366 Days of Gratitude

Be grateful. Every.single.day.

Love. The way I am.

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21 June 2017
Written frim the skies: Nadi to Melbourne flight. 1830pm Fiji time

Mixed feelings.
I just left Fiji, my dream country for 2017 (it was ‘the dream country’ for 2015 and 2016, too, but it was too far from where I was then).

In Fiji, I did 3 main things – surf, relax, and be alone (whenever I could) without letting people around 
me feel as if I didn’t want to be with them. Good thing is that I traveled alone, so I get the leverage. Two nights out of 3, I cried myself to sleep, listening to my favorite yoga piano playlist (the one I play for savasana during my yoga classes, or during week reflection sessions in my training courses).

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Those nights I wept, I felt so much love and abandonment at the same time. I felt so happy and so sad at the same time. I felt so strong and so weak at the same time. I felt so motivated to keep on, yet also felt like giving up…at the same f&);ng time!

I knew my heart was longing for another phase of healing, another moment to question my ‘going with the flow,’ to flash me back to my past decisions and how they are still (I guess) pulling me back every now and then. It picked this moment with no coincidence. June had always been bittersweet since 2015.

BITTER last year, when I cut my long hair too short before five *gaumarjos (toasts) of chacha (Gerogian vodka) and closed all possible communication lines to my last relationship – Whatsapp, Facebook, Skype, deleted numbers, photos, videos, messages, and printscreen quotes (of love, loss, encouragement and moving on). I waved my last goodbye, smiling. I blew my last kiss through the manually rolled-down car window as we drove away from the place I called and made MY home.

SWEET two years ago, when I moved my return flight Tbilisi-Barcelona to stay longer in Georgia, took a 9hr/overnight Soviet-vibe train for the first time, enjoyed a spontaneous roadtrip to the mountain, learned Backgammon over tea and next to a fireplace, hiked the majestic Causcasus mountains in my grey Nike trainers (that slipped and ended up dark…. and with no hiking experience), and loved every moment of uncertainty and suprise that came.

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My heart wanted me to revisit my acceptance of things, to ask myself how deeply I had forgiven myself and others. My heart needed me to take a moment before I rowed forward, moved further on, and it picked Fiji in such a random style, knowing that I would embrace anything that happened here.

It also picked surfing as a lovely metaphor of my outlook on things. At Namotu Lefts and Restaurants (surf spots), I’d excitedly jump off the boat to surf a shortboard smaller than my size and catch huuuge (4-5ft to overhead) waves that hide the horizon behind me as I paddled with all my might, well positioned to take off, my head focused on making those nice steep drops…..only to hold back, stop for a split second, scared, as I feel the wave lift me up, and curl beautifully past me…but not taking me with it. My surf in those 2 days in the beautiful clear-blue reefbreaks of Fiji humbled me. It humbled me of my ‘yeah, sure, let’s do this!’ attitude and how not all things can be done just like that. It humbled me of the fact that I may have the confidence in the outset, but it was not full, because I was not well-equipped to do it just yet. What was I thinking jumping on a shortboard without being on it for almost 4 years?

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Since 2014, I’ve been back to surfing longboards after a black-eyed surf accident in winter surf Barcelona…in front of where I was living at that time. I got tangled in big fat plastic rope dividing Puka surf spot in a line with a yellow buoy, in a heavy whirlpool that smashed me and my 7′ Roxy shortboard. The impact was so strong I ended up washing machine-ing with this rope stripping through my wetsuit and scratching a little piece of skin on my left knee. I got out alive, with my body screaming (yes, the rope got through my wetsuit, I don’t know how it happened). As soon as I unzipped my back, I touched red streaks. On my lower lip as well. And a black-eye. Well, more like a purplish-bluish-pinkish bruise on my lower right eye.

imageI remember exactly how I got out in the water in the first place. I was on ‘sick leave’ from work the day before, because I was ‘not feeling well.’ I decided to stay home that day to recuperate as I was still feeling shit. I was becoming depressed at how things were going on at work, and I just needed a break. It was really over-fatigue and stress. Then while sipping green tea in bed, I look out my window and see the enticing waves that get to visit Barceloneta beach only in the winter. I jumped out of bed, in my head, ‘f€&¶ it! I’ll surf all these negative energies out!!!!’ And there I was paddling out, taking positively over-control of my situation. Doing my ‘yeah sure, let’s do this!’ even when I was definitely not in the minimum condition to be playing out there. It ended up in regular visits to dermatologists and fisiotherapy. While I don’t admit to myself that I have trauma, I have decided to slowly but surely relearn surf from scratch again. To practice and equip myself with the right attitude and humility. To practice and practice and practice.

Back to Fiji. My heart made sure I got the message clearly by giving me this one last chance to surf today, 1.5 hours that ended up in two small cuts that didn’t really hurt so much, but I can feel the pain every now and then. It is reminding me that I need to be true to myself – to how I am meant to deal with my healing ‘the way I am’ and not ‘the way I think I should.’ It is telling me that in my positive, happy vibe, there’s a little inch of me that is still bundled up and needs some attention, too. It is telling me that in the disguise of my ‘letting things be,’ something is still pulling me back. It is telling me that in my 300+ days of breathing meditation and heart-opening yoga, there is something that I still need to truly embrace and accept.
That I need to find that ‘something.’
And set it free.

It’s time for me to be friends with my past.
Not bury it behind me, only to dig back
Every once in awhile.

‘Practice and experience love as you are,’ says my heart.
To practice love, the way I know it to be, the way I am.
Not by closed (and against my will) communication.
Not by holding myself back.
Not by silence.

No expectations.
Only openness.

I freely lift you up.
Be free.

Doing What You Love=Living

 

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Are you the one who says ‘I love my job!’ or are you the one who gets up in the morning with a heavy heart, or heavy feeling, knowing its ‘(not!!!) another day of work’?

While not all of us are lucky enough to be working (and getting paid for) doing what we love to do, there’s one thing that makes a difference – our attitude towards what we do.

I know many people who love their jobs, unfortunately, I also know many who do not – who’d rather be somewhere else doing something else, or who are bugged down by bureaucracy, heirarchy or administrative limitations to their full potential as a professional. I’m not here to tell you to quit your job (I know it’s not as easy as it looks – I’ve been there). I am here to share with you how CHANGING MY ATTITUDE (and reaction) towards my situation helped me reduce my stress, gave me freedom in my heart,  made me live a little happier, and eventually helped me in making such a big decision to let go of financial stability in exchange for my physical, emotional and mental stability (and sanity!) One thing is to feel frustrated, stressed and bad with your job every once in awhile (it’s not always nice and fun and meaningful) , it’s another thing to be in a constant struggle to force and convince yourself that you are BETTER OFF with a job you’re cynical about than jump out into the unknown. In short, it´s another thing to lie to yourself that you are actually living your life well. 

2 years into my job in a non-profit private foundation (I stayed for 5 years), I realised I was not finding meaning anymore in the work I was doing. I was dragging myself on a bicycle to go to work, where I enjoyed the 10 minute ride to the office more than I enjoyed the 8, 9 or 10 hours of the actual work itself. Sometimes, I’d get off-balanced from my bike because I was distracted by my thoughts (‘should I leave?’ ‘I don’t want to do this anymore’ ‘it’s time for change’). I was not fully focused on my goals and stopped enjoying the project(s) I was writing (I really enjoyed them when I started in the job). I stayed 3 more years, even when I knew it was time to go. I knew it was affecting the dynamics of my (then) relationship, and I knew it was unhealthy for me to stay. I knew. I really did. BUT it was a huge leap. It was an uncomfortable situation to even think about. It meant starting all over again (I was scared of the uncertainty), not knowing where to go and how to do freelancing on my own (this was my excuse!) I thought to myself ‘maybe I can still change things from the inside’ (another BIG excuse I gave myself!) Then I realised it was not because I was not ready to go. It was because I was in such a  (kinda) comfortable place (I have a job that matches with my studies, my passion, and many people would want to be in my place). Too comfortable that moving away from it would give me the biggest and most uncomfortable WHY?

‘Meg, but your job is so cool, you travel around the world and you get to meet lots of interesting peacebuilders! Why leave?’ ‘You are lucky you have a job, and in Barcelona…in Spain where there’s a huge unemployment.’

That’s just one aspect of my job that people saw. The day to day is much different. Anyway, I chose to stick to the comfort of having a job that I was not happy doing, even if I was not growing anymore. Yes, our comfort zone is a nice place to be in, but we don’t learn anything anymore. I made too many excuses to stay (good partners, didn’t want to leave a project halfway through, interesting new initiatives, I have my autonomy as director, it’s Barcelona, etc) Too many excuses to drown me, yet at the same time keep me afloat all those years (I have to be sane).

In 2013, I decided that since I was not ‘ready’ to leave (whatever the word ‘ready’ meant), I needed to change my perspective and attitude towards my job. I asked to come to work at 11am  most days (I stay until 9 or 10 pm anyway!) I asked to work from home on Fridays or Mondays (it did not quite last awhile). I cut down on my project-proposal writing and focused my time on doing quality work with the good (and sustainable) project partnerships I had. I decided to co-author a manual with a great team. I spent more quality time with my volunteers and colleagues (who were wonderful people!) I decided not to ‘take home’ work. I focused to get more training courses approved (so I get to facilitate them). I made friends with the building cleaning ladies and would sometimes join them for a chitchat while they sit and have their snack. I enrolled in the gym next to my house and made commitments with people to join them for swimming sprints, kickboxing classes, after-yoga yerba mate sessions on the beach (that was my way to get my butt out of my chair and throw myself out of the office when it´s time to go). I did my best to enjoy my weekends fully (which meant not opening my laptop, nor talking about work). I made some guidelines for myself and my (then) partner to only engage in work related conversations during weekdays AND office hours (because we worked together!) I started enjoying more movies and spending less time in typing in my laptop whenever I can. I started yoga again, swam 3 times a week, and then went back to capoeira (again to give me reasons to leave the office!)

I realized, what´s the use of my financial stability when I am not living my life fully? What is my financial stability for anyway? To live well and comfortably in the future? At the expense of what? The present. It started to not make sense.  

Then in 2014, I said ‘basta ya!’ I decided to leave for good. I decided I didn’t want to continue anymore, and I had to negotiate it with my colleagues. Slowly, I felt being liberated; I felt the chains around my whole body slowly loosening up. It took me a full year after that to really clean up and free myself from the organisation (pending reports, back-payments I had yet to receive and whatever) and the little strings attached to me.

My first year as a freelance trainer was challenging. I was testing the hot waters, and I was not very good at selling (marketing) myself, partly because I was not comfortable with talking about myself (and preferred if people saw how I actually worked; or that I get recommended),  partly because I wanted to ‘take a break’ from the NGO world for awhile and enjoy life. I *wanted* to recuperate those times I missed living life while being stuck in a stressful job I chose so myself. But I also knew I could never get that time back. I learned to stop looking back at ‘what ifs’ and start enjoying what I had at each moment (with a paying or voluntary project or not, it did not really matter). Right after leaving my job, I spent the first 6 months traveling and doing what I love – I went on a cross-country roadtrip, enjoyed babysitting my godson,  visited friends and family, went back to re-learning my Mandarin,  did lots of yoga, lived near the beach, joined surfing meet-ups from Redondo Beach, to Newport, to Hermosa and Venice beach, and challenged myself into a liquid cleanse for nearly a month! I was in the ‘I can do whatever I want’ mode and it felt great. I took my time to recover and to prepare myself for the ‘freelance world’ that I knew I would have to hustle for. I promised myself I will not work on jobs, organisations, companies that I don’t fully share principles and values with. The 6 months of ‘recuperation’ became a year, then two years, and I am still there now. I’m still here. But I don’t call it ‘recuperation time’ anymore. I call it living life. Living life to the fullest. Living life with no regrets. (And I don’t think I’d want to be anywhere else).

So yes, I don’t have a million in my bank account (something I could have saved for if I wanted to). I don’t have a wallet (I have a small pouch with mostly travel, business, health insurance and a credit card and not a lot of cash!) ( I have a plastic pouch with like 10 different currencies I don’t actually know the value anymore) And I think I am actually towards the fine thread of my savings BUT I am HAPPY!!! 

I am excited whenever I start firing up in my laptop because I am learning a lot from this research consultancy I am doing here in the Caribbean (which ends in a month’s time).  And while it lasts, I get to interview wonderful social workers, government staff and peacebuilders, learn their stories and listen to their challenges about crime and violence in their countries. I get to put their insights together into a report I am writing- I´m like a messenger (how cool is that?) I get to sing to funky 80’s and highschool songs as I write this report. And I get to take short breaks to read, blend a smoothie, walk in the rain, and keep motivating myself by writing these blogs.

I am surrounded by wonderful, caring, cool and inspiring people that I know I attract with my positive energy.  I learned to let go of negative energy (and people!) in my life and keep some space for new ones to come in (I just met wonderful new friends in Trinidad and Tobago, Jamaica, Cayman Islands, and Cuba!) I live in a city I feel at home in and do not want to get away/escape from. I eat healthy. I get to joke and share my day/month with my family in our group chat (we are usually all over the place)! I get to enjoy some luxuries like a sailing adventure, a massage or good sushi, and I get to live my life the way I want to – full of beaches and white sand, catching too much sunshine, of music and dancing, of green tea (some Butterfinger and Doritos cheese, too). I get to do breathing exercises every morning, write in my journal, practice yoga, capoeira, go surfing, lay on the sand, and still make a difference in this world (mostly surrounded by nice flipcharts, or Human Development Reports and people who want to learn about conflict transformation). I am learning to let things be, to accept where I am today, and to just ‘go with the waves.’

I wake up happy and I go to bed happy. I am not afraid (and embarrassed) to sing anymore.

I am doing what I love. Back to being who I genuinely am.

It´s not about having the perfect or best job (does not really exist without our input). It´s how we see it and live the working experience day in and day out. I changed my attitude towards what was uncomfortable in my job, and it helped me to change my life completely to the beautiful way I am living right at this moment. You can, too.

It’s not perfect, but it´s a beautiful life. Everyday is fresh. And it works for me.

My heart is full……now that’s something no money, nor financial stability, nor a 5-digit high paying, comfortable (but meaningless) job can buy. Neither can it assure me of tomorrow.

*Please share to people who might need some kind of gentle push =) 

Let Things Fall Apart

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Today I finished the book that (I let) guide me through my process of healing and empowerment. Every single day since August 6th, I would read a couple of pages of this book (sometimes a whole short chapter). Every day, wisdom and compassion from the pages of this book would assure me that what I was going through was ok, that I need to face it, that I need no shortcuts. Whatever my emotions are at that moment (while reading) I’d acknowledge as what is, and I have learned to let it be. Just let it be.

And today I feel free. As I finished the last paragraph of the book, I felt sad but at the same time some freedom in my heart. The teachings and techniques have guided me (some more than others) and so it felt a bit awkward to put the book down and say goodbye.

My journey to accepting what is, has been difficult and challenging, especially because I was in denial of the extreme pain that one situation (and person?) can inflict on a positive and happy woman in me. I held on tightly to the idea of ‘I will fight with my all’ and forgot to realise that ‘fighting’ comes in different forms, and how I was letting it hold me back from living the present (even when I have convinced myself that THAT was what living the present meant to me).

The book ends with ‘the path is the goal’ that if there’s any possibility for enlightenment, it is RIGHT NOW.  That this path exists moment by moment and drops away behind me. That the source of wisdom and change is whatever that is happening right at this moment, at this very instant.  Sadness, anger, hurt, and at the same time freedom and laughter fills inside me, and that how I relate to it at this very instant determines and creates the future.

I learned again to befriend the crazy emotions in my heart, to be compassionate to myself and my struggle, to smile back at the tight fist stuck in my heart, and to tell myself to soften up or shout at the top of my lungs-whatever feels right at this very moment. To let it be. Freely. Genuinely.

So here’s a share of my liberty. Of my oppeness and acceptance to sit still in the midst of chaos, to be present right now, and to take that leap into the unknown. I know it’s all part of life. So be it.

And yes. I feel authentic enough (to write) today, hence I am back in this blog =)

Today, I am grateful for: all the support from friends, family, even acquaintances, in this journey.


 

A heart of gratitude makes a beautiful and happy life.

12033057_10156306927655713_1845226193648438575_nHello everyone! My name is Meg, and this is a personal project I have been working on for quite awhile now. This is a fruit of my own practice of 366 days of gratitude, conversations with people, constant reflection, and mindfulness and inner peace practice that gives meaning to every single day I get to live.

I cannot say “Thank You” enough for everything I had and have been given. But I can share them, and make them an instrument to inspire others around me to be grateful.

I have become happier in life, and you can be, too! – M