I am what I do. And you are too!

As I pack up yet again for my impending travels, through organizing my things I came across a stash of letters and cards from friends and family. It was a treat to read them and I noticed how many folks made mention of things like my courageousness and adventurousness and my traveling vagabond ways. “Free spirit!” they called me.

Owning the “free spirit” label or even calling myself a traveler has been a long time in the making. In fact, it’s still in progress. Much like I can be in denial of the traits I don’t want to possess, I find that I am often in denial of the desirable traits I do possess.

I noticed that this is due in part to meeting so many other travelers on the road who are so well traveled and, shall we say, more graceful (as in, they’ve never run through dark forests trying to look like a crazy person so they didn’t get attacked). My friend J, for example, traveled around the world for two years before moving from Portugal to Italy where he got fluent in Italian in a matter of months and went on the job market in the financial sector. He is always optimistic and brimming with joy. Even more so when things go awry. Compared to J, I think to myself, I’m not a free spirited traveler at all!

But when I parse out what it is that I do (travel) from how I feel about what I do (mixed feelings from joy to utter terror), I notice that J and I are the same. Travelers travel. Some travelers (J) thrive on all aspects of their travels and others (me) travel despite bouts of fear, loneliness, and weariness. It is both in my comparison to others and in coming around to a new way of being or doing (it just takes me a while to adjust to changes with my identity), that I discount the things I do and who I am.

The truth is, you don’t have to do what you do perfectly, professional or even all that well. But if you travel, write, draw, study, etc. often and it’s inextricably a part of your life, then you are a traveler, writer, artist, student, etc.

I am what I do. And you are, too. Good, bad, or otherwise.

Showing up.

Perhaps as a symptom of my perfectionism (which I didn’t know I had until I read Brene Brown’s Daring Greatly), I thought I had to, or at the very least could, fix transform my habits and traits before I went out and interacted with the dynamic world as a me I was really happy with.

But the past four years of adventuring and consistently disturbing the bounds of my comfort zone revealed a different strategy to me.

I’ve stepped into dynamic situations which called upon certain traits in me, at whatever level of development—highly polished to seriously scraggly—and revealed an even greater capacity— to be flexible, kind, strong— than I thought I had.

I’ve started to see myself as less fixed and more dynamic. Traits were called up like numbers in a Bingo game and, much to my surprise, they responded.

For example, imagine:
You are alone, it’s dark and your hotel room is ½ a mile away. The only way to get there is on a dirt path through the woods by foot (no motorized transport on this island). Oh, and you’re freaked.out.scared. That was a situation I created for myself by meeting a friend for a piña colada at a restaurant half way in between where each of us was staying on Little Corn Island in Nicaragua.

Courage was called up like B7 and I was like BINGO. Yes I felt fear and for a moment it felt all encompassing, but then courage arose. Right on cue.

After the situation was over and I was safe, I got to add to my courage bank. The accumulation of these kinds of experiences (where courage or any other given quality is called upon) helps me to think of myself as more courageous.

I don’t have to will myself to be something I feel I’m not; I just show up to my life willingly, see what it asks of me, and notice what rises up in response.

To enhance this process, I’ve been working on noticing when I have a fixed view of myself which isn’t serving me: Mary is like this, therefore she doesn’t/won’t/can’t do that. Then I actively call up exceptions in my mind. We can usually think of at least one exception which means we have some currency in the bank of the traits we want to build on.

p.s. On Little Corn Island I ran the whole way back, figuring any crazy animals or persons hiding in the woods would think I was even crazier. I highly recommend this technique for women feeling scared in foreign countries. I should also say that Little Corn is very safe because the economy is entirely dependent on tourism. My fear, like my courage, was self-created.

Photo credit: bridges&balloons

How to get unstuck.

“Don’t wait for the right answer and the golden path to present themselves.

This is precisely why you’re stuck. Starting without seeing the end is difficult, so we often wait until we see the end, scanning relentlessly for the right way, the best way and the perfect way.

The way to get unstuck is to start down the wrong path, right now.

Step by step, page by page, interaction by interaction. As you start moving, you can’t help but improve, can’t help but incrementally find yourself getting back toward your north star.

You might not end up with perfect, but it’s significantly more valuable than being stuck.

Don’t just start. Continue. Ship. Repeat.”

From Seth Godin’s blog

He’s part of my team of supporters in my effort to Go!