Boundaries are Not Walls

 

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Sometimes we are faced with making decisions that are not going to be the rose colored glasses everyone wishes to wear. Sometimes those boundaries that are so very necessary to align with the human that we are will feel harsh, unkind and lonely. They will keep us awake at night and sometimes cause us to second guess what we have done. It’s okay.

It’s okay because in the course of any lifetime we will often be confronted by cold winter winds and desert storms of blowing sand that require us to protect ourselves and others. Boundaries are not walls. They are important pieces of each of us. They allow us to let others know that there are things that are simply not okay. And, it’s not because we don’t love or don’t care. In fact, it’s very much because we do love and we do care. That love and care is not just for the protection of others, but also for the important understanding that in order to be the best we can be for others we must also be the best we can be to ourselves.

When we compromise the core of who we are we are telling ourselves that we are not valuable. And, in time; this translates to others that we are mats that they are welcome to step on, wipe their dirt ridden demons on, but not help in the heaviness that so much pressure can leave behind.

We all have demons. We all have the corners that light has not touched and very few have seen. Once and awhile they become exposed. I have often carried the shadows of my own and others. And, I am certain that as the human I continue to fall into being, I will never cease to do such lifting. But, under no circumstances must I allow myself to carry the weight so heavily that I feel I am the reason for the pain that has wafted over the soul(s) of others. I did not chose the path. I did not bring to the table what is falling down and away from the comfort of what one wishes/wants to be. In the light of empathy and as one who is very much an empath this is not an easy task.

We are all one decision away from anything being different. That different is not always easily defined and often so hard to understand. Sometimes it can lift us like the whispering pines on mountain tops filled with starlight and whisps, and sometimes that different can drag us behind trains of our overwhelmed and anxious driven minds leaving us bloody and bruised. And, while there are often things that happen in our living that contribute to the choices we make (the things that we have done and do) we have to push ourselves. We have to fight through the tormented pieces of shadows and dark places that allowed our beings to travel from the light. What we must not do is look at the light of others and try to extinguish it because they were brave enough to put a boundary in place for protection of that light, and ultimately for the protection of those who came to them.

Light is a gift. It is something that is warm and good. It allows a glimpse of hope and possibility. It allows for one human soul to show another that there is a place in this world that is filled with comfort, safety and love. With that light comes respect, understanding, and value. A kindness that translates into one human seeing the truth, honesty and bravery in another when even in the fierceness of the love they give some of the most heart felt and most difficult love pieces are the boundaries that are needed now and again. Not to keep anyone out. No, boundaries are not designed to turn people away. They are intended to show that I as a human respect and love myself enough to know that without this piece in place I cannot respect and love another. It shows you that I value the sanctity of my spirit. My core. The essence of all that puts forth the energy and love of who I am. And by doing so…I hold/honor/respect all of the same within another.

 

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A Shelter for Home

For six months I spent my Sunday and Monday nights entering through a door to be a  a part of the lives of other humans who unlike myself did not have a place to call home. From November until May during some of the coldest days I witnessed the human condition….at its best.

The shelter that I became intertwined with was, at first, partly a way to supplement my income. It quickly became a piece of my life quilt that I will forever be grateful presented itself as an opportunity to me. An opportunity to spend those cold winter nights with some of the most beautifully complicated humans I have ever met.

It was an eye opener to the very deep and very real understanding that we are all just one decision away. Just one decision away from what we do and what we know not being anything of the familiar any longer. The morning cup of coffee and that warm bowl of oatmeal is no longer something to look forward to or even depend on. When the circumstances of life both of choice and groundless occurrences now dictate your day to day existence, things become different. The only thing you know to expect and depend on is that you cannot expect or depend on what you once did. And, sometimes what you find hardest to rely on is yourself. The demons of your tortured past keep clawing their way into the present sometimes making it impossible to walk any further.

Each night I stood at that front table, and each night the familiar and sometimes unfamiliar faces would walk through those glass doors. As the one standing inside I never knew what kind of spaces would be entering mine. There were many nights when the spaces coming in were filled with hurt, pain and anger. However,  there were many nights when humor, laughter and quick wit were just as prevalent.

It was almost like a machine at times. Hand me your bag. Let me check it. I’ll place this blade in the lock box for safety until morning, and here is the sharps container for that used needle that took your mind pain away today. Though a machine it may have been, it was more like the Tin Man when he finally received his heart. The outside might show itself as a hard exterior but internally was a breathing soul who just wants to be loved, heard and understood/respected.

There was never fear. There was never a time when I was worried or concerned that something could/would happen to me. There was human connection. There was the deep place of threaded journeys that brought us to the moment(s) we encountered each time we checked in or sat around the dinner table catching up like old friends. They were veterans, and former machinists, nurses and those from other countries. There were the stories that were shared and the quiet reflections kept inside. There was the laughter. There were tears. There were high fives, and there were handshakes. And, above all else, there was the deep and true admiration for the human spirit. The light that emanated from the cracks of understood pain that each of us has endured in our lifetime. The simple recognition that we are all in this together and to be here in a place where judgement had no room to be tolerated we came together.

Since the shelter closed for the season I have found myself missing the space which was created not only by the staff and volunteers but by those who found their way to those glass doors each and every night. I was humbled by the amount of times someone would thank myself and other staff members for doing what we do. It seems so simple to me. Treat each other with kindness, and be good to one another. We should be thanking you. For you are the teachers of what it means to live and to keep going despite the journey you were placed on feeling like a never ending battle. On my last night (which happened to be the last night of the season) I went to say goodbye to a resident on my way out. As I reached to shake their hand they looked at me and said, “Is it okay to ask for a hug?”. Yes, sir, it will always be okay.

 

mr rogers

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Life is Fleeting, Embrace It.

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Pictures have this way of capturing moments in time. Sometimes it’s intentional, and sometimes it’s meaning doesn’t become clear until long after the space of time that was captured is looked upon again with fresh eyes. The picture here is such a photo, and it is such a moment.

I often find myself adventuring alone with my camera gear and the wildness of my soul as my companion. Getting lost on purpose within various places and disconnecting from it all to find the strongest signal possible.

Although I have gotten better at letting a friend or two know my whereabouts in case “something” should ever happen, it doesn’t always go that way nor does it always stick to me following the original plan(s) of where my adventurous soul takes me. And, even though on this day I did do better (for the most part) in informing a friend and sticking to my plan, it still wasn’t perfect.

I found myself at this beautiful location within the natures of Vermont many hours north and deep into the state’s many natural pieces of amazement. I walked down the pathway and explored the area of which was calling me and my nature soul. I found myself in awe as I usually do when lost among the pine and roaring waters.

As I meandered to another spot within this peaceful/exhilarating place I found a space among the naturally carved rock(s) where I wanted to zone in/zone out. I then decided I wanted a mind shot to remember. So, I turned over onto my stomach from my sitting position. It only took a moment to snag my photo, and then I went to turn over and get back up. In that moment, in that single moment which suddenly became a life or death scenario…everything went different. What I had intended had now become a moment when literally each decision I made could easily be my last. I realized the instant that I had turned over to get back up I was fucked.

My body was sliding forward with nothing for me to grab onto. The smoothness of the rocks which had eluded me any concern had suddenly transformed into a danger I had no intention of being a part of. It did not matter where I placed my hands, and it did not matter if I tried to adjust myself. The more I moved or not moved proved irrelevant.

In the channel that was formed by the rocks of which my body was descending down there was a very very small pool of collected water which in itself posed it’s own danger in addition to being the last perceived surface before the edge of this rock formation went to the rocks and deeper pools below. I knew if I went off the edge I would be dead. Or, at minimum, I would be severely injured and unable to get to any form of safety which would lead me to my death regardless. And, as I kept thinking and kept trying to prevent this from occurring my body kept sliding more with each centimeter I attempted to push back.

I realized that now was when I needed to be more mindful than I have ever been with the present moment. If I was going to get out of this I was the only one who could do it. There was no one else. No else who was there. No one else who knew where I was. No one who would know what would have happened to me if I did not make it. No one who would even know where to begin, or, even realize that I was gone until days or possibly weeks later.

I refocused my eyes on that small pool of water on the very edge of this rock. As my body descended yet again, I jammed my foot down. If I had misjudged this, if it didn’t work the way I had envisioned in my mind…it was over. My foot went into the water laden with leaves and muck. It was not deep. There was barely a hold for my foot to find, but what little piece was there I managed to find it. One centimeter this way or that way and I would have missed it. One centimeter too high and I would have glazed right over that water like a glass surface. As my foot submerged I knew I was not out of it yet. I still had to go backwards on the very rocks that flew me forward. The same rocks that I just slid down time and time again, and was still sliding on in this moment. I now had to reverse myself, and this time I had a wet foot to add to it all.

I braced myself as best as I could. For every step back I would still go forward, but somehow/someway I made it back out. I sat for a moment. I sat with the realization that it was all almost over. I sat with the knowing that my body was not floating in the water(s) below(even though that visual had not left my head space), and it was not under the cascade where no one would have heard my screams. I was not dead. I was still very much alive. It was not my time.

As I stood, my body/mind was so ridden with overwhelmed anxiousness I could not control the shaking emerging from me. I took some time to collect myself. I went to another vantage point and saw where I would have ended up, but it was not my time.

Yes, pictures speak a thousand words. And, this picture will be a heavy reminder as to how life is fleeting and the time we are given should be embraced like a long lost friend while being emblazoned with the fire(s) to live it to the fullest. I know I was lucky. I know I was fortunate. And any day since this moment has not gone by without the sheer power of that intense understanding.

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Let Your Ashes be Stirred

The year in the life of each individual soul transcends many obstacles, barriers and unknown territories. Some of the places we go seem eerily familiar while others are new and welcoming like a freshly snow filled landscape. They are pieces of our beings like the light that breaks through the smallest cracks into the depths of our internalized darkness.

While we journey to these roadways and landscapes we often wonder what it all means and if there is anything we are supposed to walk away with or leave behind. Even in the comfort of the most inviting fire lit corners we can feel scared and apprehensive.

We need to remind ourselves to turn off the radio signals that are controlling the air waves of our minds. The airwaves that infiltrate our beings with the heaviness of things that cling to our skin like the mud of spring time rain. And, while the mud can dirty our external layers and cause us to feel unclean/unworthy that mud that affixed itself to our layers can be washed off with the same cleansing rain that put in there to begin with. It’s cyclical. It’s healing. It is as necessary to our well being as the eye opening moments of sunsets and moon risings.

Some of the most important journeys that we travel are the roads that knock us down and cause us to feel defeated. It is on these roads where we have the ability to remember that the light of our truth(s), the energy of which we wish to cast upon the world is ours, and it always has been. It is never there for anyone else to control or smolder like a campfire turning to ash.

Inside each of us is a Phoenix waiting to rise up and spread its wings. The tears that it cries bringing healing/love/understanding. That burning flame is with us, always. It presents itself in so many ways – new experiences/new love/new connections/new hope(s). And, within each of these experiences that fire simply seeks one thing – the respect to be appreciated for the brilliant flame that it is. The understanding that the warmth coming from its embers has been ignited over the years from various matches. Some of these ignited red burning ends of wood have been welcoming in their wood smoke scented joy while others hold deeper charred pieces of burned out bits of what was left behind. They are all part of that burning fire, that pile of lifetime ashes and the Phoenix wing’s which stir them each time it rises.

Let the ashes be stirred, let the wings unfurl, and allow your light to dance in the flames that are yours. Those who understand your burning will dance with you inside the fire.

 

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‘Your Mountain’

Wild – we all have it, that underlying inspirational determination to do something bigger than ourselves which in the end allows us to be humbled and find ourselves all at once. The difficulty is that so often we allow ourselves to be put in our place by what what we feel are various barriers/pressures/constraints that are placed upon our beings while we feel we are doing our absolute best to make it.

But, what if, our absolute best are the boulders we tie upon our beings that allow us to not completely drown but not completely swim without being tethered? So often we become caught up in the options for tomorrow instead of the possibilities for today. We convince ourselves that we’ll always have time later on to take part in the experiences of the living that when their light creeps in our beings feel electrical surges. When we decline to build up the energy and release it to the universe it stays at bay and sits uncomfortably in the harbors of our souls. The longer it sits the more difficult it becomes to maintain the brightness that was once ignited.

The best thing though is that those little campfires of passion/inspiration/determination are still within you!!! It’s up to us to feed them with beautiful pieces of pine and cedar woods to illuminate our senses when someone/something creates a spark to keep the burn going. The fire never really dies, but it can become dangerously low and difficult to build up. Sometimes that building requires not only the love/patience/understanding of others, but you must also require that of yourself.

Then, one day, you find yourself climbing a mountain trail for the second time in one day and you realize that voices of ghost’s past had managed to find a small cavern within you and hide there quietly. When you emerge from the forest and into the clearing of a beautiful vista you find yourself letting them go. The campfire roars into a bonfire and instantaneously you are smiling and relishing in the moment of pure knowing that this needed to happen, and suddenly your being feels lighter. Your heart is pounding, and your mind feels a sense of clarity.

Relish in these moments. Grow with and from them, and share them the moment they happen with someone that you care about so the journey can continue with not only your beautiful soul, but with the power of two.

Love Big/Dream Big/Live Big. That doesn’t always mean becoming monetarily rich and buying expensive things. More often than not, it’s standing on a rock clearing over looking a beautiful vista and sharing your growing moment with someone who cares because each time one has growth the other does as well; simply by sharing it with you in the listening/supporting/love.

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True Grit – A Gallery Submission

Recently, one of my sisters shared some information with me for an upcoming gallery photo exhibit that had put out a call for artists. She felt that I had some photography that would fit perfectly into the theme of what the gallery was looking for. Not that I did not want to submit anything, but I found myself being slightly hesitant because; me – my work – gallery. It’s wonderful, but also something I wasn’t sure I would be accepted to so it felt a little intimidating. When I heard myself whispering that to my being I knew in that moment that submitting a piece of work was exactly what I needed to do.

The show is called, ‘Sacrifice: The Cause and Effect’; An Exhibition of Art & Photography Honoring Our Vets’. It’s a gallery show that has a purpose of honoring the service/sacrifice of military men and women.

Over the past couple of years I have done some different captures to best honor the passing of my nephew who was killed in action on August 16, 2012. It was within these captures that I felt something would speak to me enough to submit for this special showing, and I was hopeful that it would speak enough to the organizers of this event to have the work as a part of the show. I found my capture, worked on it, did the requested write-up and hit the send button. This all took place at two in the morning, and therefore my thoughts centered around how I would probably forget I even did this at such an early hour of the day (a big shout out to not sleeping).

I am proud to say that the piece (to my feelings of prideful joy and surprise) was selected to be a part of the special gallery showing. Who would have thought – my work in a gallery outside of Boston for such a special cause.

As a part of each submission the artist is required to reflect on what the piece they have submitted means to them and how it ties in with the theme of the gallery showing. I always find my best thoughts come when I can write without thinking, and apparently, it is also super helpful to do such things at two in the morning. The passage(s) below is what I wrote.

My name is Heather Babcock, and I am the photographer/owner of Natural High Photography. Nature has been my outlet of re-connection, staying in tune with my being and grounding myself back to my center. I often strive to find ways to share with others what it is often missed in this hurried world through my work. The inspiration for my piece is my nephew Michael Robert DeMarsico who was killed in action on Aug. 16, 2012. I opted to blend/smudge the colors on the ground beneath the flag to give a fluid feel. For me, it represents all that one gives/lives for, and it’s their energy/love being poured back into the earthen ground for others to absorb into their being/living. This to me represents my nephew, his ability to live/love, and the ability of his family/friends to carry that love forward.

What is the cause and effect of sacrifice? What does it mean to sacrifice? For many, the meaning pours from a place of giving everything you have regardless of the weight placed upon your being. It’s paying no mind to yourself, but putting all of your love/light/energy into the living of other’s no matter what it may cost you. There is no concern about your well-being, and there is no hesitation when duty comes to call; whatever that means to you. A person will rise with the sun and find no time to rest with the moon. The blood,sweat and tears that are dripping from the pores of day-to-day living have no time to dry/heal. For many, this is what it means to sacrifice. These are the effects that transpire when one pushes themselves for the living of others that is not their own, but i don’t think that is the whole of the meaning. I think real sacrifice is also a call of the heart. It’s a song that the light of a person listens to and never stops singing even when others are unable to hear. It’s not about giving up everything you are/have, it’s about pouring your being into an orchestra where others are joining in with their chosen pieces of instrumentation. It’s about feeling alive with each step that you take, and pushing yourself further with each piece of progression because no one stops learning. It’s about making yourself vulnerable to others so that they may see the beautiful human that you are. It’s about understanding that your light is a gift to the world, and without it, the world would be a little less bright. It’s about living your life and sharing your love in such a way that when you take a journey that requires you to leave others behind, they can carry your fire forward and never let it die. No, sacrifice is not just about giving it all away without concern for your living, it’s very much about living in such a way that everything you do, and everyone you touch will be better for having known your light, and richer for the ability to keep your candle burning.

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That’s How the Light Gets In

Vulnerability, it taps into the places of our beings. It’s where our truth lives, and it’s where the essence of our humanness resides. As we get older we often find ourselves further away from the ability to expose ourselves in complete raw openness.

It’s not that we never had the ability to be a book of thousands upon thousands of words ready to be read, but, sometimes in the sharing of our life’s chapters the book was closed by those reading along with you. Each time it was closed represented another moment of wanting to retreat further and further back.

As we continued to become a protector of our being we found ourselves holding onto those vulnerable places very securely/tightly under lock and key. We don’t forget about their existence, but they lay there resting. Wishing/wanting to be exposed but long forgetting the feelings of safety that allow them to be so fluid, they are like a waterfall gently cascading it’s way through mountainous terrain – beautiful/daring, but hidden away.

As we continue to journey on the roads before us we discover new beings. We find ourselves yearning and wanting to live from our light, our truth, so we can be our truest selves at all times with those who carry a light which energetically connects with our own. We want all parts of us to be known, respected, understood and not judged. We meander in and out of the energy of a delicate dance, be who you are or remain locked away and not open to the possibility that light will find its way in.

We find ourselves remembering and not wanting to focus on all that came before, you know, the energies that found it difficult in accepting you…ALL OF YOU, and not wanting to change/mold/design you into anything other than the magical human that you are and that you always have been. There have been those who have run, those who have pushed back and those who have stood still not knowing how to hold space for you and your being.

It happens though. It happens when you’re in a place of wanting to allow yourself to stand naked with vulnerability once again because you have grown tired of hiding in the corners of your internalized truth.

You find yourself living from your truth, your light. Then it hits you, you no longer know how or wish to do anything else. You are you, and you deserve/need to be who you are. Your light. Your heart. The you that you have always pushed a little further into the corner because you wanted to protect that piece you had from further destruction.

As you find yourself standing there naked, dripping with your vulnerability once again, the fear/anxiousness that you have become accustomed to surging through your being begins it’s swimming through your veins. At first, you want to stop, you want to say to yourself, “Go back to the shoreline! It’s safer there!”. Yet, you allow yourself to go a little bit further out. You are opening up to this person walking beside you and something different starts to happen. As they received your being and the pieces of your life quilt that you were sharing, they did not run. They did not jump on you or come at you with judgment. They did not shame/blame you, and they did not try to fix you. They simply held space for you and responded from a place of appreciation and acceptance. Hours go by and they reach out to you later on in the evening, and they thank you. They thank you for allowing yourself to be so vulnerable with them and how much they appreciate the fact the you took the risk in doing so.

Who is this magician that stands before you? This beautiful being who knows/understands that the very wet/tattered wings that have carried your being through a lifetime of flying/evading, have now found safety/comfort in their hands/their listening.

You have a little bit of fear and wonder if they can withstand all of the pieces both past and current, but as the road continues to journey forward you continue to realize that they are true. You continue to see that the light/being that presented themselves to you not that long ago have not transformed into anything other than the magical human that they are, and equally as beautiful…neither have you.

 

brene-brown

 

 

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