Pondering: Pages of the Past

pen on notebook black and white quote

Last week, while I was writing my morning pages, I ventured across a topic I didn’t even realize I had been thinking about (as I find that I am wont to do quite often in that exercise) – namely, an old friend. Some time ago, I noticed on Facebook that a guy I have enjoyed a very complicated relationship with for the last (oh geez) 14 years or so is on his way to wedding someone else. Honestly, a small part of me is a bit jealous – it has been 14 years after all – but I find that I am also genuinely happy for him. We’ve been more distant friends lately than anything else, which I am sure helps with the goodwill. (smile) Anyway, all this got me thinking about my other journal, the one that has evolved to hold the more purposeful ponderings (i.e., the big stuff).

So I pulled my own personal book of revelations from its hiding spot (some teenage habits will never die) and sifted through the pages containing our times together. My friend and I have always joked that one of us should write our story down as it would make for some interesting reading; until that day it hadn’t really occurred to me that I’d been doing just that in my own way. I would never It would take unimaginable enticement for me to ever share those thoughts publicly, but I’m glad they’re there. Those pages contain some of the worst and best memories of the last (almost) decade of my life, and through all the head-shaking, eye-rolling, and giggles, I relived a truly great story.

As I was revisiting memories from that particular relationship, I began to notice another theme threading through those pages. From the very first entry through to the most recent, almost every entry lamented my current life status. I’ve been constantly searching for that magic change that would instantly make my life better for a decade now. I’ve always thought myself rather brave and, at times, even proactive, yet here was contrary proof written by my own hand. I won’t say that I’ve wasted the last 8 years or so going in a circle – because there have certainly been some great memories and awesome adventures – but I haven’t made as much forward progress with myself as each entry seemed to hope for.

tree blossom quote, the best time to plant a tree was 20 years ago

I generally have a rule about reading what I’ve written in my journals – as in I don’t do it. Once the words and emotions are out, I don’t often go back in search of them. However, as hard as it is to read some of those words now, I am grateful for every single one of them. Looking back through those pages was a huge wake up call for me. I realized that I’ve been writing the same words over and over again waiting for them to magically make more sense – to jump off the page and transform my life. Perhaps they have, through my reading them back now. I’m still as unsure about most of my life as I was all those years ago, but I have all those pages of experience to read back over; to understand that I have been living life; and to see what I need to adjust for the future.

Those pages highlight a series of hard lessons that only time could have taught – 1) time goes on whether you will it or no; 2) to move in a particular direction, you oftentimes have to pro-actively do something to adjust the sail; and 3) be honest about your emotions.

I have finally lived long enough now as an (sometimes) adult to appreciate those lessons. The next challenge will be implementing thm into this everyday life I lead. At the beginning of this year, I said that my word for 2015 was Warrior. We’re well into May now and I find that I’m slacking in my intentions. It’s time to stop talking writing about the same things over and again in the same way. It’s time to adjust the sails while remembering to enjoy the ride. (smile) And as I work on doing so, I want to acknowledge how grateful I am that I kept those words and emotions within those pages. And now, with the advent of this blog, I have these words as well. Words I feel free to share with the world in hopes of helping others, interacting with community, and keeping a beautiful record of a life purposefully lived.

Language Shouldn’t Be A Barrier

Last week I was catching up with a friend who recently returned from spending a year in New Zealand. The trip was only her third time out of the U.S. and her first solo adventure, so I was really interested to hear her thoughts on the experience. It sounded like she had an excellent time and would have likely not come back but for family commitments here. Our conversation next strayed (naturally) towards future travel and where she would like to go next. Imagine my surprise when I heard she was only interested in opportunities in English-speaking countries!

Now I appreciate the ease of communication that comes with traveling within your native language. However, I’ve also seen enough to know that things can pretty much always get lost in translation no matter where you go! (I mean, accents anyone? Weird slang? Same word, different meaning?) I tried to encourage her to branch out and brave it, but to no avail. Her main concern was in traveling solo, which I can definitely understand. But I’m still a bit sad for her and all the great opportunities she’s missing – hopefully she’ll change her mind as her travel confidence grows!

Wales, Welsh, English, Language, UK

I’ve written some tips on this topic before, but as the conversation has really been on my mind this week, today I thought I’d share a few more reasons why language shouldn’t be – and isn’t – a barrier to seeing your dream destinations, solo or not.

  1. It’s a small world – I suppose there are some places left on the planet that have not been exposed to foreigners, but they are few and far between. Most people are fundamentally good – and understanding. They don’t necessarily expect you to be fluent in their language and customs. As long as you keep a positive and respectful attitude, someone will do all they can to help you out with whatever you need, big or small.
  2. It’s a big, beautiful world – There is too much to see in the world to let language get in the way. The only true barrier to travel should be safety because, well, you want to live to tell your tales. Unless your safety is at risk, #1 will get you through.
  3. Preparation is vital – Presumably you will have some amount of time to research your destination and the means to do so. No matter where you’re going – language barrier or not – knowing the basics is definitely conducive to a positive experience. Search for key words, common traditions (especially greetings), and easy offenses (especially hand gestures). And if you find yourself somewhere on a whim, pay attention to those around you. You should be able to pick up a few basics from observation (though I recommend investing enough time that you hear/see the same thing more than once – then you know it’s more likely a custom and not something you don’t want to repeat).
  4. Map it out – Buy a map and become familiar with the local geography. If you become lost, have someone point on the map – you don’t necessarily have to know how to pronounce the road signs, matching them up visually will usually get you where you want to go. Does this get you branded as a tourist? Yes. Is that a bit dangerous? Potentially, it’s good to be discreet where you can. But is it worth it? Totally.
  5. Miming is fun – Much like math, I have found miming to be an almost universal language. Sure you feel ridiculous, but if you can keep a smile on your face it will all be just fine. I will warn that you should do a search for inappropriate hand gestures for the culture you’re visiting. You don’t want to inadvertently offend anyone! Visual aids (such as pictures or a map) are also super handy for speedy resolution.
  6. Currency considerations – It is generally safe to assume that the price is in the local currency unless otherwise marked. Know the local currency and a rough exchange rate so you can be prepared to do some quick and dirty math. If all else fails, numbers are universal, even if the words for those numbers are not. Write it out or count it out with your fingers.
  7. Lookout for groups – Sometimes you just need to hear a familiar word, so be sure to look for opportunities to find other speakers of your language (you are rarely alone in this small world). Book a day tour, stay in a hostel, find the expat community – any option that exposes you to a group of people will likely help you find a familiar language. It’s also a good chance to make friends and learn some of their tips and tricks.

What would you say to a friend afraid of crossing the language barrier??
(Other than “I’ll be happy to come along and assist!” – that one’s a given :) )

Pondering: Morning Pages

pen on notebook black and whiteFor some time now I have been trying to find a form of meditation that works well for me. I’ve read books, articles, blog posts, etc. but nothing I tried really seemed to stick – or help. It seems when my thoughts get jumbled, there are really only two ways I can sort them: 1) get lost in a good book, allowing my subconscious to sort it all out; or 2) write them out.

The first requires a good book, which is something I’ve been unable to find lately (or at least one that fits my mood). As for writing… well, finding the how and when proved too easy to procrastinate. Then a few months ago, while on a journey down a random internet rabbit hole, I came across an article on “Morning Pages.” The general idea is to write three pages (as in 3 single sides) in a stream-of-consciousness format first thing in the morning.

I found this to be an unbelievably simple idea, but for some reason it took reading about it to bring the idea into action. At first I was afraid that I would have to get up earlier to fit this in; however, I soon realized that by replacing my morning tête-à-tête with my phone with pen & paper instead, there was plenty of time already in my schedule. I still take 5 minutes or so to check for anything important and/or clear out the junk emails, but I save the rest for later allowing me to spend the other 15 minutes or so with my little journal.

pen on notebook black and white

As I understand it, the content of this exercise can be whatever you’d like, but the three pages is a hard and fast rule. Most days I do stick with that limit, but I’ve found it more important to write than to worry about how much room I take up on a page. Some mornings I write about the night’s dreams, others a reflection of the previous day and my goals for the day ahead, and then others a true stream-of-consciousness rambling to a point (or not). After I’m done I usually take a few minutes for kitty snuggles before pulling myself back to reality and physically getting ready for the day.

I am amazed at how much this new habit has impacted my daily peace of mind. Immediately after I’m done, my mind is blissfully blank and oh so peaceful. It’s just me and a warm, furry monster; time stands still; and life is good. The rest of my day is a little calmer and much more centered because I know that whatever happens, I can write it out the next morning as needed. Turns out I’m finding some of those lovely meditation benefits after all. (smile)

After a few months of this practice, I now find myself getting up with my alarm (vs. hitting snooze a few times) excited to write. On the days when the time simply isn’t there, I definitely feel the lack. I’ve tried taking my journal with me, but I find the anxiety of keeping it close outweighs any potential benefits. My writing is also much more scripted, which feels out of place in that space. So I try really hard to schedule in at least a few extra minutes even on those early mornings – something I’ve never considered doing for anything else.

Eventually I would like to try a more traditional form of meditation again, but for where I am right now, I’ve accepted that this is what I need. I’ve also given myself permission to simply focus on what works for me and to leave the rest for later – no guilt, no sense of failure, just triumph that I finally found my own form of mental peace.


Happy Mother's Day, ClipartP. S. 
Happy Mother’s Day to all of you wonderful women out there!!
Wishing you all a joy-filled day with the ones you love. :)

Weekly Photo Challenge: Desert Forces of Nature

This week’s photo challenge is “forces of nature,” specifically in my area of the world. Here in the desert, the largest and most obvious evidence of the force of mother nature is the Grand Canyon.

Grand Canyon with Colorado River

The Grand Canyon and it’s “creator” the Colorado River

But the story wouldn’t be complete without mentioning all of the other forces of nature here in the desert. It’s starkly obvious out in the sand, with little room for hiding, just how powerful mother nature can be – and how resilient her creatures. From monsoons to dust storms, there is beauty in all of her moods.

dust storm

Desert Dust Storm

Happy weekend everyone!!

Never Have I Ever…Travel Edition

Have you ever played the “Never Have I Ever…” game? There are tons of variations on this, but perhaps the most used version in my younger years was a drinking game. You take turns filling in the blank – if the other people in the group have done it, they take a shot, etc. I always found this to be somewhat unfair, as it inevitably turned dirty and all the “angels” also happened to be the sober ones at the end. So I would always use my turn to try to find ways to allow them to join in. (smile)

Anyway, Belinda at Found Love, Now What? has set up an awesome Blog Every Day In May linkup and “Never Have I Ever…” was today’s prompt. I haven’t been able to follow along every day, but this one was just too good to pass up! Since it’s also Travel Tuesday, I thought this would be a fun spin on things. Oh, and feel free to use this later as your own drinking game. No judgment. (smile)

Alabama, wood gnawed by beaversKnock-on-Wood

Never have I ever…
…been arrested in a foreign country (or in my own thankfully)
…lost my passport
…been stranded in a foreign country
…gotten food poisoning
…been to the emergency room/hospital
…fallen off a boat

Canopy bed, ThailandOoh-la-la / Tsk tsk

Never have I ever…
…had a one night stand with a local while abroad
…been mistaken for a “lady of the night” (my poor friend however…)
…had a long distance relationship
…done drugs

Airplane seatsHigh flying

Never have I ever…
…missed a flight on purpose
…gotten totally drunk on a plane
…flown first class
…flown in a helicopter

Pacific Ocean BeachSomeday

Never have I ever…
…taken an overnight train
…been scuba diving in the ocean
…stayed at an all-inclusive resort
…visited all 50 states
…been to an island in the Pacific Ocean
…lived with a local (family)


wpid-traveltueslinkup_zpsd47191b0-1.jpgBlog-Everyday-in-May_Resized

Life Lately | 1st Quarter 2015 Edition

Normally when I post things to this blog I’m as guilty as the majority about trying to keep it upbeat. I put a positive spin on things because that’s what you’re supposed to do, right? But being a pessimist by nature and a realist on my best days, it’s difficult to post anything in the more lifestyle/personal category during the bad periods. So I’ve been focusing more on sharing photos and travel tips, which has given me time to pull together my thoughts and my courage to be real.

Life lately has not been great. In fact, it’s been less than good even. The first quarter of 2015 saw the passing of my favorite grandfather, health struggles, major work drama, and (perhaps most devastatingly) some bad news for the true love of my life – Oxford. Laugh, roll your eyes, call me a cat lady, whatever. But that cat has become such an integral part of me that it’s inexplicably painful to think of life without him.

Cat, kitties, pets

Oxford

I took Oxford in for his annual dental cleaning on Friday and through some routine blood work it was discovered that he’s in the early stages of chronic kidney disease (some use kidney failure, but I’m still in denial). It’s not uncommon in house cats and he is 10 years old – this month in fact. It can be “controlled” (i.e., slowed down) through diet and meds, but it is irreversible. From what I understand he could live several more years even, but it will progress. At 10 years, I knew he was bound to have some health issues come up; I just didn’t expect this. I’ve been happily living in denial that he would be with me as long as I was around. Reality bites hard when it catches up.

After that news everything else going on seems to pale in comparison, but I know that life has to keep on moving forward. I’ll just ramp up the kitty snuggles and do whatever I can to keep him comfortable and happy. I also have to find a way to remember to do the same for myself.

I’ve mentioned before that I have fibromyalgia. I’ve been working on a post about it, but I’m so incredibly guarded when it comes to any personal issues that it’s been hard to find the right words. One day it will come. Accompanying the FM, I also suffer from bouts of depression and full-time anxiety. Anything stressful magnifies all three of these things into occasionally overwhelming proportions. Most frustratingly, they also hold me frozen in place. I refuse to let any of it stop me from moving forward but I have to acknowledge that they do slow me down – and that beating myself up for that only feeds into the negative cycle. I’ve been reading a lot of inspirational books and watching plenty of TED talks to keep the forward momentum going; but honestly, depending on the day, those too can work in my favor or feed the flames. I can’t tell you how grateful I am for good friends that put up with me for better or for worse!

doubt kills more dreams than failure ever will

#truth

My normal method of dealing with difficult life situations is to internalize, do what I’m told I need to do to keep it all in hand, and fiercely refuse to show any weakness to the world. I am told, however, that my normal method is probably what led to some of these issues in the first place. Figures. So I’m working on finding a different strategy. To date I’ve been shyer than a mouse trying to filch a piece of cheese from under a cat. Tiny mouse steps forward, a mad dash back at the slightest hint of potential danger. What can I say – it’s hard to change 30+ years of habit overnight.

One positive thing that I can throw in here is an observation on just how much blogging has helped. Even when I only post photos, being able to share something so dear to me and receive such positive feedback has been amazing! A huge thanks to everyone who stops by, hits the “like” button, or leaves a comment. It’s all so greatly appreciated. (smile) Even though the internet is possibly the worst place to share personal demons, it can also (paradoxically) feel like the safest at times. If I can hit publish on this post, I’ll count it as a great step forward in sharing with the real life people.

And so this ends on an encouraging thought after all. How about that?? (smile)