2019: A year of getting out of my comfort zone

24 Jan
Happy (Chinese) New Year, ya rats! 🙂

As I look back on 2019, a clear theme for the year emerges: 

Getting out of my comfort zone!

The TL;DR version — and this is a long letter — is this:
I moved three times in ten months; 
I got my own place after 17 years of living with others;
I moved to a gritty city after decades of green and quiet suburban living; 
I got a dog … for the first time in my life; 
I started preparing to launch a business that has been calling to me for over a decade;
I started online dating (though that’s all been rather eh, meh, bleh);
I did a lot of dance workshops on exploring emotions;
I dropped 20 pounds and kept it off with intermittent fasting; 
I started doing some micro exercises and the nitric oxide dump;
and I got my colors analyzed and pitched 80% of my wardrobe practically overnight

Making a go of it
At the end of 2018, I moved in with my best friend, Nichole; her one-month-old son (my God son), Orion; the baby’s father; her seven-year-old daughter (who was with us part time); and her dog, Lucy. That was a housefull!

We lived on a beautiful property nestled a quarter-mile drive up a private road and were surrounded by vast openness, trees and, on one side, a farm with Shetland ponies. That was move #1 in ten months.
For all the experiences I have had in my life, watching a newborn transform day by day, week by week, hadn’t yet been one of them. While they didn’t ask much of me in terms of child care and I sometimes had to go out of my way to get time with him, watching Orion grow up moment by moment was beyond precious. 

Nichole and I had wonderful visions of hosting events at our group home, and we did host a few events: from house concerts, to sound healers to Super Hero Play Academies. Alas, the amount of work to clean the house before and after plus the time involved in rallying people to attend the events was–putting it mildly–a lot! We quickly realized our vision wasn’t sustainable.

In the spring, Nichole needed to move her mom from Arizona to live with her, and what was already a crowded house became even more so. So I moved next door (a 5-minute walk) to a  massive home where I had four times the amount of space for the same rent! Two middle-aged friends, both recently coming out of long-term relationships, had moved in next door and their third roommate had fallen through; the timing could be better for me to be looking for a place. Our landlord owned both homes and made the introduction.

That was Move #2. I had a four-month lease to match The Launch Pad lease, and while I discovered some surprising connection and friendship with my new roommates, come late summer, it was time to go.

A gritty city … I kinda like it and kinda don’t
Moving, for most people, can be quite disruptive. As you can probably imagine, three moves in ten months was quite uncomfortable to say the least. And time consuming! My third move had me landing in Baltimore City. After living the majority of my life in the suburbs (with a short stint in San Francisco at age 20 and an even shorter stint in Düsseldorf at 42 following my then-husband all over the planet), I found myself not only living in a city, but a gritty one at that.

I moved into a three-story, four-bedroom, three-and-a-half bath row home with a finished basement. In my wishlist of things I wanted in my home, I’d envisioned a jacuzzi hot tub … and somehow ended up with two of them in my place! And all to myself! (I do love living with others, and it has been 17 years since I’ve had my own place and space, so I’m savoring this time and the space I have.)

Baltimore is so amazing. It’s charming and beautiful, and ravaged and gritty. It’s welcoming and warm, and harsh and bitter. It’s often called “a city of blocks,” or as I heard recently, “a polka dot city.”  It’s the strangest thing: I/you/me/we can walk down one absolutely gorgeous street with beautiful, well-maintained homes and literally one parallel block away, an entire row of houses can be boarded up, roofs caving in and homes completely abandoned for decades. 

Experiencing Baltimore from the inside and on foot has me looking at the city completely differently. I pass by rows of long-abandoned homes and feel both a surge of potential and the heaviness of despair. Every turn brings something new. I look out my bedroom window and see the stunning rooftop of the B&O Railroad Museum half a block away. I look out another window and see a trash-strewn alley with, yep, a rat or two now and again. I don’t live in the sparkliest or cleanest part of the city, nor the part teeming with hip restaurants, cute retail and adorable coffee shops. My rent is cheap; the neighborhood is so-so; the location (ease/convenience for what I need) is great. For now, I’ve thrilled myself with walking to the library, walking to downtown and The Center Club (about 20 min) and riding my bike to the FedEx office to send a package.

I’ve yet to plug in to the “Smalltimore” scene in any significant way, though I imagine that will happen more and more. Or not. Visions of “ooh, ahh, I live in the city” filled my head, but the reality is I work from home most days and still run most of my errands in nearby Columbia where I used to live because it’s so much more convenient and I’m often in Columbia visiting my mom or stopping by to visit my God son.

I’ll probably stay here a year or two, but my thoughts of buying a home in the city and making a go of it are fading. Baltimore is glorious and grand, interesting and beautiful, and it’s also just so darn gritty and dirty. I may be interested in living here more permanently when Millennials are in midlife and put their midlife energy into public infrastructure and cleaning things up. (It’s what they do; they’re the Hero archetype and when they’re in midlife “gleaming cities” and bright futures are one of their “things.”)

Travelled bunches (in one spate of time)
Not sure how this happened, but somehow I went on four vacations for a total of five weeks in a nine-week period: Loreto, Mexico to stay with a long-time friend; Palm Springs, Calif., to stay with my lovely cousin, Sheila; Glenwood Springs, Colo. (my first real trip to Colorado, including riding the California Zephyr train through the mountains…add that to your bucket list!); and then a Burning Man regional festival. And I did Move #2 during this time period too! Yeah, I can’t figure that out either except that when I feel time pressure, I dawdle less and make quicker decisions.

Danced, a lot!
I continued turning my attention and giving my time/life/heart/movement to the 5Rhythms dance. It’s my church, and, for me and others who find magic in it, a way to move our emotions in, through and out of us in ways that are healthy and refreshing. In addition to attending many/most of the Friday night dances in Potomac, Maryland, I also attended a five-part workshop over the course of the year (we dove deep into the five emotions associated with the five rhythms … that was a bit of a comfort zone stretch!), plus I attended two other 5R workshops, including one where we danced 18 hours over four days (or as someone calculated, about the equivalent of two marathons)! Yep, I love it. On the other side of the coin, I didn’t attend as many Burning Man festivals or events this year, though that community still is one of the nearest and dearest to me.

“Got” a dog
Another area of going way out of my comfort zone is in having a dog. I’ve only had cats my entire life. I wouldn’t say I have-have a dog; I’m temporarily–maybe for a year, maybe for a couple years, maybe longer, maybe not–caring for Lucy, Nichole’s dog, who I mostly cared for when we all lived together at The Launch Pad.

How this all came to be is a beautiful story that is longer than will fit here, but it was quick, natural and easy to say “yes,” when asked if I could care for her for awhile. Lucky for me, Lucy is mostly pretty chill. Four pounds, part Chihuahua, part Shitzu. She sleeps most of the day, we play a little and we go for walks, which I actually rather enjoy. Well, I say that now when the depths of winter haven’t hit us hard yet. But I do like it. She’s not overly demanding, I’m not overly a “dog person,” and the transition has been quite nice. 

Started online dating
I know people who’ve happily met their sweethearts in such realms, and I’m navigating these sometimes awkward waters best I can. I could write a lot about this subject, though I’ll leave it briefly as, I’m out of my comfort zone in being here. (I figure most people on these sites are.) #wishmeluck

Doing regular exercise
I recently got the vibe to do 4-minute exercises, figuring I could at least fit that in daily, and then I found Dr Zach Bush and his nitric oxide dump exercise. It makes a lot of sense to me and really points to the importance of nose breathing. If you want to hear one of the (imo) more interesting blended intellectual-spiritual minds of our day–and an utterly bizarre and fascinating story about sardines, listen to him speak here

Oh, I also joined Lifetime Fitness in Columbia, though admittedly it has been the wet and dry sauna and the swimming pool that pull me there the most. I’m looking forward to taking more classes and working out more. In being here, I’m facing a life-long discomfort around gyms and gym culture, though I do like the overall vibe of LTF. I get two free passes a month if you want to meet up there. LMK! 

Kept 20 pounds off with intermittent fasting
When I first started intermittent fasting (IF) three years ago almost to the day, I had to face one of my most primal fears: that I was going to starve. (Talk about being out of your comfort zone.) Now, of course, in this modern world with grocery stores, refrigeration, food storage and even a modicum of income and a wide network of friends, this starvation thing probably wouldn’t happen. (Hah, well, that’s assuming there’s no grid failure, etc. … and that is not as secure a thing as most probably believe it is, but I digress.) Still, doing IF triggered my fears. 

How could I possibly go 16 hours without food? Didn’t “they” know that I was a grazer? That I had to eat every few hours or that I’d start to drop: my mood, my energy, my life force? What were they thinking in telling me to not eat for 16 hours?However, it made total sense when I watched a vid or two on the subject. I’ve actually had quite the opposite experience of what I was expecting, and I don’t feel I need to eat as much or as often. I’m also more cognizant of emotional eating triggers because I’ve introduced boundaries with myself around the hours when I eat.

Intermittent fasting works. It doesn’t cost a penny to do; it’s diet-agnostic and the health benefits beyond simple weight loss can be profound. Heard of autophagy? (You want to know about this.) Check out Dr Jason Fung and for inspiration, subscribe to this FB group. Amazing stories of people’s personal transformation.

Personally, I’m down 16% of my body weight and have kept it off for three years. I don’t IF every single day, though the more I read the inspiring stories of not just weight, but health, transformation, I’m re-upping my commitment to doing IF more regularly.

Started preparing to launch a business
GenerationsWork is gaining momentum! I had my first paid speaking gig in early fall, my first corporate webinar for a large international company is coming up soon and my first podcast interview.  I’ve been working on content for webinars such as “Unpacking Millennial Entitlement: Truths, myths and unconscious generational jealousies” and I did a video response to the OK Boomer phenomenon

I am so passionate about this subject. Generations touch all aspects of human life, society and institutions, and there’s a model that shows how and why the culture (and people) shift attitudes and in what direction they’ll likely go. I love this stuff! And am super excited to begin bringing this work to corporate America and municipalities in 2020. I don’t have much content up on YouTube yet, but I need more likes so if a like or two is something you can give, my links are YTLinkedinFB and Twitter

(Happily) still working with Atigro
I’ve worked with Atigro Digital Marketing mostly part time for the last three and a half years, and I plan to continue doing so even as I launch GenerationsWork. (I hired Atigro to do my beautiful website!) I have been so honored to collaborate with such a great group of people and help bring in more website and digital marketing clients. Our team continues to grow, and with each new person added, our capacity is even greater. For any company to succeed, the leadership is key, and our CEO, Ken Fischer, is awesome. He continues to develop himself as a person and CEO beyond his comfort zone, and he’s truly an inspiration to me. 

The whopper discomfort of 2019: got my colors analyzed… and pitched 80% of my wardrobe in one fell swoop
Of all the things I’ve done this year that had me out of my comfort zone, the one that slammed me the hardest emotionally was the one I was the least suspecting of: I got my colors analyzed by Melany of House of Colour, Arlington, a franchise business more well known in the UK than in the US.

I’d heard a friend describe their system and how they analyze your colors, tell you which colors you can wear 100%, or 75%, or 50 or 25%. Which colors are your power colors, your casual colors, etc. And I wanted to do this.

My primary motivation was that I was in dire need of a good winter coat and almost bought one last year but thought, “Is this really the best color for me to drench myself in day in and day out as an overcoat? Let me get my colors analyzed first.” 

Truth be told: I thought I knew my colors pretty well. They were muted earth tones, yep. That’s what filled my closets to the brim. Some darker colors. Some brighter colors in spring and summer. But mostly muted earth tones. I thought I was going to go see Melany, she’d tell me, “yep, those are your colors … and here are a few more you can wear if you want to stretch. Oh, and here’s a nice lipstick you can try.”

Alas, that was not the case.

In fact, it was about as opposite an experience as I could have imagined.

Turns out I’m a cool-color person–not warm earth tones–and I am, in color-analysis language, a cool summer. She showed me how my skin sallowed, my eyes became more jaundiced-looking and my age, elevated, with warm colors but with the right cool tones my skin brightened, my eyes looked more clear and I looked younger rather than older. She blew my mind when she showed me how gold accessories looked cheap against the cool tones and how even inexpensive silver jewelry looked elegant against the same cool tones. 

As part of their process with female-identified clients, they strongly encourage you to get the “three points of red” lipstick and start wearing it at home to get comfortable with it. At the age of 56, I have never, ever in my life found a lipstick that I felt comfortable in… probably because I was mostly looking for muted earth-tone types of colors, and here I was walking out of her studio with three bright lipsticks in hand! It has taken some time to get used to them but now I sometimes even put on a quick bit of lipstick when out walking Lucy in my neighborhood. Sometimes … and sometimes I leave the house looking ragged and “just woke-up-ish” and that’s fine too.

After my analysis I went home and did as suggested: I separated my no-go colors from my keeper colors. For me, a good 80% of my wardrobe was decimated in one fell swoop. Plus, all my jewelry and almost all of my accessories went as well. (Turns out that not just silver, but specifically matte silver, sterling silver and—who’d have guessed it—gun metal, are my metal colors. I can wear a bit of rose gold with burgundies. I had only gold jewelry, having decided decades ago that “silver wasn’t my metal.” Gah!)

Getting rid of the first round of colors was easy — the blacks, browns, camels, dark charcoals, yellow greens, the corals. At first I thought I should hold on to my specialty pieces — such as full-length black gowns, gorgeous long black leather gloves and beautiful vintage purses. But as I sat with my Yes and No piles, I realized even these special occasion pieces belonged in the No pile. Once my eyes were opened about my colors and how they affected my overall look, it became surprisingly easy to say, “It’s gotta go.” I reviewed my entire wardrobe for the whole year: my winter, spring, summer and fall wardrobes; I reviewed professional clothes, gowns and special occasion outfits, house clothes and workout clothes, my socks and PJs, and my coats and sweaters.

As well, I looked at my jewelry; my Burning Man clothes; my shoes, my purses … everything. Easily–and with no exaggeration–80% of my wardrobe was gone. Just like that.A handful of friends benefitted wonderfully. I truly did put out the “come raid my wardrobe” message loud and clear, and I was happy to see items I’d enjoyed move along to friends in the area. 

Overall, this new cool-tone me has been challenging to say the least, and saying I’ve been uncomfortable doesn’t even begin to describe it. I have very few clothes left and what I have is mostly the not-favorites of my prior wardrobe: the cool-color items I hardly wore in prior years because they didn’t match well with the rest of my clothes.

Sometimes I feel I have a closet of misfits. Other times I feel I’m building a foundation that will last me for years to come.I’ve had awkward wardrobe days. I’ve worn a lot of the same outfits again and again. I can wear “the colors of the sky and the colors of water,” and the colors of French Impressionist paintings. The hyacinths, smoky grapes, dusty pinks, clovers, seafoam greens and other colors have me scratching my head. They simply aren’t colors I’ve gravitated toward. I’ve poured over the color swatches they gave me as part of the process (a $295 consultation… and one of the best investments in My Self I’ve made), and I’ve created several Pinterest boards so that I can get more familiar with my colors. 

I’ve also been wearing lipstick and makeup more frequently, which has actually felt nice. With my new business ramping up, living in a city and being more “out and about,” doing videos for webinars and corporate training, and with the dating that’s ramping up, I knew it was time to step behind the wall of camouflage and neutrals I’d been wearing for decades, and time to be more visible. (I’ll still be wearing neutrals, of course … just the kind that compliment my skin tone, not wash me out.) 

Another thing I saw about myself is that I’ve tended to scavenge and find things inexpensively, e.g. cashmere at thrift stores and St John knits on eBay…and that’s all good. Saving money and being thrifty can be a good thing, and I do like my cashmere and St John knits. But I was scavenging and collecting rather than building a wardrobe. Does that make sense? I could see it clear as day when I said goodbye to 80% of my wardrobe in the blink of an eye.

Yes, I certainly was going to miss having six different winter coats–vintage coats, cashmere coats, elegant coats, fun coats–but I’m looking forward to having fewer clothes, better quality, and more items matching and coordinating well. Fewer choices, more options. 

The one area where I wasn’t wanting to jettison my wardrobe was my shoes. I’ve purchased my shoes more thoughtfully and often with more investment, so … I decided to dye them! I’ve spent an inordinate amount of time figuring out my shoes, what seasons they are for, what type of dye they need (paint, suede dye etc.) and then prepping my shoes, mixing and matching colors, testing on my older, e.g. leather shoes I use for gardening, and such. 

Guess what? I’ve discovered I LOVE this. I’ve never considered myself crafty and have always felt that crafting just takes too darn long and I never really liked the results. But dying my shoes?! I’m having a blast! Ok, enough about the clothes.

The estate is almost wrapped up
Blessings to my father and the resources he left in the wake of his death. Blessings to my siblings, among whom we have had the most amicable and easy decision-making with all things related to the estate. And blessings to the many professionals who have helped us along the way. I am so grateful for the help of my brother and of the professionals on our team. I’m the executor, and it has been a long slog for all of us involved these past two years to get all the necessary I’s dotted and all the T’s crossed. The end is near, and I’ll be grateful when this is a wrap.

My family is doing well
My biological family, small as we are, continues to be doing well. My mom is a rockstar role model of intentional adaptability and she has found friendships in spades in a regular group of seniors that get together for walks, coffee, events and supporting each other. They call themselves “The Village,” and she is a core member of the group. 

This past year my mom discovered that she absolutely loves certain Chinese pop stars and she watches their videos daily like the best of fans. (This guy recently sold out the Bird’s Nest of 80,000 seats in 2 min 58 sec.) She even watches the Chinese TV game shows when her favorite performers are on the shows! A few years ago it was Sumo that enraptured her and she became an avid fan, quickly becoming quite knowledgeable about the sport, the players and cultural issues around the sport; now it’s Chinese pop stars who have her attention.

She’s so amazing. Some say we pick our parents. Others say it’s chance; in any case, I got pretty lucky.

My brother David continues to do his quiet magic of making the world a better place as an environmental economist, doing extension work at U of Maryland and helping local municipalities. In addition to teaching, he has become a significant member of the faculty in his department and continues to take on greater levels of leadership and responsibility there.

And my sister Rebecca does her magic of making the world a better place, though much more publicly. I can’t even keep up with her accomplishments: she had an article about her work in Popular Science this past year, and that’s just one of many national publications that have highlighted her work. She’s doing so much with helping organizations set up seed libraries, as well as personally being a zero waster (she’s hard core) and developing teaching materials that have caught the attention of the National Science Foundation and other organizations.

She’s a bit of a prepper and is super active with her community’s emergency preparedness teams all of which she does in addition to raising chickens, making 25% of her own clothes, growing gobs of food on her ⅛-acre little suburban home in the Bay Area and more. She’s a pioneer, by choice.

Spending more time with family and friends
My place in Baltimore is on the south western side of the city, which puts me close to I-95, which makes it easy for me to get to Columbia to visit my mom, and my Godson Orion (whom I aim to see a couple times a month or more). Nichole I see more often at the gym and for various GNOs (and GNIs). I assume I’m feeling what many people feel as they are in midlife with elderhood (gah!) not too far around the corner, and that is I wish to be more intentional with my time and how I experience it.

After decades of what feels like expansion, expansion, expansion in my social circles and activities, I’m feeling a stronger desire to deepen my relationships with more of a core tribe of people. And still to explore, have fun, read books, take naps … the good stuff of life. 

OK, that about wraps it up for 2019. I hope your 2019 brought you all sorts of growth and joy. 

As always, wishing you the best in your dreams and pursuits, your choices and desires. It ain’t one of the easiest things to incarnate as a human, but word on the street–and def from the astral–is that it’s one of the most glorious rides to have. Let’s enjoy it!

Love and blessings,
Jessie

PS – I make my ebooks free when I send these EOY letters out. You can download any of them for free between January 22 and January 26. (Happy Chinese New Year!) No kindle required. (Don’t click “read for free;” that’s Amazon’s way of getting you to subscribe to Kindle.) Reviews–even super short ones–are always appreciated. If you know anyone who wants to go to Burning Man, one of my books is super-helpful as they prepare for this epic adventure.

PPS – From the depths of my being, I encourage you to tune into the wisdom of generational intelligence by learning about the current times we live in. We are in the era known cyclically as Winter, or The Crisis Era, or a Fourth Turning. You can google this subject, watch videos about it, read the same-titled book about it (page 305+ for community/gov issues and 317+ for personal preparations) and watch my GenerationsWork YouTube channel for upcoming videos on the subject. It’s important to tune in now, to understand why and how these times are different than the times before and the times that will come after. It’s important for you individually, for your family, for your business and for your community.

A Fourth Turning is when old systems break, collapse and/or are smashed to make way for renewal and new ways. It’s part of an 80-100-year cycle and just like in the annual seasons of spring, summer, fall and winter, we can’t bypass winter because we don’t like the season, nor can we avoid winter in the saeculum of human life and the path the four generational archetypes traverse. We are in winter and will be for at least another 8-10 years. The preparations required for winter are different than in other seasons. Tune in, tune in. Get healthy. Be prepared. Strengthen your emotional, physical, fiscal and community resilience. Now is the time to prepare for the changes ahead.

PPPS – Just got humbled. Years ago I was a speed demon with WordPress. Now I don’t even know how t make a list, change heading styles or insert a photo. Yeesh.

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