Morning thought

I woke up to answer a text. A friend wishing me a great time on my journey to China. I responded:

“Thanks! Things are starting to fall into place. Or become unraveled. One of those two.”

I put the phone down, continued to lie in bed, and thought:

Or both.

I think that’s closer to the truth.

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My bus ride home from work last week.

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2016, here I come!!

Resolution: a firm decision to do or not to do something.

Goal: the object of a person’s ambition or effort; an aim or desired result.

A friend of mine doesn’t do New Year’s resolutions. She does New Year’s goals. Reading the definitions and differences between those two terms, I wish to follow her lead. Resolutions are too firm and judgey. I like the way the meaning of goal focuses on effort, which to me reads more as process. It’s a “desired result” – it may not happen, but I am sure as hell going to try.

So, here are my goals for 2016:

  1. Write more. I’m going to revise my book, Sexual Decisions. I aim to blog at least two times a month. I have other books in my brain that may or may not evolve because revising a book and maintaining my blog is already a lot of writing – but I love the idea of hitting the keyboard and producing.
  2. Travel! I will be going to Nepal and China in April. So excited! My brother and sister-in-law got me this amazingly bright and wonderful orange suitcase that will go with me. At the stroke of midnight, I ran around the block with it to welcome travel this year. But first, I will be going around Oregon this month. I’ll be heading to Enterprise, Oregon for work and then to Pacific City for a girls’ weekend. I love going places and there’s no reason not to.

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    This suitcase and I are going places in 2016.

  3. Apply for my Canadian citizenship. I have the forms; I just need to start filling them out. The problem is I hate forms. They make me nervous. I will probably need some serious help. Another goal will be to ask for that help.
  4. Reconnect with myself through meditation. I haven’t practiced in a while, and I miss it. There’s going to be a lot going on in 2016 and sitting will help me stay centered. I’ll shoot for three times a week. Quiet, deep breathing and peace are things my body craves and appreciates. I plan to honor that.
  5. Go to the driving range. I haven’t played golf in ages, and it just seems like a fun thing to do. Maybe I’ll try a kickboxing class too.
  6. Paint my kitchen. I love my kitchen: it’s huge and invites people to come in, cook, chop, chat, and sip champagne. However, I’ve always hated the color. My ex and I had a hard time trying to figure out what to paint the west wall, and after the poor man tried two horrible colors, our compromise resulted in green mud. I think he liked it, while I was disappointed the very moment it went on. But at that point, a fourth time was not in the cards. I am debating going with a deep, smoky plum but that might be too dark. I’m going to take that chance anyway. It can’t be worse than dirty pea soup.
  7. Save less. This sounds odd, but it’s something I need to work on. I have a habit of saving things until it’s too late. Favorite foods that sit in the freezer until they burn. Expensive bottles of wine that sit on the shelves too long. An outfit that I don’t wear enough because the day it’s an interesting one. Special glassware and dishes that never get used. This Christmas, Dave gave me a pink elephant cocktail shaker, which pretty much completes my set of an amazing, vintage bar set. I plan to serve everything with these from cheap wine to juice to dry martinis.

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    Many drinks will be served using these. Note the soon-to-be-gone crappy wall color in the kitchen.

Here’s to setting goals, not limits, and moving towards things that bring joy. Happy New Year.

Nothing much

I meditated and for a full 20 minutes, and thought about nothing. My brain wasn’t empty, mind you: rather the entire time I thought, “I am thinking about nothing.” Sure, I occasionally noticed that my jaw was tight, or that I was clenching my left thigh a bit, but for the most part my brain just kept saying over and over again, “I am thinking about nothing” in a slow, irregular pace. An idea that would flow in and out as I sat and breathed somewhat unevenly, but always relaxed. That phrase surprises me a bit, because lately I have been pondering some pretty serious topics such as rape culture and access to mental health for Veterans. I had a conversation earlier about how I struggle with believing things will turn out OK, despite the fact that, in my life, things pretty much do go well. Yet, there is that lingering assumption that things just aren’t going to turn out “right.” It’s a control thing, I know, and I work on it. I’m grateful that I am more mindful of it when it happens now, and I will continue to work on the notion that whatever happens can be dealt with and, by default, is acceptable. Many of my friends are going through some difficult times, and I feel sad for them, knowing there is very little I can do except be there, check in, and listen if they want to speak. Too much loss and heartache among those I love.

So, yeah, I have had a lot of heavy stuff on my mind, which made me surprised that my meditation mantra for today was, “I am thinking about nothing.”

Which, I suppose, is something.

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On the way to Milford Sound. South Island, New Zealand.

 

Practice

This sit didn’t really work. I never went deep, skimming the surface of relaxation and the now. No monkey mind, more just thinking about things I need to do. No anxiety, but plans and deliberations. Still, I sat. My hips stiff, my jeans a little too tight. Still, I sat. My fingers and nose cold, because the heat doesn’t quite reach up to my bedroom. Still, I sat.

And I will again tomorrow.

Today I look over this post in its brevity and wonder if it says anything or everything. And yet, I write.

And I will again tomorrow.

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Flowers from a springtime walk.

Afterthought: I am finding more comfort in the word “practice” rather than “habit.” I want to hone my practices of writing and meditating. For some reason, if they become habits, I believe they will lose their meaning — become part of a less meaningful routine. One can always grow by writing; the same things goes for meditation. I’m not a fan of “practice makes perfect,” because perfection is not my goal. I don’t really have a goal. I just want to practice these crafts and learn from them.

Six month review

It’s been a little over six months since I’ve returned to American soil, yet it seems like forever ago. I find myself feeling as though I never left the US – as though all I learned from being away has simply vanished into a different reality. Was it only a year ago that I went out into the desert and rode a camel? Went snorkeling in an amazing sea? Seemed to have all the time in the world to contemplate both everything and nothing? That person who enjoyed those things doesn’t seem to exist anymore, yet here I am in (somewhat) the same body that I occupied there and then.

When I first got back, I wrote about what I had taken away from my travels in terms of shifting priorities and focus. Since I’m due for a six-month review in my job, I figured I would do one on these aspects of my life (original goal in italics):

  • More minimal living – I want less space and fewer possessions, especially when it comes to my wardrobe.
    I’ll give myself a passing grade here, but barely. I have enjoyed buying more than a few items since I’ve returned, but part of that is due to, ahem, a slightly “fluffier” body thanks to a bit of overindulgence of Mexican food and beer upon my return. I really missed a good ale and some tacos. I also find that I enjoy dresses and skirts more than slacks now, so I am letting my wardrobe shift in that direction. I’m late to the game, but am discovering the wonders of tights and leggings (this means they will be out of fashion in 3…2…1….).
  • Appreciation of food for its variety and simplicity.
    Yup. Doing this and happy about it. Cooking more vegetables at home and spending more time with friends in the kitchen. When I first got back there was too much dining out (see above), but I am enjoying a wide variety of foods and am still enjoying the not-too-fancy. And soon it will be roasted vegetable season! Hooray!
  • Friendship and the need to be present with those I love.
    I’ve seen most of my friends since I’ve been back with a few notable exceptions. I sense a couple of Happy Hours in my future, and I am hoping to revive a version of the Toddy Tour now that the weather is colder; this is where a group of women get together once a week at a different bar to sample the Hot Toddies across Portland. Yum! My brother and sister-in-law were just in town to help celebrate my birthday (of course there was karaoke). Many weekends are spent on my block, hanging out with neighbors who are also my dear friends. Going to their plays, cooking food, lazing about while enjoying Sunday morning bubbly. I’m also trying to see one of my closest friends as much as possible; she’s sick and every moment of being with her is precious. Texts about the mundane are enjoyable, wonderful moments. It would be nice if I thought of all my interactions that way.

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    Me and my amazing sister-in-law sipping tropical drinks at a karaoke bar. Magic!

  • The awareness that there is little I can control. Letting go is something I will continue to struggle with and I look forward to the challenge.
    Not sure how much I’ve been challenged here (knock on wood), but I think I’m getting better. My basement flooded this weekend and I didn’t have a complete meltdown. I consider that a victory!
  • Taking day trips/weekend getaways. Even one night somewhere else does so much to recharge my mind and soul.
    My knee-jerk reaction to this was that I haven’t been getting away much. Not sure what the ideal bar would be for me, but when I review what I’ve done since I’ve been back, I think I’ve been doing OK actually. I spent some very fun weekends with my father at the stock car races this summer, which then had me staying at my parents’ house overnight (they live about an hour away). While not exactly the stereotypical “getaway weekend,” going down there does recharge me. Also, I’ve been up to Seattle a couple of times to visit a friend and attend intellectual events (a talk, conference) – while Portland has tons of talks, for some reason I haven’t really gone to many. I don’t think about them here; I bet it’s a neat way to explore the city in a different light. I’ve gone to Sacramento to visit Dave and ride around in his Singer – ah, sun. Hmmm, why does it feel like I’m in Portland all the time?

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    The most enjoyable deathtrap ever.

  • Meditation practice. Haven’t revisited this yet, but planning on it! Really. Someone hold me accountable! Or perhaps it will naturally happen when I am ready.
    Fail in this department. Who’s the ass-kicker who will help me with this? I find it funny that I want someone to kick my butt about meditating more. Seems wonderfully inappropriate and paradoxical.
  • Tea breaks. Wherever I went, people actually stopped for tea. “To go” was rare. I want to take the time to sit and enjoy.
    So-so here. I sip tea at my desk constantly, and enjoy using the mug that I co-opted from the college (Lipton, the sign of good taste). When I work from home, I have morning tea while I answer emails. There I use a mug with Snoopy on it that says “Canada.” I bought it at Incheon airport in South Korea. But I am not actually taking breaks while I have tea. Still, the tea itself makes my work more relaxing. While I think it’s doing what I need it to do, I still could benefit from the occasional break from my desk.

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    Sipping tea from my liberated Omani mug.

  • Writing. Though no longer an expat, I hope to continue to write about things I did while overseas, and things I experience here as a result. If there’s anything you are interested in learning about, I welcome questions and inspiration.
    Thanks to NaBloPoMo (National Blog Post Month), I am planning on stepping up my game. Writing makes me feel better. Sharing it even more so. As I said six months ago, please send me your questions/ideas for writing! I have a full month to go of daily writing. It will be interesting to see what I end up posting.

Huh. Not too shabby if I do say so myself. I’ve maintained a lot more of these shifts than I feel on a day-to-day basis. Perhaps this is something I can meditate on in the future.