Category Archives: time

Attitude of Gratitude–Day 28–Painting Friendships

One of the hardest things about moving to a new place is feeling alone. In the last seven years I’ve moved four times and have had to start my life from scratch each time. But moving somewhere new can be exhilarating for me, because it is like having a blank canvas  in front of me with endless opportunities to paint something beautiful–like friendships.

Painting friendships is not easy. It requires patience and perspective and many different shades of color to capture the the light and the moment just right. The mediums may always be different, but a skilled artist learns over time that laying strokes of colorful moments onto a blank canvas will capture light and time and leave you with something incredible and tangible.

In this sense I am an artist and my studio is filled with canvases. Some of them are masterpieces–framed and displayed and fill me with pride when I look at them. Some of my paintings have faded over time and others that were a messy experiment. Some of my canvases are half-painted, and I have many still that are blank, just waiting for the moment when my brush meets the pallette.

Today was a special day because I came back to an old painting–one that I had left two years ago when I moved away from Morocco. This friendship had potential to turn into a masterpiece, and was left to the side in order to pursue the natural movement of time and space. Meeting up with my friend Ioana today, after two years had passed, was a wonderful reminder of the power of friendship and connection. My canvas, while it was only half covered, still existed, and the colors I had left on it were as vibrant as ever. Sure, my perspective on the painting I’d started two years ago had changed slightly due to natural growth and age, but coming back to this friendship, it felt like it was only yesterday that we hugged goodbye in the Rabat medina on the last day of June, 2013.

I am grateful to have had such a wonderful person come back into my life today, and for the lovely day we got to spend romping around Queens together, reminiscing about Morocco and catching up on each other’s lives since we last said goodbye. I am happy that she is here in the United States and that the painting I started two years ago has the opportunity to become a colorful masterpiece.

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Slow down for what?

Recently the days, weeks and EVEN months have been passing as quickly as a flip book. If I dare to blink, I risk missing it all due to the sheer velocity of which the pages travel.

It’s October now, and I can hardly even recall the past four months. I could blame it on work, and the hectic nature of our busiest season, but ultimately I am the one to blame for letting the present moment slip away from me so effortlessly. I recall sitting at my desk at 8pm on a Wednesday night and wishing for there to be more hours in the day, just so that I could complete everything that needed to be done.

However, because I believed there was not enough time to get everything done, every action that followed this thought came with a sense of urgency. I began to eat my meals standing up in the kitchen…because let’s face it, who has time to sit? I stopped working out…because that’s a luxury for people with time. Writing? Who has time for something you love when you have no time to read all of your emails? Meditation? Ha! Sit still for fifteen minutes everyday?! You’ve got to be kidding me.

I could feel myself burning out and kept telling myself, “push through, next month will be better.” But as the days turned to weeks and the weeks to months, I realized that it wouldn’t get better unless I slowed down. What’s more,  I was solidifying a dangerous pattern into my psyche that is very hard to unlearn.

I began to think in terms of lack rather than abundance.

Not only was there not enough time, there wasn’t enough money, not enough love! On this slippery slope, I began to slide. The slide wasn’t fast and it wasn’t without resistance. I saw what was happening to myself, but I ultimately couldn’t control it.  Until I finally took a deep breath.

(INSERT DEEP BREATH HERE).

AH, there it is, the key to it all. A conscious deep breath is an acknowledgement of the present moment, in which we always reside whether we are aware of it or not.

So now that I am breathing again, how do I make a 180-turn around from lack to abundance? Here are a few steps I am taking to bring myself back into alignment and achieve abundance in all aspects of my life.

1. Fake it til you make it. When we have functioned with the idea of lack in the back of our heads for a significant period of time it is hard to believe that you are enough and will always have enough. So, fake it until you begin to see some results.

If you don’t think you have enough money, give away the last 5 dollars in your wallet.

If you don’t think you have enough love, send someone you love a handwritten note proclaiming your love.

If you don’t think you have enough time, sit down and, as slowly as you can, drink a hot cup of tea.

2. Give thanks. Gratitude is a huge factor in how we perceive abundance in our lives. A gracious mentality will shift our energy field from negative to positive, and in doing so attract like-minded thoughts, people and events into our lives.

Today I am grateful that I was able to sit down and write this post. The satisfaction I receive from writing is so much more than than the satisfaction of checking off items from my daily to-do list. Laundry? Sure it needs to be done, but hey, I’ve got time …and 2 more pair of underwear until I actually NEED to do it.

3. Take a time out from your screens. I, like the rest of humanity these days, am addicted to my cell phone, my computer, my social networks, etc. etc. etc. Commit to powering down every now and then. It will help you to manage the sense of urgency that technology creates for us to be (in the words of Daft Punk) harder, better, faster, stronger. The world will not stop if you turn your phone off periodically. In fact, by taking some time away from our handhelds I would argue that we will increase our productivity. The world will continue to spin and we will be more present to the beauty and opportunity around us in the moment.

4. Make yourself a priority. When everyone else’s needs come before your own, you can be sure that you will become resentful. Do specific things for yourself everyday that contribute to your mental health and well-being.

Go to the gym. Read a book. Cook a healthy meal! Go for a nice walk in the woods. Create something beautiful. Meditate. Dance. These are just a few things that make me happy and restore me. Ask yourself what makes you happy, and make doing it a priority!

At first, slowing down means more routine, because it takes a bit more planning and commitment. However, the ultimate goal is to turn it into ritual–the more positive and spiritual counterpart of routine.

Slow down for what? 

Slow down for your health, Slow down for your well being. Slow down so you will reap the bounty of abundant gifts from the universe.

lil john\

Lil Jon agrees.

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When one closet closes, another window is opened–Wendy’s Closet Clothes Out

Yesterday marked both an anniversary and the end of an era. Wendy’s Closet in Stowe, Vermont, closed its doors after 24 years (to the day) of business. Those who have shopped at Wendy’s know that her store was so much more than “fabulous” fashions. Her goal has always been to help women feel beautiful and confident in their own skin, and she has empowered women for years to embrace their unique beauty. The energy and love that filled this small shop knew no boundaries.  All who passed through her doors received the utmost service of loving-kindness from Wendy and her staff, or her ‘Angels’ as she liked to refer to them.

I was blessed to be a “Wendy’s Angel” myself, coming to the store in 2008 on a return trip from college. With no summer job prospects, I happened upon Wendy’s looking for a birthday gift for a friend. As a long time customer of the store, Wendy knew my retail history and offered me a job the moment I told her I was looking for work.

Little did I know that this moment would alter the course of my life. Wendy took me in and opened up a world of love, kindness, generosity, loyalty, and spirituality to me. She is truly a guru among humans–humble and noble, fabulous and fashionable. She’s a woman who can throw anything on with a tee-shirt and jeans and make it funky and classy all at the same time. She taught me lessons about self-confidence and the importance of self-love as we played marathons of backgammon, read our horoscopes from the Seven Days and ate cupcakes from Harvest Market.

It was in her very shop that I even landed my current job. I had moved home from living abroad and had little more than two dimes to rub together. I called Wendy, as I always do when I am home and in transition. As expected, she opened her doors wide to me and offered me my coveted job back. I came to work only for the weekend, taking the bus from NYC to Stowe. Some might call it luck, but I call it fate, that on this very weekend back in October of 2013, I helped a customer who would end up offering me a position within a company called Education First, which would eventually launch my career as the Director of the Cultural Care Au Pair Training School.

The path that my life has traveled since that day has everything to do with Wendy’s Closet. All of the lessons I’ve learned over the years from Wendy about facing my fears, taking chances and opening myself up to the gifts of the Universe came to pass under her roof on this fateful day in late October.

Wendy is a woman of strength and character, and has been both a mentor and a dear friend to me. Her store was my haven, a place I called home. I knew it inside out, from the merchandise to her loyal customers. I relished my afternoons working with Wendy and the Angels.

And so, it is with bittersweet emotion that I write this piece. It is difficult to imagine Stowe without Wendy’s Closet, but I, like anyone else who knows Wendy, am certain that whatever this new chapter brings, it’s going to be “fabulous.”

Wendy, these mere words I’ve conjured pale in comparison to the feelings of gratitude and love I feel for you and your store. Thank you for everything, and my best wishes to you in this exciting transition.

Lots and lots of love,

Lizzie

wcvt

 

 

Attitude of Gratitude–Day 19: Bittersweet Transitions

There are multiple moments in my life where transitioning from something comfortable into the unknown has been electrifying, yet all together bittersweet. Leaving behind people and places in order to embrace the unfamiliar is never easy, and I have done this multiple times throughout my late teens and early twenties as I moved away from home and subsequently made my way all around the world.

Though I feel that this transition into some semblance of an “adult” life is well underway, it has brought up lots of of reflections on all the people and places in my life that were once brand new– all the strangers that became friends, places that became home.

I always think back on these people and places in fond reminiscence, and there are so many little triggers that quickly jog my memory of them. I can smell Burkina Faso. I can dance San Francisco. I can drink France. I can hear Morocco. I can walk Spain. These small things, which act as portals and transport me through time, if only for a minute or two, so that I can relive a beautiful moment, in a beautiful setting, surrounded by beautiful friends. And when I come back to the present, it’s always with a smile and a sigh. A smile of thanks for all the day’s that have been seized, and for all of the amazing people whose presence has graced my life. But also, a sigh of longing for the days gone by,and the people who are now so far away.

Thus, today I am thankful for the smiles and sighs, because I have been blessed with countless opportunities to discover the world and to befriend genuinely amazing people. They are a reminder that each one of my fond memories was once an uncomfortable new beginning, which blossomed into something worth longing for when it passed.

And if I am able to remain aware through discomfort of the new life chapter I’ve begun, I can let the wave of bittersweet memories wash up on the shore of the present moment, and offer up some gratitude to those people and places who have made my life so meaningful.  I must continue to breathe myself back into the present moment, so that I am able to create new memories here and now that will ultimately be worthy of a smile and a sigh sometime down the road.  There-were-some-memories-1024x884

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Attitude of Gratitude–Day 18: All the Things!

Today, I have not had to stretch to find things I am grateful for, so instead of my usual thematic post I am just going to let my cup runneth over with all the things I would life to give thanks for today!

This fine Saturday:

I’m thankful for the early morning alarm that prompted a yoga class to stretched out my sore muscles.

I’m thankful to Ms. Paula for taking me plant shopping, and for helping me pick out some green life to fill my apartment with!

I’m thankful to the healthy home cooked meals I ate today that nourished my body.

I am thankful for a visit from my parents and my puppy, and to finally live somewhere close enough to them for a weekend drop by.

I am thankful for the beautiful walk on the beach and a seaside meditation to remind myself of the infinite ocean of love within my heart.

I am thankful for a nice conversation with Wendy and Virginia, my role models and friends who always inspire to be true to mySelf.

I’m thankful for all the light hours of the day, that I’ve had to do all of these wonderful things!

And, last but not least, I’m grateful for the 70’s…. for this:

 

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40 Days Catholic: My Lenten Promise — Attitude of Gratitude

I’m Catholic.
I’m Catholic?
I grew up Catholic.

Catholicism has been a label attached to my identity since my infantile baptism. It was not a choice I made cognitively. Nor were the wrote memorization of prayers, Sunday school, or First Communion. It wasn’t until the 10th grade that I took any leadership in my Catholic identity. By this point I had been a Catholic for 15 years, and the decision to proceed with my confirmation was one of blind acceptance. No internal questions were asked; I did it because I wanted to, and because it was the next stamp in my Catholic passport.

Church in my family was a regular Sunday event growing up. It was never any fun, but I went and I followed all the rules. I stood up, I sat down, I knelt, I sang, I prayed. After church I got to eat donuts…so that was cool. If I wasn’t scraping the nail polish from my nails, I was playing interior decorator and imagining how the sacred space could house my four-poster bed, comfy plush couches, dressers, lava lamps and a closet that would make Cher from Clueless jealous.

Let’s face it, I was there because I had to be, not because I wanted to be.

As my journey with religion and spirituality progressed I drifted away from the Catholic church. I felt disenfranchised and unsupported. I equated the church with intolerance, patriachy and greed. I disassociated myself with the term Catholic. There was too much guilt attributed with my identity and I wanted to purge myself of it.

This is when I disovered Glide Memorial Church in San Francisco’s Ternderloin District. It was a place of acceptance, tolerance, and most importantly LOVE. Their weekly celebration uplifted the community through song and praise. They talked the talk, and they walked the walk. With liberation theology as their underlying tenet, they work to combat social injustices caused by poverty and social inequality.

Finally feeling connected to spirit and Self for the first time, Glide became my primary sacred space to worship in. As my journey into yoga started around the same time, the two spiritual practices began healing me of my Catholic guilt and began molding me in the spirutal being I am today.

Many years later, the concern about my catholic identity still lingered. Catholicism was my foundation. I can still recite the prayers and take comfort in the hymns, though it has been many years since I’ve stepped foot into my local parish. My journey along El Camino started with the intention of reconnecting to my Catholic identity, and in preparation I attended mass all summer long in France and Spain.

And then I walked.

I walked through all the questions and I came to recognize that my spirit is not Catholic, but that my identity is. My identity is also many other things now. As a result of my travels abroad and my daily practices I now identify as a yogi, a buddhist AND a muslim…and so much more. I see myself as part of everything and follow my own religion, the religion of my heart.

With all that being said, I can now explain my 40 day lenten promise. This practice was something that I grew up with as a Catholic, and I’ve given up everything from chocolates and candy to Facebook over the 40-day fasting period leading up to Easter Sunday.

This year, however, I have a new lenten promise. It’s not to give up anything, but rather to take up something. I racked my brain over and over and came to the conclusion that there are many things I want to do more of. In order to not overwhelm myself and to stick to my promise I’ve decided to write every day for 40 days. But not just to write about anything, I want to write on the theme of gratitude.

So, for the next 40 days I will be posting one blog a day about something that I am grateful for.

Attitude of Gratitude — Day 1: I am grateful for Glide Memorial Church for taking me in, opening my heart and allowing me to see that religion is not about intolerance and greed. Rather, it is about community, solidarity, radical inclusiveness, truth telling, hope, celebration and love. I am eternally grateful for that sacred space of worship as I consider it to be the catalyst of my higher spiritual journey. Thank you Glide, Reverend Cecil Williams, Janice Mirikitani. Rev. Karen Oliveto and all the beautiful souls who regularly accompanied me to Sunday service — Jessica Roach, Allie Thompson, Zannah Herridge Meyer and Erika Myszynski. I am grateful to your sources of inspiriation and your spirit!

lizzie

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I See the Moon, and the Moon Sees Me; A Tribute to Connection

I have come to realize recently that with all the twists and turns that that my life’s journey has taken thus far, across languages and cultures and countries near and far, the thing that remains ever constant in my life are amazing human connections. Though many miles (and even more kilometers) separate me from the vast majority of my soul mates, I live in constant gratitude for the connections I have made.

I’ve been ruminating on connection a lot lately, and something in the back of my brain keeps bringing me back to Malcolm Gladwell’s book, The Tipping Point. One thing that clearly stood out to me in his book was his classification of people as: mavens,salespeople, and connectors. In a nutshell, the mavens are the ones who gather and distribute information, the salespeople are the charismatic persuasive negotiators, and the connectors know and introduce lots of people.

Let’s just say that, at the core of my being, I am a connector. I know a lot of people.

I also LIVE  for connection. I live to make connections, and more importantly to sustain them. Therefore, I am not only a connector, I am a communicator.

One remarkable thing I have manifested for myself is a multitude of real, deep and intimate connections with a variety of friends and strangers alike. I have met amazing people on trains, planes and buses. On little French street corners and on Spanish  hiking trails.  I’ve met people in bars, coffee shops, yoga classes, clothing stores, lecture halls and dance floors. Each connection life altering in its own way.

Once we’ve met, I am never the same person again.

I have moments (like I am currently having) when I feel a total sense of awe and wonder at all the incredible people I have attracted into my life. How lucky could a girl get?! All these people who are  filled to the brim and boiling over with passion! Passion to change the world, to be leaders, and communicators, and educators, entertainers and healers. Each with their own different and unique enthusiasm; people who believe deeply in the power of food, and technology, the great outdoors, yoga, spirituality, social justice, travel,street art, music, improv comedy, language learning,  dance, lyrical poetry …and the beat goes on.

Being a connector/communicator, I do weird things like make lists of people I haven’t talked to in a while. I send songs on Spotify, emails and text messages. I also  indulge in lengthy phone conversations and especially Skype video calls.

Because to me, it is incredibly important to sustain relationships with the people I know and love; they are my motivation and my mirror. They push me to be the best possible me, and remind me that I am already the best possible me. They uplift me, they enlighten me, they illuminate me.

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So whether it is a 2 a.m. Skype date or an e-mail or a road trip or even a positive vibe that bridges the physical distance between us,  our connection makes my soul sing, my feet dance and my heart leap.

If it has been a while (and even if it hasn’t been), I would love to hear from you.

LOTS OF LOVE,

Lizzie

33 Days of Dying

I awaken in the darkness. A corpse, a living corpse.

The dim stars emit light from the body of the cosmos.  Imperceptibly dead.

The dawn’s first light creeps up on the horizon; the pointed rays of day have come to slay night.

An eternal battle fought between the sun and the moon.

Each day– fearless– sun and moon gracefully embrace death.

In all their wisdom, they understand that death begets life.

Each day I Die with the moon and Awaken with the stars. A living corpse,

I am Reborn anew with the sun.

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El Camino: Talking the talk, walking the walk

The first time I ever heard about El Camino was from a German couch surfer I hosted in Sete, France in the early spring of 2012. From the way she explained it to me, El Camino was a “really long walk” across Spain.

Why would anyone ever want to do that?

Slowly but surely, however, without even knowing it, the Camino started to work its magic on me. I started meeting walkers left and right, all with different tales of how the trail  enriched and changed their lives forever.  The Camino snowballed into my life, getting bigger and bigger. The more people I met, the more experiences they shared, I began to feel excitement in the pit of my stomach at the idea of one day walking it too.

As I set off for Morocco in September of 2012, I was already mentally walking El Camino. I had spent the summer obsessively perusing the REI Web catalog and finally bought my boots and pack just before leaving the States. I also carried with me my rock–the one meant for the Cruz de Hierro. It was a beautiful slate-green rock I selected with care from the top of Mount Mansfield in Stowe– my home, and a symbol of my roots. This rock travelled with me, absorbing all of the energy I put into it for months on end.

As time ticked away, a year and a half flew by and I traversed continents, cultures and languages. In this time, I also told everyone and the mother that I planned to walk the Camino Frances.

Fast forward to the last week of August 2013. I’m sitting in my friends apartment in Paris, wondering if I’m really cut out for this. I was filled with doubt. My mental conversations went a little something like this,

“500 miles…that’s like, really far.”

“Will my knees hold out?”

“What if I get lost?”

“I’ll  be fine…I might die…No no, I’ll be fine…Right?”

“I have to walk, I told EVERYONE AND THEIR MOTHER I WAS GOING TO. Fuck.”

But the fact that I had told everyone I was doing it propelled me forward. I bought a guidebook. That made me feel in control. I bought knee braces and blister kits, a quick dry towel, and a camel pack. I felt sporty. I had train tickets and plane tickets and then one day, after a verrrry long  day of train transport,  I arrived in St. Jean Pied de Port, a green on green town cradled in the bosom of the French Pyrenées.

Still not sure if I was ready, but I was there nonetheless. I had talked the talk, and now it was time to walk the walk.

Camino lesson number 1: Just show up.

Honestly, nobody is ever truly prepared. You are not alone. No matter much (or little) physical training you’ve done, you’re feet will still hurt at the end of the day. No matter how light you think you’ve packed, there is still something lurking in the depths of your bag that is utterly useless. You will meet hundreds of people with suggestions on how to ameliorate your experience. Take some of them seriously, take others with a grain of salt.

So if you’re like me and you’ve over packed and under trained, fear not! You have approximately 33 days ahead of you to fine tune the details, to be blindsided by even more challenges you never could have anticipated, and to work through (walk out) the physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual kinks you showed up with.

So just show up. A journey of 500 hundred miles begins with a single step.

Buen Camino.

ImageDay one: 765 Kilometers to go!

Quelle heure est-il au paradis? Musings on time

Pass time. Spend time. Waste time. Kill time. Lunch time. Me time. On time. Find time. Good times. Tea time. Daylight savings time.

Our reality leads us to believe that everything is quantified in terms of time… even the quarter life crisis that prompted this post. But really, how (!?) does time bend and change? Why does it seem to speed up and slow down as you age, as you travel, whilst in love? How do we perceive time, and in what circumstances do we interact with time differently? What are the relatives? The constants?

These are all questions I’m not sure I’m fully capable of answering, perhaps for fear that my head might explode, but I would like to find a way of expressing how I’ve experienced a change in my concept of time during this past year in Morocco.

untitled (126 of 127)Punctuality, a cultural non-constant, can be viewed on two different scales–mono and polychronic. In a monochronic society, such as the U.S., time is rigid and task-oriented. You’re late if your not 5 minutes early. Having been socialized in this type of society, the adaptation process to Morocco’s polychronic concept of time took, well, time… Here, time is more flexible and agendas are far from strict.

The term “Inshallah,” which means God willing, is not just religious, it is also a deeply engrained  concept of cultural time. And to those of us raised in a monchronic community, even the very hint of being made to wait (or worse, being stood up) for a rendez-vous, cuts to the very core of our values and beliefs.

“See you tonight at that really important thing we have been planning.”

“Inshallah.”

*GRIMACE* “No, but seriously. See you tonight?”

I’ve frequently begun to ask myself why such a beautiful phrase can render me so uncomfortable. Don’t I  constantly talk about living in the present moment and trusting in the infinite and great plan of the Universe…shouldn’t God’s willingness to let me partake in social gatherings make me feel elated and grateful? So yeah, I sure do feel like a big ol’ hypocrite when my muscles tense at the sound of a non-committal “Inshallah.” But then again, it’s my upbringing. I am a result of all my previous experiences and growing up in a place where time is directly related to money, and money directly related to happiness, has apparently been imprinted on my psyche more than I’m proud to admit.

The beauty of this cross-cultural experience for me, however, has been that whilst living here, I have  begun to loosen my suffocating concept of time. And I’ve come to realize that  I deeply admire  how much polychronic societies value interpersonal relationships. Because, what is time really worth if it isn’t passed with those whom we love? If everything is fleeting, then we must ask ourselves what we value most of all. To me, family and friends hold their weight in gold, and everything else is but a means to the end.

So, what time is it in paradise? You decide.

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