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Musings

Cycles.

Megan Harrod

I realized today that I rarely have the motivation to create when everything is simple and stable. Emotional turmoil has a way of pushing humans to sit, reflect, cry, write, cry some more, sleep very little, spend a shitload of time in nature...you get the point. And, once in a while, I get into a motivation funk. Stuck in a rut, unable to find the words and find the headspace to create at all.

And so, tonight I sit here and I spend time challenging myself to do something I haven't done in a while: write when everything is pseudo-stable in my life. Health, professional life, relationships...stable.

Side note: maybe that's a stretch considering the RV (Westward Ho) I was supposed to call "home" shit the bed and is currently stuck in Albert Lea, MN at the Ford Dealership - a story for another day - and I'm a live-in guest with gracious friends...but it is "psuedo-stable" at the very least. 

I listened to a song tonight. Sylvan Esso's Coffee. It took me back to another time, another place...another version of me. Out of one life and into another. Out of my mind. Death and rebirth. It all seems like ages ago now. Life's cycles. Bizarre isn't it?! Oftentimes, as I lie down and meditate, I marvel at the oddities of this physical space and wonder if what I remember is all real or just a dream. Some of it a nightmare, but most of it a dream.  

Cycles.

As women, we go through a cycle every single month. Like most things in my life, I experience it in a big way...every single goddamn month. It's fairly awful, and never fails to sneak up on me, but our bodies need to go through this cycle in order to move forward. It's a bitch, but it's beautiful. 

Cycles. They're purposeful and they teach us lessons we're meant to learn that help us to grow.

The beginning. In everything we do, we pursue it in the beginning with passion and a giddy, childlike excitement. The feeling is unmatched. When our crush's hand brushes our arm. Or, when he catches your eyes from across a crowded room, all of a sudden making it feel like you are the only two humans in that space. Or, when he looks into our eyes from inches away for the very first time, and in them, we see the world. Full of possibilities. Showering in the morning on the day of our first internship, feeling sick to our stomach with nerves. Will they like me? Will I be good enough? The excitement of stepping onto that plane and traveling to a new country, far, far away on a grand adventure. The first attempt at a new physical challenge, like climbing. It's scary. It's big. It's bold. And, it's fucking brilliant. Brilliant because it's a chance to create. To write our own story and create our own adventure. I live for that feeling. Maybe you do, too. And, too often, we walk through our lives believing that every moment needs to feel that BIG. 

The middle. Ok, before I go any further - I'm going to acknowledge the heaps of literature out there about relationship cycles, like The Four Seasons of Marriage, by Gary Chapman (which I've read, by the way - slightly corny, but mostly worth the read)...I aware I'm not doing anything revolutionary right now in writing this piece. The middle is where I am at this moment. And I've been here before. For someone who likes to shake things up and make things happen (aka for someone with a short attention span), the middle of the road can be a challenging place to hang. In a relationship, it might mean a level of comfort has been reached, which can be a beautiful thing and has hopefully not reached the point where the relationship is stagnant and the devil that is complacency enters the scene. If we're not mindful, we enter the yucky part of a relationship where we take our partner for granted and expect them do be a certain way, not accepting them for the ever-evolving human that they are. That we all are. Cycles. Yep, been there. Done that.

Thankfully, I'm not talking about complacency in a current relationship. Oddly, everything in that realm of life continues to feel like it did when I was a sixth grader passing notes that said, "Do you like me? Circle one: Yes, No, or Maybe". I'm not sure if that's a good thing, but it's a thing and I'm happy. With my professional life, on the other hand, I'm struggling to find motivation. This is my fourth summer in Utah, and really - I've only lived here about 10 months total in four years. Time flies when you're having fun. It's not about the actual job itself. I love traveling. I love the sport of alpine ski racing. I deeply care about the people I work for and with. I'm searching for inspiration. It's about life's cycles.

I've always had a thing for the number four. Four-month relationships in high school were as good as it got. Then, it was four years. My marriage lasted four years. Growing up, big transitions happened in fours—high school, university, my first corporate gig, etc. Always in fours. This is the start of my fourth year in Utah and I'm being mindful about what that means and how that affects me. I like to move. I like to experience a level of discomfort that would make most cringe, but I'm learning to sit with my impatience and appreciate the cycle and what it's teaching me. 

The end. In everything, there is an end. Impermanence. But the end is merely a beginning to another adventure, and the cycle continues on. We tell ourselves that there's something better out there. We're no longer "in love" and we deserve more. The truth is, that "better" may end up being a better version of the same thing you once had. With space, we create room for growth. When our lives are not intertwined with another's, we're able to focus on ourselves, reflect on what we're contributing to this world, and where we can be better. If we're ready for it, maybe that means we walk the path with a partner. Perhaps we find ourselves leaving something unexpectedly—whether that be a relationship or job. It's never easy, but it really is always for the best. I promise. I know it because I've experienced it. 

You cannot find peace by avoiding life.
— Virginia Wolf

A friend once told me to write about cycles in relationships. This is my feeble attempt at doing so. But, really, I'm not telling you anything you don't already know. We've all felt the beginning, the middle and the end. We've all learned from each phase and grown as a result of each phase. All of it is purposeful and meaningful and the process is our teacher. As Semisonic (shout-out to my Minnesota people!) so beautifully sang, "every beginning is another beginning's end." Another chance to create. To write your own story. And to create your own adventure.

Sleep late, have fun, get wild, drink whiskey and drive fast on empty streets with nothing in mind but falling in love and not getting arrested.
— Hunter S. Thompson

I believe we must first take the adventure alone as a complete and whole individual before we are able to walk beside another individual. How can we be expected to experience a beginning, middle and end with a partner if we've never allowed ourselves to experience the highs and lows of life on our own? And, for sure, it's unrealistic to think we can be responsible for another human's walk down this path, especially when we have so much work to do on our own. The beautiful thing is, just when we think we've figured it all out, life knocks us down on our asses and reminds us that we have so much more to learn. In every single middle, beginning, and end. 

Spring Cleaning

Megan Harrod

The topic of this piece was born out of a suggestion from Cheryl Strayed from Tim Ferris' podcast, which I wrote about in my last piece, Wayfinding. The task was to write about an object that's meaningful to you...just sit down and write, and see where it takes you. What have you experienced with this object? Where has it taken you? What have you learned from it? Let it go and let the words flow...

So I did. And the below is what I created. 


It feels good to purge. 

Every spring, without fail, we clean out our homes and—in some cases—our storage units, and we revel in the art of minimalism...or at least we revel in the attempt at the art of minimalism. It seems that now, more than ever, our culture has embraced a "less is more" approach to life. Tiny homes. Van life. A craving for simplicity. But still, we seem to find it challenging to let go of material possessions we think define us in some way. That soft graphic tee from college or those skis or the walking sticks from Peru that we've held on to for years now, insisting that we'd wear or use it again—not quite ready to pass off to the next owner, forgetting that what is one person's trash is another person's treasure. 

Some of it seems effortless to pass on or set aside. Long forgotten and easily tucked away, into the farthest nooks of our cerebral cortex. But there's always that one item that's challenging to let go. It has traveled the world with you, weathered the storm, experienced you at your best and your worst, knows you better than you know yourself. But maybe we take it for granted. We think it will always be there. We feel that, maybe, life is better—easier—without having to worry or think about it. Perhaps it's time. Time to say "goodbye." It's imperfect, a little tattered, and maybe you're just better off without it. So you try to let it go. 

Life is a balance of holding on and letting go.
— Rumi

But you can't let go. That smell. It's comforting. Familiar. You take it in with all of your senses. The texture. You hold it close. Its snuggles are unmatched. Not fully committed to letting go or keeping it. Part of you keeps going back. Endlessly. You live in limbo. Or a weird sort of cyclical heaven and hell origin and destination travel combo. Because maybe it's a part of you. And maybe that's OK. Maybe it's OK to be a part of something else. You hold on, for just a little bit longer. Because maybe you're afraid of what may happen if you don't hold on. "Goodbye" is hard. Is it forever, or just for now? Will you ever have another one like this? Hard to tell. 

That thing? That's my blanky.* My grandma made it for me when I was born. It traveled the White Circus with me this winter. And, it's missing. If you've seen it, holler. 

Happy spring cleaning, 

Megan 

*My blanky may be your _______  (insert appropriate inanimate or animate object here). Handle with care. Appreciate the good. Be thankful for the journey you've traveled together. And for the adventures to come. 

P.S. It's June 1st. Get on that spring cleaning. Consider what is worth letting go and what is worth holding on to...and no matter what you decide, appreciate it for the lessons it has taught you and the experiences you have shared. 

Wayfinding.

Megan Harrod

W-A-Y-F-I-N-D-I-N-G.

I'm not quite sure where I came upon this term recently—was either a movie, podcast, or piece of literature I consumed in the last week while living the island life in Maui. Anyway, I like it. 

WAYFINDING: (n) Wayfinding can be defined as spatial problem solving. It is knowing where you are in a building or an environment, knowing where your desired location is, and knowing how to get there from your present location.

I like it because we're all wayfinders—some of us more proficient at the skill than others—but nevertheless, all wayfinders in our own unique way. It seems to be a simple concept, though I'm not entirely sure it's as simple as it sounds. You see, wayfinding is about knowing where you are presently by knowing where you've been. Beyond that, I believe it's about creating meaningful intentional movement forward in order to propel you where you'd like to go. For those of you who have visited the "basecamp" before, you know that I'm keen on Buddhist teachings and believe that living in the present is where we can find and experience the most freedom. That said, I'm a strong believer in intention-setting and moving forward through life in a meaningful, thoughtful manner. To me, that's the epitome of wayfinding. 

Lately, I've pontificated a lot about my purpose and meaning. It seems that's what the springtime thaw is all about, and certainly the time to do it...slow down, find comfort in stillness and silence, and—dare I say—even a little bit of laziness. Nearly four years later, I'm finally learning the meaning of my first tattoo: "move slowly." Better late than never, right? In the process of thinking about purpose and meaning, I've recently pondered the notion of identity. Have you ever thought about who you are? Like, really, who YOU—apart from your work or your significant other—are? In the past, I've so closely connected my identity to my work or humans in my life, and it has never provided for the most fruitful outcome. Sure, fully diving into pursuits of work and people have enabled me to create deep, meaningful results and relationships, but at the same time the results have left me entangled and intertwined with things that don't truly serve my soul. Even so, I've been able to find success—the way I define success, anyway.

Let's stray for a bit and talk about the definition of success, shall we?! For me, success is not measured by a dollar amount in my bank account (clearly, or I wouldn't be working for the U.S. Ski Team...ha ha, but FOR REAL), titles or a corner office, family or children, a house, nice car or the amount of stuff I own. Success, to me, is being true to myself, living my life with an open mind and compassionate servant's heart, transparency, and vulnerability, authentic connections, lifting others' up even—and maybe especially—when they don't treat me the same way, wayfinding with intention and creating something from nothing with a goal to seek constant personal growth in this ever-changing world. Also, empathy. Empathy is important to me. If I can be empathetic, I've tasted success. 

So, back to the thought I started...sure, diving in deep and allowing my heart to love big has provided for a lot of success, but, I've also experienced a deep and profound sadness along the journey—largely due to the devil that is expectation and the stories we tell ourselves. 

In desperate love, we always invent the characters of our partners, demanding they be what we need of them, and then feeling devastated when they refuse to perform the role we created in the first place.
— Elizabeth Gilbert

Over the last several years, but most notably in the last year, I've forged a very intimate relationship with another Buddhist concept: impermanence. In doing so, I've learned to let go...of people, experiences, and things. I've accepted this concept into my life so deeply that I am finally able to find gratitude in times of transition. I've lived a large chunk of my life holding on to things, at times getting lost in unnecessary drama, in an effort to live a good story. The thing is, that's not an effortless way to live. It's hard work, and it's been heavy lifting for my big heart. I used to count down the days to an end of vacation and lament about leaving a person or place that meant so much to me. Don't get me wrong, it's still challenging to say "goodbye" to people and places in my life when the time comes, but I'm much more capable of seeing the "good" in "goodbye".  Perhaps I've learned this lesson as a result of the seasonal nature of my work, and maybe it's easier for me to leave places because I find appreciation for my Utah home that I never had for the Midwest...and I know I'll be on the road again soon. Either way, I'm finding peace in being present. And that feels damn good. 

Sometimes I joke that I'm boring now...less excitable, living life more simply and balanced. Of course, I don't believe that to be true—at the core I'm the same big loving, crazy adventurer—but I just don't really need to be seen or heard as loudly as I once did. I don't need the affirmation of others like I may have during my transition. Living life in Park City can often feel like high school, complete with cliques. Since I'm on the road all winter, I actually have only lived in Salt Lake and Park City about 9 months in the last three years..hard to build and grow relationships when you have no roots.

You are not your roots. You are a flower grown from them.

I used to care when I wasn't invited to social gatherings. Friends with everyone and ever-popular growing up, I had never really experienced what it felt like to be left out. (Except for when I was new to ski racing and wore all of my brother's hand-me-downs...but my charming personality and quick wit would quickly win all the rich ski kids over.) And, as a single woman—who is a bit odd—new to Park City (one of these things is not like the others), I'd often be forgotten. A pariah in a sea of happy married wealthy couples with babies on the way. Honestly, it hurt my feelings to be forgotten. Sometimes it still does, but mostly I'm able to separate my emotion from the things I can not control. To be comfortable with who you are apart from anyone else is not easy when you're thrust into a new environment. These days, I'm more comfortable in my skin, perhaps? One of my mentors, Beatrix Ost, has this motto: "In your body is a good place to be". It's true. In fact, it's the best place to because, where we are at this very moment, is freeing. When I reflect on life three years ago, it seems like worlds away. My married life seems like an alternate universe. Life changes so fast, and if we don't find balance in ourselves then it's easy to get wrapped up in the fast-paced chaos and spiral into an oblivion. I'm not sure most people see the difference in who I am today, but I feel it from the depth of my core.

My mind is quieter; the chatter has subsided, mostly. I'm keen to meet others' with an appropriate energy level that enables me to connect in a more meaningful way. It's true that most people couldn't connect or relate to my former self...and—dare I utter these words, but—it was, at times, "too much." I get it now. It's not that I didn't get it then...it's just that I didn't really care what they thought. I wanted to live life big, wild and untamed. Fair enough. When you go through a transition as big as divorce and moving across the country, effectively to pursue your own dreams and passions apart from anyone or anything else, it's one big, wild, untamed—and scary—adventure. Most people don't understand that level of transition because they never experience even one of those changes in an entire lifetime. It's foreign and it's different, and different is scary. People don't exactly find change to be a comfy notion. And, that's ok. It doesn't make me or them any better or worse...it just, well, makes us different. To realize and find beauty in our differences is a gift that I'm blessed to know and practice.

One of the scariest things in our lives is actually doing what we know we want to do.
— Cheryl Strayed

When we transform our thoughts about a sad or a bad situation from negative to positive, it's much easier to find the "good" in the "goodbyes" and lessons we need to learn as we seek personal growth. Sometimes our darkest teachers are the best, most effective teachers. I'm thankful for my first true love—a strawberry blonde Irishman with the gift of gab who was deceptively charming and drove me absolutely nuts but taught me my first poignant lesson in impermanence and heartbreak. I am grateful for my ex-husband. Actually, I'm most thankful for him. He taught me very profound lessons about life, love, and codependency. He taught me that even though two people seem perfect on paper, reality often tells a different story. He turned my life upside down and made me reconsider everything I thought to be true about love and marriage. I'm thankful for my involuntary exit from Ethnotek, the company I co-owned which I poured my whole being into—though brutal at the time, I was meant to learn from it. The list goes on and on. The one thread that weaves all of these experiences together is that I absolutely got lost in them. I lost myself and my identity in them. Since then, many challenging experiences in my life have been so because of a habit I acquired during my young adult life to dive fully into things and people. I only knew one pace: blazing fast. Add to that the fact that I was accustomed to getting what I wanted in life—partly because I was privileged by the standards of most, but mostly because I put the hard work into it and it paid off—and you can imagine it was difficult for me when things didn't work out like I had mapped them out in my head. 

Wayfinding. 

The path each of us takes isn't the same...and for me, it's most often not the easy route. It is clearer than ever before, mostly because I'm focused more on where I am right now and less concerned with the unknown. I've gotten lost along the way, both literally and figuratively, but I've always managed to find my way back, learning poignant lessons in the on the journey. Recent struggles in my personal and professional lives—which, in my industry, are often quite entangled—have taught me incredible lessons that I am more grateful for than words could begin to convey. I've learned that it's okay to say "no"...in fact it's better to say "no" if it means you can't give someone or something enough of yourself to the point they are not able to fully experience your magic. I've learned that I'm not anyone else's possession...and that's the way it should be. I'm not yours. I'm mine. I've always known this, which is why relationships have been a challenge for me in the past...but now I truly understand it and feel it. Codependency is not for me. I'm an individual, and I'm best when I'm known as "Megan" rather than "[insert dude's name]'s girlfriend" (side note: I do like the term "partner" and think it is much more grown up). I am me, first. It's like the mantra I uttered on the mat in Minneapolis at Modo Yoga that one day when I realized I needed to live life solo for a while..."ME BEFORE US." I've found freedom right here where I am at this moment.

"Me before us" is not selfish. Or maybe it is, but not necessarily in a negative way. Learning how to love me before others was, without question, vital in finding peace where I am in this present moment. To be true to yourself, gentle with yourself, patient with yourself and understanding with yourself is to find true freedom. I needed to find it before I could truly love another human. And, that's what the last few years have taught me. I'm accepting of my flaws. I'm imperfect, and I make mistakes. And that's OK. Because I'm human. And the beautiful thing is, you are human too. And we're all traveling through this fucked up, amazing, weird, wonderful adventure together. We're all finding our way, navigating through this beautiful mess. I'm more aware than ever. I know that I'm still affected by energy more than most humans. Full moons make me crazy. My period makes me chaotic, and for some odd reason I still can't understand, it always seems to surprise me with each month it comes to pay a visit (and no—it's not because I think I may be pregnant...thank God). Yes, I'm admitting it. I hated when my ex would call me out, but it's true...the hormones make me a little cuckoo. Mostly in my brain, but sometimes externally as well. All I have to say about that is that I'd like to see dudes on their period. Ha, that'd be pure gold. I'm curious, not to be confused with nosy. I care. A lot. I love. Deeply. However, before I once loved too freely. Now it's reserved for the most special things and ones. As it should be. I am genuine, even though many don't believe so at first. I'm just a human like you, after all. And, humanity is beautiful. 

Relationships never provide you with everything. They provide you with some things. You take all you want from a person―sexual chemistry, let’s say, or good conversation, or financial support, or intellectual compatibility, or niceness, or loyalty - and you get to pick three of them.
— Hanya Yanagihara, A Little Life

We are not meant to be each other's everything. As I watch young couples canoodle on the plane, I cringe a little bit. I try to appreciate it for them even though it's not for me, but I still cringe. I want to be loved, but that does not mean I  want to be worshiped. I struggle with the idea of spending all of my time with one human and planning my life around their schedule. Obviously, it hasn't worked for me in the past. At the same time, living "wild and free" doesn't necessarily mean living a life alone as a solo traveling wanderer. I now believe true freedom can be achieved in partnership with someone who fully understands the importance of individuality and independence. That's what true love is. Maybe it's not what I once thought it was...maybe it's not earth-shatteringly big at every moment like I thought it was supposed to be. Like the movies told us it was supposed to be (except for The Lobster, of course - which you should all watch). I know this to be true: it's not jealous or possessive or codependent. It's not resentful. There is a hefty amount of respect, space to breathe and be and time to hit the "pause" button because it's not perfect and we're not actually wired to be with one human 24/7 (which is OK, by the way, contrary to popular belief). There's understanding. Kindness and softness. At this moment, I'm happy and thankful. Even, and especially, for the dark teachers...for sometimes they guide us to the brightest lights.

And now, I must put my computer down and wayfind myself outside to the big, ol' sunshine, sand and salty water...

Before I jet to paradise, here are three exercises for you, if you wish to partake in personal growth and reflection: 1) Ponder the notion of "identity". Who are you? What makes you tick and gets you excited? What do you believe? 2) Think about your definition of success, and—if you're up for it—share your thoughts in the comments section below, and 2) Write about an object that's meaningful to you...just sit down and write, and see where it takes you. What have you experienced with this object? What live has this object lived? Who gave this object to you, or where did you get it? Stuff like that. I can't take credit for this exercise, as I snagged it from Tim Ferriss' recent podcast "How to be Creative Like a Motherfucker" featuring Cheryl Strayed, writer of "Wild". I highly recommend giving that one a listen, by the way. Really good stuff. 

For the record, I'll put #3 into practice for one of my upcoming blog posts. 

Until then, journey on, my fellow wayfinders...

Post Script: Sometimes I share tunes I like...most recently I've been digging Marian Hill, Tei Shi, and Jessie Reyez. Also, I like the following related words to "wayfinding": "wayfarer" and "wanderlust". Yes, there's a theme. 

Coming out of hibernation on a full moon...

Megan Harrod

Transition is weird. Makes you feel a little funny, inside and out. Unsure of what direction is right side up, what is reality and what is a dream state. Especially after you've been living in a dream state for months. I've felt this way every April since I started this job. It's funny...the other day I was talking to an athlete who felt the same way. She's been doing this for 15 years. It doesn't go away, but each spring we seem caught off guard by its return. What's most odd is that we think we're in this alone...that we're the only ones feeling lonely; lost. Or just a little awry and peculiar. Peculiarity is kind of my normal.

It's a little bit like a bear coming out of hibernation...only maybe less fat and happy. Wait, I take that back - probably just as fat and just as sad as a bear is happy. And, bears stop moving in the winter, while we frantically move from one place to the next, without breathing. Ok, so maybe it's not like a bear coming out of hibernation at all, really. In the sense that we are reintroducing ourselves to society without a strict schedule and plan of action, though, it is similar. I have loads of work to do, and seemingly loads of time to do it. And all I want to do is just sit and do nothing, but at the same time, I want to do everything. A little bored (I loathe boredom). Impatient. Unimportant. Unstimulated. A little sad. Anxious. Unable to sleep through the night. 

The moon is nearly full. I've always been eerily in tune with the moon cycle, feeling its energy and listening to what it has to say. My mother, who is a midwife, often told me tales of oddities and chaos in the hospital around the full moon. There's something to it. I've read about this full moon. It's being called the "Pink Moon" or the "Wind Moon" (in Pagan traditions). This full moon, today, is all about change in nature and the ways in which we can enact similar changes in our own lives. Winter has come and gone, but the wind remains, stirring up seeds and pollen. Flowers are starting to bloom adding color to the landscape. Regrowth. Transition to focusing on new beginnings and change coming our way as well. Coming out of hibernation and finding ourselves, once again. 

A sort of reminder of our own strength and a call to action that we've survived the winter and it's now time to start thinking about what we need to do in order to thrive this summer. Coincidentally - or maybe not so much - this moon aligns with the Buddhist New Year. In Theravadan countries like Thailand, Laos, Sri Lanka, etc, Buddhists will celebrate their New Year for three days after the first full moon in April. A sort of ritual for letting go of pain and suffering in a quest to find an "enlightenment" state of being. I've always been intrigued by Buddhism and its four noble truths: dukkha (suffering exists and is due to the fact that everything is impermanent), Samudaya (suffering caused by expectations and cravings), Nirodha (suffering will cease when we let go of expectations and attachment to desire ceases), and Nirvana (the freedom and liberation we experience when we let go and our suffering subsides. Full moon evenings are energetic peaks and rituals can be performed to focus our energy on what we'd like to cleanse or accept into our lives. Like, burning sage in an effort to cleanse the negative and invite the positive vibrations in. (Side note: no, I am not high right now. I've just been reading Elephant Journal). 

With each passing day, I'm settling into the slower pace of life and appreciating it. On April 1st I started a 21-day challenge with a friend, which includes meditation, journaling, movement, gratitude, etc. It's not too different than what I had been doing last spring with Tim Ferriss' 5-minute journal and my daily Headspace meditation, but it's nice to get back into the flow and it's amazing what some mindful moments can gift you. 

Looking forward to springtime, new beginnings, and regrowth. But for now I'm just looking forward to the energy of tonight's full moon as I tell myself the following words:

Trust the wait. Embrace the uncertainty. Enjoy the beauty of becoming.

And here are some tips for how to be a moon child...

  • Never stop exploring.
  • Follow the moon.
  • Stay wild.
  • Walk barefoot; listen to the wind.
  • Always be yourself.
  • Say YES to new adventures. 
  • Be brave. Be kind. Be curious. 

Moondust