Listening to Your Gut & Acting on Your Instinct

Quick summary:

  • A little first person story about following your gut and making instinctive decisions- regardless of rational thought.
  • Fighting with the inner-gnomes- really- I’m not insane.
  • The moral of the story- follow your gut.  But it’s worth the read!
  • A video from TED at the end- totally worth the 20 minutes!

At times, our body reacts to our reality in ways that our mind can not.  Our mind rationalizes our actions and decisions, it weighs the cost/benefit analysis of our actions and the future implications of our decisions on our current path in life. Our mind shoots in to the future 5 years and tries to predict our place in life based on the outcome of the decision we are making. Our mind takes our actions and rationalizes the positive effects- even if the rationalization is based on pure mythical results or best case scenarios that are not a reflection of reality.

But our body knows better.  Our body reacts.  Our gut knows when something is right or wrong- it just knows.

A shot from Kathmandu while I wandered the streets looking for chai.

Here’s a little story from my life last month- there’s a point amongst the words- keep reading.

Rewind to last month.  Mid-June, as my 35th birthday was rapidly approaching, I was driving down the road at 55 miles an hour, wallowing in my present Saturday evening spent at Barnes and Noble working on my writing while the rest of the world was engaging in a social life, thinking, “Damn, it’s a Saturday night, and I’m caressing my MacBook Pro with a cup of espresso.  Tragic.” As I’m lost in my self-reproach and self-pity, my truck makes a strange, slight noise that is almost undetectable.  Then, as I’m flying down an overpass- the engine just stops.  The dashboard lights up, my steering wheel feels like its drowning in cement and I’m coasting down the highway approaching an on-ramp with merging traffic.  SHIT!!

My poor Little Red limps off to the side of the road- miraculously missing the merging cars- and I just sit staring at the steering wheel trying to wrap my brain around what just happened.  I turned the key over- sputter, cough, ahhhhhh! Nothing.  She’s not gonna give me anymore juice.  She’s done.  Shit, so am I, I thought.  As the tow truck driver put her up on the flat-bed and she looked all lonely and broken, I couldn’t help but think- damn it, I should be in Egypt or Italy like I planned.  I wouldn’t need a car and I wouldn’t be wallowing in self-pity on a Saturday night.  What am I doing?  And then, the sheer fear of being stranded in Myrtle Beach with no vehicle sunk in. According to the “Walkability Score” from Rowdy Kittens (a fabulous blog that I spent my vehicle-less week indulging in), my current squatting location while I work on my Empire (i.e. my mother’s house) has a walk-ability rating of 14- with 99 being Portland- one of the most walkable cities in the US.  Sigh.

That night, after my tow truck driver said, “yea, that’s your engine” after turning the key over while I begged him to tell me the problem was just a fuel pump, I had a long conversation with Captain Morgan.

I went there.  I wallowed.  I watched Quentin Tarantino just to make me feel like, “damn, at least I’m not that guy getting gutted on screen”.

I emailed a friend who I knew was hiring a waitress at her work and figured I’d better prepare for the $3K dollar engine I’d be buying in a few short days.  There goes my plane ticket to Italy, my travel money to Ireland to find my McDreamy and my month’s worth of Turkish coffee in Cairo.  Damn, Damn, Damn.  And me and the Captain kept talking.

I began working in restaurants 20 years ago.  Throughout my freelance career, bartending has always been my fall back.  I am an excellent bartender, I love the act of bartending- the conversations, the mix-ology and the industry’s drama and stories!  But, for all the things I love about the bar, working there sucks the life out of my creative inner gnomes faster than a Hoover vacuum on steroids. It just does.  And this summer, I’m working hard to build my blog, grow my readership and finish my commercial projects so I can go overseas and really take my blog for a spin- using all the creative juju I can muster.  I’m sacrificing the normal luxuries of a 35 year old, single woman to chase my dreams down. I tasted my life as I envisioned it this winter- and the flavor was delicious.  And I’ve gone too far to go backwards.

But, with $3K looming over my head for a vehicle repair, I retreated to my safety zone.  The restaurant. Now, you might be thinking, $3K for a 15 year old pickup truck is a little crazy- and you’d be right.  But I, for reasons that are personal and not to be discussed in this article, am emotionally attached to this vehicle.  Again, not rational, I get that.  Also, when you can not walk anywhere, ANYWHERE, you need a vehicle.  Moving is not an option at this point because I have two clients that are in the midst of projects- and I can’t leave.

So, I trained at my friend’s workplace.  An adorable little restaurant in a small coastal tourist town.   I’d make bank, work part time and replenish my travel kitty.  The training went well and I enjoyed working with my friend.  She’s very sweet and flamboyant and believes that her waitress shift is really just a cabaret and she is the star.  Interesting.

That night, instead of sleeping, I tossed and turned like nobody’s business.  It was the night before my birthday and I was about to work my second waitress shift on the day I was supposed to celebrate my special day on the beach.  But that wasn’t the problem.  I dreamt, repeatedly, that I forgot to show up for work.  I normally dream about forgetting drink orders or getting double sat when I start at a new restaurant, but in the 20 years I’ve been doing this, I never dreamt that I just forgot to show up for a shift.  Oh no.  This is not good.

Each time I woke up, my inner gnomes were engaged in a heated debate.  They were pissed and they were arguing. The practical gnome was arguing about money and the fact that I would be making money at the restaurant like normal 35 year old people do when they work.  The artistic gnome was crying because she really was looking forward to a summer of freedom to wander into the creative cave at a moment’s notice- a luxury that makes freelancing worth the effort.  The entrepreneurial gnome was throwing things because working at a restaurant would detract from the progress being made towards complete location independence and passive income generation and the nomadic gnome was curled up in the corner, rocking back and forth and muttering about the chai wallah in India that he needs to see, the espresso in Fiorenze that he needs to drink and the hookah in Cairo that he needs to smoke. And all this arguing gave me a huge stomach ache.  My gut was rebelling against the restaurant.  When the gnomes start to arguing, I hear them out.  But when the gut reacts- I have to take action.

Around 4 am, they all agreed that I had to quit the job I worked at all of one day and began the conversation I would have with the owner the very next morning.  And I laid there in bed, rationalizing the action and having the conversation.  I created elaborate excuses and reasons  for why I couldn’t work anymore.  I had it all planned out.  But when I went to the restaurant, I just looked at the owner, apologized profusely and told her “it’s not you, it’s me”.  Like I was in high school breaking up with a pimply boy from the basketball team.

I was that person.  I flaked on a job after one day.  Shit.

Good lord, what am I doing?  I went to the beach, thought about what I was doing and said, well, I’m opening this up to the Universe at this point.

If my gut reacted to my rational action of taking an outside job in such a strong way, there must be powers at work here a little stronger than my rational mind.

But, my inner gnomes all agreed, if you’re going to go this route, there had better be some serious progress being made towards your goals.  I began pulling 10-15 hour days, working on my branding, social media and blogging.  My E-Book is ready to launch next week, I’m publishing guest posts and finally tying it all together.

And as I sit here today and look at the small baby steps that I’m taking towards my goals, I thank my gut and my inner gnomes for that long, sleepless night.  Had they not taken over, I might still be serving sandwiches and kicking myself for not moving forward- again.

By taking this risk and tossing myself at the mercy of the Universe, I have no one to blame but myself for my missteps and shortcomings.  If I don’t make this happen now, I have no excuses.

Here’s a little video from TED talking about our brains and leadership and the Why?  Excellent!

Small Town Living and Walking Out the Writer’s Block

The desert is in bloom, the temperature is in the mid to upper 80s and the town population is down to a few thousand.  And, I have to say, life in a small town is pretty nice.

Granted, Quartzsite isn’t just any small town.  This place is an odd mixture of carnival, flea market, gem show, tourist destination (with very few tourist attractions) and it desperately wants to be a real city.  Or at least its politicians are seeking this outcome.  The Palm Springs of Arizona.

20100312_QUARTZ9_0020
Transient wanderers walk through town amongst the stray snowbirds who are prolonging their winter retreat until the last possible moments.  The town drunks are more prevalent now and nothing is hidden on these quiet streets.  And the daily trips of the locals on their bicycles heading to the market for beer are more reliable than the postman.

I’m currently battling a case of writer’s block, usually an indication that I’ve stayed in one place too long- or I’ve had too much of my aunt’s homemade banana bread and the yummy, sugary goodness has zapped the creative juju out of my brain.  I utilize the wonderful art of sauntering to try and alleviate my blockage.  Alas, as this entry is proof, my block is still here, but I did work on my tan and see some odd occurrences today and overhear some interesting conversations on my aimless walks.

On the way to the post office, I noticed an odd group of guys parked next to a 30 foot dilapidated RV with a flat tire that limped onto our street the other night and landed itself at the vacant lot to our park.  A lot which is home to some very, very odd fellows and is frequented by the police several times a week.  For what purposes, I can only imagine.  These fellows are stuffing plastic garbage bags full of crap from the RV and placing it into an old blue van.  The kind of van you walk by quickly and open the eyes in the back of your head just to be sure.  Upon my return, the van was gone.

Later that day, I walked to the coffeeshop and sat on the porch to try and find something profound to write about.  Obviously, I’m still searching.  I listened to the barista and her new employee talk about the changes in this town of 3500 people over the past few years.  They mentioned the price of food- which is insanely expensive.  Six dollars for 4 sticks of generic, chemical laden butter is just wrong.  They went on to mention the cost of housing.  Property in this semi ghost town has skyrocketed over the past few years as more people park the RV permanently and try to recreate California.  The barista is a sweet woman who works hard to provide for her 4 kids and is about to be married.  Again.  She mentioned finding a 40 foot fifth wheel with 3 slide-outs, but couldn’t imagine having all four children and her soon to be husband inside the home at once.  I couldn’t imagine this either.  But that’s life in this tiny little town if you are not of the Have’s.

While finding reasons not to write at the espresso outpost, the blue van filled with garbage bags drove by 3 times.  And I passed them again on the walk home.

After dinner, at a loss for words- literally- and with no reason to walk to McDonalds and buy a $1 espresso (yes, I support my addiction with the cheap stuff in this town.  No Starbucks, what can I say) I went for another walk.  More of an aimless, after dinner, ‘let’s watch the sunset behind the mountains and hope another character from the story gods appears’ walk.  I passed the same familiar faces.  This town is so small that I pass the same people walking, biking or trolling in their electric wheelchairs every day.  The guy who smokes while driving his electric chair attached to an oxygen tank waves at me from across the road.  An older gentlemen stopped in the middle of the four-lane road to see if I needed a ride.  The guy who runs one of the swap meet stands and sold me a copy of the ‘Tibetan Book on Living and Dying’ for 2 bucks waved to me as he closed shop and asked how my day went.  He’s seen me at least three times today walking the streets.  As the sun sets in this town, the folks gather around camp fires, share dinner at the picnic tables and ride their 4 wheelers through the washes on the way to the local bars, all two of them.

Strolling down main street.

Strolling down main street.

I figured it was time to walk home once the sun disappeared behind the hills.  I turned down my street and came to the empty lot with the dilapidated RV.  A woman was hollering outside the RV with her dog.  I had to remove the iPod to hear this.

“They sold me a hot RV.  Bastards!” She yelled to no one.

“Not you.” she pointed to me as I walked by. “I’m not talking to you, just yelling at these guys.”  There was no one there.  “This thing is stolen.  They sold me a stolen RV.”  Insert foul language here.  I passed this woman on my first walk around lunchtime.  She was walking up the road, with a little swagger, in her pajama bottoms and a tank top and slippers.  When I returned from that first walk, she was sitting by the sidewalk next to the main road picking flowers.  Its been a rough day for her.

As I walked through the RV park to my humble abode- literally- the residents were standing around talking, so I caught up on the days activities.  As I sat knitting on the couch later that evening, again- trying to find something to write about- I told my uncle about the stolen RV and the blue van.  He laughed, “well, I guess the cops will be out later.”  Maybe that will give me something to write about.

Life in this little RV town.

An Empathetic Crystal and Saying Goodbye.

“I was walking along, looking down at the ground and there was this crystal.  Looked just like a tear drop.  A teardrop from God, just for me.”  My aunt’s friend held out this crystal she had found just moments after she and her husband had to put their 16 year old dog out of her misery.

“He had to shoot her.  Not the way I would have done it, but he felt it was his obligation to her.  She just laid her head down for him when it was time and he sobbed like a child afterward.  Then we buried her out in the desert and I found this crystal.”

I told my aunt’s friend that a crystal appears when the person needs it, the crystal finds the person, not necessarily the other way around.

I looked at her crystal and recognized some properties or ‘personalities’ of the stone.  She had found an empathetic crystal, and one of its properties is to help a person suffering from grief or a loss.  I told her this and her face brightened, and she was comforted by her crystal finding her at that moment.

My aunt and her friend spent the afternoon making jewelry and turning her crystal into a necklace, and I’m sure she will be wearing it as she grieves for the passing of her four-legged loved one.

Things are a little different out here.  Life and death seem to be a part of the daily dialogue in this retirement community.  So often the conversation drifts to so-and-so and his recent heart attack or so-and-so and their trip to the hospital or so-and-so and the passing of their husband.  Death is just hanging out here in the desert as the Great Generation reaches the end of their years and exits this world.

A couple walks to Tyson Wells in Quartzsite, AZ.

A couple walks to Tyson Wells in Quartzsite, AZ.

Another friend of my aunt’s stopped by the other day and was telling us about the dog her friend brought over who needed a home.

“He’s too full of piss and vinegar,” claimed the friend.  “He is a young one and I had to take him back.  My daughter was giving me grief about getting a puppy.  She knows she’ll have to take care of him once I go.  I need an older dog whose at the end of his years like I am.”

Everyday, a little man a few doors down from my RV takes his tiny white pug out for a walk.  The dog just sort of stands there, not sure of which way to go.  He looks up at his owner, and his owner looks down at him, and they just sort of stand there for 5 or 10 minutes.  The unspoken words between the two of them speak volumes.  I happened to by walking home one day and passed them in their daily ritual.  His owner told me his companion should have died by now.  The little pup was old and suffering from congestive heart failure and totally blind. But he’s still going, and everyday they walk out of the RV and look around at the world passing them by.

I passed them this evening as I was driving down the road and he was driving out of the RV park.  The little pug was curled up on the dashboard going for a ride.  I hope they were going somewhere special and the little pup was enjoying his final days with his master.

Turning off the Grid- “Things were better before there was television.”

Canning for Survival

Last week, the RV park gathered for their monthly donuts and coffee breakfast.  About 20 old-timers sat around over glazed donuts and talked about their world; knitting, beading, quilting, RV roof sealer, which vendor had the best deals on lawn chairs, and on, and on.  The women all gathered on the porch and showed off their latest creations and the men stood around the coffee pot and talked about cars, politics and the weather.

When I say old-timers, I’m referring to the median age of 70 and up.  I’m the youngest by 40 years or so, which makes the conversation even more interesting for me.  It fascinates me to think of the time span my fellow breakfast mates have lived through and the moments of modern history they experienced.

Happy J's RV park residents gather for their monthly soup luncheon.

Happy J's RV park residents gather for their monthly soup luncheon.

“Things were better before television,” one tiny little lady commented when the conversation drifted to stories of their childhood.

“We didn’t have electricity until I was in high school.” Another lady stated.  High school- can you imagine?  I always proudly state, “back when I was in college, we didn’t have cell phones or email.”  But wow, no electricity, and many of the ladies agreed with her.

“We didn’t get hot water until I was 16,” stated another woman.

“One summer, when I was 15, they pulled me out of summer camp to go home and can for the summer.  Mom was sick, and they came and got me and I had to can all the vegetables for the coming winter.  Took me all summer.  If I hadn’t canned the food, we wouldn’t have eaten at all that winter.” Carol the quilter made this statement and I just had to pause and take that in for a moment.

If I had to can my entire family’s food for the winter, we’d be in serious trouble.  I can’t even bake a loaf of bread properly, that whole patience and baking gene was not passed down to me.  Imagine the summer when you were 15 years old.  Canning vegetables for survival couldn’t be any farther removed from my reality at that age, or even now.

From the Great Depression to the Great Recession

The irony in so many of these folks lives is that they entered the world during the time of the Great Depression and now they are beginning to leave this world under the time period of the “Great Recession”.  But they know survival, they know sacrifice, they can create and they can endure.

And when I look at my generation and our troubles and woes through their eyes, I don’t quite know what to think.  On the evening news tonight, a story about long-term unemployment spoke to the rising trend in my generation of people who will spend years in unemployment.  And as I’m listening to this in the same room with my 87 year old uncle, who has spent a lifetime starting small businesses and making a living any way possible- and doing a great job of it.  I can’t help but wonder about our motives from his perspective.

Granted, we are on opposite sides of the political spectrum, but politics aside, what does his generation think of a younger generation that sits around and waits for someone to hand them the same job they just lost?  When you spend a summer canning vegetables for survival, what runs through your mind when you hear about people spending 2-3 years or more out of work and resigning to the inevitability of joblessness? And, I guess coming from a service industry background, I have to wonder why we can’t just go get any job when the one we want is not available.  I know it requires swallowing quite a bit of pride and shoving aside our egos, believe me, I’ve done it, often.  But when we did we become so beholden to inevitability, rather then just changing our reality and seeking our own solution.

Conversing over coffee before the soup luncheon at Happy J's RV Park.

Conversing over coffee before the soup luncheon at Happy J's RV Park.

Finding our Survival Skills

When did we lose our survival skills?  When did we resign our fates to our bosses and supervisors and CEOs?  Why are we so afraid to seek the unknown and find a new skill or a new profession?  Why are we unable to just shift gears when troubles arise and plow forward into the unknown?

What will we do if canning food in the summers is our only means of survival?  I wonder if one day, we’ll be sitting around a table of donuts and pots of coffee reminiscing about the time the televisions went away and we learned to can our food and generate our own power.  I wonder when we are approaching the end of our years if we’ll sit around and compare our masterpiece quilts and handmade jewelry and talk about what life was like before cell phones and recessions.

Or will we be talking about the time we lost our jobs and failed to seek a better destiny for ourselves?  Will our conversation drift to the time when our government failed to function and we turned to ourselves for survival?  The time when we returned to community, farming  and family and rebuilt lives filled with sustainability and self-reliance. Lives where the television was turned off- permanently- and we learned to can vegetables from our own garden, build our own homes and knit our own sweaters.

I wonder if we’ll sit around our coffee and donuts at the end of our lives and say, “life was better after the television went away.”

authors note: I wrote this article Sunday evening during a windstorm with the RV swaying in the gusts and tried to publish prior to bedtime but could not access the internet. The following morning I wandered over to my trusty outpost with wifi only to find that the entire town had lost its internet, phone and ATM capacity during the storm.  Oh, the irony!

An Italian Biker and the 1890s Outpost

As I pulled out of the RV park and headed towards my morning espresso office, I racked my brain to try and think of something to write about.  Something a little different then the “lifestyle design” soapbox I’ve been standing on lately, something interesting and compelling.  And, I was at a loss.

I walked up to the coffeeshop/outpost/Jerry Springer live episode and a gorgeous road racing bicycle with baggage expertly strapped on-top sat outside the door.  Remember, I’m in a town where the locals ride bicycles with lawnmower motors attached because they are too lazy to peddle or don’t have a drivers license, so an expensive Italian road-bike is reason to take notice.

Main street in Quartzsite, AZ.

Main street in Quartzsite, AZ.

Inside the coffeeshop is a tall, Italian man ordering espresso, decked out in road biking gear.  Am I in the right place?  Or, better yet, is he? We started chatting and he asked me to pull up his blog on my computer.  He has been riding and posting articles since San Diego from his iPhone and has no idea what his blog looks like.  How fabulous!  His face lit up when he saw his images and his journey through the eyes of his audience.

Lucas is from Italy, just outside of Florence and is riding cross-country on the trip of a lifetime.  We talked over our espresso- finally- someone else who drinks straight espresso in the morning.  Though he did chase his espresso with a cappuccino. So Italian!

I digress.  Lucas said he’s a taxi driver in Italy and had planned on returning to work after his journey, but, he said with a shrug, “now, I don’t know.” He mentioned maybe returning to San Francisco and writing a book.

I just love it!  Here’s a person who stepped back, looked at his life and found this one thing that he must do.  And in doing this one thing, he’s opened up a myriad of opportunities and different perspectives.

We talked a little further and he mentioned his girlfriend who he had planned this adventure with.  He said she was unable to accompany him because she was in an accident back in Italy and had passed away.  “This trip is in her honor.  Its a little sad, but wonderful.”  He said this with sad eyes, but a genuine smile.  Lucas has a warm smile that kind of lights up his whole face.  Refreshing to say the least.

And now the whole picture makes a little more sense.  A bittersweet journey on a bike across a foreign country and the shedding of the past in the process.  Or, at least a little bit of the past.

So, I guess the coffeeshop/outpost/wild-west saloon (I actually saw a fellow in here the other day wearing a side-arm- with a 12 inch long barrel- yea-that’s real) held a little story for me today.  It never ceases to amaze me the people that will cross into our lives during the most mundane or routine events. How many people have you met over coffee or a beer and had your life or your perspective shift- even just a little.  I can think of many in my life.  And, when we open our eyes a little, it seems that life puts a little lesson in front of us or a living embodiment of a perspective or philosophy we are embracing.

In parting, Lucas said goodbye to everyone in the outpost and said, “I see you next time.  Maybe on a Harley then!”  And with a big smile, he put his hands on his imaginary Harley handle bars and walked out the door saying, “Ciao!”

Just fabulous!

The 1890s outpost/office/espresso shop/jerry springer show/wild west saloon.

The 1890s outpost/office/espresso shop/jerry springer show/wild west saloon.