“Mission from the Universe” Part 3: Be Open

201608089 5 Days Blog Photo New Fonts(Click HERE to read Part 1Click HERE to read Part 2)

So, what am I supposed to do with my life?

That is a question I’ve been asking myself since I was a teenager.

I get increasingly frustrated by the answer that comes immediately to mind:

I DON’T KNOW.

Mr. Hand calling out Jeff Spicoli in Fast Times at Ridgemont High for his tardiness is funny: “’Mr. Hand, will I pass this class?’ Gee, Mr. Spicoli, I don’t know!”

I know you want to watch that scene right now, so click here to watch it on YouTube.

Like I said, Mr. Hand is funny.

My soul and my being not knowing what my purpose is for so long?

Not so much.

Throughout every stage of my life, while I might not have had a gut instinct as to what my purpose was, I’ve at least had goals or an outline of what I wanted to accomplish. I adapted to change, made the best of bad situations, and learned as I went along.

I’ve been successful in my careers, both present and past.  I am extremely grateful for the opportunities I have had, the skills I have mastered, the knowledge I have learned, and the lessons I have been taught by pretty much everyone who has been a part of my journey so far.

Despite all of that, I still feel that there’s something more I should be doing.

So the question remains:

What am I supposed to do with my life?

This feeling of floundering was evident in my word for 2015: DIRECTION.

Yes, I did find some direction. The fact that you are reading this is proof of that, as SoulSEAker was created to help me find my way.

This year, I chose the word DETERMINED as my word of the year. As all good little bloggers and writers do in this age of Zen, Mindfulness, and Intent, I penned a list of 6 personal goals I hoped, rather I was DETERMINED to accomplish.

Afterwards, I really thought about each one of those goals, and this is the first time I am admitting this:

I was full of shit.

Coming up with strategies and lists and doing things I don’t enjoy, just to say I accomplished what I set out to do, is asinine and a complete waste of my time.

Let alone I already have difficulty with daily responsibilities and tasks because of my health, now I was devising goals I didn’t believe in to take up more of that time I spoke of yesterday, time that I vow not to waste anymore?

What the hell was wrong with me?

I guess that since I’ve always had goals and outlines, I thought I HAD to have them.

Then it hit me.

With a rigid goal or plan, I am not open to new ideas or new avenues of discovery, which might lead me to what my purpose truly is. I’m just checking off boxes on a list, and the reward is that I can say I was, in fact, DETERMINED. I can then buy myself a trophy and take myself out to a celebratory meal at Roy Rogers. Big deal.

I’m not promoting irresponsibility at all here, and I in no way mean to belittle the importance of being determined. I’m not knocking mindfulness or intentions, either, as I believe in both. Sometimes true experiences are concealed by buzzwords and media chatter.

Rather, for the first time in my life, I saw the importance of just letting things happen as they do.

I abandoned my strategies and checklists, and became OPEN to what the year will bring me instead.

Once I did, life became less stressful and so much more enjoyable.

OPEN. The perfect word for me.

Then something happened.

I noticed the first “sign,” so to speak, shortly after declaring OPEN to be my new word.

Then the next appeared.

Then another.

The forces of the universe, in definite cahoots with SHE, are having a lot of fun at my expense, and I’m absolutely loving every minute of it.

It’s like a trail of breadcrumbs, one after another, and I’m the bird eating each crumb with excitement.

Some signs point in one direction, some in another. Some are obvious, while others are hidden. The meanings and connections are both easy and hard to decipher at the same time.

There’s a new sign every day, sometimes five or more. I’m open to seeing them, to finding them, to adding each to my web of connections.

And man, for someone who always hated puzzles and guessing games, it’s been ex-hil-ar-ating!!!!

Being OPEN is helping me to further find my DIRECTION. Not a plan, not a goal…just being OPEN.

I still don’t know what the purpose of my life is, and I don’t know why I am going to Dublin.

But for the first time in my life, I’m okay with I DON’T KNOW. Ironically, not knowing has brought joy to my soul and to my heart.

I think Mr. Hand would appreciate that. I know Spicoli would.

Stay tuned for Part 4: The Web of Connections tomorrow.

Something to SEA: Celebrating SoulSEAker’s First Birthday

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Exactly one year ago, I published my first post here on SoulSEAker, thus beginning my online writing life. Looking back, the year was filled with ups and downs, laughter and tears, but what’s most important is how much I have grown over the last 365 days.

I definitely am still “sea”king my soul. That is something I will never be able to cross off my “to do” list, because I will be continually evolving as a human being until my last breath here on Earth.

I thought it would be an easier process to find who I am and what I am meant to do, figuring the answers would just come. No, sir. By being present each day, by leaving the past in the past and living for the present moment, instead of a final product of who I am emerging, an ever-changing version of myself greets each new day.

And I’m totally okay with that.

The most important lesson I have learned over the last year is to be OPEN. I earmarked the word “determined” to be my word of 2016, but have changed it to OPEN for many reasons. While I have accomplished many of my goals for not only 2016 but also for my 45th year, one thing is certain: I must be OPEN to the new directions on my life map that are continually appearing each day.

What the end result will be I don’t know, but I am determined to be OPEN and to see what each sign, each clue, and each day brings. These new directions will result in a revising of my year and my life goals when the time is right. And when the time is right, I know I will abandon fear by taking a leap of faith and doing what’s right for my soul, my heart, and me. It’s coming. I not only feel it, I know it.

I believe the next year will be filled with excitement, new beginnings, and life-changing experiences because I will put my soul first, no matter what.

I can’t even imagine what I will be writing about or looking back on when I pen a post for SoulSEAker’s second birthday, but whatever I write, I know my soul will be content.

Many thanks to you for sharing my journey over the past year. You are what give my words a purpose, and I hope that I’ve been able to reassure and inspire you. Special thanks to my regular followers C.M., D.C., M.W., R.C., S.T., C.T., M.M., D.K., L.F., S.T., K.C., R.Y., B.K., E.H., D.S., M.B., and M.E.

To help guide my writing, I’d appreciate you taking a brief reader survey, which can be accessed by clicking anywhere in this sentence. It will only take a few minutes and you can remain anonymous. Many, many thanks in advance.

Happy First Birthday to SoulSEAker!

With my utmost respect and gratitude,

Jill

Something to SEA: My “Living 45” List

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As you probably already know, I started an annual tradition last year of listing 10 things I want to accomplish within my birthday year.  The decision to make this list stemmed from deciding to live versus watching life pass me by. After much thought and careful consideration, I present to you my list of things I intend to accomplish while I am 45:

  1. Watch a sunrise in all 4 seasons
  2. Learn to surf by taking lessons with my niece
  3. See at least 2 new places a month. These places are on my “hope to visit” list: Grounds for Sculpture, the Liberty bell, the NJ Balloon festival, Red Bank, 9-11 Reflection Pool/Memorial/Museum, Sea Girt Lighthouse, Hereford Inlet Lighthouse, Old Barracks, Belford Docks, Tuckerton Seaport, Sayen Gardens, NJ Vintage Automobile Museum (it’s right here in town!)
  4. Finish writing two books
  5. Walk across the Brooklyn Bridge
  6. See The Cure in June at MSG
  7. Have firm plans to travel to Ireland and/or Iceland by the end of 2017
  8. Go to the Point Pleasant Beach Grand Prix powerboat weekend and race
  9. Take each one of my 3 nephews and niece on a “mystery day” with Auntie Jill, and spend time with each and make them laugh a million times throughout the year
  10. LIVE! Just life and enjoy life without taking it too seriously. Included here will be trips to Six Flags, hopefully a NY Yankees game, return visits to other special places, laughing with friends, etc.

I will be making this list a stand-alone category in my menus.  I plan on updating my progress throughout the year, so please check back!

If you’d like to see my 44th year List and Stats, please click anywhere in this sentence.

 

365 Days Later…

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…is now over.

Effective today, I am now 45.

365 days ago I turned 44, and I started blogging at what I called Living 44, which was a way for me to write about what I accomplished during the year (including 10 specific goals).  SoulSEAker morphed out of Living 44 and will be my blogging focus from today forward.

My 44th year was different in many ways.  Sure, I endured happiness and sadness, laughter and tears, but we all do.  It’s part of life.  However, turning 44 was the first time in over a decade that I actually looked forward not only to my birthday, but to the year as a whole.  I embraced each day and tried my best to be positive, albeit difficult at times.  I began a Gratitude journal, which has given me an appreciation for things I formerly took for granted.  I began writing again, both professionally and for myself, and I found my voice, the voice that has been missing for far too long.

I found inspiration through Susannah Conway, Elizabeth Gilbert, Mallika Chopra, and others; as a result, I aim to inspire others the way these wonderful people inspire me.

Most of all, I shared many memories with treasured family and friends.  Instead of sitting at home by myself and living vicariously through others, I chose to see new places and to make memories.  At times, I had to scale back and take it easy due to Lupus and Fibromyalgia.  Sometimes it was tough to manage my symptoms and plug along, but I did the best I could.  I still do the best I can every day, and some days are better than others.  Regardless, each day is a gift, one which I value and welcome with open arms, no matter what.

I accomplished most of my 10 Things I Wanted to do While 44 (list at the bottom), and then some.

Here’s my 44th Year in Facts and Statistics:

Number of new places I saw: 42

Number of mystery trips with my niece and nephews:  6. I began a tradition of spending the day with each of my 3 nephews and niece, just the 2 of us, destination a secret.  My niece’s surprise days were to Ron Jon’s in LBI and to the Statue of Liberty/Ellis Island.  My nephew’s secret trip was to Six Flags Great Adventure.  The 3 of us went to Six Flags two more times, and we all have season passes, so next year will be filled with fun trips.  Perhaps I will conquer my fear of Nitro and other big rollercoasters…we will see.  On the other side of the family, I took my 4-year-old nephew to the aquarium, rides, and to dinner 3 times this year.  We enjoyed our special dates very much.  I have a few places in mind for each’s mystery trip this year…places they will never be able to guess!

Number of Yankees Home Games I attended:  2

Number of times I saw the Core 4 in person:  1

Number of places I went with my treasured friend C: 22

Number of presentations I gave at conferences:  2

Number of GSSPA meetings I attended: 7 plus two conferences

Number of photos I took: More than 20,000

Number of weddings I attended as a guest:  2

Number of weddings I photographed:  0

Favorite Summer Song: I Can’t Feel My Face

Favorite Toy I Bought: My stuffed dinosaur named Monk

Number of times I made work friends laugh:  too many to count

Number of times I saw “Star Wars VII: The Force Awakens”: 4. The best was on opening night (actually, the night before opening night) with my brother.

Number of times I went to Six Flags Great Adventure:  4

Number of Monarch Butterflies I raised from caterpillars and released:  17

Favorite Book I read:  Big Magic by Elizabeth Gilbert

Number of surgeries:  1

Number of things removed during surgery: 3

Most played artists on my playlists:  311 and The Cure

Number of postcards I mailed:  226

Number of postcards I received:  237

Number of Seinfeld references I made on a daily basis:  At least 3

Favorite Winter Song:  Adventure of a Lifetime by Coldplay

Favorite Sound: the laughter of my niece and nephews

Favorite Christmas Gifts:  My Jedi Alex and Ani bracelet and my 13” Boba Fett talking figure from my husband

Town/Local Events I Attended:  Earth Day Celebration, Memorial Day ceremony, Seafood Festival, Car Cruise, Xmas Tree Lighting, Chowderfest, Wings of Freedom Tour, NJ Run for the Fallen, Manasquan Offshore Grand Prix, Postcard Show

Places I Ate:  Frankie’s, Shrimp Box, St. Stephen’s Green, Mastoris, Shore Point BBQ, Olive Garden, Revolution Café, Cool Beans, Applebees, Turning Point, Lubrano’s, Surf Taco, Bubbakoo’s, Five Guys, Lava Java, Wharfside, Luigi’s, Emilio’s, 709, Asbury Festahus & Biergarten, River Belle, Holiday Inn Manahawkin, Holiday Inn Clark, Toms River Hotel, IHOP, Max Brenner’s Chocolate Bar, Tom’s Restaurant, The Dublin House, Chipotle, Winward Tavern, OB Diner, Brick Diner, Chef Mickey’s, Hollywood and Vine, Biergarten (Epcot), The Wave, Cape May Café, TRex Restaurant

People Who Passed Who Left Footprints In My Heart and In My Journey:  Roscoe, Tom S., Neighbor Lorraine, Neighbor Mike, Melvin, Denasia, Kesse, Scott

Some of my favorite memories:  Disney, Deepak with Hannah, the Manasquan Offshore Grand Prix, grave hunting and NYC with C, starting the Hawks Hall of Honor, Yankees games, eating at Tom’s Diner, picking a quart of blueberries a day for about two weeks this summer from our bushes, getting the waves around my ankle, writing Boro Kids, starting SoulSEAker, getting tickets to see The Cure this June with some pretty awesome people, spending time with family and friends, Teacher of the Year celebrations, walks with Laura, laughing with Jen, And Then LIFE Happened, laughter in the Batcave, and any time spent with the 4 most special people in my life, my niece and nephews.

Here’s a short slideshow of memories made during my 44th year. Thank you to everyone who played a part, no matter how big or small, in my 44th year.  I will continue enjoying each day even more during my 45th year.  My 45 list is forthcoming…until then, I am going to enjoy celebrating the 20th anniversary of my 25th birthday.  This year will be like no other.  45 Alive…here I come!

 

Living 44: My Goal List, as published on February 13, 2015 – one day into my 44th year: There were a lot of great ideas about things to do during my 44th year, as suggested by friends, family, students, and colleagues.  This is my final Living 44 Goal List and notes about each goal.  I think I did pretty good.

1.  Go to Central Park and see Strawberry Fields. COMPLETED on 12/7/15.

2. Go to the State of Liberty and look out of the crown. COMPLETED on 8/12/15.

3.  Do 3 things I never did before.  COMPLETED! 1:  Meditation (March).  2: Yoga (June).  3:  Hear an author lecture (February-Deepak Chopra).

4.  Sit at the Inlet for a day and photograph all of the boats that come in and out.  COMPLETED on July 10, 2015!

5.  Get my passport stamped at least once, or have travel plans that will have it stamped in 2016.  KIND OF.  This one, so far, did not happen and I’m okay with it, since my husband and I went to Disney together in November, which was a surprise and time just for us.  Our trip meant more to me than seeing someplace needing a passport.  But wait…we DID have a passport for Epcot’s Food and Wine Festival.  SO I DID ACCOMPLISH THIS GOAL!  🙂

6.  Go to a Yankees game:  COMPLETED on May 9, 2015!

7.  Go to Grounds for Sculpture.  This one did not happen, and I’m okay with it.  I have seen so many other new places this year in place of Grounds for Sculpture that I’m happy.  Perhaps I’ll make it there during my 45th year.

8.  Watch the fireworks on July 4th.    It’s been a long time since I have done this. COMPLETED on July 4, 2015!

9.  Watch a sunrise during each of the 4 seasons: COMPLETED!  Spring:  Completed on April 6, 2015.  Summer: Completed on August 2, 2015.  Autumn:  Completed on November 27, 2015.  Winter: Completed on January 26, 2016.

10.  See 3 new places a month.  95% COMPLETED!  New places for March: Ron Jon’s in LBI, Surf City 5 and 10, St. Stephen’s Publik House in Spring Lake.  New places for April:  Flatiron District in NYC, Strand Bookstore in NYC, Heritage Park in Allentown, NJ.  New Places for May:  The Record store in Howell, NJ, Yankee Stadium, D-Train Subway in NYC.  New Places for June:  Due to medical appointments, surgery, and recovery, I was unable to attain this goal for June; however, I did go to Six Flags Great Adventure on a school trip, and Jenkinson’s Aquarium and the rides with my nephew (awesome places, just not new places).  New Places for July: Turning Point, Shore Points BBQ, Lava Java, Cattus Island County Park, Atlantic City Aquarium, Absecon Lighthouse, Lucy the Elephant, Panda Express. New Places for August: Monmouth Battlefield, NJ Vietnam Memorial & Museum, Smithville, Topanemus Burying Ground, Middletown Church.  New Places for September:  Surf Taco (Manasquan), Winward Tavern, Crown & Anchor Tattoo.  New Places for October: Seaside Park Beach at 4 Street, Frightfest, Chowderfest.  New Places for November: Stroudsburg PA, Hot Dog Johnny’s, Chef Mickey’s.  New Places for December: Asbury Festhaus and Biergarten, Tom’s Restaurant, Central Park, Book Culture.  New Places for January: Marquee Cinemas, Monmouth University Polling Institute, RWJ Hospital, Plastic Surgery Center in Shrewsbury (last 2 are due to husband’s surgery..lame, yes, but nonetheless are new places). February: Count Basie Theater, the Dublin House.

44 Thanks

What will your verse be?

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We are standing on the horizon of a new year’s birth.

It’s time to say goodbye to regret, to bitterness, to suffering, and to negativity.

It’s time to say hello to living, to positivity, to happiness, and to enjoyment.

It’s time to make GOOD memories with those we cherish, complete with smiles and with laughter.

It’s time to accomplish that goal we have had for years, the one that just keeps collecting dust in the corner.

As Walt Whitman wrote,

YOU ARE HERE.

LIFE EXISTS, AND IDENTITY.

THE POWERFUL PLAY GOES ON.

AND YOU MAY CONTRIBUTE A VERSE.

So, the question is my friend,

What will your verse be?

I can guarantee you that my verse for 2016 will be filled with awesomeness.

Why?  Because…

I AM HERE.

My life exists.

I see my identity.

And I will contribute my verse with enthusiasm, dedication, and most of all, determination.

The time is now.  Make it happen.

Let Robin Williams’ character John Keating fill you with inspiration with Whitman’s words as we explode into 2016.

Happy New Year, friend!

Until next year,

Jill

What Will YOur Verse Be Full Square

Something to SEA: Thank You, 2015

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Hello friends!  It’s pretty hard to believe, but the time has come to say goodbye to another calendar year.

However, this one is different.

For the first time I can remember, I’m not bitter towards the year that’s about to end.  2015 wasn’t all that bad.  Sure, it was a year of adjustment for me, along with everyone in my family, as we got through the first full year without my father or father in law.  I did experience a good amount of work-related stress, which affected (and is still affecting) my Lupus and Fibromyalgia symptoms.  There were some low points at times, times of frustration that made me want to bang my head against a wall.

But overall, 2015 was a pretty good year.

It marked the first year in a long time that I decided to celebrate my birthday and say YES to life.

It was the year my words finally broke free, as I began SoulSEAker, as well as a number of other writing projects.

It was the year that I made tons of memories with my niece and nephews:  taking H to the aquarium and boardwalk three times, including once for the Sea of Lights; taking N to his first Six Flags experience and riding Skull Mountain 16 times in one day; taking E to Ron Jon’s in LBI for her birthday; taking N and E to Frightfest and to Holiday in the Park at Six Flags Great Adventure (and giving them season passes for 2016 for Christmas…perhaps I’ll conquer Nitro after all in 2016…after all, I got N to conquer Batman the Ride); and taking N and E on “Operation Christmas Tree Hunt 2015,” where I mapped out Christmas trees in local businesses, and we went into each business and took a picture with the tree…grand total:  50 trees in 3 hours, and a successful mission for Agent 101, Agent 202, and Agent 303.  Fireworks cruises, going to Target and the Comic Book store, going to the park, and more.  I hope that E, N, H, and I, the 4 most special people in my life, know how much I love them.  I’m a very lucky Auntie.

Instead of being a homebody, I got out there in 2015 and saw a number of pretty awesome places, many for the first time ever, with cherished friends and family: Flatiron Building & Strand Bookstore in New York City, Yankee Stadium (2 games!), Lucy the Elephant, Absecon Lighthouse, Strawberry Fields in Central Park, Columbia University Campus, New Jersey Vietnam Memorial and Museum, Monmouth Battlefield, many old cemeteries as I researched for an article I wrote, Mastoris, Tom’s Restaurant (the diner from Seinfeld), Walnford Park, Heritage Park in Allentown (NJ), Six Flags Great Adventure (4 times!), the boardwalk and aquarium right here in town, Cape May, Times Square/Rockefeller Center, Long Beach Island, Atlantic City Aquarium, Cattus Island Park, Hot Dog Johnny’s, Asbury Festhaus and Biergarten.  In addition, a 5-day clandestine getaway to Disney in November was a very special time with my husband.  We put ourselves first for once, and I’m so glad we did.

Besides the Disney trip, my favorite memory was seeing “Star Wars Episode VII: The Force Awakens” with my brother on opening night, which was Thursday 12/17/2015.  From getting on line 2 hours early with my Boba Fett sweatshirt on, to sitting in the theater for more than 90 minutes just filled with excitement and anticipation (as was every other person there), to shared laughs and gasps, applause and tears, it was one of the most memorable experiences in my life.  Growing up “Star Wars” together, I couldn’t think of a better person to share the experience with than my brother.  I’m seeing it again today, and again in January with work friends…and probably a few more times after that!

2015 was the year I finally found my “direction.”  Direction was my word for the year, and I felt completely lost in early January of 2015.  But I am not lost any more.  It feels good to be on the right path and know I am worthy and I have a purpose…finally.

Deciding to live during my 44th year is the best decision I ever made.  I still have a few goals to cross off my original list, which you can see here, but I still have a little over a month until I am no longer 44.  Living 44 was my first writing focus that I shared as a blog, and was the precursor to SoulSEAker.

I am grateful for all of the wonderful gifts that 2015 gave me, most of all stronger bonds with my family and friends. I am also proud that I finally found the gumption to put my health conditions and symptoms at the forefront of every decision I make.  I’ve learned that it’s okay to say NO and to decide my course of action based upon MY health, not based upon the agenda of others.

I recently saw a post that read, “I’m not the same person I was when 2015 began.”  That’s true for me, and I am relieved to (for once) be facing a new year with positivity and optimism, versus sadness and dread.

I also have been seeing snarky posts on social media mocking the idea of becoming a better person with the new year.  Mock me all you want, but I am DETERMINED to become a better person simply by choosing to live and by accomplishing the goals I have set for 2016 (which I will write about tomorrow).  I can take your jabs and your insults, and if you feel better about yourself by making fun of me, go right ahead.  I am glad I can help improve your self esteem.  Not being snarky here…seriously.  I am glad I could help.

What is your favorite memory from 2015?  I’d love to know!  Please share in the comments section.

Until tomorrow,

Jill

 

 

 

 

Something to SEA: Rainy Day Clicks for 12/26/2015

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And just like that, it’s Christmas past.  I have been doing a lot of reflecting and preparing for the new year, anticipating great things and creating a vision for myself.  This week’s roundup of links include several sites to prepare for 2016, including my favorite from Susannah Conway.

In the coming week, I will be sharing my own reflections about 2015, as well as my word and vision for 2016.

I hope you have the chance to spend the last days of 2015 making memories with people you care about, and that your heart is filled with serenity, peace, and excitement for a new year.

Susannah Conway’s Unravelling the Year Ahead – 2016

Danielle Dowling’s “Make It Happen Yearly 2016”

Reflection Worksheet from Holstee

Tiny Buddha’s 365 Tiny Love Challenges – one a day for the new year

Journaling Exercise: End of Year Reflections

A Year With Rumi (not free but worth checking out)

Deepak Chopra’s Personal Goals for the New Year

If you ever doubt that you can make a difference, see what Elizabeth Gilbert, Brene Brown, Cheryl Strayed, Rob Bell and Glennon Doyle Melton accomplished in less than 48 hours with The Compassion Collective…and why not make a small donation like I did?

You can never see too many Surfing Santas

The White Envelope – put this idea in your 2016 December “To Do” file!

2015 Highlights from Nomadic Pursuits

Xavi’s Mozzarella Stuffed Meatballs recipe from my friend Keith over at The Kitchen Palatable

What makes a good life?  Lessons from the Longest Study on Happiness – a Ted Talk from Robert Waldinger (thanks Cortland for sharing!)

2015 Best of Star Wars Light Show – worth the 5 minute watch! Awesome!

and finally,

Danielle LaPorte’s #Truthbomb App is free through 12/27/15 (tomorrow).  Get it now!

Looking forward to sharing my reflections and vision with you this week!

Until next time,

Jill