Becoming a Writer: A Journey Through Fear

“Fears are educated into us, and can, if we wish, be educated out.” -Karl Augustus Menninger

For a long time, I didn’t consider myself a “real writer.” I always made myself believe that I was just a wannabe.

To be the “real deal” you had to publish your work in many journals or magazines, have at least one book, be well-known in some sort of fashion, and/or have some kind of fancy academic credential and be actively engaged in a writing or artistic community.

Right?

Not quite, I’ve realized.

When people have asked me what I hope to do with my life, I have said, “I want to be a writer.” After being reminded of my goal, I would devise some kind of crazy writing schedule that I could never keep up with and then I would end up not writing, dreaming about writing instead.

I feared writing, in reality. I was afraid of putting words onto paper because of what others might think of them, what I might think of them if they didn’t live up to my silly, perfectionistic standards. The critics were alive and well in my head, and they were suffocating the creativity out of me, quip by quip.

It wasn’t until very recently that I realized that I am a writer. A real writer, despite what these critics have told me for years.

I have published, but not extensively. I’ve edited a book, but not yet written my own. I’m well-known among my friends, family, and colleagues, and now my Instagram travel community, but that’s the extent of my “fame” at the moment.

However, for me right now, all of this is enough. And it’s this, and more, that makes me a writer.

What I’ve learned is that I don’t need outside validation to “be a writer” (or to be anything else, for that matter). I can simply be one–even if that means journaling in one of my notebooks or thinking up some fun children’s book idea in my head and jotting it down. A book is a book is a book but not having one yet doesn’t mean I’m not a writer.

As I’ve learned, being a writer is more than a book, a publication credit, or an advanced degree. It’s a mode of operating, which includes the act of writing itself. It’s also a way of observing the world around you, seeing stories come alive in front of your eyes. It’s a way of tuning in to life, rather than turning away.

Being a writer is the act of embracing a creative force–one that requires observation, research, reading, and writing, itself. It also requires some time prioritization (so that you can actually write your great thoughts and ideas down!) and a firm F YOU to anything inside and outside of you (i.e. the critics) that tells you otherwise.

As a good friend recently blogged, you’re the expert of your own life. So, for me, if I want to embrace my inner writer, then I need to write my own story, whether that is though fiction, poetry, nonfiction, or blog posts.

What I’ve also discovered through this learning process is that in order to write my own story, I need to push through a mountain of ugly fear and allow myself to be vulnerable in front of others. Sure, I might get some push-back, but I’ll also be living an authentic life.

By allowing myself to really be myself, I’ve found boundless opportunities to express my creativity and write and engage with the world around me like never before. And it’s just the beginning.

With hopefully many years ahead of me, I look forward to living the creative life I once denied myself. And all it took was filtering out inner and outer criticism, fear, self-loathing, and turning instead toward my real values and joys.

Not an easy feat by any means. And the fight is never over, but it does get easier over time.

To creativity and beyond,

KP

Feature photo credit: A Visit in Germany / KP

 

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Coming Clean: An Attempt to Rescue My Time & Life

I have a secret.

I’m addicted to being busy. And I hate it.

I’ve had many people tell me that me + busyness is like peanut butter and jam–that we go together, hand-in-hand. They say that I look so happy when I’m busy or that being busy is my thing.

They are correct in their superficial observation, but I know, on a deeper level, that this observation is also an incorrect assumption. (It’s not their fault though, I’ve believed and perpetuated this falsity for so long…)

Acknowledging Busyness = Like Barfing

If you know me personally, it’s probably hard to believe that I’ve cringed every single time (seriously, every time) that someone complimented me on how “happy” and “energized” I look when I’m busy.

No joke–my stomach does a nervous somersault EVERY. DAMN. TIME. My gut feels so knotted that I sometimes imagine myself physically detangling it and needing superhero-level strength to do so. I also imagine vomiting. That’s how visceral of a reaction I get when someone says that I look good and happy when busy. (Quite simply, YUCK.)

Now, if I step back and analyze that reaction, I see that it’s pretty damn unhealthy to imagine barfing and needing to be a superhero to undo such a simple and seemingly innocent observation.

Yet, I’ve rarely stopped to fully analyze this uncomfortable feeling until just yesterday evening when I was up until 4:00 AM writing this post.

Typically, instead of stopping to reflect on this particularly knotty and confusing feeling, I’ve just kept moving on and on, just like I think I should (the keyword here is should, which is no good).

Because somehow I’ve come to believe that progress doesn’t happen by doing nothing. And goals don’t get accomplished if you don’t have focus, if you don’t work hard, if you don’t do XYZ and 10 million other things x 10 million more. Blah, blah, blah.

Sure, there’s some truth to these positive reminders that help you accomplish things and be successful (in whatever way you define your own success), but I’ve also found them to be a seriously tangled and messy web that’s easy to get stuck in and hard to get out of.

If I’m being 100% honest with myself (and others), I have to come clean–I DON’T LIKE BEING BUSY. I HATE IT. I HATE IT SO MUCH.

Why My Life Is a Busy Ball of Hell

But I am busy. So fucking busy. ALL. THE. DAMN. TIME.

Why?

Because I’ve internalized so much BS–from society, from culture, from “success” stories I’ve heard, from what I’ve learned growing up, from what I’ve told myself, etc. etc.–that being busy is akin to a virtue.

That busyness is the way to success (and what kind of success? I have no f’ing idea).

That you cannot reach professional and personal fulfillment without being constantly busy doing something to get to the next level.

That you cannot be a “worthy” person if you aren’t doing super amazing things all the time (and, preferably, super amazing things that help others).

That you cannot reach the next whatever without pushing the needle just a little bit more, doing just a few more hours of this or that, etc. etc. etc.

A Slight Detour: Defining Busyness

Before I continue, I should define what I mean by busyness…

When I say busy, I mean packing almost every hour of your day with some sort of active activity. Active activity = writing a blog post, doing actual paid work, cooking, baking, cleaning, tackling various projects/assignments…essentially knocking of anything on your never-ending to-do list.

An active activity is different from a passive activity.

A passive activity would be anything that gives you deep relaxation and that you derive great pleasure from. For me, this would be reading a book or magazine, taking a bath, going for a walk, writing and creating for fun, and being still and just observing the wonders of the world around me.

Essentially:

  • Active = things that keep you busy going toward some kind of defined, albeit arbitrary goal
  • Passive = relaxation (i.e. no “real” goal that society at-large could easily define–and likely a “goal” that you (or others) might consciously or unconsciously shame yourself for doing because you should be doing that other active “goal”).

Back to: Why My Life Is a Busy Ball of Hell

And so, when I look at my own life, all I see is busy. Busy at 6 AM. Busy at 9 AM. Busy at 9:05 AM. Busy at 9:10 AM. Busy until I go to sleep too late at 1 AM and then wake up just five to six hours later. (Yep, super unhealthy.)

I’ve come face-to-face with the ugliness that is busyness before. For instance, when I’ve exhausted myself so much so that I’m snippy and unhappy around family and friends and I mistakenly blame it on something else (a job, a particular situation, someone else, my existential crisis of not knowing what to do with my life–more on this particular form of BS at a later time, etc.).

But really, my bad/lackluster mood and poor behavior is (often times) the result of being so damn tired because I am so damn busy doing ten million things all the time and holding myself up to super unrealistic expectations. My energy is completely sapped. I no longer feel alive in the way I often appear to be for the initial launch of my many projects and activities. What I’ve experienced time and time again is that this energy doesn’t last. And it’s not because I don’t want that energy to last; rather, it’s because I’m literally suffocating my time to death because I keep stuffing my days full with just one more thing.

And I’m sick and tired of it, this busyness. It ruins my life–rather, my enjoyment of life–way too often.

This busyness stems from a number of assumptions that I’ve held so firmly from years of social and (American) cultural input (I really have to learn to embrace my Croatian cultural input instead…so much more relaxed and balanced!).

Some of these assumptions (and my accompanying commentary–enjoy!) include the following:

  • You should try your best on everything you do. This means doing it close to perfection and often, doing it better than others. (HA! Question for you–why do we always have to compete with others and compare ourselves to them, American/social culture? Because it’s BULLSHIT.)
  • You should try to one up yourself to keep challenging yourself so that you grow. (But grow into what? A fucking flower? The strong, awe-worthy beanstalk from Jack and the Giant Beanstalk? Who the fuck knows…)
  • You should always be working because “an idle mind is the Devil’s playground” and you can’t reach your potential or save the world or take care of your family or make the money you want (etc.) if you’re not working all the time. (HAHAHAHAHAHAHA. (1) How do you–whoever you are (or even the Devil)–know what my full potential looks like? And (2) BULLSHIT.)

How I Broke-Down and Confronted the Busyness Bully

Just this weekend I came face-to-face with busyness again in all its ugliness.

I turned in an assignment (i.e. take-home exam) for a grad school class that was only 50% complete, which means that I’ll probably get a 50% (maybe less) as my grade for it (will I fail the whole class, though? Probably not, and so I’m letting it go…).

But why did I only do a horrifyingly 50% of my assignment? Because (1) I underestimated the time I would need to spend on it (and I underestimated my overall comprehension of the material) ,  and (2) my life has been split into so many different busy pieces that by the time I sat down to do the work, I was already exhausted and had difficulty doing simple math.

No bueno, as David would say.

So after I had a mini breakdown (I threw multiple books onto the floor and stormed away from my computer, so disgusted and frustrated with myself), I decided to work through my anger and everything else I was feeling instead of letting it consume me in shame and self-pity.

Thanks to this huge fail of a moment, what I realized was that I can’t go on living this way, in this constant state of busyness. (To be honest, this failure kinda saved my life, and I’m grateful for it. Insert heart emoji.)

  • (1) I can’t actually get through all 20 items on my to-do list in just one weekend. It’s impossible (although I was close, somehow, until I quite literally failed my assignment, which derailed all my hopes and dreams of having a perfectly complete to-do list–HA!).
  • And (2), I don’t even need to be doing most of what I have on my list anyways.

For instance, this blog. I want to have this blog because I want to write. But I don’t need to do it nor do I really need to stick to some kind of posting schedule that I’ve been trying to force upon myself simply because I know what you need to do to grow a blog following.

Yes, it’s great to know these best practices for work and commerce, but I’m not doing this blog for work or to make money or even to grow my audience. It’s just for fun. And it’s just for me (readers are an extra bonus–and I 100% appreciate you!).

My Come-Back-to-Reality-and-Stop-the-Busy-Train Lessons Learned

What I’ve also realized is that I really, truly HATE being busy–as I’ve always known, but have been afraid to acknowledge.

Why?

Because it means confronting the uncomfortable truth that I must learn to love and accept myself on my own, and that I’m worthy of love and belonging (to borrow Brene Brown’s words), even without having all the bells and whistles of projects, activities, and the like to cover-up (instead of deal with) my own self-criticism, self-consciousness, and lack of self-compassion.

Moreover, for many years, I’ve used busyness as a way to show how “successful” I am to the outside world, because, really, the outside world validates this path to success (and success in terms of $$$, power, and status, etc.) ALL the time–from corporate America to your parents and friends (and we–me, included–really need to stop this…).

For example, next time you see someone, like me, doing 10 million different projects, don’t say, “You are so amazing. I don’t know how you have time for all of this. I wish I could do that.”

  • Because (1) you really don’t want to do what I’m doing because it’s insane and unhealthy.
  • (2) I don’t actually have time for all of it; I’m drowning.
  • (3) I need to learn to embrace that I am amazing no matter what, regardless of if my to-do list is full or not. I also need to learn not rely on other people’s compliments for validation of my own worth.

Again, it is no one’s fault for saying something like the above example, but it is probably better to congratulate people on accomplishing something they were working on (and really wanted to be working on) rather than congratulating them for doing lots of projects and, by extension, being busy trying to “do it all.”

The Infinite Wisdom of Luca Spaghetti

I’ve also used busyness as a way to show how “successful” I am to myself. I’ve held up my worth against this ridiculous and totally arbitrary measure of success, i.e. if I complete EVERYTHING on my crazy long self-created to-do list by this weekend, THEN I will deserve praise and relaxation.

In writing this, I can’t help but think of Luca Spaghetti from the Eat, Pray, Love movie summing up this silly (American) notion so nicely:

Luca Spaghetti: You feel guilty because you’re American. You don’t know how to enjoy yourself!.

Liz Gilbert: [looking a bit taken aback] I beg your pardon?

Luca Spaghetti: It’s true. Americans know entertainment, but don’t know pleasure.

. . .

Luca Spaghetti: . . . You want to know your problem? Americans! You work too hard. You get burned out. Then you come home and spend the whole weekend in your pajamas in front of the TV.

Liz Gilbert: That’s not far off, actually.

Luca Spaghetti: But you don’t know pleasure. You have to be told you’ve earned it. You see a commercial that says, “It’s Miller time”… and you say, “That’s right. Now I will go to buy a six-pack.” And drink the whole thing and wake up the next morning and you feel terrible. But an Italian doesn’t need to be told. He walks by a sign that says, “You deserve a break today,” and he says, “Yeah, I know. That’s why I’m planning on taking a break at noon…”

My Real Values vs. My Adopted Values

So, even though my real life values have nothing to do with optimizing my newsletter for my ideal readership or spending hours on a paper so that I get an A+ or working 60+ hours in a week to make extra bucks, I still somehow spend the majority (actually, all) of my time on this stuff. I mean, that’s crazy, isn’t it?!?!

What I truly value is quality time with family and friends and being creative and writing and above all, FREE TIME TO ENGAGE IN ALL OF THESE QUALITY, FLEETING, AND WONDERFUL THINGS.

Yet, I’ve continually deprived myself of free time so that I can keep climbing that ladder…that imaginary ladder to someone else’s version of success and fulfillment.

Don’t get me wrong–there are things I must certainly do, like clean, cook, do homework, make money, etc. BUT that doesn’t mean I should spend ALL of the time on these things. And it most certainly doesn’t mean that I should sacrifice my own health and sanity for these things either.

While I know this letting-go-of-busyness process will be very difficult, since it’s always hard to unlearn a long-held habit, I’ve decided to consciously try saying “no” to any external invitations or internal naggings that don’t align with what I really want to be doing with my time and life.

The Burning: A Liberation

And so, to celebrate this healthy step in the right direction, I decided to burn my 2018 goal list, which contained many things I enjoy (like cooking, reading, writing, etc.) but in a format that was way to social pressure-esque and prone to too much shaming if I didn’t get something done.

As I watched my 2018 goal list burn, I felt so much stress melt away and so much peace come rushing back into my life–the same peace I felt before I put pen to paper to create the list in the first place.

Here’s my liberation, proof in ashes:

unnamed (1)

In addition to this fiery celebration, I wrote a little 2018 Don’t Do List to empower myself to make healthy life, time, and priority choices. Because: “Hi, I’m Kristina. And I’m a busyaholic.”

To embracing la dolce vita like Luca Spaghetti,

KP

P.S. Here’s a sample from my 2018 Don’t Do List:

  • Stop trying to revamp your blog newsletter. Actually, better yet–stop making your blog newsletter completely because it’s just another thing on your to-do list you don’t need to actually do.
  • Make whatever recipes you want each week. If you try something new, cool. If you don’t, fine. You’ll be fed. Your world will be just fine if you don’t reach your previously set goal of trying a new recipe every two weeks. Do what you can, and don’t beat yourself up.
  • Don’t say yes to everyone and every invitation to do work, go out, volunteer, have brunch/coffee, etc. And don’t feel guilty for wanting to stay at home and read a book and drink hot chocolate by yourself.
  • Speaking of reading, read whatever books you want, whenever you want. GoodReads is great–but don’t feel like you MUST reach the Reading Challenge goal you set because really, what you want most is to enjoy reading, not to win a fucking competition. (But keep on reading your one poem a day because that gives you so much joy it’s astounding.)
  • Don’t try to make this blog anything more than what you enjoy (because if you enjoy it, likely others will enjoy its authenticity as well). You created this blog to kickstart writing for yourself again (not for work, not for fame, and not even for your lovely audience of friends). You did this for you. So keep doing it for you. Your friends will like and respect you no matter what.

P.S.S. Another dose of inspiration I stumbled upon today from one of my fav. travel bloggers:

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Feature photo credit: Goal List Ashes / KP

 

#MeToo: A Story of Holding Back, Self-Blame, and Opening Up

Please note: Adult language & triggering information about personal experiences follows.

I’ve been struggling to figure out what to say, how to say it, and when to say it.

I stand in solidarity with the strong and amazing women who have spoken out against sexual harassment and assault and have shared their own stories via #MeToo and through other means. And I stand taller now, thanks to all of these courageous women, feeling more confident than ever to speak up if I see an injustice or abuse occurring, or if I experience it myself.

While there is plenty that still needs changing in our government and society at large, I am invigorated by the momentum that women’s stories have been gaining over the past few months in the media and in normal conversation.

These are important conversations we are having together–one-on-one and in the broader social space. It gives me hope for a better world. And I certainly hope it’s a world where we will be inviting and accepting of all voices–from women and non-binary individuals to LGBTQ+ individuals and people of color, among others.

It also brings me back to all the times that I’ve experienced harassment and gendered exploitation in my personal and professional life.

In addition to reading the many stories shared by women all over the world about their experiences with sexual harassment, assault, and abuse, I’ve been doing a lot of reading about vulnerability by shame and vulnerability researcher, Brene Brown. Both of these elements have converged and have compelled me to share my own stories.

It’s time.

—-

I’ve been cat-called and honked at since I was in middle school as I walked to the local strip mall with my friends and it continues to this day as I walk with the same friends to get ice cream at the local Dairy Queen.

We are not walking for you to look at us and give us attention. We’re walking for ice cream, not for you. Roll your window back up, shut up, and go away.

I’ve received unwelcome shoulder rubs from men in superior positions as young as high school.

It’s my body. Not yours. Stop it.

I’ve listened to countless sexual “jokes” from so many men, even in what was supposed to be a “professional” environment.

These are not jokes. They’re lewd and disgusting. And I think you are too.

And I’ve experienced what happens when these sexual “jokes” open up to more sexual harassment.

A former adult student I taught told these “jokes.” They were all part of his game (I later realized) to get me out of the classroom for some coffee and practice English outside in a social context, so innocent and reasonable, it seemed. Oh, how I wish I knew then what I know now…but I won’t beat myself up about it because he was the one who violated and abused our relationship for his own personal gain.

That coffee turned into him trying to get me alone, and then turned into him standing behind me and putting his hands in my coat pockets. I pulled away. Then he tried to feed me a chocolate bar. I pushed his hand away, immediately. I was completely shocked, speechless, and so very uncomfortable.

After this incident, I dreaded every lesson with him.

I never reported it. I wish I did, but I felt that it wouldn’t have made any bit of difference because “that’s just how he is,” as someone told me in reference to his “jokes.” But I still wish I told everyone around me–even if our supervisor wouldn’t have listened.

I later learned that I wasn’t the only one. His inappropriate and abusive behavior was known at his place of work, and yet his superiors did nothing.

I’ve been contacted on social media by men seeking to “start a conversation” with me, which I now know is cue for: I would like to send you sexually explicit messages and images.

You have NO RIGHT to contact me or anyone in such a manner. Who the fuck do you think you are?

I’ve gotten the check-out and been told I looked “sexy” by a supervisor.

It doesn’t matter what I was wearing. That is inappropriate in any context from a supervisor. And it made me feel extremely uncomfortable.

I’ve been discouraged from speaking up, sharing my ideas, and reaching my full potential in past professional contexts because of both male and female superiors/colleagues who preferred to listen to male voices over a female’s.

Plus, I’ve been paid shit time and time again yet expected to produce excellent work in high volumes while being treated so poorly.

I’m not a perfect employee by any means, but I never deserved your bullshit conditions (which also happened to be promoted by those seeking to “do good in the world” with their organizations — well, you better start in your own damn backyard. #TimesUpAR (= times up animal rights) and #TimesUpEC (= times up environmental community).

It has taken me until just a month ago to realize that these people are bullies. They bully you with slights that you barely even notice but 100% register and internalize until you have no desire to speak up because it won’t really matter anyways, right? Because they’ve made it clear that you don’t matter. But you do.

And it has taken me until just a month ago to stop allowing these “superiors” to have power over me and my story and to stop them from living on in my head.

I’m going to shine and it’s not going to be because of you. It will be in spite of you. And it will be thanks to all the other wonderful mentors I’ve found when you’ve failed me.

Shame on you for your lack of attention to and regard of many talented professionals that you’ve lost because you’ve refused to change and expand your view to include other voices. You may have the experience and skills to be in a leadership position, but you ARE NOT A LEADER.

I realized that when many of the above circumstances have occurred that I wouldn’t have been so forthcoming about the harassment or exploitation. I would have preferred to tell someone that I was uncomfortable, that something felt wrong–but that would be all.

If I encountered these situations today, I would more likely label them sexual harassment and gendered exploitation because that’s what they are, at their core.

I think my reluctance to label them as such in the past is that I almost immediately looked at myself to see what I was doing wrong.

Was I being too friendly to this person that they thought I would want this type of attention? Should I not have worn my tall winter boots over my jeans with a blouse from The Limited on casual Friday?

And after placing blame on myself, I would go on the defensive, prepared for the next time a particular person would come back with “sexy” comments or “jokes” or try to touch me. I would say, “I have a boyfriend.”

But these responses–this, “I am not single so leave me alone,” and this, “it is my fault somehow”–are both woefully inadequate and showcase how much we–us, the victims–have internalized the ever-prevalent social norm of victim-blaming.

These types of responses reinforce damaging gendered narratives and place the burden on the victim to rectify something (the situation, or themselves), rather than placing responsibility on the perpetrators, who should be the ones held accountable for their inappropriate, exploitative, and abusive behavior.

This feels good, to be writing all of this. But it also makes me angry. And it makes me sad. And it makes me feel so vulnerable that I wonder if this is a good idea. But I know we need to share our stories because stories are powerful.

Stories can inspire someone else to share theirs–that’s how we got the #MeToo movement. And that’s how we’ll get many others started.

As we’ve seen from so many stories before and many more still to come, harassment and abuse happens to so many of us. It takes a lot of courage to share such stories–and it’s a very vulnerable and painful experience as well.

I want to encourage you–if you have a story you’ve been holding inside–to share it when you’re ready.

The time is now. The time is always.

With deep admiration & gratitude for all of you,

KP

Feature photo credit: Color-changing camping fire / KP

Waking Up to Sleep: A Reflection on Gratitude

This is my year of gratitude (among other things). Really, every year should be a year of gratitude. I’ll probably keep this particular theme around–a lifetime sounds good.

With just 17 days into the new year, I am finding ways to be grateful for things as small and simple as the sunset on a cold winter day–the way pastel pinks and muted oranges mix like an abstract painting in the deepening gray sky. I am also finding ways to be more grateful for bigger concepts like my overall health and the sturdy roof over my head.

I have found that by silently expressing gratitude throughout the day–a simple pause in thought here and there, nothing more formal or profound–that I am increasing my awareness to the abundance that is around me, even if the day might feel a bit colder, darker, and blurrier than others. Each new day has a surprise waiting for us if we only open our eyes, hearts, and minds to gratitude.

Deep shit right there–I know. But it’s true.

With more gratitude and deeper awareness comes more sound fulfillment and joy. It’s not superficial; rather, it’s long-lasting and powerful in ways that no material thing or experience can be. What I find most powerful about gratitude is that it gives you back your own power–you’re no longer putting your happiness into the hands of a job, class, friend, family member, or social norm. You’re taking back happiness and putting it where it’s lived all along–inside your heart and mind. With gratitude–that is, consistently practiced gratitude and an openness to present awareness–you have an ever-replenishing supply of joy. Some days the joy burns more brightly than other days, but it’s always there, saying, “Hey–remember me? I’m here for you. Forget me not.”

I was reminded of gratitude today as I was fighting off sleep at work. I got maybe six hours of rest the night before (and the night before that), and woke up a few times before my alarm officially went off (the worst). Thanks to my persistently playful and hungry morning lady cats and some strong Kroger-brand black tea, I was ready for work in no time. However, tiredness seeped in throughout the day. My face grew warm. My body moved slower. My mind was mush. All I wanted was sleep–something I never really thought of making a priority until more recently.

As I’ve grown older, I’ve found sleep to be instrumental in regulating my mood, appetite, and energy levels. Most of us know this–but I’ve forced myself to become very aware of it so that I truly understand the consequences. I’ve watched myself become sluggish and irritable when I’m low on sleep and grow energetic and level-headed when sleep is in plentiful supply. In sum, sleep is great. It’s wonderful. And I want more of it–or well, enough of it to not be so damn tired and drained during the day.

So what does sleep have to do with gratitude? Because I realized today as I was staring at my work computer and not typing that it is something to be grateful for–this miraculous, natural way we rejuvenate ourselves. I barely paid sleep much heed before–oh, I’ll get 8 hours this weekend, but tonight six is fine. Oh, another almost all-nighter…well, the weekend is coming. Nope. Enough is enough. The more I put sleep to the side, the more I push myself to the sideline. Without sleep my gratitude meter drops, my mood is all funky, and my energy goes from zoom to zilch in a few hours time.

I’d like to be awake and grateful for the things happening in the here and now. So I’m raising my glass to you, sleep–now, time for bed.

Cheers,

KP

P.S. My monthly Inspiration Newsletter is getting a makeover. Check out the before here, and check out the after by subscribing today–you’ll get a copy to your inbox on the last Sunday of every month. Ca-ching!

Feature photo credit: Newport Beach Pier / KP

Starting Over, Starting Again

“We carry these lists near our hearts and finger them like worry beads. It doesn’t matter what is on them. They are the thieves and it is the insidious virtue to have everything in order before we live that is the greatest thief.” -Mark Nepo

My two cats are running over the furniture, from room to room. It’s close to midnight and it’s their daily pre-midnight run-play fest. I love watching them tumble and bounce off everything in their path and then wrestle each other to the floor, grappling for entertainment. Each day, they remind me of balance. Of love. Of joy. And of fun.

I’d forgotten about these things over the past year and maybe even longer than that ( you’ll probably hear more about this in future posts). Sure, I had plenty of good times (I even got married in Croatia–which was a blast!) but much of the year had this icky grey filter over it that I just couldn’t shake. And then it took going into a dark place and then back out again to finally shake free from the shit cloud.

Now, I start 2018 with a renewed outlook–not a new one entirely, just the one I’ve had in me all along but that’s been hiding out under some rock. This outlook has a new dimension though–it’s a reboot, so to speak, but with a twist. Because I’ve decided I don’t just want to paste on some positivity and call it a day. I want to be positive, sure, but more than anything I want to own who I am fully and allow positivity to live out from this true place of being. In this way, the positivity can be genuine, not simply a flimsy filter through which I try to see and live my life.

This means being vulnerable and not shying away from vulnerability–whether in silly or tough situations. This also means believing I am enough and living boldly with this belief. It means not feeling bad when I choose to take time and enjoy something I’ve been looking forward to, like reading an article in Poets & Writers Magazine or going to bed early, even if there’s still one more damn thing to do on my damn endless to-do list. It also means charging what I feel is fair for my freelance services, based on the high quality of my work, my knowledge, and my experience. More than anything, it means being who I am and not being bullied out of it by a situation, thought, emotion, or person.

And so, I’ve decided to start over on this blog, or start again. It’s been a year of not writing here and that makes me sad. I don’t feel bad about it, just sad, which means it’s something I need to do for myself so here I am, doing it. Re-booting this blog is one of my reach goals for this year mainly because I have a whole lotta random goals in different categories like fitness, health, creativity, travel, career, and family/friends. For example, one goal is to read one poem a day and another goal is to try a new recipe every other week (doing well so far).

All of this–and restarting this blog–seem doable now, but I know that once my regular schedule sets in (grad school, work, side projects, etc.) that the goals could be pushed aside. Even if some of them get sidelined temporarily, I know they will be there, waiting for me to come back, and so I won’t feel guilty about letting them go on vacation for awhile. I also know that even making a little bit of progress on each goal will be WAY more than I did before to improve in each category so that’s a big deal and I will celebrate accordingly.

In addition to my 2018 goals, I plan to:

  • Make some more headway on my Top 100 list (i.e. my bucket list which I’ve updated via the link, if you’d like to check it out).
  • Revamp my monthly newsletter, Inspiration, with a whole bunch of fun, new, quirky, and delightful exclusive content that you won’t find on my blog. (Subscribe here to check out the revamp.)
  • Launch a new monthly series called The F That Blog (a blog within a blog) that will feature quirky illustrations (in collaboration with a local artist) along with a spunky, honest post about things that bully us (think: depression, naysayers, evil never-good-enough thoughts, guilt, shame, etc.) out of being our full, cool selves and how we can be empowered to tell ‘em to “eff off!”.

So, cheers to 2018–what I’m dubbing the year of seeking inner peace, embracing gratitude, and finding adventure anywhere and everywhere.

Ciao for now,

KP

P.S. My monthly Inspiration Newsletter is getting a makeover. Check out the before here, and check out the after by subscribing today.

Feature photo credit: Old Town Stairs / KP

When the Trumpet Sounds

On November, 28th 2016 I posted the message below on Facebook in response to the presidential election results. Now, as we approach the year in which Donald Trump will be sworn in as our president, I’ve annotated this message with new thoughts and feelings. Shout out to Facebook for being my mini time capsule.

I was in Melbourne when our new president was elected. I remember watching the polls come in and feeling devastated when the votes flipped in his favor. I cried. I didn’t want to come back. I hadn’t considered an election with this outcome because it was too horrible to accept. And now we’re here.

I honestly didn’t believe Donald Trump would be elected. Maybe that’s due in part to the fact that I live in a liberal bubble in San Francisco. Most people here were (and still are) hard-core Bernie supporters. As far as I know, none of my friends voted for Trump. Over the past year though, I certainly met people who did. When I think about them, I think about how we had things in common. We talked about those safe topics (work, television shows, sports) but could we have a productive conversation about politics? I don’t know. I was too afraid to broach the topic, mostly for fear of losing my own temper. I still want to understand why people voted for this person who has no political experience and is racist, sexist, and a bigot.

Tonight I attended a meeting with other women to brainstorm how we can take action going forward. Not just while we’re fired up, but, sustainable, positive action. We talked about using our strengths and passions to make a positive impact. I love writing, so I just submitted my application to volunteer with a local nonprofit, 826 Valencia.

I didn’t know what to expect when I attended this meeting. Part of me thought I was going to walk into a big room full of women looking pissed off but ready to take on the world. Like a room full of Rosie the Riveters. It turned out to be just five women, including myself, and one man. We each introduced ourselves and shared what had brought us together that night, and what we wanted to leave with. There was a big emphasis and discussion on this idea of sustainable, positive action. A curious thing was that everyone’s action steps involved their local community – through inclusive events, volunteering with a local nonprofit – only one suggestion (flippable.org) was truly political. While it may seem right now that politics are ruling the world – and I do believe it is important to understand and be part of the political process –  it is also important to remember that our local communities are supported by more than politics. They’re the parents, kids, childless adults, shop owners, students – all kinds of people that need us to vote with our time and money for what we believe in.

(I’m also volunteering at a dog shelter, because animals are amazing and it’s basically self care).

Hells yeah. Dogs don’t discriminate and they need our help all across the country (and world, but it helps me to start by thinking local.)

I also made a list of other actions to take before the end of the year:

 

  • Set up a monthly donation for Planned Parenthood and donate to the ACLU on Giving Tuesday (they’re matching donations on this day – tomorrow!)
  • Follow the SF League of Pissed Off Voters to keep up on local politics. Attending my first meeting in a few weeks.
  • Sign up for flippable.org to get daily actions to win back the house and senate
  • Add a taking action for animals section to my blog, SF Vegan

 

I did donate to the ACLU and Planned Parenthood. I also am now following the SF League of Pissed Off Voters, but haven’t made it to a meeting yet. I get the emails from flippable and need to be better about taking action on them. This one falls outside of my sustainable positive action category – it’s part of a newsletter, and I truly hate getting email. I see a full inbox and get overwhelmed, so it’s a goal of mine to figure out how I can really build this process into my daily life. I’m stretching my goal for the taking action for animals section to the end of this year.

It has been hard for me to find a balance between staying informed and wanting to hide under a blanket recently. I’m posting this here to give myself some accountability. I also want to acknowledge that I may not singlehandedly change the world, but I never want to stop trying to make it a better place. Thank you to everyone who is doing the same. You RULE.

I just want to high-five past me when I read this paragraph. There is honesty, optimism, and realism here. I think the worst thing we can do is nothing, but sometimes it is the easier path. It feels as though if we cannot fix the whole issue – then why bother? Or, if we aim to do every task sent to us in a flippable email and we miss one, we label ourselves as a failure. However, there is always a choice, there is always a way to move forward, to progress.

I want to let President Obama bring that note home. Here is an excerpt from his Farewell Address earlier this month:

“So that’s what we mean when we say America is exceptional — not that our nation has been flawless from the start, but that we have shown the capacity to change and make life better for those who follow. Yes, our progress has been uneven. The work of democracy has always been hard. It’s always been contentious. Sometimes it’s been bloody. For every two steps forward, it often feels we take one step back. But the long sweep of America has been defined by forward motion, a constant widening of our founding creed to embrace all and not just some.”

Let’s move onward together,

AC

Feature photo credit: San Francisco Sky / Alexis Croswell

Lexi head shotAbout the Author: Alexis Croswell (AC) has a passion for story telling and an innate desire to learn. She enjoys deep thoughts and emotionally stimulating conversation. She will also be the first to laugh at herself and doesn’t take life too seriously. In her day job she works in content marketing at a people analytics company.

Discover more about Alexis here.

Remembering a Forever Friend

This post is about Fuzzy, my family’s cat of 15 years. We made the hard decision to put him down this week. It was tougher than I ever imagined.

While I have had the honor of sharing my life with other companion animals, I never received the opportunity to bond so closely with one as I did with Fuzzy (aka Mr. Fuzz or King Fuzzy). He was my family’s first full-time feline, a beautiful gray cat.

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Looking for Petting / KP

Fuzzy was born outdoors, a feral, to a feral mum sometime in the spring. I imagine fresh green grass, a cloudless sky filled with sunlight, and birds chirping, chatting with each other among tree branches on his day of birth. I have absolutely no clue what the day was actually like, but I like to think it was a beautiful kind of day for a cat like Fuzzy to be born.

I met Fuzzy when he was just a few months shy of one. He lived among other ferals under the porch of my best friend’s home. Out of the various feral felines hanging around their property, Fuzzy and his two brothers (Wuzzy and Bear — yes, I know, ADORABLE) were slowly being acclimated to an indoor life thanks to the efforts of my friend and her parents. We were in the 6th grade, a time when we were figuring out what in the hell was middle school, and a time when I was determined that my plea for a pet would finally be heard.

After much nagging of the parents, and a visit to my friend’s so that my mom could meet Fuzzy for herself, there was no turning back. Fuzzy was ours and we were Fuzzy’s.

The stars aligned, as the saying goes.

Bringing Fuzzy home was a highlight of my pre-teen life. His first official spot in our house was my bedroom, where he remained until he was litter-trained and got used to his new surroundings. I remember excitedly telling everyone about my new companion. I even remember that my crush at the time came to visit with a friend just to meet Mr. Fuzz. My heart was full. Life was complete already in the 6th grade.

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Computer Hog / KP

My family saw Fuzzy through his early years of endless play and through a horrible bout of ringworm that lasted for far too long. We saw him learn to love brushing and loathe nail cutting (always finicky about his left back leg…). We saw as my dad took more interest in him and come to love him as me and my mother did; Dad became Fuzzy’s resident toothbrusher.

We saw Fuzzy often whiz around our house during his crazy energy sprees. We saw Fuzzy chitter-chatter with the birds outdoors, wagging his tail hard against the kitchen chair he was sitting on. We saw Fuzzy refuse to return the toy mice we would throw for him, instead choosing to walk back to us, patiently waiting for us to get the mice ourselves or throw another one.

We saw Fuzzy talk with us as much as he did with his bird friends, meowing, meowing all the time, making his kingly voice heard until his demands were met. We saw Fuzzy gallop to the door every time we arrived home, meowing for petting, meowing to be let into the garage, meowing for food, meowing for even more petting, meowing to say, hello, I missed you.

And then we saw Fuzzy through his worst. A tumor popped up under his right leg a few months ago. He was still the same Fuzzy though, happy as ever, and still healthy otherwise. But the tumor grew fast, bigger and uglier everyday.

Eventually, the cancer took its toll on Fuzzy. He grew slow, wobbly, lethargic. These changes happened so fast, in a matter of a couple weeks. He went from running to the door to greet us to staying curled up in the basement or against the heater, waiting for us to come to him.

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Sun Cat / KP

He slept ever more. His sleeping style became less relaxed–instead of sprawling out, lengthening his body to claim the bed, he curled up tight, like you see a slug do when it senses danger. He no longer slept on the beds or couches, opting for a spot against a heater or in the basement–a room with all of his kitty stuff, but not a place he often chose to sleep except on hot days.

The vet prescribed him morphine, to help ease his pain. It likely did, but it was hard to tell. He only slept more.

The last four days I spent with him were the toughest. Each day, I watched cancer take away my friend.

The first day, he came to see us, and asked for some petting. He still ambled up the stairs to the kitchen for his bit of wet food, meowing just a couple times, and then eating his fill, which wasn’t much anymore. Afterwards, he retreated to the basement.

The second day, he came up to the kitchen once, and then went straight back down to his chair in the basement to fall asleep. He did find his way upstairs at one point, to shimmy up against the heater to sleep some more.

By the third day, he no longer got up. He did not use his litter box and he did not come for food or petting. I went down to visit him, petting him gently as I knew even this simple, common gesture of affection might cause him some pain. I tapped his nose lightly, a sign he learned from his kitten days as, “I love you.” While he didn’t get up to greet me, he did purr softly, flicking his tail.

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King Fuzzy / KP

The fourth day arrived. He showed no changes for the better. When I went downstairs to visit him, to pet him, he barely purred. His tail never flicked. It was time.

I have never before witnessed an animal being put to sleep. It was an emotionally painful experience, but it wasn’t as horrible as I thought it would be. I think because Fuzzy and I seemed to have a mutual understanding that his time had come. But it still wasn’t easy. It was heartbreaking.

I opted to stay in the room with him at the vet office. They placed him on my lap and I held him, pet him, and kissed his soft, gray fur, as tears ran down my face. It was the end. I didn’t want to let go. And neither did he. He knew, and he still had the fight in him, but not enough. He went peacefully to sleep, surrounded by love.

Just like that, 15 years of life came to an end.

While many folks who have animal companions lovingly refer to them as “fur babies,” Fuzzy was never my baby. Yes, he was “Baby Fuzzy,” sometimes, just like he was “Fuzz Muzz,” and “Fuzz Puz” (puz is slug in Croatian), and “Fuzzy Wuzzy.” He had all of these affectionate names, but he was never my baby. He was his sweet feral mum’s baby.

To me, Fuzzy was my friend, my constant companion. And in my book, friends are family.

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Love / KP

And so I dedicate this post to Fuzzy, my forever friend. We may have given him a forever home, but what he gave my family was so much more.

Thank you for the wonderful memories, Fuzz. Thank you for the love. May you rest in peace.

With love always,

KP

In memory of Fuzzy, I have decided to mark each anniversary of his death with a donation to an animal rescue/shelter. Today I donated to Paws for Life Animal Rescue, a wonderful volunteer-run organization in metro Detroit that serves both cats and dogs. If you are interested in donating, please visit this link. And if you are interested in adopting a friend, please click here. Thank you.

Feature photo credit: Mr. Fuzz / KP