to want something from those you love, but it’s not ok not to hold a the relationship hostage in exchange for an apology ransom. Either you fess up and say, this is what I need from you for a healthy relationship, or you let the grudge go.
And there you have my three secret grudges. You’ll notice there aren’t many suggestions for how to stop holding a grudge. But for me, just calling a spade a spade, and not rationalizing it as something else, has helped immensely. With the people that truly matter, I day-dream less about spontaneous mea culpas. With those that don’t matter, I let the grudge go and let them out of my life.
If you’re wondering, “Hey, does Kim hold any grudges against me?” the answer is, damn right I do. I hold unnecessary, secret grudges against everyone. But I’m working on it. Unless you’re that Bozo guy. That guy is a real jerk.
Guest Post by Kim W.
I told my husband I was going stand up paddleboarding with a group of friends. He said it sounded fun. “You can come if you want”, I said. We both love water sports but he was, as usual, working that weekend so I didn’t expect him to say yes. He thought about it and said, “It’s ok, I’ll just go work and make us some money instead”.
And so commenced Married Couple Cagematch Throwdown Spectacular 2013. Are you readdyyyy toooo rummmbblllee?
I was hurt - the implication was that I didn’t contribute to our relationship financially. Which is strictly true (he does and always will make more than me because he’s a nerd in silicon valley). He was being honest - he was sad to not go paddleboarding, but consoled himself with his (admittedly awesome) work ethic.
To support my case, I cited previous 'examples' of his 'opinions' that he had never properly 'apologized' for. This incident was just the latest in a string of comments that showed a deep resentment towards my much smaller income. I offered my evidence to the court and established a very nasty pattern of behavior. What a good little lawyer I would be, I thought.
With the patience of a saint, he explained that he didn’t think those things at all, and I was putting my own spin on this and past events. My catalogued list of unforgiven sins turned out to mostly be a reflection of my own unaddressed hurt feelings. MCCTS2013 didn’t shine a spotlight on his true intentions. My well-reasoned arguments were nothing more than well-disguised grudges.
It was very hard to admit I was keeping grudges. I’m a pretty forgiving person, usually to the point of excess. I’ve been known to suggest that dictators and despots might not be so bad with a few antidepressants and a good hug. However, I do hold a mighty grudge when my feelings have been hurt. Then I dig in and clamp down, reliving and reworking all the perceived wrong that I have suffered.
Being hurt by something my husband said is ok.
Being hurt, and holding it against him instead of addressing the issue, is bad.
Being hurt, holding it against him, and calling that anything other than a grudge, is the worst.
The more I thought about it, the more I was forced to admit I was hoarding a pile of secret grudges. Tomorrow in Part 2, I’ll confess my three ways to hold a secret grudge.
Read Part 2 here.
Guest Post by Jamie M.
I had been dreading turning 30 for years. At my 21st birthday, and then again at 27 and 29 (yikes, so close!), I knew that 30 sounded like the oldest possible age I could ever picture myself turning. It had become the benchmark for the end of my young life, and each time a friend posted on Facebook about their 30th, I shuddered at how I was inching closer to the milestone myself. I silently begged the big 3-0 to stay the heck away.
But then in my late 20s, I made a decision. Age 30 was coming whether I liked it or not, so I better start thinking about what I want my third decade in life to look like. I had been working as a magazine editor at the same job for almost 5 years, a job that I loved and had worked really hard to get to, but I had reached the pinnacle of where I could go with the small company. And I had always wanted to go back to grad school. So I did. All the way across the country in New York City.
Around then, my long-time roommate/friend Kerri spent her 30th birthday in Belize diving and zip-lining, and I finally had an epiphany. If I had to turn 30 anyways, I was doing it in style. I had always wanted to visit Hawaii, so I started asking everyone I knew which islands they had been to, and which experiences in the Aloha State they had adored most. All roads kept pointing back to lush, quiet Kauai. The island had everything I was looking for: verdant green hikes, waterfalls, fruit markets, calm ocean waters, a lack of rain in November, and the absence of any of the crazy, developed hotels and waterfronts that existed on some of the other islands.
I invited my 3 college roommates, Kerri, my sister, and a few others, and assumed that if I had those people committed, then I could invite whomever I wanted once the trip was for sure a go. We talked about this on my 29th birthday when we were all together, and everyone agreed that they would 100 percent be in for the trip. As the year went on, life changed, people moved or changed jobs, changed situations, and my big birthday trip turned into a 3-person jaunt. Myself, and my 2 college roommates: Annie and Elise.
The birthday approached, and grad school ramped up into crazy status. I was semi-regretting planning the trip with the amount of work I had to finish in my last semester of journalism school, and the fact that I would only be able to make a quick stop at my parents for Thanksgiving before leaving for the trip (therefore missing all kinds of quality family time.) But the minute I stepped off the plane in Kauai, I have never been more grateful that I loved myself enough to plan this trip.
I landed in Kauai at 10 am, and the girls weren’t going to be arriving until the evening. I had the whole first day to myself to get our Jeep rented, explore the winding island roads and ocean views, dip my toes in the sand, take a shower, and show up to the airport for my loves with a fresh faced, sundressed smile. And they came to the curb already wearing fresh-flower leis, with a pink, fragrant one for me. Game on.
My parents gifted us the apartment for a birthday present (bless their hearts), a huge beach cabana with kitchen so we could cook, and plenty of room for the six or so people that were originally meant to come. We were living like queens with only 3 of us.
The girls wanted to do a helicopter ride—I agreed, but only if it was the very first thing on the first day, so I wouldn’t have to be nervous about it the whole trip. It was terrifying, and I kissed the ground when we landed, but the views and the experience were unlike anything else I have done. (Annie gifted me a “good luck turtle” from the gift shop around the corner before we boarded the ‘copter.)
We ate cold coconuts, took a surf lesson, snorkeled, went to a luau, followed the road around the entire island and explored anything that looked fun along the way, put flowers in our hair, listened to Hawaiian music on the radio with the windows down in our bright red Jeep. Oh, and I managed to write a 3,000 word final story for grad school, all before noon.
And as it turns out 30 really wasn’t so bad after all. I spent the dreaded day surrounded by two of my favorite people, sharing a papaya and a world-famous macadamia nut cinnamon roll at the Hanalei Bay Wake Up Café, chasing after waterfalls, and climbing swinging bridges. Life is all about the experiences you make, and 30, my friends, was a good one.
Guest Post by Lee B.
Symbolic. Ironic. I had been teaching three-syllable words with the /ik/ sound to my reading group when I subconsciously pulled these examples for them to decode. Upon discussing the meanings of the terms, something hit me. My recent past could be summed up by these words; my eyes went wide at the realization.
Let me backtrack and paint you the gloomy picture.
I was pregnant, abandoned, alone and afraid. Years led up to this point in my life – I was supposed to be satisfied with this pregnancy that we had long worked toward, but life had thrown me some intense curve balls. Never had I anticipated that my life would become this: desolation and desperation. With pain and refusal to accept the truth, the pill remained stuck in my throat; it was too difficult to swallow my truth. There, it festered as a life grew inside me. Winter became spring and spring burnt into summer. I became a mother. I said “good-bye” to the green trees blowing in the wind and cried an ocean of tears as I headed inland, far inland, toward the arid desert. I hate the desert. I hated my life.
But it was in the desert that I rose from the ashes, in a place called Phoenix, no less. My soul, in pain and apprehensive began to open. My child became my focus and my selfishness dissipated into selflessness. Why did it take me so long to get here? In my dystopia, I vowed to make good my world, to provide for my child and my soul in ways that I had never done before. Without question, I began to trust that the universe had a plan for me. It was then that the doors began to open.
I was sent here, to this sandy landscape, away from all I’ve ever known, to be reborn. I found life in a landscape representative of death. Happiness and love began to overflow because I was finally open to them. Love was something I thought I understood, yet I was clueless. My child helped me to realize what love is capable of. Looking in the mirror, I realized that I, too, am deserving of love. With a new baby and battle scars, I began to appreciate myself – my mind, my soul and my body. My scars were indicative of pain but growth and strength. My heart became soft again as the scar tissue began to pump away, making one last circulation through my body before departing.
Thank you, life, for the wake-up call. I am now enlightened and finally LIVING. Torch in hand, I have conquered the mountain that stood before me. I have risen up toward the sun, where I can see and breathe, where I have found love, peace, and ultimately, happiness. Thank you, life, for reminding me, through your many tricky ways, to live.
Trish is off to Australia for a much needed vacation with her man slice.
In the meantime, your doses of gratitude will come straight from some spectacular guest authors. Some you've met before, and some will be making their TGL debut.
Can't wait to see what they have to share...
Guest Post by Kim Walker
Last week I went surfing with my husband and his family. For three days, I followed my normal surfing routine: fight through the breaking inside waves, make it outside to safety, catch my breath, pee (come on, it’s cold) and then sit on my freezing butt for hours, too intimidated to actually take off on any waves. Then, on the fourth day, something magical happened. The sun came out, the windchill died down, the waves got a bit smaller and a pod of 20 or so dolphins surfed alongside us. There were even baby dolphins. I was beside myself with glee. Surfing was forgotten, to be replaced with high pitched joy shrieks and sad attempts at dolphin noises.
None of this was any surprise to my family. I love dolphins. Hard. This is not the first time I’ve had a complete mental breakdown in the face of dolphins. Growing up, I only had one stuffed animal, my dolphin Dexter. We went whale watching a few years ago, and no whales showed up. We prowled the bay for hours to no avail. Towards the end of the tour, a pod of dolphins briefly shadowed our boat and for me the trip was not just saved, but far better than the original plan. I babbled, “Look at the pretties! We are friends!”. I’m very in touch with my inner child, or at least my inner Lennie Small.
This past week I’ve spent more time coloring with my five year old niece than interacting with the grown ups. I keep trying to tell the grown ups that my niece and I are not that different. I’m obsessed with cute animals, I prefer to talk about the latest Disney princess, and I’ll take a piggy back ride over walking any day. Now, before you jump ahead and say that this is a good thing, that I have a healthy sense of childlike wonder and my youthful spirit will serve me well in adult life, remember the other common characteristics of a five year old. I’m not good at sharing, I pick on my little brother, and I can throw a mean tantrum.
Just today I pitched a total toddler fit. Complete with stomping feet and whiny whines. I wanted to go for a run but I couldn’t find the right sports bra. Of course, this couldn’t possibly be a weird coincidence. Everyone was out to get me, someone hid my sports bra maliciously and my husband didn’t love me because he wasn’t helping me find it. He tried in every rational way to comfort me and I bitched so loudly that he actually had to say, “Hey, is yelling in my ear very nice?”
You might say that it’s normal to get frustrated every now and then, but here’s what’s so childlike about my fits. If someone handed me the missing bra in the middle of my tantrum, I still wouldn’t have felt better. If it was all about the missing item, I could have said to myself, “It’s just a sports bra, it’s probably just fallen behind the bed, and if not, you can buy another one, insert reasonable rational logical good sense here”. But not all tantrums are created equal. Sometimes the toddler is screaming about a missing lincoln log, but what she really needs is a nap, or lunch, or any number of non-environmental factors.
I was saying I was mad about the bra, but really, I was frustrated because the time spent looking for it made me feel late and rushed, which makes me feel out of control and uncomfortable. I only felt better when I stopped thinking about the stupid bra and starting thinking about what was really bothering me. Then there was room for reason and sense to enter the picture. I could relax and accept that this wasn’t a situation I could or should control.
So the next time I’m behaving like a little kid, I’m going to treat myself like a little kid. Instead of listening to whatever it is I’m squawking about, I’m going to run a checklist. Are my basic needs met? Do I need a nap, a snack, or a diaper change? Are my emotional needs met? Am I frustrated, scared, lonely, sad, jealous, overwhelmed? Then I can snap out of five year old mode and back into grown up mode.
When I see dolphins, I fully indulge my joyful inner child. I let her run amok and it’s probably really good for me (and very high-pitched for everyone else.) When I get overwhelmed, indulging that cranky inner child can feel good, for a bit. But then it’s time to put on my grown-up hat, run the checklist, and do what it takes to snap out of it. Ideally, snapping out of it would involve a dolphin encounter, but this may not be practical in day to day life. In case of emergency when no dolphins are present (rare, I know) a deep breath or a cookie will just have to do.
Editor's note: One of my most favorite things about Kim is her shining, loving, playful inner child and one of my most favorite parts about our friendship is how she generously leaves space for me to unleash mine, too. If allowing her child-like curiosity, sense of wonder and appreciation for a side of silly to come out means occasionally she also melts down like one, I vote for letting her be exactly who she is. And maybe always keeping a cookie on hand ;) Love you, Kimmie!
by Kim Walker.
Trish is one-of-a-kind. A beautiful snowflake. She is her own perfect self, seeing the world from a truly unique perspective. Except when it comes to one thing: trapeze. When it comes to climbing a ladder and throwing herself from a height while relying solely on her own strength, Trish is not alone in her perspective. Trish is the preacher, we’re all the choir. That shit is scary.
When I say, “I do flying trapeze”, people say, “Oh, I’d be too scared”. I say, “Of what?” Then come the reasons: heights, climbing the ladder, falling, etc. Yes, all those things are ultra scary. But what if I told you we’ve got that all on lock. We got nets, we got safety lines, we got harnesses. We got your fear-busters right here.
Now, this is where Trish is really unique. Where she really shines brightest as a rare jewel of a woman: she is honest about what scares her and honest in how she faces those fears. She said from the beginning, “I’d be afraid I couldn’t jump off. I’d be afraid I’d embarrass myself.” And I get it. Can you imagine how awful it would be if your flying trapeze class didn’t go well, and then you had to go home and blog about it?
When Trish didn’t fly at that first class, I thought it was game over. When you’re standing at the edge of the tiny trapeze platform, thinking to yourself, “This is so stupid, why am I doing this, abort, abort, abort”, your brain enters a somewhat binary place. Yes/no, fight/flight, pee/poo. I have seen so many people face that crucial moment. It’s a one shot deal - you don’t get to change your mind. You either jump right then, and it’s as if the door is opened, the path is wide. Or you don’t jump, and the door closes, the path is blocked, and it’s almost impossible to come back. It’s a very rare case that someone can work up the nerve to climb back up and try again (Except my mom, who I told to “just climb back up and look around”, when I had actually secretly told the instructor to fling her bodily from the platform. Sorry, Mom).
But Trish did it. She walked out of that building and then did something really unique: she came back. She showed up for a second time with fear bubbling and her mind set. She didn’t balk, she didn’t panic, instead she very stoically faced her fears. And did a damn good job of it. And I’m pretty sure she enjoyed it, because there’s a flipside to that tremendous fear: incredible joy and pride. Joy in flying through the air, and pride in choosing the scary path.
Sam Keen, a journalist turned philosopher, wrote a book called “Learning to Fly” about taking up flying trapeze at age 61. He says:
“Each day befriend a single fear, and the miscellaneous terrors of being human will never join together to form such a morass of vague anxiety that it rules your life from the shadows of the unconscious. We learn to fly not by being fearless, but by the daily practice of courage.”
Fear never leaves us, and in fact, it probably shouldn’t. A little healthy fear probably keeps us safe from stupid mistakes. But fear does not have to be binary. We don’t have to let fear force us off the platform, never to return again. We can always climb back up and try again after practicing a little courage. When facing extreme fear, especially fear that comes from within, it’s a pretty good bet that there’s an extreme reward waiting on the other side. All it takes is a little jump.
“The sacred is discovered in what moves and touches us, in what makes us tremble.”
― Sam Keen
For part THREE (and final, with video evidence) post of me and the flying trapeze, check back tomorrow ;)
by Kim Walker
There are too many positive female role models in my life.
Our own bloggess Trish, is one. She spends her days spreading “love and light” in a way that is so compelling, that instead of holding back barf, I legitimately believe she means it. My mom has been through hell and back and come out kicking on the other side, with a hilarious snarky commentary to boot. My mother-in-law went from dodging race riots in Michigan to churning out four incredibly perfect children. Three of those children also happen to be women actively engaged in role-model-ery by working demanding jobs, raising gorgeous children, baking perfect cupcakes and getting up at 4:30 in the morning to work out.
Oh and did I mention all these women are all very, very skinny?
I hate them all.
That’s not true. I love them. A lot. But I hate that I am not them.
Last weekend I went camping with the aforementioned sisters-in-law and their five amazing children, who are all under the age of six. Let’s try that one more time with feeling: Five children, under the age of six. Out of their normal routine. In tents. With boundless energy. With no soft ground. Right next to a lake they all seemed determined to hurl their lungs directly into. A combination so potent that it reduced this childless woman to a twitching, ovary-shrivelled, panicked lump.
It was not the children that brought on the panic. I expected shenanigans from that lot. It was the spectacular mothers that sent me into a tailspin. They never sat down, rarely slept, and kept up a steady flow of cooking, cleaning and drowning prevention. Worst yet, approximately 100% of the mothers' beers were knocked over. And none of them complained. Not even a little.
Meanwhile, I lost a flip flop about halfway through the trip and it was the end of my universe. Here are some of the very grown-up things I said to my husband over the course of the Great Flip Flop Hunt: “But I don’t WANT to wear my other shoes”, “If we don’t find it NOW it will be lost FOREVER”, and “Why do terrible things always happen to meeeeeee”.
When I looked from sisters-in-law, to myself, and back again, I had the creeping realization that one of these things is not like the other. I was forced to review my assumptions about pregnancy and child rearing:
Step 1. Create the miracle of life. Enjoy newfound freedom of eating whatever you want and laying around. Begin saying things like, “Baby needs...” and “Baby wants...” to disguise own demands.
Step 2. Give birth and be bathed in reciprocated love on a deep and meaningful level. Stare longingly into eyes of joy.
Step 3. Get skinny through magic of breast feeding, feed child organic mum-mums, enroll child in competitive pre-school, kick back, relax and enjoy motherhood
Sounds completely reasonable, right? The reality will probably be something more like this:
Step 1. Get knocked up. Feel like shit. Worry about getting fat. Still have to do stuff. Cankles. Get orca fat. No booze to numb pain.
Step 2. Push out kid. Ruin vagina. Kid loud. Kid hard. Resent kid. Scowl at kid. Call kid ‘asshole’.
Step 3. Hire nanny.
Watching these amazing women in action, I questioned my own ability to actually do it: to raise a child and not fuck it up with my own selfishness. And no amount of mulling this over is making me feel any better. My eggs are quickly rotting and I’m going to have to make a decision soon here.
When I was around 17 or 18, I was asked if I wanted to have kids. Without blinking or thinking I answered “Yes, as many as I can”. The certainty of my answer shocked even me. I thought to myself, “Really?” and the follow up was immediate, “Yes, really”.
Trish calls it her spirit voice, Jill calls it her small self, therapists call it your inner voice. Oprah probably calls it “THE SECRET!” or something. I very rarely hear this voice. I almost never
feel that something is ‘right’. In 29 years, I can count on one hand the times I’ve heard that tiny, confident, assured voice. And each of those times, it has counseled me to do something drastic. And every one of those times, it has been right.
As a chronically indecisive person I have clung to these few decisive instances. Brief moments where my head bobbed out of the water long enough to glimpse the shore. Those moments have given me the confidence to act on ideas that I knew deep down were right, even when following through felt scary or wrong.
I may not be a positive female role model myself, but how lucky am I to have so many to lean on and learn from. My brain may be chock full of fears, but how lucky am I to have heard, however quiet and brief, that voice reminding me of what I really want.
I *have* to listen to that tiny voice from so many years ago. Because it’s never been wrong. And because, although I may not know how to be a good parent, I do know that I will counsel my future daughter to always trust her own inner voice. So I had better start practicing what I plan to preach.
Otherwise that nanny’s going to cost a fortune.