Cloud Sails

Nothing perpendicular nor parallel nor artificial about the clouds, the only construction in how they are always self-shifting, in motion, morphing into pictures and infinite undefined shapes. No straight lines to not cross nor borders boxing in the imagination, already dissected and discarded by the non-hands of mortal science “experts,” the angels that form them, sunset color them, exercising their talents even in heaven, a role for every soul based on their former heart’s passions, now freed from binding form themselves. How can one ever look away from the clouds?

Why must I ever be called from this intriguing trance? What non-essential obligations must disrupt my lackadaisical, free-roaming, playfully-romping musings? How long can I get away with this get-away, setting dream after fantasy after dream asail on these departing wisps and puffs of hope? I wish I could say what I thought about all day, but the elusive intangible keeps flitting from capture; no, not flitting – much slower, matching the amoeba motion of the white ink blots. Leave me in peace with such ungraspable endless possibilities of these Rorschach mind concoctions.

I hear someone coming. Dragon and Pegasus swoop down to scoop me up, but today I think I’ll hop onto Sea Turtle’s back. “Take me away further into that endless perfect blue, my friend.”

Is it wrong that my favorite companions are clustered water droplets?

Words and images ©LauraDenise

A Hummingbird Visit

I was sitting out on the patio this morning after the rains, writing, or attempting to, taking a typing break, messaging a friend about my struggle to get back into prose writing; I think my DNA has morphed since being rebirthed back into a poet. I was realizing that my own nature photos have come to be my writing prompts, how poetry flows out of me, but prose tends to resist the dance, or maybe it is that my poetic muses hog the dance floor, not to show off but because they can’t help themselves when they feel that music rising up from within.

Then a hummingbird flew up to me, looked into my eyes, and darted away.

For whatever reason, it moved me to tears. I was so giddy, absolutely thrilled about the special encounter. Hummingbirds have previously been so elusive, always in and out of my peripheral or having disappeared up ahead before I can really get a good look. I heard its arrival before I saw it, those loud pulsating wings startling me before I could realize what was happening: a messenger sent to me. And a writing prompt.

I did not capture the bird in my photographic lens. It would have been impossible to react that quickly. I’m actually quite glad I witnessed the experience directly, eye to eye. I have no proof it happened. I personally have no proof hummingbirds exist at all. But it left me with the hard-to-describe feelings and emotions and soulful connection that nature is to me. It was Mother Nature saying, “Oh dear child, write your stories, with or without the photo: it’s all within you.” Okay, maybe that last part was my friend’s words, which have also come to nest within my heart.

In the memory of those wildly beating wings that left my heart the same, I am reminded that spiritual encounters have such effect. When I feel the celestial presence in those silent, soulful moments, in nature, in my faith, it is usually imprint-less in every concrete way. No evidence. No souvenir. No artifact for the museums. But the miracles still happen. And I wonder if that’s the condition of miracles. They can only be felt, or seen in the absence of any other witness. And it seems to me from the undeniable intensity, that feeling is the most reliable sense we have been so lovingly implanted with. That abstract sixth sense. The invisible thread that ties us to where we came from and where we will return to, that ultimate home that exists without concrete proof. No picture of the beyond, except the gateway in the clouds, golden-lined. Except in the bud on the verge of opening. Except in the ray that reaches through the dark wood. Except in the display the sunset paints. Except in the lyrics of the songbird. Except in the ancient secrets of the sea’s wise waves. Except in the grandest mountaintop view of a minuscule piece of the universe. Except in the wings of a messenger, a hummingbird on a Sunday morn.

As long as
I can feel,
I can write
about nature,
about my faith,
the two inseparably
entwined.
With or without
the photograph.
With or without
even my eyes.
With or without
rhyme. The reason
is all I need:
I was born
with a sixth sense
that wildly beats,
like a hummingbird’s
wings in me.

Clues & Pieces

Reinvention of the self,
a mosaic,
from pieces forged
and discovered–
some to be polished,
painted,
others best with
the coatings of
dust and dirt.

Have you found yourself? 

I’ve been rethinking this concept lately. For me, I have never really been looking for myself but rather my home, that place where I feel completely welcome, where I am already accurately and wholly known, where I can be completely, freely me, where I’ve been missed, where it makes sense, where it feels just right.  My soul has always been restless.  As a girl and teen, I always felt different, in a sense, like I couldn’t really relate to others. I think because I was always thinking, philosophizing, dreaming. Feeling seemed to be my superpower–not in sensitivity but in depth. I have always thought and felt too deeply about things. I have always been an old soul, have always felt like I’m just not in the right time period or realm. 

An example of this–well, I think I wrote a poem about it once. Let me grab it… Here it is:

Freckle Constellation

This group of freckles
on my forearm
has me mooning,
time-warping
to childhood…

Funny how even then,
felt like these freckles
meant something,
seemed like
a constellation,
a coding,
a knowing,
a piece of
the puzzle
of me.

Funny how even then
when we would travel
at night in the station wagon,
I pondered if the street lights
spelled out a message that
you could only see from
a distance…

Funny how even then
I would get lost in my
own philosophical thoughts,
felt a bit out of sorts
when others seemed
so content splashing in
shallow waters
when I was so anxious
to explore the
depths of the sea.

Now at 44, I find myself
mulling over those same
mysteries, a calling to me,
a profound knowing that
there’s not only so much more,
but somehow that so much more
involves me,
and not passively.

Do I believe in destiny?
Perhaps partially.

I feel like I was born to love
but also to defend,
sword in hand…

I wonder how my story
will end.

I look for clues
in the freckle tattoo…

(04/06/18)

Yep, that definitely fits right in with my current contemplation… I think it’s a combination for me of looking for my place–my home–and also myself. For a while now, I’ve just assumed that I would not find this internal place and peace in this life, and that was okay with me; I have always intended to make the most of it. But lately, I am finding that I am actually getting very close. I am finding along the way pieces of myself. I just don’t know if it is a mosaicking process of creating myself or if it is a collection of clues that lead to myself. I like the idea of both. 

This all came up this evening because I was looking at some pictures of wildflowers I recently took, lol (see what I mean about getting lost in thought?…) Wildflowers speak to my soul, plain and simple. The meeker, the smaller, the more tattered, the more beautiful to me, the stronger the pull, the more complex the silent stories… White/ivory flowers have the same kind of spiritual effect on me. Framing fragile, wild “weeds” in the first or last rays of the day… that is my soul in a photograph. Just something about it… a piece, a clue, for sure. 

I have a very strong connection to nature. It’s where I prefer to be. It’s where I feel I belong. I would rather watch the clouds all day and all night than do any of those things others like to do. That makes me a freak to some, I suppose; my family makes fun of me for it. While most flocked to tourist attractions over spring break, I lived the dream: poetry, photography, and nature. At home. Lots of pajama time. Lots of coffee and tea. (Hence the abundance of posts on Sunday, my last day to indulge in my hobbies before work began again.) Although I am rather socially fearless and can easily be the life of a party, I would rather be home alone doing my own thing. I think I would be quite content as a hermit, preferably a writer in a small, cozy cottage amidst diverse nature. 

So wildflowers are a clue along the trail of myself, or the trail home, or a piece I choose to include in my “me” mural. 

past the flower beds
I seek colors of the wild
to appease my soul

I sit for a while
let my inner light visit
no place like this home

(double haiku)

The morning after writing this post, I discovered my friend’s beautiful video capturing one of his “children’s” books (with his gorgeous artwork and inspired by his dear chickens). It made me cry. And the timing and relevance…so special. Please do take a moment to be moved. Please do yourself the favor of enjoying more of John’s work and soul: https://mylifewithgracie.com/2021/03/20/a-read-beside-me-book-video/

Sunny Blooms

It’s sooooooo dismal out there! People’s weather. 

The holidays are always toughest for me. I hit my latest low the minute they “ended,” when I let it all out. Just too many inner truths surface and get ripped open that I like to keep neatly wrapped the rest of the year and stashed away in the closet… but I made it back. And I came back stronger than ever. Funny how it seems it needs to work that way; the lowest lows, not survived but surmounted, climbed, seem to bring us to the highest heights, reward us with the wings even, to fly. Without the lows, we can never truly experience, let alone appreciate, the highs, and I sure do love the highs. Would you give up both for a forever flatness?… I don’t think I could.

I did more than survive that last round, though the sirens lured me in again. This time, I remembered I was part mermaid and eventually high-tide-tailed it out of there. Boy, were those sirens ever surprised! I swam away; I want to naturally say back to the light, as I, like many, have fallen into favor with the analogy of darkness and light. One of my favorite song lines is, “If I could turn back the clock, I’d make sure the light defeated the dark” (Calum Scott). I can’t even type it without getting goosebumps. I am one who can put a song on repeat indefinitely and just stay forever in that powerful moment and zone. It does bring to mind how powerful that zone can be, and how we really do need to pay attention to what we have on repeat and also make sure that if we are playing a broken record, we don’t lose sight of the needle; my whole life was that metaphor for so long…

I would also like to defend darkness; not all darkness is bad. I strive to start every day in darkness; I simply must be up long before dawn. It’s my me time, my writing time. I keep the lights off, and my fingers gravitate like moths to the laptop light to begin their beautiful dance ritual, witnessed by the waning moonlight. The pup continues dozing beside me.

When it comes to natural darkness, let us also never forget, we are lovingly gifted the stars and moon, to guide us, to talk to, to dream upon, to comfort those scared of the dark. And like the lows, how can we appreciate the magnificent beauty of the waking morning colors if not for that contrasting black backdrop canvas? I feel I am always first in line to witness the sun rise, and I never take for granted that it does. To know the light will always faithfully and unconditionally return!… 

People’s weather out there though… Sheesh! Work morale is sooooo low. All year this year. We are normally the undefeated champs when it comes to good vibes. The students too…they are zombies I cannot wake up. The other day, a gray and rainy one, I crossed paths with a former student in the grocery store parking lot. He exclaimed, “No way!!!” repeatedly at seeing me, face lit up like a thousand suns, as he got out of his car, as giddy as a toddler on Christmas morning, to hug me in the rain. That’s what I’m used to. Requited love, relationships, connections, making a difference, making memories to last a lifetime…all at my paying day job, my calling, my passion, my joy. We reminisced in the rain for a bit, no umbrellas. I felt every drop and soaked it up like a thirsty leaf in a drought. He said this encounter made his day (he was on his work break in his car). It made my year. 

I refuse to succumb to the bug. We can blame the virus, that year before this one, sit around and complain and focus on the negative and keep injecting ourselves with daily self- and collective-pity, or we can just not. Masks cannot hide smiling eyes nor fully muffle the sounds of laughter. If we chose smiling and laughter. Just choose it. For a moment. An hour. A day. A week. No matter what. Stay in the light. Better yet, be the light. Ignite yourself first. You can use the blue within, the pilot light. 

Happy Wednesday, all! 

💛 Love always! Laura 🙂

January Fire

Winter in the South means a mix of seasons but the absence of snow. My soul needs the snow though. Still, I find much beauty in the messages and stories that appear in my lens. There is always a story in my lens.

I have been admiring the stubbornness of Autumn. Colors still ablaze that arrived in standardized winter months hold fast, refuse to let go. Soon it will be spring here. How long can Autumn hold on? Will she co-exist with Spring next? As much as I admire her, part of me wants to console her, let her know that it will be okay to relax her grip, to let change occur. I have known such resistance, such unsettling feelings, such pre-nostalgia, such fear.

I am not a fan of change, which surprises even me given my fiery resistance to conformity. Part of me admires the fiery leaf refusing to be classified into a season, to be confined to certain months. Part of me sees a sadness though too, especially paired with the fiery setting sun, similarly seeming to stall in its descent, wanting to stay just a bit longer.

Autumn clings
defiant
or weeping;
its leaves
like the setting sun
seem to desperately
hold on.

Sunrise Chasing

It has been way too long since I’ve gone to the ocean. And it’s across the street! Shame on me! That was my thought (again) yesterday after work, after another week that emotionally and mentally and therefore physically drained me to the max. 

This morning, the call was way too strong to ignore. My soul needed it. Desperately. And I felt a loved one also nudging me. 

I hear the sea calling to me to return,
and your voice, love, imploring me
to let my soul have what it yearns…

On the way to the bridge and on the way over it, “Gloria in Excelsis Deo” came on the radio just as the sky was bursting with morning glory. Windows down, music up, singing along, I felt my soul begin again to mend itself. Sometimes, I need the most beautiful ballads, and other times, carrying the same “burdens,” I simply need to lift my voice in songs of praise to my higher power. When I witness the absolute miracles of nature, how can I not?

Gloria in excelsis Deo,
Glory to the highest in God.
Lord, I see and feel your presence,
and my praise and thanks, I offer up…

In the past couple of years, I have been in the best place I’ve ever gotten to so far in this life despite (perhaps in spite of) 2020, seemingly so far from the shadows of a difficult past, basking in the warm light of love of late. Yet, I did feel the tickle of that demonic tentacle recently, even took a personal day because I felt like I simply couldn’t make it through the week. The next day, I cried at work from a fresh heart-infliction. Teaching in 2020 has challenged us as educators and stretched us all to our near-breaking points. But we are family at my school, so we gather (6 feet apart) at lunch each afternoon and do our best to laugh it all off. Laughter, I feel, is truly still the oldest and best medicine. 

Thank you, Lord, for laughter;
may that sound find its way
to the ones in these times who most need it.
Let it be channeled again through me 
to make someone’s day
for mirth mask-muffled is still healing.

My other top natural remedies have always been faith and nature. And now the added goodness of the man who fully loves me as me. And all of these were present in me as I sat in the silky sand before the lively ocean, the 70 degrees and plenty of sea breeze also infiltrating my body, mind, and spirit. 

It’s so easy to get pulled down, isn’t it? Down has always been seen as the negative direction. Higher powers in higher elevations, clouds and sky… The weight of perceived burdens and mental inflictions and the things we voluntarily shackle to our ankles is so heavy. The soul is weightless. The wings of humans, invisible. The altar barer than ever. If only we would lay more down. Offer more up. Let Him take more of it, all of it, from us. Why do we cling to it? Why is it so easy to forget that He is always beside us, always with open arms? Why is it so easy to forget how to swim, how to fly?… We simply need not sink or be prisoners of gravity. We can let it get washed away. We can uncage our souls. We can lean on others, even let them carry us for a while. We can open our hearts to love and to receive love. We are never alone. I think we simply choose it sometimes. 

So much inside me rose up this week. To attempt to defeat me. From places of my past maybe. From my own former voice to myself maybe. It’s hard to repel that gray when the cloud rolls in to consume you. It’s trying to take us all though. So shouldn’t we now, more than ever, unmask our hearts and join in spirit to lift each other? 

I plead for the sea breeze to vigorously whisk away my negativities.
I allow the ocean waves to wash away all the rest that is heavy. 
I lift my voice in song and cheerfully praise His glory. 

I raise my hands and pray to be free from this melancholy. 

Words and images from this morning ©LauraDenise

Southbound

This photo popped up on my Facebook Memories this morning with some comments about my inspirational journey that made me teary.

It is of my daughter looking like she is deep in thought. I had just uprooted her life with a sudden move from Ohio to Florida when I accepted my first teaching job at the start of the school year. Six years later, she reports still not being happy with me about that. But I think it was all for the best.

It actually felt selfish. I had finished graduate school, but competition for teaching jobs was fierce in my area despite my having served all of the districts as a substitute teacher. It was the end of July. It looked like I would have to sub another year.

I actually don’t even remember how I learned of the vacancy in Florida, in the area my mom lived, the area I was a regular tourist of for many years. It wasn’t through mom because I remember surprising her with the news.

I got hired over the phone. My future supervisor claimed she just had a feeling about me through our conversations. (Or they were desperate.)

I had three weeks before I had to report to work, three weeks to move! Ahhh! I am NOT a frequent mover. I get very attached to homes and hometowns. We had lived in Ohio from the time my son started Kindergarten to his then junior year at The Ohio State University. We came for a (failed) career opportunity for my husband. Previously, I had lived in the northwest suburbs of Chicago. That’s it.

But Florida was familiar to us all as tourists since my mom moved down there when I was pregnant with my first child. The absolute heart-wrenching part of the decision was leaving my adult son, separating the siblings. But he had already moved out and led a busy life of his own. Most kids grow up and move away, but I was blessed in having mine stay. It was I who left him and moved away, like my mom did when I was his age. It tore me up emotionally. Lots of tears.

But I felt very strongly God’s calling, like I had a few times before in my life. With my marriage at its end (again), I should have been able to make the decision for myself, for my future, for the future of my children, but I simply would not have without feeling God’s hand.

I do still have guilt I moved my daughter and left my son. But I also acquired a stable salary with benefits and was able to pay my bills for the first time in my life. Although my husband followed me down here and we gave it one more shot (again), my twenty-four-year marriage finally came to a peaceful end once and for all four years later.

Above all, I could not ever imagine being more passionate or more fulfilled than I have been every day at this high school, with my staff and student family. Would I have gotten hired eventually up north? Maybe. Would I have loved my school? Maybe. We can never know.

We can never know what the future holds for us, what lies just beyond the next curve in the path. We simply blindly choose the paths, though we must be willing to change direction as needed, sometimes even going off-trail altogether. Sometimes we must collect, empty, exchange the gear in our packs depending on which path or non-path we wish to explore.

We must keep moving forward until we are sure we are home. That direction only becomes clear when we still ourselves enough to hear the calling, feel the gentle tug, of the soul.

I know I ended up where I was meant to be. And now I feel another’s pull leading to me. My story is filling with so many new beginnings.

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A Change in Prayer

A sure sign of emotional/psychological healing and growth is the change in your prayers.

At the pivotal changing point in my life, God had very clearly answered a recent prayer I had delivered in tears on my knees in the locked bathroom at one my lowest points.

Since then, my prayers have mostly been gratitude, praise, and thanks. As I navigated future personal relationships, my prayers reflected the absolute hot mess I was. I think I heard God chuckle. While shaking His head. It’s been a very sloppy trial-and-error process of learning how to be in healthy relationships, none romantic, thank goodness; I think I am still eons away from being ready for that.

Last night was an emotionally upset prayer again. Usually, no matter how disappointed I get about something, after being mad at God even and pouting, I concede that He knows what He is doing, knows what’s best for me, knows what lies ahead for me. I unconditionally have always had faith in His plan and the timing of all the pieces. Last night, part of my prayer included the self-affirmation that I will never be ashamed of who I am. Who I truly am. The real, albeit often misunderstood, me. It was not a woe-is-me but an oh-well-for-them shift.

Lately, the statements and affirmations I’ve made out loud during God-talk has surprised me to hear. I have definitely healed and grown a lot. And I have definitely grown even closer to God. I’ve never written about Him until recently. But my faith is simply part of all that I am, that authentic me I’ve been excavating. My higher power is the only familiar presence who has always, always been there for me, one who knows my heart fully, and unconditionally loves me.

I can’t imagine looking back, before me, or ahead without Him there. What a bleak and lonely existence that would be. I no longer fear speaking of Him. If it is a sin to use His name in vain, I can’t imagine facing Him having resorted to no longer saying His name aloud at all from fear.

I believe in God. Unfollow or follow me as you see fit.

Thank you, God, for helping me build myself up from the rubble of those yesteryears, and thank you for who you’ve sent into my life for me to lean on during the process.

I will always have faith in you and the plans you have for me that I may never understand in this life.

fullyandingenuouslytrusthim

The Steps

The heat was on! An advisory, in fact. The shade and clouds, sparse. The distance, minimal. But oh that terrain: deep sand. The kind where you feel you are simply sinking, barely advancing, despite all of the effort you are expending. Will I ever make it back to my car? Why didn’t I bring my water with? Those were my dramatic reactions to the very short hike I went on at the National Seashore. Those reactions felt severe and real enough, though, in those moments. I was also the only one out there, so to keep myself entertained, I was pretending I was on a deserted island and evaluating my resources. What would I use for shelter? Is that weird fruit-looking thing edible? (No, there is never a dull moment in my mind…)

I also can’t just see anything at face value, it seems. In nature especially, I see so many stories and lessons. The one I thought about in reflection to this day was how mental health battles are similar to that short hike.

I’ve had my share of struggles. I’ve been to places I wish not to return to ever.

When we are in the midst of those personal battles, to the outsider, it may not seem worthy of such mental and physical distress–the distance, the goal, seems short and simple–but to the one facing it, sometimes all of the mental and physical strength one can possibly even imagine summoning is needed to simply get up. To take steps beyond that can seem impossible. It is the deep sand. In the sweltering heat.

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We feel completely alone, like on my imaginary island, even though others are actually there. We see no end to the trail. We lose hope. And with lost hope, we lose the strength and determination to go on. I knew the distance to my car. I knew I would be completely fine, that my discomfort was but a brief nuisance. But in real-life mental-health scenarios, it is that end-sight that is crucial. We must believe, no matter how far we actually are, that we are almost to the car. We can’t give up, when around the next bend, everything may very well end

up all right.

We don’t think, like I did in my mock scenario, though; we don’t usually see those resources, think about how we could use them, need them. But we do. We shouldn’t do it alone. Most of time, we simply cannot.

All of us need someone to lean on, at the very least. Someone who has come from the direction we are headed to reassure us what is around the bend is the “all right” and beyond, that they know the way, that they will walk beside us. They have brought water, too, to give us a needed boost.

We all need hope. And we need to whole-heartedly believe in an achievable, better tomorrow. Sometimes that tomorrow takes time to arrive at. Sometimes, it is just a few more steps away. Leaning on a higher power seems essential to me to acquire this faith.

If you are on this deep-sandy path, keep going. Take the next step. Then the one after. Do the next right thing. And then the next.

And if you have arrived or were never lost in the first place, help another find the way.

 

Footprints in the Sand 

by Mary Fishback Powers

One night I dreamed a dream.
As I was walking along the beach with my Lord.
Across the dark sky flashed scenes from my life.
For each scene, I noticed two sets of footprints in the sand,
One belonging to me and one to my Lord.

After the last scene of my life flashed before me,
I looked back at the footprints in the sand.
I noticed that at many times along the path of my life,
especially at the very lowest and saddest times,
there was only one set of footprints.

This really troubled me, so I asked the Lord about it.
“Lord, you said once I decided to follow you,
You’d walk with me all the way.
But I noticed that during the saddest and most troublesome times of my life,
there was only one set of footprints.
I don’t understand why, when I needed You the most, You would leave me.”

He whispered, “My precious child, I love you and will never leave you
Never, ever, during your trials and testings.
When you saw only one set of footprints,
It was then that I carried you.”

All images ©LauraDenise

Stormy-Day Joy

I headed to the beach this morning after a second day of such a cool mix of cumulous and storm clouds. I love storms so was hoping I might catch one rolling in from the gulf. With the added sea breeze, it was actually comfortable out.

I didn’t quite make it all the way there, as my car veered to the shoulder after the bridge to take in some beautiful bay scenery. I was upset to find I had left my Canon memory card at home. I still had my iPhone though, which is what I use far too often. I just wouldn’t be able to zoom in on any seabirds.

(All of the images in this post are unedited.)

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The other day, a huge double rainbow appeared over my backyard. I was telling a friend afterwards about how mesmerized I have been at how many rainbows occur down here, how I saw maybe two my whole life up north, but here they happen all of the time. Often, they occur at the perfect times, it seems. You can imagine my delight when I turned around and saw this one this morning…

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I finally decided, after spending quite some time at the bay, that I should get to the beach. It looked like the sky over the ocean would be all boring gray, but I figured I’d go the rest of the way. I could use some time there, with or without photo ops.

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I snapped a few images and then, after wading in the water, sat down in the sand at the water’s edge to enjoy the serenity (and occasionally take more photos and videos). The sea seemed especially emerald today, adding to all of the beautiful shades of sea and sky.

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On my way back, I explored the beach further up, away from the water. And you are not going to believe what I found!! White blooms growing in the sand!! (You know a poem is coming now in my next post…)

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It was not your typical “good day” to go the beach, but boy, am I glad I did! I felt the urge, the calling, if you will. If you follow my writing, you know I have been deeply connected to white blooms for a couple of years now. Today, especially after yesterday’s white blooms in the park, seemed liked evidence that rainbows and white blooms are simply starting to follow me now, and I read a lot into that! It filled me with such meaningful, personal joy.

I wonder if it is as spectacular of an occurrence as I am making it out to be, or if my outlook, my perception, my focus, my soul has simply been changing in my journey to a more authentic me… Maybe both. But I refuse to believe it is neither.