Painting with Words

By- Traci Taylor
January 2017

The calming rhythm
of leaves falling
losing their picturesque golden browns
at the end of autumn
on the cusp of a frigid winter

Nighttime paints the sky
the darkest color of blue
midnight strikes
and only the moon is left to lighten the sky

Within life
lives are influenced by strangers
who pass us by in moments
that expand sometimes into years
time isn’t the determination
of how deep their footprints impact

Standing still
on the horizon of a warm spring evening
surrounded by blossoming flowers
that grow like a metaphor for hope
with all of their colors of the rainbow

Nature is the writer’s
can of paint
waiting
to place feelings stuck
in an overactive mind
soon to be formed
into words that project feeling

Advertisements

Live, Thrive, & Be Vulnerable: Self-Love

**Note from the author: This is the end of a series I never thought I would be able to conclude properly. When I first began writing LTBV I was at an extremely low and vulnerable part of my life (that was almost a year ago to date). I re-wrote this particular last piece over and over and over again for the past couple of months. I just wasn’t in love with the words enough to post them, and considering this topic it didn’t seem right to publish something I couldn’t stand behind. Never have I felt more exposed with my writing, and never have I have been in love with something I have written more than each topic in this series. Here’s to the readers out there I hope you now feel like you have a shoulder to lean on with the words I have written.

By Traci Taylor
September 2015
Live, Thrive, & Be Vulnerable series

As summer winds down and my favorite season of the year approaches the feeling of fear overwhelms me instead of the usual joy of anticipation for autumn. This time last year I was in deep with depression, nearing the end of a relationship with a person that was my absolute best friend, and in turn fighting a losing battle with alcohol abuse. It was as if my world was crumbling around me without any real exit strategy for survival. I had hit a rock bottom that I seemingly couldn’t get out of without just throwing in the towel. After my relationship officially ended that second week in October I lost myself in helplessness and made an end all choice that I am grateful now I failed at attempting.

I approached the next day thankful to still be alive and decided it was time to start loving myself instead of loathing myself. Somewhere in that almost tragic wakeup call I became aware that drinking needed to come to a halt and I needed to begin living a healthier, happier lifestyle. I started a new job (left the one that was adding to my misery), got sober from alcohol for 8 months, and began writing this series (Live, Thrive, & Be Vulnerable) that is finally coming to a conclusion with the topic of “Self-Love”.

Sobriety was far from the easiest thing I have done in my quarter century existence on this planet, but in the same thought one of the most self-rewarding accomplishments. Through abstaining from alcohol I learned the importance of self-love and relearned what genuine happiness feels like. I know I have come a long way over the past year, but the hardest part of it all is being aware that this time of year will stick with me for my lifespan- it just depends on how I choose to fight through it. Everything does happen for a reason, and I believe my existence is proof of that.

Making sure self-love was a part of my everyday routine first started with self-care which meant beginning therapy. The best part of being able to talk to an educated individual who has no prior knowledge of your struggle is how rewarding it feels after the hour is up. I recall a day after one of my sessions where I was walking home and looked up to this gorgeous bundle of trees with leaves of golden browns, yellows, and reds. A sudden smile spread over my face with gratitude that ensured me I still have a long journey ahead of me. It was then that I felt an abundance of love for myself and for all of the life experiences I had yet to accomplish.

When winter started creeping around the corner, life got a tad bumpy again. The new restaurant I had been working at was reaching point of closing and I was weeks away from being unemployed. Needless to say I was beginning to feel that sense of helplessness again. Just when I was as stressed out about life falling apart at the seams, I got luckier than I ever fathomed was possible. Part of me still believes what happened next was one of the reasons I survived that day last October. For every day I chose to not give up on myself, I was about to experience the answer as to why.

As a kid it is hard to believe that everything happens for a reason, and that every difficult task life throws your way is for a better purpose. I wasn’t one of the lucky ones that had a childhood painted with a white picket fence of a happy family or a yellow brick road to success. Like the majority of peers in my generation I got by with finding the strength within myself despite surrounding circumstances. It is simple to ponder the thoughts of the “grass is greener on the other side” but what is more self-satisfying (in my opinion) is being at the top of the hill after the climb when you thought you would never make it from the start. Self-love is about knowing I can get to the top as long as I choose to trust that I am able to. If I have gained one thing thus far in life, it is that reassurance. If I didn’t have that last winter, I wouldn’t have the opportunity that was about to come my way or what I like to refer to as my “top of the hill”.

I had been unemployed (restaurant industry isn’t known for its job security) for over a month and a half after the restaurant I work at closed New Year’s Eve. Constantly applying to jobs, getting interviews, but no real luck until I got the phone call I never thought would come. During my numerous amounts of job applications I decided to randomly apply to a job as a lacrosse goalie coach at a well-known private school in Philadelphia (a sport I once adored and missed dearly). To my surprise I got a call back weeks later, interviewed, and was eventually hired. Transitioning from athlete to coach was quite the obstacle at first, but it is one that I quickly learned to fall in love with. It was the change of perspective on life that I needed, and I believe the opportunity came into my life at that time for a distinct reason. Similar to the reward I get from writing (sharing my voice in hopes of helping others), coaching does that much more by mentoring future leaders through a mutual appreciation for a beloved sport. Being on the other side of the sideline unravels the big picture that the learning process never stops, not even if you are the coach (or teacher).

Each morning I wake up I no longer crave the sunset, but am now appreciative of the pale blues and fiery pinks of the sunrise. I am aware that not every day will be without a struggle, but with every day there is a lesson to learn. The greatest lesson over this past year has been accepting that I am only human, and I am allowed to have faults as long as I remember to love myself regardless. It’s hard to feel a nagging grey cloud of depression surrounding you and still try to believe that you deserve unconditional love. Sometimes, in those moments, your greatest accomplishment may be getting through the day (I’ve been there- it is valid). Just remember it may not get better tomorrow, but it will (I promise) get better at some point. When that day comes you will be so thankful you made it this far. Not a day goes by that I don’t ponder what life would be like had I not made it past that second week in October last year. Everything that I have become so grateful for over these 12 months would not exist. I used to think being a hopeless romantic was believing in finding the end all love, but really the greatest love of all is self-love. Once you have that, everything else will fall into place.

Walking Behind

By- Traci Taylor
July 2015

Time has remained still,
only the sky has changed color.

The mood of my mind
has been stuck in the hole in my chest.

Gravity has sunk the stars,
and darkness overtakes the city.

Too long have I waited
for a sign that was shattered from the start.

My eyes remain forward,
but I still continue walking behind.

Morning Dew

By- Traci Taylor
May 2015

Gratitude comes from within the sunrise,
not the sunset.
The dew of morning lingers momentarily,
time is never endless.

Moments take years to appreciate,
it’s never what is expected.
Hope is what remains for the innocent,
the cynics surrender early.

When the sky is like an oil painting,
the dreamers rejoice.
Vulnerability is rewarding,
but only appreciated when the sun disappears into the ocean.

Live, Thrive, & Be Vulnerable: Staying Positive

**Note from the author:With the end of this series almost coming to a close I was finding it more and more difficult to pinpoint topics to write about. This week I wrote about remaining positive, because lately that’s all I’ve been feeling (along with endless gratitude). The end of last year was a difficult one for me, and I’ve made a significant transition in my life in the the way I live it. As we grow older it is easy to forget how happy and hopeful we once were. I write this for your consideration to reminiscence back to a time when perhaps it seemed easier to believe in endless happiness & cynicism wasn’t so prominent. 
By- Traci Taylor
March 2015
Live, Thrive, & Be Vulnerable series

Not very long ago, five months or so, there was a time where I didn’t think I could make it through the day, and deep inside I hoped that I wouldn’t. To many people I appeared happy, but that was far from the truth. I found it difficult to stay positive. Back in October I would have never imagined my life would turn completely around and I would be where I am currently (constantly surrounded by positive energy). Perhaps if I had known what the future held I would have had a better outlook on things, but that’s easier to consider now that life is more desirable.

One of my favorite writers J.D. Salinger once said, “I’ve survived a lot of things, and I’ll probably survive this.” In certain moments it can prove hard to be able to remain upbeat, but being able to hold out for hope that things will eventually get better tends to make it easier.

Without a doubt there is truth to the fact that the only person responsible for the mood you are in is yourself. It is all in the mindset you put yourself in. Sometimes I know it is tough to talk yourself out of a dark place, but once you do life seems tremendously brighter. I was lucky back in October to get a second chance at not feeling like I was stuck in a rut.

For some time I was fighting plenty of demons that were preventing me from being the “ray of sunshine” others may have seen. I struggled with being in the closet for over twenty years which fueled the depression and in result my dependency on alcohol sky rocketed as a way of self medicating. All of those things combined ended up being my biggest downfall. I lost a lot of ambition, and parts of me that were once hopeful became tainted with negative thoughts.

After a certain age people lose that sense of hope that we all have as children. The hopeless romantics turn into cynics and the always cheerful quickly turn into the burnt out. It is unfortunate how there is this thought that in order to be an adult you have to stop believing in the things you used to at a younger age.

Somewhere along the way something makes you lose the sparkle in your eye that you had for many years. I’ve seen, and experienced, the kindest of people turn stone cold (it’s disheartening, especially when it is someone close). I’m an advocate against cynicism; I find it boring and plain. Call it naïve, but I think it makes life more colorful to look on the brighter side of things.

When I was at my rock bottom I could almost feel the negative vibes taking over my everyday mindset (which was quickly muted out with alcohol just like any other problem I had). I was morphing into a person I didn’t even recognize anymore. The relationship I was in at the time was falling apart and it scared me, but I knew there was nothing I could do so I drank (in retrospect that is probably when I should have stopped drinking). I was in a job that made me absolutely miserable and only aided my drinking habit, but I felt so stuck that I didn’t see a way out.

Originally moving to Philly was supposed to be a temporary thing until I found a job outside of the restaurant industry, except it was beginning to feel permanent. That’s what really started to get inside of my head, and I felt as though I was at a dead end which ended up ruining all other relationships in my life. Internally I felt like I was failing and the only thing that was an escape from that reality was drinking. At the time I could see no positive outcome, and it has taken me almost five months of being sober from alcohol to see that.

Then February rolled around and I was endlessly looking for jobs since the restaurant I had been working at shut down. One day I saw an ad on Craigslist (of all places, I know) for a lacrosse goalie coach. Growing up I was always involved in sports, but a lot of people that know me as an adult aren’t aware of that part of my life.

Lacrosse was a sport that I was really into in high school and missed out on the opportunity of playing in college because of poor grades (one thing I have always regretted). There I was with this chance to get back involved with a sport that I love, and I figured if I managed to write a convincing enough cover letter maybe I would hear back.

When I eventually did hear back, I was shocked but obviously extremely excited that I got a response. Being surrounded by the positive energy of lacrosse and the team is a rewarding thing (Even Chuck Klosterman was a coach before his career took off, right?). I may only be in my mid-twenties but thus far I’ve learned a lot of tough life lessons. The most important is taking responsibility for how your life is going, and changing something if it is making you miserable.

As adults sometimes it is easy to lose that sense of positive, “childlike” hopefulness about the world. Sometimes I truly believe that is the downfall of society. Too many people that you pass on the street have unpleasant looks on their faces, and it is gratifying to pass a stranger with a kind smile. There isn’t enough positive energy or politeness in this world. It is vital to remember that every struggle in life is not permanent, even if it might be tough right now. From personal experience I know it is easy to get wrapped up in a dejected mindset and have it ruin you. Life is meant to be something enjoyable, and somewhere along the way that can be forgotten. The key to it all is finding reasons to smile about why you woke up this morning, even if it is simply for the sun rise or the smell of the coffee brewing.

Live, Thrive, & Be Vulnerable: Fear

**Note from the author: Sometimes fear is more than just being afraid of creepy crawlers or feeling claustrophobic in a tight space. Often certain events in our lives make us afraid to move forward or pursue things that might not work out. The fear of the unknown can prevent a future of possible happiness. I chose to write about the perspective to help look at the bigger picture of life and what opportunities could exist if we didn’t let the fearfulness devour our thoughts.

By- Traci Taylor
February 2015
Live, Thrive, & Be Vulnerable series

Defining fear is seemingly impossible since it ultimately depends upon the individual’s mindset. Everyone is afraid of something; it is a part of being human (for those that claim otherwise they are either liars or sociopaths). Learning to give into fear is just a step of accepting and overcoming obstacles in life. Now, not all specific fears are ones that can be conquered easily (small spaces, snakes, spiders, etc.). The fears of vulnerability, loving again, failure, etc. are more reasonably eliminated after looking at them from a different perspective. After all sometimes the fear is built upon a narrow minded mentality.

There are few things in life that are more frightening than being vulnerable to another person or situation. No one likes to feel exposed without knowing what will come next. It is something I am still working on, and I realize an abundant amount of trust issues is often my own worst enemy. Through recent years I have tried to understand the power of vulnerability and how much happiness it can end up bringing despite how intimidating it feels to open up completely.

Thinking of all the negative outcomes is easier than being able to create what would happen if things worked out right (having low expectations leads to fewer disappoints, so I’ve learned). In order to develop as human beings, learning how to be vulnerable is vital. Without taking chances, and opening up to others there is no room for self growth.

Being vulnerable can also provide the chance to discover more about the person you are and create a stronger self love. When I was drinking I was choosing to avoid the fear of vulnerability by numbing everything out. It wasn’t until I hit my rock bottom that I took a step back to see I wasn’t protecting myself by masking the fear, I was actually causing harm. I knew then it was time to make drastic changes and I needed to face being vulnerable through sobriety instead of behind a mask of alcohol. Letting the greater fear of vulnerability rule only harms the individuals chance to discover more about themselves. The fear is in control and prevents the possibility of new experiences.

Heartbreak occurs in various forms, and it’s never an easy thing to go through. Tears are shed, beers are consumed, and cookies are devoured. The heart may ache for more than just losing a significant other; it could be someone close passing away as well. Either way it’s devastating. When people that were once a big part of life leave, it’s hard to manage that void. Often bitterness ends up filling the hole and a fear of not being able to trust again takes over.

It is inevitable that people will end up hurting one another, but that needs to be realized and let go. Issues of trust will end up consuming and destroying any sort of hope for others to come into your life. Penalizing the future for the past is counterproductive. Realize the fear, take note of its existence, and move forward. Most times that fear is just simply a hesitation of a made up belief that history might repeat itself. Learn to be aware that heartbreaks are unavoidable, but love can only happen again if you let it.

Without failure there would be no success. So what is it about the trials of failure that make it so frightening? Personally, I’m terrified of failure it is next in line above my fear of the cowardly lion from The Wizard of Oz (yes I had a reoccurring nightmare as a kid that the lion would come into my room and take me away). When someone has big dreams for their future, it is a scary thing to think of that future not working out as imagined.

I speak of failure in a broader sense, not in losing a game or failing a math test (both of which I’ve gone through multiple times). Being afraid that the future may not go as planned seems to create hesitation in pursuing dreams in fear of failure. That thought is not only scary, but really just sad. Quickly when those thoughts come to mind, it’s important to take a breath and a few steps back. For years I’ve tried to live by these words, “high standards with low expectations” it proves to lessen any hurt of disappointment that failure brings on. Letting fear of failure consume you will only end up with having that one track mind of failure instead of success. The only way to succeed is through trial and error.

Each day can seem like a struggle, but when the day is finally done it ends up being an accomplishment. Fear can be as constant of a burden as anything else that life has put along the path. Being able to find the courage and strength to deal with things that are frightening in the moment only builds character for the person you will be tomorrow. Living a life filled with fear that ultimately only holds you back from endless possibilities will end up being a life filled with regret. Life is not fair and it is far from easy. When fear is the blockade to your happiness remember the bumps in the road are only temporary. Allowing fear to consume you prevents the chance of taking risks and having those risks transform into a bright future. As scary as life can get, keep in mind that rainstorms often result in blooming beds of vibrant flowers.

Live, Thrive, & Be Vulnerable: Loss

**Note from the author: At first I began writing this story inspired by the memory of my dear friend Logann. Then, I got news my mom-mom was in the hospital (update: she is doing well). This week was a tough one for me, but it really influenced me to keep writing and enforce the message that this story conveys. Life is too short, and not often enough do we show gratitude for the loved ones that surround us.

By-Traci Taylor
February 2015
Live, Thrive, & Be Vulnerable series

In life the only guarantee given is that it eventually ends. Despite knowing the inevitable, dealing with losing a loved one is never easy. Every day after that person is gone from this earth, things begin to seem a bit duller. Certain things that may be reminders of a brighter time now leave a lump in the throat and salty tears streaming down the cheek. At the time it feels like nothing but a darkened sadness. Eventually it’s easier to look at the reminders as ways that the ones that have left still live with us within memories. Death is not something simple to cope with, it’s permanence that is hard to face.

When I was younger I lost my great Uncle John and I don’t remember much about his death. I was a kid that couldn’t comprehend the significance of loss yet, and then it only meant feeling sad when he was no longer there to joke with on Christmas morning. As far as I know he had died from old age, I was no older than five when he passed. Being so young I didn’t yet know the impact of what living life after a loved one is gone really felt like.

For all the obstacles I have faced this year and the strength it has taken me to get through it all doesn’t even compare to the pain that takes over from losing someone. I was never able to meet my dad’s parents, they had both passed away before I or any of my sisters were born. He still talks about them a lot, and his face lights up with a smile every time. Sometimes being able to remember the happier times filled with laughter make not having the ones no longer around even the tiniest bit easier.

The second time I lost someone close to me was harder, and I was only a few years older. I still remember the last afternoon I got to spend with my pop-pop before he passed away from pancreatic cancer. I was eight years old and he took me up on the Wildwood boardwalk to play miniature golf, and afterwards grab soft pretzels and water ice. Even then I was still too young to know the importance of the moments I had left with him. Overall I’m not sure there is an age where it gets easier to cope or be aware when to cherish every minute with loved ones.

For awhile I considered myself lucky to not have had to deal with the process of losing someone I was close to. Just being around people dealing with the grief and pain, I feared having to know what it was truly like. Losing my pop-pop was hard, but at age eight I didn’t truly know the meaning of overwhelming sadness. Intellectually being aware that death is a part of life doesn’t make the emotional devastation of loss any easier. Some losses in life just stick with you and alter the way you view the value of it all. That’s what Logann’s death did for me.

I was twenty-two years old in my last semester at college and it was the morning after the Super Bowl when I read the news that my childhood friend passed away. When I first woke up that morning I had a persistent knot in my stomach, and the moment I read on my newsfeed that Logann was gone cold shivers rushed through my whole body. I was in utter disbelief.

The one person that could light up an entire room with her smile had just lost her final battle to addiction. It had been years since I saw her, but even the memories of her are still colorfully vivid in my mind. To this day I am filled with regret that the last time I did see her it was through a window of a convenient store and I didn’t bother to say hello. She was working at the cash register, and I wish I had known in that moment it was my last chance to see my childhood friend. Life has a twisted way of teaching the hard truth on how to be appreciative of the people that mean something to you.

To this day I am unsure of how many lives she was aware she brightened with that golden smile and contagious laugh. Every day that passes I still stumble upon certain things that remind me of Logann. She was my right hand lady at the first job we had at Sunset Beach and those memories I still hold dear to my heart. The truth is, in a way I looked up to Logann and I never saw those demons she was struggling with I only saw the “force to be reckoned with” exterior. The reason I suffered gauging my own ears wasn’t for some “hipster” fad, it was because Logann had plugs and somehow convinced me to go for it. Her extraordinary free spirited attitude was the thing that I admired most. I never knew another side of Logann other than the ray of sunshine that had the ability to brighten anyone’s day.

Two years have passed since she has been gone and it’s still a hard concept to grasp. Losing someone to an addiction is a double edge sword. In a way there is a relief that the person you love is no longer fighting that unbearable load of horrific demons. On the other hand, that person you love is no longer a phone call away when all you want to do is hear the familiar sound of their voice.

Day by day I am finding it deep within me to live for the memory of the ones that are no longer here, but have impacted my life tremendously. Being almost four months sober from alcohol I am beginning to live life with a bolder attitude. The people I have lost in this life are still very much alive in my heart.

Fairly often in life you are reminded that the only thing constant about it is that it changes. I’ve heard that phrase more times than I can count, and it’s probably the only lesson I remember from my science courses. As much as there is an awareness that things constantly change, there is never a way to prepare for the life altering experience of losing someone. It’s like picking up a beautifully structured snow globe, shaking it as hard as possible, putting it back down, and then looking into the same globe that appears to now be filled with a distorted image. Nothing is ever quite as picturesque as it once seemed, but life continues on regardless.