LIVE Your Life

By Shannon Boatwright

“In all the chaos and hurry, do not forget to notice the beauty and miracle of this world. Slow down. Notice. Observe. Be aware. Allow presence and awe to come back into your life.”

-Brendon Burchard

Listen to the sounds of a creek.
Notice and look at the beauty of the earth, the beauty of trees, plants, flowers, their growth.
Be still and allow yourself to take it all in.
Allow yourself to float. Just relax.
Swing on that swing and recognize the joy in the simplicity of swinging gently through the air.
Dance! Allow music to take you away and generate movement in your body!
Run with a kite!
Play with the children. Make the children smile.
Brighten others days, even with just a simple smile.
Make time for those you love. Hug and love on each other.
Love on and listen to your pets. They love you unconditionally.
Recognize the beauty and joy around you.
Take time to recognize the beauty and joy in the simple things.
Play in the sprinkler!
Take adventures. Make adventures.
Spend quality time with friends and family. Really listen and be present for them, for you.
Smell the flowers. Just stop and notice them, look at their wondrous beauty.
Do things that make YOU happy.
Relax on a hammock.
Enjoy dessert!

Don’t let the chaos and hurry of the world steal your joy.

Live your life.

Really LIVE.

(Video link: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3aKydKNEmgA)

We’re Only Human

By Shannon Boatwright

Is it ok to sometimes be sad? Is it ok to just cry? Cry because your heart hurts and you need to release the emotions? Is it ok to be mad? Are you sometimes mad at the world and want to throw your own private hissy fit? Absolutely. YES. YES. And, scream it with me, YES!

It’s completely natural to have these moments. We are human after all.

Why am I sharing the above? Well, I tend to be what I call a “Positivity Promoter”. I’m all about positive thinking and positive thoughts leading to everything from success to healing, on all levels. I am a huge user and promoter of the power of imagination and when used in a positive way, I truly do believe that you can genuinely create positive things in your life – whether by simply generating creativity, or actually creating your own success and/or healing with the power of positive thinking and visualization.Its Ok

BUT, and yes, this is an BIG “but”,… sometimes it’s flat out necessary to feel the human emotion of sadness, hurt, anger…Like I said before, we are human after all. Anyone who attempts to be a force of positivity in every single moment, is, well, going to fail. And that’s actually not a bad thing. We need to have our moments of sadness. We need to have our moments of pain. We need to have our moments of anger. Do we want a lot of those moments? Absolutely NOT. But the reality is, it’s a natural part of life to experience pain, hurt, anger and loss. A harsh reality that so very many of us wish that we could change.

The reality also though, is that it’s those moments of sadness, hurt, and anger that help us cling to the positive; to grasp hold of faith, love, kindness, generosity, and goodness – that positive nature that gives us hope. We may not achieve understanding or acceptance, but we gain hope amongst the hurt. The positivity rejuvenates us, fills our hearts with what I’d like to think of as literal smiles… actual happiness.

We are all such unique, special, outstanding individuals. Personal happiness is defined differently within each of us. As well as sadness and hurt – we all experience these emotions in different ways, we handle them in different ways. As humans we are so incredibly beautiful in our own, precious individual ways on the outside physically. And on the inside, physically, we are the same, we have the same parts no matter what our exterior color, size, etc, etc, etc. BUT, we all feel differently, in outstanding, unique ways on the inside. There is no exact equation for how everyone experiences emotion and handles the stresses of life.

So, why is a “Positivity Promoter”, who typically tries to spread rays of sunshine and smiles to all those around her at all times, even daring to speak of recognizing the negative emotions of life? Well, I’ve always delved into the world of harsh emotions – I mean, it really is an inevitable part of human nature. Only those close to you typically will ever have an inkling that you are a real person living in this all too real and harsh world, a person that indeed faces negativity and actually experiences it too, sometimes on a daily level. Some of us are really good at hiding the unhappiness. Especially in today’s world in which people promote themselves on social media as having the perfect, photo-shopped lives. Most of us only post our beauty and happy moments. Naturally. And thankfully. We can only handle so much negativity. Think about how many times you see someone post on Facebook, “I can’t handle all the terrible negativity with people’s posts. I’m taking a hiatus from Facebook. See ya.” I personally see it A LOT. And, hey, I don’t blame them. The negativity and nonsense can get terribly overwhelming and next thing you know, you’re in an awful depression and the really bad stuff isn’t even directly affecting your life. It’s a crazy thing.

Honestly, I think as I’ve entered my 40s – note I said, “entered”! – my emotions have taken a turn for what I think I’ll call, the realistic. At this point in my lifetime, in my maturity, in my struggle/battle and constant adventure to create success, happiness and share my talents, I also feel more…on a real level. Let’s face it, the older you get, the more you experience reality – all the real and pure realities of this consistently challenging life. And most unfortunately, as us women get older, our hormones seem to take us on a tormenting roller coaster ride that feels like a joy ride one second and a death defying, catastrophic plane crash the next second. On any given day, I can be facing depression straight in its ugly face, all the while trying my very best to combat it at every turn, feeling beaten down by the world, it’s hardships, feeling ugly, chubby, not worthy, you name it…all the while, granted, I will do my absolute damnedest to hide it, to overcome it. I’m aware of it, I know better, I know my worth, I believe in myself, I know I can combat the negative emotions…, but daggomit it’s just hard sometimes. And sometimes you just need to be sad, you just need to cry, you just need to be angry. Then, the flip side, I can wake up the very next day and be thankfully full of strength and thankfulness. It’s a glorious thing to feel this way – to be truly full of positivity and feel it to your core, a gratefulness for the recognition of positivity despite all the negative nonsense that we could allow to overcome us.

 

And there it is. See, I fortunately have the ability to overcome the negative moments, for now at least. Others aren’t so capable. Their genetic make-up doesn’t allow them to reach for the positivity or come out of the negativity like a so called “normal” human being. I’m incredibly blessed that I do not have to rely on medicine to help level me out and allow me to think and rationalize clearly. I personally feel blessed to have the ability to recognize when I’m experiencing any negative emotions, I know I have the ability to pull myself out of it. I know the sadness, hurt and anger will pass. Some of those emotions are always there due to life experiences, but they help me to be stronger, help me to recognize the power of the positive in my life.

The following excerpt is from a piece Time Magazine posted. This article is what really got me thinking and helped me to gain an acceptance of the fact that it’s ok to experience ALL emotions and that I do not have to be positive all the time.

“Overemphasis on positive emotions denies the key role negative emotions play in our human experience. Negative emotions serve important functions in that they motivate us to take action or help us give up on goals that are no longer tenable. There is also evidence that experiencing a range of emotions, both positive and negative, has beneficial health consequences, including longer life.

Instead of empowering people to exercise what control they may have, we end up blaming them if they aren’t able to dig themselves out of a difficult situation, and this adds to their stress rather than lessening it. Perhaps most dangerous, by placing the onus on the individual to think positive thoughts to simply feel better about their situation, we neglect the importance of working to change the social or institutional causes of the stress which may perpetuate the systems of oppression, discrimination, or inequality that caused the epidemic of stress in the first place.

But we should not throw the positive emotion baby out with the positivity bathwater. There is, after all, mounting evidence that positive emotions are associated with a host of beneficial outcomes, including better health and longer life. In my research, our goal is to help people learn ways to experience more positive emotion on a daily basis even when life is stressful — not banishing negative experiences or emotions.

My lab is not the only one doing this kind of work. Dr. Jeff Huffman and his colleagues at Harvard and Massachusetts General Hospital are finding that a program that teaches cardiac in-patients skills for increasing positive emotion shows promise for improving not only well-being, but also physical activity, a key health behavior for people recovering from acute coronary events.

Moreover, making space for positive emotions alongside the negative supports more effective coping and may provide us with the capacity to take on the bigger structural issues that cause stress.”

(from Emotions Expert: It’s Impossible to be Constantly Positive. Try This Instead by Judith K. Moskowitz, June 5, 2018, http://time.com/5300649/positivity-professor/)

So is it ok to be sad sometimes and want to be ok with being sad and allowing yourself to cry? Absolutely. It’s a real part of surviving this life. Sometimes the hurt and anger help guide us to the answers or to the positive sides of life. It’s a very powerful, yin/yang kind of thing. One cannot, does not truly live this life without the other.

Light vs dark, human nature vs human events – Yin/Yang. It’s a fascinating concept.

I will continue to promote positivity, because I know and have experienced the beautiful side effects of thinking and believing in goodness and greatness. But, on the flip side, I will allow myself to feel…to feel sadness, to feel hurt, to feel anger. I will do my best to stay in control of those emotions and to always learn from them, gain strength from them and gain relief from the release that they can provide to my all too human body that feels all and at every turn attempts to survive.

Allow yourself to feel and learn from your feelings. You can grow strength, relief and understanding from the natural emotions that your body is meant to experience. All this being said, allow yourself to be human. It’s ok. It really is.

 

Music, The Virtual Time Machine

By Shannon Boatwright

“The music that touches you in your youth is magnified as you get older. Each record can be a virtual time machine – all you need is to hear a second or two and you go back to that place and time when you first heard it.  It’s a brilliant feeling when music touches you so profoundly and stays with you through time.”

  • Rob Halford

Music, for me, is an incredible source of inspiration on so many levels. Rob Halford is considered a Metal God. His voice is out of this world – his vocal abilities and range have put him on the top of the lists as one of the best voices of rock.  After reading up on him, what I really like most about him is his passion for music and his recognition of its ability to truly transport people.  One of my favorite drummers, Brad Wilk, posted this quote by Rob on his Instagram. It really caught my eye because I truly cannot imagine life without music. Music is what helps to fuel my world, keep me motivated, keep me inspired.  All types of music have this lovely ability to take you away, envelop you in its graces and flood you with memories, visions and dreams.Music, The Virtual Time Machine

When I hear certain music, I am most definitely transported to another time. Sometimes instantly. For example, if I hear “Coming to America” by Neil Diamond, I am instantly transported to my living room back in my elementary and middle school days when my mother would blast his music while we cleaned house. She would have it playing loud and proud and I secretively loved it, especially this song. I can see the room, I can smell the fragrances of our home, I can see my Mom singing along and getting taken away by the passion of the song. Growing up with a professional pianist mother who loves music immensely and music is literally her life, well, you get influenced! It’s inevitable. Whether it was classical music, Neil Diamond, Abba, Julio Iglesias, gospel music, classic rock or Yanni – music has always filled the homes that I grew up in.

Music was and is a source of therapy, a source of freedom, a source of great escape. And goodness knows, when I hear certain songs, I am totally transported back in time!  I can hear a song from the movie Annie and instantly be transported to the early 1980s when I would act out the entire movie in my living room for my family. I can hear the song “Dumb Dog” from when Annie is singing to the dog Sandy and instantly feel myself back in my childhood backyard where I used to sing the song to my own dog as I wandered around my yard pretending I was on the streets of New York. I can even smell the pine trees!  When I hear the Guns-n-Roses’ song, “November Rain” I am totally taken back to 1992 when my best friend Tammy and I went to the Metallica/Guns-n-Roses concert at Williams Brice Stadium and thought we were the coolest chicks ever.  Or, “Crockadile Rock” by Elton John, which takes me right to my varsity cheerleading auditions in which I overcame insecurities and went for it, having a blast with the choreography, making the varsity team.  I think of my team and Coach Elliott every time I hear that song and I can literally feel the school carpet under my sneakers as I rehearsed and auditioned.

I could fill page after page of the songs that create a time machine for me that transports me back to glorious moments and memories in which I can still remember the setting perfectly, recreating the moment in such a way that I feel I could close my eyes and still feel, see, and touch everything around me from that special moment in time.  It’s a brilliant thing indeed to be touched so profoundly!  My wish is that my mind and heart are able to always hold onto to this sensory ability that music brings out in me. Here’s to hoping my virtual time machine never breaks down! I hope and pray that music will always have this magical ability to transport me, allowing memories to flood my senses.

Where does your virtual time machine take you? What songs transport you to fabulous moments and special memories?  Pay attention and take note of these priceless songs and allow them to take you back, so that they can stay with you throughout your lifetime!

Stunning Success

By Shannon Boatwright

For the 2017-2018 school year, this phrase, “stunning success”, has become my new favorite…

Stunning

adjective

extremely impressive or attractive.

synonyms remarkable, extraordinary, staggering, incredible, outstanding, amazing, astonishing, marvelous, phenomenal, splendid;

 

This phrase, “stunning success” was used to describe one of my productions with my honors students this past year – and by the playwright herself, no less.

My 2017-18 school year has been one of my busiest – which I say that every year and each year I seem to top myself in the busy department. But this past year, I can with confidence say, was a remarkable, outstanding, marvelous, impressive year! Certainly stunning!

I had my heaviest workload yet as a teacher/director responsible for the success of three big productions throughout the school year.  One of the productions being the school district musical. This was a huge undertaking that required an enormous amount of time and effort, and my first time ever directing a school district wide production. Needless to say, it was a major relief when myself, my production team and cast’s hard work paid off with, yes, a stunning success.

I produced and directed one of largest, most successful 8th grade honors drama performances, gaining recognition from the playwright, Lindsay Price with the reputable, drama resource company, Theatrefolk.

Stunning Success: Shuddersome: Tales of Poe

And using the same fabulous resource of Theatrefolk, I produced and directed another play from their catalogue by playwright Lindsay Price, called Box, for the 7th grade honors drama end of the year production. It too was a surprising, stunning success.

pic 1To know that you were able to inspire audiences and talented, young individuals, is a real gift. I’m exhausted from having such an overwhelming, busy school year, but I am ever grateful for the hard work and dedication having paid off.  So I’ve decided that the phrase, “Stunning Success”, is my 2017-2018 mantra that I plan to continue grasping ahold of as I enter new phases of my life. I hope that I can continue doing extraordinary things, making remarkable differences in others lives and continue to create stunning successes!

And I’d like to take the moment here to remind you and myself, that we have the ability to be stunning in everything that we do. We don’t have to accomplish major things, achieve big awards or direct huge shows to be stunning. We can be stunning in the little things as well! So my challenge to myself and to everyone is to do your best to be stunning – find ways to be extraordinary, marvelous, outstanding and amazing on every level. Whether with a smile or act of kindness to a stranger, in the special time with family & friends, in taking steps to take care of yourself…infuse a dose of fabulousness in all that you do. I am certain it will make your life more splendid. Stunning, in fact. 😉

Nature Deficit Disorder

By Shannon Boatwright

My name is Shannon and I am suffering from Nature Deficit Disorder.

I read a most fabulous article in the recent Columbia Metropolitan Magazine, titled “Forest Bathing – A walk in the woods for the soul” by Warren Hughes.  What a wonderful read and at a time in my life when I’m definitely at a deficit for getting outdoors to enjoy myself. Ironically the only reason I even had the opportunity to relax and read was because my back was hurting so bad after a long school day of moving too many heavy objects around on my stage at school and my sweet husband had prepared the bathtub for me so I would soak in an epsom salt bath and hopefully feel better. I made myself put up my phone and actually try to relax. I took the opportunity to flip through the latest magazine that had come in the mail that I had not had the time to look at in the past weeks.  As I soaked and read, I was pleasantly surprised at the inspiring information within the magazine. It was almost as if the universe was sending me a very strong message!

Rainbows over Lake Murray, SC

Rainbows over Lake Murray

According to what I read, I totally have a nature deficit disorder!  Being a drama teacher, whose classroom is a stage – a large room with NO windows, and whose office is a small concrete room, with NO windows, who spends hours upon hours after school directing productions in theatres, with NO windows, …well, it starts to wear on you after many years. Especially during the school year’s busy season of productions and after school commitments, I get home exhausted and taking a walk or bike ride just doesn’t seem like an option.

But I know well enough that it’s something I can’t put off. Like exercise, I realize that it’s a requirement in order to feel better overall. I have to make it happen. Even when I’m so busy. Yes, even when I’m so busy! I don’t want to be the person that always says, “someday or whenever I’m finally less busy, I’ll do such and such.” At this point in my life I have to recognize the importance of making it a priority and a requirement so that I can live my healthiest life, mentally and physically.

Last summer when I had the honor and great privilege of traveling to France and Switzerland with my mother, I was truly refreshed, invigorated, inspired and overwhelmed in a most wonderful way being in, breathing in and seeing a part of nature I’d never ever seen before. Being in that beauty, in person, was truly glorious. There really are no words to adequately describe it.

Nature's Glory in Switzerland

Nature’s Glory in Switzerland

Switzerland Overflows with Nature's Beauty

Switzerland Overflows with Nature’s Beauty

Quoting John Muir in the article, John Cely says, “Climb the mountains and get their good tidings. Nature’s peace will flow into you as sunshine flows into trees. The winds will blow their own freshness into you, and the storms their energy, while cares will drop away from you like the leaves of autumn.”

I mean, come on! Is that not beautiful!? I know I could really use some of nature’s peace flowing into me like sunshine flows into trees! And who doesn’t want cares and worries to drop from your body like the leaves of autumn?

Sipping Coffee Amongst the Gorgeousness of France

Sipping coffee amongst the gorgeousness of France

In the article it speaks of getting into nature as an imperative, not just a luxury. It’s crucial. Crucial to our well-being on so many levels.  There are studies that prove that being indoors for too long is literally physically and mentally bad for our health. It makes complete sense to me. Our society’s dependency on screens, all our gadgets that we of all ages seem to be so addicted and attached to nowadays, is turning us all into very sick people. It’s a sad state of unwell being.

How do we deal in today’s society? How do we combat this overwhelming deficit? Awareness is a start for sure. This idea of a disorder resulting from a nature deficit is no new concept. It’s been growing for decades, most of us have just been too busy in front of our screens to notice.

In The Nature Fix, subtitled “Why nature makes us happier, healthier, and more creative,” bestselling author Florence Williams explores state-of-the-art research from three continents to explain the inestimable benefits that spending time in nature has on the body, mind, and soul.

Columbia Metropolitan Magazine

“Forest Bathing – A walk in the woods for the soul” by Warren Hughes

I don’t know why anyone in their right mind would argue that getting outdoors isn’t good for you. It just makes sense. Mother Nature is not just powerful in negative ways, her amazing, positive ways far outweigh the negative. She has a glorious abundance of healing power and beauty to offer if we just take the time to see it, be in it and experience it.

Even in the Suburbs, Nature's Beauty is Present

Even in the suburbs, Nature’s Beauty is Present

Now that I’m aware of my deficiency, I plan to dedicate time to fixing it and filling more of my time refreshing myself basking in nature’s glory. Like so many others, I need it. I know I need it. My body, my mind, my heart, my soul needs to soak in the healing powers of nature. It lies right outside my door and doesn’t have to cost me a thing, doesn’t even have to cost me tons of time. A bit of an awakening is on the horizon – one that will benefit me on many positive levels. I’m ready for journeys and adventures that will allow peace, freshness and energy to flow into me! Here’s to combating the nature deficit disorder!

 

 

Be the Light

By Shannon Boatwright

Don’t wait on the light at the end of the tunnel. Be the light.

Annually I have many events that require tons of planning, preparation, and hours upon hours of hard work that lead up to some sort of final big event. Just recently I successfully survived one of the biggest endeavors I’ve ever accomplished. I directed the Lexington Richland School District Five musical. My first time ever directing a production of this caliber with students across an entire school district.  To say it was a huge job is an understatement. Fortunately, it was an enormous success and I am proud beyond words at the incredible final product and knowing that all of mine and my production team/cast/crew’s hard work paid off immensely. Most importantly, many young, precious minds were inspired and together we collaborated to create entertainment success. A priceless opportunity indeed.

During the process of working toward our success, many people would say to me, as they saw me in my exhausted states, “There’s a light at the end of the tunnel, girl! You got this! It’ll be all over soon.” In fact, anytime I have a big project or production going on, very often I hear these sorts of statements about there being a light at the end of the tunnel.

This got me thinking.  Yes, the process can be excruciating and yes, we definitely look forward to the end product finally coming to fruition and being checked off of our calendar. But aren’t we missing the point in a sense? It’s the process that creates the success, so if we only focus on the light at the end of the tunnel, then we’re neglecting the beauty of the process that takes place as we go through that tunnel. Had I not done my best work to direct and create confidence in my cast and cooperate and communicate with my production team and crew, then that supposed light at the end of the tunnel would’ve never been able to shine.

So I am making a conscious decision to attempt to Be the Light. I don’t want to just look ahead to the end, I want to make the best of the moment, seize the day and enjoy the process. That light doesn’t have to just be at the end of the tunnel. I can create it every step of the way.

So the next time you have something big on the horizon, will you only look towards the ending product, not living for the here and now? Or will you allow yourself to enjoy the process and shine along the way?

Don’t wait on the light at the end of the tunnel. Be the light!

 

No Electricity!? OH NO!!

By Shannon Boatwright

A rockin’ storm pounded through my area of Lexington, SC recently, with four tornadoes touching down. Not cool. On many levels. The main level being that many people suffered damage to their properties. From what I’ve heard, I don’t think anyone was hurt thankfully. Most of us were just inconvenienced with power outages. One of those people being my family. We were without power for over 6 hours. Yes, only 6 hours. I know, that’s totally & absolutely nothing compared to what so many Americans have had to suffer through when it has come to Mother Nature ravaging our cities with her craziness over the past few years across the country.

But the truth is, you never know how much you truly use electricity, until you no longer have it! It was comical how many times we’d all try to flip on light switches and other basic things, knowing we had no power, but doing it out of habit. My 12 year-old son would start flipping light switches on & off repeatedly as if the simple act would make it actually work & bring the electricity back.

Naturally I was in the middle of doing loads of laundry. And of course I’d also planned to wait until later afternoon/night to bathe, wash my really dirty hair and do more housework and school work.

I learned firsthand that in my house apparently, I need electricity in order to have hot water. Having to wash my big head of hair, leaning over the tub to wash this thick mane of mine, with incredibly cold water, was not fun. Though my hubby may say otherwise, as I think he enjoyed the laugh that my squirming and squealing gave him as I suffered through the cold water and attempted to give myself a literal washcloth bath trying to get clean with zero hot water.IMG_7093

We thought my angel boy, Sawyer, would totally lose it without internet access. Heaven forbid a kid nowadays have to go without a connection to the internet and gaming world! And my angel girl, Mina, completely prepped our bathroom with all the amenities that she thought we’d need in the event that a tornado hit and we have to take shelter in the tiny downstairs bathroom. Here are the things she made sure to place in the bathroom for our protection and survival…

One blanket, a candle, a stale package of saltines, bananas, a can of beans, some cotton balls, one cup of water and some chocolate – cause you know, no one should have to battle a tornado without some chocolate.  I asked Mina, why the cotton balls? There’s already a basket of toilet paper rolls in the bathroom. She said, “Mama, if anyone gets cut, the cotton balls will soak up the blood better!”

IMG_7096

She also pointed out that she could admit that in the case of a tornado she actually liked our toilet lights that normally aggravate her, because they run off of batteries. (We have those super fun toilet lights on our toilets that are motion detected and create a mini dance party in your toilet if you go to use the bathroom without turning on the room light. I personally love it because then I don’t have to blast the bathroom light when I have to go potty in the middle of the night.)  I was only reminded to take a picture of the little bathroom survival set-up when our dog, Monte, caught our attention as he kept trying to eat the chocolate and crackers in the bathroom.

So here’s the deal – the lack of electricity issue was only, simply, an inconvenience. As we dealt with the aggravation throughout the day, making the best of it all, I kept thinking about what it would be like to live in a world without electricity and not know any better. Back in the day, there were no luxuries of what electricity brings. No warm water, no easily, quickly heating up/cooking food. No fancy washing and drying machines. No computers, tvs and gadgets that provide entertainment, and certainly no internet.

Did the power outage totally throw off my to-do list and plans for the day with the family? Absolutely. When you’re used to doing things a certain way, no matter what, it’s gonna throw you off. But could I still live, survive and thrive? Of course. Do you have to have the luxury of electricity to survive? Absolutely not. Do I feel totally bad fussing about losing ONLY about 6 hours of electricity? YES!

The positive point in all this…I appreciate this luxury of electricity something fierce! Especially the warm water part. I could do without internet and even without being able to cook food using electricity, but goodness, do I ever totally appreciate the ability/luxury to take a hot bath or hot shower!  It’s these occasions that create an appreciation in you that words may not be able to express. Let’s just say I’m ever thankful to be growing up in a world that provides us so many incredible luxuries that spoil us so very much!

Take the time to think on it. What would your life really be like without electricity? How would you cope? And I mean if AFTER experiencing the joys and pleasures of electricity, how would you deal with suddenly not ever having it again? Something to ponder for sure.