Perfect Enemy

I know a lot of folks who work hard at being perfect and/or normal. Both of these things are fiction and if they weren’t, would you want to sit next to someone who is normal and perfect at a wedding? For me, the answer is no, in fact it is hell no. Voltaire said, “perfect is the enemy of good.”  Yes, because perfect is a construct, it’s subjective, and again fiction… not unlike one size fits all.

Perfect is the enemy of progress, we get stuck trying to get something to fit to an ideal or esthetic that we believe will deliver us to perfection. Doing that stops the creative flow, discovery, learning and growth. Perfect is the enemy of all those things including compassion, happiness and the stuff that makes life worth living. I am not saying don’t strive for an ideal, what I am saying is have it be a benchmark on the way to what unfolds into something wholly and wonderfully yours.

Me, I strive for authenticity, which is a very over used word, but it fits in the moment. What I want to work at is to take what I feel and see on the inside and distill it, capturing my thoughts, my quirks, my individual vision of the world and share that as best as I can. I believe we are more similar than different so when I tell my messy truth it resonates more with others than when it is manicured and manipulated. Hopefully my messy truth opens a door to others embracing theirs, maybe even normalizing it. Making our imperfect selves the real prize.

Knowing who we are and what makes us tick is the gift. The opening to this is not shrinking from the idea we are flawed, messy and cranky humans who are full of contradictions, petty lies and great compassion. Settling into the potpourri of our uniqueness is where the good stuff is. Our connection to ourselves is our gateway to building good connections to others. Perfect is the enemy of that connection to self and others and can lead us to feeling lonely, that we are faking it and that we are not enough.

When we start making choices from our inner guidance system rather than outside influences, we start to come into alignment with who we are and our purpose in this world. Aligning our core values with our actions creates a harmony within us which trickles out into the world. Like throwing a pebble into a pond and watching those concentric circles ripple out.

Being in alignment with my values leads me to action which then creates a reaction and progress down my path. This is the dance with the universe that I do: I take a step and then it takes a step. I have found these steps are usually out of my comfort zone, pushing me to grow and change for the better and always lead me to more joy. Taking our values and direction from the outside world when we are seeking perfection through social media feeds and what others deem to be valuable will only lead us further away from ourselves and our true road and happiness.

What the pursuit of perfection gets us is anxious, self-loathing and miserable. Making choices based on crowd sourcing data leaves us depleted because we are seeking alignment with something other than ourselves. We are our own source of power, passion and energy which comes from plugging into ourselves, nature, the universe and drawing it in like water and air. In doing this our actions lead us to tribe, to true community, to those who align with the same values, passions and purpose. That community then naturally support each other in a symbiotic way along the journey.

Perfect is the enemy because it is a huckster, it leads us further and further away from ourselves. We are being led to believe that those in the marketing department have the answer for us if we look this way, sound this way, dress this way our lives will be better. Nope we will just be someone else who is not too happy and poorer for the journey. Perfect is the enemy because it deprives us the chance to fall in love with all of who we are, to give voice to our unique view, to explore the world and ourselves in a genuine way. Letting go of what we “should” be allows us to just be our beautiful, funny, thoughtful, creative, cranky, lumpy human selves and deeply connect to each other. What an amazing gift that is…

Cheers, Kyra

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Monkey Glands and Such

When I hear that someone has died, I always want to know how. I am not sure why, it’s almost like I think there is a giant menu for deaths so I can know my options when the time comes. It’s like that old joke; I want to pass like my grandmother did, peacefully in her sleep. Unlike the passenger in her car.

Maybe this morbid curiosity was born out of the house I grew up in. Both my grandmother and mother loved movies, old movies in particular. My sisters and I grew up watching the screwball comedies of the 30’s and 40’s with Kathrine Hepburn, Cary Grant, Rosaland Russel and William Powel. As we watched these, and other great films, we got tons of backstory and grizzly gossip on each actor provided by my grandmother and mother who were avid fans of movie star magazines in the day.  For us, they were the original Entertainment Tonight and TMZ. We’d hear how people died and who they had affairs with. While watching Jean Harlow in Dinner at Eight we might hear she died of kidney failure and how it broke her fiancé William Powell’s heart. Learning that William Holden bled out in a hotel after falling was just another movie night at the Freeburg house.

Later my nieces Kaelea and Gillian were subjected to the same diatribe of facts when watching old movies with their mother and me. On road trips we would play the alphabet game with names of famous people i.e., the first person to go says Jean Harlow. The next person has to come up with a name starting with H, Henry Fonda. Our sick twist on this was if you knew how they died or any gossip you got bonus points. Generations of my family have useless, morbid movie gossip and trivia stuck in our heads. Perhaps we are horrible people, or maybe we have a gallows type humor for the tragic, twisted and awkwardly human aspects of life. We definitely could be both.

In my family we modify games, create moments and experiences to add weird twists solely to amuse ourselves and each other. As a teen I was enticed into jamming my lanky teenage body into an old mildewy mail carriers bag found in the basement during a contest to see who could get into the bag fastest. Once in, my sisters cinched the bag up and drug me to the front lawn and left me there to free myself. I heard my sisters footsteps recede as I desperately tried to expel myself from my canvas womb.  Their laughter was near hysterical as they moved away, and I heard the front door slam leaving me rolling there on our manicured suburban front lawn in a wild panic to escape. Whether it be teasing, torturing each other or inventing adventures were boredom lie, we were raised to create fun. Sometimes twisted, but none the less amusement was had by most, i.e., see above on being stuck in a mail bag rolling around on front lawn.

In later years that fun has consisted of wanting to bring back language and culture from the 30’s and 40’s, using words like gams and stems for legs, or calling a dopey person a mook. While my sister Chris was visiting me in San Diego, we decided we needed to bring back an old cocktail that had a crazy name. This was before the era of craft cocktails, mind you. We spent hours looking for the perfect drink while chatting. For it to be good it had to have tasty ingredients and a bizarre name that might elicit a reaction from the waitstaff. A bonus might be that it become popular again.

After much searching a Monkey Gland won. We could think of no funnier thing then to dress up, go to a fine dining establishment and ask the waiter for a couple of Monkey Glands. After settling into our plush seats our waitress asked if we would like to start with a cocktail. I asked her for a couple of Monkey Glands which is essentially gin, orange juice, grenadine and absinthe. No monkeys are harmed in the making of this cocktail. Unless of course they have trained monkey’s for bartenders. Though I think their penchant for throwing their own feces would hurt an A rating with the health department and trifle with the patrons dining experience, to say the least.

After I ordered our glands there was a long pause, in which our waitress’s eyes widened a hair and then she gave a small nod before returning to the bar. Watching them I could see the bartender shrug and pick up her phone and I imagine research how to make a Monkey Gland. We laughed and enjoyed the moment even if there was a subdued reaction. The fun was in the process of finding the drink, building it up in our heads, and ordering them. It was less about other people.  It was about exercising our sense of whimsey, humor and quirk. Finding small things that can make us laugh has been a great way to create a life that feeds us, that is playful and brings enjoyment, which has helped in dealing with stress and trauma. Finding fun and laughter between the drama, work and funk makes for a richer life. How we choose to articulate it doesn’t look like someone else’s life, but that is okay, it just has to fit us.

Creating ways to have fun, to play and own your weirdness is key to accepting yourself, your past, and your family. Knowing that we are all awkward, goofy and silly even as adults is a good first step. Ultimately, we want to appreciate and love who we really are and from that know our worth.  I think people believe that when they become an “adult” they should leave these things behind. That is a lie, our sense of play and humor are the things that sustain us, lead us to ourselves and deeper connection with others. Taking life too seriously is a mistake, it’s not like we get out alive. What we want in the end is to have lived a rich life, to love and be loved, to leave this place better than we found it. Whether that is a room, a job, or the planet. So why not on this short weird little journey enjoy it, relax into who you are, play a game and have a couple of Monkey Glands?

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Years ago, my youngest sister, Amy, died of leukemia. She fought a good fight to ultimately succumb to it after only 10 months. She was brave and hilarious to the end, even in the face of some horrible, painful, very very scary stuff. There are five of us, no boys, just a small riot of former Freeburg girls and each of us tried our best to help her. We all know or have known someone who has or had cancer; it is an unwelcome familiarity. It is all too common, unimaginable except when it is happening to you. When it is you, that is what makes the surreal, real… this is not my beautiful life. 

During her fight with cancer, she had toxic chemicals being pumped into her body on a daily basis, her system reacting by giving her sores in her mouth, serious fevers, whole body racking chills that literally rattled her teeth, and so much more that I have no insight to as I was only on the sidelines. Sometimes those sidelines were states away, so in reality I know next to nothing. In this instance, to add insult to well, uh disease she lost her hair. Being bald for a guy is tough for a woman it is devastating.  Amy had a long thick mane of blonde hair; the rest of us got some serious recessive hair gene, its wispy, baby fine, bird downy, crap hair. One sister is so artful in managing her tresses that they almost look solid; I once referred to them as a Vegas act because the illusion is just that good.

When it came time for our first round of visits and subsequent presents, we brainstormed but for the most part went with things she had mentioned. Chris, the Vegas act coiffure, went with a whole bag of beauty: accoutrements for pedicures, body and face moisturizers, tweezers and a well-received electric razor. It seems that when your hair falls out during chemo it mostly all does, except the stuff you spend your adult life trying to remove. Its things like this that makes me believe the universe is absurd. Another sister, Susan, brought her a whole entire set of expensive mineral based make-up complete with a video. Amy watched it at least a half dozen times as there was a lot of blending, tapping and swirling to get on the first go around. She loved her gifts and each I believe helped make her feel more normal and whole. When she finally lost all of her hair she put out the word that she wanted great head gear, funny, pretty, the whole gambit of hats. The wig option was also in the works, they had come in a variety of hues from fire engine red, to California blonde with black roots, so maybe the latter is more trashy California blonde. Amy was blonde naturally then helped it along to strikingly streaky golden, so a good wig fit was difficult.

Amy was an eighth grade English teacher; she loved teaching, loved the kids and they in return loved her. One of the things she told friends and family was that she wanted an aviator helmet. The leather fly caps like snoopy wears on scrimmages with the Red Barron. She thought it would be great fun to teach in and the kids would get a kick out of it. I told her I would find her one no problem. A few searches via the internet and I had a black leather aviator cap ordered. I believed a fashion statement such as this required goggles, so I ordered a pair of them as well. It turned out that along with the purchase of her fly boy cap came a 12-15-page biography of a Vietnam veteran. So, she was able to toss out his memories as her own at such events as cocktail parties and the flushing of her chest pump by the nurses.

My sisters choose presents that Amy really needed, that had value in helping her pull back in some of her essence, her sense of Amyness, the bits that the chemo eroded. My gift to her was something preposterous, something she wanted not needed. I sent some whimsy, a laugh, and a good story. In the end it hit the mark which is all I cared about.

She went home after that round of chemo and we all waited for the results of a blood test to see which one of us would win the lottery for an almost all expense paid weeks’ vacation in a Tampa hospital for a stem cell transplant and a chance to be part of her cure. During that week she and I had a long chat about important things, pie and candy in particular. There is only so much white blood cell, platelets and infection talk you can have before one winds up in candyland. After a very long and involved conversation about our love of candy and concurring on the proper way to eat jujuy fruits in a theater, we agreed these advanced methods are not always common knowledge but best practices in jujuy eating. The procedure is you need to hold them up to the screen so you can see what color you are eating. Amy did this so she ate no black jujies, she hates black licorice. Not me, I love it and benefited that nobody in our house liked black licorice but me, so I got all the black jellybeans and didn’t have to trade for them. That left me fat and happy literally.  For me, the checking of jujuy color is that I don’t like to repeat flavors of my jujies when I can help it, it messes up a fine candy experience. After this discourse I decided to send her an 8lb bag of jujuy fruits. My note accompanying the gift expressed concern for her teeth, as both she and I need to hold the jujies in our hands for a minute or two to soften them up before eating them. This is to try to prevent the removal of fillings, cracked or damaged teeth and uh, the strong solidly entrenched teeth as well. Let’s face it jujuy is some strong stuff, softened it just leaves you hours of fine gummy goodness stuck to your enamel but in straight from the box hardness you are looking like a jack-o-lantern in no time.

My gift of the jujuy was received well. Amy left a message on my answering machine saying it was more like a 20lb bag of candy.   Seeing how they are small and light little suckers it must have been an unwieldy mass of nuggetized hardened corn syrup. She went on to say that she had squealed like a four-year-old when it had arrived. I can think of no better review of a gift than that. The bag it seems was sitting on the couch in an upright position as it was the size and weight of a toddler. She finished her message saying she was debating whether to dress it. I never heard If she did, as she was back in the hospital within a week or two for the next set of chemo.

Amy loved her presents, they made her laugh and I hope to feel loved, which she is. I am not very good at saying such things and hoped my gestures, such as aviator helmets, giant bags of candy, and dopy messages on her cell phone, conveyed that. I don’t think too many people say I love you, and when they do I fear most don’t really mean it, in particular when it is said easily. Perhaps that is just my prejudice or Samsonite cluttering reality. I think that when someone of few words, especially in the arena of feelings, says they love you, that that is a small miracle.

In the face of the unimaginable, of disease, and questions of mortality things like whimsy, laughter and quiet love do alright. Well, that and you can never underestimate the power of candy.

Cheers – Kyra

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Amnesia, Baby Birds and Struggle

I suffer from amnesia, it’s a specific strain though. I constantly forget how uncomfortable, difficult and arduous my last transition and struggle was. When circumstances smooth out, I think, that wasn’t so bad. Not until I look at my journal, with my crazy, slanty, spidery writing from that period of time, do I remember. The journal spells out my months of second guessing, grasping, testing, assessing and floundering. I forget my complete lack of patience, my fickle trust, my flipping from feeling solid one minute and then a tower of Jell-O the next, and my obsessing over the crumbs not knowing that the whole sandwich is just out of site.

It is such a complete forgetting that it reminds me of a soap opera character in the 1980’s who wakes up in the hospital after a bonk on the head with complete memory loss. They are a blank slate. Was I an heiress? I have five children and a husband? I am a woman? Are these my hands and feet? That is me at the start of every big change.

My complete lack of forgetting would be comical if it were not so sad. Sad for the fact that I know it’s happened – but once in it I’m like aren’t we done with this bit yet? Can’t I skip to the less struggley, crazy making part of this transition?

The Universe’s answer is always an emphatic NO.  You are done, when you are done. It is a process.  It’s like baking a cake and thinking that turning up the oven to rush the process will be easier. It doesn’t net the desired results, it doesn’t work. The cake, if you can call it that, is burnt black on the outside and cake soup on the inside. Not unlike me trying to rush through a tough spot in the road with busy work, numbing or pushing through when I really need to just take a breath and pause. Growth happens in it own time, not mine and not yours.

Transitions and struggle take time, effort, patience, a boat load of humor and lots of self-compassion. I hate the process but love the result. I have to remind myself and go back to the analogy of a baby bird. A chick has to build muscles to break out of the shell. It has to push, peck, and struggle against that shell over and over to break free. In doing so it is building the muscles it needs to not only get out but to fly. If there is no muscle building through struggle there is no flight for any of us.

It is our pushing, pulling, trying things, resting, thinking, praying, learning and not giving up. I mean really, really not giving up through the ugly, feeling stupid, like a failure, out of my element. All the things that build my spiritual, physical, mental muscles for next adventure and flight.

I always want to rush ahead to the good part, the answers, the satisfaction, the enjoyment of the mastery. What I forget is that it’s all the “good part”. That when I am in it, I feel alive, creative in my small wins and frustrations. I get angry at my missteps- but always learning from them and jumping back in to try again. The struggle feeds my curiosity, creativity and spurs me on and yes it also makes me tired, cranky, and frustrated. Even hopeless sometimes. It is a careful balancing act to not let the negative feelings, perceived setbacks, and overwhelm discourage me for longer than is healthy. Making sure my small wins, and hard work is celebrated on its own merit knowing that these are the building blocks for my future.

It’s like going through a very long tunnel. I keep thinking ok, I will see the light soon, ok not yet, okay around the next curve, nope, is that a light, nope another train passing…. Then I think wait maybe I took the wrong tunnel? Maybe this won’t take me back into the sunlight? Maybe this is a mole tunnel? I don’t want to be a mole person, not that there is anything wrong with that, but I don’t want to live a mole life. All that fur seems itchy, it’s always dark and I hate grubs! Just as I am pushing through and obsessing about mole life, and how long it is taking to come out of the tunnel or from my shell, I break through into the sunlight.

It is the not giving up, the learning from the mistakes that make us strong. Celebrating the small incremental wins with gratitude and satisfaction help sustain and move us along in our struggle. Breaking giant goals into small manageable micro steps to feed those wins, feed that mastery of skill and build strength to what is to come. My knowledge on how I did it the last time only marginally helps in the current transition. Mostly because in the moment I feel awful and remembering is difficult.

When I do pause and take a deep breath, I remember the knowledge I gained last time and my bag of tools which helps. Things like taking care of myself and eating whole food and not too much; To move and stretch my body daily remembering that I process when I move, and it also helps calm my busy mind; To take time to rest, to clear my head out; To enjoy the daily silence which enables my mind to wander and play which leads to creative problem solving; To spend time in nature for my soul; To connect to the world around me and ground.

I have to remember to reach out to people who make me think, laugh and love where I am in the moment and myself. People who are thoughtful, funny and hold space for me nudging me past my amnesia pointing out my bag of tricks and tools, reminding me of my past struggles, breakthroughs and flights and rejoice in the ones to come. We are not alone. Not in struggle, not in sorrow not in anything if we are brave enough to reach out. We might be in our own eggshell working at busting out that is true. What we have to remember is the nest is full of eggs and we all breakthrough at different times. So there is community to support , to listen and to celebrate it all.

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I Quit!

We are quitting our jobs in record numbers these days. The Bureau of Labor and Statistics reports that we are hitting the highest ever recorded numbers of people quitting since they started tracking this in 2000. This past November alone 4.5 million people quit and in the first half of 2021 the estimate is about 25 million people. The reasons are many and complex in this new landscape we find ourselves in. I know from experience what quitting, leaving and starting over looks like. I have had about six careers thus far in my work tenure and I don’t know how many jobs. I am a serial flat leaver. For those who are unfamiliar with that childhood moniker it means someone stopped wanting to play with you, for the afternoon or maybe forever and they just left. That is me all over. Only now I am a pro at flat leaving and moving down the road to my new next.

I am a curious girl by nature and I love to learn, so these traits have been fuel for many of the career jumps I have taken. I worked in media for a film producer, the night manager at Electric Lady Studios. I moved on to Tech working at Apple and Sun Microsystem as Readiness Engineer, Business Manager, lots of different things. I was in tech for about 15 years and very successful financially and career wise but not so much in balance, happiness and fulfillment. I was 90 pounds overweight, having debilitating migraines every other week and having problems getting out of bed. Just because I was good at something didn’t make it interesting or engaging. I wanted to be paid for something I liked. Something that mattered to me. So, I blew up my life at 40 ran away and started over.

After my stint in tech, I took some time to figure out what I wanted, what would make me happy. Happy? I had no idea what would make me happy, that was fiction to me. I was however very clear what was making me unhappy so by removing those things I started to buoy. I moved from a negative place to a neutral one where I could access my curiosity which led to better choices. This eventually led me to happy, to balance, to ownership of the quality of my life.

While trying to figure all this out I took a job as a Special Investigator for a Federal Contractor, this was right after 9/11. Oh wait, 9/11 yes add trauma to the mix. Trauma peels back the layers of what is not important. Sound familiar COVID world community? As a Special Investigator I did background checks for folks applying for Federal jobs. I liked the freedom of working from home, the work was interesting, and my nosy self got to see the inside of stranger’s homes. I loved it but it was not a forever thing and over time even that fabulous badge was not worth the bureaucratic nonsense of government double speak.

I got my master’s in counseling and slid into K-12 education as a school counselor, which I loved until a move back to CA blocked that option in 2008. Oh wait, a financial crash, more trauma, more adapting, more change, more transition. In scrambling for what next, I started coaching.

A long time ago a new client asked what exactly I do? I thought about it a minute and told her this fable I had heard that explains it best:

A man falls down a hole and yells to passerby’s for help. The first person who stops is his doctor. The man yells to the doctor that he fell down a hole and can’t get out can the doctor help? The doctor says “of course,” writes a prescription and throws it down the hole and moves on. The man looks at the slip of paper and shakes his head and continues to yell for help. His clergyman stops by and he says, “Father I am stuck down this hole and can’t get out, can you help me?” The priest says, “Yes of course my son” and begins to pray over the hole, finishes and moves on. This happens all day with the mayor, his boss, everyone. Finally, close to dark his friend Tom comes along. “Tom,” the man says, “I am stuck down this hole and need help getting out.” Tom says “no problem” then jumps down the hole. The man is furious. “What are you doing, now we are both trapped down here!” Tom smiles at him and says “Nope, I have been down here before let me show you how to get out.” That is what I do. I have been down many holes in life including the unknown, the career jump, not knowing what would make me happy, the move to a new town, and going back to school later in life. While my hand holes and foot holes to climb out won’t be exactly the same as anyone else’s, the process is.

Eventually, I added working at a Non-profit located at San Diego State University to my coaching work. Which lead me to teaching and working in Career Services as a STEM Career Counselor until COVID.

Leaving, searching, making mistakes, getting better at something and then looking at what’s next is just growth: leaving what no longer serves and finding that next spot in the road. It’s not easy, pretty, or orderly but it’s hugely rewarding. Life is nothing but a series of transitions and subsequently growth, right? Joseph Campbell’s work around the Hero’s Journey is the plot to endless movies, books and our lives. Understanding we are each our own hero in our life, and the struggle and triumphs belong to us.

There is a difference between running from and running to. I learned with each career change what my transferable skills were. I was not starting again; I was stepping into a new arena and I was clear what I was bringing to each organization that I worked for. I learned who I was, what was important to me and where I wanted to make a difference. I curated my careers and my life to fit me. Quitting, taking another job, taking a break, having a breakdown are all things I have done. All of these stress filled little lumpy gifts from the universe made me stronger, happier and resilient. We get choice, and by the way, not choosing is a choice too. Staying still, suffering and being paralyzed happen but they should not be our long-term plan and a way of life.

Taking back my power, saying I quit, I am done, I am moving… is not about giving up in tough times. It is about accessing where I am after a period of time, after trying to adjust and tweak before coming to the conclusion that I am not happy, engaged and have outgrown where I am. It is not flighty, capricious or cowardly to leave, to quit and find something better. It is brave, full of vulnerability and nerve wracking. It is also liberating as well until the fear and the uncertainty kicks in, and that is where courage and faith come in handy. Trusting myself that at each turn in the road I have had the skills to figure out what I need to be successful and happy. Remembering I have figured it out before over and over so I will again….and so will you when your turn comes.
Cheers- Kyra

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Sometimes I have a problem looking past something annoying to the beauty beyond. This can happen both mentally and physically. These days instead of looking at my fabulous view of trees and sky out the front picture window it’s the two-inch beetle clinging to the outside glass that catches my eye, not unlike a fishing hook on a windy day. His tiny body is all I can see and when I manage to look past his little grey-black shell my eye always rolls back to him. Instead of thinking ahhh at the pink and blue clouds chasing each other across the sky I think ewww there’s another coming to meet him.

It doesn’t have to be a bug, another window had bird poop coiled like a baby albino tape worm at the top of the windowpane for four months. I finally had to drop the blinds an extra two inches so as not to see it when I looked out. But then, I noticed how the trajectory of rainwater altered direction down that window channeling rivets parted and rejoined mid pane, reminding me of the poop stationed above my gaze. What is wrong with me? Why do I fixate on such things? It is a constant wrestling of my focus back from the annoying, weird, or ugly to see the big picture over and over. And wrestle it I do, every time I catch myself fixated on the ick, or minuscule amount of what is not working, instead of all the things that are going really well and are beautiful.

I am an optimist, generally looking at the bright side of things and expect good things to happen even by chance. When I lived in San Diego sometimes, I would check my back steps just to see if someone left me a present. This was not on my birthday or anything I just thought… well you never know.  So, I’m not sure where this hyper-focus on the icky comes from exactly, but I am familiar with the neighborhood it resides. I told my sister years ago that my mind is like a bad neighborhood: I can’t spend too much time there alone.

Frank described me years ago as hyper vigilant. The amazing and insightful Frank is a psychiatrist who worked with scores of Apple employee’s like me. We passed around his contact information faster than the details of a good noodle restaurant. My hypervigilance at that time caused me to build, script and maintain a plan, A, B, C, D, E and F for any situation complete with dialogue for everyone involved. This was so no matter what went awry I was ready with a solution. These days I only have a plan A and half of a plan B, after that it’s up to the Universe, God, the Great Space Monkey whoever is up at bat at that moment.

I have learned through tough times that being prepared is great, but spending my life preparing for 90% of things that never happen is a waste of life force. The things that took me down, brought me to my knees I never saw coming and I still managed to do just fine. My skills and ability to problem solve, find resources and support was all I ever really needed.

That being said, I am still a preparedness person, a planner and a woman who loves a list.  I have to be watchful of my stress level and my predilection to hyper-fixate on tiny bugs and bird poop as mentioned above. I can release this laser focus, but only after recognizing I have slipped down the rabbit hole just a scooch and then procced to have a wrestling session with my brain. That ability to recognize how tightly wrapped I am is tricky. Getting tightly wrapped or hyper focused is a gradual change from when I go into ticking things off a list and plowing through work to tweaking the shit out of my life without taking a break, stepping away to play or taking care of myself in general.

In talking to a friend about his Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD) diagnosis, I realized my hyper fixation can be seen through this lens as well.  When stressed and over functioning it feels like I go past obsessive-compulsive behavior (OCB) but not quite into OCD a disorder level. When super stressed my tendencies run to upping my aesthetic: straightening, checking doors at night, adjust my canned goods with the labels facing out, tweaking towels to be an even length… everything is just a little more in order. I needed a term to describe this level, not a proper diagnosis level of life derailing but between OCB and OCD there should be a midpoint. Which we know in the alphabet is C, so was born OCC. It’s where I am when I am spinning a little too fast that is the wrong amount of extra.

What the C stands for in Obsessive Compulsive C….. I have not decided but it’s the perfect middle ground. Whether C turns out to be Continued, Circuitous, Circling, Concentrated, Controller, Cyclone, Cyclops because my single hyper fixated vision, I don’t know. I do know it sends off an alarm in my chest and gut to redirect my bossy, busy brain to pull back and emulate The Dude from The Big Lebowski.

I have learned ways to unhook from the spinning whether that be my eye, my heart or the biggest repeat offender my head. I do small Scarlet O’Hara exercises in distract and denial to interrupt the spinning, the what if’s, the mental gymnastics and rants. These exercises may be taking a walk where I can only think about my five senses: what I can see, hear, smell, taste, touch in that moment. There is no jumping forward or backward in my head. I have to stay right there. It’s a walking meditation of sorts forcing me into the moment.

Other times a conversation with someone who makes me laugh, a good book, as well as any kind of yoga, creativity, or something I can get lost in pulls me out of the spin. Even writing is a great way to exercise these demons and find humor in the ick, dark or stupid rattling around my brain.  I look through my bag of tricks for something or someone to help me break the spinning and break the cycle of negative fixation, the OCC, bugs and bird poop. Taking these steps is like doing a factory reset to my calmer, happy, Zen self but of course not before I write it down so I can pass along these images to you for maybe a laugh and then maybe you’ll think ick too.

Cheers- Kyra

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Sasquatch, Jesus and a Pink Bike on a Tree

I used to live in San Diego, and I loved it. Until I didn’t. This happens with jobs, men, desert island food picks and homes, everything really over time. They just stop fitting anymore. I think that is true for all of us.

I am however, wired for pleasure to extract as much joy and fun from my day as possible. Reading that sounds like I am a hedonist. I am.  In a very structured, semi-logical, OCD kind of way. Think Doctor Doolittle’s two headed Push me-Pull me creature where one head is Dorothy Parker and the other is Hermione from Harry Potter. Whether you ascribe to Push-me-Pull-me, balance, Yin & Yang the duality of what we want versus what we are told we should want it’s all the same.

I enjoy tweaking my life in small ways to extract that better experience, more fun. The same holds true with larger changes and jumps leading to a better fit. I think of it as curating my life to me, to celebrate my strengths and accommodate my quirks with kindness instead of derision. A tee shirt is never one size fits all, ever, no matter what it says. So why would my life or yours be that way?

It’s not, but marketing on social media tells us differently which is bullshit. Why would we want all matchy matchy to someone else’s fictional life? It’s not like what is on Instagram or Tick-Tok is real, it is just content, not life.

I loved San Diego and loved South Park, where I lived, enormously. The sun, the walkability, the festive walkabouts celebrating each season and the neighborhood. There were beautiful houses, unique restaurants, classic dive bars, cool shops. It was fabulous. The world was so close, convenient and buzzing with life. I lived there for 13 years and loved it for 10-11 of them.

To get to my place you had to go down 30th street from North Park through Switzer Canyon with a view of downtown. When you get to the stop sign at Juniper at Mazara’s restaurant, 30th takes a jog to the right, then a quick left and after the next stop sign you are back on 30th. Go down past the Shepard Fairey mural on the yellow brick building on the right and I was in the terra cotta four-plex on the next block. That is how you found me in San Diego.

My markers for my life, accessible, beautiful, sunny, a community close to everything were the markers to where I lived. Not just directions, but these components were things that stuck out to me and reflected my world. That is where I was.

Being able to recognize that I am in the beginning of needing a change is tricky at first. It looks a lot like crankiness. The components of my daily life start causing friction for me, my psyche, my soul. What used to feel good and fit slips over the line to starting to chafe, to be uncomfortable, to cause pain. I don’t notice this at first, it comes out as impatience, annoyance, and of course cranky.

“It’s too hot- 90 degrees in October?!”

“It’s sunny all the time, what I’d give for a cloudy day or some rain for a change.”

“It is so noisy, I can hear everyone and their fucking dogs, all the time!”

Drip, drip, drip…  What no long works started to wear, to rub like a cheap shoe going from annoying, to uncomfortable to painful. It’s a process we experience all the time that mostly goes unnoticed. What we like at 10, 25, 40 or 65 is not always the same. Yes, some things stay consistent. For me that has been pizza, and reading, two loves still.

Very little lasts though all my incarnations. I grow and change like all living things; I can’t say these changes are easy or neat. They are not, they are wrought with worry, an unseemly level of messiness, second guessing, and overall, it sucks. But unfortunately, these are the circumstances attached with drawing a breath and being a living thing.

It was a late 2018 early 2019 when I first thought about moving in a serious way. I waffled. Letting go of my all but rent controlled apartment in a posh part of town. Letting go of my easy commute and jobs I enjoyed at SDSU. On the other hand, I was getting frustrated with the red tape and politics, the crowds, the noise, and the heat. I knew I had three years to make it into the CalPers retirement system in California, so I believed any big life changes were on hold. I was okay with that but not thrilled. I was finding everyday life slowly rubbing me the wrong way.

I thought I could look around on vacations and sus out a good next jump. I was missing some more varied weather, distinct seasons, lush green, little to no snow. A smaller town near a bigger town, a bit rural in nature. I needed to be out of the city and the noise of neighbors above me inexpertly juggling bowling balls, incessant barking dogs 30 feet from my desk while I attempted to work all the while spiking my blood pressure and swearing like a newly minted rapper. I needed to get away from the drivers on 30th street revving their engines and racing from stop sign to stop sign 12 feet from my living room.

I needed away from the new neighbors who treated our shared small walkway as their personal porch and held long, loud, in-depth conversations between the walkway and deep into their apartment about coffee and the minutia of life. There also were more than a few sightings of a 65-year-old butt crack in board shorts six feet from my desk as I tried to focus on work instead of my large picture window framing ass and the racket happening outside. If you are going to be loud and intrusive at least be interesting. If they were gossiping outrageously about a friend who petitioned to marry their hedgehog and were wearing bolero’s and clown shoes I might not have minded so much.

COVID came six months later and six months after that my contract for full time employment at SDSU was not renewed do to downsizing. It was just like working at Apple again with yearly lay-offs, only without the six-figure salary. I still had my part time teaching gig with SDSU and clients but was no longer tethered to San Diego or California thanks to a remote life. I lost the chance at retirement in the California system and my reason to stay was up in smoke. I was angry and frustrated but within 24 hours I acknowledged the hard shove from the Universe to move down the road to whatever was next.

A vaccine allowed a search for a new home and subsequent move. God knows there are stories there to be told but for now the summary word for those experiences is arduous, to say the least.

So now instead of being in a beautiful city with too many people, too much noise, too hot and too close to people I am in very rural, very green spot in Oregon. The runner up state for my 2008 move to San Diego. I am no longer down 30th, past Switzer Canyon, a jog to the right at Mazara’s on Juniper and a left on 30th, past Shepard Fairey’s mural on the yellow brick building in a terra cotta four plex on the next block.

Where I am now? I hadn’t really thought about it in those San Diego life defining terms until I had to give directions to my friend Erika who was trekking up to see me from Sacramento. I live in a small unincorporated town of about 1,200 people, southwest of Roseburg a bit. It’s a 5-acre parcel with a little blue house, surrounded by trees, deer, turkeys. It’s very quiet, so dark at night you see a crazy number of stars and it has a woodstove. There is no landline access, ok cell reception but only provided by two carriers and I have fiber optic to the house…go figure. It’s 20-23 minutes to a small town for essentials and 35 to Roseburg. Most of the time I love it though the bugs are many and large and too enthusiastic for my liking. I like nature to stay outside, not inside, and it doesn’t always cooperate.

I work remotely, still teaching part -time for SDSU and with my coaching clients. This gives me time to write and think about this next chapter in between bug drama. It’s a huge change but I lived like this 30 years ago. I am getting good at skills I had not used since then like stacking a cord or two of firewood, making a fire in a wood stove, dealing with the distance for getting help and resources in common sense ways. Sometimes I have to wait to go up to Eugene, “the city” to get what I need from a Trader Joe’s, Target or visit any clothing store that doesn’t carry barnyard wear. Which I like but does not meet all my fashion needs.

I am getting better at being uncomfortable in a new place, with new people, finding new ways to solve old problems. I have to remind myself this is my new normal and that is why it feels weird, until one day I don’t notice and my new normal is just normal.

Where do I live now? Well, I tell you what I told Erika. You take a right off Hwy 42 onto Upper Camas Road. Camas twists and turns for about 2-3 miles. You know you are getting close to my road when you see a turquoise house with Sasquatch in the side yard, go down about 500 feet bearing to the left and you will see a good-sized Jesus sign on the side of a house. Directly after that around the bend on the right is a pink bike mounted to a tree halfway up the trunk and that is where you turn left.

These are the markers to where I live. Not just directions, but these components are things that stick out to me and reflect my world. That is where I am. That’s right, I’m right past Sasquatch, Jesus and a pink bike on a tree living in a mythical, magical adventure land with really giant bugs.


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Celebrate, Play, Rest, Repeat

Whether you celebrate the holidays or simply try to make it through them, there are ways to make this busy time better. It is easy to overextend ourselves in trying to do it all. We can get caught up in what others are doing and compare our lives to theirs especially on social media. This is like going into your neighbor’s house putting on their clothes and shoes then walking around and wondering why you are so uncomfortable. Make your life yours, curate it with what drives you, your aesthetic, your interests, and if you have a family let everyone bring their full selves to the table as well. Create your own rituals and focus on celebrating the good stuff however small. Reward comes when we dive deep into Celebrating life, using the tool of Play then Rest, this cycle is reparative. Most of all keep it simple, joy is not bought it is uncovered from deep inside and bubbles out given the opportunity.

Celebrate has become a dirty word in some circles. It has become an event, an extravaganza or branding. WTF no, no that is not celebrating that is marketing. Celebrating is being grateful for a moment and taking in all the goodness. That can be a small win, a success, the happy pause between smelling the first cup of coffee and that sip. A good life allows for that pause and a small celebration of something good. Life can be filled with celebrating things like a new job, or holding a plank for 30 seconds, a rough draft of a story, the first snow day. Celebrate something you did that was scary and faced anyway. Appreciate your work, your action despite the fear. Celebrate being alive, the journey of your wild and weird little path that landed you wherever you are and the adventure of wherever you choose to go next.

How to celebrate is personal, it could be a nap, it could be opening a nice bottle of wine you have been saving. Celebrating can be done solo, in groups, or with someone special.  It just means noticing the good stuff, the risks taken, and taking a pause and appreciating how you got there or even the happenstance of something random and wonderful that occurred. Make it yours and build celebrations into your life with rituals, in remembering what you have done and your hard work. Celebrating invites us to savor our lives in the moment. Slow down, pause, feel good and deepening that feeling.

Play is an integral part of a well lived life. My friends tease me that I have a PhD in play. What does that mean? It means that wherever I am, whoever I am with I am interested in having fun, exploring, laughing, trying something new.  I am a curious girl by nature and that opens the door to what if…and play. I think when folks grow into adults they forget to play and how good play feels as it grounds and balances us. Play is also important for brain function, allowing abstract connections to be made and explored, giving way to creative problem solving.  It creates a space for action, physical movement, artistic expression and more. Play invites us to explore, to take a break and take advantage of unstructured time. It is about injecting pleasure, adventure, connection with others and self in a way that informs us about the world and ourselves.

Play is the tool of learning, of releasing stress, building new things in our lives, it invites in freedom to explore the uncharted parts of our beliefs and fully extend ourselves in ways we don’t think about daily and should. What does that mean? It means that we can become robots in getting ready, going to work, acting appropriately in each social interaction. Our thinking becomes systematic in routines and we are lulled into going through the actions and not being fully present. Injecting play is about paying attention to what is happening in the moment, like improv and building on it. It is about being present, open and playful to what can happen. There should be play time built into every day but especially the holiday season where we are more apt to jump off our daily grind of the gerbil wheel. Break out, find a partner in crime and do something fun, something you enjoyed as a kid, something you have always wanted to do or just look for opportunities to take the lighter, laughter filled road.

  The act of Resting is shamed in our culture. We celebrate people who sleep four hours a night for being efficient when biologically that is a very bad thing to do. Sleep is important for the human body to rejuvenate, to process, to rebuild, refresh and prepare for the next day. Rest is not always sleep, it can also look like being still, watching the birds out the window or the fire in the woodstove. Rest can be journaling, reading a book, it can be snuggling up and watching a comfort movie with someone who loves it like you do. Rest too, like Play, should have less structure to it. Less “have to’s” or rules. It helps to realize that Rest is not lazy, nor is self-care, selfish. Simply put Rest is part of maintenance for our mind, body and spirit. Like winter‘s role in the seasons, we too have cycles for growth, promoting balance and rest is one of them.

Holidays have expectations that are unrealistic, crazy hard and include things we don’t always want to do. Building some Rest between events and socializing can enhance the pleasure of the times we are with people. Having that Rest, a break, a pause to enjoy will help us maintain some balance in what might be otherwise incredibly hectic and stressful. Remember it is your holiday too and No is a complete sentence. Practice saying, things like “thank you for thinking of me”, “let me check my schedule and I will let you know tomorrow morning”. Sleep on it and then decide if you can add the obligation and enjoy it or will it stress you out. Then answer appropriately based on how you feel. Build Rest into the schedule literally, put it down on your google calendar, or however you track your days. It is easier to defend it then to squeeze it in later when you are spent and there are no more hours left for you.

These things Celebrating, Playing and Resting are where we create the life we love and need. They are important components along with creating, pushing past fear, achieving, caretaking, showing up…. Balance comes when you add all this together and recognize the value of each one as the care and maintenance of being a healthy, happy human. Taking the time to care for yourself and others in celebration, in play and in rest is a deep way to connect. Remember to step back, be thoughtful and present in a time that has a reputation for us bustling about to our determent. Build into your holidays and days to come with the practice of making time to celebrate, to play and to rest and of course repeat.

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The Benefit of Giving and Receiving Thanks

This time of year, just before Thanksgiving, I am always thinking about writing thank you cards to those I love and appreciate. I think about writing a blog about giving thanks or gratitude but alas I am generally still in a sugar coma from Halloween which we know is the beginning of candy season. So, until now those ideas had lain among the Junior Mints and Jujuy Fruit boxes.

Giving thanks, showing appreciation, sending love and being truly grateful for the people and things that make life worth living is a powerful tool. Not just for the receiver but also for the giver. For the receiver getting thanked when the thanks are heartfelt and genuine is lovely and even sometimes overwhelming. I am not talking about oblatory thanks we do out of guilt or to be liked. But rather being thanked in a wholehearted way, this is something we feel in our chest not just hear. It is a visceral experience.

 A thank you is hard to hear sometimes, to let someone thank us. I have been terrible at receiving those lovely thank you’s over the years. My MO was to deflect, make a joke, move on quickly. That was disservice to those who were loving and genuine because I was awkward and embarrassed. I have become better at just saying you’re welcome, making eye contact with the person instead of my shoes and being in the moment. These same rules hold true of being complimented as well.

It dawned on me a few years ago that I like complimenting people and thanking folks for their help, support etc. It was important to me that they knew I appreciated them and their contributions to my life. So why should I deprive others of the same experience I enjoyed, by being a bad receiver. Just because in those days I was socially the equivalent to a badger, the least congenial of the weasel family, not like the otter a real charmer. This being said I worked on my receiving skills practicing being present and just listening and soaking it in. Soaking that love in helps for the bad days when I feel defeated and lost.

If soaking in the love of thanks and appreciation is good for the receiver it is as good or better for the giver. When we show gratitude, give thanks the love is a boomerang that comes right back to us. We rarely tell those closest to us what they mean to us, even in small ways or gestures. Doing this more regularly grows trust, deepens bonds and strengthens the relationship. This is true for co-workers, neighbors as well as friends and family. It helps us see more of the good in people, in situations in giving thanks and being grateful for all that we do have. Being happy for what we have, being grateful is the fertile soil of a good life.

Gertrude Stein said, “Silent gratitude isn’t much use to anyone.”

If you aren’t good at thanking people, it just takes practice and just a little vulnerability. Tell them specifically what they did you are grateful for, how it made you feel and say, “thank you”. That’s it. Giving thanks, showing gratitude is like love: it needs to be shared. It doesn’t have to be a big production either, a kind heart felt comment, a small note. Whether it is the giver or receiver everyone needs to be in the moment, make eye contact feel what they feel and hold on to the good stuff. I encourage you all to, in the next week or two, consider adopting a practice of gratitude, of giving thanks. Think of at least two people who you are grateful for and thank them. Then practice doing it again with other people the next week and the one after that. Before long, it becomes a habit, and it is just a part of who you are. Just another happy grateful person.

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Progress feels a lot like floundering. For those of you who don’t know what floundering means it is to struggle, to lose footing and show confusion. Think of pulling a fish out of water, perhaps a flounder, and it flops about in search of water, gasping and lost. That for me sometimes is what progress feels like. Ugly, gasping, confusion and second-guessing steps in trying to obtain any type of footing. Floundering is what transition feels like, what progress feels like… it feels awful.

Every transition in my life whether it be career, moving to a new state, starting a business or even a serious relationship is herky jerky, fraught with anxiety and worrying pauses between action. It is humbling. We can chalk it all up to learning. Learning something new is rough on our ego. We feel like we are out of our depth, stupid, inadequate, like a loser. These feelings are true and real and live in the second stage of learning something new. New meaning, something foreign to our current knowledge, experience or understanding. That new can be how to register your car in a new state, how to do a new job, what to do when the fire alarm goes off when you make crepes in a cooking class at the mall. 

There are four stages to learning. The first is that we are unconsciously incompetent. We are unaware of our lack of knowledge, we don’t know, what we don’t know. This is called happy.

We then face change, whether it was something we embarked on or that was thrust upon us we start down a path. Progress, a transition, moving forward into the unknown. We are now trying to do something new, whether it is leaning a new skill, being single again, struggling as a new parent, etc. We have now entered the floundering zone.

Noel Burch, an employee with Gordon Training International, developed the Conscious Competence Ladder. His model calls the floundering phase being consciously incompetent. We are acutely aware we do not know what we are doing or what is expected of us. The expect of us can be that of others or more frequently the bossy inner voice with unrealistic expectations and might have a German accent.

Being consciously incompetent is the danger zone. This is where may people give up because it is difficult, we feel terrible and if you are learning guitar your fingers hurt like hell. We crave normal, something easier, something we know and that makes us feel competent. The hard part is that those somethings of our past in reality didn’t fit and caused us to stumble up the road in search of new. Going back is a lot like trying to fit into your favorite outfit from 7th grade. It was wonderful in the time, but we have outgrown it. Trying to make ourselves fit no matter the reason is never the answer.

Staying with the foundering is painful, it’s an awkward dance of “I got it, I got it… oh hell I don’t got it.” It is one step forward and two back. It is not even being sure if the step you just took was in the right direction, because we don’t even know what the “right” direction is.

The right direction, however, is anything that our gut, our deep-down selves that got us into this journey pushes us to do. Frequently that direction and intuitive step is also terrifying. We are pushed to pursue things that are scary, seem daunting and might even be. But so was everything we have done prior to this. All the previous struggles we have mastered and pushed through to success and mastery.  Afterward we think back and wonder what the big deal was as we rush on down the road. Many times, we don’t even think about our prior fears and struggles we just push on forgetting our previous learning, with our eyes focused on what is next.

So, what can we do when we are floundering, and feel awful? How do we trust in the forward motion while being in the dark?

Here are some ideas:

-The first thing is to remind yourself you have been in the unknown before and learned your way. You have been successful. You might want to look at a journal or talk to someone who supported you then and look for the tools you used that helped.

-Recognize that you are uncomfortable and remember that discomfort in learning something new is normal and it will pass given time and effort.

-Focus on the next small step, then after that is completed the following small step. Don’t look up or out at where you are going, just celebrate, take a breath and take another small step.

-Be very kind to yourself. Try to catch that bossy voice in your head that is preaching about timelines, underachieving, blah, blah more mean stuff. Shut that voice down to a whisper.

-Find things that you feel good about and do them. Whether that is fishing, yoga or reading mysteries. Find things that comfort you or support you in your journey. Now double that for effort in finding people to do the same thing for you.

-Remember we don’t own the timeline; it takes as long as it takes so let go of expectations. You might have to remind yourself this about 10,000 times a day.

-Even when we get to the other side we are in a new normal, or consciously competent so things still feel kind of shaky.

We eventually get to unconsciously competent. That looks like when we have driven home after work and it was so automatic, we didn’t even remember the drive. Very different from the first time you got behind the wheel of a car or even when you started to master it but were still careful and present as you drove.

The unconsciously competent stage is then our new normal. This is what mastery looks like. Progress is transition after transition. This cycle over and over. Growth, awkward growth in all arenas of our lives. Remembering this cycle when we are floundering and flopping about can help in understanding there is an end in sight, that we have done this before and will again. Each time being kinder, gentler with ourselves and others as they flounder. I believe that grace is born from this transition over and over. So, a better way to see our floundering is our transition into grace. 

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