Category: growth

On How to be Audrey Part III

So I’ve been working on my self-control with not snacking during the day (which is harder than I thought! But apples are a good and healthy snack to fool your stomach. Not quite as good as peanut butter cups though), and my discipline with exercise. I’ve even decided to go to a gym once a week and work with a trainer. It’s something I’d thought about in the past but it seems like now is a good time to just do it. I know I’ve got the potential to be healthier and stronger than I am, and I don’t want to regret waiting any longer than I have! It’s one of those things I never felt that I could afford, but I feel like my body needs it, and what better time than now? I have to fit into all of these gorgeous tiny vintage dresses that I adore!

In this post, I’m going to cover Audrey Hepburn’s style, and look at how I can apply her fashion sense to my own wardrobe. What we choose to wear, or how we choose to wear what we have, is one way in which we shape the image of ourselves that we present to the world. Everything we wear says something about us. About how we see ourselves, or how we want to see ourselves. About our status, our preferences and priorities. It is in many ways an outward projection of our inner selves. Or at least as much of ourselves as we want to let others see. And personally, my wardrobe has not always really reflected who I was or am. I had always wanted a large vintage wardrobe, because that was what I loved, but it was always easier and more affordable to buy the latest trends. In high school I would shop at the Goodwill and other thrift stores, but usually what I found was not in good condition. I’ve finally decided that it’s time to revamp my wardrobe into what I’ve truly been wanting. However, even putting together your vintage style takes a little thought and planning! Audrey to the rescue…

“Some people dream of having a big swimming pool – with me it’s closets!” Audrey

On How to be Audrey, Part III – Style

In 1949, when Audrey was living in London and working in the theatre, her wardrobe was quite different from how most of us think of her.

“She had one skirt, one blouse, one pair of shoes, and a beret, but she had fourteen scarves. What she did with them week by week you wouldn’t believe. She’d wear the little beret on the back of her head, on one side, on the other side – or fold it in two and make it look very strange. She had the gift, the flair of how to dress.” Nickolas Dana, High Button Shoes dancer

1949 – Audrey with one of her scarves!

Audrey had less than most of us do in her closet when she was starting out. And her method of making it work for her was to get creative! You can make almost any outfit look new and different by changing up your accessories. I would love to see what Audrey did with those scarves (I could use the inspiration). She was so innovative with clothing that at one point, to earn extra money, she would purchase plain little hats to embellish and re-sell. Now that’s inspiring me…. and making me wonder where all of these hats ended up. A hat made by Audrey Hepburn, wouldn’t that be a treasure!

1953 – Still loving scarves!

When she left for France to work on Nous Irons à Monte Carlo, her co-stars Geraldine and Cara gave her some of their own clothes, seeing as she didn’t have much of a wardrobe. And apparently they all bought their first bikinis at the Monte Carlo Beach Club!

Eventually, with more work and more money, and a new friend in Givenchy, she settled on what would become her signature style. Casually, she would be seen wearing pedal pushers or cigarette pants, with a button-up shirt tied around the waist. Formally, she favoured dresses without patterns or details that would date it, in flattering cuts with very defined waistlines.

In 1962 she gave an interview to the Baltimore Sun and went into great detail about her fashion sense. I will let Audrey take over now.

“I have come to realize two important factors about myself. First of all, my coloring lacks definition. I therefore prefer to wear black, white or muted colors such as beige or soft pinks or greens. These colors tend to make my eyes and hair seem darker whereas bright colors overpower me and wash me out.

Secondly, I am quite tall and of angular build. Therefore I don’t wear padded or squared shoulders and often cheat on my armholes and collars to give an illusion of narrow rather than wide shoulders. I wear low-heeled shoes to give the impression that I’m smaller than I am.

Another thing I have learned, in order to avoid the cliché, “I don’t have a thing to wear” in spite of a closet full of clothes, is to prepare a clothes chart for the coming season, just as I do when handed a script of a new movie. I start by writing down all the things I have and then eliminating the ones I feel I’ve worn out or outdated. Then I try to visualize what my needs will be during the upcoming season, all, of course, depending on where I might be. I then go about buying rather purposefully just the things I need to fill any gaps, such as a new suit or a coat or dinner dress.

As I rarely have time for shopping, I have to plan ahead, which saves me from being tempted by that one dress I shall never wear.

Also, I have a problem which is peculiar to my nomadic existence and that is packing. I try to travel with as little as possible. This brings me to my next point, which is to buy things adaptable for many, rather than just one, occasion. That is another reason why I like conservative colors such as beige or black, which will look right at almost any hour of the day or evening and in almost any weather.

This enables me, too, to cut down on accessories. I have only black or beige shoes and bags and wear only white three-quarter-length gloves. The only exceptions are an evening purse and one pair of white satin shoes.

The principal contributive factor to the way I dress is that I am fortunate enough to be married to a fashion-conscious man by the name of Mel Ferrer, whom I think has infallible taste.

It is tremendously rewarding for a woman to have a husband who notices. Mel has a real interest in clothes, and we enjoy choosing my things together. I have become greatly dependent on his taste and guidance. After all, I think any woman dresses mostly for the man in her life.” Audrey

And as a bonus, she gave “Four Rules for the Hepburn Look”

 

Four Rules for the Hepburn Look

Audrey also didn’t wear much jewelry. A pair of hoop earrings were a favourite early on, and she always had a pair of pearl earrings on hand. Occasionally she would wear a bracelet, and never a watch (She had been noted saying that she strongly disliked the initial cold of the metal when touching her skin and the heaviness of the watch).

I also have to mention that Audrey did NOT always dress up. She wore t-shirts and cozy sweatshirts and sweaters like the rest of us when she wasn’t expecting to be photographed. Doesn’t that make you feel better?

So to distill it down to a few points, and to analyze my own habits and see what adjustments I should make…

Audrey Hepburn’s Rules of Style

  1. Know your colours. I have similar colouring to Audrey and upon examination of my closet do find it quite full of muted colours, black, and white. I don’t know if it was really intentional, but I do see a pattern. Most of the more colourful things I own, I don’t wear, and are in the “to go” pile now as I pick through my closet. I will definitely make note of what I feel is more complimentary to my colouring.
  2. Know how to create the proportions you find pleasing. Although Audrey and I are the same height, I don’t have a big problem with being tall, except when I’m around women who are much shorter than I am, or men who won’t match my height in heels. I like the look of heels with certain skirts and dresses. However, flats are always more comfortable and practical! I also have wide shoulders and hate any kind of shoulder padding or puffed sleeves, so those are avoided. Perhaps that’s why I’m not a fan of the ’80s.
  3. Go through your closet regularly and visualize how to have the wardrobe you want with the least amount of pieces. This, I am in the process of doing. I have way too many pieces of clothing that I don’t actually wear anymore. I want to simplify and only have clothes that I actually love and wear. Living in California for so many years, I never felt a need to separate my winter and summer clothing. I just added coats. And in France, well, I usually lacked any storage space, so everything hung out together there, as well. I do sometimes examine my wardrobe and think of something I feel is missing, and go on a quest for it. But I also went on spontaneous shopping trips with nothing in mind, and returning home with bags of new garments. I’m cutting down on that! Which brings us to:
  4. Shop with purpose. For several years I have had a major Crossroads Trading Company (it’s a secondhand store with amazing finds) addiction, and would just walk in looking for buried treasures, nothing specific. And this is how I end up with more than I need. But I haven’t set foot in a Crossroads in at least four months now! I have been shopping with purpose on etsy. Pat me on the back.
  5. Buy quality over quantity. I’m getting better at this. Slowly. However, with Crossroads, I felt like I could have both quality and quantity. Dior shoes, Mark Jacobs jackets… but now my closet is full.
  6. Buy tops and bottoms that are interchangeable and versatile, especially for travel. This is something I have to pay more attention to now that I’m not wearing jeans as much. Jeans go with nearly every top. But now that I’ve got a green skirt, and a tan skirt, and a navy skirt… I can’t just wear the same white shirt with all of them all the time, I need at least one or two other shirts that could go with them and create twice as many outfits. This is already how I travel… seeing how many different outfits I can create with the least amount of clothing. And I usually stick to two pairs of shoes – the black and the white, unless I have room for one or two more. With the cost of vintage clothing (which I’m buying more of nowadays) being usually more than the things I find at Crossroads, I have to pay extra attention to how many outfits I can make with each piece.


So those are my challenges.

Get rid of the things I don’t wear and narrow down my closet to pieces that are versatile, interchangeable, timeless and loved. Simplify and organize.

And perhaps…

buy more scarves.

 

 

 

If you’re interested in shopping from my closet, you can find my vintage things at http://onamae.etsy.com and my more modern clothing on the app http://www.depop.com under username @kendalinwonderland.

On How to be Audrey Part II

In my first post about Audrey Hepburn, I went over her eating habits and outlined a diet for myself to follow. So far, so good, although I got thrown off the other day when I had to be on set at 7am (way too early to be hungry…) and then gorged myself at the lunch buffet. And also had some snacks from craft service. But other than that, it’s going well! I’ve added my own discipline to it and am trying not to eat after 7pm and definitely no earlier than 7am. Not snacking has been a challenge, but I think with practice it will become easier.

Today I want to cover Audrey’s exercise habits. Less is known about this aspect of her life than her diet, it seems.

On How to be Audrey, Part II – Exercise

Audrey grew up immersed in ballet, however the only reference I’ve seen to ballet class in her adult years was one mention somewhere of her attending class while she was working on Broadway, in New York City. She also danced for her film, Funny Face.

During the filming of Green Mansions, she did a spread for a magazine showing her in various stretching poses similar to yoga.

A couple of websites claim that Audrey discovered yoga and made it a part of her daily routine, however, I haven’t found any mentions in her biographies or official sources that this is true. It’s always mentioned on yoga websites, so I’m not sure how accurate their information is! I can imagine that being a former dancer, she probably did have some kind of daily stretching practice, but perhaps we will never know for sure.

However, dancing and stretching will be part of my “emulate Audrey” month. I already have a history with ballet (in my early 20’s) and yoga (a couple years ago), and recently have started back up with both.

My Saturday morning view.

I suppose I won’t be adjusting my habits too much when it comes to exercise. Saturday morning ballet (and eventually back into the adult pointe class, I hope) and daily stretching/yoga.

Again the key here is discipline. Audrey was very disciplined, very focused. According to her,

“I have often thought of myself as quite ugly. In fact, I used to have quite a complex about it. To be frank, I’ve often been depressed and deeply disappointed in myself. You can even say that I hated myself at certain periods. I was too fat, or maybe too tall, or just plain too ugly. I couldn’t seem to handle any of my problems or cope with people I met. If you want to get psychological, you can say my definiteness stems from underlying feelings of insecurity and inferiority. I couldn’t conquer these feelings by acting indecisive. I found them only way to get the better of them was by putting my foot down, by adopting a forceful, concentrated drive.”

And it served her well. So throughout this exercise, I’m hoping to adopt a similar more concentrated drive by introducing more discipline into my everyday life. I know I have always had an issue with focus – so many exciting things to explore in life! It’s a constant battle I fight. What I enjoy about ballet and yoga is the fact that once you get into the “flow”, you stop thinking about anything else. You’re focused solely on the present and being in your body. It also feels good to regularly set aside that time for yourself, as if telling the world, “I care about myself and want to treat my body well. I insist on taking this time out from my concerns to open up, and to dance and to breathe and let everything else go for a while.” Afterwards, I feel refreshed and focused and motivated and ready to tackle the world! And so I shall!

Stay tuned for part three…

On How to be Audrey

Hello, all! It’s been a while, I know. I have started a few blogs in the past and I’m disciplined for perhaps a year and then I trail off. There are times in my life where I feel I will have plenty to write about, and times when either I don’t, or I simply don’t feel like writing! Which is why I will never be a professional, full-time blogger, I suppose!

So I was watching a video on YouTube recently, Think and Grow Rich, by Napoleon Hill and when he came to number 18 (the video picks up there, if you click on the link) I immediately thought of Audrey Hepburn. Oh yes, there are plenty of things I admire in other people, like Katharine Hepburn with her strong, independent spirit, but when it comes to choosing a role model for myself, it always comes back to the other Hepburn. Perhaps because our basic quiet, anxious natures are similar, so although she has many traits I aspire to, she is also relatable. I’ve always sort of viewed her as something like a cousin whom I admire but never get to spend time with. You’re told stories and you see pictures and you wish you could spend time with her and you want to be like her… at least that’s how I felt about my actual older cousins growing up, and it feels much the same with Audrey. I didn’t have an older brother or sister, but always wished I had.

Oh, don’t let me go on like this! Let’s get to the point of this post!

So I was watching that video and when he came to number 18, I thought of Audrey. I thought, OK, let’s do that, why not. And I decided that, to keep myself accountable, and to perhaps inspire and help someone else who may be having the same idea, I would blog about it. So I started making a mental list of what I knew of Audrey that I could apply to my life, and decided that I would make a very conscious effort for at least one month to follow in her footsteps. Because she’s been my role model for years already, I have a head start on some things. But we’re going full Audrey for August.

The original script was more of a “princess and the peasant” kind of thing. 😀

Good timing too, because it will put me in a good mindset for my next few adventures, which I will tell you about soon!

There are several aspects of Audrey to be covered, and rather than making one giant blog post about them all, I will cover one at a time. I will cover diet, exercise, philosophy and style in four separate posts. Today, I’m going to start with diet.

So let’s get started, shall we?

On How to Be Audrey, Part I. Diet

“She was always very careful about her diet, did not drink alcohol except an occasional glass of wine with dinner, and avoided desserts. She chose her diet as a dancer would: plenty of protein and lots of vegetables and salads. She ate sparingly and rarely splurged. But we did have a yearly feast of caviar in a baked potato.” Mel Ferrer

Audrey’s slim figure is one of the things she’s well-known for, generally being quoted as 5’6 ¾”, 110 pounds, 32-20-35 (although I know someone who owns one of her dresses from the 1960’s and the waist measures 23 inches. This is a weird fixation for me, because the 20 inch figure seems very off and I can’t resist solving a mystery).

Fortunately, I don’t have to really wish for Audrey’s figure, being 5’6 ¾” myself, between 112-116 pounds, and 32-25-35. But because diet is such an integral part of everyone’s lives, it’s important to me to incorporate her eating habits into this challenge. I want to see how changing up my diet and adding additional discipline might affect me.

Audrey’s diet changed throughout her life (as is true for most of us), so I’ve taken the information I’ve gathered and created my own Audrey-based diet from it. In general, her rules were:

  1. No snacking between meals
  2. Drink plenty of water
  3. Fresh, organic, seasonal and local items are preferred
  4. Eat small portions
  5. Only eat until you’re 80% full
  6. Watch the sugar intake

“I eat everything. I eat a great many vegetables, fruit, and…um…otherwise, I eat meat and fish and all those things. I like chocolate and sweets but they are not good for my skin I noticed, so I can’t eat very much of them.” Audrey

While Audrey ate everything, I on the other hand, am mainly vegetarian (and sometimes vegan), so I will be making some adjustments to suit my own dietary preferences but still stay close to her diet.

Snacking: “Don’t build this bad habit!” Audrey says. Yes ma’am. This one is also difficult, but I’m going to make a conscious effort to avoid snacking.

Drink plenty of water. This has been a struggle for me for ages. I know I have to drink more. I just hate spending so much time in the bathroom! This is the month to get into the habit though. Being properly hydrated is very important!

“It isn’t very interesting to eat something that is completely white, so it also can’t be that good for you.”  Audrey

My meals normally include fruits and vegetables, so as long as I don’t get lazy, I’ve got the colour thing down!

 

“She was crazy about the pasta, she would eat it almost every day. Her absolute favorite was spaghetti with tomato sauce. She could live on that alone.” Luca Dotti

I’m always tempted to buy pasta for my meals, however I am not entirely sure that it’s a healthy thing to regularly eat! I believe her pasta addiction appeared when she moved to Rome, as I haven’t seen mention of pasta in earlier accounts of her diet. Although I will include some pastas for dinner occasionally, I won’t be eating it all day every day! As for tomato sauce… I was raised on a lot of spaghetti with tomato sauce and now as an adult am taking a long hiatus from that particular combination. However, seeing as it is my month living like Audrey… I will make an effort to include it in the menu. In fact, I started with a pasta lunch today so we’re off to a good start!

“She was very strict. When it was breakfast, lunch or dinner, her feeling was, you should take your time for meals and stop what you are doing.” Luca Dotti

Sometimes when I’m eating, I do so in a rush, standing at a table, or eating while working or watching a video… but for this month at least, I will stop everything when it’s time to eat, and focus on the food. This is actually a healthy practice. According to some studies, we tend to over-eat when we aren’t paying attention to what we’re doing… if we’re eating while watching a movie for example. When we slow down and enjoy our food and eat mindfully, we don’t over-fill ourselves.

On Sundays, Audrey would have breakfast in bed, with “homemade madeleines, quince jelly, or cherry jam, along with toast, coffee, milk, butter, a small rose from the garden in a tiny vase, and on the side of her tray the International Herald Tribune.” according to her son, Luca. I may not do this, as it’s my Sunday habit to go to Lake Shrine temple and then have lunch with a friend, but perhaps I’ll find a day for it! And I’ve got her recipe for madeleines in Luca’s book, Audrey at Home!

One of the most specific menus I’ve found for Audrey states that for breakfast she would have a glass of water, 3-4 cups of coffee (with hot milk… cafè latte… café au lait), 2 hard-boiled eggs, and a slice of 7 grain whole-wheat toast. For lunches she would have either yogurt or cottage cheese with raw fruits and vegetables, and for dinner she would have a meat and cooked vegetables (Good Housekeeping, 1959).

 “I don’t like fancy food at all. I much prefer an extremely simple meal that’s exquisitely done; a perfectly cooked steak, a beautiful salad, some raspberries.” Audrey

Simple and easy, just how I like it when I’m cooking at home! However, when I go out to eat… I love finding things that I would never take the time to make for myself!

As for her daily meal plan, I will be following this with some adjustments. I tend to prefer fried eggs, sunny side up, so that I can dip my toast, so I will most likely continue doing that on most days. However, I will hard-boil some eggs as well. I’ve never been a coffee drinker, but for you, Audrey, I will try a cup in the AM. With soy, almond, or coconut milk though, since I try to limit my dairy. For lunch, I will have yogurt or cottage cheese with fruits and vegetables. I’ve already started doing this, and it’s quite pleasant. I like the predictability and not wondering what I’m going to make for lunch. I’ve purchased various brands and flavours of yogurt, and have found some vegan options as well. As far as I know, there are no vegan cottage cheese options. For dinner, I will be replacing the meat with other sources of protein (although I might occasionally have fish).

“I have seen her resist the most tempting dessert to guard against one inch more on her extraordinary size eight,” friend Radie Harris

I have a confession to make. I am a fruit tarte addict. I love desserts. Love love love. However, I have been watching my processed sugar intake and will continue to guard myself against it this month (and moving forward). If Audrey can do it, so can I.

“Chocolate was my one true love as a child. It wouldn’t betray me. I’ve always said it was either chocolate or my nails in those years. There was a lot of anxiety.” Audrey

Audrey also loved chocolate, but she managed to discipline herself and have only one square a day. Personally, I’m addicted to my homemade dark chocolate peanut butter cups, and I’m going to limit myself to one a day as well. Oh this will be hard!

I think perhaps chocolate is my replacement for nail-biting as well. I think I only managed to stop shredding my nails in my mid-20’s. These days my nails are doing well, thanks to my ever-present nail-file, but those peanut butter cups go fast! Not this month, however! *sigh*

However, there is a glimmer of hope for me…

“Mr. Ferrer was a little fussy about food, but she ate everything and always wanted to experiment. For a tiny woman, she had an enormous appetite. I really doubt those bulimia or anorexia stories. She loved to eat, and they had all kinds of things with butter and cream. They liked chocolate soufflé, roast duck, rich things.” Florida Broadway, her chef for 2 years.

Apparently dessert wasn’t always off-limits. Big sigh of relief!

I’ve read some conflicting things about her eating habits, including this story of her lunch with Sophia Loren that perhaps took place during periods of her life when she was having problems with anxiety. Because of the war, her relationship with food was greatly affected. Audrey tended to eat less when she was under a great deal of stress (as is my own tendency as well, so we’ve got that in common), but we are focusing on her healthy habits right now, and emulating them!

“I associate food with happy times, primarily because those times when I was unable to eat were so miserable. I guess in some convoluted way, I’m afraid if I eat when I’m sad, I’ll be feeding the sadness.” Audrey

I’ve also heard various things regarding alcohol consumption. Mel, above, mentioned only the occasional glass of wine. However it seems that later on, she did like some whiskey, as her friend John Isaac told me. And to quote from a recent Facebook post of his (got to show my sources, right?!):

I told them a story about how Audrey Hepburn and I used to have a swig from my whiskey flask while we were in Bangladesh. And one time I said to her that it is only 2 O’clock in the afternoon and should we have one for the road?  She said to me, “I am sure it is 6.pm somewhere in the world” John Isaac

As I said, we’re being a bit picky-choosy here and following the healthy habits, so drinking and smoking are not on my to-do list!

Once a month, at least later in her life, Audrey would go on a detox. She would drink a gallon of water, and for meals eat yogurt with grated apples.

“She did it once a month, but usually to get over a jet lag, because you feel bloated after many hours sitting on a plane. … Like a lot of people, she was coming back from trips in Africa and was exhausted — this would help with that.” Luca Dotti

I’m going to pick a day to do my detox and do the same, with or without jetlag, although perhaps I will make it more routine to do an Audrey-style detox after my long flights.

So I think that about covers the diet part of this challenge! Stay tuned for Part 2…

For more references on her diet, please check out the websites below:

Everything Audrey – Audrey Hepburn Diet Rules

Everything Audrey – Anorexia?

Rare Audrey Hepburn – I eat everything!

Audrey Hepburn Diet in a Day

 

 

What I’ve Learned So Far

I was reading one of those Facebook posts about lessons to learn in life and had one of those moments where I started thinking about my 20-year-old self and what an adventure she had ahead of her. So much unknown road ahead. So then I decided that I wanted to kind of write a letter to that girl… I know she doesn’t exist anymore (or does she? What is time, anyway… maybe everything exists at once…) but other young girls do. Sure, you might not listen to some random 34-year-old, or even your 34-year-old sister, the way you’d listen to a 34-year-old-self who came back to impart wisdom. But hey. I feel like doing it, so I’m doing it. And then when I’m 50 I’ll write one to my 34 year old self, and when I’m 80 I’ll be time traveling and saying it in person… but for now, these are some things I would tell her.

 

It’s all your fault.

That’s right. Everything is your fault. You decided to move to _____, you decided to pursue _____ as a career, you decided to date _____. Everything you decide to do won’t turn out the way you’d like it to, unfortunately. And those things you didn’t want to do today, for example practice French or the guitar… well guess whose fault it is now when you’re not that good at it? Not somebody else’s. You decide what to prioritize, what to push yourself with, and every decision you make shapes your future. You decide how your time is spent.

But that’s the good thing, too. You decide. You have control. OK, not 100% control, but your decisions and your attitude determine a lot. When you succeed, it was most likely because you were ready for the opportunity, you took action to meet your goals, and you got out there and met the right people.

Get advice from people who know what they’re talking about, and follow that advice. Be wary of advice coming from people who haven’t achieved the goal you’re aiming for. But backing up to that other advice, also remember that what works for one person doesn’t work for everyone. But try it anyway.

It’s not your fault.

Sometimes things are just out of your control. You can do your best and react to situations, but there are so many factors in an outcome. Don’t beat yourself up over it. All the “what ifs” in the world won’t change it. Learn from it and do better in the future, if you think doing something differently may change the outcome. If you know you did your best, then be OK with that. You can’t do better than your best. It’s not your fault if you get robbed, or assaulted – you didn’t make that happen, they did. Nobody asks to be robbed or assaulted. And if you were acting with good intentions, with kindness and love in any kind of relationship… you did your best, but sometimes when it comes to other people, it just won’t be enough.

Whenever you have honestly done your best… it’s not your fault if it doesn’t go as planned. You may not always have the facts, the knowledge, or the experience to make a choice other than what you made, and other people will also make decisions that will affect you but have more to do with them than with you. Do the best with what you have, where you are.

It’s not you, it’s me.

You control how you react to other people’s behaviour. Your thoughts are a product of how you choose to view the world and the people around you. They may trigger your insecurities, but with a little work you can learn to rise above it.

Because…

It’s not me, it’s you.

Everyone else has issues too. And they may take it out on you. They may not know what the hell they’re doing, just stumbling through life, and knocking you down on their way past. Whatever awful thing they do to you was not about you. Because remember, you’re doing your best, right?! And as you control how you react to others, they also control how they react to you – though they may not be aware of this and may simply be responding to their own insecurities and taking it out on you. Some people (well, most people, you included, at times) simply assume things and don’t bother to clarify, then make their decisions based on this poor judgement. Some people will steal, assuming that you’re rich. Some people will flake on you, assuming that you won’t be inconvenienced or let down. Some people won’t communicate with you, assuming you already know how they feel and that they know how you feel. These people have not done the self-work that I’m asking of you. They simply go along with the flow and behave like the rest of the herd, even if it’s not the kind and loving way to be human.

Not everyone tries their best. Or maybe that is their best, at this point in time. In either case, they’re in their own world. You can’t place the same expectations on them as you place on yourself. And if their best is not respectful, thoughtful, or understanding, then let them go on their merry way, because you deserve better. You need to surround yourself with amazing people. Some people may respond to a gentle wake-up call, but others will not, and you can’t control how anybody behaves. Try as you might to convince someone that they are dishonest, or manipulative, or _fill-in-the-blank_, nobody wants to think of themselves as a bad person, so they will never see what you see. And if they haven’t learned to be honest with themselves, they will find a way to defend their behaviour rather than….

Say you’re sorry.

Don’t be too proud to admit when you’re wrong or you’ve done the wrong thing. Remember when you were little, and you accidentally kicked a hole in Dad’s Chair? What did you decide to do? Yep, you went straight to Mom and confessed. You knew it was better than the alternative. Sure, there were other times where you knew you did something wrong and didn’t confess to it. And what about that time – oh wait, it happened after you were 20, should I tell you this? Well, since this is what you did then perhaps it was because I told you to now! If you should find yourself in a fragile state while in a collapsing relationship, and you get a little too close to another man… take responsibility for it. Tell your partner that you know you didn’t make the best decision you could have (even though who really makes good decisions when they’re having a breakdown?). Be honest without being mean. Apologizing isn’t only about being kind to another person. Apologizing is being aware of your shortcomings. And apologizing is taking your power back. Crazy angry people don’t expect you to agree with them. You want to de-escalate a situation? Be a bigger person and apologize (unless you really think you have no reason to, but maybe you can find something to apologize for that you can mean). That’s usually what they want, and then you can try to move forward.

If you’re trying to do your best, you know when you’ve fallen short. You know when you’ve messed up. So just admit it. Yes, there may be consequences. Deal with them. But always say you’re sorry.

(Also see It’s all your fault)

Never apologize.

But don’t apologize for following your heart, for doing what you know is right. Don’t sell yourself short and apologize in any way for who you are. Don’t rely on the approval of others to define who you are. You’re not inferior. You’re human just like everyone else. Be confident in who you are and what you have to offer the world. Don’t apologize for your existence or your opinion…. you have the right to both.

It’s not what you know, it’s who you know.

You don’t live in a vacuum, or on an island… the internet can only take you so far. To meet your goals you need to meet and work with other people. Find those passionate, motivated people and collaborate. Make yourself useful, be of service, and widen your circle of friends and acquaintances. Work through your shyness and anxiety. It’ll be worth it.

Never rely on anybody.

Although you need to know people and have friends… never rely on other people too much. People are self-absorbed and people can be flaky. Yes, we have to put our faith in other people, we don’t really have a choice. We have to believe that they’ll show up for work, or do as they say, if they haven’t given us reason to doubt them… but also know that people can and will let you down. They may for example tell you they want you for their film, and that they’ll call you…. and they won’t. Learn to get their number as well as giving them yours. They still may not return your call, but at least you were proactive. They may, in a relationship, talk to you about the future and make you feel loved…. and then simply disappear. If you’ve determined that they haven’t been hit by a bus… you’ve just learned not to rely on that person. Always be able to pick up and continue when someone lets you down. You’ve done your best, told the truth, been reliable and just AWESOME, so keep moving on (and see It’s not me, it’s you). You may cry out “But you SAID _____, how could you do this??” but the truth is, people sometimes don’t know what the f@#k they’re saying or doing because they’re just too self-centered to think about other people. As long as they aren’t getting hurt, they don’t care if they hurt someone else. Wish it wasn’t so, but it is.

Parting words of advice

Some random advice I keep rolling around in my head that probably would have helped you out…

Have courage, and be kind. (Cinderella, 2015)

Give first.

Be of service.

…. maybe I’ll add on more later, since there’s always more to learn. 🙂 Good luck out there.

The Stress Test

Well , no new adventures to speak of, but I wanted to check in! I’m actually in Los Angeles at the moment (so, sort of an adventure, but not a new one for me…) and looking forward to an adventure with a girlfriend of mine next month… that is, if my cat doesn’t require me to return to France sooner. I hate having to leave my pets, but sometimes it has to be done. And once in a while, one or the other gets too depressed, gets sick, refuses to eat…. this time it’s my cat. And I do whatever I can, and the pet-sitter does whatever they can… but it doesn’t stop me from worrying. Life would certainly be easier without pets, but they are also one of the greatest sources of joy in my life (well. The cat. Dog has been irritating me more these days. I don’t enjoy cleaning up shredded tampons if I forget to close the bathroom door before I leave).

Anyway, I guess that’s the topic today. Stress. I don’t know that I’ve ever really dealt with it well. I was kind of a stressed out kid. Bit my nails a lot (never leave home without a nail file now!). In the past couple of years I discovered meditation, and in the past two years have gone from meditating like, once a month, to meditating nearly every day. From only 5 minutes, to 30 minutes a sitting. Even last summer, I couldn’t hold still for 20 minutes. My goal is at least an hour a day.

I realize as I’m writing this, that although I’m on a mission to de-stress my life… it’s more about learning to deal with the inevitable stress in a healthy way, rather than eliminating the situations that bring me stress. What I’ve been trying to do for years is drop things and people from my life that bring drama. Trying to find solutions for things that stress me out. Too many things in storage. Too many things at home. Finding reliable pet care (they are always with a different person every time I have to travel, most of the time in an unfamiliar environment). Uncertainty about income, about living arrangements, inability to plan too far into the future. I keep working through all of that, but it takes time. And even when some of these things get resolved (no longer dealing with a mobile home as of this year!), other things come up. I can make changes in life, but the unexpected will still happen. And I need to train myself to just deal with it. What happens, happens. Stress is optional.

 

serenity-prayer
Although my religious views are slightly different…

 

I have some internal stress that I think is a little strange, though, too. In the past few years I have had less motivation to focus my energy on work that doesn’t seem to have a real impact on the world. I love acting, I love dancing and singing and would love to do more of it. However, I’ve wanted to do something of more importance. I’ve wanted to work on myself, to make myself a better person. I’ve wanted to explore and understand the world and other people. I’ve wanted to lead a healthier life, and leave the urban settings I’m most familiar with. I’ve wanted to find a way to truly help others on the deepest level possible.  I’ve wanted to find more like-minded souls, and have felt a growing distance between me and those who have no interest in the spiritual realms. Some of those people were previously very close to me, and don’t understand where I’m at these days. It can make difficult relationships (at least for me), to not be able to discuss what is most important to me. To me, it seems that they don’t see the value in my time spent studying and figuring things out, or the time I spend meditating. To me, it seems they would rather me be doing something active, something they recognize as productive. And when I need time away, or feel the need to seek something without really being clear on what… I feel that they think I’m being frivolous. So I feel a lack of support, which causes some stress. I feel unsure if I can count on them to help me, since they don’t understand my path. So I feel the need to sooth their irritation while at the same time trying to move forward on my path. This can lead to some melt-downs on my end, sad to say.

inner world

My inner world is still a bit of a mess, I suppose. And I’ve been trying to deal with it from the outside-in, most of the time. Because we’re all more focused on the physical world and tangible results. There are still definitely days when I feel I have so much to do that I skip meditating altogether. Which is completely backwards, but it’s so hard to change the way you’re used to thinking. I know I wasn’t raised to think there was value in sitting with your eyes closed for lengthy periods of time.

meditation

But during a recent meditation session (actually, a guided one, not at home alone) I had one of my moments of “what can I do for the world?” and the answer that came to me was that this, meditating, was the best thing I could do for the world. Because it changes me, and then I affect those around me, like ripples in a pond. It may feel like I’m doing nothing, but I’m really doing some important work. And then the meditation leader spoke, and repeated precisely that thought. I almost laughed.

I often wonder how long it will take until I tame my brain. How long until I have a peaceful outer world reflecting a peaceful inner world. How long until I stop beating myself up over how I feel I fail others and fail myself. How long until I no longer feel like I’m searching, but have found. And what will it be like on the other side of suffering? Will I allow myself to even get there? Because I even feel guilt over feeling happiness and feeling satisfied with life, if I know that others are not. Sometimes I almost feel obliged to suffer (If that doesn’t make sense, picture that friend you have who perhaps owes you some money, but you see pictures of them on Facebook out enjoying drinks, smiling… surely you’ve had that thought of “hey, they told me they were broke and had no money, what are they doing out spending money having fun?” You expect them to be suffering). It’s a long, somewhat maddening journey… but I keep going.

Have Courage, and Be Kind

Have I mentioned how the new Cinderella movie may be my favourite movie? I just watched it for a second time on a flight and love how it inspires me to “have courage and be kind.” Another little phrase I add for myself (and I’m not sure where I picked it up) is “give first.”

For some people this advice seems to be effortlessly easy to follow. Though of course, that’s only my perspective of it. These people who gave of themselves without asking anything in return, these patient people who would never take things personally and always forgive you for being an imperfect human.

I wonder about the psychology of it. Does it come from being a very secure person? Someone who knows their needs will be met, and in turn can help others get theirs met?

I feel like perhaps it’s something I struggle with because as one of four children, we always had to compete for attention and make sure someone took care of our needs. We had to be a little louder to express our individuality. I’ve had a tendency to be more self-focused in times when I’m stressed, have little money in the bank, and little attention to spare because it’s all wrapped up in trying to figure out life. But those things should be no excuse for not being present and aware of other people’s needs.

Cinderella_text

It can be fairly easy with strangers, even if they’re rude or obnoxious, to remind yourself that it’s not about you and to be kind to them anyway.

But it gets harder with people closer to you, for some reason. It’s harder not to take it personally when they are expressing their insecurities. I have a tendency to want to put them in their place! My ego pops up and I want to say, “I think you have a problem that needs to be addressed!” But every time I do that, it only puts them more on the defensive. You’d think I’d learn. It can also be hard because they know you as who you have been in the past. You have a certain relationship with them, a certain way of interacting that can be hard to step out of. You both play a role, and a change in your perception completely changes the relationship between the characters in this play. Sometimes it’s for the better, though! Most of the time, I hope.

It’s quite an exercise, to try and always be aware of the needs of those around you. To stop being focused on your own inner world all the time and see how you can reach out to others. Of course we need to care for ourselves, we can’t just quit work to go help all the old ladies cross the street all day (or you could). If you have dreams and goals, you don’t have to put them aside. It’s just being aware of what you can do, when opportunity presents itself.

But if we’re not careful about our motives, we can get stuck in a rut of “I do everything for everyone else, but nobody cares about me.” I mean that’s one way of looking at the situation (and I’ve looked at it that way before). But I think in some situations this ties together being kind to others, and also taking care of our own needs. For instance, you could think you’re always being kind to a person who takes it for granted, and let it fester inside you until you blow up at them, even though all they did was accept what you offered as though there were no strings attached. If you’re a couple, for example, you could get annoyed that your partner always leaves their towel on the floor or something. Maybe you’ve pointed it out in a teasing way, but not in a way that is a direct request. So if one day you go strangling them with a towel, they don’t know what your problem is. Or perhaps you find yourself seemingly doing most of the dishes. You may just do it because it needs done, doesn’t take much time, and not everything in life is split 50/50 unless that’s what you actually agree upon at some point. But if you let it start to bother you and think it’s not fair, then you’re just making a victim out of yourself by not speaking aloud an agreement with your co-dish-washer. And it’s another story all together if one of you has a hard time sticking to an agreement, but then again you both should be kind and also take care of yourselves, perhaps swapping one chore for another.

Or you could be the kind of person who keeps a running list of how you’ve been kind to others in your life, and have come to a point where you don’t make it pleasant for someone to accept a favour from you. Or you create a great long speech about all you do and how you can’t take on any more, instead of simply saying “it would be really hard for me to do that right now, I’m sorry.” You may martyr yourself, doing things for others but making them fully aware of how put out you are by it. Nobody needs the story of your life when asking a favour, they just need a yes or no.

 

prayer

But my point is that we need to watch ourselves and make sure that we are kind to others because we genuinely want to be – we want them to smile, to have an easier time – not because we want recognition. We all should be kind. It’s not that we’re going above and beyond when we’re being kind. We are all falling short of the mark, which is to be constantly aware of how we can be of service, and also to forgive others when we feel they have been unkind or have failed to be kind to us.

I feel like much of my life, somehow, has been about making sure my needs get met, making sure that, when hordes of background actors run for the pizza, there’s a piece for me too. But I’ve been in transition, becoming the person who gives the best piece of… whatever we’re eating…. to the other person. The person who can enjoy something even if it’s not quite what she was expecting. The person who observes rather than gets angry, and tries only ever to have a kind word to say. The person who doesn’t keep score, and who volunteers herself with grace and without resentment, never being a victim. Because when you’re kind for the sake of being kind, for the sake of loving everyone as people who need to be loved, you always win.

Have courage, and be kind.

Taming the Hulk

So… what’s a normal reaction to learning that your car window has been smashed, and your car most likely burglarized?

1. Shout expletives

2. Cry

3. Roll over in bed

In my +/- 14 years in L.A., I have never been burglarized, and my property has never been vandalized. OK, when I first moved here, my purse was stolen at a party. Bad first impression of L.A. And my car got hit within the first month of owning it, but since then, also no real damage done.

But this isn’t really the story of my car. I’m only talking about this because I’m actually a bit in awe of my emotional reaction to the situation. It was like watching a different person. And I really believe it was because of meditation and mindfulness. This is not a usual occurrence. I still have some emotions that get way out of whack, making me feel like the Hulk at times (aaaahhhhggggg, Hulk smash!!!) but I’m really thinking that eventually, that will be a thing of the past! Petty irritations be gone!

cake housewife

I’ve been just drenching myself in all sorts of reading material on how to get rid of stress and worry (check out Dale Carnegie’s How to Stop Worrying and Start Living) and I think it’s beginning to set in. The meditation and prayer are definitely powerful when emotions are overwhelming me and I need to give up the need to try to control a situation. And I’m faster to frame things in a more positive light now, which is why when I overheard my neighbour talking to someone about a car…. realizing she was describing my car… having been broken into… I didn’t go into a panic. I closed my eyes again. Because really. It’s been done, right? I’m not going to stop someone in the action. Whatever I have to do is what I have to do, and surely it can wait 15 minutes. Unfortunately she woke me up knocking on my door (really couldn’t wait ’til I took the dog out or something?) so I walked down to see the damage.


car

 

The thing that bothered me most was that my Elsa cape appears to be missing. That is a frustrating loss because it meant I had to pay over $80 to order a new one to “rush” ship from China, and make a temporary cape for the meantime. The insurance company told me, “oh yeah, the window will cost more than $250,” which is my deductible… and I wasn’t pleased about that, but ya know…. There are things I can’t change and just have to accept. So I threw on my Keep Calm and Let It Go shirt (remember that?) greeted the police, and then headed out to the repair shop.

Keep Calm

 

There, I had a rental car waiting for me (free, thank you Geico. Just $11 for insurance, which makes no sense, because Geico is insurance…) and one of the guys told me that if they could, they would knock down the price if there was minor cosmetic damage. I enjoyed my Dodge very much for a few hours, before returning for my car, and a bill of…. $50.

There were some positive side-effects to this whole thing. I spent a minute talking to my neighbour, who is so loud sometimes I feel like she’s in the room with me. And I feel like we have more compassion on people if we know them better. Sometimes. I did hint that the walls and windows were very thin…. lol. Couldn’t pass up the opportunity. I also realized that maybe my love of taking photos of details could be put to good use. I’ve had a slow introduction to Instagram and finally decided that maybe I can share photos of small details, especially in “bad” situations, to encourage myself and others to slow down, to pay attention, and to see the beauty in everything.

glass

 

I like taking pictures, but never really knew how to share them, or what would make them worth sharing. Now I have an idea. I’m sure I’m not alone in it, but I do have my own life and circumstances that will influence my photos. If you haven’t caught it yet, my Instagram feed is rigged up to a page on this website (look up at the menu bar). So please follow me if you’re interested! Let’s hope that terrible, inconveniencing, expensive accidents don’t come along too often, of course. But when they do…. I feel like every day I’m a little more prepared to deal with them. And it makes me so happy I want to squeeze someone!! I thought my mind would just always and forever be clinging to things, whining and upset, but it’s not true!

smile

I thought I would probably always feel these things, and only learn how to control my reaction. But waking up and dealing with my car on Monday showed me that no, the feelings can actually be absent, too. I really can be cheerful, maybe even happy, when outward circumstances would make the average person boil over. It’s awesome. Give me more of that. I’m liking where life is going.

Don’t Worry, Be Happy!

Sometimes I feel like a slow learner.

I love learning, I love “self-help” books, quotes from wise people, and try to appreciate it when I learn a hard lesson in life. But I feel like I’m growing so slowly! I look back on my life and think “remember that situation? If I knew then what I know now, I would have been able to deal with it much better.” But I suppose we all grow at our own pace, determined by many factors in our early lives. I know lessons I might have been able to learn sooner (remember my last post? I knew the book The Power of Now existed, way back in 2005. I even thought, “I should read it, so I know what on earth this girl’s character is talking about in this scene.” But did I?) but for some reason they came later. Sometimes I wonder if we pass up chances to learn and grow that we won’t get again. Or if we get a second, third, or fourth chance. If God puts something or someone in our path because we need it, but we say, “no, I’m not ready for that” or “I don’t want that,” and we lose out on this experience that would have shot us forward in our growth. I don’t have the answer to that one. I suppose the answer would be that even if it were true, you can’t change the past, so just keep moving!

Anyway, the lesson I’m struggling with these days is that you need to give to receive. For instance…

I want better friends! Well, it means I have to be a better friend.

I want more financial security! Well, I need to give, believing that God’s supply is infinite and I do not live in lack.

Basically… it can feel like I have to give what I don’t have. Give friendship to get friendship. Give money to get money.

 

"You don't know how to manage Looking-glass cakes," the Unicorn remarked. "Hand it round first, and cut it afterwards."
“You don’t know how to manage Looking-glass cakes,” the Unicorn remarked. “Hand it round first, and cut it afterwards.”

 

But I get it. I do get it. It’s presenting an attitude of love and abundance, which draws more of the same to you. It’s not living in your head, for yourself, always thinking about what you lack, what you want, but focusing on others and how you can improve their world. In the process, yours improves as well.

Some prayer/faith/energy healers say that sometimes when they let God flow through them to heal other people, their own ailments are cured in the process. How could they not be, when love is flowing through you?

One of my favourite poems is one by Saint Francis of Assisi. I try to keep it memorized to recite to myself sometimes, because I think it’s the perfect reminder of how to move through life.

Lord, make me an instrument of Thy peace;
where there is hatred, let me sow love;
where there is injury, pardon;
where there is doubt, faith;
where there is despair, hope;
where there is darkness, light;
and where there is sadness, joy.

O Divine Master,
grant that I may not so much seek to be consoled as to console;
to be understood, as to understand;
to be loved, as to love;
for it is in giving that we receive,
it is in pardoning that we are pardoned,
and it is in dying that we are born to eternal life.

I can tell I’m not yet at the highest version of myself, because I can still get quite butt-hurt when I give and give and give and give and then get taken advantage of, or ignored, or hurt in some way. I know my time is finite, and I must be wise in who I give it to, but I also need to learn that I give because of who I am, not because of who the other person is (other than another child of God) or how they will “repay” me. But then that also gets confusing if you do have sort of self-centered motives behind it, such as “be a friend to make a friend.” So my mind runs in circles trying to sort out how I should behave and think.

if-you-have-much-give-of-your-wealth-if-you-have-little-give-of-your-heart-quote-1

 

And when I think of the advice to rely on God, and give of what I have to others who have less, because He’ll take care of me… I think, well, I’m already awfully close to the edge, it’s a pretty big leap of faith to give money when I’m in debt and have no savings… how do I really know You’re going to take care of me? I have to take the leap before I see the net. It’s very hard to let go. It’s hard not to worry about tomorrow, though I know it does no good. Plan, but don’t worry.

worrypeace

One thing I’ve learned recently is that when my mind is troubled, when I’m stuck on a particular worry, to meditate. To pray. To medi-pray. When worrisome thoughts are crowding themselves into my head and I find it hard to breath, I sit down and close my eyes. I pick a phrase appropriate to my situation and repeat it either out loud or in my head. I give thanks to God for everything I have in this moment, and give thanks again that He will deal with this situation. I know that by worrying, I’m not being productive at all. But by radiating love and gratefulness and saying, “Lord, I give this to you, because I can’t control it,” I find myself relaxing and refocusing. Sometimes I nearly laugh at myself. I could start a meditation sit sobbing my eyes out but by the end… I’m cool.

letgoofworry

It’s really saved my sanity, and I believe is moving me forward to being the person I want to be. The person I know I am, underneath all the grim I’ve gathered on the first part of my journey.

So I guess I’ve covered two lessons in this post. Give what you want to receive (even if it feels like passing around the cake before you cut it), and don’t worry. I think these are the big lessons in my life these days. And I’m really excited for the day when I’ve finally, really learned them. What big lessons are you learning at the moment?

 

I Could Have Read All Night

Of all the things I appreciate about Paris, one was my time in the metro. Wherever I went, I usually had either a book or my Kindle with me, and would whip that thing out as soon as I took a seat. When it was too crowded and I had to stand, I would still try to read. This is something you can’t do in a car. Sure, you could listen to audio-books, but how are you going to bookmark or take notes? Here in L.A., I have to be content with reading at home, instead of multitasking like that. But I have motivation! A giant pile of books to read or re-read in order to continue on towards my goal of a more minimalistic lifestyle. Sometimes I get on myself about how long this is taking (and not just with the books, but the 4 bins of stuff I want to get rid of, too), but I guess the process is different for everyone. And every journey begins with a single step, as they say!

If you don't own apple crates, you should.
If you don’t own apple crates, you should.

 

Last year, however, I discovered Goodwill bookstores. And I left with armfuls of books. Three of which, however, have made it onto my “books I tell everyone they should read” list. But I really can’t go back in there again. At least until I’ve read the books I have. I have a lot of books to read… I’m trying to get rid of everything I don’t need, and books are heavy, replaceable items so I’m hoping to shorten that stack considerably.

Anyway, I figured some of you might find yourself on planes, trains, or other forms of public transportation, in need of some mind-stimulation, so I wanted to share what I enjoyed reading in 2014.

 

The Power of Now by Eckhart Tolle

One of those books I should read once a year as a refresher, as it really has the power (well, you have the power, it just helps you find it) to bring positive change to your life. I first heard of it in an acting class way back in 2005, and always meant to read it. Just didn’t until now. A close friend read it last year and got so annoyingly preachy about it that I decided to read it and get it over with, finally. I liked it. And I’ve kept myself from getting preachy about it. Basically, Eckhart Tolle points out that to find peace you can’t live in the past or the future, but right now. If you think about it, most of our thoughts are about things that have happened, or things that we want (or don’t want) to happen. We are rarely present, focused on this very moment. And if we can be present, we can appreciate what we have, right now. He doesn’t use this example, but I keep thinking… what if I woke up today and knew nothing about my past? I only knew what I have right now, and I didn’t know what my future plans were.  What if I could just walk through my life, without carrying the fears and pain from my past? Oh, just go read it, it’s a best-seller. 🙂

 

The Four Agreements by Don Miguel Ruiz

Another one I should read regularly. I put the four agreements in my email signature as a daily reminder (it’s a good place for them, since it can be easy to just snap off an email to someone you’re irritated at). The four agreements are:

Be impeccable with your word.
Don’t take anything personally.
Don’t make assumptions.
Always do your best.

And of course he expands upon them in the book. I think keeping these things in mind really helps with relationships of any kind, and helps to create more peace in your mind. When you realize that everyone else is living in their own heads, has their own problems, and isn’t (usually) out to purposely hurt you, you can focus on what you can control – yourself and your reactions.

 

Conversations with God by Neale Donald Walsch

This is a book I’d heard about for a while, but growing up in a pretty traditional Christian setting, thought it was probably blasphemous or something. But for $2.99 I figured I’d give it a go. Then I went on to read the next 2 books in the series. I have to admit it’s been a while since I read these and now I’m blanking on specifics, but I thought it was an interesting read, and brought up some questions and answers for me. Like, why do we feel that God spoke to people thousands of years ago, but not today? But then why do some people say they talk to God, or hear God talking to them… but if they were to write it down, or write a book, we would think they were crazy…. It’s like “true” Christians think God is dead. Eh.

Now onto some books I didn’t get at Goodwill.

 

The Writings of Florence Scovel Shinn

OK, this one is embarrassing. Not because of what it is, but because of how long I’ve had it before starting to read it. And the person who gave it to me will be reading this blog. 😀

bookmarks
Photo taken before I finished reading it. I’m done now.

 

I’m finding it interesting because I rarely read books that combine Christianity and the Bible, with the concept of creating your own reality. And this was written a century ago! I’m about to type up a document of all my favourite “affirmations” and examples so I don’t have to bring the book with me to France. But there are so many! With everything I’ve been learning about God, and about the world, miracles and science, I love to see how they actually complement each other when you know what you’re looking for. I think the problem with modern prayer is that we don’t truly believe that we have what we’re asking for. It’s like wishing for blue sky during a storm… you have it. It’s above the storm clouds. It never went away. Believe it’s there. I definitely need to put my faith into practice, and this book is a good motivator.

 

The Findhorn Garden by The Findhorn Community 

This may seem like an odd one. But if you believe in angels, then why not believe in other spirits, too? I’m sure there are all kinds. The Findhorn Garden was a garden started several decades ago in Scotland, in a very inhospitable, sandy spot. But the plants grew to enormous sizes, because the founders would communicate with the spirits of the plants to learn how to make them flourish. Even if you don’t get into that aspect of it, it might make you take a second glance at the world around you. Now when I pass gardeners just hacking away at plants, I almost want to yell at them to stop. When I see how we tear up and cement over nature, leaving struggling little weeds in the depleted dirt, I wonder how we got so far, so unconnected to the earth. I can’t even keep a tiny potted plant alive. So yes, this is a recommended read if you want to feel like more of a connection with nature is possible. I know I, for one, am going to spend some time this summer meditating in the forest with the fairies. 🙂

 

So those are my book suggestions of 2014. I know this post is late. I’ve been lazy about it. I have a lot of books to read right now. 😀

 

So what were your favourite books of 2014?

Our Life is Frittered Away By Detail

How difficult it is to be simple
Or Irving Stone.

We come into the world with nothing, basically. No clothes, toys, bills, we’re even given a break on being forced to file our tax returns for several years. We don’t worry about rent or food (under normal circumstances, I mean).

Then we gradually begin to accumulate. We accumulate toys, and papers, emails and apps, responsibilities, bills, contracts, receipts, debt…

We’re like beautiful, shining stones rolling down snowy hills, turning into snowballs, getting heavier and heavier with snow and grass and dirt until we’re weighted down and can’t even remember what we really are anymore. So many things attach themselves to us and demand our attention, and we do it thinking we’re being productive and responsible.

For me, it’s gotten to be too much. With my wanderlust, I’ve found I have too many things weighing me down. Too many pairs of shoes, too many papers. Too many obligations. My interests are many and my focus is scattered between them, but even the things I have passion for don’t get as much of my attention as I would like to give them, because of the other things I’ve tied myself to. If I were to add up the hours I spend on taking care of things I’ve gotten myself into…!!!

 

“Reduce the complexity of life by eliminating the needless wants of life, and the labors of life reduce themselves.”

~ Edwin Way Teale

 

So this year I have been trying to step up my efforts at simplifying my life. Oh, I won’t stop traveling and doing what I love, but I will be able to enjoy it more once I’ve stripped away the grass and dirt and snow that I’ve accumulated. It’s been a slow process and I’m anxious to make major progress with it, but the main areas I’m tackling are these:

1. Email. See that number there on my phone? Yeah. I have way too many unread email, and too much email in general in my inbox. This comes from all the varied interests I’ve pursued, the newsletters and blogs I subscribed to but then never could keep up with. This area of life, the cluttered inbox, may be more psychologically overwhelming since I don’t need to read the emails and they don’t do harm by being in there (other than using up space), but that’s enough for me to try to organize my inbox. I feel it would help me focus more and waste less time if I really decide what’s important to get updates on.

My Cluttered Life
My Cluttered Life

Action: Every day I browse my new emails for something that I can unsubscribe to. I unsubscribe and go through all the old emails from that sender. I save a few useful ones and am finally making use of the archive tab. But I’m slowly chipping away at the pile of emails and the landslide I receive on a daily basis. That number was actually around 35k a few weeks ago.

 

2. Apps. See above. I don’t even use most of the apps on my phone. I read about them and downloaded them to try since they were free. There are apps for everything! And I find that awesome and very tempting. I even have an app to learn sign language. Which I haven’t opened yet. Apps are so amazingly useful, but I need to limit it to what I will actually use. Too much clutter. Taking up too much space (though not as much as my photo album, which I use as kind of a notepad, snapping pictures of pages in magazines and books, and taking screenshots of things online). I use my phone every day, so I feel it would be best to keep it simple and reflective of the growing simplicity of the rest of my life.

Action: Almost every day, when I have time to explore the apps, I will pop one open and try it out. Right now I’m going through the ones that are there to help me learn French. I discard the ones I don’t think I will be using, and keep the ones that I do find myself using more regularly. I downloaded several free texting apps, since different friends have used different ones, but after going through my French apps I’m going to focus on the social ones and decide which ones I think are the best and delete the rest.

 

3. Clothing. I love clothing, and as someone who occasionally does some modeling and survives with background work when I’m in L.A., a large selection comes in very handy. You could probably say I’m addicted to shopping at Crossroads Trading Company as well. I love getting “new” clothes, and this place is like crack for me. Unfortunately, storing clothing is a pain, especially while traveling. Packing and unpacking, and storing and even this process of elimination has been taking up way too much of my time. I need to really rip through this and be done with it. It’s just not very easy for me. Come on, look at that dress!

 

green dress
Wanna buy my dress?

Action: First I’m going through and selling or donating everything I know I haven’t worn lately and probably will never wear again. I’ve also decided to put together sort of a collection of pictures representing the clothing and styles that I would like my wardrobe to be composed of. I will edit down my closet to be just what I like to wear all the time, with pieces that can be easily mixed and matched. Of course, this depends on what kind of money I have, to create this wardrobe. :-/ I want more skirts and dresses with nice little waistlines. And less jeans. I have too many jeans. Want some jeans? I’ll trade you. This process is moving slowly along. Selling clothing isn’t as easy in France. Garage sale and ebay time once I get back to L.A. I made over $1000 last year selling clothes on ebay. Not too bad.

 

4. My mobile home. I loved living there. But I haven’t for ages, so I keep renting it out… and not at a profit. It’s not my home anymore and it’s become a burden to me with the constant threat of repairs, finding new tenants, home insurance, property tax (even though I don’t own the property….)… I need it out of my life so that I don’t have a mobile home hanging over my head everywhere I go.

Action: Get out of it. I’ve been aggressively seeking solutions to this one, but no matter which potential answer I find, it’s one that I can’t afford. I have an owner-financed loan so I pay my mortgage to the previous owner. It’s lost a lot of value since I bought it though. The two options I seem to have right now are either to sign it back over to him, or to convince him to sell it to one of the people who is interested in buying it. Either way, I will most likely be faced with a massive tax bill to repay the First Time Home Buyer’s Credit (if I knew that this was how it worked, I wouldn’t have taken it…) next year, and on my income I don’t know how I would pay it. I would also have to give the current tenant their deposit back, which basically makes up all I have in the bank. If I were to sign it back over to him, he would demand more repairs be made, which I (duh) also don’t have money for, but if it was sold, I think it would be “as is,” which would eliminate that cost from the equation. I proposed trading it back to him for my initial down payment, but he refused that and just wants it back along with all the repairs I’ve already made($3000+), a massive new shed ($2000+), plus more unspecified repairs. Which seems unfair to me, because then it’s basically like I gave him $12k in 2008, then rented from him for 6 years and paid all the costs of upkeep, taxes, and insurance for him. What a great situation for a landlord. No thank you. No deal. The best (but still not financially ideal for me) solution for everyone at this time seems to be a short-sale, but apparently he used his retirement money to buy this mobile home (why, don’t ask me. Mobile homes have a shelf life, rent rises every year… real property or precious metals would have been my pick) and although he would certainly get enough to buy real property somewhere (like Spain!) with what he would salvage from the mobile home, it seems he would prefer to keep it in a 40+ year old vehicle on land he doesn’t own. I would still lose money, but at least wouldn’t have to pay for further repairs, and if he was generous enough perhaps he could agree to a few thousand from the sale to cover costs of things I did repair and replace (though I doubt it).  He’s made quite a lot in interest over the past 6 years so I don’t know what he’s stuck on…  We’re all a little stuck. But I keep trying. Because I want out.

 

5. Time management. This one is the hardest one of all for me. I like to travel, so I don’t have a regular job that dictates what free time I have and makes sure I have a steady income. My income is very irregular and when I’m in L.A. I have several jobs that make up my income. But no set days or hours for anything. So it’s been very difficult to say “here are the things I want to spend time on, and I will do it for this long each day at this time each day.” It’s near impossible, really. I’m daily trying to figure out how to earn more income, so that I can relax and focus more on the things I really want to do (which may or may not bring an income). Today for example, I feel that I have not done anything very productive. I read a lot of interesting things, replied to some email, dyed my hair, made lunch, and here I am writing the first blog post in months. After this I intend to do some writing on a little book I want to put out on Amazon. I’m really trying to do something that makes me feel like I’m creating and living my purpose. But this still means I have to spend time today working on the website that pays the bills, and piecing together other ways I can earn money for the other debt in my life (and to make it easier to get out of that mobile home!). Oh all the things I want to do. I want to focus on improving my photography, practice piano, learn how to use this music program on my computer, finish the short movie about my dog (which is unfortunately stuck on the broken hard drive, unless I want to start all over again with the editing), write songs, write a script, practice energy healing… shoot. So much to do.

“The waste of life occasioned by trying to do too many things at once is appalling.” ~ Orison Marden

Action. This is the big one that I don’t have an answer for. I sit with my notebook day after day making lists, trying to narrow down what I really love, what I should focus on, a plan of action, a goal…. and I haven’t solved it yet. I feel that I have so many “little things” that get in the way and need dealt with before I can get to what matters. I suppose, in general, my action for this one is to clear away as many of the unnecessary elements to my life so that I have the space to focus more on the big things. Finishing with the email purge, the app purge, getting my belongings down to the basics… once those are complete I won’t have to be tackling them every day. It just feels never-ending.

 

Freedom

 

I definitely have held onto some commitments that perhaps were good for me at one time, but are not good for me now. And some commitments we never even really agreed to, but were just thrust into (like citizenship!). I want to strip away as much as I can, to get to the point where I can carefully choose the things I am committed to. Just dump out the clutter drawer of life so I can see the bottom and decide what goes back in and what doesn’t.

Quotation-Albert-Einstein-simple-simplicity-Meetville-Quotes-216754

 

So now it’s time to move on with my day and figure out what else I can do to progress with the things I love, simplify a little more, and figure out that whole income problem. I’ve spent way too much time in this limbo. I really anticipate getting out and looking around and being able to say, “I feel free!”

 

“Simplicity is the final achievement. After one has played a vast quantity of notes and more notes, it is simplicity that emerges as the crowning reward of art.”

~ Frederic Chopin

“As you simplify your life, the laws of the universe will be simpler; solitude will not be solitude, poverty will not be poverty, nor weakness weakness.”

~ Henry David Thoreau

 

For more quotes about simplicity and life, there’s a really good list here! Pick your favourites for motivation. 🙂

Are you doing anything to make or keep your life simple? Have any tips for me?