It is very chilly today in North Jersey and something funky is going on with our heat. And by something funky I mean it isn’t turning on. Fortunately, because it’s a super old house, the pipes that heat my upstairs neighbors run through our floor, and since those are incredibly hot, they warm our apartment at the same time. If they weren’t doing this, the cats, pipes, and I would be frozen ice cubes. I would go join my upstairs neighbors (as they are lovely people), but alas, they are in Costa Rica. The irony that I am freezing my buns off and mooching off their heated pipes as they lay on a hot beach, is very much not lost on me. Luckily, I’m spending most of the day at work where it is nice and toasty due to a functional furnace the frenetic angst of middle schoolers.
My neighbors are some of the many people on Facebook who have made the brilliant choice to jump ship this January and head for sunnier shores. Other than the obvious factors of money and responsibility, I’m not sure why we didn’t also find a way to leave town. Coming back after the holidays is a bit like crawling out of the warm covers in the morning when you know your slippers and hoody are across a very chilly room. If I could have returned to school wrapped in a comforter, I would have. To be fair, last year at this time, I spent most of my time at my desk wrapped in a Snuggie. Because I am an adult.
But alas, no matter how much I begrudge the pictures of warm feet on hot sandy beaches (usually flanked by cocktails), I am not going to magically wake up on a tropical island tomorrow. And so my only option is to make the best of January, and find that Cape May State of Mind I long for this time of year.
A few years back, I took one Intensati class with a friend of mine. It’s amazing how many times that one class comes up in blog posts. It was a good one. One thing we spoke about were desired mindsets- not desired life changes, necessarily, (because so many of those are out of our control) but mindsets–these are much more malleable. The instructor asked us to pinpoint the part of our lives that caused us the most stress. For me at the time, this was money. She then said to imagine that our particular issue was solved. 100% gone. It felt like such a tease — a mean trick to play on my brain. I knew when I came out of it I would still be taking a free workout class and going back to a bowl of rice a beans in a moldy apartment. But I gave it a try. Okay. Money issues are gone. I don’t have to think about where my bills are coming from or how to buy groceries. She she said to take a look at how this felt. What changed in your body? And even more importantly, what else did you brain make space for without the worry in its usual place?
This reminds me a bit like those NY Lottery ads, but instead, you don’t actually have to win the lottery to have these footloose and fancy free ideas.
As cruel as this imagination game felt, she had a great point. I did instantly begin thinking about things I never had the room to consider. I had no idea how much I longed to get back into class, I felt how much I tensed my back, and I generally felt less full of self-pity. Playing this imagination game took practice, but the slow changes that occurred allowed me to make financial independence a reality.
Now I know you’ve heard it all before, the fake it until you make it mantras are all over motivation posters on Facebook. But the specificity of this exercise was eye-opening to me. That “magic if” of financial independence had a lot to do with my planting the seeds for my actual financial independence.
Which brings me to a larger challenge–finding the beach mindset. Each year when we go to Cape May, I sit there half the time wondering how I can spend more of my life by the warm sea. In a magical world, I am someday paid for my writing and I grab a towel, a beach umbrella, and my laptop and call it a summer. I may be working full-time on the beach, but hell, I’m on the beach. I know this is unlikely in the near future, and in reality, could get old quickly. But what I do wish for is a way to bottle up that vacation energy, and to mimic the headspace that comes along with the first few days of escaping the monotony of winter.
And so for tonight, I am going to take some time to figure out what that headspace actually entails, the same way I studied what it felt like not to worry about money. I know, just sitting here, that vacation to me means I do not have to think about immediate responsibilities. Since that is clearly not true when you are living your life, this game has to be more about matching that feeling opposed to actually dropping everything and everyone that depends on you. It also can’t mean getting lazy and letting go of standards. And yet I would love to feel like the monotony of my day-to-day activities are not draining my energy. Again, it’s all a mind game that takes time. But a worthwhile one to try out, yes? If over time, even amongst the toughest days, we have a bit of that beach-brain to venture into the January tundra, I feel that is worth the months of meditation to get there. Also, I feel like everyone would be a little more enthusiastic about seeing each other, and even more generous–the way you feel just before a holiday break.
Ideally, in the end, I won’t need a life on the beach to find that happy place. There isn’t a ton of theatre on the beach itself, and so staying there all the time would not actually be super productive. But small steps toward this vacation brain may not only free us from longing to be somewhere else half the time, but also eliminate the resentment toward those that can travel whenever they please.
Feel free to post your own beach photos for inspiration, and stay warm out there today.