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.

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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 8: I Need A Buddha Break

Screen shot 2015-03-08 at 11.49.24 PMI’ve just been reading my 3rd book by Pema Chodron, an American Buddhist nun, called Start Where You Are: A Guide to Compassionate Living. (Granted, I did have a glass of red wine and a coffee with Bailey’s and Frangelico beforehand.)

Why do I feel like I need martini after a lesson on how to meditate? I’m not kidding, this stuff is dense. I’m open to it. I’m trying to process the logic of leaning into pain and casting away pleasure. Of accepting the good with the bad and appreciating the now. All very elementary distillations of a bunch of maxims (59 in total, I think?) that I’m having a hard time digesting.

I grew up Catholic, for god’s sake. (Note: little “g”.) I have memorized many a prayer and creed which, I daresay, I actually understood as I recited out loud in seemingly blind unison. Just sayin’. I’m capable of parsing parable and practical application. Not to offend anyone on the Buddhist bench, but if you want to persuade the masses, could you make it like, 5th grade reading level?

I digress.

There are a lot of things I agree with in the Buddhist lessons Chodron writes about. I agree with idea that nothing in life is certain and the only way to live without struggle is to embrace that uncertainty and act as you would without fear of consequence. Put simply, “Just do it.” (That Nike is really onto something.) Continue reading

“The truth is that we’re always in some kind of in-between state. We never fully arrive.” – Pema Chodron

Tomorrow, I’ll be leaving my comfort zone. I decided to spend a month in a quiet coastal town in a cozy house with a beautiful view of a river nearby beach dunes, vineyards and farm land–and not much else. Call it a sabbatical, a retreat, a time-out. It’s my way of shoving a bookmark in the middle of my life story. I’ll come back when I’m ready to dig in again.

I quit my job almost three months ago now. And, three months in, I’m still not untangled. My schedule has been busy. My mind has been overloaded. My days just as harried as when I was working full-time. So now I’m quitting my routine, too. Where I live, who I see, how I while away my time…

Am I in transition? Well, as the quote above, life is always in transition. I’m taking 30 days of me-time to embrace the change, explore new and present choices and see what shakes out. I don’t expect to have answers at the end of the month, but I do somehow believe the quiet, the stillness and the calm is what I need to propel myself forward again. I have ideas of things I’d like to do but ultimately I have no solid agenda. It’s just about carving space to do more things I love, to learn what inspires me most and to let go of any structure… It sounds like it should be the easiest thing to do, right? And yet, in fact, it is a difficult lesson I’ve been trying to teach myself. To not know. To be comfortable being lost. To un-plan and make room for whatever may come.