I didn’t know exactly what this trip would bring when I left, but I knew I needed a break, I needed to be outside, and I knew I needed to be alone. Joshua Tree gave me what I needed; it always does. Even if what I need isn’t exactly what I want.
I could write for ages about what happened, but the truth is, there was very little “doing” on this trip, and a lot more “being”. I spent a lot of time breathing, thinking, feeling, sleeping. As a result, I made some art, felt some things, did some work and drove back to San Francisco with more certainty and even more trepidation than I left with. I did come back with clarity, which is what I was seeking.
It feels so easy to slip back into the feverish and yet drab “real life” here in SF, that I know I’m going to need reminders about this trip and what it brought. So, instead of making this post a cohesive story, I wanted to underline some realizations, dreams, thoughts and moments that were valuable to me.
Moment: Art is such a huge part of how I need to express myself. I spent two straight days working on an art project and it was lovely to get lost in it. At one of my past coaching courses (I think this was last October? I can’t believe it took so long for me to make this art!), we did a visualization about our inner selves. When I imagined my inner self (in the coaching world, we call this your captain), I imagined this ever-changing, burning and ancient flame. First, my captain met me as a man made of fire, then as a woman made of fire, a hawk, a rabbit, a stag, etc.. and continued to change form. It has a deep and old inner wisdom, so you can tell its essence regardless of its form. At its center is a passionate, empathetic beating heart, which is where it gets its warmth. The phoenix symbolizes constant change from ashes/darkness and rebirth. The flame is incredibly strong and powerful. It can hold all emotion, and it brings light to others. When I put this visualization to paper (or in this case, to a piece of plywood) it emerged as a sunrise/sunset. The sun is really one of the most ancient flames for humans, so it was delightful to see that emerge. I loved it when it was all alone on the board, and almost considered keeping it that way.
But, after sitting with this in my house for the last two months, I wanted to add more. I knew it needed a landscape. So I got to work.
Mountain range at night (watercolor and gouache on plywood), collaging three different hill biomes (chapparal, forest, and grassland), leading to an apple orchard and garden.
Then, I included a wave (acrylic) colliding into a house by the seaside and then becoming a golden river (collage). The river is surrounded by a rock wall.
It then turns into a daytime desert landscape (watercolor, gouache, and collage) with a lone tree.
I wanted to show the contrast between night and day, intense greenery and sparse lanscape. The beauty of frenetic activity and peaceful space. There is life in both places.
Secretly, I love the desert side the most. I’m not 100% happy with how this turned out because I am a perfectionist and can see only too many of its faults, (the lack of white space! the highlights!) but I am happy that it’s made. And it means there’s so much room for improvement in my technique. Mostly, the process itself felt so, so good.
Next, I am creating a set of cards for “Crew Members” (originally, they were going to be part of the art but it just didn’t feel quite right), which are another coaching metaphor that I’m pretty excited about. I might post about those, but at the moment they feel a little too personal.
Realization: I returned back to the apartment yesterday, and it was not as bad as I thought it would be. This was a surprise. I rather like having a place to come home to. AND this city is even more clearly not the right place. However, I am proud of the time and effort I have spent making my apartment an open, quiet, beautiful and peaceful refuge. By nature, I am a homemaker (reclaiming this word? Yes I am.) and community builder, and I have made a wonderful home and community here. I love having a full kitchen and a big dining room table. I enjoy making elaborate meals for my community or whipping up a batch of raw cookie dough + rose for friends in need late at night. I have done those things here, and I am proud of that. It’s important for me to have roots, because roots allow growth. I will figure out how to uproot myself with most roots intact, and re-root down again where I can let those roots meander.
Realization: I also realized that the same homemaker tendencies are why I could never cut it, or never fit in exactly, with the guide lifestyle. I can adventure and be nomadic for long periods of time, but I need to have a next step or a grounding place to regroup. I loved walking into the apartment yesterday and seeing the clean, happy space Danielle and I have created. There’s more clarity here around why I want to create a retreat center specifically, to give space to those who need it. In my dream, this retreat center has ample area for community cooking spaces, sacred spaces, nature and adventure connection, and spaces for mothers, children, and full families. I am also providing jobs for my friends who have wonderful talents.
On top of this, some aspect of my life needs to have the nomadic, adventure, travel element. The whimsy and randomness of it all. The call to exploration and the touch of overcoming fear, of going somewhere new and meeting strange people. I love strange people! I was reminded of how that feeds me and expands my worldview.
Realization: None of this dreaming includes being in an office or living in a city AND some of it does include going into corporate places and giving workshops or providing workshops to groups. There is a skill to playing in both worlds, and I think I have that skill. I want to affect change on a personal level, and on a larger level. This feels very “in the far future” right now. Coaching is a big part of this dream (but I keep saying that, so you knew it already). Certification and the CTI program is important to me because it holds me accountable, keeps deepening my learning and provides me with a community of allies. See previous post all about this.
Moment: I found my spirituality again this trip, mostly when sleeping under the starts and spending quiet time in nature. Being raised as an atheist by a father who greatly despised religion, it’s been difficult for me to identify and admit the spiritual side of me. I am moved deeply by a spiritual connection to nature and people. The stories of ancient gods and goddesses resonate with me, especially by Native American and eastern societies. I want to learn more about all religions. I want to create a practice. I am sounding like a woo-woo and I just don’t give a shit anymore. I bought a pretty cool book of earth prayers and I want to pray. And read more poetry. Connect to something bigger and universal. This isn’t a new feeling, but I am newly admitting it.
Realization: Community really showed up when I asked for it. I am so grateful for all the friends I have that offered adventures, couches, conversation, love and support this past week. Even though I ended up turning down some of it since I realized I was actually quite overwhelmed and needed alone time, I am reminded of the strong support system around me. Thank you.
Thought: #vanlife is a thing, and it is really annoying. Article here. I am annoyed by it because it feels fake to me. I will admit I am judging it heavily. I’m probably annoyed by it because I’ve been a participant myself, to some degree. I clearly understand the impetus, but doing something for looks without the grit involved doesn’t sit well with me. I think I’m also jealous of the privilege and resources it takes to be able to work a remote tech job and #vanlife. I’m sure I have a lot of guilt about this too, being someone who currently works in tech longing for the (highly idealized) time I lived out my Honda Element. I ran into quite a few people in Jtree (mostly from LA) who were the embodiment of the #vanlife weekend warriors. One guy rolled into the campsite next to mine, long blonde hair, handlebar mustache and 70’s glasses on, with his LA perfect, bohemian-chic girlfriend. He backed his minivan into a rock, and I ran over to help him park the car. The van was older, looked used and had a bed/camping console built in the back of it, so I remarked: “Well, at least it’s not a rental!”. “Actually, it is.” He responded. “There’s some dude in LA who were renting it for $50 per day! Such a steal. You know, just me and my lady, going with the wind, living that hashtag vanlife for the weekend!” Yep, this is a direct quote. I wanted to shoot myself. But, at least he had a super happy grin on his face, and who am I to judge when he is experiencing the outdoors in his own way? It just felt so inauthentic to me. #vanlife is making me mad. Hm. I need to chew on this for awhile.
Moment: Spent some time taking selfies this trip, which was funny and difficult and cathartic. This whole self-care, self-love thing is a huge challenge. I have some problems looking in the mirror and feeling okay with what looks back and how I’m showing up in the world. The me that looks back does not fully express my values, and there’s a pretty harsh self-critic bouncing around in my head, specifically around body image. Working on this. Forcing myself to look and find compassion.
Realization: I’m also going to recommit to spending more time biking and swimming at the Dolphin Club because I’ve let work take over in those areas. I want to spend more time cooking and eating well, because I’ve been sacrificing those pieces too and my health is suffering pretty greatly. This is going to be the hardest part for me going forward. After a week of self-care, I realize how I need to incorporate this daily. It needs to be the priority. And it is going to be difficult. Getting free of some financial burden is necessary in order to make my next step. I will figure out what to change in order to make that a priority. I will have some hard conversations this week, so my life gets back in balance. I will build time to prioritize my health and personal well-being.
Putting one foot in front of the other, and moving forward. Here goes.