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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#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

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

Living Through Uninspired Times: A Search for Honesty and Fullness

Have the courage to follow your heart and intuition, they somehow already know what you truly want to become. Everything else is secondary.” -Steve Jobs

“All too often, we feel that we are not living the fullness of our lives because we are not expressing the fullness of our gifts.” – Elle Luna

It has been a long while since I’ve written. Over one month to be exact. I have failed at my goal of writing at least one post per week and publishing on Wednesdays (today I am publishing on Thursday). While I feel some weight of guilt, I also feel at peace with my decision because I knew I would return. I also knew that I needed to step away.

Over the last month or so, I have been busy as just about everyone else has (because we are all apparently in a constant state of busyness…can we please take a break soon? Say no to something? Hit pause on a project? Take a day for ourselves?). But I have also been out of touch with myself. Sure, there have been some personal matters that needed attention. And these matters required different levels of energy and strength to handle, which made them tiring in their own right. However, I knew on some level that these personal matters were not the root of my self-disconnection. I was.

I haven’t been honest with myself. As a result, I have felt completely uninspired and unable to truthfully contribute to my blog, which is all about inspiring readers to work toward the good and the better for themselves (and not take themselves so seriously while doing it…live a little!). It wouldn’t have been fair to my readers to post content that I couldn’t totally get behind.  So I didn’t. I took a break. And now I’m back, coming out of a period of hibernation to reawaken my inspired self.

Living through this uninspired time was f’ing rough. As a naturally-inclined creative, feeling no inspiration and being unable to gather inspiration from places that are usually supplying it by the ice cream truck loads really gnawed away at me. I felt stifled. Little. Sad. Alone.

I would wake up in the morning and just feel the blandness of my mind as if it was something tangible. It felt heavy and impenetrable like a steel metal door. And I felt trapped.

What’s more, I did this all to myself. And it started off innocently enough. (Oh how our inner monologues can lead us astray…)

Here I was, barreling down a path I created for myself, a direction I chose to go, the next steps I decided to pursue for my life. And there I went for a while. Doing a little bit of this, doing some of that. Doing what I was supposed to do. But after a while supposed to feels like a maze you can’t get out of and eventually you lose track of yourself.

What does losing yourself feel like? Well, like you’ve put on an octopus suit and are sitting in a subway car with your uncontrollable fake tentacles bopping around, making you and everyone else feel uncomfortable. In sum: out-of-body, out-of-mind, and out-of-place. A creature whose movements and thoughts are totally foreign to you….yet you are this creature. And also not this creature. So pretty much you find yourself experiencing a circus-like existential crisis.

How awkward. And how frustrating.

As I wrote earlier, I entered this state because I ultimately was not being honest with myself. I was doing what I was supposed to do, but not enough of what I needed to do. And what I needed to do was “have the courage to follow my heart and intuition” (Steve Jobs), to express “the fullness of [my] gifts” (Elle Luna). I not only failed at my blog schedule, I also failed myself.

I lied to myself saying, “Oh, but you need to do this. You said you were going to do this, so must do it. Otherwise you will be a fraud.” When in fact I was creating a fraud, someone so unlike me it hurt.

I’ve been so absorbed trying to be a certain way, to fit a certain mold that I stopped being engaged in the things I love: creativity, writing, reading, physical training, making friends, taking adventures, and just generally having fun and enjoying life. Take away those things and I’m effectively a zombie (minus the people-eating).

Changes are on the horizon now. The clouds are clearing. The steel door is caving in. Time will tell what truly unfolds, but I have hope that my slightly re-routed path will take me where I needed to go all along–back to my creativity, excitement, drive, and ambition.

And so if you, too, haven’t felt like yourself in a while, take a look about you. Take a look inward. What’s the same? What’s different? Where is the source of tension, of loss? Is it something you can mend? Do you need help from others to heal?

Take the time to reflect on how you’ve been feeling, what you’ve been doing, and even what you’ve been saying. Things will get better, but only if you stop and listen and observe, and then take the steps you need to make a change and get back to yourself.

It can take some time. Be patient.

We are only here once. We owe it to ourselves to make it count–to create an inspired, full, and honest life.

With love,

KP

P.S. My monthly Inspiration Newsletter is pretty swank and sweet. Subscribe today and check it out! ❤

Feature photo credit: As Above, So Below / KP

From Chubby Kid to Fighting Adult: A Story of Beginning and Empowerment

(Note: The post below is not this post about beginning again…but if you read that too it will make me happy.)

To get where you want to go you have to begin. It’s that plain and it’s that simple. You don’t need some fancy formula or notable book to tell you that (although such things do serve as pretty little reminders).

You can begin anywhere at anytime and in anyplace but you just gotta do it. Start. Launch. Do. Initiate. Commence. Whatever synonym you want to pick from the bag, it’s there waiting for you to snatch it up and get going.

So what are you waiting for?

Oh yea, there’s that thing called fear…oh and there’s always “busyness” and some smattering of other options in-between. However, if we take the time to dig down into the trenches of our hearts we will find fear there, lying in wait like the fabled Boogie Man under the bed and covered up by all the other excuses we tell ourselves to make us feel just a tad better.

Just like so many folks around the globe, I too have struggled with beginning (and of course, fear as they often go hand-in-hand). My worst victim of not beginning is writing, which is why I finally said “f this shit, I’m starting this blog” so I did and here I am. But that’s not the story I want to tell today (since I kinda already did here).

I could tell many a story of all the things I began and kept on at, began and abandoned, and then those times in my life when I never began at all.

Today I want to share a story that encompasses all three of these, a story of my self-empowerment that has been propelled in large part by my physical training (and which still remains an anchor for me to this day).

Let’s dig in…

The Chubby Kid Who Doesn’t Run

I was the chubby kid. I was taller than most of my peers for the better part of my childhood (until everyone caught up and many surpassed me) and I weighed more than most. I wasn’t obese, not even fat, just a chubby little girl who didn’t like to run or do much physical activity aside from climbing on monkey bars (an area in which I somehow excelled on the playground).

My parents kindly enrolled me in various extracurricular physical activities (ballet, soccer, tennis, ice skating), many of which my older sister excelled in (since  I wanted to do what she was doing).

Yet to probably no surprise nothing seemed to fit me as well as it fit her. So I quit these activities, but at least I began them–I tried, that counts for something and at the very least I am now left with less regret.

The Chubby Kid 2.0 Who Runs

Fast forward to my later childhood years, the confusing times of middle school. I was still chubby, although I had grown more into my skin so perhaps “average” was a more accurate description? Who knows. Doesn’t really matter.

Anyways, I was still pretty eh about the whole running thing…about sports in general. My physical fitness tests were close to laughable. Most of the time I didn’t even try because I knew it was the same old story: I wasn’t meant to be good at these things so why make an attempt?

But the truth was that I just hadn’t found the right thing to begin. Hence the repeated tries and later, lack of tries. I had somehow decided to give up on myself. (As I write this my grownup self is thinking–WTF, KP?!).

I decided to resign myself to a life of carbs (mainly the all powerful glorious pasta god of mac and cheese) that helped mask a whole slew of unhappy thoughts about myself. I lacked self-confidence, self-compassion and the ability to self-empower.

(Disclaimer: While pursuing physical fitness does not necessarily mean you will be more confident, compassionate and empowered, it can be a factor in your personal growth–it certainly has been for me. I encourage you to begin things that will bring you the growth you seek.)

I was an emotional mess. But then something inspired me (I can’t remember what for the life of me…) to join the middle school track team. I made a decision to begin once more at something I was sure to fail at. And I did fail. Holy moly I failed and failed again.

I ran long distance and I was painfully slow. I was so far behind my teammates on our distance practice runs that they would lap me. And every time one particular eighth grade boy passed me, he threw out some rude remark about my slowness (or chubbiness…apparently both were synonymous). (Side note: please know that while I remember these comments, I don’t dwell on them as I once did. Today I remember him by the middle finger that is permanently glued on his head in my imagination…imagination is such a beautiful thing…)

Despite the rude comments and my slow times, I kept at this running thing that I was failing at because I saw that people could improve…and I saw that improvement in myself, however small. It was this realization–that you could begin something and actually get better (after much trial and error, of course)–that got me hooked on the power of physical fitness and it’s magical ways of breaking down my mental blocks.

(Another disclaimer: I’m no gym buff or expert. I’m just a person who found I liked fitness and kicking some butt.)

And so that takes us to…

The No-Longer-Chubby-Yet-Not-Super-Fit-Kid Who Runs, Lifts Weights and Throws

I continued with this running thing into high school where I really pushed myself to get better so that I could be good enough to run with the big kid distance team. I ran every day, lifted weights, did sit-ups and push-ups, and exercise cut-outs from Health magazine.

I never became super fit, but I was the most fit I had ever been in my life, and the hard work and perseverance paid off: I could run faster and do more sit-ups and push-ups than most of the freshmen boys on the team.

Beyond that, I felt empowered for the first time in a long time. I had shown myself that just by beginning and putting a little faith into myself that I could begin again the next day and push a little further until all the new-day-beginnings compounded and turned me into more of the person I needed to become (i.e. someone with increased self-confidence, compassion, etc.).

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Me getting ready to throw at a high school track meet

And while I never did end up running distance for the high school track team, I did join the field portion of the sport as a discus thrower who made varsity the first year and remained on the varsity team all four years.

But remember: I didn’t get to this sweet spot in my journey magically. I got there because I began and failed so many times I could no longer count and at some point my beginnings floated me in the right direction.

As Cheryl Strayed once wrote in her Dear Sugar column, “Let whatever mysterious starlight that guided you this far, guide you onward into whatever crazy beauty awaits.”

Which takes us to more recent times…

The Adult Who Runs and Kicks Butt

I still run today. Long-distance. I like 5Ks. I’m not super fast, but I’m not slow either. Occasionally I’ll practice sprinting but mainly to develop speed and agility, not because it’s my favorite.

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All painted up after a 5K Color Run (which we actually ran–never walked!)

I no longer throw, but I would LOVE to again some day (I’m a crazy technical throwing fanatic).

Nowadays, I train on punching bags and people. With my recent transition, I am at a MMA gym, polishing up my punching and kicking skills, getting into better shape, and learning entirely new techniques (woohoo!).

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Me all excited after my first MMA workout

But I’ve just begun there and so my progress is TBD at the moment so let’s go back a couple years…

The Adult Who Came Before the Adult Who Runs and Kicks Butt

Two years ago, I changed jobs from a highly sedentary telecommute position (literally did not have to move to work aside from tapping my fingers on a keyboard) to one with an hour long commute to an office (still somewhat sedentary but at least I left the house).

During this particular transition period, I realized how badly out of shape I had gotten and how my mind kept telling me how I wasn’t good enough (among ten million other things).

So I picked up on my pattern of little activity = lower self-confidence and decided it was time to change it. Naturally, I went on the all-holy Groupon. There I found a deal at a local Krav Maga gym. I had always wanted to learn how to defend myself so I thought–why not? (Note: A perfect phrase to jump start your beginning–why not?)

For my first class I was the only participant. No one else had showed. I ran slowly, did push-ups from my knees, did painful sit-ups, and tried my hand at some basic techniques. I was decidedly horrible at everything at that point. Weak. Out of breath. Afraid. Highly self-conscious. Exhausted.

I left that first class not feeling so hot about myself (since I wanted immediate perfection not progress apparently), but I also left with an excited glow I hadn’t had in awhile.

I decided to try again.

I went to a second class, which was very similar to class #1 (i.e. weak, out of breath, afraid, etc. etc. you get the picture). And then I went to a third and fourth and eventually signed up for a year membership after seeing that this was something that was going to get me back in shape and also make me feel good about myself.

And wow–over the two years I trained, I grew into myself, becoming who I always knew I was deep inside but who was always hiding from the spotlight.

Krav Maga–and the people I shared classes with, instructors included–helped bring me into my own. My self-confidence, self-compassion and self-empowerment skyrocketed to levels they had never been at before. I finally felt really, really good being me.

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Me and my Krav buddy having a fun little photo op. #fightlikeagirl #fighton

Today

This brings us to today–today I am not without faults, failures, hesitations or fears. But I am also not without dreams, inspirations, passion, values and dedication. I have all of these things in me, as do you.

And do you know what that means? It means that you can begin today what you keep putting off to pursue. It means you have the capacity to grow and learn and get better. YOU. Yep, you right here reading this.

So I’ll ask it again: what are you waiting for?

The world is waiting for you to begin so that you can guide yourself into becoming who you need yourself to be.

So begin, and begin again, and begin until it feels exhausting because at some point you’ll find a new beginning that will revitalize you in such a way that all your past failed beginnings won’t matter one bit.

I am raising my metaphoric glass to you and toasting to all your future beginnings. May they be glorious and meaningful, even if it will take you awhile to see them as the gifts they truly are. (And remember: you have to begin somewhere, somehow to gain access to these beautiful gifts.)

With love,

KP

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Feature photo credit: The Girls / KP