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 Original
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 Original
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 Original
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 Original
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 Original
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 Original

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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

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Feature photo credit: As Above, So Below / KP Original

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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P.P.S. If you got through this entire long-form post, I send you a very big virtual hug. ❤

Choosing a Life of Travel and Adventure (My 100 List)

On a bus driving back from a middle school track meet my teammates, our favorite coach and I were discussing places we’d like to visit. Smiles were plentiful as we shared what lands near and far we wanted to jet or drive off to see in our lifetime–California, Hawaii, Australia, England…the list went on and on.

We also discussed places we had no desire to visit. I remember my coach saying, “Idaho. Who would ever want to go there?”

I jumped up off of the sticky-hot black bus seat waving my hand in the air and said, “Me! Me!”

“Of course you do. Only you,” he said, laughing.

“I Love Potatoes!”

I settled back into my seat with a big, silly grin on my face, my eyes wide with excitement. I didn’t register the teasing nature of his voice and so naturally I continued on.

“They grow potatoes in Idaho! Idaho potatoes! I love potatoes!” My grin was so large then as I thought about everything that you could make with potatoes…French fries, hash browns, mashed buttery goodness…

He laughed again, and the conversation transitioned to different topic.

A Steadfast Love

There’s nothing particularly dramatic or exciting about this old conversation yet I still remember it all these years later. It’s a moment I come back to occasionally as it reminds me that (1) my love for potatoes is long-standing and still unshakable, and (2) that my love for travel, adventure and new experiences has always been undeniably important to me.

It’s a choice I’ve made about my life–that I will (and must for my own sanity) continually seek out new adventures, opportunities and travels as much as my budget will allow. As I’ve written before, I live my life in a way to minimize any regrets I could have later on down the road because I didn’t do this or that.

I try to do everything I want to, within reason. And at the very least I’ll know someday that I tried my very best to make it all happen.

Putting Love into Lists

To better focus my passionate travel-adventure desires, I’ve made bucket lists, both long and short, throughout my life. The same items have often appeared from list to list–visiting the Egyptian pyramids, going on a safari in Africa, learning to scuba dive, etc. etc. But what each of my old lists share is that they have gotten lost or have simply been forgotten in the abyss that is Google Docs.

Recently, I opened up a bucket list that I started at a time when I thought such a list would keep me motivated and excited about the future since I was in need of a little inspirational push. Well, no surprise: I forgot about it. As a result, it never served much of any purpose except for fulfilling my incessant need to organize my thoughts and plans.

Looking through it, however, I realized that I still wanted to do all of the things and go to all of the beautiful places listed. I was also surprised that I had already started to chip away at the list, having visited Colombia, gone camping, seen a Thunder from Down Under show (100% recommend), sat in awe during a Cirque du Soleil show, completed a color run, hiked among the beautiful rugged nature of Red Rock Canyon, and taken pole dancing classes (also recommend).

I was elated when I was able to cross these items off. I thought to myself, “Holy shit, I’m doing it!”

And so here’s to getting out there and f’ing doing it–to continuing down whatever dreampath you set for yourself long ago but have forgotten about or strayed from. Go back to it now and review whatever it is you wrote down, drew, or clipped from a magazine and saved in a folder.

It’s Time

It’s time to pick up your dreams or plans again and forge ahead–because it is an honorable and courageous act to try your best to do what makes you feel most alive.

If you feel that you need permission to go forward then I’m giving it to you now. Your steps may be small and require some time and preparation but they are not insignificant. Each step you take is a display of your own bravery and perseverance to keep on despite challenges and setbacks that life puts in your way.

To keep myself accountable to my own dreams, I decided to distill my crazy-long bucket list down into a top 100 list, a la Hanny who blogs at Beradadisini.

Here it is and here I go, moving forward every day.

Wishing you a happy journey,

KP

My 100 List

  1. Go skydiving
  2. Learn to scuba dive
  3. Volunteer abroad
  4. Go on an eco-vacation
  5. Attend a wellness retreat
  6. Attend a silent retreat
  7. Go snorkeling in the Great Barrier Reef
  8. See the Northern Lights
  9. Go paragliding
  10. Write at least four books (1 poetry, 1 fiction, 1 nonfiction, 1 children’s picture book)
  11. Visit the Amazon Rainforest
  12. Stay at Kindness Ranch
  13. Volunteer at a farm sanctuary
  14. Own a beach house
  15. Stay on a private island
  16. Start and manage a successful small business
  17. Go on a safari in Africa
  18. Visit the Egyptian pyramids
  19. Stay at an ice hotel
  20. Go on a vegan cruise
  21. Visit all 7 continents
  22. Go on a week-long train trip (ideally the Trans Siberian Railroad Trip)
  23. Attend a fancy (fur-free) runway show
  24. Learn to tango in Buenos Aires
  25. Have three meals in three countries in one day
  26. Participate in GISHWHES
  27. Learn Italian past a beginner level
  28. Learn basic Turkish
  29. Learn basic Hungarian
  30. Learn basic Arabic
  31. Learn to play Clar De Lune on the piano (or violin)
  32. Learn how to give a good massage
  33. Party all night until morning comes
  34. Run a half-marathon
  35. Try acupuncture
  36. See a movie at a drive-in
  37. Live in an ashram for a period of time
  38. Go skinny dipping
  39. Watch a meteor shower
  40. Learn the basic star constellations and be able to identify them
  41. Give a moving public speech to a large group of people (100+)
  42. Attend a TED talk/TED conference
  43. Attend a writing retreat
  44. Take an acting or improv class
  45. Take singing lessons
  46. Take a class in basic car mechanics
  47. Take a photography class
  48. Take a class in painting or drawing (or both!)
  49. Build my own garden
  50. Learn a few good magic tricks
  51. Take a ceramics class
  52. Take a jewelry making class
  53. Take a sewing class and learn the basic skills
  54. Go on a winery tour
  55. Take a social etiquette class
  56. Learn to drive stick shift
  57. Get a PhD or an advanced certification
  58. Attend the Venice Masquerade
  59. See the 7 Natural Wonders
  60. Explore the 7 Underwater Wonders
  61. See the 7 Industrial Wonders
  62. See a Blue Man Group show
  63. Attend a fancy red carpet awards ceremony
  64. Go to Niagara Falls
  65. Visit Bora Bora
  66. Visit Stonehenge
  67. Visit the Coney Island Boardwalk
  68. Tour the White House
  69. Go to San Francisco
  70. Swim in Devil’s Pool, Victoria Falls
  71. Vacation in Igloo Village (Finland)
  72. Attend and participate in a body painting festival
  73. Create my own perfume
  74. Visit all provinces in Canada
  75. Visit all 50 states
  76. Visit the Great Bear Rainforest
  77. Get an MFA in Creative Writing
  78. Become a major donor to at least one organization
  79. Visit the Phnom Tamao Wildlife Rescue Center
  80. Become fluent in Croatian and Spanish
  81. Invest in the stock market
  82. Learn how to be a strong negotiator
  83. Learn to birdwatch and go birdwatching with a guide
  84. Learn to ballroom dance relatively well
  85. Ride in a hot air balloon
  86. Own an electric scooter
  87. Take a solo trip to three different countries in one summer (a la Eat, Pray, Love)
  88. Work in a bakery
  89. Pay for the bill of a stranger
  90. Volunteer at a soup kitchen or to help the homeless population in another way
  91. Improve basic mental math skills
  92. Go white-water rafting
  93. Jump off a waterfall
  94. Create a set of greeting cards
  95. Take a helicopter ride
  96. Bathe in mud
  97. Give blood
  98. Go on a cross-country roadtrip
  99. Learn to make a few good cocktails
  100. Learn to surf

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Finding My Anchors Amid Uncertainty

The Rock (yes that Rock–Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson) is the inspiration behind today’s post. Or one of them at least.

(Remember, I’m going to occasionally talk about my obsessions on this blog…The Rock is just one of many…and did you know he has an f’ing alarm clock you can download?! Mind blowing goodness, that’s what it is.)

In a recent video post on his Instagram page, The Rock spoke and wrote about his anchors in life–his family and his physical training–and how they drive him to keep pushing himself.

In The Rock’s own words, “Find your anchor and protect it.”

(Now that man should have his own f’ing daytime talk show. Oprah, can you smell what The Rock is cookin’?)

Rock GIF.gif

And so, thanks in part to The Rock, I’ve been thinking a lot about this idea of anchors. 

Having recently transitioned out of one life chapter, I’ve been grappling with how to stay steady and strong as I begin a fresh, new chapter.

A lot has changed over the past few years.

  • I’ve grown older and wiser and tougher.
  • I’ve changed jobs and volunteer gigs.
  • I’ve had some dark days and I’ve had some great ones.
  • I’ve travelled and stayed still.
  • I’ve tried new things I never in a million years thought I would (pole fitness, skiing, Krav Maga, shooting a gun to name a few) and stubbornly refused to let other things go (mac and cheese addict forever).
  • I’ve read and not read.
  • I’ve written and not written.

All through these normal life fluctuations my anchors have largely remained the same and kept me sane–my family, my friends and my own training.

Anchor #1: Family

My family has given me the unconditional love only a family can. Despite our disagreements, annoyances, and frustrations we may share sometimes, I know that I can always count on them to be there for me no matter what. 

I am grateful to have such a family as I know not all do. They are there with a life float if I ever need it and they are always open to listening if I choose to share my thoughts.

I am grateful. I am grateful. I am grateful. Thank you.

Anchor #2: Friends

My friends have given me joy, adventure and a place among them to shine as myself. With them, I am safe to be exactly who I am while also being pushed and challenged so that I can grow ever more wiser. They make me smile, but more importantly they make me laugh.

This last sentence reminds me of a line in Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice when Elizabeth Bennett writes to her aunt and uncle about her relationship with Mr. Darcy: “I am happier even than Jane; she only smiles, I laugh.”

My friends aren’t quite like dreamy, steamy Mr. Darcy but the same sentiment applies as they give me pure joy.

Thank you. I am so grateful.

Anchor #3: Training

And then my training anchor comes in two parts: inner (self, soul, emotional, mental, whathaveyou) and outer (physical). I have found over the years that if I leave either part unattended my whole self suffers whether or not my family or friends are readily available.

My inner training has ranged from reading and writing to coloring and meditating and yoga. All of these practices bring me back to center even amid chaos.

My outer training has varied over time from steady distance running to high intensity fitness like Krav Maga and MMA. Whatever it is, I know I need it. Go a week without it and my mood and outlook already feels off. With it, I feel powerful and empowered.

Find Your Anchor(s)

If you’re like me and feel like you’ve lost your way during a life shift or anticipate some life changes happening down the road, I encourage you to think about who or what are your anchors and make sure you keep ‘em by your side.

You may not need them all the time (helicopter anchors are no good just like helicopter parents–eek!), but when you do need them they will be there waiting for you. Just remember to pay attention to them occasionally if they happen to be real people…real people don’t wait forever (real talk).

And if you feel like you don’t yet have anchors–don’t worry. Try some different tactics on for size that may make you feel calm, collected, safe and happy. No harm in trying and no harm in failing. Just keep going.

I wish you boundless seas of goodness in your anchor search. May you find what you need even amid uncertainty.

With love,

KP

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Feature photo credit: Opatija’s Sea Maiden / KP Original

The Art of Beginning Again

You know how people say something (career field, skill, craft, etc.) is both a science and an art? Well starting fresh, beginning again, starting new, or whatever you call it is more of the latter than the former.

There is no manual, no special sauce formula, no foolproof “ten steps to a better fresh start” (although the internet may beg to differ). You just kinda go, maybe make a plan, and then hope for the best all the while cowering with fear inside, your palms constantly slippery with the sweat of anxiety.

But let me back up a bit.

It has been over a month since I’ve written. There are so many things I want to write but don’t yet know how. During this gap, I left my job, a field of work I enjoy, and a strong support system, then moved across the state to enter a completely new field via graduate school.

To say the least I’ve been busy and tired and decided somewhere along this busy-tried highway that writing was again just something that could wait. And so I shelved it, like I often end up doing. It got put back on one of those dusty, dark places you might find in a garage, stuffed among the useless cords, old paint, and ratty shoes.

Being Afraid and Stuck

I give the cold shoulder to writing when I am busy, sure, but more so when I am afraid. And I still am. 100 f’ing percent.

In addition to being afraid I’ve been a cocktail of other emotions. Happy. Sad. Happy. Sad. Really sad. Really nervous. Happyish. Maybe excited? Relaxed. Frantic. Almost hysterical. Calm. Confused. And of course, afraid, afraid, afraid. (Not the “dark thing under your bed” afraid, but the “holy f, what am I doing?” afraid.)

Packing up your last successful life chapter and waiting at the station until you pull into the next one just, well, sucks. Plain and simple. Let’s just call it what it is.

Things are eerily calm yet unsettling at the same time. You feel like you’re on a wobbly dock trying to stay balanced so you don’t fall into the water below where it’s so gray and murky that you can’t even see your own reflection.

And you can’t see that darn reflection because your new chapter self hasn’t quite manifested yet. It’s partly there — since you’ve got all your past chapter selves hanging around like friendly, old ghosts  but none of these feel quite right to take on your next steps.

So you’re just kinda stuck for the time being and more vulnerable than usual. Which is where I’m at right now. (I also want to cry uncontrollably. Comes with the territory.)

Things I Know and Things I Don’t

I desperately want to get un-stuck but I know it’s not quite the time yet — it will happen though.

What I also know is that I wanted this change (i.e. leaving my job, moving away, going back to school); I planned for it in all humanly possible ways — lists, sound financial management, early packing.

Few details can escape my masterful planning (ask anyone who knows me, surely there will be nods as they read this), yet the planning didn’t make me feel any better. It reassured me that I can plan well and that I’m insanely organized. But I didn’t need this reassurance.

What I needed was someone to spill the beans, to tell me that fancy schmancy secret formula to coping with a new start — the “science.” But no one did because no one really knows.

The Terrifying Beauty of New Beginnings

Each new beginning is our own precious little terrifying experience. We can shape it however the hell we want it.

Even if someone is taking the same steps as you or has taken the same steps before you they are still not experiencing exactly what you are. 

Sure, you can gather some intel from Past New Beginners and seek advice from your dear family and friends but ultimately it’s your choice in how you proceed down the promising yet poorly lit New Beginning Road.

Whether it’s dancing like hell or running around bat-shit crazy, do your thing.

And I know, I know — you can’t see the entire path in front of you but that’s half the fun! And half the fear. (I know that too).

For me personally, I worked very, very hard professionally to get where I was in my last life chapter and so starting a new one makes me feel a bit like a splattered bug on a car windshield — dead on arrival.

I’ve felt disoriented and uncertain and questioned my own abilities, talent and experiences. In sum, I didn’t feel like much of anything and my head and heart were totally out of sync.

But these frightening feelings and thoughts pass as they now are for me.

I had to take some time to remember where I was and who I was and who I am today, reminding myself that I’m one badass mother f’er. (Self confidence is the shit, isn’t it? Makes you feel like you can fly — and you can, metaphorically speaking.)

It also helped to begin establishing a routine, meet new people and explore what the area has to offer to cultivate that feeling of excitement about the future. 

Perhaps this is the “science” part of the Beginning Again Equation — but we are all different and maybe this is not how you would handle a new start (and that’s fine).

So go ahead and take whatever new beginning that you have chosen or that you’re thrown into and make it fully your own, fear and all. 

Begin again as the person you’ve always admired (your true BA self) and I’ll be right there beside you, doing it too.

Cheers!

XOXO,

KP

P.S. My newsletter is currently under construction — stay tuned for more updates! Thanks for reading!

Confessions from a Recovering Perfectionist

“[You] don’t have to change your goal. Change your path, be willing to, and don’t see that as a failure. That’s just life.” -Diane Hendricks

“Have no fear of perfection. You’ll never reach it.” – Salvador Dali

It was not long ago that I was and very much considered myself a perfectionist. I wore this label proudly though my younger years and into adulthood as a badge of honor. Who wouldn’t want to be a perfectionist? I thought, without ever realizing what endless heartbreak it can bring into your life.

Childhood: A Budding Perfectionist

I grew up, like many of us, with the world around me continually telling me that if I wasn’t 100% all the time — 100% perfect in every way from head to heart to body — that I was simply not good enough, that I always needed to be something more than I already was.

For so long I believed this lie. I lived my life seeking perfection and pretending that I could really and truly be perfect.

I remember growing up thinking that even little things had to be perfect around me.

If a folder wasn’t quite positioned right among a stack of other folders, I felt compelled to immediately rectify this wrong and make it structurally perfect.

If I was painting and I didn’t recreate the colors just right from the photo I was going off of I would take many, many hours (often into the night) to painstakingly mix the right color combos.

The worst offender to my perfectionist self was always writing — it never wanted to behave but I always tried to bend it to my perfectionist will, nitpicking every word, sentence, paragraph, and grammatical error.

I became hampered by my quest for perfection — I slowed myself down and often stunted my own progress and growth. I would start something and then never pick it up again because I had already decided that it wasn’t good enough even before I really began.

If I continued on with a hobby or task, however, I would practice ad nauseum to try to push myself to the next level. But in reality, since I was always spinning in my own self-created perfectionist cycle, I never got much of anywhere — I was doing the same thing over and over again and hoping for different results.

Adulthood: The Perfectionist Saga Continues

As I entered my working life with my perfectionist ways still intact, I would sometimes struggle along quietly with projects and assignments — not letting go of an article, report, proposal, etc. until it was in tip-top shape. I didn’t understand what good meant and so good to me always felt wrong. It couldn’t just be good, it had to be perfect.

I was sensitive to criticism, much as I had been in my younger years. I took every comment personally, fretting over every little word I was told. I then took these words and weaved them into a thorny little negative self-talk quilt that I would revisit throughout the day and into the night, wrapping myself in self-hate until I finally fell asleep with a heavy, hurting heart.

I would wake up in the morning and look in the mirror, unhappy with what I saw.

  • This little part needed to be exercised away.
  • This little spot needed to be covered in creams until it disappeared.
  • This strand of hair was ugly.
  • My nose was ugly.
  • My arms were ugly.
  • My legs were ugly.

Everything was ugly and all sorts of bad and I didn’t know what to do with it all. I felt overwhelmed. And overwhelmed with a deep sadness that no matter how hard I tried, I would still look this way and be the way I was — imperfect.

What’s more, I thought others around me had to be perfect, too. I got agitated when someone didn’t write in the same style that I did or follow the same grammatical rules. I got a twitch when I watched someone clean the bathroom in a way that I wouldn’t.

I wanted to make everything around me perfect — or at least bring everyone into my little perfectionist bubble so that they too could see the light.

I continued on in this self-destructive manner until I decided: f this shit. Enough was enough.

Adulthood Part 2: Recovering from the Perfectionist Disease

Nowadays, I don’t consider myself a perfectionist. If anything, I am trying to distance myself as much as possible from this label because I found this state of being so extremely unhealthy. 

I was blindly barreling down a path that was actually significantly hindering my own self-growth and making me lose out on opportunities to live a fuller and more meaningful life.

Quite simply, I was driving myself (and others) crazy.

I now know there were never any benefits to perfectionism. And if anyone claims that there are, they are likely trapped in the same self-delusional perfectionist cycle that I was.

At a certain point in my life, as I’ve gone through various stages of growth and change, I dedicated myself to making a very concentrated effort to rid myself of my perfectionist ways.

Today, I am a recovering perfectionist. I try my best to let go and just be my imperfect (and perfectly fun) self. 

I may not be able to totally rid myself of all perfectionist tendencies, but so what? What matters is that I’m trying. I am trying to live my life just like you — I am trying to be free to be myself. This new focus in my life has brought great joy to my healing heart.

Now when I approach my tasks, hobbies, or work, I am open to failure, criticism and ultimately, growth. I have largely cleared the perfectionist disease from my system and can now have a more open heart and a clearer mind (and my body looks damn good too, if I do say so myself).

With writing especially I’ve seen much improvement. I just go and do it, even if I have nothing good or eloquent to say yet — I know that I will and that I just need to keep going. When I see a typo or some other kind of stylistic pothole now I think, “Great! I have a typo. I can fix it!”

There are some things in life we cannot fix and other things we shouldn’t try to fix. Yet we do have the power to revisit and revise parts of ourselves that are weighing us down and making us miss out on all the great, wonderful things life has to offer.

As they say, perfection is the enemy of the good — so why can’t we settle for good enough? Why must we keep striving for something more? Is that more really better and greater in the end? Or is it just driving us a little more insane and taking us away from something else that’s important?

Today, I am also more of an advocate against perfectionism. I’m not saying that you should let go of your search to be an expert or be very good at your field of work or hobby. All I’m saying to you is to let yourself off the f’ing hook. Because you’re not perfect.

You’re not going to be perfect. I’m not going to be perfect. We’re not f’ing perfect. And it’s okay.

We need to let other people off the hook too in addition to ourselves. We need to stop expecting utmost perfection from others because it’s just not going to happen. You’re just setting yourself and the other person up to fail. It is not constructive. It is destructive and demoralizing.

Growth is a positive thing. Change can also be a positive whether it’s for the better or the worst (since it is during the bad times that we build our character most). But we cannot grow and change in the ways we really want to until we let go of perfectionism.

There’s more to life than being perfect, and it is when we learn to live with our imperfections that we can start to become who we really are.

So let’s do that and be free to be our imperfect, wonderful selves.

Cheers,

KP

P.S. I’d love to hear your own personal story of overcoming perfectionism — email me anytime or comment below!

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Feature photo credit: Bathroom graffiti / KP Original