Overcoming Fear

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I felt extremely small and terrified to embark on something I had very little experience in. I looked down at the canyon and felt my knees tingle, like they wanted to buckle. The Grand Canyon is enormous and steep and I was about to hike my way down to the bottom with a pack on my back.

My idea of hiking consisted of trails around California that were shorter in distance and less strenuous which definitely did not involve carrying a 30 pound pack on my back. I had trained for the hike by running for endurance, conditioning for strength and hiking the trails around San Diego to work on elevation. However, I soon learned that my training did not compare to the demands of the Grand Canyon.

Everything was fine inside me until I faced the hike. The months leading up to it, I was excited and sure of myself and physical ability. But, when I saw the other hikers in their real gear, I realized that I looked like a novice in my borrowed pack and 1 water bottle. My feelings of inadequacy continued to grow inside me.

It is amazing how fear can permeate and almost paralyze.

The morning of the hike, I woke up with the sun afraid that I was going to fail and wanted to stop before it even began. I stopped at the gift shop to pick up another water bottle so I didn’t dehydrate and made a step closer to committing to the hike.

As we began hiking down the South Kaibob Trail, my fear was replaced by courage. The farther we hiked down into the canyon, the more diverse the terrain became and I found myself in awe of the beauty around me. I remember my first glimpse of the Colorado River after 4 hot hours of hiking switchbacks and felt wonder excitement at the sight of the canyon’s bottom.

The more I got out of my head, the more my fear dissipated.

After 5 hours, we made it to the bottom. My knees were shaking with fatigue, sweat had soaked my hat and shirt and then the sky opened up and rain started pouring down. It felt so refreshing on my tired and overheated body. I took off my pack and sat down on the shore of the Colorado River and waited for the rest of the group to arrive.

Nights at the bottom of the Canyon are peaceful and enveloped by stars. The lack of technology provided a detachment from everyday life and I was able to sit and think without distraction. For the first time in a very long time, I was completely in the moment and quite enjoyed it.

I realized that my fear was also in anticipation for something great. Pushing myself to the limits was both frightening and exciting. This realization changed my outlook for the hike back up the canyon.

Early the next morning, we began our trek up the Bright Angel Trail which is just over 9 miles and very steep. Each of us climbed at our own pace and I stopped several times to catch my breath as elevation began to affect my breathing. This was by far the more difficult of the 2 hikes.

My pack felt much heavier than on the hike down and by the time I reached the top, I was exhausted. I looked down and could not believe how far I had come and the fear that I once felt was transformed into courage. Sometimes the scariest treks can reap the most rewarding gifts.

Through this journey I learned that to transform fear I needed to:

  • Stay present:  When I allowed myself to think about things that could happen or judged myself based on limiting beliefs, fear took over. Taking a moment to just be and notice where I was and what I was doing in that moment allowed the anxiety to dissipate.
  • Breathe: I noticed I was holding my breath in fear. When I took a breath and brought myself back to the moment I was in, all of those fears lost their power. Breathing brings us back to the moment and slows down panicky thoughts.
  • Reframe the narrative: Fear is a liar!! By turning a negative thought into an empowering thought, I was able to motivate myself even during the hottest part of the day and steepest part of the hike. There was a point where I chanted “I can make it, I are strong” to myself while climbing back up the canyon.
  • Take action: Taking each step one by one helped me move forward and leave fear behind.

Whatever fears are occurring, take the time to reevaluate and reframe. Push past the discomfort and find the new found strength that is waiting to be gained. Before reaction creates waves of fear, find stillness and your breath. It is possible to move forward from the paralysis of fear and come out with a more limber mind, body and soul.

Great adventures always begin with anticipatory excitement, don’t let fear lie to your soul.

The Catalyst

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Domestic violence takes on many forms and endures for various lengths of time. It takes courage to release the heart’s tight grasp on an abuser. My hope and prayer for this post is that it will encourage men and women to be brave, take a stand against abuse and find the love that resides within.

Here is part of my story:

I was being held up by my throat staring into raging eyes. It was like he had left his body and pain took over which he was now transferring to me. I was begging to be let go of with my hands since I could barely breathe. I was scared and felt my head getting lighter and my body becoming limp.

When he let go, I gasped for air. I felt the warmth around my neck where his hands had been. He stood there staring off somewhere that wasn’t the present moment. I scurried away like a scared animal, retreating to another room to contact my sister.

She was the only person I could think of to reach out to. It was late, even later in her time zone, but she was awake and saved me that night. He had taken it too far this time. From far away, she called the cops.

Everything I had known as love was broken. I thought I was strong enough to deal with the emotional tearing down but this was scarier. I was alone, not by choice, but because something happened and he was taken away. The night that love turned into fear was a catalyst for me.

My first instinct was to pray. I had grown up religious but had put that part of me on a shelf for almost a decade at that point. I fumbled with my words trying to communicate with a God that I hoped was there. It felt awkward at first and I stopped several times to cry. But the prayer was lifted and I repeated “Help me” over and over.

He called me to ask for bail, I refused and hung up. I had the urge to find my Bible, another thing that had been put away for a decade. I searched my closet and found it at the bottom of a box. I opened it and the first thing I read was: “A man of great anger will suffer punishment for if you rescue him, you will have to do it again.” Proverbs 19:19

Chills ran up my spine. That passage jumped from a page in a forgotten book and was pertinent to what had just happened. I laid down on my bed and repeated “Please comfort me. I am so sad and lonely.” Almost immediately, I felt a force of comfort come over me. It was heavier than the air and my heart beat calmed down for the first time that night.

“Come back. Return. Love resides within”

I was being called to return to my soul. A place that I tried to mask for years. In order for me to know love, I had to begin with myself at the cellular level and begin to heal. I realized that I had to go within, be alone and find the courage to let go.

This event was a catalyst to my soul. I started a search where I wanted to find what was sparked inside of me that night. I knew it wasn’t the God full of judgement and fear I grew up believing but one that was loving, peaceful and full of grace.

In a moment of fear, I was comforted by something outside of myself. This began my journey to where I am today. It shook me to my core and demanded that I learn to love differently starting with myself.

*If you or someone you know  is a victim of domestic violence, here are some resources to get help:

National Network to End Domestic Violence

National Resource Center on Domestic Violence

Finding Balance

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Saying “yes” has been an issue for me in the past. At times, in my attempt to help others, I have forgotten to be there for myself. Perhaps this is middle child syndrome–not wanting to disappoint and make sure every one is okay. Whatever the case, I have learned that “yes” sometimes leads to a lack of balance in my life.

For the past year, I have been working on balance. This has been an amazing year with the most wonderful things: a new relationship, writing a book, new business ventures and lots of friendship and family time. However, amidst all of this lovely, I have found myself in anxious and exhausted moments feeling off balance.

I allow my equilibrium to falter. The pendulum swings to and fro and I find myself feeling lost in the middle of everything. I learned to recognize the moments when I need to say “no” to allow for the right “yes” to occur. This was a difficult lesson for me, especially when building a business. My desire to be there in my best possible mindset requires that I heed to this lesson in order to show up correctly in business and in life.

I wanted to be able to accommodate each request, but had to continuously return to my values and mission statements to remind myself what I truly wanted to create. If it doesn’t serve the purpose or goal, I had to decide whether or not to say “no.”

Finding space to answer this question was difficult at first. But, there is always a place that brings me the peace to regain my balance–I had to be still and go within.

When I take the time to quiet my mind and surroundings, I can enter a place of peace where I reconnect with my purpose and intentions. This is a sweet spot for my soul. Once I settle into the stillness, answers appear and calm takes over.

To begin moments of stillness, I practice this simple, mindful practice:

  1. Sit down and close my eyes
  2. Begin taking slow, deep breaths
  3. Count each inhale and exhale up to 10 (inhale: 1, exhale, 2…)
  4. Repeat until calm (usually 3-4 times)

This momentary pause to become present with my breath can calm the nerves of anxiety as well as create balance within.

After I find the stillness, I write down what is actually occurring. In this place, I usually find the “no” that needs to be said or the task that isn’t an actual priority. Once I am able to release the unnecessary “yes” or task, I feel free. Although saying “no” the first few times can be uncomfortable, each one brings me closer to purpose, intention and balance.

In a world where busy is easy, stillness and intention must be practiced. Balance thrives when the calendar allows for mindful reflection. When overwhelm takes over, stop, reset, rebalance and sometimes say no.

Saturn Return

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It has been known as a quarter life crisis. Around the ages of 27-31 it hits and all of a sudden something must or just changes. For some it is a subtle nudge that doesn’t go away until addressed. For others it seems devastating, like everything that had been worked towards was a sham and the feeling of starting over is too much to bear.

This time is known as Saturn Return; a milestone of reaching adulthood. Saturn takes approximately 28 years to make a full orbit around the sun from the time of birth. With each occurrence, responsibilities change, thoughts mature and a shift in mindset takes place.

Each person experiences it differently. It is a time when life does a course correct. Some learn new skills that propel them in the direction that is now waiting to be explored. Others feel this time as a difficult transition, feeling like there is no light at the end of the tunnel. For some, it can be a period of hard work either physically, mentally or emotionally.

My Saturn Return hit me a month before my 28th birthday. I thought I was having a nervous breakdown. Anxiety flooded my days and I doubted my decisions as everything I had worked for seemed to just not fit any more. I knew I needed a change, but I didn’t know what I needed to do. I wanted answers immediately, but they took their time to arrive.

While I was in what felt like an endless loop of waiting, I learned some hard and valuable lessons. I started recognizing my core values and desired to live a life that aligned with who I wanted to be. This is where the pain set in: I had to give up ideas of what I thought I wanted and where I needed to be to align with what I really wanted. It was scary to think about starting over.

The more I resisted this new path, the harder things seemed to be. But, when I embraced the changes that were occurring, regardless of my attempts to control, a peace set in. I noticed that the amount of anxiety I experienced was in direct proportion to the amount of control I tried to exert. I released my grasp and a new career, friendships, cities and outlook appeared.

I had to make room for what needed to take place.

I noticed 4 phases of a Saturn Return:

  1. Humility: I felt embarrassed thinking that what I swore was my life path was actually wrong. Having to admit to myself and others that I was starting over was recognition that I did not know it all and that I still had some learning to do. OUCH!
  2. Growth: I had to learn new skills to move forward in a new career. I had to learn a lot about myself and grow from mistakes. Embracing my authenticity and bravery catapulted growth and helped me to move on and forgive myself and others.
  3. Emergence: After the inner struggle of control, I was able to emerge onto the new path. There was a new found confidence after I embraced the growth. I felt renewed and excited.
  4. Freedom: Finally accepting the end of where I thought I was heading and embracing the next phase brought a sense of freedom. There is a renewed sense of trust that occurs which feels free and lighthearted.

I have coached many people going through their Saturn Return. There are spiritual shifts, career changes, relationship and life transitions that occur. It can be scary and exciting to navigate. There is something beautiful on the other side of the struggle. It is quite lovely to see the transformations from struggle to freedom. These steps differ in time for each person, but at the end, freedom appears.

Like a caterpillar creating a cocoon, this a time of transformation. Don’t let preconceived notions take over and stunt forward movement and growth. Be open and allow the changes to happen. Celebrate each lesson and be grateful for the path thus far. Soon, the butterfly emerges and spreads its new found wings and soars into freedom.

You have escaped the cage. Your wings are stretched out. Now fly.

-Rumi

For more on coaching, email emily@soulsadventures.com

Pictures of Compassion

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I was sitting on a plane next to a mother and daughter. The mother’s hands flailed as the daughter kindly pats her arms to calm her. She adjusted the headrest with care. Then, she cut her mother’s food and fed her like a child. it was a striking and beautiful role reversal of a child parenting the parent. I wondered when or if this will happen for me and I was scared of the thought, as I admired the woman for her compassion and selfless love.

_________________________

A friend has lovingly looked over her mother who has been on life support for a decade. She bathes her, performs physical therapy, feeds her, speaks lovingly to her daily. I am amazed by her compassion. She holds out hope that one day her mother will speak again. Every day she looks for signs of renewed life. Her compassion and hope is beautiful to me.

_________________________

A man picks up an ant from the pool where it struggles to survive. He lets the ant crawl all over his hand, moving fluidly with the ant. After a few friendly moments, he lovingly places the ant on the grass nearby. His act of compassion towards such a small thing reminds me to be kind to every living creature.

   _________________________

There is a girl on the phone with her father. She is crying. “You’re the best dad ever. I love you. You’re the best dad.” She kept repeating in between sobs. She hangs up and sits there crying. The man who is with her hugs her. She sobs onto his shoulder. Her back rises and falls with her grief. He leaves to use the phone and she continues to cry. A woman walked up and placed the flower she had in her hair on the table as she walked by. A small act, but significant.

_________________________

Compassion takes courage. Dealing with someone else’s pain that is not necessarily our own is uncomfortable. We have to go outside our comfort zone in order to comfort another. Compassion is a practice of just being there, being understanding and giving love. Compassion is achieved with an open heart and loving intentions. If looked for it is everywhere and proves that deep down, humanity is good.

True compassion means not only feeling another’s pain but also being moved to help relieve it.  – Daniel Goleman

Navigating Career Changes

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There have been two times where I have quit my job without a plan in mind. The first time was after a particularly rough period working for a bank while the market was crashing. I just knew that I needed to get out. The stress continued to build and debilitating anxiety became a common occurrence. I believed that peace would be found on the other side of leaving the company.

I left the job for medical reasons and wanted to find a place where I could work with less stress. That search lasted 9 months. During that time, stress over money and direction created uneasiness, but I resolved to keep my mind open to whatever needed to be next.

During my sabbatical, I found that I had a passion for wine and started to look into the wine industry as an option. I decided to put myself at industry events, helped my friend’s dad in his tasting room and began learning as much as I could about wine.

One day, I found a job posting for a company looking for a courier. I figured this was a great way to get my foot in the door and learn. The first 8 months, I asked as many questions as possible, assuming the mindset of a student. I was persistent in my pursuit of growing in my career and asked for promotions often. Eventually, I grew within the company and had the opportunity to travel the world and manage accounts.

After 5 years with the company,  I knew that a new career of path helping others was on the horizon, but was not sure what the next steps were. I knew that if I stayed where I was, I would become complacent and not search for the next steps my soul was asking me to take.

That’s the thing about change, complacency and fear can keep you in place hindering forward movement.

I left the company and bought a 1 way ticket to Bali. While overseas, I wrote and did some soul searching, hoping my next steps would be revealed. It wasn’t until I was back home in a coffee shop when I received the direction I was searching for.

I was writing, and a man approached me, sat down and proceeded to tell me all about his current relationship struggles. I listened for quite some time and then gave him some advice. He responded “You’re such a great listener, you should be a life coach.” I asked if that was a real thing…sure enough, it is.

Within 2 months, I was enrolled in life coaching school and started working on my certification. The evolution of this career has been so natural and I feel like I am doing what I was meant to do. Being able to combine writing and helping others is what my soul was searching for.

I am still in awe with how the entire thing transpired. By staying open to all possibilities, I was able to navigate my career change. Even through the difficult moments where I felt anxious about my next steps, I kept my mind open to all possibilities.

I knew my core desire was to help others and kept that as my north star.

Here are some tips on how to navigate the uncertainty of a career change:

  1.  Find what your passionate about (make a list, create a vision board or talk it over with someone)
  2.  If you’re contemplating a change, save your money and create a budget
  3.  Look for ways to enter the industry, especially with little to no experience.
  4.  Network
  5.  Work hard and speak your intentions clearly
  6.  Be persistent with your will to grow and develop
  7.  Patience pays off
  8.  Stay open to possibilities

If you are contemplating a career change or find yourself in the middle of one, coaching is a great tool to stay focused and weed through options. Email me at emily@soulsadventures.com to begin your career change journey.

Embracing Ambiguity: The Beauty of the Unknown

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Ambiguity is like a fog where you can see the outlines of things, but nothing is really clear. When life is vague and answers are desired more than anything, it can lead to anxiety, restlessness and at times depression. Not knowing the outcome or direction is such a common theme; everyone has felt the anxious grip of ambiguity at least once.

For as long as I can remember, I have wanted to write a book. Writing has been in my life since I was a child. I would write stories, journal and read as many books as I could get my hands on, hoping one day to have one of my own.

When I quit my job in 2014, my goal was to travel the world and write. I wanted to write a book and try to figure out how to get it published in my free time. I wrote and wrote and wrote. I even had a coach put me on a writing schedule. When I felt like the book was complete, I started the process of finding a literary agent.

I created a book proposal with my writing ready to be submitted. I sent letters out to several prospective agents and waited and waited. It was painful to be so vulnerable with something that I had been dreaming about for 25 years. I knew that in order to make it happen, I had to put myself out there.

Then, the rejections started pouring in. The first one made me cry and I was used to them once the fourth one came in. One agent asked for my first 50 pages. “YES! That’s hopeful!” I thought and called my close friends to share and calm my nerves. I sent out the work and waited some more.

Eight weeks later, I received my final rejection. It hurt. I needed to take a break and revisit the book in a few months. I decided to solely focus on my business and let the book wait for its birthday.

In January, I set an intention to let go of my expectation of getting published. I was tired of receiving rejections and noticed that it started affecting my passion for writing. I thought that taking time off would bring clarity. Three weeks later, I received an email that rocked my world — an offer to write a book.

I let go and the universe delivered my dream in a way I would have never expected.

The email was from a publisher who had stumbled upon my website. It was unbelievable the way it all happened but the universe is mysterious, magical and amazing. It all made sense and the day I accepted the offer, I sobbed giant tears with gulps for breath. It was emotional, messy and very joyful.

There was a release that set in when everything came together. Grace kicked in and offered relief to the waiting and wondering. In that moment, gratitude overflowed and a feeling of astonishment enveloped me.

If I would have known this back when I started this process, the gratitude would not have been as great and the relief would not have felt as powerful. The anticipation was part of the joy. The ambiguity set the stage for amazement and wonder. In that moment, I realized the beauty of the unknown.

*stay tuned for more information on this book project later this year

Mindfulness at Work

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Its the beginning of the day and you open your calendar to see the tasks and appointments for the day. There is a sense of restriction within your throat as you think about the day unfolding. You think about all the possible distractions and interruptions that may occur, stress begins to well within your gut, your heart beat starts to race, the phone rings and it sets you off. You’ve only been at work for 10 minutes and you’re ready to go home.

This is common for many people, especially on Monday mornings. This was my story for years — I would stress myself out just anticipating stress. Then, I decided to change that part of me. I knew the trigger well. I allowed it to send me into a deep spiral. I was done spinning. Focus was what I craved. Results desired to be attained. The first step was to stop myself and just be where I was and not off in the “what ifs”.

“Do you know about living in the present?” is a question that I am frequently asked by clients. The answer is more than a simple “yes” or “no”. Living in the present takes practice because it requires mindfulness.

Mindfulness is the practice of being present and in the moment. I started learning to be mindful after a particularly rough breakdown. I was suffering from intense anxiety which gave way to an occasional panic attack. I talked to doctors and therapists and didn’t find the relief I knew was possible until I learned to be still and present.

I was a bulldozer/whirlwind/lightning bolt who did not like to be still. When I found myself sitting in silence at first, I was uncomfortable and tried to control the outcome.

Slowly, I let go. Slowly, I learned to be present. Slowly, my reactions faded from thunderous panic into deep cleansing breaths.

Here are a few things to do the next time you are at work and feel that stewing/panic/rage/annoyance bubble up. Try these steps for a month. Notice the changes you experience. Many of these can be done right at your desk or even before you enter work. With the intention of practicing mindfulness, you will find a new way to cope when work sends you reeling:

  • Breathe: Take 3-5 cleansing breaths in and out your nose. We can forget to breathe during stressful situations which can constrict breathing, thus creating a secondary stress.
  • Reframe your thought: When you find yourself in a negative thought pattern, recognize your thought and reframe it into something positive. Create a mantra or intention for the rest of the day.
  • Write it out: Taking a moment to write out the stress can give your brain the time to process the situation and thus take it off your mind.
  • Practice gratitude: Take a moment and offer gratitude for something.

By actively taking the steps to create a change in negative thought patterns a change is occurring inside the brain. Mindfulness practices can change the way we react to negative situations. As the practice becomes stronger, the reactions become weaker.

For more information on mindfulness and dealing with stress at work, please email me at emily@soulsadventures.com

Reflection and Celebration

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The end of the year is a time for reflection and celebration. The end is also the beginning. Looking back can help create momentum for the year to come. This is one of my favorite times of the year because I can see where I was, where I wanted to be and the path I chose to forge.

When I look back on 2015, I see a lot of learning, letting go and growth. The year began with trying to figure out how to create a website and training for a race. I worked out my brain and my body as I was determined to complete both tasks. What I learned was that with focus and dedication, I can stretch my mind and body to do things I once thought was impossible.

The key to accomplishing these goals was through setting intentions. Every year, I look at where I would like to grow in several areas including: health, education, fitness, spiritually, relationships, career and creativity. I write down my intentions for the year and some action steps that I will need to take to achieve my goals.

After I have a clear picture of what I want to achieve, I meet with an accountability partner. I have had a friend, colleague and a coach as my accountability partners in the past. I let them know my goals and what I plan on doing to achieve them. They check in monthly to encourage and hold me accountable. During my monthly meetings, I revisit my intentional goals and make adjustments as needed. Accountability has proven to be important to successfully achieving desired results.

As I reflect on 2015, I want to celebrate these things:

  • Running the Cherry Blossom 10 miler with my super amazing running goddess friends
  • Learning to build a website and ditching the phrase “I don’t do tech”
  • Climbing Camel Back Mountain in the early morning before the heat took over
  • Taking time to explore more of America (road trips to Spring Training, Washington and Cape May, visiting friends in Chicago and Florida, boating adventure to Catalina Island and weekends in the woods)
  • Creating and facilitating Intuitive Painting Workshops
  • Signing on with The Muse as a career mentor
  • Learning to let go of relationships that no longer serve me and healing with love and grace
  • Failing forward with business and creative pursuits and learning valuable lessons each time
  • Seeing 2 of my favorite influencers (Elizabeth Gilbert and Lewis Howes) speak and getting books signed
  • Successful birthday fundraising campaign with Charity:Water
  • Meeting amazing people who have enriched my life and brought many smiles to my face and heart

This was a year of living intentionally with love, peace, freedom and compassion. I planted the seeds of vulnerability and reaped the fruits of bravery and resilience.

When you reflect on 2015, what are you going to celebrate?

Be Here Now: A Lesson in Contentment

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I was laying in bed in a state of utter discontent, asking “What am I missing?” wondering when whatever I felt was missing was going to happen. I wondered if there was some place that I needed to be. My wanderlust was raging, feeling the sense of needing to be elsewhere; always.

The endless loop that plays in my head is like a pop song, once you hear it a couple times it gets stuck there. The world beckoned, but I was being planted. I felt myself tugging at my roots causing things to die and fall away. I couldn’t bloom in this state of agitation and fear of missing out or ‘FOMO’. I had to learn to sit still and listen.

Anxiety is fueled by discontent. I learned this lesson a while back when I found myself craving something other than what I had. I dwelt on the missed opportunities and did not see the greatness that was right in front of me. The whirlwind of restlessness prohibited me from appreciating what I had.

It is easy to fall into the trap of restless discontent. Patience is hard to come by and while waiting, our minds can create several scenarios of better alternatives. However, when I learned to ease into the discomfort and practice gratitude, it helped to lead me into a state of contentment.

Being hyper connected and seeing everything that is going on, opinions and comments take away from the present moment. Comparisons start to be made and discontent creeps in. In fact, we are training our brains to look at our phones instead of faces. Although technology is an amazing thing and we need it, taking the time to step away from hyper connectivity and sitting still can bring our minds back into balance.

In stillness I can reflect and see the things that I once wanted were actually happening. Contentment is a practice that when put aside results in impatience and anxiety. By practicing gratitude daily, contentment reminds me that being where I am is exactly where I need to be. That lesson is powerful and beautiful to me. I can watch the beauty of life unfold when I take the time to be present and understand that everything is happening when it supposed to.

“Do not spoil what you have by desiring what you have not; remember that what you now have was once among the things you only hoped for.”

– Epicurus