Laughing at Myself and Trusting the Universe

Ah the joy of laughing at oneself…. This morning it started with reading my last journal entry before the new year, in preparation to write my first blog post of 2015.

December 31st The experiences of this year have been perfect, because they’ve brought me to my growing edge again and again, a place where I have to be fine not being in control and trust things will always go as they should. That all I ever need is to trust the universe in all its divine intelligence, and to let go.

I laughed, because yesterday after making my New Year’s resolution to trust things to unfold as they should, I sat down and balled my eyes out, because even after writing that, I was still stuck on the fact that I’m setting aside my plan of moving back to Asia to teach English and the trip to India I’d dreamed of for years, to stay help take care of my family. “But I knew what I was doing, I had a plan,” I told my friend, “now what am I supposed to do?”

I laughed when I read it, because just two days ago I knew that the only thing I’m really, really supposed to do is trust the universe enough to recognize the opportunities that exist right here, and be present, even if that means throwing out the 2015 I had meticulously crafted for myself, and just saying, “Alright universe, I get it. I’m not in charge of everything.” I’m supposed to trust, even if it means giving up the certainty I had that this was the perfect plan, and stepping into the big open space no longer having it leaves. I laughed because it didn’t even take me two days to forget what I knew, and get in my head, and totally panic at the idea that I don’t have a plan, or a clue, or a map. I laughed, and I smiled, because the universe was kind of enough to nudge me to write that down, so I could come back to it when I  forget.

I laughed because I just had a poem published where I talked about how I don’t live in my head anymore, and I realize I definitely, definitely hang out there a lot more often than I’m willing to admit. I laughed, because part of trusting the universe is trusting that I’m also exactly who I’m supposed to be right now, even if that is a person who forgets what she knows almost daily, and who really, really wants to live from a heart space, and be a person who deeply knows that all the plans that go awry are a part of some bigger plan, but who has a loud monkey mind that gets in the way.

I laughed at myself the hardest though, when I spent a solid hour meticulously composing the first version of my blog this morning, on how we have to embrace that despite our plans, the universe often has other ones, and then my computer crashed and did not save a single word of it. Because, after an hour of reflecting on adaptability, my immediate thought when I got that dreaded blue screen was still, “Oh great, now I have to start over. That thing I just wrote was really good, and now I have nothing.”

Ohhhh. Good one universe, message received. And then after a fit of uncontrollable laughter, I sat back down, and I started over. All was not lost, it never is, the end result just different than anticipated. I lost an hour of words, but I suppose that was exactly what was supposed to happen, because I wrote what you are reading instead.  And I suppose that’s always the way it goes- we make static plans, we forget that we live in a dynamic world. And, when the universe reminds us, we can either struggle or we trust the journey.

Here’s to knowing that I’ll probably do a little bit of both in 2015, because I’m a human, and being totally okay with it, and to knowing that every time I miss the mark, the universe gently guides me back.  All love, Jen

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Almostopenbook.Com is the blog of Jennifer Monet’, writer, wild-eyed-wild-haired adventurer, and lover of life. She offers travel coaching, mobility solutions, and resources to earn a living while turning your passion for adventure into a reality at LifeCREATIVE.org.

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Wild Roads, Vandalism, and Blue-Eyed Demons

If jealousy is a green eyed monster

Then self- pity is his blue eyed friend

The innocent-looking accomplice

Who will talk to the cops

If they get caught.

 

They run the streets together

Kicking over trash cans

And laughing mercilessly

As the wind scatters

Dirty heaps of garbage

Into an otherwise open road.

Embracing My Inner Dumbass.

Travel Lesson #1: Embrace Your Inner Dumbass

 Before I head off to Thailand, I’m spending a few weeks off the grid, on the Lost Coast of NorCal.  This place is wild and free, and I certainly will be blogging about my experience here.   However, the experiences I had just trying to get here proved to serve as an important travel lesson…that I have a big fat ego, and if I am going to navigate SE Asia solo, I better let go of my need to know anything, get comfortable with admitting cluelessness, and most importantly… start embracing my inner dumbass.

So I have a confession:  blogging, updating Facebook with pictures, and sharing all my adventures with friends have sent me on a bit of an ego trip lately.   I definitely don’t think bragging rights are the purpose of travel, or writing about it- my blog, as well as my upcoming trip, are supposed to be outlets to reveal my authentic experience and  let go of the need for approval in the process…  turns out that is easier said than done.  It’s kind of a ‘one step forward, two steps back process’.    I start out revealing a part of who I am, get just a tiny amount of applause, or start to feel like I know what I’m doing, and my mouthy ego pops back up and says, “Duuuuude, this is awesome!!!! Do more things to earn praise, I love this shit!!!”

Sheeeesh… silly ego.

Fortunately, whenever I start letting my ego do the talking… the universe has a lovely way of serving me up a lesson in humility.  Two days ago, I was all set to take an Amtrak train to Martinez, California, then hop a bus to Eureka, where I had a ride waiting to drive me down the long winding mountain drive to my uncle’s cabin in Petrolia.  Then came the ‘fun’ part…where I got to the station, remembered I’m from Ohio, and have never taken an Amtrak.  I didn’t know the first thing about navigating a large Amtrak station.  However, I like to think of myself as a saavy traveler, so I thought, “ I got this”, and began wandering.  What I did not do was admit to one person how incredibly confused I was- because I figured that would make me look like an ass.  Twenty minutes later,  I finally found my track.  Feeling a sense of confident satisfaction,  I showed the attendant my ticket.

….and was told that my train had left a minute before.

I felt defeated; if I failed at something as simple as catching an Amtrak, how on earth would I navigate the confusion of a new culture in where I don’t speak the language?!   I began to go into panic mode, sure that I would screw up every single part of my upcoming trip to Thailand, positive that this was a sign that I couldn’t handle solo international travel. Sometimes I overreact…

The next train to Martinez didn’t come for five hours, so I had a lot of time to figure out the San Jose Amtrak station/ calm down.  So while I munched on overpriced train station snacks, it hit me… not knowing how to find my track wasn’t an issue, mistakes happen and I was going to make it to Eureka the same day.

However, I did notice my big fat ego and stubborn avoidance of looking like a fool  kept me from admitting that I had no idea what I was doing and asking for help.   Had I asked a bunch of silly questions, I might have looked like a clueless idiot…but  I also might have been an idiot who was riding her train, instead an idiot watching one take off without her.

So… pretending to be in the know for pride’s sake… not working for me this particular day.  It also struck me how  absolutely ridiculous it can be to pretend to know what I’m doing when I was in Palo Alto eating Pho (Vietnamese soup) with my classmates.  So, for whatever reason, I can barely eat sushi with chopsticks.    As the bowl of noodle soup was placed in front of me, my stomach grumbled, and for a split second I thought, “I should probably ask how on earth one eats soup with chopsticks”.  But as I watched everyone chow down,  my loud mouth ego jumped in,  “Don’t be the dumb Midwesterner who has never attempted to eat noodles with chopsticks!”  All the while,  my physical body was saying, “Screw you ego, I don’t care if you grab those noodles with your hands, I’m starving!”

My ego won.

So, I  pridefully asked no questions, picked up the dreaded chopsticks and immediately slopped a pile of noodles all down the front of myself.  For the rest of my meal, the table, my lap, and the floor got covered in Pho.  I pretended not to notice, and  thanks to my pesky ego, I spent half an hour being frustrated as I tried desperately to land one full bite of food in my mouth without anyone noticing me flailing.   Later, when I realized in class I had noodles down my shirt and in my scarf, I realized I  probably need to have it out with my ego, because being prideful is starting to get messy.

So pesky ego, here’s the first blow.  II’m admitting publicly that there are more times lately than not when I’m completely clueless.  Despite my big fat ego, who would have everyone think I have it together, I’m admitting I’m a big dork, and most of the time I have no idea what I’m doing.  A lot of times when people think I’m quietly contemplating some deep thought in class, I’m trying to suppress a giggle because I just mentally thought “that’s what she said” about something my professor said.   I act fearless about my upcoming trip, when I tell everyone how awesome it will be, but in reality, I am full of insecurity and doubts.  I often worry that I’ll get there and find out I made the wrong decision, or be lonely, or accidentally end up in Laos because I couldn’t understand Thai and jumped the wrong bus.

I guess when it comes down to it, kicking my pride in it’s arrogant ass is probably the best reason to travel.   In the next month, I’ll be living somewhere where I’m so clueless that I can’t help but be humble… the place where I don’t speak the language, I look and dress strange, and I don’t know how to order food…  a Buddhist country where my ego can’t say “ohhh, look how spiritual I am” because I sure as hell don’t know more about mindfulness than the Thai people… a place where in order to survive, I have to check my ego at the gate, as I’m mispronouncing the three Thai phrases I’ve learned, “Hello”, “Thank You” and “ I’m lost”.

It’s been awhile since I took the travel plunge, and something has changed… I go into this trip knowing how to laugh at myself, knowing that travel, especially solo travel,  is another awesome opportunity let go of  pride and to stop taking myself so seriously.   Screw my ego.  I have no idea what I’m doing, but I have a plan-  I’m going to ask every question and unabashedly look like a clueless idiot.  And when I screw it all up… I’m going to laugh. A lot. Travel lesson numero uno- Embrace my inner dumbass.

car engines, loud noises, and truth.

writersblock

While anyone who knows me will share that I am rarely lacking things to say,  when I’m writing, I struggle every time with the first sentence. I sit down, concepts forming, phrases swirling, but those first few words… I freeze. Next, I start writing awkward phrases, slamming the backspace key like I’m trying to give myself carpal tunnel, and wonder how I’ve communicated a single idea to anyone ever.

Instead of beating myself up for losing my entire grasp of the English language nearly every time I begin writing, I’ve decided to honor the process & start thinking of it like when I warm my car up on a winter morning. It makes this angry squealing noise for about a minute, a noise that upon first impression doesn’t indicate forward motion. It rattles me every time I hear that noise, for a split second I wonder if this will be the morning I don’t make it out of the driveway? Often I notice a neighbor staring, maybe wondering what on earth I think I’m doing relying on a car so obviously needing a tune up. Yet I get behind the wheel, and by the time I drive a block or two, the awkward noise turns into a healthy engine hum. I’m on my way.

It’s like that with writing. As I’m warming up, as I’m dusting my words off, sometimes I feel like all I’m doing is making noise. Awful, awkward, in-need-of-a-tune-up noise. Then I write a couple messy fragmented sentences. Stop. Start. Write a few more. Eventually I warm up, my thoughts no longer hit the page like an engine ready to explode, they come out like the soft hum of forward motion. However, in the same way I feel a pang of anxiety when I see the neighbor staring towards my driveway, confused by the god awful noise coming from my rusty car; “Uh oh, does that girl need a mechanic?!”, the anxiety still exists that the means of transportation I’m relying on is so god awful rusty that I should just take the bus.

The reason I choose to move past the “noise”? I’m as familiar with it as I am with the sounds of a car engine I’ve listened to for eight years. Just as I know which sounds are everyday noises my engine makes, I know that I always am able to write once I get beyond that first hurdle, quieting the noisy rumble of self doubt. And, although some mornings, that noise is almost deafening, the sentences and phrases screeching out like the engine of a decade old Hyandai, I’ll know as soon as I get behind the wheel and let my truth carry me forward, I’ll find the words.

speak-the-truth-even-if-your-voice-shakes1

…………………………………………

I once read somewhere that the average person speaks about 15,000 words in a day. That’s over five million words in a year, the equivalent of fifty full length novels! We are all story tellers, sharing our story every moment we are awake. Every novice writer is given the advice; “Write what you know,” yet if we speak novels worth of words, why does no one ever tell us, “Speak what you know”? In a society that too often encourages us to conceal ourselves, can we challenge ourselves to use more of those 15,000 words to reveal our story, to share who we are underneath? What about using those words to discover who we are to begin with?

As I was discussing my own errors in communication with a dear friend last week, I was reminded that an important part of communicating compassionately is knowing that I am speaking from my own truth, and from the heart not from fear. It’s only when I come from that place of authenticity, of who I truly am, and what I truly mean, then I can let go of others’ reaction. In that moment, communication becomes about showing up and expressing the unshakeable truth of who I am.

Of course, this isn’t easy to do… actually, it’s exhausting and terrifying! Communicating my truth means… yikes… people are going to see who I am, flaws and all. But in doing so, I choose kindness. In accepting and revealing myself for all my insecurities, fears, and fragility, I hope I am giving others around me permission to love their own perfect imperfections. In being vulnerable, I make the statement that I reject the societal norm of concealing my humanity.

And it’s so easy to make excuses…  There are so many ways we learn to rationalize speaking from places other than truth. Sometimes we hold back our truth in an attempt to be kind, afraid that our truth isn’t what someone wants to hear. Other times we are afraid to share our truth because we think it is wrong, unacceptable, not good enough. Sometimes we don’t speak our truth because we simply haven’t embraced it ourselves; recognizing our truth can be scary, especially when it might shake things up, it might shift a situation, it might create change that we don’t feel ready to face. Yet despite the rationalizations, even when it feels uncomfortable, or unnecessary, what I’m starting to recognize is that unless I communicate from a place of openness and authenticity, something feels incomplete, disconnected…

I also recognize that writing for me has always been the way I recognize truth in myself, and for me starting this blog a first step in sharing that with others. However, I’m not going to pretend to be unafraid, have no self doubts. I struggle with communication, I’m a work in progress. Not only am I still working on “speaking what I know”, I’m just working on knowing what I know. As easy as it is to conceal how I feel from others, I can hide it from myself. I keep uncomfortable personal truths wrapped up in layers of self protection, and maybe the biggest part of my journey is removing those layers one by one to find my true self underneath. I think that’s a large part of the human experience, removing all those layers of defenses until we can truly connect with others.

Thus the title of my blog, “Almost open book”. I couldn’t be a completely open book if I wanted to, because I haven’t read all of the pages. What I recognize is that the more able I’m able to recognize my own strength, and ground myself firmly in my own truths, without personal judgment, the more I’m able not only to speak my own truth with kindness, but to listen to others’ truths with acceptance. And while I can’t share what I don’t know, my resolution as I continue opening my world to those around me, is to share the pages I have read, and even when my voice shakes, even when that first sentence comes out as a jumble of awkward noise, to speak my truth.