Reject the Past

Standard

image

I sometimes view the past as a monster lurking in the closet, waiting for my eyes to close so it can sneak out and start whispering things into my ear.

“Remember when you…”
“Remember how you…”
“Remember when they…”

The past’s repetitive mantra reminding me that because of past mistakes and failures I will always be one of two things:

  1. Too much
  2. Not enough

These lies are two sides of the same coin. Both lies have this consuming power to twist like weeds inside the garden of your heart. They start out looking like beautiful roses, but turn out to just be vines full of thorns that cut and tear open old wounds and make new ones begin to form.

They steal away your ability to trust anything that good comes into your life. They are brutal.

These lies aren’t just trapped in the past, unfortunately. They find their place in your present, and stake out for their spot in your future. But, they somehow belong to the past, because it’s from your past that you allow these conclusions to be drawn by the jury in your mind. You let the case be made from failures, letdowns, disappointments, mistakes –and you keep handing this evidence over to your accusers.

In order to live a life unapologetically, you have to begin rejecting your past.

I’m a woman all about not living with regrets. I’ve stated before that living with regret is holding your past self to your present self’s standards. You are grading your past self on the lessons that your present self has learned. It’s an unfair judgment.

I’m not saying that in rejecting your past you toss away all of those valuable nuggets of knowledge that you cling to so bravely now. No, but I am saying that you cannot be continually rehashing, reviewing, and reliving what you have lived through and you cannot change.

You have to start seeing your past with filtered vision. You cannot look on your past and only hold onto what was great and wonderful, because though our times of joy are valuable, there’s not only merit in those times. Rather, you need to be able to take what has been a lesson, take what you learned, and apply it. \

You’ve got to start realizing that when the past calls it has nothing new to say to you, let it go straight to voicemail.

What has the past kept bringing up to you that you need to let go? Have you ever found yourself caught in the struggle of being too much or not enough?

Advertisements

Slaying My Inner Cynic

Standard

image

Romcoms. Say Yes to the Dress. Extravagant love stories.

rejected.

That was my consistent, steady approach to anything that oversold the concepts of love and romance to me. I was no stranger to what I consider true love. My little shot of strong Irish whiskey mother and tall drink of Jamaican island rum father sound like a deadly cocktail. But, in the years that my parents had together, their strengths and weaknesses always did a hearty, solid, mesmerizing dance.

I had seen that love meant sacrifice. It meant giving and taking in tandem. It never meant having your way all the time. It never meant always being right. And it never went without disagreement or conflict. True love wasn’t something thrown into the laps of the aloof just carrying on daily. It was a river, coursing. It wasn’t a rush of floodwaters.

My whole life I felt very undeserving of love. I saw that other people had it, but it certainly wasn’t for me. I wasn’t pretty enough. I wasn’t skinny enough. I was too caustic, too abrasive, too much to make me loveable. And in the same breath I wasn’t enough.

So love wasn’t for me. And I didn’t enjoy romantic songs. Poetry was for the birds. And men making romantic gestures towards me felt like a cruel cosmic joke–never sincere, never honest.

The cruelest reality is that we really do accept the love we think we deserve. So my dating record reads like a bad novella. One man after another that echoed back to me all of the things that I had feared of myself. I was ready to throw in the towel.

You can ask God this one, but I let Him know right away that if Josh wasn’t the man for me, that I was well on my way to a life spent with cats.

I wasn’t angry and bitter. I was something more dangerous. I was indifferent. I was cynical.

My experiences with my fiancé have more than swept me off my feet. His love doesn’t beckon me to change. Instead, the way that he loves me, ignites something so fiery within me that I am more myself than ever before. He doesn’t expect perfection. Instead, he redefined his understanding of the word–and to him I am the perfect one for him–imperfections and all.

I wasn’t expecting him to be the life changer. I didn’t know at the start that he’d grab ahold of my heart and whisk me away from cynicism. But, somehow, all along his love language knew the ins and outs of wooing and romancing my heart.

Daily, I know I get it wrong. The navigation in love can be sloppy and complicated. And it’s work. Anything that sells you into believing that love comes easy is lying to you. Love isn’t butterflies in the stomach. Mine haven’t stopped. But love is a choice.

Love is choosing patience, kindness, forgiveness, and grace every single day. It is putting someone else’s happiness above your own, because you know that will make you happy. It’s about doing the right thing in spite of anger and frustration.

My name is Ashley, and I stand before you a reformed cynic.

5 Dreams I Believe In

Standard

It’s that time again! Midweek 5! And today I want to share with you five dreams and works that I believe in fully. I hope you take some time to click on through the links and explore what these lovely ladies are doing.

  1. Shannon Nichole shares her lovely, lovely heart in raw and free form on her blog. I love glimpsing at the fresh breath of her heart.
  2. Ronne Rock shares her heart in such a way that it will make you clench at your chest and wish that you could just live as open, transparent and authentically as she does. I am so proud and amazed to call this woman my friend.
  3. Amanda Mckenzie and I have been friends via the internet for YEARS. And I am not only a fan of her words, but of her photography as well. Catch a glimpse of these breathtaking photos!
  4. Genevieve West. Relationship counselor. This woman is brilliant, wise, and so very real. I love chatting her up and hearing her perspective. If you don’t want anyone to sugarcoat anything? This is definitely your woman.
  5. Holly. She just shared a guest post, here. And she’s just down to earth, snarky, beautiful and bold. Love this woman. And I think you should too!

Have any blogs and dreams I should be following? Please share them in the comments.

Rejecting Labels

Standard

image

On the journey to living an unapologetic life, you’re going to encounter some opposition. There will always be enemies, no matter how many times you deny parts of yourself, there will always be someone who has something negative to say about some part of you. Enemies are inevitable.

Enemies will label you.

And those labels are sometimes easy to reject. Other times, they become like open sores festering inside your soul. No matter which way you turn for some solace, they stay there. Stinking, rotting, aching. And there will be times when the aching is just dull, other times someone has taking a megaphone to your heart to project your pain.

But, I didn’t come here today to speak to you about your enemies labels. I fear that there is a far more sinister source for name-calling that takes more effort to reject.

Yourself.

My life I have let myself be labeled as a victim, loser, freak, fatty, idiot, klutz, fool, cynic, whore, worthless waste of space. And not because other people were whispering these in my ear. But because I found sources that would tell back to me what I already believed of myself.

In rejecting labels, the goal isn’t to never let yourself be labeled, or accept any labels whatsoever. The goal is to take the negative committee in your head out for drinks, and get them so drunk they can’t find their way home ever again.

Your definition does not have to be your regrets or your past mistakes. Your definition does not have to be how you don’t seemingly measure up to someone else.

Your definition should be that you’re striving to be better than the you that you were yesterday. You should be defined by your forward motion, your strives for progress (NOT PERFECTION), and your attempts at learning from what your failures.

Your definition should be that you’re not the victim. Sure, things have happened to you. And let me tell you, brave hearts, I know this pain. I know what it is to be stripped of innocence, to have your trust destroyed in an instant, and to have to carry the weight of that shame. But you can be free of that. You can reclaim these instances and become the hero. You can stretch out your tired legs and run towards the finish line, in spite of the things that have happened to you. Because of the things that have happened to you.

In this life, I have learned that trust is a very fragile thing. It is so hard to earn it. And in the moment that it is broken, it may take a lifetime or an era of never to earn it back. People will do things with your heart that are reckless and cruel. But you don’t have to cling to that. You don’t. I promise you. It might change you. it might make you turn in towards yourself and depend on your own strength.

But the truest bravery comes in being damaged, and deciding that one person doesn’t speak for the masses. 

Today I want you to consider the labels that you let define you. Who are you when you are alone? What do you whisper about yourself? And what can you do to start reclaiming those?

Today I stand before you a wordsmith, a lover, a friend, a romantic, a nanny, a wanderer, a seeker, a hero.

#SorryNotSorry: Holly Edition

Standard

I mentioned last week that I would bring you guest posts and interviews of others that have decided to live unapologetically! Now, I can say that I am introducing the first of those in the SorryNotSorry series!

profile1\

Holly is a 30-year-old writer who strives to share honestly and transparently in hopes that it will encourage others to be open about their own struggles and lessons learned. She’s been accused of being sassy, which she finds to be an admirable attribute. Her favorite things include: making people laugh, chocolate, sweatshirt weather and authentic conversations over coffee. One day she hopes to find herself a bearded lumberjack to call her own. You can find her blog at www.thecommonqueen.com

I’ve spent the majority of my life trying to be someone else.

In second grade, there was this girl in my class named Vicki. She had the big, puppy-dog brown eyes, perfect dimples framing her mouth and a skinny, petite little body. I was short, with big chubby cheeks and blonde hair that my mom would often curl using sponge curlers. My nickname throughout all of Grade School was “Miss Piggy” because if anyone looked like a human incarnation of the muppet, it was me. During free time, Vicki would draw princesses in big puffy sleeved dresses. I tried drawing as well, but my princesses looked like they were on steroids. On Valentine’s Day, all the boys gave her their favorite wrestling themed valentines while I got whatever ones they didn’t care about.

As a little girl, I’d spend my nights praying that I could be pretty like Vicki. If only I looked liked her or drew like her than maybe I wouldn’t get picked on. Maybe then the boys would like me–especially Ian– the boy who sat next to me. I was pretty sure I was in love with him. A hopeless romantic before I could even add double digit numbers.

In Middle School, I decided I’d never be the dainty preppy girl, but I could try and be the athletic tough girl. My mom had gone to high school with the Basketball coach so I decided to sign-up and give it a try. After one practice I was sitting on my bathroom floor weeping begging my mom to let me drop out, but she refused. I was going to remain the fat, slow kid on the team. Besides the physical aspect of the sport, I couldn’t figure out the rules of the game and decided to just run up and down the court until my coach would bench me and let a better kid play. This worked extremely well until our last game of the season. We were winning by a huge margin and my coach decided to keep me in the game since there’d be no way for us to lose. Since I hadn’t scored any points all year, he instructed the team to keep feeding me the ball so I could take shots. Time and time again, I’d miss. It got so painful that the other team felt bad for me and started throwing me the ball too.

We may have won the game that night, but I left the gym defeated and ashamed that I couldn’t be good at basketball like my other teammates.

In High School, I went through every fashion fad available in the late 90’s. I started out wearing wide leg JNCO jeans with matching wallet chain and finished out my career wearing American Eagle Khakis with popped collar polo shirts. I dated guys to match my clothing evolution. There was my older, pot smoking skater boyfriend my Freshman year and by Senior year I was dating a starter on the Varsity Boys’ Soccer team.

I did my very best to be who I thought these guys wanted me to be. If that meant listening to punk music and watching my boyfriend skate at the local park then that’s the girl I was. If it meant taking a semester of Latin, forming an eating disorder to drop a few and cheering from the soccer sidelines then I was that girl.

Each year I may have gotten older, but my insecurities remained the same. All of my insecurities would always point to one major lie I believed about myself: Holly, you aren’t good enough.

I hated myself. My curvy, full body. My laugh that would fill a room. My lack of athletic ability. The fact that I had to study religiously in order to do well. Everyone seemed to have what I wanted–the looks, the brains, the talents.

Things began to change some in college. I met some people who I felt more comfortable around. They didn’t seem to mind my loud laugh or the fact that I couldn’t shoot a two-pointer on the basketball court. They didn’t mind my extra curves or the fact that I wasn’t the next Einstein.

Actually, it not just that they didn’t seem to mind me, but actually liked me. They loved the way that I’d have the entire lunch table laughing with something awkward that had happened that day. They loved my smile and my curly blonde hair (no sponge curlers this time, but hot curlers)…and never once called me names or likened me to a pig puppet. They loved the fact that I cared a lot about serving and working with children at camps. They loved me for me.

It’s one thing for others to love you. It’s another thing to actually love yourself.

When people would compliment me I would laugh it off. Literally. I’d give a giggle and dismiss it. Sometimes I’d give a sarcastic “ya, thanks” figuring they couldn’t honestly believe I was as amazing as they were saying. How could they like me….let alone love me?

My freshman year at college, I met a guy that I was sure was the hottest guy I’d ever meet. We locked eyes across the room while we stood in line at registration. He smiled. I smiled. We became friends, but I was sure someone like him would never love someone like me. He was not only attractive, but was fun to be around. He laughed at my jokes, which is always a plus and he had a heart for Jesus. He was the whole package. I was sure of it.

I was also sure he’d never love me.

Except he did. The problem was I couldn’t believe it and in not believing it I didn’t accept it. Years later, when he told me he loved me I was shocked. So shocked in fact that I called my best friend and asked her what he meant.

“Like friends?” I asked.

“Holly, he loves you.”

I just couldn’t even begin to process it because it seemed so unreal. It was very real though and one of the most amazing loves that I’ve ever come across. God used that man to show me I was lovable. That I was, in fact, worth loving.

Three months after his admission, the man I loved and who loved me died, but the love he showed me never did. In my grief, I’d repeatedly ask God why He took this man from me so soon. I still haven’t gotten any answers, but I have been reminded time and time again of the impact he made on my heart.

Often times we forget that God will use other people to love us and be an example of His love. He’s done that for me time and time again. He uses my friends and those close to me to speak Truth and love and encouragement to my soul– to remind me that I am enough. That I don’t need a runway body, but that I’ve got a heart made of diamonds. I don’t need to be someone or something I’m not because God created me to be ME.

And God doesn’t make mistakes.

To Who I Used to Be

Standard

image

 

I am a fire. I blaze something ferocious, and I am not sorry about that fact. I am quiet and reserved in our first meetings. But once my base level of what I can share and be transparent about is established, I am like a wildfire. I have a strong thirst for the stories of others, and I am compelled by those who have become the heroes of their own stories, even when the rest of the world has relegated them to being “forever” victims.

The me that I used to be? I used to be so filled with wonder. Everything about life was bright, and bold, and beautiful. I clung to knowledge and exploration. I laughed. I cried. I was sassy, smart mouthed, and quick witted. Everything about me epitomized the notion of childlike melded with 7 going on 70. There was something inside of me, a little tiny adult still believing in fairy tales.

Things changed when I was younger. I will let those incidents lay to rest. Figuratively, the grave of that little Ashley is unmarked and unmourned. Part of my soul was ripped away, and as quick as I once was to cling to fairytales? I was even more quick to stop trusting that anything good could come from life, or was left for me.

I was a self mutilator when I was younger. The scars of my past have a tremendous visibility on both my flesh and my spirit. Though I no longer choose to be defined by the things that have happened to me, that doesn’t mean that I can ignore that they are a part of me. 

So, in a reaction to what life had thrown at me, I became bitter, cynical, and mistrusting. I was defensive and wanted nothing to do with anyone else. Into my shell I retreated, and I thought that my entire life would now be relegated to fending for myself. Thankfully, that was wrong. I was wrong.

You see, I could live my life convinced that since bad things happened to me, they will always happen to me. I could let the shame and embarrassment consume me. But I have chosen to let that drive me. I could regret all of the choices I made in reaction to my situations. But I have made a vow to myself, I will not hold PAST me accountable for her actions with the bias of what PRESENT me knows. 

In other words: I can’t blame myself for not knowing then, what I know now.

Who I used to be? That isn’t me anymore. But who I am now? I am more and more proud of who I am becoming.

In Defense of the LDR

Standard

image

It’s time for my Midweek Five. And today I’m sharing with you something near and dear to my heart. Long Distance Relationships. Here are five reasons I celebrate the LDR!

  1. Communication is strengthened for the future. While you are apart? All you have are the intentional efforts you make to remain in touch with your significant other. For J and I, it was FaceTime, text messages, and phone calls. We talked daily, because it worked for us. It was refreshing to come home and be able to share with my love the comings and goings of my day. And, now that the distance is closed? We still have communication based upon the trust and transparency we developed in the distance.
  2. You maintain an autonomy and sense of self. I’m the sort that dives head first, 100% into everything that I do. I love big, loud, and without reservation. So, me in relationship can be a little crazy. I tend to give and give and give. And with the wrong men, it ends up being an all give and no take relationship. But because of distance, I was still forced to maintain my own sense of self. I didn’t automatically dump my hobbies or habits in order to accommodate J. Instead, we made time for one another around our schedules. We didn’t sacrifice self in order to become one.
  3. You learn a lot about what you’re willing to give. I’m not going to lie. LDRs are TOUGH. You see all of these cute couples milling about in public places. And those are persistent reminders that you are not holding hands with your SO. It’s excruciating. The disagreements that you have can make your distance triple. But, ultimately, when you sit down and realize that there is NO ONE else you’d rather have ANY of it with instead? Then you know you’re willing to take the nicks and cuts from seeing happy couples doing couple things for the ultimate future with your SO.
  4. You learn to love in a different way. This isn’t true for everyone. I know that not everyone chooses to have any physical connection at the conception of their relationships. And to each their own! I’m not here to judge. But, it is a lot easier to disengage an argument with a stolen kiss than it is to face the facts. In an LDR, a kiss can’t break the tension. You just have to find ways to work through arguments. And if your primary love language is physical touch (hugs, kisses, hand holding, love making, etc) you learn to accept love differently in order to feel fulfilled.
  5. The reunion. When you are reunited with your love, it seems like everything else in the world isn’t so full of meaning. You cling to the happiness you get to share with one another. Even mundane experiences feel like a trip to DisneyWorld, and you feel like what was incomplete in you, is now completed again. 

Are you in an LDR? Do you know someone who is? Are you curious as to how you can maintain the romance through the distance? Looking for some sort of solidarity? Don’t hesitate to get a hold of me! I would love to share more of my experience with you!