Eat A Lot, Pray A Lot, Love A Lot, Drink A Lot, Then, We’ll See….
I sometimes shake my head in disbelief at what’s become my life. It’s not that I didn’t want, strive for, or work hard for the accomplishments I’ve achieved, it’s just that sometimes the circumstances and opportunities that arrive as a result, are humbling. As publisher and owner of a magazine, I get comped tickets for lots of shows, meet tons of amazing people, get VIP treatment at charitable events, receive lots of free products for review and get invites for press events and trips that are indeed pretty awesome. I hear people all the time say, “You have such a cool life!” What’s funny is that I consider myself a relatively small fish in a vastly huge media pond and I still have fantastic access to many great perks. I can’t imagine what the big girls and boys of national platforms receive…
As timing turns out, I have at least seven opportunities for travel that are going to occur over a rather condensed period of time. A few are personal, several are business. For some people travel is part of their professional life and thus, not that big of a deal. For me, travel has become something of an ambivalent endeavor. I get anxious about leaving home, especially my children. I am afraid to fly and need xanax to get on a plane. The thought of being far away prompts a lot of pre-emptive nervousness. Coordinating the logistics of leaving home for any length of time takes an organizing craftswoman precision, (which I don’t really have), between making sure my kids, their schedules, the pets, my house is protected and that my business dealings are in control and flowing in my absence. I’m working feverishly to get two issues of the magazine done at once over the next few weeks because I will be traveling nearly the entire month of May. Sure, there is email and internet, but it’s not as easy to run a business when you’re out of range. Besides, some of these trips are intended to keep me out of range. And of course Mark, my boyfriend, will be here at home for most of the time to help out with kids when they are not with their father, and protect the fort.
But here I am, with a slew of travel and opportunities to do some pretty cool things about to commence starting next week. What I am struggling with, and what I hope to document, is how to balance the fear with the excitement, the art of being in the present without trying to anticipate or project my discomfort, and hopefully unravel what it is that seems to follow me around when it comes to being afraid of life. I believe the older I get, the more vulnerable and raw I feel. I will soon be 47 and the last few years have upended my sense of security or certainty about emotionally or metaphorically having my two feet planted firmly on the ground. I get overwhelmed by uncertainty, and generally, I’m not at internal peace when it comes to life’s big mysteries.
In my head I know all the cliches: you never know what’s going to happen; life’s short; enjoy the moment; take one thing at a time… Some people have religion to fall back on for their answers. They just know. I don’t yet have, or I’m not in touch with, that soulful, internal, quiet comforted form of knowing. I’m not sure how I feel about God. Or death. Or why terrible things happen to good people, and their time is cut off way too soon, as soon as the best of them was becoming to be. Why everything that happens is seemingly so chaotic and random and yet, looking at the succession of some people’s life events, things did in fact fall into place just as they should have.
All the while, I’m hard on myself. I have circular conversation loops in my head. ‘Round and ’round the words and judgements go. Why can’t I relax and let go? Why can’t I let things just happen? Why do I feel like I’m holding my breath? Why can’t I cut myself some slack? Where do I land within myself that is ok with not knowing? Why can’t I be more patient with the process of a life unfolding? Is it the middle-age stage I’m at? Is this the pivotal developmental point where I’m supposed to be at in terms of the questioning struggle and search for answers and at last, internal acceptance and peace? Is this in fact the precipice between the life I knew, and had, and the second phase of life that will soon become–the older, wiser, more accepting version of myself?
This is where the travel ties in.When I was younger I used to LOVE to travel. Now, the idea of leaving home, adventuring out into the unknown, away from what I know and love, and my semblance of “safety” brings all this anxiety up. I’m grateful for the opportunities that have presented themselves, believe me. And to some degree, it’s almost an embarrassment of riches because in less than three months time, I’ll be going to some places people have never been and only dream of going. The part of me that says “go for it” realizes that I’m young enough, healthy enough and because of my professional circumstances which are merely a fortunate place in time, I need to take advantage. There is some joy-filled beauty and memories ahead.
Over the next few months this schedule is a condensed version of opportunity and on the other hand, anxiety on steroids. I think, “What if something happens to me?” “What if all these good things are going to happen in my life and then something bad happens in the midst?” “What if all the traveling put me in the path of tragedy?” Unrealistic visions of plane crashes, title waves, the nutty stuff the news proliferates. None of it’s likely and it definitely comes from a place of irrationality. Without further ado, here is the upcoming travel schedule and what I fear/anticipate:
April 11-13 – Rockaway Beach: This weekend I’m taking a photography workshop. I have been toying with photography for years, and I’m quite an amateur with a lust for taking pictures. I’m excited for this trip because I will have a chance to be among two professional women and have some time with the camera to learn what the hell I’m doing. I also get frustrated when I can’t grasp the technological aspect of photography. I have promise when it comes to the art and composition, but the technical aspects intimidate me, which of course is needed to truly become adept at taking kick-ass pictures. So I view this weekend as a first step in taking my passion seriously, acknowledging to myself that I might have a gift for this, and perhaps embracing photography as a future professional endeavor.
April 17 – 21 – Los Angeles: I will be driving down to L.A. with Mark and the kids for the occasion of my father’s “memorial.” He died last year on May 16th, suddenly from a heart attack, and we dropped everything and drove to L.A. and per Connie, his wife, and what she says were his wishes, my father Joe was cremated, there was no funeral, no memorial, no gathering, no celebration of life. I felt so aimless and lost as a result. I had no place to grieve, no place to mourn, no way to start the process of letting go. We left L.A. four days later and I felt like a true orphaned child. About a week later after I got home I asked Connie if I could have some of my father’s ashes, and for her own reasons and reasons she believed my father would have agreed with, she said, “no.”
I spent the last year ruminating over those series of events and have vacillated between being understanding and angry. My dad was the kind of man that wouldn’t have wanted a “fuss” over him. He was nondescript in that as a result of years of loss and disappointment with those around him, as a child and as a grown-up, he never asked anyone for help but was the first to offer a hand when asked. My relationship with my dad was a source of complexity and confusion. He and my mom married at 18, divorced at 22, and I spent the years with him as a familiar stranger. In my 20’s that turned, and we became closer for the past 20 years, but I’ve always held that innocent 8-year old desire for an authentic closeness that would elude me. I know for a fact my dad loved me and was proud of me. I know for certain we managed to heal some of our parent/child wounds, but the suddenness of his death, the lack of capacity to say goodbye in any real way, was par for my feelings of being adrift when it came to him.
I knew that I wanted to honor him, his life, and somehow acknowledge his passing with some sort of ceremony. Not to discredit Connie or what she believes to be best for him, I went ahead and contacted his cousin Lorraine, who lives in L.A. and asked her what she thought of having some sort of gathering in his honor. We would invite his side of the family, whoever was still alive and which I never knew, and perhaps a few of his friends, my brother and his kids, and my family, and create a celebration of his life. We set the date for this April 19th.
I have no idea what to expect. I’ve not really begun the process of grief–partly because there was nothing tangible to begin that process, and partly because I’m still so angry that this part of our life together will not be healed in the way that I hoped. His death, saying goodbye, and how I hoped to feel like a priority, left me feeling how I’ve always felt when it came to him, sort of as an afterthought. I am going to stay open to this experience, this form of memorial, because it is the only one I’ve got.
April 27 – May 1 – Maui: I’ve been invited to be a guest on a press trip by the Ka’anapali Beach Resort Association. The story for Portland Family I will be doing, and the purpose of this trip, will be to highlight the “Farm to Fork” aspect of Maui. I’m bringing, Alayna and Evan, my two kiddos along. We will be visiting several farms to meet the farmers and touring the gorgeous agricultural side of Maui, then doing meets and greets with some of Maui’s hottest chefs to see how the local ingredients are incorporated into their amazing culinary scene. This is a fabulous opportunity to learn about the thriving agricultural life on Maui and to go behind the scenes with some top-notch chefs. This is exciting because my kids are totally into Chopped, the Food Network show, and are into learning about fresh ingredients and the art of cooking. I feel pride for being able to expose my kids to this kind of hands-on experience. I think this will be a great feature story, particularly because Portlanders are into the local and organic farm to fork food scene. I’ve not brought my kids to Maui since right before I got divorced four years ago. I’m looking forward to spending some one-on-one time with them.
May 8 – 12 – Santa Fe, New Mexico: This is another press trip, all expenses paid. I’m going by myself and was invited by the Santa Fe Tourism commission for a fantastic art and cultural experience. They are hosting a behind the scenes look at the Georgia O’Keeffe Museum as well as the Museum of Indian Arts & Culture. They want to share the message of the artistic and cultural happenings of Santa Fe so I’m sure they will pull out all the stops to wow us media folks. I haven’t been to Santa Fe since I was in my late teens so this will be like a first time. I adore the desert and Native American culture so this should be special. May 12th happens to be my birthday.
May 18 – 28 – Fiji: Indeed, how crazy, I come back for a few days, only to be whisked away for an all-expenses paid, once-in-a-lifetime luxury media trip, to Fiji. I’m super excited and humbled that I was only one of five people to be selected by Fiji Airways and Tourism Fiji, for this media trip. The PR push is to celebrate the relaunch and rebranding of Fiji Airways and their direct flight from L.A. — it’s only a short 11 hours now, non-stop. The days of at least 18 hours to schlep there, are apparently over. Fiji has been # 2 on my life’s bucket list as a destination. But with the time, expense, now having kids, etc, doing this seemed like an out-of-reach option. I will be visiting three luxury resorts over the 10 days, and one of them is it’s own island, called Yasawa Island Resort.
This trip while the most amazing and humbling and exciting, is also the one causing me the most anxiety. I’m super nervous about being so far away from home. I think it’s something like 9 time zones difference and nearly 6,000 miles. The mere thought of this fills me with fear. Picturing myself so far from my kids, on an island, alone from everything I love, on a plane for that long, over the ocean…. well, you get the gist. I can also picture the warm water, the solitude, and at this point in my life, I think having some time to myself, to be alone with my spirit, is a good thing. I work hard, I’m under stress most of the time. I can imagine taking pictures of a serene sunrise, feeling the sand, snorkeling and seeing hundreds of colorful fish. Maybe I can find some inner peace. Maybe some clarity will be discovered. But wow, the stress of being so far away, rational or not, seems to overtake me.
June 5 – 7 – Disneyland: I’ll back for barely a week, then it will be time to pack up for a weekend for a nearly all expenses paid press trip (except airfare) to Disneyland. I will be going with Mark and the kids, we will be flying direct to Orange County, and staying at the Disneyland Resort. We will get park hopper passes for both Disneyland and California Adventure. Evan has never been to Disneyland, Alayna hasn’t been since she was four. I’ve never stayed at the Disneyland Hotel myself, and have been wanting to take them to Disneyland forever, but every time I go to L.A. it’s to see family and friends so we never have the opportunity. This way, a designated focus, it’s about Disneyland only and we can have a few days to enjoy it. I will be writing a feature story about the whole experience to be published in August or September.
June 26 – 30 – New York: Capping off the whirlwind, will be a relatively short jaunt to the Big Apple for a fabulous personal gathering of tequila aficionados donned, “DentonFest II.” Some of the country’s most passionate, avid collectors will converge for a weekend to honor two esteemed, revered mavericks of the tequila export world, Robert Denton and Marilyn Smith. Why is this exciting? Let me count the ways. First, there will be some rare, KICK ASS tequila to sample. I mean, it’s not that often one has the chance to be in front of and sample some of tequila’s spirits royalty. At least not us. Mark and I are so new into this world, we’ve been learning and sipping for 4 years, and yet, we are barely scratching the surface. We never profess to know more or be more in this regard than we are, we always admit that we are novices eager to learn.
Given that Mark and I as a couple want to build teaching others about tequila into our future life, and we are both passionate about the culture, flavors and integrity of tequila, this will be a very important, educational adventure. Sure, great contacts can be made, but we are excited about the learning. In addition, we’ve gotten the generic opportunity, through Facebook, to get to know many of these people on a very superficial level. I can honestly say that I genuinely appreciate and like the seemingly warmth and authenticity of nearly everyone I’ve interacted with from this tequila circle. I completely look forward to meeting everyone in person, particularly Robert and Marilyn (because of a very strange serendipitous connection to them that makes me super happy). These kinds of authentic connections and conversations that result from people gathering from all parts of the country, because of a shared passion, are the ones that last a lifetime. Mark and I will be mostly immersed into this gathering and will have two days to enjoy the city.
There it is. I pray for the physical energy and emotional strength to enjoy it all, the willingness to be open to what comes, the self-love to cradle the fear. I’ll be excited to share with my friends who know and appreciate where I am and where I’ve been, the delicious random tidbits that comes from these crazy opportunities I’ve been blessed with, and the well-worn experiences from being fully alive.