Archive | August, 2012

Pressed: 52 Weeks Begin Now: Week Five: Becoming Real in a New Culture

26 Aug

52 Weeks Begin Now: Week Five: Becoming Real in a New Culture.

Paperwork:  I find it interesting that a new province, city, school, and community do not find new residents real until we have completed a cord’s worth (note the Comox metaphor as everything here is measured in wood) of paperwork.  Who we are is measured very much by what we do; what we make; our evaluations; our financial ratings; our legal records, etc.  There has been no greater testament to this reality than now when I am finding that I have to “prove” who I am to this new culture in Comox.  Comox is not any different than any other bureaucracy.  However, even where I am off the beaten track from the cultural mainstream of British Columbia, I need to provide evidence that I have been and will continue to be a good person coming into the Comox Valley. 

The paperwork has been endless, and this part of the journey has been a bit daunting, but made me only more determined to get through it.  I feel as though I am in the backwoods, hacking my way through the forest, and the path leading to the view is just a few kilometers ahead.  I know it is there, and people keep talking about it, but for some reason, this lone person from Calgary has to jump over a few puddles, and climb over some fallen timber to get there.  I just have to slog through this unchartered part of my journey until I get to the place where I need to be. 

Helpful People:  At every turn there have been people voluntarily helping me to find my way.  Their efforts to get me the right technology “log-ins”, or to feed me when they know that I haven’t made time to get to the grocery store (Union Bay is a bit off the beaten track), and to fix my car (with some perks) are so appreciated.  When totally new to something, it is possible to see it and everyone within it through fresh eyes.  I am very vulnerable to the help or the lack of it at this point as it is all so entirely different.  I had one fellow say to me, “You have the opportunity to totally reinvent yourself.  Who do you want to be?  No one here will know the difference.”  But, I will know the difference.  I have been thinking about his words as I make myself “real” in this new town. 

Reinvention:  What if I have already been changing, and I want to be exactly who I have been turning into which is now culminating in this very move?  I don’t have any aspirations to “be” a certain way, or to change my essential nature.  The paperwork reminds me at every turn that I am very much a culmination of my past.  My credit rating reminds me that I have paid my bills on time (thank goodness).  My driver’s licence proves that I am societally legitimate, and my social insurance number (which is in a box somewhere) is desperately needed to say that I have been and will continue to earn money for myself and the government.  I find that I do not have time or energy to reinvent myself until I am accountable to this new environment for everything that I have been and intend to be. 

What I do want to have the opportunity to do is be more present in everything that I do, and that is being clouded by the daily reminders that I need to attend to this operational minutia first.  Wouldn’t it be wonderful if I could just look my new authorities in the eye, shake their hands, and have them accept that now I am part of their groups? Instead, the transactions are formal as I need new keys, passwords, and special permissions to do all of the things that I have always done in my previous existence, here in this new world. 

Pausing to Reconsider:   Therefore, reinventing myself will have to wait, as I continue to have to bring forward all of my personal evidence to prove my merit so that I will be accepted here.  At times, I am reminded of my value and securities (and insecurities) in this process, and am proud of who I have been and who I have become.  For example, I was introduced at the first administrative meeting by my supervisor, and he highlighted my professional history.  I was embarrassed, and yet surprised that this is how someone else would see my professional value and introduce me to others without my input.  He was eloquent, touching upon things that I have accomplished; however, I came away from the meeting, after everyone came forward to welcome me, feeling more puzzled than ever about who I am and will be here.  Like my packing that I mentioned in a previous entry, “What will I take forward as a person, and what will I choose to leave behind?”  

Language:  The biggest reality in all of this is the matter of new technological and professional language that I will have to learn.  Even though I have been in the same industry for 26 years, I am now within it in a very new way.  British Columbia Education has many similarities to Alberta Education, but they use different professional jargon and acronyms for everything.  It is truly mind boggling.  As well, these provinces are very different in how they operate in my field, especially in the various initiatives, and technologies.  I need to translate everything I know.  It reminds me of struggling through my French classes all of those years ago.  It makes each new step, three steps for me.  It causes me to pause and really think about what I thought I knew, and reconceptualize it into new frameworks, using new words, and considering different priorities. 

Who Am I?  For now, I feel as though I am who I have always been and in an even bigger way than ever as my life story is factualized and recounted for the benefit of everyone who is getting to know me.  This re-telling of who I am to people over and over again so that they will know and trust me, has me wondering about my personal narrative.  “Bureaucracy defends the status quo long past the time when the quo has lost its status”  (Laurence Peter).   I need to be careful, however, to remember what “quo” I truly wish to sustain in my own life, and what “status” I hope to achieve that might be new and more refreshing.

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52 Weeks Begin Now: Week Five: Becoming Real in a New Culture

26 Aug

Becoming Real in a New Culture

Paperwork:  I find it interesting that a new province, city, school, and community do not find new residents real until we have completed a cord’s worth (note the Comox metaphor as everything here is measured in wood) of paperwork.  Who we are is measured very much by what we do; what we make; our evaluations; our financial ratings; our legal records, etc.  There has been no greater testament to this reality than now when I am finding that I have to “prove” who I am to this new culture in Comox.  Comox is not any different than any other bureaucracy.  However, even where I am off the beaten track from the cultural mainstream of British Columbia, I need to provide evidence that I have been and will continue to be a good person coming into the Comox Valley. 

The paperwork has been endless, and this part of the journey has been a bit daunting, but made me only more determined to get through it.  I feel as though I am in the backwoods, hacking my way through the forest, and the path leading to the view is just a few kilometers ahead.  I know it is there, and people keep talking about it, but for some reason, this lone person from Calgary has to jump over a few puddles, and climb over some fallen timber to get there.  I just have to slog through this unchartered part of my journey until I get to the place where I need to be. 

Helpful People:  At every turn there have been people voluntarily helping me to find my way.  Their efforts to get me the right technology “log-ins”, or to feed me when they know that I haven’t made time to get to the grocery store (Union Bay is a bit off the beaten track), and to fix my car (with some perks) are so appreciated.  When totally new to something, it is possible to see it and everyone within it through fresh eyes.  I am very vulnerable to the help or the lack of it at this point as it is all so entirely different.  I had one fellow say to me, “You have the opportunity to totally reinvent yourself.  Who do you want to be?  No one here will know the difference.”  But, I will know the difference.  I have been thinking about his words as I make myself “real” in this new town. 

Reinvention:  What if I have already been changing, and I want to be exactly who I have been turning into which is now culminating in this very move?  I don’t have any aspirations to “be” a certain way, or to change my essential nature.  The paperwork reminds me at every turn that I am very much a culmination of my past.  My credit rating reminds me that I have paid my bills on time (thank goodness).  My driver’s licence proves that I am societally legitimate, and my social insurance number (which is in a box somewhere) is desperately needed to say that I have been and will continue to earn money for myself and the government.  I find that I do not have time or energy to reinvent myself until I am accountable to this new environment for everything that I have been and intend to be. 

What I do want to have the opportunity to do is be more present in everything that I do, and that is being clouded by the daily reminders that I need to attend to this operational minutia first.  Wouldn’t it be wonderful if I could just look my new authorities in the eye, shake their hands, and have them accept that now I am part of their groups? Instead, the transactions are formal as I need new keys, passwords, and special permissions to do all of the things that I have always done in my previous existence, here in this new world. 

Pausing to Reconsider:   Therefore, reinventing myself will have to wait, as I continue to have to bring forward all of my personal evidence to prove my merit so that I will be accepted here.  At times, I am reminded of my value and securities (and insecurities) in this process, and am proud of who I have been and who I have become.  For example, I was introduced at the first administrative meeting by my supervisor, and he highlighted my professional history.  I was embarrassed, and yet surprised that this is how someone else would see my professional value and introduce me to others without my input.  He was eloquent, touching upon things that I have accomplished; however, I came away from the meeting, after everyone came forward to welcome me, feeling more puzzled than ever about who I am and will be here.  Like my packing that I mentioned in a previous entry, “What will I take forward as a person, and what will I choose to leave behind?”  

Language:  The biggest reality in all of this is the matter of new technological and professional language that I will have to learn.  Even though I have been in the same industry for 26 years, I am now within it in a very new way.  British Columbia Education has many similarities to Alberta Education, but they use different professional jargon and acronyms for everything.  It is truly mind boggling.  As well, these provinces are very different in how they operate in my field, especially in the various initiatives, and technologies.  I need to translate everything I know.  It reminds me of struggling through my French classes all of those years ago.  It makes each new step, three steps for me.  It causes me to pause and really think about what I thought I knew, and reconceptualize it into new frameworks, using new words, and considering different priorities. 

Who Am I?  For now, I feel as though I am who I have always been and in an even bigger way than ever as my life story is factualized and recounted for the benefit of everyone who is getting to know me.  This re-telling of who I am to people over and over again so that they will know and trust me, has me wondering about my personal narrative.  “Bureaucracy defends the status quo long past the time when the quo has lost its status”  (Laurence Peter).   I need to be careful, however, to remember what “quo” I truly wish to sustain in my own life, and what “status” I hope to achieve that might be new and more refreshing.

Pressed: 52 Weeks Begin Now: Week Four: Becoming a Single Mother Empty Nester

7 Aug

 

Raising a kid is part joy and part guerilla warfare. Ed Asner

Comparisons to Nature:  Most mothers in the natural world have only a few minutes (insects) to just a few years with their off spring (orangutans have up to five years).   Some die during the whole life-cycle process such as salmon, and others sleep through the births, like some bears.  Some mothers go to terrific lengths to raise their babies.  For example, alligators carry their young around in their mouths for a year.  Octopi will eat their own arms as they starve in order to protect their babies.  Although some mothers abandon their young (it appears to be more uncommon than common), male animals and birds will sometimes eat their own if not protected by the mother.  The polar bear is just one example of this conflict-filled scenario.  It appears mothers are often the ones that sacrifice, feed, protect and go to great lengths in the animal kingdom to raise their little ones.  Many of them are, in fact, single mothers, doing their natural duty to bring their children through to adulthood.  However, there is evidence that the males sometimes do their part, like in the instance of the Greater Hornbills, recognized for the male’s attentiveness to the mother’s needs.  (Harness, 2011).

So, what does this have to do with human single mothers?  It has a lot to with us as most of us have an instinctual pull to care for our children from the nine month birthing process (which I did not sleep through) to the successful launching of our children, whenever, and however that may be.  In some countries, such as Italy, children stay at home on average 28 years (Meniti, et al. 2012).  It appears that the trend is that more and more adult children from around the world are living at home longer (Christina, 2012).  I would hazard a guess that the reasons have much to do with finances, security, and comfort.  Regardless of the trends, mothers usually feel compelled to see this process through, and we want it to be a smooth and a successful transition.  However, the longer it takes, the more we have to consider how we launch our children, and especially when we are doing it solo.

Launching:  My experience with launching my twenty-year-old son into the world, has not been without its difficulties.  Instead of him leaving with bags in hand, or me pushing him out of the nest like all successful birds do when they want their chicks to fly, I have been the one to nose dive out of the nest with my son looking down at me wondering: “What the hell are you doing?” from our Calgary home.  I have literally flown out to Comox, and have begun the process of re-location while my son sits at home re-formulating his life path in our much more empty home.  It has been a bit daunting for him.  Although he has threatened to leave a few times over the past two years, I don’t think he ever really thought that his mother would be the one to run away from home.  Although we both recognize that this move is intrinsically good for all of us, it has been a scary experience.

What I am discovering is very similar to the feeling that I had when Andrew, at age three, first left me for a long weekend visitation with his father when we first started the process of divorce.  I felt an intense sense of loss and I could not imagine what it would mean for our ongoing mother-son relationship with such difficult gaps of time apart.  Now, 17 years later, I feel the same confusion, especially with length of time apart appearing to be indefinite, and with 15 hours of driving time between us.  However, like when he was three, after having an inconsolable weekend with a good friend by my side, I came away from that experience knowing one very important thing.  I love my son, but I have to be okay being on my own.  I can’t get my own identity too wrapped up in raising him.

I began going to school again, and upgrading my academics which I have recently completed (post-graduate).  I started to travel, and my son started to see that his mother had a full life.  One part of it had to do with raising him, and the other part had to do with being my own person amidst the triumphs and tribulations of being a single parent.  Neither parts were mutually exclusive of each other, but both existed.  Our saving grace was that once a year we took a long holiday together, just he and I, somewhere special in the world.  We experienced each other in a new way, and outside of our comfort zones, and we found a new appreciation for each other.

In the End:  I was arrogant enough to think that because of this experience of finding my own identify along my path so early in my parenthood, that I would find this empty-nesting business all a bit easier.  I am finding out that this is not exactly true.  I am finding it very difficult.  However, as he and I muck our way through this muddy road of leaving home, we are re-connecting in a new way.  In our conversations, I sense that we are seeing and respecting each other through different lenses, and it may pull us together in positive ways in the future.  Andrew may end up coming out to BC, or he may head in another direction.  I may stay in BC, or I may find myself somewhere else in awhile as I settle into a new lifestyle.  Regardless of the challenges, what I do hope for most of all is that we will always make time to keep in touch and visit.  It would also be my fondest wish that we make time to do our once-a-year holiday that we have been doing ever since he was four months old, so that we can re-connect once again and learn where we are going and how we can support each other in our journeys and life lessons.

This is why I purchased this little cottage on Pender Island, and why I am moving to the most beautiful island in the world, Vancouver Island.  Everyone, including my son, wants to visit this pretty setting.  Sneaky, eh?

52 Weeks Begin Now: Week Four: Becoming a Single Mother Empty Nester.

52 Weeks Begin Now: Week Four: Becoming a Single Mother Empty Nester

7 Aug

Raising a kid is part joy and part guerilla warfare. Ed Asner

Comparisons to Nature:  Most mothers in the natural world have only a few minutes (insects) to just a few years with their off spring (orangutans have up to five years).   Some die during the whole life-cycle process such as salmon, and others sleep through the births, like some bears.  Some mothers go to terrific lengths to raise their babies.  For example, alligators carry their young around in their mouths for a year.  Octopi will eat their own arms as they starve in order to protect their babies.  Although some mothers abandon their young (it appears to be more uncommon than common), male animals and birds will sometimes eat their own if not protected by the mother.  The polar bear is just one example of this conflict-filled scenario.  It appears mothers are often the ones that sacrifice, feed, protect and go to great lengths in the animal kingdom to raise their little ones.  Many of them are, in fact, single mothers, doing their natural duty to bring their children through to adulthood.  However, there is evidence that the males sometimes do their part, like in the instance of the Greater Hornbills, recognized for the male’s attentiveness to the mother’s needs.  (Harness, 2011).

So, what does this have to do with human single mothers?  It has a lot to with us as most of us have an instinctual pull to care for our children from the nine month birthing process (which I did not sleep through) to the successful launching of our children, whenever, and however that may be.  In some countries, such as Italy, children stay at home on average 28 years (Meniti, et al. 2012).  It appears that the trend is that more and more adult children from around the world are living at home longer (Christina, 2012).  I would hazard a guess that the reasons have much to do with finances, security, and comfort.  Regardless of the trends, mothers usually feel compelled to see this process through, and we want it to be a smooth and a successful transition.  However, the longer it takes, the more we have to consider how we launch our children, and especially when we are doing it solo.

Launching:  My experience with launching my twenty-year-old son into the world, has not been without its difficulties.  Instead of him leaving with bags in hand, or me pushing him out of the nest like all successful birds do when they want their chicks to fly, I have been the one to nose dive out of the nest with my son looking down at me wondering: “What the hell are you doing?” from our Calgary home.  I have literally flown out to Comox, and have begun the process of re-location while my son sits at home re-formulating his life path in our much more empty home.  It has been a bit daunting for him.  Although he has threatened to leave a few times over the past two years, I don’t think he ever really thought that his mother would be the one to run away from home.  Although we both recognize that this move is intrinsically good for all of us, it has been a scary experience.

What I am discovering is very similar to the feeling that I had when Andrew, at age three, first left me for a long weekend visitation with his father when we first started the process of divorce.  I felt an intense sense of loss and I could not imagine what it would mean for our ongoing mother-son relationship with such difficult gaps of time apart.  Now, 17 years later, I feel the same confusion, especially with length of time apart appearing to be indefinite, and with 15 hours of driving time between us.  However, like when he was three, after having an inconsolable weekend with a good friend by my side, I came away from that experience knowing one very important thing.  I love my son, but I have to be okay being on my own.  I can’t get my own identity too wrapped up in raising him.

I began going to school again, and upgrading my academics which I have recently completed (post-graduate).  I started to travel, and my son started to see that his mother had a full life.  One part of it had to do with raising him, and the other part had to do with being my own person amidst the triumphs and tribulations of being a single parent.  Neither parts were mutually exclusive of each other, but both existed.  Our saving grace was that once a year we took a long holiday together, just he and I, somewhere special in the world.  We experienced each other in a new way, and outside of our comfort zones, and we found a new appreciation for each other.

In the End:  I was arrogant enough to think that because of this experience of finding my own identify along my path so early in my parenthood, that I would find this empty-nesting business all a bit easier.  I am finding out that this is not exactly true.  I am finding it very difficult.  However, as he and I muck our way through this muddy road of leaving home, we are re-connecting in a new way.  In our conversations, I sense that we are seeing and respecting each other through different lenses, and it may pull us together in positive ways in the future.  Andrew may end up coming out to BC, or he may head in another direction.  I may stay in BC, or I may find myself somewhere else in awhile as I settle into a new lifestyle.  Regardless of the challenges, what I do hope for most of all is that we will always make time to keep in touch and visit.  It would also be my fondest wish that we make time to do our once-a-year holiday that we have been doing ever since he was four months old, so that we can re-connect once again and learn where we are going and how we can support each other in our journeys and life lessons.

This is why I purchased this little cottage on Pender Island, and why I am moving to the most beautiful island in the world, Vancouver Island.  Everyone, including my son, wants to visit this pretty setting.  Sneaky, eh?

West Coast Enlightenment

5 Aug

What Have I Learned from Pender Island about ‘Rejuvenation’?


Arbutus Trees:  It is interesting that as I have been enculturating myself into the Pender Island lifestyle that I am being taught some very critical lessons by the nature and marine life.  For example, I am learning things from the indigenous Arbutus trees.  They shed their bark constantly and underneath the rough and peeling layers, a light vulnerable green surfaces, showing the world that the tree is constantly exposing itself—opening itself up to something new.  Then, over a bit more time, smooth ocherous limbs stretch themselves freely to the sky.  They all worship the sky in unusual poses.  Their humanness is uncanny.  In Nicaragua, I learned that these trees are referred to as “Naked Indians”, and I can see why.  As well, they are deciduous trees that drop and grow their leaves all year long.  These trees look out boldly from their ridgeway perches over the water or landscape as if to say, “Look at us in our flaming glory.  We are always changing.”  The islanders value these trees as they are some of the few trees natural to this region.  We are not allowed to cut them down because they belong here, and we are amazed by their lessons of constant rejuvenation.

Tide Pools:  As well, on this same topic of nature’s resilience, daily I peek into the little tide pools along the numerous coastal beaches of Pender Island.  I am enthralled by the little crabs that sit in their little sanctuaries of water, enjoying the small cozy culture they have created for themselves along with other sea creatures like mussels, clams and sea urchins.  For a day, they sit together protected from the sun in their aquatic homes, knowing that with high tide, their little worlds will all change once again, and they will be swirled back in with all of the others.  They will be tossed together out in deeper waters, or flung together back on shore again with the next tide.  I notice that some of the crabs are impatient to get back to the sea, or “anywhere else”, and embark away from where they are posted by mother nature.  Unfortunately, the sun dries them up, and they disintegrate and eventually disappear.  However, others stay quietly and more safely together in their placid pools until the moon pulls the water net back to reclaim them all once again.

How interesting it would be to know that every day we would be okay with the idea of being thrust together with new people and then taken away again the next day.  We would just have to “let go”, and “let it happen”.  We would have to accept that each new day is a new adventure of meeting new people also floating randomly together on the same tidal journeys.  Perhaps we need to pay attention to our daily turning tides, and be open to the serendipitous possibilities of healthy change and rejuvenation wherever, however, and with whomever that might be.

West Coast Enlightenment.

Pressed: 52 Weeks Begin Now: Week One: Leaving Everything Behind and Moving to Comox

4 Aug

Quote:  What makes us save some parts of our past and discard others?…Without attachment, the past would just simply fade away…Attachment is psychological.  It preserves the pain that still hurts and the pleasure that hopes to be repeated.  Being in the past, however, your mental storehouse is filled with a jumble of things that no longer serve you.  (Chopra, 2009, p. 199)

Week One:  A Fresh Start:  It is very easy to relate to a snake that periodically outgrows itself and sheds its skin.  What do we do when we outgrow our own life skin?  The snake rejuvenates itself, and by doing so leaves a scaly dry mass of its former self behind.  People operate a bit differently.  We tend to cling to all of the things that formed our identities and memories or kept us cocooned in safety.  Nature, however, has a way of throwing away its protective shells, and starting over again, or dying in the process of this transformation.  Penguins, for example, lose all of their water repellent outer feathers, and cannot swim as they moult. Elk regularly break off their protective antlers, leaving them vulnerable.  There is a cycle of rejuvenation, and predictably these animals, where successful in their change cycles, go on with their lives anew in a new season.

People talk ourselves out of fresh starts as if to suggest that by doing so we are “running away” from our problems.  Society also sells us the line that “Whereever you go, there you are” which equates to “why bother making a change?  We will inevitably stay the same.”  Or more classically, “What will I do without_____ if I leave?”  Fill in the blank with person, place or thing.  Ironically, if we are really honest, the nouns in our lives, including the proper ones, are generally indifferent to our choices unless our absence has a direct impact on their lives and routines.  Change is infinitesimal with acquaintances or colleagues, and normalcy is quickly re-established when we or these types of relationships change or leave.  People are usually in fond or obligatory connection for awhile.  However, the truly connected people stay connected, regardless of the distances or obstacles.

Moving or change is a quick filter of who and what really matters.  What do we pack?  What do we give away or leave behind?  Who came to say good-bye or made a gesture to make the transition a bit easier?  What made a genuine impact on us (emotional connection), and where will we find a way to re-integrate the truly meaningful stuff or people into our new lives?

The Fantasy:  There are many novels written about this fantasy of re-creating our lives or trading places with someone else, even if just for awhile.  Leaving everything and everyone behind holds a certain fascination for people because, like animals, we have natural instincts to revitalize who we are.  When we don’t, our bodies, minds and souls have a way of warning us that we are not being true to the need for these personal “upgrades’.  We ignore these instinctual red flags as we anesthetize ourselves with our routines and habits.  Instead, we need to be asking ourselves the following questions:

  • Is what I am doing with my life really vital to me?
  • Is what I am doing with my life creating more energy than it is costing me?
  • Is the fear of changing or leaving my present life preventing it from happening?  If so, is this fear the best motivation for staying in the status quo?

I am not particularly brave, although I am overcoming the vulnerability of losing my Calgary shell.  My son is turning twenty and we need to separate so we can both grow.  My job was simply too demanding and change was essential for me physically, mentally and spiritually.  I don’t have a significant other that I needed to cajole into a new adventure, nor did I need to leave behind someone due to unhappiness.  I just have a life that has been moderately satisfying, but is now ripe for transformation because “moderate” isn’t good enough for the latter part of my life.  The voice in my head calling out “Get out of here?” became too powerful.  I finally decided to listen.

Experiments with Truth:  My choice is to experiment with a new truth and push past the fears, as regret is a more daunting motivator.  It is time to explore the possibility that change can afford a re-invention of self.  I have hope that finding a new setting, with new tastes, smells, sounds and other can inspire a new way of being.  The growing pains are predictable:  loneliness, unfamiliarity, inconvenience, boredom, etc.  However, all of it is a matter of attitude and perspective.  Like travelling, there is always a new possibility around the corner.  I just have to look for it.

So, in the matter of three weeks, I found a new job, listed my house, explained to my son his new reality and started orchestrating a move to the West Coast where I have always “felt” right.  Is it whimsical?  Yes.  Is it filled with risk?  Absolutely.  Will I miss Calgary, the people, the life I had there?  For the most part, yes, although I have allowed it to define me for too long.  Will I be missed?  I like to think that we should not measure our pasts by how much people reach out and stay in touch?  I like to think that our memories store our relationships and experiences  just as they were meant to be pickled in our brains.  What is best is to move on and continue to forge new connections from what we have learned on our journeys?  If people keep in touch, that is a bonus.

Lesson:  Through change, we only tend to keep those things and people with which we have truly connected; therefore, creating authentic connections should form the basis of our work ahead.  My question for myself in this lesson is “What must I do to dedicate myself to that which is truly meaningful in my next 52 weeks and beyond and not fill my new life with minutia and obligation or things which pull me back to a comfort zone that is only moderately satisfying?”

52 Weeks Begin Now: Week One: Leaving Everything Behind and Moving to Comox.

Pressed: 52 Weeks Begin Now: Week Two: Yes We Can Travel Solo

4 Aug

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Observations about Can and Can’t People:  Before I discuss my thoughts on travelling solo, there seems to be a key philosophical premise behind those who choose to travel on their own, and those who do not.  My topic seems to coincide with this observation, but it is only a trend I have noticed in conversations with people over the years around this topic.  I have observed in my life journey that there are Can people and Can’t people.  To distinguish these terms, Can people spend more time talking themselves into their highest life force activities rather than talking themselves out of these activities as Can’t people do. Disappointingly, I have met far more people who do the latter.  Can and Can’t people rarely get along as they spend most of their time convincing the other that “it CAN be done”, or “No, it CAN’T be done”.  As well, neither strong Can people or strong Can’t people are very popular as no one likes to hear either’s strong opinions about why things can or cannot happen. The motivator can be overbearingly optimistic although they have often positively touched particularly open people along their journeys. The defeatist is often dogmatically negative, although helping others to appreciate what they have and what they should safeguard in their lives.

Both have become entrenched in their mindsets somewhere along their journeys, as they need to be right in their belief systems. These mindsets are whom they identify themselves to be and probably have been influenced by being in the presence of their opposites at some time in their lives. Can’t people operate out of fear. Extreme Can people operate out of fear as well. Both trigger the other to believe more strongly in what they believe. Can people often live longer. They just simply believe they can. Occasionally, Can’t people live a long time too because they are simply too afraid to die. However, if you remove the FEAR out of the equation, you have less polarizing. Sometimes can tempers can’t and visa versa, and they understand a new perspective. However, most often like-minded philosophies work best together.

Solo Travelling:  What has this got to do with embarking on solo travelling?  The essential work of anyone wanting to have a one-to-one and intimate relationship with different places around the world is their understanding of their own limitations.  If we have self-dialogue that talks us out of wanting to take the plunge into the solo travel experience, we are likely going to have a more difficult experience.  We are either unlikely to go anywhere out of our comfort zones in the first place, and secondly, we are less likely open to the experience we do choose.  So, the first step of the solo traveller is to not only believe that we can do it, but to take the steps to make it happen.

It takes a lot of initiative, confidence, and resiliency to do that.  Many of us have excuses.  Our families need us.  Wouldn’t it be selfish to spend money on ourselves while everyone else stays home?  It wouldn’t be the same without being able to share it with someone.  The obstacles often seem insurmountable to some people, and they choose instead to sit enviously on the sidelines and watch other people take the steps of getting out of their daily routines to go somewhere else.  Married couples, in particular, often will not consider going anywhere without the other.  It would seem to so many married people like an abandonment or a betrayal, when the mere matter of time apart and distance can allow healthy relationships to grow and become even stronger.  When we allow ourselves to be independent, our ability to be interdependent in our relationships gets even stronger (Covey, 1989).  However, people need to trust that this is so.  They need to value it in order to make it happen.  They need to practice it regularly or they lose their awareness of its importance.

The risks seem high, but the rewards are higher.  The internal work is the biggest part of the whole experience of solo travel.  Some people might use this argument as an excuse to delay going anywhere as they would indicate that they need to work on their own “stuff” before they are confident enough to travel solo.  However, this is not my message.  In fact, all life experiences are not linear and in straight lines.  There are no real pre-requisites for travel journeys other than to be healthy and capable of handling (financially, physically and emotionally) the type of journey on which we embark.  For example, new travellers would be wise to go on longer more complex trips to countries where culture shock is more likely to happen for them, later in their travelling careers.  However, every destination has a continuum of what is easy and difficult, inexpensive or costly, etc. within its breadth of possibilities.  It is just a matter of choosing carefully, and modifying the experience along the way.  Waiting to travel is like waiting for life to happen.  The time to travel is now.

Trapeze Metaphor:  I often refer to the trapeze metaphor on which Blank (2004) has based her book Between Trapezes, where the best trapeze artists are those who do not cling to the wrung that they are holding as they prepare for their jump from one wrung to the next.  They do not fixate on what is below them in terms of their safety net that they might fall onto should their flip in between wrungs go awry.  Nor do they obsess over grasping the wrung waiting for them at the other side.  Instead, the best trapeze artists are those who embrace the “in between” that is that space of uncertainty between the wrungs.  They relish in the summersaults they execute into thin air with the absolute faith that the other wrung will be waiting for them at the other side.

Taking the Leap:  How true this is of our lives in general when we decide to take a leap and do something differently.  How liberating it is to not feel the need to drag someone along as our security nets.  So many times, this false sense of security in having a travel companion is an ever-present reminder that we may enjoy a truer meditative travel experience if we had only travelled lighter, and left some of our stuff out of our backpacks, and/or, better yet, leave an unwilling or less-motivated travelling companion at home.  Occasionally we are fortunate enough to have just the right person who is equally equipped and motivated to share an adventure with us.  This sharing a journey with a like-minded individual is also a special experience.  However, I would still encourage people to travel solo at key times in their lives as the experience of doing so on our own is very different than doing it in the company of another.  It challenges us to grow in so many important ways that can be distracted from by having people from home (even the very best travel buddies) who bring with them all that we wish to leave behind for a little while to give us some distance from our daily lives.  As well, when we bring someone along, we typically focus on making the relationship work with our travelling companions in the throes of the experience rather than the immersion into the travel experience itself.  Instead, we need to focus on the trip, and be very present in ourselves in order to savor all that solo travelling has to offer. 

52 Weeks Begin Now: Week Two: Yes We Can Travel Solo.