Further Proof I’m a Goddess, the Meaning of Life, plus a Rather Disturbing Discovery …

As if being born on the shortest day of the year and turning 45 at the putative end-of-the-world in 2012 weren’t enough, I do have further evidence of my possibly divine status/birthright to guru-dom.

Namely, my immaculate conception.

Even having been born in the late 60’s and being a child of the 70’s, I wasn’t the brightest bulb in the box when it came to sex.  When it finally dawned on me one day as a tween sitting in the kitchen staring at the date on my parents’ rosemaling embellished anniversary plate, it took me a couple of hours to get up the nerve to ask: “Mom, how many months does a pregnancy last?”

Because even counting three times, I was quite certain there were only six months between my parents’ wedding date and my own birth.

My parents were high school sweethearts and I was born during Dad’s final year of college.  Hardly scandalous material even back then. And I certainly don’t mean to disparage my parents in any way, as their generation shows far more loyalty, resilience, and just plain decency than my own.  My parents lived through Dad’s service in the Vietnam War and went on to have three more kids after me.  They have been married forever now, and from what I can gather, Dad still thinks Mom is groovier than Marcia Brady and foxier than any Bond girl of any decade.

Raquel Welch & Ursula Andress

how I imagine Dad must view Mom …

Which is why I still have just a wee bit of trouble believing Mom’s story:

“We just must have been hyper fertile.  I swear we didn’t even have sex.  Your father just got a little too close one night … of course we waited until after we were married to try it again.”

Did I mention my parents were born the same year Bill Clinton was? (Maybe their generation has a slightly more narrow view of what constitutes sex?  And if two decades make that much difference, I wonder how the meaning of “virgin” might have evolved over 2000+ years?)

But on second thought, I do believe Mom.

It wasn’t my parents’ fault.

I simply wanted to be born too badly.   I was in a hurry.

And now that I have just 135 days left until the End-of-the-World, I feel more panicked than ever to squeeze everything I possibly can into life.

Which reminds me that I promised to reveal nothing less than the Meaning of Life in this post.  Being the immaculately conceived Guru-Goddess that I am, I am unabashed by this challenge and will simply do what all the other gurus do. 

I will borrow someone else’s thoughts on this.  Here goes …

The purpose of life is:

“To be the eyes and ears and conscience of the Creator of the Universe, you fool.”

— Kurt Vonnegut, Breakfast of Champions.

I don’t remember much about Vonnegut’s novel (apart from loving everything the man has ever written), but find his theory amazingly comforting.  The longer I go without working a “real” job, the more material I need to rationalize my hope that writing (“being the eyes and ears of the universe”) may, in fact, be all that is required of us.

But if simply observing the world is what we’re here for, I just realized I will never meet a guru who possesses more wisdom than my cat:

Boris the Buddha

Boris the Buddha …

I don’t know about you, but I find this slightly disturbing … my cat charges less than $2 per day (two cans of Fancy Feast plus all the premium kibble he can eat).  How will I ever make a living as a Goddess?

————-

What about you?  What are your experiences with Gurus?  Spill everything: the good, the bad, and the ugly … maybe I can even convince Boris to impart some of his wisdom in a reply if you have Pounce treats.

Why Protagonists Must Always SUFFER and a Friday Koan for YOU

I’m afraid my story is flawed from the start because even assuming that I am the protagonist of this blog (and who else would seriously want to be?), this blog suffers from other serious storytelling violations.

Writing Rule #1: Protagonists ALWAYS MUST SUFFER:

wet unappy cat

Protagonists must ALWAYS suffer!

But quite apart from my aversion to undue pain and general unwillingness to suffer as true heroines must, this blog has another problem: my goals are far too squishy to form the spine of a good story.

Let’s face it.  What precisely am I seeking here?  Health, Love, Adventure, Abundance, Beauty, Wisdom, Self-Actualization??  (See my “About Page” for my  slightly sarcastic thoughts on becoming Wonderful, Wealthy & Wise.)  Despite the fact that Elizabeth Gilbert earned big bucks for the film adaptation of Eat, Pray, Love, none of my fluffy aspirations usually work in movies because they are non-specific, internal goals (i.e., not cinematic).  And in real life, Tony Robbins would say they’re not even decent goals, because they aren’t measurable.

At least I have one solid story element going for me: a deadline.

December 21, 2012 is just 139 days away.

So what do I hope to achieve before then?  The travel schedule* is still in development, but this is the least of my problems.

(*For those of you who simply can’t stand being left in the dark, here’s a quick preview of what’s to come: playboy clubs and family confrontations  celebrations in Bridesmaids’ territory (Lake Geneva, WI) later this month, equine therapy on a dude ranch in Arizona in September, various adventures in London, Stone Henge, Paris & Normandy in October, the first international Baja Film Festival in Cabo San Lucas in November, and an as yet undetermined location (help by voting!) for my end-of-the-world/45th-birthday celebration on 12/21/12.  Plus, various writing & wine tasting (the only way to write!) adventures in California will be interspersed throughout.)

But what are my specific, achievable, external goals during the next 139 days?  (Believe it or not, this is NOT Tony Robbins speak, but rather screenwriting lingo.)  Here goes:

  • I want to re-write my three screenplays to a presentable level and land an agent.
  • I want to stop feeling guilty for no longer practicing law.  (Shoot, that’s  a pesky internal goal again …)
  • I want my work to pay for my travels, so that I’m not just another trophy wife.  (Is that an external or internal goal?)
  • I want to move to an oceanview home.   (We’re 2.5 miles away now, but those miles cost A LOT, even in this economy.)

Frankly, I have no idea whether these goals are achievable by 12/21/12, but there you have it:  I’ve at least stated my desires publicly and assigned a deadline.  (Tony, you would be so proud!)

But here’s the problem:  Protagonists must always suffer.   Remember the myth of Prometheus and ChironRomeo and Juliet?  Without suffering, there is no story.

 

Chiron saves Prometheus

Chiron saves Prometheus

There’s no such thing as a free lunch, despite what all the gurus say (right before asking you to spend $20K on a “personal intensive”  day with them …)  If I truly want these things (and if I truly did, wouldn’t I already have them?), I’m going to have to spend my time and energy wisely, and be prepared to make some sacrifices.  Just watch any movie; the downfall of the protagonist before she finally sees the light is almost always due to her wanting to gain the most while giving up the least.   (This may sound great in a motivational seminar, but would bore a movie audience to tears.)

Which brings me to the promised Friday KoanWho Are You Without Your Story?

We are all so attached to our stories; and no wonder, neuroscientists now say that attaching meaning to what happens to us is no less a survival skill than learning to run from bears.  Not only do we learn from our pasts, but our very memories are constantly reshaped in order to bring sense to what is happening in our lives right now.

The beauty of Zen koans is that they have no answer.  Or better said, only YOU know the answer.  So, if you could let go of being the protagonist (even for just a second) in your own story, how would that feel?  Is there a suffering you could let go of?  How would that feel?

And isn’t that feeling alone worth it?  Even if you never get that agent or oceanview home or (fill in your goals here: __________________)?

Happy Friday …

50 Shades of Purple and Where is this Blog Headed, Anyway?

One of the many things I’m learning about travel blogging (other than Hubby’s constant reminder that it’s getting to be an expensive hobby), is that it’s difficult to pull together an entire life (or even six months of a life) and spin it into a good story.

A story that makes people want to know what happens next.

Because let’s face it; boredom happens.  As does lethargy.  Sloth.  Laziness.  Reality TV.  Time between trips.  All the stuff best left out of screenplays and books.  Many authors might even say:

Today’s post has no business being part of a travel blog.

It’s August already, and I’m at home planting yet more purple flowers for the hummingbirds:

More Purple Dreams

Remember that cheesy song, Deep Purple

And as long as my heart will beat, sweet lovers we’ll always meet, here in my deep purple dreams …”

Purple Dreams - more flowers for the hummingbirds

It topped the charts in 1963 (even before my time), but I remember Donny and Marie Osmond singing it on their show in the mid-70’s.  The song is so schmaltzy, it’s hard to believe anyone ever liked it — much less the entire country.

It’s also one of those super annoying songs that once you think about it, it’s impossible to get out of your head.  And the more purple flowers I plant, the worse this gets:

Sweet Purple Dreams

But what does this have to do with this blog and where we’re headed from here?

Even though I do have at least one trip (both international and domestic) planned every month between 6/21 and 12/21 (will disclose all soon!), I’m afraid a lot of my journeys (the hardest ones) still take place at home.

Like this morning, when Hubby and I argued about my potential plans for 12/21/12 (none of them cheap).  Haven’t we traveled enough in the past ten years together?  And what is the purpose of blogging when I’m not even selling anything and have no plans to monetize all this online activity?

I’m not doing this for the money.

I’m not doing it because I haven’t traveled enough.

I’m not doing it (despite what you may think) to get attention.

And I’m definitely not doing it for my health.

I blog because otherwise I might sit at my desk and write about something completely useless, unpopular,  and unprofitable like erotica, vampires, or magic.

I bet Harry Potter and Kristen Stewart dream in 50 shades of purple.

Like my garden.

And even though that corny Purple Dreams song makes me feel nostalgic (living in the past) and planning my travels for this blog propels me into the future, watching the hummingbirds feast on their own purple dreams keeps me here.

Present.

Right here and now.

And for now, that’s enough.

——-

I will be disclosing my travel plans soon, but I need your help …

Question:  Where would YOU spend 12/21/12 if you were me?

A).  Somewhere Mayan (Belize, Guatemala, Mexico) with about a billion other tourists;

B).  Somewhere off the beaten track, like swimming with dolphins near the Bermuda Triangle or meditating in Bhutan;

C).  Somewhere productive, like at a writers’ retreat in Hawaii; or

D).  At home with the people I love because who knows, it might actually be the end-of-the-world?

I appreciate your input!

Under the New Mexican Sky …

New Mexican sky - Taos Pueblo

Just this.

(Can you tell I’ve been meditating with a Zen Priestess all week?  😉  More coming soon, I promise …)

 

 

Tanzanite, spotted lynx, and other New Mexican treasures I crave but shouldn’t (or, the REAL cost of being a High Maintenance Newport Housewife)

“I KNEW I shoulda took that left turn at Albuquerque.”

Bugs Bunny: I knew I shoulda made that left turn at Albuquerque

Bugsy sure had it right; I shoulda turned LEFT at Albuquerque rather than heading north to shopper’s paradise in Santa Fe.

That wrong turn made me lose more than the median annual income of a person living in Sweden, Slovenia, or Spain.

It all started with an innocent stroll around the square in Santa Fe’s Old Town.  If you haven’t been there, it first strikes one as rather charming with all the adobe shop fronts and cute galleries.

The Square in Old Town Santa Fe - donkey sculpture

But don’t be fooled by the old world rustic charm … they know how to wrangle you out of your money here!

For instance, the sales clerk at the very first store I stop at forces me to try on a tanzanite, diamond, and opal ring:

tanzanite, opals, diamonds and gold!

tanzanite, opals, and diamonds – Oh My!

Everyone oohs and ahhs, and insists it’s a perfect fit … The price?  A mere $14,000.  But wait … they will give it to me for just $11,000, IF I buy it right now.  (Plus, no sales tax!)  What a bargain …

How can I say no?

And I’m on a roll … right around the corner at the next store, I try on the softest, most luxurious, exotic spotted lynx fur coat you can imagine:

spotted lynx fur coat

I can’t stop petting it.

(Nevermind that I don’t live in the right climate for wearing fur.)

I HAVE to have it. 

(And I’m too embarrassed to  tell you the price.)

So I walk out of the store, draped in my new jewels and fur.  It’s about 90 degrees outside.  The ring feels tight and I’m starting to sweat.  Are people looking at me a little oddly?

Meanwhile, Hubby texts me a picture showing that he and my puppy are at home breaking all the rules:

naughty dog

And, knowing I am in Shoppers’ Mecca, he also texts me the warning: “the more money you spend, the more rules we’re going to break.”

This gives me pause.

In screenwriting, the protagonist almost always discovers that WHAT SHE WANTS IS NOT WHAT SHE REALLY NEEDS around the MIDPOINT of the movie.

I’m forty-four years old … could this possibly be my midpoint?

I lovingly stroke my new fur and admire my sparkling gems.

It’s getting damn hot out here.

I take off the coat and visualize what a living spotted lynx looks like:

smiling spotted lynx

Smile!

And suddenly I feel like Cruella Deville (and NOT because of my Botox):

Cruella Deville and pups

Botox … you too can have eyebrows like mine!

And I’m forced to ask myself a tough question:  I wonder if I can get a quick Botox fix anywhere around here?

Am I a Travel Writer, or just another bored Real Newport Housewife on a shopping spree?

I so much want the answer to be the first one. 

This is my moment of truth …

So, like any heroine who has just had her epiphany, I find an as yet untapped source of inner strength and race back to the stores, doing my best not to spill my Starbucks all over the spotted lynx.

I arrive at the shops sweaty and breathless, yet strangely powerful — I am the protagonist of my own life, after all.  I somehow manage to pull together every trick I remember from my litigation days to negotiate the return of my splurges.  (And getting that ring off was no mean trick!)

Whew, that was close.

I collapse into my rental car and TURN RIGHT this time, heading straight to the refuge of a Writer’s Retreat in Taos.  I’m checking myself in for rehab here for the next week:

2012 Writer's Retreat in Taos, New Mexico

room with a view

I’ll be camped out here, diligently working on my writing projects for the next five days.  Because this is what I NEED right now: time, community, and space to develop my creative voice.

As Mick Jagger said, “You can’t always get what you want, but  if you try …”

WAIT!  Someone just told me that Taos is filled with galleries and jewelry stores too?  I’m sure no one will mind if I leave my room for just a little while …

—————————————-

Question: Have you ever bought something you thought would make you happy, but discovered something else instead?  

Kittensy Whiskers and Other Sources of Unexpected Joy

“Raindrops on roses and whiskers on kittens. Bright copper kettles and warm woolen mittens …”

I can’t seem to get Julie Andrews’ neurotically chirpy voice out of my head, raving on and on about all of her “faves.”   And I want to hold her personally responsible for starting this whole nauseatingly naive positive thinking rage.

“Brown paper packages tied up with strings. These are a few of my favorite things!”

You know, all those gurus who are 100% positively positive all the time, no matter what.  The ones who constantly post those perky little “inspiring” truisms on Facebook and insist that “everything happens for a reason.”

“Cream colored ponies and crisp apple strudels. Doorbells and sleigh bells and schnitzel with noodles …”

I can’t get that damn song out of my head!  (Bet it’s happening to you too by now; sorry …)

“Wild geese that fly with the moon on their wings …”

Enough already …

But on second thought, even though I don’t exactly share Ms. Andrews’ fondness for schnitzel and snowflakes, she does have a point when it comes to kitten whiskers:

Kittensy whiskers

The song caused me to dig for old photos of my cat, Boris, when he was just a kitten with all those bitten-off whiskers.

And it makes me smile.

Especially when I compare it to his current set of bad-ass walrus whiskers:

walrus whiskers

 And this makes me smile even more. 

How did my sweet little kitten morph into this tough guy?   I realize this has nothing to do with travel, but living with him has been a journey of sorts, too. 

Above all, Ms. Andrews’ song has made me conscious of the passage of time … and how being here, right now, and noticing the little things that make me happy is all that truly matters.

Geez, I’m becoming one of those sappy sentimental types I can’t stand.

I guess that’s what happens when you get that damn song stuck in your head …

Question:  Do you sometimes find unexpected value even in things you criticize or make fun of?  Tell me about it!

Solstice Synchronicity in Barcelona (and why I called my husband a Dickhead yesterday …)

So I called my husband a Dickhead yesterday.

And I’m only sort of sorry …

It all started when I ordered a cocktail at the beautiful Hotel Arts, Barcelona.  As promised, here’s a live photo of Gehry’s “fish” right behind the bar area:

Barcelon Peix sculpture by Gehry

Anyway, even though I had flown biz class on the super ordentlich Lufthansa, I had been traveling for close to 24 hours by the time I met Hubby in Barcelona.  I felt grungy and more than a tad sleep deprived — I’m sure you know how it is.

So we ordered drinks.

happy hour at Hotel Arts Barcelona

I usually stick to white wine because I’m no good with the hard stuff.  But since we were on vacation I felt adventurous and ordered a Champagne cocktail.  The server recommended an “Olimpic” (yes, that’s how they spell it here; we’re very close to the 1992 Olympic Village).

The drink tasted like one of those horrible things you might slug back at a fraternity party — those ones with shots of EVERYTHING mixed in.  I couldn’t detect any Champagne.

I tried to stop myself, but just couldn’t keep my high maintenance voice to myself … I tried to return the drink.

The Spanish waiter looked at me like I had just asked him to cut off his left testicle.  “But you ordered it.”

Hubby quickly tried to intervene, offering to drink it himself.   (And even though I didn’t exactly appreciate his simple solution, this is not when I called him a Dickhead …)

I was not giving up.   I needed to show the waiter I was right: “But she told me this was a Champagne cocktail …”

They ended up exchanging my drink, but I spent the rest of the night feeling like an Ugly American for having insisted on getting my way.

Why can’t I just leave my argumentative side at home?  The one who always has to be right.

Wherever You Go, There You Are.

Yes, we’re finally in Barcelona and have spent our time running around the city like every other loco touristo in Peak Travel Period (I’d forgotten what Europe is like in summer!) trying to squeeze the “top 100” sights of the city into two days.

Not only are Ugly Americans everywhere, but Ugly Germans and Ugly Bulgarians too.  (Nothing against any of these nationalities, but wherever you find a large number of tourists, you hear lots of complaining.)

BUT WE ARE STILL HAVING SO MUCH FUN!

I think we managed to fit in most of the tourist sites.  Here’s a view of the city from Park Guell:

Barcelona view from Park Guell

And a view of the longest ever construction project by Barcelona’s darling, Antoni Gaudi:

Gaudi's Sagrada Familia in Barcelona

It’s due for completion in 2026, eighty years after it’s Gaudi’s death.  (BTW, there is no relation between “Gaudi” and the term “gaudy” despite the architect’s penchant for outlandish flourishes.)

But back to our story.  Did I mention we were up all night the first night due to super loud party music being piped into our room?  The next day, I had a mini-melt down when hubby wouldn’t let me carry a handbag to town due to all the pick pocket horror stories.

Do you know how insecure a woman feels without her purse?  Even though Hubby carries a Murse (man-purse) and offered to carry my stuff, it’s about giving up control.

And trust.

I didn’t want to lose control, and I didn’t trust Hubby either.  But you cannot travel anywhere without losing control, and without trusting others.

Fortunately, the Barcelonians helped loosen up my Control Freak nature considerably by serving us SUPER SIZED SANGRIA everywhere we went:

Sangria - SUPER SIZE!

And we soon got used to dining on Tapas at midnight and staying up until the wee hours.

It was a good thing, too, because funnily enough given the Premise of the Blog … making the most of the time between the SUMMER SOLSTICE and the WINTER SOLSTICE, 2012 … we learned that Barcelonians celebrate the Solstice on June 23 every year by staying up all night and lighting fireworks on the beach.

Another sleepless night.

And probably one of the best nights I’ve ever had …

So WHY did I call my husband a DICKHEAD, you ask?

"Dickhead" -- My husband really did agreed to pose for this!

Traveling together can be difficult …

Doesn’t he kind of deserve it for agreeing to pose for this photo?

😉

I’m exhausted, but very, very happy ….

Kate collapses on a chaise at the Hotel Arts, Barcelona

See you soon in San Sebastian!

Question:  When were YOU last exhausted, yet energized and excited too?