zen in the art of adventure
In ten days our B&B season begins.
Soon I will be finishing up the homemade bread and putting marmalade into little pots, cutting fruit and serving cheese. Pouring hot coffee. I will be doing what innkeepers always do everywhere - making it comfortable, keeping it clean, hoping it's nice enough that everyone will be happy.
The past three weeks have been about clearing out the winter. There was an entire section of our property that needed exterior painting, so we took that on, staining the plaster, stretching and climbing. We are sewing and touching up paint and rehanging art. There is so much ritual involved with style conscious innkeeping. There is rhythm and there are chores. Before the season starts it's about setting the stage. During the season we focus on maintaining standards and trying out new breakfasts. After the season we think about getting enough rest and reflecting about what to do the next year. The whole process is infused in creativity if one wants things to continuously improve.
Our bed and breakfast is the result of embracing a life of adventure.
It's our goal to bring a piece of everything we have ever learned into this house. Our plates are made by hand and so is the art and the food. It's not what I would term a five star experience. It's a five pillow experience. It should be a soft place to land, a place to rejuvenate. To be able to write and to sleep and to use as a base from which to try the food and wine and to see the natural and historic beauty of Italy.
Embracing adventure does not happen overnight.
You don't wake up one morning and say, "I think I'll go to Italy and open a bed and breakfast." Embracing adventure means following detours in the well-beaten path and not being satisfied and trying new things. It means being scared and still moving forward. It's how you look at events that propel you to think in different ways and how you recognize possibilities that you didn't know existed before.
Embracing adventure is scoffing at the odds.
Many years ago I had graduated from college and was living in suburban Philadelphia. I had to take the bus to the subway every morning, and then the subway through West Philadelphia to Market Street to get to work at a big insurance company. I was doing it for about a year when one very hot June day, I thought to myself with complete clarity, I cannot do this forever and survive. I looked around the train and thought that I was the odd man out. No one seemed to be having the same kind of thoughts as I had. But then again, when you're young, you can't read the fine lines in people's faces. I am sure there was enough desperation on that train to go around. I would like to know what destiny waited my fellow passengers between then and now. It would be interesting to find out.
Getting from that SEPTA subway train to making pots and entertaining guests on this hill halfway across the world has been a great adventure - one that has led me to do things I had never considered, face parts of myself I never really wanted to look at, and to accept that this is a path awarded very few. I never would of thought I would beat the odds and do something so individual. I never would have guessed it was in my character, but I must have been wrong, because embracing adventure at every turn, however unlikely, is exactly what I did.
Embracing adventure means starting out with a plan.
It does not mean not being grounded or not working or being irresponsible. It's about taking whatever means you have and making something out of those means that suits you, supports you financially and gives you pleasure. That might mean never quitting your day job, if your day job pleases you. It might mean going part time and pursuing training in another field. It might mean saving your pennies and then taking the plunge.
Embracing adventure means allowing things to evolve.
Hence the involvement of zen in the art of adventure. This is tough to do if we are resistant to change. But the course of adventure changes constantly. Births, deaths, a change in your health or financial situation can and will alter your path, as they should. Being brave dictates not allowing your fears to cause you to pull back from changes as they occur. Changes occur for reasons that we cannot comprehend as they are happening. If we are smart, and open, and remain vulnerable, we'll grasp the full effect and meaning of events down the road aways. Which brings me to the next point.
Embracing adventure means accepting what is.
This is the part of adventure that is the most difficult for me: accepting and surrendering to what is. I spend way too much time resisting, mostly out of the fear of things not being good enough, of not being good enough myself. So this is where I am now, learning this lesson of choosing a different path. It's where I should be.
Embracing adventure is not about a particular lifestyle.
It's not about being an expatriate living on a hill in Dijon raising heirloom mustard plants or climbing K2 with ten sherpas. It's not about being an internet guru who makes ten grand a month while claiming to work an hour a day. It's about taking your life and allowing change to manifest into an individual path that suits your personality and goals. It's no more, and definitely no less, than that.
It's about allowing yourself to dream.
If there were a prerequisite for living an adventurous life, it would be the capacity to dream. If the thought of dreaming scares you because you are afraid to be disappointed if you think big, you need to revisit that. What would this world be if it weren't for the dreamers? The Vincent Van Goghs and the Gertrude Steins and the Robert Mapplethorpes and the Martin Luther Kings? It would be a flat, black and white, rote place with no depth and no color. Dreamers bring thought to life. Dreamers have a way of doing the seemingly impossible. Will you get disappointed or make mistakes? Of course you will. Will those things stop you? Not if you don't let them. They might alter your course, change your perspective, but once you start seeking adventure, you really can't be stopped.
The universe will conspire to bring you where you need to be.
And today, it is here, reading this post. Take it. Embrace this post and your own sense of adventure. I send you my love and my blessings.
It's time to get back to cleaning now.
Note: In the following weeks, I'm starting a new series entitled
Nice Girls Who Think Big.
I'll be interviewing prominent women with self-made, creative careers who embraced their own sense of adventure and made their own dreams come true - without sacrificing kindness or compassion or their sense of vulnerability.
We will be having give-away contests and answering your questions! So stay tuned!