Are you present or just taking attendance in life?
I feel inspired to finally get started on my sabbatical blog and have been reflecting on a blog I started writing over six months ago and never finished. However, today was perfect to put a few things in order and start attending to my promise to document this incredible journey, and my new life. I am writing this second blog to be named, "I Sea Me, A Journey of Dreams," for my friends, colleagues, and family who would like inside peek into what it looks like to take a timeout from working at forty nine, sell everything not tied down, and I mean I totally sold everything and move into an RV.
Believe me moving full-time and living by the seat of your pants in a twenty four foot RV truly brings a new perspective to life and the things that kept me tied down for years. Actually, I have dreamed about living in an RV for years and have talked about it with many people. Selling everything and moving into a 200 square foot RV is not for everyone, but it is my dream, and I am so blessed to have a partner who thinks it is pretty cool too. Many people may view this type of vagabond lifestyle as crazy or nuts, but I am the happiest and most joyful person that I have ever been in my life. It may appear on the outside that I have very little, as sadly most of society views your materialist positions as how much you have. However, I am rich beyond belief with everything I could ever dream of having and so much more.
This process did not happen overnight, and over the past year, I transitioned through many stages of letting go of things, packing, unpacking, selling, giving away, donating, moving, storing, unboxing, resorting, selling, re-boxing, giving more away, and finally making three piles on the bed. Honestly, I can't even remember what I used to have in my closet. There were so many things I never wore, shoes that hurt my feet, and too many t-shirts for one person to own. What is really ironic is about two years ago I started a long process of losing fifty pounds and had already taken every piece of clothing I previously owned to Goodwill. I spent $500.00 at Clothes Mentor before school started last year and bought an entirely new set of clothes, as there was no reason to keep anything in my closet.
For twenty years I had lost weight and bought new clothes, but never let go of the old clothes just in case I gained weight again. That was the crux of the big problem. I never fully trusted or believed that I was going to be successful at keeping the weight off. I finally understand and truly have insight into the issues each time I went through this yo-yo process. I could never honestly let go of the past and trust completely in the journey forward. I would chicken out and keep the old FAT clothes in the back of the closet just in case I needed them in the future.
The major tipping point in my life is when I made the decision to get off that bathroom floor and take my life 100% back under control. If you are not sure what I am talking about, then reference last year’s summer blog, "Abundance," to understand the back-story behind the bathroom floor. I have never looked back one time since that cold day in December 2016 and used my free will to change the trajectory of my LIFE and start living the journey I had always dreamed of by tossing all those size sixteen pants to the curb. I went from an embarrassing blimp-size sixteen and 189 pounds to a size six and a steady 142 pounds for the past year. Why am I reflecting on size, weight, letting go of things, trusting the journey, and three piles of clothes on a bed?
Let's dive into the journey and the three piles so I can provide an inside perspective of decluttering my life and cleaning out all the closets so I could move forward from my former life. There are three areas in my life that I sorted through and made hard decisions about what would move with me into a twenty four foot RV. There is no fallback storage locker waiting for me back in Arkansas, no FAT clothes pushed in the back of the closet, and no paycheck deposited into my bank account every month on the nineteenth. I have a cell phone, a brand new Mac computer, modest savings account, sweet little RV, a pink scooter named Pricilla, a crazy awesome loving girlfriend, and my LinkedIn account.
I have three pairs of great fitting jeans, ten awesome t-shirts, seven pair of size six shorts, ten pairs of great fitting underwear, ten pairs of socks with no holes, three Victoria Secrets bras, three sexy dresses, three pair of dress pants, four pairs of sandals, three fleece pullovers, three jacket/coats, one pair of hiking boots, and four pairs of comfortable tennis shoes.This is my light and comfortable well-organized closet with the perfect amount of activewear and everyday causal clothing that fits my body correctly. My sister Laura laid down the law with me about a year ago and said, "if you are going to have a body that looks hot then you better lift those things up and buy some real bra's. NO more sports bras for you!" I have only worn a sports bra a hand full of times since investing in the best bra's ever, and I even exercise in them. Why not wear these bra's every day? They are comfortable as hell and make me feel sexy.
Pile number one is in a Rubbermaid tub in my sister Laura's attic with a few of my dad's things, pictures, and some old high school mementos. The second pile is the list of clothes I mentioned earlier in the image above, and the last pile is in the RV with me and is one Rubbermaid tub of the best of Deb for the past nineteen years of teaching. I can make a living doing great work with one container of toys and props, as the rest is in my head and heart. All materialistic items are gone; personally, I have a love of my life traveling beside me, and professionally I will figure it out. In preparation to get to this point, it has taken about a year to unfold all the creases, folds, and a few wrinkles for a smooth transition into this, my brand new life. There is no way I would be sitting here today if it were not for the unconditional love and support from my sweet sister Laura Tucker. She and her family blessed with me an incredibly gracious gift of allowing me to live in their beautiful lakefront downstairs apartment for over a year so I could pay off all my debt and save fifty percent of every paycheck I made last school year. I am starting this journey with a healthy cash savings account that is budgeted to last eighteen months; however, I plan on having a plan to financially support myself before burning through all my savings. Nonetheless, this could not even be possible without the assistance, financial coaching, and encouragement from my beyond generous sister.
When I was around twenty-five years old, my best friend Holly moved to Santa Barbara, CA. I flew out to visit her many times over the years and always promised myself I would someday live in Santa Barbara on the ocean. I had the opportunity to move to CA when I was twenty four but I totally chickened out telling myself that it was so expensive and I did not have the skills necessary to make a living on the west coast and support myself. So for the next twenty-five years, I would fly to CA every year and some years multiple times. Each time I would get on the airplane to fly back to Arkansas I could feel the dread and disappointment in myself again leaving the place I so desired to be with an ocean lifestyle to live and thrive. What does this story have to do with three piles of clothes and keeping the old FAT clothes in the closet just in case I needed them? For years I paralyzed myself with fear to not be good enough to make it in CA, that I would be poor and broke, all kinds of terrible stories I made up in my head, and doubts I internalized from other people.
In two days I will be arriving in Santa Barbara and fulfilling a dream and promise to myself twenty five years ago. I have navigated a way to live in one of the most desirable areas in Santa Barbara for free including all utilities, water, sewer, and trash. Stay tuned for amazing details on how I pulled this off in an upcoming blog.
In my previous life, I formed what I thought was the responsible thing to do by showing up like a dependable human and continued to take attendance in my life with obtaining numerous material things, personal items, relationships, friends, and patterns of behavior that kept me stuck. Currently, I am referring to myself as an authentic free-spirited west coast self-reflecting writer who gets out of bed about 9am, drinks a couple cups of coffee, and plans the day as it unfolds.
Ask anyone who has been following me, my plans change weekly, daily, or by the hour, and it is ok. If things do not feel right or resonate with me than I listen to my little voice and honor the moment. I am entirely comfortable in my own skin and 100% trust that I am on the right path, and it will lead me to the perfect spot to put the RV in a park for a while. These three piles were sorted this past year, and everything that no longer served me in a positive forward moving direction was eliminated.
My previous life was built around showing up every day, doing an excellent job for everyone else except myself, and taking attendance, making sure I had something to show at the end of the day. I felt that checking the box every day, keeping a record of everything accomplished would make me feel worthy and valuable as a human. I was excellent at filling my box so full that I could barely keep my snorkel above the waterline. For some weird reason, I made up stories in my head that this was how you should show up to be successful, worthy, and admired in professional and personal life. I am so proud to have been a teacher as I had an incredible career and tried my best to show up for my students every day. However, there were many years over the last ten years of my teaching career when I was entirely just taking attendance. Unfortunately, I suffered such unbelievable personal challenges with my family and my own personal life that external issues pulled me in tormented directions as my life was beyond challenging, and I often wanted to stay in my office and just cry.
I will share a story of a recent situation that occurred this past spring with some students in my PE Yoga class. I am so grateful for the many lessons I continue to learn about myself, my family, former students, and strangers I meet on the street. This past spring while practicing yoga with my students I noticed that a particular group of students walked into the room and were oddly distracted and could not seem to settle down. I found myself becoming slightly irritated as their disruptions in the corner of the room were beginning to cause others in the class to grow restless. I could feel the energy in the classroom begin to shift, and each second that passed I could feel a sense that everyone’s presence in the class drifting towards the distractions occurring in the back corner of the room. Knowing that I needed to make this distraction a learning moment for the entire class I decided to take five deep breathes myself and calm any own personal feelings of irritation.
Being an educator for twenty years, I promise there are many moments during the day that students will intentionally attempt to push your buttons trying to get a teacher to bite the hook. I can tell you that I thought about my strategy to shift or change the environment for this class must start with my personal intention to stay present at the moment and calm myself down first. Many times we allow our own emotions to rise to the top when we are trying to calm others down. Nevertheless, keeping the class moving forward I was determined to provide a foundation for how to use this class situation to apply to other aspects of my student’s lives. I asked the class, “What do you think it means to be present in this class?” One young man replied, “Miss, it means I am here, you marked me here on attendance, right?” I asked him, “What does it mean to be here?” He said, “It means I am not absent.” I responded to him again, “No that was not what I meant by being here. I want to know what you think it means to BE HERE in class today?” He again said to me, “I am here in your yoga class.” Ok, now was the true learning moment for me the teacher. This young man had NO idea of what in the world I was talking about when I said, “Are you here today in class?” I reflected on my own personal situation of personal and family issues that had impacted me to just take attendance some days. I realized immediately that I needed to give this young man an out option for the day and said, "you are welcome to just take your yoga mat to the back of the room and catch a little power nap if you need a break today." Word traveled quickly around the school, and I frequently had kids show up at my door asking to come in during yoga class and take a quiet nap in the back of the room.
I spent the rest of the yoga unit, and class teaching my kids what it looks, feels, and sounds like to attend my class and to listen to what their bodies, minds, and spirits truly needed at the moment and honor that feeling. I can honestly say that 90% of the students thought I was speaking Greek and indeed had never been taught what Being Here and Being Present meant and how to show up in class and their personal lives to lead a more impactful life. I explained to my students that it was ok to some days just show up and do your best, be kind to yourself even if that meant dragging your yoga mat to the back and closing your eyes and grabbing a thirty-minute power nap.
I thought about my own life and how it has taken me almost fifty years to completely understand this concept, as I spent most of my life saying, “I am here for you, I am in attendance." Now reflecting back upon situations in my personal experience I must sadly admit that I probably was never here for most of the people in my life. My mind was usually wandering somewhere else during conversations, or I was thinking ahead about what I needed to say or interject into the conversation before the other person was even halfway through their thoughts. Sadly I self-imposed most of this upon myself as I constantly would put so much on my plate my head was torn in ten directions.
Personally, for me, I will admit that this topic is the one component within relationships that impacted me the most and seem to be a direct trigger for me to feel hurt, not validated, and disappointed in others. As people we all desire to be heard and explicitly speaking for myself I sincerely desire to be understood and listened to from my friends, family members, colleagues, and my partner.
For years I know my own behavior on not being present and just showing up to take attendance has impacted my relationships. Currently, I make a daily conscious choice with others to stay present for the other person sitting across the table from me. I do one thing at a time and give that task my utmost attention. My favorite t-shirt says, "Seas The Day." No more multi-tasking for me, which is the biggest mistake we teach people to try and do. My friend Linda H. once called me the best multitasking compartmentalizer she had ever met. At the time I took this comment to be the highest compliment she could ever have given me, yet today I wish she should have told me, "you are going to go crazy and have too many tasks on your plate, so delegate some to others or say, no thanks but my plate is full."
I learned many valuable lessons last year while reading all of Brene’ Browns books and credit her with so many of the incredible tools I now employ in the much-improved happy, joyful, peaceful areas of my life. Special thanks to my friend Lynda who introduced me to Brene'. I am a happier and much calmer person, and I plan to stay that way with daily intentional efforts that I apply to Be Here and Stay Present, attending life each and every day. I practice these strategies every morning and repeat them multiple times during the day when my monkey mind tries to drive me in the ditch. It takes years to unlearn old patterns and bad habits for our brains. I am kind to myself and gently have a little Deb self-talk when I feel myself being tempted to take on more tasks or get off track with my personal goals to stay present and mindful with every day.
This specific book, "Rising Strong," was my personal favorite from the Brene' Brown collection and has been a re-read for me three times over the past year. I think she wrote this book for me, or at least I felt like she was describing me on every page.
Recently during my spiritual prayer team focus group, we were discussing what it takes to form new neural pathways in the brain to change behaviors and make permanent habits in our thought processes, the way we think, act, and process information. I have a Masters Degree in Kinesiology/Exercise Physiology and have an extensive background in gross motor and fine motor skill development. I know and understand the brain and what it requires to learn new skills, such as juggling, or riding a bike. However, I will admit that the mental retraining needed for changing behaviors such as Being Here and Staying Present is 1000% harder than any motor skill acquisition I have ever tried to learn. Our brains are so incredibly complex systems and emotions mixed in with chemicals released with hormones, cortisol the stress hormone are so much more challenging to train and tame than muscle memory for a softball throw or a soccer kick. When you beat yourself up for years, it takes time to repair the damage. Sleep deprivation is cumulative, and it takes time to honestly realign the body, brain, and spirit. I am kind to myself, and if I happen to sleep fourteen hours and get out of bed at noon, my sweet girlfriend has my coffee ready and just the way I love it with fresh raw butter, heavy cream, and honey.
Why am I writing about this particular topic today? I know I am not the only person out here in the world who struggles with Staying Present, Being Here and Attending Life. If my blog helps one person step back and evaluate their life to make changes that will help provide more peace, joy, and happiness then this blog is worth my efforts. Please continue to follow me over the months and I promise to share anything I learn along the journey. If you find my blogs to be interesting or might help a friend feel free to share my website @debwaltertravel.com
I want to share a few great strategies that I have been using this past year that are helping me form much stronger and healthier relationships with students, colleagues, friends, strangers, girlfriend, and my personal contacts. Just like the example, I mentioned earlier with the student who had NO idea of what I was talking about when I asked him the question, “Are you HERE today in my class?"
He honestly thought I was referring to the process of him sitting on his yoga mat and sucking air in my classroom while I was taking attendance in my class. I know there were many times in my past that I literally just showed up in life, marked myself present and sucked the air in someone else’s space. Life has such a funny way of teaching us our greatest lessons when we are willing to be humble, have grace, be kind to ourselves, forgive our past failures, be reflective, listen, and show up daily with an intention to attend life and not take attendance.
I am sharing some strategies for staying present in each day, how I show up at this moment and the purposeful new routines that are leading to immense growth and spiritual maturity.
1. The moment I wake up in the morning, I thank God for another opportunity to be the best I can be today.
2. I look myself in the mirror and say, “Deb, today it is important to show up and be present, so let set your intentions for the today. Deb tomorrow does not matter if you don’t do a great job today. Tomorrow will matter more if you take care of your business today!”
3. I take time to tell my darling girlfriend how much I love her and what she means to me.
4. When talking to people, I look them in the eyes and move my chair in or forward while sitting on the edge, so I pay better attention. 5. When my mind starts to race ahead in conversations, and I am tempted to butt in and fork out my two cents I make a conscious effort to wrestle the thought back into the cage to be quiet and patiently continue to listen.
6. If I jump the centerline and butt into a conversation while the other person is still talking, I apologize to myself and take note of my inpatient sidestep and work to do better in the next situation. Beating myself up for mistakes does not work. I have learned to be much kinder to myself, and it has and is serving me well in my area of personal self-development and spiritual growth. 7. When my monkey mind starts to wander into tomorrow’s business or what is coming next month or next year I stop and remind myself to stay present and be here. Most of the time we worry about things that we have absolutely no control over or predictability to change in three, six, or nine months of time. I have found that thinking or worrying about things way down the road is a complete waste of bandwidth in my brain and fogs up my clarity to stay present today. I certainly have goals and visions for the future, but if I do not focus on the immediate tasks at hand today, my goals and vision for the future will get pushed down the hill, or I will entirely miss the mark.
8. Another valuable lesson I have learned is to have complete trust in the future as if my vision has already happened. I keep my mind open and remain organic as situations naturally unfold with incredible blessings and miracles at each intersection. This concept may seem hard to believe and understand, but I live each day with no worry, fears, or doubt about tomorrow. This state of being has evolved through a conscious choice to live with happiness in my heart and continues to strengthen through showing up and participating in life in the here and now. In my former life, I was an expert in how to miss out on living an authentic experience with passion and purpose. I spent the better part of the last twenty five years worrying about my misguided perception of what I thought my life needed to look like tomorrow before I had ever finished my business today. Today I can honestly say my life has never been so peaceful, happy, full of joy and I have the perfect amount of clothes in the closet, a tiny house I can clean in ten minutes, and a sweet lover who adores me. Tonight as I write this blog I can honestly say I did the very best I could today to stay present at the moment and I listened to others with intensity. My prayer at the end of the day is if today was my last day on this earth I showed up and was present in my actions, thoughts, and words with others. I strive to tell the people I care about how much I love them, and I listened to their last words with all my heart. Thank you Karen H. for sharing this great quote coaster that I snapped a picture of on my last day of work while sitting in your office.
9. The No More Bull Shit Rule – I recently read Brene’ Browns latest book, “Braving the Wilderness,” and when Brene’ spoke about the no more bull shit rule, I said to myself, “Deb this line was specially written for you. I am taking on the no more bullshit challenge for my personal life.” Here is the list of how I am applying this rule to my life to continue to manifest the future that I desire to work, live, and love in Santa Barbara, CA by attracting the highest frequencies and energy needed within my circle of influence. By applying the NMBS rule, I will be able to have no limitations on service as a fantastic leader while taking absolute authority over my life, and taking dominion at all times for myself.
* Just the facts are necessary and no more extra credits to be added to the story, nor are needed as the story is just perfect the way it is.
* If you hurt my feelings or do not listen to me when I am speaking, I will not internalize it and gently remind people of my needs.
* No more multitasking while driving, which includes messing with the phone.
* I no longer have expectations of how my old friends should act or behave. I am moving forward with my life have cut the cord with past relationships that are no longer aligned with mutual interests or are not resonating in harmony, peace, happiness, and joy with me. * I will not allow people to poop on my doorstep with their baggage. Clean up your own messes in life.
* I am very excited to be relocating my career and personal life near the coast where I am in high frequency with while building a community of like-minded individuals and friends instead of trying to fit into other people lives. It is like trying to fit a square peg into a round hole. * Freedom to finally fulfill my dreams is bringing me happiness and joy providing more meaning and connection in my life. I feel a daily opening in my vessel to be filled with more grace, blessings, and miracles moving forward into tomorrow.
The journey begins with you, Deb