Normal is the new special.

It’s almost to the point where I feel guilty.

“Have a great time in Italy!” they squeal at me. As if I’m going on a cruise ship where confetti is tossed from the balconies upon boarding. “I’m so excited for you!!!”

I repeat unaffected, “It’s not a vacation.”

They look at me, confused. I let the silence extend itself to underscore my reply.

I put some thought to this. Why it bugs me to be misunderstood.

It’s a sore spot because I don’t intend my travels to be anything special. It is my regular, not my someday come true. Is it my lifestyle not my annual vacation. It is what I wish were more often the norm–for many others who say, “I’m so jealous.” It is possibility made possible. And this shouldn’t be so rare.

Wish me a good trip like you wish me a good day at work. Like you wish me a good run. Off the cuff, cavalier…as if just another day of countless many.

Because that’s the way it should be. Nothing special. Just another day in the life I choose to make mine.

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The Dessert-first Life

I’m working with a new client in online education and learned this new term called flipped classroom–one that’s more engaged and more active in learning where the students own the experience, not necessarily the teacher.

I started to think, what about the flipped life as a whole? The 40-hour work week devoted to things we love, not have to do to get by. So it’s neither live to work nor work to live… it’s play for work. What if turning our lives around is literally about flipping the system? Dessert first…

This is my quest and I’m learning, it’s possible. I’m spending the next month in Italy–mostly in small towns and near lakes and mountains. I’m working 20 to 30 hours a week while I’m there but writing from la terrasse under the Tuscan sun. Fortunately, I have a client where working remotely is doable. I know this isn’t the case for other lines of work. But still, if I weren’t a writer, why wouldn’t I change my career path to fit how I want to fill my days? Why wouldn’t you? This. Is. Your. Life.

Why do we put off the things we want to do on the weekend to motivate ourselves to get through the week? What is the logic in trudging through five days to get to a two-day break, one of which is half spent preparing to re-trudge? What is this fence we put up around Saturdays and Sundays–premium time that we have to work our way up to week after week? It’s crazy. If you really analyze the norm–the norm does not set us up for happiness, for health nor for success. Who wants to trudge their way through life for small spurts of relaxation and joy?

Maybe some of us need that juxtaposition of boring and blah blah blah to fully appreciate the high points. I get the concept of ying and yang but even ying and yang is a balanced split and five out of seven days (workweek vs. weekend) is definitely weighted the wrong way.

I’m drawing the line for myself. And I’m rebalancing the scales.

I like the idea of turning things physically around. Playing all day and working at night to match my client time zone. Living in rural places but staying connected to a digital megalopolis. I’m changing my trajectory for now. Or maybe forever, who knows.

Some day I might love to trade the flight to the mountains for a front porch facing a mountain view, a short walk to the ocean or a lake and nowhere to go but the front yard. Hmm. There is an irony in traveling so far away to get closer to the idea of what I’d some day call home.

That’s what discovery is all about–to continue to venture out until you find what pulls you in. The more you seek, the more you see what fits you. And that experience alone is the sweet life.

Who’s with me?

 

 

 

 

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 24: Same as I ever was.

The “un-plan” for my 30 days of me time was to carve out space to do the things I’ve neglected for too long. Turns out I filled my time with the familiar, only with more freedom. Isn’t that interesting? Finding your lost love and discovering it’s the same as it always was. Only you were different.

Screen shot 2015-03-26 at 12.54.27 PMI’ve been writing professionally (in advertising and promotions) for umpteen years (maybe even 20 but at some point you have to stop counting.) Though I still get a charge out of the process, like everything, it can get rote.  So I took this break to teach myself that I could take what I loved, but grown weary of, and pivot. I wanted to see if a time-out could help me refresh and re-direct new energy into something more fulfilling. I’ve been thinking about ways to take my passion and skills to different outlets–and writing this silly blog has been a tiny part of my test.

The result? Same as it ever was. It’s a love-hate relationship. This, always-on-thought-to-paper process. But I’m lollygagging in the love section. What’s different is I’m not doing this on the clock, for a commercial brand or for my résumé. I like the craft. I like the performance without the spotlight. I like the kneading and rolling and shaping. Continue reading

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.