40

I have to say, at least I still make myself laugh! Like that time I moved to LA in large part because I saw 40 approaching and was totally freaked out that it would arrive to find me in the same house, city, and career I’d been in since my mid twenties. Or that time I moved back from LA into that same house, city, and career and breathed a sigh of relief that they were all still there, two years later, patiently waiting for me to realize that none of those outward things had anything to do with inner peace, contentment, or joy.

Happiness does not depend on outward things, but on the way we see them.

-Leo Tolstoy

And now 40 is here, today, and that makes me laugh too. I was so worried about this particular birthday and all of the arbitrary meaning imposed upon it. If anything, I now feel excited to begin a new decade in the same way I felt excited to begin 2019; a clean slate upon which to design a life I love. img_0331

My twenties and thirties were weird! Good parts, bad parts, and a lot of heavy, confused, conflicted parts. I am happy to say that by the time my late thirties rolled around, I’d become better at having fun and at seeing it all as an adventure, which eased much of that self imposed pressure.

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Am I evolving backwards? I wonder. I was a serious child, teen, and young adult. When my peers listened to pop, I preferred Leonard Coen, Bob Dylan, and any cowboy poet crooning over love and loss. I would draw and design my “fashion books” for hours at the dining room table and fall asleep to Italian lessons on tape at night. An odd duck.

Now, I just want to dance. And laugh. And write and draw and relearn the languages I studied as a child, but have mostly let go dormant.

Spirals coming back around. Never the same lesson but one that takes me just a bit deeper.

Life is short.

Are the 40’s the decade in which the self finds a groove, some clarity, and answers appear? Maybe.

Or maybe we will always feel like our five year old selves inside, amazed when the world bestows the word adult upon us? It seems that little girl understood herself pretty clearly and that ever since I have simply been coming home, back to her.

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Forward>Backward

IMG_1071I was recently granted one of those rare opportunities to step back into the past for just long enough to see how much everything has changed. As Zora Neale Hurston wrote in her book Their Eyes Were Watching God, “there are years that ask questions and years that answer,” and, after so many spent in the question phase, it is a relief to feel and see  answers popping up all over my life.

I spent February in Los Angeles, working on the same TV series I spent half of 2018 on. Same characters, same costumes, same locations and crew; and yet my life has totally changed in the six months since we initially wrapped. No more Silver Lake apartment or weekends spent wandering aimlessly. No more dating or existential beach walks during which I wondered what to do next; Should I look for a new place to live in LA? Move? Give that boring guy a second date? So many days, weeks, months spent going in circles, trying to figure it all out in my head, trying anything to alleviate constant anxiety. Until one May morning, last Mother’s Day weekend, I woke up and knew it had to change. I was unhappy and the beach walks weren’t working. It was time to throw it all up in the air and stop trying to force anything.

I started meditating every day. I stuck with heart opening mantras in the hope that my heart always knows which direction is best and would guide me in ways my head only ever pretends to.

And the answers began to come…back to my little house in the desert…back to part time work and hiking and making and cooking and creating and love and to family and connection. I fell back in love with the life I had taken for granted just a couple of years before.

And then February, 2019. Back in LA. Back for a quick taste of what I left behind and all I could think of was how I couldn’t wait to return to the desert, to the man, house, yard, couch, family, and to the life that happened as soon as I stopped trying to force the answers.

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HBD, Smagik!

Six years ago I created this blog as an exercise to find beauty in the everyday. It was a dreary, February day and I needed a self induced push and reason to get off the couch. By creating the goal of finding or eating or going to or doing something beautiful, delicious, fun, and joyful everyday, my life began to take on these same qualities. Small, everyday, easy to take for granted moments took on a new significance simply by being noticed and appreciated.

Thank you for joining me on the journey! And here’s to many more years of Adventure, Joy, Connection, and to finding the beauty in all of our everydays!

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@smagikstudio

Holidaze’ Backwards Gaze.

IMG_9707Another year almost complete, cookies everywhere I look, twinkle lights, car accidents within feet of each other near the mall, the frenzy is upon us! How to stay present, sane, and joyful in the midst of traffic, lines, and expectations (most often self imposed)? It’s time to practice all that we’ve begun throughout the year, returning to morning routines, meditation, slowing down to breath and to laugh. And making lists helps too.

2018! What a bizarre year. How was yours?

One year ago I was preparing for a trip to India, finishing my improv and writing classes in LA, packing my car to drive East on I-40 for my Christmas trip home and the idea that I would soon move back to New Mexico permanently was nowhere on the horizon. Already that life seems like a dream. I recently hung my California license plate on the wall in my studio after finally re-registering my car in NM, as proof that it did happen, but the dreamlike quality remains.

After the initial chaos of the move back, life is finding a groove and I once again feel in the flow. 11:11 repeatedly appears, the perfect opportunities come from nowhere, old friends resurface, and only now does the level to which I was forcing things in LA seem clear. Not that it was bad. Great jobs came along, I met wonderful people, took classes, lived in a cute apartment, and overall had little to complain about, but the flow was missing. My  life felt manhandled and like something to figure out and to solve, rather than to simply be in.

But, it is also clear that it was something I had to do. I now know without any doubt that “wherever you go, there you are.” There is never anything out there (a job, a relationship, a city) that can magically create joy and contentment if it doesn’t already exist inside. We always come back to ourselves whether we like it or not.

I’m currently mulling over words for 2019. As most of you know, I intuitively choose one for each year and invariably they set the tone for the coming year. Love was my word for 2018 and when I chose it, just over one year ago, I had an inkling that though I would have loved for it to herald the arrival of an amazing new romantic relationship, it might end up being more about the self-love kind. Bingo.

And here I am, with two weeks to go before a new year begins, feeling so full of gratitude, contentment, joy, and cookies I could burst. All that I took for granted prior to moving (like my washing machine and driveway), all that I discovered and experienced while in LA (improv, storytelling, being on location for two months in sublime Northern California) and all that I want to create (an integrated life) are coming together and aligning beautifully. And I don’t take any of it for granted.

Scattered around my kitchen table, along with cookie recipes, shopping lists, and wrapping paper, are lists of words… Alignment. Commitment. Fun. Flow… I’m waiting for the 2019 winner to rise to the surface.

What’s your word for the upcoming year? What do you want to create?

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Gratitude + WTF

There is something about Thanksgiving that I just really, really love. Besides the pie, the cozy fuzzies, and the tradition. I love the craziness of it all.

I worked until 8 tonight and on what other night would I ever come home after working for twelve hours and decide to make a dessert that had terms I needed to google? When else would any of us drive for hours to argue about politics with people we don’t like very much (but do somehow love) and cook gigantic birds when we order takeout the other 364 nights a year?

I swore I bought everything I needed at the grocery store on Sunday and, yet, where was I at 8:10 tonight? Trader Joe’s.

“Do you sell tin foil?” I asked my cashier, hopefully.

“No, oh my god, I hope my wife remembered to buy some. We should, we really should have it. Do you mind if I have Siri text her while you’re swiping your card?”

Bouquets of flowers, bottles of wine, frozen pumpkin cheesecakes… the store looked like a herd of elephants had just run through, though the festive vibe made it seem like a friendly herd. Most shoppers were carrying baskets rather than pushing carts, the true procrastinators or, more likely, the guests; responsible only for appetizers, pie, flowers, and beverages. Maybe a baguette.

I am currently waiting for my hazelnuts to cool. I was supposed to bake them for 10-15 minutes or until their skin darkened and cracked. At that point I need to wrap them in a clean towel and rub them, so their skin comes off. So far, it’s been 20 minutes and the skin isn’t sloughing, no matter how hard I rub. Like a woman in a Turkish bath, scrubbing away, these guys won’t budge. I’m about to put them in the blender with the rice flour, skins and all, heaven forbid.

But, see what I mean? It’s funny.

I just googled ‘fruit curd’ upon realizing I had no idea what my recipe was talking about.

And all over the country people are stuck in traffic or airports or on the couch next to weird Uncle Joe. They are googling gravy recipes, calling their mom or missing their mom.

I will never forget a newscast I saw years ago on the Wednesday night before Thanksgiving. “What is it you love most about Thanksgiving?” the newscaster asked a bunch of people stuck in an airport somewhere. Mom was the overwhelming answer. And pie.

But, back to my hazelnuts and curd.

Wishing you and yours a Smagikal Thanksgiving and, whether you’re home alone, with friends or mom, roasting a turkey or making a tuna sandwich, baking a pie or trying that new 26 step recipe that seemed like a good idea last month, may the craziness make you laugh!

If you want to try the New York Times Cranberry Curd Tart with me, let me know how your skin sloughing goes!

https://cooking.nytimes.com/recipes/1017817-cranberry-curd-tart?grocerylist

Commit…

To Commit- Verb: To pledge or bind (a person or an organization) to a certain course or policy: “they were reluctant to commit themselves to an opinion”

Synonyms: Pledge, devote, apply, give, dedicate, bind, obligate.

This word has been popping up everywhere lately.

Do what you say you are going to do. Do what you say you want to do.

Make a decision (you will always be able to make another one later). Non negotiable morning routines. Presence. Clarity. Be where you are. Love over fear. Forward momentum. Commit to Joy. Health. Community. Love. Creativity. Prosperity. Relationships. Beauty. Your dreams. Travel. Freedom. Whatever. Your city. Your job. Your family. Your dog. Yourself.

But, do it.

And, Go!

Disclaimer: my WordPress formatting has been spazzing out lately. I have no idea how this will look after I hit ‘publish’. Makes it exciting:/

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Zero Sum, blah blah

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zero-sum, noun

: of, relating to, or being a situation (such as a game or relationship) in which a gain for one side entails a corresponding loss for the other side.

win-win, adjective

: advantageous or satisfactory to all parties involved.

Wowza!!! September.

I arrived back in New Mexico on Friday night, amid a fantastic electric thunder storm that lit up the night sky as we drove west on I-40. The smell of desert rain came through the vent as NPR played in the background. After not having slept well for about a month, and almost not at all for a week, I was on autopilot, willing myself to drive and arrive safely and to think about what comes next, later.

Everything felt completely familiar and totally different.

Listening to our President speak on NPR, I was almost jealous of his ignorant black and white view of the world. Jealous is the wrong word, but how nice it must be to live in a fabricated world of certainty where there is right and wrong and winners and losers, good/bad and never any grey or complication.

Moving back to New Mexico didn’t make LA any less cool in my mind. It didn’t make the things that worked for me there any less great, nor did it mean I’d never return.  Coming back to the beauty, familiarity, and ease of my home state, didn’t mean that the things that had previously annoyed me or felt small here would suddenly cease to do so. My love and annoyance with each could and would exist simultaneously.

paradox, noun

: a seemingly absurd or self-contradictory statement or proposition that when investigated or explained may prove to be well founded and true.

In her book “You are a Badass. How to stop doubting your greatness and start living an awesome life,” author Jen Sincero writes about the idea of just seeing what you can get away with. Because that book, which I love (and which you will too), is still packed away with all of my other books, I’ll paraphrase; we are our own worst enemies in that we limit ourselves before giving ourselves a chance to even begin, by thinking of the ways in which something probably won’t work, so therefor why bother?

You want to work as little as possible and live as well as possible and travel and create things and do all of the stuff you want to do, when you want to do it? You basically want it all? Good luck!

Why thank you, yes. I do want it all. I want to be healthy and alive and vibrant and in so doing, inspire others to do/be the same, the way others have inspired me. I want to live where I want to live, work where/when I want to work, and stop believing that somehow this is asking too much.

My hairstylist in LA just moved to Oakland to become a baker. Several friends are going back to school. My neighbor in Albuquerque refuses debt of any sort and pays cash for everything; it’s taken him 15 years to fix up his 150 year old adobe home, but now it’s beautiful and he did it on his terms.

Who says that to have this, you can’t have that? Or to do this, you can’t do that? Bosses, teachers, advertisers, parents, banks, co-workers, and so many other voices that are not actually ours, or true, weasel their way into our brains and come out sounding like practical logic. Based on what? Other people’s fears or a company’s desire to sell you something?

I am going back to looking at the adventure of it all and asking Why Not when an idea pops into my mind. I refuse to believe that for this to work, that can’t work, or that win-win situations, in which we all come out ahead, are too idealistic. Let’s just see what we can get away with!

Photo taken on I-40 West, near Holbrook, AZ.

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Weekend

Wet legs. Sandy feet. Salty hair. Unplug. Drive west. Breathe deep. Get burned. Sit in traffic. $20 to park. Watch the longboard competition. Calm down. Another deep breath. 83 degrees. Cool breeze, salty air. Sunday. Enjoy. If you enjoy these posts, please follow Smagik.com and please comment and share.

The Beauty

    Today I planned to write something about how, after the past week’s worth of insane news stories, I want to fight fascism by using every ounce of my energy and resources to find beauty in the everyday and to remind others to do the same. Those who can find beauty in life, don’t have time for hate.
    But, as I sat down to my computer to think of a thesis, a friend texted that there was an active shooter at the Trader Joe’s in Silver Lake, less than a mile from my home and where I spend roughly 94% of my Saturday afternoons. Today I was tired and it was hot and I didn’t feel like driving there. Customers and employees are currently escaping through a window at the back, down a ladder thrown up by LAPD, and are running away from the entrance. And instead of writing, I am watching this through a live feed on my computer.
    You think you know which way is up until, as you compare the price of Cheddar to Swiss, a car robbery gone wrong crashes in front of the store and a desperate man with a gun enters.
    You think you know which way is up, until the President if the United States takes the side of Vladimir Putin over that of his own Intelligence Agencies, then denies he did that, though you know you saw it and heard it yourself, and then denies that he denied it, until you don’t know what happened and begin to doubt your own sanity. Or you scream.
    I was shushed on set this week, something that doesn’t happen often. “You’re so quiet” is a comment I often hear, though maybe not when with my mother, sister, or a few choice friends. Normally I don’t get shushed. But, Helsinki made me scream. While reading the news on my phone in the dark coolness of a soundstage, I had to go outside, have a sip of water, and calm down before I ruined the take.
    I still hear helicopters circling outside. The sirens have subsided for now, though most of my neighborhood directly north is surrounded by LAPD.
    Another reminder that we never really know which way is up. I’m about to pick up a friend and go to a photography show. There might be food or wine. If there is, I will eat it and drink it. When I make eye contact with someone, I will smile. I will support the artists, the writers, the thinkers, the comedians, the journalists, and all those who seek beauty and truth.  I will continue to believe that there is more goodness than evil and more love than fear around us. And as the world spins and up is down and down is up, if there is music, I’ll dance.
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    Photo taken by me of a photo taken by Rebekah Potter.

The Winding Road

We must be willing to let go of the life we planned so as to have the life that is waiting for us.

-Joseph Campbell

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Yesterday I stood on the edge of grassy cliff overlooking the Pacific Ocean and thought about Joseph Campbell’s words, as salty wind whipped my hair and wildflowers rustled my jeans. With my car parked on the shoulder of Highway 1, somewhere between Carmel and Big Sur, California, I knew that I was exactly where I was supposed to be but also wondered how I had gotten there. Thirty nine, no children, no pets, no husband, a career that won’t let me break up with it no matter how many times I try and for which I am grateful, a month on location in one of the most spectacular places on earth, a full weekend to myself, too may hobbies to count, and a mixture of gratitude, wonder, and uncertainty.

Is this it? Does everyone look around, at their life, and ask that question, not as one of lack, but out of curiosity?

Keep some room in your heart for the unimaginable.

-Mary Oliver

I am not actually sure what the life I planned looked like. I wanted to be everything from an actress, to a window dresser, linguist, and writer. I assumed marriage and children would just happen though I never thought too much about it. They still might. I don’t know where I saw myself living or what exactly I saw myself doing, I just assumed that one morning I would wake up, look around, and think “oh good, finally figured it out and now it all makes sense.” HAAA!

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On Friday I sat in the front seat of the car carrying a famous actress to a movie set. To my right the sun was beginning to set over the Pacific Ocean and, as we curved around the famous 17 Mile Drive, through Pacific Grove and into Carmel, news about President Trump’s decision to launch missiles into Syria played over the radio. Heaven and hell all in one surreal, twenty minute drive.

How do we let go of how we thought it would be, so we can be present and have gratitude for what is actually happening in our lives, moment by moment, and thereby be of service to ourselves and others?

Don’t ask what the world needs. Ask what makes you come alive. And go do it. Because what the world needs is people who have come alive.

-Howard Thurman

What makes me come alive? Getting in my car with my camera on an empty day with no agenda other than to drive, take pictures of what I see, listen to music as I go, and share the beauty that I find with others. Though finding beauty on California Highway 1 is actually unavoidable, I have as much fun doing the same in Georgia, LA, Colorado or wherever else my job and life take me. IMG_4329

I wake, whether in my LA apartment or any number of hotel rooms, knowing that I want to help make the world a more beautiful place and to help others find the beauty in their lives and I wake with a certainty that I can and will do this, though the specifics remain vague. As I let go of the hows, things fall into place and my life becomes a creative adventure that I, along with the universe, am creating one day and decision at at time.

Back of every creation, supporting it like an arch, is faith. Enthusiasm is nothing: it comes and goes. But if one believes, then miracles occur.

-Henry Miller

Faith. Faith that there is a plan bigger than anything my little imagination can conjure up. Faith that we are always being guided and presented with the next right choice, so long as we are present enough to see it. As I repeatedly let go of my ideas about how it should be and accept how it is, I wake more often feeling that I actually am figuring it out and being let in on the secret.

Let the beauty of what you love be what you do.

-Rumi

Yesterday’s Theme Song- Astral Plane on Valerie June’s album The Order of Time. Snack- sweet potato corn chips, bought at a little camping supply grocery store in the redwoods of Big Sur. Smell- salty, woody, grassy air.

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The moment one gives close attention to any thing, even a blade of grass it becomes a mysterious, awesome, indescribably magnificent world in itself.

Henry Miller

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