Turning Around the Worst Year Ever with Pickles and Penguins

by Nora on January 2, 2014

 pity sandwich pt 2

I wrote a couple of drafts of my annual review for 2013 – drafts which are where they should be – in the trash. They reeked of self pity, wailing about the general ugliness that enshrouded me for most of the year.


You can thank me now for not publishing them.


But through the year, I’ve tip-toed around some of the dramas – in some cases writing about the whole saga, or attempting humour in revealing a new “haircut” months after a head-on collision.


See? There I go again, harping on crappy stuff.


And I could tell you about all the other crappy stuff that I never wrote about, but I think I’ll save it for a novel (and a time when all the characters involved are either dead or in prison).


In a nutshell, this is the problem. I’m seeing a lot of crappy stuff happen, and not a lot of nice things. But I know nice things are happening. I’m sure of it. I can smell it.


When I was in Toronto on my 4,000km detour of a lifetime, I was a tornado of fury and nervous energy. When I discovered that my original birth certificate had also been lost (I didn’t include that little plot twist in my post), I totally lost it. Poor Mum had to sit there with bleary 7am eyes, watching me yell and throw things.


It was not my finest hour. (Sorry, Mum).


The moments and hours after that didn’t particularly improve. (Or did they? Getting to this in a second). More dramas ensued, and regardless of how minor the dramas might have been, they were earth-shattering at the time. My ability to cope was shot.


But some really cool stuff happened too.


While I was unexpectedly in Toronto, I saw my best friends, my Mum, my Dad, and their respective partners. My Dad’s partner is dying, and while I was visiting with them, wallowing in self-pity, I was reminded that I’m sitting with my Dad (a rare occurrence since I live on the road) and enjoying a coffee.


How dare I wallow in self-pity! The two people sitting in front of me were facing dramas far worse, and they were simply happy to be there, with me, in that moment. What’s wrong with me?!?!



The Law of Attraction Gone Wrong

I’ve long been a proponent of the law of attraction, writing about vision boards and other life-changing exercises that have worked a charm for me and many others.


While I was busy reaping in the benefits of the law of attraction in years past, whistling my merry little tune, I had friends who weren’t. They struggled with weight, relationships, health, jobs, money, and life’s cornucopia of dramas.

I now realize that my advice to them at the time – said with the best of intent, along the lines of “just change your attitude! Stop focusing on the negative! Tra-la-la!” (like it was something easy to do) was probably very annoying.


I know this because as we rolled along through the years, something happened the moment the clock struck 2013 – somehow I found myself on the wrong side of the law of attraction. With every knock, I’d pick myself up and dust myself off, only to get knocked down again. I eventually found myself limping from one crisis to the next – not a fun way to be.


The thing is, the more I awoke each day cringing for fear of what stupidness might occur to throw me off kilter, the greater the chances were that stupidness would happen.

Because that’s the law of attraction.


So a lot of stupidness happened.



Then, I Read About Pickles

A few years ago, I read (and loved!) Torre DeRoche’s debut book Love with a Chance of Drowning, in part inspiring me to take to the seas for three months of sailing the Caribbean. I landed on her site by chance recently and read about her tale of burning out and unabashedly sitting in her bathrobe eating pickles.


Eating pickles sounds really nice.


I’m sort of eating pickles here in Panama. I’ve not published any particularly useful or entertaining pieces about Panama yet (sorry about that); instead I’ve been keeping my head above water and licking my wounds, while determinedly trying to force myself into a positive mind-frame to make this whole law of attraction thing work for me again.


But forcing doesn’t really work either.


Instead, what I’m really doing is looking at a pity sandwich, which I discovered on the very talented Sara Steenland’s site and I got permission to embed her sandwich below. She also had a few knocks this year and gets where I’m at – especially as I sit here writing a blog post when I should really be eating pickles.

pity sandwich pt 1

pity sandwich pt 2

pity sandwich pt 3


Eating Pickles and Being Kind to Myself

Eating pickles is good. It feeds me. I like them. They’re a treat. Even a guilty pleasure.

Oh…there’s goes the “g” word again…..guilt. And guilt is part of the problem.


[Editorial Note: I just erased a small diatribe about guilt filled with pity sandwiches and other bits of self-chatter that devolved into nothingness. You can thank me later.]


I erased the above diatribe because I realized that it simply doesn’t serve me, and it attracts the wrong energy and reactions from others. We have the ability to create our story every day, based on how we define ourselves to others. Because I’m a drama queen, I like to tell a tall tale, and misadventures often make for the tallest of tall stories. But when people start to associate you with tragedy, you attract more of it. It’s a hard cycle to break.



I say all that like I know what I’m talking about, but really what happened is I got distracted by a tv show about penguins. I like penguins. Penguins are cute. They make me laugh.


I have a confession to make: I don’t really like pickles. But I like penguins. I think penguins are my pickles.


Because now that I’ve just watched a show about penguins, I’ve sort of forgotten about the crap I was writing about, or at least I’ve lost the inspiration to focus on it. I think penguins just took me to my happy place.


So I’m going to try a new form of being kind to myself (something people keep telling me to do but are frustratingly vague as to how): I’m doing the penguin thing. Not literally; I won’t be traveling the world getting shots of penguins (although that would be cool). Instead I’m just going to sit here and ruminate on penguins and other things that make me happy. This appears to be the best way to break the law of attraction: when crappy stuff edges into my reality, I will turn on the penguin-charm – and be happy again.


Stay tuned.


Note: – No pickles or penguins were harmed in the making of this post.



Recommended Reading

5 Ways to Live for Free Around the World

This is a post on the popular site Vagabondish, where years ago, I published a hugely trafficked post on free accommodation – before I even knew what I was doing! This post follows that original blockbuster up.



{ 32 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Hogga January 2, 2014 at 10:54 am

lol i like that little guy


2 theprofessionalhobo January 2, 2014 at 2:17 pm

Tee hee – me too! 😉


3 Anna January 2, 2014 at 4:34 pm

Well, now I want a sandwich (Russia is sadly short on proper sandwiches)… also I totally need to draw my own pity sandwich, even tho I am pretty cheerful right now, I think its visual silliness would put things in perspective when I am feeling down, or at least provide a bit of catharsis.
PS – penguins are adorable.


4 theprofessionalhobo January 3, 2014 at 7:15 am

Ha ha – very true! In fact, this post was inspired by Sarah’s lovely illustration. It’s a great way to get you out of your own head and get some perspective on it all.


5 Elsha Bohnert January 3, 2014 at 12:29 am

My most helpful quote in times of depression is: “Even as I’m feeling sorry for myself I’m being carried on great winds.” It’s a Native American Indian saying. Can’t remember from which tribe, though. Here’s to your health and good humor in the Year of the Horse! With plenty helpings of love and aloha.


6 theprofessionalhobo January 3, 2014 at 7:16 am

Thanks Elsha, and aloha to you as well! That’s a lovely saying.


7 Fab January 3, 2014 at 8:11 am

Hi Nora,

here is a very meaningful principle very often ignored by Western culture:

“A person starts to live when he can live outside himself.” by Albert Einstein


As you said that your feelings haven’t been in optimal state, it probably depends that you have focused too much on yourself: your pleasures, your travels, you, you, and only you..!!

It’s ok enjoy the pleasures of life but it’s also true that virtue lies in the middle!!

In other words, if you had had a genuine, authentic cause you had chosen carefully, you wouldn’t have experienced those kind of feelings because you would have committed all yourself to that cause!!

If by chance, you want to change your mind, here is a useful reading:


My 2 cents as a business outsider!

All the best!

Fab, greetings from Malta.


8 Fab January 3, 2014 at 12:09 pm

I forgot one important thing!

All the very best for the new year, 2014, either you keep on a life of pleasures and in case you change your main focus!!




9 theprofessionalhobo January 3, 2014 at 3:52 pm

Thanks for the advice and the new year wishes, Fab. All the best to you and yours as well.


10 Elsha Bohnert January 3, 2014 at 4:29 pm

Yikes, judgment cloaked as kind advice.
But then again, everything is grist for the mill, including pity parties and unsolicited advice.
Good thing you have a huge sense of humor, Nora.


11 Fab January 3, 2014 at 4:57 pm

Hi Elsha,

if you read better the end of my post, it is clearly written:

“My 2 cents as a business outsider!”

What does it mean?

It’s plain English!! Hence, it can only be an advice and not at all a judgement!!

In fact, in the following post ( the second ) I’ve also written:

“All the very best for the new year, 2014, either you keep on a life of pleasures and in case you change your main focus!!”

Above all, my new year wishes to Nora have been sincere in both cases!!

Best regards.



12 Fab January 3, 2014 at 5:01 pm

Hi Nora,

thank you very much for your new year wishes! That’s very kind of you!

I wanted to point out a very meaningful link related to that matter but your audience doesn’t like it, hence, maybe I’ll send you that link via email!!

Who knows..!




13 John Lewis January 3, 2014 at 9:41 pm

It’s later.

Thank you.

…and it’s the platypus that does the trick for me.


14 theprofessionalhobo January 4, 2014 at 4:32 pm

Hi John – LOL! I realize I said “you can thank me later” twice in the post – both times for saving you from my self-pity diatribes. So a double dose of “you’re welcome” to you!

Ooh. I like the platypus too. I had a stuffed one as a kid for years and years before I even really knew what they were. You can imagine my surprise when I saw a real one in Australia decades later and it was a fifth of the size of my stuffed one from childhood!


15 Dell Wilber January 5, 2014 at 1:38 pm

This article couldn’t have come at a better time for me. I was laid off from my temp job here in the U.S. in May, and I haven’t been able to land a new one since. Double that with our Congress shutting off long-term unemployment benefits and now I’ve really devolved into a deplorable state of loathing and self-pity. Your article reminded me that I am not alone and that I need to try and focus on what went right in 2013, instead of all of the terrible things that went wrong. I took a different path, rather than stay where I had been living, and decided to travel across the country looking for a job. I got to see many parts of America people only dream of, and I met some really fantastic people along the way. I still don’t have that job, yet, but after reading your article, I have resolve on my side again! Thank you!

PS– Incidentally, it always amazes me how people who aren’t in dire straights, or never have been for a particularly long period of time, can cogently advise those of us who are, and have been, on how to magically get back on the good-vibes bike and ride off into the sunset. Depression is a mental state that may take more than a few words and coaching to break out of, and nobody is immune from its grasp.

Happy New Year, and may it be a good one!


16 theprofessionalhobo January 5, 2014 at 6:47 pm

Thanks, Dell! It really is all about perspective, but that’s exactly the hardest thing to wrap your head around if you’re suffering. Glad you’re on a new path for this new year!


17 Deia @ Nomad Wallet January 5, 2014 at 11:13 pm

I hope you get out of that mental pit, Nora, and have a better year. I’ve had a couple of fails in 2013 myself and what makes it difficult is I feel like I should’ve known better. I’m just glad my husband keeps a cooler head than I do. Also: cats are my pickles. 🙂


18 theprofessionalhobo January 6, 2014 at 8:38 am

Hey Deia,
Ooh – cats. I like cats too! They’re funny, especially when you tease them with laser pointers on the floor in front of them…..(not like I…..never mind)!
And thanks for your well wishes. I am already on a new course for 2014 and loving it.


19 Vagabond Elmer January 8, 2014 at 10:59 pm

When we make changes in our lives some of the old crap show up to see if we really changed and learned the lesson… at least that is my experience!


20 theprofessionalhobo January 10, 2014 at 11:11 am

Yes, that is my experience as well. Helps us to reaffirm where we’re at and where we’re going. All good!


21 Fil Resendes @ LifeLoveAndTravel.com January 9, 2014 at 3:58 am

Hi Nora,

I always look forward to reading your posts. I’m sorry for the horrible year you had in 2013. I hope you and your partner are feeling better. I just hope that 2014 brings both of you lots of good health and happiness. Keep your head up! Just remember that tomorrow is another day… and hopefully tomorrow will be better for you. Good luck and lots of good health in 2014.


22 theprofessionalhobo January 10, 2014 at 11:13 am

Thank you, Fil! I believe we’re given challenges in life to grow and expand our horizons. Here’s to an awesome 2014 – filled with many penguins! 🙂


23 Linda McCormick January 9, 2014 at 6:56 am

Really hope 2014 is much kinder to you!


24 theprofessionalhobo January 10, 2014 at 11:13 am

Thanks, Linda! And the same to you! 🙂


25 michael williamson January 9, 2014 at 8:56 am

Hi Nora–I can only agree with you that 2013 was a tough year. Why the stars align that way is baffling (13 is usually lucky!). Now that you have got through that terrible accident and are back in the game, 2014 will be better for sure. I won’t send any zen platitudes or anything, just best wishes for a better year all round. (your work helps make the year better in any case, so please keep on), Best wishes, Mihcael


26 theprofessionalhobo January 10, 2014 at 11:14 am

Thank you, Michael – and for sure – I’ll keep on! And the same for you.


27 Chris January 9, 2014 at 10:39 am

Hi Nora, good luck with your penguins. Reminds me of the scene in Fight Club where the main character envisions his power animal as a penguin. It’s advice to “Just slide” is as wise as ever.

I’ve just returned from my first pro-hobo trip in the US. Ended up having visa problems and am not allowed back in the country until they’re resolved. Not even to get all of my stuff still in New York! My instinct is to wallow, but it feels disrespectful to how amazing a time I had, if that makes sense. Like I don’t want to tarnish my great trip by tacking on anger and sadness at the end. I’m finding that, as cheesy as it sounds, just being thankful for what I did get to experience is making it easier to choke down my pity sandwich.


28 theprofessionalhobo January 10, 2014 at 11:15 am

Hi Chris,
You got it – it’s all about perspective. We can choose to see all the crappy stuff and dwell on it, or we can choose to see (and be grateful for) all the good stuff. I choose door #2!


29 Annie January 13, 2014 at 1:11 am

Hi Nora, I really enjoyed this post – I just wrote a similar post, about how 2013 wasn’t really my year either but I’m looking forward to 2014.

I tend to throw myself extra large pity parties, I turn small things into big things. But I tend to forget that others are suffering too. It’s hard to see through the streamers of your own pity party sometimes.

People keep telling me that 2013 was a defining year – a year of change. At first, I couldn’t fathom that because how could EVERYONE be having a bad year? Then I realized, change is change, not necessarily bad change. Just because there was a lot of interesting and a lot of bad for me, that was just how my year played out.

Anyway, I’m risking talking to much now, what I really wanted to say was that some of the best advice I got in 2013 was to listen to yourself closely enough to know EXACTLY what you want in each moment. And to do it. So, in a sense, that’s the penguin thing.

Here’s to 2014. 🙂


30 theprofessionalhobo January 13, 2014 at 8:33 am

Annie –
“It’s hard to see through the streamers of your own pity party sometimes.”
– I love that! I may have to borrow that phrase some time.
And you’re so right – it was a year of change. Change isn’t bad (by any stretch), but sometimes it’s accompanied by growing pains. We’re all stronger for it!


31 Laura @ Roam Far and Wide February 11, 2014 at 1:57 am

I’m not a big believer in the law of attraction except for the basic premise that positive thinking allows you to see positive things. But I hope you don’t add “not good at attracting good stuff” to your 2013 pity sandwich. S*it happens. And apparently 2013 was that year for you. I love your blog and gain a lot of inspiration from your writing. I hope 2014 is awesome for you.


32 theprofessionalhobo February 11, 2014 at 6:26 pm

Thank you, Laura – and good advice! No matter what is in my 2013 pity sandwich, I’ve turned over a new leaf (of the menu??) in 2014….onwards and upwards… 🙂


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