It’s been a long time since I’ve sat down to assemble and share my thoughts, but I’m prompted to do so now and must submit to that urge. Too often, we get caught up in doing whatever we’re doing, maybe even doing things we don’t really want to do, and ignore the internal push guiding us elsewhere. For far too long, that’s been the case with not just writing and my dedication to this craft I repeatedly abandon, but other equally and more important tasks like creating the life I want to live.
Doing so requires commitment. Tireless commitment. And the passion necessary for dedication.
I’ve wasted too much time, fearful, doubting, wavering, uncertain. And the odds are in favor of me correctly saying “so have you.”
Let’s get clear and let’s forge new and unique paths that uplift and illuminate us and those around us.
This year has been an amazing testimony of what’s possible and I see so clearly now that I’ve got to get out of my own way and you’ve got to get out of your own way so we can be so great, truly. Individually and collectively. It must happen.
Stop allowing yourself to be distracted. Focus, commit, and succeed.
How willing are you to do what it takes to get it?
My work is loving the world.
Here the sunflowers, there the hummingbird—
equal seekers of sweetness.
Here the quickening yeast there the blue plums.
Here the clam deep in the speckled sand.
Are my boots old? Is my coat torn?
Am I no longer young, and still not half-perfect? Let me
keep my mind on what matters,
which is my work,
which is mostly standing still and learning to be astonished.
The phoebe, the delphinium.
The sheep in the pasture, and the pasture.
Which is mostly rejoicing, since all the ingredients are here,
which is gratitude, to be given a mind and a heart
and these body-clothes,
a mouth with which to give shouts of joy
to the moth and the wren, to the sleepy dug-up clam,
telling them all, over and over, how it is
that we live forever.
- Mary Oliver, Thirst
it should be your greatest masterpiece.
the box is stupid & unimaginative.
don’t live in it.
This was originally posted on September 4, 2010.
Life is calling you. All the time. Do this. Do that. Don’t do anything at all. There’s always a fork in the road. Sometimes you don’t even know it’s there, but it is. Sometimes you hear it, see it, feel it…this urge…this moment that comes to visit briefly. It may whisper, it may shout, but it’s always saying something. Are you listening?
The perpetual, invisible fork is the following question: how are you going to respond? To what? To everything.
We allow the outer world to control our inner world because we don’t understand that the more we control our inner world, the more we control the outer world. It often acts the other way around, but we’re so much more effective in our lives when we understand this. The past few weeks have proven this to be true.
Out of nowhere, my job suddenly became a place I slightly dreaded. I wasn’t even fully aware of it, but I noticed it when I realized time was my obsession. “What time is it?” and “how much longer will I be here?” Sure signs of danger. Everyone and everything was a problem and I played the victim to all the haphazard incidents and wrongdoings.
When somebody/everybody else is always the problem, maybe the problem is really you.
This was originally posted on January 28, 2011. Lately, it’s been calling out to me. I needed it and wanted to share it again.
We’re all looking for pure bliss and resounding ecstasy. We want to drop our worries and feel alive, feel connected to the magic of this world. All too often, though, this desire results in the abuse of alcohol, drugs and other legal or illegal substances. In using or abusing these substances, the user often does more harm than good.
But alcohol and drugs are completely unnecessary and actually quite costly to both your body and your wallet. There’s another way.
It’s natural. It’s safe. It’s free. It’s legal and always available to you.
This is the seventh #notetoself letter, originally sent on March 19, 2012.
Five weeks ago, I arrived at Isla de Ometepe, Nicaragua specifically to work on a permaculture farm. Nearly everything I read about this island was that it was magical. That magic wasn’t fully expounded upon, so I hoped I’d figure out for myself what it was about. As I prepare to leave tomorrow, I realize I understand the gravitational pull this island has on one’s heart and mind from my experience in Balgue. I was actually supposed to leave a few days ago, but it didn’t feel right; I didn’t see it and I didn’t feel it. So I stayed.
During what was to be my final week here, I realized how embedded others had become in this community and how much I felt like I stood on the periphery, here and in it, yet removed at the same time. I wanted to be more of a part of it. There are some incredibly dynamic people here, funny, generous, cooperative… I didn’t want to leave feeling as disconnected as I did and wanted to forge a deeper bond, despite my imminent departure.
This same week, one of the long-term volunteers discovered that she had lice. That realization led to a sort of impromptu communal lice check. One of the women who found out she also had lice never had it before, so she was a bit freaked out. Her behavior after that discovery really impacted me.
This is the sixth #notetoself letter, originally sent on March 13, 2012.
There is a great irony in my personality. I suppose it’s common amongst others that identify as writers, but knowing it’s not specific to me doesn’t make me any more comfortable with it than if it were only my problem.
I’m a horrible communicator.
However eloquently I may be able to string together written words, I’m much less gifted with the spoken word, especially when it comes to my most vulnerable relationships. Especially when I’m hurt. Especially when hurt and most other painful emotions are filtered through anger. The only thing I can communicate then is anger. The knives come out. They’re figurative, but the wounds from my words can be just as painful as a literal cut — and they can go deeper.
The result is frequent apologies. I’m sorry for days, but anything said too often begins to lose its power. The last thing you want to do is issue an impotent apology. I fear sincerity won’t be able to carry me for much longer.
This is the fifth #notetoself letter, originally sent on March 5, 2012.
Henry David Thoreau said, “the mass of men lead lives of quiet desperation.” He lived in the first half of the 19th century and yet those words still contain truth today. It’s sad. Quiet desperation kills the spirit.
Before this trip, I realized how discontent I’d become with my life. My work didn’t matter to me. I wasn’t even sure what I was doing with my “work”. I never knew how answer the “what do you do?” question. I don’t know. Live. That was the response I wanted to give.
I’m a great starter. My starting energy is fresh, empathic and certain. Then, slowly but surely, it’d wane and I’d quit. I’m also a great quitter. My attention usually shifts gears to something else equally engaging.
That’s a pattern I’m really sick of.
A few nights ago, I happened upon an Alicia Keys’ song called “How It Feels to Fly” that’s feeding my soul. With such ambiguous lyrics, I don’t know exactly what she’s talking about in the song, but for me, it makes me think about reaching for my dreams.
“I am riding high, don’t wanna come down.
Hope my wings don’t fail me now.
If I can touch the sky, I’d risk the fall
Just to know it feels to fly.”
How many of our goals are our own? Whose definition of success drives our actions? I can criticize corporate America all I want, but I was a part of the rat race, even if I didn’t have a 9-5. The discontent I feel is the result of not doing things I wanted to do, for whatever reason. There’s so much I want to do, and have wanted to do but have neglected to. This trip is the perfect example of a dream deferred. I’ve always wanted to travel and stay somewhere for a longer period of time. That’s just now happening for me. On the other hand, I appreciate it just the same because I can receive so much of this experience differently than I might have in the past.
Being here has awakened me to my desire to do things I’ve neglected to do, things I let sit in the recesses of my mind and my heart. They were there, alive, but unattended. Living a life with meaning, passion and fulfillment are of incredible importance to me.
Earlier last week, one of the people I’ve been blessed to meet on this trip asked me if I wanted to hike one of the two volcanoes on the island. Of course he wanted to do the larger volcano, Volcan Concepcion, the one we look at everyday. Without hesitation, I said yes. Sure. Why not?
This is the fourth #notetoself letter, sent on February 27, 2012.
So much of life can be enigmatic and perplexing. Undoubtedly, there will be times when you don’t know what to do, how to spend your time, where to invest your energies. For quite a while, that’s been the case with me and my life. That’s part of the reason I’m in Central America.
For the past two weeks, I’ve been living off the grid on a farm. On this 26 acre lot, there’s electricity in three locations and two of those are houses I don’t have access to. If you don’t have a flashlight at night, it sucks to be you, especially when you have to use the bathroom in an outdoor squat toilet. I sleep in a tent advertised as a two person tent, but is only big enough for me and my things. When I lay down, my head and feet are basically connected to it’s perimeter, and I may be 5′4″. May. Two people. Right.
Being an off-the-grid permaculture farm, we seek to maximize production and minimize waste. In my tiny tent is a bag of used tissues, baby wipes and other trash that will eventually be packed into used bottles, which will serve as bricks for some sort of construction. There’s no waste management on this island, so residents usually collect their trash into a pile and burn it. We seek to do something more effective and healthier for us and the environment.
Being in a place where I’m confronted with the idea of food security and trying to create a resource loop where there is no waste just another purpose, I’m heavily analyzing the existence I held in my relatively carefree city life before my time here and wondering what I can and will change. I started researching permaculture and found an opportunity to get certified and practice it for a few months in Haiti this summer, so that’ll be my next big adventure. It wasn’t planned.
This is the third #notetoself letter, originally sent on February 20, 2012.
Isla de Ometepe in Nicaragua is an island formed by two volcanoes with an isthmus between them. Many consider it to be a magical place, although I haven’t yet figured out exactly what makes it so, but suspect I will soon. It’s beautiful and there are more signs of nature than the 42,000 people that live here. I’m staying on a permaculture farm with all kinds of good stuff: random greens, herbs, coconut, banana, plantains, Moringa, Mayan breadnut, taro, jackfruit, neem, guava, cashew, cinnamon, mango and so much more.
When I first arrived, I was ecstatic. Everything about this place was cool– the outdoor showers overlooking Lago Nicaragua, the largest lake in Central America, the squat toilets, the compost toilets, the outdoor dorms with amazing views of the sky (basically just a covered platform with a black tarp on one side acting as a wall), the hammock on the platform in a tree overlooking Volcan Concepcion, the solar-powered outdoor kitchen…
I slept horribly the first night. The only two options for mosquito nets was one that was a bit too small for the bed and one that was the appropriate size, but disgusting. It could’ve been from bat droppings, flies, mosquitoes, any number of things. To me, it didn’t matter; it was just really too disgusting for my comfort. The second night, I forgot to charge my cell phone during the hours of 10-3 when we can charge only if it’s sunny. Since the 6:45 meeting is a bit early for me still, I needed an alarm. Rather than asking someone to wake me up, I decided to sleep in the hammock up in the tree where you can see bright, vivid stars. It was windy and cold all night long. Not a good call, but I was still happy about the experience. The third night, an insect flew into my ear while I was sleeping at 2 am. Another lady here helped me drown it with saline solution, but then I was bothered by the fact that there was a dead insect in my ear. The next day was a fumbling exercise in Spanish and patience, spent going to the town clinic, waiting for it to open, hearing it was closed, deciding to go to another clinic and while waiting for the bus to take me to the other side of the island, discovering the town clinic was in fact open but not really equipped to adequately help me. The nurse looked at my ear with a dim light from her cell phone and flushed my ear with a syringe, ejecting a small, black mosquito. Still, something in my ear didn’t feel right, so she urged me on to the other clinic, where I found out that there was no insect but there was “hongo”. Fungus. I have an ear fungus.
After returning to the farm and preparing for bed that night, I wondered what the hell I was doing. I’m in the mountains. With no electricity. Sleeping outdoors. With a mosquito net that’s obviously not very effective. Freaking out about the plethora of bugs grossly outnumbering me. Really, what?