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Let Me Tell You About This Bird and How He Helped Me Get Over My Fear of Commitment.

You know that feeling you get when things just work out?

Like when friends come over to visit and they all want wine and you happen to have exactly the right number of unbroken wine glasses so no one’s forced to drink cab from a highball.

Like when you suddenly crave “Shit on a Shingle” for dinner and you just happen to have enough milk in your fridge and dried beef in your pantry to make it.

Like when you finally decide to wash your pillowcase and you’re so careful to set your pillow in a precise location so you can keep track of that special soft spot where your head always fits perfectly and then some reckless person (most likely yourself) thoughtlessly moves your pillow to another location and now usually there is no way to detect that spot until you actually lie on the pillow in every configuration imaginable and you know you’re in for a long night, except — wait!  There it is.  Your spot.  And you got it perfect the first time.

It’s that feeling.

That feeling that comes when you think you’re in for an ordeal, but instead the process is relatively effortless and surprisingly stress-free.

And that is exactly what happened when I emailed my boss to decline is offer of a full-time position.

I thought he might be upset.  Or worse, disappointed.  But instead, his reaction was one of relief.  See, as a small start-up business owner, he wanted to do what it took to keep a decent employee (one who actually shows up and does her work) on board.  In my case, he thought that required offering me a full-time position.  Even though, it turns out, he had the minor problem of not knowing whether he’d be able to afford me.  So he was actually relieved when I declined, and he may have let slip a note of envy.

See, when I explained to him that a full-time position is no longer my primary goal because I’ve realized now I have more time to do some other things that I’m passionate about, he replied that one day he hopes to be in the same position.


Does anyone sense the irony here?

My boss is a self-made African-American male with a wife and 2 very young sons who runs a very successful small business, and he happens to be 2 years younger than me.  And yet, for some reason, he thinks I’m the one in the position to which he should aspire.

Okay, not entirely.

He drives a very nice car.  I drive a 12-year-old Tracker.

He wears very nice clothes.  I still wear things I owned in high school.

He owns his own business.  I work for an hourly rate.

He has 2 happy, healthy, and dare-I-say adorable kids.  I have 2 dogs who once swallowed an entire bag of chicken bones and I had to feed them cotton balls to ease the sharp passage of shrapnel through their intestines.  True story.

I’m sure he doesn’t go home at night and wish that he was me.  But.  There’s something here.  An affirmation of sorts, that tells me I made the right decision.  That tells me when I cut out the shoulds, good things can happen.

So this is good news, right?  I celebrated by hanging item numbers 3, 4 and 5 on my walls.

If you recall, I’ve only had one thing hanging in my house for quite some time.  In the laundry room.  Where I maybe spend 0.00001% of my time.  Makes sense, right?

I think it has something to do with my fear of commitment.

So, in light of my goals for the new year, I hung some stuff.

Three things, as a matter-of-fact.

I hung them in the guest bathroom.  Approximately 6 feet away from the one other thing hanging in my house, and yet where I spend a significantly longer amount of time.

(Please ignore my unpainted trim.  That’s still on the 2012 task list for this money and time-sucker of a house.)

Let me tell you about the bird.  The bird is special.  My friend Alaina’s mother, Jan Krebs, is an artist.  She’s my adoptive mother from back in our college days, and one of the first people to teach me that life should be reserved for doing things you love.

I’ve always wanted a Jan Krebs original, and as of Christmas this year, that wish came true.  It’s not a painting, but some type of carved ceramic that has a rough texture and looks fabulous in person.  I knew that this couldn’t just be something I let sit around on my console table or propped up against my backsplash like so many other pieces of art I have around.  Not this time.  The bird would be the start of a movement.

And I didn’t stop there.

The tea light holders were purchases I made on a trip I took to Europe in 2004.  I bought them in a tiny shop in Strasbourg, France.

Well?  What do you think of my progress?

First, the bathroom was a paisley-infested crime scene:

Kate's Guest Bathroom Crime Scene

Then, it was naked:

Guest Bathroom After

And now, we have life:

Yep, I now have bathroom art.

This must be what it means to feel grown-up.

One of the Things I Learned When I Was 3, But It Took Me to 29 to Realize It.

When I was a kid, I used to fall out of bed.

Not just occasionally, but every. single. night.

You’d think my parents would have put one of those attachable crib-like railings on the side of my “big girl” bed because clearly, a big girl I was not, but no.  I suppose they figured the best move was to leave me free to fight my monsters of the night without first making me launch myself over a barred piece of metal.  Because, you know, concussions are so much better when you don’t have to work for them.

Not that I was ever concussed from the ordeal.

In fact, I never even actually woke up.

Nope.  I just rolled on out of there, landing with a muffled thud on the (presumably) orange shag carpeting, and continued right on sleeping.  I honestly think my parents did nothing to stop my nighttime base jumps because they enjoyed coming into my room in the morning to see where their toddler had ended up in the night — curled up in a ball at the foot of the bed, or sprawled out like some sort of beached squid, my limbs all knotted and contorted, jammies unshamefully bunched up to expose my baby pot belly and white little calves, the epitome of nonchalance and innocence and bendiness — all the stuff it is to be a toddler.

Then, one night, all of that changed.

One night, I woke up.  It was pitch dark.  I was lying on my stomach, on what I knew wasn’t my bed, so I pushed myself up.

Or at least, I tried to.

But I couldn’t.  Thwack!  The back of my head struck metal, just inches above where I lay.  I scootched up onto my elbows, chin tucked down, and tried to raise my tush.  Thwack!  My bum hit metal again.

As an adult, my reaction in this situation would be, 1) What. the. f*ck.  2) Sheer panic.

As a kid, my reaction to this situation was, 1) Sheer panic.

I screamed, I cried, I yelled for mom and dad with such urgency that I’m pretty sure they must have thought someone was trying to kidnap me in the middle of the night, especially when they barged into the room, in panic mode themselves, and couldn’t see me anywhere.  I could hear their terrified voices yelling, Katie? Katie?!, but they sounded so far away and muffled by the walls of the wormhole into which I surely must have slipped.  The carpet turned soggy with tears below my cheek — carpet? — and suddenly, there was light.

My dad had lifted the bed skirt, took one look at his terrified daughter lying helpless under the bed, and started laughing.  My mom’s face popped into the window he’d created, and she joined in.

Now.  If you’ve ever asked yourself whether toddlers can feel embarrassment, believe me when I say that they can.  And to this day, I’m pretty sure either one of them would react the same way if they woke up in the dark and couldn’t move.  But my humiliation didn’t stop me from reaching my arms out to them so they could drag me to safety and place me snugly back in bed.

After that, I stopped falling out.

It’s like the inner workings of my unconscious little mind said, Enough.  We can’t handle this kind of stress.

Just one little scare is all it took, and my nighttime antics ceased.

But I think, ever since then, a little part of me has missed the unleashed feeling of the free fall.

Skydive Hawaii

And I think that maybe, many of us spend our adult lives trying to get that feeling back again.

But, really.

Is that so wrong?

Today I Will Take My Coffee With A Shot of Cojones.

Does that title sound as gross as I think it sounds?

Good.  Then I have your attention.

Some of us have a time in our lives when we have to take a stand.  When we have to say, from the gut of our gut (because just our gut isn’t enough), and with as much confidence as we can muster (which usually isn’t nearly sufficient), “I may not know exactly what I’m doing, but I know it has to be done.”

And some of us have to do it twice.

God help us.

But since God (or whatever superior being to whom you might occasionally make a plea for help) likely has more important things to do, like end world hunger or help Tebow win a football game, we’re usually pretty much on our own.

And that can be a pretty hard thing to do.  It’s a tough call — to go against the grain of you feel you should do, and instead choose what you want to do.

The super enlightened among us might call this “living our truth.”

I call it “throwing out the shoulds.”  It’s less mystical sounding, and a little more self-explanatory.

After all, if you’re unhappy, it’s likely the shoulds that got you into this mess.  You should go to college right after high school.  You should land a stable job and start a retirement fund and have medical coverage.  You should buy a car.  You should buy a house.  You should water your lawn and wear nice clothes and attend company holiday parties and smile, because you just got a promotion which pretty much guarantees that you now get to spend even more time each day in this place that’s not so bad, but it’s not, somehow, where you know you’re supposed to be.  It’s not.  But you feel stuck because you should be happy.  You have all of these things, and everyone else who has these things is happy, right?  And if you change, you might lose these things.

So you should stay.

And you should learn to love it.

And you should spend the rest of your days trying to hypnotize yourself into this trance known as the American Dream that seems to come so easily for everyone else.

And that, my friend, is how you waste years.  How you brush them into the dust pan, one by one, and throw them out with the trash.  Because if you really feel this way (and believe me I feel you if you do), it’s not just going to magically get better.  Because if you’re not happy, you’re missing the things you already have in your life that are wonderful.  You know you should love these things, but you can’t.  It’s like you’re not even present.  You’re watching your life through a telephoto lens, and you never really even experience it.


I didn’t intend to get all deep and philosophical on you this morning.  But I’m going to assume you needed to hear it, because I needed to type it.  What I actually intended to tell you is that I need to do it again.  I need to make the difficult choice.  And while I know, in my gut of guts that the choice is already made, sometimes a pep talk is necessary to do the deed.

You see, if you’re fairly new here, you might not know that I quit my job back in August 2010 in order to go make hot sauce in Costa Rica for a couple of months.  I had intended it as a jumping-off point — a type of cold turkey shock therapy to push myself into figuring out what, exactly, it was that would make me happy.  The plan was ill-conceived, at best, and when I returned home my depression was at its peak.  (I know, lucky Justin.)  Instead of focusing on building a writing career, I let people should all over me.  I had no job.  My marriage was in a state of limbo.  My self-esteem was lying somewhere along the side of that lonely stretch of road that took me to that lowest point in my life, and I just didn’t even know where to begin.  So, by August 2011, I took a part-time job as a real estate assistant.  The job market was horrendous, and, if you want to know the truth, that is the only interview I could get.  Even though I’ve had some baby-step success at getting my foot in the writing door, I lacked gumption.  And now, here I am, nearly a year-and-a-half after the epic quitting event of 2010, and I’m scarily close to where I first started.

My backyard view in Costa Rica.

And now, I find it’s time to make another choice.

On New Year’s Eve, my boss sent me an email.  A very nice email.  A complimentary email, on how he appreciates my hard work and dedication to the team.  And he extended me an offer.  A very nice offer.  An offer to work for his company full-time, to become an integral part of the team, and to devote myself to this career path.  To his career path.

The money would not come close to what I was making in 2010, but it would be better than where I’m at now.  The job is more stimulating than where I was back then, but I still know that it’s not where I’m supposed to be.  At least, not full-time.  Because, if I choose that path, I know I won’t dedicate the ambition I need to fulfill my goals this year.  It feels wrong, so wrong, to turn it down.  And yet.  If I accept, it will mean I’ve learned nothing in the past year-and-a-half.  That it was a waste.  That I’m destined to make the same mistakes over and over again.  Turning down an opportunity that would put us in a better financial state feels wrong because that’s how we’re trained to feel.  But, if I remember how I really felt in August 2010, I remember very clearly that money was not the issue.  Not even close.  So, I’m going to politely decline his generous offer, as soon as we’re done here.  And hope I’m not making a huge, huge mistake.

Something tells me I might need something a little stronger than coffee this morning.

But you know, so far, all I can figure is that we need to make a series of difficult choices to start taking back control of these limited and precious lives that we have — choices that feel right, even if they don’t look right.

Obviously, I can’t tell you if this is really the way because I’m not there yet myself.


You can be sure I’ll let you know how it turns out.

Seriously, for the Leaps I’ve Made Today, It May As Well Be March Already

I’ve already run through the gamut of extreme New Year’s emotions this morning, so I’m feeling way ahead of the game.

I woke up feeling hopeful — hopeful that the new year would bring a sense of clarity about what I’m doing and where I’m going and how I can manipulate and pinch and twist the world like it’s my personal ball of Play-doh to get it to do what I want.

Hope, of course, immediately turned to anxiousness.  What ifs came barreling through my mind — What if I don’t do anything significant this year?  What if I spend this next New Year’s Eve as disappointed in myself as I was this year?  What if I still haven’t learned Spanish, started that book, toned up my arms, published my first travel article, taken a cooking class, or remembered that it’s possible to change my ISO setting on my camera every single time I use it?

Fortunately, instead of swirling down the rabbit hole of self loathing or panic that can follow anxiety, I have the innate ability (probably derived from my pot smoking years) to stress about a problem for a few minutes, then get over it and move on.

It’s really kind of wonderful and has probably saved me from the straight jacket on more than one occasion.

So move on, I did, into the pep talk phase of New Year emotions.  You CAN do these things.  You just need a plan.  You need to set goals.  You need to fight every. single. go-with-the-flow urge in your body to avoid letting another year just slip away into a mushy pile of 9-5 workdays, should we/shouldn’t we have a kid conversations, and hours of online curtain shopping.

Then, zen.  Of course, that’s not really the point.  Life IS your daily activity.  Your job.  Your conversations.  Your curtain shopping.  You should learn to enjoy these things rather than wishing them a speedy passing, otherwise your whole life will be a speedy passing.

And finally, indifference.  Whatevs.  This isn’t any different from any other year.  What’s going to happen will happen, and what doesn’t, doesn’t.  There’s no sense in trying to control it.  The world is not your Play-doh.  Just stop.


So, already this morning I’ve managed to do what takes most people 2-3 months to do — stop stressing about the new year and all of my big, big plans for it, and just let it happen.

And no, I haven’t forgotten about my word for 2012.  Ambition will hopefully still play a role this year.  Because that, I can control.  And I’m pretty sure if I can conquer that, everything else will just automatically bend to my will.