To capture a moment or to live in a moment?

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That’s me and T at the Seafood, Blues, & Jazz Festival here on the island.

No *real* pictures, because they wouldn’t let me bring my camera in. After fuming about that for a good ten minutes, I got over it and ultimately felt thankful for not having that distraction, though I obviously couldn’t resist a quick iPhone picture. I had planned to snap some pictures of the musicians, the grounds, and the seafood, to blog about it. The best laid plans… well, you know.

Instead, I reveled in the magnificence of the sunset over the river with live blues in the background, without the compulsion to capture it on film. Okay, so I did have the compulsion, but I was forced to let it go, and now I feel sure that I saw, felt, and appreciated more of the festival because of it.

Isn’t that a strange fact of our culture today? That ability and desire to record and share any and every moment of our lives? Don’t get me wrong, I love instagramming and pinning as much as the next girl, but I struggle with finding that balance between participating in the fun, fast-paced media frenzy of today and actually living in the moment, appreciating life in real-time. You know?

Marveling at the sunset for what it is: a fleeting, never-still, signal to the close of a day.

A camera can’t translate that reality; it can only represent it, or show a part of it.

Pictures can’t capture it all. Neither can words, of course. Because when we’re experiencing life as it happens, each of our senses contributes to each moment. I’ve noticed that if I’m focusing too much on what I’m going to write about something, or what to take a picture of, I end up missing out on other parts of the moment.

The wafting scent of funnel cake or the gentle sound of water lapping against the shore; the feeling of contentment from warm arms around me as I watch the setting sun quivering brightly on the water.

I think I’ll try leaving my camera at home on purpose next time.

Anyone else experience this tension? Do you have methods to step away from gadgets and technology and revel deeply in life as it happens?

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On Compassion & Healing

Lake_Jones_Trail_textI’m in the middle of an eight-week class, “Real Foods for Real Life,” and it’s been enormously helpful in many ways. But the most valuable takeaway for me has little to do with food, at least on the surface.

As I’ve shared my own story and listened to others share their unique personal journeys with admirable vulnerability, I’ve left each class with a growing and deeper understanding of the importance of compassion when it comes to healing. And most of the time, each of us is healing one part of ourselves or another, aren’t we?

I’ve been thinking about how this is part of life, part of growing up: we have to be willing to consider ourselves honestly, to look closely at past choices, however misguided we believe we were and would like to forget, in order to choose something different for our future.

If we want to cultivate new life patterns, we usually need to heal something in ourselves, and this kind of deep healing evolves out of practicing compassion for others and compassion for ourselves.

What if we each gave ourselves permission to be exactly who we are, and to be exactly where we are, no excuses necessary? No beating ourselves up for this pound here or that pint of ice cream there.

The highest challenge: while looking closely, what if we don’t place one whit of judgement on ourselves?

I mean to say, we should give ourselves permission to look in the mirror, regardless of how lousy we feel, and say to ourselves, you’re exactly where you should be in this moment; and lucky you, you get to choose your next move.

Healing is challenging. It requires courage and persistence and no small amount of forgiveness, for ourselves, and sometimes for others. Healing requires digging deep and examining our choices without guilt or shame. In order to expose our truths, even to ourselves, and emerge with grace, we need kindness, compassion.

And yes, much of the work is personal, but we don’t have to go it alone. We can and should lift each other up on our respective journeys, but too often we keep our challenges to ourselves for fear of judgement or fear of burdening others with what we imagine to be challenges distinct to us alone. Of course we do, bombarded as we are, especially as women, by media that shows unrealistic, carefully curated and smoothed over versions of humanity. Rarely do we see the complex, imperfect, many-layered, beautiful truths illuminated.

But we need each other. However independent we feel we should be in today’s world, we need our neighbors, friends, and family as much as humans ever did.

So. Let’s illuminate those truths, without apology.

We’re flawed, complex, difficult to understand. We’re also beautiful and strong and here on earth to find happiness and love. Let’s share of ourselves, and support each other in uncovering our truths so that we can heal and take on the world. We’re worth it.

To Living the Good Life

A nice walk to work

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When T and I first moved to this little island, I was in the midst of a health slump, the kind where I knew my body needed some major TLC. I was tired too often, feeling a lack of creativity and motivation for projects I wanted to feel excited about, experiencing major brain fog in the mornings, and constantly craving sugar and baked goods in a serious way. But at the same time, I was about to move from the mountains of North Carolina, (my home since I first ventured out to build a life of my own) to a quiet beach town, where T and I had the idea to start fresh together.

Not that we both didn’t love Asheville dearly, because good gracious, it’s a magical place, but in different ways for each of us, it was time to move on. We had chosen our new home, and decided that when one of us found a job, we would make our move. He quickly landed a teaching job, I found part-time work; we found a sweet beach-home, packed up our apartment; and we began our journey, moving in on July 4th weekend, according to the locals, the busiest weekend of the year.

It’s hard to believes it’s been only just over two months here, because it feels like home in almost every way. (Admittedly, the hard part has been missing dear friends, but curiously, we chose around the same time to let our dreams lead us on our own adventures, and I’m so excited to support each other and share excitement as our respective journeys unfold.)

Anyway, you guys, this summer has been a perfect blast.

#whatagirlwants

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Like, vying for first on a summers-of-my-life list. To recap: We live two blocks from the beach. Enough said. I could really stop there, since everything else is added bonus, but I won’t. We also live across the street from the intracoastal waterway, meaning toe-dipping docks, vivid sunsets, and those breezes only experienced so close to the water. We’ve ridden our beach cruisers nearly every day: through the neighborhoods, into town in search of the island’s best margarita, or to the state park for for marina sunsets and sundown walks. There are moonlit, quiet evening beach walks, where we climb up lifeguard stands to stargaze. I’ve gotten over *some* of my fear of big waves, either boogie boarding or just body surfing, which is the best bad-day-restart-button I’ve yet experienced in life. Ice cream. A lovely yoga studio I can bike to. Warm, friendly neighbors on all sides. The list goes on, but needless to say, this season has inspired, healed, and reinvigorated my soul.

Alas, seasons end. Even at the beach. Cool[er] nights have swept in,Β  and the island is quieting. Now that T is back at school, and I am working full-time again. those pieces of life I needed to work on before the move have resurfaced with a crackle. I can’t ignore anymore that it’s time to dig deep and figure it out. I’m choosing diet as my first venture, because I believe wholeheartedly in the healing (and hurting) powers of food. In the past few years, I’ve gotten terribly lazy with what I’ve put in my body, ignoring signs of imbalance and sickness, which are much easier to tune out than I would have imagined.

All this to say, now that I’ve nailed down the best margaritas and ice-cream sandwiches around and my truly decadent summer frolic is coming to a close, I’m choosing to commit, now, to whatever it takes to get my body back in balance. How? No sugar, no gluten, no alcohol, and limited caffeine for 30 days. Oh. Good. Gracious. I might not be very fun for a while, but damnit, I’m going to *have* fun with this. Or, I’m really going to try.

And while I’ll try not to blather on too much about all the sordid details, I will blog along the way about my successes and failures and tidbits I glean from my adventure that seem worth sharing.

So. Here’s to living the good life while taking care of ourselves, to boot! May I learn more each day how to weave those goals together more gracefully.

Insights? Advice? Warnings? Feel free to share your thoughts πŸ˜‰

On Health and Happiness

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From an early age, I remember being told I enjoyed too many different things, that I was just a little *too* happy, that it didn’t make sense.

Like when I moved to a new school in ninth grade, and I thought I might make friends by smiling at people, but on the first day of school the girl across from me in class shot me back a disgusted look. “What?” she sneered, tossing her jet black hair back in front of her face. Taken aback, I shifted in my seat and wondered what I’d done wrong. About a month ago, I volunteered for a film festival and managed to get a similar, though slightly less obvious, reaction from a very hip young lady who was also volunteering, and I remain as shocked today as I was in high school by such responses. Okay, a little less surprised, but still stubbornly clinging to my belief that life should be all Anne-of-Green-Gables-neighborly-and-genuine.

I vividly recall a birthday card from a friend in high school that read,

“To the only person I know who can listen to Shania Twain and ACDC back to back and enjoy them equally.”

I also recall my high school boyfriend shaking his head at me and rolling his eyes when I told him that maybe I would like to be a flight attendant, so I could travel the world and expand my horizons. “When did you decide that, this morning?” And it was true. I had decided that after a conversation in first period with a classmate whose mother was one.

After exploring for a few years after highschool, I finally went to college, (which I chose on the recommendation of a dear, wild card of a soul whom I met when I was 19, because he said it was the most beautiful place he had ever been). Once there, which, by the way, turned out to be the most beautiful place I had ever been, I finally settled on Creative Writing as a major, mostly because it meant I could explore practically any subject I wanted to, as long as I could find a way to share that experience with words.

Along the way, I’ve often felt confused about my seeming lack of distinct and long-term goals, at least of the kind that other people seemed to have, and that we’re taught we should have. I’ve considered and dabbled in many paths: interior designer, nutritionist, yoga teacher, elementary school teacher, researcher, librarian, journalist… the list goes on.

But the only goal I’ve ever managed to sustain has been seeking health and happiness. This is not to say I don’t seek meaningful work, because it’s actually one of my great life challenges to remain committed to any job I don’t find meaningful. But I see work as just a piece of the great puzzle, not something to build my life around.

I’ve been thinking about this recently, probably because big life changes usually stir things up. This summer, my love and I moved to a very small beach town, exclusively and unapologetically because we just wanted to. Not because we found that “next step” career job or because we needed to get away from something else, but because we wanted to live by the sea. And specifically, this town felt right to us.

I’ve found myself defending the decision sometimes, even to myself, and I’d like to reaffirm my belief, perhaps mostly for myself, that

HEALTH AND HAPPINESS,

ALSO KNOW AS QUALITY OF LIFE,

IS A GREAT AND WORTHY GOAL.

Is it also important to find meaningful work throughout this journey? Absolutely. But for me, never at the expense of living a happy life. What is life without spending time with loved ones and on things that make you feel inspired and free?

There is an old fable you may have heard that always brings a smile to my face and sums up feelings rather nicely: (different versions are all over the internet, but I found this one here)

An American tourist was at the pier of a small coastal Mexican village when a small boat with just one fisherman docked.

Inside the small boat were several large yellowfin tuna. The tourist complimented the Mexican on the quality of his fish and asked how long it took to catch them.

The Mexican replied, “Only a little while.”

The tourist then asked, “Why didn’t you stay out longer and catch more fish?”

The Mexican said, “With this I have more than enough to support my family’s needs.”

The tourist then asked, “But what do you do with the rest of your time?”

The Mexican fisherman said, “I sleep late, fish a little, play with my children, take siesta with my wife, Maria, stroll into the village each evening where I sip wine and play guitar with my amigos, I have a full and busy life.”

The tourist scoffed, ” I can help you. You should spend more time fishing; and with the proceeds, buy a bigger boat: With the proceeds from the bigger boat you could buy several boats. Eventually you would have a fleet of fishing boats. Instead of selling your catch to a middleman you would sell directly to the processor; eventually opening your own cannery. You would control the product, processing and distribution. You could leave this small coastal fishing village and move to Mexico City, then Los Angeles and eventually New York where you could run your ever-expanding enterprise.”

The Mexican fisherman asked, “But, how long will this all take?”

The tourist replied, “15 to 20 years.”

“But what then?” asked the Mexican.

The tourist laughed and said, “That’s the best part. When the time is right you would sell your company stock to the public and become very rich, you would make millions.”

“Millions?…Then what?”

The American said, “Then you would retire. Move to a small coastal fishing village where you would sleep late, fish a little, play with your kids, take siesta with your wife, stroll to the village in the evenings where you could sip wine and play your guitar with your amigos.”