history travel

Frida and Gellhorn: Walking Beside Two Beautifully Heroic Women

I’ve never bought four one-way tickets before in my life. But, that’s what it took to go on a special journey, one where I could walk in the same place as two beautifully heroic women I will never have the chance to meet.

Once I decided I was going to meet my long-time blogger friend Julie in Holbox Island (aka off-the-beaten path paradise), I thought: We’re already traveling to Mexico, we might as well see two other places at the top of our travel list.

fincia vigia view

mexico city adventures

Mr. H had different reasons for wanting to experience Mexico City and Cuba in the flesh. Like him, I’m a huge fan of food, culture, architecture, and art. The truth is—as most of you know—I’m a big nerd. A history travel nerd.

You know you’re a history travel nerd if you go somewhere in the world because of your obsession with a person, place, or event that occurred in the past. Everything else, while important and wonderful, is secondary to your inner nerd calling the shots.

That’s what makes you come up with a travel budget, no matter how difficult. That’s what makes you take off from work, no matter how difficult. You don’t care, because you want the chance to walk in the same place where that history happened—just so you can be a part of it.

cuba taxi scenery

I focus on history travel destinations most of the time. Traveling to a place without a lot of history isn’t appealing to me, so I tend to skip it.

That’s one of the main reasons I prefer to travel outside the U.S. That isn’t to say there isn’t any American history, but there are two notable hiccups for history lovers.

  1. It’s a young country. No ancient ruins here.
  2. The history we do have isn’t preserved. Courtesy of a new high-rise.

mexico city museum
There is plenty of rich history to dazzle anyone like me in Mexico City and Cuba. But the reason I’ve been so fascinated with both places is because of two women I have looked up to for many years.

Frida Kahlo, the famous Mexican artist as she preferred to be known (Diego Rivera’s third wife as she preferred not to be known). Martha Gellhorn, the first female war correspondent as she preferred to be known (Ernest Hemingway’s third wife as she preferred not to be known).

Along with being a history nerd, I also love stories about strong women who left their mark, showing they were just as good as the boys…that sort of thing.

Every book I’ve written so far has a ball-busting, intelligent woman playing the main character. I never tire of it, and regardless of the genre-bending work I write, the common thread will always be a strong female character.

diego mural

Yogi salute to the great Diego Rivera.

hemingway typewriter

Hemingway used to stand at his typewriter when he worked.

Though Martha Gellhorn and Frida Kahlo are so different, I see commonalities far beyond being the third wives of famous, brilliant men.

They were both famous and brilliant in their own right. They had this unstoppable drive for experiencing more than what was right in front of them, and that drive took them to places around the world and inside their imaginations that inspired them on their individual paths.

They made an impact on people all over the world—and still do to this day. And though they were only born a year apart, I’m pretty sure Martha and Frida never met in real life.

hemingway's house cuba

frida museum

Naturally, I went to Frida’s house, La Casa Azúl, and Gellhorn’s house (aka Hemingway’s house, Finca Vigía), which are crazy popular tourist destinations.

However, I visited what can easily be called tourist traps with intentions that ran deeper.

frida and me

frida painting

There is something so incredibly fascinating about how places shape certain people, whether famous historical figures or not.

To enjoy an espresso at the same cafe they went to, or drive on a street they traveled regularly—it brings you closer to them somehow. And to see their homes is such an intimate glimpse into their lives.

martha gellhorn cuba

gellhorn war correspondent

So, it was nothing short of magical to walk in the footsteps of these women and feel a bit of their spirit breathing inside the walls, furniture, and clothing.

You see their sanctuary where they worked and slept, where they swam and ate.

walking around gellhorn's house

frida's house entrance

Even though Martha Gellhorn and Frida Kahlo are gone, they live on. I’m so happy I had the chance to see their homes and walk beside their courageous spirits.

And to rediscover as I usually do during my travels that no matter how different we may think we are from each other, we are often the same.

“I didn’t write. I just wandered about.” – Martha Gellhorn
“I put on the canvas whatever comes into my mind.” – Frida Kahlo

“What the trees can do handsomely—greening and flowering, fading and then the falling of leaves—human beings cannot do with dignity, let alone without pain.” – Martha Gellhorn
“I paint flowers so they will not die.” – Frida Kahlo

“I tell you loneliness is the thing to master. Courage and fear, love, death are only parts of it and can easily be ruled afterwards.” – Martha Gellhorn
“I paint self-portraits because I am so often alone, because I am the person I know best.” – Frida Kahlo

“Nothing is better for self-esteem than survival.” – Martha Gellhorn
“I am not sick. I am broken. But I am happy to be alive as long as I can paint.” – Frida Kahlo

“It would be a bitter cosmic joke if we destroy ourselves due to atrophy of the imagination.” – Martha Gellhorn
“Feet, what do I need you for when I have wings to fly?” – Frida Kahlo

havana balcony
Are you a travel history nerd? Tell me about a place you went to for its amazing history.

alma bar

So Many Beautiful Places, Only So Many Beautiful People

There are many beautiful places to see around the world, but there are only so many beautiful people we get to see in our lifetime. When work, schedules, budget, and travel arrangements are involved, it’s easy to fall into the cycle of “I wish I could, but I can’t.”

sunrise on holbox

But when we decide to make it happen, the reward is truly incredible. I know, because last month I trekked out to a remote island off the coast of the Yucatan Peninsula in Mexico to meet a blogger I’d been friends with online for years.

It was just a hop, skip, and a jump away. Kidding…it was a plane ride, followed by a 2.5-hour bus ride on a dirt road in the middle of nowhere, then a half-hour ferry ride to get to the island.

holbox ferry

And because the universe has a twisted sense of humor, this California girl gets seasick.

On bumpy two-lane roads when the van driver thinks she’s in the Daytona 500, I close my eyes and pray…and I also get carsick. As you can imagine vividly, I was a right mess on that ferry to Holbox Island—like a sweaty ghost.

ferry seasick

Thankfully the boat ride was only a half hour, and Mr. H was gentlemanly enough not to document my misery too much. Misery that was heightened by the island music playing on the boat, which had a completely different effect on the healthy riders having the time of their life as they slathered on sunscreen and drank beer.

Once I got to dry land, I felt better. Scratch that—after I downed a gallon of water, swam in the pool, took a cold shower—and ate fish tacos I felt better.

What really worked was seeing this one’s face…Julie of Les Petits Pas de Juls. (featured image above…credit: Julie)

les petits pas de juls

A lot of you already know Julie—you follow her travel photography blog and/or you caught her awe-inspiring Life Enthusiast post here. Julie is just one of those strong, beautiful beings you want to know.

She’s a world traveler many times over on a constant crusade to help the environment. The cool thing is that she shares her experience and encourages us all to do the same, to see more of the world and to do our part to save it before it’s gone.

mexico palm trees

Being Portlanders, Mr. H and I do a pretty damn good job with environmental consciousness. But we aren’t anywhere on the same level as Julie. We were joking that there would probably be a friendly pinch or slap from her when we botched up our earth-loving duties with some sort of plastic misstep.

No abuse happened while we were there (because she’s a sweetheart), but we did get the evil eye when we ordered bottles of water at dinner. Rightfully so, since we had our reusable water bottles in our hotel that we could have toted along with us.

“It is the nature of the strong heart, that like the palm tree it strives ever upwards when it is most burdened.” – Philip Sidney

Naturally, I had to capture these environmental crusade moments when I could—like this one, when Julie marched toward the shore to retrieve a cocktail glass. “Hang on,” I said. “Let me get a shot of you saving the world!”

beach litter

Her husband had a good laugh with us, because he witnesses these small, heroic gestures often. But, this is Julie…the one we all know and love. She’s the person she says she is…take it, or leave it…I’ll take it.

You’d be surprised how much waste there is in paradise. The main culprit? Straws.

Really, it’s booze in general, with vacationers getting too lax and leaving glasses, bottles, and cups wherever they please. But, it’s also the restaurants using plastic cutlery, paper plates, etc…and more straws.

We began refusing straws, just because…

mexican michelada

Do we really need a plastic straw to go with our plastic bottle of water? Ask Julie, she’ll tell you the answer to that one.

pox

Julie and her husband, Raul, run a great, quaint bar on the island. Mal de Amores is plastic-free and proud.

Their answer to straws are reusable crystal or stainless steel options that allow you to stir things up without killing the planet. (see above…and yes, we received two crystal straws immediately from Julie as gifts, which we have put to good use.)

beach bar

It’s great to see people like Julie and Raul sampling the island life at this point in their lives, coming together to operate a beach bar that’s enjoyable for people while being environmentally responsible. I respect that.

americans in holbox

When they first opened the bar earlier this year, Julie said we should come down from Portland. At first the whole “I wish I could, but I can’t” song entered my mind.

Then, I thought…why in the hell am I turning down an opportunity to see a longtime friend and off-the-beaten path paradise?

las tortugas

So, Mr. H and I made it happen. We also decided to bookend the trip with a stop in Mexico City and Cuba, because also…why the hell not? (More on these places later!)

Holbox Island was the R&R segment in the middle of the trip. When I stumbled off the boat as a sweaty ghost, earlier that day was an interesting standby battle at Juarez Airport after several days navigating the magical chaos that is Mexico City. I couldn’t imagine another flight four days later to Havana, and wondered if my pampered American white ass would even make it to that leg.

But, Holbox Island has a way of healing you. Ve más despacio…Slow down, it said.

hammock reading

Have a drink or two, lay in a hammock, read your book, eat tacos and fresh guacamole, listen to the waves, laugh with your friends, kiss your husband’s salty lips, swim with the fish, burrow your toes into the hot sand until you find the cool part beneath the surface. Just be.

Okay, fine…

chilling on the beach

Have it your way…

holbox island at sunset

You win, this time…

hammock in the pool

There are a lot of beaches to choose from in Mexico, and most of us Americans choose the usual: Cabo, Cancun, Cozumel. Previously we had been to Playa del Carmen, which is more popular with European tourists.

But Holbox?

holbox brunch

People don’t know about it. Hell, people don’t know how to say it and my phone kept autocorrecting to “Hotbox” (teehee!). For my friends who don’t smoke weed and/or aren’t from the West Coast, here is hotbox…defined. (Remember…you’ll always learn useful shit on this blog.)

By the way, it’s pronounced Hol-bosh.

salsa on the beach

It’s more of a beach destination for Mexicans. Europeans are catching on a bit, along with a handful of Americans. There are no cars on Holbox—after the traffic insanity in Mexico City, this was a refreshing sight to see.

People get around “quickly” on the sandy roads with four-wheelers, golf cart taxis, and bicycles. Most walk, barefoot. The staff at restaurants and hotels don’t bother with shoes, and after acclimating to the pace, you swear off your sandals eventually too.

sunset in mexico

Holbox Island is raw and gorgeous.

It’s an island, sure. But there’s something about the vibe that is unique, pure, and captivating. It’s one of those places you hope will stay that way forever, and it’s one of those places you never think you’ll end up in.

Opportunity came with the chance to meet Julie, and I’m so glad we made it happen. I’ve met two bloggers now in person, and I’m happy to say that the friends we make here in this blogosphere space are legit.

friends with bloggers

I’m not sure what it is that makes the bloggers I know such genuine people—if it’s the words we all share from our souls, or what. I’m happy to know so many of you, and I hope to meet you some day.

nature enjoyment

Stop and See

I was on my usual power hike through Forest Park on Saturday. I caught up with my sister on the phone on the way up to the view on top of the hill. It was a lovely conversation, one that ended with a pep talk to each other…a reminder to take the time we need for ourselves.

My sister is a mother of four. While I don’t have kids, I’ve gone through quite a few changes these past months that I didn’t know were coming. And, it has made the time both challenging and wonderful.

husband and wife company

After many years of trying to figure this out, Mr. H and I finally started our own business together. It’s called Superneat Marketing. Some people crack a smile at the name and others roll their eyes. But, like any business, there is a reason we came up with that name.

Neatness has been in our family for a long time. When we make a toast, it’s: “To neatness.”

It’s pretty much the highest compliment you can get in our house—if someone is having a bad day or you want to tell them how much you love them, we say to each other: “Well, I think you’re superneat.”

superneat marketing

Already our clients are using the term and we love that. But more than anything we love helping these awesome small businesses grow, because they are often the underserved population with marketing consultants and agencies.

It’s very rad to help them out, and it’s superneat working side-by-side with Mr. H.

moving is tough

The other cuckoo thing that happened as we were launching our website…we moved. In two weeks. Mr. H and I were crawling all over each other in the glorified studio we lived in for three years, so it was time for a much needed upgrade.

As you may have heard, rents in Portland have been pretty outrageous with the population explosion. We decided to be smart about it—especially with the mega life changes already happening—and worked with our apartment building to transfer units.

balcony wine

We had to hustle to get an upgrade deal that wouldn’t do us in, hence the two weeks. And even though it was only a move down the hall, up one floor, and down another hall…it was still a move.

But, the cats are good and we’re good. Plus…balcony and a happy marriage!

backbend with cat

After a three-year hiatus, I started teaching yoga again. I’m sticking with subbing for now and taking it slow. I found an amazing studio here in Portland called The People’s Yoga. Their mission is to offer yoga to everybody, regardless of economic barriers. I dig it and I’m very proud to teach there.

Lastly, I’ve been writing A LOT for other publications.

I became a regular contributor for ClearVoice, which is an awesome place for me to nerd out on content. My writer friends will find this interview with Kristen Lamb interesting, Humans Are Wired to Remember the Story.

I also started realizing a dream of mine of becoming a travel writer. What started with several millennial-esque travel blogs on VIVA Lifestyle & Travel morphed into opportunities at Intrepid Travel. They value sustainable travel culturally and environmentally—very much Britt’s speed.

intrepid travel writer

I remember writing my first piece on a Sunday, and it was a toughie that was all about the power of a ban to make a positive impact. I had to do a lot of research about animal rights and pretty much cried through the entire piece.

But, I felt honored to write about such an important topic and it was beyond cool to see it shared widely on social.

bar silhouette

Phew!

This morning as I’m sitting here in my robe before work, I feel like it’s a damn miracle that I’m even writing a blog post. It got so hard to do this, something that used to be so simple.

As many of you longtime bloggers can understand, sometimes you hit a wall. Not writer’s block, it’s more like being blocked by life.

I always say you have to be in a very specific state of mind to do this thing called writing. You don’t have to be on cloud nine or anything, but you have to at least be able to free yourself from distractions long enough to sit your ass in the chair and throw down some words.

When life changes? That adds a very thick layer you have to push through.

I was recently talking to my good blogger friend (and kindred spirit), Julie of Les Petits Pas de Juls, on WhatsApp. She asked me how my book was going and I said…slowly. But, I’m thankful it’s still going in some form.

I told her I had been writing so much for other people that I was struggling to write for myself. And, I’m hoping to make more time after I clear my head on a rad trip we have coming up next week.

blogging friends

Last year I vowed to meet more bloggers in person, and I was fortunate to meet Jilanne in San Francisco. Next I’m thrilled to see Julie, who runs a beach bar with her husband on Holbox Island.

“Slow” is the word there, and I love that. Because “fast” has been too much of a word for me lately. I’m looking forward to hanging with Julie and allowing her to remind me of the sweeter, beautiful things I’ve been glossing over too much in life.

We decided to bookend the trip to see Julie with two places Mr. H and I have dreamed about…Mexico City and Cuba. Being the geek that I am, my main inspiration for going to these places is to see Frida’s house and Martha Gellhorn’s house (who many would refer to as Hemingway’s house, Finca Vigia.)

Both Frida and Gellhorn have been heroes of mine for a long time. Being able to walk in the same places as these women is magnificent. I’m excited to drink in the culture of both of these places and see what kind of inspiration I come home with.

portland forest

Anyway, the dust has started settling a bit and I felt this incredible sense of peace in the forest last weekend. On my way back home I was about to put my headphones in to listen to music when I stopped myself.

I wanted to listen to the birds. I wanted to listen to the trees in the wind. I wanted to hear the children’s laughter. The whole reason I was hiking in the first place was to unplug. Yet, I struggled with it. I still had that urge to multitask.

So, I did something I’ve never done before in the three years I’ve hiked that same route. I stopped on a bench and stared at the trees. I laid on the bench for about a half hour. And, it was glorious.

forest time

Groups of people passed me from time to time, and one older gentleman made me smile when he said: “Somebody’s got the right idea.”

The nice thing about this bench is that it’s up higher on the hill, so it’s not nearly as crowded as other parts of the trail—even on the weekend. So there were times when it was just me on the bench. Just me and the birds.

After a while they accepted me, because I was one of the quiet and still humans—an anomaly they aren’t used to seeing, I’m sure.

 

Did you know birds sing the most extraordinary song when they think nobody else is around? I didn’t. I felt lucky and grateful to be the only one in that audience, in that front row seat to nature’s stage.

All I had to do was stop and see. It shouldn’t be that hard. I’m going to do more of it.

sunset meditation

Destroying Control and Igniting Beauty in Costa Rica

The first time I saw “Pura Vida” was completely unromantic. The phrase was in an email signature that I read on my couch—swaddled by my robe, blanket, and cats—a valiant effort that ultimately failed the battle against winter’s warfare.

I had reached out to a tour company about a waterfall hike, two weeks prior to a Costa Rica yoga teacher retreat I booked last summer.

sunset beach warrior

Flying solo, I had two personal goals:

  1. To remember what sunshine felt like in the dead of winter
  2. To get reinspired after a three-year hiatus from teaching yoga

dancer-pose-yoga-retreat

My logical, no-frills goals would later be replaced with two deeper concepts, teased already in the title of this blog post. But, I wasn’t able to see them yet.

relaxing-in-swing

In my typical Type-A fashion, I was absurdly stressed before leaving the grind for paradise.

Crazy how the before and after of travel as we get older, with ever-increasing responsibilities, can almost total an elegant adventure in a collision of our own making.

Anyway, I remember how that email signature stood out to me, overtaking the usual “thanks” and “cheers.”

Even with my survival basics Spanish, I knew what it meant—and how arresting that phrase was…

PURA VIDA

costa-rica-beach-meditation

Pure Life

It isn’t about keeping a city weird, an odd slogan that never caught on in Portland and kind of did in Austin. Pura Vida is about the simple life…legit simplicity.

nosara-beach

I’ve been hung up on Costa Rica since 2011, back when Mr. H and I had a trip booked that we canceled.

That was the year I quit my full-time marketing job to pursue an artistic career, teaching dance while finishing my first book and launching this cute blog. Travel budget wasn’t exactly a thing then.

playa-guillones

My infatuation with Costa Rica never faltered, making me feel like a love-sick teen that got stood up at the movies. I had also been pining over a yoga retreat for many years.

When the two came together, I told Mr. H it was something I had to do. And, he told me to go.

playa-garza-walk

After I booked the trip, I had a silly moment of buyer’s remorse. I was worried I had built up Costa Rica way too much. Others warned me it wasn’t great (always nice to hear when you’ve spent thousands of dollars on a trip of a lifetime, right?).

And when I was on what can only be described as the American party plane from Houston to Costa Rica, I wondered again if I had signed up for a weeklong tourist immersion instead of a mind, body, spirit one.

sunset-dog

But I ignored judgment and apprehension, in favor of a beautiful experience from start to finish.

I love to have soundtracks for trips, new albums by my favorite artists that I haven’t listened to yet. It’s especially travel perfection that Bonobo’s most recent album is called “Migration.”

sunset-biker

Because I’m free of distractions—not playing music while working, for example—I can relish the sounds like no other time. It makes the album even more special, associated with this unforgettable place—suspended gracefully in my memory.

Although we didn’t have bonobos at our retreat, we did have howler monkeys.

The male with the big balls woke us up at 4am sharp the first two days. Then he appeared to accept our group and kept it down until the more reasonable hour of 6:30am.

howler-monkey

So for those that warned me Costa Rica wasn’t great. They did it wrong.

love-nosara

I guess I did it right by flying into Liberia instead of messing with San Jose. I did it right by staying in Nosara, which caters to surfers and yogis. Fresh coconut water for a buck? Yes, please!

coconut-water

I completely disconnected for the first time in many years. WiFi, when available, really isn’t the same. And thankfully it isn’t.

Because who wants high-speed anything when it’s so much sweeter to slow down?

ahki-retreat

Only 700 miles from the equator—the closest I’d ever been—I was refueled by the Pura Vida radiating from the big delicious sun.

Yep, as cliche as it sounds, I was about ready to become an expat like all the rest of them. It was like hitting a reset button I didn’t think I had anymore.

sunset-savasana

There’s just something about:

  • Seeing “buterfly” misspelled in a poster ad for a park at customs.
  • The feeling of waking up in another country.
  • Getting used to “Tico Time” where everything moves at a glacial place on purpose.
  • Our driver, Rico, slamming on his breaks to miss various animals: a monstrous iguana/dragon crossing the road, a herd of cows trotting with determination, a daring horse illuminated by the headlights.
  • Swimming twice a day at a minimum.
  • Salty hair and skin.
  • A cold Imperial beer, anytime.
  • The white cows and horses that make the countryside even more luminescent.

costa-rica-jungle

Top all that off with the purpose of this trip, a yoga teacher retreat with 30 hours of anatomy and practice, tucked away in the jungle above the Pacific Ocean at Ahki Retreat.

Our small group had this gem to ourselves, with Chef Daniela, who made three fresh, organic healthy meals each day that were both energizing and inspiring. We practiced yoga in an open-air studio overlooking Mother Nature’s Central American handiwork.

yoga-retreat-outdoors

At Ahki, the relaxation nudge was masterfully executed. Sacred thought went into every architectural detail and inescapable peace happened the second you wandered in.

jungle-hammocks

hammock-music

Then top all THAT off with great people and great conversation, new friends that give life new meaning. The stories you never thought you would hear.

Someone finding yoga after recovering from cancer. Someone going deeper into their practice after losing their spouse, much too young from a heart attack.

Then, there were the meditations… (Holy shit, I know!)

sunset-meditation

I cried during the first meditation in the treetop shala. The repetition of “let go” always does me in.

sand-meditation

I smiled during frequent morning meditations on the beach, where we could sit as long as we liked before exploring other meditative forms…walking, running, swimming.

playa-guillones-sunset

I found myself during a fire ceremony under the stars in the cool sand. We each had to write down something we wanted to destroy and something we wanted to ignite, then burn those pieces of paper.

I won’t share what others tossed in the fire, since they were personal. But, I already shared mine with you guys. I chose to destroy control and ignite beauty.

Without knowing this would happen to me all week, I embodied these deeper concepts. I couldn’t help myself in Costa Rica.

sunset-surfers

From the first hello to two strangers that would become my roomies, and by the end of the week, my beautiful friends.

pool-bar-nosara

coconut-stand

To the last day, when I decided to face one of my fears and go ziplining for the first time.

I was terrified, as it was the second longest ziplining course in the world. What’s great about having so many legs on one course is that you start to loosen up.

costa rica zipline

So, eventually I released the death grip, lay back, and spun around while gazing at the blue skies. Below me was the canopy and a river. Off to the side was a waterfall and the ocean.

The last day on any trip is always fragile and precious. To end it with flying over the jungle is all too fitting for the themes of less control and more beauty. This poignant memory is still so damn lovely in my mind and I know I’ll never forget it.

A place like Costa Rica can be misunderstood when people try to turn it into something it’s not—or force a contrived experience that will never play out the way it did in their mind.

sunset-runner

Pura Vida is about leaving your expectations behind, relinquishing control and welcoming beauty in the wildness of simplicity. Every local I met was a complete nature nerd, and they want you to appreciate and enjoy it like they do. In fact, they expect that.

praying-mantis

Costa Rica will challenge you with its vibrant Pura Vida anthem. You may not get it when you’re there, and hopefully you’ll find it elsewhere someday. Or you’ll accept it body and soul…and stay forever, like many do.

ahki-retreat-pool

Me? I came home. I’m writing this post from my couch in dreary Portland, once again swaddled by my robe, blankets, and cats.

britt-coffee

But, I took a piece of the Pura Vida with me. I tucked it inside the jungle of my wild heart, and I’ll always keep it there.

nosara-costa-rica

night snow

Why Having Less Goals is Working for Me

I think many of us mean well when we start a new year.

Whether you’re into that whole goal/resolution/intention setting thing or not, when we turn our calendars and write the wrong damn year on everything for at least a month, we know that it’s a different time. And that in itself can move us to change.

I’ve written some sort of beginning of the year declaration on this blog the past few years, but for 2017 I didn’t. I typically set a sankalpa, or positive intention, for the year…

2014 – To Love More

2015 – To Simply Enjoy

2016 – To Live Consciously

cafe in the snow

Before you dive too deep into my ulterior motive for not writing anything, I actually wasn’t in the “let’s move on from 2016” camp. It was one of my most trying years of adulting, which included being laid off and almost losing my dad.

No matter what happens that is in our control our outside of it, I’m a firm believer in accepting life’s curve balls with a bit of grace. I say “a bit,” because I do my best but it’s not always graceful.

I really loved this blog from my girl Zen, who wrote in Defense of 2016

“Every day in 2016, someone got married, had their first kiss, gave birth, overcame cancer, reunited with their best friend, landed a new job, explored the world, stepped down from the brink of suicide, celebrated a birthday or an anniversary, saved a life, won the lottery, laughed till they cried, wrote a book, graduated… for every bad thing that happened, something equally good happened. In the midst of all the chaos, why not celebrate our small victories?” 

Pep Talks with the Voices in Your Head

I did set an intention for 2017 though. It was this…To Have Less Goals

So, that’s why I didn’t write this post at a more relevant time, like closer to the turn of the year. I’m writing this on a Wednesday, January 18, at the butt crack of dawn. Because that was when I was able to get to it without forcing anything.

And that might seem like no big deal to some of you. But it’s downright poignant for me, because I let go for once.

I gave myself a pep talk and said: Don’t sweat it. Just now, while writing this post and starting to feel anxious about starting my work day, I said: You’re doing so good.

We all have voices in our heads, don’t we? Funny, how they can be a missed opportunity when all we need is a pep talk.

books in the snow

Meaningful Goals vs. Lots of Goals

I shared this Harvard Business Review article, Don’t Set Too Many Goals for Yourself, at the end of the year. It spoke to me, because well…I’m too goal-oriented.

It’s the reason I didn’t sign up for the Goodreads reading challenge this year. The challenge did what I needed it to do initially, which was read more and track my progress.

Years later it morphed into this strange, unforeseen form of competition in an already competitive world. A competition with myself, with reading—something that usually brings me more peace than anything.

Oooh, dang. So close, Britt! But, you didn’t reach your annual reading goal…AGAIN.

goodreads reading

I mean…come on!

Anyway, while goals are really great for a lot of people, for me I tread the choppy waters of doing too much and not enjoying life enough. That doesn’t mean you shouldn’t set goals, because you should. But those goals should be meaningful.

“In order to accomplish our most meaningful goals, we need to fight back against two dangerous impulses: hewing too closely to a fixed plan and attempting to do too much at once.” – Dorie Clark

The HBR article warned of the dangers of busyness, of the unimportant victories we claim when crossing off tasks on our to-do lists. Instead the recommendation was to focus on bigger goals, no more than two for each 6-month period.

Maybe you’re trying to finish a book—maybe it’s your fourth or your first. That can be one of your big six-month goals, because let’s face it…finishing a novel ain’t easy. And like me, you are probably working on this book in your precious free time.

So then, you can ask yourself: Does this other thing I’m spending time on help me finish my book? Or, does it keep me from finishing it?

You might have one of those “well, I’ll be damned” moments. Because you investigated and found something, an oversight you’d missed before.

Making Tough Choices to Stay Focused

Asking yourself if something you’re doing voluntarily is keeping you from your big goal isn’t always a fun question to answer. A lot of times, you won’t even want to ask it.

With the book example, I’ve had to investigate my blogging and social media efforts. While there is a correlation—because it’s marketing and branding, which do matter when publishing a novel—until I finish my book during this 6-month period, I’m easing off the gas pedal.

night snow

I had to set some parameters (not goals) to stay focused, one of which is only blogging once each month. And, that’s the max.

I felt so much relief when I made this decision, because blogging has a way of haunting you as a writer if you’re not careful. What should I write about next? Hell, when am I going to write it? The cycle can be pretty vicious, as many of you know.

So, setting those meaningful goals can be a truly grounding experience. And the effort is pretty minimal for the reward.

“In art and dream may you proceed with abandon. In life may you proceed with balance and stealth.” – Patti Smith

It’s true that as we get older, time appears like it’s moving faster. I remember the occasional adult saying things like “enjoy it now” and “it’s all downhill from here” with a sing-song voice that always made me cringe a little as a kid. At the time, I didn’t understand why they said those things that way.

But I know now. And while it’s easy to fall into that crotchety reasoning that time magically moves faster as we age, it’s really just us that keeps moving faster.

So, don’t sweat it. You’re doing so good.

Slow down, hug it out with your hopes, dreams, and wishes, and aim for the life you want to live.

What are your thoughts on goal-setting? Like it, don’t like…somewhere in between?