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?

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?