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2013-10-14 13.08.30How would you spend your time if you never had to worry about money?

I’m at a weird stage in my life where I’ve just moved to the opposite side of the planet nearly 3 months ago and in this time have been fortunate enough to have the opportunity to settle into my new surroundings without having to stress about winding up homeless or starving to death. And truthfully spending my time now exactly as I would if I never had to worry about money, ever.

But every day I am painfully aware that this freedom cannot last forever, or at least not the way my life is currently set up.

The problem is that I don’t really know what I want career-wise anymore. I thought I wanted to be a health coach, but that idea is not igniting anything in me :-(

I haven’t been blogging, writing, working out, or consistently putting much effort into any one thing lately. To me this is tragic, since I’ve always been a very driven person and now have plenty of time to spend however I want. With focus, I know that I can become dangerously productive with any project that I want to create or pretty much any result I want.

But then I think back to my former life – working 45+ hours a week (I know to most people that’s nothing unreasonable), building a side business, cooking, cleaning, running errands, and attempting to get adequate sleep in the little time left over, not to mention the fact that I was in charge of settling the affairs of my now deceased parents’ after not one but both of their deaths this year, and I start to feel utterly exhausted by the thought of ever living like that again. All I want to do is go for a walk and hang out at a coffee shop for a few hours with my journal, notebook, laptop, and lately any book written by Robert Kiyosaki.

Nevertheless I do feel quite a bit disappointed with myself for my current and utter lack of motivation to do anything else, anything that most people would consider productive. After all, there is so much that can be accomplished by someone with this much free time on her hands – but at the moment all I’m doing is sitting on mine.

But that doesn’t mean that I haven’t been thinking about what I want to accomplish here. How I will survive in the long run and what I’m capable of. There is work to do and I know that my current stasis will not last forever.

I’ll be back in a few weeks (hopefully) to let you know what I come up with. In the meantime, I’m going to try to spend some time showing Sammy around Sydney. He just got out of quarantine this week.

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2013-08-16 14.59.57What I’m about to share with you is deeply personal, but by sharing it I hope to in some way help and inspire you the reader.

In mid-2012 I was amidst feeling completely indifferent towards the activity I spent the majority of my eyes open hours doing – work. I started to develop a sadness over the idea that what I was doing was what I should expect my life to look like for the next 30+ years (I know, first world problems). I had (and still do) have a very good life, but a piece of my soul was dying each and every day and I felt the need to somehow course correct to reinvigorate my desire to wake up and contribute to the world somehow.

Sure, I would take my 3 weeks vacation and make the most of them, often going to exotic places as far away from home as humanly possible, but those 3 weeks weren’t enough. As cliché as this sounds, I really wanted to do the kind of work that I was actually excited to do, that didn’t feel like work, and that wouldn’t feel like I was dying a slow death.

And for years I had the worst insomnia, often waking up as early as 3am without being able to fall back asleep. I tried an eye mask, earplugs, darkening curtains, a sound machine, drinking chamomile tea before bed, drinking a glass of red wine before bed, drinking a bottle of red wine before bed, giving up coffee altogether, but nothing would get me to stay asleep until actual early morning daylight hours for at least 28 days a month.

Exhaustion topped with the fact that I was still pulling myself out of bed and try to stay awake at work despite all the cups of coffee I would drink and how little I slept the night before was taking it’s toll. I heard my soul’s screams to run for my life, yet I still went to work every day, tired as hell.

Wanting to actually make a mark in the world somehow, doing something that I enjoyed and actually felt good, and coupled with the fact that I have this seemingly unique ability to eat as much food as I want to without worrying overly about long-term weight gain, coupled with both of my parents’ health issues encouraged me to enroll in the Institute for Integrative Nutrition to become a health coach so that I could help other women too. I wanted to start my own business doing work I actually enjoy, while setting my own rules, hours, and giving myself as much flexibility as I want and need.

So I started my blog and in late 2012, actually began to gain clients while I still worked at my day job which I was planning to leave before end of July 2013.

Another thing that was simultaneously going on was that I was planning to move halfway across the world to Sydney, Australia. I had been planning the big move for nearly a year despite the fact that my father was gravely ill and that my mother struggled with caring for him. The fact that their relationship was never a good one didn’t help matters and for that my mother resented my plans to move, possibly thinking that she was losing her last leg of support.

But I wanted to live my life and I for one have never taken kindly to being guilt-tripped into, well, anything.

After a wonderful and relaxing vacation in Bali over the New Year, I returned back to New Jersey and the daily grind. A week after I was back in New Jersey I was handed the single greatest shock of my life when my mother unexpectedly died overnight one Saturday evening, devastating my family.

Once again I started agonizing about the whole move, worrying that in a way, I was turning my back on my father. I did talk about it with my father and exactly a week before he died, he gave me his blessing to go ahead and move, that if I thought that Australia would make me happy, to go ahead and do it because that’s what he would do if he were me. He told me not to even think or worry about him.

I’m not sure if he knew his time was running out, but he died a week later. I was next to him in those final minutes and knowing that he had been through a tremendous amount of pain in his two years of living with cancer, told the doctors to please just let him go.

And that’s where the work really began. Not only was I still working at this point, I also had to execute my father’s estate, sell my parents’ house, move Sammy over as well (among other things, my parents left me a dog), and pack up all my things as well. I wanted nothing to do with New Jersey once I left it, and to this day don’t have plans to ever go back there.

It wasn’t easy. Every morning before heading to work, I’d pry myself out of bed at 5:30 or 6 (I really wasn’t sleeping much anyway) to go through piles upon piles of my parents papers, statements, and random clutter that probably should have been tossed years ago, but were still sitting in all the cabinets, closets, and drawers. I spent my weekends going through each and every closet to make sure I wasn’t missing anything.

I frantically searched for any evidence of whatever assets they had, bills that needed to be paid, or promises they made. I managed to learn more about my parents after they died that I did the whole time they were alive.

I was having nightmares about being left with and unable to sell their house, a house that was full of pain, before I could finally be free to go.

The months of digging through their stuff as well as getting rid of all of mine, and getting ready to move to Australia (an ordeal, albeit a good once, in and of itself) were by and far the most painful and stressful of my entire life.

Yet in the 4 months before my move, I did leave my job, sell my parents’ house, get Sammy to Australia, file estate tax returns, and pack everything I considered important enough to keep before my self-imposed deadline. I actually managed to get it all done (a large personal victory)

But I also managed to lose sight of my business and what I actually want in life. I’m burnt out, personally and professionally. I feel like I’ve just come out of a war and totally dazed about what I should do now, especially since I’m so far away from the life I left behind.

So right now I am giving myself the space I need and have been yearning for for so long – the freedom to spend my time however I want.

And the chance to finally grieve. There is not one day that goes by that I don’t have a sad moment when I think that I don’t have a mom or dad that I can call anymore.

Yet when I get asked by new people I meet in this new land what it is that I do, I tense up because I really have no clear answer. These days I do a lot of what most extroverts would say is boring as hell – walking, reading, writing, and taking my sweet time with everything. I’m loving every minute of it, though it does come with the guilt of being in surroundings and around people that believe in contributing to society somehow, whether it’s working or volunteering or just looking for work or being a productive member of society or whatever.

Right now, I don’t have a desire to fill my time doing things in order to numb the pain. The only thing I desire is the luxury of choice – to decide for myself how I want to spend my time in that moment and what feels right.

And so now, I’m taking a bit of a break. I may not update my blog for a short while and I don’t know how long it’s going to take for me to mentally regroup, but it’s what I need right now.

And thank you for reading.

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I’m now beginning my third week of the energy project, and every day I’m feeling more and more settled here in Sydney. I’m sharing my story, failures, and successes with my energy project in the hopes that it will help you claim your own energy back, something that so many of us struggle with.

Last weekend, my boyfriend and I went shopping for housewares and drawers (drawers in particular are something I insisted on having) and when they arrived last Monday, I was finally able to unpack a total of about 7 suitcases of the remaining belongings that I brought with me here to Australia.

I have to admit that having all of my clothes neatly arranged and actually knowing where things are makes trying to get used to and settle into a brand new city that much easier :-)

One thing that I’ve come to realize recently is that even if and when I do get my energy levels to near perfect (if that even exists-I seriously doubt it), I’ll never be a super hyper, perfect pony-tail-marathon-running-yet-not-dripping-in-sweat-cheery kind of girl.

While I’m working on getting a respectable amount of sleep every night so that I don’t walk around like a zombie during the day, I realize that no matter how much sleep I do get, my underlying mostly introverted ways will more than likely stay the same.

While I do enjoy meeting and spending time around people, these days there’s nothing that I enjoy more than having an afternoon all to myself, soaking in the sunshine and writing in my journal.

And while getting plenty of sleep helps me function and operate like a normal human being, it will never turn me into anything else. Letting go of the expectation that I will ever be the life of the party has greatly exacerbated my recently discovered satisfaction.

That being said, the fact that I’ve been sleeping better for the last few weeks has definitely had a major impact on my energy levels. In my old life, I can’t even count how many times I would wake up anywhere between 2-3 am, absolutely hating myself for not being able to fall back asleep, having to force myself out of bed, and drinking 2-3 cups of coffee just to get my hands on the so-called energy I yearned for it to give me.

I’d then walk or take the train to work, and even if it happened to be a sunny day, be left feeling miserable for letting my looming cognitive cloudiness keep me from fully enjoying it.

I remember many times walking into the office, sitting in front of my computer, intellectually understanding the work that I needed to do, but physically being so tired and disconnected that I literally could not bring myself to complete the task at hand. I’d deliberately use snack, water, and bathroom breaks as an excuse to get up and leave my desk.

The worst part were some of my enthusiastic and cheerful coworkers who managed to get their full night’s sleep and couldn’t relate to my pain. I despised yet was completely jealous of their energy because I so badly wanted it, yet something so simple as sleep was still elusive to me (and for the record, I’m the type of girl who has achieved pretty much anything I’ve ever really wanted, so this one particular aspect of my life was a real achilles heel for me).

So in the last few weeks, I have thought about point #2 of my energy project on coming off the caffeine. My boyfriend has a coffee machine that he’s had but never used, and the first time I tried to use it, it just wouldn’t work.

But when you really want something, you always find a way to get it, and I found myself going across the street for a soy cappuccino every morning, even though I told myself I was going to get a juicer (which I did and it’s AWESOME) so that I would finally cut out the coffee from my life.

I’ve been having a soy cap every morning. But not because I need it.

I then take my soy cap, and while decked out in my new Lululemon gear, go for a brisk walk around Rushcutters Park near where I’m now living, enjoying the early morning sun over the Bay. Though it’s winter here in Sydney, the mornings are beautiful but chilly while the afternoons are pleasantly warm, around 65-70 degrees, a far cry from winters in New York wearing snow boots and sludging through snow and slush just to get to work. I won’t be missing those days.

I realize I actually still love sipping my soy cap in the morning, holding it in my hand as I’m walking through the park, watching dogs of all sizes and their owners walking through. I enjoy the taste, smell, and experience of drinking a fine cappuccino. Not because I need it to wake me up.

Similarly, I find myself walking the streets of Sydney looking for another nice cafe in the early afternoon so that I can sip on another soy cap, sit down at a table, and write. I never used to drink coffee in the afternoon (ever) but more and more I’m finding this time to be a spur of creativity, and I’ll happily have a soy cap in the afternoons if only for the opportunity to express it.

So going back to letting go of caffeine, I’ve pleasantly failed at it so far, but not for the predictable reasons I thought.

While I’m still drinking an average of two soy caps a day now, they don’t give me the same jittery feeling that I used to get with the coffee I’d have at home. And it sure as hell hasn’t kept me from sleeping (a miracle in and of itself). So I’ve decided that for as long as I want to I’ll continue to enjoy my soy caps, for the right reasons and if doing so keeps me happy.

So find a way to support your creativity, a way that makes you happy, and a guilty pleasure that brings a smile to your face every day and don’t feel guilty about having it to look forward to.

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The Harbour BridgeI’ve just arrived in Sydney, Australia with a clean slate and 4 suitcases. I left nothing behind in New Jersey.

I spent the weekend in Melbourne with my boyfriend, and I’m still just getting used to being here in a new place. It will take time to settle in so I’m not quite feeling at home yet. but I know the feeling will come.

For the record, I’ve always had a type A go-getter, play by the rules philosophy. Growing up I never rebelled and always did what I was told. I got good grades and picked a safe, stable career (i.e. accounting) to walk into.

And I have a knack for worrying. I’m easily caught awake at 2am thinking about everything under the sun, what I have to accomplish the next day and the next week, and next month. I recognize that thinking about nonsense at 2am is counterproductive to actually accomplishing things well during normal human hours.

Above all else, for as long as I can remember I’ve struggled with getting a full 8 hours of sleep per night consistently over any given period of time. What I do know is that on days where I do manage a full 8 hours (or at least whatever I consider to be enough), I feel unstoppable. Unshakable. Happy. Ecstatic.

The problem is that those feelings are always fleeting, namely when I wake up at 4am for the toilet and just can’t seem to fall asleep again.

I worked steadily as an accountant for several years, with hours starting at times as early as 7:30am, working as late as 11pm at times (fortunately that wasn’t a daily habit but it did happen from time to time).

But now that I’m literally as far away from my old life as I can possibly be, I really do want things to be different. Having the same mental patterns in a new environment basically defeats the purpose of moving halfway across the world in the first place.

So with a new city, a new career, and a new lease on life, and after what have been the most painful and stressful 6 months of my entire existence, I plan on getting my energy forever out of this funk, so over the course of my next 12 months in Australia, some of the new suggestions and ideas I have for bringing my energy up that I plan to implement in my life are:

  1. Drink alot of green juice. My significant other and myself just bought a juicer last week and we’ll be experimenting with lots of homemade green juices.
  2. Cut out the coffee – gradually. This is a tough one. At least once a year I’ll ban coffee from my life for a reasonable amount of time (i.e. a month). But I always find myself going back to coffee (and many times more than a cup per day) after a stressful week or some culture shock (i.e. travel). I associate coffee with morning breakfast but plan on replacing coffee with green juice over the course of my time here.
  3. TIO – touch it once. Marie Forleo talks about it here, but the concept is basically to act over ponder. If there’s an email that needs to be sent, rather than spending mental energy thinking about it, I’m just going to write it and send it. Rather than thinking about the unpacking and organizing I need to do, I’m just going to start. I’ll set aside blocks of time for certain activities in the hopes that I not only do things better, but also quicker so that I have some time to spare.
  4. Cut back on the alcohol. Aside from coffee, alcohol and specifically wine is probably the last gross vice I have. I don’t plan to stop drinking altogether, but instead I’m going to focus on enjoying the company of friends and family, and have the act of one drink at a time just play a supporting role in whatever I happen to be focused on at the moment.
  5. Meditate. Something I’ve been dabbling with alot recently, but this is more about focusing intensely on the present moment. If I’m trying to fall asleep, I’ll repeat mental mantras to help distract my mind from going on random tangents at 3am so that I can focus on shifting my level of consciousness to where I want it to be.
  6. Practice gratitude. Every day acknowledging my body for working for me, as well as giving thanks for everything I have and all that is working right in my life.
  7. Practice encouragement. Acknowledging others for their strengths, goals, and desires and supporting them in however way I can to help them get wherever they want to go.
  8. Make like-minded, supportive, confident friends. Jim Rohn once said that you are the average of the five people you spend the most time with. So given that I’m in a new city, I have to make friends – and the right kind to boot. Happy, confident, energized, and successful. Driven yet grounded and positive. And most of all, friends that don’t seek out external validation.
  9. Flirt with food. I’ve been vegan for the last year and a half, but in the last few months (maybe because of all the personal stress as well as getting ready for this move) I’ve been feeling somewhat faint. So instead of eliminating groups of food entirely, I’m starting to reincorporate certain foods back into my diet every so often, and evaluating how my body changes and reacts as a result.
  10. Be happy and energetic. To play on Gretchen Rubin’s words, one of the best ways to make yourself happy is to make other people happy; One of the best ways to make other people happy is to be happy yourself. I’m going to set this philosophy into practice myself and watch what kinds of energy and circumstances I attract in this strange new land (and new lease on life).

And over the next several months, I intend to write about my experiences and results with trying these new practices in the hopes that others who struggle with low energy levels take away bits and tips that can help them break through their own struggles.

So what about you? Do you have any additional tips on how to increase your energy that I seem to have missed in the list above? Leave me a comment and let me know.

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Sydney SunriseI’m trying to stay cool in this blazing heat wave in New Jersey – but in 8 days I’ll finally be on a flight to Sydney, Australia! It’s a one-way ticket.

Once I leave, I don’t plan on ever coming back here – which is pretty big because I’ve never in my 29 years lived anywhere else. And Sydney is pretty much as far away from here as I can get.

2013 has been a wild ride for me personally. In short order, in the last 7 months I’ve become a suicide survivor, an orphan, a pet parent, and soon I’ll be an expat.

Unfortunately I had to put my business plans temporarily on hold in order to settle my parents’ estate, as well as get Sammy ready to move with me to Australia, something I wasn’t planning on (he’s since arrived there safely :-) ).

Even after leaving my day job in May, I still had lots to take care of. Despite the fact that I wrote about why I was glad I finally quit my job, I was still completely stressed out, running around, going through all of my parents’ stuff (and alone – I’m an only child), and trying to fit what I thought was most important into 4 suitcases to take with me.

Last Thursday, after 4 excruciating months, I finally cleared out and moved out of my parents’ house and loaded all that I had left into a rental car and drove away. By Friday afternoon the house was officially sold.

I could finally breathe a sigh of relief that the nightmare is finally over.

In the midst of everything that’s happened, I realized that there’s nothing quite like death to teach you who you can count on, and who you can’t.

By far, the most important thing I learned in the wake of my parents’ deaths is who my real friends are.

I had friends who traveled far, took time off of work, called, visited, and brought food and whatever else I possibly needed. They asked me if I needed anything and actually meant it.

I had people who have been friends of mine in the past, who I no longer speak to, who still showed up in support without me expecting it.

My wonderful boyfriend who traveled 10,000 miles to attend my father’s funeral, a man he never even got to meet while he was alive. He was to come to New Jersey in May to meet my parents, but unfortunately he missed them both.

Those are the types of people you can count on. Friends and loved ones who stop at nothing to just be there for you in however way they can.

So to prepare myself for my upcoming across the world move, and with my coach’s help, I came up with my own list of qualities I want to both possess in myself and cultivate in the friendships I make in Australia:

  • Supportive
  • Does not angrily put me or other people down
  • Is reliable and can be counted on
  • Has a genuine soul
  • Can be confided in
  • Accepts me as I am with all my flaws
  • Is not combative or argumentative
  • Is not a narcissist
  • Has a heart full of love and joy
  • Respects my lifestyle choices
  • Treats themselves and others with respect
  • Is a source of positivity
  • Encourages me to follow through on the good

This list, I believe, represents most of the qualities that true friends have. No, the people in my life do not need to be the life of every party (and among other things I recently learned that the people who tend to be the life of every party tend not to be the people you can count on in a crisis), but what I want to be and what I want to attract are a genuine group of friends. Honest, responsible, and positive.

It’s a shame that unfortunate circumstances had to teach me that. But it’s a lesson that I’m glad I finally learned. I suspect that it will be a valuable one in the time to come.

What about you? Have you learned through unfortunate circumstances who your real friends are? Leave me a comment and let me know.

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MovedHello from Portland, Oregon! I’ve just finished an awesome weekend for the World Domination Summit, a once-yearly gathering of bloggers, travel hackers, and entrepreneurs who have set out to take over the world in his or her own unique way.

Imagine getting to meet all your favorite bloggers at once and 3,000 people taking on a small city in the Pacific Northwest.

Yes, it’s kind of awesome and the weather was absolutely stunning!

Now if you don’t already know, at the end of this month I’m also uprooting myself and moving from New Jersey, USA all the way to Sydney, Australia. It’s been a tumultuous year up to this point, so I’m excited to leave it all behind and am totally ready to start this next chapter of my life.

Also, it’s been blazing hot in New Jersey lately, so Sammy and I don’t mind a return to winter (or spring since Sydney never gets that cold anyway)

Sammy chillin on the floor trying to keep cool

I’ve been deliberately planning this move for over a year now, but what I wasn’t planning on was both of my parents dying earlier this year. So on top of packing all my own shit, I’ve been going all of theirs too, and knowing that I have no business being responsible for it, have decided to sell their house.

Leaving me with nowhere to keep all the stuff I wasn’t planning on bringing in the first place.

And forcing me to be outright ruthless about what I’m taking, what I’m leaving, what’s being given away and what’s getting thrown away.

And let me tell you, packing everything you’ve got and deciding what to keep and what to get rid of is really fucking hard.

But while I’ve been going through all my shit, I realized that there are a few ways to save space and time.

  1. Selling the valuable stuff and keep the sentimental stuff. If you have some really old jewelry that means nothing to you and you know you’re never going to wear it again, take it to a local jeweler and ask if you can sell it for cash. This might not be the most lucrative way to go, but it’s easy and lightens the load. Conversely, if you have things that are sentimental and that really mean something to you, maybe you should go ahead and keep it, even if the thing has no practical value.
  2. Reach out to friends and tell them what you have and either sell or give it away. You may have friends that happen to be looking for some of the things you’ve got and might need that large flat screen TV or new comforter you bought just so you could stage your place for sale. Tell them they could treat you for dinner for the kind gesture :-)
  3. List stuff for sale on Craigslist and eBay. I managed to sell some sofas and an original Nintendo recently, and someone might need that nice chest of drawers you have. Best part is that if they go and carry it out, that means you won’t have to.
  4. Scan stuff that you think might be important and go ahead and shred them. Then save them onto your Dropbox folder and have everything automatically backed up. And if you don’t have Dropbox, go ahead and get it because it is amazing. They offer a free account with 2GB of storage, but an upgrade is worth it. I personally keep all my pictures, music, and important files saved in Dropbox because I know they’ll be automatically backed up. Also I know that if my computer crashes at least years of pictures and music will be spared.
  5. At the end, get a junk remover to take everything else. The amount of stuff my parents had was overwhelming, so after going through it I had no choice and got junk removers to take all the leftover shit that couldn’t be sold or given away. Yes it costs money but for me and in my case it was totally worth it.

These are just a few things that I’ve been doing to pack up for Oz and keep it light, and I’m sure these tips could be helpful to someone moving or at least looking to scale back.

Now I want to hear from you. Have you ever moved somewhere and had to take nothing but the clothes on your back? What did you do with the rest of all your shit? Definitely let me know in the comments below, I’d love to hear from you.

Thank you, as always, for reading and sharing.

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Sunrise in CorsicaAfter dreaming about it for over a year, I left my day job on May 15, 2013. While I loved my coworkers and had a great job at a very prestigious company, I knew in my heart that it wasn’t where I belonged or where I saw myself spending the next 10 years of my life.

Being free from a day job was what I’d been dreaming about for many, many months. To finally have the time freedom and be able to direct my energy wherever I wanted (40+ hours of extra free time a week always comes in handy).

Before I officially told my coworkers that I’m moving to Australia, going to work every day was torture. Not because I didn’t want to be there, but because for months I was putting up a front to my colleagues that just wasn’t true. I’d go into the office, go about my work, and carry on conversations and meetings as if nothing was brewing. I felt like a total fraud and completely fake because I wasn’t being honest with anyone, and that is so not my style. But at the time it was too early to come out with telling my colleagues about my plan, so I carried on for months this way.

It ripped me apart. I wasn’t sleeping much, considering myself lucky if I woke up when it was light out (even in winter). I drove myself frantic trying to do everything I needed to do outside of work in the relatively small bits of time I had. And even though I know better, I just wasn’t taking very good care of myself

On top of that, both of my parents died early this year, 7 weeks apart. I never imagined that I’d be executing an estate and selling/giving/throwing out everything they had as well as everything I have before my big move. Having to go through all their stuff (and I mean all of it) and being on the constant go-go-go when I wasn’t working was taking a toll on me. Everything all at once was draining me physically and mentally.

I thought I’d never catch a break. One day at work I almost had a meltdown at my desk. I remember a co-worker asked me for help getting something signed. That involved a boat and a body of water.

I was so obliterated I could hardly move. I could barely talk. I wanted to tell my other co-worker who was right next to me that I couldn’t move, but I couldn’t get the words out of my mouth. Somehow I managed to type to my other coworker via messenger that I wasn’t well and couldn’t get myself onto a boat. After sitting and staring at my computer screen and not moving for about an hour, by some miracle I managed to get myself together.

Things were still a little hectic personally for about a week after I left work and before I took a trip to Portugal, to settle some things as well as get away for a bit.

And it was completely worth it.

I got to experience Portugal for what it is. I got to do my own thing, read, write, relax without getting shit from anyone about where to go and what to do, which was very different from the trips I went on growing up.

When I got back to New Jersey, I found myself with all the time in the world and aside from packing what’s left of my belongings for Australia, no major agenda for my last few weeks here.

This might sound crazy, but I think I may have finally found some zen.

These days I actually don’t mind when I get stuck in a little bit of traffic or when I have to wait in line a little longer (unless I’m desperate to pee). Life seems to just be flowing, and for once I’m going right along with it.

And here’s what I discovered I had missing in my life before that I seem to have found a bit of now.

  1. Time – I know this goes against alot of conventional advice, but I recently discovered that quitting my corporate day job and taking a long extended break has been very, very good. Think about it – if you spend 40-60 hours of your waking time in a stressful environment or in one where you’re just not feeling comfortable in your skin, it will take a toll on you. Resisting being somewhere you don’t want to be or doing something you don’t want to do is major life fail, because you’ll not only half-ass everything you do, but you’ll hate every minute of it.
  2. Presence – Ever notice that whenever you get annoyed or irritated at something, it’s just plain frustrating? On the flip side, when you’re actively engaged in whatever you’re doing or wherever you are in this very moment, time just flies. So the key to ending anxiety and frustration may just be to stop worrying about what you’re not doing or where you’re not at and just be with and be engaged with everything you’re doing and experiencing right now.
  3. Mental space – Going back to the presence concept, we tend to keep alot of garbage stuck in our heads. That old boyfriend, those old fights, that old grudge. When was the last time you went over the mental shit you’re still hanging onto? It’s not like I don’t struggle with this one myself, but I’ve come to realize that when I hold old grudges I just feel annoyed and no one else feels any different, so it really is just buillshit. To quote Buddha, “Holding on to anger is like grasping a hot coal with the intent of throwing it at someone else; you are the one who gets burned.”

Do you feel like there’s never enough hours in the day and are endlessly frustrated? Or are you more engaged with whatever you do and happy about it? I want to know. Leave a comment below and join the conversation.

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There are awful things in life that can happen. You could get beaten up, robbed, raped, left for dead, publically humiliated, shot at…you can only imagine. But I believe in the power of the human spirit, and anything could happen but you’d still be capable of bouncing back. No one is fated.

The worst thing that can possibly ever happen to you is having your spirit destroyed.

It doesn’t take something as awful as being shot at and left for dead to break a person’s spirit. I was in Portugal last week settling my parents’ affairs, and I sat with my aunt who told me about the mother I once had. She went on to describe to me a woman I never even met. How she was a lively and vibrant young woman growing up who smiled at everyone she met. How she got good grades in school and was popular and well-liked. Despite the difficulties of 1970s Portugal, she went to school and people enjoyed being around her.

At some point she got involved with my father who had already moved to the United States. I’m not entirely sure of the whole story, but at some point he somehow convinced her to marry him. So they did and she moved to the U.S. 6 months later, in March 1983.

There, she found herself in a completely different world literally overnight, alone and geographically isolated from the life she once knew and feeling trapped in the new life she now found herself in.

He was a good man fundamentally, but many times had an uncontrollable temper, even in the presence of a 5 year old daughter. He had a hard time compromising and trying to play fair in marriage. He liked to spend a lot of his free time hanging out with his buddies at the café, even into the wee hours of the night. And worse – the disappointment he felt in how his own life turned out had him ever increasingly turning to the bottle to soothe his own pain. Whenever my mother would try to show him any kind of compassion, he’d lash out throwing and breaking things because he didn’t know of a better way to handle his anger.

Over time, a deep depression took hold of her as she slowly accepted her situation as her fate. She no longer smiled at anyone. She didn’t try to make friends. She didn’t cry out for help – she simply took it as it came.

Yet she didn’t dream of walking away. The idea of getting out and starting over was unheard of – that just wasn’t how things were done in the culture she grew up in. She no longer knew of any other way to live. I bet she never realized that she had become a different person in this marriage – a woman who was terrified, isolated, and lonely. Of course she was incapable of leaving her husband – she had no self-respect left, because he had stolen it from her.

When my father was diagnosed with cancer in 2011 and told by all his doctors that he wouldn’t survive it, she couldn’t stand the thought. Despite the years of suppression she couldn’t fathom being a widow, free as a bird from the grief she had long endured. She wouldn’t have had a clue what to do with herself.

This past January, seeing no other way out of life as she knew it, decided to end it. She was 53 years old.

I can only imagine the thoughts going through my father’s head when he found her. But I’ll never know what he really thought – he himself died a mere 7 weeks later, his cancer-ravaged, 5’7” frame and 128 pound body having given up.

Both of their lives ended tragically. The real tragedy, however, was my mother’s perceived helplessness of her own situation. It reminds me of kidnapping victims who become loyal to their captors despite enduring abuse and captivity. They don’t see a way out because a life of captivity is all they now know.

My mother, in reality, had the capacity and resources to live out the rest of her life however she wanted. She did know that she had my 100% support.

I hope that my mother’s tragic life stands as a lesson to me and anyone who reads this. Think long and hard about the person you find yourself involved with. Pay close attention to how he treats not only you, but everyone else. Check him out at his worst – what is that guy like? More importantly, pay attention to how he acts when he’s upset – when things don’t go his way, and if he’s actually willing to play fair. If you have to sell your soul to satisfy someone else, I hope this story stands to show you that it, and he, is not worth it.

Img: RejiK

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journal

Have you ever looked back at a thought or situation you experienced a week, month, or even years ago and wondered “what the f*** was I thinking”?

Early in the summer of 2011, I read a story of how a woman decided to walk away from her miserable marriage after she read pages and pages of the journal that she had kept which basically retold the story of the sadness she was experiencing every day that she stayed with this man.

I’ve personally never maintained a journal writing practice for very long. But what I did have was ever fading memories. After reading that article, I decided that keeping a journal might not be such a bad idea.

I started documenting my sleep patterns (I have terrible insomnia at times), as well as my thoughts on certain things, as well as my deepest desires.

At first it was a bit of a chore, but I’m very good at developing habits (and helping others) and managed to incorporate journal writing as a normal part of my day. Before getting ready for bed, I would spend 10-15 minutes writing in my journal. At first I had to set reminders so I wouldn’t forget but eventually got used to it.

Looking back at what I’ve written over the course of the last year and a half, I really wish that I had started journaling years ago (there are so many mistakes I’ve made, amazing things that have happened, and things that I have wanted to remember that are no longer as clear as they were at the time.

Some of the things that journaling has helped me with:

  • Journaling can help you to really think things through. Some things, after writing, might turn out to be a bigger or small deal than you originally thought.
  • Journaling helps to brainstorm and put ideas onto paper in case you forget two minutes later.
  • Keeping a journal is a great resource to think of ideas for blogging (like this one!)
  • A journal is a record of your own personal thoughts. No one on the planet can ever remember your thoughts for you, and pictures can’t convey your unique perspective on the way you see the world like your own unique voice.

Your journal is yours and no one else’s.

So, how do you get into the habit of keeping a journal? Here are some tips:

1. Use it as part of your wind down before bed routine. Schedule 10-15 minutes before brushing your teeth to write down your thoughts and experiences of the day.
2. Use a beautiful journal with an equally beautiful pen. No cheap spiral notebooks here. Buy a beautiful high quality journal with a chord and buy a really good ink pen (ink that won’t fade). Use this pen for nothing but writing in your journal.
3. Write the date and location of every entry. This can be helpful 10 years from now when you’re wondering where and when you wrote something.
4. Write anything you want. It doesn’t have to be long or structured. This is your journal, just write anything.
5. Once a month, re-read what you’ve written. You’ll be surprised at the little things you’ve forgotten over time and will feel motivated to keep writing for your future self.

Incorporating these practices I have successfully maintained a journal for nearly 2 years. And it’s been a crazy two years (meeting my love in New Zealand, both of my parents’ passing, getting ready to move to Australia) so I know that personally, my journals are my greatest treasures.

Do you like to keep a journal? Would you want to start? Leave me a comment and let me know.

Img: paperbackwriter

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Three sisters

My life depends on the next few months.

Up until this point I’ve lived an uneventful life. I got good grades in school and stayed out of trouble. After school was done I landed a good job and entered the workplace like seemingly everybody else.

Up through about 25, I never ventured outside the conventional comfort zone when it came to travel. Like a good American, my travel experiences to date were limited to Canada, the Caribbean, and bits and pieces of Western Europe.

That all started to change around when I hit 26.

Like so many women I know, I kept postponing the big trips I dreamed of going on. I kept telling myself that when I was in a relationship with the right partner, then I would start living my life.

Then something happened…I started watching my friends slowly pair off and was left as one of the few single ones left in my little circle. As much as I loved my independence and doing whatever I wanted, being in a group of mostly couples was beginning to feel a little awkward. For the first time in my life all my friends were moving at a different pace. It was like they were all growing up and I wasn’t.

I decided that I was fed up with waiting for the right travel partner and that I was ready to venture out on my own.

So I booked an African safari.

Crazy jump for a semi-inexperienced traveler I know. But I’d always dreamed of one day going to Africa, so I figured why not now? So with the help of the Google, I found a nice tour company and set off on the adventure.

It turned out to be one of the most beautiful experiences of my life. For anyone who’s been to Africa, you know that there is something about it that just gets into your soul.

African Sunset

Lion!

Victoria Falls

After the success of my first solo mega adventure, I only figured that I could most definitely do something like that again.

I wanted to really bust out and go places I really dreamed of. I wanted to jump out of a plane and off a cliff. And on a snowy December 26, 2010, I decided that I never wanted to spend New Year’s in New York City ever again.

So I booked a trip to New Zealand.

Now that’s even crazier. Then again, if I’m going to jump out of a plane or off a cliff, I figured I’d do it right.

I set off on Christmas Day 2011 from Newark en route to a summery trip to the land almost down under, but not far west enough. I booked a tour and just headed off with no expectations of how it would go.

And then I found more than I bargained for. On a ferry boat in New Zealand.

And I figured it’s not every day I meet a cute Aussie bloke halfway across the world. And so the adventure began.

Little did I know at the time what a pleasant surprise I was in for. I remember when I got back to my apartment in Hoboken, New Jersey after my 24-hour trip back, taking a shower and wanting nothing more than to crawl into bed and recover from the post 24-hour trip jetlag.

My phone buzzed “I had a really great time with you.”

What happened next is borderline unbelievable.

The story actually continued, starting with Skype calls and texts “how’s your day, how’s your evening?”

I was loving the across-the-world attention, but I honestly didn’t think it would last.

He came to New York in June at the beginning of his two month trek around the world. Even then I was completely skeptical about the whole thing. I mean, up until this point it was hard to get a guy to cross a river. “Leave Manhattan?” Nah, that’s way too far.

I used some frequent flyer miles I had to visit Australia in September 2012. I first saw the Sydney Opera House from my seat as I was landing at Kingsford Smith airport.

Two weeks later it was easily my new favorite city on Earth.

3 months later we met each other once again in Bali. I cemented the idea of actually moving to Australia and started to put my plan into live action.

The thought that I’m actually moving 10,000 miles for the sake of love scares me shitless. I mean, isn’t that a lot of hoop jumping for a man?

But it was no contest. I sit back and imagine the life that I can have. Living in the land of no worries, beautiful beaches a short drive away, awesome weather, winters that never get too cold, and the chance that I can build a life with a clean slate.

It wasn’t an easy decision to make. There were a lot of tears, fights, and headaches. Family to consider (at the time). A bit of resistance on my part.

But then I thought about the thought of not taking a chance. Of not seeing how this could unfold.

And that was the scariest thought of all. The idea of regretting something that I didn’t do.

This mother’s day morning, I applied for and was granted an Australian sub-section 462 visa, and in July after what has been a very painful and super busy few months, intend to board a one-way flight to Sydney and embark on all the possibilities of my life. I’ll miss the people I love and leaving behind, but super excited about what lies ahead.

I have no idea how the rest of this story will go, I’m still scared shitless, but I’m ready to dive head first.

This is my fearful adventure.

 


This post is part of the My Fearful Adventure series, which is celebrating the launch of Torre DeRoche’s debut book Love with a Chance of Drowning, a true adventure story about one girl’s leap into the deep end of her fears.

“Wow, what a book. Exciting. Dramatic. Honest. Torre DeRoche is an author to follow.” Australian Associated Press

“… a story about conquering the fears that keep you from living your dreams.” Nomadicmatt.com

“In her debut, DeRoche has penned such a beautiful, thrilling story you’ll have to remind yourself it’s not fiction.” Courier Mail

Find out more…

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