Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Make Improvement, Not Perfection, the Goal



I read a quote from Success Magazine the other day that really struck me:
"Make improvement, not perfection, the goal."
Sometimes I think we see a plan, a goal, a problem, and strive to kill it, to do it so well, so perfectly that we expect nothing short of a jaw-slacked, raised brow reaction from ourselves and those around us. We have a mentality that aims for perfection because we expect nothing less from ourselves. Damn over-achievers! Worse is that some of us do this almost subconsciously for it is so embedded in our mindset we find it as natural as the act of blinking.

And yet, as natural as it may seem, it's quite the opposite. Imagine the amount of pressure we put on ourselves to attack everything in such a manner. An unnecessary heaviness put upon our shoulders before we've taken even the smallest of actions. It's like walking around with a heavy bag of rocks; invisible until you tackle something with this perfection mentality and someone asks, "Dude, why are you walking around with a bag of rocks? Do you need help?" You shrug and say, "It's cool, I got it."

This is me. This was me. Is it you too?

My best friend tells me often that I forget I'm human. It's a loaded statement. Being human implies imperfection, it implies being flawed; an unquestionable truth that I am bound to make mistakesand many times over. It is simply idiotic to believe that I won't find myself meeting failure, as if I could fool myself into thinking I had that much foresightthat much power and control. I find myself sometimes paralyzed by the fear of failure.

Laughable isn't it? Such disfigurement is the beauty of being what we are. It is in the very jagged ridges of our humannessour flawed beautythat we experience the most profound lessons of life. To experience failure is to know the true value of success. To meet failure is to know that we have tried. Being human also means having the capacity to change, and to adapt quickly and greatly.

Those of us walking around with an invisible bag of rocks on our shoulders, learn to unload. Rather than striving for perfection, strive for improvementa simple shift, but no less challenging. The expectation is not to reach an outcome that is grand and glittery, but for something as simple as a having been more than what once was—more than what you once were.

That is improvement. That is remembering you are human.

~Anna






Friday, March 15, 2013

Gift from the Sea: A Fantasy on the Beach


It's Friday, and I'd like to give you a nice gift: a fantasy on the beach.

Don't get too excited...It might not be your kind of fantasy on a Friday like today, but I'd like to argue that it might be an equally rewarding experience. :)

I picked up a book the other day titled, Gift from the Sea. It was a book on the experience the author had about mindfulness and self-awareness in relation to the beach. It was framed simply and poetically in just how the beach gave her with what she felt to be gifts. I flipped through the first chapter and was surprised at the honesty of her writing. Not so much in what she exposed of herself but the realization about what one could find (in a more philosophical context) at the beach.

Do you ever wonder why your thoughts wander to the beach? Why when you think of resting and relaxing, your mind finds escape in the cool sea-sprayed breeze of the ocean; imagining your toes burying itself in the sand, and your mostly bare skin soaking in the sun?

Say you decide to go on this quiet respite, away from the hectic life and the frustrations of living in a busy city. You're looking for a change of pace, a break, you tell yourself. Your body feels like a tightly coiled spring, rigid and taut; restlessness causing your body to fidget, your mind to jump from one itch to the next. So you pack a bag, deciding to go alone because the voice of another soul right now just might tip you over the edge and cause you to punch a hole in the wallor that person's faceand perhaps forever ruin a friendship, and now you'll have to deal with that stupid hole in the wall, and a sulking friend.

Sound familiar?

Okay, so you think of your ideal sanctuary, a place you would go to get away from it all, and you settle on the beach. The beach you have in mind is one you've been to before and all you can think is: perfect! This is what you need, someplace familiar. You arrive at the hotel, unpack, grab your iPad, your phone with that playlist you've been anxious to listen to, a book, and hell, maybe even a journal. You never know what you'll need, right? You find a quiet spot on the beach, on a weathered log with a good view of the endless, open water. It's chilly but that's okay because the day is early and the sun will heat up the heavy clouds above and you'll get that kiss of warmth, hoping that it will seep deep enough to touch that cold muscle still beating within the cave of your chest.

You pull out all the crap you brought with you: first the book, but after a chapter or two, you find yourself unable to focus on the story, so you turn on your iPad and play some random game you downloaded the night before. The game turns wearisome. With a long release of breath, you look up at the sky. Where is that damned sun, you ask. For some reason, you're anxious, so you flip open your journal, stare at the blank pages; playing with the pen as you think about what you want to write. You hope to start with something poignant, something meaningful, but nothing comes to mind. You shut your journal closed and look up at the water. You realize with a touch of frustration that even here, you're restless. But it feels worse. It's too quiet, you think. But you know that you just need to relax, give your mind and your body time to adjust.

A few more minutes pass, and a frown forms a tight notch between your brows; you apparently don't know how to relax. But it's not in you to give up, so you close your eyes and breathe in through your nose. And that's when it startsthe slow unwinding you've been hoping for all this time. You've got something here, you think. Stick with it. With your eyes still closed you suck in another deep breath. Above your head you hear the seagulls squawk, and you wonder why you hadn't heard them before. You sit quieter this time, listening more intently, curious to what else you might pick up. In the distance is the sound of waves crashing against rocks. You imagine a cliff-side and at it's base, the large swells pummel the hardened earth in an almost rhythmic fashion. Water sprays upwards to land white and foam-like atop the next wave to come.

Minutes pass and you just sit there counting the crashing of the waves, that oddly enough, is at pace with your steady breathing. Something in you has begun to slow, like the unraveling of wire, lengthening and loosening. Eyes still closed, you lean back, rest your hands on your lap, and stretch out your legs. That's when you notice the roughness of the sand beneath your bare feet. You slide your feet around, tickled by the rocks and seashells, and then sink your toes deep inside. You're surprised to find your toes finding warmth beneath the cold layers of sand above it. The warmth spreads over you as if the clouds have broken and the rays of the sun have finally come to give you the perfect beach day you'd hoped for.

There are no sounds of people, no sounds of cars, or music. The air is laced with refreshing tranquility and all you can think is, I'm here. I'm finally here. But you were wrong about the music: it's there, playing a lulling unpredictable tune, and it's not on the playlist you brought. It's the music of the beach itself. You realize then that your time on the beach was never a place to fill with things to do, like journaling, gaming, or even reading. Hell, the beach is just a beach until you look at itreally look at itlisten to its heartbeat, and breathe in the air it expels. Marvel in the vastness of the wide open sea that demands nothing less than fear and awe, and how it so innocently beckons you with its gentle waves spilling out onto the shore.

A smile curls your lips and you imagine a cold, crisp beer in your hand, and the smell of barbeque being fired up on a grill fills the air. You open yourself to the idea of people, and suddenly, laughter rings all around; accompanied by the sound of a volleyball being hit back and forth over a net. Now you're really unwinding. You imagine a doga large, golden labchasing after a Frisbee, his ears flapping as he bounds across the sandy shore.

It's brighter now. The rays of the sunshine filter harshly behind your closed lids, so you reach over to grab your sunglasses, and that's when you catch sight of something in the water. You focus hard on whatever it is. For a moment it glistens and you think it just might be a person, but you're not sure. You lean forward, elbows to knees as you stare hard at the surface, watching whatever it is shifting and swirling, sometimes disappearing beneath the waves. It's moving closer to the shore, slowly taking shape as it nears. You begin to see it more clearly...and suddenly your eyes widen, shock stills the breath barely passing through your lips.

It can't be, you think...

"It's...it's...!"

 ----

So...what did you imagine stepping out of the water? :)

Happy Friday, my friend.

 ~Anna  


Sunday, March 10, 2013

Love at First Sight: A Writer's Attempt

"A rose by any other name would smell as sweet," ~ dear ol' Will

I find that one of the hardest emotionor perhaps better defined as an experienceto convey in writing with any poetic conviction is that of love-at-first-sight. Yup, the big L-O-V-E.  Because it's one of the most affecting, unforgettable experiences we can have, and I wanted to give it a shot. I suppose it's an experience that one could only hope to indulge in at least once in their lifetime. Honestly, I feel that love-at-first sight can happen multiple times because it's absolutely possible to love (and perhaps fall in love) with more than one person in the lifespan of ones generously long existence.

So what do I know about love-at-first-sight? I tried to imagine the whole experience, but mostly that pivotal moment where you just find each other...

You are going about your day as if it were any mundane, inconsequential day and you glance up to find a pair of eyes staring back at you... 
Time, and what feels like the entire universe, seem to slow. You have the sudden realization that your breath is stuck in your lungs, and you feel not one muscle in the ridiculous jaw-dropped expression on your face. And quite possibly, your heart just might beat its way out of your rib-cage like a newly awakened beast. Your gaze stays locked on this stranger who oddly enough feels as if you've met beforehave just enough sense to smile back, because not only does the smile force you to breathe, but it's like you just can't help the joy being pulled out of you; forcing its way to shape your lips in the only way it knows how to express absolute bliss. The pounding in your chest drowns out the noise of the world around you, and all you can feel is the sensation similar to being in flightweightless, and yet completely immovable. Your eyes are trapped, your peripheral dims, and all your vision can focus on is the gaze of the one that has you ensnared in a lock you've never known in your life. They walk past you, and your gaze travels as if magnetized by theirs. And you remember to swallow because suddenly your mouth is dry, and you can hear every echo as the fluid travels down your clenched throat.
Your chest caves in as you take your first breathless pant. A slow shuddering travels down from your sternum to your belly; warmth blossoming in its wake until your legs feel numb. Extremities and other parts in places you're only vaguely aware of begin to tingle. And the only thought you can latch onto is, "Wow...Who. Is. That?" 
It's entirely possible that what I've described isn't love-at-first-sight, but perhaps lust-at-first-sight. I suppose what I assume is that the experience is being felt almost identically by the other person. Because I can't imagine true, honest, and legitimate love-at-first-sight being a one way street. That this deeply intense experience cannot be love if it's felt by one person alone, but by both parties. It's like the finding of your soul-mate in a crowded room, and just knowing that you have to meethave to touch, have to breathe in the small space between each others lips. It's primal, but at the same time it transcends physical awareness and into the realm of conscious awakening; making you wonder just how love is really meant to be found.

Anyhow, please feel free to add anything I missed in the comments section below!

And thanks for stopping by!

~Anna





Saturday, March 9, 2013

Whatever Will Be, Will Be...


"When I was just a little girl
I asked my mother, what will I be
Will I be pretty, will I be rich
Here's what she said to me.

Que Sera, Sera,
Whatever will be, will be
The future's not ours, to see
Que Sera, Sera
What will be, will be." ~Doris Day

My busy travel season is finally over. I was able to put my luggage away and in the far back corner of my closet, where I am happy to not see it again for a long while. In the last month I've slept in my own bed only a handful of days, so you can imagine why crawling into a cave and hibernating sounds like heaven.


A carousel I stumbled upon in the Botanical Gardens of Geneva, Switzerland
I started this blog with the lyrics above because it's been dancing laps in my head like a lazy carousel. I once read a book that used these lyrics in the beginning of every decisive chapter that inevitably changed the course of the story. The story itself was pretty gruesome and dark, and it was the first time I realized how this song could be as haunting as much as it was wise and insightful.

It's only natural to ask what will become of our lives in the coming days, months, and years. And with this curiosity comes an instinct to map out a plan. When I was twenty-two, I thought by now that I'd be living a quiet life: married, waddling around, carrying a new life in my belly, sheltered behind the confines of the proverbial white-picket fence. It took a few months for me to heal over having ripped this "plan" off my back like chains embedded deep into my bones. But as my best friend likes to tell me, "I'm not crying for you, Argentina." I've got some pretty tough skin, which although embodies a more painful ripping means the scar that now covers it is even more rigid than the skin it had once been.

Wisdom comes in many forms, from elders and those we trust, and the rest from our own experiences. We tend to heed the wise words of those more worldly than us, but find our own experiences to be the truest, most effective teachers of life.

Don't confuse plans with dreams. Dreams are healthy; and most times unconfined, not limited by time or boundaries. Dreaming is like looking at the foggy bank of a lake at the cusp of sunrise, and knowing with the utmost certainty that when the fog clears and the sun finally rises, the vision will be breathtaking. Plans are oftentimes more solid, more confined, given clarity, bound by a timeline, and perhaps by it's very nature, less flexible.

When plans aren't met, we're slapped with grieving disappointment. I suppose the same can be said about our dreams--that when unmet, can lead to a saddening concession of our failure to be more than what we'd hoped we would become. I think it's about balance. It's about trust: in yourself and perhaps in a higher power. Trust that life won't fall apart if your plans or your dreams aren't met. Learn the value of flexibility and be open to evolving when change meets you; it will always come when you're least ready.

The following are words of wisdom I'm sure you've heard before: life is meant to be lived, not dreamt, and not planned. It's meant to be experienced with all of your senses. Taste it, smell it, breathe it, soak in the sight, and touch it as if it just might disappear and you'll always be left wondering what it might have felt like.

Balance.

Experience life in moments of slowness, and then in moments of hard, fast thrills. Stay curious for what lies ahead, but never in search for the answers with the unbending expectation you'll some day find them in the exact form you'd planned. Don't forget to smile, because life is a series of victories...

~Anna


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