I spent my 2018 New Year's drifting to sleep in a crowded trailer in the middle of the desert. I could hear the heavy rhythm of my husband's breath next to me, and the static buzz of the sound machine used to keep my 3 young nephews asleep. As my consciousness faded, I heard the unmistakable pop of fireworks in the distance. I peered out the accordian blinds only to see midnight blue darkness, and the faint silhouette of the hunchback mountains in the distance. It must have been 12am. A fairly quiet, lackluster beginning to the year. But, in that moment of ebony stillness, it felt OK to not know it all; to not be making great proclamations of how wise I'd be in 2018, or how many goals I'd set, or screaming and celebrating under the flow of champagne and kisses. In that moment, I only knew one thing: God is out there, and he/she is wonderfully mysterious.

I had an "arcane glimpse at the universe," as Ethan Hawke said in Reality Bites, something of a spiritual moment of renewal; something that was usually masked by the blaring kazoos and confetti of new year's, but this year, was refreshingly clear.

I have started to see that we are all victims of our perspective, which we typically do not start off choosing. We evolve our ideas and beliefs solely off what we see growing up. We become experts at knowing right and wrong, and in our 20's, feel like it is our life's mission to let everyone know how they should live. We have no idea that they, too, are simply operating from what they know, and honestly, we don't really care. We are bent on focusing our lenses to make everything crystal clear. Blurry is bad.

A couple years ago, it would have bothered me to be settling into the new year in such a solitary, insignificant way. I made meaning out of everything, probably to make myself feel better. My safety hinged on all of life having a specific purpose. I hated the mystery, and denied myself the wisdom of not having a reason for everything. I clamored for new year's workbooks to help me make meaning out of my life, which often felt sort of listless. As a yoga teacher, I felt like I always had to say something big and important, like I held some sort of transcendent truth that no one else could access. I am sure this made me feel better about myself, but this year, I am not a yoga teacher. I am not working, or in school, at least for the next 2 weeks. I am not sure what job, if any, that I will have later this year, or how I am going to reorient my schedule to accommodate my daughter, husband and dog. I am not sure how we are going to make budget this month. I do not know if we will ever have more kids, and I feel particularly uncertain of our nation's political future. This year, more than any before, I find myself embracing all of these questions, and not having to answer them. I find myself being oddly OK with the slow unraveling of life.

This must be what it means to live vastly. With less expectation. With less resistance. With fewer clinched fists. With fewer walls and fewer 'shoulds'.

When I stared out that small, trailer window, I allowed myself to just behold. I did not try to explain the darkness, or why it exists or feel guilty for not marking the changing of the day with some big event. I let the meaning come to me, rather than be created by me.

A word came rushing out of the darkness that took me by surprise. It felt so solid and sure. It was the word I knew I needed: VAST. This place, this shadowy, cold expanse I was looking at was so unfamiliar and I joyfully yearned to know it. Not to explain it, or deem it good, or bad. I wanted to be inside of it and feel the substance of its mystery. As quickly as it came to my mind, it fell from my mouth in a quiet whisper: "Vast. I want to live into God's vastness."

After making peace with the dark, I slowly pulled down the shades, lay my head onto my pillow and closed my eyes. I allowed myself to be present in how big everything felt, and for those few moments, that was enough.

On Shifting Identities

There’s something so comforting, even peaceful about not being the center of everything. Being at the center demands more, expects more, and leaves you depleted of being able to form your own identity. Your identity starts to be defined by the way others see and perceive you, or at least by what you think they see and perceive. Sometimes this feels good, usually at the beginning when you feel extra important. Maybe you have a platform to express things, share things, secret things even, and don’t feel so bound up in yourself.

Then, time happens. The lure of being important starts to fade into an obligatory gnaw that because you’re important, you must have something inspirational and profound to share. I am loved, and created by Love. That’s important, but not sexy. It’s not charismatic and loud. It’s a softer, gentler identity that comes from a much deeper place. And, I think I’ve been gravitating to that place more, and more.

When I found out late last night that I would not be teaching my final Monday yoga class, a slot I’ve had for nearly a decade, I felt like I got punched in the gut. Tears welled up. My countenance grew flat. I felt like someone or something had died. How could I just leave these people hanging? I’d promised to be there, to teach my final class and say goodbye! What will they think? They’ll be sad and disappointed!

It hit me laying in bed: I am sad and disappointed. I am struggling with letting go. I am not sure how to fill that void. My identity as yoga teacher is dying.

All last night, I felt so blank. Wrestling with the sudden change, even though I knew it was imminent, was far scarier than I’d anticipated. I went from, “I’m going back to school,” to, “I may not be able to teach the same classes,” to, “I may not be able to teach at all.” Gulp. The thought that kept replaying in my head was, “Who am I if I’m not a yoga teacher?”

I am loved, and created by Love.

Teaching yoga has given me great purpose. It’s given me community, and support, and grace, and space that I’ve desperately needed these past 10 years. As much as I’ve taught, I’ve also been taught. So, what happens when that space disappears or has to change? What happens when this thing that has made me feel important and needed suddenly floats away, as a fond memory rather than a daily reality?

I awoke this morning feeling a deep sense of peace. Love came upon me and reminded me that my worth isn’t dictated by a job, or numbers, or by whether or not I get to say something profound to my last yoga class. Of course, there will be students who miss me, but they weren’t the ones that placed me or my position on a pedestal. I did that. I felt important waking up everyday to lead a class and share my heart. I felt heard and seen. But, I also felt that my capacity to guide was being limited by my status quo.

I know my students will surely move on. As I am adjusting to a very new schedule, they, too, will adjust to a new teacher and class. They may even learn something new and amazing that I didn’t offer. I know that I will be learning many new things that remaining in what felt safe and important could no longer give me.

I don’t know that we ever really change identities. We shift and move through the peaks and valleys of life, with different people, different jobs, different situations. We may love a certain hobby during our 20’s, and then develop a new one in our 30’s. A job that gave us satisfaction, may turn into a burden. Likewise, things we never expected to want, may become the object of our deepest desires. But, through it all, I’m realizing I don’t need to make everything so damn monumental. Monuments demand great expectations. And Love only demands that you show up as you are.

The void created from not teaching (or not teaching as much) gives me the opportunity to feel less responsible to make something profound, and revel in the little bits of life that are already entirely profound. I get to be poured into, rather than trying to always fill others. Peace comes knowing that the act of teaching may cease in some way, but the Teacher is still there. She isn’t dying completely. Maybe her title will change, but her wisdom remains: I am loved, and created by Love.



Just Keep Moving

My 88-year old neighbor was walking by as I swept the front porch, making small talk with me about the neighborhood, her recent sciatica and aging. She doesn’t look 88. Perhaps 78. But not 88. I made some comment about her youthful vigor, how great it was that she exercised everyday, and as she shuffled away, she responded, “That’s the secret, I guess. You just keep moving.”

I put my ear buds back in, a clear sign of my own age, that even menial yard work can’t be done in silence, and finished sweeping up the cobwebs and dust. I placed the trash can back in its usual spot, hung the broom and rake, took one last glance at our fledgling yard, and felt accomplished. Yard work done before the sun broke the morning marine layer, which always left me parched and irritable, frustrated at myself for not starting the project earlier. Not moving sooner.

I began my more typical morning routine of rinsing the French press, boiling water, watering the plants and scurrying around the house to tidy up the leftovers of life from the day before, when my neighbor’s words came rushing back: You just keep moving. You just keep moving. You just keep moving. You just keep moving.

I am a yoga teacher. Of course, movement is a cornerstone of my life. But, why? Why do we wake up every morning and have this urge to move? And not just move physically, but to feel like we’re on some sort of trajectory towards something higher, or bigger, or more robust?

This question started to take over. For better, or worse, humans crave movement. Being still is like being dead. Only dead people really stop moving. We move to remember that we are alive.

Now, this may not seem like some really monumental thing, but, it is for me. I paused and realized how many times I have allowed myself to just stop, and not stop moving my body, because that’s never been where I got stuck, but stopped moving into the unknown.

There was the time I quit college. The time track and field practice felt too hard. The time I didn’t accept my invitation to a really great college, in a different town than my boyfriend (whom I broke up with shortly after). There was the time I didn’t finish school after I had my daughter. The time we chose not to have any more kids (then later decided we did, but now we can’t). The many times I avoided doing something because it felt too scary. The times I didn’t get in the ocean with my daughter because being seen in a bathing suit seemed like death. The times I quit good opportunities because I was overwhelmed. The times I haven’t called or texted someone because I thought I’d annoy them. Over and over again, I’ve chosen stagnation.

Sometimes, I think that this feeling of stagnation was WHY I chose yoga as a career. At least something in me was moving. I was unable to really identify why I had this feeling of being stuck, so I tried to literally move it out of my body. What I’m learning, though, is that physical movement is not a substitute for being courageous. Stepping into the same yoga studio for a decade is not the same as stepping onto a college campus after a decade break from it. Both require my legs to walk into them, but only one, at this time, requires me to move through the fear of the unknown.

Over the last 10 years, a nagging sense of the inevitable fact that I AM ALIVE has developed (as if I’d temporarily forgotten it). A conflict arose: I knew that I was alive, but so much of me was acting is if I were dying. I’d see other people that were Alive. I’d have brief moments of feeling what Alive was like. But, it felt so scary to venture out into the unknown of what an Alive life actually could be.

We move to remember that we are alive.

To move at all, physically, emotionally, spiritually, I need to be willing to try on the unknown. No matter how much I think my routine is set, the moment I wake up and choose to step down off my bed, I’m in unknown territory. Each step I walk is a sign my body is still able. Each choice I make to go somewhere new, or try something new, is a sign that my mind is still eager. Each prayer that I say, and knee that I bow, is a sign that my soul is still yearning. When I stop those things, I start to feel dead.

Just. Keep. Moving. Moving through sadness, forgiveness, anger, fear, child-rearing, marriage, friendship, house woes, illness, job promotions and loss, aging, death, going back to school, recreation, cleaning, divorce, breakups, breakdowns, breaking hearts. And not in a distracted way, like I’m trying to run from these things, but in a conscious way, feeling each thing as it comes.

For so long, stillness has meant safety for me. If things were the same, it felt manageable and OK. I believe we need these seasons of consistency, but, it’s easy to get attached to them. The feeling of safety is a comfortable one, but not always the one we need. I know it’s not the one I need right now.

Nope. What I need right now is to feel the rush of angst and excitement that comes with new opportunities. I need to feel the challenge of an uncharted path and embrace the questions instead of always having the answers. I need to increase the pace of my days to feel the beat of my heart. I need to risk things that I’ve held as safety nets below me, and trust that others will embrace me. I need to dream and expand and step out of boundaries that either I’ve set, or others have set for me. How many glorious, life-giving things must live outside the walls of my heart’s citadel!

But, I can’t see any of it, feel any of it or experience any of it unless I move.

“Just keep moving,” she said. And I think she was exactly right.



I Love That Storyline

“I love that storyline.”

I want to say this. Really, I do. Not about some over produced, keenly written screenplay, but about my own life.

It’s so easy to sit down and watch the lives of actors play out on the TV, feeling connected with the stories, but somehow detached from their manufactured feelings, as if we somehow know it’s not completely real. We can say, “Oh, I’ve been through this or that breakup, or heartache,” but walk away feeling OK, maybe even more clear, because it isn’t our breakup, and our heartache.

But, at one point, maybe it was, or will be. When the person we adore more than anyone leaves us, passes on, or gets sick, we don’t proclaim what a great storyline our lives are. We weep. We mourn. We curse God. We writhe in physical and emotional pain. We proclaim how unfair this whole life thing is. We can’t see outside of ourselves.

When we get a few years down the line, and the acute wounds have healed, something shifts. It’s almost like we’re seeing our lives as a movie. We point to that one time when we were stranded on the side of the road in tears, and chuckle. Why did we get so worked up over that? We look fondly on the tenderness of those post-love making moments with Mr. Wrong, touting all the lessons we learned and how much stronger we are because of it. It’s somehow ours, and not.

I wish that I could see all my stuff as mine and not mine, right now. If I could just somehow see this all as the story, my story, the same stuff that I’ll look back at in 5 years as fodder for the journey, instead of the pain that may break me, wouldn’t it be so much easier? If I could see myself as the genius writer, weaving an enviable storyline, instead of a lonely, jobless mom with too much time on her hands, I would have so much more confidence to do the shit I really want to.

I know. I know. I read what I’m typing, hear what I’m saying, and remind myself that this too shall pass. This is just chapter 1,223 in the book of my life. The page will eventually turn, the chapter will end, and a fresh page will appear, ready to be scribbled on. But, where is the pinnacle, where I’m justified for all my toiling? When the jobs come knocking, and I walk down the red carpet, flanked by caps and gowns at graduation, awaiting my name to finally be called?

Awaiting my name to finally be called. That’s what it all comes down to. My turn. My turn to stop wallowing, stop pining, stop spinning because the big IT, whatever IT is, happens. So many years I’ve spent in a box of my own making. I seem to be excellent at construction, but not deconstruction. This past year has been an attempt at deconstructing the judgments and fears I’ve masked as personal standards and beliefs. My first forays into the unknown, to try and make a name for myself, and I’m laid out flat, one denial after another. Rejection, shame, accusations. I so badly just want to go back into my box. So badly. It’s dark and claustrophobic, but I don’t have to deal with the barrage of letdowns. But, if I stay confined, my story doesn’t have a line. It’s not a page-turner because there are no pages. It’s stagnant and dies out like a terrible sitcom with no character development.

I am smack dab in the middle of my own personal character development. I am the screenwriter who is feverishly writing under the pin-spot light of her desk lamp, tearing out pages, crumpling them up, and tossing them out until the floor is unrecognizable for failed ideas. It’s a maddening feeling to be the writer with no story. Every new angle seems to abruptly end, the plot, an enigma in a haze of words.

This is the part where I just wait. It’s the most agonizing part. Who wants to watch some sad lady wait? No one, not even me.

The irony of it all is that I know the waiting is where the good stuff is being tilled and watered to one day be something big and blooming. I know it. I know it and I still yearn for something else. I click on the keyboard daily to remind myself that any writing, however monotonous and bland, is progress, one more piece of a chapter that’s still being developed. Where’s it going? When will I know? Where's the climax? It's somewhere here in the waiting, when I own it all, not as a storyline to be loved for its tall tales, or a hilarious anecdote to make fun of later, but as fully mine, KELLY SCHAUERMANN in big bold letters at the top.


The Unifying Factor

When I started dating my husband, one of the hallmarks of our relationship was political banter. I think it’s one of the first things that attracted us to one another…and, also annoyed us. He was conservative. I was progressive. This was 2004, so there was no shortage of topics to discuss. Everything from war to abortion, presidential picks to corporal punishment, spanking to gun control. Neither of us was shy, and definitely not always tactful. But, we somehow came away still liking, and loving each other, even if he teased me by calling me a liberal feminist. There are worse things to be called. It was a tiny picture of what the world could be like if we allowed each other space to be who we are, and truly include one another.

My political mouth has certainly caused rifts in other places, mainly with family. My grandma always said that politics and religion should be off the table around family. Wise words, ones I’ve heeded more recently. Like many of us, I spent my early 20’s spouting off my beliefs as if anyone gave a shit. They didn’t. I thought I had something fierce to defend, something that was being attacked. The reality was that I probably just liked to hear my own voice and sound cool and progressive and smart. Age gives us the wisdom to shut our mouths more often.

While I’ve taken a quieter, softer way the past 10 years, most of my political leanings have remained the same; I’ve just been much better at discerning proper times to let those be voiced. Today is one of those times.

<Deep breath in><Deep breath out>

I am pro-life.

To my faith community, this will be no surprise; a welcomed belief in a group that has long stood up for the rights of the unborn, and even hung their hats on that singular issue (something else I have opinions on that I’ll reserve for another day).

To my yoga/everywhere else community, this may be a surprise; perhaps an unwelcomed belief that may threaten their own views of women’s rights and cause them to look at me differently.

I am pro LGBTQ rights.

To my faith community, this may be a surprise. It hasn’t been very safe to openly speak about your pro-gay rights views in the Christian church.

To my yoga/everywhere else community, this will be no surprise; a welcomed belief in a group that has long stood up for the rights of people groups that have been marginalized by the church (but, have also used this to judge church folks unfairly, an issue for another day).

I am anti-gun.

I am against the electoral college.

I am a non-partisan voter.

I am for universal healthcare.

I am pro-refugee.

I am pro-immigration.

I am a believer in climate change.

I am pro-creationism.

I am for legalization of marijuana.

I am a believer in God, and in Christ as the ultimate representation of God.

I am a believer that Truth is everywhere, and The Way is not singular.

I am a feminist.

I am a woman.

I am a paradox.

I am a human.

I am Love.

If you’ve read this far, you may be feeling a mix of cheers, boos and disbelief. So basically, you’re a human. And that is the whole point. Being human, supporting one another, living in community with one another does not mean that you have to agree 100% with the others around you. Love doesn’t have pre-requisites.

But, what inspired this entire post is, unfortunately, about some pre-requisites in the feminist community that really struck me as contradictory and judgmental, the very things that, in my understanding, these marches are against.

<Deep breath in> <Deep breath out>

Before you all go crazy and think me archaic and start questioning my above statement about being a feminist, give me a few moments to explain.

When the election happened and a Women’s March started being planned in D.C., I immediately told Jared I wanted to be there. I was fired up, still terribly disturbed by the insane rhetoric of our president-elect, and the shock that so many Americans found some way to justify giving him their vote. My more mature self suddenly gave rise to my younger, activist self and all I wanted to do was scream. A women’s march seemed like a good place to scream out all my frustration.

I knew I couldn’t make it to D.C., so I found myself considering joining our local march today. I had a couple friends ask if I was attending, invitations to join their groups and carry the signs. I felt included and heard. What we all want to feel.

I went back-and-forth yesterday, considering how I could rearrange my day to make it to the march, even if only for a short while. I thought about all the great posts we could make, laughing, standing up, uniting. It sounds magical, really.

During a conversation with Jared, he asked if I was OK getting lumped in with people stepping onto a firm pro-choice platform. I was fine with that, and still believed, idealistically, that the march was more about the basic premise of inclusion, feeling empowered to speak out about who we are, and unify, even if some of our ideas differed. We’re all still pro-woman, pro-human, pro-love, right?

Then, it all changed. The pro-life feminists were not allowed to partner with the Women’s March. They could attend, of course, but they would not be recognized as a partnering organization because the Women’s March had a platform that was pro-choice. In my mind, this stopped being about unity, and became a political agenda.

I’m not upset about individuals being pro-choice. But, if you call something a Women’s March, and claim to want to include anyone in support of empowering women, AND you’re speaking out against judging others for what they believe, then you shouldn’t be leaving out a group of women that have the same rights to march as you do.  If this is a pro-choice march, fine. I get it. But, it’s not. It’s a women’s march: Women for gay rights, pro-life, pro-choice, Christians, Muslims, Atheists, those with kids, those without, those that never want to have children, republican, democrat, U.S. citizen or not, etc. The whole point is that all women, and all people deserve a voice.

<Deep breath in><Deep breath out>

I am fired up.

As a mother to a daughter, I feel passionately about guiding her towards feeling empowered to be exactly who she is, even if her beliefs differ from mine. Most likely, she will grow to develop her own views, but those are not the things that define her. She is defined by her humanity, her Love.

I will continue to raise her believing that she is not any less a woman if she is an evangelical Christian, or an agnostic. That she is not any less of a woman if she has 10 kids or 0. That she is not any less of a woman if she takes her spouses last name, or keeps her maiden name. That she is not any less of a woman if she gets married, or chooses to be single. That she is not any less of a woman if she believes in birth control, or not. That she is not any less of a woman if she is gay, or straight. That she is not any less of a woman if she chooses to have a successful career, or to be a successful stay-at-home-mom. That she is not any less of a woman if she chooses to have a natural birth, or be induced. That she is not any less of woman if she has sex before marriage, or waits. That she is not any less of a woman if she votes conservative, or liberal. That she is not any less of a woman because she dresses feminine, or is a tomboy. That she is not any less of a woman if she likes sports, or doesn’t. That she is not any less of a woman if she cooks, or loathes it. That she is not any less of a woman because she speaks her mind, or chooses to keep her thoughts to herself. That she is not any less of a woman if she has big boobs, or an A cup. That she is not any less of a woman because she decides to cut her hair, or keep it long. That she is not any less of a woman because she’s thin, or heavy. That she is not any less of a woman if she gets a college education, or not. And never, never is she any less of a woman if she chooses to be pro-life, or pro-choice.

The biggest mistake those that headed up the Women’s March made was to start defining what it means to be a valid woman in our society, that somehow I am anti-woman if I’m anti-abortion (and here, I’d call to mind what the original suffragists and feminists believed, if you’re really going to go that political route). I am not marching just to be put back into another box defined by a few key issues. I was going to march AGAINST being defined by anything else than that I am a Human, I am a Woman, and I am Love.

While I won’t be marching, I still stand in solidarity, in hope that we all can keep learning from each other, keep moving forward with grace, patience and understanding; that no one, no matter where they come from or what they believe, is less than anyone else. We are called to Unity-and the greatest unifier isn’t our political platforms; it is our Love.


Anchors Aweigh

I don't have some great redemption story, or dramatic tale of abuse and addiction - at least not my own to tell. Mine is the story of being an anchor. 

I was really, really good at being an anchor, which sounds great and grounding and stable. But anchors stay under water for a long time. They begin to collect barnacles and rust, and occasionally, get dragged through the supple, gray sands to a new location with the same purpose: keep your ship safe

And, I did.

I was dense and reliable.

I became an expert at collecting all the heaviness around me, watching it trickle down the corroded relationship chain, far away from everyone else who seemed to effortlessly float above me, cloudy apparitions somehow all tethered to one berth. 

If my job in life was to be an anchor, I was clearly the best damn anchor around.

But, it wasn't my job.

No matter how many times I was tossed aside to dive below your choppy wakes, or how often I willingly hoisted your burdens on my steely shoulders and took the plunge, it wasn't my job

Because I, I was made to be captain.

I was made to chart my path, trim my sails, steady the rudder of my own ship, but never, never was I made to be the anchor of your shame, or even my own. 

Because I, I am The Captain.

And I keep my own ship safe.





What I Learned from Donald Trump: The Caretaker and the Narcissist

I woke up today with Donald Trump on my mind. Some may call this a day-mare of the worst kind. Indeed, it’s not my ideal first thought of the day. My pre-getting-out-of-bed thoughts grew into a curiosity about the word “demagogue”. Of course, what comes up when you Google that word: Donald Trump, and every article you can think of discrediting his run for the presidency. Then, the spiral. I had planned to get up, media free, sit outside with my coffee, meditate, journal, perhaps even do a workout. Instead, I spent 30 useless minutes injecting my brain with a steady stream of Trump. I was about to click one more article (that’s always the phrase, right? Just one more click…) about the disaster that is the Republican Party, when I, out loud, told myself to stop. I put down my phone, jumped out of bed, opened my back door and took a deep breath of reality: my day DOES NOT have to be defined by Donald Trump. Thank God.


I did end up sitting on my steps, crossing my prickly, unshaven legs and closing my eyes for a few minutes. I silently asked myself what I heard, felt, thought. I took some deep breaths. My ladies came to mind, the small group of brave women I’m beginning to host in my house weekly, learning how to love and support ourselves through life’s shit. I thought about what I was going say to them this weekend, how I’ll share my story, and how it will be received. Thankfully, I was able to detach from my earlier disgrace of Trump demagoguery obsession and listen to myself.


I am an admitted co-dependent, caretaker perfectionist. I know. My husband is so lucky to have a mildly neurotic wife that tries to chase him with love and LOTS of advice. How would he make it without me? Seriously, though, as such, much of my life is consumed with everyone else: what they’re doing right/wrong (according to Kelly’s rule book), how to fix all these problems, making brash internal judgments based off of zero facts and how to make all this happen in a perfectly square, safe little box…that I can hold. Tightly.


There’s a lot of talk about how unbearable Trump’s narcissism is. We’ve all known people (maybe even ourselves) that somehow manage to make every little thing, good or bad, stem back to them. It drives us batty. And yet, someone like me turns the spotlight around and makes a spectacle of everyone else’s problems. Yes, this is to ultimately make myself feel better, which still makes me self-centered, but it also gives me license to focus on anything but my own self. The evil opposite of narcissism, the Caretaker. 


This all came to a head, as I quietly sat, eyes closed and asked myself: Kelly, what do you really need to hear this morning?


It hit me, very suddenly, that I had spent much of the last 24 hours focused on other people, those I know personally, and those I just love to loathe. A complete time suck. I had inadvertently reverted to my Ms. Fix It. What I needed to remind myself, was to gaze back at my own image in the pond of life, take a cue from the narcissists and look long and hard. Just not so hard I fall in. 


Now, I’m not advocating that we all run to the nearest pond and gaze upon ourselves in true Narcissus fashion, but what if, just every once in awhile, we did actually pause and look, and listen to ourselves?  What if we all got a little narcissistic for a moment?


What my journey into narcissism revealed is that Donald Trump and I are two chapters in the same book. I know. It’s a horror story, really.


No matter which side you lean towards, and we all tend to polarize, we’re all trying to get the same thing: love. How a post that started with Trump, ends with Love is sort of a mystery, but what I know is that when I gaze upon my skewed image in the ripples of my life, I start to see the humanity in all of us. The flawed wake of empathy and co-dependency slowly stills to a mirror image of not only myself, but also everything that lies on the other side of the pond: the mountains, the sky, the boats, the people. I took a brief cue from Narcissus and realized that my lack of looking was just as detrimental as his obsession with looking.


I don’t want my day to be defined by everyone else’s shortcomings. When I actually type it out, I have to wince at the reality that I do, often, let my days be defined that way, just as Donald Trump allows his days to be defined by what people say about him. Neither one of us is actually allowing ourselves the privilege of being defined by what’s in our hearts.


I doubt that Donald Trump sees ME, and that’s OK. HIS narcissism doesn’t need to be MY problem. No. For today, at least, I’m choosing to look deeply into the murkiness of the same pond we all must look into, not so that I may fall into the ripples made by everyone else, but to see, even if for a moment, the clarity of my own heart.

The Light

My grandma died yesterday morning. It’s a weird thing to write, that someone died. It carries with it so many connotations of suffering, ugliness and finality. And those certainly are a part of the dying process. But, is it death? Is death ugly in itself, or is it this long, arduous journey towards it, and our perception of it?

When I arrived to my mom’s house early Monday morning, I knew that I would see my grandma’s frail, lifeless frame resting quietly in the bed she died in. I knew all the sad stuff, the creepy feeling of facing death. I was scared to face it. I didn’t want to encounter the fear and discomfort that accompanies physical death, and I never really have faced it like this.

I stared for a long while at her jaundiced face, a yellow intensified by the warm hues of sunlight cascading onto her shiny skin. Gamma had the most amazing skin on her face. For a woman enslaved to her cigarettes, she glowed like she was fresh off a healed chemical peel. I asked her, 2 nights before she died, what her secret was to such nice skin. She was already fading into eternity at this point, with occasional responses between bouts of sleeping and confusion. But she heard me, paused, and from her mucous laden mouth said, “There’s no secret,” then slipped back into her slumber. My mom has always said she was religious about her Ponds, slathering, massaging and faithfully applying the greasy lotion to her skin every night. I’ve always been afraid of acne. Maybe I should try it out.

As I continued to gaze upon her face, her neck, her shoulders, I kept waiting for the bellows of her chest to rise and fall. We’d spent the past 3 days by her side, day and night, attending to her pain, excretions, medication. Our lives revolved around her breath, carefully watching for any shift in rhythm and sound. We knew the transition in sound meant death was lurking closer. I think we were all wrestling with this bizarre desire for her breath to shift, but for it to remain the same. Change in rhythm meant closer to her suffering ending. Staying the same meant longer until we had to let go.

For days, the blinds stayed closed, afraid that the light would somehow disturb her process. I’m not sure that she ever even noticed the light shifting. As I lifted the shades, I had a moment of worry that it was going to bother her eyes. I had to remind myself that she’s not there. Her body was, but everything that made Gamma who she was, was gone. Something about the light flooding in made everything feel better, like some deep, dark secret had suddenly been illuminated and all the burden that it brought, lifted.

I think a lot of things are ugly, scary and fearsome in the dark. Sleeping in an unfamiliar room, walking in pitch black, stepping into unknown situations. Death has been that for me. I’ve been fortunate to not have many people around me perish. Those that have, have been older and expected to pass. But, even in the deaths I have experienced, I’ve been sure to keep a distance between myself and my exposure to the reality of what it looks like to die. The mystery has festered and produced a sort of denial of its existence. If I can’t see the ugly, maybe it’s not there.

Like any secret, denial produces more bondage. It takes my own will, my own feelings, and hooks them to a tight leash of fear. This whole death thing was like a secret between God and the dying person that I was too scared to find out the truth of. If I knew the truth, I might be scared. I might feel uncomfortable. I might be mad at God.

When the mortuary arrived to the house, my mom scurried to the back room. Understandably, she wasn’t ready to have revealed the secret of what her dead mom’s body would look like being hoisted onto a gurney and taken away forever. I silently debated about whether or not I was ready to lift the veil of what this looks like, too.  I decided to stay, help answer questions, and direct them in whatever way they needed. I thought I would be shaking in my shoes, hiding my face in a pillow to avoid the reality that she was gone, and that physical death wasn’t pretty. Somehow, I stayed with it all, kept my eyes open and faced reality.

While they prepared outside, I tiptoed into her room, the same vibrant, morning light reflecting off her perfect, Ponds laden skin, and placed my two hands over her two hands, politely stacked on one another beneath the thin sheet. It felt like holding skeleton hands. I whispered, “I love you, Gamma.” For the first time, I accepted that she was gone, and that I was looking at this puppet of a body, that was, for some reason, carefully constructed to carry the soul of my precious Gamma.

I left the room before the well suited grim reapers came back, sat on the couch and waited. It wasn’t special or monumental. They wheeled in a gurney, wrapped her in a white sheet like a mummy, covered her with a blanket, and took her away. I followed them out and paused on the front porch, watching them to the car. What was I following for? Was I still holding on to some hope that she would pop up from the gurney and start doing a little jig? Did I think she’d ask me for another cigarette, or a strawberry shake?  I caught myself, turned around, closed the door and took a deep breath. Now, all of her was gone, body and soul.

The weekend of work, monitoring, questioning and waiting, stood starkly against the stillness and listlessness left by the void of her leaving. I passed by her room, stood at her door and stared at all her stuff which lines the walls, the floor and every other horizontal surface. The only thing I really noticed, though, was the wide, horizontal surface in the middle of her room, her death bed, laying empty, and all I could see atop it was the Light.



The Resurrection

It’s been a week and a half since Easter, but my thoughts on resurrection have only continued to mount atop the horse of thought.  A combination of inspired speakers, babies being born, people facing death and the verdant hope of new beginnings has lead me to a place of considering what this whole resurrection thing really looks like in daily form.

Most of my life has been spent believing in this one, omnipotent event of Jesus’ death. Don’t get me wrong, it’s important. Even if you don’t subscribe to the Jesus message, it’s hard to deny that his death rocked the world’s timeline and left an indelible mark on humanity.  But what is it about his death, and subsequent resurrection, that’s so evocative?

Deep in the core of our humanity, I believe we are good, that we were created out of Love, and worthy to receive it. We are believers in second chances, rooting for the underdog. Jesus, although divine, was somewhat of an underdog to his critics and followers alike. He rode in on a donkey. Nothing screams savior more than a hippie looking dude on a donkey. When Jesus died, his followers lost hope. They couldn’t fathom how anything could rise out of physical death, or why someone who said he was so powerful would just die. Our human mind, although inspired by redemption stories, has a hard time wrapping our brain around miraculous recoveries and events. So, when the tomb was empty and Jesus started rubbing elbows with his tribe again, it must have felt like all things were possible again, like the underdog, and goodness and love did win.

6 years ago, on Easter, I was alone, and not just like I spent the day by myself, but my marriage was in shambles. We separated at a time of year when everyone is bubbling with the new life of Spring and promise of this whole resurrection business. I wasn’t really into it, to be honest. I was grieving, questioning, grasping for strands of hope anywhere I could find them, but it seemed the last strand had been tied to the back of someone else’s more worthy relationship, leaving mine completely unbound with all its gnarly guts exposed.

I could not imagine my marriage resurrecting, being what I dreamt of on my wedding day. I could not imagine living a life free of guilt, knowing that I had some part in my daughter living with divorced parents. I could not imagine being worthy of another man. I could not find grace.

I walked into Flood Church for Easter service alone. It was only my second time being there, and at that time, I knew that I needed a place that would accept a divorced, single mom and provide a welcoming environment for an energetic 3-year old. I don’t know that I’ve felt the sting of loneliness as much as I did sitting in those frigid auditorium chairs: babies, couples, church music and youth all over the damn place - and me, resigned to being alone. But, something brought me there. I basically cried the entire service, subtly trying to wipe tears and not blubber to the masses. Part of me wanted to hide, part of me wanted to just scream, “HELP ME!”

At the end of the service, they had a dance. I am not a dancer, and when it comes to churches trying to be relevant, it can often feel forced and cheesy. I clearly misjudged this dance. I wish that I could explain what it was like to be sitting there, to be watching this young woman parlay a story of defeat into one of healing, through movement. I felt every undulation, every expression upon her face. The song accompanying the dance kept repeating, “Can I be healed?” Can I? Can you?”

Perhaps because it was Easter, or the dance, or the message, or just the shreds of grace I was able to gather up during that hour, but I left feeling clean. Those little shreds of grace, held together with the salve of love, patched pieces of my heart and story just enough to keep hope alive. In a small way, I was resurrected.

Six years later, sitting in that same auditorium for Easter service, next to the very man I had lost all hope in, and then been restored, I realized that Resurrection isn’t reserved just for Easter, just for Christians, or any one group. Resurrection is everywhere, everyday. It’s in the child healed from sickness. It’s in the addict finding recovery. It’s in the family finding forgiveness. It’s in the sweet transition from life to death. It’s emerging from Winter and shedding the layers. It’s in the generosity of a stranger. It’s in the arms of a trusted friend who holds you while you weep. It’s in the middle-aged person starting a new career. It’s in the divorced woman pulling up her big girl panties and getting shit done. It’s in the quivering voice of someone’s honest confession, and the brazen voice of every person that says I AM WORTHY. It’s in the restoration of a lifeless marriage, even my own.

Perhaps Jesus’ message isn’t just about believing in him (or else), but about believing that resurrection is a daily occurrence. What if we opened up to the audacity of resurrection, that everything, from the most broken heart to a dormant flower can experience new life? It may not look the same as it used to, it may be unexpected and bring with it a loving dose of life lessons, but all things can be made new, grow again, and, even be healed.

One of the things I appreciate about the Jesus story is that he rose with stigmata, a reminder of what he went through, and how it changed everything. I used to think life’s wounds were a burden to be worn heavy upon my shoulders, touted to the world as one glorious pity party for me, and me only. But, with grace and time, I’ve learned to reach out and get help lifting the weight off my shoulders. I’ve learned to put it down, and, instead of letting it hinder me, make it a small, foundational step towards a resurrected Kelly, a Kelly marked, but also healed.

I just spoke to my daughter and said, “Death is a part of life. Life is a part of death.” One things does not die without somehow nourishing another thing with the ashes of its past. I’m still not sure how or why this whole humanity thing is the way it is, but I do know this: You can be healed.




Becoming Bi-lingual: An Essay on Worth and Numbers

A very wise woman I know often says this: “Your worth is not dictated by a number.” It’s become a provocative voice of hope in a seemingly abysmal sea of numbers: weight, GPA, class attendance, income, years of schooling, calories consumed, hours of education, budgets, years of experience, number of sexual partners, countries visited, number of kids, social media followers, blog posts, sales goals, hours worked, pounds lifted. Phew. Just reading those back gives me heart palpitations. 300 beats per minute, to be exact. Just kidding. That would be crazy.

Everyone of you reading has felt subject to at least one, possibly ALL of these telling numbers. And what they’re telling you is that you’re not worth it. I know this because I fall prey to the numbers monster everyday. I check tweets, followers, emails, class averages, job boards and how many workouts I’ve done for the week. I listen to the raucous babble of our leaders at work, in the government and in the media, and keep hearing one thing: MORE, MORE, MORE.

This breaks down to one, simple question: Do you measure up?

Our society is built on measurable results. If you don’t produce the desired numbers, you’re tossed. I realize that, from a business perspective, there has to be budgets and goals to stay afloat, but, the question that gnaws at me is what about the heart?

This question became crystalline a few weeks ago when my husband applied to grad school. He is a brave, brave man, whom I admire for putting his own heart on the conveyer belt of numbers. This isn’t his first time applying, and won’t be his first time being rejected. He wasn’t the greatest of students for a couple years in college. Personal struggles lead to a serious fight to even finish his degree. He did finish, and vowed he wouldn’t go back. Until last year.

When he approached me about applying again for a Master’s degree, I completely supported him, knowing that the numbers game would begin. He even contacted heads of the program to discuss if he had a shot considering his GPA. He was politely told that they are very firm in their GPA policy, but that he could be graced with acceptance upon taking more classes to raise his GPA, by less than 1 point. I took this as a silver lining, then, got really frustrated.

I know how hard this man has worked to become the person he is today, the WHOLE person. He has maintained a job within the same company for 8 years, worked tirelessly to provide for his family, make a livable wage and find physical and emotional wellbeing (if that isn't worthy, I don't know what is, but I digress). In his process, he’s shifted. Yep, a human that changed his mind (what treachery!!), and decided he did want to continue his education. Except that he’s not allowed, and it feels like a big ‘ol spit wad to the eye because it’s all about the numbers. He doesn’t measure up.

No grace, no understanding, no consideration of the WHOLE person, and the story that brought him here.

I realize it’s not some admissions person’s job to validate the 30-something man, or woman, that doesn’t qualify. But somewhere along the line, we’ve all bought into this game. We’ve all, on some level, started to believe that our worth IS dictated by the numbers, that we don’t deserve a genuine, “How are you doing”, or, even a second chance. And why would we believe anything else when our wiser, stronger, more mature selves are told, “No Thanks,” because of a number?

Here’s what I keep thinking: my heart, my story, my recovery, my strength cannot be measured. The things that really matter in life have no measurable results.

This is equally liberating and terrifying.

When I came to the realization that I have a fire, wisdom and grace that no employer could recognize, but only I could acknowledge, it was empowering. It was also really heartbreaking. I may not get a job, or keep a job, or be accepted to a school because my heart doesn’t speak in numbers. My heart may be talking, or even screaming, “I’VE GOT THIS,” but numbers and hearts have yet to develop a Rosetta Stone for translation. Only we can recognize that our heart worth is more valuable than our net worth.

I still struggle with the numbers. They are a daily reality. We can’t ignore them if we’re going to keep providing for our families and navigating this crazy world. BUT, we can wake up each morning, stamp our feet into this bold ground and learn the language of our hearts, even when the numbers speak a foreign tongue. 

When I was handed my performance review yesterday, that literally said, “MEASURABLE RESULTS” at the top, I smiled at my manager, folded it neatly into my purse and said under my breath, “My worth will not be dictated by a number.”


The Parable of Terrible

Truth be told, I cannot take credit for the above title. That would be my wittier husband who can coax a colloquialism out of our dog if he wanted to. But, the idea of terrible came to me yesterday while I was driving...

I am an expert, an expert of the most elite kind, that's really, really good at making themselves look cool, calm, grounded and entirely capable, aka A Perfectionist. We all have her in there somewhere, but some of us seem to lean on the back of the Perfectionist with a little more weight. Maybe it's family-of-origin shit, or environment or just the way God made me, but it's there.

When confronted with something new, I balk. I need lots, and lots of time to mull it over because I can't possibly drop the shroud of knowing what I'm doing, where I'm going, and actually express the vulnerability of NOT knowing what the hell I'm doing. No. That would make me look stupid.

And these are the sorts of narratives that have played quite a compelling and catchy tune in my brain for about 35 years. Almost 36. 

I realize, when I read it back, or say it out loud, that it's crazy talk. I would never say that or think that about someone else doing something new or unknown. In fact, I'd actually harbor a good bit of envy that they actually had the balls to try something new, or be vulnerable and risk looking, well, terrible at something. And there's a difference between being terrible, and being terrible at least in my book. And perhaps I'll continue hashing out the semantics on it later, but for today, terrible is working. 

Over the years, I have begun to acknowledge the shit monger that I am. Particularly, when it comes to trying on new things. All the crazy narratives start doing their bizarre interpretive dances to the Stupid tune, and I somehow convince myself out of looking weird, silly, bad or like I'm a beginner, and don't try things. Yes, a beginner is like the scariest thing, EVER. But, I want to try new things. I want to feel the joy and fun and liveliness of vulnerability, because as I've learned for myself, I feel most alive when I'm out on the edge of things. 

So, what better way to jump in than with a hip hop cardio class at the local dance studio?!

When a co-worker posted a recent video of taking a hip hop class, I immediately commented at how FUN it looked. In my head, I thought, 'That's enough,' as if commenting on something looking fun somehow translated to experiencing fun. It doesn't. So, he ever-so-politely, dropped the invitation bomb. The ball's now in my court. I can continue to be a polite bystander, or join in.

These choices are cornerstones. They mark my ability to be vulnerable, and switch the Stupid tune that's been on repeat in my brain, to Courage, which, in my head, is The Verve's "Bittersweet Symphony".

When he said, "Come join the fun," I thought 'Yes,' but felt the Stupid tune crank up. Friday rolled around last week, and I had a friendly message asking if I was going to join them, but I couldn't. When plans came up this Friday, I knew that it meant I couldn't go. Part of me was relieved. No threat of being exposed as a total novice. 

But, when my plans fell through, I was immediately faced with the choice again: to be brave, or keep wishing I was brave. I chose the former. Cool. Signs of maturity.

Of course, I didn't want to go at my bravery alone. I have never even taken a dance class, let alone a hip hop class. I asked a couple friends, even my mom, knowing that attempts were likely futile. And I was right. So, I was faced with a second choice: to be brave alone, or keep wishing I was brave. I feel like you may be thinking, 'What's the big deal,' but for me, it was a really big deal. I chose to walk into a dance class, by myself, with zero previous dance experience (besides my younger days at a brit-pop club in LA) and be terrible at it. And, I was terrible, at the dancing. I totally crushed the whole courage thing.

Stepping into that class, I sacrificed my pride on the altar of fun. I didn't walk in there pretending to know what I was doing. How could you even fake that? I was one of maybe 40 people, near the back corner, shaking my ass and having a blast. That room was a microcosm of what I picture Utopia like: every color, size, age and ability enjoying life, cheering each other on. It was a gentle reminder that the Kingdom of God is actually here on Earth. 

I plopped down into my car, with the pulse of courage rushing through me, and reveled in the fact that I was terrible at hip hop. Yep, I was proud of being terrible because being terrible at it meant that I at least tried...and I'd rather say I tried than that I didn't try at all. The Parable of Terrible.

If you are a serial perfectionist like myself, I invite you to join me Friday mornings and throw caution to the wind (I know, that's like the scariest thing ever), and be that person that you always look at and think, 'Dang, I wish I was as brave as them.' I invite you to embrace the inner klutz, the critic, the fallible, and give them all a big middle finger as you take the power back with one quick twerk to 2Pac. After all, you may be terrible at it, but you sure as hell are brave. 

Flashback to Malawi

Been thinking about travel lately. Like really deep in my bones, is this travel marrow, soft, supple and willing to produce the lifeblood I need to stay fresh and eager. But, those hard bones have to be penetrated to reach it. Sometimes, painfully so. Painful in my wallet, painful to leave my kid, embracing the discomfort of the unfamiliar, but always worth it.

I wrote the following journal entry the day that we left Malawi after serving 2 weeks amongst some of the poorest people in the world. It was certainly the transplant I needed to once again feel the draw of the world.

Travel has a way of making me ache and smile like nothing else. It provokes deep set emotions carried on the back of my inner child, emotions that, for some reason, aren't accessed at home. Travel taps into my spirit of gratitude and reminds me that home is something- if not an absolute enigma- but I somehow feel it in my bones, even if I can't see it with my eyes.

Somedays, it feels as if I will never leave the abyss of heartache for the familiar [when traveling], and somedays, it feels like joy springs up effortlessly from every step I take. Without travel, I can't feel those things. So, I am grateful and grievous at the same time.

I couldn't dance with a bunch of teenage Malawian girls until late when I was in the U.S. So, I embrace. I can't hear gospel songs sung on a rickety, dusty bus, in Chichewa, at home. So, I embrace. I can't experience gratitude and joy like that of a poor child, with no food, no bed, and no shoes in the U.S. So, I embrace the joy they have over simplicity, and I take it home with me as one of Travel's greatest gifts. I take with me their spirit, their infectious, rhythmic spirit that seems to sing and dance through each day.

I pray that I remember it [their spirit] when I get down and face my own trials at home. I pray that I would remember to dance. Everything is better when you dance.

I pray that my gratitude would not recede when it feels like the tide of life may swell.

I picture it [life] something like the parting of the Red Sea: one side is gratitude, joy and goodness, one side is pain, anguish and sadness. We walk a precarious path between them, sometimes dipping our fingertips into the frigid waters of pain, sometimes into the soothing waters of goodness. Sometimes, we hold our arms outstretched and our fingertips graze the water of both sides, simultaneously - and that's where we feel whole, unified, connected to all that God affords us. It's what traveling gives to me like nothing else really can.

In addition to that last paragraph, I'll add a note on The Red Sea. When that imagery came to my mind, I was thinking of the way God sometimes suspends us in really awkward unknown places, like traveling in a foreign country. Sometimes it seems like those walls of water could come flooding into the chasm between Goodness and Sadness. But, they don't. Somehow, God is able to contain It all. It's the mystery of this whole Life and Travel stuff that continues to percolate questions that make each day interesting- a gentle reminder that it's worth the effort put into seeing things from every possible perspective, both at "home" and on the road.

What does Travel teach you?

On Being Kelly

Today, I walked into a popular beauty supply store, clutching my gift card as if I was ready to defend myself against an eager salesperson with facial contouring that looked like she had 2 light sabers growing out of her cheekbones, and nearly had a panic attack on the shiny, fluorescent lit floors. I reluctantly asked for help picking out the least expensive bronzer possible (mainly because I don't know what half that shit is in there), then, even more reluctantly looked at my washed out face in the mirror and said, "SOLD!"

I whisked myself to the car, holding the tell-tale signs of my confused purchase at the beauty store, and got in, feeling hot, short of breath and on the verge of tears. Full disclosure, yes, I am nearing the end of my period, so there is the slightest chance that hormones contribute to the bizarre feelings, but these are feelings and sensations that are rare, even to my menstruating self. I drove home wondering what just happened under those bright lights, questioning my discomfort with the whole process, and just wishing it was baseball season and I was sitting in the stands at Dodger Stadium drinking a very large beer and basking in the colorful language and outfits of my people in the outfield bleachers.

And that sentence above pretty much sums up my thoughts on being a girl and woman as far back as I can remember.

I am a straight woman. I've never desired to be a boy. But, I also never dreamt about being a mom, what my wedding would look like or painting my nails. I've always felt a little ambiguous, or stuck in between two commonly held cultural norms of what's masculine, feminine and beautiful.

Since pre-school, my best friends were boys. I always identified with the things boys were typically into like sports and music. I had a very hard time fitting in with most girls, and, admittedly so, judged them for being overly concerned with things that seemed petty to me; like doing their hair and putting on makeup. I was naive, the last to shave my legs, wear a bra and my mom nearly begged me to try wearing makeup in middle school. When I was about 19, I remember a friend being shocked that I'd never shaped my eyebrows; and she was right to be concerned because it was starting to look like Gene Shalit's mustache was migrating north above my eyes. And my upper lip was a whole other issue. 

The thing was, I wanted to be seen as beautiful. Still do. I wanted the boys to like me. I wanted to be doted upon and treated with the utmost chivalry. But, not at the expense of who I felt I was; and that's the rub. I was different - a stubborn, shy, creative, sort-of-tomboy that lived in the friend zone most of the time. I fiercely guarded my authenticity, even if it meant that I wasn't popular or living up to society's beauty norms.

Now, I'm 35. I've been told more than a few times that my style can resemble Ellen (which I gratefully accept because she's awesome and I LOVE her style). My mom still encourages me to play myself up more, and I still love baseball, probably more now than ever. I've traded in the posters of hot surfers for minimalist art and a wall honoring musicians we respect. I no longer hang out with the guys listening to music, but I do find myself drawn to the mens' conversations at dinner parties. I still have stubby, uneven nails, boobs the same size as my 8th grade self, and usually put off getting a haircut for far too long. I have taken care of that facial hair thing, though. Still, I sit back sometimes, like today in that store, and wonder, what am I? Masculine or feminine? Am I still beautiful, without all the "feminine" things?

Gender issues seem to be the "IT" topic lately. We've got unisex bathrooms, Transparent (great show, by the way), Caitlyn Jenner and a whole lotta talk about sexuality in the midst of it. I never thought that I would throw myself into the mix of gender conversations, but as I've aged, I realize that I've struggled deeply with the fact that I don't fit into the typical gender mold, or roles, set forth by media, the church, or society. Sometimes I like to dress like a boy, but I'm not gay. Sometimes I like to wear a dress and look pretty, but I don't like shopping, and I clearly have a questionable fear of beauty stores. I don't use the women's average number of daily words and I'm not very dramatic, but I have succumb to the evil siren's call of The Bachelor/Bachelorette. I want to be nurtured, comforted and feel connected with those close to me, but sometimes, I like more quiet than the average woman. I feel like a gender anomaly. 

All of this chatter, both internal and external, has lead to a lot of shame, feeling as if I won't ever really be accepted, or identified in a special place, or that I won't be a good enough mom or wife, or that I'll simply have to resign myself to being more of a loner. Sounds like I just walked into a fabulous pity party, of One. Yep. That's exactly what it's been. A long ass gender pity party in which I let all the noise dictate my worth as a woman. 

A couple weeks ago, I was blessed enough to attend a women's retreat lead by two fabulous women. I hedged on signing up for a long time, mostly because I wasn't sure how I felt about being in the presence of a bunch of women for a whole weekend. Would I fit in? Would I seem female enough? Will I be weird for having only one kid? Will they be catty? Blah, blah, blah. Judge, frown, shame, repeat. So, knowing that this whole gender identity has been an issue, I went against my judgy self and became one of those women that goes to well-attended retreats to talk about how she's lost herself in motherhood and then makes some craft about it. And, it was exactly that. EXCEPT, I actually got a lot out of it. Over, and over, and over again, my writing and my shares seemed to circle back around to this same issue of femininity. I was vulnerable, and shared with a bunch of lovely, beautiful women, that I didn't always feel the way I thought women were supposed to. Funny enough, some of them felt the same way. I got to hear well-respected women, mothers, teachers, church goers say 'shit' and 'fuck' and told me that I was one badass bitch. HALLELUJAH. Damn right, I'm a badass, and they were, too, and each of us was uniquely ourselves. 

I'm beginning to see that the only person with pink or blue colored glasses on is me. Sure, there's a lot of cultural banter and assumptions that are sometimes hard to block out. But, ultimately, I am responsible for me, for what I like and don't, for how I dress, what I do, and how I judge others and myself. While I am undeniably female, and very proud to have a vagina and reap all the wondrous benefits of being a woman, I am equally proud that, somedays, I feel a little bit more like a dude. I am capable of containing both of these things, of transcending what is "feminine" or "masculine", to be beautifully, Kelly. 

When all else fails, I like to return to the wise words of the great female orator of our time, Tina Fey:

But I think the first real change in women's body image came when JLo turned it butt-style. That was the first time that having a large-scale situation in the back was part of mainstream American beauty. Girls wanted butts now. Men were free to admit that they had always enjoyed them. And then, what felt like moments later, boom - Beyonce brought the leg meat. A back porch and thick muscular legs were now widely admired. And from that day forward, women embraced their diversity and realized that all shapes and sizes are beautiful. Ah ha ha. No. I'm totally messing with you. All Beyonce and JLo have done is add to the laundry list of attributes women must have to qualify as beautiful. Now every girl is expected to have:

• Caucasian blue eyes • full Spanish lips • a classic button nose

• hairless Asian skin with a California tan • a Jamaican dance hall ass

• long Swedish legs • small Japanese feet • the abs of a lesbian gym owner

• the hips of a nine-year-old boy • the arms of Michelle Obama • and doll tits

The person closest to actually achieving this look is Kim Kardashian, who, as we know, was made by Russian scientists to sabotage our athletes. Everyone else is struggling.

Ladies, it ain't always easy, no matter what you're into. We carry some heavy burdens and expectations. If, like me, you've ever felt unsure of your identity or where you fit in, I have two pieces advice: You are worthy, and you are one badass bitch