Life Taken for Granted

Moving back into my little house in my little city, I was reminded of a story my mom told my sister and I when we were children about Nasruddin, the wise fool found in much Eastern folklore and especially popular in Sufism.

One day a neighbor approached Nasruddin, lamenting the fact that his house was too small for his large family and asking Mulla Nasruddin for his advice.

“Yes,” replied Nasruddin, “do you have any chickens?”

“Yes,” said the man.

“Bring them all into the house,” Nasruddin told the man. “And if you have any geese or ducks, bring them in too.”

“But, it’s already so crowded, I don’t understand how this will help.”

“You asked for my advice. This is it.”

The man went home and brought his 10 chickens into the house. The next day he returned to Nasruddin.

“It’s awful,” he said. “They’re dirty and loud and it’s more crowded than before.”

“Good,” Nasruddin replied. “Now, do you have a donkey? A horse?”

“We have a donkey,” the man said.

“Wonderful, bring him into the house as well.”

“But…ok” the man replied.

The man returned the next day, looking more exhausted than before.

“It’s worse,” he said. “Between my wife and kids and in-laws and the donkey and chickens, it’s just much, much worse.”

“Wonderful,” Nasruddin replied. “Do you have any goats? Pigs? Dogs? Cats?”

“Yes, we have all of these animals.”

“Terrific. Please bring them all into your house.”

“But, I don’t see how this… ok.”

The next day the man returned, looking worse than ever.

“I haven’t been able to sleep” he told Nasruddin. “And now my family is all mad at me for bringing in the animals. Everyone is fighting more than before. The animals are eating all of the food. There’s not enough room for us in our own home.”

“Great,” Nasruddin smiled. “Now go home and put all of the animals back outside.”

Wearily, the man agreed and walked home.

The next morning the man reappeared, smiling.

“Mulla, your plan worked perfectly. Last night we all slept, no one is arguing, and everyone is very content in our little home.”

I’ve always loved this story and think of it often. How easy it is to take our lives for granted until that which makes them up is changed or removed and we are left realizing how good we had it.

Before moving to LA, I never gave my driveway or washing machine a second thought. I was bored with low overhead, believing that my life was too easy and that I wasn’t pushing myself hard enough. So, I traded my home for shared walls, shared laundry, and street parking, increased my overhead by half and made the move.

It was fun, it was new, and it was a change, which is maybe what I needed most of all. And then it was old, the same, and normal. As life goes. “Wherever you go, there you are.” I came to realize how mellow I am and how mellow the life I love is. I cook. I blog. I work. I go to the movies. I visit friends.

The museums and concerts in LA are great, as is the shopping. There is more of everything to choose from. The food is amazing. But, when it came down to it, too much choice actually made me slightly catatonic and I began to crave routine and simplicity over excitement.

Now, back in my funny little desert city, with it’s empty streets, quiet night life, and my own personal driveway, you’d think I’d won the lottery. I’m perfecting my yogurt recipes, riding my bike, and relishing not having to work as much. Sometimes it takes giving something up to realize what you had and to remember that simple can be great.

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Seasons

Working nights for the first time in a long time. Woke and made my way to find caffeine, as kids got off the bus from their first day of school. Mid August, still too hot for back to school sweaters and coats, though beautiful near the harbor in San Pedro where I am sitting, drinking tea, trying to wake up. The end is in sight. Last week of shooting. Day 96. The faintest hint of fall in the air. Maybe it’s the light. Or my imagination. Only 40 minutes from Silver Lake, but feels farther. Grateful for the dark, cool hotel room that lets me sleep during the day. Yesterday I woke too early and, unable to go back to sleep, went for a drive… Down Harbor Blvd until it dead-ended at Warehouse 1, then past the Korean Friendship Bell, before heading up and over the Vincent Thomas bridge and Los Angeles Harbor to Long Beach. Felt like a dream as I drove past the apartment I rented years ago but, due to several location jobs, was hardly ever in; past streets that were familiar but more like I’d seen them in a movie, not my own life. Had the overwhelming feeling that I’m glad it’s now and not then, thankful that clarity does come with the years. 2018. What a strange one you’ve been. Maybe it’s that ingrained back to school rhythm I’ve yet to grow out of. Still feels like this is the actual beginning of the year. New clothes, teachers, friends, routines, projects, and hopes. The change of seasons in Southern California is subtle; leaves do fall, flowers do bloom, the light slants at a different angle, but you really can mistake April for September for December. My internal clock has yet to figure it out. I look forward to knowing that I can wear a sweater and bake bread in October, hibernate by a fire in January, and re-emerge in March. If you enjoy these posts, please follow Smagik.com and please share!

Chaos

 

IMG_7396My life is currently in boxes, covered in bubble wrap, and running on caffeine and meditation. The show I’ve been working on since March is coming to a close and, along with my apartment, is being packed, boxed, and moved. Though I don’t have to actually move until the end of the month, I find it easier to just do it now, little by little on my weekends, so that my brain has one less reason to wake at 3 a.m.

I am not a good procrastinator. Once I make a decision, I just want to get on with it already.

I recently read a great book entitled “first, we make the beast beautiful” by Sarah Wilson. IMG_7606

In it, she takes us through her struggles with anxiety and, though mine differ from hers in several ways, I found myself having “aha moments” throughout and passing the book along to several friends. Though there were too many such moments to mention here, and you really should just read the book if any of this sounds familiar, the ones that  stood out were about the need for a non negotiable morning routine, how not making decisions can increase our anxiety rather than the other way around, and the idea that anxiety can not survive in the present moment; thus when people find themselves in real legit crises, when one might think their anxiety would spike, instead it ceases completely.

Having a morning routine is a certainty anchor with really sturdy stakes….once the certainty anchors are in place, the day starts and all kinds of chaotic decision-making can then ensue. (p 217-218)

I know my morning routine has not only gotten me through the past few months, but has helped me to be kinder and more patient, with myself and others, as well. I wake 1.5-2 hours before I need to leave (that can be really early when working on a film set) which  this gives me enough time to stretch for 10 minutes, meditate for 20, make my lunch, and get ready. I use the ‘Insight Timer’ app on my phone for guided meditations or as a meditation timer and, as of this morning, it told me that I have meditated for 96 consecutive days. I remember the day I began meditating after a long break; it was right after I returned from a month of working in Monterey County, in May.  I woke one morning, looked around my apartment, panicked and knew I wasn’t where I wanted to be, physically, spiritually, or emotionally. Meditation helped me to get clear about the direction I wanted to go.

The funny thing is that behavior studies show that we think making a decision is more anxiety-riddled than not making a decision. But, in fact, the opposite is true…when we decide to do something and it turns out badly, it mostly doesn’t haunt us down the track…failing to act on a decision, however, will haunt us. The infinite possibilities of what might have been get us into all kinds of anxious messes. (p 223)

Once I made the decision to move back to NM, even though it temporarily threw my life into chaos, I felt an overwhelming calm. In the past, I have been known to passively make decisions by not making decisions (fyi, it’s still a decision and the consequences I was hoping to avoid by not making a decision in the first place were still mine to deal with in the end). And, I have also been known to make decisions and then feel trapped by that decision, forgetting momentarily that I am always free to simply make another decision, to choose differently, and to change my mind.

Los Angeles was a choice I made that I knew would haunt me on some level if I didn’t give it another try. I am glad I did. Moving back to NM is a choice that feels good right now, but who knows? Will it in a year? We will never know the answer to these questions so, just take the next right step and see where it leads. Trying to figure it out ahead of time is a guaranteed anxiety producer!

You can’t be anxious and be in the present. And you can’t be anxious and attend to genuine fear or catastrophes. And you can’t be anxious and walk mindfully or breathe deeply. (p 230)

I should be anxious right now, but I’m not. Anytime I wake up in the middle of the night, wondering what I am doing, I just breathe and remind myself that it is all an adventure.  People move, change careers, get dogs, and come up with the plan as they go, all of the time. But, “first, we make the beast beautiful,” and therefor less scary.

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LA

Ten years ago I packed my car and made the first of what would be dozens of drives from Albuquerque to Los Angeles, and back.

The 4th of July, 2008, and 119 degrees in the Mojave desert. I stopped outside of Needles, California, to get gas and a chocolate dipped cone at Dairy Queen and had to eat it in one bite to prevent vanilla from melting down my arm. That night I made it to my then boyfriend’s apartment, overlooking the lake in Echo Park, in time to watch East LA explode in an illegal frenzy of fireworks. Though I’d visited periodically in the year we’d been dating, I remember feeling like a country mouse in the city. That night I lay in bed as police helicopters circled the park outside the window, shining their searchlight inside, looking for someone. It was hot out. I didn’t sleep.

In the years that followed, I became comfortable in LA, joined their costumer’s union, and created a routine between the two cities, mixing slow and fast paced, laid back with competitive.

And then, two years ago, I became tired of that routine and wanted to shake it up, develop a new one, have an adventure, try something new. LA seemed the safest way to do that. The truth is that even in my need to break free I was practical and conservative.

Recently a friend asked me if I thought of myself as a romantic. Yes, I replied. Though a practical one. She laughed. I’m the same, she said.

I make lists but they go something like this-

Watch sunsets.

Learn to make bread and yogurt.

Get a dog. Name her Pearl. If a girl.

Dig in the dirt.

Open a little shop.

Etc.

You get the idea.

And then one day, a few months ago, one of my many lists became one of pros and cons. LA/NM. Uh oh. As soon as I started writing, I knew another move was in my future.

LA Pros-

Fun, exciting, interesting, creative, accessible, museums, concerts, stores, classes, friends, The Moth, live theater, earn more money, inspiring…

NM Pros-

My cute/inexpensive house, family, friends, quality of life, low overhead, dog yard is ready, garden, air quality, commute times, mountains, spend less money…

LA Cons-

Expensive, hate paying rent, need a roommate or boyfriend just to afford renting a house with a yard, much less ever buying one, traffic, air, have to work too much…

NM Cons…

Slow paced.

I groaned. Do I really have to move my stuff down 60 stairs again, less than two years after my dad helped me move it up in a blinding rainstorm with no electricity?

Yup.

A friend asked me today if I will miss LA? I love LA! I will miss it. But, the truth is that my ego will miss it more than my soul.

I also know that it is here, hopefully not falling into the ocean anytime soon, and I will return to work and play, just not to live.

And so the adventure continues. And, yet again, the only constant is change.

Stay tuned…

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One year later.

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It’s been just over a year since I signed the lease on my apartment in LA and just under one since I first saw it empty, before it had been painted or cleaned, on December 1st. I started to cry when I entered the sad looking kitchen to pick up the keys and wondered “what on earth have I done?” One week earlier I had seen potential; good windows with a lot of light, dark wood floors, high ceilings, and a killer location. My gut told me it was a good landing pad and had enough of what I was looking for to jump in and commit. Now, holding the keys, I wasn’t so sure.

My gut was right.

And it’s already been a year. Wow!

The parrot who whistles in an oddly human way and lives downstairs is now part of my soundtrack. The neighbors next door let me pick pomegranates from their tree. I walk in the Silver Lake hills for cardio. I made new friends, as an adult, living in LA!

Over the past year I have kept the “what on earth are you doing?” voices at bay by answering with a simple “it’s all an adventure.” There is no big plan, no grand vision that I will check off a list and be done with. But, rather, there are many small visions that continuously guide me in one direction, periodically overlapping and mingling. If there is a grand plan it is happiness and presence and authenticity, to feel that I am actively participating in and creating my life with each of my decisions and no longer passively coasting.

While talking to a friend about my interests in tarot and improv and writing, I said “I’m just getting weirder and weirder,” to which she replied, “no, you’re just getting you-er and you-er.”

I was so afraid to let go of my comfortable life in New Mexico but knew on a gut level that comfort was not my friend, at least not now, maybe not ever. I needed to know what I was capable of and to push myself. The ironic and unforeseen part was that when I chose to uproot and take myself away from that external comfort, a new internal one took its place. I have confidence in myself, my gut, my voice, and in my ability to make a home wherever I am, that I didn’t have before.

What I could never have predicted was that, at the same time I chose adventure over fear, the world was asked to choose as well. It is fascinating to watch how that choice, the way in which we all view change, has split our country and our world over the past year.  Will it be expansion, love, trust, and progress, as we move forward into an unknown? Or fear and constriction as we futilely cling to what once was?

May you live in interesting times.  – Chinese curse.

It has been interesting! Exhausting. Fascinating.

And, the truth is that, for all of us, there is no going back. There is no “oh I’ll just go have a little revolution, personal or otherwise, and then fit nicely back into this hole I have been in!” Nope. We are in it now and all we can do is continue to move in the direction of love and faith, always choosing to see the adventure side of the coin.

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Rear View

Lessons of 2017, so far-

You can not go backwards. 

When changing ingrained habits, you will be tested. 

Humor is invaluable. 

You can only ever make the next right choice. 

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It is up to you and only you to create the life you want. 

Your teachers will come in all forms. 

Until the lessons are learned, the situations will repeat. 

Resistance works. 

Panic achieves nothing. 

Creativity is a necessity. 

Sometimes it is necessary to turn off the news and turn up the music. 

 Your intuition is Always right. 

Life goes on. 

***

As my dad and I recently made what I hope to be the final drive moving things from my house in New Mexico to my apartment in LA, I was struck by the thought that just one year ago, none of my current reality was anywhere on a conscious horizon. For all I knew, I was content to keep living in my house, working as a costumer, and continuing as before. Forever. The truth is that I wasn’t consciously thinking about any of it, but rather just going along. 

Cut to the winter of 2017 and I am living in a different place, working as little as possible in my career of over a decade, protesting my current government, taking improv classes, signing up for multiple other classes, dating, and consciously creating a life that reflects and encompasses who I want to be. 

And I really have no idea what I am doing! Like seriously no idea. I am being repeatedly  tested when saying no to the familiar and comfortable, be they cities, jobs, or habits, as if the Universe wants to be really certain of my commitment. After emerging from the tests, I simply try to make the next right decision on a daily basis, saying no to the things I know do not work, and trusting that at least then there will be room for what does work, even if I don’t yet know what that is. Onward–>

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Adventure

Happy 2017, smagik readers! 

On NYE morning, I woke up in a motel in Kingman, Arizona, half way between NM and LA. New Years Eve. 2016 for another few hours. And, as I sat eating my complimentary breakfast, all I could think was “I didn’t realize leaving my comfort zone would be so uncomfortable.” Ha! That possibility had honestly never crossed my mind. Not until I was home for Christmas, loading up my car with things to take to LA, saying goodbye to family, and driving across the desert, again. 

When I arrived in LA, it was drizzling and chilly as I made the fifteen or so trips up and down 48 stairs to unload art, dishes, shoes, files, Christmas presents, one Buddha statue, and a shelf from my car. Once unloaded, I stared at piles of things deemed worthy of bringing west. Wow, now what? “Just keep going,” whispered a voice. 

While home for Christmas, I became aware of two distinct voices raging a sort of battle in my head. One was loud, screaming, scared, gripping, wanting only to stay safe, secure, and to know how everything was going to turn out. The other was a faint whisper that told me to keep going and to trust that I was being guided. And for much of the trip, the screams were winning. It was only after my first panic attack in ten years, late at night on Christmas night, that I realized how quickly and urgently I had been operating for the past few months and that it was time to get quiet, slow down, and come back to the whispers.  

When I slow down, tune in, and keep myself very, very present, it is easy to trust in the adventure and timing of my life. When I move too fast and try to manhandle the universe into doing things exactly how I want them done, WHEN I want them done, panic ensues. 

So, here I am in my fairly empty but cute apartment, sharing walls with strangers for the first time since college, exploring a new neighborhood, and trying to just make one decision at a time. All I know is that this feels right for the time being. I needed to mix things up and I succeeded and I have to trust that I will continue to succeed. 

Because I find there to be the finest of lines between fear and excitement, I choose Adventure as my word for 2017. When handed choices, obstacles, and situations, I plan to make my decisions from a place of “what is the adventurous, and therefor trusting, way to do this?” It builds upon my 2016 word of Faith, around which I know I still have more than a few lessons to learn. I trust that by bringing Adventure into the mix, I will choose fun and joy more frequently, keep myself present, and practice having Faith that I am being guided through the fog. Onward! 


I wish all of you a joyous, happy, present, fun, healthy, prosperous, and adventurous year!! Make it great! 

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