The Millennial Salon: Art by Cody Moreno

As a musician and a writer, I have always been envious of visual artists.  Their ability to see- to really see- the world around them and creatively translate that to paper seems magical to me. Cody’s talent is so evident in these drawings.  Take a look at his fabulous work and contact him with any commission ideas with the links below!   – Taylor

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10168351_802709633072878_4415888_nCody Moreno is a self taught artist. He lives in Orange County, CA. He enjoys hiking, surfing, Disneyland and drawing. He specializes in Pen and acrylic paint. If you would like to contact him for any prints of the pictures you see above or commission him on anything you would like you can email him at Cody.Montana.Moreno@gmail.com or visit his facebook site at Facebook.com/codymorenosart

The Millennial Salon: “Stay Vital” by Sara Marie Paye

I happen to believe the magic of the artist is the ability to turn difficult life experiences, A.K.A. “The REAL Stuff”, into beautiful art.  Purpose from the pain, beauty from the ashes.  Sara uses beautiful, poetic writing to describe her experience in a psychiatric ward.  Her authenticity combines with her creativity and the result is the stunning “Stay Vital”.  Sara’s writing inspires me: not only to be more creative, but also to be more vulnerable.  Enjoy, then check out Sara’s Tumblr linked below for more!  -Taylor

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Stay Vital

by Sara Marie Paye

In line for examination, I jump excitedly. Vitals, my favorite part of the day. Staunch nurses look at digits and scribble in files. Who, at such a time as this, could be more alive than me? I am the sun and my potential is eminent.

I see the television room, full of patients, from my throne of faux-leather and metal. I sit, strapped in. Velcro bands tighten around my left bicep and lifeblood pulses through my body, full of manic adrenaline. A bionic clip attaches to my right pointer finger and glows eery red, testing oxygen levels that leak ghostlike through my pores. My lungs breathe silent, but strong. Pharisees see a deranged extra-terrestrial, though my vitals display perfection. If I weren’t tied down, I would float. The assessor, a dinosaur wearing a white jacket, asks if I’m even alive.

Seated, regally, smiling. I live. More than ever before. The numbers say so. And I calculate 22.5678 years of success. It is my answer. It is August. The month of broad, warm, zephyr strokes. I am enveloped in the unknown and I am genius. I ensue, indispensible. My eyes dart to targets of empathy and wrath. I believe, for a fleeting moment, that I prevail a god; Athena, Nike, Aphrodite, or Ra. Perhaps the Son Himself. I am heat, radiating with gleams of iridescent energy.

A young soldier asks me to light his horse cigarette. I say I’ve never done this before. He says, use your power.”

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10148360_10152696463924377_837066047_oSara Marie Paye lives in Azusa, California and is studying to be a Special Educator or School Counselor. She loves people and places, no matter who or where.

You can find more of her writing, etc. on http://sirenssighandvoiceslift.tumblr.com/.

 

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Photo: Lubbock Heart Hospital, Dec 16-17, 2005

An Open Letter to My Little Brother on His 19th Birthday: A Document of Embarrassing Musings

Dear Wyatt,

Yesterday was your 19th birthday and I wanted to commemorate that momentous occasion with an open letter to you, my little bro.

You have been my best buddy since the day you were born.

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Ok, are you laughing as much as I am right now?!  Good. We both know that’s a bold lie.

As the only child and only grandchild in our family for four years, I was used to having all the attention and being the Queen of the Universe.  Then you.  You came and stole my spotlight, you Glory-Stealer!  As they brought you into the house for the first time, I found myself bawling hysterically and screaming: “GOD, NO! WHY?!  WHY ME?!  SEND HIM BACK!  GOD, HELP ME! FOR THE LOVE, WILL SOMEBODY TELL ME WHHHYYYYY?!” Every cunning 4-year-old knows that if you want something done, you have to do it yourself.  And, if possible, you should find a way to profit while you’re at it.

So I sold you.

Multiple times.  Successfully.  To family members.  I would strike a good bargain:

$1 for the boy baby, $2 and I’ll throw in his diaper bag!  This amazing deal won’t last long! One good healthy baby boy and his brand new shiny diaper bag… going once… going twice… SOLD to that gentlemen I call “Grandpa”!  Congratulations on your new purchase!

I’d collect my dollar bills and walk with my head held high to our car to leave for the night… just me and Mom and Dad. To my bewilderment, time and time again, you’d be cooing away in that carseat of yours ready to come home with us!  That dumb diaper bag would be there too! This was not going according to plan.

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After months of selling you to no avail, I decided to move on to “Plan B.”  If you were going to stick around, I might as well take full advantage of the situation.  I could have my own live-action baby doll!  You weren’t just another lame Cabbage Patch doll.  You were a real boy!  So I dressed you up in girl’s clothes, obviously.  I involved you in all my crazy imaginative exploits: sometimes you were the starving child and I the beggar mother surviving on nothing but cheez-its.

Then you started growing up and had the power to reject my play ideas.  So I proceeded to lock you in closets.  Punishment fitting of the crime.  You started talking back and telling Mom and Dad of all the “supposedly evil” things I was doing to you.  Suddenly, I knew I had met my match.  The Good Lord sent me a lesson in the shape of a human man-child.

Eventually, I came around and realized that you weren’t all that bad.  In fact, you were pretty rad… for a boy.  You were really sweet, and you were actually pretty funny and would help me plan attacks against the Parental Units.  We became the united front against Mom and Dad, which was way cooler than I ever expected.

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We became buddies.  Mostly because you softened me.  You were the first person to teach me what friendship means.  Friendship is a combination of sacrificing what you think you want and gaining what you actually need.  I thought I wanted to be the center of our family’s attention.  What I actually needed was a funny buddy to go through my life with.

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So we grew up.  We were secret-sharers, storytellers, and inappropriate joke makers.  We played music together and watched movies together.  We screamed at each other and fought like cats and dogs.  We fought fiercely with each other and fiercely for each other.  We were siblings to the fullest.

Somehow we became adults.  Somehow you became a “little” brother who towers over his “big” sister. Somehow we got to the point where we sat on the carpet in the hallway and you gave me the best advice and encouragement to help me get through a divorce.  How did that little baby boy become the man who helped me through the hardest season of my life?

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You are a good man, little brother.  You are doing great things.  You are insanely talented.  And on your birthday, I want you to know that I am proud of you.  So very proud.

Love always Wy-Wee,

Your Big Sister.

P.S.  You suck. 

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The Millennial Salon: Bethany Paige Photography

I have a deep appreciation for good photography.  Pictures capture so beautifully the things we wish our brains could remember so clearly.  Bethany’s photography is truly lovely. She’s a storyteller. The way she sees the world through her camera inspires me – fitting as her motto is “Inspired to Inspire.”  May these photos inspire you as well!  Follow her links on the bottom of the post to keep up with her work or to contact her for a session.  -Taylor

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View More: http://theinterns.pass.us/behindthescenesBethany is passionate not only about photography, but also people. Her mission is to inspire people to live out their passions and live life to the fullest while using her instrument; a camera. Starting wedding photography at just 16, she learned all the places her camera could take her. The Las Vegas native started Bethany Paige Photography at the age of 18 and hasn’t looked back since. Bethany specializes in “Personalized Sessions”. Her goal is for every portrait session, to have a different look. From a high school senior to a couple in love to even a family of 5, turning clients into friends is the best part of her job.

LINKS
Instagram: @BethanyPaigephoto

Where Is God on a Sunday?

Everything I’ve ever read has told bloggers not to bother blogging on a Sunday.  Nobody reads Sunday blogs, apparently.  I have something to say on this Sunday, however, so I will keep it short and sweet.

This popped up on my Twitter feed this morning:

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God is not confined to four walls and a stained glass window.  God is in churches, of course.  But God is also found in homes, stores, parks, bars, nature hikes, restaurants, and hospitals.

Where people are, God is there as well.

Where nature is, God is there as well.

Where life can be found, God can be found.

So I agree with this prominent pastor, May God’s presence surround you today!  If you find God in a church this morning, soak in that Love!  But if you find God elsewhere, soak in that Love! Or if you’re not sure if there even is a God, soak yourself in Love anyway!

Where is God on a Sunday?  With you.  With me.  With the brokenhearted, with the happy.  In America with churches, in countries without churches.  With women.  With men.  With children.

Where is God on a Sunday?  With us.

I Want To Be Soft, Not Delicate

The Good Lord only knows why I continue to buy “wash by hand” clothing.  There is essentially nothing I hate more than washing these delicate clothes by hand. There’s all this standing by the sink and cleaning and rinsing and ringing out and way too much work happening for a t-shirt.  So I don’t.  And the delicates pile up in my laundry hamper.  At all times, the bottom half of my laundry hamper is comprised of “wash by hand” clothes that I haven’t washed in 13 months.  Inevitably, I must wear one of these delicate articles of clothing tucked in the bottom of my hamper. Instead of washing it in the sink like a civilized grown-up, I throw it in the washing machine…of course.  And it shrinks…of course. 

On the other hand, I should buy more sweatpants.  We should all buy more sweatpants. The world should buy more sweatpants.  Those suckers get better with each visit to the washing machine.  They get softer.  Squishier and more comfy.  They visit the washing machine, get beat up and come out softer than ever.

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There’s a world of difference between delicate and soft.

The world typically tells me, a woman, to be delicate or to be hard.

One side of the tracks screams: “You are a rose, find a man to protect you, be meek and submissive, women should be sheltered and kept, women are incomplete without a mate, dumb it down so they’ll like you.”

The other side screams: “Life will beat you down, so beat it first.  Crush your competition.  Get to the top and stay at the top.  Hate men; they are the heart of your problems.  Be bitchy or manipulative if you have to be.  Stick to your guns, step on the little people.  Do anything to get ahead”

I’m not a fan of delicate. I am a strong woman, educated and deep.

I’m not a fan of hard.  I am a human being, feeling and thinking.

One of my favorite quotes comes from the author Kurt Vonnegut:

“Be soft. Do not let the world make you hard. Do not let pain make you hate. Do not let the bitterness steal your sweetness. Take pride that even though the rest of the world may disagree, you still believe it to be a beautiful place.”

Soft.  I want to be soft.  I know without any shadow of doubt that my life will be hard.  It is the human condition.  Pain, fear, suffering, loss, rejection – these things will happen. And then happen again.  They will happen to me. They will happen to you.  Life is hard, so I want to be soft.  Flexible.  Open and squishy and warm.  I want to look at the world and say with confidence “You are a beautiful place.  Beautiful things do not always occur here, but this is still a beautiful world.”

I don’t want to be delicate.  I don’t want to shatter when I’m dropped.  And I will be dropped.  And then I’ll be dropped again.  When I’m soft, the impact on collision may leave me bruised, but it won’t leave me broken.  I want to handle the beating and come out soft and warm without any shrinking.  I want to expand and fill up my space in the world, not shrink.

Women are not naturally delicate.  We are not the weaker sex.   We don’t have “special care” instructions in order not to shrink or break or crumble.  We are strong.  We are capable.  Full of substance.  But that doesn’t mean we have to be hard and callous.

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There is a middle ground.  Softness.  Bitterness is not welcome, but neither is feebleness. Hate is not tolerated, but tolerance must come with healthy boundaries.  Sweetness is preferred, beauty is appreciated, and reality is acknowledged.

So next time you do laundry, think of me.  Think of my aversion to washing my delicates by hand; think of my ability to over-analyze life’s most mundane tasks into entire blog posts.  And remember to stay soft.

And buy more sweatpants.

The Millennial Salon: Art by Heather Farias

Heather is not only an amazing artist, but also an amazing person.  She is brave and kind, funny and creative.  Her strengths shine through her marvelous work.  Check out these drawings, follow Heather on Instagram to keep up with her work, and email her with all your brilliant commission ideas – Taylor

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image 2“Feisty pants”

image 4“Flowers in her hair and trouble in her eyes”

image 3“Dinotomic’s Eye”

image“Fire and Ice”

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image 5Heather Farias is a self taught artist. She lives in Las Vegas, NV with her husband and three children.  In her spare time she enjoys yoga, reading and reality TV.  She specializes in graphite and colored pencil art with an emphasis on portraits, cartoons, animals and nature.

You can find her art gallery on Instagram @thefariasfive

For inquiries and commissions email Heather at: 
the.farias.four@gmail.com

When Prayer Looks A Lot Like Walking The Dog

Each morning I have been waking up 30 minutes early to get in a quick workout and to walk the dog around the neighborhood.  This is both good and miserable.  I would like to tell you that my motives are pure and honorable, but I really just want to look good in sundresses and a bikini this summer.

When I do my little workout video on YouTube my mind is full of thoughts such as: “My muscles are going to burn right off!” and “I might not survive this one!” and “I see a light!”.  And many other realistic, not overly exaggerated musings.

Then I  walk the dog and my mind clears.  I would have 10 or 15 minutes of solitude and time to think about whatever I wanted.   So I decided to use that time to pray.

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I grew up going to prayer meetings.  Lots of praying happened during Sunday service and Wednesday service.  Lots of praying happened before meals, before bed and before sporting events. Since I was very involved in producing church services, I was also intimately aware of the common occurrence of using prayer as a “transition”.  If somebody prays while the band leaves and the pastor steps up to the pulpit, an audience with eyes closed and head bowed misses the messy, awkward transition on the stage.  Prayer was forced to me. Prayer had become to me a medium of one-sided conversation that was honestly mechanical and trite.  I prayed because I should pray.  I prayed because that’s what I was supposed to do.

I prayed in very specific ways.  The words changed from prayer to prayer, but the form stayed the same.  They sounded like everyone else’s prayers.  Which was good, because when somebody calls on you to pray in a group setting, it better sound “right”.   It better have a beginning, middle, and end with plenty of words that make you sound spiritual!  Except, praying the way I thought I should pray did no service to me or my spirituality.  It just made me another robot in a trail of robotic ritual and I got nothing out of it other than the ability to check off a box.

I stopped consciously praying for a while because I wanted to deprogram the “should”s and “supposed to”s.   I stopped trying to communicate in forced ways and began to just listen in natural ways.  During this time, I realized that I could “hear” God in the unconventional.  In laughter, in cries, in the blurry voices of a family talking at the same time, in music, in poetry, in jokes, in the voices of children and in the sound of the wind.  All of these things are holy and special and ordinary all at the same time.

I wanted my prayers to be holy and special and ordinary all at the same time. So I begin talking to God as I walked my dog.

My prayers don’t necessarily look like a Christian’s prayers.

My prayers don’t necessarily look like a Buddhist’s or a Muslim’s or a Yogi’s or a Jew’s prayers.

My prayers look like… well… a Taylor’s prayers.

A Taylor in mismatched sweats and no makeup.  Thinking things like: “I want my life to be significant.  I want to contribute and leave something that wasn’t there before.  I want to dream and I don’t know where to begin.”  Or “That sunrise is gorgeous.  Thank you for color”  Or “Dang, my dog is cute, huh?”

And I walk.  And I think.  And I throw in a “Why did that one situation happen? It just sucked. It just freaking sucked.”

And I walk.  And I breathe. And I throw in a “That one person is really difficult.  I don’t want to be nice.  I want to avoid her.”

And I walk.  And I listen.  To silence, to birds, to the click of my dog’s steps, to cars rushing to early morning jobs, to kids laughing as they walk to school.  And I throw in a “How do you find peace?”

And I walk.  And I observe.  And I throw in a “Blue flowers.  Blue flowers are so beautiful”

And I walk.  And I talk.  To my dog who is suddenly terrified at the sound of a booming bark from a neighborhood dog.  And I throw in a “I never feel like I am enough.  I know fundamentally that I am enough, but I don’t feel it.  I want to feel like I am enough.”

Nothing follows a pattern.  Nothing rolls to a rhythm.  It’s sporadic and it’s honest.  Honest to the point of expressing my anger and frustration.

It is just my mind.  My mind communicating to God.  With pauses to notice the world around me with wonder.  With pauses enough to pay attention.

Praying changes me.  Praying calms me and focuses me.  But prayer isn’t a magical potion to tip the odds in my favor.  I don’t pray to win the game; I pray so I can be a person who is kind and content whether I win or lose.  I don’t pray to get the job; I pray so I can be a person who can handle both success and failure.  I don’t pray so all the bad situations go away; I pray so I can be a person who uses my mind and my heart to fix the bad situations I can fix and accept the bad situations I cannot fix.

So I walk.  And I reach down to pet the dog.  And I throw in a “I want to be kind today.  I don’t feel warm and squishy today, but I still want to make decisions that are kind to both myself and to those around me.”

I think prayers can still look like a pastor finishing his sermon.  I think prayers can still look like a family bowing their heads before a meal or kneeling by the bed at night.

I just also think that prayer can look a lot like walking the dog.

The Millennial Salon: “Math Problems”, a Poem by Devon Halvorson

“Math Problems” has deeply touched me since the moment I first read it.  Do yourself a favor and take a moment to read this beautifully raw poem . – Taylor

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Math Problems by Devon Halvorson

I failed every math class I ever took at least once
Mrs. Alexander scoffed
She wrote me off
As one of those hoodrat kids
Who only liked making trouble
Whose mother was an alcoholic
Whose father had too much on his plate
Whose sister was captain of the cheer squad
Whose brother got expelled for fighting

She just never knew
The reason I don’t care what the value of x is
I have tasted the value of despair
Drank the value of sorrow
Kissed the value of wonder
Fought the value of misery

Tell me one thing the square root of sixty-four ever did for me
That the square root of love couldn’t do a thousand times more

Mrs. Alexander, how many times 12 goes into 144 is not a division problem

The woman who raised me
Lying in a pool of her own blood
Beaten senseless by a man she loved
While my sister locks herself in a room crying
And my brother and I stay up all night checking mum’s pulse
And I have to go to school the next day and answer your questions
While my heart aches
And my family is being torn apart
And my mother is killing herself

That’s a division problem.

And 56-18 is not subtraction.

The day I had to leave my home
For the rustling in my bones proved too much
To hold my body in one place
And I lost my sanity
Traveling alone down the west coast
Living without a home
Without money
or any of my old friends
All on my own

Mrs. Alexander, that is subtraction.

And God forbid I neglect your precious statistics

For the greatest risk I ever took was falling in love
Lord knows how that turned out
The first time I closed my eyes and threw the dice
You want to talk about balance of probability?
Imagine, your fifth hour troublemaker
With the fighter for a brother
The princess for a sister
And the shadow of a mother
Taking a chance on love
After having his heart crushed two times two times
Who goes back for number five?

It’s not a math class that defines our lives.

It’s the way we look at the numbers and against all odds, say, “I am more than the sum of my parts.”

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Devon FaceDevon Halvorson is 22 and currently working full-time at a Christian youth camp in Prescott, AZ. Though Prescott may be home for now, he loves to travel all around the world and often dreams of becoming a full-time missionary anywhere the Lord will take him. Devon is a big brother to four awesome siblings a roommate to two of his best friends, and a boyfriend to a fantastic woman named Brooke. When he’s not busy working at camp or writing poetry, he can probably be found at the movie theater, enjoying nature, or wishing he was at Disneyland. Devon is currently seeking a career in writing and hopes to someday write, direct, and act in a film for Hollywood.

His personal poetry blog can be found at www.devonhalvorson.tumblr.com.

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Photo © 2010 J. Ronald Lee

Choppy Waters: Finding Stillness In My Mind

Well-being of mind is like a mountain lake without ripples.  When the lake has no ripples, everything in the lake can be seen.  When the water is all churned up, nothing can be seen.  The still lake without ripples is an image of our minds at ease, so full of unlimited friendliness for all the junk at the bottom of the lake that we don’t feel the need to churn up the waters just to avoid looking at what’s there.

Pema Chodron (When Things Fall Apart)

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All my life I have been an expert churner.  I could churn the waters of my mind so adeptly that I never had any ability to see what was really lying beneath all the choppy water.  Any time the choppy waters eased into steady ripples, I would hurriedly begin my churning again.

My churning methods were various throughout the years.  A common one was finding a needy person and filling every second with fixing their problems.  Unfortunately, my fixing abilities were not as masterful as my churning abilities.  My fixing, to my bewilderment, would always look more like enabling really unhealthy behaviors.

Another common churning method was perfectionism/people-pleasing.  Busying myself with saying “yes” when I wanted to say “no”; and saying “no” when I wanted to say “yes”.

My methods went on and on throughout the years.  Stuffing my face with food, exercising compulsively, shopping frantically – because what else can hide what’s REALLY going on better than a new pair of killer shoes?

I lived in perpetual denial.  Perpetually denying that there was anything underneath my choppy waters.  No dead fish.  No sharp rocks.  No garbage.  No decaying carcass.  No non-biodegradable plastic.

I did not wake myself up from my denial.  The catastrophic mess that was 2013 woke me up from my denial.  I did choose, however, to stay awake.

My mind, my heart, my hands, my body, my emotions, my every-fiber-of-my-being was exhausted.  I had been in the height of my pretending and of my “fixing” others.  I had reached the peak.  The peak was so narrow and so sharp; my only choice was to fall.  So I let go.  I plummeted.  I divorced the man I married at the age of 19.  A former Pastor’s Wife was now divorced.  I could not fool anybody anymore.  The world knew my name had now changed twice.  I no longer felt that I had to be anybody I was not.  The cat was out of the bag.

While I was busy letting go and plummeting off My Peak of Codependency and Perfectionism, I stopped churning.  I allowed the lake of my mind to still.  And I summoned all my bravery, stepped to the edge of that lake and peered in.

I saw things I did not like.  I saw things I did not want.  I saw things I had repressed.  I saw things I was embarrassed of.  I saw things I never anticipated, and I saw some things that I had anticipated.

I decided to look at them without judging them.  I decided to look at them with friendliness. I stared at my tendency to busy myself by shopping.  Instead of calling myself a vain, materialistic failure, I thought through how to be able to enjoy shopping without using it as a numbing technique.  I examined my tendency to allow people to walk all over me.  Instead of calling myself a weak nobody, I thought through how to be able to be a kind, generous person with healthy boundaries.

I gifted myself with awareness.  No more churning led to an awareness of my life.  Awareness is empowerment.  Being aware of junk allows me to start dealing with the junk.  Being aware that I can not only survive, but also thrive even with the knowledge of my own “junkiness’, allows me to be kinder to myself.  It also allows me to be kinder to others: both to those who are expert churners and also to those who refuse to churn and show the world the junk at the bottom of their lakes.

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My life is now a still lake.  You can step up to the edge and take a peak if you would like.  The waters are clear enough to see what is really going on.  You will see things may be scary, possibly offensive, and definitely crazy.  But there may be one less dead fish than there was yesterday.

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The first step toward personal freedom is awareness.  We need to be aware that we are not free in order to be free.  We need to be aware of what the problem is in order to solve the problem.  Awareness is always the first step because if you are not aware, there is nothing you can change.  If you are not aware that your mind is full of wounds and emotional poison, you cannot begin to clean and heal the wounds and you will continue to suffer.

-       Don Miguel Ruiz (The Four Agreements)

Image: Choppy Water