Slowing the pace to enjoy the race

I recently realized that our values went awry somewhere along the way.
We moved to a little place a block away from the beach in the most fun, entertaining neighborhood that I’ve ever known. We then proceeded to unpack. Work. Unpack. Think about going to the beach. Unpack. Work. Think about inviting new friends over for dinner. Work. Work. Long to go swimming in the ocean. Work…. you get the picture.  We moved here for the lifestyle. Yet we are too busy trying to pay for the lifestyle to be able to enjoy it!

The solution (aside from becoming independently wealthy through passive income in the next month)…
… is to work on the discipline of rest. Like a sabbath. That’s right. A good old fashioned, Biblical sabbath. Everyone’s definition (i.e. life and death dogma) about this issue is different so let me explain what it means for my husband and I.  It means no appointments, no to- do list, and above all, no guilt for that. It’s a day of rest. Basically we will refuse to feel guilty for being unproductive and we will enjoy the gift of life.

“But I can’t take a day off, I’m too busy!”
And you will never not be too busy so you need to stop waiting for “someday” when you finally have time to rest and enjoy life and you need to start living NOW. We have a tendency to believe that productivity is next to godliness and we all too often ask  “can I fit this into my schedule?”, when really we need to be asking “SHOULD I fit this into my schedule?”. These are the things we’re taught and we live by, even if we hate it. And now this is what bosses, spouses, friends and any other person you come into contact with expects of you. You must reply to my text or email NOW, you must squeeze me in this week, you must work late… and the guilt piles on as we get further behind and feel even more pressure to perform.  It’s time to give up and realize that you will never get it all done no matter how hard you try and the “someday” where you have limitless amounts of time might not come until the last 5 years of your life (if ever) which means you will already have missed most of it! Taking stress pills, sleep meds, caffeine inhalers, while continuing to have chest pains, ulcers, and emotional breakdowns anyways is not a way to live. It’s not worth it. A day off every week is EXACTLY what we need! No matter how hard it is to come by! It’s amazing how prioritizing time for rest can rejuvenate you for the rest of the week to be even more productive. And it’s even more amazing to realize that you still get just as much done (or not done) as you did before you started taking a day of rest. Don’t waste your life just trying to make it through the stress while ignoring all the joys around you.

“But I can’t take a day off, I get too bored!”
Of course you’ll be bored, you’re going to sit down for a full minute straight! It’s sooo different from your day to day life! That’s not a reason to not take a day off, in fact it’s the very reason you need a day off… you’re incredibly unhealthy! Even if you are just a high energy person, you still need to take time off to do nothing. I read somewhere that it takes a full 5 days of doing nothing before you relax and adjust to the pace (so screw 7 day vacations by the way, unless you plan on it being one of those fun, action packed ones that leave you more exhausted than revitalized when you’re done).

“But… oh wait, I’m out of excuses”.
Right, so give it a shot. One full day off a week. Or even one day off every other week if you have to work your way up with this!  A day of rest, relaxation, and rejuvenation. It could be spending time with others or by yourself (I know you can come up with a solution about what to do with the kids when a particular sabbath requires much needed alone time).  It’s one day with no performing, impressing, or pleasing on this day (doesn’t that sound AMAZING?!). No to- do lists, chores, or working on things you’ve been putting off.  It’s a day to sit back and be grateful while enjoying the fruits of your 6 day a week labor.

Start keeping a list of what you’re looking forward to doing (or NOT doing) on your next sabbath. That way when you have a few seconds to spare, you don’t panic because you don’t know what to do with them (you’ll get better at not panicking once you’ve had practice with this discipline of rest by the way). So when you find yourself hitting snooze on your alarm clock more than once, write down “sleep in” as what you’re going to do on your sabbath this week.

Here’s what I did on the first full day off I’d had in over a month and a half…

  • Read for 2 hours in the morning (not productive reading, just an Elizabeth Taylor biography that had more pictures than words- real brain food you know).
  • Went to Starbucks and got a tasty drink with REAL sugar in it!
  • Went to the beach with my husband (FINALLY took time to enjoy our surroundings!!).
  • Started cleaning out our side yard that I’ve been dying to fix up and make usable. Yes this was productive, but it wasn’t something I’ve been procrastinating on, it’s something I’ve been dying to have time to do and it was very relaxing!
  • Watched a movie (Grand Canyon from the 80’s. Really intense and interesting/weird movie!)  I have been DREAMING of watching a movie and I just haven’t had time!
  • Went to bed early. No working until 2 am on this day!

It was such a GREAT day and I couldn’t believe how positive I felt about my life for the rest of the week! Life felt enjoyable and I still somehow found the time to get the same amount of work done that week…. maybe because I was rested and ready to go for the next 6 days of work.

The Big Move

I have an editor’s correction to make on my post titled “California Dreaming Turned Reality”. So you know how I said, we’re moving to California for 3 months and then we’ll be back in Arizona after that?  Scratch that. We’re moving to California- the end.

I feel like there is so much to say to explain this decision, but really I said most of it in the original post. The same reasons for why we decided to move out here in the first place still exist. And the reasons we’re staying are because all of those same reasons are going so well and we want to keep with them!

That and, we LOOOOOOVVVVVEEEEE it there! We feel happier, more well balanced, and more content than we have in a long time.  Whether this is just because we needed a change or because it’s related to California itself, either way it’s working for us and we’re not ready to leave. We’re very, very excited to see where this new path will take us!

 

My Big Demon

So today we’re getting personal. Don’t worry, we’re not talking about bra sizes or that weird toe thing you have – or anything like that, there’s just a little (actually giant) confession I’ve got to make here.

It’s no secret that my extraordinary word is FREEDOM. If you know that, then you are not only an excellent reader, but you also know that I usually follow that declaration with a list of fairly generic things that I want to find or maintain freedom from. Well today I’m going to surprise even myself and get really specific up in here. I’m going to tell you what I want freedom from more than anything in the world. It’s an obsession even stronger than the one most girls have with Ryan Gosling’s seemingly photoshopped abs. So what is this obsession that takes precedence even over Mr. “Hey Girl” himself? The correct answer here is FOOD. I want freedom from food. Not from nourishment, not from cooking, and definitely not from the bliss of chocolate truffle cheesecake. I’m fine with all of that really.

What I want is freedom from my addiction to food.

I know that it’s totally normal for most people to daydream about food and spend lots of time looking forward to their next amazing meal. Being in the extreme foodie culture of Los Angeles has taught me that much. What I’m talking about is different than that. I’m talking about when you go out to eat with a friend and you literally can’t even hear a word they’re saying because all you can think about is the dry loaf of bread on the table that is causing you to use every ounce of energy to be socially acceptable enough not to chow both your portion and theirs in one swallow. I’m talking about when you are so full your stomach hurts because you’ve eaten everything tasty in the fridge, and yet you still start looking in the back to find your year old frozen pie crust or baker’s chocolate because even though it’s disgusting… it’s all that’s left.  I’m talking about not wanting to go to parties because you know you won’t be able to stop eating after one…two…three… make that four cookies, and people will notice and even though you’ll be mortified, you’ll reach for another and another after that.  I’m talking about when you spend 30 minutes weeping in shame over how much you just ate, only to eat that same amount 30 min. later when you’re stomach has stretched… which of course leads to another 30 minutes straight of crying. I’m talking about waking up in the morning, almost wishing you didn’t because you know you won’t be able to stop eating today any better than you did yesterday. I’m talking about just about every waking second of your life being devoted to food in some way… scratch that, every second in general because you dream about binging too.

Overeating isn’t the captain of the eating disorders football team or anything. It doesn’t really get the attention that the homecoming queen and king (anorexia and bulimia) get, but it can still bully any of us average Joe’s just as much as the popular kids can.

So now you know why I want freedom.

I can’t imagine how beautiful life could be if I could only find a way to never again eat to the point of almost being sick, or eat even though the food is disgusting and I’m not at all hungry, or leave a social scene because I want to go gorge myself away from my skinny friends, or give up the fight because it just feels pointless. If I could only find a way to escape living under the cloud. I live in a place that is covered in a grey fog, and no matter how much I squint or try to see above it, I just can’t get a clear vision of anything anymore. Either the thoughts of food or the thoughts related to the consequences of my constant thoughts of food, are with me through about 95% of my life. I am at all times hyper aware of where the closest Oreo is or isn’t, how long it will be until I will get to eat my next 98% sugar meal, how tight my jeans feel, how much lesser of a person I feel, how much I hate myself, and how I am just going to go eat more because I hate myself. This is the cycle of shame, addiction, and consequences…. and for me, it all revolves around what goes into my belly (and now my thighs and my butt too).

All the things I described above have been true throughout most of my life.

When I was a cute little, baby fat ridden 6 year old, I began the first page of my diary by describing how I couldn’t wait until I was “16, pretty, skinny, and hanging out at the mall with my boyfriend”. Turns out, I was not skinny when I was 16. I did not get asked to hang out at the mall (but this was partly because AOL browsers had brought the beginnings of online shopping to the world) and boys didn’t ask me to dances, football games, or anything else that Saved By the Bell promised me. When I was 18, I began the painstaking work of finding freedom from food thanks to a great class I took that I’ve since found out has evolved into a cult… hail broccoli, right? By the time I was 19 I was pretty far along the path to Skinnyland and almost wearing a size 6 (I bought a lot of Gap clothes back then because what they called a 6 fit a little more like a 7 and a half). But when I was 20, I broke up with my boyfriend (who, by the way, had fulfilled some of my girlhood fantasies by taking me to the mall sometimes)… and the layers of both fat, and muffin top disguising clothes, came piling back on. Since then, I’ve just gotten worse and worse and felt more and more trapped and controlled by food.

Now the same issue is back to haunt me in a different way.

As I now head down the path towards my extraordinary life, I find myself sort of hoping that many of my nearby dreams will actually wait a couple of years to come true. Wait, what?! Yep, it’s true. The thing is that some of these dreams involve me being in the public eye, so of course I want to wait that extra year since I will FOR SURE have lost 45 lbs by then!  I once heard that when Oprah was nominated for another Emmy in 1992 she actually prayed she wouldn’t win because she was the heaviest she’d ever been and was too embarrassed by her weight to go on stage and accept the award. Her dreams were coming true and her weight was slowing her down (probably both literally and figuratively). And now I’m beginning to feel the same way. The consequences of my obsessive addiction have found a whole new way to tear me down… they are getting in the way of my extraordinary life. In some ways they’ve always put a ceiling on the things I was capable of. But I’m beginning to realize that the chance of me achieving my goals are being significantly diminished, not only because fat people aren’t necessarily a favorite in American culture (despite many of us being huge), but also because my insecurities and wasted energy spent on this will hold me back from even doing something worthy of public attention in the first place. I can really only go so far in obtaining the life I am meant to live if I allow this weakness to control me.

But now, I’m moving on.

Now I’m in sunny southern California, the land of tofu, tummy tucks, and Tina Turner (what? sorry, I couldn’t think of a good T name). And I live right on the beach, which is of course the land of skin, skin, and more skin.  And no matter how many boob enhancing, waist minimizing swimsuits I order online from Victoria Secret, when beach day comes around for my friends, I still feel like a 13 year old girl on her period during Swim Party Saturday who suddenly comes down with small pox or some other previously eradicated disease to avoid attending. I am now surrounded by people who spend their lives eating only organic fruits and vegetables before and after their daily “surfing-yoga-kick boxing-spinning-Pilates-px90-hip hop dance-jogging” combination class. So far being here has still refused to magically turn me into a fit Californian, but I still have high hopes that the Jessica Biel Body Bug will come bite me one day. Not really, I actually am trying to do something about all this. So while I’m spilling all the beans here, I will tell you another secret, I’m in therapy for this now. There is obviously some degree of emotional eating here (notice the boyfriend break up trigger) and I just can’t seem to wrap my little head around the problems of my big body. I’ve also stumbled upon a great group of friends who happen to be in the fitness industry so there’s been lots of bartering going on between photography needs and fitness needs so hopefully giving a few photos will equal losing a few pounds. And really there is something to say for living around healthy people. It’s not as fun to eat a greasy Big Mac while everyone around you looks like they’d be less grossed out if they were watching the cow being slaughtered that made your Big Mac. I’ve also been getting great recipes and tips from some of my Jack Lalanne-esque friends. Those are all a few of the small things I’m doing to get started, and there’s plenty more where that came from. So here’s to California rubbing off on me a bit.

I’ve lived long enough to know by now, though it’s still hard to believe most of the time, that everyone has their thing.

Everyone has something that if they let take control, will threaten to hold them down until they lose their breathe and the life is sucked out of them. I always used to think it was just me, but it’s not. So what is it? What is it that is really holding you back? This is important because if this thing is still controlling you, not only is it stopping you from living a truly extraordinary life, but it’s actually forcing you to live an even less than ordinary life. You’re surviving in the negatives here, my friend. What is it? And what are you doing about it? It’s time for this to stop. It’s time for us to take control of this once and for all. If we’re living with constant and unnecessary fears, insecurities, shame, sadness, hurt, etc, etc, then we’ve done nothing more than waste our lives, regardless of how many of our dreams we’ve accomplished throughout it. Even if it is possible for us to have success while being torn apart by our weaknesses, I don’t believe any amount of it will make us happy anyways if we’re still being eaten away on the inside by something.

So there you have it folks, my soul, laid out bare on the operating table.

Now that you know I’m a real person with cellulite and all, I’m hoping you’ll love me in the same way you love Emma Stone- it’s that special place where you can truly appreciate her talent and really relate to her because her pasty white skin and ginger hair make her less threatening and more adorable to you.  I am very VERY scared to put this out there for all of you to read, but also very VERY excited because I believe it will be a major part in me finding support and eventual healing. Secrecy breeds shame, and shame isolates us from people. And as it so happens, the last thing we want is what we most need because people and healthy relationships are a major part of the treatment for breaking the shame cycle of addiction. So find some support, tell your secrets, make a plan, and join me as we overcome. Join me as we find freedom. Join me as we find a power we never knew we had that strengthens us to push through the seemingly impossible challenges. Join me so that when we find the life we are meant to be living, we can say that not only is it an extraordinary life, but that it is truly the best kind of life possible, full of more freedom and joy than we ever imagined possible. Join me.

(If you want to hear more awkwardly honest stories like this one, or just more about how to find and live an extraordinary life, follow Rare Existence on Facebook!)

California dreaming turned into reality

I have wanted to live in southern California my entire life.

And my husband Scottie, has wanted to escape the summertime heat ever since he got his first “welcome to Phoenix” seat belt branding back in 2001. Over the past couple of years, our business has brought us to the Golden State multiple times. And every time we leave more inspired than the last by the people we’ve met and the things we’ve done and seen. Whenever the sad day to return home comes, we pile our camera gear back into the car and head away from the salty sea air, towards the looming saguaro cacti, and find ourselves making longer and longer lists of what we can do to live a more beautiful and creative life. Only to arrive back in Phoenix, get hot, and decide to plant ourselves in front of the fan next to the TV all day everyday… with the occasional trip to the kitchen to get a snack.

So what’s stopped us from following our California Dreamin’? There are the usual reasons… leaving family (whom we actually LIKE), extra expensive everything in California, and of course having to start all over with our finally successful business sounds terrible to us. So there is all that, but really the biggest reason we haven’t left is because…

…we just thought it was impossible.

People in small towns think they can’t move to a big city and people in Arizona think they can’t move to California.  I don’t know what it is, but you just believe the state line is made up out of trampolines that will bounce you back if you try to get in with a moving truck. I know it doesn’t make any sense, but you just have to believe me when I tell you that’s how it feels… it’s a weird phenomenon.

At some recent point though- I don’t know if it was hearing about my friend’s 18 year old sister who moved there just because she wanted to, or driving through East LA and being like, “see, you don’t have to be rich to live in California!”- but for whatever reason, there was a magnificent moment in time where we found a little shred of hope as we realized that some people actually do pack their stuff and move to California! And then they just get to live there!!! Can you believe that?!

Combine that glimpse of a possible palm tree filled future with the fact that we had just spent a week away getting some R&R on vacation with our family and had done lots of thinking about our currently floundering life (too many possibilities, not enough clear direction… you know, the typical stuff Millennials deal with every 6 months). We worked on our discipline of dreaming, 5 year planning, and goal setting and were very surprised to find that everything pulled itself together to aim in one clear direction. West. Ha, of course it would. That does it! We are going to pack up our covered wagons and head down the trail with dreams of surfboard bruises and yacht party cruises filling our little bonnet covered heads.

We’ve decided to take the plunge and move to Los Angeles, California…

…for 3 months.

Yes, just for 3 months. What? That’s still a huge deal, OK!

Surprisingly enough, the summer is the slow season for wedding photographers in Phoenix because apparently most brides have a thing about getting married with pit stains (I don’t know why- twinsie pits brides and grooms can be pretty cute). So we have decided to take advantage of our free time that is usually filled with sweating our eyebrows off, to go on a adventure!

“Sure”, we said.  “Going to California sounds great!”.  Of course as the words were escaping our lips, we both felt the unspoken doubts in our hearts.

You have to understand, we are wedding photographers.  We have absolutely no idea when we will be getting paychecks. Well we have some idea, but in January, the squares on our calendar for the rest of the year are still so bright white that they burn my retinas. Basically, our budget meetings usually come down to something like this:

Scottie: “So do we have enough money?”
Breanna: “Depends on how long you want to live for”.
Scottie: (Rolls his eyes at Breanna’s annoying sarcasm).
Breanna: “We have enough money for the next 4 months”.
Scottie: “Sweet, but what about after that?”
Breanna: “Well, if we don’t book more weddings in the next 4 months then that means our business is failing and we probably need to get new jobs anyways.”
Scottie: (Silent pondering, as is his way).
Breanna: “I’m saying we’re fine for now, and so far we have always been fine, so I hope that in 4 months we’ll find out we’re fine again.”
Breanna: “If not, then we have to find something else to do no matter what so there’s no reason in worrying about it now”.
Scottie & Breanna: (lots of worrying going on in their minds)

Seriously, it’s like that every time. So it is a big deal to say, “OK, we’re good for 4 months on our current budget. But, I know!!! How about we triple our rent, double our grocery and gas bills, AND maintain our apartment in Phoenix, and hope not only that it works, but that we will still have money to live on in the months following that!”. Yep, we’re stupid. Whatever- where there’s a will, there’s a way, right?!

This is the time to play the “what if” game. After playing, we found out that the worst thing that could happen is that we go, run out of money, and come home, and then possibly get short term jobs to make up the money we spent there. The consequences of failure at this aren’t insurmountable. Basically the biggest thing we’re risking is our pride.

But of course what we stand to gain is amazing and MUCH bigger than what we stand to lose…

We have the opportunity to use these 3 months to the fullest to discover new experiences that will help us grow, inspire us, bring us closer together, and bring new and wonderful people into our lives … all while pushing us closer to our short and long term goals in both business and life. Not to mention it will be very VERY fun and way WAY better than spending a summer in Phoenix melting and angry, while not making any money anyways. The scales are tipped and California wins.

So here we are, just waiting for summer to come. Hoping to see the money come in, hoping to schedule photo sessions, and hoping to find a cheap enough car that won’t hinder our ability to head west (oh yes, my beloved car crossed over to the other side right after we made this decision… awesome). By the time you read this, since most of my posts are written far in advance, I could very well be there, or way past there. Who knows where we’ll be?! But the point is, I think it will be somewhere better than we would be if we weren’t taking this adventurous chance and you can be sure I’ll tell you about it when we get there!

Summary:

Since this was such a long post, I’ve decided to summarize it for you lazy ones.

Scottie and Breanna love California… but they can’t go because of stuff… mostly because the trampolines stop them…then they saw some poor people… they made some plans… which is OK because they just lay around in the summer anyways… but they didn’t have enough money… so they just said, “oh well, we’ll get some”… and they decided to go. The end. Or rather, “to be continued”.

(UPDATE: sooo…. 3 months in CA turned into six years! Read about the decision to move there here, and the decision to leave there here).

(if you liked this story and want to hear more stories about Extraordinary Living join the  Rare Existence community on Facebook)!

 

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).