Friday, December 31, 2010

Day 365: The final day of this project

Drag racing at Slinky Mountain.

It's December 31st, which is technically the final day of my project. To recap, my project was to write morning pages daily (as created by Julia Cameron's The Artists Way) and to blog about the experience. I figured if my life could change inside the 12 weeks of doing The Artists Way, how could my life change if I did the course for a year? My plan was to find my true artistic calling.

Final tally:
  • I wrote about 345 morning pages.
  • I wrote 302 blog entries. 
Not too shabby. I didn't commit to blogging daily, but I did alright on that count.

And how did my life change as a result of doing this project?
  • I found my true artistic calling (Read about the discover here.)
  • I quit my job as a copywriter in an ad agency. Actually, I quit being a copywriter all together.
  • I decided to travel for a very, very long time, starting sometime in early 2011
  • I made a commitment to keep this blog up in 2011 (cheers hear throughout the world)
Not too shabby either.

Now I wonder, like many of us, what to do with 2011. This blog project started as a New Year's resolution. What is my 2011 New Year's resolution?
  • Improving my score? To write morning pages and a blog entry for 365 days. But what's the end result? Perfection? What's the point in that? I don't want to make this drudgery.
  • Make my blog bigger? Figure out ways to have a bigger audience, have a sharp curve up in my Google Analytics... become a BLOGGING SUPERSTAR. But then the small voice inside said, "I just want to write my blog because it's fun, not because of what it can become. 
  • Just do more sit ups? No. Thanks.
A friend of mine and I once discussed the true meaning of success. We agreed that if we could measure success by the amount of laughs we had in a day rather than our bank balance or pants size, we'd be the most successful people ever. We were very good at amusing ourselves.

That got me thinking about definitions of success. How can I have a successful 2011? By measuring the amount of countries I visit? By the friends I make? By the relationships I maintain? By the love life I create? Children I create? A house in the Hamptons? (That last one definitely won't happen. And the one before that... um, that would depend on the one before that and the one before that, which depends on the one before that... though I wonder if that one depends on the one before that.)

That sentence was exhausting. 

I'm somewhat perplexed about how to proceed in 2011, so I'm asking for your help. Dear reader, what is your resolution? And how do you plan on making 2011 a success?

Good question.

Ooh, maybe I'll measure the success of 2011 by the amount of blog comments I get. Oh how I love your blog comments.

That's all a bit much. 

Ya, no pressure. Anyway, happy new year. We've had a good run in 2010. And we're just getting started.

Janice

P.S. If one of your goals for 2011 involves earning a degree, which is always a good thing, here

is a great place to start!

P.P.S. If you need an end-of-the-year donation, might I recommend my fave Architecture for Humanity. Or pick from your favorite charities in Ed Norton's Crowdrise.com. As they say, "Crowdrise is about raising money for charity and having the most fun in the world while doing it." Fun? Yes, please.

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Day 361: My birthday is pretty much the best day ever

December 27 is the best day ever. Why? Because on this day your favorite bloggess was born.

I don't understand why people hide their birthday or get mad when someone doesn't remember. Be the purveyor of your own life, I say. Give yourself the gift of reminding people that it's your birthday so that they can give you birthday wishes galore.

Facebook is very good about this.

What did we do before Facebook remembered the birthday of you and 527 of your closest friends?

All day long, I've clicked on Facebook to read well wishes... including a wish all the way from ROME. Facebook birthday wishes made me feel all warm and fuzzy inside all day long.

You know what else made me happy? The gifts I got from people.

I never said I wasn't into pressies.

Now, if you've been following along, you'll know that I quit my job and plan on getting my worldly possessions down to one suitcase so I can travel. Those who opted to give me gifts also gave me the gift of knowing that I'm getting rid of mostly everything. Good peeps.


Top 10 gifts I received for my birthday:

1. A song from iTunes called Love Love Love by the Mountain Goats. Lyrics include "Some things you do for money and some you do for Love Love Love." Like travel the world.

2. A card from the niece. She's 5 years old. She wrote out all the letters of the alphabet, then recited them to me. "A, ah, apple. B, buh, ball..."

3. A hike from the brother-in-law. To a new trail with all my favorite hiking requirements: A view, uphill, ample parking at the trail head. Yes, yes and yes.

4. Personalized stationery created by the sister so I can send notes from abroad from me.

5. Peet's coffee cards... that I'll use up before the end of the week.

6. My favorite chocolate cake... that I ate up before the end of the night.

7. A movie date from a friend. Complete with popcorn and movie of my choosing.

8. A small journal from my cousin so I could jot down notes here and there on my travels.

9. A call from a friend that was once a good friend, then regressed to a mere Facebook friend but is now BACK ON as a good friend.

10. An appearance at my birthday party from another friend who I've been on the outs with lately. That came over WITH stickers for the niece AND a coffee card AND hug for ME.

Best. Pressies. Ever.

Best. Birthday. Ever. 


Sunday, December 26, 2010

Day 360: Songlines and sunshine in Santa Monica

"It is good to collect things, but it is better to go on walks." --Anatole France
I've spent the last few days with family... it being Christmas and all. This is the first Christmas that I haven't gone back to Canada. Usually, I pack up the gifts and my Lululemon yoga pants and brave the elements north of the border.

(And by elements, I mean the airports and questions from the rellies about who I'm dating and why I live so far away.)

But this year, some of the family came to me. The rest we met on video chat on Christmas morning.

We've spent time sitting in the sun...

... looking for the corkscrew...

...and playing with toys....
The niece is very serious about Strawberry Shortcake.

I received some lovely gifts, but the best part of the holidays has been going for walks. The ability to walk outside without bundling up is one of the best gifts of being in Santa Monica in December. We walk. We stop for coffee. We walk some more. We stop at the playground. We walk some more.

In that spirit, I've been reading The Songlines by Bruce Chatwin, as shown with help from the niece.
"WHY?! Why must you read, Auntie Jan, when there are so many toys to play with?"

The book is about Songlines of the Indigenous people of Australia. Wikipedia says, "By singing the songs in the appropriate sequence, Indigenous people could navigate vast distances, often travelling through the deserts of Australia's interior."

A map made of song!

How lovely is THAT?! 

Wikipedia goes on to say that these fancy sing-song nomads can "navigate across the land by repeating the words of the song, which describe the location of landmarks, waterholes, and other natural phenomena."

We, in my five person troupe made of three adults and two children, have a sing-songy way about us as we navigate our way around Santa Monica. The lead singer, the five-year-old, is accompanied by the backup singer in the stroller and the three adults following behind.

I think all this singing and walking is good practice for my 2011 nomadic adventure.

Where will I start my nomadic adventure? I have two optional starting lines for my songlines. Can you guess what they are, dear reader?

Clue number one: THIS blog entry.
Clue number deux: THIS clue.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Day 355: Top 5 things I learned about writing morning pages

I love when someone is inspired to write morning pages after hearing about my project of writing morning pages each day for a year and blogging about it.

For instance, my niece saw me writing my pages today and decided to write her own.
I love how emotions carry through penmanship.

Now that it's near the end of the year and near the end of this project (though the blog will live on), I figure I should report on the experience of writing daily morning pages.

For those not in the know about morning pages: They came from Julia Cameron's book, The Artists Way, which is a 12-week course to help you unleash your creativity. In the book, you are tasked with writing three pages in your journal every single day. You write whatever you want but it must be three pages a day for the full 12 weeks.

When I did this course, my life changed in big ways. I figured if my life changed a lot in 12 weeks, what would it be like in a year? (Read the archive on the right for the long version of how my life has changed... skip to December for the gist.)

I figure, of the last 355 days, I've missed about 20 days of writing morning pages. Sometimes I got busy. Sometimes I just plain forgot. And sometimes I got sick of the project. But in all that writing, I learned a thing or five about writing these pages...

Top 5 things I learned about writing morning pages:
  1. It doesn't get any easier. That third page is just as hard now as it was in January.

  2. We've become friends. Sometimes the pages are a confidant, someone with whom I can share my true thoughts. It's a sweet relief to have this in my life, especially when my actual friends are tired of hearing me drone on... or if what I have to say is so mean that I wouldn't want to share it with my friends. Sometimes venom is best left for the privacy of morning pages.

  3. I can't hid my issues. I can't just write about the mundane in my morning pages. And if I do, the issues end up spewing out by the third page anyway. The pages show me what I could work on.

  4. Big projects get daily face time. Like quitting my job or deciding to travel around the world. None of the decisions I made this year were on a whim. They were painstakingly evaluated and planned out in my pages. Every stinking day. Except for 20.

  5. Morning page don't need to get done in the morning. Julia Cameron and I will have to agree to disagree. She says it's best to do them early for a myriad of reasons. Whatevs Julia. What. Evs. I've learned that sometimes our best spiritual and artistic work gets onto those pages right after a really bad moment at the office, or when we find ourselves with a free half hour and a free window seat at a coffee shop, or at night when we can best evaluate the pluses and minuses of the day.

    Plus, morning is for hitting the snooze button, sipping coffee and hauling our asses where they need to go. Writing morning pages in the morning is a high expectation that can quickly lead to failure. I can't believe I'm still doing my 2010 New Year's resolution. And it would have ended by the third week in January if I only did these pages in the morning. Correction: Third day in January.
So, dear reader, I hope my wee project has inspired you to write a little more in your journal... or even just buy a pretty journal... or a pen with nice flow... or even just think about maybe possibly writing more someday.

Morning pages create a space to write the best story ever told.

Your own.
"I never travel without my diary. One should always have something sensational to read in the train." --Oscar Wilde.

Monday, December 20, 2010

Day 354: Holiday gift to self

Confession: I have a mad crush on Charlie Boorman.
Ewan McGregor ain't bad either.

You may have heard of their two motorcycle odysseys. First, there was Long Way Round, when they went from London to New York east on their motorcycles.
 Hot stuff.

Second, there was Long Way Down, when they went from John O'Groats in Scotland south to Cape Town in South Africa.
Yumbo.

But what really solidified my mad crush on Charlie was Race To Dakar, where he raced in the 2006 Dakar Rally, the most challenging and dangerous motorcycle race in the world.
Heart wrenching. 
Tear jerking. 
Adrenaline rushing. 
Bi-polarizing. 
Mad-crush forming.

When I watched Race to Dakar, I was was all a kerfuffle, wondering if these guys were going to finish the race alive. People die in this race. DIE! If my Charlie were to have kicked it in this race, I would have shut off my TV, crawled into bed to waited for the end of time because there would be no point to go on.

Dramatic much?

Perhaps I am being slightly over the top. These guys have to first raise money for the race, train for months and prep like crazy. Then come race time, they race all day, fix bikes all night, travel through the desert in crazy hot conditions with cars whizzing by all day long.

It's all a bit much.

It's more stressful than watching 24.

Charley raced with Simon Pavey in the Dakar Rally. This year, Simon is racing again. The costs of this race are astronomical. Lucky for us, we can donate at his site.

Now I know there are a lot of worthwhile places to donate your cash this holiday season. There are people starving, poor children that could use a gift, and people in Haiti, the Gulf Coast and a thousand other places on earth that could use your help.

But let us not forget to donate to help those trying achieve their dreams. Because those are worthwhile causes, too. So this year, in addition to donating to those in need, I gave a little something extra to Simon to help him to the finish line. Why? Because it made me feel good, as selfish as that may seem to some. And I consider it an early birthday gift to self.

FYI, my birthday is December 27. Mark it on your calendar, dear reader.

The campaigning begins.

No need to give me gifts.

Good. Wasn't gonna.

Can't fit it in my suitcase for my trip around the world anyway. But, if you're feeling inclined to give to worthwhile causes, might I suggest giving both to people in need and also to people who are the the midst of achieving their dreams.

People like Simon.

It will make you feel all warm and fuzzy inside. Trust me.

Saturday, December 18, 2010

Day 352: Wrung out like an overused dish towel

It's raining.

I'm sitting in my big brown chair beside the window. My tea sits on the window ledge. I'm surrounded by books, Christmas cards and mail.

The last few days have been a sumptuous solitude.
"Language... has created the word 'loneliness' to express the pain of being alone. And it has created the word 'solitude' to express the glory of being alone." -- Paul Tillich
Remember in my last post when I said relaxing felt like a cold?

Well, it appears that a cold also feels like a cold.

Over the last few days, every toxin that I've held in my body has released itself in the form of some unholy mucus that has spewed out of my nose. I must have blown my nose ten thousand times. Days later, my nose is raw and my sinuses feel like they've been wrung out like an overused dish towel.

But I feel empty and that's a good thing.

While I've been detoxing, I've been reading Life is Verb: 37 days to wake up, be mindful and live intentionally by Patti Digh.

Read this book with lots of tea.

In it, she tells charming little stories about how to live each day with a little more gusto.

The back cover of the book reads:
"The death of her stepfather just 37 days after being diagnosed with cancer woke Patti Digh up, scared her, and made her examine her own life. She realized that living your best life doesn't mean ditching your job and sailing around the world—it means living each individual, glorious, simple day with more intention."
Funny. I didn't read that until after I ditched my job and intend to zip around the world. 

But before I go, I'm going to sit in my window, sip my tea and watch the rain.


Monday, December 13, 2010

Day 347: My new daily status

This is what someone looks like when they know they've done the right thing by quitting their job.

The day I quit: Tired

The day after I quit: Shocked but delighted

The day after the day after I quit: Just delighted

It's currently 9:27 a.m. on Monday. The time that my daily status meeting ends at the office.

But since I quit my job last week, instead of walking out of the meeting with status sheets in my hand, I'm sitting on my chaise lounge chair, draped in an afghan with a coffee in my hand.

Best. Moment. Ever.

I thought that after I did it, after I left the job, that I'd be visited by my inner Mr. Panic Head. He wears a suit and is so high strung that he makes coffee nervous. He runs around in circles and starts every sentence with "What if..."

But, no sign of him so far.

I've only noticed a deep fatigue, coupled with feelings of relief and happiness. I'm tired but I'm happy. Like a mom who just gave birth and is holding her baby.

My baby is time. Wonderful, beautiful, perfect time.

I think this is what relaxing feels like. I just haven't felt relaxed in so long that I don't recognize it.

It feels a bit like a cold. 

    Friday, December 10, 2010

    Day 244: My Shawshank Redemption

    I didn't do it on a whim. The whole quitting my job thing.

    It took planning, strategizing and a whole lot of fantasizing to make it happen. But mostly it took saving. It costs many dollars to go off and quit your job, folks. The last thing I wanted to do was quit my job and head straight into Fretsville. No no. That's not my style.

    I didn't do it by offloading sand out of my trousers for 20 years, but it was kind of like a Shawshank prison escape. So, for all you youngin's out there, here's how I saved up enough dough to quit my job and go romp around the world.


    My Shawshank Redemption

    1. Got a number. I sat around at lunch with my coworkers and asked how much money one should save to quit a job. We all agreed on a number.

    2. Calculate time and money. I calculated how long it would take me to reach that number doing what I was doing now with my current salary.

    3. Realized it would take forever. I started thinking of ways to bring in that money sooner. I bought stocks and sold paintings. I had a yard sale and accepted friends staying at my place. I didn't charge them anything, but they took me for meals and bought groceries here and there.

    4. Got cozy. I stayed home more. I painted and used up art supplies I bought three years ago, read books I bought five years, I bound books with a kit I bought six years ago. 

    5. Gave the stuff I made as gifts. It's more meaningful to the receiver, it's a great creative outlet and it's a chance to use up art supplies I already purchased.

    6. Sold what wouldn't fit my nomadic lifestyle. Like when I sold my big laptop and bought a small laptop.

    7. I said Absolutely No to things I didn't want to do. When a friend asked me to go to dinner or the movies, I suggested a walk instead. Or, I suggested a movie at home on the couch instead. That way we both saved money, bonded and did things I'd rather do anyway. Win win.

    8. Became vegan. Okay, so this one is more hardcore. Look at your grocery bill. The most expensive items are meats, cheeses and other non-vegan items. Being vegan makes my pocketbook fat and makes me thin. The cows and chickens like it, too. Win, win, win.

    9. Had a Come-to-Jesus about what makes me happy. Experiences make me happy. Material things do not. I can't believe it never occurred to me when I was buying and bringing stuff into my apartment that I'd have to deal with it all one day. Now when I see something I like, I wonder if I will sell it at a yard sale, give it to a thrift store or cherish it always. Lose, lose, win.

    10. Became generous. Tithing is this weird law of the universe. When I leave big tips and donate more, I am gifted with people buying my art, my books and my crafts. I can't explain it but I get back ten times what I put out. 
    And I did all this for awhile until boom! I met my financial goal. And get this: Saving money was easier than I thought. I think Step 9 was what helped me along the fastest. Shopping became lame. Having stuff mucked with my mind space. Once I got rid of a lot of stuff in my apartment, I had breathing room. Breathing room is good.

    So reader, what's your Shawshank Redemption Plan?

      Thursday, December 9, 2010

      Day 343: My Leo Burnett apple pin

      This is my Leo Burnett apple pin.

      My first advertising job was at Leo Burnett Advertising. Everyone who works at all the Leo Burnett offices around the world gets an apple pin. We all wear it. It's a pretty cool pin that represents membership in a pretty cool club.

      When Leo Burnett created his advertising agency during the Great Depression, he had a bowl of apples in his lobby for employees and visitors. Naysayers said that opening an advertising agency in the middle of the depression was a bad idea. They said he's soon be selling those apples on the street.

      Today, Leo Burnett is the 10th largest advertising agency in the world and every Leo Burnett office in the world offers apples at reception. Employees, clients, the FedEx guy, the UPS guy, everyone grabs an apple on their way in or out of the office. Everyone loves free apples.

      I ate a lot of apples when I worked at Leo Burnett.

      And I really loved being a copywriter. I wore my apple pin with pride.

      Since my first apple at Leo Burnett, I've done a lot of copywriting. A dozen years, thousands of campaigns, millions of words.

      But somewhere along the line, in all the agencies I've worked at, except for Leo Burnett, something has changed. They've become More More More factories. More ads, more versions, more emails, more mail. More more more. With less budget and less time.

      And without adequate recovery time between churning out these ads, my work/life balance went severely off kilter. Monday through Friday became a flurry of work. Saturday became a rest day. Sunday became the weekend. Year after year of this... well, that's no way to live.

      So today, I quit my job.

      (The sound of applause heard around the world.)

      It's not that I just quit my job. I quit advertising.

      (I love saying "quit" rather than "resign." It's so much more balls to the walls.) 

      In the middle of the depression, Leo Burnett started his dream of becoming a copywriter.

      In the middle of a recession, I am starting my dream of a life beyond being a copywriter.

      It's not just my experience with my latest agency that has led to this decision. In fact, they gave me everything they could. But what I wanted was work/life balance. And that, in some warped accounting way, is problematic for the bottom line of corporate America.

      Other people can do it. They even like it. I'm just not these people. I'm not even from the same planet as these people.

      So now, after a rest, I will travel the world and write about it. And I will take nothing with me from my former copywriting life except for one thing: My Leo Burnett pin.

      It will remind me to be grateful for what my copywriting career gave me for this next leg of my journey: writing skills and cash.

      I'm grateful for all the friends I've made, the writing skills I've developed, and the checks that always cleared.

      I'm grateful.

      But I'm done.


      Wednesday, December 8, 2010

      Day 342: Deliberate pause

      ... for dramatic effect.

      Stay tuned. It's about to get very good.

      Good like Santa when you're five.
      Good like lemonade on the pier.
      Good like the first kiss.
      Good like a ride when you're feet are tired.
      Good like the blue of a glacier lake.
      Good like a free coffee.
      Good like Christmas cards.
      Good like tomato soup and grilled cheese.
      Good like Tom Jones singing Pussy Cat.
      Good like a new blog post from your favorite blogger.

      It's THAT good.

      Tune in tomorrow.



      Monday, December 6, 2010

      Day 341: Holiday mayhem has begun

      This weekend in Santa Monica was full of holiday street festivals. All the shops stayed open late for people to get a head start on holiday shopping. There were twinkle lights a plenty and even a few carolers.

      It was all very charming until the free food came out.

      People barreled through stores trying to get to the free wine and grub in the back. No one seemed to care about shopping. They just loitered around the shops sheepishly looking for the cookies. People seem to have no problem cutting in front of mothers with strollers just to get their hands on a cheese cube.

      I love how I use the word "they," as if my saintly self had nothing to do with it.

      But it was Jack cheddar with jalapenos and it tasted great.

      "Hey honey, now that our dishwasher gives us more free time, let's go out and trample our neighbors for free food."

      All this holiday spirit reminds me of one of my favorite holiday books. No, it's not Charles Dicken's A Christmas Carol.
      I'll have a double.



      Wednesday, December 1, 2010

      Day 331: It's time to dance

      Dancing with pal extraordinaire SuperKev.

      It's time to dance

      I'm acting scared because I think I should
      I'm not scared
      I'm sitting on my couch
      In front of my fireplace
      Wrapped in a blanket
      I couldn't be less scared

      I'm thinking of making a move
      And I'm waiting for the emotions
      Because I think I should
      Stress, overwhelm and fear
      Strangely, this trifecta is absent

      Where to?
      I'll figure it out when I get there
      I know this
      So why am I being sheepish?
      I'm here now
      Going there
      Or wherever
      Somewhere cool

      I've got the cash
      And I'll figure out the furniture
      All this furniture is made of paper
      Folded paper with little flaps
      To go with the folded flap little me
      That I thought I wanted to be
      And I was
      And it was great
      And now I'm different
      And it will be great again

      I'm just acting scared because I think I should
      But I'm not scared
      I'm not sad for those I'll wave to bravely
      This is the dance of my life
      It's arranged in my honor
      It's time to go
      It's time to dance


      Day 330: A bitter cold poem for December

      A dreary day. Perfect for my poetic nastiness.
      "Have you ever become the worst version of yourself? That a Pandora's box of all the hateful things... your spite, your arrogance, your condescension has sprung open? Someone upsets you and instead of smiling and walking away... you zing them. 'Hello it's Mr Nasty.'" -- Joe Fox, You've Got Mail

      This quote reminds me of this poem I wrote awhile ago when I was super annoyed with someone. I know. Shocker. Someone made assumptions that were just so basic and wrong but they believe them so strongly. Then I felt put in a corner, which made me feel like scratching their face off. Not my most shining moment. Because I didn't scratch their face off.

      I think we've all been there. Caught in a bitter stew of projection, history, confusion and just plain ol' venom. Anyway, that's where I was coming from when I wrote this.

      You don't know me

      You don't know me
      You have pieced together a story
      Out of all the stories I've told
      You latched onto a tale or two
      And fill in the rest

      You don't know me
      Perhaps I'm to blame
      I didn't know full disclosure was required
      I shared fragile little bird tales
      But failed to mention how they made me soar

      If you knew me
      You'd know that my childhood
      Though influential to a point
      Had an expiration date that was met
      A long time ago

      If you knew me
      You'd know that I'm currently wondering
      Why I'm friends with you
      You who uses intellect
      Not instinct

      You who judges and defines
      Who puts baby in a corner
      If you knew me
      You'd know
      I'm nothing like you

      After writing this poem, I was spent and wanted only to lay in Rumi's field where none of this matters. Where nothing was right or wrong. In that field, I would be immune to sweeping generalizations, evaluations and judgments. Where I wouldn't despise. Where the place where this poem came from was a vague memory of a dream I once had.
      "Out beyond ideas of wrongdoing
      and rightdoing there is a field.
      I'll meet you there." -- Rumi



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