I would not call myself a “traveler” nor would I classify it as a hobby. I do love to visit new places but I don’t want to “see the world.” I am blessed to live in a country that is expansive and filled with interesting cities, people, and history in their own right. Although all of this is within my reach, most of my travel within the United States has been strictly East Coast.

I have traveled to Europe. In 1999, at the age of 14,  I visited Paris and London. For my honeymoon in 2015, my husband and I took a tour of Ireland.  I’ve been to the Bahamas twice and Punta Cana. You could say that there are lots of places to check off on my list but one thing always struck me: there is a huge country just to the west of me and I want to see it!

One of the places on my list was California, but not the typical L.A., Hollywood, Beverly Hills visit. I wanted to see the Pacific Ocean and The Redwoods. After a few weeks, my husband booked and planned out our entire trip. We would fly into San Francisco, drive up the coast to Mendocino, down to Gualala and back home through San Fran Airport. 

 

As we drove up the winding coast, I would look at my phone – as one does out of habit – and noticed I had zero service. I should note that I do not have any social media apps on my phone except Twitter. That’s right: No Instagram, No Facebook, No Facebook messenger, no Snap Chat…nothing. So my checking my phone was not to check for push notifications but simply to see if I had any text messages or missed calls.

As usual, I had none.

And though I do not have apps on my phone, I will post photos or check Facebook through the web browser. So I would see a beautiful shot like the one above and think, “I need to share this!”

But I couldn’t. And I was OK with that.

My service was spotty at best throughout the 5 days and while I took photos on my phone, it was only because I wanted to capture the moment for myself. My husband had the “Big Boy” camera so I took way more shots on that than my phone.

This trip was last month and I feel ready to write about it and share it. The most remarkable experience was the Redwoods. I do not have photos of those to share now because, frankly, capturing them on a real camera is hard enough let alone of a itty-bitty phone camera. More importantly I didn’t want to. Being in those Redwoods made me feel powerful and powerless all at once. They are powerful, strong, natural structures that you have to see to believe and experience. To look up at a tree and not be able to see the top, knowing it has been there for hundreds and hundreds of years is quite humbling. I didn’t have a life-altering experience with these bad boys, but I realized that having zero service was the best unexpected gift the California coast gave me.

 

Far too often we spend most of our experiences with our phones in our hands and our eyes looking through a screen.  We never take the time to experience life through our eyes and take it as a moment that doesn’t need sharing immediately.  Our “followers” can and should wait. The best moments like the ones “captured” in California would not make the best Instagram shots that would gain me thousands of followers and sponsorships.

 

 

Like in the photo below when I visited Jessica Fletcher’s house. Happening upon this house was a complete accident. It was not until after the trip was booked that I learned the 80s-90s show Murder, She Wrote was filmed right where we were staying in Mendocino.

I couldn’t send this to anyone.  I couldn’t post it online. I couldn’t text it, email it, or Tweet it. It was MY moment. And while I am sharing it with you now, the “no service” has taught to give me pause. 

Pause before you think to jump on that app and share a photo of a delicious meal or a beautiful scene. Soak it in. Welcome it into your brain and your experience. Once you’ve done that…then, share away.

 

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[image from: Anubhuti retreat center]

Last Saturday, I experienced something I had wanted to do for a long time: a silent retreat.

A lot of silent retreats are entire weekends, but with my own personal anxieties I knew only a few hours would work best for me and get the results I was looking for. Back in October I took a 8-week Mindfulness / Stress Reduction course. Built into that course was one free silent retreat where all of the lessons were combined into a span of 6 hours.

To be honest, I almost talked myself out of it. My personal (irrational) fear of being away from home almost made me send a cancelation e-mail to the retreat director. I fought against it and drove the 25 minutes to the yoga studio. When I walked in, the instructor told me she was so happy to see me again. Although we would not be talking once the 6 hours began and I was in a room full of strangers, I felt comfort in the company of a familiar face.

The entire day, as it was explained, was about us. Spending time with ourselves and if someone did not smile at us today or look us in the eye, it was not personal; we were all there, quite simply, to be alone.

And from there, we did several guided meditations, walking meditations, light yoga and yoga nidra. We also had 1 hour for lunch where not a single person took out their cell phones to scroll through social media, no one made a phone call, no one took out a book or magazine. We ate in silence, scattered around the studio and some of us (myself included) sat outside. After I ate, I took a 30 minute walk around the area.


WHAT I LEARNED


I didn’t have an enlightening experience where I suddenly knew my life purpose or heard an inner voice tell me something life-changing. Instead I learned that I have complete control over my experience at any given moment.

I am lucky enough to live the kind of life where I can leave a place when I am uncomfortable, jump in my car and drive home. I learned that my anxiety can no longer control me like I believe most of the time. In fact, I have control over my anxiety because in any given moment I have a choice: to stay or to go. And whatever choice leads to reduced anxiety (obviously within reason), I will do it.

I felt the exact moment when my anxiety sparked: At 5:15pm.  We were in the middle of Yoga Nidra. After dozing for a few minutes, I woke up in a cold sweat and a state of panic. Before I even realized it, I was already planning my escape.  Fear took over and the sense of being trapped consumed me. (I am not a huge fan of Yoga Nidra, therefore, looking back on this it is no surprise the anxiety hit when it did.)

I realized completely that when that anxiety pang hits, it hits and hits hard. I am no longer a 31-year old woman but an 8 year old stuck on a Girl Scout weekend trip, stuck with a partner who is annoying and annoys everyone else.  Or a 9 year old on yet another Girl Scout weekend where I am being made fun of for having a stomach ache and taking up too much time in the only bathroom. I am the 5 year old who wants to brave staying overnight in West Virginia with her grandparents only to wake up at 1 am wanting to be home with mom and dad.

I learned that as an adult I am in complete control of my enviornment, whether to stay or to go. I don’t need to ask permission or call someone and beg for a ride home. So, after Yoga Nidra ended and the instructor announced a quick 10 minute break, I grabbed my yoga mat and meditation pillow and headed out, leaving the last half hour of the retreat behind without regret or permission.

I am utterly fascinated by the people who have elaborate bullet journals. They are so creative and use their journals as their form of art and creative outlet. I watched many videos and saved many-a-pins and tried to get into it. The truth is, I’m too much of a perfectionist to have the type of bullet journal I see online.

Bullet journal:  [source: tumblr]

The truth is I envy these creative people who can spend hours on layouts and spreads. They are quite impressive and I wish I could do it. I tried. I gave it a solid effort, but I have to give up the bullet journal ghost.


IT IS VERY TIME CONSUMING


The layouts online take a very long time. I worked on one that wasn’t even close to the detail as the one shown above and it took me over an hour. All I did were a few lines using a ruler and some attempts at calligraphy. It still did not turn out the way I wanted it to and I wasn’t inspired by it.


NOT GOOD FOR MY PERFECTIONIST MIND


Ever since elementary school, if I made the tiniest mistake on anything I had to scrap and start all over. I would try to salvage the project, but my inner perfectionist was not having it. I see some bullet journal spreads with crossed out pages, but I cannot deal… it’s either perfect or it is not.


I COULD NOT FIND THE RIGHT LAYOUTS


There are a billion layouts out there for every possible thing one may want to track.  I tried a few and no matter how much I tweeked it, combined ideas and methods the concept never quite fit my style. Combine that with the above quest for bullet journal perfection and you have a recipe for failure and frustration. Going back to reason number 1, this became a time-suck; wasted time I could have used on other hobbies that bring me happiness and joy.

 


ATTEMPTED TO TRACK TOO MUCH AT ONCE…AND FOR WHAT?


Tracking everything you do, spend, eat, read, sneeze, or drink can be a mindfu*k.  I am exaggerating, of course, but once you start down that daily tracking road it is hard to turn back.  Yesterday, I turned back. I tore out my failed-attempts at creative, Tweetable, Instagramable layouts and popped them in the garbage.

The primary reason? I already have a planner. In fact, I was tracking my spending on a note page on the opposite of the last week of April’s weekly layout. Breaking with my perfectionism, I tore that page out leaving me without a daily sheet for April 27-30th.

My inner critic screamed as I tore out the page, but I ignored her. Not having three days in my planner would not ruin my existence. I already track my spending in an old-school checkbook ledger.

[Favorite post by Cait Flanders that inspired me to move beyond tracking: http://caitflanders.com/2016/10/11/stop-tracking-start-making-intentional-decisions/ ]

I already have a planner with the best pre-designed layout that works for me. A lot of people get into bullet journaling because pre-printed layouts did not fit their style. I am one of the lucky people who these work for. I have the monthly calendar and a weekly breakdown with lots of space for to do lists and notes.

So while I have deep admiration for those of you who can do this, I am walking away and giving up the ghost of the bullet journal.

CONNECT:

TWITTER: AMANDA11762

FACEBOOK: LIFEALABODE

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[image credit: kobini]

Last weekend I went to see the Blue Angels air show in Baltimore. It is an event I had heard of over the last several years but never attended. I could see them from my brother’s house way in the distance and could hear them flying over head from my house but I never really saw them.

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[image: The Business Journals]

My mom called and invited me down to watch the air show. The day was beyond beautiful: 70 degrees, not a single cloud in the sky, a gentle breeze. I was with my mom and step dad who I enjoy being with and don’t get to see as often as I’d like. I was watching the planes fly overhead and was witnessing something for the first time. I found myself, phone in hand, trying to capture this first time experience on video for Instagram. My excuse was I wanted to share it with someone who wasn’t there. Ironically, that desire to share it with someone who wasn’t there made me “not there.” I recognized that I was not being present and put the phone away after a few failed attempts to capture the Blue Angels souring above the crowd.

Those pilots were probably having the time of their lives, fully present and aware. I began to imagine the messages being relayed through their headsets, communicating with one another to stay safe and interact. I pictured them rooting each other on, cheering “wooo!” as they flipped up side and and spun around. I usually place huge judgment on people who “view life through their phones” and here I was doing exactly that. I decided to be fully present: To talk to my mom and step dad, be with them, phone away, really be aware of how awesome this air show was. (I did have ear plugs in because those planes sure are loud!)

Cut to yesterday. Throughout the day I had  thoughts of how to really live life more, be more present, more alive! While I was using the app AppDetox to keep myself off instagram from the hours of 9am-5pm, Honestly, I didn’t miss it. I had no burning desire or feeling deprived. When I would decide later in the evening to check it, I felt nothing: no joy, no annoyance, nothing. It was a space and time suck in a way that added zero value to my life. I was on it because I thought I was supposed to be. Everyone uses Instagram, right!?

I found myself trying to post my life and view others’ lives through these posts. I wasn’t addicted, but it was an “escape” from the work day, to distract me from whatever I didn’t feel like doing, feel like feeling or experiencing, using it as an excuse for “inspiration” when really I got none from it.

So, I removed the app from my phone. Then went online and deleted my account.

I want to be more present. I don’t want to do things with people and go to events and think of having to share it. It no longer serves a purpose for me. I know many people love it and find value in it. It was fun for a while, but for me, it’s time to use my own eyes as my real-life instagram.

As I continue to do a massive decluttering of things, I recently was able to reduce my Keepsakes down to 1 box. This does not include photos which are too down to a single, well organized box.

When I began my decluttering/organizing last summer I had 2 shopping bags and a larger tote box full of birthday cards, yearbooks, and books. I went through each box and bag and looked though every single item that was in them and decided whether or not to keep them. During round 1, I was able to get the tote down to a size where the lid could be put back on correctly rather than teetering on top of my college graduation cap and a large Pre-K graduation diploma. I put the box back in the closet and left it to simmer for a few months. I went back in about a month ago and went for round 2.

 

I am happy to report this is my only box full of keepsakes and each item holds a very personal and positive feeling and memory.

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If you are looking to reduce your keepsakes to a manageable side, here are a few ideas. Also remember, you can do a few “rounds” like I did, but the key is to really think about it. Just because you are getting rid of an item, does not mean you are dishonoring the memory or the person who gave it to you. In fact, it is the opposite! You are making room for more memories and no one can declutter your brain. It’s a lot harder to throw out a box of memories in your brain than it is in your home.

  1. Let Go of Old Birthday, Holidays, etc. Cards : Over the years we have all been given hundreds of cards. I still give and receive them to this day, of course, but to keep every single one is a waste of precious space. My first round I had at least 50 cards going back to high school graduation from 2003.  I took each one out, read them all, and decided if they were worth keeping. I had a ton from my parents and I decided to keep 2 of each. I also kept ones from my step-grandparents. And all of the notes and cards from my husband since we met in 2005. Yes – those fit in this box too!
  2. Do you still know the person who gave you the item : This is a big one. Aside from those who have passed away, holding on to stuff from ex-relationships or friends from elementary school are no-brainer give-a-ways in my opinion. I found random stuff from people I kind of remember, but couldn’t tell you their last names or even where they are today. If that is the case, I say toss it. Odds are you aren’t going to run into them again and if you do I doubt your conversation will include the empty pack of M&Ms you saved when you both had a sleep over for the first time.keepsakebox2_edits
  3. Does it matter if it is one-of-a-kind? Sometimes we hang on to gifts that we didn’t like then and don’t like now. Going off of #2, if you no longer know the person and it has no use in your current life, toss it. There are exceptions of course, but the key here is to get really honest with yourself. You don’t need the half of a tarnished “Be Fri” friendship necklace from 8th grade…even if you know the person now. Also, if it is a one-of-a-kind knick-knack, is it something you’d put on display in your home now?
  4. Does it bring you a positive memory? As I was going through things I found some things that didn’t bring me much of a positive feeling. If you look at the item and your first thought is sadness or pain, get rid of it. Don’t keep it. Another hard thing to get rid of are those memorial cards from those who have passed. These I had a hard time getting rid of. The truth is, keeping it or getting rid of it does not have any direct impact on that person, their memory, or the relationship you had with them. If you can part with it, please do. It may feel icky and disrespectful on some level, but after it is gone, the memory and honor of that person is not.
  5. Is this something you’d want to go through or look at again? This goes for things like yearbooks, letter notebooks (remember those where you passed a notebook back and forth between a friend where you wrote and replied to each others’ letters?), etc. If it is something you take pleasure in looking at one last time and do not feel any real desire to look at it again, it may be time to part with it. Some suggest taking pictures of things, but I think that is another way of holding on to something that, on some honest level, you want to part with. And truly: are you ever going to go through pictures of your old stuff? Probably not.

The Keepsakes are one of the hardest to part with and declutter. By nature, I am not a hugely sentimental person so getting rid of things is easier for me than others. If you are like me, the steps above will be quite easy. if you are the opposite and worry about getting rid of memory items: sort through everything in “rounds” and do it over a period of time. There is no due date for any of this. But do be really honest with yourself as you go through things and make room for new keepsakes rather than hold on to ones that only serve a purpose of dust collecting and space hogging.