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Archive for December, 2012

My Year in Review

Well, it’s that time.  Magazines are putting out their ‘best and worst of the year’ issues.  TV shows are counting down top 10 moments.  We are expected, at this time, to put our years into neat little boxes, to make sense of what they’ve represented.  Maybe we can finally put a bow on it and move on, as if the last page of the calendars on our walls allows us to wipe our hands together and gently rid ourselves of the past twelve months.

                Way back in the spring, I remember telling people that I was already looking forward to 2012 being over.  It’s been an interesting year to say the least.  On my first night in Costa Rica, we went around in a circle and talked about why we had made the journey of many miles; we talked about why we needed this trip more than the air we breathe.  When it was my turn, I laughed and told the group that my life had been like a bad country song lately, and that I was ready to change the station.

                So, in packing up this box of 2012, I’m ready to revisit the moments that made the year.  There were some really good times (aforementioned trip to Costa Rica) and some really bad ones (aforementioned bad country song).  But they were all moments that made the year what it was, all the smiles, all the messes, all the everything.

                Yesterday, I was telling a dear friend about my idea for this blog post.  Together, we ruled out the idea of listing the ’10 best moments of Ashley’s 2012.’  After all, some of the moments that made this year were not exactly good, but they were essential in me becoming the person that I need to be.  They are what some people would call ‘character building.’  And then I ruled out the idea of using ‘10’ as a definitive number—I would hate to rule out an idea just because I had run out of numbers and don’t want to create one artificially either.  So I’m just going to start coming up with moments and see what number falls on the page…

1)       Uh….so I was in Costa Rica for a month.  It’s hard not to put that as #1.  It’s also difficult to call that just one moment.  Because those 28 days held a multitude of moments, a years’ worth of experiences, a decades’ worth of knowledge and new friends.  But there’s this—when I taught my first yoga solo class, I asked the class to set an intention of taking a mental picture.  That way, whenever they needed it in life, they could transport themselves magically back to a yoga deck that was surrounded by crystal waters and jungle life and feel the strength and beauty that went along with the experience.  My mental picture involves an infinity pool, and gazing off the edge and knowing that everything, EVERYTHING, was as exactly as it should be.

2)      I submitted my first piece to five literary magazines.  And then I got five rejection letters.  And while the rejection stung at first (as all rejections must), it made me feel like I was truly a writer.  I was so proud of the piece that I had written; I had edited and re-edited it in my non-fiction class and I know that someday the world will see it.  But until then, I will proudly take rejection.

3)      So this one truly falls under the category of character building….It was just three days after my husband and I decided to split, decided to proceed with the big ‘D’, that I took my dog to the vet because she was itchy (fleas as it turns out) and because she was limping a little (terminal bone cancer as it turns out).  As the vet told me with tears in her eyes that she didn’t expect to find that in the X-rays, I shook my head and told her that I did.  Somehow I knew that I was just going to have to lose it all at once…my marriage, a place that I had called home for the past eight years, my house, my dog.  See, doesn’t that sound like a bad country song?

4)      Pfew, so after that one, I need something fun….how bout tailgating at Marshall football games, nights out with friends watching bands and dancing to deejays and summer nights sitting around watching meteor showers in driveways.  Those are, again, lots of moments but I see a lot of smiles and laughter when I look back at the year.  And that’s good stuff if you ask me.

5)      There were three days in which I drove from Colorado to West Virginia with nothing but my thoughts and satellite radio to keep me company.  My butt and shoulders hurt like crazy when I finally arrived at my destination.  And there were lots of tears as the Rockies faded into my rearview.  But as I pulled into the driveway of an apartment in which I had slowly built as my own, and stepped further into a life that was also my own, I knew for sure that there was a beginning in the ending.

6)      Watching Maggie run on the beach for what I knew would be the final time.  And feeding her nothing but cheeseburgers for her final weekend.  And snuggling her like crazy in the days before she died.  All of those things I did to say thank you for all she had given me over 11 years.  Letting her go in the physical sense was not nearly as difficult knowing that we had both done all we could for each other up until that point.

7)      When I first got back from Costa Rica, I went with a friend to go look at a vacant space, a possible yoga studio.  When I stepped in, though the floors were carpet and there were walls everywhere, I knew that I was at home in my new studio.  ‘This is it’ I told her.  Because there’s just something about a yoga studio, a sacred space, that brings calm to your soul the second you step through the doors.  And now, this vacant space has turned into a yoga studio where I will be starting my career as a teacher.  I can’t wait.

8)      Oh, there are so many other moments that I’ve written about on this blog….a pioneer weekend with amazing ladies, a Thanksgiving with family and friends (new and old), a birthday spent with my feet in the sand, the ups, the downs, the in-the-middles.  This blog in itself has been like one awesome moment.  “I feel like I read your blog to find out what’s really going on with you,” my dad told me a few months ago.  “I feel like I write my blog to figure out what’s really going on with me,” I told him.  Sometimes it scares the crap out of me to put all of this out there…but here it is.

9)      This moment.  Right here.  Right now I am in Florida with friends that I’ve been close to for over 15 years.  I am sitting on a porch, taking some time to be on my own, listening to music, drinking coffee and watching the ocean.  I know that the end of this year and the beginning of the one to come will be filled with easy laughter that comes with close friends.  I know that I will swim in the ocean on the first day of the year and have my feet in the sand.  At this moment, I am content, I am hopeful and I cannot ask for a single thing more.

Happy New Year’s to all of you.  May you reflect on your year in review and find that you are standing exactly, EXACTLY, where you need to be.

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Happy Holidays to you…

I don’t really do Christmas cards.  Call me a cranky scrooge if you may but every year the holiday sneaks up on me and I find myself cursing the last minute shopping and desperately punching the buttons on the radio when a Christmas song comes on.  So the mere thought of gathering all of the addresses for my friends and family sends my body into stress mode.  And then there’s the actual act of picking out a card that truly conveys the way I feel about the joy of the holiday and my wishes to you, etc.

                And all of this is totally unfair because I love receiving holiday cards from friends and loved ones.  A little smile crosses my face when I go to the mailbox to find those little envelopes with my name printed on the front in someone’s familiar script.  I like seeing the latest family photo or reading the annual Christmas letter that details the year that has passed.  So even though I’m thinking of you during this holiday season and wishing you all the happiness in the world, you’re probably not going to see my name and return address on one of those cards.

                However, I have this nifty blog.  So I don’t even really need to send you the Christmas letter.  I’ve been detailing my life in small posts over the past 12 months.  But in thinking about passing along well wishes for the holiday season, I realized that I could use this as a place to write a little e-Christmas card.  So here goes:

                Happy holidays to you, dear friends and family.  I hope that this season finds you well.  There’s no need to buy me a gift this year, as you’ve already given me the greatest present that can be given.  You’ve let me into your life, took me in when I needed comfort and graced me with your smiles and laughter.  For those of you who have been in my life for a while, I so appreciate that our journey has lasted another year.  And for those of you who I have met just in this past year, you’ve truly been an important part in the patchwork of my life.  I thank the circumstances that finally brought us together and hope that the stars keep aligning so that we remain in each other’s lives.

                I know that your Christmas letters have told me about your adventures and about your accomplishments.  I hope that you continue to celebrate those.  I know that you’ve probably left out the little bits of things that weren’t so easy to talk about.  And I hope that in your life, you are able to find solace in those moments.  I hope that you can relish in the beauty of your life, with all of its’ twists and turns.  I hope there is a hand nearby when you need one to hold.  I hope that laughter is easily accessible.  I hope that a warm bed awaits you during cold nights and I hope that a warm hug awaits you during days when the world feels cold.

                As this day of Christmas creeps closer, we are constantly reminded to love those around us, to be kind, to help those in need.  My wish for you is that this feeling stays in your heart for days and weeks and months after the actual holiday.  It’s a good reminder but we don’t need mistletoe to remember to kiss the ones we love or bright red bows to bring joy to each other.

                If your heart and life are full, take comfort in that.  Use that positive life force flowing around to put some goodness into the world around you.  We could definitely use that right now.  If you are feeling empty in any way, don’t be afraid to ask for help.  You are loved and sometimes we all need a little extra help.  Isn’t that the true act of giving and receiving?

                If there have been gains in your lives, births of children or new relationships, I wish to congratulate you in those.  Celebrate them in every way you can figure out how.  If there have been losses in your life, I offer my condolences.  I hope that time offers you a gentle grace in seeing you through the dark moments.  If there has been sickness, I hope that you find strength.  And if you are in health, I hope that you have the soundness of mind to appreciate the true miracle of that.

                I hope that you have danced some nights away at holiday parties.  I hope that you have taken some time to sing at the top of your lungs.  I hope that you have taken chances and seized moments.  I hope that you have taken mental pictures of the beautiful times in your life so that you can revisit them at any time you choose.  I hope that you have spent time on sandy shores or mountains of snow, depending on whatever your heart craves.  I hope that you have taken life by the horns, my friends, and I hope that you’ll invite me along for some of these moments.

                Happy holidays to you.. 

                Love, Ashley

joy

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So Hum

Anyone else feel like they’ve been running around like a crazy person lately?  Anyone else feel like the devastating events in the news these days make you just want to burrow under some covers?  Because I’ve definitely felt both of these things occurring in the past few days and it’s a crazy push/pull of energy and emotions.  Friday night I finally felt like I was out….of….gas but still had a few more bar shifts and a couple Christmas parties and to-dos to get through.  So I kept running.

                I had a full day on Saturday.  It was my day off but I managed to pack it to the gills with social plans and other stuff and before I knew it, I had almost every minute accounted for.  But there was a point in my day in which I had fifteen minutes before I had to start getting ready for the next activity.  My mind started spinning and thinking about all of the things I could do.  I could clean up around the house or take care of a few things on my computer or catch up on some reading.  And for the same reason that I came up with a zillion things to do, I decided to do nothing.

                Well, not nothing really…I decided that I needed to meditate.  For those of you that followed my blog in Costa Rica, you know that I kind of suck at meditating.  My mind tends to race and I get super antsy.  Why can’t I open my eyes or listen to music when I meditate? I would ask my instructor.  At that point she would give me a look and a smile.  Because I knew the answer.  The point of meditating is to be in your own mind for a little while without any other sensory stimulations taking place.

                So, even though this meditation was on my own terms, I decided to do it the right way.  I took a comfortable seat on the floor of my apartment, set a timer for 15 minutes and closed my eyes.  I almost got up after the first couple of minutes but then I started to settle in.  I started to repeat a mantra that was taught to us in Costa Rica.  I breathed in and spoke the word ‘so’ to myself.  On the exhale, I spoke the word ‘hum’.  So.  Hum.  The translation to this mantra is “I am that. That I am.”  Pretty simple.  But sometimes we need to go back to simple to gain our focus.

                Slowly the churning thoughts started to lose a little speed.  I stopped worrying about the immediate future and all that I needed to do.  I stopped thinking about the recent past and all the things I wished I’d done different.  I began to just be.  And then this phrase drifted into my head, as if from nowhere—‘sit down in your completeness’.   It was like someone had whispered into my ear.  And it totally made sense for exactly where I was at.

                The timer let off a gentle chime at the end of 15 minutes and I was surprised.  It seemed like only a few minutes had passed.  I felt more rested than if I had taken a nap and more accomplished than if I had cleaned my kitchen.  And then I continued upon my evening, joining friends for dinner and then attending a Christmas party.  I slept way too little, went to work the next morning and then went to another party.  And so the whirlwind that is my life kept spinning.

                But I’m constantly surprised lately when I determine that it turns out that I know exactly what I need to do in order to make myself happy.  I haven’t always trusted that and at times, I was sure that I didn’t have a clue.  And then a moment comes along like it did on Saturday, where I take 15 minutes to sit down in my completeness.  And that’s all I need to do to know that I’m going to be OK no matter what.

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Dinner and a Movie

I had a hot date on Monday night.  Now, don’t go getting too excited.  I plan on detailing my reintroduction into the single life in my mid-thirties in a future bestselling book.  But until then, it will not be discussed too much on this blog.  Besides, I have lots more research to do.  So this hot date to which I am referring means that I spent the night on my own.  Sad to say, it was the first evening in quite a while in which I had done so.  I work most evenings and on the evenings in which I don’t work, I have amazing friends that I want to be around.  I’m a bit of a social butterfly so if you give me the option of hanging out, I will most likely take that option.  Life is short; you can sleep when you’re dead, etc, etc.

                But there was a conversation that occurred last week that made me step back a little bit.  I was bartending at the wine bar and I was talking to one of the regulars about opening the bar on Thanksgiving.  I told him that I didn’t really like to take nights off of work.

                “Why is that?” he asked me.

                It was a simple enough question with a simple enough answer.  I work a lot because I need the money.  I just spent a month in Costa Rica and so now I need to make hay while the sun shines.  So if someone asks me to pick up a shift, I do it without a second thought.  But it was something in the way that this man looked at me when he asked me this question that made me step back a bit.  I started to think about when I had last had an evening on my own and it seemed like it was sometime when the muggy air of summer still hung heavy in the sky.  Now it’s December.

                I planned on having this evening on Saturday night.  And then, of course, I got called in desperation to bartend at the restaurant before a country concert.  It was the exact opposite of relaxation.  We went through a keg of Bud Light in under two hours.  In my second-ever bartending shift, I had a full bar and the printer kept spitting out tickets that said “Watermelon Martini” or “Frozen Wildberry Margarita” or “Blackberry Peach Sangria Pitcher.”  I literally almost cried and left the bar.  So long story short…hot date rescheduled for Monday night.

                My plan was to make myself a nice dinner using the recipe book that’s been gathering dust.  Maybe a nice bottle of wine, some slow tunes to which I would sing along to.  And definitely a chick flick.  It didn’t really go as planned—because Sunday night was the holiday party for the wine bar.  And you might be able to guess this but there was a lot of really good wine served at this party.  And there was a karaoke machine which required drinking more of this wine in order to sing in front of a small crowd of people.  So instead of cooking, I went for fast food.  So sue me.

                But for the first time in a very long time, I spent the entire evening by myself.  I resisted the urge to run over to a friend’s house or my parent’s house.  It’s not that I can’t spend time on my own.  I’m an only child so I’m a bit wired towards solidarity and due to my wacky schedule, I have most days on my own for writing, yoga, etc and I relish those days.  But it’s something about the evenings that stretch long with people making plans for dinner—I want to be included and invited.  I want to share laughter and deep conversation.  And I feel so fortunate that I am surrounded by so many great people who make those moments happen when I have a night off.

                My mom often asks me if I’m lonely.  And it’s a strange question.  Being single is still relatively new to me.  Do I miss having someone who I can share every part of my life with?  Maybe…Do most women feel like they have that in their relationships?  Maybe not.  What I do have now is a very full life and wonderful friends and jobs that give me all the social interaction I can handle in a given evening. 

                So maybe dating in the entire sense of the word is not something that I am ready for yet.  I am embracing this new single life of mine.  After all, it took me months to just find time for a dinner/movie date with myself.  And I couldn’t even do the cooking.  Bottom line: you’re just going to have to wait a while for that book to come out.  But not to worry….I am taking notes.

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