Wednesday, August 2, 2017

Shadows & Rainbows; with a shot or two here and there

Have hope. Two words to tell your past self. What would yours be? Honestly. I've always believed (ok for the past decade) that hope sucks. And I have never said that to be pessimistic, I say that from experience and an acceptance of reality. I don't want to be disappointed because I am hopeful for a big pleasant surprise…I accept that life is what it is. Sometimes I wonder how much more beautiful and wonderful life would be if I was naive and filled with hope, but then I know deep down that I don't want to change anything about myself.

When is happiness an illusion and when is it real? What is your definition of happiness? Jot it down here (or if you're reading this online, write it on a piece of paper near you. Don't just type it…grab a pen or pencil and feel the letters flow from your fingertips. Don't think, just write whatever your fingers feel like saying, describe your definition of happiness. I'll tell you mine at the end of this chapter.

To feel the pull deep inside my gut when I get that text from that person, to feel the ache and know that I'm alone, yet somehow I can't let it go…because that naive hope clings to a future that can never be. So I suppose I can't truly claim that I believe that hope sucks…because in a way it's always been a part of me. Stepping into the night air and wishing that I was listening to the crickets while enjoying my glass of red with more favorable company, picturing how perfect it feels and feeling that familiar tug; it's an inescapable feeling and one that I have learned to not ignore, just recognize and allow the feeling to overwhelm me.

Everything happens for a reason, I can't believe that hard enough, especially when things become so chaotic it's a perfect, beautiful mess. Life isn't always going to be sunshine and daisies, I anticipate the rainstorms because it makes the rainbows that much sweeter. It hurts but I kind of live for the pain. It's a reminder that I am alive and have so much to live for, and when those moments come across my path, it makes me cherish every second to the fullest. I cherish the pain as much as the pleasures, because ultimately both are what make us full and complete. Accepting the pain with the joy, knowing that good things are worth waiting for, and sometimes they don't come in the way we imagined. I feel like most of the time when we imagine something it presents itself in a very different way.

I have struggled lately with having so many distractions in my life. And by distractions I mean hobbies. I love hiking, training my dogs and birds, crocheting, wood burning, quilting, scrap booking, sketching, penmanship, felting, reading, mosaic, writing, photography, editing, graphic design, and the list goes on. I have so many interests that I'm not great at any one thing. I am mediocre at several things. I love watercolor and acrylic painting, yet my paintings are subpar to so many others who call themselves amateurs. My photography is good, but not amazing, it's nothing special. All of my skills…they are just distractions for me. And yes, I do know what I try to distract myself from. Perhaps that's why I seem to have a short attention span, even with projects at work, I will get obsessed with something for a day or two, and for various reasons, I get distracted and while I always return to them, my interest can wane for days. My work passions are set, my interest wanes for other reasons than my personal passions though.

The shadows on the corners of our minds often whisper secret desires or temptations, or sometimes brutal truths that we don't want to see. What would you change if you could? Would you wish to be naive and ignore the whispers? Or would you wish for courage to hear those truths?
There isn't anything wrong with either choice, each one shapes a person into the beautiful soul they are meant to be. Even if they don't see it happening, or feel that they are beautiful; every imperfection and “blemish” is a beautiful line drawn through the colorful design of a butterfly's wings. A monarch could be solid orange and be considered lovely, but the more lines and intricate patterns on its wings and it turns from something lovely into something that you can't take your eyes away from. Every brush stroke, every drop of color, no matter how out of place it might feel, to the eye that's looking, it's a masterpiece.

"To me, happiness is feeling more than whole, it's feeling like everything positive and negative that's happened has been perfect because there you are, feeling like more than just yourself. It's seeing your reflection and feeling a warmth from deep inside. It's ending a conversation and smiling like smiling is the only thing you've ever known and it's ok to grin larger than your lips will allow, because nothing matters except for the emotions you feel after the conversation. The way your body reacts against your control, your insides pull, twist, and ache with a longing of never losing that connection. But it's a happy ache, and for every absence there is a sweet whisper of a promise for next time, next time you talk, next time you smile, next time you recall a memory that makes you feel whole, and more than perfect. It's a garden of eden in this concrete jungle, and for some moments in life it's our peace in this crazy world."

Sunday, July 9, 2017


A sudden realization that something is right in front of your face. They say that it only takes 30 days to create a habit. After 30 days then something that initially was a chore becomes a part of your routine and you may no longer feel "inconvenienced" by having to do it (go to the gym, skip the fast food meals, cook breakfast, etc). The same can be said for humans being creatures of habit and once we find a comfortable routine, it can be tough to break free of that and try new things. Not always, and sometimes trying new things is very different than changing our habits.

Having always been a very independent soul and individual, I find comfort in human companionship and crave it just like most of us, but I am also comforted and sometimes even crave my silence and alone time. This is nothing unique to me, many people are also just like this; many folks find that solitude is a recharging time and introverts crave it almost more than human touch. Living a certain way for many years doesn't mean that is what we want for the rest of our life; it's always a study of one and what makes one person happy may not make another. Open communication and being willing to listen is key, because as soon as we start writing on the blank pages of someone else's book and fill in their story in our words, we take away something precious from that person. Everyone deserves to fill in their pages on their own and in their own time. Patience and faith that it will be okay can be tough but can also be essential.

It can be hard to change the way you think, or feel, and some might argue that changing the way you feel is impossible. The mind is more powerful than we give it credit for sometimes and I believe that if you can convince yourself of something then it can become a reality. I doubt that this works for things such as "I am convinced that my bedroom light is on" when it's clearly off, and thinking the light switch will magically flip itself on; but if you think of it in terms of mantras and mindsets, I believe that change is possible for feelings.

For some people changing their routine (adjusting to shopping at a new grocery store, or a new coffee shop for example, or something larger such as living with someone after being alone for 10 years) can be incredibly difficult; for others that part is easy. Changing a mindset however, or convincing yourself that you no longer love someone, can be much more challenging.

Can you consider having been in love if you've never crossed the boundaries of friendship? If all you ever have are conversations, a few dinners or drinks here and there, and generally speaking never have physical contact; how can you truly know how you feel about a person? How do you define love, or more specifically, how can you define falling in love? Jane Austen wrote "I was in the middle before I knew I had begun" in reference to a character realizing that they loved someone. It's easy to read in novels or see in movies two characters that meet, have few interactions, and realize they love each other deeply and it was "love at first sight".

I have never believed in love at first sight, I do believe that connections we create with each other throughout our lifetimes can cross over and cause an instant connection between souls; a sort of, calling out to the other and recognizing someone important, even if we don't understand why. Perhaps this is why the concept of falling in love when you are never with the person makes a bit of sense to me. In that same train of thought though, if this is true, can you truly change your mindset and the way you feel about someone? Regardless of how you fell in love or developed strong feelings, can you convince yourself otherwise? Or do you learn how to live with love and find other ways to love? After all, there are many types of love in this world, perhaps it's like collecting coins, and you've simply checked off a few boxes of feelings you have.

Listening to the thunder roll and rain fall softly on the earth outside my window is a comforting sound. It lends me strength and encourages me that everything will be ok. Good friends that I can lean on, strong shoulders that I can rest my weary head on, the steady silent resilience of Mother Nature, these are things that give me strength to keep going. I feel the solid weight of my dog resting his body against my legs and for a few moments, I forget about the stressors of the world.

Finding your rock in life can be important to helping you get through the tough times, it can also help you build your own strength. Being someone's rock can provide a sense of security and strength in itself, as well as bring a sort of stability to your own life. Everything in life should have a balance, like yin and yang; being independent and leaning on someone else should be the same. Finding a balance of someone that you can lean on, and also have the respect of to allow you to be strong on your own when you need to be, can be tricky, but I do believe that it's very possible; I have been lucky to be the rock and to have a rock in a few friendships/relationships with people.

Friday, July 7, 2017

Love is enough

Falling in love can be scary. When you don't understand what this thing is that you're feeling, when you admit to yourself that you're in love, the fear of rejection, of losing them…there are so many terrifying components to love. And sometimes you wonder why bother continuing feeling this way, surely this overwhelming sense of emotion isn't worth it? Then they look at you. One glance, a fleeting moment of eye contact and somehow, for some reason, you can't breathe. Even ten years later. When you feel that connection with someone that you can trust implicitly, when they understand how you're feeling without even needing to hear your words, just by looking at your face, or feeling your emotions…that is why we still love. I believe that we desperately want to feel that connection, we want to believe that there is more to this life than paying bills, going to work, partying, raising a family; regardless of how much hope sucks, deep down it resides inside of us holding on and keeping us going.

They say find someone who can make you laugh, because looks fade away. They say find someone who looks at you the way *insert popular TV character* looks at *insert their favorite beverage, food item, or person*. Some people get it right the first time, others have a few marriages and divorces before they find their “one”. Each path is different and everything happens for a reason, sometimes you have to find happiness and then lose it a few times to make you into the best version of yourself for the one you spend the rest of your life with.

“True love is worth fighting for, because once you find it, it can never be replaced.” Words that a screenwriter wrote for a TV show but words that ring true. True love is sacrifice, compromise, it's being unselfish, putting the other person first, even if it kills you to do so (Figuratively). Love is hope and can fuel our dreams, and while hope sucks, and love can suck too, they work hand in hand to get us through this life and onto what's next.

Trying to find the right words to explain an emotion can be tough. It can also be tough to explain how it's okay to be alone sometimes. I was at a wedding recently, working, and sat down to eat. I was (unplanned) eating at a table by myself, and to me it seemed the most perfectly natural and comfortable thing. Social constructs have told us that being alone is uncomfortable and not "okay"; there were many people that approached me and told me that they 'felt bad' that I was eating alone. Next time you see someone out and alone, ask yourself how it makes you feel. Then ask yourself why you feel that way.

My theory, if you could call it that, would be that humans are a social species, and perhaps to see "one of our kind" appearing vulnerable, causes a chain reaction in us of "natural feelings" to want to take that person in and make sure that they aren't singled out and picked off by the strong. I am imagining a Savannah with prides of zebra and lion, the lion (predator) wisely goes for the least energy expending opportunity to obtain its' next meal. If you put a can of reddi-whip in front of the predator's face, and he doesn't have to run across the room to grab a meatball, nature dictates that he'll perform to obtain the highest value reinforcer with the least amount of exertion possible. With humans, why seeing a person sitting alone in a room full of party-going guests would bring up feelings of uncomfortableness, or feeling sorry for the loner, is something that I am trying to figure out.

In humans, working for reinforcers, it's not very different from the lion metaphor I suppose. A human that can call a pizza place and have it brought to their house is essentially the lion at the gate waiting for reddi-whip. When it comes to love, however, it seems we find the most complex, complicated, and heart-wrenching ways to live and express ourselves. At least until we find that one person (or in some cases maybe several people) that we can just breathe and relax around. The person that we can just feel ourselves with, with no fear of judgement or worry that they will leave us or get upset because they are misinterpreting something we said or didn't say. And ultimately, love, openness, compassion, it can all be enough to make us happy if we allow it to.