When I was 20 years old and studying abroad in London, I told my then love-interest that I would be getting better with age. Yes, like a fine wine. I said the words out loud with a kind of confidence I didn't typically sport back then. It was full, deep and knowing. Like something from another Universe. I knew that with some experience the gangly grippings of a shy, anxious, self-conscious young woman would loosen and a more radiant ME would be revealed.
About three weeks ago I had the realization I would soon be turning 36...before I was even done with 35. I didn't feel great about it. Thirty-five felt like such a nice, healthy number. Somehow wholesome. Divisible by five and right smack in the middle. Thirty-five felt so much more digestible. Thirty six felt like a creeper approaching 40 dangerously fast. Thirty-five felt safe-ish.
I am an artist. With being an artist comes, at times, a daunting free spirit. Inside I am a vagabond gypsy dreamer who craves the endless road, wide open spaces, reckless abandon and zero cares in the world besides new landscapes and a deep, blank canvas with tubes of color to smear across it while the ocean breezes whisper through my hair. "Some say I'm a dreamer, (but I'm not the only one)." Being human comes with resistance though. And ego. And worry. And money and stress and traffic and inflammation and and and and...so sometimes practicality gets the better of me and slows my artist gypsy dreams down a bit.
Rich Roll, a 51 year-old vegan ultra-athlete with a kick-ass podcast called The Rich Roll Podcast, proclaims in his book "Finding Ultra," "There's only one cure for fear. Faith." Trusting that something bigger has got our backs is the antidote, according to Rich. I totally agree. And not only that something bigger has our backs, but that it actually wants us to be our best, brightest, happiest, healthiest selves and to live our lives from that place. It wants us to live our wildest, most authentic dreams. A place based in service, gratitude and raw passion. Even when life gives us lemons, it's just part of the master plan. How do we find our faith? We practice it. Over and over and over and over. Like a muscle. We do the heavy lifting. We build our faith muscle so that it can become our default setting. Less doubt, less worry, and so on, replaced with more faith. He writes later in the book, "If I could summon the courage to pursue my passion with purpose and without fear...Somehow, everything would work out."
As I stared down the loaded barrel of my 36th birthday, I turned toward my faith and dug a little deeper. I made sure to meditate at least before bed or first thing upon waking, I journaled every morning, got my body moving through dance, strength training, volleyball and yoga, I watched the sun set at the beach as many nights as I could, I asked big questions such as , "What is next?" and prayed on them, I got creative every day and turned my attention onto my art business when I wasn't working somewhere else, I bought myself things I not only needed but wanted such as a new "Passion Planner" (the MOST amazing planner. I am NOT a planner, but this thing is a friggin guide, and half way through the year, they sell them for just $5!!!), the book "Finding Ultra" by Rich Roll, "Peaceful Sleep" essential oil, a bouquet of Peonies, a writing journal and polarized Blenders sunglasses for volleyball. These weren't necessarily new practices to me, but I approached them with fresh zest. With greater faith. Because in life we grow and then we plateau. And in order to grow again, we have to up-level. We have to step up our game, or else we risk those mundane stages of comfortability. Nothing wrong with them, but it's during those phases of comfortability that I start to feel "old."
I don't believe in the traditional western model of aging. There are so many tools available to us to slow the aging process down such as: faith, creativity, clean eating, yoga, exercise, time in nature, etc. I also believe that with faith, we glow more youthfully. This is scientific. I wouldn't make this up. Less stress equals fewer stress hormones equals less inflammation equals that sparkle in your eye. Practicing faith provides vitality. With faith comes optimism, hope and the belief that good does prevail. I had the privilege of seeing the Mr. Rogers documentary "Won't You Be My Neighbor?" recently for its opening night to a sold-out Tampa Theatre. If there ever was a modern Jesus, he was it. His ability to exude love and kindness to ALL human beings is the type of example I set my clock to. It struck a cord. His story had the eyes of an entire theatre of movie goers glistening with tears and goosebumps spreading rampant like wild fire. And guess what? He looked pretty darn good through all his years!
Sometimes we are faced with individuals we have some friction with. These relationships, whether they be love interests, friends, business partnerships, family members, etc, are often the ones that will teach us the greatest lessons about ourselves. So after I saw the Mr. Rogers flick, I drove home reflecting on how all this kindness business fit in with my then roommate, a 49 year-old male I had palpable tension with based on lifestyle differences. I didn't yet know just how this lesson would reveal itself; I was still just trying to be considerate and stay out of this person's way. But with some individuals, friction between us is inevitable. Our pot eventually boiled over. I decided to move out sooner than expected as a safety precaution. It was an uncomfortable and stressful experience, but two weeks later I am left realizing just how grateful I am for it. I felt so incredibly supported by the family of friends around me who took me in, let me store my belongings in their spaces, lent an ear, gave me sound advice in non-judgemental and loving ways. I am also grateful for this individual showing up in my life because answers to my questions were revealed. The Universe took care of me through it and guided me to my "what's next." I wanted so badly for the dream of living in the quaint little village of Gulfport with a yard, plants and a cat to come true that I was willing to overlook crimson-colored flags, but my soul knew what was up. As spiritual beings living a human existence, we subconsciously seek conflict so that solutions will reveal themselves. Every experience we have in life has the potential to turn us a little more towards God (or the Universe, or love, or whatever you want to call that higher knowing we all feel at different times and in varying degrees). This experience pointed me in a new direction. It convinced me to loosen the reigns of a dream I was holding onto tightly, so that other dreams may start to expand. My soul says go where there is space! I am open to ALL the possibilities.
My father and I had lunch one last time before I moved to Florida four years ago. We shared many a meal over the years; it was and still is our father-daughter tradition after my parents divorced when I was 14. This particular meeting packed a punch as I was leaving Vermont indefinitely. Our nerves were sensitive and we ended up in disagreement over a missing manual to his Cuisinart food processor I had borrowed (which he later discovered in a kitchen drawer. At least I was off the hook!). Somewhere in the middle of our argument, he called me an "idealist." Although the context evades me, the intention was not a positive one and it's something I will never forget. I was being called an idealist and his tone told me it was an attribute he felt I should change. In his mind, it wasn't serving me or anyone around me to be that way.
An idealist according to Google dictionary is: a person who is guided more by ideals than by practical considerations. Sure, that sounds about right. I can't help it. It just feels right. Moving back and forth between Vermont and Florida is anything but practical. Yet I absolutely love the lfestyle I'm creating. When I stray towards the side of practicality, I often swing right back to my idealist roots after a torturous lesson or two that throw me all out of wack. Idealism is my faith. I believe Heaven is right here on earth. We just have to make it so, through our individual perspective.
Sooo, funny thing about this business with my dad, whom I love deeply and dearly and know that when he called me an idealist that day it was his own way of expressing love for me and protection for my well-being. I returned to Vermont last summer to participate in the Burlington City Arts Artist Market and had a lot of time to catch up with the curmudgeon (yes, he enjoys being called that). On one pretty Friday afternoon when he was a little extra chatty, he told me, "Before you went to visit Aunt Helen in England, I wrote her to let her know I was sending my ambassador of good will and love." GOOD WILL AND LOVE?!! What? This comment seriously knocked my socks off! I visited my great Aunt Helen in England during my semester abroad in London 15 years earlier, around the same time I told my then love-interest I'd be improving with age. I was a walking ball of anxiety and insecurity who believed she was weak because she was sensitive in so many senses of the word. I also had so much love and joy in my heart, and it hurt to not be able to express that in any sort of comfortable way. But to know now that my father saw who I truly was then and probably always has, meant so much to me and solidified my personal faith.
On the eve of my departure back to Vermont for the rest of the summer, I feel free. I am unburdened by dreams that weren't quite coming true; untethered by circumstances I thought would make me happy. Perhaps another day I will fulfill this dream of living by the sea while painting the storms rolling in, but today i'm letting it go. Dreams are a little like cooking with a crock pot: set it and forget it. In a few short hours, voila! You have a fully-cooked, wholesome meal. There is a great sense of peace in the letting go. "Let go and let God," as the saying goes. I am happy today because I continue to do the practices that lead me to making the decisions that support my higher self. When we walk in the direction of our purpose, even when it's stressful, there's a sense of excitement and peace that is undeniable and unmistakable.
I am so excited to spend time with family and friends in Vermont while continuing to create Annahata Hats and new paintings. I'll be setting up most Saturdays with my prints, cards, hats and stickers at the Burlington City Arts Artist Market from 9:30 am - 2:30 pm in City Hall Park beginning Saturday, July 28th. I hope that if you're in VT this summer, you'll be able to stop by and say hello!
So yes, I am an idealist and just as Mr. Rogers taught, I continue to learn how to release shame, guilt and fear (and all those other feelings that really don't serve us) in order to love myself more fully so that I might be able to love others while spreading joy and light into the world. Has it been easy? Heck no! Has it been worth it? Hell yes!! Today at 36, because of these practices and the mindset that every experience in life is an opportunity to alchemize spiritually, I am my happiest, healthiest, most radiant self thus far. We must do what we love. The Universe will continue to point you in that direction and it is our duty to follow the signs. I intend to leap with more faith in my sails and less fear in my heart through this new chapter. Won't you come with me?!
"Work is paying attention to what mattes most." -Belden Lane
Peace and love,