Fall in Love With Your Work

I am using this space to promote my friend Maia, because I believe in the generosity economy described by Kelley Eskridge.

wall starfish

I met Maia in the winter of 2011, when I was traveling around SE Asia. We met in the charming town (if you could even call it that!) of Chiang Dao. She boldly inserted herself into a conversation I was having with another woman I’d met that evening, and we became fast friends. In fact, in the three years since we met, I’m surprised to realize that that evening was the only time we have ever been face-to-face.

In the fall of 2012, I was spinning my wheels and lacked direction. I knew I wanted to move in a different direction than the one I’d been going in, but I couldn’t seem to figure it out on my own. Maia invited met to participate in her online class, Fall In Love With Your Work. This definitely appealed to me. I have always struggled to love what I’ve been paid to do.

In slowbloom fashion, another layer of myself and my history were revealed through this process. I began to clarify what I valued (hello (hu)manifesto!). I came to understand some of what I considered my failures in previous employment situations. And I took the first steps in opening back up, after having shut down. As a matter of fact, this entire blog exists because of her encouragement!

I’m saying all of this because Maia is offering her course again. She is a gentle and compassionate teacher, and if you are looking for more clarity in your own life, or have questions about what your right livelihood might be, this course is for you.

So stretch yourself! Go sign up. Registration closes on September 29th. Please contact me for a discount code if you’re interested!

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52 Photos: End of the Season

This week’s prompt was related to summer coming to an end, something I’m loathe to face, even though the evenings are coming more quickly. So I dug into the archive and came up with the bright, vivid colors that mark fall and give me light and warmth to hold on to as it gets darker and colder.

North Cascades slope:

fall colors

Frilly Japanese maple leaves:

fall frilly maple leaves

This was taken just over a year ago in Koya-san, Japan:

fall harbinger

Leaf skeletons in Kanazawa, Japan:

fall leaf skeletons

Autumn leaves, swirly fence:

autumn leaves swirly fence

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52 Photos: The Sign Says

Even though this week’s prompt wasn’t literal, I’m going with a sign.

sign for Angel's Landing

The sign says:

ANGEL’S LANDING

Strenuous climb
Narrow route with cliff exposures
Hazardous during thunderstorms, darkness, and ice/snow conditions

I’d heard stories from friends and family members about this hike before I did it last week. I knew it wasn’t for the faint of heart or anyone with fear of heights. I was pretty certain I would do okay, but I still had some niggling doubts. I’m not known for dazzling anyone with feats of physical strength, but I managed to surpass my girlfriend’s expectations. I just walked right up the rock like it was nothing. And as I expected, the openness didn’t bother me at all.

My girlfriend asked what had happened to me. She thought I’d be whining and clinging to the rock with fear. Truth is, I probably would have a couple of years ago. I just kept putting one foot in front of the other and made it to the top. I told her, “I’ve finally found my voice and my feet!”

First portion with chains:

climbing Angel's Landing

Can you see the chain to the right side of the image?
Angel's Landing formation

Ridge to final approach and summit (See the people in the lower part of the picture?):

ridge to Angel's Landing

I told a friend the other day I felt like I was climbing in an ant farm. You tell me if you think I’m exaggerating! Here’s the horde we found at the top (and where my healthy fear of heights kicked in – no way was I going to go gallivanting through them)!

hordes of hikers

I’ll give you a few more signs, since I only put one up there:

feral cats or chickens

warning sign

And finally, the fallout shelter sign on my apartment building (and no, there isn’t actually one):

fallout shelter

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52 Photos: Luang Prabang

The prompt this week was somewhere you visited. As many of you know, I’ve been a lot of places. Picking one was hard.

I decided to go with Luang Prabang in Laos, because I’ve talked about visiting Thailand, Vietnam, and Cambodia, but not Laos, which was the fourth country in my tour of SE Asia.

I visited temples:

Wat Xieng Thong

that had disco elephants as decoration …

mosaic elephant

I drank bale fruit tea:

bale fruit tea

and BeerLao, the champagne of beers (or so I was told).

Beerlao

I watched monks collect merit contributions:

monks collecting merit contributions

and the sun set behind the Mekong river.

sunset behind the mekong

If you ever have a chance to visit Luang Prabang, I highly recommend it. It’s a special place.

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On the internet, no one can hear you scream

This post is about dreams. I know, rule #2991480932 of the Internet: DON’T TELL ANYONE YOUR DREAMS. NO ONE WANTS TO HEAR IT. So, you’ve been duly warned. I’m going to talk about dreams.

Ivar's clam

I have had recurring dreams nightmares for pretty much all of my adult life. There are two themes. In the first one, I’m leaving on a trip. I get to the airport. I don’t have my passport. I’m always going somewhere that requires a passport. I don’t have enough time to get my passport before my flight leaves.

In the second type, I’m experiencing some kind of danger. It’s always vague, but present. I’m always paralyzed and incapable of getting out of harm’s way.

Except, something has changed. Several months ago I had the travel dream, right up to panicking about the passport. When I checked my bag, the passport was in it.

This morning I had the second dream. Except instead of being unable to flee, I got on my bicycle and rode up an insanely steep hill. And I stood up on my pedals (which I’m currently terrified of doing, because the last time I did that, when I was ten, I fell off my bike and scarred my knee for life).

Something has shifted, and it’s showing up in my dreams. I’m not so afraid of what the world is going to fling at me. So bring it on.

For those of you who read to the end, bless your hearts. To the rest of you, well, bless your hearts, too.

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On distractions

Sundial

I talked to my therapist today about what enables good writing for me. What it boils down to is not letting my mind get pulled by the distractions. And wooo buddy are there ALWAYS distractions.

This is why I chose return as my theme for 2014.

I chose to focus on writing for ONE HOUR this afternoon. Just one hour. Just after I’d turned the timer on, I swear to everything holy a car alarm started going off. I had to laugh. I could let myself be distracted by the car alarm, or I could choose to focus on what I wanted.

Here’s what I want: I want to immerse myself in the world and characters I’m creating. I remembered what I wanted. And every time the fucking car alarm went off again (because oh, it did), I heard as a reminder to return to my focus.

I’m grateful for the years of practice I’ve had at meditation. I’ve learned that every moment is an opportunity to return to what I want to focus on. I don’t have to shame myself for getting distracted. I can just return. And so I do.

What are you choosing to focus on these days?

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Japan: Kyoto and Hiroshima

I have a friend who’s going to Japan in December. She asked me for my advice and recommendations on where to go and what to see. She’s planning on visiting Kyoto, Hiroshima and Miyajima. I encouraged her to spend a couple of days in Tokyo, too, if she could. I mentioned on Twitter I was writing an epic email, and a couple of people requested that I post it to my blog. So, for your delectation, I present it, edited slightly for clarity.

torii hall with lantern

Kyoto

Where to stay

We stayed two different places in Kyoto. The first place we stayed was a ryokan, which is the more traditional/family style inn. It was the Ryokan Shimizu.

We loved staying there. The people were so friendly and we were able to try a traditional Japanese breakfast there. It was very close to the train station, which made getting around rather easy (it’s a hub for the buses, too). We all stayed in one room (me with my parents) and slept on tatami/futons (not like futons in the US – really like pads). It was quite comfortable! They also did cultural programming every night. Calligraphy, Japanese gift wrapping with the cloth, origami … I think they had one night on kimonos!

calligraphy lesson

The other hotel was tiny and right down the street from the station. I have no idea what the name was. We had planned on going on to another town, but the typhoon stranded us, so we just walked around to various hotels until we found one that had a rate we liked :). It was commodious, but lacked any of the flavor of the ryokan.

What to see

As for what I would recommend in Kyoto, I would say go to these temples:
Northern Kyoto
Kinkakuji (Golden Pavilion)
There’s a Zen temple, Ryoanji with a stone garden next to Kinkakuji. We were underwhelmed by it, but maybe it would interest you?

Eastern Kyoto
Ginkakuji (Silver Pavilion)
Kiyomizudera – and when you go there, make sure to pay the 100 yen to go down in the thing. You walk down some stairs and hold on to a chain of wooden balls. It gets darker and darker as you go through. It’s supposed to represent the birthing process, and you can make a wish when you get to a stone in the center.

Also, we loved walking through the Nishiki Market (or at least, my mom and I did :P).

Nishiki market

Take the train 5 minutes to the Fushimi Inari Shrine, which is the place with all the red torii gates (shown in the image above). Fantastic place. I think they are lit at night in the winter, adding another magical element to an already otherworldly place.

I think we spent 5 nights in Kyoto. It was really great, because it gave us time to get adjusted to the time and rest every day (my parents napped and I wrote in my journal).

My friend Yossi has a delightful restaurant, Colori Caffe, outside the tourist areas. Please go visit her and say hi from me if you do! If you want the directions, please contact me and I will send them to you. It’s very easy to get to.

Hiroshima and Miyajima

I have no idea where we stayed in Hiroshima. We used the TripAdvisor site to find a place. We didn’t book it until we were in Japan. I couldn’t tell you AT ALL! It’s so funny. It was a very pleasant place, so my takeaway is, trust the reviews on TripAdvisor :).

Miyajima is the island. You could spend the night there, or just do it as a day trip (which is what we did). I would recommend going to Miyajima after the Peace Museum. Being in Hiroshima is intense, as you can imagine. The island is a beautiful respite.

egret in red reflection

General advice/tips

As for flying in to Kyoto or Tokyo, I don’t know if there are any direct flights to Kyoto anymore (from Seattle). I think one reason we went with Tokyo was that it was more direct and cost less (even including the hotel). We stayed here. It was right outside the Tokyo Station and was a fantastic oasis in the middle of the city. The staff were super friendly and helpful.

I would recommend talking to people and ask if they’ve been to Tokyo, and what they would recommend doing there. I think we had a kind of odd/different experience. I had some friends I’d worked with at Amazon, and we met them for lunch one day. We did some shopping. We did take a day trip to Kamakura to see the giant Buddha.

OH! Also, the department stores have restaurants on the top floors that are very reasonable for eating dinner. This is true in Kyoto and Tokyo. We also ate at izakayas (bars), but they can be VERY smoky. My mom and I loved eating at them, though.

The Japan Rail pass was fantastic. It works on any JR line – which means we were able to use it to get around Tokyo itself, as long as we stayed on the JR line. It can also be used on certain buses. If you are taking the shinkansen from Tokyo to Kyoto and back, I think it pays for itself, but you should check the math on that. I bought mine from a place in downtown Seattle. I think I went to the office and placed my order. Came back an hour later and the vouchers were ready!

***

You can see the pictures I took, organized by location.

I think that’s everything I can think of for now! If you have ANY questions, or something doesn’t make sense, please feel free to ask me. Also, if you start making reservations and have difficulty, let me know. I seem to remember there were a few hiccups we had.

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Baby Steps

One of the things I’ve been working on with my therapist is learning to slow down, so my response isn’t laminated to my reactions. We can’t control our reactions; we can control how we respond to those reactions.

little red car

On Monday I took the bus downtown to meet up with some friends. I sat toward the rear, facing forward, and wore earbuds (which are bright blue). A few stops later, a man got on the bus. He came to the back and sat across from me, on a bench that faced the middle.

I could almost predict what would happen next. I turned toward him, and he started talking to me.

Him: “Hi. Didn’t I see you on the bus yesterday?”
I pause the podcast I’m listening to and take the earbud out.
Me: “No. No you didn’t.”
Him: “So I couldn’t have met you before?”
Me: “No. No you couldn’t.”
Him: “What’s your name?”
At this point in the conversation, my stomach starts to clench. Because I know this is coming. And every time a man asks me, I tell him. And then I hate myself for it. But I am learning to pay attention to what I want. And what I want is definitely NOT to give him my name.
So I say, “I don’t want to tell you that.”
I’ve disrupted the social script. He doesn’t know how to respond. He falls silent.

I turn away from him and face the front again. I turn my podcast back on. A stop later, he moves up a seat. A young woman sits next to him.

I like being friendly. I like talking to people. On the bus, even! But for the short duration of a bus ride, no one needs to know my name. I couldn’t wait to tell my friends my story.

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52 Photos: Stairs

This week’s prompt: stairs. For you, a few staircases and a brief story. First the pictures:

The staircase in the shopping center at the JR Train Station in Kyoto:

lighting design on JR Kyoto stairs

Spiral staircase in Lisbon:

spiral stair

Dragon staircase in Chiang Mai:

dragon staircase

Powell’s bookstore in Portland, Oregon:

self-published

Ayutthaya Staircase:

stairs to ferry

Before I start telling you this story, I have to show you a picture of something else. It’s a bicycle:

Good luck bike #2

In 2011 I spent 3 months in SE Asia. The first place I went after I got my head sorted in Bangkok was Ayutthaya. It was a great place for me to rest and sink into a new rhythm. The guesthouse where I was staying had bikes available to rent. This was my trusty steed as I ventured out from the safety of my idyllic quarters. What you can’t tell from looking at the picture is how heavy that bike was. I’d guess it weighed around 25 pounds. Nothing like my lightweight 15-pound aluminum frame bike at home.

And yes, I did carry that damn thing down those damn stairs. And back up on the other side. And then again in reverse. And I felt quite pleased with my accomplishment.

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Shopping for therapists

I promised Summer and Carla yesterday that I’d tell them the story of finding my therapist.

Day Lily on fire

In December of 2012 I knew I had a problem. I was interpreting everything as a threat. I couldn’t tell what was what. I felt like the Farside cartoon, where the amoeba wife is saying to her husband, “You’re just stimulus, response! Stimulus, response!” I felt like I was living at DEFCON 1, ready to push the red button that means nuclear annihilation. Recognizing that this response was utterly out of whack with the external stimuli, I decided to get help.

I have gone to counselors before, so this wasn’t the first time I’d gone looking for one. I had at least a little bit of experience and idea of what I needed. I got a referral from a dear friend and went to see her therapist. He turned out to be awful. Case in point:

  • In response to me saying I’d stayed at my job 2 years past the pain point, he said, “You’re a masochist!”
  • For some reason Jodie Foster’s coming out came up. He said something along the lines of, “I don’t mind if women are lesbians, but why that one?” Ironic because I’d seen something on twitter a few days earlier saying that sentiment is so ridiculous. I mean, like he would have ever had a chance?
  • I told him about the first manuscript I wrote, and he said, “You’re not nice.” Um .. it’s a story. And it has to be interesting. Which I said to him. Also, he could have said, “That’s not nice.” Me not nice? Grrr.

So after that first meeting, I went home and thought about it. I talked it over with some friends/support people. I came to the conclusion that he wasn’t right for me and I fired him. I felt so vulnerable and exhausted. I didn’t want to go through this ten more times. I didn’t think I could go through this ten more times.

I took a step back. I thought about all the people I knew, and if any of them were therapists. There was one person who fit the bill. I had met him on Twitter, through a mutual friend. And not only that, he’d visited Seattle the month before and I had met him in person. We’d connected and I knew I could trust him. I contacted him and asked him if he would be willing to work with me. He said he’d give it a try.

As much as I’ve gotten out of therapy, I cannot emphasize enough how powerful this first action was for me. I’d learned to dismiss my intuition and sense of what was right for me. This was the first action I’d taken in YEARS that was in alignment with my core.

In the last year and a half, I’ve spent a lot of time learning to identify what I’m actually feeling. I’ve learned to scan for support, rather than see everything as a threat. I’ve learned not to take things personally. I used to worry about being an asshole. I still do, a little bit, but mostly I consider whether or not I’m being kind. I’ve learned to recognize and go after what I want. I’ve learned that if I want people to see me, I have to be willing to show myself (eep!).

I’ve worked on developing my awareness and slowing down the time between reaction and response, so I can choose my response, rather than the two being laminated or magnetized into a single action.

My therapist told me, “Look for where you fit, not where you fit in.” I could have made excuses with the previous therapist. I could have found reasons to work with him. But I didn’t. I knew in my marrow he wasn’t the right fit for me. And I did feel a little bad, then. Now I understand. It wasn’t about me. It wasn’t personal. And he wasn’t the right person for me to work with.

If you are currently shopping for a therapist and you are having trouble finding someone to work with, I hope you won’t be discouraged. Keep looking. There will be someone who is kind and who can help you.

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