The Rut

To put it simply, I’ve been stuck.

I find myself in a place where it’s hard to breathe, where I feel the weight of expectations heavy on me. It is as if I were at the bottom of a lake in an air bubble, unable to break through to the surface and the glint of sunlight I see so far away.

Let’s start at the beginning: A year ago, I took archery on full speed, practicing five to six days a week, shooting state and national competitions, traveling all over the country to compete. It was awesome — except when it wasn’t.

I had promise. I had potential.  But I also had a big problem.

Me.

Archery is a sport of repetition: you breathe, pull an arrow from your quiver, nock the arrow on the string, breathe, position your left hand on the riser of the bow, position your three fingers on the string, breathe, tense the string, lift the bow, breathe, take aim as you draw back, breathe, feel your body align, settle the bow, and shoot.

If only it were that easy.

But in between breathing and moving, there are the thoughts that come at me, that drag me down: I’m not good enough, I’ll never be good enough, they’re waiting for me to fail, I know I’m going to fail because I always do, I can’t trust myself, this is panic, it doesn’t matter how hard I try, what does anything matter. The demons in my mind are monsters, fighting over the chance to claim the kill.

I have confronted some in the past months, slaying them, burning them, banishing them to places they’ll never be able to reach me from. But there are so many, and sometimes, especially when I stand there, poised for a shot and someone summons one in, I feel their power for a moment. So I learn to fight in new ways.

There are more battles in my future, more competitions, more moments where I’ll doubt if I can do this.

That is where I found myself last week, in a place where the doubt was thick like smoke around me. So I did the only thing I knew might help me: I wrote a list of all the reasons I am grateful for this struggle.

Because I’m not alone. Because others have reached out to help me. Because I’m learning the importance of a moment. Because this is teaching me what true focus and resolve are. Because greatness isn’t achieved if we give up when we encounter obstacles. ¬†Because the only person who can stop me from being successful is myself. Because I am discovering where my true power lies.

I am grateful for these opportunities, because they will make me stronger, make me wiser, make me new.

There is a way out. There is always a way out. And it is mine to create.

Re-Inventing Purpose

I’ve been searching for two decades.

Since I first began to daydream about what I would be when I grew up — a ballerina, an astronomer, a fashion designer, a marine biologist, a singer, an actress — I was desperate for a role that “fit.”

I sat in university classrooms, trying to decipher codes and puzzles made with numbers and ideas. I looked in bookshops everywhere I went, even if I didn’t know the language. I switched from one job to another, constructing dreams and plans around each, ways to move forward, to be more.

And while I gained knowledge, met interesting people, and found work that allowed me to live comfortably, I never discovered my purpose.

Until last Wednesday at about 9:25am. That’s when it finally hit me.

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I sat at my desk meditating, trying to be grateful for my purpose in the world (whatever that was), when my purpose walked up and smacked me across the face. It had been right there the whole time.

I always thought that a person’s purpose came in some great act: through their research or writing, a scientific discovery, a job well done, a passion given life.

But that was only a piece of the truth.

I realized my purpose is in every moment, in everything I do, in every interaction and relationship I have. Eight years ago, my purpose was in working with children and showing them how smart they were, once they knocked their obstacles down. Now it is in every post I write, every act of kindness and love. It’s in designing websites and teaching archery and smiling at strangers.

In living and loving and being who I am, I live my purpose.

Maybe there are other big bright things in my future, and everything I do now prepares me to shine like that. But this moment is filled with as much purpose as those future ones. And that realization has been a game changer.

Have you found your purpose yet? Or are you still searching?

A Wish List

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Each year on my birthday, I make a list of things I want. Not things that you can buy in a store or even make, but experiences, things that must be sensed in some way. This year on my birthday, I went on a hike in the woods. It was entirely too cold for a hike (this was three days before Christmas) and even though it was winter and snowing, I still worried a bit about encountering a bear. (Bears do hibernate in the winter, but as a solo hiker I didn’t stay out too long just to avoid pushing my luck.) But I did get a bit of time while I was there to reflect and work on my list.

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Just a few things that made it on to my list this year:

tall woods
recognition of beauty
a spotlight
starlight horizon to horizon
a vulnerable conversation
campfires
skinny dipping
mountainous terrain
the smell of the ocean
a homecoming

What would be on your birthday list?

Slowly Breaking

sunlight-morganglines

The absence of sunlight during the winter makes me notice and long for it even more.

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I find myself drawn to it, fascinated by it. The way it lights and spills.

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The way it creeps into dark corners and streams and mixes with smoke.

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sunlight-lovestruck

In winter, I’m always reminded how luxurious a nap in the afternoon sun can be, how colorful sunrises and sunsets are, how much I need to feel it on my skin.

sunlight-NinaMatthews

What does the winter make you long for?

{photographs used under Creative Commons license. Credits in order of appearance: morganglines, G J, Sentrawoods, Rev Stan, Gillie – lovestruck, Nina Matthews Photography}

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Credits

Jane Reaction

(logo and original branding) is a graphic design and art director who works with with small businesses and creative entrepreneurs, creating cohesive and interesting brands and websites.

Carrie Coleman

(photography) is a wedding photographer, whose goal is to capture the visual expression of a couple's love through timeless, organic images. She is based in Charlottesville, Virginia.