So Many Voices

This awareness thing is tricky. It seems there are multiple voices lobbing suggestions at me. The high one, the one coming from that space of awareness, the one that is not the me walking around, not the one entangled in my ego, is pretty distinguishable. But the voice I call my own, has quite a few personalities, it turns out.

There’s the one I think of mostly me. It’s the one that says “ugh” a lot when receiving a download from the smart one. Then there’s the doubter, never quite sure if the information being downloaded from the galactic realms of absolute reason is sound. “Maybe I should have chocolate?” And then there’s this judgy presence who reminds me of Patsy from AbFab. Mostly she sits in a corner with a cigarette in one hand and a martini in the other scoffing and rolling her eyes whenever I set out to make a positive change. “Here we go again.”

So, naturally positive change is what I’m trying to make. Break some unhelpful habits, add in some new healthy ones, hope something sticks this time. You know the drill.

To motivate me to get (re)started, I opened Marie Forleo’s book Everything is Figureoutable and it was the right choice. Yes, it’s a self-helpy kind of book and yes, I have read every single self-help and motivational book there is. Every. One. I’m pretty sure. But with each one I take away a nugget or finally get some key principle I’ve read 27 times. Or maybe I am able to let go of some worn out belief that didn’t belong to me in the first place.

This book asks some great questions and like the student of life I like to believe I am, I dutifully answered each question in my journal.

To back up a tiny bit, the book is about going for your dream – whatever that is, starting a business, getting healthy, financial freedom, ending a relationship, whatever – and figuring out what is standing in your way or what needs to be done. Marie Forleo is a business coach extraordinaire, but with heart and presence. She gets it.

She allows for you to have more than one dream but insists you choose just one to start with as she is working on helping you build focus and discipline, twin struggles for me. Once the first dream is solidly underway, any other dreams can be addressed.

Here’s how it emerged.

Dream 1: World Traveler Storyteller Shopper. I would love to travel the world and take photos and meet people and write stories and buy really cool things from artisans and flea markets and bring them back to sell in my own awesome shop. I know. I’m already kind of doing that.

Dream 2: Financial Freedom. I have a student loan that is like a bad rash, it will not go away. It’s my own fault, I have deferred it a million times hoping it would just evaporate. It didn’t. I am left with a hefty sum bearing down on my happiness and freedom. In addition, I have a sort of round robin thing going on with my credit card debt. It all gets paid off, then it magically reappears, then it gets paid off, etc. I’d like to crack the code and eradicate all eliminatable debt. (New word. Meaning: any bills that do not occur monthly like phone and power.)

Dream 3: Vibrant Health. Lifelong struggle. I can pinpoint exactly when I went off the rails and it has everything to do with family dynamics, but that was over 40 years ago, so let’s get on with this, can we? What I mean by vibrant health is: an appropriate weight for my height, age and lifestyle; physically active daily – walking, riding my bike, gym; eating foods that support me and not my cravings and habits. Overall it means having this boundless energy that will allow me to do all the things, sleep all the hours and go all the places.

I was sure Dream 1 was the one to figure out. But guess what? Dream 3 rose to the top. For a few reasons.

  1. While my brother was visiting I was sharing my desire to be successful and travel and start another business that involved said travel (I already have a very successful business I share with two badass women, and a couple side gigs). I was a little wistful and maybe a tad whiny. Then he has the nerve to say, while gesturing like the greatest showman, “I kinda feel like you already have that.” He’s right. I have someone’s version of success. If I took the time to practice gratitude more often I would realize that. And he’s also not completely right. Entrepreneurs like to start stuff and I love a beginning. But still, I heard him, and it sunk in.
  2. Everything starts with health. Everything. I have no excuses other than my resistance to something that I have not yet figured out, but I bet it has something to do with that mean girl in my head (you probably know her too) that tells me on a continuous basis that I don’t deserve what I want, that I’m not good enough or that I’m just fine as I am. “Grab a bag of chips, girl, there’s a Hallmark Mystery movie you haven’t seen yet.” I’d like to use an expletive here but I’m trying to keep it street level and stay classy, instead I’ll take a page out of CeeLo’s censor’s book: Forget her!
  3. A huge part of my existing business has to do with health and often I feel like a fraud. Not practicing what I preach. Not meeting my own standards and expectations. (Side note: most women feel like they’re frauds, that someone will figure out that they really don’t know what they’re doing, but we’ll cover that another time.)

As a result, health moved up. Here’s another interesting insight I had regarding these three: When I think about starting a business I take the long view, I understand there will be setbacks and struggles as well as wins. I have measurable goals that are like signposts along the way, once one is achieved I reevaluate and move on, I pivot, I hold, I recalibrate and keep going. With both the health and financial dreams I don’t do that. I have a final destination and then I’m done. I pay off my student loan and credit cards and then I clap the crumbs off my hands, take a deep breath and book another trip. On a credit card. Or I get to the perfect size, maintain healthy eating habits and exercise for a while then forget and leave the door open a crack for the not so helpful habits to sneak back in. And voila, we’re back in the depths of the self-shaming cycle.

To truly achieve what I want with my health and my finances I’m going to have to reframe them entrepreneurially. There will have to be other things beyond the eradication of debt and the perfect size for me. A growing savings and retirement account with measurable balance goals, perhaps. A refinement of muscle tone or races or dance classes, cooking classes, something to keep my body happy and my mind engaged in the ongoing healthy living process.

Still working on that part, but for now I have a plan in place that starts smallish and manageable and grows. There are markers, a stack of healthy cookbooks in my kitchen and a hefty pile of inspirational books from athletes to badass women to keep me inspired. Plus my brother has the same focus on health this new year, so we are each other’s accountability partners, checking in once a week.

This is ongoing, I’m recommitting to my health for the 1 millionth time and this is why Patsy is pffting in the corner. That’s okay, eventually the juicing and roasting and meditation will bore her and she’ll wander into someone else’s personal drama and try to convince them to stay stuck. I hope it’s not you.

Going Places

Man

The page – or in this case, the blinking cursor – is calling me back. I’m not sure what exactly it’s asking for yet, but I’m open and making myself available.

Mostly it seems to be inquiring about travel.

In the middle of reading another inspiring non-fiction book on self-mastery, the question was posed … really the author demanded, that I finish reading the current sentence then go sit with myself somewhere and write down my dreams. All the crazy, seemingly unattainable ones, the ones that make me shudder with excitement, fear or anxiety, the simple ones – like having a place for everything in my house, I mean super simple – and any rogue thought that happens to pop into my head that might be a thread that leads somewhere magical.

On it. Aside from discussing consciousness with Christians, yogis and atheists alike, dreaming is my favorite!

Travel writing.

That’s what the Universe handed me on a slightly smudgy, obviously dented, silver platter. Gifts from the Universe often have to make a few trips around the sun before I’m ready to receive them. This one may frisbee back out yet before it sits beside me each day.

And I had to really study those two words because I don’t think they mean what they seem to say. I believe, in my case, they are meant as two separate commands that intersect.

Here’s how I see it:

Travel is my blood type, a plane ticket, a new passport stamp? Those are transfusions. When I don’t get to go places (by which I mean, when I believe there is something more important than wandering like laundry or running my businesses) I get sick. It’s not a normal sick, I’m rarely that. I get bitchy and itchy. I grumble a lot like an old man who wishes those idiot boxes were never invented and what the hell is a sofrita anyway, what’s wrong with meat and potatoes? That guy. The only antidote is travel. I’ve tried other medicines; wine, chocolate, yoga, they only take me so far.

Writing too has been my constant companion my entire life. Mountains of journals sit heaving in my closet, eyes rolling when they find out they’re not so special. Each one has the same list of how I want to structure my day and all that I would like to accomplish. Day after day. They get bored, my journals. I hear them yawn, audibly breathe the sigh of disappointment when I start rolling out a new plan. But when I start to describe the view from my hotel room that includes a black-faced monkey and the Ganges they start to perk up. They’re totally fine with packing lists for European treks and they especially like when I confess how a place has revealed something about me to me.

And there are blogs, once organized, now somewhat willy nilly, and mostly lately covered in cobwebs and neglect. It helps me, the writing. The publishing is scary, but it’s part of the process too.

Travel. Writing. Travel writing. These will likely never be the kind of stories picked up by Afar or Conde Nast Traveler. I’m not likely to tell you where to eat or what not to miss or what time to be at the Vatican, and which gate so you can bypass the line. But I will tell you how standing on the banks of the Ganges made me cry tears of connection to everything and while sipping red wine at a vineyard overlooking the Mediterranean in Lucca, Italy on the most perfect day ever, I was so overwhelmed with gratitude for this life I couldn’t speak.

I will share the humility I have gained by talking to a man who had no home and no shoes but smiled nonetheless and even gave the dog sharing his tarp the piece of bread I offered him. How he had enough. He was happy. He gave up everything and now whatever he needs comes to him. I will tell you that that is true abundance and I may even give you a hint of yoga philosophy lesson on the tenet of Aparigraha or non-attachment. Mostly because it’s a reminder and lesson to me.

The more I tell you, the more I learn about me.

Travel. Writing. They are symbiotic in my world. They need each other. One does not describe the other. When I look at them I can see them each on the bulbous sides of an infinity symbol.  Traveling opens me up and reveals the dark corners that need to be energetically vacuumed out, as well as the covered bits of light yearning to shine and share.

Traveling is manna to me. Writing is how I process and share my experiences.

So this is my big, anxious, hairy, exciting dream. I mean, a well-organized house is also still on the list, but it just doesn’t curl my toes like going places.

What’s your dream?