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Have you ever noticed that life is a constant state of “in-process”? Rarely is there never anything to do, focus on or think about. I catch myself thinking sometimes that if I get to this point, or once I am finished with that project, then I will be satisfied. Then I can relax and enjoy what I’ve done for a little while. Which is both wonderful and frustrating at the same time. Wonderful in the sense that I am always driven to create and expand my experiences, frustrating that sometimes I forget to stop and smell the roses. Some of the biggest gifts that I could ever want are right in front of me right now. The biggest mistake most of us make is comparing ourselves to others, when that is impossible to do… because we will never be anyone but ourselves. We think we should have X, Y & Z by this date or age, or we’ve failed on some level. I like to think that in my own life I’ve already redefined some of my own preconceived notions of success and happiness. I still battle the deeply ingrained timeline that we all carry with us… but when I stop what I am doing and ask myself – am I happy in this very moment? The answer is a resounding YES. And that makes me very proud, because I’ve had to make hard choices at times to get to this point. We create our own lives. We are responsible for our perceptions, responses and feelings. Not your parents, not your significant other, not your kids. I have certainly made bad decisions before, and I am sure there are still more in my future. But the more care and attention I pay to my own life, the more positive karma comes my way. I really believe that this life we are all living is based on what we put into it, how we treat others, and how we treat ourselves. Do good, and good will be returned to you.
YOU GUYS – my world is full of food. And it is wonderful. Saturday was the first-ever Yard 54 brunch in Atlanta with Chef Rawle Fraser and creative communications partner James Martin. It was invite only this time around since it was a soft launch, and it just so happened that all of the attendees were female. The purpose of this first brunch was to get feedback from local foodies who know their stuff, and from my seat’s perspective everyone had a really wonderful time. I know I was thoroughly impressed by the menu and the courses presented. My favorite dish was probably the lemon bar with raspberry sauce, house made fromage blanc, and lavender honey… yes, as good as it sounds! All portions were very generous and every one of our needs were met. Stay tuned for the first official brunch and sign-ups here. It is the perfect way to kick off any weekend!
Saturday James and I traveled to Nashville for the inaugural Twelve in the city! We stayed with our dear friends (and Twelve hosts) Emily & Chuck. They were graciously giving on all fronts, and their house was the perfect setting for the dinner. We had a few logistical issues setting this particular Twelve up… but we always knew that hosting in out of town cities would be harder than doing them in our own. It ended up being well worth the effort, and we really look forward to traveling to other places throughout the rest of the year. In case you missed it we are doing an open call right now for an upcoming Birmingham Twelve hosted by Morgan Reaves, and also one by James and myself in Atlanta, both in April. Click here to learn more and put your name in the hat.
The film fundraiser is going really great… but we still have 5 days left if you can consider a contribution towards our project! We continue to get some good coverage of our efforts (more on that very soon) which makes us feel really good about what we are doing. We’ve put a lot of work into making this process fun and interesting, so we hope it has been on your end as well. Tomorrow night is our first major production meeting with the full crew where we will take a serious look at the front runners of the story competition (currently, Bubble & Pink). Shooting scripts are being developed, production schedules proposed and creative plans devised. There will be obstacles as there always are with any film endeavor, but I feel confident in our team to end up with a beautiful piece of art that we can all be proud of.
Last night while having a drink with Joe & Andrea Walker, we talked a lot about what it means to realize your dreams. We all agreed that nothing worthwhile comes easily in life – you have to work hard for what you want. This is true in relationships, work and art. Rewards come to those who stay the course, keep focus, and seek their happiness. Sometimes I feel like a hampster in a wheel, not making much progress at all. But when I look back at past actions, outcomes and current goals, I know I am continuously moving in the right direction. What direction is that exactly? It’s where the light shines the brightest on my face, leading the way to a greater understanding of what makes me happy.
Cool air makes me want to have a constant decaf pumpkin spice latte drip directly into my veins, straight to my heart. I just want to a make a big pile of colorful leaves and cannon ball right in the middle of them, then spastically flail my arms like it’s the best thing that’s ever happened in my life. All this would happen while wearing a big fluffy turtleneck, boots and the biggest smile known to man on my face. Fall is fantastic.
My sweet friend Sarah sent me a useful article this morning that I wanted to share: 5 Reasons People Fail (& What to Do Instead). I identified with almost every point to some degree. #1 was especially helpful, as sometimes I get wrapped up in the thought of accomplishing something as opposed to thinking about the positive emotions it will bring. I’ve had big success with envisioning the feelings of an outcome in the past…it makes me want it even more. When I look back on important life moments, they were measured most with sensations of happiness.
Also, there is something very powerful about #3 – Fear of Success. I think this comes into play much more than fear of failure. What if we do get what we want? What if we become truly happy? Sometimes our mind goes straight to: I will have more to lose. If you don’t have it, you can’t lose it. You can’t miss it if it was never yours. This is the wrong way to think about happiness. You will fail. You will lose things. You will lose people. You will also win, gain, and love in abundance. I honestly believe that positive energy generates positive energy, and vice versa. If you look for the happy, it will find you. If you look for the sad, it will find you. And I would much rather find happy. We should search for, strive for and embrace success…because we deserve it. Lose the weight, because it’s what you want. Go for the job that’s a step above what you already do. Train your body to run distances you thought were beyond your capabilities. Speak in front of others about things you know about. Do things that you are afraid of. Do them until you them well. Make yourself proud.
I’m a happy girl. Things may not always go according to plan, but I am so very grateful for my life right now. I feel alive, proactive, loved, optimistic, hopeful, content (well, as much as I can be) and full of joy. Amidst the happy clouds there are still moments of frustration and other fleeting negative emotions, but they move through quickly. There are times in all of our lives where we inevitably ask the question: is life worth it? Is it worth the struggles, pain and heartache that we all experience from time to time? I believe the answer is yes. My own life has gotten better and better with age, too. I’m not rich, I don’t have a big fancy house or a super nice car. But I feel emotionally aware and thankful for the experiences that make my life worthwhile. Good things happen to me everyday, if I choose to notice. I have a body that works well, I have people who love me, I am capable of feeling happy emotions…and I do so as often as possible. Sometimes when I feel unhappy, I think about the things I’m able to do at that very moment. I can see, touch, taste, hear, smell, stand, type, talk, understand, feel empathy…I am literally alive – so many things that can be taken away at any moment. I don’t know, but sometimes that is more than enough for me to take notice of how lucky I really am. It just makes me want to say thanks to the powers that be.
This weekend we had a great screening of Crush at the New Orleans Film Festival. On the walk to the venue with James and my parents, I kept mentally preparing them (and myself) that the turnout could be low… after all, it is a big festival spread out over eight days and multiple theaters. Upon arrival to our screening, I was pleasantly surprised at how modern and cozy our little venue was. It held about 100 people, and filled up completely before our shorts block started. There were 7 short films total, all fairly long (10 or so minutes in length, some even more). The films that we played with were all very high-caliber in quality, and a handful even had name actors. I felt really good about how our film stacked up to the rest. It got really great responses and I could tell that the audience enjoyed it. Nothing beats that feeling!
For those of you who are interested, James sent me the designer’s name for the Tattly I talked about yesterday. James asked him on Twitter what his inspiration was behind the 18 rings and he replied, “I’ve never counted them before!…the drawing was originally made as a quick, frantic reminder to myself to focus on what’s important.” Awesome answer.
I get a lot of inspiration from the things I look at everyday, which makes me think that maybe I should pay more attention to what I have around me. Even though I don’t have any, a tattoo is a great opportunity to give yourself a daily message. A constant visual of what you want, aspire to, or dream of achieving should never be out of reach. I’ve mentioned it before, but I keep a little list of wants in my purse at all times. When I need to be reminded of my direction or purpose, I just pull it out and give it a quick scan. How powerful is a dream or idea? Depends on how much you invest in it. I truly believe that our existence here is made up of energy – whether positive or negative, abundant or scarce. Love is energy, hate is energy…everything is energy. Some things and thoughts take it away, others add to it. The trick is to figure out how to get, and keep, positive momentum. That’s why cutting down on things that stress you out or make you sad adds to the overall balance of your spirit. I have certain practices that I do on a daily basis, like turning my cell phone on silent (any kind of sound alert drives me nuts) and setting my alarm earlier than needed so I can lie in bed a few extra minutes. These small things have proven to help in my overall well-being. If something is bothering me, I try to eliminate it. If something makes me happy, I try to do it as often as I can. Running makes me happy, being around people who I enjoy makes me happy, rest makes me happy, so on and so on. The tricky part is avoiding actions that only make me happy temporarily, which eventually leads to regret. Actions that have long-term positive effects are what I ultimately seek. Being kind to others, sharing, helping, accomplishing goals, laughing, smiling, just being…. these are the experiences that make life fulfilling.
I have a temporary Tattly on my arm right now that reads, What To Focus On: HAPPY. It was the one I picked out in a pile from James’ collection. There are about 25 rings around the outside of the word happy, as if it’s a bull’s-eye marker. I wonder what the rings stood for in the designer’s mind – probably any one of the thousand other things that we can worry about any given day or moment. It really is just that simple though, to focus on what makes us feel good. Are you in a job that makes you happy, are you in a relationship that makes you happy, are you living in a city or house that makes you happy? If the answer is no to any one of those, then you haven’t been true to yourself at some point. You’ve gone off course into the realm of acceptance. There are absolutely some things that are beyond our own control, but how we feel isn’t one of them. We create our own environment, we have chosen to be where we are at this very moment. Things will become unbalanced from time to time and changes will have to be made to correct your path. I consider myself to be a fairly lucky person and my path is rarely free from obstacles. But sometimes if I just change the way I look at a problem, or slightly adjust my perspective, the obstacle shrinks. Sometimes what I perceive as an obstacle is actually helpful, but I couldn’t understand until I reached the other side. All that to say, maybe worry shouldn’t have so much power over us. Instead let’s look at the bright side, because there is usually one to be found. By focusing on the happy we are surely going in the right direction.
Happy Monday! This weekend one of my favorite friends got married to an equally beautiful person. The wedding of Charles and Carrie Beth was a special one, full of love and happiness. They asked me a while back to read during the ceremony, which I gladly accepted. I didn’t really start getting nervous until Thursday or Friday, but it was more excitement than anything else. One of the readings was a Shakespeare sonnet (116), which I had to practice a lot to get right. It was very helpful to read the analysis to understand exactly what I was saying. Have you ever gotten so nervous that your knee caps start to shake? This is exactly what happened as I was reading in front of the 200+ in attendance. But from what I can tell, no one else seemed to notice, thank goodness. I tried to remember that it wasn’t about me, it was about the celebration of two dear friends coming together in love. And they couldn’t have been more happy. It’s people like them that stand as a constant reminder of what true love really is. I remember the first night that sparks started to fly between them – it was two years ago at the Artwalk after party. Charles walked up and introduced this glowing girl, and I could tell instantly that there was some magic happening. The rest is history, as they’ve been inseparable ever since. They both share a passion for adventure, food, music and travel. It is truly a match made in heaven. Congrats to you both!
Last night while trying to go to sleep, I couldn’t help but think of what a wonderful weekend it had been. Getting to spend time with James, hanging out in hammocks with Micah, and enjoying the company of friends almost every day made my heart smile. I just can’t seem to get enough of the people I love the most. Even my sister Rachel and her husband David came out on Saturday night for a few hours. They will be moving soon to Florida again, so it was nice to get to love on them a bit before their lives start to get busy with the transition.
I am in serious awe of this year so far. I would like to bottle it up and send it to myself in the future whenever I might need a smile. The note attached would read as follows: Hello from 2012! This has been one of the best years of your life. You love others equally as much as you are loved in return, and life has given you many gifts. Remember the moment when you met that special someone at Rojo? Or when you shared Gulf shrimp with a dear friend on a summer evening? Not to mention your sister’s wedding in Greece, or skinny dipping in the Cahaba River. Kisses, kitties, Atlanta, family and friends….this is the way your life should be every year. And if it isn’t, then eat a coconut popsicle and call me in the morning (after your 5 mile run with Vero, of course). This will get you heading back in the right direction.
My Memorial Day weekend was especially amazing, there were so many wonderful things to do and a very special person to do them with. I think the highlight for me was going to the river on Sunday with the perfect group, most of which I didn’t know until that very day. We went swimming in a little watering hole about a quarter-mile down from the house, which was clean and still. Our friend Rob grilled out while we swung in hammocks and talked. I don’t know if I’ve nominated a perfect day yet for 2012, but that one ranks pretty high on the list.
Are you ever of the mindset that things can never be perfect, that while some parts of life go better than you could have ever hoped, other parts always seem to suffer to balance it out? I think this is a flawed way of viewing things and the process of living that I am guilty of from time to time. I think the purpose of our lives is to find happiness, and keep it. It lies in our choices, our attitude and our spirit. I read a quote the other day that said we deserve to be happy 100% of the time – fully and proudly. Speaking of quotes, here are a few of my favorite regarding happiness:
“The purpose of our lives is to be happy.” – Dalai Lama
“When what we are is what we want to be, that’s happiness.” – Malcolm S. Forbes
“Now and then it’s good to pause in our pursuit of happiness and just be happy.” – Guillaume Apollinaire
“Happiness is a how, not a what; a talent, not an object.” – Hermann Hesse
“The pursuit of happiness is a most ridiculous phrase; if you pursue happiness you’ll never find it.” – Charles Percy Snow
“Enjoy everything. Need nothing.” – Neale Donald Walsch
Something I have been trying to put into practice lately is letting myself accept the concept that I can be as happy as I want to be, this very second. Or, that I should enjoy wonderful things that happen to me as if I am 100% deserving of them. That those things are supposed to happen, not the other way around. When I think those thoughts, I can literally feel a little child inside me screaming with happiness. A hidden spirit is set free when it knows that it’s safe and allowed to express itself. Most of us are taught that if things aren’t perfect, then we should be striving to make them so…that the celebration of life can only come once everything in all areas is lined up exactly the way we want them to be. The truth is that’s never going to happen…yet we still have so many reasons to be appreciative of the here and now. I can taste food, I can use my legs to go for a run, I can laugh and smile, I have a body that is healthy and plenty of loved ones around to spend time with. I have a bed to sleep in, a kitty that purrs, and a job that is stable. Right now I can hear birds chirping outside and people talking down the hall about their own weekends. So many things to be happy about.
Last night I had dinner with an awesome group of ladies who I mostly interact with online – Sherri Davidson Ross, Christy Turnipseep and Jennifer Howell. When we do see each other in person, some sort of food or beverage is always involved. We went to a new restaurant in town called Little Donkey in Homewood (Central Avenue) which I’ve been hearing about for a few weeks now. Going OTM (over the mountain) is a special occasion, and this was well worth leaving the downtown area for. I know this is a big statement, but they could have the best margarita I’ve EVER tasted…no lie. It’s going to be hard to top for Cinco de Mayo, the bar has been set very high.
Some of my favorite conversations with friends revolve around the topic of happiness and authenticity. We shared ideas and thoughts, asked each other for advice and gave encouraging words. I especially enjoyed hearing about each person’s driving passion and what they were doing specifically to do more of what they love. It seems that no matter what age you are, we are constantly on a journey to find ourselves and to discover new things. Sometimes I look at others and see a piece of myself in them, and instantly have more clarity. It is easier for me to give advice or to offer solutions to someone else, so if I can identify with what they are saying on some level, then I get to apply that knowledge to my own life as well. Hanging out with like-minded people can be like holding up a mirror. By seeing them, you see a little more of your own world.
I have been thinking a lot about age lately, and how our bodies change. I’ve also thought about how that correlates with body size and physical appearance at any age. We’ve all be given a body that we didn’t necessarily ask for, and let’s be honest…some of us got luckier than others. But what does that even mean? Is any body better than another? Is someone who is overweight any less attractive than someone who isn’t? I don’t think so. I think it’s all about what’s on the inside – our souls and energy that we carry around from day to day. Our spirits are what make us attractive. It makes me happy to remember that.
I got an unexpected compliment yesterday during what seemed to be an average day for me. While chasing my niece Lily around my parent’s house, my mom said, “You look really pretty, Jen. Whatever it is that you’re doing, keep doing it.” That about made my heart explode. My hair was less than perfect and I barely had any make-up on. But at that moment, I did feel really good. I think happiness is attractive, and I was having a happy afternoon. I felt like there was a positive energy radiating inside of me…one that’s been sneaking back as of late.
My mom used to jump horses competitively when she was growing up. For some reason I’ve always had this visual of her in my grandparent’s old yard practicing over different types of obstacles. So when I think of the phrase “overcoming obstacles” that is usually what I think about. When I think about this past year, I feel like I’ve climbed a big wall. So tall that I’ve had to climb it alone instead of with the aid of a horse or other tools. Sometimes when I’ve looked up while climbing the weather has been stormy, and other times it’s been sunny and bright. I feel like I’ve reached the top of that wall… and I can finally see the other side. I can see where I am going. I’m not “on top of the world”, but I have a clear view. It was worth the effort, and now all I have to do is climb back down the other side. I think I will stay in this new mental place for a while.