Boundless Kindness

boundless kindnessLearning about boundless kindness. I made this poster to remind myself to truly wish others well.

“All joy in this world comes from wanting others to be happy, and all suffering in this world comes from wanting only oneself to be happy.”

Quote from a book I’ve been thoroughly enjoying called Buddha’s Brain: The Practical Neuroscience of Happiness, Love, & Wisdom.

 

 

Move & Play

What began as a list to remind me of exercises that I enjoy turned into a really fun hour, and something I thought might make you smile too. Here’s a quick and dirty peek into my secret notebook.  Let me know what you think.
move & play

Why The Tattoo?

I got a tattoo of a deer today.

Though I do think deer are lovely creatures, it’s not especially about deer in particular. Or at all, really.

I had the idea to sell my Art Outlines illustrations almost two full years ago, and with the support and encouragement of my fellow entrepreneurs, I even built a fully functional website, created a video, and got strangers from all over the web to sign up for the email list.

But then it came time to actually list something for sale. And what did I do?

I shied away from it. I let doubt creep in. I turned my back on the project, thinking it wasn’t good enough. I worked on other things.

Over a year later, deep into my 10-month travel adventure around the world writing The Eat Team, I was getting really itchy feet (and a shockingly tiny bank account). I have a massive drive (compulsion?) to create, and because you can’t take an entire print studio full of hundreds-year-old lead and machinery and boxes full of paper, I couldn’t work on Ye Olde Gangster.

So, even though I felt totally unprepared and scared and embarrassed, I just decided I’d put a few of the illustrations up for sale on Etsy. I was terrified, and I didn’t have a lot of hope, but I asked myself, “What’s the worst that could happen?” And the answer was.. nobody would buy my illustrations and I’d be in the exact same place I was now. Well, that’s not so scary I thought–either I’m in the same place I am now, or perhaps maybe just maybe someone will send me some money for something I enjoyed doing.

Nothing happened for a few months. So, my “worst case scenario” was true for a few months. But of course, I wasn’t really thinking about it much and hadn’t expected anything to happen anyways.

Then, out of the blue, on July 4th, 2012, a stranger from New Zealand sent me $2 for my drawing of a deer as I prepared an American Independence Day feast for my new Australian friends in Melbourne.

“WHAT?!?!?!?” I shouted, I danced, I shoved the email in front of my friends faces. It wasn’t the money that lit my fire.. obviously $2 isn’t gonna stretch very far.. it was the cold, hard, undeniable real truth that I had a viable product. A worthy idea.

It made my heart soar.

So, why the tattoo?

I guess there’s several facets to that answer.

- Commitment to the long haul. It’s always been my dream to support myself with my creativity, and this was a moment I’ll never forget. I know there is no quick fix, no secret to making my dreams come true–it’s hard work and trust and taking risks and getting up every single day and starting all over again. It’s blood sweat and tears and I’m in it, forever. This is a commitment to myself to never give up on my creativity, to never stop growing and learning and making.
- That if I can pull this off, anyone can.

- Reminder that what I do is good enough. For a long time, I was embarrassed that my style of drawing was so childish and simplistic. At some point I decided to embrace that and run with it. It’s amazing how much love and support you get when you say “fuck it” and embrace the differences that make you you.

- Reminder to keep it simple. My whole idea with Art Outlines is to make extremely simple, elegant drawings. To eliminate what’s not necessary, and do only what’s necessary. Focus. Minimalism. Contrast.

- Reminder that imperfection is perfection. That you’ll never feel ready, you’ll never feel finished, but to say YES anyways. To figure things out as I go. Something I learned on my big adventure was that nothing is ever perfect.. but if you can embrace those imperfections, it makes it perfect. That was one of the overarching themes Hannah and I encountered every single day on our crazy trip. If we tried to make things perfect, we wouldn’t have done a single thing. If I had known that I was going to get this deer tattooed on my body forever when I drew it, I would have spent hours trying to perfect it. I love that it has tiny flaws and things I’d probably have changed if I had known.

If you look real close, there’s a little dimple on my deer’s bum–that wasn’t part of the original drawing. That was a speck created by the xerox machine that my tattoo artist thought was part of the image. When we realized it was permanent, she asked if I wanted her to try and pick it out. I considered it, then remembered.. imperfection is perfection. I love that it’s just another layer. Humans are all imperfect, and instead of getting mad or embarrassed by “hiccups”, we can just run with it and love it anyways.

That I’m not the only one involved–the stranger in New Zealand and my amazing tattoo artist had huge parts in it. To remember that PEOPLE are what make the world go round, and we’re all family in some way. To trust others and not try to control everything. I went in thinking I’d get the deer facing me. Alice told me that would be upside down to the rest of the world. And so I worked with her instead of trying to control it, and accepted her expertise since I was a tattoo n00b, and rolled with it, even though it’s not what I first imagined. Give and take.

Life is imperfect, and if we want to LIVE we have to remember and accept and love anyways.

Intentions for This Week

Every week I take a day to myself, Melissa Monday, where I journal, organize, maintain, and do whatever the hell I want. It helps me refocus and reconnect.

This Monday I sat down and wrote out my intentions for the week. Rereading it, I have a feeling that’s how I’ll want many of my weeks to look. Sometimes I forget the big picture, and I’ve recently started physically writing down my Big Picture, be it for a day, an event, a relationship, or in this case, a week.

Without further ado:

Intenions for This Week/Big Picture:

To chip away at my Portland/life goals in an efficient, simple, minimal way. To go at an efficient but relaxed pace. To stick to original plans, but yield when doors close and remain flexible to changes and unexpected happenings–to live in the present moment and find the humor/niceties in every scenario, every moment.

To wake up grateful for the exact scenario, recounting my blessings, and never allow doubt or fear to guide my decisions.

To turn off my brain and act from my intuition.

To not fear missing out. To remember and focus only on the moment’s top priority, whatever that may be, and let all else disappear, knowing that I have enough, have always had enough, and will always have enough.

To remember that I don’t own anyone or any thing and never will, so therefore I have nothing to lose and everything to gain.

To not second-guess or worry about any decisions I made. To make decisions based on love and inspiration and let my complete and unjustified faith in myself and the universe meet me halfway. To know that it always will, every time. That all I can do is the best I can do, and the universe will show me what I need to learn.

To remember that I’m not missing out on anything.

To help others when I see the opportunity and have enough to give (always.) To remember life is lived off paper.

To remember that I’m not perfect and can never be, but that I can be perfectly and unabashedly myself.

To make plans and set goals but not get angry or disappointed when (not if) I don’t get to all of them.

To release all expectations of myself and those I come in contact with. To be patient and kind to myself and others. To let doors open and close, never using force, always asserting what I feel, think, and want, but never trying to change a scenario, always yielding and facilitating the opening and closing of doors. Keeping in mind that “when one door closes, another one opens.” Not giving my power away or letting things get past my mental “mudroom”, never reacting angrily to a door closing, but rather taking a moment before speaking or acting to think about what other doors I could walk through instead. Remembering that I have enough, do enough, and am enough. That my presence is enough. That existing is enough. That everything positive that happens is merely the icing on top of my cake, and that anything “negative” that happens can never take away from the fact that I have had the best cake ever. The cake is always enough.

To use my tools for good (brain, computer, relationships, etc).

To work when it’s time to work, and to rest when it’s time to rest. To let everything breathe–to act when action is required, and to hold the pose when there’s nothing to be done.

To remain equanimous–to break the link between feeling tones & craving; to be with the pleasant without chasing it, with the unpleasant without resisting it, and with the neutral without ignoring it.

To forgive myself when I “mess up”, without delay. To appreciate challenges and “setbacks” as opportunities to use my creativity and grow, to practice these ideas. To know that its this contrast that makes life beautiful and fun and interesting and that, no matter how much I whine or complain, I wouldn’t have it any other way. It’s a necessary part of the game.

To remember that it’s just a game, and to play for fun and not points.

To always value real, in-person connection above all else and to communicate and share ideas and goods as often as possible. Daily. Always look for opportunities to help others, dig for ways I can serve them, and not how they can help me or what I can get from them.

Laugh as often as possible.

Fuel my body with nourishing food.

Exert myself, but don’t over-exert myself.

Allow silence. Don’t try to fill every second.

To listen when others speak, and really hear them.

To address issues immediately, before they have a chance to fester and explode.

To be detached but warmly engaged with the world. To appreciate but to know I don’t NEED anything or any body.

To give only when I want to give, never to seek or need a response or reaction, and know that what I gave is enough. To remember that whatever anyone else gives or does is enough. To be confident yet vulnerable. Taking healthy risks.

To treat friends as family; to remember that an argument, disagreement or bump in the road doesn’t mean you break up; to move on with positive forward facing momentum and keep my eye on the big picture of what’s good for the whole team. To remember that a discussion never has to be an argument–that an issue never has to be a problem, that differences in opinion can be discussed in a relaxed, honest way and then moved on from.

To re-read “in the flow” days if (when) I feel disconnected, or talk with someone who gets me, or read my “balance” list and get back on track when I fall off.

To create every day. To find inspiration around me.

What are your intentions?

2012

Looking back on 2012, I can honestly say it was the most challenging year of my life so far. It’s also been the most incredible and growth-inducing because of it. I left my comfort zone a thousand times over, and made it through, with some unbelievable memories to boot. I pushed myself to the limit physically, mentally, and emotionally and I came out feeling more alive than ever.

So what exactly did I do?

Went camping for the first time: I spent the beginning of the year tying up loose ends and preparing for extended travel. I also snuck in some fun, and took my first camping trip ever (sad, I know, but better late than never). A few friends, some old and new, went to Death Valley–we hiked, cooked, played games, and shot the shit around the fire. I’d always been wary of camping for some reason, but after this first trip, I got HOOKED. Being outdoors all day, with no electronics, surrounded by upbeat, positive people, and the contrast of being so damn dirty for a couple days and then going home and showering.. oo what a feeling.

Traveled around the world: My longest adventure yet lasted almost the entire year, and so if for no other reason than sheer quantity (though there are definitely more reasons), this adventure was MASSIVE. I spent 8 months with one of my best friends traveling all around Thailand, Malaysia, Singapore, Australia, and New Zealand. I learned how to cook in the jungle, rode an elephant, swam in oceans and waterfalls, peed on a snake, sweated my ass off in Thai swamps, couchsurfed with Polish folks in Malaysia, met people every single day, walked across a jungle canopy, explored a letterpress print shop malaysia, ate a worm, ate frog, ate kangaroo, saw the mist roll across tea plantations, lived on a flower farm for 3 weeks, had close encounters with a Wallaby, saw Karen O perform live in the Sydney Opera House, lived in Melbourne for a month with a group of students, to name just a very very few of my favorite memories. I saw things I never thought I’d see, went places I never knew existed, and basically had my mind blown by the vastness and at the same time, the smallness of our planet.

Let go of YOG: After my year in Germany in 2011 working on my greeting card business,Ye Olde Gangster, it was really hard for me to say “see you later” to it as I left for my long travel journey. I spent a few months before I left stocking up on inventory and even getting a mentee-intern to ship the cards for me while I was away, but in the weeks leading up to my departure, a huge part of me wondered, “am I making the wrong choice traveling? I’m so close to getting somewhere juicy with my little company, and I’d really like to push it further. Am I making a mistake starting something new before I’ve “finished” Ye Olde Gangster?” But I had committed to the trip and so I followed through, I took a leap of faith and went with it. That’s not to say it was without difficulty or hiccups–in the first couple months of traveling I tried to work on it from afar. That only led to disappointment and frustration for both projects–Ye Olde Gangster and my travels. I wasn’t living “in the moment” on my trip and obviously you can’t get very far on a project that requires your presence when its thousands of miles away from you. With the help of my travel partner, I let go. I said, “see you later” to what felt like my baby, and let it do it’s own thing.

That opened up my days to adventure and new experiences, and it was also a great experiment to see if the business that I built to be “passive income” really worked “passively.” It was pretty incredible to see that it did in fact–I continued to make sales throughout the duration of the trip. While I slept, while I tanned on the beach, while I motorbiked across an island.. that was a truly satisfying feeling. To know that it could sustain itself. Waking up in the morning to an alert saying “you have received payment” is something that truly never gets old.

Sold my first Art Outline: I had the idea to sell my illustrations as vectors almost 2 years ago and even created the website for Art Outlines over a year ago. But I let doubt creep in, and before I could gain any real momentum on the project, I turned my attention elsewhere and let Art Outlines sit on the backburner. As I was unable to work on Ye Olde Gangster due to being so far from it, I decided to turn my attention to something I could work on during my down time on the road. I finally got the courage to list some of my illustrations for sale. I decided to stop stalling, stop waiting for the perfect moment, and just experiment a little. And then what happened? Absolutely nothing. At least for a while. But a couple months after I posted my first Art Outlines illustration for sale, something magical happened. On the 4th of July, American Independence day, a stranger across the world sent me $2 for my drawing of a deer. The money itself wasn’t what got me so damn excited. It was the fact that I had real live proof that I had a viable product. All I had to do was keep going.

The Eat Team: My long trip was about more than travel. My partner Hannah and I also endeavored a project along the way called The Eat Team. We interviewed artists, chefs, entrepreneurs, and creative people everywhere we went. We sought to meet people who really walked the talk, who went after their dreams instead of just thinking about them. The Eat Team got us out on the streets, and involved in the communities of the places we went in a richer way than either of us could have ever imagined. It gave us a reason to meet people we admired and wanted to share with others.

Faced one of my biggest fears: being flat broke. I have a long history of being a massive worrier. One of my biggest worries has always been running out of money, even when I had no reason to be worried. I have a history of saving for savings sake, and although that was good in a way because it allowed me to do what I did this year, it also set me up for a lot of stress. I knew going in to this trip that I would be exhausting my monetary supplies. But “they” say that you’ve gotta face your fears to overcome them and I guess I did just that. A funny thing happened as my account crept closer and closer to zero: I became realistic with my choices. It forced me to get super specific and realistic with what I could and could not afford. It forced me to hammer out my budget. I also learned one of my biggest lessons–don’t try and handle a problem before it becomes a problem. There is absolutely no point in worrying about “what could happen” because you’ll never actually know what will happen unless you reach it. And I found that when I hit rock bottom monetarily, absolutely nothing bad happened. I was still a worthy person, I still had a home, I still had shelter, I still had food in my belly. And when it came time to take action and make more money, that’s exactly what I did. There is absolutely no reason to worry, if you know you can rely on yourself, and that there are always enough opportunities given to make shit happen, you will make shit happen. Two friends who had been in similar situations told me the exact same thing separately: it comes down to unjustified faith in yourself. Unjustified faith in the universe doesn’t hurt either. You don’t have to worry if you know you’ll be there for yourself.

Got closer to Oprah: I met four people who know Oprah. This gets its own category because Oprah is a mega badass and it’s one of my dreams to meet her and work together one day.

Said goodbye to my best friend: After 17 years together, I had gotten so used to leaving for long periods of time to travel or live in another place and coming home to find her still curled up on the couch, that I guess I thought Sweetie would never kick the bucket. I thought, she’s so damn old, she’s passed the point of dying. If it was going to happen, it already would have. But one winter’s day in Australia as I was skyping my parents, they had a funny look on their faces. They told me she wasn’t doing well. “What do you mean?” They told me she hadn’t moved much at all for a week, that she grew weaker and thinner by the day. I was angry they hadn’t called to tell me. They put her on the camera and with tears in my eyes, I called my kitty’s name. My parents said it was the first time all week she moved. I cried and said goodbye to a friend who’d been with me through thick and thin. I was grateful to get to “see” her one last time, and just let the sadness wash over me. It was one of the purest and strongest feelings I’ve ever felt. I was happy and grateful for the times we shared together, and just so sad I wouldn’t see my friend again.

Got an mentern: I hired my first employee, to ship my Ye Olde Gangster cards while I was away in return for mentorship on her own projects. It was pretty terrifying to hand over my entire business to someone else, but I took a risk and tried the experiment and it was definitely worth it. I think we both learned a lot about working relationships. Just like any other relationship, it takes a lot of communication for both parties to get what they want and for the team to run efficiently.

Came Home, reconnected: Returning home was just as good as leaving was. It was also pretty heavy. I went through a pretty rough transition period as I digested what I had just experienced. I broke down and then broke through. I picked myself back up, surrounded by friends and family and familiarity. I rediscovered myself and came through the other side feeling revitalized and strong.

Found a way of eating: I had been looking forward to trying the Paleo diet for quite some time, and I finally got to devote some real time to it upon returning to America. After many months on the road having a pretty wild diet (aka eat anything and everything because I’m traveling), I was feeling more than ready for some consistently healthy food. Hannah and I did a Paleo experiment together, inspired by Joel Runyon’s 6 pack experiment. We were strict about it for 3 weeks, and combined it with short but high intensity workouts 6x a week, and even in that short period of time, it was apparent in body and mind how beneficial the effects were. Almost 3 months later and I’m hooked for the foreseeable future. I feel like I found the style of eating that really nourishes me, and that I enjoy. It’s hard to call it a diet when I get to smother everything in bacon fat and avocado.

Moved to Portland: After 8 months of constant travel, I was really looking forward to setting down some roots and routines. I’ve only been here for a few weeks so far and I’m still in the midst of setting myself up, but it’s been apparent since day 1 how incredible this place is. I came here without a place to live, without many friends, and without a job. And though all of that did scare me, I remembered how I felt inspired when I made the decision to live here, and so I didn’t allow doubt or worry to take over. I put my forward-facing-blinders on and charged ahead, doing everything in my power to get what I want (a beautiful place to live, a supportive group of friends, an additional source of income) and let things happen. I repeated the mantra “unjustified faith in yourself, in the universe” over and over, and told myself “UR DOIN IT RITE!” and somehow all the pieces of the puzzle have been falling into place. I feel incredibly lucky and grateful and am damn excited to see what the future brings here in my new home.

Met the most amazing people: It all boils down to this. People are the real juice of it, the real heart of any story. I met so many damn inspiring people it makes me well up a little just thinking about it. There are way too many names to name so I’m not even going to start.

What did I learn in 2012? I guess I’m going to have to write a whole book to answer that one, and it’s probably not a coincidence that’s exactly what I’ll be doing. I learned about “going with the flow”, letting go of one thing in order to fully experience another, not asking “why” (the answer is only ever “because”), and the secret is.. there is no secret. Life is pretty damn simple, you just have to really do and experience things. You can’t just talk about them.

I learned that living a good life “on paper” is as good as having a piece of paper. It is meaningless. Life happens in us, in other people, in other living beings. That contact, connection, experience, that’s what matters. And numbers and papers are big piles of nothing. I learned to give less attention to paper, and more attention to reality.

But the biggest thing I learned was how to be with other people. Traveling with my buddy Hannah, I shared my whole life, every waking moment with another person. I learned how to be myself around others, and how to really stick together. To see something through from start to finish, no matter what. I learned that you have to constantly communicate with one another, to say what you’re thinking and feeling, because nobody can read your mind and nobody else knows what you want but you. It’s nobody else’s responsibility to take care of your needs, and if you’re not speaking up for yourself, they won’t get met. I learned to take responsibility for myself at all times, and how to embrace the “two heads are better than one” idea. I learned what it meant to work out issues as they arose, and know that we’d get through things together. That a discussion never had to be an argument. That an issue never had to be a problem. I learned how to give and receive in a free way, where both parties enjoyed and benefitted from both aspects. I learned about honesty, at all times, and practiced it with increasing directness, only to find that I felt better and other parties appreciated it too. I learned a lot about accepting my feelings, no matter what, and taking it a step further and sharing them with my friend. I learned that life doesn’t fit in a box, that people don’t fit in boxes, and that the beauty of it all is sitting with discomfort. Accepting and embracing that silence. And doing it with other people is just as great as doing it alone.

I think in essence, I learned how to love more.

Shit Sandwiches

What is a Shit Sandwich?

A Shit Sandwich is a pile of shit sandwiched between two pieces of bread. If it sounds disgusting and unappetizing, that’s because it is.

You’ve probably never ordered one purposefully, but if you’re a human on earth, a few people have probably tried to serve you one.

A Shit Sandwich has nothing to do with you, and has no power to cause you harm unless you eat it. You may have had no power over the fact that someone decided to serve you a shit sandwich (unless you asked for one specifically), but you do have power over what happens when you are served your Shit Sandwich.

If you’re like me, you don’t want to eat a pile of shit.  All you have to do to avoid the harmful effects of the Shit Sandwich is to weild your power to say no. Just don’t eat it. Send it right back where it came from. It cannot hurt you nor cause any harm should you choose to reject it.

Let’s get real

Am I being too vague here? Let’s get real with some real world examples.

The other day I was sitting in a coffee shop, and I noticed both plugs were in use by other customers. I said to the woman next to me, “hi, I have a question for you: if your computer will last for a while unplugged and you don’t mind, would it be alright to charge mine for a while?  You can definitely say no, it’s no problem if you’re still using it.”

She said, “Ok, I’m leaving.”

I thought she meant, “sure, I was just leaving, go for it” but I quickly found out I was mistaken.

As she gathered her belongings, she went on, raising her voice “YOU ARE EXTREMELY RUDE, INCONSIDERATE, AND NOW YOU ARE INCONVENIENCING ME. YOUR GLASSES DON’T MAKE YOU SMART! I WAS JUST WRITING ABOUT PEOPLE WITH GLASSES, THEY ARE SO RUDE. YOU ARE JUST A CHILD IN A WOMAN’S BODY, AND JUST BECAUSE YOUR FAMILY DOESN’T SUPPORT YOU DOESN’T MEAN YOU CAN TAKE IT OUT ON OTHERS. YOU ARE EXTREMELY RUDE AND…..” At this point, the woman who was sitting next to us gets up and vacates the area. I’m standing there like a deer in the headlights, shocked, confused, and speechless. I look over at the woman who’s escaped the reign of terror in the hopes that she’ll come back and save me, then realize I’m going it alone.

My first instinct is to sling it right back at her, but I quickly realize the situation for what it really is: I have just been served a giant hot plate of Shit Sandwich. Me reacting to her at all would be consuming the Shit Sandwich I just got served.

I realized that her actions had nothing to do with me, and so I sat back down, saying nothing. I didn’t have to defend myself, I had nothing to explain, and I didn’t want to serve her a Shit Sandwich either even if it was my first instinct–two wrongs don’t make a right.

The best thing you can do for yourself and for the Shit Sandwich Server is to leave well enough alone. Abstain completely. Remove yourself from the situation.  Because otherwise you’re going to keep getting served more and more Shit Sandwiches. People everywhere will start to see that you readily accept Shit Sandwiches and thoroughly enjoy them. If you, like me, don’t like eating Shit Sandwiches, you’ve got to put your foot down and set some boundaries. It’s nothing personal against the server–they are not a bad person for serving you a Shit Sandwich. But at the same time, you don’t have to eat it. Let the server handle his or her Shit Sandwich issues without you in the picture.

The key is recognizing that you are being served a Shit Sandwich, because obviously it is not always immediately obvious. You see the nice toasty hot bread first, and you must look between the buns to see the meat of the matter. Or in this case, the shit of the matter.  Once you know that someone is trying to serve you a steaming pile of Bullshit, you can then easily call “Bullshit” and go back to what you were doing.

I think a stranger from Safeway sums it up best:

“I do not respond positively to negative stimuli.”

Say no to Shit Sandwiches, my friend. Your body and mind will thank you for it.

Rediscovering Yourself

Sometimes I feel lost.  Coming back home after 6.5 months of constant travel in places I’d never been to before was one of those times.  I felt relieved, confused, helpless, weak, scared, and worried.

Shouldn’t I have been bursting with glee to brag about my cool trip?  Climbing volcanoes in New Zealand, riding an elephant in Thailand, trekking rainforests in Malaysia, and working with some of my best friends on a farm in Australia are some of my most incredible, unforgettable, and priceless experiences to date.  I met some of the most inspiring people, tasted the most savory dishes, and saw the most breathtaking views.

And yet, after filling up with all these new adventures, I felt somehow deflated.  Disconnected.  Lost.

What was missing, I found out, was me.  I had just about stretched myself too thin, too many new adventures, too little familiarity.

I had lost sight of myself, a bit.  So, I searched.  And at home, surrounded by my parents, my friends, my belongings, my bed, my clothes, my city, my friends, my bike, my city, my photos, my art, and so on.. it was easy to find reminders of who I was.  I seemed to have forgotten my sense of self, what I wanted, and what I was doing.  But for the last two weeks that I’ve been home, I took the time to immerse myself in all of that.

I caught up with old friends, dressed up in my favorite clothes that didn’t come in my travel bag, went to my favorite eateries with my parents, rode my bike down my favorite trails, and sorted through years of old art.  The most awakening and inspiring parts of it all was reading all of my old journals, from childhood through to university and up to the present day.  It is extremely powerful to see and read your own story, to see how you overcame past challenges, epiphanies you had that still ring true today, and gain new insights by shedding light on old writings.  It’s fascinating to see your own evolution, and doing so helps you appreciate everything your past self has done for you to get you right where you are today.

When you’re feeling lost and stuck, sometimes it’s hard to motivate to do a lot, but it’s just like exercise–you whine and complain and procrastinate but once you’ve actually done it, you feel on top of the world.  You’re proud of yourself and it gives you a boost to do other things.  I forced myself to do all these things that my subconscious knew would make me feel proud and give me a boost.

It’s all about showing up, and in this case, it’s about showing up for yourself.

Eating Ice Cream Every Day

My travel buddy Hannah of The Eat Team and I just finished a five-day road trip across New Zealand’s north island.  We had an epic adventure, climbed mountains, showered in a rainbow waterfall, visited the Lord of the Rings Hobbiton village at The Shire, ate a ton of junk food, read literary trash fiction, got drunk, played cards, laughed, and generally did absolutely nothing productive.

As part of our ongoing travels for The Eat Team, we’re calling, interviewing, writing, planning, photographing, and running around like madmen working hard and playing hard on a daily basis.

But on our little road trip, we didn’t do a single interview for The Eat Team.  We didn’t send a single email.  We left our phones off for days on end. And we indulged in procrastination and nothingness to the highest degree.

It’s not like doing stuff for The Eat Team is a hassle and to be honest it doesn’t much feel like work at all– it’s exactly what we would want to be doing even without a project like this.  (That’s the point of a dream right?)  It’s just that, no matter what you do, you can’t do it day in and day out without pause.  Even though ice cream one of my favorite things in the world, I wouldn’t want to eat it 30 days in a row.

The week leading up to the road trip left both of us feeling a bit uneasy–we were in Auckland with at least 15 incredibly talented folks ready and willing to meet us.  We had a backlog of over thirty articles and interviews already conducted and just waiting to be written, edited, and posted.  We had a place to stay for the next two nights and absolutely no plan after that.  We desperately wanted a break from the nonstop action and jam-packed schedule, but we were consumed by FOMO.  We got a golden opportunity to take a roadtrip, but we didn’t want to let those people down who were waiting to hear back from us, especially those who we already had scheduled meetings with.

What did we do?

We decided to let go.  We acknowledged the fact that no matter how much we tried to do and see, there was absolutely no way we’d ever see and do it all.  So we let go of it all.  We got in touch with the people we were meant to meet, apologized for canceling, and packed our bags.

Today is the first day that Hannah and I have gotten back into “working” on The Eat Team, scheduling, planning, writing, photographing, and tackling the daily steps of bringing our bigger dream into reality.

We spent the entire day in our pajamas behind our computer screens, emailing and facebooking and twittering and preparing and planning and the beauty is this: although the thought of this last week would have overwhelmed us, it did not. because we took a big fat indulgent break last week, today felt like just as much fun as showering in a waterfall by the sea.

It was refreshing.  I feel totally inspired again and ready to take on anything.  I think that’s the beauty of this nomadic lifestyle which feels more and more like a normal life.  There’s huge variety in it, and when one situation becomes tiresome, we move on to the next one.  We repeat them alternately, and each of them are just as enjoyable because of the rotation.

Last week, adventuring and hiking and roughing it and indulging felt like heaven.  Today, I couldn’t think of anything better than lounging and working and waking up in a real bed and drinking tea and eating a crumpet.  On Thursday, I’m looking forward to getting back out in the world again and interviewing some new folks in Wellington.

Sometimes you do this, sometimes you do that.  Sometimes you’re here, sometimes you’re there.  Sometimes you’re up, sometimes you’re down.  They’re all a necessary part of the balance, the rhythm, the flow, whatever you wanna call it.  This is as much a reminder to myself as it is to you: don’t fear either side, just let it pass through you and keep on moving,  keep on making decisions, keep on firing, just keep on swimming.  Don’t beat yourself up if you’re feeling burnt out–take a break and embrace it!

Just like in a photo, it’s the contrast that makes life beautiful.

Handling The Lows

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The sweet spot to maintain mental clarity. "Good" and "bad" events will always be in your life. "Good" and "bad" emotional states are also natural and unavoidable. The only thing you can control is how you view and respond to them.

I spent the last two and a half days doing absolutely nothing.  I cancelled every hangout, meeting, and party I had planned, shirked all responsibilities, ignored my emails, all so I could do… not a single “productive” thing.  And as much as I wanted to want to do these fun things and carry on with my work, my intuition said no.  It said my brain was overloaded.  And so I succumbed to my “weakness” and hid in my room like a werewolf waiting for the human/”good” self to come back out.  I also read, walked, biked, ate, cried, laughed, drank, and more.  I listened to my intuition, even though my ego wanted to carry on with scheduled programming.

But I’ve put “weakness” in quotations because I’m learning that if I view this low state as a normal, natural, and necessary occurrence (sweet alliteration, or?), and let it take its course without judging myself, it passes without adding insult to injury.  That is, it doesn’t make me feel less like crying or hiding, but it makes me feel okay to cry or hide.  I feel pretty damn good about this realization.  When I can remember that its a passing state, and that everyone I know goes through the same thing (even Tim Ferriss) then I also can keep it in perspective.

I’ve tried to convey my understanding in a highly advanced technologically and scientifically sound graph above.  The blue line represents the “good” and “bad” events which happen in your life.  (I’ve put these words in quotations because I don’t think there are good events or bad events.. they are both equally necessary, but that’s a topic for another day.) For example winning the lottery is up at the top of the orange curve, and getting stabbed is down at the bottom.  ”Good” and “bad” events such as these are gonna happen no matter what you do or how you feel.

Similarly, you will feel both “good” and “bad” at different times in your life (as illustrated by the yellow line); by this, I mean natural fluctuations in your hormone levels and brain activity that just make you feel a certain way, regardless of actual events.  Have you ever felt on top of the world, even when you had an outwardly shitty day, full of mishaps, miscommunications, and failures?  Or have you ever felt terrible even when you had nothing to complain about?  If so, you know what I mean when I say the blue and yellow lines have nothing to do with one another.  These two lines have nothing to do with each other; the “happy” emotional state you feel after winning the lottery has nothing to do with your natural emotional states, but rather it would be part of the third, black line, which is your reaction to both of the other lines.  For example, this weekend, my emotional state (orange line) was on the bottom, even though I had no actual reason or event that caused it.  On the contrary, my events (blue line) have been pretty close to as high as possible for the last few weeks and I had nothing on the orange line to be upset about.  However, since the blue and orange are independent, I was free to feel like crap.  But this time around the low bend of the rollercoaster of my yellow line, I managed to (for the most part) keep my black line straight.  And that’s what rocks.

And since I’m always fumbling to maintain that shiny black straightness that pervades cool and unattached-ness to outcomes when I hit the bottom of the yellow curve, here are my top tips for keeping my cool until the bend swings itself back up.

Read, read, read.  Especially fresh material, and things that inspired you in the past.  Try on some different perspectives, and be reminded of other parts of life.  When I’m feeling low, I really love the cheesiest material imaginable, like Paulo Coelho’s classic novel, The Alchemist.  I seriously cried reading Tuesdays With Morrie this weekend, and I have never cried over a book or movie in my life.  That was cool.  I also loved watching this compilation of awesome Will Smith wisdom .

Treat yourself to great food.  Splurge a little, indulge.  I don’t just mean eat a bucket of nutella, but take yourself out to a nice lunch, and nourish your body.  Cause what you put into your body affects your mind.

Make a list of a few things to be thankful for.  You might even find that after you start, you want to keep going on, and on, and on.  Mine usually starts with really small things, like “Thank you for sunshine.  Thank you for the cool breeze.” and today it ended with thanking people who have challenged me or been angry at or disrespected me.  I thanked them for teaching me patience, and for helping me grow stronger.  For showing me how to be better next time, to act with courage and love.  For forcing me to think creatively, and suspend judgment.  To let go of resentment.

Let yourself cry if you want to.  There’s no shame in it at all.  It’s totally fine, normal, and valid.  And guess what.. you’re not the only one who’s ever cried before or felt the exact same way you do.  Pretty much everyone has, and will again.  You will feel like this again too, so don’t fool yourself thinking otherwise ;)  But on the other side of the spectrum, you’ll also feel ecstatic again.  Accept your emotion, embrace it, and when it’s time, move on to the next one.

Draw or paint.  My super wise and awesome roommate Jenni (who also played a big part on my 30-day learning german challenge) reminded me that it can be ugly as hell; that nobody but you has to see it, and that using your creativity usually puts you in a different emotional state.  Focus on media meeting paper; it doesn’t have to look good.  Get lost in a picture.

Go to a park & watch children and dogs play.  Remember that sense of freedom, playfulness, creativity & experimentation they have?  How freaking awesome is it?  So awesome, I know.  Don’t forget to let their attitudes infect you, when you’re ready to let go of your current emotional state and move on.

Sing.  If it’s not tooooo overwhelming cheesy when you’re feeling low, and you have the energy, I definitely recommend this one.  Sing as loud as possible.  Put the ipod on full-blast; take a walk or stay inside.

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Why do you have highs and lows? Why does night complement day? Why is anything the way it is? Just simply because.

Listen to music.  Really listen to it.  If you’re feeling angry and you want to embrace it for a while, put on something with fiery passion–I like Audioslave’s “Show Me How To Live” and Nirvana songs where Kurt is yelling like a maniac.  If you’re ready to move on from your emotional state (take your time!!) put on something that will put you in your new desired state.  When I’m ready to move towards a more relaxed/positive mindset, I love anything by Air, ragtime jazz, and the Amelie soundtrack.  Cliche?  Don’t know, don’t care.

Get out in nature. Observe your surroundings, appreciate the colors & smells.  Take your shoes off and get your feet dirty.  Remember you’re just another part of this crazy/awesome world, and connect to it through the soles of your feet, the air in your lungs, the sun in your eyes.

Exercise. If you’re full of energy and/or pent-up RAGE, go sweat it off.  Create some endorphins.  Release your tension with some physical movement. Don’t promise yourself you’re gonna do a two-hour long workout; just start small.. jog to the corner and see how you feel after that.

Hide in your room.  If that’s what you feel like doing, so be it.  Take a nap, read a book, cry, draw, watch youtube videos, whatever.. just let yourself do exactly what you want.  And most importantly don’t feel bad about it.  Hiding in your room is a valid exercise, and downtime is totally necessary.  Embrace your solitude and enjoy your own company.  Just don’t let solitude turn into loneliness.  When you’re ready for the world, get out there.

Meet a friend.  In person, at home, at a party, on skype.  But not just anybody.  Make 100% sure its a friend who will support you and can relate to how you’re feeling.  Otherwise there’s a good chance they’ll bring you right back down again.

Remember that you’re awesome.  This one is hard if you’re in one of those “fuck the world, rainbows and unicorns suck, and i’m the worst person in the universe” phases, but it pretty much always makes me feel good to look at past things that I’m proud of or that brought me joy, like photographs of people and places I love.  Just make sure not to think “those were the glory days, nothing will ever be as good as that was” because it just ain’t true.  People and places come in and out of your life; savor the goodness they brought, and move on to the next chapter when its time.  More awesomeness awaits.

Remember that all of this is super fucking difficult.  Especially when you’re feeling low.  But do it anyways.  Or at least try one of them (or one from your own list) for 10 seconds.  Maybe you’ll find you want to do more than 10 seconds.  I’m not a pro, but with practice, I’m getting better at remembering all this, little by little.

Trust your intuition.  This is the most important of all.  It overrules every other suggestion on this list, because as well-intentioned as they are, nothing beats your own inner voice.  Even if the rest of your brain and body disagrees with that voice, and your own mom tells you otherwise, and your friends say you’re crazy: do exactly what that voice says.  Cause that’s the only way you’re gonna feel content.  And the awesome part about this is that your intuition always, 100% without a doubt has an opinion–my good friend Sebastian, aka Mr. Minimalist reminded me of that.  It may be quiet at times, almost inaudible–I know that’s the case when I’m feeling low.  But it’s there.  You just have to take a minute, or an hour, or a day, or a week, or a year to simmer down and listen.  But once you hear it, don’t fight with it.  Just let it lead you, because it has your best interests in mind.

What are your methods for handling the lows?

30 Day Challenge Recap: Relaxation

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I’m proud to announce that my 30 Day Challenge to relax was a complete success. I am now an ordained zen master and my life is flawless! ;)

Because this month’s 30 day challenge was not physically measurable as the learning German challenge was, I don’t have anything physical to show for my work and I have no way of quantifying the success. And if the success of this challenge was dependent on my ability to never be shocked or surprised or anxious for one second, then I failed.

But if I can label it a success because I remembered to consider each moment through the perspective lens of relaxation, or because I talked about it with my friends and almost everyone I encountered for the last 30 days and learned what relaxation meant to them, then I might be okay with labeling it a success. But I feel pretty relaxed in this moment, and I think a relaxed person wouldn’t really worry about whether their experiment counted as a failure or a success.. they’d just realize they learned a lot and move on.

A RUNNING START

In the beginning of the challenge, my strategy was: whenever I had a worrying thought, I’d tell myself that worrying wasn’t allowed and that was interesting and it worked for a while. But at some point, it began to feel I was depriving myself of something: it’s like when you tell yourself that chocolate is not allowed. At some point, the hungry baby in you takes over and says “Fuck you, I’m doing this anyways”. So, after about a week or so, the angry baby in me said to my sensible self, “Fuck you, I wanna worry!” The thing was, it felt like I was saving my worries for later, and that I was just procrastinating. I was avoiding rather than addressing my worries.

NEW PERSPECTIVE

In the middle of my few-days-bout of slight worrying, my good friend came from Great Britain to visit me and see Berlin for the first time.

Emma (let’s just call her that in case she doesn’t want to be named) is one of my favorite people in the world because she has a seemingly unwavering abundance of positivity. She’s always calm, has great insight, and things just seem to flow easily around her.

In attempt to understand how she could possibly so composed & chilled (and really to prove she was a different species of human than me) I asked at least 1 million variations of “But, don’t you get worried when ____ happens?” The answer was always no. I told her that my natural state, when I wasn’t concsciously making a decision to be relaxed or positive, was frazzled or.. dare I say it.. negative. She said that hers was either neutral or happy. I was shocked.. I had never considered that was possible, as silly as it sounds.

I was under the impression that everyone has good days and everyone has bad days. That’s just the way we humans work–hormones and the like. And I know that this is true to some extent that there are natural fluctuations in energy and hormones, but I think what Emma showed me was that its not necessary to let your emotions/fears/worries run wild on up and down swings.

I don’t NEED to worry!?!? I was always under the impression that if I wasn’t worrying, I wouldn’t get the job done properly–I (subconsciously?) thought that thinking about my “problems” all the time meant that I was working towards their resolution, and otherwise I was being lazy. Sounds a bit stupid to me now, but realizing that worrying is a choice and its useless, that its not engrained in human nature, and that a neutral/happy default state was possible… it was truly a revelation. It’s as exciting as the time it finally clicked that I never HAD to get a standard 9-5 job to qualify as an adult, or when I realized I didn’t NEED a room full of new clothes & the latest gadgets to be content.

Emma’s visit also provided insight for my challenge indirectly, even when we weren’t discussing the topic directly. She only had 3 days in Berlin, and that’s not even remotely enough time to see and do everything here. But instead of worrying and trying to fit everything in all at once, we just picked one thing at a time. We didn’t second-guess ourselves and think “maybe it would have been better if we did this instead” or “perhaps we should ditch this plan and go here instead”.

I wanted to be a good host and often that can be a stressful situation, with pressure to entertain. But Emma had no expectations and there was no pressure for either of us this way. It wasn’t so much about what we did, but just that we enjoyed whatever it was. We made a decision and stuck with it.

WHAT’S IT ALL MEAN?

I can’t say that I’m perfect at relaxation now, but I definitely feel I’ve gained a lot of insight about it. I also feel like something has clicked into place, and I think the main idea is the revelation that my default/natural state doesn’t have to be negative–I don’t HAVE to be thinking of things to worry about. (I also don’t have to be positive, and I don’t have to be mad at myself when I’m not in a bubbly mood…)

If I have no expectations for myself or for my plans or for a problem or decision to be resolved in a specific way, then I can never be disappointed. I can just BE. I realized that most of the time when I’m in a negative state and no unpleasant event has actually triggered it, I’m just searching for problems to worry about.

Worrying truly never helps the situation, and I guess much of my worrying comes from decision making: will I make the RIGHT decision? And time and time again, it’s become clear to me that its not about any specific decision, its just choosing one without overanalyzing. Because the outcome never matters either–in my 23 years of life, every single outcome of every single problem I’ve ever encountered has always somehow turned out.. ok. No worst-case-scenario that ever became a reality shook me so hard that I was unable to bounce back.

So if all of my seemingly unsurmountable difficulties from the past worked out okay whether or not I worried about them, then I guess every single “insurmountable problem” that I will have in the future will also work themselves out with no harm to my consciousnes.. wehther or not I worry about them. And since worrying is not necessary.. I have a choice–to worry or not. I don’t want to set any expectations of myself, so I can’t make any promises about never worrying again. But for right now at least, I’m not worried. And that’s a damn good feeling.