A New Direction

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Relentless Forward Progress.  I’ve adopted this mantra from one of my favorite ultra running books of the same name.  It is motivating to me, even during the lowest point in any run, to understand that any forward progress is movement toward a goal, and something to be celebrated.

How often do we stop to celebrate relentless forward progress in our lives?  Raising children, growing older, starting a new career, decluttering our homes, reconnecting with friends, honoring our true selves, forgiving others, or moving in a new direction.

Don’t we sometimes feel like we aren’t making adequate progress, or achieving our goals in a reasonable amount of time?  We feel like we are standing still.  We feel stagnant.  We feel disappointed.  Why?  Because we are judging our efforts instead of celebrating them.

Every day we are relentless.  We start the day with positive intentions and small actions and hope.  We move forward.  Yesterday’s events are behind us, and today is an opportunity for something new.  We make progress.  We fail, learn, adapt, and repeat as we make our way through life.  Wherever we are at the end of the day, it represents the next step in our journey.

In certain seasons progress is slow, but in those times, remember that you are still moving forward.

Mind The Gap

Hi folks.  Gap Year is flowing along like a rapid current!  It’s hard to believe that this week I am back home, returning to college to pick up my daughter from her freshman year. I think I managed to squeeze in some adventures while she was gone.  Here’s the recap:

Dropped daughter at school

Flew to Orlando, visited Hogwarts

Flew to NYC, attempted SoulCycle, survived

Moved to the OBX, evacuated for hurricane, moved back, returned home for the holidays

Sold beach house

Bought new beach house

Flew to Aruba, met a flamingo

Renovated, renovated, renovated new beach house

Returned back to real life, refreshed and happy

Went for a run with running club

Picking up daughter at school

Asking myself, ‘What’s next?’.  Waiting for answer…

The Secret Of Slowing Down

Commuting used to be a prominent source of stress in my life.  Driving in a crowded urban area led me to countless experiences of conflict, rage, and cortisol spikes.  No matter what intention I set before driving, I seemed to always find myself tangled up with another driver, seething and anxious by the time I arrived at my destination.

The most effective secret I found to relieving my driving stress was traveling 2 mph slower than everyone else.  Think about it.  Most people aren’t content with the posted speed limit.  They want a little bit more for themselves, so they tend to speed up.  Very few people seem confident that they have the time and space in their lives to go slower.

This means if the highway speed limit is 70, and you set your cruise control to 72 mph, you will likely get tangled up with the aggressive drivers.  But set your speed to 68 mph, and everyone will go around you, leaving you alone.  Sure, you might get an occasional tailgate or annoyed look, but angry people are difficult to please.  They aren’t in the mood to be happy with their life, but I am.  I want all the unhappy people to go around me and move on while I sing to my yoga playlist.

What other ways can you go against the crowd and move 2 mph slower in your life?

Go With The Flo

I said I was taking a Gap Year, and I meant it.  Meaning, I decided to pursue a longtime dream of downsizing and living at the beach (at least part time).  I’ve been planning this since I was approximately 8 years old, but more seriously since 2005.  I’m mentioning this to be transparent, because sometimes you read things on the internet and feel that it’s unfair how quickly and easily things come to certain people.  The beach did not come easily to me.

After deciding to live at the beach at age 8, there was a little waiting involved, due to lack of money and autonomy in my underage lifestyle plan.  So, at age 17, I entered college majoring in Finance and Real Estate, intending to make said beach plans come true.  Later, after graduating with even less money and new student loans, I took a very tiring job with very long commutes and night shift hours, followed by much crying, a little soul searching, entrepreneurship, and good timing.

I was able to buy my first home in 2000, and later sold it during the real estate bubble in 2005.  The profit afforded me a small sum with which to invest in beach property.  Speaking of small, I literally could only afford the smallest house in said beach zip code.  I took on a second mortgage, and a summer rental income to finance this dream.

I rented the house for 12 years, diligently reinvesting the rental income.  Once the mortgage was paid off  *insert happy dance*, I vowed to allow myself to spend the summer there.  A few weeks after removing our home from the rental program in 2016, my teenage daughter decided to join a traveling drumline out of state, a family decision which translated into me trading summer at the beach for long drives on the New Jersey Turnpike.  Every weekend.  And so, my little cottage got put back into the rental program for 2 more years.  And I waited.

Until this week.  I am an empty nester now, rental season #14 has ended, and now it is my turn.  I felt scared to finally make the move after so many years of waiting, but this past Saturday, I threw all my clothes into the car and drove to the beach.  48 hours later, I got word of the mandatory evacuation for Hurricane Florence.  And so, the universe delayed my beach plans once again, and I drove away later that night.

What is there to do in this situation but Go With The Flo (clever Florence reference)?  Do I worry about my home being damaged?  Yes, but I accepted that this property is at risk of flooding and wind damage when I bought it.  I’ve also since taught myself the proper place that material possessions hold in the grand scheme of things.  What I’m reflecting on most during this evacuation is the patience one needs to let life unfold, and holding onto a positive mindset during uncertainty.

The universe has plans for us all, and sometimes those plans do not happen within one’s own expected timeframe.  Sometimes we must wait, and often without answers.  I’ve so desperately wanted to make changes in my life, but at times, progress is slow.  I hope this personal story helps give you the patience to Go With The Flo until your own dreams come to you.

Gap Year Has Begun

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Photo by Lukas on Pexels.com

It’s Day 2 of my Gap Year.  48 hours ago, my husband and I dropped our daughter off at her college dorm room.  The nest is officially empty, and so it’s time for me to fly.

I’ve spent the past 9 months enjoying mom life to its fullest, setting personal plans aside to soak up the remaining time with my daughter at home, never questioning whether I was being unproductive, even though she didn’t need me much of the time.  I just savored being there, and watching her become independent in so many small ways.  I knew I’d have the rest of my life to be me, so for now I am giving thanks that I slowed down long enough to savor that time with her, and to reflect on how much I love her.

During the big dorm move-in, so many friends and family reached out to wish her luck, but also to check on how we were feeling, gauging our emotional barometer.  I’m happy to report that the overall mood of the day was joy.  Joy in anticipation, joy in uncertainty, and joy in simplifying life down to her half of a dorm room.  I set her free with a few fairy lights and storage bins, knowing her life was about to be focused outside of those four walls, and her wealth was going to be measured in relationships and experiences for the next four years.

And so it goes for mom on her Gap Year.  Can I spread my wings, too?  Can I measure my life in relationships?  Will I have the courage to reach out to new experiences?  Am I bold enough to ask questions, fail, and learn?  Will I take risks?

I never felt sad saying goodbye to her.  How can there be sadness in growth and change?  Minimalism has taught me that the present is our most precious day, and that we have everything we need in this moment.  And so, even with her far from home, I know we are both right where we need to be.

Gap Year

Yesterday, my daughter hit ‘submit’ on her online college application, which means graduation is on the horizon for my oldest child and with it, choices about how to begin life as a young adult.  This past year, we tackled the infamous, “Where do you want to go to college?” question, and discussion of a contemporary trend, the Gap Year.

The Gap Year is the period of time between high school graduation and freshman year at a university of choice.  It is an opportunity for young adults to take a sanctioned break from the academic system to explore, work, learn, grow, and get to know themselves.  The reasoning is that life experience, self-discovery, and a broader perspective on the world will benefit them as they enter the higher education system.

In my opinion, Mom & Dad are the ones deserving of the Gap Year.  I mean, by your forties (or later), you have a pretty good idea what gaps exist in your life.  It’s time to start rekindling that sense of adventure you lost the minute you graduated from college and set foot in your first cubicle.  In my case, immediately after fleeing said cubicle, I chose to start a family, which led into an 18 year blur of exhaustion, culminating in my daughter’s current college application process.

During that time my children grew up, a few dreams and travel plans were deferred.  A few friendships fell by the wayside, as we were all too busy with travel soccer practice to prioritize our own social lives.  A few business ideas sparked, but have not yet had time to ignite, as my changing worldview slowly shifts my focus from income potential to social good.  And one more thing, I need rest and relaxation like I need air and water.

Most of all, I crave uncertainty.  Not recklessness, but rather the potential and opportunity of being less defined.  Now I am older, and more financially secure, but I remember how it felt to feel so ungrounded at age 22.  My 20s were financially tight, but I was secure in my relationships.  How fluidly I moved with less burden, and how invigorating it was to be experimenting with my life’s path.

I have big decisions ahead of me, as does my daughter.  Of course, there is a standard path in front of me.  Continue paying the mortgage, build the nest egg, live safely and comfortably, but feel stagnant.  But there is another way.  Make changes, shake things up, take some risks, but feel fear.  My daughter plans to start college next fall, but Mom has her eye on the Gap Year.

The Squirrel Incident

I look forward to the change of seasons each year, and there is certainly much to anticipate in the early days of autumn.  Cool air, cozy sweaters, crackling fires, and the beauty of the changing leaves.  Unfortunately, sometimes we anticipate the change of seasons through advertisements and holiday fantasies.  Starbucks will be soon be encouraging us to restart our Pumpkin Spice Latte habit.  Pottery Barn will send us yet another catalog, and in it, images of perfectly curated fall décor, along with beautifully adorned doorways welcoming trick-or-treating perfection.

I bought into this magazine lifestyle fantasy myself, until The Squirrel Incident.  Last September, my family was just finishing up a screened porch renovation.  Our 16 year old house was starting to show its age, and I thought we needed to get started on the ever growing home maintenance to-do list.  One item on that list included remodeling the screened porch.

Our home backs up to woods, and for years, squirrels have decided it would be more cozy to nest under the roof of our back porch than in the trees.  Over time, they ripped multiple holes in the screens and repeatedly tried to build nests, despite our efforts to wage all-out squirrel warfare as humanely and non-harmfully as possible.

We decided to repair the porch once and for all, replacing or repairing the floorboards, rails, roof, and screens.  The project was completed in early autumn, right as Pottery Barn was putting their summer outdoor furniture on clearance to make way for their new fall décor.  It occurred to me that we should own one of those beautiful outdoor sofas and chairs.  It would help us enjoy the new porch, I reasoned.  I wanted the magazine photo to be my reality.

Two weeks after the furniture was delivered, I innocently let the dog out onto our porch one morning, not realizing that a squirrel had torn through the new screen overnight, and was quietly perched on the back of our outdoor sofa.  The ensuing chase was chaotic, worthy of the squirrel scene in the movie ‘Christmas Vacation’.  Picture a squirrel running for its life, over every horizontal and vertical surface of the porch, my dog leaping after it over the new furniture, crazed in her single-minded pursuit.

Finally, I was able to separate the two animals.  The squirrel lived, my sofa did not.  The squirrel had dug its claws into the couch cushions as it ran, shredding the fabric, and leaving a trail of muddy footprints and urine (like I said, it was scared) across the pristine white Sunbrella fabric.  I checked the Pottery Barn catalog, and there were no squirrel disclaimers to be found, nor any tips on removing squirrel urine.

Turns out, life is not a glossy magazine photo.  Life is messy and imperfect and unpredictable.  I never imagined I’d be learning life lessons from a squirrel, but Mother Nature has a way of revealing her infinite wisdom in not so subtle ways.  I did not replace the sofa.  This fall, I will be sipping my (homemade) Pumpkin Spice Latte on the same ripped cushion I’ve been sitting on for a year now.  That’s life.  Messy, but good.