Wherever You are is Perfect

All the advice on building a loyal audience to my blog is to make regular posts. I’m failing at this. Like most people, I don’t like failing. However, being kind to myself is taking precedent over achieving many of my goals.

Historically, I have not been particularly kind to myself. Most of us aren’t. We say things to ourselves that we would never tolerate being said to others. We know how those words create deep wounds and step in to defend others, but then we cut ourselves to the bone. It’s a disease we need to work on curing.

When I first moved to Missouri, I was in an almost manic phase. I had a vision of a perfect life. I didn’t want to fall into old habits. I wanted to pursue social connections and not become isolated. I wanted to find people with whom I fit. I wanted to eat right. I wanted to exercise. I wanted to lose weight. I wanted to write daily. I wanted to meditate. I wanted to keep negative thoughts at bay. I wanted to solve every problem I’d ever had. AND I wanted to relax into my new slow-paced, stress-free life.

Ha! It was like I short-circuited. Since I hadn’t reached my goals, it felt as if what was true today, would be true forever. It hadn’t worked instantly, so it would never work! (face palm)

When I realized I was rushing into things and trying to make it all work at once, I actually learned from my mistakes and stopped stressing so much. I allowed things to unfold at a natural pace, and stopped worrying about where I should be. Shockingly, that has done the trick.  I actually did solve all my problems at once, and have been able to relax into a new slow-paced, stress-reduced (not free) life.

You see, once I stopped beating myself up for not being perfect and recognizing that life is a process, the social connections were far easier to make. When someone is telling you you’re a permanent failure, it’s hard to believe you’re likeable. Then I joined a group class at work, where I not only exercise, but get to do it with fun, supportive people. That ticks off the boxes, making connections, exercising, and losing weight. The more I work out, the less eating garbage appeals. I’ve started to meditate again. I’m not doing it daily, but I’m doing it more days than I was. I’m definitely reaping the rewards of that. As I slow down and focus more on being present, joy comes flooding back into daily activities. Even turning on the faucet can be miraculous if you’re in the right mindset.

So, what’s been learned? Acceptance. That, wherever you are is perfect. It has to be. It’s where you are.  If you want to be someplace else, then take a step in that direction. It still won’t be exactly where you want to be, but it will be perfect for you, because where you are now is one step closer than where you were. That’s the only way to get there. One perfectly imperfect step at a time.

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My Life in Slow-MO

First, some maintenance. If you have subscribed to this blog and are not getting notifications, it will be a few weeks. For some reason I cannot access the “activate” area of the blog through my iPad. When my things arrive, and I unpack my desktop, it will all get sorted out.

I have started my life in Slow-MO, though I’m waiting for the slow part to kick in. So far, it’s all been pretty rushed. But let’s back up…

The Drive

With everything packed in containers, and the house still technically unsold, I loaded up my cats and headed East. Because I started a little late, I ended up in Friday rush hour traffic as I left town. It was a good reminder of just why I’m so anxious to leave L.A. behind. Too many people!

The trip had it’s ups and downs, as does everything. Unloading the car in the pouring rain, and not being able to leave the next morning because one of the cats had hidden herself away, were two of the low points. The cats were clearly stressed and I felt guilt for the trauma I was putting them through. Night two, in a hotel room, they showed just how resilient they are. They had adjusted to life on the road, and were content to be out of their cages and exploring the room. They’ve been fine ever since, perhaps even better friends.

There were many high points. The scenery was spectacular. I had claimed New Mexico was a state I had been to, because I once put my foot in the corner of the state (at 4 corners). Now I know how bogus that claim was. The state was spectacular in its beauty. Texas was flat, but as I reached the Eastern edge of the state, heading into Oklahoma it shifted from deserty plains to lush rolling hills. After the past few years of severe drought in L.A. the outrageous number of shades of green began to be overwhelming. It was stunningly beautiful!

I learned some things on the road, and also now have some unanswered questions. Such as: what exactly does “bridge ices before road” mean? I get that they’re probably warning you that there might be ice on the bridge, but that combination of words is nonsensical to me.

Apparently in Eastern Oklahoma, heavy smoke is an issue as there were lots of signs saying, “Do Not Drive into Smoke.” Got it. Won’t do that.

Hitting the Ground Running

I arrived Sunday night, started looking for a house rental on Monday, and started my job on Tuesday. So things have not exactly been slow and easy going. They will likely slow down now that there is another glitch with the house sale. I am hoping it is simply a delay and will not lead to the collapse of this deal. Until the sale is complete, I’m back in limbo, pretty much unable to rent a house or buy a car. Still, life is good here and so far the leap feels fine. It will just feel better when I have some cash.

There are little details of life here that surprise me. Motorcycles can’t lane split (yay) but its strange to see them without helmets. They just give bags away for free at the grocery store! There is water standing around out in the open… not evaporating or anything! People will go out of their way to be helpful and kind. I wrote down the wrong number on a house rental, and the guy who answered offered to drive by the address and text me the right number. And he did it, adding smiley faces to the text.

Even with my worries about the house, life is suddenly and delightfully stress free. It takes me 20 minutes to get to work, and absolutely none of the drive is stressful. I was warned about the drivers here, but compared to L.A. drivers, they are saintly. I love where I work – the atmosphere, the mission, and the people. Everything is easier to accomplish in a smaller town. People are kinder. Life is more gentle. This is the right place for me to be right now, and I trust that the house situation will resolve itself eventually. If it doesn’t, this will be the shortest leap in history followed by a great big giant splat.

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Be Kind

The house sale is progressing and hopefully this one won’t fall through. If it does, we already have other offers.

I’m working on a Young Adult fantasy novel that has me so excited. I have had several very good ideas I could work on, and for a while it was tough to decide on which one I should focus. Then something sparked in favor of the fantasy novel and I am off and running. It’s so good. The concept is fresh. There is subtext and depth. I just have to execute.

With free time, I’ve been researching my new home community. There are so many activities I look forward to joining. Music was a major part of my life for the first 20 years, but has had almost no role in the last 30. It was exciting to find the new town has a women’s acapella group. My low, true-alto singing voice isn’t really good for solos, but it can be a real asset to a group without male voices. It would feed my soul to sing again, and I look forward to a pace of life that will allow that.

That slower pace of life I so look forward to, is actually happening now. It’s been two months since my job ended. I have not missed it for one second of one day. There has been no loss of identity or crisis of confidence. In fact, my true self feels like it’s re-emerging. I no longer feel battered constantly by stressful incidents. I’m not spending an hour and a half a day in ugly traffic. When a friend calls to have lunch, or needs a ride, I can actually say “yes.” When I wake up, my day can be designed around what I need and want to do, rather than what others want and need me to do. When something stressful happens, it’s easier to step back, take a breath, and deal with it. The unexpected and beautiful consequence of this is that my mind, soul, and heart are opening up again. I am able to be less judgmental and far kinder.

I first noticed myself extending kindness to others. When I was out taking a walk, I saw a kid skateboarding down the middle of the street. My stressed-out, super-judgmental self would have thought, “Stupid kid with a death wish. Get out of the street.” My open self looked and him and thought, “Look at that kid skating down the street.” My judgmental thoughts about the kid would not have changed his behavior, but they certainly would have made me feel unhappy. Instead that day, I was pure awareness without judgment and it felt wonderful.

That kindness and lack of judgment for others has extended to myself. Did I meet all my daily goals every day last week? Absolutely not. A couple of days I only did one of the five things. Stressed-out me would have beat myself up over it. Here’s what the running dialogue in my head about my bad behavior would have sounded like, “Loser. Idiot. It was just 5 things. Five fun things at that! This proves it. You are not a writer. You are a loser. You will always be a loser. Why pretend? Just go curl up in a corner and die, you loser.”

Many people refer to that voice as “monkey mind,” because it leaps from thought to thought and hurls poo at you.  And, boy are those thoughts a whole load of poo. They are horrible. Would I let anyone talk to a friend like that? Of course not! Yet, that is a pretty typical conversation I might have with myself. It may even be typical of a conversation you have with yourself. Why do we do it? Has it ever helped? No! It’s not motivational. It’s defeating. It’s harmful.

Thankfully, the new de-stressed me did not have that hurtful conversation. Well, okay, maybe I did for just a second, but it was quickly followed by stepping back, taking a breath, and showing myself some kindness. I’ve never been unemployed before. I have either been in college or had a job since I was 17. That’s 33 years of marching to someone else’s drum. Before that, I suppose I was marching to my parents’ drum. This is a whole new world! It’s going to take a little time to find my rhythm. Maybe last week I missed some steps, but this week I’ll do a little better. Before long, with a little kindness and patience, I’ll be hearing my own beat, and dancing to it with flair, in my white-girl, hippie style.

Have you failed at something and now you’re beating yourself up about it? Does that help? No? So, did you learn something? Will it help you do better next time? Then you did not actually fail, did you? We are all just imperfect creatures doing this for the first time (as far as we know), and we’re trying to makes sense of a very confusing life. Anyone in that position deserves a lot of kindness. So, I’m challenging you, be kinder to yourself. I promise it will help you accomplish your goals far quicker than that nasty, little voice in your head.

Tell monkey mind to go eat a banana, you’re busy dancing.

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