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Focusing on my perception

My perception of the world (or my role in some parts within) could someday very well be my undoing.

Or, if handled with grace, spirituality and balance, perception can lead me towards the happy, joyous and free existence I am entitled to.

It wasn’t long ago I had a familiar conversation with someone in an elevator at work.  In this conversation were the common platitudes between casual work acquaintances doing the deed in a corporate environment in order to meet the standard requirements for making a living.

“How are things going?” I was asked.

“Everything is good,” I replied, “unless I choose to think otherwise.”

Deep, but true.

And here lies one of the easier examples of how perception can run or ruin a moment, a day, a week, a month or more. In my head it doesn’t have to take long to determine things are not what they should be, could be better, not going well, or are downright intolerable.  Is someone not giving me the proper attention I believe I deserve?  Is something I expect not happening as I expected it?  Am I not feeling or doing my best and assuming everyone can see or is talking about my being off my game?  Am I being misunderstood, maligned or mis-handled?

Then there is always the core foundation of all of my thinking: are any of the things my perception is pounding my brain about real?  In an overwhelming majority of the time the answer to that question is resounding “no.”

You would think if I understood just how powerful my perception can be I would learn to understand, master, or even control it to work in my favor, right?  If I know my perception has a habit to move towards fear and the creation of imbalance and untruths, why would I not arrest that line of thinking and shift it swiftly into a positive and meaningful direction?

I know I have written about habits, this would fit into that category.  Like drugs and alcohol I believe I can also become addicted and even comfortable with behavior.  Thought process can become “unconscious” at least initially.

Sometimes perception can go hand-in-hand with mild forms of martyrdom and the always addictive pessimism can be a vicious cycle leading to a colossal waste of precious time and eventual avenues traveled, which could very easily have been avoided (with the aforementioned awareness and arrest of the wrong path for thinking.)

Perception is always personal.  If you are living in a fearful place you are likely going to perceive things fearfully.  Since perception is governed by the senses it could be assumed when I am fearful my senses can see nothing but what the fear wants me to see.  It’s as if a dark blanket overrules the positive positions and accompanying trust in good outcomes becomes overwhelmed by suspicion or doubt under the guise of protection.  In my history if my perception is clouded or dark it is likely I have been bitten in one way or another by a similar situation or person and, in the end, the experience is recycled and layered with the fear of another failure or a negative expectation.

Expectations are often a bad omen for perception.  If I have an expectation, more than not it is dashed and I am either disappointed or surprised by an outcome.  Having expectations is like playing God.  I don’t know the future and it is wise when I remember that.  On the flip-side fear based perception is clearly based on the past.  Therefore my ISM is often placing me on either pre-conceived notions about the future fearfully wedged in past experience or blindly predicting the future with an eye on offense against any “perceived” or potential harms.

Neither is my best bet.

Learning to perceive my surroundings with trust and a positive bent towards happiness and the best possible eventual result without trying to control an outcome is my nirvana.  I get there.  I love being there.  But sometimes I must fight off the fear and perceptions based on past or future evils.  It is when I am in true alignment with awareness and can keep my best interests in focus that I am able to understand what MY perception truly has to offer me.  Understood and used to its best purpose my perception can offer me comfort, knowledge, growth, friendship, respect, friends, love, trust and a host of beneficial life qualities and gifts worthy of a soul trying to allow life to work as it is meant to work.

In order to recognize my best perceptions the best foot forward is always:

Stop. Smile. Breathe.

Gotta go through it

I am in something right now.  It’s difficult, it’s annoying, it’s uncomfortable, it’s a bit frightening, and it’s taking longer than I would like it to without a hint of understanding or solution.

The thing about this something I am in is I know I must go through it until the solution becomes obvious, the feelings are fully felt, the changes are made and the reasons for the transition are obvious.  There are lessons being learned here and I don’t always have the privilege of knowing what they are while they are being presented.

That would be too easy, and easy isn’t necessarily the best way to grow, learn and develop character along the path.

During this particular stretch of the journey I find myself wanting to isolate.  I am angry at people and things that I know aren’t worth the time and energy of effect on me.  I learned long ago to remember everything is not about me.  I understand people have their own quirks and challenges and in their shoes I could very well find myself doing or being just as they are.

The anger is always about fear or, in some cases, fear with a lack of control over understanding the reasons the fear exists.

Currently I feel as though I am in a tunnel.  It is slightly dark and I am unsatisfied with the surroundings.  My job is not working for me any longer and it is difficult to admit it might be time to go (fear of not being able to pick up with something I want to do or anxiety about not being able to sustain the rest of my days as a result of “inevitable”, but perceived, poverty.)  Then there is the perception of some friends not being what I thought them to be (in dissecting and becoming so aware of my own character defects I become a judge of others character and defects as well.)  Finally there is the solace I have taken for granted over the years.  Simple pleasures offering me refuge from difficult days or situations no longer working where they once did.  This might be the scariest thing for me.  It is as though I am not who I used to be which would beg the questions: “Who am I, then?”  Who have I become?  Is this temporary?  Will it end?  Will I be better as a result?  What will I lose or gain because of it?

Questions abound in confusion.  Over-thinking is dangerous. But these questions could be the biggest problem I face.  In transition and change I have learned must come acceptance and patience.  In this period I am learning I must honor feelings if, at the same time, being careful not to hold on to them obsessively .  I do not want to become a victim of anything as a result of being afraid of something I do not yet understand.  Character is built upon how we handle change and challenge.  Nothing I see before me need necessarily be ending or changing as a whole.  Then again, everything could be changing and that might just be for the best.

In a nutshell: It is I who is changing and I don’t want to be afraid of that.  Change is inevitable and constant.  Sometimes it is subtle, other times very obvious.  Either way it is up to me to understand, recognize and deal with it all like an adult, removing the fear which is likely going to either make the transition last longer or provide me with results which were not really necessary if handled better.

Acceptance is the answer to all of my problems today.  Looking at the world in front of me and remembering the anger is a manifestation of the fear or lack of control.  Do I need the control?  What exactly am I afraid of?  Every single transition or period of change I have experienced in the past has thrust me (sometimes gently, sometimes forcefully) into a new way of thinking and living.  All of this has spelled the many successes I have experienced in the past.

Why would this transition be any different?  Chill out, brother.

STOP. Smile. Breathe

Sick and tired of being sick and tired

If a soul is lucky the phrase used in today’s blog title is often the catalyst to changing how one thinks, behaves, or takes action moving forward.  When I finally got willing to take on the program of Alcoholics Anonymous, for instance, being sick and tired finally took down the barriers (I created) preventing me from finding and accepting willingness to seek a new way of living and progress down an entirely different path of thought, solution and result.

You see, when my ego is involved I am likely always going to end up short of the sunlight of the spirit.  What does that mean?  Why does the ego get such a bad rap all the time?

Simple.

My will is often, if not always going to create a plethora of problems and resentments intertwined with my “best thinking.”  I grab the power and the focus becomes ego driven and often self-obsessed.  When I am in self only I can very easily forget about any power greater than myself (and let’s face it not one of us should fancy ourselves the greatest power,) and the tendency towards unhappiness is manifested.

Life is filled with vicious cycles.  When I am building my atmosphere with negative thinking based on what I think I need, want or ‘deserve’ I will undoubtedly not see anything but the fear and anger illustrating what might or will get in my way towards the ultimate goals I have created.

Right now you are saying to yourself: “whoa… this guy’s an ass.  He’s obviously selfish and unable to see anything outside of himself.”  That’s actually not the truth, nor the real point to the surrender and serenity I am pointing this blog towards.  We are all human and having goals, being driven or looking to improve one’s life do not in any way make a person evil or filled with ego.  It’s important to find the path most important to our ability to be a better person.  It’s nowhere near unusual to see ‘things’ out there expected to make life more fun or fulfilling.

It is when I am looking out ONLY for myself I can begin to lose sight of the real meaning of my spirituality base.  If it is only for me (for any period of time or on any subject) it can become a snowball rolling down a hill.  It collects everything in its path and eventually becomes larger and larger until there is nothing it can do but damage anything in it’s way.  It is dangerous inside and out.  It is detrimental to growth.  It is a killer of happiness.

So even if I am able to muster up the sunlight of the spirit in most areas of my life, where I am out of focus will tend to pick up the most importance and my ISM will latch on to it obsessively and not allow me to see anything but a perception of victimization or intolerance towards me or my goals.  When I concentrate too much in an area which doesn’t please me and leads me towards the constant complaint or living within the problem I will get tired and spiritually lazy.

Then, if I am lucky, I experience the feeling of being sick and tired of being sick and tired.  I get to a place where it feels as though nothing ever changes.  I am stuck, it is stuck, it is hopeless, it will never end, I am fucked, I am unhappy, I would like to disappear.

This is hitting bottom.  Hitting bottom does not have to be around drugs and alcohol to be real.  Hitting bottom could simply mean you have come to a place with potential for you to finally see change is required.  Hitting bottom is a representation of the brick wall I have talked about in previous blog posts.  I repeat behavior over and over (hitting my head on the brick wall) until I am bloodied and it is (hopefully) over.

Surrender.

In the past weeks I have been reminded through the death of my father to take my life back.  If it feels that something is not going to end, I must be reminded I have the choice to end it.  If I am unhappy it is on me to find the happiness I believe I am missing (but truthfully I am simply not paying attention to.)  If I feel there is opposition to me in any way shape or form (which is often where the ISM can take me) it becomes vital to understand MY PART in whatever this opposition may be.  What can often be the case is my part is almost everything.  I can create the problem or I can simply blow up the problem out of proportion by not being able to understand (or hear) other points of view in the situation at hand.

But it is really the worst when the “opposition” does not know anything about the problem in the first place.

It would seem that being sick and tired of being sick and tired is a gift.  Where it would be best not to reach this level of dis-ease at all, recognizing it, accepting it and putting it to rest is a beautiful second best.  I look at what are perceived to be my problems today and I remember just how fortunate I am to be the person I have become in the places where these problems seem to exist.  The problem is useless.  The problem is of my making.  The problem is a waste of time.  The solution is in compromise, listening and changing how I think.  The solution is in getting out of myself long enough to recognize the ego must be understood and maintained.  The solution is always preferable.  The result is even better.

Stop. Smile. Breathe.

All about focus

There is a great deal of power in how I think.  Note that I didn’t say how I “choose” to think, although if possible it is always a choice helping me to pull the power I prefer into action.

My thinking, it would seem, has a tendency for setting traps.  They must be traps considering how often I will find myself proclaiming how cornered I feel.  Am I truly in this predicament?  Not even close.  As I wrote about recently regarding choice, it has become more and more obvious (with experience,) my fear governs and then disarms logic and faith by telling me my choices are not desirable or there at all.  If logic is masked it becomes more difficult to remember choice is always there and when it feels as though it is not, fear is ruling the thought process.

Fear tends to lie to me.

Were it simple to seize fear and shake it until it is disarmed and I am soundly into the faith camp, my life would possibly be a great deal less complicated.  As it stands (even with a great deal of the experience on the subject,) this is not always the way an over-active mind works.

I don’t want to paint myself as fearful.  I have overcome numerous obstacles and in many areas of my life I have become fearless, rising to challenges and not blinking an eye towards the solution or adventure in front of me.  What should also be said, however, is all the fear I have overcome did not necessarily come easily.  I come from a school of hard knocks.  More than often I have hit my head (until bloodied) repeatedly on a hypothetical brick wall before I was into enough of a submission to allow the lightbulb of change and better thinking to illuminate.  Perhaps this pattern is a sign of stubbornness, perhaps it is by-product of the addictive nature I will always possess.  Letting go is not as easy for me as it might be for others and when I hold on to anything I am not open to change, I will not get to see all the choices available to me. Choice becomes limited and what I do see is likely not favorable.

Fear will win.  Fear will always win without the awareness of its existence and the willingness to recognize, walk through and explore the faith that is absent when it’s there.  What I have learned again and again through the many fearful experiences and subsequent (hopeful) growth that followed is I can recognize the evil and focus on moving my way towards the solutions, answers and freedom faith affords anyone who practices it.  When I feel faith fear becomes fightable.  When I am in faith I can steer away from the very over-thinking which could otherwise take me to the darker and far more limited places.

In fear I am limited.  In fear I become limitless.

When I am focused on what I would like to move towards, be it as nebulous as “happiness” or as specific as a new way to make a living, fear will help me to believe the worst about achieving or accomplishing my goals, seeing only the things potentially going wrong or what would be lost in order to possibly gain.  If I am focused on a potential involving hope and opportunity, change with growth, adventure and a world filled with aspects I might never have considered by drawing out my own path alone (especially if laced with any amount of the aforementioned fear,) the process becomes magical and spins a cyclical outcome for better feelings and stronger faith.

How do I change that focus?  Oddly enough faith plays here as well.  Can I recognize I am fearful and stop?  Can I arrest the thinking and evaluate it quickly and easily enough to see it is harming my progress on a path limited in size and scope?  Should I argue with fear or simply shoo it away like a fly at a picnic?  It is obvious to me when I am in fear.  I don’t feel good.  I become unhappy, skeptical, defensive and guarded.  When I am in faith I am the opposite.  The stress is not there, the happiness, the comfort and the trust of the world around me are.  I have often described my concept of a power greater than myself (God, should you choose to call it as such,) exactly this way.  With God I am in faith, without God I live in fear.

Some would argue faith and hope live in a world of fantasy vs. the reality of a world of drama and hard answers.  Problems and “situations” do exist and will happen, but with faith have a potential to become the greatest answers and growth potential in a life.  But the world tends to perpetuate fearful thoughts and scenarios, there is no denying the world has its issues.  There is no escaping the events and topics that promote and could even build fear within any of our hearts.  For me, however, it is always the smaller, more personal matters where fear truly makes its deepest cuts.  It is in the matters occupying my over-thinking that I focus my attention to steering towards the faith and hope I speak of. If I fall into fear around the world I inhabit it is best for me to follow my own advice:

Stop. Smile. Breathe.

 

The choices we make

Once upon a time I was told there were no wrong choices, only “consequences” and results.

I always thought this statement to be interesting considering the amount of times I felt backed into corners or obligated out of fear because of something I told myself I had “no choice” over.

There is always a choice.  Therefore it would seem the question in focus is more about the matter of right versus wrong and not the question of whether the choice is there to make in the first place.

Considering I  am stating there IS always a choice (right, wrong or without any designation of type,) we now move into psychological territories.  Why would we assign a ‘right’ or ‘wrong’ label to a decision at all?  Perhaps it feels simpler to understand an outcome or to know what the future holds based on one’s own previous actions.  Maybe we’ve been here before and the expected result is pretty easy to see.  It’s possible some choices feel or look pretty straightforward.  They might represent a question of morals, attitudes, strengths or weaknesses.  It could be that experience or even intuition is very much aligned or apparent in the potential of whatever this choice (at least the “wrong” version of it) could, would or will provide.

It could be that we are overthinking the process as a result of an inability or unwillingness to commit to ANY outcome, thus procrastinating or avoiding the choice completely.  Sometimes I will avoid making choices because I cannot convince myself to work through what I see as a risk involved (if I quit this job I may not work again and I will end up on the streets.) It is easy for me to see non-decision making as a safeguard, while telling myself I will simply wait for “something to happen” to alter the situation making the need for the choice in front of me null and void.

That scenario, however hopeful,  is not likely.  It can also become a recipe for many long and difficult days of the aforementioned overthinking.  Should I? Shouldn’t I? Will I? Won’t I?  If I do this will happen.  If I don’t this will occur.  I write a journal daily, this is definitely a side-effect of fear and delay tactics in making decisions (which will end up being made one way or the other whether you like it or not.)

Normal human beings probably don’t do that.

Then there is the faith component.  If I am in a good spiritual place I should ideally understand that decisions are nothing more than a lesson, opportunity or fork on the path.  If a choice appears to be something potentially altering in any aspect of my life, it should be obvious there is an opportunity for me to develop and grow.  Whether the opportunity is wholly about changing a situation in your life for the better or not, should not be relevant.  What IS important is recognizing that growth potential all decisions we make are capable of showing and providing us.  With faith comes willingness to accept the outcome of a choice, knowing it will possibly bring with it some hardship, perhaps a step or two backwards or a brand new, unknown experience one would never have considered without staring it completely in the face.  That being said, the result could also be spectacular and filled with all manners of pleasing outcome.

Unfortunately where fear is involved, faith is missing.  If I feel I cannot make a choice because it could potentially bring aspects and results I am sure would be difficult, I am still working on my perceptions of that outcome.  Those perceptions are likely based on my fears of something I do not necessarily know.  Perhaps I have known similar experiences but I do not hold the key to the future.  If I fear something from experience I would be better to remember the experience could very well have taught me how to avoid the same result in a new choice made.  Creating an outcome as a fact is like my playing God.  It does not show faith in myself or in my idea of what God is or can do, it does not show willingness and it does not give me the opportunity to experience new levels of awareness and growth.  It is a trap and all too often ill-handling of the many choices we are presented can hold us prisoner from full and future potential.

Leap and the net will appear.  Even the choices which don’t necessarily provide the picture of what we would believe to be the ideal result will offer us the chance to learn, create, mold and reshape opinions of ourselves, the world around us and the path we are on.  Every choice has an opportunity involved, although some come with prettier packages and others require patience and acceptance within a detour.  My experience has been filled with detours which, if not taken, I might not have had a plethora of other experiences valuable to the person I am today.

Choices can also offer the element of surprise.  Something which doesn’t initially feel like a slam dunk in a decision could end up being filled with opportunity and become “better” than anything you would have originally anticipated had you decided in another direction.  We do not know the future and can often be selling ourselves short by believing we do.

Choices are not always life altering.  There are times when a choice could be as simple as going somewhere or not going somewhere, getting out of bed or not, taking a job or not taking a job.  There may be no assigned outcome to either way of going in this sort of decision.  But Contrary action (going in a direction you are not inclined for whatever reason) could bring you to a place where you find a distinct happiness, meet a pivotal person, hear a magnificent message or learn a life lesson.  This sort of choice could be almost invisible to you, but has the potential to change your life in large or small ways.

Today I have choices to make.  Each one holds a value to both the person I am and could or will be.  Each will be considered, but not pondered too long.  All will change or alter the path I am on.  How?  I don’t know but I am looking forward to seeing.  Patience.

Stop. Smile. Breathe.

 

 

 

Defining Pride and requesting dignity

For those will agree with the SCOTUS decision recently announced, I thank you.  Fortunately you are in the majority.

For those of you who do not agree I ask you to consider the human battle for dignity and the point behind the pride that is felt by a homosexual individual in a country that largely has condescended to our existence either by ignoring why we exist as we do, condemning our nature as abhorrent or evil, feigning tolerance where it is not needed or necessary, or fighting our basic human rights under a veil of oft-misinterpreted or spun religious jargon used as a weapon to protect you from your fears and misgivings about something you simply do not understand.

Or in some cases you DO understand and cannot accept (or admit about yourself) based on those same misinterpretations and calls for judgment.

What is pride but the need for us to build our own lives in a shape that shies away from the shame and inequality we have been surrounded by?  Pride allows me to remember I am equal in the eyes of God, even if your interpretation of a man-made text tells you otherwise.  I am thrilled to see that the levels of pride and inequality are shifting in my lifetime.  This and the tremendous growth in support over time have brought me to tears on numerous occasions.   My gratitude is immense.

The real question remains: why should my marriage effect anyone else?   Where is my marriage threatening any other marriage, individual freedom or right to live in equality or dignity within the frame of our constitution?  Where is my marriage a threat to your marriage or your life?  Do you feel we will be judged for how we were created, or perhaps you still believe the judgment will come from what you believe is something we’ve chosen?

You would deny love and the chance to share that love as an equal to every other citizen in this country you wave the flag for?  Without the equality in marriage a gay man or woman is not afforded the same rights.  How are these rights for us posing a danger to you?  Where do you lose anything tangible from this gain for us?

You say God and the bible speaks to the definition of marriage as “between one man and one woman,” and so condemn any other definition as unholy or untrue.  The bible, you will say, portrays homosexuality as a sin.  But the bible also goes on to say divorce is a sin.  In fact, it adds that in divorce the wife should be stoned.  How many of our politicians crying out this “one man and one woman” definition have themselves been divorced? Once? Twice? How is picking and choosing bible interpretations concrete justification for denying other human beings created by the same God you would stand behind as righteous and “real?”

And there are so many other proclamations of sin in the Bible.  How do they all fit into your life.  Are they not important simply because they don’t pertain to the need you’ve spun out of this interpretation?

Look at what you fear.  It is creating a false sense of power within your thinking.  That is allowing you to decide that you, as a mere human, are able to judge and point the finger at those who are different than yourself.  How does this stack up for what you believe to be judgment day?  Do you believe God created only one flavor and the rest is less important?  Do you feel there is a divine right to living and all those who do not fit that definition are patently wrong or less than by comparison?  Are you truly able to steadfastly assign yourself as “God” by defining a man-written book into something that would allow you to judge others… a decidedly UN-God like quality?

Take a closer look.  Without picking and choosing what fits your agenda or co-signs your fears, are you sure you completely fit the definition yourself? Do you fit every statement made in the Bible?  Are you, by chance, thinking you are actually God-like?

It would be hypocritical for me to condemn those who condemn me.  I do not live in your shoes.  I do not suffer your fears or deal with your demons.  I, as a homosexual man, have lived with my own and would not wish that upon any soul living in an already contentious world.  Believe what you will believe.  Be what you will be.  But please open your minds to basic human rights and dignities.  We are all created equal even IF you don’t want to believe it.  Even IF your fears require you separate you from those not like you to “keep you safe.”

Dignity. In the big picture, that is all being asked for.  That is all we have fought for.  That is all that was won in the recent Supreme Court decision.

All love is equal.  All lives should be as well.  That is all.

Stop. Smile. Breathe.

On trusting in trust

One of the more difficult evolutions of my character and personality has been to trust.  The very idea has raised the hair on my neck over the years and the thought of it’s potential failure has set up fear alarms on many an occasion.

I admit I used to think it would probably be easier to assume nothing and nobody can be trusted.  The reality of this type of thinking resulted in living life looking over one’s shoulder and never truly understanding the core concept of relationships or peace as a result.

Life is filled with turning points (if we are lucky) and I have been truly blessed.  To believe in any form of sadness (whether intentional or not) as an easier path for living (hopefully) taking that person to an eventual point where it’s best to understand and perhaps redefine the word “easy.”

What is easy about believing nothing that means anything can work because you have built up a wall designed solely to “protect” you from being hurt, humiliated, shamed, disappointed or even embarrassed in the potential of failure?  Living inside that wall of protection can be perceived as a way to avoid the hurt and pain, but why would the unknown or unexperienced joys and successes not be worth the risk?

To trust in the best result, the right outcome or the success of a decision is the truest and most beautiful form of faith.  Isn’t trust just faith in the first place?  I put my trust in you or in anything and I am expressing an inward faith in the result (even if the obvious goal is a favorable outcome.)

But once I learned more about faith versus fear I began to understand the complex madness and beauty in simple trust and the issues began to melt away.  It isn’t necessarily smart to jump to the full opposite of the fear that built the walls.  I have learned to hone, listen to and heed my basic instincts and intuition.  When I know something is not to be trusted innately it is likely something I should steer away from.  But I finally learned things actually can be trusted and began to climb out of the hole I had voluntarily built.

The best way for me to learn how to trust was to trust (I know, that’s deep.)  Program tells me to take the leap and the net will appear.  In another conclusion I have learned to understand in some of my failures as possibly the best ways to lead me further towards my successes.  Making mistakes is not detrimental to my character or reputation.  I am stronger for each decision and it’s result, whatever that may end up being.  But in trusting I have become wiser and the result of the many, many times my trust and faith in a situation, place, person or thing has worked has opened my mind allowing me to grow and mature as a human doing (instead of just being.)

I once had a sponsor tell me there were no mistakes.  Yes, there are always consequences and results but we cannot be guaranteed they will be bad… and we cannot be sure even the bad result is not going to change our life in ways we may not have been able to experience otherwise.  Everything has it’s reason.  Everything has it’s purpose.  All my decisions were a basic part of the path I am on.  Even some of the things one could argue were NOT my decisions became part of the path based on my reactions to them.

But when I do not trust in the potential action taken:  the “yes,” the relationship, the decision, the experience… I risk not finding a truer, more vivid potential on the short trip on Earth.  I trust because I need the adventure.  I trust because I crave the change and I adore the growth.  I am teachable and trust helps me to learn. Where I don’t trust I am limiting my view, my potential and more than likely my mood about all things around me.  When I don’t trust I often end up in resentment and, as I have been taught, resentment is liking taking poison and expecting someone else to die.

Today I choose to trust in my future, my path, my relationships, my continued growth.  Faith is stronger than anything I could ever muster up on my own.  In it I am powerful.  It allows me the strength and happiness to enjoy life as I need to.  It really is happening for me and NOT to me.

Stop. Smile. Breathe.

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