I was flying high, being pulled up by my throbbing ego. I had just been offered a job making significantly more money than ever before, working remotely, all the while doing something that I considered my niche expertise. I remember blasting Tupac or something super gangster on my ride home, ready to announce to the world, that I WAS NOW A MUTHERFUCKING BOSS.
Fast forward less than one month later to me sitting on the couch in my pjs sobbing to my mom on the phone. The type of someone died ugly who gives a fuck kind of cry where your face hurts from contorting in ways you didn’t know was possible. The kind of crying where you can’t recognize yourself in the mirror – all red and puffy and sad and wrinkly. My mom explained to me that getting fired was just a right of adult passage. Hopefully only to happen once. That everything would be okay. Her total tranquility immediately deflated my big self-pitying red balloon and I felt immediate relief.
The job, however short my time there, was a total fucking nightmare. It should also be noted that one of the major benefits of working remotely is that there is a solid bullshit buffer. Think of all the times you wanted to roll your eyes, yell “fuck you” or simply not wear pants in a meeting. Then realize that all of this is possible when working remotely. That said, the nearly impenetrable digital super dome had nothing on the toxicity of this job. The digital transferral of pure aggression, chaos and total ineptitude was next level. So they did me a favor. They cut me loose when I would have tried to make it work even though I could read the writing on the wall, the ghost ship was sinking and icebergs abound.
So I took a deep breath. Mom to the rescue.
I’m not going to say that in the moment or even over the past few months it’s always been sunny. I’ve had my fair share of anxiety, self-doubt, and everything in between. But, what I will say is that it has been and continues to be one of the most transformative experiences that I didn’t even know I needed.
I was cruising on autopilot, feeling (too) confident, going (too) fast, missing (almost) everything. And then I crashed. I realize now, that I had to crash to wake.the.fuck.up. And so, I somewhat groggily and unwillingly at first, have awoken.
When I arrived at Shoshoni, I immediately felt my blood pressure fall and my heart rate slow. I left my turned-off phone and all of my “valuables” in the car. Locked it. Walked away. It was the definition of tranquility. Perfectly quiet, cool, clean mountain air. Coming off a complicated few months of changing jobs, questioning my relationship and pretty much everything else in my life, I needed a reprieve. I needed to sit.in the shade. My shadow and the incessant pitter-patter of the footsteps of my mind needed to be quieted. They were driving me insane. I was driving me insane.
I am not someone who finds sitting in the throws of internal chaos easy. My natural reaction is to make a plan. To move. To take “control” of the situation.
Going to Shoshoni, an Ashram about an hour north of Boulder was part of this “plan.” Surely, after I practiced yoga and meditation twice a day for a week while camping in the blissful peace of the Rockies, I would have all of the answers I needed.
After setting up my tent in the beautiful pine forest, I noticed my heart rate already increasing, thinking “when was yoga?” “would I have enough time to set everything up and make class?” Not having my phone, I did have my watch. I noticed myself check-it obsessively. Then 4:00 rolled around. With yoga mat in hand, I walked out of the woods. Watch left in tent.
Our teacher opened up the class my sitting in silence for about five minutes. With only three other people there, it immediately shook me out of my stupid stupor of thoughts and time. She was not focused on starting the class at 4:00, she was focused on being there. When she spoke, she said frankly that she had started yoga a few years ago because she was focused “externally.” Focused on all the things she wanted to have and be. Surely then she would feel complete. She didn’t. Her transparency and honesty was as rejuvenating as the mountain air. I felt the same.
Over the course of the next few days, I dropped into the shade. No one had phones. Everyone came for different reasons, from different backgrounds. What little words were spoken were intentional, thoughtful, kind, honest. I did not speak for the first few days. I listened, observed and sat in the shade of my mind. There was no pretense or concern for who anyone was on the “outside.” Literally and metaphorically. Everyone breathed consistently, walked slowly and lived in the present.
A Tibetan leader, Kharma spoke to us before our evening meditation. He told us that when he meditates, he focuses on kindness and compassion. Kindness to one another and to ourselves. Compassion in our language and in our thoughts. To speak only words that make others feel good, that are productive and sincere. To cleanse our minds of the footsteps that haunt us. To rid ourselves of the ghosts that cling to our wounds and weaknesses. To profligate with love. To smile with our hearts and minds. To live like we knew that everything would be okay. He was humble, funny and the personification of enlightenment.
On day three, I woke up and my jaw wasn’t tight from clenching. Although my subconscious was stirring up some very creepy, stressful nightmares. I was purging ghosts in my sleep. Soaking in the present moment while awake. At 5:30 AM, I walked out of the woods again into the Fire Temple. Over the course of a few hours, I threw rice in the fire to physically cleanse myself of all the feelings and thoughts that did not serve me. Initially, I was skeptical of all of these morning rituals. This one proved me very wrong. I walked away on clouds. It all came up, out and away.
As I drove down the long dirt road away from Shoshoni on my last day, I couldn’t stop smiling. I was filled with pure gratitude and happiness that I hadn’t felt in a long time. I shed my skin. I knew that coming back to “normal” life and continuing to live lightly would take work. And it has. It is much easier to be super zen when you’re in the middle of the woods with other zen people and absolutely no.stress. The real test is applying it to everyday life. So far, it has not been perfect. I have regressed. I have had to catch myself not breathing. I have had to focus on going into the shade and quieting the footsteps of my mind. I have had to really focus on being present and taking note of things that now seem toxic. I still do not have the “answers” I thought I needed. Instead, I have the tools I didn’t know I needed for a plan that does not actually exist.
It has been widely proven that social media and the compulsion to stare at phones and not faces is a leading cause of depression and anxiety for most modern humans. In my humble opinion, I think it will ultimately lead to the downfall of humanity, but I digress.
I think most people are aware of this fact (it’s fucking everywhere), but are faced with the conundrum of how to “stay in touch” while intentionally disconnecting. But here’s the ultimate irony. When you’re “connected” on social media you’re disconnected in reality. If you’re someone who would prefer living in reality rather than a Black Mirror episode, then this matters.
A couple of weeks ago while talking to my mom, she asked about an old friend from elementary school. I immediately replied, “oh yea, we keep in touch,” which is totally not fucking true.at.all. The only way I know anything about her is from stalking the fuck out of her on Instagram (she’s a babe). So, basically while scrolling through the inferno of Instagram, I have been telling myself that I am “keeping in touch” with people that I had actually not communicated with decades. This delusional sense of connection is what disturbed me the most.
I don’t want to live my life and maintain my relationships through a screen. To do so is far easier, but also less rewarding. Having both real and “virtual” relationships is possible, they are not mutually exclusive, but if given the chance to interact with real people in real time, why would you do anything else?
So, I deleted my personal Instagram account to force myself to actually call/text/email people that I thought about. I know, it sounds basic, but I have successfully reached out to more people since being off it than I have in years. That said, I have never really been a big use of social media in my personal life since I do it as a profession and at the end of the day – I want nothing less than to look at a screen.
Ultimately, I decided to keep @ColoradoWhiteGirl profile because it’s the only way to find this blog – but also because most of my following are strangers who I don’t give a shit about (I’m sure the feeling is mutual). Therefore, I simply post and then forget it. Hopefully, someone gets a chuckle or a “hmm” – that’s good enough.
I tend to do things to the extreme, but I don’t think that’s the only solution. But, if you think about your favorite people to stalk on Instagram (omit the famous ones unless you actually know them), think about the last time you actually talked to them.
Does your time on Instagram make you happy or cause you stress? If you feel like it’s all detracting/distracting from real life or from being fully present, consider if the trade off is worth it. What are you giving, versus what are you receiving.
You can’t be here and also there. That is mutually exclusive.
Wyatt and I are taking off for a long weekend skiing in Aspen (I know, so white). Since I’m expecting a full blown snowmageddon up there (they’re getting two feet as I write), I have to pack as if I’m going to a stylistically savvy, posh as fuck arctic tundra. Every time I pack for a trip, I try to be as efficient as possible. Most of the time, I totally fail.
That’s because I am not naturally one of those minimalist people (I’m a Taurus, we like our stuff). But, it is truly one of my missions in life to improve the way I pack because I think it is representative of a simpler, more focused state of mind. Plus, the more shit you have when you travel, the more shit you have to haul around with you. Plus, the more shit you have the more decisions you have to make. Anyways, you get it, less is always more.
I have read countless blogs about how to pack like a minimalist or at least someone who is relatively reasonable. I am almost positive none of them have been written by women. Women just have a lot of extra things that we “need.” I say that jokingly, but also seriously. We just need more shit, I don’t know why, it’s just the way it goes.
But, if you’re like me and want to have your proverbial cake and eat it too when it comes to packing, check out these tips.
I used to pack so many toiletries that I purchased a Patagonia toiletry bag that could fit a newborn baby (not that I’ve tried). Of course, I need to bring a full-sized thing of facial scrub, four different kinds of moisturizers, sunscreen, hand cream, a hundred tampons (just in case), eye make-up remover, cotton swabs, electric toothbrush, toothpaste, floss, shampoo, conditioner and leave-in conditioner.
I wish I could tell you I have found the magic elixir to not packing so many toiletries, but I really haven’t. The only thing I’ve done is cut down on the quantity of each item I brought (ie tampons), bringing travel sized everything and using packing cubes. I know, it’s not rocket science, but packing cubes are a game changer since they compress and organize everything inside my infant sized toiletry case.
Clothing & Underwear
Watching Wyatt pack his clothing is almost more infuriating than watching him pack his (three) toiletries. He literally threw some socks, boxers and pants in a bag and called it a day. FML.
Meanwhile, I’m losing my mind thinking about all of my options and then of course, there’s the underwear that has to go with it all. But, after all was said and done and packed and repacked and packed, I think I kept it simple enough after all.
Mountain Standard puffy – a Boulder-based company, I highly recommend! This jacket is perfect for more dressy occasions.
Every lady knows how hard it is to be reasonable about the amount of shoes you pack for a trip. I always stress out about how to avoid bringing at least five pairs on every trip. What if it’s cold? Or if it rains? I want to be comfortable, but stylish. What if I want to dress up? What if these give me blisters? All of these stupid thoughts. All the damn time.
This time around…I had all of those thoughts, but ultimately chose well. I successfully only brought three pairs (ski boots don’t count).
UGG booties – the pair I have are discontinued which sucks because I’m pretty sure they are the only functionally cute shoes UGG has ever made.
Korkease booties – for the fancier evenings out, but still incredibly comfortable. I have multiple pairs of this brand bootie and they never fail to amaze me.
Post Trip Packing Reflections
Reflecting on your trip is almost as important as preparing for it. When I return from Aspen, I’ll go through everything I brought versus what I wore and take note. Typically that helps me to decide what to bring next time.
Another tip: don’t watch your boyfriend pack. Ever. It will drive you insane.
I firmly believe that I had a greater attention span when I was twelve. The only digital technologies that were possible distractions at that time were AOL Instant Messenger and Frogger on my parent’s original green Apple iMac. I wasn’t allowed to do either often and my parents forbade most TV. Friday nights was special – it was TGIF with Family Matters, Full House and Dinosaurs!
Nowadays, as a 31 year old, I find myself having to force my brain to focus on one thing at a time, all the time. I open my laptop at work in the morning and find myself trying to do ten things at once immediately. Or I’m at my local ski mountain, Eldora and I find myself thinking about filing my taxes while this is in front of my face. (Yes, that’s Wyatt having a private moment, now made public).
That said, I do not want to be someone who is always on my phone, distracted by everything around me, focused on nothing at all. Time passes too quickly. To try to practice more focus, mindfulness or whatever you want to call it, I started doing the following everyday.
Meditate Every Morning
Meditating is something everyone knows they should do, but actually doing it is a very different story. The big game changer for me in the actual successful practice of meditation was downloading the app “Waking Up” with Sam Harris. The app is free, as are the first week of meditation lessons. I find that the lessons are short enough to be practical (max 3 minutes) and very relaxing. It also helps set me up for the rest of my day. If I can focus first thing on a Monday morning when I have a million things to do or think about, anything is possible.
Then, whenever I’m feeling stressed or distracted throughout the day, I try to take deep breaths, close my eyes and think of the image that brings me peace. The ocean tide going in and out. The ocean feels like being warm, care-free, and small.
Read For At Least One Hour A Day
By “read” I don’t mean stare at the words thinking they might magically communicate to your brain (without you) what they mean. By “read” I also don’t mean owning books so that they can collect dust next to your bedside (guilty). I mean actually sit for an extended period of time or a short period of focused reading time. Really consume the words so that if someone was to quiz you right after you read a page, you might pass.
The part of your brain that allows you to concentrate is a muscle. It needs to be worked otherwise it gets smooshy. No one wants a smooshy anything. Every evening before I go to bed, I read for an hour to relax me to sleep, but also to give my prefrontal cortex a good little jog.
Coincidentally (or not), I’m reading “Focus” by Daniel Goleman and it is blowing my mind. I am intentionally reading it slowly so that I absorb every morsel of content and because I’m in no rush.
Intentionally Forget Your Phone
This is not a drill. I started doing this a couple of weekends ago and it has been a game changer for so many reasons. The most recent time I intentionally left my phone at home, I went out with Wyatt to play ping pong (I know, so white). Even though this move was totally conscious, I still checked my pocket for my phone about ten times that night. However, I did not actually need it a single time. I just wanted to look at it it’s stupid face.
Because I did not have my phone, I also did not have a stupid time-kill distraction in moments of silence or boredom. You know what I did instead? I actually talked to the humans around me! I know, crazy.
I didn’t turn my phone on again until the next morning and alas, the world was as I left it. Full of stupid distractions and notifications that really do not matter.
I dare you to try it. This weekend when you go out with friends (assuming you’re safe and can get home without your phone) leave it. You’ll have so much more space for the humans around you that actually matter. Plus, you’ll find yourself relieved to not have to constantly tend to the master that is your phone. You can be present, in the moment with you and the people you love around you.
If I added up how much money I’ve spent trying not to have my face dry out like the desert I (choose) to inhabit, I would probably cry. Most hydrating face creams claim to make you look younger. Fuck that, I’m just trying to look my age. But, the good news is at least I would not be crying alone. Thousands of other women and men also blow their proverbial wads on moisturizing elixirs from farmer’s markets made of baby tears, whole milk and organic yak spit (obviously).
Until recently, I thought there was no real solution or at least nothing that I could afford without getting with Jeff Bezos (gross). BUT, I have good news, even better than the fact that I am not with Jeff Bezos. Hydrated, healthy Colorado skin is possible if you can nail the right products and habits.
Drink Water – A Lot of It
Depending on how long you’ve lived in Colorado, it’s probably become pretty apparent that it is the high desert and it is dry as fuck. Carrying at least a 21 ounce water bottle with you at all times is akin to having your wallet, keys, cellphone and…pants. We go everywhere with our beloved Kleen Kanteen, Hydroflask or Nalgene. We love our water bottles so much that we decorate them with stickers of every single brand that gives us a free sticker. We don’t even care if we like the brand. Got a cool sticker? It’s going on my water bottle. Haven’t washed your water bottle in weeks or even months? Doesn’t matter. At least you won’t die if you get stuck in I-70 ski traffic – just don’t go sharing it with anyone (you know who you are).
In any other state if you brought a water bottle to an office meeting it would be considered tacky. Not in Colorado. If you’re the one without your water bottle, you’re the asshole. But I digress. According to the “experts” an average adult woman should drink about 2.7 liters of water per day. This is about 4.3 bottles in your 21 ounce Nalgene. Yeah, it’s basically a part-time job that if you don’t show up, you get chronic migraines, fatigue and possibly death. NBD. I like to follow the rule of thumb, if I’m not drinking water right this minute, I probably should be.
Wash Your Face Sans Face Wash
I know, I know, but you have this brand of face wash you love that gets your face as clean as a baby’s arse. But, unless you’re a lady farmer in Greeley, your face is probably not that dirty. If you are a lady farmer in Greeley, that’s super dope, you can do whatever you want cause you’re way cooler than me. A lot of face washes have alcohol in them. which is a big no-no if you’ve already got dry skin or you live in the high desert.
The best face wash for dry skin is…water! You got it, it comes from your faucet and is here to wash the makeup off your face… for free. If you want to get rid of the horror show eye make up look after you wash your face, take a little shea butter on a cotton swab. Gotta lubricate dem eyelashes anyway
Apply Derma E Vitamin C Concentrated Serum
You can get this stuff at your local Whole Foods (shocker) or even better on Amazon for around $20. After washing your face, squirt a few squirtlets in your palm and prepare to get wet. But really, rub it into your skin in circular motions and you can actually feel it seeping into your pores. The magic elixir of this stuff is the hyaluronic acid which I have been told by “experts” is the only thing that really seeps into your pores to provide moisture from the inside out. This product is also super dope because there are only four ingredients, all of whom you can pronounce without a PhD in chemistry.
Lather Mimosa Blossom Dream Cream
This is not the name of a Phish song or the name of your super heady friend’s first born. It is perhaps the most overlooked product in the Whole Foods skin care section. It might be it’s very inconspicuous label or the fact that it’s called “Mimosa Blossom Dream Cream” and everyone who passes it by thinks, “how high were they?” I’m here to tell you that they must have been pretty stoned, but this shit is unreal. It’s hands-down the most hydrating salve I’ve ever found and is only $18 for 6 ounces. Why do we assume if things are cheap they’re suspicious? Why do we assume that if it has a label that looks like it was the cat’s meow in 1992 that it can’t be incredible? Put your assumptions away my friend and dive into the Mimosa Blossom Dream Cream face first.
Plus, the first of about fifteen lovely ingredients is…wait for it…”purified mountain rain water.” How could you go wrong?
Tinted Elta MD Sunscreen
I know what you’re thinking…but, it’s winter why do I need sunscreen. If you live in Colorado you need to wear sunscreen all the time. It doesn’t matter that you won’t be outside today, if you are near a window and it’s the day time, you’ll need protection. Living at altitude literally means living closer to the sun, that is real shit. Not only do we live closer to the sun, there is more of it – nearly 365 days of the year. Just make sunscreen part of your daily morning routine and your crowsfeet will thank you later.
This stuff was recommended to me by a dermatologist, so I snagged some on Amazon and I have been in love ever since. It’s SPF 40 and made for broad spectrum exposure (read all the spectrums of the sun) which is perfect for mountain dwelling. Plus, the slight tint makes you look a little bit less like a pasty ghost in the winter.
100% Raw Shea Butter
This is not a drill. If you feel like you’ve reached critical mass with not being able to hydrate, just grab a glob of raw shea butter and get to rubbing. This stuff is especially amazing as an additional layer to the Blossom Dream Cream, but I wouldn’t recommend putting make up on over it. It will probably slide right off your face. I’ve been buying the Shea Moisture brand at Target for about $10, but any 100% raw fair trade shea butter should do. I also find it to be the best for dry cuticles, hands and wait for it…nipples. You read that right, your nipps are probably dry and you should rub this all over them.