2017 : Live Loved, Be Brave

Year’s end is neither an end nor a beginning but a going on, with all the wisdom that experience can instill in us. -Hal Borland

virginia-beach-family-photographerIn the last seven years that I’ve maintained a blog, I’ve searched and questioned. I’ve tried my hand at different kinds of writing, different voices, different ways to communicate. I’ve gone absent. I’ve returned. I’ve been unsure. I’ve found a wobbly confidence. I’ve been focused almost solely on writing as a business pursuit.

It mimics quite a bit of the reality of my life and my usually overflowing and anxious brain, and sometimes it’s frustrating to see so much back and forth, so much sway between focal points and commitments. Hyperfocusing is my pattern, and it’s taken reaching some fairly low moments in the last six months to see how damaging that can be. To live incredibly out of balance with who you are and what your needs are for over two years finally brings you to a point of feeling completely suffocated and paralyzed.

Alarmingly, I was feeling many of the same emotions and reacting in many of the same ways as I did immediately before and after my divorce (even down to weight gain and a dramatic haircut). The impetus and situations are totally different, but my reactions to feeling lost and suffocated were not.

It was incredibly confusing to see my life and know it was good, to love so much of it, to be so grateful for how amazing it was, and to know that I had no obvious reason to feel so frustrated and listless.

Despite having figured out so much through the summer and actually being brave enough to write about it here, I wasn’t ready to fully understand what I needed to do to gain a better balance. I was hashtagging #liveinthelayers but not really grasping what it meant for me to actually do that. I was not understanding that I really needed to make choices that brought those layers I so desperately needed back to my life. Instead I continued to hide, to feel more fearful than ever.

In my relentless pursuit of building a successful photography business, I all but abandoned any real physical goals. Running, swimming, and biking dwindled even with half-hearted attempts of signing up for races and then finding injury around the corner. I felt paralyzed from writing and expressing my heart the way I had been doing for years on my blog and on social media because it didn’t feel like it lined up with branding goals, a curated and polished feed, and what is taught as the methods used by successful creatives to build a brand and business.

It’s incredibly important for me to note that none of this is wrong empirically. It simply didn’t work for me, for my heart, and my goals for my life and business. But I mostly kept up. I forced myself to play by the rules.

Until it became too painful and too exhausting. I considered giving up my business. I checked out of social media for a while. I stayed quiet because that is the only way for me to regain understanding. Thankfully, this pattern was ready to be broken, and despite having gained 25 pounds in two years, having a growing out haircut I don’t totally love right now, and having flailed a bit business-wise in the last six months, it is no longer 2006, post-divorce. I am not the unhappy girl who sat on the sidelines at the Shamrock wishing for the confidence to do something real, to feel real and alive. I have done real and hard and meaningful things in the last ten years. Running away is simply no longer an option in my life.

It feels perfectly timed that so many realizations came at the end of 2016. December brought such light and courage and well-timed conversations, and I am entering 2017 with a lightness and confidence that has eluded me for a long time. And while it is a leap for me to share so honestly here because I’m out of practice, I believe it’s important. It’s important for me to acknowledge my journey. It’s important for others who may also be struggling for any reason to recognize themselves in these words.

I am ready to fully dive into the layers.

I’m carefully reconstructing a business that truly reflects who I am. I’m not sure exactly what it will look like yet, and I’m comfortable with that mystery for now. I do know that it will continue to focus on loving my families and newborns well.

I’m taking charge of my fitness. I found a new gym that is personal and ego-free. I’m running again without the pressure to tackle huge distances. I’m eating healthily. I’m feeling better about myself.

I’m reflecting and writing and reading and journaling again. I realized, sadly, that I haven’t dedicated a year to a theme or a word in two years.

I’m not considering 2017 a new beginning, but a going on, a continuance of this life’s story that is threaded with more wisdom and experience and intention.

I’m chasing down me again (and again); I’m remembering to live loved and be brave.

Live in the Layers

The noise of life always seeps in. It gnaws away at my edges and creates its familiar and distinct anxiety. Year after year, I’ve looked around and wondered when life really begins. When will I have arrived at the life I’ve yearned for. The life that will be wholly fulfilling. One where I’m not restless. Not second guessing. Not wondering what else or why.

It’s an overwhelming process that ranges from an incredibly joyful satisfaction to an increasingly uncomfortable restlessness.

I’m tired of the restlessness.

Hyperfocusing on only one part of my life and then floating along on the rest is exhausting. I’m convinced that a perfectly balanced life doesn’t exist. But I believe there is a recipe to the perfect balance we need at any point in our lives if we are disciplined enough to search it out and live it.

If you want to measure the level of happiness in your life, measure the level of discipline in your life. You will never have more happiness than you have discipline. The two are directly related. […] Whether those experiences are physical, emotional, intellectual, or spiritual, discipline elevates them to their ultimate reality. It heightens every human experience and increases every human ability. –Matthew Kelly

It’s been a challenging awareness to accept that in many ways, I have lacked the discipline to really create the life that will be wholly fulfilling to me: the discipline to consistently commit to all of the layers that I know I need. Oh there has been plenty of discipline surrounding them in very concentrated areas. I’ve completed challenging physical goals. I’ve written for hours and hours. I’ve gone to church. I’ve built a business and grown as a photographer. I’ve devoured books. But all of those have happened in isolation. There has been a stark lack of dimension, so where I’ve very intently focused on one, the rest have faltered.

In photography, composition is crucial. The foreground, background, the edges matter. The negative space is as important as the weighty presence of the subject. Each layer of the image has a responsibility to the whole. In some moments, different layers hold more importance than others, but it is a conscious choice we make each time we press the shutter.

And I’m learning it is a conscious choice in life.

Live in the layers, not on the litter. Though I lack the art to decipher it, no doubt the next chapter in my book of transformations is already written. I am not done with my changes. –Stanley Kunitz

It’s time to live in the layers. This is my reentry. Because I am not done. Because I’m more than a photographer. And a mother. And a wife. Because I’m a writer. A runner. A triathlete. I’m more than I’ve even begun to discover.

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A Respite | Personal

It’s been about six weeks since Ironman 70.3 Raleigh. Today marks the start of training for Ironman 70.3 Augusta. Technically, training for Augusta probably wasn’t intended to have a clear starting date. It should have quietly morphed from recovery to build again. But life has a way of taking its own turns and bouncing back from Raleigh was just as hard as I thought it would be.

Within a week, I felt ready to begin again. And for a week that held true. Then school ended and the days were filled with pool time and beach visits, ice cream stops and donut mornings, evening beach cruiser bike rides and dinners outside. And I just didn’t want to swim. Or bike. Or run. And on one particularly hot Saturday morning run, the quiet pressure I had been feeling for months regarding triathlons, running, and training peaked. I cried and shuffled and walked as the realization that I had been evading for a while sunk in more deeply: I didn’t like running anymore.

That shook me deeply. Running and training for triathlons has been a very big part of my identity since I had Rowan three years ago and especially since I stopped working to be at home with her and the boys. Shortly before Raleigh I wrote about how unbalanced it became especially through training for Augusta last year. Training and racing have always given me the chance to see how strong I am, to know I can succeed, and to set goals. What I missed in that process is taking responsibility to own myself beyond that space, and in that misstep, I mistakenly began to resent all of it.

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Some of the gorgeous scenery from our Pennsylvania trip. #iphoneography

As frustrating as the beginning of this year has been with training, I now know it was the process of shedding those layers a bit. And after the last two week break while on vacation in Pennsylvania with very little training and many runs without my Garmin, running and I are finding a happy place again. With the beginning of training for Augusta, I am excited to travel this road over the next several weeks. And I am equally excited to step back afterwards and reduce my training volume.

Photo Jul 12, 7 43 29 AMSo there have been growing pains through the past two years that have been about finally finding the courage to own myself, to see and love who I really am, and to be confident to go for my dreams. But coming out on the other side now (I hope), I can appreciate the process especially as I feel such immense joy with beginning my photography business. Because I don’t want to exchange one crutch for another. I don’t want to simply trade labels: Heidi-the-triathlete for Heidi-the-photographer. Over the last several months I’ve come very close to letting go of triathlon all together, but luckily there was a quiet part of my heart that knew the truth of the underlying process, that knew that letting triathlon and running fall away wasn’t the solution. Instead I have had to allow my ego’s attachment to it to fall away.

And in these early and exciting days of photography, I want balance. I want to always approach it with excitement and with the sometimes teary-eyed bliss of finally knowing what I want do. But I also want to hold fast to perspective and know that if all of it were to fall away somehow, I’d still be me. That I’d still love who I am without the running shoes, bike, and camera.Photo Jul 04, 10 29 06 AM

Permission Granted

Earlier this week, I read an incredible post on Ivy League Insecurities. The line that most struck me?

The only person who can grant the permission and approval I need and crave again and again and again is me.

A recurrent theme in this blog and my life is finding courage: courage to run, to swim, to write, to take pictures, to simply be. The last few weeks have been a whirlwind. Once I finally verbalized my goals and dreams to myself and then shared them with a friend, everything has been propelled forward in a frenetic and exciting way.

Since I met with Elizabeth and the other photographers on Friday, I keep having these moments– these teary-eyed, overwhelmingly joyful moments of trust that this photography dream that I’ve squelched for so long is going to happen. Simply because I know with every bit of myself, with no edges of wondering that this is finally what will make me fill a room with me and joy and happiness. It’s the passion finally surfacing, the passion that I witnessed and wanted to emulate in my high school teacher.

After reading Aidan’s post this week, I understand that I’m finally not seeking or waiting for anyone’s permission or nod of approval to dream big. I realize wholeheartedly that this is entirely up to me. I know there will be frustrating days, days that feel like a failure. I know there will be incredible highs and successes. And of the many things triathlon and racing has taught me, it has prepared me for this ride. For the ups and downs, the hard work, the overwhelming fear that will seep in. And also for the trust in myself and my dreams, for the capability to dream big, whether it is half-ironman training or moving towards a photography business, I know it is all within my reach to stretch and find the courage to move forward.

With that, last night my step-daughter was gracious enough to be a model for me and another aspiring photographer. I was a little uncertain and awkward. I need to work on posing and being confident, but it was a marker of trust, of the drive to succeed. And it helps that she is gorgeous, natural in front of the camera, and the sunlight was perfect! (One goal of mine is to definitely work on not chopping off hands and arms at weird places.)

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Anniversaries

Photo May 15, 9 50 03 AMOn this day fifteen years ago, the sky was blanketed with a heavy covering of grey clouds. The wind whipped mercilessly through the trees and recent signs of spring had vanished. A strong northeastern storm was moving in. I dodged rain from the car to the hair salon and back to the car. I clambered through the wind and into the beach house. I was merely twenty years old, and I was about to be married on a day that seemed at once to know what my heart already knew but could not convince my brain.

Today I ran the boardwalk, a Garmin-less run that was free and easy and importantly so as I try to recover from a harsh cold. The sun shone brightly across the blue sky. It was sometimes interrupted by clouds but made its way back again and again. As today’s wind carried me north for two miles, I marked my favorite landmarks. The local restaurant that holds our hearts: where Jon and I celebrated our marriage. A few blocks north, and I saw the spot of our first kiss, and I smiled as I realized it was next to the small hotel where I spent the night as a married woman for the very first time fifteen years ago. A few more blocks north and I passed the spot for mine and Jon’s first date and at the end of my two miles was the hotel where Jon and I stayed on our wedding night.

All of those memories brought more memories, and I realized how important this small stretch of concrete along the ocean has been to my life. Not only first dates and first kisses and wedding nights. But also a solitary, rainy walk on the day I made one of the best and most important decisions of my life and a year of finding myself after my divorce. And now most often, cleansing runs.Photo May 15, 9 56 26 AM

Today I read a post by Dani Shapiro, and she quotes Rebecca Stolnit:

“Edgar Allen Poe declared, ‘All experience, in matters of philosophical discovery, teaches us that, in such discovery, it is the unforeseen upon which we must calculate most largely.’  Poe is consciously juxtaposing the word ‘calculate,’ which implies a cold counting up of the facts or measurements, with ‘the unforeseen,’ that which cannot be measured or counted, only anticipated.  How do you calculate upon the unforeseen?  It seems to be an art of recognizing the role of the unforeseen, of keeping your balance amid surprises, of collaborating with chance, of recognizing that there are some essential mysteries in the world and thereby a limit  to calculation, to plan, to control.  To calculate upon the unforeseen is perhaps exactly the paradoxical operation that life most requires of us.”

Fifteen years ago, I calculated on the unforeseen; I took a risk and leaped into a marriage hoping to transform it into what I needed it to be. No longer the naive and perhaps immature girl I was, it seems painfully obvious that the unforeseen in that situation now appears to vastly outweigh the limit to control and plan and the incredible need for balance. Yet that recognition seems to be a skill that we hone with age, a balance that doesn’t seem quite so precarious to find as the years march on.

All of those boardwalk moments, the remembered, the landmarked, and the ones I’ve surely forgotten were calculated risks, were hedged on unforeseen outcomes and whether I knew it or not, a trust in the unfolding of my life’s journey. I used to regret some of them, to retract from their bitter taste, to flush red with shame, and quickly expel them from my mind. Instead I’m finding the willingness to embrace them. To see the first kiss of this life adjacent to the first wedding night of that life and realize how intricately intertwined those threads are. And to love the girl that was central to them both.

For many years today’s date was one tinged with a little regret, with a little shame for an immature life choice. When I saw the date this morning, I chose to celebrate. I celebrated the limitless magic of our choices, the incomprehensible beauty in how our lives carry us to exactly where we need to be moment to moment, year to year. I ran and inhaled the salty air, welcomed the gusts of wind, and felt gratitude that such a beautiful place holds so many of my life’s threads in its grasps for me to witness again and again.

What if I am not strong enough?

 

Photo May 03, 10 56 19 AMIn yoga, Bakasana, or crow pose is one that I’ve never been able to do. In crow pose, your hands are flat on the ground, your knees are tucked neatly into your armpits, and the goal is to lift both feet off of the ground and use your core and arm strength to hold yourself up.

The thought that seeps in just before I try is what if I’m not strong enough? So I usually use modifications such as baby crow (one foot still on the ground) or double baby crow (both feet on the ground) because I simply do not trust in my strength.

Ironman 70.3 Raleigh is less than four weeks away, and to be honest this training cycle has been challenging. Mentally I waver between feeling incapable and uncommitted most of the time. I know that is mostly fear nagging at the edges of my confidence. Physically, I feel like I’m tiptoeing around injury. From my right calf that had been a constant problem since January to my old knee issue that has recently cropped back up, I feel like I’m running and training scared. I’m worried about hanging in with training through Ironman 70.3 Augusta in September.

And on top of that, I’m struggling with an intense fatigue, a bone tired, beyond training exhaustion that has always been a part of my day to day, but within the last few months has become much more intense. I have a preliminary diagnosis of Fibromyalgia that I’ve been mostly ignoring for a few years. I think I might have to deal with it more directly at this point.

All of that mental and physical static is enough to have my focus blurry at best. I have been able to stay on track until the last two weeks. The weekend training has picked up in both distance and intensity, and it is taking many more days than it did last summer to recover enough to feel ready to dive into the next week.

I’ve considered my options. I know I don’t have to race any race. But my ego has been getting in the way of rational thought. After Augusta last year, after such a feat that I never believed I could do, my ego informed me that I needed to do more. Training and racing had suddenly or maybe gradually become less about proving my own strength to myself. Instead it became the only way I was able to see myself as strong and capable. A hefty race schedule of three half ironman races in twelve months reignited my ego; it became what defined me.

On Monday I met with my coach and after she had considered my many text messages of the weeks before, she suggested dropping Raleigh, which at first seemed odd since it’s close and Augusta is several months away. Her reasoning rang true: my heart is in Augusta. The original purpose for doing a long distance race remains at that finish line. At that race there was no ego; it was me proving to myself that I was strong. Not using the race as a support for my strength.

In struggling to make a decision over the last few days, the question at the heart of bakasana remains: What if I’m not strong enough to hold myself up?

Without distance?
Without this race or that race?
Or long training days?

What if I am not enough for myself when all of that is stripped away?

On Tuesday, I stopped a swim workout short after kicking aggravated my knee. I decided as I walked to the car that Raleigh was out; I needed to take care of my body to race the way I wanted to in Augusta. I realized that Raleigh has held my ego, but Augusta has my heart.

I came home and unrolled my mat and put on Blissology’s Monday yoga. The house was empty and quiet, and as I breathed and moved through poses, the agitation and uncertainty of the last several weeks finally began to fall away. Towards the end of the practice was crow pose, bakasana.

And again I wondered, what if I’m not strong enough?

But the question didn’t linger very long. I spread my fingers and rooted my hands on the mat. I softly tucked my legs and tentatively lifted one foot and held baby crow for several breaths. Then it just seemed to be time. With a strong core and a focused mind, I lifted the other foot from the safety of the mat and shakily held my first bakasana for several breaths.Photo May 08, 1 34 27 PM

With the release of the heaviness of my ego’s grip, I felt light. I was able to soar in bakasana using my heart’s strength. Crow pose has not become yet another defining label, like triathlete or runner or half ironman. Instead it has released me from all of those labels and given me spacious freedom to fly. And that is what I’ll do again in Augusta in September. Stripped free of self-imposed standards of success and worthiness, there is only me.

The me who no longer looks in the mirror with such a critical eye. The me who is finding more answers than questions. The me who runs and swims and bikes and practices yoga. And the me who is strong enough to stand with or without them.

Manual Mode

Photo Apr 27, 6 28 04 PMI often look around and wonder how people have gotten to where they are. On the surface it often feels like luck, a golden thread randomly woven into their fabric of life. There were many years of my life, sitting back in a protective cacoon, wondering when that thread of luck might weave its way into my life, too. It was a frustrating place, one of observation and envy, one of an almost consuming powerlessness.

An overwhelming question for me has always been what do I want to really do? I remember being captivated by one of my high school English teachers and her passion for literature and writing and the craft of teaching. She filled the room and shone an incandescent sort of light on a weary lot of overachieving seniors, but in the midst she drew out our creativity, our depth of thinking, and the writers we could one day be.

It was then that I decided to teach English. I wanted to be like her; I wanted to fill the room with my passion. I wanted to read and write and teach. Or so I thought. An introvert by nature, a quiet person who isn’t one to typically fill any room, my experience in the classroom always fell flat. It wasn’t one of passion, but struggle; not a time of joy, but frustration and regret. From that first year of teaching, I knew I wasn’t where I wanted to be.

So the question has persistently loomed. I was talking to my stepdaughter, a college sophomore, several weeks ago, and as she is embarking on a similar search, I found myself recanting my choices and paths. And as it almost always happens in writing about a given situation, in stumbling through my advice to her, I found a gem of advice to me, too.

I explained my admiration of my teacher; I explained my frustration with my reality of teaching, and my own perceived failures there, and without any preconceived intentions, I found myself explaining to her that admiring my teacher did not mean that I was to teach.

Instead it was the passion I should have emulated: the way her eyes sparkled, the joy she held for her work, the momentum she created, the work she gladly put into making a happy space in her life.

I took myself by so much surprise in that statement that I had to pause to allow it to register, and since that conversation over dishes and dinner preparation, I have felt more empowered to make my own way. Rather than living with a sense of listlessness and confusion in what the future holds, I see that it was up to me all along to bravely mark the trail towards what will make me most happy.

In the past year, I’ve been working on my writing and my photography. I know those will both figure into my future. They are both what I love with the same passion I witnessed all those years ago in room 123. I have been more intent with photography in our photowalks and in finding the courage to finally explore this piece of my heart, I also found the courage last week to make some important decisions.

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From my first family shoot with the Dunn family.

My typical mode of operation is to sit back and hope things show up. And sometimes they do. A friend asked me to take her family portraits in March, and while I spent a bit of time feeling like a fraud, I also realized, once again, that we all have to start from the beginning. One of my dearest friends has asked me to take engagement and wedding pictures. All of this is an incredible chance to move forward, but last week I decided I have to make some changes on my own, too.IMG_5458

If this dream of photography is to become a reality, I have to shift into manual mode in my life. I have to make the changes, take the steps, and find the courage to walk along the path from these humble beginnings. After making this quiet promise to myself, I confessed them to a friend, who then talked to her friend. Within a day, I had a connection with a local professional photographer who is willing to mentor me, guide me, and bring me along on shoots. I am so grateful for the chance to watch and learn and for friendly professionals who want to help beginners along the way!

Shifting into manual mode. In life. And also with my camera. I have been relying on AV (Aperture Value) most of the time. The camera does part of the work, and I can choose a few settings. It’s not entirely shooting in Auto, but it doesn’t unlock the camera’s power completely. Starting now, I’m moving my camera to manual and taking a class on exposure and metering methods. Our photowalks are going to be less haphazardly shot and more intentional with a focus on sharpening my skills and mastery of all of the buttons on my camera. I’m expecting a learning curve and maybe a few dicy pictures, but in the end I know this is what I need to do to move forward.

And one day, the goal is to shoot professionally and independently. To take the humble beginnings of my first family shoot and make them become something even grander. Colored with joy and happiness and filling the room (and my heart) with passion.

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Unpacking the Past

IMG_5834For the last several years, I’ve kept a part of my past fairly quiet. I would determinedly work to pretend it never happened, and in fact, I never shared much of it with Jon. And for no reason other than my issues with it. Recently I found the courage to embrace it, and I found the voice to share it with him. It’s nothing dark and mysterious. Just a little bit of who I was in between my divorce and our relationship that I packed away. I packed it away from just about everyone because of a fear of acceptance and because of the lack of courage to stand firmly in who I am and what I believe.

When we let go of believing that some part of our past shouldn’t have been, when we finally begin to let go of that- without pretending that the painful moments didn’t happen- then we’re open to a creative relationship with the past. We are able to fully embrace everything that ever was. ~Adyashanti

And when I have shared bits of myself, there were always qualifications, discounts, little hedges of rationalization to let me off of the hook if there was any pushback. By timidly putting myself, my beliefs, and my life out there, it was easier to quickly pull it back when things felt unsafe. It allowed me to be more of a chameleon and shift and blend in with the crowd.

In being completely open about who I really am and who I was and how it all got me here today, by unpacking that part of my past, I had to be vulnerable, and I had to remember that our marriage is one of acceptance and love. We are not completely alike; sometimes our beliefs and views of the world are wildly different, and we push back against each other. But we have enough common ground rooted in a safe, loving environment that we are each able to grow in our own ways, shoulder to shoulder, without growing apart.

So I shared and shared. Jon asked questions. I answered without hesitation. When I finished, Jon looked at me amusedly, but lovingly and said, You are such a hippie.

I stopped and thought about that. And then I smiled. I don’t need a label to define myself. I’m not searching for one. But in those five words, I could understand a little more of who I am in an unforced and natural and organic way. I could see the pieces of my whole past coming together to create this picture of me today. It was simply me. What I liked. What I believed. Suddenly none of it felt like something I needed to worry about others judging. I realized that in my conversation with him, there were no buts, no lilted question marks, no caveats. There were only assertive periods and declarative statements that described the me who was lost and who was intent on figuring things out. I wasn’t ready to own my life entirely then. I wasn’t brave enough to boldly step outside the default. Instead I tiptoed around it and sometimes waded through it. Deep in my heart I knew what I believed and loved, but I was too fearful to embrace it and make it my own.

Until now. Unpacking it all, laying it out, it’s what has been missing. It’s why I haven’t been able to be fully rooted in the who question and answer. There is an intense freedom, a sense of finally belonging to myself now that the who question is quieted. There is a courageousness to finally just be.

So who, then?

  • I went to Reiki often, a type of energy healing, and I loved it. I used to hide it from people. I would never fully explain what it was because I was embarrassed. I’d love to go again.
  • At the Buddhist retreat I went to, one night we chanted in a steam hut. It was incredible. We meditated at midnight on New Year’s Eve, and it was the best New Year’s I’ve ever spent. I’d go back in a heartbeat.
  • I spent a weekend at an energy healing workshop, and it was an amazing experience.
  • I once went to a movie about the history of yoga. I totally enjoyed it, which is something I’ve always had a hard time owning. (There’s an unimportant backstory here.)
  • I love my mala beads. As more than a symbol but as a connection with the earth and with my intention to find freedom in being who I am.
  • I love my Catholic faith, and I need some of the parameters of organized religion, but at the same time I love my more open and spiritual belief system (that I’ve tended to hide away). I’m learning that I need both. Without either one, everything falls flat for me. It may seem like a disparate relationship, but it comes together in a beautiful way when I embrace them both.
  • I have always had a hard time with formal prayer. Instead, I find my connection with God and with a greater sense of peace through quiet, through nature, and through meditation.
  • This is my most favorite quote. When I first read it more than seven years ago, everything seemed to make sense. And it still does.

When I was young, I believed that life might unfold in an orderly way, according to my hopes and expectations. But now I understand that the Way winds like a river, always changing, ever onward, following God’s gravity toward the Great Sea of Being. My journeys reveal that the Way itself creates the warrior; that every path leads to peace, every choice to wisdom. And that life has always been, and will always be, arising in Mystery. ~Socrates from The Journeys of Socrates by Dan Millman

Don’t hide yourself away. Unpack. Unburden. Immerse yourself in exactly who you are and want to be without worry. There is such freedom to live moment to moment in the stillness of who you really are.

Rooted in Now

Photo Apr 21, 11 13 18 AMMy friend Kristy and I must share a brain on some level. We sometimes pen similar blog posts on the same day and only after we share them with each other do we realize how closely our thoughts aligned. Or we preview posts before they are published and have conversations that can be extensions of the post. That is what happened today. Kristy published this post about dreaming, about happiness, about the struggle to balance drive with contentment. To yearn but be happy with reality. To plan but know that everything is in perfect order.

In our conversation she suggested that I make my responses a post. My interpretation to her thoughts. And we foresee this being something we do more of, too. My post, her response. Her post, my response. Because it’s from sharing ourselves with others, from being vulnerable and communicating that we grow most deeply. 

The other day on a trail run I glimpsed a bit of yellow along the neutral hues of leaves and pine needles. I passed the first one, immediately wished I had stopped to see just what it was, but kept going ahead. Until I saw another. I crouched and smiled at the single, resting honeysuckle bloom. It was so simple and yet held so much beauty and life. As I moved along the trail, I found more of the blooms, always singular, always brightly yellow.

Photo Apr 21, 11 02 56 AM

I chose the trails that day because I didn’t want to fret about running pace for my long run. It’s no secret that I get consumed by my Garmin, but when I’m on the trails, even if the pace is displayed, I rarely look at it. I think it is partly knowing that I will slow down on the trails and partly simply not caring what my pace is. My feet feel light and happy, my heart soars, my head is clear when I find myself there.

What I realize on those kinds of trail runs, what the honeysuckles made me remember even more acutely is that the only thing we have for sure is now. We have to let go of our ego’s hold on how what we might be or might have one day will define us. It’s when the quietness at our root seeps in beyond the static that we remember: running faster or taking a better picture or writing the perfect essay doesn’t define anything about the real us. It merely strokes the ego. And we do have to find success in this world; goals are important. But we also have to trust in what is now and who we are before and after those achievements, finding a deep and unwavering happiness in who we are at the root of our being, and in the quiet stillness beyond our thoughts is where it is found.

I get glimpses of it during yoga or while on a run when I’m not obsessed with time. Or most often when I simply sit in the sunshine or spy a lone honeysuckle resting on pine straw or chance upon tall trees spiraling out of the water.

Photo Apr 21, 10 54 50 AM
We are the constant light of the sun: always shining and always full of love. If we can remember that, even a just little, if we can be as stalwart as the sun’s rays in maintaining presence and trust, our lives will unfold beautifully before our eyes.

photowalk wednesday, v. 9: worthy

IMG_2284I have been so lucky this week to be using a Canon 6D equipped with two different L series lenses. L series lenses are pricy, professional grade, and my brother-in-law has been generous enough to loan them to me to practice with, learn on, and hopefully decide what will be my first lens purchase beyond the 18-55mm kit lens that came with my camera.

These lenses are prime lenses meaning they are fixed. If zooming is required, your feet are doing the work. At first this felt awkward to me. I’ve gotten comfortable with a zoom lens, and the first day I shot with the prime lens, I was frustrated. I’ve spent some time this week feeling like a fraud, a little unworthy of wrapping my hands around equipment that is so lofty and reserved for those who know more than I do about photography.

But with a little practice and many awkward shots, suddenly it began to make sense, and I remembered again that in beginnings there is both fear and excitement. Typically I allow the fear to grow and eclipse the excitement and stop me short of tangible progress. But with this, with finally embracing a dream I’ve always had, there’s more excitement than fear. There’s a sense of grounding and a comfort that I am finally doing what I am meant to do. I’m writing more than I ever have, releasing the grips of perfection and practicing with easy, personal and frequent prose. I’m stepping confidently out with my camera and shooting, experimenting with composition and angles and technique.

All of this practice is reminding me that I am worthy. I am worthy of the page, of the opportunity to practice with equipment that might be a little ahead of where I am. I am worthy of being exactly who I am and seeing more of myself with each word and each picture.

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