Posts Tagged ‘travel’

How to Remember the Sky is Blue Beneath the Clouds

I’m “on the road,” visiting St. Louis and (perhaps) other destinations later on. St. Louis is a given and I’m here now, the Arch in viewing distance. Things are greener, with actual leaves and blossoms on trees. It’s warmer down here and when I walk around here, I feel looser-limbed, savoring the sky and sun and air.

A walk is more of an amble in this new place, and there’s a lot to explore. I’ve been to a Japanese restaurant where they lit a sushi roll on fire. I sat underneath a blooming cherry tree. I went to the City Museum and saw some phenomenal art fashioned out of the detritus of urban blight, making something unique and provocative out of ugliness…and I went down a 10-story slide. (Which was AWESOME and something I recommend everyone do!) I sat by a fire and felt sweetened and mellowed by good conversation. I’m surrounded by positive people and interesting ideas. I love just being in motion under a new piece of sky, and life is renewing and expanding in the best ways. (I’ll write a longer post about St. Louis itself next week — this is a genuinely fascinating, historically rich city!)

Traveling more is a new recent priority for me — I realized it had become one of those things that I put on the sidelines while I developed other parts of my life, but now I want that energy of physically embodied change and exploration in my life. My eyes want to see new things; my feet want to walk in new directions, and funnily enough, the beautiful Fates have pulled some lovely people in my life who share this sense of adventure. (Much gratitude, Fates!) A lot of change has been happening in my life — and so many recent efforts and changes in my life have been in reaction to events and decisions I have no control over. (I feel like lots of people I know had really rocky beginnings in 2014 — breakups, job losses, deaths, etc.)

The one silver lining of so much tumult in life is that it gives you an opportunity to look hard at your life, to examine the things you’ve been avoiding or not seeing and decide to make changes. And for me, one of those things is realizing how certain decisions and commitments in my life had not been in alignment with who I wanted to be or what I wanted in my life. And even if life was a little scary and unpredictable, I now had a lot of space and opportunity to do something.

I ain’t gonna lie: some changes weren’t fun and weren’t things I would’ve chosen for myself. They involved loss, the death of certain dreams and hopes and loves, and uncertainty. I lost love and security, and there was a lot of hurt, sadness and anger. But I have to also be honest and say that it…wasn’t as horrible as I would’ve thought. Seriously! Some parts of my life fell apart around me, but in terms of myself, I was okay. And that was because I had already been doing a lot of things to keep myself moving forward in life, irrespective of what life was throwing at me to begin with.

A long time ago, my dad once said to me that emotions and feelings were like clouds, but behind them the sky was always blue. Sometimes we forget the sky is blue, he said, because we mistake clouds for sky and think they will never pass, but they do. I still felt grief and sorrow for what had happened but I also remembered the sky was blue, and that made all the difference — and helped the clouds pass through faster.

I know that’s “fortune cookie talk,” as I said when I was a kid to my dad, so I’ll try to be a little more specific. If you’ve been reading my personal blog for awhile, you know I’m (somewhat dorkily) very conscious about what I want to learn and grow into and challenge myself with. Sometimes it’s a to-do list, sometimes it’s just an intention to bring a quality or feeling into my life. But those always boil down to specific things and practices: basic things like eating really well, mindfulness practices like yoga or meditation, spending time in nature, creative endeavors like writing novels or just fun things like riding rollercoasters or horses or having hijinks and all kinds of fun. What they all do is help me remember the sky is blue underneath the roiling turmoil of life.

All those things, too, are also proactive. I used to hate hearing that word because the only people who said it were my parents and business nerds. But now I see why: being proactive means creating your momentum instead of reacting to your life. It means knowing what you want to have and feel in your life instead of just letting whatever happen to you, and taking those small yet specific steps and actions to create that. You don’t need to do a lot, but you do need to choose something meaningful and compelling to you. I’m a real nerd — I have a big list I keep on my phone of these things, and it has everything from “really, really listen to my nieces and nephews when they tell me stories” to “do shoulderstand yoga poses before I go to bed at night” to “get a massage” to “visit my favorite perfume counter” to “go bowling with my mom and dad” to “write an amazing story that will be a good companion to beautiful souls.” And I keep adding to that list, because there’s really no limit, though it does take thought, self-knowledge and the commitment to actually do these things. Your own list may be different: it may be sourcing rare spices all around the world, climbing a mountain, writing a song. But I’m sure they all make you feel expansive and connected to whatever great and beautiful spirit animates you, which is the point.

Don’t get me wrong: none of this insulates you from negative emotions. You will not be protected from the peccadilloes of life: breakups, illness, financial problems, losses, deaths, as well as the emotional fallout from them all. It won’t keep you safe from the downs of life, from getting your heart broken, from grappling with fears of inadequacy and uncertainty — though sometimes I think we have a subconscious expectation that it will. We do those little proactive steps to connect ourselves to a bigger dream and our best selves — to keep you in touch with the blue sky beneath it all.

L.A. is Beautiful, and Transitional Thinking

I just got back from a trip to L.A., which was beautiful and sunny and strange and surrealist-magical. I stayed with a friend in West Hollywood in a place with a grapefruit tree just outside the window, and when I wasn’t working, I was wandering. I chose not to rent a car and basically just walked everywhere.

And I walked and walked and walked and walked. I walked to LACMA, where I caught the Calder exhibition up there now. I walked to the Grove, and then to the nearby farmers’ market, where I met up with Liz over beer, chips and guacamole. Lovely Liz! I walked to coffee shops, down gritty streets, past the beautifully strange jumble of architectural styles that only L.A. domestic architecture offers. (A Moroccan castle next to a English country home, next to a Spanish-style bungalow and a mini Tudor mansion!)

I felt undergroomed, but that didn’t stop us from going to fun restaurants (Djelina, Mess Hall, Katsuya) and nifty drinking establishments (Tasting Kitchen, The Griffin). Oh, and I went to Pasadena and hiked near Griffith Observatory. And I went bowling at the Spare Room at the Roosevelt. Vintage style bowling in my socks, and I got a 116, which is about my average game these days. I also bought fancy Mast Brothers chocolate, a sweater coat because I was unexpectedly cold, a perfume rollerball of Balenciaga Florabotanica because that’s what I do when I travel, and my niece’s Christmas present.

I love seeing new places and hanging out with old friends. There’s something about traveling that opens up channels of thinking and feeling that get clogged up by the detritus of everyday life. I’ve been thinking lately about writing, and livelihood, and the proper allocation of energy, time and purpose. Recently — it’s been odd — my parents and sisters are like, “When are you going to get a real job?” and basically think I should just, like, apply to a company and work in computers or something.

Now, this is a question that I didn’t use to get from them when I was footloose and fancy-free in my bohemian 20s, but they probably thought I was going through a “phase” and should just get it out of my system. But I kind of blame Obamacare, which generally I think is a fine (though currently poorly-executed) idea. I buy my own healthcare as a freelancer, so of course I am like, “Ugh, should I bother applying? It seems like such a pain.” And so they go, “Get a real job! Get real health insurance!” Which is kind of, well, a trigger for a woman in my 30s as myself.

I have been working as a freelancer since my early 20s. I have always bought my own health insurance and essentially run my own business for years. Their telling me to “get a real job” — though I recognize it comes from a place of love and caring — feels like a slap in the face, like I’m not an “legit” adult or whatever. The world is a hard place for right-brained, creative, artistic people!

Of course, on some level, I am okay with this, because it is part and parcel for living an unconventional life and mindset. People only want the best for you and kind of want to cross you off the worry list, I guess, but most can’t see an alternative beyond the reality they know. It’s entirely understandable. But it kind of bugged me more than usual.

I had to dig a little deeper to realize why, and then it hit me: I write and edit for a living. In a weird way, I fulfilled my dreams for myself: I have always wanted to be able to say I am a writer and editor. I knew I wanted to be a writer of some sorts when I was a kid; I spent hours at a toy typewriter, pretending to “write.” I created my own “books” and read them out loud to my dolls. Me writing for my job is as natural as a plant growing towards the light. I could do other things, but I could never love other things in the way that I do with writing, and that love and passion makes all the difference — and makes putting up with related bullshit so much easier.

Of course, the realization of that dream isn’t perfect or a fantasy — it’s a struggle, and sometimes I feel burnt out and bored, and sometimes I worry, and sometimes I feel restless like people in “regular” jobs. But deep down, how lucky am I to be doing something that I’m good at, that I love? I know circumstances and situations around that work can be better, but ultimately, I am lucky. And it pains me slightly to know that people who I feel should know me better don’t see that and feel happy for me.

But then again, in some ways, they do see my burnout and my malaise, and that’s what they’re picking up on when they tell me to do something else. And I know I need to shake things up a little. I’ve been thinking about starting a new blog, or re-doing this one in a way that feels more inspiring to me. I’ve been thinking over where I really want to put my fight and my might in writing. I’ve been thinking about blogging in general, and what I get out of it, and what an audience gets out of it, and whether it’s worth it sometimes.

I’ve been thinking about vehicles to spread worthy ideas in the most effective way, and how to share my journeys in ways that feel nourishing, happy and effective for both myself and the reader. It used to be satisfying just to write for the pleasure of writing, but that feeling gets satisfied writing novels — it has to be, otherwise novel-writing would be such a frustrating activity! But writing for writing’s sake in a blog? I don’t know anymore. I feel it has to do something more than add to the reams of content out there. There is such an established set of rules, practices, guidelines, norms that are so different from where I began when I started blogging. It’s something I struggle with: what you have to do to “make a living” and “grow your audience” as a blogger, and the creative and emotional reasons why I began blogging in the first place. Those reasons, I think, are changing, and I need a little time and space to clarify them and then put them into practice.

However, I am not going “on hiatus.” I’m just going a bit slower.

I do have a few ideas and projects, and I’m taking the rest of the year to spackle and construct and bust things up and lay the groundwork for them. So this place will get a little quiet for the rest of the year, methinks. But I’ll still be here. Thinking. Feeling. Living, loving, and recording just a bit of my human experience, and hoping it resonates in some way with some tiny sparkling star-souls out there who somehow find their way into this orbit.

Dog Days, Feline Nights and Weekend Roadtrips

One thing that’s been nice about my busted-up finger is that I’ve been forced to chill out and relax a bit. Which is sad, of course — that it takes me getting hurt for me to slow down and savor the summer, especially in its last gasps. I’m sure that I’ll look back on this summer as one of the strange turning points of my life, though being in the middle (muddle?) of it, I’m not exactly sure where it’s turning towards. Am I spinning out of my axis and into a whole new plain? Spinning my wheels? As I said: I can’t tell. It’s been hard and challenging and anything but idyllic and summery for most of it — but I feel like I’ve grown a lot. I’m making it through the wilderness, to paraphrase that great philosopher Madonna, and I’m actually starting to feel really posi-core about life again, instead of waiting for yet another cosmic-level Major Arcana psychic earthquake to upend my world. I look ahead and there’s love, hearth and home, adventures and yet more love. It feels tested, but it feels true.

Slowing down has let me wring some enjoyment out of summer after all, since I can’t be “productive” and work much. There’s been lots of late summer night dinners, sitting outside on patios over cocktails and candles. And heirloom tomato salads with fresh mozzarella and just-picked basil I’ve lovingly grown on my own front porch since this spring. A nice Thursday night ritual of a lambic beer and a good book. Sitting reading by a pool, though with an eye out for errant bumblebees.

And yes, this weekend, I did manage a nice little roadtrip out to Madison, Wisconsin. Madison was one of the great playgrounds of my adolescence, growing up right in northern Illinois. As a teenager looking to get her kicks, you could go to Chicago, where we’d trawl record stores and buy Doc Martens and go to shows — and feel yourself part of the exciting hustle of the city, so different from my sleepy, staid hometown. Madison was a little different: it was a college town, smaller but friendlier, a tiny bit more rambunctious in its own way. Back then it was a weird blend of super-hippie and Midwestern good times — patchouli and beer. It seems a tiny less granola nowadays, bit Madison is one of the great college towns of the U.S., still — it’s supremely walkable and bike-friendly (there are cyclists everywhere), things are reasonably priced, and it has lots of cultural resources. The main stretch is State Street, which is lined with all kinds of shops: everything from hippie head shops to record stores to book stores to the Soap Opera, where they sell soaps and fragrances galore. (It’s where I pick up any Pacifica stuff I have.)


A Patchwork of November

Funny how this month has raced by, propelling us to the end of 2012! It’s been a full November, complete with furious novel scribbling and a trip to my former stomping grounds in NYC and the Thanksgiving holiday. I’m paralyzed by the need to write something cohesive, something that’ll unfurl in clean sheets of insight and beauty. But that would mean I wouldn’t publish until 2013. (Isn’t that weird to see “2013”?) So instead, I’ll just go for broke with an “everything but the kitchen sink” kind of entry.

NYC Still Has a Secret Chamber of My Heart

It is strange to visit a place that you used to live and is such a big part of your heart and personal iconography. Being back in NYC was a lovely, strange, wonderful experience. You know those friendships where you don’t speak for years, but when you do, you pick up right where you left off, with the same level of bubbling enthusiasm and infectious affection between you? That is now me and NYC: she’s kind of like my glamorous, high-maintenance girlfriend, stomping about the city in stiletto and cool jackets and buzzing about the latest this-or-that.

I did some new fun things — checked out the Picasso exhibition at the Guggenheim, ate at lots of little Brooklyn Heights restaurants where we were staying. (Eat at Siggy’s, y’all, it’s cramped inside but delicious.) NYC is often a constant search of newness and novelty — and there is always something new to discover. But I think there is something in my character evolving, a more deliberate movement between stimulation and solitude. I find myself wanting to carve out cave time to retreat and absorb more often, to sort through new ideas and sights and sounds and experiences — and the proportion between adventure-time and cave-time is changing, more in favor of cave-time. I think it’s partly getting older, partly from the fast-paced nature of my work. And so it goes — and so, realizing this, I’ve made peace with the fact that I’m just a visitor to the city now, not a resident. Though I’m secretly pleased when people stop me and ask for directions like a local — and that I still know them.

(The view from where I was staying in Brooklyn. Nice, right?)

Style on the Mind

This brings me, somewhat relatedly, to the next random semi-scattered thought on my mind lately: style. True confessions: I think about style, and “my style,” and just style as a form of culture and sociology more often than I’d like to admit. But it was something I thought about in NYC. I saved up a lot of my shopping juju (“juju” being my word for energy and resources, i.e. money) for the city, but found nothing I wanted to invest in. I bought some knickers and leggings at Uniqlo, perused the little shops like In God We Trust that I love, and bought cool British magazines at the McNally bookstore. (The pic above shows my NYC loot.) But nothing major drew me in enough to part me from my money. In NYC! At In God We Trust and Pixie Market and A.P.C.! What is going on with me?

A few things, I guess: an obvious one is that most everything I saw in NYC is available online or somewhere in Chicago — with the Internet and globalization, there is very little left of “local,” for better or for worse. This is compressing a very interesting topic, but street style is very similar in every major capital I’ve been too, with perhaps subtle variations. A cool hip chick in the middle of the Midwest looks very similar to the cool hip chick in L.A. or NYC, honestly, with exceptions for seasonal adaptations. So the very fact of being in NYC wasn’t enough of a compelling reason to shop and buy anything — I knew I could find something similar, or cheaper, or even the same, somewhere else.