Reflections on Exhale Gratitude

Here we are friends. A smidgen over six months into this. I figured this was a good a time as any to reflect on my journey so far, as well as what this blog means to me. I wanted to take the time to really understand all of it. Why I started this in the first place.

I started this blog in the spring of 2015. I had recently lost my stepmom to ovarian cancer and my relationship with my boyfriend at the time began crumbling. After the universe set things in motion, there was no stopping it. We broke up not long afterwards and the timing of it all made it that much harder. After two heavy blows, I was caught up in a constant whirlwind of emotion. I struggled with feelings of anger, sadness and guilt for those first few months, reaching lows that I didn’t even know were possible.

After long days and nights filled with tears, I needed to cope and searched for an escape. I knew there had to be an outlet. Some way I could send all of this out there and make myself better. I yearned for growth and understanding during the healing process. Also, after losing somebody so dear to me, the finality of life took a toll on me. What was I doing with my time? Why wasn’t I chasing the passions that were important to me? So, after really searching in my heart, and with many needed pushes from the people around me, I started up Exhale Gratitude.

I knew my blog needed to reflect how I strive to live with a grateful heart every day. That in spite of all the loss, I could still see something good and beautiful rising from it. Every morning that I’m awake and here is another moment I’m grateful. It sounds so simple doesn’t it? And, moving forward in my life, that’s how I wanted it to be. Simple. Simple in the sense that happiness can be obtained in different ways than society instills in us. That you, in fact, do not have to follow the status quo. Having the fanciest and newest things is not something I’m interested in. I never wanted a job where I would work for years, only to be wondering at the end of my life why I spent so much time at a place where I was unhappy. Instead, I’d rather fill my life with love, experiences and people who are important to me. I would rather work hard doing something that ignites a fire in me, even if I don’t make millions.

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So, I quit my job and took up serving. It sounded crazier at the time I did it. Leaving something so secure and venturing into something so…unsure I guess. But, looking back, I wouldn’t change it at all. This year has been a roller coaster of emotions and devastating loss. But, it has also been filled with so much good that I am incredibly thankful for.

Here are some ways I’ve found happiness in my own life so far and what that means to me:

**Finding something you love and pursuing it**

**Giving to others**

**Surrounding yourself with a positive group of people**

**Actively deciding that you are 100% in charge of your own happiness**

**Having a positive mindset**

One of the most important lessons I have taken away during this time is that I will never stop following my heart, despite what others may tell me. So things didn’t work out the way I had imagined when I decided to move to Spokane. I learned and I grew. I took chances. I had amazing adventures with people I love and care about. I accepted different job opportunities. I learned to say no and take time for myself. I realized my worth and stood up for it. I found strength within me that I never knew existed. I moved into the most perfect apartment with one of my best friends. I started hiking more and took comfort in the everyday beauty surrounding me. I made plans to turn my travel dreams into a reality. I saw an amazing star-filled sky while camping in Idaho and realized I’m exactly where I need to be. I’m dating somebody again, a really amazing guy at that. I started writing and created two blogs. I was a tourist in my own city. I am a mentor to a darling girl. I found out I’m going to be an aunt. I watched one of my best friends get married and will watch another one get married next fall. I became a nanny to two adorable boys.


In all of this, I fell in love with life again.


Photo Credit: latestthoughts via Compfight cc

Photo Credit: latestthoughts via Compfight cc

Things didn’t work out how I imagined because space was being made in my life for everything to be even better than I had pictured. This doesn’t mean a life without loss. This doesn’t mean a life without pain or disappointment. There is no such thing. It simply means a life filled with acceptance and gratitude for each moment that comes before me. The bad makes us appreciate the good and we are eventually led to the people and situations that are best for us. It takes some work, faith and a lot of patience. There will be tears, dark days and moments in your life where absolutely nothing will make sense. But I have always believed in something better. Exhale Gratitude is a reflection of my belief in finding that goodness.

Of course, it’s much easier to close ourselves off. To become bitter in all of it. It takes actual work and a heck of a lot of courage to live the life you want. To chase your dreams. To take risks. To not listen to the naysayers. It’s exhausting and it can feel awfully lonely at times. I’d be lying if I said it didn’t. But I promise you, the reward on the other side is so incredibly worth it.

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Speak Your Dream Out Loud, Like the Rockstar You Are

“I would much rather have regrets about not doing what people said, than regretting not doing what my heart led me to and wondering what life had been like if I’d just been myself.” -Brittany Renee

Not too long ago, I was working at a job I dreaded going to every single day. I lived for the weekend and the mere thought of Monday made my stomach drop. I felt uninspired, unable to express myself creatively and was working to make money for somebody who treated others poorly, simply because of his position. I didn’t like the direction the company was heading in, so I made the decision to take on more hours at my serving job. It was a huge step for me because I was doing very well financially between my full-time property management job during the week and my part-time serving job on the weekend. However, I rarely had days off and was always stressed out. (I once went 36 days in a row before having a day off.) I knew something needed to change, so I took the leap.

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I didn’t know what my family or friends would think. Here I was with a college degree and I was going to become a server? (And, eventually, a nanny as well.) I must admit, I didn’t know how it would all pan out. Would I be able to support myself? Had I completely lost my mind? What about a job with health benefits (such a hot topic in the adult world)? The main reason I wanted to leave my office job (besides the toxic environment) was because I wanted to write more. But, when I went to say those words out loud, I often struggled. What would other people think? How could I even consider writing when it wasn’t even close to what I went to college for?

The truth is, maybe this was one of the crazier things I’ve done. Is that so bad though? How many of us wish we could take that step and chase after something we love? This all came about while I was speaking to a volunteer coordinator at my church a couple weeks ago. I’m new there and was wanting to get more involved because it seems like a great community. She asked what I did for a living and I told her I was a server and nanny. I told her a bit about my background and how I had arrived at where I was at today. And then I did it. I inhaled and said, “I want to write.”

It felt so strange, those words escaping my lips. But it also felt…freeing. It made me feel alive. Why are we so scared to step into the roles we so desire? Why does owning your passion seem so frightening? I’ve been debating these questions for awhile, ever since I made these changes in my life. The truth is, we are scared. Of failure. Of what others might think. Of not being good enough. That’s a normal reaction, but it shouldn’t come at the expense of your dreams. Be scared. Be unsure. That means, for once in your life, something is actually important to you. But never, ever diminish your passions or dreams because of the “coulda, woulda, shoulda’s.” You know what I’m talking about. All the scenarios your brain makes up as a defense mechanism. The things that might happen in the pursuit of our dreams but more than likely never will.

Photo Credit: ss.quotes92 via Compfight cc

Photo Credit: ss.quotes92 via Compfight cc

About a week ago, I was telling one of the new servers about my jobs and blogs. She said, “Oh, so you’re a writer?” I laughed it off and replied with a firm “No.” Maybe the line is fuzzy right now. Perhaps I don’t know when I “officially” get to call myself a writer. Minor details that I’m still working out. But, I do know this. The only way to get there is to say it out loud. With conviction. With presence. Like you own the whole damn room. So, from now on, my answer will be, “Yes. I am a writer.” Because if you don’t speak your dream out loud, who else will?