Tag Archives: life lessons

Out of Adversity Comes Awesome

Life moves quickly. I whiled my weekend sourcing luggage and committing to one. I’ve had travel inoculations. I’ve made a financial strategy re banks and credit.

I know the average blogger pulls the “Gosh, I’m so sorry I’m not writing, I’m so busy!” shit a lot, but in this instance, it’s true. In 5 months my whole life needs to have been imploded, stored, sold, paid for, or packed into a suitcase. I’ve written indepth about this over at The FullNomad.com today. Read that here.

I’d love nothing more than hours to pound on my keyboard, pontificating on Steffness and Infinity World, but things gotta get done, man.

I’m charged. Chuffed. Stoked. Whatever you wanna call it. 58 days ago I blew out my knee. This weekend is the first I’ve done stuff without having to baby my knee much. I rode my bike! I’ve photographed! I’ve felt freedom after nearly two months of feeling trapped.

CharcoalMore importantly, I feel like a victor. I coulda panicked when I blew my knee. I could’ve pushed too hard out of fear. There’s a million ways that all could’ve gone so awry.

Instead, I trusted my instinct, hoped for the best. I trusted my caregivers too, but ultimately realized I was the person in control of everything. That’s a hard place to tap into when injured because injury itself feels like loss of control.

Not so, however. I could’ve sat there and done nothing but wait for the knee to heal, but I found a happy medium. If not for the knee injury, I would not have finally realized I need shoes in the home to minimize my long-time calf problem that causes pain while walking. I wouldn’t have learned a passive approach to stretching my hip flexors, which is a huge problem-solver with low-back pain. I also wouldn’t have discovered the abductor stretch as the single-most important stretch I can do for hip stability, ending a major issue for the last year.

Without the knee injury, I’d be going to Europe with a lot less confidence in how to deal with my tricky back after travel days. I can’t tell you how much cash I’ve spent over five years to fix my body, but this knee injury gave me the most important keys I’ve learnt in all that time. Invaluable. What a gift. Hey, thanks, torn meniscus. You rocked my world in a good way.

How bizarre.

Perspective, Grasshopper

0d67403c40e1fc86b2e6156a37f5b0cbIf I had to guess my single best quality for living abroad, it’s what I’ve just described — my choice to make adversity into an advantage by learning something new about myself along the way. Adversity happens, people. Deal.

Was I born with that? I don’t think so. Maybe a bit. But I think it’s mostly a developed skill. You have to want to get something out of bad situations. It’s an attitude and a choice. Develop that skill, and hard times are never as hard again.

It’s about learning to learn. Learn everything possible, every day, every way. Question everything. Believe in yourself but also know that you don’t know shit when it comes to cosmic proportions. I leave room to doubt myself, if only because it forces me to become sure of myself. Zen, that.

The Gift of 40

These days, I feel blessed I didn’t get to see the world in my 20s. Granted, I know some freakin’ awesome 20-somethings out there travelling, but I also know how much has happened in my years since when I would’ve been travelling, had life not derailed on me, and all that perspective will temper my world-view in wonderful ways.

10950585_752150741570470_1275021983_nI’m so much more empathetic. I’m accomplished. I’ve almost managed to claw out of my debt through hard work. I’ve had a lot taken from me but a lot taught to me too.

There’s a sense of peace and invincibility that comes from all those things. They’re similar to what you learn on the road, too, but I learned them in two regional postal codes.

I love being a woman in my 40s. 42 looms. Shame in aging? Screw that. The 40s are when you understand who the hell you are, what you’re made of, and just how much you can face down. It’s the decade when you finally get past all the posturing, you grasp just what’s not worth wasting time on, and you recalibrate. Or if you’re lucky, that’s how your 40s will go down.

Is my 5-year-plan for world travel just a midlife crisis? Then I say I love midlife crises! Imma gonna have the best midlife crises EVER. Why the hell not? What’s wrong with saying I WANT WHAT I WANT AND I WANT IT NOW?

Absolutely nothing.

It’s Either This, or That

Should I be settling down, buying a home, and being conservative for my retirement? What, here, in one of the most out-of-control real estate markets on the planet? Give your head a shake, bro. I’ll have less financial burden on the road than here.

Kick-ass1-500x472Should I be married and having kids? With the planet on target for 9 billion people in 2050, I think you’re cool without my participation in the breeding program, all right?

And frankly, while I absolutely know I will always regret not having kids, I promise you, I would’ve really regretted HAVING kids. And having kids knowing full well you would resent their impact on your goals, time, and freedom pretty much makes you cruel or foolish to bring a life in the world and saddle them with your bullshit.

That “regret” of not having the family and the home and the fence comes from understanding the full potential of the human condition. I get it, man. I know family is wonderful. But I can’t have that and be the person I’ve always dreamt of becoming. That’s not selfish, that’s self-preservation.

And funny thing is, when I’ve dreamed of my future, it’s never included a spouse, a marriage, or a kid. I’m not adverse to the spouse or marriage, but I’ve never viewed it as something I require for the life of my dreams. I’ve never imagined myself as a mother. Not even once.

I chose not to have any of those things as a trade for freedom to follow my whimsy. Until now, my whimsy has been unspectacular. I’ve always been a late-bloomer. So at 42, just watch me go.

In the end, I get to travel, become the writer I know I can be, and leave a legacy of words and trips and photographs and creation. That is the choice I make. That is the trade, and it’s a fine one at that.

A Last Good Look, Then No Looking Back

These days, I enjoy reflecting a little on calendars and time, and how much falls between it all on the life/adversity spectrum. It’s fun, remembering where I’ve come from, because I’m about to leap into the great unknown and not look back anymore.

Soon, the past is prologue and the story begins anew.

That too is a choice.

I can’t help it. I’m elated to batter my keyboard, lost in thought about all the lessons I’ve learned and just how useful everything I’ve ever been through will be, once I’m ambling up old town cobblestone streets, lost in places I’ve dreamed of being since I was 15 and reading Paul Theroux on my front lawn. This writer, man, the worlds he brought me seemed like an untenable dream.

Now I’m the woman I need to be to have what I dreamt of all that time ago.

Life’s about to become one hell of a trip.

Shamelessly borrowed from Ebaumsworld.com.

What I’ve Learned Slowly in Life & Writing

They don’t tell you that knowing who you are isn’t enough.

They don’t teach you that having a sense of identity doesn’t equal understanding how that identity fits into society.

They don’t say that loving what you’re gifted in doesn’t mean you’ll ever be able to make a living at it, or even that you’ll ever be guaranteed access to doing it.

No. They don’t.

That’s the way the reality dice roll.

Shamelessly borrowed from Ebaumsworld.com.


I remember a day in early May, 1994, sitting on a rocky shore in Oregon, as waves crested and broke below me, a notepad wobbling on my knees, wanting more than anything for the ability to break through the writing-blahs I’d been wallowing in, and wishing I knew how to do what I wanted for a living. I remember staring into the waves and thinking the only thing I ever really cared about was being able to just explore writing in my own way, and to do it for myself first, always.

I had no idea then, but that was the start of a very long,  strange ride for me — within 4 months I’d be living in the Yukon, within 5 years my mother would die, within 10 years I almost died, and then came the struggle through the Weird after, much of which I’ve written about at length.

I had no idea what would loom, where I’d go, and just how goddamned far from my dreams my road would lead.

Ironically, the further from my dreams I’ve been led, the better my writing has become… and somehow, I’ve come full circle, closer to the ‘writing life’ I’ve always wanted to live. It’s like an existential whirligig, one that takes some 20 years to come ’round to its start again.

Experience is the best teacher, and this is true also of writing.

You’ll always be a shit writer until life dunks you in the tank a few times. All the Sufi mystics would tell ya we’re only as broad as what we’ve lived through, right?

I guess the gift of Aging is that we start to realize we’re shaped by our pains as well as our joys, loves as well as hates, and we’ve learned through repeated exposure that we are built for survival, not perishing.

Look at what we can endure. Look at the Chilean miners rescued this week, and those who overcame the most ridiculous of engineering feats to manage that rescue.

And, yet… Life isn’t an engineering challenge.

It isn’t something one can solve with a drafting program, some applied physics, and a ruler.

Life’s a cosmic dodgeball game — played in a big-but-small room, where more balls than you can imagine are bouncing and ricocheting wildly, with no discernible pattern, and no reason for who or what they take out in their bouncy-travels.

Knowing who you are and what you can do doesn’t ever guarantee your efforts will be made of win, it doesn’t mean life won’t hit you in that game of dodgeball, sidelining you instead of sending you sailing successfully into the next game series.

I don’t think it’s a “Work hard enough and you can get it” scenario for everything in life. Methink that’s idealistic and what Random House et al want you to believe so you keep buying self-help-guru books when The World somehow shuts the big door on you.

In life, I think luck is as much a factor as work. Some folks are the pigeon, some folks are the statue — shit or be shat upon.

For what it’s worth, I don’t feel life’s posed enough of an obstacle to keep me out of the game. Some of us don’t come into who we’re supposed to be until later in life, and I’ve always suspected my 40s would be when I mastered the whole “world domination” thing.

The mentality of “you gotta be someone by 30” is the biggest piece-of-shit fallacy in the world.

It doesn’t happen that way. The school of life doesn’t run in semesters and grades, not everyone gets a pass at 18. Life lessons come and they go, but never fear — they’ll be back. The lessons will always be back.

The great dame of acting, the fabulous Ellen Burstyn, wrote an autobiography called Lessons in Becoming Myself, published in 2006, when she was 74. She was asked if she had “become” herself, and she answered no, that even as 80 loomed, she was still constantly learning about herself, forever becoming someone new, better, and more evolved than the woman she was, even a year, month, or week ago.

I remember watching her delivering this slow, well-thought answer, and smiling. I smiled too. I could do with getting old if it meant I’d always keep improving, and wasn’t relegated to becoming a lesser version of that which I once was.

And that’s another thing they don’t tell you.

They don’t let you know that you may think you know yourself, but ya don’t know jack, Jack.

You don’t know yourself until you’ve faced demons and betrayal, loss and hopelessness. You don’t know yourself until you’ve hit bottom and gotten back up.

The trouble is: “Bottom” is relative. Every time you hit what you think is bottom, don’t worry — you’re not bottomed-out. You can always go lower.

Believe that. Know it. Respect it.

Just don’t fear it. It’s a teacher, and you’re built for survival, remember?

When you’re young, they also fail to share that life ain’t about perceived successes — it’s not about who you become at the office, or the cachet you carry with you at meet-n-greet events, or the hot babe on your arm. They don’t teach you that life ain’t about money, glam, swag, beauty, or praise.

Life’s really about being able to like what’s in your head when the lights go out at night. Like Grandma Death in Donnie Darko says, “Every living creature dies alone.”

I think, ultimately, just getting to that side of life (death) and being able to die alone, but die truly knowing who you are, what you’ve had in life, must be the greatest departing gift one can have.

They don’t talk about that.  Or just how hard it is to get that place of knowing.

You can’t teach people in advance about the pain that comes from a life lived, or how much any one person can endure. No one can know endurance till they’ve had it, any of it. And some just can’t go there, be that; they’re not built Ford-tough.

But I am.

Somehow, I wish I knew that 20 years ago. I wish I knew long ago that protecting myself was just foolishness, and I’d get hurt often and deeply regardless of safety measures. I wish I was taught to just go, do it, fail, and do it again.

But I wasn’t.

Yet I’ve begun to learn it.

Like I say: Some of us don’t come into who we’re supposed to be until much later. Perhaps it means we’ll be better at who we’re supposed to be because we’ve had more practice with the bump-in-the-night of it all.

I have a feeling I’ll be finding out myself, soon.

Older, wiser… this shit ain’t so bad.