What are you most excited about in your life right now – today?

2013 is shaping up to be the dullest year of my life so far, which is an interesting balance to 2003, which was the most exciting. As each day, week, and month trickles past, I find myself reminiscing about my eighteen year old self, and thinking what she would think about my life right now. Truthfully, she’d probably think my life was a lot more exciting than it is if she viewed it from the outside: I think wedded bliss to a handsome man, a comfortable house, and two dogs to love on would have seemed quite the achievement. As would the living abroad thing – I never did have a lot of perspective about big decisions and their long-term implications.

Anyway, I digress. In terms of right now, there is only one concrete thing that I am looking forward to (other than getting home to my dogs and / or getting more than seven hours of sleep in a row), and that’s my good friend’s wedding in October. 

Gemma and I have been very close since my most exciting year, so it’s only fitting that she is the one injecting fun and excitement into my least. She’s a spitfire, a riot, an absolute joy to be around. We met in college, having dorm rooms across from one another, and shared many of those “first time away from home” moments that are sworn to secrecy. This girl once had a stranger carry two bricks from a construction site five miles home after a night out so that she and I could have “matching doorstops”, and not let a trivial barrier like a fire door stand in the way of our constant communication.

We have had lives that have strangely paralleled each others: falling in love with boys that were close friends, rebuilding relationships with our parents, and battling early onset chronic pain issues that have threatened to alienate our other friendships. In fact, we shared several days under duvets together, both of us hot-water-bottled and NSAID-ed up, watching Sex and The City and talking each other out of googling our symptoms. 

We have only seen each other twice in the last five years, so seeing her face, especially at a time that is so important in her life, is a bright spot on my grey horizon. As she is getting married in Las Vegas, at the Bellagio, her wedding is giving me an incentive to get in shape and get my health back in shape. 

I’m very excited about this.. and will no doubt post more about it over the coming few months…


What have you done in the last year that makes you proud? / What did you learn recently that changed the way you live?

It is important for me to reflect back on the last twelve months of my life. It has been almost a whole year since I sat in this same chair, wrapped in this same blanket, and created this blog. I was so full of intention.

Tonight I am actually writing this from my desktop computer, something that I rarely do, because my laptop is broken again (pretty sure Apple sold me a dud MacBook, but I’m like David over here trying to slay the giant). It’s actually very uncomfortable in our home office – my husband selected the decor, and it’s more for looking at than sitting on. However, it was this same computer that I created this blog ten months ago today, and so it takes me back to a certain time.

Last night I spent some time with a very dear friend of mine. She was a my college roommate, the very first person I met in the United States, and has been close to my heart since I stepped off of that plane over seven years ago. Last week she got engaged to a man that has been such a rock to her, and yesterday she asked me to be a part of their wedding party. Of course, I said yes.

Over the course of our evening together we talked at length about our friendship: the high points, the low points, and the things about each other that we weren’t aware we didn’t know. A few years ago my dear friend went through the biggest challenge of her life, and spent a year battling her way out of it. At the end of this year she met the love of her life, and the rest, as they say, is history. We talked about her tough times, and I shared with her my recent struggles, of which she was not yet aware.

The reason I am sharing this tonight is because I learned a lot about myself last night, and a lot about my friend, and a lot about the way that “most people” live their lives. We shelter the world from our emotions, often choosing to take a personal hit over risking exposing how flawed the world is, and how poorly it has treated us. My friend told me about her own dark path, and the steps she had to take to free herself from it: most of it I knew, but some of it I didn’t. At the end of our conversation I was sad that she had been in that position, angry at the world that had put her there, but mostly proud that she had come through.

When I look back on the last year of my life I am coming to a realization: I am going to be proud of the way I handled myself. I have made the active decision to disassociate myself from some people that have been harmful, and it has been a point of contention, and I really have had to question whether I have made the “right” decision. However, through my conversation with my friend last night I realized that there are people in this world that will take you at your lowest point and twist your soul, and once they have a grip on it they are impossible to shake off. I think that I shook myself free from those people in the last four weeks.

Before I sat down to write this blog post this evening I went into the bathroom to get a glass of water and stared myself straight in the eye. I found myself trying to picture my face a year ago, two years ago, ten years ago, but all I could see is the face looking back at me. Probably, I have not changed that much on the outside, but I feel that also the only person that matters in my life right now is who I am at this moment in time. And I might look tired (I really do look tired), and I might be starting to get some frown lines around my eyes (I’ve been frowning a lot recently), and I might be fifteen pounds heavier than I’d like to be, but I feel like a victor tonight.

Yesterday taught me that I have lived my life right recently. Prior to today I have doubted myself, and wondered if I would live to regret the choices I have made, but tonight I know that absolutely not. I have lived my life right recently, and I am proud of myself, and I really believe that only good things will follow.

Where would you most like to go and why?

I think of this question and one word comes to mind: home. A visual: the yellow brick road, red heels, a gust of wind and then… nothing but the searing North Sea, rain and currents all the way to Norway. But then I regain my resolve and think further afar.

For one living abroad there is nothing so tempting about the idea of going home. Oh little windswept farm, where art thou? I imagine myself back there, somehow back in my teenage bedroom with the walls unchanged, the Oscar Wilde quote on the ceiling, the candles on the dresser. I imagine looking out over those flood-plain fields and remembering all the places I wanted to go: India, Africa, Nepal, the rain forests of Brazil, the remote Galapagos islands. All those years spent dreaming of the faraway lands, the stories I would write.

And now I am here, dreaming of being home dreaming of strange continents, fervent cultures, and strange, jarring sounds. Imagining the dream of all five senses in overload. If I had to pick one of those destinations for my “one place” it would probably be India. My heart always cries out for Africa, as my mother was born there and my Grandma was a citizen of Kenya until very recently. I have never visited “true” Africa, but I long to, although part of me fears what I might find if I do. What I might feel – the guilt, the agony, the crippling sense of inadequacy when I think of how little I’ve done with my privileged birth.

So India it is. India – a strange, mystical land. My Grandmother was born in Kenya but raised in the Seychelles, where she describes the population as half African, half Indian. With her dark golden skin tones, petite frame, and long, thick hair my Grandmother is most often taken for Indian, rather than Kenyan, and I remember her pride when I dressed in a sari for a school project. I think, from that moment, when I closed my eyes I always imagined myself as a little bit Indian – running over the lush hills, exploring the vibrant markets, speaking rapidly in the diverse, ever-changing dialects.

If I were able to go anywhere on this earth I think India would be my first calling. Somehow I think it would give me a sense of peace, to transport me back to a point in time before my birth when the world was a more diverse place, a more interesting and exciting place. I imagine the adventures I might have, the things I might learn about myself.

I have every expectation that I will visit India in my life – hopefully soon – and if I don’t I know that the regret will be stamped on my heart forever.

If you had the opportunity to get a message across to a large group of people, what would your message be?

I’ve had a lengthy pause from my last post. 2012 has been quite a year so far. Some of you may recall my stating that I was going to train for a half marathon earlier in the year. It’s true. The “big day” was this last saturday, the 14th April. Well, I did it. Truthfully, the experience was a little disappointing for me, and I didn’t manage the time I’d hoped to finish in, but at least I crossed the line. I was expecting to be more emotional, but I was in so much pain when I crossed the line that I was just overwhelmed by relief that it was over!

The question today is about messaging. I’m in the world of marketing, and spend a lot of my time thinking about and focussing on what the correct message is for the right situation and audience. I’m also surrounded by people who are always presenting the best image that they can of themselves, and of our company. This is a trait that I am in awe of – I am brutally honest to a fault, and can’t contain how I’m truly feeling most of the time. When piecing together localized marketing campaigns, it’s easier to decide what the message should be. I work in the southern states, and it’s a safer bet that two people in the same geographic area will respond to the same anecdote than two people from opposites sides of the country. When putting together a national piece the challenge is harder, and a lot more difficult to predict. My experience has shown me that, the larger the audience the more general the message. Therefore, I have to consider than any personal message I would want to convey would need to be general enough to have a beneficial appeal to a wide audience.

This rules out things like “visit the North West Norfolk Coast” (A place a would strongly recommend anyone to visit, but is located in rural England). I’m not very political, and even the few political items that I have decided opinions on would not be things I would want to influence people’s decisions on. I’m not eligible to vote in the United States, and mostly I am glad of it; with the election this year most people I know have gone politics mad. My husband, formerly the most liberal person I know, has joined discussion groups and is considering becoming a representative for a republican candidate, and everything from his iPhone to his facebook is a walking banner for his own political opinions. I think that over time this is something he might regret.

I think that my message would have to be hinged on something I think it plausible and relevant for any person, regardless of country, gender, education, or age. It would need to be universally important to every person.

My first thought, thanks to Richard Curtis, is the message of love. Yes, I believe it is one of the most important things we can learn to do, and also learn to accept from others.  But I think that we hear this message a lot, thanks to Church billboards and hallmark cards, it’s hard to decipher true messages from propaganda.

But, I would still like my message to incorporate elements of love, and peace, and strength. And so my message for the world would be: Know your Inspiration. Sounds strange, maybe, but I think it’s universal. My thought is that if you know why you are doing something, and what you want to achieve, then you are far more likely to a) succeed, and, b) do something worthwhile. Do YOU know why you are doing what you are doing? Or are you simply following someone else’s motions hoping it will ring true for you?

When I entered the 8th mile of my race over the weekend I lost sight of my inspiration. It was what crippled me. By the time I crossed the 11 mile mark I was walking 90 percent of the time and thinking “why on earth am I doing this, it doesn’t matter”. I ended up feeling worse about myself at the end than at the beginning, and it’s because I lost focus on my inspiration. Even now, knowing this, I still find it hard to remember what my training was in aid of, but I know that if I had kept my inspiration close to me I would have had a much better and more positive run.

My message for humanity is a dream for an inspired world, where people work with dedication and passion, with a deep rooted belief in their actions. Perhaps it’s not original and, I’m sure, people will argue that it’s not even possible, but I genuinely wish our societies allowed us more room to act on our inspirations, and to see how that new energy fuels the world that we live in.

So today I am going to tackle the following questions in one response: Are you holding onto something you need to let go of? When you are 80 years old, what will matter most to you? And, when is it time to stop calculating risk and rewards and just do what you know is right?

Well. I have been in the unique position of having to address all of these questions at one time on two separate occasions in my life. The first was making the decision to follow my heart and allow myself to be with the man that is now my husband, and the second occasion is my present day life.

The first time I had to weigh up these turmoils in my mind I had to wrestle the idea of having trans-atlantic relationship with a man I, realistically, didn’t know that well; leaving my family and my homeland; making myself employable and desirable in a foreign country; the impossible large idea (especially for a 20 year old) that this might be my biggest regret if I didn’t go for it, and maybe this person was the person for me. I was much more romantic back them, with my notions of soul mates and such. Don’t get me wrong, it was a good decision and I love the hubs, but nothing is ever as clear cut as a twenty-year-old literature lover can dream it to be.

And so now I’m on the flip side, faced with a familiar dilemma. I love Kansas City, I have friends here. I don’t love the crime, and I don’t love the distances between places, and I don’t love the work ethic. I don’t love the idea of raising children miles away from their only potential cousins, or in an environment where I’d have to hand them over to daycare at eight weeks. I’m not fortunate enough to afford the luxury of staying at home when the time comes. And, seven years later, I’ve never adjusted to being so far away from my home. So you see, dear internet, I’m in a predicament.

What do I do?

What I would like to do is pack up my husband and my hound and board a plane. Our friends have passports, they can travel. I don’t want to cause pain and upset to my inlaws my stealing their only son and, after all, these people have been my family for the last five years, I’d miss them too. But without them we have nothing here, and that’s the realization it has taken me years to reach.

I miss the sea. I don’t want to wake up at seventy years old and realise I’ve only seen the ocean a handful of times since I was in my twenties. I’m used to seeing it every day. I think it’s soulful – it’s a part of me.

I know all the arguments for staying, and all the arguments for going back to front and inside out. I know what my heart wants to do. Strangely, and probably something most people would doubt about me, I actuallywanted to come here and find it enough, and to be able to allow my husband to be the only thing that mattered to me. But I’m not a Victorian, my post-feminism, liberated backside has dreams and preferences and loves of it’s own, and signing them away with my marriage license didn’t happen.

And the hubs really isn’t set against moving; at least not most of the time. Really, he’s been very flexible in his opinions on subject, other than the occasional “Dammit, woman, I’m American and I need steak and beer every day” moment. His main fears are for his family.

This post isn’t really to seek answers to declare a resolution – I know that these questions are going to be conversations that we have for a LONG time – I just know it’s the only honest answer to these three questions, even if the answers aren’t really answers, but more questions.

Which activities make you lose track of time?

Haven’t written in a while. I actually had wanted to make a video blog for this post, and was waiting for a good hair day. Then I got very upset at the amount of time that passed between good hair days. Then I decided I didn’t want to do a video blog any more, and my original topic doesn’t really lend itself to written form. My first topic was going to be TALKING. I’m a talker. I talk ALL the time, at great length and with little self editing. I should probably learn to rein it in.

My second topic is probably actually my first, in that it pre-dates my love of talking. I was actually a pretty quiet child, residual from a speech defect I had in my early years, and grew up in the countryside. I learned to read at a young age – by three I could read pretty fluently – and my parents love to tell stories about me reading the back of the tomato ketchup bottle at the dinner table. Reading became a passion of mine, and I spent countless hours holed up in my bedroom letting favourite characters wander around my head. I was the generation before Harry Potter (although I love them), and read the real classics like A Little Princess, The Secret Garden, and Lord of the Rings on repeat like my dear husband plays records. I still know whole chapters of Wuthering Heights by heart, and even had a reading from that book – my personal favourite – at my wedding. I’ve never been able to resist of charms of a sulky heroine, or flawed hero, and am trained in the art of super-fast reading. I read the whole of the last Harry Potter book in eight hours. Sometimes, you just need to know what happens.

As I’ve mentioned, my college degree was in writing and literature. In a way, it killed my love of reading for a while. Many lit students will bemoan the same terrible fate, that beingrequired to read so many books takes the joy out of it. My complaint is not the same – I didn’t find reading the books hard, I just hated the lack of choice that my college course offered. Never really one to study the set texts (I was the girl that sat at the front of the class and wailed “but Miss, I’ve already READ this book” when they handed out our syllabus), I wanted the freedom to choose what I read, to make the wild leaps and walk down the crazy avenues. I chose a college that I thought would encourage my choices, and was sorely mistaken. I’m still bitter, if you can’t tell. I still can’t see a copy of On The Road without dying a little inside.

But you know, I’m many years out of college now. I have read reasonably consistently, although truthfully my time in front of the TV or computer has taken up the majority of my free time. I’ve found it hard to re-capture the just-sitting-still-and-enjoying-the-moment part of reading, but it’s coming slowly. My biggest help has been my recent “treat” – an amazon kindle fire. I have read 10 fiction books in the last month, swallowing the pages whole. None of them have been particularly ground breaking in anything other than the fact that I have read them cover to cover, but I have enjoyed every single one. I have discovered the joy of feeling a character develop at my fingertips, the roof of my mouth, settling on my hair; and felt the sadness as I read the last page and feel them slip away. It’s a beautiful cycle, and my heart has started to beat with the same ache it always had – the ache for a wonderful, literary life doing marvelous things and having adventures. It’s another part of myself that I’ve reclaimed, or am reclaiming, day by day!

Three Questions About Living My Life The Right Way

Today I’m going to answer the next three questions at once, because I feel as though they can all be answered simultaneously. the questions are: What is the difference between living and existing? If not now, when? and, have you done anything recently worth remembering?

If you know me, or rather, if you knew me, you’d realize that I’ve been trapped in a really crappy mood recently. Not just the January Blues (although January does really suck), more like the September, October, November, December, and January Blues. 2011 was a year I gave my self to stand still, but it left me feeling despondent and desperate to reconnect with my inner self.

I have a great “life”: health, house, husband, and hound. I have a job and a car and great friends. My brother told me that, financially, I’m in the “top 1% globally” (this is out of all 7 billion people, please don’t “Occupy” my driveway), and I can really believe it in many ways: I never thought I’d have all this at the tender age of 26. It’s a great life.

But living, to me, is backpacking across Asia, or learning to weave in India, or building a school in Africa. That was the plan I had for my life, which, for very reasonable reasons, didn’t play out right. Before anyone thinks I’m husband-bashing, the primary focus of my disappointment is myself. I get bouts of paranoia where I doubt myself, and think that I no longer have “what it takes” to do any of the things that I ever wanted to do.

Which brings me onto our second topic. If not now, then when? We all have dreams, some big, some small. Most of our dreams don’t allow us to choose the exact time that we get to realize them; however, there are those dreams, few and ignorable, that actually do focus on something that we can control. For me, that dream has been running. I was a runner when I was younger, WAY younger, over ten years ago. I used to run a lot. But a painful knee condition and the crippling self-consciousness of being an overweight teenager caused a fracture in my self-confidence, and, even after my knees were stronger, I never really ran again. Over the last few years I’ve dappled with 5ks (my fastest time being in the 29th minute), and have been known to run outside on nicer days here in Kansas City. Something in me has wanted to do a longer run years, and I’ve always held myself back, telling myself that I can’t do it, that I’ll fail. Or worse, that I will do it and no-one will care or value it.

This year I turn twenty-seven: the age I always believed I’d have my shit together. I finally realised that this is my year, and that I will train for that half marathon, and I really don’t care what people think or if people think it is an achievement. I’ve decided that 2012 is the “when” and the “now”, and that running this distance race will be the first step towards re-discovering all of my dreams of adventure.

As for the thing worth remembering? Well, I feel like we should remember every day, even the bad ones, as we can’t learn from things we forget. But that aside, I believe that today I did something worth remembering. I took the plunge, I signed up for The Race… I have a great friend who has committed to keeping me running, and I’m going to go for it.

Fingers crossed….