Thank you, mom and dad.

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Well, I am officially moved in! On Sunday I collected the last of my things from my parents’ house. My former bedroom is now an empty space, save for a stripped twin bed, a desk, and a few bookshelves. I even took the pictures off the walls and put them in the closet so I can pick them up later.

I have to say, it feels very strange. A little over a year ago, I moved back home with my parents on the tail of a nasty breakup. I would easily characterize the move as running home to mom and dad… with my tail tucked in between my legs. I was under a tremendous amount of stress and experiencing a tremendous amount of pain. So much grief and loss associated with moving here… the death of a family member, leaving my closest friends and valued family behind, and the end of a four-year long relationship. I was absolutely devastated, and felt in pieces.

My parents graciously welcomed me back into their lives – despite the fact that I had moved out five years ago and didn’t know what to do. I had a loose idea of a plan – no dating, go to nursing school, work as a server somewhere. Try not to break into any more pieces. Although many people may not see that what they did as heroic – I did, and still do. I would not say that I am indebted to them, because our relationship does not work that way, but I am certainly awed by their spirit and endless love and patience.

It has been a rough year. It was a rough adjustment for all of us, me coming home, and we all felt the pain of what happened so many miles away. My dad drove all the way to Ohio to pick me up, only to turn around after a one-day break and drive me (and whatever belongings would fit in the car) back to New Hampshire. He listened to me pour out my heart and soul for twelve straight hours in the car on the way back home. We had hour-long conversations on the phone, before he came to get me, about what I could do with my new circumstances and the best way to accomplish them.

My mama, who is one of the most bad-ass women I have ever known to exist, has been an amazing friend to have this past year. She has been honest (even when it’s caused a fight) and has kept me from slipping into a child’s mentality. She has reminded me, over and over again, to dream big and then dream bigger. To chase whatever it is that gives me purpose – and to always remember where my inner strength lies. She has been a gentle drill-sergeant of sorts – protecting me from my own worst habits. She is the personification of wonderful mother.

In the past year, I have been on a “time-out” from adult life. There is no adult mentality when you live at home with your parents, rent-free, with the freedom to do whatever you choose. You are on vacation from the real world. Even if no one ever said it out loud, there was a deeply rooted comfort in knowing that my parents were the “real grownups” around – even if I am almost twenty-five. No matter what happened, they would be there. I never had to be afraid of anything, because I had wonderful grownups around.

When I met Dave, I knew – like, on the first date knew – that this was going to be something amazing. I could just tell. I had spent six months dating this person and dating that person – sometimes for a few months, sometimes for only a few weeks or just one drink. I had exposed myself to lots of different types of people and personalities, not to mention all of the legwork I did prior to moving back home. It’s safe to say that I know exactly what I want in a partner, and I am even more precise in what I don’t want. Even though he was late meeting me for dinner (I don’t remember exactly how long – more than five minutes but less than ten. I was counting.) he more than made up for it every moment after he arrived, and he continues to do so.

Anyway, as our relationship progressed I became more and more comfortable with the idea that maybe he and I would make a go of it. You know, move in together and stuff. My parents were even more supportive then – offering honest opinions and valuable advice. When I told them that I wanted to stay in school but not be a nurse, they gave the thumbs up. My dad said things like “any time spent unhappy is wasted time” and my mom said things like “I support you in whatever you do – just throw yourself into it and give it all you’ve got”. It’s like they are walking motivational posters or something.

It comes as no surprise, then, that moving in with Dave left me with mixed emotions. I am having a really hard time compartmentalizing how I feel about leaving home (again) and how I feel about sharing my life with Dave. One is met with sadness, the other joy. They are all mixed up in my brain. So, although I enjoyed sweating my way up a flight of stairs with a tub full of my stuff, it also occurred to me – with every step – that I was taking another step away from “home”. You’d think that by age twenty-four I would have cut the cord by now, but the truth is I really like my parents as people. They are great parents, but they are also great friends. It was wonderful to see them every day and get awesome hugs whenever I want. True – they are only just down the road – but I would probably be content living in the same neighborhood as them my whole life.

Since that plan probably isn’t the best one, I bravely march into the unknown. So far things have gone pretty smoothly – and Dave and I are very happy. He really is my best friend. I can tell him anything – even that I am happy to be here but also sad that I am not “home”. He understands, just as I understand that even though he is happy I am here, I have completely disrupted his routine, and that takes some getting used to. At the end of the day, Dave and I are a team. We are in each other’s corners, and we have each other’s backs. This is a crucial part of relationships – an understanding that we are here for one another, no matter what happens.

Despite the fact that I am feeling joyous and giddy about my awesome relationship, it does make me sad that my vacation from life has ended. It can be really scary out there, in the world, and I have to be my own grownup now. I have to be the person that takes care of stuff when stuff needs taken care of. I’m ready, though. My parents welcomed me into an environment that was safe and nurturing. I was given the space to heal and the tools to do so. I was given the tools to see a therapist, I always had someone to talk to, and someone was always there to give me a gentle nudge in the right direction. Even though I said that our relationship isn’t based on debt, it certainly is based on respect. I am eternally grateful for the kinds of people my parents are. They are that way by choice, and I do not take it for granted. Now that I am an adult, I know they are not responsible for me. And yet – they took me in anyway, and cared for me as if I could not care for myself. I had a car to drive, minimal overhead, and endless opportunity. There was no guilt, no strings attached, and no catch. They were, and are, loving individuals that opened their hearts to someone in need.

I guess you could dismiss all that by saying that since they are my parents, they have to do that kind of thing. But I know what the real world looks like. It’s ugly – even though it’s filled with moms and dad. They didn’t have to do anything, but they did. They didn’t just make it all better, they reminded me that I can make it all better on my own. Restored my sense of self-worth and helped me learn what it really means to take control over my own destiny. They gave and gave, even when they were running low on time, patience, and energy.

They are heroes.

The Seven Principles Project: Myths, Truths, and Predictions

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So far I have read the first two chapters of Dr. Gottman’s book The Seven Principles for Making Marriage Work. As discussed in this previous post, Dr. Gottman did not concoct these principles. He observed them. He explains in the first chapter how his research is done.

There is something called the Seattle Love Lab that the Gottman Institute created for research. It is a fully functioning apartment. Couples are invited (or volunteer) to go to this apartment for the weekend and have a typical weekend with one another. They are encouraged to bring hobby items, pets, and food with them. The idea is for the couple to stay the weekend in the apartment and live their normal lives. This sounds pleasant enough, like a mini vacation, but all the while the couple are being monitored. There are cameras in the apartment, a one-way mirror in the kitchen, and they are wearing medical devices to monitor their blood pressure, heart rate, and even perspiration! The couples agree to this, of course, and Dr. Gottman and his staff observe the couple in their “natural” state.

This information is key because he refers to it again and again. Over 600 couples have been observed over a span of over fifteen years. This research is extensive and the first of its kind. Dr. Gottman has created these Seven Principles after observing the differences between happily married couple and not happily married ones. The happily married ones behave in seven ways, while the unhappy ones do not. Once the unhappy couples start behaving in these seven ways, many times there is a success in saving the relationship. Although Dr. Gottman uses the word “marriage” a lot in his book, I will stick to relationship because we all have these prior to getting married.

Side note: I know that this is a very lengthy post. Bear in mind that I combined Chapters 1 and 2 in this post, so it covers a lot of material.

As a preface, Dr. Gottman clears a few things up about relationships.


1. Personal quirks and neurotic tendencies ruin a relationship
This just flat-out isn’t true. We are all individuals. We all have quirks or neuroses that drive other people crazy. One behavior may be pleasing to one person while it makes another person want to scream in frustration. It is important to remember that just this alone does not doom your relationship – not things like OCD, not mental illness, and not a chronic illness. The best way to work these into your relationship – which is as unique as the two of you – is to respect these aspects of your personality. As a personal example, I am a sensitive woman. Dave knows this about me, and is very gentle with me, especially when he is feeling angry. Since it does not take a heavy hand to get the message across, I am not suited for someone who yells and screams and uses harsh words. It is not that I am too sensitive, it is merely respecting that part of who I am and incorporating it into our relationship. When you are in love, you don’t get to toss the parts you don’t like out the door. It’s all or nothing – neurotic tendencies and all.

2. Common interests keep couples together
This can be a wonderful thing for a relationship, but it can also be a downfall. Dr. Gottman relays that it depends on how couples interact with one another while sharing these common interests. To give you an example, Dave and I both love music. However, he has a more technical background because he went to school for music, whereas I just like music. This might seem kind of silly, but it can be a huge deal for couples. Music is a frequent common interest, but it does cause from friction. Just think about it – in the car, what kind of music do you listen to? Who picks? We take turns to show that we respect one another. When Dave talks about music, I listen and try to understand. I am attentive. When I am singing in the shower, he doesn’t correct me on my vocal performance. He just tells me he loves when I sing. We can share this interest together and it brings us closer, rather than creates a wedge between us.

3. The tally board is playing fair
When I read this particular tidbit, I was really fascinated. Most couples have an unwritten agreement that they will make sure each one is being cared for equally. I use this with Dave when it comes to going out to dinner. To be fair, I have a guesstimate of who has spent what in our relationship and I try to keep it balanced. Dr. Gottman suggests that happy couples do not need a tally system because they do nice things for each other without expecting something nice in return. It’s not supposed to be you scratch my back and I scratch yours, it is supposed to be genuine expressions of love and affection when they arise.

4. Avoiding conflict is great for relationships
False, false, false! Conflict is a necessary part of being in a relationship. The two of you are fundamentally different and you will disagree. Instead, fight the way that works for you. It is possible to raise your voice without being abusive, and it is possible to be effective with a soft tone. Arguments and relationship discussions aren’t a sign of trouble – that’s just part of the package. For Dave and I, we always spend a lot of time making sure that the other one understands what we’re saying. We asks each other how we feel about what we say and what our thoughts are. We almost never raise our voices – but as soon as we do we take a break. That is because for Dave and I, it is a sign of escalation and that our tempers are flaring up. Neither one of us feel that we are being constructive, so we take a break and try again later.

5. Affairs are the root cause of breakups
I have actually never heard anyone say this, but apparently it is commonly held belief. Perhaps it is because I was already in this situation, but I know why affairs happen. Affairs are not the cause of a breakup, only a symptom of a larger problem. I’m not talking about a fling where the boyfriend/girlfriend cheats. I’m talking about an affair – often times more to do with feelings of intimacy, trust, and friendship rather than sex. Affairs happen when one partner feels lonely in the relationship. I know firsthand what that feels like, and how nice it is to have someone to connect with when your spouse is not emotionally plugged in or is being hurtful. Although I never cheated, I would say that I had an emotional affair – I had a deep and meaningful friendship with someone other than my spouse, and he was the person I turned to when things were hard, rather than my spouse. Interestingly enough, we are close friends to this day, and I am very glad for that. But, over time, our friendship changed into something more appropriate for a platonic pair.



1. Relationships are built on friendship
A study mentioned in the book states that 70% of men and women list friendship as their top priority for a requirement in their marriage. Friendship forms the foundation for all other things – especially romantic relationships. It is important to have a deep sense of meaning with your partner; in other words, support one another and help one another achieve goals. Friendship also comes from mutual respect, understanding, and kindness. Dr. Gottman states that happy couples are ones that have a relationship built on friendship first – and that this gives them a secret weapon: they are able to prevent arguments or discussions from escalating before it’s too late.

2. Most relationship arguments cannot be resolved
This is kind of a shocker, too. If we go into our arguments thinking to ourselves – this will not be solved – then it immediately alleviates the pressure of having to solve it! I know that I hate arguing, and Dave does too, and we always want to put an argument behind us. For the past few months we have been having the same argument again and again. I don’t really like to call it an argument, it’s really more of a disagreement, but we both care a lot about each other and how we feel so it does create some heated discussions. Finally, today, I said to Dave: “I cannot relate to you. I cannot emphasize with you, or understand what you are saying, or possibly know how you feel. You can explain it ten different ways, but because I am not just like you, I will never really understand how it is that you feel. What you are saying makes sense, but I just can’t relate.” I also pointed out that he was in a similar position with me: he could not relate to me or empathize, because he does not understand how I feel. We have been having the same conversation for months and every time it becomes heated, it is because we are having parallel conversations. We go round and round in circles and just get frustrated. So, today we finally figured out that we cannot solve it. Instead, we both communicated what we needed and promised each other to try. Since our conversations are parallel, the solutions have to be parallel as well. This might sound like a compromise, but really it’s solving two separate issues. We are both excited about putting this method into action.

3. “Repair Attempts” are the secret weapon of happy couples
Dr. Gottman describes the following as a repair attempt: a couple is having a discussion and things start to get tense. Both parties can feel it, and to diffuse the tension, they do something very specific to lighten the mood. Some couples make silly faces, others simply say “Let’s take five”. No matter what the repair attempt, someone must say something to prevent the following: increased heart rate, elevated blood pressure, and a surge of emotion. Any time this happens, our bodies are preparing to fight or flee. It doesn’t matter if the argument is as simple as whose turn it is to clean the bathroom – any conflict puts us on red alert for danger, especially if there is tension. By diffusing tension and keeping it respectful, happy couples avoid negativity in their discussions.



There are seven clear signs that a couple is unhappy and either knows it or may not know it. These are included in the beginning of the book as a reference point for later advice. By reading it, I think they go in somewhat chronological order. In other words, it starts with 1 and escalates from there. Your mileage may vary. Not everyone has every problem on this list, and sometimes ALL couples have one or more of these problems. But, Dr. Gottman describes how to best handle it.

1. Getting off on the wrong foot with discussions
Frequently, when a discussion about a relationship begins, it is due to a conflict that needs to be resolved or some other issue. Many unhappy couples get off on the wrong foot by starting the conversation with hostility, sarcasm, accusatory tones, and negative statements. This automatically puts both parties in a negative space and it all goes downhill from there.

2. Dr. Gottman’s “The Four Horseman”
Just like in the fable, these four signs are negative ways of communicating. They do not happen in this order – rather they play “relay” with one another, and it goes back and forth like a handoff relay until things deteriorate to the point where one of the parties stops communicating altogether. All of these behaviors will be familiar to you – we all use them. It is important to recognize that these are not healthy ways of communicating.
-Criticism: Criticism is different from a complaint. Dr. Gottman defines a complaint as a statement about an isolated incident, whereas a criticism is defined as a statement about a person’s character or the overall personality of the person. Complaints are temporary and fixable, where as complaints wear on a person’s self-esteem and sense of value.
-Contempt: Many times, when we are angry, we are the following: cynical, mocking, hostile, sneering, eye-rolling, sarcastic, and name calling. All of these are examples of contempt. Any scenario where you intentionally demean your partner further lowers their sense of self-worth and puts him/her on the defensive. In addition, these behaviors are classified as abusive. For more information on this, see my post about the Power and Control Wheel.
-Defensiveness: This one is easy to understand – we have all done it. When we feel we are being attacked, we get defensive. The attacking party does not back down – rather our defensiveness just drives them into more of a frenzy. In addition, being defensive is a way of blaming your partner. It’s a way of saying – it’s not me, it’s actually you. If you feel yourself getting defensive in an argument, ask yourself what your partner is doing to make you feel as though you are being attacked.
-Stonewalling: Dr. Gottman describes stonewalling as literally turning into a stone wall – you become unresponsive and ignore your partner. Other people call this giving the cold shoulder or shutting someone out. What is happening is that one partner is emotionally retreating from the conversation and disengages altogether. This is sometimes a survival tactic in response to the onslaught of negative emotion coming from the partner in the conversation, or it can be a defense mechanism for someone who is feeling anxious. In any case, it is not productive and can be harmful to a relationship. Once stonewalling begins, the stonewaller becomes hyper-aware of any opportunity to stonewall again, for fear that the partner may have another hostile attack.

3. Flooding
Dr. Gottman describes flooding as an overwhelming burst of emotions… such as a dam breaking and a rush of water flooding an area. Suddenly, the person who feels flooded is so overcome by emotion that he or she disengages and feels lost for what to do. This is a common precursor to stonewalling. If you ever feel flooded in a conversation – either by your own anger or your partner’s hostility – it’s time for a repair attempt. Take a break! Dr. Gottman also warns that if both or one of the partners experience frequent flooding in the relationship, the couple could be in serious trouble.

4. What we don’t say out loud, our bodies do
Be mindful of certain body language in your posture and your partner’s posture. I am very cautious of this when I am talking to Dave, because I know that I can be very animated and give the wrong impression. As a general rule, I try to be very still when we are having a serious conversation, so that my emotions stay in check. The minute I start moving my hands around or pacing, I am well on my way to needing a repair attempt. Dave tends to pace when he gets very frustrated, and move his arms a lot. Some people take a step forward towards their partner when they are angry, or stand up while their partner is seated to gain a level of dominance in the conversation. Crossed arms, facial expressions, and closed-off body language all show signs of stonewalling. Eye contact and general posture are helpful hints, too. Learn your partner’s “tells” by watching what their body looks like when they speak. What do they look like when happy? Sad? Stressed? Irritated? Learn your partner’s unspoken communication.

5. Repair attempts… take two, three, four, and five…
Dr. Gottman explains what repair attempts are, but also explains that repeat failed repair attempts indicate that there is a communication breakdown, or a breakdown in the level of friendship and trust in the relationship. Even more so, as things get more heated, we are less and less likely to recognize a “verbal white flag” when our partner uses it. This happened just last night with Dave and I. We were having a discussion and we both felt frustrated. Neither one of us could get the other to understand, so we got more and more agitated. I tried several repair attempts: let’s take a break, let’s go outside… and Dave even suggested that we stop talking about it altogether. Nothing worked, because we were too wound up. We had a follow-up conversation today, and in a half hour we accomplished what we could not get done in two hours (or more) last night. Sometimes, even with the best of intentions, everyone needs a 24-hour time-out. So, if you are trying these white flags and they are not working, consider a lengthy time out.

6. It’s a memory of a different color
Dr. Gottman explains that when couples have an abundance of negative emotion in their relationships, they literally re-write history. When asked about their pasts together, unhappy couples seem to remember (and attach significance to) their partner’s failures or bad behavior. Happy couples, on the other hand, remember the sweet and charming bits of relationship that are special to only them. Once a couple reaches this point, it can be very challenging to change that negative mindset. The cause for this, Dr. Gottman reasons, is that once each partner associates the other with negative emotions, that is what they come to expect out of said partner – and the relationship.



I came across these bits of information while I was reading, and found them fascinating. Check it out!

A study done on women and men who were spoken rudely to found that: all individuals have elevated heart rate and blood pressure. Men tended to maintain this reaction until they had a chance to confront the rude person. Women, on the other hand, calmed down in the interim and only had elevated blood pressure when pressured to confront the rude person. Keep this in mind when speaking with an angry man – sometimes his testosterone can get in the way of him thinking clearly.

As for that little statement – I apologize if it sounds sexist. It is not an opinion; it is a biological fact. Dr. Gottman points out that the higher the level of testosterone, the more likely a man is to be ready to fight a threat. Back in the caveman days, the best mates were the ones that could protect the group and their families. It would make sense, then, that the males that produced the highest levels of testosterone survived. And, too, that their offspring had a similar chemical makeup. Because men are so full of testosterone, they are always ready to go on an instinctual level. Since discussions and arguments can sometimes feel threatening, it makes sense that men have a tendency to get angry and stop communicating.

In a similar light, the women that were the most relaxed and calm produced the most breast milk and provided the most nutrients to their children. It would make sense, Dr. Gottman surmises, that as a result – the women who come from that beginning are more apt to be calm in the face of a crisis, and are used to nurturing others. This day and age, men and women are becoming more and more similar and equal, but on a biological level, they are relatively unchanged from thousands and thousands of years ago.

Dr. Gottman also describes what he calls “positive sentiment override” and “negative sentiment override”. In this case, override means that the sentiment overrides whatever else is going on. If a couple has positive sentiment override, it means that even in the face of stress, the partners will have positive thoughts about one another the majority of the time. This is especially helpful if one of the partner’s is having a bad day or being a bit snippy. Happy couples are much more likely to give their partners the benefit of the doubt and not take slight rudeness personally. On the contrary, negative sentiment override colors everything in a bad light – even the good stuff. A thoughtful gesture from the partner may make the other wonder what he or she wants. A slight change in tone may send the partner into a frenzy about what a jerk he or she is. Try to maintain a positive sentiment in your relationship by fostering friendship, mutual respect, kindness, and affection.


That’s all for this post! Up next – the first in the seven principles: “love maps” – the area of your brain where you store information about your partner! Stay tuned!

The Seven Principles Project: An Introduction

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If you have been reading my blog, then you know that a friend of mine recently recommended the book The Seven Principles for Making Marriage Work by John M. Gottman, Ph.D. She is taking a pre-engagement class at her church with her boyfriend and fully endorsed this text as a tool to make my relationship stronger. I talked it over with Dave and he was enthusiastic about reading this book together. He also gave the go-ahead to write about our experience going through this book as a couple.

I ordered two copies of the book right away. It took an agonizing 11 days to arrive, but it is finally here! I am very excited about this new project, especially to help anyone else that is looking for relationship methods that actually work. My intention is not to read the book and give my feedback, but to give my feedback as I am reading the book. Readers will get a real-time play-by-play of how I confront past beliefs and issues, present problems that we may not even be aware of, and building an exciting future!

Any part of the book I am directly quoting will be in quotation marks. Otherwise I am paraphrasing Dr. Gottman’s ideas and research. This is in no way intended to rip off the credited foremost relationship expert in the country. It is merely my hope to reach out to others in an effort to help. In the first paragraph, I provided the link to purchase the book yourself, which is only $15. You can also get a used copy on Amazon. I recommend that you purchase this book and follow along. Leave your thoughts in the comments!


I’m not one for self-help books. I am wary of statistics, despite the fact that I am in a statistics math course. I decline any tip or trick that claims to be a cure-all or the next trendy thing, including the newest diet or the newest fabric that all the celebrities are wearing. If you fall into this category, please consider the following:

John Gottman is a Ph.D. and a professor of psychology at the University of Washington. His book is a New York Times best-seller and he is critically acclaimed. He has “revolutionized the study of marriage by using rigorous scientific procedures to observe the habits of married couples in unprecedented detail over many years.” His research is impeccable and he has an average 91% accuracy rate of predicting divorce in couples.

The Seven Principles are NOT guidelines created by Dr. Gottman. Instead, he observed the same pattern of behavior in happy marriages again and again. All happy marriages, and happy couples, did these seven things – whether they knew it or not. Dr. Gottman is merely providing his audience with the data from his research. These are not conclusions or opinions, these are observations. In addition, of the couples that participated in his studies (roughly 650): 27% were at a high risk for divorce at the time of the study; three months after the study only 7% were at risk for divorce; nine months after the study 0% were at risk for divorce. Even better – happy couples that actively used these seven principles report an even happier relationship.


Well, that’s an easy answer. Everyone who gets married has to start somewhere. It usually starts with “hello”. From there, relationships can flourish or flop, but one thing remains true: a foundation has to be built. I would prefer not to start building that foundation on Day 1 as Mrs. Dave, if and when we get there. We have agreed that we love each other and want our relationship to flourish. We already log hours of discussion about who we are and who we are to one another. This is just another way to continue down that path. Perhaps this will create a stronger and more harmonious connection between the two of us, or maybe it will illustrate differences that make us realize we are not as compatible as we thought. No matter what, we are doing this because we want to be happy long-term, with each other.


I am Kyrston and I’m twenty-four. I grew up for the first half of my life in the Midwest, and the second half of my life in New England (where I currently reside). I am divorced and a college student pursuing a liberal arts degree with a concentration in… something. Dave is twenty-eight. He was born and raised in New England. He is a licensed massage therapist and has a bachelor’s degree in Music Education with a focus on Vocal Performance. We are similar in many ways, but different in others. So far our relationship has been mutually respecting, kind, and passionate. We are moving in together, have been a couple for eight months, and we are excited about our future!


Well, you know, that’s a good question. I have a considerable amount of free time whereas Dave has limited free time. Most of his free time is spent showering me with love and affection. I’m not the type of woman to make a man read a book, so I suppose it will progress in a natural way. I’d like to wait until he reads so we can talk about it and I can give feedback on our behalf, as opposed to a one-sided approach. It’s important to me that there be a balanced representation of what is being said. To make it even more fun, Dave and I fit the gender stereotypes pretty perfectly. I am an emotional woman in my twenties who always feels like there’s something I have to do better, and he is a free-spirit type of man who keeps complications to a minimum by maintaining a positive attitude and easily letting things go that he can’t control. I guess we’ll see how it all shakes out. Probably a few months.

Hopefully you will join me on this journey and it will bring you some peace in your relationships. As I am reading, it occurs to me that many of these methods can use used on an individual basis. We all have an internal dialogue – a dark side to our lighter side – and much of this advice can be used internally to create a more peaceful space within our minds. I can’t wait to see how this revolutionizes my relationship – and my life.

I can’t do this? Bitch, I already did.

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This is happening! I am (finally) moving in with Dave! (After quadruple-checking, he doesn’t mind if I blog about our lives, so I might as well stop calling him SO)

When I say finally, what I really mean is – we have been talking about it for months and we decided to do it. The conversation started with “When you’re ready, I’d love for you to move in”. Then it was “sometime next spring” and that turned into “sometime in the next few months” … and then I lost my job. My mother, who is a brilliant woman, pointed out that if I moved in with Dave it would make so many things in my life so much easier. Plus, I had a feeling that the whole losing-my-job thing was for a greater purpose – and I think this may have been it. The universe was tired of these abstract conversations and said: seriously, what the fuck, just move in already. Stop talking and start doing!

So that’s what we’re doing!

What’s fascinating to me is the reaction I had upon “making a decision” – moving in during this week or by the end of next week. Read: ohmygod this is actually happening. Read: PANIC. Despite my fondness for Douglas Adams, I ignored his sound advice and panicked anyway. Anxiety and nervousness and this horrible feeling in the pit of my stomach.

Now, because I am more-than-slightly neurotic, I analyzed and analyzed and analyzed some more. Where were these feelings coming from? I love and adore this man! He is fantastic! I mean, come on guys, did you not read the love letter I wrote to him? Anyway, it really bummed me out. First I felt all these negative feelings, and then I felt super guilty for not mirroring the feelings that he had. Dave’s all about it. Dave’s so on board. Why didn’t I feel that way? What does THAT mean? Does it mean I don’t really want to? Was I kidding myself all along? How completely messed up must I be to only want something in the abstract? Round and round my mind went, and it only got worse. I couldn’t sleep, I felt terrible, and one night after one too many glasses of wine I completely broke down and cried and told him I was so afraid and I didn’t know what to do but I loved him so much – after that I think I just went into a fit of hysterics, so there’s not much translation available.

As a side note, I would like to mention that I am not really a crier. At least, I never used to be. As it turns out, divorce brings out all the tears one has been repressing for years and years. I’ve cried more times in front of Dave than I’ve cried to anyone else – except my immediately family. Certainly more than any previous relationship or friend. The day I lost my job – that entire week – I was totally fine until I saw Dave. Suddenly, I knew I was in a safe place, and I just lost it. I cried and cried and cried and got sexy girl snot all over his shirt and I know I looked totally gorgeous with my puffy red face. He just loved it, I know it.

Back on track. So, how is it that I have these intense (yet calming) feelings of love and respect for this individual, and I feel mutually loved and respected, but the idea of us living together completely freaks me out?

Well, at first, I chalked it up to being gun-shy. After all, the last time I lived with a man it ended terribly. Actually, that’s the only time I’ve lived with a man. It was awful. All… sucky and stuff. Even worse, I was so ridiculously “happy” in that relationship, and it went so terribly wrong, I had convinced myself that it was just as likely to end that way with Dave and I. Stupid, I know. But, the mind of an overly emotional woman is a stupid and illogical place.

We talked. We talked about it again. I apologized for how I felt, apologized for apologizing, and Dave continued to be patient. I think he knew something that I didn’t, and was just waiting for the light bulb to go off. Or maybe he just doesn’t question everything like I do. Who knows. He handled it really well. Lots of validation and comfort and hugs. None of it helped, I still felt the same rising panic as the days ticked closer. I found myself looking for reasons to push back that move-in date – which concerned me above all other things. Was I going to bail?

It was early in the morning – after a rough night of not sleeping well and in dire need of a cigarette and coffee – that it dawned on me. Suddenly, one thought appeared and then in an explosion of inspiration many other thoughts branched off from that one. And then, mere moments later, all of the panic and anxiety melted away.

You see, human beings have two basic emotions, upon which all other emotions are based: fear and desire. On top of that, fear and desire dovetail. They are intertwined. So, I had to get to the bottom of my fear. No, it wasn’t an effect of a messy marriage and divorce. That wasn’t good enough. I spent a year in therapy and massive amounts of time healing. I am not so damaged that the idea of moving in with someone – just because I had done it before and it didn’t go well – would result in panic. It wasn’t the fear of the unknown – I’ve learned that lesson the hard way: you have to let go of what you cannot control. So, then what was it?

Then a small voice in my mind spoke up: I can’t do this.

That got my attention. I can’t do this. Can’t as in… incapable. Can. Not. Cannot. Don’t have the skills, don’t have the talent, or don’t have the capacity. That’s what I can’t means. Except – that statement is so ridiculously false that it actually made me laugh as I was driving. What an absurd thing to say to myself! To think of myself! Bah. I can’t do this. Bitch, I already did. And I rocked it out.

I was a great roommate. A great girlfriend. A great wife. I am a nurturing spirit. I live and breathe to take care of others. While I have learned that it is a waste of energy to try to take care of everyone – especially before myself – once I do choose to care for someone, they get the red-carpet five-star-hotel celebrity treatment. Maybe not every day, and maybe not long-term (because I get so tired of it after a while) but for a few solid years you will be well taken care of.

So I’m in my car, laughing at myself, for being so insanely idiotic. Illogical, irrational, and just plain irritating. Of course I can do this.

From there, my ever-analyzing brain asked the question: well if YOU can do it, why didn’t it work?

Ah. That’s the million dollar question, isn’t it? That’s the NEXT BIG STEP in figuring out what the hell happened between 2008 and 2012. Well, I can tell you why it didn’t work: HE couldn’t do it. Sure, he tried. We both tried. But, unfortunately, he couldn’t do it. He couldn’t do lots of things. Things that I consider to be basic requirements for the foundation of any relationship. He couldn’t, for example, respect me. At all. His idea of respect is, quite frankly, a joke. To be clear – I’m not bashing my practice husband. I’m just reflecting on what I realized the other day, laughing at myself in the car.

There is no logical reason to be afraid. Everything I have learned about Dave in the past eight months has shown me that he is, and will continue to be, an excellent partner. This is something that I lacked before. I was pulling my weight in the relationship, and my counterpart was not. I need not worry about history repeating itself. For starters, Dave is fantastic. For seconders, I have grown to respect myself and I won’t take any shit that I don’t want to. I know how to assert myself, albeit in a neutrally-toned and polite way. No more doormat Kyrston, folks.

Once I figured that out, I couldn’t wait to go to Dave and tell him the “news” – that I could be excited to move in with him because I FINALLY figured it out. He just smiled and nodded, perhaps as if he knew it all along, or perhaps because he was just glad that the crazy had ended. At least for that particular issue. I’m still batshit crazy, but I think he’s okay with my brand of crazy.

So, for the past few days, we have been “reinventing” the space. It is important to me that the flow of energy be different, that it look different, that it not be “his” apartment that I am just moving my stuff into. I asked him again and again if I could change things around. He insisted that he just wanted me to be happy. I promised not to toss anything out without asking.

I did a lot of things. After all, he has been a man living alone for more than five years. It’s a lovely space – he has impeccable taste and it’s beautifully decorated – but certain things just aren’t practical. Read: I don’t like them and so I will use practical as an excuse to change it.

For example, there is one towel hook on the door. Technically it has two hooks but it’s one piece of hardware. Everyone knows you can’t hang two towels on it, they will fall down. Also, I use two towels by myself. That shit’s not gonna work for me. So I bought a six-pronged towel rack that hangs on the door. Perfect.

I replaced his shower liner and the shower curtain, because I didn’t like the one he had and it didn’t fit quite right. While I was at it, I replaced the shower rings that the curtain and liner hang on. Because I was in the store and I am a sucker for grabbing everything I see that I want.

I bought little plastic containers for things like q-tips and cotton balls and my bazillion hairties and bobby pins that are currently just all over his apartment, which I hate. I also bought one of those things you put toothbrushes in. And cloth bins for the shelves in the bathroom to store my assorted girl crap. And the few items that were on the shelves. And an over-the-tank toilet paper reserve thingy. And I fixed the hardware that is supposed to hold the toilet paper roll. One piece fell off so I used a swiss army knife to screw it back in. I moved the mirror that was in his bedroom to the bathroom, because apparently the apartment-builders think their tenants are ten feet tall… even when I stand on my tiptoes I can only see to my nose. That is not going to work for me.

I also tossed out the bag of socks under his sink that are for dusting…. because I’ll be the one dusting and I am not using socks. I bought tupperware and (with his permission) returned the plates/bowls to the thrift store where he got them… the man has service for eight already, who needs service for five more? We went through junk drawers together and had a lovely afternoon where he asked me what he should keep and what he should toss… like receipts for things he bought five years ago. (Actually, that was for furniture, and it made sense to keep them. I am just teasing. Love you honey.)

We tore through that apartment, talking about how to rearrange furniture and how to deal with clothing. I hang everything, but his apartment doesn’t have any closets (weird) so he uses two dressers and this spinning department-store style rack. My dad offered to build us a free-standing wardrobe so everything could hang and we could put the dressers and spinny rack in storage. My dad also gave me a feather comforter, and when I went to get the duvet cover, I went ahead and got new sheets too. Whole new bed set, essentially. It’s this cool dark purple with cream sheets. Dave loves purple.

At first, I was a little worried that it would bother him that I basically barged in and changed everything, as if it would offend him to change his space, like it meant it wasn’t good enough. I expressed this to him and he just waved me off, insisting that he wants me to be happy and he doesn’t care. He then went on to tell me that I am “a good getter-of-stuff to make the place better” and he loves all the changes. FTW.

I have the best partner EVER!

On a slightly related note, I am still waiting to receive the books I mentioned in my last post for the Seven Principles project. I actually emailed the seller to ask where they hell they were, and also where is my tracking information? Sigh. Keep your eyes peeled for that!

To summarize… do your emotions come from a base emotion of fear or desire? Is the thought “I can’t?” at the bottom of your self-esteem? How do you identify with failure – do you take personal responsibility for any bad thing that happens to you? Do you give yourself enough credit? Are you honest about how things happen? Because – although I can say that what happened in my past is partially my fault – it was never because I couldn’t be a roommate, girlfriend, wife, partner, lover, or friend. I totally CAN.

THAT is exciting.

Goodbye job, hello new look on life.


Ever since Monday night, I have been dying to write about this. It is now Friday. Why have I waited so many days, you ask? Well, I had to wait until the dust settled, and I also had to figure out how I wanted to write about this. I have figured it out, and now I shall.

For the past year, I have been a waitress. Although I have worked in restaurants before, I had never been a waitress. I have washed dishes, cooked, bussed tables, and catered. But, a year ago when I moved back home to go back to school, I decided waiting tables was the best for me. I applied at every restaurant in town and one hired me – the same day I went in for my interview. As a matter of fact, I did my orientation that same night. Since then, I see how other new hires are funneled through, and I know that my circumstance was very unusual. Even more unusual – a short three months after I was hired they made me a trainer. Shortly after that, I was recognized as a candidate for a pre-management position so that I could be placed into management. All in under a year.

Although I was nervous when I first started waitressing, I quickly found my groove and then gladly accepted that leadership role to help others find their grooves, too. I have been one of the best employees at that restaurant. Not touting my own horn, of course. But I have never been late, I have never called out of a shift, I volunteer my time (read: unpaid) to pick trash up on our highways. I try to be my best and make the restaurant a better place with me in it, not a worse one. I try to temper social tension and keep things smooth – it is a difficult job that we do.

After a year of working my tail off, I was let go.

Now, I want to point out that this is in no way a piece of writing to slam my former employer, or complain about the injustice of it all, or trash The Company. I am actually at peace with what happened – which is bigger than any of this detail – and that’s what I want to write about.

Working for any corporation can be tricky. A locally owned business is run a certain way, and I have worked for many locally-owned businesses. A corporation functions differently. Some of the policies are in place to protect The Company rather than its staff, but I knew this signing on. During my orientation and training, the most important policies – the ones that will result in immediate termination if they are violated – were repeated again and again. There are only two or three, and they are important and I understand why. Then, as a trainer, I ran my own training classes where I reinforced these policies again and again. As trainers, we know what the rules are and it is our job to make sure they are followed.

Unfortunately, I violated one of these policies and as a result, I lost my job. It was a silly error – a brain fart – but the consequences are the same. In the eyes of The Company, any person that violated this policy is a potential liability, and must be removed from the equation. Although one half of me agrees that is a smart business model, the other half thinks that certain policies are not realistic for human beings – better suited for robots – but that is a different argument altogether.

When I made the mistake, on Monday, I was suspended at my boss’ dismay. I was dismayed as well – I have never been suspended before, nor have I been fired, and I was a crying mess during the whole conversation. What I did was so small, and so harmless, that I couldn’t believe this was happening. There was never any risk of anything bad happening, but at the same time, a vital standard was not followed. The Company sees this as – if this mistake was made, it would then follow that a more serious mistake along the same lines could occur later. The Company does not take into consideration the fact that I have never been late, that I work my butt off, that I pick up trash, or that I am a rock star at my job. It is very cold, and businesslike, the enforcement of these policies. That is The Company at work – no one single person or group of individuals; instead a concept and the iron fist that enforces the most important rules.

Monday night I cried and cried, and then I forgave myself for making a mistake. As human beings, we must not strive for perfection. It is through imperfection that we grow and mature, and although the process can be painful, it is a blessing. It is how we evolve and learn. Once I stopped being angry at myself, I wanted to focus all my anger on my management. I decided – briefly – that if I lost my job over this, it was because they did not respect me enough to fight for me. I imagined meeting with them and yelling about how this was wrong and unjust and disproportionate. I imagined all the things I would say and how much better I would feel. I grew tired of that way of thinking rather quickly. I soon accepted the fact that this was not only out of my control, but it was out of their control as well.

On Wednesday, I found out that my shifts for this weekend had been covered by other staff. My heart sank. Without having to be told, I already knew the outcome. I felt desolate and heartbroken. Half of the people I talked to gave me the pity look – head tilt, sad eyes – and the other half were outraged at the injustice of the situation. I merely turned that night over in my head over and over again, wondering how I could be so stupid.

I considered the irony of the fact that I was even there at all. I was not scheduled to work on Monday. I always have a class until seven in the evening. That particular day, my professor had a family emergency and cancelled class. How stranger for that to happen – the material is so intense that missing a class sets us back A LOT. It must have been something really dire for her to cancel. In addition, I got a voicemail from work wondering if I could cover someone else’s shift that night – someone who very rarely takes time off. The voicemail also mentioned that several other people were contacted for the same reason, and whoever called back first got dibs. I happened to be the one that called back first. And then I went into work – everything was going great – and then I made my silly mistake and it all went downhill from there.

I turned this sequence of events over and over in my head. What are the odds? I thought to myself. The probability that all of those things would happen – astronomically small. I (very briefly) wished I had just stayed home that night, or that class hadn’t been canceled, or that the person who needed the night off hadn’t, or that someone else had called back before I did. I railed against the universe, vehemently wishing that anything could have been different.

And then – I started paying attention.

I am the kind of person that believe that things happen for a reason. In addition to that, I believe that we are given signs and sometimes if we do not pay attention, the universe does something dramatic to get our attention. So, I silently apologized to the universe, and said Okay, you’ve got my attention.

I started to wonder if perhaps this was happening for a reason. If maybe – just maybe – something bigger than this was going on. The more I thought about it, and turned it over in my head, the more certain I became. The circumstance was so specific, so intricately designed, that it must be some part of a bigger whole.

From there, I took the time to appreciate the fact that this is not the first time I have been shown how little control I have over my destiny. It is a hard pill to swallow for a control freak such as myself, but it is true nonetheless. If nothing else is gained from this experience – it is that I have learned, once again, that I have to let go a little bit. I’m not in the driver’s seat.

So, I took a deep breath, metaphorically buckled my seat belt, and leaned back to enjoy the ride. I looked at the scenario from the same cold and detached way that The Company does, and from that point of view I understand why the consequences were so severe.

When I went in yesterday to have the official conversation with my boss, I had already spent a full day saying the words out loud: I am getting fired on Thursday”. The more I said it, the less it hurt. I didn’t want to cry again, and so I told the story again and again. I reinforced the peace I felt to others, and I defended my management to everyone. We want to believe that we can affect great change in the world, and we can, but sometimes there are things that happen no matter how much you don’t want them to. None of us wanted this – not me, not my management, and not my coworkers. Even the ones that don’t like me very much were upset. My mistake was so silly, it could have easily happened to anyone. To everyone else – this serves as a reminder that these policies have no wiggle room – even for the most hardworking.

The conversation I had with my boss was wonderful. She was running a bit late, but in the meantime I got to talk to several people and say my goodbyes. Her running late was probably also part of the cosmic design. Some of my favorite people were working that night, and we got to chat and I got to explain what happened and tell them I was okay. We are a tight group – and everyone was sad. I told them not to be sad, that there was something amazing on the horizon for me. That I felt, deep in my gut, that there was a cosmic changing of gears and I had buckled my seat belt. That it was all going to be okay.

Instead of harboring negative energy and being angry, I was able to hug every one of those managers that I have built relationships with and tell them it was okay, and that I was not angry. I was able to comfort them and tell them I knew it wasn’t their fault and I knew they tried. It was very sad and strange to think that I would not be putting on my uniform to go in for another busy set of weekend shifts, but that I would come back and visit and now we could be Facebook friends!

Even better, they did accept my immediate resignation in place of firing me. Even though they had to fire me anyway, at least this way it’s not so bad. On paper, I resigned, as opposed to being fired or let go. Ugh. Just the word “fired” makes my skin crawl. People like me don’t get fired.

In all, it has been a huge effort to see this as a blessing in disguise, and let go of what I cannot control. It has been an exercise in faith, hope, patience, understanding, and forgiveness. It is going against my type, and a seriously hard thing to do. Even this morning, when I woke up, the first thing I thought was: Oh my god, I got fired yesterday. This represents a negative neural pathway that I have used so many times that it is strong and thriving. The much weaker and newer pathway is one of understanding and patience with myself. Forgiveness and faith. Not knowing what might happen, and surrendering to that. But everything I make the conscious choice to think of it this way, I feel a little better. I hope that one day soon that is the way I think when I wake up in the morning, rather than going to an automatically negative place.

What’s next for Some Kind of Clever

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For anyone who reads my blog, you know that I use writing as a way to sort things out in my brain. At first, it was a mostly self-indulgent exercise that was cheaper than seeing my therapist. Over the past few months, I have noticed a smallish but rather consistent following of readers. This comes as no surprise; I have a Facebook page for Some Kind of Clever, and whenever I publish a new entry it uploads to Twitter, my personal Facebook page, and Tumblr. I have email subscribers and WordPress followers – clearly I am putting something out that keeps people coming back.

As I realized this, I decided that I wanted to be more deliberate with my writing. Although some people are perfectly fine with reading a 3,000 word post about whatever nonsense I need to work out or share, my readers frequently share that “I started reading it…” – you can probably guess the end of that sentence! Because I know that the good stuff comes after the ridiculously long exposition, it concerns me that some people are starting to read it and then stopping.

The internet is chock full of funny lists accompanied by silly pictures – we all know we love to check up on Buzzfeed for this – but still most articles are more concise than what I put out. Journalism as a theory has always bothered me – why would I want to write with all these rules attached? The reality is that people are busy, and as such they are looking for a quick, fun, read. Not everyone has time to dive into these miniature novellas that I produce.

In addition to realizing that I have readers, I have also (re)discovered how much I love to write. I used to write all the time, and then for a few years I was busy doing other things, and looking back, I wish I had written about them when they were happening. I may have made wiser choices had I taken the time to write it all out and reflect. Perhaps a part of me just didn’t want to reflect, and instead ignore what was right in front of my face, but I feel that a year of consistent writing has been better for me than just about anything I have done.

My college professor has encouraged me to write more and more, and pretty much abandon any other hope or dream. As he put it – you need to write. That is what you need to do. This elicited a chuckle from me – not the first time I had heard that, but uninterested in where that may lead – rules and such.

Then, I considered that perhaps a few rules wouldn’t be so bad. Like… maybe I could edit my pieces of writing (gasp!) and make sure that I didn’t go off on a million tangents. Perhaps I could be a little more deliberate and concise – and say the exact same thing using half as many words. I have been watching TED talks and the speaker is given exactly 18 minutes to speak. No more, no less, it would appear. This time-constraint forces the speaker to be very deliberate in order to be effective. In a similar sense, if I know I am working with a certain number of words, I can be more purposeful with what it is I have to say. I will never succumb to a list accompanied by picture, but I could probably sum up how I feel in under 500 words. (Spoiler – I am already at six hundred in this post, and I’m just getting into my rhythm).

In addition, I have been poking around in search of other blogs. I have found that the most appealing blogs are writers that are very clear about what it is they write. Apparently there are blogging conferences – I had no idea – and there are even articles on blog business card designs. Although I love to write, I (like most people) still view blogging as a self-indulgent exercise. Boy, am I wrong. There are hundreds of people out there just like me that write on purpose, and for specific reasons. There are bloggers that write about their families, travel, food and dining, home decor, social issues, etc. The best ones, I have found, are short articles that show all the personality but have a beginning, middle, and end.

Because it interests me to help my writing and audience grow, there are some things that need to be done. First of all, I really need to get my word count down, which I’ve already described. Next, I need to decide what kind of blog I want to be. I immediately abhor the idea of finding one narrow category to live. I write about many things, but what will people know me as?

In the process of designing a business card, I thought about what I could use that would make an impression. How do I label myself? I finally decided on “self-actualizing writer”. It is brief and sums what I am trying to do. I continuously self-actualize and it is my hope that others may self-actualize through my self-actualization. That’s a dressed up way of saying – I want what I experience to help others.

I suppose I first came up with the idea from watching the HBO show Girls. The main character is my age, a hot mess, and has experiences and then writes about them. In one episode, she takes cocaine just so that she can write about taking cocaine. I considered this, and realized that rather than doing things deliberately in order to write about them, I am already writing about the things I experience. But, when I think of my long term goals and things I want to accomplish, writing about those things is already woven into my life plan. As an example, when I think of getting pregnant in the future, I can’t wait to blog about what being pregnant is like! I am not the first person to do this, naturally, but each experience is individualized and each perspective has value. Plus, it fits the self-indulgent need.

I would also love to do things that I would never do and then write about them. This winter, my SO is teaching me how to ski. Accompanying this is a range of emotions – and I plan to write about them all! I did this with the nude modeling, and it has helped other future models. An account of my experiences does help others.

In addition, I am going to take some creative writing classes next semester, in addition to another statistics class. Currently I feel torn between dedicating myself to my craft (writing) and seeing where this other passion (mathematics) leads me. Two shiny things, and I will follow them both.

In front of all of that is my relationship. If you are still reading, you get a sneak peak into my next project. A friend of mine is attending pre-engagement counseling with her SO. I vehemently wish I had done this with my ex-husband prior to getting married, because it probably would have highlighted our differences in such a way that we would have realized we were not compatible. I suggested this to him, but he was adamant about not doing it.

This time around, it is important that I do this with my SO. When you meet someone, you try to figure out who they are, but some things never occur to you. Pre-engagement counseling is a great way to highlight those differences and better understand your partner. So, I ordered two copies of the book that my friend is using, Seven Principles for Making Marriage Work. The book has questionnaires and worksheets for partners to fill out separately and then talk about one another’s answers. It talks about all kinds of things – and when I discussed this with my SO he was on board. Once the books get here, we will read on our own and then talk about how the book makes us feel. In addition to that – I plan to write about it! I wish someone had emphasized the importance of this kind of thing when I was nineteen, or twenty, or twenty one. I am confident I would have made better choices.

I am excited to start this project and learn about my innocent misconceptions about relationships. It will be a 9-part series – one post prior to beginning, seven posts during (one per principle), and one post at the end summarizing the results. Hopefully other individuals in serious relationships can benefit from our experience. Maybe I can even talk the SO into writing his opinions in the posts!!

Well, I am nearing 1500 words, so I guess I better just stop. Stay tuned!

“I feel” vs. “I am”


It amazes me that despite the complexities of the English language, most people use it in a very specific way. We do not take advantage of the many words we can use to describe things, which I suppose isn’t that big a deal. In the past few weeks I have been trying something new, per the instructions of a book I am reading: Super Brain.

I’ve mentioned this post a few times before, and I will mention it again. My boyfriend suggested that I read it, because it is a real eye-opener in terms of how the brain and mind work together, and how powerful the mind can be. This book is written by two brilliant men, and it’s an easy read. It’s not the least bit dry, but it is packed with information that will make your head – and your mind – spin. I find that I can only work through twenty pages at a time, because it gives me so much to consider. Although this book can be extraordinarily helpful, it is not what I would call a “self-help” book.

Anyway, to the point. One of the things that Super Brain talks about is neural pathways. Every time you do something, you create a pathway in your brain. Think of it like a walk in the woods. At first, there is nothing there, just a lot of trees and overgrown shrubbery. You have to work your way through, maybe taking a machete with you along the way to make a path. Still, after only one walk, there is little evidence that you were there. By contrast, walking the same path over and over and over again will result in a worn-down strip on the ground and the vegetation makes way for the constant walking. This is evident when you walk in the woods… you can see the paths that others have taken so many times.

In your brain, neural pathways are electrical signals that are sent from one place to another. Every time you do the same thing over and over again, the neural pathways get stronger and stronger, just like in the woods. This is where our personalities come from, how we react to things, what we think, how we feel, etc.

The mind, however, is in control of the things our brain does. We are not at the mercy of our brains – the brain is a functional organ that we are in charge of. Sure, there are many automatic processes that go on without even thinking about it – homeostasis at work – but the majority of brain function we can control. We, as a culture, or perhaps a species, do not look at it this way. Our lives would be greatly improved if we recognized that our minds control our brains.

Although I am only a third of the way through the book, I want to address something specific that has really helped me. I have used this method in my life for the past few weeks and it is already making a difference in how I feel. Feel being the key word – I want to talk about emotions.

As a culture, we are used to saying the following things: I am happy, I am sad, I am angry, I am frustrated, I am scared, I am excited. These all tumble out of our mouths as a part of our speech. Back to my original thought – the English language is so complex, and yet we bypass more important words and get right to the point – when someone asks you how you are, you immediately respond with “I am”.

The problem with this mentality is that there is something very powerful going on in the background when we say the words “I am”. We are immediately identifying with whatever comes next – we are inadvertently defining ourselves. This is fine if we are to say: I am Caucasian or I am a female. I am those things. It is unlikely that my race or sexual orientation will change. But, to say I am sad, that is another kind of labeling that is inaccurate.

When it comes to feelings, we know that we feel the following emotions: sadness, anger, anxiety, depression, happiness, frustrations, fear, and excitement. When someone asks us how we are, we know what we feel, but we say “I am” instead of “I feel”. This is just a shortcut, and in our language the other person understands what we mean, but our brain responds differently. On the inside, a neural pathway is being created that identifies with something as if that is what we are as opposed to what we feel.

In Super Brain, the authors talk about how just saying the words aloud “I am” versus “I feel” affect us. It then becomes part of who we are, rather than a temporary emotion. Their advice is to use “I feel” in place of “I am” so that the brain does not create a sense of permanency with the emotion. This piqued my interest, so I figured I would give it a shot. I took the advice of the book, and for the past few weeks I have been striving to say “I feel” in relation to emotion. It is not easy – I am conditioned to speak in a certain way and I’ve been speaking that way for so long that it’s a hard habit to change. That neural pathway is very strong.

But, I did notice something. Perhaps not the first few times – the first few times I felt silly because people just don’t talk that way – but after a while this is what happened:

I would feel an emotion. I would say, out loud, how I felt. I feel angry. I feel sad. I feel frustrated. I feel anxious. I feel happy. I feel excited. I feel nervous. Immediately after those words were in the air, I recognized that the feeling is a feeling. This greatly reduced the power of the emotion. I felt a sense of detachment towards it. This has been true especially with negative emotions. Perhaps that it because they are more powerful, or perhaps it is because to me they are more powerful. As a general rule, my feelings and emotions are like a runaway train inside my head and heart and I have a hard time feeling in control. In this way, by saying that they are feelings in three short words, I take back control over them.

Now, when I am angry, all I have to do is say “I feel angry” and the feeling lessens immediately. To say I am angry is to also say I am anger, and that is how the brain interprets what the mind says. I am not anger, anger is an emotion, not a state of being, and whereas before I would feel angry for a long time or not know what to do, now I simply state that it is a feeling and it has less power inside my head.

I don’t believe that this is just a “me” issue, I think that all people can benefit from saying how they feel as opposed to what they are. I am sure you don’t mean to say: I am anger, I am frustration, I am sadness, I am depression, I am happiness, I am anxiety, or I am excitement. You mean to say how you feel, and I can infer that in our speech. Unfortunately, your brain is not that smart. Your brain does not possess intuition, creativity, emotion, and inspiration. Those things come from your mind. Your brain is merely an organ that performs all kinds of functions, and you can control it through thought. Saying things aloud, and exhibiting certain kinds of behavior, train your brain to respond in a certain way. Parts of your brain will (metaphorically) atrophy if they are not used. The parts that you use the most will be the strongest, just like with muscles. It is a muscle, and a tool, and you will benefit from taking advantage of this amazing tool you have.

The best thing about “I feel” versus “I am” is that once you use your mind to take control of how your brain functions in this way, you become self-aware about other things. Things that previously seemed out of your control – because you are just “wired that way” – now seem in control.

A quick (ha-ha) story – last week I was in the attic moving some boxes around. I was anxious because I don’t like the attic. It’s a cramped space, and I am claustrophobic. The ceiling is low and has intimidating roof nails poking out of it. If I stood up quickly, one of these nails would impale my head and I would certainly die. There is a giant hole in the floor where I just entered, that I could potentially fall through to my death. There are parts of the attic floor that are only insulation (instead of plywood) and there is no support, and if I fell into one of those I would fall through the ceiling, to my certain death. I was navigating the attic, in a crouched position in the dim light, becoming more and more agitated about my circumstances.

(Bonus points if you noticed, in this story, the presence of “I am” versus “I feel”)

Suddenly, I remembered Super Brain and the I feel versus I am. I said out loud, to myself, the following: I feel anxious right now. I am worried because of the hole in the floor, and the nails above my head, and the insulation with nothing to protect me from falling through the ceiling of the next room. But, I am not a stupid person. I am not going to stand suddenly and impale my head on a nail, I am not going to fall through the hole in the floor where I just came up, and I am not going to fall through the ceiling. I am being cautious and I am paying attention, and I am not going to die. I am not going to get hurt. I am okay.

Immediately, the anxiety started to ebb away. It was resistant at first, because I am challenging a neural pathway that is strong and thriving – and that I created. But, repeating this mantra created a new neural pathway – one that did not have to feel anxiety because I became self-aware. Once I became self-aware, I could complete my task without my emotions turning into a runaway train because I called them out for what they were – simply feelings that I could control.

I could give you a dozen stories about how this method has helped me. I am sure that most people are self-aware, and they already know how to understand where emotions come from, but I encourage you to take this additional step by saying how you feel rather than what you are. I think you will be surprised at how much better you feel after you call them feelings rather than stating your identity – because that is what your brain thinks you are doing even if you don’t mean to. With the brain, you have to be specific, and it will respond in kind.

In other words, you can do it if you put your mind to it. =)

Anxiety: A Confession


It’s not a secret that I like to write about the things that are on my mind. Right now, anxiety is on the brain. I am aware that I am an anxious person, but I have been living that way my entire life and I have created an existence for myself in spite of that. It’s not the worst kind of handicap a person could have. It could be debilitating, if I allowed it to be, but instead I have worked very hard to make my anxiety work for me instead of rule my existence. Once in a while it gets the best of me and it feels a little like a runaway train of emotion inside my heart.

I am aware that anxiety can be solved, or managed, in many ways. There are lots of pills you can pop to even things out. There is yoga. There is meditation. There is creative outlet. There is reasoning. Thing after thing after thing. At the end of the day, if you are a person suffering from anxiety, then it is a part of who you are. It is not easily changed like hair color. There isn’t a switch to flip off and on.

I don’t know about other people, but there is a part of me that secretly likes it. I don’t know how else to live. It’s scary to think what I might be like if I were more mellow. In my head, nothing would get accomplished. I have found a way to make my anxiety work for me: I get shit done.

I used to be a LOT worse. When I was sixteen, I was invited to a birthday party at a friend’s house. I had never been to his house before, and I felt very anxious about driving to the party on the day of the party and not knowing where it was, dealing with traffic, finding a place to park, and also being late. So, the day before, I drove to his house so that I would know the route. I scoped out parking options. I felt better, safer, in control. Anxiety managed.

As I grew older, I learned that life is a lot more complex than where to park at a birthday party. When you become an adult, you learn that pretty much everything is out of your control. This is very scary for an anxious person, especially one whose anxiety comes from a place of needing to feel in control of her environment and what happens to her. No matter how hard I tried, I couldn’t control anything. I had minor and major wins, and minor and major fails. At the end of it all, at the age of twenty-four, I have finally realized that very little is in my control. Of course this makes me anxious, but it is a low-level anxiety that I mostly ignore.

Once in a while, I do get that runaway train feeling. It often happens when I am outside my comfort zone to begin with, and I feel that things are spinning out of control. I react the same way that any animal reacts when backed into a corner (metaphorically speaking) – we go into fight or flight mode. What I have also learned, over twenty-four years, is that there is absolutely no reason to believe that anything will “be okay”. It probably won’t. It’s very sad, but that is the world I live in.

On the other hand, my need to control things and my anxiety work for me in a lot of ways. I’m the girl who, when laying in bed at night, I fantasize about how I would react to the strangest things. I used to wonder what would happen if the house were on fire. Now, I am sure this is fairly common. But I’m not talking about if the house is on fire. I’m talking every possible scenario I could think of. What if the fire starts in the basement? My sister’s room? My other sister’s room? My room? My parent’s room? The living room? The kitchen?

I would play these out one by one, over and over again, until I memorized how I would react. I would wonder how I would react to seeing a car accident happen right in front of me. What I would do if I walked into my lover’s apartment to see him in bed with another woman. What would happen if I suddenly lost my job.

I’m the girl who packs a suitcase, unpacks it, and then repacks it again. Just to make sure I didn’t forget anything. I triple check to make sure I have everything I need before I leave the house, because I don’t want to be caught without anything. Now, over the years, I have learned to relax a little bit. The reality is that if I forget my chapstick, I can buy more. It’s an inconvenience, but not the end of the world. I can always buy more cigarettes or a lighter.

When I pack to move, I write lists of things in which boxes and label the boxes so when I need something in the new place, I know what box it’s in. This might seem organized to you, but it comes from the anxiety of not knowing where my things are. I think of every possible variable for every possible scenario because if I don’t, a catastrophe will happen.

When I left my marriage, I felt righteous. I was doing the right thing. A few weeks after that, I felt lonely and considered changing my mind. Why, you ask? Well, because at least if I knew what I was in, it wouldn’t be so scary. The idea of letting go of that false sense of security (my abusive relationship) in favor of the unknown was terrifying. At the end of it, the only reason why I stuck by my original decision was because I didn’t want to be a statistic – one more woman too weak to walk away. I knew I wouldn’t be able to explain my decision to stay to ANY rational human being, and I couldn’t stomach it. Sheer stubbornness won out in the end, but definitely not a sense of self-worth. I hate taking credit for this amazing thing I did, leaving my husband, because at the end of the day I was more afraid of caving than I was of being with him. In that scenario, the anxiety over being a statistic beat out the anxiety over leaving what I knew to be safe.

It all comes back to that.

I have tried, so hard, in the past year to try to be a different person. I have done so many things that are so far outside my comfort zone. It may sound silly to a normal human being, but to me it is huge. I am the kind of person that always orders the same thing at a restaurant, because no matter where I go the food pretty much tastes the same. I always order a steak and cheese sub. I know I won’t be disappointed. It’s chopped steak with delicious veggies and cheese! Who can screw that up? I have tried many new things, but under pressure I will almost always revert to type. But wait – there isn’t pressure in ordering at a restaurant. An anxious person will tell you that there is.

For me, just about everything I do pushes me outside my comfort zone. If I let my anxiety control my life, I’d probably never leave the house. I would never play in the woods, or try new food, or meet new people. I would miss out on so many opportunities! As much as I love trying new things, it can sometimes be physically uncomfortable for me to do them. I don’t feel in control, so in my head, the worst is about to happen. It almost never does, but sometimes it does. A handful of times damn near the worst thing that could happen, did happen, and as a result I have a deep mistrust of the system we call life.

On the plus side, every time I try something new and it doesn’t even in catastrophic failure, I regain some of that trust in the life-system. I think to myself, perhaps I can handle this after all. It sounds so pathetic to type it all out, but this is who I am. For better or for worse, I live with this every day. I can go from confident and breezy to sweaty palms and a dry mouth in a heartbeat. All it takes is to realize how far I have strayed from the “safe road” and into the woods. Anyone who has read The Girl Who Loved Tom Gordon will tell you that you NEVER step off the path, because you will undoubtedly get lost in the woods and almost die.

It’s getting better a little bit at a time. I try to take things in stride, and I try to push myself whenever possible. I have dated, examined my relationship with myself and certain types of men, modeled in the nude, started a new job and learned a complete new skill set, re-built relationships with family members, and tried new hobbies. I have canoed and hiked and wandered through the woods… and didn’t get lost or die. Despite my anxiety, I have learned that I can do all kinds of stuff if I just try to set it all aside and push through.

More important than ALL of that – I own this. I own this about myself. I don’t take medication because I believe in holistic healing, and I try to love myself no matter what flaws others may think I have. This one piece – loving myself – is the biggest part of all. I don’t know about the other anxious people out there, but it seems to me that if you have anxiety, feeling bad about it goes right along with it. It’s embarrassing to admit, especially to someone who doesn’t seem to have this kind of problem, and they always have so many helpful things to say. Read: sarcasm. In the end, we are conditioned to feel sub-par because we are afraid.

I could very easily challenge that statement by pointing out that no one ever died of an extreme sport accident because they were too busy being a shut-in because they were afraid, but then the opposite side to that coin is that most shut-ins miss out on the beauty that is the world. Just because I am afraid of it doesn’t mean I won’t do it, but I really prefer to do things my way. Why? Oh, because that’s the only way I know how to go outside my comfort zone. I typically do things in baby steps, at a super slow pace, and I make sure that I have a comprehensive understanding of what is going to happen along the way.

I have no idea what “winging it” feels like. Well, I do, but I don’t like it. I’m a planner, I accomplish things, I am methodical and creative. I try. I try so hard. Just because I have this thing doesn’t mean I like it. I am sometimes envious of relaxed people. I don’t even know what that looks like. I’ve been relaxed, sure, but only when I feel safest. Nothing interesting happens in your safe place, and you are only reinforcing those neural pathways by repeating them over and over.

That’s a concept in the book Super Brain, by the way. I suggest you read it, no matter who you are. I will tell you that because I have no idea who I will be on the other side of reading that book, I am resisting reading it. But, someone I respect and value suggested it, and it would be a good exercise for me to just read the damn thing already. I’ve gotten through the first chapter or two and I just hate it so far. It’s a reminder of every facet of my personality that I wish I could change but don’t know how. Read: don’t really want to, it’s safer to stay how I am because I am used to it. But, the exercises are very simple and the world isn’t going to implode if I try something new.

I guess… this is the only person I know how to be. I am not particularly fond of it, but I have come a long way and I can live with the low-level current I maintain at all times. But, as my father says….

Any time spent unhappy is wasted time.

Want vs. Should


When we make decisions for ourselves, why do we make those decisions? Whether it be something small – like what we have for lunch – or something big – like what we want to do for a living – we have to ask ourselves: why am I making this decision?

I, like most people, have wants. My personality is like a small child – I chase the shiny things. When the object I am chasing no longer appears shiny, or offers me no value, I tire of it and move onto something else. This is fine if you are pursuing a hobby or looking for a television show to watch, but it is not ideal for major life choices (or relationships, for that matter).

When I made the decision to go to nursing school, it was for a variety of reasons. A high-paying job, the opportunity to help people, a flexible schedule for my family, room for growth in my career, etc. But, there was another piece that I am realizing was a major mistake: it seemed like a safe bet, a thing that met my needs and would be a “grownup” decision, something I should do.

I am now realizing that should is quite possibly my least favorite word in the universe.

“Should” has nothing to do with the self, it has everything to do with external pressures. Yes, we do put these external pressures on ourselves, but they also come from years and years of a structured society. Don’t paint outside the lines – we are taught that in kindergarten when working on our fine motor skills. We shouldn’t stay up too late, we shouldn’t eat that cupcake (it’ll go straight to our thighs, right?), and we shouldn’t have promiscuous sex. I can’t speak for other people, but every time I make a decision I think to myself, What should I do? Not what do I want to do, but what should I do?

Some of this comes from not wanting to be judged, some of it comes from behaving in a way that I deem morally sound, and some it comes from my wish to be a “responsible adult with good judgement”. That last piece – good judgement – is especially important to me, because I have a track record for making poor judgement calls. I always pick the wrong guy (present partner excluded) and I always spend money without really thinking about the future. I tend to rely on emotion rather than rational thought in my decision-making process, and I tend to make really bad judgement calls under pressure.

Naturally, every decision has consequences – cause and effect. These consequences may not always be negative, but there will always be something that happens from a decision made. When I look at my life thus far, aware that in under a year I will be 25, I can very clearly see the results of terrible decision-making. The one that has had the most impact on my recently would be, of course, marrying the wrong guy.

I used to say that it wasn’t a mistake and that I wouldn’t take it back, but that’s just not true anymore. It was absolutely a mistake. I don’t say this to be hurtful or hateful, but I do realize that it was a huge judgement error. It was so evident that we were not meant for each other from the get-go – had I been paying attention to that instead of the aching loneliness, I would have ended that relationship inside of the first three months. Instead, the relationship lasted four years and ended in divorce. Even taking the events that led to the divorce out of the equation, we were never going to be happy. We were just too different. Since then, I like to think I have a better understanding of my own wants and needs and can make smarter choices when it comes to a partner. I like to think I can tell pretty quickly if someone is a good match for me – on a logical level rather than an emotional one – and so I feel confident in that area.

Relationships are unique because the blinding emotional passion one person feels for another cannot sustain it – there has to be a friendship underneath all of that. There has to be communication and trust and compatibility. Making logical decisions in my love life, I have found, actually creates passion that can last. The burning-hot feeling you get when you first meet someone can fizzle out after a few dates or a few weeks, but to build something strong from the ground up creates a fire that burns for a long time. Think striking a match versus building a solid group of coals. Everyone knows that a match burns out quickly, but it burns hot and bright. Coals take more time and patience, but that shit will burn all night long.

Anyway, when it comes to making a decision about my life plan – as much as I can, anyway – I have found myself approaching it with the same (almost cold) logical thinking. Take the passion out of it, Kyrston. Take out the immediate wants and needs, because your entire life has been a series of unfortunate events from that way of thinking. Unfortunately, I have gone from one spectrum to the other. I picked the thing that I wanted to pour myself into – my relationship – and it completely fell apart. I mean, it fell apart that there was no possible way it could have been repaired. Shattered, irrevocably. The idea of pouring myself into anything like that makes my skin crawl.

Something has been gnawing at my conscience the past few weeks and I couldn’t figure out what it was. I felt… a growing dissatisfaction with everything, and I didn’t know how to make it stop. I had lunch with my mom and she explained what she so clearly saw and I could not see – that I got burned and I don’t want to go anywhere near the flame again. There is nothing in my life that I pour myself into, and that is so unlike me – the child that chases the shiny things – and she said it was alarming.

I gave this some thought, and talked it over with my boyfriend, and he immediately said to me “Oh yeah, you’re a fair-weather person.”

This shocked me. I would never describe myself as “fair-weather”. I abhor those kinds of people, the ones that are only around when things are going fine and bail when it gets real. I typically sink neck-deep into whatever I am doing. Unfortunately, I also sink farther than that most of the time – with terrible results. For right now, I’m being described as being ankle-deep in just about everything, and prepared to hop out at a moment’s notice. No wonder I feel so miserable!

Now, don’t get me wrong, I’m perfectly happy. I enjoy my job, I love my boyfriend and our relationship, I love my friends and family, and I am really enjoying school. But, at the same time, I really feel a lack of direction. I realized that I made the decision to go to nursing school based on shoulds and not based on wants and it pissed me off. I said to myself – fuck that. I’m not doing something I don’t want to do.

But what do I want to do? I have no idea, and that’s the problem.

I had a conversation with a friend of mine about it, and she asked me what I like to do. Well, shit, where do I start? I like all kinds of stuff. Shiny things, remember? But, at the same time, I am quick to explain why I shouldn’t do any of those things. Fair-weather all over again.

I like to fix broken things. Broken people, mostly. I like listening to people and helping them understand themselves or offering some piece of guidance that may help. A fresh perspective. I’m not saying I have all the answers, but it’s pretty likely that you already do and you just need to be told that you do. So, psychology, right? Motivational speaker? Life-coach? Well, I’ve considered that about a billion times. The list of reasons why I shouldn’t is impressive, but I will spare you all of them because it’s all bullshit.

I like to teach people. It makes me feel good to help someone else learn something – especially if it is something they think they will NEVER figure out. They feel pride in themselves once they have learned, and I feel pride in them, and I feel pride in myself for helping someone learn something. For having an impact. So, trainer? Teacher? Yes, I’ve considered those too. About a billion times. Again, I will spare you the bullshit list.

I like to be in charge, but I don’t want to manage people. I don’t really like to be in charge of other people, but I like to be in charge of how to do something. I like to boss people around, but I don’t want the responsibility of a group of human beings. I completely understand that I sound like a brat, but that’s just how I feel. I like leadership roles.

I like to take care of people. I like to provide for them. I have a nurturing spirit. I don’t know if I was born this way or taught to be this way, but I have always been this way. As a small child, I would take care of my little sister to help my parents. I would feed her and play with her and make sure she was safe. As an adult, I like to do things for people. I like to cook them dinner, or clean their cars and apartments, and give them hugs and kisses. So – parent, wife.

Parent. That’s the real crux of it all. I know that I am intelligent, and I know that I am talented, but every time someone I know gets pregnant, I am so jealous. Not jealous in a hateful way, but sad. I ask myself – when will it be my turn to have a family of my own? I am trying to be patient, and make choices that will benefit my family, but it feels like a waste to not have a husband to take care of and children to raise. I don’t know why I feel this way. I don’t exactly feel empty without it, but I feel like it’s the only thing that matters to me. It’s the only thing that has consistently mattered my entire life.

I didn’t go to culinary school because I didn’t want to have a career that negatively impacted my future children, which is a pretty heavy thing for a high school graduate to be thinking about. I got married because I wanted a husband and a family. I was even trying to get pregnant when most people would say that I had no business doing so. I would spend time with my friends that had kids because I liked playing with their kids, but there was always this twinge of sadness that I was only playing pretend – they weren’t my kids to love like that.

So why don’t I just do that already, you ask? Well, because I shouldn’t. I should finish school and be settled in a stable job and have a secure financial status and own a home before I start a family. I should be more of a grownup. I should take all of this intelligence and potential and talent and do something with it before having a family.

Here is a thought that I commonly have – and please trust me when I tell you that I don’t actually FEEL this way and I do not want to offend anyone – I could be so much more than a “stay at home mom”. Just typing those words – it makes me cry. Because it isn’t true! Being a wife and a mom, and having that be the thing that I pour myself into – there is nothing wrong with that. There is no shame, nothing to be embarrassed of. It’s freeing to say it and own it, but at the same time I am secretly wondering what people will think, and I hate that I even have these thoughts at all!

This is the problem. We live in a society where women have been downtrodden all their lives and there has been so much movement to create equality in the workplace and in society. Many women before me have worked their asses off so that I may do more with my existence than keep a home and make babies. But, what if that’s the thing I’m not only really good at, but the thing I really want? How do I un-learn this socially-created mindset? How can I say, with pride, that I want to put having a family first and the rest will sort itself out? I don’t really want to live my life based on shoulds or what people will think of me, but I certainly don’t want anyone to think “Wow, what a waste of potential. What a shame. She could have accomplished so much more than just being a mom.”

There is not such thing as just being a mom. It takes work and patience and kindness and generosity of spirit. To have a child is to create a human life and shape it into the person that will go out into the world and do things that really matter. My parents created me, and here I am, a free-thinker and an independent human being with so much to give. It doesn’t matter that they had kids “too young” or any of the bullshit that people may have said about them twenty years ago. Look at what they made! I’m a rock star! What can be more valuable that creating another rock star that can go out and change the world?

Do I want to quit school right this minute and make a baby? No, I can be a little more patient than that. Do I want to wait five more years? Oh god, the concept of it just makes my stomach hurt. Actually, I think I am intelligent and talented enough to do both. There is certainly a long line of women in my family that did both, and they are all successful. But, enough already. Every decision I make – including the one to go back to school – it’s all about getting to that point. I am enjoying my kid-free life, but I’m just killing time until I can have kids. It’s frustrating as hell and feels like false. Both my parents have said to me – if that’s what really matters, then do it. But, at the same time, I feel that external pressure of shoulds to go to school and get a great job and be more stable. In reality, since the dawn of human existence we have been making more human beings with what we’ve got. Personally, I don’t think it matters whether you have a million bucks or your dirt poor. I think it matters who you are and how you want to impact the world. In just the way that you can donate thousands of dollars to your community kitchen if you are rich, you can also donate your time if you are poor and have just as much of an impact. Who gets to decide how we live our lives, and who put them in charge?

I really have to wrap this up – because I have to take a shower and get to school – but I will leave you with this. I just spurted out the result of a crisis of conscience, if you will, and this is the take-away: there is should and there is want and every decision has a consequence. My advice for myself, and others, is that we should try to live the lives we want to live – as much as we possibly can. We should not make choices based on how we think we should live, only how we want to live. We should chase the shiny things, immerse ourselves in our passions, and let our hearts lead the way. We are a resilient species and we will always be okay… but don’t live your life for someone else. It’s like the gray-scale version of what your life could be. Life a life of color… and you will truly be at peace with yourself.

FoC Project – First Foray

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So far my new flow on consciousness project is going great! I went to Michael’s and spent about forty-five minutes in the painting aisle to try to figure out what I wanted to get. I have no idea what any of these things are for – except that I’m pretty sure the brush is the thing you hold and the paint is what goes on the… canvas? Yeah. That’s the extent of my knowledge.

I knew I had a few options for kind of paint, and I knew I did not want to do watercolor. I am not really a fan. I wanted something thick that produced vivid color. I picked up some guide and it explained the different types of paint. I decided to go with Acrylic because it is water-soluble – seemed like a safe bet for a beginner. There were a hundred different tubes of color and I felt completely lost. I then noticed a “starter kit” and took a loot. It included a few paper boards to paint on, six different tubes of acrylic color, a set of brushes, some paint knives, and an easel. After much deliberation I decided to get it because it was a great value. I also picked up another more complete set of brushes that were on sale.

I came home and set everything up. Check it out:


So, I went about trying to mix some color. I know nothing about mixing color, except from the Barney song… when you mix red and yellow you get purple! Love that song. I mixed some red and blue… and got this really weird dark brownish mauve color. Not the results I was expecting. (The art teacher that runs a figuring drawing workshop where I model explained this to me. If the red is a warm tone and the blue is a cold tone, it will produce mauve. Similar if it is a cool red and warm blue. They have to be the same temperature to get purple.)

Nevertheless, I went about making some random strokes on the page. I liked the fan brush a lot, and I was able to create these streaks and blotches of color. Then I realized I liked it when they all went straight and perpendicular to one another. So, I went about doing this over and over again in layers with different colors. I continued to experiment with what color combinations produced what results… after the red/blue fiasco I figured I couldn’t guarantee that yellow and red make orange.

At the end I painted a big question mark, mostly because I thought it would be interesting but also so I could see how I did with painting in a straight line or at least a purposeful on. That takes more patience and a steady hand… can’t hurry. Gotta be gentle. At least I do, but then again I tend to do everything with too much force.


Interestingly enough, this background reminds me a lot of a couch I used to have. I didn’t realize that was what I painted until it was done. Strange. Oh – and I was listening to the Yo Yo Ma Pandora station.

After that, I switched up the music to a Habib Koite Pandora station – a funky mix of African songs. I started with what I wanted to be pink but came out kind of salmon (just from red and white, sheesh) and a light orange color. After that, I painted some triangles because I wanted to see how my shapes looked. Man – corners are difficult! Perhaps I am doing it all wrong, but you can’t get sharp corners drawing like you would with a pencil. After the triangles, I wanted triangles around those triangles. Then I drew some red raindrops, but those didn’t look much like raindrops so I made them into bombs. After that I did some of the previous technique with the fan brush in black across the front. Last, I wrote tell me to see how my writing looked (not great) and also for a dark element. Here’s the final product:



Then, this morning, I wanted to paint some more. This time I painted a landscape – green spiky grass and a silly-looking tree and a blue sky that faded into night at the top of the canvas with some stretchy blue clouds. Then, I tried to make a sunset and destroyed it. So, I just dipped my brush in water and swirled it all around the canvas. All the paint watered down slightly and blended together, making an interesting color. After that, I just played around with brush strokes on the page. I experimented with a lot of amounts of paint and different kind of strokes. Layers and layers of different lines. This is what it looked like when I finished painting:



I really love the parts where the paint is thicker and creates a textured look. I think I may pick up some thicker paint or spackle and play around with texturizing either before I paint or while I am painting. Unfortunately, the finished product is not at all like when it was wet. I think this must be because this paint is listed as either opaque or translucent… and the translucent paint behaves that way because when the water evaporates there is not as much pigment. I think. Anyway, when I came home a few hours later, this is what it looked like:



Needless to say that is not what I wanted. Perhaps I will also experiment with painting similar designs on top of it now that it is dry. Maybe that is the trick.

So, I am looking forward to lots of experimentation. Different materials – different kinds of paint – etc. I am actually thinking watercolors might not be so bad. I am also seeing paintings for technique and style. I wonder – what if I covered a canvas with different lines of masking tape and then colored inside the part of the canvas without tape on it? What a cool way to get different lines and bizarre shapes! I’d also love to try blending the paint directly on the canvas as opposed to on the mixing tray. I bet I could get some cool designs that way!

Very excited about this new creative experience!