Engagement Shoot by Dayna M Photography

Sam and I are SO lucky to be able to work with Dayna Hoyt to do our engagement shoot a couple weeks ago.  We were looking for an urban vibe, some places that would highlight our personalities and make use of all the amazing areas in our neighborhood.  We started at the Krog Street Tunnel with its awesome graffiti.  We stopped back by home to take advantage of the spring flowers blooming near Grant Park, and then finished up at Crossfit Downtown Atlanta.  We met at the gym, so we figured it was only fitting to take some fun shots there as well.

These turned out so great that now I cannot WAIT to see how the wedding photos will be!

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2014, Part II

I know, I know.  January is almost over.  I shouldn’t still be thinking about New Years Resolutions.  Well, starting them, anyway.  I’m sure plenty of people have already both started and stopped thinking about theirs, but that’s not really what I mean.  So yes, I’m still thinking about mine.  “Resolutions.”  Not really the right word, but we’ll use it anyway.

I wanted to talk a little bit more about how I decide what serves me and what doesn’t.  These realizations were a long time in coming, are still evolving, and probably will always be.  Honestly, what I have to say might piss some people off.  You might think, “Ugh! Heathen!”  or “How could you possibly believe that?”  That’s ok.  I would have thought that, too, before I started down this journey.  You don’t have to agree with me.  It’s perfectly fine if you don’t.

I no longer believe in right or wrong.

No should or shouldn’t.

Good or bad.

All of these words are definitive.  You have to pick a side.  There’s no fluidity, no movement, no room for free thought or changing your mind.  They are claustrophobic, requiring you to slam your fist on the table saying, “I am right!”

Right compared to what?  And right for whom?  And why?

Makes you stop and think, right?

Exactly.

Then there was the discovery of dialectics.  What does that mean, exactly?  Dialectical Behavioral Therapy defines dialects as “two seemingly opposite things can be true at the same time.”  For example, “I am doing the absolute best that I can at every moment, and yet there is always room for improvement.”  Seems like one cannot be true if the other is true, but that’s not the case.

We get so entangled with being “good’ or “bad” and doing something that’s “right” or “wrong” that we forget to think about what those words mean to US.  There is no thinking.  There is rule following.

I say enough with the rule following.  So what do I believe?  What feels true for ME?  I get to decide.  I no longer need to rely on anyone else’s opinion, nobody’s man-created dogma to tell me what I should or should not do, think, believe, read, or write.

Instead of using the black and what words, I use “effective” and “ineffective.”

Let’s look at this a little closer.  If you do something “wrong,” there’s the end of the thought, right there.  “What I did was wrong.”  Period.  (Although you can insert some unnecessary guilt here, most likely).  Rephrased using my new words “What I did was ineffective.”  That’s an open ended statement, ready for thought, mulling-over, and self-discovery.  “What was my action ineffective at reaching?  What was I trying to accomplish?  What can I do better next time?  Is there a different way to do it? What was my GOAL in the first place?”

Using the words “effective” and “ineffective” requires you to make goals.  It requires you to look ahead, to be aware of the whole of it,  not just the minute details.  It requires you to use your own thought power to be in control of your own life.  It can be as simple as “my sleeping late was ineffective towards my goal of taking my time getting ready and having a relaxing morning.”  It automatically sets you up for making a different choice next time.  (Note I said “different’ not “better”).  “I should have gotten up earlier” and “Sleeping in was bad” do not automatically offer the same direction.  See the difference.  Labeling something as effective or ineffective automatically sets up the question “towards what?”  That’s where growing happens.

Nobody likes to be wrong.  That’s where guilt and anger and defensiveness come in.  Negative feelings. (Ain’t nobody got time for that).  You have to work really super hard to get a positive from a negative.  Nobody wants to guilt themselves in to making better choices.  There’s enough guilt in the world already– don’t add it on yourself!  (Note: there is often good cause for guilt, when it is EFFECTIVE as a learning tool, but most of the guilt we feel is unwarranted).

I hope that this post made some sense.  It was a concept that took me a long time to digest and implement, and I’m still learning how to do it.  I promise, though, if you really make an effort to change your thinking and try this concept, you will notice positive changes.  I promise.  I was the queen of self-criticism and self-shaming for doing things “wrong.”  Once I discovered that those black and whites just do not exist, a whole new world opened up.  One where I set goals and work for them and I do not get punished for not meeting standards.  I AM the standard.  I get to decide.

Yes, there are social standards and laws, but more than likely, your goals will line up with the big ones.  For example, if my goal is to not end up in prison, shooting someone would be ineffective towards that goal.  If I really want to go to prison, though, shooting someone would be a highly effective way to achieve that goal.  See?  Perspective.  The decisions is yours.

Everything in life is a continuum.  Do not sell yourself short by blindly following rules that were handed to you by someone else.  Set goals.  Reach them.  Your life is your own, and it’s up to you to decide how to live it.

whisper

2014, Part I

I’m not alone in spending some time thinking about what this year might bring.  It’s a common thing to do, feeling a sense of renewal in knowing there’s a brand new year spread before me.  Looking at the beginning of a calendar year, 12 blank months on which will be written another year of my life.  It just makes sense that we’d use this turn of time to start some new things and end others.  I have a very different outlook on it this year, though.  The last half of last year was so difficult for me, and it ended in the loss of my father.  My world was turned, ever so slightly, on its axis.  No doubt the seasons of my life will be a bit different from here on out.  The tides will move a little differently. 

It’s interesting, though, how it’s all happened.  I’ve been on a path trying to better myself, to learn to solve my own problems, to live wholeheartedly in a world where I often feel like I don’t fit.  I have done some gut-wrenching soul searching in the last couple years.  I’ve paid a lot of money to an absolutely incredible therapist who has so patiently listened as I ironed out some wrinkles.  I can say with absolute conviction that through my hard work, I have absolutely changed my life.  There are no two ways about it.  I am not the same person as I was when I came home from grad school.  No, I am not.  I’ve worked hard on a lot of things:  not caring about what people think about me, separating who I am from what I do, not giving two shits about what size jeans I wear or what size anyone else wears, not giving myself a hard time when I’m not immediately the best at everything… the list goes on.  The interesting thing is, though, that although I understood all of it logically in my head, there were some things that had yet to manifest themselves in my heart.  And then my father died.  That single event catapulted me into a very different place.  A wonderful place.  Many of the areas I was struggling to fully incorporate into my life, to truly understand with my heart, were suddenly there.  I can’t explain it any more than that.  It just happened.  I’m sure it doesn’t happen that way for everyone, but for me, it did.  And as always, when I start to come out on the other side of the fire, the pain, the struggle, I find myself thankful.  I miss my dad every day, and yet I’m so thankful that I have had this opportunity to learn and let my heart continue to absorb the truth for which it continually yearns.  I would have picked to learn it a different way, but maybe my soul had different plans for me before I started this life this time around.  We choose how we respond.  I choose to grow.

All of that was preface to explain my take on this new year before me.  This year, without a doubt, has the potential to be the most different and wildly wonderful year of my twenty-nine.  Most of my New Years Resolutions in the past have been elaborate check lists, spreadsheets of material things I’d accomplish.  Not so this year.  I’ve learned that life is more than a series of check boxes to check at the end of every day.  Success and failure do not depend on checks in any boxes.  Sure, I’d like to drink more water and contribute more to my 401k.  And I probably will.  But that does not a successful year make.

So what are my goals for this year?

1.  Get rid of the things in my life that do not serve me and add to my happiness.

2.  Focus and spend time on people and things that do.

That’s it.  And the best part is that I get to decide.  No one can tell me what serves me and what does, what should and shouldn’t.  That’s where the Part II of this will come in, but that’s for later.  

So this year, if something doesn’t feel good, I’m not going to do it.  If someone’s company leads me to feel poorly about myself or other people, I’ll choose to spend my time elsewhere.  If a blog or an article gets me all riled up for no reason, I’m unsubscribing.  If something brings me peace, feels good, if I enjoy someone’s company, if it adds to my life in any way, that’s what I’m going to focus on.  It’s really as simple as that.  No guilt over what I let go.  Just a continuous journey towards peace and truth.  It won’t be easy, for sure.  Nor will it always be seamless.  I’ll still get mad (and I can get REAL mad).  But hopefully with these goals at the forefront of my mind, I can guide myself towards a life I’m content to live.

I’ve felt very drawn lately to start writing more often, and more of what I actually think and believe.  It will more than likely piss people off.  It might make you uncomfortable.  But my truth is my truth, and I’m going to share it.  

So, everyone, I hope that 2014 is a peaceful blessing in your life.  I challenge you to make it that way.

Dear Dad,

Today you’ve been gone almost a month.  How is that possible?  How has it been that long since I’ve talked to you, since I’ve called you on my way to work?  Sometimes I still can’t quite believe it.
 
I’ve had some hard days missing you, Dad.  Some days I’m okay, I can think of you and it doesn’t tear me apart.  There are other days, though, where I get home from work and just cry because it hurts and I miss you and there is nothing in the world I can do to change it.  I feel powerless and vulnerable.  One day last week I sat on the couch with your electric drill in my lap.  It was the only thing I had of yours near me, and I held it like you would a stuffed animal or a blanket.  I’m sure I must have looked ridiculous, but I don’t really care.
 
Really though, Dad, I think I’ve done a much better job at taking care of myself than I would have been able to do a year or so ago.  It’s amazing the timing on all of this.  I don’t think that I’ve learned and grown and changed BECAUSE you were going to die, but all of that has PREPARED me to deal with it better.  It’s not the end of everything, Dad, but it’s a change that’s altered me significantly, and I have the tools I need to handle it.  I can’t help but wonder how this is going to change me overall and how I’m going to make my life ultimately better for it.
 
You wanna know what I’ve learned in the last few weeks, Dad?  Life is too short and too unpredictable to spend time being unhappy.  If I’ve learned anything at all, it’s that in reality, all that matters at all is the joy you experience and the people you share it with.  That’s it.
 
That’s what we remember about you that makes the loss easier to bear.  When we were happy together.  And there were lots of those times, Dad.
 
There’s lots of things that we spend time focusing on that don’t need near the importance that we give them.  Not money, not jobs, being thinner than who-gives-a-crap-who, not anything like that.  Do what makes you happy and do it with people you love.
 
I’ve decided I’m going to spend more time reading books I want to read, magazines I enjoy, I’m going to sew, knit, watch movies and spend time with Sam, get my nails done and go shopping with mom, keep in touch with and spend time with my other friends, work out when I want to, sleep when I want to, plan and go on vacations, take days off just because, watch Friends while I go to sleep at night… those are things that make me happy.  I’m going to do them, and every day.  Work is going to fund them and a place where I enjoy being, but it is not the be-all-end-all of my life, and neither is the money I make.  I am going to be responsible with my money and save for the future, but I will not worry about it every day.  It just doesn’t matter that much, does it, Dad?
 
I’m realizing that I can be so sad that I cannot stand it AND look forward to the rest of my life at the same time.  Never realized that you could really feel multiple emotions at the same time, but you can.  That’s a nice thing.
 
I love you, Dad, and I miss you even more.
 
Love,
Me

Happy Thanksgiving, Dad

Dear Dad,

Today you have been gone one week. You died in your sleep seven nights ago. My daddy has been dead for seven days.

Today is also Thanksgiving Day. I’m spending it with Sam’s family, up in Tennessee, and it’s been a good day. I’ve enjoyed myself and I’m glad I came. They are so nice, Dad, you’d like them a lot. I like it here. I love Sam, Dad. I only wish that you could have had a chance to love him, too. I know you would have.

A few minutes ago I had the brief thought that I should go check my phone because I haven’t heard from you today. You might have sent me a text. Then I remembered. It’s like that, Dad, it hits me again when I’m least expecting it. In the middle of a conversation, riding in the car, while of chewing a bite food. In the middle of the night, when I wake up with tears on my face and my pillow is damp. I’ve been dreaming about you, I know, but I don’t know exactly how or what. I’ve been taking Tylenol PM so I sleep, and deeply, but even in that deep sleep, I’m sad.

I have never been sad on Thanksgiving before, Dad, but I am today. It’s a different kind of sad now, just a little. I told myself it’s ok to take a break from the body-wracking kind of crying I have been experiencing. The kind that tears you up from inside, that makes your muscles tense up, where you have to throw your head back and gasp for breath, writhing in a pain you can’t touch, breathing in the tears smeared across your face. The kind where you hear the primal, guttural sounds that you can only assume must be coming from you. The kind that leaves you breathless and exhausted. It’s ugly crying. I can’t keep that up much longer, Dad. I’m sure it will still come like that, but not nightly, not every time I take a shower and I know the sound of water will cover the sound of my missing you.

Today, it was different. It’s settled inside me now. I never knew sadness could do that, Dad. I didn’t realize it covered your heart like a blanket, seeped into every part of you, your head, your stomach, even into your fingers. It’s not overpowering today, but it’s still there. It doesn’t leave. Under the happiness I’ve felt, under the laughter at the dinner table, under the childish joy of watching the parade, it’s there. It’s an ache, Dad. My heart aches for you, knowing I won’t see you again, knowing I can’t call and say happy Thanksgiving, just missing you in ways I didn’t expect. That ache is there all the time. Even when I’m not actively sad or crying, I’m conscious of it. Every other thought is you. I need to write out my Christmas cards. My dad is dead. This pie tastes good. I’ll never see my dad again. Sure, I’d like a drink. My dad is never coming home. I like this movie. Oh my god, Dad, I miss you. That’s how it is.

I’ll be ok, Dad. It’s just going to take some time. I’m afraid that after your funeral, people are going to expect me to be okay, to be back to normal. I can’t do that, though, Dad. Sam said that people can’t expect me to bury my father and just be fine. It doesn’t work like that. I’m going to have to find a new normal. I’m going to cry for a long time. I’m going to remember you when I least expect it. I don’t know how long this will take, how long I’ll cry, or when memories will hit me. I just don’t know. I’m afraid that now that the funeral is over, now the real hard part starts. Now I have to live without you. How do I even think about doing that, Dad? I just don’t know. I don’t know.

So, Happy Thanksgiving, Daddy. I have much to be thankful for. Mom and Matthew and Heather and Pete and Sam, all of the sweet people who sent cards and brought food and tissues and hugs. I have a good job, sweet pets. I know I’m a lucky girl. But oh my God, Dad, I miss you. I’ll be ok. But right now, I’m not yet. I miss you. It’s raw and new and I feel scared and vulnerable and exhausted. I’m so thankful for the 29 years I had with you, even though sometimes you made me so angry. You were human. I know that. And I miss it all.

Happy Thanksgiving, Dad. I love you so much, and I miss you even more.

Love,
Me

Change

I’m sitting in Barnes and Noble for my weekly thinking/reading time and I’m thinking about how my life is different in every way possible than it was even six months ago. Most of these ways a good. Wonderful. Joyous, even. But for someone like me, someone who is thrown into utter chaos when things change, even these beautiful new aspects of life can be overwhelming. I’ve been overwhelmed. My heart bursts with love and gladness, and then at the end of the day, sometimes I stand in the shower and sob, tears mixing with the water, because sometimes that’s easier. Some of the changes are my choosing, and those are easier. But the ones that just affect me, the ones I’m experiencing due to someone else’s change, those are harder. But I get out of the shower and dry my hair and my tears and continue on. There was a time when I wouldn’t have been able to do this at all. Right now, it’s not as graceful as I’d like. I get antsy, agitated, I panic. Most often at things unrelated to the changes. But that’s just how they come out.

But sitting here, and I found myself thinking, my goodness, so much is changing… what a gift I have here. I wonder how I will grow from this. I wonder what I will learn. I will be so much better equipped the next time things change. I know I will survive because I survived before. Actually, you know, I’m overwhelmed in all this, but I’m excited, too. Life is exciting. I can’t wait to see where all this is going.

Where did that come from? It’s not like me to be so optimistic. But there it was. Do you know why? Because somewhere, at some point, I changed. I let the situations I’ve been through change me. For the better.

I didn’t know it happened, but it did. And this time will be no different.

I will be ok. I am always taken care of. And I can choose to rest in the peace of knowing that.

So sure, I might run crying from a workout. I might cry in the shower. I might let things that people say affect me too much. But I will be ok.

I will be ok.