That is not my problem…

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That’s really not my problem…

Okay, I know this sounds harsh.  It’s not supposed to be harsh.  It is supposed to be honest.  Do you ever feel like you have too much on your plate?  Do you feel like you worry way too much?  Are you overwhelmed by problems in your life?  I’m here to tell you something bold: it’s not all your problem.  And you can only do what you can do.  This might be hard, and it has been for me, but it is time to separate your problems from the world’s problems, and let the responsibility drop from your plate.  The results will be life changing!

I have a friend who is highly sensitive.  He is the type of person who feels deeply what other people feel.  I can relate to him, because I am the same way.  Recently he confided in me some of his worries.  He has a trying relationship with his step dad.  This has always given him worry and stress.  But now, his younger half-sister is having some of the same troubles.  Tears filled his eyes as he shared with me how worried he felt about his sister.  He was so worried, though, that he wasn’t sleeping.  I completely understood.  It is heart breaking to watch our loved ones struggle, especially with something we have also struggled.

I think it is natural to want to carry some of their pain, to bear some of the burden so they don’t struggle so hard.  But this is an unhealthy approach for two reasons.  First, it is not your job.  You will have your own struggles and problems in life, and you will have to carry those.  But you shouldn’t try to carry someone else’s.  Second, by trying to carry someone else’s burden, you are robbing them of the experience.  Life is going to throw us all kinds of trouble and it is part of our journey to experience it.  There is no other way except to go through it, and be made stronger in the process.

The trick in this whole thing is to find the line between being supportive and loving, and bearing the burden.  Supportive acts can include listening, offering advice when asked, spending time with the person, or even joining them for difficult appointments or meetings.  If you take it too far, however, you might be trying to make a decision for that person or handle it all yourself.  If you notice that your life is being bogged down with negativity due to other people’s problems, you may have crossed the line into co-dependence.  In my experience, this can be one of the hardest balances to strike.  But keep practicing!  You should be a supportive friend and family member.  You should care about those around you.  But you have your own issues to deal with and your own lessons to learn.  You cannot learn a lesson for someone else without stealing their victory.  Let others bear their burdens and learn that they have the strength to persevere.

Someone wise once told me, “Kelsey, ask yourself: what is my responsibility in this?  And then ask: what is God’s responsibility in this?”  I have used these questions to help draw the line between supportive friend and controlling friend.  And you know what I have found?  I am happier!  And those around me are happier, too!  You see, when you give someone the opportunity to learn their own lessons, you not only empower them, but you also demonstrate your faith in them.  Give others the chance to struggle and find out what they are made of.  And even more importantly, give God the time to work in their lives.  Maybe this person needs God, even if they are asking for you to help.  Don’t steal their opportunity to grow in faith.

Be a good friend.  Be someone in the world who cares deeply.  And in this light, remember that caring deeply does not mean taking away someone’s problems.  It means standing by them through the storm.  It means loving them despite the trials.  It means believing that they are capable of persevering through whatever life throws at them.  Loving others and allowing them to navigate their own struggles is liberating.  You can only do what you can do, so do what only you can.  Give it a try.  Let me know what you find…

Happy vs Content

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Happy vs Content

What do you want most out of life?  Seriously, answer the question.

Two weeks ago I walked in to a gym looking for a kick boxing class.  I was in the wrong gym (I found out later), but the owner, Dave, was there and the first thing he asked me was, “What do you want most out of life?”  I thought it was a rhetorical question but he just stared at me quietly, so I started thinking.  He then said, “Yeah, I know, it is happiness.  That is what we all want, isn’t it?”  I told him no, that wasn’t what I wanted out of my life.  “I want a full experience.  I want to be able to look back on my life and say that I lived fully.”

Dave smiled.  I think it was refreshing for him to hear.  I feel like we hear so many people talk about how they want to be happy.  It is an admirable goal. The Dalai Lama said, “The purpose of our lives is to be happy.”  Happiness is one of the best feelings life has to offer.  And after all, who doesn’t want to feel good?  But, in my humble opinion, there is more to strive for in life than just happiness; strive for fullness.

My mother is one of the people who know me best and she phrased it accurately when she said, “Kelsey, you have always wanted a rich, full experience.  You don’t just go through life, you purposefully experience it all.”  I will not tell you that my life has been easy, because it hasn’t.  And my life hasn’t been impossible, because I’m still here.  I have had both easy and hard times, smiles and tears, ups and downs.  I think we all have.  I notice though, how many people shy away from the hard.  I can’t blame them; being down feels like sh**.  But do you let the possibility of being down keep you from living fully?  Life is a risk; take it!

When I was 20 I moved to Spain for three months to study abroad.  It was one of the most exhilarating and terrifying experiences of my life.  I flew there without knowing where I was going to live, without knowing where my school was or having enrolled prior to going and without knowing a single other person in the city where I was staying, Granada.  Yes, this is the point when you can call me crazy.  But after three months, I can tell you (still to this day) that it was one of the best experiences of my life.  It was hard, no doubt.  I had to make new friends (they ended up being awesome, by the way.  You know who you are!); I traveled alone at times and even felt lonely on occasion.  Looking back though, I think it was the tough stuff that made it as rich of an experience as the good stuff.

We can’t go through life thinking that it will be easy.  It won’t.  But if you live fully, it will be worth it.  To have a great life, you have to struggle at times.  God does give someone an easy road to walk down and then call them to great things.  No, He says: struggle, keep trying, fail, get back up, and then you will be ready to do great things.  And so when I think of happiness, I do strive for it.  But when it’s all said and done, I would rather have contentedness.  I would rather look back over my life and know that when it was hard, I made it; and when it was fun, I enjoyed it; when it was sad, I cried and when it was funny, I laughed.  The full spectrum of a life lived well is not only marked by the good, but also by the hard.  I hope my life includes a lot of happiness, but more than that, I hope I always feel content that I have lived my life fully.

So, what do YOU want most out of life?  Really, I want to know.

Raise the bar. High.

IMG_2963Are you sick of dating? Me too!  I’ve decided to give up, but trust me, I’ll never give in.  Let me tell you what I mean.

A few weeks ago, I had a great phone call catching up with one of my best friends from college, Katie.  Of coarse, during the conversation, we gave each other updates on our love lives.  Both of us are single and actively dating, and yet, we both agreed that it was really hard to date.  I told Katie that I had given up expecting a man in my life.  She told me she had come to the same conclusion.  We both want to get married one day, if we met the right person, but neither of us was sure that was ever going to happen.

Now, to give you some history on the subject, I should tell you about my first memory.  I was two and a half and my parents were getting married.  My mom was trying on her wedding dress in my parents room, and I thought it would be awesome to get under the dress and make it my own white satin fort.  To this day, I remember her vividly: how she looked, how she smiled, and how exciting it was for her to be getting married.  I have always dreamed of being married: the wedding, the love, the family; it all sounds so great to me.  But it hasn’t happened.  And I have asked myself so many times: if it hasn’t happened, will it ever happen?

My friends would tell you I’m a big believer in true love.  I also have a tremendous capacity for love.  For most of my adult life, I have been waiting for that perfect individual to come in to my life and make me the happiest girl on the planet.  Well, I’ve quit waiting.

I recently read a book called We Were Feminists Once.  In it, author Andi Zeisler makes reference to Hollywood movies.  She makes the excellent point that so many (and I mean SO many) of the movies that hit the theaters are stories of women who are lacking until they meet a man.  Maybe they are miserable, or haven’t come into their true personalities, or are just overall lacking in life; and then all of the sudden Prince Charming rushes into the scene and saves the day.  The woman is now the happiest girl on the planet and voila! they live happily ever after.

This common theme got me thinking: have I been waiting for a man to start my story?  It seems so ingrained in our culture and ingrained in our minds that our stories must indeed revolve around our relationships.  Sure, we can talk about our careers and adventures, but I notice that it always seems to circle back to, you guessed it: Prince Charming.  Once I realized this, I made a bold decision: I am giving up on finding Mr. Perfect.

Okay, I know what you’re thinking: Kelsey, you cannot give up on your dreams.  Kelsey, he is out there and you just have to be patient.  Let me tell you something: I’ll never give up on my dreams.  I will always be open to meeting a man who is going to help make my life awesome.  But in all honesty, it is up to God.  And only He knows how and when and if that person will be a part of my life.  But thinking of it that way is actually the best feeling I have had about dating in a long time.  I trust whole heartedly that He has an amazing future planned for me.  I don’t have to worry about making it all happen; God will take care of that.

I have taken a real look at my life now.  What do I want to accomplish?  What are my ambitions and dreams?  How do I want to spend my time?  You guessed it again: doing awesome stuff!  I need not hold back.  I am hiking and traveling, learning guitar and making new friends.  My life is awesome.  And if someone is going to come in to my life and be a big part of it, they have to be the kind of person who is going to make it even more awesome!

I sincerely refuse to give in.  I refuse to believe that I have to lower my standards or settle for less than what my needs really are in order to be in a relationship.  I refuse to conform to what other people think is best to ‘complete me’.  I refuse to be okay with mediocre dates, guys who are only nice some of the time, or anything short of amazing.  I refuse to accept that my life story has to start when I meet a guy.  Nope!  My story started long ago, and Mr. Perfect or not, my story will go on.

So, I say raise the bar.  Raise the bar high!  Live your life to the fullest and wait for no one to complete you.  Be complete by just being the wonderful and unique person that you are.  I’ve adopted this attitude and it has helped me to be excited with my life and satisfied with who I am.  Because I’m awesome.  And my life is awesome.  And I’ll accept nothing short of awesome.

You can’t escape LOVE

IMG_3085You can’t escape LOVE

Recently, I have been thinking a lot about love.  I’m not talking the boyfriend/ girlfriend, can’t get enough of you, kiss you in the rain love.  I’m talking about unconditional love.  The love you feel when you hug a friend you haven’t seen in a long time.  The love you feel when you see a mom kiss her child’s scraped up knee.  The love you feel when you tell someone something hard, and their first response is to hug you and say its all okay.  The love I have been pondering is the deep, the true, the soul to soul love of the world, and of people.

In the wake of the Orlando attack, I have had so many questions.  But the one I keep coming back to is: how can someone lack so much love in their life and in their heart that they would be capable of that?  Simultaneous to this event is my own search for meaning.  I have been trying to find a passion in my life.  Someone recently told me, “Don’t worry about finding your passion.  Make your passion helping people, and in that you will find your true purpose”.  This opened up the idea in my mind that my true passion is to love people.

The path continues to thinking about infinite love, the love of God.  We live in a world of judgement.  And this judgment goes against the true love that God means for us to have.  As a Christian, I am often bombarded with ideas of what other Christians think it means to love and accept someone.  “The bible says you shouldn’t be gay” they say.  Or “the bible says you won’t be saved if you aren’t a believer”.  And while I am in no place in my faith to refute the bible, I am ready to say that if you look closely, I think the most important message is one of love.

One of my favorite verses is Romans 8:37 (thank you to my uncle for introducing me to it), and it says: “In all these things we are more than conquerors through him who love us.  For I am certain that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation will be able to separate us from the love of God through Christ Jesus our lord.”  Powerful!  Nothing in all creation will be able to separate us from His love?  Let that one set in.

It is easy to get caught up in not loving others.  I am guilty of it all the time.  Gossiping about someone, or wishing something bad on someone I don’t like, or judging someone.  We are bombarded with information on what separates us: our color, our beliefs, our location, our values, our language, our status, our gender and so much more.  And when we feel separation, it becomes easy to judge.  But I don’t want to live that way.  I want to put all that down and say, no, this is my fellow human and at the end of the day, I love them.

We see hate in the world, and harshness.  But to be honest, I see so much more love.  If God does not let anything in all creation stop him from loving each and every one of us, why should we let anything stop us from loving each other?  I don’t care who you are.  I don’t care what you believe.  I don’t care the worst thing you’ve done.  Just get to God.  Get to the love of God.  Get to the love of each other.  Just feel the love that the world has for you, and for everyone.  And then go spread that love.

 

How Facebook changed the way I pray

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Recently, I read an article I found on Facebook about being sorry.  In short, it said that we should apologize less.  There are many situations which warrant being apologetic, but we often say sorry when we mean something else.  This article got me thinking.  What else do we have as a norm in our society that needs a fresh view?  What do I say that isn’t what I truly mean?  How can I improve what I talk about?

This immediately took me to the way that I pray.  When I was first trying to pray on a regular basis, I would often start with what was wrong.  Not just with me, but I would pray about problems.  God, please help me save money.  God, please help my family do this or that.  God, please don’t let my car break down.  God, please, please, please… I was always asking for myself and my interests first.  Once I got through what I was worried about, I would thank God for my blessings with the remaining time I had to pray.  (I usually pray when driving home from work, so it gives me about a 20-minute window each day.)  More often than not, the time I had for being grateful was shorter than the time I had for being worried.  And after talking about so many problems, it was hard to think of things I was grateful for.

As I continued to grow in my relationship with God, I was introduced to many ideas about praying.  The one I heard the most was to KEEP PRAYING.  I agree that this is important and I encourage others to do so as well.  The other thing that I heard a lot is to start each prayer by thanking God.  At first, this seemed counterintuitive to me.  Why would I thank God first, when I hadn’t even told him what I need him to help with?  Wouldn’t it make more sense for me to tell him my needs and then thank him for delivering?  To the contrary, this is not a good way to pray (in my opinion).

I was then reminded of another article I read.  It was about a psychology teacher who did a presentation to his class.  He had a large glass jar on a table at the front of the room.  The teacher took out rocks and placed them into the jar until they reached the top.  He then asked the class if the jar was full.  They agreed that it was.  Next, he took out pebbles, and added them to the jar, until they fell around the rocks and reached the top.  He again asked the class if the jar was full, and they again agreed that it was.  Finally, he took out sand.  He poured the sand into the jar, and filled the jar to the top one last time.  He asked the class if the jar was full, and of coarse they agreed.  Then the teacher explained that the jar represented life.  The rocks were the truly important things in life.  The pebbles were valued, but not as important, and the sand didn’t matter.  He prompted the class to think about if they filled the jar with sand or pebbles first, would they have room for the rocks?

Coming back to my point, it is so important to put the things that matter most in your life first.  When I am talking on the phone to my mom, I will cut my story short to tell her I love her before we hang up.  When greeting my family, I hug first and worry about taking my coat off second.  I make an effort to focus on the important things in my life, like my friends and family, having fun and being a good person.  Other things are pebbles or sand, and while they make my life more full, they aren’t what I put first.

Now, I have changed the way I pray.  I start by thanking God.  I thank him for everything I can think of: for having a good day, for having a delicious meal, for seeing a friend, for keeping my family safe, for my money, my home, my health and the list goes on.  The more I say, the more I think of.  With the time I have left, I ask for what I need.  I don’t leave this out, but because I have less time for it, I am much choosier about what I ask for.  The funny thing is, my focus has changed since I started praying this way.  I feel like I need a lot less.  I feel happy about what I have.  My blessings seem to overflow.  If you think about it, there is no end to what you could ask God for.  There is no end to what you could complain about.  There is no end to the negativity you could pay attention to.  But on the flip side, positivity can also be infinitely pervasive.  There is no end to the blessings that we have, and that is a road I would much rather wander down.

So, when talking to God, or to your friends or loved ones, or just to yourself, start with the good.  Start with being thankful, and appreciating the fun stuff and talking about the important things in life.  Let the other stuff take up the time you have left.  I imagine that you will have less and less time left for negativity, and you can join me in wandering down the blessed road of infinite positivity.

 

Spoons

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When I was a kid, my family would go camping every Memorial Day weekend.  When it was cold and rainy, and we had nothing else to do, we would play a card game called Spoons.  The basic idea is that the players pass around the deck of cards continuously until someone has four of a kind.  They grab a spoon, and the rest of the players grab at spoons.  The last player without a spoon is out.  Those camping trips are some of my fondest memories growing up.

Recently I was admitted to the hospital in a mental health ward.  My thoughts were spiraling deeper and deeper in to depression that I gave up on myself and my life.  I felt like I was in the darkest place of my life and had no way out.  But my family never gave up on me.  I had visitors daily and love pouring in.  Slowly but surely, I began improving, finding my way out of the darkness.  I prayed constantly: prayed for help, prayed to feel hope, prayed to feel love.

On one of my last days in the ward, a few of the patients and I decided to play Spoons.  Now you can imagine how hilarious it would be to play this game in a mental ward:  people of varying ages, with a wide range of mental states going on.  It wasn’t easy to explain, it wasn’t easy to get participation, but when the spoons went flying I started to smile.  Cards were dropping, players were grabbing at the spoons at the wrong times and it was a mess.  But it was the light at the end of the tunnel for me.

I was reminded that life is messy, dark times are gong to happen, nothing and no one is perfect.  If everything were perfect, imagine how boring life would be!  Do you struggle?  Are you in a dark time?  Does it feel like you’ll never find your way out?  Keep looking for the light.  It will come.

The Thigh Gap

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How two inches of fat can ruin your life; and not in the way you think!

I hate to admit it, but the question of the thigh gap is trending.  Honestly, it’s a little bit pathetic to me.  But for the purpose of putting the issue to rest, I will tell you how two inches of fat can ruin your life, or save it.

If you aren’t already familiar with the thigh gap, it is basically the area closest to a women’s pelvis between the legs, and particularly on those of you who are petite, it is a gap between each leg, even when your knees are touching.  Let’s be honest: most of us are not that petite, nor that skinny.

Disclaimer: I am not bashing on women who are petite and skinny.  People are blessed with bodies of all shapes and sizes, and girls who have a thigh gap need no shame.  But what about those of us who don’t have the thigh gap?  Can two inches of fat, or lack of it, really make us happy?

The answer: it cannot, and most definitely should not.  If two inches of fat on each inner thigh can make you miserable, you have bigger problems than you think my friend.  As you can see from my own photos, I don’t have a thigh gap, and I don’t have a problem with that fact.

I will admit, sometimes a thigh gap would be nice.  On a hot summer day, during one of my typical three mile runs, I wish for nothing more than a little relief from my sweaty thighs rubbing against one another.  (The mental image of that may be somewhat disturbing, especially if you saw how sweaty I can get.)  Somehow, Lulu Lemon and Nike haven’t been able to make a pair of shorts that keep from riding up on my legs (or at least I haven’t found them yet).  But every other moment of my life, I don’t mind those two inches.

Is there a benefit to fat on the inner thigh?  Google that question and all you will find on page one is ways to get rid of it.  Video after video, article after article, of advice, tricks and techniques to rid our bodies of this burden.  But is it really a burden?  I think not.  Yes, work out.  Yes, focus your exercise on areas you’d like improved.  But under no circumstance should you bash yourself, or others, for not having “perfect” thighs.

My ten-month old niece has some rolls around her thighs.  Everyone that meets her comments on how adorable they are.  Really, they are what will give her the ability to walk, and eventually run.  But on me, are they adorable and sexy?  I’d say without hesitations, yes.  And other people are starting to think so too!  Women’s magazine highlights an article on anti-thigh gap jeans.  Singer Demi Lovato shares her selfie with Ryan Seacrest, where she says, “My body doesn’t naturally have that”.  Props to her, cause mine doesn’t either.

Obsessing over two inches of fat on your thighs is unhealthy.  Society may tell us that we should be unhappy with our bodies, which can be an infectious message in our minds.  I have struggled with body image my whole life.  But over time, I have realized that I can’t listen to what people think my body should look like.  We all have areas of our bodies that aren’t perfect.  The real goal is to be happy with your body, accept it, imperfections and all.  After all, healthy girls are hot girls.  And happy girls are hot girls.  Let’s be hot.

Inspiration

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How a Series of Unfortunate Events Led to a Dream Come True

I’ll start off by saying that I have an inspiration to write, and so I am.  Writing a blog will be an adventure, as with most things in life.  I can promise only two things.  One: I will be honest.  I will tell the truth about my life, experiences, thoughts and beliefs.  Two: I will be positive.  Each article will include controversy, difficulty and possibly failure, but I am an optimist and so you will find that each time I share, I will focus on the positives.  After all, life for me is about honesty and optimism.

I have dreams; goals and ambitions for my life that until recently seemed clear and attainable.  One of the goals is to be a writer.  And as I sit at my table, sipping coffee on this cloudy Monday morning, it seems surreal to actually be writing.  It was not an easy road that led me to take steps towards this dream.  But I’m glad to be here, difficulty and all.  I like how Daniel Handler used the phrase ‘A Series of Unfortunate Events’.  For me, it truly was.  But first, some history…

In December of 2012, I was diagnosed with Bipolar Type I disorder.  Honestly, this came as a shock to me.  I pride myself on ‘knowing’ myself.  I can recognize that I have highs and lows, bad days and good, but I never thought of my experiences as being a disorder.  I was quickly placed on a regimen of medication and found it much easier to maintain balance, especially in my thinking.

I had been cautioned by many people, including my expert doctor, against quitting my medications.  My doctor explained that I had a 98% chance of hitting a manic or depressive episode if I were to quit taking my meds.  And yet, he explained, it is the nature of many bipolar patients to want to quit their meds.  Why would I want to take medications for the rest of my life, when I was feeling fine?  Why deal with a host of side affects, which for me included weight gain and mild tremors in my hand, when I did not think I was struggling?  Fast forward two and a half years: I decided to quit my medications.  That was unfortunate event number one.

When I was originally diagnosed, I was living in San Diego, CA.  I had a wonderful job, and although I lived far from my family, I was enjoying the freedom and fun of sunny San Diego.  After four years in California, I made the drastic decision to move to Portland to help my sister.  She is a single mom with two kids, and needed the help to finish culinary school.  I found myself working 60 plus hours a week, between watching my sisters kids during the day to working a low-paying administrative position in the evenings.  I was burnt out and ready to make a change.  I was applying, and finally landed what at the time was my ‘dream job’.  I was chosen as the office manager for a local primary care practice.  That was unfortunate event number two.

After three stressful months of long days, half of which I was not medicated, I was fired from my dream position.  They told me ‘it was not a good fit’.  I had hit a manic episode a few days before the news (not sleeping, anxiety ridden, racing thoughts), and plummeted into a depressive episode quickly after.  I wasn’t sure my life was worth living anymore.  That was unfortunate event number three.

Slowly but surely, I began to recover.  I had started back on medications, this time with a doctor who was able to give me a plan of action that felt closer to what I  wanted.  I applied for unemployment and was able to begin my job hunt.  When my unemployment check finally came through, it was accompanied by a letter.  The letter said that if I wanted to start a business, in lieu of looking for work, that I will still be eligible for my unemployment insurance.  As long as I was working 40 hours per week on my business, I could quit looking for work.  This sparked something in me.  It created the option for a new future, a hopefulness in me that had been lacking.

Now, there is no way in high heaven that I want to start a business.  I’ve seen it done, and it seems like way too much work.  Long hours, financial stress, little to no predictability, all of which are not my cup of tea.  But the letter was like a calling.  What did I really want to do with my life?  What was I good at?  What was my dream?  Finally, I was able to see how my unfortunate events were leading me somewhere.  I’m not sure where that is, but this blog is the start.

At age 26, I cannot claim to know it all about life.  Nor do I think it is attainable to ‘have it all’.  But two things truly tickle me: happiness and health.  I love to dabble in what makes us happy, how our journey can be blessed with long periods of joy and contentment.  I also enjoy focusing on health.  What makes us healthy, how can we pursue health, and what does it mean to be ‘hot’?  Women in their 20’s and 30’s face a lot of challenges, particularly surrounding how to be happy and hot.  Inspired by my own journey, I will explore what it means for women to be happy and healthy.  After all, happy girls are hot girls, and healthy girls are hot girls, and you can be both.

I hope you enjoy my journey and my dream.