Sunset Drive

The pastel Sky whispers “this could be home”. No expectations, no overthinking in this space. Pinks and purples and blues bleed into each other, perfectly at peace with their coexistence. None overpowering the others, but so incredibly beautiful in their harmony and simplicity.

Clouds roll in, the shadows creating more depth as the colors become richer. Highlights shimmer as the sun reflects its beauty through the storms.

Sky now lit from within, reds and golds layered upon the velvet colors of the night. The pastels have turned to royalty, blue and purple passion no longer whispering their secrets. The darkness mounts and shadows dance as everything groans, “this, this is where you belong”.

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Over Halfway

“Shannon, you really need to pause and realize what you have accomplished already.”

“What are you doing to celebrate?”

“You are way too hard on yourself.”

“When was the last time you sat down and listed your accomplishments?”

“I bet you are so proud of yourself.”

“Ahem.” (sent with a meme about being better than you believe you are)

Recognizing and celebrating victories in life has always been a challenge for me. My friend Amy is always telling me to “look for the sweetness in life”. 

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I always feel like there is so much more to do, so many things left unfinished. I tend to  think maybe I will stop and celebrate once I finish this thing or that. But the limits continue to get pushed back. Completing a book… but I’ve completed six now. Maybe when a publisher picks up my book… but that happened and instead of celebrating, I chose to stress over how quickly I needed to finish everything.

Maybe when I hit a bestseller list?

Or sell X number of paintings?

Reach X number of followers?

The goalposts continue to move further away.

I am beginning to realize that always focusing on the next goal can prevent me from the bliss of experiencing the moment here and now. Celebrating accomplishments can be so difficult if the message in our heads is always “you aren’t quite there yet”.

And that is why we must remind ourselves to “stop and smell the roses”. Recognizing those milestones and moments along the way allows us to enjoy this journey a little more. So today, I am taking on that challenge.

We are a little over halfway through the year and I am excited about the things I have accomplished so far. I left the hospital on December 28, 2018 and my life was forever changed.

I decided it was time to start living instead of dreaming about living.

I chose to change the way I spent my time.

I chose to believe that I was made for so much more.

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I decided that I was going to go back to work with my malfunctioning brain and see if I could make something out of the mess I had left behind in September. Not only did I prove to myself and my manager that I could do my job, I also earned a promotion and several certifications in the process.

I have been published as a guest blogger three times this year and have three more invitations looming.

I am working with a publishing company to complete my very first “me” book instead of writing for/with anyone else.

I started a content writing company and have had clientele every single week since I launched.

I decided to pour myself into my art a little more and had my biggest month ever ALREADY in August.

I decided that travel would be a priority for me and making memories with my kids was the most important thing I could do.

I have taken my kids to see their Yaya and meet their Great Grandpa.

They have also gotten to experience spelunking through caves, flying for the first time, camping in the cold, hiking in the wilderness, rock climbing in the middle of nowhere, swimming in the ocean, people watching at an anime convention, tubing on the lake for the first time, viewing fireworks from the roof of a houseboat and discovering the beautiful glory of sunset atop a mountain.

I have gone hiking on my own or with friends almost every free weekend since I have been better, exploring all kinds of new places around the Ozarks and at times testing myself more than I probably should have (cue near death experiences).

I’ve climbed boulders in a prom dress and skinny dipped in a freezing creek with an incredible, beautiful woman.

I’ve painted with nothing but mud and raw emotion.

I have been to Colorado, five Oklahoma State Parks, Los Angeles, up and down the east coast of Florida and I took the ultimate trip to Hawaii to enjoy the beauty of the island life.

I have gone on a spontaneous road trip at 9:00 pm when I knew I had to work the next day.

I have studied Spanish with my daughter daily and attempted to learn about the Japanese culture with my son.

I brought a piano home and started playing it with my girl.

I have read at least two books each month, totaling seventeen in the past seven months.

I have written something every single day. Sometimes publishing a blog, sometimes writing for myself, but always staying true to creativity.

I decided to make my health a priority and I started CrossFit and even on the weeks I can’t make class, I still workout at least three times.

I began to research foods that can cause flares and decided to avoid them as much as possible. (Still working on this one, tbh)

I have determined my boundaries and removed people and things that violated those boundaries. And in doing so, I have met some incredible new friends, people with purpose and passion and a zest for life.

I have reconnected in a deeper, more meaningful way with old friends who continually renew my spirit.

I have reevaluated my beliefs in regard to religion and politics and humanity in general.

I have had my heart shattered, only to realize it was the best thing that could have ever happened to me.

I have chosen to be vulnerable and open in situations that I would have run from previously.

I have really, truly LIVED this year.

I have grown, stretched like a rubber band that will never be so small again.

I have begun to truly realize that I am okay and my story may be what made me who I am, but it is far from over.

I am learning who I am, and I am really enjoying the me that I am discovering.

This has been the busiest, most fulfilling year of my life and when I realize that we still have five months left, I can’t help but wonder how much more I will be able to accomplish and ponder how much growth might come in that time.

There are still many days… like yesterday… when all I can see is the distance ahead, days where the finish line seems so very far away.

But in all honesty, there is no finish line. There are only the twists and turns of the paths we choose, so it’s up to us to make the best of them and be true to who we were created to be along the way.

Because being yourself in the world that constantly attempts to make you anything else is absolutely the biggest accomplishment one can have in life. 

So my dear beautiful friends who have sent me the above messages, thank you. Thank you for the reminder to LOOK for the things that make life feel sweet TO ME. I see it now. This life is sweeter than I ever could have imagined. And it’s only getting better from here.

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Misplaced

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If you can’t tell by my recent posts, I encountered a situation recently that rocked me to my core.

I was hurt. I was angry. I didn’t know how to move on, what to say, what to do. It was, and still is, really hard. It’s one of those moments where you “figure out what you are made of”.

Of all the things I have been through in my life, this one was probably the most difficult for me to process due to the proximity of the relationship.

But instead of acknowledging how hurt I was, instead of sitting with the pain and allowing it to be, I started looking elsewhere.

It seems one of the things I am “made of” might be baking soda, because I became angry and bitter with people who didn’t deserve it, said things I shouldn’t have said, did things that hurt other people. I chose to push away the people who knew me because I don’t want to feel like that ever again. I chose to stop acknowledging the people that were there for me, because I wanted to go it alone.

Alone is safe. Alone is strong. Alone is impenetrable. Alone might be lonely, but it can keep me from breaking. Alone could never hurt as bad as I was already hurting. And so I became the ultimate saboteur.

I started finding fault in anyone with enough relationship power to harm me. I investigated the people who held on to pieces of my heart and found reasons to take them back.

I chose to dig at those people’s weaknesses because I had no more strength to give. I doled out criticism and condemnation and found any reason to push them away. Because they had the power to hurt me worse than what I was already feeling.

And it was wrong.

So this is me, publicly acknowledging that hurt. And understanding if you choose to stay far, far away. You have been through enough already.

I am so sorry.

 

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“People Change”

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People change.

Point Proven.

Ugggh.

All of these messages were sent while I was out with a friend, catching up on her recent solo trip out west. We got a bit lost in the conversation and I didn’t check my phone.

When I finally did check my phone, I was “inconsiderate” because I didn’t answer on HIS time. “Inconsiderate” because I decided that face to face interactions are more important than responding to messages. “Inconsiderate” because his needs were supposed to come before mine.

At first, I was tempted to tell him I was sorry. I wanted him to continue to think of me as the “sweet girl”. I wanted to make everything okay because that is just what I have always done.

But then I realized what he said was true. I had changed. And that it’s okay.

I am not the girl who believes she is worthless anymore. I know that I bring value to people’s lives.

I am no longer so lonely that I will settle for any scrap of attention. I have a beautiful life surrounded by incredible friends and I have learned the power of platonic love.

I am not the girl who believes that everyone is better than her. I am a woman who works hard and is as valuable as anyone else as we all travel through this life together.

I am not sad and hopeless and seeking out ways to die. I have days that I still dance with death, but my romance with life has become far bigger and stronger than the hold that death had on me.

I am no longer the girl who had no idea who she was. I have fought hard to free the wild woman inside of me, to listen to my intuition and build an authentic life for myself.

I am not the girl who cared desperately about whether people liked her. I like me, and if you don’t, that’s okay. I am going to live my life regardless and wish you well when we cross paths.

I am no longer the girl that second guessed and doubted every thought because she believed she couldn’t make good decisions on her own. I have made plenty of decisions on my own, some good, some bad… but I have learned that I am capable and responsible for my life and choices.

I am not the girl who thought she couldn’t be a good mom and needed a man in my life to influence my children. I have several male friends who treat my children kindly and show them what it is like to respect women. And I, by myself, have raised some badass, kind, loving kids. 

I am no longer the girl who would do things to EARN someone’s admiration or love or respect. I respect myself enough to know that other people’s opinions don’t matter and the worth they assign me means nothing. 

I am not the girl who was jobless, penniless and homeless. I have a career job, two businesses, a beautiful old home, a new to me car, and my life if full of crazy characters and lots of love. 

I am no longer the girl who was afraid of her own shadow, reliving the abuse and terror of her childhood and marriage on a daily basis. I am a powerful woman who can hold her own and I don’t have to be afraid of anyone. 

I am not the girl who thought she was stupid and incapable. I finished a bachelors degree in business while 1/16th of my brain was flatlined due to a traumatic brain injury and I was fighting a disease that was eating away at my organs and destroying my energy.

The girl that you knew? She doesn’t exist anymore.

The woman that I am? I would much rather be her any day.

I fought hard to become this woman, and when you say that I have changed, I will take it as the highest form of complement. Because this journey has been a long one and it was hard as hell to change… and I am so thankful I have.

I took myself from a homeless, penniless, worthless, hopeless girl to a passionate, purposeful woman. I still have hard days, I still have struggles, things aren’t always good. But I would NEVER go back to that girl you knew. The girl YOU walked away from.

And if that change intimidates or offends you… if you don’t like the fact that I don’t kowtow and grovel anymore, that’s okay.

I am totally alright with the idea that my health and/or happiness might interfere with someone else’s opinion of what I should or should not do.

I chose me. I chose my children. I chose my life. I chose to become more. 

AND THAT IS SOMETHING I WILL NEVER APOLOGIZE FOR!

 

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Foundation

When I finally saw it, my heart broke a little.

No, not a little.

It shattered, ripped completely apart and shredded beyond recognition. It was destroyed.

Hopes, dreams, fantasies I had created in my mind and played on a constant loop for years were suddenly brought into the light and exposed for the fraud they were.

Things I didn’t even realize I had internalized were suddenly torn from me at the very moment I recognized them.

I had no idea how I felt… until I was no longer able to feel that way.

Everything I knew, or thought I knew became a dark, distant void in that moment.

It was all a lie. Everything.

It broke me. You broke me. And you were supposed to be my person.

But even as my heart was breaking, I had the realization that I was finally free. 

Because a lie doesn’t just hold the teller captive. I was listening to your lies, feeding my heart on them, never realizing that there was no sustenance to be had. I was starving and I had no idea.

But I understand. I do. See, I did the same thing once.

I told a big, fat whopper of a lie. A lie that destroyed one of the closest relationships in my life. A lie that changed everything for me.

It didn’t start off that way. At first it was just a small lie, a lie I thought I could easily remedy. But it grew. And it kept growing. And before I knew it, I had been taken captive and it was all I thought about… I needed to keep it going because if I didn’t my world as I knew it would come crashing down.

Eventually, I couldn’t carry the burden anymore and I ‘fessed up. My world came crashing down and bridges I never wanted to burn were destroyed in the wake of it. And as badly as it hurt, I was thankful to be in the light once again.

But because of that experience, I realized the value of truth. Prior to that, I thought a white lie here and there was okay. Save face. Keep the peace. Make people feel good. But it never turns out the way we expect because a lie is a lie. Always.

Shakira said, “I prefer an ugly truth to a pretty lie. If someone is telling me the truth, that is when I will give my heart.” 

Sometimes truth is hard. Its vulnerable, its raw, it opens you up to so much potential pain. If someone doesn’t really know you, they can’t hurt you as much.

But it is real. In all its ugly glory. Truth is real. 

James E Faust said, “Honesty is more than not lying. It is truth telling, truth speaking, truth living and truth loving.”

If there is anything that I have learned through this experience, it is that I want more truth, more vulnerability, more real in my world.

I want to wear my heart on my sleeve, raw emotion for everyone to see. And no, I don’t particularly care if it makes you uncomfortable. Instead, I would rather you find comfort in being able to do the same.

I was done hiding years ago. I don’t like the shadows. I don’t want to wear the mask. It’s hot and sweaty and uncomfortable under there and frankly, it makes me sick.

I want people to know who I am and what I stand for.

I want them to know my advice is real.

I want them to know when my feelings are hurt.

I want them to know if I disagree with a decision they are making. 

I want them to know that I love them. Without question.

I want them to know they can trust me. 

Because that is the foundation of everything. 

 

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Heartbeat

No focus. Not today. All I feel is my heartbeat. Fast. Too fast. Kind of like my life right now. Too fast. Too much change. All at once.

So many things. So much happening. I can’t catch my breath. Can’t think about that though. When I start thinking, I drop them all.

I’m the girl with the smile.

Balance? I have no idea what that is.

Hope? I am trying. But sometimes it’s hard.

Kids. Mom. Friends. Family. Romance. Relationships.

Write. Paint. Work. CrossFit. Remodel. Plan. Adventure.

Discipline. Health. Love. Peace. Budget. Time Management. Self-Care.

The space between where I am and where I want to be. I am living on the edge and I can taste the future. But I know it will take everything to get there.

heart trees

Inspiration.

Creativity.

Heart.

I need to protect my heart. But I don’t know how to do that.

Not if I want to live life alive.

I love too hard for that shit.

And I’m not gonna stop.

 

 

 

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Empowerment

I was asked to speak at the Women’s Empowerment Brunch today. Nervous and excited, of course I said yes. If there is anything I am good at, it’s believing in people. I brought my daughter along, so she could be surrounded by powerful, positive women, and we had a great time.

Here are my notes. It didn’t quite come out like this… I am definitely better at writing than speaking, but I’m getting better every time.

Empowerment. The process of becoming stronger and more confident, especially in controlling one’s life and claiming one’s rights.

When Ms. Kai asked me, I thought of every reason I couldn’t speak today. Nerves. Too busy. No real experience. Not really making an impact with my life.

The other three speakers? Activists, political personas, 417’s Most Beautiful… These women are changing people’s lives on a grand scale. And me? Starving artist doesn’t exactly seem inspiring or empowering.

I read the definition again. The process of becoming stronger and more confident, especially in controlling one’s life and claiming one’s rights.

This was my opportunity to live that definition. And maybe I’m exactly the person to talk about this. Because I’ve found that the most common way we give up our power is by believing we don’t have any.

Muhatma Gandhi said “our greatness lies not so much in being able to remake the world as in being able to remake ourselves”. How incredibly true that is.

The most courageous, empowering thing we can do is figure out who we are, our passions, our purpose, what we believe in and then live in that space.

I’ve been through a few things in my life. Who hasn’t? My story contains abuse as a child, then domestic violence, suicide attempts and a terrifying illness as an adult. It hasn’t always been easy. But if I let any one of those things define me, how would I grow and become more? No matter what challenges we face, no matter the difficulties that cross our paths, we can’t let them defeat us.

In fact, I’ve found that the people who encountered those challenges and difficulties typically have a better idea of who they are and what they stand for. They’ve been through hell and come out stronger so they know that they can conquer anything and come out on top.

They’ve developed the muscles of perseverance, courage and confidence. They’ve built them little by little as they continue to press on through the hard things.

As women, these are traits we need on a daily basis. Choices like speaking up in a meeting or telling someone not to treat us a particular way can be terrifying and empowering. Living passionately for ourselves and our vision can threaten other people’s security and we have to be strong enough to handle the criticism and scrutiny that comes with that.

Every action we take has an impact, good or bad. We make thousands of choices each day and I want mine to be choices that inspire my daughter and instill respect for women in my son’s life.

Every one of you was given a gift, a purpose, something that lights your soul on fire and makes you come alive. It might be parenting, it might be a cause that’s close to your heart, it might be being the very best at your job… Whatever it is, it WILL impact the people around you. You get to decide what kind of difference you want to make. You may think you don’t have much to give, but you will never know the impact you make when you dare to be true to yourself.

I make art and I write down random thoughts. I don’t know if that’s going to change the world. But what if it changed one person’s life? What if it just changed the time of their day? I think that’s enough.

It took me a long time to find my voice and now I refuse to be silent. I don’t ask who will let me do something anymore, I ask who will dare try to stop me.

What is your gift to give?

I promise if you find the confidence to be yourself and love yourself, you will make the impact you were meant to make and you will change the world. Individuals making a small difference means we are collectively changing the world. Decide to live in your purpose and be who you are meant to be.

You will never regret it.

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