I see.

I haven’t written a poem since the year I fell in love with my wife. That was 17 years ago. But on a Friday evening in May, I watched as the night descended, and Siri and I wrote a poem together.

It’s about how rarely we slow down to notice what is right in front of us.

It’s about how we celebrate the light, but the rest of creation embraces the dark, as well.

It’s about how we search everywhere for God, but the truth is, we don’t need to be looking more widely, we just need to be looking more closely.

On this first full day of summer, it seemed like a good time to share it with you. May this be a season in which you watch the world around you more closely, the world within you more tenderly, and may you glimpse ever more clearly your deepest, truest, worthiest, most loveable self…

mindfulness

Photo Credit: graphicphotos (Bigstock)

Have you noticed how slowly the sun sets

when you are a still, steady witness?

Have you watched as the shadows succumb

to their inexorable lengthening?

Have you listened to birds sing as optimistically at the dawning of the night

as they do at the dawning of the light?

The sun rises every day, and we celebrate;

yet, how rarely do we marvel at the moonrise?

The air cools

amongst the deepening hues

and God watches

from behind a tree,

wondering who will notice.

He hides, it seems,

and we seek.

Except there is no hiding.

He’s everywhere.

I see him.

In the slow-slipping sun

and the long shadows

and the birdsong

and the moonrise.

And the dark.

I see him.

I see.

I.

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Loveable is available in paperback, digital, and audio and can be purchased wherever books are sold, so you can also purchase it at your favorite bookseller.

How to Survive (Maybe Even Thrive) in Life’s Most Vulnerable Moments

vulnerability and gratitude

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Last week, I released my first book.

Wait! Please don’t quit reading! I know, for the last month or so, I did the first-time-author thing and wrote repeatedly about Loveable. But that is behind us now. Sort of. This week, I don’t want to tell you about Loveable; I want to tell you about how I survived the vulnerability of publishing it. This is what I did:

I let it be vulnerable.

What I mean is, several weeks before the book was released, I was beating myself up for feeling so anxious: “Kelly, this whole book is about trusting you’re loveable and living from it. Where’s your confidence? Where’s your joy?” Of course, self-condemnation doesn’t produce much joy, so I just kept feeling worse. Eventually, though, what I realized (okay, what my wife told me) was this:

There is no way to live vulnerably without feeling vulnerable about it.

So, instead of trying to eliminate my sense of vulnerability, I decided to choose how I would live my vulnerability. That is, instead of trying to live my vulnerability with no anxiety, I decided to live it with no regrets. At first, I wasn’t sure how to do this. Eventually, though, what I decided (okay, what my wife recommended) was this:

Try to live your vulnerability gratefully.

This whole writing journey of mine began with a practice of gratitude—writing down one thousand gifts I noticed in my everyday life—so why not bring it full circle and start paying attention to the gifts right in front of me once again? Why not begin to notice this:

Vulnerability and gratitude can co-exist.

Then, in the weeks leading up to the launch, this is what I noticed:

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How to Have a Mountaintop Experience (Right Where You Are)

You aren’t here to be extraordinary, to accomplish the extraordinary, or to experience the extraordinary. You are simply here to be fully you, limitations and all. Ironically, when you embrace that, something extraordinary happens…

true self

Photo Credit: Bigstock (Eldar Nurkovic)

It’s the eve of our fifteenth wedding anniversary and tomorrow morning, in the dark hours before the dawn, my wife and I are supposed to drive up the side of a volcano to watch the sun rise on our sixteenth year. It sounds perfect. Romantic. Beautiful. Awesome and inspiring. Indeed, awe-inspiring.

But there’s a problem.

I’m terrified of heights. And open spaces. And dying. My wife is afraid of none of those things, so she is the designated driver when we drive up mountains. However, her night vision is exceptionally poor. The blind leading the blind up ten thousand feet, around thirty-two switchbacks, with no guardrails and no streetlights in the dark? Well, it seems like a bad idea.

So, instead, the first act of our sixteenth year is to Yelp a really good local breakfast joint.

This is the worst blog post ever, isn’t it? I mean, I write about courage and growth and loving fiercely and living fully and taking chances and trusting grace and redeeming the mess. I write to inspire us—myself included—to more beautiful things. I’m supposed to drive up that volcano, have the mountaintop experience, and tell you about it.

Except, that’s not really what I’m supposed to do. That’s not really what any of us are supposed to do. We’re not here to be more inspiring. We’re here to be more ourselves. We’re here to embrace what we are—all of it—and to live our way fully into it.

This includes our limitations.

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Let’s QWERTY Like It’s 1999 (An Experiment in Presence)

mindfulness

Photo Credit: Bigstock (mandygodbehear)

I met my wife in the autumn of 1999.

That was also the year I bought my first cell phone.

It was a big Nokia the size of a candy bar on steroids, with a little flip cover that had two purposes: to cover the buttons so they wouldn’t be accidentally pushed, and to make me feel somehow cooler while talking on it.

It had an orange, backlit screen, with black, blocky numbers. It was heavy, so instead of carrying it in my pocket, I bought a holster and attached it to my belt. Oddly, this made me feel cooler as well.

When making calls within my network, it worked about half the time. When making calls while roaming…well, I didn’t make calls while roaming. I couldn’t afford the fees. In 1999, texting was unfathomable. Email on the phone seemed like a good idea, but impossible. I couldn’t imagine a smarter phone.

Social media wasn’t even a glint in our eye.

Next week, my wife and I will travel to celebrate our fifteenth wedding anniversary, and I will be taking a very different kind of mobile phone with me. Now, it is difficult to imagine something I can’t do while on my phone. Except that’s not entirely true. There is one thing I can’t do while on my phone:

I can’t be present to the one I’m with.

I can’t be truly here.

I can’t be fully now.

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Miracles Happen Everyday (and This Is How to Experience One)

miracles

Photo Credit: Bigstock (Syntheticmessiah)

I wake up to an alarm and darkness and, behind eyelids too heavy to lift, my first thought is how good it will feel to get back into bed tonight. Eventually, I muster the will to lift my legs over the side of the mattress. I stand. My joints pop like rheumatic fireworks. I move toward the bathroom. More fireworks. It didn’t used to be this way. Waking didn’t always feel like resurrecting. And yet.

I still choose to be here.

(A miracle isn’t a moment.)

I stand at the sink, remove my mouth guard. Another night of clenching, but no cracked tooth, no chipped crown. I brush my teeth while looking into the mirror, while looking into almost forty years of time, while looking into dark circles, thinning hair, greying whiskers. I look into the future and see where time is taking me. And yet.

I still choose to be here.

(A miracle is a collection of moments.)

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The 71 Most Effective Ways to Avoid Feeling What You’re Feeling

emotions

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When I first became a therapist, I thought I had to work a magic trick every hour to get people to feel what they feel.

Then I had kids, and I saw what is true of every human being: we are, each of us, bursting with feelings. Until we grow up and start trapping them inside. Until we start suppressing them. Now I know, as a psychologist, my job isn’t to get people to start feeling; my job is to help people stop avoiding what they are feeling. Then feelings just happen. Naturally. Healingly.

What follows is a list of perfectly ordinary things most of us do from time to time in order to avoid feeling what we’re feeling. Most of them are serious. Some of them are humorous. They are all quite effective…

  1. Write a blog post about how to avoid feeling your feelings.
  2. Work too hard.
  3. Netflix binge.
  4. Buy something. Anything. Scratch that. Shop first. Then buy. Buy three versions of the same thing. Try them all out. Return two. Start shopping again.
  5. Download a new app. Preferably a game. In which you can earn achievements. Bonus avoidance points if it features in-app purchases.
  6. Check email.
  7. Click on spam instead of unsubscribing from it.
  8. Check Facebook.
  9. Check it again.
  10. Get into a Facebook argument. The topic doesn’t matter. Just oppose something.
  11. Shame somebody. Again, anyone will do, though the less likely they are to shame you back, the better.
  12. Send a text message. Make it a group text. Wait for responses.
  13. Eat.
  14. Work harder.
  15. Eat more.
  16. Try to figure out what everyone else is feeling.
  17. When you think you’ve figured out what they’re thinking, focus on how to influence their emotions. If you are so inclined, become a therapist so you can get paid for doing so.
  18. Decide anger is bad, dangerous, perhaps even evil.
  19. Decide fear is shameful.
  20. Decide sadness is weak.
  21. Watch 24/7 cable news. Watch it 24/7.
  22. Criticize someone. Anyone will do—friends, strangers, and of course, those with different political views than you.
  23. Fix someone. Fix something. Once again, any problem will do.
  24. Drink.
  25. Smoke something.
  26. Fill every silence with a joke.
  27. Grab the nearest device as soon as you wake up in the morning.
  28. Don’t ask questions about your family-of-origin.
  29. Idealize your parents.
  30. Or tell yourself your parents did the best they could and you have no right to be disappointed.
  31. Chide yourself for taking the time to feel something. Tell yourself that’s a luxury. A privilege.
  32. Tell yourself other people have it worse, so who are you to complain?
  33. Set no boundaries on your time or commitments, so there is no room for stillness.
  34. Tell yourself stillness is a waste of time.
  35. Live vicariously through your children. Or celebrities.
  36. Blame the ones you love for not making your crummy feelings go away.
  37. Pretend you’re an adult and that you have it all together. Ignore the sad, lonely, confused little kid inside of you.
  38. Try to save the world (a.k.a., work harder).
  39. Eliminate all silence from your life.
  40. Look at porn.
  41. Look at more porn.
  42. Work on your abs.
  43. Fantasize about the ideal lover whose ideal love will take away your loneliness.
  44. Gossip.
  45. Be absolutely certain about everything.
  46. Go faster.
  47. Work harder.
  48. Turn meditation into an effort to “feel more peaceful” rather than a surrender to feeling what is.
  49. Fill up your Sabbath with church services, church activities, soccer games, video games, shopping, and preparations for tomorrow.
  50. Debate theology.
  51. Choose to believe faith has nothing to offer you.
  52. Choose to believe faith will solve all your problems.
  53. Pick one person or group of people to blame for most all of your problems.
  54. Swipe mindlessly through your phone until you come across an app that you haven’t fiddled with in a month.
  55. Avoid eye contact.
  56. Chase perfection.
  57. Chase trophies. They can be real or metaphorical. It doesn’t matter. Same effect.
  58. Work harder.
  59. Figure out what other people want to hear and then say it to them.
  60. Focus on the ways you are better than someone else.
  61. Stay focused on the things in the future that promise to take away all your suffering.
  62. Serial dating.
  63. Almost everything that happens between Black Friday and Christmas morning.
  64. Ice cream.
  65. Oreos.
  66. Ice cream and Oreos.
  67. Do anything that releases dopamine. Non-criminal options include: Snapchat, YouTube, drinking too much caffeine, casual sex, sugar in any form, earning applause, etc.
  68. Decide your story is uninteresting and choose never to tell it to anyone.
  69. Do whatever it takes to avoid evidence of your aging.
  70. Pretend everything is permanent. Ignore the inevitability of your passing.
  71. And last but not least, focus on how clever you are for having written a blog post about how to avoid feeling your feelings.

Feelings are big things. Messy things. Often painful things. So we try to avoid feeling them. And our opportunities for avoidance are multiplying on a daily basis. Consequently, humanity is becoming like one big blocked tear duct, irritated and irritable. We need to clean out our blockages—clean out our lives—and let our feelings flow again. So we can be childlike once again. Vulnerable. Playful. Joyful.

So we can be, once again, who we really are.

You can leave a comment by clicking here.

—————

Pre-Order LOVEABLE Now! You are enough. You are not alone. And you matter. These are the three fundamental truths of your existence. The problem is, there is a voice inside each of us relentlessly calling them into question. And yet the answer to that voice can be found within each of us, as well. Click here to find out more about my new book— Loveable: Embracing What Is Truest About You, So You Can Truly Embrace Your Life.

The Blessing of Living Unfinished

priorities

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It happens almost every Monday morning.

Somewhere in the midst of my commute to the office, I start to review the weekend. Occasionally, I’m richly satisfied by the collection of moments and memories bridging the gap between work weeks. But the truth is, most Mondays, I end up asking myself, “How did I begin the weekend with such good intentions, and how did my priorities get so out of whack so quickly?”

A couple of months ago, on a holiday Monday, I received an answer to the question.

For several weeks, we’d been assembling a trailer for our van. My wife and I are not particularly talented mechanics, so the going had been slow. But old friends had come to town for the weekend, and they were helping us put the finishing touches on it.

Finally, the last wire was spliced and the last nut was turned.

My friend rolled the trailer to the rear of our van to attach it but stopped short when he got there. “You don’t have a hitch on your van,” he said, ‘’you’ll need to buy one and have it installed.” This had not occurred to us. Like I said, we are not exactly mechanical geniuses. Our shoulders were slumping in defeat, when our other friend observed, “Well, that’s the way of projects. They’re never finished.”

That’s the way of projects, and that’s the way of life.

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The Life Changing Difference Between Seeing Beauty and Seeing Beautifully

“Dad.” Pause. “Daddy.” Shorter pause. “Dad!” Almost imperceptible pause. “Daaaadddddyyyyy!”

My eyes remain locked on my computer screen.

In other words, I first respond to my youngest son, Quinn, the way most of us respond to most of life—with distraction. Life is asking us to look at it, but our eyes remain locked on our screens, our minds remain locked on the past or the future, and our hearts remain locked on our nagging obsessions—food and drink, shopping and media, gossip and gripe.

Eventually, though, Quinn surpasses a decibel threshold that gets my attention. I finally lock my eyes on him.

“Dad,” he says, a little breathlessly, “come see the bathroom.”

mindfulness

Photo Credit: Bigstock (lovleah)

I immediately picture an overflowing toilet or toothpaste smeared on a mirror or a trashcan torn asunder by the dog. I sigh heavily and ask with trepidation, “What’s wrong? Is it a mess?”

My second response to Quinn is dread. When life finally gets a little of our attention, we tend to be reluctant to look at it. After all, in the daily news, everything seems to be falling apart, so everything everywhere must be falling apart, right? We pay attention to the problems, and then we come to expect them. We start dreading life instead of looking at it.

But Quinn responds, “No, Dad, it’s not a mess. It’s beautiful.”

We walk into the bathroom. The toilet isn’t overflowing, but there is trash on the floor and the cap has been left off a leaking tube of toothpaste. I see nothing particularly remarkable, let alone beautiful. Quinn steps back. Crosses his arms. Smiles. And says, “The light, Daddy, look at the light.”

Slowly, I begin to see what he’s seeing. The bathroom is subtly illuminated by slanting early morning summer sunlight. I’m no longer distracted or dreading, and I can see what I would have missed only moments before: the bathroom is glowing.

It’s luminous.

Beauty, it turns out, isn’t in the eye of the beholder; beauty is in the eye of the watchful beholder. Unless we are present, even beauty becomes invisible. But if we watch this life attentively, which is to say beautifully, we might just experience the beauty that has been there all along:

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The Antidote to All the Crap in Your Facebook Feed

When I’m procrastinating on writing—due to fear, fatigue, fear, lack of inspiration, did I mention fear?—Facebook is like a magnet.

One day recently, I could feel its pull, so I decided to trick myself into writing by giving into the temptation, going to Facebook, and crafting a blog post entitled, “The Antidote to All the Crap in Your Facebook Feed”—a sort of hopeful, redemptive response to all of the angry, nasty, and cynical news in my Facebook scroll.

The first item in my feed was exactly what I’d predicted.

A New York Times article about the anger at a political rally, replete with divisive comments from both supporters and haters. It confirmed my expectations, and I got ready to write a really good response to all the soul-sucking content.

But then I kept scrolling.

And it was the only article posted in the previous two hours that drained my soul.

The rest of the content nourished my soul.

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Why Our Heads Fill Up with Too Many Thoughts and What to Do About It

If it hadn’t been so annoying, it would have been hilarious.

Several months ago, the American Psychological Association Practice Organization (APAPO) started a new listserv. The problem was, they didn’t ask permission; they just automatically added everyone in the organization to the list. Then, several weeks later, they sent out the first email—a relatively innocuous, informational correspondence. Useful to some. Spammy to others.

And the listserv exploded.

mindfulness

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It started with a handful of people asking to be removed from the list. Then, people who weren’t annoyed by the original email got annoyed by the extra emails, and they began demanding to be removed, as well. Next, people who had ignored the first round of complaints got angry at the exponential increase in messages, and they too replied to everyone, lambasting the whole community. My inbox was overflowing, even though the APAPO had only sent a single email.

The problem wasn’t the original email; it was the reaction to it.

This is how our minds work, too.

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