Here is my life defining list….what does your's look like?

I had the chance to spend some time with friends celebrating the arrival of spring but I opted to spend some alone time reflecting, enjoying time with the big white pink eared dog and loving the beautiful weather.  I began to think about my past life and the defining life moments that have occurred that have molded me into who I am.  I thought it might be therapeutic to write the list in order to feel the full release and to define each individually.

This is my life defining list:
  1. Not staying in the car one time when I should have around the age of 4, I can’t explain the circumstances but Dad was pretty mad, that is what I remember most.  I guess this was all about right and wrong, obeying and disobeying.  It is too bad that the earliest moment I have is this unpleasant one but sometimes we don’t have a choice in the matter.
  2. Watching my dog Buffy die before my eyes after getting hit by a car at the age of 6 when an elderly man drove down the wrong dirt road looking for a friends house. To this day I feel sad thinking about what he must have felt watching a little girl scream hysterically trying to hold her dog as it died.  I am certain it hurt him more that it did me and that he probably re-lived that moment of sadness many times over.  I got another puppy a few weeks later and learned about life, death and how sometimes things can happen unexpectedly.
  3. Freezing up during cheerleading try outs my freshman year of high school.  I didn’t want to be a cheerleader but mom had hoped it for me, stage fright caused my mind to go blank and I just stood there embarrassed.  That episode drove me to take speech classes which eventually led me to a teaching degree in hopes of overcoming my fear of being in front of people.  When I moved to Nashville I helped host a writers night and made myself perform my music on stage thinking it would get easier in time.  To this day I have a tendency to go blank when I am extremely nervous and stage freight has never gone away for me, it is just as bad as it was way back when.  What I have realized is that it happens when I am singing or doing something I am uncomfortable with, I can stand in front of a room and talk photography all day with no fear.
  4. The last day I visited my grandma Pearl in the hospital before she died and coming back the next day not knowing she had passed only to find an empty bed.  She was one of the most amazing role models in my early life and I know there is a lot of her in me to this day.  At the age of 17 this was the first time I ever lost someone really close to me and it was huge.  I realized how fragile life is, what it felt like to loose someone close and that we have to cherish the time we have with those we love.  She often comes to mind when things happen that she warned me about back when I was too young to understand what she was saying to me as a child.  She was an amazingly wise woman and I know I still carry a part of her with me.
  5. Watching a best girlfriend slip out the bedroom window of a man I was in love with when I was 20. Packing my life on a whim and moving from the small town of Ocala, Florida to Atlanta, Georgia with a broken heart, broken spirit and not knowing a single person…one of the biggest life lessons and choices of my early adult life. The lesson on trust and love still resonates in me, the courage I found to change my life most definitely showed me how strong and independent I am as a woman.  This is where I changed from a girl to a woman!  I also learned to be forgiving with boundaries.
  6. My first year away from home at the age of 21 in a big city learning how to find work, to support myself, to make new friends and being over 600 miles away from my family for the first time in my life.  It was a huge life change, it was my initiation into adulthood and I became completely independent from my family for the first time.
  7. Moving back to Florida after being laid off from an amazing job in the photography industry and having a falling out with my roommate.  Experiencing broken dreams, finding myself homesick and starting my life over a second time within a year.  It was six months later when I met the man I would later call my husband.
  8. My wedding day, one of the most moving and emotional days of my life.  Even though we are no longer together it was the most amazing day of happiness AND stress I have ever experienced.
  9. After 9 years in the photography business, signing my first lease and opening my first photography studio.  It was one of the scariest yet most rewarding years I have ever had and I became a self employed business woman!
  10. The day I had my aha moment and realized I didn’t deserve to be verbally abused any more, it would lead me to closing my studio, getting divorced, packing everything I owned and walking away from the life I had known.  That time in my life showed me I had more courage than I ever thought existed and it would bring me to Nashville where I knew no one. It allowed me to re-invent who I wanted to be as a mature 35 year old adult.  It was the best life change to date and I have become happier and more content with who I am now than ever before in my past.
  11. Losing my grandma Seiler and attending her funeral.  She was another amazingly vibrant woman in my life and I feel so fortunate to have had her as a grandmother.  At the funeral I was brought back together and re-connected to my extended family who had been estranged due to a family feud more than 20 years prior.  Grannie Seiler had said to me once that she hated the fact that it would take her death to bring everyone back together, it is something she prayed for yet had the wisdom to know how it would play out.  It is sad that it takes a death to re-connect loved ones who are related to each other yet humbling that time can dissolve inner turmoil.  It is also sad that a death can also separate families due to selfishness and greed rather than love and compassion.  All of these experiences and emotions have made me a stronger more forgiving and loving person.
  12. Hearing the news that one of my early photography mentors had committed suicide and experiencing his loss.  He had visited me a few weeks before when passing through Nashville.  He had been dealing with the after math of a heart by-pass, had always suffered from severe depression and seemed to just want to talk that night.  I remember making him a peanut butter and jelly sandwich and sitting there watching him eat while he told me in his own way how proud he was of me.  He had watched me grow from a young 23 year old with no self confidence into a 40 year old successful business woman full of life.  This event taught me the seriousness of depression and how even if you give and show love to them they still feel alone and sad.  It also showed me how powerful the internet has become in our lives.  I posted a note on the back end of my myspace page about my memories, love and compassion for Rusty and it ranked in the top 5 google search for his name.  People who knew him from all over the country began contacting me about him and the words I posted.  His sister was so touched she read my words at the funeral with out my knowing she would do so.  I learned how easy it is to share with people in this day and age just by posting your thoughts and putting them out there.
  13. The choice I made to break up with a man I was deeply in love with because his drug and alcohol addiction was so bad I felt I could no longer do anything to help, I was feeling as if my emotional state was failing and that I had no other choice but to let him go.  Eight months later I would take the police to his home where they would find him dead of an overdose after being missing for 4 days.  I am still learning from this one, if you have read previous blogs you can see the struggles.  The biggest lesson is that substance abuse is serious, it is an awful thing to watch someone suffer with and there comes a point where you have to let them go if they don’t have the desire to help themselves hoping they will find the strength to do so.  It doesn’t get better with your showing that person more love, giving ultimatums or showing them anger.  They want to get better but often don’t have the strength to get outside help, they experience sadness, guilt and self hatred yet continue because at a certain point they no longer have control over the substance and/or they just don’t care.  They have to want to change you can’t make them change.  The toughest part of this life changing moment is that I set him free hoping it would help and often wonder could I have done more because the result was devastating.
These things are what resonate in me right now as my most pivotal life changing moments to date, why they ended on 13 I am not sure and definitely NOT superstitious.  I have omitted a few because they are too personal to share.  I know life is ever changing and there will be many more that lie ahead.  As I look back over this list I can see from an outsiders prospective it must look a little depressing because there seems to be many moments centered around death, break-ups and unhappy events.  All I can say is that maybe we get the most out of life during the worst of times because we have no other choice but to face the winds of change.  Perhaps it is with in those times that we have more strength and more courage than we ever thought we had because we feel we have no other choice. We begin to move in an uncomfortable forward direction taking each day as it comes because that is the only option that we have.  It is at those times that we need to be aware, where we end up will be based on our attitude. If we believe that life will get better and that we want something better we will start to do things from a positive place that will bring those positive things into our lives, if we believe life sucks then it will.
What does your list look like, maybe if you take the time right now to reflect you will learn more about how much you have grown as a person than you ever realized.  Writing my list down felt like a release, it reminded me how strong of a woman I really am because of the choices I made and where they took me.  It also reminded me how spiritual I have become and how important it is for me to pray and to be grateful.  The most important thing to remember is that we must be patient, that things will happen as they should and we need to feel these things as they happen no matter how painful or liberating.  Life is a journey through a kitchen of flavors…the best ones are those that are savored slowly and with love.  I plan to make mine as succulent and juicy as I possibly can, being patient knowing how good each bite will be makes it worth the wait!   Mmmm I’m hungry, how about you?

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