Cuba: Day 1

It has been one week since my return from Cuba. In honor of those seven days, I will begin a review of how we (JAC & I) spent our time there, what was good and what might have been better to do differently.

Please post or email questions! Every person I tell that I am going or have been to Cuba immediately says that they want to have a conversation about the trip. I hope to build an FAQ here to help others explore Cuba.

Day 1 in Cuba: Monday

We arrived in Havana at 6pm. Public transport from the airport is tricky, so most people grab a taxi. The rates here are static for the most part. We were told it would cost $25, the driver said $30. Getting from the airport into town is more expensive than the other way around. We got a taxi as low as $20 to be taken to the airport.

JAC and I checked into our Air BnB. We had very friendly hosts. We booked a small, basic apartment to ourselves for the first 4 nights. It was actually pretty big, but we really only utilized the bedroom and bathroom. This is where the air conditioning unit was and we didn’t have use for the large, dark living room. Nor did we cook or have food in the apartment.

We met friends at El Del Frente, a rooftop restaurant in old Havana. Asking for directions proved to be a bit futile. A few people claimed they had never heard of it, while others told us it was being fumigated and everyone had gone to La Familia instead. Riiiiiight. Be aware of this tactic. And don’t give up! We had to scour the block several times and get clues from people to find our destination. I was pretty convinced that the map had told us the wrong location and that we would never find the restaurant, but we persevered and stumbled upon it ourselves. Eventually, by circling a 3 block radius of where it was supposed to be, we found the joint. It’s a small door and when they are open, there is usually someone standing there with a list. Probably worth it to get a reservation, because it was busy when we showed up on a Monday night! This was facilitated by a local, a friend of a friend. If you swing by there early enough, call them, or book a few days in advance, I’m sure you could get a rooftop table. Prices are reasonable! It is touristy, but the vibe is good and the company is fun.

What was immediately apparent to me stepping off the plane in Havana, was that this country is, indeed, quite different to what I am used to. I felt nervous and quite a bit of apprehension. I was also excited and wanted to approach the trip with an open mind. I can’t tell you quite yet if I was successful in that.

The next thing that was immediately obvious to me, was the smog and pollution within Havana due to the cars pumping thick black clouds of exhaust into the streets. I felt sick for about 24 hours from breathing in the fumes. This seems to only be an issue within Havana. The rest of the country has wide open highways and scarcely traveled roads. In the city it’s a bit of a shit show. I’m sure much of this will begin to change if the borders remain open – send some clean exhaust tail pipes over there! Anyway, hold on to your guts and your lungs if you’re sensitive towards air pollution. Anyone have suggested coping mechanisms while your body adjusts?

This is all 20 minutes allowed for today. I plan to create a post that incorporates the full week with tips, tricks, pitfalls, and ideas from other travelers.

If you have something to add, drop me a line! lara at lara buelow dot com

Viva Cuba! XO ❤ LB

 

Limbo On the Road

When this posts, I’ll be on the road back to San Francisco.

The BF and I flew to Cuba from LAX after a big wedding in southern California. So now we have to drive our asses back to San Francisco. It’s funny because it seems like being en route somewhere is kind of the physical reality of limbo. Or is it?

The journey is the destination. –Dan Eldon

That quote is both awesome and annoying. It reminds me that if I’m truly present that there is nothing else except what is immediately before me; there is no “limbo.” Yet it also hints that each moment is consumed with movement. Change is the only constant.

I am hoping to write something about our trip to Cuba. It’s a strange thing to sit here in my home and think that in two weeks I’ll have been through a myriad of experiences and then be right back in this spot. Seated and writing. Yet, something will be different and that something is me.

The minute I put pressure on myself to write in a particular way, I get blocked and overwhelmed by anxiety. It’s an immediate writing-killer. So don’t expect anything profound. It’s likely to be an account of what we experienced sprinkled with ideas or advice on taking a trip to Havana. I look forward to visiting a country that has developed in a completely different way from ours. And in the mean time, I’ll be living into the idea that the journey is the destination.

What journey are you on right now? What destination do you have in mind?

Viva Adventure! XO ❤ LB

Viva Cuba!

When this posts, I’ll be en route to Cuba.

Because you know what they say… when stuck in limbo, make sure to plan a few bucket list adventures. Never heard that one? Well, now you have. There’s nothing like good old fashioned travel and culture shock to blow your brains wide open and see life through a different lens. And increase your gratitude by a bajillion.

Since the moment I hired him, I knew the BF had plans to go to medical school. However, I didn’t know that eventually we would be dating. I never thought I would date someone on the medical path. I have many doctors in my family and while I respect the profession, I have found it too academically rigid for my own liking. It feels a bit too straight and narrow, if you know what I mean. I prefer the artists way – the woo-ey, winding, spontaneous way.

So when the BF and I shacked up, I made it clear that travel is a priority for me. Given the long distance start to our relationship, it was also required of us to make the situation work. That was a good way to ease us into what future trips would be like. I also quickly began to leverage the fact that if he was going to attend medical school, then any free time before then should be treated as sacred adventure time. Once he is a slave to his medical institution, I believe our vagabonding days will be numbered for quite a few years. So in the meantime, I’m gonna milk it for all its worth.

In order to capitalize on these limited opportunities, assuming that medical school is right around the corner, I’ve been stacking up the trips. This is both a good way to fill your time and spend your money while floating in limbo. Every penny spent on visiting friends, exploring foreign lands, and experiencing new activities is an investment in your character.

With a change of scenery it is much easier to leave your worries behind and shift your perception of reality. These adventures also offer an opportunity to disconnect for our technologically consumed lives and simply be present with the road that lies before us.

What is one of your most memorable trips? How do you disconnect to reconnect? I’d love to hear your stories.

With love from Cuba ❤ LB

Wild Success in the Face of Uncertainty

Wild Success! Is the flashing neon banner inside my mind this week. In direct response to last weeks post: How to Not Accept Right Now, I have to say that I feel amazing. I mean, the limbo continues and I feel torn and as anxious as ever. But despite all that, I got really lucky and managed to accomplish some big tasks.

In the face of uncertainty, I leaned into my coaching practice. I had 6 coaching sessions this week, 5 of which I lead and facilitated. The structure that comes with my coaching program is very welcome during limbo. Having class and assignments that need to be completed by a certain date means that there is just the right amount of pressure to get my ass in gear. So I can only spend so much time planning my unknown future before I have focus.

Putting my focus on others and being in a position to create a positive atmosphere for someone else transformed my week. The genuine conversations I was a part of brought me into the present moment. And the fact that those conversations weren’t about me or what I am doing (most of them weren’t) empowered me to give more of myself and make the most of what we have right now.

The lucky part of all of this is what those around me brought to the table. The boyfriend had 3 days off this week and offered to help me complete the daunting task of painting my childhood room. This project took a full three days of prep and painting. Unfortunately, no mural has been completed yet, but the blank white canvas awaits. I’m 99% certain this project would still be looming before me without his help and the time frame.

Next, the way my clients showed up to their sessions blew me out of the water. The authenticity and vulnerability that they continue to demonstrate is awe-inspiring. And I am so grateful because it helps me feel an immense sense of gratitude. It’s exactly what I needed to temper my lack of focus.

So I found myself being catapulted into the present moment over the last week. I am elated. Where I was being bogged down in uncertainty suddenly lent itself to accomplishing a task that has been on the to do list forever. And I had a hunky man to help me complete the job in half the time it would have taken me otherwise. The icing on top is that I got to step into my role as coach this week and feel deeply connected to my clients. I’ve made sure to do a lot of writing about these things to infuse myself with a sense of gratitude and being in the now.

When was the last time you felt the sensation of wild success?! Do you have a success dance move? Because I’m working on my “Baby Groot” to celebrate all the good shit right now.

XO, homies ❤ LB

How to Not Accept Right Now

I was going to write a post called “how to accept right now.” It started with: “I don’t feel qualified to write this post. Especially not right now.”

So I changed it. Let’s talk about how NOT to accept each moment as it rushes by!

One of the greatest ways to not be present is to fantasize about the future constantly. Your current situation is boring, routine, mundane, or perhaps anxiety inducing. It may be that your future is uncertain, which leads to anxiety and excitement because there are so many unknown factors that your mind is racing to plan all the details that you couldn’t possibly pin down right now. It’s a nice place to be, the future. The future in the minds eye has no limits. Everything can be perfect and awesome and easy in the future. That distant point out on the horizon, a new day not yet defined.

Another great way to not accept right now is by dwelling in the past and reviewing various scenarios of your life over and over and over again. You worry about that embarrassing thing you said or the obnoxious comment your friend made, what did they mean by that? You’re reliving the glory of a promotion or a night out, you worry, you reminisce, you dream of days past. Things were better, funner (let’s make funner an official word), and less complicated back then.

A third way to not be present is to switch wildly between these two states. You slip in and out of time, writing lists in your head, praying you won’t forget that one important thing. Then you go on Facebook and review your memories for the week and watch a random video (or 20) until the slamming of a door jolts you back into reality. How long were you in the internet hole for? Who knows! You keep clicking away.

This is me right now. I moderate my mega-ADD (self diagnosed for my current situation) with some meditation in the morning and regular exercise. However, my mysterious and unknown fate for the next few months means that my brain wants to live in and plan for the future constantly! I am working hard on bringing meaning, appreciation, and some adventure into my everyday moments.

How do you deal with limbo? What’s occupying most of your brain space at the moment? Please share!

XO ❤ LB

How Accountability Changes Everything

Since joining the life and business coaching program with iPEC in March, I probably have more accountability now than I have in the last year and a half. This is a welcome change in my life. My work at San Francisco CrossFit and my obsession with goals have taught me that the most effective way to accomplish anything is get help and get accountable. STAT.

If you’re serious about getting something done, then get someone on board who is going to make sure there’s a consequence if it doesn’t happen. It’s also nice if this person can celebrate with you once your task is accomplished, as well.

There are many different forms of accountability, though they aren’t all created equal. I’d say one of the biggest and most challenging goals is weight loss. Weight loss and fitness habits require a myriad of small and big changes in ones lifestyle. So trying to accomplish them alone is futile. Want to lose 10 pounds and get into a fitness routine? Get a friend on board. Hell, get a whole community on board. There’s nothing quite like building supportive relationships while going through tough changes.

Your friend who is your workout or check in buddy will be helpful in that they’ll add a sense of responsibility and pressure. Add money into the mix and the stakes get a little higher. Every time you miss your work out, you owe them $10. Or maybe $100! Whatever it takes.

I’m incorporating this into my own life at the moment by having my coach hold me accountable to getting help fixing my computer and studying for class. I check in with them at least once a week to discuss the progress that I’ve made or otherwise, what’s holding me back. I also use this in my art practice.

There’s nothing quite like an art show deadline to get your ass in gear. Not only does the paint have to be (mostly) dry, but it has to be ready to hang, with a title and a price. And that gets real fast if you’re setting up a show or a booth all by yourself.

What’s something you’re trying to tackle at the moment? Is something getting in the way?

Write to me about it.

XO ❤ LB

 

Story #30: End of Story.

Story #30: End of Story.

JK! The party continues!

I would like for this to be the beginning of something, rather than the end. This is the completion of my 30 days of story. I continue to enjoy the writing process and feel that I have really flexed this writing muscle.

One of the most meaningful aspects of posting 30 stories over the last month has been connecting with so many different people. I love hearing from you! I have gotten comments, emails, texts, and even phone calls (!!) from friends referencing a post and what it meant to them. This ability for us to connect through our stories was the main point of this exercise and of this blog in general. I am happy to say that it has been extremely successful in my eyes.

My greatest struggle in writing and posting to a blog is that judgment creeps in and I begin to ask myself “what’s the point?” In the long run, I would like to continue to connect to my community and add value to people’s lives. I want to write about things that are useful to others. Has reading any of these stories helped you in some way? Please share which one has and how (in the comments below or shoot me an email at lara at larabuelow dot com).

Posts will continue with 1 article per week. XOXO ❤ LB

 

Story #29: Erotic Fiction

Story #29: I wanted to write an Erotic Fiction novel.

In 2012, I was doing a lot of soul searching. Wait a minute… haha sorry, deja vu for a second there. In 2012 I was reading a ton of blogs, doing a lot of passion project exploration, and working on a blog that I maintained for one full year. I based the blog on an extensive list of goals, originally 26 goals by my 26th birthday, and then the 27×27. I am list and goal obsessed, so this structured worked really well for me.

One of my goals was to explore something sexy. I checked this goal off in at least 3 different ways. One of those ways was by reading erotic fiction and then attending a book release party by the author of the Boudoir Bible. Here’s a clip from my last blog:

My sharable “explore something sexy” goal is that I read an erotic novel and attended a book talk by the author of the Boudoir Bible. Lightning struck on this one. I had a conversation with a friend about the Claiming of Sleeping Beauty and was so intrigued by the premise of the book that I went out and bought it. Reading erotic fiction was exciting, as you can imagine, so I got through it in a reasonable time frame. However, there was no accountability here, only fodder for my own ideas. Reading the novel inspired me to look up erotic literature events in San Francisco, which lead me to Betony Vernon’s talk about the Boudoir Bible that was being hosted the day after I discovered it. I blindly jumped at the opportunity (having no idea who she was) and showed up. Lightning and the magical cosmos inspired action? I’m so glad I attended.

Even though I enjoyed the Claiming of Sleeping Beauty, I found that it left a lot to be desired. Since I was getting really into writing, I thought that perhaps I should try my hand at writing my own erotic novel. The ones that I found felt a bit hokey and I think there is still plenty of room to write good sexy books for men and women alike.

I haven’t written any erotic stories or even continued my search for satisfying erotic novels. If you know of any, I would love to hear about them! And though it isn’t in the cards for me at the moment, perhaps some day I will pursue this idea. This is one of the more entertaining ideas I’ve come up with in brainstorming sessions of creative projects. A real challenge on several levels!

Would you like to write a novel in your lifetime? What kind of book can you imagine writing? What books do you like to read? Favorite fiction novel?

XO ❤ LB

 

Story #28: Stuck in Limbo.

Story #28: Stuck in Limbo. And totally slacking off because of it.

As we (my man and me) wait to hear back from medical schools, I find myself abstaining from further commitment to things (especially to art projects). I have made many big changes and big moves in my life, so I recognize the pattern. The pattern of loving and then hating the city you live in. It’s like fighting with someone right before they are going somewhere to make the separation easier. It is the cycle of waiting for a life-altering event and planning everything around it despite the lack of certainty. I am trying to embrace these patterns, bite my teeth into them. There’s a feeling of relief, allowing myself to sink into the “go with the flow” mentality. I don’t want to push too hard to pursue huge projects before potentially uprooting my entire life.

And yet, there’s the disappointment and the frustration, too.

I DO have plans that are going to happen one way or another. I have ideas and projects that I want to bring to fruition. It feels like every break, even just a few days away from art, cause the momentum to slow. It’s a bit like pushing a large boulder across a minimal slope, when it hasn’t picked up quite enough speed to keep rolling on its own. But I suppose that’s much of any business in the first 5 years.

I am hoping to paint 1-5 murals over the summer and I look forward to doing so. These are currently the projects I am most looking forward to because they allow me to collaborate with friends and to visit different places. I am also still applying to certain shows and turning down others.

It’s hard because the lack of definite plans means that I may not be around to install or de-install a show. I am continuously reminded of the colossal task that moving is. It’s easier if you can do it with one bag, but I’m not living the minimalist lifestyle anymore! Have you ever done that? Moved to a a new city/state/country with just one bag?

It certainly is a freeing experience – abandoning the majority of your possessions. I try to KonMari the shit out of my life on a regular basis. That is also an emotional and physical undertaking that should not be underestimated. However, the idea of building a home in a new city increases my attachment to the things I have acquired here in San Francisco over the past several years.

This limbo state is showing me exactly where my enthusiasm lies. Being in the “who knows” territory lends a blasè attitude towards anything you aren’t crazy about. And this is why I am so happy and grateful that I signed up for this professional coaching program. It’s like having a good book in your back pocket. Stuck at a train station? No problem, I’ve got this awesome book! Stuck in the great unknown of infinity? Bring it on!

But it’s not infinity. It’s sometime between now (like right now) and mid-August. Damn you medical schools! Damn You! I like to say that this application process verges on psychological torture. You mean we could MOVE and JAC could start classes and then UCLA could call us back home in August? Jesus Christ.

OK, that’s enough ranting about the medical schools. My enthusiasm lies with painting, this blog, and my coaching program. I am excited to spend quality time with YOU, and you, and you! This is a great time of year to appreciate all that San Francisco has to offer. And the thought of moving lights a fire under my ass to organize a garage sale or sell all my crap on craigslist.

Also… I can’t move with ALL my art, so if you want to make me an offer on any of my pieces (see Instagram or come over for a coffee or whiskey!)… Just Sayin’!

Speaking of which, I have an art opening next Friday, May 5th, at City Art Gallery. 828 Valencia Street. I will have new paintings on display for sale!

Or maybe you just would rather indulge me in a complimentary coaching session? You can be my guinea pig. My treat 😉 lara at lara buelow dot com is where you can reach me.

Yours floating around in limbo space, XO ❤ LB

space cat fig.gif

Story #27: Naked Counseling.

Story #27: Naked Counseling. Yes, it’s a thing.

Here is the third post on weight and body image. This story builds on my experience with Interchange Counseling Institute, which I wrote about recently. After several months of counseling and training, you get the amazing opportunity to participate in a Naked Counseling evening.

Since it is completely optional, it is an additional two to three hours after a long day of coaching. At the time, I had never heard of such a thing. Yet I wasn’t turned off by it in the slightest. Quite the opposite, I was intrigued. My interest was piqued and despite being nervous, I was committed to the experience from the beginning.

Here is something else that I could write an entirely separate story about: my family is German and the culture around bodies is very different there. This has shown up in numerous ways throughout my life that have been important in shaping who I am today. However, it hasn’t just been a naked party with daisies and butterflies and shit. My experience in America is that nudity is mostly offensive and not OK. The contrast and the conflict of these two worlds coming together is perhaps another post to be written.

My main point: I was raised in a household that is body-positive and that was neutral and comfortable with nudity. Nudity was not sexualized or demonized. It’s how you were born and it’s how everyone is all the time under their clothes (gasp!) We’ve got the same parts and the more you make it a mystery or damning, the more confused people get. For some cultural history, you can read about the Freikörperkultur (Free Body Culture) in Germany and how it has influenced the country.

Also, this is super random, but the first thing you get when you google Freikörperkultur is this dance video. You’re Welcome.

According to this blog post from 2011, the FKK has been seeing a decline in nudity and its acceptability… to me, this is an example of the conservatism currently sweeping across the world. Personally, I think we would all be better off doing some naked counseling and chilling the hell out.

OK, back to the story. Once our giant conference room had all the windows draped and taped over, we were told how the evening would go down. We would be divided into groups of approximately 8 people. As a group, we would come up with a ritual and process of undressing. This process would be performed in the center of all the other groups (large circle of everyone, one group in the middle performing). The only requirement is that ALL clothes would have to be in the middle of your mini group circle at the end of your ritual. Then the group collects their clothes and returns to the larger circle. Then the next group goes.

Everyone ends up naked standing in a giant circle.

This is a beautiful thing. We then take a full 30 seconds to laugh, squirm, and make all the ridiculous noises and movements to discard nervous energy and awkwardness. Next we get a full 2 minutes of silence to stand around and stare at each other. And while you may be cringing at the thought of this, it might be in my top 10 most amazing experiences (that just came to me, but it feels accurate.) It’s a peaceful and powerful experience to stand safely in a room, naked with others, who are gathered to increase their love and acceptance of each other and themselves.

After the ceremony is over, you split into your groups and go to your corner of the room to do smaller sessions. At this point, people can volunteer or request sessions to be counseled on body image and acceptance. At this point, I became an observer, as there were lots of people interested in getting coached. However, I loved the experience. I have to say that it makes me genuinely happy knowing that a group of this size can come together, get naked, and then do a very focused activity. If everyone is naked, it’s not even a thing anymore. Eventually, it falls away. You are simply present.

I know and understand, and now have witnessed! – how uncomfortable this is for other people. I was giddy with excitement to put it plainly. Again, if everyones doing it, then you all share the experience and it doesn’t have to carry the weight of judgement and sex. However, it clearly is not for everyone. This is something that I love about San Francisco. This is an opportunity that exists here and there are people in the world who do this work if you feel called to transform your perceptions of your body and others. And then there’s always Burning Man.

Yours in nakedness and acceptance, XO ❤ LB