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 …

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?

Samsara, Silence, and School (or, How to be Simultaneously Pissed Off and Incredibly Grateful)

Samsara goddess

Look me in the eyes to see if I am telling the truth.

Samsara eyes

Look me in the eyes to understand me.

Samsara monks

Look me in the eyes to understand yourself.

The above images are from the extraordinary film, Samsara.  I saw it earlier this week now have to ask myself:

Is it possible to be both incredibly pissed off and extremely grateful at the same time?

Grateful because this film makes me realize once again how incredibly blessed I am to live here in my oh-so-comfortable little Newport Beach life.

Pissed off because 98% of the world (I’m guessing at this number, but 1.4 billion people are confirmed to live on less than $1.25 per day) do NOT enjoy my hedonistic lifestyle, and the film forces me to look these people in the eye. 

In high resolution.

I’m also back at screenwriting school this week, which used to be inspiring.  But now I’m a little lost because the two best movies I’ve seen in recent years have no dialogue.  (The Artist is the other one.)  How can my weak little pen compete with all these brilliant 1000+ word pictures?

And after seeing the epic cinematography in Samsara, I’ve changed my mind about travel too.  Who really needs to leave home when you can see the entire world in a ninety-nine minute film?  I’m not kidding … you have to see this movie to believe it.  Shot in twenty-five countries over five years, it’s nothing less than the story of what it means to live on this incredible planet during this extraordinary time.

In the context of Buddhism and other Eastern religions, the term Samsāra refers to the repeating cycle of  birth, life, death, and rebirth (reincanation).  But in the film, I believe Samsara is used more broadly to describe what it means to be a human being living on this overcrowded planet right now.  It does so by showing us the vast array of worldly activities which occupy us, our myriad sufferings and joys thereof, as well as the universally unsettled and agitated human mind through which we perceive reality.

It’s both beautiful and disturbing.

And it makes me completely underwhelmed with myself and this crazy dream of trying to create anything of artistic value with mere words.

Wimpy little words.

You really need to SEE this film to understand.

I hope you do.

In the meantime, I’m off to an Equine Therapy retreat in Tucson this week.  (Because this is the type of self-indulgent activity I choose to pursue in my frivolous little life at the moment.) 

Equine therapy

Nevertheless, I’m hoping to learn something valuable from the horses.   At least I’ll be doing my best to work with these creatures consciously and gratefully.  Does mere awareness count as a start?

—–

Have you seen Samsara?  What did you think?  And how does it make you feel about your life?

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!

Like, Literally, I’m Just Saying, Like, Seriously, Yikes! (and I’m NOT dying, OK?)

The older I get, the more annoyed I feel about the way people speak.  Especially young people.

And that’s a sure sign I’m getting old.

It just seems the rules I grew up with have all but disappeared.  When did every third word become “like?”   And why does everyone now add “just saying” (jus’ sayin’) and/or “seriously” every time they have a point to make?

Please don’t get me started on the overuse of “yikes!”

Even teachers no longer know the difference between “lie” and “lay.”  (My dog, on the other hand, knows to disobey whenever a trainer tells her to “lay down.”)

It's LIE down, Stupid.

And what’s up with the ubiquitous misuse of the word “literally?”  The next time someone tells me she “literally shit a brick” I’m going to ask her if she’s ever considered moving to a third world country.  (Such talent might come in handy in places where they LITERALLY build houses out of cow dung?)

But why am I ranting about English on a travel blog?

I’ve heard rumors some people are taking this site a tad too literally.

So, to clarify, once and for all:

I DO NOT believe the world is going to end on December 21, 2012.

I’m not planning to off myself or do anything (too) self-destructive on that date either.

But 12/21/12 will be significant in my little world because I will be turning 45 — which  isn’t really that old, for a cougar, but does increase one’s Botox budget significantly.  (And yes, I do like Botox jokes.  I can’t help it, living in The OC for as long as I have has that effect.  Please try not to take my humor too literally.)

On a more serious note, getting older has definitely made me more aware of time.  And just realizing that one day this party will have to end makes me appreciate what a gift life is.

So maybe the whole 12/21/12 thing on this site is a gimmick.

If this offends you, I apologize.

But if thinking about the “End-of-the-World”* makes me more aware of the literal fact that our lives are finite, I don’t see the harm.

* A slightly sarcastic note for the literally minded: Quotation marks as in “End-of-the-World” are sometimes used to convey the thought, “Do not take this literally.”  But don’t worry, I, like, “seriously” have no intention of teaching remedial English or punctuation on this blog in the future … jus’ sayin’.

When I launched this site eight weeks ago, I wasn’t sure about the whole travel blog idea, as I had no concrete travel plans for the second half of 2012.  But it’s interesting what opportunities present themselves once you open the door.  I hadn’t planned to go to Europe this year, but started out celebrating June’s Summer Solstice in Barcelona and will be at Stonehenge for October’s New Moon.  I hadn’t intended to meditate for a week in Taos (last month), nor practice telepathy with horses in Tucson (next month) but feel confident both these trips are important steps in my journey.

But I still haven’t decided where to celebrate 12/21/12.

And there are only 127 days left.

This leaves me with just one thing I can possibly say:

Yikes.

——

QUESTION:  Do you have any strong opinions about how others should speak and/or write?  Do you have any stories of others taking your remarks literally when you meant them figuratively?  Tell me all about it …

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!

How to Lose an Entire River and Tame Your Dragonfly …

Hubby always jokes that if map reading were on the bar exam, I never would have become licensed as an attorney.  I’d love to refute this in some clever way, but last Friday I couldn’t even find the Rio Grande:

Rio Grande near Taos, New Mexico

As you can see, the water level was extremely low but I’m pretty sure that only I could manage to miss the country’s fourth largest river and drive an extra forty miles through the entire 20,000 acre Arroyo Honda land grant before realizing it.

My week in New Mexico was supposed to be about learning MIndfulness.

But even though we meditated every day, sometimes I feel like all I accomplished was just more wallowing in my overly sensitive hypochondriac selfishness.

And I still managed to miss my turn.

Twice.

But getting lost is part of the journey.

A good portion of our week was spent on the theme of permission.  Dani Shapiro (author of the excellent memoir Devotion about the quest for meaning and spirit in middle age) delivered a keynote address where she pointed out that no one is going to fall out of the sky and give us permission to call ourselves writers.

Nor is anyone going to give you permission to do that big, magnificent thing you’ve been fantasizing about for so long now.

And that’s just one more reason why I adore travel so much … once we put ourselves in a new setting, after we’ve given ourselves permission to do something different … anything can happen.

I was expecting to spend a lot of time writing in New Mexico, to get inspired by the many talented writers, perhaps do some sightseeing, and maybe make a new friend or two.  All of that certainly happened, but what I didn’t foresee was the start of a new healing journey I will be writing more about soon:

In September I’ll be attending an Equine Therapy retreat … that’s right, horse therapy (not for the horses).  I’ve never owned a horse or taken riding lessons, but according to the website, working with horses is supposed to “compel you to reconnect with the truth of who you are through the mirror of the horse.”

Equine Healing Retreat

But that’s not the scary part …

I invited my mother to come too.

She said yes.

(Someday I’ll learn that those invitations you extend just to be polite can backfire.  Of course I’m just kidding, Mom, if you’re reading this … I really am scared shitless about looking forward to our coming adventure.)

So now I’m back at home trying to figure out what other adventures to take before 12/21/12.  And there truly is not much time left, as I was reminded of again last night when we attempted to rescue this poor little dragonfly from a huge spiderweb:

dragonfly

It wasn’t easy; I had to get him down from a web about 18 feet high and gently wash the gooey web remnants off his super delicate wings.  He was traumatized and clearly couldn’t fly; I didn’t think he’d make it through the night but left him in what looked like a safe spot with a lid full of water.

It turns out that dragonflies spend the vast majority of their lives in a yucky larvae-like state (up to four years!) but then only live a month or two as pretty iridescent flying things before they die.  Those that believe in animal totems say the dragonfly is a symbol of transformation and gratitude, reminding us to be present right here, right now, before it’s too late.

This morning the dragonfly is still alive, but won’t move.  He even lets me stroke his tissue thin wings; I’m pretty sure the rescue was in vain and all I’ve accomplished was to deprive a hard working spider of her meal.

But when I check on him a couple of hours later after the sun has come out, he’s gone.  So either he stretched his wings and gave himself permission to fly away, or he stayed where he was and was eaten by a crow.

I’ll never know.  But I hope he flew.

And I hope you do too …

——

Question:  Is there something in your life you have always wanted to do, but have yet to give yourself permission to?  What’s holding you back?   What will need to happen for you to decide otherwise?