A Sense Of Place: On Belonging.

A Sense Of Place: On Belonging.

Community Love Most Popular Posts Motivation + Inspiration Shift Of Power Work

My first big meltdown when I moved to New York City two years ago wasn’t upon touchdown or our first night in an empty apartment. It wasn’t because someone was rude to me, or I lost my way, or I missed a subway stop or four.

Nope. It was in the gym locker room.

I remember that first week so clearly: the champagne buzz I felt from the newness, the novelty of being able to get anything.you.want.at.all. delivered to your apartment instead of having to lug it home in bags that cut off circulation in your fingertips. The way you could be walking, skipping, singing, sobbing down the street and people accepted you like whatever you were doing was a part of the flow. The waking up early just because we were so excited to experience the morning. I remember so clearly. It was love at first footstep.

And then I lost it. I mean, I knew it was coming at some point – I definitely cried my second night, mostly out of sheer exhaustion – but I didn’t expect that my anticipated feelings of shock, overwhelm, and longing would show their sad faces in the women’s locker room on Greenwich Avenue after I made a corny joke to a stranger thrice my age and she genuinely giggled back.

My gym had been my safe haven in LA, and LA had been my safe haven in my life. Having grown up visiting the City That Never Sleeps on a regular basis but living in the City That Sleeps In Then Goes On A Hike my entire life, I was very familiar with New York but not enveloped in her. It wasn’t just my immediate neighborhood that I felt protected by in LA; it was EVERYTHING. The street signs, the off-ramps. The familiar faces and the predictable reactions. The sunrises, the sunsets, and the days the ocean-fog took over the whole sky so you couldn’t tell when one finished and one began. I knew LA from birth. She WAS me.

I tried my best to recognize this when I lived there, but just like so many things, there is always some little important bit of a-ha that happens when you no longer have that thing you loved. For me, that a-ha came in a locker room when I realized how alone and unfamiliar I felt within my surroundings. How, while I valued anonymity, I also valued (and took for granted) my ability to CHOOSE it.


Humans are pack animals; we’re tribal. We’re not meant to wander the hills alone until we find a mate and then go back off again to raise and let go of our kin. Our brains are hard-wired for connection, and even the most introverted of us need to feel a sense of togetherness to truly thrive. It’s been proven by sciency people who are book-smarter than I am: loneliness leads to depression and is a huge indicator of how long you will live.

I’ve been watching and reading a lot of Brené Brown lately (you should be, too!), especially the interviews and articles surrounding her newest book, Braving The Wilderness. The book is all about belonging, and (no, this isn’t a spoiler) how “fitting in” is actually the exact OPPOSITE of belonging.

When I moved here, I wasn’t looking to fit in – I wasn’t interested in molding myself to fit the shape of someone or something else – but I was struck by how shaken my sense of belonging had become. And moreover, how much I tied my sense of belonging to other people RECEIVING me.

That’s why the older woman laughing at my lame-o offhand comment got me so choked up. That’s why I started to panic as I became new eyes on centuries-old surroundings. I felt unfamiliar. I felt routine-less. And the smallest things like seeing the same parking lot attendant I only thank-you’d and have-a-nice-day’d and gym members I never even spoke to and just silently awkward-nodded to while we grabbed adjacent dumbbells were things I didn’t expect to crave. I thought I was autonomous in LA and above all that neediness, but boy did I have myself fooled. I was dependent on other people to validate my experience.

The last couple years have brought more change to me than I thought possible: two apartments, two neighborhoods, a new job, multiple events, brand new soul-friends, marriage. And as I contemplate where I go from here, as I head closer and closer toward my thirty-second year, which I have ALWAYS felt in my gut holds something major for me (micro- or macro- major, who knows at this point), I think about how my sense of belonging has changed too – or maybe how it hasn’t. I am on the precipice of something big, but for the first time in a while I’m hesitant to take a much-needed step to fall and build my wings on the way down.

Brené says that we belong everywhere when we belong to ourselves. So if I belong everywhere, then why is it that I’m so tied to THIS sense of place? Maybe it’s for the same reason people stay in relationships that are fine but not GREAT, or stay in jobs that earn enough to live but don’t add enough to LIFE. Because I “know” this sense of belonging is secure IF I just do all the right things, and check off all the to-do boxes, and it’s a very external and define-able belonging. Predictability and ease. Mother-effers.

Once you stop trying to fight your emerging identity - which is tough, because trying to fight it can sometimes FEEL like trying to find it - everything is magic. Click To Tweet

When I moved here, I felt placeless. I remember telling my friend Sarra that I felt freaked out by the amount of places I could go where I knew no one and no thing (Soak it in while you can, she said). I belonged to no one and no thing. I was trying to see where I fit, and tried on a lot for size. I don’t think I really knew how to belong to myself yet. That’s the cool thing about New York, though: it FORCES your identity out of you. The people who try to fight the force are the ones who have it hardest in life, but especially life in this city. But once you stop trying to fight your emerging identity – which is tough, because trying to fight it can sometimes FEEL like trying to find it – everything is magic.

I don’t think everyone is able to belong – or rather, find a sense of belonging – in NYC. You’ve got to be a little wild, a little crazy, and very comfortable getting uncomfortable, to even catch the first glimmers of it. That process and this city will kick your ass before you realize that your recovery is a part of your becoming. It will spook you, but your challenge is to never let it SCARE you. You’ve got to be next-level brave to become and belong – everywhere, but especially in this city that could care less whether you walk around anonymously and disconnected or full and enmeshed.

And now, I’ve found my way, and I’ve found my spaces. I have a “place.” Of course, I know that’s just a feeling and an illusion. And I wonder: is my newfound sense of place, coupled with my acute memory of what it’s like to NOT have one, keeping me in a new loop that doesn’t serve me? I think so; maybe. I’ve been here before, so I can recognize when I am here again.

The great thing, though, is that I know that I am my own and no one else’s, and that an external sense of place is fab but an internal one is fabber. If I know I’ll be okay no matter what, and I know I will be mine no matter what, then maybe, just maybe, I can start to take those steps that lead me to places I don’t know yet.


Two years ago I woke up for the first time as an NYC resident. I know it’s only been two years but I honestly can’t imagine waking up anywhere else.

Brené Brown says that true belonging only comes when you belong to yourself and yourself only, everywhere and nowhere.

Living here, I finally feel like I’ve found where I belong.

belonging sense of place katie horwitch

“I wake up every morning and say to myself, ‘Well, I’m still in New York. Thank you, God.” ― Ed Koch


 

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What She’s Taught Me: A Mother’s Day Thank-You Note.

What She’s Taught Me: A Mother’s Day Thank-You Note.

Community Love Motivation + Inspiration

DEAR MOMS,

I’m sure you’ve heard it before. Maybe a little, maybe a lot. Maybe it’s been forced or routine. But this is a different kind of thank you. An honest thank you, to all mothers, biological AND emotional, a thank you for everything you teach to those around you on a daily basis…whether you realize it or not.

 


TO ALL MOMS OUT THERE…
everyone speaks of the sacrifices of motherhood, but in my eyes I have only seen freedom. Maybe not the freedom to jet off for a spontaneous weekend or sleep in ’til however long you’d like on the weekends, but an awareness and a courageousness that comes with being a mom – and that represents an incredibly unique type of freedom. Freedom of the heart to love as hard as it pleases, freedom of the spirit to dive into the kinds of big decisions that most only dip their toes into. It’s a kind of freedom that’s not often talked about amidst the hardships and challenges and struggles of motherhood, but it is a freedom that sets an example for the rest of us, a crash course in how to own your own unique brand of leadership. It’s a freedom to allow yourself to start with a fresh slate, to scrap everything you thought you knew, over and over again.

From the time you see that little plus sign all the way past when your first grandchild is born, being a mother means being able to start over with renewed confidence and focus time and again. Most people stay in their bubble of comfort for far longer than it serves them, afraid to begin anew or open themselves up to life’s many shifts. While I’m not saying you’re never afraid (you’re only human!), you feel the fear and do it anyway. Thank you for constantly moving forward. Thank you for showing the rest of us what a different kind of freedom looks like.

 

 

TO ALL MY FRIENDS WHO ARE MOMS… thank you for showing me what motherhood looks like from all angles. From you, I’ve learned that one style does not fit all, that there is really no “technique” that is fool-proof and no way that’s the right way. In observing you approach motherhood from your own angle, I’ve learned something way beyond what it means to be a mother – something bigger. I’ve learned what it means to attack life without being a carbon copy, about how to navigate life on your own terms.

I look upon you with awe as you make decisions for your family and yourself with such confidence, with such assuredness, because there are more important things that must be done than let uncertainty rule your day. I can sometimes sense a slight fear of not knowing what’s right, and when I’m lucky, you let me behind the curtain and share your uncertanties with us. Please know I will always, always listen. You consistently show me that the only “right” choices are those you make from your heart. Thank you for letting me in on your journey.

 


TO MY OWN MOM…
the thank-yous could pile up if I let them. Thank you for encouraging my creativity, thank you for being an open book, thank you for driving me around and reading to me from four books every night. But if I could thank you for one thing only, I would thank you for teaching me how to be a leader, both personally and professionally. You realize that relationships, just like anything else worthwhile, are work – and you put the care and effort in every single time. In your friendships, you’re happy going out on the town yet equally happy to sit on the couch with a glass of wine and storytelling. You’re one of those women that was born to be a mother, born to be a shoulder for everyone you love to lean on. And yet you never forget to take care of yourself. You’re not a pushover in the least, you’re not a people-pleaser. And yet you somehow know how to take care of everyone at once, including yourself. You know that you cannot love anyone else unless you love yourself first. Yes, there are times you complain about the lines around your eyes or the rogue grays at your roots, but every step you take is that of a woman who at her core absolutely loves who she is. You’re a presence – even when you’re not trying to be. Thank you for teaching me how to walk with that kind of confidence.

 


I’ve also learned about myself, my uniqueness, and in trying to emulate you in so many ways I’ve learned who it is I really am. I am silly, sometimes in the same way you are, sometimes in a way that’s completely my own. While you are the life of the party, I’m the person who sticks with one or two conversations all night. I laugh like you, I think, at the same things and with the same reckless abandon. I cry when I laugh, every time, which I know I inherited from you too (thank you for laughing so much). I’ve learned that although we joke and claim otherwise, you don’t know everything, and that you’re just as often wrong as you are right. Because of that I’ve learned it’s okay not to have all the answers. I’ve learned that there are lessons I am yet to learn, ones you’ve known for your whole life – and similarly, there are lessons I’ve got under my belt that you’re still figuring out. I don’t fault you for it, I love you more for it. I’m more like you, mom, than I’d sometimes like to admit – and less like you, mom, than you’d sometimes like to admit. It’s that fine balance of similarities and differences that is at the core of our relationship.

 

While not all of us will choose to be mothers, we'll always have the women who came before us and walk alongside us to teach us how to lead, how to love, how to embrace the freedom you feel when you make a decision and stick with it. Click To Tweet


We all have something to love, whether it be a child or pet or even a vase filled with flowers picked by hand at the Farmer’s Market. While not all of us will choose to be mothers in this lifetime, we will always have the women who came before us and walk alongside us to teach us how to lead, how to love, how to embrace the freedom you feel when you make a decision and stick with it.

Happy Mother’s Day to all of you who possess and demonstrate that inherent maternal instinct on a daily basis – the one that is such a blessing, the one that protects and loves in a way that’s uniquely your own, and teaches us all to do the same.

 


all photos by krista ashley.


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a version of this originally appeared on the chalkboard mag.

Reframing regret.

Reframing regret.

Body Community Love Most Popular Posts Motivation + Inspiration Shift Of Power Work

Up until about a week ago, I used to say that I didn’t believe in Regret. Regret is a useless emotion, I’d scoff when people would ask me What’s my One Biggest Regret or the One Thing I Wish I Could Do Over. You can’t do anything about the past, I’d say, feeling all enlightened and shit. But you do something about the future.

But all along, here was my secret: Regret was the tagalong I couldn’t quite shake. The third wheel on all my friend dates, all my work meetings, all my nights alone scrolling on my phone. Regret liked to follow me whenever I did an interview, or went on a date (yes, with my husband, who I’m certain will love me no-matter-what-within-reason, no Regret necessary), or walked out of a subway station and noticed the people around me walking slower or faster or asking for spare change and I realized I had none. Regret was always popping by, “just to say hi.” And I am an introvert. I don’t DO casual drop-ins where people pop by “just to say hi.” I’m allergic to them.

Regret and I know each other so well, I laugh and bury my head in my hands when I think about all the times I’ve denied her existence. (See? Head-in-hands. Regret’s even there when I speak about regret. Meta.) NO REGRETS! We’re told to shout it from the rooftops. Regret means weakness. Regret means failure.

About a week ago, I got hit on the head with a major paradigm shift. I wish I could remember where I read it, or who wrote it, but as I was sitting in silence and reading through whatever my nighttime reading was, I came across this:

Regret is one of the most useful and human emotions we have, because it helps us course-correct and do better next time.

Woah. So wait a second. You mean all this time, when I was cringing at that lame thing I said or ignorant thing I did or that time when I felt so awkward that I think I might have changed the climate zone with my beet-red cheeks….you mean all those times, my Regret was there to HELP me??

Regret is one of the most useful and human emotions we have, because it helps us course-correct and do better next time. Click To Tweet

Just like any form of negative self-talk, Regret isn’t good or bad – it’s information. What usually happens is we sense a pang of remorse or embarrassment and since it FEELS uncomfortable and maybe even aches a bit, we give it a name. We use our self-talk muscles to warp and translate FEELS BAD to IS BAD.

But is Regret really all that horrible? Well, maybe, if we push it down. We can’t blame her for acting out, though, if we keep shoving her into the back of our emotional refrigerator and letting her grow mold. Eventually, she’s gonna stink up the whole damn fridge. Like, obviously.

If you subscribe to the scientific theory that energy is neither created nor destroyed, then where does all that intense energy from Regret go when we push it down? It doesn’t go away, that’s for sure. Rather, it starts to morph. Into anger. Rage. Hate. Narcissism. Regret is an expert shape shifter under duress; she’ll come back out and sneak-attack using something else as her cover-up.

What if we used all that intense energy that’s brought up when we Regret, to fuel enlightenment or understanding instead? Regret would shape-shift into a Lesson, which then morphs into hindsight, which then translates into a deeper, more meaningful understanding as we experience things over for the first time. That insensitive comment you made to an acquaintance then becomes a deeper sensitivity to experiences that are unlike your own. That huge blow-out you had with a family member that’s now beyond the point of repair becomes a more thoughtful way you interact with the loved ones you’re still lucky enough to have by your side.

Regret can actually be the most useful tool you have in your belt to help you grow and evolve into the you you know you’re meant to be.

This shifted perspective has, as an HSP, completely changed me. Instead of rehashing certain conversations or interactions out over and over again in my brain (and this is a daily occurrence for me if not hourly; I’ve started to tell Jeremy that my vocation is actually Professional Noticer) and CRINGING to near-mental-paralysis over what I SHOULDNT have said or SHOULDNT have done, I now halt the Regret track and ask myself:

What can I take from this?

It takes a LOT of determination to do this. Bravery? Ladyballs? I dunno. Doesn’t feel so brave to me. What it does feel is uncomfortable, and I have to muster up all the determination and follow-through I have within myself to NOT slink away and push that Regret to the back of the refrigerator shelf to gather up mold somewhere. That’s would be what’s fast and easy, not what’s necessary and right. I’ve got to stick with it and see if there are lessons and hindsight and greater understanding at the end of the tunnel. And every time I do this, I realize those things are always there.

~

There are certain questions you get asked a lot in questionnaire-y, quickfire-y type interviews. They’re open ended questions that attach themselves to universal experiences, like wishes or secrets or pet peeves. And one of the most common ones is – you guessed it – What’s Your Biggest Regret?

So here’s my new thing. If I get asked that question again, I’m going to answer this way. I don’t have a Biggest Regret because most all my Regrets have morphed into lessons and hindsight and understanding. And because of those Regrets, I’m able to be a more present, more empathetic, more inclusive and more aware woman that I was before. Sure, I might still have some Regrets, but they just haven’t revealed their true nature to me yet. They’re both inconsequential and paramount at the same time; both everything and nothing.

The biggest lessons I’ve learned are to NEVER underestimate my own power, and that the only person who is the expert on me, is me. My instrincts are never wrong, and if I can differentiate the objective guidance from the emotionally loaded suggestions, I’ll get to where I need to go. The biggest lessons I’ve learned have to do with timing – with truth – with living in a world as someone who is unquestionably herself and questionably questioning everything – with being proactive, not reactive.

The Regrets that got me there? I don’t even remember them.

 


WANT Yourself:
When do you find Regret pops up most in your life? Is it triggered by certain actions or interactions, or is it random? What’s one thing that a recent mini-Regret could teach you?

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It’s Not Easy, But It’s Right: A Love Story.

It’s Not Easy, But It’s Right: A Love Story.

Community Love Most Popular Posts Motivation + Inspiration Work

I woke up this morning with the kind of heartache I hadn’t felt in a very, very long time. Bigger than that one hour I had a mini meltdown when I moved. Bigger than packing up my things and saying see-you-soons. No, it was more akin to the type of heartache I used to feel in my teens and twenties, when the person I loved wasn’t the person I was with.


I missed the theatre.

 

Now, let me be clear: I love my life. L-O-V-E my life, all caps. I’m of firm belief that regret is a useless emotion other than its ability to steer us in the best direction when we ask ourselves if it has the possibility of popping up later. Every choice I’ve made is intentional, ever decision has been from the heart. I don’t do easy, after all. I do right.

And hey, I DID theatre! I lived that professional, unionized actor life. I committed my entire college education to it (*okay, not entire, I went to a liberl arts school which required tons of general education classes and became particularly enamoured with sociocultural anthropology but that’s beside the point). I had agents – multiple. I got to act on major television shows and do national commercials and be in both independent and major movies – and just before you call me out on the fact that theatre, not film, was my true love, I did that too. I talked and sang and laughed and cried on stages to audiences of 15 and of 500. I did it. I was there.

I have mega-talented friends in the theatre world, friends on Broadway and friends quite literally touring the world. And when I see their posts on Instagram or Facebook or hear about rehearsals, I often need to do a gut check: I LOVE their life, but do I wish it was mine as well? And the answer pretty much always is: no.

I didn’t veer away from theatre because “the rejection is so tough,” as many people assume when we talk about my Former Life. Nope, not at all. It’s that as I grew older and started to examine the type of life I wanted for myself – and the things that would give me the quality of that life; the things I was willing to sacrifice and the things I was willing to trade in place for the kind of stage career I’d always seen myself having (which, for me, lived on National Tours and in New York City) – well, I started to realize those things were actually my non-negotiables.

A lot of it came about after having controlled myself for so long: I realized I had within me a tendency to control and obsess, and while those things were fantastic when it came to memorizing lines or fleshing out a character, they worked waaaay against me when it came to the rest of my life. The control robbed me of my ME-ness.

I never acted to escape myself, always to explore myself. But the more I explored myself in a controlled environment the more unsafe I felt going there in my life outside a rehearsal room. Not to mention the paralyzing anxiety I’d get during almost all auditions – anxiety that stemmed from nowhere, anxiety that wasn’t tied to being scared (I wasn’t) but being liked. And no matter how much I prepped and no matter how much meditation I did beforehand to center myself and believe, truly believe, that no this was not an audition but a performance opportunity, and no they were not judging me and yes they were hoping I was their answer walking into the room…I would still get the shaking and throat closing and hands and feet going numb.

I tried everything. And 99% of the time, it didn’t work. So you’d think that when I nailed it, I would feel a sense of fulfilment and confidence. But when I did get the part, when the fleeting validation fled, the control would kick in. Very rarely did it feel joyful. I realized that the joy I thought I would feel when I got the thing was not the reality of the thing. What I was after was not what I was getting.

It's not easy, but it's right. Click To Tweet

We are told as kids, as teenagers with big-ass dreams, that there are people who give up and there are people who keep going. We’re told that’s it; that it’s easy to choose a different path but it’s right to stick the course. That those with a calling are supposed to follow it through, no holds barred, through the fire and sleet and make their way to the other side. The people who keep going are the people who reap the rewards, and the people who veer off track get zilch.

What if those aren’t the only two options, though?
And what if… what if… what is supposed to be the right choice is really the easy one, and the choice that to others would seem a cinch is actually the hardest and rightest?

It would have been easy for me to stick with theatre, with the career path I paved for myself. It would have been easy to stay with the familiar loops, goals, dreams, aspirations, patterns with the justification that this was the life I had set out to build for myself. But was it really right? And moreover…was it all really that mutually exclusive, a definitive hard start and stop?

I think back on my time pursuing a career I don’t currently have – really-truly-seriously pursuing it – and I realize it only truly spans a decade. Sure, a decade is a lot….but is it? My life and professionalism started to truly take shape when I started voice lessons at 14, tenaciously pursuing education and opportunities that would support my growth into the woman I wanted to be in the world, then booking my first work at 18, then booking my first union show at 20, then getting an agent and building my resume and doing all things from modeling swimwear to playing a tween to filming a scene with Jessica Biel that left me with bruises on my arms (story for another day, but if you’re curious check out the Deleted Scenes from the movie Valentines Day. yep, #itme) to singing backup vocals on a Miley Cyrus karaoke track to investigating alongside Batman for a film I still to this day get really creepy messages from comic-and-cosplay-obsessed guys about. I did it all. It was a weird, wonderful, wacky experience – until I realized I’d grown into a person very different from the one I thought I was going to be at that point in her life. All in a span of ten measley blip-of-time years.

Yeah, I dabbled in acting work after the age of 24, but it was almost always at the request of a friend-of-friend who knew me from such-and-such and very rarely did I even enjoy the experience. I kept trying to test myself, trying to see if what I’d had was what I’d been longing for. It wasn’t.

I can be happy but still want more. I can choose not Either/Or but AND. Click To Tweet

Sometimes I wonder if I am trying to convince myself otherwise. That I really should be singing onstage, that I really should be pursuing the magic-of-the-theatre…but that’s not my life now, so I better be happy with what I’ve got.

But here’s the thing…I AM. I am happy. I can be happy but still want more. I can choose not Either/Or but And. And for me I choose to look at how I can accomplish the EXACT things I loved about working in the theatre WITHIN the life I lead and person I am today.

Just because we feel a sense of joy from one thing doesn’t mean we’re immune to feeling the absence of another. Just because we strive for the look of one thing doesn’t mean we can’t wonder if we’re missing out on the feel of the other.

But my recent revelation is: We can always go back. We can always veer the course, because we have PROOF we’ve done it before. We can always do everything from test the waters to fully cannonball-dive in. Will I ever go back to theatre? Who knows. But it’s not unthinkable, I know that. In the here and now, I know I am after a FEELING in my life, I am after the accomplishment of the actualization of my Through Line: using my unique, authentic voice to help and inspire others find their own. What that looks like now might look entirely different 10 years from now. Nothing is ever off the table.

Cheryl Strayed has a wonderful quote that says:

“I’ll never know, and neither will you, of the life you don’t choose. We’ll only know that whatever that sister life was, it was important and beautiful and not ours. It was the ghost ship that didn’t carry us.”

We can ache for the dream of what we think one life COULD be like, but the reality is that its rarely what we envision it to be verbatim. There is always some caveat. Always something that made it the sister life, not ours.

But I think…I really, truly think…that if we pinpoint what exactly we value most, and go after that, the aspects of the sister life that WERE meant to be ours will come sailing into the port. Which aspects? TBD. We must only stay open. And make the right choices instead of the easy ones.

 

Sometimes I look back at the kid I used to be, and I wonder if she’s gotten everthing she’s wanted. But then I realize how absurd that thought is… Gotten. Happened. Done. To question if she’s ALREADY gotten everything she’s wanted, like it’s been so long.

Of course she hasn’t. Because she’s only just gotten started.

photo: krista ashley

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Back On The Wagon: An Ode To Resolution Season.

Back On The Wagon: An Ode To Resolution Season.

Body Community Love Motivation + Inspiration Shift Of Power Work

It’s January 12th, 2014. Four years ago almost to the day. I’m sitting at the doctor’s office and I’m terrified to go in.

On a routine visit to a brand-new health practitioner who’s highly recommended by a friend, I find myself sitting in his eggshell-white waiting room filling out my paperwork and trying to keep from fidgeting. The receptionist is as sweet as can be, the vibe calm and friendly, and the multicolored bowl of lollipops sitting on the counter remind me of my childhood – back when I loved going to the doctor and I was self-aware in the best way possible.

The fidgety anxiety is not about a condition, not about a vibe – heck, it’s not even about the needles or the fact I haven’t seen a doctor in way too long. Even though I’m loving how I feel in my own skin, even though I am healthy and happy as can be, the reason my stomach won’t stop flip-flopping is because…for the first time in a very long time, I’m going to have to step on the scale.

~

It’s officially the end of what I like to call Resolution Season: that time of year people start to slowly forget their workouts, loosen their wallets, leave their closets in disarray – the time of year we generally start to “slip up.”

While most people simply assume this is due to lack of interest or motivation, I argue that what sends us spiraling is not the act itself – it’s the idea of what it SHOULD be.

Our ties to the Safe and Solid Endpoint are what really get us. The idea that there is some omnipresent rightest right, some all-powerful magic number, some goal that could be gone in the blink of an eye or glance at a figure…

And so the very second we veer from the path – well, it’s almost like those long-standing family arguments that never end up getting resolved. Both parties have been betrayed by their definitions of what love SHOULD be, what relationships SHOULD be like. God forbid they’re nuanced. God forbid sometimes we just don’t get along. Who even cares about the actual person anymore; we have our own fabricated notions of who they are to keep us up at night.

We wind up tightly and twist into knots, again and again, until one day we don’t even know where the untangling would begin.

I used to be double-knot-tied to my weight and that fluctuation on the scale, a memory that was triggered when I stepped into the doctor’s office that day and started to get upset at the fact that I remembered what it was like to get upset at a number. I used to be diligent about counting my calories, logging my workouts, making sure that I stayed within that self-defined coveted range between too much and not enough.

And then when the counting and logging got too out of hand, I landed on another tactic: avoid your body altogether, because if you don’t focus on it, it cannot betray you.

Thank goodness for that self-awareness I cultivated as a kid, because one day, all of a sudden, I just got…tired. I got TIRED of it ALL. It got exhausting, and I realized that by trying to avoid getting stuck in that place where my body dictated my happiness – by working so hard to cling so tight to the idea of freedom, the definition of what it would look like to love myself – I was holding myself captive and completely missing how happy the body I was in could actually make me feel, right in that very second.

We do the same thing with money, with exercise, with kindness even. Holding ourselves to a standard of perfection – even if it’s a standard we’ve defined by ourselves for ourselves. Isn’t that all resolutions are, really? Attempts to alter the definitions we’ve fallen into in the past? We define our resolutions at the beginning of the year, sometimes merely settling on a endpoint, sometimes going so far as to meticulously plan every step of the way for seemingly less-than-friendly navigation. We hang onto ideas of what things should be, so if and when they start to look different, we automatically associate them with failure.

Different is never failure. It’s just…different. Resolving to eat clean and then “cheating” on veggies with your main men Ben & Jerry one night is not a failure. Snapping at your coworker or best friend or child when you promised to be nicer this year is not a failure. Missing a day or two or even three (gasp!) of the gym, or logging a lackluster workout, or “accidentally” spending more than you should on those shoes (and shirt, and jeans, and trendy ear climber thingies) is not anywhere near a failure.

It’s become our default reaction to say we’ll get back on the wagon…
…but what if we got rid of the wagon altogether?

What if we realized that what truly makes us happy is fluid and constantly in flux?


As you move out of Resolution Season and into the rest of your life in 2018, I encourage you to remind yourself what it is about whatever you are doing that makes you feel fulfilled and happy. If your current definition and strategy is not accomplishing those things, then maybe it’s time to give yourself a break.

There will always be moments of the unexpected. Every thought is information. Every moment is a learning experience. Every decision is a building block. Sometimes we just don’t utilize them as such.

When we stop defining what happiness, success, health, or virtue must LOOK like, we actually allow ourselves room to experience things and figure out what is true to who we are, not who we THINK we should be.

There is no wagon to get back onto – because we never got on in the first place.

We say we’ll get back on the wagon - but what if we got rid of the wagon altogether? Click To Tweet

….oh, and as for the doctor’s office? Cue flashback music…

The nurse practitioner calls me in – a woman close to my age, with beached-blonde hair and an energy that was equivalent to a walking giggle. We chat about her day, where she’s from, bond over our love for cycling classes – and just like that, I’m on that platform.

And I realize, man do I feel fantastic.

I was scared those old definitions and feelings would magically reappear, those ones that told me that trying a stupid new cleanse or stupid new supplement or cutting out a food group for stupid amounts of forever was the road to the weight that was what happy must look like. They didn’t. How could they? I threw away definitions long ago, when I realized that the body and soul I admired most coincided with numbers that fluctuated daily and decisions that didn’t always exist in the rulebook, but sure made me the person I’d always hoped I would become.

The number pops up: far from what my “safe” zone was years and years ago, but right where I know I need and should be in that very moment.

And then, as if to challenge me in a moment of comedic brilliance, a mathematically intended yet emotionally-loaded word pops up next to the number.

Gross.

I smile at the nurse and the irony.

“I think your scale needs to watch its mouth.”

All we can do is laugh. I happily grab a lollipop on my way out.

resolution resolutions

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photo credit: made in chicago museum

Shift Your Self-Talk: Defining Your Through Line.

Shift Your Self-Talk: Defining Your Through Line.

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What is the common theme in everything you love? What is the common goal in everything you do?

Those, my friends, are the building blocks of your THROUGH LINE.

 

We’re all equipped with a through line; something we’re wonderful at and are meant  to give to the world. And while some people might suggest mantras or affirmations, it’s my firm belief that you can’t shift your self-talk without finding your through line first.


Negative self-talk might sometimes seem like it pops up out of nowhere, but when you boil it down to basics, it’s simply filler for uncertainty in purpose and imbalances in your mind, body and soul. 
With confidence in your purpose or through line, there’s less of the negative talk that we use to sabotage ourselves.

We cannot succeed if we do not love what we DO – or if what we do does not fit into the big picture. Once we find our through line and shift our actions to deliver that through line, long-term success is inevitable.

Notice the little things that fulfill you. Not necessarily the tasks themselves, but the meaning behind those tasks. Not so much the superficial What, but the hidden Why.

Notice the little things that fulfill you. Not the superficial WHAT, but the hidden WHY. Click To Tweet

You might have one through line or a couple. Here are two (and-a-half steps) to help you find yours:

STEP 1: MAKE A LIST OF EVERYTHING YOU LOVE TO DO OR EXPERIENCE. I MEAN EVERYTHING. The things that you seem to get absorbed by and fill you up from the inside out. Don’t worry about cohesiveness, list as many actions, experiences, and instances as you can think of. Cooking dinner, one-on-one time with friends, business strategy, binging on horror movies – it’s all fair game.

STEP 2: CAN YOU FIND A COMMON THEME IN THE MAJORITY OF YOUR ANSWERS? Try to find a mode and an output. Maybe not all the things you listed out fit together, but I’ll bet good money on the fact that a lot of them DO. Look beyond the obvious – the fact that you love to bake and you love to have spontaneous dance parties might seem unrelated, but when you dig deeper you might realize what you actually love is the act of creating something that brightens up someone else’s day. You love to bake – but when you’re sharing your treats with friends. You love to have spontaneous dance parties because it makes your husband or boyfriend or kid or dog even fill up with joy and laughter. There’s where your talents lie. That is your through line.

Here’s the optional half-step, if you’re feeling curious: just for kicks, make another list of everything you excel at. No need to hold back here – remember, confidence is not synonymous with narcissism or vanity.

Now highlight the things that you can recognize your through line in.

Does this list seem familiar? It should. Many of the things we love to do are the things we have a natural knack for.

Pretty cool, huh? These places are where you shine the brightest.

~

Need an example? Here’s what the first two steps of my exercise looks like:

Step 1: I love writing, interviewing others, singing, people watching, unfiltered and authentic conversations, listening to podcasts, music, running, teaching fitness classes, taking fitness classes, pretty much exercise of all kinds, yoga classes, acting, photography, singing and dancing at concerts, laughing out loud at movies, spending time with my family and soul-friends, reading non-fiction books or books written in the first person, public speaking, taking small chances, painting, drawing, playing board games that may or may not bring out my inner competitive Monica Gellar (where you at, Settlers of Catan).

Step 2: In most all of the things I love, I can see that my through line is using my unique voice to its fullest to help others find theirs.

But wait…how does this connect to playing Settlers of Catan or singing and dancing during Beyoncé’s Formation tour???

It goes back to my yoga practice, actually. I realized a long time ago that we learn best not from textbooks or bulletpointed protocols, but from each other. I used to practice amongst handstand junkies and power posers, and noticed that the people around them would get frustrated when they couldn’t get upside down. So I did an experiment: what would happen if I took Child’s Pose, a “resting” pose, in the classes where people were doing handstands, and I tried the more physically challenging poses even if I fell flat on my face in the classes where people shied away from things if they didn’t look perfect?

Lo and behold, people started taking Child’s Pose instead of forcing themselves into handstands, and playfully experimenting when the teacher offered up a variation on the familiar. Because I gave myself permission to publicly do what worked for ME, others started to give themselves permission to do the same. 

I see my “voice” not only in talking or singing to teaching, but in writing, drawing – movement even. I get bored or frustrated when I am required to do things exactly like someone else. I love listening to podcasts and reading non-fiction or books written in the first person because they spark a discussion inside my head; I can almost hear my voice chiming in with the author or speaker. I love taking those discussions out into the “real world” and making my community like my very own unofficial book club or listening group. Learning new information isn’t enough for me: I get high off of learning it, translating it, and discussing it in a broader yet at the same time more personal context. If I look closely, everything I love has my through line of “using my unique voice to its fullest to help others do the same” running through it. I stand for love – of others and yourself.

Whenever I feel discontent or useless or squashed down and dull, I ask myself…”Katie, are you using your unique voice right now and is it resonating with the best parts of others?” If the answer is no, even if I can’t fully escape the scenario that’s bringing me down, I divert my attention and place myself in a scenario in which I CAN use my though line to its fullest potential, however big or small that might look from the outside.

~

It’s easy to talk negatively about ourselves when we’re in those bang-your-head-against-the-wall scenarios. And we’ve all got to deal with those throughout our lives no matter what. Sometimes, things just don’t gel. But now that you know your through line, you can invest your time a bit more wisely. Go back and look at your list, see if you can identify a nuance of your through line, or a whole other through line altogether, that exists in your current situation…and try again. Trial and error is part of the deal. It’s all about changing up the approach. 

I’m not saying that once you figure out how or where you shine the brightest, you’ll always be shiny and sparkly. Life would be boring and useless without mistakes and missteps and those moments we feel the lowest of our lows. But if you’re strategically placing yourself in scenarios in which you can use your through line – whether it be with a new group of friends, a new relationship, a new job or simply a potential hobby you’re taking up – you’ll also feel those highest highs a whole lot higher. Your life will feel a whole lot more cohesive, and you’ll feel your purpose from the inside out.


WANT Yourself Action Plan:

In the comments section below, tell me what your through line is. How do you use it on a regular basis? Did you have an aha! moment that helped you realize what you were meant to give to the world?

Be as specific as possible – this is not an easy exercise, and your insight and experience might be exactly what someone else needs to read to realize the power they have within themselves.

WANT is a testament to the power of our pragmatically positive voice as a community and the impact we can have if we band together. Go for it, WANT peeps…


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a different version of this post originally appeared back in 2015 on WANT. see it here