Learning to listen to your gut instincts

I’m a big fan of listening to your gut instinct. It’s the feeling we all have to either jump in or shy away from something for some inexplicable reason. We don’t always know why our gut is telling us to do/not do something so more often than not we choose to ignore it until it becomes something more concrete. The problem with that is our gut instincts need practice, and to be trusted with smaller things before it can be trusted to handle bigger life decisions.

Instincts

I once worked with a woman who trusted her gut with everything no questions asked. I remember one anecdote in particular when she told me that she didn’t take a particular road home one night because of a gut feeling.

“There was just something telling me to take a different road home that night. I didn’t know why and I didn’t question it. I just took a different route.”

There wasn’t an accident or any kind of incident that took place that night on that road, but she still didn’t think it was silly to listen to her gut.

“My gut has been right about everything else so who knows what would’ve happened had I ignored it and taken that route home.”

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Can everyone have a gut that strong and that right so often? I listen to my gut instincts as often as I can, but there have been times that I’ve ignored it and things have still ended up okay. Was my gut wrong or could the result have been better if I actually listened to it?

I know a lot of people who have fallen out of practice with listening to their gut instincts. I admit that I used to be one of them. It’s especially hard when there is no logic backing it up.

St. George, ME

Whether it’s a belief in God, the universe, or just the power of ourselves you have to admit that there’s something to this gut instinct thing. Everyone at one time or another has felt that gnawing, self-assured voice that yells inexplicably “Yes, this is right, or “No, this is wrong.” Sometimes it asserts itself more meekly—like taking the long way home or running back into your apartment to triple-check that you turned the oven off.

Eventually though your gut will be ready to handle bigger things like deciding which job is going to be the right fit, or where you should live. The question is, are you brave enough to listen to it when it does?

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Climbing my first real mountain by myself

This past weekend I tackled another first on my ever-growing, Maine, to-do list: I climbed my first real mountain completely by myself. When I say “real mountain” what I mean is one that is over 1,000 feet tall. The only other one I had climbed on my own was Bradbury and at a measly 275 feet, I hardly feel like that counts. However, having just come from the flatland of Illinois, I felt like it was a real feat at the time!

Spruce Mountain

I have climbed other real mountains, of course: Pleasant, Pemetic, and Cadillac—but for those at least one other person was there pushing and encouraging me to make it to the top. However Ragged Mountain was my first real mountain that I tackled totally solo.

Ragged Mountain, Rockport, ME

It’s an interesting experience climbing a mountain by yourself. Since there’s no one there to push you, you have to push yourself. There’s no one there to calm your anxieties or make sure you’re all right after tripping and nearly falling on your ass. This totally freaked me out at first.

“What if something happens to me? No one knows I’m up here! I’m going to fall to my death and no one is going to know about it for days!”

Eventually I calmed myself down and remembered that even though I hadn’t done this solo yet, I had done this before. I knew what to do, and how to pace myself. So I did just that.

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I took my time hiking up Ragged Mountain enjoying the views as I went. The beauty of hiking by yourself is that you can go at your own pace. You also don’t have to be embarrassed if you get so winded that you have to lean against a tree panting like a dog until you catch your breath. It’s like the behavior you engage in when you live alone. You’re free to be a hot mess.

Ragged Mountain, Rockport, ME

I made it to the summit in just under two hours. Since I had the mountaintop to myself I wanted to enjoy it for a little while before climbing back down. I sat there looking out over Mirror Lake, Spruce Mountain, and Penobscot Bay for what felt like just a few minutes but ended up being close to 40 minutes. I reveled in the quiet peace this incredible mountain had to offer that I didn’t feel the need to “do” anything. I just sat there letting all my fears, doubts, and worries dissolve and cast off themselves off to the sea. I climbed back down the mountain more self-assured than I’ve ever felt.

Ragged Mountain, Rockport, ME

With each adventure and new experience I tackle here in Maine I’m becoming a stronger and more confident me. I’m stronger than I was yesterday, but not as strong as I will be tomorrow.

What solo adventure did you embark on that made you more a more confident you? What did it feel like when you finally conquered it?

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More adventures with my 105-year-old best friend

Last weekend I thought I had a fabulous idea: I would take my 15-year-old dog (105 in dog years) to the beach for the first time! Since Carm grew up in the Midwest with me, she had never been to a beach before. Also like me, Carm loves to be near the water so naturally I assumed that the Labrador in her would love to be in the water especially on a hot day…boy, was I wrong!

We got to the beach a few hours before sunset, and it seemed like everyone thought that was a good time to bring their pups to the beach, too. There were a few dogs who immediately ran up to Carm trying to sniff and play with her. Most dogs love to be the center of attention, but my pup is not one of them. She couldn’t get away from those dogs fast enough!

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Eventually I got her in the water. At first she really didn’t know what to make of it. Since I can pretty much read her thoughts I think it was something like, “Is this a bath?! This doesn’t seem like a bath. If it’s not a bath, what is THIS?”

She stood in the water for a good half hour almost completely still just taking it all in. She watched the other dogs fetch things in the water, and was mesmerized by the various sailboats and kayaks floating around in the harbor. She didn’t seem to love being in the water, but she didn’t seem to hate it either. As far as repeat adventures go I put it down as a ‘maybe.’

Dog adventures

Not two days later Carm developed yet another infection. This time it was a bladder infection and that combined with 85-degree temperatures and no air-conditioning made my apartment smell like a barn. I called the vet and got Carm on a round of antibiotics, but not before giving me some very enlightening information:

“Old dogs are like old people: they’re prone to infections. So if you take them to an environment they’ve never been exposed to before, chances are they’re going to come into contact with something their bodies aren’t used to dealing with so it’s very easy for them to get an infection.”

Of course! It made sense once she told me that, but it’s something I hadn’t considered before. Dogs are like people. Duh!

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Here I was thinking that I was being such a great human to my dog: taking her on adventures and letting her experience new things which is a good thing under certain conditions. As for having another adventure with the ocean I think we’ll just settle for being near the water instead.

What to do when creativity eludes you

Like most creative people sometimes creativity eludes me. At times it’s right by my side begging me to write, paint, or go out shooting with my camera. When creativity is around I can’t get the ideas down fast enough, the paints to blend quickly enough, or the ISO set fast enough. It’s as if it knows it won’t be around that long so it has to throw all the ideas at me at once.

Creativity

Inevitably creativity (like the fickle friend it is) will leave me again and make me feel stuck. Anyone who has felt the void of creativity knows what I’m talking about. You feel empty, defeated, and like a shell of your former self. It’s a horrible feeling.

Sometimes I wait patiently for it to come back saying to myself, “any day now, any day now…” and other times I will it to come back to me by any means necessary. Here are some of my tried-and-true methods for getting my creativity back:

  • Take a walk. Sometimes you have to physically walk away from whatever creative project is frustrating you. Take a walk around your neighborhood to get some distance and clear your head.
  • Give yourself a different creative task. If I’m frustrated with one form of creativity i.e. writing, I will do something else like playing with my camera. This way I still feel like I’m doing something creative, and I’m getting my mind off my writing.

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  • Wait it out. This doesn’t always work, but sometimes it helps to sit in the same spot without any distractions until my creativity is flowing freely again.
  • Have a dance party. Crank the awesomely bad music you have on your Spotify or Pandora playlist, and dance around your apartment. It helps to let loose and remember not to take yourself so seriously.
  • Become a yogi. I can be pretty inconsistent with my yoga practice, but when I am doing it regularly I feel so much better and more creative. By focusing on your body’s movements and breath you allow your ideas to flow freely again.

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  • Talk through it with someone. Luckily for me I have a few creative friends who know exactly what it feels like to have creativity elude them, too. Talking it through with someone who gets it can help shed light on something you hadn’t considered—like maybe your frustration with creativity stems from the idea that everything you create has to be perfect.

Bottom line: Creativity is a fickle friend and it will sometimes abandon you, but there are ways to bring it back and have it flow freely again. It’s just a matter of finding what works best for you.

How do you get your creativity back? What are some of your tried-and-true methods?

Feed your soul with a solo adventure

I’m a big fan of solo adventures. Yes, it’s amazing to have someone to share experiences with—to tell you where to turn, to grab your hand as you’re about to slip off a mountain, go to a concert with, etc. Shared experiences are awesome and can add so much value to your life and more importantly, your relationship. However, there’s something to be said for going on an adventure completely by yourself.

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  • You notice a hell of a lot more. When you’re on an adventure with somebody else you’re probably talking, laughing, and otherwise enjoying each other’s company. Sure, you still notice the things around you but your primary focus is on the person you’re with. When you’re by yourself you only have to focus on what’s around you.

“Wow! That’s an amazing mountain. I wonder how high that is. I’ll have to look that up later. Oh look, a blueberry stand! I have to stop! I have to! Oooh there’s a lake coming up around the bend!”

Adventure

  • You can chose your own path. Do you want to take the easy, highway route or do you want to take the longer, coastal route? It’s completely up to you.
  • You go at your own speed. Want to pull over to take a photo of that amazing view? You can! Want to go a little faster on that trail? You can do that, too!
  • You can leave whenever you want. Do you want to savor the views a little longer, or are you ready to pack it in mid-adventure? Who cares! You’re not on anyone else’s schedule but your own.

Hiking, Adventure

  • You get to clear your head. Without having to keep up a conversation with anyone you’re free to focus on the adventure itself and let your mind wander.
  • You connect with nature (and yourself). There’s nothing quite like being out in nature by yourself. It’s exhilarating and totally empowering to know that you can survive in the wilderness all by yourself. It doesn’t matter if you survive a two-week long trek up the Appalachian Trail or a jaunt up a baby mountain. You did it, and you did it all by yourself.

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  • You get to form your own opinions on your adventure without anyone else’s input. No matter how independent of a thinker you are, if you go on an adventure with somebody else it becomes your shared experience—likes, dislikes, funny moments. It all gets clustered together and formed into one story, but it’s different when you’re by yourself. You only have your experiences, your memories, your thoughts to remember the trip by.

So the next time you’re thinking about going on an adventure but don’t know who to go with, consider going by yourself. Be safe, have fun, but more importantly learn something new about yourself. I guarantee you’ll be glad you did.

One day, three lighthouses – An excursion of a lifetime

I have a thing for lighthouses. Ever since I saw my first one last year, The Portland Head Light, I have been drawn to them. I’m entranced by their beauty, the strength they epitomize, and the wonder they invoke. I can stand by a lighthouse and look out over the ocean for hours if left to my own devices. There’s just something about being next to these pillars of hope and looking out to the wild sea that makes me feel so alive. The whole world becomes quiet and my mind is finally at peace. For me it’s a form of meditation—the only kind that has ever worked for me. There’s truly nothing else in the world like it.

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I knew I needed a lighthouse fix so I did a little research and discovered that there are three lighthouses that are pretty close together and can easily be done in a day—Rockland Breakwater, Owls Head, and Marshall Point. Rockland Breakwater was my first stop.

Rockland Breakwater Lighthouse

This lighthouse has easily ranked itself as one of my all-time favorite lighthouses. The lighthouse itself is about a mile offshore, and the only way to get to it is by walking along the long stretch of rocks. Once you get to the end it’s truly a beautiful sight. Just across the bay you can see the island of Vinalhaven, and if you look back to the shore you can see the mountains of Camden Hills State Park. It’s an incredible lighthouse with even more incredible scenery.

Lighthouses

Camden Hills State Park

Next up was Owls Head. This adorable little lighthouse is nestled among the trees in such a way that you almost miss it. Being atop Owls Head is like being in a treehouse, but one with such serene views of the sea.

Owls Head

Finally I went to Marshall Point. I knew I had to see this lighthouse since I have seen the movie Forrest Gump easily 50 times. The whole time I was there I had Forrest Gump quotes running through my head in not only Tom Hanks’ voice but my sister’s as well. She’s always been good at impressions and her Forrest Gump is probably one of her best. Since we had watched that movie so many times growing up, I couldn’t help but think of her while I was here and how much I miss my goofy little sister.

Marshall Point Lighthouse

Homesickness aside Marshall Point was such a spectacular lighthouse to explore. In true Maine fashion it’s nestled in the rocks along the shore in a way that seems so natural. It’s as if this spot was made for this lighthouse. I wandered along the rocks and back up to the grassy area just down the path from the lighthouse.

Marshall Point Lighthouse

There I discovered this beautiful monument to St. George and all the fishermen who had lost their lives at sea. As I sat on the bench with the monument to my left and the lighthouse to my right I couldn’t help but feel humbled by the past, and truly inspired for the future.

St. George

Do you have a favorite lighthouse or place that makes you feel like you can conquer anything? What is it? What about it draws you to that place?

The boomerang effect: A Maine thing

Since I’ve been in Maine I’ve noticed something pretty incredible. A lot of Mainers are boomerangs. Allow me to explain. For those of you who may not know, a boomerang is a bent or curved piece of tough wood that when thrown will return back to the thrower. Every time I talk to someone who is from Maine I usually end up hearing about how they grew up in Maine, went to live somewhere else for college or beyond, and eventually came back to Maine. Boomerangs.

“What is it about Maine?” I wondered.

Boomerang lobster boat

I get it; Maine is beautiful. It has mountains, the Atlantic Ocean, beautiful lakes, quaint small towns, succulent lobster, majestic moose, and lighthouses. It’s all part of the reason I decided to call Maine my new home. But was that it? Was that enough to decide that you wanted to move back to the place where you grew up?

These thoughts were gnawing at me so much that I just had to know. What IS it about Maine? So I decided to ask a few boomerang Mainers that I know why they decided to come back to Maine.

“For me nothing else compares to Maine. It’s beautiful and simple. We rely on natural beauty in the way that some states rely on architecture. And if you’re somebody who’s used to seeing beauty in one way, it’s pretty hard to see it any other way.” – Megan T.

Cadillac Mountain

“It’s where my family is. I was raised in a very small town where everybody knew everyone else’s name. This drove me crazy as a kid which is why I moved to New York. It was great at first, but after a while I realized that New York is such a lonely place. I missed the grocery shop owner in my hometown who would ask after my mom after her knee surgery and the mechanic who went to school with my grandpa. You just don’t find that anymore.” – Catie B.

“It’s the quality of life here. I lived in L.A. for a few years after college and it just wasn’t for me. Too much traffic, pollution, and a fixation on the daily grind. That’s not what it’s about for me. It’s about being with friends and family in the great outdoors.” – Matt P.

Portland Harbor

“I guess I moved to Boston because I assumed that it was similar to Maine—just bigger. It wasn’t. I think a lot of Mainers make the assumption that the rest of the country is just as beautiful as Maine. We take it for granted, and once we discover that there is no other place like Maine we come running back.” – Lindsey K.

Fascinating! What really resonated with me was Lindsey’s response and how a lot of people take for granted the natural beauty that is so ubiquitous in Maine. I can definitely see how you can grow up somewhere your entire life and extrapolate that everywhere is else is more or less the same, but until you live somewhere else you really don’t know. Mainers seem to have the right idea. They decide to focus on family, friends, and the great outdoors.

Are you a boomerang Mainer? What made you decide to come back to Maine?

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Adventures with my 105-year-old best friend

My best friend is 105-years-old. She has arthritis, is hard of hearing, and likes to sleep 14 hours a day. She’s my 15-year-old dog, Carmela. Carm has been with me since my early preteen years and has become basically me in dog form – or have I become her in human form? It’s hard to tell, but essentially we’re one and the same. She puts up with my moods, is always happy to see me, and never complains about all of the adventures I drag her along for.

First Maine adventure
First Maine adventure

Over the years I’ve had to be more careful as to what qualifies as an adventure for us. In the old days I could walk her for 2 miles, run her around the park for an hour, let her have a little rest, and she’d be ready for an intense tug-of-war game for more or less the entire evening. However now anytime I want to take her on an adventure with me I have to vet the place first.

Is it going to be too much walking for her? Is the terrain too rough? Is it going to be too hot outside for her? Should I bring water? Can I park close enough so that I can carry her back if I need to?

Adventures with dogs

It may sound silly or a little sad that I have to plan so much for a simple outing with my dog, but it’s just how it is. The difference from how she acted when she was a puppy to how she acts now has been such a gradual change that it’s just become something I have learned to deal with over time. For an example, when her hearing started to go I had to find other ways to get her attention, i.e. hand waving and butt taps—it’s just what you have to do.

This past weekend I decided to take Carm to Bug Light Park. Bug Light is a charming, little lighthouse in South Portland, ME. I had been to Bug Light before so I knew that if I parked close enough to the entrance Carm wouldn’t have to walk too far. It was a sunny and breezy, 72-degree day along the coast and the views were just stunning. I could tell that Carm really liked being near the water. It seemed to soothe her in the same way it does me, but then again that could just be because she IS me.

Happy girls at the lighthouse
Happy girls at the lighthouse

We walked along the path up to the lighthouse and rested for a bit before walking back to the car. She did so well that I thought I would treat her to some ice cream. We stopped at a little ice cream stand in Portland where I had a scoop of Wild Maine Blueberry ice cream (since I’ve now become addicted to it) and got Carm a scoop of Vanilla Bean. The additional walk from the car to the ice cream stand was a little too much for her so she got to enjoy her ice cream in the car with the air conditioning on full blast. Naturally she made a mess of my backseat, but that just comes with the territory.

Dogs and ice cream
Ice cream time

All in all it is sometimes difficult to care for my 105-year-old best friend, but I don’t mind. She adds so much joy and value to my life that I will gladly put up with the minor inconveniences if it means she’s still living a happy life filled with fun adventures.

Have you ever cared for an elderly dog? What were some of the things you had to do for him/her to make their lives easier?

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When someone visits you in your new city

The first time someone visits you in your new city is a big deal. You’re still getting used to your new city and are probably doing things a little differently than you did back home. You’re still forming your routine and opinions on your new surroundings when all of a sudden it’s time to entertain someone else’s opinions!

“Will they like it here? Will they hate it? Will they think I’m crazy for moving here?”

Eastern Promenade

At the end of the day it doesn’t matter if they like it or not. You decided to move to your new city for your own reasons, but there’s always going to be a small part of you that wants your loved ones to love your new city as much as you do. It’s not necessarily because you crave their approval as much as it’s about them understanding a piece of who you are.

Recently my boyfriend visited me in my new city and I have to admit I was a little apprehensive. I hadn’t been in Portland for that long and was still crystallizing my feelings on my new city. I was getting used to being totally on my own out here and all that entails. Also Carm and I had finally settled in our routine and I was grateful for a bit of regularity after the crazy couple of months of transition we had. But I digress. I got to as good of a place as I could about it, and welcomed the disruption.

The Thirsty Pig

Maine Beer Company

I wanted him to see Portland, ME in all of its glory: the grit, the history, the beauty and the varied landscape. I wanted him to see and understand why I decided to call this place home. However, I was prepared for the possibility that he may not love it here as much as I do.

“What if he doesn’t like it? Do I love my city enough to endure any criticism about it?”

Luckily he did love Portland and thoroughly enjoyed all of the places we explored from the Portland Head Light and Acadia National Park to the local eateries and breweries. It was an awesome week and we had a lot of great adventures..and a few near-death experiences—thank you, Cadillac Mountain!

Acadia National Park visits

The bottom line is that at some point a loved one is going to visit you in your new city. Will they love it or hate it? Will they demand you come back home or will they want to move out there with you? Will they disrespect it or will they “get” it? Unfortunately there’s no way to know until they actually visit. My advice is to hope for the best, prepare for the worst, and you’ll probably end up somewhere in between.

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What are we supposed to do?

Lately I’ve noticed a recurring theme among fellow twenty-somethings: being terrified of making the wrong decision. We’re at a pivotal point in our lives where we can no longer rely on our parents to make our decisions for us, and as we navigate our mid-to-late-twenties we have to make some big-time decisions. What are we supposed to do?

Should I buy a house? Should I move somewhere else? Should I travel? Should I get married? Should I have children? Should I quit my job? Should I, should I, should I?

Supposed

I’ve listened to my friends so overwhelmed with the notion of making their own life decisions to the point where they’ll exclaim, “Ugh! Can’t someone just tell me what I’m supposed to do with my life?!”

The answer is no. No one can tell you what you’re supposed to do with your life, but instead of being frustrated by that it should empower us! How cool is it that we get to decide what happens to us? Religious affiliations aside there is always a measure of freewill, but somehow we seem to forget that. We’re all too eager to offer up our life decisions to anyone who wants to do it just so we don’t have to deal with the ramifications of it possibly not working out.

I’ve seen people so completely terrified of making the wrong choice that they don’t do anything at all. We are so afraid of choosing “incorrectly” that eventually we become immobile altogether. Like the band Rush says, “If you choose not to decide, you still have made a choice.”

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The thing is we have no idea what the “right” choice is (if there is such a thing). All we can do is make a decision based on the information we have available to us at the time and our feelings on the matter in that moment. We can’t know any more than that, and we can’t expect otherwise.

“Well, what if I’m not happy in the choice I made?”

Then you change it and do something else! Nothing is permanent, and although that is both scary and awesome it also offers so much freedom.

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Maine may not be the place where I end up, and that’s okay! It was/is something I needed to do for me. I could never regret something that has taught me so much about myself. I have become so empowered and confident since I embarked on this journey. So what if I decide to do something else in a couple of years? Life is about the journey not the destination, and I choose to enjoy the journey—wherever it takes me.

Are you scared or empowered to make your own life decisions? What decision seems to bring out both emotions? Why aren’t you doing it?

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