Sustainability

Happy New Year to you all! Thank you for being here and for including me in your life as we begin this year together. I so deeply appreciate the time you share with me out of your full lives and I strive to make this blog a place worthy of you.

How do you approach the new year? Do you set a laundry list of resolutions? Do you do some careful reflection and goal setting? Do you see January 1st as the same as February 1st or August 1st- simply another new month in the ongoing rotation? Or have you let go of all such notions and find yourself liberated from the yearly ritual? I’m honestly curious…what works for you?

Over the years, I’ve arrived at some kind of new-year-new-you middle ground. I admit that I relish a sparkly new calendar and the sense of “clean slate” that comes with one year sliding into the next. As I said recently, I like to mark time, to bring my awareness to the days and months and years as they pass. And I like ritual, whether it’s taking a few moments to cup a steaming mug in the mornings or lighting a candle and pausing to say thank you when I sit down to meditate each day. And piled on top of both of those things is my inherent and fervent belief in our ability to begin again and again and again, that we are always able to start fresh whenever we are ready and willing to take on the work. This applies, of course, to any day of the year, but I can’t help but believe there is a natural inclination toward new beginnings in this season in particular. After all, in addition to it being a new calendar year, we’ve also just celebrated the solstice, meaning that the days are growing incrementally longer and the promise of spring and growth lies ahead. These long mid-winter days and that promise would lend themselves to reflection and planning even without the turn of the calendar, but the fledgling year just begs us to to take stock and think about what we want.

I mentioned a few years ago that I don’t really do resolutions anymore, but that I choose a “word of the year” instead (btw, that post has some great resources at the end if you are looking for some extra tools...). That’s not entirely true. I do set resolutions…I resolve once again to do my work-  to continue to strive toward greater kindness and compassion, greater understanding and openness, less fear (and certainly fear-based decision-making), to be fierce in my love and my passion and my honesty and my integrity, to find humor and lightness tucked in with heaviness and pain. These are standing resolutions and I will always have work to do here. I also set goals for the year, both personal and professional, as well as review what worked and what didn’t in the year behind us, where I grew and where I stalled. But the “word of the year” continues to be a cornerstone of my approach to the coming year. 

I love the process of figuring out my word. Trying to find a single, succinct, encompassing word that will act as a filter in each decision I make. I’ve used Susannah Conway’s word-finding tool in the past, but I find that I haven’t needed it lately. When I allow myself a little time and space, it seems that the word I need most tends to present itself (or, you know, scream at me from my subconscious at the top of its lungs). As you may have guessed by now, this year, my word is SUSTAINABILITY.

Sustainability.

With every decision I make, from how I approach my work to the energy I give to relationships to whether or not I make time for my run in the woods, I will ask myself, “Is this sustainable? Am I creating sustainable habits and practices?” To proceed, the answer must be yes. I find myself decidedly uninterested in short-term results, in superficial band-aids. I want to build a life that is sustainable over time, that has a strong foundation of intentional decision making, clear and reasonable boundaries, and that prioritizes the truly important things in my life (as opposed to the simply “urgent”). This means being okay with things taking time. This means being okay with people sometimes being disappointed or irritated with me. This means being okay with saying no to projects and opportunities that don’t move my life and work in the direction I’m going, even when they are appealing or I could use the money.

This also means choosing to trust in the idea of abundance and to continue to let go of the fear that comes from a scarcity mindset. The life I build is only sustainable if I recognize that I have enough (food, friends, love, money, talent, ideas, etc etc etc) and that I am enough. It’s that last part that is a doozy for me. But I am. And you are. And when we really and truly let go and believe that, whoa nelly- hold on to your hats because magic happens. And work, of course- so much work- but work that is thrilling and energizing, work that fills your tank and lights you on fire. I’m not just talking about professional work, I’m talking about life work. The work of relationships, the work of self-care, the work of growth and adventure and dream chasing. We have it within us. We are enough and we have enough to make the necessary choices to build truly sustainable lives.

So that’s what I want as I move into this sparkling new year. That's my primary goal. That's my word.

Sustainability. 

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Can you guys believe I'm still sharing photos from our trip east from Reno? A few more will be heading your way (Glacier and Wind Cave and Badlands National Parks after these last few from Yellowstone!)...just think, by the time you see all of these, I'll have more for you from the next leg! Ain't traveling grand?!?

Go Time

D-day is upon us, you guys. It's time to do this thing.

At times, this has felt like the world's longest transition, from selling our home, to renovating our camper, to adjusting to temporary camper life, to moving into this sweet little rental for the last few months as we wrapped up what we could of the life we've built here in Maine. At other moments, it's felt like the minutes were slipping past like sand and I've been struggling to find a way to hang on to them even for an extra breath or two. 

It turns out that time neither speeds up nor slows down, however, and we must simply bring our best awareness to the moments before us. Shocking, I know. So here we go. Unsure and a little shaky on our feet. It's sinking in that this is no two-week road trip vacation, but a decision for the long haul, a choice to change the years ahead of us. It lacks the glamour of the vacation road trip...it won't be all shiny vistas and unplugged adventure- we'll need to plug in, get wifi, have access to showers so we can go to work. We have bills to pay and responsibilities that we won't step away from. This isn't Travels With Charley or even Blue Highways, but rather some other story of long-term change that we haven't quite wrapped our heads around yet. 

Our journey will happen in three-month intervals, as Justin will be travel nursing and the average travel nurse contract is for approximately 12-ish weeks. While we'll drive away from Maine tomorrow without a specific nursing job in hand yet, we've decided to try to make our first official stop in the Austin/San Antonio area of Texas! We'll take 2-3 weeks to get there with a few stops along the way to see the sights and visit with friends and family. This is our very rough itinerary...let us know if you'd like to meet up for coffee along the way!

A: Leaving our sweet little rental cottage in Alna, Maine
B: Hugging Justin's folks long and hard in Hollis, NH
C: Visiting with our dear friends in Lewisburg, PA
D: Catching up with some family in Sharpsburg, MD
E: Doing some hiking in Shenandoah National Park, VA
F: Taking in some history and visiting a good friend in Williamsburg, VA
G: Hitting up our old stomping grounds and lots of wonderful friends and family in Durham, NC
H: Doing a little fly-fishing and remembering our relationship roots down in the Nantahala Gorge in NC
I: Taking some distillery tours and tasting some good bourbon on the Bourbon Trail in Kentucky as well as hitting up Mammoth Caves N.P.
J: Soaking in the smallest National Park in Hot Springs, AR
K: Popping in to see family in Dallas, TX
L: Hoping by the time we make it to central TX, we have some sense of where to land (cross your fingers for us!)

If you know of somewhere along the way here we need to see/eat/drink/make merry, please let us know! We are planning on mosy-ing along and making the most of the journey!

So here we go, y'all. Hands clasped and breathing in long, deep breaths. While everyone we know seems to be building lives with deep roots, we are upending ours and hoping it turns out for the best. Send us your camping recommendations. Send us info on farms and organic markets where we can support local communities along the way. Send us the contact info for friends and family who can show us the ropes as we land in new places. But mostly, just send us your love and well-wishes...we'll take all we can get with gratitude.

 

Neither Here Nor There

We moved last week.

Into a house.

(I hear your collective gasps of disappointment, but no, we haven't given up on camper life already!)

Little travel trailer campers aren't designed for long-term use in freezing temperatures, and as we aren't going to be leaving Maine until January, we've known since July that we were going to need to figure out a temporary stop-gap situation for late fall and early winter. Over lunch with a talented friend a few months ago, I mentioned not being sure what we were going to do come the end of October and a few days later, I received an email from her equally talented mom who has an adorable little guest cottage on her gorgeous farm near Wiscasset that happened to be available for rent during the precise period of time we needed a place...isn't the universe amazing in that way? 

So here we are, in our second "in-between" as we move from our old life toward our new. I admit that there is a part of me that is chomping at the bit, tired of the long transition, aching to get on with this move westward. Another part of me grieves every step away from our home in Maine and our cherished community and appreciates this slow departure for the lengthy goodbyes it allows me. 

Both the pain of departure and the frustration of waiting are eased by the beauty of this gift we get to call home for the next two and a half months and my gratitude for this quiet space to tie up our loose ends runs deeper than I can express. It is truly amazing to feel the healing powers of being surrounded by forest and meadow and river and quiet, the deep peace that settles in, the creative surges that come with the renewal.

I am so very, very, very utterly grateful.

Home Free

Well, it’s official.

We are now home-free.

On Friday we said goodbye to our home of the last half-decade and welcomed the beginning of a new era in our lives. An era that embraces change, uncertainty, and inconvenience. An era brimming with potential and unknown possibility, upon whose edge we are standing, squinting at a future that’s still blurry and just a little shaky.

Truth be told, we are still a little shaky.

Friends keep asking us if we are excited, if life in the camper is what we expected. We are excited, and life in the camper is good, but honestly, we are just a bit shell-shocked and still getting our bearings. The last week or so before our closing was an utterly exhausting whirlwind of decision-making, disposing of our belongings, problem-solving in the camper, and cleaning. The days were long and left little time for rest or reflection. Suddenly we found ourselves sitting on our front deck in bleary-eyed stunned silence waiting for the final walkthrough, the moment of farewell upon us. We walked through our home for one final time, smiled through our closing (we were blessed with absolutely wonderful buyers who made the whole experience as close to lovely as selling a house can be), and that was that. We were now homeless, or, as we’ve decided instead, home-free.

Home free.

It’s just the tiniest bit disconcerting to find ourselves in our late thirties, well educated and gainfully employed, and living in a structure that moves and rattles when our dog scratches her ears with any vigor. We are currently parked in our neighbor’s back yard, so there is the surreal experience of driving down our same street each day but turning into a different driveway, of walking our confused dog around the same block we’ve walked her for years only to pass our old home and cross the street.

But even as we muddle through this transition, forgetting occasionally that we no longer have a shower or an oven (or, you know, a flushing toilet), there is, indeed, the glimmer of freedom dancing around the edges of our new life, just waiting to be welcomed in. Or perhaps freedom isn’t exactly the right word…we’re still obligated to do and be all of the things we were obligated to do or be a week ago, after all. Maybe the word I’m looking for is attention, or, really intention.

Our new life is deeply intentional. From how/where we’ll use the bathroom or take a shower, to which appliances can run at what time (fan + tea kettle + microwave = breaker trips), to grinding our coffee by hand, to not having television (or wifi for that matter), nothing can really be done on auto-pilot. There isn’t space to leave dirty dishes in the sink. There isn’t enough water in the tank to let the faucet run while brushing teeth. To access one thing, we must usually move something else. Most of our day-to-day life “stuff” is shockingly inconvenient. 

Which is surprisingly delightful. 

I don’t feel like life is any less busy than it’s ever been, but since things must be done with care and attention, life has begun to feel slower. And that was part of the point to this whole exercise in the first place. To begin to “let that which does not matter truly slide” (one of my favorite quotes from Fight Club) and to make more intentional choices about how we spend our time and our resources. So, we are still in the midst of transitioning, but as my friend Lauren pointed out in a blog post recently, isn’t life always in transition?

What does it really mean to be home free anyway? I’m beginning to suspect that it has as much to do with being free to be at home anywhere, to carry our sense of home with us, as it does to be home-less...

 

**I wanted to share some current images of the camper with you guys…do you remember the before photos? Our humble little home has come a long way, eh?