Friday, January 31, 2014

Just Walk Beside Me and Be My Friend - Albert Camus

I wish I did the right thing every day.  I wish I always said the right words, had the right responses, made the right comments, remembered the right quotes, and knew the right steps.  I seem to be more familiar with the wrong ones and sometimes that makes navigating through this life really hard.  Sometimes it's so hard I want to give up and just cease to exist anymore.  I know I'm not alone in these sentiments. There are just as many right moments as there are wrong, and I feel the joy of it as much as I feel the pain - we all do. Some of us are just more vocal about it than others.

The one thing I can't imagine though is not having my best friends with me through this journey.  I can't help but think of the quote by Albert Camus that says, "Don't walk in front of me; I may not follow.  Don't walk behind me; I may not lead.  Just walk beside me and be my friend." 

While there are times I lead and other times I follow, but it's walking together that counts.  We enter this world alone.  We will leave it alone.  But, we're not made to be alone.  Even the most reclusive among us need  human interaction at times.  As with this Camus quote, I can see where friendships and relationships have failed in the past because I've done just that... led until no longer followed, and followed until I became lost.  It wasn't fair to my partners, and it wasn't fair to me, and the consequence of the imbalance was the failure and dissolution of those relationships. I can't fix them, only learn from them.

In this new phase of my life, I'm experiencing new relationships and friendships where my partners are wise enough and love me enough not to allow me to do either.  When I try to follow, they stop and let me catch up.  When I try to lead, they stop until I turn around to stand beside them.  They love me as I am and don't try to change me, yet inspire me to discover myself.  They hold my hand when I'm scared to let me know everything will be okay and they're not going anywhere.  They refuse to let go when in fear I try to run.  They meet me eye to eye and tell me the truth, not to hurt me but so I can walk in truth. They tilt my eyes toward the stars and teach me to dream. They share their frustrations, hopes, dreams, fears and faults, because I am also their friend and they walk beside me.

I tell them often how much I love them.  They also tell me the same.  They are truly the greatest treasures in this world, so precious, so rare, and I'm so blessed to know them. I'm so honored they have chosen me to be their friend. They are closer to me than any lover and more loving than any family member I've ever had.  I still worry and fret about the things I cannot change or the fears that still sit in front of me, but I face them all with confidence because I know I'm not alone.

Till next time,
~T.L. Gray

Thursday, January 30, 2014

In the Depth of Winter

Being stuck at home with the roads iced over and just my thoughts for company, the snow and quiet gave me plenty of time to think.  For someone like me, someone who over-thinks everything, that’s not necessarily a good thing.  However, I’m so intrigued with the universe it’s caused me to enjoy my isolation. 

This morning amid the rush of conducting interviews, setting up photo shoots, finishing up my latest review project, writing my articles in a mad dash to meet tomorrow’s deadlines, and laughing at the silliness of my friends on Facebook, I caught a moment of reflection.  As I stood by the French doors, sipping on a cup of hot cocoa and watching the birds play in the snow, I meditated on a quote by philosopher Albert Camus. 

“In the depth of winter, I finally learned that within me there lay an invincible summer.”

Within us all abides everything we need to navigate this life.  Martha Beck, author of Finding Your Own North Star delicately states it as, “Explorers depend on the North Star when there are no other landmarks in sight.  The same relationship exists between you and your right life, the ultimate realization of your potential for happiness.  I believe that the knowledge of that perfect life sits inside you just as the North Star sits in its unfaltering spot.”

I understand going through winter, and I’m not talking about cold temperatures and snow, but a season in life where everything is in hibernation, cold, hidden.  This has me pondering what Camus meant by an invincible summer. Invincible means incapable of being conquered, subdued, or defeated; insuperable, insurmountable.  I’ve learned recently, having been afraid concerning the defeat of my soul, I’m stronger than I thought and haven’t faltered.  I still breathe. I still live.  I still hope.  I still believe in better days and finding success in life and love; shining beneath the summer sun.

To me, summer is happiness, joy and freedom.  So, according to Camus and Beck, I have everything within me, no matter what season I’m going through, to possess an invincible summer.  I believe it.  As I stare at the snow, I don’t see cold and wet, but beauty and wonder.

The same is true for everyone …we all possess the same potential.  So, even as we brave the snow and ice …let our inner light shine.

Till next time,

~T.L. Gray

Monday, January 27, 2014

Transforming Love in a Changing World

Life.  It's complicated and filled with many variances.  As a race, we humans are unique individuals, yet similar. But what really sets us apart?  Is it social status, physical appearance, location?  I believe those things enhance our differences, but I feel what truly sets us apart from one another, yet encompasses what we have most in common, is all those intangible things like love, faith and hope. 

Life is also ever moving, ever changing, ever mutating.  It's not something that can be definitively  labeled because something will come along and debunk everything we thought we knew before.  Knowledge steadily increases.  Widsom constantly deepens.  We can never know enough, never learn everything, never hold all the answers.  Yet, in our arrogance we sometimes fool ourselves into thinking we can and do.

I'm entering into a new phase of my life, one I never dreamed of just a year ago and never imagined even five years ago.  My twenty-five year old self wouldn't recognize the forty-two year old woman I am today.  In some respects she would be proud, in others she'd wonder where her dreams went.  I control from which angle I view the world around me and onto which I place my focus. 

I refuse to let this world beat me down and dictate how I should be, what I should feel, what I'm supposed to be doing, what to believe, how to live, whether I'm a success or a failure.  It breaks my heart to see those around me accept the boxes given to them and then quietly stuff themselves inside to whither away. I know what the inside of a box fills like, how it suffocates, blinds and bends.

This world was made for me and I was made for the world.  The only things closed to me are the things I allow to be closed.  The only possibilities that are impossible are those I believe are impossible.   Don't get me wrong.  I'm not talking about insane expectations.  The mountains I command to move in my life are not made of rock.  The water I walk upon is not made of hydrogen and oxygen.  The magic I believe doesn't require wands and spells or fervent prayers. 

I don't know all the answers.  My knowledge is limited.  My wisdom is flawed.  I can only testify to the experiences I've had and the lessons I've learned from them.  The yoke of humanity is heavy and the burdens are many, but I have observed, learned and realized that as love increases - it lightens the yoke and eases the burdens - love for myself and love for others.  Love is the lens that changes my view.

I truly thank those who have come into my life and showed me the examples of this transforming love.  I hope I can do the same for others. I love you, my friends.

Till next time,
~T.L. Gray

Thursday, January 23, 2014

Detours, Assessments, and Adjustments of Goals and Dreams

I can't express how important it is to keep our goals and dreams in front of us.  Life has a way of coming in and disrupting our plans, getting our feet off our chosen paths, and throwing in twists, turns, roadblocks, detours, and obstacles.  That's normal.  Being human means being able to adapt and adjust to the situations and circumstances that come at us.  But if we are ever to fulfill our dreams and goals, we must continually be reminded of them, keep them posted in front of us, keep them shining like the North Star to be used as our guiding point and our compass. We need to constantly remind ourselves what we want to achieve, accomplish and experience in this life, assess our actions, adjust our options, and make necessary decisions.

Yes, we can and will experience all those unexpected and unplanned things, and many of them will be wonderful, will enrich our lives, and will change our directions.  Sometimes, its okay to shift and adapt - we become better for it.  The key is to be in control of those changes so that we don't lose the goals and dreams we set for ourselves.  This is the only way to not to be filled with a lot of regret because of forgotten, lost, and unfulfilled dreams.

Take a few moments today and remember your dreams, write down your goals, repeat them to yourself.  Take an assessment, look at your North Star,  and then determine if you need a readjustment to get you back on your chosen path or  if you need to select a new one. 

Till next time,
~T.L. Gray

Here is an updated status report and reminder to myself concerning my 2014 resolutions:
  1. No more grieving. (I've had a moment or two, but for the most part, I've been smiling, hopeful and looking forward to the future. I'm happy.  I'm really happy.)
  2. Fitness: Run a 5k (no walking), lose 50 more lbs, and get more fit(I've scheduled (5) five runs and will start back running/jogging on Monday - needed to heal from a sprain and sickness.  Joined three fitness challenges (Get Healthy West Georgia, Times-Georgian - Get Fit, and the 30-Day Arm Challenge), started a hula-hoop, sit-up, stair, and salsa-dancing routine.  So far I've officially lost 4.5 lbs  - 45.5 more to go.)
  3. Go on a real romantic date. (Still working on this one.  Got close - actually planned one. Maybe soon I will make it a reality. It's still early, and I've got plenty of time.)
  4. Take a vacation to one of my dream spots . (Making plans for a road trip in a smokin' hot Mustang convertible with a girlfriend in late June: Chicago to GreenBay and throughout parts of the Great Lakes.)
  5. Finish one of my novels (completed and edited). (Started editing Hunter & Chase and wrote my first Character Blog post. Need to refocus and get busy.)
  6. Sign and promote at least (5) five new authors with North Star. (Got several queries and submissions to weed through.)
  7. Save at least ¼ of the money I need to move to the PNW. ($200 in the pot.)
  8. Climb and descend the 605 steps at Amicalola Falls. (YES... DONE, DONE, DONE!!!!)
  9. Hike at least 50 miles of the Appalachian Trial (not at the same time.) (7.5 miles completed, 42.5  miles left to go.)
  10. Go White Water Rafting - (Tentative trip planned in late July. Maybe I can combine this with the date.)

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Appreciation Defined

Do we really appreciate things around us or the people in our lives?  Do we really even understand what being appreciative means?  We think it means to only be 'thankful' for something or someone, but that's really not where the definition ends.

According to Webster appreciate means:

     1. to be grateful or thankful for: They appreciated his thoughtfulness.
    2. to value or regard highly; place a high estimate on: to appreciate good wine.
    3. to be fully conscious of; be aware of; detect: to appreciate the dangers of a situation.
    4. to raise in value.

I want to focus on the verb, the action, for this word ... to increase in value.

How often do we increase in value those we appreciate?  To do this requires movement. It's not a one time thing but something in perpetual motion.  It would require an effort, a choice, a conscious decision.

We all sometimes see the beauty and greatness in someone we love, and in that moment feel an honest appreciation for them.  But, when the sun isn't shining, when dark clouds swirl, when we see their hurt, their pain, their low moments, their fragility, their faults, their humanity ...we face a different choice - to focus on the ugliness and allow depreciation, or love them through it and help them appreciate - increase in value.

A few dear friends have done this for me over these past several months, especially when I found no value in myself.  They continued to love me when I could not love myself.  They refused to let me push them away and loved me anyway.  Their love, their appreciation, their faith in me has helped me appreciate - to increase in value, and I am so grateful, so thankful, esteem and regard them so highly, am fully conscious of their love, am aware of their faithfulness, acknowledge their efforts, and they are giants to me. I love them dearly and hope I can do for them as they have done for me.

Be appreciative today and everyday.  Build up and not tear down.  Love one another.

Till next time,

~an Appreciative T.L. Gray

Monday, January 20, 2014

My Walter Mitty Moments

I've recently had the pleasure of watching the movie, The Secret Life of Walter Mitty, and this film has touched my heart in so many ways.  Not because the movie inspired a new thing in me, but because a new thing in me was reflected.  This past year, and even now, I have had many Walter Mitty moments.

What is a Walter Mitty moment, you may ask? It's a moment in a person's life when they go from dreaming of life - to actually living it. 

Here are a few quotes from the movie that absolutely resonate in my heart:

*Stop dreaming.  Star living.

*Beautiful things don't ask for attention.

*To see the world, things dangerous to come to, to see behind walls, draw closer, to find each other, and to feel. That is the purpose of life. 

Don't misunderstand me, I'm not talking only about moments where everything is wonderful, exciting, new, etc... you know, those milestones we all mark in life as a major achievement?  Some of these Mitty moments are minor, unrecorded, simple, everyday things, but they're still in the realm of the living, not a member of zombieland. 

I've been a dreamer my whole life, always feeling like a spectator, but not a willing participant.  There have been many great moments, right along with many dark moments, but all disconnected moments.  My dreams always seemed more real than my life, as well as my nightmares. I always felt like I waited for something, wondering when it was my time, always waiting for the next wave, the next break, the next lot to fall to me, but they never came. I feared everything. Time frittered by as I went through the motions. I felt the pain and the joy, but was always lost, always searching, always waiting, yearning, wanting. 

But as a butterfly sheds its cocoon, so too have I shed my metamorphic shell.  I have beautiful wings.  I'm flying. The wind brushes my face and I'm soaring through the universe discovering it's beauty, realizing I'm part of it.  It's not easy.  It's not all exciting moments.  Half the time I don't know where I am, or even where I'm going, but I'm flying ...I'm living ...I'm discovering who I am ...I'm loving myself, and my reality is becoming more vibrant than my dreams.

Do I have the answers to the universe or the keys to happiness?  No.  All I know is that what was once gray, is now vibrant; what was once out of reach, now flows through my heart; what was once dead, now lives.

Can I fail?  Yes.  Can I lose?  Yes.  Can I make a mistake?  Yes.  Can I get hurt?  Yes.  But I can also succeed, win, make a great match, fall in love, and be extremely happy.   All I know is I'm going to live as fully as I can as I go through what life I have left.  Living isn't just smiling... it's crying, hoping, fearing, getting excited, being disappointed, dreaming, hoping, taking chances, trying, jumping, being in the moment and just being honest, opening my heart. 

What have done lately?
Where have you been lately?
What have you dreamed lately?
What have  you taken a chance on lately?
Who have you loved lately?
Who have you allowed to love you lately?

Jump. Jump.
Open your arms.  Open your heart.  Jump. Live. Fly.

*Also, get this soundtrack's awesome!!!

Till next time,
~T.L. Gray


Friday, January 17, 2014

Self Motivator or Procrastinator?

Which are you?  The differences in lifestyles, happiness, success, ideals, and friendships are affected depending on which type of personality you possess and exude.  I use both possess and exude because I've learned someone could possess one, yet overcome it and exude the opposite.

What is a self motivator?  It's pretty much just like the word describes as one who motivates themselves.  It's great when other people, things, and circumstances are used to motivate us, because we all need it sometimes.  But the best motivation will come from that inner cheerleader, the voice we listen to most often, the thing inside we call - drive.

We can't depend on outside forces to keep up steadily moving forward. This is where most of us fail when trying to reach or maintain a goal.  We go strong as long as our motivation for the action or behavioral change is there to push us forward.  But as soon as that outside motivation gets old or dissolves, so does our resolve - and thus the reason we fail and fall back into old habits.  We do this because we return to listening to our regular motivator - the same inner voice that got us where we are in the first place.

This idea reminds me of an Einstein quote:  "Insanity is doing the same thing over and over, yet expecting a different result."  We have to change our mindset, our inner motivator, or we won't stick to the changes in our lives.  It's human nature to be habitual, fall into a routine, build our own little comfortable boxes, but it's not beneficial for success.  I'd even venture to say that it's detrimental to real living - placing the human soul in the realm of existence, but without life - a  modern-day zombie.  I've been a zombie. I know plenty of zombies.   I refuse to be a member of the walking dead.

What is procrastination?  It's  pretty much putting off what needs to be done for another day or another time, postponing the inevitable.  I recently went through a season of procrastination, mostly so that I could heal.  The pain of the major life changes I experienced was often too much for me to handle at once, and as a way to cope, I'd ignore what needed to be faced.  It didn't make the situation go away, it just gave me a little more time to deal with it.

But that time is over now, and I can no longer put off the goals, dreams, ideals, and expectations I have for my life.  I've dried my tears and I'm plowing ahead.  I can't afford to procrastinate any longer.  While it served to allow me time to heal, I also saw the direct effect it  had on my goals and dreams - it kills them, drowns them, and bogs them down.

Life is meant to be lived.  We only get one.  Quit waiting for something to happen, quit procrastinating, quit hanging out with other procrastinators, change your environment, make things happen, move, do, dream, but most all - learn to love yourself and become your biggest motivator.  If you believe in you, then you can do anything.

Till next time,
~T.L. Gray

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Building Dreams

When I wake in the mornings, sometimes my thoughts linger in that place found between dreaming and awake.  Often I write these expressions down unaware or half asleep.  I often find them to be some of the most profound thoughts, scattered at times with vibrant clarity, and others with a dark depth, sometimes so cavernous it takes me long periods of time for the truth to be revealed.  I wish I could say they're my own conscious thoughts, my own reasoning, my own wisdom, but I don't feel I could take full credit for them because I have yet to comprehend and haven't even begun to understand many of them.

I call these - Musings

My musing this morning was this:  Dreams aren't just meant to be enjoyed in the night, but to serve as inspiration and a blueprint of what is possible in the day.  But don't sit and wait for them to come true on their own - go out and start making the changes necessary to transform what is what could be.  A dream doesn't build itself.

You don't know how many times I sat back and waited patiently for my dreams to happen on their own, or become possible by the magical wave of a higher power's hand to make everything fall into place.  Too many times I've read stories where all these miraculous happenstances occur for other people.  I believed it was 'good fortune' I waited for in order for things to happen.  But, 'when I was a child, I thought as a child.  I have now put away those childish thoughts'. 

Yes, I still believe in a higher power (God), probably even more now than I did when I believed in blind faith. I just don't see His purpose or operation in my life in the same respect and find I'm less disappointed when magic doesn't happen as I had falsely expected and built in my mind.  I find a strength, a wisdom, and a source of understanding that helps me navigate, survive, overcome, and plow trough this harsh world while I'm here. 

I have big dreams.  I have sat back in meek humbleness waiting for lightening to strike to make those dreams come true, believing if I was good enough, faithful enough, and wished and hoped hard enough things would fall into place, and those doors I needed to make it happen would pop up in front of me and all I had to do was choose which ones I wanted to walk through.  Wasn't that the dream fed to us?  It wasn't the truth.  Every great dreamer I've studied had to fight for every opportunity, had to sacrifice more than they thought capable, and possess a determination to get up again and again no matter how many times they fail.  I wondered what propelled them.  Was it their hope in magic or their vision of a blueprint and knew that somehow, someway, they could transform their what is into what could be?  They had the blueprints, but through toil, dedication and determination they had to learn how to build, how to read the plans, how to construct and how to place that dream together piece by piece - each piece often unrecognizable on it's own. 

Perhaps that's where I've been wrong all this time, believing myself a Dreamer when I'm really a Visionary. 

What are your dreams?  What do you envision for yourself?  How do you expect to get there?

Till next time,
~T.L. Gray


Tuesday, January 14, 2014

Love Your Body

It doesn't matter what shape you're in right now, learn to love your body.  Just as it's important to love your soul in order to love  and treat others with love, you need to love your body so you can learn to treat it right. Here are a few steps I've learned recently as I go through this new phase of my life that has led to my body becoming more fit, healthier, beautiful, and sexy.

1.  The first step you need to do is forgive yourself for the neglect or abuse you've put your body through in the past.  The past is the past.  You can't change it.  Face it honestly and then get over it. We've all abused ourselves in one way or the other.  While most of us could never even fathom the thought of neglecting and hurting someone else, we often don't give a second thought to the way we treat ourselves.  I've experienced all extremes   -from harsh rigorous training, pushing it to it's limits, to smoking, over-eating, neglect, lack of exercise, neglect, often hating it.  If we don't treat our own selves, our bodies, right, then we can't complain when it fights back

2.  The next step you need to do is respect yourself.  Your body is yours, you have control,  so value it.  It's precious.  MAKE TIME to treat it right.  Do what's best for it.  Protect it. Don't share it with someone who doesn't deserve it. Don't waste your time with people who don't respect, inspire, encourage,or respect you.  Don't neglect to share it with those who do.  Respect leads to confidence and confidence is the sexiest trait a person can have. 

3.  The last step you need to do is celebrate yourself.  Set definitive goals and then celebrate your achievements.  Humbleness is sweet, but it doesn't build confidence.  When you fulfill a goal, brag about it.  The only way you're going to appreciate yourself is to realize how great you are, and you won't know how great you are if you never celebrate your achievements.  Start out small, set some minor milestones and start celebrating when you reach them.  As a society we are so easy to criticize, but slow to praise.  I've learned being positive, proud and excited is infectious. When I smile, I often receive a smile in response.  When I laugh, it draws attention and people want to be around me.  When I praise my efforts and get excited about my goals and activities, I inspire others to join me.

The better your body feels, the healthier it is, the prettier, sexier, happier, and lovelier you feel. If you don't take care and love yourself, you can't expect someone else to do it for you. It doesn't matter your imperfections, because we all have them, when you love, forgive, respect and celebrate yourself -you will be beautiful.

Here's a few ideas: Exercise, ride a bike, hula hoop, eat healthy, dance, get outside, make love, wear flattering clothes, dress up, get plenty of sleep, take vitamins, treat it occasionally to an indulgence, do something new and often,  and tell it everyday it's beautiful and you love it no matter what - and watch it come alive.

Till next time,
~T.L. Gray

My new goal today is learn to dance like Shakira in this video, Hips Don't Lie.  It looks fun, sexy, and a source of great exercise.

Monday, January 13, 2014

Beauty Defined

Everyone has their own interpretation and definition of beauty.  To some, it's an outward appearance, often set to impossible or narrowed standards, but to others they see beauty in everything, even within the ugliness of humanity.  For me, I hope to be somewhere in the medium, but find and feel I'm in an uncharted definition, being odd and seeing the world from a different perspective.

I believe we all have our own pair of rose-colored glasses, where our perceptions are skewed and enhanced by our experiences, or lack thereof, combined with an individual spin.  I suspect that even if we all had the exact same experiences, we'd still have different perspectives. Who we are, what we value, how we process, and what drives us twists the kaleidoscope of our perception.  That's why we shouldn't judge each other, yet it's our human nature to apply our combination and understanding on those around us.

So, while I can give you the Webster's dictionary for beauty, I cannot proclaim an absolute interpretation that would fit all of society.  I can only elaborate what beauty is to me.

I consider myself lucky because I see beauty all around me - in nature, in society, in people and in hope.  I mostly see beauty in a smile.  I've never felt inferior to anyone, but there have been times in my life I've felt ugly because I didn't physically live up to the general population's standards.  When I was very heavy I became invisible as a person - it's like people are programmed to ignore what they consider ugly.  Doors stopped being opened to me, smiles and friendly greetings passed me by, I wasn't chosen first in a group, often received sympathetic or apathetic looks and comments, and judgments came more readily.  I didn't start out 'fat and ugly' - in fact, I grew up popular and pretty, very active, very social and very attractive.  I was often the life of a party, a natural leader, and people gravitated toward me, never knowing the ugly horror I had to contend with at home.  It was a hard transition being treated differently because I didn't fit the popular mold of what was considered beautiful.  I also learned when you don't feel beautiful, it is reflected in everything you do.

It took me a long time, I had a lot of internal healing to do, before I learned to love myself and define what beauty is - for me.  I don't care what society deems beautiful - society has no power to dictate to me what I feel or think anymore.  The more I learned to love and care for myself, the less power it had over me, the happier I've become.

Beauty to me is happiness.  Happy moments are beautiful moments whether it's in a moment of intimate touch between lovers or a relaxing walk through the woods.  It's in a kiss, in a laugh, in a smile, in an achievement, in a hug, in a word of encouragement, in a moment of accomplishment, in a joke, in a memory that brings a smile, in a dance, in meeting a goal, in a show of support, or in a gift.  People who share those moments in their lives with me I find absolutely beautiful and their physical appearance makes no difference to me.  People who are happy, who look forward to living life, who see the good (even in a bad situation), who inspired one another, encourage one another, push one another, not afraid to confront the ugliness in their lives, are absolutely beautiful to me.  I'm blessed to know some beautiful people.

Today, I'm beautiful... because I'm happy.  I have a spring in my step, a song on my heart, and a sense of being loved, valued and honored.  It's really easy to make me feel happy - just let me know you love me, care about me, or that I matter - and watch how magically my worries fall off me. My needs are still there, but my fear evaporates in the face of them.  I'm learning to encourage myself more and more everyday and place my rose-colored glasses on my own face.  I still need a little help every now and again, but I'm getting stronger all the time, and I'm noticing doors are once again being opened for me, I am met with pleasant smiles, I'm invited to join in, and I am complimented often on how pretty or beautiful I am.  No, I don't look like a supermodel, and would probably not be considered beautiful by the general population's standards - but it's doesn't matter, because I believe I'm beautiful and that's the only opinion that really matters. 

Watch this video below - because I find the woman in it the ultimate picture of beauty.  Her smile is infectious, her moves are sexy, her joy is desirable and the song's not bad either.  That Old Pair of Jeans by Fat Boy Slim

How do you define beauty?

Till next time,
~T.L. Gray

Friday, January 10, 2014

Being a Fool and Chasing Foolish Pursuits

I've been so busy setting new goals, kicking a lot of things I've set aside for the past year back into gear, and focusing on the tasks set in front of me that I've forgotten the main purpose that brought me to this point in my life. It's hard to keep that particular goal in the forefront, because it's not the goals the world considers important or crucial for success. 

Success is measured by the collection of things, by education and knowledge, by the achievement of status, by the acceptable recognition of things like hard work and sacrifice.  I know ...I've lived my life in pursuit of such success - the education, the career, the status, the collection of things.  I'm one of the hardest working people I know, operate with a spirit of excellence in everything I do, and have exceeded every goal I've ever set out to complete or accomplish.  And the world has loved me for it and showered me with all the praise it could afford.

Yet NONE of it satisfied me, my soul, or my heart. 

I sacrificed so much of my life in the pursuit of these 'things'.  I put "me" on hold as the last priority as I pursued them.  Where has it led me? I have an excellent education, I gained lots of material possessions, I climbed the corporate ladder, I raised my children, I built a great nest egg, I planned for my future, towed the line, walked the straight and narrow, gave as much as I gained, done my civic duty, became what was needed to make those around me proud and happy ...for what, …in pursuit of what?

Here I am once again, receiving the accolades for my hard work, my accomplishments, my successes, my drive, my determination (my weight loss, marketing, editing, support, friendship, job) ...but what of me?  What of the woman?  Once again professional, financial and successful opportunities present themselves - and I know (because I've been there so many times before) they will require sacrifice to obtain and maintain.  But what no one asks, no one considers, no one understands the true sacrifice it will require - me.

I'm 42.  What has all my sacrifice in the past gained me? 

The last couple of years I took a chance, and for a moment thought about me and dared to dream, to see, to hope, and to desire the kind of woman I wanted to be - a woman happy, loved, wanted, and desired, living a life in pursuit of her passions, simply being loved, being the bright spot in someone's life by just being me, not for what I could do.  I fooled myself into believing I deserved to be that woman, there was someone out there waiting to love me, and that love and passion were the successes in life worth sacrificing for - and so I sacrificed.  I walked away from a 20-year (safe, passionless) marriage, from material possessions, from financial security, from a hard fought career, from the American dream, from nest eggs and a middle-class lifestyle.  WHY?   - For the chance to achieve the dream.

Here I am.  I look around me and feel I have failed ....ME.  I'm once again offered the kind of success that I've known all my life - a great career opportunity, financial security, the means to gain back some of those material possessions I left behind, an easement of my hardships.  I know what sacrifice they will require.  But what of my dream?  What of my passions?  I reached for them - but somehow they've slipped through my fingers. I touched them, tasted them, but for only a brief moment.  I help others reach for their dreams while my own remain stagnant.  I encourage others to take a chance on love, yet I go to sleep alone every night.  Will I only be loved for what I do, what I accomplish - not simply for who I am?  Will I never be someone's bright spot - the love of their life?

What do I choose?  I don't want to just exist. I want to live my life to the fullest.  I want to find success in happiness, in love, in passion, in health, and in adventure.  I don't want the prison of worldly success, because I know this time will require my life; I will die.  I must be the biggest fool in the world to want these things, to believe I deserve them. It must be true, because I look around me and I'm the ONLY person I know who has actually put their whole life on the line to find them. All around me people talk of taking the risks, and make some minor attempts and vain efforts, but they don't jump.  They only take chances from within their secure lives - but turn away when it comes time to actually pay the sacrifice – the possibility of losing everything.  They love the idea of the jump, but still stand on the precipice, often turning away from their dreams and settle for the practical. That hurts my heart to so much to see it. I'm the only fool who jumped, and I landed flat on my face.

No one praises me for being a fool. My choices are: 1. Lay here and die. 2. Get up and continue in my madness.  3. Turn back toward the worldly mountain of success, knowing the climb will kill me, and that I'd never have the courage to jump again. I've been told all my life that if I work hard NOW, I can enjoy the fruits of my labors LATER.  Later never comes. 

I choose to remain a fool, being a fool, and chasing foolish pursuits. Though I see no fruit, no evidence, and no proof -  I still believe in love. I still believe in passion. I still believe in me as a writer, and that it's what I'm meant to do. Someday I will be loved, wanted, and desired, be someone's bright spot, the love of someone's life.  Someday my written words will inspire, move, and motivate someone else - and touch their soul, maybe even save a life – even if it’s just my own.  Yes, I know it makes no 'common' sense.  I know it defies logic and is contrary to the world's meaning of success.  I know it only makes my life more difficult, keeps me scared, broke, often hungry, and mostly alone.  I'm an artist, and I'm alive.  I'm living for me.  I so appreciate my friends who have stood beside me.  I'm proud of this fool - whether the world agrees or not.

Till next time,

~T.L. Gray

Thursday, January 09, 2014

Time to Soar by Marie Pennington

Time to Soar

 by  Marie Pennington

Jumped from the nest

My wings spread

Falling, falling!

Down I go.

How will I fly?

I do not know.

Still I try,

Sure to hit hard.

The ground coming fast.

Sure to splatter,

flapping, flapping.

I give it a try.

How will I fly?

All alone,

Flapping, flapping,

I hear,

"You can do this!"

"Just have faith"

Hard ground coming,

Fate comes fast,

My wings spread,

flapping, flapping,

Others follow suit

No longer alone.

Gaining strength,

Rising, rising,

Wings spreading out,

Flapping, flapping,

Struggling to rise,

I will Fly!

It's time to soar.

Wednesday, January 08, 2014

I Matter ...and That Makes Me a Little Less Afraid

For some people, the idea of being alone is scary.  Not because they're afraid for their safety or of what may lurk in the dark, because everyone (no matter how brave they may be) are somewhat scared of those things.  That's only natural.  Bravery is facing those fears.  What's scary is the idea of not mattering. Yet, we think our value is hid in the physical presence, but I'm learning it's not.

I come from a large family, having grown up with five brothers,  yet within that crowd I was always alone.  I mattered in as much as I was a care-giver, I had a function, and fulfilled a need.  I helped cook, clean, nurture, protect and defend, but as an individual I had no value, I didn't matter.  How do I know?   Because I left them behind, walked out of their lives, and my absence made no difference.  I'm still not a part of their lives though they all live in the same town, all within a fifty mile radius. 

I was married for nearly twenty years, and while my husband was my best friend and I know he cared for me, even within that union I was alone and didn't matter.  Again, I fulfilled the function as a mother, wife, care-giver, provider, and partner.  But when I walked out of that marriage, my absence made no difference, I didn't matter.  His life continues as it had, perhaps even better now that he doesn't have the responsibility of me. I'm no longer a part of his life.

To some extent my children no longer have a need for me.  They are now grown and off living their own lives.  They love me and I matter to them, and in that understanding, I find value.

When I first moved out on my own, I think the thing I feared most was truly discovering how little I did matter in this world.  I gave everything to it and the people in my life, and it really hurt to look around me and see their absence.  But, I also discovered I wasn't as much alone as I thought... because there were a few beautiful people who helped dry my tears, reached out to give me a hand, embraced me in a genuine hug, and showed me - not with their words, but with their presence - that I mattered to them.  When in my pain I tried to push everyone out of my life, they refused to go.

Here I am in a new year, and though I'm physically alone most of the time, I'm never truly alone, because to these few beautiful people, and my children, I matter ... and that makes me a little less afraid.

Till next time,
~T.L. Gray

Tuesday, January 07, 2014

Moving Forward, Leaving Behind

We all go through phases in our lives.  Most of mine have consisted of a seasons that moved forward.  I didn’t have time to go any other direction.  There were other people depending me, so I dug in and did what had to be done for them.  Where I went wrong – I should have taken the same consideration for myself.
This time last year I found myself, for the first time, alone and where no one needed me anymore, therefore the reason for my forward motion vanished.  It seems like it instantly popped out of existence, but I now realize it had been a gradual fade over the past few years.
What happened – I entered into an identity crisis.  I didn’t know who I was because I had always identified myself by how I was needed.  Over the next twelve months I experienced joy and pain, confusion and clarity as I learned to identify who I was, what I wanted, and what was I supposed to do now.
I found myself in an atmosphere that allowed, hell - it encouraged, procrastination.  I got no serious writing accomplished, but I learned some new writing techniques.  I met and jumped right into helping other writers realize their dream, while putting my own on hold. This place of procrastination allowed me to help as I healed. But, it’s no longer useful to me, only a hindrance and a place of frustration. It needed me.  I no longer needed it.
I know who I am now. I know what I want. It’s time to get busy.  So, today - I walked away from that place offering its deceptive Lotus flowers made to keep me in a state of suspension.  I’m back moving forward.  The time has come to knock the dust off the bottom of my shoes and move forward.  I’m leaving behind anything that slows or hinders my forward motion.
Till next time,
~T.L. Gray

Monday, January 06, 2014


I've always heard that if you wanted to change the world, your environment, or your situation, you have to start with how you think; change your perception.

With a new year, new goals, new resolutions, and entering a new phase in my life, I'm focusing on changing my perception.  I choose to look at the beauty around me, hope for it, desire it, and want it.  I'm talking about the beauty of love, the beauty of life. 

I have a choice: I can remain in the shadows and let the cold continue to seep into my bones, causing me to huddle into a tight ball, shutting out the world around me - or else look up and let the sun warm my face and melt the ice in my heart. 

The world sucks.  People suck.  Life, on most days, suck.  It's one struggle on top of the other.  It sucked when I lived in the perception of safety and security busy fulfilling the American dream - the picture-perfect life; it sucks now when that dream has shattered into a million tiny pieces.  The prospects of tomorrow and the next day suck too.  BUT, it doesn't have to be ugly. 

I choose to see the beauty in every day.  I choose to see a single red flower growing amongst a concrete jungle.  I choose to see a simple smile amongst a world of zombies.  I choose to sing as I toil, labor, and struggle.  Will singing magically make my troubles go away? No, but at least my ears will hear something pleasant and my heart feel a little lighter. 

Today I change my perception.  Let the world be damned and the pessimists be fools.  The sun has risen and beyond the gray clouds, the falling snow, the bitter winds, and I know she burns brightly.  With my mind's eye I see her, and in seeing her, the clouds break.

Don’t want to take my word on perception, here are few words concerning the power of perception from other writers:

"The world is full of magic things, patiently waiting for our senses to grow stronger." - W.B. Yeats 

“If the doors of perception were cleansed everything would appear to man as it is, Infinite. For man has closed himself up, till he sees all things thro' narrow chinks of his cavern.” - William Blake

“All things are subject to interpretation. Whichever interpretation prevails at a given time is a function of power and not truth.” -  Friedrich Nietzsche

“There are things known and there are things unknown, and in between are the doors of perception.” - Aldous Huxley

“Small is the number of people who see with their eyes and think with their minds.” - Albert Einstein

"Sometimes you climb out of bed in the morning and you think, I'm not going to make it, but you laugh inside รข€” remembering all the times you've felt that way."  - Charles Bukowski

"I saw that my life was a vast glowing empty page and I could do anything I wanted."  - Jack Kerouac

Till next time,
~T.L. Gray

Friday, January 03, 2014

Dr. Sax, Jack and Old Bull - And Let Me Tell You It's Full ...

My post this morning is an example of me having a little fun with some literary humor (as if that’s possible, because we all know that the word ‘literary’ is actually a secret code word for elitist, boring, tedious, humdrum, platitudinous, insipid, prosaic …well, you get the idea… it’s a lot of superficial nonsense of abuse to a word that boring people use to try to make themselves look smart, or at least smarter than what they really are, but I’m getting off topic …where was I …oh, yeah…) by the ever-loving, roaming, philosophical genius known as Jack Kerouac (although I’m not sure everybody loves the writer, poet, artist, as much as I do, but I digress) and his love for the ever-popular, ever-controversial, ever-lovin’ use of the fantastical, humorous, and quite often abuse of the illicit run-on sentence in his off-the-beaten-path, fantasy, quirk (“Kerouac dreams of America in the authentic rolling rhythms of a Whitman or a Thomas Wolfe, drunk with eagerness for life,” so says John K. Hutchens on the cover) of a book titled “Dr. Sax” – I’m rolling in laughter this morning and I hope you will too, but if you don’t then you’ve just got no good laughter in you and your sense of humor is broke and in need of a remedy.


Dr. Sax: But I sank the 8-ball! – you can’t shoot now!

Old Bull: Son (patting the flask of Old Granddad in his backpocket with no deprecatory gesture) the law of averages, or the law of supply and demand, says the 8-ball was a goddamn Albino 8-bawl (removing it from pocket and spotting it and lining up white cueball with a flick of his forefinger to speck on the green beside it, simultaneously letting out a loud fart heard by everybody in the poolhall and some at the bar, precipitating various reactions of disgust and wild cheer, as the Proprietor, Joe Boss, throws a wadded paper at Old Bull Balloon’s ass, and Old Bull, position established, whips out a bottle to the light (said flask) and addresses it a short speech before taking a shot – to the effect that alcohol has too much gasoline in it but by God the old Hamp-shire car can go! promptly thereafter re-pocketing it and bending, neatly and briskly, with amazing sudden agility, neat and dexterous, fingertip control of his cuestick, good balance, stand, the forefingers all arranged on the table to hold the cue just so high, just right, pow, the old pots the yellow one-ball into the slot, plock, and everybody settles down for the humor to see a good game of rotation between two good players – and though the laffs and yaks continue into the night, Old Bull Balloon and Doctor Sax never rest, you can’t die without heroes to look after you.)

Till next time,
~T.L. Gray

Thursday, January 02, 2014

Starting Off Right

It’s a new year, it’s a new day, and it’s a new time in my life.  It’s time to put the past behind me, let go of the grief and embrace the excitement of what’s here and what’s to come.

I’m determined to put joy and happiness in my life.  I’m not naive.  I know there are days when the pain will still hurt and I’ll find myself in tears, but I believe with my whole heart that I possess the power to in joy.  I allowed grief into my life, because I needed that time to mourn what I’ve lost, what I’ve left behind.  If I would have stuffed that pain away, I wouldn’t have healed, only capped something that would explode even more damaging later. But, now is a new season… there was a time to grieve, now it’s time laugh. 

I know that my emotions are not like a switch to turn off and on at will, but I also know that what I pour into me is what will come out of me.  I allowed pain and grief, and then I let it all out through my words, my blogs, and my stories.  I do not allow it any longer.  I will now fill my heart, my mind, my soul with joy, happiness, hope and laughter. 

I have set many lofty goals for myself this year, and with the same determination I used to fulfill my goals last year, I will endeavor to do the same. 

Be happy, people; if not for yourself, then for me.  I want to be happy. I want to laugh.  I want to sing.  Let’s start this New Year off right… with joy.

Till next time,

~T.L. Gray