Category: growth

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?

I Can’t Afford It

When you hear a friend saying they wish they could do something but can’t afford to, do you jump right into “well, just cut out things like a daily coffee, because $5 a day at 30 cups a month is $150 a month right there!” or something like that?

Whenever I read an article about how to stretch your money, how to save money… they always have ridiculous tips like that.

What if you never buy coffee?

What if you have the cheapest, most restrictive plan for your phone (granted, it’s a smart phone but I’m not giving that up) that you could find, and make calls from Skype to save money?

What if you only go see a movie once a month and only go to a matinee so you’re not paying full price?

How do you juggle paying for the necessities with actually enjoying your life and following your dreams? Life is so short, who wants to waste it working 3 jobs?

Yes, I know that everything we spend money on is a choice. I may decide it’s more important to me to keep flexibility so that I can travel (cheaply…) rather than spend the money going out with friends. I may decide it’s worth it to me to pay $25 for a game that I can play with friends (Cards Against Humanity!) than to have more food in the fridge. They are choices. But just because it’s a choice, doesn’t make it an easy one.

I don’t go to the salon more than 2 or 3 times a year and always look for a cheap one. I don’t get my nails done, I don’t shop for clothing retail – and haven’t shopped at all in months. In fact I’ve sold about half of the clothing in my closet this year.

So what do you say when you have to or want to spend money on something (like a used camera lens, or your dog’s dental care) but don’t have the means? What do you say when friends invite you out but when you add up the cost of gas, food, and a drink, it’s more than you make in a day? How do you continuously say “I can’t afford it, I can’t afford it” without getting depressed about it and sounding like a complainer?

Don't despair. There's no money in it, but I can sell my purse to pay for your dental bill.
Don’t despair. There’s no money in it, but I can sell my purse to pay for your dental bill.

For several years after I moved to L.A., I struggled with money. I moved in with a boyfriend when I could no longer pay my $400/month rent. I was only saved by a $9000 inheritance by a relative, which I stretched to the max after paying my credit card debt and buying a new computer. Because my other one was a 10 year old PC that had just died.

And then came Adsense to save me, and for several years after that, I lived in peace. I could afford a nice place to live. Piano lessons, acting classes, dance classes, elocution classes… I could invest in myself and my career, at last. And I did. And I went out with friends, and I bought Groupons to do fun things, I loaded the fridge with food, which sometimes went bad before I could eat it.

I decided professionally, that I wanted to try France, since although I was putting all this investment into myself, I was not getting work in L.A. So it was time to make the most of life, learn French, and see if the grass was any greener over there.

And then Adsense began to say a long and drawn out good-bye.

I started relying on my savings in addition to the monthly income that was not enough to pay the bills, which were now in Euros.

And eventually that ran out as I struggled to continue to pursue my goals, and I found myself back in L.A., basically broke, doing background work again. I thought it would just supplement my waning income while I tried to prop it up again, until it took one final gasp, and pretty much died. Oh, I still get a little from it, but it’s not going to pay rent. Perhaps with the continuing CPR it may be revived, but not to it’s old glory days.

So I’m left with dreams and goals and the distraction of trying to pay the bills instead of focusing on my real contribution to the world.

I proudly scrimped and saved a few thousand dollars by working and selling off many belongings… only to sit at the accountant and be told that out of that $13,000 I earned… the IRS wanted $1800 of it. I crumbled. I already had taken out a personal loan to combat the crazy interest charges on my maxed out credit card. I was already eating one meal and a smoothie every day. Except the days I worked. I’d been struggling (and still struggle!) to give up the new addiction to organic dark chocolate peanut butter cups, which I could easily spend $50 a month on.

I’ve grown weary of telling friends I can’t afford to join them, tired of not being able to invite people out, depressed because I can’t afford to go dancing, or take classes, or just fund my little documentary by myself, which would only take a few hundred dollars more. I feel frustrated when I think I can treat myself to something (which also doubles as another potential way to earn money, such as a used camera lens, or a better microphone for my camera) and then something “more important” comes up to divert the funds. I feel guilty for telling my friend with the herbal hospital in India, year after year, that I want to come and maybe this year I can make it… but I can’t. I’ve grown tired of the panic and stress that arises when I’m faced with having to spend money I don’t have (on tires, on the vet, the doctor…), and the way I burst out with “I don’t know what else to sell! I don’t know how I can cut back any further on food, I don’t know how I can afford this….” and probably seeming pretty pathetic to whomever I’m talking to.

Websites tell me instead of saying “I can’t afford it,” that perhaps I could say “that’s too expensive and not a necessity.” But how many more things can I say that to? The doctor? The vet? And who wants to live with just the necessities? That’s great for a short period of time, but… months without going out for an unnecessary dinner or drink or show? Other websites assume that you don’t WANT to do the things you’re invited to do. Like it’s easy to say no because “I have a goal I’m saving for.” It’s not easy.

But it’s not just that. It’s not just learning what your priorities are when it comes to spending (which is a good thing). It’s the stress it creates and the time it steals. When the first thought in my mind, all day long, is “how can I earn enough money to be able to meet my goals?” and it never ends… it leaves me little time to unwind and actually work on those goals. To sit and play guitar for a few hours. To read books, to improve my singing or acting, my Photoshop or photography skills. Because I feel the need to spend that time trying to earn money to keep fed and pay off my debt. I feel as if I’m wasting precious time in my life. At 32, I don’t want my main focus to just be paying rent and eating. I want to be using my skills, enjoying my time with friends, giving back because I have enough for me and for others. The struggle has taken away too much of my life.

I realize I’m not the only one. And while it can feel like everyone else can afford the things I can’t, I know it’s not true. I know other people are struggling. And I wish I could help. I wish I was in a position to…

But perhaps this struggle has led me to a position to help. I have a glimmer of hope at the moment. A few months ago, I knew that I would have to save up, and try to revive the website, if I wanted to get back to Paris, and travel more, and be able to focus on my goals and go out with friends, as well. So I started looking online for other ways I could earn money. I’d looked before, when I was doing well, because I wanted to help my friends to live the same wonderfully free lifestyle that I was blessed with. But I never found a way. I tried to help them do the same thing I was, but it wasn’t for everyone, and even I had help. A lot of it! And after the IRS stole most of my savings, I knew it was my only chance. To find something else I could get started with. Otherwise, I would be looking into a future of deep uncertainty. A few months ago, I found something. A location independent potential income, that started working for me. Not right away. Not before the taxes were due. At that point I thought I may still be doomed. But last month, hope started to bloom. I made some money. I found a light at the end of the tunnel.

It was (is) hard to want and need to spend money on things and not be able to, and not know when I would be able to. But now my goal is to work hard this month and have this parachute to catch me as I take a leap away from L.A. once more and leave my major source of income (background work). One more month of saying “I can’t.” I am determined that it be the last month. I am determined that when I get back to France, I will not have to say “I can’t”, I will have the freedom to spend on my creative pursuits. I will have the money for classes when I return to L.A.

I am determined to get to Paris and go out for a glass of wine on a warm summer night, without a worry in my mind about whether or not I can afford it.

So if you’ve been in this position, how do you deal with not being able to afford more than the basics? How do you manage the stress and budget your time between survival actions and pursuing your dreams?

Is Traveling Worth It?

Is traveling worth it?

Worth what? Worth the environmental impact you’re having by getting on that plane, of course!

I got into a debate recently with a Facebook friend, which inspired me to do a bit of researching and soul-searching. He had given up air travel because of the contribution to climate change, while I on the other hand, have no intention to give up flying.

First I’m going to hit you with a little bit of research.

 

The contribution of civil aircraft-in-flight to global CO2 emissions has been estimated at around 2%.
In attempting to aggregate and quantify the total climate impact of aircraft emissions the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) has estimated that aviation’s total climate impact is some 2-4 times that of its direct CO2 emissions alone (excluding the potential impact of cirrus cloud enhancement).

The IPCC has estimated that aviation is responsible for around 3.5% of anthropogenic climate change, a figure which includes both CO2 and non-CO2 induced effects.

That’s our first quote from Wikipedia on the environmental impact of aviation. It just leaves me wondering what makes up the other approximately 97%?

Modern jet aircraft are significantly more fuel efficient (and thus emit less CO2 in particular) than 30 years ago.[26] Moreover, manufacturers have forecast and are committed to achieving reductions in both CO2 and NOx emissions with each new generation of design of aircraft and engine.

Some scientists and companies such as GE Aviation and Virgin Fuels are researching biofuel technology for use in jet aircraft.[33] Some aircraft engines, like the Wilksch WAM120 can (being a 2-stroke Diesel engine) run on straight vegetable oil. Also, a number of Lycoming engines run well on ethanol.

I understand that planes are a long term investment, and the one you’re flying on now was probably made 20 years ago. So even if they make progress… it may be a while before we see changes. In the meantime…

 

The emissions from taxiing and take-off of aircraft help make airports some of the largest sources of these pollutants and major public health hazards. For example, Los Angeles Airport is the largest source of NOx, a key cause of the region’s copious smog, in California and the third largest source of carbon monoxide. 4 Logan Airport in Boston, MA produces twice as much benzene as the next largest source in Massachusetts. 5 Scientists have found that even small increases in taxi time at airports in Southern California contribute to significant increases in asthma, respiratory ailments, and heart disease in surrounding communities. 6 Scientists also believe that particulate matter emissions from airplanes, along with ships and trains, contribute to 1,800 early deaths per year in the United Kingdom alone. 7 These health impacts also translate into large economic costs for society.

According to flyingclean.com. Yay, L.A….

And according to a research paper (which I did not read, only someone else’s response to it, and the summary below), planes are the worst form of transportation, unless we’re thinking more long term, then take a look in your garage.

Emissions of short-lived species contribute significantly to the climate impact of transportation. The magnitude of the effects varies over time for each transport mode. This paper compares first the absolute climate impacts of current passenger and freight transportation. Second, the impacts are normalized with the transport work performed and modes are compared. Calculations are performed for the integrated radiative forcing and mean temperature change, for different time horizons and various measures of transport work. An unambiguous ranking of the specific climate impact can be established for freight transportation, with shipping and rail having lowest and light trucks and air transport having highest specific impact for all cases calculated. Passenger travel with rail, coach or two- and three-wheelers has on average the lowest specific climate impact also on short time horizons. Air travel has the highest specific impact on short-term warming, while on long-term warming car travel has an equal or higher impact per passenger-kilometer.

If you have an electric car, maybe you’re excused. If you’re one of the people mentioned in The Guardian’s article here, you’re not excused, and you should stop causing more environmental havoc than a dozen people combined. Thanks.

So… that’s just a sampling of the horrors of aviation…. but what would the world be like if we didn’t fly? First, I have to admit that I see travel very differently than the majority of people. I don’t stay in hotels or resorts (not that I don’t like them), I don’t treat my travel as “vacation,” I don’t do many “touristy” things, and I don’t go only to associate with whomever my travel buddy is and never see the “real” _______. You know from my “about me” section that what I want to do as I travel is connect with creative people around the world to work with, and volunteer time to help the community in some way. It doesn’t always work out, and I try not to beat myself up over it, but I do try. When I travel somewhere, it’s to get to know another way of life, and to get out of my bubble. OK, so is that worth killing the earth? I don’t know. As George Monbiot says in a snippet from his book:

…the people who are most concerned about the inhabitants of other countries are often those who have travelled widely. Much of the global justice movement consists of people – like me – whose politics were forged by their experiences abroad.

Would I really know the extent of the petty crime rings in Paris or Barcelona without having lived there? Would it personally affect me to a point where I would want to do something about it? Would the lack of proper sanitation in parts of Ghana be on my mind had I not spent time there? Would the cheerful dispositions of people with much less than me also be on my mind, urging me towards a life of minimalism (good for me and good for the planet as well)? Would I understand things going on in other parts of the world without really being there and interacting with people? Does it matter if I understand?

It depends on the person, I suppose. I could experience something now that I may not be able to act on for another decade, but at that point I could make a big difference in the lives of others. I don’t know, I can’t predict the future. I can only explore, and learn, and grow, and give back. And for me, the airplane is an indispensable tool. I’ve gone on several Habitat for Humanity trips, but you don’t have to be working full time to be giving back and getting involved, and you also don’t have to expect immediate results from every journey. If you’re becoming a better human being through your travels, that’s a really good thing in and of itself. Because the world is made up of billions of us. And many of us are unconscious, selfish, ignorant people. And traveling can change that about a person.

As Matt says at theculturist.com:

If you haven’t experienced a culture personally, it’s easy to write off an entire country as “impoverished” or “politically unstable,” when each place has its own complex history and social structure. Seeing areas’ hardships, customs, and attitudes can inspire you to give back in a variety of ways.

You don’t have to make your vacation an all-out service trip to gain insight and contribute to improving the local economy. Sometimes, just immersing yourself in the culture and staying open to new experiences is enough to achieve a larger benefit.

…. If you open your eyes and see how things are different outside your home country, you have a better understanding of how the world works, as well as what projects or social causes you might support.

 

I couldn’t say it better myself. So I’m going to stop talking now. lol. Almost.

There are some alternative modes of transportation, depending on where you’re going… cars and trains, and sometimes boats… but not all are practical for those of us who may not have a car or the money to rent on, or don’t have a week to make a train trip to get somewhere, and then a week to get back. Some places are very difficult to get to without a plane. Everyone’s journey is different and requires different considerations. Personally, I love making friends around the world, and I enjoy seeing them more than once in my life. I love to experience different places. As a child I would dream about different lives I could live. I knew I would have to choose one, but I couldn’t. Of course, you always have to choose, and I’m living the life I chose. But I always wonder about the other ones. So the best I can do is sample them. And eventually, find the place I want to settle in, while keeping my worldwide community within reach, and using what I learned along the way to make a difference in whatever way I can. Travel (thanks to airplanes) has helped me grow as a person and start really connecting with the world. I’m not saying nothing should be done about the problem caused by so many airplanes in the air these days, but I think a more important issue is being able to connect people around the globe so that the whole world is our community, not just the tiny patch of grass we were born on.

What are your thoughts on air travel?

(Mark Twain wanted to have the first response)

Mark Twain Says

Happy New Year!

OK, sorry for being gone for so long. Sometimes I’m bad at this blogging thing. I just haven’t had much I want to say lately. I haven’t been traveling, I’ve just been here in Los Angeles trying to get a little work and sell a lot of my things. It’s been slow, but I’ve made a couple hundred dollars from the things I’ve sold so far, and I’m really looking forward to just cutting down on things I can do without. I’ve been decluttering my life (that’s a link to Zenhabits.com’s blog post on decluttering, not my own post) for what seems like a long time now, but I haven’t made it easier on myself by being bi-continental. It’s amazing how even though I’ve slowed down with buying things I won’t use regularly, how much there is to go through. I mean, really, it seems like the bulk of it is paper. Books, notebooks, and crap the IRS makes you save. I really want to get rid of all that stuff. I’ve digitized the notes from some notebooks (except the super full ones) and then tossed them. I’ve shredded masses of credit card bills (I figure if I need them again I can get them online. Maybe not without some difficulty but ugggg I hate all these things in my filing cabinet). The key for me seems to be just to keep combing through, keep letting go, and try not to add more to it.

I’ve been trying to declutter my mind as well. After years of hearing about this book, I finally read The Power of Now, which I’ll probably have to re-read every so often to stay focused. It’s not as if the concept is completely new to me, but my thoughts and fears can easily overwhelm me and working on a practice of staying in “the now” seems pretty beneficial. I’ve been really monitoring my thoughts and feelings more, though I haven’t been under a huge stress test lately to see how I deal with it. Not that I want one… lol. I also read (or rather listened to the audio book on YouTube, but then I found the book at Goodwill) The Four Agreements, which really compliment The Power of Now. Highly recommended, both of them.

What else, what else… well, before I read The Power of Now, I was quite a mess in January. The renters in my mobile home had given their one month notice in the middle of December, leaving me to find someone new over Christmas. I found someone new, but couldn’t raise the rent enough to really truly cover all my expenses (there were some surprise raises in the rent this past year), but nobody was interested in it at a higher price. Then to top it off, I had to hire a cleaning lady to help ready the place ($), a handyman to fix some plumbing issues ($$) and then the electricity had problems ($$$) and the heat went out ($$$$). All in all, I could have flown to the Caribbean on what I spent. I found myself one afternoon dragging things out of the backyard and the shed, trying to get an old TV down to the dumpster, freaking out on someone via text because I couldn’t take the stress anymore, and watching teardrops splash on that stupid TV set after dropping it on my toes. I was already bruised and scratched and dirty and really fed up. Just when I thought I was starting to pull things together, I was left with barely anything in my bank account. All while hoping I’d just get enough background work to help put money back in savings, pay down my credit card, and get a plane ticket back to France. That hasn’t happened yet. And I haven’t worked in 2 weeks. Oh, I still work online, and it’s still squeaking by, but not enough to cover everything. I bet the IRS is going to want anything I’m able to set aside by April, too. I hate them. I’ve been looking into other online jobs, and got a very part time gig as a ticket scalper (which makes me feel a bit guilty, but I need some income, even if it’s deferred and morally questionable…). You know how your car likes to eat up savings every time you have some? So does a mobile home. Ah, my car also wants some now, but I just pay 50¢ every week to put it off….

I went in for the casting director meet-and-greet day at Central Casting this morning, since I wasn’t booked for work, which I’ll probably do more often while I’m here, since it does get your name circulated around the office, which may lead to more work. Cross your fingers. The room was crammed full today (nobody else getting work, either?) so there was really no meet-and-greet, just a Q&A. Now I know who casts the background for Mad Men.

And since I wasn’t working, and have gotten a bit tired of going through papers and preparing for tax time, I took the whole afternoon to work on songwriting. And I wrote a song and a half! I would really like to do this more often. Once I get into the groove I can just keep going for a while. I may be able to work on them again tomorrow after I scalp some tickets early in the day. I love being absorbed in creating…. I never want to stop. I don’t want to go to sleep right now. But I have to wake up at 5AM so I should go to bed or I may hit snooze too many times. I just enjoy writing songs, and then I get excited at the thought of performing them. I’m still a ways away from that though. I need to find the perfect match to play piano for me so I’m not alone on stage fudging things up on the guitar or something. But my songs are getting better, and I think if I really take all these days off I have (pfffffff) and focus on writing, I could have a nice handful to work with, and really do it this year. Maybe my musical couchsurfing tour could be a reality in 2014…. 🙂

Oh yeah! I almost forgot. Duh. I started my indiegogo.com campaign for the short documentary film I’m making for the 168 Hour Film Festival this year. Please check it out, and donate or share the campaign. 🙂

What Would Jesus Do… Now? (working title)

So that’s it for now, though I promise I’ll try to be better about blogging again. I’ll find something to talk about. 😉