Tuesday, October 21, 2014

10 Things I Learned From Daryl Dixon (Spoiler Alert)

So I just binge watched The Walking Dead and am finally caught up to the rest of the world. And, yes. I love Daryl.

I just think, of all the characters in the show, his is the best. Not just because he is a "good guy" or even because he's a bad ass. But because as you watch, you see his character grow. You see Daryl become the hero he was meant to be. He is a hardcore walker slayer with a soft heart that crumbles at the thought of someone getting hurt. He is incorruptible, even though he has been surrounded by corruption his entire life. 

I know most people don't watch The Walking Dead because of its reality. But, I do. And of all the characters, Daryl is the most authentic. 

Daryl teaches you not only how to be a sick zombie slayer, but to be a better person? Don't believe me? Read on!

1. Family is first. No matter what.
Daryl's brother Merle was a jerk. Yes, I am aware this is the understatement of the century. But jerk was the nicest adjective I could use. Not only was Merle a slimy, perverted, foul-mouthed, drug user. He also betrayed the "group" multiple times. He never made decisions to help his brother or the rest of the group. Merle only made decision for Merle. Still, at the end of the day, when Merle is sent away from the prison, Daryl is right there with him. Daryl had FINALLY found his brother again. And he is willing to risk his life to make sure he has his back. Daryl knows that Merle is a ticking time-bomb, but he has to give him a chance. Why? Because that's his brother. And to Daryl, family is above all else. 

It's important to remember that when the world is caving in, the only stronghold you may have of your past normalcy are those people with whom you experienced it. Those bonds are forever.



2. Family doesn't always mean you are related.
Now, I told you Merle was a jerk. I meant in. Like, remember when he kidnapped Michonne? Daryl vows to go after Merle alone. He doesn't want Rick or any of the others at the prison to risk their lives because his brother went nuts. He tells Rick, "You're family too." In a sense, Rick was more family that Daryl ever experience with Merle. Rick cared. Rick listened. Rick protected. While Merle may have been blood relation, Rick would always be family to Daryl.

If you can find more truth, love, and companionship with ANYONE, that makes them family forever.



3. You don't always have to share your opinion.
While Daryl is one of the most important characters on The Walking Dead, he really doesn't have many lines. He observes. He tracks. He listens. While he does have an opinion on some major decisions within the group, he sometimes seems to clam up. Is that because he doesn't care? No. It means he is thoughtful enough to realize that he DOESN'T truly have all the answers. And he can't really make an informed decision until he collects more information by, you guessed it, observing!

Sometimes, it's best just to zip your lip. If you don't have all of the available information, how can you really have a strong opinion about something? Don't be pushover who never speaks up- but don't be so quick to scream the loudest if what you're saying has no facts behind it.



4. If you know someone is wiser than you, it's okay to let them hold the reigns.
Multiple times throughout the series, Daryl assures people that they can trust Rick.
"He's done alright by me."
or
"Rick has honor."
Daryl respects and admires Rick. He knows Rick makes mistakes sometimes, but he also knows that at the end of the day, Rick is a good, intelligent man. It's OK to not be the ringleader all the time. When it comes to going on runs, Daryl takes the reigns- because that's what he knows.

Like Daryl, you should be confident to take control in areas you know. But, if someone else is wiser than you, it's acceptable to let them guide you. 



5. Don't count on getting debts repaid.
Daryl does a lot of things for almost EVERYONE on the show. He is willing to kill walkers, go on runs, hunt, track, a myriad of treks. He is even willing to do some totally unnecessary things- like going on a run looking for booze so Beth can have her first drink. Even though he is willing to do all of these things, he NEVER asks anyone for anything. And it's not like he's sitting against a dead walker pouting about it. He doesn't want anything in return.

We should all try and be selfless like that. Shove that tiny voice down that whispers, "Maybe they will pay me back for this later." If you aren't willing to give or serve graciously without expecting a reward, don't even bother. Give and serve without expectations. 



6. Letting people in is scary, but rewarding.
It is perfectly clear that Daryl isn't one for sharing his back-story. But, it is evident he has a huge heart. For example, when he and Beth are in the shack with the moonshine they begin sharing little details about themselves. Beth asks Daryl if he has ever been to jail and Daryl gets EXTREMELY offended. He starts breaking glasses and screaming about her misjudgment. But, once he collects himself he realizes something. He realizes the only reason these incorrect assumptions have been made is because he never talked about himself. With anyone. He never let anyone in. So, after his meltdown, he gives us a tiny glimpse at his back-story. And you can see he visibly appears happier. Lighter, even.

Sometimes, we get weighed down by the heaviness in our hearts. We all have tragedy and we all have darkness. But if we never share that burden with another person, we are wearing down on ourselves. Let some of your darkness escape to make room for the light that comes from having a relationship with another!



7. Always have hope.
This pretty much sums it up... when Sophia was missing, Daryl went to Carol and said this:

"It's a Cherokee Rose. The story is that when American soldiers were moving Indians off their land on the Trail of Tears, the Cherokee mothers were grieving and crying so much 'cause they were losing their little ones along the way from exposure and disease and starvation. A lot of them just disappeared. So the elders, they said a prayer; asked for a sign to uplift the mothers' spirits, give them strength and hope. The next day this rose started to grow where the mothers' tears fell. I'm not fool enough to think there's any flowers blooming for my brother. But I believe this one bloomed for your little girl."

The world was literally being eaten alive, and Daryl still found a beautiful sign that hope exists. There is always a "Cherokee Rose" in every situation. Don't give up.



8. Sometimes you have to walk away from those you love.
Okay, okay. Sorry, guys. Back to Merle.  Remember when Daryl left Merle to head back to the prison? There was no doubt that Daryl loved Merle. But, after awhile Merle's reckless toxicity was beginning to wear on Daryl. At that point, he knew that Merle was strong enough to survive on his own (after all he had been doing it for about a year already). But Daryl also knew that by being with Merle instead of at the prison, he was essentially putting a lot of lives at risk. Who else would be able to track as well as he did? Who else could make a solo run into a busy town with nothing but a hunting knife, a bow, and 3 arrows? Who else would risk their lives day after day (and get shot in the process) to find a little girl that everyone else had given up on? No one. No one but Daryl.

He was tired of being disrespected and mistreated by Merle, too. Which is what led him to say, "I may be the one walking away, but you're the one who's leaving."

Loyalty is important, yes. But there comes a time when you have to evaluate all relationships. Even those with people you truly love. If it is toxic, dangerous, and reckless, it's time to get out. And that's okay. I'm not saying shut out that person forever. What I'm saying is, you have to be brave enough to draw the line somewhere. Your happiness, at the end of the day, only depends on you. Are you happy with all the relationships in your life?



9. You are not where you came from.
Daryl was raised by the same family as Merle. So, you would think their morals would be really similar. But, that couldn't be farther from the truth. Daryl didn't become a victim of his upbringing like Merle did. He didn't become a product of a rough youth. He emerged from that, used the survival skills he was forced to acquire, and made something of himself. He made himself the hero.

Don't ever for a second think that you have nothing to offer because of where you came from.



10. Crossbows are awesome.

'nuff said.


Saturday, October 18, 2014

Time

Time is a shadow, always one step behind.
She whispers her lie, "I will always be here."
Until you don't see her when the sun turns you blind.
Even in darkness, she sits at the foot of your bed.
But how do you sleep when her breath smells like summer?
And she gently coaxes her fingers through the hair on your head.
People told you she's fleeting, but you turned a deaf ear.
Still, you empty your closet. You shackle her ankles inside.
Promptly at dawn you share tea with her, year after year.
But still, there is one day that starts just like the last,
Only you wake to find your closet is an empty prison cell.
You have no future, no present, you are left only with the past.
Your blindness and deafness left you crippled with fear.
And what did you do with your moments with Time?
Somehow, you forgot the true reason she was here.

Jennifer Benfield
10/18/2014

Thursday, October 2, 2014

The Quarter-Life Crisis

"I am temped to keep the car in drive, and leave it all behind. Cause I wonder sometimes about the outcome of a still verdictless life. Am living it right?"
-John Mayer (Why Georgia Lyrics) 


 Wow. It's been MONTHS since I have blogged. But, I needed to recollect my thoughts. Begin to rebuild my soul. I was beginning to lose touch with why I started this blog to begin with -to learn. I got distracted by trying to teach. I was caught up in trying to be the "perfect example" that I was ignoring my emotions. So here I am, back in the saddle (as we say down here in Texas).

See, for a while I wasn't allowing myself to be upset, or sad, or angry. I was pushing those things aside and eventually they imploded! I have learned A LOT over the past few months. I have learned that I need to feel those feelings. I need to learn to understand them and learn how to, eventually, transform them into a more positive, powerful force than sadness or anger could ever be. I need to change them to hope.

Yeah, easier said than done, right? Well, sometimes. But I have learned a few techniques that have really helped me listen to my feelings and feel them completely. The more I swept them under the rug, the more I tripped over them. Now that I can feel them and hold them, I can reign them in! I have more control now than I ever did. I am allowing my emotions to run their course. That's right I am allowing them. They don't control me anymore. Let me tell you a couple of things that have allowed me to get to this point.

1. MEDITATION, MEDITATION, MEDITATION. 

I know what you're thinking, this chick is bonkers. She doesn't eat meat AND she sits next to a Buddha statue, with some incense burning, and repeats "ohmmmm" over and over. NOPE! I mean, I am vegan. And I do use incense... but... shut up, okay. Let me explain! ;) What I try to do every morning is sit in a designated place in my home, light my favorite incense, close my eyes and just breathe. I don't try to clear my mind of every thought because my mind NEVER stops. I just try not to focus on one particular thought. I just relax and gather my intention for the day. For example, my intention today was "I will not let others spark anger inside me." I think meditation is important because it is the one time I am completely alone with just my own thoughts. No distractions, just feeling my own feelings. Incense I feel is important because when I smell that smell daily ONLY when I do my meditation, it seems to help me focus. Kind of like Pavlov's dog salivating at the dinner bell. I've trained myself to connect that smell with inner peace and focus.

2. Not beating myself up for breaking meditation, forgetting to meditate, breaking my intention, or making a not-so-smart decision.

What is done is done. Yes, you can be angry about it or upset, but don't dwell forever. Give it an hour. Or a day if you need. But don't spend your life being angry about the things you did with your time living!!

3. Being honest about how you feel.

Lately I have been feeling trapped. That feeling is the reason I started meditation to begin with. I don't have a college degree or tons of money to spend on getting one. But I know in the future I want a career that will require one. I mean, I like my job. But it is not something I want to do until the day I die. I beat myself up for MONTHS about dropping out of college. Which brings me back to #2. I just had to stop. I just have to make due with what I have now, work extra hard, and eventually get back in school. Nothing I can change about what happened now!

4. Not being afraid to be happy!

This is BY FAR the most important point. Don't be afraid to experience joy! I have lost a lot of very important people in my life. For a long time I felt survivor's guilt about still being here and not doing something GRAND with my time every minute of every day. But, I have come to realize that torturing myself because I have lost people is hurting me 2 times as much! One time for the loss and another time with my internal turmoil. Trust me, I still cry sometimes about those I have lost, but I also laugh about the good times. Most importantly, I vow to have more good times in HONOR of those loved ones who have passed.


I know this is like a weird self-help novel, but that's exactly what I had to do. I had to HELP MYSELF!

Don't wait until it's too late. Do whatever you can right now to feel happiness right now. Right now is all you've got. 

Thursday, May 29, 2014

Do Something Good!

"I'm convinced of this: Good done anywhere is good done everywhere. For a change, start by speaking to people rather than walking by them like they're stones that don't matter. As long as you're breathing, it's never too late to do some good." 
-Dr. Maya Angelou 

Wow. It's been a while since I've posted. I've been at a loss for words lately. With the passing of such a strong, beautiful, wise woman, I knew it was time for me to get back to writing. Maya Angelou was always someone I looked up to. She was an undeniably brave activist and a compassionate philanthropist. She made me believe that diversity and peace could coexist. It is heartbreaking that the world continues without her. With her death comes my realization that I have a responsibility to reach out to as many people as possible.

I haven't posted in a while because I have been wrapped up in.. well, CRAP. I think social media has something to do with that. While the internet opens up communication opportunities that were never a possibility before, it also serves to shed light on some of the darkest aspects of humanity. I have been so caught up in reading all of these hateful things that people say to one another on Facebook or random forums, that I have begun to feel like an outsider.

For instance, there is a restaurant nearby in Gilmer, Texas. It is called Big Earl's. At this restaurant, a gay couple had dinner and paid for their meal. After receiving payment the waitress (who was also the owner's daughter) informed the couple that Big Earl's doesn't serve "f*gs." A news story was promptly posted on every local newspaper's website. What was worse than the restaurant owner's pride in his daughter's statements, were the comments on the news stories online. So many of people who are supposed to be my peers posted disgusting, hatred-fueled words about this couple and the gay community in general. Seeing these posts initially made me feel anger. I was angry that there could still be such ignorance running rampant in the world today. But, then my anger dissolved into sadness.

Is this what it means to be human? To destroy all that is different? To hate all that you do not understand? To believe that your way is the only way? 

Well, if that is what it means to be human, then I hope I have evolved. That is not me, and it is shameful that I have to live in a place where people with this mindset are considered my peers.

I want to believe- no, I have to believe- that there is a radiance inside all of us. I have to believe that inside each person is an innate good. I have to believe that the only reason people say and do horrible things is because that goodness has been swallowed up by the pain that destroys their minds.

As Dr. Angelou's quote states, the simple act of just ACKNOWLEDGING people around you can really make a difference. I have to think, maybe that person who left that hateful comment on that forum is just struggling beneath silent agony in their mind or spirit. Maybe that person has given up. Maybe that person feels like the only way to get recognition is to lash out. After all, a negative reaction is still a reaction. It still reminds you that you are alive. But wouldn't it be so simple if people were able to reach their attention quota just by smiles or words from strangers in the street? Wouldn't it be simple if you spoke to someone and it gave them the motivation to keep going? Well, it's possible.

So, what if you are that person who has said horrible, hateful things? Well, it's never too late to begin to improve. Every breath you breathe gives you another chance for a kind word. What better redemption than creating hope for another!!

Plus, what bad could come of doing something nice? What negative thing could be created from your choice to cause the least amount of harm possible?

And this is where I find my mission.

I want to help people, including myself, unlock as much of their inner good as possible. I want each person to reach their full potential of happiness, peace, and hope. I don't want to shudder at the thought of trying to reason with the unreasonable. I want to conquer the hatred in this world and turn it into something beautiful.

You can do it too!!

Tuesday, May 6, 2014

Every Path Is Open To You

"Not all those who wander are lost."

-J.R.R. Tolkien
 When I contemplated starting my own photography business, I was stressed at work, bored with my scheduled days, and was lacking inspiration. So I did what everyone does when pouting isn't accomplishing anything. I posted a status on Facebook. I can't remember verbatim, but it was something like, "I know I am not who I am meant to be, yet. I need a change!"

Yes, it was exactly what you are thinking. One of those vague, 'pay attention to me' statuses. Guilty as charged. Sometimes, to voice a worry to the world lifts some of the weight from my shoulders. This was one of those times.

When I posted that status I typed it with gusto, feeling empowered by typing my mission online for the world to see. I was going to work harder at improving myself and reaching my potential! I said it on the internet, so it must be true... right?

Then I got this comment: "Oh, Jennifer. You are always at a crossroads in your life."

I felt my heart drop as I read the comment. Just moments before, I was reveling in the feeling of clicking the "post" button. At the time, it was like I was clicking to turn over my new leaf. But after reading the comment I immediately began to questioned myself. "Obviously you've come to these grand ideas of enlightenment before, Jennifer. You saw how that panned out. What makes you think this time will be different?"

My question presented my answer. The difference this time was ME. I was a different person than I was during the other times of self-imposed turmoil. I am a different person today than I was yesterday. So what if I've failed a thousand times before? So what if I don't know what I want to do with my life... for the rest of my life? I am forever changing. My mind is allowed to change with it. In fact, I hope it does. I hope I continue to strive for change, betterment, and maybe even a little turmoil if it means I am improving myself and the world around me.

Remember, you may feel like you are spending your whole life searching for that something that you are meant to do or that someone you are meant to be. It doesn't mean you are directionless. It simply means you have not barricaded any possibilities. Every path is open to you. 

If you never settle for good enough, if you never settle for just contentment, you will never stop yearning. And if you never stop yearning, you will never stop growing, you will never stop learning, and you will never stop experiencing what it means to be ALIVE!




Sunday, April 27, 2014

Bust those doors down!

"Opportunity does not knock, it presents itself when you beat down the door."

-Kyle Chandler

 I sometimes find comfort in cliches, as vapid as that may sound.

I didn't just become a worrier one day. I think I was born one. For as long as I can remember reckless, anxious thoughts have crept inside my consciousness. If you're not one to fret, be happy. Worry fits less like a glove, and more like a suffocating straight jacket.

For instance, I remember once I was about 8 years old, I was posted up on the couch with a cast on my leg due to another femur fracture. I was playing Crash Bandicoot (and kicking some serious butt, I might add), when my sister came in. She was grasping a couple of Polly Pockets, and dancing to the music buzzing through the headphones of her portable CD player. Yes, we were so terribly '90's. She wasn't paying attention. The whole time she was getting her groove on around the room, I was paralyzed with fear. I literally had to pause my game so that I could watch her to make sure she didn't accidentally bump into my leg, or shatter it with her tiny hands, or rip it off in a fit of rage. Whatever it was that I was so afraid of didn't have to make sense. The fear was overwhelming.  For the record, my sister ended up grabbing a controller and sitting on the recliner and we played Mortal Kombat.

I sometimes find comfort in cliches, as vapid as that may sound. When I worry, my mom's words echo in my mind, "whatever is meant to happen will happen. Don't sweat the small stuff."

In most instances, I do find comfort in it. Like, when I worried that we would NEVER find a wheelchair-accessible house. We finally did. Problem solved. It was meant to be, I suppose.

But lately, I realize that I have relied on that tiny token of belief for far too long. In many aspects of my life I have become too.... "go-with-the-flow." Like my future, for example.

Currently, I am not 100% where I want to be. I mean, I really do love the work that I do, but I don't believe in my heart that it is what I am meant to do forever. I want to help people. I want to make a difference in the world. I have coasted on the fact that the life that is "meant to happen will happen." That's not how life works. If everyone just let it "happen" we would have the DULLEST world. No inventions. No improvements. No true unique ideas.

I'm taking the reigns now. I have decided to take a leap in multiple ways. One being, I started my own photography business. I still work, I just do this one the side. It is serving as an amazing creative outlook for me. So my future is looking brighter. Also, I got accepted into a local University. Right now it's a toss-up on whether my major will be teaching or Psychology. Right now, I'm just going to take a little bit of everything and follow the passion I hope I will discover!

I encourage you to take a leap in your life. Don't coast on a cliche.

YOU have to make things happen in your life. Don't rely on fate. Rely on the power of your own mind and spirit!

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

The Yellow Bird

She said you were aiming for the sun
And I was just in-between
And every time you wish to die
An arrow was released

...
And the only thing between dark and light
Was my breast or yellow wings
Well this can’t be true I shook with fear
Though I knew she didn’t lie
...
I never wanted to harm anybody else
It’s just I who wish to die
And then the tears came rolling down
And the floor fell underneath
...
And the yellow bird folded her wings together
And I dragged her down with me

-Lyrics from  'Came a Yellow Bird' by Simon Joyner

'Came a Yellow Bird' is one of the most tragic, beautiful songs I have ever heard. If you haven't listened to it, I recommend you do so. 

Often when I am upset, angry, or sad, I sink into self-absorption. I don't think about the impact that my attitude can have on other people. I don't think about how painful it is to see someone you love crumble before you eyes. My only concern is with myself. For instance, if I have a bad day at work I sometimes find myself being sarcastic and short with my husband when he has done nothing wrong. But, really, how selfish is that? I am the type of person who loves with my whole heart. Seeing anyone or anything suffer because of me is unacceptable. (which is one of the reasons I am vegan.) Sometimes just the realization that I am being rude and negative to my husband, when he has waited all day to see me and spend time with me, is enough to snap me out of it.

Even as an adult, when I see my mother cry my heart aches and I crumble. Even though it is very rare and shortlived, her tears always move me. I am overcome with the need to take all of her pain away, as if I could absorb it at my own expense. While I know it isn't possible to physically transfer her heartache to mine, I still feel the pain along with her. I wouldn't wish pain on anyone. So I try to bring joy wherever I go.

If you have kept up with my blog, you know that I lost a friend to suicide. I think that is the reason this song has stuck with me for so long. Specifically the lyrics, "I never wanted to harm anybody else, it's just I who wish to die."

I hope that anyone who has EVER seen suicide as an option realizes that you can not pray for death and expect no one to be hurt. Someone loves you. Someone's life has been forever changed because you are alive. And it will be forever crushed when you die. I promise, no matter how bad your life may seem right now, every moment is temporary. With the flutter of a wing, your life can reach heights you never knew possible.  There is always hope, even when you see nothing but darkness in your path. Sometimes, you have to light your own match and stumble out into the world.

Just remember to protect your yellow bird. Don't shoot arrows of self-loathing, anger, and hatred into the wings of the people you love by simply giving up.