DIY Rope Plant Hanger

A DIY project? What? 

For the last few years, this space has been more of a home to tell stories. Kind of like my journal left open on the living room coffee table for anyone to read. I hate when I do that. 

This is a space to share all parts of my life and I haven't been doing the best at sharing a part that actually takes so much of me. My creative side. 

Sometimes I feel pulled in a million directions because I have so many hobbies and passions. I truly never lack for something to do. I'm more of the person who has to carve out time to relax. 

I'm going to play around with sharing more areas of my life here. 

DIY and creative projects are actually a huge part of what I spend my time doing. It brings me a lot of joy. Not only with creative my wood art pieces but creating things throughout my home. 

Most of the things in my house are bought used or I've made. I love vintage, antique, thrifting and I especially love buying old and adding my personal touch to make them feel like me. 

My style is eclectic to say the least. I don't really define it as this or that but rather a hodgepodge of styles blended into one. 

Of thing, I've been drooling over for awhile now are all the plant hangers that have come back into trend over the last few years. And true to my "thrifty" nature, I knew I could just make one. Or two. Or several for my home. 

These are so easy and fun to make. 

I thought you might want to know how to as well. It's really easy. I mean, really easy. 

DIY Rope Plant Hanger

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Here is what you'll need:

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Rope of whatever width you like (thinner is easier for me to use)
A medium round metal loop
Twine
Coffee

1) I didn't like the stark what look and had already purchased the rope. It was an impulse by and I didn't think of what to dye it with until I got home. I also didn't want to dye it with anything toxic as I'm trying to phase that out of my life. So, coffee it was!

2) Boil a pot of what on the stove. I used a soup pot. Fill it with water and a bit of white vinegar (helps set the "stain"). Once it is boiling, turn the water off and put your rope in the pot. I let it sit in the hot water for about thirty minutes. Check on it periodically. There is really no science behind it. Just let it sit until it's the color you are shooting for. Obviously, if you want it darker, leave it in longer. 

3) Remove the rope and lay out to dry. I'm lucky to have a clothesline and seventy-degree weather a lot of the year so mine dried relatively fast. It may take up to twenty-four hours depending on where you live and the current elements. 

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4) Cut your rope into EIGHT equal lengths. Bunch all up and feed through metal loop. Take a large cut of twine and wrap it around the top portion a bunch of times and then tie it in the back. You can easily hide the knot. 

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5) Hang loop on a hook or nail in the wall or really anything, It just has to be high enough so you can work.

Take TWO pieces of rope and about 4-6 inches down (depending on your desired length of plant hanger) begin tying them off in knots. See below. When done, you should have four sections. You can get fancy here. I looped one string of rope around the other to add interest. The world is your oyster!

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6) About a  foot down or so down, make another set of knots and then tie off by bringing ALL the ends together and making one giant knot. 

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7) Place your potted plant in the center and you are done. It's really that easy. And all in all, about $10 bucks to make. 

a chance to breathe again, a chance for a fresh start to you

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And through it all, I stood and stumbled, waded through my thoughts and heart Yeah through it all, I fooled and fumbled, lost to the poet's frown.
I fought the wolves of patience just to let it lie down.

I've come to the conclusion that I am quite lousy at relaxing.

And it's never been more apparent than on this trip. 

Even with my deep desire of a life that is simple, I find myself wrestling with my inability to just sit and be and how much I feel the need to do all the time. 

But I need life to give me some answers to some things that have been heavy on my mind lately. And I know what I have to do to get those. Even when it means discomfort to get them. 

When we landed in San Jose, Costa Rica on Friday we found our way by taxi to a tiny little bus station that would take us on a four hour turned seven-hour journey to Puerto Viejo where we were staying for the night.  This is near the Panama border. 

After two plane rides on nothing more than a few glasses of wine and two green superfood bars I picked up prior to leaving, we found ourselves on a long, full bus ride listening to the unwelcoming sounds of an arrogant Polish twenty-something playing dubstep from a keg-shaped Bluetooth speaker in his lap. 

I only know he is Polish because my friend Raven and I sat for a good thirty minutes listening to these guys talking back and forth as they drowned themselves in some kind of liquor from a bottle in a paper bag.  Eventually, I needed to know and asked. I like to ask people where they are from when I travel. I like to hear their stories. 

After we had our brief conversation he turned on his speaker for the whole bus to enjoy. At first, I thought it was coming from the bus speakers but it became apparent, from the annoyance of other riders, both locals and travelers, that this was not the case and it was coming from the keg shaped speaker in the Polish guy's lap. 

I found myself growing irritated too. I mean, come on guy. Dubstep? Had it been mellow beats that is one thing but if you are privy to dubstep you know it's anything but mellow. 

I kept telling myself to just relax and go with the flow. Don't let this one little moment, this person, this blip on the screen of your life caused by someone else's actions annoy you. 

This is what travel is about after all. The unexpected things that happen. The laughter that comes for years that come from moments just like these. 

Little did I know, I was going to be saying this to myself often on this trip. 

As with everything though there is a great lesson to be learned. And what I've realized on this trip so far is that it has more to do with the fear of facing my myself and my thoughts and hearing that little voice inside speaking truth to me than actually not being productive

But  I don't want the dubstep noises of life to cause me to miss out on all the wonderful moments in between so I need to learn to relax and just go with the flow of life. 

I want to hear life talking to me and to do that you have to learn to slow down, open your eyes and your heart and fully take in what is around you. 

So I slow down and let things be and allow the thoughts and feelings to surface. All of them.  I allow answers to come to those questions I keep asking God and give thanks with gratitude in my heart. Even when it's not the answer I truly desire. 

And as the lyrics of one of my favorite songs goes:

And what we found
Down these coves of limestone and cockle shells,
What we found
Down these roads that wander as lost as the heart,
Is a chance to breathe again, a chance for a fresh start to you
My my a chance to breathe again, a chance for a fresh start to you
Oh my a chance to breathe again, a chance for a fresh start

And it's through this song that God gently reminds me that his hands are all over everything as rain pours from the skies and I have no other choice but to just sit and be with myself, my thoughts and my own heart and maybe, just maybe, it's a chance to breathe again, a chance for a fresh start. 

For once there is no dubstep to drown these out. 

These Waters by Ben Howard

I saw red and yellow flowers outside over the moors
And brightest sunrise ever to touched my eyes.

And through it all,
I stood and stumbled, waded through my thoughts and heart
Yeah through it all,
I fooled and fumbled, lost to the poet's frown.
I fought the wolves of patience just to let it lie down.

See these waters they'll pull you up,
Oh, now if you're bolder than the darkness.
My my, let these songs be an instrument to cut,
Oh spaces 'tween the happiness and the hardness.
My my, spaces 'tween the happiness and the hardness.

Oh, out the door,
The touch of morning, the burning of the frost
Out the door
My, strong hands to hold, good friends that I never lost.

And what we found
Down these coves of limestone and cockle shells,
What we found
Down these roads that wander as lost as the heart,
Is a chance to breathe again, a chance for a fresh start to you
My my a chance to breathe again, a chance for a fresh start to you
Oh my a chance to breathe again, a chance for a fresh start

Oh, no, see these waters they'll pull you up,
Oh, no, if you're bolder than the darkness.
My my let these songs be an instrument to cut here darling,
These spaces between the happiness and the hardness,
Oh my my, spaces between the happiness and the hardness
Oh my my, spaces between the happiness and the hardness
Oh my my, spaces between the happiness and the hardness

That One Time Last Summer I Almost Bought a Camper + What It Taught Me

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Last May, my longtime friend Katie and I almost bought a camper. It was $1500 bucks and had a retro blue strip down the side. It was pretty much a done deal. 

We were having a few cocktails at a local bar and a bit tipsy, both literally and figuratively. We were coming down from the high of spending the night in a tiny little cabin in the middle of nowhere Joshua Tree. We spent about eight hours in the car trying to get to this little cabin where we spent a total of fifteen hours there due to a miscalculation of timing and Friday Memorial Day weekend traffic.

But it's about the journey, not the destination right? We made the most of it fixing the world one conversation at a time and turning up the tunes as our voices echoed for the surrounding cars to hear. 

We were being adventurers and heading into unknown territory where showers didn't exist and neither did WIFI. A place we had to head outside to an outhouse to do our business.

And boy were we happy. 

On the return, we were buzzing from that feeling you get when you step outside of your normal and live from a place that feels the truest to who you are and we started talking about how fun it would be to co-own a camper or a van or something like that. 

Neither one of us necessarily want to van life it indefinitely but both of us want the freedom that comes with the open road. So, we came up with the idea of sharing custody of a small camper if we could find the right one. 

We had it all figured out. Since she lives in Seattle, I'd drive it up at the start of their three-month-long summer and then because summer's for me are basically endless in San Diego, I'd basically get it the rest of the time. It was perfect. The perfect shared custody of the cutest little camper.

As luck would have it we found one on Craigslist that was intriguing after said few cocktails and it just so happened to be the right price and down the street at a nearby campground. So we took the last sips of our bourbon and took the boldness it gave us and decided to walk to meet the current owners. We were giddy with excitement and laughing "Are we really going to do this?!

I felt like a rebel. I felt like I was throwing caution to the wind and living life to the fullest. I fell like a girl who was recently diagnosed with cancer trying to really live her life. 

And I feel like these are the memories you never regret, even if they aren't the most thought out ones and involve one too many cocktails and emptying a small chunk of your savings. You just never forget "that one time you bought a camper with a retro blue stripe down the side with one of your best friends.' These are the stories you tell your children. 

Until maybe you wake up from your foggy night of Kentucky goodness and find yourself slowly putting the pieces together from the night before. And then you start to remember and jump out of bed running to the window to peek and see if you really did buy the cute camper with the turquoise blue stripe down the side.

But I really feel like it's just one of those memories, on your deathbed, you just never regret. So I was okay with it.

As we approached the camper my gut began to fire as I noticed a window missing. I shook it off and thought, well, I can fix that. Not too mention, I REALLY want to repurpose a van or camper. I mean, very badly on the bucket list kind of want.

 The current owner wasn't quite there yet so we, being the incredibly nosy and tipsy ladies we were, we peeked through the windows. 

I turned to Katie and said in a low whisper, "Well, I see why it's only $1500." We laughed as we assessed the horrific scene inside. We slowly backed away picking up our pace before the current owners found their way back to what looked like a crime scene. Or a small rager led by rats left to their own devices. 

My bourbon buzz started to wear off a bit and I looked at Katie, "Maybe we tuck this dream in our back pocket. Just for a little bit longer." She nodded and we ran back to the bar to drown our disappointment in more bourbon. 

What this whole experience made me realize more than ever though is how much adventure and travel and having the freedom to go where I want, when I want is vital for my sense of self and my happiness.

And I just keep quieting that part of myself with all the should's. But why? For what? 

When I was little I remember dreaming of traveling all over the world meeting people and listening to their stories and writing about them. I don't think I've told any one of this before. 

Recently though, on a day trip to Salvation Mountain, I saw a mile marker for Yuma, Arizona and it was only sixty miles away. And all I wanted to do was just keep driving. And with that it hit me. Why not? I have nothing keeping me here.

Why not start a life more on the road and less living in the should's?

Why am I still so stuck on thinking I have to live my life a certain way? When will I truly accept that I'm called to something different?

While driving up to Seattle in February, I slowly made my way up the 101 stopping whenever I felt pulled. I found myself fantasizing about the life I dreamt of as a child, about going down the road less traveled so to speak. I mean, there has to be something to it right? With the growing popularity of 'vanlife' and simple, minimalistic living? 

All I know is lately, I've been wrestling with some big questions about my life and what my heart really wants.

I've got stories to tell and people to meet and so many miles of open road. Maybe this was the way it was always suppose to be?

I'm not so sure if the 'vanlife' is 100% what I'm looking for. Or maybe it is? All I know is that I do think about it often. I think about selling all my things, packing up Rocky, my small miter saw and just leaving.

A traveling woodworker and her Pitbull named Rocky. 

I'm a conundrum though. A mix of massive wanderlust, free spirit and complete homebody. I like having a place to come back to. A home base. The false sense of safety of my things. 

But I think it's safe to say that a camper van may be in my future and a long, open road full of possibility, memories and lifelong dreams. 

For now, I've got my car and my puppy and an open road heading east. And something in side of me that says it's finally time. 

I'm not sure where it's taking me but I'll know it when I see it.

I have to go. I've got stories to tell. 

Sit In Your Shit

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Lately, I’ve been in this interesting emotional place. A lot of stuff from my past has been resurfacing. Stuff I believed, I had long ago put to rest. 

It's not that I'm in a dark emotional place, however. It is more like things are coming up so that I can finally shed them and release them. 

Lately, I've been waking in the middle of the night, shooting out of bed from a dream of a person from long ago I hadn’t thought of in years and the feelings it brings up linger for days. I know it’s not about the person. The person is just the messenger. It’s about the feelings.

In the past, I got really good at stuffing and dusted these feelings under the rug. I'd think I was acknowledging them with some spiritual jargon as if the words were magic and would erase the past. This is called spiritual bypassing and something I’ll talk more about soon.

I’ve conceded, however, that this stuff will never go away unless I really look at it face on.  I am being asked to finally and truly feel my feelings.

I am being called to sit in my shit so to speak. And honestly, who really wants to sit in their shit? 

I am also feeling called to take full responsibility for my part in all of the shit because even as I perceive things happening to me (hello victim mode), I know well enough that my perception, my attitude, they are all mine and at any moment, I can choose to see things differently.

Growth isn't necessarily easy, but I do know it's worth it. 

I also happen to be in an interesting place with my spiritual growth. Teetering on the line of wanting to dive deeper and deeper and finding safety in staying just where I am. Where I am is like a warm blanket wrapped perfectly around my naked body. Just enough warmth but not too much to suffocate me.  I’m scared if I commit to the call I feel deep inside, I’ll lose the grip of that warm blanket, exposing me in the most uncomfortable of ways.

I have no idea if that makes sense but put more simply, I’m scared of the vulnerability that comes with truly knowing and trusting in God’s plan.

But I don’t think I can stay where I am anymore.

And I’d be lying if I said I didn’t hold back from sharing more of this growth here, in this space, out of fear that you will leave. I know for a lot of people, the mention of spirituality or God or anything in that realm can evoke a lot of negative feelings. That is not my intention.

But it is what I’m feeling inspired to talk more about.

And I wonder, instead of potentially leaving, what would happen if you stayed? I’ve been applying this myself to all areas of my life as well. As someone who habitually runs at the sign of any discomfort, in many areas of my life I'm exploring patience and curiosity instead of be-lining for the nearest exit at the first sign of struggle.

What if you play with the curiosity yourself?  What if you are being asked to sit with your shit too? Maybe the uncomfortable feelings that come up aren’t a bad thing but really, leading you to something you never knew was possible?

I understand very well, the feelings that may come up when talk of spirituality and God comes up. I’ve wrestled for years with these ideas and concepts myself and have said, many times, that I just don’t need God in my life. And I, by no means, am trying to push God on you. So please know that.

I know very well that if you are going to get down with the G.O.D, you gotta come to that on your own. 

It also doesn’t help that there is a lot of religious and spiritual contradictions out there that make you question things.

There are also some really big and justifiable questions that cause a lot of us to be confused. Like; why do really good people die? And why do bad people get away with doing bad things? Why is there starvation and horrific deaths and illness and so much suffering?

I’m not sure we will ever have those answers until we come face to face with the creator ourselves.

All I know for me is that for a really long time, I’ve felt a deep void in the middle of my chest. And I filled it with drama and shopping and food and sex and TV and drugs and alcohol and gossip and anger and selfish motives...all because for a brief moment, those things provided the relief I was desperate for.

Lately, however, I’ve been called to sit in the shit rather than numb. And in those moments when I am desperate to numb I resist and feel it instead.

And in full transparency, it 100%, without a doubt, most of the time absolutely sucks. Honestly. It does. Emotional pain is by far worse than any physical pain I’ve ever felt and I’ve been in some pretty excruciating physical pain. Try having a major pelvic and abdominal infection right after having two feet of your colon removed. It was like stabbing a dull butter knife over and over into my pelvis and slowly removing it each time.

And the emotional pain, at times, has felt worse.

But what's been happening when I sit in my shit is interesting. It’s really painful but then the shit shifts (say that five times fast!) and starts to loosen its grip and I start looking at the pain in a different light. I don’t feel it as intensely but rather, feel it leaving my body, just a little bit at a time.

The actual practices I’ve been turning to have been getting still and quiet, journaling and just being quite uncomfortable. I’ll literally feel it coming on and sit in the middle of my bed, close my eyes and feel into the area that hurts.

And then I pray but not in the way I use to.

I used to only talk to God when something bad was happening and it usually amounted to me desperately begging for some kind of salvation. Or, I’d just curse God altogether for said situation.

I didn't realize at the time that God is seeking to know me deeper too. And how do you know someone? It takes time, good communication and opening up in a vulnerable way. 

I also didn't ever think God really wanted to hear me talk about my dating life or my money problems or something I deem less important because well, doesn't God have bigger things to worry about? 

But that is not the case and has become very clear. 

Lately, prayer has been more of a question and answer series or just a conversation. If someone was watching me, they might think I was crazy because I literally walk around my house talking to God as if He's just sitting on my couch having coffee with me. 

But those are the kinds of relationships I love. When I sit around with friends and family and just hang and chat for hours over tea or coffee and I thought to myself, maybe this is the kind of relationship God is asking of me too?

So my conversations with God have been more of me asking a lot of questions and listening for the subtle ways in which God responds. Sometimes it’s just a knowing inside. Other times it’s a song lyric or book that falls into my lap. The other day I was walking Rocky and came across a box of free books. I perused what was being offered and a couple jumped out and I knew this was one of the ways in which God was gonna shed some light on a few of my questions.

If you are curious, the books were When God Writes Your Love Story (because let's be honest, I should NOT be left to my own devices in the area of my love life. I always muck it up on my own) and Blue Like Jazz.  I’ve already read Blue Like Jazz a few times but Donald Miller is hands down one of my most favorite writers on faith and God and this book has so much to offer. I'm constantly in a state of "AH-HA!" when I read his work. 

And then God often talks to me through seeing the same random quote multiple times in the space of 24 hours or a Hummingbird flies right in front of my face and just sits there flapping it's wings staring at me for a good long while. As if to say, "I'm right here with you Amanda."

It's always a feeling, a deep knowing, that God is answering. 

Lately, I’ve been praying that God helps me deepen my relationship with Him (or Her) in ways that only I will understand. Not that my relationship with God is any more special than yours. I just know I can be incredibly stubborn and that I’ll only hear him if he talks to me in ways in which I can see, hear and feel. And then I ask that I be open to all that I discover.

A Course in Miracles, which is a spiritual text I’ve been reading lately, teaches a prayer I use often, “I am willing to see things differently.” I’ve written about this before but I’ve never felt it working more in my life than right now.

You see, A Course In Miracles states that God is waiting for the slightest invitation to help us heal and return to a place of love. We just have to ask and then surrender and let God do His work. And know that it may not come in the way we think it should, but it will come.  

So this is what I’ve been practicing.

Sitting in my shit, surrendering and chit-chatting with God in my kitchen while I make coffee. Oh if these walls could talk!

And let me tell you, it’s uncomfortable. Sometimes I feel a little crazy but mostly I feel a new sense of peace and like I'm shedding extra weight I've been holding onto for years.

I’ve been known to be a little neurotic when parts of my life feel out of control but what’s really interesting, is ever since I’ve started this practice, I’ve felt more peace and a deeper sense of trust that everything will work out and even better than I could craft up myself.

And that my friends, is how miracles work. They are not some big, self serving boom in your life. Miracles are a willingness and openness to finally change. Miracles are a willingness to see things differently. 

And God works in mysterious ways. Like nudging me to finally sit in my shit. 

Beginnings, Endings and the Space In Between

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“Sometimes what you think is an end is only a beginning."

What I know about beginnings and endings goes a little something like this.

Beginnings are euphoric. They hold a mysterious quality that feels like an opportunity. Anything is possible. Your imagination goes wild and the world is your oyster. 

Your heart flutters, you walk a little bit lighter, you smile bigger, your optimism is palpable and it’s as if you could take on the world.

Beginnings are full of life. They make your blood pump and your palms sweaty. You feel unstoppable. You feel, alive. 

Endings on the other hand, often feel like a death.  For many of us, a deep mourning sets in and we wait and feel and sometimes, we can’t figure out why we feel the way we feel or how we even feel for that matter.

And we even go to great lengths to numb those feelings that start to surface. 

The ending, or death, of a relationship, a job, a friendship, a lifelong dream, a hope can impact us all the same.

We must say goodbye to something that once was a beginning. Sometimes it's bittersweet, and other times, it hurts. A lot.

Here is the thing I’m learning about endings; there is an exponential amount of learnings that you can take and bring forth into the new beginning that is right around the corner.

That is not to say that endings are not excruciating and you can't always see or are even ready for that growth. Especially when it involves saying goodbye to someone you loved deeply. I do know from my own experiences, and what I have heard from some people closest to me, that eventually, with time, you start to wade through the fuzzy waters of pain and start to see beginnings again.

It does come, eventually. I promise. 

And you can’t have a beginning without some kind of ending and you can’t have an ending without some kind of beginning.

That's just life. It's cyclical. Look at the span of a year and the beginnings and endings that come with each passing season. You not only can see if physically but you can literally feel it within you. 

This one little notion has helped me wade through some pretty dark waters. After my divorce, even though it was my decision and felt like an empowered one, I was struck by a grief so thick and so unexpected, at times I could barely scrape myself off the playroom floor which was my temporary bedroom. It was one of the most confusing times of my life and some of the most excruciating pain I've ever been through.

And coming off the year I just had, again I found myself in the depths of so much heaviness and fear, at times I didn't know which way was up and which way was down. 

As I felt my way through the darkness, I eventually saw a glimmer of light that gave me hope.

And then, there it was. A beginning...  

But I've been wondering lately if putting that much meaning and weight and waiting for beginnings and endings actually create more suffering? Wouldn't life be more peaceful if we learn to find more balance in the in-between places?

It seems to me we are in love with the beginnings and deeply fear endings. When we are so focused on either, or, aren't we missing the beat all together? Aren't we missing what life is truly about...LIVING. 

Ask anyone who has lost someone by death or someone who they themselves are dying and they all pretty much say the same thing; I wish I would have lived more in the moment, especially with those I love. I wish I would have held their hand longer, watched more sunsets with them, forgiven sooner, let go of more and held their gaze longer. And I definitely wish I would have said I love you way more. 

For me, my current lesson is letting go of expectations that come with new beginnings and not fear unavoidable endings. Because again, life is cyclical. Beginnings and endings will always be apart of all of our lives. 

I'm learning, every day,  to just live right where I am at. And it is not easy. Believe me when I say this. As someone who struggles with horrible anxiety, I have to remind myself of this so many times throughout the day. "Just sit with this Amanda. Just be here right now, Amanda. Take a big breath Amanda You will be okay Amanda."

 I'm learning, slowly, to appreciate every person and experience for what it is teaching me. To trust that whatever is meant to be in my life will be. And not fear those things that feel are coming to an end.

Because... there will always, and forever, be another beginning right around the corner. 

One year later - this is what a year of cancer looks like

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There will come a time when you believe everything is finished. That will be the beginning. - Unknown. 

 

 

 

 

I've tried really hard to find the right words to share what this week means to me but I'm falling short. 

What I really want to say is thank you. 

Thank you for supporting me and holding me up when I was unable to do so on my own. 

Thank you for allowing me to be so raw and authentic and feel safe to bare my soul during this difficult time.

Thank you for laughing with me while I'd find my way out of the darkness and back into my funny and sassy self. 

Thank you for all the notes, messages, comments, flowers, gifts, dinners, prayers, good thoughts, energy, and most importantly, love. 

I truly would not have been able to do the last year without you. 

I don't know what the future holds and to be honest, whatever comes my way I know I'll handle it just the same. 

Often you read that difficult times will make sense down the road. I'm not sure if that is always the case. Some situations just never make sense. However, I know for me, it is. All of this is starting to make just a little more sense. 

Most importantly though, this last year has taught me just how important it is to have faith and to be okay with asking for help. 

I did my best to document the year in photos. One thing was consistent, as much pain I was in, I often found myself smiling. A lot. And that felt really nice. 

To many healthy years ahead. 

This is what a year of cancer looked like. 


A few days after being diagnosed...a love of my life found his way into my heart. 

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I had a real life Grey's Anatomy experience with a room full of interns...

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I was surrounded by love and friends who give uplifting gifts that make your stitches hurt from laughing...

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Family came to visit and take care of me and I got the most amazing one-on-one time with my sis-in-law...

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And my older bro...never finished that chicken coop though :) 

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I had lots of pokes, prods, needles and procedures. So many. 

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But I had my first art opening...

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And a trip to Joshua Tree...

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And a drive north to Seattle...

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To be with the three other loves of my life...

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I walked into my first day of treatment ready to face it all...

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And then flew to Miami a few days into treatment and found a few days of solitude...

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My favorite part was crossing each treatment off...

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And just like that, six weeks, five days a week...was finished. 

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And I turned that page...

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And took myself to Idyllwild for my birthday, rented a little cabin in the woods and hiked for the first time since treatment ended...

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Sadly, I lost the other love of my life. 10 1/2 years together and I will never forget his love. 

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And I met my women for our Red Tent. I didn't leave this spot all weekend. 

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Spent Christmas with my soul sister...

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And enjoyed life.

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that's a wrap

Dating: For all you ghost out there. This one is for you.

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It's a doggy dog dating world these days and ladies and gents, apparently, some of them don't come out alive cause there are a bunch of ghosts out there. 

It's been a long time since I wrote about dating. 

Mainly, if I'm honest, I had taken a bit of a break. 

However, recently I put myself back out there only to have had an experience that made me want to shed some light on a kind of new, not so new phenomenon that is extremely prevalent in the dating world:

ghosting

Dating to me is an off and on again thing. Sometimes I'm really into it, sometimes it's the furthest thing from my mind.

Last year, I didn't think it was entirely fair to put myself out into the dating scene when I was going through something so consuming that required a lot of my attention to be on myself.  That's not to say that dealing with an illness makes you any less of a person to date. Honestly, I think going through something major in your life makes you have a deep understanding of yourself, what you are looking for and what's important.  

I actually did meet someone right as I started radiation last July and we dated briefly before we realized we'd be better off friends. We are still friends to this day because of our mutual respect and proper communication.  

However, there are some things about dating in today's mostly online dating world that really frustrate and baffle me. Mainly, this whole phenomenon of ghosting people. 

For those of you who are unfamiliar with ghosting, it can go a little something like this. Or this was my latest experience at least. 

You meet a guy (or girl), he/she comes off really intrigued. 

They ask all the questions and seem genuinely, very interested. They flatter you a lot and make you feel pretty damn good. They initiate getting together. You are totally open to it. A date is set but they need to get back to you on time because they have tentative plans. Your mind briefly wonders if it's another date but you're like, whateves. We did, after all, meet online. 

You get excited and think, "awesome! I finally met a decent human being and I'm excited to meet them!"

So you lean back and give a bit more to match his/her energy because you think games are bulls*t! ESPECIALLY after everything you just went through, you realize just how short life is and really don't have the energy or time in your thirties for them. You feel like maybe they are on the same page. 

Then suddenly you feel it. I don't know how but something in the air shifts. Something happens. You don't know what but the energy shifts.  It's just a feeling and you know. You know what's coming. 

Crickets. 

Um, hello? Is anyone there? And you wonder, WTF did I say that warranted being ghosted? I was just matching your shit thank you very much.

Annoyed, you start to think, well, maybe something happened because they couldn't have possibly just...gasp...disappeared! 

And then you laugh at yourself and think, oh silly Manda, trix are for kids! Nothing happened because as you are scrolling Instagram, you see that he just posted something new.   HE initiated the follow to begin with. You, just followed back. 

And then it hits you. Shit. I totally forgot. I was supposed to pretend that I was NOT interested. Maybe radiation altered my memory after all? 

Silly me. 

And then you laugh out loud and roll your eyes and think to yourself... right...I've just been ghosted. 

Lame. 

But in all seriousness, ghosting is just about the rudest, most immature behavior I have ever come across.

It is just downright disrespectful. I'm a human being and as much as I remind myself that it truly has nothing to do with me and that I shouldn't take it personally, it still doesn't feel good.  

So, I think to myself...what's the best thing to do in this situation. 

Upon consulting the experts, ie: a couple of my friends whom all say opposing things: 

 'Under no circumstance whatsoever, say anything to him!" One says. 

"You should call him out on his bullshit! He a friggin' thirty-something-year-old man for Christ sake!" Says the other. 

I think about both positions and decided that he IS, in fact, a thirty-something-year-old man and I'm pretty sure we all learned how to treat others way back in kindergarten. As much as I'd like to say, "Hey man, it's totally fine if, for whatever reason, you are no longer interested but I am a human being and deserve to be treated as if I'm not just a picture on some profile on a dating app. Thank. You. Very. Much.

I have a feeling however, whatever I say, will fall on deaf ears. Instead, I choose to say nothing and write this post instead.

Most people I talk to who've been ghosted, both men and women, have all said the same thing. It's really quite shitty. 

And it can trigger, even the strongest of people, into feeling like they did something. 

This brings me to the solution.

Here is the thing. We live in the age of dating apps. Chances are, you will never have to see this person face to face. If you've started exchanging text messages or have arranged to meet, even if day and time is tentative, that person still deserves some kind of correspondence if you have a change of heart. I mean, you LITERALLY don't even have to pick up the bloody phone or say it in person. You can just send a text message. 

And I'll even go as far as to help you come up with a few things you can say.

"Hey, although it was nice talking/meeting with you, I really don't think I'm interested. I do wish you the best." I mean, we are all human beings. I'd hope you'd have enough compassion to at the very least, acknowledge their humanness and wish them the best. 

Or, "You came off too strong." Sure, it's blunt but I mean, if it's the truth that person might want to know. But I do suggest you ask yourself WHY you felt they came off too strong first. Chances are, that has more to do with YOU then them.  

Or, how about this, "I realized it's just not the best time for me to date." Cool. No problem. I think everyone's been there before, right? You think your feelings for an ex have passed only to be reminded that they haven't when you meet someone new. No biggie. 

Or this one! "Hey, someone from my past came back into the picture and I just don't think I'm ready to explore someone new. I need to figure this one out." Again, awesome. Been there too. Totally get it. Hope you figure out what it is you need. 

You get it right? It may not be the most fun text to send but at least it doesn't leave the other person wondering, "what did I do?" Because about 99.9% of the time, if you get really honest with yourself, they did NOTHING. In reality, it's all your junk coming up. 

In closing

We are human beings . We like a beginning, a middle and...AN END. We appreciate closure of all kinds. It does something crazy awesome to our brains and lets us easily shake it off and not make it so personal. 

Now, I know a lot of people fear honest communication because yes, some people don't handle honesty very well. A lot of people get super defensive and if that happens, I think it's okay to say, "I really was just trying to do what was best by telling you because i do respect you as another human being. I wish you the best." And at this point, if they don't stop, you can just block their number. 

Chances are, if you are like me, you are just grateful that they were honest and you respond with a friendly, "Hey, no problem. Thanks for letting me know. Wish you the best too."

Done. Delete number, move on. Best wishes. 

Sure, egos may be bruised momentarily. It never feels great experiencing a sense of rejection. But it's like a bandaid. Rip it off, it stings for a minute and then you are usually over it. 

And then, when it comes down to it, really try and not take it personal. I'm serious. Keep filling your calendar with fun and exciting things. Keep dating! Don't sit around overanalyzing things because honestly, a few conversations over texts or phone or even a few actual, real-life dates do not, in the slightest bit, give you any idea of who someone is. 

Even if you do your research ie: stalk the shit out of them on Instagram or whatever media you find them on, you don't truly know the depths of someone. That can only be done with time, in person and an open and honest heart.

The whole evolution of online dating has created this massive disconnect and the direction it's going, in all honesty, is pretty frightening. Dating is suppose to be fun, light-hearted, sexy, flirty, exciting! 

And when it comes down to it, I really value great communication, honesty, patience, and trust in any relationship and if someone ghosts me and thinks that is okay, I look at it as a blessing. I wouldn't want to date someone that inconsiderate. Ever. Good luck. Peace out. Ba-bye. 

I hope and pray for my niece and nephew's generation that something changes or we are in for a really sad future full of disrespectful, socially inept and communicatively dysfunctional robots.  

I'll leave you with this incredible piece of advice. It's so good it was literally written by God himself and put into this little thing called The 10 Commandments. Maybe you've heard of it? 

Do unto others as you would have them do unto you. 

My Plastic-Free Month

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This past weekend I was in a four-day training for NLP ( Neuro Linguistic Programming) and we learned of this idea that every day in our life, we are constantly filtering and deleting things from our reality. The trainer, Matt, referred to it as the Gorilla. We watched a video of a few men and women dressed in black and white passing a basketball back and forth. We were told to count how many times the basketball passes back and forth between people wearing black. 

When the video was over, Matt asked us some questions. One of them was, "How many of you saw the gorilla?" I had happened to see it but didn't think much of it. It was literally a person dressed in a gorilla suit walking right through the mix of people passing the basketball back and forth.

He then asked if we saw other things like a giant letter 'S' in the background and the person in the black shirt wearing white socks, etc. I hadn't noticed either of those. The idea is that all of us have filters and throughout our day, we are constantly omitting and deleting things from our reality. Basically, we see what we want to see. 

Over the course of the weekend, I thought about all the areas in my own life that I omit and delete which is basically, to some extent, every area. We all do it. But it made me think back to a morning I was walking Rocky and all of the sudden it was as if someone turned on a light switch and I saw the trash and garbage all over the ground for the first time ever. In reality, I had been thinking more about my own carbon footprint and the environment and thus, opened my reality up a bit to include it in my sight.

It was everywhere and it made me really sad and a little angry. How is it in this day in age we are still so careless with our beautiful planet? 

This got me thinking about the little things I could change in my own life to make an impact. It was really one of the last things, in my opinion, I needed to focus in on. I was already so aware of what goes in and on my body, it's was time to take a little more responsibility for my contribution to waste. 

I'll be 100% honest though, this area makes me nervous. We are all creatures of habit and like our little comforts. Giving up ALL plastic use for a month was going to really test me and I had to get really honest about this. At the same time, it was like the gorilla. My eyes had been opened and now I could no longer unsee it. 

I really wanted to know; how can I live with less while still obtaining the quality of life I truly cherish? ie: fixing up my house, eating a certain way, using certain products, etc. Is there a better way to go about all of this? Can I still be totally fulfilled all while consuming and using less?

This is about getting more conscious and taking more responsibility. 

I know for me, I hold onto a lot of things. I wouldn't say I'm a hoarder. I'm a bit too type A for that. However, if you open my cabinets, I have A LOT of stuff. It's just really organized, labeled and in alphabetical order. However, it dawned on me awhile back that I don't need all this stuff and I'd really love to learn to live with less. Way less. 

So I've committed to doing so. For the whole month of March. 

Plastic-Free March!

For the whole month of March I will not be buying or using anything that involves plastic. There are a few exceptions to this rule. 

1) I am going to continue using whatever I currently have in my house like plastic spray bottles that I clean with, my plastic waste bin under my sinks, hangers, etc. Over time however, I'd love to transition these idem out. Slowly. 

2) I am going to use biodegradable plastic poop bags for Rocky. Sorry, but I ain't picking up his poop with anything else but a plastic bag over my hand. It’s seriously what I imagine it would be like to pick up human poop. It’s gross. They will be biodegradable though. 

3) There are a few supplements I take that are non-negotiables for me. Untill I can find a better sorce, I need to continue taking them and unfortunately, they come in plastic bottles. Grrr.

Prep for a Plastic Free Month

So how does one prep for this? 

I had a bit of time to think about how I wanted to go about a plastic free month and thus, plenty of time to prep for it. 

These are some of the things I took into consideration to prep:

1) Gather all my reusable shopping bags and make sure they are accessible. 

Fortunately I already have about ten reusable shopping bags. These will be attached to my hip whenever I leave the house now.  No more laziness on my part!

2) Find those reusable produce and bulk item bags I got several years ago but never use. 

I got these several years ago when I was trying to reduce my footprint a bit. I got lazy and stopped using them after about two times. 

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3) Save everything that comes in a glass jar and go to a thrift store and purchase a few bigger sizes. 

I already try to buy most things in glass jars. Peanut butter, mustards, coconut butter and oil, etc. I even just found these at Sprouts! So stoked about this!

I save all my jars and use them for water glasses. However,  I have enough of those so the overflow will now become storage jars. I simple remove the labels. For those hard to remove labels, here is a little trick.

1/2 cup coconut oil
1/2 cup baking soda
6 drops Lemon Essential Oil

1) Mix all in a bowl. 
2) Spread mixture over label and wait 15 minutes.
3) Run under warm water and pull away label. If any areas stick,
just use your fingernail to scratch off a bit. 
4) Wipe clean with a cloth. 

 These are awesome to store items in the refrigerator or pantry. I needed a few bigger sizes so I just went to my favorite thrift store and bought a few for a dollar each. Unless you are canning, you really never need to buy brand new jars. 

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4) Take inventory of what I currently use and how I will handle it if I run out during the month. ie: shampoo, conditioner, etc. Even my tampons have plastic on them! 

I follow a woman on Instagram who has made this her mission. She now educates others on how to go plastic-free. She is really inspiring and I've learned a lot from her. She lives in Australia and goes to this amazing bulk store where they have EVERYTHING in bulk and you just bring in your own containers. shampoo and conditioner! It’s dreamy. If anyone knows of a place like this around Encinitas or in the greater San Diego area, PLEASE let me know.

As for tampons, I finally got the Diva cup. I've had several people recommend getting this but I was super nervous. Turns out it's really easy to use and I never have to use tampons again. Which is amazing because those little little guys are bleached and to be honest, I really don't want something with bleach going up my most precious lady parts. :) It’s a sacred space for sacred things!

5) Do a test run grocery shopping.

The other day I did a little test run and it was hard. It's really mind blowing what has plastic on it. Even my pure maple syrup has a plastic top. However, one of the things I realized and that totally excited me was that this is going to greatly cut down on the random items that end up in my basket. That, in my opinion, is a major win!

6) Start slow if need be.

Not everyone needs to go all in right off the bat like me. I'm doing this to see where I can be stretched a bit. It's easier because it's just me. I don't have a partner or kids to incorporate. With that being said, I don't think that should be an excuse either. I think this is an awesome thing you could do WITH your kids! 

7) Get Honest. What do you really need?

Here is a look inside my medicine cabinet. PS – who else LOVES looking in people’s medicine cabinets? It’s werid, I know and I promise I don’t do it randomly! But you can really learn so much about someone in their medicine cabinet. There fridge too! I LOVE looking inside people’s refrigerators!

But really? How much do we need. Raise your hand if you are like me and have about five different lotions, three different face washes, a plethora of hair products, makeup out the wazoo and the list goes on. I don’t even really wear makeup and I have shit ton of it!

It’s time to get real and get rid of stuff. Well, use it up first, find the products you truly love, and stick with them.

8) Less is more

 Marketers are really clever. Like, really clever. So much so that they have this incredible way of convincing us that we will finally reach the level of happiness we hope for by consuming and buying more. There are a few areas I will be obstaining from for March and indefinitely.

a)      Sorry Target but you and I are breaking up. I know your clothes are cheap and adorable but you see, they fall apart so easy and sometimes I just buy them because they are cheap and they sit in my closet for ever before I wear them. I want my purchases to mean more and they just don’t with you anymore. Just your clothes. Not your homegood ;)

b)     Only quality makeup and hair products. Cheap comes with a price. Most of the time the products that are cheap to buy are loaded with chemicals and in my opinion, even worse, tested on sweet, poor, helpless animals. So, without breaking my bank account, I’m only purchasing products that I truly align with. My goal is to eventually get rid of the medicine cabinet and replace it with a mirror. I can do it!

 

So that is it for now.  It’s been about five days and it’s going really well! Stay tuned for an update about mid-month.

In the meantime, leave a comment below telling me some of the things you think you’d have a hard time giving up. I’d love to create a resource for you to help you reduce your waste!

My Ted Talk

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Sometimes, when I'm in the shower, I like to pretend I am giving a Ted Talk. It’s one of those secret dreams of mine I haven’t shared with anyone.

Yes, one day I want to give a Ted Talk and I often practice in the shower. It goes a little something like this. 

I’m introduced and eloquently float out and take my spot center stage. I stand before an audience of hundreds waiting for me to speak. To bare my soul, share my truth and change their lives in some way.

Then maybe all the pain I've experienced in mine will finally have meaning. 

I pause and scan the audience as the nerves settle in my belly. And then I begin. Words flow gracefully from my lips as I deliberately and meticulously speak. 

Line after line, I stand before the audience with grace and ease and pure poetry escapes from my mouth and I feel alive. As if I am finally living in full alignment with my purpose.

And this is what I would say:

When I was a little girl I was desperate to be accepted and loved by everyone. 

I learned early on that if I said and did the right things, molding myself to every person in my life, I would always feel a sense of ease and acceptance. 

I would always feel, loved. 

But that really wasn't the case. 

As I grew older, trying to create that sense of peace started to be become like draping individual chains over my shoulders. Eventually the stories and facade became too heavy. I hit a wall and could no longer continue carrying that weight around. 

This was about the time I stumbled across my first personal development book. It was a few months after I turned twenty and I had just made my very first big life decision all on my own. And I was scared as hell to go down this new path. 

I had made the decision to drop out of college. 

This decision proceeded a massive nervous breakdown in the middle of a raging frat party. My friends found me sobbing uncontrollably, wrapped in a tiny ball sitting on a bed in the basement. They couldn't console me. I was unconsolable. In shock.

They took me home and called my mom. It was 2 am. The next weekend I was driving back to Seattle to tell my family I was leaving school and in that one decision, I felt one of the weights release and fall to the ground. 

This decision changed the course of my life. It sparked something deep within me that would take years to turn into a full fledge fire. 

You see, it was the first moment I realize that I am not going to be for everyone and neither would my decisions and I had to be okay with that. It sparked the courage to finally explore what  I really wanted and ask some really big questions. 

Years later I stand before you with one message and one message only. I truly hope you take it in. 

Under no circumstances, whatsoever, are you going to be for everyone either. And that is okay. 

It's easy to get caught up in what other's think of our lives and it's really easy to paint a pretty picture that we have it all figured out and that our lives are picture perfect.

We do this because we are all longing for the same thing; to be loved and accepted. 

But here is the thing, no matter how hard you try, I promise you, there will always be someone who is just itching to find your flaws. To point out your mistakes, bring you down to 'reality,' burst your bubble and keep you feeling small. 

Certain individuals will look your life and criticize and judge no matter how perfect you paint it.

So drop the act. Lighten up your load a little. 

There are always going to be people who have so many opinions about YOUR life because they are too afraid to step back and address the areas they are unhappy with in their own.  

Caring too much what family and friends, acquaintances, and strangers think is a paralyzing behavior. It will prevent you from serving your purpose and doing those things that your heart desires. 

I've realized that when I get caught up in thinking about what I should say and do with each and every person in my life I’m actually deeply neglecting my own needs, wants and desires. I'm completely out of alignment and in some place in my life I am not giving myself the love I deserve but rather, judging myself in some way. 

As cliché as it may sound, it took a year of dealing with a rare cancer diagnoses to get some real clarity into the trajectory of my life and accept this one very crucial and important thing; I will not, under any circumstance whatsoever, be for everyone.

I may not even be for people in my very own family and I'm learning to be okay with this too. 

Every single day I have to fight the urge to crawl back under the covers where it is safe and warm. Where people can't see me. Where I can play as small and feel as safe as I want to. 

Why? All because I'm scared of what other's think? 

I’m not perfect. I’m a work in progress and I still find myself grasping for acceptance and the idea that to be loved, I have to say and do everything in accordance with everyone else.

 I still fall short of my best self every single day.

However, I often think about those who conquered great things in their lives didn't do so by playing small or spending too much time caring about how they looked to others. If they had, they would have never done the thing that helped the person that changed the lives. Now would they?

And in the great words of Oprah, this is what I know to for sure:

You will not, under any circumstance whatsoever, be for everyone.

You will not, under any circumstance whatsoever, be accepted by all.

And you will absolutely, under no circumstance whatsoever, be able to make everyone happy.

And you will absolutely, under no circumstance whatsoever, be able to fit a square peg in a round hole. So stop trying.

So please, I ask this of you with so much love in my heart, just be you. Every single beautiful part of you. 

If we continue living our lives for everyone else, we will never truly know what we are capable of creating. Your purpose is in no way shape or forms the same as any other person's in this lifetime. When you step back and look at it that way, maybe you can find the strength to act in accordance with your own self, your own desires, your own needs. 

I want to leave you with just one more thing before I go.

Before you open your mouth to speak to anyone, pause for just a moment and ask yourself this, "Is what I am about to say imparting my own judgments onto them? If so, don't say it.  

When I have nothing more to say I turn off the water and dry myself off. 

Then I go back to my life and leave my dream in the shower for another day. 

Hello Old Friend - The Return

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Ladies and gentlemen. I have an announcement to make. 

This morning, one of the most wonderful things happened to me. 

It has returned. 

My period. 

Is back. 

Holy. Shit. 

Miracles. Do. Happen. 

Let the celebrations commence! 

Bring out the marching band and champagne cause Aunt Flo has come back to town and she likes to get turned up!

Actually, Aunt Flo likes to put on her cozies, crawl into bed by 8 pm and binge watch The Bachelor but hey, that's kind of like getting turned up in your late thirties, right? 

I have never, in all my life, been more excited about the presence of swollen boobs and cramps and I'm fully relishing in both. 

I don't even know where to begin.

About a week ago I started noticing old familiar things happening within my body. I cried relatively out of nowhere. Nothing too new here however, that coupled with sore ta ta's and puffy, swollen appendages and face, lethargy, brain fog and feeling like I wanted to eat all the chocolate in the world (side note: I don't even care for chocolate anymore), I couldn't help but feel as if my body was on the verge of starting her cycle. 

But it couldn't be. I was 100% convinced that radiation sent me into menopause. 

So I brushed it off. Couldn't be. Both my oncologists were pretty certain that because they had to alter my treatment and my right ovary was exposed to radiation scatter, I was more than likely going to lose the function of both ovaries, thus, go into early menopause. 

The funny thing is, when my radiation oncologist and I met way back in August right before my last treatment, I had asked her when I'd know if radiation sent me into menopause. She looked back at me with wide eyes and sighed, "Oh you'll know. Right away.  Within the month you should start getting the symptoms." She said.  

But nothing happened. No hot flashes or night sweats. No trouble sleeping, No huge change in sex drive. None of the normals signs of menopause were happening. 

And I was confused. 

So confused. 

However, I had my mind made up. My ovaries were crispy marshmallows and thus, I mourned and let go of a dream

The funny thing was, something deep inside of me wasn't sitting well with this. You know, that tiny voice we don't like to listen to. Let's call her Gut Feeling. Intuition. Home Girl. You get it, right? 

I kept getting these visions or whatever you'd like to call them, of one day waking up and realizing I had gotten my period again but kept brushing it off because I really didn't want to get my hopes up. Something deep inside of me knew though. 

So waking yesterday to her wasn't a total shock but at the same time, was. You know what I mean? When something happens that you knew was going to happen but then you're like, how'd that happen?

Yeah, that's exactly what happened. 

You see, I mourned the hell out of her this past fall. I cried, and let myself feel the feels and said goodbye way before I was ready to. I mourned all the dreams that having a period brought. Mainly, just my fertility and sex drive but I was never one of those girls who dreaded my period. It always made me feel connected to my sense of being a woman and I kind of like witnessing my cycle throughout the month.

But now it's back and I'm never going to take her for granted again

Claire Baker, and adorable gal whom I went to IIN with, has a whole program called Adore Your Cycle where she teaches you to look at your cycle as a gift rather than a burden. I'm kind of stoked to do this now. 

You see, we've been taught that our cycle is this dreaded thing that happens for a few days once a month because so many of us have had horrible experiences with it. However, your cycle actually holds so much information. It's quite powerful really. To be clear, when I say cycle I am referring to the whole calendar month. That is your cycle. Not just the three to seven days you bleed. 

There is a wealth of knowledge out there about the various phases of your cycle. Again, Claire has a wealth of information on this you can find here. And by the way, she has no idea I'm even linking to her. I've just always admired her work and have been leaning into the idea that we women are incredibly powerful, cyclical creatures. Think about what we could do and create if we learned to work with nature instead of against it!

Anyway, I digress a bit. 

So yes. It happened. This thirty-seven year old is back in action. Bring on the chocolate and rom coms because day two of aunt flo is in full effect and I need some Meg and Tom in my life! 

But in all seriousness, I still have a lot to think about. In a weird way, going into menopause early would have made my decision to have a hysterectomy easier. I still want to wait until I'm forty at the earliest but if I'm still flowin' then, I wonder how I will feel about having to decide? 

However, I'm incredibly grateful for a little more time to reconnect with the deeper meaning of my cycle. To explore how it influences my creativity and drive and see how it can teach me to love myself even more. 

I hope, if anything, that if you are a woman and reading this it's sparked a little curiosity within you. 

And now you officially know way more about me and my period then I bet you ever thought. 

You are welcome. 

 

 

10 Subtle Ways to Feel Different in 2018 and Keep the Momentum Going

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It's a new year. Doesn't that feel so good?

The beginning of a new year always seems to be full of so much hope and clarity. It's an opportunity to begin again. Start over. Do things differently. 

We charge into January with so much intention, so much motivation, so much gusto. 

We are moving and shakin' our bodies. We are eating clean and healthy. We are in a state of gratitude and practicing some big shifts. We are on a roll. We are abundant!

Then, slowly, it starts to taper off. We skip the workout class to meet friends for happy hour but on the drive there, promise ourselves that tomorrow we will move our person once again.

But we don't. 

We crave pizza and cocktails and tell ourselves that it is just this one time. Tomorrow we will eat well again. 

But again, we don't. All of those things we wanted for ourselves start to slowly slip away. 

We find old thoughts and behaviors creeping in slowly and before we know it, it's as if we are back in 2017 all over again. 

Nooooo!

Kidding. 2017 wasn't that bad. 

Again, I kid. 2017 can take a big old hike!

Okay, okay,  it wasn't that bad. I had some pretty incredible things happen in 2017 too. But I am rather happy to flip the calendar on that one. 

I know I'm not the only one who is happy to say goodbye to 2017. It seems a lot of us had a bit of a difficult year and were more than happy to say peace! See ya later! Sayonara! 

But you see, the thing is, I really don't ever want to wish a year away again. The years are moving faster and faster and well, we are only allotted so many of them and I hope to make them all count. 

Be it a "good" or "bad" year,  all of it has an offering for us. This is coming off a year that more times then I care to admit, had me wailing on the floor in the middle of my living room.

So much of it made no sense to me.

However, I am starting to see things a bit clearer and although I may never say that it all happened for a reason, I am starting to see more clarity in how I can take those crappy moments and turn them into something really meaningful. 

And damn it feels good to feel optimistic again. 

I have something pretty awesome and big things in the works. I'll be so excited to share it with you soon. 

Until then, I spent New Year's Eve in a deep reflection, thinking about the previous year and drawing my biggest learnings from all the events that happened and the conclusion that I came to was that 2017 was a catalyst for some pretty intense personal growth on all levels

Physically, emotional, mental. You name it and 2017 challenged it all. 

Parts of 2017 really did stink. However, even those hard events have created new ways of me wanting to be with myself and in the world. 

This year for New Year's Eve, I decided to forgo the usual get dressed up, find a party, drink too much and feel like utter and complete poop the next day for a quiet, reflective night at home by the fire.

I'm not going to lie, my FOMO definitely kicked in. (Mom, FOMO means, fear of missing out.)  But if I have taken anything away this year it's getting really honest with myself and asking what it is I truly need.

I needed to end 2017 in the most positive, intentional, loving way I know how. 

That involved getting quiet, playing my favorite tunes, making a fire, diffusing my favorite essential oils, and then answering some really honest questions I'd been avoiding for, well, ever. 

2017 may have had some doozy experiences but my ability to draw goodness from those happenings is what gives me confidence for 2018. 

And from the events of this past year, I realized that as much as this space is an outlet for me to share, process and heal, I want to get back to a place of offering you something more. 

So I took the last year and I came up with ten subtle ways to feel different in 2018. Use them, don't, use one or two, use none. 

Overall, I hope you too can look back at your 2017 with kindness and love and take exactly what you need to make this year the best.

10 subtle ways to feel different in 2018 -- and keep the momentum going.    

1. Take stock of what is and what isn't working in your life. 

If you've been reading this blog for awhile you know I am a big fan of having my "come to Jesus' moments. These are those sometimes painful, sometimes liberating moments when I stop hiding and get really honest with myself about the various areas of my life that aren't working. Or are working. There is nothing to be ashamed of. Those things that aren't working are merely catalysts to create change and go down a different path. A lot of the time you have to experience the pain to get on the right path. And those areas that are working -- well celebrate it! We all could probably use a little more celebrating in our lives. 

2. Go slow

I think one of the keys to creating lasting change in your life is going at it slow. This is speaking from years of experience. I'm what is called an Activator. I get an idea and wham! I want it all to fall into place right now and will do whatever is necessary to get there. Then I lose steam and move onto the next thing. I forget that sometimes, slow and steady wins the race. So my advice, and only because I've learned this the hard way, treat your idea, your dreams, your goals or whatever you call it, like a houseplant. Take all the precautions to allow it to grow big and strong. Good, organic soil, water, light, time to root down, and slowly but surely, it will in fact grow. 

3. Start small

You know that saying, Rome wasn't built in a day? Well, why the heck do we think we can take a lifelong habit and wish it away overnight? Patience is pretty important when it comes to making lasting change. And kindness. To yourself and others. Baby steps my dears. Just put one foot in front of the others and before you know it, you've walked a mile. 

5. Build self-trust

Every time we make a new goal or want to change a way we do something we have the opportunity to build self-trust. A healthy sense of trusting yourself is imperative to create habits that last. However, every time we don't follow through, we are breaking that trust with ourselves and others. We may be able to brush it off, but again, speaking from experiences, it starts to compile over time and feels like a big heavy weight on your shoulders. It doesn't feel good at all. So this is why going slow and starting small is really important. 

6. Live and breath your values

I remember one day I realized while talking with someone that I really didn't have a clear idea what my values were. That made me sad. Then I remember thinking if I don't know what I stand for, how am I ever going to get the things that I want? So I came up with a list of my top five personal values and I wrote them out and posted them on a board in my room. I base all my decisions, er, well, I try to base all my decisions off of whether or not they are aligned with those five values. I truly believe if you do this, you'll feel so much better about how you make decisions in your life. 

7. Say goodbye to those that aren't a fit anymore

You'd think this one was a no-brainer but it's amazing how many people we tend to keep in our lives without really taking a good long look as to why. I've had to silently say goodbye to a few friendships this year and mostly within the last few weeks. Not because I don't care about them deeply but because it wasn't healthy for me to keep them as am active person in mu life. It was what was best for me to propel forward on my path. I knew it in my gut. Holding on to them was like holding onto a giant weight. I felt like I couldn't get any forward momentum.

It's okay to say goodbye. It's hard. It's not always black and white but most of the time you know, deep down, that it's the right thing to do.  

8. Let go of expectations

Expectations are a huge killer of happiness and joy. When we expect a certain outcome, we limit ourselves from the possibility that life could offer us something so much better. When we have expectations, we are often met with great disappointment when life doesn't unfold how we think it should. Sometimes it can derail us. Often it will prevent us from moving forward with our goals, hopes and dreams. And thus, we get stuck. Really stuck. 

I know it may feel totally unrealistic to never have expectations but I think as we learn to adjust them we stay in the organic flow that is life and our let down isn't as extreme. We allow life to redirect us and from personal experiences, the redirection is usually better then anything I could have crafted had I forced my way into fruition. 

What's that saying? Oh yeah, let go, let God. 

9. Give up the ego labels

I learned this lesson big time this past year when I was diagnosed with a rare form of cancer that had no known origin. I found myself feeling really confused and lost, like I didn't belong. People would ask what kind of cancer I had and I'd just stare at them blankly. "Um, well, I was diagnosed with metastatic cancer of an unknown primary."

I'd be met with blank stares and looks of confusing and I'd want to reach out and say, "Yeah, I'm confused too."

Eventually I had to find a way to just stop caring so much about the label and focus on other things. This made me think about all the other areas of my life I am attached to certain labels. Labels help us compartmentalize ourselves into little boxes.  However, I think that sometimes what we identify ourselves with can cause overwhelm and internal chaos in our lives. I find myself feeling this way a lot. Especially being a 'jack-of-all' trades kind of gal. But when it comes down to it, I'm just me, Amanda, and feels so much better.

10. Get a Dog. Seriously. Or a cat. Or both

Okay, this really has nothing to do with feeling different in 2018 but Rocky kind of changed my life in 2017 and so if you are teetering on the line of deciding whether or not to get a pet, I say do it. 100%, get the dog or cat or pet. As long as you can responsibly take care of them, do it. 

 

It's Okay To Do This

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"And now we welcome the new year. Full of things that have never been" - Rainer Maria Rilke

A brand new year. An opportunity to do things differently, to begin again. 

I hope you remember in this coming year that: 

It’s ok to not be perfect because when you can accept that you are imperfect you will finally realize you are perfect just the way you are.

It’s ok to be disappointed when something doesn’t work out the way you hoped because eventually, you’ll see that this disappointment brought an opportunity that never would have happened had what you wanted actually come into fruition. 

It’s ok to not always be strong or brave or courageous.  

It’s ok to not clean out his closet for days or weeks or years or ever even, if it never feels right. It was a love so deep and for so long, most of us only dream of experiencing that. 

It’s okay to say goodbye to people without actually saying the words. Send them love, or not. Wish them well, or not. And let them go. Close the door. Move on. 

It's also ok to say no. As much as you want, to whatever doesn't feel right in your soul. 

It’s ok to not practice yoga or meditate or journal. You can still be a deep, meaningful, inspired, creative, spiritual person. 

It’s ok to not be over him or her yet. Know that with enough time and distance, you will be one day. 

It’s ok to try a million different things over the course of your lifetime. You're a complex, ever-evolving person and hey, it gives you so many great stories to tell. 

It's ok if you don’t feed your kids homemade organic meals from scratch every night and you opt for a box of Mac and Cheese. 

It’s ok if the house is messy and you move the clothes from the bed to the floor for a week straight. 

It’s ok if you delete friends off social media. And it’s ok if that’s me. 

And it's definitely okay if you decide to delete social media altogether. The world will go on. 

It’s ok if you fall off the diet wagon day two of the new year. And it’s definitely ok to say a big FU to diets in general. 

It’s ok to want to grow and change and shed old skin. Even if you are worried what others may think. Even if it feels scary. 

It's okay to stop caring what other's think. In fact, I highly recommend it. 

It’s ok to go to the grocery store and buy nothing on your list but come home realizing you just bought $150 worth of food. 

It’s ok to start over...and over ... and over again until you find what fits. 

It’s ok if you like to say fuck. It’s really ok. 

It's ok if some days you just want to hide away and turn off your phone and watch twenty-five episodes of Sex and the City. 

It's ok to not have it all figured out. 

It's ok to be different and fully embrace it. 

It's ok to cry a lot. Again, you are a complex human with a ton of emotions. 

It's ok to want more for yourself and it's ok to be perfectly happy with where you are right now. 

It's ok to let go of the need to be a certain size. 

It's ok to stop coloring your hair and embrace the grey and it's ok to color your hair until the day you die.  

It’s ok to be 37 and still single after 4 years. 

It’s ok to eat quesadillas for lunch for a week straight. Quesadillas are really good. 

I can go on and on but the moral of the story is, I hope you go into 2018 knowing wherever you are, right this moment, is perfectly ok. 

Stop being so hard on yourself. 

Here is to a brand-spankin' new year. 

Anxiety, Depression, Loneliness and the Dog That Saved Me (part 1)

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"Happiness is when what you think, what you say, and what you do are in harmony." - Gandhi 

It's Christmas morning, about 6:30am and I'm curled up all cozy in my bed, Rocky sleeping next to me with his head resting close to my hip. His breathing is heavy as little snores escape his snout. You'd think he was in a deep sleep but every few moments, he pops his head up and looks at me as if to ask, "Now mom? Is it time now?"

When he realizes I'm not quiet ready to take him on his W.A.L.K, (we never, under any circumstance whats so ever, mutter that word out loud unless you are ready to fully commit) he lets out an annoyed sigh and places his head back down on the bed beside my hip. 

I let out a laugh. To him, this is what he lives for. His small world of happiness looks like food, poops, cuddles and walks. It's as simple as that. 

I look down at his shiny black coat and the green handkerchief I have tide loosely around his neck. Although unintentional, it's quite festive next to his red and black plaid collar.

The loneliness I'm feeling is temporarily filled with a deep sense of love as I think about how lucky I am to have serendipitously found him. How different both of our lives would be had that fateful day of scrolling Instagram  never happened. Rocky would be eight months dead and I, well, in some ways, I suppose I would be too. 

I think about how he came along when I wasn't even looking and filled a big hole in my heart I never realized was there. If it wasn't for him, I truly believe my days would look and feel a whole lot darker. 

I like to joke that I didn't save him. He saved me. As if I even had any say in the matter. 

I'm reminded again that wonderful and unexpected things always come when you are not looking. It's as if something so much bigger knows exactly what you need, when you need it and just how it should come to you.

Huh. Funny how that works.

Lately, I've been thinking a lot about this as I've been consumed with this feeling of dis-ease and discomfort. Anxiety has riddled me once again and I find myself grasping for what I can not truly control. I want to force and manipulate those things I want so badly and it seems the happy days are few and far between and I can't seem to figure out why.

Is it hormonal shifts? Is it just this time of year and how it's colder and darker and my skin hasn't felt the warmth of the sun in what feels like forever? Is it that I'm still single and it seems harder and harder to meet a genuine, honesty, caring man? Or is it that I'm still putting way too much emphasis on the fact that I'm still single after four years?

Or is it that I feel unstoppable change coming my way and I'm not sure I'm ready for it?

But then I settle on what I truly feel it is; that I'm trying so hard to hold on to things that never were meant to be mine. 

I can't help but wonder as I watch how simple it is to make Rocky happy, that maybe I still, even after all these year and experiences and learnings and time, have it all wrong?

Upon further explorations, I realized that maybe this dis-ease and discomfort are from holding on to ideas and perspectives, certain people and old comfort zones? Maybe it's time to really, truly let go. To say goodbye to what I want to be mine but what will never be? 

I look up from my computer to find Rocky peeking back at me with one eye open as if to say, "Mom, I can't even be bothered to lift my head if it's still not bloody time to go on a walk." I laugh again and feel the center of my chest fill with warmth. It's a genuine laugh. A genuine warmth. That is what I long for. More of that feeling, deep within my chest. 

It's true and real and 100% authentic. It bubbles up from such depths that it momentarily warms my whole body. It's pure joy and bliss. 

It's 100%, without a doubt, happiness and love. 

I throw back the covers and Rocky jumps up with contagious enthusiasm. If he could talk he'd sing with such unwavering and flamboyant joy, "It's TIIIIMMMMMMMEEEE!" As he prances of the bed because now it was, in fact, time for his WALK. One of the most most simplest joys to this bright eyed pup day. 

I slip on my UGG boots and beanie and zip up my black North Face puffy vest and know, without a doubt, that yes, it is in fact...TIME. 

To be continued.

Liar Liar Pants On Fire, The Truth Shall Set You Free

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“Above all, don't lie to yourself. The man who lies to himself and listens to his own lie comes to a point that he cannot distinguish the truth within him, or around him, and so loses all respect for himself and for others. And having no respect he ceases to love.” 
― Fyodor Dostoyevsky

When I started writing in this space almost five years ago, my life was going down a very different path. This blog was called The Savoury Soul and it was where I attempted to talk all things health and wellness.  

I say I was attempting to write about health and wellness but everything felt very sterile and forced. My writing was a mix of how to's and unwarranted 'do this and you'll be happier!' advice. 

What I really should have been writing about, what would have felt way more original and authentic, would have been, "do this and this so everyone you know thinks you have the perfect little life.” And under no circumstance whatsoever admit or even hint at the truth.

All I remember was feeling like the biggest fraud and that I had so much to say, so much to share, but what I was writing about was not even close to being it. 

Instead, I spent a lot of time fluffing up my life and pretending I had it all figured out. 

In reality, what I really wanted to share was the truth. I wanted to scream out, "Hey! I have no friggin' clue what I'm doing here and I want out of my marriage but I have everything I ever thought I wanted so why am I so unbelievably sad and miserable? And why is it that when I look in the mirror I have no idea who the person I'm looking at is? And does anyone else out there feel this way?"

That is the stuff I really wanted to write about. 

The truth.

Real life. Real stuff. Real feelings. 

Raw, gritty, honest to God truth.

I wanted to expose the complicated feelings I was experiencing from being married to someone who had no idea who I was nor really even cared to find out. I wanted to write about how I had no idea who I was either but was desperate to find out.

I wanted to talk about how I had everything I ever thought I wanted but all the stuff in the world couldn't fill the ever growing hole inside. I needed to confide in someone, anyone who’d listen, that sometimes I’d dream about telling my husband that I was going to the grocery store and get in my car and drive away. And just keep driving. 

I wanted to tell the story of how on my wedding day as I stood in front of my family and the two friends I was "allowed" to invite, I wasn't thinking that this was my dream day. I was looking around thinking about all the people I wished were there but weren't because my ex made a big stink about the fact that this was his second wedding and "nobody wanted to come to a second wedding."

"How do you think it makes me look Amanda?" He asked. I remember thinking, "But...it's not just about you. Shouldn't we compromise? Isn't that what love and marriage is about? Give and take? Shouldn't you want to see me beaming from the happiness and joy I feel from having all the people I love at our day? 

 Instead, I stood in front of the twenty people in attendance and said my vows while secretly wondering how long it would be before we got a divorced. Instead of being in ah of this person I was committing my life too, I stood there with a fake smile saying some of the most important words to a man who no more then two weeks later met another women on a business trip.

I wanted to share how the first time I learned of him cheating was before we were even engaged. I wanted to leave then but was terrified because I didn't know what I would do. And then he said all the perfect words knowing very well that I would cave from hearing those words. I'm sorry. You mean everything to me. I will be better. I don't deserve you. I love you. 

He promised he'd change. He'd get help and go to therapy. And I was a sucker for empty promises. I was addicted to the love you think you feel from being told that US was finally enough to create change. That you really mean something. That you are worthy enough for them to change. 

I wanted to share that not much about US worked and I wondered if others were living in marriages that felt like living in a glass house. Just one more lie and everything may shatter around you.

 Were others drawing the drapes closed tightly at night to cover the truth of their relationships too? Were others as desperate to keep their lies tightly sealed just like I was?

I wanted to write with such brutal honestly that when I reached the end of the page I would feel empty, cleaned out and purged of all the lies I was telling others and myself. I needed to shed the excess weight so I could stare naked in the mirror and see Amanda for the first time.

But I couldn't. Instead, I filled these pages with boring facts that made me feel inauthentic. All because I knew that once I shared, there was no going back. Once it was out there everyone would know I, Amanda Whitworth, was a big…fat…lier.

So I just kept quiet and kept writing about boring topics because I felt called to write but was too afraid to write about what it was I felt called to share. 

Those thoughts and feelings, those would stay buried deep within, folded into the layers of my heart.

But the truth will set you free they say and freedom was what I was longing for. So once I had a reason that was good enough, once I had been broken and beaten down just enough, I got up the courage to say "no more!"  And I ran 1200 miles away to a little beach town so I could give myself the space and time to finally open up my heart and share what it is I'm suppose to share.

The truth.  

And the most interesting thing has happened with being brutally honest. Every time I open up and share a little bit more of my truth I feel free.

I have given myself permission to peel back the layers and get down and dirty with the God honest truth and it’s become harder and harder to lie to myself. Sometimes the truth hurts. Sometimes it really sucks having to referee the battle between my head and my heart and make a decision that I know is best for me but I don’t want to make. Sometimes that decision brings about it’s own pain. 

I’ll tell you one thing though, the feeling I get when I’m honest with myself and take action upon that honesty is almost indescribable.

No amount of sex and drugs or food and exercise or shopping or anything else that temporarily fills those holes and stuffs down those lies can make me feel as high and full as the way the truth does.

And that, my dear, is why the truth shall set you free.

So that you can be.  

Saying Good-bye To A Life-Long Dream + Update On What's Going On With My Health

"Acceptance of one's life has nothing to do with resignation; it does not mean running away from the struggle. On the contrary, it means accepting it as it comes, with all the handicaps of heredity, of suffering, of psychological complexes and injustices." Paul Tournier

When I was a little kid I use to gather the family pets, usually a dog and two cats, and pretend they were my children. I'd reenact what I thought it meant to be a mommy, usually based off of what I witnessed from my own mom, who was an incredible mommy by the way (still is!). I'd spend hours in mommy land cutting the crust off their imaginary peanut butter and jelly sandwiches.

All I knew back then was no matter what, I was destined to be a mom.

I thought by twenty-two I should have been married and on my first child because that was what I knew. That was how it worked and that was how it happened for my mom. When that time came around and I hadn't achieved that I felt lost and like I had failed. 

As the years crept by and that story was nowhere near what my life looked like, the sadness got thicker and so did the feeling of failure. Then one day I met my now ex-husband and a twinkle of hope ignited within and I thought, "Yes, this is it. I'm finally going to be a mom."

When I couldn't get pregnant after two years of trying I once again found myself feeling as if I had failed and as if life had failed me too. Deep inside, in that place not many of us really like to go, I thought maybe there was something fundamentally wrong with me. Maybe I had made God really mad and I was somehow being punished and undeserving of having my own children. 

When my marriage crumbled at the age of thirty-four a little part of that dream went with it. I started to see the clock tick faster then it was already ticking. When doctors advise you at the age of twenty-four to have a full hysterectomy, your clock becomes more like ticking time-bomb. You are constantly feeling as if it's gonna blow. However, I was still hopeful that I had time. I had time to meet someone, fall in love and get the white picket fence and the family to go with it. 

I had to because I wasn't quite ready to answer the question, "If I wasn't going to be a mommy, who was I going to be?" 

But life is an interesting loop of mysterious experiences that sometimes just don't seem to make sense. 

Over the last four years I've experienced several big disappointments and have had to dig beyond my comfort zone and begin asking those harder questions. And now, as my body begins this next process induced from radiation, I have no other choice to begin finding the answers to the one question I've been avoiding the most. 

What I'm finding is an honesty and a resistance I really wasn't ready.     

I'm realizing that it's time to start saying good-bye to that life-long dream and life has quite literally thrown me into it. Ready or not, too bad!  

And as much as I tell myself all the optimistic things like, I really enjoy my freedom and I enjoy doing what I want, when I want to, I realize that I need to honor that life-long dream and mourn the death of it properly. 

I need to stop pushing down my feelings and thoughts and face them head on. 

I need to acknowledge and mourn that:

I'll never experience the excitement of peeing on a stick and seeing the pink positive slowly begin to form and I'll never nervously get to share the news with my partner, eager to see the smile form on his face and the joy twinkle in his eyes. 

I'll never know what it's like to feel the first flutters of life growing inside of me or watch my belly swell as I transition from normal clothes into maternity. 

I'll never know what it's like to rush to the hospital mixed with fear and excitement as I wait for my body to start a process that it was literally created for. 

I'll never lay in the hospital bed, exhausted and tired, waiting for the first sounds of my son or daughter's life echoing around me until they are safely in my arms, meeting for the first time. 

I'll never experience those first moments and that is a thirty-seven year long dream I have to mourn properly. And at times, that feels like a pretty heavy burden to bare alone. 

One of the shitty things about illness is you have no control over the wake of destruction it creates in your life. It rips through taking out whatever it damn well pleases and you sit back and just watch it do so. It's a little surreal if you ask me.

Yes, we do have control over how we perceive things and our attitude towards them. We all have those choices. And believe me, I practice these things daily but I'm human. A very emotional and deeply feeling human who can't paint away my pain with affirmations and positive quotes. If I don't feel this experience fully, I, Amanda Whitworth, will disappear into a numbness and fog that I couldn't live with. So, I choose to lean into the pain, hoping with every ounce of my being, that it's the true answer to healing.   

I also recognize that I always had the choice to walk away from radiation treatment. However, to live with that fear of whether the cancer had already started creeping up my lymph nodes into my lungs wasn't something I could live with. Radiation was, in my opinion, the lesser of two evils. Just how great of an evil well, I'm only just now learning the truth of what that means. 

But now, as others get to share their first images of the black and white outline of what's growing inside their womb and welcome their brand new babies into the world, I'm having discussions of a hysterectomy with my oncologist and wondering how many nights a person can go without adequate sleep due to a pain that wakes her every hour, before she loses her mind. 

And I know, believe me when I say I know, there are other ways of being a mother. I also know I am so lucky to be alive but please, I beg you, stop saying this to me. I know it's out of love and support but all it does is make me question my own emotions and feelings. It riddles me with guilt. It makes me feel like I need to hide the truth and that makes me feel ugly. That makes the anger I'm feeling inside bubble out of control until sometimes, I'm shaking so much I scare myself. 

I find myself keeping to myself a lot these days because I'm scared of sharing this pain with others. I see their discomfort with it and how no one wants to really talk about it or how they just want to fix it with saying things like, "There are so many ways to be a mom!" Or, "At least you didn't have to have Chemotherapy." Or, "It could have been worse!." 

Don't ever say these things to someone going through something like this. We already know this. Believe me. We are dealing with the guilt and confusion every minute of every day. 

But I'm determined to find my way back out of the darkness. It's just going to take a little time. But I'll find my way back, I promise.  

I just need to spend some time saying good-bye and getting use to the idea that I'll never get to have my own kids. I've got to find a way to make peace with that. Real peace. And that will take time. 

And that means some days I'm going to be angry as hell at everything and some days I'm going to cry so much that my body hurts but that is okay. 

This has been a dark few months for me but I've still been able to see glimmers of light along the way. 

On the heels of losing two wonderful human beings in one week to this horrible thing called Cancer, I know just how lucky I am. But that doesn't mean I don't get to mourn my own loss. That doesn't mean I don't get to feel my own feelings for what I'm experiencing. It doesn't mean that I don't get to feel the deep pain as I adjust to my new world, my new reality, in a body that is riddled with pain all the time now, one that doesn't feel like mine at all. Because I do. I do get that. 

I will find my way back to optimism. I will find my way back to believing in the good of all circumstances and believing that maybe this is happening so I can do something with it to help others. I will find my way back to doing some of the things I loved doing before even if it looks and feels different now. I will find my way back, I promise. 

But right now I get to properly say good-bye no matter how dark I go and I beg you, please let me. 

So what is next?

Being diagnosed with a rare cancer has been an interesting experience. It's really hard to know where you belong when you still don't even know where this started. However, we did narrow it down to being related to Lynch Syndrome. 

Back in May I underwent genetic testing and my results came back positive for MSH2 gene mutation which is what we expected all along. It's one of two possibilities with Lynch Syndrome (Hereditary Non-polyposis Colorectal Cancer) and kind of a scary reality to deal with. (click here for more info) 

So what this means is I have a higher lifelong chance of developing colon, rectal, uterine and ovarian cancer as well as stomach, small intestine, liver, gallbladder duct, upper urinary tract, and brain. 

Given that this is my second experience at such a young age, my doctor is taken this search very seriously and I am most grateful for him and his determination. I will always be vigilant and on top of my screenings and tests because after meeting a women in the waiting room of my oncologist office who was diagnosed with the same thing as me but much further along, a tumor had already formed in her Vagina and she underwent Chemotherapy and radiation, and none of it worked. Her tumor is resistant to treatment. Last week they attempted to do radical surgery to remove her uterus, ovaries, bladder, anus and colon however, when her surgeon opened her up, he discovered that the tumor was too close to her pelvic wall and there was nothing he could do. And it scares me to think that this could one day be me. 

Radiation has left the left side of my body riddled with pain and I'm trying to figure out what to do now as it's becoming a bit debilitating and chronic. I'm trying to find others who are experiencing similar issues so I don't feel so alone in this because most people who've had radiation that I've come across in real like have bounced back rather easily. As the weeks go on, I'm having a harder time walking and now, sitting and lying in bed. 

I spent my Halloween meeting with a Urologist at Moore's Cancer Center to discuss a procedure I had on Tuesday afternoon to look at lining of my bladder and then in the evening, I had my CT scan. No signs of cancer in my bladder.

I had my PET scan yesterday and now, I just wait for the results to see if this pain is a result of radiation or if the lymph node in my sacrum was actually cancerous and now has grown. 

I will say this. Radiation is no joke and comparing it to Chemotherapy as if it is a lesser evil isn't fair. It is all horrible and it all comes with experiencing great loss. 

Every morning I wake up in a body that feels eighty and it takes me all day to feel like I can move somewhat normally again. The pain in my back and hip are unbearable. I have a whole new perspective for those who have lived a long time with chronic pain. So much compassion and love to you because this alone could make a person crazy. Throw on how tired I feel all the time, like I can't get enough sleep, and the hormonal changes I'm experiencing, well, feeling a bit crazy doesn't even do it justice. And it's not something to joke about because to those of us who are experiencing it, it's really traumatic and scary and very isolating. 

And now a lot of my thoughts these days are of trying to come to terms with and accept the decision I'm making to have a hysterectomy because I'll tell you what, not having to worry about Uterine and Ovarian cancer on top of the rest, would be really nice. 

However, I have to fully come to terms with this on my own and in my own time. But I know one thing for sure. I don't want to die from this one day. I don't want to make the wrong decision only to have it come back to bite me in the ass. (No pun intended...okay, I had to throw in a little humor!)

I know all of this is leading me to something. I'm starting to see that light again. In between all the messy and dark parts I'm still experiencing, I see the twinkle in the distance and it's beautiful. 

 

 

 

 

 

On Waiting For What Is Next

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“I wanted a perfect ending. Now I've learned, the hard way, that some poems don't rhyme, and some stories don't have a clear beginning, middle, and end. Life is about not knowing, having to change, taking the moment and making the best of it, without knowing what's going to happen next."

- Gilda Radner

Today, September 25th marks one month post treatment. One month of slowly healing the physical, mental and emotional wounds of the past six months. 

Both my radiation burns, the one in my groin and the one on my left butt cheek (I didn't know I was going to get that one) are almost nothing more then a faint outline and a patch of dry skin. I remember starring at my naked body in the mirror wondering if those burns would leave scars. It's nice to know they probably won't. Physical ones that is. 

I've started moving my body, slowly finding my way back into my physical sense of self. However, even that looks different. My body looks different. It feels different and I'm trying to work with those changes the best I know how.

Limited range of motion on my left side, random nerve surges down my leg, a strange tingling sensation in my groin, a slight limp, extra weight, scramble egg brains, lethargy, massively swollen boobs 24/7, which I imagine are hormonal changes triggered from frying my reproductive organs. All new enough to make me feel as if I'm living in a different body. 

I laugh now at the memory of talking with my mom three weeks into treatment. "Mom!" I say in my most dramatic voice. " I swear, I can literally feel my left ovary dying." It's funny now though, because I really do feel them dying. I feel them taking their last long, slow, deliberate breathe  and I feel this longing for just six months ago when my periods were like clock work and the womanly feeling I had each month at the sight of Aunt Flow. 

Now what? What do I do now? 

When most women spend so much of their time desperate to rid their lives of her, I'm desperate for just a few more months or years with her.  

I can't help but picture my left ovary as a puffed up burnt marshmallow dripping off a stick over the hot flames of a backyard fire pit. All from five weeks of a few minutes each day on a cold, sterile table in the basement of a hospital. 

How is it that I have to lose so much from something I never asked for? For something I had absolutely no control over? And then I hate that I just said that because I still have so much to be thankful for. 

All in all, changes are happening and it's safe to say I am not the same person I was only a few short months ago. I do believe, it's even safe to say, I am not even the same person as I was yesterday. 

And now I find myself in waiting. Waiting to see what happens next. How do you anticipate the future when there is so much riding on past events? I guess that is why you live in the moment.

I worry though. 

I worry with each passing day that there is a monster still lurking inside me, breeding, hunting, stealing from me, desperate to latch on and feed off every part until I no longer can breathe, suffocated by it's mere existence, and then, just like that, I'm gone. 

That is what keeps me up at night. That and the night sweats and vivid dreams and thoughts of how God chooses. You live, you die, you get to have children and you don't.

Then there is the sheer panic of not knowing how to exist in a world that doesn't really want to know how you are truly doing. A world that wants your diluted pleasantries instead of your God honest truth. 

"How are you doing?" They ask. 

"I'm great! I'm feeling more and more like my old self every day." I say with a fake smile. When what I really want to say is that I'm okay. I'm taking it day by day, moment by moment and coping the best as I know how. But sometimes I spin out of control and wonder where the last six months went. I wonder how I move forward relating to a world that has no fucking idea what I just stepped in. How do I smile and cheer on one more women who tells me they are pregnant and suck back the sobs when I see the reminder of what I will never have as they rest their hands on their swollen belly.

It's funny how bad you want something when you are no longer able to have it.  

So now I find myself in this place of ambiguity, both longing to close off from the world and needing to be seen. To hide away for just a short while longer as I sift through the dust and debris of this messy matter and tend to my heart. Yet, I long to be given new opportunities and people and to spread my wings and grow so wide that the world can't stuff me away into a little box labeled cancer or survivor or menopause or woman. 

I balance my worry and anxiety with meditation and writing, yoga and New Moon Circles and it helps. 

I've asked the world to bring me new people and situations aligned with where I want to go, with my goals and dreams, and it has. It's funny what happens when you set out with a fierce determination and deep clarity. I will not let this experience ruin me. I will do something great for the world with it. 

And then I spend my time with those in my life that I already value so much. I'm slowing down, just a tad, to give myself more to others. To be their shoulder to cry on, their comfort and support in their own turbulent times because one thing I've learned is that life isn't easy for anyone and everyone is doing the best they can. 

So now I wait. I do all this and I wait for what is next and I do my best to live my life and to figure out who I am after all of this. 

Then the call comes from my oncologist who was revisiting the tissue from the slides they created from the tumor they removed and he tells me I have to go in for another procedure to rule out bladder cancer and I laugh and say, "that sounds like fun."  And he nudges again about a hysterectomy and more searching for this monster. 

So I'm really not done yet. It's as if life is laughing at me and says, "buckle up Amanda...it's about to get bumpier."  

And I just sit here waiting telling everyone that I feel more and more like my old self and I feel like a big lier. 

What's Love Got To Do With It?

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"If you are searching for that one person that will change your life, take a look in the mirror." - Unknown

The other day I was Skyping with a friend who's current situation eerily resembles mine almost three and a half years ago. As she shared her fears and worries, I couldn't help but feel a deep sense of empathy and compassion for where she was. As she nervously confided in me about her decision to leave her marriage of two years, I wanted to wrap my arms around her and say, "It's gonna be okay. I promise. One day it will be even better then okay." 

I wanted to tell her everything I had learned over the last three and a half years about love and how sometimes loss leads you to discovering some of the most magical things about yourself and about life.

I wanted to share how a lot of the time, we think the love from someone else is enough but it isn't. What is enough however is having the courage to do what is in your heart which isn't always the easy thing.

 But I couldn't, it wasn't my place. I knew all these lessons were ones she had to come to on her own. All I could do was listen and hope that she felt my love and support from thousands of miles away. 

It got me wondering though, how many people are married or coupled up who have done so under the same false pretenses I did? The one that says the right person will come along and save you. They will love you enough so that you won't have to learn the very thing that WILL save you; loving yourself.

 I also wondered how many people were staying in relationships that resembled the very one I was in because it felt safe or because they felt it was something the should do. Those damn should's. 

I grew up believing in the fairy tale. The one that had my prince charming riding in on his Technicolor My Little Pony and rescuing me in some way, shape or form. Hey, these were my fantasies and regular horses bored the hell out of me. My Little Ponies were what my romantic dreams were made of. 

He’d trot in with his perfectly parted Ken Doll hair because what young girl doesn't adore Ken. With his sparkling blue eyes and his big, bronze muscles, which were just a little stiff if you asked me, and he'd scoop me up with his arms that barely hinged at the elbows and we’d ride off into the blazing sunset to live happily ever after in our Barbie Dream House. The one with the white picket fence, the perfect career making the perfect amount of money, the 2.5 kids, and a friggin' partridge in a pear tree.  And that wouldbe our "The End".

Fast-forward to real life and one painfully failed marriage and a handful of brutal dating scenarios with openly emotionally unavailable men and this single thirty-seven year old has finally realized that love looks a little different then what my youthful (and delusional) dreams were once so naively made of.

It's taken me a long time to admit to myself that real love isn't the stuff that Blockbusters and fairytales are made of.

It definitely isn’t a Tom Hanks and Meg Ryan movie.

It isn’t black and white.

And absolutely, under no circumstance, can real love sweep in on a brightly colored pony and save you. 

Entering any partnership under these pretenses is bound to fail you at some point.  

But let me start from the beginning. Let me tell how I came to realize that I had it all wrong. That my idea of real love was nothing more then a deceptive idea passed down over time and adopted by a girl who just wanted a happily ever after. 

Let me tell you what love isn't

I remember waking in the early hours of a cold February morning in 2014 from another restless night sleep. A fresh layer of white snow covered the bare vines and steep rolling hills of the fifty acre farm and vineyard I had called home for the past four years. I pulled the covers up close to my chin and in the stillness of the early morning light left over from the moon, I looked to my left at the silhouette silently sleeping next to me and my chest tightened. The heaviness returned from its eight hour break and once again, I wondered how I had allowed myself to get here. 

That had become the norm. I was thirty-three and found myself in a manipulative marriage of less then two years that had become more about constantly trying to change each other then acceptance, support, encouragement and love. I found myself constantly wondering if this was really it. Was this really what love and marriage were? Deception, lies, dread and control? 

Was I really that desperate to be coupled up that I had sacrificed my own personal happiness to do so? 

What about the fairytale? What about my prince charming and my technicolor pony ride off into my rainbow color sunset? What about my happily ever after? 

I slipped out from beneath the covers, quiet as to not wake my then husband, desperate for a few more hours to myself before I had to face my very own Jackal and Hyde. I tip toed down the stairs into the bathroom on the main floor and flipped on the light. Instead of avoiding the mirror as I normally did, I stood, staring down the reflection.

I looked tired and defeated from the daily disappointment and heartache of what I had allowed my life to become. I had no idea who the women in the mirror was. I had broken a promise I made to myself a long time ago after growing up with parents who's marriage resemble the one I now found myself frantically treading water in.

"How did you let this happen? This can't be it." I whispered to the girl in the mirror. For the first time I allowed the words to bubble up and before I knew it, slip out my lips and into the hands of the very thing that could save me, my own.  

It was as if I had broken some kind of spell and I snapped out of the delusional fog I was in. I made a promise to  myself that I would do whatever I had to do to live this one precious life the way I knew, in my heart, I needed to live it. Not chasing down the love of someone else but rather figuring out what that meant on my own.

The events that transpired over the next two months were heavy and heartbreaking but perfectly laid out for me so that I had no other choice but to leave.

In mid-May, just days before what was to be my second wedding anniversary, I found my car packed with all my belongings as I drove north back home to Seattle wondering how I was ever going to put my life back together. However, in my heart I knew a life stumbling solo was far better then being coupled up in something that was abusive and neglectful and lacking any sense of what I believe to be true love

So what does love have to do with it anyway?

Not to sound incredibly cliche, but one of the greatest lessons I learned from walking away from my marriage was that love between two people just isn't enough. You have got to love yourself first. Unfortunately, I had no idea what that looked like and had a long road of hard and repetitive lessons ahead.

How we learn to love ourselves looks different for all of us but I wholeheartedly believe that until we learn to do just that, our lives are going to be full of a lot of pain and suffering because we are going to be constantly looking for that love from others.

The greatest step I ever took was finally listening to my heart and walking away from something that was safe, comfortable and familiar for the complete and utter unknown. It was in that moment I cracked a little piece of the puzzle and realized that this was the way to the truth. This was the way I was going to learn how to love myself and step into a life that felt like me. 

The moment I drove away from comfort I knew I had started a wild and crazy journey into the depths of my own heart. Something I had only ever dipped my toes in. 

I said yes to something big and scary and I have kept saying yes to things that terrify me because I know they will keep leading me to deeper parts of myself. 

So what does love have to do with it? 

Absolutely everything. 

Love with someone else may not be enough but you better believe the love you feel for yourself is. That is the answer. Until you know what that looks like it is going to be really hard to invite in the kind of love you deserve and want with someone else. 

The path isn't always paved perfectly and those bumps and challenges are usually leading you to discovering another part of yourself that needs some love. That's what all those hard, often repetitive lessons are meant to do. They are supposed to shine light on the areas that need more of your own love. 

That is where I'm at now, facing many of the same lessons over and over, slowly realizing I have the choice to love myself enough to say not again.

I'm learning to love myself by leaning into those parts of me that are unfamiliar and choosing to do things differently. I'm creating the life I want that feels like the truth even if it doesn't make sense at the time. And I'm just going to keep doing this. Day in and day out. I'm going to wake up every day and continue to make choices, easy or hard, that are based around doing what is best for my heart, my path, my journey, my life.

I'm going to continue to say goodbye to people, places and things that do not serve my heart and allow time and truth to cultivate the space for those things that do. 

So that hopefully, one day, when the right man walks into my life, I can let him love me just that way too. 

 

 

Turn the page

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"There comes a day when you realize that turning the page is the best feeling in the world, because you realize there is so much more to the book then the page you were stuck on."

- Taryn Malik

Today is my last day of treatment. 

Six weeks have come and gone and here I am, hours away from laying on that cold and hard table, tucked back in the vaulted room in the basement of the cancer center for the very last time. EVER. Hands tightly wrapped around the squishy blue oval ring they give you to help keep you still, eyes closed humming quietly to myself to pass the time and not think about what is actually happening. 

Mostly I feel excited and very loved as texts pour in with congratulatory words like "YOU DID IT!" "YOU ARE A RADIATION ROCKSTAR!" "LET THE CELEBRATION BEGIN!" And I smile and think, "I DID do it." I just did the hardest thing I've ever had to do in my life and I definitely plan on celebrating tonight. 

 I'm more then ready to be done as I don't think my poor hip could take much more. Where once was pink and supple skin now resides a four inch, dark leathery purple-red burn that has started to peel and causes discomfort when I wear anything tight. And I'm ready to have back those precious five hours a week dedicated to treatment. 

Overall, I'm ready to have my life back. I'm ready to have the strength and energy to do the things I love but mostly I'm ready to turn the page and start a new chapter.  

I have made the choice that if menopause is near I am okay with it. Despite the rollercoaster of emotions and pain and all that is still unknown, I'm going to wake up tomorrow and just live my life the best way I know how. If I am meant to be a mom that baby will find me in whatever way is destined to be. And I know that this experience will make me an even better parent. 

I've come to a place of feeling peaceful with the direction this is taking my life because I have been reminded of some really important things. So to the Universe and God I say thank you. Thank you for reminding me how precious this one life is. Sometimes those reminders come on the coattails of something traumatic like cancer. 

This experience has reminded me that life is short and as cliche as that may sound, I'm tired of wasting emotions and worries on things I can't control and people whose actions don't align with their words. I'm turning the page and this next chapter is going to be something pretty epic. I feel it in deep within my bones.  

Over the last few months  I've learned three very important lessons that I'd like to share with you now. They weren't easy. There were many tears involved but now as I look back, I'm happy it all unfolded the way it did. Life is pretty interesting and you better hold on tight because it's most definitely always mix of wild and bumpy. 


Your vulnerability is a gift

I've very openly shared my journey and I don't plan on stopping. I truly believe it's far better to be vulnerable and share what you are going through, especially when you feel alone and need the support, then keeping it to yourself out of fear of what others may think. 

There will be people that judge or unfollow or roll their eyes but honestly, that's okay. You don't really need those people in your life. Remember, life is very short. Kindly and lovingly send them on their way.

More then anything, share your story because someone out there needs to hear it. We like to think we are the only ones experiencing the very thing we are going through but I guarantee there is someone out there needing to hear exactly what you have to say.

Every time I was open and honest, especially with the really scary stuff, I was met with an email, message on Facebook or text from someone who needed to hear my words on that particular day. Knowing that my journey was helping someone else, that's a gift I never knew I could give until now. 

Asking for love and support isn't a weakness, it's the greatest thing you'll ever learn to do

Given that my family is 1200 miles away, there were many days where I felt really alone and scared. So I'd post something on social media because I knew that I would be met with the very thing I needed most, love. I really couldn't have gotten through this without all the words of encouragement, thoughts, love, prayers, and so forth.

I used to think that asking for love and support was needy and weak but through this experience, I've learned that it takes a lot of courage and strength to say, "Hey, I'm really struggling today and could use a little love." 

On the days when things were really bad, I'd go back over my feed and reread all those messages you sent me and it would lift me up so I could get out of bed and not only face the day but live the day.  So please know that it really did matter to me and I will forever be thankful.

Balancing your needs with those of others

This is something that hasn't always been easy for me. I'm a constant work in progress. The hardest lesson I've learned through this experience is that even though I'm going through something heavy and hard, so are a lot of other people I love and care for deeply. 

It's easy to get caught up in your own drama and think that what you are going through is so grave and deep but everyone is fighting their own battles and to them, what they are experiencing is quite possibly the hardest thing they have ever had to go through. 

The love, sweet and thoughtful gifts and random acts of kindness I have received throughout this time have quite literally blown my mind and I only hope that moving forward, I can be more selfless, thoughtful and think of others more often then I think of myself. 

We are a world longing for connection and to feel seen, heard and supported. I just want you to know I SEE you, I HEAR you and I'm committed to being here for you in ways I may have not be able to before. But I'm ready now. 

So with bated breath, I turn the page. What lies ahead is unknown and my darling, isn't that what makes life so exciting? 

 

 

 

The Great Lesson I Learned From My Dog

“Dogs teach us a very important lesson in life: The mail man is not to be trusted”  -Sian Ford

Somewhere between the 421st and 422nd sniff and leg lift I lost my cool on Rocky.

“Oh for the love of God Rocky! Come on bud, stay focused. We are on a walk so please, JUST. STAY. FOCUSED! You have literally smelled every shrub, fire hydrant, bush, electrical box and fence post within a one-mile radius of home. And you smelled them ALL yesterday! Come on already!” I cried out. 

Rocky starred back at me as if I had just told him he was actually born a cat. He lowered his head and preceded to walk on, tail tucked between his legs.

My shoulders sunk and so did my heart. I just lost it on my seventy-pound Pit bull who can literally make even the surliest of people smile. What has my world come to?

As we pressed on, I did my very best to gain his forgiveness and make up for my most imperfect quality. I let him happily smell and saturate every single thing he fancied until his big, beautiful heart was content. As we walked on, I thought about how if I couldn’t find joy while on a peaceful morning walk with my dog, what else was I not enjoying in my life either?

I'm always rushing everything; relationships, experiences, moments, TIME! Nothing ever moves quick enough for me. What in the world am I in such a hurry for? To die? 

Later that morning as I washed some dishes in the sink I thought about my ridiculous outburst and started to cry because I knew that one day when Rocky was long gone I’d really miss our long morning walks where he not only stopped to smell the roses, but every single thing that crossed our path.

I dried my eyes looking out the back window as the sweet hummingbird that visits each morning sat on my clothes line to have his morning think. "I bet the hummingbird enjoys just sitting there on the clothes line." I said to myself. Right then and there, as I watched the hummingbird quickly flutter away, I promised myself that not only was I going to take more time to stop and smell the rose, but like Rocky, I was going to smell every damn thing along the way.

And I sure hope you do too.   

photo credit: Stephanie Cristalli Photography

The Dangerous Place of Maybe

"The way to develop decisiveness is to start right where you are, with the very next question you face." - napoleon hill

There is this dangerous place people seem to live in these days. It's that place between yes and no; that one called maybe. We roam from here and there, drifting amongst this indecisive and delusional place because it makes us feel as if we have choices, as if we are the ones in control.

But it's an illusion I tell you. A big scam full of lies. I know this because I've lived there for a very long time. 

Living from maybe is dark and lonely. It makes us feel as if you are strong. It's convincing at times but really, its noncommittal and makes you feel complacent. It's delusional and dark and leaves you thinking you are free but really, you're a prisoner of indecisiveness, bleeding with regret and longing for those things that your maybes let slip through your fingers. 

Be a yes or no person. 

You see, real power, the one you can truly hold yourself up on and feel good about, comes from having conviction. Real power comes from knowing yourself so well that deciding comes easy because most of the time, you already know before you are even given the choice. 

There is no lingering, no wondering or questioning what is right or what is wrong. There is a deep knowing, a trust that only comes from journeying into those dark and lonesome places of questions most of us try to bury with compulsive sex and drugs and iPhones and material things that leave us starring numbly off into space. We feel a momentary high only to find ourselves empty, never knowing who we really are or what we really want. 

You see, this place of yes and no comes with doing the so called work. I'll tell you this though, it's not gonna be easy. What is easy is living in maybe. Yes or no is hard. Understanding who you are is hard. Yes or no takes commitment but most of us are so afraid of this dreaded 'c' word that the idea alone sends us into fits of panic, feeling as if we are a trapped animal beating ourselves against a rusty cage, desperate to escape. 

But I promise you, you want to be a yes or no person.

Commit. Do the work. Dig. Stir it up. Question everything you were taught when you couldn't think for yourself. Trust yourself, even when it may not make sense. Stand firm in what you want. And figure out who you are. Choose. Believe deeply in something, anything, please. Even if the very thing displeases others. Have position and for Gods sake, please have passion. 

Don't spend your life teetering in between yes and no. Don't be a maybe.

Be a yes or no person.