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What’s on Your Acre?

View from the Dragonfly’s Back

MomsGetReal Soul Feeder Chris Wilcox

For the last couple of weeks, I’ve been reading Anne Lamott’s Bird by Bird. If you’re a writer, it’s one of those must-haves because it has a way of making the insanity of being a writer seem less like Sandra Bullock in Gravity and more like The Breakfast Club. We all have ways we break down that someone else can identify with and raise a “me, too” hand – no one has it easy.

In it, Anne relays a story from a friend about an emotional acre. We are all born with an emotional acre, and it’s ours to do with as we please. There’s a gate at the middle that people will come in and out of. If someone dumps an oil spill on your acre, you can boot them. Same if they build a hideous garage – set fire to it and boot them. It’s your emotional acre.

Now, dear Anne also talks about this emotional acre in terms of character development. Just like you know what’s on your own emotional acre, you also need to know the acreage of your characters.

Which got me thinking. What’s on my acre?

Of course, the Southern-belle-wannabe in me immediately wants a plantation rather than just a paltry smidge of an acre. The peach and pecan orchard alone could be one acre all by itself. Why peaches and pecans? Sweet and nutty – just like me. But for the purposes of this Yankee exercise, I’ll limit it.

My sanctuary would be on my emotional acre – the  safe place that is my meditation room (hello, Eat Pray Love, reference – how many of you can I fit in this year?) where I can travel the paths of my psyche safely without judgment.  The next piece of my emotional acre is a compost pile. Why? Because that’s where I can throw all the crap to be recycled into something good.  I can give all the black tar that collects in my emotional energy field and toss it out to compost and be converted into something good – like every time I criticize myself for not making more progress (Oh Wii Oh… OHHHH oh) I can compost that thought into motivation to keep going.

So what am I growing on my emotional acre?  I’m growing strong trees that reach deep into the earth to ground me. I’m tending to a labyrinth of roses because roses were my grandma’s flower and they remind me of her strength, love and compassion for others. I’m planting things that I want to see grow into beautiful things  because they nourish my soul, inspire me and we have a reciprocating relationship of gratitude – one cannot exist without the other. Even if it’s only in my emotional imagination.

And when others march across my emotional acre and disrespect it, I launch my boot into their ass and kick them out.  Not because I don’t love them – because I may very well love them a great deal – but because I love myself more.

What’s on your acre? 🙂

Namaste.

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Finding A Self-Care Mode

View from the Dragonfly’s Back

MomsGetReal Soulfeeder Chris Wilcox

Yesterday, I read a random post on Facebook from someone I’m connected to via a women’s group. We’ve never laughed together, clinked wine glasses in a toast or to my knowledge been in the same state, but what she said struck a nerve. And not in a good way.

It went something like “We all need days where we just give in and indulge. This afternoon, I put on my fuzzy bathrobe, sat down on the couch and watched a movie, and then I read a book. What do you do for self-care?”

My first thought was, “I read crap posts like that and go back to work.”

Not my best first thought of all time, admittedly. My mind’s eye imagined her beaming face in a big, purple bathrobe (why purple?), eating chocolates out of a huge box (and not gaining an ounce, by the way), laughing randomly with that I’m-tossing-my-Pantene-perfect-hair-back motion under a spotlight, and only rising from the couch to turn her rainbow on outside and go pet her unicorn.

And then I heard Mr. Wickham’s voice from Pride and Prejudice saying, “Jealousy. You like her life better, and you can’t stand that.”

I always have a tinge of jealousy when I read posts where people seem to have all the flexibility in the world to do whatever they want and live at the end of the Rainbow where unicorns frolic. During my career, my average week has been 50 hours (during some stretches closer to 70 hours) and my frolicking is limited, at best.  So what’s a workaholic to do when self-care comes to the forefront?

Self-care is also wrapped in reality. When I ignore self-care, my benefits are weight gain and spontaneous fever blisters (2 in the last three weeks – front and center on my top lip), and now have the added feature of high blood pressure (did I mention that I also had my yearly doc visit?).

So self-care has to be a part of my reality. And fast. And like any workaholic, I want the plug-n-play version – 15 minutes to Zen and on my way, right?

I’m rolling my eyes as I type that because while I want that reality, I know it’s not that easy.  My current self-care mode is (really unhealthy) comfort foods and sleeping – not exactly at the top of the list of healthy habits, and it’s results are creating a reality that I don’t want and cannot permit to continue.  So I need to find a new mode.

I’m on the hunt for healthy comfort foods and a framework for reality that fits with my word nerd desire to work. I love yoga, and will have my yoga corner established in my soon-to-be-completed sanctuary space in my house in the next few weeks. Is that all I need?  We’ll see.

What does your list look like?

Namaste.

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Letting Go Before the Glue Sets

View from the Dragonfly’s Back

MomsGetReal Soulfeeder Chris Wilcox

I’m destroying a kitchen floor right now.

Well, not RIGHT now, but as I write this, my sister and I, with pry bars, hammers and brute force have removed about 80% of the kitchen floor in the house that will soon be my home again. It all started when I decided that moving from Fort Worth back to Boise left me with a prime opportunity to make changes before the movers put all of my stuff in. The plan was simple enough: new paint everywhere and new floors in the living area of the house.

And then the subject of the kitchen floor came up.

Ever since I bought the house, the kitchen floor has always been higher than the rest of the floor, and while there were clues as to that reason, I didn’t want to dig or know why. I was fine with it. It’s a floor. Who cares if there’s an inch or so difference between that floor and the rest of the house. The higher the floor, the closer to God, right? Not to mention the fact that I’ve dealt with the variance for several years and just accepted it. It had ugly vinyl tile on it that my mom and sister peeled up in a few hours the first day we went in to start tearing things apart. Perfectly good particle board rested below it’s surface.  And then there was a one inch lip between the kitchen and the living room. Who cared? Not me! I’m inventive. I’ll just figure out a way to put enough of something under that one inch to make it a nice, graceful slope and we’ll stay on schedule.

And then two and a half weeks ago, my dad said, “You know, you could take  a look at that floor and see if you can get someone to tear it out.”  At the time, I replied, “Dad, I don’t care if there’s a dead body under there. I do not have the patience or inclination – or the cash – to find out what’s under that particle board.”

Then three days after that, my sister said, “You know, we could just tear up one sheet of particle board. What  could it hurt?”

The previous owner of the house had always used it as a rental, so I’d assumed that the “Fastest Way Possible” method of home repair became the norm at my little house when I bought it. It didn’t bother me then. Now, it bothers the crap outta me.

My floor contained the original vinyl from 1978, particle board, ANOTHER layer of vinyl, ANOTHER layer of particle board, and then the ugly vinyl tile that my mom and sister tore out. The bottom layer of particle board was glued and nailed to the 1978 vinyl, and the second layer of particle board was glued and stapled to the first.  What makes it even more precious is the 4×8′ sheets aren’t laid the same directions – they’re crossed, which leads to a seam of some sort with nails, staples and glue every 4 feet, no matter what you do.

The floor, through no fault of its own, is hanging on when I want it to let go. I’m irritated that someone would take such a stupid shortcut that was more expensive in the long run to “fix” a floor. And now it’s taking pry bars and hammers and sore shoulders and brute force to get it to let go. And this experience is exactly what I needed right now.

How many times have I packed down and covered up something that I should let go of?

A floor or a bruised nail under nail polish, or it old resentments, fears and other things that are no longer serving me under a wash of things we call Life: jobs, tasks, grocery shopping, Facebook. Busy things that keep me distracted from doing the work to let go.

I don’t want to hang onto fear, resentment or any negative feeling in place of doing the work now. I want to always take those feelings and give them their due time in my psyche – and then let them go before they get glued down.

Here’s to tearing up your floors.

Namaste.

Dragonfly Image source via

Floor image via author

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Friends, Reality and Mandy Patinkin

View from the Dragonfly’s Back

MomsGetReal Soul Feeder Chris Wilcox

I have amazing friends.  I’m lucky for that. The people in my life are all there for reasons that most days I cannot yet fathom because – to quote Wayne & Garth – “I’m not worthy, I’m not worthy!” At my best, I strive to be so, but it’s at my worst where I question their sanity. Luckily, even at my worst, I have a few who will still tell me stuff I don’t want, but need, to hear, which this week equated to something like “I’m not sure what to name this version of your personality, but I hope, for everyone’s sake, that it crawls back into the hole it came out of.”

I don’t know what I’d dub this personality’s name either. To say that I’m not dealing very well with the amount of stress I’ve been under, even under incredibly positive circumstances, is the understatement of the century. I’ve gained 18 pounds in 4 months, and have been unable to muster a truly enthusiastic moment of “YAY ME!!!” for everything that’s in front of me now. I can chalk it up to the move, the insane project I  decided to do at my house amid all of this, the stress at work, missing the life I had in Texas or returning to a life that I feel less hopeful about – any one of those things is enough.

But – reality is – I don’t want to feel this way. I want to feel happy and grateful about everything that’s transpired.  My friends have all suggested different things – a gratitude journal, meditation, wearing a rubber band on my wrist that I snap whenever an overwhelming thought creeps over me… but they all feel like Things To Do right now, not like Things that Will Help Me.

So I’ve been trudging through the day to day, dragging myself on planes and off again, usually landing at a hotel; however, on this latest trip, I got to stay in the safe haven that is my Denver friend’s home. We’re six months to the day apart in age, and thanks to her persistence in cracking my work veneer with her amazingness, she is one of my best friends. We had a Tuesday night glass of bubbly to celebrate work and the changes that lay ahead, and that left her standing at the edge of the cave in which I’ve been ensconced.

Fortunately, she always brings a light, and leaves part of the candle with me every time (even when, at first, it might look like a stick of dynamite). And the following day, we were graced by Inigo Montoya himself, and he brought a whole new light to the conversation.

On Wednesday, we were fortunate enough to attend an event with her where Mandy Patinkin was the keynote speaker. In his first 60 seconds, he admitted that he didn’t really know what he was going to say to the 900 or so people in the room, but he knew that he was privileged to be there, and so were we.  Not because we all got to see him, or because he got to speak with us, but because we all were privileged to be able to attend a luncheon to benefit the work of a Denver charity. He said something like, “I don’t know why I was born to the life I had, to the parents I had, to the work I’ve been able to do, but I was. And it’s a privilege to be able to be here today to combine all of that to help others.”

I looked at my friend just as she looked at me, and it was one of those synchronistic moments where we knew that there were Bigger Reasons that I was there. I needed to hear what he had to say. I was reminded that messages are delivered by many different messengers.

In no uncertain terms, I’ve been struggling to find joy and have gratitude for what is now in front of me, and it’s manifesting in my being temperamental, forgetful, and empty. While I know it’s because I’ve been treating the Things I Need to Do to Help Me like just One More Thing, not clinging to gratitude has also brought with it a truckload of guilt over not feeling grateful.  Which was summed up best in a statement over champagne Tuesday night: “You know you’re the only one whose not happy for you, right?”

That’s a candle I need to go sit with.

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The Rear View Mirror Versus the Windshield

View from the Dragonfly’s Back

MomsGetReal Soul Feeder Chris Wilcox

This morning, I crawled on a plane at a ridiculous hour for a Sunday and hoped beyond hope that I’d just be able to put my headphones in and sleep. This usually isn’t a problem for me. I have a Go Away vibe that goes toe to toe with Captain Von Trapp at the first sight of Maria in The Sound of Music.

For some reason, however, flights to Chicago always seem to contain passengers that are impervious to my steely morning glare and cranky attitude. Today was no exception.

I chatted for three and a half hours with a guy from Boise – he had a girl name and I have boy name.  He told me how much he loved his wife, how he was grateful to marry a great friend (though it was rife with issues in that sometimes friends know details that significant others are slower to find out – like how you handled a one night stand or the details behind your divorce), and how his autistic daughter brought unbelievable joy into his life.

But the most important thing he said today was about focus – is it on the rear view mirror or the windshield?

He gave the caveat that it was a corny bumper sticker at best, and we carried on with the remaining hour and a half of conversation. At the time, it seemed like a pebble in a pond. The more that the day has unfolded, it’s given me a framework to hang what I’ve been struggling with lately.

He said too many people keep their eyes on the rear view mirror and forget about the windshield, an analogy that dropped a boulder in a puddle today when I picked up my rental car.  The rear view mirror in the Chevy I was driving was small – maybe six inches across, couple inches high.  I stopped and stared at it.  It seemed like I could see infinity in the road that was behind me. When the car was was stopped, I could pick out imperfections in the cars and buildings behind me, but when I kept  moving forward looking out the windshield and only glanced backward, I could see a vast, perfectly blue Midwest sky, gorgeous trees and an eclectic collection of kitschy houses that gave me a new appreciation for suburbia.

The boulder finally splashed down in the middle of my well of self-criticism. My doubts, fears, missed opportunities and stupid decisions are all in a 6″x2″ box. And as I move forward, I have to stop if I want to look back.

Stopping to look back on the past is important, but it’s not nearly as important as my keeping my eyes on the road in front of me, celebrating the blue sky and everything that lay ahead.

That’s worth building thoughts around.

Namaste

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Honoring the Need for Crazy

View from the Dragonfly’s Back

MomsGetReal Soul Feeder Chris Wilcox

Last week, my sister and I drove from Boise, ID to Fort Worth, TX, and back.  Saturday of one week to Sunday of the next. In the middle of that, a fabulous team of movers showed up to pack my life up, put it on trucks, and hauled everything we didn’t have room to carry with us here.

I *thought* that I had gone through the house and gotten everything that I needed when I packed the three suitcases of clothes and other things that I wanted with me. I *thought* that I was prepared to temporarily crash at my sister’s house here until my new house was ready.  I made it 4 days.

Cut to this morning.

I found one ballet flat packed in my roller bag.  I found one loafer in the bin I put all my shoes in. I found a second loafer in a different bin but they were for the same foot.  I did not find my hair dryer, or my favorite makeup palette, favorite earrings, or – silly me – my medication or my contacts.

After finding my one favorite, never-wrinkles-no-matter-what dress and determining that my boots weren’t going to cut it today, I slipped on my summer sandals, looked outside at the gray, cloudy sky with a cautious eye, and slipped out the door for work just as the sun was rising.

And as I was driving to work, I felt like having a meltdown. And I know exactly where it came from.

If we flash back to the 32 year old version of me, I can tell you that I would lose my mind if I lost or forgot something.  I would stomp and storm around the house, berating myself and anyone who dared cross my path (dogs or husband – now an ex-husband), slamming doors until I was satisfied that I had punished everyone within earshot with the storm of my ridiculous tirade.

I know now that was just arrogance.  But the stomping and storming to get out the frustration?  I’m feeling that just a little bit today.

Here’s what I know:  I’m both the girl who wants to be more zen and the girl who wants to fly around like a banshee when I can’t find something.  My thoughts of recognizing all the things I’ve forgotten amid some of the senseless things I did bring with me between yesterday and today have drained my energy.

And I’m feeling the need to be a little bit crazy to get my energy back.

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What’s in your Blank? (The Key to Envisioning the Future)

View from The Dragonfly’s Back

MomsGetReal Soul Feeder Chris Wilcox

Lately, I’ve been thinking a lot about thinking.  You may have noticed. 😉

Last week was the culmination of the biggest professional challenge of my life, and that’s not even a gross exaggeration.  It’s just reality.  My world for the last 10 weeks has been an all-consuming dive into my job in a way that would allow, once completed, for me to grow even more. I’m fresh off the biggest project EVER and have landed, square one, in old but new territory. I’m kind of doing the same job, but now have a team of people who will help because our company grew, overnight, to one 5x its previous size. Frankly, Toto, we’re not in Kansas anymore.

Which is making me giggle because I’m actually IN Kansas as I write this (Salina, to be exact).

My life for the last several weeks has been ALL work, zero play – to the point that I’ve actually offended people with my inability to commit to even having dinner (mixed in with all of this, I’m moving from Fort Worth back to Boise this week, and am sure the 24 hours of driving will provide a great deal of material – if only I’ll remember it).  And on top of just getting to this point, I’ve also been spending a great deal of time envisioning what the rest of this year needs to look like because now, I’ve got people who are going to rely on my telling them that as well.

What I’ve learned in this process is validation of one simple thing: my thoughts DID create this reality.

Seven years ago, when I was sitting in an office in June reading an internal announcement about who had been selected to be my boss, I was thinking, “I think I should have that job.” Not because the person whom they’d selected wasn’t excellent; she was (and still is) fantastic, but because somewhere in my heart, I heard this whisper that was saying, “You can do that – and you should.”

That’s my first and only key: listen to your heart – and not in the Roxette way of when “he” is calling to you, but when you are.

In your world, you know when you’re doing something that makes your soul sing. You lose track of time, you forget to eat, and you don’t notice your phone when it buzzes. Things like that. That’s when you’re stoking the fire of your soul’s purpose.

When you recognize that your heart is talking to you, listen up.

To hear it, you have to quiet down.

When you hear it, write it down.

When you write it down, carry it with you.

When you carry it with you, discouraging days become less so because you can open that piece of paper or note on your phone that shows you, “I live for loving to _____________.” For me, that blank is “write.”

What’s in your blank?

For me, it’s being exactly and precisely where I am.

Namaste.

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Rituals of Thought

View from the Dragonfly’s Back

MomsGetReal Soul Feeder Chris Wilcox

Raise your hand (safely, please… don’t drop your iPad) if you’ve heard someone say recently, “your thoughts create your reality.”

I thought so. I’ve even been one of them.

In the scope of changing your thoughts, there’s also the process of planting new, long-term ones… ideas about yourself that, no matter what, grow to become the rock that you hang onto when everything seems impossible and out of control. I’m in one of those situations right now, and I’m noticing my rock is playing a movie of the times in my life where I’ve created rituals for success.

It shocked me, too. 😉

My inner English librarian – who sounds like Dame Maggie Smith and dresses like the Dowager Countess of Grantham on Downton Abbey – says, “The girl who was constantly critical is now faced with one of the biggest challenges/opportunities of her life and her own brain is reminding her of times when she succeeded? Preposterous!”

But there it was.  Staring me in the third eye. One of my own most-successful-rituals reminding me that this isn’t a time to be doubtful of my abilities.

So it goes like this. When I was in high school, I was the shy kid who didn’t have to work all that hard at school to be a good student and who played basketball. School came easier than basketball. I am not a natural athlete. When I run, in my head I think I look like Usain Bolt. However, if we go to the tape, I look more like the Tasmanian Devil of Bugs Bunny cartoon fame when he’s stopped and panting, because that’s how non-fluid and un-athletic I am.  My mom always said that I made up for my lack of natural ability with plain guts, which was true, but I also made up for it with precision on the situations that I could control.

Enter free throws.

What better situation for a control freak than free throws?  All play stops and every person on the court has to stand in two neat lines while they patiently wait for you to shoot. And I could practice them by myself as long as the sunlight permitted or the gym stayed open. I was a pillar of consistency, so much so that during my senior year when Coach had to pick someone to shoot free throws for technical fouls, I was usually the one stepping to the line.

Whenever I put my right toe to the line and let my left foot settle in, I’d dribble three times, spin the ball in my hand until it slid to a stop and I’d set myself. My mind was already seeing the ball go through the hoop by the time I raised my head to look at it. Did it go in every time? No. Did it go in 8 out of 10 times? At least. A stat any ball player would be proud of, right?

That image has been coming up a lot for me lately, as I leave for work before the sun comes up and get home long after it’s slipped down past the horizon for the day. I couldn’t figure out why, until yesterday when I was relaying to a friend how I wanted that feeling of certainty that I had when I shot free throws in my life now.

Then I realized, it’s not only in my life, it’s in my muscle memory and my ritual of thought.  Am I going to get everything perfectly right? No. But 8 out of 10 will work.

Namaste.

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Don’t Let Your Thoughts Taste Like Cilantro (Unless You Like Cilantro)

View from the Dragonfly’s Back

MomsGetReal Soul Feeder Chris Wilcox

The sun is rising over the foothills behind me right now, and it’s illuminating the office I’m sitting in with a glow that somehow makes even the cluttered desk and the beige surroundings look homey.  I got to work this morning before dawn and scurried to my desk with my shoulder pinned to my ear so my purse and laptop bag wouldn’t fall to my elbow and send my coffee flying – it was the kind of morning where I would expect that to happen. Showing up to a day full of meetings doused in dried coffee didn’t seem like a good idea.

I’ve let myself be scattered for the last several weeks. And I edited that sentence to say “I’ve let myself be” rather than “I’ve been.” I think that’s an important distinction. When I look at the world from a scattered perspective, I feel scattered. I feel out of control and like things are happening to me.  Sometimes, that is a valid feeling, but my question to myself was simply this:

“Do I like feeling scattered?”

My answer – no, I do not.

Not liking something but accepting it anyway and choking it down, in etiquette terms, is being polite. Like when I went to a dinner party and they slapped a big piece of cilantro soaked chicken down in front of me. I hate cilantro with the fire of a thousand suns.  Did I try it?  Yes. Did I say “I can’t believe of everything you could’ve made, you decided to take a perfectly good chicken breast and soak it in the spice equivalent of window cleaner.”  No, I did not.

I cut it up into tiny pieces, spread it out under the bed of rice and ate the salad (and the salad of the person next to me, who felt about arugula the same way that I felt about cilantro).

I didn’t eat what I didn’t like, plain and simple. I chose to honor my feelings that cilantro tastes like soap and avoided something I find unpleasant. I was polite to myself FIRST. So why would I now let a feeling –  which is a choice I make – drag me around by the nose?

Viktor Frankl said, “Between stimulus and response there is a space. In that space is our power to choose our response. In our response lies our growth and our freedom.” I think that’s a pretty damn smart thing to say. I don’t like feeling scattered, so I’m going to choose differently. Here’s my new structure:

Stimulus: I have a ton of work to do right now, my schedule is hectic, and I sometimes have to put aside what I want to do for what needs to be done.

Response: I am going to choose to respond in a way that creates feelings of happiness and being centered. If my thoughts and reactions to stimuli are generating negative feelings, I choose to change them to thoughts and reactions that generate positive feelings.

I feel better already.

Namaste.

Read all the Chris Crossing segments here.

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Recognizing Synchronicity – Enter the Dragonfly

View from the Dragonfly’s Back

MomsGetReal Soul Feeder Chris Wilcox

On one of my first drives through Fort Worth when I moved here last year, a dragonfly hovered in front of my car at a stoplight.  Stay with me. This will make sense in a minute.

I’ve spent a lot of time lately thinking about thinking (as you might have noticed…), and how our thoughts play into what our lives become.  I’ve come to regard my thoughts as a net that I’m constantly tying together; as I’ve been reviewing the threads that have created the part of the net that’s holding me now and pulled ones that needed to be recycled, I’ve noticed so many moments of synchronicity that I’ve totally, completely and unbelievably ignored.

A few years ago, I was told that I needed to be better about recognizing synchronicities when they happen. To me, synchronicities are the crumbs on the trail, the yellow arrows pointing out that you’re headed in the right direction and to keep going.  At the time, I was just beginning to study Astrology, and while I always knew my sun sign was Aquarius, I learned that despite its aquatic connections, Aquarius is an Air sign (communication!).  Upon further digging (i.e., I went on the internet and typed in “astrology chart”), I learned that both my moon and rising signs are water signs – Cancer & Scorpio, respectively.

So now I have “watch for synchronicity in air and water” going through my head, and my first thought is – Fantastic! What the hell does that mean?

Enter the Dragonfly.

I’ve always had a fascination with dragonflies. Ever since I was a little girl going to my grandparents’ cabin near West Yellowstone, I’ve noticed them when they fly into my path, even at times when it may not have made sense. I seem to find them and they seem to find me – and in that way we have shared space for some 40 years now.

Fast forward to a couple of months ago, and I’m sitting at my desk, brainstorming with a group of friends via Facebook about what inspiration I can pull from to put this project you’re reading together, and one of them says out of the blue, “When I first read it…a saw a dragonfly…??”

In that second, I knew she was exactly right.

Interestingly enough, in animal symbology, dragonflies represent both air and water, and when they cross your path, they can represent change. Also, because their usual habitat has them zooming across water, others regard it to mean deeper thoughts are surfacing (water, symbolically, is in part about emotion, and air about communication) and we must be mindful of how our thoughts create our reality. Scientifically, dragonflies are built to fly in six directions, which also feels a bit like my life.

Dear Dragonfly, have you been buzzing around me for all years hoping to catch my attention and be the marker on my path?

So, that’s why I’ve got a view from a dragonfly’s back right now. Do you have animals around you or ones that you see frequently? Do a little digging if you’re curious, and learn what they mean. They may have a message for you, too.

Image via