Silence isn’t Golden

Happy Fourth of July, my friends! May your day be safe and beautiful, full of good food, great company, happy pets and perhaps a gorgeous fireworks show to end this holiday. Sometime during your festivities today, I would like you to take a moment to ponder something that has been keeping my mind occupied this weekend. On Friday a great man named Elie Wiesel passed away at age 87. He was not born an American, no, he was born in Romania and did not become a U.S. citizen until 1963. Elie Wiesel is one of those brave souls that survived the Holocaust, as you can read in his book ‘Night.’ If you have never read this little paperback, I strongly suggest you go find a copy. The images and feelings he was able to convey in so few pages is astounding. It will change you on a fundamental level. You are probably wondering why I mention him on the day we celebrate our country- and it’s rather simple, I think we all have a lot we can learn from him, a lesson we are in desperate need of.

I think we are all well aware of the state of the world that we live in. Every day there is news of another bombing, another shooting, more refugees without homes, crumbling economies, starving families, death and destruction. We see so much that it is easy to turn our backs so that we do not have to feel the daily pain that these stories will cause. What can we do to help, after all? We are just one voice, no one will listen to us. It is moments like this that we must remember the voices who cannot speak. We must hear the stories to keep them from happening again instead of standing idly by.

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It is easy to say that one voice cannot make a different, it can be carried away with the wind, there is no power there. But one voice speaking out may give others the same courage. And then you have two, three, a chorus, a symphony- you cannot be ignored. The world we live in is always changing- sometimes for the better, sometimes for the worse. And every generation has to fight to find their place in it. Every generation feels lost because they came into this world when it was in dire straits. I hate to say this- but our world is always in this condition.

I have fallen for this logic too. Why should I speak out when there is no one to listen to me? I despise confrontation, and the last thing I ever want to do is offend someone. But where do you draw the line between keeping people happy and doing what is right? If you stand by and do nothing, are you just as guilty?

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Now, I typically do not discuss my personal or political opinions unless I am specifically asked. Today, however, upon remembering his stories and his lessons, I find myself searching for something deeper within myself. He always said that the greatest sin was indifference. And I believe there is something to be said for the notion that a lack of action makes you just as guilty as those taking action. If you stand by and watch the world burn, how is it any different from you holding the match?

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We find ourselves in a unique set of circumstance, able to easily reach out and have our voices heard through the advent of social media. We also have the responsibility that comes with information being immediately within our grasp; if we bother to look, we can see everything- the refugee crisis, the economic collapse, war, hate crimes, the fate of the political arena- there are so many problems, it is easy to get overwhelmed. So we look away, find something fun to fill our time, tell ourselves that it is not our responsibility. But we are wrong. Today, on the day that we celebrate our country and the values that it stands for, and in honor of this fallen hero, I make a promise to myself- I will not forget. There will be no more watching in silence, no more telling myself that my voice is so small, it will not matter. My voice alone may not make a difference, but if it finds others- we could become a roaring ocean. The world that we live in is a dark and scary place, and like the characters in our stories, we must all learn to take a stand, to say that enough is enough. I don’t have much to offer, just my humble written words- but perhaps that could be enough. If I can get through to just one person, then it was not in vain.

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So tonight, as you watch the beautiful fireworks shows and enjoy the company of friends and families, take a moment to remember why we are doing this: because there were a few voices who decided to speak, who brought a fledgling nation to action. It started out as just a simple idea and it changed the world. I don’t know if my voice will ever make a difference, but at least I can be comfortable in the fact that I did not stand idly by and watch events take place. I am not a simple bystander to my life. We all live here, we all have a duty to stand up for our beliefs. We have a responsibility to speak for those who have no voice- we do this in hopes that someday, if we ever lose ours, someone else will be brave enough to speak for us.

Elie Wiesel

Learning to Let Go: Decluttering and Moving On

When I was a little girl I remember deciding that it was time for me to ‘grow up’ and let go of childish things. So I packed all of my stuffed animals and barbies into large pastic bags, shut my eyes and tied the tops before running back to my room in fear that I would re-open them. There was one bear in particular- I called him Big Bear, and he was ‘the bear,’ the one I slept with every night and drug to the couch with me when I was sick. I put him in the bag too, despite the pang I felt in my heart at the prospect. He deserved to bring another little kid as much joy as he had brought me, I reasoned. My bear was not done giving,  but I was just too old to keep taking. This is a decision that I still regret, even as a 27 year old woman who has no need for stuffed friends to cuddle with at night and chase the monsters away (my dog is perfectly capable of both tasks).

There are moments in life when purging your possessions is the most liberating feeling you can create; a declaration of your own personal independence in our materialistic world. On the flip side, there are also moments where you go into the challenge kicking and screaming, clinging to your familiar surroundings like they will be able to postpone the inevitable. This last week started out as the latter and morphed into the former.

It had only been a couple of years since my fiancé and I downsized from a three bedroom house (albeit, one we shared with roommates), into what was essentially a master bedroom and one smaller room. It seemed that many of our superfluous items didn’t make it through that purge into the new home. So when I found out we were downsizing yet again (and rather quickly, I might add) I panicked a bit internally. How could we possibly make it work when we had nothing left to give up?

As it turns out, that was a baseless fear. As I was cleaning out the closets I realized that when we had moved the last time, I had been surprisingly good at neatly squirreling away large quantities of items into a small space without it even being noticeable. I was actually a bit of a magician in that regard- who knew. The downside: I still had plenty of possessions to part with. So the next dreaded question: how could I possibly decide what was worth keeping, and what wasn’t?

I’ll be the first to admit that I get overly attached to inanimate object, I always have. And I guess a part of me feels a strange level of responsibility to these items when it comes to finding them a good home. I was a bit leery of my own capabilities to purge these things from my life. I expected it would be a draining task- I did not anticipate how much I would learn about myself in the process. It shouldn’t have been all that surprising: if you ever want to learn what a person is all about, just look at the possessions they surround themselves with. These are the things that I learned while mired down in the contents of my closet.

I own many mementos from the people who have passed from my life. I cherish them for the sole reason that they once belonged to people I have loved and lost. I always refused to let go of the items because it felt like letting go of the person. And yet, that’s not really the case.

Let’s reverse the scenario, if I had passed, I wouldn’t be offended if my sister got rid of that old pair of sneakers I used to wear. They’re just shoes, they aren’t me. I can picture my grandma up there laughing at how much stock I put into an old dress I will never be able to wear- just because it had belonged to her. A person does not get passed down through their items. If you aren’t going to use it and it doesn’t have a specific strong memory for you- those you loved will not be upset if you give their possessions a fresh start with someone who will enjoy them. They wont do anyone any good just sitting in your closet.

This was hard for me, it took me a bit of time sifting, but eventually I managed to part with the things I wouldn’t use. I kept a few meaningful mementos that will make me smile every time I pull them out; a t-shirt I can wear to bed that still smells like her, a tiny quilt from when she taught me to sew, a watch he got that was engraved with the year I was born; these are all little things that I can enjoy every day without feeling suffocated by the ghosts of what once was. I have my memories, my picures. You have to remember that letting go of the items doesn’t mean you are letting go of them. It means you are allowing the things they loved to have a new life.

I tend to collect things for the woman I expect to be someday. For example: I owned 10 pairs of high heels- and yet, I currently wear flats to work about 95% of the time. I have always had this image of my future self in a pencil skirt, fitted blazer and cute heels: a strong, successful woman, polished and pulled together, exuding confidence for the first time in my life. In reality when I wear them I look like a baby giraffe learning to take her first steps, and then when you add in the fact that I am suddenly a foot taller than everyone else- my awkwardness becomes blindingly apparent.

I used to feel guilty when I thought about giving up these things that were imbued with the image of the person I thought I would become- it felt like I was giving up on her. I didn’t like the prospect of admitting that I would never become that woman I had always envisioned. But this time around, I looked at it through a different lens. I am not that woman- but in some ways, I am so much better. I don’t need cute clothes or shoes to show the world who I am. I want my possessions to tell the story of who I am, and those things don’t speak a truthful word.

Decluttering your life is about finding what is important to you and making sure that is your focus. It’s about nurturing the things that you love and releasing the distractions that surround you. What it really comes down to is deciding what makes you happy. You don’t have to be a minimalist- it doesn’t work for everyone, believe me, I have tried. But if you enjoy your books- keep the entire shelf full. Or if watching movies is how you wind down, then don’t force yourself to part with them in the name of organization. But if you have had that jewelry making kit in your closet for the past year and half- and still haven’t touched it, well, perhaps its time to give that kit to someone who might enjoy it now. It doesn’t mean you will never attempt that new hobby, but it might mean that right now you just have too many other things in your life.

If our possessions are a reflection of ourselves: what do I want mine to say? What is truly important to me? The answers to these questions are the things that should permeate my life. I don’t need all of the extras to color in the margins when I know who I am. I am a writer, a pet owner, a baker, a crafter, a professional, an avid reader, a lover of warm drinks in the mornings, adventures and the outdoors. I kept this in mind- and now when you look at the items I have left surrounding me, you can start to get a clearer picture of what it means to be Katie. Sometimes it does a bit of good to think of your space as real estate, as clinical as that may sound. I know where most of my time is spent, and I know what I want to spend a few more of my weekly hours on. For example: the top three things that take up my free time are: writing, reading, and walking the dog/hiking. When you take this in mind, it becomes fairly obvious that I should give my writing space a larger percentage of my personal real estate, instead of making more room for that shoe rack or the sewing machine that has not left it’s box in the two years I have owned it. So what are you willing to ‘spend’ your space on? Thank about the way you want to spend your time and learn to let go of the rest using this idea.

Letting go is difficult, after all, I bought all of these things for a reason, I feel obligated to have a reason to dismiss them. But I don’t need one. I need to remember that some of the things I own are just that- simply items. But to someone else they could become a favorite movie, their best date shoes, or the book that they will read 50 times and never grow tired of.  The items that are just ‘things’ to me could become someone else’s treasured possession. I could be the one thing keeping them from enjoying it more than I ever could.

I used to reason that I was a creative soul, and that a little bit of clutter was good for me. But really, in the end I was simply holding onto things that were holding me back. When you hold onto your past, you don’t give yourself any room for the future. You become inflexible and stale. Simple tasks morph into something daunting. And to be honest- now that we’ve gone through and taken so many things away- I feel so much better. I know that more will be following, now that I am ready to let go. I am constantly evolving, it only makes sense that the things I surround myself will too.

Happy Father’s Day

My dad never told me how to live my life, he simply set an example for me to follow. He was always a strong man. I know every kid believes that, but he always proved me right. My dad was a firefighter- he worked harder than anyone I’ve ever known, did everything he could to make our lives better. And then when I was in second grade, something happened that would change our lives forever. He was diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis.

It was devastating. My dad was strong, he could fight off the monsters and keep the darkness at bay. His career consisted of saving lives and running into burning buildings when everyone else was running out. He was also on the K-9 search and rescue team where he responded to major disasters like the Oklahoma City bombing. His life was built around his strength- both mental and physical. And suddenly, he couldn’t walk across our yard without a cane. He would be driving down the road and would suddenly lose his vision. And perhaps worst of all for him- he couldn’t work on the line anymore, he had to move to a desk to support his wife and four children. For such an active man, the reality of losing control over your own body must have been shattering, but he never breathed a word about it. He continued on, pushing through and persevering.

It was a rough year- when we were still learning what the disease meant and what it could do to him. And then there was the game of discovering the right medication- it was like playing Russian roulette, you never knew what to expect from each one. Would this one make him grumpy? Would it make things worse? Or would it help his limp go away? Eventually life settled into a new routine, most days the cane went away, but the limp was still there. We knew we would never be the same again. MS is an invisible disease, no one would ever be able to see the daily struggle, but it was always there, hidden under the surface.

We all have bad things happen in our lives. Some people let those things define them. People will use these moments as an excuse, a crutch. My dad used his moment as a challenge. He never let his disease stand in his way. He couldn’t be on the line at work anymore, so he worked twice as hard at the desk- ensuring safety for his men, occasionally going in for practice burns. He wouldn’t always tell us when a relapse was hitting because he knew we would try to make him slow down. My dad only knows one speed: go. He fought through the pain, the discomfort, the fear. He chose to define his disease, he was not going to let it control him. He stayed active. He was strong in every way possible.

He would never let anything stop him. Even when he fractured both of his legs- they didn’t need casts because of the location of the fractures, and they hurt, but not that bad- so he kept running. Every single day. He would never let anything stop him.

And because of that, I have leaned to do the same. The worst moments in my life do not define me, I decide what matters. I wont let anything stop me, even when it seems impossible. He has always believed in me, so I can believe in myself. He taught me that you have to work hard to accomplish your goals, nothing will ever just be handed to you. You need to be thankful for everything you have- even your health is a precious commodity that might not always be available to you. He taught me to make the best of everything, you only live once and you might as well enjoy it. And when all else fails- take a break, go outside and enjoy nature- because it is the most healing element in the world.

I see a lot of my dad when I look at myself: my work ethic, my stubbornness, my nerdy jokes (I can dad-joke with the best of them), my belief that even the craziest dreams are possible- so many things I got from him. I am proud of him, of everything he has accomplished and all of the things that he has taught me. We shouldn’t appreciate our father’s only one day a year. But sometimes it is good to be reminded of what is important. He is the most influential person in my life. At 27 years, I can still say my dad is my hero. And for that, I thank him. Everything I am can be traced back to him. So for all of the lessons, all of the unconditional love, all of the times you simply shook your head when I brought home another ‘winner’: thank you dad, for everything.

 

Introverted (I’d love to hang out, but…)

It’s a frustrating paradox that the most fulfilling moments in my life happened when my stomach was twisted with nerves, my anxiety was at a fevered pitch, and every synapse in my body was firing off warning signs, begging to understand how I could have possibly been so stupid as to agree to the activity at hand. So many fond memories that I am so proud of now, moments that have been able to enrich my body and soul- what would have happened if I had been too afraid? The white water rafting trip, jumping off that bridge into the river, telling that one special man that I loved him, getting on that plane to Vegas, pushing off on that zip line, going in for that job interview, going out to that one happy hour with the friends that feel more like family now- everything that makes me who I really am happened in these moments. So why do I fight them inside on such a fundamental level?

I am an introvert to a textbook degree, I practically embody that definition. I prefer my solitude- books are my constant companions, I would choose staying at home and watching my newest Netflix obsession in my pajamas with my fiancé over going out with a group of people, without the slightest hint of hesitation. I crave my down time, my moments spent lost in my own thoughts, not having to constantly analyze the social cues of others. I get invited to social occasions- and in the moment that I agree I am so excited, but five minutes after the person leaves, I am plotting the most inconspicuous way of getting out of it. And it’s nothing against them, though I’m sure they wouldn’t understand that if I tried to honestly explain it. That cliché line of ‘it’s not you, it’s me’ doesn’t seem to go over very well. A million possible excuses start dancing through my mind- can’t say I’m sick, it’s too transparent, and besides, I used that last Wednesday. How about broken leg? I’ve never broken my leg before- yes, that one could work. But would it be painful or expensive? (For those of you without social anxiety, you are probably wondering why on earth I could ever be considering actual threat of bodily harm to get out of something that you wouldn’t even think twice about doing. Then again, those of you with it will probably be nodded your head in understanding and pointing me to the nearest staircase to throw myself down).

I get anxious in social situations, deeply uncomfortable with small talk. Perhaps its deep-seeded insecurities rising to the surface, perhaps I’m just wired differently. Don’t get me wrong- I can still go out and have fun, I have a group of friends who I adore, I look forward to my happy hours just like everyone else. I’m not like Sheldon, I can read social cues as well as the next person, and 95% of the time you wont even be able to tell that I’m uncomfortable. It’s an internal battle I’ve learned to mask over the years. I have a Batman exterior over my Bruce Wayne inner thoughts. No one will see what I’m really feeling unless I decide to show them. So when I go out, I am fine, I smile, I joke, I laugh, it may seem that I just take a bit longer to test the waters. But inside I am weighing every word I just said, watching your reaction and calculating what every twitch of your nose might mean. And when the night of fraternization is over, I will be exhausted right down to my core. Again- it’s not you, it’s me.

So here is the ultimate dilemma of the introvert, the socially awkward, the one who’s tummy ties itself in knots at the thought of small talk with someone I’m not already intimately familiar with: do you step out of that box and join the rest of the world, in spite of your flat lining comfort levels; or do you stay at home and plan for the ‘next time’ when you will be brave enough? Or perhaps simply plan to tackle that adventure solo. I know which one I would like to be, but I am also painfully aware of which one I really am. For those of you who live for the social scene, I am sure that this will sound strange to you- the way that someone like me can fear and simultaneously crave these moments that you live for.

It gets exhausting, letting those ill-conceived phobias rule you. I am a firm believer that the more you push yourself outside of your own comfortable little box, the easier it will be. So this year I’ve decided to challenge myself to say yes more- and actually follow through, no matter how much the insecure little girl inside wants to throw herself on the ground kicking and screaming until she is allowed to just stay at home. The best parts of life are when you are dangling out on that limb. But today I need a reminder of that, of why I am trying to make myself painfully uncomfortable all of the time.

And so I look back at the past few months, at all of the good things that happened because I chose to be brave instead of comfortable. I applied for a new job within my organization- and I got it. I love it, there is not an ounce of regret when I look back at that decision. I went to a dealership and bought a car that wouldn’t threaten to break down on me every other Thursday (to someone with social anxiety- stepping into the car dealership is like Harry Potter entering a Death Eater nest- you know going in that it will be ugly, and will not be over quickly). I went on a trip to Vegas, something completely new for me. I went zip lining down Freemont street. I put myself out there and started this blog- and people are actually looking at it on occasion (still blows my mind). All of these things have happened in the past few months alone. I have been trying so hard.

I have come to a conclusion in the past year, one that was painful to accept; these feelings that I get- they wont ever go away. No matter how hard I try to overcome them, pushing myself out of my comfort zone over and over again in the hopes that I will learn to stop being afraid of social situations- that will never happen. This is a war that has to be fought one battle at a time. I have to deal with my phobias head on one moment at a time, blow by blow. I have to struggle, I have to fight the inner child constantly reminding me that one trip down the stairs could solve all of my problems. I have to fight to say ‘yes’ and then build myself up until I actually follow through. I will always be awkward, I will always feel stupid at the end of the conversation, I will always feel my heart start pounding in a panic when I agree to do something new. But I have to keep doing it. Not to make it easier in the long run, because the individual decisions will never be easier. I have to do it so that next time I want to say no, I will have one more reason backing up my decision to say yes. I will have one more memory of a time I decided to be brave and had an adventure. After all, what is life worth if you are too afraid to experience it? I cannot let my fear dictate my actions anymore. I will be brave- awkward, yes- but brave.

 

 

Things I Learned from my Dog

In honor of best friends day, I have a confession to make. You were bound to find out sooner or later, I would much rather be up front about it. I am one of ‘those’ pet people. There, it’s out! Wow, does it feel like a weight has been lifted or what? I will admit, I like putting Easter bunny ears or Santa hats on the dog when the correct season arrives. And there is a slight possibility that I have a picture of him sporting a human jersey for my favorite football team (I’ll leave the specific team anonymous for now- I think it’s best that I only throw one bombshell on you at a time). And really, he doesn’t seem to mind; after all, I do occasionally make him his very own cake (Okay- I’ve only done it once, and it was when he turned a year old- that doesn’t seem all that unreasonable to me, I think I’m quite tame for a pet person). Now the cat- he’s the smart one, he’s managed to escape all of my photo sessions simply because, well, he has discovered how to use his claws. That’s a battle I only fought once- I learned my lesson. The cat rules our roost. But really, I’m not that bad. I just love my critters. In my mind, pets are a part of the family. A large part of the family.

When we brought home the little ball of fur that has since morphed into a 75 lbs mass of muscle and sloppy kisses, I had no idea what we were getting ourselves into. I had expected that I would be teaching him; how to come, stay, roll over, don’t bark, eat the burglar, do not eat the mailman (no matter how tasty he looks). I never expected that I would be learning so many lessons from him. Here are just a few of them:

  • Always be excited to see your people. ALWAYS. It doesn’t matter if you’ve had a rough day, or they didn’t change the toilet paper roll (or they moved the bone that you finally managed to hide in the perfect spot under the covers)- be excited to see them and you will brighten their day.
  • A walk will fix everything. It’s so easy to get caught up in the daily grind. Link is always quick to give me a little yip when the sun is shining and I have spent too long working on my laptop. Sometimes all you need to push that reset button is a breath of fresh air and some sunshine.

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  • Don’t judge a book by it’s cover, because looks are often deceiving. Link is a German Shepherd- he is supposed to be tough and scary. But, as I’ve learned- sometimes it is the ‘toughest’ ones that actually have the biggest hearts. And sometimes those who give the appearace of being unusually serious are the biggest goofballs of all.
  • Respect the ‘little guy’: treat everyone equally, whether they are a Grate Dane or a little Chiuaua, treat them well. You’ll be much happier making friends than enemies.

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  • Just because someone barks at you, does not mean you have to bark back.
  • Down time is important. When you feel overwhelmed, sometimes the best thing you can do is find a quiet corner and chew on a bone
  • Be slow to anger and quick to forgive: It’s okay if the cat thinks its funny to bop your nose and run away when you want to nap. And if he gets you with his claws on accident, why not answer him with a big sloppy kiss instead of a nip. After all, he does let you chase him sometimes. He can’t be all bad.
  • Work time is for work, and play time is for play. You need both to feel happy and fulfilled.
  • When you are in a bad mood, sometimes all you need is a snack. And if a snack doesn’t work- a nap is usually the perfect trick.
  • When someone is sick or sad- cuddles are always the best medicine.
  • Never be embarrassed: who cares if you ran into the wall? You were busy staring at that suspicious squirrel on the fence.
  • It isn’t whether you win the game that counts, as long as you play. Missing the ball just means you get the added adventure of sniffing it out.
  • If it seems like the cat is doing something naughty- he is. Whine and alert the humans immediately.
  • Always be willing to make new friends, but be wary who you allow close to you (anything with shooting quills is usually a bad idea)
  • Always trust your intuition, it is usually right.
  • Be ambitious- why settle for a stick when you can take the whole log?

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  • Be curious about the world- there are so many new things to learn, taste, see, smell. You will never learn unless you try.
  • Be passionate- always. The world is an exciting place, if you are willing to embrace it.

 

 

 

Life and Work: The Balancing Act

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Like nearly all other writers out there- I have a day job. Now, fate was kind to me, and it is a job that I deeply enjoy- but it is also a job that takes up the majority of my week. Between the time it takes me to get ready in the morning (I move glacially slow before 7am), my commute to and from work, and my time actually spent there- that is about 12 and a half hours of my day, 5 days a week, already spoken for. That’s just for my regularly scheduled programming; sleep sold separately.

We live in a world where we are constantly moving, other people and things are poking and prying for attention- in fact as I sit here typing this, I have a black and white kitty attempting to head butt my fingers off of the keyboard to pet him already- before giving up and sitting on them. That will show me.

I wish I could tell you that there was some secret to making it all work- managing to have your day job, your writing career, friends and family that feel both valued and loved by you, and still squirreling away some time for yourself. I would love to impart some words of wisdom that would transform you into the superhero of your own life, kicking ass and taking names.

But if we writers know anything, it is that growth is only born from the struggle. Becoming a good writer is like anything else in life- you have to fight for it. You have to decide that it is important enough. You have to learn the balance that will make you (and those that you love) happy. Now, I don’t have a magical solution- but I do have years of trial-and-error that have helped me get closer to my own balance.

For starters, and I can’t stress this enough- whatever you are doing, be present in it, be fully immersed- in all aspects of your life. If you are writing, be in your writing, not poking around online (unless it is research that you cannot make it through another scene without). If you are spending time with loves ones- be in the moment. Do not ‘take two seconds’ to check up on the status of your last blog post- because trust me, if you seem to be distracted they will probably notice and say something. And that conversation will go much better for you if you don’t have to ask them what they said because you were only halfway paying attention. We live in an age of instant gratification- don’t fall victim to it.

Second, know and maintain your schedule. When you have a laundry list of things to do each day, and only a couple of free hours to cram them in- take the extra time to plan. Perhaps you have happy hour after work tomorrow, and you know you won’t ‘have just one and head home early’ (even though you always tell yourself that you will)- maybe you should go to bed early tonight, so you can wake up and get a bit of writing done before work. Or perhaps your schedule fits better as a lunch-hour or weekend writer- know yourself and your schedule, otherwise you will be setting yourself up for failure.

Don’t run yourself ragged. You need time for yourself too, after everything else is said and done. You need to recharge. Getting outside and going for a walk, or starting a workout routine can be helpful. I know it seems counter-productive, this whole post is about finding time to write in your busy schedule, so why add something seemingly unrelated on top of the heap of items you should accomplish? Trust me- your work will thank you. Your brain needs a break too. A big part of finding the time is to use the time you have available more wisely. I am a firm believer in working smarter, not harder. So give yourself regular breaks, get your blood pumping and your brain working more efficiently- then you will need less time to produce a higher caliber of work. Sometimes the answers are hidden in plain sight, and sometimes all you need is to take better care of yourself.

At the end of the day, it will come down to you, it will come down to whether you want this enough. Writing is one of the hardest things I have done, but I don’t know how to be me without it. That is my reason, that is my purpose. I do this for me.

 

 

Jumping off the Bridge (crossing out of the comfort zone)

I once jumped off of a bridge because my friends did. (Sorry mom, but I can explain).

It was early spring, and still cold enough to be comfortable in jeans and a sweatshirt, but the sun was out and there was not a drop of rain in sight (a rare treat in the pacific northwest). We were on a white water rafting trip for my friend’s birthday- the first time I had ever done something like that. I was already feeling emboldened because I had not only managed to climb into the raft without any help, but I had also succeeded in staying in it the entire time- didn’t even lose my paddle! So naturally, being dry and warm in my wet suite- it seemed like a perfectly logical idea to take the guide’s offer to climb out of my little raft and scramble up to the cement monstrosity we had just managed to pass under. I even convinced my sister to follow along (again- sorry mom, but big sister peer pressure is a force to be reckoned with).

That was all it took- not even gentle prodding, just the mere mention of this possible adventure, and there I was. Standing on the cement railing, staring down into the dark rushing waters below me as four rafts of college aged students (most of which I didn’t even know) stared up at me with gleaming expectation in their eyes.

Now, let me explain something to you- a vital element to this story. I have two big fears: heights and deep water. And there I was, standing on the edge of a bridge glaring into the eyes of both of them. I remember thinking that after everything, I wouldn’t be able to do it. I would be the only one to turn tail and walk sheepishly back down to the rafts, dry as a bone. I stood there and nearly froze, perched precariously on the railing, staring down into the black water. And then my friends started cheering for me- perhaps they were able to see the slight hint of panic in my face, or they noticed the way my muscles tensed and I stopped breathing.

I knew that all I had to do was take one step off of that ledge- just one, and then there would be no more going back, it would be done. It would be over in a heartbeat. All I had to do was go- and forget the fact that I was stepping out into a void of nothingness. Before I could let my brain catch up and realize what I was doing, my body moved.

You always expect that something crazy and adventurous would go quickly, it would be over in the blink of an eye- I would hit the water, and all would be right in my world once more. Don’t let the lies fool you- that’s not how it happened. Everything was suddenly going in slow motion. I had more than enough time for my brain to catch on to what was happening and berate me for what a stupid decision I had just made. Jumping off of a bridge? Really Katie? A bridge? Isn’t that the exact example all parents use because its just so ludicrous, who in their right mind would do it? I am pretty sure I could have read the entire works of Sherlock Holmes and Don Quixote- and still had time for a spot of tea- all in that endless moment from when my feet left the cement bridge to when the water engulfed me from below. And all I could do was stare at it’s lapping waves as I approached, as the dark expanse of water slowly grew larger. The whole time I was hoping it wouldn’t hurt too bad when I hit, and secretly willing my body to magically learn the art of teleportation and zap me back up onto the bridge.

And then I was in, the water was cold as it enveloped me, slowing me down as I sunk towards the bottom. It was done, I was kicking towards the surface, fleetingly wondering how deep this little water hole really was, and whether Lake Placid style crocodiles could ever hide in a place this far north (fully immersed underwater, it seemed like a plausible possibility- so I kicked harder). I half floated, half swam back to the raft where my friends pulled me in and I looked up to watch the next person take their death defying leap.

I grinned like a Cheshire cat the rest of the way- and I’m actually doing it again now as I relive this memory. There is something about knowing your boundaries and your fears- and tossing them to the wind anyways.

If there is anything that I have learned, it’s that every story we have worth telling starts at the edge of our comfort zones. We just have to be brave enough to take that leap outside of our self-imposed boundaries. I am the first to admit that I forget this fact a lot. But this year I have been fighting for my adventures, the spice that peppers my writing. Some days all I want to do is curl up on my couch and ignore whatever is waiting for me outside that door. But the other thing life has taught me- you never regret opening that door, even if it all turns out disastrously- you have one more memory, one more moment to shape who you will become. I don’t know about you, but I want to be the girl who did something- even if it was as crazy as jumping off of a bridge in spite of your fears.

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