8 Ways To Find Comfort During Change

Surprise isn't always comfort
Life is changing again!

Life is filled with change. We all have to handle the fact that nothing remains the same. The truth is that change that happens to us (without our permission and often without warning) is hardest to survive. But even when we choose to embrace the transition, there are bumps in the road. Here are some thoughts about easing the transitions.

My life, by design, is filled with changes. We are seasonal workers, needing to move every six months or so, and never sure of what is on the horizon. We have chosen to live with fewer things and less regularity. Much of the time, I enjoy the newness and the uncertainty. However, the constant of change wears on me.

Here are ten strategies I have employed to smooth the way and cope with the anxieties that inevitably crop up.

1.  Hold on to something Familiar

Holding coffee mug helps change
Warmth helps with change

When we travel, we have a set of belongings that come with us. They have to fit in our two-door compact car, so we have to be picky about our choices. We love our down comforter, our electric toothbrush, comfortable shoes and a three-ring binder filled with my favorite recipes (yes, it is full of comfort food ideas!). In addition, we only bring one suitcase each of our favorite clothing and personal items. It turns out most people don’t really notice when you wear the same things all the time. The few things we bring are all “old friends.” Our continuing efforts to simplify pay off big time here.

2. Let go of Expectations.

I do research before we head out on our journey and automatically draw mental pictures of what the newest spot will be like. I have to be careful of these expectations. It turns out change is harder to handle when things are not going as I expected. We came up with a saying: “We are on Vacation!” because this reminds us that we have never been here before, that the road is unfamiliar and that is why we are doing this! It is time to be present to what is right in front of us and not what we left behind.

grumpy cat hates change
Change can make me grumpy

3. Ignore negative input.

There are many people who prefer to live in the same house and go to the same job. It is hard for those people to imagine that taking off in random directions could be fun or that change could lead to something better. Because of this, they feel obligated to tell me that what I am doing is a bad idea. It is tempting to listen to them, or even chime in. That’s when I do the next step.

 

4.  Make a List of why I am doing this crazy thing

I write down the reasons I am on the road (or whatever new vision I have created). This has come in useful in the past to get through classes, finish projects or stay in a job long enough to make it to the next step. Some people prefer to draw pictures, make collages, create vision boards or put up sticky notes on their mirrors. We all need reminders that what we are doing is important and why we want what we want. Every now and again I read my notes and ask myself, “Is this still true?  Do I still want this?”  It is okay if the answer is no, but almost always I am still inspired by my goals.

What if the change is not my choice? I focus on who I want to be (and WHY!) while the change is happening and write that down. After all, there are almost always good things that come out of change. We just need to find them.

5. Add structure

When I feel lost, I create to-do lists to get me moving. This for me adds structure, plus I get ridiculous satisfaction from crossing the tasks off. Yes, I am one of those that will add items I have already completed just so I can them off. Other ways to add structure can be making sure you eat at the same times, exercise every day, connect with family or whatever makes you feel more in control of the day in small ways.

change is not comfortable
What!? This isn’t what I asked for!

6. Know that not everything will turn out the way we wanted

The sad thing is challenges occur, even in an exciting, travel filled adventure life. Cars break down, I get tired of being so far from family, weather disrupts our plans, there are bad days at work, people disappoint me. In addition, there are moments I disappoint myself. I accept that those things are a fact of life on this planet and get over it. Eventually.

7. Practice Gratitude

Counting my blessings is a instant way for me to remember all the things going right. I know there are many people who advocate writing down at least three things you are thankful for every day. I am sure it is a good idea and I have seen studies that say that your mental and physical health measurably increase after doing this for several weeks in a row. But I resist this exercise, even though I am a writer in my heart.  Therefore, I prefer to be spontaneously grateful. I am thankful for rainbows, bird songs, cloud formations and hot and cold running water. As a result of noticing all of these, and more, I remember to acknowledge the gifts in my life.

 

Touch helps me cope with change
Keeping in Touch

8. Communicate with my anchor people

Finally, I have several people that I consider my anchors. They are family members and friends who love me. They remind me that I am on an adventure, not an endurance race. Touching base with them frequently helps keep me grounded.

 

“Just when I think I have learned the way to live, life changes.”

Hugh Prather

Balance

Christmas

Christmas time is a wonderful time of year but I have a hard time keeping my balance.  This balancing act takes on many forms.

 
I must balance my budget with my desire to shower everyone I love with gifts. My mom was fortunate enough in her later years to have enough resources that she would shop all year for each of her family members.  She would arrive at the extended family holiday celebration with a VW Vanagon loaded with gifts.  It would take us a long time to unload the plethora of presents, crowding theVW Vanagonm under the tree and dwarfing the gifts already in place there.  I understand now how tempting it is to be generous and lavish everyone with physical evidence of love.  But I am lucky enough that I also got to experience the overwhelm that comes with this amount of generousity.  Over the past few years, we have moved to the other side of the pendulum and now give each other the gift of time, laughter and playing games. We extend our holidays by adding on a “game day” on the 26th, playing charades and board games until we have to drag ourselves home to rest our smile muscles. The connection with each other is the best gift of all.  Other families have traditions that allow one gift each, of giving to favorite charities, of white elephant exchanges or only buying for the kids. Perhaps we will move to the center and once again agree to buy presents.  But for now, this works for our family.  Still I fight the urge to “cheat” and buy out the store for each of my family members.

 

Speaking of cheating, I find it difficult to balance my choices around heathy eating during the holidays. My inner voice insists that because these special treats only come around once a year, it won’t hurt to indulge.  My weakness is eggnog.  Oh yes, and cookies.  Did I mention pumpkin pie?  Or red and green M&M’s?  I have been diligent about exercising every day for the past few weeks but I have to remind that little devil on my shoulder that exercise does not give me permission to cater to my every gastronomic whim.  (My main trick is to keep it out of my house.  I have not figured out how to resist at parties. Sigh)

Christmas Tree balanced
Christmas Tree

Even though I love decorating the house for the holidays, recent circumstances and the travels we are on have forced me to downsize. This pendulum swing has been difficult for me.  It would be nice to have a festive Christmas tree and boughs of holly on every wall but that is not possible for now. I struggle to keep myself from getting forlorn over the lack of adornment, although usually I am quite proud of my ability to simplify our lives.  In an attempt to help alleviate the melancholy, I have purchased a couple of things to add some festive color to our home.  More balancing.

 

Tree pose balance
Balance

Living in a new places has its challenges.  Every time we move, I have to find a way to handle our mail, search for internet connections, learn a new grocery store and remember where the bathroom is when I wake up in the middle of the night. This adventure we are on has also been interesting, exciting and wonderful.  I am more adaptable than I ever realized.  My connection with my husband is stronger than I ever knew it could be.  Remembering what I am grateful for helps even out the difficulties.  It helps me find my balance once again.

 

 

 

Visiting Arches National Park

La Sal Mountains, Utah on the way to Arches Park
The La Sal Mountains

Utah is the land of national parks.  We were able to visit Arches National Park this time.  The road to this park parallels the snow covered La Sal Mountains.  The wind blowing that snow off the tops made the ride especially beautiful.

Three Gossips Formation in Arches National Park
View of Three Gossips and Courthouse formations

This part of the country is full of surprises.  Around every turn there is another awe-inspiring view and the geology behind the rock formations adds to the magnificence.  Ancient oceans, petrified sand dunes and subsequent earthquakes gave the raw materials for erosion to create interesting shapes.  It is easy to see how some of the rocks were named.

Rock shaped like Lief Erikson in Arches National Park
Is this Lief Erikson?

Other formations invite our imaginations to come out and play.

There are over 200 arches here (hence the name of the park). We only saw a few of them, however the afternoon sky gave me an opportunity to capture the beauty of the day as well as the spectacular nature of the rocks.

Double Arch
Double Arch

 

 

 

 

 

Sand Dune Arch path
Sand Dune pathway

Our favorite hike of the day brought us to a set of stones set on their edge. Following the path between the rocks, we walked on fine red sand until we found an arch tucked inside, hidden away from the road.  Most of the other visitors drove right by this treasure.  I am so glad we stopped.

Sand Dune Arch
Sand Dune Arch

 

 

 

 

I believe that it is important to take care of the day-to-day responsibilities first, but what a blessing it can be to make sure we take time to step outside of our routine.  I am grateful that we choose to visit nearby wonders.  The little adventures are what makes life so good.

Skyline Arch
Skyline Arch

“I’ve got a great ambition to die of exhaustion rather than boredom.”

– Thomas Carlyle

Bryce Canyon Adventures

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Bryce Canyon Inspiration Point

We spent this past weekend exploring Bryce Canyon National Park.  Some of my friends had told me that it was their favorite park, so I looking forward to seeing why.   As usual, it is difficult to compare national parks.  They are all so wonderful in different ways.

road-to-bryce-5
Colorado River flowing into Lake Powell

The road to Bryce held its own treasures. We stopped at the north end of Lake Powell.  Hite marina sits so high above the lake as the waters recede that it is no longer in business.  The land is reclaiming its place so green grass and small trees grow where the lake used to be.  The most impressive part was the Colorado River is still flowing into the lake.

Capitol Reef rock formation
Capitol Reef rock formation

We passed through Capitol Reef National Park.  The weather cooperated and the sky was a brilliant blue, perfect for pictures.  This is an area where Native Americans and early Mormon settlers made their marks and where there is a 100 mile “wrinkle” in the earth’s crust.  The wrinkle, also called a “waterpocket fold”, is bordered by cliffs and rock formations. We took the ten-mile scenic drive, stopped at the Mormon settlers’ cabins and walked to see the Petroglyphs.

Capitol Reef Petroglyphs
Capitol Reef Petroglyphs

 

Scenic Drive - ten feet to the right is the canyon.
Scenic Drive – ten feet to the right is the canyon.

One of the most surprising things about Bryce, which is a huge canyon, is that it is hidden from view as you drive along the road.  The road is lined with tall, beautiful pine trees that hide the edge of this dazzling national park.  There are signs enticing you to pull over: “scenic overlook” and “viewpoint”. When you do the surpise takes your breath away.

Bryce Canyon Navajo Trail
Bryce Canyon Navajo Trail

It is a fairyland of spires and columns, some with the most lifelike faces, all surrounded by tall trees: Ponderosa pine, Douglas fir, Utah juniper, bristle cone pine and pinon pines.

bryce-8
Dave on Navajo Trail

While we were only there for the weekend, we had plenty of time on Saturday to visit the many scenic overlooks and hike the three mile Navajo and Queen’s Garden trails.   The descent into the valley is steep, but there are amazing sights around every corner.  This made the fact that we had to climb back up that steep path at the end much easier to bear.  There was always a good excuse to stop and enjoy the view.

bryce-1

Hoodoos

An Native American legend says that the hoodoos (the many spires in the park) used to be bad people that were changed into stone by Coyote.  It is true that many of the forms look like people or animals.  We asked a ranger what the spires names were and he laughed and said, “It is more fun to name them yourself.”   And so we did.  There were turtle heads, gossips, washing women, camels, warriors, queens and more.  We could have stayed longer.  There were more hikes to do and hoodoos to visit.

 

On the Road
On the Road

Luckily, there more chances to stop and be in awe on our drive back.  As we rode along, a sign would tell us to slow down and suddenly we would be in a new canyon or pulling off to see a spectacular view. We couldn’t tell in advance what would be around the corner.  I think that happens in life sometimes.  I am afraid that things will be boring (as in “are we there yet?”) or hopeless (this will only get worse), when right around the next corner or just down the road, there is a new view.  I am grateful for these reminders.

Quote of the moment: “Hope is important because it can make the present moment less difficult to bear. If we believe that tomorrow will be better, we can bear a hardship today.”Thich Nhat Hanh

Canyonlands National Park

cl-butte-view
Canyonlands National Park

The parks in Utah are not only numerous but enormous. Canyonlands National Park is so big that the two entrances are 109 miles apart.  We had visited the Islands In The Sky north entrance last month, so Sunday we went to the Needles district. It is only 70 miles from our home base.  I say “only” because in Utah, as in many other states, you always plan on driving a long way to get anywhere. Luckily the views make the journey as enjoyable as the destination.

cl-needles
The Needles

The Needles district is so named because it features a unique set of spires reaching towards the sky, the product of millennia of erosion.  They are spectacular and remote.  The scenic road only allows us to get views, but not to be underneath them without a strenuous  hike.  Instead we chose to take the hike around the top of the mesa near Big Springs.

 

cl-cairn
Big Springs

When we hike in Rocky Mountain National Park, the paths are easy to distinguish as you walk between trees and the trails are maintained with steps carved out of rock and foliage cut back to keep the way clear.  In Utah, we hike on top of rock that goes for miles.  The path is marked with cairns, rocks that show the way, one marker at a time. We go from cairn to cairn to get to outlooks that allow views of both the distant mesas and the canyons below.   I love walking along these rocks and looking for the next marker.  As we are here on the off season, it has been so quiet that I only hear my own breath and Dave’s footsteps. The two mile hike is short but helps us feel both isolated and connected at the same time.  By the time we were back at the car, we felt peaceful and happy.

 

We ended our day visiting a place where cowboys camped for almost 100 years. This spot has a spring that provides water year around, as well as being in a valley where a ricl-cowboy-campver flows much of the time.  The ranchers would use this place to graze their cattle and the cowboys camped under the cover of the rocks.  When the government not longer allowed the cattle to graze, the cowboys left some of their belongings, which now allows us to peek into the past to see how they lived. Naturally the ancient Native Americans used the same cover for centuries when they traveled through this desert land. They too left their mark with petroglyphs and soot on the rock faces. This too was a tranquil place, a reminder of human and nature connections.

I am once again grateful for this opportunity to experience the beauty of this land.  Aren’t we lucky?

 

 

Trip to Zion National Park

“Wilderness is not a luxury but a necessity of the human spirit.” – Edward Abbey

Monument Valley, Utah
Monument Valley, Utah

I journeyed back into the wilderness this weekend. Dave and I drove to Zion National Park, a day long ride through country that has left me without words to describe the beauty.  One hour south of our current town lies Monument Valley.  This famous view has been in many movies, but the impact of these enormous buttes even more awe-inspiring in person.  This is spectacular and they are just the beginning of a long road with these kind of views.  The road took us into Arizona and past miles of red cliffs, deep canyons and desert beauty.

We stayed in Arizona just long enough to drive to the Glen Canyon Dam, where Lake Powegd-glen-canyon-damll begins and to visit Horseshoe Bend near Page, Arizona. While I took many pictures of Horseshoe Bend, none of them do this justice.  Check out my friend Jeremiah’s post http://www.jeremiahsr.com/p1038564422/h66db684 to get a real taste of the beauty.  It is worth the click!

You can
One of the tunnel windows in the cliff face. Zion

On to Zion National Park.  We entered Zion via the Zion- Mount Carmel highway, a breath-taking road full of spectacular views. The road leads into a mile-long tunnel built into the mountain.  The tunnel twists and turns in the dark, with surprise windows cut into the side of the mountain where you can glimpse the cliffs across the way.  It comes out the other side of the mountain and into the heart of the park, Zion Canyon.

 

 

The Narrows
The Narrows

This National Park has many hikes and adventures, from mild to wild.  We chose to do one of the “strenuous” hikes into the Narrows, a canyon still being cut by the Virgin river. The hike was unique for us. After a beautiful and deceptively calm stroll alongside the river, the hike leads you into the canyon and then into the river itself. The river led us upstream, where there were occasional times we could walk on sand but mostly we were splashing along in knee deep water.  It turns out walking upstream on rocks is challenging. Yet the experience was exhilarating, especially as we learned how

Brilliant colors in the Narrows
Brilliant colors in the Narrows

to navigate the stream. Different colors meant that we could begin to tell what water was deep, where the sand was, which rocks were more slippery (usually) and  where the easiest path would likely be.  I am grateful for the experience.  I am grateful we had sturdy hiking sticks and closed toe shoes.   I am also very grateful we made it back to the shuttle bus safe and sound for the ride back to the visitor center.

The shuttle bus has multiple stops, each one with tempting hikes, museums and information about the flora and fauna of the park.  As we just had the one day there, we only sampled a couple of the options.  We could have stayed so much longer.  We will have to go back.

coral-pink-sandsOn the drive back to Blanding,  we stopped at the Coral Pink Sand Dunes State Park.  It is similar to the Great Sand Dunes in Colorado, but nearby red rocks color the sand a beautiful pink.  We climbed up to get the best view and while we were there we saw the elusive Coral Pink Tiger Beetle, a tiny bug that can live in those dry desert dunes despite the lack of water and intense summer heat.  We watched one climb towards the top of the dune only to be blown down again from an unfriendly gust of wind. Yet, undaunted, it never stopped heading towards to top. It was a lesson in persistence and determination.  Very impressive.

We are at our home base now, planning our next adventures.  There is so much to do within 5 hours of here, the two months we get to stay will fly by.  I am thankful that I have the opportunity to experience this magical place while I can. Yes, I am blessed.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Experience of Awe

end-of-the-rainbow
Rocky Mountain National Park

Before leaving on this latest journey, my sister handed me an article about the science of awe.  While awe has been a human experience often connected to religion or spiritual experiences, scientists have recently been studying the effects of awe-inspiring events.  One article by Jake Abramson describes it like this: “Awe happens when people encounter a vast and unexpected stimulus, something that makes them feel small and forces them to revise their mental models of what’s possible in the world.”  It can be the view of the mountains as you come around a corner, a rainbow after the storm, the birth of a child or the view of earth from a spaceship.  It can be life-changing.

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Marathon Florida

Scientists are discovering that those experiences affect us in amazing ways. Often people are more generous and feel more connected to the world, to a higher power and to other human beings.  It allows us to perceive ourselves as a part of a larger whole.  This can help heal those with post traumatic stress disorders and open the world to troubled individuals.  It can inspire team work, a sense of community and peaceful feelings.  Those same scientists are recommending that we all build in opportunities to experience awe.

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Canyonland National Park

Here I am in southeastern Utah with awe-inspiring views around every corner and I find myself able to reach out to others more easily, think through life decisions with some compassion for myself and others and feel more centered than I have in a long time.  I too am a fan of Awe.  As many other have discovered before me, the National Park system is a series of places that have built in awe.  No wonder so many of us love to visit them.

I wonder if one gets immune to awe.  Or if you can overdose in it.  I think I have a wanderlust that encourages me to keep looking for the next awe-some thing.  I am grateful that I have had the opportunity to have so many of those things in my life.