yurtboatsnow

It’s Hard to Say Goodbye – Identity Shifts and Ego

“Does this mean I am boring? I am ‘normal’ – ugggh. I don’t feel very interesting. I don’t feel inspiring…”

These are the things my crazy gremlin voice was saying to me as I was packing my belongings.

the sailboat in Spenard arriving on my birthday

the sailboat in Spenard arriving on my birthday

You see, I’ve been living in a yurt in Alaska, and it has been AWESOME! It is where the love of my life and I reconnected after 11 years. It is where he proposed to me. He did this as we watched the BEST Northern Lights show ever (the real-deal aurora borealis – not the TV show) on the beautiful sailboat that we dry-docked to bring it back to its former glory…our beloved “Sailboat in Spenard” moment. One of many.

We’ve had amazing dance parties there with wigs and knee-high boots and late-night quesadilla feasts feeding 15 people off a double-burner Coleman stove. It’s been where my man built my Chick Shack. It’s where I put up my 78 year-old mom in our Red Shed, where she elegantly weathered a cool Autumn visit exclaiming, “It’s like living in the village in the Philippines!” (but clearly colder).

It’s where we loved all our neighbors, who helped us live there in our quirky way by letting us plug into their electric supply as needed, or do water runs into their houses.

It’s where friends would stop by at any hour to visit us, bringing food or wine or home-brewed beer, or just a good story or a deep hug. It’s where people felt they could be themselves – their authentic selves.  It had a way of bringing that out in people.

It’s where we planned trips to Africa and dreamed about Mongolia. It’s where we started planning our wedding, and summer trips onto glaciers and rivers.

It’s where I did countless transformational client calls and interviews and developed my cherished Freedom Sessions Mastermind program – a product of years of work and dreams for which my yurt provided the requisite creative vibe.  It’s where my business reached a level for which I am forever humbled by the blessings brought to you when you do work from your heart and soul.

New Year's Eve 2011

New Year’s Eve 2011

Most of all, the yurt has been where I felt – and feel – human. Truly human. Connected to the elements. Living simply. More raw. There is a very real aspect to how feeling hot or cold – something many of us manage to avoid for any length of time in our society – can help you ground and be present and connect with your body and nature. This is not to say life was always simple in the yurt, but that we lived simply as best as we could, which is a gift in this hectic world.

Yet, the reality is, doing the big things I wanted to do in life, in the way I wanted to do it, was inevitably going to lead us to have to leave the yurt as it is. Someday.

You see, I want to make the world a better place by helping people free their minds so they can free their life – on a larger scale than I previously thought possible. Fulfilled people make the world a healthier and happier place for everyone! Because of this, and because I know how precious this life is, I want to spend every moment doing the things that truly bring me joy, and  contributing to making the world a better place by helping others do the same. Doing this on a larger scale was getting really hard to do from the yurt.

I would actually LOVE chopping wood and fetching water and having to defrost the yurt every time I came back after a grocery run IF I also didn’t have work I loved, which I’d rather be doing. As my friend Gordy – a long-time Alaskan – said, “No one who works full-time heats their house with wood.” Nor do they have abundant time to fetch water or take 30 minutes just to heat water then wash the dishes from breakfast.

wigpartyOn the other hand, my partner, Thai – well, he LOVES doing this stuff and doesn’t really like work. So his goal is to work as little as possible and spend time doing things that connect him to the elements, like chopping wood and living simply and going on epic adventure trips. That’s HIS genius work – to inspire others to connect with the outdoors, with adventure, with simplicity. Kind of like what I do, actually. But he does it by simply living it fully – and modeling for others.

He has NO desire to write about it, offer interviews, or create programs to teach others to do the same. And he is really, really good at modeling it and living fully so that others are totally, completely, and utterly inspired to do the same. Ask anyone who’s met him. They’re like, “Who the fuck ARE you and how do you get to do all this epic shit? Wow.”

I love adventure trips too! Duh. I go on most of the trips Thai goes on because my work provides me with a VERY flexible schedule. But I can do without the other house-maintenance stuff because I DO have a deep desire to share this with others on a larger scale, and that means I have to make choices that aren’t always inclusive of everything I’d like or prefer.

To be honest, if I didn’t love my work, I’d be right there with him. I’d work as little as possible and live off the land. I LOVE that feeling of your body working hard, and not having to juggle a bizillion things in your head like blogposts and Wifi access and learning Photoshop. I love living simply. I love getting dirt all over me and planting seeds and watching them grow and picking them succulent and fresh from the earth and eating them. I even think that is sexy.

hangingoutyurtI love getting the most fabulously clean water from a mountain stream and feeling it fill every cell in my body with pure life force. I love building things from hand, and knitting by the fire.

But now, there is something I think I love more: hearing a client say, “I  have never felt this happy or free in my entire life.”

Once that happened, I was screwed.

That is some straight-to-the-heart arrow-firing of life-changing power, filled with epic-like proportions of badass precious life realizations (and lots of hyphens) type of shizzle. It gives me a high I cannot explain. It brings tears to my eyes to know someone is making the most of this precious life.

It is the Whole. Fucking. Point.

breakfastatyurtOf everything.

For me, at least.

I always teach my clients to do their genius work and to delegate others tasks whenever they can. By walking the talk, this means that I was delegating a lot of maintenance activities to Thai. He claims he didn’t mind, but it did feel odd to not be a equal participant in the daily tasks. I was used to enjoying contributing to the household. And when not working – like in Africa, where volunteering in refugee camps was actually relatively simple – I didn’t mind doing things like that. I had nothing else to do!

Yet I KNEW that to create in the way I wanted, I needed the precious commodity of time. Especially if I wanted to be able to NOT work 5 months out of the year, which is my current pattern.

I would totally fetch water and chop wood every day joyfully if it meant I had to in order to survive. I’ve lived out of my car and out of my backpack in the mountains for what amounts to years of such simple living. But when now it meant I would do it in lieu of creating programs that had the potential to change people’s lives, those things become a little less fulfilling.

makingfireThings have shifted.

It’s the curse of having a job I love. I have less patience for things that waste my time and that don’t contribute to my bigger mission – helping people to free their minds so they can free their lives. Traffic for me isn’t just inconvenient – it keeps me from researching that amazing new theory on creating happiness so that I can share it with my clients, for example. For me, having warm running water is nice, but ultimately it allows me to efficiently complete a task from which I – unlike the proverbial Zen monk dishwasher – wasn’t going to attain enlightenment anytime soon.

Things like daily tasks being efficient allows me more time to do things I love.

Some people want things like running water and a relatively warm place because they don’t like being uncomfortable and feel that life should be easy, and that suffering is evil. Period. Maybe they want more time to watch TV or to sit on their ass instead of refilling water jugs or taking an hour to get the place warm enough before you can take off your gloves to type something.

But some of us want those things because we already intentionally get ourselves uncomfortable and stretch ourselves by doing things like climbing mountains and winter camping; and when we come home, instead of dealing with the basics, we want more time to enhance our body, mind, and spirit and help contribute our part to change the fucking world.

hapypboysThat’s what I’m talking about.

My work – while allowing me to have a location-independent lifestyle – also requires that I have access to internet a lot. Since we were off the grid, we couldn’t sign up for internet service. Our yurt was - er – not supposed to be where it was (one of my values: getting away with things! hee hee ;). I tethered my cell phone to my computer so I could do simple things online. But this meant that while life at the yurt was simple, if I had to really work online and download huge files or live-stream anything, I had to leave the yurt to find high-speed internet – which kind of defeated the purpose of being able to work from home.

To be honest, if I had high-speed internet, then life at the yurt could have gone on for longer. I would have had at least 2 hours extra  a day that I didn’t spend trying to find internet and filling water bottles and driving somewhere to grab a shower.

But then there’s also this: when Thai asked me if I’d live out of a yurt with him in Alaska, I said, “Totally – except when we have kids, I want running water and a washer and dryer.”

the night of our engagement

the night of our engagement

Installing these things is not possible when off the grid in a major city, and because we wanted to keep it off the grid, we decided that at some point, we’d move into a house. And we weren’t sure when that would be. But we have just started trying to get pregnant, and have been trying to imagine doing the things we do with kids in the yurt, without being able to have heat or running water or a washer and dryer – and work on top of that. Shizzle!

We were not homesteaders, however much the romance of that is something we both admire and long for. The reality is, we have jobs that keep us fairly busy. And in my case, too busy and too fulfilling to want to trade time doing that for time doing things that we had the privilege to have easy access to – like utilities.

While we always knew that this day would eventually arrive, it is bittersweet that it has. By it arriving, we acknowledge it is because amazing things are happening. My business is growing, we are starting a family, we are moving on to another chapter of this amazing life.

But you see, I had a lot of my identity intertwined with living in a yurt. This is obvious in the paragraphs of rationalizations above. Still, my identity was intertwined with Alaskan winters and waking up with my eyelashes frozen shut. With hanging out with our friends in the circular sacred space of our haven. With climbing to the top of the sailboat in the yard to watch the sunset.

the frame

the frame

It was easy to feel full-on living in the yurt. It was easy to drop into the essentials of life. And admittedly, it was nice to do interviews and have people say, “Wow! You ARE living full on. You are in a yurt in Alaska, you travel the world…” I heard the “yurt” part as something that defined who I was, how I lived my life.

But the reality is, the yurt is a beautiful, yet relatively small part, of what I do and who I am. I will continue to travel and have a family life full of adventure in the outdoors and immersed in the spiritual and mystical beauty of this life. Even though I am not in a yurt (saying this as morning affirmation…).

It’s like when I went from being an international climbing guide to a nurse. I felt like all of a sudden I was “normal,” and I got depressed. Then I realized, there is nothing “normal” about being a nurse – at all. Being a nurse is badass, and it brought me so many new adventures as a nurse practitioner and nurse midwife. And now here I am thinking that by living in a house, I’ll be “normal” again. And I have always feared being normal.

But what I’ve learned through all these stages of life and shifts in identity is that being a human living full-on is badass. And as long as I keep doing that, I don’t really care what it looks like on the outside or what shelter I take on or how many utilities I have under my name;) It’s about how I feel on the inside.

I want to have it all.  I want to feel all the feelings I long for. Indeed I already do. And I plan to keep it that way.

Sometimes you have to make choices: to do what you love, in lieu of what you like. To love who you truly love, instead of pretending to love who you like. To get real without yourself about what you need, instead of choosing simply what you want.

I would have wanted to be able to live simply AND do the work I wanted to do. But the reality is, I needed a different setup, and had to make a choice to let go of what I wanted in order to receive what I needed – more alignment with my desire to help others on a larger scale with more effortlessness and ease.

It helps that our house is 2 blocks from the Coastal Trail, with views of Denali and other amazing mountains of Southcentral Alaska. The yurt was ironically not near any trails, so this house will allow me easier access to play more outside and watch more sunsets on the water. I know I’ll have a different connection to nature and the elements from this new abode. And, ultimately, I am actually really looking forward to creating a home in this new place. And hanging out in the great room with our friends – it’s really open like the yurt, probably also as big, and has corners. I can deal with the corners. Eventually;)

The yurt will stay where it is for now, and be a base for planning expeditions and for in-town gatherings with friends. We are even considering turning the lot into a community garden, an idea of which I am supremely psyched about. We may even offer it up as a base for the dirtbag climbers that come through town and want a unique place to crash. So the yurt will live on, in its own way.

It is strange to think about packing up bags, and hanging out in a square building with rooms that separate us from each other. About not desperately cuddling to stay warm and giggling about it under the sheets. About not looking around and remembering when we slept in a similar shelter on the geographic Tibetan Plateau.

But the most important thing is that I – WE – YOU – stay committed to living full-on, no matter where life takes us or what things appear like on the outside.

I can do that. You can do that. Only YOU know what living full on looks like for you.

How’s it going? Let me know below.

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4 Responses to It’s Hard to Say Goodbye – Identity Shifts and Ego

  1. Andy April 20, 2013 at 12:07 pm #

    You are amazing, and beautiful, and spunky, and free. Thank yOu for the advise. How such a life ou have lived! Love you always :)

    • Ana Neff April 27, 2013 at 3:22 pm #

      Thank you, Andy! Here’s to a spunky free life for all! Cheers;)

  2. Aileen April 29, 2013 at 8:20 am #

    This really hits home. I am making decisions about integrating my passions and career, how I want to both make a difference at a larger scale and to also live simply. Recently, I felt like I had to choose. So much of my life until now has been about living pretty unconventionally, including in a yurt while working and teaching on a farm. I felt living that way was who I was…and some part of me felt affirmed when less adventurous friends wistfully commented on these choices. yet something nibbled at my soul. I didnt do it as an experiment but realized I couldn’t sustain myself long term, and most of all, while it was beautiful in the day to day, I felt too distanced from the communities I want to work with, too small scale. I’m back in the urban life again and figuring out how to better weave those strands of my life together while opening to the possibility of work fulfilling me in a different way. So it’s useful to read this. Thank you!

    • Ana Neff May 6, 2013 at 9:55 am #

      Wow, Aileen! I am so glad you found this post! It is also nice for ME to know another soul-sister out there who is going through the same transition – and from a YURT! All I know is that change is constant. That the people I look up to in my life have weathered may storms, many transitions, and many ways of living. I know that the Tibetan monks I met in the US didn’t plan on leaving their Himalayan villages for the hectic life of San Francisco, or that the friend I have who lived out of a dry cabin in Moose Pass would make a documentary on the mines in Alaska and have to start a blog and go on tour. Our purpose is greater than ourselves – and we can honor who we are in the way we live – however that may be. Best of luck to you! And Welcome to the tribe;)

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