In the days before I set off to spend a month in the sunshine, there was reluctance. I had booked the trip primarily out of need, rather than desire. Desire alone would not have sufficed to make it happen, because I have come to value routine over adventure; repetition over novelty. These past weeks have re-awakened the adventurous side of my character in the most gentle way possible: within the secure friendship of good people, and in a beautiful, warm part of the world where everything was in place for me to create my normal routine, meet new people, indulge ever more effortlessly in new experiences, and see myself in sharper focus.
This post is a reminder for me that there are journeys within journeys, and that although I don’t necessarily need to travel in order to experience adventure, it can be good for me to get away. (Someone is smiling to herself right now, because she has known this about me for some time.)
1. Use whatever happens to create what you want.
The two friends I came to Santa Cruz to visit worked different shifts, so I was able to spend time with them separately and together. I also had plenty of time to myself to get on with the work I had brought with me. Most important to me on arrival was that I create a routine of exercise and writing as quickly as possible. I wrote every day at the beach café my friends had identified for me and knew I would appreciate; but it was my jet lag which helped me most in the beginning. It allowed me to establish my routine immediately, waking me up early on the first few mornings so I could get on with my exercises. Instead of cursing the fact that I was wide awake at four in the morning, I got up (eventually) and went through my morning routine. (Last weekend, I reached 365 days.)
2. Verbalise where you are, then relax.
On my first full day, we went out for breakfast and I told them where I was. I wasn’t in the best space (given that the main reason for my visit was to gain distance from someone I love); and my pleasure at being with them was dulled further because my left leg had recently become more numb than usual. In addition, there was the book project, which is coming to an end after nearly four years of intense work (actually, it’s 15 years), which calls for caution and alertness in these final few weeks. It was important for me to verbalise this, for no other reason than to share with them where I was at the time. They listened, even though they may not have understood everything I was telling them. But that didn’t matter. It was enough that they listened. And it was enough that I had talked. Now I could begin to relax.
3. Even if a situation looks bad, it may be an opportunity to reassess and make significant improvements.
After speaking with my friend about my concern for my leg, he introduced me to his physical therapist; an impressive woman whom I trusted easily because of her clarity, commitment and professionalism. She significantly enhanced my existing exercise programme, whilst at the same time giving me the confidence to step up a level and trust my body more than I have in decades. The fact that this happened in the closing weeks of a 15-year process is significant for me. Having established a solid routine for myself, I met someone who, in less than 90 minutes, has set me on my way down a more challenging, more appropriate, and more wholesome road than I was already travelling; at a time when I am preparing for the next phase of my life.
4. Know when to stride out and when to play safe.
Gradually, I began to discover my adventurous side; the one I first found in my twenties but had relegated to a place in the background, in favour of playing safe. But I was also happy to establish a routine for myself whilst here. As always, the beauty lies in the balance. I witnessed the same when my friend and I went to a baseball game. (‘Go Giants!’) I saw how the runners would calculate the sweet spot between bases; the best place to stand for each pitch, in order to maximise their chance of making it to the next base or back to their current one, depending on what was about happen.
5. In the right company, I blossom. Seek it out and accept nothing less.
I connected easily with the people I met, facilitated – as every encounter was – by the inclusive and sociable nature of my friend. In fact, most of the people I got to know during my time here were colleagues of his at Driscoll’s, a berry company whose vision is to ‘Enrich the lives of everyone we touch’ and to be ‘The world’s berry company’. Not the world’s best, or biggest – a statement which would put the focus more on the competition than the consumer – but the world’s berry company. Deliberately avoiding the use of a superlative where others would not even hesitate, says everything about how this company operates. It’s an ethos I can relate to: ambition with humility. No wonder it was easy to get on with everyone.
6. Look to improve but don’t lose sight of how good you already are.
My friend arranged for me to work with a group from the company’s quality department. I spent a day with them, asking them to observe more closely their thoughts, feelings, and behaviour; as well pay attention to the people and the interactions around them. I added that they should look at how their observations can be used to enrich their own lives, because if they can do that, then they will find it easier to enrich the lives of others. Everyone had something to say; they were appreciative and they acknowledged each other’s contribution to the team’s success. Being among them, I recognised their determined pursuit of quality: a never-ending vigilance; always on the lookout for sub-standard elements and striving for a form of perfection. Our discussion went a long way to reminding them how high their quality already is. Not just the berries they preside over, but also themselves and their teamwork.
7. Put yourself in unfamiliar circumstances, observe closely what happens and learn about yourself.
For two days after the workshop, I went on a mini road trip. Again, I needed a helping hand to overcome my reluctance, but once I had organised it and set off, I enjoyed (almost) every minute. I encountered helpful and interesting people along the way and was reminded of something which also appears in a recent journal post from the same time, 11 years previously: Travelling on my own, I felt a familiar freedom and was able to observe myself in new and challenging situations. There was a time I invited such opportunities more readily because I knew I would learn something about myself; but over the years that habit drifted away. This trip has has brought it back. It has piqued my curiosity, and reminded me how I used to be.
8. Relax, be where you are, and make the best choices you can.
To celebrate completing a year of daily exercises, my two friends and I took a trip to Big Sur where we climbed the Buzzard Trail. It was a high climb and, as we ascended, I felt myself creating a drama about the descent, because it was possible I would be doing damage to my knee. However, instead of accepting that particular fate and blaming others for my situation, I chose to turn the descent into a walking meditation. I focused fully on every step and descended slowly, easily and safely, strengthening my legs as I went. Instead of creating pain, blame and drama, I created success and was able to enjoy the rest of the day: lunch at one ocean-view restaurant; dessert at another more isolated one; and finally the beach-side waterfall.
9. Go on a journey.
They told me the waterfall would change my life. Maybe it has. Maybe it was just a ruse to get me there. One thing is certain, my visit to see it was only possible because I had visited my friends, and that certainly has changed my life. It has taken me a little way back to my core; it has shown me my progress, my ability and my contribution; and it has allowed me to alter my trajectory and feel reassured that I am more on course now than I have ever been.
Thanks, you two.