Saturday, October 11, 2008

A Year in Review

If you had been with me on October 11, 2007, you would have more than likely seen a mess. Several events this past week have caused me to think back on where I was a year ago. What was I thinking? What was I doing? What did I value

I feel like I have spent most of this week in my car driving back and forth from place to place. During this time- in order to escape from the everlasting to-do list in my head, the traffic, the phone ringing- I have rolled the windows down, turned up my Brandi Carlisle or Amy Ray and just felt the nature around me. I have noticed a slight chill in the wind, the smell of fall and, you guessed it, the leaves are getting ready to change again. So naturally I would be reminded of last fall. 

Last week, I  was helping a friend through a hard time in her life. As I spoke, I continued to bring up lessons I learned from my "growth pain." These are some of the things I said to her:

1. First and foremost, you must be true to yourself. You cannot be a good wife, mother, daughter, employee, friend, etc if you are not centered. You must know yourself and respect who you have become. 
2. The decisions you make for yourself are exactly that- YOURS. What might be good for someone else, might not be so great for you. This also works for your marriage. There are no two marriages that are just alike. So, why should every marriage adhere to the same values?  
3. Making decisions based on who you are gives you true freedom. When you allow others' actions determine your response, you are bound to those people. Not free.
4. Being committed to your responsibilities determines your character. Do not abandon your responsibilities if your job there is not finished. 
5. When faced with a difficult decision, choose the positive option. Choose the healthier option. 
6. Friends come to us in many different ways. Beauty is having an eclectic group of friends that differ in beliefs, looks, values and style. Once this is realized, life is so much easier to forgive shortcomings and respect others. 
7. While on the subject of respecting others, learn as much as you can from the people that surround you. There is surely something in their life that could be positive and healthy for your life. Unless it is their favorite pair of shoes, I am sure they would love for you to have it. 

This list of life lessons is not exhaustive... exhausting, yes, but not complete. A year is a long time day by day, but when I realize what I have gained over the last twelve months, it seems fairly short. There were some very hurtful and hard times and also some very freeing times. I feel like I have emerged a better person for my faithful and sometimes confused family, my friends (new and old, near and far), my community, my sweet and patient husband, my God and for myself. 

I send blessings of peace and thankfulness to my support system that refused to let me fall down when all I wanted to do was to fall be swallowed by the ground. You know who you are because you are the ones that were the most hurt during those times. All of you have left your mark on my life. I have bloomed into a better person because of all of you.

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Capacity of Love

Here is what I know... There are so many capacities to love. For instance, I have a friend that LOVES love. Perhaps this person is just afraid of not having someone to love, but for the most part, this person loves to love. They feel everything and it is intoxicating to be around them. I also know someone that loves to feel comfortable. NO matter what the sacrifice on their part, they love to, even work to, feel comfortable. Myself, I love to see passion in people. It doesn't take a particular form, but it always feels good to see other's passions unfold in their lives. It makes me happy. (That might be why I want to be a teacher.) In the same sense, it makes me incredibly sad to see people settle. What is better? To feel safe or to hold out for your passion? Feeling safe has its advantages... loneliness is out the window for sure... but is it really? Aren't you always going to be missing some part of your self? I don't know. As for me, I choose to always choose my passion. Even though it might change, even though it might be scary and Uncomfortable, I choose my passion. Every time. No matter what.

Friday, January 4, 2008

My Tattoo

Amy’s Tattoo (also the name of a mixed drink)

For the longest time I have wanted to get a tattoo, but never have. The reasons were as varied as thinking about how I would look when I got older to worrying about what my parents would do to me. There was also the decision about what I would get and where I would have it permanently inked onto my body. There were times, mostly during my college years, that I almost gave in to my fears, but there was always a certain hesitancy that stopped me. Now I know why…

I believe that each person has the opportunity to come to a place in life where they take an inventory of their life, beliefs, loves, hates and everything that has made them who they are up to that point. Not everyone makes the choice to go through this evaluating process, but everyone has the opportunity. If you are reading this, you know me well enough to know what I chose. There is no way possible that I could have chosen to not evaluate who I had become. So I plowed ahead. I need to stop here to say that as I write this I have not completed this self-inventory. I am not sure that I ever will. I certainly hope not. I also need to clarify that I cannot recall a definite time and place where I made the decision to go through this. I just remember it happening very quickly.

The process to date has been going on “full steam ahead” for about two months. It is amazing what you can learn about yourself when you just listen and allow yourself to think… with no limitations, expectations or hesitation. Just be. It is truly exhilarating. Ok… I know that you are reading to know about the tattoo, but you cannot fully understand the depth of the tattoo decision without knowing a little bit of the catalyst for it.

Another tattooee penned an exceptional passage on the ritual of getting a tattoo. I have included it in my story because I do not believe I could write it any better. Courtenay Strickland wrote, “The ritual of getting the tattoo can mean whatever the person wants it to mean, as can the tattoo itself. In a wedding, one leaves the ceremony with a tangible symbol in the form of a ring, which represents thereafter the marriage one has entered. In getting tattooed, one leaves the ritual with a literal picture symbolizing commitment to whatever new period of life, state of being, personal interest, or value proposition one has chosen (even if that value is simply the art or beauty of the tattoo itself). For me, getting a tattoo was a ritual symbolizing a commitment to myself and to being who I am. The tattoo is a constant reminder that who I am is something of value, and that while I should, and always will, seek to improve myself and to smooth out my many deficiencies and faults, the point is to try to be a better version of myself, not to try to be someone other than who I am.”

One Friday night in November I had plans to attend a jewelry party. Instead I spent an incredible night at Stone Mountain. I just watched nature. I felt it. This night in particular, my heart felt very heavy and burdened. At the time, I was just starting the process and was facing some weird realizations. I ended up showing up very late for the party, but showed up nevertheless. There were so many great pieces to choose from and I had chosen a fairly large necklace. It was pretty, but then something else caught my eye. A small necklace was shimmering from underneath another large piece. It is so cliché` to say, but the necklace did not belong in the company it was keeping on the table. A dainty silver chain with one small clear bead and what I interpreted to be a feather at the time came home around my neck that night. I just knew that it was for me because my heart was so heavy and this feather necklace would be a tangible way to symbolically lift my heart. However, my theory was crushed the next week when someone looked at it and said, “Amy, that is a leaf… not a feather.” Dream crusher. Thus begins the story of the leaf.

There are three life-changing lessons the leaf symbolizes. (1.)This past fall, I found myself driving down the most beautiful road to work every morning. The trees literally formed a canopy of color over the road and if I hit it at the right time the sun beamed through the leaves. Each day I looked forward to this drive, but always found myself becoming anxious. I wanted to capture the beauty I saw. I was scared the leaves would fall before I could come out and take pictures. Each day I promised myself that I would leave a little earlier the next day in order to capture what I saw. One day, about the time the anxiety set in, I realized that these leaves would continue to change, die and eventually fall. That is the circle of life. Nature. However, for as long as I live (I hope) there will be leaves changing every year. No, the leaves would not be the same, but at that moment I found solace in the change. In fact, the changing part is what attracted me to the leaves in the first place. The first symbolization is A promise of hope in changing.

Atlanta has so many great things to see and places to go. This fall, I have rediscovered this fact. One Friday afternoon, I spent some time at Piedmont Park. The first time I visited the park was for a DMB concert a couple weeks before, so I did not actually see the park for the smoke cloud that loomed above during the concert. This time, however, my eyes were working overtime. It was one of those times that I felt like I wanted to just lie down and allow myself to be absorbed into my surroundings. I wanted to be a part of the beauty around me. So, that is what I did. I sat under the most brilliant tree I could find. I have never seen a golden tree, but sitting under this one was pretty close. As I stared up at the sky through the bright leaves, my mind was at a loss for how something could be so yellow and gorgeous. The only thing I could think was how amazing God was to give us nature and the environment. My birthday was about a month and a half away, so I thought about gifts. When I give someone a gift that they appreciate so much to the point of becoming speechless, I am happy and pleased. I felt that God was happy and pleased that day as I sat under this gift. Then it hit me. What I was doing under that tree is worship. Admiring and caring for the environment is worshipful. Yes, this includes recycling, not using plastic bags (ever notice those stuck in the trees?), and in general taking care of what God has given us. This is how I worship in my everyday life. The second symbolization is Enjoying nature and taking care of gifts given to me (myself, the environment, etc).

Around the middle of December, I went to sit outside on my front porch. My front yard is small, but has one big tree. I noticed with a feeling of defeat that my tree in my own front yard had shed all of its leaves. I had missed it… in my own front yard! As I sat in disbelief at my own neglect, I saw one single leaf holding on. I believe that leaf was waiting to change, scared to let go. I was almost moved to tears. The third symbolization is Be loyal to your responsibilities, but do not ever be afraid to change.

The decision to do this came just like most of my decisions come to me. To some it might seem like a fast, out-of-the-blue decision. However, I have been wrestling with this one for a while. It got buried under some other stuff for a while, but it eventually floated to the top. There were so many signs to point me towards this decision. There is no doubt in my mind that I have made the right one.

Thank you for taking the time to read my story. I hope that it has led you to understand my rationale and a little about my self-inventory process.

Oh yeah, for everyone reading this that knows my parents, yes, they know. I told them before I got it. You don’t have to keep it a secret.

Friday, September 21, 2007

The Need is Great

I have begun to realize for the past month or so that there was just something not quite right with what I believe. Growing up in a small town, I was raised as conservative as they come by two loving parents. I attended a Southern Baptist church because it is the ONLY true way to believe, or so they say in Alabama. And did I ever... believed everything that was spoon fed to me- until college.

College is where everyone abandons what they believe, though. It is only natural. People go in with all of their beliefs, dump everything there and only the true stuff sticks. A filter of the mind and heart. It didn't so much work that way for me. I went in and for lack of a better word, was brainwashed by the "Christians" on campus. They really screwed me up. Almost four years later, I am still working out the crap they fed to me. So many rules, so much failure. So what do I do with the rules and guilt and failures? Anyone who knows me can answer freely... I threw it up in the air and watched it fall and crash into a million pieces around me(as I laughed wrecklessly). I ran as fast and as hard as I could in the other direction, abandoning all caution. It was fun! However, all good things must come to an end...

SO now, I am married and live in an Atlanta suburb complete with a wooden fence and two dogs. I work in communications at a non-profit and have a very pretty life. OK... so that is good too. Not ALL good things must come to an end... but they definitely change.

So what is up? Something is still wrong. Is there a small area that I keep missing where my beliefs line up? Or should I be searching for an area at all? Does God want me to always be the different one, the one always questioning the teacher, not believing everything? Or have I become so afraid of believing the wrong thing that I don't want to believe anything at all?

Who knows? Maybe laying my thoughts down on the blog will help me sort everything out.

I hope you enjoy reading this... Please add your comments. I am always open to them... I think!