On Writing

I wrote a short story in a college. “The Girl”. It was more of a memoir, but I didn’t know it at the time. It was a pointed story about being raped. Is “pointed” the right word? I don’t know. “To the point”, maybe. “Matter of fact”, perhaps. In any case, I told the story of being a girl, 16 years old, and having a man drive me to a dark parking lot and rape me. He was 30. Gross. Can you imagine? So gross.

My point isn’t to rehash the gory details of that experience. My point is to give testament to the power and beauty of writing.

Journaling is one thing. It’s a cathartic practice, yes. But writing is different. When I wrote that story, I was creating something beautiful from the ugliness that haunted me. I wrote from a very generic, third-person point of view. I wrote in short, precise sentences. I wanted each word to cut with the same power that each second of that terrible experience hit me. I chose my words carefully. I edited not with the red pen of a grammar critic, but with the test of a simple question, “And then what happened?” No emotion, no shame, no excuses, no analogy, no baggage, no comparison, no regret, no hiding. Just the facts. What happened. Just as it happened. Step by step by step. Second by minute by moment. “Tell them,” I remember thinking, “but tell them in a way they will know the truth deeply.”

Maybe you know the song by David Allen Coe?

He said, “Drifter, can ya make folks cry when you play and sing?
Have you paid your dues, can you moan the blues?
Can you bend them guitar strings?”
He said, “Boy, can you make folks feel what you feel inside?

That is the beauty of writing. Can you make folks cry? Can you make them laugh? Can you show them the ugly truth inside of yourself that they also know lives inside of them?

Learning to show others what I see and feel has opened my own heart to see and feel again. As I become more skilled at opening, examining what I’ve lived, I am motivated to help others find the same truths within themselves. This is why I write.

When I see, hear, read, touch, experience a snapshot of someone’s life, I am living in that moment, their moment. It becomes mine. But instead of borrowing their story, they’ve somehow snuck into my memory to recount my own story. What I thought was mine alone is actually shared. They have shown me that I’m not the only one. I am not alone.

And so it becomes almost magical to think that so many of us share the same stories and the same whispers that shroud those stories. Whispers of shame, regret, sadness, fear, joy, love, comfort, and gratitude. There is comfort in knowing we are not alone, yes. But more than comfort, I find beauty. Each story woven with another of the same color and another and another and a few more of different colors to make a fabric of brilliance and depth. It’s magical, otherworldly. As if the kingdom of heaven is already in front of us, but because we are caught in the experience of living it, we are unable to see it, touch it, feel it, and appreciate it.

So wait, do I appreciate being raped? No. Of course not. Duh. But I do appreciate learning to illustrate the experience. I appreciate the process that I learned to disconnect and remove myself from blame by telling the story as it happened. Not all girls who are raped have this opportunity – the college writing class, the teacher, the assignment, the audience (we read our stories aloud to the class). And those who do have the chance to examine their stories, don’t always take it. Just like those who have the chance to live new stories, don’t always dive in.

My writing teacher was impressed. Or maybe she was reminded of her own story that I just retold. I don’t know. I don’t remember if my classmates were moved or bored. Did I make them cry or feel what I felt inside? I don’t know. In any case, I got an A on that assignment. Then, I threw it away and decided to dive in and live out a few more good stories to tell.

A Letter to My Sisters – Part 1

 

Sweetest Sisters,

I’ve wanted to write this letter to you for some time. And today, after much procrastination, I figured better now than never.

First, let me tell you that I’m sitting in a busy and boisterous coffee shop in San Francisco. It’s the 5th of a 7-day intensive with my yoga teacher. As always, Manouso has worked me over in all manners of yoga. I don’t understand why it seems that in a roomful of 80+ people of ALL ages and abilities, I seem to be the only one heaving and sweating like it’s a marathon in the Mojave!

And… fun fact for the day… the coffee shops in SF also serve beer! Who knew!

But, I digress.

The days you were born, all of you, were some of the best days of my life. I didn’t really know then what it would mean for me when you were born. I just knew that I loved you before you took your first breath and that life with you was going to be AWESOME! And I was right (maybe you’ve heard me say that before).

I’ve had so much fun watching you grow up and growing up with you. I know that the miles have separated us and the whole our-family-is-a-bush-not-really-a-tree has made things complicated. But, really. How much does all of that matter when I hold you so tightly in my heart?

So, now I have some things to tell you. Some things that I want to share with you about life. I’m your big sister, after all. I think that I’m supposed to do this. Here we go…

My biggest life lessons:

  1. Things are never as bad as they seem, nor as good.
  2. You are always, ALWAYS fully capable of handling whatever it is that life flings your direction.
  3. You are loved. By many. In fact, there are people who love you and think about your happiness and you might never realize it.

That’s the Cliff Notes version of this letter. You can stop here if you have something better to do. I’m going to drone on for a few paragraphs now.

You were all young when Ted was first diagnosed with Infantile Spasms. I don’t know if you remember how devastated and terrified we were. I was a wreck. And Travis was even worse than me! When I think back, I see that it was fear that tore through my soul. What would happen? Would he die? What did I do to cause this? His first treatment was a heavy-duty steroid called ACTH. We gave him injections twice daily in his little, pudgy, infant thigh. Travis would inject him as I held him and kissed his fat cheek. I tried to soothe him through those alligator tears. I told him how much I loved him and how proud I was of his strength. I loved him so much and it was gut-wrenching to be part of the “treatment” that made him suffer so much.

It never took more than a few minutes after the injection when Teddy would erupt into laughter. You know, the big belly laughs that babies do. Well, Ted’s were always music to my ears and comfort to my heart. He cried in pain and then laughed with the joy that only that beautiful boy knew existed.

You see, the pain of holding him and doing my best to hold myself together was hard. It was terrifying. My only protection was to withdraw. I sucked my tears back and bound my heart deep within so that I didn’t have to subject myself to the uncharted waters of fully experiencing how bad things were. Yes, it’s how I survived. I needed to do that. It was the only way that I was going to make it through. But the result was that when Ted laughed and cooed and bubbled his spit and laughed again, my heart was still bound. I couldn’t expose myself to the pain or to the joy. Unfortunately.

I’ve only missed out on something A MILLION TIMES and look back now and want to experience it again, all because I was afraid. Truly, I don’t know what I was afraid of except the “what ifs”. I can think of so many times when I missed out on your lives because I was too scared to reach out and sink my teeth into our sisterhood. Trav’s family taught me a lot about how to embrace life. I am forever grateful for them.

It’s a lesson that I’ve also learned from my yoga practice. The ongoing lesson of Skillful Action. I don’t look as much anymore for what I want. I look for what’s best. What’s the best decision, action, response. It’s never an easy equation to solve. In fact, most of the time it’s quite simply impossible. Because there’s never a RIGHT answer, only the BEST answer for this moment.

Typically, what I want is to just look at the pool of water. Maybe I dip my toes in from time to time, but I certainly don’t dive in! What if it’s too hot, too cold, too deep, too shallow? What if there’s a MONSTER WAITING TO CHEW UP MY FEET! Worse yet, there could be dirty dishes, stinky bathrooms, or some other form of torture for me to endure. Hell no. I’m not diving in.

And yes, I think sometimes about the possibility that the water will be warm and that when I dive in my suit will conveniently slip off, revealing a Sports Illustrated hot body, just in time for my Adonis (in the form of Brad Pitt, Norman Reedus, or David Beckham, or Travis of course!). But let’s be honest, it’s likely a monster in that pool so I’m not going to risk it.

That pool of water is my life… your life… all of LIFE. I like to plan, to ponder, but I really have to force myself to participate. It’s something that I’ve learned to do and now I embrace it… or at least I try after I’ve thrown myself into it! You see, I finally figured out that if I’m really going to enjoy all the good that life has to offer, then I have to also be prepared to experience to low points. After all, we live by comparison. If I want the good, the bad is coming, too.

And at the end of the day, the bad is never as bad as I think it will be. And the good is sweet but fleeting. What makes it all work is also one of my life lessons (#2), that we are always FULLY capable of handling whatever is in that dark, murky pool of the unknown – good, bad, and ugly. We are smart, strong, and quite talented.

You can do it. I can do it. We can do anything.

That’s part one of my letter to you. I’ll write more on the rest later. For now, just remember that I love you all and I love you with all of my heart.

Onward!

Love, Sis

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On Dancing

A long time ago, I began writing. I wrote in a sort of journal-esque manner whenever the mood struck me. Oddly, or maybe not so oddly, I was usually drawn to writing when I was feeling down. I scratched angry words. I painted poems of sadness. The words, always punctuated with a deep loneliness, flowed from my pen with such ease. I became a master of describing the sadness, the fear, the anxiety, and the isolation that ran rampant through me.

And then one day, I realized that I had painted myself into a corner. Or rather, I’d written myself into a box. I love writing. I love creating. I love telling stories and I love sharing myself with the world. But, I had gotten so good at writing about sad things that I was a complete novice with ZERO practice writing about the beautiful things in life (and there are so many!). Like the cartoon-figured muscle man who always misses leg day at the gym, the biceps of my depressed writing had overgrown the weak little legs of my writings of beauty, gratitude, wonder, discovery.

And worst of all, I realized that the evolution of my writing reflected the evolution of my own thoughts about life. I realized that I took great care in my head to explore, uproot, and analyze my sadness, anger, grief. But, I spent very little time discovering the essence of my happiness. I gave a cursory nod and faint smile to the sound of my children laughing, the warm embrace of my husband after a long day, the wonder of sunrises over the mountains. You get the picture.

If you consider the dance of life to be that of a pair of lovers, and the play between them is a discovery and display of their dependence and their devotion. They need each other. They want each other. The lovers are Relentless Pursuit and Supreme Contentment. (They should really have sexier names like Sophia and Marlon, but they don’t.) Who leads? Who follows?

My lovers have fallen into a sort of unbalanced, aggressive, nearly abusive dance. Relentless Pursuit of a Better Life (that’s his full name) has forced the dance. Step here, pull there, dip, slide, step. “Me not you”, he says. And Supreme Contentment yearns to linger a bit longer in the embrace, to drape her hair and add a little swivel to her step.

When Travis and I were first dating, he wanted so badly to teach me to dance. We attended classes and practiced at home. The biggest challenge was that I insisted on leading. (Yes, I didn’t know the steps very well, but he didn’t seem to have an ear for the rhythm of the music… sheesh!) One day he told me, quite bluntly, that this dancing business will only work if I allowed him to take the lead. I was offended in a sort of feminist way. Why on earth did that make any sense for HIM to lead? Can’t we BOTH just drive forward together. Can’t we both just demand from each other and ourselves the Relentless Pursuit of a Better Dance?

When we were both driving forward, our dance became more of a mission and less of a celebration. When Travis led and I surrendered to Spaghetti Arms (remember Dirty Dancing?), the dance was his dance and I was a wilted piece of lettuce. But when I allowed Travis to lead, to pursue the next step and to choreograph, my work then was to add the flair. To swing my hips and flounce my hair with each turn and dip was my role. Without me, the dance was rigid. Without his lead, the dance lacked structure and courage. It is his determination and my damn-hot booty bumps that make our dances beautiful and full of love. For years we’ve curated our dance – on and off of the dance floor.

You see how this can happen with our thoughts, actions; and, how it’s happened with my writing. The more that I drive forward to improve, the more focus there is on what is bad. When I allow for gratitude, wonder, and love to have a voice and a place, the balance of Relentless Pursuit and Supreme Contentment dance like the impassioned lovers they are, driving forward and always taking time to throw their heads back in laughter.

So what did I do to change this dance?

First, I write. I write first everyday. I wake up when the house is still sleeping, I pour a cup of coffee and I write. I don’t craft. I don’t pay attention to punctuation or sentence structure or anything other than getting words from my head onto the paper. Julia Cameron in The Artists Way calls this practice Morning Pages. And it helps me blow the dust off of my brain so I can approach the day from a fresh perspective.

Second, I practice. Rather, I am practicing. I make a conscious effort to see the pretty stuff. I take time (even a few seconds!) to remind myself how delicious coffee tastes with the perfect amount of cream, how funny Joe is when he’s describing his day, the richness in the color of my sister’s ginger hair, how soft and quiet the snowy scene appears when looking out my window. I’m taking time to stop and smell the roses, as they say.

Lastly and most importantly, I’m telling YOU all of this. Sharing with you the Truth of Me has been the single most important practice for learning to appreciate what a beautiful life I live. When I describe to you what I feel and think and why reminds me that although my sadness and loneliness has been better documented, my happiness and love is just as big and just as important.

So, I sign off with a commitment to you. I promise to explore and document my happiness. And I promise to share it with you.

Love, Kisa

Growing Gorillas One Fight at a Time

We posted this article (“Letting Children Win Is Always A Losing Strategy”) on the Growing Gorillas Facebook page about how important competition is for children. I encourage you to read it and think about it. Really. Think about it.

Think about how competition has helped you to become who you are. Think about those times when you failed or lost. What happened before, what happened during, what happened after. Who was there with you and what did they say?

Every match, every game, every competition is practice in living.

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And if you are a parent, ask yourself, “What am I doing to prepare my child for life?”

If you’re an adult, ask yourself who you have to thank or what experiences do you have to thank for your ability to show up for life, work hard, struggle, win, lose, win again, lose again, and show up again.

Listen. I don’t brag about our Growing Gorillas Kids Program nearly enough. But THIS is EXACTLY what we do. We teach kids to solve problems. We teach kids to compete. We teach kids to win. We teach kids to lose. But most of all we teach them to face life as it is handed to them.

No one is ever guaranteed a fair fight. No one. Ever.

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Sometimes you win because you’re better, faster, smarter. Sometimes you lose because they are. Sometimes winners lose and losers win because the “system” is wrong. But then what? What will you take from that? Where will you go? Will you withdraw and let that experience define you? Will you move on? How?

If by adulthood, our kids haven’t yet learned and experienced failure, success, hard work, or found their talents, then we have work to do. If as adults, our kids make excuses, complain about the unfairness of the world, or think that any one moment defines them completely and forever, then I know we have to go back to the drawing board and adjust what and how we teach children.

My wish is for each of us to see ourselves for who we are, strengths and weaknesses. My wish is for us to accept the challenges set in front of us. My wish is for us to have the training, confidence, and experience to ask ourselves, “What is the next right move?” And then, my wish is for us to have a team, a tribe, a family, a friend to cheer us on as we touch hands and go.

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I realize that some of you don’t know what Growing Gorillas is… hold onto your hats! My husband and I created a curriculum to teach jiu jitsu to children.

Wait – that doesn’t really explain it fully. We created a curriculum, using #jiujitsu to help children learn the basics of living. They learn through play, they learn through competition, they learn through the experience of being part of a a tribe, guided by coaches, supported by parents, and cheered on and pushed by teammates.

We incorporated what we knew and learned from teaching and raising our own children. We’ve since expanded the program and will be releasing a #kidsyoga curriculum this year.

The underlying thread of success is that we teach children how to be better versions of themselves.

Do you understand what we did? We created a curriculum for PARENTING! If only someone had given this to me when we took home Teddy from the hospital 17 years ago. Oh the grey hairs that would have never been!

Let me put it this way. When my kids were born, I felt an overwhelming panic that I had NO IDEA WHAT TO DO! I wanted them to grow up to be happy, healthy, and productive members of society. I wanted them to laugh, play, and find something in life to throw themselves into. I wanted them to learn how to love, how to be a friend, how to have a conversation, and how to be a good neighbor. Everyone wants that for their kids, right?

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Well, here’s the clincher. We really didn’t know how to do any of that stuff ourselves. In fact, neither Travis or I really knew what we were doing at all. We learned our life lessons through our practices in jiu jitsu and yoga. What we learned, we put into a curriculum for kids. That was our next move.

Life is short and it is what it is. The only thing we have control over is our own next move. What is your next move?

I love you all. Keep the fire burning. We have work to do.

Follow Growing Gorillas on Facebook.

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It’s On! YoMo 2016

img_0218This month, we are celebrating our lives with a little more YOGA! At SBG, we encourage everyone to practice a little yoga everyday. We motivate and encourage with sequences, reflections, jokes, demonstrations, parties, and lots of cheerleading.

I sent this reflection out to our students this week. And I figured that some of you would like to enjoy it, too! Cheers to you and your practice!


The second sutra of Patanjali’s treatise on yoga is succinct. Yogah cittavrtti nirodhah. Yoga is the cessation of the fluctuations of consciousness. In the practice of forward bends, we are taught to fold “inward” as we fold forward. We are told that if we practice in this way, we have an opportunity to look within and practice svadhyaya, or self-study. This is how we find the peace and harmony of a quiet mind, we are told.

But that practice of looking within can create a dilemma of sorts. Set aside the common pains of folding forward (holy hamstrings!), the seemingly simple act of studying ourselves can be difficult. The mind wanders. The flow of thought, the breath, the emotions… there’s just so much commotion! We remain steadfast and search for some sense of peace, quiet. (That’s what they say we are supposed to find, right?). And still, how on earth can we find peace when our hamstrings and hips are SCREAMING…?

All jokes aside. This is the practice. This in fact is what it’s all about.

“But everything great is just as difficult to realize as it is rare to find.” – Ethics, Spinoza

Often people come to yoga in the pursuit of happiness. They may walk through the door and ask for help with their low back pain or to limber up to better play their sport. But ultimately, it comes down to people looking for more peace within themselves. And their exploration can easily turn into a fight. Like the early explorers who were so quickly turned into conquerors, fighting instead of listening and looking. As Spinoza’s wisdom reminds us, this balance is often easier said than done and all the more important.

The crux of the physical asana practice is not unlike this balance that we seek within our minds. Abhyasa (Practice) and Vairagya (Non-attachment) are the two foundational principles of yoga. Balancing these two in life and on the mat in asana practice is a key to finding the subtler quietness of the mind.

fullsizeoutput_70fSpecifically, Abhyasa means cultivating the actions, speech, and thoughts to lead ourselves in a positive direction, rather than following the path toward the negative. Vairagya is the practice of letting go of the habits, persuasions, and colorings of the mind that lead us away from the positive direction. Practice points you toward the finish line, while non-attachment keeps you playing the game instead of turning on the TV.

As you fold inward during your practice, accept the challenge. Look inward, dig deep, and breathe. This is you. This is yoga. You’re okay. In fact, you’re perfect. We just have some work to do. 😉

Oh Well.

Life has been difficult lately. It’s like my heart is stuck in the mud and no amount of pulling and heaving could bring it to the light of day. The reading, writing, practices, conversations, and bubble baths that usually inspire me haven’t worked to change it. I haven’t been able to figure out why the funk laid so heavy on me. There was no crisis, no problem to solve, no dilemma to massage into passage. Nothing has really changed this month from last month.

I’m a generally happy person, so this moody weight is not familiar. But as much as I wanted to know Why and What, I decided to just let it be. “This, too, shall pass,” I kept telling myself.

Mostly, I decided to let it be because even the thought of trying to figure it out was just too much. Even thinking has been slow and painful.

It’s not fatigue because that would imply that I’ve overdone or worked hard – whether physical, mental, emotional. Definitely not tired.

It’s not depression. My life is quite perfect. I have stresses, anxieties, and things I wish were different. But I am grateful for the life that I’ve created.

I don’t think it’s seasonal. I love autumn! The leaves, the colors, the excitement over pumpkin spice lattes and sweaters. I love it all!

I honestly don’t know what’s been going on. There’s really only one way to describe it.

Bleh.

That’s it.

Well, I would add a BIG, HEAVY <sigh> to the end of that Bleh.

Bleh… <sigh>…

So, all month I’ve just been sighing. A few tears here and there. Plenty of laughter. But, mainly just… Bleh… and <sigh>.

Then I moved on to the next task, the next class, the next load of dishes.

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Somewhere mid-month. I decided that as terrible as it seemed that I was so… Bleh… it didn’t really matter. As important as my mood, my energy, my happiness FEELS… it’s not really that big of a deal. Regardless of the experience I am having, the planet would continue to turn on its axis, the sun would rise and set, and the local supermarket would have something new on sale this week.

So, I unloaded the dishes, packed lunches, analyzed numbers, studied and prepared for classes, and showed up for life. I didn’t want to. I wanted to wallow in my funk. I wanted to listen to The Smiths and write about how not-happy I was. (Just kidding… I hate The Smiths! They’re so depressing…!)

You get the point.

My mood was prime for me to withdraw from my family, my friends, my responsibilities, my life. But I decided instead to just shift into autopilot and carry on.

Don’t be confused. There was no bravado involved. It was a pathetic campaign to the outside observer. I just simply forced one foot in front of the other. It was grueling some days to roll out of bed. So many heavy sighs!

But whatever. And… Bleh.

I did it… Bleh.

And then, guess what happened.

I woke up this morning, pressed the snooze three times and dragged my ass out of bed (again). I sighed (again) and kissed my daughter good morning. I poured a cup of coffee and sat down to write and sighed (again). The words were slow from my pen (again). I sighed (again). And I continued to write (again). I didn’t really write about anything in particular this morning. I just wiped the dust from my brain and yawned.

But then, as I shut my notebook, it happened. The heaviness began to lift. Every so quietly, I could feel it easing up and a familiar lightness replacing what had been weighting me down.

I’ll be honest. I have NO IDEA what’s happening right now. Am I happy? Am I sad? Am I mournful? Anxious? I don’t know why I felt so Bleh, or what this new color of heart is all about. I don’t know if I should welcome the experience of the last month or run for the hills if it happens again. Likewise, part of me is a little suspicious about this strange feeling of lightness that I’m currently experiencing. What if it’s fake! What if it goes away again?

Oh well.

Does it really matter? No.

Oh well.

Yes. The big headline for today is that my Bleh has been replaced by Oh Well.

And that’s about as inspiring as a bowl of over-cooked spinach.

Oh well.

You Can Take the Kisa Outta Kansas…

But you can’t take the Kansas outta Kisa.

Every once in a while, I slip into conversation with people how much I miss the landscape of western Kansas. To which most respond with a look of disgust. How could anyone possibly think that the flat, empty nothingness is anything beautiful at all.

These photos embody my love for Kansas. It seems to me that beauty is having the space for amazing scenes to take place.

 

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Mammatus – Bolton, Kansas – Photo by Mitch Dobrowner, National Geographic

When I look at these photos, I see beauty in the drama that unfolds with an awe-inspiring play of power and stillness. I’ve lived those storms in person and I can feel the electric anticipation captured in these photos.

Can you imagine if a storm like these hit Glacier National Park? We would see the storm as a destroyer. And the truth is that meteorologically-speaking, a storm of this beauty can’t unfold with so many mountains and lakes and whatnot in the way, interfering with their moisture and majesty and stuff. It just can’t happen.

I will always love the open space of western Kansas. I will always appreciate that the landscape provides a clean canvas ready to be painted with the unique combinations of Mother Nature’s elements.

Truly. There’s no place like home.

 

#womensequalityday

I’m a lucky girl to have so many amazing women in my life. What usually leaves me both speechless and smiling ear to ear is this:
Every woman I know is working very diligently in her own way to make life a little better. 
We may disagree on the “how”. We may work in different ways, at different speeds, and with different results. But we work.
We work to open opportunities for women that were previously denied. We work to improve education for girls we’ve never met. We work for pay that adequately represents our contribution. We work for access to health care. We work for the right to have a say in our governments. We work for freedom to wear whatever the hell we want to wear.
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Most of the time, the work that I see women doing is actually very, very personal. It’s work that no one can really see while it’s happening. There are no big demonstrations or public campaigns. There are no commercials or news reports.
Most of the time, the work that we do is in our own thinking. And the actions that come about from that thinking.
And while no one may notice today, over time the world will notice. Because each microscopic change we make in how we view ourselves in the world, how we interact with others, how we think about challenge and celebrate success – they all add up to large, sweeping shifts in the human condition.
Look around. Women are working diligently every where to make life better for themselves and the rest of us. We don’t all do it the same, but we do it.
#womensequalityday

By Request! The Nitty Gritty Details of How to Do It All

Wow! The response from my post on Saturday was a wee bit more than I expected. I’m happy (and a bit surprised!) to know people are reading AND responding. Thank you for asking your questions. Everything I said in that post is TRUE. 100% true. That’s the mantra that marches through my head. But… there is a little more to the story of how I do it all.

It’s tough. It’s not for the faint at heart. But it’s possible. And I promise that just going through this process of meeting the challenge has helped me grow in so many ways.

Let’s get practical.

Here are a few of my tried-and-true Big Picture Tips for How to Do It All:Decide What’s Important

IMG_1567My top priorities are (not in any particular order): my health, my kids, my
husband, my family, and my tribe. When I schedule my week – this is an activity that I do EVERY SUNDAY NIGHT! – I always schedule these priorities first. Time to workout, time to make dinner, time to do laundry, time to play games, time to make connections with people, etc. Sometimes there are some things that just don’t make the weekly schedule because my priorities are going to take up more time than I have.

And yes, I work full-time. In fact, on average I log over 50 hours of “work” in a week! That was time spent teaching, coaching, crunching numbers, creating presentations, meeting with realtors and bankers, updating social media, professional development, writing notes to students, and more. I use quotes around the word “work” because I love what I do. Time flies when you’re having fun!

Remember too that MY HEALTH is on that list. I sleep. I eat. I take a lavender and Epsom salt bath every night. I admit that often the priority that slips through the cracks is my marriage. At the end of most days, I start snoring within seconds of hitting the pillow. Time with my husband to cuddle up, talk about our days, or have sex often slips through the cracks. This ALWAYS causes friction in my life. It’s no different than skipping workouts. So, I make it a point to take time to spend with him.

My point is that you have to know yourself. Know what’s important and know what’s critical (there’s a difference). Then, plan accordingly.

  1. Plan for the Big Picture, but Always Have a Plan!

My parenting mentor and our pediatrician, Dr. Lisa Morrison, gave me solid advice for life when explaining how to approach my kids’ nutrition. She said, “Don’t worry about 24-hr cycles or even each meal. Think about the whole week.”

Living out a perfectly planned day is like suffering through a boring, mid-western meal of IMG_2913mystery meat, boiled potatoes, and canned vegetables… every DAMN day. Ugh. I can’t handle that. Not only is it difficult, it’s BORING! And it’s hard. Salad with pizza? Just eat pizza! Did they eat all of their greens? Seriously. NO THANK YOU! Sometimes you need to eat cherry pie for breakfast. And lunch. And dinner.

If left to my own devices though, I would eat chips and salsa or cherry pie for every meal. (This is not advisable, although it is a good description of my college years.) Now as an adult, I plan. I plan meals. I plan work projects. I plan back-to-school shopping (in chunks… I can’t handle it all at once with all four in tow!). I plan holidays. I don’t plan everything but I do plan the things that matter.

Plan for the big picture. Over the course of the week, make sure that you are addressing your priorities. Not everyday. Just over the course of the week. Or two weeks. Or the month. Let go of your perfectionism and your laziness. Both are damaging.

  1. No Excuses.

Be honest.

If you mess up, fess up.IMG_2217

Do better next time, but don’t make excuses. And understand that mistakes just reveal our speed bumps and little cracks in the pavement. Likewise, don’t sign up for things you don’t want to do. If you don’t want to go hiking, don’t go hiking. Just tell your friends that you’d rather take a bath, or get a pedicure, or wash your wounds in rubbing alcohol before you would ever step foot on a “trail”. Ugh. Just be honest with the world. Mostly, be honest with yourself.

I hate hiking, by the way. Send me your pictures, because I probably won’t see it myself.

  1. Learn to Let Go.

I hesitate to use this over-used and often misunderstood “Life Rule”. But, the truth is that it is TRUTH. I think the yogis describe it best as Abhyasa and Vairagya. Look it up if you are interested. Abhyasa means Practice and Vairagya means Non-Attachment. My Western Kansas translation is to think of it as the balance of “Never Give Up” and “Always Let Go”.

Consider this. Life is like floating a river. Sometimes, you can just float. Your butt is wedged in the middle of the tube, an ice-cold beer in hand. Sometimes you hold on and ride the rapids. Sometimes when the river is slow, you meander to the side and grab hold of some grass, dip your head back and get your hair wet. If you try to do all of those things at once, you will FAIL. You might even drown! You can’t hold onto the grass on the bank with rapids crashing over your head any more than you can keep your morning workout routine when you have to catch at flight at 5:40AM!

Learn to let go. Learn to roll with the punches. Look at the big picture!

  1. Have Fun.

Everyday. Just do it. Laugh, dance, play, make jokes with the bag boy at the grocery store,
send your BFF funny memes, and when your kids complain about chores… make whiny
impersonations and then tell them, “It sucks to suck!”

I’ll be honest. I don’t know that #5 creates more time for me to do what I want to do in a day. But I know that it always lightens the load and the mood. I am more effective when I’m happy. I’m better at letting go and I’m more creative in my problem-solving. And is it a waste of time to make people smile? No! Smiling and laughter is ALWAYS worth the two seconds it costs you.
All of that said, here are some of my MUST-DO’s:

  • Plan your week. Look at your priorities and figure out when you are going to schedule each of them. Be realistic and be willing to make changes but keep your priorities as the guiding light.
  • Review everyday at the end of everyday and plan for tomorrow.
  • Speaking of tomorrow… set up the coffee (on a timer!), lay out your clothes, pack your bag, and get everything ready for the morning so you can hit the ground running!IMG_1597
  • Adopt a system for getting shit done. I’ve used Franklin Covey’s system (loved it!), Apple’s Reminders, and good ol’ fashioned paper. Currently, I use Todoist and I have to say that it is the BEST system I’ve ever used – easy to schedule, prioritize, and share tasks.
  • Where you can, assign (and pay) others to do the things that are important to you to have completed, but that you don’t necessarily need to do yourself. My general modus operandi is to do everything that’s important on my own first until I understand how and why I want it done. Then I farm it out – sometimes to staff, sometimes to my children. Child labor is my favored route.
  • Recruit! The most important priorities in your life should also be your #1 fans. Your kids, your partner, your team, your health… all parties should be on board for this journey.
  • Talk to someone. See a therapist. Someone to help you think through things. I’ve found that today’s problems ALWAYS have roots in my past. Don’t get me wrong – I’m not advising to wallow in your childhood. But, a trained therapist can help you sort through the parts of life that you’ve stuffed down, ignored, avoided, or skimmed over. In the words of a wise friend, “Wherever you go, there you are.” If you find yourself hitting the same damn wall, feeling the same feelings of anger, frustration, shame, or pain, then that’s something that needs attention. Take care of it. I promise your life will be better.

I don’t know that I have any more to offer. Those of you asking for the details, there you go. It’s hard. It’s rewarding. It’s frustrating. It’s fun. It’s life.

Yup.

It’s life.

And I love it.

Cheers!

P.S. I’ll leave you with this. The most precious and critical moments of each day are those that I spend with my closest people.

Coffee with Stella from Hella on our recliners in the morning sun.

Conversations on the commute to and from Whitefish with Baby Joe.

History trivia and sports updates in the neurology office waiting rooms with Tedzilla.

Jokes and barbeque lessons with Little Rick.

And best of all are the late night vinyl and bourbon sessions with my husband, my best friend, my partner, my muse, my love, my sweet Travis.

Taking time and appreciating time with these people is my lifeblood. This time trumps any and every appointment or task on my list. More importantly, when I’m in these times, I’m fully in this time. I don’t text, check social media, answer email, make calls, daydream, or stew about what’s next. I’ve learned how to do this and I’m thankful I decided to figure it out. These moments make up the life that I love living.

 

What Are You Waiting For?

“How do you do it all?”

That is the number one question that people ask me. Hands down. I usually downplay my response. “Oh, you know. I just kinda put one foot in front of the other.” Or sometimes, I turn the question back on them, “I didn’t realize I had a choice? How could I not do it all?” All of the time, my first guttural, instinctive response is a big “Ha!” But seriously, what does that question even mean!??!

The truth is that the question most people are really asking is, “Why do you do so much?”

familyiseverythingMy four children who are now teenagers were born in the span of 3 ½ years. My husband and I are entrepreneurs. We own several businesses and a handful of residential and commercial properties. I am a dedicated student and teacher of yoga. I train in jiu jitsu and exercise regularly. I am an amazing cook and diligent housekeeper. I don’t like dirty toilets or unkept yards. I have a very large, amazing family that I keep in close touch with. I have a very involved social life and a travel schedule that will make your head spin. I read voraciously and write everyday.
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And I’m always looking for a new project.

Why?

Because I can. Because I want to. Because I’m called by a whisper that sometimes yells loudly in my head. Because everyday I engage with the people, activities, yoga poses, and ideas that tickle my interest – AND especially those that terrify me – is a day that I learn more about who I really am.

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Everyday I am challenged by a problem, time schedule, financial quandary, or teenage hormone-fueled drama is a day that I inch closer to the Real Essence of Me.

In my opinion, we don’t get better with the typical challenges of life. We get closer to our true nature. And every challenge, problem, weakness, shortcoming is just a speedbump or a crack in the road. Some of them take a little more thinking, a little more effort to traverse. But at the end of the day, there’s no choice. Keep going. Acknowledge your challenges. Use your strengths. Be bold. Keep going. Even better – bring it on!

So what’s my response to that initial question? How do I do it all? My response is a question.

What are YOU waiting for?

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