Reflecting on the past 12 months…

So, this post is inspired a little by Estrella’s post on her top five moments of 2013 and a little on today being my birthday. It’s a good day to have a birthday, I think. I like the timing and the day of the year. It really suits me and I enjoy it a lot~ It also means that my Christmas and birthday are over pretty quick and I don’t really have to leave the festive mood once the new year begins…instead, I continue the celebration through to my birthday. One big, long celebration!

Anyway, the point of this post – my top five things in my something-something-th year of life. Here goes:

  1. I lived in Egypt for five months – wow and just WOW!!!!
  2. I travelled to Romania, met Estrella, made a lifelong friend, and was amazed by the country. It is a serious “must go now!” country. Really. I swear I’m not biased. Not a little. (Well, maybe just a *little* teeny bit…)
  3. I was able to seriously indulge in my reading addiction.
  4. I spent some amazing times with my other half. He’s amazing. Truly.
  5. I reconnected with my mother on such a deeper level. So good – so supportive – so beautiful.

It was difficult for me to pinpoint these moments, but they were there among many more moments. As I get older, I realise the value of my relationships and the value of experiences such as travel. I really do. Of course, when I was younger I had many amazing experiences but they were often tainted by following the crowd and not being sure of who I was. Every day I learn a little more about myself and I love myself a little more {in a deeply, honourably good way}. I surprise myself, too – both good and bad surprises. But it’s all part of what makes me who I am. And I love that.

Birthday roses

While this may not be the best photo, it is one full of meaning. Fresh roses picked from the garden at early-o’clock this morning especially for me. They smell divine and have been keeping me company all day while I work. ❤

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Sitting here listening

Sitting in a {paleo} cafe surrounded by people: two older gentlemen sitting on one side and two younger ladies sitting on the other side. Both discussing the varieties of life – on one side they’re discussing travel, on the other it’s work. I feel myself sitting here wanting to participate in their conversations and give them some different ideas. I can tell them about travelling in China and Nepal and Jordan; I can tell them about flexibility in jobs and getting the job you really want. From apparently different ends of life and different sides of life, these two pairs of friends are connected through me in the middle – the middle of their conversations, the middle of my life {perhaps, perhaps not}, the middle of my experiences.
My life isn’t extraordinary, in my opinion. But I can talk about travel – I can talk about any of the many amazing countries that I’ve visited. For a long time, my goal has been to travel to more countries than my current age, and so far I’m doing well. I’ve still got a year or two of “no new countries” before I will jeopardise my goal. But I’m not going to fall behind – I have my plans in place. My dream is South America – I will get there. Last year, I fulfilled my dream of Romania – it was amazing! I just want to stop revisiting countries that I’ve been to before (but honestly it can’t be helped!). This year my goal is to take my other half to a new country – one I’ve been to, but one they haven’t – but we will go to new places and have different experiences.
My work is “normal” but I know about flexibility, or lack thereof. In a job where I thought flexibility was crucial, I am finding that I have no flexibility. The theory was that I could do this job anywhere where I had an internet connection, but the reality is that a micromanaging boss wants to physically see me every day. All of my work is online – email, websites, forums, teleconferences, online classes – but my physical presence is desired. In my job that started out with minimal flexibility, I have the most flexibility. I set my time, my workload, my location – everything except the pay rate. (Oh, how I wish I could set that! But I know that I can influence it…) This is the job that I will keep indefinitely – I can plan it around my family, my travel, my hobbies, my desires.
I feel as though I can do anything sitting here in the middle – I could join in the conversation with the older gentlemen and give them some fresh insights; I could join in the conversation with the younger ladies and give them some different ideas.
However, here I sit, doing work and writing a blog post. Ah, this is life!

mind-full-ness

In 2013, I undertook a project where I tried to take one photo per day to share with my family and friends through Instagram and Facebook. While I did not quite achieve doing it every day (I missed probably 20 days – mostly at the start when I wasn’t sure what I was doing!), I achieved much more than I ever thought I would. It started out as a simple way to keep in touch in my year of adventure, but it became a task in mind-full-ness. Yes, I write it like that: I know the convention is “mindfulness” but I find that my mind has become very aware and very full of the world around me. Every day I see more things – sometimes everyday things, sometimes special things – and I appreciate more in my life. Sometimes it’s the simple things such as a beautiful flower; other times it is an experience that is overwhelmingly beautiful or sad or loving or engaging. But the point is that I see more than I ever have before. I take less for granted and when I think I can’t find a photo for a day, I realise that I have a lot to be thankful for and that perhaps I wasn’t as present as I wanted to be during the day. This means that I sometimes needed to hunt for a photo that could represent my day. Other times, I have so many photos that I find it incredibly difficult to choose just one – but I only choose one.

Later in 2013, I found a wonderful article written by Nic MacBean titled Snap happy: bestselling author Matthew Johnstone finds peace through photography. This article helped me put my project into clearer words and to realise what I was trying to do with it. It also gave me another book to find and read! (Note: I love books – I can’t get enough of them – more about my year in reading in a post to come.) However, being able to articulate why I am taking photos and why I want to do it every day has been enormously beneficial in understanding my motivations and intentions for myself – something deeper than just sharing images from my year of adventure – something more basic in understanding myself and my life.

Here are some of the highlights from my year of adventure, mind-full-ness, and understanding.

a beautiful flower

beauty

a sad experience

a sad experience

loving experience

a loving experience

an engaging experience

an engaging experience

a beautiful experience

a beautiful experience

…these are just a few of my favourites – you can see more on my Instagram account: http://instagram.com/tabras {shameless plug – I know!}. I intend to continue to share one photo per day throughout 2014 as well, even though my “year of adventure” is over and I’m “back to reality”, as such. Who says we can’t play with reality and enjoy what we do? 😉

destroying what *must* be destroyed – part II

How do you feel about destroying what must be destroyed in your life? Part II

{Follow up post from destroying what must be destroyed}

This question started me thinking about my life and what is truly not necessary in it. It made me realise something about my relationships with my friends – online and offline. It made me start to evaluate the quality of my relationships and to see if there are any that should be “destroyed”. It got me thinking…

In truth, I live a pretty quiet life and don’t often meet my friends. I’m an introvert of sorts – except when I’m in front of 200 students explaining to them about the struggles and issues that some learners face when they are learning in a second (or third, or fourth) language. Then, I’ll happily stand up and sprout “wisdom”. Aside from that, I’m an introvert and I have the best relationships with my friends online. I mean, excluding the people I live with, I would physically talk with about one or two others in a normal week. However, I have numerous conversations going online – emails, chats, Skypes, all that. I could go on Skype or Facebook and find a random friend to start talking with and nothing would be unusual about that mode of communication for us. It would definitely be weirder to pick up a phone and talk to them. Definitely.

I started looking at my Facebook “friends”; those people that I’ve connected with over the years and still share a connection, albeit sometimes tenuous. I looked at my close friends and my not-so-close friends. I also looked at my used-to-be-close friends who I distanced myself from. Yes, I’m talking about that one friend that I used to do everything with, but we grew apart when I stopped initiating interactions. They didn’t initiate interactions. Mutual decision to grow apart? Maybe. Let’s talk about that friend, “F”.

F and I went to school together – we’ve known each other most of our lives. At school, we either loved each other or hated each other. It was a boarding school; it can breed contempt easily. Aside from that, we went to the same university and when I went overseas to work, I found a job for F and F came over, too. This was F’s first experience overseas and we lived together for a while. Until I couldn’t stand it anymore; I moved out. We were still in the same town – the same group of expat friends (because we were seriously limited for choice) – but we managed to avoid each other for a while. Then F left and I stayed. Through emails (waaaay back before Facebook), we stayed in touch. When I wanted a place to chill in another country, we met again and were friends again. And so it continued – we were travel buddies and our mutual connection was a love of travel (because it has to be more than just going to school together). We continued like this for a long time and we made it a ritual: once a year, we’d travel together to a place we’d never been before. We had amazing travels – we saw many different places and countries. We made great mutual friends that we still have today. It was great.

BUT.

(There’s always a “but”.)

When we were together, I was sacrificing myself so that F could have the best experience that F could; I had to give up on what I wanted and just do what F wanted. This wasn’t good. I started to comprehend what this was doing to me but I thought better of F – I thought I was misreading the situation and F’s responses. Maybe I was weak. I thought that it was just me, not F. So, I tried again. And again. And again. Three times – three different situations – three different countries – two different years. I made an effort to try to see that F cared about me and that we were a travel team together. But, no. No. It was all about F and what F wanted and thought. So, after the third trip, I decided that I’d had enough. I was not going to be F’s friend anymore – or rather, I was not going to go out of my way to maintain our “friendship”. It was hard at first – I wanted to share things with F and to travel more together. I wanted to go back to the “good times”, the “fun times” that we had at points in our travels. I couldn’t go back. I learned that I could do it all myself, though.

As expected, F and I grew apart. Now, when it came to an important celebration for me, I had always told F that they would be the first person invited. In truth, I thought long and hard about inviting F and F’s partner. In the end, I did invite them. And they came. This actually surprised me until I realised why they came. They came to see if my life was real and if my happiness was real. They also came to get ideas for their own celebration. To work out if they could do it “better” than I did. I didn’t care – it was just interesting to see that F was up to F’s old tricks again – comparison, competition, selfishness. I thought I was vindicated in my distance. I was glad that I distanced myself from F.

Nine months later, F invited me to a celebration. It wasn’t an easy invite to accept, but I considered that F and F’s partner came to my celebration, so perhaps it was “fair” and “right” that I go to theirs. It was an ordeal to attend the celebration – extensive travel, expensive accommodation, long delays during the celebration – but it was worth going. I realised that nothing had changed and that everything was the same with F. Including that I wanted out of our “friendship” permanently. I want it destroyed. I want it over. It’s draining me, causing me undue stress and just generally unhealthy.

But underneath, I’m not sure I can be that callous. In reality, our only contact is online and it’s relatively sporadic and passive. F only contacts me when they need me, or when they want to show how much better than me they are. A very selfish, one-way friendship, if I can still use that term. I wish things were different; I wish we could be real friends. But then I remember the pain, the constant competition, the constant bettering. That’s exhausting. I don’t need that. I don’t want that. I want out.

Ergo, I shall destroy. Cut ties, remove from contacts, aim for zero connection online and offline.

DML Graphics v13 130919 Logo Square 151x1511 Desire Map for Life

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Inspired by Danielle Laporte and her post on Your relationship to destruction, Goddess Kali, and Fridays with desire. #DesireMap

Inspiration vs. Motivation

Inspiration and motivation – I have thought these were the same and not bothered to interrogate my own understandings of their inherent nature and what they truly mean. This is odd for me – I’m usually a “word” person (read: grammar geek) and I like to know the subtle differences between words and when it is more appropriate to use one over another. But I have never thought deeply about this pair of words, together or separate. Besides, everyone knows what they mean – they are everyday words. I know that sometimes they are used as synonyms for each other, but I still haven’t defined or delineated them well. That is, until I read the start of a great post by Nerd Fitness. (Yes, it’s nerdy; it’s also got some great writing and *inspirational* stories!) In essence, my take home message was this:

Be motivated by anyone, be inspired by reality. {tweet me}

Let’s go back to definitions, though, and get a foundation from which to build our understandings.

in·spi·ra·tion  n.
1a. Stimulation of the mind or emotions to a high level of feeling or activity.
1b. The condition of being so stimulated.

mo·ti·va·tion n.
1a. The act or process of motivating.
1b. The state of being motivated.
2. Something that provides an inducement or incentive.

When I look at these words in the cold light of a dictionary, they are starkly different: one is about personal enjoyment and engagement without seeking a reward or benefit; the other is about a reward or a lure to make someone do something. Wow. Just think about that.

One is from an intrinsic internal place; the other is external and requires something tempting. Black and white. Open and closed. On and off. Opposites.

Questions: Why do we so often interchange these words or not recognize the differences that are inherent in their meanings? Have we become so desensitized by the media, the pack mentality, the global grab that we cannot distinguish between these two anymore? Or is it just me?

The difference between these concepts is astounding. Going back to my take home message from Nerd Fitness’s post – be motivated by anyone, be inspired by reality – I didn’t realize it at the time, but at a subconscious level I understood. Now, it’s time for me to raise my awareness to a conscious level. Two questions (from Nerd Fitness) prompted my own introspection and interrogation:

What drives me daily to be better?

  • My desire to have my dream life that I have built inside my head based on others’ dreams and perceptions of “happiness”: buying a home, having a family, being stable, being “fit”, being “successful”, being “happy”.

From where do you get your inspiration?

  • My friends and my family: they have all had their own struggles and weaknesses (as we all do, sometimes even more), but they have never let those negatives stop them. They continue to achieve, continue to dream, continue to do. I admire every one of my family and friends; they are amazing people. (Yes, I am *that* lucky!)

What about you? What drives you every day to be better? Where is your inspiration? Share with us in the comments below~

destroying what *must* be destroyed

How do you feel about destroying what must be destroyed in your life?

I feel like it’s destroying part of me. Surely everything in my life is there for a reason. Otherwise, I would be smart and destroy it, right? Wrong. This got me thinking. I have things to destroy. So what do I need to destroy?

  • My addiction to work being my “value”.
  • My apparent inability to be happy with who I am.
  • My relationship with F. (More to come in a following post.)
  • My incessant need for absolute financial security, which is tying me to a job that I’m not sure I want.
  • My inability to let go of things.
  • My procrastination. (Tips, anyone?)
  • My time-wasting activities.

To start with, this is a small general list. It needs refinement and explicitness. I am working on it.

Danielle says that in order to create, we must first destroy some things. I agree to a certain level – and I deeply desire creation in my life right now. Ergo, I must destroy.

But first, to round up the voices in my mind that are scared of destruction. Time to go.

DML Graphics v13 130919 Logo Square 151x1511 Desire Map for Life

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Inspired by Danielle Laporte and her post on Your relationship to destruction, Goddess Kali, and Fridays with desire. #DesireMap