‘Might as well be us’

 dream-catcher

By Dawn Onley

It might as well be me. It might as well be you.

Reaching for the top. Climbing the stairway of success. Panting and sweating and just about ready to give up, but holding on defiantly.

Someone will reach their dream. Or achieve a higher level of satisfaction. Someone will make it happen against the odds. Someone will reenroll in college in their 40s. Someone will set up shop and begin selling their original designs. Someone will invent the latest, greatest app. Someone we haven’t even heard of yet will write a bestseller or explore their musical and artistic genius. Someone will make an important discovery that will advance medicine and possibly cure diseases. Someone will break a record. Someone will win the race. Someone will overcome something that someone else couldn’t.

Someone will buy their first home. Someone will get pregnant with a world of hope. Someone will start to see the vision. Someone will make a connection that will lead to something life-changing. Someone will find out what they are made of. Someone will follow their intuition. Someone will pray. Someone will reconnect with a family member or friend. Someone will reach back and pull someone else up. Someone will mentor a child. Someone will ask “WHY NOT ME?” Someone will turn a negative into a positive. Someone will do something they never dreamed possible.

Someone.

Might as well be me. And you.

what-he-wants

 

 

My Heroes, My Warriors, My Saviors

By Samantha McKenzie

16603078_10212175213237824_2208847953650575706_nMy heroes live in my house. They fight for me. They save me. They are family.

My heroes aren’t in the movies. They aren’t written about in comic books. Instead my heroes live in my home. They are my children, my parents, my siblings and all of the countless aunts, uncles and cousins who have held me down throughout my life time.

They are both old and young. Some live near and others live farther away.
But they are my blood.

They are the people  who’ve held my hand while I have faced all types of adversity. They’ve taken on giants, fought with villains and walked fearlessly into dark alleys to save the ones they love.

My warriors have tasted victory and defeat. We’ve lost battles together, and won wars. They know about falling down and helping each other get back up. This is what distinguishes family from others. They support each other no matter what.

These are the amazing people I’m proud to call my family.

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They are strong and resilient. They band together to support one another and when they are faced with life’s turbulence or derailments in their journeys, they dig deeper into their powers and find the wellspring of fortitude to help them carry on.

Family and close friends. These are the real heroes: These are the extraordinary souls that step fervently into the light. The only way you’d know who they are, is if we talk about them, if we tell their story.

heroMy mother is my hero. My sister is the hero. So is my brother Wayne.

I’ve watched my three children grow into heroes and warriors and saviors too.

Their superpower is love.

They live through the real adventures. Their bravery is talked about in small circles, by ordinary people. I watch them put on their armor. I witness them as they face fears, fight against the demons, save lives and live to see another day.

They are the real heroes. They are our family.

 

 

 

There is Beauty in Every Phase of Life

Bowman Wedding Dance (slow 2)

By Dawn Onley

This is not meant to sound vain, but I love my own company. While many people crave companionship, I long for more solitude.

It’s not that I’m not happily married with a toddler, an older son through marriage and a brand new pup (I am), it’s just that coupledom and being a mommy means that I don’t get a lot of “free” time to be by myself the way that I use to — when I would enjoy limitless hours of uninterrupted reading, leisurely massages, routine pedicures, lazy afternoon naps, monthly (sometimes weekly) theater trips, and just silence to think.

To me, alone time is one of the best perks of being single and childless – that is, if you truly enjoy your own company. And, companionship is the beauty of being partnered.

What I’ve come to understand and love about life is its seasons. The beauty of life is appreciating every stage we’re in, while we’re in it. “To every thing there is a season, and a time to every purpose under the heaven,” Ecclesiastes 3 begins and beautifully explains.

Too often, we want companionship when we’re single and then long for solitude when life gets too busy and loud. We complain that we’re lonely with the unfettered ability to go and come as we please and then we miss those days when our kids open up the door to the bathroom while we’re sitting on the toilet. The grass is always greener …

Too often, we are in such a rush to get from one phase to another that we don’t stop to appreciate the joys that each phase of life bring. It’s so important to show gratitude for each part of our journey, every step of life.

It’s how to live with no regrets.

I have a wanderlust spirit. I have such a spirit of adventure and curiosity about the world we inhibit that it’s hard to contain sometimes. I can also be a loner and an Introvert.

Me overlooking Acropolis

There are days, if I’m being honest, that I’m wistful and miss my full, single life — being unattached and unencumbered. I think it’s an offshoot of really enjoying that phase while I was in it.

I have also come to love the dutiful nature of being a good mom and the dependability of having a partner on this life journey. Preparing lunches for school. Hearing about my husband’s day. Planning our future. Figuring it all out, together.

I think this dichotomy is ok. When the beautiful leaves and brisk temperatures of autumn appear, it’s natural to miss summer while still welcoming fall.

The change in seasons.

“He hath made everything beautiful in his time…”

Dear Self, Let the Anger Go

By Samantha McKenzie

“Anger is an acid that can do more harm to the vessel in which it is stored than to anything on which it is poured.” Mark Twain

I spend most of my quality time being a fun, cheerful and encouraging human being. I delight in swapping short stories with others, sharing a few laughs and leaving people feeling good about themselves. I am, at my root, inclined to find the silver lining in any situation. I come ready to instinctively maneuver through life’s mayhems. Nine times out of 10, I’m easy going. But it’s that 10th time that I want to address today.

 

I hate stereotyping, but I will say, I’m 5’2″ and have been told that makes me inherently a spitfire. I say, I get my fireball tendencies from my mother – a 4’11” Caribbean woman who never took life laying down. This is my only disclaimer to explain how I handle difficult situations and why I sometimes hold on to anger until I explode.

When I get angry, I lash out. I cling to hurt from my past and wrestle with it even more if the pain reoccurs. I hate, above all things, to be left feeling stupid or to allow people to get away with taking advantage of my kindness. I can’t really pinpoint who taught me that I was supposed to be strong and smart and unbreakable, but it has been and still is a part of my persona: A blessing and a curse. My therapist has asked me to discard this burden I have placed on myself and I’m still working on it.

I have a short fuse that’s ignited by a short list of triggers (like disrespect). I know I’m not alone. I have grown accustomed to using my mouth to protect myself. I valiantly use my anger as a weapon to take down the “bad” guys. I let the anger build up and then I spew with sheer accuracy. I have used my anger to protect myself from the lies and the truth and to protect my delicate ego.

I’m aware of my flaws as well. I’m impatient. I’m an idealist. I’m also stubborn. I dig my heels into issues that disturb me: In love, I can be a little scary. At work, I’m set in my ways. And in life, I’ve worked diligently to mask the rage. I have a thousand reasons to explain my anger. I really do. There are times when anger seems justifiable and just downright necessary, but that topic is for another time.

Today I want to convince myself to let it all go. For the sake of good health and moving forward, I want to talk myself into releasing my pain. In some small way I want to forgive my offenders and myself and in turn, use my energy to grow, to expand and to foster productivity in my life.

I refuse to let my anger stunt my progress. I no longer want to carry it around like a heavy weight on my shoulders. Instead, I want to practice taking it to the Lord in prayer and laying my burdens down. I want to rid myself of all of the ugliness it brings with it. It’s robbed me of too much joy.  I don’t want the shame and guilt it leaves behind anymore. Nowadays, I can look back and see how I’ve allowed it to block my productivity and my blessings and how it’s allowed me to live in an excuse.

Anger has to find a new home. It’s assumed many starring roles before – from victim, to defendant, to impostor. Worst of all, on a few occasions, it’s made me become a person I never wanted to be.

verseI suggest we all find a way to communicate our true feelings. Find ways to have healthy dialogue and conversations that convey our needs and expectations and leave people more willing to do better the next time. I urge us to be vulnerable, to be flawed, to be imperfect – and recognize these same qualities in others.

My friend told me about a “letting go” party that she hosted for her friends. They wrote down things that have hurt them through their lifetime and then burned those pieces of paper as a way of symbolically releasing their pain. Some of the ladies burned other items as a way of letting go. They emoted that day. They also healed.

Next time, instead of lashing out, talk it out. Write it out in a letter if you have to. Do something each day to recognize the things that you are angry about, and release it in a healthy manner.

Take one step. Then two. Pivot. Then let it go.

 

Musings on Life

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By Dawn Onley

The older I get I become more aware of the unpredictability of life.

It’s something I use to take for granted when I was young. Growing up with the love and security of my mom and dad, who made me feel like I could be anything I wanted to be, I’ll admit I felt somewhat invincible, like my folks and friends would always be around. Heck, like I’d always be around.

And then life happens.

An illness pops up out of nowhere and leaves us grappling with the aftermath, dazed and scared and unsure of the future. A miscarriage can break us to the core, shattering a particular dream of motherhood. A betrayal of a lover or a close friend can leave us feeling like the world is caving in.

This I know for sure: no matter how much control you think you have, no matter the plans that you’ve made, the dreams that you’ve dreamed, life can (and does) throw us all curveballs that we never see coming. Life causes us to adjust. To start again. To reenvision and to recreate.

One day, you experience the pain of losing someone you love and it opens your eyes to just how fragile and random life is. Suddenly, the things that you stressed over before, don’t matter as much in the grand scheme of things. In an instance, we begin to understand that time is our greatest asset, yet it’s not reliable or infinite. We never know how much of it we have left so we should make the most of every moment.  

It’s best to appreciate the here and now, right here, right now. Live fully.  

None of us know what the future holds. We’re all just riding along for the journey until we reach an unknown destination. We might as well enjoy the trip, as best we can.

 

Happiness Weekend

By Samantha McKenzie

Put aside the agendas, cancel a few chores and reschedule the appointments. Make this weekend count. Make it happy.

Screenshot_20170713-230710Start by sipping the coffee, smelling the flowers, eating the cupcake and running down the street like you used to when you were a child.

Sleep in, drive with the windows down without worrying about your hair and laugh uncontrollably.

Rediscover your playful side and let your heart’s desire run free. Do what makes you smile.

Cheers to your happiness weekend.

Making Friends in Distant Lands

“We are all travelers in the wilderness of this world, and the best we can find in our travels is an honest friend.” – Robert Louis Stevenson

By Dawn Onley

Twenty three years ago, I met Tobias in Cape Town, South Africa. He, like I, came to this young democratic nation to experience the country’s first free elections and ultimately the electrifying moment when Nelson Mandela would become South Africa’s first black president. On this same trip in 1994, I met Sagren Moodley, too.

Nelson Mandela

In Egypt, I met Amir. He was a young man originally from Sudan who came to Egypt in search of opportunity. He worked in a small jewelry shop in Cairo, and he left me and my friend, Sandy, to sit unattended in his shop while he ran out to get us tea and soft drinks and to offer up midday Salat.

I met Cheryl in Paris. She worked in a clothing store and we chatted about fashion and what it was like to live in the city of lights. Originally from Africa, she hoped to one day make it to New York and to carve out a singing career in the United States.

In China, I met Asia and Angela, two close friends who live in Los Angeles and who enjoy planning exciting excursions. On a safari in South Africa, I met Debbie, Domenico and Howard, and we discussed everything from baking techniques to life as a rocket scientist.

Last year, I met Paqui in Greece. Full of personality and energy, we jumped from topic to topic, talking about politics, our love of travel, our relationships, our jobs and our families while on an island ferry to Hydra, Poros and Aegina.

Free travel picture

I have met so many wonderful people from all walks of life while traveling — both domestically and around the world. I’ve met people who have enriched my life with their stories and experiences and who have expanded my understanding of religions, cultures, world views and beliefs. These relationships are so important and valuable, even if only for a season. They help to show us who we are and where we fit in this vast, beautiful world.

They help us to see how alike we are and how we basically want the same things out of life as everyone else.

They show us that we are never alone. We may feel isolated in our neighborhood, in our small town, but on the world’s stage, there is someone out there who has been exactly where you are now, and they may have a word to help get you over the doldrums of your situation.

I hope one day you will meet them. I wish you a boundless curiosity, new friends to share life’s joys and struggles (and hopefully another trip), and a desire to want to learn more than your neighborhood or town, more than your state and even your country.

Travel remains one of the best forms of education and enlightenment. It helps to open the mind and heart. As Mark Twain said: “Travel is fatal to prejudice, bigotry, and narrow-mindedness, and many of our people need it sorely on these accounts. Broad, wholesome, charitable views of men and things cannot be acquired by vegetating in one little corner of the earth all one’s lifetime.”

Hydra Greece

And as Rumi said: “Travel brings power and love back into your life.”

Go somewhere new. Meet new people along the way. As Augustine of Hippo said: “The world is a book and those who do not travel read only one page.”