Thoughts

Another Birthday

Monday I turned 32, and as my sweet godson pointed out, “wow, that’s old!”

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I actually spent my birthday in NC with my family, mostly my grandma, who recently got some unfortunate health news. Despite that she is still living her life with vitality and joy as always and that was the greatest gift for me to witness for my 32nd rotation on this planet. While there My family put together an epic bbq with so many delicious dishes and enough food to feed an army. I was also there for my grandmother the morning of my birthday when she had to put down her 19 year old dog suddenly after a couple of weeks of rapid decline. And then there were many grocery runs, cooking of meals, watching of HGTV shows, laughing at random things, and discussions of life that took place. All in all wonderful.

being home made me realize what a treasure it is to invest in time with the people you love. I mean we all know that, but this time I really felt that. It became even clearer that all the hard work I do is not for money, but for freedom to be with the people I want, when I want. That is the greatest luxury.

On My Way to NC

I am heading to North Carolina for almost a week to spend time with my grandmother, dad and other extended family. I almost didn’t make this trip but sometimes your heart just tells you you need something and you are compelled to override your head. This is one of those times.

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A Minimalist's Thoughts After a Trip to the Flea

This weekend I went to the Rose Bowl Flea Market for the first time, and while it was meant to be just a day of good fun (which it absolutely was), I also had a lot of mixed feelings throughout the day. Some of my big takeaways, aside from the little one I bought, were:

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1. There is just so much stuff on this planet.

The vastness of the flea market is so much bigger than what you can comprehend from the map they give you as you walk in. Everywhere you look there are racks upon racks and table upon table and row upon row of things. So much stuff all in one place out in the open, not separated by buildings or walls, really makes an impression. And when you think this is just a portion of the selection of just a couple (thousand) vendors in this tiny part of the world, then to think of all the stuff that each one of us owns in our own home, and all the stuff that was previously made owned and thrown away! It is enough to make my head spin.

2. I love seeing so many people buying second hand.

Despite being a little overwhelmed by the amount of stuff, it was very exciting to see the prominent and enormous vintage and antique sections of the market. I am a strong believer in "Reduce, Reuse, Repair, Recycle" (and whatever iterations of this phrase), so buying things that already exist instead of increasing demand for new items of the same is excellent whenever possible.

3. I am not my things.

This is what I want to elaborate the most on today...

Probably the biggest feeling I felt throughout the day was that of want. I am not a super minimalist (or spartnaist), I still like to have things around me that inspire me or make my life even just a tad more comfortable or beautiful. But I have gotten pretty good control on my consumerist impulses to buy anything that I like. I am usually very deliberate when I go shopping with precisely what I want or need in mind and will leave empty-handed if I don't find just what it is I came in for. I tell you all of this because yesterday at the flea all of this was thrown out of the window. The excitement of all of the interesting and unique things brought to me a lust I hadn't felt in a long time. I wanted to take home so many things! Fortunately, my rational brain knew I had no space in my life for another basket, rug, denim jacket, or bulb vase and that feeling subsided. But that feeling it again bothered me enough to make me think...

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Last year I read Fumio Sasaki's Goodbye Things: The New Japanese Minimalism. There are so many wonderful ideas that Sasaki shares from his own personal experience, but the one I was reminded of yesterday was when he asked himself the question, "Why do we own so many things when we don't need them?" He believes it is our way of conveying our own worth to others, using objects to tell the world who we are. He later shares an example of this in his bookshelves.

"I used to have books piled onto bookcases that took up all of the space in my narrow hallway. Yet I could barely remember reading any of them... It's clear to me now why I kept these books laying around... even though I knew I was never going to read them. I was desperate to convey my worth through these books. They were there to communicate the message: I've read a lot of books to date. As anyone who looks at my bookshelves can see, my interests are diverse, and I'm very inquisitive. I know all about these different topics if only in name... Perhaps I can be described with an intellectual with depth."

When I first read this passage I laughed at loud because I could think of many areas in my life where this must be the subconscious message on repeat. And yesterday I realized that similar dialogue sparked up. "I must have all these beautiful things to show the world how stylish and eclectic my taste is." Again, I am not saying having things to express one's personality is bad. I am just reflecting on my own uncomfortable impulses of yesterday. Then this morning, in my 5 Minute Journal, I found the quote of the day to be a perfect reminder:

"We don't really want things. We want the feelings we thing those things will give us." -Gary Tan

And the beautiful thing about that quote was that I reflect again on the day what stands out most it how much inspiration I got looking at all of the things made by people over the years, how much fun it was exploring with my partner, and how many times we told each other what a great day it had been, and those were the feelings I can hold on to.

2018 Life Resolutions

2018 Life Resolutions

I love goal setting, and I am all for new years resolutions. I think they are a great way to keep moving forward and growing. I also think any day is a great day to set one, and the ringing in of the new year is the perfect inspiration to refresh any goals that may be on the back burner. So I will stop blabbering on and get down to what you're here for, my 2018 resolutions!

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2017 Resolutions Report Card

For the past few of years I have shared both my annual travel resolutions and report cards on how I did on them. So I will give you on guess as to what today's post is about... You guessed it! I want to share how I did on my 2017 Resolutions.

Taking a moment at the  Real Alcázar de Sevilla
Taking a moment at the Real Alcázar de Sevilla

Before the grades, Read my 2017 Resolutions

Self Care

A This year I really worked on taking care of myself. I turned 30 in September and almost as if a switch was flipped I faced health issues. Self-care for me was about devoting time to my wellness. Putting my mental and physical health first. Treasuring me. This care manifested in creating relaxation habits, challenging myself to 100 days of mindfulness and meditation, saying no more often and not overstretching myself, and working in more rest when I travel (like an entire day spent on the beach instead of exploring all day).

Weekend Trips

A+ I think this resolution to make the best use of my time and explore more is where I really shined this year. In the past, I usually have one big 2-week long vacation a year and maybe a weekend trip or 2 out of state to see family. This year I spend a week in LA, a weekend in Woodstock, day trips upstate and out to Long Island, a long weekend in North Carolina, a trip to DC, many summer days at the Rockaways, and most recently a trip to Las Vegas for the holidays. Not only was I able to find the funds to make these small trips happen (hello there tiny wardrobe budget), but I also found the stamina! And one of the big reasons my partner and moved to California a month ago was to be able to take more road trips (year round) and see more of this gorgeous country. So stay tuned in 2018, this resolution is sticking around!

Human Component

A+ This resolution was all about connecting with people and using travel as a way to have conversations and expand my worldview and relationships. I had so many incredible trips that were centered around being with people I love. From a weekend in upstate New York with a group of great friends, to visiting Grandmother in North Carolina, and even traveling to Europe to meet up with my partner's side of the family that lives in different corners of the world. I even got to meet another Instagram friend while visiting LA in March, and she even helped inspire my move out west (thank you, Kristin!).

All in all, I did pretty great this year. Later this week I will share my 2018 goals but in the meantime check out some of my past goals (and my nearly not as stellar report card from last year).

 

100 Days of Mindfulness

I currently have a pretty severe strain in my right forearm. I've had it for nearly a week and it will still be there for at least a few more days. I swear I have a reason for telling you this...

The thing is that I know exactly what it is from because I have had this pain before. It's a result of my appalling desk posture. I often will work in an uncomfortable position, mindlessly, for hours only to realize it the next day when I go to grab something and I feel a sharp pain. I, like most people, have a lot of these mindless habits. I bite my nails, I forget to eat lunch, I leave the house to work and arrive at my desk not noticing the 15 minutes that had passed. I just get lost in my thoughts. Often.

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Getting lost in your thoughts aren't a big deal but, as I have discussed in the past, I feel like these little mindless moments add up to a lot of life lost, or enable habits I'd prefer not to have; flashback to all those times I have eaten a whole box of cookies in one sitting and not notice until my knuckles hit the cardboard. Oops.

This is why I challenged myself to the 100 Day Project, but my version of it. This project was initially created for makers to make for 100 days in a row. It is an exercise in appreciating the process and understanding one's creativity. I want to use it to build my mindfulness muscle. I plan to do this through meditating, developing mindfulness "triggers," and studying up on mindful philosophy. I have begin documenting my first days on Instagram (if you aren't following me there please do, that's where all the magic has been happening lately!) and am about to say buh-bye to week 1!

I am very excited to see how this goes, I have no hypotheses at this point. I am just taking a shot in the dark and feeling my way through hoping to be a more present and appreciative version of myself by the end of it all.

A Simple, Difficult Task: Being Present

A little over a year ago it was early morning and I was walking the damp, dark streets of lower Manhattan to my office. Imagine cold winter winds, and the noise of construction added to the rushed feeling of every workday. It isn't surprising that I came to dread that walk each day. I would turn on autopilot for each of the 15 minutes each way and managed to just barely tolerate it. Given that I have a limited number of these half hour periods each day (about 32 intact, I did the math), I began to realize spending even one of them feeling miserable or checked out is a waste of my life. 130 hours a year of just "getting by," NOPE. I decided I didn't want to just give away that time anymore so I started what I though would be a simple challenge.

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My challenge: to be present (or "mindful") during that walk. Despite the fact that I couldn't control the weather or the noise or the all of the city grime, I wanted to pay attention and find at least one thing amongst the chaos I could witness and appreciate. Some of these things I began to document on Instagram, or I would share with friends directly. Some of them I would keep for myself. Sometimes it would be an object, other times an interaction between people. At times I would just savor a feeling I had. This little practice on my walk evolved to observing myself, how I felt, how I walk, how I breathe and very quickly my walk became something enjoyable (even in the cold weather!).

The reason this was difficult is because it required me to quiet my thoughts and acknowledge my environment. I was so used to letting my mind run, usually trying to anticipate what the day would hold, that I didn't notice my surroudings or even myself. This was my perfect intro to mindfulness and meditation. It was a short, consistent activity to get my feet wet in this world.

At the time I had no idea of how vast these practices were. My only goal was to stop taking these 30 minutes a day for granted and try to experience something new before I reached the office and spent 8 hours working away. Now, a year later, I have been done more research and expanded my practice I am experiencing new benefits benefits.

So far I have noticed that mindfulness has helped me limit the anxious rumination and overthinking in my head. It is also improving how I interact with other people, allowing me to be more engaged and a much more compassionate listener. Along those same lines my memory is improving (because I am actually making memories and not getting lost in my head!). And I also feel more appreciation. This one is hard to explain, but I think that when your are present and truly taking in what you are doing, where you are, who you are with, etc. you recognize the miracle and beauty of life. It's kind of amazing. These are just a few things I've noted from my blossoming mindfulness practice so far.

For more on the psychology of why being present is so hard check out this article. That's all for now!

Please let me know if you have any mindful practices, I'd love to hear about them!