“30 Days New” – Days 20-26

So many days, so many “News” 

I truly lost track of my “News” this week while hosting guests. I did not manage a “New” each and everyday, which was “New” for me! But I am happy to say that by not holding myself to strict a standard while spending time with my wonderful friends, my week was much more relaxing! Cutting myself some slack on a public commitment was “New” for me, and easier than expected because the pay off was so rewarding – fun with friends!

One friend was visiting from abroad and another from Colorado. I met both while serving in the United States Peace Corps from 2006-2009 in the country of Macedonia. Oddly enough, because of her travels to the U.S. and mine to Macedonia, I have seen my Macedonian friend many more times than my American Peace Corps pal!  It has been nine years since we all have gotten together, so coordinating their visit was a definite  “New”.

One of the joys of reuniting was realizing and talking about how lucky we were to have met. It is astounding to consider all of the twists and turns our individual lives took to connect us originally and the many choices we have made to keep in contact since we first separated nine years ago.

Nine years laterTo celebrate gathering again, we recreated a photo we took in the tiny, remote village of Dupeni, Macedonia, which was one of the last times we were all together. Recreating a photo was another “New” for me! My husband very patiently juggled our phones until we agreed that one of the many, many new photos he took was flattering enough for all three of us – thank you, Dan! Our quiet, peaceful Long Island backyard was the setting for our new photo; we agreed it had some of the same relaxing characteristics of my friend grandparents’ villa in Dupeni, and also agreed we should not wait another nine years to gather again – somewhere in the world.

One line a dayAnother “New” this week was learning from my American friend about her “One Line A Day” habit, which began with the gift of a five year journal in which you simply write “One Line A Day.” She has passed the one year mark in hers, so she is now enjoying having past year thoughts at her fingertips as she adds her new ones. She shared some of the insights she has gained from writing and comparing her thoughts from year to year, which inspired me to buy a similar book. As soon as it arrives, I plan to start a new way of journaling – “One Line a Day”, which will be “New” for me.

A foot injury kept me on Long Island this week as my friends headed into New York City on the train for a day of sightseeing. Admitting I could not join them was tough and a “New” for me, I usually push myself no matter the circumstance. But as their plans solidified, I knew I had made the right choice, and I smiled throughout the day, knowing I was comfy, cozy at home and doing the right thing. Smiling about a limitation was definitely “New” for me!

Teddys PorchAnother “New” this week involved a fashion choice – not the most earth shattering “New” but stepping out of my comfort zone into a seersucker dress was “New” for me. The dress will not make it into my regular summer rotation – it’s a little too old school for me, but I was happy I gave it a try, and have lots of photos commemorating it’s debut! Here is one of us relaxing on Teddy Roosevelt’s front porch at Sagamore Hills. Posting the photo is another “New” – it is not my most flattering photo, but the moment and circumstances surrounding it make it special to me and sweet to share.

This very special “New” is from a wonderful friend and Wishful Thinking Works reader, who shared how “30 Days New” inspired her to develop “News” of her own. I love her “News” and the fun she is having creating them:

I have loved reading your “30 Days New”. I haven’t managed it every day, but I definitely made a start. 1) I learned to make goat kefir 2) learned to make kombucha 3) learned to actually LIKE the kefir and kombucha 4) learned I can take my grandkids 2&4 to the swimming pool without them drowning or me having an anxiety attack :-) 5) learned how to create and use Event Brite for an organization I work with 6) learned to make almost professional looking greeting cards 7) learned to make 2 other fermented probiotics, but still trying to like them.

What is “New” with you? Have you tried anything out of your comfort zone lately? How did it feel? Feel free to share your experiences with us, we’d love to hear about your success!

To read more about how my “30 Days New” habit got started, click here.


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Delayed gratification, a pleasurable approach?

I’ve updated this post, which I originally wrote  five years ago. It still rings true and was a great reminder for me when I read it this week. Hope it is for you, too.

One of the worst and the best things about being in Peace Corps, is you get to experience delayed gratification at a entirely new level. So many things you once took for granted are out of your reach, but not out of your mind. It’s easy to find yourself day dreaming about your favorite foods, TV shows, movies, stores, restaurants and hundreds of other things that were always there for you.

The good news is: pleasure is in the mind of the beholder. Doing without can be a great way to go within. And, oddly enough the wait for a specific treat, item or service can end-up being even more rewarding than the item or service being craved!

We’ve touched on delayed gratification before, remember the famous marshmallow test with kids? Well, just for fun, I’m suggesting you create mini-marshmallow tests of your own in January with a twist – you don’t get to pick the circumstances, you just get to respond to them. I call these sweet treats “Forced Delayed Gratification”.

The next time, you are dying for something or impatiently waiting – instead of focusing on your desire or discomfort, simply say to yourself:

“Oh, this is a Forced Delayed Gratification situation. Hmm, what are my options here?”

By asking a question, you pull yourself into the moment (within) and away from the situation. Your brain immediately jumps to your aide and begins releasing different hormones and chemicals, which may start connecting to new neurons: Broaden and Build vs Flight or Fight. One little question can flip a switch in your brain and start you on an entirely new neural pathway.

So, what happens after you question your options?

You realize you have lots more options! You can try a distraction technique and begin looking around to notice your surroundings. This will start you down another new mental path as you begin noticing the who, what when, where of the moment.

Or, you can spend a few minutes thinking about something special that happened to you in the past, or something special you are anticipating in the future. This option may sound  silly, but it is much more relaxing and mentally rewarding than feeling stressed, impatient or deprived, and it can actually begin building new positive neural pathways in your brain, which , overtime, can lead to all sorts of positive benefits.

The choice is yours, and here’s the clincher, the choice is always yours. You can flip the switch in your brain anytime. Just like a toddler, your brain can be redirected with a little creativity and gentle nudging.

Try some Forced Delayed Gratifications in the days ahead. With a bit of practice, you’ll be astounded how little you really need to be happy and content and how quickly you can move from one state of mind to another. And, remember the goal is not necessarily to do without, but to spend a few minutes going within. We’re delaying gratification not denying it!

( From 2006-20013, I served three times in the United States Peace Corps and practiced forced delayed gratification almost daily, which gave me plenty of time for positive reverie and new adventures! It was a true blessing in disguise and one I quickly learned to embrace. To read more a bit about my adventures, click here, here, and here!)

You can do it!

Journey of a lifetime

Patrice BitolaWishful Thinking Works

Have you ever wondered what it would be like to change your life dramatically? To try something terribly new and scary, but truly heartfelt – all on your own? To do more and learn more than you ever thought possible?

I did, and I am sharing the experiences of my amazing adventure in Macedonia as a United States Peace Corps Volunteer from 2006-2009 at a program for the Fort Myers Beach Library on March 30 at 1:30 p.m.

Only 450 people over the age of 50 serve in the Peace Corps each year, I was lucky enough to be one of them. I was 53 years old when I decided to take the biggest risk of my life, and ended-up on an remarkable journey serving in a tiny, ancient, mountainous, wine-soaked country just north of Greece. It truly is my personal “Eat, Pray, Love” story.

You are never too old – or too young – to decide who you want to be!

My journey really began in 2004 when I started looking at my life through a new lens. I spent less time “doing” and more time reflecting and thinking about how I wanted my life to look, feel and be. During that time I discovered three things:

  1. I wanted to “touch the face” of the people I was helping. I am a visual thinker and that was my way of saying I knew I wanted to work one-on-one with folks. I had risen as far as I could in management within my field, and although I loved my job and was impacting my community in a way I wanted to, I knew I had more to learn and give at a personal, one-on-one level.
  2. I knew there were more people I was supposed to know in this world – not just to meet, but to know. Luckily I was right, and made friends for life on my journey.
  3. And, I knew I wanted  to live in Europe. Didn’t know how or why, but knew I wanted to live within another country and culture.

During my two years of introspection and months of research, Peace Corps (PC) rose to the surface. Joining PC was never planned, but popped-up while searching Internet options that would allow me to live as I realized I wanted to. And, and as sad as this is to admit, I had no clue where Macedonia was until I started exploring serving in the Peace Corps in Eastern Europe.

You are never too old – or too young – to become who you want to be!

During my presentation you will find out what it is like to pack two suitcases and leave behind everything else you love – family, friends, your home and your job to volunteer in a country where you must learn a new language, work in a new job and make new friends, while trying to understand and meld into a culture that is foreign to you.

Through photos and stories I will share how this wonderful trek enriched my life and broaden my understanding of myself, others and the world around me.

Postscript:

I returned to Macedonia in 2010, 2011 to visit and for projects and in 2012 for a short Response Corps Peace Corps (RCPC) assignment. In 2011, I served in the Republic of Georgia on another short RCPC project. This summer, I will be visiting Macedonia for a month; it is time to introduce my new husband to my second home. 

 

The learning and the fun never has to end!

Checking expectations

I am giving a presentation today to a wonderful group of Red Hat Ladies on my experiences as a Peace Corps Volunteer in the country of Macedonia where I served from 2006-09. As I was updating my presentation, I came across a post about living abroad I had written in 2013 when I was returning from another short assignment with the Peace Corps in Macedonia.

In the post I shared what I learned about checking my expectations with my luggage; today I am sharing excerpts from that post, along with some tips on letting go.

luggage-646311_960_720While living abroad I quickly learned that some of my richest and most rewarding moments were dependent on how well I adapted when things turned out differently than I expected, which led to an even more valuable lesson – to be truly happy abroad – it’s best to check your expectations with your luggage!

And, guess what? The amazing part of that lesson is it works just as well at home as it does abroad! Letting go of your expectations, is one of the keys to being truly happy – anywhere, anytime. When we let go of what we expect to happen and how we expect others to act and react, the happier and more fulfilling our lives become.

Expectations take-up a great deal of room in our hearts and in our heads and require loads of effort to maintain, which leaves very little space and energy for understanding, communication,  growth, and happiness.

Think about it.

How many times a day do you get frustrated with the actions or non-actions of yourself or others, because you expected yourself or others to act differently?

How many times in your life have you look backward or forward through a very narrow lens, shaped almost entirely by your expectations or the expectations of others? Did not meeting those expectations cause you pain or frustration?

travel-164574_960_720Wouldn’t it be nice to leave all that behind? To give yourself and those around you a break? To unpack your baggage?

Why not give yourself a free and totally unexpected gift by decreasing the expectations you have for yourself and others (past, present and future), which just might  be the gift that gives you more happiness!

A great way to get started is to simply become more aware of the expectations we place on ourselves and others.

  • Next time you feel frustrated or angry – check to see if you have any expectations that weren’t met.
  • Try to identify what your expectations were. Write them down, if you can.
  • Don’t bother at this point trying to determine whether or not you should have expected something, or if you deserve some type of behavior or pay-off. What is key, is becoming more aware of the role expectations play in your life and feelings.
  • Later when you are not in the throes of the situation, you can look at your expectations more objectively and determine if they have value to you and if you need to keep them around or not.
    • If you decide to let them go, next time they pop-up, smile at your brilliance and foresight for being prepared to deal with their arrival, and then breathe deeply and slowly before your react. Repeat as necessary, until your frustration fades and only your congratulatory smile remains.
    • If you decide that a particular expectation is valuable and worth keeping, then spend some time figuring out how to change your situation (on a small or large scale) to ensure your need is met. This process takes time, so be patient and be prepared to do some work, but please don’t beat up on yourself along the way. Just keep moving forward.

I know it isn’t easy to change ourselves or our expectations, but I also know you can do it. In fact, I expect you to!

Just kidding, the choice is yours.

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Impossible dreams

IMG_1239I think I might have mentioned that my life caught-up with my dreams in the Peace Corps.

For me that means the “pinch-me” moments came back-to-back.

Such as, pinch me: I can’t believe I celebrated Easter in 2009 with folks I barely knew, eating lamb roasted on a spit, while sipping wine along the water on the Greek Isle of Corfu in the Ionian Sea, which is just south of the Adriatic Sea and an arm of the Mediterranean and I loved every minute of it!

I had an absolutely fantastic time for 5 days at a total cost of $250.  You see, there was a time when I truly believed I would never be on a Greek Island, and certainly not for only $250. (Travel booked in Europe is cheaper than you can ever imagine.)

Oh, I wanted to be on a Greek island; I just couldn’t figure out how it would happen.  Too expensive, too far, too many other places to go first, no time, etc., etc., etc.

IMG_1176

When a door closes . . .

I thought I had to have it all figured out for “it” to happen.

I was wrong.

And, you may be to, about your life and what is ahead.

You don’t have to have it all figured out. You just have to begin imagining what you do want.

That’s what wishful thinking is all about.

Maybe, just maybe, during this beautiful season of rebirth and renewal, you might want to take some time to dream some impossible dreams.

Don’t worry about the details.

We can work on those later.

Postscript: Never sell yourself or your dreams short!

I returned to Corfu for a week in 2016, as part of an amazing extended honeymoon in nearby Macedonia – two dreams coming true – marrying my husband Dan and another trip to Corfu. Now we both share amazing memories of two places I love, Macedonia and Corfu! We returned to Corfu in 2017 as part of a two week Mediterranean trip from Barcelona to Athens. Three times, and once all of it was just a dream . . .

 

wishyright

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10 Days in Tbilisi

I’ve been working and living in the city of Tbilisi, Georgia for six weeks. I live and work at opposite ends of the city; my one-way daily commute takes about an hour via bus and minibus. For the first few weeks my sightseeing was limited to the view from the windows of buses, but I made-up for it over Thanksgiving weekend when I met-up in Tbilisi with an American friend and former Peace Corps Volunteer from Macedonia. We rented an apartment in the center, which was perfect for seeing the sites in and around Tbilisi. We had a great time. This weekend I will be posting a bit of what we saw then and what I have seen in the following days. Clicking on any photo, will display all of them in a larger size and in a slide show format.

It all began with Thanksgiving in Tbilisi, we shared an eclectic assortment of food, and  one of my fellow Peace Corps Response Volunteers brought this lovely table decoration. Good company in a foreign locale more than made-up for our lack of traditional Thanksgiving fare . . .

The last photo is the sign of a restaurant with a sense of humor in Old Towne Tbilisi. The bookstore in the photos is Prospero Books, a wonderfully caffeinated literary oasis in the center of Tbilisi. The cappuccino is rich and foamy, the atmosphere is cozy and warm, the clientele is interesting and friendly, and the experience perfect.  

*Food photos and lots more to follow. * The static photo on the left side of my main page is a piece of art my friend purchased. Again, I love the Georgian folksy, whimsical style.* The snow is compliments of WordPress!*

Out of the minds of babes

I love the messages along the bottom of the painting.

There were 70 paintings displayed in the art gallery of a beautiful hotel in the center of Tbilisi. The room was filled with happy kids and proud parents. The event was held under the auspices of the Ministry of Environment Protection, which is where I’m assigned as a Peace Corps Response Volunteer.

The talent and insight of children never ceases to amaze me, the kids captured some really special moments and messages with their well-placed brush strokes. These are just a sampling of their work.

Each of the students who participated received certificates presented by the Deputy Minster of Environment Protection and a t-shirt designed by the sponsoring organizations.

I love that art allows their environmental messages to shine through no matter the differences in language and culture.

I swear, no one at the exhibit looked like they could have been the subjects of the following paintings; be prepared to smile. I’m sure the kids’ parents and grand parents enjoyed the way their offspring portrayed them . . .

This is the Peace Bridge, which connects the left and right banks of the Kura River in Old Tbilisi.

The last two paintings offer particularly poignant perspectives.

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