Just do it

Our little rocky bay

A couple years ago the hub and I were in the Canary Islands. One late morning he was excited to announce that he’d scouted out a remote bay for us to sit in, because god forbid we lie on the nice sandy beach like normal humans. He’d rather hang out in this rocky cove where it was virtually guaranteed there’d be no one else. Ok fine—I know him and his little quirks. So we get ready to go and he says, ‘Oh but we kinda have to climb down a bit, so bring your sneakers.’ Of course, there’s always a catch with these ventures.

So we hike up and over this volcanic hill, down and around to the bay. Sure enough, we have to climb down to get to it—like ten feet! (3.5 meters) And there wasn’t a soft sandy landing in case one were to fall—it was tons of hard rocks. He assured me it would be easy. He knows this, he says, because he already tried it. Uh huh. So he goes down first and shows me where to place my feet. Within 2 minutes I was sweaty, shaky, anxious—and loudly cursing him out. ‘This is so typical of you! Why can we never just go where normal people go?’

You know that saying, ‘watch out, that first step is a doozy?’ I don’t know where it comes from but yeah, that first step was…challenging. It jutted out like a 9-month-pregnant woman. So you had to find a place to hold onto at the top while carefully positioning each foot father down, all the while twisting your body like a wild animal. It didn’t feel safe at all. But even with all my complaining and yelling I was determined to get down. It took me like half an hour, but I did it. I was definitely not graceful going down, and I even cut my leg, but I was successful.

Once I got to the bottom, I realized it wasn’t so bad. I could probably even do it again. I was a little nervous to climb down again the next day, but I did it in about two minutes. It was really just overcoming the fear the first time. The next few times were a cake walk. And if I hadn’t have overcome my fear by just doing it, I would’ve missed out on sitting in a beautiful, protected cove where I could swim safely and Alex could be his recluse self with no people around.

You probably know where I’m going with this: first steps always seem daunting.  It looks too challenging, too risky, you don’t feel ready; lots of different fears and/ or excuses come up.  So you put it off, you scream, you blame, anything but take that initial action. I know I’ve done that with a million different things, and once I finally take it, I wonder what all the fuss was about. And I wish I had taken it way earlier. Every. Damn. Time.     

You want to reach your goals, right? You want to fulfill your dreams. So…what first step can you take right now? What fears aren’t actually as bad as you’re making them out to be? I think as humans we always think we have to do some major action, but ANY action can be a first step.  And then tomorrow you make one more small step. And another and another, and soon you’re walking out that door.  Don’t worry about the whole map being laid out for you just yet; the steps will appear along the way, as long as you trust the process. Let go, trust, and just do it! 

Silent meditation is a b&tch

I’m working with this wonderful coach, which someday I’ll write more about. For now I’ll just say she’s helping me get out of my comfort zone and push through boundaries —like posting every day, showing more of myself, etc.

Part of my ‘homework’ is daily silent meditation. She says it’s non-negotiable. I’m no stranger to meditation—I’ve done it on and off for 15 years, but usually with a mantra, a guided meditation, or at least a group. I’m finding that silent meditation is a b&tch though. I start the usual way: get comfortable, take deep breaths, try to quiet my mind, and… a million thoughts come in. I make lists, suddenly remember things I forgot to do, the typical monkey mind. Sometimes (often) I even forget I’m supposed to be meditating and I get up and do other things! I just completely forget I even started a meditation.

I almost went on a five-day silent retreat once. If I can’t handle a ten-minute silent meditation, can you imagine how that would have gone? In one of the pictures of the event from the prior year, they showed people sitting immersed in these gorgeous alpine settings and looking blissed out—except for one guy who was looking down, hands on his head looking like he was about to lose it. That probably would’ve been me after about three days.

I really want to conquer this.

I never have this problem with guided meditations. What am I doing wrong? Do you meditate silently? Have any tips for me? Someone please help!!!

Things You Do When You’re an Expat in a New Country (but definitely never happened to me.)

• You don’t have any idea what a gram looks like (because you’re not a drug dealer and you’re from a country that doesn’t use the metric system like the rest of the world), so instead of a few ounces of loose tea, you ask the lady at the apotheke for 600 grams. She gives you a weird look but says, ‘Ok please have a seat.’ You wonder why you need to take a seat and after awhile wonder what’s taking so long and then when not one but two ladies come out with 6 ginormous storage bags of loose tea that’ll last you 12 years, it dawns on you that maybe you should’ve said 60 grams. In your embarrassment you pay the 70 euro and slink out. You try to sneak it by your husband but there’s so much that it’s impossible.

• You don’t know what extra scharf means on the paprika label so you load it into the bean dish you’re making for your brand new in-laws. Like load it on so much that the dish is unsalvageable and you have to order pizza. It means extra spicy, Karen. Like what they’d serve in hell.

• Announce on Facebook ‘ich bin so heiss‘. You think it means you’re hot, because it’s a hundred freaking degrees out, but you’re actually proclaiming you’re ‘in the mood’ if you get my drift.

• You aren’t aware of the local corporate culture of employees calling bosses by Mr. or Ms., so you go around calling everyone, including the CEO, by their first name.

• You are told you sound adorable when you finally are brave enough to speak some German (or whatever native language it is) around the locals. No one wants to hear this, trust me.

• You are way more excited than you should be when you finally order something in a restaurant or market and you get actually get what you thought you ordered. But you act cool in front of the native speakers, like you had it all along.

• To be continued bc there’s lots I’m forgetting at the moment. (Not that these are MY stories of course .)

My fellow expats, have any to add?

10 Great and 10 Sh*tty Things about Living Abroad

The beautiful hills of my second home

What does it feel like to be an expat, to live in a country outside the one in which you grew up? Being an expat and living abroad is like walking around with your heart outside your body. All. The. Damn. Time. Even if you’ve adapted well and integrated into your adopted home, you generally stay loyal to your home country, and the longing for home sometimes is eternal. But clearly there are tons of benefits, or no one would ever move. (You’ll notice some items in both categories; that’s by design.)

Ten Best Things about Living Abroad:

  1. New discoveries: architecture, food, culture, art, people, museums.
  2. The chance to add a new language to your repertoire!
  3. It’s an opportunity to reinvent yourself!
  4. It opens your mind and expands your horizons.
  5. You have a second home! If a war ever breaks out in your country of origin, you’ve got backup, baby.
  6. You get to travel to new places. (If you’re an American expat, you can easily get to places other than Mexico or Canada).
  7. You can build strong friendships with other expats quickly, because they know what you’re going through. You almost develop a shorthand for discussing life abroad.
  8. You HAVE to be flexible and open. Otherwise you’ll suffer.
  9. Countless opportunities to laugh at yourself, lots of funny misunderstandings, humorous translation moments, not all of which are mortifying.
  10. I only have 9. I’m sure there are more. Befriending the locals perhaps?

Ten Worst Things about Living Abroad:

  1. You always feel homesick, even though you don’t want to go back for good just yet (or maybe ever).
  2. German. (Obviously not all expats learn German. They are lucky.)
  3. You feel homeless, at least the first year. You don’t really live in the new country yet but you definitely don’t live at ‘home’ anymore either.
  4. That awkward AF feeling like you live in two places and therefore live two different lives.
  5. Maybe you don’t want your horizons expanded EVERY DAMN DAY.
  6. Sometimes feeling that the ‘grass is always greener.’ ‘I’d rather be there than here.’ (This also applies to when you’re visiting ‘home’ and your miss your adopted country! You just can’t win, dammit!)
  7. Getting lost in translation/language difficulties (some days this is the Number One annoyance.)
  8. No one at ‘home’ asks that much about your new life, making it seem like they don’t give a rat’s arse about you.
  9. It means potentially never truly fitting into your adopted country. At times you think, ‘I will ALWAYS and FOREVER be an outsider,’ because you didn’t grow up there, you don’t speak colloquially (even if you are very fluent in the new language), you don’t know the culture through and through, you don’t understand how your partner was raised or what he/she/they experienced in terms of education, music, television, or cultural identity issues surrounding food, dress, sex and on and on. You will never have the full experience of someone who grew up there. (This can change if you have the enough interest and persistence.) I think this one can safely count as numbers 9 and 10.

Other things that can go in either category

1. Missing out/FOMO (Sometimes you can be GLAD you’re ‘missing out’). I personally am happy to have a buffer from the insanity of US politics at the moment. This leads to:

2. Not being as current on the Zeitgeist of your own country. Who are all these new people? What is this show everyone is talking about? When did HE die?

3. Seeing your country how the rest of the world sees it. This can be very eye-opening. It can be quite depressing or truly inspirational. I’ll let you guess what I think it is for me at the moment.

Living abroad means loving some things about your new country and hating some things. It means missing some things about your home country and really NOT missing other things. It means adjusting accordingly, and realizing every place in the world has its good and bad stuff, just like your new home (and your old.) It means frustration, stress, joy, new beginnings, endings, mixed feelings, rigmarole and red tape, and endless visits to the local government authorities for visas. But it also offers endless opportunities for growth and expansion (I know, just what you want, AFGO, another f$ing growth opportunity.) Highs and lows baby, highs and lows. Like life.

And finally it means, after years and years in your new country: maybe, just maybe you are eventually content within yourself no matter where you live. And you’ve truly learned the meaning of the phrase, ‘wherever you go, there you are.’

Magic Hour (or: FTODOTB)

I love this hour, when the day isn’t quite over but the night hasn’t begun; when the world catches its breath. I’ve heard it called magic hour, or golden hour. In Austria, it’s called Blaue Stunde, or Blue Hour. I call it FTODOTB (favorite time of day on the beach). Whatever you want to call it, it’s soul filling.