International Women's Day 2016!

Lovelies! Today is International Women's Day! 108 years ago, 15,000 women marched through New York City demanding shorter hours, better pay and voting rights. To commemorate this activism, National Women's Day spread through the country, and in 1910 it became International Women's Day at a Summit in Copenhagen. Read here for more amazing history.

InternationalWomensDay-landscape

As I read through the history, and the calls to action for this year's theme: #PledgeforParity, tears rush to my eyes. I think about my own personal history: my sisters, my friends, Bryn Mawr, even my childhood AmericanGirl magazines. I think about how I just bought a house. I think about how goddamn lucky I am to be born the person that I am. I am a white, educated, well off American. Yes there was hard work, but mostly, a tremendous amount of luck. I think about how to use these privileges. I've been poised in society in a position of power. So it's my responsibility to use that power to make a difference. To speak and know that I'll be heard on issues of the less privileged. To shut up and listen to activists from those groups. To use my checkbook and give money.  To use my home to host events. To further the justice quotient in our world.

I've got a tattoo on my back that's big and not very elegant. It's a lantern surrounded by roses, all wreathed in two sheaves of wheat. It was the first I ever got. My sister Sarah and I walked up and down South Street in Philadelphia with a mock up and $300 in my pocket. I asked each shop what they'd charge for my design, and said yes to the first dude who said $300. Not the best approach to getting a permanent drawing on my body, but I still love the fervor and passion I had.

This tattoo, which will forever be just on the other side of my heart, stands for Bread and Roses. At Bryn Mawr, each of our four holidays is closed with a Step Sing. Yes, nearly grown college women sit on the ground or on the stairs and sing. Lustily, raucously, and tearfully, we sing. Funny parodies of pop songs, old fashioned jabs at Haverford, traditional rondels in Greek, and a short tune dedicated to making a difference.

As we go marching, marching in the beauty of the day, A million darkened kitchens, a thousand mill lofts gray, Are touched with all the radiance that a sudden sun discloses, For the people hear us singing: "Bread and roses! Bread and roses!"

As we go marching, marching, we battle too for men, For they are women's children, and we mother them again. Our lives shall not be sweated from birth until life closes; Hearts starve as well as bodies; give us bread, but give us roses!

As we go marching, marching, unnumbered women dead Go crying through our singing their ancient cry for bread. Small art and love and beauty their drudging spirits knew. Yes, it is bread we fight for—but we fight for roses, too!

As we go marching, marching, we bring the greater days. The rising of the women means the rising of the race. No more the drudge and idler—ten that toil where one reposes, But a sharing of life's glories: Bread and roses! Bread and roses!

~~ here's a video of the '07 graduates signing it at graduation

This song is a call for the just distribution of resources yes, but also a call for just distribution of beauty and joy. Too many people are worn down in the hard grind of surviving, especially women and girls. It's a call for nolite te bastardes carborundorum. A call for parity. And I, in my relative privileged security, am bound to fight for the roses.

So, every day, I try. Try to smile and listen. To hug. To treat others like full beings. To advocate. I also try to remember I can't do it alone. So I surround myself with gloriously mad formidable women. The women who have been in my life in the past and are in my life now are some of my dearest relationships. More important to me than past loves, most of my family, and certainly more important than professional contacts. My girl gang. So happy day dearests. Love you all!

"Tracks" & "Wild": the Search for our Inner Wild Woman

This weekend, I watched 'Tracks', and besides recommending that everyone see it, I wanted to talk about the fascination these stories hold. Stories like Tracks, like Wild by Cheryl Strayed. These women walk on, stripped down, bare boned, independently braving the unknown. Is it because they aren't living in fear, or that they're rejecting society's expectations? That they're choosing to plunge into deep psychological introspection through grueling physical demands? The fascination of the hermit paired with the rejection of gender norms? It's the wild woman/high priestess archetype via popular culture.

Tracks (based on the memoir by Robyn Davidson of the same name), is the story of an Australian woman who, in 1977, walked 1700 miles across western Australia, from Alice Springs to the Indian Ocean, with only four camels and her dog. It also shows her relationship with Rick Smolan, a National Geographic photographer. Rick joined her occasionally to photograph her for the magazine, which she grudgingly allowed to sponsor her.  The photographs and attending article (which she wrote) were published in the May 1978 edition, and were wildly popular. The film and the memoir share the challenges, excitement, stress and solitude she encountered on the way, as well as the realizations she came to while walking.

Robyn and Cheryl Strayed's refusal to give into fear has huge appeal for me. Mostly because I can be so afraid. Every time I come home alone to an empty house, I do a 'sweep'. I leave my shoes on, and go to room to room, (ESPECIALLY behind the shower curtain) checking to see if 'someone is hiding'. But seriously? Why. Even right now. There's definitely some kind of animal in my ceiling, and I keep jumping and having little heart palpitations with each noise I hear. Even thought I KNOW it's just a critter. There is a not a man hiding in my water heater closet with a knife. I know that I'm probably not the only woman (or just regular person) who feels like this and does this home check. But why do I feel this compulsion and fear? How wonderful it would feel to let go of those fears.

Granted, both Tracks and Wild feature blond, educated, white women, women who have the luxury of rejecting cultural fear and gender norms without the threat of reprisal or censure. In fact, there are hundreds of modern nomadic cultures where journeys of this kind (hundreds or even thousands of miles on foot or with pack animals) are standard and normalized. We don't make movies about Tuareg women, and Oprah doesn't recommend books about Romani women. There's a well of legitimate critique of these journeys being cultural appropriation. Excitingly, Tracks was aware of its roots in the Aboriginal walkabout, as the filmmakers honored Robyn Davidson's intentions. A cultural and feminist activist, Robyn writes passionately about advocacy for Australian Aboriginals. The movie shows this advocacy, as when Rick Smolan is shown to invade a secret death ritual to surreptitiously take photos, we're invited to judge his inappropriateness, and Robyn's stilted (and at times romantic) relationship with Rick is sharply contrasted with her easy and peaceful time spent with Mister Eddie, the Aboriginal elder Robyn walks with for a stretch.

Beyond their whiteness (if that's possible), there's a far deeper rejection of gendered norms. In the book Tracks, Davidson writes

"I liked myself this way, it was such a relief to be free of disguises and prettiness and attractiveness. Above all that horrible, false, debilitating attractiveness that women hide behind. I puled my hat down over my ears so that they stuck out beneath it. 'I must remember this whn I get back. I must not fall into that trap again.' I must let people see me as I am. Like this? Yes, why not like this."

In the movie, they show her rejecting this attractiveness: her face covered in dirt, body sun burnt and raw, hair wild and rank. Even the nudity is less of a titillation, and more of a rejection of the very need for clothes. This is drawn from true life, as Rick Smolan says in a recent National Geographic article

"“I got in huge trouble with the Geographic because you weren’t supposed to develop your own film,” he continued. “But one of the challenges was that she didn’t wear clothes a lot and I didn’t want to send pictures of her naked.”"

This control is telling in its own way, as it was Rick imposing gender roles on her, kindhearted the impulse may have been. He even recognizes that, going on to say that

"“I used to develop the film myself in Sydney or Melbourne to show her. And the more beautiful I made her look the more she hated them,” Smolan says. “You made me look like a goddamn model,” she told him."

But beyond the rejection of beauty norms, I think we're drawn to these stories of women alone on journeys of the spirit, because traditionally, it's men. The Native American spirit walk, the 30 days in the Sinai desert, Chris McCandless, the Aboriginal walkabout, all men. Even the Appalachian Trail Convservancy, the preservation and management body for the Appalachian Trail (a relatively accessible 2,000 mile walk along the spine of the Appalachian Mountains from Georgia to Maine) says that only 25% of their finishing 'thru hikers' are women. Long-distance, solo female travel is rare enough that organizations exist to facilitate and help women in their journeys: She's Wanderful says "The power of the Wanderful network is in our ability to bring women travelers together around the world and to create a space where we can help each other travel confidently, safely, and passionately (and to have an outstanding time while doing it)." Organizations like this don't really exist for men, because there isn't a need for it.

In her interview of Cheryl Strayed and review of Wild, Kathryn Schultz writes,

Granted, men, too, sometimes seek out extreme environments in response to psychic wounds, in life as well as in literature. But for them, the wound is optional; men are free to undertake an adventure without needing trauma (or anything else) to legitimize it. By contrast, a woman’s decision to detach herself from conventional society always requires justification. Women can, of course, go out exploring for pleasure or work or intellectual curiosity or the good of humanity or just for the hell of it — but we can’t count to ten before someone asks if we miss our family, or accuses us of abandoning our domestic obligations.

In Tracks, as in Wild, the women dramatically forgo those domestic obligations. Siblings, parents, friends, are all left behind as they strike out on their own. They become the Wild Woman and the High Priestess; archetypes of instinct, ferocity, and introspection. Qualities that I strive to embody and that lie at the heart of empowerment. To trust yourself deeply, to have confidence in your own strength and protect those that depend upon you, and to dive deep into your own heart and spirit. To truly know yourself and have the power to back up your knowledge. These are the tenets of empowerment, and these are what I hope to bring at least a little of, to each woman who attends one of my events.

Know yourself, trust yourself, love yourself. These are the dreams of my heart.

From left: Strength card from the Labyrinth Tarot, The Hermit from the Tarot of Reflections, and The High Priestess from The Fountain Tarot

So feel your boldness, reject the need for 'pretty', and strike out on your own road. I can't wait to see which path you end up taking.

love,

ktk

The Release of a New Decade, and Our Next Event!

I turned 30 years old on Saturday, and I feel different. You folks already in your 30's (or 40's or 50's) will probably chuckle, but I do. Fall has always brought me a sense of a new year - new school season, colder air harboring changes, and the strongest of our modern American rituals: the birthday. It all comes together to bring this feeling of newness. And 30. A whole new decade. So at a family birthday gathering on Friday night, I asked everyone over 30 to talk about about what their entry into my new decade was like. I'd hoped for a tidy little theme (big surprise), but they were all over the board. For some, turning 30 was a year of struggles, and for others it was ease. Clarity and confusion. Stability and changes. Each person had their own path through that year. So I've decided to figure out how I feel on my own.

30 year old selfie

Because this fall feeling has a different quality than normal. As well as the newness (new opportunities, new commitments, new plans), I feel release. That this year's word theme of 'enrich' is coming to an end. That these last two months, the microbes broke down the matter, and the compost pile got HOT. Activity and friction and changes. I have a sense that the 'breaking down' has ended and I'm left with lovely dark crumbly soil ready for planting. And there is so much comfort and confidence in that.

Asia from One Willow Apothecaries has a gorgeous blog post that really fits how I'm feeling,

 When we let go of everything that is ready to decompose, we make space inside of ourselves for newness to be born. Dying has never been a finale, it is only a brilliant bridge to a new section of life. Like compost turned to rich and seed-ready soil, dying prepares us for a new phase of living itself. Though our smaller selves might dissolve, dying has never been an ending at all. It is, instead, an ecstatic transformation into a wider self. ...

Now is the time. In the knobbed hands of the wind, the antique scent of dried leaves and the warm cinnamon feeling of fire in the trees. Now is the time to let the dying enter you as clean and beautiful as the stone that was forgotten and then exposed in the wheat gold of fading weeds. Allow in the beautiful melancholia and heart-throbbing abundance of life itself. Let every day end like a cello on its last note. And relish. Relish, relish this season of profundity and release. Because, despite what we have grown to fear, dying is a beautiful thing. For then, we can rest. For then, we can embrace the unbelievable joy of what comes next.

I feel like a big chunk of my self guilt and insecurities have fallen away. I know that I still have my worries - I will always be a serious person. But, this morning, I feel so much more ... solidly me. I spent my twenties figuring out what I wanted to do and who I wanted to be, and now I feel like I know what I want to do and who I want to be. To bring folks into community, to let them realize "it's not just me", to hear their laughter and witness their care for each other. To be a carer.

On that, I'd like to announce our next event for A Road of Your Own: a journaling workshop! Join A Road of Your Own and your peers on November 21st, 2015, at 11:00am to develop a journaling practice that works for you! We'll discuss daily or weekly journal strategies, practicalities of when and where you can write, prepare our own journals, get compelling and interesting prompts, and get writing! A journal is included in registration if you don't have your own. Lunch will also be provided. Click the banner below to register! Look forward to seeing you all there!

You Can Write

Tackling Self Confidence - The Impostor Phenomenon

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Two weeks ago, I asked each of you to complete a poll about what topic you were most interested in for future events, worksheets, blog posts etc. The results rolled in, and the big winner is:

[polldaddy poll=9021746]

Self Confidence and Self Advocacy!

The risk of reaching out and asking for feedback, is that the one thing that you're most vulnerable about, might take the cake. And look what happened! One of the biggest things that I struggle with got 40% of the votes. Looks like it's time to take the plunge and be vulnerable.

What I'd like to talk about today is 'The Impostor Syndrome/Phenomenon'.  It's feeling like a fraud, like sooner or later people are going to 'find out' that you don't really belong in your job or graduate program or skill set. That you're only pretending to be competent, smart, or successful.

About the Impostor Phenomenon

It was first described in the 1970's by psychologists Suzanne Imes, PhD, and Pauline Rose Clance, PhD. In the original paper, published in Psychotherapy Theory, Research and Practice Volume 15, #3, Fall 1978, they write:

The term impostor phenomenon is used to designate an internal experience of intellectual phonies, which appears to be particularly prevalent and intense among a select sample of high achieving women.* Certain early family dynamics and later introjection of societal sex-role stereotyping appear to contribute significantly to the development of the impostor phenomenon. Despite outstanding academic and professional accomplishments, women who experience the impostor phenomenon persist in believing that they are really not bright and have fooled anyone who thinks otherwise. [my emphasis]

This phenomenon plagues successful/high achieving women, and is particularly rampant among women of color (WoC). Even Maya Angelou said "I have written eleven books, but each time I think, 'uh oh, they’re going to find out now. I’ve run a game on everybody, and they’re going to find me out.'"

I have felt this in my professional adult life at an alarming rate. At work, when I get promotions or raises and here on A Road of Your Own. Even writing this own post I've questioned myself. Who am I to speak authoritatively on this? All my readers will recognize I'm a fraud. I literally gasped aloud when I read the following in an article published in the American Psychological Association publication "GradPSYCH Magazine" in 2013:

The impostor phenomenon and perfectionism often go hand in hand. So-called impostors think every task they tackle has to be done perfectly, and they rarely ask for help ... An impostor may procrastinate, putting off an assignment out of fear that he or she won't be able to complete it to the necessary high standards.

Whoa there inner thoughts. What are you doing standing on that page, shouting your truth?! That's one of our secrets! You climb off that webpage and sit back in my brain where you belong, right now! 

Except, it can't be a secret. Because as author Kristen Weir continues in the GradPSYCH article:

Though the impostor phenomenon isn't an official diagnosis listed in the DSM, psychologists and others acknowledge that it is a very real and specific form of intellectual self-doubt. Impostor feelings are generally accompanied by anxiety and, often, depression.

By definition, most people with impostor feelings suffer in silence, says Imes, a clinical psychologist in private practice in Georgia. "Most people don't talk about it. Part of the experience is that they're afraid they're going to be found out," she says. Yet the experience is not uncommon, she adds.

We need to raise our hands, and say "I feel like this. A lot." Because I'm sure a very large proportion of my readers do feel like this. Because silence only hurts us, and makes us believe that it's 'just me'. Because I feel like this. A lot.

My anxious face

Let me tell you a story:

Once upon a time there was a young woman who had a very important project. She was going to fix the town clock. It had so many different moving pieces and everyone used it. She had found the perfect clock makers to help, and everyone in the town was very impressed, and they gave the woman a very heavy purse of gold. But, it hadn't been very hard to find the clock makers - it felt like luck instead of work. The young woman knew how important this job was, so she scheduled the clock makers first set of visits. They came, saw the clock, talked to everyone who used the clock, and came back with a long list of what needed to change and be fixed. "Hooray!" thought the young woman, "A plan! I will prove that I deserve my gold by fixing the clock!"

But the young woman looked at the list and became afraid. "There's so much on here. How can I get all of this done? I won't be able to do this like the company needs - I won't be able to do this perfectly." She had been told over and over again that she was great. That was who she was. What if she wasn't great fixing the clock? She began to avoid the list. "I can't make this just right today. I'll try tomorrow." she would say. The days moved on, the clock was still broken, and the plan became more and more frightening. The young woman would berate herself "Everyone will find out that I haven't fixed the clock! I MUST fix the clock now!", but it did no good. She would ignore the list, pushing it further and further down her daily schedule. "I just can't make it perfect right now. Maybe tomorrow."

One day, the mayor of the town spoke to her "Young Woman! The clock is still broken! We trust you and need this clock to work. You must make the clock makers focus and help us!". She tried to pressure the clock makers, but the young woman was ashamed that the mayor thought the problem was with them and not her. "She will find out it's me, and everyone will know that I don't know how to fix clocks by myself". More days went by the and clock was a little better, but wasn't fixed all the way. There were still so many moving pieces, it was such a puzzle! The young woman still looked at the list with dread, and tried to focus on other, simpler tasks.

Finally, the mayor returned and said "Young Woman. I have realized what is happening." The young woman trembled with fear. "She will tell me that she knows I am a failure and a fraud." thought the young woman. But instead, the mayor exclaimed "I have realized that you have no help! You have tried to fix this very complicated clock all by yourself - and NO ONE could fix it all on their own! Young Woman, you have put too much pressure on yourself, let us help you." "I don't have to do this alone?" thought the young woman. "But I am In Charge of the clock! Doesn't that mean I have to do the work?" As soon as she asked herself that question, she realized the answer was no. She didn't have to fix the clock all on her own. It was ok, in fact it was expected, that other people help. So she agreed, and the mayor introduced the young woman to three helpers. They talked, shared the list, and after a few months of hard, but communal, work the clock was fixed, and the town was happy.

The end.

Obviously, this is about me. Sub the clock for the complex property management database software my company uses, and there's the situation I was in at the beginning of this year. My impostor beliefs had shackled me into thinking I was solely responsible for our system overhaul and the results, and the ensuing procrastination had slowly eroded my credibility at work. Sharing the load and letting others in helped enormously.

Much happier!

Implications/Sources

A lot of the impostor syndrome comes from family and education dynamics in the woman's childhood. As written in an article on the CalTech Counseling Center website

"Families can give their child full support to the point where the family and girl believe that she is superior or perfect.  As the girl grows up and encounters challenging tasks, she may begin to doubt her parent's perceptions and may also need to hide her difficulties in order not to disturb the family image of her.  As a result of these normal difficulties, this girl may come to believe that she is only average and even below average."

I'd also throw in Gifted & Talented programs in the mix too. Not to say that if you feel these impostor feelings, you need to go shake your finger at your folks while shouting "You ruined me!" Because another contributing factor? That nobody really knows "how to be a good adult". We're all pretty much just winging it as we go along. And the high achievers in the world are winging it even more. Which is scary as hell.

But I believe there's a more hidden reason too. It's particularly telling that women, and especially WoC, are exponentially vulnerable to the impostor phenomenon. That makes my inner alarms ring the 'Patriarchy BS is Afoot' alert like crazy. (It sounds like this fyi). Because if you live in a culture where your professional success is subtly (and not so subtly) devalued, you're going to subconsciously believe/fear that you're a fraud. That everything you've achieved is luck, instead of your own hard work. The culture that tells young girls that they are special beautiful princess snowflakes, watches them smack up against difficulties, and pats them on the head and says "Aw sweetheart, well at least you tried. There there."

Dealing with Impostor Feelings

The CalTech article has amazing suggestions on how to deal with your own impostor phenomenon.

  • Support and sharing - TALK ABOUT THESE FEELINGS. I'm not alone, and you're not alone.
  • Identify - Know when you're feeling the feelings. Point it out and say "I SEE YOU FEELINGS"
  • Be aware of and respond to your automatic thoughts - This is EXACTLY what my free self care worksheet is about. It's a spreadsheet I adapted from Feeling Good by Dr. David Burns. In the book, he calls the document a "Daily Record of Dysfunctional Thought". I talked about my first time using the approach here. Since then, I've updated the spreadsheet and used it whenever I started to feel 'off'.

Do you want that worksheet? Click below if you don't already have it!

I Want that button

Good luck out there my dears, remember - you are worth your success. It's not your charm, it's not your family, it's you (and sometimes privilege). Remember that even if something is easy, it doesn't mean it's luck. And even if something is hard, it doesn't mean you can't conquer it.

much love,

ktk

*since then, additional research has shown that men feel this too, but not at the same high rates

An Announcement, A Poll & A Giveaway!

Friends, I'm going to share a secret with you, one that only a few folks know.

I've figured out what I want to do with my long-term career.

This idea has been sitting in my heart for a long time, glowing on and off, scaring me with its intensity, warming me with its truth.

ET with glowing heart

It's scary to share because well, what if people don't like it? Don't get it? This idea is so close to my heart, that I'm very much identifying with it. If they don't like the idea, do they like me? Which, I recognize, isn't a very healthy response. But it's the truth.

So here goes:

I, Katie Kronbergs, am creating an organization that hosts and coordinates empowering events and workshops for women in Austin, Central Texas, and online. Topics would include (but definitely aren't limited to) career/life goals, self awareness, stress management, healthy relationships, finances, body image, and advocating for yourself. Name? A Road of Your Own Events

Through volunteering with GENaustin, I realized there was a huge opportunity to create something similar, but for adult women. This was my jumping off point. My wellness workshop last year really brought it home, and showed me that I could do this successfully AND that there is a huge need for an organization like this. Each event will have expert speakers, concrete takeaways, and a fun and supportive environment. Eventually, I'd love to get a physical event space.

I've already decided on my second event (the Wellness Workshop being the first), taking place this Friday night: Moon Church! The New Moon is a reminder to let go of the past and rebirth your passions, so we'll be gathering this upcoming New Moon for a night of introspection, intention setting, and releasing past pains and stresses. Attendees will be outside in the night air, enjoying exercises, drawing tarot cards, making yummy custom bath salt soaks, burning things, and talking till our hearts are full.

moon church event cover (1)

If you haven't already been invited, and would like to join us, please leave a comment! I will get you the address location asap.

For future events, I want to make sure that I'm offering the kind of workshops that you folks want and need, so please answer the poll below!

[polldaddy poll=9021746]

Finally, as a thank you for voting in the poll and for supporting me in this new endeavor, I want to give one of you an awesome set of goodies: the newest edition of Vagina :: The Zine (Austin based bad ass feminist zine), a postcard of a super tough vintage tattoo lady, Magic Garden: Fantastic Flowers to Color (because coloring is really soothing) and a super cute squirrel pencil sharpener! To win, just leave a comment below. Thank you friends!

giveaway gifts

much love,

ktk

Vanity, Confidence, and the Friday Quote

Hi lovelies. Been hibernating a bit this week, as I was feeling very 'Lumpy' Monday through Wednesday. Worrying about my future, my purpose, career path. Plus, I'll be turning 30 in three months. Which good god, seriously? I feel like I was just recently wearing a jean vest with sunflowers on it and reading about Narnia for the first time. FYI, I also had a jean bucket hat with matching sunflowers. Basically, my 4th grade fashion was on point. But 30? Yikes. I've alternated being excited about it and dreading it. I was putting a lot of pressure on myself, and my fretting was running myself into the ground. But, I recognized what was happening, and practiced some self care on Wednesday evening: phone call with one of my Sisters to talk about her recent birthday, followed by a nice shower, then watched Blue Crush (because I still privately am in 4th grade). That helped to calm me down a fair bit. Yesterday, something had shifted. I felt competent and ready to tackle the world again. I felt bold. A big part of that? Reading through my little collection of text message screenshots from Randall (yes I save the best bits).

photo

I read that and thought Hell yes. I AM those things. Next thought: Oh. I haven't recognized this in me in the past two weeks. That's why I've been feeling so rough. I had forgotten these truths about myself. Because they are true. Yesterday, I remembered. I read some other screen shots, and went through my "bad ass Katie" photo book I had made a few months ago (also a thing that exists). It's pictures of mostly me, with some friends thrown in, when I'm at my strongest or happiest (this one is in it).

Going through past compliments and selfies is, I admit, a little vain. But as Molly Soda said in a recent NPR interview:

"I think a selfie is a really, really positive thing, whether or not its art, it's super positive affirmation of self-love. And taking your photo and putting it on the Internet for the world to see is an act of positivity."

"I don't think there's anything wrong with being a little bit vain. I think we all are," she says.

"When I'm scrolling on my Instagram and I see a photo of a girl that she took of herself and I know she's feeling really good that day about herself, that makes me feel good and that makes me want to photograph myself, and I think it's a chain reaction."  http://www.npr.org/sections/alltechconsidered/2015/07/27/425681152/narcissistic-maybe-but-is-there-more-to-the-art-of-the-selfie

Have a great weekend my dears, look through your own bad ass proof, and remember: you are all formidable as hell!

I (basically) Invented Inside Out + A Free Self Care Worksheet

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This weekend, especially Sunday night, "Pumpkin time" reared it's smoking dragon head. I got all up in my thoughts, questioning the motivations of people close to me, my future goals and my ability to handle challenges. Where are my friends? How come no one's texted me today? Does Randall really *actually* love me? My family's a mess. I'm never going to figure out what I want to do in the future, on and on ad nauseum. As a surprise to no one, this questioning diminished my ability to handle day to day life. There's not much room for laundry or cooking dinners when you're wrapped up in refining your perfect "What is my PLACE & MEANING in this UNIVERSE??!" moan. Mild depression? Extra wild PMS? Too much sugar? Venus all retrograded to hell? It's probably a combination of them all (maybe not that last one). This is part of who I am, and every 3-4 months I have a couple days where things are just ... hard. I don't want to put a value judgement on the fact that these slumps happens. Very rarely is it truly debilitating. Generally, it means that I don't go out to see friends in the afternoon or evenings, eat a little too much, and then get weepy and anxious between 11:00pm and 1:00am. I try to value these times as a reminder from my body and heart to be gentle with myself. I think that these quarterly (or monthly) vulnerability times are important for us to express. Sometimes we just gotta let it out! Unfortunately, our vulnerable times get denigrated like crazy in our culture (read: Patriarchy). Particularly for women. As Anne Figert (Dept Chair of Sociology at Loyola Chicago), says:

"I looked to my PMS archive to see how women and PMS fit together and tried to find some common themes. These themes are at the same time shocking and funny or not shocking and not funny. What did I find? A wide variety of images of women as subject to their raging hormones, engaging in 'abnormal' behaviors, and jokes that portray women as 'bitchy,' 'mean,' and 'illogical."  Figert, Anne E. Women and the Ownership of PMS: The Structuring of a Psychiatric DisorderNew York: Aldine De Gruyter, 1996

You can easily replace PMS with 'depression' or 'mood swings' and get the same results. It's behaviors and attitudes that we've all been trained to look down on. Weakness, low motivation, overeating, crying. Every time, I have to fight back against this ingrained attitude. I'm not 'less than' because I'm feeling shitty today. This is me, right now, and it doesn't mean I'm defective. 

But friends, sometimes 'The Slump' does take over. In early 2014 (my recent lowest point), I had pictured that there were two Katie's: Star Katie - who was bright, bold, and cheery and always threw her arms up in the air (ala star shape) - and Lumpy Katie - a roly poly sad girl who didn't get motivated. Side Note: pretty sure Pixar needs to be paying me royalties.

I was so afraid of when Lumpy Katie would 'take over'. Star Katie was who everyone wanted to be around! Hell, I sure *liked* Star Katie better. Lumpy Katie was vulnerable and slow. Star Katie had ENERGY and IDEAS. The further I divided the two, the more upset I became when Lumpy Katie predominated. Star Katie became a reproach. But you've been her before! Be her now! What's wrong with you?? Predictably, this wasn't a good approach to feeling better and breaking 'The Slump". I needed to bring the two back together. It wasn't two separate identities, it was all just ... me. Slowly and surely, I chipped away at the distinction. How? By loving Lumpy Katie. I pictured her, all sad and flabby, and sent her love. I imagined hugging her, bringing her things, smiling and holding her gently. Valuing her vulnerable input. Result? Happier and shorter slumps! Which again, Pixar, you can send those checks whenever you'd like.

This is something that I am still working on today. I catch myself remembering Lumpy Katie, and have to remind myself to love her. Basic self care helps, a lot. Here's a really good checklist. Showering, hair brushing, sitting outside? All wonderful. But, hands down, the best strategy I have found is a spreadsheet I adapted from Feeling Good by Dr. David Burns. In the book, he calls the document a "Daily Record of Dysfunctional Thought". I talked about my first time using the approach here. Since then, I've updated the spreadsheet and used it whenever I started to feel 'off'.  It reminds me to be gentle to Lumpy and respond to the reproaches with honest yet kind truths.

Now, to you guys. I know more than a few of you have your own "Slump" times.  So, I would really like to share the edited worksheet with you! If it's helped me this much, I hope it will do the same for you. If you'd like to get your own blank copy please click the button below!

Have a great day friends!

ktk

worksheet button

Gear Shifting - Being Honest About the Blog

I was looking through my old posts and found one that made me cringe a bit: Mindfulness Monday in November of 2013. In writing these past couple years, I've realized that a 'how to' tone isn't quite right for A Road of Your Own, not for me and probably not for any of you. There was a forced quality: me trying to be the 'teaching expert'. As a big sister and a generally kind, yet persistent know-it-all, it's an attitude that comes easily. But I'm not an expert on mindfulness or peacefulness. I'm muddling through just like everyone else. I get stressed as f*ck and worried, and eat my way through pints of Ben&Jerry's (WHEN WILL BLUEBELL BE BACK?!). I procrastinate at work and ignore family phone calls and feel like crap while I do it. So why did I think I needed to use that 'I am now giving Advice!' mode? Because I thought that that was what 'real' bloggers did. They say "here's 10 Ways to be a Better Friend", or "5 Strategies towards Peace". I'm sure it gets them a ton of clicks and traffic. But it seems like they're going through the blogging motions without much heart. When I really consider it, the bloggers who impact me the most write about themselves and their own struggles. They don't give tidy tips or list strategies. They say "here's a thing that's happening to me. It's a pain in the ass/it's awesome. Do ya feel me? Let's share together."

I think that's why my 'authenticity' posts always feel strongest, and always get the biggest response. Case in point. These are the posts where I'm actually an expert on what I'm writing about: my own life. I know what I'm going through, experiencing, feeling. I am my own best expert. I sure as hell am not an expert on what I should or ought to be doing, but forget should's and ought to's. I need to be in the now.

derp alert

With that, I'm going to adjust the blog a bit. I'm going to keep moving forward with the "Here's this thing. Ya dig?" format which has resonated so well with myself and all of y'all. I'll still keep the Interviews, and the weekly(ish) link sharing (because I love supporting my ladies), but I'm going to take out the clickbait listicles. Let me know if that's a problem, but I feel like it won't be. I'm really pumped for this change, and excited to see what happens!

much love, ktk

EDIT TO ADD: Whoa. Brain wave. "Authentic Lady Tribe Living". Because that's the best stuff. It's "here's me and this thing." BUT ALSO "and here's how the women in my life are the most rad". Feel pretty awesome about this.

Mid-Year Check In & NYC Photos

Yesterday was the Summer Equinox, and it's got me taking stock of how my life has moved forward this year. When I reviewed my 2014, I noted that this year's theme was "enrich". On the whole, I feel like I've been true to that idea. I've turned and nurtured my soul soil with friends and family, my own internal work, and so much love with my man. We sit and talk for hours about our stressors and relationship, and dreams for the future. It's real, deep and meaningful communication. Our home feels lovely and welcoming; a comfortable place to snuggle down into. He's even helping me learn how to cook! But here's the thing. I still get bogged down in feeling like I haven't accomplished everything that I wanted to by now. Working out, dancing on the regular, writing my novel, sleeping under the stars, gardening.  I've kept putting these things off and off during the past three months. "Oh, I'll start after Randall moves in and get's settled", "...after I get back from my work trip", "...after my ankle feels better", "...after I watch this Netflix episode", "...after I'm back from my vacation." All the while, those intentions are camped out in my brain like big fat pigeons, pecking me with guilt. Procrastination is not a happy campground y'all.

Ought I just strap in, and get it done? Galvanize and go?

But, enriching takes time. Hard pack dirt can take months, years even, to become pliable and healthy soil. I was nowhere near as sealed off as that analogy implies, but it's good to remind myself of the time needed. My 2015 theme wasn't 'action' or 'accomplish', it was 'enrich'. As such, I think I have to give it more time. I can't rush it. I have to dig in with the nutrients and be peaceful with myself. Beautiful things have happened so far, and I know there's more to come.

Anyone else feeling this way about their 2015?

In the meantime though, feel free to check out some of my favorite photos from my trip to NYC to visit my sister - an enriching experience for sure!

A Road of Her Own - Interviews : Anne

It's part two in my semi-regular series: “A Road of Her Own – Interviews”. In this space I’ll be speaking with amazing and interesting women. With each interview, I’ll be following a chain of admiration, as each friend will pick the next person in line. My blog is all about finding your own path, and I want to talk to these women about their “own road”. Check out the first interview with Andrea here.

aroHERo - interview anne

 

My second interviewee is Anne! She is a professional grant writer, fundraiser, travel enthusiast, and peace pursuer. I'm thrilled to share our conversation here.

Katie: Hello Anne! How are you?

Anne: I'm fine, happy to be here!

In my blog, I talk about three things: authenticity, peacefulness, and productivity. Which of those three stands out the most to you? 

Anne: I would definitely say peacefulness, because it's what I'm trying achieve these days!

Of those three, would you say peacefulness is the most challenging? Why is that?

Absolutely. I'm in the midst of a lot of life changes right now, I'm buying a house and planning a wedding. I recognize that these are all very big blessings, but they're also very stressful. I'm trying to let go of control right now, and enjoy the waves of my life more than I have in the past. Trying not to be so anxious! I'm doing a lot of yoga.

That's perfect for my next question! Because when do you feel the most peaceful?

Practicing yoga has really been helpful, I'm trying to do it every single day. Breathing techniques really help too. And I've also taken up needle point! Which is very zen for me. You can just sit in front of a movie and do that, and you're not just in front of a computer.

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What are three words that’d you pick for this time in your life?

I would say Dynamic, Challenging, and Gratitude.

What three would you pick for your focus today?

Today is more about Productivity, Enjoyment (because it's Sunday) and Focus. I'm going on a business trip soon, so I have a lot of things to do!

What was the first book that really affected you? Why?

Well, I remember James and Giant Peach being the first book that I read in one day. I think it took me 8 hours and I just laid on the couch all day and read it. It was the first book that I was obsessively reading and I couldn't put it down. I think was probably 7 or 8. As more of an adult, Kate Chopin's The Awakening was really big for me. It was the first feminist book I had read. I was in high school, and it really blew me away. It was the first story I had read of a woman who took a different and unconventional path. So much of the books that we were assigned growing up were the classics with male protagonists, and [The Awakening] was such a change from the standard women's role. It definitely opened my eyes to a different point of view.

What is a book that you just read or that you're reading that you recommend? Why?

One of my favorite books in the last couple years was Super Sad True Love Story by Gary Shteyngart. I recommend it to pretty much every person I meet. It's a dystopian novel, so funny, and so smart. It really nails it on the head of where our society is going. Our use of technology, our focus on money, looks, and materialism.

What do you listen to when you want to feel unstoppable? Why?

*Laughs* That's a really good question! Music for me is a lot of dream pop and folk, stuff that doesn't really feel unstoppable. But, oh ... Prince! It's hard not to feel amazing when you're listening to Prince.

If you knew you couldn't fail, what would you try to do?

I actually feel very strongly that failure is important, and making mistakes is an incredibly important part of life's journey. One of my life philosophies is to do the thing that scares you, regardless of failure. But, if I knew I couldn't fail, I would probably open up a thrift store! That would be my dream life. Own a thrift store and shop for vintage clothes all day.

What is your goal for 2015?

Be the best partner I can be.

arohero quote 2

This is an imagining question! If your life up to this point was a road, what would it be like, what does it look like?

Very up and down, but going up. Upwards in elevation, and becoming ever more expansive.

Looking forward, can you see what the road looks like? 

I see it expanding in front of me! As you grow older, and you know yourself better, you have self confidence and there's more and more in front of you that you can choose from. Your life gets more expansive and richer.

What do you most admire about yourself?

I'm pretty comfortable in my own skin. I think that women in general struggle with self esteem, and there's so much pressure on us to fit into certain boxes. Since I've been in my 30's, I feel happy with where I am.

Who is a formidable woman (fictional/real) that you’d like to be friends with?

*Laughs* I would love to be friends with Abbi Jacobson and Ilana Glazer from Broad City. They bring a lot of joy to my world.

What woman in your life should I interview next?

I really admire Adrienne! She's put so much effort into Bikin' Betties, she does it every single week, and she's training for this big bike ride across California. You should definitely talk to her.

 

Thank you so much Anne for sharing your road with me! It was a joy to chat and learn about you. Can't wait to talk to you, Adrienne! 

Hello

Hello my friends! Welcome back from the holidays. Now that the excess and celebration is done (mostly done, I do live in Austin, TX after all), I've been circling back to what I was feeling in October and taking stock. Reminding myself of my 2015 theme, and evaluating where I am on the boldness and vastness fronts. Or as my boyfriend Randall says "being mad formidable". Enriching. Turning my soul soil and getting my hands gloriously dirty as spring gallops in. So, I'm tending to my day to day and taking some concrete steps to invigorate and revive back to the core of me.

  • First, I'm writing again *waves* - publicly here, and privately in my journal
  • Financial overhaul - is my budget accurate, what's my student loan payoff/savings plan
  • Events, events, events - my heart lives in gatherings
  • Giving back - sent in a volunteer application with GenAustin, and got some small monthly donations re-established
  • Tangibles - feel free to chuckle, but I ordered a minibook of the Instagram images of me at my fiercest and most broad-like to flip through when I need a reminder

young woman cartoon with text

Friday Quote

He was full of emotion, full of feelings, bursting with them, and when it came down to it that's what being a magician was. They weren't ordinary feelings -- they weren't the tame, domesticated kind. Magic was wild feelings, the kind that escaped out of you and into the world and changed things. There was a lot of skill to it, and a lot of learning, and a lot of work, but that was where the power began: the power to enchant the world. -Lev Grossman, "The Magician's Land"

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2014 in Review

Hey check it out! WordPress created this nifty 2014 annual report for me! It's pretty cute, and reminded me of a couple posts I had forgotten about. As cool as this is though, it doesn't come anywhere close to reviewing the truth of my past year. Because beyond the shiny infographics and stats, 2014 was crazy transformative. Up until then, the end of my 20s had been familiar and a little bit plodding. I was due for some changes, and dang. Did they show up. Sometimes it felt like far more than my fair share - good or bad. Was it Saturn return? (Previously doubtful. Now? Not so sure.) Was it the universe conspiring to kick me in the pants? (Still need to read this, it's sitting on my desk at home.) Regardless of the why's, the how's of my transformation were:

Physical

  • Chopped all my hair off in April. Free neck, free morning from styling, free to embody my favorite style.
  • Started hoop classes. Strength, grit, blisters!

before and after photo of hair cut

Professional

  • New position at work. More fulfillment, being a boss, whoa raise!

Relationships

  • 3.5 year relationship to an end. Hoo boy. It was tough, but not for as long as I thought it would be. 100% for the best. Opened me up for a new love that fits beautifully.
  • Strengthened friend relationships. Real deep talk with my important ladies. If we want our movies to pass the Bechdel test, we better do the same thing in our own conversations.

my tribe of broads

Inner Work

  • Started a therapy routine. Thank goodness. One of my best decisions all year.
  • Journaling regularly since September. write write write. Some of them become blog posts, but most of them are just my heart, through my hand, to the page.

After I cut my hair, Andrea told me that 2014 was going to be 'my year'. She said she could feel it, and that big, wonderful things were going to happen to me. I smiled, but shook my head, thinking "Naw, it'll be pretty much what last year was." How wrong I was, and how right she was.

And 2015? I have a feeling that this will be the year of enriching. My soil got all turned up in the past 12 months, and I'm ready to fill it up with nutrients. To savor a deep, rich loam in my hand, smell the health, and see what grows.

I hope everyone has a thrilling and/or calm New Year celebration -- pick whichever sounds best! My new love and I will be cutting a rug at the Shangri-La Sock Hop, and dancing with joy and silliness. Thank you all for being there this past year, let's have a great '15!

Here's an excerpt:

A New York City subway train holds 1,200 people. This blog was viewed about 4,600 times in 2014. If it were a NYC subway train, it would take about 4 trips to carry that many people.

Click here to see the complete report.

100!

This is my 100th post! 100 articles about my struggles, thoughts, and hopes - DANG. A Road of Your Own has traveled from the humble beginnings when I thought this blog was going to be a chronicle of my favorite roads in town, to life hack projects, to shared grief, to rules to live by, and even to a community workshop. These days, I feel like I'm finally finding the right voice. I've got confidence in sharing my vulnerabilities and dreams; and I sincerely hope that I've helped you find that same confidence. Thank you so much to everyone who has stuck by A Road of Your Own and supported me; it would've been a far more boring journey without you guys. Here's to 100 more rich, love filled, scary/exciting explorations of our shared soul beauty!

grateful face!

much love,

ktk

Friday Quote

"You Don't Have to Be Pretty. You don't owe prettiness to anyone. Not to your boyfriend/spouse/partner, not to your co-workers, especially not to random men on the street. You don't owe it to your mother, you don't owe it to your children, you don't owe it to civilization in general. Prettiness is not a rent you pay for occupying a space marked "female"." - Erin McKean, A Dress a Day

But you do owe authenticity. Have a great weekend everyone!

Thank You Art Outside

GUYS. I went to Art Outside this weekend, a multi-day camping/art/music festival in east Texas. I had expected a few days of fun and costumes, and got much more instead. It was not the easy diversion I had thought. Instead, the weekend was an emotional microcosm - I was challenged, amazed, worn out, self-critical, self-accepting, inspired, overwhelmed, and ecstatic all in quick succession. First, the good.

We arrived just after sunset on Friday, and spent about an hour getting our tickets and setting up camp. We walked into the event space after dark, which was spectacular. The campus was full of live oak trees lit from below in green and purple lights, music was pumping out from three different stages,over sized commissioned art pieces were positioned everywhere, and beautifully weird folks were wandering around. The whole space was filled with a wonderful anticipatory excitement. It felt magic. Apache Pass had been transformed into a thrilling wonderland, and our collective hearts were responding in kind.

I felt that thrill throughout the weekend. Here was a space that humans, in all their cultural/spiritual/heartsong madness, had consciously created together. Giant animatronic face? Check. Over sized birds nest created with sticks and mud for children to play in? Of course. Leaf shaped hammock/seats arranged around a slowly spinning 20ft globe? Got you covered. The depth of creativity and expression was intoxicating.

Our camping cohort was terrific. I went with my dear friend Andrea (of The Everyday Soiree), and my newer friend Nick. I felt like we all complemented each other really well as moved through the weekend. Andrea brought her go go go! enthusiasm, our living room furniture (seriously, check out the photo gallery below), her Art Outside expertise, and tubes and tubes of glitter. Nick gave his calm spirit, mini blueberry muffins, and ability to connect with anyone. We would move back and forth through the festival, coming together for some events and then stretching apart for others, gently morphing. There were also a handful of other lovely friends at the festival: Grace and her family with their whimsy, Justin and Emily Sparkles for chill chats, and bad ass April. It was wonderful to walk around and know that I'd run into caring friends anywhere.

Next, the not so good.

During the weekend, I banged up against some pretty big insecurity walls about body confidence and being open/vulnerable.

Part of the beauty was people pushing the limits of 'normal' clothes: costumes, wigs, skirts on dudes, sequins and glitter, and skin everywhere. In general I felt sparkly, magical and tough (BAD ASS BITCH ARMY, ASSEMBLE!). My new purple Dr. Marten's were a big part of that. But sometimes, I didn't feel so hot. My inner critic would pipe up, particularly when I looked at photos of myself that people were taking. How can I feel so good, but look so bad in these photos? I'd think, seeing the lithe belly dancers on stage, or the petite artists walk by in their paint splattered bikinis and hippie skirts. You look doughy and thick, girl. I've experienced these feelings before, but I got blindsided by them this weekend. They'd hit me all of sudden, and I'd feel disembodied. Is this how others are seeing me right now?? The solution was two-fold: re-embody myself, and gratitude. I'd get back inside my arms and muscles and sparkle skin, and turn a cart wheel or dance and then smile, smile, SMILE at others doing the same. LOOK at what my body can do. Look at what OUR bodies can do. THANK YOU BODIES.

Art Outside is more than just a music/arts festival, they also host workshops throughout the day. I went to at least one a day, sometimes more. I really loved most: shakra meditation yoga, beginner hooping and intro to acro yoga. But I was seriously challenged by the final workshop on Sunday afternoon: Authentic Relating GamesGames? I thought, SIGN ME UP! I love games. I founded a frakkin' outdoor games organization. I am the QUEEN of running, jumping, competing, organizing, winning. This session, however, was not focused on those kinds of games. Instead, it was about connecting. Deeply. With strangers. Sustained eye contact, vulnerable truth telling, spontaneous hugging, etc.  And I couldn't handle it. Even describing the games right now is making me anxious. I got 10 minutes in, and had to leave. Couldn't even make it past the warm up. We started by walking around each other and looking at the ground, as we checked in with ourselves. We were then instructed to then look up and start making eye contact with people as we passed them. I started to feel uncomfortable. Next, we were to 'make a connection' as we looked at each other: do a little dance, high five, or give a hug. As the facilitator said that, I felt my anxiety spike. Hug?? From a stranger?? What?! I stopped being friends with a girl because she touched me too much, and now a STRANGER'S gonna touch me?? A young woman, who I'm sure is perfectly nice, reached up her arms to give me a hug and touched my arm. I freaked out. My hands reared up defensively, and I stumbled out of the tent, my breath ragged with tears streaking my cheeks.

It wasn't just the emotional reaction that cut my heart so badly, but the shame at not being able to do it. I had come in thinking it was going to be a game, and damn, aren't I so good at games? But it wasn't a game I could win. It wasn't a game where you run away, or a game where you get a megaphone and boss people around. It was about being open, and letting yourself be seen and touched. Writing this blog is an exercise in vulnerability for me, but this is a venue where I have control. I decide what gets shared, and I decide how to frame myself for your observation. How and what I write influences your perspective. These relating games was an intimacy that I was not in control of. How can you influence what someone sees as they hold eye contact with you? How can you frame your brand against a hug? That frightened me. Even more, my reaction to that fear shamed me. How can I write a blog about being authentic if I couldn't play a damned game for an hour without breaking down? How can I trumpet vulnerability if I have such a violent reaction to it?

Clearly, I'm still processing this. The workshop revealed this knife edge of growth, and it cut me deep. But I saw the edge. I am profoundly conscious of the growth I need, and it's not something I'm going to forget. Even that was a gift that the festival gave me. Awareness. Of beauty, of magic, of gratitude, and of growth. Thank you Art Outside. I look forward to next year!