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6 – Writing this book scared me.

The world sees me as happy and successful. However, only my daughters and spouse and ex’s know that almost daily I blinked through tears of panic with warrior strength and in weaker moments raced to the bathroom to scream silently to control the furies that threatened to unravel me, that often I fought to keep from exploding into oblivion and putting an end to the misery I called myself.

In truth, I have gotten my great-big-huge-wonderful life, but every day since age fourteen I have been scared, sometimes forsaken with only God as my friend, for there were many hours and years that I loathed myself.

Only in joy is there no pain.

It took me sixty years to learn that love wasn’t enough, that the more I loved, the more I hurt. Joy is an oasis of calm and safety. We have no word such as “unjoy.” There is joy and merely the absence of joy. Finding joy is a journey that takes one beneath the lies, the false beliefs, the confusion and the horrors of everyday life.

Happiness cannot be taught because it is a fickle emotion. Joy can be taught because it is merely unveiling what is already within you. Joy is finding the essence of yourself, stripped clean of misconceptions, when you once again meet the real you. We were born knowing joy but soon learned to hide it. The journey to reclaim joy is easy, yet requires surrendering one’s identities, the veneers of vanity, pride, shame, anger, etc. Joy is living without illusion.

Writing this book made me a calmer and stronger person.

Publishing this book challenges me to grow even more.

Much of it was written in quasi confidence for an editor who inspired courage to tell the truth.  Publishing it scares me for I will shatter illusions, meaning my world will never be the same. People who never liked me will suddenly become friends.  People who liked me will no longer trust me, for I’m not the happy-go-lucky-sprite they admired; I am flawed and struggling like them.  Worse than that, I breached the code of a warrior and show my weaknesses.

Coming clean of the nightmare that has been my life, of revealing my shadow self that my bright smile kept all but empaths from seeing, is to turn my world upside down. But vulnerable is the new brave.   Astonishingly, my life is finally the calm wonder and joy I’d yearned for.  Only in joy is there healing.

Only in joy is there joy.

 

 

 

 

5 – Ask for Help!

Why do we pretend to be brave when we are barely holding together?

Why do we smile when our world has crumbled?

Why do we rarely ask for help when help would alleviate our pain, struggle, grief, confusion, hardship,  flagging self-esteem, money troubles, etc.?

  1. PRIDE is a gremlin that hog-ties our feet and wire shuts our mouths.
  2. SHAME is a bigger beast that swallows us up until we hope to become invisible.  Or dead.

SHAME is the cancer of pride.  Toppling from being right to finding out you’re wrong can be a devastating belly-flop.  Not willing or not able to be wrong can lead to a lifetime of denial, being defensive, blaming others, shaming others, and causing volcanoes of anger.

What if SHAME is the root of all problems?

  1. Always keep an ace for emergencies.
  • For many years that was a beloved therapist.  Just making an appointment buoyed me to where I felt calmer and stronger.  In essence, I’d been thrown a life raft to hang onto until I could get help in person meaning I no longer felt overwhelmed and incapacitated by life.
  • Life coaches are a great resource.  They don’t focus on why you are the way you, they focus on getting you where you want to go.  They are positive, encouraging, usually knowledgeable about things you don’t know or will give suggestions where or who to reach out to.
  • Audio books that build confidence, including but not limited to this list.  Listen to them working around the house, exercising and even sleeping especially if wake a lot at night.  Resting with eyes closed, and mind and body still, is almost as restful as REM sleep.  Plus, hearing encouragement bolsters confidence helping you to sleep more soundly.  Soothing words lull us back to sleep.
    • The Success Principles by Jack Canfield
    • The Astonishing Power by Esther Hicks, Jerry Hicks
    • Ask and It Is Given by Esther Hicks, Jerry Hicks
    • Power vs. Force by David R. Hawkins
  • FREE YouTube videos by Abraham-Hicks
  • Friends, family, mentors are often struggling with their own life issues, so don’t take it that they don’t like you or that they don’t care if they can’t or refuse to help.

HELP is only a phone call or an audio book away.

4 – The Success Principles

My coach, Emily Benson, suggested that I read Jack Canfield’s book, The Success Principles.  Wow, did  it boost my self-esteem.  Listing your victories is one of the most powerful, life-changing things you can do.  Why?  Because we focus on our mistakes and not our victories.

Remembering mistakes undermines our confidence.  Whereas acknowledging our victories is empowering and boosts our confidence that we will be able to succeed and triumph over new challenges.

The exercise asks you to first list the victories in each third of your life.  That was easy, but not life-changing.  However, listing the top 100 victories of my life did change my life.

First, I have little memory of being happy from 14 to 17.  So I was surprised to find I had many victories during that time:

  • studied piano – after 9 months got 5-year certificate [was told talented enough could play as a concert pianist if continued to study]
  • learned to drive a stick (manual)
  • drove myself to school
  • paid for gas, car insurance, clothes and doctor appointments
  • made most all of my clothes
  • girlfriend of Ted Gostin
  • elected President of Aurora, elite girls’ club
  • moved out on my own at 17-years-old
  • had five jobs in high school
  • learned how to run professional sewing machine (20x faster than household)
  • offered officer position in US Army in top secret intelligence
  • fell in love with Kent
  • decided not to go into Army, honorably discharged
  • manager of Zip’z Ice Cream
  • took Evelyn Wood speed reading
  • wrote first poem (probably my best)
  •          Mother
  •          Always wanted to write novels
  •          But read cheap paperback romances
  •          All by the same author
  •          Drinking Tawny Port
  •          Twisting lipstick-smeared butts
  •          Into an ashtray.
  • graduated high school early with honors and got a small scholarship
  • accepted at UC San Diego, attended first quarter
  • accepted at UC Santa Barbara

Acknowledging these victories flabbergasted me.  I remember being mostly miserable to the point my aunt whom I lived with said, “My God child, that is the first word you have spoken in three months.”

What stands out of those years?

  • being molested repeatedly
  • no one believing me or protecting me
  • abhorring my step-father
  • the SHAME of going blank mid-performance of my piano recital in front of family and friends
  • the SHAME of amnesia playing piano to this day
  • the SHAME of not being able to play even easy songs
  • the SHAME and confusion of having amnesia in high school
  • my father sending me back to live with my step-father
  • deciding I was crazy
  • my mother’s horrific death
  • the SHAME of believing I caused my mother’s suicide
  • SHAME so bad I didn’t tell childhood friends she had died because then I’d have to confess my unconscionable crime of pushing her to suicide
  • SHAME so bad I stared over cliffs
  • SHAME that I didn’t have the courage to jump
  • violent nightmares
  • wanting to never see anyone I knew or loved again which is why signed up for the Army
  • believing God was justifiably punishing me
  • believing that I didn’t deserve the air I breathed
  • wishing I was dead.

So you can see how destructive our thoughts can be.  And how all it takes is a kind, wise soul like Jack Canfield to redirect your thinking.  All of the sudden, I felt better about my past.  I had been functional and participating in life during those teen years.  But because I was fundamentally confused and mostly miserable, I thought I was failing.

One wise therapist explained years later that it is common for children to decide they are crazy.

  1. It means the child is safe if the adults are sane.
  2. The adults will protect and take care of the crazy child.

Hence, if I’ve one piece of advice for EVERYONE who is depressed, scared, confused, overwhelmed, or apathetic:  list your 100 top victories.

And keep adding to your list.

Why?  Because WE FORGET OUR TRIUMPHS.  That sounds ludicrous and it is.  Yet too many people are on the life sucks train.  Self-pity, feeling victimized, blaming others, getting mad, proving others wrong, trying to change others, etc., is the gist and focus of the average person.

Decide to stop being average.

When your esteem is raised, so is your willingness to try new things, have new thoughts, able to be more tolerant of others, less sensitive to slights and criticisms, and best of all, feel better.  You smile more.  Life seems easier.  And what you want starts showing up more in your life.

DON’T WAIT!  MAKE THAT LIST TODAY!

And leave me a comment!  I truly want to hear how this changed your life, and if it didn’t, tell me that, too.  Either way, SEND ME YOUR LIST!  Celebrating your triumphs makes me feel better, too.  Sometimes just knowing you aren’t alone lifts you out of isolation and overwhelm.

ASK FOR HELP!   That warrants a whole new post.

Hugs and joy, Kathryn

3 – Stripped Identity

We landed in Nova Scotia (Canada) on July 4th, and I left three days later for California to visit my daughters and to attend a Feldenkrais class.  Yet for the first time I didn’t enjoy myself; I didn’t smile, didn’t participate in class, went turtle and avoided classmates.

That last day, I sobbed.  It meant returning to Canada.  I had hoped that because classmates had their eyes closed during the ATM (floor exercise) and that if I didn’t make any noise, and because I was at the back of the room that maybe even the teacher wouldn’t notice me.

I felt bereft, like my identity had been stripped away.  Without China, I was no longer cool or interesting.  I was a has-been.  My future loomed as endless days of cooking, cleaning and watching TV.  I had hoped love would be enough, but once again it wasn’t.

My teacher asked what was wrong, and I darted to the bathroom in a panic to get hidden before tears broke like a dam.  As soon as I was composed enough to return to the classroom, an assistant asked if I was okay, and I gave him a double thumbs up with a huge smile, as in LEAVE ME ALONE.

The next week, back in Nova Scotia, crying was my sport and hobby.  I was dashing to bathrooms like battling Montezuma’s Revenge for it’s always worked best for me to grieve alone.  And it was grieving.  I LOVED teaching in China.  Now I was in a country that wouldn’t even allow me to work until I had permanent residency.

I applied for volunteer jobs, but even they wanted a police criminal check, letters of recommendation, a resume, pages of paperwork like for a real job, and three interviews … all to clean cat litter boxes in an animal resort!

Hot showers became my best friend to calm and cover up the noise of the sobbing.  I felt a bit desperate, confused and surprised at my disintegration.  I thought I’d prepared myself well for this new chapter of my life; I’d researched and listed three pages of activities and clubs to get involved with and yet the tears hit like a tsunami that wouldn’t end.

Was it only three days?  It felt like three weeks since I’d been back from California, but in truth that was how long I’d been intermittently sobbing.  But that third night getting into bed, feeling the tears swelling, I resolved:  “No, I will give it one year.”  Meaning I wouldn’t cry anymore for it takes time to make new friends and settle into a new place.  The tears evaporated.

It was like that decision shifted my focus to stop bemoaning the past and start living in the present. However, the next day, I had an epiphany:  I had to make Canada be more wonderful and outrageous than China or else I would resent my husband forever.

He was ready to retire; I wasn’t.  It chaffed to call myself unemployed, but that beat using the word retired.  Canada has strict laws that if caught doing any infractions, permanent residency (PR) will be permanently denied.  I wanted PR because from the moment you apply, you have medical coverage.  I’d been covered in China through my job, and the cost for coverage in the States was a lot, especially for a girl who wasn’t working.

I decided to hire an editor to help me finish my book, Joy for Dummies, for it would make use of the time I couldn’t be gainfully employed, but hopefully would eventually make money and give me a new career.   I’d started the book eleven years earlier, long before going to China.

An editor would keep me accountable for I have a history of moving onto new projects when get bored or overwhelmed.  Best of all, I would have a reader.  It truly sucks to write thousands of pages which no one reads.  I literally have boxes and computer files full of  vignettes, poems and two novels, all of which I’ve never taken the time to submit for publication.

The book morphed into something grander than it began.  Alisia Leavitt was a sensitive editor who culled out the best of me.  She inspired me to reveal my shame, sharing feelings I’d never articulated.  It was heady praise to have quoted back words I’d penned; she called some of the pieces like poetry.

Now I had a new identity:  I was an author writing a book about joy.

Now I had a future that excited me, that loomed greater, bigger, even more huge and wonderful than China!  Especially since I presumed that I could and would become a motivational speaker.  Teaching joy brought me tremendous joy, so the prospect of going on the road teaching it thrilled me to the core.  I began to thrive and embrace my new life.  I’d always loved the forests and lakes of Nova Scotia, but now it felt like HOME.

 

 

 

 

2 – Exodus from China

(ABOVE:  St. Basil’s Cathedral, Moscow, Russia) (picture courtesy of http://world-visits.blogspot.ca)

Mongolian countryside, from China to Russia.

My husband and I celebrated our exodus from working eight years in China by taking a five-day trek on the Trans-Siberian Train from Beijing to Moscow.  I turned 60 somewhere in Siberia.

The meal cars changed for each country.

Mongolian meal car
Close up of ornate wood carvings in Mongolian meal car.

 

 

 

 

 

 

MISSING THE TRAIN on the third day was our only mishap; we had to hire a local from the very small town to drive us to the next stop in Irkutsk — almost two hours at break neck speed over mountains, curves, driving on shoulders and wrong side of road, but with a very competent driver who spoke no English.   Note to fellow travelers:  ask the conductor how soon will depart before venturing off to take pictures!

First church seen in Russia.
Slyudyanskiy rayon – up close.

But this was the first church to spot in Russia, and thinking we had 20 minutes, it seemed a grand idea to stretch our legs and snap a photo!  Imagine our surprise to see our train chugging out of the station!

Running pell-mell to locate someone to stop the train, I tripped on a curb and landed on my chin.  But no one spoke English.  My husband calmly said, “We need a taxi.”  I thought taxi?  This town is only the size of a church and a train depot!  They won’t have a taxi!

But taxi proved to be a universal word and a middle-aged backpacker spoke enough English to explain to the station master that we needed a ride to the next stop.  She called a local man who spoke no English, but was kind and drove fast to get us there in time.

Sprained wrist treated by Olga.
Olga, our cook and nursemaid.

Olga, who prepared all of our meals on the train in Russia, cleaned up my bloodied knees and treated my sprained wrist.

Boy were our friends surprised to see us on the platform waving to them at that next stop.  What had been a leisure two hours for them was a helter-skelter panic for us.  Thank God my husband remains composed under pressure.  One more demonstration of how CALM is the best approach to catastrophe!

1 – Preparing to leave China

Giving up teaching in China turned me inside out. I had hired two life coaches to make the transition easier because I was overwhelmed with the task of reinventing myself for the sixth, seventh time? I’ve changed careers a dozen times and moved 30+ times, but between my great-niece dying and then not being able to work in Canada until I had permanent residency, I was crying daily.

Barbara Wotherspoon is a longtime mentor and friend and coached me through the personal side of life, so I could as best as possible attend to my job and marriage from April to June.

But eager to plant seeds for a new career, I hired Emily Benson. While she usually only coaches boutique owners (such as LuLaRoe consultants) she agreed to take me on privately and would soon dub me as “her client from the future” for she was eager to work with people like me.

Emily got me to narrow my focus down to finishing my book “Joy for Dummies.” I had started compiling exercises for Rolfing clients in 2006, but now I had dozens of meditations and exercises to add. Teaching Oral English, I had to create my own curriculum and had decided to teach them something that might improve the quality of their life WHILE teaching verbs, vocabulary and grammar. After eight years and teaching 8,000 classes and 4,000+ teens and adults, I had extensively tested out my theories about joy.

It became obvious that while I could not teach anyone how to be happy, I could teach them how to find joy. Last year’s 10th graders — about 200 students — all claimed that they felt better after doing my joy meditation.

But where was my joy? Ducking into restrooms to silently sob had become my life. I hid my tears from my husband as best I could, but I was not fun to live with. Everything that had worked in the past did not lift my spirits, so I went in search for new ways to find joy. That’s when this book went to a whole new level and changed my life.