The secret of life? Get used to it.

I’m about to move again. One of the most stressful events in life, right next to death of a loved one, divorce and job loss. Yup.

I just did this, didn’t I? 13 months ago, I moved into the middle of downtown Boston. My view of the skyline was my consolation prize to the mountain horizon I had planned on (with a last minute turnabout from moving to Colorado.) I did it for an amazing job opportunity. I did it for convenience. And I pretty much resisted it as my home for the entire last year.  I am not a City Girl. (Unless the city is Paris.) Left the job. Leaving the cityscape. Onward and, literally, upward.

Next month, I’m moving up to the what locals call the “North Shore.” A lovely, quintessential New England town near the water and nature that I crave. It’s a short 25-minute drive to my new job. I can run down back roads and to the beach. I can paint the antique barn across the street. I can walk to the farmer’s market every week. Or garden, I could garden! It’s the picture of my life I created in my head. And then, I made it happen. I materialized an ad agency job in a small town. I found a place to live in an even smaller town. And it’s all coming together in a way that once didn’t seem possible but yet, it suddenly is. I made this life.

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And now, I’m scared shitless.

I moving away from everyone I know. I don’t own enough (small-city, apartment) furniture to fill my spacious small town home. The town is so small, I’ll have to physically drive my trash to a pay transfer station. There will not be a Starbucks on the corner. After many crying spells. Many. After much scurrying about in my apartment trying, and failing miserably, to get my old life in order so I can move on to my new one. I figured something out.

I just. Have to. Get used to it. This is that Pema-Chodronesque-groundlessness of living. I’m in the middle again. Between the Next and the Is. I’m not quite anywhere but in transition, and it’s unsettling. Epiphany. (For the millionth time.)

Most of life we’re trying to get used to things. Until we do. And then we’re bored. Or unchallenged. Or just restless. And then we shake things up again. I tell myself this fabulous theory because it’s the only thing that makes sense. Today, anyway.

An old friend of mine said to me recently, “You are not your feelings. Their transient. Feel them. Then move on to the next one.” Genius, right? I thought so. I think to myself, if I am not my feelings, why can’t I look them square in the eye and tell them to F off? There are holes in my good friend’s argument.

It’s hard to get used to the shifting. It’s not fun to roll with the punches. Life change is like that joke you think is funny and want to laugh at but have a sneaking suspicion the joke is on you. The uneasiness will pass. Right? Right.

This I am sure of. There will be a day when I’m running back from the salt marsh. A night when I’m watching a meteor shower from the dark coastal skies. A morning when I’m happy there isn’t a traffic light to wait for when I’m crossing the street. And, then, the uncertainty will have become the norm. The What If will have become the Is. The shifting will come from the sea breeze and the sand dunes.

That’s the idea. Get used to it.

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Dear Diary, I miss you.

Remember journals? Hand written on paper-bound books–sometimes with silly little locks on them to keep our parents’ and siblings’ prying eyes out? After I wrote my last post (mostly stream-of-consciousness thought, mind you), I walked home and snapped a photo of a spring flower coming up from a lawn. In that moment, I remembered that as a geeky and introverted child, I wrote in my diary about the crocuses coming up when I observed that spring was near. (I also wrote in it that my sister was perfect. Insert cringe emoticon here.) I wrote about silly girl things for myself, to sort my expanding view of the world.

Suddenly, I connected that memory with the thought that the purest form of sincere writing is actually gone. Does anyone journal anymore? On paper, in private, without any interest or fear of having their words read by another someday. Blogs, tweets and public posts replace that innermost random thinking we used to scribble furiously on pages we’d tuck away under our mattresses. At least, I did. Continue reading

Day 30: What’s left after leaving.

My 30 days of me time came to a close. I’m writing this in retrospect–exactly a week after my last day on the Farmcoast. Except I may’ve lost my muse…

Last Monday:

I prepared to leave–in all the physical ways at least. I did laundry. I re-packed. I moved the furniture back. I put the dishes away. I drank the last of my red wine (very important chore). And though I’d been teaching myself to take what comes in stride all month, this last night, I wavered. My emotions couldn’t be tucked neatly back into my luggage. I had my moments of 11th-hour scrambling.

Should I stay? Can I stay? Is it time to go home? Do I have to? What if I don’t? What if…I never do.

What if.

There are some places you leave swearing you’ll be back again. Some, you can’t wait to leave behind. There are those that stay with you, even when you close your eyes. And those that just get filed in your mind’s album without any special bookmark.

My time here–the space that I created, that I cleared in the midst of my routine madness–will continue irrespective of the hands of any clock. I am leaving but the me that drives back to the life she once led is also leaving lighter. I’ve shed a layer or two. My fear of the unknown. My quest for inspiration. I made peace with uncertainty and know that I don’t have to pause to make room for my passion. You are who you are at all moments, in all places and times. The challenge is focusing the lens.

Many things are clearer, true to what happens when you shut out the noise. I feel lighter–and heavier–at the same time. Lighter because I validated who I am. Heavier because the life I discovered that fits me doesn’t fit with work or friends or anything else I have at present. Lighter because it really is about the simple things. Heavier because no one I know gets it.

I wanted to pivot in my career but it became about shifting my perspective. I wanted to create room for art and activities that I love. But it became about planting myself someplace beautiful and committing to only do things I love. Less about a 30-day time frame and more about a carefully pruned lifestyle. And the hardest to attain luxury of all.

So yes, I left. We all leave. We come and go. Sometimes we run. Sometimes we rest. And what happens in the in-between invariably shapes us. Not every memory holds. Not every moment lingers. But we are the sum of our experiences. If even, unconsciously.

Day 29: Don’t underestimate the middle.

Everything is in the middle.

The first week I spent slowly withdrawing. This last week I spent scrambling to stay. When I look at it that way, that makes the time in between sadly emptier or less full–to put a wee more positive spin on it.

We spend a lot of our lives in the middle, don’t we? The in-between. That space before a decision. The time looking. The time adjusting. The time getting to and fro or just circling. Like Pema Chodron said, “we are always in process.”

Though we move from moment to moment, I find it hard not to bookend time. To mark the beginnings and endings. To snag momentos and mental snapshots of what will never be again. I feel a little somber wrapping up my time here. Maybe because this me time was really about putting on training wheels. The middle ground before the change I seek that’s altogether new.

The middle is where momentum builds. Where the pendulum dips before the next rise. The valley between peaks where all points of view hold promise. Where potential pools… Who knows where I’m going next. I’m happy to be in motion. Re-fueled and in a higher gear.

Day 27: When it comes to personality, what makes us click or clash?

Freud said by age five we cement who we are for life. If I believe Dr. Freud, I’m screwed.

I was an impatient, head strong little girl who’s favorite phrase was, “Daddy, right nowww.” And everyone loved it. Nothing like a little “Aw, she’s cute” to teach a kid that her stubborn demands equal perfectly acceptable and amusing behavior.

If our personality is set in stone at such a tender age, how much can we shift the rest of our lives? And what does that mean for our relationships and experiences if we can’t truly change?

I’ve met a handful of new people this last month. And each time, in not-so-idle chit chat, I wonder how well I can size them up inside of the peel-the-onion conversation. The stories of their lives. The way they tell it. The selection. The tone. The little idiosyncrasies that stick out like accidentally exposed underwear. And I wonder, how are they judging me? My presentation of myself. My masking of my Little Miss Right Now. My inability to mask. We all try to craft first impressions…but is it even possible? Do we all fail miserably to hide our inner five year olds?

The Buddhist teacher, Pema Chodron, talks about how we reject people who touch a nerve in our own identity. And so regardless of what resonates or doesn’t–through others, we are only fine tuning ourselves. The last month, though I’ve been focused on me time, my antenna has been up tenfold. I have put myself in unusual and sometimes uncomfortable situations–partially to see how it changes me.

I’ve leaned in to the discomfort. The confusion. The things that struck a dissonant twang. And sure enough, I learned that the room to shift my values has been very small. I’m fully formed and I seem to only gravitate to my likeness. The things in others that reflect who I am myself. Is that narcissistic?

It’s not so black and white. I’m not sure that you ever have a genuine image of anyone anyway. Though I share these thoughts shaped by the me I want you to read, you can’t see the filters, the processing and the re-processing before they’re packaged. (I’m even writing under a pseudonym.) No matter what you say, no one really knows what’s in your head but you. And, as Simone de Beauvoir, so insightfully said, “Sometimes speech is no more than a device for saying nothing, and a neater one than silence.”

Yet, you communicate so much without speaking. Your outfit. Your hand gestures. Your getting lost in a sentence because it started to travel down the unfiltered path. Your gait. Your laugh or lack thereof. Your eye-to-eye or eye-to-floor or eye-to-empty-space contact.

Through all of that, turns out, you are who you don’t have to say you are. The child in all of us still picks our playmates on instinct–just on a bigger playground.

Day 16: Are we having fun yet?

Am I? Why, yes, I am.Screen shot 2015-03-17 at 7.48.53 PM

In fact, I’ve expanded my definition of fun.

For example, (I can’t believe I’m going to admit this) talking to myself while I’m running makes me laugh. There’s no one around me–no need to be self-conscious. So I can be the crazy lady alone in the country who has conversations with her invisible blog audience, out loud while running in the middle of the road against non-existent traffic.

I stay up late, get up early(-ish), burn the candle at both ends but rarely feel tired. It’s my time. I like the idea of staying up just to play back-to-back word games on my iPhone. There is nothing pressing about tomorrow. But claiming the highest score in Scramble? Very urgent.

Seeing the sky in all of her moods–changing in color, light, cloud formations–is pretty darn enjoyable. Sure, I notice it in the city but out here, I have front row, center seats all the time. And I don’t have to sneak in my snacks. I get wowed by the window sill with dinner and a glass of wine. The repertoire is always worth it. And the encores keep comin’.

What else amuses me? Seeing how long I can make random meals out of one trip to the grocery store. You know what they say about a country mile. Since it’s a chore to go to the market, I’ve been maximizing my ingredients. I am the Iron Chef of eggs and English muffins. Pasta three ways? No problem. Melted cheese, sprinkled cheese, sliced or grated… (Hey, how you serve it makes the difference between Italian or Mexican.) Pot roast for dinner can be hashed for breakfast. Liquid lunch? Why not.

Matter of fact, I’ve discovered me-time Happy Hour, Monday night wine and cheese and post-run pear cider. There’s never a line at the door and the tab is always open.

No, no, no. Get that she’s-drinking-alone-in-the-middle-of-nowhere image out of your head. I am under a way different kind of influence. (But it is Saint Patrick’s Day today, so it’s possible that might change.)

Screen shot 2015-03-17 at 7.46.43 PMI think 30 days of me-time does call for a toast. To taking time off–except it’s not even really time “off”. I’ve been more “on” the last two weeks, actually. How ’bout I raise a glass to the headstrong girl inside me who said, F-it. The one who quietly stood up in the middle of a 5:00 meeting on a Wednesday and decided there was someplace more fun she should be.

Cheers to that.

Day 9: Passion. Possibilities. Ping!

2015-03-10 09.37.19This change of scenery has done me good. I’m happy as a clam–or quahog–out here. It took me a week to shake off the city jitters–and the WTF-am-I-doing jitters–but I think I’m settled in now. For now.

Day 9 was filled with lotsa loves. Yoga, a walk on the beach, wine and potato chips (best combo ever), some reading, some guilty pleasure House of Cards and setting up my paints to start a triptych project–today, maybe?

Dwell in Possibility - Emily Dickinon
I dwell in possibility. –Emily Dickinson

What makes me happy right now is that I see the possibilities. As a lifelong traveler, I’ve always said that what I love about crossing time zones is that you can experience how your life can change instantly–in a good way. There’s the life you flew away from and the life you just stepped into. And though it’s temporary–it’s happening, just like that. Kind of goes back to what Buddhists say about accepting that nothing is permanent. When you realize that, life’s big decisions are more manageable. (I realize that this is a very big train of thought.) Being here has shown me that my little pie-in-the-sky dream about living in the country in a converted barn with a 9-to-5 job and a box of paints and stack of books keep me company is not only doable, it’s easy and could be way cool. Add in a love and a shih tzu (which could be one in the same, says the cynical online dater in me) and voilà.

To get how much of a leap that’d be for me, you have to understand that I’m a driven career woman who has always, always been passionate about what I do for work. But now I’m thinking less about the job title and more about a new  40+-hour routine that taps into a giddy, child-like impatience to get my day on. Got me?

There’s a chapter in the Pema Chodron book I’m reading on why passion is a poison. (What?!) It’s about how your desires can get in the way of seeing clearly because you’re fixated on the thing you’re trying to get rather than staying in the moment and appreciating the now. This is where it falls apart for me… Shreds. Crinkles. Do not buy.

Passion is what makes you come alive. How could you live any other way?

Day 6: Flux Me

I am a day late in writing–if I were to adhere to my blog a day promise to myself.

My morning thoughts? Change takes time and is iterative. There is no single moment that marks the transition in a person’s life when suddenly things are different. Everything is always in process. Screen shot 2015-03-07 at 11.35.34 AMWe evolve, we meld, we vacillate. Nothing is ever as clean as a day marked on a calendar. Your emotions can’t be delineated inside of a set of dates. If only it were possible, I would schedule my moments of change in my iCal…

Yesterday, was the first day this week that I had nothing pressing to attend to. No work deadline, no subletter drama, no necessity to even leave the house. I dressed to do yoga, but instead, I vegged, napped, watched TV and chilled. I listened to myself–that I didn’t need to do anything  productive. It’s like when your body has a food craving–and you know it’s probably because you need that nutrient. I feel like the same applies to emotional and mental well-being. And exercise, at that moment, was a should-do not a want-to-do.

My practical self says get up and get busy. Find a job, find a boyfriend, figure out where I want to be. (No small tasks.) There is always a list of to-dos. Always. But I know I will survive if I sit still and my world will forgive me for ignoring it for a little while. It will even thank me for getting my bearings before taking off. I’m learning that with most things that work for me, mulling over decisions is moot. You know when you know. Maybe it’s time. Maybe it’s when you get tired of the in-between. Or maybe it really is as random as your gut says so. Without rhyme or reason, le coeur a ses raisons que la raison ne connaît point.

Screen shot 2015-03-07 at 11.26.01 AMThe nice thing about practicing daily writing is that I can hear myself better. I lose focus quite easily and conjuring up the words to wrap the day makes me dial in a little closer. Listening for the right language is hard. Crafting it so that it speaks to the moment or the day or the thoughts, still swirling but trying to gel, forces me to get closer to my inner self. And over time, I’ll come to know what keeps floating back to the surface. That through this ebb and flow of thoughts and feelings, the true things that matter to me will sustain in any current.

So let yourself be in flux. Eventually a tide takes you somewhere.