Finding calm amidst the chaos

Standard

How’s your anxiety level at the moment? With the 24-hour news cycle constantly flinging chaos through every screen in our homes, it’s tough. What do you do when each social media post seems more grim than the next? Perhaps the kids or spouse are now home for work and school and everyone is sharing the same space for an indefinite period of time. Perhaps you’re in awe of the madness of hoarding or controversially, the utter kindness of strangers. Either way, when the word pandemic is bantered around, countries literally shut boarders and flights ground – it’s often hard to find the calm amidst the chaos. What do you do when it all gets a bit too hairy?

Talk about a gratitude practice, right? When my brain spirals, I try to get there quickly, but it’s often hard. Me and my asthmatic lungs have been staying put for over a week now. It seems scary to even go to the parking garage, leave the apartment to take the rubbish down the hall or even contemplate finding a wide open space – you know, since it still seems that not everyone is in on the social distancing lockdown situation. Perspective is a wonderful thing, gratitude is imperative and both help to flip the switch from anxiety to peace – but these days it’s even harder to get there than before. I’m grateful for our studio apartment in the center of San Diego. I’ve never wanted anything bigger, love everything about it and know how lucky we are to have a roof over our heads, a place to call our own and one that includes a space to get outside for that quick hit of invigorating vitamin D – trust me, I know and I’m grateful. Still, the fear and anxiety can take your brain for a wild ride. It’s a sneaky little sucker – you’re in the midst of writing, cleaning, working out – it doesn’t matter – when anxiety wants your attention it knocks loudly until it gets its way.

Breathe – just breathe. “The Harvard Medical School said in its latest health guideline that, yoga, meditation and controlled breathing are “some tried and true ways to relax“. If yoga isn’t your thing, no worries – unless of course you want to give it a try and see how it rolls. Whether you’re using one of the multiple meditation apps like Calm or Headspace, watching those spirals go in and out to focus your attention and breathing or sitting on your own cushion and letting yourself feel all the feelings – try something and know you’re not alone. I am eternally grateful for the yoga community who still manages to help us all feel connected, grounded and a little more centered – at least for those moments on the mat. We all need it now. Those staying home and those guardian angels saving the day at work. Everyone needs a way to manage the insanity of the experience that’s going on right now.

This isn’t easy for anyone. Perspective is a wonderful gift, too. There are those who are able to work from home, feed their families in a safe space and take care of their loved ones. For each person who can do all of those things, there’s someone else who cannot. There are those out there saving the world whose jobs don’t rest in the time of a pandemic. There are those who are food insecure, not in a safe space and don’t have the financial ability to sustain long periods of unemployment. If you can help someone, lift someone up, donate some knowledge, money or time – whatever you can do will have an impact. In a time that feels utterly uncertain, if we focus on the things we can control and let go of the ones we can’t – there’s a lift, a slight ease and an awareness of a little more breathing space. However we can find the ease, it’s worth it.

I don’t have all of the answers; in fact, I only have what I know works for me and faith that this is not at all the end of humanity. I’m focused on looking for those joys, finding the good in others and seeking communication with those who lift my spirits. I take comfort in Italians singing from balconies, in fitness instructors running classes in Spain for people confined to their own terraces and in those caremongering Canadians who always seem to be able to find the good. I take comfort in watching so many do their part in their small corner of the world to make someone else’s small corner that much better. If you can help, do so. Whether it’s distilleries making hand sanitizer, start ups 3D printing ventilator valves, fashion designers making masks and medical gear, artists sharing cheer through talent or the simple act of checking in on each other to be there in whatever way helps – do it.

I will always agree with Mr. Roger’s mother and her advice to ‘look for the helpers’. They’re there – they’re always there. We need more of them, we need to focus on the good, we need to do the good – that’s how the world hugs each other in a time when we quite literally can’t wrap our arms around strangers and loved ones. It’s up to each one of us to look for them and to be them. In a time of social distancing, communication isn’t lost – we only need to seek it in different ways. The world is quite literally figuring it all out together and trying, in whatever small ways we can to see the light through the darkness and the rainbow amidst the storm. Give yourself permission to step away for awhile. Take heart in knowing there are those rushing to make things better. Take heart in believing that things will get better. It’s up to each and every one of us to do our part to get us there. Amidst the chaos, there is ease – it’s a just a little harder to find these days. Perhaps its our acts of kindness towards one another that will help bring that ease to the forefront.

To every healthcare professional, first responder, emergency worker, infrastructure supporter, effective and kind leader and everyone on the front lines of this fight – the world is forever in your debt. Endless gratitude, light, love and for the moment – virtual hugs. You are the superheroes – we see you, we appreciate you. You are the angels who will save the day. We believe in you. We love you and we thank you from the bottom of our hearts.

The Evolution of a Journey

Standard

How often do you take a minute and think about the evolution of your own journey? Sometimes it happens at the end of a year, after achieving a milestone or ticking off a bucket list adventure, but how often do you really stop and think about how you got to where you are? Think about it – if Jane Goodall had never left London, if Sir Edmond Hilary had never left New Zealand and if Rosa Parks had never taken a seat on that bus – where would their journeys have gone? We may not all be explorers or activists, but in our own way, we are each on our own journey. If Ferris Bueller taught us anything it’s that ‘Life moves pretty fast sometimes. If you don’t stop and look around once in awhile, you could miss it’. What’s the evolution of your journey?

For some of us, we might reach all the way back to childhood to remember what we were like as kids, what captured our interests in our teenage years or to that first job we ever had. For some of us, we might head to the type of childhood we had, what activities we were involved in and what we thought we’d be doing in those five or ten years after high school. Still for others, that evolution may have started in the last decade, the last years or the last few months – perhaps you’re on the verge of the shift right now. What’s the evolution of your journey?

I’m not certain exactly how far back I’d reach to begin my story. Could I start with my childhood, upbringing, sleep away camp experience and university adventures – sure I could. While all of those pieces make up who I am and how I see the world, wherever travel enters my story is where the evolution begins. It could be Disney family holidays or Montauk beach play dates. It could be camp counselors from abroad who first brought a love of accents and culture into my world. I think they’re a part of it all – but I think a turning point is that first trip to Israel at the malleable age of 20. It was over 25 years ago, now, but I can still smell the aromas of the shuk, feel out of breath from my first ever hike, glimpse the desert stars from a Bedouin tent, taste the salt from the Dead Sea and close my eyes to experience the epic, brilliant sunrise atop Masada. And then, months after my return, I can still feel my eyes dance and the corners of my mouth upturn upon retelling the story to my Aunt at Thanksgiving. Without ever knowing it, I think that’s the beginning of my tipping point. What’s yours?

Like all journeys, there are twists and turns, stubbed toes and busted ankles, mountains to climb and rivers to cross. And at each of those crossroads, we have a choice. The Broadway show, If/Then is quite literally modeled after that choice. At a pinnacle point, life could go one way or the other and although we’d like to, rarely do we glimpse what it would have been like had we taken that other turn. When I backpacked Europe with friends after university, I couldn’t possibly imagine how much travel would impact my life’s journey. If you asked me 25 years ago if I would have become a teacher, I would have said no. If you asked me five years into teaching if I would ever leave before retirement, I would have said no. If you asked me if I saw myself leaving the state of NY, I might have hesitated and thought, maybe, but there were too many things I believed for which I had to stay. We really never know what’s around that next bend in the road or the river.

Who would have ever thought travel would shift my perspective and change my life as much as it has – not me, that’s for sure. But, once that first spark happened – the feeling was too good to ever want to put out. Travel and what comes with it has been a part of my journey for more than half of my life now. It’s opened doors I never knew existed, introduced me to people who have helped shape my life and shared experiences with me I never thought possible. Travel has ebbed my doubts and anxiety. Travel has given me hope. Travel has given me wings and travel has brought me the love of my life. I can honestly say, I wouldn’t be me, without that travel attitude, that travel perspective and that travel gratitude.

It was around 20 years ago that I was fully invested in my summer camp work and began my teaching career. I loved those aspects of life, the lessons they taught me and the people they brought into my world. Fifteen years ago I traveled to the other side of the world again and again, my journey evolved. 10 years ago I was on a leave of absence from teaching, living abroad and in the middle of chasing the sun on a one-year honeymoon around the globe. 5 years ago we moved into our first apartment in San Diego and had no idea where life would take us – would we stay, for how long, would we like it here, would we make friends and all of the other ‘what if’s’ bombarded our thoughts. Today, we’ve shifted jobs (and one of us, careers) and coasts, once again love where we live and are truly happy at this point of the journey.

thegiftoftravel.wordpress.com

Who knows where the road will lead, but, today, in this moment, in this space, I am grateful, I am hopeful and my heart is full. Wherever your journey takes you, do your best to find gratitude and joy amidst the ride.

The fullness of the moment

Standard

thegiftoftravel.wordpress.com

Writing this feels like I’m channeling Sarah Jessica Parker’s character on Sex and the City as she gets an idea and continues on with – ‘I got to thinking’. At the yoga studio, Amy often reads from Judith Lasater’s A Year of Living Your Yoga. I liked the quotes so much, I actually got the book and am regularly impacted by its quote of the day. In Wednesday’s class she talked about the ‘wholeness of the moment’ and as we practiced on our mats, ‘I got to thinking’ – how can we embrace that wholeness of the moment feeling more often? Read the rest of this entry

Sitting with it all

Standard

Denali National Park, Alaska - thegiftoftravel.wordpress.com

Have you ever had the thoughts that were constantly spinning in your head? You know, what you think you have to over analyze and then realize that you’re really over thinking and it’s not such a good thing. Have you heard the phrase, ‘sit with it’? Whether you’re a meditation guru, have random talks with your therapist or listen to the speeches of World Cup winner Megan Rapinoe – you may have (at one point or another) heard the phrase, ‘sit with it’. Read the rest of this entry

Seeking that true self

Standard

I’ve been thinking a lot about the true self. Some people find it in their younger years and hold onto it. Others search for decades only to find out in their golden years that they’ve been living by the rules of others for sometime now. Whether it’s been from society, friends, family, religion, what you think you’re ‘supposed’ to do or based on what you’ve seen on television – the focus has been somewhere else, not on your true self. How do we bring that to the table? Read the rest of this entry

Change – it isn’t always easy

Standard

2015 - Yoga

Change is good. For decades I ran away from it, was afraid of it and swore I wasn’t any good at it – today, that’s different (although I’m still not at ease with it). Somehow those beginning weeks of January tend to feel as if we’re standing on a precipice and it could all go in any direction. We could turn back and head towards our same choices and habits or go forward into the unknown. We could dangle here on the edge for awhile and hedge our bets with the thought of lifting off or falling back down the rabbit hole and wait until we feel comfortable with one or the other. We could leap with the possibility of falling, but what if, perhaps we fly? There’s rarely an easy answer, a comfortable feeling or a right time – often it’s trust your gut, trust your journey and believe that the net will appear (because really, you’re your own net). Read the rest of this entry

Abundance, Kindness and Light in 2020

Standard

Hello 2020

Welcome to the new year – Happy 2020, all.

Gratitude. Curiosity. Space. Kindness. Courage. Trust. Change. Boundaries. Forgiveness. Self-care. Openness. Receptivity. Activism. Love. Light. Creativity.

In recent years, people seem to be talking less about particular resolutions and more about a theme for the year. That central theme for the entire 365 days might help to redirect shifts that appear, center choices and realign things that are serving you and discard those that no longer are. Do you have a theme for this year? Read the rest of this entry

Reflections of 2019 – The year I officially got to be a mermaid

Standard

Mermaid Life - Coronado - 2019

Wasn’t it just January? This year seems to have flown by in the blink of an eye. It’s as if we’ve been bitten by Disney magic and time is a medium all its own. There are years that seem to last far more than their 12 months and others that feel lightning fast, this one was the latter. How has 2019 treated you? Read the rest of this entry

Begin Again

Standard

1 January 2019

It’s January of 2019 – can you believe it? We blinked and December turned to January, the days are getting longer and the promise of a new year is upon us. What will you do with the blank pages? How will you make 2019 your best year yet? Read the rest of this entry

At home on the left coast

Standard

We made it to San Diego

Exactly four years ago we arrived in San Diego. A cross country road trip (the first of four in four years) designed to plop us here for three months to avoid a New York winter has lasted far longer than we ever expected. What we thought would be a blip on the radar turned into a chosen city and a chosen home. Even when we thought about leaving, life turned us right back around. San Diego has been a far greater gift than we could have ever imagined. Read the rest of this entry