Friday, April 29, 2011

Swimming Lessons




I reached into a jacket pocket today and I found a $5 bill. What a surprise.

Surprises throw me off center. Even good ones can leave me speechless. I never know quite what to do when faced with something I am not expecting.

I used the money to buy a bouquet of flowers. Bright pink ones.

Tomorrow I'm going shopping for a bright pink dress to replace the gold one I returned in February. (February blog http://panpanstudios.blogspot.com/2011/02/spring-cleaning-golden-threads-and.html) I saw the dress I want in a Greenville store back in March, but I wasn't feeling bold enough then to wear pink at that time.

Then, I had swimming lessons.

Take a deep breath. Hold it. Now exhale. Do it again.

Are you ready? Yes, the water's cold. It always feels that way at first.

Wade in slowly. When the water is up to your thighs, remember that swimming is a natural instinct, like walking.

We begin in water. Lean forward...reach your arms in front of you. Your soul will remember this feeling.

Play for a minute. Enjoy the feel of the water. Lean forward. Lean back. Have fun. This you feel okay doing, because the water is shallow. You feel safe. You've been doing this your whole life, really.

But it's not what you came here for.

Exit the pool. Walk around to the far edge...the deep end.

Breath in deeply. Hold it. Exhale. Do it again.

The butterflies in your stomach are natural. Make friends with them. They remind you that you're about to do something bold.

Don't like being in over your head? That's okay. It's frightening to most people. But fears can be conquered. That's thier one beauty.

Remember you are loved. Deeply. You will not drown. Not this time.

Breath in. Hold it. Exhale. Breath in again.

Now...close your eyes...tell yourself that you are bold....and that you've played in the shallow end of the pool for far too long.

Jumping in is a leap of faith.

Take it.

Loving. Trusting. Hoping. Believing. Living. Being. Take a leap of faith, and jump into these pools.

As Paulo Coehlo states in The Alchemist, "It is the possibility of having a dream come true that makes life interesting." No matter what dreams you have, chances are they won't come true if you just play it safe in the shallow end of the pool. Chances are they might not if you jump in, either.
But when you are bold, the odds are in your favor. Fear and control are no longer your constant companions. Courage takes thier place. And the universe begins to open up.

Dive in.




Painting: Breathing Underwater, by Amy L. Alley

I hope you have enjoyed the daily Boldness Initiative blogs. I've enjoyed hearing from my readers via email, comments, and on Facebook. Your stories have been very inspiring, and I appreciate those who were bold enough to share them in a post or comment! Thanks to everyone who took time to read these blogs daily! It has been a wonderful personal challenge to me to create and maintain this site and I hope what you've read has inspired and encouraged you! I will continue to maintain the blog on a weekly basis. Please continue to share your stories of living bold by commenting here, through Facebook, or by emailing me at
amialley@hotmail.com

You Can Do Anything...

A friend posted the following qoute on Facebook:

"If you just look for what's right - in others, in relationships, in yourself and your journey - you'll always find it....same when looking for what's wrong."

I love this, and thought it would be a perfect jumping off point for today's post.

We do posess the power to surprise ourselves, to be bold, to take risks that change our lives and give us amazing moments.

But to everything there is a flip side...we also possess a powerful capacity to look for reasons NOT to be bold. To talk ourselves out of doing things, even when they are things we really want to do. To listen to the ones who talk us out of doing things that are too different, too far from the norm, too unlike anything THEY'VE ever done...instead of listening to the ones who tell us we are not typical, that we can do anything, that we only need to be bold enough to believe.

To be bold means to challenge yourself to live intentionally and authentically. To trust in your own wisdom and choices. To refuse to carry Fear and Control around in your psyche anymore, and to start looking for what is right in situations, instead of dwelling on what is wrong.

As the old adage goes, attitude truly is everything. Changing your thinking is a first bold step towards living a fuller, more authentic life. It can make all the difference in the world.

We are only typical if we choose to be. Be bold enough to look for more within yourself, and you'll find it.


You can do it.


You can do anything...:-)



Painting: Universe, by Amy L. Alley.

Thursday, April 28, 2011

It's Always Been Inside of You....

Boldness means different things to different people at different times...but the ability to be bold is always inside of us.

We just may not have ever really wanted to, or had to, tap into it...until now.

Being bold can mean conquering a fear, like being afraid of water but learning to swim. Or it can be doing something dramatic, like adding a colorful streak of blue or purple to your hair. Or it can be mustering up the courage to express a feeling you've been holding back. It can be wearing a bathing suit you love even though you know your body isn't perfect (what is physical perfection, really?) Or it can be speaking a language you haven't mastered yet, knowing that you'll screw up a few words along the way. It can be planting a garden knowing your entire family will laugh about it because of your inability to keep houseplants alive. Or it can be taking a first step towards following a destiny you know is calling, with no certainty of what might happen beyond that very first step.

I'm including a link to a video at the end of this post. This popular singer/songwriter has said beautifully how we all posess the power to be bold. The characters portrayed in the video show how boldness means different things for different people, but it is always something to celebrate. This is, incidentally, the current favorite song for my son and I. When it comes on the radio, we both become happy, and even he can sing it word for word. When he's frustrated trying to learn a new skill, I'll tell him a few lines of it for encouragement.

It's a catchy tune and a powerful message that reminds us that being bold is not always huge, grand moments...bold moments are when we put fear aside and do what we know, for whatever reason, we simply must do...

It's a power you do possess...and as the song says, it's always been inside of you. Enjoy!
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QGJuMBdaqIw

Painting: Horse in a Green Pasture, Amy L. Alley. This is the first painting I ever did, at the age of 13. No one had told me I could paint or encouraged me in any specific way to think I could...it was simply something I wanted to do. I saved up allowance money until I could buy canvas and paints, and then I just did it. I didn't wait for permission or to be told that I could. I followed my heart, and my life was never the same again! :-)

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Coming Out of Our Shells

On Easter Sunday, my son found a turtle. It spent most of the day with us, until evening, when we released it into the woods that border our home.

Initially, of course, the turtle remained in it's shell, barely peeking out. As time passed, however, it became bolder. A head emerged. Then two legs. Then two more. Eventually, he was slowly crawling around on our patio.

However, one quick move, one fallen shadow, one loud laugh and zip! He was gone, retreating back into his shell, sealed up completely.

"Why does he do that? Doesn't he like us?" My son would ask.

"He does it to feel safe," I'd respond. "It's his protection."

"Why don't we have shells?" He asked.

"Oh, Honey," I said, "We do. People have the thickest shells of all. You just can't see them."

And this is true. As human, we have shells that are more impenetrable than the walls of armored cars. We go into them for the same reason that my turtle friend did...protection. We can hide there. We don't have to reveal ourselves when we're tucked away inside of our shells.

One of the boldest things we'll ever do is to slowly emerge from them.

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Transformation



Today's post is brief, and to the point.


Believing is bold. Doubting is not.



The caterpillar does not spend a moment's time obsessing over whether or not it has the power to become a butterfly.


It doesn't try to rush things or force anything into being. It simply lives, eats, and when the time is right, (and it knows, as we all do), it builds a cocoon...and waits.


And when the time is right, (and it knows, as we all do), it emerges better than it was before.


It doesn't question or doubt the magic needed to make this transformation. It just believes.


And waits.






Monday, April 25, 2011

Time to Unravel

A couple of years ago, I learned to knit...not a common hobby in an area of the world where it's 70 degrees or higher for much of the year.

Still, I love it. I love the fibers, how they feel to the touch; I love my wooden needles, the low clicking sound they make when I'm working; how it feels to have a few skiens of yarn and a pattern for some warm, cozy thing.


I also love taking a pre-existing knit item, unwinding it, and turning it into something new. As a matter or fact, I make a majority of the things I knit from this 'repurposed' yarn. I'll find a sweater for just a few bucks at a resale shop, or I'll eye the older ones in my own closest, and begin the slow process of unraveling them.


It's a bold move, because I am taking something that seems fine as it is and completely undoing it in the hope that, from what I've unraveled, I can create something better. The bold move is taking that initial step to start the unraveling process, because once that begins, it's not reversible. You can't undo the damage of unraveling...you can't leave something half together and half apart. Once you've began to unravel, you just have to keep going. You have to complete the process of letting it all fall apart until what once was a perfectly fine garment is now a pile of loose yarn at your feet.

As you slowly wind the 'repurposed' yarn onto a skien holder, you're thinking about where to go from here. You don't think about the sweater you unraveled, there's no reason to, because it doesn't exist anymore. But you still have something...you have the transformative force of creative alchemy, and enough material now to make something even better than what it was before.


It is bold to intentionally unravel. We often do it without even realizing it. We know that something in our lives, for whatever reason, just isn't working. And so we unwind it, step by step, until it's in a pile at our feet, and we're sitting there wondering where to go from here.

There are two choices: You can leave the unraveled yarn in a pile and forever know that you completely destroyed something that, while maybe not perfect, was still good...or you can use what you now have at your feet to create something new, something even better than you had before. It may take time. That's okay. You may not have a plan at first, and that's okay too. What you do have is the power within you to transform what was simply good into what will become amazing.


And you do have this power. We all do. We just have to be bold enough sometimes to unravel.

Sunday, April 24, 2011

Our Personal Legacies

Yesteryday's post was on choice, how we have the power within us to make choices that determine the direction of our lives.

We also have the power to choose to be bold, or live quietly.

What we choose to do becomes part of our personal legacy. If we choose to be bold, that, too, becomes part of our personal legacy.

In my first post, I mentioned the work I once did at a retirement center, which mostly consisted of sitting with elderly residents and offering companionship. And listening. I listened to many wonderful stories of lives fully lived. And I never once heard anyone say, "I wish I had been LESS bold. I wish I had not taken that chance and told that person how I felt. I wish I had not traveled to that place. I wish I had not learned that new skill or language or taken that new oppourtunity."

Instead, what I would hear was, "I wish I had been MORE bold. I wish I HAD taken a chance and told someone how I felt. I wish I HAD traveled to that place, or learned that new skill or language or taken that new opportunity." For what we don't do also becomes part of our personal legacy. And never knowing what an outcome might have been can haunt us in a far greater way than taking a risk and having events not turn out the way we'd hoped for ever would.

We create our personal legacies with each step we take, and each step we don't take. Nothing is left up to 'fate', and things don't just happen for or to us. The power of choice gives us the freedom to determine what much of our experiences will be. Just as I am the author of this post, we are all the authors of our own lives. We just have to be bold enough to pick up a pen and begin writing.

Painting: Things We Let Go, by Amy L. Alley

Saturday, April 23, 2011

Making Choices

There is a personal power that we all have within us...it is our ability to make a choice.

If you have ever been stripped of that ability for any reason, then you know how powerful it is.

It might be a small decision, or a large one, depending on what you are choosing to do. But the ability to make a choice is still a power that you possess.

Sometimes we are presented with a situation where a bold choice needs to be made, one we know it has the potential to change our entire lives. But here is a secret: Nearly all the choices we make have the potential to change our lives.

And of course, to be - or not to be - bold is a choice. To believe in something - or not to believe in it - is a choice. To continue along a current path is a choice. To listen to our heart is a choice, and to pursue a dream is a choice.

And a risk.

Paulo Coehlo states in his internationally best-selling book, The Alchemist,"It is the possibility of having a dream come true that makes life interesting." Whethr or not our dreams come true in the future depends heavily on the decisions that we are making in the now. Sometimes it takes years to know if a choice was the right one. But one thing will always remain true: To pursue a dream is to risk failure...but to give up on a dream is to garuantee it.

In keeping with this theme, I'm including a video interview of well-known actor Will Smith talking about not only this book, but also the power we have to be the alchemists of our own lives. It's a brief but insightful clip that I hope you'll find inspiring!
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-A0LDp0e9X4&feature=related

Painting: Blessings, by Amy L. Alley




Friday, April 22, 2011

Trusting Your Heart


Trusting your heart.

It's one of the boldest things you will ever do.

And sadly, it's something many people never learn to do, because our hearts are usually guiding us in one direction, while our heads are asking, "Are you insane?"

When this battle is raging within us, it can be brutal. We're often taught that trusting the heart is wrong, that it is more logical to just do what makes sense. But when has logic ever changed a life or brought joy to a soul? It has it's place, yes, but it's rarely to be found in matters dealing with the heart. And doing what makes sense often just means taking the easy way out, which rarely is going to result in joy.

Trusting in the heart means yeilding no power whatsoever to those twin devils, fear and control. It means releasing them completely, which can be very unsettling if you have had them as companions for so long you've grown fond of them. But fear and control keep us right where we are. The heart leads us to places we never imagined we'd go. It tells us to trust enough to take a risk and love, not just a little, but completely. It can even open up enough to forgive a deep hurt, because the heart knows not a one of us is perfect, and it takes a truly bold soul to admit they could have been wrong...just as it takes a matching bold soul to say, "Yes, you were...but I'm still here."

If your heart is guiding you somewhere today, be bold enough to trust it, even if it means taking a risk. Human beings are blessed with a tremendous capacity to love, to believe, and to forgive. Most people barely tap into this potentional during a lifetime. They wade around the edges of the shore, where it is safe.

The bold trust thier hearts, jump into the deep, and swim.


Painting: Night Lillies, by Amy L. Alley

Thursday, April 21, 2011

A New Way of Seeing

I love my home. And for the last 7 years, I have loved the trees that surrounded it. They obscured much of my home from view, and kept my yard completely in the shade, yes. But they had always been here. They were safe and familiar.

But like many things that seem safe and familiar, they were silently wreaking destruction. Over the years, the root system had ran deep, mangling pipes, cracking the foundations, subtly lifting the sidewalks just enough to make them dangerous. After all, you often don't see what's going to trip you up until you are flat on the ground looking at it.

Had the decision been mine alone to make, I'm not sure if I would have been bold enough to remove the trees, even though I was aware of the destruction the roots were causing. It's like that sometimes, with things that run deep, with strong walls we build around ourselves and hide behind. We live within thier confines, and we convince ourselves we are happy because we feel safe...even though we know, on some level, we are paying a price for hiding.

But the decision was not mine alone to make. And so, over the past few days, the trees have been taken down one by one, and the shadows that my home has been hiding behind have been suddenly lifted. The change was dramatic, as they sometimes are. Light now fills a space where once shade reigned supreme. This morning, for the first time since living here, I stepped out of my front door and felt sunlight on my face.

I do mourn for the trees that are gone, for the branches whose berries drew Cedar Waxwings and tree frogs to our doorstep, and whose lovely white blooms announced the coming of spring each year. But those same branches had shielded my home from light for a very long time. And I know a change that lets in light is always good.

Now my yard is bathed in sun. I plant happy yellow marigolds in a spot where, before, only shade-loving plants would bloom. A new phase is beginning.

I feel bold.


I am ready.

Painting: On the Eve of a New Way of Seeing, Amy L. Alley

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Who Made Them Kings of Anything?

While thinking of what to say in today's post on boldness, I happened to hear a song on the radio, and had to laugh. It's called King of Anything, and it's performed by Sara Bareilles.

And it's great, plain and simple. It says what some of us long to say to the people in our lives who try so hard to control us that they end up just making us angry or sapping our spirit.

They don't mean to...but the price we are often going to pay for living in a bold, intentional way is that those who aren't able to (yet) are going to want to subdue our efforts. Whether it is parents, bosses, spouses, friends, family members, or sometimes even our grown children, people can be very threatened by someone who is doing something different.

Different threatens the status quo and makes people assess thier own lives, and often, they don't like what they see. The easiest way to deal with this is to try and reel the 'different' one back in so that everyone is the same. Like the infamous Borg of Star Trek fame, they seem to be saying to us, "Resistence is futile. You will be assimilated."

But you can't be bold and be assimilated. You can't be bold and live a blue-print life. And you can't be bold and be afraid of the consequences that often come from living in a different way than those around you, even if the resistance you face comes from those closest to you, as it so often will.

But you can be bold. Enjoy this little empowering song!!!!

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RPk4_XfYhjg

Painting: Summer Nights, by Amy L. Alley

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

If You Don't Ask, You Don't Get

There's an old fable I really love about a man who keeps praying to win the lottery. He lives a very righteous and noble life, but of course, he never wins the lottery, despite his consistent prayers and pious lifestyle. At his life's end, he falls to his knees and asks, "Oh God, why did you never let me win the lottery?"

God replies, "Why did you never buy a ticket?"

This reminds me of a rather bold friend I had in college who totally embodied the spirit of 'if you don't ask, you don't get.' This friend, whom I'll call J, would sometimes embarrass me in public, asking for things like better seats in restaurants or discounts for movie tickets. He even occasionally asked people we were visiting for things in thier homes...it embarrassed the daylights out of me at times, as well as his other friends and especially his quiet, mild-mannered girlfriend, but he would simply shrug his shoulders and say, 'Hey, all they can say is no. That's not going to kill me."

"But it's embrassing!" I'd say, and he'd laugh.

"I'd be more embarrassed if I wanted something and was afraid to ask for it," he'd reply.

I'm not sure if I'd ever take asking for what I want to the extreme that J did, but there was a method to his madness that I do now recognize...it comes back to the old adage, if you don't ask, you don't get. Whether you are asking the universe to bring into your life something you desire; your boss for that long overdue raise; a person whose smile you can't get off your mind to have dinner with you; or asking a stranger to let you have the window seat on a plane. If you don't ask, you don't get. Plain and simple.

Of course there is timing, and tact, and ways to ask without being as obvious as my friend was, but being bold enough to ask for what you want from life is a big step towards actually having it.

But the man in the fable reminds us that asking is not the only step. Sometimes we need to follow up that bold request with a little action. After all, we can't expect to win the lottery if we never buy a ticket!

Painting: Mixed Blood, by Amy L. Alley

Monday, April 18, 2011

Healthy Chaos

I once read somewhere that chaos is actually a higher intellectual form of order.

Gosh, I hope that's true.


As I write this now, my son is awake, has adorned himself with clothing from his costume chest, and has let the dog out to play. The television is on and the laundry basket has been overturned. Easter craft project supplies are spread out on my bedroom floor, red glitter shining in the light. The phone has already started ringing, and it's not quite 7 am.


Most mornings I arise by 5 in order to have a couple of hours peace and quiet, because that's all I'm usually going to get. Today, however, I decided to sleep in a little...and I awoke to this scenario instead. But that's okay. Every happy home, every content family has thier little healthy doses of chaos. Only plastic people in magazine spreads have calm, white-on-beige lives with children who never hold up a homemade sword and shout 'For Narnia!' or run through the house with a barking puppy nipping at thier cape.


What defines chaos will differ from person to person, depending on one's comfort level with distractions and ability to multi-task. It isn't the same as unhealthy drama or univited disasters, no. Chaos is more of something that we bring into our own lives in an effort to, believe it or not, make them richer, fuller, and more extraordinary...because it can be quite difficult to live in a bold, intentional way and maintain that plastic, white-on-beige magazine-spread existence. While it may be classy and elegant to look at, here's one thing it rarely is, especially for children: FUN.


Because of the happy chaos that is enveloping around me now, I need to end this post. But just remember, to be bold might mean having a little more healthy chaos into your life than what you're used to.


It might be different...it might feel crazy at times...but it can be so much fun...


Painting: Amidst Chaos, by Amy L. Alley

Sunday, April 17, 2011

Soul Connections

They met on a mountain top in Africa, having both summited long before any of thier companions reached the top. They sat for quite some time together, laughing and talking, sharing a bottle of blue Gatorade and stories about other climbs.

It was hard to explain. There was a spark, but they were both in long-term relationships with other people. Still, there was a connection, and it was strong. When thier companions, including thier respective signifigant others, began to summit, they said goodbye. Niether understood the sadness they felt in parting. After all, they'd only just met, and didn't really know one another at all.

Time passed. The relationships they were in each fell apart for different reasons. He thought often of the girl he met on a mountain top. She thought of him, too. They each knew the state where the other lived, (him in Michigan, she on the West Coast) but they had not exhanged last names. As hopeless as it seemed, they remained on one another's minds. He could still hear her laughter and remember how it had made him smile. Someone asked him once if he believed in soul mates, and he thought of her, and said yes. She loved star-gazing, and would often think of him while walking alone at night. She could still picture his face clearly, and she'd wonder where he was, if he ever thought of her.

When his friends asked him to go climbing in Alaska a year later, he almost said no. He was busy at work and felt he wasn't in proper shape for a trek. But there was something pushing him onward, telling him to take the chance that, crazy as it seemed, maybe, just maybe, what happened once might happen again.

It was the same for her. She didn't even like climbing, not really, but when her friends asked her if she'd like to hike in Alaska, she said yes, imagining how amazing it would be if she was to meet the same man again in the same way.

At first she couldn't believe it. When she reached the mountain top and saw him sitting there holding a bottle of blue Gatorade, she thought she was hallucinating. When he saw her, he dropped the bottle, and niether spoke for quite some time. They both knew, in that moment, they had in front of them everything they had ever been looking for. They didn't know how they knew, only that they did. They exchanged all necessary contact information, and were married a few months later. Their friends thought they were nuts to change thier whole lives just because they'd met twice on the top of mountains, but they knew what they had was amazing, and they also knew they had been blessed with something that the universe rarely offers...a second chance. Oh, there are second and third and even fourth and fifth chances, yes, to find love, happiness and joy, but rarely is one blessed with a second chance to have the exact same thing. They had missed the mark in Africa...but when they met again in Alaska, they grabbed hold and did not let go.

I read the tale of this couple in a newspaper many years ago. The focal point of the story was soul connections, how they are one of life's most amazing experiences, how they are always mutual, and how they rarely manifest themselves in ordinary ways. You're not likely to find one with a co-worker or someone you meet at a local bar, and you're rarely going to find one when you are actively seeking it. Soul connections happen on a deep level that requires being bold, because they won't usually come to us at convienent times or in ways that make logical sense. That's the beauty of it, but also, the very reason many people don't recognize when it's happening in thier own lives.

But the wonderful thing is, they do happen. We just have to keep our eyes open and be bold enough to believe in something beyond the ordinary.

Saturday, April 16, 2011

What Boldness Looks Like

It's the mid-point of our month-long boldness initiative, and time for a moment of reflection.


Take a pencil and paper, and write down 5 things you've done this month that were BOLD.

I did this exercise recently with a friend, and she sat there, tapping her pencil on the table a few minutes before putting it down and pushing the paper away.

"Nothing!" she said. "I haven't done anything bold. I'm still just spinning my wheels."

"Dig deeper," I said. "Maybe you just don't realize what boldness really looks like."

This lady had taken major steps towards living the authentic life she really wanted. For years, she had rarely went out, although she longed to have more friends. But she'd attended a social gathering that week and even asked someone she'd met there to have coffee later. She'd inquired about taking a summer workshop on a subject she'd always been interested in. She'd gotten up early each morning to write in her journal. She'd began collecting pictures from magazines to use in a future vision collage. She'd worn a colorful outfit to work instead of her usual black and tan seperates. She'd even bought and worn a pair of heels instead of her sensible flats, and added dabbing on a tiny bit of make-up to her usual morning routine.


And yet, she didn't think she'd done anything bold. But sometimes, just being bold enough ask someone to coffee can change our lives.

Recognizing our small steps paves the way for the confidence we need to take big steps. One of the primary reasons for starting this blog back on April 2 was to encourage and inspire others. If you've been inspired to take small (or big) steps towards living a more bold, intentional life, please share your story here in a comment or via email at amialley@hotmail.com .

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Activism

"Mama, we've got to save him!"


I'd already jumped the creek when I heard my son cry out these words. I turned to see him leaning forward, pointing to a small caterpillar thrashing about in the muddy water.

It was a delicate balancing act to stand on a muddy creek bank and hold a stick out in an attempt retrieve a caterpillar without impaling it, but my child didn't stop until the small creature was safely out of the water and resting on the limb of a nearby tree.

I've taught him not to think of things in our environment as just a caterpillar or just a tree or just a bird. I've taught him not to step on insects just because they are small, which once led to something of an altercation with another child who was gleefully stomping ants in the park. I've taught him that our forests need to be protected, and he once startled me by yelling "Stop it right now you mean guys!" from the car window at a work crew in the process of destroying a wooded area we'd always enjoyed passing by (it's a housing tract now). But it is in moments like this that, as a parent, I feel proud, because my child is caring about something else enough to stand up for it. I can see the seeds of eco-activism being sown...and I love it, because I've never known an activist who wasn't bold.

Julia Butterfly Hill (http://www.juliabutterfly.com/en/) was bold enough to live in the branches of an ancient redwood tree for almost 3 years in order to save it from being destroyed. Simon Jackson, (http://www.spiritbearyouth.org/?page_id=3) at the tender age of 15, was bold enough to go against the government of his country and mount an international campaign to save the habitat of the rare Spirit Bear. My son was bold enough to risk falling face-forward into a muddy creek in order to save a caterpillar from drowning. Not quite the same thing, of course, but a definite start.

Like a stone cast into a still pool, our actions, no matter how seemingly small, can create a ripple effect with the power to reach far beyond what we might imagine ourselves capable. Only one thing lies certain: Nothing is changed if we do nothing. I applauded my son's efforts the day he saved the caterpillar, and I let him know that his actions made a big difference. Maybe not to the world at large, but definitely to that little caterpillar.


Being bold sometimes comes down to this: it's not so much what you do as it is the fact that you do something.


Painting: Refugee, by Amy L. Alley

Being Spontaneous

Last Saturday, I went to the local outdoor market to pick up some produce and maybe a plant or two. I came home with a 9-week-old German Shephard-Lab mix puppy.

I had no idea when I left the house that morning I'd be taking on the responsibility of a puppy within the hour. I had not even considered getting a dog, not really...but sometimes, the best decisions we make for ourselves happen in spontaneous moments like this when we act on instinct and operate from the heart, not the head.

While some choices we make do require careful thought and consideration, being spontaneous can open doors for us that we didn't even know we wanted to walk through. It requires not only being bold, but being bold enough to trust in one's instincts and not overthink the outcome of every decision. It requires complete release from any sense of those twin devils, fear and control, which hold us back from living in a bold, intentional way. And often, it's the spontaneous choices we make that bring the most happiness and positive change into our lives.

Are you bold enough to be a little spontaneous today?


Painting: She Walks Two Worlds, by Amy L. Alley

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

The Old Rules


My friend K is not from the Southeastern United States, and as a result, often finds humor in the so-called 'rules' of Southern Culture.


Some of our most interesting debates concern fashion, and the often bizarre do's and dont's that seem to exist only in this region of the world. No wearing white after Labor Day or before Easter. A man can't wear a hat inside unless it's a cowboy hat. Only light purple can be worn in spring; dark purple is a fall color. Don't wear black in the daytime...the list goes on and on.


"Who came up with these rules?" K asked me once. "Is there a guidebook everyone reads, or are you all just taught this from birth?"


I had to laugh, because the truth is, I've no idea of the origins of these old fashion rules or why people continue to follow them. But we often follow so-called rules with no idea what logic - if any - lies behind them. We shouldn't date this person because they are younger than us, and we shouldn't date this other person because they are older. We shouldn't wear our hair long after a certain age. We shouldn't try and write a novel until we've had more life experiences. We shouldn't laugh loudly in public. We shouldn't suddenly want to learn to play a steel drum...the list goes on and on, and often, no logic lies behind it.


Instead of a list of shouldn'ts, how about a list of shoulds? We should be bold enough date who we want to date. We should be bold enough to wear our hair the way we want. We should be bold enough to try our hand at a novel, no matter what experiences we have or haven't had. We should be bold enough to laugh from the heart and not worry if it's too loud. We should be bold enough to learn to play a musical instrument at every given oppourtunity. And because it's our life, this list should go on and on, even if no logic lies behind it. After all, it's when logic disappears that joy often comes out of hiding.


The old rules...do they really make sense, or do they no longer apply? Can you be bold enough to shake them up a little?

Monday, April 11, 2011

Envisioning Change

I first came across the term 'vision collage' years ago when watching The Secret, a life-changing movie about the much-disputed law of attraction. But I did not create my first vision collage until a few months ago, when I wanted to make a piece of art that reflected the positive changes and healing I hoped to bring about in my life. I invited my six year old son to assist me, and we had a grand time.

What is a vision collage? In a nutshell, it is a very personal art form that anyone with a stack of old magazines and a bottle of glue can create. One simply blends together words and images that represent the things they desire to attract into thier lives.

Some people use vision collages as meditation tools, placing them out of sight much of the time, considering them as private as a diary. Others display their vision collages prominantly in the home, where they can pass by them several times a day, taking brief moments to reflect on key words or images.

To make a vision collage can be an interesting journey of self-discovery, whether done alone or in a small group setting. In larger cities, vision collage workshops are fairly common events. Parents can create vision collages with thier children, as I did with my own son, representing goals that they hope to accomplish together as a family and including images that they consider to be positive and joyful.

Making a vision collage is a wonderful adventure for anyone desiring to live in a bold, intentional way, because as we search for words and images, we are developing an awareness of what it is we are really seeking. Not only do the finished collages serve as a visual reminders of what it is we want, but the creative process involved can be transformative.

It's a small first step...but like many small steps, it can lead to great changes. So grab your old magazines, a canvas (or piece of cardboard), a brush, and some glue, and see where the journey takes you.

Anyone living in the Greenwood area who is interested in attending a vision collage workshop please drop me a line at amialley@hotmail.com .

Sunday, April 10, 2011

Recognizing Divine Timing

Since I began The Boldness Initiative blog on April 2, I've been seeing the word BOLD everywhere, often in the most unexpected places, and it's made me think about divine timing, how it's always at work in our lives.


We tend to overlook this force because, well, we're just impatient. Many times, we even try to push things into being because we want them to happen so badly. And since we live in a society that moves at the speed of light, we sometimes confuse boldness with recklessness in an attempt to have what we want the minute it occured to us that we wanted it.

While being bold can involve direct and immediate action, it doesn't mean impetously diving into something all at once. Many times, just voicing an authentic desire through journaling or chatting about it with a friend can be enough to propel us on a life-changing path, even if we don't take another step for weeks. Voicing desire is a first step towards gaining awareness of what it is we truly want, and when we are aware, we pay attention. We start to notice how things are coming together in mysterious - even unbelievable - ways to show us we are on the right path.


If we're hoping to travel, for example, we might start to see images in books, magazines, or on television of the place we long to visit. Perhaps we randomly meet someone who lived there and can teach us the language skills we need to know for traveling, and we begin to realize that soon, it will be time to be bold and actually plan the trip.


Or perhaps we just decide one day to stop being invisible and we shed all the dull, nuetral-colored blouses from our wardrobe. Then, a few weeks later, we come across a fabulous sale on racy spring tops in bright, crazy colors, and we know this is the right moment to be boldly visible again.


Divine timing operates on a pace that's all it's own. Sadly, many people can't recognize this force when it is at work in thier lives. They miss the subtle signs under thier noses as well as the ones that scream out loud from the sidelines. When doors begin opening, they write it off as mere coincidence, giving no real value at all to the magic taking place in thier lives. They are so busy trying to control how it should happen, or fearing that it won't happen, that they can't even realize it is happening.



When we're bold enough to release ourselves from those twin devils fear and control, we become increasingly aware of divine timing, that it is always at work in our lives. If we pay attention, we'll recognize the signs that we're on the right path, and we'll know when the moment is right to take a direct, immediate action, whether it's buying a plane ticket, or just a bright orange blouse.


And we'll be ready.


The Flower Painting


I had finally finished a major painting assignment, and I could not wait to show my efforts to my professor. I admired and respected him very much, and of course I wanted his approval. At the time, his opinion meant a lot to me. So I stood proudly beside my work as he approached it.


The image was conceptual, as was most of my art at this time. I was not interested in reproducing something from a photo or a still life, but rather in combining images from my own imagination to create new realities. I was hiring models and dressing them up, adding elements from nature, changing laws of physics. And I was having a great time doing it. I felt the subject matter of my work was it's most definitive quality, for my paintings were completely different than what anyone else in class was doing. I loved the things I was creating. To me, the paintings were innovative. Creative. Imaginative. Real.


But my professor, upon viewing my piece, merely cleared his throat, said a few positive things about my use of color and technique, then moved on to the next student's work. I was dissapointed that he seemed to see no merit in an image I'd spent hours developing in my head before I ever picked up a brush. Over the next few weeks, this routine would repeat time after time, until one day, as the semester was drawing to a close, he approached me and asked if I'd mind staying after class for a few minutes. And there, sitting across from me at his desk, he cleared his throat once again, and said, "Amy, you have a gift. I admire your imagination and your ability to draw upon it for inspiration in your work. I love the fact that you are not afraid to show raw, real emotions in your paintings. I love it, I really do. But this is South Carolina. You have to be realistic. If you're ever going to have any success with your art, you need to start doing some simpler images, things people can understand, like houses or flowers. That's what people around here want to see. That's what they're going to buy. If you keep showing works like you're painting now, no one here is going to understand them, and they're not going to understand you, either. And you're going to have a very difficult time."


I was younger then, and my first instinct was to listen to his words. He was, after all, trying to help me. So I went home and painted a daylily. I rendered it accurately, almost scientifically, and I took it in the next day and showed it to him. He applauded my effort. He showed the work to the entire class, celebrating it's attributes. But I wasn't proud. For some reason, to hear praises in this manner felt worse to me than when he bypassed my subject matter altogether.


I took the piece home and spent a long time looking at it. It was well done, yes...but it had nothing of me as an artist in it, and why should it have? I'd created it not to honor my own spirit, but to please someone else. It might have the potential to win an award in a regional show or became a top-selling print, but it did not honor who I was as the creator of the piece. And I realized then that this was not the type of success I wanted. I put the painting on the easel, took out my palette and spent the rest of the evening making it my own.


Today this painting hangs in my room, and it is among one of my own favorite works. It represents to me a time in my life that I was bold enough to listen to my own wisdom, to let my own soul tell me what I should express on canvas. When I was bold enough to risk failure on my own terms than accept success on someone else's. But I did not meet my professor's predicted failure...I've gone on to find success in selling my work, winning awards, illustrating book covers, and various other projects, including being selected as the artist to represent the prestigious Greenwood Music Festival for the 2009 year.


My work has changed a lot over the years, and whether or not people in and around my area understand it, I may never know, but I do know that there are many here who have been very supportive of it, and for that, I am incredibly grateful. I am also grateful for the broader audience that my work has also been able to reach because of the fact that I was bold and stayed true to my own creative intuitions instead of yielding to someone else's idea of what I should have been doing.



Think of a time when you were bold, when you went against tradition or the advice of others in order to follow a path you knew was right for you. Or, just the opposite, a time you wish you'd been bold but gave in instead to the desires or expectations of others. What were the consequences? Would you change your decision if you could? Share your story here in a comment, or if you prefer to communicate privately, email me at amialley@hotmail.com. We'll build upon these stories for future posts on living in a bold, intentional way!!

Saturday, April 9, 2011

Sad Eyes, Turn the Other Way

"You have the saddest eyes I've ever seen."

I turned around to face the man who had spoken those words. I didn't know him at all. He wasn't trying to start a conversation, and being at least 20 years my senior, he wasn't trying to flatter me either. He was simply making a random observation and, for whatever reason, vocalizing it.


It was January, and I was sad. Very, very sad. I had lost something, or rather someone, who had been very important in my life. My balance, which I'd finally regained after a harrowing experience a few years before, had been shaken once again. I'd taken a risk and believed completely in someone who'd proven to be false. And it hurt, badly.


I'd had relationships end before, but it had never felt like this. I'd lost my inner compass, and I was desperately trying to find my way to, well, just somewhere that there might be a modicum of peace. I knew how I was feeling, even if I wasn't talking much about it. But I had no idea I was carrying my emotions in such a visible way that complete strangers could see it on my face. I could think of no response to the man's statement, so I simply smiled, took my coffee, and left the cafe.


A few weeks ago, I went back to that same cafe, and the gentleman was there again. "Hey!" he said, "The lady with the sad eyes!"


"Oh no," I thought, "Now this is too much."


Time had passed, but I was still grieving for what I had lost. Love is a double-edged sword, having both the power to bring us to the state of highest joy as well as the potential to leave us with the deepest emotional scars. We know this going in, but if we choose to live boldly, we take the risk anyway, because the joy love can bring into our lives is so great.


But there are no gaurantees. Because someone loves us for 6 months doesn't mean they will love us for 7. Because they've loved us for 10 years doesn't mean we'll have an 11th anniversary. Loving is always a risk, and if we lose, we don't only lose the person, we lose the sense of identity they gave to us and the dreams that we needed them in our lives to complete. In a sense, the loss of a relationship is like a door slamming in our face. A path closes. Our inner compass spins wildly.


I don't know who the man in the coffee shop was, because I've not seen him again. And I don't think I'll see him again. I don't need to. He was a messenger of sorts, put in my path to wake me up, to snap me out of the sadness that I was allowing to envelope me, because that is, in essence, just what his words did. I decided, in that moment, I would not be 'the woman with the sad eyes.' Not for him, not for anyone else, and certainly not because of anyone else.

Like the choice to be bold, to be happy is a decision that we all have the power to make. We can not control what happens to us, and we certainly can not control the actions or emotions of other people. But we can control our reactions...we can choose to stay sad and invisible, or we can choose to be happy and bold.


Like the three fates and thier golden scissors, we alone have the power to cut the thread that bind us to sadness before it becomes an integral part of who we are. Sometimes we just need to be reminded that we possess this power. Sometimes, we need to listen to a stranger in a cafe, or a message that keeps appearing, or to an inner wisdom that we've been hearing all along.


And sometimes, we just need to be bold enough to cut the thread.

Friday, April 8, 2011

Personal Identity Crisis


In 2009, I took a bold step.


I called myself a writer. Not just to myself, but to the world. I had to, because the book I'd written was being published.


It sounds silly now, but for me, it created something of a personal identity crisis.


After all, I wasn't a writer. I was an artist. That was the personal identity I was connected to. That was how I saw myself.


I'd always loved writing. I'd always written small things for journals or magazines. I'd always written letters to friends who lived far away and enjoyed the process of putting my thoughts down on paper. I'd always journaled and written poetry as well.


But I'd never actually considered myself a writer. I simply thought of myself as artist who sometimes liked to write.


Writing the book changed all of that, because in order to publish it, I had to be bold. I had to call myself a writer. I had to take a risk that my work would be rejected, which it was, many times. And then, once the book was accepted for publication and released, I had to take another chance that people would hate it. That reviewers would be brutal. But they weren't. The risk paid off, as they so often do. Now, I'm not only an artist who writes, but I'm also a writer who paints.


But it almost didn't happen. The book sat on my desk for months in a manila envelope, it's existence known to no one but me, until I could finally take that necessary leap of faith and call myself a writer.


Personal identities...they become labels of sorts, whether good or bad, that we allow to define us. Which is okay, as long as we don't allow them to limit us. I am a writer. And an artist, a mother, a teacher, a poet, a knitter, a gardener...the list goes on and on. And that's just who I am today. Ten years ago, it would have looked quite different. Ten years from now, it will look different, as well it should.


Our personal identities create our realities. They determine the lives we will lead. They tell us who we are, and who we will become. In our own minds, they remind us of what is an isn't possible in our lives. And it can take years, even lifetimes, to realize that a personal identity we've been clinging to was wrong. That maybe, just maybe, we could have done, seen, had, or became just a little more.


One of my favorite qoutes is from Thomas Merton, who stated, "The greatest human malady is to settle for too little." Why on earth would anyone settle for too little? It goes back to those twin devils that keep us from being bold: fear and control.


If we dare to dream, we have to risk. And if we risk, we might lose. And dull, predictable lives are much easier to control than exciting dynamic ones.


Is it time to shake your personal identity up just a little by adding some new words, or letting go of a few that just really aren't you anymore?

Is being 'bold' part of your personal identity label?


Is it time for it to be?

Thursday, April 7, 2011

Letting Go

 (Update for Aug. 13, 2012...I am reposting this in response to a friend who could not understand how I could easily let go of some older art pieces by basically giving them away over the weekend.
 In the past two years I've learned many lessons in loss, courage, perseverance, love, hope, and letting go. I've also been examining ideas about attachment and releasing from my life what does not serve me anymore. My friend, also an artist, told me that my willingness to part with these particular art pieces made her feel sick. This forced me to later examine a little deeper some issues about attachment - was I wrong to be giving the paintings away, I wondered?
A few years ago I would not have been so likely to part with things that I had created; however, I've no desire at this point in my life to cling tightly to that which no longer reflects who I am. This summer found me in a series of situations where I've been forced to examine attachments I have to people, places, and things that I need to release order to achieve the dreams I have for my life. I am always striving to attain a detachment from the material, even that which I create, in order to be ready to fully embrace the ever-increasing new beauty, joy, and experiences life offers. In the past couple of months, I have let go of books, paintings, clothing, and household goods once near and dear to my heart, but which I now feel would better serve someone else. It has been liberating! I have also let go of the idea that everything I create is of tremendous value and needs to be preserved for eternity - another liberation! 
My recent yarn-bombing experiments, while time consuming and precious to me, are prime examples of detachment...I checked on an installation yesterday only to find it has been burned in several places, my 'vandalism' essentially destroyed by vandals. That is the risk of putting something out in the open. It is the same with relationships, we put our hearts out into the open...and sometimes we get burned. I have learned to give  myself permission to let go of those who seek to beat me down rather than lift me up, no matter how much I love and care for them or how much time, effort and energy I've vested into lifting them up. And while is infinitely harder than letting go of an old shirt; giving away a painting; or deciding for the first time in years to visit a new destination rather than a familiar vacation spot, in the end our choices define our lives - what we hold on to, and what we let go of, becomes the story of us, page by page.
Letting go is a skill that comes easier with practice. I often fight it, as most do. But as Pema Chodron states, "Nothing ever goes away until it teaches us what we need to know." And what is meant to return to you always will. Letting go involves courage and trust, belief in what we cannot see or understand, and above all, love. Holding on involves fear of the unknown and need for control and belief in the ego. It has taken me years and overcoming a series of losses/disappointments to reach a place of peace with detachment. If you are struggling with this as well, be patient and kind and loving to yourself. Everyone has thier own journey, their own life lessons to learn...but always in thier own time. Nothing can be rushed, it unfolds as it should. Breathe through the fear and tell yourself you are bold enough to finally let go of what (or who) just doesn't serve you anymore.)

Letting Go, originally posted April 2011
Yesterday's post focused on saying no to requests that do not honor our spirits and have the potential to drain us mentally. Saying no to what isn't working or what will spread us too thin is a life skill, just like the ability to let go of what is not working to bring us happiness and joy is essential to living in a bold, intentional way.


Letting go, just like saying no, is frightening. It's easy if we are letting go of something old in order to immeditately embrace something new. But to surrender a hope, a love, or a dream when there is no new one there to take it's place is a different form of letting go, and it requires a lot more courage.


It's easy to replace something with something else, and unfortunately, many people make a habit of taking that route in order to avoid the pain, grief, and loneliness that letting go often involves. But sometimes, we just have to let go of something and accept the pain that comes with loss. We have to sit with it and experience it and accept it as part of the full cycle of life.


Living in a bold way comes with risks. Sometimes we're going to lose. But it's much worse to try and cling to something or someone that simply isn't working in our lives. The pain of loss will eventually pass, but we can't even start to move on if we're still hanging on.


Instead of clinging to what is clearly not serving us anymore, we need to be bold and step away, once and for all, from a person, job, or situation that we know is bringing us down, keeping us blocked, preventing us from being truly happy. Letting go can look many ways. It can be symbolic. It can involve prayer, meditation, and rituals that help us feel stronger. Or it can be as simple a gesture as not returning a phone call or email from someone who we need to release from our lives. But as long as we are still attached to things, habits, situations, or people who don't help us reach our purpose, we will remain blocked to new opportunities for love, happiness, and growth.


Be bold. If there is something in your life you need to release, do it today.


Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Saying No

My friend was pondering what to do. She'd been asked to teach art in a summer program. The money was good. The hours were easy, just two hours a day, four days a week, for 4 weeks. She would have complete control over the material she presented, and it would be a valuable service to provide to others.


The problem? She just didn't want to do it.


"But," she said to me over coffee one afternoon,"I feel like I can't say no. They were so sweet about it when they asked me, and it's so flattering to be considered."


Sometimes being bold means having the courage to say no to what we really don't want, regardless of how sweetly we are asked or how heavily we are flattered. When someone else wants something from us, they are going to be considerate in thier approach, and they are often going to load on the complements in order to convince us we are the perfect person to do what they need done. It's part of the power of persuasion.


We're conditioned to say yes, however, whether it is in work situations or our personal lives, and often we find ourselves doing things that don't feed our spirits or drain us of all our mental energies. Often we do these things because we were asked, and we feel that we can't say no. It would be rude to say no. People might not like us anymore if we say no to them, especially when we can't really give them a valid reason.


My friend wrestled with this for a week, and in the end, she didn't say no. She taught in the summer program, and did well. The kids she worked with loved her. The adults thought she was amazing. But she didn't enjoy it, and by the end of the month, she was mentally drained from two hours a day, four days a week. It wasn't the job itself, it was the obligation of doing something that she didn't really want to do. And, truth be told, something that she didn't have to do. She chose to say yes when she could have been true to herself and said no.


Take a look at your current circumstances - are you choosing to do things you don't want to do, just because you feel you can't say no? Are you like my friend, spending hours doing tasks you don't enjoy just because you were asked sweetly and flattered? Is it time that you were bold, stood up for yourself, and said, "I'm sorry, but this time, I just can't."


Benjamin Franklin once stated, "Do not squander time, for it is what life is made of." Consider this carefully next time someone comes to you with a request of your time. It's certainly okay to say yes...but it's also okay sometimes to say no.


Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Facing Down the Storm

A little before two a.m., I was awakened by the storm. I wasn't surprised, for I knew it was coming. All anyone had talked about for days was this stream of bad weather coming in. And it was bad. I was awake for a long time, listening to the sound of spring raging in. At it's peak, it sounded as though the world was ending outside the window.


But it was not my window. I was not in my own home.


In The Witch of Portobello, Paulo Coehlo writes, in regards to storms, "I can see the storm approaching. Like all storms, it brings destruction, but at the same time, it soaks the fields, and the wisdom of the heavens falls with the rain. Like all storms, it will pass. The more violent it is, the more quickly it will pass. I have, thank God, learned to weather storms."



I weathered this storm not in my own home, but in the home of my Grandmother, who was recently widowed and afraid to spend a stormy night alone. Stormy nights alone are something I am so accustomed to facing, it was hard for me to rationalize that it might actually be frightening for someone else to endure. But sometimes being bold isn't about what you need or don't need. It is about using your strength to help another person feel safe. It's about showing a little compassion to someone who isn't used to being alone in a storm.


After a while, the winds died down and I knew that it was safe to return to sleep. Niether my son nor my grandmother, safe in seperate rooms, were awakened by the storm's noise. They both slept soundly through the night.


It would be nice not to always be the sentinel, but instead to be the one sleeping soundly, secure in the knowledge that someone else was on gaurd. But it's past 6 a.m. now, and I'm back in my own home. Soon I'll be getting ready to start the day. Rain falls gently outside.


I have, thank God, learned to weather storms.

Monday, April 4, 2011

Leap of Faith

My son has planted watermelon and pumpkin seeds in small pots, and he checks them every day, watching carefully for some small green sign of life, a sprout bursting forth from the dirt. But I've told him, planting anything, whether it is a seed, a seedling, or an actual plant, requires a leap of faith. It requires believing there is magic lying hidden within a seed. It requires believing.


Being bold can be a small thing, like having the faith and perserverance to plant a garden, or it can be something larger, like believing in a dream that seems impossible. Being bold requires knowing that you might not end up with the result you are hoping for but that the chance you will be successful is worth the risk that you won't.


Life is not an 'all or nothing' course that we set off on, certain of the destination before beginning a journey. We can't have knowledge of the outcomes of our leaps of faith until we actually take them, no matter how large or small!


An 'all or nothing' attitude suggests a deep-rooted need for control, one of those twin devils that keeps us from being bold. It means we won't take a leap of faith unless we know for certain what will happen, or that we can control what will happen through our actions. But just like the seeds my son has entrusted to the soil, we have to believe it will be okay. We don't have to understand what magic lies within a seed in order to enjoy a harvest. We just have to believe the magic is there, waiting for us to unlock it.


Next time you pass an oak tree, pick up an acorn from the ground, and remember the magic of another oak lies within that tiny shell.


Start small. Dream big. Be bold.

Sunday, April 3, 2011

Standing Up

Yesterday I bought an orange shirt and matching pair of open-toe high heeled shoes. Being bold can be as simple a gesture as that. Or it can be something a little more, like standing up for someone who has been hurt. Especially when it is someone we know that has done the hurting.





Our society today is quite permissive; we try to understand or justify the reasons for every wrong that someone does instead of actually holding them accountable for their actions. But there is a simple truth: when we ignore behaviors that hurt other people, when we continue to socialize with those we know are doing unethical things, we are putting our stamp of approval on thier actions. We are saying "I think what you did is just fine....."




I once brought two friends together for a business situation that seemed to be a win-win situation for all. However, friend A took friend B's money, and quite alot of it, but never delivered the promised product. It took me a few months to realize that A just wasn't going to fullfill thier end of the deal, and I knew that, at some point, I needed to stand up for B. The easy way out would have been to say, 'That's between them.' But it wasn't just between them. I had brought them together, after all. I had trusted A, too.



So a few months later, when he called me with a business proposition that really was interesting, I told him "Sure, I'll work with you...AFTER you refund B her money. There's no way I can work with you until I can trust you, and I can't trust you right now because you gave your word to B, then took her money and ran. Until you right that wrong, I can't work with you or be social with you." He was startled, flabbergasted, angry...and I never heard from him again. Nor did he ever return B her money. Which I didn't expect, really. I just did what I knew was right. I stood up for B and also for the basic ethic of not promising what you can't deliver. It took courage, because until that incident, A had been one of my closest friends. But our words are our bonds, and our ability to keep our word is reflective of our character.





Standing up for someone who's been hurt by someone else is not about getting even...the cycle of karma has it's own way of divine justice. In this situation, A suffered a business loss a few months later, when karma appeared in the form of a product he ordered that did not arrive in time for a planned event. It was a disaster, for the entire event had been about selling that particular product.




B prospered very well, however. She found an honest, ethical person to enage in business with and has never looked back. She considers what happened with A a learning experience, as do I. We sometimes refer to him as 'The Snake-Oil Salesman,', a great old Southern phrase term that refers to the untrustworthy traveling salesmen of days gone by who would promise anything for a buck.




Being bold is often about doing what we know is right, whether it is standing up for a friend, or standing up to a friend, which is much, much harder. It takes courage...but doing what is right is always worth it.

Saturday, April 2, 2011

Welcome!

Welcome to a month long series of blogs dedicated to BOLDNESS!!! What does this mean, exactly? Well, most likely the word bold will mean different things to different people, but the main purpose is to inspire and encourage people to be bold enough to take small ~ or large ~ steps and live intentionally.



There are two major factors that often prevent us from living our lives the way we really want to. They are twin devils, these two, appropriatly named Fear and Control.



Fear is most adequately defined not in the phobic sense, but more of a lack of courage. Because it takes guts, strength of character, and determination to live intentionally. Sometimes, the greatest changes we can make in our lives require the most courage to undertake, whether it is a small thing, like changing one's daily routines to get out of a rut, or a large thing, like returning to college in mid-life. Sometimes, to live fullest, we must open ourselves up to the possibility that we might be hurt. That our plans might backfire. But there is little in life we do that we can't undo, really, except the regret for things we didn't do because of fear.



Control, in the sense of this blog, is not only traits relative to one's personality or situation, but also the love of our comfort zones and our unwillingness to leave them. Sometimes, we stay in dull situations that don't feed our spirit or honor who we are just because they seem safe and manageable. We will turn away from dynamic oppourtunities because to embrace them would mean stepping out of these comfort zones and opening ourselves up to whatever may come. In our comfort zones, in our carefully controlled spaces, we know what will come.



Shhhhh....here's a big secret: Our comfort zones require little, if any, effort from us to maintain. They require zero courage or initiative. They enable us to just be, without really 'being'. And we can stay in them for years, plodding along with no idea that life could be so much better...richer...fuller. In most situations where we aren't really 100% happy, it's still much easier not to make a change than it is to take even the smallest steps towards something different.



As a young college student, one of my myriad of jobs was sitting with the elderly. I can still remember so many tales and stories that were told to me, so many lives recited to me. But I can also remember so many instances where regret reigned supreme. "I wish I'd visited my sister when she lived in Colorado." "I wish I'd went on ahead and finished my medical degree." "I wish I'd learned to plant a garden, I always did love flowers." "I wish I'd spent more time with my children." "I wish I'd not been so afraid to be on my own that I stayed in a miserable marriage for 40 years." "I wish I'd learned to make furniture from my dad when he was alive so I could have taught my own boys how to do it. I never passed on any skills to my sons." No matter how full thier lives had seemed, there was always a regret for what had not been done.



We all have dreams. We all want things. We all want big things. We all want small things. We all want spectacular things. We all want simple things. But when we want something, the universe will conspire in beautiful ways to help us reach these goals. We either recognize when this is happening and move forward towards our purpose, or we choose to ignore the signs we are given and continue on our current paths, hand in hand with Fear and Control.


Change starts small. In honor of the first of April, which seemed as good a day to start as any, I began my own boldness initiative by breaking out of my 'fashion' comfort zone. For many years I've dressed like a sparrow, resulting in a wardrobe that looks like a rainbow of neutrality: tan, grey, white, and black. It's easy to be invisible when you're muted by color. And for far too long, and for reasons too ancient to mention here, I've sought invisibility. But if one talks the talk, one must also walk the walk. Even when it means donning one's self in a pink wrap so bright it nearly put my eyes out.



But the journey of 1000 miles begins with one step. We change our lives first by changing our thinking. Changing the ideas of what we think is possible for us. Wearing a bright color that is bound to make us stand out and be noticed. And not caring if for once, we don't blend into the background. Small steps lead to great lives. Each day I'll update this blog with stories, thoughts, and comments on being bold and living intentionally. I'd love to hear your stories and comments on this subject! Drop a line here or pop me a message at amialley@hotmail.com