Tag Archives: Depression

An Ending, A Beginning

I write to you after a much needed break from, well, everything. I can’t say that I took this break willingly. Quite the opposite actually. Something crept in and gave me no choice but to slow down. That ‘something’ is what I’d like to share with you today.

 

I last blogged in May and headed off to a distant island the size of Connecticut – Jamaica! I spent a wonderful week in blissful gratitude for each experience, but I returned in June feeling less than renewed after a week in paradise. I knew that something wasn’t quite right. A friend suggested maybe I was experiencing post-vacation blues, and maybe I was for a while, but a heaviness developed and carried over into July. I wasn’t willing to admit it at the time, but I knew something was terribly off. July faintly blurred into August, September, and eventually October.

 

I do a wonderful job of convincing myself that it isn’t what it really is. It couldn’t be. I’m fine. I just need to work a little harder in school, do a little more at home, go for a long run or spend some extra time with Lucas. Those THINGS will make me feel better. Yes, I’ll feel better. It can’t be what I think it is. No, it absolutely cannot be that. I don’t want it to be that. It would be too embarrassing to admit to those closest to me that indeed, my depression has returned.

 

I can remember experiencing intense episodes of anxiety beginning in the 4th grade. Battles with depression began at age 14. My anxiety has consistently hung around since I was young, but depression is less predictable for me and appears whenever it so pleases. I am always amazed at how quietly it returns the very moment I least expect it. At those times when strangers look at my life and think to themselves, “Wow, what a beautiful life she is living. What could ever make her so incredibly sad?”

 

I rarely talk about this with friends, and most family members don’t know the depth of the suffering, and that is okay. I choose safe environments in which to share my story, and I am infinitely grateful when the heaviness lifts just enough to allow me a clear mind and the ability to share my experience once again.

I recently described to a friend what my struggle looks like, feels like, sounds like. He encouraged me to share this on the blog when I felt ready, so here goes nothing!

 

Depression is quite unique to every individual, so I can only speak on my experience. I’d like to first say that this is truly difficult for me to share but imperative that it be spread for others to hear. As I mentioned, I have seen depression come and go since I was a teenager. It invites itself into my life at any age, during my happiest moments and worst of days. It doesn’t care how far I’ve come or what accomplishments I’ve achieved. It pays no mind to how grateful I am to be alive and healthy. It comes, and it stays, on its own terms.

 

It looks like a dark room inside of my head. Sometimes the door is open, allowing darkness to creep out and into each facet of my life. In the early stages, it covers my world with a haze, and I wonder why everyone else is outside playing in the sun. It tells me to fear the future, to doubt my dreams, and to stay inside – literally, and as the dark builds, I begin to avoid all social interaction unless it is absolutely necessary. Cancelling on friends, avoiding phone calls, slinking through my house so that the neighbors don’t know that I’m home. It makes me anxious to chat with even my closest of friends because I’m too embarrassed to admit that I’m suffocating under something so heavy that I wouldn’t get out of bed were it not for the sole purpose that I need to get Lucas to school. It asks me why I even bother showering when there is no one to see. It tells me that nobody cares enough to look my way anyway. In the darkest hours, I lack any excitement for being outdoors, I feel completely uninspired creatively, and I am unable to read for pleasure. But you’d never know because I continue to smile through the hurt. And honestly, I will deny deny deny that anything is wrong. I’ll push through it. Because I’m fine. It is only when I meet with my best friend for lunch and she comments that I ‘have a sort of melancholy about me’ that I know it’s time to seek help.

 

Depression is such a good liar that after 4 months of barely avoiding a mental breakdown, I am completely convinced that this will not pass, and I need to tell someone that I cannot ride it out alone any longer. So I seek the comfort of a few close friends. Some of us even have code words and phrases. One loved one in particular looks me in the eye and asks, “Is it bad-bad?” and when I answer yes, we drop everything we are doing and talk strategy. We discuss my thoughts and whether they entertain the suicidal dance, and if so, I reinforce that I am okay but absolutely not okay at the same time. I am experiencing too much heaviness, but remarkably at the very same time I hold an area of awareness that knows that this episode will pass. So for the moment I feel stuck. I feel awful. I am tired. It is heavy. Joy and happiness are so distant that I can hardly tell if I still see them or if everything is an illusion. I feel empty. And hollow. I can’t tell you what day it is or who I am, and no one’s laughter brings an ounce of joy. And I am floating in this strange moment where I exist in both the darkness and the light.

 

October arrived and my body completely gave up. A quote comes to mind: “The body keeps count and it always wins.” Anxiety and depression had taken their toll. After multiple trips to the doctor, an infection, an ulcer, the flu, and bronchitis in 4 weeks’ time – I began praying for it to end. For the darkness to lift, for my health to return, and for my life back. After antibiotics, rest, and one hell of a support system intervening, I am grateful to say that it has lifted, and the darkness has passed for now. With gratitude, I am able to speak about my experience, and the only conclusion I can make is that there is NO health without mental health, and we need to start talking openly about it. Now.

 

I wanted to share my experience on the blog because I believe it is imperative that we spread mental health awareness and share our stories to as many people as possible. The stigma surrounding anxiety and depression still exists today – and I’d be lying if I said I am completely stigma-free in my thinking. I must admit, even I feel ashamed some days that I struggle. But this is the very reason we must be brave and speak up. We need to talk about our experiences, our good thoughts and our not-so-good thoughts, our highs and our lows, our joys and our sadness. We must share with our friends, parents, spouses, and children. Hell, I’d even like to see mental health discussions as prevalent as sex education and drug-use prevention in our school systems. Mental illness is a national epidemic, and we cannot blame ourselves or feel ashamed any longer. It is OKAY to feel sad, to struggle, to experience anxiety and depression, to feel the good and the not-so-good because all of it is a part of the human experience. No one is to blame. We need not feel ashamed.

 

I am completely saddened when people talk about those suffering with mental illness and make comments like, “Why can’t she just snap out of it?” We would never look at a cancer patient and ask why her body can’t heal itself, so we absolutely cannot look at those suffering with mental illness and wonder the same. Mental illness is a disease and we cannot control the onset.

 

To those of you reading who have struggled in the past, are struggling now, or know someone who struggles – my heart goes out to you. I may not understand your individual struggle, but I hear you and I see you, and I know how difficult this moment seems. Please remember, it is not your fault if depression sneaks up on you and lies to you too. It hurts and it is heavy, but it is possible to live with it and to grow with it. I think for me, accepting that depression is a part of my life is where the healing process begins. I’ve begun to ask myself daily, “Can I accept that depression may be with me for the rest of my life? What does life look like after acceptance? Is this where my life begins? ” Maybe accepting it and not blaming myself is my path to healthy living. Or as a wise teacher suggests, “We can lay out the welcome mat for everything in our lives. To be with it all.”

 

I struggled to write this post because I don’t have any good answers when it comes to living with mental illness. I wanted to lift people up and say, “Here’s how you can live successfully with depression!!” But the honest truth is that I don’t have any answers at all. Sometimes I don’t know what to say when I am struggling or when my loved ones are struggling, and that is such a difficult truth to live with. But that’s okay. It’s okay that we don’t have all the answers. It’s okay that we suffer, and it’s PHENOMENAL when we regain our health and return to the light. No matter how long it takes. 5 months, 5 years, 5 lifetimes. It’s okay. Sometimes we don’t need the answers, we just need to know that we’re not alone in our suffering. And I truly believe that THAT’S enough to ignite the healing process. To know that we are never alone. To be present with it ALL – the good AND the not-so-good. We CAN live healthier, lighter lives. Every experience is teaching us something. Life is here for us now.

 

The end of this 5 month battle has bloomed the most magnificent beginning I’ve felt in years. I’m still here. I live with depression, and that’s okay. I accept it. The welcome mat for everything in my life is here to stay. Not everything is pretty, or light, or easy now. I still have my not-so-good moments, and stressful times are here to stay. Accepting things as they are doesn’t mean that things are always good, it just means that we choose to be with it all, to see and hear and allow whatever is in front of us to be, to run its course, and to end. I know that this period of good will be followed by some not-so-good stuff. And that’s okay. That is the ebb and flow that is life. Thankfully what I know now after years and years of dwelling in my suffering is that as one moment comes to an end, the beginning of another is what keeps our inner being alive, growing ever so quietly toward the light.

 

An ending, a beginning, it is all here for us now.

May you have the strength to be with it all.

 

Light & love,

Ki

Can we be kinder, please?

“Turn down the mean voice. You’re not being nice, Momma.”

 

It was a Sunday. Lucas and I were enjoying a sunny afternoon lunch.

In a moment of incurable human frustration, I made a negative remark about a friend.

Lucas’ eyes narrowed, and with tiny fingers he made a twisting motion as if to hold the nob of a radio and adjust the volume accordingly.

“That was rude! Turn down the mean voice.” He giggled and again motioned to soften the volume.

I was stunned, embarrassed, humbled. I wanted to say, “Hey! That’s no way to speak to your mother.”

But he was right. I was being rude. I made an impulsive, mean comment. But I was frustrated.

My view was clouded.

 

Lucas searched my face for a reaction, as children do, and I smiled.

“Thank you, Lucas. You’re right, that was a mean thing to say about my friend. I’ll turn that mean voice down now. Thank you for reminding me to be kind.”

He went about eating his sandwich and hummed a silly song to himself.

The image of his tiny fingers quieting my meanness remained.

——-

I wonder, how many other people have allowed their mean voices to speak louder than the innate kindness that runs its course through us all?

How many times have we become frustrated and sent a nasty text message to a loved one in a fit of sadness and hurt feelings? Or rolled our eyes at the bank teller because he miscounted our money for the second time? Or yelled at the customer service representative because our impatience flooded a sense of understanding that we are just one of millions waiting to be helped? Or how about cursing the driver in front of us who cut us off in an unpleasant manner?

When did frustration and headaches replace patience and kindness?

 

The words of my favorite author and poet come to mind:

Mark Nepo says, “Underneath every headache is a heartache.”

 

There is so much value in this simple, yet deeply profound sentence. Underneath every headache we have, underneath every impulsive, mean comment or gesture that we make, underneath our impatience and misunderstanding, the innocence of our aching heart remains.

This explains why I am frustrated with my friend. She hurt me, and in the confusion of how best to express my hurt feelings, I become angry and speak ill of her.

This is an isolated incident, but this small hurt can turn into years of misunderstanding and estrangement – that is, if I choose not to properly express what is going on inside of me.

My suggestion to you, my wonderful readers, is to pay attention to how you outwardly express what is happening inside of you.

Why do you send the nasty text message?

Why do you roll your eyes at the bank teller?

Why do you yell at the customer service rep?

Why do you allow yourself to become upset with other drivers?

Only when you become aware of these ineffective, damaging habits, can you begin to address what is going on inside of you.

 

Truthfully, when I am hurting, when I feel as though no one hears what I am saying, when I feel like I’ve been wronged in some way, I become defensive, reactive, and I shut down. My hurt becomes anger, my anger becomes tears. My tears become confusion, distortion of words and phrases, a mess of emotions and fear, a chaotic swirl of truth that so desperately wants to be heard. It has taken years for me to observe these outward reactions and address the inward truths that drive my behaviors. I’m not saying this has been easy. Every day is a practice. Living continues to be a process, a challenge, a mighty work of art in the making for me.

 

To my lovely little lights, underneath our behaviors are the untouched hurts within us.

I challenge you to silence that mean voice and let the real you begin to speak.

Let’s be kinder to others — and to ourselves.

The change always begins with you.

 

Light and love,

Ki & Lucas

black and white

For Dan

Today I met Dan.

As sweet as can be, he entered the bookstore in a tweed sport coat with an American flag pendant. He waved to me as though we knew each other. Being the awkward introvert that I am, I returned the smile, and slowly slumped into my chair not sure if I knew this person or not.

After ordering his coffee, Dan took a seat at the table directly behind me and inquired about my morning work. Question after question, he was intrigued to know what I was studying and who I am.

“Are you a teacher?”

“I’m actually a full-time student. I study people. I want to understand why we do the things that we do, why we say the things that we say. I want to help people. I guess that’s all I really know for sure at this point.”

As if something in me moved him to speak, Dan extended his hand to mine and opened up about caring for his ailing mother.

 

A retired veteran, Dan has been taking care of his mother for the past 11 years. His wife divorced him shortly after he began caring for his mother full-time, yet he spoke of his ex lovingly.

“I understand why she left. It was too much. I don’t blame her.”

Dan hasn’t been on a date since his divorce.

 

“I don’t mean to bother you,” he said. “I just don’t have anyone to talk to about my mom, and my brother doesn’t help much. He doesn’t help at all actually. He left her care to me.”

I sat and smiled, humbled and in awe of his vulnerability with a complete stranger. I allowed his pain to wash in me. Thank you, I said silently to myself.

 

“Dan, I’m so glad you can talk to me about it. What you’re doing is so wonderful and selfless, but remember to take of yourself first.”

He was outwardly silent for a time, and he encouraged me to return to my homework.

But I couldn’t focus on my work. I wanted to help Dan, but how?

 

I stood up to search the bookstore for The Book of Awakening and returned to Dan’s table within minutes, book in hand.

“Do you like to read? This book is beautiful. It has changed my life. The author is also a poet, and he stirs my soul to remember what is true. I think you might enjoy it. I take it everywhere I go. I have my copy in my bag, see? It gets me through the tough days when I feel like no one is here to listen.”

His eyes widened, “I love to read, thank you,” and I returned to my work as he fingered through the pages. After a short while, it was time for Dan to leave.

 

“Back to my chores,” he said. “I think I’ll take myself out to eat later today. That is my treat to myself. You know, gotta stay sane somehow.” (Pointing toward his head)

I chuckled, “Yes, I hear you! That sounds wonderful. Don’t forget those special moments for yourself. It was so nice to meet you, Dan.”

“Likewise, and thank you.”

——–

I can’t help but wonder if I was as much help to Dan as he was to me? Dan entered the bookstore as I was writing a reflection paper on how many stay-at-home mothers (including myself) feel invisible. My sociology professor encourages us to write about the roles we play within our family units, and today I felt compelled to talk about my struggle with identity, a sense of purpose, and truthfully, my sense of self-worth.

 

And then like magic,

**Cue Dan, enter stage left, needing to speak his truth, asking for someone to please hear him, to please help ease the pain of living.

Thank you Dan, wherever you are now. I heard you. I felt your pain. I did the best I could to help you with the resources that I’ve been given. I’m still learning how best to help people, and truthfully all I offered to you was my time and a small place in my heart to hang your pain for the moment. I am humbled that you opened yourself to me. I hope that in sharing your truth, the struggle within you has softened a bit.

Your presence certainly softened my need to feel worthy and useful today.

Dan, I guess you could say I am a teacher. Perhaps I taught you a few things today. But I stick by what I said. I am most definitely a lifelong student. Thank you for being my teacher today.

For this lesson, I am grateful.

 

Joyfully,

Ki

 

Finding strength here and Now

Do you ever feel like you’re bulldozing through tasks, to-do lists, projects and goals — but you still feel like you’re drowning?

I feel like the baggage from my old self is weighing down who I want to be Now. Baggage so huge that I’m suffocating under it, choking on it as I present my research, trying to swallow it down when others look me in the eye and ask how I’m doing, spewing it up when I write something about how I’m wrestling with God or angry with a loved one because she doesn’t show me the kind of love that I think I need from her. Baggage so heavy that my back aches and my body screams for release.

Well the good news? This is progress. It takes time to let go of the old muck and mud and to step into new ways of behavior and being.

What I know to be true? The baggage MUST be felt and exposed in order to be RELEASED. Why aren’t we talking about this more often?! We all just assume that we should be stronger than our emotions. And I say, No way!!! That is incorrect. Being with our emotions IS strength.

You want to move past what is happening now? Then feel your way through it.

Move with it until your knees shake.

Breathe with it until your inner becomes the outer.

Live with your Now before entering the next stage of your life.

It will be painful, even agonizing at times. It will feel as though your heart is being poked and slit in a million different places, but THIS is the reason we are here. To do the work. To bend, to break, and to stand tall in the root of our truth.

And that, my friends, is what being human is all about.

I hope you find the strength to be with whatever is happening in your life. **This too will pass, the good and the bad.

Just remember, it is all here for us now. The human experience, with all its faces, is here to guide you, not hurt you.

Don’t fear it, face it. Let your experience wash in you and return to the world outside.

Embrace the light and the dark. It is all here for you, waiting to be felt.

Happy weekend to you all.

With love,

Ki

photo

**Thank you, Soc, for reminding me that it all passes, in time.

The courage to be vulnerable

If you’re uncomfortable with truth, this post may not be for you.

If you’re uncomfortable with emotions, this post may not be for you.

If you’re here for a “Facebook worthy post” with a false sense of ‘yay my life is peaches and cream!” – this post is definitely not for you.

If you’re still here, I want to ask you:

What does ‘being vulnerable’ feel like for you?

I asked myself this question after witnessing a beautiful soul talk about her struggle with vulnerability. I’m referring to Brené Brown, author and researcher, and total kick-ass warrior against shame. After watching Brown bare her truth on stage, I couldn’t help but shed a few (okay, a lot of) tears and embrace her struggle as my own.

If you haven’t seen her TED talks or read any of her books, I’ll summarize for you. In her deeply insightful book, Daring Greatly, Brown writes:

“Vulnerability is not knowing victory or defeat, it’s understanding the necessity of both; it’s engaging. It’s being all in. We must dare to show up and let ourselves be seen. This is vulnerability. This is daring greatly.”

She often reiterates the point that courage starts with showing up and letting ourselves be seen.

Again and again she says,

Vulnerability is courage. The courage to be seen.

 

So let me ask again, what does being vulnerable feel like for you? Does it scare you? Do you associate it with weakness? Would you consider ‘being vulnerable’ courageous?

 

What happens when you allow yourself to be seen? When you let your guard down? When you say the truth of a situation and how it makes you feel? When you make a pitch to your boss? When you introduce a boyfriend to your family? When you have a tough conversation with a family member? When you share a lifelong dream with a friend? Do you immediately regret it? Do you crawl up in a ball and cry?

Tell me, what are your vulnerabilities?

 

I’ll start with a few of mine. Here are some painfully vulnerable moments from the past few years of my life that have stuck with me and to this day make me feel uncomfortable.

 

Vulnerability is….

 

-Telling my partner that I’m unhappy

-Admitting that I need professional help

-Saying ‘I love you’ to a man who I know doesn’t love me in return

-Quitting school to have a baby at age 19

-Flying out of the country for the first time, alone

-Telling a loved one that her expectations of me are ruining our relationship

-Sending my book of poetry to a stranger

-Calling said stranger on the phone and admitting that I am completely terrified of watching this book come to life

-Hearing this stranger say that he’s all in — that he believes in me

-Having a dream so huge that it makes me cry when I talk about it

-Wearing a swim suit

-Explaining to my son why mommy is sad some days

-Talking about God

-Overdosing on prescription medication and waking up

-Talking to God about why she woke me up

-Beginning college for the second time and immediately panicking

-Sharing my story in a therapy group after being hospitalized for major depression

-Writing a book and wondering if the one person I desperately want to read it even will

-Letting go of one dream to pursue another

-Forgiving myself for So. Many. Things.

-Losing best friends after telling them I was pregnant

-Surrendering to Love

-Calling my grandma for the first time after my grandpa went to be with God

-Opening up to strangers and accepting them as soulmates (yes, I believe that many people nourish our souls!)

-Looking in the mirror and accepting that this is what I look like

That this is who I am.

———

Phew! I am going to have a vulnerability hangover after this post! But YOU GUYS!!! WE MUST START FACING OUR TRUTHS. WE MUST START SHOWING UP IN LIFE! I don’t know about you, but being vulnerable feels really awful at first, but there is good news. If we can just start to lean into that uncomfortable exposure, it is possible to enjoy a freer, healthier, more purposeful life. Living with intention allows us to embrace each precious moment that waits for us right here, right now.

 

I encourage you to think about your vulnerable self. What are your vulnerabilities? Can you name a few? Why not try writing them down and sharing them with a trusted loved one? What if you started the conversation today? If you find it too difficult to voice your vulnerabilities, think about what is preventing you from having the courage to be vulnerable and show up?

 

Before you begin exploring your vulnerabilities, please remember that you are enough. You are worthy of love and belonging. Do not let others, or yourself, tell you any differently. What you think about yourself may not be the truth. We all have our ‘shit’ that we’d rather not face. This doesn’t change the fact that You are enough. You are enough. You are enough.

Being vulnerable is not weakness. It is courage. It is courage.

It is courage.

Have the courage to face yourself in a naked, honest way.

Enter the arena that is your life. It may feel scary, it will be painful at times, and that’s okay.

Your soul thanks you.

Sending light and so much love to you all.

Let’s be courageous together.

I love you!

 

-Ki

 

**Infinite thanks to Brené Brown for starting the conversation on vulnerability and shame. You can never know how many lives you are saving right now. You are a beautiful, brave warrior. You inspire us to enter the arena ever day of our lives.

Sore spots in relationships

To my wonderful readers, friends, and family —

 

I’d like to share some exciting news! I started this blog as a means to express my journey through motherhood, anxiety, spiritually connecting with the universe, and questioning the hell out of this strange and magical world. I rarely check my ‘blog analytics,’ but yesterday I felt pulled to see in what countries LifeofKi is viewed. And you guys, since January 2014, LifeofKi has reached over 80 countries! 80?!?! What?

My little blog. A place of questioning and growth that I started two years ago with little to no expectations of reaching the outside world, and now?! Gratitude fills me. It’s truly magical what happens when we have the courage to work on ourselves and expose our cracked and creviced places. I never could have imagined that people all over the world would continue to relate to and return to my words.

Thank you, thank you, thank you again.

You see me.

I see you too.

 

———-

 

On another note – let’s be productive today and work on ourselves!

As you guys know, many of my readers and friends come to me with relationship issues and ask for advice.

First — I like to ask questions in order to get them thinking about who they are and what they bring to a relationship – Because remember, we must first begin with ourselves in order to understand the world around us.

I’d like to focus today on our ‘sore spots’ in relationships. What do I mean by sore spots? I’m talking about those things that, perhaps unknowingly, hinder and destroy our relationships over time. I’ve heard them referred to as the ‘cancer’ of relationships.

I’m talking about our Insecurities and Expectations.

Now it’s your turn to do some work.

 

Today, let’s be aware of our sore spots —

What are your insecurities?

Think about your “I’m not” statements? (I’m not beautiful enough. I’m not smart enough. I’m not enough) Are you aware of the insecurities you bring to relationships with friends, family, and future partners?

 

What are your expectations?

What do you expect from other people when you enter a new relationship? What do you expect from yourself? Are your expectations too high? Are they open-minded enough? Do you expect too much from your children? Your spouse? Your parents?

Once you’ve given yourself time to sit with these questions, I’d like you to be aware of how much work you’ve done thus far. Facing our rough edges is the first step.

 

Maybe you’re thinking, okay Ki, I already know these things about myself, but what can I do RIGHT NOW to mend my relationships?

I have 4 nuggets of advice to start with TODAY.

 

1. Drop expectations

Drop all expectations of how others should be, or act, or love, or dress, or speak, etc. Drop expectations of how you think you should look, or act, or be in relationships as well. Just be you. The goal here is to be open to others for exactly who they are. When we drop these thoughts, we create so much SPACE in our lives and minds for the present moment and the person in front of us.

 

2. Make NO assumptions

     Unless you ask, you do NOT know. The goal here is to LOSE your assumptions about people and situations, and to open communication with those around you. If you don’t know, ask. If there is a misunderstanding in your relationship, reach out and ask why there is tension. If you are curious about someone new and would like to know more, ask. If someone didn’t return your call — instead of becoming annoyed or angry, why not reach out again after a couple of days? Keep communication OPEN.

 

3. Let go of the need for another’s affirmation in order to affirm yourself

     I can assure you, I’ve been in situations where I thought I needed love, attention, (fill in the blank) from someone, when really – I needed to focus on tending to those areas within myself. This is where the real work begins. We must learn to let go of what we THINK we need from others. Don’t expect others to fill you – YOU must fill you.

 

4. Affirm yourself

     Practice loving-kindness, meditate, look in the mirror and admire your best qualities, write down what you love about your intellectual being, your spiritual being, whatever it is that makes you feel good about being YOU – DO IT! EMBRACE IT! BE IT!

 

Remember:

We must first begin with ourselves in order to spread our brightest light and harvest our healthiest relationships.

 

Sending my best,

Ki

Are you with me?

Today is the day I go back to college.

 

I’m not sure how I feel in this moment. Oddly, I don’t feel much at all. The sun has yet to rise as I type this. The house creaks, but everyone’s asleep. I’m sitting comfortably in my office, a cup of strong coffee sitting next to me. I read over the syllabus for my class today. It’s intense, to say the least.

Am I ready?

 

I think I’m a little numb today, body and mind tired from crying most of the afternoon yesterday. I’m not sure why I cried so much. I visited campus, met my sweet advisor, and signed up for classes — nothing to cry about right?! But let’s be honest, you guys know by now that the ‘simple’ task of meeting with my advisor was a big step for me. So as you can imagine, registering for classes, one of which starts TODAY, rushing to buy books, and preparing myself mentally for this huge step was maybe too much for one afternoon. But hey, I come by it honestly that I am impulsive and tend to make huge life decisions when perhaps I should breathe and remain patient. But we live with our choices, and we face our truths, and here I sit on the first day of classes blogging about fear when I should be skimming the first two chapters of required reading :)

Am I really ready for this?

 

I know what I know, and I like what I like. I love reading, but to read assigned material — do I really want to do this again? Do I want to learn APA formatting? Do I want to subject myself to criticism and a strict grading scale again? Is it in me to try this one more time?

It’s been five years since I was in a classroom (aside from my brief stint in Jewish education classes).

Am I ready?

 

———

 

Do you ever find yourself in moments of serious doubt when up until this point, you were 100% confident in your path? You know, like getting cold feet right before the wedding? Or that moment in the delivery room when your first born is on his way and you question if you’re fit to be a parent? Like packing your entire life into one suitcase the night before moving to a new country and feeling your heart sink into your stomach. It’s too late to go back now, and you wonder:

Am I ready?

 

I’m learning that we all have these moments. We all wonder about the next big changes in our lives. We all question those defining moments that could propel us onto greater paths, if only we’d lean into the fear. I think maybe that’s the key. Maybe we need to befriend what feels uncomfortable, to cozy up with what we don’t know for sure.

 

There’s a lot I don’t know about this next step I take today.

I don’t know if college is the right decision for me, but my gut screams to go back. I don’t know how great of a student I’ll be, but I value education and know that I want this degree no matter what anyone around me says about it. I don’t know how well I can maintain my anxiety, but I will practice ways to bring me back to that silent part of myself. I don’t know if I’ll graduate this time around, but I’m willing to try.

I don’t know about you, but I’m willing to admit that I don’t know what’s in store for tomorrow. I don’t know if the decisions I’m making today will benefit me in the future. I don’t know these things. I can’t know. I think that’s the difference this time around; I’m not 18 anymore. I’m not a freshman. I’m not that little girl who is certain she will graduate from Hanover, ease into grad school, and become a psychologist. Yikes, if only I could talk to that girl today and tell her that life isn’t so ‘certain’…

 

No, I’m not that girl anymore. I’m 7 years older. I’m an adult now (although it doesn’t feel like that most days). I’m okay with saying that I don’t know what I want to be when I grow up, but I’ll start taking classes to find out (with the help of my advisor and the Career Center — remember, it’s okay to ask for help guys!! We can’t do all things on our own). I’m okay with saying that I don’t have my entire life mapped out, but I’m willing to take the first step. I must take that first step. One foot in front of the other. And you should too. Friends, no matter what new beginnings you’re facing, no matter what unknowns, you must take that step. To remain stagnant will leave you fearful and paralyzed. Movement is the only way.

 

I’m willing to step into the fear of the unknown.

One moment at a time. One breath at a time.

I’ll take that chance today.

Will you?

 

Let’s do this together. Let’s look fear in the face and continue pursuing our dreams. I am ready. I am ready. I am ready.

Are you with me?

 

Light and love,

Ki

lights in the wood

 

To my friends

With so much wrong in the world, I wonder what is right anymore. As unfortunate events continue to unfold in the world and shake up the minds of my generation, a few close friends have turned to me for advice. I think, me?! What can I give? What wisdom do I have within me? I don’t know anything other than what I live each day. I’m not a teacher, nurse, politician, world traveler. I’m not necessarily cultured, I didn’t even finish my degree for God’s sake! I’m a mom, a ‘kind-of’ writer, what can I possibly give to these friends during such a scary time in our world’s history? I’m probably the least qualified person to give advice, yet for a split second I am humbled that others look to me, so it’s time to do what I love to do: Remind the world that there is good everywhere, and it is up to us to see it and spread it like wildfire. I wake up each day with these words in my heart: You are the light. Be it, live it, spread it everywhere you go. The same goes for love. Be love, live love, and spread it everywhere you go.

So, to you friends, this is what I can offer you today:

I, too, am scared. What a scary time to live. What a scary time to raise a family. Ebola, ISIS, beheadings in our own country, terrorism, disease, cancer, abductions, and the list goes on. But let me remind you that you have a choice each morning when you raise yourself and your spirit from bed. You must choose life. You must choose to live. Live for the moments of true connection. Yes, that’s the secret. That’s it. Use every moment you have to connect with the world and the people around you. Get out of your head, and get into the world. Let the fear, the doubts, and anxiety pass, and plug yourself into what truly matters.

Spread goodness —

You don’t have to be a powerful person to spread a powerful message. It is up to each of us to harvest an inner love, an inner goodness, and we must spread this goodness, this light, to every person we know, to every person we pass on the street, to every person who serves us in restaurants, to every person who shows us hospitality, to every person with a beating heart. Can you imagine what our world would be like if we all did this every day? If we all smiled at each other? If we all cared just a little bit more?

Live spontaneously —

Plan for your future, yes, but don’t forget about spontaneity. Perhaps it feels impossible to be spontaneous when there are bills to pay and meetings to attend. At times, yes, you have to suck it up and go to work. There are evenings when you have to clean your house or go to bed early, but don’t forget to look for the moments when you can look into another’s eyes and connect with him. Get out of your routine, get out of your head, and tap into that universal energy which brings us all together. Go for a run in the park only to be surprised by an old man’s genuine interest in how your day is going. Ask how he’s doing, and leave the park feeling renewed. Call a friend half-way across the world and be surprised when the chat ends 3 hours later. Make a side note about how good it feels and how much you needed that spontaneous chat. Talk to the new neighbor on your street and find out that she’s from England and needs a friend, just like you do. Yes, all of these examples are recent experiences of mine.

Laugh and dance and yes, have a good cry –

I cannot tell you how good it feels to listen to a favorite song of mine when I am at my lowest. If you are a close friend, you know I love European dance music (which I’ll admit is a bit odd for a Midwest American girl, but hey! It’s who I am!) – There is nothing better than getting lost in the words, the beat, the rhythm, and connecting with that silly side of myself. It is good for my heart, my health, my soul. It is good for you, too. I really do believe it’s good to get caught up in our emotions sometimes. I believe in laughing until our bellies hurt. I believe in crying until our souls are cleansed. I believe in dancing ridiculously until my toddler asks me to ‘please stop, Mom.’ We are humans! We have emotions for a reason! It is okay to feel them — It is okay to let them move through us, so long as we remember to come back to what matters most.

Unplug, and Be present —

Turn your phone off right now. What would happen if you unplugged for half an hour a day? What would you do with that time? Would you pick up a book? Would you meditate? Would you take a walk? Would you say a prayer and send good vibes to other parts of the world? My, oh my, what 30 free minutes can do for your soul! I dare you to try it!

Most importantly friends, Be with the ones you love. Your presence is the only thing that truly matters. If you can give nothing else to the world, at least give it your attention. Stay current with what is going on around you, and keep those you love most close to your heart. Make a phone call to an estranged friend. Say I love you. Give hugs. Offer your time, your advice, offer your true self to the world. When the money runs out, when we’ve traveled the world and returned home, when the child in us is tired and needs a rest, all which is left are the people we love. Be present with them, that IS enough.

Cheers, friends.

coffee mug ki

Be

I believe there are times when life moves through me with such speed that I forget why I get up each day. Yes, there are days when I rise as scheduled and sleepwalk from moment to moment. In the next two weeks, I will attend two weddings, one birthday celebration, three soccer games, and one funeral. In a 14-day span, I will laugh, I will undoubtedly cry, I will cheer at the top of my lungs, I will be angry, and I will experience such blissful joy that I am again, moved to tears. My soul will be joyous, my heart will ache under a black dress, and my head will again come to know that life moves through us all, it’s fluidity an undeniable gift.

I do not know if I am prepared for this lesson, to appreciate the precious gift we have each day. It seems a bit difficult to appreciate life when mourning a man whose own life ended far too soon. I am feeling many emotions this week. A bride-to-be excitedly glows as we chat in anticipation of her big day. Hours later, grief glazes Danny’s eyes as his uncle’s final days flitter in the space between us. I seem to wear everyone’s emotions lately. I simply cannot avoid it. It is who I am. It is in my nature of being.

Perhaps it is a gift that I can find a piece of myself in others’ feelings and experiences. We all – sooner or later – try on these different hats of emotion as we experience life. Each one of us feels the same feelings eventually. Joy, sadness, grief, nervous anticipation… the list goes on. As new beginnings and abrupt endings course their way through us, we live every emotion, each day, every one of us.

As few of you know, I began a journey back in the spring that has led me to creating a story for my son to read one day, when he is ready. In this story, I relive experiences in my young adult life that perhaps he will relate to, maybe even find relief in knowing. I explain to him that all emotions are okay. The ups and the downs are good and healthy and human. Bliss and grief and happiness alike – in our own way, we feel it all in time. I write to him,

“Your sadness, I have felt – though perhaps not today.

Over lifetimes, trust me

We all feel the same way.

Be present with it all.

That is the lesson.

That is the gift.

Be with each moment.

Now is your time.”

 

For whatever you are celebrating, or grieving, this moment offers you a chance to feel the experience of being alive. Whether you are high, or have fallen so low, those around you are here now to guide you through. As you wake each day, step with risk – and land with trust. You were created to feel it all.

It is time to be who you are.

You are loved.

-Ki

blog tree ki stuffs

Thanks to Mark Nepo for guiding me daily.

And to a lovely friend who says I think too much and should just be… you’re right. Thank you for being honest with me always.

 

I’m getting better at it

My son is a little Buddha — a tiny guy with a big belly and an even bigger heart. I first started the ‘little Buddha’ joke when I noticed skin playing peekaboo from underneath his t-shirt. All parents go through this with their children. Growth spurts ignite the dreaded ‘in between sizes’ phase. One day the shirt fits, the next… sheesh! All you see is belly! We laugh together as I tickle the exposed part of his belly, and that was it for a time.

Suddenly, I find that my once lighthearted reference is now quite a fact: my son is a little Buddha, wise with untainted knowledge and insight, a being capable of unmatched love and compassion. Over a cup of hot chocolate one chilly morning, Lucas eyed me and sternly voiced his concerns.

“Mom… if you give me too many pieces of your heart, you won’t be alive.” He smiled, wiggled in his chair, and continued sipping hot chocolate with marshmallows.

(Cue shivers up the spine) — I mean good god!! What?? How did our conversation shift from Tuesday morning cartoons to the challenges of parenting?? I smiled in silence and stared at the Crayola craft table that separated me and the enlightened being who cheerfully scanned my face for a reaction. I was baffled. Mute and dumbfounded. And as any other over-thinking parent would do, I fell into the depths of introspection.

Am I giving too much of myself? Do I love him too much? Can he sense my anxiety? Does he know I’m exhausted? How does he KNOW these things? Does he know I’m a people pleaser? Can he read the worries on my face? Can a three-year-old know and comprehend the idea that pleasing everyone first leaves little time and energy for oneself?

Well, he’s figured out the secret to life.

He is right. Every word is the truth: If you give too many pieces of your heart, you won’t be alive. His words scared the hell out of me and ignited tears, so I politely excused myself from our hot chocolate date. Perhaps they were tears of relief. Perhaps they were tears of joy. I’m not sure. Perhaps I cried for all of the moms and dads who undoubtedly face this issue: when we give too much of ourselves, we (and those closest to us) suffer the most.

To say I struggle with this issue is an understatement. I am consumed with balancing my well-being and that of my family, friends, and blog readers. I am plagued with a hunger to tend to everyone else first. I’m convinced it is engrained in my DNA. I want to ease pain, fix everyone and every tough situation that arises. I smile and tend to others before giving a thought about me and my needs. Motherly instincts remind me that every waking moment with my son is an opportunity to teach, play, learn, and explore. Embarrassing as it is to admit, I sit at the computer replying to emails from friends and new readers of mine across the globe — advising, listening to, and easing others before I’ve showered, eaten, even used the restroom! I am obsessed with helping others; it consumes me; and I think Lucas sees that. I know he does.

I know he suffers because of it. I know he hurts inside when Mommy is stressed and on edge. I know he vibes off of that, and in knowing this, I have a choice. I can keep going, keep doing, keep helping, keep tending to everyone and everything and risk becoming worn down by life and living and caring. I could walk on this winding road for years. I could. I know this road quite well. It’s beautifully paved with exhaustion, sleepless months, and anxiety. But it’s familiar.

Or I could slow down. I could put a pause on all of it. I could prioritize my health, my family, and my goals. I could tell my readers that I need some time to respond. I could take a moment to realize how absurd it truly is to worry about everyone else first before myself! I could toss the selfish feelings aside and go to the gym. I could turn off my phone and reply to emails in the morning. I could go for a walk with my son, and leave everything else in the back of my mind for an hour. Yes, I could do that.

And I am. I am spending much less time blogging, connecting, Skyping, pleasing, helping, etc. and more time focusing on my health and well-being. It feels strange when I choose an afternoon at the gym, but my body thanks me afterward. It feels selfish to spend an hour juicing veggies when I could be practicing counting to 100 with my son, but my spirit thanks me afterward. Sometimes it feels like a waste of time to lay in bed with that book I’ve been itching to read when I could be cleaning and washing dishes. But my mind thanks me afterward.

I wonder if other people are like this? I wonder if people-pleasing is a disease? I wonder if others suffer from it as I do? I wonder a lot about these things. I wonder if it’s curable? I wonder if it’s a plague or a gift? I wonder if it’s possible to live in the Now if I’m constantly caring for others? I wonder what it will take to truly put myself and my needs first? I wonder if hearing my son’s insight is the moment that I need to wake up?

I wonder, what is your moment? When will you wake up and take care of yourself first? I’ll be (less) anxiously awaiting to hear from you guys 😉

Take care, be well, do something for yourself today. Slow down — the world will be here when you get back.

 

xo,

Ki

 

Photo: @redxluckyxcharms

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