Friday, December 29, 2006

The best year of my life...

....was, without a doubt, 2006 (although rumor has it 2007 will be even better...).

On the face of it, this might seem like a stretch. Certainly, 2006 was not without change, upheaval, even turmoil in my life. After all, my ex- and I initiated divorce proceedings in 2006, and this was (and is) unquestionably hard. I moved half a dozen times, stayed in three times that many homes, and have basically not stopped living out of a suitcase for the past four months.

But what a ride it's been. I've been to 20+ cities and traveled tens of thousands of miles on a few dozen airplane rides, to the Middle East and Mediterranean Europe and back and forth between the East and West Coast of the United States. I've visited with, and made, dozens of friends in countries around the globe.

I've studied five languages (Arabic, Turkish, Greek, Italian, Spanish), learned three tongue twisters in Italian, a handful of bar pick-up lines in Turkish (hey, you never know...), and got a free cab ride from a driver in Amman, Jordan after chatting with him about his family in Arabic. I've tried exotic dishes, from escargot in brown sauce at 7 a.m. at La Boqueria in Barcelona, to barbecue cooked under rocks in the sand by Bedouins in the middle of the desert in Jordan.

I've smoked hookah pipes and sipped arak, raki and campari. I've belly-danced, Greek-danced, lindy-hopped and attended a "no talent talent show" featuring smokin' hot burlesque dancing. I've ridden on the back of motorcycles and scooters up the cliffs of Greek islands, along the seacoast of Napoli, past the Colosseum in Roma.

I've been skiing in Tahoe, been on a silent yoga/meditation retreat in the Santa Barbara Mountains, and soaked in hot tubs in at least four states on both coasts. I've sipped champagne on a hillside overlooking Rome, and on a terrace overlooking Napa Valley Wine Country.

What I can I say, life is sweet...

I became the consummate California girl in many ways, shocking for a born-and-bred East Coaster. I took up yoga, meditation, became a vegetarian (in fall 2005), got a life coach and a spiritual advisor, dressed up for Halloween in the Castro, swam in my bikini in the Bay with the president of the Board of Supervisors from SF (also fall 2005, but who's counting??).

I shopped at the Ferry Building Farmers' Market, Trader Joe's and Chinatown and tried smoked tofu, tofu chocolate mousse, tofu scramble. I also incidentally became a temporary carnivore again overseas so I could try delicacies like moussaka, schwarma, and pasta carbonara at the source. (Life's too short to be too rigid and to make too many rules, either, IMHO...)

It has not been a dull year, not for one second...

The greatest part of the journey has been what I've learned about myself. I am one fun, adventurous chick, and to my own apparent surprise, pretty fearless. Or okay, let's be real, I still feel some fear sometimes ~ it's hard to cure a lifetime of neurosis overnight ~ but it doesn't stop me from doing what I want to do.

In the words of the guru of one of my favorite writers/spiritual seekers, Elizabeth Gilbert: "Fear, who cares?"

I am getting more Zen as I age, even as I get more adventurous, and I love that. You might as well remain calm while you're flying down a mountain, navigating your way around a foreign city, or landing a new contract with a government somewhere around the world.

This is not to say that I don't have my occasional petulant "moments" when the ski boots don't fit right or the backpack feels cumbersome after hopping on the second train of the day. But then I never said I was the Dalai Lama, just a more Zen me, that's all.

If you know me well enough to know my past, you know that I have always been an overachiever, and generally pretty tough on myself. This year I learned to let go of my need to be "perfect," whatever that means, and to be willing to live a little more, risk a little more, just have a helluva time in the grand adventure of life.

I've learned that there isn't one "right" way to do things, and that making mistakes is what we're here for anyway - to learn, to grow. To have some fun, for chrissakes! It has been a fun ride. It is a fun ride.

This past year, I also stripped away all the labels that I thought defined me. Adrian's wife. Troy community leader. Lindy-hop instructor. A+ perfectionist. Harvard and Princeton graduate. Try this as an exercise sometime. Who are you if you are not your job, your relationship, your pedigree/degree(s), your contributions to the community?

Maybe you're crystal-clear on who you are already without these markers - and if you are - God bless! I wasn't. I'd never stepped away from them for long enough to ask who was I underneath it all - I was always too busy frenetically doing, so rarely stopping to take a breath, so rarely just being me.

What would it mean to just travel and just be me? Who is Lisa underneath all the labels? That was my journey this year, really - figuring out who I am when I'm not defining myself by all the external factors in my life. Luckily, I really liked what I found!

I have found in myself what I thought I was looking for in someone else: Courage. A sense of adventure. Passion. A wicked sense of humor, and a real appetite for joy and fun. Abundance, in the universe, and therefore in me. Inner peace and calm - Lord knows I used to look for even that externally and have finally figured out that that, too, comes from inside me. All this, in one cute-little-redheaded package that looks good in a bikini.

Hell, I'd date me. (All this, and humility too!)

Ha! In all seriousness, though...

The good news is that my life is full and fun and exciting and abundant, full of wonderful friends around the world in amazing countries, and adventures and joy and love and peace, as it is now. I pretty much have a rockin' life. I'm one lucky woman. I am honored to know so many beautiful people!! I am beyond incredibly blessed to have all of you in my life.

Everyone should have it this good.

Next year, mind you, will be even better... In'sha Allah. I do believe there is a greater force that guides us (call it God, call it love, call it Allah, I think God responds to prayers under any name as long as they are from the heart), and that we also have the power to influence how our lives go, to create what we wish for in the world, and at the very least to always choose our attitudes about what happens in our lives.

I have a lot of work projects that I'm exploring right now that I'm excited about, homes on both coasts of the U.S. (Troy and San Francisco are both home for me, still, in various ways), a zillion friends.

I have my health, my happiness, my ability to dance. I am blessed with an amazing family - I wouldn't be half of what I am without them. I have the world's greatest life coach. I have passions and interests and skills and degrees and financial means, and the ability to give back in the world.

What more could I ask for???

I'll think of more to ask for, I'm sure, by following my heart this year where it leads me, by doing work in the world that I'm passionate about, by exploring and continuing the grand adventure.

Hope my path leads me to you this year. Be in touch. Send stories. Send love. Be happy.

Life is too short to not love and value every day. May you be blessed with joy every day of your life.

I'll close with some wise words from Gail Blanke, personal and executive coach and author ~ These words helped launch me on my journey this year. "Stop measuring yourself based on how much you get done in any given day, and start celebrating yourself based on how much you discover. Let go of being the world's greatest efficiency expert and embrace the role of lover and adventurer."


Peace and love,

p.s. One of my favorite songs from my childhood, "Here Comes the Sun" by the Beatles is playing right now on the stereo (my mom used to play it for me when I was a little girl):

"Little darling, it's been a long cold lonely winter,
Little darling, it feels like years since it's been clear...."

May you have sunshine this winter, and may light shine in all the darkest seasons of your life. I've had some dark days this year too, but I find that the sun always shines again.

If things aren't as bright in your life as you wish they were right now, I hope you'll remember the change of seasons, and reach out to me and other friends and let us buoy you up - as so many of you have done for me, too, this past year. Bless you for it!

To everyone who has sent love, given love, shared kind words, shared hugs, and boosted my spirits on the tough days, helped me remember pleasure, danced with me, showed me your city, celebrated with me, or just listened when I needed to talk, for all who hosted me and made your home mine for a few days - love you right back!

You are all welcome in my home(s), welcome in my life and in my heart, always.

"Little darling, I felt that ice is slowly melting..."

© Lisa Powell Graham 2006

No comments: