One Month Hiatus: Annnnnnd Go.

A week ago today, I started a deliciously inspiring one month hiatus following what can only be described as a summer in Hell, aka New Jersey, which consisted of 3 months of working a ridiculous number of hours a week, drinking far too much in the few off hours I had and getting very VERY little sleep. It was a summer of excess, to be sure. Though I wouldn’t trade the experience for anything as I learned a lot and was challenged in every arena of my life (not just professionally), I returned last weekend feeling physically, emotionally, mentally, and most horrifically, creatively drained.

And even worse – I’m unemployed now.

But every cloud has a silver lining, or so I’m told. And for me, that is the one month I’m taking off to write, travel, clean out my closet, exercise daily, get my oil changed and otherwise regain some semblance of a normal life, before I jump back into another project and send my life spiraling into unpredictable chaos once more.

It took about a week for me to unpack my bags, for my liver to adjust to moderation once more, and for my body to get used to being back in sunny, lovely Los Angeles, a place I never realized I loved so much until I was forced to spend 3 full months away from it in the cruel humidity and sudden downpours of New Jersey. My head has slowly stopped spinning and I’ve managed to find a nice, sharp focus to carry me through these next 3 weeks.

I’ve got plans – grand ones. I’m attacking my to-do list hungrily and striking off things left and right. This last week, I cleaned out my closet, de-cluttered my apartment and re-instated my membership at my local gym. I opened up my novel files and dusted off my notes, jumping back into a scene I haven’t worked on since June. I backed up my computer and cleaned out my hard drive. I re-registered my car and even went to the DMV to get a new license. I’ve reconnected with friends and family that I haven’t been in touch with for months. Yesterday I flew to Texas to visit my parents and friends in my hometown, which I haven’t done since March. And I leave for 2 weeks in Hawaii on Wednesday – the yearly “vacation” I take for my own mental health, where I challenge myself to try new activities, face my fears, confront my mental obstacles, escape the grind and find new focus and perspective in my life.

I’d been lost in sea of work and booze all summer. Now, I’m hitting the gym and the keyboard harder than I have in months. I’m actually being productive again. And it feels fucking fantastic.

Watch out world! Lindsay has FREE TIME!!!!!

Hiking Into The Unknown

Disclaimer: Okay, so I know my trip to Hawaii is soooo two weeks ago, but I still want to write a couple more posts about some of the adventures I had during my week there. So deal with it.

After my embarrassing attempt at riding a moped and the subsequent 2 hours I spent sulking about my inability to do everything perfectly on the first try, my friend Tiffany and I decided to go on a hike, because that is the most logical thing to do after getting scraped up pretty badly in a brush with death on a moped.

Before I left for Hawaii, I’d researched some of the best hikes on Oahu online and found several sites telling me that the Manoa Falls hike was the easiest one to do if you want to see a waterfall and experience the inner part of the island.

We drove to the starting point, paid the $5 to park and started the easy trek to the falls. It was a much shorter hike than I thought – about 3/4 of a mile – and much easier, barely going uphill. The trail was also very busy with people, which kind of made it less of an “escape into nature” than I was hoping it would be.

There were some cool bamboo forests and the trees were stunningly massive. It does feel like another world, like I was in Jurassic Park. I half expected a herd of dinosaurs to emerge from the tall overgrowth. The tree roots were twisted and big, and you could walk under their archways. It didn’t take us long to get to the falls – about 30 minutes, and that was with stopping to take silly pictures and let other more hurried hikers pass.

This site describes Manoa Falls as “a spectacular site as it tumbles down a near vertical cliff for approximately 150-feet into a small pool.” I guess this is mostly true, except for the “spectacular” part. It is kinda cool to see, but not amazing enough to warrant all the heavy recommendations and people that it attracted. There is only a small little space there to view it from, and it was full of people. Also, there are signs that warned about the major rockslide they had there in 2002, which is apparently why most of it is roped off.

The top of the falls from below.

I’ll be honest, the falls were a bit of a let down, but on the way back we made a decision to follow the signs for another trail that I vaguely remembered reading about online – ‘Aihualama Trail. We had no idea where exactly it went (I had remembered something about a waterfall from my research) but we decided to follow it anyways, since the falls hike was so much shorter than we thought it would be.

We ended up following the trail for over an hour, passing only a few people on the way, and seemingly not getting anywhere. It was mostly tracking back and forth uphill, through bamboo forests. Since you can’t see out past the tall trees, we didn’t really have any way to keep our bearings. It was muddy, we had no idea where we were headed, but for some reason we just kept going.

Bamboo and mud galore.

It was unnerving to follow a trail that leads into the unknown (I will resist the urge to make a clichéd comparison to the journey of life) but it was also very freeing, and a lot of fun. I had to consciously resist the urge to worry about where we were headed, when it was going to get dark, or whether or not we’d be killed by some crazy jungle animal I didn’t yet know existed. I didn’t worry about getting lost, because we were following a trail that only went one way. Our only options were to keep going or turn around and go back, having never discovered where this path leads. We hoped it led to something amazing, otherwise why would there be a trail leading to it?

About half an hour in, we came across a big guy with a man purse that reminded me of Damian from Mean Girls who was bounding towards us in a hurry. I asked him if there was a waterfall up ahead, and he said there wasn’t. He was panting pretty heavily and just told us there was a pretty overlook if we kept going, and then he told us to turn right somewhere, but we didn’t hear where he said to turn because he had kept moving in the opposite direction and his voice trailed off.

A few times, we thought about turning around, but we kept going and about an hour and a half after we started, the path dead ended into another marked with a sign that read “Pauoa Flats Trail.” There were arrows pointing in both directions, and we guessed (luckily) that this was where big dude meant for us to turn right. And about 15 minutes later, we were rewarded for our determination to keep going – we came to the end of the trail, which was an unbelievable overlook.

It was so clear, so emerald green, and so bright after spending hours in the dark overgrowth of the jungle that it made my head spin…though that may have been from having just hiked uphill for 2 hours. We could see the ocean at the break in the mountains to the right and the thick growth of trees on the mountain below us. I found out when I got back that we were at the Ko`olau summit, looking out at the Nu’uanu Valley. Though I won’t attempt to pronounce those, I definitely will tell everyone I know who is headed to Oahu to check out this hike.

It was totally worth the sweat and time it took to get up there – and to think we were going to turn around! I felt like I’d conquered a mountain. It was definitely a boost after feeling like such failure when I crashed my moped earlier in the day.

It made me think I should start taking new paths in life for the hell of it more often, without fear of not knowing where it could end up. The trick seems to be to just keep going.

Dammit, I knew I wouldn’t be able to resist that cliché for long.

Accepting My Limitations

I am a firm believer that everything happens for a reason. I believe that sometimes, fate, or God, or whatever you want to call it, steps into your life and doesn’t allow you to do something that you were planning on doing…..especially if that something is riding a moped for the first time in your life around a tropical island on mountain roads with no railing separating you from tumbling over a cliff into a dense jungle hundreds of feet below.

Now that I look back, it really wasn’t a great plan to start with. I’ve never ridden any kind of moped or scooter (I haven’t even been on a bike in years!) and I am one of the most uncoordinated people on the planet. Even though it was a full day, guided tour around the island, Fate definitely did not think it was a good idea.

We arrived at Hawaiian Style Rentals at 8 AM, fresh faced and ready for some hardcore mopeding. We watched a quick safety video and they fitted us for helmets. This is the picture I took right before hopping on.

I look so hopeful, so cool, so….like I know what I’m doing.

But I didn’t know what I was doing. I hopped on my moped for the quick practice run around the block to get used to riding, and after the first turn, the guy holding on to the back of my moped said, “Have you ever done this before?” and I said, “No!” And he said, “You’re pretty good!” and he let go of me, and I made another turn down the alley towards the mildly busy street I needed to turn right on.

The last thing I remember thinking was He probably says that to everybody.

After checking the coast was clear, I started to go right, and…..I couldn’t get thing to turn. Because the gas was on the right handle bar, I guess I was revving it, and I wasn’t sure how far to turn the handle bar to turn the bike. I was heading into oncoming traffic, where a white limo was heading straight for me, and it still wouldn’t turn. And suddenly I forgot how to break. And then I made a last ditch effort to swerve…..and I fell over and skidded to the ground in front of the limo, which (barely) braked in time and didn’t hit me. I fell all the way off the bike, scraping up my left hip and elbow and hitting my helmet hard on the ground.

It is funny how the first instinct you have when you fall in public, even if you hurt yourself, is to pop back up and pretend it didn’t happen. At first I thought that I needed to pick up my moped, head to the side of the road and wait for Tiffany, letting all the onlookers know I was okay. But I just stood up, shaking and in shock, looked down at my bleeding elbow and then up at the limo driver who was asking if I was okay, and then at all of the old tourists swarming me, asking if I was hurt. I was barely aware of being led to the sidewalk and someone grabbing my bike. I remember lifting my shirt and seeing the huge scrape on my side, and refusing the creepy old guy who offered me a drag on his cigarette and to let me use his hotel bathroom that was right around the corner. When Tiffany came around the corner and saw everything, and asked me what happened, all I could do was burst into tears and say “I DON’T WANT TO DO THIS!!!”

My injuries.

Look, my injuries were minor, I realize that. They were merely enough to put both me and the rental company off the idea of me going on the tour. I got away with a full refund, a mini-doctoring up by a staff member and some pats on the back from Tiffany, who kept saying, “Hey, at least you tried it once.” But as we walked away trying to figure out what other activity we could fill our day with, I was plagued by embarrassment and frustration, and I couldn’t figure out why. So I can’t ride a moped, so what? I’m great a lot of other things. Who cares if I can’t ride a stupid moped around a stupid island in stupid Hawaii? (I was still really frustrated at this point.)

As usual, I kept dwelling on it, all day. I thought about why something like that would happen to me, in Hawaii of all places, on my vacation. Maybe I was really lucky – what if I’d have aced the practice run and then had the same crash on another street where the oncoming driver wouldn’t have reacted in time, or maybe I could have veered off a cliff a couple of hours into the tour after thinking I’d mastered the damn thing. Or maybe it happened because I was meant to do something else with my day. I have a bad habit of thinking too much about things – sometimes I run the risk of over analyzing the things that happen in my life that I forget to just enjoy the ride and relaxing.

A couple of hours later, while hiking through a jungle to a waterfall with Tiffany, it hit me – this was about relaxing. Falling of the moped was meant to show me that I need to accept my limitations, and then to just freaking let it go. I mean, here I was, in paradise, worried and embarrassed and frustrated that I hadn’t been able to ride a freaking moped, wondering what it meant, when I should have just shrugged my shoulders, and said, “Well, I’m not perfect. Mopeding just isn’t for me.” I shouldn’t have given it another thought, and instead, I should have kept my calm, relaxed, and reminded myself that I’m not perfect, nobody is. I should have just focused on the next adventure.

For so long, I’ve always been frustrated with my own imperfections. I like to think of myself as a daredevil, as a highly adventurous spirit that can do just about anything, and do it well. And I’ll be honest, as a kid that was pretty much true – I was great at school, sports, and conquered nearly every challenge that was thrown my way. But the older I get, the more frustrated I get when I don’t do things absolutely perfectly. I am very hard on myself, and I tend to dwell on the fact that I haven’t accomplished all that I had planned on – I haven’t published a book or written for a famous magazine, I don’t work out regularly, I don’t keep a daily journal, I’m not married or have a retirement savings account, and I don’t do all the things on my daily to do lists that I always tell myself I should do.

Writing is obviously number one on my list of personal disappointments. I always make huge sweeping plans for writing projects that somehow never seem to materialize, or I’ll write something that I think is crap and just trash rather than face the fact that it will take work to make it good, and a lot of work to make it great.

Accepting my limitations means accepting that I can’t do everything perfectly. As a writer, I think that means accepting that I can’t write more than an hour a day when my work is in full swing. It means that I’m going to write a lot of really bad stuff before I write something good. And I’m going to fail at first attempts at getting something published.

And letting it go means simply forging ahead, despite the limitations. It means still sitting down and continuing to work on a project even when I feel like it might as well be tossed out the window. It means not freaking out about the fact that I never have large blocks of time to write and instead sitting down and writing what I can in my small windows of 15 minutes here, 30 minutes there.

It means, when I fall down, instead of worrying about why I fell, how I fell, what it means for my life and what could have happened if I didn’t fall, I should just stand up, dust myself off, and say, “Well, that didn’t work. On to the the next thing.”

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Stand Up Paddle Boarding (Ish)

Kailua Bay, Oa'hu

On my first full day in Hawaii, I wanted to do something that was a little active but also relaxing in order to ease into my very adventurous vacation. So, my friend Tiffany and I rented stand-up paddle boards (or SUPs as the cool kids call them) to explore Kailua Bay with. I have never been on a stand up paddle board, but I wasn’t too worried about being able to do it. I mean, how hard can it be right? It’s just standing, yeah? And I read this post from The Sweat Factor blog before leaving – apparently, if you can stand, you can SUP.

Let me start this by telling you this important detail about myself that will come in to play in nearly all of the island adventures that I had in the last week – I am VERY uncoordinated, have terrible balance, and am totally clumsy. I’ve been 5’8 since I was 12 years old, but somehow I’ve never grown out of that feeling of being much taller than I feel like I should be.

They don't seem this big and sturdy in the water.

We used a Groupon that Tiffany bought to rent SUPs from Hawaiian Watersports in Kailua and after signing our life away on a few waivers, we headed to the water to pick up our boards from a laid-back guy with a pony tail and earrings, who gave us a few pointers and sent us on our merry way.

We decided to try out the boards in the canal next to the beach, where we figured the calm waters would help while we got accustomed to standing on the SUPs. At first, standing was easy, but paddling and steering was hard – not only do you have to worry about keeping your balance (which is quite a workout for your core), you also have to try to move forward and steer with just one long paddle. I got stranded under the bridge a few times and had a hard time paddling my way out. But after about 15 minutes of practice in the canal, we were eager to join the big boys and hit the ocean.

In the canal - One of the few pics I have where I'm actually standing on the SUP.

The waters of Kailua Bay are characteristically calm and clear, and today was no exception. We carried our boards into the water and set off to sea, starting in a sitting position until we got away from the swimmers and snorkelers. To be fair, I also wanted to get away from any spectators – I was sure people would laugh at us as we tried this for the first time and had our first few wipe outs. I know I would! We floated out further and watched as tanned, seasoned SUP-ers paddled by with ease, and we decided it was time we gave it a go.

It is easier to sit.....

It goes without saying that I wiped out pretty hard core on my first attempt. Standing on a three feet wide board in waves isn’t easy, and forget about paddling. If I did manage to stand for more than a minute, trying to point my board in the right direction was impossible. Finally after about 4 or 5 hard wipe outs I decided that I liked sitting, laying, and kneeling on the board just fine and I didn’t need to stand, thank you very much. Tiffany fared better than me, but also eventually decided it was more relaxing to sit and slowly paddle next to each other.

The view of Kailua Bay from Flat Island.

We paddled out to Popoia, or Flat Island, a bird sanctuary with a small beach to land your board on, and walked around for a bit. Most of it is roped off to protect the birds, but it was nice to have a break from paddling and see the whole of the bay from off-shore.

We then slowly made our way back, going up and down the coast and chatting away. Tiffany is my best friend from high school back in Texas, and she moved to Hawaii a little over a year ago. Laying and sitting on the boards and floating far off shore was a lot of fun and was a perfect way for us to enjoy the place and each other’s company at the same time. I don’t know how else to describe it except that it was like we were both lying on pool floaties, soaking up the sun and engaging in quality girl talk, except we were in a beautiful bay in Hawaii, floating over coral reefs and clear water teeming with fish and sea turtles.  It was unreal.

I highly recommend renting SUPs in Kailua Bay if anyone is on their way to Oa’hu. If you’re into active stuff on your vacation, OR if you just want a new way to enjoy the beautiful beaches, they are a lot of fun. But, if you aren’t very coordinated and/or are a clumsy writer with two left feet like me, don’t expect to do a lot of standing up.

You can rent a SUP for a full day (9am to 4:30pm) from Hawaiian Watersports for $39. Address: 167 Hamakua Drive, Kailua, HI 96734. Phone: 808.262.KITE (5483)

Tiffany planking on the SUP. I had to get this photo in, one way or another!