PJ WILDERNESS – MY DESTINATION: SEOUL SEARCHING

The way I manage to end almost any “debate” with my ever-increasingly cynical and tall teen-age son is by reminding him that I’m the fairest Mom in the world and would never ask him to do something I hadn’t done before. (Yes, even the litter box).  So, in that same spirit, I’ll share my Destination brainstorming...

Committing Myself
I recently had the opportunity to take a temporary detour from my life, although with limited mobility.  I regularly indulged in many things I’d love do to if I had more time in the day.  Recognizing how fulfilling they were to me, now that I’m at the eve of returning to my life, I’m panicking about how to keep going: Reading, Writing (a book, if I was not afraid), Immobility (Meditation), and movement – walking or swimming.

Additionally, I’m entertaining a mindful midlife, without heightened crisis, and there are some things that no matter how hard I try to look past them, they stand in my way.  I need to have this still time to let them come forth, be heard, find resolution, then stand aside and allow me to really move past them.

Lastly, I’m looking to get in touch with my Korean culture of origin. If money was no object, I’d be on a plane immediately, but for now I’m building a reasonable plan. Hope I didn’t overbook myself for this journey!

SeoulTalking to Myself
WHO: Most will be solitary because I need to dig deep below my surface, my persona and myself.  However, I love support groups to a) help me realize I’m not crazy and b) to help hold me accountable.  I will definitely reach out to Korean adoptee networking groups or non-profits – including the agency I was adopted through. My kids will be along for some of the journey too so they can learn to be in touch with themselves by watching and learning.

WHAT:  To get more in touch with me, I want to keep writing – working on building up the blog so eventually I can write full-time both to keep me sane and earning a living would be amazing. I need to stay in touch with my creative side and perhaps use this journey as a story line somehow.  To get more in touch with my ethnicity, I’ll visit Cultural Centers, museums, restaurants, networking through the non-profit.

I already visited the Korean Cultural Center (Los Angeles)

I already visited the Korean Cultural Center (Los Angeles)

WHERE:  Here in Los Angeles to start.

WHEN:  I aim to visit Korean cultural centers/exhibits 3-4 times/year, but stay in touch with myself more regularly to make sure I’m on the path I want – rather than just blindly barreling towards an end goal.

At KCCLA, I learned the bedroom origins of a chest my parents bought me!

At KCCLA, I learned the bedroom origins of a chest my folks got me!

WHY:  What started me on a more active journey was reading: Seeds from a Silent Tree: An Anthology By Korean Adoptees.  It’s a collection of writing from adoptees that, for the first time, revealed my shared history with others.  I’m not searching for lost family, but a common history.  I’d love to help others by supporting non-profits geared to assist with searches and adoptions. I want to pay the opportunity forward to other adoptees. It’s important to me to learn about Korean life from Koreans, not just the American impression of Koreans. I have supportive Korean friends, but currently prefer anonymously learning as I go.

Korean porous pots used to make Soy Sauce and Kimchi. I will use them for decoration.

Korean porous pots used to make soy sauce and Kimchi. I will use them for decoration.

My son asked me, “Why now (that I’m old)?” I answered that any time is a great time to learn more about ourselves and our history. Also, I hope to pass along the tradition of being still to my children so they learn to check in with themselves to honor their path in life. Whether it’s a tool to assist them with fighting peer-pressure and bullies, or to help them find a career in an area they’re passionate about, sometimes they have to learn to be still and by themselves. We all do.

Korean Artist: Young-Il Ahn Umbrellas

Korean Artist: Young-Il Ahn
Umbrellas

What’s next in this journey along the PJ Wilderness?

PJ WILDERNESS: 1ST STEP – DESTINATION

The first step in our journey through the PJ Wilderness is to focus on Destination. Elizabeth Gilbert, Cheryl Strayed, and Bill Bryson had specific travel goals that involved stretching their boundaries and required them to remain present for the journey.

Getting back to nature helps us find a different perspective.

Find a few moments to yourself…

Commit yourself:
Take a few moments from your daily grind – go to a cafe, head outdoors or lock yourself in a bathroom – whatever it takes!  Close your eyes, three deep breaths and ask yourself “What would I do, and where, if I had 26 hours in the day?” “…if money was no object?” For deeper introspection, ask “What would I do if I was not afraid?”  Repeat this until you have a list of ideas to occupy your daydreams. Don’t know where to start? Start here!  Ideas still escaping you? Consider Michael Crichton’s method of planning any adventure and figuring out your reasons or lesson later.

Consider getting a team to help you Brainstorm! You may get new perspective! Ultimately you finalize the list!

DISTRACTION: Should you involve friends or family in your brainstorming?!

Talk to yourself:
Who: Who is in on this with you? (books read, joining writer’s groups or gyms, BFFs, babysitters, going it solo)
What: Your goals (in as general or specific terms as you’re comfortable with)
Example: Goal – Read 20 books/year; 1 book/month; 1 page/day. No matter how you define it, it’s all reading and you’re doing it!
When: A good friend called me out saying “If it’s important to you, you will find time for it!” So moving YOU higher on your list of priorities and obligations, where can you steal time? Hour a week; 10 min./day; Every other weekend? Each goal will vary.
Where: Do you need to go somewhere specific or can you do it at home, or by walking out the door? Sometimes setting up a boundary by popping headphones in creates the mental boundary you need (and that others see reminding them to wait to bug you… unless they’re bleeding).
Why: Get a good mindset for why this is a priority for you.  Think beyond the obvious answers!
Example: Goal – Get outdoors daily for 15 minutes minimum. Why? Get creative juices flowing; 1 mile/day keeps the doctor away; Unplugged fun time with kids; See neighbors or cute puppy with even cuter owner!

To help me focus, I’ll work through some ideas here on the blog.  If you are already coming up with your list consider sharing one here with your “Why?”

NEXT STEP:  Asking for time off

Here’s the link to my personal PJ Wilderness Step 1. Feel free to link to yours in the comments.

WANDERING THE PJ WILDERNESS

I, like many, worked to keep up with Cheryl Strayed on the Wild Pacific Crest Trail. I fell in love with three countries, traveling with Elizabeth Gilbert in Eat Pray Love. I was exhilarated reading of Michael Crichton‘s distant Travels that forged his career change. I stumbled upon the Appalachian Trail following Bill Bryson on A Walk in the Woods. After hungrily devouring each book, I’d sit back, relax my eyes and simmer in the beauty of their journey. Feeling refreshed, I’d inhale deeply, stretch out my hands bemoaning “What do these people do for work that they can afford to take off and wander?!”

Most of us don’t have 100 vacation days or money banked to afford 100-day detours from our lives! Our days overflow with work, shuttling kids to activities or building iron-clad networks. We cram in exercise to improve our quality of life and if we don’t run ’til we drop, our downtime consists of a DVR’d bedtime story, getting a high score or cuddling our kindle.

I feel somewhat accomplished surviving such days, having eradicated a respectable chunk of my to-do list. Ultimately, the kids were loved, fed and progressed one more step towards their next grade. Still, this isn’t what I personally envisioned when planning to conquer or contribute to my world.

Once we’re out of school it’s hard to measure what, if any, progress we’re making! (I know this after 2 years of grad school to prove that I was still progressing towards something). Yeah, I am a tough sell (hard-headed according to my family). I don’t heed advice and carry on. I only value advice once it’s tried and true and I’ve experienced the miracle of its ways.

So with the books planting a yearning for an open horizon of possibilities, I’ve taken the first step into the PJ Wilderness. PJ stands for both the Personal Journey and for the chosen attire. If you tag along, we will traverse the rocky terrain of Personal Journeys using the tips from these books from the comfort of our own surroundings.

While our paths will be individual, It will be a shared adventure.

Ready?! Let’s head out!

NEXT STEP:
Choosing a destination

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PERSONAL CHECK POINT – MAY I PASS?

We needed a slow night. After bidding adieu to friends, we took long baths, got in dryer-warmed jammies and read. Part of my 101 in 1001 is reading all the books on my bookshelf. I started with the largest book with the smallest “chapters”: Oprah’s Big Book of Happiness.

Instant happiness!

Although Richard Branson’s article attracted me to browse, I landed with some 40-something friends and girl-talk! While I didn’t attend their party, I simmered on their questions (except the husband ones as I’m currently husband-free):

1) At age 18, your vision for your future: My goals were to graduate from USC in Psychology and have Antonio Sabato, Jr. or Dolph Lundgren’s kids.
How close did you get? I have the best family! I graduated from USC and refer to Psych 101 regularly. I surprised myself by accomplishing bigger dreams than imagined by completing marathons, a triathlon, working for Disney, and writing daily.

2) Advice you wish you’d received as a youth: Trust yourself: Follow your heart and your gut instincts will guide you while your head makes a plan.

3) Best money spent/biggest waste: In college I bought a Movado watch to keep up with the Trojans. I loved the first hour then felt physically uncomfortable! I kept waiting for machete-wielding locals to chop off my wrist. I was anxious that I’d lose it but still have to pay it off on my maxed card. It was the worst money I spent it so I returned it. It also became the best money I spent because it taught me that “THINGS” don’t produce the feelings I want. I still love nice things – on sale!

4) Best/worst thing about being a woman: The best thing is being strong enough to get things done but you’re allowed to be fragile enough to need help and strong enough to ask for it. Worst are many mens’ stereotypes directed towards Asian females.

5) At this point, is there a dream you’ll never fulfill? Why’re you so sure it’s out of reach? Traveling around the world with my kids on a cruise. It’s my long-shot dream, not completely out of reach.

Simmer on these questions yourself. What would your answers be?

IT’S YOUR DAY!

Did you know that March 26th was Make Up Your Own Holiday Day?! Hallmark didn’t warn me! What a spectacular opportunity to name and define a best day ever!

My daughter immediately wanted to do “Free Day!” Perhaps this is her way of saying that she really needs an allowance. The first thing she’d stock up on are free Pokemon cards. She also wanted to celebrate with the wind blowing through her hair, riding her bike – for free!

My son wants 24 hours of Girl Scout cookies! He’d fuel his morning with a wholesome burst of peanut butter Tagalongs, add roughage with coconut-filled Samoas and finish with simply minty Thin Mints. For dairy, a serving of ice cream sprinkled with fresh cookies on top! I’d implement March 27th as Vegetable Day to counteract the sugar.

My holiday focuses on all children –a day to pay close attention to what they say, their challenges, what they want – not just from the toy section. One interaction might change a child’s life. Take them to college sporting events to build larger dreams! Take kids to Disneyland to show what’s possible with imagination! Introduce them to the arts in local museums, even coffee shops. Make them feel like they matter thereby administering large boosts to self-esteem. Don’t have a kid, get one – your family or friends would love your offer to babysit and you get an excuse to recapture childhood excitement!

My informal survey yielded inspiring responses to follow our fancy! Relish our mochas! Eat rainbow sherbet slowly focusing on the joy it brings us, not just the sweet-tooth satisfaction! Celebrate individual victories – especially milestones! There’s only one “First time” before it threatens to become ordinary. Celebrate each morning you wake up to make a difference in the world! Most important – celebrate YOU! It’s not selfish to treat yourself or spend the day alone getting in touch with your wants and needs and figuring out how to get back on track if you’ve strayed.

We say we’ll do this regularly, but the grind gets in the way. At least once a month pencil in Make Up Your Own Holiday and celebrate! It’s a fun excuse for some unadulterated fun!

Make a wish and share it with the world! Love it!
I'm considering equally as romantic options to balloons though...

PAYING IT FORWARD FRIDAY: GO TEAM! (Click to the right to help now!) –>

In 2007, after finalizing a divorce and launching myself into the rest of my life, I signed up to run the 10th anniversary race through my hometown on my birthday. The race was the San Diego Rock ‘n’ Roll Marathon as in 26.2 miles. For perspective, when we moved worlds away from San Diego out to the sticks in Poway – I signed up to run farther than that.

I have no idea how a marathon got in my bucket list.  I never ran as a kid, except on horseback. Workout programs followed the trends.  In college I ran around the track, while the rugby team practiced on the infield, ending up with shin splints. It was then that I attended an information meeting for a fairly new program called Team In Training.  I didn’t sign up because I lacked the vision beyond myself to see how to complete it. Then, 16 years later, the planets aligned! I signed up!

Team In Training benefits The Leukemia & Lymphoma Society to find a cure for blood cancers and improve the quality of life for patients and families.  The training program molds you into an athlete and a fundraiser!  It SO thoroughly trained me, that I still remember the night before my marathon. I didn’t worry about finishing; I worried about not making it to start.  Talk about the law of attraction, when I got to the start area, I stepped off a curve, twisted my ankle, got through it and finished anyway!

Courage to start! John "The Penguin" Bingham

Beyond the event, the support I received, the mental arguments I won, and the people I met made it the most amazing experience ever.  I got to train alongside heroes!  Heroes who showed incredible bravery facing their, or a loved one’s, diagnosis, heroes sharing their stories of recovery or recurrence, heroes who blew past fundraising goals, heroes relentless for a cure.  I continue to draw on the endless inspiration from the experience so often that now my kids roll their eyes. I have done several events with the Team since and make such quality friends! If running is not your thing, they have options.  I highly recommend joining the Team for you and for them!

WHERE EVERYBODY KNOWS YOUR NAME

I wonder as I wander...

My town’s 70,000 residents may not qualify us as the smallest. However, we hold the record as the densest town I’ve lived in. I’m not calling my neighbors names; close to 11,000 people live in each square mile. Why, then, am I surprised so many people here know my name?

Recently, after hardly seeing people besides where I met them, suddenly the degrees of separation between my acquaintances all but disappeared!  The number of overlapping circles of friends unsettled me at first. My usual habits formed a few life-long friendships, rather than large collections of great friends. I comfortably resided anonymously in any community.  After earning the honorable badge of “My Child’s Mom,” getting recognized by more people was unavoidable – even if they’re all kids.  I comforted myself upon realizing that my family established roots – something we missed.

I now appreciate seeing similar faces at various extra-curricular events around town.  I dig that while the kids enjoy their activities, sometimes the parents head to the local watering hole where everybody knows our names and how to serve one quick round and get us back in time for pick up. I’ve found the best networking happens spontaneously on the schoolyard or store parking lots.

Today, I experienced glowing examples of community support.  During coffee with a friend who shared her latest exciting business venture, she gifted me by offering her similar experiences and sentiments toward life experiences and as a bonus, when I told her about my latest passion she immediately introduced me to two more established women for guidance.  She also invited me to a support group for business moms for another strong network to back it up. Later, at another kids’ activity, I chatted with another parent and when mentioning my goals, he quickly told me of his friend who already exists at a level I am still researching.  He offered to ask my questions and gather information on upcoming conferences.

Reach out, reach out and help someone!

Bottom line, staying within the walls of our own lives happens so easily, especially when going through life transitions when you feel every moment should focus on “fixing” things. Make the effort to step outside your walls to see who calls your name.

DOES YOUR CHILDHOOD WHIMSY PREDICT YOUR FUTURE PATH?

As a child, what did you want to be when you grew up? I wanted to be a butterfly! I continuously search beyond the obvious symbolism in the complete transformation from the worm – [CUE: Heimlich’s voice] – into a beautiful butterfly! Once the Mariah Carey song “Butterfly” starts playing in my head, I lose focus.

If I follow the literal translation, I see auditions at theme park for a character role in my future! I don’t know many butterflies, but I know a ton of fairies with wings. When I worked at the park, I always wanted to play a character in the parade. Later I participated in a character experience while working at the studio. While my penguin wings hung useless, my spirits flew high! Maybe growing wings, during the transformation, was the ultimate goal.

To wander down that train of thought, I must dive deeper to see what other childhood hobbies offer career potential. I loved drawing Cinderella in fancy ball gowns, though not creating new gowns – so scratch fashion designer. I played whiffle ball with my dad but seeing how blindly I field the ball, any involvement with that sport is out. I loved my Pirate treasure chest fish tank, but seeing as how I killed almost all my fish – ever, coupled with my current fish phobias – oceanography, deep-sea commercial fishing careers – all out.

I loved my record player and still entertain the possibility of working with music again but am redefining how to do so. I want to emerge as a holiday one-hit-wonder to get stuck in your head for eternity. Write one hit then collect royalties – can’t be that hard?! Oh, and I have to learn how to write music too, not just lyrics.

A wonderful book in a great series!

I also remember how much I loved my books. One book “A Very Young Dancer” by Jill Krementz inspired me more than the rest – not to dance, but to write about dreams and goals. Finding this link today gives me goose bumps. For now, I’ll spread my wings in the sunshine, wait for air to carry me away and flutter after that train of thought to see where I land next. Where’ll your wings carry you?

REMEMBER REAL LIFE BEFORE REALITY STARS?

Reality stars wish to be this cute or likeable!

Recently lots of noise hit the Internet about quarterback Tim Tebow, known for his beliefs and philanthropy almost more than his football. Today the glamorous Golden Globes paid tribute to those most talented this year in their craft. I got to see some of my favorite stars that used to wink at me from my teenage closet door, (who aged well, much to my delight), and fondly recalled life before Reality Stars.

The fact that I currently hold disdain for people like the Jersey cast and the K3 Sisters, probably shouts that I’m getting old. Honestly, it goes against my disposition to dislike anyone as I’m always finding the best in people, offering them the benefit of the doubt, seeing things from their perspective, and at least, taking them for face value in the moment.

I do not like this obsession with becoming famous just to be famous. I feel like if someone emerges more talented than their peers, then they deserve recognition. I’ll even agree that knowing how to manipulate media to get famous with no talent does mean that you’re skilled at something – or hired great people. But when you get to the top and all the kids around the world want to be you and all you provide is drama, tantrums, and ridiculously outlandish lifestyles – what are you worth?

This attitude - cute when you're 4, not at 20!

I hear people in office jobs talking like the K3 sisters and cringe. Gag me with a spoon! OH! Mark this day – I understand my parents’ motivation when they insisted I give up Valley Girlese! I’ll even say that originally, I admired KMom for wanting to make sure that her KKids are set for life without financial worries. However, in light of the recent wedding fiasco, the motivation extends beyond comfort to downright greed. I come from non-profits and that money could be put to a myriad of better uses. All it would take for me to return to the comfort level of agreeing to disagree and laughing at “kids these days” would be if they donated the money from the short-term union. They can keep their fans, possibly earn a few more, if they showed (pretended) to care about someone beside themselves.

JUST F’IN WRITE ALREADY!

Approaching my computer to surf people’s New Year’s Eve photos, I have the following windows open: two “respectable” job boards, “How to take control and reignite passion for your career,” “Transition from full-time to freelance,” “Top 5 regrets of people on their deathbed,” an unpublished manuscript reigniting my passion for my favorite vampire, and Google-search results for female mid-life crises.  Call it what you want, I’m wandering along researching all possible scenarios, creating plans and back-up plans but choosing none.

When people ask, “What would you do if you knew you could not fail?” I say WRITE.  I have loved writing since high school when I had a superb mentor and teacher who taught us to just let it flow.  It was a way to be in touch with myself and to bring life and sense to my random thoughts.  After having children I tiptoed back into creative writing with some classes, collecting, but not developing, ideas.

“What have you written?” comes next. I list a few adapted works and present a long list of “I’d love to write…” So truthfully – nothing.  I feverishly start, grow tired of the story, or claim “too busy” to finish.  I am easily distracted and have a tireless imagination that creates obstacles to keep me from writing.  Some were carelessly thrown there, some I put there to force me to follow into a more stable, less isolated destination.  However, the bottom line is, I’m not writing.

Oprah always says the universe speaks first in whispers, then messages, then a good friend smacks you upside the head [paraphrased] “Love the idea, just f’in write it already!”

After re(ally soul)searching, and being a big believer in baby steps, I created a plan to have NO plan besides committing to write 365 words/day for 365 days!  That is 11,102 words a month, 133,225 a year!  I will try new experiences, read new books, swim upstream when necessary, re-visit favorite haunts or just catch the tail of thoughts that flitter through my mind – or distract me with something sparkly from yours – and wander along to see where it goes!  This journey will be more fun with great conversations, so please, wander with me!

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