Wednesday, January 13, 2016

Leaf Fifty-three: Starting from the beginning

Three years later and I am back to where it all started - the best New Year's resolution I ever had. Fifty-two leaves ended because I did not know what the next chapter was going to be. I thought I would just keep blogging and talking about the things that were inspiring me. But without the accountability piece, the writing dwindled off and I moved on with my life. Many incredible things have happened since then, all of which I contribute to the year I spent getting out of my comfort zone, taking risks, and committing to be a better version of myself. All of which lead me back here. A few years ago, fifty-two leaves became a mentality for me - each week I sought out with an attitude to try something new - and it worked. 

Why do we ever stop doing something that works? 

I stopped because that was what made sense to me at the time. The year was over, I completed my goal, it was time to move on. The end. That's how my brain works. Check something off the list and move on to the next. It's really all kind of ironic.  Fifty-two leaves was created to "get out of" the order of things and then it ended for similar reasons as to why it started, because that was what was "supposed to happened". I reverted back to the certainty that makes me feel safe and all to often gets in the way of being the best version of myself. 

Today, I'm bringing what worked back. Back to putting myself out there and blogging about it. 

As the New Year came around it got me thinking about my goals, what I've accomplished, and where I want to go next. It brought me here. To the space that taught me so much about myself. I've decided that fifty-two leaves doesn't need to end - it can exist for as long as I can write - because growth is never ending. Spending a year getting out of my comfort zone created opportunities, new relationships, and incredible spiritual freedom. I've realized that I want to consciously live my life like that forever. 

So here's to my latest leaf. Starting from the beginning and continuing to do what works. 

Monday, December 31, 2012

Leaf Fifty-two: It's Only the Beginning

It’s hard to know where to start as the feeling of accomplishing what I set out to do this past year is a bit surreal. The time has flown by, but the transformation of my soul is one that will last a lifetime. One of the greatest lessons fifty-two leaves has taught me is that living wholeheartedly is a never ending journey. Rather than fulfilling a goal and moving on to the next, I have established a lifestyle that requires consistent faith, self-exploration, and connection with those around me. I feel an overwhelming sense of spirituality at this time, something that I never knew before. The gratitude for life that holds my heart allows me to see the meaning in each day, showing me how to connect to the moments that are worth living for. I will forever look back on 2012 and smile, for it was the year that I discovered who Ash truly is and what she is capable of. Thank you to all who supported me, inspired my writing, and came along for the ride.


Today, I am recognizing where I started, as it set the foundation for what took place this past year. If anyone is to take anything from my journey, I hope they remember the words of Dr. Brené Brown, “Wholehearted living is about engaging in our lives from a place of worthiness. It means cultivating the courage, compassion, and connection to wake up in the morning and think, No matter what gets done and how much is left undone, I am enough”. We are all enough, today, right now. Worthy of love, both for ourselves and others. The hardest thing I think we will ever overcome in this lifetime is the battle that takes place within ourselves. It was not until I decided to love me, my imperfections and all, that I was able to truly live. One lesson that I bring consistently into my work, is that of self-love. From personal experience, I know that until we have a loving relationship with our own soul, we are unable to truly know that type of relationship elsewhere.


“It’s the rule of life that everything you have always wanted comes the very second you stop looking for it!” –Unknown


Before fifty-two leaves, I searched for Ash through external experiences. If someone could love me, than that meant I was worthy. I was continuously let down, feeling worse with each rejection, whether it was a significant other, family member, or friend, I depended on their feedback for my own self-love. One of the greatest things to come from fifty-two leaves is the relationship I now have with myself. It may sound a bit narcissistic, but I believe with my whole heart that we are only able to love others as much as we love ourselves. The compassion I have for my faults and mistakes have helped me overcome much shame. It is taught me how to teach others how to cultivate appreciation for who they are. Most importantly, it has taught me how to love. The moment I stopped looking for my heart everywhere else and turned inward, I discovered an everlasting peace.


With that peace, I have been able to cultivate meaning into my life. My relationships with my family and friends and others around me have never been stronger. I seek connection for the right reasons, rather than hoping others will tell me I am “lovable”. Because I know I am worthy, I am able to give incredible compassion and love to those around me. My work as a therapist has transformed, allowing me to create an environment for others to heal. I am so humbled by the experiences of my clients, their strength and the courage they have to share their stories. I have discovered a love for a man who makes me a better person. Who challenges me every day, makes me laugh, and has taught me what it means to truly love another. Dallas gives me hope for relationships, that as we come to love ourselves we are able to thrive with our partners.


Gratitude is the driving force behind fifty-two leaves. Being grateful, and seeking out gratefulness, has filled my heart in an invaluable way. The ritual of practicing gratitude in my life fuels my wholehearted journey. Although my fifty-two leaves are coming to a close, the spirit that has been created will continue to live on forever. It takes practice every single day to know that I am worthy, that I deserve to be loved. Life is full of challenges, ups that feel so high, and downs that make it seem like the world is falling apart. To be happy and healthy is to not be free of those downs, it is to realize that we all have them and if we believe in ourselves, love who we are, we can overcome anything.


While this seems like the end, for me, it is only the beginning. Tune in for words to come, I am thinking of titling my next blog…My Wholehearted Life. Happy New Year!




Saturday, December 29, 2012

Leaf Fifty-one: On My Highway

Last Saturday, my best friend Lex and I made the 5hour trek from San Diego to Las Vegas. This wasn’t our first road trip together and it won’t be our last, but like all the ones that came before, there is no one I would rather have in the car than her. I blogged about this lovely woman many leaves back, yet, there will never be enough words to describe how important she has become in my life. About 7.5 years ago, Lex and I embarked on a journey that forever shaped who we are as individuals. If you would have asked us back then what was to become of us, there would be much laughter. We have both grown incredibly, thriving in life, taking on new challenges, discovering who we are, and always remembering where we started. So many things have changed since our freshmen year dorm room, still there is a part embedded in our identity, reigniting each time we connect again. Lex truly knows the deepest parts of my soul, holding me accountable for who I am and always believing in me. The friendship we have with one another is rare. It is powerful on a level that I hope everyone in the world has the opportunity to encounter in their lives. She is my person, the one I can call from my darkest corner to be greeted with kind words and an open heart. Somehow Lex knows how to make everything okay when I seem to think the world is falling apart. As I begin to wrap up this beautiful fifty-two expedition, I am so very thankful to be able to share my wholehearted life with Lex. There is nothing greater in this world than connection with people who truly love you for you. No matter where we go or what is next, Lex will be there and I for her.


My title for this week’s leaf is inspired by the Jason Aldean song “On My Highway”. It started playing after I left Lex in Las Vegas and was continuing my drive home to Cedar City. I became captivated by the words as Jason talks about the “highway” as a metaphor for his life. In the first verse he sings:


            On my highway, the yellow lines

Have disappeared from time to time

And I've wound up

On the wrong side of the road

            On my highway, I've gone too fast

Afraid that I might finish last

I hooked a curve too hard and lost control

Oh, I never know which way it's gonna go

But what a feelin' chasin' the sun

Livin' my life like it's shot from a gun

Laughin' a little bit more with every mile

Oh, what a freedom racin' the wind

Dyin' to know what's around the next bend

And smilin' as I watch the years roll by

I'm learnin' how to take it day by day

On my highway


The highway metaphor made sense for me. I have lived the life where I have worked hard to continue on the same road—being perfect, trying not to disappoint anyone, etc., etc. It kept me above water for a long time, but it never propelled me to the surface. Once I started embracing the highway to my heart, the kind of life that Jason talks about in the song, the surface never seemed closer. There are days where I need the “yellow lines”, the ones that keep me focused and motivated on my goals. My favorite days though, are the ones where I let the yellow lines go. When I throw my clothes around the room, leave my bed unmade, cry because it feels good, love with my whole heart, make moves on a crowded dance floor, smile at a stranger, get lost in Dallas’s arms, laugh uncontrollably with my friends, and have an everlasting faith that everything will be okay. Those are the moments that make up my highway.


So it only seems fitting that my road trip home with Lex be titled “On My Highway”, both literally and figuratively. And also because without Lex who knows what my highway would look like. One of the greatest blessings that has come from my wholehearted journey is the deep appreciation I have for the relationships that are part of my life. Through the good and the bad, I am a better person because of the individuals that I have encountered in my life, the beautiful friendships I surround myself with, the love I have for an amazing man and the graciousness and support I receive from my family. People make my highway of life much more exciting.

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Leaves Forty-eight - Fifty

December marks the final month of my incredible, wholehearted, fifty-two leaf journey.  It is crazy how quickly time passes, how much changes, and how much the same stays. Leaves forty-eight – fifty have been as exciting as all the others. Enjoy!


Leaf Forty-eight: A Bizzy Hike


The beautiful thing about dating such a genuine person is that he tends to surround himself with pretty fantastic people. One of the many blessings that I have encountered since meeting Dallas, are his family and friends. Back in August, his cousin Elizabeth (aka: Bizzy), moved to San Diego to start nursing school. Her and I instantly hit it off and in the meantime have established such a refreshing friendship.  I enjoy so much meeting people who have the same regard for life as I do. Bizzy is no doubt one of the kindest, most loving souls I have met. She values the simple moments and gives genuinely to others. Naturally, I have gravitated to her company and admire her ability to manage school, transition to a new city, and fit in a social life. Like I said, we have become fast friends and enjoy many of the same activities. I love spending time with people who want to be active and outside, something I do not take advantage of nearly enough living in San Diego.


A couple weeks ago, Bizzy and I planned a Friday afternoon hike to Cowles Mountain.  The hike has a decent incline, with a gorgeous 360° view of San Diego once you reach the top. I have done the climb a couple times, but did not realize until a couple weeks ago how closely located it is to my work. Needless to say, it something I am going to incorporate monthly. After a long week and a challenging caseload, exercising with a good friend was exactly what my mind, body and soul needed. Bizzy is the type of person you can just be with. I thrive with the people who it is effortless to be present with. It does not matter the length of time between seeing one another, or what we do, just the fact to be connecting over a stress-relieving-got-to-give-love-to-myself kind of activity is all that matters. Looking forward to continuing to get to know Bizzy’s genuine spirit as well as feel inspired by her deep regard for life.


Leaf Forty-nine: Staying In


You know you have found someone great when you can spend a Friday and Saturday night doing absolutely nothing and have no desire to be anywhere else in the world. From the beginning, I have loved how much Dallas enjoys being social. I love going out, meeting new people, grabbing a few drinks, and of course, letting loose on the dance floor. Together, Dal and I have such a great time out. He has made my transition to “adult life” feel less real by keeping me close to the 22 year old world…haha…I enjoy so much being able to go out with him and his friends. On the flip side, Dal and I have some of our best moments together alone simply enjoying one another’s company.  A couple of weekends ago we decided to stay in. We watched movies, snuggled up close on the couch. I never wanted it to end. I love, love, love spending my time wrapped up in his arms, sometimes I think I could stay there forever and never move.  With each new day, I feel closer to Dallas…I understand his heart a little better, love him a little more. This is the most incredible feeling in the world…to know what a healthy, loving relationship is. To be with someone who treats you absolutely amazing. Respects you. Genuinely loves you. I feel empowered at the end of the day to be able to say “this is what I deserve and this is what I will have forever”. Wherever the future takes Dallas and I, the experience together has given me an invaluable gift for the meaning of love, one that will stick with me always.


Leave Fifty: 2nd Tuesday of the Month


Last week I met up with my girlfriend and colleague, Chelsea, for drinks and dinner in Little Italy. We had not seen each other since the day we finished our graduate program…needless to say, there was much to catch up on. After three hours of chatting, a few too many glasses of wine and not enough food, we decided to call it a night out of fear of a wicked hangover for a Wednesday morning.


I have been incredibly fortunate to develop enduring relationships with genuine, soulful people the last couple of years. Chelsea, no doubt, has maintained a constant inspiration, example, and confidence since early on in my graduate program. She is a beautiful woman, who has taught me a lot about loving myself. I appreciate so much her courage to share her story with me. She has always made me feel comfortable and supported. Meeting up last Tuesday was a reminder of how important connection with good friends is in my life.


The last four months have felt a bit lonely on the friend side. A transition to a new job, family challenges, and developing a beautiful love interest, has resulted in the loss of some who I thought I was close with. It has been frustrating, while equally relieving. I have come to find out that the people who truly love me, who know my soul, will continue to remain in my life. A couple years ago, I do not know if I could have reached this same place. I would have been very upset that someone was disappointed or mad at me. I am sad to lose relationships, but I am also realizing what types of individuals are healthy for me. One of thing I have learned and taken to heart from Dr. Brené Brown’s work is the importance of setting boundaries and holding others accountable. As I teach my client’s, setting boundaries is crucial to taking care of oneself. Some people will not be accepting of our boundaries. We may lose those we thought were the “closest” to us. But in the end, if we believe that we are worthy and deserving of love, we will continue to seek out the people who truly bring those things out in us and stimulate growth within our heart.


Chelsea has always been a friend that has brought out the best in me. We seem to always challenge one another to be better people, individually, and also in our relationships. As I drove to meet up with her on Tuesday, I had this overwhelming feeling that this needed to become a ritual. I put together in my head something like the 2nd Tuesday of every month needed to be our time. The second I saw Chels, I ran the idea by her…she was in. And like that, we created the “2nd Tuesday of the month” girls get together. We are also passing along the invite to another close friend, Jen. Because the fact is, we need people. And by people, I don’t just mean anyone, but good people, who activate our soul. I am guilty of not speaking up and holding others accountable. The consequence of that was surrounding myself with people who made me feel judged and criticized. Life is too short to be spent feeling uncomfortable with friends who are “supposed” to love you for you.

Thursday, December 6, 2012

Leaf Forty-five, Forty-six, & Forty-seven: Cultivating a Healhty Life, Interior Decorating, & Spanglish

My blogging efforts have been slightly delayed for the past several leaves, yet the mission behind the journey is more at heart than ever before. There is not a week that passes that I do not dedicate something specific for my next leaf. Thank you to all my readers out there, for following, supporting, and inspiring me.


Leaf Forty-five: Cultivating a Healthy Life


Since beginning full-time work in September, one of my main goals has been focused on establishing a healthy lifestyle, physically, mentally, and emotionally. From the moment I entered my field, I knew I had started a unique type of work; one that would challenge my heart on complicated levels. I have become committed to sustaining a strength that reaches my mind and body.  Searching for and cultivating that inner peace has become a glorious, life changing ritual. Initially, fifty-two leaves transformed my perception of the world around me. I began to encounter life really living for the first time. As things have progressed, I have started to notice the transition to a lifestyle that has become embedded in my soul. A new found routine that is completely opposite than the perfectionism routine I lived within for so long. Needless to say, it is pretty damn incredible look back and recognize the growth that has permitted so many beautiful moments.


Back in August, I blogged about starting a new exercise routine called The Bar Method. I was raving about it four months ago, and I am still raving about it now. It has transformed my body physically in a way that I never believed to be possible. Mentally, I feel capable to take on situations that used to leave me feeling overwhelmed and drained. Emotionally, it has allowed me to release the negative energy of a long day. I know without a doubt that starting bar before I began working was one of the greatest decisions I have ever made. It has become so much more than an exercise routine and more so a way of life. I look forward to attending class everyday and miss it when I do not go. For a long time I struggled with my body image. There would be days that I stood in the mirror pulling and “fixing” my body into a more appeasing type. I never seemed to be able to lose enough wait or gain muscle. Well, I have not lost any weight, but I have gained a physical, mental, and emotional strength that I would not trade for anything. I feel comfortable in my own skin. I feel capable to overcome a long challenging day. I feel prepared for what lies ahead.


I believe that the physical endurance I have achieved has been made possible because of the internal endurance I have been working on for over a year. Although mental health often gets pushed on the back burner in many situations, I know that separating mental and physical health is detrimental mistake to overall well-being. Unfortunately, mental illness has been deeply stigmatized in today's society. I have encountered many who have been fearful to reach out for help because of the stigma. Personally as well as professionally, I have witnessed inspiring amounts of courage from those who are willing to explore their inner life. I think one of the hardest things we will have to overcome are the judgements we maintain about ourselves. It is a lot easier to get consumed with work, friends, school, etc. than get to know and value who we are. If anything ever comes from fifty-two leaves, I hope it encourages more to share their story. To choose to value and love themselves, so they can love others more deeply.


A statement that I use quite frequently with my clients is: “We can only love others as much as we love ourselves”. I cannot exactly remember where I encountered that quote, but nonetheless it has stuck with me. I only preach it because I know it personally. As I have come to love myself, I have experienced a deeper, more respectful and genuine love in my relationships with others.



Leaf Forty-six: Interior Decorating


Six months into my new apartment and four months in my new office and I finally added some pizazz to my walls! I have found myself making excuses for not having enough time to make both my room and office my own. As my fifty-two leaf journey enters its final month, I felt inspired to do something out of my routine. To get back to the true reason why this journey ever came about. One of my favorite guideposts in Dr. Brené Brown’s book was on cultivating creativity. She talked about how doing something creative makes us feel more alive. It does not matter how artistic we are, what matters is that we are putting energy into something that depicts us. I like to think of being creative as an expression of my soul. It encourages me to move away from self-criticism and judgment and freely represent myself.  A few small changes in my office shifted the atmosphere to my space rather than my predecessor’s space. Last Friday after school, I kicked off my shoes, cranked up some music and began moving things around. The new energy definitely shifted onto the following week. I could tell that the students felt more comfortable and I felt more at home. The same sort of feeling comes from my room. Walking into a wall of pictures after a long day of work brings a smile to my face. My “interior decorating” is far from perfect, but it is my own. And simply taking a moment to be creative made for a wholehearted start to a new week.


Leaf Forty-seven: Spanglish


Thanks to my pretty fantastic-thoughtful-amazing boyfriend, I am finally taking the initiative to learn Spanish. One of the greatest things about Dallas (yeah..I know I’ve started a sentence with that a million times) is that he really listens to what I say. I do not even remember how long ago I told him that I wanted to take advantage of my commute to work by learning Spanish, nonetheless, he remembered as he was discovering the free podcasts on available on Itunes. On there, he found some for Spanish lessons, and passed on the information to me. So this week, I have spent my morning drive to work learning Spanish. Obviously I have a long way to go, but I feel myself paying better attention in the car than I ever did in high school. It is pretty comical to listen to myself repeat the words back to the teacher. Lucky for me, my boss and my co-worker speak Spanish fluently. I might have to dedicate a leaf to finding the courage to test my words on them…haha. I will keep you all posted. Thanks again to Dallas for motivating me to do something I have been meaning to start a long time ago. He really does make me a better person, I am a lucky girl :)


Monday, November 26, 2012

Leaf Forty-four: Gratefulness

“Gratitude unlocks the fullness of life. It turns what we have into enough, and more. It turns denial into acceptance, chaos to order, confusion to clarity. It can turn a meal into a feast, a house into a home, a stranger into a friend. Gratitude makes sense of our past, brings peace for today, a creates a vision for tomorrow” –Melody Beattie


Given last week’s celebration of Thanksgiving, it is only fitting to dedicate this leaf to gratitude. The quote above speaks quite perfectly to the incredible power valuing and implementing daily gratitude practice has had on my life over the course of the past year. It is moving to see how simply being thankful for this beautiful world brings lasting clarity and peace to my soul. I have experienced joy in a way that opens up my heart to people, places, and things I could not see before. Each morning, I wake with a fondness for life, a love and passion for my family, my job, and my relationships. What a blessing it is to know such a deep hope and a strong sense of faith for what lies ahead.


Gratitude brings provides much comfort when the rest of the world around me seems to be spinning. The Thursday before Thanksgiving, I felt overwhelmed with emotion. It was a mixture of concern for my dad combined with a long, meaningful week at work. I struggled to put words to what I was experiencing internally, it was not necessarily good or bad, it just was. The tears stirred during my drive home, after my workout, and when I walked in the door. I settled in on my bathroom floor and cried for awhile. There was something soothing to about letting the tears flow and releasing what had been building up. Afterwards, I felt very grateful to be able to feel things so deeply. To be able to encounter such raw emotion without pushing it away is an incredible sensation. I am thankful for my ability to connect to that part of my soul, to understand it, and to look at those feelings without judgment or criticism.


I am thankful to have met someone who I am able to give the kind of love that all people deserve. Dallas has been an inspiring person in my life and given me an opportunity to experience something incredible. To be a part of such a genuine, respectful, passionate, real, and patient relationship will forever be one of the greatest blessings I will ever know. I am thankful to be balanced and whole within myself that I am able to encounter such a love. Each day I am especially grateful for knowing Dallas. Gratitude for him has allowed me to stop worrying about what the future holds and instead, engage fully in the moment of being with one another. At the end of the day, sharing those moments with him are what I am thankful for. My hope is that so many others have the opportunity to know that kind of invaluable love.


Life has felt crazy with my dad. His inability to recover has been so up and down since the surgery it has been difficult to relax. Some days I fear the worst, others I am angry with the doctors. I think underneath it all, I feel helpless and unsure of how to handle everything.  It has made me re-evaluate a lot of things in my life, especially grasping onto those things that are truly important, like my family. I am grateful to have been able to see them the past couple of weeks. The trip home with Dallas and then again last week for Thanksgiving were much needed. I am thankful to be able to be there for my dad; to tell him that I love him and to hug him. It was nice to be there at Thanksgiving because he seemed like his normal self around all our family. He was laughing, teasing, and playing basketball with us like he was feeling 100%. I am thankful for his example and strength. He has laid the foundation for my independence as well as my ability to advocate for who I am. The gratitude I have for his unconditional love and constant support is much more than I can put into words.


I am also very grateful for my mom and the relationship we have with one another. She has been so strong throughout the process with my dad. I admire her hope and courage and constant faith. I am thankful to be able to watch her and my dad grow closer during this experience. It is amazing to witness the commitment and love they have for one another. My mom has always been my biggest advocate as well as a consistent form of unwavering support. Her love makes me one of the luckiest girls in the world. I am blessed to have had a woman like her watch over and guide me through my life.


Practicing gratitude has allowed me to encounter joy and peace daily. It makes me a stronger, more connected individual and gives me hope for a beautiful life ahead.

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Leaf Forty-three: Meeting the Family

A couple weekends ago, Dallas ventured home with me to Cedar City to meet my family for the first time. This was a big step for me because my close-knit family is a bit hesitant in letting significant others in..let's just say my brother's and I's past relationships have not always had the best reputation with my family..haha. I think my mom said it perfectly a while back though, she told me that she wouldn't be ready to let someone in, until she got the sense that they were the right person for us.  Over the past five months, I have gotten to know someone who is absolutely incredible in many ways. Dallas continues to hold my heart with his outgoing spirit and genuine care for me. From early on, I got the sense that he would be able to handle and get along with my family better than anyone I had ever dated before. Though the nerves were there, the excitement to introduce my parents to the man that had captured my heart helped bring me to ease.
More than anything I was anxious to get home to see my dad. He had surgery a few weeks ago and the recovery process was taking longer than anticipated. For all of my life, my dad has always been my rock. I have never seen him anything but strong. Being so far away from home, feeling helpless and knowing he was not doing so well was really starting to get to me. I couldn't imagine my dad stuck in a hospital bed, and for those of you who know him, we all know he wasn't making the greatest patient. I was also somewhat scared to see him down and weak. Knowing my emotional self, I did not know if I would be able to keep it together, but feared my dad seeing me cry.
The day we left, I was so incredibly thankful to have Dallas by my side. His willingness to travel with me to Utah to be with my family meant so much. Since my dad had been put back into the hospital our trip home was a bit chaotic. My grandparents had to pick us up at the airport, then we met my mom, stopped at the hospital to see my dad, then finally made it to Cedar City. Dallas never once seemed to be uncomfortable. He went along with the crazy flow of things that , always squeezing my hand and kissing my forehead. Those simple gestures made everything okay throughout the trip.
Dallas fit in quite well with everyone. I could tell my mom was falling for his easy-going presence and kind heart. There is something about this guy that makes everything more fun, warmer, and a great time. For me, I enjoyed so much bringing him home...I knew this was different than in past relationships because I felt 100% at ease despite early nerves. Dallas is truly someone special. Someone I am so incredibly thankful to have in my life. He loves me in a way that I have never been loved before. We have developed a mutual respect for one another that seems to bring us closer each day.