So Long

We’ve been down this road before. Still feeling the remnants of New Year’s past as the calendar tells us, no silly this year is over, only one more day to go. Did you do something with it?

365 days gone, this time each feels lived in, maybe more days with vigor and enthusiasm than others. I’ve let some days slowly slip by with meaningless time on my couch binge watching Friday Night Lights and The Affair but I purposefully participated. Could I have accomplished more, of course, do I have minimal regrets, yes.

Tomorrow will be the starting over point, we of course do not need a new year to change, to do something new, but it has become a societal norm that we have all come to accept or tolerate.

Reflecting on the year, 2015 challenged me in the most unexpected ways. It made me look beyond my inner work and growth and look outward to my circle of friends, my environment and my activities. The aftermath, of going to the ER alone, was my wide-awake moment. I am not happy with my surroundings. I am not happy with the energy around me; it doesn’t not match how I want to feel inside. Energy is real and contagious.

26f0095f-73da-49ab-ab87-e3543ceda449At the beginning of the year, my only goal, was to own my choices. It’s been a struggle, a slow transition to walk away from things and people. We all have a journey and my journey is different from yours, neither is good or bad. The challenge, I am always faced with is letting go. I hold on to everything and everyone so tightly, until it snaps and then I am forced to unclasp my grip. This will always be my Achilles heel.

I am listening to my heart and intuition more than ever, and I am allowing myself to let go of friends, acquaintances, routines, habits- one at a time. I hope being aware and awake will continue to help along the way.

This year 2016, I am making space in my life and in my heart. I want to layer my foundation with courage and compassion.

“Keep some room in your heart for the unimaginable.” Mary Oliver

~N

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Sideways

It’s the end of October.

The year so far has been an interesting one, so much has happened around me. Friends getting married, having beautiful babies, getting divorced, buying houses and I feel like I am in the same place. No monumental changes just slow and consistent progress, which will lead to amazing results, right?!

I am living each day but my days are so different. I am seeing plays, live music (this is big on what makes me happy list) dating (at least trying), and watching football games from start to finish. I have taught more art workshops and I have written more this year; more than I have since graduate school. I have received three rejection letters (and counting) some rejections are welcomed, even wished for… I am putting my trust in the powers that be, the more rejection letters I receive in the beginning, the faster I will get to a yes down the road. No expectations, no disappointments, letting life flow… this is much more challenging to do every day.

And sometimes, I feel almost guilty; I get to do these things. I guess, the question is, am I trying to fill a void?! For a 40 year old woman, single and childless, feelings linger. Although, these feelings are merely passing through and momentary; I know, we shouldn’t compare ourselves to others, but sometimes it slips in.

It’s so funny, the misconception that I forgot to have a child or get married, it’s more like …. It just never occurred to me that I would be here, single and childless. Maybe, we can’t have it all but I do want to remind myself and anyone out there reading, that wherever you find yourself, right now, there is something wonderful and amazing life is gifting to you. No one’s journey will ever be the same, but do not for one moment blame your choices. Many women choose to not have a family, some choose to be single moms, but whatever your choice for your life, do not let others’ preconceived notions make you feel like we are not living our life, that we are incomplete.

But life is like that… constantly insisting that we grow and adapt into the new place, the new life and the new self.

“Tell me. What else should I have done?
Doesn’t everything die at last, and too soon?
Tell me, what is it you plan to do with your one wild and precious life?” Mary Oliver

When I am feeling off balance, I think of my yoga practice, when you are unstable in a pose; you have to reach higher to find your balance and keep moving forward into the next pose.

I am channeling all of these emotions into Hannah and James short story series, my favorite fictional couple. Hannah and James are still sitting in the restaurant, having brunch with a looming miscarriage in their near-future, after being obsessed with Showtime series The Affair; I am trying to write the scene from both characters point of view. In the series, the same event is told from the main characters Noah and Alison’s perspective. It’s fascinating because what’s important or what the characters recall is so different. It could be what they are wearing, to a simple gesture, to a conversation and this so true in real life. We all take away different parts from all our encounters, with cloudy vision from our mood or thought or context, we leave with half of the story. To feel their emotions, I had to dive into my profound loneliness, hurt, disappointment and acceptance. No more of the surface emotions, I need to feel their anger and tenderness for each other.

I know the grass is green on both sides; it’s a matter of perspective. Be yourself, whatever that self wants to feel and do, as long as it is real.

~Nerissa

Fracture

I was not ready for the emotional roller coaster I was heading on. It began quickly, with a tumultuous swoop downward then a slow grind to the top and the next heart pounding moment, came before I could exhale.

On a hospital bed at 3am, hazy and nervous with electrodes stuck to my chest and IV lines dangling from my arms. My emotions started to well up inside of me; the blood pressure monitor was beeping louder and louder as my anxiousness grew. I have never felt this alone. In these moments your strength is tested, when the simple questions expose your vulnerability. And maybe, I needed to be exposed.

As the attending nurse and I completed the admittance forms, he asked, “Is there anyone I can call?”

“Well…”

Can you see the cartoon bubble hanging over us? I raised my eyes to see if it was really there. My mind spinning, who can I call at 3am? Without fail, the negative thoughts bombard you, take over your mind and body – you are alone.

“No, there’s no one to call.”

“Well, that’s okay, I will take care of you” He grinned his little grin. I was messy, scattered and true.

I was released from the ER within a matter of hours; my nurse escorted me to my Uber. Within a few days, I was back on schedule. The hospital incident was fading and just as life was getting back to its routine. I was on the bed of another doctor’s office being told after a minor procedure I needed someone to pick me up. I gently tried to persuade the nurse to let me take an Uber home, after all it was a random driver, I called to take me to the emergency room. She would not hear of it, adamantly insisting, “can you please ask a friend to pick you up?” My independent self was quick-tempered and irritated.

Outside on the sidewalk, I was a disaster, a crying nut and the more I fought against it, the more tears came gushing out- the flood gates were open. If I was going to be scared and nervous of whatever may come, I gave in to every emotion. On the bright side, tears trigger the brain to release mood-boosting endorphins, yay for biology. My ups and downs were extreme, the tears would eventually stop, I think the hardest part, always is finding ways of making it through, staying steadfast and living life, knowing I am my anchor.

And like that, the end of the summer was upon us; I packed my bags and headed to San Diego for the long weekend. A few days at the beach were much needed. I don’t remember when it happened my fascination with the ocean, the more I sit with it, the more connected I am to it, the less significant life’s problems become. It’s the constant movement, I am drawn to- it feeds my restless energy. As the sun fell behind the horizon, it helped me to consciously move out of the shadows and back into the light.

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Coronado Beach, CA 2015

“Oh, yesterday, that one, we all cry out. Oh, that one! How rich and possible everything was! How ripe, ready, lavish, and filled with excitement–how hopeful we were on those summer days, under the clean, white racing clouds. Oh, yesterday!” Mary Oliver

~Nerissa

The Mule Got Drunk and Lost in Heaven

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I spent the holiday weekend in Florida with my family and was able to escape for a spontaneous rendezvous with Diane. Yayyyy!!!!!!  My time at home usually goes quickly, so its exciting when we can see each other.  We met at The Breakers Hotel in Palm Beach, making the right turn from South Country Road onto the long path to the entrance, I was awe-struck at this majestic hotel. Just a hop, skip and a jump from my home.

I felt like we were transported to The Gilded Age.  This Italian Renaissance hotel is reminiscent of a by-gone era, albeit, this structure before us is the third hotel in this location, the two previous hotels were burned down in 1903 and 1925 respectively.

Two fun facts:

1) The second fire was supposedly the fault of a politician’s wife, who was still growing accustomed to her newly invented beauty device — the curling iron.

2) The hotel is believed to be the only large, historic luxury resort that is still in the hands of its original owners (Henry Flagler’s descendants).

We had a magnificent afternoon catching up by the seawall, watching the waves and tasting the salty scents of the Atlantic ocean.

Happiness is...  July 2015
Happiness is… Palm Beach, FL 2015
On my way home, I was overwhelmed with a feeling of longing.  It feels fulfilling  to be around true friends, who know you inside out.  Then a strange thing happened, I started having flashes of memories, well one particular memory from March of 2010.  I was in the check-in queue at JFK Hospital to get my sticker to go upstairs.  I was flying back and forth a lot that year during my grandmother’s frequent hospital stints.  There was a couple in front of me and an older man behind me. I felt a tap on my shoulder and the older man said, do you mind if I read this poem to you. Odd, right?? not really, at least not to me, these sort of incidents happen so often, I didn’t even blink. I shook my head yes and he started reading Hafiz’s The Mule Got Drunk and Lost in Heaven. By the time, he got to the last stanza, it was my turn to get my sticker. I thanked him and walked to the elevator banks.

My deepest fear, happened May of that year, I lost my grandmother one of the greatest human beings in my world; needless to say the rest of the year was an emotional black hole. I never thought of that older man or the poem again- until that Tuesday.  I sped home and printed a copy of Hafiz’s poem for my morning journal.

Since July 7th, I’ve read The Mule Got Drunk and Lost in Heaven every morning before writing.  How does this relate to my present?  Why this memory at that moment? I’ve had a few recurring thoughts on my morning pages. We chase an elusive feeling/state of mind that we call happiness, which is impossible to ever really contain or hold onto forever because of our ever changing nature.

My happiness is being loved for who I am.

My happiness is accepting my restless state, knowing that I crave new adventures, cultures, knowledge and I need it to be whole.

My happiness knows that avoiding fear, loneliness and sadness is not the road to happiness.

The Mule Got Drunk and Lost in Heaven
by Hafiz

The
Mind is ever a tourist
Wanting to touch and buy new things
Then toss them into an already
Filled closet.

So I craft my words into those guides
That will offer you something fresh
From the Hidden’s Tavern.

Few things are stronger than
The mind’s need for diverse
Experience.

I am glad
Not many men or women can remain
Faithful lovers to the unreal.

There is a kind of adultery
That God encourages:

Your spirit needs to leave the bed
Of fear.

The gross, the subtle, the mental worlds
Become as a worthless husband.

Women need
To utilize their superior intelligence
About love

So that their hour’s legacy
Can make us all stronger and more clement.

Sometimes a poem happens like this one:

The mule I sit on while I recite
Starts off in one direction
But then gets drunk

And lost in
Heaven.

~Nerissa

Solo Sunrise

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Sunrise view from my yurt!

It was the most magical birthday! I drove down the coast from San Francisco to Big Sur and stayed in an ocean view yurt at Treebones Resort for two days- its glamping at its very best! It truly is the “greatest meeting of land and sea”.  This was a solo trip, I was bummed when my girlfriends from the east coast couldn’t join but it was a blessing in disguise.  If I had stayed at Treebones any other time, I wouldn’t have the most amazing memory of my 40th birthday.  I was reminded this weekend to trust the timing of my life.

A shiny new decade just waiting for me to conquer!

My yurt (#7) was perched on the hilltop with an unobstructed view of the grandeur of the Pacific Ocean. Yurts are a circular dwelling; they were very popular with the Mongolian nomads.  The history nerd in me, tried to imagine Genghis Khan commanding his army and empire from his ger, Mongolian for yurt (yurt is actually a Russian word) during their years of conquest.  As far away, distant lands as it sounds to have oil lanterns, silk drapery and Persian rugs adorning their gers; my rustic chic yurt with its plush queen sized bed, mountain of pillows, cozy down-comforter, vanity sink with hot water and electric fireplace … triumphs!

Anton Chekhov said, “Don’t tell me the moon is shining.  Show me the glint of light on broken glass.”

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As I sat on the private porch in my Adirondack chairs feeling the sun as it burned away the dense morning fog hovering over the coast; any residual anxiety about this number quickly melted away.  The greatness of Big Sur is a bold reminder of how minuscule my worries are and it  forces you to appreciate the grand scheme of things, like someone having the foresight to build a road, along the jagged coast line of the Santa Lucia Mountains.  The stillness and purity of this dramatic setting will stir something in you.

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I am in the middle of my life.  No more fighting with imaginary expectations.  I have accepted and released.  For me, it comes back to Nietzsche’s Amor fati, which is Latin for love of one’s fate; loving the choices you’ve already made- the good, the bad and the ugly.  I think it’s impossible to live a life to the fullest with no regrets, there are always regrets, and it just means I have made choices that were best for me at the time.  With these choices, I have created my path.  This year, I am choosing to have more solo adventures.  I am no longer waiting for someone to do the things I love.  Traveling is one of those loves, one I am continuously chasing. Not a believer in soul mates, but definitely a fool for love affairs, especially the ones with the intense adrenaline rush.

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Highway 1, Big Sur, CA
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Keyhole Arch, Pfeiffer Beach, CA

Traveling changes you, if you let it but traveling solo transforms you. Writer Paul Theroux once said that if you aren’t traveling alone, you aren’t really traveling. It’s so true, if you want to live outside of your comfort zone, solo traveling will force you to get comfortable with the uncomfortable; stripped of your buffers and vulnerable to the unknown. At first, the hardest part is asking for a table for one and that one pint of beer. The waitress will clear the extra place setting, you might get a few glances from other diners but when she returns with your goblet filled with Goose Island Sofie, you find yourself enjoying every sip slowly, softly, like a lingering kiss. And if you’re very lucky, a full-looking, bright moon will be there to enchant you.

This was the single, greatest gift I could have given myself.  It sets the pace for days ahead and one day, if that person comes along, they will be able to share the better parts of me.

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“The woman who follows the crowd will usually go no further than the crowd. The woman who walks alone is likely to find herself in places no one has ever been before.” Albert Einstein

~Nerissa

Thinking Out Loud

Why do we put so much emphasis on milestone birthdays? It’s just a number, it happens to everyone. But like most moments in our lives, the ones we deem as paramount – it’s simply because they are personal to us.

At 28, I had my first meltdown, I wasn’t anywhere I wanted to be. Yes, I had graduated from university and working at Morgan Stanley, studying to be a registered Financial Advisor. On paper, this was a good job except managing someone’s portfolio was never on my list of things to do in life. Why wasn’t I applying to graduate school? What happened to traveling? Living aboard? Moving to NY? Writing? That was the nudge, I needed to kick my ass into gear and lay the ground work for the years ahead. I have been a big planner most of my life. From the start of high school, I made a list of accomplishments for each decade and it was neatly tucked into my brown leather Franklin Covey Day Planner.  Do you remember day planners?! I carried that book around for years. Somewhere in the middle of my 30’s when everything sort of fell apart, I burned every list and post-it around me.

At 37, my second meltdown happened; I stayed in bed all day with my favorite bottle of Duckhorn Merlot watching a Cary Grant marathon. This though, was more of a pity party.

So, this brings me back to the number 40. What’s up with this number, it has no emotional attributes; it’s the pressure, we put behind it, in the form of age-related goals. At 40, I should be married, with kids, living a conventional satisfied life. One would think, we have evolved in so many ways but our perceptions of “age” for some reason are stuck in the 1950’s notion of being too old to start a family later in life. I remember being told at 32, if you want a child do it now, talk about unnecessary pressure! I hear it all the time, oh, you’re almost forty, that’s means you’re never going to have kids- umm, who gave you the crystal ball into my fertility future. I let the naysayers in. But now, the clock is definitely ticking faster than the speed of light, is that even possible?!

Tick-Tock, Tick-Tock is the sound I hear the moment my eyes are open. It’s not my alarm this sound comes from within. What is it? Why does it haunt me? “What do you want?” I whisper to the dark room. Is this my warning, it’s a sound that can only be ignored for so long, it starts in the morning and then continues all day, if you don’t listen? The decibel intensifies. Is this my maternal clock ticking or is it the ticking for change? Change, one of the most dreaded words around. A necessity for growth but we run from it every chance we get. Stagnation will suck the life from your soul… but all I hear is… Tick-Tock, Tick-Tock.

Someone, please tell my womb to calm the F- down.

With forty, exactly one day away- I’m feeling at ease and accepting. I have no power at this point, other than to let go. Let go of the ball of anxiety in my chest causing so much pressure that each breathe is laborious. Let go of the inner turmoil causing my heart to gallop.  Let go of the nervous energy radiating through my extremities.

Instead, I am going to be thankful to be alive and healthy at 40- I have my entire life ahead. Life is definitely not like I planned. In the early years, I thought follow the path and it will all work out. For some people, this is very true, they stick to the plan and keep forging ahead and for others, we, sometimes get derailed by our stumbling blocks and mistakes and it takes us a bit longer to move forward- but we do.

The truth is, I do not want my forty to be the new twenty or thirty. I no longer need to party until the wee hours of the morning like a twenty-two year old. I want my eight hours of sleep. I no longer want to be around negativity. I no longer need to be accepted and liked by everyone. I no longer have to prove myself to anyone like a thirty-three year old. I am happy to no longer be a girl. I am a confident and strong woman and I am enough. I’m never going to be this age again; this is my chance to be 40- seasoned with life’s cynicism! Maybe, it took me four decade to start to understand myself and trust my gut but as they say – it is never too late!

However, this is not to say… I am ready to be middle-aged!

~Nerissa

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Goodbye thirties! Big Sur, CA 2015

Repeating Patterns

Fudge! F**k! Frustrated!

That didn’t take long.  I swear the CA Secretary of State’s office is there to make things ten times more difficult for you … uggh!  Maybe, this is an underlining test to make you rethink your ventures. I’ve been on the telephone with their Business Programs department once or twice a week trying to re-instate my business name and verify the Franchise tax exemption step-by-step procedure.

Why are you spinning your wheels, you can’t really make a difference…
Is there a need for this program…
How do you intend to help…
Is it attainable…

My enthusiasm was ebbing away.. day by day.

And this sums up the first two weeks of March!

Day 21. Day trips are the best!

Russian River, CA 2015|Photo by NerissaH

It was time for a long overdue artist’s date. I joined a random group of writers at the Russian River for a day of writing. Early Saturday morning, I rented a car and drove an hour and a half outside the city. There is something to be said about throwing your shit into a car and driving. I was over the moon happy when I got there and saw my writing friend, Rose. She and I bonded at the last writing session over A Tree Grows in Brooklyn; we were both reading the book instead of writing.

Rose is working on her second novel, she moved from Brooklyn to California with her husband years ago and now resides in Marin. I was drawn to her spirit and her directness instantaneously – she is very east coast. The sun was playing peek o’boo with the clouds most of the day, but it didn’t matter, being outside with my bare arms exposed to the sunshine was pure delight. I spent my morning writing about The Misadventures of Hannah and James and the afternoon reading on and off, when the words came to a halt.

Tapping on the keyboard, Rose looks up at me. “What’s got you stuck?” she asked. Scowling, I replied, I don’t really know how much longer Hannah can stay in this future-less relationship. Rose’s laughter was so loud, it echoed down the river. That’s the beauty of creating, when you live with your characters, you feel every emotion.  A few minutes later after she recovered, her best writing advice, you should walk in the footsteps of your protagonist. Go for a stroll along the river; imagine James on the other end, knee deep in the water with his fishing pole. What’s Hannah experiencing at that moment- she feels the breeze slightly graze her arms, she sees the sun lighting the path on the river rocks and hears the soft rippling of the waves. She loves him.

Diane and I are always chatting about finding our muse.  I thought I would share some of my inspirations.

Starting with March-

BookOrphan Train, written by Christina Baker Kline- a fictional story, based on historical facts about the trains that transported orphaned and homeless children from New York to the rural areas of the Midwest between 1854-1929.

Orphan Train

Musician– Nicolas Murphy aka Chet Faker, he’s been on repeat for over a year, his soulful, velvety voice send shivers down my spine! Go on, have a listen.

Movies– The Disappearance of Eleanor Rigby- Them, Him and Her- this is a 3-part film showing the differing perspectives of Eleanor and Conor after a relationship ends.

What’s inspiring you??

~Nerissa