sunset

Silver linings

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I would have missed this sunset if life had been normal.

I would have been in my house, AC cranking, cooking dinner alone in the kitchen. I would have probably been listening to a podcast or book on tape or even watching some sit-com rerun for the umpeenth time, my son in the other room doing homework or playing guitar or a video game.

Instead, my life had been turned around in a first world kind of problem sort of way. We’ve been without AC for weeks. And I am on a cooking strike. So I piled my son and myself into the car and headed to get some form of take out. On the way, we saw this incredible sunset. We stopped in awe of mother nature, the universe and the power of serendipity.

Sometimes, life happen for us. Sometimes situations present themselves. Last night, as we sat around the table at the restaurant, we marveled at the fact that had it not been for the awful week we had, we would all be spearated ,living our own individual moments in front of one screen or another. Instead, we have explored forests, new restaurants, new cities, and even glorious sunsets with views for days right down the street from where we live.

So maybe the past few weeks weren’t really a crisis after all. Maybe it was the just the opposite - maybe past few weeks was the universe trying to break up our regular, safe, ordinary days with new adventures and some much needed fresh perspective.

If it comes with a silver lining like this, I’ll take it.

My best self

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I resolve to love more and to give more. I resolve to be more gracious at receiving. I resolve to be more aware and mindful each day – to move more and eat healthier. I will work harder at being my best self.

But I also resolve to stop judging myself and others and to know - without a doubt -  we are all generally doing the best we can with what we know. I resolve to stop holding myself to ridiculous standards that don't mean anything to me and to set my own goals that will set me up for successes.

I resolve to remember that just because today is a day on the calendar, that it doesn't mean anything. There are 365 days this year - each one a chance at redemption, love and becoming who I am supposed to be. So if I lapse or falter or trip, I am here, to pick me right back up and set me back on my path... venturing towards my best self.

Back to me.

Owning it

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Lately, I have been taking on too much.

Too many projects. Too much responsibility. Too much drama that doesn't belong to me. I am like a dry sponge just looking for something to soak up right now. And often, that means I am soaking in the wrong things...because to a dry sponge just wants something. Anything.

When I am in that dried up space, I try to pause for a second. Take a breath. And just be wherever I am. I quickly let go of what is not and hold on to what is – air...water...life...love...family..sunrises... sunset. These are the simple things. But they are the essentials that are as life affirming as they are neccessary.

We are all bombarded daily with stuff that doesn't belong to us, yet somehow tries to own us and take us down. Traffic. Deadlines. Money. And even just the simple, day to day activities like having food to eat, clothes to wear, and keeping a roof over your head are really stressful. But they don't have to own us. We have to learn how to own our own selves within this framework. The first place to start - every day for me is to take a simple breath and pause.

It's as easy and complicated as that.

First the rain...

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I shot a wedding this weekend. It was on a boat that puttered slowly and gently around the lowcountry waters, shifting ever so gently back and forth with the sway of the boat and the shifting tide.

The skies were clear when we started our day - even with some hot sun piercing down on us. And then suddenly, the rain came in. It was a steady rain with no signs of letting up at all. Grey skies all around and a constant, gentle drizzle as we coasted the waterways.

Then as suddenly as the rain came, the clouds began to part just in time for us to see this remarkable sunset, color-filled and awe inspiring. I hustled the bride and groom to the back of the boat where I could get a good photo of them. It was all she wanted - a beautiful sunset photos of her and her husband, ready to start their lives together.

As I was snapping away at the photos, I heard one of her friends holler to them over my shoulder. "First the rain, then the sun..." It stopped my in my tracks. 

Of course.

Of course the rain has to come first. Of course you have to weather the storm first to appreciate the sunshine and the sunset. The thunder is there to shake us and move us. The water is there to nourish and refresh us. And then...the sunshine. To help us grow and bloom.

I have been here. Standing on stormy ground. Always hoping to find a way out. Maybe you are there now. Maybe you are stuck in a storm.  Just know in your heart that the sun will shine soon. It has to. There is no room for only rain. We need both to survive. So settle in and cover up, because this, too, shall pass.

Sunrise, Sunset.

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Letting go of a sunset is a little like saying goodbye to something you love. It's bittersweet - painful and a little beautiful all at the same time.

But while each sunset can feel like a goodbye, each sunrise can be a fresh start...a hello all over again. It's a reminder that the circle continues, and life just continues to renew itself over and over again. Each day brings something a little new, a little different and something to look forward to all over again.

The faith comes in the letting go...in the sunset. And the affirmation comes with each new day.

 

 

On Saying Yes.

I confess...I say YES to this a lot .

I confess...I say YES to this a lot.

I have spent the past month or so angsting over a fairly large decision for myself. I have wrestled with it, turned it over and examined it until I can't even stand it or myself anymore. I was relaying this to a friend of mine and told her the pros and cons and ins and outs of every minute detail. She listened...patiently. And watched as a squirmed around in my own self trying to convince myself that YES was the thing to say.

She was quiet and then from the clear blue said these words to me: "Just because the word "yes" is a positive word doesn't always mean it's the right answer for you."

LIGHTENING BOLT.

It was as though someone gave me permission to say no to something – even though the best and most logical answer would be a resounding "YES." But sometimes, just because it's right on paper, doesn't mean it's right for your life.

We often should ourselves right out of the things we really want to do because the world does it that way. I am, by all accounts, the most unconventional soul on the planet. I am a single mother. An artist. I work for myself. None of these things compute on paper. Yet somehow, I am still here. Standing on my own two feet and doing just fine.

If I had always listened to the shoulds, I would be married to someone I didn't love, working in a job I didn't want to be in, and just not taking any chances on myself. And isn't that part of life? Taking chances on yourself? Saying yes when you should say no and no when you should say yes?

I haven't made any decision yet, but now I know when I do, I will make if from a place of authenticity rather than obligation. I will decide from a place of freedom rather than ownership... love rather than fear.

So next time your YES rolls around, make sure to gut check yourself on it. Listen to what's inside. And do what's right for you. Because sometimes your YES looks like a NO.

Getting Balance

My awesome spring break view.

My awesome spring break view.

I had a shitty "spring break."

Let me explain...

Like many of you, I have a school-aged son that was on spring break last week. We don't have a lot of spare cash these days, so a trip was not happening. Instead, I thought of the bright idea of camping for a few days in the mountains (something I have actually only done once in my life...smart thinking.). We set our plans and started the wheels of our camping trip in motion.

Of course, life being what it is, the universe had some other plans for me. Or maybe I wasn't fully committed in the first place. But my plans changed course somewhere the week before. Some great, unexpected work came up. My teenager had some specific ideas about his social plans. And then I slipped into saying yes to far too many things I didn't want to do. So our camping trip got cancelled, I worked a lot, and then became an unpaid Uber driver for my son in my spare time.

As the week progressed, I started to get increasingly more frustrated. I was mad at life...mad at myself. I felt trapped and owned by some imaginary rules I had set up for a life that I was supposed to live. And it only got worse as I scrolled through social media to see friends enjoying Caribbean vacations, European adventures, and good old US road trips. What's worse was that I knew in the truest part of myself that I was the one responsible for the way this week was panning out.

When I started to reconcile what was happening and got real with myself, I realized a few things.
1. I was in desperate need of a break.  I work weekends a lot. And when the typical work week rolls around, I am usually still working. While I do set my own schedule and have lots of freedom to make appointments and go grocery shopping at odd times, I tend to still feel like I need to be getting work done during the Monday-Friday, 9-5 hours as well. To top it off, I was going on weeks of constant work without a break. I needed a change. 
2. I was telling myself a story that wasn't real. Not everyone I knew was on a spring break vacation. In fact, I knew more people that had to work than those that did not. Spring break trips are a luxury, not a right. And I needed to hip check myself on that.
3. I was feeling sorry for myself. And that wasn't allowing me to live on a higher "vibe" - if you will. I was sulking and wallowing in self pity instead of changing my reality. Once you change that, everything changes. Literally...everything.
4. I wasn't seeing the amazing opportunity around me. I live in a place with abundant beauty. I am 15 minutes from the beach on a good day (5 minutes from one of the most gorgeous parks in the world). I have gift certificates to 5 local restaurants. I have a sister with a pool in her very own backyard. Enough said.
5. I wasn't saying "NO" enough. Not to my son. Not to his dad. Not to friends or neighbors. I was doing things I didn't want to be doing. I was creating my own misery and my own sense of disappointment.

Once I started seeing all these things, I began changing my story. I planned an Easter Brunch to see family I hadn't seen in months. I went to the beach. I watched the sunset. I played with the dogs. I went for a walk with a friend and talked about some amazing topics like meditation, family, and life changes that we are both on the precipice of making. Once I took the wheel back, I lived in the presence of joy and gratitude instead of wallowing around in my own self pity.

The best part of this shift is that it only takes a moment to change your mindset. For me, it finally happened when I got real with myself and realized I wasn't listening to my inner voice saying - SAY NO...YOU NEED A BREAK! I was trying to please too many people - clients, family, friends, neighbors. I wasn't voicing what I wanted to do. But once I finally followed through for myself (albeit with begrudging sighs and protesting from my teenager), everything shifted. In that simple moment of saying "This is what I want," I stopped being a victim of my circumstances and started taking care of myself. I started enjoying where I was in the moment.

Squad. Goals.

Squad. Goals.

My heart and soul got some much needed beach time too!

My heart and soul got some much needed beach time too!

Beach time with friends where I mixed in a little work with a little pleasure.

Beach time with friends where I mixed in a little work with a little pleasure.

Looks like they #brunchedtoohard.

Looks like they #brunchedtoohard.

 

Sometimes saying what you want isn't about being selfish or narcissistic...it's just about taking care of yourself. Simple, kind gestures that say "Hey wait...I'm important too!" Make yourself answer the call to do more for you. You know when the teeter totter of balance of your life looks like a chunky kid from gym class is sitting on one end with sandwich and a Snickers bar laughing at you for being trapped way up there. Take control back. He's not in charge.

Just get some balance.

A day off

An iPhone shot of my long day away.

An iPhone shot of my long day away.

This weekend, after working for about 4 weeks with no break, I did something uncharacteristically me. I took a whole day off. No emailing. No photo editing. No picture taking (except with an iphone). Nothing. I needed to get away from social media, email, photoshop and all the things that pull me in a million different directions.

This happened after a bit of a realization on my end on Saturday and something I admitted out loud: I wasn't happy.

Don't get me wrong. I am filled with appreciation and gratitude for everything I DO have in my life. But something wasn't jelling with me. Too much work and stimulation. Not enough downtime. Too much pleasing everyone. Not enough pleasing myself. There have been deadlines and hustling and meetings and computer time. But everything in my life felt a little chaotic.

This was a sign to me that I was overdue some time to decompress. I needed to do something for me. Self care and self preservation is most important. So, I headed to the beach where I always feel like I can breathe again and plopped myself down and decided to just BE.

I talked to a friend. I sat and stared at the waves. I watched my son swim and frolic in the sea. I walked along the edge of the shore. I dug my feet in the sand and let it crumble between my toes. I did all of this, over and over again, until I felt better. I did it until I realized that all the things we feel and see and want are all only dictated by the stories in our head. I did it until i realized what I really wanted was right in front of me, right at that very moment. Peace. Love. Friends. Family. It was all right there.

Often when we go seeking what we want more of, we realize it's been right there with us all along. For me, it's always been helpful to strip away the noise...the cell phones, the computers, the deadlines and the things-to-do lists. I can come back to what's real and what's most important...

For me all it boils down to is love. Pure and simple love.

Listen...

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Listen closely in these moments. Listen for the birds. Listen to the wind. Listen to your heart and the silence within it.

These are the special times. where stillness rises and gives way to chaos. Where love shines through the cracks.

Be still. And hear your heart.

Sunset

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"Clouds come floating into my life - no longer to carry rain or usher storm - but to add color to my sunset sky." R.Tagore

I have been on the slippery slope of sickness today - sliding down it's icy face with no hope. Despite being on a rapid decline downward, I watched the sunset from my dining room this evening and thought about good things - love and hope and family and sunsets. And I somehow let the sun take away all the sickness and pain and bad thoughts away - slipping into the darkness never to be seen again.

Thank you Sun. Until we meet again...