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

Reconnecting To Joy – Sunshine

 

No sunshine, only fog
Foggy Day – No Sunshine in Sight

I grew up in Colorado, where we get over 300 days of sunshine a year. In my neighborhood, if it stayed cloudy for more than two days in a row, we all got grumpy. Due to a recent weather pattern in Utah, we have had two weeks of clouds, culminating in a long two days of fog. While it was beautiful in a misty way, I missed the sunshine. Imagine my delight to wake up to blue skies today! I went for a long walk this morning to bask the beauty. Although it was only 32 degrees out there, it felt warm. I know, it was probably all in my head, but it sure felt good.

 

Sun rising
The Morning Sun Rising into Blue Skies

Science has something to say about all of this. Did you know that sunshine can actually lower blood pressure? The light on our skin releases a pressure-reducing compound called nitric oxide. Some studies show that even a ten minute exposure to the sun can lower our blood pressure for up to two hours afterwards.

We can add to this the benefits of Vitamin D. Studies link this essential vitamin to better immune systems, stronger bones and even a lessening of depression. The best part is that the sun gives it to us for free. We just have to step outside. The lack of sunny days may be why some have the condition known as SAD (Seasonal Affective Disorder). This is a fancy name for what our parents called it the “winter blues”. I must admit, when I don’t see the sun often enough, I get sad. Whether or not I suffer from a disorder, I welcome the sun when it returns.

Our place in Bridges
Safe and Sound In Our Home in Bridges

Being a mom and a responsible adult, I can’t talk about the sunshine without recommending the use of sunscreen.  I lost a friend to a melonoma when we were way too young. Having worked in a salon setting for years, I saw first hand the differences in protected skin and skin that worshipped the sun for too long. Sunscreen is important for so many reasons. So lather up before you go outside to embrace the warmth of the sun.

The sun lay like a friendly arm across her shoulder.”

Margorie Kinnan Rawlings

 

 

Reconnecting To Joy – Friends

Luckily, my family falls into the category of being friends. Not everyone can say that. In fact, I know many people have deicded to create new families of the heart, made up of friends who they can trust and depend on through thick and thin. I am fortunate enough to have both friends and family to love.

Friends Mark Twain Landing
Having Fun with Friends

Naturally there have been multiple studies to determine the benefits of having friends. Not too surprisingly, there are many benefits when we have strong relationships in our lives. We have less stress, better health, increased happiness and actually live longer. The support we receive makes such a difference that it helps us make better choices. Studies show that people with good social relationships exercise more and drink less. (Of course, sometimes my crew encourages me to drink more. But those times are always accompanied by connection, laughter and love which feels like a very healthy choice.)

My best friends are the ones who make me laugh. They drop everything to help me when I call. They are ones who come to mind when I need to talk and they won’t judge me. True friends are the ones who let me share my pain, but also tell me their troubles. We take turns being strong.

Two Friends
Hanging onto my friends

The hardest part of traveling for the past six years is maintaining the bonds I have made over time, and still creating a space for new people in my life. I do treasure all the connections I have made. I am grateful for social media in that it allows me to stay in contact with so many people. Friendship is precious, even if it has to turn into a long-distance relationship. My widespread community keeps me steady and grateful for their on-going support. Yes, friends bring me joy.

“A friend is one that knows you as you are, understands where you have been, accepts what you have become, and still, gently allows you to grow.”

― William Shakespeare

Reconnecting to Joy – Thin Slices

Sparkler Joy
Sparkler Joy

My New Year’s Resolution is to increase the amount of Joy I have in my life. Now I know that my resolutions rarely work.   Joy is important to me and is essential to who I want to be.

In the past, I have been guilty of choosing to be stealthy in my good intentions. I prefer to keep my cards close to my chest. If I don’t tell anyone my plans, I won’t be as embarrassed when I fail. I do this despite knowing that success happens when I have company on the road where I are traveling.

To break from my previous pattern, I invite you come along with me on my journey to writing a daily blog about finding and keeping JOY in our lives.  For the next thirty days, I will post daily thoughts and ideas about how to have fun and spread the love over the next month.

One of the first ideas I want to share is “thin slices of joy,” a concept offered by Chade-Meng Tan.  He worked for Google as one of their first engineers, then became Google’s personal growth expert. Tan insists that happiness and joy are skills and they can be learned.  One way is looking for thin slices of joy.

Holding coffee mug
Joy of Warm Coffee

“Thin slices of joy” are those times when we say “Oh, that’s nice.”  These are the times we notice that a moment has happened that made us smile. Sometimes whether it is due to our intention to have fun.  Other times, we stumble across something wonderful. Guess what?  Those moments are joy!

Tan’s suggests that building new habits contain a trigger, a routine, and a reward. The trigger, he says, is the pleasant moment, the routine is the noticing of it, and the reward is the feeling of joy itself.   When we practice this often enough, it becomes a habit.  Luckily, I am willing to practice finding things that make me smile.

Honestly, I also want the mind-blowing times of wild joy.  Those come along once in awhile.  But isn’t it nice to remember that joy can happen at any moment?  All we have to do is notice.

“Focus on the journey, not the destination. Joy is found not in finishing an activity but in doing it.” Greg Anderson

 

Traveling Through Southeastern Utah

One of the best parts of our lives right now is the opportunity to travel to nearby lands.  This weekend we once again explored southward towards the Navajo Nation.

Muley Point Overlook
Muley Point

We drove out to Muley Point, a cliff overlooking the Monument Valley in the Navajo Nation.  The haze clouds the view but adds in beautiful layers. Naturally the view is much better in person but you can get the feeling of the expanse of the land and the canyonlands below.

Navajo Rug
Navajo Rug

On to the next spot: The northern part of the Navajo Nation.  We stopped at a trading post where we could have bought beautiful handmade Navajo rugs (starting at $250 for a small weaving and going way up from there).  The artists deserve the money, for the work is intricate.   The trading post had colored rug yarn for sale, bright and muted colors in bundles on the wall.

However, when we talked to some of the local people, they all said they rarely bought the yarn there. After all they had their own sheep so they would make their own when necessary.  They use every part of the sheep and consider the animals one of their most precious resources. The store also had feed, propane, farm supplies and remedies for curses.  Yes, curse remedies right there in the counter under the cash register.  I wanted to buy one but couldn’t think of any curses I needed to counteract.

Four Corners
Dave at Four Corners

We ended up at the Four Corners monument, the only place in the United States where four states meet.  Dave obligingly touched all four states for the photo. This spot is on Navajo lands, and usually there is a charge to visit, but they sponsored a foot race that day so the fee collectors were busy elsewhere that day. Four Corners has vendors there, with booths set up in each of the quadrants, so there is one set of stands in each state.  We bought some things in the Utah section but spoke to the artists in all four states. What an experience, to shop in Colorado, Utah, Arizona and New Mexico, all within walking distance.  A perfect way to travel, in my opinon.

Going on these trips reminds me why we are on the road.  Sometimes it gets difficult to be so far away from friends and family.  But then we get to visit places like this.  Truly amazing.

“May your trails be crooked, winding, lonesome, dangerous, leading to the most amazing view. May your mountains rise into and above the clouds.” Edward Abbey

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

Blessings

A blessing of light
Sunset in Utah

December brings in wonderful  holidays. The sentiment remains the same for each of the celebrations:  time with family and friends. These are the true blessings in life. The gatherings are one way of reminding us we are bringing light and warmth into the darkness of winter.

Star burst
Light – A blessing for us all

This time of year invites each of us to be joyous and generous.  It is an opportunity to remember that there is more to life than our daily responsibilities.  Yes, of course this season also adds to the busy-ness of life, bringing a clutter of to-do lists, sometimes unmet expectations and can bring home that not everything in our lives is perfect. Still, it is also time to remember I have friends, family, sustenance and a warm place to sleep each night. I take a deep breathe and I am once again centered and grateful.

candles-1861915__340

 

“Having somewhere to go is home. Having someone to love is family. Having both is a blessing.” – anonymous

 

 

Distractions

My recent decision to blog has been wonderful.  Except when it isn’t.  I have found that I am susceptible to the most ridiculous urges.  Pretty much when I do not have pictures to post, I struggle with coming up with ideas.

Instead of brainstorming or being creative, I recognize I have 7 different habits that can distract me for hours.

  • The kitchen:  Why is it that when I want to avoid doing something, I get hungry?  Okay, not really hungry, but it seems that anything in the pantry is more interesting than the task at hand.  Even Triscuits.  And that is saying a lot.

tea

  • Hot Tea:  A sub-category of the kitchen trap.  Hot tea allows me to wait for the water to boil, gives me an opportunity peruse my tea bag collection and of course needing to wait until the tea is cool enough to drink.  It even has the added virtue of being calorie free.  This is a deadly combination when it comes to being distracted from my goals.
  • Social Media:  How many times a day can one human being check Facebook, Twitter and Instagram?  The number is staggering.  I finally turned off my phone’s notifications for email.  My phone would beep every time I sat down.  So one temptation is gone.  Three to go.

treble-clef

  • Songs I Know The Words To:  I find myself singing out loud whenever a song I like comes on.  When I have on my I-Pod I am doomed because I like ALL of those songs.  I have found that I have to put on instrumentals (Boring) or I can’t get any work done.

 

  • Television:  We have not had television for months so now that we have satellite television, it is a siren call.  It is especially hard to resist knowing that in 3 weeks we will once again be in a spot with no television reception.  This one is probably one of my biggest temptations.  Luckily daytime television is still terrible.  Remember that song: 57 Channels and Nothing On by Bruce Springsteen?  It is still true, except of course we are now past 57 and inching up into the thousands.
  • The Internet:  Isn’t it fun computerwhat you can search for on the world wide web?  I can follow any subject into a rabbit hole and eat up the entire day.  I always hope that I will find some scintillating piece of information that I can use at the next party I attend.  But I can never seem to remember the facts longer than a few hours, much less long enough for a party.

cleaning

  • Cleaning:  I know.  I only clean when I am avoiding something else.  Lately the house has been spotless.

 

Know that I did each and every one of these things today.  But I also am publishing this blog and accomplished more than I expected at the end of the day.  Thank goodness.  Now to go watch television.  Guilt free.

 

Bryce Canyon Adventures

bryce-5
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

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.