Good Grief

Grief is hard and I’m only twenty-three so honestly I feel like I’ve barely scratched the surface of experiencing and understanding it.

But here is what I know so far; C.S. Lewis said “Love makes us vulnerable to grief”. When we experience grief it is because of a loss of love. A life or relationship ending.

Grief is hard. I cannot pretend that it is not extremely difficult. But my perspective on it is that if you want to avoid grief you need to avoid love. You can’t be vulnerable. You can’t fully experience joy. If you don’t want to risk getting hurt you don’t have to – but you limit the love you feel.

Brené Brown, my personal queen, has a TED Talk about the price we pay when we aren’t willing to be vulnerable. We miss out on a life fully lived. In the talk she says;

“If vulnerability is a sharp edge there may be nothing sharper than joy. To let yourself soften into loving someone, to caring about something passionately, thats vulnerable. … There is a guarantee that no one talks about that and that is if we don’t allow ourselves to experience joy and love we will definitely miss out on filling our reservoir with what we need in those hard things happen.”

I get this rush sometimes when I do things a little out of my comfort zone. I open myself up a bit and feel like “Yes! This is it. I’m doing the thing. I’m living life fearlessly”.

In hard times is easy to feel out of sorts and confused while looking for answers. Looking for an easy way out rather than being stuck sitting with this feeling. If you are sitting on the shore of grief, experiencing the waves, wondering when it will stop being hard – well truthfully I don’t know. But you don’t need to rush through feeling grief, I’m not sure we even can if we want to.

But, I do know it is okay to be sad and honour the significant joy, love and vulnerability that comes from a life fully lived. You followed your heart and said what you needed to say and left it all on the dance floor – or something like that.

The grief we go through is a reflection of a life well lived. A life vulnerable to love. It might be hard, but I consider that the good kind of grief.

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Raise the Damn Bar

Last fall I sent one of my friends a text. It was about something a guy had done to get my attention and I had thought it was cute. But it was also a bit of a lamentation that the smallest amount of effort seemed worth celebrating. I realized the bar was set too low. And I don’t just mean in my dating life, but in so much of my life.

It really got my thinking about raising the bar in the way that allow others to treat me and in how I treat others, because of course you should treat people the way you want to be treated. Cheesy, but true.

Minimal effort was no longer good enough either way.


One of my favourite poets, Tonya Ingram, has a poem that goes;

“You are not hard to love. A mountain does not become small for those who cannot climb.”

I’ve thought about these words a lot in the last few months. The idea of space, of being allowed to claim and take up space is something I talked about a lot in theory during my undergrad, but I hadn’t really taken it to my real life or applied it to my relationships.

The feminist scholar Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, iconically quoted by Beyonce in the song Flawless***, says in her book We Should All Be Feminists

“We teach girls to shrink themselves, to make themselves smaller. We say to girls, you can have ambition, but not too much. You should aim to be successful, but not too successful. Otherwise, you would threaten the man. Because I am female, I am expected to aspire to marriage. I am expected to make my life choices always keeping in mind that marriage is the most important. Now marriage can be a source of joy and love and mutual support but why do we teach girls to aspire to marriage and we don’t teach boys the same? We raise girls to see each other as competitors not for jobs or accomplishments, which I think can be a good thing, but for the attention of men.”

Now I know this isn’t quite the same thing, but bare with me. Adichie is talking about breaking systemic barriers of sexism, and I’m trying to apply that to my own interpersonal experiences. It’s different, but similar concepts.

I think it’s okay to take up space. I think it is good to know your worth and that you are worthy to take up space. And the people you choose to have in your life should be respectful of you, your boundaries and the expectations you have set about how you want to be treated while you live your authentic life.

“When you know what you deserve red flags become deal breakers” – Hayley Ringo

For me, sometimes this means embracing if I want to be a little extra and not letting people shame me for wanting to take a lot of photos or have really girly girl’s nights. When I talking about raising the bar, I mean that people should let you be your most vivacious self without feeling bad about it. They should let you take up space. They should respect and value your interests, your passions, your ideas and opinions. And most importantly, they should not make you feel like you are hard to love.

My favourite quote from We Should All Be Feminists is;

“I’ve chosen to no longer be apologetic for my femininity. And I want to be respected in all my femaleness. Because I deserve to be.”

It’s not just femaleness, it’s whatever you identify as you, you deserve respect. You are worthy of that. You are worthy of time. Of patience and time and all those other good qualities. In the season two finale of This Is Us a character said “choosing our people is the closest thing we come to controlling our destiny”, and I think that is really true. So be intentional about choosing people who will show you they care.

Moral: You can take up space. You are not hard to love, you are not too big. You get to ask for what you need. Do not shrink yourself.

If you think this sounds entitled, I’m not saying that you should run around demanding people treat you with respect and then play games with them. This is a two way street, and one of the best ways to set an example of showing people how you want to be treated is to treat others that way.

Set your boundaries, have high expectations, and hold yourself accountable to living up to them. Raising the bar isn’t just about the way others treat you. It’s about you growing to be a better person too. It’s about you treating people the best way you can. If you don’t want people to walk all over you – start by being empathetic, understanding and kind.

Don’t make excuses, take responsibilities for your actions, know your worth and be the best you that you can be.

 

Falling Apart Together

I was riding in the car with my family last weekend and my brother and I were playing around with the idea that commiserating with people is a bit like being “co-miserable”. The act of commiserating with friends when life feels like it is unravelling is a sure way to bond with people.

The stressful moments of dress rehearsals when things are going wrong before opening night.

Seventeen and eighteen year olds who have no idea how to survive their first round of midterms – but get through the allnighters together.

Friends who, due to serendipity or dumb luck, simultaneously go through seasons of grief or heartache and play the role of shoulder to cry on together.

These aren’t particularly easy things to go through, but when we survive them with the support and love of friends we are able to manage better. And sometimes even look on them as happier memories because we shared them with others.

There are some memories that I remember so fondly even though living through them was difficult. There was a day when I was living in Florida when all of the women I was living with were having a bad day. Homesickness, trouble with boys, school stress, the general grind of life; we were all going through our own issues, but we shared the feeling.

We gathered in the kitchen, it started with just a few of us talking while making dinner, but eventually all our roommates joined in. The six of us sat around the kitchen island on bar stools and chairs from the dining room table. We shared mac n cheese, cheesy mashed potatoes and our stories.

These were women who went from perfect strangers to close friends in a matter of months – but a lot of that bonding came from honesty and vulnerability with each other. It came from walking through life together and being able to say when we weren’t having a great day. It doesn’t need to be earth-shattering, but knowing you have permission to say “Can we go get Del’s and drive around listening to Sam Smith in your car?”

We often won’t have the power to fix the problems of the people we love – but we have the ability to show up and create space where it’s okay to not be okay. Where we can admit that life can be heavy sometimes. A place where we can fall apart together – and build each other back up. If that’s not community, I don’t know what is.

The courage to be vulnerable isn’t easy to summon, sometimes it’s 72 hours of a roommate-ship before you’re spilling your biggest secrets and sometimes it’s months of consistent Tuesday night bible studies before we share when we’re having a really bad day.

We build relationships differently with each person we meet, and whenever it feels like you’ve built that appropriate trust, having the courage to be honestly and authentically you is so invaluable.

Since that car ride with my brother I got coffee with a friend and we talked for nearly four hours. It was a beautiful and refreshing feeling to sit with someone and genuinely just share our struggles and triumphs of the recent months. Socially it’s maybe not that common to get so vulnerable with feelings in a coffee shop – but to me that is the heart of friendship; knowing there is space to be honest. Having people in your life who allow you to feel comfortable and supported enough to share the parts of you not everyone gets to see.

There are going to be times in life that things fall apart a bit and life feels like it is unravelling – things just happen and we don’t always have control. But having community makes those times easier.

Maybe it looks like getting Taco Bell in the middle of the night because you can’t sleep, maybe it’s honest phone calls, maybe it’s having the worst day ever and wandering around Target with smoothies, maybe it’s friend’s who come to your rescue as soon as they hear your terrible news, maybe it’s driving around listening to Sam Smith and venting about your feelings, maybe it’s tearing up over London Fogs after you admit to someone who cares that you’ve been having a hard few months – however you cope with the unravelling of life I hope you do it with friends, you can be co-miserable and look back on it later as something that wasn’t so bad.

Defensive Living

If you took driver’s ed when you were sixteen, you likely learned about defensive driving. It’s great when you’re on the road. But defensive living when you’re not behind the wheel can be a toxic habit. Choosing not to live defensively usually consists of trusting people and of opening yourself up to being vulnerable so you can connect with others. This choice can result in beautiful relationships that bloom as you feel known, understood and accepted by people you share yourself with.

Not being defensive is championed by many people these days as courageous and a healthy way to build authentic connections. From my own experience I know that opening up to others is what creates deeper relationships and I don’t know how I would survive without those relationships with my friends and family.

We make choices to trust others and often it results in knowing that we aren’t alone in our feelings and building deeper connections. We also make choices let ourselves be open to being hopeful. I wrote a blog post last year about allowing yourself to get your hopes up, even about jobs or unlikely opportunities, because it’s better to experience hope than try to defend ourselves from the possibility of disappointment. It sounds great, yeah?

One of the harder things to accept about being open and vulnerable is that we can still get hurt. To be totally honest, it is sort of the ugly side of vulnerability that we like to glaze over in the self-help books. But it is true, we can open up, be vulnerable and fall on our ass. Yet, despite that reality, I believe it is valuable to keep making the choice to be open to that possibility anyway.

Getting hurt sucks. When we get our hopes up and let our guard down, and things don’t work out – well that is something that can be pretty hard to sit with. Brené Brown says the root of anger is pain. And like most things, I agree with her. So what do we do when we get hurt, and a natural response is to be mad (at ourselves or others) about it?

There are a whole slew of thing we might relate to being hurt. And it is okay to admit when you’re feeling mad or disappointed, but it is also important to work through those feelings so that we don’t become bitter. Sometimes we might feel foolish- like we should have known better. But we don’t always know better, we simply do the best we can with the information we have. Being vulnerable still counts when it doesn’t result in a new best friend. Being honest still counts when it backfires. Courage is still courage, even when we fall down and get a little bruised.

When we are let down or disappointed by something it is also important to let go of the feeling like you “should have known better”. We were not created to live our lives on constant defence. When you get hurt, it’s still better than never being open to the possibility of connection.

Renowned relationship psychologist John Gottman has dubbed four toxic behaviours in relationships as ‘The Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse’. And wouldn’t you know, one of the four worst behaviours is defensiveness. If defensiveness is unhealthy in relationships, think how it destructive it can be if it is part of your relationship with the world around you.

When we are defensive we are trying to protect ourselves from getting hurt by others, we don’t let down our guard and it looks for ways to blame or assume the worst about others. We basically paint ourselves as victims and run away from things that might hurt us rather running towards them. This could be as simple as trying not to get your hopes us about a dream you have, not opening up in relationships or just not being vulnerable with people out of fear of their reaction.

Think back to the defensive driving I mentioned earlier, on the road it is important to be defensive and aware that other drivers might unexpectedly swerve into our lane. However, to respectfully disagree with Tom Cochrane, I don’t think life is a highway, and living defensive at all times is no way to live.

Defensiveness may be a strategic way to help you avoid disappointment or feeling hurt but it stops you from giving people the chance to surprise us with goodness and we miss out on friends or relationships. We can’t assume that we will choose vulnerability and never get hurt. Yes, at times it can be a risky choice. But I still think it is a better choice than defensive living. If you’re always trying to avoid being let down you won’t get excited about possibilities floating around you.

If you’ve fallen on your ass recently, have been hurt or disappointed, then this blog is dedicated to you. Even though it’s not great to feel that way it is a sign that you’re on the right track. You’re letting people in, getting your hopes up about life, and courageous choices always count even if they don’t work out the way you thought they might.

All The Lonely People

In late May I acquired 11 books in the span of a week and I’ve been pouring over them since. Poetry books, biographies, books about loving people and philosophies about life, and so many more things.

As I was reading along I was connecting the dots between them and found that many of them deal with being willing to stand alone and how to fight off loneliness. So here is a little summary and some extra wisdom from writers I admire.

What Loneliness Tells You & How We Listen to Our Fears 

When we find ourselves feeling lonely it’s not a simple as not having friends around. Loneliness and community might seem like opposites, but we don’t simply choose one or the other, we have a lot of other choices that we come to first. Such as choosing fear of not being accepted or liked over being vulnerable. Or choosing to isolate ourselves from others. It’s smaller, everyday choices that shape what our relationships look like.

I think that the fear of not being accepted or liked can very easily stop us from engaging in meaningful relationships. In the poem “Here Is What Loneliness Tells You” Tonya Ingram writes:

“You are the only one

You are the girl who feels awkward referring as herself as a woman because some part of you is unable to grow into it 

You are the girl who texts too much 

You are made of too much”

Our fears can tell us we are too much, that we are alone in our emotions and while we are trying too hard we are still unwanted. One of the many books I have been reading is called Kill The Spider, which is about finding the lies you tell yourself and getting rid of them so they don’t impact your daily life. A common lie many people deal with is that people won’t accept us or we aren’t really wanted at that party. When we start to believe these fears of not being welcome and let them dictate our actions it can cause us to disengage and make ourselves to feel more alone.

In Blue Like Jazz, Donald Miller writes;

“We are proud people, and because we have sensitive egos and so many of us live our lives in front of televisions, not having to deal with real people who might hurt or offend us, we float along on our couches like astronauts… hardly interacting with other human beings at all. … Loneliness is something that happens to us, but I think is it something we can move ourselves out of. I think a person who is lonely should dig into a community… Jesus does not want us floating through space or sitting in front of our televisions. Jesus wants us interacting, eating together, laughing together”.

I couldn’t agree more, and I think that though loneliness is hard and sometimes feels like we can’t do anything about feeling that way – we can do quite a bit. It’s all about making small choices of opening up to people and making sure that fear isn’t making the choice for us.

True Belonging & Choosing Vulnerability

If you know me well, you know I love Brené Brown. Even if you don’t know me well you know I love her. Did I talk about her with the guy sitting next to me on my flight last week? Maybe. Anyway, the point is she says a lot of important things about belonging and her research about the importance of learning to belong to yourself before you find belonging with others has been on my mind a lot lately.

In her book Braving The Wilderness, Dr. Brown writes:

“Stop walking through the world looking for confirmation that you don’t belong. You will always find it because you’ve made that your mission. Stop scouring people’s faces for evidence that you’re not enough. You will always find it because you’ve made that your goal. True belonging and self-worth are not goods; we don’t negotiate their value with the world. The truth about who we are lives in our hearts. Our call to courage is to protect our wild heart against constant evaluation, especially our own. No one belongs here more than you.

She talks about the idea that we don’t need to belong with anyone else before we feel at home with ourselves and then with the belief you are enough you can open yourself to the world. I love that idea because as an extrovert, the thought of being alone has always seemed lonely, but her concept of belonging to yourself means that it doesn’t need to be that way. To overcome fear and choose vulnerability you need to believe that you are worthy. You must believe that you are loved and loveable and have confidence in yourself to contribute to relationships.

When we choose vulnerability over fear you give yourself the opportunity to share yourself and your story with others. Maybe that means going out of your comfort zone and spending time with new people. Maybe it means trusting that you don’t have to prove anything. When we are authentic in our relationships, when we show up rather than show off, we can become known and understood by others.

Loving Yourself, Building Community & Drawing Others In

The Beatles famously sang “All the lonely people, where do they all come from?”. To answer this I give you another Donald Miller quote from Blue Like Jazz, “The words alone, lonely, and loneliness are three of the most powerful words in the English language… those words say that we are human”. Loneliness is a feeling, it is something we all experience and “all the lonely people” are actually you and me. What is important isn’t that you never feel lonely, but you make choices to move away from loneliness and these choices will add up to the lives we build for ourselves.

It starts with believing that everyone, including and especially you, is valuable and worthy of love. And then practicing that self-love and sharing love with others by being inclusive. Making room for people, letting them know they are valued and welcome, it is one of the easiest things we can do and it makes a lasting impact in people’s lives.

In the poem “Here Is What Love Tells You” Tonya Ingram writes:

“you are yours before you choose anyone else 

You are cicada and buzz

You are loose flannel and cup 

Green tea

You are soft knuckles 

You are dance alone

You are unafraid”

Essentially: you are so many good things. You are so worthy of love and belonging and acceptance. And when you walk in the world knowing that and treating others that way, good people will gravitate into your life.

In her essay The Opposite of Loneliness, Marina Keegan wrote “We don’t have a word for the opposite of loneliness, but if we did, I could say that’s what I want in life”. I think however, maybe there is an opposite of loneliness. I think the opposite of loneliness is finding belonging within yourself and as a result building authentic and honest community with others.

 

There’s Power In Love

I sped read through the new Bob Goff book while I was up at my cottage this weekend. It was that perfect type of cottage weather where you could manage a walk on the beach, but then it would be so chilly and you had the perfect excuse to curl up by the fire, drink multiple mugs of hot chocolate and eat a few Timbits (I’ve been indulging in a lot of Timbits since I got home from Florida) for the rest of the day.

Something that stuck out to me while I was reading Everybody Always was this anecdote about “filling up your bucket” he talked about. It actually comes from a children’s book that teaches the lesson of being kind to others, but what he wrote was “we will become in our lives what we put in our buckets”. He realized he needed to stop filling his Das with pride of impatience and really embody the values he wanted to become.

It got me thinking a lot about the areas in my own life where I know I need to step things up. I want to become more loving, more patient and understanding, more empathetic, more generous – and if I want to become that person I need to embody those things even when it feels difficult.


Something I learned from the experience of falling in love is that when you love someone is the feeling of our capacity to love just gets bigger because we didn’t know we could care about someone so much. I’ve heard parents talk about a similar feeling where you think you couldn’t love anything more than you love your partner and when you have a kid a whole new amount of love wells up in you.

It’s like love surprises us – when we thought we couldn’t love people anymore than we do we find out that we can. When you care about someone like that it’s easier to see the best in them. To be a little softer, or gentle, and forgiving. After all, love is patient and forgiving and kind – isn’t it?

When we realize more and more that we have a greater capacity to love than we ever imagined we can try to use it to not only love our significant others or our friends and families – but all the people in our lives that way.

That instinct to see the best in a person? What if we extended that kind of care to everyone? That deliriously in love feeling that makes you wanna dance to work? Can we find that through loving our neighbours and coworkers and friends as generously as we love our significant others? I think we can. I believe when we learn what kind of love we are capable of we can try to extended that in all areas of our lives.


Another perfect thing to do on chilly cottage weekends? Wake up early to watch the Royal Wedding. I rolled out of bed at 6:55 just in time to catch the start of the ceremony (and as soon as it ended I took a 2 1/2 hour nap with my dog – an ideal Saturday morning if you ask me). The ceremony was beautiful but what has really stayed with me was the sermon made by Bishop Michael Curry. He spoke about love, about how the world could look when we act as if love is the way.

Curry said “There’s power in love. Don’t underestimate it. Don’t even over-sentimentalize it.” He spoke about how when we are loved it feels like something is right “when you are loved and you know it, when someone cares for you and you know it, when you love and you show it, it actually feels right.” 

Curry went on to say the reason it feels right when we are loved is because “We were made by a power of love. And our lives were meant and are meant to be lived in that love. That’s why we are here.” One of the first times I heard a Brené Brown TED Talk I remember her saying that the reason we are here is connection. I fully believe both of these things. We are here to connect with others and we are here to share love and be loved through those connections. 

The Bishop went on to encourage the congregation and views to imagine what our communities, countries, families, neighbourhoods and governments would be like when love was the way. He said that when love is the way “we actually treat each other, well, like we are actually family”. Sometimes I think it’s easy to get frustrated with people when they aren’t someone we know or we don’t know their story – but easy isn’t what we are here for and when you try to connect with people and be softer with them we can find ways to extend deep love into all areas of our lives.


I don’t usually give homework assignments, really you just reading to the end of one of my posts is great. But this week I will ask you one thing: think about the values you want to be remembered for – and then ask if you are filling your bucket with that thing. I’m going to work on being understanding and gracious and assuming the best about people, and that’s just the tip of my iceberg.

Think about how loving your friend, neighbour or showing kindness to a stranger really can change the world – There’s power in love. Don’t underestimate it.

Happy To Be Here

Today I’m writing to you about some things I’ve learned in the past year about being present and lessons I plan to carry with me through this year. We often start New Years with resolutions for being the biggest and best versions of ourselves. We have our eyes on the prize of perfecting ourselves, to take ourselves to a place where we will be happier, thinner, where we will achieve everything we felt like we failed at last year.

I, however, want to talk about the times when it doesn’t feel good to be somewhere and still trying to find joy in that. This past year held some hurdles for me – I had some times where I really needed to lean on the support of others and it didn’t always feel like the happiest time. It was a cluster of joy, love, growth and hard moments.

Live through it

My friend Clarice is a beautiful person, through knowing her she has taught me so much about what it looks like to love others well. Last winter Clarice frequently gave me much needed pep talks. I was talking to her one day about how sometimes the hardest thing about facing struggles is that the adage “time heals everything” doesn’t help while you’re waiting for time to go by. I told her something along the lines of  “I’m trying to embrace the sad days and feel it all and feel happy and sad and the whole cluster of emotions.”

She replied that it’s okay to go through hard times, and that being present in those times help you grow so much. “You need time. And to take that time and live through it. This time doesn’t have to be bad. This is life. And life is beautiful even in sadness“. In that same conversation she also told me “Resist the feeling of wanting to fast forward through your life. You are capable of finding happiness every single day. You are the sun”. You can bet I took a screen shot of that text and held on to it.

It reminds me that we can find joy in struggle, we can still be happy to be here even if the ride is sometimes uncomfortable. It also reminds me that the smallest actions and words of wisdom we have can have a bigger impact than we imagine – because Clarice probably didn’t anticipate that her words would linger as long as they have and didn’t write that text thinking “Kait will love this so much she will reference it in a blog post one day” – she was just being a great friend who knew I needed some encouragement that day.

Be Here

Another friend of mine, Emilia, and I spent a lot of this past summer attached at the hip. If we were going to my cottage or her family farm or other adventures we spent a whole lot of time together. A phrase we started saying a lot was “I’m just so happy to be here”. We’d say it when we were relieved to have finally found a restaurant without a huge line when we were hungry, on Canada Day when we found a dry place to watch fireworks from after hours of standing in the rain, biting into a freshly picked peach, it was sometimes finally making it down to the beach after a long drive, it was a declaration that we were so grateful to be in that moment.

I think about it a lot, because saying it started as a bit of a joke but the truth is – I am SO happy to be here. Living the life I get to live, having the most wonderful people around me and spending time in beautiful places. It is such a privilege. Despite facing some hurdles and heartbreak I also experienced a lot of love, kindness and wonderful things this past year. Carrying with me a mindset that every day can have something happy in it and that life is beautiful when it is hard, sad, or kicking your butt changed how I look at life this year.

Yes, there will be hard times but you can still carry a mindset that you’re happy to be here.

2018 Resolutions

A major theme for me this year has been developing and investing in community, and if you’re a regular reader you’ll notice I often name drop friends in posts. I was going to do a few shout outs to some people who inspired me in 2017 who I hope to channel a little more of in 2018, but there list became so long and I didn’t want to forget anyone so instead of naming names I’m going to talk about the qualities these people have that inspire me.

I have had old friends stand by my side this year, and had the pleasure of making some wonderful new friends too. From people who are willing to open their hearts and show their emotions, to friends who are exuberant and joyful, and still those who love you so much they remind you that they will help you carry the load of life – I have been so blessed. This year I hope to be more like my friends who make me feel comfortable and safe enough to share my most embarrassing feelings and who can respond with “I feel that”, “I know what you’re going through”, and “you’re not alone in feeling that”.

I want to be more like the friends who show me what it means to love people, to be wholly authentic, honest, non-judgemental, and caring. I have a friend who, when they hear about something I am  struggling with, and it would be easy to say “wow that’s hard I’m sorry”, say “Lets talk this through and figure out how we can work through this”. We. The friends who take on life with you are truly priceless and I hope in 2018 when it would be easier to call someone an other I talk about us being a we.

Finally, I so value the friends who celebrate others, who make you feel so special when you walk in a room, and who invest in you and remember little details that make you tick. I also hope, along with being happy to be here and intentionally living in each moment, to be the most loving friend I can be in 2018.  If you made it to the end, thank you for sticking around as I get mushy about the people I love so deeply. Cheers to you as you start of a wonderful new year!

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