Finding Mindfulness In Little Things

I am guest-posting over at the Wakefield Doctrine today. I hope you hop over there and take a look – you’ll find some fun tips about completing puzzles and finding mindfulness in unexpected places.

Here’s an excerpt:

 

Being able to “center” and find mindfulness when you’re surrounded by chaos is a powerful exercise.

Mindfulness allows us to consciously slow life down and concentrate on one task while using all our senses. It has a calming effect.

Our world today is filled with noises, distractions, too-full to-do lists, and countless other activities that drain energy.

But, you can control your reaction to everything around you.

In fact, you can experience and use mindfulness to help stress and calm those jittery nerves.

A Geometric Puzzle

The other day, I was at my in-laws’ house.

It had been an incredibly busy week: work obligations, my mother-in-law went to the ER (she’s okay – she swallowed a fishbone that lodged in her esophagus, but then it dislodged without any extreme measures), and we had family visiting.

On Saturday morning, I was feeling a bit out of sorts as I continued my way into the weekend.

We also had another visitor, Hootie. He’s an Amazonian parrot. I once did an abstract painting of himhere!

Read More >>>

 

The Outer Banks and Gaining Perspective

Beach Shell
Beach Shell by Pictimilitude
Look at Outer banks Postcards online at Zazzle.com

A Beach Vacation

Yes, I spent the last week at the Outer Banks. I didn’t even (gasp!) bring my laptop with me. (Well, given that my laptop I brought last year promptly died after being at the beach….) I went on a technology-fast because, really, after working on a computer for most of my days all day, I wanted to give my eyes and brain a rest.

I like to do this at least once a year – or, well, I’m making it a tradition to now do technology-fasts. But, I DO try to take a beach vacation once a year. For a girl who was born and raised in the mountains, the ocean is a nice departure from “lo normal” (or, that which is normal, as the English translation).

I told my friends over at Girlie on the Edge and the Wakefield Doctrine that I always gain new perspectives and revelations while on such trips, and this adventure was no exception.

Though I’ve started a new job, it’s not going to keep me from writing or photography.

I bought a special notebook just for the beach because I knew I’d be doing some writing.

And…photography.

It led me to think the following:

1. I need to keep writing articles for HubPages. It is the one place that I can write about Spanish stuff, teaching, use my photography skills, art skills, and much more.

2. But, I also need to diversify. What if HubPages went kaput or something else happened? Yes, well, that means I have to keep posting my photography on Zazzle. Oh, darn. I have to be creative. Did you see that postcard up there? 😉

3. I need to plow forward with creative writing. It’s an outlet. And practice for my memoir. One day, one day I tell you, I will publish that thing…or something else. I found out you can publish short stories on Amazon. Who knew? I don’t mean books – I mean you can actually publish a tiny short story by itself. I suppose it’s not that crazy-sounding given that Amazon is a huge book marketer for all sorts of platforms. But still.

4. This one came to me this morning – yes, after getting back from the beach: I need to keep blogging here. Every time I think about ‘I should get rid of this website and do something with my own name and domain’ I find that I have new followers and I get encouragement from friends to not do such a thing. Yes, I was pleasantly surprised that, after not checking back here for the better part of two weeks, I had two new followers. I interpret that as a sign. I’m into signs, you know.

5. I need to revamp this website. The blog and design will stay. I just mean I need to add RSS feeds to my hubs again, put my Zazzle store back up, and other maintenance. I’m just going to accept the fact that I’m wacky and have a wide variety of interests and I don’t have time to maintain four specialty sites (one for my Spanish stuff, one for photography, one personal and one for writing – who am I kidding?). Welcome to Cynthia’s zone where you might find me talking in Spanish, sharing photos, hubs, or blogging about things that move me spiritually. Good luck not getting lost. 😉

And here’s a little fun for having read this far:

Here are some beach photos I snapped. Which is your favorite? The one with the most votes will become my next Zazzle product.

outer banks
Beach scene in black, white and blue.
PHOTO A
seagulls outer banks
Seagulls getting some salt spray.
PHOTO B
lifeguard tower outer banks
Lifeguards are gone for the day, leaving their tower abandoned.
PHOTO C
seashells outer banks
A collection of beach seashells.
PHOTO D

So…which one do you like?

[poll id=’11’]

Darkness and the Warrior of Light

While we have the gift of life, it seems to me the only tragedy is to allow part of us to die – whether it is our spirit, our creativity or our glorious uniqueness.

Gilda Radner

I was over at my friend Bill’s blog – I call him my Big Bro because our roads intersected nearly three years ago and we had many similarities in our life journeys, and he became a friend and mentor to me – and he had this quote in a recent post.

If you’ve read my blog for awhile, then you’re probably familiar with my journey of the past couple of years.

But, there’s another aspect to it: the dark and the light.

In Darkness, Look For the Light

It was June 2012. My student loans were paid off, and I wasn’t happy teaching public school. I needed creativity and autonomy in my life. I lined up another job but it wasn’t an absolute certainty. Feeling comfortable that I had a bit of savings and knowing that I usually landed on my feet, I leaped.

forest
On a recent hike, the light was perfect – and a fitting photo for this “Warrior of Light” post.

Each time I had leaped with my heart and not my brain (though it would reluctantly be forced along for the ride), I always ended up on an adventure far away from where I had started. Or where I intended to go.

And so it was that the “other job” fell through. A mild panic ran through my veins that day in September when I knew it was too late to try to secure any kind of academic job. I’d have to make a go of writing – I had enjoyed the autonomy and freedom of freelance writing anyways.

Until I had to do it full time, for money, and no longer “just for fun.” The computer screen, once a window of possibility, became a window of dread: of feeling like I had no choice but to chain myself to my digital prison and go for broke.

And you know what? I did go broke. My spirit felt like it broke. My logic broke. My ability to feel like I was contributing to humanity broke.

I was a directionless arrow. Broken, trampled, muddied by the challenges of life. Yes, I loved to write. But no, I couldn’t eke out any creative juices. Those juices were reserved for survival.

Not only did I not feel like I rose to the challenge, I felt like I had failed myself, my husby, my family, my society. I withdrew into myself. I didn’t go out much, feeling secure in my four walls. I had cocooned myself as if to insulate myself from the atrocities of life.

For a long time, I searched my heart, mind and spirit and finally the Universe to tell me why. Why, when I had jumped in 2012, so full of hope, did I land somewhere in 2013 with a thud? The days all served as a landing platform, but full of shards and unforgiving rocks.

I’d lost my mojo.

A Teahouse Encounter Leads to Enlightenment

Until one day at the beginning of 2014. I was sitting at a teahouse with a friend. I had been telling her that I wasn’t sure what I was going to do. I’d enrolled in graduate school and I was terrified that I wouldn’t find a job. Or that I’d have to go back to teaching public school where my sensitive spirit had been crushed and drained my love of teaching…

There at the teahouse, sampling my first-ever cup of matcha, I happened to see a pile of rolled up quotes in the corner. I unraveled one.

I have no memory of what it said.

But I remember the feeling it gave me. Suddenly, I was sitting there with my friend and all my senses went on high alert. My tea went from acceptably sweet to dry and bitter. The voices of all the patrons blurred together in an endless echo of words spinning into snippets of tales hovering in the stuffy air. The dim lighting seemed to amplify into spectral brilliance.

That moment of sitting with my friend, of untying a little ribbon and unwinding a little paper quote, of watching the sky burn through the light and end in darkness – from within I felt a sense of warmth, as if my own body was generating a light.

And I knew.

I knew the reasons I had to go through what I did.

It led me to unwavering grace.

Instead of focusing on what was wrong, my focus shifted to everything that was right.

I smiled at my friend, realizing that I needed to give her a smile. As a present.

I felt a renewed sense of purpose, of knowing what I had to do: keep going. Use my gifts. Serve humanity.

Keep moving forward and things would come together.

And they did.

But my spirit had to be broken. It had to die – at least a part of it did. Perhaps my creativity did, too.

There was no funeral.

Just an awakening.

Knowing that Day of Suffering #37 + Day of Suffering #92 = Renewed purpose and direction on Day Whatchamacallit.

So I could find my light.

Hello, world. Introducing me: the girl that is changed forever.

My lesson to share? That when you’re going through hell, keep going. There really is truth to the idea that when you encounter difficulties, they’re there to mold you into a different version of the same person.

But also that you can’t be afraid to leap. You might land, or you might flounder, but all of it will make you better in the end.

I started a poem last December, right before I had experienced my own light.

Ironically, it was like a premonition.

Do you believe in premonitions?

seeing light
Looking through the forest canopy, the sunlight dappled the leaves.

Enjoy:

Warrior of Light

Standing up, holding my shield,

Holding my sword and cutting across thick, turbulent fields

I am a warrior of light.

 

Marching to the top of the mountain,

Turning and stalking the sun,

Syncing to its wavelength, strength and motion

I am a warrior of light.

 

In the ugly darkness threatening to possess my soul

Tearing at my heart as tar and coal

I erect my shield, calling to the north, east, west and south,

I am a warrior of light.

 

When the earth is troubled and my friends are few,

And negativity pools around me like the gas of dry ice,

I remain to myself steady and true:

I am a warrior of light.

 

Armies of foes they stalk me, spitting and spiteful

But I hold steadfast the light that lives inside

Keeping me true and mindful –

I am a warrior of light.

 

And when I walk through the fire of trial,

My feet don’t burn but instead they dance,

To the rhythm of a bright revival.

I am a warrior of light.

 

When my own thoughts turn against me,

And I don’t know in which direction to turn,

I’ll raise my arms up and decree:

I am a warrior of light.

 

My thoughts turn to utterances of gratitude

Because every experience good and bad

Builds a spirit of fortitude.

I am a warrior of light.

 

 

Let’s Take a Moment…For the Earth

trees lining the road
The leaves are starting to change

Last weekend, it was International Day of Peace, the Equinox and even the moon was full – the Harvest Moon.

As summer winds down – something I’m always a little sad about – I am reminded of the cycles of nature.

Where I live, there are four distinct seasons. And yes, I’ll admit, I tolerate winter so that I can relish in the other three.

But last weekend sort of set the tone for the week. It got me thinking about cycles, about the planet, about the idea of peace in our lives, about abundance.

I thought about how I’m truly thankful for having lived another year and for seizing some opportunities that, I hope, will propel me forward and get things done that I really want to get done.

In thinking about cycles, I think about Mother Earth and her willingness to give us all food, air, water, wind, fire, shelter, and beauty.

How often do we forget or not think about those things?

The ancient rhythms that are indelibly part of our DNA call us to reflect and take a moment.

I wanted to share a poem that grew out of these thoughts this week.

Mother Earth

Mother Earth, keep me grounded in your terra so soft.

Father Sky, allow me to soar with wings aloft.

Brother Wind, embrace me in the sound of your breeze,

Sister Fire, whose warmth and light caress me from mountains to seas,

Understand my profound respect and gratitude.

There are those who see your gifts as undervalued

But by example and in united spirit

We’ll bring peace, heal the planet and find a way to edit

The wrongdoings we’ve done to each other 

And embrace each other as sister and brother.

We’ll find a way to make peace

So that we make progress and move forward without cease.

 

I felt compelled to go around my yard – again – and snap some photos that really remind me of all of these things and more. I am reminded of the fall season and the planet making another trip around the sun, as she has done for billions of years.

wild asters
Among the wild asters was a wolf spider….

It’s interesting how in the fall, you see more spiders and such. I was walking around my yard and garden and saw this HUGE wolf spider living among the wild asters. I don’t cut down the wild weeds – I work with them. And…you get to see interesting things from time to time.

(And don’t, for one second, think I would be okay with this little guy getting ANYWHERE near me. I respect them, yes. I won’t kill them. But, I cannot be held responsible for my actions if members of the arachnid family or insects, in general, crawl on me.)

acorn squash
Acorn squash from the garden

I didn’t have a whole lot of time for a big vegetable garden this year. However, we have a HUGE compost pile…and defiantly, these acorn squash plants insisted on growing there. We didn’t have the heart to kill them, so we let them grow to see how big they’d get.

Apparently, they turned into mutant plants. I don’t think we’ve EVER had such a successful harvest of acorn squash that we didn’t plant. 

In fact, we have no idea – other than last year’s variety of squash – what sorts of genes are in these squash fruits. So we’re calling them “Calhoun Variety.”

Wouldn’t you know, I halved one, took out the seeds and stuffed them with violet syrup, trail mix (dried cranberries, raisins, dried apricots, papaya, cashews and dried banana) with a pat of butter and baked them. I was in heaven.

I also took the seeds, dried them for 24 hours and baked them in the oven the next day. They say to add oil, but the seeds weren’t very dry, so I didn’t. I just added a bit of garlic salt and cracked peppercorns. Somebody should sell those things! 😉

squash seed
Acorn squash seeds fresh from the acorn squash!

These days, when we walk around the yard, we’re dodging walnuts. Yes, our black walnut tree sits right outside the front door and it’s ripe with fruits. They fall a LOOONNNGGGG way. Woe is to the person who’s standing underneath the tree when they’re falling. But, the nuts have a distinct, yet amazing taste. I, for one, love them. Though cracking the shells? It takes about an hour to crack five of them. The shells are hard as marbles and it’s easy to break tools while opening them.

It certainly requires a certain measure of patience. No wonder they’re like $9.00/lb. at the store.

black walnut tree
Our black walnut tree. See all the nuts that are all going to fall in the next week to two weeks?

Blue Gold: The Water Crisis

Those of you that know me, know that I am a conservationist. I always have been.

Something on my mind lately is the looming water crisis we humans face.

I promise I’m not going to regale you with boring lectures about how we should do this and how we should do that. In fact, I think most people turn a deaf ear because the world’s problems are just that: world problems. No one human can change all that: we each can’t place the problems of the world on our shoulders. But, one human can make a difference and create a domino effect.

stream flash flood
This is in my backyard. This stream is normally a trickle. It’s about to overtake our raised garden bed. It’s grainy because I took the photo with my phone – it was all I had in my hands at the time.

I think it was Gandhi that said that a few droplets of oil don’t pollute the whole ocean, but enough clean droplets of water will make a difference.

That’s the idea: if enough humans are aware of and trying to help on a personal and local level, well, heck…there might even be world peace one day in addition to making water the unlimited resource it once was!

Blue Gold: The Water Wars

I had this movie in my Netflix queue (<– I love that word, by the way) called Blue Gold: World Water Wars. I knew it wasn’t going to be one of those documentaries that makes you feel good.

However, I think it’s part of my duty as a human to become aware of not only the issues I face as part of the society in which I live, but also worldwide. After all: we are all connected and we are all part of the great human spirit.

As I sat down to watch this movie, I was appalled at how people are dying every day because of the lack of basic sanitation and access to water. Yes, I think most of us know that in parts of the world, there is a real deficit of water and some people have to walk miles just for a bucket-full of the stuff.

This movie made me feel ashamed when I complained that I didn’t have water for 9 days and had to hike up my mountain to collect it from the stream. O me of little knowledge….

The main problems are this: there is a monopoly of water by only a few corrupt corporations, and water is increasingly becoming scarce.

Bush Buys Land

In fact, according to the documentary, the Bush family – George W. – sent his daughter Jenna to Paraguay to buy over 100,000 acres of land.

There are a lot of theories as to why: it is right next to a huge aquifer, and many think the family has invested in the land because of the predictions of a massive deficit of water resources around the world within 50 years.

(Similarly, the Bush family has invested a lot of money in building a house that uses alternative energy. I have to tell you, I am not a Bush fan, but I find it interesting that this family is investing in things that are going to become real commodities in the future. And heck, though I’m a die-hard Democrat (there: I admitted it…I apologize if you don’t agree – I won’t rub it in your face – it’s just who I am), I gotta give the Bush family some respect: they’re investing in exactly the things that we’re supposed to be investing in.)

Only a few corporations are trying to control all the water.

Bad things happen when corporations control our water.

From Africa to the United States, it increases prices and often, the sanitation level goes down drastically. There are cases that have been documented in Paris, New York, Atlanta…and in other places like Kenya, and South America.

Indeed, Bolivia recently had an uprising to oust the water corporations. They had a HUGE strike – a paro cìvico

Why?

These corporations were making it so that it was illegal to collect rainwater, and that their product was the only product you could buy.

In Kenya, the Coca-Cola company owns the water rights (as of 2009 when the documentary came out).

To buy a Coke, it costs a fraction of what a bottle of water costs – something like $.40 to $2.00! And you can only get bottled water in many places because the tap water is so unsanitary. Furthermore, they’d only run the tap at certain times of the day and people wouldn’t know when.

They’d leave the tap on with a bucket underneath, but the company would charge them for doing so, even if water didn’t come out for days!

The Dust Bowls Are Related to Water, Too.

Incidentally, right after watching that documentary, I happened to catch another one on the Dust Bowls that hit the midwestern part of the US in the 1930s, due, in part, to extreme drought.

What’s scary is that the US is facing the same issues right now. We might be in for another Dust Bowl.

I don’t share this to scare. And as any good student out there, it’s good to question and wonder if it could really happen, or if it’s all totally true.

But, I do know one thing: I grew up in Colorado. My parents were faced with evacuation last year due to fires that were only a couple miles from their house – I was there. Almost 400 people lost their homes in that fire.

Incidentally, as I was uploading my own video to YouTube (see below), I came across this one: this is less than one mile from where my parents live:

The flooding in the video is partly because everything is so dry out there and packed down: any water they get just “rolls” off and heads for lower ground.

This year, there have been more fires near where my parents live. They’ve made the national news: the Black Forest fire claimed hundreds more homes and this one was only about ten miles from where my parents live.

I’ve been saying for years that the foothills of Colorado – indeed, the state itself – is growing more arid with each passing year.

Where I live in North Carolina, we’ve gotten so much rain – uncharacteristic rain – lately, that sinkholes have formed, and a huge flood at the bottom of my road has effectively marooned me at my house for the time being. I know – I know – it’s related to climate change.

You may have seen this on Facebook, but here’s a video of the road about 1/5th mile down from my house:

(HUGE kudos to my husband who has been working tirelessly moving rocks and gravel with a tractor and his truck to fix this…I’m helping in the form of lunches and drinks for everyone else helping, too. I’d get out there and dig in, but I’m accident prone and forbidden from helping: I fell down the stairs the other day (because of the rain) and tweaked my back. Sigh…there’s never a dull moment.)

As if to make me further contemplate this growing issue, my friend Jennifer talked about water issues in Africa over at her blog, Another Jennifer.

This is an issue on a lot of peoples’ minds right now.

It’s especially on mine.

And yes, it’s not good.

But we can change that.

It just takes a change in habits on everyone’s part:

  • minimizing household use of water in the form of washing dishes, toilets, laundry, showers, watering the garden, washing cars, etc.
  • asking companies to limit and be held accountable for their use of water – they use more water than you can imagine – thousands upon thousands of gallons go into the making of a microchip, for example. I’m not sure if that’s 100% true, but if you think about it, it could be: all the people-power required, research, paper, electronics, rinsing, the chemical processes involved to manufacture just one tiny chip….
  • forming coalitions to keep out water corporations
  • investing in water – yes, because if we don’t change and hold ourselves collectively accountable, water will be more precious than oil in the not-too-distant future, but also because investing in it means that we develop newer and better ways to conserve.

For me, I know I can do more. I try to re-use cooking water to water my plants, take short showers, do full loads of laundry and more.

But I wonder if humans have the capacity to overcome this challenge. It will require everyone becoming aware and taking part.

Isn’t our planet worth it? This beautiful planet that has sustained all life for millions of years; we have risen up and returned to its ashes generation after generation.

We are so connected, there’s no way we could exist if we weren’t. Aren’t the children of tomorrow worth fighting for? What about the wonderful animals that enrich our lives?

It’s worth it.

Our blue marble is blue because of water. 

Our posterity is worth it.

Our ecosystems.

The beauty.

The hope. 

The connection that beckons us to know that somehow there’s more out there than just meets the eye.

I just have to say: I’m working on an art piece right now from an earlier post I did, but I have half a mind to start a Sharpie one next and have “water” as the inspiration…

The Dragonfly

dragonfly wall decor
I recently completed this dragonfly drawing. It’s Sharpie marker on paper.

About two weeks ago, my husband and I were driving to go to my mother-in-law’s house. We had the windows rolled down and a few minutes after leaving, a blue and green striped dragonfly flew in and landed on the floor by my feet.

I looked down and saw its wings flutter weakly and then stop.

I asked my husband to pull over so we could gently put it into the grass where it would rest in peace.

However, after we stopped and I opened the car door, the beautiful dragonfly “came back to life” and buzzed away, on toward the stream and trees in the distance.

I knew that dragonfly was a sign.

I have always been keen on symbolism. Since I was young, I’ve always held animal symbolism close to my heart. Perhaps it’s my Native American (Navajo) roots, my love of nature, my love of all life (I can’t even kill the ants that are in my bathroom at the moment…), or all of the above.

But, I’ve always felt that animals – insects and creepy crawlies included – all interact on a level that we cannot see, and always have a higher meaning.

Have you ever taken the time out to think about what happens after you see an animal that you might not normally encounter in your daily activities?

For me, this dragonfly flittering into my car was the first time that ever happened. The fact that it survived was a miracle in itself: we were going over 40 mph.

I believe in miracles.

The hallmark meaning and symbolism that surrounds the dragonfly is change. At this point in my life, no truer symbol could characterize what I’m experiencing.

Because they exist near water, they also symbolize how our deeper thoughts are surfacing and that we should pay attention to those deeper thoughts and how they can be applied to our lives.

I didn’t know it then, but my life was about to change…drastically.

Right after this encounter, I happened to fire off an email to one of my professors I had when I was working on my Master’s degree back in 2010. I never finished it. I was teaching full-time, doing Americorps, teaching one or two community college classes and trying to commute to my classes in the evenings two hours away.

I wonder why I couldn’t do it all.

Yeah, I have a tendency to take on too much.

But, back to the point.

I had asked my professor about maybe taking some classes for professional development related to my teaching.

She immediately responded, saying I could do professional development classes later this summer, but if I did that, I may as well finish my Master’s degree. I could finish in a year.

That chance email sent me on a whirlwind of reactivating my student-status, cancelling my summer trip to Colorado to see my parents, preparing to spend an entire month in a town two hours away in (GASP!) a dorm, applying for financial aid – and having it ALL APPROVED – within 24 hours, and signing up for three classes.

I’m at once giddy and nervous.

I can’t believe how much life can change in a short time.

Changes for blogging

So yes, of course, I’ll be back to writing 25-page papers with alarming regularity in Spanish. I won’t be able to blog or write like I have been. ¡Qué bárbaro!

That doesn’t change the fact that I will always write, always do art, always create…and teach, of course.

The beauty of finishing my degree will actually give me more credentials to work with. I’ve been working on a book based on the Legend of Chocolate and I’ve finished the written portion. The next steps will be to illustrate it. After that, I want to create a whole complementary unit to go with it so that teachers anywhere can use it.

I want to do the same with other legends I know about: re-write them using my own words and imagination, illustrate, turn them into books and write units that go with them.

Granted, all that is going to take longer because of school.

Moving the other websites

I have two other websites: a freelance writing one and a my Sharpie Artist one.

I used to have everything here on this blog, but I moved them so that I could “go niche.”

Yeah, well. I’ve never been able to “niche” myself – not when it came to this blog. I need all my life’s stuff in one place. Mostly, because I need to streamline my online presence for the time being, and because I’m so inspired by Sue Dreamwalker’s blog.  She writes about her life, symbolism, art, everything important to her (and should be to the world!) and she’s got one beautiful blog. I can’t get enough of it.

So, you’ll see changes here: all of my artwork and writing in one place.

I’ve also created a blog solely for my teaching. (What was that about niche?) It’s not finished, yet, but as I write and create lesson plans and units, I hope to connect them with that blog and my store over at Teachers Pay Teachers, and of course, link it to this blog here.

If you’re a regular participant in Wonderful Wednesday, I still plan on keeping up with it, though for awhile, that might be the only post I do over the course of a week. And it might just be a photo or two. That’s okay: I just want them to be wonderful.

This blog, however has become part of my journey. It’s my little corner of the netverse and perhaps one day, friends and family will look at it and say they were inspired. 

I don’t anticipate ever letting it go.

About the dragonfly art…

The photo at the top is of a dragonfly I decided to draw after seeing the one in my car. It’s also going to be part of the art show I do at True Blue Art Supply in August. It’s Sharpie marker on paper, 18″ x 24.”  Cost: $200.

Here are more closeups of the drawing:

dragonfly
A detailed look at a portion of the drawing.
dragonfly
Another part of the drawing.

Yes, I’m still going to do the art show in August; I will have been home for a few days after my summer classes end to be able to focus on the art show.  Never a dull moment, right?

 

Finding My Calling; Thoughts From a Year of Searching

One year ago.

One year ago this week I left security.

One year ago this week I took a path over a cliff.

And so much has happened.

trees in the woods
A walk in my backyard…and touched up with some underpainting.

If I liken my journey to starting out on a hiking trail (we all know that I LOVE to hike) it’s gone something like this:

I packed my bags and I was ready for whatever came at me.  I had enough food, clothes on my back, good shoes and I was standing at the trailhead.  I didn’t have a map, though.  I just figured I had this idea of wanting to go on a hike and I was going to take all the provisions I could to ensure a good journey.

Somewhere along the way I ran out of food.  So, I learned about what plants to eat and I was still enjoying the scenery.

Farther down the path my shoes started wearing out and I patched them together with duct tape.  I had to stop periodically to repair the repairs.

I had a three-season sleeping bag; I was REALLY glad I had extra layers of clothing when it snowed a bunch for a whole week straight.  Or a rain jacket when it rained so hard my shoes and backpack became water buckets.

I had a canine companion with me, but along the way he crossed a special bridge.  I think they call it Rainbow Bridge.

My soulmate went on this journey with me.  There were moments our closeness felt incredibly intense and profound.  Other times, I think I wanted to swat him with my backpack.

I got blisters on my feet, occasional headaches, and experienced heartache.

But then I heard The Wind.

Atop a ridge top.

The Wind whispered.  He spoke in a language that I wasn’t sure I could understand but somehow I knew it was a message crafted only for my heart.

I knew I had to listen.

He even spoke to my soulmate, too.  He spoke another language to him, so that he would be the only one to understand that message, meant for him; destined for his life.

I learned that my spirit could grow with the wind and expand to the sunset, or it could shrink to stay in my shadow.

Now, I cannot look at a mountain vista or an ancient boulder in the same way because I hear the voices of their history and the whispers of their joys and tragedies of their stories.

And in those silent words that filled my head in jumbled excerpts, they suddenly fell into place and SHOUTED, “YOU KNOW WHO YOU ARE!”

This is an abstracted version of my year-long journey.  A journey where I questioned what I was doing with my life, yet I knew I needed this experience.

It was a nebulous adventure.  When I left my stable job last year, I knew I wanted to set out to lead a creative, autonomous life.  I knew that I needed to call my own shots and develop my own schedule.

And I was hell-bent on this journey being about writing and creating art.

Mid-year, when I hit a brick wall, the bills were due and I had no income to please the corporate gods, I secured a part-time teaching position at a school that was spiritually-based.

black line

Do you ever feel like everything happens for a reason?

That’s the way I’m feeling right now.  I needed to find this school, though I didn’t know it at the time.

I was too busy being annoyed that I found myself teaching again.  I thought I’d left it behind forever.

I had been so scarred from teaching: at one point I was used as bait to get three teachers fired (the school admitted to doing this); a second school used me as a glorified babysitter – I wasn’t a classroom teacher; standardized testing was more important than anything.  ANYTHING.  I was just the Spanish teacher.  They hardly ever used my name.  The Spanish Teacher.

Did they not realize that I was more than just what I did for eight hours a day?  That I had a name, hopes, aspirations?  That I was sensitive and wanted so much to be the best Spanish teacher to ever grace a classroom?

I don’t think they did.

My colleagues did – they nominated me Teacher of the Year.

But it wasn’t enough.  I wasn’t Somebody.  I still felt like a babysitter.

I had to prove that I was more than that.

I spent the year writing and creating and taking photographs.

was happy.

Or so I thought.

I typed and created, sometimes going days without seeing another soul.  Sure, I would see my Love, but sometimes I’d go a week at a time without leaving the house.

And I started thinking these thoughts.  Ugly thoughts.

Ones like:

I’m not making a difference. 

Would anyone care if I faded into oblivion?

Is this how I want to be remembered?

I was still resentful having to get a job outside the house, though.  I wanted to create.

Is it possible to want something that deep-down you know is probably not that good for you?

As I settled into teaching little souls – in the middle of the school year, no less – my heart began to flutter.

I was having fun.

Suddenly, I felt loved and wanted and appreciated by my colleagues and valued in the teaching I was doing.

I began creating dynamic, visually appealing units.  I sang off key crazy songs in Spanish and danced like I knew the tango.  I ate like I was eating tacos for the first time.

When the end of the school year approached, I had not one, not five, but classrooms full of parents coming up to me, telling me what a difference I’d made in their child’s life.  I received requests to work with them over the summer.

And so, in retrospect, I found my calling.  It’s something I’ve been doing the past seven years, but hadn’t quite been in the environment that would help me flourish with the gifts I have to bring the world.

black line

So If You’re Wanting To Create and Shape Your Own Life…

My best advice is go for it:

  • Even if you don’t know exactly what it is: keep going.  I didn’t know, but I plodded ahead anyways.
  • Give yourself permission to experiment.  To change.  To try new things.  I have three websites as evidence of me trying different things.
  • Listen to what “everyone” tells you.  They might be on to something.  All my life “everyone” has been telling me that I need to teach.  For awhile I ignored them while I tried different things.  That’s okay – it made me come full circle to realize they were right.
  • You won’t always know your path, but when you look back, it’ll tell you where you were going.  And use that to move ahead.

 

black line

Here’s a quote from the Daily Guru:

If you see your path laid out in front of you — Step one, Step two, Step three — you only know one thing… it is not your path. Your path is created in the moment of action. If you can see it laid out in front of you, you can be sure it is someone else’s path. That is why you see it so clearly.

— Joseph Campbell

Oh and if you’re thinking that I might be giving up blogging: fat chance.  This has become part of who I am.

My outlet, my release.

I initially went into this to make a little money, realized that I’m not (it’s the niche blogs that do, and I so can’t do that), but found far-better benefits to blogging than just some sort of monetary thing.

  • I’d like to think I was making a difference somehow…
  • I’ve met people from all over the world
  • Writing is cathartic
  • The things I read on other blogs inspire me, too
  • I use this as a record of my journey
  • I can’t wait to see where I’ll go…teaching, blogging and otherwise…
  • I still create and expand my mind

And I stepped out in search of an autonomous, creative life.  

You know what?  I found it.  

In the form of teaching and bringing my gifts into focus with my students. I found it in this blog, interacting with beautiful, wonderful souls from all over the world.  

This is not to say that my journey won’t continue changing.  I give myself permission to grow, to change and to have the grace to go where I’m needed and accept my challenges with dignity and humility.

Do you give yourself permission to do the same?

I hope so.

And before I sign off, please, if you haven’t done so, enter my artwork giveaway.  It ends tomorrow.