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Slowing Down the Amazing Race

Often times, shop it feels like we’re contestants on the Amazing Race.

Like the time we had to get ourselves from the Philippines to Cambodia. This required us to wake up at 6am to take a motorcycle to board a boat, viagra dosage where a tuk-tuk picked us up to take us to the airport, where we took a small propeller plane to Manila, which required us upon landing to drive through an hour of rush-hour traffic to traverse the quarter mile distance to the main terminal, where we then spent the next six hours trying to secure the necessary permit required for us to board our red-eye international flight to Phnom Penh.

Or, like the time we went overboard in Taipei trying to fit everything and my mother (literally) into our schedule. A typical day had me running at least 3 errands all over the city (all of the odds and ends we’ve been waiting to do in a developed country), taking Lisa to a park, national monument, or some other tourist attraction, attempting to fit in some physical exercise, visiting a relative, and of course – doing something gay (like interviewing James at Taipei’s gay bookstore and then editing four hours of video).

We’ve left our jobs and responsibilities and traveled thousands of miles away from home in an effort to live a different kind of life, but sometimes we still find ourselves feeling rushed and exhausted from trying to do too much.

At times its simply unavoidable, but most of the time we do it to ourselves. A few nights ago, Lisa and I stayed up until 2am talking about how we were feeling overwhelmed. Overwhelmed? We aren’t even working! This lead us to reassess the last three months and ask ourselves how well we’re doing in achieving the goals we had originally set out for this trip.

This is what I had stated back in the spring of 2011 as my personal goals for this trip:

At the end of this trip, I hope that:
1. I feel rested and present.
2. I have a renewed perspective on life.
3. I have a deeper understanding and greater empathy for the rest of the world.
4. I have helped someone else.
5. I have grown deeper in love and in connection with Lisa.
6. I know myself a little better.
7. I have a better definition of what I want in life and how to achieve it.

There are ways in which I clearly have made progress. Like the fact that after 25 years of nail-biting, I have miraculously quit since embarking on this journey. Or the fact that I am finally allowing myself to read trashy novels and watch a tv series. (I had cut the cable off years ago and given up reading novels because I felt guilty for not doing something more “educational.”) And of course, the beautiful consequence of not having a job or home responsibilities is that your obligatory to-do list is pretty much cut down to the bare minimum (e.g. making sure I have enough money in the bank to pay for our latest flight).

But I want more. Inspired by the book The Happiness Project (which Lisa and I highly recommend), I’ve decided to take on one of these statements each month. Which means for the month of October, I am tackling statement #1: I feel rested and present.

One of the things I realize I need to do in order to feel more rested and present is to simply let go. I have a habit of wanting to do everything to the fullest and feeling guilty otherwise. For example, this week while visiting Taroko Gorge National Park in Taiwan, I felt I needed to hike every trail in the park to conquer the experience. I realized how ridiculous I was being when I had mini-breakdown over missing our bus yesterday morning (and therefore, missing our hike). It took a considerable conscious effort, but I did a 10-second breathing exercise (a little woo-woo, but it really works) and told myself to just let go. In the end, we found an amazing hot spring instead and made friends with some locals who showed us another trail, so it all worked out. But first, it starts with letting go.

Feeling rested and present is a state that nearly every religion, philosophy, and self-help book aspires to. I’ve never had time for it. I have no idea what it takes to consistently slow myself down, but I’m going to give it a very conscious go. Some small steps to start include getting a good night of sleep, doing my yoga exercises and actually trying to do the meditation part, and allowing myself to let go of my ridiculous expectations for myself. Which means that its now time to watch an episode of Modern Family with Lisa before I get my eight hours of sleep…

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5 Responses

  1. Hi ladies,

    Susan and I can totally relate to how you’re feeling right now. It’s part of our nature as Type As to try and maximize our time, conquer everything there is to conquer, out compete others for available resourced, etc. But I find that if I’m too “slowed down” it also gets boring, feelings demotivating, uninspiring. There’s gotta be a right balance, because without the rain, you wouldn’t appreciate the sunshine. Similarly, without the adrenaline rushing, exhausting activity-filled lifestyles that we have, we wouldn’t appreciate the times where we get to slow down. It’s that contrast that I realize that I personally enjoy. Imagine if your life was always slow and relaxing… you wouldn’t appreciate a vacation!

    1. Hey Mimi – you’re totally right about the fact that “too slow” = boring and un-motivating. I agree that its about balance – about slowing things down and enjoying the present without losing your ambition or productivity. I was emailing with another friend today who has spent the last year in a remote area of eastern Europe and just returned back to the States. She was sharing about the difficulties of coming back to the stress and complications of life in the States after having lived in such simplicity.

      It is hard not to feel driven to do more, be more, and have more, and it can leave you feeling like you’re always chasing something without ever being satisfied. At the same time, I agree that the answer isn’t to just give up and quit pushing yourself. But I guess I’m finding it awful tiring to always feel like you have to maximize everything.

      Maybe what I’m trying to figure out is how to maintain my drive to achieve my dreams, but be really okay with just being where I am now? I don’t know…I’m trying to figure it out. Will update in a month on how goes with my quest to achieve my statement #1. 🙂

  2. Jenni, in doing this, you will live longer and healthier. There is a life-long benefit to overcoming stress and just relaxing in your life. I do the deep breath inhale and slow exhale whenever I begin to “feel” stressed at all and it has helped tremendously. Yes, I also do meditation of two types at night: the open, non-conscious kind and an “evaluation” of my day, what I learned, what I did not learn, and then I put yesterday away from that point on saying further, “Consumatum est” (“It is finished). What a great program for yourself! It takes a huge dose of honesty to really do this well. Hugs, Anyse

    1. Hi Anyse,

      Thanks for the encouragement. So far, my meditation attempts have been a C rating. My mind naturally wants to think about a million things, and with the travel its often hard to find a quiet space. So I’ve resorted to listening to jazz (something I love, and also blocks outside noises) while meditating. Probably not “proper meditation,” but it works. I love the fact that you add in “its finished” at the end of the day too…


    2. I have always used msnifulneds to become part of the moment of doing something and fully engaging. For instance, when drinking tea or coffee, fully become aware of all aspects of the preparation, pouring, and drinking without thinking of something else. Just be present, its a great exercise and then return to the breath when needed.

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