From home to the world

Last week I wrote about what it’s been like to about to reenter to the United States this year after my summer of experiencing life in far flung places. This week I thought it would be good to go back to the beginning the journey and reflect on the days leading up to my departure and what I learned from the process of preparing to launch myself into the hands of the good people in the world.

And speaking of trusting one’s safety and well-being over to the people of world: the act of traveling is a huge act of trust in humanity. It isn’t lost on me and this kind of realization makes me never want to leave my house, get in a car, or any other endeavor that requires me to interact with other humans. We the people of the world are living in a crucible of shifting times. World news is a constant feed of horrific stories of terror attacks, mass shootings, powerful and deadly natural disasters, and ego maniac leaders with nuclear codes threatening each other on Twitter. And yet, we must listen to our own inner drum beats telling us what we must do to move forward a midst this chaos. Otherwise we will stay small and go no where, literally and figuratively. My little internal percussion section has told me for as long as I can remember: “Go and experience the world. Learn other languages and learn how other people live. See how others do life on this planet. Do your best to get to know people. While you are there, let the other humans know that they are seen and honored and cherished.” So onward I go into the world each time with a spiritual request: “Please let me navigate the world safely. I’d like to go meet people and learn things that are beyond my scope of understanding from my beloved home environment.” There are no guarantees, so this is my little ritual. Followed up with a “Thank you so much for bringing me home safely” when I get home safely.

I am always surprised how challenging transitioning from home life to life without the comforts of home. The mental chatter is loud, relentless, and full of details such as: “remember to call and put bills on hold, don’t forget to pack this, make sure to call / text so-and-so back, eat all of the food in your fridge so you can unplug it, get a haircut”, and on and on it goes. Travel for me is almost always paired with end of the academic term or year tasks which add their own brand of intensity to an already tumultuous time.

Beyond breathing, making lists, practicing yoga so as to stay present and try not to lose my mind in all that, he most important part of the pre-departure to do list is seeing my people. Because while I do desire to go in the world and meet new people, I desire so much to squeeze in time with my beloved homies before journeys, and this year the adventures were exceptional and filled with outdoor pursuits, dressing up and drinks, and sunshine. Behold:

Pictured above: running with my ladies in the sunshine, SUP at Waldo and Crescent Lakes, yoga at the vineyard, dressing up in our finery for a cocktail night at my favorite kombucha shop, and twinning Speakeasy Travel Scarves (they have a hidden pocket!) with my mom. Heaven. I am the luckiest woman to have these women in my tribe.

The first leg of my travel journey from Eugene > Portland > Atlanta > Madrid began with a 5:15 AM flight from Eugene to Portland. I was excited and figured this would be the only time in the next 24 hours that I would look well put-together and I was right.

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Stumptown Coffee at PDX: good coffee and a giant wall menu that near-sighted people who can’t be bothered to pull our their glasses can read!

Flights from EUG to PDX on Alaska Air are in my favorite dinky Q400 propeller planes which usually require an outdoor deplaning and walking to the airport terminal and this one was no exception. When I opened the door to the PDX terminal, in my blurry-eyed early morning haze, I recognized a woman but I didn’t know exactly why. Then I recognized some well-dressed and tall gentleman in suits (a rare site in Portland) standing near her. Then it hit me: I was walking towards Oregon’s Governor Kate Brown!

I did a few double takes and walked past her in a star-struck state. The masculine (logical) and feminine (feelings) parts of my me immediately broke into discussion about what to do next:

Feminine: “OMG I should go introduce myself to Governor Brown!”

Masculine: “Naw, I bet she’s really busy. Let’s just let the woman be. I bet she gets harassed in public all the time.”

Feminine: “We’re not harassing her. We’re going to… gush about her. And say nice things. Tell her how much we appreciate her work.”

Masculine: “Let’s not. It’s early.”

Feminine: “Screw that. We’re going to go meet her.”

On and on this went for almost a minute in real chronological time near as I can tell. In the end, we  did backtrack and decide to go meet her.

And so we did.

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Me and Governor Kate Brown of Oregon!

I opened with: “Governor Brown, my name is Rachel, and I just want to say thank you for everything that you’ve done for our state” while trying not to succumb to star-struckness which would ruin my ability to put words together coherently. Governor Brown is such a gracious, well-spoken, and articulate woman which isn’t surprising since she’s the Governor of Oregon, but let’s remember that the clock had not yet struck 6:00 AM yet. Governor Brown acted as if being approached in a friendly way at 5:50 AM were the most normal thing in the world for her. She asked me where I was traveling to and when I told her Madrid, she said that she was born in Spain on a military base near Madrid. I learned something new about my state’s top elected official! She obliged my request for a selfie and one of the members of her well-dressed male entourage even volunteered to take the photo for us. She told me about her travels to California that day, wished me safe journeys, and we parted ways in terminal A.

I walked away from this experience thinking it to be a very lucky and positively auspicious way to begin my travels away from Oregon for the summer: getting a lovely send off from my female tribe members at home and the the female Governor of my beloved home state. The most important part was that I didn’t let the voice of doubt talk me out of an opportunity to tell a top politician and fellow female how grateful I am for the work that she does.

With that chance encounter fully experienced, I went forward and onward to my journey into my summer travels. And met up with my dear gentleman in Atlanta:

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So elated to be in his company and traveling with him again. Also grateful that he insisted on rolling my suitcase. I let him do it. It was a long travel day from the West Coast of the USA to Europe.

So onward I went into my first of three continents in summer 2017. I am still in awe of how fortunate I am to have experienced such  summer.

May you all listen to that little drum beat in your heart and let it guide you into the life and experiences that you most desire.

Forward we move!

Bulletproof Reentry

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A traditional offering of flowers and incense in Bali

Hola! Hello! Konichiwa! Ni hao! Halo!

I’m back home after a summer of tri-continental travels in Spain, the United States, Japan, Taiwan, and Indonesia. If I hadn’t just experienced these unique places, I might still be in disbelief that I actually spent my summer making memories in all those countries but it’s true. I have wished for such an itinerary my whole life and here I am on the end side of it, safe and sound, with loads to mentally digest and share. I am a very lucky woman. Now that I’m done traveling for a little while, it’s my plan to dive into the intricacies of what I observed on this blog. Of course I’d also love to dive in with you over coffee or a glass of wine together and hear about your summer adventures too!

Today, I’m going to talk about reentry to the USA and how it’s been going for me this time around. This was my sixth summer working in Japan and my second consecutive summer traveling to both Europe and Asia in one summer. I’ve experienced several reentries to the USA as an adult and each one has been different, and yet has the same threads of consistency. Here are some of them:

Defensive Righteousness

Typically I have a very defensive attitude about reentry in to the USA. This is largely manifested by my extreme gratitude for the hospitality and patience that people abroad consistently show me as a foreigner in their nation. In contrast to the USA, I’ve seen customs and immigration officers and TSA agents yelling loudly at confused people who just want to get through the airport without making a scene and whose English proficiency isn’t strong. More often than not, the agents will be irritated in general with their lack of comprehension and straight up rude to people. Oh hell no. My inner Mama Bear comes out on behalf of these people, who have changed roles with me in the time and space of 10 hours at 35,000 feet. I was on their turf, and now they are now on my turf. I feel that its my job to protect them as they protected and advocated for me for several months and allowed me to live and exist in their culture. How could I not try to help? I try to assist them as much as possible and advocate for them.

In contrast, I also offer an economy of words and basic politeness to mean airport security agents. I am tersely compliant at best. I too don’t want to cause a scene and I know that these people need information from me, so I try to give it to them straight and easy. It dovetails nicely with my campaign to meet them where they are with their own politeness which can be quite variable.

One especially irritating interaction this time was at immigration where I was asked the following series of questions:

Agent: “Where have you been?” (flying back from Japan to the USA)

Me: “Japan, Taiwan, and Indonesia” (I don’t grant these folks full sentences because there are lots of other people in line and because a short question deserves a short answer.)

Agent: “Was it for business or pleasure?”

Me: “Business and pleasure.”

Agent: “Where did you work in Asia?”

Me: “International University of Japan.”

Agent: “That’s a long name.”

Me: “…”

Agent: “Here you go [hands me my passport and customs card]. Go ahead.”

How. Else. Could I have answered that question? Guh. We Americans say some really stupid shit when we are feeling uneasy. For real. Onward.

Disdain for my beloved home state

As I said, this bad attitude lasts for a few hours typically. Not even this sign could cheer me up at PDX. I said under my breath when I saw this: “No, I don’t” and couldn’t understand who I had become. I had temporarily forgotten again how sleep deprivation and reverse culture shock can make me feel like the world is ending. After a real cup of coffee at Stumptown, a few hours of walking around and a cheeseburger at Burgerville, I began to reacclimatize.

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I do, but I wasn’t feeling the love 5 minutes after getting off the plane. 

I’m a fiercely proud sixth generation native Oregonian. I have mad love for my home state and when I saw this sign, all I could think in my post-landing rage haze was: “Oregon. Get over yourself. No one in Asia or Europe knows where you are. I constantly have to explain where I’m from, with hand gestures for context: ‘It’s above California’. Why do we market this place to be so great? How did we get so much money flooding into this state? It’s not what it used to be. And that’s great and crappy. It’s freezing here. I love it, but damn people, get out into the world and get woke that you’re not the only great place in the world. Some other places even don’t have 145 days of rain.”

Eavesdropping

In the case of coming back from Japan to the USA, I’m highly irritated that I can instantaneously hear other conversations and external musings. Oh my God, the banal shit that people say. I liked it so much better when I couldn’t put other people’s words together in my brain for comprehension. Can we all just make with white noise chatter? These are my hopes and they never come true. I end up learning way more about strangers than I ever wanted to know just by using a public restroom in the United States. Also our restroom stalls are huge. Why are they so huge compared to Asia?

I could go on and another time I will. But this post is about about my untouchable feeling of confidence in my post-reentry state into the USA this time around.

Arriving Back Home 

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Yay for airport pick up reunions!

I arrived back in country on a Saturday and my beloved friend Kimmy picked me up from the airport. I’d like to credit her with making me feel so welcomed home (remember: this is from the same brain that was just cursing being home a few hours prior at PDX). This reunion is usually reserved for my mom, but she was on her own travel journey, so Kimmy got the job. She even brought me flowers! Swoon! She helped me haul all of my three suitcases (note to self: pack way less next time; for real.), drove me and my stuff home, and brought me groceries, including homemade Spanish tortilla. Full circle moment for the summer.

I had the rest of that Saturday afternoon and Sunday to rest and just be after three consecutive days of flying: Denpasar > Taiwan > Tokyo > Portland > Eugene. And that’s where it all started. My inner critic started in on me:

Inner critic: “HEY YOU. YOU HAVE ONE DAY TO UNPACK YOUR LIFE BEFORE YOU START WORK. YOU’D BETTER DO IT ALL TODAY AT WHATEVER COST, YOU LAZY WOMAN. YOU CAN’T JUST BE GONE THE WHOLE SUMMER AND NOT UNPACK. GET TO WORK AND GET BACK TO REALITY. PARTY IS OVER.”

My highest self: “No.

Inner critic: “But…”

My highest self: “I’m gonna unpack as I feel like it. That’s all I can do right now. In fact, I might not unpack at all today. I’m going to listen into my body and just to do the next right thing.”

Inner critic: “Yeah, well, your house will be messy and cluttered.”

My highest self: “Thanks for your concern. I accept that as a possible consequence.”

On and on it has gone like this since I came home a week and a half ago. Whenever the inner critic comes in for the beat down to regulate, terrorize, and motivate, my highest self refuses to engage. She takes away the inner critic power by just saying no. That shitty voice has had so little power over me since I’ve been back. It’s a beautiful thing. I didn’t anticipate this, but it has been noticeably and radically different. And it’s not just for house things. This wisdom has been showing up and protecting me in other facets of my life too.

My highest self is showing up via somatic wisdom right now. This is because I’m choosing to do whatever seems like the next right thing. For example, my body told me I was tired this evening, but my mind wanted to go to dance class with my ladies for an hour. We were truly at a crossroads and it was getting close to leaving time. I know that I will never regret going to dance, but maybe, just maybe I should stay home and rest? So I did what Glennon Doyle recommends doing: I flipped a coin. Heads was dance, tails was staying home. I tossed the coin and let my highest body self call it in the air: “DANCE!”

I checked in with highest self: “So we said dance and the weather is warm so we’re going to bike there… is that all right?” And she said: “Of course. But take it easy. No rushing on the bike. If you’re late, be late. But don’t put that rushing pressure on me. Enjoy the ride. And take it easy at the beginning of class. Go easy on me.” I did everything she told me and I was so happy that I went and danced and biked and saw my people. No regrets. It feels right and good in the guts.

My highest self has also been shielding me from stressful situations at work. There is a lot of change going on and while that’s exciting, it creates a ripple effect of stress on everyone. So whenever I feel my brain trying to make plans to mitigate that stress ripple by making me stay late at work or make me feel bad for not understanding more, I remember: “You’re doing your best. This is all new and hard for everyone. Be patient and you’ll understand it all in time. You don’t have to stay late and strain yourself to understand. It will all come into place in its own time.”

Damn. Where has this wisdom been all my life? Welcome, wisdom! Stay as long as you’d like. You can live here for free.

The same body wisdom has applied to jet lag this time around. Oh jet lag. It can be so punishing and challenging. It certain has been that way for me in the past and the same was true this summer, changing so many time zones east and west between Europe- USA – Asia. And oh how I would fight jet lag in the past. I would bully myself into being awake when I was delirious and dizzy with fatigue. I forced myself to stay up according to other people’s wisdom that worked for them. This time, I decided I was going to just roll with it. I took two naps the first two days at home because I really needed them.

Here’s a really miraculous part: I slept for 8 or more hours every night for the first week coming back from Asia. I don’t understand how this is possible. It’s unprecedented for me. Perhaps I was so exhausted that my body wisdom just took over. And I was a bit loopy; I wasn’t at my sharpest mentally. But I fell into the circadian rhythms of sleep instantly. Was this because I went with the flow and listened to my body’s wisdom? Long days of meetings? Luck? Exercise? A combination of all of this? Who knows. What I do know is that I made a conscious choice not to fight or resist what my body needed and this time, it responded favorably.

Last night, I did force myself beyond what my body wisdom was telling me to do and finished unpacking from the summer. After being home for 9 days, it was time. It made me a little sad to unpack too; it was an act of finality on a great summer of travel. But instead of shaming myself into action, I said: “You really value waking up in the morning and having a tidy house and organized closets. Just stay up a little while longer and finish this task. We can catch up with some of your favorite YouTubers while you do this. But let’s get this done for us. It’s going to be great. ”

I think the experience of being in foreign countries requires a lot of self-compassion. Throughout the summer, I had to communicate in seven different languages, pay for things in five different currencies, and do my best to learn thousands of countless cultural idiosyncrasies. I could not get by without the help of others as I might be able to do in the USA. I had to be humble and rely on the kindness of others for basic tasks such as helping me read labels on bottles to know if I was buying the right kind of vinegar and also for rides to the grocery store to buy said vinegar. This reliance on others, having to solve problems creatively, and getting by with what resources I had on hand helped me realize that at home, I was putting a lot of pressure on myself to “do it all” and be perfect and accurate in the process.

This has been an unexpected gift from my travels: the gift of giving fewer fucks. The gift of giving myself much more credit for minor and major tasks. The gift of compassion when my expectations (which are often coffee-fueled to do lists) don’t actualize in reality. The perspective that travel has given me has made me feel bulletproof to criticism, most importantly the kind that is dished out from my own inner critic.

What a huge gift. I accept and exercise it gratefully.

Here’s how I know I’m ready for my next trip: right before I went to sleep on my first night back sleeping in my bed, I was checking flights and dreaming about when and where I could travel to next.

Forward and onward!

 

Welcome

Welcome all to Onward Woman: a movement that promotes woman moving forward beyond their believed limitations and into a life that resonates and rattles their chests with what their souls most want and desire.

Onward Woman is a place where women can be and share, celebrate and cry, and most importantly, lift each other up. It is a place for women to come for sisterhood and for individual and group coaching experiences. It’s where I’ll write about all manner of things with the central theme of noticing what is, expressing that, and sharing it with the world, in hopes that what I have to notice and say might help others feel more connected to their sisters and less alone in this world.

As a North American woman in my mid-thirties, major life changes spurred me on to step into and value the power of the divine feminine. I experienced a separation and divorce and the loss of nearly twenty friendships in the process. After years of “manning it up” to impress my family, to prove my worth in relationship, I began learning to undo learned cultural behavior of devaluing my own and feminine energy and desires of others. I can’t go back. I can only move forward. Onward. The word “Onward” is also how one of my favorite authors, Liz Gilbert, signs off on her social media posts, which are largely dedicated to people advancing beyond the limitations of their upbringing and stepping into the life that they desire.

Through my own experiences of loss and limitation, I have learned that we humans are very good at holding ourselves back because we are scared for a variety of reasons to live the lives that we desire most. Women especially are prone to prioritizing their own happiness for the sake of others. For these reasons, I decided to further my lifelong love of self-help by diving deep into the work of the experts: Brené Brown, Glennon Doyle Melton, and others. Became a Certified Life Coach and Fire Starter Session Facilitator through the work of Danielle LaPorte.

As my exploration of the divine feminine grows deeper, I’ll write share my experiences here. We’re just getting started. I can hardly contain my joy and I refuse to do so!

If you’re reading this and thinking: “YES! THESE ARE MY PEOPLE!”, welcome sister! My only rule is this: write comments as if you were speaking to one of your sisters in person. Respect is the cornerstone of this platform and is necessary for onward movement. If any comments are disrespectful, the people behind them will be banned. No exceptions. Without mutual respect, there can be no onward movement.

This is a space where women can and should vomit their rainbows of good news and where I want other women will catch those rainbows in sick bags and wave them around like trophies in celebration and pull them out to remember the wins on the hard days. It’s also where we make space for each other to share our hard days and be heard. In this blog, I’ll be doing both and I hope that you’ll do the same.

Onward Woman!

-Rachel Drummond