Category Archives: happiness

Surrender & Self-Love in February

I wrote a post a couple weeks ago for my gym, Muv Training, for its February newsletter. When they published it, I reread it, and was satisfied with how it had come out.

But then a few days later, I was wandering around in one of my ‘Cup of Comfort’ trances, and the lessons I had pointed to in that Muv article came back to smack me in the face.

What’s a ‘Cup of Comfort’ trance? Oh, yes, I haven’t published that story yet.cup of self love sketch

Well, a year or more ago, I was wandering around half an hour before work. I wanted a tea, or a coffee, or a hot chocolate. But I wanted a comfy seat, too, and a quiet atmosphere, and not too expensive. I was on foot, and checking all the cafes within reach and open in the time allotted was a formidable task. But as I flipped through my mental Rolodex, I realized none of them would give me what I wanted.

Because what I wanted was a ‘cup of comfort,’ that feeling of being warm, and cozy, and comfortable. And cherished.

hygge sweater cup of coffee

Tea, or coffee, or even hot chocolate, would not be able to do that.
So I went to work early, in a bit of a huff, I’m sure, munching on that bit of mental floss and how I could learn from it.

What happened this last time was the same search, but in the car–more choices, dammit!–and without the time limit–I was on my way home, and only limiting myself on the amount of money to spend as I once again flipped through the mental Rolodex of cafes open.

But this time, I’d just read my own words on self-love and self-care, and I realized, as I parked and contemplated Noraneko, parked and walked around Hawthorne, peering through windows, that what I was really searching for, what that Cup of Comfort held, is Self-Love.

Oof, ya.

I’d been trying my best to not go out, not spend money, create brilliant works of culinary art at home on a shoestring budget, and have that suffice. But my self-love well was getting low, and somehow, I wasn’t recharging it.

I went home with this realization, feeling at least sufficient enough to turn down the warm interiors on Hawthorne. But once home, how to replenish?

well of love margaret agnes rope stained glass

Self-care? I got a massage (on an account I’d long since had to deactivate), but that did not work. I tried bonding with the cats. That did not work. (Their pee on my rug thrice this week made me irritable.)

I could have gone to the gym, but didn’t. I might’ve gone to the show I had tickets for, but didn’t–it was miserably wet and icy Friday night.

I watched Harry Potter & the Sorcerer’s Stone. I traced how Harry found his way to the friends he needed. By chance! And I was reminded of the hardest piece of belief and trust and faith.

Surrender.

 

Have you battled such demons? Made similar discoveries? Do share.

 

Images via VidyaSury, DailyMail, & Pinterest (by the way, Margaret Agnes Rope, incredible stained glass artist of the Arts & Crafts movement–who knew?!?) 

Twenties, Thirties, & Beyond: How It Gets Better

It’s my third and final night in Paris tonight.

It’s also my 35th birthday in 10 days.

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Between this adventure I’m currently on and the life I’m living, I’ve had lots of time to reflect, and lots of great conversations with old friends. These have led me to an interesting conclusion.

Life just seems to get better and better.

In speaking with friends scattered across the globe, a common theme emerges: we’re aging. But we’re seeing some really great things come out of the process, not just the wrinkles and the graduated torture of additional medical exams.

As I look out from the middle of my fourth decade, I’m feeling like I have ‘a new lease on life,’ as the old saying goes. And why? What could give someone who is no longer ‘young’ the feeling that the world is her oyster? Well, I’ll tell you.

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You don’t put up with SHIT.

Back in your 20s, maybe you had a boyfriend for 3 years that you should have split up with after Year 1. But you thought maybe it was you, and you could change, and then you’d be perfect together.

Now you wouldn’t think twice about standing up for your standards because time with someone who doesn’t make you happy in some way is time wasted. Life wasted. And ain’t nobody got time for that.

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You don’t CARE about shit.

Back in my former life, I toed the line, following others’ expectations for my life, because I was too insecure about going after the things I really wanted: to be a musical comedy actress, for example. I couldn’t move somewhere on my own and try something so drastically dreamy without someone cheering me on, now, could I?

Instead, I worried about how my pencil skirt fit, and made a concerted effort to purchase the perfect plates for hors d’oeuvres at dinner parties.

And after all this agonizing, I realized that it’s not about the style of teacup used as an air plant receptacle; it’s the fact that someone wanted a planter more than a teacup at one point, so they adapted what they had to suit.

Things don’t matter. Don’t bother ironing. Suit yourself.

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You know yourself.

(hopefully)

Now that you’ve been an ‘adult’ in name for a while, you’ve probably tried out a few things. Partners. Shoes. Cities.

Maybe you’ve been from one extreme to the other: from Cairo to Buffalo, from Vans to Jimmy Choo, from frat guy to polyamory. And when you tried on these different situations, maybe like Goldilocks you found a happy medium.

Or maybe you’re still searching. But you know yourself better after those experiences, don’t you?

You’re not the type to stay with an unhappy partner. Because you don’t put up with that shit.

You are the type to wear suede triple-tone Oxfords to work. Because you like them, and who cares if purple, blue, and brown are impossible to match?

You can take this self-knowledge and design your life now, instead of feeling like your choices are circumscribed by some cosmic forces, or society, or the popular crowd at school.

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And even better news? I’ve got it from several sources that your 40s are even better.

Life gets better and better. Well, maybe there’s a place where it starts to bend back downward But I don’t think we’re there yet.

 

Do you see the same shape in your life? How? Do you see other benefits in aging? Tell us in the comments!

 

Images property of author

Luminaries: Ward

This is the first in a new series called Luminaries, about people I’ve met who are guided by their own inner light. I’ve been inspired by them and here relate some of the wisdom I’ve picked up from each one.

long-haired ward

Ward Stroud

If ever there was a Multipotentialite, it’s Ward. I met him on his regular trips into the bakery where I work to have a Large Vanilla-Soy-Decaf-Latte. We soon enough started chatting on these visits, and I was more and more intrigued by all the activities Ward mentioned:

 

 

Not to mention that the background of all this activity was his owning a successful hair salon across the way. Really, I couldn’t believe the variety of things that Ward talked about, which is why I wanted to interview him, and there the germ for this series sprouted: who are these cool people, and how do I get some of their juju?

I sat down with Ward in the midst of the whirlwind that is his life, and asked him a few questions, but the conversation really wandered, imitating his life path and his thinking process.

When I mentioned Multipods above, that really doesn’t cover the whole picture, though, because besides being a try-everything-new-under-the-sun kind of guy, Ward is also a drill-deep kind of individual. This points to one of the core descriptors that characterize Ward: single-minded, whole-body, tenacity.

He told me the tale of how he came to be a Native flute player.

flute player at sunset

Ward had had recurring dreams of hearing whales singing growing up. It got to him, such that he started searching every music shop he knew, trying out every strange instrument he could find, to see if it would make the sound that haunted him.

Finally, after years of searching, he was at a craft festival in Oregon City when he heard the same sound: the whales singing. He dashed through the stalls of vendors closing up their stands at the end of the day, trying to locate the source of the sound. At the end of his search, he found the stall of a Native Flute artisan, who looked up at him and said, “So you’ve come for your flute.”

He was 30 years old at that time, and dove right in.

Ward has countless tales of this sort, tales that involve an intuition or ‘internal listening,’ a journey or search, and a serendipitous resolution that brings joy and fulfillment. Listening to some of these stories, I felt like he knew the secret to pursuing the impossible dream of Don Quixote, and put it to practice over and over.

don quixote art image

Another story he tells describes one of the transition times, in between these full-on pursuits of a dream. He had negotiated a sweet arrangement with a pioneer lady near Sisters, OR which meant he owned a hand-crafted log cabin that was a piece of art and an everyday inspiration. He’d filled it with treasures, and felt at peace whenever he worked and played in that cabin, with its  jaw-dropping views of the gorge in his backyard.

But it was far from the nearest city (Portland) where he could perform his music, and he thought that might be the next thing for him. So he was at a crossroads, and not sure which would be the right choice: Stay in the place he cherished in the country, or move to the city to play the music he loved?

He decided to throw the decision to the spirit of the universe (my phrasing) and go on a medicine walk. A medicine walk is a time when you meditate, pray, and go on a solitary walk, being willing to interpret signs on the walk as answers to your prayer from sources we can’t see or know.

Ward says he got only a couple hundred yards out the back door into the desert before he almost stepped on a piece of flotsam: a realtor’s For Sale sign. He started laughing–I bet it was cackling–right there, amazed at how obvious his unseen forces had been, and relieved to know he was leaning towards the right decision. He sold the house at the right time, and moved to Portland to perform all kinds of music.

if you were waiting for a sign this is it

How can we learn from such a Renaissance man? I think outside of the question of abilities, what Ward has cultivated to his benefit are 1) intense curiosity and 2) thinking of the world as all intertwined. I’ll pick these apart a bit.

Intense curiosity Everyone is born with this innate quality, I believe. But most of us are trained to let it fall by the wayside, i.e. ‘One can’t do everything, so one has to choose.’ (For others who disagree with that, see Barbara Sher (link to Powells) and Emilie Wapnick)

Being intensely curious means you want to know someone else’s perspective, you want to know how things work, you aren’t afraid to show your ignorance, or praise someone’s skill. I think we sometimes lose our ability to explore when we feel we’re too full of emotion ourselves, and can’t go out to acquire more knowledge when we’re still dealing with unresolved issues. Or perhaps we don’t feel secure enough to be able to show that we don’t know what were’ doing. Ringing any bells?

Seeing the world as all-connected Ward mentioned an important phrase in his lexicon: mitakuye oyasin. It is a Lakota word (Ward is of the Yaqui tribe himself) that means “all my relations” as well as “all things are one.” He described this as the ability to see how things interrelate, how things affect and are affected by seemingly very unrelated actions. It’s “like quantum physics for Natives.”

For an example in action, only take a look at the skills Ward has mastered, and that he says are not all that different:

  • photography–> graphic design
  • hair color–> painting with acrylics
  • learning native American musical language–> playing blues
  • crafting Native flutes–> sculpting wood (he even says it’s like jazz music!)

I think these two strongly-held beliefs constitute a mindfulness practice, one which is a good bulwark against the ills of modern society, with its information-overload, blasé attitudes, compartmentalized lives, and fierce loathing of vulnerability.

With so many passions to pursue, I asked Ward a final important question. “What grounds you, what balances you out?”

He had two answers:

“Painting in the quiet of morning with music”

“Being at the salon, in the social circle of my community, my chosen family”

ward happy in his studio

Are YOU intensely curious in YOUR life?

Do you feel too full or too busy to be able to feed that curiosity?

What balances YOU?

 

Images via CMC Art Share, Bolshoi Moscow, Productive Life Concepts