The Lovelight Project

Shining the Light on Happy, Healthy Living

All You Knead

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Now that we’re cruising on the sailboat full-time, I’ve been baking bread from scratch. It’s teaching me about what I really knead. (I crack myself up!)

bread

Oh yeasty yummy!

I love bread, freshly piping hot loaves that melt butter smothered over its sides cut with a special serrated knife. It’s a bummer when I feel the need to diet, because I have to cut back or, more precisely, feel bad when I do partake. I’m definitely not gluten intolerant, and I feel bad for those who are. Because bread is so yummy.

I did not grow up on fresh bread. My mom bought pre-sliced wheat bread from the grocery store, because that’s what my dad liked to make the sandwiches he packed for lunches every day. My dad remains a soup-and-sandwich lunch man. But canned soups and sammies with that preserved bread from who knows what kitchen.

On special occasions, however, we might go to a restaurant – and that’s where I first learned the magic of hot, delicious bread. Not that I was ever really gluttonous and ruined my main meal, although I sure know a lot of people who do. Isn’t bread supposed to be addictive? I think I remember flour and sugar being food “triggers” for some people, so they’ll eat a little and then, oh boy, it’s all over.

No, I have a healthy relationship with bread, thank you. But we are totally going out and IF I LIKE IT SO MUCH THEN WHY DON’T I MARRY IT!? Yo that loafer ain’t puttin’ a ring on this finger, what with seed-laced crackers out there.

Regardless, I’m baking bread now, and it’s really a great learning experience. I used to own a bread making machine – I think it was a hand-me-down from my mom? It was either

begging

Please Virginia! What is your bread recipe?

free or cheap, that I know. I baked with that all the time, but it’s a totally difference thing from baking yeasted bread. My friend Virginia perfected baking homemade bread, but she keeps the secret close to her heart. Despite my best attempts!

And frankly I never baked bread before because who has that kind of time? Doesn’t that sound like the fantasy activity that Martha Stewart and 1950’s stay-at-home moms do? My mom worked; she didn’t have time to bake bread! It’s the modern American way to just go to the store, damn it, and buy a loaf. It’s also the French way. Mais oui!

It’s not exactly the third-world way. We are cruising in the Bahamas, which is an archipelago of islands, some more inhabited than others. This country is actually known for its super-awesome breads (and conch!), so when we first got here we bought some. They’re $5 a loaf, and the bread has been light and fluffy. An absolute treat, but a little out of the price range when homemade bread is nearly as good and pennies on the dollar.

But it hasn’t been easy to replicate the amazing quality of Bahamian bread, especially for someone who really just started working to master this skill. Malcolm Gladwell says one must put 10,000 hours of practice into a skill before mastering it; I’m maybe 50 hours so far in lifetime, so I’m in the rapid learning phase.

Using a recipe from the Island Forklore Cookbook, I cut the shortening in by “worrying” it with my fingers until it “looks like rice.” At first that really didn’t make any sense, because you don’t really use THAT much. … But with time I am actually trying to channel a worrying breadmaker. Except that I’m not a big worried. Worst case scenario if the bread fails is I spend $5 on better bread. No worries, mon.

I once used the phrase “get stressed out” to my nephew, and he asked me what stress was. May you never know, nephew! At what point did we take on stress and worry? How far in the 10,000 hours toward mastering am I? Hopefully not too far.

armmuscle

My arms after kneading for 20 minutes … NOT!

Kneading the bread is another skill in baking bread. At first I thought the purpose of kneading was to work the air out, but it’s totally not. It’s to work the dough and stretch it to the point of providing its potential. The more the dough is worked, you can see it slightly ripping apart and then put back together until it becomes smooth. That stretch and imagined space is what allows the bread to rise and become light and fluffy.

Imagine this process as your life: It rips apart and then it comes back together, and then with time, you start to develop extra space in your life to bring new potential in. If you don’t get worked a little bit in life, you aren’t going to grow very much. And isn’t that when you are most proud of yourself, when you stretch to a new level that you weren’t sure you could reach?

I had a dream the other night (I dream vividly on the boat, it is so great) that I was on a set of gymnast’s rings. Not the kind even rings where you balance and flip, but more like a rope of rings. I took a little gymnastics when I was a kid, and I was never good at either climbing the rope or balancing on the rings. But in my dream, I killed it! I was climbing up using the rings, and then the last one was really far out of reach. Could I do it? I knew I could reach it, and I did! And everyone was stoked! Yewww!

Now back to bread: I’m learning about myself as well as learning how to make a great loaf. It is a good thing to be kneaded! It’s the first step to growth, provided you have a good catalyst (the yeast) in your life that encourages and facilitates growth. What in your life is that catalyst? Are you providing the challenge (the kneading) you need to expand your horizons?

Time is the final factor. The dough needs to rise and rest before it is baked. I always had trouble giving myself the time that was necessary for the transformation into a fully

butterfly

Interestingly, I knew a lovely old lady who always gave me loaves of “butterfly bread.” Confidence? I. Think. Not.

developed next phase. The ole metamorphosis! Did you know butterflies have imaginal cells? These unique cells allow big change. It’s almost like kneading magically changes the yeast into imaginal cells in bread to turn from dough to delicious.

Of course I believe humans have imaginal cells as well. We have the ability to grow, change, transform and realize our dreams, but we must put in the effort (I work up a sweat sometimes when kneading!) and we must put in the time for rest and reflection. That’s really all you knead to be your highest, best self!

Surfing the Deep

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Let your tummy bubble with nervous energy!

I did: I got my first bluewater sailing experience recently, when we sailed on the outside – into the Atlantic Ocean, about three miles east of the coast – from the Palm Beach Inlet south to the Port of Miami.

See, I am of the strange and small cast of characters that make up the

toothlesssailor

We call these types of lonely, odd sailors “Wild Boys,” and I threaten Brad whenever he acts up with this as his fate.

“Liveaboard Sailor” designation, which I like very much because, in part, I really like freaks. But just because I live aboard a vessel doesn’t mean that I am an experienced sailor by any stretch. All this year, I practiced sailing with my boyfriend and my friend Michael, as well as studied concepts in many training manuals. I knew that if I was going to be an admiral on S/V Tortuga as we traverse the globe that I would need to be a competent mate and helmswoman; so I applied myself and took it as seriously as having fun would allow. I sailed the Indian River Lagoon and the St. Lucie River, but I had yet to take the wheel in the ocean. Our lovely sailboat had suffered a variety of engine issues over the year, work that was pricey and complex (and dangerous!) to fix. Only recently (and finally) have we got her running smoothly so we can finally begin our adventures wherever the winds take us.

So, yeah, winds: They were favorable approximately a week ago, so onward we went. We basically had our act together, having done yet another major round of repairs and preparations. But those damn winds had been blowing fairly strongly … “honking” is the gerund we’ve been wearing into the ground … for weeks. It took a healthy amount of patience to wait until it was right to head south as we had been planning since basically January. Here we are in December.

Operation Tighten Up 2015 a success!

Yes! We are currently anchored for basically nothing in a small,

Spotted-Trunkfish

Hellooooooooooooooo.

protected cove in Bill Bagg’s State Park in Cape Florida, as the winds just shifted so the 15 or so other sailboats in this anchorage drifted around their anchor rode and faced toward Biscayne Bay. We spent the day snorkeling in the healthy grass flats off the beach that featured a lighthouse, and I’ve seen a spotted trunkfish (see left), spotted sting ray, hermit crab hanging out in a queen conch shell, a juvenile yellowtail snapper and, back at the cove, three manatee, a great white heron, a kingfisher and a lovely sunset.

With my love, it was rewarding to look at each other and realize that an entire year of divesting, fixing, provisioning and planning had finally paid off, with our view of Stiltsville and our countdown to the Bahamas. So sweet.

But that didn’t mean that the trip south had been a total cakewalk. Even with the seas around 2 to 3 feet, the approaching front had churned up the current in a strange way, forcing the helmsman to ride the boat as she surfed down crooked waves, letting the rudder compensate in an effort to stay on a southerly passage. It took focus and muscle: We were alive!

If only my tummy hadn’t been talking to me! Despite our solid meals and sleep, I had a little seasickness in the 600 feet of ocean. I was physically ailing (although I never got sick and still managed to grill up a sandwich for my captain), but my cat, Penelope, was mentally anguished. She hated sailing at sea! The hanging nets that held our hats and random crushable groceries

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Princess P-Nut waking from nap # 6 of the day … her grumpiness is a foreshadowing to how she feels about sailing.

fell down. The oil lamp clanked loudly as the hurricane-shaped glass swayed from side to side in rhythm with the brass casing. The boat was at a heel. Yeewww … and meooooow!

Thankfully, my boyfriend took the lion’s share of the time driving, because the entire trip took about 16 hours. We left in the early afternoon, so we watched the sun set and the crescent moon rise … and then the sun rise again! One time, while I was on the wheel, I looked down to see him lying down on the starboard settee with my big orange kitty nestled nervously on his chest.

Being in control of a 32’ sailboat (our home) is fun! We averaged around 5 knots, which is a pretty good clip for a boat loaded down with foodstuffs, water and fuel for a while. At one point, I saw a falling star. Another time, I watched a big marlin jump acrobatically out of the ocean at my portside. A little tuna jumped out and said hello to us, too. There’s so much life around us that is so easy to overlook or ignore.

marlinjump

Awesome.

As we turned into the Port of Miami (in between huge cruise ships!) and toward Biscayne Bay, we had figuratively and literally turned a corner. We were cruisers! We have entered a lifestyle that is new, novel and fun. And after a few nights in the public marina, where I was able to do some work and Brad could run needed errands, we crossed the bay and ended up here.

We came out the other side; that’s part of what it means to surf the deep. Big lifestyle change, I think, is a little like “walking through the valley of death.” (Oh good, I get to link to this <– Soundtrack alert!) It’s dark and scary; it makes you wonder if you should turn around. But something inside of you says, “Go forward! Progress! Keep on the path and you will make it!” Listen to that voice.

So, we have. Maybe this is as far as we’ll go. Maybe we’ll go around the world and back again. We’re keeping the expectations low and the stoke high … until the next big surf in life!

Project Overload

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Did you know that the tidal current is often inversely related to the range of the tides? Mung bean sprouts are rinsed four times a day. Brad y yo somos los estudiantes de Espanol, y nosotros hablamos en el barco.

Can you tell I just started relearning what pathetically little Spanish I once knew? And that’s on top of also starting to write a novel, work on some travel articles and, oh yeah, update The Lovelight Project blog. Talk about project overload!

What is on your to-do list? I constantly have a working to-do list, and it

to-do list

I have a lot of these.

really gets out of hand when there is more than one list going. Which, of course, there always is.

This is the modern-day, especially American problem of always having to be busy. I believe this is part of the origins of the addiction to the device, which I will now coin “Digidction.” It’s also some of the reason why some Yoga students have trouble with the final resting pose of a class, known as savasana, or corpse pose.

Corpse pose rocks, as far as I’m concerned. A former student once wore a t-shirt that read, “I’m just here for the savasana.” For the non-yogis reading this blog, the pose is unlike the muscular and sweat-inducing

savasana

Ah. One time the Yoga teacher played really awful emo music during savasana. It was challenging.

warrior or sun salutation series and does not offer the same stretch of a forward seated fold or a split (Jai Hanuman!). Savasana requires the practitioner to be completely still in body and mind, to have complete relaxation of all muscles. It isn’t the time to go over the to-do list in your head again.

This can be very difficult for some students. When I was teaching Yoga in gyms, it wasn’t completely abnormal for a student to actually walk before savasana began. The pose should last for at least five minutes. Some people thought that wasn’t “real” Yoga, and that’s really a shame because likely those students were the ones who could benefit from savasana the most.

It’s so normal (and probably healthy) to have many things going on, but it’s all a balance. Those who know me know that I am a productive individual, and I allow that by tracking my goals and then rewarding myself by crossing that accomplishment off the list. This, as you may have picked up from the opening paragraph of this blog post, can get a little overboard.

Why do we do so much? Is it that we are aware of the limited time we have on Earth? Or is it a big joke that we think our time is limited, so we produce to such extent based on the fact that we are FEARFUL that we won’t accomplish what we must do? There are so many things we MUST do, though.

We must: brush our teeth, drink water, take our vitamins, eat enough but not too much, cleanse ourselves but not so much that we are like those

vitamins

Mom, remember when you gave me medicine by sprinkling the medicine on a peanut butter cracker? That didn’t end well. Now I take my vitamins every day!

crazy people who preen endlessly and get plastic surgery and identify so fully with their physical being. (That’s really hard to break, by the way. I still struggle with the connection with my physical body as the main identifier for my person. That’s a whole other blog post.) But that’s just the beginning of the daily to-do list. Those are things that we do without actually writing them down. We are trained to do those things. Then there are the goals for progress in life.

Like, as I mentioned, studying Spanish with my boyfriend, learning more sailing skills and writing a variety of projects is part of my daily life these days. Practicing Yoga, exercising, making food and working on the boat are also on that daily list.

It’s rare when our to-do list includes relaxation, and really that’s something we should do every day as well. I have a daily meditation practice, which I remember often with a daily reminder set on my iPhone. It’s ironic that “do nothing” is on the “to-do” list, but there it is. That’s because, for me, it’s tough to turn down the constant, unconscious whipping of doing as a means of success rather than being.

I have written about this before back in August in “Rushing Slowly,” but I think it’s an epidemic that I’m not alone in battling. It is a national health problem. Think about the time you’ve spent today just being. Checking Facebook and all the various other social media doesn’t count. There are the down time, alpha wave-inducing activities that don’t actually accomplish much, but it’s still doing. Honestly, when I check Facebook, I am doing my part in the social network contract that says I keep up with the big events in my friends’ lives and acknowledge them whenever possible. So I have a lot of friends so I feel like I have to check in. Digidction!

So, it’s really a blessing that I now have limited Wifi capabilities, and I make some money by writing remotely. So I have to save my limited data usage for strictly things that are making money. (This is why those super-fun links I often sprinkle in here will be limited when not at port.) There’s no staring at a screen.

This offers time to stare at things like: the line of 50 ibis that flew in the formation of an arrow over the Indian River Lagoon, the two big circles in the water where manatees took a breath nearby, a Spanish 101 book and my shipmates. By limiting my ability to accomplish things, in effect, I am taking items off the to-do list.

gatsby

Ah yeah. That’s how I feel when I check something off the to-do list.

There is a cost to this, of course, an economic one. Is that the root of the busyness syndrome in America? Are we worried that we won’t be making enough money to keep up with the lifestyle we are used to? What a sad state. We plague ourselves with things we feel we must do in fear that not doing things will mean epic failure.

What would we be like if we won the lotto tomorrow? We could be like the leisure class back in the Gilded Age, right? Just re-read The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald to think about whether the rich are always happy. Can’t buy me love, you know.

And yet, oh, the humanity, we sacrifice our present and closet relationships by trying to impress those around our periphery by being constantly busy. Especially with the ole digidction. You’ve seen those tables at restaurants where every person is staring at their phones. It’s really sad.

So I challenge you to work on the savasana! Habitualize relaxation and don’t let the fear of not being good enough, or having enough, or doing

chillbaby

Tee hee.

enough, stop you. Take at least 15 minutes – or 20, or an hour! – to really CHILL. At first, you may need to literally put this on the to-do list, much like my meditation reminder. But after a while, you may notice a shift. Don’t kid yourself into thinking exercise is your chilling out. It’s exercising, and that’s important too. Napping is a good start, but don’t get lethargic about this. That’s actually cheating too. After a while, you’ll be able to tell the difference between being actually tired and just wanting to be still.

Let me know how you do! Just think how good it will feel to check it off the to-do list.

On Craving What Is Best

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Wow, French fries are delicious. Seriously, I ate some fries the other day at lunch with my friend Susanne, and they were so great! Seasoned just right, crispy on the outside and a little soft on the inside. They held up great when dipped into a big dollop of ketchup and complemented my black bean burger over micro-greens perfectly.

French fries, while yummy, sure aren’t considered healthy. So why is it that I am so quick to order them at a restaurant? It’s like that big bowl of Halloween candy on the counter where I buy my coffee some mornings. I do

Mmmm .... everything bad for me ....... Gahhhhhh

Mmmm …. everything bad for me ……. Gahhhhhh

not need a Reese’s peanut butter cup, so why is it so hard to resist one? The beer my boyfriend just offered me is another example.

Why are we so attracted to things that are not good for us? How could something so wrong be so right?

On the face of it, it really makes no sense that we humans would crave things that are bad for us. You would think that I would be like, “Man, I could really use some spinach because I’m feeling low on iron right now.” But that never really happens.

Of course, this attraction to the “bad” doesn’t just stop at food and beverage. Relationships can certainly fall into this category, as well as general habits. Isn’t plopping in front of the television a really attractive concept on some days? Ever get a massage, only to have those shoulders tight again almost immediately? It’s like we WANT what is clearly not good for us.

Why don’t we naturally want to honor our highest self? Why is it so difficult to do the right thing?

This summer, I went to the gym a lot. My boyfriend was away doing his own thing, and I needed some activities

This sucks! And yet ... it is exactly what I needed to do. But 250 times in a 30 minute workout? Come on, trainers!

This sucks! And yet … it is exactly what I needed to do. But 250 times in a 30 minute workout? Come on, trainers!

to fill my time in a positive, healthy way. So I joined a group training session at the gym, started running the bridges and committed to a generally healthy diet. I learned something: I probably would never have otherwise done squats unless someone was yelling at me to do so. And yet, after I did hundreds of them, my body changed for the positive and I felt a lot stronger. You would think that I would naturally love doing squats because they were good for me.

That’s the thing. Squats, like other forms of hard exercise, are designed to break you down, literally. You are breaking down your muscle tissue so that it can regrow bigger and stronger. And it sucks! Humans tend to operate in homeostasis as often as possible. Change is difficult, so even though change is the best thing for us, we avoid it. We are adverse to it, rather than attracted to it.

So this may be part of the answer for why we like things (and people) that are bad for us. We need to numb ourselves. Even though it’s not healthy to work those long hours in a stressful job, we do it – in part because it numbs us from addressing what is truly important in life. (<– Without love in the dream it will never come true!) Junk food does not really nourish us, but the fat and sugar will numb us. All of this, especially alcohol, helps us live in a state of denial.

It’s attachment. We are attached to things that we think will make us feel good. And yet the attachment itself is the root of so much suffering.

It’s almost as if the attraction to the things that are bad happen as a result of the perversion and pollution that we do to ourselves in this life. If we never ate sugar, we would never crave sugar. If we never suffered from feeling unwanted or hurt, we wouldn’t seek attention from those who are emotionally unavailable or abusive.

So, how do we get back to our good nature? How can we start directing our lives so that we bring in the things and people who are good for us?

The answer, of course, is inside each of us. What are we numbing? I mean, really – be honest with yourself. I knew exactly what I wasn’t interested in feeling for the moment when I grabbed that piece of candy from the Halloween bowl. Did that Reese’s cup make me feel any better? It did not. Did those fries make me feel any better? They did not. Would I likely eat both again? You betcha.

When I was a teenager, I considered working as a nanny for a summer ... until the family showed a woman riding a man on all fours across the Jerry Springer stage to their 5-year-old.

When I was a teenager, I considered working as a nanny for a summer … until the family showed a woman riding a man on all fours across the Jerry Springer stage to their 5-year-old.

It takes a long time to accept that the norm isn’t working. My friend Holly and I talked today about the joy of giving up reality television. It was more than a decade ago for me. I just realized one day that the shows that were attracting me were not really that great for me. So I stopped. I now no longer own a TV at all. Some things are easier to let go of than others.

I am working on letting go of negative thinking, of fear, of using anger to mask my true emotions, of limited thought processes, of not honoring my own beautiful self worth, of not being a completely authentic me. These are all things that I sometimes tend to do, strangely. I am working on eating cleanly, not drinking a lot of alcohol, being active and loving everyone, even those who threaten me or misunderstand me.

Rejecting cravings is really the only way we can release ourselves from the trappings of this life of suffering and transcend to happiness. Happiness? Now that is something worth attracting.

Feel It!

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One of my favorite Yoga teachers, Scott, once started a class by asking everyone if they were happy to raise their hands. Lots of us did. Then he asked the sad people to raise their hands, and one or two did. But really, there is a lot to be sad about. Have you read the news lately? We are not short on tragedy in this world, and often in our own little worlds, too.

Scott’s point is, of course, beyond just owning up to the realities of our feelings. It’s actually feeling them. My boyfriend said to me recently, “You feel a lot.” And it’s not because I’m a girl and we aren’t as afraid to express our emotions. It’s because I’m feeling my feelings these days.

Free hugs! Be supportive of each other and get 'em right in the feels!

Free hugs! Be supportive of each other and get ’em right in the feels!

It’s so easy to hide from feeling; it’s actually part of what makes our society what it is today. I remember when I was a newspaper reporter; parts of that job were really rewarding but all the time it was stressful. I used to come straight home and open a bottle of booze. Alcoholism was fairly institutionalized within that industry. My friend’s back bothers him; it’s a lot easier to smoke some marijuana medicinally than be disappointed by another doctor telling him to take pain pills or have a surgery he can’t afford. Love life not perfect? Pop on the television and grab some junk food, and you’ll be numbing it out in no time.

I spent many years being comfortably numb (soundtrack alert!). It’s not even something you think about. But we all want to be happy, right? We Americans are all about the pursuit of happiness, and what does that really look like? What does it feel like? I know when someone does something really nice for me, I get a warm, fuzzy feeling in my cheeks and up the back of my neck. I try to let that feeling linger as long as I can, but it’s never more than a moment. The rest of the time? Well, people aren’t always so nice, are they. Sometimes they are selfish, stupid, wrong-headed and even cruel with bad priorities that negatively impact your life. No wonder you want to hide from your feelings.

Lots of things are set up to stop us from feeling, but most of all it’s the sociological pressures to be all good all the time. Only lately have I had the confidence to stop with the superlatives. How am I doing? OK. I’m OK. Even though when I reply, “I’m really awesome!” that makes people smile. I like to make people smile too. It makes me smile. But lying to ourselves is about as basic of a numbing technique as you can get. What are you lying to yourself about?

It takes courage to feel your feelings, because sometimes they’re not very pleasant. I’ve been owning up to a lot lately, just because I’m giving myself no other option. That means sometimes I cry. Sometimes I don’t express my emotions appropriately because it’s hard to express anger, sadness and doubt when you spend so much of your life acting like it’s not there. It’s OK to feel bad. It’s like the song I learned in second grade: It’s alright to cry, crying takes the sad out of you! (<– IF YOU CLICK ON

My kitty has been a sweet support during some tough times! I love my kitty!

My kitty has been a sweet support during some tough times! I love my kitty!

NOTHING ELSE, CLICK THERE!)

After a while, I’ve found that by feeling your feelings … by really accepting and processing your emotions through your body … they start to simmer down. If there’s one thing I learned about owning a composting toilet, which can be prone to fly infestation if not maintained, is that DENIAL DOESN’T HELP. It just doesn’t. Clean that shit out. Really.

Really hitting home with the feels, however, does help. You become a more honest person with yourself. You start to understand yourself better. This summer, I’ve really come to appreciate and honor my vulnerability and my need for love and help. It wasn’t too long ago when, nope, I can do it! Like a toddler saying those words while trying to, say, pour milk. Oh geez. Someone help that kid. Because like with kids, when we ask for help, we get it.

That’s been the most wonderful thing about my last few months. Now that I’ve felt more comfortable asking for help, suddenly people want to help me. I have surrogate parents and siblings by the handful, friends who relate to me and give me loving advice. The world is filled with brothers and sisters wanting the best for you.

Even today at Publix, the guy bagging my groceries told me I was making a fashion statement. I asked him what the statement was, exactly (I was hoping it wasn’t “I just rolled out of bed”), and he froze. He said, “Your bag is nice.” As we walked out to the car, he told me that not long ago he saw a young woman about my age who looked pregnant. He asked her when her “blessed event was due” and the woman burst into tears because evidently she had just had a miscarriage. Well, poor guy got called into the manager’s office, where he was instructed to only talk about the weather. Isn’t that sad? Well, on many levels, but it’s sad that we as a culture are scared to feel. Too bad that woman couldn’t have turned to that nice man and cried on his shoulder for a moment. Because he really seemed upset by hurting her, and he looked like he would have comforted her. Sometimes we need to feel so that we can be comforted.

So am I happy? Yes. Am I sad? Yes. Do I need comforting? Yes – and I am here, ready to comfort you, too.

Lingering in the Crossroads

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Did you check out the Super Full Moon Lunar Eclipse last night? I sure did! I gathered with some like-minded spirits on my favorite beach (where an Ais Indian burial mound is protected under the parking lot) and enjoyed a nearly cloud-free view of the cosmos.

I have been feeling a big celestial shift happening for a while. I wasn’t really sure how best to identify it, but for so many facets of my life I’ve just been in this complete crossroads (<– obvious blog soundtrack).

When the cosmos is at a crossroads ... a lunar eclipse!

When the cosmos is at a crossroads … a lunar eclipse!

I felt I was in the dark of a life eclipse, awaiting the brightness of the other side.

For me, nothing is certain anymore – my life is no longer scripted. No job, relationship, living situation, health status, plans or goals make any sense any more. And I’m not the only one. At least a half-dozen of my friends are in the exact same position. Are you one?

What an interesting feeling, to be in the limin of life. This happens from time to time in our personal lives as well as our general culture, when we, either individually or collectively, walk through a threshold and appear differently on the other side. Some of these liminal moments are obvious: maybe it’s a marriage or decision to divorce. Maybe you saw a family member in a new light and it completely changed your perspective. When you leave an unfulfilling job and leap into the unknown, when you get in your car to move across the country – the limin is a scary and exhilarating place to be.

I’ve been hanging out in the crossroads for a while now, not that it’s what I would have chosen. I’ve been waiting for months for my boyfriend to return from a fun work adventure, having put big plans for travel on an indefinite hold. Now, just about everyone I see says, “Gosh, I thought you’d be GONE by now!” or “How’s life on the high seas?” or “What are YOU still doing here?” All good questions. Was this even a good idea? What exactly am I waiting for again?

And how long is it OK to linger in the crossroads? Not long, I think. I mean, let’s investigate the metaphor: By definition a

The crossroad is a lonely, confusing place.

The crossroad is a lonely, confusing place.

crossroad is filled with busy traffic. It’s easy to get confused and hurt there. Maybe you don’t know which way to go. You just keep turning around and around, lost. I feel a little that way.

So I was excited for the lunar eclipse. It was such a spectacular and rare celestial occurrence that I figured it had to mean something. The Harvest Moon is the full moon closest to my birthday, too. I felt for sure it would knock me out of the crossroads and just force me on my a path.

It was beautiful. As the moon rose over the sea, it was large and glowed red before it was swallowed by a patch of clouds. But its light shone over the water, broken only by the heavy pound of waves swelling over the sandbar. When it reappeared higher in the sky, it wasn’t long before we watched the Earth’s shadow slowly but surely blacken the orb.

Oh the black. Living in a shadow of your life is a lot like the attics of your life. Due to many factors, I’ve been low and depressed. I’ve spent a little too much time sleeping and hiding. I call it living in the black hole, and we’ve all been there. When I go out, people have these expectations of me, and it feels overwhelming. When I stay in, it’s quiet and still.

I look for advice anywhere I can. My mom would tritely say, “It is what it is” over and over. Now I hear that line everywhere and I cringe at how truly meaningless it is. As if it is healthy to accept that you are stuck in a busy thoroughfare, where a collision is just waiting to occur (or perhaps everyone just zips passed you). For the love of all things holy, MOVE!

A couple days ago, I was accepting my weepy and vulnerable state when a dear friend called. He said, “We’re all worried about you.” How exactly did he know that he was supposed to be worried? I thought my Facebook façade was positive enough, and I was going to Yoga classes and exercising and doing as much as I could to keep up appearances. But he knew: I was lingering in the crossroads too long. I was lost. I didn’t know what to do with myself and my life. So he invited me to dinner, and he and his wife just gave me hugs and let me know it was OK to be overwhelmed by extreme life changes.

You know you're a local when you understand this intersection. When are we locals in our lives?

You know you’re a local when you understand this intersection. When are we locals in our lives?

In this little town of Stuart, Fla., there is a roundabout downtown called Confusion Corner. There are six roads that flow into it, and there actually used to be more. There also used to be a bunch of stop signs before the city put in the roundabout. It used to be Courtesy Corner, because neighbors would just wave fellow neighbors through. Today, people honk and get mad, curse and shake their head. The other day, a man actually waged his finger at me because I was on a skateboard and stopped, picked up the board and was waiting for him to pass so I could cross the street. That disgusted him.

While people are in intersections – crossroads, limins, whatever you want to call it – wouldn’t it be nice if more people were courteous instead of disgusted? We all need friends to help us on our path, and some days it’s harder than others.

Back on the beach last night, as the moon slowly started to reappear, I stripped to my bathing suit and jumped in the ocean. Swimming around as the swift currents rushed past my legs, I breathed deeply as the passing of time was visible with the moon phases. Emerging from the surf, I took a mindful step on the sand – one step closer to walking the path I’m meant to travel.

Living in the NOW

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Yeah, yeah, time is an illusion. That’s such OLD news. I learned that … when exactly? Let’s see – I live in Florida, so, when I learned it there were leaves on the palm trees and it was sunny, and it was warm out. So that was … oh, never mind.

Ever like a photo on Facebook and then suddenly find yourself in the black hole of Facebook photos of a person you hardly know (or know all too well)? One click and suddenly it’s four years ago and there is that person, kissing someone you’ve never seen before, smiling with slightly fewer laugh lines. Was it really four years ago or was it yesterday?

This is me in 11th grade. Or is this me yesterday?

This is me in 11th grade. Or is this me yesterday?

My haircut, skin and weight are basically the same today as in high school and college. Did my 20s even exist? Am I a different person now? Are you?

There are people who hold on to the past. Others worry about the future. It’s hard to know what is really in the NOW in people’s heads and hearts and what isn’t.

I was recently contacted by an ex-girlfriend of an ex-boyfriend. She wanted to get some advice about him, share experiences and hear what it was like to be on the other end of the heartbreak with this particular individual. As I was messaging her, I remembered what it was like to be extra skinny with sadness after that breakup. I remember one day, when I was crying in my bedroom (again), I literally cried out for help. Suddenly, a bright red cardinal flew to the bird feeder outside my window. Then suddenly a blue jay flew in and knocked the cardinal off. To my amazement, a woodpecker flew in right behind and knocked the blue jay off. It was the beginning of my recovery into life in the NOW again. (<– soundtrack alert)

I like to write NOW in all caps because that is when time happens. Breathe. There’s a moment. Just as fast as those birds came and went, that moment is gone. Breathe. There, another NOW. I had a brilliant politics professor in college, Mark Roelofs. He has Parkinson’s and wrote notes on the blackboard in the shakiest of handwriting, and I will never forget him making a giant arrow pointing down on the word NOW. That’s really all that matters.

Literally, I no longer have enough stuff to fill these suitcases. Emotional baggage is, um, another thing.

Literally, I no longer have enough stuff to fill these suitcases. Emotional baggage is, um, another thing.. He has Parkinson’s and wrote notes on the blackboard in the shakiest of handwriting, and I will never forget him making a giant arrow pointing down on the word NOW. That’s really all that matters.

So why is it so hard to let go of the past? That ex-boyfriend, whew-boy, I was hanging on to some baggage with that one for quite a while. Then the next one came along and provided me with all kinds of additional hang-ups. And the next, and the next! Even today, I was talking with my current boyfriend’s parents about friends their age who are single. His dad said, “The thing is, when you reach a certain age, you’ve got all this baggage!” Of course, that statement applies to just about anyone who didn’t find their life-long sweetheart by the age of 20.

How do we stay in the NOW? You just do. Birds fly in and out.

What’s hardest for me is understanding and recognizing when others are still holding on to the past in their heads and their hearts. I struggle with it. I am unable to control whether my loved ones are fully present. Sometimes I feel like I am being cheated on by time. Sometimes I am.

I think it’s true to say that those who have difficulty living in the NOW are not especially thrilled with their NOW. It’s easy to put on those rose-colored glasses and romanticize the past. We were soooo happy! None of this pain that is sometimes just inherent in the present moment. Myself, I can look longingly into the future, thinking some day, yeah, some day. Some day, it’s going to be just perfect.

So it’s not just a matter of staying in the NOW. It’s coming to terms

NOW this is happening!

NOW this is happening!

with the NOW. It’s being happy exactly where we are in space and time. It’s recognizing the lessons of the past and seeing how everything we’ve done has brought us to this exact moment. It’s knowing that everything we do at this exact moment will be propelling us into a future that has yet to exist, but is just as it is meant to be.

Today at the gym, the clock was missing. My trainer said it was running slowly, so he fixed the time. And then it ran even slower. It needed a new battery, so he took it down. Is that all that it takes to stay present? Sometimes we all need a fresh battery, a fresh shot of energy, and it’s easy to get: Breathe in, breathe out.

Signs of Success

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I’ve been working on myself this year, much of which has been chronicled in this blog! Now that we’re approaching autumn (not like you’d really know it with the south Florida heat still drenching me with sweat), motivation is a little tough. I find myself getting a little whiny and grumpy, because I want to reach the finish line.

Are we there yet? Are we there yet? Are we there yet?    

Nope, Operation Tighten Up 2015 is for the WHOLE YEAR. That’s the thing about New Year’s resolutions. It means I am committing myself for a year to a goal of basically solving all my problems and making my life more streamlined and awesome (click for blog soundtrack). Yo, I’s gots this.

Because, wouldn’t it be wonderful to have your entire life together: to feel really put-together, to look put-together, to make really smart decisions because distractions don’t exist. Getting my life on a narrow track was like pointing a laser beam of (love)light directly to a future of success.

I have lost this crystal so many times, and it keeps coming back to me! The last time it took a walkabout, I found it months later at the bottom of my closet. Stoked!

I have lost this crystal so many times, and it keeps coming back to me! The last time it took a walkabout, I found it months later at the bottom of my closet. Stoked!

So, to back up , this life-changing undertaking started toward the autumn of 2014, when my new love and I were wining and dining, laughing and loving, partying and losing things, surfing waves and not caring about much else beyond each other’s eyes. It was fantastic! I had just finished months of fun traveling via airplane to visit fabulous friends, and I basically did everything on my 2014 vision board. Party! Pizza Party! But by the time 2015 rolled around, with its four nights of Phish in Miami, the vision that created that vision board started to blur. It was time, as they say, to tighten up.

I embarked on the mission with full-force determination, first acknowledging that my 1,400-square-foot home was busting at the seams with stuff. I organized! It felt great! Things were so tight!

Then a month in, I found myself sitting next to my boyfriend over a truly Sublime vegan dinner in Fort Lauderdale, wistfully stating that I was ready for an adventure. He said, “Well, I have the perfect tool for that.”

And suddenly Operation Tighten Up 2015 kicked into high gear, as I agreed to move on to his sailboat and embark on a journey around the world! Weeee!

I ended up selling all my possessions and, amazingly, actually getting my entire security deposit back on the rental home of the last eight years. I’ve been living on the boat now for a few months, and we’ve been super-busy getting her ready for our travels.

And that’s when things got real. Operation Tighten Up 2015 wasn’t even CLOSE to being over. Know why? Because I needed to also tighten up my waistline. I needed to tighten up my career. I needed to tighten up my mind. I still needed to get it together, baby!

“It’s a process!”

My man and I started to repeat the phrase, “It’s a process!”

Do we ever really have it all together? Those people who seem to … I don’t know, my guess is either they have a crew of professionals working for them or they are good at bluffing. Doesn’t it feel like there are always endless things on the to-do list? When is the car NOT messy? I don’t even have kids!

Last month, I joined a gym for group training (holy crap, squats!). I started walking the bridges over the rivers. I stopped with the endless treats (boo!) and embraced healthy eating. I take naps. I drink a lot of water. I meditate and read Yogic texts. I spend a least an hour or two each day in front of the computer, working on freelance writing.

And suddenly Operation Tighten Up 2015 is three-fourths finished. I am really ready to see signs of success.

It’s important to remember that change is not a linear path. Change is exponential in nature, which means there is that point at which it feels like you’re even going backwards before, wham-o!, you shoot forward and realize your goals. We like to think it’s all Point A straight to Point B. That way we could look on our map and see, indeed, we are almost there. It’s not like that.

Thanks to the Moonshot Moment of Indian River County, Fla. for first showing me this wonderful graph.

Thanks to the Moonshot Moment of Indian River County, Fla. for first showing me this wonderful graph.

Instead, when wallowing in an irritating plateau that comes right before the big leap toward success, we must look for signs of success along the way.

OK, yeah: My things are gone and guess what? I don’t miss them at all. That was a success. I can do push-ups when a month ago I really didn’t think I could. (And, wow, Pam made my day this weekend by asking if I lost weight! No, the scale isn’t budging but I’m feeling stronger. That is a success.) I am in talks with a national magazine publisher who wants to run my feature story in the next issue. That is a success! And when people aren’t meeting my expectations, she writes nicely, well, I am working on adjusting my reaction. That is also a success.

We still have a lot of work to do on the boat, but we’re getting there. I cleaned up all the dusty foam from the fire extinguisher. That was, indeed, a success.

I’m ready to sleep in, instead of going to the gym in the morning. I’m ready for a big coconut milk ice cream sundae. I’m ready to lounge about on our sailboat, preferably off the coast of an island I’ve yet to visit. I’ll get there. I know I will.

To change my paradigm from the whiny Are we there yet? kid to a successful adult, I’ve reinstituted my daily list of Ten Things I Am Grateful For. That’s a big number, and it forces you to dig deep. Sure, I’m thankful for cuddles from my furry companion and deep, real love from my boyfriend. By focusing on those types of things, I give them energy. I increase the numbers of things I am grateful for. I see more signs of success, because I am utilizing the help of my mind to solve my problems and Tighten Up.

Meanwhile, anyone want to join me for Operation Big Fun? I don’t think I need to wait until the end of the year for that, and – believe this – I don’t think that is mutually exclusive of getting it together, either. Maybe it’s time to add fun to the current to-do list … right under “file blog entry”!

Rushing Slowly

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What a great line in Sunday’s New York Times from adventurer Tim Cope: “There’s a wonderful saying among Kazakhs that if you have to rush in life do it slowly.”

Faithful TLLP blog readers know that I’m always on time for my own life, but now that I no longer find myself rushing to and from my previous four jobs, I’m really letting this wisdom sink in.

Yes, you read that correctly: Four jobs! Hey mon! Gotta go to work! Before I finally left a politically stressful job passing a

Oh my, do you know how many times I stood behind a table, wearing that shirt, talking to people about children's programs? A LOT.

Oh my, do you know how many times I stood behind a table, wearing that shirt, talking to people about children’s programs? A LOT.

referendum to continue funding children’s programs, I was working 30 hours a week in the office, then teaching six or seven Yoga classes a week, writing freelance articles for magazines whenever they were thrown my way (which was a lot) and also doing energy work as a Reiki master for those who came into my life in need. On top of this, yes, I also was fairly active as a marketing consultant, helping non-profits and small business owners rework their web sites and envisioning success beyond their current sights. And I had a life! I surfed, dated, met friends out for drinks, traveled and petted my kitty.

But once I decided to slow down, I realized how unmanageable that all was. For starters, I wasn’t healthy. My adrenals were all messed up. In my 30s, I had stress acne, which wasn’t helped by my obsessing over the imperfection. I didn’t get my period for a while. And no, I wasn’t pregnant. Sheesh.

It was beyond feeling unhealthy. I wasn’t me. I was rushing from me, rushing as a way to avoid being. It’s part of our smartphone culture now: When you have a moment to breathe in your fast-paced world, you better be checking in with social media or your email. With your face in your device, no one can accuse you of slacking off. And yet, of course, nothing really comes of that.

I saw my friend Jim out tonight while roller skating, and he told me another good quote by James Taylor (you know, with the whole “Suzanne the plans you made put an end to you” b.s.): “The secret to life is enjoying the passage of time.” I’m on it.

View of my marina from the Roosevelt Bridge, where I was totally walking during rush hour and making my former self jealous.

View of my marina from the Roosevelt Bridge, where I was totally walking during rush hour and making my former self jealous.

Living on the boat now with only two jobs, really – I’m still teaching Yoga, mostly privates and subbing whenever needed since I let go of all my regular daily classes, and also freelance writing – I have more time to myself. I exercise now, everyday. I’ve become one of those people walking the bridges of whom I used to be so envious while speeding from here to there, usually late. I take daily naps, sometimes for 20 minutes and sometimes for two hours. And you know what? That’s helping me lose weight because I’m not desperately trying to fuel up to continue a crazy pace. I allow myself to take a break.

I’m also moving slowly as I learn how to sail and live on a vessel. Clamping the extra sail on the bimini won’t work if I’m struggling and cursing, but taking my time makes it possible. Bundling up the main sheet, storing foodstuffs, maintaining the composting toilet … sometimes I feel like I am SCUBA diving, moving in slow motion while I complete a task. And then it’s done right, I’m not injured and I’m relaxed.

It’s not easy to slow down. Yoga tradition teaches us about the gunas, three ways of being that describe life around us. Basically, you’re either tamas (the couch potato), rajas (the go-go-go) or sattvic (with your head in the clouds). So by slowing down, I’m able to balance all of these ways of being. Like today, I went to the gym, then met a publisher to work on an upcoming editorial calendar, then over to a private Yoga session, then back home for a nap before writing. That’s pretty rajas. But then on Sunday I allowed myself to lounge about and read the New York Times and listen to Ethio-jazz. (Ohh, that link is the soundtrack for the blog!)  And Monday I spent time reading Be Here Now to plan a Yoga class. Now when I realize I’m all go-go-go, I stop and be-be-be.

American culture doesn’t give much value to being. What a shame. We’re so worried about making money that we don’t

Me and my boyfriend's skateboard. It's fun to travel slowly -- except when it's so slow that you zone out and the board trips on a crack in the sidewalk and you scrape your knee right on US 1. There goes looking cool!

Me and my boyfriend’s skateboard. It’s fun to travel slowly — except when it’s so slow that you zone out and the board trips on a crack in the sidewalk and you scrape your knee right on US 1. There goes looking cool!

register the negative impact that makes on our lives. By slowing down, I’ve found that I’m more patient with myself and those around me. I’m not so demanding. There’s no need to shoehorn everything into one moment; instead, I can honor the moment just as it is.

The key to this, of course, is recognizing the abundance of time. During the busy day today, as I was heading into the shower in between the gym and my meeting, I saw a friend who told me a long story about what’s going on with her. And I stopped and listened. She needed someone to listen. I was glad to be a sympathetic ear for her. Then I looked at my watch, and booya! Right on time for my life, baby.

Do I have a long to-do list right now? You betcha! I’ve got four writing assignments, going to bake a cake for my friend’s birthday (did someone say rum cake?) and I have to finish the bimini project on the boat. But I’m rushing slowly. I know I don’t have to do it all immediately. And if you have someone in your life that makes you feel that way, I encourage you to reevaluate your relationship with that person. Especially if that person is you!

On Being an Adult

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So I have another saying: I can do whatever I want, because I am an adult! Yes, I have to remind myself out loud that I am a full-fledge, actualized adult – and announce the joys of being so to whomever will listen (or read, hi!!).

The fantastically ironically named soundtrack for this blog post is definitely Ship of Fools, for the line: 30 years upon my

Talk about doing what you want! Capt. Trips would have been 73 yesterday. We miss you Jerry!

Talk about doing what you want! Capt. Trips would have been 73 yesterday. We miss you Jerry!

head/to have you call me child. (P.S. Happy birthday, Jerry!)

There’s something about being an adult who is petite and cheery, who likes to roller skate and hula hoop and has only one key – for a bike lock – on her key chain: Simply, I’m not always taken seriously. But that’s OK, because I’m an adult and I can do anything I want to.

Not like I’m a little kid, of course. I woke up crazy-early this morning and went to the grocery store, and I totally was not carded for my wine because no one underage would go to the grocery store at 7:30 a.m. and buy cabbage, tofu and one bottle of wine.

I’m an adult! And if I want to go to New York City for the weekend to visit my boyfriend, because I’ve got some money in the bank from selling all my personal possessions, why not? What else would I use it for besides wonderful experiences? I took in a Frida Kahlo exhibit at the New York Botanical Garden and watched a fantastic, interactive art video/spoken word piece at the Bronx Museum all about trying to get to “Plan B by any means necessary!”. My man and I danced around on skates in Central Park in a pop-up skate jam, and I ate fruit on

Frida was another fully realized adult, burdens and all. A treat to see this original self-portrait on display!

Frida was another fully realized adult, burdens and all. A treat to see this original self-portrait on display!

the High Line thinking about Jung Uk Yang’s solo exhibit at the Doosan Gallery I happened upon. I bought a shirt at Patagonia. I was kissed on the Brooklyn Bridge.

I did what I wanted.

Of course, this philosophy extends well beyond vacations. It’s everything we do, all the time. We carve our own path every day. Mom and Dad no longer get to tell me what to do and where to go (My parents always prioritized independence any way, to a fault, perhaps). Do you have kids like so many of my friends? Isn’t it funny to suddenly be the one to tell someone else what to do all the time? At what point did it switch?

I think it’s when we got … cue scary music … RESPONSIBILITIES! It’s when we started taking up the burdens of the world, to move society forward in some way, to evolve and “figure things out” that we become adults. It’s also about that time that life starts to beat us down.

So, scary stuff: Two days ago, a fire erupted on the S/V Tortuga, my boyfriend’s sailboat. I was tidying, writing and doing chores – being a very good little girl! – when I smelled something amiss. Seconds later, I saw a thin sliver of smoke coming up through a cabinet behind the chart table. I turned off the A/C power switch and probably wasted 30 seconds being in denial and confused. I opened the cabinet door under the chart table and saw a LOT of smoke! OH SHIT! I grabbed the fire extinguisher and emptied it to no avail. I saw flames. I grabbed a pitcher of water nearby and emptied it over the flames, which persisted. Thankfully there was still a little water pressure to fill up the pitcher again at the sink. I dumped it again over the flames, and it went out. It was the inverter. It spontaneously combusted! My guardian angel ensured I was right there to save the boat, my kitty and my life.

It was traumatic, of course. I’ve been total PTSD Central since it happened, crying and being upset. I was walking down the dock when I realized that my shoulders were slumped forward in defeat. Ugh. Adulthood.

YES I am a superwoman ... cinched waist and all. Sheesh, way to make her all Barbie, free Internet clip art.

YES I am a superwoman … cinched waist and all. Sheesh, way to make her all Barbie, free Internet clip art.

Wait a minute! There is a reason that I say time and time again that I get to do anything I want to! That’s because I do. And that also means taking control of my mind and not letting the bumps in the road (at sea?) get the best of me. I’m a superwoman!

So, with the power restored surprisingly easily (thanks to my friend Michael and also, hey, my quick thinking and fortitude), I’m working on normalizing. And that involves doing whatever I want to do all the time.

Because here’s the thing: I WANT to help society move forward and evolve and figure things out. That’s what is so awesome about being an adult. It’s a mighty responsibility, one that shouldn’t be shouldered lightly, but a wonderful opportunity to do good in this world. It is the very heart of The Lovelight Project. I’m grateful I have another day to be an adult. Are you?