Some days are harder

blackbirds

 

Like today.

It happens, some days are better than others. Yesterday I was able to talk and write with confidence about the changes in my life. Today…not so much, for a variety of reasons. Every day I’m making what feel like fairly significant decisions. They aren’t life or death and most of them are not unrecoverable. But it’s still hard. I often feel isolated and alone in a place unfamiliar to me.

To complicate matters, today I let someone I once trusted minimize me. It hurt and it made me angry. Mostly, it hurt. I was upset, so I thought it might help to get out of the house for a bit. But I was crying, a lot. I mean probably in a way that could have had a positive impact on the drought in California. Less than a mile from home, I got pulled over by police. FOR CRYING! He approached the car, “Ma’am, you look to be a long way from home and really upset, is everything ok.” Seriously, perhaps if one is going to get pulled over for crying, the South might be the best place to have that happen. He asked if he could give me a hug and because I really needed one, I got out of the car on the freeway and let a stranger in uniform give me hug.

Change isn’t easy. I used to avoid as much change as possible, to my own detriment. Now, every day is about embracing change.
It’s exciting.
It’s scary as hell, too.
Some days are harder.
And that’s ok.

For the rest of the day, I’m just going to choose to let it go.

Life IS the adventure…

I’ve fallen a bit behind in planned blogs and quite frankly so much has happened since the last one that I wouldn’t really even be able to catch up. But I’ve realized given recent FB comments and a couple of phone conversations with close friends, that those of you who are kind enough to follow my adventure may be wondering what is up with what appears to be an abrupt stop in the adventure as I settle in to a new apartment home in Jackson, MS.

IMG_0454

Playing Checkers in Las Vegas

IMG_0463

Worthy Opponent

My last post ended with my arrival in Las Vegas. Having learned to love Vegas in a way I never thought I would, I stopped here for a brief visit with one of my super good and amazingly talented friends, Charles. We spent an afternoon in “old Vegas” on Fremont Blvd and at Gold Spike, this little outdoor oasis of giant sized board games, really strong drinks, and a great place to smoke a smooth stogie. It was a good day. I left Vegas early the next morning with a long drive through Arizona, partially along Route 66, and in to Albuquerque where I spent the night at a hotel. I may kick myself for this later, but I did opt to skip Grand Canyon (I know, nature’s wonder and all).

Arizona

Arizona

From Albuquerque I drove to west Texas where I visited my friend Big E, who’d moved there from the Bay to be with his kids and where he just this past weekend, married his life’s love. So good to see him and meet his family.

Then it was on to Houston, where I landed for a few days at Don and Sid’s. This was a much-needed rest, Texas made me road weary, Leila had been getting carsick and I was ready for a bit of respite. After a few days, it was on to Jackson, MS that is where the story takes a bit of a twist.

While I was in Oregon a few weeks prior, my friends in Jackson sent me an email with a grant opportunity and said something like “lets do this.” And so we did. The three of us spent the next couple of weeks writing a 25+-page grant and preparing a budget to open an Adolescent Evening Reporting Center in Jackson, MS. The AERC is an alternative to detention centers and provides skills training, counseling, recreation and a warm meal. Our proposal was to do it in a different way, with a curriculum based on restorative justice, principles of democratic education, trust and respect. And the morning after that long trek through the desert in to Las Vegas that had left me feeling desolate and discouraged as I contemplated whether I was making the right decision about embarking on this adventure, the call came that we had received the grant! And so I arrived in Jackson knowing that this was now going to be my home for awhile…6 months, a year, or longer.

I landed in Jackson and almost immediately contracted a raging fever. Then I headed to New Orleans for a week to present at the Popular Culture Association/American Culture Association Conference.

Upon returning to Jackson, I started looking for a place to live and in the past week, I’ve moved in and begun to settle in. And here is where the questions from you have arisen. As I’ve posted pictures of my new #home with connected hash tags and indicators that I was indeed settling in for a long while, you’ve asked about the adventure.

Some of my dearest friends have been quite direct about it, calling to find out what was going on and asking how I felt about not being able to continue the adventure or keep traveling. And what was I doing settling in somewhere? My gut response to all of this is that the adventure is NOT over. When I set out on this journey/adventure, I was open to whatever it held in store for me. Whatever it asked of me. I didn’t know where I would end up or where I would go. I had an initial “stop point.” That was Jackson. What the journey is asking of me now is to settle in for a while. I believe in this project, and I want to put in the effort to get it off the ground and operating. I’m still doing some consulting work and also maintaining operations for IDEA. What I know about me, is that in order to be my best professionally, I need to feel settled. I need to have a retreat that is my own, a place to rest; regroup; and start again the next day. And so Leila and I are making Jackson our home.

11174957_10101609758572713_1696254257763173573_n

But here’s the thing. Jackson is located in an incredible part of our country. The South is rich in history and natural beauty and amazingly kind and generous people. I’ve never been here, I’ve never traveled around the South and there are so many parts of it I want to explore. And there will be time for more travel and exploring and adventure.

The adventure is NOT over. Life IS the adventure and every day I am learning something new, meeting someone new and having experiences I’ve never had. That is what this journey is about…and so it continues.

 

Desolation by design

Somewhere near Barstow, CA

Somewhere near Barstow, CA

If I gave or even had the impression that this road trip adventure would be easy, I was wrong. It’s not. I knew (in my head) it wouldn’t be…logic and all. But damn if I didn’t just throw my heart right in, free-fall in to the deep end.  After three weeks in the NW with my BFFE (Best Fucking Friend Ever; aka Buffy), a visit to Portland friends, and my mom and sister in Seattle; followed by two days back in the Bay Area, I drove away from everything familiar in to the desert. As I was headed south through Cali, I had this thought: “damn, I love this place.” And I do, I love Cali, I love the people and the weather and I love the person that I became while living there. I love that while living in Cali I gave myself permission to be my authentic self; a blending of the young girl from sleepy, Nebraska; the well-educated career-focused woman from Oregon; and the all-out, life-is-too-short-to-work-too-hard, social justice minded, activist, party gurl from Cali. I really like this person I’ve become and I’m liking even more the person I’m becoming.

I’d be lying if I told you that I didn’t think more than once today about turning around and going back. “Go back where?” asked a friend. A very good point. When I arrived at my destination tonite, one of my host’s roommates helped me with my bags and asked where I was coming in from?   “California” would have been the simple answer. But some answers, especially right now, just aren’t that simple. So I laughed. Later, he stepped in a surprise Leila left in a dark doorway and so I’m guessing that I’m probably not his favorite house guest and it doesn’t matter where I came in from anyway.

Also, the inevitable desert experience as spiritual pilgrimage metaphor of all of this is not lost on me. Not even in the least. And I have many many more miles of desert to drive.

So, today I panicked. Just a little bit, I phoned a friend who talked me through it and I drove on. Tomorrow (well not tomorrow), soon will be another day of driving in the desert. And I’ll deal with that when it gets here.

This is the adventure…

I have not traveled far, yet I am weary from the journey.

the-journeyI’ve heard you say I’ve been quiet. There’s truth to that. I haven’t traveled far. The boundless travel part of the journey has yet to begin. It’s approaching and I’m eager. But this respite; this down-time to regroup, take care of some business, visit with friends and family, is much-needed. It’s what a wise friend might call a “grey road.” Off the main interstates and highways.
There’s something to be said for these off-road journeys. Learning to be had, if we’ll have it. And for me, some reconciliations of sort. Both internal and external.

This is the adventure. It won’t be all unknown roads, anticipation and excitement. Sometimes, like now, it will be about retracing beaten paths, revisiting old haunts and sharing a drink or two with friends. And like the challenges, the unknown that is before me, I welcome these comfortable silences and the known. I’ll just be resting here for a moment, asking what there is to be learned, before continuing on.

Permission Granted

Permission-based-marketing-granted-Image-284x202I’m staying in my pajamas today. It’s day three of adventure2015 and I’m staying put, in the house, in my pajamas. It’s my attempt to get focused and get some work done. There’s some grant writing to be done for work and that requires focus. Something that has been lacking the last few days with the final push to pack up the apartment, load the car and hit the road. I made the 655 mile, 12 hour drive to Newport, OR on Monday. This is my first stop. It’s my best friend’s place. Where Ophelia (the cat) will make her new home. It’s a place to regroup, get my bearings. I need to finalize the timeline for the longer road trip to Jackson, MS. Friends and others there are anxious for my arrival, I’ve been told. And I too am anxious and READY.

There have been a lot of things on my mind the last few days. 12 hours in a car is a lot of time to think. And question. And doubt. And recall again what brought me to this place. What I learned yesterday, is that all the planning in the world won’t prevent the unexpected from happening. See yesterday when I left the house, I bought a new car. Definitely not in the plans.

On Monday, while I was driving, I missed the posting of this column on Miss Matters by my friend and former boss Julie Lythcott-Haims, “How to Live the Life You Imagine”. In it she lays out a three-step process to living the life you imagine. For me, the most critical of those steps and the one I keep coming back to, is: “Give yourself permission to be that person.”

The most common response I’ve heard from people when I’ve told them about my plans for this adventure, is “wow, I’d love to be able to do something like that.” A year ago, if someone came to me with this idea, I probably would have said the same thing. I acknowledge, that I have a lot of privilege that puts me in a place to be able to actually do this thing. But all the privilege in the world, wouldn’t have made it happen, if I hadn’t been willing to give myself permission to be “that person.”

Most of us spend the bulk of our life trying to live up to the expectations of others; our parents, our spouses/partners, our friends, our bosses, the media, society in general. It’s a lot of pressure, mostly unacknowledged. Many of us have this little voice inside saying something like, “but what if I could…”. The truth of it all is, you could and you can. And you’ll never know if you don’t try. And trying–requires giving yourself permission to be that person.

If you knew yourself for even one moment,
if you could just glimpse
your most beautiful face,
-Rumi

 

For the love of …

There have been times, recently, when I’ve sat in my apartment and not been able to fathom how to determine what is most critical to carry with me, what can be left behind in storage indefinitely and what to let go of. It has been slightly paralyzing. There have been brief moments of confidence and movement forward, but mostly there’s been a lot of shuffling things around and stressing out.

Last night I decided to make a list of the things I really needed to get done this morning before heading out to what I’m sure will be a lovely gathering of friends and acquaintances I haven’t seen in a long while. And I write this now having not only finished all those things, but having this amazing sense of feeling like this is actually all possible. A feeling I haven’t really, if I’m honest, had since I actually made the decision to go.

tumblr_lt6x1rKWuN1qf70r5o1_500It feels appropriate, on Valentine’s Day.

I spent the morning sorting through what I think is the last of the boxes filled with memories. Acknowledging that letting go of things and pictures is not at all the same thing as forgetting. And also falling more and more in love with my life. Life, as it is meant to be, hasn’t always been easy and yet what I know for sure is that my life has always been blessed by the most amazing people.

I have a great adventure ahead of me. I’m feeling lucky and also very much in love with who I am today, my choices and the people who make up this blessed circle of friends I will carry with me always in my heart.

What I’m learning…

IMG_7332When I made the decision to quit one of my jobs, pack up my car, and go on an adventure, I knew there would be lessons. I mistakenly thought they wouldn’t start until I hit the road. The past month has been a bit of a roller coaster, filled with excitement; fear; and if I’m honest, second thoughts. The following are some reflections on the lessons that I’ve been learning recently.

Take a chance on a chance at love. Even if its not in your plans. Even if it has the potential to derail everything. Even if you aren’t prepared for what might happen, good or bad. And believe me, you aren’t prepared–ever. Whenever you are given the chance to connect your life and possibly your heart with someone very special, do it. Be open to all the possibilities. Don’t be cautious–let whatever will, happen. And then figure out how to deal with the outcome when it is time. If I’d have taken much time to think about it, I would have said I didn’t have the time to let this person in to my life right now; so I didn’t think about it. I let him in. Things didn’t work out the way I might have wanted. The timing was wrong, maybe it was all wrong. Maybe it was right and yet we couldn’t get beyond the chaos in our own lives to find a way to make it work. I’m not sorry I gave it a chance; even in the chaos that is my current life, risking everything for a chance with that ever elusive, potential life partner was important. Disappointing. Emotionally painful. But, important.

Stress doesn’t accomplish anything. In fact, perhaps just the opposite. I’ve had a few days where I’ve allowed the stress of everything that packing up my apartment in to storage and preparing to drive across the country entails to paralyze me completely. Which meant nothing got accomplished that day. I did take a couple of days for myself to work through some things related to the previous lesson that I just needed to deal with and let go of. I don’t regret taking that time, it was important. I do however regret every minute that I give over to stress. I also regret the beast it sometimes turns me in to and how I talk to or treat others in the wake of stress. I don’t want a life full of regrets, so I try not to let stress take over. That’s gotten harder given all the changes. I’m working on it. It’s a daily process.

Crying is healthy and helpful. I wrote about how much I’ve been crying in an earlier post. I’ve never been afraid or ashamed of tears, they seem to come much more quickly lately and I am very clear about how raw and on the surface my emotions are right now. Not everyone knows how to handle emotional reactions and so it is tricky to navigate sometimes with my friends. I find that taking and/or making the time to cry or emote in whatever way is necessary when I’m alone is critical to keeping my “shit” together at the moment. And so I cry and laugh and even scream whenever it feels natural to do so or is desperately needed.

Take advantage of every moment. This is true for all of life, not just this adventure. I’m finding that I wish I had more time to spend with people. And if you know me at all, you know that I’m already a bit of a social butterfly and I’m often on the go with friends. Yet, there are new friendships just blossoming and other friendships that I just want more time with. The good thing is, I’ll be back around. Some friends I’ll see in New Orleans in April and others I know will come visit me somewhere along the path of my adventure. I’m grateful for the time I’ve had and will cherish every opportunity to share time with them before I go. Also, distance won’t change how I feel about these people so keeping in touch will be a priority.

Embrace fear. Fear is natural. Even more so under these conditions. I’ve had friends say that if I wasn’t afraid, they’d be afraid for me and question my decisions. I’m afraid of many things related to this adventure–the journey, the experiences I will have, far out-weigh any of the fear I’m experiencing. I will listen to the fear, but I will not let it hold me back.

These are just a handful of the lessons I’ve been learning. I know there are many more in store for me. I’m anxious to get on the road. There are a couple more weeks of packing and preparing and then the adventure will begin for real. Thanks for sharing in this journey with me.

 

Talking about comfort foods…

I ended the work day today sitting at my desk talking with one of the student office assistants about comfort foods. It was a stressful day; I was tired; and I was basically at the end of my rope, completely out of spoons and ready to just turn in to a giant puddle of salt water at any given moment. I mentioned needing to stop and get litter and cat food on the way home and she said something about me stopping at Safeway. I responded with, “naw, I’ll probably go to the pet store because if I go to the grocery store I’ll buy potato chips which I probably don’t need.” I don’t often talk about foods I don’t need and in that moment I caught myself moralizing potato chips (see, totally hard day). She perked up and said something like “oh…potato chips, wait aren’t those chips on your desk?” And yes, they were. Maple Bacon, an ill-conceived purchase from the week prior which managed to make their way to the office just in case I was working late and needed “something” to snack on. I gave the bag to her, she tried one and declared it “good” so I told her to take them home with her adding, I guess I probably will stop by the grocery store and get me some chips tonight. Then she started talking about wanting to go get a candy bar, a Butterfinger and I mentioned how my dad had brought me a Butterfinger when I was in the hospital in the fourth grade and tears welled up in my eyes and the conversation turned to the subject of crying and how the best place to cry for a long period of time is in the shower because then you avoid the red puffiness that accompanies prolonged crying, and so on and such matter….

While sitting there I was observing how this conversation essentially about comfort foods was likely made more comfortable between us by the prior weeks panel discussion on the Politics of Size which both the student office assistants attended. I’ve been reading reflection papers written by students who attended and one of the recurring themes is how many of these students never thought about how they talked about food as moralizing it or how stigmatizing it can be for a fat person to eat food in front of a room of other people. Also, I recently had a conversation with a dear friend where we talked about the craving of comfort foods in reaction to a hurtful interaction about weight with a parent. So the moralizing of food has been on my mind lately.

I really do not like to go grocery shopping, partially because its one of those tedious tasks that you end up repeating week after week and its easy to get in a boring routine around food, eating the same things over and over again. Also, grocery stores are full of concern trolls and food police with looks of “you really think you need to buy that?” and looking down ones nose at the contents of my cart. For concern trolls, its bad enough that I might think about wanting to buy a bag of potato chips because I’ve had a bad day, let alone actually do it.

I was kind of excited that this conversation with students was so positive around the types of foods we were talking about eating, even though they were being associated with what other’s might refer to as emotional eating. On the drive home and physically hungry, I started thinking about the kind of foods I could purchase that would feed my need for nutrients as well as my need for emotional solace, i.e. comfort foods. I walked out of the store with litter and cat food, a loaf of white bread, cheeses slices, dill pickles and potato chips. Tonight’s dinner would be tomato soup with grilled cheese sandwich and pickles. The chips would probably wait ’til tomorrow or maybe the weekend to be eaten.

IMG_6765I’ve seen people physically cringe when a person of size starts talking about comfort foods or eating because they “feel” a certain way. I know there is a lot of moral judgment and stigma around the kind of food people eat in relation to the size/shape of their body. I write a lot about food and cooking, I post pictures of my meals on FB and IG. It’s probably not surprising to know that I think it’s perfectly ok for a fatty (person of size) to not only talk about comfort foods, but to eat them.

First, because well, I am the boss of my underpants. Second, because all food brings us comfort in one way or another. We all have different views on what we think a “comfort food” might be, but  food brings comfort to our bodies: sustenance to fuel our movement and thinking, fluids to keep us lubricated. Without food, we would be uncomfortable. All of us would be, not just the fatties of the world. So if I talk about eating particular foods because I like them more than others when my body is in need of either emotional or physical solace, there’s nothing wrong with that.

So says my underpants and me…

On the move

I just spent a solid hour and twenty minutes in the shower; crying. Last night after returning home from a lazy day watching the football championships from a friends couch, I came home and cried myself to sleep. And on Saturday, after spending the afternoon and evening with some amazing people fixing and enjoying a community dinner followed by dancing with a couple of friends, I dropped a friend at her place and on the drive home, I busted out in full on tears.

I share this, not because I want sympathy, but because keeping things real is important to me. If I dropped the information that I’m changing up my entire life to go on an indefinite road trip adventure with no real plans for a final destination and then went on through it all sharing only the exciting and great parts of it, I would feel like a fraud. I need to share about all aspects of this adventure and that includes the parts that aren’t all shiny and exhilarating.

After a week of sharing my plans with pretty much every person I know and getting incredibly positive support and encouragement, I’ve hit a wall. The anxiety and stress of preparing to move, the overwhelming ever-growing to do list, and the sadness of leaving friends I love behind have found their way through the cheers and elation. Lets be clear. There are no second thoughts. I’m doing this. I want to do this. I’ve been thinking about it and working all the “angles” out for months. And now I’ve pulled the trigger. Adventure awaits. I’m excited and nervous, but damn if there ain’t a shit ton of things to do and friends to spend time with. I’m buggin’ just a bit. Trying with everything I have to keep moving forward and not allow this anxiety to paralyze me. With a three-day weekend, I had the perfect opportunity to get moving on the list. I did, but not until today and then only a couple of things.

Here’s what I’ve decided, I have at least 5 weeks. While I’m going to do my best to not let myself think this is all the time in the world to get things done, what I am going to do is breathe. Relax a little bit and look for a way to get things done without stressing out too much.

So here’s the plan; every day I’ll:
pack one box
complete and check one thing off the “to do” list
do something fun (self-care)

I started today. Tomorrow I’ll do it again. In 5 weeks it will all be done and I’ll be off on whatever adventure awaits me. Guaranteed, there will be more tears as well.

 

 

Wandermust

leila drive 1

“And suddenly you know: It’s time to start something new and trust the magic of beginnings.” -Meister Echkart

If you know me well and/or follow me much (fb, ig, twitter) you know that change has been kind of a theme for me over the last 6 months or so. Mostly small changes in how and where I spend my time socially, using my free time to significantly engage more in my passions around activism and writing and attempting to live more simply. Internally, I’ve felt that more significant change has been headed in my direction. Subconsciously I’ve been preparing for it for months. And now its upon me.
I’ve been in California now for just over 9 years, the longest I’ve lived in any one place since I was 18. Frankly, I never intended to stay this long. I disliked the Bay Area a lot after moving here, but slowly it grew on me and there have been times in the last couple of years that I’ve actually referred to myself as a “Californian.” I’ve definitely become acclimated to the mild weather and semi-infinite sunshine, as my multiple freckles can attest to. I have found favorite spots I really like to hang out. I have friends here I love dearly and relationships that have opened my eyes to a wide range of experiences. And a job, which though it barely pays the rent, I love. I also have a second job, which does pay the rent almost anywhere else in the United States and likely beyond.
Working two 32+ hour a week jobs for almost 4 years has begun to wear on me a bit. I’m more eager than ever to spend time and energy on creative pursuits and anxious to also put all of my work energy in to one job. My lease at that $1900/mo 700 sq. foot apartment I’ve made home is up at the end of February.
I’ve been having conversations about my options with close friends and with some suggestions and encouragement, I’m taking some chances and heading out on the open road.
I’m guessing right about now you may be wondering…what is she talking about? Is she moving? Where is she moving to? What is she going to do?

Some of those questions have answers, others not so much.

I’ve given notice at Santa Clara University, last day is February 6th. I’ll be working my full-time gig as Director of Operations with The Institute for Democratic Education in America. It’s a remote job, meaning I can work it from anywhere, literally anywhere that is conducive to video calls, online collaboration, and access to a major airport. I’m giving up my little apartment, selling or giving away most of my furniture and other such stuff. Storing the things that matter most and I’ll want for starting over in a new place some day in to a portable storage container. And packing up only the necessities into my little blue Honda Fit and hitting the road with Leila as my copilot. Princess Ophelia, my lovely long-haired cat, will be going to Oregon to live with my very best of friends. She has been talking about bringing a cat in to her home and having spent a month there this summer, we both think it’s a great place for Ophelia. She’ll get the one to one attention she deserves being the only pet in the home.
Where am I going, may be the bigger question. The answer: I don’t know. And the beauty of it is, I don’t have to.

Cynefin

It’s Welsh for a place where a being feels it ought to live. So if there’s an answer that must be had, I’ll be in search of that place.
I do have some destinations in mind and while my initial travel will be to Oregon and Washington in late February/March, I’ve committed to heading south, first to Jackson, MS for a bit of time where I’ll work with some local organizers and parents to help start a new school. From there, I hope to explore more of the South. Then, who knows. I’ve always wanted to live for a month or two in the heart of New York City. It could be fun to spend time back in Nebraska at some of the old places I knew growing up and reconnect with family and friends. And Puerto Rico, definitely Puerto Rico. There’s also Minnesota, the East Coast, and Florida.

So that’s the plan. Drive to where ever the road takes me. Work. And Write.

I’ll chronicle my adventures here, on social media (fb, twitter, ig) and am contemplating a video channel on YouTube.

I hope you all will follow along, keep in touch and maybe even consider visiting me at one of my new homes on the road.

The next few weeks will be a blur of spending time with friends, packing, and preparing to start this adventure. I’m sad to be leaving behind so many great friends, although I’ll hang on to those friendships as each and every one is so important to me. I’m really excited to start this new adventurous chapter of my life and currently resisting the urge to frequently break out into my own version of John Denver’s “Leaving on Jet Plane.” I’m so appreciative of all the support and encouragement I’m receiving from those I’ve shared the news with personally before sharing with all of you here and on social media. It reminds me of how blessed I am to have so many amazing people in my life and also makes moving on that much harder. Moving on, but not letting go.

I hope you’ll come along with me, in whatever way you can, on this adventure!

“You can’t always wait for the perfect time. Sometimes, you have to dare to do it because life is too short to wonder what could have been.” – Unknown