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My name is Katherine, and I created this blog to record my journey through life and the lessons I learn in the process. I intend to show people who I am and what I do in a nutshell. I intend to develop a better understanding of myself and the world around me, and I hope to encourage others to do the same.

Getting Ready to Launch

I have received my approval from the board of health to begin my practice as a licensed massage therapist in the state of Tennessee.

This is beyond exciting for me, and I’m incredibly grateful for and proud of how far I’ve come. I didn’t publicly chronicle the journey, though after the challenges I faced to get to this point I’m filled with a sense of relief and quiet determination as I begin this new season of life.

That being said I wanted to share some logistics here: I plan to be updating my website very soon to include the details of my massage practice, and it’s possible I will be changing platforms. Since I’ve never done this before I don’t know how much information will transfer from the old site to the new site, and you may need to “re-subscribe” to my blog once everything is set up. I will do my best to convey any necessary details of that once I have more clarity on it myself.

In the meantime, thank you to my readers who have encouraged me throughout my journey, whether you knew what I was up to or not. I look forward to sharing more of my adventures with you as I grow. Until next time, take care.

A New Season

I’ve kept it quiet from most of the internet for awhile, but I think I’m ready to announce something I’ve been working on for the past year and a half.

In a few weeks I plan to graduate massage therapy school and start my own practice as a licensed massage therapist. I have been attending night classes after work for the past almost 18 months and this season of life is nearing its end. I can’t begin to express the depth of the challenges I faced just to keep myself going in the midst of balancing work, homework, and battling my own inner demons along the way. One thing my school has emphasized throughout my journey has been the importance of addressing my own inner wounds so I don’t project them onto my clients. They talk about Carl Jung and the shadow self, about setting appropriate boundaries, about keeping myself healthy so I can better assist my clients in their journey to wellness. I have learned many lessons on this road.

In a few short weeks I will have a whole new set of challenges to take on: that of studying for the state licensure exam, setting up my business, finding a commercial space to rent, marketing, and more. I’d never seen myself as wanting to be an entrepreneur, and yet here I am. I have no idea where this road will take me. It may turn into a side business while I pursue something else, or it may be my livelihood for awhile. One thing I am certain of, and that is I’m excited to be nearing the end of my work-school-work-school hustle. To say it’s been exhausting would be an understatement.

Onward.

Dance Partner

Once upon a time when my aunt was younger, she had some extra spending money and was trying to decide whether to buy a color tv or ballroom dancing lessons. She chose the dance lessons and met a man there who, lo and behold, possessed two color tvs. They fell in love and the man became my uncle.

I always thought that was a romantic story and thought it would be cool to find my partner in dance classes. While I’ve taken a few classes in the past, I don’t quite have the budget for it right now. But it’s something I plan to invest in a little farther down the road.

I was thinking recently about the importance of dance in my life, and how relevant it would be for my romantic partner to be able to / want to dance with me. And I realized that for me, dance isn’t just about physical exercise or a fun hobby. It’s a fundamental perspective on life.

Life is, in and of itself, art; and every movement, every step, every molecule of my body, every breath I take is an act of worship. I may not be a painter, but I believe that my very movements are a way of creating art with my body. So when I do yoga, or give a massage, or hug someone, or shift my weight from foot to foot as I walk heel to toe, my very being is an expression of art. I would hope that my partner recognizes and shares a similar belief in the sacredness of the body. I believe in dancing through life, and I am looking for my dance partner.

I don’t even know a lot about dance. Sure, I’ve dabbled in it here and there, but I’m no expert. I plan to train more formally and become better one day. I don’t expect my partner to be a professional. But it is a way of life I would hope we could share together. Not just because of the physicality of it (which is beautiful). But because of the meaning it holds for me, the idea that the body is sacred, and self-expression is an essential part of who we are.

And maybe I won’t find a partner. Maybe I’m meant to dance alone. But that won’t keep me from dancing nonetheless. Life is too beautiful not to.

The Sacredness of a Coffee Shop

The other day I was eating brunch in my favorite coffee shop when I noticed a couple of young women sitting nearby, one of them processing what sounded to be like a recent breakup. Not wanting to eavesdrop, I tried not to pay attention to the details, but from what I heard it sounded like the grieving woman did what she believed to be best by separating herself from her ex, and yet it was still hard to sever the connection.

I thought about my own anxiety that had brought me to the coffee shop: a need to get out of the house and process some of my thoughts on paper, working on planning out some of my financial goals for the next year. Somehow writing out my concerns, hopes, and fears helped me feel better.

I don’t know the story of the woman sitting near me, but I thought it a beautiful thing, how a place of common comfort – over lattes and cappuccinos – could become a place of common growth. She was working on her story, and I was working on mine. I’ll probably never know what will become of her. From what it sounded like, she was doing what she needed to be healthy, and because of that I’m sure she’ll be okay. And I think I will be too.

Where to Call Home

As I entered the airport after a weekend of visiting my family, I couldn’t help feeling a little emotional from saying goodbye. The place I had grown up in – and the people I had grown up with – were no longer my home. I have a home of my own, far away, and yet in that moment, when I was between the two, it felt like neither place was my home.

I remind myself that I belong in the present moment, and as long as I can stay present, I’m right where I’m meant to be. Sometimes the present moment is lonely. I’m not where I used to be, but I’m not quite where I want to be either. I have nostalgia for the past, but I do not belong there. I have an aching for the future, but I do not belong there either.

And so I must content myself with being okay where I am, and that can be hard to do.

The Pursuit of Wisdom in Relationships

I have two pursuits in the forefront of my mind during this season of life: to contribute to the healing of the world, and to pursue wisdom.

I have often wondered what the pursuit of wisdom looks like in the midst of personal relationships. In many situations I have felt healthier being single than I have dating, mostly because I haven’t always pursued the most healthy of relationships. Looking back over those situations I would usually feel a sense of freedom when they were over, because I could finally reconnect to myself again, and I’ve wondered if I’ll ever feel like myself when I’m with another.

That being said, because my goal is wisdom rather than a relationship, my philosophy has been that I’m going to continue pursuing my own growth, and if someone wants to join me in that journey I welcome the company. It can make for a lonely journey, though. The healthier I become, often the more isolated I feel, because not everyone is pursuing the same things. We are all at different points in our journey, and it can be hard to find people to relate to. That’s when I begin to wonder if I’m actually healthy or if I’m rather missing something crucial by not being in closer community with others.

I crave community. I crave closeness. And yet I feel like I can’t hear my own inner spirit if I don’t spend enough time by myself. It’s a constant tug-of-war, trying to figure out what the optimal balance is. Maybe it will take a lifetime to figure out.

My First Echocardiogram

“We’re going to take care of your heart today,” the practitioner said as he led me down the dark hall to the exam room. He was middle-aged, with grey hair and glasses. I wish I could have seen his full face instead of it being half-covered by a medical mask, but his eyes seemed kind enough. He asked if I had any questions, and I said no.

I was only there for preventative measures, and I was fairly certain everything would come back normal. But given my family history of heart issues, I wanted to be safe.

He led me to a dimly lit room with computers, an ultrasound machine, an exam table, and other medical equipment and explained the process. I was to undress from the waist up and put a gown on with the opening to the front, then lie on my left side on the table close to the edge.

Once settled on the table, the practitioner placed a towel over my breast area and then readied his machine to examine my heart. He squeezed gel onto the ultrasound wand and placed it on my rib cage to begin, and suddenly on the screen above him appeared a grey fuzzy image of my heart chambers, opening and closing in rhythm. I was fascinated to see the movement happening inside my body right at that moment. I gazed at the screen, entranced.

The practitioner worked quietly, creating lines on the screen to take measurements, then moving the wand to different places on my body to get different perspectives. Time stood still. I felt safe the entire time, yet vulnerable. I wasn’t used to having someone look so deeply into my body, especially to what felt like the core of my being. My heart continued to beat as it always had, yet now I could actually see the work it was doing to keep me alive and healthy. Those moments felt sacred.

When the practitioner finished, he explained the doctor would follow up with results, but assured me if he had seen anything alarming he wouldn’t be letting me leave. I got dressed and left.

I stopped by Starbucks for a warm drink, as a way of saying to my body “Thank you for being vulnerable today. Thank you for working hard to keep me alive and well.” I continued to feel a sense of vulnerability throughout the rest of the day, a sense of energy movement behind my sternum. It felt uncomfortable and emotional, so I did my best to meet that feeling with gentleness and compassion. I had a fresh awareness of respect for my body and the sacredness of it. And that felt like a beautiful thing.

Finding Where I Belong

Stopping to Home was a book I enjoyed reading as a little girl. It was a story about a young girl and her brother trying to survive after the death of their parents, and it described the ache of the girl yearning for a place to call home.

I couldn’t understand why at the time, but stories of children whose parents died resonated with me a lot, even though both my parents were still living. Looking back now I think it may have had something to do with feeling a sense of emotional absence from my parents even though they were physically present. So even before my mother died I yearned for a place where I felt I belonged.

Throughout the years I have immersed myself in different contexts hoping to find a family, to feel wanted. Churches, friend groups, and cultural festivals drew me in with their appeal for a sense of belonging. I was fascinated with cultures outside my own American culture, because it seems to me American culture isn’t much of a culture at all – it’s a mix of everything. But I found I could just as easily remove myself from these contexts as I entered them, and none of them really seemed to “stick.”

It was only this year that I came to a realization that finally brought me peace for the time being. After much growth and healing I realized that where I belong is in the present moment. Right here, right now. If I can be fully present wherever I am, regardless of what church I attend or friend group I’m part of, I am right where I need to be. And that’s a comforting thought.

A Quiet Milestone

September 1, 2020 marks the official date when I became medication-free.

Having been diagnosed with depression and anxiety as a teenager, I have been taking some form of mood stabilizer for basically 12 years. The exception to that was when I was off medication for almost a year in 2013-2014, but needed to start taking it again. For the last several months now I have been feeling I reached a point where I no longer need drugs, so with the guidance of my doctor I have been weaning myself off my mood stabilizer. I took my last dose on August 31, 2020.

A combination of life experience, therapy, and personal growth I believe has led me to this milestone. I will not say I’m exactly “happy” all the time, but I do feel safe, and content, and strong. And when that’s not the case I have systems in place for taking care of myself and remedying the issue at hand. I still experience stress (and have had a lot of challenges this year), but I no longer feel crushed by my circumstances. I have the power to keep myself safe and healthy, and I’m immensely grateful for that.

This feels like a bit of strange thing to announce, and I’m definitely not as vocal about it as I was, say, when I finished paying off my student loans – I guess because to announce no longer taking medication is also announcing I was taking it in the first place. I am not anti-medicine, especially since I have first-hand experience on how beneficial it can be in keeping one well. But in my specific situation the medicine has served its purpose and I no longer need it. And after years of that not being the case, it feels pretty good.

Creative Frenzy and Its Relational Effect

Recently I’ve found myself packing my schedule with creative projects, courses, podcasts, and pursuits. I may listen to a podcast on my way home from work. After dinner I’ll hop on my computer to begin working on video ideas for my YouTube channel, or I may watch videos on learning how to code.

This time last year I wouldn’t have envisioned myself filling my evenings up the way I have been. I consider myself a low-energy person, and when I would come home from work I barely felt energy to watch a movie let alone read, learn, or work on a creative project.

I still don’t feel high-energy, but a subtle shift has occurred in my body. I’m working toward something. Somethings. I feel a sense of urgency to learn and grow and accumulate knowledge and experience because I have a clearer sense of direction than I once did. There’s still much to be seen, but I feel more guided. More purposeful. And I believe the work I am doing to be crucial to the next steps in my journey. Frenzy isn’t quite the right word to describe it. It feels more like burning embers – slow, steady, but ever-growing progress.

In the midst of this path I find myself wondering how my personal relationships are affected. I feel less inclined to connect with my roommates because I want to write down that next idea. Study for that next test. Pour all my energy into this journey I hold dear. And I wonder what the balance is, what is healthy.

I think about stories I’ve seen that depict couples where one person becomes excited about school or a career but at the cost of leaving behind their spouse or family in the dust. There is a balance to be had of course, but when that creative passion takes over it can feel more like a consuming fire than like burning embers. It makes me glad I don’t have a spouse to have that conflict with, but I do wonder if I’m doomed to experience that dichotomy one day. Will my significant other and I be so different that eventually we have to choose between our passions and each other? As sacred as human relationships are, what is to be said of those who believe they have something important to contribute to the world and need to step away from their relationships to focus on their life’s work?

These are the questions I ponder tonight.