Yes, I would like fries with that shit sandwich

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I sit staring out the living room window like a cat toward the road. My coffee cup warms my hands. I pray. I fill half a page in my journal. Not much to work through.

I set it down and head into my office to begin my day.

I feel content and serene today. Very peaceful. Very light. That’s a big improvement over the shit sandwich of separation I served myself back in October.

burro in petting zoo

Part of my drive to serve is a new volunteer gig with the Humane Society of the U.S.

The sea was angry in October, my friends. I was angry about Donald Trump. Angry about dating etiquette. Angry about those darned Phoenicians looking down on Tempe. Just angry. I wanted separation, rather than union, between myself and everyone else.

What went wrong? Working too much. Isolating at home all day. Dating the wrong women. I spent time focusing my dating intention during Meander 2015, but I found myself once again investing energy in women who weren’t right for me.

The anger subsided as I committed to daily exercise, less work and more service, coworking to break the isolation, and getting my mind right about women.

Now, there’s serenity and contentment. That’s fueled a drive to serve – to be a giver rather than a taker of spiritual energy – and a drive to create things like this blog post.

More than Serenity and Contentment

I know from past experience that the universe offers more than serenity and contentment. And, as I sit staring out the window, I miss the way it used to be.

I’m not talking about those Big Amazing Moments where I’ve been overwhelmed by wonder at beautiful sights and moving experiences. I’ve certainly had those – from one of my first big solo hikes at Nevada’s Red Rock Canyon, to an hour sitting among the bees buzzing around my flowering broccoli, to a cup of Fairytale hot chocolate on the foggy Mendocino coast.

No. Here I’m talking about Long Stretches of Spiritual Growth. These are times when I’ve chased a shit sandwich with deep commitment to my practice and been rewarded by spirit’s presence in my life.

I miss that. I miss being inspired.

When the nightmares returned after my ex moved out in 2010, I sat up in bed every night. I took inventory of my day and prayed by candlelight before retiring. If I woke from a nightmare, I relit the candles and repeated a safety affirmation again and again until I fell back to sleep. Eventually, the nightmares went away.

“God’s love is abundant. I’m protected at the level to which I am open.”

When my job at Bulbstorm was most challenging, I dedicated my mornings to preparing mentally for the day. I explored my character flaws and trigger points through daily Enneagram work. I scripted how I’d answer simple questions like How was your weekend?. I broke my isolation by stopping at each teammates’ desk on arrival. When, confused by stress, I perceived people turning against me, I’d return to my Enneagram work to identify the trigger and then sweat it out on a run along the canal.

“Jane is my teammate and wants what’s best for the team. We’re all in this together.”

When I had the big breakthroughs in my first Meander, they were preceded by weeks of disconnection from my smartphone and a regimented morning practice of prayer, spiritual reading, and journaling. When old pain or fear surfaced during long lonely hours on the trail or on the road, I rewired my thinking with specific affirmations.

“Past partners are in the past. My true partner will be waiting for me when I’m ready.”

Waiting for an Exclamation Point

As I stared out the window, I first thought that the Big Amazing Moments were unique from the Long Stretches of Spiritual Growth.

Upon further reflection, I think they’re inseparable. The Long Stretches are preceded by hard times and punctuated by Big Amazing Moments. And the punctuation tends to be an exclamation point.

My victory over my post-breakup nightmares in 2010 was punctuated by my Thanksgiving trip to Las Vegas to explore Red Rock (and see Roger Waters perform The Wall!). The worker bees in my garden inspired me after digging out of the low-points of my Bulbstorm days. The foggy Mendocino coast blew me away only after I recovered from the volatile first half of Meander 2013.

The funny thing is that it’s hard for me to recognize that I’m in a Long Stretch until it’s punctuated by a Big Amazing Moment.

It turns out that I’m in a Long Stretch now. Serenity. Contentment. Giving. Creativity. Duh! I just didn’t recognize the Long Stretch without the punctuation.

I leave for a three-night backpacking trip at the Grand Canyon on Tuesday. Big Amazing Moment booked.

Bring on the exclamation point!

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snow at Grand Canyon

PSA: Spike in Shirtless Hiking Selfies Imminent

This is a public service announcement. Analysts warn that a spike in the number of shirtless hiking selfies posted to my Facebook profile is imminent.

This month, one of my clients hired an in-house marketing professional – and fired me.

Don’t worry! These things happen. I work with startups and startups grow. Eventually, I get replaced. This is a good thing as it means my work for the company has helped them (in at least a small way) to achieve their goals.

Besides, I was busier than I wanted to be anyway. As I wined in October while pondering so many friends’ rush to marriage and marriage-type things, I prefer to set aside Fridays as work optional. Alas, it was Sunday that was work optional through most of 2015. Not anymore.

Flat Iron

Not quite shirtless, but close.

Now, I’ll have more time on my hands to play. But there must be more to life than just play. It can’t be all shirtless hiking selfies.

I’m taking advantage of the loose schedule to formalize a balance about which I first journaled in Yosemite National Park in the first few days of last summer’s Meander.

Four days of work. One day of service. Two days of play.

Four Days of Work

I used to think that hoping to be passionate about one’s work was unrealistic. When people said they didn’t believe in their company’s mission, I thought, Why would you? It’s just a job. The best you can hope for is to be on a great team with a great boss. It doesn’t matter what you build.

Eventually, I realized that I was wrong. There are definitely people out there who are passionate about what they’re building.

I’m passionate about helping others build what they’re passionate about building. I’m passionate about entrepreneurs. (I recently wrote in more depth about this topic for the Phoenix Startup Week blog.)

I love facilitating entrepreneurs’ success in my own small way. I don’t want to start anything. I want to help them start. I don’t care about the product. I care about the people.

One Day of Service

Service has been a big part of my life for years. I’ve been involved in Tempe Leadership since 2012 and with Phoenix Startup Week and the #yesphx movement since last fall. Both these organizations align with my passion – helping others achieve theirs.

I’m not terribly passionate about community gardens or bicycle advocacy or even underprivileged kids. But, in my work with Tempe Leadership, I can help people who are passionate about those causes make a difference.

And Phoenix Startup Week keeps me engaged with the entrepreneurs with whom I most enjoy working.

Aside from adopting my Meandering lifestyle, Tempe Leadership and Phoenix Startup Week are the biggest things to happen to me over the last few years.

That said, in the words of my late-blooming friend Michelle, it’s time to Level Up. That’s why I’ve started down the path of becoming an official advocate of the Humane Society. I’ll focus on agriculture issues, because, ya know, I love animals so much that I don’t eat them.

Few work-life balances allow the flexibility of contributing a full day to service. Instead, folks give financially. I’m grateful to be in position to give time and fill my cup in person.

Two Days of Play

If there’s one thing I’ve mastered in the last three years, it’s play. Over the last three summers, I’ve spent 290 of Arizona’s hottest days playing on the road between Tempe and Seattle. And I’ve sneaked in smaller trips during the cooler months as well.

So many have served me in my Meanders. Opening their homes. Putting me on their rafts. Challenging my stubborn ways.

I do my best to pay it forward by opening my own home to meanderers, hippies, and nomads passing through the desert.

Of course, play isn’t all about giving back. It’s selfish. It’s about getting out into the community, putting in some desert trail miles, and making my first descent into the Grand Canyon later this month.

It’s time to work less and serve and play more! People of Facebook beware. The shirtless hiking selfies are coming.

Superstition Wilderness