Pa-Pa

I have time for a brief post this week.

My 96-year-old grandpa, Richard (known to his grandkids as Pa-Pa), is on a hospital bed in his living room in Kentucky.  Family is keeping vigil, as his health has taken a turn and he might be nearing the end.

Lots of family stuff happening right now.

love,
Kate

facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmail

what i’m grateful for today

It’s 6:30am on a Sunday morning, and I can’t fall back asleep.  Normally I post an article about complex concepts, pre-written and edited with precision and great care.   Today I simply want to express gratitude.

I’m grateful to everyone who has ever helped me, hugged me, comforted me, talked to me, made me laugh, or just sat with me.  I’m grateful for human connection.

I’m grateful for a roof over my head, food in my kitchen. running water, and a car.

I’m grateful to my parents, Jim and Betsy, for everything they did to ensure that I had a good life and an education.  I’m grateful that they love me and have always told me so.  For all the ways, big and small, that they have supported me throughout the years.  Without them I wouldn’t even be here.

I’m grateful for the meetup groups I have attended here in Austin.  From divorce support, to acapella singing, to women’s groups, to entrepreneur groups, to Toastmasters.  Everyone has taught me something, and I have met some amazing people.

I’m grateful that I can use my body and my voice to help other people.  How cool is that?

I’m grateful that you heard my words today.  Thank you for reading.

Love,
Kate

facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmail

“Inside Out” and the value of sadness

For those who haven’t seen Inside Out, this article contains spoilers.

The movie is about an 11-year-old girl, Riley, whose family moves across the country.  We can see inside her mind as she reacts to her changing world: a new city, a new school, the loss of her hockey team and old friendships, and her relationship with her parents.  Each of Riley’s emotions is personified – there’s Joy, Sadness, Fear, Anger, and Disgust – and they all take turns pushing buttons at the control center of Riley’s brain.

Throughout the movie, Sadness has a tendency to mope around.  When she touches old memories, they turn blue and forever changed.  The always cheerful Joy, in an attempt to keep Riley happy, tries to prevent Sadness from touching or controlling anything.

There is one scene in particular that strikes me: a three-character scene with Joy, Sadness, and Riley’s imaginary friend Bing Bong.  They’re stuck on the outskirts of Riley’s mind, trying to catch a train back to the center, and Bing Bong is suddenly overwhelmed with melancholy and can’t go on.  Joy tries to help by acting silly, but it doesn’t work.  It’s Sadness who comes over to comfort him.  Sadness is able to relate to how he feels, and she validates his feelings.  It’s an interesting scene because up to that point, Sadness is seemingly slowing down progress or messing things up.  But in this case, Sadness’s actions help move things along.  After Sadness is done comforting Bing Bong, and they’re back on their way, Joy asks, “How did you do that?”

Moral of the story?  Sadness can be used as a fuel for both connection and progress, if we allow ourselves to fully experience it instead of just pushing it away in an attempt to feel happy in every moment.  Sadness and empathy can serve us in ways that joy can’t.

The movie scene reminds me of this thoughtful video – which also happens to be an animation – in which Brené Brown talks about the difference between sympathy and empathy.  “Empathy is feeling with people,” she says.  “Empathy is a choice, and it’s a vulnerable choice.  Because in order to connect with you, I have to connect with something in myself that knows that feeling.”  She goes on, “One of the things we do sometimes, in the face of very difficult conversations, is we try to make things better.  If I share something with you that’s very difficult, I’d rather you say, ‘I don’t even know what to say right now – I’m just so glad you told me.  Because the truth is, rarely can a response make something better.   What makes something better is connection.”

Recently on her Facebook page, writer Elizabeth Gilbert posted some more insights about sadness and depression.  It was so good, that I’m going to include it in full:

DEPRESSION AS A STOP SIGN
Dear Ones -I wonder if any of you have heard of the work of Karla McLaren? She’s the author of many wonderful books on emotional health and wellbeing, including THE ART OF EMPATHY.I was recently listening to an interview with her, in which she spoke about depression in a way that felt so fresh and compelling to me. She spoke of the “gift of sadness”, explaining that Situational Depression can be a wonderful tool of expression in our lives — a way that our psyche alerts us to the fact that something in our life is not working, and must be stopped.Situational Depression (which is different from the ongoing mental illness of chronic depression, hormonal depression, or bipolarity — all of which are serious medical conditions) is a deep sadness that comes upon all of us at some point in our lives. Situational depression is natural. It’s universal. It’s human. We all have face it at some point in our lives. We hate it. We reject it. We fight against it. We don’t want it. It’s deeply uncomfortable.

But Situational Depression has an offering for us — it’s desperately trying to tell us something.

Karla McLaren argues that what your Situational Depression is trying to tell you is: STOP.

Depression is characterized, after all, by a complete depletion of energy, by a sense that you simply cannot cope anymore, that you simply cannot go on. And in many cases, McLaren argues, this because you SHOULDN’T go on. This because something in your life is working against you. Something needs to be changed. Somebody needs to go. Something needs to be grieved. Something needs to be admitted. Something needs to be given up. Something needs to be brought in. Something needs to be discussed. Something needs to be healed.

And your Depression is just a friend who just stands there in the middle of the path and says, “I will not let you take another step until you cope with this problem.”

Many times, this complete shut-down of energy is necessary, to alert you to a problem that you haven’t even consciously admitted that you HAVE.

Case in point: Twelve years ago, in my own life, Depression knew that my marriage was over — and knew it before I did. Depression was just trying to tell me. Depression also knew that I needed God in my life before I knew it. Depression knew that I needed some rigorous honesty about my own self-destructive patterns. Depression knew that I needed to find a professional to talk to about my deepest sorrows and fears. Depression knew that I couldn’t live in that big house anymore, and Depression knew that I was not destined to be a mother — and that therefore I needed to create another path for myself.

I didn’t know any of that stuff.

All I knew was that suddenly I couldn’t function anymore.

Because Depression had just violently drained all my energy out of me, and forbidden me to continue. Depression had basically jumped in front of me with a stop sign, saying: “That’s ENOUGH, young lady. That’s enough of all this. You need to change everything, and I will stand here protectively blocking your path until you do change.”

It wasn’t until I worked everything out (which took time and tears and effort) and completely changed my life that Depression stepped out of the way and let me go on with my journey.

I should be grateful to it, then, for the information.

All of which is to say — Depression just wanted me to stop, to listen, to pay attention…and to respond.

Karla McClaren has created a wonderful template for how to listen to Depression’s helpful messages right here:

http://karlamclaren.com/ingenious-stagnation-understanding-depression/

Her entire website is filled with a lot of wisdom and help. If you are struggling with depression in your life right now, and cannot figure out why, I think you may find a great deal of solace and information there.

Blessings, and please do take care of your lovely selves…

ONWARD (or, if necessary: JUST STOP)
LG

 

I’m grateful to Liz,  Karla, and Brené for shedding some light on this topic.

Love,
Kate

facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmail

how to dissolve negative thought patterns effortlessly

A few weeks ago I talked about thought patterns and locations – how I noticed certain thoughts reoccurring in the same places and times, and that the kitchen was where most of my negative thoughts tended to gather.

I display different words, phrases, or questions on my fridge (because it’s in the kitchen) to give my mind some direction.  This week, I wrote one that has been making a big difference:

unnamedwhat if it didn't matter

“What if it didn’t matter?” is a powerful question when you’re dwelling on a past upset.  The simple act of reading this question is enough to interrupt the pattern and make you consider – is this really a big deal?  What would it be like if this thing I’m hung up on ultimately did not affect how I feel about life?

And here’s the thing – you don’t even have to put any effort into this, other than displaying the question somewhere.  Just hang it somewhere that you’ll see it often.  If you’ve noticed a particular place where your negative thoughts gather the most frequently, hang it there.  When you see the question, you don’t have to deliberately think of an answer.  Your subconscious will already be doing that for you, and you might find yourself relaxing a bit, effortlessly.  Open-ended questions like this spark the imagination.

Some variants you could write and display: “What if this doesn’t matter very much?”  “What if this didn’t matter to me?”  “What if I let this go?”  “What if this thought let go of me?”  “What if I were relaxed right now?”  “What if I felt differently?”  “What if this was a good thing?”  “What if I knew exactly how to handle this?”  Play around with some ‘what if’ questions and discover what works for you.  Stick ’em on your fridge, in your car, in a notebook, as your cell phone lock screen image, anywhere you want.  The formula is to lead your mind to how you want to feel.  So if you want to feel happier – “What if I felt happy right now?”  Of course, you don’t have to stick to ‘what if’ questions.  Another good direction is “How can I feel happy right now?”  “What makes me happy?”  Asking ‘how’ questions will get your brain moving toward practical solutions.  Other good ones: “What am I grateful for?” or “What am I grateful for in this situation?”  The latter question helps you reframe whatever you’re already thinking about.

Can you come up with any of your own questions that open the mind to possibilities?  Write them in the comments section.

Thanks for reading!  Coming up next week: I’m going to talk about the movie “Inside Out” and the value of sadness.  Stay tuned.

Love,
Kate

facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmail

a few books that have changed my thinking and my life

Short post to recommend some non-fiction titles that I’m really glad I stumbled upon:

Creating Time by Marney K. Makridakis
The Desire Map by Danielle LaPorte (currently reading/mapping)
Creating Money, Creating Meaning by Orna Ross
Wishcraft by Barbara Sher
A Thousand Names For Joy by Byron Katie
Tao Te Ching by Laozi, edited by Stephen Mitchell
You Are Now Less Dumb by David McRaney
Lighten Up by Peter Walsh
I Need Your Love – Is That True? by Byron Katie

love,
Kate

facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmail

got my life coaching certification! plus, how to notice thought patterns.

IMG_0071

Today is a happy day!  I received my life coaching certificate after having completed a training program offered by the Coaching Excellence Institute.  In addition to life coaching, I’ve been trained in facilitating the Lefkoe Method.  Plus, I facilitate The Work (of Byron Katie).  The former is more about goal achievement in every area of life, and the latter two are more about emotional healing.  And they are all interrelated.  I want to do these things for a living, helping people become more fulfilled, happy, healed, getting what they want, and feeling good about life.

My independent study of how the brain works has been going well, too.  I’ve learned a ton in just the past few months.  This stuff inspires me – this is one of my true passions.  That’s why I’m so giddy about this certification.

Random side note: if you are not already aware… you can follow my posts on Facebook:
https://www.facebook.com/questionedmind

and/or on Twitter:
https://twitter.com/questioned_mind

Today’s topic: thought locations and triggers.

Have you ever noticed yourself having the same exact thought, or types of thoughts, whenever you do the same thing or you’re in the same place?  I’ve noticed this a lot.

A while back I started noticing that most of my negative thoughts about the other people in my life would occur when I was in the kitchen.  I’ve lived in several apartments, and it was the same in each apartment – always the kitchen.  I’m not sure why this is or what Freud would have to say about it.  Now, the kitchen is where I display most of my words of affirmation and truth.  The kitchen is now a happier place.

There was this song I had memorized on piano, and every time I got to a certain point in the song, I would (seemingly) randomly remember the same person – someone I hadn’t even talked to in years.  Again, I don’t know what’s up with that.  The mind would just repeat itself.

Lastly, I come up with most of my blog post ideas when I’m walking around outdoors, which is a daily ritual that I do first thing in the morning.  Walking gets my brain moving creatively.  It’s almost as if my brain recognizes that I’m doing something that’s good for me and that I enjoy, so it rewards me with creative fuel.  Sometimes I’ll be walking around a store and I pause, pull up Evernote on my phone, and write large portions of what will become a blog post.  It’s almost always induced by walking.

So why am I talking about this?  It’s just a noticing exercise.  Take notice of what thoughts and feelings you’re having, and especially WHERE and WHEN you’re having them, and WHAT you’re doing.  See if you can notice any patterns.  Awareness is the beginning of transformation.  Can’t hear yourself think?  Try turning off the music or background noise, or moving to a quieter location.  Noticing thoughts is very much a hearing exercise – hearing your own voice in your mind’s ear.

If you find yourself having some really similar, negative thoughts or feelings, one of the best things you can do is go somewhere new or make some kind of a change.  An easy way is to just walk around somewhere you’ve never been – tons of new thoughts will come up.  This could potentially help you out of a rut, or an unwanted state of mind, or other problems caused by having the mind on a loop.  Take it off the loop by switching things up.  Rearrange furniture, clear some clutter, get rid of some objects that trigger emotions you don’t want.  This often has a snowball effect… once you get momentum on making one positive change, it’s more likely that you’ll change another.

Love,
Kate

facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmail

lessons I learned during separation, leading to divorce

Today I want to share something that I posted on my personal Facebook page earlier this week, because it seemed to resonate with a lot of people.

To give some background – my husband and I separated last year, and are now divorcing. A couple of weeks prior to the post I’m about to share, I had announced on Facebook that I was going through a difficult time, and why. Some people didn’t know about the divorce or separation, because I had never made it known publicly. I received an outpouring of support from people, which was really touching. I also felt that finally talking about it helped me move forward. I am no longer living in denial of the situation, and making a public announcement turned out to be important. By speaking my reality and not just living it, I felt better about it.

My follow-up post went as follows:

My separation and divorce have been a shock to the system that lasts for months until I’m not sure how long. Difficult, yes. Impossible, no.

The shock dies down a little more every day, and even though it spikes sometimes, the overall trend is progress. In many ways, the new reality is more beautiful than it was. I learned so many things and grew in ways I couldn’t have imagined.

First, I learned more about what I’m capable of. If I can get through this, what else am I capable of getting through? A lot of the time I feel unstoppable, and this momentum has carried over into other areas of my life that needed attention.

I learned that extended periods of alone time can lead to tremendous creativity, growth, and healing. I started a weekly blog with the mission to help people feel better, stretched myself by performing improv, went to therapy for a few months, started a daily video journal (I talk to a camera about my life, and only I see it), worked on myself a lot otherwise, and have been really focused on what I want to do in life – what kind of person I want to be.

I want to be a person who writes like this every now and then. 🙂

I learned that it’s possible to keep someone in your heart, but not necessarily as an active participant in your life (paraphrased from a quote I saw but now rings extremely true, where it wouldn’t have before). To love someone AND not want to see them in person, because you need to move in a different direction. There’s no contradiction there.

I knew it before, but now understand more fully about how life circumstances truly shape people, because I have a different awareness because of this.

I also now understand why people have exclusive groups for their specific issues, even though they have many friends and allies. Support of any kind is great, but to interact with someone who has been through something extremely similar? There’s nothing like it. One of the silver linings of traumatic experiences is that it can bring people together in that way. It also makes us more compassionate toward others in general.

I learned that success is whatever I define it as. To me, it was a successful marriage because it lasted exactly as long as it should have (as does everything else in life). So the word success bears no real meaning, outside of a prediction or hope coming true. From now on, my success is defined by my intentions… and my intentions are not predictions. It’s stuff that I do because it feels right. Being right with myself = success.

Last but certainly not least, I learned that it’s okay and even welcomed to express vulnerability in a semi-public place like Facebook. Thank you to all who support others, especially when they are being genuine and vulnerable. You are awesome, and you make the world better.

facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmail

don’t always ask permission (aka the value of solo projects)

How many of your current activities require other people’s permission to do?

Some things that require permission include:

  • Working for someone else.  You have to pass the interview process first, as well as adhere to whatever expectations the employer has to keep the position, including your physical appearance in some cases.
  • Getting a friend or significant other to join you for an activity.
  • Making or keeping an appointment with anyone else.
  • Dating.  First you each have to be attracted to each other, then one of you has to ask the other out, then you have to agree to relationship rules.  Lots of planning and meeting of expectations.
  • Being accepted into a school/internship/band/club/team or anything else that requires an admission or audition process.  Just like working for someone else, there are rules you must adhere to in order to both become and remain a part of it.
  • Sharing a home with others.  There are certain things you must ask permission to do, out of respect for others in the household.
  • Co-owning anything with other people.
  • Being financially dependent on someone else, outside of the context of a job.  You would have to ask permission to receive more money or possibly to use it in certain ways.
  • Being in any kind of business partnership.

Can you think of any others to add to the list?

None of these things are bad.  I’m just pointing out that every single one of them involves asking permission or adhering to the expectations of others.  For many of us, these activities take up a significant portion of our time.

It’s worth examining.  Things that require permission can lead to disappointment – if we expect the other people involved to agree to something and they don’t do it.  Say you want to go to a concert, but none of your friends want to go.  Does that mean you stay home and miss out on the concert?  (This happened to me recently.  I went by myself and had a blast.)

I’m also reminded of how my daily walks started several years ago.  I used to want my former husband to go with me on every walk I took, because I liked using it as together time.  He wanted to go sometimes; other times he didn’t.  I used to get really frustrated during the times that he didn’t want to go with me.  I would sit home and be mad that I wasn’t walking.  It didn’t even occur to me that I could go alone.  Eventually I noticed how silly I was being, and started taking some of the walks by myself.  Wouldn’t you know, I discovered that I enjoyed it just as much as when my husband was with me.

I encourage you to allot some time in your life to do something, or many things, that require zero permission from anyone else.  This is for the sake of feeling more powerful, and, in many cases, more creative.  An activity that you can truly own, no matter what anyone else is doing.  Some of these things require an entry fee, but no permission otherwise.  Here are a few ideas:

  • Take a course or class in a subject that fascinates you – one that is not pass/fail and only requires participation.  Great way to interact with others without the pressure of asking permission.
  • Do something alone outside of the home that you would normally only think to do with other people – concert, movie, dinner, theater, travel, etc.
  • Join an event that would happen even if you didn’t show up.  Meetup.com is good for this.
  • Meditate or other spiritual practice.
  • Write (journal, blog, poetry, screenplay, novel, non-fiction, etc)
  • Read.
  • Exercise.
  • Listen to music.
  • Practice an instrument.
  • Start a business that you can run completely on your own (aka being a solopreneur).
  • Tinker or make something with your hands.
  • Create a physical space that is only yours, and decorate it however you please.
  • Start a video journal in addition to, or instead of,  a written journal.  (I did!  It’s now an important part of my life.)
  • Don’t always wait to get invited to parties or get-togethers; host them yourself and invite people.
  • Create a group activity you want to participate in, and be the one who holds auditions (if an audition is required).

There are infinite possibilities of permission-less activities you might enjoy.  Just make sure you’re making some time to do some things that you really want to do.  Living in constant adherence to others’ expectations and rules can suck the life out of you, and you deserve some time to do things your way.

I’ve found that I feel very powerful when I’m immersed in one of my solo projects, such as composing this blog.  Questioned Mind required no one’s permission to launch or continue.  That’s what is so liberating about it.  I paid an admission fee for the URL, and that’s it.  Having several endeavors that I can do alone, whenever I feel like it, has made me feel much more powerful and creative.

What’s something you’re interested in doing that requires no permission?  Have you done it yet, or do you want to make more time for it?  Are there any things that you would be nervous to do alone, but feel that you could do alone anyway?

I hope this was helpful, and thanks for reading!

<3 Kate

facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmail

the desire map!

Just a short post today to recommend an amazing book.

Danielle LaPorte’s “The Desire Map” has made its way into my hands.  Already I’m feeling some shifts happening, though I haven’t started the workbook portion yet.

Gonna get back to it!

<3 Kate

facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmail

discomfort when people ask for money

Sunday has rolled around again, which means it’s time for a post.  I was planning to post this long article I had written, but then I realized that it used the word ‘might’ 16 times.  16!!!   I’m laughing about it.  So I need to give that one some more edits before it becomes palatable.  My excuse is that I’m still pretty new to blogging and first drafts are often not so great.

In the meantime, I want to share something with you that brought me a lot of clarity.  Do you ever feel uncomfortable or guilty when someone asks you for money or help?  Do you ever feel uncomfortable or guilty when you ask for money or help from someone?

If so, this article is for you.  It’s Byron Katie doing The Work with actress Jane Lynch, about Jane’s discomfort when a friend asked her for money.  Everyone can benefit from reading this conversation, because we’ve all been there – either as the asker, or the person being asked.  This doesn’t just apply to money, either.  Help of any kind could be applicable.  Nor does it apply to just friends; it also applies to strangers asking for money or help.

In this conversation, Byron Katie is not only helping Jane work through her feelings of discomfort; she is helping her be assertive about her choices.  She is helping Jane say yes to herself, even if she says no to her friend.

love,

Kate

facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmail