Choose Gratitude

Michael and I have made a lot of passionate and non-conformist decisions. We chose to change careers despite making a very comfortable salary at our jobs, we chose time off together to explore the world and get to know each other better, we’ve chosen to live debt free, we choose not to eat animal products, and we’ve chosen to live in the place most people dream of retiring in. But sometimes, I admit, it is hard to accept the consequences of all these choices. I am reminded every time we look at purchasing a house within our budget or when we miss being able to go out with our friends and eat whatever is on the menu.

In fact, a menu is the perfect metaphor. We sometimes get disoriented or feel behind in some socially acceptable life trajectory but really we are not even ordering from that menu. Almost nothing on the average American menu suits us (and it shouldn’t suit therapists but that is another post….). Our creativity, the drive of designing and implementing a private practice that shatters the status quo all comes from living from another menu. The hard part is that we are creating the menu as we go. There is no template or timeline to adhere to. We are continually faced with the decision to shape our menu from socially conditioned entitlement or from a place of deep gratitude that every day we wake up in a place we LOVE and go to work doing what we LOVE.

I choose love and gratitude today.

Family Day

We are so fortunate to spend 30+ days a year at Mt Bachelor. Some of my favorite times on the mountain are what we call “family days” meaning we pack lunch, bring Abbey, and just have fun for the day.

Here is a video from early December of our first Family Day of the season:

Transformation

It always inspires me the way the snow transforms the desert. It was falling as rain just a few days ago but as the temperature dropped each droplet of water became a more expanded and detailed version of itself.

I love how as it piles up it dampens the usual noise giving way to new and interesting sounds. The ravens talk loudly over the trees weighed down with accumulation. The train roars over the silence. The coyotes, foxes, and hares all come down to greet the town as the snow level drops lower and lower.

For a moment, we are reminded of the power of the earth. That a dip in temperature can transform a landscape.

When it would snow in Gig Harbor, I remember the delightful pause the city would take. School would be canceled, work would understand your absence, and it seemed to me the world stopped for moment. It is different here. As I write, I can hear the usually speeding cars slow. The city keeps going and most kids still get to school. But I listen for and tune into the pause. The hesitation to speed. The inability to rush about. As if it isn’t just noise that is dampened. As if we all remember on some level, those snow days as children.

As if we are all reminded that transformation is always possible with only a few degrees of change.

Real People

(pictured above: a cranberry farm)

Bend is a great town. A majority of the people who live there are deeply invested in the community and choose to call Bend home. But there is always this haze left by the constant coming and going of tourists and people who only live there part-time. It leaves behind a sense of unease and incoherence. The only remedy for which is to continue to invest deeply in the community of Bend.

Arriving in Coos Bay this week, opened my eyes to yet another side effect of Bend’s tourist economy and part-time dwellers; the city is pretty. We keep the industrial parts on the East side of the town and the industry that is on the West is built to a certain code (whether implicitly or explicitly mandated). The city of Bend puts a priority on pretty walk ways, pedestrian bridges, and maintaining that pretty facade. Which when you live there is a double edged sword. It is nice living in a pretty place, I would be lying if I said it didn’t have an impact on moving there. But as a therapist, when you get to know the people who are marginalized out of the pretty part, it feels odd. That a tourist economy, a necessary industry for Bend, could trump say for instance, housing assistance for a family.

Coos Bay on the other hand is an organic logging town built on generations of hard labor. My first reaction was, “Ew. So industrial.” However, as I have met people and spent more time here, it is refreshing. This place is full of hardworking people, who live here because they work here. A concept I hadn’t realized I had grow detached from. In Bend, many people (me included) choose to live there and thus make work… well…. just work. Either by creating an industry or market as an entrepreneur or some get lucky and find a full-time job or they get by with some strange cocktail of odd jobs. It’s a strange dynamic. And one that perhaps could only come from 21st century living. An age in which more than ever people are moving to cities of their choosing. Work used to be the only reason to move. However, since work is hard to find everywhere and there aren’t significant wage increases to stay for, why not move where you want to live?

That was a contributing factor for us. Our option was to either make X amount of money in rainy Washington and commute two and a half hours to a ski resort or make the same amount of money where we vacation and commute thirty minutes to a ski resort.

In Coos Bay, something else is apparent. The economy. Yes, those two words that my generation knows so well. It is the response we get to almost any plight. Sure, media can put its spin on it however they want but the labor market is hurting and one can see it clearly here. But one can also see there is a real sense of coherent community, very friendly people (who know the moment you walk in a room that you are visiting) and excellent food. We went to the more touristy area of Bandon and couldn’t find any plant-based or remotely healthy food. But here we have eaten like kings. There is a fully plant-based cafe for lunch and a couple of friendly restaurants who have made plant-based options for us.

I can’t help but wonder about our society. Is this just a metaphor for who we are becoming? More concerned with the way things appear than what is really happening? More identified by what a passing tourist may thing of our towns and less invested in creating a good quality of life for its residents? And isn’t this the outcome one would expect given the sheer amount of time and energy put into social media? A digital facade created by millions of participant’s facades. And is a simple pleasant facade what we really want the culture we pass onto our children to be? And was our country built by people working hard or people who looked good working and living?

As I type those questions I can’t help but feel I see the effects of this facade culture in my private practice. Families that take a great photo for a Christmas card but can’t stand to be in a room with each other. Parents who take their kids cool places but aren’t sure how to even talk to them. Or couples who invest all their time in looking up ex-lovers or high school sweethearts while ignoring their current partner.

Is social media making our existence a facade? I wonder….

Touring Alcatraz Backward

Last week I had the privilege of being in San Francisco with my husband and my mom for her birthday. We had such a great time we are already plotting what we will do next year!

I keep reflecting on how rejuvenating of a trip it was. Planning a trip on a budget to a very expensive city for three people had left me feeling I would disappoint my mom and husband at some point. I was so focused on numbers, times, and tickets, I didn’t have time to imagine how great it could be. But the moment we picked up my mom at the airport, it was all put in perspective. We had all made it there to spend time together in a beautiful place.

My favorite part of the whole trip was taking the Alcatraz island tour. The moment we got onto the ferry, the Blue Angels began their Fleet Week dance across the bay. It was amazing to be on the water with them flying directly overhead. As we exited the boat the guides corralled us like sheep into a corner on the island to go over common sense like don’t mess with birds or leave trash. I found myself sneaking further and further from the crowd drawn in by the Blue Angels soaring overhead and captured this image:

It was an incredible moment. Soon my husband and mom joined me and we started walking down an island trail watching the Blue Angels. We decided to stay on the trail, enchanted by the huge agave plants and hummingbirds. We ended up at the prison and realized we had started at the end. The three of us agreed, “Let’s just take the tour backward.” It was an awesome experience taking a self guided tour through the prison which was now full of people monotonously pacing through listening to the audio tour. We took turns making up facts and telling stories. It made me realize where my entrepreneurial sense comes from. My mom’s ability to take chances and not conform to others rules and my husbands free flowing creativity. These two forces shape my life and are helping build a business that will help many and revive the dying art of systemic therapy.

I spent the first 3 days loving all that the big city has to offer and the last 3 days excited to get back to work and my small town. It was so refreshing!

It also reminds me of something I tell clients all the time, “practical is not always practical.” Of course we could have used the money we spent in San Francisco in other ways, but having time away to feed your spirit always proves to be more profitable going forward.

The Spiders I couldn’t Kill

The house had become a disgusting mess. Between life and dog sitting for a friend, I had let the house go with wild abandon. I dropped a piece of mail the other day and when I reached down to pick it up, I noticed two small spiders had taken up residence by the door near the floor. It disturbed me that it had been so long since I had at lease the decency of vacuuming that the two spiders had time to create an elaborate display of their new home.

But today while I was vacuuming and thinking about my plan to suck up those little brown creatures, I just couldn’t do it. Call me weak, call me sensitive, but they must be eating or catching something that comes in through the bottom of my door. And since when do spiders make webs so close together? Since when do they work together?

Hindus believe that everything that moves has a soul. I was reminded of this as I vacuumed closer and closer to their home. I was reminded of what it felt like that fateful day when I showed up to my home seeing it torched in angry red and orange flames. I was reminded that we are all fragile organisms playing out our role in this world at this present moment and that we have the incredible ability to inhabit the earth, and if we choose to, live in symbiosis with it. And finally, I was reminded of what a gift it is to live right here, right now. In a time where so many people are waking up and choosing to live the life they are called to live. A time in which fat pensions and long term positions are scarce; we are forced into a new way of being. And if we choose to ignore the voice of fear, we can choose a life that reflects that which we love and are passionate about.

I am so lucky to be alive and to have learned, despite myself, that you get in life what you put into it. The more energy I put into love and doing what I love the more I get back. It has only been a couple years since becoming plant-based but love comes much easier now. I no longer have the conflict of eating the animals I love. It has freed me in so many ways (a topic for another blog perhaps). And one of those ways is that I can listen to my heart when it says, “let them be.”

On a side note, for those who may be thinking, “hot dang. How overly sensitive can one person be??” think about this:

Words like “overly sensitive” and “emotional” were words used to describe people who were against slavery. They were used again as reasons why women shouldn’t be allowed to vote. It is my belief that we are all sensitive; we are just desensitized by institutions/society/culture/media from the time we come into the world.

Adventure is Messy

Never straight forward

Never a straight line

Always complex

I was reminded of this as I scrambled up a pile of loose dirt to take this picture:

 I watched the sun set behind Mt Bachelor. And felt the cold of the night move in.

This is the first October in four years we aren’t moving. 

My dirt filled shoes remind me I’ve lived. I’ve experienced. I’ve ventured.

The Fear

The fear is not that the struggle will continue

Or the hardship will endure

 

The fear is in the fertile ground left after the fire

The enduring change

The unfamiliar new landscape

And the old self it reflects

 

The fear is not that we will find ourselves anew

Or that our souls will change course

 

The fear is that the familiar will no longer fit

We will out grow the people and places we know

That our lives will be that of our own making

No longer dictated and recited back