Persistence

There are days when the road is smooth and everything seems to be going exactly as it should. There are days that the kids do their chores without nagging and dinner comes together easily and work is full of interesting, but good surprises (like plants from a coworker). Creativity comes easily and inspiration is in the air.

Then there are days that things fall apart. People say or write things that carry a tremendous weight. The kids cant seem to get along. Sleep was nonexistent and coffee barely touches the exhaustion. Your heart rate won’t slow down and it’s making you a bit dizzy. The person that is typically your confidante on such bad days is not around and it’s difficult to know where to turn.

Every word written or every stroke of the brush feels like a challenge and it’s obvious this is not your best work.

But you choose to carry on. You choose to entertain the habit, simply for the sake of habit.

Those hard days? Those are the fires that forge you into the person you want to be.  That is where character is formed and where it becomes skill building instead of raw emotion.

No matter who you are, you will face some basic challenges.

Fear will try to tell you that you can’t do it, that your work isn’t good enough or it’s already been done. Anxiety will whisper that you should do something different or scream that no one will like it. Competition might intimidate you. Laziness will tempt you. Other people will try to distract you. Time will always try to evade you. Money might present a challenge. 

And then, of course, there is the never-ending uncertainty. You don’t know what might happen. There is no guarantee of success. And even if you do succeed, who knows how long it might take.

Days become weeks and weeks turn to months, but you continue to do work and you find that your craft has become second nature. If you take time off, it is strange now. Your art/writing/goal has become a part of you.

The key to success in anything is not to get it all done at once, but rather to continue to show up. Show up when it’s easy. Show up when it’s hard. Show up when your heart is breaking. Show up when things don’t go your way. Show up when things are absolutely blissful. Just show up.

Water can carve stone with only a drop at a time. All it has to do is keep dripping.

Any goal you have in life is exactly the same. You just have to do a little every single day and eventually the results will appear. You have to show up again after you’ve let it go. You have to keep going, no matter what.

I read somewhere that 90% of success is just getting started, developing a habit, and persevering in spite of obstacles. I think that is the absolute truth.

Strategy and resources can only take you so far. You only cross the finish line when you decide to do something and you keep on doing it… without regard for what the world has to say, how you feel, or what your results are.

Keep going, friend. I can’t wait to see you do great things!

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-September 12-

My friend, who was a first responder to the towers posted this today. So incredibly powerful.

My Heart is My Compass

Steel beams like shoelaces.
Twisted, taught, writhing.
Struggling, pleading to be unfolded and hammered straight.
Begging to have time turned back.

Souls hurled at terminal velocity
Their descent fueled by pain, anguish, love, fear, hope…
All of these at once being felt, but none, at once, able to be distinguished.
The downward force pressing emotions, thoughts, screams and prayers into
A ball…flesh, bone, suits, ties, shoes.
Leaping forth, eyes closed, led blindly by gravity unto their inevitable concrete canvas.
Creating a hellish masterpiece so gruesome, so unreal, it races past my heart and mind, black as night, devoid of substance, but carrying the weight of 2,606 life stories and anchors itself forever directly into the forefront of my soul, taking the place of the innocence that resided there.

A sea of humanity.
Confusion, hope, loss, animal instinct.
The strange beauty of the ash and dust settling, like snowflakes of death.

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Little Things

“Won’t that hurt your shoulder?”

“I knew you didn’t get lunch today, so would you like me to grab you Pad Thai since I am here already?”

“I saw this song and thought you might like it.”

“I can come over and help with the housework so we can spend time together. I know you are busy.”

“I’m sending a burger your way right now.”

“Maybe I can take the kids for a bit tonight so you can have some time to get things done.”

“Would you like to steal a moment and look at the moon tonight?”

“I was thinking about you and I am at Starbucks. What should I grab you?”

“Lets run barefoot in the snow and appreciate the cold.”

“I saw that this artist is playing and remembered your friend liked him. Maybe you could tell her.”

“Since our kids go to the same school, I can just take her in the mornings.”

“I can take care of your cat while you are gone.”

“You should really go to bed. I can bring over some food for your lunch tomorrow.”

“I will grab some beers and head your way so we can catch up tonight.”

“Let me grab your bag for you since you aren’t supposed to carry anything.”

“I’m listening.”

“Come here and give me a hug.”

I teared up after a kind word from someone and they seemed shocked as they observed that I responded to small courtesies like I hadn’t experienced them much before.

The truth is, I have experienced a million and one little courtesies and thoughtful moments, just in the past six months. Even more over the last few years, big and small. I have incredible, beautiful people in my world and I am so grateful for that. (Yes, I know a lot of the above examples are about food, but… ya know, it’s my love language.)

My life wasn’t always this way.

For a long time I believed I was the invisible girl, put on this earth to serve others quietly and never be noticed, because being noticed meant being hurt. Growing up, I learned to be quiet. I learned that I shouldn’t take up space. I learned that using my voice meant being harassed or far worse. I learned that disappearing was the easiest way and the safest way. I learned that I did not matter and my needs were a burden.

So, when people see me, when they think of me enough to do those “little things,” it absolutely means the world to me. I still have a hard time asking for help and I probably do a lot more than I should on my own, but when someone offers to go out of their way or put my comfort before theirs, I hope I NEVER stop appreciating that.

Every one of the above sentences brought tears to my eyes. Overwhelmed with gratitude for a friendship, a kind soul, who shows me that I matter. The past few years, the moments have been sprinkled all through my life like glitter highlights that never go away.

There are days when I still fight the demons that say I should disappear, when I feel like being unnoticed is always going to be better because I am afraid that somehow it’s all a trick and the people in my life will eventually see the things that the people I left behind seemed to see.

But when those fears start screaming, when I feel the most like I shouldn’t matter, those are always the days that someone comes along and quietly reassures me with a small “I see you and I’m still here” moment. I have chosen to build my life on gratitude for those little things, because they all add up to one damn good life.

So, to my lovely friends, the ones who spoke the words above or others similar, please know that I appreciate you. You mean the world to me and I am so grateful we are still here, walking each other home.

 

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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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