Showing Up for Yourself

Not unlike many Foreign Service families, we traveled this summer to soak up quality time with loved ones. Wanting to take advantage of being back in the states, we stayed busy. Days were full of celebrating with yummy meals, museum visits, outdoor activities, creative pursuits, exploration, and play dates.

But while giving our active seven year-old the kind of amazing summer I wanted us to have, I frequently made less-than-healthy choices for myself. Mindful eating, writing, and yoga practices became obsolete. I tossed out my personal barriers easily, right along with the ticket stubs and latte receipts.

When I was younger, this didn’t seem to affect me much. But in my forties, perhaps unsurprisingly, I came home after weeks of summering feeling fulfilled, but also frustrated. In some ways, I hadn’t shown up for myself. My body felt wrecked, and I was disappointed that I hadn’t said yes to committing to my personal goals.

The school year resumed, and I took steps toward a healthier, more centered existence, but I wanted something to hold onto in the future that would allow for all the fun and the showing up, especially when far from home. But what was the answer?

Do you ever feel the universe is trying to tell you something? Like a higher power is saying, Hey! Could you pay attention this time, Please?” Three times in one morning, I heard the same, clear message: Show Up.

I made my favorite French tea, pasted a few images into a vision board, and read pages of Rachel Hollis’ book, “Girl, Wash Your Face,“in which she emphasized the importance of showing up  and keeping commitments for ourselves as we do for others. She asked, “would you keep hanging out with a friend always flaking out on you?”  To summarize the response: no, you wouldn’t. Commit to your dreams and goals and treat yourself as well as you do everyone else in your orbit.  Good reminder, I thought.

I had recently signed up for, but not completed, Meghan Genge’s “Magical Morning” E-Course. When I opened her email (nine days after it arrived), her message was clear: “Continue to show up for yourself. Every morning. Because magic will start to happen when you start your day mindfully.”  Hmmm. Twice I’ve heard this today.  I worked out what my morning ritual would be: light a candle, tap a singing bowl, set priorities for the day, write in my journal, and stretch.

When I opened a recommended video called “Yoga with Adrienne,” sure enough, in the introduction she said, “Show up, even if you’re tired. Commit to dedicating to your yoga practice for yourself.” Ok, universe, now you have my attention.

Once I returned to a daily ritual and carved out time for exercise and reflection, that was it! The answer was clear: a morning routine that took all of 30 minutes and made all of the difference. I still straightened the house, typed out my carefully-calculated word count, ran errands, made appointments, and planned and prepped dinner. Some days, I was even busier than while on our jam-packed summer break, but the key was that I also factored in mindfulness. I showed up for myself and the universe came knocking with its gentle reminders.

Do you have a morning routine or a way of showing up for yourself? What tools do you use to commit to your personal goals and make your way back to center?

So much abundance to you,

Tracy

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Beautiful Broken

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I am a silver-lining seeker. I embrace the positives and look for enchantment, of which Honduras has plenty. The first few months in a new country are like dating, figuring out the cultural nuances, the moods, likes and dislikes. Overall, we enjoy it here. The people are kind. You can’t beat this consistently pleasant climate. Villages  are charming and the coastal regions are stunningly beautiful.

This morning is gorgeous. A cool breeze flows in through the open windows. Our garden is a little sanctuary of birds and flowers. An unexpected sunflower has grown from scattered birdseed and the cactus is blooming.

Yet, I feel a little panic rising. Although there is no imminent threat, there have been bouts of political upheaval these last couple of months, stemming from the controversial Presidential election in December of 2017. Recently, teachers and doctors have had their tenures revoked and were fired. This comes on the heels of the President’s brother being indicted for drug and fraud charges, spurring objection to the current administration. Although most incidents are peaceful here, I think about Easter week, where the mayor’s residence was burned down, looting shattered store fronts, and a vigilante-style shooting occurred. It was an anomaly. But it happened. (BBC Article).

Although our residence is like a fortress, I admit to being a little anxiety-riddled after the bombings during our time in Egypt. Rarely is any of the violence against Westerners. It’s just the potential that we could be caught up in the collateral damage that scares me. It’s the not-knowing and apprehension of what could happen if protests turn into no-kidding uprising. My heart beats faster, my breathing feels more shallow in response to hearing sirens, persistent honking, and the thud of tear gas being deployed in the distance. Helicopters are circling, perhaps the news or the police. Citizens passionately chant “Fuera JOH! (President Juan Orlando Hernandez).

Emails and texts are pinging my phone: “Planned manifestations could shut the city down and cause road closures and blockades. Try not to use your vehicle. Businesses may close.” A little fearmongering starts to spread on social media within the well-intentioned local community, spinning me up even more. Photos are shared of buses blocking highways, smoke rising from burning tires, hordes of people marching in the streets, held at bay by police in raid gear. I concentrate with laser-focus on the echoes of loud pops and cracking sounds outside. Logically, I know its just fireworks used by protesters to annoy police, but my body reacts as if they are gun shots and goes into fight or flight syndrome.

My mind starts emergency planning. Should I rush to fill my car with petrol so we can evacuate if necessary? Can I get to my child at school through the protests? (My thoughts recall my husband’s gentle voice during the incidents in Cairo- “I know this goes against your instincts, but please don’t try to be a hero and try to get to him. He’s safer at school.”) But I want to go get him. Right now! And cuddle him in and protect him.

Do I have enough water and food in our safe haven? Should I run to the store to load up on groceries in case it’s impossible to get there tomorrow? Most of this is unlikely, but after 3 posts in developing countries, we’ve experienced situations that arise and escalate quickly. Living overseas has its ups and downs.

April was hard with Brad out of town for work. Protests started along with the rainy season, which brought water leaks. School was cancelled and Ramsay and I had cabin fever. During Easter, I was homesick, not sleeping well, and missing family and close friends. I went into my shell, miserable and scared and wanting not this. And to be not here. There were moments of wanting to cut bait and choose safety. Brad, always supportive, kindly said, “Go. Take Ramsay and go to the States for a while.” I was tempted, but I felt like leaving would be giving up on our family somehow, and not giving our new country a chance. Maybe I was just over-reacting, I told myself. We’re still adjusting to living here, I deliberated. But in the end, I couldn’t justify taking Rams out of school long-term.

A peaceful week passed, and life was back to normal. A friend and I ventured out to view museums and churches. I love the historic center downtown, especially the old post office. On the day we visited, there was a strong police presence, and a lot of political graffiti, but it was quiet and I felt safe. The pretty architecture and care put into these exhibits gave me hope for Honduras.

Last weekend, our family traveled to Lago de Yajoa, where it is tranquil. On a birding tour, I was elated to be immersed in nature and see its picturesque creatures, landscapes, and fields of lilies.  I remind myself to keep looking for the magical moments like these that wait around the next corner.

This is life in a beautiful, but broken country.  Honduras and I will continue this journey together, one day at a time, alternating from heads to tails on this two-sided coin of yin and yang.

Peace and Light, 

Tracy

A Process of Unfurling

There are always those first night noises in a new home that take some getting used to, such as the loud clanging as cars drive over a loose metal grate outside our front door. Standing in the garden each morning, I relish the temperate climate and beautiful bird calls. I smile at the sight of fuchsia roses blooming, but feel isolated inside high walls and loops of wire studded with unfriendly razors. I try to remember that in our apartment in Cairo, I would long for a patch of grass, which we now have in Honduras.

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I see a crow flying overhead with a twig in its mouth, nesting just like me. It hasn’t sunk in yet that I live in Central America. I’m not a guest here. I’m a neighbor. This is all part of the transition, acclimating to the newness of everything, and practicing gratitude to buoy myself on challenging days. Making meals from small grocery runs and figuring out what’s near our neighborhood without a car. There must be 8 sets of keys for all our doors and I never seem to get it right the first time. Our alarm didn’t work upon arrival because “someone stole the fiber optic cables a few days beforehand.” My broken Spanish fails me, and I feel defeated, until I remember I have Google Translate on my phone, but then hear in my head the repeated advice:  “don’t take your phone out in public.” Sigh. One step forward, two steps back.

It’s overwhelming trying to ascertain what are the real dangers vs. those just perceived? Can I really not walk around the city during the day at all? “Absolutely not.” and “Yes…before dark, but no jewelry, no purse, and dress down” are the different answers. So, I make the choice to venture out on foot, albeit carefully, and buy myself flowers at a tiny roadside tienda 2 blocks from my house.  I return with a sense of victory. Is this ridiculous behavior on my part? Is my reaction? I don’t know yet, frankly.

It’s always about 3 weeks into these international moves that something shifts for the better. My mind that has been racing starts to slow down, my thoughts no longer like a skittish cat. We have found good coffee, sleep comes more easily, and we are feeling more centered. My body that has been on high alert and achy from moving furniture starts to relax. I can begin planning beyond today and a process of unfurling happens incrementally.

Happiness in life really is about the little things. I get out with some great women for lunch and we explore a lovely pueblo outside of town. I make my first Honduran purchase, a pretty hand-carved lantern made of clay and green marbles. It seems fitting, this gift of illumination for our home.

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On a second outing,  I venture downtown with another expat who has lived here a few years. I’m elated by the pretty architecture, careful landscaping of a gorgeous courtyard, the rich history, and colorful markets. Too, though, there is peeling paint, graffiti, areas of abject poverty, too much litter in the river, and the story of a bus driver who was shot for not paying taxes to the extortionists. Like any relationship, in committing to a new country, you get to know the good, bad, and the ugly. (I usually end up falling in love with these countries, even the tough ones).

The house is settling in a bit with the arrival of our art, books, photos, carpets, pillows and blankets, pots and pans and favorite coffee mugs. Things that make me feel more like me. Organically, we have all quietly created spaces in the house that are “ours.” An office for Brad, a toy room for Ramsay, a writing space for me. And today, I got out my fountain pen and my journal, a sure sign that everything else is okay and I have time now to sit and ponder, feeling fortunate to be a part of this very interesting life in this new place. The journey continues… oxoxo, Tracy