Category Archives: Me

Sweat, Tears, or the Sea

The cure for anything is salt water: sweat, tears, or the sea – Isak Dinesen
Some of my most difficult moments have been spent next to the ocean. During many times of sadness and grief, I have been fortunate enough to escape to the sea. The hypnotic rhythm of the waves, the endless possibilities of the open ocean, the warmth of the sun on the sand – all of these provide a sense comfort that can be found in no other place.
In the short time I’ve lived in Oregon, both of my grandmothers have passed away. The sense of loss I felt was compounded by distance from family and the inability to be there to grieve with them. One day, I woke up and was no longer someone’s granddaughter and would never again get to speak to or learn from the two amazing women I called Granny.
The weekend after the death of my second grandmother, I needed a way to process the loss; I needed to remember and I needed to grieve. If I could not be with family, I wanted to be alone. And I also wanted to be comforted, so I did what I had done before: I sought out the sea.
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I spent the day hiking 10-miles along the Oregon Coast Trail – from Sunset Bay State Park to Cape Arago and back. Of course, I planned to hike about 8.5 miles, but I got turned around a couple of times.
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And perhaps at one point, I walked for a while along a “trail” that was not the trail (in my defense, it looked more like a trail than did the actual trail and the directional arrow on the sign was rather ambiguous). Often, the view was obscured due to fog, but the ocean was no less lovely. The crash of the waves, the bark of the sea lions, and the sound of my own footsteps provided the soundtrack as I hiked and remembered and lovingly, if lonelily, celebrated the lives of two incredible women.
I began my hike at Sunset Bay.
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I then continued through the gardens at Shore Acres State Park.
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I finally arrived at Cape Arago where I stopped for an oceanside picnic. Then I made my way back along the coast to return to Sunset Bay.
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I was most amazed by the waves – such incredible power and mesmerizing beauty.
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The coastline reminded me of the Alaskan coastline my Granny Smith so loved – a place that stayed in her soul throughout the decades she lived in landlocked Arkansas. As I walked through blackberry bushes, I recalled childhood hours spent picking blackberries so my Granny Tyree could make her unmatched blackberry cobbler. Well, at least she could if my brothers and I brought back enough berries after eating as many as we could stand. Despite being in a new and unfamiliar place, the sea provided a constant backdrop against which I could locate the familiar and find traces of my grandmothers. My hike along the coast gave me the space and place to grieve.
At the end of the hike, I was tired both emotionally and physically, but I wasn’t ready to go home. I wasn’t ready to leave the crash of the waves and the possibilities of the ocean behind me. So for a while, I just sat, sat and watched the waves, feeling so thankful for the 30 years of my life that were shaped by my grandmothers, thankful that the cure to be found in the sea was only a short drive away.
When anxious, uneasy, and bad thoughts come, I go to the sea, and the sea drowns them out with its great wide sounds, cleanses me with its noise, and imposes a rhythm upon everything in me that is bewildered and confused. -Rainer Maria Rilke

The Other Side of Fear

The greatest mistake you can make in life is to be continually fearing you will make one. – Elbert Hubbard

This quote was recently featured in my planner. I may have mentioned how much I love my planner. Not only does the best planner ever (a statement made in response to a single case study – I’m fairly certain there has yet to be any empirical research into the issue of best planner ever, but perhaps there should be) remind me to be grateful, it also provides some daily inspiration. On this particular day, it was a relevant reminder that I have committed to not allow fear to be something that drives my decisions. That is a commitment I have made in a number of areas in my life, but because this blog is supposed to be about travel, I thought I would confess how I have recently allowed fear to prevent me from pursuing something that is important to me. And what I am doing about it.

I currently have two free hotel nights that will expire in January. I also happen to have enough frequent flier miles for a free flight. In other words, I could take a practically free long weekend trip if I wanted. And yet, I keep putting off scheduling something. I have been seconds away from booking a flight or making a hotel reservation, but have not followed through. As I have considered what is holding me back, I have realized it is essentially fear, specifically the following two fears:

  • That something “better” will come along. I worry that the second I book something, a better deal will be available or I will suddenly want to go to an entirely different destination than the one I have chosen. Or even that if I go somewhere, I will somehow miss out on something at home.
  • That I will be alone. This may sound strange coming from someone who just moved across the country alone, but I have never really travelled alone with the exception of one or two conferences. This is all new territory. I worry that I will not enjoy it because I am nervous about being alone or that my sometimes indecisive nature will emerge and I will end up sitting in my hotel room eating delivery pizza because I could not decide what I wanted to eat for dinner. Oh, and then there is the small fact that I sometimes manage to get lost even in familiar places, so getting lost in a new place is pretty much guaranteed.

If I continue to listen to these fears, I will be paralyzed and never go anywhere. I will never have the opportunity to discover what it is like to travel solo. I will certainly not experience the thrill of exploring somewhere I have never been. Perhaps even more importantly, I will be further away from the kind of life I want to live. So what can I do about it?

  • I can just book something. The reality is that I hope my life includes travel to many different places. I am not missing out on one place by going to another – I am simply making a choice to go somewhere. Hopefully I have a lifetime in which to explore the world and if I am meant to go to a place, then the opportunity will come along one day. Meanwhile, I can choose to enjoy the place where I am. Ultimately, going anywhere is infinitely better than going nowhere.
  • I can remind myself that the trip will be what I make it. Of course there are always things that can go wrong, but my attitude when those unpleasant things happen will determine whether it is a catastrophe or a minor setback that makes the (hopefully fun) rest of the trip that much more enjoyable. I can choose to sit in my hotel eating takeout or I can push myself out of my comfort zone a little bit to go out and try the great new restaurant in town. I can embrace the possibility of being lost while being open to discovering something I would never have experienced otherwise. I may not always get to choose the things that happen, but I am able to choose how I respond to them.
  • I can give myself the opportunity to learn what it is like on the other side of fear by starting small(er). Although I could certainly conquer my fear by doing something drastic like booking a trip to Europe, perhaps it makes a bit more sense to just put my toes in the water by taking a trip to somewhere a bit closer (ahhh, the age old psychologist argument of graduated exposure versus flooding…). Then the next time, I can feel more comfortable (or at least less uncomfortable) doing something a little bigger.

Regardless of where I end up going, the important thing is that I go – that I do not allow the fear of making a mistake or having a bad time or being alone be what keeps me from doing something that I love. So, I began this week with a single intention: to make a specific plan (yes, this means actually making a reservation) to take a trip to somewhere, anywhere. What I have planned is nothing exotic or faraway (there is not even a plane involved), but includes many of the things that I love: hiking, great restaurants, and maybe even a museum. In the end, it does not matter where I go; what matters is that I go.

Does anyone else ever struggle with fear? I would love to hear how others have pursued important goals despite fear!

Oregon Moving Trail: Lessons Learned Part II

Picking up from where I left off last time, here are a few more of the lessons I learned in the process of moving to Oregon. I apologize in advance for the overwhelming amount of Grand Canyon pictures, but it was unavoidable.

  1. The Grand Canyon is beyond words amazing. I knew this intellectually. I knew this to the extent that I chose to stop for an extra night in Arizona for the sole purpose of seeing the Grand Canyon. I knew this enough that I could not even wait until the next day to see it and drove there almost as soon as I checked into my hotel. But nothing could have prepared me for that first breathtaking moment, standing on the edge of an incomprehensibly large canyon wholly in awe of the colors and the textures and the utter awesomeness of it. IMG_2340IMG_2379
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    Even Sydney was impressed

    And that was just the beginning. Before the end of the day, I had savored every moment of a spectacular sunset. IMG_2433 IMG_2528 IMG_2520 IMG_2450IMG_2537The next morning I woke up at 3 am to ensure I made it back to the Grand Canyon in time for the sunrise. Despite the early (oh, so early) hour, it was truly one of the most memorable and magnificent mornings of my life – each moment more exquisite than the one before, the skies an ever-changing arrangement of color as the stillness of darkness slowly intensified into the magical light of early morning. Although I had enjoyed the sunset of the previous day, the quiet, uncrowded early morning was by far my preference. IMG_2554 IMG_2586IMG_2601IMG_2609IMG_2632IMG_2651IMG_2657As if having a most extraordinary morning were not enough, I then experienced the canyon in a whole new way as I hiked a portion of the Bright Angel Trail. Even as I slowly made my way up the trail (as they say – hiking down is a choice, hiking up is not; and it is both hot and steep), I could not help but appreciate the enormous complexity of the Grand Canyon. Sometimes I would pause and just touch the surprisingly cool walls of the canyon, awed by the history written upon and in them. IMG_2825 IMG_2785 IMG_2780 IMG_2772 IMG_2746 IMG_2730 IMG_2720 IMG_2719 IMG_2715 IMG_2702This day was one of the great ones.

  2. Sydney is a man magnet. IMG_2303So, maybe I already kind of knew this, but I appreciated her cute guy attracting skills even more as I made my way across the country alone. Being rather introverted, it is sometimes difficult for me to meet new people or to feel confident talking to someone I do not know that well. Enter Sydney. Thanks to her, I had no difficulty having interesting conversations or finding someone to talk to other than a hotel front desk clerk or a waiter. As an added bonus, many of the above mentioned people whom I met happened to be good-looking and have accents. I knew I brought her along for a reason. Although, to be fair, she really is a people magnet more generally, but man magnet was more alliterative. Plus, cute guys with accents…
  3. I learned what a desert really is. And what it is is Nevada. Having never been to anywhere in the state other than Las Vegas, I never grasped how truly desolate much of the rest of Nevada is. It was almost a surreal experience driving through so much nothingness. Between Vegas and Reno, there was the occasional small town (and by small I mean maybe 100 people and a couple of donkeys).
    Really, there were donkeys. Walking down the road. In a town.
    Really, there were donkeys. Walking down the road. In a town.

    Each time I passed one, I would uneasily wonder what life would be like in such a place – isolated from most of the world and seemingly far from modern conveniences. And yet, such isolation made a place like Tonopah, Nevada possible. I had added this as a stop because it was a relatively convenient stopping point between the Grand Canyon and Oregon and because, as I researched my trip, I found that this old silver mining town (for that was the only reason the town ever existed) is considered one of the best places in the US to see the stars, largely due to its isolation from pretty much everything else. As soon as I verified that there was a pet friendly hotel other than the Clown Motel (which was somehow even more unimaginably creepy in person), I knew I had to stop there. IMG_2905 IMG_2913 IMG_2924I was still reeling a bit from my day at the Grand Canyon, so it would take a bit to impress me at this point. Regardless, I drove out into the desert, because a single woman driving out into the desert at night in one of the darkest places in the US is always a great idea. I am so glad I did. I sat on the front of my car in the cool desert air almost unable to believe my eyes. As my eyes adjusted to a whole new level of darkness, I could see literally thousands of stars. Thousands. And the Milky Way. The Milky freaking Way. I was laughing out loud and crying at the same time (seriously – are you picturing how completely ridiculous I must have looked at that moment?). The immensity was beautiful and humbling.

  4. I am capable of more than I ever thought possible. More than anything else, I think this was what I learned during the trip. I can move to Oregon, I can drive across the country, I can talk to people I have never met, I can deal with challenging and unexpected situations, I can finally be a psychologist. The list goes on and on and includes some things I never could have imagined myself doing a year ago, or even six months ago. But I have done them. Not because they were easy or unscary or because I thought myself capable of them, because most of these things were hard and terrifying and seemingly impossible. Instead of waiting to be sure of myself, I jumped in with both feet and no life raft and figured it out as I went along. I am still figuring it out. But I have learned that I do not have to have it all figured out in order to move forward. That is a lesson I always want to remember. IMG_2311

Travel Dreams: Summer 2014

I have frequently discussed dreams and goals on the blog recently, mostly related to moving to Oregon. I am incredibly grateful to see that dream becoming a reality. As much as I am enjoying the process, even the packing part (I have gotten rid of so much stuff!), it has come at the temporary expense of another important part of my life – travel. And that is okay. Sometimes one area of your life takes precedence over another. That does not mean I have not been thinking about travel, however. If I cannot actually go somewhere, the next best thing is planning to go somewhere. So, today I am thinking, and thus writing, about the top places “on my list.” In no particular order, they are:

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1. Peru: If you have been reading my blog at all, you know this is one of the next big trips I would love to experience. In fact, I have a tentative date set for the fall of 2015. Of course, that will partly depend on finances and available time off, both of which I will have a better sense of once I begin my new job (in Oregon!!). Because this will likely be my first solo trip outside of the US, I plan to join a small group tour such as those offered by G Adventures and Wilderness Travel.  I am so excited to see how this particular trip comes together over the next few months.

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Eiffel Tower

2. France: And by France, I mostly mean Paris, although I would also love to spend some time in Provence. This may seem like an odd choice as a place to travel alone. Paris is, after all, the city of love. However, I cannot help but get excited about perusing the Louvre and the Musée d’Orsay at my leisure, which is inevitably longer than anyone else I would travel with could possibly enjoy. I think about having a quiet picnic next to the Seine or in one of Paris’s many parks. I dream about strolling the streets of Paris or sitting in a cafe alternately reading a book and people watching. All of that sounds pretty amazing to me with no travel partner needed.

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3. Caribbean Cruise: This dream gets at my current desire to have a low stress, beachy vacation. Cruising is great when you do not feel like doing much planning and between a trip to Peru and a trip to France, I might be a bit tired of planning (if that’s even possible). Considering that this could be another solo trip, I will probably look at cruises with Norwegian or Royal Caribbean, both of whom offer cabins for singles on certain ships. Norwegian even has a lounge solely for people booked in single cabins. I have cruised in Alaska and the Mediterranean, but not the Caribbean, so this sounds like the perfect balance of relaxation, fun, and something new.

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4. China: Sometimes travel is about taking advantage of opportunities. In this case, two of my best friends are currently living in China. It only makes sense for me to make a trip there sometime in the near future. Although I will hopefully get to see some of the iconic sites of China, like the Great Wall and the Forbidden City, I will also have the less typical experience of seeing firsthand what it’s like to live in China as I spend time with my friends. It is also the perfect opportunity to make not-funny-at-the-time memories. Given my propensity for getting lost, China seems like quite a likely place for that to happen. I promise to share the details.

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5. Arkansas: Obviously, Arkansas is “home,” so there is nothing particularly new or adventurous about going there. But that’s where my family is and with the move to Oregon, I am sure that many future trips will be to this place. And I am more than okay with that. A chance to see the people I love and the beauty of “The Natural State” is a hard to beat combination.

These are just a few of the travel goals I have floating around in my head at the moment, although I feel like this list is always changing. Who knows when each of these trips will actually happen, but it never hurts to consider the possibilities! What about you – any particular travel plans or dreams?

It’s Really Happening…

Okay, so I know that I promised to finish writing about my trip to Tennessee, which I will. But last week, something happened. And that something is…

…I got a job in Oregon! Almost exactly six months after my last-minute, first-time trip to Oregon, I will be moving halfway across the country to start a life in Oregon. In Oregon! In six weeks, give or take a couple of days, I will be leaving Texas and driving to my beautiful new home. How crazy and wonderful is that?! That being said, my blog has taken a bit of a backseat. I have had a few minor details to address such as how to get all my stuff from Texas all 2000+ miles away to Oregon. And where on earth I’m going to live when I get there. So perhaps I may not have quite as much time to write. I promise to make up for it by writing about all the awesome stuff I do when I get there!

I’m not someone who believes that one can do “anything they set their mind to.” For instance, even with utmost determination and perseverance, I would never, ever be a basketball player. Anyone who has ever seen me attempt to play basketball can attest to that. That is, if they can interrupt their laughter at the memory of said attempts long enough to provide a description. However, I do believe that there is much that can be accomplished with a dream, concerted effort, and the support of loved ones. I am so fortunate to be able to live out this dream and am excited to see what is next down this road.

Freedom and The Road Less Travelled

I spent the Fourth of July weekend in Arkansas with family and friends. As I made the drive from Texas to Arkansas and back, I had plenty of time to think. As I considered the holiday, I became thoughtful about freedom and what it means to me. Unsurprisingly, my thoughts quickly landed on the freedom to travel and how grateful I am that my life includes the opportunity to go to new places and have novel experiences. Sure, there are a limited number of places that I, as a single woman, am unlikely to go, but there are abundantly more places on this earth to which I can go without hesitation.

Out of curiosity, I searched for “women travel pioneers” and found this list on Wikipedia. What an inspirational group of women! I may not have aspirations to be the “first” woman to do something or to set any records, but reading about the lives of these women inspires me to take full advantage of the freedom to travel for which they paved the way. These women, and others, accomplished the seemingly impossible, overcoming cultural norms and gender barriers to fly airplanes and climb mountains and document in black and white photographs their journeys to unfamiliar and sometimes dangerous places. As a result, no one (except perhaps my parents) thinks twice when I mention that I want to go to Peru next year on my own. There is no reason why, if I so desire, I cannot simply hop in my car for a last-minute road trip this weekend. However, I am also mindful that this freedom is not one afforded to women everywhere and that I am fortunate to live in a country where women have the same rights as men. The freedom and ability to travel, especially as a woman, is something I do not want to take for granted.

How do I honor the legacy of these courageous woman and the freedom I have to travel? For me, it begins with the act of actually traveling – taking advantage of every opportunity to push myself out of my comfort zone to learn about other people and cultures in order to broaden my own understanding of the world and myself.

But more than that, it is about the willingness to embrace the unknown and the unexpected in my day-to-day life. I am at a crossroads in my life with possibilities stretching out in front of me in every direction. Although there have been other times in my life when I have made important decisions, such as where I wanted to go to college and who I wanted to marry, these decisions were generally in line with a predetermined pattern, one that looked strikingly similar to the lives of those around me. There were only rare moments of uncertainty and doubt. It is so tempting to go back to this path because it is paved with familiarity. But now I can also see other roads, enticing, yet certain to contain the unexpected and perhaps the unconventional. As I consider what is next for me, I want to choose “the road less travelled” despite the fear and uncertainty.  Because by accepting the inevitable uncertainty along a new path, I give myself possibilities and hope, hope that, by making different choices than the ones I have made before, I can have a different kind of life. Yes, a life with heartbreak and pain and bad days just like any other, but the opportunity to live those days amid the good kind of days of my choosing. Days filled with beauty and friendship and, of course, travel. So that is how I want to use my freedom – walking down a road to the unknown with trepidation, anticipation, and hope because that road leads me to where I want to go, not just where I have been.

The life you have led doesn’t need to be the only life you have. – Anna Quindlen

I see my path, but I don’t know where it leads. Not knowing where I’m going is what inspires me to travel it. – Rosalia de Castro

It’s a dangerous business, Frodo, going out your door. You step onto the road, and if you don’t keep your feet, there’s no knowing where you might be swept off to. – JRR Tolkien

I will be back next week to wrap up my recent trip to Tennessee. In the meantime, I am curious about your thoughts on travel and freedom. Please share! Also, if you want to ensure that you never miss a post, you can subscribe to my blog using the box on the right.

A Tennessee Weekend: Saturday Adventures

How does someone like myself, who, let’s be honest, is not exactly the tattoo type, come to, in fact, have a tattoo? (And incidentally to also use a ridiculous number of commas in one sentence?) I really think it began in January as I made my first tentative steps to figuring out who I wanted to be on my own. Not one to quickly or impulsively make decisions, it was thus somewhat surprising when I, with the enthusiastic support of one of my best friends, made the sudden choice to get my ears pierced. Having begun this path of impulsivity, I did not hesitate when another best friend invited me on a last-minute trip to Oregon a few weeks later. Neither choice caused the least tinge of regret. In reality, I was beginning to quite like this new, (very) slightly carefree version of myself. Thus, when Shannon suggested getting a tattoo, it seemed like an appropriate end to a trifecta of escalating, potentially life-altering decisions that I had recently made with my best friends. Basically, it felt like the right thing to do.

But first, I did what anyone with a PhD and overactive thought processes would do: I slept on it and then copiously discussed the decision over coffee and oatmeal. Although I don’t think the oatmeal was necessary. After as much sleep as two friends who haven’t seen each other in months can expect to get, Shannon and I began our Saturday morning (because the morning does not actually begin until coffee) at a local coffeehouse where we, of course, had the most important beverage of the day (well, except water, which is, I am told, crucial for survival; although I would argue so is coffee), enjoyed a delicious breakfast, and marveled at the barista’s perfect guy-hair.

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After breakfast Shannon and I did what is, I’m sure, typical pre-tattoo behavior. We spent the morning getting our hair washed and styled at the local Paul Mitchell School.

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Before

Seriously, who doesn’t want to essentially get their hair played with for 2+ hours. And it also happened to be the perfect place to get recommendations for where I should get a tattoo.

During
During
And after

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A couple more because, seriously, when does my hair ever look good?
A couple more because, seriously, when does my hair ever look good?

Thoroughly relaxed after a morning of pampering and still feeling confident about the decision to get a tattoo, we headed toward Absolute Ink. The relaxed feeling quickly dissipated. I began to feel truly nervous. Would it hurt? Was I sure about the design? Would my parents disown me? These questions and more flooded my mind as we tentatively walked inside. Only to be told that they were booked for the rest of the day… but, they could probably squeeze me in later in the afternoon… if we would just leave a phone number, they would call us if they had time.

Having been ready to get a tattoo, the delay caused a bit of a letdown. And an increase in nervousness. It only made sense to drown our nerves in Italian food and shopping in downtown Murfreesboro. These are pretty much two of my greatest coping mechanisms – comfort food and retail therapy.

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So maybe a salad isn’t technically “comfort food” but it was really good.

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We had just finished shopping at a really cute vintage clothing store when we got the call.

Nervous face!!
Nervous face!!
Apparently this is how I stand when I'm nervous. At least my hair looks good...
Apparently this is how I stand when I’m nervous. At least my hair looks good…

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And, yes, it did hurt!

The funniest part was probably telling my parents.

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The conversation went something like this:

Me: So, Mom, I have something to tell you, but don’t get mad (which is I’m sure how every parent wants a conversation to start)

Mom: Okay (the tone of doubt and concern apparent in her voice)

Me: I got a tattoo…

Mom: What?

Me: I got a tattoo.

Mom: I didn’t understand. What did you say?

Me: A tattoo. I got a TATTOO.

Mom: I still didn’t understand you.

… (after about 15 repetitions because, to give her credit, “I got a tattoo” are words she never reasonably expected to come out of my mouth)

Mom: Oh no, you’re kidding. Randy (that’s my dad), Cora got a tattoo.

Dad (in the background): She’s just joking, right (a hint of panic in his voice)… I thought Shannon was a good influence!

And so it continued. I am happy to report my parents still love me, although my dad still doubts that I was sober. As does pretty much everyone else that I know.

For me, getting a tattoo was a rational, if admittedly spontaneous, choice that symbolized what I had gained through a difficult year – a peace and joy in my life that I previously could not have imagined – and reminds me to not lose sight of those lessons.

Shannon and I spent the rest of the day doing low-key friend stuff. We drank (even more) coffee, tried another new restaurant, and watched a movie.

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We enjoyed a great dinner at a new restaurant in Murfreesboro - Peter D's. I loved the decor and the food was excellent.
We enjoyed an excellent dinner at a new restaurant in Murfreesboro – Peter D’s.

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If you have a friend who is willing to split an appetizer and a dessert with you and call it a meal, you should pretty much be best friends forever. This was the very delicious Thai Chicken Quesadilla.
If you have a friend who is willing to split an appetizer and a dessert with you and call it a meal, you should pretty much be best friends forever. This was the very delicious Thai Chicken Quesadilla.
Nutella Mouse should be its own food group
Nutella Mousse should be its own food group so that I can eat it every day without feeling guilty.

I am so thankful to have a friend like Shannon with whom to share life’s adventures, big and small. This particular Saturday just happened to be one of the big (let’s just say once-in-a-lifetime) adventures. What is one of your favorite friend adventures? Please share!

A Tennessee Weekend: An Introduction

I obviously think too much. I can take almost any topic (except perhaps sports, and even then I could probably find a way) and consider it at length. And in detail. The topic that has been especially on my mind recently is friendship. In the past year I have learned in all new ways that I have the most amazing friends imaginable. Through the past year, my friends have held me while I ugly (and I mean ugly) cried, cried with me, prayed with me and for me, listened to me, supported me even when they disagreed with me, dropped everything to be with me when I needed it most (including helping me move in the middle of an ice storm – seriously, we were sliding boxes down the driveway), ensured I had plenty of chocolate and cookies in my life, and most of all, loved me. It is no exaggeration to say that I could not have made it through the past year without my friends.

I am so thankful for these friendships. It has not been an easy season of my life in which to be my friend and yet, there were people who persisted and walked with me along a difficult and often painful path. I have a deep appreciation for the love and strength that were spoken into my life and that I could not have found alone. But I will be honest, it was not fun. So, it was that much more meaningful to be able to simply celebrate my friendship with Shannon over a long weekend in Tennessee. No tears (well, except the laughing-so-hard-you-cry kind), no stress, just fun with one of my favorite people. Lots of fun. Perhaps too much fun…

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And yes, I’m going to stretch out a single weekend into a series of posts. Because I can. And because I have nothing else to write about. I am still working on that whole moving to Oregon/maybe not moving to Oregon thing. Plus, I can truly never say enough about the lovely, wonderful, kind, generous, amazing, and beautiful people in my life. I am so blessed.

 

Happy Days

I recently learned of a project named 100 Happy Days. The idea is to document via photographs one thing per day that makes you happy for 100 consecutive days. Intrigued by this idea, I have decided to give it a try. This fits well with research I have been reading related to gratitude and the changes that can occur when one intentionally chooses to be grateful. For instance, research has linked gratitude to improved emotional well-being, improved physical health, a more positive outlook on life, goal attainment, altruism, and more connected relationships. A lifestyle characterized by gratitude may even be a protective factor when faced with stressful life events.

There are many ways to cultivate gratitude. For much of this year, I have been writing down a daily gratitude in my planner (have I mentioned how much I love my planner?!?). Committing to 100 Happy Days feels like a logical and challenging extension of this. For me, it is not about being constantly “happy” for the next 3+ months. That is a goal that would be neither healthy nor realistic. Rather, it is about taking the time to notice that, even on the unhappiest of days, there is always something for which to be grateful. In other words, my goal is to make a choice to be grateful and to seek moments of happiness regardless of my circumstances. I would love for you to join me! I will be documenting my 100 days on Instagram (@cgplatt) with the hashtag #100happydays if you would like to follow along, although if you are opposed to cute pictures of dogs, you might not appreciate the many pictures I will probably be posting of Sydney.

So, to begin as I will likely continue, day one’s moment of happiness is Sydney being cuddly after we took a (embarrassingly long) nap this afternoon.

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I am certain that the next 100 days will hold good days and bad days, challenges and hopefully a few triumphs (let’s hope the job search falls into the latter category…), and maybe, if I’m lucky, a trip or two. Regardless, I intend to notice the glimpses of happiness – even if small or fleeting – each day brings.

 

Change

I suppose it is natural that as my 30th birthday, and consequently a new decade of my life, quickly and inevitably approaches I become somewhat pensive about where I have been and where I am going.

One thing is certain – if you had asked me a year ago what my life would be like at this moment, my answer would have in no way reflected my current reality. And the thing that I could never have imagined is that I would be okay with that. I am a planner who has historically resisted change with every fiber of my being. I had a plan and it was perfect and nothing else was acceptable and that was that.

And yet, here I am having been forced to painfully confront my “perfect” plan falling to pieces around me. What is amazing to me is that I have come to accept that and, even more incredibly, to feel excitement and anticipation about a future outside of that plan. I have learned to more often live in the moment with a willingness to embrace the ultimate uncertainty of the future without anxiety (well, at least not my former level of anxiety). The cost of that lesson has been undoubtedly high, but I believe I will live my life better because of it.

As I pondered all of this, I was reminded of a recent hike at Cedar Ridge Preserve, which I first visited during the winter. This time, signs of spring were everywhere in evidence, especially the iconic Texas bluebonnets.

Cedar Ridge Preserve

Cedar Ridge Preserve

The change from one season to the next is not a change that is often resisted. For the most part, people eagerly anticipate the alterations that come as winter changes to spring or spring changes to summer. On this particular day, I reveled in the warmth of an early spring day, appreciating the beauty and color that were all around me. Sure, I could have focused on the bugs or worried about how hot it was going to be in a few weeks. But instead I chose to appreciate the beauty knowing that every wonderful, worthwhile thing has an inextricable element of discomfort or even pain.

Cedar Ridge Preserve

Cedar Ridge Preserve

Cedar Ridge Preserve

Cedar Ridge Preserve

Cedar Ridge Preserve

Just like my birthday and just like spring, change is inevitable. Each season in life brings an unpredictable combination of pain and blessings. I can choose to embrace change with an attitude of wonder and expectation, with an awareness of the blessings, or I can be miserable as I ineffectively resist and focus on what has been lost. As I begin a new decade and a new phase of my life, I want to let go of my plans while I work toward my goals. I want to embrace change while also holding on to the people I love. I want to see the adventure and opportunity of this time in my life, not the loss and the fear. Someone whom I love dearly recently told me to “see the gift that life has given you in spite of the sorrows.” So that is what I am going to do – find the joy and the blessings and make the most of every day, even the difficult ones. I do not know what this next year will bring, but I am looking forward to finding out.

Cedar Ridge Preserve