how available are you?

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when you don’t have a 9-5 job, or any job with a set schedule, then you tend to be available and flexible. which is a good thing. but, only if you set boundaries. know your limits. and learn how to say “no”. oh, and are disciplined. very disciplined.

working as a freelance writer and photographer, i have come to understand this very intimately over the past year. and i’ve reaffirmed the fact that i do not set boundaries, i am aware of my limits but i ignore them, i have a very hard time saying “no”, and i am not in the least disciplined.

but, at least i am aware of these things. and i am working on them. really hard. i’n no where near perfect, but i think that i’m getting better. i hope so.

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what got me thinking about all of this lately is how busy i have found myself. and how i have been actively struggling to balance my life – though i dare say that i have been successfully struggling. i know that i have been successful (in my eyes) because i feel quite balanced inside. at peace. not freaked out. i did feel freaked out and panicky about 2-3 weeks ago. and i think that’s when the shit hit the fan and i decided it was high time to figure my shit out.

so, i did. now, as i said before, it doesn’t look great in my life. i am every single second trying to balance and decide what to do next (or who to do it for – without forgetting doing stuff for myself), but i am getting a handle on it. i feel like i’ve taken the first few steps. and that feels freeing and empowering.

if i reaaaally want my photography business to grow (and i do!!), then i have to make the time for it. i have to commit to it. and i have to give myself permission to make that happen. so, i have.

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at the same time, i want to nurture and grow in my marriage – as my love and i continuously embark on new adventures and journeys and chapters in life. i want to do it together. she is my partner. my everything. and makes life worth living because i share it with her. so, i will always fight to try to make time for us – because she’s my favorite person in the world and there i no one on earth i’d rather spend my time with.

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and then there is my family. my parents + my brother. i love them, and they all have major, major things going on in their lives currently. so, i have been very available for them. giving them moral support and physical support. i’ve been caught up in their lives and their next steps in life, all the while, working on my next steps in life as well. it’s been tough and time-consuming. but, it all came to a certain, freeing point yesterday.

yesterday, my parents got the keys to their new mountain house. yes, they sold their beach house (something that i have not dealt with or thought about or mourned yet – that will come much later), and have moved up here full time. as of yesterday. but, the process over the past month has been taxing on everyone. still, yesterday, as i helped them move stuff out and move stuff in, i felt such peace and pride and joy being there with them. and i had so much fun helping to welcome them back to the mountains – it feels good that we’ve all gathered in one area again.

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now, my brother, he also had something major happen yesterday. he’s been renovating him home for the past 3 years. it’s a 1920s bungalow in downtown asheville – prime real estate people. but, it was in bad shape when he bought it – and he bought with his (now) ex-wife. they had a vision. but he was left with the house and a lot to finish up. after about a year of trying to decide what to do, he decided to go hard at the back half of the house and renovate it and rent it out on airbnb. a great idea!

as of yesterday, the renovations are complete and the first guests checked in!! it not only marked the beginning of his airbnb hosting, but it marked the ending of a personal era for him. it has become a literal moving on. what comes next… none of us know. neither does he. but, it’s clear that one part of his life is over. and i had the pleasure and pure joy or working with my brother pretty intensely over the past month to make this airbnb thing happen.

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so, things have been changing around me. very busy. but, quietly, things have been changing for me as well. just as i close out my responsibilities to my family in this phase, i move on to my first paid wedding photography assignment tomorrow. and it feels amazing. it feels like this could be really real.

and my love and i also are busy changing things too. but, in a patiently waiting kind of phase. we know that big changes for us are coming, but we don’t know when or what or much of anything.

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so, even though i have had a flexible schedule which has allowed me to be available for my family and my love, it has taught me so much about myself. i am so grateful for the chance to be present with these people who mean the most to me – to give my time and my thoughts and my presence over to them. i’m so glad that i am right here with them all…

at the same time, doing all of that, knowing that my purpose, while i have not had a stable job, has been to be with them all, i have somehow discovered more about myself. my passions, my wishes. and i have begun to learn how to balance, how today “no”, how to set boundaries, and how to know my limits….

because, living life to the fullest means learning how to live for yourself and to listen to your soul: how to be available for others, and also for yourself. learning how to live and love in relationships. to prioritize and balance. it’s not always easy, or fun, but it makes life so much richer. and i find myself filled with gratitude and empowerment. i find myself feeling loved and truly alive.

peace + love.

july’s adventures. part 1: eat, pray, love.

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you may or may not know that i believe that elizabeth gilbert and i would be great friends if we met.

here’s why:

it was christmas/new years holidays in 2007, and my mom heard about a book that was becoming popular, so she read it. the entire time she was reading, she said, she was thinking of me. everything happening in the book seemed to be mirroring my life exactly. so, she passed the book on to me, asking me to read it, because she thought it would be meaningful – and she was blown away at the parallels, even down to the fact that the author and i are both named elizabeth.

the entire book was an epiphany for me. or rather, not a new epiphany, but it was like reading about all the little epiphanies i’d been having during the past year. everything that the author chronicled in her book, i was in the process of experiencing myself.

the book became a manifesto for me. and it still is. in a sense, it gave me permission to do all of the crazy things i was preparing to do. i suddenly didn’t feel alone. or i felt that there was someone out there, someone that i shared a name with even, who dreamed of rediscovering herself through a spiritual journey around the world, as much as i did. so she did. and she wrote of her journey.

and i made my journey too.

you can read the rest of the post where this came from here.

the thing is, this book, eat, pray, love, came to me just as i was setting off on my own personal journey of self-discovery. my first real adventure. an internal adventure, a searching of my heart and soul, leading to the discovery of how to live life… fully. how to be true to myself. and how that, in being true to myself, i am being true to whatever impact i can make and whatever good i can do in this world. following in my mentor’s footsteps, i also plan to (and have begun sort of) to write a memoir of my journey of self-discovery… my adventure of learning to know who i am and living from my soul.

and it is this lifelong journey of self-discovery which is the ultimate adventure, i believe. for me, that includes traveling, writing, laughing, dancing, drinking champagne, photography, theology, family, music, road trips, and so much more.

in any case, for the july photo journey, since i chose the theme of adventure, i thought i’d also choose books that i love that deal with adventures of all sorts. of course i began with eat, pray, love because it is my manifesto of adventure of sorts. so, here are the words (all eat, pray, love-related, of course!) for the first five days, and the photos to go along with them. enjoy!

day 1: beginning – i’m beginning this month as a resident of sweden. and ending it as a resident of the USA. with tons of adventures in-between!ee899228e23811e2a9d522000a1fb17d_7

day 2: foreign - all we were told was to dress for #outside. our#dutch friends are kidnapping us for a few hours!

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day 3: fly – an amazing quote by a little japanese girl who died from leukemia after the hiroshima bomb.a8a7556ee3ce11e2a66122000a9f0a06_7

day 4: freedom – nelson mandela. amazing peacemaker & fighter for equality. enough said. f9c084e8e4e111e293e422000a1fbe78_7

day 5:  personal - “Happiness is the consequence of personal effort. You fight for it, strive for it, insist upon it, and sometimes even travel around the world looking for it. You have to participate relentlessly in the manifestations of your own blessings.” ~ Elizabeth Gilbert.

6433a8e8e57611e2877122000a1fbc4f_7our first adventure of july’s photo journey is over. time to move on to the next part tomorrow!! i’m totally ready, are you?!

take some time to discover yourself. peace.

be present. what a great idea.

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i am reading the tao of inner peace by diane dreher. and right now, i’m in the middle of the part on simplicity. i suppose you could argue that the whole book is about simplicity, but there is one part really struck me. i’ve been thinking alot about life, and how we have the power to choose the life that we want to lead. we may not be able to choose the circumstances we find ourselves in, and they may be very crappy circumstances, but we have the power (always!) to choose how we respond to those circumstances. how we act. and react. we have the power to change, or not. and again, we may not be able to change our circumstances, but we can always change and choose our attitude.

but, we must be strong. and self-aware. and vulnerable. and flexible. and hopeful. all at the same time. nevertheless, we have the power to choose how we face the day when we wake up in the morning. will we see it as a day with opportunities or a day with “musts” and “shoulds”?

however, it’s not as easy as just flipping on a little positive switch in our brain. i believe that in order to be able to find the strength to choose to seek & spread peace, to choose to spread out positive energy, we must begin to be in touch with ourselves. but, we have that power, if we tap into it.

in other words, we must simplify our lives just enough in order to focus on what is really important. we must slow down enough in order to simply be with ourselves. we must center ourselves, so we’re not just living life and going through the motions, but really feeling alive.

the way of the tao teaches that “without the center, the surface means nothing… what we are brings meaning and purpose. beneath the restless surface of our lives lies a deep source of peace, power, and inspiration. we find that deep center in reflection or meditation.”

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for the next 5 days i’m focusing on being present. living in the moment. slowing down. the next 5 challenges in june’s photo journey of simplicity are all about just being. and remembering that those quiet, alone, reflective moments are ones we need to remember to carve out each & every day. at least that’s what i believe.

quiet. alone. contemplative. present. alive. yeah, these are my focus words for this week.

i think that just being allows us to be with ourselves, which is sometimes difficult, but always a fantastic learning & growing experience. and right now, since we don’t have a tv anything in our apartment, life is pretty quiet and simple. part of it drives me crazy… but at the same time, i love the challenge. and i know it is good for me. i know that my soul needs to breathe. i know that i need to remember to be friends with myself. i know that i need to to just sit & listen, so that i can hear the heartbeat and music in my soul. only through listening will i know true peace. only through listening will i discover who i am. and remember who i am not.

i am not the labels that define and describe what i do or my relationship to others. i am, in fact, not defined by anything outside of me. who i am is found deep within my inner self. my soul. it is found in the same divine and sacred stardust, magic, spirit (or whatever you call it) that lives within each of us. of course, we are not all completely the same. we are created to be unique, beautiful creatures, each with unique, beautiful gifts to be used in the world; and yet mysteriously and wondrously connected to one another.

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side note: i just became aware that i am in the midst of a magical, special moment in my life as i type this. my love is sitting in our empty living room, picking on her guitar, singing loudly, filled with emotion as the bare walls and floors provide an amazing acoustic experience. and i’m on the bed, typing away, books open beside me. both of us, soaking up in our own ways the simple beauty of this moment. being fully aware. fully alive. fully in touch with our souls. so, i can feel it. it is a special moment of connection and peace. a gift.

suddenly, as a typed that last sentence, lina began singing & playing the song that i heard her sing the night that i met her for the first time. she hardly every sings it. and right now, she sits in the other room, singing to my soul. memories are rushing back. memories of meeting her. of my year of death and rebirth. of knowing exactly who i am. of knowing exactly what dream to chase. those memories were from 6 years ago… and in this moment, i know that hearing that song from lina in this present moment was a gift and a moment of clarification that everything is exactly as it should be.

and i am overwhelmed. with joy. and security. and fear. and excitement. and hope. and i know that this crazy journey to the states is exactly right for us right now.

well i did not intend for this post to go quite like this, but it did. and it feels right. but, before i settle in for the night, i’d like to share with you a quote i put on my photo for today’s word.

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day 17 of the simplicity photo journey | idea.

i am a true believer in the power of living in the present moment. tonight, after dinner, my love & i took a walk in the evening warmth. holding hands, laughing, strolling. and as we walked, my love commented on everything she was seeing. and she told me that she was purposefully paying attention to every little detail. she was, in fact, soaking up the sun’s rays and the present moment all at the same time. and i could feel her joy and her appreciation for life. i could feel her being grounded in that moment, in touch with her center and with all that really matters in life.

so, my friends, i urge you to find a moment over the next few days and just be. do it every day. while you drink your morning coffee. or while you walk. or when you lay down at night. or when you eat. anytime you have a moment to yourself. just close your eyes. and breathe. and see what amazing ideas, thoughts, and dreams come to you…

goodnight. peace & love.