In the past, I have had a terrible habit of asking anyone who will listen to solve my problems for me. I have done this for so long that I can be perfectly honest and tell you that there are some important topics that have yet to truly penetrate my thoughts because I listened to the advice of others and promptly executed their will instead of my own.
I have put my friends on pedestals, and have thought that their advice is golden. It is generally meaningful advice, given with love, and meant to be helpful, but I think this mutual indulgence has hurt all of us in a way. I can’t remember the last time I made a concrete decision without the input of another person. Scarier still, I’m not sure I know what my decision would be if I let myself actually ponder it. For the other person, getting sucked so far into another’s psyche can’t be healthy. Some things should be personal and sacred.
These decisions can be as petty as choosing between clothes to pack (I actually have a friend who comes over every time I travel internationally to pack my bags for me), to what drink to order at the bar, but as you may have guessed from my previous posts, much of this anguish centers on my search for love. You can see what comes next. Yes, I have indeed let outside sources sway my feelings for the men I date.
Why do I do that? I think what it all comes down to is that I’m fearful not of making the decision, but of the consequences. If I can place the decision-making on someone else, then that someone will be there to blame if it all goes sour. If it goes well, I know who will be the maid of honor at my wedding. No harm, no foul, right? Except, there is no one but ME who really knows who will be the right man for me. I must start developing my own thoughts! What greater decision can we make than that of who we will share our lives with?
What can I do right now to snap out of my fair-weather decision-making? Today, I will rewrite my dream man list. It’s something I’ve been doing for a few years. I write the qualities that are most important to me in a partner (No, not washboard abs and a perfect SAT score; things such as wanting children, the ability to challenge me, and, most importantly, being emotionally available.), and put them in the love gua* of my home. I find that consistently pondering what I want most in my potential mate helps me focus my search (even when, admittedly, I let my friends sway me). It has been especially useful while I’ve been on dating websites like What’s the worst that can happen? If I have faith in ME that I can choose my partner, the journey will open itself to endless possibilities, and if I can understand that what will be, will be, then there are no mistakes; everything is a lesson. Each date is a lesson learned. (We can be real here—sometimes it can be a hard lesson!)
*Baguas are the map of feng shui. There are 9 parts (guas) to the map, and each one has a specific purpose. The love area should include colors like red and pink, shapes like hearts, lists like the one mentioned above, and anything that screams “love” to you. I used the book Move Your Stuff, Change Your Life by Karen Rauch Carter to lay out my apartment.
What else will aid me in this process? Remember my post where I listed the places I wanted to go most in Portland? One of them was the Japanese Gardens. Since I wrote that post, I have visited them, and they were absolutely exquisite! I think the Japanese Gardens would be a great place to sit quietly, open up my mind, and envision my future husband. I encourage you to find a special thinking spot and go there often.
I’ve learned some general things that can help on my journey of trusting in myself. One particular source of this “education” has been Wayne Dyer. Look into his literature for his excellent teachings. Following is some of the wisdom I have picked up:
I know that I am on a lifelong journey. I will, through much trial and error, learn many lessons in my life. There is no right or wrong answer or action.
There is no climax, though there will be many peaks and valleys. I will forever be a student of the world, even after I find the love of my life, write that bestseller, or go on a belly dancing tour. My decisions may not produce the result I am looking for at the time, but all of them will impact my journey. I must trust in that.
I am recognizing the value of letting go, delving into the mystery of life, and letting chance take me where it will.
Lastly, I am learning to be grateful for all of life’s adventures. I am also grateful for you.

The Yin and Yang – Solstice Shedding and Goal Setting

Understand that the journey is as important as the destination. Enjoy every moment, and live life fully. This is zen.
Solstice and the New Year are turning points of each year. It is a time to shed the unwanted items in our lives, whether those are bad habits or material addictions. It is also traditionally a time to let new light in; some people set exercise goals or promise to create more structured sleep or work habits. My brain knows that I can start fresh any time I want, but there is something about the collective energy of the world’s people looking at life with new eyes, pumping up the positivity, that it makes me want to join in!
I have been searching the internet and asking my friends for their own personal holiday rituals. The following warm and fuzzy ritual was created by Tess Whitehurst, west coast author of two books on Feng Shui (edited for brevity).
Thinking back on 2011…
1.  List 5 personal victories – big or small – that you experienced.  (Examples:  I got physically stronger, I recycled more, I created more art…)

2.  List 5 precious, priceless gifts that you received from others or from the Universe.  (Examples: my trip to Hawaii, spending time with my partner, an afternoon vision of sunlight dancing on the lake…)
3.  List 5 challenges that you faced and the valuable lessons you learned from them.  (Example:  I faced the death of my beloved pet/I learned how to appreciate the present moment and love my still-living family and companions deeply, to get in touch with my emotions, and how to be strong in a crisis.)  The purpose of this one is to notice the blessings hidden within seeming challenges so that we can release our fears about the future and be fully open to all the ways that the universe showers blessings upon us.
4. Set a timer for 2 minutes, and during that time brainstorm as many things as possible that you are grateful for in your life.  It doesn’t matter how small or how large.  (Examples:  the amount of money I do have, the roof over my head, my cozy slippers, the food in my cupboard, my friends, my family, my opportunities, my talents, laughter, books, poetry, the sun, the moon, the Star Wars trilogy…)
Now, put on some relaxing music, light a candle and perhaps some incense, and sit comfortably with your spine straight.  Place your right hand over your heart and your left hand over it.  Close your eyes, and conjure up all the gratitude you possibly can.  Marvel at your good fortune, and at the good fortune you experienced in 2010.  Relax into this feeling.
When this feels complete, remove your hands from your heart and open them up to the sky, arms angling out, palms facing up.  With your eyes still closed, slightly tilt your head up so that your face is gently angled toward the sky.  This is a gesture of welcoming in even greater blessings for the year ahead.  Visualize very bright golden/white/rainbow light streaming down from above.  Receive it gratefully and with an open heart.  Let it swirl around you and surround you.
If you are interested in a different kind of exercise to lead you into self-examination, here is one I swiped from a Taoist blog written by Pedram Shojai (edited for brevity), who gives an up-front and somewhat sardonic offering of reflections and resolution queries.
1- Have you closed out your 2011 projects? What things do you not want to carry into 2012? What do you need to finish, schedule in, or simply drop in order to maintain your sanity? How important is it? WHY are you doing it and does it serve you/your family?
2- Have you spent time telling the people you care for that you love them? It doesn’t take long…do it now.
3- Have you slowed down and caught up on your sleep? If not, to bed early.
4- Do you know what you want the next year to look like? If not, read this page on GONGS-
5- Have you meditated on where you are in life and sifted through the noise to ask the important question of’ “Who am I?” If not, you’re wasting your time being told who to be by the media…snap out of it.
6- Have you taken on some life/health enhancing practices that you will do the next year? Yoga, Tai Chi, Qi Gong, hiking…just get out there and start living life like you mean it.
7- Did you spent enough time in nature this year? What are your plans to integrate more contact with nature for 2012? Our lack of contact with nature is directly connected to our willingness to look away while others destroy it.
8- Have you closed out energies that no longer serve you? Toxic “friends”, happy hour instead of the gym, the unspoken feud you are having with your spouse…whatever it is that is taking up your mental bandwidth and drawing down your energy…isn’t NOW a good time to drop that crap and get on with living a fully empowered life? You sure ain’t getting any younger and it’s funny how those things don’t “go away” on their own. Make 2012 about moving through those issues and coming whole.
These practices help us reflect on the year—relishing in the joys of the last 365 days, facing what has continued to give us pain all year long—as well as aid us in looking forward to changing what doesn’t work. It’s not the easiest task, but I really do feel there is strength in numbers, which is why I encourage you to embrace the solstice and New Year with intention, knowing your brothers and sisters are with you, in the flesh, or in spirit. In that spirit, I’m going to share some of my own short responses from the Taoist checklist.
1- Have you closed out your 2011 projects?
For the most part, yes. Most of my projects are continuing into the New Year, but here are some examples: I have accomplished my goal of becoming a true writer by starting my blog and being published in a magazine. As for my running, I have kept up my training, and blown past my goal of running a 10k by the end of the year (6.2 miles). I have several other (more personal) goals that I will continue to work on in the New Year.
2- Have you spent time telling the people you care for that you love them?
Absolutely. It is one of the most important things to me.
3- Have you slowed down and caught up on your sleep?
I struggle with this daily. It is hard to give up a lively social escapade, but more often than not, my body forces me to slow down, whether I like it or not.
4- Do you know what you want the next year to look like?
I know I want light, love, and laughter!
5- Have you meditated on where you are in life and sifted through the noise to ask the important question of’ “Who am I?”
I have not done this enough this past year. It is a work in progress. The refining of Who I Am is definitely a goal for next year.
6- Have you taken on some life/health enhancing practices that you will do the next year?
I will continue and improve on my current regimen. As of today I am pretty satisfied with my physical exercise, but my life-enhancing exercises could use some work.
7- Did you spent enough time in nature this year?
YES! I plan on doing the same next year. J
8- Have you closed out energies that no longer serve you?
This is my biggest challenge in life. I have trouble letting things go. This is my main goal in 2012.
What we do with our resolutions after we make them is up to us as individuals. I challenge you to keep your resolutions for 2012. I promise I will support you, and try to check in once in a while to make sure you are following through! Make them good ones that really mean something to you and to the earth. In the words of my friend Chrissy, “Let’s do this!”
I am grateful for YOU and your energy, which always makes me smile and gives me even more reasons to write this blog. Thank you for embracing my words.

Passion on My Mind, Pt. II—The Dating Diva

From reader comment by JM—“The wonderful truth (that you already know) is this: you ARE in a relationship…with yourself. It’s the one relationship that most people forget to nurture, especially once they get involved with someone else. The more you adore who you are and allow yourself to just be, the more you tell the Universe exactly how you wish to be treated – not just by an intimate partner, but everyone you draw into your life. As you continue to soothe those feelings of dissatisfaction and disappointment when the opinions and behaviors of others rear their ugly head, you will strengthen your ability to remember that your unique life and self are perfect just as they are, right here and now (which is all there is anyway). The more you focus on that truth, that reality, the more it will show itself to you.”
I’ve been writing about romancing myself, making time for me, understanding the full potential of my fabulousness, and leaving dating to fate. I’ve been feeling really good about it! (Although in the spirit of full disclosure, I bought more heart-shaped stones for my altar and romantic pictures for my Love and Romance Feng Shui bagua* last week.) Ironically, the Universe is performing exactly as it’s supposed to and I’ve fallen prey to its unfettered power! It heard the “romance” call, anyway. Take what you will from the message of The Secret**, but always know the things you put into the Universe may not be interpreted in the way you intend! As they say, love comes when you least expect it.
I met a real live man while salsa dancing last Saturday! Before you laugh, hear me out. I’ve had troubles meeting men in Portland. Mostly it has been done through online dating, which can be fun, but for a short time. Then it begins to feel tedious and like you’re on the hunt for the perfect job. It just gets old. People (especially straight men) are not very aggressive when it comes to meeting their life partner here in Bridgetown. Ask around, you’ll find I’m not the only one with this opinion.
Anyway, I met a man! He was sweet, handsome, and had a desire to perfect his salsa moves. I was really excited about this, especially when he made the first move to get my phone number. We made arrangements to meet at a Tuesday night salsa event. From there the stress started. He didn’t know his way around Portland, so he asked me to Mapquest him the directions. Why he couldn’t do this himself, I don’t know. Then he started texting me—in Spanish—in really terrible, misspelled Spanish. My Spanish skills are middle-of-the-road at best, and it was starting to give me a headache. First I had to figure out what word he was trying to write: aser = hacer; boi = voy. He spelled everything phonetically. As an English nerd I was excited to figure out his method. I wasn’t so excited about deciphering the word in Spanish and then having to translate each text message. Ugh.
The date went okay. He looked good, smelled good, and was on time. I could tell he was into me, and I was physically attracted to him. Then, the things we didn’t have in common started piling up. Education, lifestyle, hobbies, family values, salsa ability (ok I’m being a snob here)…it seemed the only thing we had in common was our interest in dancing. The con list started to outweigh the pro list pretty quickly. The bottom line? He was a great guy, just not the great guy for me.
The evening ended well. He was very respectful about my personal space, and said goodbye like a gentleman. I wanted to give him some kind of consolation prize, like a second date, but I knew it wouldn’t be useful for either one of us.
When I got home I started analyzing. Maybe I was missing something fantastic about this guy. Maybe in a less crowded atmosphere I would find myself entranced by his charm. I went on like this for a while until I finally fell asleep. In the morning, regardless of all this back-and-forth, the pro-and-con list, I realized something. I wasn’t getting that sickening feeling I usually get; the one where I realize that a man is interested in me, and right away I panic and descend like a vulture, knowing that with one misstep he’ll ditch me for someone prettier and skinnier. It’s the inexorable itch of desperation that makes me think this may be the last chance at a boyfriend. Ever. But I wasn’t experiencing any of that sweaty anxiety.
It dawned on me (again) that I can be picky and wait for someone who is worth it. There are bellydance classes to attend, mountains to hike, and blogs to write! I can woo myself in the meantime and have confidence that I will never settle for someone less than worthy.
*For more information on Feng Shui, read the fantastic book Move your stuff, change your life: how to use feng shui to get love, money, respect, and happiness—by Karen Rauch Carter.
**The Secret, by Rhonda Byrne.