Tuesday, December 27, 2016

Don't Take Life Too Seriously, You'll Never Get Out Alive


I learned today that Carrie Fisher died at age 60. At this point in the year, it seems like just another person lost to the year 2016. She is in good company. Alan Rickman, Florence Henderson, Gene Wilder, David Bowie, Alan Thicke, Doris Roberts, John Glenn, Muhammad Ali, Arnold Palmer, Chistina Gimme (a fabulous YouTube cover artist), Nancy Reagan, Harper Lee, George Michael also passed this year. And that's just a few of the legendary names that died this year.

This has been a hard year. And it seems the world agrees...

Between a record number of celebrity deaths and the stress inducing event known to our beloved country as the Presidential Election, it has been a dousey.

So I sit at my computer in my little bubble of the world and contemplate what this year means to me.

This year...

I began doing yoga, which has been great because I've been able to start a new path to strengthen my mind and body.

I wrote a book. I mean a whole one, which is so exciting. Now it's on the editing floor with the looming task of publication arching into the new year.

Other than that, I wrote a lot, I read a lot of books, I cut my hair, I gained confidence in myself, but at the same time I spent many hours contemplating the connections of the universe.

So personally, this year hasn't been so bad. It's felt bad, but also good, like every other year.

I'm learning how to grow through the challenges and have faith that I will persevere through the tough times. Life is a roller coaster and when you can enjoy the ups and downs, there is not much that can throw you anymore.

I don't know if I'm quite there yet and I still hate roller coasters, but I have learned, or at least remembered one thing this year.

Enjoy it.

Every stupid moment of this precious life. Nothing is ever exactly what you want it to be, so what? Sometimes it is much more. Take the good with the bad and laugh. At everything! Especially yourself.

It is a quote older than as I am: "Don't take life too seriously, you'll never get out alive."

And it's true. This moment, this choice, this life - It's all you have. Enjoy it.

It is as simple and as difficult as that.

Good luck making sense of this year and let's celebrate 2017!

To Cut My Hair or Let It Grow...

At the end of last spring, I cut my hair really short. I gave myself several reasons for doing this, to my mind, extravagant act. However, it all came down to one reason...I needed a change.

Last year around this time, I chose the word "Confidence" as my mantra for the year. And it worked. I now have confidence in myself, which is not something I would have felt truthful saying before. Cutting my hair was important for me to break through this block in my mind. I needed a physical change to exemplify the change I felt inward.

For next year, I'm leaning toward the word, "willpower." I have and am still gaining confidence. Now I need some self-control, determination, and poise to create action while I hope to take a huge stride toward one of my goals for this year, to publish a book.

So all of that is to say, I'm debating whether I should let my hair grow back or keep cutting it. I have about a month to decide, but for whatever reason, it seems like a big decision. I have confidence now, so I don't really care what my hair looks like. I do like my short hair and I think it looks great. I especially like how light it is.

However, I miss a few things about long hair too. I miss brushing it. There is something comforting about brushing through long hair, a little moment of peace. I also miss being able to change the style. I have two styles with short hair, with a headband or combed forward. I suppose there are other things I could do with it, but it doesn't make me feel any different.

With long hair I can wear it up or down, in a bun or with a headband. The way I wear my hair affects my current mood: being active, productive or relaxed. Short hair is static, but at the same time, so easy.

I don't know what I want to do. I have no conclusion. I probably won't know until it's time to cut my hair again in another month or so. Beware there may by a sequel to the "To Cut or Not to Cut" question.

This has been a shower thought, brought to you by Amanda. Have a good day!

Monday, December 26, 2016

Holiday Reflections and Looking Forward to Next Year



This holiday season has been one of introspection. I have been asking myself a lot of hard questions lately, and I'm finally starting to have some answers.

Yesterday was Christmas. At several points in the day, Zoey exclaimed, "This is the best Christmas ever!" I have to agree with her. There wasn't anything particularly special we did this year, but we spent the whole day together and interacting with gifts, food, and play. The feeling of being absolutely in the present moment was fantastic. The entire day made me feel alive and at peace. It was a day that celebrated what Christmas is all about: sharing our love for each other and being thankful for what we have and what we can give to others.

I've felt so blessed during this winter break. I still have goals and dreams to pursue, but also, I feel content. Life is good and remembering that helps me to focus on the actions to seek out my dreams. I'm looking forward to the journey and what will happen next.

Next year, only five days away, is a new start, and I for one am more than ready to roll into 2017. This week is an opportunity that I do not want to waste. There is one more week of winter break before life goes back to the crazy scheduled days. I have inspiration to spend some time writing, editing and working on my creative habits. I hope to clean the house and purge out things that are no longer useful. I want to try some new things and spend some quality time with my amazing family.

While I organize and prepare for the new year, I'm trying to think of my word mantra for the upcoming year. For the past several years, I choose a word for the upcoming year, something I'm working on to improve myself. In years past, I have used the words: "Simplicity," "Healthy," and "Confidence," to name a few. Each year, as I look back on the year, I notice the word manifest into a reality, whether I was focused on it much or not. For this year I want to focus on my drive, strength, and willpower. I need the motivation and courage to publish my book next year and strengthen my mind and body. I need a few days to meditate on it, asking myself what I want to accomplish in the upcoming year.

Thursday, December 22, 2016

Winter Brings Cold Weather and Contemplation


Photo Credit

Yesterday marked the first day of winter, also known as the Winter Solstice.

I am not one who likes the cold, so winter is not my most favorite season. I enjoy cuddling up in my pajamas with a warm cup of tea and a good book, that is the highlight of my winter season. I also enjoy the festivities this time of year brings. We celebrate Christmas in our house and my seven year old little girl is bouncing a little higher each day that brings us closer to that jolly good elf's ride. This year, I need more from my tree than a few simple presents under it, I need some perceptive.

I've written about being sick and my braces before, so I won't overload you with the details (check out my previous post "Seeing the World On My Head"). The long and the short of it is, it's been a hard couple of weeks and I'm more than ready to get out of this slightly depressed funk I've been in. I'm ready to live again and be creative again. I need renewal.

Lucky for me, or perhaps fated is a better word, gaining perspective is exactly what Winter Solstice is all about. This is the time of year to reflect and decide where to go from here.

When we aren't rushing around outlet malls trying to find the best Christmas List deals, we generally seek more solitude, sleep more, and are more introspective. At least I am. I've been having all of these heavy, big thoughts about who I am, what I'm doing and asking myself what I'm trying to get out of life. It's been weighing on me in the same way the jaw pressure and sickness has, making me weary.

I'm not much of a Bible reader these days, but since I studied it for many years, I can't help but have this particular verse pop into my head at that word. "Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest" (Matthew 11:28 NIV). I feel like these words call to me.

Thrice also brought this word and idea to life with a song called, "Come All You Weary."

(Listen via YouTube below:)



That is how I feel right now, weary and in need of rest. It is in search of that rest and researching the Winter Solstice that I found what I needed to set me free.

Winter Solstice, what earth-based religions celebrate as Yule, has many similarities as Christmas, Hanukkah or Kwanzaa, also celebrated in mid-December. Decorating trees, lighting candles, exchanging gifts, ringing bells, communion and gathering with loved ones all predates organized religion. These customs and traditions have been around for centuries.

But what does all that mean? I recognize the cultures and the meanings behind the rituals we celebrate, but I need a deeper connection. I finally figured out what I was missing when I began to read about observing the changes in nature.

I've always considered myself very close to nature. I'm most at peace walking through a forest, looking up at the stars, or just breathing in fresh air. So it does not surprise me that the detail about Winter Solstice that I needed concerned the relationship between myself and the constantly changing seasons around me.

The earth is never still. Nature constantly shifts and changes, subtly going through cycles of rebirth. I have felt weary and surrounded by darkness as the days have slowly grown shorter. Now at the peak of the earth's trip around the sun, the season will subtly begin to shift again. Though it will not be warm for several months, the daylight will increase, allowing me a refreshed anticipation of spring on the horizon and a sense of rejuvenation to get me there.

My body and soul are following the natural course of the seasons. By comparing my own journey with the change of season I can turn my resentment of cold and darkness around by cultivating an attitude of receptiveness and appreciation.

It is in the stillness of winter, that I can find a confidence in myself as I prepare for the upcoming new year. I am excited about the path I am on. I look forward to pursuing the publication of my novel this year and revealing myself to the world as an author. I am nervous about putting myself out there in a vulnerable way, but I am beginning to find the courage to let people see me as who I am, faults and all.

Winter is here, and I will endure it. I can find contentment in the discomfort of the cold darkness and of the pressure on my mouth. This journey will make me stronger and I am finding a whole new side of myself that I am falling in love with. I like being able to see both logic and emotion, I like trusting in myself as I make decisions and choose my path, and I like that I have what I need, but not a lot of extra to get in the way. I like the process I use to organize my thoughts, and I especially like that I am beginning to share them with the world again.

It is amazing how much a person can change in a year, and over the course of a few years. It frightened me at first, I wasn't sure if I would be the same person or if I would like the differences. But honestly, I love the ways I am changing and growing. I believe I am better than I was before. That is what this time of year is all about: appreciating what you have, loving on the people near you and in your heart and taking time to look inward. It is important to pause and see how everything is going in your life, what you want from your life and actively making the changes to pursue your dreams.

I don't really like winter much, but this year thanks to some research, a phenomenal Winter Solstice yoga class and an amazing family, I have come to appreciate the season in a whole new way.

Cheers! May the Holidays bring a light to your life!

Wednesday, December 21, 2016

Seeing the World on My Head

I'm been practicing yoga consistently for about six months now. I have fallen in love with the tradition and find myself yearning to go back to my mat. You can often find me standing in warrior two in my living room. Yoga is great exercise that both stimulates and relaxes me. I have risen after saying "Namaste" with ideas overflowing out of my mind. The people I meet in my yoga studio have been kind and inspiring. I've decided I finally found exactly where I'm meant to be. It is a wonderful feeling.

When I first started, just flowing through a chaturanga or holding a plank was difficult. Warrior two left me feeling exposed, and anytime the instructor went on his or her head, I just watched in awe. I remember thinking those things impossible for me.

photo credit

One day, after a few weeks of practice, an instructor encouraged me to try an arm balance and meticulously went through the set up of crow pose. She told me that by just having the weight in my arms, I am doing the pose correctly. That encouraged me to continue. I decided that if I wanted to, I could do this.

I started off by practicing just the set up and found the way to enter into the pose that worked best for me. (I still have to start in frog pose to get desired results.) I kept at it, practicing the pose in my living room, building arm strength by doing push up and planks. And then, after about two months of trial and error and constant practice, I could consistently settle into crow pose and hover my legs in the air.

Crow pose was the first difficult pose I tried and I succeeded at it with practice. I learned through this experience, that yoga is not only a way to exercise, but also a way of life. By being aware of my breath during my daily activities and by trusting myself to be able to handle any situation as it comes my way, I have changed my entire way of thinking.

I can't say that I've often felt particularly weak, but now I feel strong. I am capable and that has really come out in my writing, which is how I mostly identify myself. It is a big transition to cover in just a couple paragraphs, but it is a journey, one where I'm excited to see what comes next.

I learned a couple other arm balance poses that I'm still working on mastering. But that is the way of yoga, even something as simple as a forward fold can feel easier some days than others.

photo credit

Recently, I tried the first step into a tripod headstand. This is where you use your forearms to give extra support while being inverted. It is one of the easier inversions to learn. I've tried a couple in the past and saw the world rushing to my face temporarily scaring me away from further attempts.

This time was different. I have the core muscles now and the arm strength. Six months of yoga goes a long way when it comes to building muscle. I also have my instructor next to me as a spotter giving me instruction and corrections to my form. It made all the difference. I tried once, twice and then...I balanced, on my head and, with a little spotting help, stayed there.

Oh my goodness, so many emotions went through my inverted head. The first being "I'm doing it!" Something I considered impossible was happening. That in itself was a breakthrough. I also realized I was strong enough to hold myself upright, I just need to practice more. The most important realization to me came with the fact that I wasn't afraid. It made me feel alive.

For much of my life, I've been afraid of everything, especially new things This is something I'm very proud of. However, yoga is helping me through those feelings of inability. Because with yoga, I can. I can practice, go through the steps to set up properly and train to make myself better. I'm learning that I am adept and proficient to handle whatever life throws at me. Although, that is both a scary and confident thought, I'm going to focus on the certainty that I will find a way to navigate all of life challenges.

And there have been some challenges lately. The biggest two are being sick (this damned head cold that just won't quite go away) and getting braces. For me getting braces has been a big deal. I am terrified of the dentist. Thankfully, I found the one I did because she is amazing and helps me not be so afraid. I finally got my mouth all cleaned up and fixed up, but the next step to help me improve was braces.

I got my braces put on at the end of last month, so that just over three weeks ago. And now I also have an expander on my top jaw. These are all things I need to improve my oral health, which will help all of me. I know this. But this process is not painless. I've had many bad headaches and pressure on my jaws, which just make me feel horrible. Eating is difficult and not enjoyable anymore. Put being sick with a head cold on top of this and I have to admit, I have not had the best couple of weeks.

I've been tired and sore and absolutely void of creativity. Writing and creating are both part of who I am. And I haven't been feeling myself lately. Thankfully, yoga has been consistent. I only missed two planned practices because of being sick, so all in all not horrible.

Now, I've decided I'm tired of being sick and tired. I'm going to have to find a way to think through the discomfort. In yoga, when you hold a pose, it is not always comfortable. the goal is to engage your muscles and stretch further than you think possible. I have learned how to breath and seek contentment in the discomfort, knowing that it is making me better and stronger. That is what I need during this stage of my life with braces. Because hopefully the sick part will eventually get better.

Yoga, once again, has pulled me through a tough time and made me realize that I'm stronger than I think and I can do this, I have too. I might as well make the best of it. Seeing the world on my head gave me the perspective I needed to push through feeling tired and sore, and begin to look around the discomforts and find my strength and my creativity again.

photo credit

There is this quote that says, "Sometimes what you're most afraid of doing is the very thing that will set you free." I believe this quote is right. I'm scared of braces and standing on my head, but they will both help set me free. This is not the freedom of just one moment, but a journey towards confidence and strength that I could not have known before.

The goal is set, getting my braces off and mastering difficult yoga poses, but the journey is where the lessons are learned. And I'm willing to learn, to grow, and to challenge myself. I want to be free, I want to live fearlessly letting my inner light shine bright. I will overcome these challenges and emerge stronger and brighter on the other side. It will be an amazing journey.

Sunday, December 11, 2016

Taking Action, It's Time to Write!

Dear Writing Companion,

I've been working on what kind of online presence I want to have and how I need to go about creating it. Part of doing that is considering the process in which  I journal and write daily.

I think I've finally come to some conclusions. And, of course, writing them all out helps me focus. So, here goes.

First off, I need to get everything digital, including the process of daily journal writing. I love having a notebook with me and I love the feel of writing on paper, but I need my thoughts in the computer to polish them for publishing.

I need to start setting aside time every night (or at least several times a week) to make sure the thoughts that do go in my notebook get into the computer within a couple days. I want to start blogging and getting my thoughts out into the world and that isn't going to happen if I don't get back around the thought for two months, too much changes in that time.

Action item #1: Get all thoughts digital, within a few days of having them.

The second idea is to make it a priority to actually sit down and spend time posting and on social media. It's one of those things I like to avoid because of all the distractions that come with social media. Nonetheless I need to get into the habit of actually finishing a blog post and posting ideas instead of just thinking about them.

Action item #2: Follow through and publish items

My third idea is to keep all of my thoughts really organized. I have several different places ideas are held, each one with a purpose. I need to make sure the purpose is understood and then actually place items there as I enter them digitally.

I have a lot of ideas coming in, some fully developed and some half baked, so I need to make sure that what I have is where it is supposed to be. You never know what little thought can inspire a bigger project so I need to have all of those thoughts in one place.

Action item #3: Put ideas where they suppose to go to be able to reference them

The fourth thing (can you tell I've been thinking about this a lot) is to do things that create inspiration. It's winter, and I have a hard time because part of me just shuts down. I would describe myself as a Mama Bear and I would rather hibernate through the winter. Since that isn't a viable option, I need to actively find things to do that inspire me, read a book, see friends, go to a coffee shop...something, get out and do and then write.

Action item #4: Seek out inspiration

A fifth thought is to manage my time better. I need to set aside blocks for various projects and really focus on them and get them completed. Or, if I don't finish a goal, immediately schedule another time to work on the project. This is really important because life is busy and I have a lot of projects going on that need attention. I need to use my time wisely and accomplish the goals I set for myself.

Action item #5: Set aside blocks of time that have an a goal I can accomplish in that amount of time.

The sixth and final thought is to stop worrying about it all so much. I'm in a little bit of a funk right now since I got braces and it turned cold outside. It's okay and it's going to happen periodically. And most importantly, it's not a big deal. I need to take this time to work on small projects and make a plan for the new year. Be in the moment, write about what is going on now and don't worry so much about how it all fits together, just do it.

Action item #6: Stop worrying, be in the moment and go with the flow.

Well, it's a start at least. Honestly, it will probably change, I'll have to tweak ideas or add some. But the most important thing is getting my head in the right perspective to cultivate my ideas, to write and to publish my work.

Enthusiastically,
Amanda