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.

How Alcohol Gave Me Anxiety- From Breakdowns to Breakthroughs

I’ve never understood what anxiety was or the ways in which it could cripple your life. I’ve never been an anxious person, nor have I suffered from anxiety in the way some people do. Whenever people spoke to me about their anxiety I couldn’t really connect because I simply couldn’t relate. As a child I was always moving and talking but I don’t remember having social anxiety or feeling like anxiety was affecting my life in any way. After almost 3 months sober I am finally able to see the ways in which my anxiety was a direct cause of my drinking.

Anxiety came rushing into my life about 4 years ago for the first time. Being completely ill-equipped to deal with it, I didn’t even recognize it as anxiety at first! It would come in waves and started gripping me during social situations. Being a traveler you are constantly meeting new people and making first impressions, being asked to sum up your life in 10 seconds and explain who you are and what you represent to people you just met. I’d always identified myself as an extrovert so when I started getting to the point that social conversations with new people because stressful, I started drinking more. Drinking was a HUGELY socially acceptable part of not only every other facet of life but especially the diving community and was the number one way to network with other instructors or people involved in the industry. Booze fueled my travels and social interactions, it helped me make friends and even got me job offers in the middle of the evening, completely sauced. This all gave me the illusion that drinking was helping me make connections and get to where I want.

About a year ago I started feeling hyper sensitive to energy that was surrounding me and became extremely susceptible to picking up and carrying the negative energies of others. I wasn’t healthy spiritually, mentally or physically so I wasn’t able to protect myself from any of this, nor did I have the awareness to identify it was happening. I started having these completely random moments of panic where I felt like something terrible was about to happen, where it consumed me and I found myself in the midst of my first panic attack.

In March of last year I had my first emotional breakdown. You know those “mid life crisis” breakdowns everyone speaks about but mostly in a joking manner? Yea, well… at almost 30 years old I had a alcohol induced emotional breakdown that left me completely scared, lost and alone. This moment became my first tipping point. I recognized this encroaching anxiety as a cry for help from my body. I realized it was time to do something drastic but I wasn’t ready yet to pinpoint exactly what I needed.

I sought out sobriety first to get my life back under control, seeing the ways in which alcohol lowered my self esteem, caused a whirlwind of shame, kept my brain cloudy, and forced me to seek refuge again in the very thing that was causing me to feel this way in the first place. I did great for 6 weeks, really dived into my yoga practice and started actually exploring my own spirituality for the first time. Things started to fall into alignment and once my self esteem went back up and I felt in control, I went back to drinking again.

Guess what happened? Nothing changed! I slipped right back to where I started. I would balance my life for awhile until I would get a bee in my bonnet, go back on a bender, and then start my self depreciation and self loathing cycle all over again. This resulted in huge anxiety that I was unable to control. When I felt all these feelings my first instinct was to have a drink to get my anxiety under control. The thing is, I always knew in the back of my mind that all of this could be controlled and eliminated if I simply quit drinking, but that seemed way too dramatic. I couldn’t and wouldn’t admit that I’d failed! I had failed to control my drinking and substance abuse 10 years before and ended up in rehab, the ultimate mark of an addict! I didn’t want to admit my own failure again. I simply wasn’t ready and I was scared of not being able to do it.

I had to BREAKDOWN to BREAKTHROUGH! This was 2018 folks! Not only for me but the story I’ve heard from so many loved ones! Maybe you had a breakdown, or maybe you had a breakthrough or maybe both! Energetically this was an extremely difficult year. If you are relating to any of this, or if this resonates with you, I hope that you’ll seriously consider making some changes for 2019.

In a few days I will be 3 months sober. My anxiety is completely gone and although I have anxious moments about normal things that happen in life, I no longer suffer from panic attacks or emotional breakdowns. The thing is, introverts or people who suffer from anxiety typically tend to drink more- feeling the need to relax during social interactions they reach for a beer to calm the nerves and believe that this is actually helping them. The reality is that we’re all a little anxious, that sometimes human interaction is difficult and that’s okay. I’ve had to learn to be my bubbly self without alcohol, I’ve had to learn to dance and laugh and be silly without having any “liquid courage” to do it! Although introverts usually seek alcohol out to make them feel more extroverted, my extrovert personality paired perfectly with drinking and partying and in turn give me anxiety. A different route but the same result.

One of my biggest fears about quitting drinking was losing my “party girl” persona. I didn’t think I’d be as much fun and I was afraid people wouldn’t view me that way anymore! I know now that I’m just as much fun, that my interactions come from the heart, that when I connect with people it comes from a real place. I don’t fake small chat anymore and I don’t stay in situations or around people that give my intuition red flags- before I could ignore my own signals by consuming more booze, now I listen to what my body tells me and invest in the people and moments that bring me joy.

I still have INCREDIBLY awkward moments sometimes out at bars and in basic interactions. But I’ve learned to laugh it off because I know that I’m being authentic and we all are trying to connect in the same way. I see now that drinking added so much anxiety to my every day life. If I wasn’t anxious while I was drinking, I was anxious afterwards while I suffered from a hangover and a load of shame, when I felt bad for all the things I wasn’t accomplishing and the way in which I was wasting my time and wasting my life. Because of that anxiety I would just reach for the one thing that gave it to me in the first place and tried to fix A MILLION other things about my life first, instead of starting with the most important step.

You don’t need to be an alcoholic to stop drinking! I know, I know, crazy right!?! You don’t need to label yourself in any way! I for one, don’t like the term alcoholic. It makes it seem like I’m doomed to spend my life wanting something I can’t have. That doesn’t sound like freedom, and I no longer want something that caused me so much misery! I think most of us can agree that drinking affects us in negative ways, but we simply can’t imagine a life without it. If this is you, I hope you hear me- it is possible! And WAY easier than you think! I am happier than I’ve ever been. I’ve found purpose and true joy. I’ve learned that I can handle anything life throws at me sober and that I do not NEED to rely on any substance to live happily! I have never felt more free knowing that I no longer want to poison my body with a substance that has literally never given me anything in return, but remorse.

The cycle of alcohol and anxiety is huge! It affects so many people and we have all been fooled into thinking that alcohol gives us more courage, makes us more funny, lessens our anxiety, calms our nerves and does a MILLION other things!

STOP! Quit lying to yourself and quit letting the rest of the world lie to you too! There is no black and white! There are no “good drinkers” and “bad drinkers”! There are soooo many in-betweeners like me! The grey area drinkers that woke up and realized that alcohol was a waste of money, time, and energy. I’m happy to have myself back and I’m blessed to go into 2019 free from something that used to consume me. From breakdowns, to breakthroughs, I’m telling you, I’ve been there. Bring it, 2019!

I didn’t think I’d be this girl

I didn’t always think I’d be this girl.

I had this idea of constant evolution

which we are, aren’t we?

Constantly evolving?

I thought I’d eventually evolve into

the person I was meant to be,

leaving behind all the pain.

Thinking the unfinished business

would turn itself into eventual awareness.

Not realizing that I had to do the work.

Not realizing that happiness has to be maintained.

It isn’t a state of arrival where

you coast once you’re there.

There is no finish line.

Continue reading

a not so how-to guide about happiness.

Burning Man 2015

Burning Man 2015

Many people have told me that high school is the best years of your life, but I’ve always thought the 20’s would be better. I didn’t know who I was in high school or what I was all about and I assumed that I’d work all those things out during my twenties. I knew certain things about myself but without the years of experience behind me I didn’t know that the things I did wouldn’t always be in the past. I didn’t know that sometimes after a lot of mistakes these things would catch up with you and start to become a part of who you are. I know we can all start over but what happens when you wake up one day and discover that some of those mistakes weren’t one-offs but actually YOU; that there are patterns in your behavior that you wish you could change?

I’ve always believed that awareness was half the battle. Most people aren’t even aware of their behaviors, it’s amazing to me that people can be so out of touch with themselves… but I guess I can’t blame any of us either, floating around in a world of constant distractions, stimulations and judgements. If you have the awareness then you’ve already gone through the hard part. You’ve already decided that there needs to be a change to be where you want to be. I had a professor once that told me, “the key to life is to always remain a little off balance”. She said that we should do this because if we get too comfortable then we aren’t as receptive to new situations and in touch with our life experiences. Her words have stuck with me since, as a constant reminder to continue to do things on a regular basis that are outside my comfort zone. In the uncomfortable unbalance we eventually find our way into the answers.

This year Burning Man tore me wide open. My virgin Burn last year wasn’t quite so intense, I mean it was, but it took me months to actually process it. When I left this year I felt so vulnerable- I had spent the last 2 weeks with a group of people where vulnerability was the norm, saying what you felt was expected and encouraged, and radical self reliance was what the entire experience was all about. But when I dropped off my last friend at the airport in Colorado and began the journey back to Minnesota, I had tears in my eyes. I felt so emotional and so raw. Coming home usually brings me a sense of relief, your own bed again and familiar surroundings… but after everything I’d come to terms with I wasn’t sure how ready I was to go back to reality. Then after getting home I went back to my normal cusp of energy and went through about a week of burning the candle at both ends before I realized something… I wasn’t processing, instead I was distracting myself from processing my experience. I slipped right back into the Lauryn I am when I’m back here, and it took until BM to realize that I had lost myself, and a lot more of myself in the last 6 months than I had any idea of. The last month has shown me who I am and who I’m capable of being again and in that vulnerability I found a reminder of my own power and was able to reconnect with that little girl inside of me again.

And I guess that’s the point. We won’t always have the answers and we will have some time periods where we aren’t necessarily who we want to be. Sometimes we’re aware of this and other times we’re just stuck in a funk. But as long as we honor ourselves and take time every day to be by ourselves and check in with ourselves then we’re doing something right. Because if I’ve learned anything this year it’s that happiness isn’t something we have, it’s something we need to maintain on a daily basis. You cannot arrive at your destination happy and continue to keep the happiness unless it is maintained. Without that we just slowly slip back into that void where we’re not feeling like ourselves. As important as the journey is, the worst thing in the world would be arriving there and realizing you don’t even know yourself anymore.

Everyone is capable of change, but hold yourself lightly and don’t expect drastic changes all at once. If you are feeling like you somehow ended up in a place you don’t want to be, just know that the awareness you have now will guide you into the answers, but only if you honor and listen to yourself first. We must all maintain our own happiness, no one else can do that for us.