Swimming in the right stream

Once, not too long ago, I was at a crossroads in my life. I had a choice to make and was having the hardest time figuring out what to do. I felt like I had two terrible options in front of me. A kind stranger counseled me that I was swimming in the wrong stream. That I needed to let go of negative thoughts, and focus on what I did want.

I struggled to see what she meant. To me the choice was very binary. Yes, or no. We had only spoken once, but what she said stuck in my mind like glue. I was working so hard on this problem she laid out for me. Finally, I was able to bend my mind enough to see what she meant. If I were to take away this one choice, and envision the life I wanted, what would that look like? I worked backwards from there to see that if I said yes at that point, I’d never have the life I envisioned later. It seems simple, but it was quite the revelation to me.

I found myself in a similar situation again in October. I had broken up with my boyfriend, but the pain was intense and I wasn’t sure of my decision, so I went back to him. I was panicked and full of anxiety. I had made the wrong choice again. But I wasn’t ready to get out. I wanted so badly to be in a relationship. So I stayed, and I spent my days consumed with confusion and dread. What other options did I have? Then I remembered: I was swimming in the wrong stream.

I made a list. I wrote down all the things I had control over and strove to move my life in a positive direction while I worked out the question of my relationship: I knew I could take care of my body and eat healthy, I could see a therapist and a life coach, I could spend time with my most enlightened friends, I could start this blog, I could plan a trip. I did those things, and within three months, I had my answer once again.

Today, I feel so much freer. Not stuck. That’s not to say there isn’t work to do. I am so relieved to be single, and very happy with what I’m learning right now at my job, but I’m in Arizona, and summer is (always) right around the corner- I hate that. I want more fulfilment out of how I spend my time. These things seem conflicting to me. Because I’m back in the wrong stream.

I wrote a new list, and have a pretty good one going so far. I’m certain I’ll find my answer given a little time. The best part for me is that for the first time in months, there isn’t dread and discord lurking behind the page. I found my way back to the right stream.

Leap, and the net will appear

Well friends, all the poking has finally paid off. This past week I left behind my bad relationship and I feel like a million pounds has been lifted from my back. There have been wafts of sadness here or there, but largely, I’m just glad to be done.

What I wasn’t ready to say when I started this project was that my real reason for writing, seeking out help, and doing the hard work that I’ve been doing in so many areas of my life was to get myself unstuck from that situation. It’s an intention that I have been putting out there since October, and here we are, right before the start of the new year, and I’ve given myself a new opportunity.

That’s not to say that there isn’t work still to be done, mountains to be climbed, decisions to be made. But I’ve made the first step. I took the leap, and a net appeared. All of my friends, my family, my community. They caught me with open arms and warm hearts. Thanks everyone.

That’s all for tonight, and I have to tell you that for today that is more than enough.

The finished product

Here’s the thing about my story- it’s not finished. And thank goodness for that, right?

I was talking to a friend about writing the other day and she commented on something that I had written here. I said that no one ventures out onto the internet to hear people complain. She countered that people do, however, come to hear about people’s struggles and how they navigated them. Right away I understood what she meant. When I’m struggling, when many of us are, we ask (or read about) others who have been in a similar situation how they navigated it. It’s not that people are complaining, it’s that they are informing.  

That realization felt to me like the opening of a door, welcoming me to chronicle my story here (the fact that I was welcome to do that all along being another post entirely). That welcome was really from me, to me. Writing feels vulnerable to me. This space, even in its infancy, has felt somehow unsuccessful to me. But what is success? Sometimes my definition of success can only happen once something is completed. What I’m writing about here is my life, by definition incomplete. This particular chapter of my story, in which I find my way (fingers crossed) is also incomplete. If success hinges on completeness, I’m never going to get there.

Which really got me thinking. I love, love, love Elizabeth Gilbert’s signature work Eat, Pray, Love. I love that she saves herself, she falls in love, and she moves on to a better place in her life. The story feels resolved. But here’s the thing- her story wasn’t finished when she was writing it. During that year of travel and self-discovery, she was writing all along, without knowing how it was going to turn out. Leap, they say, and the net will appear.

In some way that is what I’m trying to do. Trying to take a leap. Writing about this leap- not knowing where it’s heading- is scary for me. But it feels right to write about it. To document my journey and what is going on in my life. How I’m getting there. Wherever there is.

Don’t get me wrong- I’m no Liz Gilbert. But I’m starting out, and I have goals of my own. It only took her several decades of diligent writing to become an overnight success story. Who knows, maybe I’m on the same path?

All I know is it’s not a done deal yet.

Writing and reading and reading and writing

Another big break between posts! And not for lack of trying. I’ve written at least a dozen posts and have tossed each of them as worse than the previous. Why is it so hard for me to write something I’m proud of? I love writing, I’m willing to do the work. I read enough to know my tastes and inform my style. But writing something I love is just SO. HARD. And after years of being a voracious yet highly picky reader*, my bar for “something I love” is set awfully high.

I’ve been rolling this question around in my head for the better part of a month in a vain attempt to understand: what’s wrong with my writing, and by extension, myself? In an apparent answer to my prayers, I found a quote that spoke to my heart. Ira Glass from This American Life wrote,

All of us who do creative work, we get into it because we have good taste. But there is this gap. For the first couple years you make stuff, it’s just not that good. It’s trying to be good, it has potential, but it’s not. But your taste, the thing that got you into the game, is still killer. And your taste is why your work disappoints you. A lot of people never get past this phase, they quit…. It’s only by going through a volume of work that you will close that gap, and your work will be as good as your ambitions… It’s normal to take a while. You’ve just gotta fight your way through.


He says that he feels like for him that it’s taken longer than most. I feel like a late bloomer, only now really taking the leap that I want to self-publish my writing (this blog counts as self-publishing, right?). I also know I take longer than most to become comfortable with new endeavors. By that math, I should be really hitting my stride, oh, when I’m about 65. Maybe writing can be my work in retirement.

If that really is my goal, to enjoy reading what I write and to make this a long-term habit, then I need to continue hammering away at this thing. Doing the work, feeling less than stoked about it and pressing publish anyways. As I often tell myself when I’m about to start a marathon training program, get comfortable being uncomfortable. And I guess that’s what I have to do now.

Which is easier said than done. I’m a recovering perfectionist with anxious tendencies. Anything less than perfect is nigh unbearable. But the journey is important. I can never become who I am going to be without being the person I am now. My work will never mature if I don’t hold myself accountable and let it see the light of day. So here I am. Sitting with my new mantra: write, release, relax.

Onward.

*I’m on a book binge right now. I’ve just finished Thirst, by Scott Harrison, Becoming, by Michelle Obama, and First We Make the Beast Beautiful, by Sarah Wilson. Beast is a must read for anyone who lives with anxiety, Becoming is as compassionate, open, and informative as anything you’d expect from Michelle Obama.

Thirst was an interesting one for me. Typically I’d classify it as a feel good book that is an easy read. Because of where I’m at in my life, I felt tied to Scott’s journey (minus the models, drugs, and booze) which made it much more captivating. Before he started charity: water he struggled with many of the same ideas, feelings and situations I feel like I am struggling with now. I don’t know that everyone will connect with the book in the same way I have, but I recommend it if nothing else as an enlightening read on the worldwide water crisis, and how we can all make a difference.

Back on the horse

Nearly a year ago, I purchased this domain name after a trip to Nicarauga. Five months after that, I posted two articles, here and here. Another four months on , and here I am making another stab at doing something with this domain.

I had great intentions for this space. An eCommerce site! A blog! A brand! Instead, I made a few attempts at setting up a site but things languished and eventually (in harmony with all other aspects of my personality) the flame went out altogether.

I thought about a move, a change of job, a change of boyfriend. Nothing seemed to fit. None of the old fixes- more travel, more running- seemed to be the direction in which I wanted to move my life. I sputtered, I stalled. I survived a re-org at my work, moved out of my apartment into something more short term, nearly left a relationship. All that and I was still mired in the same mud.

I realized I could use to reconnect with my heart and reignite whatever flames of creativity I once had. Hence this (second) attempt at writing. I’m trying new things, spending time with my most “enlightened” friends, and reading. Always reading. I recently stumbled across some words, seven hundred years old, and they spoke directly to me, “In the middle of the journey of our life, I came to myself, in a dark wood, where the direct way was lost.” How have I made it this far in life without reading the Divine Comedy? It’s on the list.

In the mean time, in honor of my 35th birthday (yes, that’s TODAY, and it’s notably the age when Dante comes to in his own dark wood) in hopes of finding my spark- I’m starting to write. Maybe this space will give me the opportunity to make myself a little bit better of a person, and maybe make the world a little bit better of a place. It won’t necessarily be done NicaStyle, but at least done my style.

Motivation

For so many years when people would say that they envied my motivation to workout, to try new things, travel, keep my house clean, move along my career path, to you know- do life- I would always respond that I was disciplined not motivated. Because I wasn’t always in the mood to get up early and get out the door to stress my body. Often I was in the mood to sit on the couch and drink coffee while reading a good book.

Lately, I’ve feeling their pain. In recent months not only has my motivation gone, but so too has my discipline. Running miles have been down, swims have been lackluster and trips to the gym have been nonexistent. I’d have a day of normalcy here or there, but then it was always right back to where I began- inertia.

I’m pretty sure that this can all be tied back to stress and the need to make some changes in my life. I kept hoping that my motivation would magically appear. Or said changes in my life would happen without a push, but we all know that’s not the case.

No one ventures out onto the internet to hear about someone else’s hard time, so why am I writing about this here? To reflect. To give myself a push.

As I was trying to figure out exactly what I meant by that I found a video of a young Steve Jobs. Young Steve Jobs says this thing about poking at life and how if you poke it, something usually comes out the other side.

That’s what this project is all about. Poking at life. Hoping to find some motivation. Hoping to inspire some change.

Thus far it’s been working. Just the idea of starting this project, sharing it with friends, dreaming of a brighter future has perked me up, helped me find some of my mojo. I’ve been happy to work hard at the pool. I’ve successfully slogged through more miles. It hasn’t all been pretty, but it seems like maybe there is some light at the end of this tunnel.

What motivates you?

Nica style?

I started this post about fifteen times. How does one start a project/site/blog? I couldn’t find my voice so I tried to force some different ideas and it just came out wrong. Over and over again it came out wrong. Then I had a moment of brilliance. Why not just write it as myself? Genius, I tell you.

What is Nica style? I was on a much-needed break from reality in Nicaragua and heard it all over the place. Running late? Nica style. Trash out the window? (Awful, I know) Nica style. Hitch-hike with a surfboard/to school/family in tow/you name it we saw it? Nica style. It’s kind of like the response to every question in Costa Rica is, Pura vida.

I loved it. I loved my time there. For a million reasons. The people I met reinforced the idea that there are alternate styles of life if only you are open to it. There was a couple from Germany/Netherlands who were later in life circus performers on vacation from their traveling show. There was Chilean photographer who gave up the “good life” in Santiago to run a bar on a cliff overlooking a popular wave. He was on a work assignment in Nicaragua and when it came time to go home he didn’t get on the plane back to Chile. Boom. Change of direction. In a time in my life where I have been feeling trapped at worst and confused at best, I felt free and sure of myself. I wanted to capture that.

Which of course is the ultimate silliness there is. Capture a feeling? That’s like trying to keep the wind in a box. Haven’t I been paying any attention to all the hippy dippy meditation feels that I so like to think I’m in tune with? Evidently not.

But I did come home with an idea whole in my mind from that trip. Ideas of art and sustainability and feelings that I could all tie back to this trip and this feeling and this turn of phrase. Nica style.

I love it. In lieu of capturing that, I want to remember that it was me who felt that way and know that I can feel that way again. Life is a series of ups and downs. Ins and outs. I felt courageous and ready to take on the world then. I’m in a cycle right now- one that I can only get through by getting through- but I hope to learn from this time the way I learned from that time. And I hope to build on the feelings that I had then.

This post, this imperfect start to a project/site/blog is as honest as I can be and as far as I can tell, that’s a pretty good place from which to step off.