Category: Uncategorized

A New Framework for Goal Setting

Palace of Fine Arts: a great place to find inspiration.

Palace of Fine Arts: a great place to find inspiration.

I am in my first week of being 27 and several people have approached me asking about what goals I am setting for this new year. While I have plenty of things I would like to accomplish, I don’t think that 28X28 is the best structure for my next year of life. I am remembering a conversation with a good friend from a long time ago. I told him that I don’t really care much what happens in my life as long as I am happy. Whatever life throws my way, I hope I can come out the other side, find the important lessons and live a happy life. Even in the face of destruction and cruelty. If I experience the apocalypse, I still want to be capable of happiness.

So, dude that he is, my friend said that’s nice and all, but what do I have to DO in order to feel happy. I believe I fidgeted at the time and shifted around uncomfortably. Yes, this is a good approach, but dammit that means I have lots of unanswered questions. Little did I know at the time, this theory is in the same vein as Danielle LaPorte’s work. I want to FEEL X, so what do I have to DO in order to accomplish X? When I do Y, I feel X. This is exactly what Danielle LaPorte is getting at.

Moments to scribble down some ideas.

Moments to scribble down some ideas.

I am 4 days into 27 and I would like to outline a new framework for this year of life.

In order to set meaningful goals for myself, I want to make sure that I am pursuing activities that feed what I want to feel. It is much easier to feel fulfilled when you are clear on the intention behind a goal or activity. Rather than creating an arbitrary list of 28 things I would like to do before my next birthday, I would like to explore how to achieve my core desired feelings through activities each week or month. Since I am not quite sure how this process will unfold, I will have to tailor it as I go along.

For example: I have identified my 5 core desired feelings as: clear, connected, creative, relaxed, and powerful. I can choose to focus on one or two of those feelings in a particular week and do things that feed that feeling. Say I want to feel relaxed. It’s important to reflect on when I have felt relaxed in the past and recognize what makes me feel relaxed now. Then I make a list of things that induce relaxation for me: I feel relaxed when I get important items done early in the day, when I eat meals with friends, when I exercise and when I sleep enough. I feel relaxed when I am clear on my priorities so that I can give each task the time that it needs.

Taking time to write.

Taking time to write.

As mentioned in previous posts, I am going to read The Desire Map, and use the book to guide this process. I do have a growing list of goals and am always curious about what other people want to accomplish before they die. As I add things to my list, I ask myself why I want to do that particular thing and what feelings I believe I will get from achieving that task. Here are a few items I’ve come up with:

  1. Get ride of stuff: clarity, freedom, mobility, focus
  2. Learn Hootsuite: transferable skills, powerful, contribute, connection
  3. Surf vacation: relaxed, connection, powerful, mobile, focused
  4. Write/Blog: connection, contribute, powerful, relaxed, understanding, reflection, commitment
  5. Make another postcard: creative, connection, powerful, contribute

Using your core desired feelings as a way of setting goals is a great bullshit meter. Are you doing this for yourself or are you doing this because society tells you it’s cool? Are you creating your own path or are you drinking the Kool-Aid? Let’s get real. Happiness might be right around the corner if you check in with your motives.

Can you identify one of your core desired feelings? Is there a major life goal that you have? Shoot me an email and let me know what they are. Lara@LaraBuelow.com

Sunny morning bicycle rides to work make me feel grateful and relaxed.

Sunny morning bicycle rides to work make me feel grateful and relaxed.

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Happy Birthday Me

A card from my Mom...

A card from my Mom…

It’s my birthday!

Surfing with Maria

Surfing with Maria

Yesterday I celebrated by going surfing at Pacifica with my good friend Maria, hitting a silent disco at Ocean Beach, and then having an amazing meal with my family.

Silent Disco at Ocean Beach

Silent Disco at Ocean Beach

I realized last night that I feel a lot of pressure to write a big beautiful post for today. However, I have a birthday ritual that needs to be honored. I am going to Santa Cruz for a run on the beach and then a swim/surf session in the ocean. So, today I am gifting myself this simple post.

A few things are on the list for this year of life: keep writing/blogging regularly, go surfing, travel to Germany, purge your crap, and visit friends.

Family Dinner

Family Dinner

If you are reading this: I would love to hear from you. I have been hesitant to reach out and ask for feedback (scared). I’ve been writing for one year now and it’s time to face some blogging fears. I am always grateful to receive feedback and your thoughts.  For my birthday, I am wishing to hear from anyone and everyone who reads this – tell me about what your hopes and fears are for the rest of 2013 or about your favorite color or a few things on your bucket list. I appreciate you and I’m excited to hear what you have to say.  Send it here: Lara@LaraBuelow.com

Apparently I am going to learn how to play the Ukulele this year.

Apparently I am going to learn how to play the Ukulele this year.

27×27: The End

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Looking at my goal list for the past year, I am most proud of 2 things. The first is that I committed to blogging each of my goals and this exercise made me realize that something I really enjoy is the writing itself. It feels satisfying that I have embraced the writing process and stuck with it over the last twelve months. Especially to simply relish the act of writing, without judging the end product. The second thing I am proud of this year is that I made several huge changes in my life and am still working hard to create the life I want to live. If that’s too vague for you: I am so happy that I moved to San Francisco and have been able to find rewarding work. I am incredibly grateful to be at San Francisco CrossFit and Suppenküche, two companies where I’ve met some of the most amazing people in my life.

SFCF made some big changes this year, too: Moving indoors, out of the rain.

SFCF made some big changes this year, too: Moving indoors, out of the rain.

These two things also translate into what I am most grateful over the last year. I am grateful for all the love and support I got from my family and friends. I am grateful for the people who offered me work and flexibility in my schedule, coworkers who helped me out, and both the constructive and positive feedback I’ve received from people in different areas of my life. I also appreciate California Sunshine, the ability to take vacations in far off places, and the wild adventurous opportunities that present themselves to me.

On Monday, I will turn 27 and my 27×27 year will be complete. Friends have been asking what 28×28 will look like, but I can’t say it looks very appealing. It isn’t edgy enough. It’s putting too many items on a list, it’s too arbitrary. I need something with a bit more gusto. I want an divine list, not one that induces guilt over an unchecked box. I thought about beginning a 3×30 or 30×30 project, as it’s dawning on me that a decade benchmark is approaching. It’s still in the cards. However, in an effort to distance myself from numbers and quantifying everything, I would like to experiment with living the next year in a quality-inspired manner.

California Sunshine

California Sunshine

So I am crafting a plan for living my next year of life using the Desire Map. I will use my core desired feelings as my compass and my 12 commandments as my guiding constitution. THIS SOUNDS SO CORNY. Cue Phil Collins, because that’s my JAM. Hopefully over the next 12 months I will be able to communicate all of this in a way that sounds more hardcore and less “floofy”. That’s the (non) word that comes to mind. But right now it’s all I’ve got.

Fear Less. Love More.

Fear Less. Love More.

Why You Are Unhappy

WaitButWhy.com: I am Lucy.

WaitButWhy.com: I am Lucy. Or the vomiting unicorn. Either way, I’m disappointed.

Today, I am going to explore why we are unhappy while I dissect this awesome post about Gen Y. Face it, even those of us who report that we feel pretty good can generally find something to gripe about and are sitting on a mountain of doubt and confusion. You, me, and just about everyone else. So why not explore all this anxiety together?

WaitButWhy introduces Lucy, the main character of the story to illustrate the problem with todays up and coming generation. They get a pretty good name, Gen Y Protangonists and Special Yuppies (GYPSYs); the “main character of a very special story”. Oh, I’m sorry, what we believe is a very special story, not that it is one. This puts me on guard, as it would, being a Gen Y’er. Though it appears the point of this essay is to take Gen Y down a notch, there’s no evidence that this is what will actually happen. I do believe we are all the main character of a special story – it’s called Your Life, cherish it.

Next, WaitButWhy gives us an important equation. One you have likely seen and heard before.

Happiness = Reality – Expectations

I believe this to be true. The book, Loving What Is by Byron Katie, is a beautiful modern American zen perspective of this equation. Happiness decreases the more you battle reality. If you live in the moment and can accept things as they are, why would you be unhappy? It is the message in our minds “Things should not be this way” that creates stress and anxiety.

Let's rain on the Gen Y parade! Haters gotta hate.

Happiness = Expectations – Reality

Speaking of stress, this article has been the catalyst for many heated debates within my family lately, so it’s great that it spans issues across generations. I was talking to my mom about this article and she expressed an important point: her parents lived in a time that was so bad (WWII in Germany), that there was really no other direction to go but up. They had hit rock bottom and just about anything looks good after you’ve been there.

WaitButWhy mentions that the post war generation was living for the American Dream, whereas Gen Y is living for Our Own Personal Dream.  This strikes a cord with me and appears to be the path that we are on. I don’t believe that this statement is written with any particular judgments attached to it, though I could see how someone might believe that there are. While I love this post because it stimulates such thought provoking conversation, something that rubs me the wrong way is the insane amount of judgment that shines through the responses.  Is this bad? Is it good? Does it matter? Maybe Gen Y’ers are looking to live their own personal dream. So what? With time, things change. We aren’t going to continue to live the American Dream and I don’t think I need to talk about why that is here.

In the spirit of pursuing our personal dreams versus America’s, it is no surprise that terms like “career security” are now less popular than “a fulfilling career”. Again, the only constant here is change. The baby boomers and Gen X lived the American Dream, so it’s time to come up with something new. How do these concepts come into being? I can’t say I have a good answer, but it appears that the masses are behind lifestyle design and pursuing passionate careers. What would you suggest? Seeing the success of those before us, how do you continue to strive and be inspired?

Love what is.

Love what is.

Next comes an important point from WaitButWhy. You and I – we are delusional. Again, this could be interpreted as aggressive or cruel. My reaction was: “Thank God! Sweet salvation!” Rather than taking this as an attack on me or my generation, I am going to take it as validation. I feel validated in my feelings of stress, anxiety, and confusion. This statement makes me feel more human. And guess what we all have in common? 😉

Then I find myself asking who is WaitButWhy? Which generation do they belong to? Do they make money from their blog? How are they any different? WaitButWhy must be human, too. If they do get paid through their blog, then they are an example of something I would like to believe is possible for myself. My point here is that a common experience in humanity is being delusional. Doing The Work outlined in Loving What Is proves that. So maybe Gen Y is just like everyone else.

The first problem that is actually identified in the article is that everyone in Gen Y thinks they are special. No, like really super special. More special than you. GASP. Before WaitButWhy goes much further into the details of why this is a problem, they identify a second: GYPSYs are taunted.

Gah! It's ALWAYS sunnier on that side!

Gah! It’s ALWAYS sunnier on that side!

At this point in the post, I am grateful that I fully identify with Lucy. Hell, I am Lucy and here is this person validating the sources of so much of my anxiety. Lucky me, let’s get to work on all this shit. Here, WaitButWhy brings in issues around Facebook Image Crafting. It is an unfortunate truth that social media gives us inflated ideas of how others are living their lives. This in turn makes us feel bad about ourselves. These are real life problems for Gen Yer’s. So what now?

Advice from WaitButWhy is as follows:

#1: Stay wildly ambitious. Yes! I love it. This quote from Carl Sandburg illustrates this sentiment for me: “I’m an idealist. I don’t know where I’m going, but I’m on my way.” There’s only one way to find out where the path you are forging may take you –> Keep going.

#2: Stop thinking your special. I think this is generally good advice. No matter how special you actually are, it’s annoying to meet people who think and act like they’re God’s gift to earth, even if it’s true. The most inspiring, generous, and awesome people I have met, act like they have confidence, an inner knowing that they are capable, but they are humble and build up the people around them.

#3 Ignore everyone else. Another big THANK YOU to the author of WaitButWhy. There is often something healing in receiving validation from others and this is a big wound that needs healing. An entire generation with false expectations? Shit. Ignoring everyone else and concentrating on your own work is no small feat. Especially with our growing internet and Facebook addictions. Let’s channel #1 to help out here, why not use that ambitious energy to learn how to ignore everyone else and be a total Buddha in regards to social media networks? How are you going to live your daily life using social media and keep your head about you? If  this is Gen Y’s greatest challenge, how will we rise to the occasion?

Fear Less. Love More.

Fear Less. Love More.

Group Love

Me, alone. Burning Man 2013. #self #bm13

Me, alone. Burning Man 2013.

In line with Burning Man’s theme this year: Cargo Cult, I realized through my last post that I have a lot to say about groups. I found myself writing about physical parties, organizational dynamics, power plays, and psychology. At some point I cut the document in half, seeing that I had plenty of material to comprise a separate post. Reflecting on my past, I can see I’ve gone through a variety phases and undoubtedly changed my mentality around groups several times. I have been an enthusiastic leader (elementary school), a nasty conformist (late middle school), an eager follower (early high school), and self prescribed individualist (late high school).

Since my institutional education days, I have struggled with larger group dynamics. I fit in just fine (social conditioning works on me) – but there is something about congregations en masse and elements of power play that I find unsettling.The constant push and pull between wanting acceptance and recognition versus doing what you want or what you believe is right, has the ability to be a traumatic experience. People do funny and fucked up things within organized circles. By the time you are thirteen you have already been through your fair share of social conditioning, which includes hazing and teasing, as well as acceptance and support.

Let’s be honest, I judge groups based on feeling judged within them. Life is absurd like that. My sentiment is that social circles often fall into a trap of complacency. They agree with each other too much, they look up to someone as their leader, they talk a lot of shit, and they are exclusive. That’s why it can be easier to hover on the periphery. When you are loosely affiliated with a crew, you can’t be fully rejected because you were never totally IN anyway. You can also jump ship and not feel like a total asshole because you were never a committed member to begin with.

Absurdity.

Absurdity.

To a certain degree, I am comfortable with being uncomfortable… I can hover at the boundary of groups and hold hands with my loneliness. I do not know how many others do this. I feel as though people are often fearful of not associating with a group, so they subscribe to whichever one fits best or is most convenient. This is unappealing to me. I want to observe and experience a community before putting my heart into one. And this is very much what I was flirting with during Burning Man this year.

My non commitment to social circles has been much to my success and my detriment throughout life. I build close, tight-knit relationships with those I resonate with, which affords me an amazing network of loyal friends. However, I have also suffered being cast out and attacked by people who take my solitary nature personally. While selective about which communities I put my energy into, I realize my short comings in this arena. And perhaps my solo adventures on the playa during my Burning Man vacation facilitated making myself more vulnerable and open to considering some of these things.

This year, at Burning Man, I fell in love with groups. Not one group, but 3 or 4, and not just physical groups, but the idea of groups, too. It got all up in my face how I wanted to be a part of a camp or gang of hooligans. Groups are powerful, much more powerful than we are alone. And powerful is one of my core desired feelings. In an organization or posse, you have the ability to build and influence an empire (even if it’s only a mini empire). By developing relationships with those around you, you cultivate trust, and through trust you increase your level of impact.

In and around camp.

In and around camp.

Without further adieu:

Love Story #1: World Domination Summit Camp

I stood back on the black plastic tarps underneath the expansive shade structure and watched four rows of human bodies at work. I was impressed. The sea of flesh flowed gently with the  movement of arms and legs, up and down, side to side, swaying slowly. Camp members, geezers with tanned and saggy skin, were weaving in and out of the crowd pouring water into thirsty peoples mouths as they craned their heads back.

This was the Carcass Wash. A daily event hosted by the PolyParadise Camp, where you go to wash and be washed by your fellow burners. Nudity optional, you only undress to your own level of comfort, but it is the rare attendee who still has their undies on. They give a grand orientation and dress the experience in the practice of communicating your boundaries and the ritual of touch across cultures. In my opinion, they did a great job of instituting caring, yet professional touch between strangers, and were exceptionally efficient in cleaning an amazing amount of people with surprisingly little water. And what a sight to see.

I looked over to my left and there stood an attractive young gentleman who I had noticed going through the lines from my vantage point. I hoped to strike up a conversation with this enticing man, since he stood so close, and decided to offer him some water. We began chatting, and he asked if he had seen me here yesterday? I laughed because I wanted to be flattered and would have liked to believe that he had noticed me. But I tell him no, he did not see me there yesterday, and I don’t believe that I’ve ever seen him before. From there I learned that he is a life coach, at which point I became acutely interested in what he had to say because I am always curious as to how people pull that off. I expressed my enthusiasm in his profession and told him how I am trying to learn more about consulting and location independent work.

Oh yea, did I mention I was NAKED? Yes. I carried on a conversation, in a my birthday suite, with a young man who happens to do something I am particularly interested in. I can’t say that I cared too much, as there were so many other naked people that it wasn’t a big deal. However, this guy had put boxers on. So while I was attempting to have a semi-serious conversation about business related things, I couldn’t help but notice that I was in the nude, speaking to someone I found quite attractive. Thank God lady boners don’t show… I have to laugh at the fact that something people describe as a nightmare was my reality. There I stood, naked, talking to Mr. Good-Looking-Lifestyle-Designer (Mr. GLLD) and decided life is pretty damn fantastic.

We continued talking and he tells me I should try getting more involved by attending events in order to meet people interested in coaching and location independence. I nod and say, “Yea, I attended a conference earlier this year with a ton of entrepreneurs in Portland, the World Domination Summit (WDS).” His eyes widen and he tells me that he was there too and so was most of his camp! Perhaps this is where he recognizes me from?

I am ecstatic that we have discovered this because now we have something totally awesome in common and I am hoping he agrees because I am determined to make him my friend. He invites me to his camp that evening and says I should definitely come by to meet everyone. As we part ways, I am thinking that this interaction is another thread in the blanket, another one of these ridiculous small-world coincidences. Of course I would talk to the one naked guy at the Carcass Wash in the middle of the desert who attended WDS! Coming to Burning Man was worth it.

After the sun set, I hopped onto my gold spray painted bicycle and began pedaling my way counter-clockwise around the circle shape of Burning Man. It was a bumpy ride from 8:30, where I was stationed, around to 2:45 where I was hoping to find the camp filled with WDS’ers. I bounced up and down on the springy cruiser seat and squeezed the honky horn every once in a while, in a friendly “hello” or “watch the hell out” fashion. In the darkness my dim bike lights and lack of brakes forced me to ride particularly cautiously to avoid any sort of collisions, making my progress slow, but steady.

I weaved in and out the packs of pedestrians, straining to see the street signs and looking carefully at the camps I passed. I wasn’t quite sure how I would recognize them, but kept my eye out for the red, cone-shaped tent Mr. GLLD had mentioned in our earlier conversation. Coming upon such a structure, I pulled my bike up next to a few others and joined some people settled around a hookah. “Hey, my name’s Lara. I met Mr. GLLD earlier, am I in the right camp?” They assured me I was. Success! I was welcomed into the circle and began to learn everyone’s story as we passed the hookah around.

People wandered about camp, blurry-eyed from naps, getting ready for the night, putting on face paint and make-up and passing around bottles of booze. Mr. GLLD himself joined us at some point and I learned little tidbits about his past and how he ended up pursuing various opportunities. It was a light-hearted and hard working crew, all thrilled to be sharing their time together at Burning Man, as well as their passionate work pursuits.

As we rallied for the evening, it became clear to me how committed many of these people were to each other. They weren’t just camping together, but wanted to build an experience based on shared memories. There was a strong group mentality that encouraged everyone to contribute and to stick together (at least to some extent). Getting ready to head out for the night, we all huddled up. A few members spoke about their current experiences and their appreciation towards everyone at camp. With our arms wrapped around one another, we swayed and hum-hahed our agreements. After a few minutes, the sentiments died. Hooping and hollering, everyone got rowdy and gave a final cheer before mounting bicycles and speeding down the dusty, pot-marked roads to whatever adventures awaited us that night.

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More musings and love stories about groups to come. ~ Strength & Vigor ~

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Showing Up: Burning Man 2013

Road Trip: Highway 447

Road Trip: Highway 447

During my week of vacation this summer I went to Burning Man (BM). I was on the fence about it for a long time. Similar to last year, I waited until the last minute to get a ticket. However, like last year, it was no problem and all the puzzle pieces seemed to naturally fall into place. Even after getting my ticket I waffled about whether or not I should go. Burning Man is a time and place where you get little sleep, there’s a million things to do, it’s hot and dusty, and the extremeness can be overwhelming and exhausting. Perhaps, I thought, it would be better to have a stay-cation and rest?

A friend of mine who I spent a lot of time with at BM 2012 called me on the phone. We had discussed camping together this year and were trying to coordinate plans. Her and her boyfriend had purchased a cheap car and had gone on a camping trip by the Yuba River. On the phone she explained that the car was more or less dead and it wouldn’t make the journey. No problem, I assured her, I would take them. And just like that I had committed to Burning Man 2013.

The Groc-Out. Fun times were had by all.

The Groc-Out. Fun times were had by all.

Panicking slightly that I had offered to be their ride, I told her that I was more than happy to make the drive out to Black Rock City with them. I was pumped to camp with them, too, but I wanted some level of independence and flexibility. I didn’t want them to depend on me for a ride home in case I freaked out and left early. I had been looking forward to this vacation for a long time and I wanted the autonomy to do what I liked when I felt like it. The last thing I wanted was to feel guilty for abandoning my friends in the middle of the desert. Luckily for me, my friends are badasses who have no issues making shit happen.

So that was that. I was going to BM, for better or for worse. The thrill of the trip sank in and kept me up at night. I only managed to pack the day before I planned to leave, stuffing rolled socks and lacy underwear into plastic bags, hoping that less was more. Last year I was with an organized camp, whereas this time it would only be the three of us and I wasn’t quite sure how it would all work out.

Even though I now had arranged to camp with my two friends, I felt as though I should approach the event as though I was going it alone. I did not want to rely on them as a couple for company and I definitely did not want to resent them for that either. I also wanted to mentally prepare myself for the tsunami of FOMO (fear of missing out). I desperately wanted to grant myself permission to do BM at my own pace with the least amount of comparison or pressure possible. I had been mulling this over for weeks and had no idea how I would feel once I arrived on the playa. It almost kept me from going, but the adventure was set in motion and the excitement was mounting. I was grateful to have friends as company and build a camp with and pleased that I was freewheeling.

After a 6am departure from Davis, CA and 7 hours of waiting, we made it through the long dusty lines and began looking for a spot to set up our tents. It took a while, but with some patience we found people who welcomed us with open arms. We were very limited in our supplies and incredibly under prepared compared to our neighbors. I felt like a gutter punk kid who was going to sleep in the dust all week choking on gas fumes while our fancy neighbors ran their generator next to my cheap tent. But it didn’t matter. I took pride in the simplicity of it all.

The line outside the gate.

The line outside the gate.

Despite all the back and forth, the worry of being unprepared, and insecurities surrounding loneliness, it was blissful to spend a week on the playa. I take pride in my ability to see the value of showing up and being present in situations, even when it is difficult and challenging. This is also how I ended up doing CrossFit. I often tell myself, when I meet resistance in attending a new class or event, that all I have to do is go – I don’t have to excel or do anything crazy, I don’t have to dance or make a new friend. As long as I bring my body and smile once, that can be enough.

So rather than staying in the bay area for a week and hiding out at my parents house to recharge, I committed to going to BM. I knew that I would regret it if I did not attend and I also knew that ultimately, the option of a good party and friends would be more valuable to me than spending 7 days alone in Palo Alto. All of my last minute decisions lead me to an “Oops, I did it again” moment, where I realized that I felt limited in my ability to contribute at BM and that may cause me to treat it more as an experience than a participatory community(!?) What I am saying is, that while I don’t believe there is a right or wrong way to do BM, it relies heavily on people who whole-heartedly care about the city and build it from scratch. Then they return it to the same state the desert was in before we were there. That’s a shit ton of work.

Not only that, the culture of BM is maintained by those who are committed to practicing open mindedness and gifting. Approaching others in the spirit of non-expectation is no small feat and requires vigilance. As an organization, there are people working year round on creating this bedazzling parallel universe and I do not take it for granted. For this reason, I would like to acknowledge that there are endless opportunities to contribute to BM as a place, an event, and as a community. While I set multiple intentions for myself this year, they were very personal in dealing with my own emotions. I am planting the seed that the next time I go to BM, I would like to contribute more towards the experience as a whole and to a group at large. In this way, I am contemplating the core principles of the event and meditating on my own ability to shape experiences for myself and others.

After a weeks vacation in the desert, I have come back refreshed. I am satisfied to say that, despite the harsh conditions, I am rested and healthy. I am grateful for the art, the music, and the friends I bonded with. With my birthday only 2 weeks away, I’m excited for new writing material and bringing a fresh perspective to another year of life.

Get by with a little help from your friends.

Get by with a little help from your friends.

How You Know It’s Good

New favorite colors makes me go "ZING!"

New favorite color makes me go “ZING!”

How do you know when you’ve got something good?

You know when you’ve got something good when you miss it, your body craves it, and when you can feel it nourishing your soul. It’s a thick syrup of satisfaction. It’s the complete exhaustion of a raging dance party, a 4am ski tour, or completing a century ride. You’ve got something good when pride radiates out of you like a supernova and buzzing electric energy keeps you up at night.

However, it isn’t always that easy or obvious to recognize. There are a million and one messages out there in the world telling you what you should want and why. Sometimes we get confused; are we chasing something because we know it’s good or because someone else said so? It’s challenging to tune out all the noise and check in with yourself to see where you really stand.

I know what's going on here and it still trips me up.

I know what’s going on here and it still trips me up.

And what does nourishing your soul mean anyway? There is nourishment that comes in the form of wholesome Fun Type A: hanging out and talking shit with your buddies or going for a stroll. There is also soul nourishment that comes in the form of Fun Type B: writing at 5:30am, prying your eyeballs open and leaking coffee down the front of your sleepy shirt, rappelling down a rock face even though you feel like you might shit your pants, or giving a speech in front of 100 people. Recognizing soul-fertilizing moments can be intuitive and easy or hard and mysterious. Sometimes you just know. You can feel it straight in your gut, even when an activity is a strenuous pain in the ass, yet you soak it all in because you are pumped for the reward that awaits.

Then there are times you aren’t so sure. Maybe you’ve begun taking things for granted or you are tired and overworked. Sometimes I sit and think to myself “what would my life be like if I didn’t hold on to this idea that I have to write? Or set goals?” In the wake of all other daily activities, I wonder if I am adding to my own stress or pursuing a healthy passion. There is always a pregnant pause in the moments following my contemplation of this idea.

I feel like I know I have found something worthwhile when there seems to be no other way and I would otherwise be leading an entirely different life. Even though there is no clearly defined path, I can’t help but try and forge one in order to continue exploring this thing. In my case, writing is a perfect example.

There are mornings where I sit blurry eyed and half asleep (much like this morning) and ask myself “why am I doing this?” I have likely gone to bed after my roommates and I am up well before. The seasons are changing, it’s still dark outside, and I would happily catch up on sleep and recover from my best friend’s wedding this past weekend. Yet, the alarm has gone off, and hot tea in hand, I know that deep satisfaction is on the other side of this writing hurdle.

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Without a dedicated writing practice, I would sleep in and have a shorter list of things to do. I wouldn’t worry about Mondays and Wednesdays and not having anything to post. I wouldn’t have to collect photos or worry about editing them. Without writing, I would have less anxiety based on posting my thoughts online and the fear of looking stupid.

Yet… I do it anyway. My birthday looms of the horizon and it will be my one year anniversary of starting It’s All in the Blanket. Without this blog, I would not receive feedback from several of you about goals and aspirations. Without this writing practice, I would not be as challenged intellectually or experience the swells of inspiration to continue striving for more in my life. I have connected with so many creatives, authors, entrepreneurs, and active community members through my work to create these posts that I wouldn’t have it any other way.

You know you’ve got something good when you look back at all the blood, sweat, and tears and every sensation tells you it’s worth it. You know it’s great when it makes you laugh, dance, and sing that you would do it all over again.

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Continued: Locked Out, in the Woods

Driving 101 North.

Driving 101 North.

I swore loudly into the serene surroundings. “Don’t lock the key in the car” and the sound of the locks swishing shut seemed to echo through the trees. I picked up a large, jagged rock from the dusty ground. It weighed heavy in my arms and I fumbled to get a good grip. Starring hard at the red Prius, I willed the window to break by itself. On one hand, I wanted to break the window and the option seemed strangely appealing. On the other, I had no interest in breaking the window to my brother’s car, had absolutely no desire to be in the situation I found myself in. How to proceed?

I focused on the high corner of the rear passenger window, opposite the drivers side. I knew exactly where I wanted the rock to cleanly break through. Maybe if I threw the rock hard enough, it would make a perfect hole for my arm. HAHA! Since closing the locked door on myself, I had burst into several bouts of laughter. “This is ridiculous!” I thought or even said out loud. What a joke.

Moments on 101.

Moments on 101.

Even considering throwing the rock caused my hands to shake a bit. I stood a few feet away from the car, lifted the rock above my head and squeezed my eyeballs shut as I heaved the heavy thing at the window. Not smart. It’s best to look at what you are aiming at. I missed my target by over a foot and put a pretty dent into the passenger side door. Shocked dismay, followed by more swearing and laughing, erupted from my being and was quickly absorbed by the hot dusty air. “This is bullshit” I told myself.

Realizing that breaking car windows is not my strong suit and that this was not the time or the place to practice, I chose to revisit option A. The original plan: walk the rest of the way to Leonard Lake and use the landline to call a lock smith. My sister and friends would be at the house and hopefully they could offer some guidance and support. If nothing else, there was a beer or a whiskey I could use to numb the feeling of stupidity that was washing over me.

A moment at the lake.

A moment at the lake.

I flip-flopped down the road, swinging my arms slightly and kicking pebbles. Who knew how far it was to Leonard Lake. Hopefully not more than 5 miles. I tried to keep my head up and enjoy the scenery, light streaming through branches, the occasional stream gurgling near by. It wasn’t long before I heard the rumble of tires on the dirt and saw a large white van driving slowly towards me. As it approached, they gave a little honk that sounded like a cat-call whistle. My low-cut, flowery mini dress would evoke this kind of attention, but I knew from the strange honk and decor on the dash that friends had arrived.

I leaned into the rolled down window, smiling broadly “You have no idea what’s happened” I said to the crew inside. The Miss Lonely Hearts, a sweet-strummin’ band from Santa Cruz, filled the vehicle, hung over and happy. I relayed my adventure, admitting all the ridiculousness that had unfolded back at the Prius. They hooped and hollered, shaking their heads, asking questions and saying “Sorry Girl”. They offered me a ride back to my car to see if they could help. I jumped into the back of the van  with the band’s singer by my side. “What do you want to do?” he asked. “Get drunk” I yelled and he handed me a bottle of whiskey from the cooler at his feet. I thought better of it as we rolled back in the direction of my car.

I was drowning in indecision, waffling about what to do. The Miss Lonely Hearts picked their way about the scene. Pulling on car door handles, poking around to find the key themselves, and admiring the dent in the car door. Half the band was in favor of breaking the window, the other half shook their heads, “I wouldn’t do it”. We played with the idea of producing a music video. They would set up and jam out while someone smashed the rear window with the crow bar they had handy. It would be a YouTube sensation! This I could get on board with.

Being in the presence of others, I felt more grounded. I resided to being a mature adult and agreed to a ride back to the main house at Leonard Lake to call a lock smith. Only a few hours later, a giant yellow tow truck would plow through the forest. I would meet the scruffy, rotund driver and he would take about 60 seconds to unlock the car and run my credit card $145 for the job. It should have cost me more, but let’s be honest – the flowery dress and a sense of humor probably got me a discount. This is the state of the world. So it goes.

Scene of the crime. Oops.

Scene of the crime. Oops.

I thanked the tow truck driver and in an incredibly anti climactic moment, I got into the car and drove back towards the lake. It was an OK Sunday.

The patio: Leonard Lake Reserve.

The patio: Leonard Lake Reserve.

Peeing in the Woods

Road Trip

Road Trip

My last post was “Why I am Unsuccessful,” where I described recognizing failure and moving on. I have another story I would like to share. It described another way in which I was unsuccessful this month and how I dealt with the situation. It will give a more complete picture of how my weekend went and how I handle stress. For better or for worse.

I struggled with the decision to drive the 3 hours to Leonard Lake Reserve on Sunday for my friends wedding party. Let’s be honest, I struggle with most decisions. In this particular case, the ceremony had already been held and I knew that a large group of gleeful hung over ladies and gentlemen, many of whom I did not know, awaited me at the Lake. Receiving this post from Danielle LaPorte’s blog, pushed me over the edge. Fine, I would commit, I would make the drive. If nothing else, it would be a mini-grand adventure by myself. Road trip!

I work up at 5:30am in Palo Alto, drove to my house in San Francisco to change and then jumped on the 101 going North. It is a beautiful thing to leave the foggy parts of the Bay Area. California’s landscape always blows me away and it’s a treat to wind over the Golden Gate Bridge, through the rainbow tunnel and into Marin’s sunnier parts. Cruising through wine country, I stopped in Healdsburg at Flying Goat Coffee for a break. I typed away on my computer at their counter while sipping a chai, feeling for a moment that this might be what it’s like to be a location independent writer on vacation. The trip was already worth it, watching the fog fall away to golden California hills and a bright blue sky.

The directions were simple enough, I made a left off the 101 onto Reeves Canyon Road and began the 12 miles of bumpy dirt road. Yay mini adventure! I have traveled a few dirt roads in the middle of no where by myself. I haven’t traveled so many that I don’t think twice about it. There is a different air about these things, as I strike out on my own.

I took the long solo drive as an opportunity to listen to some podcasts. Srini Rao from BlogcastFM and Dan Andrews from Tropical MBA accompanied me on my journey, and their voices didn’t fade as I veered off the main road and into the quiet forest of Redwood Valley. It was early enough that I felt relaxed about timing, imagining that I would stop somewhere along the way to take a dip in a stream or nap or read on a patch of grass if I found an inspiring spot. I rolled over baby bridges, through shadowy patches, and kicked up plenty of dust behind me. Eventually all the bumps in the road got to my bladder, as was I tanked up on water and coffee. I pulled over near a random gate and decided it was time for a pee and stretch break.

I stepped out of the car and breathed in the warm oak smell. I love the dry heat here. I pulled off my jean shorts and slipped into a flowery dress, changing into something a bit more festive. I picked a strategic spot in the bushes, held up my dress and peed in the woods. Ah! Satisfaction. The sun streamed through the tree branches, I could hear birds singing, and here I was, alone in the woods.

Leonard Lake Reserve

Leonard Lake Reserve

I plopped back into the drivers seat, imagining that the lake was waiting for me. I was ready for a swim. I sat for a minute, glancing around me. My dress has no pockets and I was empty handed. Oh yes, the key! It was in my jean shorts somewhere in the chaos of the back seat. I stepped out, allowing the door to swing shut, and reached for the rear door handle. I pulled. Nothing happened.

Shit.

This can’t be happening.

I pulled again. The door did not open. I frantically pulled on the front door. It was undoubtably locked. I pulled anyway. No. No. No! The plays over and over in my head, holding my hands up, scanning the seat around me, “where is the key?” I ask myself sitting in the front seat. I open the door with my left hand, that damn stupid lock button right beneath the door handle! Why do they put that there!? WHY!? As I opened the door, the weight of the side of my hand went down on the lock button and in one brief moment, everything seemed to change. There I stood, in the middle of the beautiful, calm woods, in a flowery dress and flip flops.

There was no cell phone reception for 6 miles, and I didn’t have my phone on me, so that was out. I was in the middle of the woods with nothing. I panicked briefly, my breathing became rapid and shallow. I paced back and forth and put my hands on my head again, covering my face. “Of course this is happening!” I thought, ready to cry. Should I cry? Do I laugh? What is happening right now? I pulled on the car door several more times and peered through the windows, attempting a sighting of the key. Not that it would have made any difference. Maybe I dropped it on the ground while I was peeing? I scoured the premises, finding nothing.

Now, apparently with most Prius keys, they advertise that you can’t lock yourself out because there is a proximity mechanism that detects the key. My brother’s Prius key happens to be broken. As he handed me this key, he joked “Don’t lock yourself out!” You literally need manually to take the metal key out of the electric part and physically unlock the door to get it. Then you put the key back together and put it in the ignition port. This is another broken record that played over and over in my head as I tried to figure out what to do. The key is in the car. There is no unlocking the car.

I came to the conclusion that I had 2 choices. I could walk the rest of the way to Leonard Lake and use the land line (!!) to call a locksmith and see how much it would cost for them to find me out here. Or I could break one of the rear windows and merrily continue on my way. My roommate had recently had her car broken into and she told me it costed less than $200 to have the window fixed. The way I did the math, breaking the window might be the cheaper and easier solution. That minus the time and stress of having to get the car fixed. Damn.

Highway 101

Highway 101

To Be Continued…

Managing What You Measure

Elephant <3

Elephant ❤

In my post, Pick One Thing, I wrote about the importance of focusing on one thing in order to accomplish it. I picked focusing on my diet and shedding some pounds since this is such a challenge for me. Have I mentioned how much I hate bringing this up? I’m in physical agony typing these words. I hate writing about weight, dieting, and my own body issues. It may be because so often these topics turn into trash talking and a self-hate fest, rather than a productive practice where I take care of myself. Mad props to my friend, Vicky, for expressing this so clearly in her own article, Unpopular Opinion: Please Shut Up About Your Body Issues.

The truth is: I don’t want to write about weight or losing weight or Paleo. However, because I chose it as my focus for August, I feel that it is the most relevant to write about for a number of reasons. First, it is so hard for me and I am so uncomfortable doing so, that it seems reason enough for me to explore it. Second, I have such a difficult time sticking to any kind of diet or making even an inch of progress. This brings me to point three, which is that this goal unveils all kinds of other larger issues such as asking for help, managing what you measure, motivation versus inspiration, and sticking to your guns even when shit gets tough.

Whew. This is taking a lot out of me.

Uhhh...

Uhhh…

I have spent the entire weekend making exceptions to Paleo and as a result am feeling congested and tired. The beer after work yesterday went straight to my head (but was soooo delicious). I picked up a book the other night called What You Can Change… and What You Can’t* The Complete Guide to Successful Self-Improvement. NERD ALERT! It is one of many psychology/self-help books I own. Judge Away! There is a chapter titled Dieting: A Waist is a Terrible Thing to Mind that basically says that dieting is bullshit because you can lose a ton of weight on just about any diet, but ultimately you will gain it all back, even if it takes a few years.

This is where I begin to feel totally depressed, hopeless, and like I am totally wasting my time. I give up on this goal all the time because I want it to be natural and easy, but it is the opposite. For me, being meticulous and calculated about food is stress-inducing and endlessly annoying and sad. Thank God for Leo Babauta. Reading this stupid self-help book chapter made me feel pathetic, but Leo crept into my mind and I thought of his awesome post, The Obstacle is the Path.

Cue the French accent: “Aha! A Challenge!

A girl who knows how to work.

A girl who knows how to work.

And then it begins… Things get rough and you cope out? Seriously? I thought you were tough?  You think anyone can do this? Persistence and consistency win. Always. One day at a time. You want long term change? This shit ain’t magic, it’s one foot in front of another. Just like biking across the fucking country. It’s not all down hill sailing, wind in your hair and cupcakes. It’s hard work. You spend twice the amount of time on the uphill, a quarter amount of time on the down. One hill after another in 100 degree weather with humidity. It’s falling off your bike, it’s vomiting in someone’s yard, it’s riding 100 miles for 3 days in a row, it’s having the sorest ass you’ve ever had and getting back on the saddle. You want results? Put in the work and make yourself sweat. Sit there and cry if you have to. Write about how difficult it is. Feel bad for yourself, but know that it won’t help in the long term.

Where does this leave me? I am working on making my goals S.M.A.R.T.E.R. and really getting into the nitty-gritty of the Evaluate/Revising part of the equation.

❤ ❤ ❤