Wide Awake in Wonderland

We’re only dancing on this earth for a short while

Eat, Pray, Love can kiss my sweet a$$ June 30, 2008

I have a few friends who have heard the sound byte synopsis of my current life situation (mid-30’s [now that I’m 35 I can’t say “early 30’s” anymore, can I? Ugh] life crisis spurning an overseas trip in the hopes of “finding myself” and getting my head clear) and stated, “Your story is exactly like Eat, Pray, Love!” I don’t know why, but that makes me have less than zero desire to read it. Actually, it’s making me feel kind of hostile about the book. Like when I see the cutesy cover written in mustard, prayer beads, and flowers, I want to chuck it across the room. Why this unfounded ire toward a book I’ve never read? Well, partly because I’m a hothead. But otherwise, I suppose it all started when one person went so far as to suggest I should read Eat, Pray, Love…and perhaps that would fix all my problems and I wouldn’t have to end relationships and take this trip and make the necessary changes to live my life on my terms! As if!!!

I also feel like, “Hey! That’s not my story! My story is unique and rare and individual, like a snowflake or a DNA sequence or a Rice Krispie! Except that no one is paying to read it, and I don’t have a book deal or the highly desirable advance royalties, and I’m not being championed by Oprah, and I have a super low budget, and I’ll be living in hostels and on trains and eating on the cheap, and I’m not much of one for traditional prayer, and love is NOT on the agenda. The last thing I need is to mess my head up further with the added distraction of some man!”

There’s also the other factor of ‘who wants to read one’s own story as told by someone else?’ Case in point: I was with someone from age 21 to 28. Let’s call him “C,” as I feel bad using his real name as the story I’m about to tell is my own point of view and not entirely flattering. C and I went through a lot together, an unfathomable amount, actually, culminating in the semi-insane plan to build a 2300-square foot log home on 13 acres in northern Idaho. And I mean build it, as in do every last bit of physical labor ourselves with eighteen hour days and a six-month construction loan. TOTAL NIGHTMARE.

Anyway, we somehow survived this ordeal and got the thing built hours before being foreclosed on (a six month construction loan borders on criminal – especially when considering the two of us did all the work. In hindsight, the bank must have seen us as suckers and were looking forward to taking our $55,000 cash down payment + all of our unpaid labor as a nice, easy uptick in the revenue line that month. Like taking candy from a baby!). Anyway, we got through it and got the thing closed when, lo and behold, the bills started coming in and someone needed to get a job to pay them. Unfortunately for me, C was “tired.” That left me playing the part of the grown up. While I would get up at 5:30 every morning and drive an hour each way to my crappy new job, C made use of that time by taking a nice big dive off the new age deep end.

What is going off the new age deep end, you ask? Well, that’s when you go from being a more or less normal person contributing to society to believing that you’re channeling deceased Native Americans, healing people with crystals, and utilizing astral travel to spy on others…and being upset about what you’ve “seen.” It’s also when your wife comes home from slaving at a terrible job all day (I would literally go in my car and cry during lunch) to find that you’ve spent $500 we don’t have on oil paint and a giant 5’x5’ canvas upon which you’ve painted something that can best be described as a fetus with no skin riding a broomstick. Seriously. C had my old anatomy books out (for some unknown reason I did a full year of anatomy while getting my psychology undergrad) and was using the muscle drawings and the fetus in development photos as guides. Apparently, when you looked at this painting, it would activate ten additional strands of DNA (so twelve total!) which apparently was a good thing on the new planet where he now lived. I also remember that he had a new jab he would throw at me when I seemed incredulous about any of this, which was, “You’re so third plane.” This means that I live in the third dimension – where last time I checked, we all actually live, by the way!!!! – whereas he had ascended to the fifth (and I couldn’t begin to tell you what that meant except that it bore – in my opinion anyway – a fair resemblance to the Christian concept of the Rapture).

Now don’t get me wrong, I’m quite open-minded and I believe there could be parallel universes and aliens and auras and Bigfoot and past lives and shamanic travel and The Loch Ness Monster…I just don’t want to have to check out of reality and abandon every other responsibility of life as a result of entertaining these beliefs.

Anyway, the point of this long story was to say that after all this happened and we got divorced, I was given a book for my birthday (in October). It was by Nick Hornby, the guy who wrote High Fidelity and About a Boy, and I was told by the friend who gave it to me, “It’s exactly like your story!” It’s called How To Be Good, and apparently is about a wife whose husband gets in with a guru and has a personality 180 change with causes a major crisis (breakup?) in the marriage. Although I probably still have the copy, I can honestly say I’ve never read it. All I could think was, “Why do I need to read this story? I lived it.”

Same to you Eat, Pray, Love. You may be the best thing since Care of the Soul, but for now, I’m only interested in my own version of the 30-something midlife crisis travel chronicle!


Young, Dumb, Poor…and Woefully Unprepared June 29, 2008

A couple months ago, I was hanging out with a friend on a Saturday night. Actually, this is the same friend who gave me a copy of Care of the Soul, and she will appear again, as I am launching my trip with a week with her and her husband in Iceland. But I’m getting ahead of myself… Crissy and I were talking about travel that we’d done, and how simplifying your life to just a backpack and a train pass can make things clear. Like a vision quest without the psychedelic drugs (or not, depending upon who you know and how easygoing you are about such things). As we talked, I started reminiscing about some of the crazier things that happened to me while I was in Europe way back when, and when I got home that night, the seedling of the idea had taken root. The next day I went to Costco to get some bread and fruit. On my way to the checkout lanes, in order to avoid the perennial traffic jam of people waiting in lines five-deep for a scrap of microwaved chimichanga, I took the shortcut through the book section. And what to my wandering eye should appear, but copies of Let’s Go Western Europe AND Let’s GoEastern Europe. How’s that for a sign from above? Costco!?!? I mean, WTF!?!? From that moment, the trip seemed like destiny.


Meanwhile, back to 1992, after realizing I had no idea who I was without David and with no real plan for the rest of my life, had determined to backpack Europe and see what happened. I had saved a semi-respectable amount of money from working two concurrent jobs during the school year and three lifeguard jobs that summer. Thus, I started calling travel agents – this being the era before Expedia and Travelocity – to find the cheapest flight to England. My dad, it should be noted, was not amused. I’m sure he was simply worried that I’d be abducted or worse, but he manifested that concern as anger and a wee bit of condescension. I could be wrong, this was a long time ago, but I believe his parting words to me were (more or less), “They’re going to eat you alive.”


In a way, he was right. For reasons I cannot explain – beyond the influence of Santa Cruz and my total obsession with Joni Mitchell –  the only items I brought consisted of the following:

1.   A pair of army green hiking boots. I won’t even try to make this sound fashionable, because they weren’t.

2.   Three tie-dye skirts in Jamaican flag, banana split, and Minnesota Vikings. I’m pretty sure the red/yellow/green one was responsible for ruining every other piece of clothing laundered with it.

3.   A pair of Osh Kosh B’Gosh overalls in train conductor stripe. One of my roommates at UCSC had gotten a job at the Osh Kosh B’Gosh, and for some reason (collective madness, most likely) we all bought a pair of one of the only things they made for adults – the overalls. These were the ONLY bottoms with legs (meaning only thing that was not a skirt) I had the entire time.

4.   A nice navy blue sweater with a white section with flowers that my great Aunt Margaret bought me at a mall in Ebensburg. (I wish I had a picture of this. I may have to cook up some rudimentary drawings for you guys. Don’t expect too much: I still color like a talented second grader, and my primary medium is crayon. However, so long as your expectations are appropriately low, I’m not half bad.) Back to the sweater, my grandmother had died earlier that winter, and this was the only shopping trip I ever took with my great aunt. I have a vague recollection that she was extremely worried about my upcoming trip. That side of my family were worriers in the first place, but I think I would actually classify her mood that afternoon as *deeply* worried. Bear in mind, her sister (my grandmother) never even flew on a plane in her entire lifetime. The idea of a 19-year old going to Europe with no plan, no friends, no money, and no brains must have been horrifying.

5.   A yellow velvet tuxedo jacket (outfitted with a large blue and white flower pin) picked up at a used clothing store in Santa Cruz.

6.   A variety of hippie t-shirts including, but not limited to: ‘Bread Not Bombs’, Grateful Dead ‘Frosted Freaks’, ‘War is Not Good for Children or Other Living Things,’ and ‘I survived the Reagan era’ (with a drawing of Ronnie riding a nuke). Is it any wonder the Japanese would take pictures of me??? All of these shirts were either pinky gray or murky gray within weeks, thanks to my cost-saving habit of laundering everything in one load.

7.   A VERY cheap external frame backpack (also in army green, to match the shoes.) upon which I had cut out and sewn felt flowers. Sad, but true.

8.   A bottle of Dr. Bronner’s Miracle Soap in peppermint

9.   A copy of Let’s Go Europe

10.   The world’s largest paperback copy of James Joyce’s Ulysses – a door stop, if ever there were.

11.   A large bag of trail mix from the bulk section of the Pathmark grocery store in my hometown.

12.   A Eurail pass and $300 USD (As a side note, this was not 1942, but 1992. $300 was as paltry as it sounds!)


As for my personal appearance, I’d been working as a lifeguard, so my hair was particularly blond. It was also very long and – in keeping with what was hip, or at least I thought was hip, at the time – the entire underside were dreadlocks wrapped in colored thread. I’m not sure how to explain this: At some point the previous winter I had braided the underside of my hair into a dozen small braids and wrapped those in cross-stitch thread. Every inch or so, I’d change colors. After a while, as it kept growing, I kept wrapping the new stuff. Lo and behold, the new stuff  became dread locks. I honestly don’t know if this (the string) was some kind of fashion, or just some weird thing I dreamt up. Anyway, those beauties were waist-length.


Speaking of which, I just now had an insight as to why all through my senior year of high school (when the Age of Aquarius really took hold of me), my dad would ask with concern, “Are the other kids wearing that???” Sadly, with extraordinarily rare exception, the answer was pretty much “no”.


In short, as I departed for what would ultimately be eight months in Europe, I was young, dumb, poor, and woefully unprepared for what lay ahead. Simply put, I was a hippie hot mess.





Musings from Spaceship Earth June 28, 2008

I recently read that Buckminster Fuller (who I barely knew existed a few brief months ago, and now have a full-blown fascination with after somehow running across his “almost suicide” story and thus learning of his subsequent astounding feats of thinking, imagination, and innovation) opposed teaching children about “sunrise” and “sunset” because the earth itself is satellite in motion, a beautiful spaceship. I think somehow that the pervasiveness of such ideas as the sun ‘rising” and “setting” ties back to the world of ancient myths and the need to see ourselves as the center of some great play. On the other hand, we are all stars of some great play – our own story – no matter how mundane or commonplace it may seem. To the best of anyone’s knowledge, we only get one shot at life and being human, and we may as well make the most of it.


Last night I was watching a re-run of the final episodes of Project Runway Season three. After Jeffrey wins, he says something to the effect of, “It’s all just vibrations. It can be anything you want it to be,” and I was struck that I’d never heard him say this before. Don’t get me wrong, I’m sure he said it the four or five times I watched it previously (yes, I am a total Project Runway fanatic, and I don’t mind watching and re-watching episodes I’ve already seen before, as is the Bravo way), it’s just that this time I heard him. Once in a while this reality, this fact of quantum physics, hits me and the truth that this computer keyboard feels hard to me, but it’s really just atoms – just like I am – trips me out. If I start thinking about that kind of stuff too much, my brain boggles. I do believe it’s true; I just haven’t had much success harnessing those atoms or vibrations in my favor. On the other hand, as I’ve come to learn from therapy, until we heal our shit, we continue to pull the same pre-programmed patterns (and toxic people in different bodies) our way. It’s our subconscious’ efforts to “get it right,” only it doesn’t work.


Anyway, back to Jeffrey, even though he had some jerk moments, I thought he was one of the more fascinating people to come through the Project. I always like to see people who have struggled and hit bottom bounce and come back bigger and better than they may have been without the struggle. Although I’m happily, gratefully not an addict, I always watched him and hoped he might inspire someone else at an extreme low point to realize that there are reasons to push beyond their troubles. Plus, the neck tattoo was a bold statement, no?


The other reason I love that show is that I absolutely marvel at their creative and technical prowess, and it is a skill that completely eludes me. When I was a Brownie I made a wrap-around skirt. Rather than go to the fabric store and get something nice, my mother dug out this hideous chunk of army green wool and saved herself $1.35 on something that was actually attractive. Hell, for all I know it was an army blanket. Anyway, I proceeded to fashion the world’s ugliest wrap-around skirt from this stuff, with the help of the Brownie leader. I probably got a badge, which was no doubt the only upside of the experience. In addition to being heinously ugly, the skirt had an unfortunate habit of coming open, as is the way with wrap-around anything and why one needs a safety pin if you’re not in the mood to flash airport security (or whomever).


I also went through a heavy-duty Grateful Dead period where I would make tons of hats and sell them before the shows. I remember more than once someone would ruthlessly diminish the quality of my work – the lack of liner or finish work on the inside, what have you – but then buy one anyway. I had some semi-good stuff going: cat in the hat hats before they were ubiquitous, jester hats (ditto), big floppy engineer’s hats that I would often do in psychedelic velvet and one and two-tailed “dragon” hats. I suppose in hindsight the belittling was a bargaining tactic, but at the time it always made me feel like a hack…so I suppose it worked. I don’t recall exactly, but I probably sold the hats cheaper than I wanted to the people that demeaned me the most. Pretty pathetic, no?


Meanwhile, I’ve had a couple dreams that I was on Project Runway. It pretty much always goes the same way: I realize I’m on the show, and I have no business being there. I’m somewhat baffled as to how I even got on, but here I am trying to create fabulous fashion despite having little talent and no skill. Maybe this is what having multiple personalities is like? You suddenly ‘come to’ wondering “how the hell did this happen?” but you decide to play along because it’s more alarming to admit you have no idea which end is up.



Anyway, I’m on the show, and I’m a train wreck. I’m like Elisa, sewing everything by hand, only not nearly so well. And yet somehow I’ve made it through the first few eliminations, which is only making my stress worse! I know I have no business being there, yet somehow I am. Just typing this, a theme of “deep down feels like a total fraud” or some such thing is becoming apparent.


Meanwhile, and in my own defense, I do make a mean last-minute Halloween costume when called upon, although this is less about sewing than creative thinking. I used to be a manager, and as a relatively young manager, I enforced some arbitrary rules I thought were “fun.” For instance, you had to dress up on Halloween if it fell on a weekday. Sometimes when I watch “The Office” I feel a little uncomfortable because I think I was on the borderline of being Michael, only without the self-awareness. Again – and thanks to therapy – I’m fairly confident if in a management position again, I’d be a little less of a fruitcake.


Back to Halloween, if you worked for me (or for someone who worked for me. Oh yes! Believe it or not, at more than one company I made it well into middle management. Once upon a time, I was burning a trail to the top. Now, not so much, but perhaps more on that later. Or perhaps not…) Anyway, if you worked for me and you showed up without a costume on, I would fashion one out of what I could find, and I was not beneath tossing paper trash out of a black trash bag (just paper trash, I swear) and fashioning a “California Raisin” (a.k.a. lose five pounds of water weight in one afternoon) or a toilet paper mummy. Those were the days…


Meanwhile, to get started on the story of my original walkabout, in addition to the loser from the Howard Johnson’s pool previously mentioned, let me set the stage for my frame of mind. It was the summer of 1992, and I was 19 years old, and burning a hole through my “Achtung Baby” tape. I had just finished my freshman year at the University of California at Santa Cruz, and – long story short – I wasn’t going back. I had transferred to Emerson College in Boston to pursue a creative writing degree (how far off that path I’ve gotten in sixteen years!) and to be with my high school sweetheart.


At least that was the plan in June, when the school year ended. However, by early July it had become pretty darn clear that he was a pathological liar. I don’t know the clinical definition, but if pathological lying can be defined as lying when there was no need, and when the truth would be just fine, then that was David. Half the time he had me thinking I was going crazy, swearing that conversations had been had, postcards sent, or events occurred that I simply couldn’t recall.


When it all came out – including such revelations as the reason he always seemed to have a last-minute emergency on the rare occasion that I needed help in the form of him driving, was because he didn’t know how to drive – I remember sitting on my dad’s couch, looking at him, and thinking, “WHO ARE YOU!?” Seemingly everything had been fraudulent, deceitful, untrue, or a plain old lie. Worse, more than once he’d let me think I was losing my mind. Thus, it should come as no shock to you that despite the fact that I had rearranged my whole life to be with him, the relationship ended.


Needless to say, when you’re that age, it’s not uncommon to think that your first love is going to last forever, and the cold reality check hit me hard. I was pretty lost. I think I really believed that we would move to Boston (he had – allegedly – gotten into Berklee College of Music. He was a very, very talented musician and artist, so I have no doubt he had the potential and they would’ve been lucky to have him, I just don’t know if he ever actually bothered to fill out the admission forms) and live the rest of our lives together. With the end of our relationship, I felt completely lost in the world, and somehow the whole country seemed too small. Thus, when I met the douche bag at the pool and he put the idea of “finding myself” in Europe in my head, it seemed like a perfectly sane idea….



The World in My Head June 27, 2008

Filed under: Self-analysis,Travel — wideawakeinwonderland @ 11:05 pm
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So I’ve always known that the friend that gave me “Care of the Soul” is one smart cookie. However, I’m now starting to think she’s out of my league. I’m about halfway through, and in addition to feeling a little bit stupid, I have to confess that I’m just not vibing with all the Greek mythology/archetype stuff. I keep getting hung up on “Why were we all (Americans, anyway) taught GREEK mythology and not Celtic mythology or Polynesian mythology or Norse mythology or one of many Native American mythologies?” It seems a little one-sided that we get this singular education. I couldn’t tell you a Celtic myth if you put a gun to my head, yet surely they dreamt up some good stuff, what with Stonehenge and all…

Okay, so anyway, one of my undergraduate degrees is in psychology, and I have a profound respect for Carl Jung. However, in practice, I’m more of a Max Wertheimer/Gestalt girl myself. Nonetheless, with what I know of Carl Jung and the copious references to him, I sense “Care of the Soul” is not the kind of book you simply read. nod that you’ve “got it”, and move on. Rather, I suspect there are some gold nuggets in Moore’s pages awaiting me, but I’ll need to synthesize and sleep on and even dream about it all a little before I can come up with some useful interpretations. Plus, I’ve never been one to perform under pressure, I’m afraid.

I will say this, I used to be an extremely enthusiastic student of shamanism. I just think there’s something to a spirituality that seems to span time and place. The fact that remote cultures in Russia, Africa, and South America can arrive at similar base belief systems gives it some immediate credentials in my book. Meanwhile, the hardest part for me to ever process was the underworld, the world of the archetypes and ancestors. Maybe because one time – during the height of my dabbling – I went to this shamanic journey thing in Portland. They came around and beat this extremely loud drum within two inches of your head. I probably have permanent ear drum damage. Anyway, we were instructed to envision a tree and then find its roots and then travel those roots down deep into the earth all the way to the underworld (not hell, just a different space than some other worlds in shamanic spirituality). I guess you could say it was like guided imagery, accompanied by really loud drumming that created this intense sense of anticipation and anxiety (at least in me).

Anywho, once we got there we were to take a look around, and then park ourselves somewhere that felt right and wait. Soon something would emerge and we were to retrieve that archetype, as it was sent for a partner assigned arbitrarily to us earlier in the afternoon. I can remember a growing sense of panic and a palpable “ego” or conscious mind feeling VERY skeptical and quite convinced this was all a bunch of hooey. I can’t remember what I “retrieved” for her. Probably something I thought she might like, like a wolf or a bear or maybe an eagle. Thus, you can imagine my disappointment when she told me my archetype was…a beaver. This, my friends, was a LONG time ago – like maybe even ten years ago – but I can still remember this lady working her hands like little claws and feigning an overbite as she explained my “power animal” and his manifestation. Anyway, I would like to propose that this little anecdote is at the root of my issues with archetypes…but I’m willing to suspend disbelief and see what comes up for me over the next few days as I muse on this and let my subconscious mind do a little churning.

Meanwhile, I will also mention – with a growing sense of trepidation – that I will be telling my boss about my 13-week backpacking trip next week. It’s one month’s notice – I think sometimes giving a person, especially a fairly by the book and emotionally conservative person,  too much time to think about change is not a good thing – and deliberating and delaying in letting him in on this has both made me feel like a duplicitous jerk and given me some time to work through my strategy. I’ve now decided that I’m in no way, shape, or form going to mention the word “resign.” In fact, they”ll have to drag me out of the place (except that I work from home and across the country from the office, so I mean that more in the spirit of the expression.) Rather, I’m going to go in with a proposal that I keep doing what I’m doing – which is by and large write white appears and summarize other people’s work into delightful little write-ups for customers – just with a change of venue. That, and I’m possibly willing to count my remaining vacation time for the year (3 weeks and 2 days) as spent. I’m trying to adopt a “do it first and apologize later” mantra. I’m like George Costanza – going against my instincts.

Lastly, with respect to my barely skimmed European tale, July 1 also marks the one month countdown to my encore trip. Thus, I think I’m ready to start recounting the seven months I spent in Europe from August 1992 through March 1993, in part because much of it will set the stage for the significance of repeating it.  It’s also a story that part of me needs to tell. So without much further ado, I’ll start to weave in those recollections, such as details of my tragically poor packing process (I brought nothing but tie dye skirts and my only upper layer besides t-shirts was a yellow velvet tuxedo jacket), the bravado (or cheapness?) of buying a one-way ticket to London, and how I stayed up until 2 a.m. the night before I left, watching Rick Steve’s ‘Europe Through the Back Door’ videos and attempting to cram.


There is more to life than increasing its speed June 26, 2008

Filed under: Self-analysis — wideawakeinwonderland @ 4:40 pm
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Not only is this true, it’s attributed to Mohandas (a.k.a. Mahatma) Gandhi, which no doubt gives it additional import. As a little educational tidbit for you, I just looked up and learned that Mahatma (in Sanskrit it’s महात्मा) means “Great Soul”. Anyway, the quote is not only profound, it’s also very poignant to me at the moment, as it’s something I’m struggling terribly with. Actually, I’m in a weird place because I have achieved extreme awareness – awareness about so many things we value in the world that are total bullshit, awareness that I’m a completely stressed out, multi-tasking fool who gets more done than six people, but often doesn’t really achieve much of any real importance, awareness of how I drive my own blood pressure up trying to be all things to all people, awareness of how pretty much no one else is aware and are even a little freaked out about where my head is at lately, and awareness that I’m ready to get off the merry-go-round for once and for all. However, it’s like a bad habit. It has to be replaced with new practice and unlearned.
Meanwhile, I think I finally figured out how I could own “The 4-Hour Workweek” for six months and never even pick it up. The cover – despite a glowing review and a “#1 Wall Street Journal Bestseller” stamp – features a drawing of a dude lounging in a hammock between two palm trees. Couple that with the subtitle, “Escape 9-5, Live Anywhere, and Join the New Rich,” and I was pretty sure this was some schlock about selling your every asset, buying a shack on a coast somewhere that the economy is all whacked and the dollar is still strong in comparison, and just getting by selling friendship bracelets (imported from China) to tourists.
However, as I mentioned yesterday, it’s not. Not at all. Rather, it’s a great book that’s really inspired me and is causing me to totally rethink my ideas of what it means to “work”, how much (how many hours) one must log in order to consider it “work”, enjoying valuable and fulfilling uses of time versus squandering it to help someone else achieve their dream, completely reinventing my lif and how I live it, and outsourcing mundane tasks to personal assistants in India. All this, and I’m only on page 156!

Moving right along, and on a totally unrelated note, have you found that the personified message on the Taco Bell hot sauces make you feel kinda bad about tearing them open? I had one today that said, “Ooh! Ooh! I call the glove compartment!” and I thought, “Oh no you don’t, my friend. You’re about to be slathered onto a bean burrito,” and the fact that I was dialoguing with the thing suddenly made me feel kind of sorry about ending its life. Extreme anthropomorphism: Quite possibly the first clear sign that I’m losing my mind…

In other news, something VERY VERY VERY exciting has happened. I got my first comment! And from a real person! (not an online poker site) And not one that I already know or paid to chime in! AND on a topic that I mentioned (Thomas Moore) and have some real interest in! Hopefully this will allay all the strange dreams I’ve been having, seemingly taunting myself about the fact that no one is reading this. The latest was that every time I went to my physical therapist’s office there was a sign on his outdoor billboard with the url of a blog they were endorsing. He doesn’t actually have one of these, but if you can picture what’s outside of most fast food joints (that they update once in a while by placing the individual letters with the long pole), it was like that. Anyway, I’d been going by there for days and seeing this lady’s blog being promoted, and feeling a little bit jealous. Then I showed up and – lo and behold – it had MY url up there, even though I’d never even told him it. I was a immediately a little bit panicked, but quickly thought, “Hey! I may finally get some readership!”

Hmmm…  Maybe I should go around to the local joints with nothing interesting on their signs (like the Royal Scot motel up the road that has “Canadians Welcome” and a whole lot of blank space) and see if they wouldn’t do me a solid? On the other hand, does anyone besides me read those? (Although, admittedly, I’m usually editing and scanning for grammatical or spelling errors). Perhaps if I offered six months of free proofreading of future signs instead? See, it’s just this kind of out of the box, entrepreneurial, and somewhat wacko thinking I am evolving toward thanks to Timothy Ferriss and his 4-Hour Workweek!!


The Clouds Will Rain Success On To You June 25, 2008

Filed under: Self-analysis,Travel — wideawakeinwonderland @ 10:49 am
Tags: , , , , ,

That’s from a fortune cookie I ate last night. It’s a good one. I’m in the habit of saving especially propitious fortune cookies and putting them in the piggy bank with my “abundance of the universe” found change. (Long story. Let’s just say it’s my bastardized interpretation of something Wayne Dyer wrote.)

Anyway, this one is piggy bank worthy.  I like the idea of success raining down upon me, especially since I’ve been feeling so stuck and even a little worthless lately.  However, this conference has been good for me in solidifying how futile and, truthfully, beneath me my current job is. I’m re-energized with a desire to break off the shackles and forge a new path, one that truly utilizes my potential.

But how? That’s where all the reading comes in. In addition to some books I’m reading for my job, I’m working through four different titles of personal selection. Oddly, I’m finding they all have added fresh ideas or deepened nuances of where I’m at in my life right now, and somehow they strangely intersect to shed new light on everything:

  • The 4-Hour Work Week – I actually received this book as a gift last Christmas – at my request. However, somehow I clearly didn’t understand what it was. What a revelation! It’s about exactly what I’m doing – taking a sabbatical from work – and keeping your job by being extremely productive for just four hours a week. The author is only 30, but he apparently makes very good money at his own businesses and endorses a “one month off for every two months of work” policy. He has some great ideas in there (such as taking a language class as soon as you get to a new place both for personal enrichment and to get a student id card and take advantage of the discounts). I’m semi-blown away by the fortuitous coincidence that I requested this book for some unknown reason, put it on a shelf for six months, and picked it up last Friday only to find it such a treasure trove of help in my life right now.
  • Care of the Soul – I’ve barely cracked the cover on this Thomas Moore classic, given to me by a friend. However, I think it will be a profound read, as I no doubt have a significant need to cultivate more spirituality and sacredness in my life.
  • The Places In Between – Rory Stewart’s amazing story of walking across Afghanistan in 2002. This book has made my solo backpacking trip in Europe seem positively tame – if not wimpy – and re-inspired my desire to see as much of the world as I possibly can.
  • What to Do With the Rest of Your Life – pretty much what the title sounds like. A book about exploring what you really love and are talented at in order to figure out how to carve a career that brings you joy. Although I’m not done with it yet, this book has helped me to realize that if I can’t make it as a writer (my true dream) that I’d like to go to culinary school or become a therapist. On the other hand, The 4-Hour Work Week is rapidly blowing the lid off my pedestrian belief that I *have to* work a 40-hour week and have myriad physical possessions to show for it. We’ll see how it all pans out…

Unrelated, I’ve watched Conan O’Brien twice this year…and somehow managed to see the same episode both times. It’s the early morning (12:05 a.m.) of June 25th, and I’ve  once again tuned into the Martha Stewart St. Patrick’s Day ham cooking episode I saw in March. She does a whiskey glaze, and within minutes Conan is seen double-fisting an Irish Rickey (made with whiskey – sounds gross) and a sloppily concocted Black and Tan.  She poured both the beers together fast…and at the same time! I’m no bartender, but aren’t you supposed to pour the Bass and then slowly add the Guinness so it floats on top?

Anyway, Martha talks about the crusty glaze that forms on the ham. It was a compelling enough description that I kind of wanted to go to Costco and get one of those hams, although I didn’t. However, watching this for a second time is causing the same reaction. Maybe this coincidence is a sign from the universe?: “Go to Costco and get a Martha Stewart holiday ham and coat it in sugar and whisky and the Clouds Will Rain Success On To You!!!” Stranger things have happened…


Back on the wagon June 24, 2008

Filed under: General bitching,Self-analysis — wideawakeinwonderland @ 11:28 pm
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The last few days have been something of a learning lesson on the dangers of getting out of the daily blog habit. I have no good excuse beyond a work-based trip and spotty wireless connection.  That, and once you’ve missed a day and then two days and then three days…it all starts to seem less urgent. Bad dog!

That stated, this is definitely something I need to bear in mind for Europe. I had already planned to buy a little computer (I’m strongly leaning toward the Asus EEE 4G) upon which to record my fascinating wordplay. Nonetheless, if I don’t actually post it every day, I may lose the interest of you, my non-existant readers!

You know, that makes me realize, this blog is a little bit like my presentation at work today: I’m here at the parent company’s annual users’ conference, and I prepared extensively for my one-hour speaking gig. Seriously, I not only adhered to the month-in-advance deadline for the PowerPoint slides, but wrote an entire white paper (13 pages!) on the same subject for those attendees who might not actually see my session. I was assured that the white paper would be placed in each of their binders after my slides so long as I got it in on time.

Meanwhile, yesterday, when I got here, I learned I was one of six presenters vying for the affections of 80 customers. Considering the late afternoon slot, and assuming that a certain number of people would be no shows of one type or another, I figured 12 was my fair share of bodies. I deserved a bare minimum of an audience of 12! A miniscule audience of 12 was my god-forsaken right!!!

Then I ran into my old boss (a woman who considers snipey meanness a hobby) and she informed me that she had only two empty seats in her session earlier that day – so maybe 24 people? This did not bode well for my somewhat intellectual presentation.

Meanwhile, here to think I was theorizing that 12 attendees may have been a bit greedy as this conference is also something of a three day drinking binge. I wasn’t sure how many people might be nursing killer hangovers, employing the hair of the dog, or simply in the hospital. Apparently all of them were in good enough shape to drag their sorry alcohol-soaked bodies to evil ex-bosses’ presentation!!!

But I digress…  Anyway, I think I got about the minimum that I felt I deserved – 12 people – although as I was speaking I started to realize that a solid four or five of them work for the parent company. Also, they didn’t put my white paper in the binders like they promised. And my descriptive seminar description, carefully crafted to compel and entice, was bastardized into something that sounded really damn boring.

So, as always, IHMJ. That, and I feel kind of like the tree falling in the forest. I’m busting my hump here, but no one hears a sound.




Traveler, heal thyself June 18, 2008

Filed under: Travel — wideawakeinwonderland @ 11:25 pm
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“The fairest thing we can experience is the mysterious. It is the fundamental emotion which stands at the cradle of true art and true science.”
Albert Einstein


So I was thumbing through a guidebook and ended up on the page for Lourdes (which sounds like a pretty serious pain in the a$$ to get to), when I got the idea to maybe make make mini-pilgrimages to all the “notable” healing spots on my route (or kind of off of it: see Lourdes). In trying to figure out where these places may be, I haven’t come up with much.


It looked a little new age-y, and I’m not entirely sure what its primary function is as a site, but beliefnet.com was kind enough to list the top ten most healing places in the world. They are, in countdown order (drum roll, please…)

10. Russian Banyas Sandunovskie Banya, Moscow

9. Shrine to Pele, Hawaii

8. Japanese Onsen, Shikoko Island

7. Lago Atitlan, Guatemala

6. Table Mountain, South Africa

5. Chichen Itza, Mexico

4. Matha Amritananandamayi Mission, Amritapuri, India

3. Lourdes, France!

2. Sedona, Arizona

1. The Dead Sea, Israel


So basically, that was not helpful at all. I did a little more (pointed) rooting around and came up with:


“Sacred Glastonbury

Glastonbury, in Southwest England’s county of Somerset, was once known as the Isle of Avalon. The place has been sacred long before the dawn of recorded history. Ancient Celtic religious leaders performed rituals here, and legends tell of tunnels leading into the realm of the elves and fairies. Glastonbury is associated with Jesus, King Arthur and UFOs.

Dominating the skyline is St. Michael’s Tower on Glastonbury Hill, where there have been several reports of mysterious lights. A local policeman saw “eight egg-shaped objects … hovering in formation over the hill,” and another observer reported “several green and mauve lights hovering around the tower.” Martin Gray, a renowned expert on sacred places, says he slept in the tower one night, during which he saw “the interior of the tower radiantly aglow with a luminous white light.”

A Christian legend says that, as a child, Jesus visited Glastonbury with his uncle, Joseph of Arimathea. It is also said that Joseph returned with the Apostle Philip in 37 c.e. Joseph supposedly leaned on his walking stick, which took root and grew into a thorn tree that bloomed every Christmas until Puritans chopped it down in the17th century. Joseph and Philip are credited with building the first Christian church in England, on the site where Glastonbury abbey was later constructed.

In Chalice Well, Joseph is said to have hidden the chalice of the Last Supper, the Holy Grail. Miraculous cures have been credited to the well’s healing waters. The design motif on the well cover is the vesica piscis, an ancient pre-Christian symbol which evolved into the Christian fish. It represents the blending of masculine and feminine, the yin and yang, and the meeting-place of the conscious and unconscious.”


Jesus, King Arthur, and UFOs (!) – sounds like an Indiana Jones movie! Or the rantings of a crazy person. Or anything to do with the Masons… Regardless, if this is all the healing Europe has to offer, I guess I could knock these two out during my three month journey. I kind of wanted to go to Loch Ness because “Nessie” and I (more or less) share a name in common, no harm in also dropping in on the Holy Grail while I’m in the neighborhood.







Running to Stand Still June 16, 2008

Filed under: Self-analysis — wideawakeinwonderland @ 9:43 pm
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I’ve been reading this book – ‘What to Do With the Rest of Your Life’ – about finding or creating the “job of your dreams”. The author challenges you to come up with a list of things you enjoy, and then pare it back to things you love, and then hone that to four or five things you wouldn’t mind talking about, thinking about, learning about, and doing for the rest of your life. That last element makes provides the “Whoa, Nelly!” factor, but I’m pretty sure my list is:

  • Writing
  • Cooking
  • Dogs
  • Philosophy/”The meaning of life”/therapy in that vein
  • Health/Exercise

I’ve nixed dogs and health on the impracticality factors of one and likely poverty of the other. I’m probably too old to go to med school or start a decorated career as a personal trainer. Similarly, I know some wonderful and dedicated people that have helped me train my dogs…and it’s pretty apparent that they just scrape by. Don’t get me wrong, I’m sure you can have a remarkable and fulfilling life despite ‘just scraping by’ where salary is concerned, I just figure if you’re going to bother to dream big, you may as well start out with the bar a little bit higher than that.

I went for a long run today and was thinking about this “carpe diem” pressure some of us put on ourselves (such as me on myself!): The call or challenge to make every moment matter and live as if this were the last day of your life and if you can dream it, you can do it kind of stuff.  I think, in the mix of being a very sick and twisted society ripe with celebrity adoration, breast implants, reality TV, and athletes making millions of dollars a year while so many people can’t even claw their way above the poverty line, we’ve also created this culture – or at least expectation – of super lives. Look at me, I’m doing it all, and I lost 15 pounds, and I have my own line of frozen cuisine and high heels coming out in the fall!

However, I think in the big picture, it’s not so important to be jumping out of airplanes and have a reality TV show focused on you and fill every single second with really cool, enviable things, as to try to find a way to spend less of your time doing things that don’t matter to you, that don’t make you one bit happier, or that really add no value to your life or anyone else’s. If you look at other cultures, there doesn’t seem to be the zeal to live in multi-million dollar houses or walk red carpets or have everyone else agree that you’re beautiful and extraordinary. In fact, having dedicated rather too much time to wanting everyone else to agree that I’m something special, I can see how empty – and strangely not healing – it is. Even when you get there, it doesn’t work.

With that in mind, my list takes on new meaning. If I were to try to find a way to bridge some middle ground between things I enjoy enough to possibly dedicate a sizable chunk of every day to them and NOT fill the rest of my life up trying to achieve some kind of societally assigned status, chase material things, and worry about what everyone else thinks…then I’d really be onto something.


It’s vegetarian, just pick out the meat June 14, 2008

Filed under: Travel — wideawakeinwonderland @ 9:16 am
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“If a lump of soot falls into the soup and you cannot conveniently get it out, stir it well in and it will give the soup a French taste.”
Jonathan Swift

Have I mentioned that the first time I backpacked Europe alone – from August 1992 through March 1993 – that I was vegan? Veganism is the form of vegetarianism where, in addition to not eating any animal products (nothing with a face!), you also do not eat any eggs or milk. In other words, I made it just about as hard on myself as I possibly could.

Actually, when I was in Santa Cruz (where I began my veganism), I learned of an even more extreme discipline (and I am not making this up!) – Fruitarianism. That is where you eat only raw fruits and seeds. Actually, what I remember are some people I met in downtown SC explaining that they would only eat fruit that fell from a tree of its own free will. Being vegan in Europe was extreme, but not THAT extreme! I suppose I would’ve had to sneak onto people’s farms and into their orchards and wait for fruit to drop? Maybe shake a few trees here and there to move things along?

As a side note, I think my digestive system would go totally nuts on a diet of all raw fruit. I know when I occasionally overdo it with those delicious Sunsweet prunes in the yellow package (or dried plums, as they’re marketing them now) I pay the piper. This usually occurs to me right around the time I’m swallowing my tenth one…and by then it’s too late. Bartender, a bag of prunes with an Immodium chaser!

Anyway, I digress. Last time I backpacked Europe I was vegan, which meant:

  1. No one had any idea what I was talking about.
  2. You would explain it and they would proceed to very carefully and kindly make some food in the hostel kitchen to share with you. After you’d checked three times that it was vegan and then happily devoured a bowl of the best soup you’d had in your whole life, you’d start the inquiries into “what WAS that culinary marvel, should I want to make it for myself some day?” And your German companion would cheerfully tell you (after some mutual translation issues) that it was ox tail soup. Apparently, since there weren’t any giant chunks of ox floating in it, he figured that made it vegan. This “picking out of the meat” or “meat is inside the dough where you can’t see it” or “entire dish is made of meat, but then I put the whole thing into the blender” form of veganism was a common misinterpretation.
  3. Regular trips to France to load up on cans of garbanzo beans.
  4. Night sweats and horrific stomach issues brought about by the occasional dabble with cheese (I suppose I had developed some element of lactose intolerance?)

Regardless, I persevered in my beliefs and dietary discipline…and eventually gave it up about six years later when my mother’s cousin – a naturopathic doctor, acupuncturist, and vegetarian of 25 years – served up a turkey on Thanksgiving. We can get into that whole story later, if you’d like, but suffice it to say, I eat everything now.

Or just about everything.

The trip kicks off August 3rd in Iceland, and their famous ‘let’s scare the tourists’ dish, hakarl (shark meat which has rotted underground for several months) is cause for alarm. Some of you may recall when chef Anthony Bourdain tried it, he stated the hakarl was “the single worst, most disgusting and terrible tasting thing” he’d ever eaten. That’s hard core. Already, discussions of how to get a crate of Powerbars into the country have commenced.