Six Months After the World Ended … Have You Found Your Purpose Yet?

Non-traditional ragdoll cat in tuxedo pattern

What rapture?  I’m still here …

You may recall that this blog ended on the day the world was predicted to either end, or humanity would be propelled into a more conscious evolution — that is, on December 21, 2012 — my 45th birthday as well as the end of the Mayan long count calendar.  I spent the Winter Solstice of 2012 near the Atlantis Energy Vortex on the tiny tropical island of Bimini as my finale to a manic six months of travel.

My search for Life Purpose was officially over.

Today is the Summer Solstice, and despite this blog’s long silence most of us are still here six months after it was all supposed to end.

So what has happened these past months?  If you recall, I was having a rather high maintenance melt-down over the fact of turning forty-five, and was absolutely determined that I would find my elusive “Life Purpose” by 12/21/12 … at the LATEST.

So now that this deadline has truly come and gone, am I any closer?

Yes and no. 

The thing is, these past six months haven’t been all that different from the six months this blog was active.  We still travel (though not as frequently), I still struggle with finishing my writing projects, I still lose my cool with Hubby at least once a week, and I still (occasionally) beat myself up for no longer practicing law.  But a few things have changed:

  • I completed an Improv class (which was scary as hell, and also taught me my Purpose is clearly NOT to ever be a stand-up comedian);
  • I’ve actually been riding horses every week, rather than trying to learn my purpose from them;
  • I’ve expanded my writing network to include lots of other creative types to help offset the more materialistic influence of my OC girlfriends;
  • I have (accidentally) become a certified Reiki Master Teacher (not my purpose either … but perhaps a good story for another day); and
  • Gratitude has become a daily meditative practice for me.

The thing is, it’s taken me awhile, but:

I NO LONGER BELIEVE IN LIFE PURPOSE.

I’m not saying that life is meaningless — not at all.  But rather than drive myself crazy for the rest of my life trying to discover that “one great thing” I am destined to do, I’m taking it day by day.  The weird mosaic that is resulting is unlike anything I would have predicted – it’s messy, non-logical, seldom clearly profitable, and I’m really too close to it to see the entire picture anyway.

I bet it’s the same for you.

The journey is the purpose.  And yes, we do have some good trips planned for the rest of this year.  The question is, do I need to blog about my life in order to fully live it?  Clearly the answer to that question is NO, but:

Do YOU have any interest in following my future travels?

If so, I would love to hear from you.  I am toying with the idea of launching a new blog or travel website, but in order to do that, I need a subscriber base.  If you haven’t already done so, please fill in your email in that little box at the top of this page.

No SPAM.  Promise.  (OK, I might sell your email address for a few K.  Yeah, right.  Who do you think you are, anyway?)

Seriously, at least leave a comment.  ANY comment.  Okay, I’m begging.  Not cool.  Sorry.  But you can bitch about it in your comment, if you want.

—-

PS – I must confess the real reason I’m blogging today is that it has really been bugging me I only wrote 32 posts in 2012.  Everything else in my life is a double digit; this brings the total posts to 33.  Stupid, right?   Tell me that in your comments …

Only in Montecito (Or, Still Finding My Hedonist/Blowhard/Narcissist Self in California)

So I’ve been silent on this blog ever since my Thanksgiving manifesto declaring my intention to stop being such a narcissist.

But I didn’t say anything about giving up Hedonism, did I?

Thank God.

Hubby and I spent most of this week celebrating our eighth wedding anniversary (and ten years together) at the Four Seasons (Biltmore) in Santa Barbara.  It’s one of our favorite places when we decide to indulge a little — even our dog, Tasha, knows it’s far better than any Marriott.  Plus, there’s an excellent dog beach right in front:

dog beach in Santa Barbara in front of the Four Seasons

Sometimes the best breaks are close to home (two hours away in this case).  Such trips are generally easier, often cheaper, and usually safer.  You may recall that on our original honeymoon in 2004, Hubby and I managed to avoid the tsunami in Phuket by a single day simply because my brother-in-law “happened to” gift us with an extra night in Bangkok on our way there.

Luck was with us on this anniversary trip too.

Since the resort was half empty after Thanksgiving, we were able to upgrade to a suite nearly half the size of our house:

our suite at the Four Seasons, Santa Barbara

They even gave us welcome champagne and cute little anniversary treats after every meal:

anniversary treats at the Four Seasons

And don’t get me started on the food and wine … Santa Barbara is just far enough north to “get” wine country cuisine.  The sea bass at Tydes was divine.

Okay, this is starting to sound like one of those blog posts we’ve all seen too many of: “Look at me … my life is perfect.  Don’t you wish you were ME?” (There’s that blowhard narcissist voice again …) 

Speaking of which, I actually did have my first ever obligatory SoCal beachfront photo shoot while we were there.  And I have to apologize to all the models I’ve ever scoffed at; it’s nowhere near as easy as it looks:

Kate's first beachfront photo shoot in Santa Barbara

I’m also a little annoyed that I look so short next to Hubby:

Kate & Scott's eighth anniversary photo

(I’m 5’8″ but am used to wearing platform stilettos to get closer to Hubby’s 6’4.”)  But I digress yet again.

So why am I writing this?  I’ve spent eleven years in California now, and this place is as seductive as ever.  I try not to be too shallow.  I really do.  But sometimes, five star treatment really does feel nurturing and healing.  If you fully live in the moment and truly appreciate it, that is.  I sometimes have to remind myself that:

More is more, but plenty is more than enough.

A few years ago we met a very rich, very miserable woman on a Crystal Cruise.  She actually lived full-time in the boat’s presidential suite, but still kept a penthouse  residence at the Four Seasons in Sydney, even though she was never there.  In fact, she proudly informed us of the exorbitant amount of money she had once refused when Mick Jagger wanted to rent her home for a week.  Whereas many would be happy to rub shoulders with celebrity, all she could do was complain the hotel had deigned to approach her with the offer.

The more some people have, the more they bitch

I’m certainly not exactly low maintenance either, but lately I find myself getting sentimental and tearing up nearly every day over all the beauty in life.  All I feel like doing is kissing the earth I walk on and giving thanks.  Life isn’t perfect — our kitchen still needs to be renovated, I’m getting more wrinkles, I’m still childless and jobless, the budget isn’t always balanced, I still have MS, my vision is getting worse — but it’s still MY life.

And Life is a Gift.

December 21 is less than three weeks away now.  If it really were the End-of-the-World, I could honestly say I’ve lived an exquisitely beautiful life.  Indulging in places like the Four Seasons from time to time is not so much what has made this so, but I view such trips as more of an affirmation that life is here to be savored and enjoyed — even if this means stretching the budget sometimes.

In my experience, not all healing is physical.

So the photos are not so much to show you how great my life is, but to document and remind myself of this.  The shots I like the best are not even the ones people would call “pretty” but the ones where I just look happy:

Kate laughing outside the Biltmore Four Seasons in Santa Barbara

You don’t need to stay at the Four Seasons (although I recommend it!) to appreciate the little things in life.  (Like those five bottles of L’Occitane verbena lotion I lifted from our suite ...)  Notice and give thanks for the big things too:

Like going through life with the person you love.

Hubby probably needed this trip even more than I did.  He’s been traveling for 15 weeks straight now, and this is the first truly “low stress” break we’ve had for a long time. So I can’t really blame him for being slightly careless on this trip.  When we went to dinner on our last night in Montecito, he accidentally left his front car door wide open the entire time … with his iPad sitting in plain view on the driver’s seat.

Pierre Lafond Wine Bistro in Montecito

Pierre Lafond’s Wine Bistro in Montecito

This being Oprah’s hometown, no one bothered to steal it.  (Or the car, for that matter.)

Only in Montecito.

So, yes, we’re still incredibly lucky.  And spoiled.  And blessed.  And I hope you realize that SO ARE YOU.

—-

Question:  What little (or big) indulgences help you to affirm your life is beautiful?

I want a divorce!

Time is running out until 12/21/12, and I’m forcing myself to face some pretty large issues I’ve been in denial about for a very long time.  The truth is, things just aren’t working the way they used to.

I want a divorce.

I want a divorce! 

But not from my husband.  I hate to admit this, but I think it’s high time to divorce …

MYSELF.

I wish I meant this figuratively, but I’m afraid it’s literal this time.  You see, back in 2008 at one of the many personal development seminars I got caught up in, we all participated in a wedding ceremony where we actually married ourselves.  Of course this event was no different from most — 99% of the participants were single women looking to find themselves.  I suppose that’s why no one bothered to ask me if I objected to polygamy.  (Hubby was raised Mormon, so I guess he had this coming.)

But I’m tired of me.

And I want a divorce.  Today is Thanksgiving, and as I reflect on all of my many blessings I wonder what is truly going on in the personal development world.  Why all the constant striving to be, do, and have more?  Can’t we just be happy with and truly appreciate what we already have?

As Joan Ocean writes in Dolphin Connection, “So often we no longer see the planet’s beauty … the absence of gratitude in our world results in the demise of our planet.  Expressing heartfelt gratitude is one of our intrinsic purposes, a sacred responsibility.”  Speaking of which, I am extremely grateful to be where I am today, surrounded by beauty near my in-laws’ home in Rancho Mirage:

Rancho Las Palmas with Scotty and Tasha

Rancho Las Palmas with Scotty and Tasha

We even enjoyed smoked salmon and mimosas on the golf course this morning:

Mimosa and smoked salmon on the golf course

Life is good.

Darn good.

So why do I keep striving for more?  I’ve even committed to attending a workshop in Hollywood next month called Orgasmic Wealth.  (Ok, that’s not the real name, but it’s awfully close.  Just don’t want to defame anyone here.)  It’s one of those self-actualized woman things.  You know the pitch: just use your feminine powers and the Law of Attraction.  Relax, learn to receive, delegate more, work less, and the money will magically flow into your life.  Rock your purpose. Change the world.

And we’ll all be Wealthy, Wonderful, and Wise

As long as you pay $50,000 for a high vibrational mentor to “coach” you.  (Non-refundable.  Because of course if you fail, this is your fault.) 

(Shoot, there’s that pesky sarcasm again ...)

According to Debbie Lachusa we’ve become a culture of success addicts, and  narcissism rates are exploding about as fast as the obesity epidemic.  Just look at FakeBook and the proliferation of self-absorbed blogs like this one.

ME. ME. ME. ME. ME. ME. ME. ME. ME. ME. ME. ME. ME. ME. ME. ME. ME.

Even typing that last line felt icky.

So I’m off to spend time with others.  My family.  And I hope you are appreciating yours.  Yes, I’ll be back to blog about my travels soon, and maybe even give you the inside scoop on the orgasmic wealth event, but today I would really rather hear about YOU.

—–

What are doing today to celebrate Thanksgiving?  And what are you grateful for?  Do you ever feel like I do, that you just want to relax and stop trying to improve everything all the time?

Pepé Le Pew in Paris and Les Braves in Normandy (or, Still High Maintenance After All These Years?)

“Are you sure you’ll be able to handle this?”

“Sure, it will be romantic.”

“I don’t know … Remember last time?”

We are in Paris, and Hubby is referring to the very first overseas trip we took together here when we had just begun dating.  (I mean really, what woman wouldn’t marry the guy who takes you to Paris on a date?)  Now he’s questioning whether I really want to stay at the same place we did ten years ago.  It was a “charming” little hotel on the Left Bank in St. Germain. Certainly not five star, but purportedly a favorite among models and artists in the know.

At least in 2002.

Had he been paying attention, Hubby (who was not yet Hubby) should have been put on notice of what a high maintenance woman I was destined to become, because even then:

I couldn’t stop myself from whining about the hotel.

Specifically, about its hair dryers.  (Or rather, hair frizzers — weird devices on a vacuum hose attached to the wall that heated up way too much and blew just the tiniest amount of air — just enough to produce a pretty good Afro, but not to actually dry your hair.  The heat also made it impossible apply makeup in the sauna of a bathroom that resulted.)  From memory, the rooms were pretty miniscule too.

But I didn’t care on this trip.  All I could really think about were the good things: our early romance, the fantastic location within walking distance of the Louvre, plus the in-house jazz lounge with live music.

It would be romantic.

And it was … sort of.  Here we are last week at one of very same bistros we visited in 2002:

French Bistro

But some things never change.

Remember Pepé Le Pew and Penelope?  You know, the French skunk constantly searching for  “l’amour” and the poor little cat who keeps running from his advances? (If you haven’t seen him action for awhile, watch this clip: “Louvre Come Back To Me.”)

Pepe Le Pew loves Penelope

These days, the networks would never allow a would-be rapist to be featured in cartoons, let alone a character who stereotypes national origin so blatantly.  (Same goes for Speedy Gonzales.)  But of course, the reason stereotypes are such fun is because they so often ring true.

I saw evidence of Pepé everywhere last week in France.

No, I was not assaulted by any French men who needed a bath …

I’m talking about l’amour!

Or rather (and sadly for Hubby), Penelope’s reaction to Pepe’s advances.  At least on our first night, I had more in common with that nay-saying cat than any Parisian sex goddess.

Butt at least I'm in Paris ... sculpture outside the Louvre

Butt at least we’re in Paris …

The truth is, a person can really only tolerate so much beauty.  Paris can be overwhelming, even if you’ve been there before.  It’s sort of like this sculpture near the Louvre … is she simply so ecstatic about being in such proximity to the Eiffel Tower that she can’t stand up?

Or is Pepé lurking somewhere nearby and she is feigning a headache?

Both are possible in Paris, especially if you’re crabby about the hair dryers.  (And no, even though our hotel is finally undergoing a complete overhaul, the hair frizzers are exactly the same.  I overheard at least half a dozen other women complain about these at breakfast.)

It’s difficult to respond to l’amour with frizzed out hair.

Fortunately, I did remember to pack a curling iron and adapter, and with the help of a little French cuisine, our last night in Paris was saved.

Kate at a bistro in St. Germain

Plus, wearing French lingerie (for once) instead of the usual we’ve-been-married-forever t-shirt didn’t hurt either.

But we must move on.  After just two nights in Paris, we drive to Normandy because Hubby is a big World War II buff and wants to visit the beaches where the Allies landed on D-Day.  As a typical Lexus Liberal who has never actually experienced war, I wasn’t exactly thrilled about this.

And I still don’t know how to write about it.

First, here is the view from our hotel room in Arromanches, overlooking Gold Beach (and you know how much I LOVE gold):

View of Gold Beach from our room in Arromanches, Normandy

The countryside and beaches in Normandy are stunning, which makes it that much harder to understand everything that happened here 68 years ago.  We visit four of the five invasion beaches: Sword, Juno, Gold, and Omaha.  Each is more difficult to view than the last.

Imagine being in your early twenties and scaling these walls at Pointe Du Hoc, knowing that if you make it up you’re likely walking straight into your own death:

Pointe Du Hoc

You can see the remains of German bunkers, fox holes, and gun stands here, and the earth still has bombed out scars everywhere.  I can’t help but be reminded of Stone Henge when I see the circular configuration of some of the former weaponry sites:

Gun stand at Pointe Du Hoc, Normandy

Gun Henge?

Fittingly, the weather is windy and rainy during our visit which makes it easier to envision what the Allies were facing.  (The original invasion date was delayed due to bad weather.)  We take shelter at the Normandy American Cemetery and Memorial:

American cemetary in Normandy

Thousands of veterans are buried here; most barely in their twenties when they died.  (And across town at the German cemetery, hundreds of the dead were still children, as the Nazis actively recruited 16 year olds.) 

I am particularly struck by one line in a film at the American Memorial:

“The fate of the free world once rested on their shoulders.”

And I wonder: Did they realize this?

Thank you.

Your lives were no wasted journey.

Artist Anilore Banon expresses this far better than I can with his Les Braves sculpture at Omaha Beach:

Les Braves -- Omaha beach sculpture

The memorial sculpture is meant to symbolize Hope, Freedom, and Fraternity.  Or, as Pepé Le Pew says:

“War eez fine, but zee louv eez bettah!” 

By the way, Pepé was created on January 6, 1945, just a few months after the D-Day landings.  For me, this is just a reminder that among all the other freedoms our war heros won for us, the ability to laugh is one of the most dear.

Incidentally, I accidentally left my curling iron at our tiny hotel room back in Paris.  My hair in Normandy is a flat and frizzy mess.

And for once, I don’t care.

Stonehenge, Atlantis, my Bucket List and the Monster at the End of this Blog

Yikes!  (And you know how much I hate to say “yikes”…)  But there are only 69 days left until 12/21/12.

And you know what that means.

No, I’m not talking about THAT 69 … but the monster at the end of this blog will soon reveal himself.  (And I hope he’ll be a cute little rascal like Grover .. oh wait, I forgot, if Big Bird is getting the axe, Grover probably will too.)

Seriously, the time left until 12/21/12 is speeding by, and it’s probably time to reveal where I’ll be spending the End-of-the-World/My-45th-Birthday in December.

Are you ready?

No, it’s not Belize.  In fact, after much deliberation and far too many travel quotes, it’s not even Mayan.

But before I reveal all, I have to explain just how much the first 111 days of this blog’s journey have surprised me.

When I first started this blog, it was sort of a tongue-in-cheek joke because my 45th birthday happens to coincide with what millions of doomsday freaks predict will be our last day on planet Earth.  (On the other hand, millions of New Age freaks believe 12/21/12 will usher in a new era of unprecedented peace and human evolution.)  Either way, it begged the question: if there really were only 180 days left, how should I spend them?

I didn’t know. 

But what I did know was that I was open to anything, and that we would be spending the summer solstice in Barcelona.  From there on, I was clueless.  And I couldn’t help but think of 2007’s The Bucket List, starring Jack Nicholson and Morgan Freeman:

The Bucket List

As you likely recall, the two main characters in the movie were both dying of cancer and abandoned their families to jet set around the world, squeezing in every exotic fantasy they possibly could in their last days.  An unrealistic premise for sure, but the film was a hit worldwide because let’s face it — we all have a Bucket List.

But what was truly on mine?  More travel?  Even though I adore journeys of just about every kind, I knew from the start of this blog that simply taking a few more expensive vacations this year was unlikely to be transformative.

Unless I did things differently.

So with the exception of our starting trip in Spain (which was still a lovely way to reconnect with Hubby), each of my journeys this year has served a deeper purpose beyond simply taking another vacation: Santa Fe and Taos taught me about Zen meditation and how to apply this to writing, the Wisconsin trip helped me connect on a much deeper level with my family, traveling with our dog Tasha in the wine country reminded me of how much I have to be thankful for close to home, and the horses in Tucson taught me how to stand more confidently in my own truth.

So what’s happening in the next 69 days?

Next Tuesday we’ll be touring Stonehenge; on Wednesday I’m meeting with a travel editor in London to discuss how to develop a travel writing career.  From there Hubby and I are revisiting a quaint hotel on the Left Bank in Paris where we first traveled during our dating days — surely something will be rekindled there? 

November will be devoted to everything I love in California, with trips to San Francisco, Half-Moon Bay, Rancho Mirage and the Desert, Santa Barbara and Carmel.  I’ll also be continuing important journeys at home too, including advanced screenwriting classes with Corey Mandell in LA, and a wonderful forum with other women working on increasing our visibility and creating our “ecstatic brand” with Christina Morassi.  (Definitely more on that one to come!  So far, she’s proving much of my skepticism about gurus … um, well … wrong.)

Enough already … So what’s the big finale in December?

Here’s a clue:

Happy Dolphins

Given all I learned from the horses, I’ve decided to go swim with wild dolphins.

Remember how I wanted to end this blog with a “B” name? (“From Barcelona to B_________”)  I’ve now got three:

Bimini, Bahamas, and Bermuda Triangle. 

If the world really is going to end, I may as well go out with a bang, right?  On December 21, I’ll be on a boat somewhere over the Atlantis Energy Vortex in the Bermuda Triangle, where we’ll be  “sending out beams of 5th dimensional consciousness to the planet from this sacred site through a guided meditation.”

Did I mention I’m afraid of boats?

Plus, my least favorite movie of all times is Open Water (can I say “yikes” again?)  But the good part is we’ll be spending hours every day swimming with the wild dolphins, which should be really cool.  The only other catch?

No coffee, and no wine.

In addition to lots of meditation and yoga, the week will include a strict vegan raw food detox diet.  We’ll also be certified in Reiki I and II before the week is up.  New Agey?  For sure. Scary? You bet.

Hubby will NOT be joining me.

And I can’t say that I blame him. 

—–

Will YOU?  I’d love to have some company … Just leave a comment if you’d like more information.

I AM ENOUGH (Or, How Riding a Bionic Horse Can Make Your Inner Critic Shut the F*!# Up)

“I am enough.”

“What do you mean?” Hubby asks in puzzlement.  “You’re enough WHAT?” He is on the verge of laughter until he sees how close to tears I am.  That’s the trouble with breakthroughs; no matter how  life changing and adrenaline pumped they may feel in the moment, they are often nearly impossible to describe to other people, especially those closest to us.

If you read my last post, you know I recently returned from an Equine Therapy retreat in Arizona.  Thanks to the skill and heart of both the facilitators and horses, the week was mind altering, heart expanding, truth deepening, paradigm shattering, and spirit affirming.  And yet, the inconvenient truth is:

I’m still struggling to integrate what I learned there into my “real” life.

“Come on, tell me what you mean; tell me about the horses,” Hubby pleads.

“You had to be there, I guess.”  

The thing is, as much as I adore animals, it just sounds rather pathetic to admit that a horse taught me about self-esteem.  After all, I’m a pretty self-absorbed, narcissistic, achievement driven, pedigreed-by-multiple-expensive-degrees person.  And yet, I still spend an inordinate amount of time ruminating about how my life could be more meaningful/more successful/bigger/brighter/happier/fill-in-the-blank with whatever today’s self-improvement goal is.  (Or, as British writer Ruth Whippman argues, I’m just like every other neurotic American obsessed with the pursuit of happiness?)

So I decide to just tell Hubby what the horses actually did on the retreat and let him draw his own conclusions.  I’ll do my best to do the same here.

First, the environment in Tucson was somewhat challenging.  At least for me.  Not only were temperatures lingering in the neighborhood of 100 the entire week, but the days were heavily scheduled from 7:00 in the morning to 10:30 or later at night.  In my normal life I’m pretty much toast any time the temperature is over 75.  And while I’ve chosen to mostly not write about MS on this site, it’s relevant context information here because what usually happens when I get overheated is that my legs go numb, I (literally) can’t see straight, sometimes can’t walk, and generally need a looong nap just to get through the day.  Even without excessive heat, I pretty much gave up trying to do anything prior to 10:00 a.m. years ago; fatigue continues to be an almost daily challenge.

So by mid-afternoon of the second day, it wasn’t surprising I was so exhausted I nearly collapsed on the floor of our conference room.  We hadn’t really worked with the horses much yet, but things changed when we were given our first “challenge.”  I was to work with a spotted horse named Jorge:

Jorge, a horse with a lesson to impart

He was by no means the prettiest horse on the ranch, nor even the most friendly.  (Admittedly, this may have something to do with the fact that he was NOT among the horses I attempted to bribe with sugar cubes the previous day.)

Our task was to lead our horses through a series of physical obstacles that represented challenges from our real lives.  The stations got progressively more difficult: the first just a set of rails the horse needed to step over, the second comprising several traffic cones the horse was to weave through, and the final a gate the horse was to be led through before you closed the “door” behind him (in reality, this was just a rope).

For my real life obstacles, I chose health (and everything MS-related) as my first, my writing discipline (or rather, my lack of it) as the second, and my ambivalence over my past legal career (and inability to let go of it) as the third.  As we led our horses through each station, we were to concentrate on our correlating real life challenges.

Simple enough.

But like any decent reality show competition, there was a twist.

Two people would accompany each of us through the gauntlet with the horses: one would represent our inner “advocate” and would cheer us on with encouragement.  The other — you guessed it — would be our inner “critic.”  That person would SCREAM every imaginable mean thing at us to try to make us lose our concentration and control of the horse.  Given that I have almost no experience working with horses, I was not overly confident.

But Jorge was brilliant. 

He stepped right over all of my “health” obstacles without faltering, paying no heed whatsoever to my “critic” who was screaming all my worst MS-related fears at me the entire time.  The horse was even more impressive with the “writing” barriers, weaving perfectly through the cones and tuning out all distractions, as if to say: “See, piece of cake if you just stay focused.”

But when we reached the “law” barrier, there was trouble:

Trouble - Jorge stops to eat the shrubs

Jorge stopped in his tracks right before crossing the final “gate.”  He insisted on nibbling the one small patch of shrubbery I hadn’t even noticed was there.

He wouldn’t budge.

Earlier in the workshop, we had worked to set our intentions for the week.  I had two: I sought “healing without injury” and “clarity regarding my career.”  Of the two, the latter seemed to be the more pressing in my daily life.  I truly wanted to either “close the door” on my legal career for good and fully commit to writing, or admit defeat and just go back to law.  Or try to.  (That pesky energy/MS stuff seems to hinder that line of thinking too — see intention number one).

But Jorge just took his sweet time, nibbling away at all those delicious aspects of the “law” I’d almost forgotten I miss: logic and the ability to argue a case, a deep understanding of how multifaceted the truth can be, and the privilege of serving as another person’s best advocateOn the other hand, I don’t miss the constant stress of working in an adversarial system:

Playing the “critic” for others in this exercise felt like pure torture.

Ironically, out of our small group of just nine, three people chose me to play the part of their critic (and NONE their advocate!).  Even given my adversarial background, I was surprised by how emotionally exhausting it was to shout stupid mean things to people who were just trying to do their best.

It also made me realize how stupid I am whenever I listen to my own abusive inner voice.

Bottom line, I guess I still have a love/hate relationship with the law.  Nevertheless, when Jorge finally decided to pass through the final gate:

I decided to leave the door open.

Leading Jorge with my Inner Advocate and Critic

Because animals live in the present, they are not tormented with our anxiety to set our future path.  I am trying to live this way too.  I have no idea whether I’ll ever practice law again, but the door is still open thanks to one clever horse.

As for the MS stuff, I’m not sure exactly how working with horses was healing or whether the effects will last.  But as First Lady hopeful Ann Romney observed about her own struggle with MS: “Riding exhilarated me; it gave me a joy and a purpose. When I was so fatigued that I couldn’t move, the excitement of going to the barn and getting my foot in the stirrup would make me crawl out of bed.”  As a result, she said, “My desire to ride was, and is, so strong that I kept getting healthier and healthier.”

In my own case, after that one afternoon of exhaustion I noticed that even though we were almost constantly in the heat my body did NOT go numb, and I felt like I had as much (or at times even more) energy than my peers.   One afternoon I even went on the “fast” trail ride.  It was uncomfortable, bumpy, and HOT, but for some reason I didn’t get as sore as some of the other novice riders, and didn’t need a nap.

It was only afterwards I learned that my horse, “Cutaway,” was previously owned by Lindsay Wagner:

Lindsay Wagner as Jaime Sommers, The Bionic Woman

Maybe Cutaway was bionic too?  I certainly felt much stronger than usual after riding her. 

But getting back to my original goals for the retreat of healing and clarity, I do feel healed (at least a little) and Jorge reminded me that perhaps clarity isn’t all it’s cracked up to be.  Life is CHANGE.  All I have to do is be present, and appreciate the beauty of it all.  I am enough, whether I ever become a published/produced writer, practice law, or do nothing other than sit at home and “let the soft animal of my body love what it loves.”  I AM ENOUGH because I exist.  Life is a gift.

And for once, this is more than enough.

What to Do When Your Guru Wants You to Scratch Her Butt (or, What Living YOUR TRUTH Might Look Like?)

Despite all the sarcasm I’ve been guilty of on this blog, it appears I’ve finally met a Guru I have complete faith in …

Vista - my guru is a horse!

The only problem?  She wants me to scratch her butt:

Horse butt

I’ve been away from blogging this week because I’ve been too busy attending an Equine Therapy retreat with my Mother at a dude ranch in Tucson, Arizona.

Kate with Horses at Tucson's White Stallion Ranch

The trip was titled Reconnecting to Truth Through Horse Wisdom.  Before attending, I had little idea of what this meant, as I’ve never owned a horse and have ridden only a handful of times in my life.  I came into the week with few expectations, but the brochure promised to “compel [me] to reconnect with the truth of who [I am] through the mirror of the horse” and that the horse would “[provide] instant, non-judgmental feedback, reflecting back to [me my] inner-landscape and how [I move] through the world.”

In other words, the horse would definitely see through all my BS and give it to me straight.

Shit.

So I came prepared, armed with pockets full of sugar cubes and big bags of organic carrots and apples.  (Surely horses are amenable to bribery too?)  

I should have known better.

Even getting to the ranch should have alerted me to the fact that my usual way of being in the world was not going to work here.  As usual, I got a little lost trying to find the White Stallion Ranch.  I had driven six hours to be here, and somehow managed to make at least three wrong turns in the last ten minutes of the drive.  We were going to be late, and I was just a tad frustrated.

Fortunately, a friendly Arizona guy on a motorcycle offered to help. 

In exchange for giving me directions, he invited me to either: 1) donate $206 to the Grand Canyon State coffers, or 2) attend traffic school (a bargain at $185).  He claimed I was driving 47 in a 35 zone.  (But can’t you see I’m lost?  I didn’t see the sign.  Everyone else is going the same speed …)  But for the first time since I was twenty-two,

There was no way to sweet talk my way out.

But what does getting a speeding ticket have to do with horses?  There is a saying that the way a person does one thing is the way she does everything.  Perhaps if I could use this week to improve my communication with the horses, my communication with people would improve as well?

Kate & Pallomino - we blondes have to stick together!

We blondes need to stick together …

The first horse I gave a sugar cube to nearly knocked me over later begging for more, and the second spit it out in disgust at my feet.

So much for bribes. 

And the horses didn’t appear to like excuses or prolonged explanations either.  They just wanted us to be real.  Without giving away too much of what happened at the retreat or breaking any confidences, I can say it was a week full of physical, spiritual, and emotional breakthroughs for all nine of us who came together from across the country.  Here are just a few of the healings I witnessed:

We saw a horse come running to a woman who feared she would be less lovable by setting healthy boundaries, a horse roll in the dirt in pure ecstasy at the feet of a woman who expressed her desire to live in the moment, a horse walk away to test the faith of a man who strongly wanted to believe he is a child of God, a horse comfort a grieving woman by nuzzling her heart and head, a horse stand between another woman and her observers to block their opinions from harming her, several horses neigh in unity to confirm a man’s desire to collaborate more with others, a horse show another woman how to gracefully accept acknowledgement and applause, a horse help a woman express who she is by only coming close when she stated her real truth.

And my horse?  She made clear she wanted me to scratch her butt right after I confided to her my aspirations to become a writer.  It would be SO easy to just laugh this off (my normal way of being in the world), but as another participant pointed out:

If you’ve got an itch, scratch it.

In fact, the horse seemed perplexed when I asked her for permission to write about her.  It was as if she were saying, “Why do you need to ask?  If you want to write about me, go ahead.”  It seems to me that we spend an awful lot of agony asking the world for permission to pursue the desires we keep safely hidden away in our hearts.

A horse would never do this.

Here are a few more things I learned from the horses:

  • If your mind, heart, and spirit are not aligned, a horse knows it.
  • A horse isn’t interested in excuses.
  • Horses live in the present moment.
  • Horses are incapable of lying.
  • A horse won’t pay any heed to your inner critic.
  • A horse knows you can do a lot more than you think you can.
  • Horses do not understand why we ever do anything that isn’t living our truth.

And there’s plenty more.  (To be continued, soon …)

—-

Question:  What lessons have you learned from the animals in your life?  How much do you think animals understand?  Do they know things we do not?

Travels with Tasha (our Dog-cation in the Santa Ynez Valley Wine Country)

Tasha in Santa Barbara

I’d say hello, but as you can see, my mouth is full … My name is Natasha (“Tasha”) and I’m Kate’s first guest blogger.

I’m also her dog. 

We just arrived at my favorite canine-friendly beach in Santa Barbara, right in front of my preferred hotel, the Biltmore (Four Seasons).  Unfortunately, we’re not staying here this time and the surf is so high today there’s no beach:

surfer dog

surfer dog

It’s a good thing I know how to swim.

By now you’ve heard an awful lot about my mom’s birthday (December 21).  I don’t get what the big deal is … Sure, it’s the purported End-of-the-World as well as Jane Fonda’s birthday, but my own birthday (January 27) is just as special — I share it with Mozart, Baryshnikov, and Bridget Fonda.

Why does Kate want to take another trip on 12/21 anyway? Frankly, I don’t understand why my parents ever insist on going anyplace without me … I’m an EXCELLENT travel companion.

Like on this trip.  As you can see, I am extremely useful as a navigator:

Tasha is a front seat dog

I don’t know why Kate keeps strapping me into the back seat with that harness, as I’m obviously a much better co-pilot than she is.  Besides, sitting in the back deprives me of the view:

Santa Ynez wine country

My parents don’t fully appreciate my talents as a tour guide.  I swear if I didn’t alert them with my LOUDEST BARK every time I see a cow, horse, or motorcycle, they wouldn’t notice anything.

In case you can’t tell from the picture, we’re driving through the Santa Ynez Valley wine country.  Right now we’re passing through the town where my parents adopted me in 2009:

Buellton - famous for split pea soup and mini-Australian shepherds

Buellton – famous for split pea soup and mini-Australian shepherds

Dad keeps joking about dropping me off at the breeder’s, but I don’t find this funny at all.  We finally reach our destination – a little Danish town called Solvang.  Mom calls it “kitschy” but I love it because most of the restaurants and hotels welcome dogs.

Solvang - California' town of Danish kitsch

Mom still tries to feed me dog food every morning though … can you imagine?  Of course I refuse to touch it, and hold out for omelettes, sausage, and those wine country cheese plates.

Our hotel, the Royal Copenhagen Inn, is not quite the Four Seasons.  They don’t have dog beds or toys here, and they don’t serve filet mignon for breakfast either.  But I guess not many dogs have the discriminating taste I do.  (I do live in Newport Beach, after all ...) I think it’s funny this place has a “Secret Garden” for dogs to run around in:

Tasha in the "Secret Garden" at the Royal Copenhagen Inn, Solvang

The garden isn’t bad, but they don’t let dogs in the pool.  So much for “dog friendly” — I wonder where I can file a complaint for false advertising?  They also won’t let me into the breakfast room where all those Danish pastries are.  So when Mom isn’t looking, I let myself in and run eight laps around the diners before she can catch me.

Overall I’m having fun, but I still don’t understand why they call it “wine tasting.”  Even though they let me into a couple of tasting rooms, no one offers me any wine.

Babcock Winery with Tasha

When do I get to taste the wine?

But even so, it’s been a pretty okay weekend.  More importantly, I think I can solve Kate’s problem of where to celebrate 12/21/12:  With ME, of course.

At the Biltmore Four Seasons in Santa Barbara. 

Where they know how to treat a dog well.  Plus, I’ll be sticking with this blog’s “B” theme … from Barcelona to the Biltmore?

——

What do YOU think?  Please tell Kate she really should be with her dog for the end-of-the-world.  (I would NEVER abandon HER on such an important date!)

Berlin, Beijing, Bali, Burkina Faso, Brisbane, Berkeley, Bangkok, Buenos Aires, Bora Bora, and Buellton (or, the Travel Moments that Transform Us)

From Barcelona to B_____________?

When I launched this blog on 2012’s summer solstice in Barcelona, I was searching for a great place to wrap things up for the winter solstice on 12/21/12, the infamous “End-of-the-World” (or start of a new era?).  Belize seemed the perfect choice – not only for its Mayan heritage, but for the alliteration:  “Barcelona to Belize” just has a nice ring to it.

But I still haven’t decided where to spend my last day on this planet.

This morning I started thinking about some of the other “B” places I’ve been, and what these trips have meant. The places listed in the title of this post span a travel period of 25 years; each journey has been transformative in a different way.      

Here’s what can happen if you travel to “B” places:

You may get frustrated because you can’t speak the language.  You may learn humility for the same reason.  You may diversify your palate.  You may find a second family.  You may discover Wanderlust is part of who you are.

You may witness a revolution.  You may be followed by mobs of people like a movie star. You may be disgusted by local habits (or you may join in and learn to spit).  You may spend time in a hospital without modern hygiene.  You may learn to live with cockroaches in your room. You may be given snake venom, tiger balm, and foul spelling mystery brews as medicine.  You may be surprised when this works. You may ride a bicycle everywhere and decide to paint it in bright colors after your third one is stolen.  You may learn to bribe low level officials in order to get even the simplest things done.  You may have your identity card and your allowance stolen.  You may spend endless hours on trains. You may get shoved around a lot.  You may get used to your mail being read and your room bugged.  You may wish you could afford a $12 Mai Tai in the city’s only Western hotel. 

You may find yourself breathless gazing at the beauty of a tropical ocean.  You may vow to yourself never to let corporate life stop you from seeking beauty.  You may have an affair with a much older man. 

You may have to sleep on the  ground and not be able to shower for ten days at a time.  You may get dysentery so bad you feel you might die. You may learn to attract butterflies with your mind.  You may learn to truly appreciate clean sheets for the rest of your life. You may hallucinate in the desert.  You may use your travel time to read all the classics.  You may fall in love and get married. 

You may move to the other side of the planet and start a completely new career as a “witch doctor” (naturopath).  You may learn this choice is not compatible with your decision to marry a “real” doctor.  You may learn that no matter how large an American spider is, it’s not really BIG.  You may miss ants that do not bite. May may miss central heating (and air conditioning even more). You may regret not getting that law degree.  You may miss home.  You may get divorced even though you still love the man. 

You may feel broke and broken.  You may go back to law school.  You may become roommates with a crazy French lady who talks like a poodle. 

You may miss a catastrophic tsunami by mere hours on your honeymoon with your next husband.  You may feel blessed.  You may become a lawyer. 

You may learn to tango.  You may learn to appreciate the amenities of five star resorts. 

Your vision may go spotty as you gaze upon the most beautiful place you’ve ever seen.  You may have the best sex of your life.  You may be be inspired to cut back your hours in what you’ve decided is the world’s worst profession.  You may lose your job. 

You may buy a puppy.

You may decide to write about it all.

With Hubby in Bora Bora, 2009

With Hubby in Bora Bora, 2009

The bottom line?  No journey is wasted. 

In case you didn’t recognize “Buellton” in the title of this post, it’s a small town in Santa Barbara County, right in the middle of the wine country where Sideways was filmed.  It’s where we bought our dog, Natasha, three years ago and near where we’ll be wine tasting this weekend.  Tasha adores road trips and will be coming too.  (She may even be my first guest blogger next time?)

Cheers, until then …

Hubby and our puppy at the Hitching Post in Buellton

Hubby and our puppy at the Hitching Post in Buellton

Question:  When was the last time you took a quick inventory of lessons learned in YOUR past journeys?  Do you find such exercises useful?  And if you have any ideas on where I should end this journey, I’d LOVE to hear them!

Grasshoppers, Ants, and a Blue Moon (or, the Art of Practical Alchemy: Transforming Gold into Gold?)

Have you ever wanted something so badly it keeps you up at night? 

Although I’ve admittedly gained a more materialistic side as a byproduct of living in Orange County, I’ve generally always valued experiences (i.e., travel) over possessions and spent my money accordingly.*

* OK, Hubby is probably suffocating in sarcasm right now.  According to him, I’m clearly a champion “Spender” who is quite accomplished at throwing large sums of money at both travel and frivolous things.  (My retort: Someone has to save the economy?)

But I still contend that it’s rare for me to obsess over an object for months on end like I have been since even before this blog was born.

Maybe it’s the moon?

In case you missed it, this is what Friday’s Blue Moon looked like from our driveway:

Blue Moon on August 31, 2012

Assuming that 12/21/12 isn’t really the End-of-the-World, there won’t be another Blue Moon until July 31, 2015.**  (Of course if 12/21/12 really is THE END, then I really hope you saw that moon!)

** This is using the common definition of Blue Moon, meaning the second full moon in any month, rather than the Farmer’s Almanac definition referring to the third full moon in any season with an unusual four full moons — we’ll see another one of those moons on August 21 next year.

But back to my object of desire.

Remember Aesop’s Fables?  Lately I’ve been pondering the story of The Grasshopper and the Ant.  (Maybe this has something to do with Mitt Romney’s “pull-yourself-up-by-the-bootstraps/create-your-own-success-in-life” rhetoric we can’t seem to get away from on TV these days.)

In any case, here’s a quick recap of Aesop’s version of the tale:

All spring and summer through the time of planting and reaping, an industrious Ant toils all day while a lazy (but artistic) Grasshopper kicks back and relaxes, not caring to plan for the future. Winter comes and the Grasshopper finds himself in dire need. He begs the now prosperous Ant for help, but is turned away.

The Grasshopper and the Ant - Aesop's Fables

The lazy Grasshopper quickly freezes and/or starves to death.

But somehow, the childhood version of the story I recall must have been Disney-fied, because I distinctly remember the ant in that tale did NOT let the grasshopper freeze and starve, but invited him into his home to share his hard earned wealth.

I am a Grasshopper.

Poor Hubby is the Ant.

Apparently men have known this about women for a very long time.  Just look at this painting by Jules-Joseph Lefebvre called “La Cigale” (the Grasshopper), first displayed in 1872:

La Cigale (the grasshopper) - by Jules-Joseph Lefebvre, 1872

Will she starve when winter comes?

I don’t think my grasshopper tendencies are my fault.  With all these online Goddesses and Queens (especially those purportedly blogging from exotic locales around the world) enticing us to “become more feminine” and simply “get better at receiving” in order to allow our “true prosperity” to arrive as result of our “higher vibration,”  who’s to blame us women for wanting to take a few grasshopper shortcuts?

But I digress, yet again.  What I’m trying to get at here is my mindset leading up to my big splurge last Friday on the night of the Blue Moon.  So just what is this object that has been keeping me awake all week?  A piece called “Gold” by magical realism artist Michael Parkes:

"Gold" by Michael Parkes

The unusual thing is not that I invested in a piece of art, but that I did so not as an impulse buy, and not by adding to my (often alarmingly growing) credit card balance. Like Scarlett O’Hara transforming her silk drapery into a gown, I plan to trade in some of my much worn gold for this “gold.”

I call it practical alchemy.

You see, last week I took this gold necklace and bracelet into Tiffany’s for repairs:

Tiffany & Co. 18K Gold Multiwire Necklace and Bracelet

Hubby gave these to me back in 2005 for our first anniversary.  Sentimental?  For sure.  Reparable?  Sadly, no.  I wore both pieces nearly every day of my litigation career, and I’m pretty sure the stress of that profession translated into the kinks and frayed, unraveling gold that make the jewelry almost unwearable today.

Don’t get my wrong: I truly love gold jewelry and always will.  But I love the “Gold” picture more.  I first came across Parkes’ work eleven years ago in 2001, when I moved to California from Australia in the midst of a failed marriage, right before 9/11.  The work that captured my imagination at that time was Parkes’ The Last Lion — a very sad piece that fit my mood perfectly at the time.  (You can read a previous blog about that artwork here.)

Yawn.  Yes, okay, I know people trade in jewelry for stuff every day.  But for me this is a breakthrough: letting go of something valuable to me in the past to make room for something valuable to me now It almost seems as if the Universe was conspiring to make sure I acquired this art: the gallery where I bought it was closing on the night of the Blue Moon (thus offering a hefty discount) and the price of recycled gold was where it needed to be.

The melt price of the gold is substantially more than the “Gold” artwork cost.

But it’s more than that.  The “Gold” picture represents my journey from the broken, scared girl I was in 2001 (as in “The Last Lion”), to the abundant, loving, and (more or less) healed woman I am now.

And like my litigation career, my stressed out, frayed, overworn and abused jewelry has been retired.

Hopefully to serve a higher purpose.

At the risk of sounding, guru-esque, I believe we need to combine the traits of both grasshopper and ant to live well.  True prosperity is something we create within, but in the best of circumstances also shows on the outside in the objects we care most about.  The things we find beauty in.  The things that keep us up at night.

—–

What about you?  Are there objects in your life that symbolize something greater than mere materialism?  Things that demonstrate your love of beauty or another value you hold dear?  Would buy the same item again at double the price?