Saturday, February 23, 2013

A Celebration - and Defense - of Long-Distance Relationships

There are so many ways to find happiness with another person.

Recently, a friend and I were discussing long-distance relationships and whether they were practical or feasible to enter into. He thought no, but I argued yes. I could not understand his vehement insistence that they were simply, to quote him, hopeless and not worth the effort. "If I'm seeing someone," he said, "then I need to see them every day. I couldn't handle not seeing them but once a month, or even once a week.That's not for me."

Wow. But that's okay...not everything is for everyone.

I'm very independent, creatively ambitious, and, as my son's only parent, committed to giving him as much of my time as possible. For this reason, I often find it difficult to imagine trying to squeeze time to get to know another person into the picture. When I've tried it, it has often left me feeling like I'm in a whirlwind, with more going on than I can handle. I feel divided. I don't like it.

So for me, the idea of beginning a relationship with someone I'm not going to need to see every day, week, or even every month is not hopeless, but very intriguing. Of course, at some point in a long distance relationship that is going well, there's going to be the inevitable discussion where someone has to decide to move, but that is just a matter of timing and pacing. I know several couples who are happily married who began their relationships while their beloved was miles and miles away. One just celebrated their 11th anniversary to a man she met online, a happy and fulfilling relationship everyone convinced her would never work.

Sometimes, the right person for us is simply not going to be down the street or in a neighboring town. I often wonder how many people stay single their entire lives simply because they are afraid to venture into a long-distance relationship. Yes, I believe that LDRs do present different challenges and take a deeper level of commitment, but I also believe wholeheartedly that for some, it is going to be what works.

Here are a few more reasons I believe LDRs are worth the effort...

1. Too much togetherness can make one forget that they are a person in their own right. With LDRs, too much togetherness is never an issue, thus both parties have a clear and concise sense of who they are as both individuals and within the relationship. In other words, there is no loss of self-identity, which is critically important to the success of any relationship. (Also, I believe having a strong sense of self-identity and knowing who one is gives the strength and fodder needed to maintain a long-distance courtship in the first place.)

2. Quality time verses quantity time. In LDRs, when you finally do have time to be with your beloved, not a moment of it is going to be wasted. It's precious. And in the future, both parties are less likely to take one another for granted because they can both clearly remember being miles and miles apart, and how difficult it could be.

3. LDRs provide unique opportunities for old-fashioned wooing, which I find missing in general courtship, but deeply romantic and, at least for me, necessary. I personally love the idea of being wooed, and in LDRs, the whole process of this has to go a little deeper to happen. Packages in the mail, silly texts, handwritten letters, surprise visits...it takes a little more originality and creativity than simply hopping in a car and going to a movie or concert together. I, for one, like the idea of a person being a little more original and creative in order to capture my attention and vice-versa - I'd like the chance to do the same.

4. Commitment. Bottom line, this is what makes or breaks LDRs, and I find alot of it simply depends on individual personalities. How bad do you want this particular person in your life? Do you really believe that if you give up on them because the situation is inconvenient that you'll find someone who speaks to your soul just as clearly closer by? Like every relationship, LDRs are a risk...but often, one worth taking.

5. Trust. With LDRs, trust has to be complete. Without it, you can not keep going. This is what keeps many folks from entering into LDRs, but trust can be just as much of an issue if you are living with your beloved. It's simply going to come down to how much you believe in the other person. And yourself. And the two of you together.

6. Love of adventure, because let's face it, that is what LDRs are going to be. An adventure as you get to know not only another person, but their world as well, which is bound to be different from yours. I believe it takes a certain type to embark on such an adventure, and that alone is the first tie that binds the two souls into even trying to make a seemingly impossible situation work. Showing another person all the magic in your world, or even thinking about showing it to them, would enable you to see it more as well...and that's always a good thing.

Bottom line, I continue to disagree with my friend, who believes LDRs are hopeless and not worth the effort. Granted, they aren't for everyone; some people simply need more one-on-one attention than others, and that's okay...like so many other things in life, relationships are all about balance and finding someone whose needs and wants match your own. I do believe, however, that when the mystery unfolds, and you find there is another who speaks to your soul, even softly, it's worth listening to...no matter where in the world they are.

There is no rhyme or reason to attraction, and certainly none to love. For some of us, it just has to unfold differently, for whatever purpose, but it does not mean it's not going to be a beautiful journey. Follow the link below to read my favoritest LDRs storiy of all-time. And remember, what comes to love...it's always worth it.  http://boldnessinitiative.blogspot.com/2011/04/serendipity.html

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Bold Activism



In the beginning...first bag only half-filled at this point.
 I guess I should not be surprised that folks who drink booze while riding in cars are not especially concerned with the environment. Still, the amount of beer, liquor and wine bottles we picked up tonight did amaze me. I guess they needed to dispose of all evidence of their drinking before arriving at their destination, because let's face it, people usually can't tell if you've downed a pint or two so long as they don't see the bottles anywhere, right?

Same goes for the junk food and latte junkies, who apparently need to hide the evidence of their Mac-splurges and four dollar caffeine fixes. I can't think of any other logical reason that we found so many McDonald's bags and burger wrappers along that roadside, and the founders of Starbucks would probably cringe in horror if they knew how many of their plastic cups I picked up.

And we're nowhere near done with this small strip of wild. It's not totally wild, but it does border some wildness, wildness that we value and want to keep free of the garbage of modern society. Literally. Cleaning up the route we walk along most evenings was my son's idea, and of this, I could not be more proud. You never saw a more enthusiastic little steward of the earth as he dutifully picked up even the ickiest of the debris and tossed it into his bag. We only brought two, and filled them up quickly. And while I am proud of my son for valuing the environment and speaking for the earth, trees, and animals, I'm absolutely racked with disbelief that so  many other people simply don't.

The evening's haul...sad, isn't it?
I wonder where they learned not to care. Was it demonstrated to them by their own families, or are they just so self-absorbed that their personal needs - like having a clean car - outweigh the needs of the their community, or the environment? It's hard to say. But the good thing is that there are so, so many people - like my own child - who DO care. And who will make the effort and go the extra mile for the earth they love. On drives, my son will point out places in subdivisions where people could put community gardens. Recently, he asked me why people preferred growing grass - as in lawns - to having gardens in their yards. I smile at this suggestion, because I know there is an entire  movement going on that is encouraging people to do just that - tend gardens, not lawns. He doesn't know this...he just knows it makes more sense to grow food you can eat than it does to tend tidy neat lawns while buying produce trucked in from the other side of the continent.

Spreading soil and mulch in the community garden beds...
And I love that he's figured this out already, without having to be told, because talk is talk, nothing more. In the end, the most important things we pass on to our children are what they learn when we lead by example. Those hours I have spent in the garden; the times I picked up trash on our hiking trails; the saving of bread crusts to take to the geese and ducks; the painstaking sorting of recycling, he sees all of these little things, and little things done in the name of love for the earth become big, huge things when you are raising a child to be bold enough to care about their environment.

No one wakes up one day and decides to become an earth activist...the seed of love for the environment has to be sown, tended, watered, and encouraged to grow and grow and grow. Read more about this, and about two renown earth activists, at http://boldnessinitiative.blogspot.com/2011/04/bold-activism.html

Friday, February 15, 2013

Follow Your Name by Kedar Brown

Pay attention...pay attention!

Be careful not to distract yourself from yourself by focusing on the obstacles in your life.

Focus on the delivery of your medicine, not on the story in your head where your recount your limitations and loss.

Do not indulge in such self-importance as a way to avoid taking responsibility for your medicine and the gift of healing you came here to offer.

You are the heroes or heroines of your story.

If you do not know the mythology of your own life you will likely be living an existence that is not entirely your own.

The amount of turmoil in your life is proportional to the degree that you are not aligned with your medicine.

 The life you know you must live is the one standing just a few paces in front of you… waiting for you to remember.

Apprentice yourself to yourself and move to the frontier of you own imagination.

Do not appear in the world in such a way that others give you a name that is too small for you.

- passage by Kedar Brown, M.Ed., LPC, NCC, CHT. Brown is Founder and Director of Rites Of Passage Council, Inc and Program Manager and Therapist for Phoenix Outdoors, which is part of SUWS of the Carolinas in Old Fort, NC. http://ritesofpassagecouncil.com/contact.htm. He will be facilitating an Adolescent Rites of Passage event in Columbia, SC on February 22, 2013. For more information visit http://rop.eventbrite.com/#

Painting by Amy L. Alley, Awi' Usdi, Little Deer of the Cherokee.

Monday, February 4, 2013

Don't Be Afraid to Climb Mountains...


Helping cut green beans for dinner...
 We were at the check-out line when I realized I'd forgotten freezer bags. The good news was, they were right there at the end of the aisle, so I didn't have to go very far. I left my son in charge of unloading our cart, and stepped over to grab a box of freezer bags. I have about a gazillion pounds of pecans I'd picked up in my parents yard and had shelled that need to be cleaned up and stored, a time consuming task worth every effort. Walking back to the check-out, wondering when I was ever going to find time to finish the job, I nodded hello to the elderly gentleman who'd came to place in line behind us.  He was bearded and stout, with a red cap over bushy white hair and a heavy flannel jacket, jeans, and hiking boots.

"Do you climb mountains?" My son asked the man, out of the clear blue sky. He chuckled, "Why yes, I did, young man. Many of 'em, back in the day."

"Do you look for gold?" was the next question. "Well, kind of. Found a vein of silver once, but it was on government property so it didn't help me none. Loved roaming out west, though. Had me a burro for a long time. We'd go up in them hills and stay long as we could. You prospect?"

I explained to him that my father was a long time prospector, and that I'm climbed many a mountain and was taking my son on his first real climb this summer.

"Lemme tell you, tell your dad he needs to go to Yuma, out by Arizona," the old-timer went on, and told the story of a special place of legend, just somewhere between the California and Arizona borders, about 3 days on foot from Yuma, and a lot of other twists and turns and even a trailer park landmark, and if a person might find themselves in a certain place at a certain time, they'd see the opening to a treasure trove of gold that has not been seen in 100 years. "Its like another planet out there, in the desert," he said. "Like another time."

Fabulous story. And a fabulous, bold man. He was rustic and authentic, and I did not doubt a word of his tale. Before heading out, he turned to my son and smiled. "Live big, little man," he said, "and don't be afraid to climb mountains."

Later that evening, while preparing supper together, we talked about the mountain man and his story of hidden gold and trekking up and down mountains with burros. "I hope we see him again," my son said.

I do, too.

Thursday, January 31, 2013

Boldly Taking Control...

My first artwork in MONTHS. Ain't she sweet?
...of our own health.

It's about time.

The cartoon my friend sent to me showed a patient sitting on a doctor's table. The patient was drawn to look middle-aged, with a tired expression and wrinkled suit.

"Doctor," he says, "I don't feel well and I'm not sure why."

The wise doctor replies, "I want you to meditate for 20 minutes a day twice a day, exercise for at least 30 minutes a day, avoid processed foods, eat plenty of organic fruits and vegetables, spend more time in nature and less time indoors, stop worrying about things you can't control and ditch your television. Come back in three weeks."

Now that's my kind of physician!!!!

A few weeks ago, I had some tummy pain again. Laying in bed that day, I thought I should call a physician and finally see what was going on with this situation. So I made an appointment with a specialist, albeit almost a month away from the day I called due to the fact that, as the receptionist stated, "We're overwhelmed lately with appointments."

I hung up the phone and thought about that. For the next four weeks, I thought about it, actually. A digestive disease specialist practice with four physicians on staff was 'overwhelmed with appointments." What does that say, really? When the day for my appointment came, I called and cancelled. I'd decided during the month leading up to it that I was not going to give my power away for a battery of heinous tests, a pill, and a lifetime of dependency on someone else to manage my health for me.

What I did instead was stop owning the issue. I will never again state "I have a stomach condition," which I'd done in the past. That's inviting it to come in, set up residence, and thrive. That's owning it...and I won't do that.

I also used a bit of common sense to figure out what might be triggering my tummy upset from time to time. This required some lifestyle changes, always a first step for most people to optimum health. I cut back considerably on something I truly love and enjoy...coffee. Yes, I know that will come as a great surprise to those who know me personally, but coffee is a primary trigger for intestinal upsets, especially the heavy dark roasts that I prefer. I went from the amount I was drinking daily down to 2 cups in the morning and a half-caff cup in the afternoon/evening. (For my afternoon blend, I mix coffee with teechino, an herbal coffee blend that is completely caffeine free and quite tasty!)

Rather than approach exercise weekend-warrior style, as in doing nothing all week then walking 5 miles on Sunday, I made time to walk everyday, weather permitting. My son accompanies me, and often his friend/s will as well. Sometimes on bikes, sometimes on foot, we walk and talk about things we see. This is probably my favorite thing, because working with kids I know they actually quite enjoy talking to adults. I learn alot about my son and his friends on these walks, and he/they learn that they can talk, openly and honestly without judgement or consequence, to me.

And I used my knowledge of Reiki and healing, which I've always done, to take care of my body. Daily yoga routine and time spent in quiet meditation and healing.

And here I am, a month later, feeling better than ever.

We are, ultimately, in control of our own well being. I have, unfortunately, for years watched a family member accept bad health and give power away to medical professionals who prescribed a pill that riddled the person with side effects and ultimately did nothing. Now, at a fairly young age, this person has succumbed to being disabled and a near-invalid state. This was all avoidable, had it been faced head-on years ago, and because it affects to my life deeply, it has inspired my journey to a better way of healing. I believe I could help this person, but they are not open whatsoever to what I offer. They prefer the white lab coats and diagnosis of this, that and the other. They own these illnesses to the hilt, telling people about them at any given opportunity. The distance it has created between us could span light years, and the effect it has had on this person's life is immeasurably catastrophic.

I wonder how their life might have been if, 20 years ago, they'd had a physician like the one in the cartoon my friend sent to me. But when one had been dependent on physicians for the majority of their life to tell them how they are doing, it's a habit that's hard to break.

As I approach the study for my level II in Reiki, which will enable me to work with healing on others as well as myself, I'm grateful for the nearly 2 years of lessons I've had since receiving my level I certification. I was told then that when I was ready for level II, I'd know it, but the process could not be rushed. I had to have some experiences along the way to not only teach me, but to test my commitment to the natural healing journey I was on. And now I'm ready. It's a wonderful time.

It's a wonderful life.

Please comment below on some of the things YOU do to maintain optimum health. I want to share them with others in a future blog!

Artwork: The serpent is an ancient a symbol of female power and women's healing intuition. This small colored-pencil sketch in a study for a large painting.

Thursday, January 3, 2013

Sharing the Boldness......

Just had to pop in here and share the boldness of a friend I find so awesome and awe-inspiring!!!

http://www.thestarrbar.blogspot.com/

I hope to see you at www.phoenixanddragon.com  soon, Damaris!! :-)

Sunday, September 23, 2012

Grow

When I was in college, pursuing my Bachelors Degree in Fine (Studio) Art, Professor D. made a comment about a former college classmate of his that I found startling at the time. He mentioned her work in reference to a technique we were practicing, a technique she had obviously excelled at. Clearly, he respected her as an artist. She’d had some degree of regional fame – he mentioned this as well. But she no longer practiced art-making as a discipline, he informed us. This artist had apparently, after a decade or so of establishing herself in the art community where she lived, decided she needed more from life and moved to India, where she still resided.
“She doesn’t make art anymore,” he’d said, shaking his head sadly as if he were speaking of some great loss to humanity. “I guess she still considers herself an artist, but last I heard from her, she said she didn’t really have the urge to do any art these days. She’s having an adventure instead,” he shrugged.
At 23, the age I was when I pursue that particular degree, I was so in love with the idea of expressing myself with paint that I could not imagine any time in life when I would not have the urge to make art. It WAS my life, in a matter of speaking, and being an artist directed the flow of my life in multiple ways as I grew older. It was an identity I fiercely clung to. I read biographies of artists and modeled my life practices after their dedication to their craft. I worked various odd jobs and several ‘real’ jobs to survive, and diligently painted at night, early in the mornings, or on weekends. I worked tirelessly honing my skills and marketing my work. And finally, I began to enjoy some degree of regional fame and success….
…and I found out that I don’t really like regional fame, so it stands to reason I would abhor national fame and absolutely freak out if I stumbled upon world-wide acclaim. The center of attention is not my choice place to be. The year I was chosen as feature artist for a music festival, I attended a formal event where I was asked to stand while my painting was unveiled, and the round of applause was deafening. I wanted to sneak out the door; I felt so out of place in that moment. What on earth had I done to receive such applause, or the standing ovation that followed? I’d ducked out as quickly as possible from the event. Was I grateful? Yes. Being chosen to represent my community through art was an honor. But I’m more of a ‘behind the scenes’ type of gal; even a birthday party held for me by dear friends last year was a little too much ‘spotlight’. And as time passed and I matured, I remembered the story of Professor D.’s friend who had walked away from a promising art career in a major metropolitan US city to live abroad in a foreign land, simply because the people and the colors delighted her spirit.
And finally, I got it. I knew exactly why she didn’t have a need to create art for galleries and exhibits anymore. Before she left, according to Professor D., she gave much of her art away to friends and collectors so as not to have to be concerned with storing it. At that time I could not imagine simply giving my work away, it seemed so pointless to even make it if I was just going to part with it so easily. But, in the past few months, I’ve given a great deal of art away, something I never imagined doing. I’ve done it carefully, making sure the work had a good home, but I’ve found a great deal of joy in seeing my art bring happiness to people. Last night, I gave a small painting to a friend for her birthday, and the delight on her face warmed my heart. This was what I wanted for my art, or anything else I created, really – to bring happiness to other people, not fame or heaps of accolades to myself. 
And what has become more and more important to me over the past couple of years isn’t art-making or achieving success, its living. It’s life. It’s being in the moments I’m in, enjoying my days, and not slaving over an easel into the wee hours of the night so I have something to show or sell, but relaxing in the evenings - working with fibers, reading, talking to a friend on the phone, writing a letter or email. In the pursuit of artistic fame and success, I shut myself off from many activities I wanted to do because free time was such a rare and precious commodity. Now I’ve come to realize just that – free time is a rare and precious commodity, as is life in general. How we spend it comes down to moments, precious moments which create our stories and define our lives.
A few days ago, I ran into an old friend whose first question was, “How’s your art going?” I just smiled. There was no need to tell him that if I made art at all anymore, it was simply for myself and that the last time I’d painted anything was weeks ago when I added detail to a small wooden bangle bracelet. There was no need to tell him I didn’t have a desire, at this point in life, to express myself with paint or charcoal and that I’d recently turned down a commission because I simply didn’t want to do it. There was no reason to tell him that I wanted to embrace new things in life, that I had dismantled my big easel and recently made a few cards for friends but beyond that, I was busy being a mom, practicing yoga and meditation, gardening, knitting like a fiend and learning new skills and techniques I never thought I'd be able to master, and becoming more deeply involved in the personal relationships in my life. There was no reason to try and explain to him what a ridiculous question he’d actually asked…how does one’s art actually ‘go’, anyway? I just smiled and said "Fine," and kept the planned adventures I have for my life to myself.
No doubt had I told him the truth, he’d have reacted the same way as I did to the story of Professor D.’s friend, who has become something of a role model to me these days as I reflect on the adventure she was able to give herself only by letting go of all that she had created, including her identity as a painter. Where she is now I could never know; I don’t even remember her name. But I remember her story, a story that made no sense at the time but has now become my story as well. What I once could not understand about her has become the one thing I want others to understand about me. Let me grow, I want to say. Just because I’ve spent two decades doing this doesn’t mean I want to spend the next two doing it. There is so much more to experience in life, and God knows there is more to me than just the fact that I can paint. Let me grow, and I will let you grow. I will never try to define you by labels you gave yourself years ago...I'll encourage you to grow, grow tall like the seeds I nurtured in my patio greenhouse, and grow wild, like the garden I planted this summer with those very seeds. Grow and be free, like the wild thing I rescued, healed, and returned to its habitat even though I could have tamed it and kept it as a pet. Grow like the giant sunflowers my son planted, sunflowers whose seeds we dried and harvested and will feed to the birds in our backyard this winter. Grow, grow wild, and be free, especially of labels that others use to define you, or that you've used to define yourself. Be bold enough to step out of what you cling to, and grow...
...because there is so much more.