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.

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Fashionista in the House (or at least on the page!)

Oh my golly gosh…I am amazed, sometimes, at what just seems to happen.
Although nothing really ‘just happens.’ I have to tell myself about a million times a day that we have tremendous control over what we attract into our lives, and that few things are actually random. Today was a keen reminder of that. But first, I’ll back up a little bit to the weekend. Or rather, a couple of weeks before this weekend…
In the process of rearranging my house (my son and I have a new fixation on creating as much ‘open space’ in our home as possible) I thought, okay, it’s possibly time for a new television. Not wanting to make television a focal point of our home, or our lives, in my son’s early years, I kept our television sizes hovering at around 10 inches, and we didn’t have cable until my son was 6. Now that he recognizes television for what it should be – an occasional treat, not a time table to live one’s life by – I think I can indulge in one that would actually fit into the space provided by the entertainment center. Only I didn’t want to have to buy it. I looked in catalogues and was amazed at how much a bigger television actually costs – hundreds of dollars. I mulled it over, wondering how I could fit this into the budget. Getting a bigger television was a thought that I kept in my mind for days…and then Sunday, out of the clear blue sky, someone I know offered me a 28” almost-new television because they were moving to a smaller space. It cost me nothing but the effort to pick it up and find a willing gentleman to help me lug it into the house.
Bam! How I love the power of manifestation. I have more stories, from how I acquired my Keurig to being gifted with real African mud-cloth, and many other things I’ve ‘manifested’ in between, but I’ll spare those for the sake of time, and to focus on what this blog is really about – today’s delightful ‘coincidence,’ of which there actual are none. But I’ll have to back-up to Monday…
Monday, I was supposed to leave a book at the front office where I work so that the publisher/editor of an online magazine could pick it up. My goal was that she would like it so much she’d write a review of it. Naturally, I lay out the book with my supplies. Naturally, I forget it. Tuesday comes. I am so excited because I have the book. When she comes to pick it up, I am occupied with work, so I give it to someone else to take to the front office. They give it to the wrong person, who apparently thinks it must be Christmas, because they simply kept it.  I’m unaware of the mishap until the receptionist calls my room about 15 minutes later and informs me they are still waiting on the book. I am convinced this editor/publisher probably now thinks I am a total numbskull but to my great relief, she has a sense of humor. We agree to meet this afternoon at a local coffee shop, where I will personally put the book in her hands. Which I do, finally. And because neither of us is in a hurry, we chat over coffee. A lot. Eventually we hit on the subject of fashion, ah…one of my favorite topics, because let’s face it, we all want to look good as we can on the budgets we have. This conversation led to me divulging to her an idea I have had for quite some time about writing a column about fashion, which would include showcasing local boutiques, particularly fashionable people about town, and all the necessary information about how to create a unique look at any age by mixing haute-couture items with hand-me-down thrift store finds and clearance-rack items at Belk’s.
And you know what? She told me she was very interested in something like that for the magazine.
O…M…G, did my heart skip a beat or two. Just a few days ago, I’d shared with a close friend how much I wished I could find a way to write about fashion. Which I could do, easily…but I wanted a purpose for doing it, an audience, something more than just a blog.
Now, I’m not going to speculate over what might have happened if I’d remembered the book Monday, or if it had been properly delivered to her on Tuesday. All I know is, the conversation today led directly where it needed to go, and this fashionista is wildly excited.
And busy… she has articles to write. J
Want it. Believe you deserve it. Be willing to work to have it. Recognize it when it comes to you. Grab hold. As Paulo Coehlo says in his life-changing book, The Alchemist, “It is the possibility of having a dream come true that makes life interesting.” I'm not going to sit and ponder all the 'what ifs'...I wished for it, it came to me, now I'm gonna be bold and see where it takes me.
There are no coincidences...
Happy manifesting!!

Sunday, August 19, 2012

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.


Sunday, July 29, 2012

Waking Up

Two years ago, I read a book called "The Ten Year Nap." It's a best seller by Meg Wolitzer, the only book I've ever requested from the library. I took it with me to Finland, read it on planes and during my rare downtime. I finished it before my month abroad was up, and spent many hours thumbing through it, reading particular passages while waiting for sleep. The particular characters and settings in the book I've long forgotten, having read about 150 more books since, but the basic premise I remember: as our children grow older, it can feel as though we are waking up from very loooooong naps. It's a subtle transition, this shift from being needed 24-7, from being on deck mentally, physically, and emotionally, from running to mend and kiss every boo-boo to suddenly not being called on at all. It's finding out much later in the evening, as bedtime rolls in and your child passes by in the hall with a scraped up knee or elbow, that you know they took a fall at some point during the day and didn't call you to make it better.

Independence and self-reliance are a major steps towards, well...everything. I'm a huge fan of them personally. Seeing my son embrace these attributes doesn't make me weepy or sentimental at all. I have been present in every moment of his life, and I celebrate each step he takes towards growing up. Each new skill, each lost tooth, each step he takes away from me. I don't wax poetic over his younger days because, sweet at they were and precious memories not withstanding, they were all steps in the dance that leads towards conversations like this:

"I don't want these DVDs anymore; I'm too big to watch Bob the Builder now."
"I like the shirt you got me, but I'd rather pick out my own clothes."
"I want to choose my own haircut. It's my hair, after all."

and yesterday morning's bombshell,

"Mama, I love you but I've been with you all week. I kind of want to do something different today. Is it okay if I don't go to Greenville with you and your friends?"

It was not so long ago that he was clinging to my leg when I dropped him off at daycare. It wasn't so long ago that he cried for me if I left him with a sitter while I ran errands. It wasn't so long ago that no matter what room of the house I was in, he had to be in the same space as well. Now...not so much. As I fold and iron laundry downstairs, I listen to the sounds of him playing in his room. They aren't much, because his idea of play has shifted from jumping, running, rolling, flipping and flopping (that's what little boys are made of) to building with legos or arranging little characters in grand cities on the floor. Occasionally I call to him, and he  responds. I step out to the garden and leave him inside watching television. The world does not end, he does not stumble or fall or climb up counters. Chaos doesn't ensue because I looked away for ten seconds, no...I come back inside and he's still there, watching television. He spends the day with someone else, and I go to Greenville with friends. When I call to say I am on the way to pick him up, he says he wants to spend the night. He has all he needs in the little bag he took with him, so I say okay. I hang up the phone and tell my friends we can extend our evening, and they laugh. They know this is a big deal for me.

My son did not spend a night away from me for the first five years of his life. But this summer alone, he's spent the night elsewhere at least half a dozen times. And each time, I've taken another step towards rediscovering myself, who I was before "Mama" became the word I heard most throughout the day.

Standing in a funky art, clothing and jewelry store yesterday, with adult friends by my side instead of a child in my arms, I took in the sights of Indian-style tapesteries, paper lanterns with intricate Eastern art on the side, incense burners and all kinds of colorful home accrouments, I remembered the apartment I lived in more than a decade ago. "This store looks like my old den, right after college," I say to my friends, and we laughed. But it's true. This was who I was back then, and I loved it. But my home today looks nothing like this, nor do I desire it to. My taste have *clearly* changed...but the funny thing is, I just don't remember it changing. I don't remember me changing. I just know that everything has.

And I know that I am changing still, and so is my son. I don't look back at how he was, how I was, how we were. Memories are precious, but all that matters is now. This now, this moment. My son is the love of my life, the most important person in my world, the soul of my soul. We still dance to steps we've memorized since his heart beat inside of my womb, but the music is not the same. And I'm okay with that. There are many tunes that call us to dance in this life; this is only one. There will be so many more, for both of us.

Independence? Self-reliance? These are fabulous things to instill in a child. Good parents know this. They also know as the dance goes on, the partners will change. They step back, smile, and let go, allowing their children to not only dance, but to leap, love, laugh, sing, try, fail, swim, sink, soar. They remain there, always, to mend boo-boos. But they don't hover. They know that if you smother a thing, even in the name of love, it will slowly die. Nothing can thrive without breath, not even a dream. Especially not dreams...
I am blessed with friends who have adult children, and they show me new steps to the dance. I listen. I learn. I laugh. I love. I live. I stay out past midnight (okay, waaay past midnight) and wake up much later in the morning than I'm used to. The house is quiet. I call my son, who is having breakfast. He's had a great time. I had a great time. I tell him I'll be there for him soon, and he says okay.

I hang up the phone and shake the glitter from my hair. There are sequins on the floor. My house oddly reminds me of Vegas, and I laugh. It feels good to wake up. It feels good to reach this milestone. It feels good to be so absolutely excited not only about my son's future, which I know is going to be bright, but also about my own. I'm a damn good mother. But it's taken over seven years for me to remember that as much as I love being a damn good mother, I was, am, and will continue to be much, much more than that.

Independence. Self-reliance. It's a necessary awakening for both of us.

I'm so grateful to be having it.

The Ten Year Nap by Meg Worlitzer is available at fine book stores and here at Amazon.com
http://www.amazon.com/The-Ten-Year-Nap-Meg-Wolitzer/dp/B002HREKUU/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1343573536&sr=8-1&keywords=the+ten+year+nap

Monday, June 25, 2012

Something Good (yoga, music, art, oh my!!!)

One of my favorite books of all time is the rather controversial The Education of Little Tree by Forrest Carter. In the book, Little Tree's grandmother tells him, "When you come on something good, first thing to do is share it with whoever you can find; that way, the good spreads out where no telling it will go."

So that's what I'm doing, here and now. I'm shouting out from the rooftops (well, metaphorically at least) to share something good, excellent, and wonderful that I recently experienced. I had the priviledge and the joy of taking part in The Summer Yoga Celebration, hosted by Homemade Genius of Abbeville and led by Emerald City Yoga's Jennifer Smiecinski with musical accompaniament by drum4work's Jeff Holland and Lori Parker and friends. (all contact links/websites featured at the end of this writing.)

"Wow!" was all I could say afterwards. Afterwards being hours later, for there was not only the free outdoor yoga session (complete with a guided meditation led by Justin Blackburn) and an open drum circle facilitated by drum4work, but immediately following was Matt Fassas performing at Homemade Genius, followed by Steven Bacon and Kendra Kinsey, all amazing musicians. It made for a perfect, well-rounded night. It's the kind of evening I'd have participated in when I was hanging out in Ann Arbor. It's the kind of events I see regularly going on in Asheville and Black Mountain. It's the kind of thing I saw while cruising through Anchorage in the summer, or walking the brick streets of Helsinki. And yet it was right here, in Abbeville, SC.

One of my biggest problems with living in a small, Southern mill-industry based town in 'group think'. Group think is the mentality that leads everyone to do the same identical things, regardless of what thier actual desire to do is, because 'it is what people are supposed to do.' Greenwood boasts an insane number of restaurants, a number that is consistently growing, because on weekends, people go out to eat. Familes dine out together, couples dine out alone, groups of friends dine out before making the obligatory bar hops. It's an act, ritual of sorts, a way to connect. I participate as well on occasion; my son loves going out to eat. But I don't go out too much in the evenings on my own. Coming from a family where obesity-related health issues reign supreme, I am somewhat particular about food (no amount of exercise can make up for poor dietary intake; we truly are what we eat and people use food in far more ways that just nutrition) and I detest the bar scene for reasons I've already addressed in a previous blog. I dream of real, authentic grown-up activities, things actually worth hiring a sitter and putting on make-up for. I can make my own food; I can also make some pretty mean drinks and enjoy them with friends in the privacy of my own home. Thus, as my friend Ian (owner of and incredible force of nature behind Homemade Genius) said to me Saturday evening, "You don't go out nearly enough." Well, he's right, and since he's know me about 7 years now, I guess he has a right to make such a true observation.

But if Homemade Genius, Emerald City Yoga and Drum4work keep up what they are doing in Abbeville, that's certainly going to change. I have not had this much fun or been this inspired by other people in a long, long time. Ian, Jennifer, Justin, Jeff and Lori are all pefect, shining examples of people taking risks and following thier dreams. PEOPLE LIVING BOLDLY...YES!!! I can't say enough positive things about them, only that I'm honored to call them all friends. The evening began with an outdoor yoga session on the court square. While I have practiced yoga for many years, I've never participated in an outdoor class. It was a fabulous experience that I can barely put into words. There, in full view of the public, we practiced as a group while drum4work provided a deeply spiritual muscial background. Getting into the practice was effortless for me. Lying on my back, breathing, I looked up and saw a blue sky through the leafed limbs of tall trees above. Jeff Holland's singing bowl from India provided vibrations that touched me on a soul level; Jennifer's gentle touch ensured my postures were correct. Lori's drumming kept rythym with the beating of my own heart, reminding me of the pulse of life. When Justin led us through a guided meditation, I felt such a sense of peace. There were cars passing and people on the street; I was aware of none of it. I was only aware of my practice, my breathing, my asanas. When the yoga session ended, I felt more alive than I've felt in months, a feeling accelerated when Jeff and Lori led an impromptu, open drum circle. Strangers joined in, people who had likely never in their lives made music were drumming, thier bodies moving in time to the beat. And they were smiling, too. My own feet could not resist the urge to dance, to move. There was no inhibition, which is a glorius thing; we as humans waste far too much time and energy on the meaningless opinons of strangers. Everyone in our group was enjoying a sense of personal freedom. In that moment, making music together, we were one. It was beautiful.

Later, when the drum circle ended, there was socializing and more music inside Homemade Genius. I met several other artists, one who was there working on a painting, another who was selling handmade goods that were simply phenomenal. The vibe was easy and relaxed. Ian has made the space that is Homemade Genius not only beautiful, but comfortable as well. There is an openess there; everyone is a friend. People you don't know are immediately introduced by someone, or they introduce themselves. It's a place where like-minded souls gather to share; where age makes no difference - teenagers and senior citizens were laughing in the same crowds, learning from one another, enjoying exchanges of wisdom; and where writers, artists, painters, knitters, musicians, poets, activists, yogis, engineers, physicians, housewives, men, women, young, old, thin, stout, hippie, yuppie, found and lost can mingle without concern. It is one thing to hang out with people you already know; it's entirely another to spend an evening with strangers who become new friends. But at Homemade Genius, that's bound to happen. What draws people to this place, in the end, is this very feeling. I can't say enough good things about it.

Literally, I can't, because y 7.5 year old son wants to paint and I need to facilitate that, as it's rarity he wants to paint, and I want to indulge the urge completely when it presents. But I also want to share the 'something good' that was my experience on Saturday. Ian is right, I do need to hang out there more, where all the good stuff is happening. And I need to take classes yoga with Emerald City Yoga, because Jennifer is an amazing teacher, and I need to attend more events where drum4work is going to be, and I need to hang out with Justin more, because it's impossible to be in his presence and feel negative. I have not stopped feeling alive since I left them all on Saturday.

And if you know none of the people I mentioned in this blog, you need to remedy that situation as quickly as possible. Trust me.

It's all very, very good!!!

Homemade Genius on Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/pages/Homemade-Genius/47099654060
Emerald City Yoga on Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/EmeraldCityYoga
drum4work: http://drum4work.com/
Justin Blackburn: http://www.justinblackburnlovesyou.com/
Bands playing at Homemade Genius that particular evening: Matt Fassas http://www.mattfassas.com/
Steven Bacon and Kendra Kinsey http://www.stevenandkendra.com/

And thank you to Kerry Smiecinski for taking so many wonderful photos, including the one featured in this blog!!

Friday, June 15, 2012

Containing Multitudes

Earlier this week, I bought a brand new car.
I mean brand new, as in 2012.
Twenty-nine miles on the odometer.
KIA Soul. Color: Dune
Even the name and color are beautiful, and never has a vehicle suited me more. It was a bold as hell move that I was delighted to have the guts to undertake.
I had to laugh when a well-meaning friend said, “I’m just surprised you, of all people, would buy a new car. Doesn’t that kind of contradict your style?”
"Do I contradict myself? Very well, then I contradict myself, I am large, I contain multitudes."
I’d like to take credit for that quote, but those are actually Walt Whitman’s words. Still, they resonate strongly with me. In this person’s mind, I’d contradicted myself by purchasing a brand new car.
Who did they think I was, really? What style did they see me possessing that made purchasing expensive new items a contradiction?
I can tell you who I used to be. I was once a glamour girl, or rather I made ever effort to be. I knew what Chanel No.5 perfume smelled like and what designer clothes felt like. I had a Prada purse. I wanted Manalo Blahnik shoes, although I never found a pair I could justify the cost of. I loved watching Friends and Sex and the City. My nails were always painted. I would not have dreamed of leaving the house without make-up. My hair was generally perfect, and I had all the best salon products to keep it that way. This was, basically, the entirety of my 20s.
But I was still me, I knew how to rummage – my Prada bag was $3.00 at a garage sale. I was an Ebay and outlet-store fiend. And more importantly, I had time to devote to things like keeping my nails polished and making sure my hair was perfect, and reading InStyle magazine like it held all the answers to the universe. I’ve been reading Cosmopolitan, after all, since I was 10. My attitude reflected my confidence; It was the first thing people generally noticed about me. It was what caught the eye of my son’s father, who would later tell me I ‘walked into his restaurant like I had a million dollars tucked away in each shoe.” But even through all of this, I still painted. I still wrote. I still felt more at home sitting on a trail in the woods than I did in a mall. I still got filthy rescuing animals. I still climbed trees. I was still real.
And then I became a mother. My priorities were rearranged in a way I’d never imagined. I suddenly didn’t care if my nails were painted or my hair was perfect or what I was wearing. Getting dressed was just a requirement to go outside the front door, not something that I looked forward to and planned and really, really, enjoyed, not during this time. My only care, my only concern in life, was my son. He was (and still is) the center of my universe, the best thing, hands down, I have ever created. And everything in my life revolved around doing what was best for him. Television had to go, it’s not good for children to watch at early ages and I didn’t want to be distracted by it, either. I dressed my son like the Prince of Monaco, but I hardly noticed what I was wearing. I was exhausted most of the time, single parenting is overwhelming. I operated for almost 2 years on 2-4 hours of sleep a night. I began to adopt a more bohemian style of dress because it was easier to put together, and it was still fashion, which I’ve always considered fun. No heels anymore, though, because I was always carrying a baby. No linen or slacks or pencil skirts because I had no time to iron. Hair could just be natural, messy and wild, because it matched my attire and required no effort. When I had to buy a new car, I purchased a used mini-van, a Dodge Grand Caravan because it, too, would be easier and money was so tight back then. And I honestly had no idea what I wanted in a car, or in life, beyond my baby to be okay, and safe.
And guess what? My 'baby' is almost 8 years old now. Parenting alone is still the hardest thing I’ve ever done in my life, but it’s not quite as overwhelming to parent a young child as it was an infant and toddler. Patches of time free up as my son matures, becomes more settled. And slowly, I’m finding pieces of myself scattered in the debris of spare time my child’s independence frees up.
And you know what? I find that I’m growing out of one self and into another. I like having a new car, even if it contradicts the hippie-image of having a junky van. I like wearing heels and shiny, swingy shirts in the evenings, even though most days you can still find me knee-deep in the creek with my son or elbow-deep in mud in the garden. Television isn’t evil, as a matter of fact, I have found I rather enjoy having it on while I’m knitting or doing my nails. And while I am still most at home in the woods, I am still and artist and a writer, I am still me, the good thing is I know well and good who that me is – a person who loves beautiful things, including cars, clothes, and yes, shallow as it sounds, shoes. I was reminded of who I am in Helsinki 2 years ago, a fashion mecca where even the men dressed flamboyantly and fashion knew no age or size requirement. I was in heaven and came home with a suitcase full of Euro-fashion.
I also know that the image of ‘overwhelmed mom in a used minivan’ is one I’ve been eager to shed for a long, long time. It worked at the time, and for a long time. But it’s done, over, sayonara to that time of life. If my buying a new car is a contradiction to someone’s idea of who I am,, then I’d say there’s a good chance they don’t really know me, and they clearly didn’t know me before I had a child. So be it. As my child grows, I do as well. As he becomes who he is going to be, I go back to who I have always been. As Whitman said so eloquently, I am large; I contain multitudes.
I’m delighted to be a contradiction to myself.
It would be a terrible thing to be obvious.

Saturday, June 2, 2012

A Time for Courage

I’m sitting at my desk, for the last time this year. Not the calendar year, but the school year…when you teach, you measure time differently. A year begins in August and ends in May. Summer is a season of its own.
I’ve taught for 8 years now, long enough to pass from my early thirties into my late thirties, to see my students grow from children into young adults. Eight years…long enough to raise a child from an infant. This is what is on my mind as I write…I think.
The view from my window on the last working day of the year has never remained the same, I’ve taught at 5 locations during my teaching career. I’ve never closed out a year with the same view I had the year before. As I write this now, I’m gazing across the room at stools stacked upon a counter top, supplies tucked neatly away, and a painting of a Dalmatian hanging above the sink. I painted that picture back in another life. I was a college student who had shucked off her Southern roots, packed up her Dalmatian and her two cats, and headed to live in the metropolis of Ann Arbor, Michigan.
Only it wasn’t really Ann Arbor, it was Plymouth, a suburb of Detroit, a town pretty much identical in size, population, and well, pretty much every other way to the small Southern town I’d left behind. And I didn’t end up actually graduating from The University of Michigan as I’d intended, for their class schedules made it completely impossible to hold down a job, which I had to do to survive. So I ended up graduating from an obscure, tiny liberal arts college that had evening classes. Life doesn’t always follow the scripts we plan; so be it. On weekends I hung out in Ann Arbor. I was happy, even though in time I came to realize that Ann Arbor was very much like Columbia, SC: A university town engulfed by students and political protestors. I’d moved about across the country to hang out in a place that was really not so different than one I could have driven to in little more than an hour. But I learned a lot while I was there. Although I missed the mountains with an ache that was almost physical, I learned to love the Great Lakes State… there was good to be found in flatlands: trails to hike, rivers to kayak, and beautiful path to take long walks around the neighborhood. I found I had a deep affinity for cider mills, towns with names like Bad Axe, and the sly way Northern men looked at me when they heard my accent.
But more importantly, for the first time in my life, I experienced real seasons. Winter was not just a cool break from the blistering heat of summer, no. It was its own time, with its own gifts. My second winter in Michigan, I learned to love the season for the same reasons I previously despised it – the complete and total absence of sun, the starless sky, and the ridiculous levels of precipitation. Years have passed since I lived in the north, but I still maintain that there is no sight in nature as beautiful as the untouched landscape after a snowfall, bare trees streaking black against a white sky, evergreens seeming to melt into the snowdrifts from the weight of their ice-laden branches. I tried to capture this with charcoal and paper so many times, but I could never stay out of the landscape long enough to render it. It would be a lifetime later that I finally managed to capture a winter landscape on paper, using a photograph from a friend and my own memories of new snow. It was a commission; I hated to give it up.
But in Michigan, it could snow in October, and continue until May, and the untouched white landscape would grow slushy and dirty, crusted over, hard. Bored with snowfall during a month when I craved spring, I decided once to try and capture snowflakes in a rain gauge. I pulled it from the garage and staked it into to frozen ground.  But the snow turned into rain, and that night, the temperature plummeted. The gauge shattered. In a week, the snow was gone. Spring moved in. The sky was still starless; smog, I was told.
But that starless sky held something else, a great surprise I never expected: The Northern Lights.
I’ve always been fascinated by the far north. I dreamed of vacationing in places most Southerners have never heard of, places like Ely, Minnesota and Canada’s Hudson Bay. When a friend moved to Alaska in 1997, I was ecstatic. Visiting him 6 months later, I wanted see snowcapped mountains, wolves in the wild, and the infamous Northern Lights. And while I saw the glory of the Western mountain ranges and a lone Timberwolf (which is a little more frightening to stumble upon in the wild than I let on at the time), no matter how long I stayed awake, I never saw The Northern Lights. So imagine my surprise when I stepped outside the door one late fall evening in Michigan and was greeted by them, dancing before me in amazing neon waves. I was at the country home of a friend; we made a bonfire and stayed outdoors most of the night.
 In 2010 my son and I traveled to Finland, where I was sure I’d see the Northern Lights again, but the sun doesn’t set in the arctic during the month of July. It’s not like Alaska’s midnight summer sun that doesn’t set until the wee hours of the morning. During Finnish summer, the sun just doesn’t set at all. Continuous, 24-hour daylight. Imagine my surprise. Imagine my child’s delight.
I couldn’t measure time in Finland because day never passed into night, it just remained. I lost track. We slept when we were tired, ate when we were hungry, went outside whenever we felt like it. A week before our arrival, my friend had seen a bear in the woods by her home. We walked through birch forests and places where huge ferns spread like moss along the ground. I saw a hedgehog and was giddy as a child. My friend laughed. There was a sense of freedom in the Finnish wilderness unlike any I’d experienced. We spontaneously swam in lakes and ate wild raspberries that grew along the trails. Our children spoke two different languages while they played. We never saw the bear. I cried when I left.
I don’t cry now. Rather, I leave my classroom and head for home. Slowly, day passes into night. I measure time in many ways – how many weeks of summer I have; how many more years until my son is grown; how many days until the garden yields a harvest…but not with seasons. My roses bloomed in January.
I often tell friends who aren’t writers to try it. Not for fame, not for fortune, but for themselves. It never ceases to amaze me what comes out when I sit down with paper and pen. I’d intended, on this day, to write about the mixed feelings that the end of the school year always brings up, how my son is growing up so fast, and how the endless expanse of free time that I’m facing can be a little daunting…for that was what I thought was on my mind. But instead I write about the Northern Lights. This is the beauty of delving deep within; you find out what’s really on your mind, in your soul, what your true thoughts are. Looking out at the night sky, I think of a friend who speaks often about going back ‘home’. I encourage him to consider it, for if it is truly his heart’s desire he won’t be happy unless he does…but I know from experience that the person who returns to a place is never the person who left it. Better to seek a new place altogether is what I’d like to tell him, better to delve a little deeper before you end up waiting to see a night sky in a place where the sun doesn’t set, better not to hedge all your bets for your future on people and places that are part of your past. I think to tell him about my seeing the Northern Lights not in Alaska or Finland where I’d expected to, but in Michigan’s Lower Peninsula, a place they rarely appear, about my failed attempt to capture snowflakes…but something inside tells me it would not be the right thing to do. Everyone must follow their own heart; have their own experiences; come to their own conclusions about life. Instead, I give him a book I bought second-hand that has the previous owners notations scrawled along the pages. I hope he’ll read it, and understand. If he doesn’t, he’ll most likely end up writing one like it one day, a book that years from now I’ll stumble across in some faraway bookstore where my eyes will light up when I recognize his name. Either way, this is his life, his journey. I have learned that caring about another often means stepping aside…I’ve read the book.
It did not snow in Carolina this year; winter was nothing more than a cool respite from the heat of summer past and the heat of summer to come. I remember how spontaneously I made the decision to leave Michigan years ago, and a week later, did…but I have a child now…any decision I make about my own future changes the entire course of his as well; it’s an awesome power I yield with care. Still, I was a person, a woman, before I was a mother. I forget that at times, just as I forget it is impossible to measure time in seasons in a place where they don’t actually occur. My son thinks snow is something that only happens in a Chronicles of Narnia movie. While the sky is laden with stars, it’s highly improbable that I’ll ever see the Northern Lights here in the South. But there is no real guaruntee I'd see them in Hudson Bay or Ely, Minnesota, either.
I take out a small journal I simply call ‘Lessons,’ where I jot down bits of wisdom I hope to pass on to my son one day. There a page where, weeks ago, I enthusiastically wrote down a line from the movie, We Bought a Zoo - 'Sometimes all you need is 20 seconds of insane courage.' To that, I add my own amendment. “But other times, it takes a greater courage to remain quiet than it would to roar.”
I hope he’ll know the difference.
I close the book.

Sunday, May 6, 2012

Saturation Point

I recently read a quote about a unique approach to looking at how children learn. It stated that when given freedom to explore a healthy interest, children will pursue it until they reach a saturation point, then they’ll move on to something else…and this is a very good thing.
That resonated with me, because as adults, we aren’t geared to do this; we tend to develop interests early in life and pursue them for a lifetime, often allowing it to define us – ‘Oh, John’s master carpenter’ or ‘Sally is a marathon runner’ or ‘Bill is a great coach’ and so on. Long after we’ve reached out saturation point with it, we’re still doing it, because the idea we are supposed to like, do, or be this particular thing has become an integral part of who we feel we are.
Society - beginning typically with our parents - tend to instill the idea that we’re supposed to stick with anything we decide, because giving up on a pursuit is a bad thing. We’ve got to hang in there, ride the wave, be true to the commitment even when it’s not pleasurable for us anymore, even if it's not what we want anymore, because in the end we'll be glad we did.
Really?
My son is a gifted swimmer who recently asked to discontinue his year-long swimming practice. This was a hard call for me; he clearly has talent...but I believe in saturation points, and I allowed him to withdraw from training. Some of my friends did not agree; they felt I needed to teach him the value of staying power and commitment, which are of course important. The thing is, however, he never made the commitment to swimming. It was me who enrolled him in the lessons where his ability was noticed, and it was me who continued to push him to pursue further instruction. And for a long time, he’d gone along with it. My son, however, is far from being an obligatory sort and has no trouble whatsoever speaking his mind when he’s fed up (something I celebrate but often gets us on the B-list with other parents, who prefer to be the voice of their children, rather than hear the voice of thier children). Going to swimming was a twice-weekly norm for a long time, but now it had gotten old, and he didn’t want to do it anymore.
And I have to be honest, the routine had gotten a little old to me as well, I was bored with working out in the fitness room where the televisions droned and the faces never changed, and I’d taken to walking the track outside, just for something different to do for the hour he was in training. And the expense of it all! The gym membership and the additional cost of swimming sessions were averaging me about $100 a month, a fee I was willing to pay as long as he was enjoying it. When it became clear he no longer was, I remembered the quote I’d read and thought of how much sense it actually made. I withdrew my son from swimming and ended my gym contract with no regrets.
Why I even wrestled with this choice I’ve no idea, because reaching saturation points and moving on is a bold move, and something I do all the time. I’ve done it with jobs (teaching is the 4rd career field I’ve entered and was my 4th college degree); with hobbies and interests; and recently, with people. A few months ago, I made the very difficult decision to end a friendship with a person I simply could not justify – to myself – giving my time and energy to anymore. It was tough; I felt I was abandoning them…but I began to find that I just couldn’t respect them anymore. I’d been there for them many, many times, the kind of being there that requires you to drop everything and make that person your priority for a few hours, days, or however it takes, but they rarely stepped up to the plate for me. I struggled a lot with this, because I try to accept people as they are, and not everyone is a giver. But in time, I began to realize that I needed to really be honest with myself…everyone may not be a giver, but some people are just born takers, and that’s an entirely different thing altogether. After being let down yet again and again by this person, I knew I had to take a big step back.
I am a deeply spiritual person; I believe that God communicates with us always…we just have to know how to recognize this communication when it presents. Sometimes it’s in-your-face and undeniable, but most of the time, it’s pretty subtle. When I make a choice, I look for signs to see if I’m on the right path, or if perhaps I need to reconsider. I’ve taught my son to do the same. After quitting swim practice, doors opened for him to join Cub Scouts, an experience which has been nothing but positive. And within days of his mentioning that he’d like to learn to play the guitar, an heirloom acoustic was given to him by a family member who had no knowledge that he’d expressed an interest in learning to play. The time freed up from swim practice allows him to explore these new interests. It's wonderful. And no more of the dull work-out room for me…I’ve now found a beautiful new route to walk for daily exercise. My son joins me, and the time together is precious at the end of a long working day. We talk, share ideas, observe nature…and most importantly, we both enjoy it.
I love this aspect of life, this communication with something beyond us that lets us know we’re where we need to be. It is always there, and it comes in the reverse form, too. A few weeks ago, tired of all the rigmarole that comes with business side of being an artist, (or rather, to be honest, just bored with it), I decided that maybe it was time to focus my interests elsewhere. Not stop being an artist, mind you, as that would be impossible…but to take a break from the exhausting marketing and promoting of my work and just create for myself. I was at my own saturation point with receptions, hanging shows, printing images, etc...but within a few days of deciding not to do it anymore, I was flooded with opportunities to display my art and even received a new commission – clear signs that maybe my choice needed to be reconsidered. I was at a saturation point, yes…but maybe just a temporary reprieve, rather than a complete break, was what I needed.
This would not be the case with the one-sided friendship I had to step away from. In time I found that stepping back wasn’t enough, the situation was going to require complete honesty on my part at some point, a point finally came in the form of a long, rambling email from them detailing a new crisis that my unconditional love and support was needed to endure. My kindly worded response simply addressed a long-overdue truth: I respected myself too much for this, and I just could not be there for them anymore. Of course, I waited to see if I’d done the right thing. There was, within hours, a response email full of defensive protest from the person in question, and I felt bad  because I loved and valued them, but because I also loved and valued myself, I chose not to reply…and there have been no subsequent messages. This hurt at first, but in time their silence spoke volumes to me. It showed that my choice, while difficult, was the right one. I’d reached a saturation point with being treated inconsiderately, and I needed to free myself from the source of it.
Ten years ago I could not have done this…I’d have seen through any situation I found myself in out of a sense of obligation, because that’s how I was raised. But I’m beginning to realize the blessing of maturity is that we come into a place where we can step away from what might have served our parents and step into what will serve us as unique individuals possessing our own wisdom. We can reach a saturation point and be at peace with letting go and moving on because we don't feel bound by the ideas others have about the way things need to be done. Sometimes it’s merely a reprieve that’s needed, other times a complete break. The choice is ours, and that's a precious thing. We’ll be shown that we’re on the right path, or not…we just have to pay attention.

Sunday, February 12, 2012

Valentine's Day Message!! (Which is, of course....Choose Love!!!!)

Early morning duty is by far not my favorite part of my job, for it requires me to be at work by 7:15am. However, twice a week it affords my son and I the chance to see something we would otherwise miss: the sunrise.
We cruise down the road, talking to each other about how it will look, eagerly anticipating the view that will befall us when we turn left off the main road, for the minute we do, the sunrise comes into glorious full view. Most mornings, it is nothing short of amazing; a brilliant medley of pink, orange, turquoise and purple hues blended with the very lightest shades of blue. And one of the most beautiful things about it, the one thing I’ve taught my son to appreciate, is that no matter how beautiful it is the moment we lay eyes on it, it doesn’t remain. Typically, by the time we have entered the parking lot and exited our vehicle, the sky has changed, dissolving from sunrise into pale blue morning sky.
“Always remember,” I say to him, “the best things in our lives come to us in moments, fleeting moments. Be open to them when they come, and be present in them, or you’ll miss them.”
Love is like the sunrise. It tends to come in moments, fleeting moments, when we’re struck by the magnificence of our own capacity to feel for another person. Just like the world comes alive with the sunrise, our souls come alive in the presence of the one we love, and a new part of us is born when we allow them  to see through our guard, to be part of us, and part of our world. There is absolutely, positively, no feeling on earth comparable to falling in love and being loved in return. It’s like a series of sunrises, a series of moments more beautiful than anything we could have imagined.
It would be ridiculous if someone said they feared the beauty of each morning’s sunrise…but far too often, people fear falling in love, or worse - allowing another person to love them. When amazing moments present themselves, these people turn away. Feeling they don’t deserve anything this great, they settle for substitutes - lesser, more predictable situations that make them feel less, because to feel less seems safer. But that’s like deciding a static rendition of a sunrise that can be framed and hung on the wall is better than turning off the main road and being surprised, amazed, and humbled by the beauty of an authentic sunrise, for which there is -just like crazy, spell-binding, passionate, amazing, real love - simply no substitute.
This is the week of Valentine’s Day, a holiday when romantic love is celebrated throughout the United States and many other countries. This holiday has somehow grown to encompass all other forms of love, as I recently realized when I saw a Valentine’s card in a shop with the inscription, “To My Beloved Grandmother on Valentine’s.” But this is simply marketing…Valentine’s Day is still, in most of our minds, a holiday that honors the bond of romantic love and all it represents. And I think that’s wonderful.  Romantic love deserves a day all its own. Even if romantic love isn’t part of one’s life at the moment, the next day, week, or month, that could change. It’s one of life’s most amazing things, the way it strikes us out of the blue sometimes. I’m reminded, as my son and I make Valentines from recycled paper and paste cut-out hearts onto the front door, that this is not a time to be closed off to possibility. I’m fully aware that the best things in our lives come to us in unexpected moments, and that I need to be open, or I’ll risk missing them altogether.
On the way into school this week, reflecting upon the beauty of Wednesday’s sunrise, my son said to me, “Mama, can we wake up early one morning, drive over to this road, and dance under the sunrise, just to celebrate it?” I love the way my kid thinks…and in my mind I saw the image of the two of us, still clad in pjs, dancing together on the sidewalk as the sun came up. I had to smile. “When it warms up,” I said, “we’ll do that. I promise.”  And I’ll keep that promise, for that beautiful idea he had is one of those moments that, like real love, there could just be no substitute for.
So this Valentine’s Day, my message is a familiar one: Whether you are in a long term relationship, a new relationship, or have no relationship to speak of, this year, choose to feel real love, amazing love, love that makes you feel alive, complete, like you could take on the world, but without expectation of permanence or forever, because those ideas are what bog us down in fear and make us turn away. Don’t guard yourself against pain; we are built to endure what comes our way, not run from what might happen. Love can and often does last forever, but only when we learn be in the moment, not dwelling on the future and certainly not bringing up past hurts. Let down your guard and choose to feel completely…yes it’s a risk, but things worth doing always are. It’s a risk to take my child out dancing on the sidewalk while the sun comes up. People might think I’m crazy…but at this point in my life, I’m far beyond worrying about petty things like that. Give me the moments that make my soul sing. Who cares, really, what others think? It’s our experiences, after all. Our lives, our love, and our moments, so be open to them. Be in them.  And never settle.
Some loves last a lifetime, others are once in a lifetime. But if you pay attention, if you risk the safe road just a little, you might find the once-in a lifetime love that lasts for the rest of your days. You might just find out what 2012 could be like if you were not afraid. You might find, that in letting down your guard, you open up your life to extraordinary moments that you’d have never experienced otherwise. When we choose love, we choose to celebrate one of the greatest things about being alive.
I hope the moments of your Valentine’s Day will be extraordinary!
Choose love! J

Sunday, January 29, 2012

Guest Writer Jennifer Smiecinski

F-E-A-R

I remember being a young girl and my mom taking me to swimming lessons. I went for a week to learn to swim with a group of other kids who were all very eager to climb the high-dive.


I remember them begging the instructor to let them jump. Finally, the instructor gave in and said, “At the end of the week, if all of you have done a good job, you can jump.”


Everyone was so excited- except me. On the last day of lessons, as promised, the instructor allowed us to climb the high dive to make that jump. One by one, all of the kids climbed to the top…. 1-2-3… SPLASH! It was finally my turn… I reluctantly climbed to the top and stood there. I looked down and saw my mom waving to me… the instructor was in the pool coaxing me to jump… I looked around a little more… then turned around and climbed down the ladder.


There would be no jumping for me. 


I am nearing completion of a year-long Yoga Teacher Training program through Greenville Yoga with Brian and Liz Delaney. The year consists of one weekend a month in Greenville to practice breathing, asana (Yoga poses), learn anatomy, and learn about meditation. In addition, there is required reading each month and a few hours each training weekend are spent discussing our reading assignment. 


I spent our October training weekend sidelined on the couch recovering from an illness. I was able to sit down with my books and dive in. I found the book I was reading was leading me on a quest for more information and more and more… After a few hours of the tailspin, I didn’t have clear answer for what I was searching for and just had more questions. I was frustrated and overwhelmed. I emailed Liz and basically said, “There is so much to know- where do I start?” 


While I was waiting for Liz to answer, it hit me like a ton of bricks. I realized that the answer about what I NEED is right here… in me. While there *IS* so much to know, in order to be truly content, I need to learn to trust myself in order to know where to begin. Yes- I want it all of that priceless information NOW but that is unrealistic. Instead of spinning my wheels and getting nowhere fast, I must figure out what I need for that day or that moment. 


During this teacher training, I have learned so much more than I ever began to imagine. I started to uncover the real me… the one that had been suppressed for many years.  I began to see  how I am driven by fear, how I don’t trust my intuition, and how I keep replaying the same story-line over and over in my head.  I always wondered why I would get so far into a book or meditation and either stop or get “busy” and not finish. At first I thought I may have ADD but now I know I was just afraid that the words on the page would touch that sensitive place inside that I had not allowed myself to feel in many years. By deepening my practice and study, I began to see that there is much work to be done on the INSIDE.


In order to find true contentment, I need to find the courage to work through the “un-shiny stuff” so I can face the person in the mirror, the REAL me, and be proud of the person I am becoming- I believe this will make me the most content I could ever possibly be. 


So- here I am standing on the high-dive again… only this time, I am jumping... 

Jennifer Smiecinski currently teaches yoga in Greenwood, SC. She will finish her 200-hour Yoga Teacher Training program at Greenville Yoga in March 2012. She loves spending time with her husband and children, eating good food, and listening to live music. She also loves hiking, running, and photography. She can be contacted at jen.smiecinski@gmail.com.