baby steps

I kept meaning to write here again as I previously promised myself that I would. I would occasionally visit, think about writing, think too much time had passed and that I would need to do a “catch up” post before I could really start writing about what I wanted. The next time I came back I could have written volumes of between then and nows. And the next time and the next time, talking myself out of writing each time. So here I am once more wondering why.

The answer is that I ‘m not sure why I do this. As though somehow what I want to write about today isn’t valid until I write about what happened yesterday? Or all the yesterdays since my last post? As though this blog must be some kind of linear record of all my things? Or perhaps I talk myself out of writing because I gave myself a “rule” (here) and I hate rules. I balk at rules. I  loathe being told what to do, apparently even if it’s my own self doing the talking (disclaimer: I am talking about rules in life generally not in a job or taxes or driving – uh, scratch that last one. I have definitely occasionally driven over the speed limit). Maybe it even has something to do with the fact that I keep a personal journal as well and loads of the things I’ve been going through over the last year are deeply personal that involve self evolution, figuring out love and relationship stuff, grieving the loss of my grandfather and I don’t want to share many of those things in a public forum because being vulnerable is scary. Especially with strangers. Just in case any of them actually read this little ol’ blog.

But then I realized that, as in my life, I am in charge of my choices, my level of sharing, and I get to make up my own rules (let’s not call them that though, okay?) and I am giving myself permission to let this be and look however it is. Period.

I don’t want to write here with a theme. I am not writing to or for followers for the sake of having them. If you read things here and they make you smile, think, or feel – awesome! If not, no biggie. I’m still going to write it because it makes me smile, think, and feel. And if one person, one time reacts any of these ways then I am glad. With that said I don’t know what I’ll write about or how many times a week, if I’ll post photos or not (although I suspect I will), or what it will all be or mean – also mirroring my life. I just know that I’m going to do … something. This brings me to a much larger decision in my life. I’ve been in a rut. Down in the dumps. In limbo. Grief stricken. Between things, lots of different kinds of things. Stagnate. Immobilized by … I don’t even know… fear? Yeah, probably fear. No, not probably. I am afraid.

Whoa.

That’s the first time I’ve said that out loud. Well, you know what I mean. I’m afraid.

The biggie? I am afraid of not finding a job: My five year position as a managing director of a small family business from negative revenue, failing equipment, old trucks, no savings, no hope to a company that can boast a nearly $2 million revenue with a new fleet of trucks, all new equipment, a hefty savings, updated retirement benefits for the now more than 15 technicians and project managers, and a $3 million government contract is over. I realize that I want to do a different kind of job now. One that marries all that responsibility, organization, and badassery with my thirst for travel, my passion for making, and tapping into the things that light me up. What that is I have no freaking idea. I’m running out of savings and consequently my security.

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Gratitude

I am so grateful for my legs that take me wherever I wish to go, for my arms that carry and hug and are usually part of my funny dance walks.

I am grateful for my eyes. I can see textures and roll them at you.

I am grateful for the air. My lungs can fill to I can cry and breathe, scream and sing.

I am grateful for the depths of my sorrow. They have shown me my darkest places and have become opportunities to learn how to be in darkness, remember what the light tastes like, and trek out to find it again.

I am grateful for the hope I continue to mine out of myself even when I feel naive.

I am grateful for playing, for being able to create a space for silliness and lighthearted laughing, for knowing that creating it is vital.

I am grateful for the wonderful people who show up for me. Without them I would be so much more lost.

I am grateful for exploration and discovery, of people, of places, of my self.

I am grateful that I have the space to create, to reinvent and recreate myself over again.

I am grateful that although the world seems scary and dreary, there is also much brightness and wonder.

I am grateful for silence.

I am grateful for the memory of your suspenders and cigars.

I am grateful for feeling loved.

I am grateful for being seen.

I am grateful for loving.

I am grateful for giving.

I am grateful for yarn and needles.

I am grateful for pen and paper.

I am grateful for smiles with strangers.

I am grateful for wild places and manicured lawns.

I am grateful for staying and leaving.

I am grateful for the hum of a new city and the sounds of mountains.

I am grateful for you.

I am grateful for the magic inside each interaction with someone who draws it out of me.

I am grateful for the madness that pushed me to find it.

I am grateful you are far away.

I am grateful my heart is healing.

I am grateful for my anger.

 

outsider observations

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Things I have noticed and realized since being in Vienna:

  • Old ladies in furs. Everywhere. Full-on, fur coats to the ground.
  • Pigeons and crows do not only come in grey and black. They are various mixtures of white, tan, grey, and black. And some of them are quite handsome.
  • The way it smells and feels after a frigid wind comes rushing by. Fresh, crisp, invigorating, revitalizing, and then the most subtle waftings of yummy things cooking come drifting by. As if the wind rushed every other smell away simply for this slow dance of food things just for you. Just to delight you.
  • My legs are getting stronger and stronger. I like (very much) that I walk to get everywhere. That if I plan on being out all day I must carry everything with me. When I get groceries I must carry them all the way home. My legs are happier. I am healthier. I like this.
  • All the towels have these little loops on them to hang them on hooks. Why don’t towels in the States have these?!
  • Walking next to someone who is leading the way takes practice for someone who only used to walk for exercise. My friends here gently shift the direction, subtly leading the way. This seems like such a no-brainer, but I actually have to catch myself so as not to run  into them because I’m just not in tune with this gentle walking camaraderie just yet.
  • How much I love the cold. ‘Whaaaa?!’ you ask (because you know I have lived in California all my life, mostly the southern and hottest parts, and that I usually HATE to be cold). It’s true! I love it. I love being outside in all manner of previously anxiety-inducing weather. The snow! The weird, sideways, hit you in the face, frickin’ freezing rain! The cloudy and grey days (although if too many in a row I can certainly see that I start to feel verrrrry dowwwwwn).
  • Loneliness creeps into my life in ways I never could have imagined. Not just because I am very very far away from nearly every single person near and dear to me. But also  because in a place where I don’t speak the language, even when I’m with friends and even if we’re all having a wonderful time, German happens. You know how when you are learning a new language your brain (obviously) thinks quicker and more efficiently with your mother tongue? And forget about joking or being sarcastic. So, it’s the same the other way around. At some point in the night I am excluded simply because English is a second language. German is quicker and easier; my friends can more fully express and articulate in their mother tongue. Which I can understand about 5 out of 15 words. So, yeah. This is lonely at times.
  • I also realize that I can understand more and more of what is said around me, so this is also awesome when “German happens.” hmmm, maybe I should make a t-shirt that says that.
  • Every. Single. Thing. I eat here is fresh and delicious. Everything.
  • In winter all the restaurants put up heavy blankets around the door as a temporary entry point; To keep the cold from coming into the place. This makes for lots and lots of cozy places to get in out of the weather.
  • Austrians LOVE cake!
  • I am falling more and more in love with this city each day I wake up here.

welcome to Vienna!

IMG_8779Well, I did it! Here I am. Sitting in Vienna, at a table, looking out at the grey clouds rolling by in the pause between snows. And let me say… the first few weeks have been doozies. That’s right, I said that grandma word. Doo-oooo-zZZzies.

But first I’ll have to catch up from the last few months because between organizing my house, getting rid of nearly 75% of my things, packing, moving in with my brother for the last month, and paring down to bring only 2 suitcases with me… there was hardly time to write. Well, at least here. I tried to be present and mindful each step of the way, enjoying my family and friends fully. I took notice of my favorite things, snuggles with my kitty were especially savored, the process of getting rid of most of my possessions a thoughtful one.

And in this space of transition I created for myself, the realization that I was about to embark on something life changing was sinking into me. A journey designed to strip me bare and allow me the space to re-engage with my own Self free of the things in my life I am expected to do, free from the constraints of the identity that I created for myself, mostly devoid of responsibility (I mean, I do still work from here), and an entire world open to me to really find the things that set my soul on fire.

Enter Vienna. Dear, sweet, magical, frickin’ cold Vienna. How I missed you! Even though in the first few weeks I managed to break the only key to the flat I’m staying in (read: only tiny space that I can make feel a bit like home), got tonsillitis so bad I had to call the ambulance (which here means they send a doctor to you – imagine that!), be in bed for four days with the most pain I think I’ve ever felt, and take a really strong antibiotic, aaaand managed to get a cold. Hahaha, well. So, I think my lessons here are pretty clear.

Number one: this trip is not about home. This trip is not about being comfortable. This trip is about growing and learning and at this moment I need to be uncomfortable to do that. I need to push myself outside of my comfort zone. I need to be brave enough to start speaking the German I know and am too afraid to actually speak. I need to push myself. I need to go out of my way to discover what it is I came here to learn. Or maybe I’m just clumsy and need to slow down. 😉

Number two: Take care of myself. Okay, so who can predict getting the most insane bacterial infection in their throat? No one. The point is that while I was laying there (slowly drooling on myself because swallowing was just too painful) I realized that I need to focus on myself, listen to myself, treat myself with kindness. After all, this whole thing is about me. And really taking care of one’s self sometimes takes a mindfulness that we forget about during the busy hustlings of the day. This is a reminder. Be present with myself. Pay attention!

So, now I am on the mend and feeling stronger every day (I think I was awake for about 5 hours each of the four days I was in bed and still feeling tired), I am taking these lessons seriously and have already begun to apply them into my days. Thanks for the reminders, Vienna!

 

backpack lessons

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I think there’s not one picture of me wearing my ridiculously over sized backpack from my trip. Oh, I also had a small backpack I wore on my front . Yes, I was that guy… ugh. I had this amazing version of how my trip would look in my head. It was so easy, in and out of trains, walking along in the cities I came to, discovering what I would find there, eating yummy food, drinking tea and coffee, hopping back on a train whenever I felt like it to the next place to explore, finding the coolest hostels along the way.

scrrrreeeeeecccchhhhh. Dude. This romanticized version of a trip *could* be a reality. But only if you bring one. Small. Backpack. You know, the size we used to carry to elementary school? Yeah, small.

Here’s what I’ll never ever do again on a trip such as this. Because, hell yes, there will be more like it. To pack for a three week trip here’s what I should have brought: One pair of pants, two pairs of socks, two pairs of underthings, two shirts, one knit dress, a jacket, sneakers, my journal, and phone (and a toothbrush/paste, glasses, contacts, razor, shampoo). That’s it. Nothing more is required. Well, money, but that’s a given. But seriously. What the hell was I thinking lugging an entire wardrobe around on my back? Ridiculous. I don’t need q-tips. I don’t need band-aids. I don’t need 18 shirts. I don’t need almost every single thing I brought.

Instead of the romantic notion I had about my trip, it was more like lug my entire wardrobe around, bump into everything, nearly kill myself trying to go up stairs. Walk around cities? Forget about it. There’s no way to do that enjoyably while carrying 85 lbs of clothes on your back (and front). Go into a lovely cafe I find along the way? Not unless I can fit through the door and there’s a big enough space for all my shit. Which isn’t too often in interesting little places that I wanted to go into.

Lesson learned: Pack light. And then still take some shit out.

an awakening

IMG_6565The last few years have been difficult ones. They have shaken me, tested me, provided for me, brought me joy, and allowed me to learn things about myself that I would never trade. Even for all the pain and sorrow. I suppose one cannot be reborn without going through fire first. This is the beginning of when my soul lit up… again.

After spending this time in what I call “Lone Wolf” mode (withdrawing myself from my friends, spending days and nights alone while I reflect, meditate, and understand) I decided to go on a trip. A journey to reclaim myself. A space inside my life that had only one goal: to get lost and discover. No structure. No plans. No calculated ideas about what there was to do. Just to be. And to see. To feel and learn whatever came my way.

I’m revisiting the planning stages of this trip while I write this and the theme song for Gilligan’s Island is playing in my head…

Just sit right back
And you’ll hear a tale
A tale of a fateful trip,
That started from this tropic port,
Aboard this tiny ship…

For a three hour tour,
A three hour tour.

The “plan” was this: Plane ticket to Europe. Eurail pass. Vague route of countries I wanted to visit, meeting up with friends along the way. List of a few things to do in each place – if I felt like it. That’s it. Nothing else. Which, if you know me, is the exact opposite of how I typically approach trips…er, anything. For me, this whole not planning thing is a big deal. I am an organizer, a planner, a detail lover! I wanted to un-plan this space. To gain perspective, to possibly regain a better sense of myself in the world.

It was going to be three weeks of enjoying myself, eating yummy food, observing, meeting strangers, walking in whichever direction I felt, meeting friends in a few places, and eating more yummy food. I didn’t even plan to bring any knitting with me! And “excitement” does not even cover how this trip made me feel. Liberated, hopeful, alive; These are better words. I found myself filling up in a way that I hadn’t felt in a very long time.

My trip began with a quick stay in London (a beautiful flat in Hyde park, met a few friends, wandered around the park, slept off the jet lag), spent a surreal and strange (and a little bit frightening) night in Frankfurt, celebrated my birthday in Baden-Baden (I was in Germany for my birthday!). And then…   I got off the train in Vienna.

[insert all manner of magical things here. and music. and amazement.]

Of all the places on my list of things I might want to do, not one of them was in Austria. I was visiting a friend there. That was enough for me to go on. I had been travelling for almost a week with a huge backpack (many many lessons learned here, to be discussed later), I was travelling with a friend whom, to no fault of his, was getting in the way of my own self-discovery and contemplation, and I was a bit frazzled when getting to the station. But once I exited that station and put a foot on the ground… All of that swirling immediately disappeared. Something swept through me the likes of which I have never felt. I felt immediately calm, immediately grounded, and it was as though I was in the exact place I needed to be in. Not the place I should be, but the place I neeeeeeded to be. To say it was incredible is simply not enough.

I met my friend and we explored Vienna for a few days. She excitedly shared her life, her plans for a new business, and her delicious breakfasts with me. We were up late one night drinking wine and giggling when she said, “You should just move here and help me open my business.” To this I replied, half-jokingly, “Say when and I’ll be here.” As soon as these words came out of my mouth the joke half of the sentiment was gone. I was serious. Saying that out loud felt right.

“How about January…haha…giggle giggle.”

“Yeah, I think I can make that work.”

“Wait. Whaaat?!”

Saying this out loud, thinking this thought, felt more right than anything. Okay okay, there was wine involved. I get it. So, that’s why the very next morning I went for a four hour walk to contemplate this very thing. I mulled over everything that this kind of a move would entail. I contemplated all the reasons for why I would want to make a move such as this (helping my friend was a catalyst for the idea, but was not the main reason that drew me here). So, I concluded after that walk: Hell yeah! Why not?

I rearranged and extended the rest of my trip and ended up staying in Vienna for another three weeks. Plotting and planning, discovering and exploring. Walking for hours and hours each day contemplating and reflecting. And still. This felt right. And in the middle of doing all of that I met a man. Not just any man. A man who made me feel like a fairy tale princess (scoff if you must, but this tomboy lit up like Cinderella at the ball) the minute I met him. All the magical things I felt about landing in Vienna? Multiply that by a hundred. Yeah. That. So, perhaps moving here has more than one reason, no?

[journey]

IMG_6043Travelling equates to freedom for me. It is a space set aside from the rules and constraints of daily living and provides opportunities to observe, connect, meditate, and get into some pretty hilarious situations that would not have occurred in my life otherwise. As this year progresses and as I am noticing that these spaces are becoming larger and larger in my life I wonder if some redefining of my terms is in order. But that is another entry for a later time. I looked up the definition of travel and it says the normal things, ‘to move from one place to another,’ ‘to proceed or advance in any way,’ and ‘to journey or traverse.’ But there under the Verb listings it says ‘to cause to journey’ as in ‘to travel logs downriver.’ I like that. To cause to journey.

Most folks I have discussed travel with speak excitedly about their destinations. They describe their experiences and discuss their favorite moments,  funny or scary incidents that happened along the way. But each time I ask about the getting there or the coming home bits,  I get funny looks or a dismissive sentence about the long flight, or some delay or another. It seems that the ‘travel’ is thought about once they arrive in their destination and ends once they leave. But what about the in-between-home-and-there bits? Sure, the shuttle ride, the airport lines, the delayed flights, the funny (or awful) flight attendants, the seat neighbors, the view from the window, the airport waiting, the transfers, the layovers – these are all parts of the experience of the journey for me. Bookends, perhaps, to rich and wonderful experiences in another place, but part of the process just the same.

I have become reflective about my travels, using it as a mindful meditation. I use the time and space to reflect on the journey of traveling deeper into myself to discover how I want to connect with people, strangers. How I want to be open to the world and learn as much as I can.  I like to watch people in places like airports and observe them in this space that’s not really travelling but not really their life. In the bookends of a journey.