Serendipity

The train stopped on the tracks 200 yards past a rural station.

We were about an hour into a Praha to Vienna trip and as my computer clocked continued increasing I ticked down to 0 from the 7 minutes I had to make my connection back home – the last one for the night. I glanced out of the window and saw conductors and then passengers start to meander past.

My tummy rumbled and I thought again of the somewhat-past-prime vegetables I had removed from my bag in the morning. At the time I thought “I’m going to regret this later.” Indeed. An announcement in German was of little assistance and so I turned to my fellow cabin mates.
Waiting for the Train

“I’m sorry but do you know what is going on?”

“Something on the track ahead… we have to wait.”

“Did they say how long?”

“No.”

Over the course of the next hour plus, between getting fresh air, stretching on the segmented gravel, and a few picture opportunities, I learned of the accident at a crossroad on our track. I said a silent prayer for the person, family and friends who were all having a much worse day than I. An 140 minute delay is naught compared to life’s other wreckage.

Sitting back in my computer as we slowly made our way down the tracks I mentally prepared for changing arrangements. Again, glancing out of the window I breathed deep for the beautiful sunset over russet trees and fields of green.

My inner voice sighed contentedly, “relax, appreciate what you have and enjoy the journey.”

[Read more...]

150 Blank Pages to Fill

It was an emotional challenge to fill the last page of my old journal/planner/notebook.scrapbook.

It covered just under a year. Such varying events and moments condensed into less than 100 scrawled pages of ramblings and lists.

ParisI spent an hour flipping back through every page and copying over notes and writings that I couldn’t help but carry forward from my old tome.

After a year of weekly posts, one might think that this blogging thing would be easier. One would be quite wrong.

I still struggle to find the words to encapsulate my experiences. I’m battling the balance of living and writing especially during these full weeks. I want to be out doing, seeing, engaging, connecting, opening, expanding, loving my life with ferocity and consumptive fire.

There are rare times that I have the compulsion to write at length. Most often, however, it is a passing thought of “I should write about…” or a catchy title or sentence that I have repeating over and over in my brain.

I have pages of “starts” but few “finishes” in the banks.

When the muse visits for a long chat, I relish the words forming under my pen. I cherish the missives after the moments have passed.

It was with heavy heart that I faced the replacement my old notebook. Yet, as she often does, the Universe provided a perfect new one to purchase in Paris. And, to ease the ache, I was gifted with a glorious afternoon to first scrawl upon the pages.

On the banks of the Seine 9/29

My only regret is that my legs do not feel strong enough to run… that and that I not a poet nor a painter. Throwing gratitude by the fistful that I am here.

[Read more...]

Hardy Travelogue and the Need to See

The Hardy History Fence4/13/11 - Hardy, Arkansas

I’m sipping my coffee alone at the Corner Booth Restaurant and am completely entertained. My eyes are full. It is like 13 grandmothers pooled their old-timey-things collections and stuffed it all into an old traincar turned diner. I’ve thought about 20 times of taking a picture but I don’t think I can do it justice. If you ever are near Hardy, AR you have to come see this place.

I’ve been struggling to find the right word for this degree of americanic-stereotypic-un-ironic-overload-of-countryness… is there a word for that?

The booths, the only option befitting the name, are all wooden. The man across the way is wearing a “Grandpa” cap and grandma is wearing a purple leisure suit. The old guard behind me are talking about accidentally hitting deer in their trucks and hauling them off on the hood. Oh and now checking in on the happenings at Al Capone’s Garage across the way. The granny waitress, she is the only one for about 10 occupied and 15 open booths, is as cute as she can be in her white sneakers and kahki cargos and calls the regulars by name. Another train just came through adding its baseline to the country music and sounds of eats sizzling filtering in from the kitchen.

There are dolls, old signs and magazine cutouts covering the walls. Stained glass (real and fake) adorns the windows and hangs down in lamp form (all mismatched) with honest to goodness tassels on some. The voices of the old guard are fantastic – so comfortably reassuring in their gravely, gruff, soothing cadence. I find myself smiling and content to sit and sip and let it all wash over me.

I need to find a way to visit more places like this.

Wanderlusting.

Present Day

… and I will.

But before I get to that and My Great Birthday Adventure to World Domination (and back), I finally need to write the travelogue on Hardy. Home of the Willburn Brothers, this small town was fabulous in its eclecticness.

Property Listings and Dead DucksI was there for a completely random reason. Business complete, on my wander down a fairly deserted main street at sunset I took a fair number of pictures, really it is hard to pick which ones to include here (yes, yes, I was IN the moment too I assure you).

How to decide between the “We have worms!” signs; the caged and plaqued Old Hardy Pump; or the Old Sharp County Court House whose cornerstone was placed “at evening shade in 1868″? History, alas is trumped by the real estate listing featuring, among the houses for rent and sale, a picture of begunned, camouflaged dudes posing in the back of a pickup with a pile of dead ducks.

So too will will those mallards stand in for the scenes I was too much of a sissy to take a picture of, like the gun, cammo and ammo store inside the grocery store. Yes. Inside of it. It was it’s own little glass windowed subsection complete with mounted heads and a black bearskin splayed out on the rusted tin roof. Bananas and haunting images of dead wildlife? Gotcha covered.

At the Country Kitchen (of course), from a lacquered table with embedded business cards and flyers, I ate the best fried okra and fried green tomatoes I do believe have ever had. The restaurant was a converted gas station and also sold barns. “Mouse Proof” barns according to the sign.

Old Hardy Hotel - Site of A Gruesome MurderSpeaking of signs, the one pictured was in a window on Main. “Site of a Gruesome Murder” with flower adornment? It totally makes sense when it is just up the street from “Goths R Us,” around the corner from a t-shirt quilting business and catty-corner to a dulcimer-maker.

Hardy, and small towns in general, are home to some amazing multipotentialites. By far my favorite business was the Sparrows Nest: Book Nook, Newsstand, Forensic Document Service (Court Qualified Handwriting Specialist apparently) and — wait for it — Appliance Parts.

You can’t make this up. I’m ever so pleased that I don’t have invent – I’ve seen it and can just tell the tale.

I would have loved to meet Louie but he was, according to the little sign on the door, at Choir Practice. Seeing as he still had Christmas bells painted on said door in April, I’m guessing he would have been too busy to talk to me anyway. If I do ever get the pleasure I must ask him for a replacement belt in addition to getting the signature on an old letter verified.

To See

I make jokes but really I am not poking fun. I am in awe. I was completely overwhelmed by the pure, unselfconscious Americana — so familiar and at the same time so foreign.

I was giddy with the joy of each new fun discovery and I smile as I flip back through the pictures. My heart goes pitter pat not because I captured it and shared it, the pictures simply make the unbelievable memory more believable for me.

Those pictures put me back in that time at sunset in that lovely, crazy place reminding me that there are infinitely more towns like Hardy which exist right now — just waiting to be discovered and freshly seen.

It doesn’t have to be not he other side of the planet. Interestingness is all around. Travel simply gets us to open our eyes.

The first of Chris Guillebeau’s big questions is: What do you most want to get out of life? I struggled with that for a long time before finally settling on:

To See

Eyes open wide, vision clear of the familiar, with a slight smile I want to be IN new places and SEE.

Might I capture what I see in some fixed form to be shared with others? Is that the answer to his other question: what can you offer the world that now one else can? Perhaps.

Do I hope you see my journey and are inspired to go explore your own backyards near and far? Yes. But we, individually, only have one chance through this great amazing Universe. So for as long as I am able I want to wander and take it all in.

For me, and me only, it is enough to see.

Adventure to World Domination (and back)

So we come full circle: I’m setting out to the World Domination Summit in 16 short days. I’m driving Stan the Tan Sedan, loaded with bike and camping gear, across and around this amazingly varied country of ours to see as much of her as I can before I leave for Italy (which I can still hardly believe I’m doing).

I’m starting with the GoRuck Challenge in Charlotte on my birthday — oh and no presents please, embracing the suck will be enough though I do have a charity water campaign going if you are so moved. Then I’m taking the southern route out to Portland for WDS and accompanying fun, spending a week to explore that part of the world, heading up to Seattle to tackle the STP, and then back again via the northern-route to take me through NYC to say goodbye (yet again) to my city.

Map of My AdventureI have a map, some intended, maybe, kinda-sorta, stopping points… but little by way of all encompassing plan — not to mention reservations — for the wide swaths of middle. I have some other projects that have been consuming my time and efforts — more to come on those soon — and so the trip remains largely unscheduled. If you have suggestions I am open: comment, email or tweet me! I’d love to not dine, coffee or beer alone, so meet ups are stellar.

I am excited and worried by being so loose but I know that I will figure it out. Through doing so I will leave myself open to possibilities and be ready to just see where the road leads.

To discover what is as of yet unseen, may you…

Be IN

Jo Signature

 

PS – I’m quite serious about sending me ideas of waylay points and recs of things to see. Why do you travel? What do you really want to get out of life or why do you travel? I’d love to know.

PPS – Changes and big things afoot here at CBB – sign up for emails for the inside scoop.

 

 

To -er is human

you are lovely anywayI pushed myself hard. 2 hours at the gym and even thowing-up in my mouth a little on a trainer bike.

I was pushing because I hadn’t moved my body like that in 2 days. Pushing because I had eaten poorly for the last 3. Pushing because I felt I needed to punish myself for sins that only I see in myself.

As I was blowdrying my hair — well just the bangs — and still sweating a little after sauna and shower, when a woman came up behind me and said “I want your figure.”

Over the sound of the dryer I wasn’t sure I heard her right. Clicking it off I smiled, “What?” She gave me a lovely but somewhat wry-twanged smile back and said, “I wish I had your figure.”

I was stunned.

Me?

INspiration cuts all ways

Granted, she– Laura — is overweight and I am not. “Svelte” I am also not. Surrounded by coeds, their slim legs and flat torsos clearly visible under greek lettered tops and shorts, Laura told me that she was envious of my frame.

“Pray for me.” she said “I have 100 pounds to get there.”

I still don’t know how to react to that.

“Do it slow,” I said “and take it easy on yourself. But stick with it. You’ll get there.”

I felt — feel — like all my words are inadequate.

“I couldn’t run a mile a year ago,” I tried again “and now I’m working out for 2 hours a night and able to do things I never thought I would be able to do.”

“Did you lose a lot of weight?” she wanted to know.

I paused. “It isn’t so much about that for me. I want to fit into my old favorite jeans again. I have some races coming up I want to do.”

Seeing something catch in her look, knowing I was dodging, I went on: “Yeah, I lost about 10-15 pounds… but now I can run a mile and more. That makes it worth it.”

“Pray for me.” she said again.

“I’ll definitely keep you in my thoughts…?” I extended my hand.

“Laura.”

“I’m Joanna. You can do it Laura.”

“I hope so” she said with an overly bright smile that was smudged with sadness at the edges.

“Just keep at it.” I said to her back as she walked away. I sighed as I clicked on the hair dryer again. Then I looked in the mirror and, for the first time in a long time, I smiled at myself.

Working towards what?

Workout ScheduleAs I wrote out this story that night my nose was still twanging with dammed tears that I don’t know how to let fall. It is easy to want to be a source of inspiration from behind a keyboard. It is much harder to meet that head on… and feel like such a fake.

WE ALL think we need to do this or that to be better

Was I taking my own advice? Was I going slow? Was I really focused on my events and not my scale? DoI have clear goals that I am working towards and not pushing just to nebulously push towards some ideal of perfection?

Push tonight and maybe that will make the difference — tomorrow too. And the day after that. As long as I am working to be better, I will finally get there and be happy right? No. Not really.

We work to get faster, stronger, fitter. Wthout comparison, quantitative or qualitative, that ideal will forever remain unfulfilled. And along the way we get so mired in our imperfections we forget to look up and see what we are working to be, might already be our reality. 

Unless we have a clear, honest, true definition of what better is, we will always be working towards something that doesn’t exist. If we only -er, we will always fail (and be pretty miserable in the process).

This goes for the rest of life too. We grind out work when we are past the point of exhaustion. We pull the all-nighter. We squeeze one more appointment, phone call, email, thing into our days. We chastise ourself for not making more, doing more, being more. We try to be smarter, richer, happier, more more more…

We goal-suck the joy right out of life.

Yes, Laura needs to eat more healthfully, move her body and lose some weight to be healthy. By doing so she will likely have a longer and happier life — but the concrete goals — the inspiration — come first and remain the focus.

Am I doing that? Did I need to push myself so much that night? Everyday?

How do we find the balance?

Missing the accomplishments for the all goals

The first step is to be clear with ourselves about what we are working towards. There is a forest of objectives out there to scale and summit to be “happy and fulfilled” in body, mind and spirit. There are millions of paths through that forest and everyone’s journey is different.

We must decide for ourselves what we want to achieve and, most importantly, be specific in those expectations of ourselves.

The balance comes by not getting so single-mindedly focused that we neglect to intentionally enjoy our journey. We should see where we are as much as where we want to go.

We must be kind to ourselves. We must treat ourselves like a friend. We tell her that she looks great. We give him hearty congratulations for the work completed. We give constructive criticism wrapped in good intentions.

Our friend might need a little encouragement or push now and then but never needs to be berated or punished for not living up to expectations.

How often do we do that to ourselves though? How often to we chastize ourselves for what we have done wrong instead of focusing on what we have and are doing right?

I have been trying to consciously shift my internal monologue to be more positive, encouraging and helpful. 

I am also trying to be more mindful and clear with myself about what I am pushing for. What am I actually trying to accomplish? What does that look and feel like?

How will I know when I’ve gotten there?

Be IN- not -ER

We often have a desire to of be “better” — faster, skinnier, richer, happier. It is a error to -er ourselves out of being content where we are. 

The -er is nebulous and will never be finished. Banish the -ers and instead be INtentional. 

Our goals can change. We can update our plans and desires. We can quit and go after something else. We can run through the finishes and set our sights on the next line. Yet we should always be mindful of where we are and what we are working towards. 

Be honest with ourselves about what we want and specific about how we intend to get it.

Be a good coach and friend to ourselves: always there with a pat on the back and “good job” for the small/big victories; encouraging that last bit of effort to succeed but not breaking our spirits.

Be mindful of what we have already done. Keep that list of victories and accomplishments close at hand and heart.

Be on a path towards fixed ideals AND enjoying the journey to get there.

INternal Check

Laura has her 100 pounds. What is my motivator and my goal?

Speaking to her reminded me to check in and recalibrate — my expectations, my intentions and my enjoyment level.

Kicking my own ass at the gym isn’t “fun” but I admit that I most often enjoy it. I certainly enjoy knowing that I am indeed more capable, stronger, and faster than I was 6 months or 2 years ago.

The -ers are comparisons to where I have been to where I am, not my expectations going forward. 

smile

Looking up from my efforts I see realistically where I have been and realize I am happier with my body and how I feel. I can, from a place of accomplishment and pleasure, refocus on the why of future goals and with intention work towards them.

Thank you Laura for the reminder to fix my points of purpose.

Thank you Laura for reminding me how far I have come.

Thank you for getting me to look in the mirror and smile at myself as I would smile at a friend. 

Be IN always,

Jo Signature

Have you had a similar moment when you realize where you are, or what you have accomplished, after missing it in persuit of your goals? Need help banishing an -er from your life? Leave a comment – I read and respond to every one.

PS – I am a writer. (Just needed to say that to remind myself of where I am)

PPS – To get more of my writings sign up for emails for exclusive content and the latest from the CBB world.

 

Be the one who says “I’m in.”

Untitled I feel stuck in a rut… so I’m going to jump off a bridge.

Oh wow that sounds a lot more dramatic than it actually is. I’m safe and well, promise. I have no plans to harm myself or others… well except for the jumping off the bridge part — but that isn’t til July!

Let me ‘splain…

If your friends jumped off a bridge…

Don’t call 9-1-1 but this is an emergency post. Just as I did last week, I’m writing on Tuesday with Wednesday deadline looming large. I have about 4 posts 90% “there” but I think they are lacking. My work is missing that little pizzaz to be proud of… cue metaphor for my life.

[Read more...]