Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Reviving Siesta

A beautiful Sunday spent exploring the countryside near Carlos Paz, Argentina with Fer and her husband, Franco, in January 2007.

I love taking naps. Rather, I should say I love the IDEA of taking naps. Although many of the places I've lived still uphold siesta as a sacred and practiced tradition, I rarely allow myself the luxury of crawling into bed mid-day. In part, I don't often nap because every time I wake up from one, I'm ready and willing to devour an entire sheet cake--even when my nap directly follows lunch and lasts only 20 minutes. More importantly, however, I don't take naps because I think I don't have time for a nap. A common symptom of the American lifestyle model.

Yesterday I got out of bed far earlier than desired in order to get in the car and drive to Washington-Dulles airport in rush hour traffic. The coffee machine at my host's house is currently broken, which meant driving sans my morning caffeine injection. Not something I wish to repeat, nor should I.

The trip to Dulles was an attempt to see Fer, the woman who ten years ago became my older sister and dearest of friends- the person who readily shares love and advice and isn't afraid to tell me when I'm acting like an ass. It's been nearly three years since I was last with her in Córdoba, so when we discovered that she had a four-hour layover in DC on her trip from Argentina to Beijing, we were thrilled. Unfortunately, she got trapped in the insanity that immigration and security have become in US airports and didn't have time to leave the transit area. I was disappointed, of course, but felt somehow glad to have briefly shared a common space. I got back in my car and fought my fatigue-induced blurred vision back to Washington.

It was only during the precious summers I spent at Fer's house in Carlos Paz that I actually took to napping. I had nothing better to do; the entire town was asleep between 2 and 5 PM. In fact, there I learned to appreciate a whole myriad of activities that force one to stop, enjoy the moment and recharge. In the US, we claim that we don't have time for such things. "I'm too busy" is a phrase we use almost automatically, a conditioned response to any threat of deviation from the 9 to 5 work routine. In truth, we don't MAKE time for these activities. Instead of organic, impromptu gatherings, friendships here are manifested as events that we program into our electronic agendas weeks in advance, and when we do meet a friend for coffee, more often than not we spend our time talking about what we have to do next and why we have to rush off. Anything "self-indulgent" like taking a siesta is considered a waste of time rather than an opportunity to pause and regroup in order to resume work more productively afterward. There are clear benefits--health and otherwise-- to the "work to live" mentality upheld in many places across the globe as compared to the American "live to work" model. Most of us, however, are too busy to realize this.

In a recent post, Jen Lee reminds us that "It's okay not to know what to do next. Laying down is always good for the not-knowing moments." I found this all too fitting, given my current state of uncertainty about the future. Jen reminded me that I DO have time to slow down and breathe-- I just usually fill that time seeking answers rather than staying with the questions. I decided then that I would make a point of incorporating a mini-siesta into my day, and when I returned home from the airport, I saw my first opportunity to do so. I closed the shades, climbed into bed, and just as I was drifting off, the landscapers arrived and began their work just below my window. Next time I'll nap with earplugs.

Sunday, September 26, 2010

A few things that make me truly happy:

Hiking in obscenely beautiful places.

Laughing. I love to laugh.

Dancing. Anywhere, anytime.

And Chow Chows. Nothing makes me happier than Chow Chows.

I've been told that when I obliviously bolted across traffic to sneak this picture I was nearly hit by a car. Perhaps my obsession is a bit out of control. But still... who could resist Little Red Riding Chow?

Photos of me by Eduardo Rubiano Moncada.

Saturday, September 25, 2010

I suppose I am a writer...

I love someecards. I can always find a horribly inappropriate card to send to a friend when I'm feeling stressed or upset. At least it's better than taking up smoking.

On another note...

The other day, my friend Wendy reminded me just how special it is that I've been published and told me to toot my own horn a bit more about it. I've posted links on my Facebook profile but for the most part, have left it at that. In part it has taken me this long to accept the fact that yes, perhaps I am a writer, because I'm too stubborn to hear it from someone else. I have to come to terms with it on my own and believe that it came from within me rather than from external influences. In any case, it's about time I get excited about this so here I go:

Here is our article in National Geographic En Español (The Latin American edition, not Spain), published in June.

And this our article in The Ecologist, published in July.

And here is a link to the various articles I wrote for the Rio Times while in Brazil earlier this year.



Friday, September 24, 2010

Timing and gratitude

The image above was taken outside Paraty, Brazil. In only a few places have I experienced a comparable sense of peace. Photo by Eduardo Rubiano Moncada.

Over the last few weeks I've been soaking up an abundance of love and good energy that I've received both from old friends and new favorites that have come into my life recently. Your words of support and compassion have been genuinely nourishing and have guided me out of a rather bleak mindset, and for that I am truly grateful. I feel especially blessed to have had so many of you open your homes to me as I embrace my current life as a hobo. Thank you.

My newfound sense of "om" was tested on Tuesday, when I received a call telling me that a project I've been planning for, counting on and scheduling around has been postponed indefinitely. Instead of bursting into tears and panicking (what I would have done last month), I found myself strangely calm, trusting that this had happened for a reason. When an opportunity manifested itself the next day during a meeting about when and how to revive the project, I understood.

Yesterday I was once again baffled by the particular timing of the universe. I've been doing freelance work for Elizabeth for nearly a year now. From our first phone conversation I knew instantly that I liked her and it has been a pleasure to work with her on various projects, but yesterday was the first time we met in person. And we talked continuously for four hours. It was one of those connections that perhaps never would have occurred had we met at a different point in my life, but her insight is profound and precisely what I needed to hear in the moment. More importantly, I was prepared to receive her words and as a result, I left our meeting feeling grounded and brave.

I'm still in a state of awe regarding my tranquility about not knowing what's to come or where I'll be next week. It's unheard of for someone so typically controlling and anal-retentive about planning years in advance. But what the hell. As I told Elizabeth, for once I'm actually enjoying the moment instead of worrying about the future. And with my schedule now wide open in upcoming months, I'll likely be passing through your neighborhood soon. Just make sure you have some clean sheets on hand. And no flannel. Flannel sheets should be outlawed.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Something about the fall

Early autumn is my absolute favorite time of the year, and New England in the fall is nothing less than magical. I don't know what it is, but something inside me comes alive with the transition from summer heat to cooler days. It has been years since I experienced the crisp, charged air and the vibrant colors of the changing leaves, and in the last week I've been quickly reminded just how much I love it here.

I've been anti-Garmin for years, as I think they make people lazy and contribute to the spoon-feeding, dumbing down of this country, but when I left for New Hampshire last week, my partner insisted on buying me a device to keep me from messing with maps and my phone while driving. (He knows I'm prone to multitasking...)

I have to admit, I am grateful to have had the little machine mapping the route for me. On Sunday, I left behind breathtaking Squam Lake and drove to Albany. Instead of taking 93 south to the Mass Pike, the safe and easy route I would have taken, the GPS took me through country roads across the rolling mountains of Vermont. I couldn't have planned a more beautiful transition back to the "real world". I do admit, however, that the drive was so pretty it was outright distracting. A slightly different incarnation of that problem of keeping my eyes on the road...

After spending the last couple days enjoying upstate New York with my dear Katie, I'm now heading south again. Hopefully, the strange, talking device can lead me on another majestic ride--and help me avoid New York traffic.

Monday, September 20, 2010

The measuring stick

A few weeks ago I had one of those moments that feels like a punch to the stomach because of the clarity with which it reflects everything else that's going on in my life. The sense of deep tranquility and release I'm left with after my mind-blowing Squam experience makes me feel like I'm finally ready to target this, and thus I would like to share.

This is my standing bow posture.

So is this.

(It's one of my favorite postures, so I practice it whenever I can.)

I've been on the verge of locking my leg out for over a year and the damn thing just won't lock. It's not a problem of flexibility. I can do the splits. I can hyperextend my splits. I can sit in the splits and get into this posture. So why I cannot get into the posture when I'm standing was frustrating me beyond belief.

My "ta-da" moment hit me on the yoga mat a couple weeks ago as I was struggling in this very posture. It was actually a rather wordy, complex ta-da so bear with me.

I'm competitive by nature. It is one of my strengths, but more often than not my competitive side causes me more grief than good. And that day in the yoga room, as I balanced on one foot, kicking and stretching as hard as I could, I noticed myself keenly aware of the woman in front of me, whose leg was slightly closer to locked than mine. Every time she moved deeper into the posture, I pushed myself to go further, not wanting to be beaten. With every breath I kicked harder, yet I wasn't getting anywhere. I was blocked.

In that moment I saw clearly that I was COMPETING in yoga--the ultimate oxymoron. And I realized that up until that point, I had always been competing, measuring my practice against that of other yogis-- even teachers. I wanted to show the world that I was up to par with the best, even though I've only been practicing a short time, and inconsistently.

As I acknowledged the absurdity of it all, I saw how this was such a clear representation of my current struggle to move into my fullest self. I have been so consumed by the addictive need to measure myself against others, to determine my alleged value based on things external to me, that this in great part is what has kept me on the treadmill, unable to move forward. (See previous post.)

I'm not making any promises to have abandoned my competitive tendencies by making this public declaration, but I do somehow hope it will keep me accountable, on and off the mat. And I'm pretty certain that when I stop pushing, that leg will finally lock. I just need to LET GO!!

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Moving forward, staying present

I built a fire today. Granted, it was done in a fireplace and not by rubbing sticks together, but nevertheless I built a fire all by myself, without guidance or even someone to bear witness. And my sense of achievement is noteworthy. The perfect way to end a truly inspiring weekend.

My blog has been abandoned for several months now. I can blame a lack of time, but in all honesty, I've lacked motivation. I've been blocked and uninspired and unwilling to make time to organize my thoughts into an eloquent set of paragraphs. And much of this is due to the greater overarching block that has been impeding me from moving into my truest and most fulfilled self.

I've made significant changes in my life in the last year for the sake of letting go of expectations and judgement-others' and my own-in an attempt to discover my true purpose in this life. A year ago almost to the date I submitted the final version of my master's thesis and promised myself that from that point forward, my decisions would come from the heart. On my birthday, one month later, I swore to myself that this would be my year- that by October 27th, 2010 I will have made major strides and will be on a clear path to success, fully engaged in something I love. No pressure, right? In January I took space for myself and moved to Brazil in order to jump-start my life there on my own terms. At the end of June I returned to the States, my overachieving self certain that I would have things figured out within a matter of weeks. What a load of crap. I was going through the motions but utterly terrified of change and of the possible outcomes and was therefore stuck on a treadmill, frustrated that I wasn't moving forward. I had been crying for months-literally-and couldn't stand myself anymore. (Needless to say I strained the patience of my dearest loved ones in the process; I cannot begin to express the breadth of my gratitude for your uninterrupted love and support!)

Something clicked in the last few days. Last week, an unexpected opportunity arose to attend the Squam Art Workshops in beautiful New Hampshire. A few months ago I would have never considered attending something like this-I wouldn't have let myself. Perhaps because of my state of desperation, this time I felt compelled to step out of my comfort zone and do something just for me, just for the hell of it. The internal debate was brief, facilitated by my yearning to experience another New England fall and the "subtle" persuasion of a dear friend, and I said yes to the universe. And as what usually happens when you say yes to the gifts of the universe, things start to shift. After four blissful days at Squam, immersed in nature and surrounded by some of the most creative, inspiring people I've ever met, I finally feel that something has been unleashed. I can't explain it, but I feel that now, one year after completing a master's that I admittedly did in order to fulfill my own expectations for prestige and merit rather than to satisfy my passion for understanding the complexities of international relations, I have taken the hand-break off. I am finally on the right path and for once calm about letting go and giving into the process.

Special thanks to Jen, Helene and Michelle for your amazing classes and the wonderful energy and encouraging words you shared, and to Elizabeth, for creating this magical space.

I don't know where this is all leading, but for the first time ever I'm excited about enjoying the ride.