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  • Wayfinder's Quest Post #135: Success! or, The Worst Year of My Life


    Standing in a tree, contemplating the view, trying not to get towed.

    Friends, this is the final entry in my Wayfinder's blog series. Just like with all things Wayfinding, you can choose your own adventure. I have a short version, a medium version, and a long version for you. 

    1. It worked! (short version)

    I started this series in 2011 with a long list of things I wanted and didn't have. I wasn't troubled by a vague sense of dissatisfaction; I was missing some very specific things. 

    I just wanted to see if I could create a life I liked better. I wanted more friends, more free time, more money, more mystery, less toil, less tedium, less weight, less duty.

    More pleasure. Less pain. Nice things. Thrilling adventures. Hot sex and hot springs.

    I also felt the only problems I had were the kind that money couldn't solve, lucky me! But that wasn't really true. The truth was that money would have bought most of what I lacked.

    That's how I felt when I started the experiment. That, plus the enjoyable feeling of starting something I thought I was in control of. Lots of lovely boxes to tick on the way to perfect happiness.

    You will no doubt guess that that's when everything blew up. Me, I was surprised. You know that joke about God? God takes his family for a drive in the mountains, in his convertible, top down, sunny day, dry roads, everyone laughing and feeling free. Suddenly God comes at them from the other direction, dead drunk at the wheel, driving all over the road. God hits the convertible, killing God and his whole family.

    My life was like that last year. Incomprehensible. Screams. Twisted wreckage. 

    And then I kinda won the lottery. 


    2. The Worst Year of My Life.

    Change the inside, not the outside. I've heard that almost my whole life.

    As you will know, because I am insufferably, unreasonably proud (proud! for no reason!) of it and can't stop telling you, I am from Boulder. This is to say, I come from a mix of traditions built on the idea that the only locus for effecting real change is in our mind, not in our circumstances. These traditions include Buddhism, 12-Step programs, and hundreds of self-development philosophies.

    In all, I've devoted myself to awareness practices for over 30 years. Yet - and you may find this shocking!, or not - I remained unhappy with my circumstances. So not long ago I decided to turn my attention less to self-awareness and more to circumstance-tinkering. 

    I just wanted to see if I could create a life I liked better. I wanted more friends, more free time, more money, more mystery, less toil, less tedium, less weight, less duty. 

    More pleasure. Less pain. Nice things. Thrilling adventures. Hot sex and hot springs.

    So I set out with only my desire, 30 years of meditation, and an inadequate laptop. That was the Wayfinding experiment I started on this blog.

    What followed was the worst year of my life.

    (Well, I mean, you know: the worst so far. But we are talking about a field of some ass-kicking also-ran years.)

    Nevertheless, I am closing the experiment feeling it was a success, because I have sort of broken the circumstance barrier. I seem to have lost interest in improving my circumstances - though many of them were improved, some by a huge margin. Neither do I want to change my thinking. In fact, I'm a little bored with changing, fixing and improving things altogether.

    Circumstances change on their own. The mind changes itself. I really don't need to force anything. I have seen almost all of my tools and practices fall away like dead skin.

    I've completely dropped hobbies that were once obsessions. On the other hand, I've not lost an ounce of interest in clothes and makeup and outré cocktails.

    It's going all around the world for a bottle of milk. Everything's changed. Nothing's changed. Executive summary for the very busy: It worked; The End.

    Now if you're not very busy, and would like to know more, read on.


    3. Some Things I Have Found Out.

    I. Money: You can have enough

    I acquired some money. A couple years ago, I would have thought of this much money as "enough." A "we're there!" amount. (Of course, it's all relative. I know people who could barely get to Rome and back on this amount of money.) 

    But the amount's not the important part. What's important is that this money was "enough" when I got it and it has stayed enough. For over a year now I have been experiencing continued feelings of enough. 

    I can just about guarantee that if I'd received that money a couple years ago, I would have enjoyed it for 72 hours and then woken up disgruntled and said, OMG! Ya know, I thought X was going to be enough, but now I see that really I need 3x to have enough!" Or 5x or 12x or howevermuch. "I thought we were there, but actually we're NOT!" is what I would have said. 

    Instead, I got there and stayed there. 

    We're not flying first class. Not buying a holiday house. I've not even ordered personalized stationery. And yet: Enough. 

    Here's another thing I learnt about money: It might not buy happiness, but it sure the fuck won't make you miserable.

    II. Urgency

    Things used to seem really urgent to me. My china pattern is on sale? I better get over there now and snatch those shelves bald! Do we have "a very full flight today"?! I better jockey for position so I can stow my rollie!!!

    Everything that used to make me break into a sweat, all of it coming under the general heading of "Getting Mine" - none of that seems like a good use of life to me. For what? Why would I manage anything? Because something is better than something else, and I have some insight into that? Because sooner is better than later? Man, I just don't seem to have convictions about that anymore.

    I have seriously slowed down.

    III. All the things that used to matter so much hardly matter at all now

    The number and scope of things I have lost interest in are blowing my wig back. Here are some:

    I am kind of bored with self-help. Self-help used to be my life and my lifeline, to say nothing of most of my shelf space and discretionary spending. The neighbors have all that now. 

    I seem to have lost interest in using tools, techniques and practices. Has it got steps? Then I don't want it. Anything that previously I would have used to improve myself or my situation is off the menu. I even seem to be largely uninterested in improving my mood. 

    I now feel about tools, techniques and practices the way I felt when I first read - attempted to read - a translation o f a Tibetan Buddhist text, which was this: "uh-oh if enlightenment can only be found in the pages of a book like this, we're all totally fucked." If salvation is only to be reached by keeping track of what I weigh, eat, lift at the gym, getting things done, discerning the size shape location and color of my current emotion, visualizing myself as an anchor dropping into the ocean depths, all of that, well I accept that I AM FUCKED. Because I seem to have no willingness at all for that stuff. 

    I think I may have lost interest in salvation of any kind. I don't think I need it. It seems like I'm having a very persistent experience of "everything is actually ok." Even family things - by any measure a big important life circumstance - in a condition that would previously have caused me to scream "Holy shit! Danger; not ok! These are unacceptable life circumstances!!!" are causing me to say "Holy shit, look at me accommodating even that."

    I've lost interest in thinking about, discussing, or paying any attention whatsoever to what is "healthy" to eat. I cannot find any part of me that I want to spend time with that believes in "healthy eating." 

    I likewise have no detectable worries about "germs." (Except for foot fungus. Let's avoid that.)

    I seem to have lost all interest in what "good" people do altogether. The rules I received say that "good" people don't cuss, drink, use drugs, eat the heads off shrimp, buy coffee without ascertaining the "fairness" of its trade, buy meat without ascertaining the quality of its living conditions while alive, spend money on themselves, throw food away, cut in line, etc. Well I don't actually find myself needing to cut in line, because what for?! (Unless I'm trying to get overhead bin space on the plane, then yes, bit lately, see above, even suitcase panic has fallen away! UNBELIEVABLE.) The rest of that stuff: GOD WHO CARES.

    I don't need people to like me. I don't need to change myself to be liked. I don't need to pretend I'm well liked when I'm not. I don't need to make any of that about me. I quit a group recently that wasn't fun because the people in it really didn't like me, and I lost the will to mold myself into a likable form. Not a fit! It's why they have chocolate and vanilla (and for the sophisticated and discerning: rum raisin). I didn't need to go looking for evidence that they kinda sort did like me a little. People don't need to like me! Turns out: it is VERY OK not to like me.
        
    I no longer have a to-do list. I am doing things because I am somehow moved to do them, not because I wrote them on a list.

    I've lost interest in meditation, I've lost interest in pretending to be interested in meditation, and I've stopped meditating. Or "meditating," if you're one of those folks who have strenuous standards for the definition. I know I did. Hahahahaha.

    I've lost interest in my "longtime student of buddhism" personal mythology. You know, everybody and their hippie uncle who went to Burma that one time claims to be a buddhist, but I actually took vows with Chögyam Trungpa himself, more than 30 years ago. How many life coaches can say that? OMG I thought that was True Cred, and I was super invested in it and impressed with myself. Proud! Like anybody but me ever cared.

    My profiles used to read, under Religion, "You know how people always say 'Running is my meditation' or 'Yoga is my meditation'? Well, my meditation is meditation." Friendable, right?! If I met the Buddha in the road, I'm pretty sure even he wouldn't have wanted to friend me.

    And you know, I no longer really care much about credentials altogether.

    Oh! This: I have lost interest in any projects to do with changing, fixing, optimizing or otherwise improving Mr Jones. Like money, my husband is another area of satisfaction. I made a choice a dozen years ago, and My GOD! I am still happy with my choice.

    An example: I have stopped trying to get him to put the toilet seat down. 

    My husband does put the toilet seat down, a lot, but I used to lose my shit if he ever forgot. This seems so insane to me now. Like, if it's so important, why don't I just check? That way, I can adjust the seat myself before falling in. Me! The person to whom it's important. Which I do, utterly without resentment. My husband doesn't need to be involved at all. I mean, people! This is a very different me.

    I'm much less critical lately altogether. Mr Jones and I binge-watched Girls. I found that show perfect in every respect. There was not one single fucking thing I would have changed about it. I was in awe of its creatrix and creators, and I just watched in appreciation. Not even a "yeah, but..." there.

    Hear ye! I don't seem to want to flex my muscles or apply my will to 
         •     change 
         •     fix 
         •     improve 
         •     persuade
         •     convince
         •     control 
         •     influence 
         •     produce 
         •     achieve 
         •     excel 
         •     optimize 
         •     approve 
         •     disapprove 
         •     decide 
         •     choose 
         •     plan 
         •     manifest
         •     or target
    much of anything. 

    Caveat: I'm still really keen on shoes (Nicholas Kirkwood til I die!) and dresses and makeup and going out for cocktails though. Boy, have I ever not lost interest in that stuff.

    IV. Reality hahahahaha

    Not only do many things not seem urgent or important to me anymore, a lot of them don't even seem real. For example, we got audited by the IRS last year because of my business. This started out being quite the ass-chapper, part of My Frognado Year. Shit escalated continuously for many months until the day it fizzled out with no explanation and zero consequences. 

    I'm not sure if I can believe in the IRS after this experience. That whole organization might be JUST ONE GUY.

    Another thing that is not real: I have seen through the illusion that I have any measure of control over my children. I have no ability to persuade, manipulate, coerce, direct, cajole, blackmail, bribe or otherwise influence any of these children. Parental control of children is a fiction; I accept this.

    Also not real: Good. Bad. THERE IS NO GOOD AND BAD. There is only what I like and what I don't like. And I am possibly the only person who cares about that, which is fine.

    And the really not real: "life purpose." PLEASE. Seriously.

    V. The End

    So where does this leave me? Just living my life, sans "Purpose." Feeling good. Except when I'm not, which is also perfectly fine. It's PERFECT. And I must say, not trying to change how I feel feels really, really good.

    The internet's tiniest comment link...

    ...is right down below. I hope you will use it to add your thoughts, report on your own Wayfinding results, or just say Hi. It is also very cool to lurk here. 

  • Wayfinder's #134: Getting Warmer, Which I Like

    All that self help has led me here

    Have you ever seen L.A. Story, with Steve Martin and Victoria Tennant and Patrick Stewart and Sarah Jessica Parker and my favorite Grant brother, Richard E. Grant? If you have not, I recommend it. It is about magic and love, and it's very sweet. In it, Steve Martin's character asks his best friend what it's like to have breasts. He says he thinks if he had breasts he'd never get anything done. He would just stay home and play with them all day.

    All that self help has led me here.

    This is how I feel about my eyelashes. And my clothes.

    I am telling you what, I have spent the past 30+ years sitting on a cushion, taking serious buddhist vows, prostrating myself (FOR REAL, tho not for long), going to every seminar under the sun except maybe EST and The Forum and whatever it's known as now, and reading pretty much all the books, and talking about some form of self help at every opportunity and journaling and techniquing and doing a lot of work and studying with the best, and it has all led me here. To a place where really, I could give a shit about that and all I want to do is go to Paris and eat everything and buy everything ("Two of everything!" says my friend Ali) and share a bottle of wine with friends and come home and take a nap and get ready to go someplace else. 

    (By the way, two things about Paris in January:

    1. Parisians do not do "sales" like the way we do them in the States. They are serious about their sales, which only happen in January and June. I got some gorgeous lingerie at a serious discount. Which I am wearing, because No More Saving The Best For Later. I hope I can do this again next year.

    2. Even the restaurants in all the guidebooks are unlikely to be crowded in January. My friend Anne spontaneously took me to a little place called Le Garde Robe, mentioned in the hipper guides, we got the last table in the place, and some of the best wine I've ever drunk, and we stayed for hours and it was just about the most convivial place I've ever been, with a little impromptu karaoke from the kitchen. Le Garde Robe. Perfect.)

    So after coming home from France and spending a week crawling through six-foot-high tunnels of snow, it was fun to dip into my summer closet and put together a capsule wardrobe for Texas. Now we are here, and Mr Jones is working, but as in Paris, not so much that we can't dress up and go everywhere and eat everything. I would not have guessed that San Antonio would be as delightful as Paris, but it is.

    Have thoughts?

    Leave a comment, if you like.

  • Everyone's least favorite part

    What my girlfriend calls "the wave after the wave".

    Not to be confused with the Mr. Probz song.

    If you live in North America and Alvin Ailey is coming to your city, you will already have been hypnotized by this poster. I mean look at this guy! Is he not the fittest fellow you have seen on the subway, like, ever?

    So ripped, in fact, that it took me a moment to see something interesting about his anatomy. Something I've noticed at the gym, too, where there are a lot of other fit specimens of humanity, male and female. If you haven't spotted it yet, here's a red arrow to help you:

    Yep, it's that arm thingy. The flap. The part that does "the wave after the wave." The part of our body that nearly all of us hate and whose shape we take for a sign of weak will, bad genes, ageing or some other avoidable or unavoidable misfortune.

    If this is you, I want to offer you a reason to drop your arm dislike forever. This spectacular-yet-human dancer clearly shows us the shape that even the best of superchampion world-class triceps run to, THE END. 

    This shape is normal. Your arms are just fine.

    RESPECT. ADORE. And may this short note give you another thing to relax about.

    Have thoughts?

    Leave a comment!I would love to know what you think.

  • Wayfinder's #133: Blue Goes With Blue

    I think I'm starting to get the hang of this packing thing: just make everything blue.

    What we are doing here:

    Treasuring ourselves.

    Dwelling in mystery. 

    Luxuriating in pleasure. 

    Seeking the hot tracks.

    Working magic.

    Glorying in the pageantry and spectacle of the phenomenal world, and gracefully negotiating the contradiction between revelry and spirituality. (If there is one.) 

    And: asking What else might be possible?
     

    Imagining

    Hi friends! I'm headed to Paris with my little blue capsule wardrobe. I am wishing for slowness, ease, pleasure and quiet. And bargains at the January sales.

    I am taking the writing part of Danielle LaPorte's Desire Map. Ripped that book right in half! That's how committed I am to packing light.

    Plans include many hard-to-get rezzos (I hope because it's January) and visits with friends and a trip to the hammam at L'Echappée and the textile library. Oh and maybe the Louvre.

    But the main thing is reviewing 2014's directive of Everything Must Go! Nothing stays for free; everything must be submitted for review. As Havi and I were saying this week, I'm doubling down on that for 2015. Just can't improve on it, and indeed, I was only getting started last year. 

    So I hope to come back from Paris with an even longer list of things to toss overboard. I'll let you know!

  • Wayfinder's #132: The Expense of Spirit

    Coincidences (aka Spontaneous Unsolicited Upgrades, aka signs of Forming)

    There have been spontaneous unsolicited upgrades, but I am also turning my attention to deliberately organizing my own upgrades. In particular, I'm trying to live by Jennifer Scott's maxim Use Your Best Every Day. That means, at the macro level: dessert spoons, the good china, the nice tablecloth, the best (ordinary) skivvies, the prettiest shirt. At the micro level, it means eating the best bite first, a reminder from local heroine Joanne "Eat Dessert First" Chang.

    What we are doing here:

    Treasuring ourselves.

    Dwelling in mystery. 

    Luxuriating in pleasure. 

    Seeking the hot tracks.

    Working magic.

    Glorying in the pageantry and spectacle of the phenomenal world, and gracefully negotiating the contradiction between revelry and spirituality. (If there is one.) 

    And: asking What else might be possible?
     

    (I never do that, by the way. But I admire Joanne's style.)

    Anyway, it's about not saving, because: When you make use of the best available [supplies, food, thinking, personal strengths, whatever], the inferior provisions can be tossed with impunity. 

    My Depression + Marine Corps + orphanage survivor dad taught me this, so I can't believe I could ever have forgotten it: If you use up the best stuff first, it will be replaced by more stuff, some of which will be inferior and some of which will be very good! Whereas if you save the best for last, you will do that forever. So always use the best available.

    This is so important. So I'm glad I was finally able to let go of 86 lbs of kitchen stuff that I've been saving for years for my kids in a cupboard under the stairs. (Which I am forced to recognize now was a bit musty.)

    I've always thought my kids would feel about kitchens the way I do - the heart of the home, the center of the earth - but they don't. (Maybe because of me?) They may feel quite ambivalent about kitchens and kitchen stuff. For sure they will not pull out a drawer the day after the next big disaster and say "I thought post-apocalypse living was really gonna suck, but Mummy saved me a ravioli wheel, so I'M SOLID!" 

    I asked my youngest this week Honey, is there anything in there you're actually attached to? Because I am totally lined up and signed up to outfit your first kitchen. We will go shopping. I can even rent a van. And he didn't hesitate. Dump it, Mom! I want kitchen stuff, but it doesn't have to be that kitchen stuff.

    Dear heaven. Hanging onto that crap for years.

    Like they say, Some people like cats and some people like golf and some people go to Princeton and some people, like me, can get their identity really wrapped up in spare ravioli wheels. 

    I also purposely upgraded my winter coat. I had got a great one last year in Boulder, during the Polar-Vortex/Airbnb-Fail episode of the Frognado Chronicles, and it's still a great coat, but it doesn't fit me anymore. I am at 10 lbs over the legal limit for that coat, and every time I put it on, buttoning it down to the waist but no lower, the shame was almost unbearable. Like I looked like some kind of crazy person who didn't know her coat didn't fit her. Or maybe like some kind of terrible weight coach who GAINED WEIGHT.

    I kept thinking of this line from a sonnet: The expense of spirit in a waste of shame. Obviously Shakespeare was discussing something other than winter coats, but still, shame is a perfect waste, and it was killing my spirit, wearing this coat. And SO UNKIND TO MY BODY. So after a bracing breakfast with some sister Martha Beck coaches, I went to the posh suburban consignment shop and found a posh suburban quilted jacket on sale. Looks excruciatingly correct with green Wellies. You may laugh, but it zips right up, and it bought me some of my spirit back, and let my body know I'm back on her side. A bargain!

    Imagining

    You know how people will say I'm tired of talking about [thing/dilemma/dream]. Imma TAKE ACTION, so help me Tony Robbins! I could say that about Hawaii except I am not tired of talking about it. I might want to keep talking about it until I get there. Today I want to talk about WHAT ISLAND. Because I hear it is a bad idea to island-hop. What do you think?

    I am imagining the kind of outrageous pleasure we had in Tulum. Rich Hippie levels of pleasure. Bikinis! Massage! Hedonism! OUTRAGE! SWIMMING WITH SEA MAMMALS. And hopefully sex on the beach unless the beaches are patrolled the way they are in Mexico, such a pity.

    That's what I'm feeling the need for. The first stake I'm putting in the Imagination ground for 2015.

    Also, Mr Jones has to go to Paris for work next week, and I am joining him. My French is a blot on our country's honor, so I was incredibly relieved and happy to see that France now has embraced online restaurant reservations. (And their system is better than Open Table by a lot.) So we have rezzos at Verjus and Spring and my other hopes are not taking reservations but it's January so I'm not worried.

    Also because I'm sick of being worried and I have so much evidence that worry doesn't prevent bad shit. If you can believe that.

    Updates on past experiments

    There has been incredible stripper lash success. Finally, I have lashes in length and number comparable to the rest of humanity. They are still blond but that is ok because I have found, thank you Elle Magazine, Lancôme Grandiôse mascara. So that is my secret: Latisse + Lancôme Grandiôse = Very Visible Lashes.

    Destination: Date night

    What has happened? A lot of dining in, at home, with friends, and with my cookbook club. You have to recover after eating at Alinea and Chez Panisse in the same month.

    (List compiled 9-nov-2014)

    1. Alden & Harlow
    2. Alinea
    3. Area Four
    4. Asta
    5. Battersby (Brooklyn)
    6. Bondir
    7. Brine
    8. Bronwyn
    9. Chez Panisse
    10. Commonwealth
    11. Coppa (for brunch)
    12. Franny's (Brooklyn)
    13. The Gallows
    14. Giulia
    15. L'Espalier
    16. The Market (closed for the season)
    17. Myers & Chang
    18. Neptune Oyster (why have I never been here? BECAUSE THE ALL-DAY CROWDS)
    19. O-Ya
    20. Ostra
    21. Puritan & Co. (for brunch)
    22. Rialto 
    23. Ribelle (ugly and harshly lit but the food! the wine! spectacular)
    24. Roberta's (Brooklyn)
    25. Scampo
    26. Shojo
    27. Tres Gatos
    28. West Bridge

    Then there is a short list of places I shall not soon tire of, and always want to go back to:

    1. B&G Oysters
    2. Brick and Mortar
    3. Miracle of Science
    4. Oleana
    5. Sarma
    6. Sportello
    7. Strip-T's
    8. Toro

    That should keep us busy for a while, but please feel free to suggest additions.

    The internet's tiniest comment link...

    ...is right down below. You are most welcome to put your thoughts there.