I have chosen the winners for 21 Secrets!

Congrats to Vicky Reynolds and Lydia Wenrich – they both submitted ideas to spark I&A on to bigger and better things in the future! They will be receiving the workshop on 9/28 when it releases. If you didn’t win (boo! I’m sorry!), you can still get in on the inspiration!

I’ve been a little loose lately.

This has been a rough week. Work has been stressful, time has been short, and people have been displeased and disappointed with me. Not just one, but several people who are important to me. Of course I recognize that the common denominator is yours truly and it’s entirely possible that I’m just an asshole.

But I’d like to think that the explanation is more nuanced than that. God, I hope so.

I’ve been painting this afternoon with the music cranked up way too loud and I’ve been thinking about relationships – all of them, especially those that aren’t the romantic kind – and feeling some pieces click into place inside my heart.

I have been working incredibly hard for the past couple of years to get my hands around something. To be able to articulate this thing – to myself first and then to others – and I have struggled mightily.

I find that at this time in my life, I want relationships to have a looseness about them. I don’t mean that they shouldn’t have meaning or deep roots. Of course I want that. Shallow relationships have little value to me. What I mean (and please, if you have a better word or description for this dynamic, let me know. I can use all the help I can get) is that the relationships which mean the most to me are those which don’t judge or operate from a place of nebulous requirements. They don’t keep score and they don’t constrain.

These are the people who feel like coming home each time you hug them, regardless of how much time has passed. They are the ones who elevate you to be a better person. Speaking your mind is just fine because even if they don’t want to hear it, they know you’re coming from a place of sweetness and affection.

These are relationships which allow me to be myself and vice versa.

I seek a sense of ease. An ebb and a flow. I wish to engage with people with as much heart as I can possibly muster as each interaction occurs. I do not believe that I should have to spend time analyzing these interactions after the fact. I have so many other wonderful things on which I’d like to spend my time. For the most part, these exchanges will either feel right in my soul or they will not.

I attempt to interact with people at face value at all times.

((The notable exception to this is in the professional realm. I still aim for honest, forthright communication, but many times politics or other elements demand that we censor ourselves and this is a skill that I still struggle with. For the sake of my career, I hope I’m getting better.))

But in general, I mean what I say and I say what I mean. I try to truly listen when people speak. And for the rest of my life, I will be trying to get better at that. I seek to set boundaries and expectations appropriately. When a person upsets me somehow, I talk to them about it with an open mind if it warrants that kind of attention and I expect that those around me will do that same. If it doesn’t reach this level, I let it go.

I do understand that relationships take work and I will roll up my sleeves and work with the best of them. I try.  In fact, historically I believe that I have tried too hard for too long in certain situations.

No longer can I confuse the hard work of real and valid relationships with dysfunction or the shell of a relationship which no longer serves.

What is this hard work of relationship? It’s honest communication and sometimes the biggest challenge is knowing what it is you really think or feel. If you don’t know this, you are speaking and acting in a way in a way which doesn’t not match your heart. Almost a guarantee of poor communication. I find myself in this quicksand more often than I care to admit; this is my stumbling block. Again, I’m working on it and sometimes that’s the best one can do.

It’s patience and compassion (this is one I need to work on, certainly) for others. It’s the idea that I don’t have to agree with every single things my friends and loved ones think or do. I just have to love and respect them along the way. And it’s also forgiveness, because let’s face it – we’re ALL assholes every once in awhile.

I also know that there are people out there in the world with something fabulous to offer me. People I haven’t yet met who have brilliant, beautiful gifts of love, insight, and wisdom to share with me and I will remain open to these experiences. They have their own value which I will not ignore. It’s likely that many of these exchanges will be short lived.  After all I don’t have the time or energy to be best friends with everyone, and I’m fine with that. I believe that I can value each interaction for what it is without requiring years of trust building to allow me to accept that gift. I hope that I hold out hands to others in this this way as well, offering shiny gifts of enthusiasm and a joy for life.

I know that this is my way and it may not work for everyone, but it’s what feels right. To me, it’s not surface or shallow, but stronger and deeper somehow because it asks for us to be bigger than ourselves. It requests that we live in the moment. It advocates that everyone has something to offer. And it requires courage and bravery. I may not get it right every single time, but I’m going to deem just trying a huge personal victory.

The GLORIOUS art in this post was created by the talented Elke Trittel, a long time artist at Ink & Alchemy. Here is her FB and her website. Pay her a visit and show her some love.

I’m proud to say that I’m one of the 21 artists facilitating in the upcoming 21 Secrets Falls 2015 Workshop. As a participating artist, the director is generously allowing each of us two slots in the workshop for a completely free giveaway. Go to my website to enter. (You gotta do this before midnight on 9/24/15.) I hope you win! In fact, if I could, I would give each and every one of you a slot because I think it’s going to be super inspirational! And if you don’t win, you can get it here.

Click here to enter.