Archive for March, 2016


The other night I was out and about and I ran into someone that I hadn’t seen for a while.  They told me that they were going through a big breakup….like, a big one.  They paused as they tried to explain the place that they were in.  “I don’t know if you’ve ever been in a place like that,” they said, looking to me for a response.  “My dog was diagnosed with terminal cancer two days after my ex-husband and I decided to divorce,” I said.  They laughed a little and said “so yeah, you get it.”

And then I told them what I’m about to tell you, dear readers of this blog.  I look back at that time in my life and what comes up is not a feeling of pain but a feeling of ALIVE.  Of my body being wracked with tears and my stomach being coiled with anger.  But in letting myself feel every bit of it I gained the world.

You see, when I took my dear, sweet 11-year old Maggie to the vet two days after my ex and I finally decided to utter the d-word, it was only to check on a little limp she was having.  After an X-ray, the doctor walked into the office with tears in her eyes and said “I didn’t expect to find this.”  She showed me the fuzzy, non-threatening blurs on the scan that actually represented a very aggressive bone cancer.  And I sat there, not nearly as surprised as she.  Somehow I knew that I was just going to have to lose it all at once.

If you’d asked me in the middle of it, in the blue of the flame that was reshaping everything I had known, if this was in fact the feeling of “ALIVE”, I would have said “No, you crazy person, it really sucks.”

It all makes me think of a quote I stumbled across recently by Bob Goff.  It goes like this:

‘Embrace uncertainty.  Some of the most beautiful chapters in our lives won’t have a title until much later.

In the midst of all that I probably would have named that chapter in my life something with a few good cuss words in it.  I ended up having to put Maggie down just shortly after finding out that my ex was seriously dating someone else while the ink on our divorce papers was still drying.

But now?  What is that chapter in my life called?  Well, it’s called “Why Ashley went to yoga school in Costa Rica.”

I joked to my classmates on the first night in yoga school, while sitting on a deck overlooking lush jungles and the Pacific Ocean, that I was there because my life had become a bad country song.  But the thing is, that I only had the opportunity to do something amazing like that because for the first time in a long time, I only had myself to look out for.  And I truly believe that yoga school put me squarely on the path that I need to be on in life.

So yeah, the universe is funny like that.  It’s made up of chapters that are painful and confusing and really, really sucky.  But it’s also made up of chapters that are beautiful and amazing and comforting.  And the thing is, well, all these chapters are kind of a package deal.  And this story you’re writing of your life?  It would be kind of lame if nothing ever happened.  We just have to keep playing out the chapters the best we know how in order to get to the juicy parts.


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imageI have the day off today for the first time in a little while.  I had no plans and not much of a to-do list.  So I decided that I would take some time and listen to my soul.  I felt like it had been a little while since I truly did that.  So the first thing I did was get quiet, which meant that I sat around in my PJs for a couple hours drinking coffee.  I worked a little on my online course which was all about reckoning, rumbling and revolution and then I said “Hey soul, what is it that you would like to do today?”

My soul looked outside at the blue sky and felt the warm wind coming through the window and said “I want to drive with the windows down and go somewhere where I can put my toes in the sand.”  My very first thought was slightly whiny as I admonished my soul for this thought thinking “we don’t live at the beach silly…..why on earth don’t we live at the beach dangit???”  But then I decided to improvise.  Because while driving to the beach would have been nice, I don’t have that kind of time.  But I did know of a favorite little spot that just required venturing into Wayne County.

So I grabbed my copilot Buddy and hopped into my car and rolled the windows all the way down.  I only listened to songs I could sing along to at the top of my lungs and hit some two lane roads until I got out to Beech Fork.  I took a path that wound along the lake until I got to the ‘beach’.  It’s a little recreation area designated for swimming with a nice wide sandy area.  I took my shoes off and squeezed my toes around in the sand while Buddy ran around and around and around on the beach.

And then my soul saw a swing set and she said “Hey look! Let’s go do that!”  So I did.  Something about getting on a swing set always brings out this complete euphoria in me.  I have memories of being in Bermuda and being in Vancouver and finding random swing sets and as they arced and dipped back my heart was certain that I was doing this whole life thing right.  And though my travels only took me to Wayne County today, that feeling definitely came back.

I left the swing set and started heading down a road that would eventually loop me back to where my car was parked and my soul started piping up again.  “You’re choosing joy today,” she said.  “I’m proud of you,” she said.  And that’s when I saw the black bird.  I won’t go into the black bird too much here except to say that I’m pretty sure that the spirit of someone who I cared about greatly and who would want to see me succeed lives in this bird.  And that there have been numerous times in my life when, if I am wondering in my little head if I’m doing the right thing, if I’m on the right path, if I’m going to be OK—-that’s when I look up to see this black bird is swooping across my line of sight.  And I know that the answer is yes.

The thing is—-the soul always knows what it needs.  It always knows what it needs to choose joy and it always knows what is holding it back from doing so.  We have so many voices competing for our attention.  And sometimes these voices are loud and hard to ignore.  But the soul is that one that is just sitting there quietly, waiting for you to in turn to get quiet and simply listen.  And the more that you listen, the more that that little voice gains confidence to speak up.  And then when you listen and pay attention and trust in all that it is telling you, that voice will simply respond with….’yes.’

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There are times when I get pretty frustrated with myself for making mistakes, for running in place.  Sometimes I’m all “well, crap.  What was that shitty situation for if I didn’t learn anything from it?”  Because I am definitely of the belief that if you don’t learn anything from the tough things in life then you’re just suffering for nothing.  And, well, that’s just depressing.  So I’ve always tried to let the hard stuff, the big D’s–death, divorce, disappointment, (dating?)–shape me in a way that makes me not exactly harder, but rather softer so that I’m permeable to a little more wisdom soaking into these bones.

So that’s what I preach to myself….and sometimes to others if they will listen.  But then sometimes I get in a Mood, yes a capital M Mood, and I’ll wonder what exactly I’ve been learning.  And then…something will happen and I will realize that I have been in fact paying attention.  It’s like when you’re playing trivia and some random piece of something you learned in high school suddenly returns and you win major points for your team and you’re glad that you stuck it out for your diploma after all.

I had a moment like this the other day.  I’ve been taking this online course with Brene Brown that’s all about being brave and stepping into the arenas of your life (google Brene Brown Daring Greatly and check out her amazing Ted talk for more).  One of the exercises of this course was to determine who was sitting in the cheap seats of your area, i.e. who you were looking to for approval who didn’t really matter.  And as I typed out my response, I was almost haughty as a I clicked the keys.

You see, a few years ago I started this blog as a way of being honest with others in my life.  And as a byproduct, I started to become more honest with myself.  I vowed to stop doing things (jobs, relationships) just because they sounded good rolling off my tongue when I spoke about them.  I wanted to live a life that made sense to me, even if it might not make sense to anyone else.  And if I was in a place where I didn’t know quite what I was doing I wanted to be honest with that as well.  But I was done with armoring up and trying to prove that everything was good and well if it wasn’t really.  And I was done with trying to squeeze my definition of ‘good and well’ into a box that others had created for me.  So there.

And then, the other day, I ran into someone whom, for whatever reason, triggered this need in me to prove that I knew exactly what I was doing.  I armored up; I started trying to prove that I did, in fact, know exactly what I was doing and that all was peachy effing keen.  And then…I stopped.  I stepped into the arena and opened up a little more about where life was for me these days.  And what followed was one of the most heartfelt exchanges that I have had in a long time.  And it never would have happened if I had kept the armor on.

That exchange reminded me that I have in fact been picking up a little bit of wisdom here and there.  It reminded me of how far I have come and the fact that I caught myself slipping up was only more proof of that.  It reminded me that when I am able to step into the arena and show up with authenticity and openness then I am often rewarded with compassion.  And that, my friends, is better than anything else you could win at trivia night.



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