Ten Things I Learned Living on a Tiny Island

This past fall, I found that living in social isolation (on a 15-square mile island) with nothing but a good book and long hours of work will really force you into a state of introspection. Add that to 2 months of living back home in Brooklyn with loads of free time, and you’ve got a pretty excellent elixir for reflection.

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Clouds over Cayman Brac.

What did I discover?

1. I accept who I am: my strengths, weaknesses, and I have so much to offer the world.

2. Humans are a social species. We need a tribe. It may change from time to time, expand and contract – but our inner desire to connect with others is directly linked to our natural ability to love others.

3. The core of my tribe is my family. And I ride the ebb and flow of its continual expansion and subsequent waning.

4. Loss is an essential part of the Human experience. It reminds us that we are not in control and must press on forward: continue living and thriving. If we don’t, the world will leave us behind.

5. Heartbreak is inevitable. There are many forms, but ultimately it strengthens the heart, mind, and soul. It should not be avoided, for evasion means you are not living life to its fullest – you are closing yourself to experience and growth.

6. You are your best advocate. You know who you are, what you stand for, and what is best for you. The only person truly looking out for your best interests is you. Others will eventually learn to know the needs and ways of your heart, but until then, you know best.

7. Do not seek approval and love from others in order to be happy. Does this dress make me look fat? I feel like all of my friends have forgotten about me. I just want to be in a relationship with someone. I need his love to feel happy, secure, and complete. Stop. If you read Lesson 1, you already accept yourself. It’s hard, and will never be easy. But you’re worth it. You will always have YOU.

8. You need to do something. Humans are built to survive, and in 2015, that means work. You will always find a way to complain about your job, where you live, who you work with, etc. But we need to continue enriching our lives. Our brains, bodies, and inner beings were not built for stagnant waters. That makes for an early grave.

9. Find balance in all you do, and establish priorities – and accept that they will change with time. What is important to you? What is truly essential in your life right now that serves the highest levels of your inner happiness? (Right now, mine are finding fulfilling work that satisfies my desires to make New York City a cleaner and healthier place to live, continue to open my heart again to love and trust in that love, balance the material necessity of a healthy paycheck with the wishes of using that monetary resource for experiences to enrich my life and the loves of my life.)

10. Change is the truest form of the Human experience. With all the lessons learned (above), you will be a champion of yourself with the ability to live and breathe in the flow of life. Accept change. Embrace change. It leads us closer and closer to the ultimate lesson of life: Transformation.

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Live, Breathe, Transform, Transcend.

-This post is dedicated to my dad. Today would have been his 70th Birthday. His passing was the deepest form of loss I have experienced thus far in my lifetime, and I am truly grateful for the love and memories my dad and I shared. Thank you, dad, for giving me life and the inspiration to make it a great one. I love you, to Pluto and back.
Happy Birthday Daddy

Tuesday Inspiration – Happiness

β€œNo single decision you ever made has led in a straight line to where you find yourself now. You peeked down some roads and took a few steps before turning back. You followed some roads that came to a dead end and others that got lost at too many intersections. Ultimately, all roads are connected to all other roads.”

-Deepak Chopra

Footpath on Cayman Brac

Footpath on Cayman Brac

I am entering my second month of unemployment, or what I’d like to call “fun-employment”. Don’t feel bad for me – it was a path I chose for the well-being of my body and heart, and I took all precautions in preparation for the monthly income drop.

It’s been an incredible experience to literally hit the pause button on life, to reconnect with myself, and deepen relationships with the ones I love. I have also learned a few important lessons on happiness…

My friend Keino and I on Cayman Brac's bluff edge.

My friend Keino and I on Cayman Brac’s bluff edge.

You know how all philosophers, prophets, and parents say, “Happiness comes from within”? We hear this over and over again, and with such repetition we often accept it with blind faith as we trudge through our everyday lives. We allow ourselves so few opportunities to actually experience this inner bliss, so much so that we ultimately forget how to recognize it when it’s staring us in the face. The straight A’s, the fancy apartment, the fat bonus, the dozens of friends, the luxurious vacations, the handsome boyfriend, the newest iPhone, the size 2 dress… We’re still unhappy.

Carib Sands Dock, Cayman Brac

I’m not perfect, and have just skimmed the tip of the iceberg on tapping into this inner resource of happiness. It’s taken me 25+ years, a few broken hearts, hopping the globe from the Caymans to Iceland to Morocco, living on a relatively excellent paycheck to having $2.00 to my name, and feeling completely alone in the wilderness to realize that happiness can really only be expressed. Not ours for the taking and holding inward, but truly reaching from within ourselves and giving it back to others. It’s as if we’re each holding a little sun within ourselves – a bright resource that regenerates over and over again. The more we give, the happier we are. It’s a pretty simple science.

Growing, giving, light

Growing, Giving, Happiness.

It’s just not easily duplicated because of all the superfluous garbage in the material worlds we live in. Add an inner frustration to the mix as we perpetually put ourselves down, saying we don’t deserve happiness for all the terrible things we’ve done… What have I done to deserve this? Exist. Don’t let the question be, Why Me? – More like, Yes, Me!

Be Happy :)

Be Happy πŸ™‚

There are many paths I have yet to take, but having come from one that was equally as exciting as it was intensely challenging, I’m ready for what lies ahead. I’m thinking of going back into the environmental field – whether it be working at a consultancy or state department, you can’t take the science out of me πŸ™‚

Besides, I’m fully entitled to change my mind at any moment in time and hop onto another path! I just have decided to chose happiness over all. And the next time I’m feeling down, it’s time to take a good look at myself in the mirror and truly ask why. Life is pretty simple, and I truly believe we are all predisposed to living in a state of bliss. Again, I’m far from perfect, and the occasional trip to Anthro and frequent bowl of ice cream can bring some (temporary) happiness.

Be calm, be happy my friends!

-ps this entire post is my way of procrastinating in preparation for my interviews this week… back to it!

Danielle & Tony – Engagement Shoot Part I

I honestly can’t think of a better way to spend a glorious Sunday afternoon than with two people madly in love with each other. This past Sunday I had the pleasure to meet Danielle & Tony and capture their electric love with my camera(s) in tow. They’ll be saying their I Do’s in just a little over two months. This collection of my personal favorites from our balmy June afternoon together serves as Part I of their engagement shoot. Yes, there will be a part two, and stay tuned for the scene/ outfit change πŸ™‚

Danielle & Tony

We ventured on down the winding dirt road of the Pine Hills (MA) and came across one of those iconic open fields. Needless to say, we stopped here to begin the shoot.

She Said Yes, of Course!

That’s right, ladies. He. put. a. ring. on. it. And it’s quite gorgeous too!Β  A combination of Danielle’s mother’s diamond and their own intricate design.

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And amazingly, we didn’t attract a single tick in this field! I am still shocked (and doing tick checks!).

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Sneaking in a few kisses here and there is always allowed in my book.

Loves

Beautiful Bride to Be

The Beautiful Bride to Be.

Road Together

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He put a ring on it

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Β The big day is just right around the corner on the 31st of August. In the meantime, you’ll find this adorable pair decorating their new dream home, playing with their adorable pup Coco (photos to come, I promise!), and taking long strolls into the sunset.

Stay tuned my lovelies for a change in scenery and outfits!

~ em

Escape to the Berkshires

Want me to clue you in on a little secret?

The best time to visit the Berkshires are after the tourists have gone. After the last summer concerts at Tanglewood… Once the last of the crimson-gold leaves have fallen… Smack-dab in between Halloween and Thanksgiving.

Our little Tolkien-esque escape for the weekend

We made our way north to the beautiful Santarella for a two-night stay in what I would describe as paradise. We stayed in the Silo Suite, a romantic and formerly grain silo, brought back to life by the amazing care-takers who painstakingly remastered with a new foundation, electricity, and plumbing 10 years ago. Now it stands as a Tolkien-esque romantic getaway.

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The beautiful grounds of Santarella.

So, if you travel to the Berkshires (which, you all must!) please do yourselves a favor and stay at one of the three unique dwellings at Santarella. You’ll thank me later πŸ™‚

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Hanging out with the locals on a Saturday afternoon hike

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Santarella Grounds from the Street (you can stay in the 1790’s red farmhouse too!)

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View overlooking Tyringham Valley

Day Three: Music, Hands-Free, Kindness

Have you ever listened to a song that has brought you to your knees? To uncontrollable tears? That makes the hair on your arms and the back of your neck stick up? There’s this meta-human sensation that we can experience – you just have to find the right song.

Can’t find one of these sacred melodies? Here’s a few of my favorites:

1. Canzone Africana IV, Ludovico Einaudi

2. Comptine D’un Autre Ete, Yann Tiersen

3. Wild Swans Suite, Daniel Hope

4. Go Do, Jonsi

These are a mere few songs that somehow enable me to just breathe, and be present in the moment, all the while getting lost in the story each one tells. Music is the true essence of life. Whether it be an expression of joy, sorrow, freedom, love, angst, anger, or compassion, music is the purest gift we can give to the earth, others, and ourselves. Music inspires the soul, mends the heart, strengthens the ties that bind. Music is bliss.

Find your song.

I am grateful for music.

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On another note, this past evening was spent traveling to Western PA, a mere five-and-a-half-hour journey. Once escaping the grasp of city traffic (don’t ask me why I chose to leave at 4pm from Brooklyn!), I was able to enjoy the time and space to myself for deep thought and reflection. However, it wasn’t long before I became bored with the radio, too impatient to figure out the whole connect-the-smart-phone-to-auxillary-cable thing while cruising to my destination, before I needed to talk to a real human being.

In comes the bluetooth – what a seamless way to multi-task. The majority of my long drive ended up being shared with family and friends who kept me company along the way. Thanks guys for picking up!!

I am grateful for Hands-Free.

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Random Acts of Kindness go a long way in today’s world. While writing this post, I was reminded of a recent experience on the NYC Subway (the 5 train to be exact). Following a 10-hour day of fairly tiring day of running around, it was time to make my way home from waaaay up in the Bronx, and back down to Brooklyn. For those of you who aren’t familiar with NYC, that’s a looong ride on the 5 Train!

I get in. No seats at rush hour – my feet are SCREAMING in my awful work boots.

One stop later, the small handicap seat becomes vacant. I swiftly snatch it up and am instantly relieved to have a seat for the next 50 minutes!

Next stop, an older woman enters the train – as a proper New Yorker (ahem to those who do not follow this GOLDEN rule) I immediately (ok, slightly reluctantly) offer my seat to her. A wave of shock, surprise, and gratitude poured over this woman’s face as she took me up on the offer, and added, “We’re both small, let’s share!”

I obliged.

We sat in silence for the next 48 minutes. I only realized that she was still next to me when I got up to leave; she stopped me, looked into my eyes and again expressed sheer gratitude for sharing my seat with her. It goes to show that it’s easier to journey together and share, rather than stand alone.

Offering your seat is really no big deal, but these small offerings, these random acts of kindness go a long way. They have the ability to multiply exponentially if we let them. Spread kindness.

I am grateful for kindness.