I’m in the midst of a wonderful experiment! Under the “fake it til you make it” umbrella, I signed up to give a professional seminar on a subject that I have no formal training in, but am really passionate about. Because of the great feedback, I was asked to teach a short course in it this summer! Now I have two entries on my CV directly relevant to my dream career.
I feel almost guilty using this as my one word resolution for the year (last year’s was “persevere”) because it seems to go against so much wisdom about letting go of the outcome, going with the flow and that sort of thing. One of my problems is that I love those “letting go” concepts so much because I tend to leave things hanging in my life, tend to avoid rather than address, and tend to cover my eyes and wait to see what happens in key moments after which I think back and wish I’d directed a few important things a touch more. I’ve already got “letting go” down to a science. To an irresponsible degree.
Since I can always intuitively let go and be taken for an effortless ride, I feel this year that I should consciously shore up and reinforce the boat I’m riding through this metaphorical flow. I don’t want to control the outcome as much as I want to control the things in my life that could benefit from more attention. Like budgeting money… if you go with the flow and never look at your balance, you become irresponsible within the bigger picture. If you budget your money, when an opportunity arises that you’d love to be part of, you have the resources to fully enjoy it.
What I want to do with my life this year is not control any bigger outcome, or force issues that aren’t working, or put blinders or limits on my life – but just shore up the internal workings so that when the natural course of my life brings me to a wonderful opportunity, I can take full advantage of it. I can do more with it. I can be better prepared and more able to enjoy it without ancillary worries.
Some things I’d like to take control of: my communication (stop waiting for people to call me, write me, invite me, and start being more proactive with communication). My body (stop using the weather, schedule, etc. as an excuse not to do even a short run each day). My finances (stop impulse buying things, save most of my money for things that really matter to be and that would really bring happiness). My future prospects (going with the flow is great, but so is making myself a sharp, knowledgeable person who can do well with the things that I’m carried toward). My drinking (it sounds good, I never feel good about myself after. and I want to feel good about myself). My emotions (I can choose to be angry, upset or peaceful most of the time. why not choose the positive emotions when I’m given the choice. the rest of the time I can feel what I feel, but if I’m manufacturing a negative emotion and don’t have to, why not choose the more peaceful and happy feelings).
The few times I’ve thought “control” to myself in the first 2 days of 2013 I’ve been happy with how it fits into the way I’m traveling. When I think back on last year’s “persevere” I feel more like I’m hanging on by my fingernails to a cliff I’m dangling from, and telling myself just one more minute… etc. Control is a much more relaxing word… for some reason.
I’ve taken so many leaps in 2012. I was feeling like I’d fallen into a deep, dark, slippery sided pit of depression when I was unemployed in late 2011. By early 2012 most of the optimism I’d been feeling about the unemployment being a “blessing in disguise” and the “close a door, open a window” sentiments had worn so thin they fell apart completely. I was depressed. I made some bad choices for myself and couldn’t seem to climb out of the pit. It sucked. I never want to revisit that time, if I can possibly avoid it.
But just when I felt the most lost I’ve ever felt in my life, some small fire left inside me gave me everything it had and gave me a shove upwards. My own choices and hard work did the rest. I moved forth (up) boldly (with tons of hard work, all rewarded, all encouraged at each step by luck and coincidence) in the direction of my dreams (my very biggest, lifelong dream). For a while I was really living the life I imagined, and even now when I’m listening to music, contemplating a run in the snow, and no longer technically living that exact life – it’s still right here with me. It’s like I know now that it was never that far away, and that on some level, by making the choices I did, I’ll always really be living that life.
Here’s to keeping it going in 2013!
1. Downloaded AnkiDroid and found two Swahili vocabulary decks to practice on.
2. Downloaded Pimsleur’s “compact” course (10×30 minute lessons) to do on my 1 hour commute!
The vocabulary has been pretty good, but without a conversational framework to attach it to, it hasn’t been as effective as the Pimsleur conversation lessons.
I know it might sound hokey, but sometime last year, while unemployed and struggling to climb out of a deep well of depression, I thought about a piece of advice I’d read (and dismissed) to find images that represent the things you want, or a mood you’d like to feel, and put make a sort of “dream board” of them, positioned so that you’d have no choice but to see them every day.
I experimented with making collages and using them as the wallpaper of my laptop (but I never really look at the desktop for long), and of finding very specific images of things I wanted and printing them out and leaving them next to my bed (but they would get spilled on and crumpled and eventually land on the floor and get swept under my bed…).
One day a coupon for a free poster size print appeared in my inbox, and I used it to print out 3 simple images of a sun setting behind an Acacia tree on the Serengeti plains. It represented so many things to me. My lifelong dream to go to Africa. My love of sunsets and the feelings I associate with them… dreams, beauty, peace, hope, awe, connection… all things I had not felt in years, and all things that I was incapable of feeling while laying in the bottom of the depression well.
I taped the poster over a framed print hanging over my mirror directly opposite my bed. It was the first thing I saw in the morning and the last thing I saw at night. As far as a “dream board” went, I felt like this was a fairly lame representation as it was just 3 different views of the same scene, and nothing especially tangible to focus on. But it made me feel good to look at it and visually I simply loved it, and that made me focus on it as the months went by rather than having it become familiar and invisible wallpaper to me.
Many months went by and I sometimes wondered why I bothered with the dream board idea when all I ever did was look at it, and I never made a single move to actually have anything associated with it.
Fast forward many more months and a lot of dithering that I did in writing here on 43 things. The idea occurred to me that being unemployed and therefore uncommitted to a job had two sides to it: I felt depressed, untethered and lost, but I could be depressed, untethered and lost on a different continent just as effectively… and perhaps give myself something to work toward. I desperately needed a goal, and focused all my energy and time (and neuroses..) on figuring out a way to financially get myself to Africa.
I realized I could rent out my home for the summer. I realized that I could pare down my home and my things while preparing my home for rental, and I could sell the unnecessary things. I realized that I could reach out to family and friends who would encourage me. I realized the problems standing between me and the feelings represented by the sunset behind the acacia trees were surmountable with some courage, hard work and willingness to look for alternative paths.
So I did it all: rented my home, sold a lot of possessions, allowed family and friends to boost my confidence (and kindly watch my pets) and found different paths forward than those I’d assumed were my only options. Within a month of making these choices, I was standing on the tarmac of an airport in East Africa. And within a few weeks of that, I was standing on the Serengeti plains, lifting my camera to take a picture of the sun setting behind an acacia tree.
The months I spent there changed me. I arrived home to two completely unexpected jobs, which have proven to be a difficult juggling act but I’m so grateful to have them and even better, they actually reflect a lot more of who I am than I ever anticipated. I also carried so much inside me from my months in Africa… and the experience of actually reaching for something I wanted and allowing myself to take it when it arrived was perhaps the most important experience of all.
I woke up this morning and my eyes fell on the sunset dream board pictures that I love too much to take down, and I dug through my Africa photos and found my own (much fuzzier, much less orange!) versions of those dreams… and I’m just so proud.
I’ve decided that from now on, I will create a “dream board” and allow myself to daydream over it—and then when I do achieve what I set out for, however it goes, I will tack my own version of the dream right next to it – maybe the “reality board”?? lol I love the idea. Here’s my dream and reality boards… in my dreams I guess I was a better photographer…
Saying yes is scary. I’ve recently said yes to pulling the trigger on Africa (see other entry!), a job interview that scares me, a new friendship I wasn’t sure I had the energy to nurture, an interview WITH a picture (terrifying) for our local paper, and a small monetary gift from my parents.
Each time I dither over something out of fear of failure, or fear of humiliation, or fear of social discomfort, or fear of the unknown – I remind myself to say YES. Leaps of faith = yes. Following dreams = yes. Exploration, quests for knowledge, getting to know someone… yes yes yes.
I won’t be stupid. I won’t put myself in obvious danger. I won’t allow myself to be vulnerable to people or situations that are clearly unhealthy for me. I won’t say yes when my gut tells me something is amiss.
So far this is working out well – and by “well” I mean I’m scared and nervous and excited all at once.
Tickets purchased, fear swallowed, finances decimated, immunizations injected, zip off quick dry hideously ugly pants reluctantly purchased, DEET researched, medical kit stocked, camera borrowed, hopes and dreams filling my head and heart.
In my ongoing mission to go to Africa and somehow take the sting out of the financial hit of the trip, I’ve rented my place out for half the summer. Finally!! Much harder than I thought. Sooooo much rearranging to do, locking up of personal things, advertising, screening out freaks and weirdos
- and all of that netted me a 3 week tenant. Better than nothing! Woohoo!
I’ve been slacking off on this, because once I check a few long standing unpleasantries out from under a rug, I feel done for a while. This week brings so many new ones, though!
Renting out my house for the summer and having a vaguely sketchy sounding woman come to look at it today.
Mailing in my lease for this year (admitting that I’m spending another year here…).
Deciding one way or the other about africa, and committing.
I really need a mantra or something to push me through these things!
I don’t know if it’s normal maturity or if it’s the result of having bad things happen to me, but I feel like I’ve stopped saying yes to new and exciting things. I think of the dangers, I think of the people who might be disappointed in me, or inconvenienced, or even childhood friends and teachers I haven’t spoken to in decades who might not approve.
And I say no.
It makes me safer, but I’m not as happy as I was even 5 years ago. I feel like I made the decision to keep myself safe, “be a responsible adult” and focus on home and hearth. Maybe not even doing those things very well.
So many of my goals: go to africa, sleep outside, change my career… all of those things require a certain amount of faith, courage and jumping into the abyss. I used to jump into the abyss as a matter of course – not following random impulsivity (though sometimes I confess I did that, too) but thinking about something scary and stepping off the cliff with hope and excitement and faith. Sometimes that went very wrong for me (most notably 5 years ago, hence my newfound hesitation) but MOST of the time – the vast majority of the time – it led me into amazing places doing things I’d never dreamed I could do.
Now I’m standing on the edge of the abyss once again – specifically about my trip to Africa – and I’m moving forward in fits and starts. It’s coming down to the wire for me and I have to officially commit all my money next week, or pull out completely. I can’t think of what I would feel about myself if I pulled out. I’m standing there on the cliff edge and hesitating, hesitating some more, hesitating myself into a frozen statue.
I need to start saying yes more. Get back in the habit of welcoming opportunities, being brave and sometimes foolish, because I know that comes with the territory. Part of faith is believing that even if you fail, things will still be okay. So failure is still an option, but one you’ve accepted and made peace with.
Sometimes I wish someone or something outside me would come along and push me off the cliff, but I know it will mean more if I take the leap myself, motivated by my own faith and desire to reclaim some happiness.
Ah well. Next time!!!
Looks simple enough! Hardest part is actually getting past the creepy feeling that I’m allowing my DNA to be cataloged… while I’m more of a “fly under the radar” kind of person! However, yeah – this needs to happen. Swabbing commences today.
Reservations to go back to Acadia and the weather shall be nice! I’m totally sleeping under the stars this weekend! Oh yeah!!
Both regarding hemorrhaging money! Paid up the next 6 months of car insurance at the very last moment of the last day, and signed young daughter up for the SAT test also at the very last moment of the last day possible. So that’s done.
Then I thought I should reward myself. An eyebrow wax? A pint of beer? No, those cost money! Must be frugal! Hmmm… how about just a feeling of smug satisfaction that I am responsible and on top of things? I tried for that, but it wasn’t happening. The luxury of wallowing in gloom over my bank account and feeling sorry for myself? That works…
Now – on to a new day and new unpleasant things to sweep back out from under my rug!!! Gooooooo me!
...though I’ve heard that once you get the ball rolling on it, it’s a relief to uncover a lot of the stuff you’ve buried to avoid dealing with.
I’m starting simply. I read an email that I was sure was going to contain things I did not want to hear. I’d had the email archived for a while, but felt like it was sitting in my gmail archive glowing like toxic waste. Every time I opened my gmail account (even knowing the email itself was hidden from my view) my stomach would drop and I’d get antsy and stressed.
Finally I did some meditation (didn’t work) and deep breathing (didn’t work) and then just ripped off the bandaid and opened and read the email all in one fell swoop. And it was fine. Nothing scary, nothing terrible. No, I didn’t especially want the message the email sent, but avoiding it was BY FAR the worse feeling that reading it.
Now I’m planning my daily to-do lists with one thing each day that I’ve been avoiding. Small stuff, large stuff, just one thing per day. Weekends I’m leaving off unless it’s critical. I hope this makes me feel like I’m cleaning out neglected closets or something… nice and airy and accomplished.
I suppose I could call this goal “done” after being a lifeguard through high school and college. I’ve pulled a lot of non-swimming little kids out of pools and helped a few tired folks back to shore at the beach. But somehow that doesn’t feel like IT. I want to feel like I changed the course of someone’s life through my own devices – not just like I happened to be the hands on duty at the time, while any hands on duty would have performed the same task. For instance I’ve never had to administer cpr, or find a moment of bravery and strength that I wasn’t sure I possessed. I guess I want to feel like I did something that I wasn’t necessarily expected to do? Something like that.
Anyway, this evening I thought about it while looking over my 43 things list and I realized that while I might never happen upon an Outback customer choking on a hunk of steak, and while I might never push an old lady out from in front of a speeding car or other such heroic measures… I might still at some point step in at a critical moment in another’s life. (and yeah, I’m an organ donor, but what joy is there for this mortal being in that? I’m lights out before I get the slightest blink of self-satisfaction – call me shallow, hey…)
That whole lead-up is to say that my dad was misdiagnosed with leukemia last year. In the end it was determined he did not have leukemia, but for a few horrible weeks our family truly believed he had. And we struggled for something to do to feel helpful and useful. I guess that’s when I bookmarked the national marrow donor registry, because tonight as I was perusing my bookmarks and thinking about life, I happened upon it. Now apparently called “Be the Match”. A wee lightbulb went on over my head. If this is the closest I get to saving a life, so be it. Had my dad needed my marrow I’d have given it to him with absolute joy – just to know I was able to do something tangible to help him.
This is the same, pretty much. It’s someone’s dad, someone’s son or daughter or mother. Not to be preachy, but I feel like the universe (or higher whatever) handed back my Dad without too much fanfare (and he’s currently fishing -the picture of good health at age 78) – the least I can do to repay that is to perhaps pass on the gift.
All of this is to say that I joined the national bone marrow donor registry – or more accurately: I will join it once my cheek swab is mailed and mailed back con cells – and that feels maaaaybe one step above yanking a kid who didn’t really know how to swim out from under the diving board for the fifth time in an afternoon.
Here’s the link in case I inspire you to join the registry as well.
There are about a million things that can go wrong with my pieced together plan to get to Tanzania this summer. Maybe more like a metric million (that’s more, right?). It’s pretty much a leap of faith to put in the front end effort and then hope the funding comes through in the end. It’s totally scary for me right now.
I’ve been trying pretty hard to focus on the moments when things have gone right, and remind myself that I’m a hard worker and I love excitement and that can be had in the preparation as well. Leaps of faith are exciting… that’s my somewhat reluctant mantra for today. Must stop playing those mind games in which I convince myself that all my hesitation should be classified in the “unreasonable fear” category and not in the “universe trying to tell you not to do it” category.
So for the next week, I am full steam ahead as if this will actually happen. Must start meditating or doing something equally peace-invoking to calm all of my assorted neuroses…
Ugh, why is it when I start to get close to my dreams, I find a thousand reasons to hold back and question myself???
I have the opportunity to start on this hugely important lifelong goal. I’ve surrounded myself with positive images. That picture of me with Jane Goodall is my cell phone screen saver and always makes me smile when I see it. So many people around me are aware of my goals, aware of how much they mean to me and are hugely supportive of me.
I have a plan. It’s a hard one that will require a lot of hard work, a lot of luck, a lot of planning and details (not my strong suit) and a few favors from others. It’s difficult, but not insurmountable. I have my finger on the (metaphorical) trigger, but every time I try to pull it, I don’t. I question myself and catastrophize and try to revamp the simplest parts of the plan. I worry and question and what-if until I’m paralyzed. Why? I don’t know!
And so many serendipitous things have happened to show me this can all work. Unexpected opportunities, unexpected support and encouragement from people I expected would be negative, unexpected responses to things that helped ease the financial burdens of the venture. The only negative thing happening right now is in my own head, and I really don’t understand that!
So frustrated at myself today!