You Don’t Have to Try

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Last week, my daughter and I went to see Colbie Caillat perform at the Kalamazoo State Theatre. There were several touching moments throughout the evening Kelsi and I will never forget from my much-anticipated Father’s Day gift. With so many ego-filled performers to choose from, Colbie is a breath of fresh air whose mesmerizing voice is only outdone by her positive message.

The moment forever burned in my memory and heart was her performance of Try. With my beautiful daughter by my side, Colbie opened up about her very real struggles of being an awkward introvert and her terrifying stage fright. She slowly played the piano while introducing the song, and I felt the hair on my arms stand up. Leading into the song, she drove her point home that who you are is good enough. You don’t have to try.

And then she sang this song, Try . . . .

Why do we feel like we have to try so hard?

I agree with Colbie.

You don’t have to try!

 

Peace my Friends!

 

~Travis

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SHOW UP! 

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I am continuously reminded to show up. Every morning is an opportunity to choose. Either I can coast through the day on auto pilot or I can choose to live my life with intention and show up. 

I am full of gratitude every time I choose to show up! It never fails. When I choose to show up, Life smiles back at me and greets me in the most peculiar ways. 

When I show up, I end up having the deepest, most meaningful conversations when I least expect them. When I show up, I sense the cues to speak my truth. 

Showing up means I grasp the concepts I’m learning in the field of counseling. I’m able to relate my vast experiences with the ideas being taught. When I show up, I make myself and my classmates better by being fully present in the moment. 

You may find my plea to show up rather odd. “Don’t we all show up when we get out of bed and move through our day?” you might be asking. 

Well, do you? 

If you’re anything like me, you probably already know that showing up TAKES WORK! It takes work to be fully present and in tune with your surroundings. It’s so much easier to turn off your brain and senses. It’s so much easier to drift. But when we drift, we completely miss out on Life. When we drift we miss the cues the Universe is giving us to join this mysterious and wonderful ride we all take part in. 

Most importantly, when we drift, we miss the beauty. We miss the wonder. We miss the joy in the journey. 

My wife and I recently lost a friend who was headed to work. In the blink of an eye, lives were changed forever. There is a huge void in the lives of everyone who knew and loved him. 

With so little time on this earth, why is it so difficult to show up every day? 

EVERY SINGLE MOMENT is crying out to us, begging us, pleading that we be fully aware and fully alive. The present moment is ready for us to show up. Our divine nature is patiently waiting for each one of us. 

If you’re drifting through life, glued to your phone or television or job or internet or any number of things, I beg of you, show up! 

Show up while you still can, because sooner than you think,  you won’t be able to. 

RIP Sam! 

Peace my Friends! 
~Travis

Counseling, Here I Come! 

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Yesterday I participated in an all-day orientation for the Master’s in Counseling program at Spring Arbor University. It was a wonderful time spent with other cohorts from around the state who are all starting the program this week in various locations. We learned what our lives would be consumed with for the next couple years and hopefully the rest of our professional lives as counselors. 

Counseling has long been a taboo subject in our society. Thankfully, as more people realize their mental health issues are real (and very debilitating), the stigma or fear of seeing a counselor continues to decrease. The thought of seeing a counselor to talk about your problems used to be avoided at all cost by a large percentage of the population. Many saw it as a sign of weakness–men especially. Others felt embarrassed since their problems weren’t near as bad as other people’s. They attempted to just suck it up and move on. 

Pressure from friends and family who scoff at you for working through your past keeps you in silence even longer. Comments like “You should just get over it” or “It wasn’t that bad” or “Why don’t you just let God take away your burdens” neglect the fact that something very real is happening inside your mind that needs worked through. 

We all have a history that molds and shapes who we are today. That history is full of victories and triumphs; and at the same time that history is full of pain and heartache, too. 

No matter who you are, your history is a dichotomy of highs and lows. Some days you remember the highs and reminisce about the good ole days. Where did that memory come from and what caused it to surface? 

Other days you remember the lows and you cry, or you eat Chips A’hoy cookies, or go shopping, or pick a fight with your spouse, or drink a lot of alcohol, or check out in front of the television or computer, or do any of a thousand things people do to cope when the pain resurfaces. 

Sometimes the pain comes back and builds a nest in your mind and won’t go away. That nest serves as a daily reminder of heartache for days on end. You wake in the morning to find a couple eggs in the nest. When they hatch they are more memories of your personal history you’ve been dying to forget. Before you realize it, the nest is hatching so many bad memories you can’t cope with them all. 

Where do these bad memories come from and what triggers their arrival? 

There is nothing wrong with seeking help from another person. Counselors are often referred to as wounded healers. Counselors aren’t perfect people with idyllic pasts. They aren’t better than you because you went to them for help. They don’t serve as gatekeepers to wisdom and understanding. Counselors are real people with real problems of their own who simply have a strong desire to help others. 

Becoming a wounded healer brings with it a large dose of humility. 

I am humbled by the fact that so many of you share your lives with me. 

I am humbled each and every time someone says to me, “I have never told that to anyone.” 

I am humbled by the stories I hear and the vulnerability of those who tell them. 

I am humbled by our shared history on the planet we inhabit and the progress we continue to make as a species. 

The more I learn, and the more of your stories I hear, the more I realize we are all alike. As I reflect on my intention as a counselor I noticed it’s much the same as my intention as a writer: My intention is to help people be more comfortable with their humanness. 

As I embark on this journey, I hope to share many of the lessons I am learning along the way. Counseling, here I come! 

Oh, and by the way, if you are working through something difficult, I highly recommend talking to a counselor. 
Peace my Friends! 
~Travis 

Seventy-three Seconds

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The following is an excerpt from a memoir I’ve been writing. Hope you enjoy. 
 

It was January 28, 1986. I was a twelve-year-old pimple-faced boy who thought he had life all figured out. And why wouldn’t I think that? 

I spent the first twelve years of my life learning how I was one of God’s chosen people. I was given a narrative to live by and a story I could know was true. Growing up in my large family in a small Christian school bubble, I had no reason to doubt any of the stories given to me. 

I was taught many different aspects of our one true God. He was our creator, our provider, he was jealous, and he lavished his love on us. He wanted nothing more than to see us happy, healthy, and worshiping him with our gifts and our talents. 

I always considered myself lucky to be born into a family similar to the royalty found in the Bible. I related to characters like Joseph, King David, and Moses. Being one of God’s chosen is rough stuff; there’s always somebody trying to knock off your crown or steal your colorful coat. 

I learned that as long as I was a good boy and didn’t let the devil trick me into sinning then the Lord would bless me more than I could imagine. So I took this very seriously. If I did my part, then God promised to do his part since he controlled everything in the universe. He was all-powerful, all-knowing, and all-loving. 
 
How long does it take for doubt to sneak into a young boy’s mind? 
 
Apparently seventy-three seconds. 
 
The months leading up to January 28, 1986 were full of excitement and intrigue. The entire nation united behind the first civilian to ever join NASA into space. Christa McAuliffe was ballyhooed as “Teacher in Space” and everyone in my Christian school bubble was enthralled. We prayed for Christa and her crew on a daily basis leading up to the launch. We prayed for safe travels for Christa much the same as we prayed for Sandy’s parents who were driving to Florida over Christmas break. 

I learned early on that having God’s protective hand with you was the safest way to travel. Everyone I prayed for always made it to and from their destination when I summoned God’s protection. 

So with my small Christian school bubble (along with the entire nation), I watched the crew and “Teacher in Space” wave their goodbyes and enter the Space Shuttle Challenger. The news reporters filled the much-anticipated telecast full of interviews with family members of the crew and NASA experts who described what Christa was probably thinking and feeling as she made her way to her front row seat to outer space. 

As the moment of liftoff grew closer, I rocketed up one last silent prayer for the crew’s safety. I asked God to go before them into space and alleviate any troubles they might encounter on their mission. But most importantly, I asked that their reentry into the earth’s atmosphere would be successful (I heard somewhere the reentry is always the scariest part).

My heart started to race faster as the news reporter said, “Eight, seven, six, we have main engine start. Four, three, two, one, and liftoff. Liftoff of the 25th space shuttle mission, and it has cleared the tower.” 

There she went, the first civilian ever in space. While the shuttle continued to climb through the sunny-blue Florida sky, I sent up a thank-you-Lord for their successful launch. 
 
Boom!
 

Seventy-three seconds into their launch, the Challenger exploded. Disbelief, shock, panic, and trauma swept through the crowd and the world. Family members and loved ones who stood on platforms to watch the event live looked at one another then back in the air, with one hand blocking the sun from their eyes. 

Christa’s parents, who seconds earlier were full of pride, now appeared to be lost and confused. They looked around for an explanation, looked at each other, then looked back in the air. Their daughter, who was celebrated for months as “Teacher in Space” and beloved by the entire nation, didn’t make it into space. People around them screamed. Wives started bawling. The news reporters were astounded. 

“RSO reports vehicle exploded,” was heard from the live feed from NASA. 

I looked at my teachers and fellow students in disbelief. School was let out early that day and I went to my friend’s house. We were glued to the TV as the news dissected everything from that morning. We watched replay after replay of the explosion and listened intently to all the experts who took stabs at what could have gone wrong. 

Later that evening during the 5 o’clock news, President Ronald Reagan offered his condolences, “Today is a day for mourning and remembering. Nancy and I are pained to the core by the tragedy of the Space Shuttle Challenger. We know we share this pain with all of the people of our country. This is truly a national loss. The Challenger seven were aware of the dangers, overcame them, and did their jobs brilliantly. They had a hunger to explore the universe and discover its truths. They wished to serve, and they did. They served all of us. We will never forget them, nor the last time we saw them as they prepared for their journey and waved goodbye.” 

Even our beloved president’s words confused me. I prayed for God’s protection. It made no sense. I couldn’t wrap my mind around the jokes my older siblings were already making about the new brand of fish food called “Teacher in Space.” I laughed off their jokes on the outside but on the inside I was reeling. I was one of God’s chosen people. I was a good boy. I prayed for safe travels—and for a safe reentry. None of it made any sense. 

Years of training. 

Months of praying. 

Minutes of anticipation. 

Seventy-three seconds, and then. . . . 

Explosion! 

That explosion cracked a hole in my shield of faith where doubt could trickle in. The months and years that followed, I was forced to grapple with the idea that life—and God—might not be everything I was taught to believe. No matter how hard I prayed; friends still died, loved ones still got cancer, children were still abused, and safe travels weren’t always safe. 

I was a twelve-year-old pimple-faced boy who thought he had life all figured out.  

Or did I?

 

I may or may not post more excerpts in the near future. 

Thanks for reading. 
 
 
Peace my Friends! 
 

~Travis

Eleven Facts About People

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I recently listened to Your Brain on Love by Dr. Stan Tatkin. He gave these eleven facts about people:

 

 

  • There’s nothing more difficult on the planet than another person.

 

  • All people are, by nature, annoying.

 

  • There is no such thing as a low-maintenance person.

 

  • Romantic relationships—or primary attachment relationships—are burdensome.

 

  • In love relationships, nobody comes pre-trained. As a result, partners need to train each other.

 

  • The need to be parented never really ends.

 

  • Romantic partners are responsible for each other’s pasts.

 

  • Most of the time we don’t really know what we are doing, or why.

 

  • What we don’t know, we make up.

 

  • Our brains are built more for war than for love.

 

  • In order to succeed and fully thrive in the world, we need to be tethered to at least one other person.

 

What do you think? Do you agree or disagree with Dr. Tatkin’s facts about people?

 

Peace my Friends!

 

~Travis

 

 

My Struggle with Authenticity

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“Authenticity is not something we have or don’t have. It’s a practice–a conscious choice of how we want to live. Authenticity is a collection of choices that we have to make every day. It’s about the choice to show up and be real. The choice to be honest. The choice to let our true selves be seen. There are people who consciously practice being authentic, there are people who don’t, and there are the rest of us who are authentic on some days and not so authentic on other days.”

~Brené Brown   The Gifts of Imperfection

Do you value authenticity?

Are there people in your life you truly admire and love spending time with because you know they say exactly what they mean?

Brené Brown describes the struggle of authenticity beautifully. There really are some people who consciously practice being authentic and those who blatantly don’t. Then there’s the rest of us in between.

Authenticity is a value I strive for on a daily basis. I have been trying to be authentic in every situation. I really do attempt to say what I mean and mean what I say. Lately, I notice I talk less than I used to in order to stay authentic versus playing a role I have been conditioned to play.

While at breakfast with my favorite Aunt the other day, she mentioned I have been quieter lately–like I am always deep in thought. I suggested most of what people talk about is nothing more than small talk and I lose interest real fast. But the minute someone mentions something deep, meaningful, and authentic my ears perk up and I’m immediately engaged. I also told her I have been learning a lot lately so I’m constantly thinking about what I’m learning. And being a writer, I am endlessly mulling over ideas in my mind about what I wrote that morning or else I’m mentally rearranging sentences to make them sound wittier.

There are times I struggle with authenticity. Some days I actually catch myself being inauthentic and immediately correct it. Other times I completely miss my opportunity for authenticity in the moment and realize I dropped the ball a day or two later.

I used to get down on myself and assume I’m simply not an authentic person. I thought if I can’t be authentic in every situation then I must be a phony. If I had to play a role or act a certain way around someone then I would beat myself up later for being a fraud.

What I have since learned is I am an authentic person. I do consciously practice being authentic in every situation. I’m an authentic person who sometimes slips into being unaware once in a while. When I least expect it, I catch myself playing a role I was conditioned to play in the past. All I have to do is take a few minutes to focus on my breathing and come back to the present moment. Instantly, my authenticity is back.

Here’s an amazing quote from one of my favorite poets:

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Authenticity is not something we have or don’t have. It’s a practice–a conscious choice of how we want to live.

Do you value authenticity?

 

Peace my Friends!

 

~Travis

Why Not You?

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My daughter, Kelsi, and I spent some time at dinner looking up famous authors and their net worth. We started with some of our favorites:

  • Elizabeth Gilbert — $25 Million
  • Veronica Roth — $30 Million
  • Nick Hornby — $22 Million
  • John Green — $5 Million
  • Nicholas Sparks — $30 Million

Then we decided to look up the net worth of some of the richest authors we knew of:

  • J.K. Rowling — $1 Billion
  • Paulo Coelho — $500 Million
  • James Patterson — $430 Million
  • Stephen King — $400 Million
  • John Grisham — $275 Million
  • Stephanie Meyer — $125 Million

I suggested to Kelsi these authors are no different than her or me. They took ideas in their heads and put them into a story. People bought their stories, loved them, then their stories were made into movies.

It all started with some simple idea that floated around in their heads until they wrote them down. Oh sure, they had to catch a break and have their first book fall on the right agent’s desk; but if they never finished their first book where would they be?

Along those lines, Kelsi said a quote that stood out to her in Big Magic: Creative Living Beyond Fear by Elizabeth Gilbert was: “Done is better than good.”  So we talked about getting our first books out of the way and moving on to what our Muse has for us next. Then I asked Kelsi:

“Why Not You?”

She has five chapters of her story, Finding Me, online with more than 2,300 views and a ton of positive comments. The first chapter alone generated over 1,500 views in just the first couple days.

As Kelsi continues to work on her first book (of many) and as I continue to work on mine, it’s important to remember that every author I mentioned earlier started with a first book. Which reminds me of another favorite quote from Elizabeth Gilbert:

“A creative life is an amplified life. It’s a bigger life, a happier life, an expanded life, and a hell of a lot more interesting life. Living in this manner–continually and stubbornly bringing forth the jewels that are hidden within you–is a fine art, in and of itself.”

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Do you have any “fine jewels that are hidden within you” to share with the world? Could you be one of the success stories I mention in a future post?

 

Why Not You?

 

Peace my Friends!

 

~Travis

 

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