A Nightmare

He comes into the office and grabs my purse and says, “Lauryn you need to come with me for a second” and he looks serious and I am confused because serious isn’t his norm. I follow him outside and we round the corner and he says, “babe there’s no other way to say this so I’m just gonna say it. Botas is dead”. I say nothing, my breathe chokes into my throat and I say, “where is he”?

Where is he? No. No. No. What a fucking shift.

He takes me into the team room where they placed him. He is wrapped up in a towel and I kneel over to look at him and his sweet face and the feeling of his fur and my body collapses on top of him and I sob.

I had a premonition earlier this week about Botas death and I couldn’t get it out of my head. The emotions felt imminent and I got mad at myself for not being able to shake it. It’s normal to play this stuff out but this time it got dark.

I dont know what to do with myself. I’m lonely. The loneliness strikes me in ways I havent touched before. His absence is massive to me. I pick myself up and tell my lover I need to walk. We walk out to the treeline and as we stop to allow the canopies to land before crossing to the other side, our friend approaches- he is the one that found Botas body. His head is hanging low and as he approaches I give him a half hug and tell him thank you. He says he didn’t do anything and I tell him he did enough. “I just cannot believe it happened” and he looks at us and says, “the crazy thing is it could happen to us at anytime. Life is short ya know?” We part ways and cross towards the trees. “Life is short you know”. Death crawls at my chest in waves and we are silent as we go sit down. He passes us again, this time on his motorcycle as we cross back and gives us a finger wave.

I make it back to the van and sit alone for the first time in this space that feels less like home and more empty than before. I grab my journal and I start writing about Botas. I get a paragraph in and i hear sirens and a helicopter passes over head and I hear them turn into the dropzone. I stick my head out the window and I decide that whatever it is, I’m not strong enough for right now. I write in my journal, “I hope Botas was happy. I hope I gave him a good life” and I’m sobbing and as I write that sentence my alarm starts going off. “WTF? I never set PM alarms and rarely set AM ones”. I pick it up and the screen flashes 5:55 at me. I freeze. If you know, you know. Being supported through grief and feeling held in moments of hardship is a love that’s unexplainable. I felt Botas presence right then and I KNEW that he wanted me to know that he was happy and lived a good life. Now I’m unconsollable.

The phone rings and I find out that our friend, the one who found Botas, is the reason for the ambulances and helicopter. After we passed him he chased the last plane down the runway on takeoff on his motorcycle and lost control of the bike while the full plane of people watched him tomahawk as they took off. He got airlifted. It doesn’t look good. Pauhana.

“Life is short”. No fucking shit. I put down my phone and I stay where I am. I decide it’s the type of day we should all just call it on. I pull out my tarot deck. Botas always messed up the cards until I started letting him in on it. He was great at picking cards and I believe a familiar in communication with spirit too. It was something he did with me, just like yoga. I asked my guides and Botas what he came to teach me and laid down three cards.

Magician reversed.
Death reversed.
The Devil reversed.

Past.
Present.
Future.

My heart leaps out of my chest. Fuuuuucccckkkk me. I smile and then I start sobbing over the cards. “Life is short”.

& then all the loss catches up with me suddenly. Past- Magician… this represents being lost and unsure of your path. When I found Botas I was adrift and struggling to confront so much- he was my guide. He gave me a home. Present- Death. Need I say more? 52 cards in the deck and the present card is Death reversed telling me that pain and transformation and shift are imminent. Breathe. The Devil reversed- Future. Non-attachment. That’s what Botas came to teach me. I was most attached in this world to that animal and now I have to learn and implement a value I incorporate in every other area of my life. *sigh* it doesn’t seem fair. Life isn’t fair.

“Life is short”. & sometimes the death piles up. Like on this day. My friend tells me of a friend who shot himself in the head the night before. Another messages me from the hospital from a skydiving accident- a hard landing and we discuss how quickly life changes and how precious LIVING is. Another friend calls me because his friend passed away jumping in Switzerland yesterday and the deaths just pile up. I cry with them about our shared losses and we acknowledge that sometimes it all just feels too heavy. We remember that we risk death every day to live lives that bring us joy. We recognize that our freedom is finite and we cry together because sometimes we just need others to help us hold the pain. We talk about the freedom of animals and the freedom of humans and we acknowledge the prices it sometimes cost.

“Life is short…”

I am reminded of this these past few days… I am reminded that I don’t want to leave anything left to reconcile. I am reminded of the things I haven’t said and the people that deserve to hear them. I am reminded of death today. And reminded that with life- this beautiful experience we call life, also comes death. It is always there, waiting to call us home, and we cannot control that. So we choose to live. Not safely and not in neat little boxes and definitely not normally. But we choose this life and this freedom and so did Botas. He was all the good stuff. He was a once in a lifetime cat. & this healing, this journey without him, is going to push me into parts of myself I might not be ready for, but I’m strong enough to handle. But I don’t want to be strong god damnit I want to crawl into my grief and let it consume me and split me until the light cracks in again.

But here we are & life is short, ya know? So I will cope in the best ways I know how and give myself grace for the way my system feels like it’s glitching sometimes and my hands stop working because I know… I FUCKING KNOW that life is short.

Ramblings from an Open Road at 3 AM

Driving south down highway 65 going 65. It’s the middle of the night, or early morning, however you choose to look at it; and I haven’t slept yet because I left Summerfest at 10 in the evening after 9 full days of skydiving. I’m on my way back to Paraclete and I just dropped my friend off at the airport. My social badwidth is maxed out and all of my daily habits have gone out the window and part of me wants to beat myself up for that but I can’t. I dropped everything else in my life to skydive more than I ever have in a 9 day span and connect with friends from all over and it was well worth it! The entire week I got to do a lot of firsts and learned so much from some of the best skydivers in the industry. Summerfest is basically an adult camp for skydivers. It merges the festival vibe of my past, except during the day we jump and in the evenings, there is entertainment, activities, theme nights, or music. I reminisce about what it was like to spend my University summers traveling and car camping with friends as I hopped from music festival to music festival, and my thoughts drift once again to the comparisons between the subcultures of scuba divers and skydivers too- whether it be the industry or the types of people both sports attract. I feel blessed for my experiences. Every experience brought me lessons, people, and newfound direction or inspiration. I feel positively lit up with the courage that I continuously find to push myself into new places that make this journey everything it has been. It dawns on me that a few years ago, I wouldn’t have been able to attend a skydiving “boogie” (festival for skydivers) without partaking in more of the party than the skydiving and then I smile to myself for the gifts I consciously and continuously give myself by taking care of me. At 33 years old I am starting to look back through the cycles of my life and see the parallels that got me here. I can identify my own patterns and triggers. Every time I am faced with triggers now I ask myself, “what wound is this revealing to me?” This year I learned how to identify people’s projections and now I no longer assume anything has to do with me and I cannot tell you how freeing this realization has been! My thoughts drift from Thailand to Mexico to Indonesia… from sailing yachts to boat crews, from this little van I now call home to the many places I’ve called “home” this last decade. I think of the friends that made bigger impacts on my life and choices than they think (and I realize I should tell them that). I think of the friendships that made up my whole world for brief moments in time and I tear up and then smile when I acknowledge how good I’ve gotten at goodbyes.

The moon is still on the eastern horizon lighting up my drivers side window as the hum of the highway rolls on. My body feels exhausted but my soul feels so full. I’m trying to process my experience and I feel the urge to keep driving even thought it may be a wiser choice to pull over at this point. But my head is too full of emotions and I feel like I’m swimming in experiences, soaking up the life I’ve gotten to live and the humans who have inspired me to live it. My senior quote said, “I believe in the pure randomness of it all, and I love that no one escapes, and that it can happen to anyone at anytime- pain, confusion, happiness… even love” and that quote still hits me in the most vulnerable of human moments… where I sometimes think I’m alone for a second, and then I am reminded again that I’m not. I want to mourn for all the people who don’t feel they have anyone that truly understands them, who wants to accept them for who they are. I have humbly learned that if we want the best for people we should just support them and love the fuck out of them and then see what happens. It’s all we really need and we cause pain every time we try to project what we think is best onto another. I think about the human capacity to love and give and receive love. Then I think of all the things we call love but aren’t… about how our love can be so conditional… “I love you IF” and then I smile knowing love isn’t conditional because if it is then it isn’t love. I think about relationships, or as a light in my life calls them- relationSHAPES. About the shape we assume in another’s life and then continue to show up as, long after we’ve morphed into something else. It can be terrible… the way we fall short of loving each other, in the way we pretend like we don’t deal with all if it too, carry all of it in different ways… all the stuff that isn’t ours… and how we let it define us. Sometimes we forget that relationships take many different shapes, and loving people isn’t going to be easy. Allowing all shapes and giving space for transformation allows us to blossom into the best kinds of people.

I cringe at all the places I looked for love in, coming back to the hands that hurt me and asking for healing. Have you ever begged to be loved better? Have you ever watched yourself transform into someone you didn’t recognize trying to fit into a box that will only suffocate you? Have you ever woken up and said, “how is this my life?” The word “stuck” lingers on my tongue and my mouth feels dry. It has always made me irritated when people use the word and that’s a projection of my own- I, more than most I think, dread feeling stuck. I have never wanted to be tied down to anything. The pursuit of freedom has lead me to keep moving and I don’t question stopping because I am not stuck. I am not a tree. So maybe I am a bit cynical of the people that complain about being stuck when they made choices that got them stuck and refuse to do the work to get “un-stuck”… I have spent too much time now wandering and listening to people’s stories to know that we have far more control than we think we do over our lives. I feel like people are full of excuses. The happiest people I ever met had the least possessions and obligations, they live minimal lifestyles either by choice or by circumstance but they don’t always need to be entertained. The happiest people I know are out their living their lives without comparing them to others. The happiest people I know have crawled out of dark places and allowed me to see the resilience of my own spirit when I felt like my body wasn’t my own.

My hand feels sweaty on the steering wheel and my thoughts drift to the sweetness that I have held and experienced. “When you travel overseas it really makes you appreciate being an American”… the words many have echoed to me over the years and that most of the time I choose to ignore. For the most part I disagree. My thoughts drift to the simplicity of life in what we would call “developing countries” and I think about the daily rituals of the people there. Watching the Thais carry offerings outside every morning to their immaculately built mini temples and adorning the stone carvings with flowers and incense. I would watch them kneel and pray and I would think about how my country lacks such devotion and connection to spirit. The monks would walk the street barefoot and people would weave out of the way. Touching a monk is considered offensive. Then I think about how lucky I am to be born when I was, under a crescent moon just like tonight’s, in a time where I have the luxury and privilege of living my life the way I desire. My heart feels heavy in my chest when I think of the hardships that many endured and sacrificed so that I could travel freely about the world as a woman, feeling safe amongst it’s people. I haven’t traveled anywhere without seeing the pangs of colonization reflected back by it’s landscapes. Life would’ve been so much simpler if we had all kept to ourselves and it baffles me the violence and war that plagued our world and stripped us of culture, nature, traditions and simplicity. Capitalism. Globalization. Colonization. Genocide. We really have everything we need on this planet but for some reason we’re still fighting over resources… For some reason we continue to deny our shared humanity. I feel the guilt and pain of my ancestors as I stand on different continents with such an ease of spirit as I travel… and then I am reminded that they sacrificed to build a world that would be better, realizing they’d never get to see it. I wonder if it came down to it if I’d be a hero. I mean, we all want to think we will but we don’t really know how we will respond to life until we’re in that moment. “Humans!” I think to myself and then I sigh. I’ve been looking for a rest stop for over an hour but my brain races on anyways and I just keep vibing on the fact that I’ll find one when the time is right.

My mind jumps to Chantal, my boss in Thailand for almost 3 years. Her and her husband owned the dive shop I worked at and grew up at. I say “grew up” because if it wasn’t for Kevan and Chantal, I wouldn’t be the instructor I am today. They pushed me, they challenged me, and they made me a better woman. They taught me to take responsibility, to be assertive… I remember Chantal looked at me once and told me I had a problem with female authority figures. I wanted to be defensive and if I remember correctly, I was. But she was right. It has taken me my adult life to trust the depth of female friendships and to not feel threatened by women with more authority than me. I spent most of my life joking that I got on better with men than women and striving to not be “like other girls”. How insulting! To separate myself from other women! I learned so much from the women in my life and especially from the women I’ve met overseas. It has given me a perspective on masculinity and femininity that I didn’t possess before. I own my feminine nature now, instead of denying it. I revel in wanting to be held in my depths and no longer hold back my urge to be expressive about how I feel. I think of all the women who never got to speak up, or chase their dreams, or reach their fullest potential. I think about the way I’ve not honored other women and the gifts they had for me because I wasn’t ready to be seen in my fullness yet. I laugh at how my purpose has become so much about uplifting women now (coincidentally) and I see my life pan out… I see the way my healing has given me the tools to help others heal. I love how we can find our purpose from our pain- because the journey back to ourselves, back to our human-ness is really what this life is about. Isn’t it?

It’s probably not the right time to think about one’s life purpose but then again there isn’t really a better place to think about how to leave the world better than an open highway at 3 am. I start to cry at my ability to meet myself wherever I am. I thank myself for this body and this human experience and this hunger to meet the world that has driven me since I was young. My dad always told me that the world was my oyster, and I think I heard it so often that it became my mantra. He really made me feel like I could do anything I wanted, be anything I wanted. He used to say, “little miss magic- whatcha gonna be?” As we sang along to Jimmy Buffett and I allowed my head to fill up with dreams. I think little girls need to know that they can dream before the world tries to tell them they cannot. I believed so strongly in the possibility of the world- it was instilled in me. And that belief became my mantra. It allowed me to leap when the opportunity presented itself and it allowed me to just as easily walk away when it no longer felt right. I guess I’ve always been blessed with an abundance mindset, and maybe that’s why I don’t feel scarcity so greatly. I do believe we have a dharma to walk and I think we have forgotten that life is meant to be lived but also served. I think our experiences shape us into the humans we’re meant to be but we cannot let the pain live with us forever. Our pain becomes our purpose or it stagnates us into that stuck place we dread. And at the thick of all of it is a choice to heal or a choice to suffer. Sometimes I miss how naive that little girl was but then I feel thankful to see the world more clearly than I ever have.

I think about how fear has been my biggest teacher… about how people always tell me how brave I am to travel solo, or skydive, or scuba dive or cave dive. “Aren’t you scared!?” They always exclaim, as if it’s an emotion I haven’t experienced. It seems like such a silly question to me. I mean, yea… of course! Aren’t you classified as a psychopath if you don’t experience fear? We act like fear is a bad thing and we strive for comfort instead. I don’t know where we learned that though, I think fear comes from so many variables and we can ease it by understanding them… but I also acknowledge that life is uncertain and I don’t want to let fear dictate my life. If I hadn’t been willing to to face my fears I wouldn’t be sitting here crying in gratitude for all the face down moments I’ve experienced… hands to my knees… fetal position on the floor… desperation… to want to make sense of this life we’re given and do it in a way that doesn’t make me feel like my spirit is shattering under the weight of the life I’m not living. I want to continue to seek the things that make my soul whisper, “this” and I want to stay a little longer in the places that make me feel at “home”. Ufffff…. my mind feels heavy and I feel emotional and now I’m sobbing as I watch the lights from the road flicker under my tears. Sometimes the water flows at the most symbolic of moments, and as I squint at the road the time reads 4:44 and I stop crying and I start laughing. It’s these little moments of sweetness that make me want to fill up pages of words and continue to be brave when I feel small.

The last week and a half has given me a “reset” that I didn’t know I needed. I realize that I love scuba diving and skydiving for the same reason… because when you’re doing those things, nothing else matters. When I enter a decorated and open room that glitters with stalagtites after hours through a cave system, exploring a new area- there is a sense of wonder that comes with it- the ah ha moment of being somewhere and seeing something so few have. It is the ultimate lesson in mindfulness. When I fly around in the sky with my friends with my parachute on, I’m not thinking about the shitty day I had or the people I’ve lost, I’m just right there, in that moment. And, in those moments, you feel infinite. As soon as I take that first breath from my regulator under water, and the surface starts to disappear, I am fully present in my body and not the stimulation of the world. Every time I resist stepping on my mat, I have a moment in my practice where I want to cry because I finally find my way back into my body and my own energy after absorbing so much of the world’s. It’s THESE moments that assure me that I will be okay. And sometimes that’s all we need- a reminder that we always have been, and we always will be okay. Sometimes we only need to remember that fear is a constant, but that we cannot let it stop us from changing our own lives for the better. No one ever sat on their death bed wishing they’d NOT done anything, I think. So I guess I will continue to allow myself to do what I want and what calls me, because that’s what I want for everyone else.

I see a rest stop ahead and I feel relief. I realize that I have so much to process from this experience and I know that more realizations are coming. I allow myself to pull over and lazily move everything around as I get ready to sleep. Weary-eyed. The connections from this experience overwhelm me as I lay down and I take one look around my van and smile one last time before my eyes close at a rest stop somewhere outside Indianapolis.

Validation is a Bitch

I spent years seeking validation from others. Almost all my life if I’m honest. I’m a human, how could I not crave the validation of others? But I have learned not to care about the validation of humans I don’t value, or whose opinions I wouldn’t care to hear. I no longer listen to the people I wouldn’t run to for advice. If those people know nothing of my life, why would I take their opinion into consideration? That seems silly to me now but it’s a trap we have all been stuck in, and some probably still are.

The truth is, we aren’t going to be for everyone and thank goodness we aren’t! Why would we even want to be? Honoring that and understanding that we will always be the villian in someone’s story because no matter what we choose, we will inevitably cause someone else pain… is an important part of the journey (at least for me). There is no way around these things so acceptance has moved me through them. But choosing the things that we must, the lifestyle we must, the partner(s) we must because we cannot imagine living our lives another way, because it is in alignment with our highest truth, is therefore worth any pain we may cause to others because we do not have to carry the hurt we have caused if we live in our truth. We can choose not to carry it then because it is the inevitable collateral of living your truth. We must accept that living in our truth will cause pain in some way, to people that aren’t meant to hold it for us or with us, and that is okay… let it/them go.

I reflect back on 14 years of adulthood and love, learning, relationships… and I see how much time I wasted waiting to be validated by the world, waiting to be loved by others.

I wasted more time justifying my lifestyle than living it.

I waited for the world to love me instead of loving myself first.

I sought validation for my career choice in scuba when I was told to, “get a real job”. Something I still receive from some after almost a decade in the industry.

I struggled to convince people that network marketing was a legit business style instead of living in my truth and recognizing that the people that were ready would show up, & it wasn’t my job to convince anyone.

I have struggled to express my bisexuality when dating men and felt like I was constantly convincing men or women that my sexuality was legitimate.

I have spent 12 years practicing non-monogamy, and spent just as long trying to convince the world that my relationship style is a valid and legit desire that needs to be recognized for me to feel whole.

I have spent too much time defending my lifestyle and my relationships and trying to convince other’s that my existence didn’t boil down to a fear of commitment or an inability to choose. I have spent so much time speaking AT people that were never interested in learning about me anyways. But over the last few years I have fallen, unapologetically into being myself and I’ve slowly started to unpack why I sought all that validation in the first place. What was I lacking in myself that I felt like I needed other’s validation in? The answer was CONFIDENCE. I still needed validation to exist. I still needed permission to take up space in this world in the way that I desired. I still felt like only other’s could give me this confidence and that I was ONLY allowed to have it if other’s validated me. But really, I had it inside all along… I just didn’t recognize that I could give it to myself at any time.

Speaking up for the non-negotiables in my life and relationships has changed everything. I have spent a decade learning to navigate the margins of society and have tried to structure my lifestyle and relationships by DESIGN not DEFAULT. In doing so I have made a lot of mistakes. I’ve learned what feels good and what doesn’t, and I’ve learned how to communicate with my partner(s) surrounding what I desire and what their needs are. I have learned that when I try to fit myself into boxes that aren’t for me, I feel stuck and unfulfilled and I resent other’s for my inability to hold myself. I guess I am learning who I AM and consciously working to change the patterns I don’t like about myself, always seeking the lessons & the message of my life experiences.

I have learned to ask myself in every moment, “does this align with the life I’m trying to create” and “does this align with my values?” And if the answer is NO, I no longer feel obligated to others in this way, if it is out of alignment with myself. A woman I follow, Jennifer Joseph wrote something the other day that said, “rejection is just a message that alignment doesn’t live here” and I found that to be such a beautiful way of putting it. The universe often saves us from things that aren’t for us. I had a partner recently call me up and say he is interested in trying monogamy with another and we had a loving conversation about needs and desires and although I felt sad to lose that partnership, it opened up space for me to allow something new in and allowed him to live in his truth as well. Instead of feeling rejected, I practice compersion (the opposite of jealousy) and I felt excited for him and the new relationship he is about to embark on, and I felt a gentle understanding from the universe that, clearly he wasn’t in alignment with me (nonmonogamy is a non-negotiable for me). When I am not chosen I don’t retort to a place of lack and think, “poor me”, instead I am grateful for the lessons I learned and the moments we share and I can let go with the same unattachment and feel gratitude that the person is living THEIR truth so I can go live mine. I don’t compare myself to others or ask what I’m “lacking” because I know that I’m not for everyone and I don’t want to be anymore. I was reminded that alignment didn’t live in that relationship, so now I have more space for something new or existing (and that is a blessing too).

I have experienced the powerful affects of living my truth this year. I have lost family and friends and lovers that couldn’t respect or understand my boundaries, that couldn’t meet me halfway, that refused to have conversations without blame or insults, that constantly put me in a position of confusion about where I stand in their lives. I no longer have space for people who are committed to misunderstanding me. A man I love very much hurt me terribly with his words and instead of making amends when confronted he said, “I can say whatever I want” and I realized in that moment that our values were out of alignment. This powerful white male has never had to answer for anything, has never had to apologize or make amends, and his privilege has allowed him to get away with that his entire life without being held accountable. How do we reconcile with these people? How do we find common ground while also refusing to be a doormat for someone’s unchecked anger and aggression? And when we set a boundary it often gets misinterpreted as a “lack of forgiveness” instead of an attempt to mend the relationship that feels safe for both parties. I was also told that if we were able to move forward that I wouldn’t be spoken to often because they wouldn’t want to “offend me” which felt like another way of putting the responsibility to process the pain alone, and further belittling the damage done by the words that were said. These same people have repeatedly told me I should “forgive” without assuring me that they understand what happened so I don’t have to repeat this pain again in the future. I believe in amends, apology languages, and ownership and I have yet to see that. The lesson I have learned in the last 10 months is that those things may never happen, and I’ve had to come to terms with losing these important relationships at the sake of saving my self respect and self love. A boundary is simply the line at which I can love both another and myself, simultaneously. Stepping across that line will only be a betrayal of myself… and I’ve spent enough of my life doing that- no more.

Of course I wanted validation from these people I love and value so much. But once I realized that their love was only conditional on me continuing to play a specific role in their life, and that living my truth was causing turmoil, I had to choose myself. I am committed to choosing myself. This might sound selfish but it is the only reason I am alive, still sober, and able to create what I’m creating right now. This life wasn’t available to the un-healed version of me. My healing has taken a lot of work, protection and pain, and I fully plan on protecting myself so that I can continue to be of service in the world. I have big dreams to impact and help many women and I can only manifest my dreams with the support and love of solid, empathetic, humans with a high emotional IQ. I have learned that toxic is toxic. It doesn’t matter if it’s family, your partner, or your best friend- cut it out if it compromises your peace. Life is too short to continuously people please and seek validation from others. Get right with yourself, your goals, your visions, and your truth becomes unshakeable- because it is YOURS. So yes, I’m incredibly selfish about certain things because I cannot show up in the world any other way. If that’s selfish- then so be it. That’s MY truth.

This year has been heavy on the lessons… for all of us. But my biggest reflection has been on fully unpacking the layers of validation I sought from others, and the wasted times I spent defending things to people who never would’ve shared my lens to begin with. Validation from partners, lovers, family, friends… and the way I wasn’t living in my truth ONLY BECAUSE I cared about other’s opinions regarding my life. I had a hard time making a decision without consulting multiple people (indecisive Taurus energy) but this year I started making big decisions about my life and consulting NO ONE and I feel more aligned with me than I ever have. I’ve realized other people’s opinions can make our path seem cloudy and our intuition weak. I had to really think about my values this year… and I have realized that shared values are important within our close knit relationships. This year we found out whose values weren’t in common with ours. This was the year we stripped the veil off and we started to heal! This was the year I stopped carrying shame about my body, that I dealt with my money blockages, that I went back to therapy, that I launched my sobriety group, that I left a relationship that didn’t serve me, that I doubled my online business, & started forming a long term vision for what I want to birth as a creator and human on this planet. I started asking, “how can I help?” And “what is the most loving thing I can do here?” This was the year I started asking for help while simultaneously landing on my own two feet. This was the year I learned that other people’s opinions aren’t gonna pay my bills. Now I save my money and my breath and both have brought me peace.

Starting the year solo & vanlife over the holidays!

I could have stayed in Tennessee for the holidays or I could’ve enjoyed it with my best friend out in Oregon. It isn’t that I didn’t have options, it just felt like the only way to end the year was alone. It felt right. I have done so much alone this year and when I really needed the support and the love of certain people, I didn’t get any at all, instead I got the opposite- cruelty. When you go through hard things alone, I realize now, you don’t really need anyone anymore. In 2020 I left a relationship with a man I thought I’d spend the rest of my life with because sobriety and self development showed me that we weren’t as compatible as I thought. Then, suddenly leaving became the only, but the hardest choice. Then I left the country I had called home for years and came back to one I hadn’t called home in almost a decade. My heart broke so many times this year… for my love, for my country, for the tattered relationships I had wanted more than anything to keep whole. Like all of us, I learned what isolation and loneliness were… except I loved it. I learned to fall in love with my own space (the home I lived in) and with my own body again. I learned to set incredibly strong boundaries, how to heal, how to re-parent myself, how to self soothe… and have been rambling the US in Mosey the van now since June.

So doing the holidays alone felt right. Especially when my memories flooded back to the last Xmas I spent with my own family and then my ex’s family in Mexico— before the world fell apart and before we truly allowed our relationship to as well. Thinking back to the way I hesitated when he invited me until the very last minute when he got red in the face at my lack of a decision. I see my hesitation now as an inner knowing, another example of the way I refused to listen to my own body, of how I constantly shut my intuition down for the sake of other’s comfort. No more. Despite everything, we had a great trip & connected with each other so when we did finally say “goodbye” we did it with so much love. I’m thankful for the kindness we showed each other in the end because I see our growth in that goodbye. All of these emotions kept me from wanting to participate in the Holidays in the traditional sense this year, so after months in Tennessee I wanted my van, my freedom, and my solitude… so I packed up, said my “see ya later’s” and headed south for the winter.

As SOON as I hit the road again solo I always get this indescribable feeling of JOY that overcomes me and it hits me often while I ramble around. There is something about the van and the road, that have always done this to me. I carried on with my no plan “plan” with only the intention of spending a few days around Christmas in some national forest with zero cell reception. I spent a day by a gorgeous river spot while cruising through South Carolina and got to enjoy some awesome hikes. I stopped at a few beaches between Charleston, Edisto & Hilton Head and was brave enough to put my wetsuit on and laughed out loud while I floated in the freezing cold surf, finally reconnected with mama ocean again. I ate dripping mangos out the van door with my feet planted in the sand screaming City Girls lyrics and swooning over how sweet life can be when I allow myself to be guided, to feel empowered, to ask for what I want. I stopped and put my ear buds in and grabbed my hula hoop, or my long board, or my running shoes and seized the moment to skate that park, walk that bridge, or smoke that joint while I watched the sun go down. Mosey drove great and I found myself spending 2 nights in a Cracker Barrel parking lot in Savannah where my new friend GI Joe, a retired Air Force Staff Sargent and his cat quickly became Botas and my new friends. We shared a love for unicorns and he complimented my style saying I, “had it going on”.

I walked Savannah’s historic district on Christmas Eve and was stunned at the beauty of Forsyth park and the way the invasive but beautiful Spanish Moss hangs off the Cypress trees. I sat under some of those trees and did an hour of work in the park before I found myself standing in front of the fountain offering to take photos for family’s who were enjoying their holiday together and instead of feeling sad for me, I felt happy for them AND happy for me. I watched a few drifters go by and found them later making and selling bamboo flowers and crickets, the same as I used to watch them do for tourists in Asia. I told them I had no cash but they made them for me anyways as the old man told me about his life in Savannah and the young girl shook over her cheap whiskey bottle. I told them I was sober and traveling, and they told me how the city had changed since Covid. We discussed the beauty of the park and the old Black man told me how the confederate statues made him feel. I marveled at the history the East Coast has. The cemeteries are what always reminds me… I find myself in East Coast cemeteries almost daily now and silently scold myself for not spending more time out this way before. Our country is so young and so bloody, and the only time you can really feel our history is on the East Coast. The west reminds you of progress and the southeast reminds you where progress lacks. It feels exciting, to be here now, and be seeing it through a different lens. I moved on after about 45 minutes and gave myself a self guided tour of the historic district, stopping in front of buildings and looking up the history on my phone.

I made it into Jacksonville that same night on Xmas Eve and was hoping to be able to drive into the national forest, but realized an hour down the road I had forgotten my debit card at the previous gas station- lucky for me a customer had brought it in so I turned around and went to pick it up. “A Christmas miracle!” I said! I don’t lose things in sobriety so I was upset with myself for getting distracted and forgetting to collect my receipt because I made a sandwich and cleaned my windows instead. Either way, I was just happy it was still there! But by the time I had collected it and turned around, I heard a storm was coming and I didn’t want to pull into national forest at night AND in the rain with Mosey. But as I approached Jacksonville, I started to question the lack of rain and noticed in the field to my right above the Tractor Supply store that it REALLY looked like a WALL of sideways rain through the flood lights and I thought, “what a funny illusion because it OBVIOUSLY isn’t raining here” and as soon as I had this thought, we were struck by that wall of rain at 65 MPH I found out from the news later. I am honestly surprised I didn’t flip and that there wasn’t a serious accident because for 10 solid seconds you could see NOTHING and the impact of the rain and wind hitting the road and my windshield’s perpendicular actually stripped the threads on the windshield arms and bent them to the left. The driver’s side wiper was hitting the side of my driver’s door, it wasn’t even on the windshield anymore and I knew instantly that my journey had stopped here for the moment. I limped her off the road and pulled into a Day’s Inn and learned that the best option would involve two 7 mm washers, which I wouldn’t be able to find on Xmas, so I made friend’s with the receptionist and she told me I could park there for the night and use the bathroom.

I got organized and made myself some Mac & cheese while it rained and got a phone call from my sweetheart that he would put me up in a room for the night. So, he had spoken with the same woman I had and I found myself with a king size bed on Christmas Eve in Jacksonville, Florida while the temps dropped to the mid 20’s and I was snuggled up watching the news and the impact the storm had on the surrounding area considering myself lucky that we were safe. What a sweet treat! The next morning I packed up and went straight into Osceola National Forest. The last 45 minutes into the forest the service had already dropped and my speakers had stopped working and I still hadn’t fixed my windshield so I listened to Christmas Hits on my tiny speaker with the windows open as I drove. I pulled in to a discover these tall BEAUTIFUL PINES with the sun peeking through and my heart went “YES” as I sang Mariah Carey’s, “all I want for Xmas is YOUUUU” to the trees. I drove past a few campers and did the loop, managing to avoid all the newly formed puddles since yesterday’s storm. I re-circled back to a nice pull in spot with the minor inconvenience of one HUGE tire shaped hole and considered that if I avoided it, it would be perfect. So I pulled in and hugged the left side of the site and avoided the hole. I got out to admire my spot and it dawned on me that I didn’t want to have to reverse over the hole later, so I thought it would be wise to turn myself around now, so that I could drive straight out in a few days time when I’m ready to go. I’m sure you can guess what happens next- I backed straight into the hole! Oops.

I recruited some fellow campers and we tried everything from wood, to rocking it, to digging it out with a shovel and all we did was sink it further in until the muffler was buried under the mud and I decided it was a lost cause. We couldn’t even jack up the rear. I had planned on staying a few days anyways so voila! We get what we ask for! I had to hitch a ride into town to get enough service to call AAA but since it was Xmas they were having a hard time finding a driver and I kept telling them that it didn’t matter if it was today or tomorrow, as long as I knew someone was coming so I could leave at some point. She insisted it would be easier if they had someone to call and since I would be unavailable I nominated my sweetheart to check in with them. His story was even funnier a few days later when I got out of the forest and we reconnected. It seems the AAA lady was wasted that evening and when he kept calling to check on the update she finally told him, “What EXACTLY do you want me to do, sir” while slurring her words and he responded, “your job”. He proceeded to call multiple other drivers who insisted I was camped in an unsafe, hillbilly, meth area and that didn’t make him feel any better since they all couldn’t help until the next day. One driver told him $500 and then called him back at 2 AM crying and confessing that he had “done a bad thing” to only spent 5 minutes speaking on his failed marriage and life. Yikes. Despite all of this a driver did actually show up the next morning and he pulled me out like it was nothing while he told me of all the situations he had found people in out in this area. I made a friend who I built fires with for a few days who filled me in that the night before I arrived a man had chased his wife through the campground with an ax, apparently he had a drinking problem. So I guess they were right, the area CAN be a bit rough, but I made friends out there and met some locals who assured me that they would follow my blog and bring me good wood when I came back. I slept in 20 degree weather so cozy inside Mosey but when I emerged in the morning the water bowls were frozen and I had to put the jug in the sunlight until it melted enough that I could get it out to make coffee. Once my coffee was made I spent every morning with my gloves on chasing the sunlight beams as they started to light up the forest floor and I would sip my coffee and welcome in Christmas.

Botas had a blast exploring the forest and would only come screaming back in to the van when the big hunting trucks rolled past with dogs barking. Otherwise we found a routine where he would follow me the whole loop as long as nothing scared him back to the van and I finished a few books and journaled a lot and meditated to the sounds of the forest. It felt so good to be disconnected from my phone and from social media. I thought about how much it has become a part of our lives and how thankful I am for it but also how reliant I have become on it and how unhealthy my relationship with my phone has become- another addiction I must get under control. I have been working a social media job for the last 2 years online and I love it because it gives me this type of freedom, and gave me the tools I needed to later create an online sobriety community which has been another amazing connection and tool for me in recovery. But all of these things have made me dependent on social media in various ways and it dawned on me that I wanted to continue to use social media but less in some ways, and more in others. Hence why I am writing this to you on the blog, because I haven’t really been on social media this past week, and I wanted to go back to writing… back to my roots… and back to the people who listen. So if you are here, and reading this, thank you! I think after so many years I need a facebook purge so I can start building a more intentional community again, which has always been my goal. I’d like to use IG less, I am not supportive of it’s new censorship TOS but still plan on using it for work and minor updates but ultimately I’d like to write more here and less there, share more here and less there. You all know how much I love stories and that they’re probably the way I engage the most, I used to use it to update constantly but am feeling more of a pull towards my privacy right now and will be using that less too. I want to be present in my moments and in my life and to the people that are in front of me.

I want to continue 2021 alone, and I want to focus on what I am building and who I am becoming. The theme of this year has really been finding out who I am and who I want to be outside of the influence of other’s. It has been a reclaiming of my time and energy and I couldn’t imagine ending it any other way then reconnecting with myself and the forest and my intention for the New Year. Despite it all, we learned a lot this year whether or not we wanted to. There were blessings in the madness and lessons in the form of isolation, mental health, relationships and finances. I feel gratitude as my primary emotion. Gratitude for a deep knowing of myself and what I want out of this life and gratitude for no longer feeling shame around using the word “no” or asking for what I want. I feel proud of myself for continuously honoring where I am and what I want and not being ashamed to go get it. Stepping into 33 feels humbling and I know things are only going to keep getting better. If you read this far, thank you. I hope your reflection on 2020 has been positive despite all the negative. We are all in this together, although I count myself significantly lucky to still be able to move about the world in the way that I desire when so many people are struggling. Stay safe, stay sane. Muah

Choose yourself, baby.

I wasn’t raised by men that know the power of ‘I’m sorry’. I was raised to accept that people sometimes hurt us and that amends shouldn’t be expected. Instead I heard, “that’s just how they are”, so I didn’t know that people could change, and I worried about the quality of my character if I was unable to grow into the person I desired. The only apologies I saw others give was for the obvious, but I couldn’t understand how an apology (or lack of) was supposed to serve us without changed behavior. “I’m sorry” when it didn’t matter and silence when it did.

I wasn’t raised to understand ‘apology languages’ so I overused ‘I’m sorry’ my entire life. I OVER-apologized. I made these words my favorite words when they were all I wanted to hear. I grew up quicker and I started putting words onto paper… that turned into paragraphs… and all of these words still couldn’t create a bridge between me and the people I loved most.

Later, I went to therapy and I tried pouring my words out verbally, and I tried to make sense of why I wasn’t worth any of the words I wanted so desperately. So I developed better communication skills and I dove into therapy and I took the apology into my own hands and told myself the words I needed to hear.

I traced the curves of my body and placed my hand on my heart. I stepped into the bath and hugged my knees to my chest and I said the words ‘I’m sorry’ to every inch of me. I reminded myself that even when my heart breaks and I lose the living because I chose myself, that I still deserve all the love I so freely give to others. “Choose yourself, baby” I whispered. “Choose yourself”.

When letting go is what is kind.

Six months ago I was packing up my house in Playa and moving in with my partner at the time because of Covid and the lockdown that was happening in Mexico. It seemed like the right move (optimism despite a rough year), but 2 weeks in we called it quits and I flew back to the States a month later. It wasn’t a bad breakup but it was a relationship we spent the last year fighting for and couldn’t come to any new conclusions… the more we tried the less it made sense… we couldn’t fit ourselves into a relationship we had outgrown any longer. So, we made the tough choice to walk away & even though it was painful, we did it with kindness in the end… as much as we could stiffen in the difficult moments anyways. We had moved back in together but the uncertainty of the world and our individual needs pulled us apart. Holding on felt too hard when we couldn’t even be there for each other anymore. The kindest thing we did for ourselves and each other was to let go, but it wasn’t easy.

I loved and learned more in those 4 years but also got shown my worst side… so I could heal, so I could get sober, and he was a part of all of that. He opened the door to my darkness and he is where the real shadow work began so saying bye to him felt like letting go of someone that knew my past and had played an active role in watching me heal, and it felt like a loss that still feels hard to describe… because 6 months later the love still exists. Love doesn’t just go away, it isn’t conditional— and I learned that sometimes… the most loving thing we can do, is let another go, no matter how much we love them. You can love someone so much and still know that person isn’t good for you. I learned this year that love isn’t enough; and for someone that believes in love in all moments, it felt heartbreaking. But moving in this new understanding now, allows me to start asking myself what I want for my future (and what that looks like for me). I’m still learning what that is… and how it feels in this new world… but the lessons keep coming and I’m thankful to be seeing so much clearer now than I was.

After leaving V (my ex) in Mexico and returning to the States, I had no idea what life was going to look like for me in the US and I felt a lot of uncertainty returning given current world affairs. Honestly I felt safer overseas! But the smart choice in that moment was to move back and my incentive for doing so was the freedom I’d have to live in my van, work on and build my online business and start to focus on the passion projects I’ve been wanting the time to birth. It seemed like I was being pulled back across the border & it felt like the universe was going to help me sort it out, plus… tourism in Mexico meant my future as a dive instructor was a bit unstable. The waves of change brought me back and 3 days after arriving my home state of Minnesota witnessed the violent murder of George Floyd by Minneapolis PD and well… I think we all know what’s happened since then…

The protests and political division in my home country also brought about an incredible amount of tension within my own family and my personal life. This heartbreak felt suffocating and hasn’t since been reconciled. I grew up with an incredibly privileged lifestyle and a family who was supportive of my lifestyle and dreams, despite the fact that our paths and beliefs became more and more different as I got older. Somewhere along the line, our family curse of sweeping things under the rug came to a head and we haven’t found a way to open the line of communication since. The world is full of division right now, especially amongst families. I’ve always thought we could find common ground on other things, but I’m having a hard time disagreeing over human rights or the rights of women and other marginalized peoples. Losing my partner and adventure buddy of 4 years on top of my family shortly after felt like the rug being ripped out from under me. At the same time I was mourning the loss of my lover I was grieving with my nation and my Black brothers and sisters and then my family… it felt like bricks… It isn’t that we believe differently, I’m not 5 years old! Unfortunately, things were said and done that will take time to heal and will forever change our relationship. My sobriety and my healing has led me on a path of radical honesty and acceptance within my own life and I ask the same of the people I love. I don’t think this is unreasonable. Right now a lot is being asked of us that we’ve never experienced before and if you’re struggling with those you love, stand in love and stand in what you value. As long as you do those two things, you will never regret being true to yourself.

I know none of this is easy & I have it easy easier than most. I recognize my privilege in this world and the more I’ve moved about it and traveled the last 8 years, the more I’ve realized that all humans deserve access to food, water, education and healthcare. This realization shocked me because I never saw human rights as something someone should have to “realize”, and I was ashamed at the things my privilege (and the narrative I was taught) simply hadn’t allowed me to see. When I discuss my privilege I’m not just talking about class privilege but also white privilege, the privilege to be able bodied, to have a University degree, + to be heterosexual (passing). Understand, I’m a girl from a small Minnesota town and a well to do Republican family— speaking out against the narrative that has allowed me so much privilege is hurting the people that have given me everything in this world. To them it feels like an attack on a lifestyle I wouldn’t have had the option of living if it wasn’t for the privilege I was raised in… and the opportunities it gave me over others. Speaking out and voting against a system that disproportionately benefits me seems like a smack in the face to the people who gave it to me… it feels unappreciative and entitled. But dismantling the system that works in my favor is exactly the work that needs to be done because I believe and have seen that there are better ways. I don’t have the answers and I don’t claim to, but I believe in communities and people as a whole to do better, and be better. I believe that by lifting others, we all rise. I believe that how a first world country treats it’s poorest citizens says a lot about that country and it’s morality. I believe in having the difficult conversations and confronting the ways in which our activism may fall short on extending to all peoples. I am so thankful for the education I was given that has allowed me to confront my own privilege and the access I have ((my autonomy and ability to move about the world)).

I think if we don’t use our privilege to open up space to others with less than we aren’t actively engaging in the world; and I intend to use mine to make the world a better place. Having these conversations for the last 14 years since my degree in Women’s Studies and Sociology and traveling extensively has given me a lens vastly different than the one I grew up with. Despite my relationship with my family now, they raised a strong, independent and educated woman who happens to believe fundamentally and morally different things than them… and no matter what, I wouldn’t be who I am, nor would I have the balls to do what I do, if it wasn’t for them and the safety net my privilege has provided. I am still uncovering more layers of healing that need to be done but I can only take responsibility for myself. For the first time in my life, I’m standing in opposition to my family and although it doesn’t seem like much can be done right now, I have faith in the future. I think we can always find common ground as humans, even if that means creating new boundaries so there can be a relationship. I think this sentiment goes for everyone… letting go and boundaries have been my two biggest lessons this year and I acknowledge that my healing here isn’t linear.

I’m not going to lie, the last 6 months have been really hard on my heart. They have tested my values, my voice, my convictions, and my integrity. I have been challenged more than ever before and I am so thankful to have sobriety, self development, and a level head through it all. Because of this, I feel fortunate… fortunate that the universe has given me these tough times when I have the tools to move through them. I feel fortunate to have invested in my own health and sobriety and to have a strong community of supportive friends and coworkers behind me. I feel fortunate to have the space and privilege in this world to stop and reflect on my place and impact within it. I feel fortunate. Period. Even though there are days the grief creeps up on me, I remind myself that I can handle whatever gets thrown at me. I remind myself that I am blessed to live the life I do and I pick myself back up, even if it takes me awhile.

In these moments of turbulence that has been 2020 I am being faced with the opportunity to stay small and comfortable for fear of being difficult, or to use my voice and my platform in a positive way. I choose the latter. We are all being pushed into uncomfortable situations and instead of fighting them why don’t we ask ourselves where the resistance comes from and start looking inside. I keep asking myself over and over, “what is the most loving thing I can do here”, and then I do that… and “loving” doesn’t always mean easy… it means what is kind, what is in alignment, what is in our best interest. & sometimes the most loving thing we can do is let go…

The Power in Remaining Uncomfortable

I took a Graduate level class my Junior year of University titled Queer Theory. There were only 3 of us Undergrads that got invited to the class as a part of the Gender, Women and Sexuality Studies Bachelor program along with 7 Grad students. This is what my degree is in and before I moved overseas and became a scuba instructor 8 years ago, I was a campus activist and non-profit worker in the University of Minnesota halls. I worked for Planned Parenthood and a non-profit called WATCH where I sat in on rape, sexual assault, and domestic violence court cases to document the court process and record whether or not I felt the victims were revictimized during the trial, whether it be by questions such as, “what were you wearing the night it happened?” Or “How many drinks did you have?” As if those questions have any bearing over the actual rape itself… and in my free time I volunteered for NARAL MN, Democracy Now, the Women’s Student Activist Collective and Women’s Pro Choice Collective… let’s just say I was involved, on fire, and I thought I could change the world.

Now that the scene is set a little and you understand what my life looked like before I started traveling and teaching diving, let me go back to my Queer Theory class. I remember being incredibly excited and honored to be a part of the class and when I showed up the first day and walked in, all 10 desks were sat in a circle. We all took our seats and introduced each other while we waited for our Professor to show up. Her name was Naomi and this class was famous in our department. I will never forget when she came walking through the door holding a stack of syllabi- she had short, funky grey hair and cat eye glasses and wore linen pants with a kimono draped over her shoulders and was about 70 years old. On top of being a stunning woman, she was wearing shoes that more closely resembled boats than shoes. On the bottom they were rounded like rockers and made it incredibly difficult for her to balance and walk normally. No one said anything but we all exchanged looks as she greeted us with an intense gaze, passing out the syllabi in a circle, while trying to balance on these ridiculous shoes. Finally, an Uppergrad said, “Naomi, I have to ask… what’s up with the shoes?” And here begins, one of the most memorable moments of my life…

“The shoes”, she began, “are a reminder that we must never get too comfortable.” She went on to explain that the problem with society is that we’re incredibly comfortable with the way things are, that we don’t often question the status quo or our role in it, and because we rarely question things it has left us in a position of being unable to adapt to change- when change is in fact, the only constant in our lives. This mentality makes us resistant to growth and creates an environment of intolerance. Quite often we can spend our entire life running the same program we have always been fed. She said, “the key to life is to always remain uncomfortable”. And I will never forget watching her teeter in circles as she explained how the uncomfortable is often our biggest teacher, and how the work we will do to dismantle and understand systems of oppression will be incredibly uncomfortable and that’s where we must sit to understand- we must sit in the uncomfortable, we must ask the questions, and we must learn to listen and learn when faced with the ways in which we might accidentally and unintentionally perpetuate these systems of oppression.

“Being uncomfortable” has become a lifelong quest for me because of Naomi. That class changed my life and those words have always stuck with me. What a powerful statement watching a woman that age, walk around on those shoes, and talk to us about the power in remaining always a “little bit uncomfortable” to continue to grow. This sparked my continuous interest about the world and the things that make me uncomfortable, that challenge me, that scare me. I have built my life around doing these things because of this woman and I have found myself in a constant state of re-assessment of myself, my actions, my privilege, and the messages I’ve gotten from society about what “success” and “equality” look like.

When I think about life changing moments, this is one of the most powerful stories that has helped shape me. The memory is still so vivid and I decided to share that story now because I feel as though I have come full circle in the last decade- from the halls of the University of Minnesota, to overseas for 8 years, and back in MN while I watch the world’s biggest civil rights movement unfold, originating in my home state. It has re-sparked the conversations I’ve had and the things I learned from studying systems of oppression, feminism, racism, and sociology. It has got me reading again and listening again and learning again about all of the things that used to light me up- human rights. I remember explaining to my parents once I changed my major from Marine Biology to Women’s Studies that I want to be a dive instructor but not a biologist and Women’s Studies will always be something I’m passionate about. Equal rights will always be something I’m passionate about. That won’t change. Now I’m back and I’m finding myself coming full circle, asking… “Where can I grow? How can I help? Where is my lens limited due to my life experience? How can we do better?” And I realize that we should never stop asking ourselves these questions. We should never stop striving to be uncomfortable and to ask ourselves what makes us so uncomfortable- where does it come from? Racism isn’t comfortable, homophobia isn’t comfortable, sexism isn’t comfortable. If you want to learn about these experiences you have to be willing to get uncomfortable and I don’t see enough people willing to do that.

How I Became a Morning Person

I’ve always liked to sleep in. Let’s face it, I’ve always like to sleep (in general). If you ask me about my hobbies, I will be sure to list “sleeping” among them. I’ve had a lifelong battle with my desire to be a morning person and my desire to sleep in. I have tried to adjust my alarm, and get to sleep earlier, because I’ve noticed how happy I am when I get to watch the sun come up; but no matter what I did, I always slowly found my way back to feeling rushed every morning. I couldn’t seem to make it a habit and there are a few reasons for that, so more on that later. But as a dive instructor, I was required to be to work early, and often was lucky if I woke up 30 minutes before I left the house. Yes, I was a 30 minute morning person! My routine was easy, I needed to throw on a bikini- nothing else required in my line of work. As you can see, this profession allowed me to rush out the door and I’ve been known to use the excuse that I “wake up when I hit the water”. This was normal for me throughout my 20’s but I always wanted to be a bright and shiny morning person.

You’ve all seen the science behind waking up early right? I have obviously seen the studies that show productivity levels in people who tend to be early risers. I’ve also learned that how we spend the first part of our day sets us up for the rest of the day as a whole- it sets the tone, if you will. So, rushing out the door in the morning and not giving yourself any time to breathe could become a bad habit. People that take the time to slow down daily whether it be for meditation or mindfulness in general, make wrong decisions less often. And I’ve learned through Ayurveda that a “morning ritual” gives our body the signal that all is well and not to stress. Cultivating a morning ritual has become a daily practice of mine after years of falling in and out of love with mornings. So, I know what all the science says, and I’ve always innately known that I needed to become a morning person so I wanted to share what I’ve learned and what’s helped me embrace my mornings and set myself up for success throughout the day. I would also like to say that I know people who function much better in the evenings, and if you’re one of those people I don’t encourage you to change. My way isn’t the right way! But if you’re like me, and you’ve been wanting to change your ways for years, then maybe you’d like to keep reading.

Firstly, part of my dislike for mornings stemmed from the 50% chance I had of having a hangover for most of my adult life. It’s hard to love mornings when you wake up feeling like shit, or rushed. Duh. But I really really REALLY thought those extra 15 minutes were doing me good. *sigh* Since I quit drinking, I go to sleep at 11 at the latest, and am up at 8 (at the latest). It turns out, just removing drinking made a much more positive influence on my mornings! Secondly, I used to also think I was a nap person but I’m not. Apparently, getting regular sleep is incredibly good for your mental health and when you’re a non drinker and exercise regularly, you aren’t tired. I’m RARELY tired! Even on days that I do tremendous amounts of physical exercise (not lately) I don’t feel the need for a nap, I usually just need my bed come 9 PM. I still love to sleep though and I can sleep anywhere (it’s a gift). I’m a great sleeper. I’m also a Taurus and if you’re an astrology person you know we love naps!

A few months into sobriety I had a regular sleep pattern down and was already naturally starting to wake up earlier. If I had to leave the house I wanted at least 1.5 hours to myself in the morning. Now that’s AT LEAST 2 hours, if not more, to enjoy my morning ritual, take time to myself, and then start the day. I then started turning my alarm clock back 15 minutes every 2 or 3 days. Although I think it’s admirable to want to dive in all at once, that’s why most of us fail! Set realistic goals. If you try to wake up 2 hours before your normal wake up time, your body won’t adjust, you’ll fall out of the habit fast, blame yourself and then give up. Don’t do that! Start slow, this takes practice. This is really a conversation with yourself about your needs and changing your habits, it will be uncomfortable so be patient with yourself. Beating ourselves up and saying, “I will never become a morning person” ensures that you will never become a morning person.

Another thing that was huge for me was reminding myself every time I didn’t want to wake up, or I was tempted to hit the alarm that I WANTED TO DO THIS- that I had chosen this! Any time we complain to ourselves, we are giving a signal to our bodies that we don’t want to do whatever we’re doing which means, the subconscious is going to try to convince us we can get out of it. Reminding yourself that you’re choosing to wake up early and that you WANT to be a morning person is an incredibly strong shift in your motivations not only in your subconscious but also in your physical body. I encourage you to apply this to all areas of life! I just realized that I should write a blog on this topic alone (to be continued…)! Shift your language and watch your thoughts!

Speaking of thoughts, what we allow in our brain right upon waking is incredibly important. If we wake up and our first thoughts are dread, our physical body is going to feel stressed. Don’t judge yourself if you don’t wake up like a ray of sunshine, but become aware of your thoughts and just allow them to go without focusing on them or labeling them as “good” or “bad”. Also try to avoid waking up and immediately thinking of all the things you need to do that day. Before you even get out of bed, spend 5 minutes laying there and connecting to your body. Put one hand on your heart and one hand on your belly and feel any sensations that are coming up for you. Then list 3 things you’re grateful for. They don’t need to be huge things, just simple things. This will become a habit upon waking and instead of seeking out worries, your subconscious will automatically see the blessings. This simple shift attracts more things to be grateful for into our field. Gratitude is incredibly powerful! I knocked it as too “new age-y” for years, but such a simple thing completely changed my perspective.

Once you’ve checked in with your body and listed a few things you’re grateful for, sit up slowly and plant your feet on the ground for a minute before you stand up. Ground into the present moment. Drink a full glass of water to start your metabolism and visualize your day. Once again, focus on you succeeding. What we focus on grows, so focus on the good. Call in the feeling you will feel once you’re completed these things, or had that conversation with your boss, or asserted yourself to someone regarding something that has been on your mind. How does it feel to have these things work out for you in your favor?

Once you’ve finished your water, head to the bathroom then splash some water on your face! Throwing water on our faces is so underrated but doing so actually sends signals to our bodies to wake up! This is why we have been told to throw water on drunk people or to calm our nerves. Once again, there is science behind this! How cool is our body? Then go make your coffee, tea or whatever ritual you enjoy in the morning. This doesn’t need to be a long process, and it is most definitely supposed to be personal. This is the part of the morning for me where I then shift into either journaling, or listening to a podcast, or some movement on my yoga mat, music or taking my coffee outside and walking on the earth barefoot while I take in the sounds of the birds. Life gives us a million pleasures a day that are free, tap into those things that really bring you joy! Include moments of bliss in your practice.

For those of you that insist on sleeping with the black out curtains… try letting some light in? I know, I know, you cannot sleep like that! I’ve heard it all! But for real, being woken up with NATURAL light is so invaluable! They have done studies that show how women who sleep outside and are exposed to more natural cycles of the moon will actually start to sync their own cycles with the moon’s. Women naturally cycle in 28.5 day cycles exactly like the moon anyways. How powerful is that? This means that we are obviously much more affected by nature than we like to acknowledge! I know, I know, crazy!?! Back to the natural light though… if you insist on black out curtains maybe consider the moon lamp because it will slowly get brighter and wake you up naturally which is pretty cool.

For those of you with children that are reading this and saying, “for real Lauryn, you don’t have kids you don’t understand!” You’re right, I don’t. I don’t understand OR have children. But I do have a few close mama friends who make time for themselves in the morning and insist it is VITAL for them to show up for their children the rest of the day. We show up for ourselves so we can show up for others right? You cannot fill anyone if you haven’t filled yourself first. Stop making excuses and make yourself a priority! It is not selfish! If you focus more of your attention outwards than inwards, it’s time to consider a shift in priorities. The journey back to ourselves is our most important one. If it involves waking up 30 minutes before your kids so you can take your coffee in silence in the garden, make that a priority.

I have always known that I needed to work out earlier in the day because the later it got, the less likely I was to work out. Mostly because I would probably have a drink later in the day, and then I was DEFINITELY not going to work out. Back to the alcohol! Anyways… I’ve heard that exercise in the morning is great to start the body and get our organs woken up. When we sleep our bodies accumulate toxins and since our skin is the biggest detoxifier for what our bodies are getting rid of, getting our sweat on in the morning has amazing health benefits to our bodies in more ways than one! This is something I’m still working on though. I have found a comfortable rhythm where I want to work out and will find myself on my mat or moving my body in another way naturally throughout the day, it tends to only happen in the morning a few hours afterI wake up instead of right away. I hope to start including a regular wake up and go straight to the mat. I think it will be a beautiful way to start the day if I can make time for 30 minutes of organic free flow movement every morning. I plan on starting this experiment this week! So there we are! Always a work in a progress!

Once quarantine kicked in I really lost my morning routine. I started jumping on my phone in the morning (don’t do this) or grabbing the iPad to look at the news (also not recommended)! Going back to what we put in our brain the first 30 minutes of the day being incredibly important- I’d avoid news sources or phones if you can. Even better, if you can plug your phone in outside your bedroom in the evening. If you have to set a morning alarm I’d encourage a moon lamp or an alarm with a natural sound to wake you up so that you can leave your phone. Haven’t heard of a moon lamp? Check it out! They’re so cool! It wakes you up with natural light instead of sound. If you have to use your phone keep it on silent at night or airplane mode and refuse to look at it once you’ve turned the alarm off. If it is in the room, face it down. Even then, they have shown that our eyes and brains respond to the blue light just from looking at our phones and it takes us away from a place of relaxation which is another reason I’d encourage finding an alternative alarm other than your phone. I used to use my dive computer alarm since it was on my wrist anyways, but now I wake up naturally, right before the sun comes up, and then I decide if I want to sleep in a little more or not.

And voila! You’re a morning person! Just kidding! But for real, I hope some of this helps or may work for you! Not all of us are morning people and that’s okay, so if you aren’t don’t beat yourself up! It’s important to know when and how we function best. For me personally, that involves getting up and starting my day early! I love daybreak, the silence, the sound of the birds, and the stillness that comes before the hustle and bustle of the day begins. Now I feel guilty when I don’t take part in the “dance of the sun” as I love to call it! I used to smoke cigarettes late into the night while I wrote poetry a few beers deep. But now waking with the sun feels good, not to mention I feel a lot more bright and shiny than I used to! I enjoy my time in different ways now, and I think we will always shift and move with what feels good to us in these moments, we should. So before you decide who you WANT to be, ask yourself if you’re doing it for you or because you feel like you should.

Make Firecider to boost the immune system!

Fire cider is the combinations of citrus, onion, ginger and garlic mixed in vinegar. When you taste it you will definitely feel the fiery kick it gives. It’s like pickle juice, habaneros and kombucha had a baby. Think spicy kimchi. I for one, am a HUGE fan of all things vinegar and pickles and spicy so this is right up my alley! Given the desperate need to keep our immune system at an all time high, this recipe is great to make and store so you have it on hand. I got the sickest I’ve ever been in February and I was taking shots of this every few hours. It turned out to be a sickness that kept circling back and involved all the nastiest symptoms which my friend is convinced was Covid-19. Either way, I’m healthy now and I’m still sippin’ on this sauce.

I wanted to share this recipe because I talked about it on my Instagram story and so many people have asked me for it since. I made my first batch a couple months ago and it was super easy! The hard part is waiting a month to try it! I’m not sure where I first heard about fire cider but it isn’t new. Given that I’ve started making my own health tinctures, fire cider was something I was keen to try as soon as I was committed to staying somewhere for more than a month, so I gave it a go! We take a shot of it every morning to stay healthy and love adding it to pastas and use as a marinade. In this recipe I go CRAZY with the spices so if you’re looking for a milder or sweeter version definitely chill with the peppers and add more honey.

This is what you’ll need:

1 gallon or 3 liters of RAW, unfiltered apple cider vinegar

Horseradish

Ginger- 1 average size

Garlic- 2 cloves

Onions- 1/2

Jalapeños or Habaneros to taste

Turmeric (powder if not fresh)

3 limes

3 lemons

Orange if desired

Black Pepper corns

Cayenne Pepper- 1 or 2 TBSP depending on desired spice level

Locally sourced honey!

This will make about 1.5-2 liters depending on how thick you want to make it.

Start by taking all of vegetables and put them through a food processor after cleaning throughly! For the citrus fruits- put peel and everything into the food processor! Seeds and peels have incredible nutrients! Just make sure they’re clean! To clean I use water and a bit of apple cider vinegar to soak the vegetables before I begin the recipe.

After that use roughly 1 liter of apple cider vinegar, and add in your vegetable pulp, cayenne pepper, black pepper and honey. Remember, have fun with it! I took the recipe super lightly the first time I did it and added more than what was recommended. Some people strain their pulp out after the month but I disagree, I love the flavor of the pulp and it’s great to add to salsas for some extra kick!

Once you have made your fire cider, you want to store it in GLASS jars. Also, since it needs to sit in a DARK space (cupboard) for 1 month or more, I’d place paper or fabric in between the metal lid and the glass jar- fire cider has a tendency to do some rust damage to the roof of the can, and you don’t want that in your cider so make use something as a barrier. Just steer clear of plastic and stick to glass and metal lids for all fire cider. Once a week, take your fire cider out and give it a light shake to move the liquid around. Otherwise keep it hidden. I covered mine in the corner for a month! Try to keep it out of the light. Afterwards you can move it into the fridge to keep it fresh longer! Have fun with it and be sure to send me some photos if you decide to make you’re own!

My Take on Network Marketing

When it came to network marketing, I was like you too. I had been approached by the network marketing girl from high school that I hadn’t spoken to in over 10 years and asked to buy her product. She didn’t even ask how I was or use my name, and it looked like a copy and paste message that had been sent to everyone in her inbox. One of the women on my team got approached by someone she hadn’t spoken to in years who told her that she had a “crazy idea” and that she had a dream that the two of them should start a network marketing jewelry business together. I know… I know… can you imagine what both of our responses were? We didn’t respond. I get it, I get it, I get it!! We’ve all had bad experiences with network marketing and even if we don’t actually know anything about the business models or structures, we’ve definitely heard the term “pyramid scheme” being thrown around a lot, and from what we know, those are bad so anything that resembles a pyramid scheme automatically goes into the “nope” category for many of us. We don’t want to be “those people” that annoy their entire friends list and isolate their friends and families.

I never researched network marketing until I was contemplating joining a company that used nutritional support products from a network marketing company. Since our partner products were distributed using this model, I went to work to understand how it worked, and why people hated on these companies so much. What I learned shocked me. Not to mention, I also learned that not all network marketing is the same, not all models are the same, and that a lot of the myths I believed about them weren’t true.

Over the years I’d heard of network marketing companies getting sued due to claims being made by their distributors that were untrue. I’d seen the incessant posts on people’s walls where all they did was talk about and promote the products, and I’d been annoyed when I felt like someone wasn’t being authentic. See, we can pick up on that energy! Have you ever sent a text message, in a bad mood, and even though nothing you said was negative, the other person responded to that energy and inquired if everything was okay? I have, guilty! This is also why I was against network marketing- because I wasn’t a salesman, and I definitely wouldn’t try to “sell” anything I didn’t believe in. I used to think, honestly… no one LOVES a product THAT MUCH! I thought it was all a bit ridiculous.

Now that you know how I used to feel, let me talk about why all of this changed. When I got introduced to my team and program I was at a point in my life where I was feeling lost. For those of you that don’t know my story, let me give you a quick recap. I was 30 years old and had been living overseas and working as a scuba instructor for 7 years. I was in Indonesia at the time and since my job revolves around tourism, natural disasters had a tendency to affect that industry pretty directly. We moved from Mexico to Indonesia just in time for Bali’s Mount Agung volcano to reactivate and cause an evacuation which meant that finding a job as an instructor on the island of Bali, as planned, would be a bit difficult. So we moved to the Gili Islands and struggled through low season only to have a magnitude 7.4 earthquake level the island and leave us in a rough place financially. On top of all of that, I was struggling with my drinking after years in the dive industry and my mental health. I was craving something different and when my world got shaken up I decided to go back to the USA for marijuana harvest season- at least I knew there was money to be made there, and I had a van I could live in and friends that worked in the industry. This opportunity fell into my lap shortly afterwards and I didn’t even realize that I was craving all of the things this opportunity offered me- more financial and time freedom and the ability to work from anywhere while I heal myself.

I never saw myself as an inspiration, but I was determined to get sober and healthier in my 30’s then I’d ever been. After 2 weeks on the products the migraines I’d suffered since I was 12, that debilitated me while scuba diving and my team would have to take over, disappeared. I was blown away! My belief in the product was secure because I had felt the changes myself! Since I knew I’d be on the products for life, I decided to start selling them in hopes of paying for my own product. Not only did the products work for me, but so did the program and all I had to do was share my experiences regarding a product that had already changed my life dramatically. Now I was sober and migraine free and realized it was time to start diving into the programs and working on myself. As I worked on myself and shared my story, my business began to grow organically and I pretty quickly realized that I was falling more in love with myself and more in love with this industry! Every month a few hundred extra dollars was showing up into my account, I was getting healthier, and without even realizing it, I was taking on the business part time. I’d like to state here that not all network marketing companies are the same, so I can only speak for the company I work for.

So why do I love The Soul Project and the network marketing model?

THE PRODUCTS

You have to love something if you’re going to sell it. At least, I did. I’m not a good saleswoman so selling things I don’t believe in is a dead give away. If your belief in the products isn’t high, then you won’t succeed. We have a unique company within network marketing because we’re a legacy company. The Soul Project utilizes the the Juice Plus+ nutritional support products because they have been around for 50 years, making these products for 30 years, and NEVER had a recall, have made it through multiple recessions, are talked about and used by many athletes, and are literally the simplest of whole food nutrition. They are the ONLY nutritional product in the world with a FOOD label because they are just that, food. After I researched the products, read the reviews, read the clinical studies on the website, and listened to people’s stories at being transformed by fruits and veggies- I was hooked! It worked for me! And it made sense to me- our bodies need more fruits and vegetables, and we’re not getting enough and people will always need more fruits and veggies, no matter how good of an eater they are! Over the years I’ve seen my own customers results, heard their stories, and seen other amazing stories of healing and it reconfirmed my belief in the simplicity and strength of something like this. Our studies regarding our products and the immune system are incredible and I have multiple women on my team who suffer autoimmune disorders and have seen incredible improvements. Listening to their stories lights me up. How can you argue with wholefood, vegan, GMO free, NSF certified organic (better than USDA), fair trade, vine ripened fruits and veggies in a vegan capsule? You can’t. There is literally no other product on the market like it, nor with the studies to back it.

THE PROGRAM

We believe in healing from the inside out which is why we chose Juice Plus+ as our nutritional support products. Did you know 90% of our diseases today are linked in some way back to the gut and health of our microbiome? 90%! This includes mental health diseases such as depression and anxiety. What is happening outside of us is a direct reflection of what’s happening inside. Starting with a solid wholefood base of nutrition allows our customers the catalyst to heal the rest: not just the body but also the mind and the soul. Our program focuses on healing of all 3 and they are programs created by us, for you. We run 10 day detoxes every month starting on the 15th and each month focuses on a different party of our health- mind, body or soul. We also have meditation guides, recipes, meal planning, self care, weight loss, self love & SO much more customized for your goals. Because we believe that healing needs to start with families, kids eat free! We have our own customer hub where myself and my team are adding value daily. I have found my voice within helping those that struggle with alcohol as well as giving monthly full moon & new moon circles because these are things that are close to my heart and areas of my life I have experience healing and working with.

THE COMMUNITY

This shocked me! I didn’t realize the massive self development that would take place just from joining this supportive community. The Soul Project spans Australia, New Zealand, US, UK, Canada and more and we ship to 28 countries worldwide! Our leaders all have different gifts to share and contribute their content and modalities in such inspiring ways. I’ve had access to trainings by Tony Robbins and Eric Worre, who are known worldwide for their masterclasses but are also HUGE advocates of the network marketing industry. I’ve inspired other leaders to quit alcohol and share their experiences with their community, I’ve made great friends that have inspired me and taught me invaluable skills moving forward. We are an eclectic group of men and women who are uplifting, supportive of each other’s wins, and come from all different backgrounds- stay at home moms, corporate professionals, healthcare providers, travelers, wellness instructors, life coaches, skydivers and so many more! Because of them I have found my own voice and started creating my own content. Everyone needs supportive people behind them!

CONCLUSIONS

Look, I love scuba diving and will always teach diving, but I needed a second set of income I could build on the side to start planning for the future. I had a dream to own a dive shop one day but now I’d love to own a holistic health business! But no matter what, I will stay within this industry because it has given me so much! I honestly, truly, want to change people’s views about network marketing. But one thing I need to make clear is that this isn’t an overnight success. This is something you start and build over time which is why we call it the 4 year career. It’s something you get in line for. But it’s also something that will give you and your team the skills and the flexibility to really decide what way you want to show up and be of service in the world.

While working for this company and creating a vision for my own future, I realized that I wanted enough money to not only be comfortable but to actually make an impact in the world and donate to causes I believe in. I wanted the time freedom to work on projects that I feel make the world a better place. Is it easy to make money in this industry? Heck no! Which is why so many sign up, do nothing with it, get discouraged, and quit, only going on to have a bad experience with this industry and tell everyone they know. This is a job, just like any other, and how much you make is a direct reflection of the time you put in. It also requires you to be self motivated and consistent. It is a SOCIAL media job which is why it’s called NETWORK marketing. You have to network! But one of the biggest misconceptions is that people believe they’ll isolate their friends and family. Um… hello, social media! Look, I grow my network by connecting with other like-minded people daily. I find other travelers, yogis, skydivers, sober, cat lovers (to give you an idea of the types of people I meet and interact with) and I do all of this through the power of social media! The only time I’ve ever suggested these products OR this business is if I feel it could help people. I don’t isolate anyone, I expand my tribe, have met amazing people online, and it has led to amazing collaborations. All because I chose to not listen to Nancy down the street and took a chance to build something different!

In our lives right now, we are seeing a MASSIVE influx of fear for the future, fear of uncertainty, FEAR FEAR FEAR and it’s ruling our lives. But it always has. Fear controls almost every aspect of our lives at all times. Fear has also become my favorite emotion to work with because I’ve learned that it is also our best teacher. Some of my favorite things in life started out as fears- scuba diving, skydiving, traveling, network marketing. If I had lived in fear, or listened to what others said, I wouldn’t have had the ability or the balls to create the life I want. I don’t feel bad about that and I won’t apologize for it, it’s one of my favorite qualities about myself. If it’s something that you feel like you’re lacking then I’d encourage you to reach out, because helping others work with their fears is also a superpower of mine since I’ve gone through it. In conclusion, I’m thankful for this industry and all that it’s taught me.

If you’re considering branching into network marketing or looking for something you can do along side your career then I have just this advice: research the company & model, find a product you LOVE and will use for life, look for a “legacy” company not a “startup” and research its history. I am 2 promotions away from healthcare for life! I already make residual income which is literally money while I sleep, and now, more than ever, people need to start taking their health and their family’s health seriously- and I think people get that. So if you’re scared of anything right now, I’d encourage you to start dancing with that comfort zone because if I’ve learned anything it’s that all my best moments have been birthed from fear. Don’t let fear keep you stuck.

Oh and I’m not saying everyone should join a network marketing company! It definitely isn’t for everyone and I think that’s why so many fail. I’m only 1.5 years in and I still have another year or so until I could be full time from this but I’m putting in work every day because I have seen what this opportunity has done for others that I know, and I want to be the one that succeeds too and I see no reason why this business couldn’t give me that when it’s given me so much already. So, maybe next time you decide to buy makeup you could reach out to a Mary Kay distributor, or for hair- Monat, for essential oils- DoTerra, for supplements ME or for household supplies Airbonne. You’d be supporting a single mother or a traveler instead of big corporations like Target or Walmart. Understand that these people probably love these products and love this industry just like I do. We are constantly sharing the recipes, foods, retailers and products we love, so why wouldn’t we get paid for it? Maybe you won’t turn your nose down at network marketing and maybe you’ll take the time to understand that there will obviously be unethical practices in all business, and I cannot control how other’s run their business but I can ensure that I run mine ethically, authentically and honestly. I hope this has answered some questions if you’ve been thinking I’m a crazy person, or that I’m just trying to sell you something, because yes I am crazy, and NO I’m not just trying to sell you something. I think you’re a smart enough consumer to decide for yourself, that’s what I did. But quit hating on this industry cuz at least here, I can be my own CEO and run my own business, and I’m fucking thankful for that.