I get twitchy as soon as November rolls around. The travel bug is a constant affliction and the desire to pull out my passport for new adventures is an uninterrupted flame that burns deep. Yet the siren call I hear as soon as we come down from our sugar high is less for adventure and more for anywhere but here.
The holidays are hard.
November and December arrive with their own set of baggage, turning jolly Santa into overlord of elf labor, driving mindless consumption. The roaring fireplace is all of sudden the symbolic hell fire I am burning in as I sip eggnog; time with family is pure purgatory. What is meant to be joyous turns into obligation and the party can’t seem to end soon enough. For all of those reasons, I suddenly become the anywhere-but-here woman and I hop on the next flight out.
As luck would have it, leaving the country for foreign lands is not quite possible this year so stay I must. I decided to take these 6 long weeks to do some serious rewriting, reclaiming and reprogramming. No, I am not talking about the books that I am working on or re-hauling the websites. I’ve decided to re-write the script of my life, reclaim what I had given up in defeat and heartbreak and reprogram my psyche. I’ve decided to lean into the flinch and do a little foundation work before I continue to build my tower. *
When my marriage came to an end, I couldn’t listen to some of my favorite bands, as there was so much history and love shared in those songs with my ex. I didn’t want to lose the music that I love. I didn’t want those songs to have power over me, turning what I enjoy into what I fear and dread. So I would listen to “our” bands and “our” songs over and over again until I could hear them without tears over what we’d lost and instead smile for what we’d shared (it took a lot of tears to get there.)
The reprogramming started with Thanksgiving.
A new friend invited me to join her up in Maine for the weekend and I impulsively said yes. The invitation was like an affirmation from the gods. Patty and I didn’t know each other well before she so generously invited me for a long weekend and it was glorious! Patty gathered six of her friends from various parts of the world and parts of her life, assembled us into a log cabin for a weekend full of eating, drinking, marry making among the white birch tree of Maine. Every evening we would have a nightly toast, before dinner, the seven of us would share a libation and be grateful for all that we are blessed with. There was something special about this ritual. There was something magical about being grateful for the strangers who had become your friends night after night. The toast bonded us and became something we looked forward to. On Thanksgiving day, we shared turkey and an endless amount of pie with friends of friends of friends of Patty’s family. The connection between our host and Patty are many degrees apart and even further from us, the vagabond troop of friends. Yet Mark and his family welcomed a random group of strangers to their Thanksgiving table and showered us with love and generosity. As I sat at the dinner table and listened to Mark’s toast, I felt like a pilgrim. I thought, “THIS. This is Thanksgiving!”
A warm, loving, gratitude filled weekend was topped off with a 120lb pig roast. For a spy who travels the world documenting food markets, the pig roast was a dream come true. How could a woman like me not love a pig roast!?Thanksgiving officially reprogrammed! This is what it could be. Every previous bad example, family drama, passive aggressive behavior erased. From now on, Thanksgiving will officially be filled with fantastic food, loving friends and an overwhelming sense of gratitude and delicious inner peace.The next act of reprogramming was a little harder.
I’ve always been my own person, chosen my own path in life and did what I thought was right instead of what it was expected of me. The price for making my own choices is to live with the assumption that I’ve been a disappointment to my parents. Most of the time I shrug it off and don’t really concern myself with it. After all, it is my life and I am the only one that needs to be happy with it. But instead of continuing to live with the secret assumption that I am a disappointment because I didn’t do what they expected me to, I decided to ask instead. During a very serious conversation with my mom, I asked,
“Mom, are you disappointed in me? That I’ve always gone about things and my life in my own way?”
“No,” She replies, with surprise in her voice, “No, I am not.”
Okay. Subconscious re-written. I no longer need to live with a false assumption. Now I know.Make no mistake, by no means was it easy to open my mouth and ask my mom the question. It was a hard question to ask but I wanted to know, once and for all. Irrespective to her answers my decision may never be influenced by it. But now I have one less monkey on my back.
You can go so much further when you lighten your load.
What answers do you assume you know? How can you lighten your load?
Nothing sours your enthusiasm for what is possible than when you gave it your all and it just doesn’t work out. A failed marriage will make one re-evaluate everything ever though about love, partnership and happily ever after. The disillusionment in love is topped off with three years of New York City dating escapades that seem to be created by the show runners for “Sex and the City.” Any fair maiden’s heart would feel the Arctic chill by now. Being the pragmatic, highly logical and reasonable being that I am, I’ve long shelved my fairytale delusions to well…just that…. illusions. I’ve long ceased to subscribe to happily ever after, only good for now. Cynical yet practical. I know. Yet, as I’ve become determined in rewriting history and reprogramming what is possible, I decided to reclaim the fairy tale and tailor fit it to me.
I decided that I want to believe.
Armed with a very good, indulgent, darling girlfriend (they give you courage), we went shopping for a wedding dress (not to buy mind you). I needed to see myself costumed in the part I thought was no longer possible. I needed to see my reflection in the full-length mirror of the bridal salon and believe love and partnership can be had. I needed to put on the dress and see myself playing the part to believe the play even exists. I re-wrote the script. Instead of being a woman who has loved, lost, and is too commonsensical to love again, I am a woman who can still have the most incandescent love possible (in a wiser way of course). I needed to see a version of myself where I am not scared to surrender to it, where I am not so cynical and doubt it away, where I am not so ultra rational as to reason all the magic out of it. I needed to see a scenario where I’ve allowed for the impossible to be possible so I can believe there is a right guy with a brave heart to love me, the stamina to keep up with me, and the confidence to let me be me.
I feel lighter. There is still Christmas, New Years and my birthday to re-write, reprogram and reclaim but I am confident I can debug all the viruses from those as well.
At the end of the year, everyone looks back, thinks ahead and talks about the year in review, which invariably leads to thoughts about legacy building, doing better and pushing our limits beyond. I am right there with you. I want to talk to talk about all of those as they have been plaguing my insides. But before we get there, I want to clean the slate and release some of these monkeys from my back. I want to travel lighter so I can travel farther.
*The Flinch by Julien Smith and The Tower by Chris Guillebeau are worth checking out.