Posts Tagged ‘Amy Sundberg’

I’ve been thinking about the cliché about how it’s the journey that’s important, not the destination.

I completely believe this. And for me, the fact this is true brings much of my happiness and enjoyment of life.

I’ve been trying to think of what in my life it has ever actually been about the destination, and I am drawing a blank. Even when I travel, it’s not so much about getting to a place as it is about what I do in that place once I’m there. In other words, it’s about the experience of the travel and the location and what I learn while there, not just the achievement of checking it off my list.

This kitten totally agrees with me and wants to take a journey himself.

This kitten totally agrees with me and wants to take a journey himself.

University? Of course getting the diploma has been helpful (although less so than I would have thought), but that’s not what I think of first when I think of my college years. I think of getting to immersively study music, I think of all the life skills I learned, I think about moving away from my family for the first time, I think of my friends and my professors and the university environment.

Career and artistic aspirations? In a writing career, there are various milestones, and I take goal-setting seriously. But each of those milestones is only a blip on the radar, and then everything continues on, and I keep writing. Finish a draft? Great, keep writing. Sell a story? Great, now write another one. It is the enchantment I have with writing that keeps making it worthwhile. And that is all about the process.

Romantic relationships? Well, now that I’ve achieved Girlfriend Status(™), I can cross this off my list of priorities. Haha. But again, this is mostly not about having a significant other or being married or whatever step you’re at. It’s about building something meaningful over time. There is no checking out just because you’ve reached a specific status.

Friendships? Amazing pets? Etc? Same as above.

It’s not that I don’t enjoy reaching a goal or celebrating a milestone. And sometimes, usually when it involves something really unpleasant, all I can really focus on is the end result as I push through the work to achieve it.

But most of life isn’t spent celebrating milestones. Most of life isn’t checking off big accomplishments. Most of life is in the moments in between.

So it behooves us to find a way to make those moments something precious.

It’s no accident that Viktor Frankl’s three criteria for a meaningful life have little to do with materialistic metrics for success. Having work or a project that you find meaningful, having and maintaining personal connections with people and/or communities, and having a positive perspective on suffering and life in general: these three things are all focused on the moments between. They are ongoing. They revolve around fostering a general sense of purpose rather than centering on very specific goals. And, I think, they allow for greater resilience in the face of adversity.

So yes, I care the most about the journey. I care about the hours I spend writing that rough draft, and I care about the time I spend with the people I love. I care about the two weeks I spent in Bali, not just my ability to say I’ve been there. I care about improving at things and learning new things. I care about the regular Thursday night dance and having ice cream and struggling to practice singing as much as I’d like. I care about taking a walk with Nala every day.

And when I reach a destination, I try to stop and appreciate it, but ultimately it is never long before I’m thinking about my next steps. And I’m glad that’s true.

To me, the next steps are happiness.

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What I Did in Bali

I’m back!

And I’m even somewhat over the jet lag (although wow, the jet lag going to and from Bali is possibly the worst I’ve ever experienced) and mostly over the cold I caught my last morning in Bali. Note to self: don’t expect to come back from a vacation halfway around the world, however relaxing it might be, feeling well rested.

But I had a truly amazing time. And I’m going to share a few highlights with you.

Most relaxing moment: The couples’ wrap and massage at our beach-side resort.

Best dinner: The five-course meal at our resort in Seminyak.

Runner-up: The Lotus Cafe in Ubud, for obvious reasons.


Most exciting moment: Riding on the back of Daisy the Elephant


Most challenging moment: The entire journey home, when I was really sick and our flights were disrupted by a typhoon.

Most surprising moment: Actually liking the coffee I tasted at the coffee plantation

Yum yum!

Yum yum!

Scariest moment: When this little monkey couldn’t get my water bottle out of my pocket and therefore refused to let go of my leg.

My new friend!

My new friend!

Most touching moment: Releasing baby sea turtles into the wild.


Go, Egbert, go!

Go, Egbert, go!

Most romantic moment: Dancing with the boyfriend in the surf to one of our songs while the sun set.


Favorite cultural experience: Pura Luhur Uluwatu and the Kecak Fire Dance we saw there


Best hello: From Nala when I got home in the middle of the night


Well, okay, this was the next afternoon, but close enough!

I am also happy to report I did not get sunburned, I only got a few bug bites, and I didn’t succumb to dengue fever. I did eat a lot of great food, go swimming in the Indian Ocean for the first time, and make out like a bandit in the souvenir shopping department.

I also got to see several gamelan instruments (which are made of metal) being transported via scooter, which is a sight I don’t expect to forget any time soon.

And now to get back into the swing of things at home!

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A year ago I imagined a better life for myself.

I didn’t really believe it could happen, but I did believe it was what I wanted. So it was worth going all out for, even though I thought my efforts might very well end in failure.

I don’t think I’ve ever been as intensely social as I have been during the last year. I’ve been to so many parties and so many events, so many dances and movies and shows and luncheons and bruncheons and dinners and coffees and teas and outings. I’ve had the same small talk conversations maybe hundreds of times, and I’ve gone deeper whenever I saw the chance. I’ve spent time with hundreds of people, many of whom I’d never previously met.

I thought, I will find my people. I will find my balance. I will figure out what gives me joy and what does not. I thought, I will practice setting boundaries until it gets a little bit easier. I will practice saying no until that gets a little bit easier.

I thought, I will find the people who believe me and are patient with me and love me as I am. I will find the people who see me. I will find the people who make me feel safe, and I will love them with everything I have.

I thought, I know these people exist because I’ve already met a bunch of them. And I want to spend more time with the ones I’ve already met. And I want to meet more of them. And so that is what I’ll do, even though I kind of hate humanity right now and all I really want to do is wrap myself in a blanket and watch Pride and Prejudice over and over again. (The A&E miniseries version, if you really need to ask.) And maybe also Star Trek: The Next Generation because I’d just started watching that and it seemed like a good idea.

I thought, do the things you know you should do and be as hopeful as you can, and then if it all ends in misery, you will totally have an excuse to do something drastic like become a hermit or move to a foreign country or write angsty beat poetry.

And now a year has gone by, and it turns out it did NOT all end in misery. It turns out all those things I knew I should do were actually great ideas. It turns out all that social time resulted in me starting and/or continuing some fabulous friendships and feeling connected and getting a lot of practice and becoming more and more clear on what is important to me.

And now I am very happy with my friends and my communities and my boyfriend.

And I am also really freaking tired.

Nala is also tired.

Nala is also tired.

I get invited to large events where I’ll know hardly anyone, and I think, do I really have to go? And then I think, hahahaha, no, I do not! And that is very exciting for me. I look at the week ahead, and I know I should schedule-fu things up. And then I think, hahahaha, no, I can take things easy this week. And, you know, maybe wait for people to invite me. And in the meantime do an Orphan Black rewatch, because when is that not a good idea?

My sprained toe has forced me to take a slower pace, but once I realized that didn’t mean I’d be sitting around in enforced isolation for two months, it’s actually been kind of nice. Well, minus the pain and frustration and cabin fever, anyway. The slower pace has been nice. The reduced volume of small talk has been nice. The permission to focus more on self-care has been nice.

I’m so glad I made all the efforts I made, and they have paid off in spades. Enough so that now I can give myself a little break.

And soon I’ll be going on vacation, and it feels like the perfect time. But, more about that next week!

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I feel very protective of my close friends.

I forget this is true until one of them tells me a story of some awful thing someone else has done to them. And I don’t even have to think about it. I want to tell them how amazing they are and how much they don’t deserve that kind of behavior, and I want to listen to them vent if they think that will make them feel better, and I want to validate the hell out of them.

And I’m angry on their behalf. Much angrier than I would be if the same thing happened to me. And none of the weird delayed reaction anger either. I’m pretty much angry right away. Angry and sometimes indignant.

One time a close friend of mine called me up on the phone with this story of some really bizarre and inappropriate behavior of a mutual acquaintance of ours. And I realized this mutual acquaintance could, no doubt, use his access to me to make things even worse for my friend. And I knew the mutual acquaintance would have no qualms in doing so.

I decided then and there to let that mutual acquaintance go. It was one of the easiest interpersonal decisions ever. If there had been inappropriate behavior directed towards myself, I would have agonized over it, and wondered if I was being reasonable, and wondered if I needed to give some more benefits of the doubt, and worried about possible repercussions and burned bridges, and worried about what people would think, and wondered if it was somehow all my fault. But because it was about my friend, doing the right thing was easy. To this day, I think about the boundary I set with satisfaction and zero doubt.

This, then, is what it means to become your own best friend. It can be a powerful thought experiment. It is advocating for yourself the way you would advocate for your actual best friends. It is wanting for yourself the kind of respect and appropriateness you would want for your actual best friends. It is stopping and telling yourself the story of what’s going on right now as if the story was happening to your best friend instead of to you, and then noticing the difference in reaction and allowing that to guide you accordingly.

And it is also about learning to see and appreciate yourself the way your best friends see and appreciate you. I think my best friends are fabulous. I am blown away on a regular basis by all their good qualities, and I feel so lucky to know them and have them in my life. I love hearing about what they’re doing, their successes and their failures, their joys and their sorrows. I want them to be happy, of course, but when they are having a hard time, I see how courageous they are. I see how hard they’re trying. I see the risks they are taking. I see how deeply they feel and care. And I admire them so hard.

To be my own best friend, I need to admire myself that hard. To be my own best friend, I need to be blown away by my strengths, not only be bogged down by considering my weaknesses. To be my own best friend, I need to remember that my hard times don’t automatically reflect poorly on me.

To be my own best friend, I need to embrace the idea of being as protective of myself as I am of the other people I love.

One of my amazing besties!

One of my amazing besties!

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How I Met My Boyfriend

The timing was like something out of a novel.

I had reached the end of my patience with dating. I’d had a few fizzles, and I wasn’t even upset anymore as much as I was simply DONE. I looked at my life, and everything else was going really well. It was only dating that was making me unhappy, and I felt less and less incentive to take the time and energy out of all the parts of my life I did like for something that was feeling like a waste of my time.

I wrote “On Dating Fatigue.” On Facebook, one of my college friends suggested I take a break from dating. I replied, and this is a direct quote, “I’m not taking a break per say, but I have taken a step back and am not actively looking.”

Little did I know I’d start dating the man who is now my boyfriend nine days later.


To be honest, I didn’t really know what I meant by taking a step back, but I was forced to figure that out a few days later when someone asked me on a date. And I decided it didn’t mean I couldn’t say yes to a date I really wanted to accept, but it did mean I wasn’t going to be making effort to make those invitations happen.

The same day I made this determination, I went to game night. Attending for the first time was Future Boyfriend, who I had met a couple of times prior, always at big parties. But this time, we sat next to each other while we played Resistance, and he tried to convince everyone I was a spy instead of him, and I tried not to flirt with him. As the night wore on, this proved to be more and more difficult, but I was determined! I wasn’t going to make any effort! No flirting allowed!

By the end of the night, despite my best effort to make no effort, my best friend had invited Future Boyfriend to do a puzzle room with us, and I had somehow, with the least effort I’ve ever had to make to do such a thing, arranged for a bunch of us, including Future Boyfriend, to play BSG later in the month. In some circles, this might have been considered a failure of not making effort, but I was secretly pleased.

And also determined to make no further effort.


Two days later, Future Boyfriend asked me on a date. A less discerning individual could not have been faulted for thinking it was a Maybe Date, but I knew. It was a date.

I spent the requisite amount of time agonizing over what to wear: something as flattering as possible but also casual because of the whole Maybe Date thing, preferably something that didn’t look like I’d thought about it much at all, and could I get away with a skirt? Because sometimes guys try to take advantage of skirt-wearing on early dates, so it’s always a risk.

I wore the skirt. He was a gentleman. We made it to date two.

After date two, there was another game night. And a puzzle room. And a party. And a sprained toe. And BSG. And rushing Nala to the emergency vet together late at night. And more dates. And some frank conversations.

And eventually, he became my boyfriend, full stop.


One might extrapolate from this story that not making effort was a winning strategy.

But one would be wrong about that.


A few months before the above events, I ran into Future Boyfriend at a party. We barely talked, but he sent me a friend request on Facebook, so I invited him to my birthday party. (effort)

Then, in a somewhat uncharacteristic move on my part, I invited him to go to a wedding with me. (effort) But he was busy and couldn’t go.

At my birthday party, I felt like I had no time to talk to anyone. But when I found out he was leaving, I carved out the time to have a short conversation with him. (effort) During the conversation, he mentioned in a few weeks he was going to start coming to game night.

I went to game night. I probably would have gone anyway. But due to my freakish memory, I knew he would be there. (effort?)

Would I have invited him to my birthday and the wedding if he hadn’t sent me a Facebook request? No.

Would I have been there at that game night if I hadn’t known he was going to be there? Maybe…?

Would he have come to my party and game night and asked me on a date if I hadn’t asked him to that wedding? Maybe. Maybe not.

I guess we’ll never know.


No, refusing to make effort isn’t some magical answer. Instead, here’s what I take from this: you never know. You never know when and how past efforts may pay off.

So much of being social is about planting seeds. You put the seed in the ground, and if you can, you give it a little sun, a little water, and you wait and see. Sometimes nothing comes of it. Sometimes some shoots begin to emerge from the soil. Sometimes it’s a different kind of plant than you thought it would be. Sometimes it takes more time, and sometimes it takes less.   

And sometimes you get really, really lucky, and the timing is impeccable, and you begin to date someone right when you’ve finally stripped off enough layers to be truly genuine. And they show up, and they match you. And suddenly commitment doesn’t feel like this big, scary, pressured thing.

Instead it feels natural, like something you actually want. And you are even happier than you were before.


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When I was getting divorced, I read a piece of advice that has stuck with me ever since.

“A ten never marries a one.” Apparently a divorce lawyer delivered this line to Penelope Trunk, and then she blogged about it, and then years later I stumbled across it, and now it is burned into my brain.


A ten never marries a one. Let’s break this statement down, shall we? I don’t know what the divorce lawyer meant by it, but to me, this statement has nothing to do with actual numbers or a ranking system (ugh). It has nothing to do with particular traits or talents or some idea that people marry others who are exactly the same as they are.

No, to me, it simply means this: a relationship is made up of two people, and both people contribute to it. So when we look at a dysfunctional relationship, both people are contributing to the dysfunction. This does not excuse certain behaviors. It is not a value judgment, and it is not a statement of blame (although it can feel like one). It is simply a recognition that a dynamic takes two people to exist.

It is a harsh truth, and I took it to heart. In fact, I recall repeating it at inopportune moments to friends trying to console me. (Sorry, friends.) But while it might be painful, it is also a truth that restores agency. In being willing to take some responsibility, we can explore how we might act differently in the future.

And that is what I did. I asked myself some tough questions. I looked deep inside myself, and I tried not to flinch. In particular, I looked for my behaviors that were preventing me from getting what I wanted, and I looked for the cracks and old wounds that contributed to those behaviors. And then I began the slow process of trying to change.

This is incredibly tricky to do. Partly, this is because humans love our patterns, and we fall very easily into dynamics that feel comfortable. Mind you, they may not make us happy or help us fulfill our long-term goals. There is comfort in familiarity, even if it is a miserable comfort. As a result, we tend to repeat ourselves again and again.

And even if we’re watching for our patterns, they are not always obvious. Sometimes things can look very different on the surface, only to end up rubbing against the same old wound underneath.


So, this is a hard thing I’ve been working on. Totally possible, but also challenging. And I’ve learned a couple of things about myself during the process:

I learned it’s important that I know what I need. This means I had to figure out what it is I actually need versus what I thought I might need but it turned out wasn’t all that important. And I had to learn to accept what I need instead of feeling like I should be constantly apologizing for it.

I learned it’s important to be picky. I set out with the goal of being as picky as possible because I knew in the past I hadn’t been picky enough. My hope was by deliberately trying to be picky, I’d balance things out and come closer to the center on this spectrum. And also, you know, that maybe this would give me the necessary time and space to find someone who would actually meet a bunch of my needs.

I learned it’s important to be willing to walk away. I will probably always hate walking away. I will probably always hate even the idea of walking away. But what matters is not how I feel about it, but that I know I can and will do it if and when it becomes necessary.  

I learned it’s important to be happy on my own. And it’s important to believe I am a ten for myself, even if I have a lot of doubts about that. In other words, it’s important to believe you are worth it.



So what has come of all this work, you might be asking. Last you heard from me, back a couple of months ago, I was talking about dating fatigue. I was, truth be told, feeling like dating was kind of a waste of my time.

Well, life, it has been changing once more. And on Thursday, I’ll tell you the story of how I met my current boyfriend.

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Sometimes it can be scary to want things.

I just read an Ask Polly advice column, and the whole thing is pretty interesting, but here is the passage I want to look at today:

You don’t know what to do about it, so instead of throwing a fit or walking out the door, you become someone who exists in the margins, someone who can tuck herself into the background and make do with whatever leftovers come her way.

The problem is, that kind of passivity tends to bleed out over the rest of your life. You are willing to wait and see where you’ll live, and wait and see whether you’ll ever have kids, and wait and see if you’ll ever find a better job, until eventually you forget that you have control over these outcomes and everything else in your life.”

This kind of passivity is also a way to avoid commitment, to avoid figuring out what you actually want. What you want enough to really invest in it. What you want enough to risk sacrifice for it. What you want even though you might not get it.

In the last few years, you all watched me go through the decision of where I wanted to live. Before, I felt like I’d just ended up living in the Bay Area. It wasn’t so much that I’d made an active choice to live here as that life events pushed me toward it and I hadn’t resisted. So then, for me, part of learning who I am and what I want was really looking at where I was living and deciding if it was what I actually wanted.

And I have to say, while going through that process wasn’t the most fun ever, I am much more satisfied with my life having come out on the other side with an actual well-thought-out decision. Yes, I want to be here. Yes, I am committed to making certain sacrifices in order to stay. And sure, at some point those sacrifices might be too high and I might change my mind, but even if I leave at some point in the future, it feels good to know what I want right now.

Photo Credit: Shenghung Lin via Compfight cc

Photo Credit: Shenghung Lin via Compfight cc

Part of the reason I am writing this now is because it can be easy to fall into passivity. Especially for a recovering people pleaser. It can be easy to wait and see, all the while hoping for the best. And it’s not always wrong to do that, that’s not what I’m saying. Optimism can be a beautiful attitude to adopt. But sometimes it can also allow you to hide from certain realities and steer you away from being fully yourself.

So right now I am trying to embrace the experience of wanting things in active ways. It is terrifying, because once embraced, it makes it feel like I have so much more to lose. I feel vulnerable. And I realize the wanting means I have to take risks. I have to write things I don’t know if I can write. I have to do things I don’t know if I can do. I have to be myself even when that might lead to the necessity of letting go.

I write about this kind of stuff all the time. I write about it because I think it’s important to talk about it, and I also write about it because it is hard for me. Here on the blog it is easier to be clear. It is easier to take an idea and distill it down and develop an understanding of it. And then I carry these ideas out into the world, which is a murky, messy place at the best of times. I get confused, and sometimes I get frightened. Sometimes my ideas don’t seem so easy to implement anymore, and sometimes I forget what I actually think. But even so, I’m better off with these gems of ideas in my pocket, and I hope you are too.

So then, here is today’s gem: Sometimes it can be scary to want things. But that is who I want to be: a person who wants things and goes after them even when it’s scary and hard. A person who will choose risking failure rather than hanging out in passivity.

This isn’t always the person I will be. It certainly isn’t always the person I have been. But it’s the person towards whom I can aim.

Yes, I want things, with all my heart. Let’s see what happens next.

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