Loneliness is a Normal Emotion

Often I have friends back home ask me the question, “Do you get lonely?”  They ask this because I have lived overseas for ten years.  Bella and I are currently living in our fourth country.  And the answer is yes, but I think the emotion of loneliness has become so normal that I do not always name it that.

I am not ashamed to say I get lonely.  This does not have to do with the lack of a romantic partner, but the lack of true friends and community.  There’s so many ways we can be lonely, but all has to do with lack of connection. The thing is we can be lonely, even if we are surrounded by others and do not feel understood.  We can even be lonely if we are living in our hometown, but currently not feeling bonded with others.  Loneliness doesn’t always have to do with newness to a city, but oftentimes that can go hand in hand.  Years ago, at a therapy conference I heard author and relationship expert Esther Perel say that the number one problem in America was loneliness.  This fact was verbalized pre-covid.  We know with the pandemic, loneliness increased in societies throughout the world.  We had to learn how to navigate this emotion in this new way of being in the world. 

But this is a blog on happiness? True, but to avoid these difficult emotions is to veer into the world of toxic positivity.  We must embrace the totality of our emotions.  It’s when we know we can feel the lows, that the highs are appreciated at a greater depth.

So what do you do with loneliness?  

Recognize.  Notice what is arising internally, give it a name.  If you could stop a moment, and tune into your body.  Where in your body is this arising?  What is it like? It’s the first step.   

Allow Feelings.  Give yourself permission to feel it.  And what does that look like for you? Tears.  Frustration. Anger.  Let it out.  Give yourself space to feel, and offer the self- compassion to yourself to be vulnerable right now. 

Voice. Voice out your feelings to others.  This could be to a therapist, or via phone calls with friends and family in other parts of the world.  You may express it through journal entries that release the turmoil inside.

Elevate. Now you took the time to notice what’s going on, feel the feels, voice it, and now you can elevate it.  This is transforming the motion.  It’s been said that emotion is energy in motion, and if emotions are truly expressed and felt only last several minutes. So now what? Maybe you want to harness that loneliness and transform it into a creative project. Or it’s a time to reassess your goals.  It can also be a time to now express what in your life you are grateful for.  

Although this process is laid out for loneliness, you can use a variation of this for any difficult emotion.  This is temporary, just like everything else.  Next time you are lonely, turn to this process, and let me know how it works for you.  It will pass and you are okay.

Small Changes To See The World Differently

“Time wasted at the beach is time well spent.” – Unknown

I have lived in Malaga for two months, and outside of a tiny trip with a friend to her vacation home, I have stayed in the town center.  I had vowed that today I would venture on a bus or metro to go to another town, but it didn’t happen.  Therefore, I would simply walk further by the beach for my daily walk.  It was interesting, because I think my dog Bella knew this. 

We walked towards Malagueta, and generally stop at one of the first two grassy areas to sit.  But today we walked further, not much further.  There was a beautiful opening to the beach and empty benches looking at the Mediterranean.  Bella stopped and took towards the sea, then pawed at my leg.  She seemed to say, “this is good enough.”  We don’t have to walk further to experience the beach differently, we can actually walk the area differently.

And so we walked towards the sea, it was the first time in these two months that Bella’s paws touched the water.  She’s not a water dog, and runs away from it versus towards it.  Therefore, as I walked barefoot in the sand, I carried her during this process.  Bella is my fourteen year old chihuahua pug mix, and although she has a curious heart, her paws get tired every so often. As we walked, I saw beautiful seashells that still capture my sense of awe, as they did when I was a child.  Previously when we only stayed in the other grassy areas, what I saw was remnants of litter from prior picnics. But I realized I need to walk in the sand to see the shells.

 We sat on a new grassy area for awhile, which was clean and less crowded.  We experienced the beach differently.  On our return walk home, we took a new route.  And this was our version of an adventure today.  It doesn’t take much to have a shift in perspective.  We don’t have to spend loads of money by travelling to far off lands, but we can take a new route in our own town or in our local parks.  Interacting with the land in a new way keeps our relationship fresh, just like in marriages.  We need to see and appreciate the space from a new perspective to keep the flutter in our hearts.  And for that today, I am appreciative of our new walk.

5 Truths About Love And Valentine’s Day

Valentine’s Day.  We love it or hate it, dependent on if we have a romantic partner.  Ever since I was in school, we passed out Valentine’s to crushes or hoped we would receive one from an unrequited love.  The greeting card industry, Hollywood, and advertising agencies remind us that we have to show and receive love from our partner through romantic gestures.  We are searching to find this “love” state. There are so many things we get wrong, but here are 5 Truths about love and Valentine’s Day.  

  1. We Don’t Have To Wait For A Date.

The first time I heard of this concept was in Julia Cameron’s book The Artist Way.  She encourages us to take ourselves on a weekly artist date.  Oftentimes we wait for someone to go to that movie we have been longing to see or try out that new restaurant.  Why wait for a date to do something you love?  

Although this book is geared towards creatives, I loved the concept.  I have offered it as a homework exercise for many clients. 

  • How will you treat yourself to an artist date? 

2.Love Exists in Many Forms.

We know this in theory, but how often do you feel it?  I’m so glad that the television show Parks and Recreation had an episode about Galentine’s Day, where girlfriends celebrate love for each other.  (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pYv1zjBOMew)Years after the show ended, memes still come around every February 13th.   Love exudes in our friendships, family, co-workers, pets, community, or even with strangers.  

  • How does love show up in your life today?

3. You Can Still Love Exes And Old Crushes, It’s Ok. 

There may be a debate about this concept.  Some people think we need a clean break of all of our emotions about our exes and old crushes.  We can still love them, as they were witnesses to our lives and who we once were.  It doesn’t mean they have to stay in our lives in the same capacity or that we should still be in contact with them.  But we can still love the place they had in that period in our lives.  We helped shape each other. 

  • What lessons did you learn from your old flames?

4.Love Is Something That Happens To Us.

These days with online dating, we must swipe right, match with a partner, actually go on a date, have chemistry, and hope for a second date.  There’s the term of “falling in love,” as if it is out of control.  But love is not passive and doesn’t just happen to us if we have good luck.    Love is a verb and an action we can engage in daily.  Again, it doesn’t always have to be linked to romantic love.  The other day I witnessed a tourist who bought two loaves of bread to feed to the birds.  He didn’t expect anything in return or didn’t know anyone was watching him.  Automatically afterwards, I saw a mother running with her child, but backed up slowly so her child can win.  Both of these moments are love in action, and love is really all around if we open our eyes to see all the ways it arises.  

  • In what ways have you expressed love this week? 

5.If You Can’t Love This Moment You Will Always Be Searching.

For many of us, happiness and love are something we are always striving for.  If only I ______, then I will be happy.  Fill in the blanks can range from get married, have a child, find the perfect job, take that dream vacation, make $1,000,000, or retire.  Happiness is always over there.  But the truth is once we arrive, we may find that it is fleeting.  If we keep waiting for the right moment, we will always be waiting.  

  • How can we experience and love this moment right now? 
  • How can we remind ourselves to do this daily? 

We explored in this blog post 5 Truths About Love and Valentine’s Day.  Hopefully the reflection questions will help recall all the ways love exists in your life, regardless of your relationship status. Valentine’s Day is one day per year, but we need to remind ourselves how to show up and express love in all of it’s forms all other 364 days of the year.  

To explore more about the other types of pilgrimage we embark on, check out this piece https://amodernpilgrimage.com/types-of-pilgrimage/

A Modern Pilgrimage

Currently I am working on another blog www.amodernpilgrimage.com, which focuses on internal, external, and communal pilgrimages we take in today’s world.  In creating content for this blog, and accompanying pinterest and Instagram, I am sorting through old pilgrimages I have taken over the past 10 years. 

            There are so many forms of pilgrimage, not just religious or spiritual.  Pilgrimages can be food pilgrimages, art, nature, literature, internal journeys (such as silent retreats, meditation), or concerts in special locations.  Contemplation can exist in so many forms, and I want to remind people that in today’s world.  The primary essence of it is intention.  Intentional travel. 

            As I create reels from old photos and videos, I recall the moments I have spent over the years in foreign lands or even my homeland.  I am searching to create themes in these little vignettes.  This is a time where we have stopped printing pictures or creating tangible photo albums.  But for many of us these photos and videos exist in our phones.  They are resurrected in some ways with this project.  Some include individuals that are no longer in my life in the same capacity, even my beloved Puzo who died this past summer.  But we were all witnesses to each other’s life and are part of each other’s journey. 

            I recommend this practice for any of you to do.  Bring back those old memories to life.  These images do not have to be digitally dead in your phone, they can live on with a beautiful song to accompany it.  Author Anais Nin once said “We write to taste life twice, in the moment and in retrospection.”  Regardless if you are a writer or not, allow those sweet memories to be tasted twice.  And savor them. 

New Moon Versus Full Moon Rituals

A Full Moon arises tonight, and I feel it’s been beckoning me.  I began to go down the rabbit hole of researching Full Moon Rituals versus New Moon Rituals.  Here is what I learned.

New Moons are best for setting new goals for the next month.  Creating new goals are not only reserved for the new year.  We can do this every lunar cycle.  Explore what it is you want to transpire in the next 28 days.  What areas do you want to shift and how can you make that happen.  This is the time to vow to make changes in your life and commit to taking action.  New Moons are for manifestations.  

  • Take time to create an intention of how you want the next month to go
  • Visualize attaining these goals
  • Work on a vision board, crystal grid
  • Verbalize your goals aloud to a trusted friend for accountability

Full Moons are best for cleansing.  Let go of what no longer serves you.  But there are mystical healing properties of a full moon.  So one can additionally cleanse crystals, water, or oneself under a full moon.  We are to reflect on the goals we began two weeks ago during the New Moon phase, but we don’t take action now.  Energy is focused on taking care of one’s self.  Self-compassion and slowing down.  Clean out what is stale in one’s home and rest.  It’s a time for grounding ourselves.  Our emotions may be heightened during this time, therefore it’s best to not make any rash decisions.  Full Moons are for cleansing and compassion.

  • Clean out and declutter your space
  • Sage and clear your atmosphere of stuck energy
  • Cleanse yourself and crystals under a full moon
  • Slow it down with some yin yoga and hygge self care

Regardless if you believe in the moon phases or not, this makes sense.  Once a month focus on manifesting/directing where you want your life to go.  Another aspect of the month, chill out and take care of yourself.  I hope you take time to demonstrate some compassion for you on this lovely full moon evening. 

Living in a Small Tourist City

I’ve been living in Malaga for six weeks.  It’s the sixth largest city in Spain, but small in regards to the size of other worldly cities.  Malaga sits in the Costa del Sol, home to Pablo Picasso and Antonio Bandera.   Over time it also has become a port stop for cruise ships.  Several days a week, hundreds of tourists step off the boat, pop into the town to squeeze in the most they can out of their half a day on land. They will partake in walking tours, food tours, and bicycle tours.  Eat paella and drink sangria, as they relish in the Spanish atmosphere for the day. 

My dog Bella and I choose to take a walk daily on the same path along the Calle Nuevo.  A new street that parallels the port filled with cafes, tourists, street performers, and dog walkers. When you walk at the same time every day, you notice what time artists have their gig on a particular corner or when a local older man singing his heart out gets a haircut.  I see the same DHL man on his bicycle delivering orders throughout the city.  You notice the smallest of things.  

Prior to moving here, I had visited six times.  This is the first time I stayed more than several days, and it was interesting to see the fadeout of the holidays after 3 Kings day to early prep for carnivale.  Although it is over one month away, it seems Malaga always wants to be ready for the next reason to party.  And why not? The city seems to ooze with joy and wants the exclaim it to all the tourists who are here for a sneak peak.  

At the local market, I tend to go to the same grocer weekly.  I know most of the words for the vegetables and fruits, but I guess not for cucumber.  I tried to say it in English and French, and they played along.  But after the third time, they kindly corrected me with “peppino.”  I appreciated that, small lessons to be learned each day.   Peppinos always seem to run out of by the time I arrive. 

Malaga is filled with new people day after day, but now Bella and I are slowly becoming staples that fill the background.  I must be the crazy dog lady who goes to the beach, sits in the sun, and carries her 14 year old dog halfway home due to her tired stubborn legs.  And that is okay with me.  

There’s something comforting with smallish cities.  Other people travel here to escape their winter blues.  I take a daily walk to the beach and run into acquaintances on the street.  I asked a local how long does it take to become a malagueno, she said three years.  Let’s see if I make it to that status.   

Sunshine is Healing for All

Sunshine is my quest.-Winston Churchill

Currently I live in the Costa del Sol also known as the Coast of the Sun.  I have heard that in a nearby town Rincon de la Victoria, was named after Queen Victoria.  She who would come to the area for the healing vibes of the sun. Perhaps this is legend, but I wouldn’t put it past royalty to head to warmer climates as a way to improve their health.

My home in Malaga has minimal windows and therefore lacks natural lighting.  I think this is how many homes in the Andalucian area are.  Since it gets so warm during the summer months, homes are a place of cool refuge.  But to counter that, Bella (my dog) and I will go on extended walks in the morning and afternoon to breathe in the sun’s rays. 

It’s a January morning, colder than usual.  I walked my dog to an area where we can sit on the park benches and feel the sun on our faces.  We are not alone.  Although we all have our winter jackets on, many of us are simply letting the sun kiss our face.  I see parents with their children or grandparents with their grandchildren in strollers.  I notice a caregiver sitting with an elderly woman in a wheelchair, taking in the sun.  There are some homeless people, tourists, and us.  We all are inhaling in the nature that is being granted to us at this moment. 

It doesn’t take much to feel refreshed by nature.  We may not all live by a lush countryside, the beach, or a refreshing lake.  But we can have momentary interludes with the sun.  Today, as I sat on the park bench with all these people, I realized one thing.  We come from different backgrounds, ages, ethnicities, socioeconomic statuses, but were all seeking pleasure from the sun.  This is available to us all. 

Time is the Most Underrated Luxury

I met a new friend recently, who has travelled to 100 countries.  He works for half of the year, and the other half is spent travelling the world.  This setup of his has been going on for quite some time, and he’s quite proud of it.  As we talked of his lifestyle, he said something to me that stuck with me: “Time is the most underrated luxury.”  I couldn’t help but nod in agreement with this statement.

We are aware that time is something that we complain about in the Western world, that we never have enough of.  There’s not enough time to finish up our work load, chores, spend with friends, family, or self.  If you were totally in control of your time, how would you spend it?  Would try to get more sleep?  Travel the world? Be with your partner or loved ones?  What would you do with that gift of gold.  In comparison, he shared that in some third world countries he has visited, time is abundant.  Yet some of the people he has interacted with were wasteful of it.  They had such excess of it, they didn’t know what to do with it.  As he talked of his life, he discussed the importance of balance.  We want to be in control of our time and schedules, but not spend it foolishly, as one may do if they unexpectedly won the lottery. 

It’s an interesting concept to reflect on.  The past year I have left my traditional job, and own how I spend most of my days.  But even with this, I can’t help but wonder, where does time go? How am I spending my days?  I don’t feel time is wasted, but it is elusive.  It escapes me.  We want to be intentional with how we use it, but we don’t want to overplan every minute.  There must be space in our time for the spontaneous moments of life to arise.  As I look at this past year, the way I view time has changed.  In one year, I have fit in plentiful moments with friends, families, and strangers.  I didn’t really go to new places, but lived in new countries: France and Spain.  My holidays were spent visiting loved ones.  Collective moments were shared, new memories were made, and none of it was done in a wasteful manner.  I understand now why people take gap years or sabbaticals.  There’s a lifetime to be lived in the span of 365 days.  

How do you plan to spend your time in 2023?

“Time you enjoy wasting is not wasted time.” – Marthe Troly-Curtin

Why Do I Do This Blog

Why I Do This Blog?

“Carry out a random act of kindness, with no expectation of reward, safe in the knowledge that one day someone might do the same for you.” – Princess Diana. 

            Why do I do this blog?  I am asked this question frequently, and it’s something I often wonder do I keep up after over a decade of committing to it.  I’ve given these positive quote cards (which may have led you to this blog) to baristas, celebrities, homeless people, airport security, store assistants, friends, ex romantic partners, family members, favorite authors, or more recently children who are enamored by my dog.  The business card which leads to the blog, generally has an inspirational quote on top of a beautiful backdrop and an image of my dogs.

            Initially I did this blog and quote cards as a way to offer a tangible form of gratitude to a passing stranger.  I copied the idea from author Cheryl Richardson, who said in a workshop that she leaves these positive quotes with her from one of her card decks she created as a form of positivity.  I liked the idea, and wanted to do a variation of it.  I wanted to make people smile too, because I knew that people tend to spread their negativity frequently, just as easily they could spread positivity.  I wanted to be part of that movement in some way.  

            What has happened to these cards over the years?  What has been the impact?  I do not know.  They may have been thrown away, re-gifted to a friend or stranger, or forgotten about and packed away in some shoebox forgotten about.  Once I had returned to a store in Arizona, and saw the staff member have placed the card under glass with other important pieces of memorabilia from fellow customers.  In London, I visited one psychic in an esoteric store a year later and he had the card I had given him placed on the wall.  After Puzo died, a friend took a selfie of him and the card to show me he still carries the sweet words and image in his wallet.  Most recently, after giving this to a store associate at a high end Parisian department store, she found me on Instagram and sent me the following sweet message offering her gratitude, here is a snippet:

“It gave me joy in my day and reminded me why I am doing this job: to meet nice people like you.”

Her finding me and taking the time out to say how this made her day, made my day.  To know such a small simple act of kindness can impact others means the world to me.  Often, we think our purpose in the world has to be something grand.  Our purpose must equate to making millions of dollars, attaining a high degree, being famous, and making a newsworthy mark in society.  But our purpose could be to simply bring smiles and joys to strangers.  We can brighten their day without much effort, and this impact will overflow in their interactions with others.  It doesn’t take much.  

So this new year, as we contemplate what goals we want to achieve, perhaps we can step back and simply smile at a stranger, open a door, leave a nice tip, or give someone an unexpected compliment.  It doesn’t take much, it only takes a smile.  

How Do You Measure A Year?

It’s the last day of 2022, and in reflecting on how this year went, I couldn’t help but think of the song from Rent, Seasons of Love:

525,600 minutes
525,000 moments so dear
525,600 minutes
How do you measure, measure a year?

In daylights, in sunsets, in midnights, in cups of coffee
In inches, in miles, in laughter, in strife
In 525,600 minutes
How do you measure a year in the life?

How do you measure a year?  How do you sum it all up in one word or phrase?  What have your most joyful days consisted of or those that were filled with debilitating sorrow? What have been the adventures you have chosen to take?  How did you spend your days?  Who did you spend them with?  Were there romantic rendezvous followed by heartbreaks?   Was there boredom?  How do you cheer all of your accomplishments or grow from your failures?  What brought smiles, and what brought shame?  Who entered your world and who left it?  What are you vowing to do differently?  What is going to be on repeat?  

I have been reflecting on a variety of these questions today, but actually much of these past several months.  Moving home tends to do this.  One cannot help but reflect on what occurred during the time one resided in a place, and the change one longs for.  I have moved to my fourth country less than two weeks ago.   I officially left the cosmopolitan mega city of Paris France to the coastal vibrant town of Malaga Spain.  Although I am American, I have now lived overseas for 9 ½ years, via the route of the United Kingdom.  At the age of 43, officially midlife, I can’t help but wonder how do I want to spend the rest of my time on this earth? 

This has been a monumental year for me, in that it was different than so many of my other years.  In the past I vowed to make changes, but they never seemed to occur.  It was all talk, but in December 2021, I knew a shift was necessary.  One year ago, I left the traditional work force, and jumped into the world of the unknown in a foreign land which I didn’t understand the language.  I was appreciative I did this at the time, because I was able to spend endless days with my two elderly dogs.  This year, I lost Puzo, my fifteen year old English Bulldog.  This was one of the greatest losses I have experienced, for a being who I took care of for much of my adult life (late 20s to early 40s).  And since his loss, it’s trying to navigate the world without him and create a new life with my nearly 14 year old chug Bella, in yet another country.  The irony is the street I live in now is called Pozos Dulces.  Pozos seems similar to Puzo, and dulce means sweet.  Therefore, I like to think the street I live in now is called Sweet Puzos.  He is still with me.  Life goes on, and I have his blessing.    

I’ve travelled to America at least four times in 2022, to visit family, friends, speak at a large conference, and to sort my visa situation out.   In those moments, I was able to spend time with my brother as he healed from jaw surgery, watch my father got remarried, celebrate my grandmother’s surprise 80th birthday party, and was even able to visit a new city in my home country.  My brother, mother, and friend Isabella came to Paris on numerous occasions.  Isabella was my doggy au-pair during so many of my travels, which I am deeply grateful for.  My mother helped me move countries, which I couldn’t have done without her.  

But the year hasn’t gone as I expected.  I didn’t land that publishing deal I hoped for, or other dream job opportunities I applied to.  I did lead an ongoing creativity group in Paris and facilitated numerous sound healing sessions.  I was able to form new friendships in Paris.  I did a second portion of The Camino de Santiago.  There were other monumental moments I experienced, such as being on my favorite television show House Hunters International, speaking to a group of 600-800 female photographers live onstage, and recently publishing an article in The Washington Post.  How do you measure a year?  

There was more laughter than tears, more love than hate, more connection than isolation, more wonder than monotony.  I spent a lot of the year in confusion of where to go next and questioning what my identity was if not a psychologist.  I spent the year shedding guilt that I could be happy, even if I no longer was a productive member of society in a 9-5 job.  I am still learning this, and unlearning many things.  

Perhaps you have vowed to make shifts in your life during the pandemic, and my question is have you?  What do you want to change?  What is stopping you?  Or maybe you realize no change is necessary, you now know that being in your hometown surrounded by friends and family is the greatest blessing you could have ever wished for.  The pandemic may have taught you to appreciate all that you have.  How do you measure this year that has passed?  How do you want to measure the upcoming year? 

I will be facilitating an upcoming virtual sound healing event next week, where we may reflect on some of these questions.  Join me. Details below.  

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