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I’m glad I was careful what I wished for.

One year ago I created a ‘Dream Board,’ which is basically a visual representation of all the things that, at the time, I was hoping to achieve as a result of my job.  I was looking for some motivation to keep me going, and when you work in sales, motivation = money.  After years of having fairly unstable, unreliable income and some difficult financial times, I was ready to reevaluate my relationship with money and make it actually a goal to learn to love it.  I first wrote a public apology letter to Money, admitting my faults in our deteriorating relationship. I asked forgiveness. Then I gave thanks. And to follow it all up, I started to follow the advice from a website called Master Manifestor and began my first experiment in manifesting with intention.

I first wrote out a Vision Statement, basically describing in detail what it felt like to have all these things I was hoping to achieve as a result of having more money (from more sales I was hoping to make), and then searched out, cut and pasted images onto a torn piece of cardboard to visually represent what I had written about.  Nothing fancy, but for me, meaningful.

I rigged the board so that is stood side by side with my computer screen in the office, where I would consequently absorb the messages sublimely 8 hours a day, 5 days a week.  Multiply that by the full year of work … these images have had A LOT of hours to creep into my subconscious!  The board has become such a familiar extension to my work screen that I hardly even notice it any more.  And the truth is that work picked up in the 2011-2012 year, despite the economic decline, and I had a great year.

But after a quiet couple of months on the sales front this summer, I recently looked to my Dream Board hoping to rekindle its magic, when I realized something incredible:

Everything on the board had come true.

I’ve manifested exactly what I put on that Board.  It’s a bit creepy really.  Some of the visual items were more specific to making money, like copies of signed contracts and money trees.  But the majority focused on what that money would bring me, like for example plane tickets with my name on them.  In the past 12 months I’ve flown to California, Turkey, Germany, England, Cuba, Sardinia, and Mallorca).  With the intention of eating healthier, I had a picture of organic produce, which unfortunately is not the cheapest food option available. Now I have a box of produce from a local farm delivered to my house twice a month.  I even made a blatantly fake Spanish residency ID card and cut and paste a picture of me and all my details on it, which I not only put on the board but also kept a copy folded up in my wallet.  And this month, after 10 years of waiting and trying, I got my residency here!  I had pictures of doula related images, and I’ve been able to complete a full training course, attend a one week Midwifery seminar in Bad Wildbad, and as a result have been fortunate to accompany three families in the birth and / or postpartum of their new babies.  I printed out a statement of my bank account, blocked out the real amount and typed in a fictitious number slightly exaggerated but the point being I never wanted to hit zero again, or negative for that matter.  And though I never got to maintain that higher number on the Board, I have not hit zero in over a year and that’s saying a lot when you live in Barcelona (or, I should clarify, when you’re ME living in Barcelona).  The list goes on, you get the point.

This is my first proper attempt at manifesting, and I am pleasantly shocked by the outcome.  It has worked like magic.  And it is so simple!

My friend (and also my boss) made an interesting suggestion that perhaps my sales have been quieter these past couple of months because the Universe has provided me with what I wanted and thinks the work is done.  I think he is right.  It’s time to get manifesting again!  So this week I will be brainstorming the new things I want to achieve (as a result of making good sales at work) and will make a new and refreshed Dream Board by the end of the week, to remind the Universe that I’m still in the game!

Now that I’ve experimented with work, and feel confident in this Power of Attraction thing, I think I will now also try to make a Dream Board for my personal, non-professional life to attract the things that money cannot buy, which are plentiful.  I’ll check back in with myself, and maybe you, in one year’s time to see how this second round of Dream Boards pans out.

Thank you Universe.  I am, unabashedly, grateful for the abundance in my life.

Peggy is a Whore

Peggy is a whore.

Peggy was that cute girl in class in the third grade whose decorated paper envelope hanging off the side of her desk, marked “Peggy” in red glitter and all my bitterness, was full of Valentine cards by the time the bell struck at recess. Jumping forward a few years, Peggy became that cute girl at the beach in a string bikini with all the surfers trying to catch the biggest wave while she looked on adoringly. At college, Peggy was that cute girl that … well, at college Peggy was actually just a whore. Moving into the mid-20s, Peggy was that cute girl that fell madly in love (probably with one of the surfers from her youth, where they met at their 10 year high school reunion). Peggy was then the cute girl who became a cute woman who then became a cute mother and … agh. Peggy is a whore. Go to Hell, Peggy. And take all your Valentine cards with you.

This is pretty much how I’ve felt about Valentine’s Day ever since the third grade. I was never without love, of course. My parents loved me. My friends loved me. But a candied heart with ‘KISS ME’ or ‘BE MINE’ just did not apply to them. Or to me for that matter. All the way from the third grade until I turned thirty years old, I never once celebrated Valentine’s Day (oh, except for that last-minute flight to New York with Anna and Ashley when we were 21 years old. Three bitter single college girls managed to sit in first class on a red-eye and polished off about 5 bottles of champagne before we even crossed over Colorado).

For the past few years I’ve always posted the Peggy is a Whore card on Facebook or in my Happy Valentine emails to friends. I gagged at the cheesy cards, and heart-shaped everythings, and wondered why is everything red when actually your heart is more like a blue color?

And then it happened. I started seeing hearts everywhere. It started a couple of years ago and has not ceased since. Heart shaped dog poo. Heart shaped cracks in the sidewalk. Heart shaped mountains. The list goes on, but in a way you cannot imagine. My discovery and consequential love for hearts has been an eerie but beautiful ride. In retrospect the I-see-hearts-everywhere phenomenon must have been the Universe telling me it was time to open my eyes and acknowledge hearts. First to see external hearts. Check! Then I started receiving hearts from friends, such as photographs of heart-shaped raw tuna in their skillet, or heart-shaped rocks brought all the way from Monterey to Barcelona. The Universe was telling me, okay, once you see and recognize them, they will come to you! And they did. People now tag me in photos whenever there is a heart in it. And it tingles my blue heart a strange shade of red. Slowly, painfully, I’ve become romantic against my will.

I do not find it a coincidence whatsoever that now the Universe has suddenly presented me with a real life beating heart. Perhaps it is a reward for not beating up Peggy. Or perhaps it was just time. This reward is not a photograph of a heart, as it’s 3D. I’m pretty sure it’s not a heart-shaped rock, because it breathes and holds my hand. And for the first time in thirty years, as I walk down the overcrowded bustling shopping street near to the date of February 14th, all I see are red hearts in the shop windows, and rather than wanting to throw up all over them, I stop and smile.

(This is so utterly disgusting. I can’t believe I am writing this.)

I don’t care if I receive a Valentine’s card this year. Peggy can have them all. Because there is just one beating, sweet candied heart out there that says ‘BE MINE’. And it’s only a quick bite (and bike ride) away.

Good Intentions

I have never been a big fan of New Years resolutions, not only because generally they are way out of reach, yet promised in tenacious declaration, but because people focus so much on negative things from their past, hoping to change themselves for the New Year. Most people try to change a bad habit, like giving up smoking, or will try to refrain from eating chocolate truffles left over from Christmas (that one never lasts long…I mean, how long can the Christmas truffles really last?). The major problem with New Years resolutions is that they are short-lived, can be extremely stressful and make you feel guilty for the life and lusts you left behind. I’d rather make no promise to myself than to tease myself or break one.

This said, I was recently introduced to New Years Intentions, which rather than resolutions, focuses less on changing your past and instead focuses more on adding to your future. Also, the verb intend implies that there is the possibility you will not achieve a goal, so you are not setting yourself up to be a complete failure. If there is no promise made, there is no promise broken. The fulfillment comes through working toward that goal. I like the sound of that.

So, with the selfish pleasure of reward on the back of my mind, I decided to make my Intentions for 2011 tangible, easy to shoot for, and positive. Here it goes, wish me luck!

New Years Intentions 2011

1. Get some fresh air a little more often. I live and work on the same street so my commute time does not count. Walking around does something good for my mind, body and soul. But it’s easy to get lazy, especially when it’s cold. Go outside more often. Buy some comfortable flat shoes, that may inspire you to explore.

2. Call my Grandmothers (all three of them!) much more often. Maybe call one a week. Or call all three once a month during a block of time I set aside just for that. I love talking to them. Make the time!

3. Smile at strangers. Wave to at least one a day, even if it freaks him/her out. It’s a nice gesture, they can get used to it.

4. Recognize that perhaps, just maybe, ok probably, I am falling in love with a Leo. Stop thinking so much, dear Virgo, and stop looking for problems when there are none. Just go with it and enjoy.

5. Keep on not smoking =) It’s been 14 months…the hard part is long past. You are doing well. Props. Yey for new no smoking law in Spain staring in 2011!

6. Buy a Burning Man ticket on January 19th, 2011. Actually getting there is a harder goal, so I’ll go with the one I know 100% I can do and will feel happy when it’s accomplished. Burning Man ticket or bust!

7. Learn how to cook properly the following: artichokes and eggplant. I always mess them up whenever I try. I would like to fix that.

8. Take Ed’s creative writing course at Collage again. I miss writing short stories and fiction. I usually find a way to do what I want. I want this. Make it happen.

9. Get a smaller hula hoop and practice more often. Must be in good form for Burning Man!

10. Complete my doula course

11. Buy the books I have saved in Amazon’s Wish List. Or look for them in Barcelona. Stop wasting time. Read!

12. Try to arrive to work on time in the morning. Jason…these are Intentions…I will do my best 😉

13. Even though you don’t see yourself as very positive, everyone seems to think you are, so start believing it.

14. Love openly. And give ‘front door’ compliments more often. They are nicer.

15. Manifest my dreams…anything is possible.

16. If I come across a massive dragon slide, always go down it! – CHECK! One down, 15 to go!!

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Roses

Long gone are the times when receiving a single red rose felt romantic to me. The single red rose always makes me think of my dad. He had a classic romanticism about him, very old-fashioned in that respect. He never gave us bunches of flowers or even a dozen. Just one red rose. Always red. Always beautiful. I would hang each rose upside down over the years to dry and save them, my own addiction to the romance of it all I guess. I would not be surprised if I actually have them in storage with all my scrapbook albums in San Diego.

Unfortunately, now when I think of single red roses I feel far from romantic. They seem generic and cheap. I blame the fact that I work, reside and party in the center of Barcelona, which has become this dirty circus of pickpocketers, street vendors and hookers. It’s not so far off from the Tijuana border when you are stuck in traffic and have people at your window every other second trying to sell you packs of chicle or huge ceramic statues of Bart Simpson. Those border experiences taught me well: roll up the window, put on the air conditioning and turn up the radio full blast. Do NOT make eye contact.

In Barcelona there is a huge market of selling obnoxious trinkets to tourists. Can’t blame them really, since the reality is that drunk tourists tend to get a kick out of the Mexican sombreros (ummm…should someone tell them they are not in Mexico?) and blinding shiny things that go round and round and round. It’s not just on the street that you are harassed, however. Mainly men, and the odd end woman here and there, follow you into bars and restaurants to sell you cheap fluorescent glow in the dark paraphernalia and naked women dancing on cigarette lighters. And roses. Single red roses wrapped in plastic. Single red roses have become more colorful cheap paraphernalia.

photo by Lorna Palmer

The roses in and of themselves are not what tick me off. I like roses. It is the persistent vendors that never give you peace who drive me mad. There is a game you learn here. It goes something like this. No, gracias. No, gracias. They leave one on your table and walk away. Un regalo para la mujer guapa. And then they come back. Of course they come back. Of course they are not out to gift roses to strangers. Again, you said, no, gracias followed by a firm No! And then you just stop making eye contact and ignore them until they walk away. Five minutes later a different one will approach you and the game happens all over again. It’s gets old real quick.

I’ve grown to despise the rose sellers. And as a result, the roses. Until…last night.

My friend and I were in Sugar, this dodgy red bar just behind Plaza Real, having the last drink of the night. We befriended an American guy who was sitting by himself at the bar, sort of staring on longingly at the groups of people laughing around him. He looked lonely. And more importantly, my friend fancied him. So being the good wing woman that I am, I called him over for a brief introduction. Turns out his friends were at the bar next door but the drinks were cheaper at Sugar, so he had come over to down a couple cheap drinks. Been there, done that. Totally not going to judge. After just a few minute conversation, his friends came looking for him and they took off.

But before he left, he did something that left a lasting impression. A rose vendor came into the bar and approached us. Following protocol, he shoved the bunch of single roses into our faces. Before he could utter a persuasive word, and much before I started the No, gracias game, this American boy grabbed the bunch of roses and shoved them into his nose. He closed his eyes, took a long inhale and then returned the roses to the man and said thank you. The vendor, totally confused, turned around and walked away.

Upon seeing my shocked response, the American boy explained himself. He said he too used to get angry with these guys, and he realized that pleading did not make them go away. So he decided to make their presence worthwhile. Roses smell very nice. As long as they stood there and shoved roses into his face, he would enjoy their beautiful aroma and therefore make the experience a pleasant one. And the extra bonus was that it scares away the vendor. With that, he smiled and walk away.

As the New Year approaches, I am keeping his advice in mind. Not only for the rose vendors, but for all the uncomfortable or annoying situations that life could throw me in the upcoming year. It is refreshing to remind myself that there is something beautiful in everything. I just need to find it, embrace (or inhale) it, and what then remains after the annoyance of the situation passes is just the beautiful bit.

Thanks random stranger for the great life lesson!

Photo by Lorna Palmer

through the back door

through the back door he let himself in,
unannounced – on the silence
of his rhythmic toes, he took me by surprise
with the scent of gin – his taunting blue eyes

seduced me like a bird of paradise
dancing on a clean twig – we exposed our chests
and danced among a circle of incense,
one swig after another – breasts

bouncing and twirling, singing and swinging to the best
hits of the past few decades – eyes closed
I released myself entirely – fully exposed
I thought ‘no more charades ‘ – it’s time disclose

this shy and curious girl hiding behind my closed
doors – I propped open the windows with stacked books
and sincerity – and as the air passed in to take a look,
a wild woman let loose from inside me – she unhooked

the latch that locked my front door and turned
on the porch light – behavior so strange for her,
yet that night it seemed so comfortable and right
eyes open, eyes closed – it’s all the same as the night

strips your sight from you – hands and heart begin
to see what your eyes and fears normally block – and when finally
I put my hands and heart upon myself – my doors now unlocked,
through the back door he let himself in

Accompaniment

There is a new trend happening in my life, and it deals with accompaniment. For someone who really loves people, I am quickly realizing that accompanying another person, and perhaps more importantly, being accompanied by another person, is not as simple or natural as it seems. As if the Universe knew I was needing some help and preparation in the subject (it always does!) it simultaneously sent me both theory and practice in the form of a women’s circle.

I am in the process of training to become a doula, which is a woman who assists other women during pregnancy, birth and the postpartum period. The role of a doula is much more complex than that simple definition, and at some point I will write more about that. But for now the important thing to know is that the primary role of a doula is to accompany women (and often times her surrounding family) through the birthing process on a more emotionally supportive level, and to insure that the mother is in charge her own birthing experience.

The past couple of months I have been attending women’s retreats and getting more engaged in my doula studies. Slowly I am learning that a doula’s job is not to help women in as much as to accompany them. It is a two-way relationship requiring trust, love, support and understanding. In the course and trainings we listen to the speakers and read our workbooks about the major topics, but mainly we sit there in a circle on the floor and share experiences and thoughts, and we encourage one another. Because that is a large part of what it takes to be a good doula and a good companion. It is extremely uplifting and each month I become more and more excited about the idea of accompanying women through one of the biggest moments of their lives. And also for the day that I get to live that moment as well, hopefully in the presence of my own doula. I am understanding more and more the need to be accompanied, and seeing the beauty in it.

To continue with the accompaniment trend I am currently experiencing, about two months ago I attended a women’s weekend retreat, hoping to connect with nature, myself and other women on a more spiritual and holistic level. Surprise surprise, the focus of the weekend was accompaniment. The retreat was organized by a doula, and therefore it had an emphasis on how to accompany mothers and women in general. That said, the lessons I learned most definitely apply to everyone outside of that circle, mainly because the lessons were more within me.

It was a full weekend of very intimate, and at times uncomfortable, exercises and really honest conversation, while again sitting in a large circle. What came as a huge surprise was that I learned how much I fear letting someone step into my personal space. These strangers, these women. And then through them I came to realize how much I block out people wanting to get very close to me, with a special attention on men.

In addition, I realized that having many people around me didn’t necessarily mean the same thing as being accompanied. I’ve been living far from home and family for many years now, and have been single practically my whole life. So I guess you could say I’ve become quite independent. Perhaps too much. I do depend on my friends quite a lot, it’s true. But I’m talking about a different type of independence. One in which most of my actions are based on my own needs and desires. I hope that the doula studies and practice will help me overcome that, since it will require a lot of adaption to adjust to a mother’s needs and schedule. Just imagine a woman calling me in the middle of night with labor pains. I couldn’t really turn off the phone, or say I was busy!

I’m a people person, but I like my personal space. It’s like Johnny in Dirty Dancing, when he is teaching Baby how to dance properly and he grips her arms in such a way as to create a calculated space between them. He tells her, “Look, spaghetti arms. This is my dance space. This is your dance space. I don’t go into yours, you don’t go into mine. You gotta hold the frame.” I can’t think of any better way to explain it than this. I love to dance with people, but with a calculated space between us. And experience with dancing with men had showed me that whenever I went spaghetti on my partner, meaning I got soft and made myself vulnerable, then he stepped on my toes and danced away. Or vice versa. So I’ve been trying to hold the frame with more and more precision. Don’t let them in, keep it superficial, and you will be safe.

Now back to the women’s retreat. On Saturday night the organizers threw us a dance party. All the magical witch dancing instantly turned my strengthening frame into soppy noodles. I let my guard down in the presence and security of these 40 supportive (and topless) women. And right then, unannounced and arriving in a little blue convertible, waltzed right in…a man!

I just may be the only woman to meet a man at a women’s retreat. He was not actually part of the retreat, but had come as “entertainment” for the Saturday night, topless dance fever extravaganza. Imagine 40 hyper-sensual women feeling open and loose (I mean it more in the emotional way, but perhaps a bit in the physical sense as well). Then imagine three cute and fun guys showing up and being thrown in the mix. In the end I think they were more entertained than entertaining. To make an already long story just a wee bit shorter, after hours of dancing as a noodle, I somehow found myself curled up in a second set of big, strong noodle arms. There we were, laying on the floor of this old stone room decorated with colorful blankets and candles, with pictures of fairy-like women with flowing hair blue-tacked onto the walls. Next to us was a very endearing punki mother breastfeeding her adorable little boy, and on the other side a funny older women who laughed and mumbled to herself like a real witch in the dark corner. And we wrapped around each other for warmth on the cold floor under these colorful blankets listening to the pouring rain outside. I don’t know for certain what he was thinking, but I was thinking how comfortable I felt there in his arms, despite the strange circumstances. It just felt right.

Back in the reality of our non-forest-dwelling lives, nearly two months later, I am still feeling comfortable in his arms. But it’s difficult for me too. This whole getting comfortable bit. I am trying really hard to learn how to accompany, and to be accompanied, in this new and developing relationship. Each new step, each new emotion have me momentarily shaking from the inside out. What is particularly challenging is trying to find a balance between me, the independent girl I’ve been for so long, and this new woman I’m slowly becoming that now has to think about someone else all the time, whether I want to or not. In the doula course we learn that every woman is different and therefore it is important to allow each one make her own decisions, express her own thoughts and needs. One woman may prefer that her husband massages her back and another one cringes at the thought of being touched. And as a doula you need to adjust to her, to accompany the woman and her needs, and to be understanding. I think it is no different in a romantic relationship. Not everyone is the same, and I cannot expect this person to be like me, or to act or react in the same way as I do. Nor can he expect that of me. So we have to adapt a bit, and understand and respect each other’s needs.

I’ve surprised myself at how easily I’ve allowed this person to come into my personal space. And how much I love having him there. And he’s surprised me with his understanding when I suddenly freak out and straighten out my noodles into a tight frame between him and me when he gets too close. Space. And his understanding again when five minutes later I call him back in, slightly frenzied. He must get dizzy but he keeps walking towards me in a straight line. He’s cool like that.

It’s all a learning process I guess. I’m grateful for learning this new skill, accompaniment, which will not only help me to one day assist women through their pregnancies and birthing experiences, but that is right now also allowing me to experience something sweet that I’ve only seen in the movies or heard about from my friends. I guess thirty is better late than never.

There is something really attractive about not being tied down to any specific place, job, man, apartment, child, car payments or anything else. It is the way I’ve been living my life for the past eight years and I do not regret a single second of it. That said, and perhaps it’s the whole turning thirty thing again, but suddenly I have this enormous urge for the “S” Trinity: Stability, Security and Sex (I mean, Savings. I got distracted for a minute, sorry). That said, stable and secure sex wouldn’t be bad, either.

I assure you that my ties will be always be loosely fastened. I’m looking for stability, not to be cemented to the floor. There is a difference. Stability. Just something to justify why I continue to make Barcelona my home. Don’t get me wrong. I love this city. Barcelona has treated me finely over the years and until the past year has more or less provided me with everything I needed at the time. But when you are living ‘under the table’ in a country that for some reason won’t allow you to pay its taxes, despite how hard you beg and plead to do so, it is really hard to feel stable and secure. I want in!

Security. It is difficult to find a job and I have not had a source of stable income in years. If it were not for sweet, generous friends running successful businesses that do their best to give me some work here and there, I would have been shit out of luck many years ago! Work apart, it is unnerving to pass customs while traveling, for fear they will deport you. Which is a problem when you travel a lot! It doesn’t matter how many years the government extends the retirement age, since you don’t have social security to begin with. You can’t rent videos at the store or rent an apartment in your name. Someone tried to break into my house last year and I think, what if he had succeeded? What if I were robbed? Would I call the police and risk that they ask to see my papers? I’m not sure.

Savings. What’s that? I think I have some change at the bottom of my purse or a drawer somewhere…

I have thought a lot about leaving Barcelona over the past couple of years. These past six months, in particular, I’ve been brainstorming my exit route and options. But, as usual, once you decide to leave a place you really start to appreciate the things you love about it. And I’ve realized these past couple of months that I do really love Barcelona and my life here. I feel so healthy and alive most of the time. I love the schedule and the way that food is the center of everything. I love walking and biking to get from point A to point B. And having it be socially acceptable to arrive late. The sun is usually shining. I love that the butcher calls me guapa as he hacks away at carnage. I love that I had my tonsils removed and was kept in a hospital for four days and never received a bill. I love that old women stroll by arm in arm and still walk up five flights of stairs in their old age. Keeps them strong! I love that the sea is just a few blocks from my house, and amazing countryside is just a short train ride away. I love that even though I’m far from home, I get so many visitors because this city is amazing and people want to come here! This list could go on and on and on.

So. I’m thinking that if I were able to achieve two out of the three components of my “S Trinity” I could justify staying a while longer. If I had to pick two, I’d take Security and Savings. But how much longer can I wait for that to happen? I’m willing to give it a bit more time, but maybe not too much longer. In the meantime, I’m just going to try to love loving this city and perhaps the city will reciprocate that love and provide me with what I need to stay here.

Barcelona, I love to hate you at times, but really I love to love you. Help me out here. Throw me a bone, in the form of a “S” please. Thank you.