Creating a Meaningful Life: Home Hopping

IMG_8963 (1) Rob and I have been hopping from apartment to apartment every couple of months for the last 16 months. It isn’t a popular lifestyle (most people are confused when we explain what we’re doing), so I was very surprised when a friend passed along an article about a couple, David and Elaine, who are essentially doing the same thing we did, in the same city we did it in, and at roughly the same time as us. I had been trotting along on this life path assuming we were the only ones who moved around this much. It was a breath of fresh air reading about the differences (they used Airbnb to locate apartments) and similarities (a very smelly first apartment in Chelsea) of their experience. I know this way of life isn’t for everyone (on a bad day it isn’t even for me), but it was validating to learn about someone else who is living almost the same crazy-but-meaningful life we are.

Elaine will tell you the constant change has honed her awareness of passing time”. As soon as I read that line I realized how much this path of life has enriched Rob’s and my life, both individually and as a couple. This “Ah, ha!” moment put all the stress, uncomfortableness and crappy situations that inevitably arise when you are moving around a lot, into perspective. Moving every couple of months has certainly made us more aware of how quickly time passes. With this awareness comes a new appreciation for the people in our lives, the events that happen, the life we are living and each other. And this new appreciation has definitely brought more meaning to our lives.

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We aren’t going to live the rest of our lives like this (though it probably won’t end as soon as we originally thought), but until then I am going to savor the meaningful life we have been creating, cherish the fact that we chose it and be grateful at how lucky we are to be able to live this life.

Creating a Meaningful Life: Therapy

I think, over analyze, have daydreams and daymares, worry, get anxious, stress out, and become overwhelmed on almost a daily basis. Bouncing between all of these and happiness in any given moment is exhausting, and sometimes I can’t cope. In those moments when my life feels like too much to handle, I have trouble breathing and I usually end up crying. This has been me since middle school, when life changed from make believe and endless summer days, into more responsibilities and thinking about the future. Over time I have learned how to deal with the moments that become too overwhelming. I make lists, I take deep breaths, I remove myself from the situation by listening to music or watching something funny. But sometimes those moments come more frequently, compound and none of my tricks for coping work. For a long time when my usual tricks wouldn’t work, I would try to ignore it and hope it would go away. My reasoning was that being overwhelmed by school or my home life was nothing compared to what people who have been abused, or don’t have enough to eat go through. And that’s true that it isn’t comparable. I have been very lucky that my life has been mostly great. But that doesn’t mean there aren’t things that have gotten me down, or people that haven’t been kind to me. Sometime in high school I read this quote by Plato: “Be kind, for everyone you meet is fighting a hard battle” and I realized that while my issues might seem petty to some, they aren’t to me. And I deserve to be happy and not have my problems overrun my life.

Towards the end of high school I began turning towards therapy when life became too overwhelming. I never went regularly. I never delved deeper than the surface issues I was experiencing at the moment. I would find someone and go to them for a one-off session. I found that talking to someone neutral who didn’t know me or anyone I knew, helped ease the pressure. They would be able to put into words what I was feeling and why, better than I could and that helped me tremendously. Having words to describe what I was feeling helped reset my mind, allowed me to cope with being me again, and the session would leave me feeling euphoric. I love that “just been to therapy” feeling.

In 2012, after a series of panic attacks and a few days in a row while I was on vacation where I felt out of control, I realized that the one-off therapy I had been doing was probably not enough to get to the root of what was causing these moments. I decided it was time to research, try out a few therapists, and pick someone that I jived well with to see regularly.

In the two years that I saw my therapist regularly, I felt a dramatic dip in the amount of times that life got too overwhelming for me and an increase in overall happiness. I wasn’t able to talk to her consistently while we were in NYC, and there were a few moments when I wished I could. Moving to NYC came with a lot of change, transition and anxiety about the changes and transitions. There were a few times that it would have been very helpful to have her to talk to and help me work through it. But I am excited to be back in CA and to be getting into a therapy routine with her again.

I share all this because it is a big part of what makes me, me. It allows me to do all the things I do that add meaning to my life. I have never been quiet about or embarrassed by the fact that I go to therapy and I wish that for everyone. I hate the stigma that comes with going to therapy. That idea that only depressed people or those with mental illnesses see a therapist. Every person will get sad or overwhelmed by their own life at some point or another and I wish more people would give therapy a chance in those moments. I know we all have different ways of coping and that not everyone will feel as euphoric as I do after a session, but therapy is something I truly believe in and I don’t want anyone to feel ashamed if they try it.

Create a Meaningful Life: Life's Simple Pleasures

The relaxing tubs at Well Within Spa Since I was in high school I have regularly gotten manicures, pedicures, massages and facials. Taking time for myself in these particular ways has been one of the longest standing traditions I’ve had that add meaning to my life. It’s my time to check in with my body, reset it, give it a break from the real world and say thank you for working so hard to keep me alive. People might be skeptical that a pedicure could add meaning to my life (Rob included), but allowing myself these treats brings me happiness which in turn makes my life feel more meaningful.

As I’ve gotten older I have made an extra effort to find my go-to places for mani/pedis, massages and facials. Only in the last couple of years have I felt like I have succeeded. Well Within in Santa Cruz is my favorite for a massage. The Pure Skin with Renata in San Francisco is my go to spot for a facial. I have two places I love in San Francisco for getting my nails done, Joy Joy Nails and Hand Touch Nails.

Making happiness a priority in my life is the key, I believe, for me to be able to help add happiness to the lives of those I love. I hope to be able to take this time for myself for the rest of my life.

Creating a Meaningful Life: Art Classes

IMG_9319I present to you Yosemite Falls, acrylic on canvas, 24” x 36”. It came down to the wire to get it done on Tuesday night. There was a moment when I was worried I wouldn’t be able to finish it because I had to redo a huge portion of the painting, but my teacher helped motivate me and I got it done. Rob loves camping, and the outdoors and Yosemite is one of his favorite places to experience both of those things. I wanted to incorporate his love for Yosemite into his present and since he happens to enjoy landscape paintings I figured Yosemite Falls would be perfect! I also wanted to accomodate my own tastes into the painting since it would be going up in our home someday. My goal was to make a landscape painting with a touch of abstract. I wanted viewers to recognize what they were looking at without having to draw the individual leaves on the trees or every ridge in the rocks. I wanted the viewers to put their imaginations to work to see the whole painting. I was very happy with the finished abstract look of the painting, but I knew the true test on whether I reached my goal would be when I showed it to Rob. He recognized Yosemite Falls right away so I think that counts as a success!

Adding color to the sketch

Adding color to the mountains

First layer of colors on the trees

In the midst of redoing the rocks

A lot of layers went into this. Any time I gave my painting the side eye because of the way something looked or if the colors seemed off, my teacher would say “it’ll be fine, this is just underpainting!” I was a bit skeptical at first, but she really was right. Every layer, even the layers I didn’t love (the dull lime green first layer of the trees) blended together to make a beautiful cohesive painting.

I am pretty sure Rob is genuinely impressed (you know instead of just being impressed because he’s a supportive husband) with this 2nd anniversary present and I am too! I have a bit of canvas leftover from the roll that I bought, and I have been brainstorming where I can make some more paintings in the near future.