Monday, August 27, 2012

Monday Mantra: Live Like No One Else

mantra is a sound, syllable, word, or group of words that is considered capable of "creating transformation".

Every Monday I will post a new thought, idea, or focus for the week. When you need a breather from life, when you need a little inspiration, or when you're about to jump over the conference table and strangle your co-worker, remember the mantra.

Monday Mantra: Live like no one else
For the last 30 days I've been repeating this to myself. Over and over and over. I applied it to everything- lifestyle, health, finances- everything.

If I can live like no one else, later I can live like no one else. 

I'm not going to say my whole life changed overnight, especially since I did some serious shopping this weekend in Sedona (I blame the vortex's pull!), but it did work the magic it was supposed to for the most part.

Every time I did something I would think about it first. What about the future? What about the long term goals I have? Does this hurt or help? Nine times out of ten, when it didn't help, I wouldn't do it and I wouldn't feel like I had missed out on anything because I knew I had something better planned in the future. I knew I had something I wanted later in life and to get it, I had to be aware of the present choices I was making. In fact, repeating this mantra helped me to be so aware of my choices that I ended up setting new life goals, I refinanced my house, I called a University about getting a new degree, and I did about 27 other important tasks that I had been putting off.

Awareness. It's so helpful. If I can live like no one else, later I can live like no one else. 

It's easy to get caught up in the now - the Right Now - while forgetting about the future. Long term goals, especially in this day and age of instant gratification for practically everything, can easily be lost. Having repeated this to myself daily, it reminded me that I was in control of the outcome of my future, even by the smallest of small choices, and that those choices would either be improved or sabotaged based on the decisions I was making now.

What do you want out of life? Next year? Five years from now? When you're 67 years old with 5 grandkids running around? I know what I want and I'm slowly but steadily working towards it, one day and one reminder at a time. I just have to remember that if I want it later, I have to change my ways now. It's all for the better in the long run.

What motto do you use to get you from where you are to where you want to be?

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Improve the Silence

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Thursday, August 23, 2012

One Year Later

This has been the longest year of my life, with the least amount of sleep. Just as I thought I was fine with the day approaching, I suddenly break down into the type of uncontrollable sobbing that even my dog has no clue how to deal with.

Tomorrow will be here too soon.

Dear Gramma,

I miss you.

I miss Sunday afternoons at your house. Lunch after church.The smell of the coffee filling the kitchen. The board games we would play around the table. You rocking me to sleep when I was small and I thought my world was falling apart.

I miss our warm afternoons at the park when the weather was nice. Car rides to Pine. The surprise visits you and mom would make to my office for surprise lunch breaks.

I miss Christmas at your house. The wrapping paper thrown about. The music playing on the old record player. Late night car rides to see all the sparkling lights.

I miss Thanksgiving. Birthdays. Weekends back home. I miss every holiday at your house, every moment spent there. Every single one.

I miss seeing you laugh at Samson, seeing him make you happy, seeing you smile. I miss your quick wit and your wise nature. I miss your kindness. Your love. You.

I miss the little things. Like swinging on the porch with everyone. Planting in the garden. Walking around the circle after dinner. Doing meaningless chores with you that actually meant the world to me, simply because I was with you.

I miss the way we talked without talking. Knew without words. The way we were the same person, the way we balanced everything out, the way we were together.

I miss everything.

I miss you.

I miss you.

Tomorrow will be here too soon.

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Monday, August 20, 2012

Monday Mantra: What a Wonderful World

mantra is a sound, syllable, word, or group of words that is considered capable of "creating transformation".

Every Monday I will post a new thought, idea, or focus for the week. When you need a breather from life, when you need a little inspiration, or when you're about to jump over the conference table and strangle your co-worker, remember the mantra.

Monday Mantra: It's a wonderful world

Allillanchu and Yus Pagarasunki (Hello and Thank You in the Quechuan language),

Ever have one of those days where upside down feels right side up and you're pretty sure the world is spinning faster than it should? Welcome to my day today. My friend, Janice, and I just got back from a trip to Peru and I'm getting reacquainted with civilization and all things modern, like Excel spreadsheets at work and driving a car again and having those Adult Things called responsibilities.

I'm also a little bit whacked out from the elevation pills you have to take to climb Machu Picchu, so I'm not even sure if any of this is going to make sense. I'm pretty sure I'm still sleeping right now actually, because I feel a bit delirious. In the words of David after the Dentist, is this real life? I haven't gotten to the weird screaming. Yet. I hope to avoid it. (And this is why I don't do drugs, my friends. Prescribed or otherwise. It's freaking weird up in my head right now)

While I can't wait to tell you all about the trip and the wonderful people of Peru, I have to catch up on being a grownup in "the real world". Also, I should probably do my laundry ASAP because it smells like a heard of alpaca's followed me home. So here it is:

Peru is freaking awesome.

I can't really say it any other way. The people are incredibly kind, it's beautiful, and you come back appreciating all the wonderful things you have in life because of the hardships they face. Which is something I think a lot of us need every now and then.

I came home realizing how grateful I am. For people like you. And for this wonderful life I've been given, deliriousness and all. For a house with actual walls and a ceiling, where I can control the temperature and I don't have to rebuild it every 3 months due to it sinking in a lake or because of frequent earthquakes. For hot water guaranteed at all times of the day. For more than one set of clothes to wear for an entire year. For every little thing I may have forgotten to be thankful for recently.

I will post more later on the amazingness of that place, but for now I just want to take a moment to be grateful for everything I have been given.

What a wonderful life. What a wonderful world.

Thank you for being a part of it.

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Sunday, August 12, 2012

Monday Mantra: Improve the Silence

mantra is a sound, syllable, word, or group of words that is considered capable of "creating transformation".

Every Monday I will post a new thought, idea, or focus for the week. When you need a breather from life, when you need a little inspiration, or when you're about to jump over the conference table and strangle your co-worker, remember the mantra.

Monday Mantra: Speak only if it improves the silence

In keeping with the theme of the post today, I will keep this short and sweet in hopes that it improves the silence in your space while you read it. 

When I was studying yoga we learned the phrase, "Speak only if it improves the silence." It had never occurred to me before to not fill those awkward, silent moments with nothing but more silence, as opposed to empty words. Or to not say something in response to a question or a conversation if I truly had nothing worthwhile to say, rather than speaking just so I could fit in, so I could belong to that conversation.

When you bring awareness front and center in your dialogue, you suddenly realize how much more you can contribute by ensuring what you're adding has value.

Remember that words have power. Think of a time someone told you they loved you. How did you feel? Or a time someone said something cruel to you- how did you feel then? Or even those times when the only response you got back was an, "Uh huh, yeah, OK" because the other person wasn't really listening. How did that make you feel? 

Words- They can make someone's day, ruin it, destroy a life, heal a broken heart, or get lost in the sea of too much chit chat. 

Be mindful of what you're saying. Next time you don't have something that will add value, try speaking in silence. See what the silence can do for you instead. 

What does your silence say?

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Monday, August 6, 2012

Monday Mantra: I Found More in Moorea than the Sand, Sun, and Sea

mantra is a sound, syllable, word, or group of words that is considered capable of "creating transformation".
Every Monday I will post a new thought, idea, or focus for the week. When you need a breather from life, when you need a little inspiration, or when you're about to jump over the conference table and strangle your co-worker, remember the mantra.

Monday Mantra:  Find more

Belvedere Lookout
Moorea, French Polynesia
Society 6
Close your eyes and think of the place you've always longed to go to.  Is is windy, warm, sunny? Is there sand under your toes or snow? Do you smell the flowers blossoming, feel the rain on your skin, hear the birds calling?

Where are you?

My place had always been French Polynesia. I had wanted to go ever since I saw a little bungalow over some beautiful blue water in a travel pamphlet years back. That was all it took, that was all I needed. Back in April I made my dream come true. Back in April I went to the island of Moorea, the closest place to paradise that you can possibly get. 

I went alone and in doing so, made friends I might not have made had I traveled with company. I say this because going alone made me do things I wouldn't have done normally and actually wasn't planning on doing. I ate dinner with a cute older couple on vacation, hung out with a bunch of honeymooners and anniversary celebrators, hugged a complete stranger in shark infested waters, got hugged by a complete stranger at an outdoor market after he sang me a song about why I should date him, and became known across the island as the Eat, Pray, Love Girl. It's amazing how many things can happen when you say yes to the unknown adventures that lie ahead. 

French Polynesia is typically a place for couples. This is why I got my nickname, being on my own in the land of honeymooners. While I may have seemed awkward and out of place at times, people were kind, understanding, and actually quite complimentary of me and my solo travels. Each person I met made me feel more and more welcome and by the end, I was certainly not alone.

My first day there I met Brian, the tour guide. Over the course of the week I would see Brian almost daily. I'd pass him on a walk and he'd offer me a ride or he'd offer to grab some food for me from the market. Within my first few minutes on the island, I knew I had someone I could count on for anything I needed.

My first day there it also rained. Not a soul was out swimming, but I couldn't stand it. I had come all this way, waited all these years, and couldn't handle being locked up in my bungalow. I went out into the rain and I swam, and swam, and swam. Then (in traditional custom of me being me) I beat myself up on accident. What the travel pamphlets don't tell you is that there are crabs all over the island, sometimes on the steps to your bungalow. If you don't want to touch them - and I surely did not - then you have to somehow hoist yourself up the step and avoid them. I am not a good hoister, but I am an excellent slip-off-the-step-and-bang-yourself-up-er.

That night I had dinner at the French restaurant, Le Martinez, down the street. There I met Gabby, the waitress who was sweet and would come talk to me on and off throughout the night. She offered to spend a whole day with me, driving me around the island and showing me the sites. If I'd had more time I would've taken her up on it because I could tell she really wanted a friend and I would've loved a day with someone as nice as her.

The next day I went on an off-roading adventure with a bunch of the honeymooners and a nice, elderly Italian gentleman who I believe was celebrating his anniversary with his wife. Neither one of us knew what the other was saying, but he would smile everywhere we went, point at the scenery in front of us and say, "Bella." I would nod and we would each share a quite moment looking at the view in front of us.

That evening I went to the Polynesian dance show and for the dinner afterwards, I ended up sitting with Joanne and Dick, an older couple who had traveled the world and were willing to share their stories with me. That night in particular, I was feeling a little out of place. Sitting there with the two of them though, I felt like I was right where I was supposed to be. They made me feel welcome and at home at their table. At the end of the night, when we hugged and went to part our ways, Joanne looked at me and said, "You'll be successful because you're not afraid." I didn't know I needed to hear that, but I did. I went back to my bungalow and sat under the stars, silently thanking her for her kind, reassuring words.

Day three of my trip was unexpected. It rained morning to night, to the point where everything was cancelled and everyone stayed indoors. At first, I had not the slightest clue what to do with myself. I'm not good at not doing things. I have to be doing something, anything.

So, I danced.

In the giant bungalow that I called home, I put my iPod on and danced until I was completely exhausted, collapsing into one of the best naps I've ever had. That is until Georgina, the cleaning lady, came to check on me. Georgina and I had talked for an hour earlier that day, and I had learned all about her life. Being in paradise you don't imagine that the people who live there are struggling. You don't see the roughness they face, the challenges. In India everything was front and center, the good and the bad. Here, everything that surrounds you is beauty beyond compare, but the people behind the scenes still struggle. Georgina told me of growing up poor, eating nothing but breadfruit for weeks, and how she missed her family in Tahiti because she couldn't afford to go visit them in the 17 years since she'd left. This was hard to hear because I was going to Tahiti the next day for a tour and it was so easy for me to make it happen. So easy for me, so hard for her. I hadn't see this side until that day and it brought be back to reality.

When I woke up to sunny skies the next morning, I headed out to Tahiti for my tour, keeping Georgina in the back of my mind. I ended up being the only person to go that day, so I had a customized tour with Vai Nui, my guide. She took me to see the great waterfalls, the surf spots, an old lighthouse, and everything I could possibly hope for. Tahiti is gorgeous, but I could see the poverty finally and I understood. It was not paradise for everyone.

Vai Nui dropped me off at the ferry dock, where I had several hours to kill. I strolled about until I found myself inside the large open air market with every souvenir you could imagine and then some. I was on the hunt for some art to take home and in my hunt was discovered by a gentleman who had decided I should be his girlfriend. Here I am, minding my business, staring intently at some art, when the next thing I know I'm being sung a song that went something along the lines of, "If you were my girlfriend, I'd get you some fish. Be my girlfriend, be my girlfriend, be my girlfriend." It was a chart topper, I tell you, which finished with him hugging me and kissing both cheeks, as is the fashion there. I was so shocked that all I could do was laugh. I guess the lady that ran the store next door felt the same way because she stood there laughing so hard I thought she might implode. I felt well accomplished that day in doing my part to make the citizens of Tahiti happy.

That night, when I got back to my home away from home, I ran into Lynn, one of the other guests on the resort who I'd seen now and then over the week. She is the one that officially gave me my nickname and also the one who told all of her 23 fellow travelers about me. This was cute and confusing, because I'd be out for my daily stroll when all of a sudden I'd hear someone call my name and ask how my excursion went, compliment me on my travels, or just stop and chat like they knew who I was. Which they did, of course, but I had no idea who they were. Once I figured out they were all with Lynn, life got a little less complicated and a lot more fun. It was nice to know I had all these friends on the island, so interested in my little adventures.

On one of my last days in Moorea, I decided to risk my life like an idiot. I decided it would be a lot of fun to swim with stingrays and sharks for reasons I'm not even aware of yet. The stingrays weren't so bad. They call them the puppies of the water because they really are like giant, fishy pups that want you to pet them. The sharks, however, were surrounding us by the dozens, which didn't freak out as many people as I thought it would have. This is where I met my fellow hug-a-stranger-and-scream friend, Fawn. She was on her honeymoon with her new hubby when a stingray decided to try and kiss her...yes, this happens. At that moment she turned to me, hugged me for dear life, and screamed. Then I screamed. Then we screamed together. We didn't know each other at all until then, but we decided the hugging and screaming was equivalent to shaking hands when you meet someone new.

That night when I returned, Lynn's group of friends were hanging out in the lounge and I filled them in on my life threatening day, as I now had come accustomed to doing after each adventure. I invited some of them to join me for my nightly walk and a gentleman named Brock took me up on my offer. Brock was retired and had joined the group on the trip, as he was an avid traveler. He had sailed around the world and had been to places I still dream of going. Talking to Brock was like having an adventure all in itself. I learned about different cultures, different points of view, and that anyone who doesn't like cats is not to be trusted. Take heed my friends and check your contact list, because this is the secret to life- or so I'm told by a very wise, well traveled gentleman.

My very last day there was, of course, the sunniest and prettiest day of all. I rented a car and drove all over the island to take in what last little bit of awesomeness I could. The whole trip had been great, but it had also been hard and I needed some me-and-myself time. Part of the reason was because the islands are known for their black pearls. Everywhere you go you can't help but see them, which meant everywhere I went I couldn't help but think of my grandmother. As happy as I am for her to be in a better place, sometimes it still gets me that I no longer have her to bring a gift home to from my trip. And the pearls would've been the perfect gift.

As I drove around the tiny island, I would stop and see unbelievably beautiful bays with the clearest water and the prettiest coconut trees. I saw wild horses running around, people fishing, and views I've only dreamed about. One of those views is from Belvedere Lookout, one of the most popular lookout points in the world. Earlier in the week, Lynn had told me there was a trail over near that area that lead to a waterfall and some beautiful scenery. While I was there I spotted a clearing in the  the woods and decided this had to be the place the had described. I went for a small walk, which turned into a long hike, which I was unprepared for in my skirt and flip flops. I was hell bent on seeing this waterfall, so I kept going and going and going. That is until I decided that I could have a 127 Hours moment at any minute, as no one knew where I was, not even Lynn. I say this because I later learned that this was not the trail she had in mind. I did get to see a lot of beautiful things, though. Trees with roots that grew as tall and wide as walls, giant flowers, paths left behind and forgotten by time. But I was also happy I hadn't been mauled by wild pigs.

On my journey home, I came upon something I had only seen in postcards, something that I wasn't sure was real: A sideways growing palm tree. I had hoped to find it, but wasn't sure it was possible. Seeing it confirmed that I was right where I needed to be all along.

On my way back, I stopped at the market and picked up a handful of the local chocolate bars. I went back and passed them out to all of my new friends, Brian and Georgina, Brock and some folks out of Lynn's group. I said my goodbyes, thanked them for their kind words and welcoming ways, and headed home.

The thing about this trip is that I thought I was going there to find quiet time, to unwind, to figure things out. What I found instead were friends I never imagined I'd have. From the gentleman at the airport who lived in El Paso and shared stories with me about his dearly departed wife, to Donna, the trainer from Australia, who kept me entertained the whole flight home. I had gone away to find something and that something was these people. These people who gave me more than good memories. These people who reminded me that anything is possible as long as you try and that no journey is one you take alone. 

If you've been wanting to go, here is some advice for you, based on my recent experience:

  • Stay somewhere that gives you a view unlike anything you've ever gotten anywhere else, like Club Bali Hai, where I stayed, which is situated in Cook's Bay. The views are unbeatable. By day two the entire staff will know you and greet you. You are in the center of most everything on the island, the care rental place is in your hotel, and the excursion shot is across the street. Plus, they host a traditional Polynesian dance show each week. 
  • Learn a little French. It's what everyone speaks and knowing how to ask where the bathroom is, is always important. Ou sont les toilette? Key phrase my friends. Key phrase.
  • Walk to the local markets to get your food. It's way cheaper and the grapes and bananas are to die for. So is this coconut pineapple drink I got, confusingly named Ananas when there are actually no bananas in it at all.
  • Rent a car. You'll only need it for a day, because the island is incredibly small, but this way you can circle the whole thing and see absolutely everything. It's worth it. It's so, so worth it. 
  • Take a day trip to Tahiti. Personally, having spent some time in Tahiti on this trip and seeing how much of a city it is, I'm incredibly glad I stayed on Moorea instead. A day trip to Tahiti to visit the market, eat from the roulottes, see the surf areas, and check out the main sites is really all you need. 
  • Walk. Everywhere. As much as you can. You will see things you can't see in a car or on a tour. 
  • Swim in the water, even if it's raining. Even if you're the only one- do it. You may never be back here again. 
  • Take a chance. Eat dinner with some strangers. Don't be afraid to make new friends, whether or not they speak your language. 
  • If you go to Tahiti, eat at Le Restaurant-Bar du Musee Gauguin. There you will find authentic Polynesian food so good you'll never want to leave.
  • One view of many from Cook's Bay
  • Take a day for yourself to do nothing. Dance. Nap. But do nothing else. Just be.

What place do you dream of going to?

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