Hope

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When all but darkness had abandoned me …You remained.

Unassuming.
Quietly.
Waiting.
Patient strength and unfailing endurance.

When others saw grief overwhelming and broken irreparable pieces,
You saw through to dormant possibility and unlikely beginnings.

When others declared only torment reigning and wasted potential,
You uncovered almost imperceptible mending and dreams not ready for the light….yet.

How is it you have lingered past all the endings?

How is it you have not deserted this stubborn child for some milder, more amiable host?

How is it, my most faithful companion, you came to choose me…and stay?

Chelsey Whitlow

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Lucy

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The pocket watch bounced in rhythm to her fleeting steps as she rushed from Mr. Marlowe’s Tea Shop, pounding out an old melody of memories better left buried against her chest. Concealing the watch beneath her scarf and wool winter coat, she clutched the treasure closer to her heart as she fled.

As she hurries towards her old truck parked at the end of the block, the cold bites at her burning cheeks; pinpricks of ice, acute and more painful than usual. The further she gets from him, the colder she becomes, as though all the warmth inside her chose to stay behind with him instead.

How had he known? How had he recognized it? Where would he have seen the watch or her before? How did he know her name?

Too many questions…

Shivering violently, Lucy jogged the last few feet to the refuge of her rusty red pickup. Finally sheltered inside the cab, she gasps for air, cranking the heater as high as it will go.

In a rush, the words she knows are hidden on old paper inside the watch, begin echoing eerily through her mind. This time, the voice recalling these beloved words isn’t hers. This time, they flow from the lips of the stranger in the Tea Shop who called her by name….

The stranger who called her Gray.

 
You are unexpected possibility.

You are new revelry. 

You are a cure for the crush of midnight loneliness.

You are a thousand places I’ve never even imagined.

You are the temper that eases the burn.

You are the strength that compliments the fury.

You are the safe place that shelters the wild.

You are the soul I never fathomed would belong beside mine.

 

Chelsey Whitlow

Saturday Scribbles – A Free Spirit Released

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Growing up, no one knew quite what to do with a free spirit like me. I saw things differently. I still do. I was also far more perceptive far more quickly than was comfortable at times for the adults in my world. I felt things deeper than most. And I was handed some very grown up problems when everyone else my age was still playing with dolls. I didn’t know I was different until people tried to change me, until they tried to reign me in and contain me.

For too many years I lived trapped in the ideas others had for me. Now, don’t get me wrong, these weren’t necessarily bad ideas. I believe now these came from a place of love and a need to protect and not necessarily from a place of hate and intolerance. But they were most certainly the wrong fit for me. They crushed instead of protected me. I wrestled for years with trying to be what everyone else thought I should or shouldn’t be. This struggle almost destroyed me. The truth is, the circumstances of my childhood combined with my unique perspective and passionate spirit created quite the perfect storm in the conservative world I was born into. (Not an unfamiliar story for a creative spirit I suppose).

We can only teach what we know. And sadly, in my younger years, no one knew how to speak my language. So I tried to adapt to make everyone else more comfortable. I smothered my insides. I tried to become another thing they could love or be proud of. It didn’t work.

Instead….I lost the pieces that made me beautiful. I lost the ability to see those pieces as good. I lost the fire within that made me…well, Me.

In fact, it was almost extinguished completely at one point.

Mercifully, there have been a few incredible people sprinkled throughout my story, who saw the fire beneath and were not afraid to see it unleashed. In fact, they encouraged her release. They have watched and encouraged and fueled this release in the last few years with such grace and enthusiasm and wise guidance. They have become the stokers of the flames. They are the reason I am now on a journey towards finding my brave. They are the reason I’m finally chasing my dreams. They are the reason I’m coming out of hiding.

We were never meant to hide ourselves away. Living under that kind of pressure is bound to give at some point. Luckily, when mine gave, it didn’t destroy others in its wake. Unfortunately, that’s not always the case for some. We are all meant to play a unique part in this life, both large and small. And we were never all meant to play the same parts in the same ways. As I listen to the stories of the people around me, I’m realizing how often this crushing of the spirit is not so unusual. I’m not alone in my struggle to reclaim my spirit.

It is only now, in the marvelous season of my thirty-something’s, that I am finally grasping on to my fire despite other’s fear. It is only now, that I am finally letting that fire burn through the layers of my past.

And it feels incredible… like new life and hope and possibilty.

It’s all because there were those who chose to stay the course with me through my years of hiding. It’s because there were those who saw my truth clearly and loved me for it, not in spite of it. And it’s because there were those who knew that the little girl who always marched to the beat of her own music, was never meant to be controlled, but meant instead to simply burn a little brighter than usual.

It’s human to be afraid of the things we do not understand or cannot control. But it’s also human to overcome those fears and find the beauty that lies beneath in all of us somewhere. I hope everyone is blessed enough to have the kind of people sprinkled throughout their stories that I have, the kind of people that stay despite the struggle and fan the flames no one else understands. If you’re lucky enough to find them, hold on to them with everything you have. And, return the favor along the way.

When we choose to see past our own fears and the fears of others, incredible things can happen. A spark can turn into a flame… and change everything.

An illusion lasts only so long.

Masks crumble and fall apart.

Armor grows rusty with age.

What was once meant as protection,
becomes instead a lifeless prison.

Eventually the fire beneath burns through,
bringing either destruction….
Or new life.

Those who know the beauty of what this fire can accomplish,
do not run,
but stay…

And rather than smother the flames,
They stoke them,
releasing them higher,
in hopes of what could be.

Chelsey Whitlow

A Punch in the Guts

lightWe all wrestle with our own darkness…our own demons…our own Fear.

Over the last year or so, I’ve been trying to make a conscious effort to wrestle my big Fears into submission. That’s one of the biggest reasons I started this blog. Occasionally (or maybe not so occasionally), these Fears rear their nasty little heads and pull me under for a while. And it usually gets pretty ugly. Fear, to me, has always felt kind of like that feeling you get after a punch in the guts. After the initial jolt to your insides, comes the feeling of needing to catch your breath. You sort of stay doubled over, left with that sore feeling; flinching at the slightest shadow…anticipating another blow. It’s easier and safer feeling, in the aftermath, to slip quietly into the shadows, and into hiding.  Sometimes in that aftermath, a person can simply grow accustomed to the darkness…and forget they have the power to step back out into the light.

My absence the last few weeks is due to just such a punch to the guts. With job duty changes at work, the catching of a nasty cold and the appearance of some old ghosts of my less desirable self, I found it harder and harder to turn the light back on.

I’m supposed to be writing every day. I’m supposed to be working on and sending out a query letter for the novel I want published. I’m supposed to be training for a mud run coming up in March for my birthday. I’m supposed to be practicing my courage. I’m supposed to be living the dream.

But I haven’t written a word or stepped foot in my gym or done one thing outside my comfort zone in weeks.

I believe part of learning to brave is honesty. So I’m calling myself out. The truth is… I let myself get stuck. I admit it. It’s my own fault. I’m my own worst enemy. I chose to stay doubled over after one punch. I refused to stand back up and turn on the light.

Until today.

Today, I put pen to page. Today, I laced up my running shoes after work and took my lazy butt to the park for a brisk autumn walk instead of taking a nap on my couch. Today, I stepped out of myself.

Why today, you ask? What made me reach over and turn on the light? What made me choose to shake off the shadows again?

Well, it was actually a random text message from a dear old friend that simply said – I miss your words…And your face…You need to remedy this situation. 🙂

So, I remedied the situation. I sent her a goofy picture of my face and here I am writing words.

I’m more blessed than I could ever deserve. You see, I’ve got these incredible people in my life that refuse to leave me alone in the dark with my fears. They expect more out of me than I often expect of myself. They’re sort of like my own personal band of Merry Men. They smother me with demanding text messages and snap chats and stern looks and hugs and “You can do this” chants. We do life together, in darkness and in light, pulling each up and on along life’s journey, giving and taking as we need it.

Today’s text message, along with other encouragements I’ve received over the last several days, were just the nudges I needed to get over myself and turn the light back on.

We all get stuck. We all hide out in the dark at different times for different reasons. We all let our demons win sometimes. We’re human. But we don’t have to stay there. In my quest for courage, I’m learning it’s hardly ever the epic moments that make us brave. True courage comes with the little choices we make every day to not let the darkness win. True courage comes in choosing to listen to the voices of encouragement from those around you that love you and support you and want you to win. True courage comes in learning to discern between those voices and the voices in your head that lie and tell you there’s no way you can overcome.

So, with all of that ranting on darkness and courage I’ll end with two things…

One – If you know someone who is currently doubled over in the darkness with their fears, send them a text or an email or hand-written note. Give them a hug or a slap on the back. Or, even better, go to their house, drag them from their cave and take them out for a refreshing beverage. Shoot them some little spark of encouragement. You never know if that’s the spark that will give them courage to reach up, turn on the light and step out of the shadows again and do the thing they were meant to be doing.

Two – If you’re the one stuck in the shadows with your Fears….there is hope.