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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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 25: Lucky me time.

When I tell people about what I’ve been up to in my 30 days of me time, I get things like, “Wow, aren’t you lucky.” If this all happened by chance, my luck is remarkably predictable as this is my third career break in ten years. I went to Paris in 2005, to Argentina in 2010 and, now, the faraway and most exotic Wesport, Massachusetts. (Apparently my luck arrives on a renewable five year plan.)

lucky pennyAm I lucky? To step outside of your world where the only consequence is positive is lucky, I suppose. It’s easy to judge as some selfish luxury, but really, there’s a lot of practicality to sabbaticals. And to some folks, breaks are the things that move them forward.

Stefan Sagmeister, a world renowned designer, gives a great TED talk on the Power of Time Off. It’s about how he rejuvenates by taking year-long sabbaticals every seven years. His rationale? Here’s an excerpt from his talk:

Right now we spend about the first 25 years of our lives learning, then there is another 40 years that’s really reserved for working. And then tacked on at the end of it are about 15 years for retirement. And I thought it might be helpful to basically cut off five of those retirement years and intersperse them in between those working years. (Applause) That’s clearly enjoyable for myself. But probably even more important is that the work that comes out of these years flows back into the company and into society at large, rather than just benefiting a grandchild or two.

Sagmeister goes on to talk about how time off re-ignites his work. He owns a wildly successful New York design firm with clients like the Rolling Stones, HBO and the Guggenheim. So it’s easy to see how someone with his clout can shut down for a year and pick right back up again. What about the rest of us?

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