My Love Letter to Los Angeles: why we went, stayed, and left

Growing up, my happy place was Southern California.
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Like most people from Arizona, we grew up going to San Diego for vacation, and occasionally Orange County for theme park visits, but only once ventured up the way of LA, just so we could say we did it. And like most Arizona people when they finally make their way up to Los Angeles, we had no idea how to navigate the city and found it to be mostly stressful and not nearly as beautiful or relaxing as San Diego. However, all of that changed when we spent a week in Hawaii with some wedding clients and their Los Angeles-based wedding guests, because once we made friends in LA, going to visit was an entirely different experience! 
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We discovered that LA is a lot more fun to live in than to visit. We learned how to navigate traffic to lessen it’s effects, and we discovered that some of the beaches are less busy than the Orange County beaches we grew up going to! We found out that the best parts of LA are the things you have to be invited to, or places you have to know about… all of which are not found on travel sites. The fun lies in the day to day life and revolves around the extraordinary people you get to know.
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Daily Life in Southern California….
There’s a TV commercial I see air in Arizona advertising trips to Southern California. They joke about how people in Southern CA are just “regular people with regular lives” but all the while you see them in amazing places, doing amazing things. That’s really what it feels like to live there! I often wanted to pinch myself when I looked around and thought, “is this my real life”? I mean, when I walked out my front door, I was on the beach!
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We took daily walks down to the pier to watch surfers, or to the marina to watch the boats. 
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My daughter learned to walk on the boardwalk!
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We had annual passes to Disneyland, Pantages Theater, and (accidentally) Universal Studios.
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From our house we’d walk through the stunning Venice Canals to Abbot Kinney which was once named “The Coolest Street in America”.
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Then we’d spend the afternoon on Abbot Kinney, enjoying world-renowned coffee, art, fashion, or cuisine. Well, we’d at least look at all those things… the only one we could afford was the coffee!2016-02-14 16.40.42On the rare occasion that we couldn’t walk or bike to our destination, we’d drive ten minutes to meet friends on Main St. in Santa Monica to enjoy the quirky shops, food truck nights, or to just sit in the grass and listen to music while watching the pony rides at the farmers market. 
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In the summers we’d ride bikes along the beach to sit in the sand with some wine and cheese while we enjoyed free concerts at the Santa Monica pier. We’d spend our weekends watching the waves while either having deep conversations with our closest friends, or partying it up in matching themed attire.
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Whether we were watching a musical and theming our clothing and meal to it, celebrating Japanese culture that we actually knew nothing about, remembering the beauty of the Gatsby 20’s for a Birthday party, or ringing in the summer solstice with Argentinian 80’s culture… whatever our LA friends did, they did it with costumes and flair. And usually with a celebrity or two in the mix. This is the kind of stuff that made up our “normal” life in LA.
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It’s all about the “Once-in-a-lifetime” experiences….
The daily life is awesome, but it’s the utter abundance of “once-in-a-lifetime” type of experiences in LA that REALLY make it special! We were lucky enough to have some incredibly generous friends (especially Rich Payne who was the benefactor to many of our very special and free LA experiences! Thanks Rich! And thanks to ALL of you who gave us these types of opportunities!). Rich gave us box seats at the Hollywood Bowl, Dodgers Tickets, and stays at five star hotels we could never afford!
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Other friends gifted us with free massages, private tours of movie studio lots, VIP tickets to TV show filmings, Coachella tickets with vendor privileges (aka not using those general admission bathrooms!), and had lunch dates with us at Google and Youtube (which I thought was super special!).
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Living in LA is about working hard and playing hard (and often doing both together!). Being photographers always provides us with special perks, but being based in LA for our job (and the friends we made through it!) stepped this up big time! We had the opportunity to do things like see free private performances by John Legend, Neil Young, Sting, Faith Hill and Tim McGraw, Patti Smith, Tom Morello and more! We got to work on set for McDonalds and Disneyland commercials (including going behind the scenes at Disneyland!). We scored free VIP tickets to the Chelsea Lately Show.
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At different points, my husband and I separately got to be the private photographer for Sheryl Crow, Holly Robinson Peete, Jay Leno, and others we aren’t allowed to name. We were regularly able to stay at the Ritz for free (thanks to Harriet for getting us that job connection!) and that sometimes included bonuses like free food and drinks for our entire stay, a personalized chef’s tasting dinner, and free massages in their spa! We traded photography for private Pilates instruction and physical therapy (when either of us were unfortunate enough to need it). 
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We were invited to the kind of wedding industry networking events where the moving dessert table was actually a woman dressed as Marie Antoinette with desserts placed on her giant moving skirt.
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(Although every time I see this, I think of “The Capital” in The Hunger Games!)

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We booked jobs through LA friends that involved free trips all over the country for us. Scottie filmed a music video that ended up on MTV, as well as several other pieces of work that were played for celebrities, network executives, and many others in an industry we were not qualified to produce content for… but got to do so anyways!
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Venice Beach…
The great thing about LA that most people don’t know is that it’s really a big city that’s made up of small towns. You pick the little village that suits you and live your life in that self-sustaining community. Driving to work is often the only time locals venture into LA traffic, since it’s only worth it if someone is literally paying you to do it. We chose Venice as our hub because we were looking for community, and the beach lifestyle of being outside and walking or riding bikes everywhere, seemed to lend itself well to that. Our guess was right and our neighbors became like family and we ran into friends everywhere we went. Though it had all the big city benefits I’ve mentioned already,  I think it may have felt more small town than many small towns do! gift1749 gift1274 copy 306720_10150984985628074_2061705430_n
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If you’ve never been to Venice, it’s hard to explain. It’s the kind of place where a homeless woman yells for help, and a famous actress comes barreling out of her house ready to beat someone down. It’s the kind of place where a high twenty-year old girl asks for an extra pair of your panties since she doesn’t know where hers went. The kind of place where you go out to walk the dog and stumble upon Tony Hawk skating a half pipe, the Red Hot Chili Peppers filming a music video on a rooftop, Blake Griffin dunking for a commercial, or Chris O’Donnell filming a TV show with LL Cool J. Then of course you’re followed home by a clown on stilts whistling “if I only had a brain”. This is all truth and it’s just a snapshot of the crazy things I saw daily in my six years there.
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In Venice, there’s the exciting, the scary, the unforgettable, and always the entertaining. We’d be sitting in our kitchen and suddenly we’re being serenaded by an incredibly talented violin player who has set up a block away. Walking down the boardwalk, we’d head past the skate park, the basketball courts, and muscle beach while running into everything from a man riding a 10 foot tall unicycle, to the “wolf boy” from the Freak Show getting a slice of pizza, to a group of gymnasts performing a comedy dance show, to a man jumping on glass for a living, to a turban wearing rollerblader who’s played the electric guitar while rolling along the boardwalk every day for the past 20 years. Sure there were times when crazy homeless people camped out by our garage, or pooped in the cinder block outside our doorway… and proceed to spread it all over our mailboxes; but the bad side of crazy is more than balanced out with the fun and interesting sides of it. 
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Every time we opened the door in Venice it was an adventure. Including the time I’d just finished watching the very old “Heroes” TV series and a week later I responded to a knock at the door and found a villain from the show- who I later found out lived two houses down- standing on my doorstep asking to borrow something from my front yard (I was so scared of this “evil man” that I froze and could barely nod yes). A few times a month we’d walk out the front door to find a section of the street blocked off for some sort of filming, including the time our neighbor was on a reality show with the “skate car” he built. Twice, Netflix asked to use our apartment for filming one of their original content shows. Once, Jessica Simpson asked to use our building’s parking spot for a few minutes. Another time a private investigator asked to rent our parking spot while he watched coked up models and hookers leaving a nearby house night after night. Then there was that wonderful time period all of our neighbors sold their parking spots to make $300 a weekend that we could pool to spend on parties, fixing up our front yard (a project we began by tearing up the ground at midnight on a whim one night), or any community expense we found. Lack of parking, just like the lack of personal space that forced a bond with our neighbors, is another thing that seemed like a curse but turned into a blessing!
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One of my favorite nights in the Venice area started out with a free stay at the Ritz Carlton. After getting back home, we rode our bikes to the Marina Del Rey boat parade with hot chocolate and Christmas cookies. At the end of the parade, a friend called and said his girlfriend was singing and playing trombone at a fancy hotel nearby. So we rode our bikes down the beach to join their group of three which turned into ten, before we all headed to the Christmas party of a friend (who happens to be a famous musician) to finish out the night. It was one of the many LA nights that felt nothing short of magical to me.
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The Roxann…
Even with all the incredible moments Venice Beach provided us, the community amongst our neighbors in “The Roxann” building, was the heart and soul of our Venice beach experience. 2016-01-28 17.23.30 HDR
In fact, when I was writing for this blog, my neighbor who had babysat the night before so my husband and I could go vintage bowling at the Roosevelt hotel on Hollywood Blvd, texted to ask if she could bring me down some fancy hot chocolate fixings! Just another random Thursday afternoon surprise at the Roxann!
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Vintage Bowling at the Hollywood Roosevelt Hotel
Our neighbors at The Roxann (and the few stragglers that chose to be adopted into our community), were like family. We all had keys to one another’s apartments and those keys were used often to let dogs out, double check the oven was off, put Amazon packages inside, and to leave meals and other surprises for one another. To get permission to enter for surprises, we’d ask to borrow something out of their fridge…. and sometimes we really just needed to borrow something out of the fridge! We helped one another through hard times with lots of tears at all hours and we celebrated everything from birthdays, to babies, to weddings!
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Actually, we celebrated anything we could come up with! Some of us had a tradition to go out to the divey-est restaurants we could think of on all the most neglected holidays, like going to a haggard old chicken and waffle joint on Columbus day. We celebrated multiple Jewish holidays with feasts that Jewish community groups bought for us.  We even built a Sukkah structure in our driveway and encouraged those passing by to participate in the building and decorating. We also built a Jewish-Christmas tree in our front yard one year to celebrate our mixed faith building.
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We threw many memorable building-wide parties. Including a St. Patty’s Day party that went from surfing, to BBQing, to a field trip to the “American Ninja Warrior” TV show obstacle course they set up every year down the road, to hang out with our camera man neighbor and watch contestants run through it. Then there was one of Scottie’s birthday parties where a neighbor locked herself out and twenty (not entirely sober) men tried to prove they were the manliest by attempting to get her in via a twenty foot wobbly ladder and power tools (power tools won). Our 4th of July parties were pretty well known in the community. Every year the horse cops would stop and play a game of corn hole in the street with us from atop their horses. And some years we’d have super successful garage sales with our customers being all the red, white, and blue dressed passerbyers who were too drunk to realize they were spending money. During one memorable garage sale, a homeless woman who kept her money safely in her butt, handed us a $20 with feces on it. NOT my favorite Venice moment. Every 4th of July party included a BBQ feast with bacon wrapped hot dogs and of course, Americana costuming, and we’d end the night with a walk down to the ocean to join other parties in watching the four different fireworks shows we could see from our little spot of beach. 
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Though our big planned parties were epic, the real benefit of living a few feet away from some of your best friends were the impromptu moments. The “hey, I know you’re sick, do you need anything when I go to the store today?”, the “I need to vent about my day at work, want to go for a walk along the beach to get a drink?”, and the “I swear the baby is crying just to be mean to me, can you come babysit while I go walk with this other neighbor along the beach to get a drink?”.
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There were impromptu BBQ’s where everyone contributed whatever they had in the building (we were also lucky enough to have a few really quality chef’s living there!), and sometimes unexpected dance parties or karaoke would break out. We’d roast marshmallows in the front yard fire pit that our parking spot sales bought for us, and our late night hang outs would sometimes end in midnight group trips down to play in the ocean. Other times those late night talks in the front yard would involve calling the police on the many drunken hooligans who crossed our path. Though sometimes we chose to help them instead, including one lost girl we claimed so the cops didn’t arrest her. 
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Once Scottie found a kite and all the neighbors headed out the beach for a really fun kite flying day. Another time, one of our neighbors was inches away from getting into a fist fight with an Elijah Wood look alike. We befriended a homeless man who had built an entire living room out of trash, a fashionable ensemble out of leather pieces, and who had taken a vow of silence and would only communicate via writing. He said his words had gotten him into trouble and he was waiting for his son. One day his son showed to pick him up and months later he came back into the neighborhood as a normal salesman who wore a suit and tie, spoke well, and lived in Culver City. The many adventures of our days at The Roxann will never be forgotten!
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Why we left…
LA is a city of extremes. The good is extremely good, and the bad is extremely bad (i.e. feces tainted payments). I’m glad we braved the bad for awhile to embrace the good. Some people seem to adjust to the bad and get used to it, I never really did. And as soon as we had a baby, that became very apparent to me as the things that were a little hard before (parking, over-crowdedness, general pace of life, piles of trash my daughter liked to put in her mouth, etc.) were added onto the basic hard things that go into having a kid, and it was just a little too much for me… for us.  
LA gave us the bigger life we were looking for, until it didn’t. So now this Goldilocks is heading out in search of a bigger life that is actually the right size for us. 
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Goodbye, LA, I’ll miss you…
We’re not sure where we’ll live after our six month road trip ends. There are places near LA that might be options, but it definitely won’t be the same LA that I’ve grown to love (and hate). So regardless of where we end up, I’m saying goodbye to the LA I know.
LA is a very special place and in some ways it will be unlike any other place I’ll ever live. As much as I do feel the relief from the bad now that I’m out of it, I already miss it terribly.
Not just anywhere has perfect weather year round, access to the best of anything any time I want it, or so much to do that something would present itself before I even finished asking “what should we do today?”.

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Turtle Racing… yeah, you heard me right.
Not just anywhere allows you to meet the beautiful and extreme variety of people you’ll meet in Los Angeles. It’s a place where the neighbors you befriend consist of an ailing homeless man with one arm, a South African dog walker who speaks mostly in “dog” language and F-words, as well as a variety of A-list celebrities. Not just anywhere allows you to walk out your front door and hear six different languages being spoken around you at once. 
 LA gives you the opportunity to strike up daily conversations with strangers in a coffee shop and know you’re sure to hear stories of immigrating from a war torn country, running a reality TV show for seven years, being a missionary in Los Angeles, nannying for an Iranian prince, living in a socialist commune, being a personal seamstress for Sandra Bullock and J-Lo, not getting an offer when you took your business on Shark Tank… and any and every other kind of interesting life experience that can be had under the sun. It’s the kind of place where you really do feel like “anything could happen”. Like the time AFTER we’d already moved away and I thought “I wish I could’ve met Josh Gad while we were there” and then I ran into him a week later when we went back for a quick visit. 
Not just anywhere would’ve allowed me to have had the honor of meeting so many different kinds of people, or to learn and be inspired from such a variety of stories and experiences on such a regular basis.
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Of course, mostly I’ll miss the people we loved and who loved us (including those not pictured here) . I know that I will forever miss them and the very special life we shared together.
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Goodbye, LA. I’ll miss you forever.
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Trying to partner with you partner

If you haven’t noticed, I say “we” a lot.

This is somewhat out of habit because my husband and I do spend 24 hours a day, 7 days a week together. But some of it is because it’s pretty much impossible to talk about my life journey as a solo enterprise.  It’s done as a we so it makes sense to talk about it as a we.

It is going to be pretty difficult to choose a lifestyle, any lifestyle whether it’s extraordinary or not, if your life partner is not on board. If you’re the kind of sold out fan who’s waving extraordinary living flags in the air, taping quotes to your refrigerator, and making up sing-songy mantras to get you through your day… but your partner only rolls their eyes and prays this is just a stage… you might have a problem.

I hate to tell you this, but I actually have no idea what you’re supposed to do.

Every person is different, every relationship is different, and every situation is different. I can’t just throw out the magic potion to make this all better. You’re going to have to work through this the same way you work through any other disagreement in your relationship…. wait, I don’t mean using the silent treatment or withholding sex so maybe I should clarify that the right answer here is “COMMUNICATION”.

I believe that everyone has an extraordinary life that is waiting to be lived.

I don’t care how put-together, straight-laced, or practical your spouse is, I fully believe that they still have things in their life they feel pulled to but are afraid to do, everyone does.  And fear has lots of awesome costumes it uses to disguise itself.  Some of it’s favorite masks are logical thinking, self-sacrifice, and financial wisdom, along with many other things that are all just excuses. Don’t get me wrong, I whole heartedly believe in paying attention to all these factors when they are real issues. I’m talking about when these are not as big of a problem as people have chosen to believe they are… these are the times when fear is the real issue.

Fear is a pretty big deal! 

Fear creates passivity (complacency which leads to depression), the need to control things (comfort which leads to lack of freedom), and often times anger (frustration which can lead to relationship problems).  And this messy emotion, that tends to ruin everything, is in all of us.  So first of all I’m saying that if your partner is hesitant, give them a break!  Your fear may manifest itself in different ways than theirs does, but you still have some form of detrimental fear that is just as real and just as scary as theirs!

You never know, maybe the reason you feel called to live an extraordinary life is because you’re also meant to help your partner find theirs!

…no matter how resistant they may be at first!

From the moment you begin these conversations with your partner, just remember that both of you do have fear of some sort and that puts you on the same team from the beginning.  This is not a “you against them” battle. Just because your partner is afraid, doesn’t mean they don’t want an extraordinary life deep down, they probably just need help getting there.  You can be there to help them recognize their fears, break down their true obstacles, and find the freedom they crave to do what they’re meant to be doing with their life! What an amazing thing to be able to work through together and help one another with! Your job as partners is to help one another grow… this is just another piece to that.

Stay humble and open.

Remember that neither you or I (yes, I can admit it) have all the right answers. This is where humbleness kicks in (and I’m feeling the pain of that kick already). Just because your partner has an extraordinary life in mind, doesn’t mean it’s the same one you are thinking of. This is going to be one of many issues you’ll need to work through together. Start by each doing your own dreaming and then coming together to find the common points. Just keep in mind that your way may not be the right way. Your destiny does involve the person you chose to seek out your destiny with. So whether your decision to partner with them changed the course you would otherwise be on or not, you are now on this course so your job is to find a way to make it work for both of you.

When you start discussing these major life changes with your partner, it’s imperative that you really, truly listen to them, not just to get that part out of the way, but to really try to hear and understand where they’re coming from. So put down your sword, relax your defenses, and just sit down for a minute. This is more of a Mr. Miyagi kind of moment… a time that involves calm wisdom and listening which will lead to enlightenment over violence.

Stay patient and compassionate.

How well you’re able to listen to, value, and truly weigh and  consider your partner’s differing opinions says a lot about the kind of person you are. And the level of patience you’re able to have with your partner’s speed of growth and with the speed of your extraordinary living progress says a lot about how successful you will be in this endeavor together. If you’re mustering up all the compassionate, patient, loving, respectful, and humble bones in your body (and then going after the muscles, sinews, etc, etc) then I think you guys will be able to figure this one out.

So this is where you need to start… step by step with many slow, long conversations.  This involves much, MUCH listening from both sides.  You both need to feel the freedom to express your fears, your needs, and your desires.  Once you both feel heard and respected then you can start to see things from each other’s point of view and it’s only at this point that you can expect to move forward as a collective unit in whatever direction you are truly meant to go.

Hopefully one day, you’ll look back and smile fondly at these conversations that once occurred a whole other lifestyle ago.

 

Trying to partner with you partner

If you haven’t noticed, I say “we” a lot.

This is somewhat out of habit because my husband and I do spend 24 hours a day, 7 days a week together. But some of it is because it’s pretty much impossible to talk about my life journey as a solo enterprise.  It’s done as a we so it makes sense to talk about it as a we.

It is going to be pretty difficult to choose a lifestyle, any lifestyle whether it’s extraordinary or not, if your life partner is not on board. If you’re the kind of sold out fan who’s waving extraordinary living flags in the air, taping quotes to your refrigerator, and making up sing-songy mantras to get you through your day… but your partner only rolls their eyes and prays this is just a stage… you might have a problem.

I hate to tell you this, but I actually have no idea what you’re supposed to do.

Every person is different, every relationship is different, and every situation is different. I can’t just throw out the magic potion to make this all better. You’re going to have to work through this the same way you work through any other disagreement in your relationship…. wait, I don’t mean using the silent treatment or withholding sex so maybe I should clarify that the right answer here is “COMMUNICATION”.

I believe that everyone has an extraordinary life that is waiting to be lived.

I don’t care how put-together, straight-laced, or practical your spouse is, I fully believe that they still have things in their life they feel pulled to but are afraid to do, everyone does.  And fear has lots of awesome costumes it uses to disguise itself.  Some of it’s favorite masks are logical thinking, self-sacrifice, and financial wisdom, along with many other things that are all just excuses. Don’t get me wrong, I whole heartedly believe in paying attention to all these factors when they are real issues. I’m talking about when these are not as big of a problem as people have chosen to believe they are… these are the times when fear is the real issue.

Fear is a pretty big deal! 

Fear creates passivity (complacency which leads to depression), the need to control things (comfort which leads to lack of freedom), and often times anger (frustration which can lead to relationship problems).  And this messy emotion, that tends to ruin everything, is in all of us.  So first of all I’m saying that if your partner is hesitant, give them a break!  Your fear may manifest itself in different ways than theirs does, but you still have some form of detrimental fear that is just as real and just as scary as theirs!

You never know, maybe the reason you feel called to live an extraordinary life is because you’re also meant to help your partner find theirs!

…no matter how resistant they may be at first!

From the moment you begin these conversations with your partner, just remember that both of you do have fear of some sort and that puts you on the same team from the beginning.  This is not a “you against them” battle. Just because your partner is afraid, doesn’t mean they don’t want an extraordinary life deep down, they probably just need help getting there.  You can be there to help them recognize their fears, break down their true obstacles, and find the freedom they crave to do what they’re meant to be doing with their life! What an amazing thing to be able to work through together and help one another with! Your job as partners is to help one another grow… this is just another piece to that.

Stay humble and open.

Remember that neither you or I (yes, I can admit it) have all the right answers. This is where humbleness kicks in (and I’m feeling the pain of that kick already). Just because your partner has an extraordinary life in mind, doesn’t mean it’s the same one you are thinking of. This is going to be one of many issues you’ll need to work through together. Start by each doing your own dreaming and then coming together to find the common points. Just keep in mind that your way may not be the right way. Your destiny does involve the person you chose to seek out your destiny with. So whether your decision to partner with them changed the course you would otherwise be on or not, you are now on this course so your job is to find a way to make it work for both of you.

When you start discussing these major life changes with your partner, it’s imperative that you really, truly listen to them, not just to get that part out of the way, but to really try to hear and understand where they’re coming from. So put down your sword, relax your defenses, and just sit down for a minute. This is more of a Mr. Miyagi kind of moment… a time that involves calm wisdom and listening which will lead to enlightenment over violence.

Stay patient and compassionate.

How well you’re able to listen to, value, and truly weigh and  consider your partner’s differing opinions says a lot about the kind of person you are. And the level of patience you’re able to have with your partner’s speed of growth and with the speed of your extraordinary living progress says a lot about how successful you will be in this endeavor together. If you’re mustering up all the compassionate, patient, loving, respectful, and humble bones in your body (and then going after the muscles, sinews, etc, etc) then I think you guys will be able to figure this one out.

So this is where you need to start… step by step with many slow, long conversations.  This involves much, MUCH listening from both sides.  You both need to feel the freedom to express your fears, your needs, and your desires.  Once you both feel heard and respected then you can start to see things from each other’s point of view and it’s only at this point that you can expect to move forward as a collective unit in whatever direction you are truly meant to go.

Hopefully one day, you’ll look back and smile fondly at these conversations that once occurred a whole other lifestyle ago.

 

The Discipline Of Dreaming (a project)

Most people don’t spend their days thinking about “what could be”.  And if they do, they are most likely thinking pretty small like “if I only I had enough money to get my car detailed instead of just hosed down”, or “I wish I had the time to go shopping this weekend”, or even smaller, “too bad this isn’t a white mocha with whipped cream instead of a non-fat latte”.  Yes my friends, this is what American dreaming has become!  These are the things we spend our days pining for…with a little “I wish I could go on a week long dream vacation” mixed in on particularly long Mondays.  But the kind of dreaming we’re going to start doing is the “3 wishes, genie in a lamp” kind.  I don’t care if you’re picturing a silly blonde genie who hangs out with Major Nelson, or a big blue guy that sounds an awful lot like Robin Williams… as long as your 3rd wish is to cheat and wish for more wishes, because this time you get as many as you want!

Ever since I began the “discipline of dreaming” I’ve been amazed by how incredibly hard it is! 

You’d think it’d be easy to figure out what you want in life if you could have/do/be anything!  But it’s not!  Most people can’t figure it out without putting a lot of time into it, myself included. We’re overwhelmed… either by the amount of options,  by the challenges in making them happen, or by our lack of knowledge about ourselves.  But dreaming is a necessary beginning for extraordinary living because in order to find the life you are meant to live, you need at least some idea of what’s important to you.

Your “pre-project” project.

It’s time to stop believing that the good life is for everyone else. It’s time to start finding your own good/extraordinary life. So I’m giving you a project today. But before we start I have to tell you about one of the main things that I believe will make the difference between people who will read this blog and then forget about it, versus people who will read this blog as a guide while they actually change their life. The difference?  WRITING ABOUT IT. I don’t care if you are the “writing type” or not. If you are the “person type” then when it comes to changing your life, unraveling your identity, or anything that requires any self-reflection at all (so basically everything in this blog), you will only make it so far if you don’t commit to spending a good amount of time and thought investing yourself in it.  Writing it down will help you clarify your thoughts and give you something to build on as you go. So your “pre-project” project is: Designate a place to write down everything you learn about yourself, think deeper on, or complete as a project while following Rare Existence.

Your Project.

Since (you guessed it) your project assignment is going to be to start dreaming (dream as individuals first, then together with your spouse/partner), I’m going to give you an example of what my dreaming looked like in stage 1. I think this will also make you feel better if you think you might be too lame, weird, shallow, or… sort of retarded,  to live an extraordinary life- since as you are about to see… I too am all those things.

Breanna’s dreams:
Be on Chelsea Lately (I’m not a comedian or an actress- the 2 main requirements for the show- but I’ll find a way).
Become a published author.
Have a house with a fancy guest room where people can come to feel rested.
Travel to all the major world cities (New York, London, Paris, Tokyo, Hong Kong, and Rome).
Only work 1-2 days a week for the rest of my life.
Continually audit college classes for enrichment.
Have a long-term community of people around me that I love and live life with.
Spend one day like a millionaire.
Learn to be a great multi-media artist.
Swim with dolphins (yes, even after watching “The Cove”- call me heartless, but I REALLY want to do this!).
Change someone’s life 180 degrees for the better.
Spend a day in the most beautiful garden in the world.
Own a smart fridge (if it plans recipes and grocery shops for me).
Have a good enough budget that I’ll never be in debt and always have extra to give.
Go to Disneyland at Christmas time.
Go on a romantic date in New York at Christmas time.
Raise extremely healthy (physically, emotionally, spiritually) kids.
Have a home that is seen as the “community hang out” for our friends.
Often be an “anonymous donor” when I hear of a major financial need.
Have my own art room.
Spend 1 month with my friends in Malaysia.
Learn what “healthy eating” is and stick to it for the rest of my life.
Learn fluent Spanish (8 semesters of Spanish with no memory of any of it, says this is a bigger dream than it sounds).
Be taken on surprise trips by my husband with all the details worked out ahead of time.
Host a beautiful garden party
Host an awesome rooftop party on a high rise in the middle of a downtown somewhere.
Do some public speaking from time to time.
Get my old ’66 Mustang back and keep it in good condition as a “fun weekend car”.
Stay under 130 lbs for the rest of my life (not counting pregnancy of course!)
Be a terrific influence on my grandkids and very active/involved in their lives.
Have the time to volunteer for any organization I really believe in.
Find ways of exercising that I really enjoy and stick to a regular workout schedule for life.
Make a movie with my husband.
Always have my own pretty outdoor space where I can go to find relaxation and peace.

So Your project is: Write down your dreams. If it helps, go buy that coffee mug at Coffee Bean and Tea Leaf that says, “What would you attempt to do if you knew you could not fail?” to drink your inspiration juice out of while working on this project (it actually did help me to think of some of this as an answer to that question).  Just write…no matter what you discover about yourself, no matter how petty you feel, and no matter how scared it makes you. If it frees you up to write the truth, I give you permission to sign someone else’s name on your list (as long as it’s not mine).

From Intellect to Action

Now it’s time to get down and dirty with the practical application.  So far I’ve been all whimsical and inspiring, while I speak in poetry and riddles trying to convince you to ethereally join the extraordinary life style.  Now I’m going to turn all real on you.  No, you can’t just continue to make changes to your thinking alone, it’s time to get started on the transformation of your day to day life.

In short, no more pretending…you can’t get away on simply agreeing with all of this on an intellectual level forever.

Trust me, I tried that, remember?  I told you how I married Scottie thinking he was so fantastic because of all of his genius philosophies and views on life. I loved that I’d found a man who believed in setting a max amount of money he needed to live on and then if he made more than that, he’d give the rest away.  I mean, that shows what a generous and unique soul he is, right? Who wouldn’t want to date a guy like that?  Until you get engaged that is and you realize that all this altruistic talk means that even though you’d never planned on being rich, if you ever did in fact find yourself there, you still couldn’t live like it.  Somehow the glamor of all his beautiful, idealistic dreams started to fade when I realized that I too was going to have to start sacrificing for them!  I can’t tell you how many conversations we had about “but what if I really, really love that $120 sweater at Anthropologie, do I still have to buy the $20 one at Target… even if we make 2 million a year?  Really?! OK, but what if we just budget enough so I can buy ALL my clothes at Anthropologie and then if I have some left over at the end of the month, we give THAT away? How much is too much to spend on a vacation… on a house… on the perfect french bulldog, etc., etc?”  Things that sound good on paper, don’t always look so hot when they’re happening before your very eyes in your very own life!

So this place I found myself in after I slipped that engagement ring on- the place where it hit me like the diamonds we may be throwing towards the orphans one day- this place where I realized that all his unorthodox and slightly dangerous views about life, now applied to my very normal and safe life.

And that’s the place where you are now.

You: “Oh wow, I love dreaming about the big picture and thinking about how beautiful and crazy all of this life stuff really is!”
Me: “OK, but how crazy and beautiful is YOUR life right now?”.
You: “Um, uh, that doesn’t really matter.  The point is that we’re on the same wave length here.”
Me: “No, the point is that you’re going to have to sack up and do something about all of this”.
You: “oh $&#**”.

Your first official assignment will come in the next post.  No throwing it out the window because you were “afraid it would self destruct”.  I’ve heard that excuse before.

 

Beginning to Define it For Yourself

What?! You’re not me?! Really? Are you sure? I could’ve sworn…

Your definition for an extraordinary life is unique.

If everyone’s definitions were the same, it would just be called “ordinary living” and I definitely wouldn’t be wasting so many of my youthful years telling you about it (I have mountains to conquer and dragons to slay you know). You can’t compare your definition to that of others (unless of course yours is way better than theirs), and you shouldn’t stop reading Rare Existence if your definition is different than mine. If you have kids, your extraordinary word isn’t freedom, or you’ve worked hard to find yourself at the top in a very demanding career that you love….then you haven’t committed any terminal sins that prevent you from living an extraordinary life, you’re just not me (but you might want to try it because being me is AWESOME)!

I’ve met plenty of people who’ve known what they wanted to do with their lives since they were 5 (no, I didn’t say “what their PARENTS wanted them to do with their lives”, that doesn’t count) and some of those paths that they are SO excited to head down, don’t naturally involve much freedom.  But as long as they’re doing what they truly love, they probably won’t care much.  For them “success” might be their word and freedom could be their ordinary word and I wouldn’t think anything less of them. Besides, life isn’t all about your career, whether you put the word “extraordinary” in front of it or not.

No excuses are good enough.

While I just said that this isn’t all about your career and I’m alright with the fact that your career choices will probably be different than mine anyways… I take back all of  it if you are really just using your career as an excuse for why you aren’t pursuing your extraordinary life. Not cool man, not cool. I can see right through you… and so will everyone else when all your real goals and dreams come crashing down around you to reveal what you should’ve been doing all along. Your career is not an excuse.

The same applies if you have kids. Please, PLEASE do not let that be your excuse!  I’ll tell you right now, it’s not a good one!  A unique challenge maybe, I’ll give you that. But an excuse, never. In fact, I believe that the very reason you absolutely need to be living your extraordinary life is BECAUSE you have kids and they need a healthy parent who is a good example of how to live with passion and joy (didn’t you read my Emma Pillsbury quote at the end of post #4?).

I know plenty of families who have lived very extraordinary lives together. Since you might not believe it from someone who doesn’t have kids yet (me) I am going to hope I can convince you by enlisting plenty of help from extraordinary parents I know who seek to live extraordinary lives right along with their kids!  Just the other day I just met a man from Holland, who lives in Mexico, and sells Argentinean food.  He has two kids and he moved to Mexico with is girlfriend in search of freedom and a home on the beach… it can be done!

It’s OK if you have NO IDEA what your definition for an extraordinary life is!

I think it’s pretty normal to feel clueless.  Any discovery process is complex, confusing, and can be quite overwhelming.  That’s why we’re doing it together… and we’re starting out slowly.  These first few posts are just to get you on board with the concepts I’m talking about here and we’ll dive more in-depth into some pro-active steps for you to work on soon enough.

Perfection is not required.  Complete clarity in your identity is not needed.  Inexplicable, mysterious, or magical talents are not a pre-requisite for this course (but if you do have some of those, please tell me so I can proceed to steal them… Brewhahah!!).  All I’m asking from you at this point is that you’re ready to start thinking. And I’m hoping that you’ll eventually be ready to start acting on your thinking.

So wherever you are coming from, wherever you are at… it’s time to start moving towards where you want to go…. whether or not you even know exactly where that is yet.

 

 

Post #5: Your entire life in one word

Everyone has a single word that defines them.

At least that’s what Elizabeth Gilbert told me in “Eat, Pray, Love”. And the more I’ve thought about it, the more I’ve begun to believe her.

She begins explaining this concept by naming various cities and what their words are.  For example, New York is ACHEIVE, Los Angeles is SUCCEED, Stockholm is CONFORM, and Rome is SEX -or POWER if you’re talking about Vatican City (I’ve never been to Rome so I can neither confirm or deny these rumors).

So, do you know your word? Is it FAMILY, DEPRESSION, PLEASURE, FAITH, DEVOTION… etc, etc.? It doesn’t have to be a positive word, it only has to be true.  If your word happens to be one you don’t like then go ahead and name it, but make sure you add on to it the one you WISH was true… we’ll call that your “extraordinary word”. And that’s the one we’re going to be working on here.

So what is it? What’s your word?

I knew my word without hesitation.  When I asked Scottie his word, it didn’t surprise me that he answered with the same word without even pausing for a second.

Our word is FREEDOM. 

By freedom, I don’t mean that we lack disciple, rules, and boundaries.  I have those, I want those, and I need those.  The only difference is that I want to have a say in where to place them.  I want to set up my life so that I feel like I am always able to choose to do what I believe is best for me and my family, rather than to have an outside person or force choose for me. Time freedom, freedom from debt, emotional freedom, freedom to choose where to place my energy, freedom from addictions, freedom from unhealthy societal pressures,  freedom to choose a unique lifestyle for me and my family… all of those things (and many others) are small parts that go into this bigger picture of freedom for us. The last thing we want in the world is to end up in a place where all our decisions about those things have been made for us – without any regard to whether or not they are good for us – because we were too passive to care or too lazy to act.

We believe it’s our responsibility to make the rules for our life and that we shouldn’t rely on anyone else to do it for us; not society, the government, social norms, family pressures, etc., etc. It’s our job and if we choose not to do it, we have no one to blame for the results but ourselves.

 

Why is this level of freedom so important to us? Because we got tired of being hypocrites.

We continually found ourselves saying what was important to us, only to look around and see that our lives didn’t reflect those things at all.

“Relationships are our #1 priority.” Oh really? Is that why all you know more about the characters on the TV shows you watch while you work than you do about your best friends?

“Our marriage is our #1 priority.” Oh really? Is that why you just called your wife a Fatty-McButter Pants after a stressful day at the office?

“Helping others is our #1 priority.” Oh really? And the last time you did anything like that was….? It doesn’t count that you gave the neighbor kid a quarter because he was short for change at the soda machine.

I got so tired of feeling like I “had” to do things a certain way, because those certain ways made me feel like I was unable to do what was really important in life. So I started looking around to see if I could find other ways to do things. And I found that the answer was to seek freedom because that will be what enables us to do our best at what’s really important to us.  Things like, creating and maintaining community, being generous with any kind of resource we have (whether it’s money, love, knowledge, hospitality, etc.), living a healthy lifestyle (we still have a LONG way to go on this one!), traveling, pursuing our passions, loving endlessly, and experiencing overwhelming joy and beauty in life.  That is an extraordinary life for us, and the key to all of this (in a really long and complex way that is too much to explain in one post) is freedom. So freedom we shall seek.

So what is it? What’s your word?

Post #1: Epic journey’s are not just for hobbits

This blog is going to be epic. See, even the first sentence is pretty epic!  I considered starting off humble or humorously self-deprecating in a lovable Liz Lemon sort of way, but I prefer to be honest.  The fact is, I think we’re going to rock it up in here. Let’s just say, if this blog isn’t epic (which is not a problem we have to worry about, I’m telling you) then I’ve wasted the last year that I’ve spent writing and preparing for it… and possibly much more of my life if the entire concept is weak because I’ve been working from this particular world view long before I started writing about it.

Since living a “Rare Existence” and practicing “Extraordinary Living” is by definition the exact opposite of living in a way that is common and ordinary, you obviously can’t have a definition that is common or ordinary. Each person’s definition for it is unique. So no, you can’t just figure yours out by observing what others are doing or by writing the right answers on your arm (cheaters), it’s much more complicated than that and definitely requires you to wear your thinking caps as a permanent accessory (mine’s in black, so it goes with everything).

This is where most people (average Joes) stop… and where you (the rare and extraordinary) keep going.

Everyone knows what they DON’T want to do in life -and ironically it’s usually exactly what they ARE doing-but very few people know what they DO want to do in life.  The really ridiculous part is that when people finally get out of what they know they don’t want to do in life, they usually panic and scramble to get back into what they just got out of because they don’t know what else to do. How many people do you know who used every ounce of energy to get to retirement, only to take on a new job as soon as they get there? Exactly.

Extraordinary living isn’t all about what job you have, but my point is that it’s time we put in the energy and effort needed to really figure this stuff out before we find ourselves with a great opportunity to change, only to waste it by returning to the familiar and comfortable ways that we were so miserable in. Even more importantly, lets figure this out BEFORE we reach the age of retirement and realize that we wasted our whole lives being miserable or not doing what we were meant to be doing!

My purpose here is to help you identify what you DO want to do and to give you the tools and support you need to actually do it.

This is bigger than your career choice, or any individual choice you make for that matter. It’s bigger than day to day habits or schedule; bigger than all your ideas, decisions, and views… because it’s all those things put together. It’s everything that makes up you, being used with intention for the bigger picture. It’s the opposite of passivity. It’s living a life of purpose. A purpose that is decided based on who you are as an individual, as a member of your family, as a friend, in your community, and in the world.

Though the specifics of our definitions of extraordinary living will vary (remember, unique snowflakes), I want to have a common starting point for us all that we can use as a base to build our own specifics onto.

“Extraordinary Living” means living the life you are meant to live regardless of risk, difficulty, opinion of others, weaknesses, or failures.  This involves knowing yourself WELL, pursuing your passions, overcoming your fears, and working hard at all you do.

These are the kinds of things we’ll be working on together if you’re choose to embark on this with me. I know…it sounds really hard. It is. But it’s totally worth it. And it’s something we all need lots of support to do. Which is why I’m here and hoping you’ll be here for me too.

Part of my personal definition of extraordinary living involves living in community and sharing my life with others. So as my husband, Scottie, and I seek to discover what an extraordinary life looks like for us, as individuals and a couple, it is completely necessary that I involve like minded souls (or at least people who are just curious and are destined to become like minded souls) in my/our personal journey.

Plug your nose and hold your breath… we’re going in… together.