#10YearChallenge

326AF697-F23D-412E-80E3-A0FEA2B84E38I saw it slowly creeping into my social media feeds, side by side pics of friends, family and celebrities showing what they looked like 10 years ago. Everyone looking so fresh and young and gorgeous – even without an instagram filter! I found myself saying audible awws at the faces of these humans that I have delighted in seeing grow up and older, either online or in real life, and write reflections about how much their lives have changed in the last 10 years.

For some people it was because of marriage, or children, or crazy job changes or moves across the country or around the world. I loved reading their reflections of who they were, and how amazed they got from the person on the left to the person on the right.

I started to think about 2009 me, and I feel totally sure that if she met 2019 me there would be awkwardness. Not just because of the additional smile lines, and the fact that for the first time in about 15 years I don’t have any variation on bangs (I know you guys, I have a forehead! It shocked me too!), but also because I was unsure if I would still be alive in 2019. Don’t get me wrong, I was SUPER hopeful that I would still be hanging out, but I had a strong fear that death would come back again, and this time it wasn’t going to miss.

Because of this, Katie in 2009 was obsessed with LIVING. Which at that point in time meant not sitting still. I approached every day as if it was going to be my last – with a big smile, aggressive joy, and a recklessness that can only be found in a person who knows what it’s like to close your eyes with very little hope they would open again.

I lived in fast forward for all of the people who died too young. I went out every night, drank a lot, searched for magic in every candle-lit bar, underground music venue or on the roofs of strangers apartments. Then I would wake up, and go to a job I didn’t like very much, and clock out and start the search for some combination of joy and magic. Running as fast, and as hard as I could towards something meaningful. Every night I would come up short of the meaning I was hoping for, so I would pour myself into bed, and vow to try harder the next night.

I think 2009 Katie would be surprised that 2019 Katie doesn’t need to live in FFWD all the time, because life is good enough that she wants to really enjoy it, to savor it, to be in love with it. It isn’t a numbers game anymore, where the more events I go to, the more people I see the more things that I do, the better. It’s become quality over quantity, but I am pretty sure that 2009 Katie would think I was kind of lame. Who eats meals they cook themselves!? Weird.

I know she would be also surprised that she did the scary thing, and left her corporate job and went into nonprofit work. Maybe she would have been shocked that even after “How to Get Run Over by a Truck” got rejected over 100 times, she didn’t give up. That she found a way to get the book into the hands of people who needed it.

I am not sure that 2009 Katie, would have envisioned running her own small business, or that people would pay her actual money to talk about what she’s overcome. That others would feel inspired after hearing her speak, that they would believe that they could be successful even after their lives have been run over by a truck.

I don’t know if she knew that she had the potential to take her greatest trauma, and turn it into her life’s greatest triumph. That the same hunger and fear that made it impossible to slow down, could be channeled into aggressively creating a life that couldn’t be found on an apartment rooftop, or an underground bar but was full of magic and meaning nonetheless.

Cinnamon Coffee

IMG_2052The smell of cinnamon and coffee always make me think of my parents. They add it to the coffee grinds because they read that even smelling cinnamon improves your processing capabilities, and that ingesting it is even better for your brain! It makes the whole house smell a little cozier, and more comfortable – it’s like a deep exhale. Even when they lived on Long Island it gave our suburban home a country vibe, which I LOVED. Now, this cinnamon coffee is being brewed in their house overlooking the Green Mountains in Vermont, and it makes so much more sense. You know the phrase create the life you want to live?  It feels like they were making that cinnamon coffee in their Long Island present, for their Vermont future.

 

Whoever gets up first in the house is responsible for turning on the coffee maker and making that cozy smell happen, usually that’s my dad. I get my early rising tendencies from him. Growing up, getting up early was the way that I could be sure to get one on one time with my dad, away from my brothers and my sister. I would forgo the extra hours of sleep with the hope that we would go on a tiny adventure to the bakery, and then we’d drive down to town docks talk while we ate donuts. It was a tiny slice of what it might have been like to be an only child, and I relished it! I felt like it was worth missing the extra rest. That being said, my brothers and my sister are all wayyyyy taller than me – and I am pretty sure that the extra sleep could have added a few inches, but still, l wouldn’t have traded it.

A few weeks ago I was up in Vermont visiting my parents, and I was the first one up. I wasn’t waking early because I needed quality time with my dad, but I was up because my mind wouldn’t stop racing. There has been a lot of life going on lately – building out my coaching business, working on my speaking career, planning a wedding (?!?), working on additional creative projects, and thinking about all of the promises I’ve made to other people. I trundled down the stairs with my mind going down the rabbit hole – I had this feeling like I was never going to get everything done, that I was a failure and that everyone in my life was currently laying in their bed thinking, “wow Katie has really let me down…” and then listing out all of the ways I had been a disappointment. I mean, I know I was currently making that list, so why wouldn’t everyone else be doing it?

I took a deep breath, walked to the Mr. Coffee and started scooping in coffee grinds and shaking in cinnamon, as it brewed I sat down in front of my favorite window overlooking the Green Mountains, and started scratching out a plan. I made lists, I made to-do’s and I created deadlines and wrote out affirmations. I was trying to write my way out of panic.

I wrote, and wrote, and wrote.

And sitting there with my hands cramping and my lap full of lists, I was still in that same mental spot – absolutely panicking.

I re-read what I wrote, and everything there was pages and pages of ways in which I wasn’t good enough. A litany of ways that I felt I was messing up. I took another deep breath, grabbed that freshly brewed cinnamon coffee, I looked out the window at this bonkers beautiful view of a sunrise that had just unfolded before me, and I made decision. I was going to write a different list.

I made a list of all of the things that I have done in the last few months that I am/should be proud of. The things that I have done, the ways that I’ve been successful, kind and thoughtful. They ranged from the very small, like learning how to make a new soup to the very big, like joyfully officiating two wonderful friends wedding.

I looked down at my two lists, the “To-Do’”s and the “Have Dones”, and I folded up the To-Do list into a small square, and put it in my purse to look at tomorrow. Then, I sat with my Have Dones for a little while longer, let myself delight in the good that has been achieved over the last few months and drank my cinnamon coffee down to the very bottom of the mug.

 

If you have some time today, I think you should find yourself a warm beverage, and focus in on everything that you’ve done that you’re proud of over the last few months. It won’t be easy, but throw some cinnamon in that warm beverage – it’ll help you process how awesome you are a little faster.

When the Why is the Most Important Part

45036597_10160857353095391_3844201334299426816_oOver the last 10 months, coaching has become a larger part of my professional life, and I’ve been reflecting on why I feel so driven to help other people achieve their goals.

It started when I was staring at the memoir I wrote about my experience of getting run over by a truck and surviving, aptly named, “How to Get Run Over by a Truck” It had been rejected by over 90 agents. I wasn’t sure what to do, but I knew that I couldn’t give up on it, and I couldn’t do it it alone.
Enter the amazing life coaching skills of Mollie Khine. She and I worked together every week, and over the course of 4 months I went from having no idea of how I would take this manuscript out of my computer and into the world – to having pre-sold over 1000 copies of this book. I was so blown away by the fact that coaching had changed the trajectory of my life, that I realized it was what I wanted to do for others!

I’ve spent the better part of the last year doing just that, standing with clients as they create a better, more beautiful life, and it has been absolutely heart expanding. Who (or what) has created a transformation in your life? You can sign up here: https://lnkd.in/da55W_B for a FREE coaching assessment call with me

any less beautiful

The hospital where I did my rehab after my crash recently interviewed me for a promotional video. It was super fun and also amazingly awkward, especially when they were videotaping me powerwalking like a muppet around my neighborhood. I felt like people staring at me, wondering why in the world people were videotaping someone powerwalking – running, maybe – powerwalking? Weird.

When I watched the video I was struck by two things: 1. There was one hair in my bangs that was stuck to my forehead that after I saw it, I couldn’t stop wondering why no one had told me to adjust it 2. I said something at the end of the video that I was afraid I didn’t totally believe.

“My win isn’t going to look like someone else’s win, but that doesn’t make it any less sweet, any less important and definitely any less beautiful.”

Real talk, that’s a badass quote, and I truly loved it. But I felt like this statement wasn’t true in every facet of my life. I felt like it was true about my physical fitness – I had accepted that my ability to exercise, run, walk, and compete is going to be different from others  in light of my injuries and my accident. It has taken me over 10 years to get there, but it is my truth now – being different is my reality.

What I have been struggling with is accepting that my life, my work, my wins are different, not only from my contemporaries, but also from my past self. What does a win for me even look like? How do I know that I am successful If I didn’t get a raise, or a title change, or a bonus or just an old fashioned “Attagirl” from my boss?  How do I feel successful in the world without a clearly defined path to a gold star?

This gold star search had been consuming me. I scrounged for confirmations of my success anywhere I could: from the likes on the articles I wrote, from my boyfriend acknowledging the smallest bit of good news, from the amount of money I would make on speaking engagements. I needed someone on the outside to tell me that these wins were enough. Mind you, they had no idea that their validation was the only thing that was keeping me afloat on this turbulent sea of self-doubt about whether not I was a good person, if I was worthy of love, if I was living my life correctly. Which is an ungodly amount of pressure on a person who thought that they were just receiving a call about the fact that a hospital might have me come in to speak in the summer. I would hang up the phone wondering where my fireworks and backflips were.

Then, I got this photo:

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My smiling face, with the words that I needed to hear right next to my head. And I thought to myself – “Who says that this isn’t a win Katie McKenna? How says someone taking your words and taking a fancy photo of you, and putting those two things together, isn’t a goddamned win? Will it increase you salary, no – it absolutely won’t. But, is it awesome? It really really is! It is different than other peoples win’s because these things aren’t happening to people that you know – they are happening to you! And that is worth its weight in Atta Girl’s.

It’s a new year, and it’s the same me – but I am hoping that 2018 is full of a shift in perspective, and an easing of what our lives “should be” and a celebration of all of the sweet, important and beautiful wins that we are experiencing right now. They deserve their own gold stars, and you do too!

Keep Falling

Two Monday’s ago, I woke up at 5 am and took the bag I had packed for a weekend in the Hamptons full of shoes and once worn dresses and re-zipped it.  I grabbed the nearest big blue Ikea bag and tipped my laundry basket into it, watching as the clothes cascaded out of it, like a cotton avalanche. I kissed my boyfriend good-bye as he sleepily slid toward my side of the bed.  I heaved this monstrosity of dirty clothes over my shoulder and lifted my rolling luggage out the front door to the 2011 Subaru Impreza that I share with my little brother.

This little silver bullet of a car has almost 150,000 miles on it, smells like my little brothers dirty gym clothes, and in that moment opening up  the car door made me happier than I can even express. I needed a break from Brooklyn, and this sweet little four wheeled wonder was my ticket out. I didn’t worry about the wonky back bumper, or that the check engine light has been on basically since we got it a few months ago.  I just saw the E ZPass was in place, and that Google maps told me it was blue all the way from Brooklyn to Vermont – I turned the ignition and pulled out of the parallel parking spot that had taken me at least 5 tries to get into.

I needed a breath because I have been feeling unsteady lately.  This unsteadiness is partially of my own doing. When I consciously uncoupled from my job, I saw it as a real opportunity for me to figure out what I wanted for my life to look like, and to try to build the fuck out of  it.  Which in theory is BRILLIANT! I’m following my dreams, going with my gut, being brave – thinking about what I want to do with my wild and precious life! I am doing the things that I promised myself I would do! I almost died, don’t I deserve to give myself the opportunity to find happiness.  YES all of these things are SO TRUE.  

But, what they don’t always put at the bottom of these quotes in the prettiest calligraphy I’ve ever seen, is that while investing in yourself, and listening to your heart is incredible – it is also really, really scary.

I’d been doing what I normally do in the face of things that terrify me: I work super hard, I don’t take care of myself and most charmingly I try to control everything I possibly can.  This includes myself, my relationships, my social interactions, money, food and breathing.  For the last few months I’ve been dancing on the razor’s edge of this control. Trying, trying, trying to keep myself balanced – praying that I won’t fall, knowing that eventually, I will.

My brother had called me a few days before I left for Vermont and asked me how I was, I took a breath and before I could speak he said – ‘You’re not doing well.  You know it, I know it, and listen that’s ok.  Stop struggling against it.  Lean into kid.  Don’t make any decisions, except to get the fuck out of town.’  

I called my parents right afterwards and asked if I could come up for a visit. I needed to fall apart, and apparently, I needed to do it on a pile the dirty laundry that was currently sitting in the backseat.  

Owning a car in New York City is a bit of a luxury, and it was still pretty new to me. We had only owned it since March, and most of the trips in it had been to see family, or friends and I was rarely by myself.  

The joy of being in charge of the playlist, and being able to stop whenever I wanted to was not lost on me. I sped up the New York Thruway the same way that I would have when I was 19.  Windows wide open, drinking gulps of milky sweet iced coffee, singing to songs as loudly as I wanted – feeling free, totally ridiculous  and like I could stop and pee at every rest stop because I have a small bladder, I love beverages and goddammit I was in charge.

For the last few months, I have been searching for something to make me feel steady.  For that one thing that I can lean back on and say – “Alright Katie, see this thing happened and that means that everything is going to be ok.” But that thing hasn’t come.  As I drove past service stations and farm towns that smelled like fresh cut grass, I realized that it probably never would.

Not because steadiness isn’t in my future, but because I have a tendency to move the goal post whenever I get close to that feeling – to say it still isn’t enough. That I need to work harder and smarter to be worthy of a concrete feeling.  Which is exhausting and shitty, because it makes it pretty impossible to ever score a point.

I rolled up to my parents house, still buzzing from all of the coffee and the number of indie-pop songs I belted out, hugged the crap out of my mom and sat down to start working.  My dad walked in looked and me and said

‘Katie, you should go and lie down.’

No, Dad I’ve got some stuff to do, I should really take care of it now.

‘Do you have a deadline? Or is there someone who is waiting on it right now?’

No, not exactly.

‘Then I think that you should go upstairs and rest.  That’s why this house is here, that’s why you’re here – so you can relax and rest.  You need to rest Katie.

I looked at both of my parents, and in their eyes I saw love (and more than a little concern) so I walked up the stairs and did what the told me. I laid down, and I slept.  I woke up hours later from the nap that I didn’t think that I needed, feeling unwound.  I had a cocktail and a chat with a my dad, and dinner and a tearful heart to heart with my mom before tucking myself in tightly to my bed for the second time that day.

My alarm went off at 5:15 and I padded down to my parents front porch with my journal in my hand.  I wrote as the sun came up over the Green Mountains, thoughts and feeling and nonsense poured out – nothing particularly life shattering, but it was honest and it was real and I meant every word.  Which felt fucking awesome.

I closed the journal entry with these thoughts:

You’ve got this, I promise.

Keep falling.

Go through it. 

Show up.

I love you.

In the off chance that you’re reading this, and maybe feeling like everything is so stinking out of control –  I want you to say all of the things above to yourself. Because it made me feel so much better, and I hope that it will help you too! Oh, and also, I think that you should lie down for a little bit.  You deserve it, I promise. 

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I couldn’t control this sunrise, but it turned out pretty gorgeous. 

Be the Brooklyn you Want to See

The other morning on my power walk, I veered off of the loop that I do most of the time, because I had that itch – you know the one – where you need to see something different and beautiful. Something that reminds you that the world is full of treasures that are hiding in plain sight – all that you have to do is to make a left turn where you’d usually make a right and BOOM! Beauty.

My eyes were peeled for some cool street art, or an interaction between two people that I didn’t know, doing something interesting, that was none of my freaking business. I turned a corner, and there it was – under a sky full of cotton candy clouds flecked with the gold of the rising sun, a tag that said Brooklyn. It was exactly the kind of loveliness I was hoping to catch this morning – then something interesting happened: I exhaled and whispered the word home.

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When I first moved to Williamsburg, Brooklyn from Long Island (a whole 15 miles away, mind you) a little over 10 years ago, I never thought that Brooklyn would be my home.  I wasn’t cool enough for Brooklyn.  I knew that, the girls that I moved in with from Craigslist knew that, and I am pretty sure that if the Bandit wine from a box could have spoken it would have told me that too.  But, I didn’t move – I had friends here, I loved the neighborhood, and my rent was $600 a month – I couldn’t leave!

As time went on, I moved in with the women who would become my best friends, ate so much pizza, changed apartments, got run over by a truck (natch – it was all of the rage in the mid-2000’s), broke someones heart, started drinking wine out of bottles, changed jobs, fell in love, moved into my own place, got my heart broken, kissed a ton of strangers (including enough people in the service industry that I had to find all new bars and restaurants in the neighborhood), wrote a book and yet, even after all of that, I still didn’t feel like Brooklyn was my home.  In my mind, home was still in that house on a quiet street in Manhasset where I learned to ride my bike, took my prom pictures in front of the fireplace and played running bases in the backyard.

Then, my parents, in their infinite selfishness, decided that they wanted to take care of themselves for the first time in about 35 years, and sell the house that was always home to me, and retire in Vermont.  I am going to be totally transparent with you all, I did not handle it well. (My mom is reading this section right now and nodding her head vigorously) There was an ungodly amount of crying, and if I remember correctly a little bit of dry heaving. I am a very rational and reasonable person when it comes to change. (Again, my mom is reading this, and shaking her head vigorously – but in the NO direction).

I had one of these emotional outbursts while out for drinks with my best friend (and former roommate) Leah, and she was understanding and comforting but also gifted me with some advice: Why don’t you see this as an opportunity? This is the chance to make Brooklyn your home. Like really your home.  Build a community, make it yours.” Sure easy for her to say with her adorable blonde pixie cut, and cool kid cred (former actor, director, knower of all bartenders and restaurant owners in a 5 mile radius) But I took what she said to heart.  I didn’t pick my Manhasset home, but I did pick Williamsburg – why didn’t I start becoming a real part of the community? Give back, put down roots, be intentional about the way that I interacted with my neighbors – be the Brooklyn I wanted to see.

I stopped worrying about whether or not I was cool enough for my neighborhood, and just started being myself. I smiled at everyone I met on the street, I made cookies for my neighbors during Christmas, I shopped locally, asked people their names, drank and read books by myself at bars, I over tipped. I delighted in the silvers of beauty that were presented to me if I looked hard enough. I fell in love with a boy, and we moved in together, I helped to carry strollers up and down the subway stairs, I shoveled sidewalks, learned how to speak conversational Italian so I could say hello to my old school neighbors on their stoops in the summer while I ate my rainbow ice, and in the midst of doing all of these things, I found myself. This little community I built was the home I had I never knew I wanted. I was the Brooklynite I had always hoped to be.

I was home.

Accepting the Good, the Bad and the Impossible to Control

I like control. I’m in pretty sure I’m not at all unique in that feeling. I like knowing where my keys are, that my toothbrush will be where I left it, I love when google maps is honest with me and I get to my destination in the amount of time that it promised me. These are the small things that quiet my anxiety and make me feel like I’m not struggling to breathe. If I’m having an internal flip out, I can focus on the fact that my phone is in the correct pocket in my purse and then I’m back at center. 

So I try really bonkerface hard to find that control anywhere I can! I mean ANY WHERE. If that means getting up at 4:45 to work out before a crazy day juuuust so I can cross that shit off my list – I’ll do it. Or folding my underoos the way that The KoMari method told me to, thats how I’ll spend a Friday night, or if it means getting to the airport 4 hours early because JFK is always crazy to get to, and I have to check a bag and who the fuck knows what might happen on the way there #zombieapocolypse – you bet your ass I’m in the airport at 4 pm for an 8 pm flight. Like a psycho. 

That’s what I did last Friday on my way to my dear friend Kim’s wedding in Santa Fe. I sat in the airport waiting for my boyfriend to arrive at a reasonable time and felt excited about the trip, and super proud of how prepared I had been – I was in totally control. 

Fast forward 5 hours, and the plane that we were on had to kick turn right over Ohio because there was a bad smell near the toilet. My first thought was, ‘duh – of course there is! It’s an airplane bathroom – that’s kind of it’s jam.’  But, I luckily thought better of voicing my opinion. 

I am very fortunate to date a super calm person. He didn’t freak out, we just held hands and made a plan to beeline to the bar as soon as we deplaned. 

Another hour or two goes by, and we are let back on the plane full of rose and ready to PTFO, we buckle up, get ready for take off, and then taxi and taxi and taxi until we come back to the gate. I went from ready to PTFO to ready to FTFO, but before I could get myself to that place the man sitting in front of me and the woman sitting to the right of me start SCREAMING at the flat attendants and at the airline on their cell phones at the same time. It was intense! 

They were saying shit to these people that I couldn’t have come up with if I had tried! I was confused. I was wondering if maybe they had a history with these people – like one of them had actually kicked their puppy when they were kids, and this was them unleashing all of those pent up feelings. It was that kind of hate. 

In that moment, I thought about what I had learned about in my meditation that morning (that’s right sweethearts, I meditate! On an app! Like a fancy ass human) 

The mediation that morning was about acceptance, and Andy Puddicomb (my bestie) asked what was I resisting in my life. In that moment on the plane I was resisting losing control. I had done all of the right things, I had been on time, I had planned ahead, all of my liquids were under 3oz – I felt like I deserved control! But I didn’t. I wasn’t in control then, and fuck if I was in control now. Resistance wasn’t going to help me, but acceptance was.  I untensed my shoulder and neck muscles, I breathed deeply and I accepted the situation I was currently in. 

Letting go of the neatly orchestrated plan i had for this trip in my head gave me so much relief. I didn’t have to wish so hard with fingers and toes crossed that this situation was different. I needed to choose to be ok with the fact that I was freaked out and overwhelmed and I wanted a another drink and that they weren’t letting me get up to pee.  This was my reality, and that was ok. 

Accepting that sometimes life is shitty, understanding that at some point it’ll pass and that in the meantime there isn’t a ton we we can do to control it, is the greatest gift I’ve ever given myself. On top of that little personal present, I also got triple snacks from the flight attendant because I didn’t scream. Which felt like the universe telling me that accepting your situation can mean snacks in the long run – so I think this is something I could get really into.