Dear Kelsi,

Standard

wpid-img_56087780786199.jpeg

Dear Kelsi,

I feel compelled to write you and give you some encouragement. I know it’s been a rough week for you and I know you are contemplating many things right now. I can sense your wheels are spinning nonstop much the same that mine do when I’m trying to figure this crazy life out. Anyway, all that to say, I notice. I cannot promise that you’ll get the answers you’re looking for soon—or ever for that matter—but I can desperately challenge you to never stop searching.

You see, the world is made up of people who are blindly regurgitating information that was planted in their brain by some other person or institution. These people are easily guided from one direction to another without so much as one original thought of their own. They are told what to do, what to think, and what to buy—and guess what—they do it. They give very little resistance to the powers-that-be in their lives and they prefer to stay in their comfortable cocoon.

The exact opposite kind of people are few and far between. They aren’t satisfied with the status quo, they question authority, ideas, laws, norms, and tradition. They aren’t afraid to speak their mind even when their voice is shaking. They’re used to feeling uncomfortable, alone, misunderstood, longing for deeper community and richer dialogue. They set trends. They refuse to take the same path as everyone else because it’s been “proven” to work. History was radically changed by these people. Their bravery to stand up and suggest a long-held idea was wrong—even in the face of cruel ridicule or death—has changed the world for the better. These people have pushed progress forward even when progress seemed like a dirty word. These people are badasses!

wp-1486584236157.jpg

There is much debate in the scientific community about free will—whether we have it or whether we don’t. The arguments on both sides are extremely compelling. Some people assume they have free will but act like they don’t: meanwhile, others act like they are stuck with no choices in life but they have plenty of opportunity to change the trajectory of their future if they would simply choose it. I haven’t made my mind up yet as to which side of the argument I fall, but I’m beyond grateful to even be contemplating the ideas in the first place.

I bring up free will as an example because our knee-jerk reaction is to just say of course we have free will. But do we? How do you know? Where do your thoughts come from? Who thinks those thoughts? Who put them there? Sometimes I have thoughts that are disturbing and I wonder where they come from because they obviously aren’t from me. Other times I think peaceful and loving thoughts and I am certain those thoughts are from me and they are me. I believe you get the idea.

wp-image-1377644343jpg.jpg

Here’s my point in all this: never apologize for your greatness! You are amazing and your dedication to discovering your truth will pay off for you in so many ways. You may feel like nobody understands you, and you may feel alone at times, but trust me you are on the right path. Please keep searching and sharing what you are learning. The world is full of people who are walking zombies and they need your help waking up.

I have believed in you since day one and I believe in you now more than ever.

Let me forewarn you; there will be people who might not understand the things you say from one day to the next. Well-meaning people may suggest you are misguided for saying things they don’t believe are true. Good for them. Politely thank them and then keep on being a badass. Small minds won’t understand much of what you are trying to say anyway. They may talk behind your back and they may outright tell you you’re wrong. All the while, they will be secretly jealous of your courage and their lack thereof. This doesn’t make you cocky because we both know that cockiness is nothing more than an overcompensation for insecurity. Instead, you will continue to grow in confidence—not so much in your ideas you present—but in your ability to formulate and communicate your ever-changing ideas.

dd853aa63c96e13d3c6479ed8d28a6ab

It’s a great big world with countless opportunities. There is a long history of people you can learn from who have changed their world for the better. You can be one of those people. You already are one of those people. You will walk among greatness because you choose every day to be great. I applaud your effort and I’m more proud of you than you could ever imagine!

One last thing, your tribe is out there. You are not alone. There are people out there who are changing the world for the better and sharing their ideas. They are your tribe and you belong in their company. Trust that you’ll meet each and every one at the perfect time. Watch in awe and wonder as the mysterious flow of life puts you in the company of the movers and shakers of our time. I have no doubt.

76711_427448107326901_1051949319_n

Keep your chin up and keep writing your ass off! You never know who is reading your writing who needs to hear exactly what you have to say that day. Never stop learning, never stop growing, never stop writing—and most importantly—never stop being you!

I love you!

Dad

IMG_1914

20170524_220755

20170301_175721

I’ve Struggled with Relationships Lately

Standard

We feel jaded when someone treats us poorly.

 

We are furious when someone acts different than we think they should.

 

We pull away from those who have hurt us because it makes sense to protect ourselves.

 

We carry life-long grudges for minor disagreements.

 

We attempt to control and manipulate those around us.

 

We desperately seek genuine love from others even though we’re disingenuous.

 

We were hurt, broken, used, abused, traumatized, betrayed, and nearly shattered.

 

And, yet, we continue to push forward, timidly trusting the motto Love Wins.

 

 

Last week, I spent two full days in training for my next profession. I took part in The Gottman Institute’s Level 1 Clinical Training: Gottman Method Couples Therapy. I’ve read several John Gottman books in the past and gained a lot of insight so I was sure the training would be well worth my time and money. Throughout the two days, my mind kept wandering to so many people that are struggling relationally. So many of us have issues with either our mates, our families, our friends, or our coworkers. Relationship issues are at the core of nearly every emotional difficulty we experience.

 

 

For the better part of two decades, I have been reading and studying most anything I could get my hands on. My studies generally encompassed human developmental topics like self-help, religion, philosophy, writing, and relationships. Because of my thirst for knowledge, I strive to learn as much as I can for my own sake—not because I want to have all the right answers, be the smartest, or prove people wrong—I genuinely love learning and growing.

With all that knowledge and experience, one would think I have a pretty good handle on what it takes to have good relationships. Often when someone is having relationship issues, it seems like human nature to instantly blame the other party or disregard your own shortcomings. That wasn’t where my thoughts went. Instead, as I went through the training last weekend, I kept being reminded of ways I fall short.

 

 

So. . .

Anytime I’m wrestling with something, I find it most useful to write about it; so, in the spirit of self-disclosure, this was the outcome:

 

 

You struggle with relationships!

 

 

You struggle with women. Somewhere along the way, something was shattered in you. Somehow you consistently attempt to be man enough for a woman but fail miserably. A marriage dashed on the rocks, one on the ropes, and multiple shipwrecks in-between. You’re smart enough to know it’s more than just picking the right one and crossing your fingers (or holding your breath).

You have uncertainties you take to a woman and then punish her when she’s helpless to answer them. When things get difficult, you bow and try to sneak backstage, away from the bright lights and scrutinizing eyes. When it’s your turn to speak your lines, something in you detests having to play the part. You’re perfectly fine saying your lines inside your head thank-you-very-much. It seems like a fine approach, but the audience and other cast members are left guessing what you think, how you feel, why you’re mute. They know your lines, they could say them for you, but they are supposed to come from your lips just like you rehearsed so many times. Say them!

 

 

You struggle with family. You have so many relationships with one foot out the door and the other on a banana peel. Each of your family members would love to talk to you and you could benefit from their relationships. Why do you withdraw, bow out, keep quiet? Some of them could use some support, a listening ear, a friendly hello. What holds you back? How do you expect them to get to know you better if you don’t communicate with them? How might they explain to you their perspectives on life, love, and happily-ever-after if never given the chance?

 

 

You struggle with friends. So many times, friends have fallen by the wayside because you allowed the friendship to wither and die. As soon as the friendship required something significant from you, you crawled back into your shell. Your fear of being wholly known for who you truly are keeps you silent. Life is messy, relationships are messy, love is messy, feelings are messy, emotions are messy, being close friends with others may get messy. Don’t shrink. Take the risk of being authentic. Say what you mean and share your experience with others.

 

 

You struggle with being a father. Remember when you were growing up and you had no idea about life and what to expect out of it? You simply did the best you could. You did what you thought was right whether it was right or not. You faked it til you made it. Guess what, you have a million life experiences your children could learn from. Tell them. Speak up. Start talking and keep talking. The best decisions are always made when we have the most information. Why would you not give them all the information you possibly could? Just because you had to figure everything out on your own doesn’t mean they should. Tell them stories every chance you get—you won’t regret it and neither will they!

 

 

Just because you struggle doesn’t mean you’re a failure. Practice makes perfect. Being authentic isn’t always the easy option but it is the right one for you. If anyone can turn these struggles into triumphs, it’s you! “To be nobody-but-yourself in a world which is doing its best, night and day, to make you everybody but yourself—means to fight the hardest battle which any human being can fight—and never stop fighting.” E.E. Cummings

 

I would like to share more about the Couples Therapy training but I’ll save that for another day. In the meantime, I want you to know that if you struggle with any relationships, you are not alone. I fully support and acknowledge your desire for love and belonging.

 

Peace,

 

~Travis

 

Travis Quotes4

Top 10 Reasons Why I am Becoming a Counselor

Standard

10. Mental health issues are not going away any time soon.

For reasons that aren’t exactly clear, mental health issues continue to plague our society. On a large scale; mass shootings, suicide bombings, and terrorist activity has become a mainstay on our nightly news feeds. On a more personal note; depression, anxiety, and irrational beliefs are just a few mental health issues that significantly effects all of our lives on a daily basis. Every family faces the burden of mental health issues in one way or another.

 

plastic figure standing in front of a hole in a puzzle

 

9.  It’s a natural fit for my skill set.

For as long as I can remember, people have naturally opened up to me. I have often wondered if there was a sign on my forehead that said tell me your darkest secrets. During countless conversations I have heard the same sentence, “I have never told this to anyone before.” I consider it an honor when someone shares the deepest parts of their journey with me. I don’t seek to offer advice or fix their problems, but I attempt to be present with them and offer active listening skills. Surprisingly (or not surprisingly), people really open up when they feel they are being listened to.

 

counseling-testing-lets-talk-logo

 

8.  I have always been intrigued with the dynamics of interpersonal relationships.

Ever since my first encounter with marriage counseling over two decades ago, I have been fascinated by what makes people tick. You could say I have become an existential investigator of this intriguing species known as humans. Our beliefs and worldviews are continuously shaped by the interactions we have with others. Two people that come together for any possible reason will walk away altered as a result of their meeting—no matter how lengthy or short-lived. Every couple weeks I’m reading a new book about life, relationships, meaning, religion, therapy, or any other new thing that interests me. A long time ago I declared myself to be a life-long learner and my natural curiosity has led me to never run out of material.

 

FB_IMG_1445608514033

 

7.  I want to help people feel comfortable with their humanness.

I’ve heard it said many times that we are all spiritual beings having a human experience. We all find ourselves on this giant rock hurling through the galaxy. Our time on this rock is a measly tip-of-the-needle dot compared to the history of our civilization. Alan Watts once said we are all God playing hide-and-go-seek with himself. If we could all grasp the greatness that resides in each one of us, the world would be a much better place. Being comfortable with your humanness means you accept yourself exactly the way you are; and when you are comfortable with your own humanness, you realize you are more comfortable with others’ as well.

 

love-actually-andrew-lincoln

 

6.  It’s the greatest honor in the world to sit with someone who is wrestling with the big questions of life.

“Why am I here?” “What is this all for?” “What’s the point?” No matter who you are, you eventually start to ask yourself some pretty deep questions. It’s nearly impossible to go through life without searching for some kind of meaning for your existence. Many great philosophers and teachers have given their ideas, but we each have to decide our own version of what is true for us. I am fascinated each and every time I have one of these conversations with another person and I’m honored to wrestle alongside them as they search for their truth.

 

wp-1466887534487.jpg

 

5.  The Religious “Nones” are growing rapidly.

In an ongoing Religious Landscape Study by the Pew Research Center, the Religiously Unaffiliated adults (or “Nones”) in America grew from 36.6 million in 2007 to 55.8 million in 2014. That is an awful lot of people left trying to sort through their missing religious beliefs. Choosing to walk away from previously held beliefs and childhood indoctrination takes a tremendous toll on an individual. Many people were taught what to think, while few were taught how to think. Offering a safe, nonjudgmental place to decipher one’s beliefs is at the top of my priority list.

 

facebook_1444086352825

 

4.  Advocacy for anyone that needs a voice.

All too often, minority groups or people left on the fringes of society are either laughed at or simply ignored. Discrimination, bullying, or flat-out exploitation result in serious personal mental health issues and wreak havoc on our society in general. We all must remind ourselves that just because someone is different than us; that doesn’t make them bad, evil, or wrong. Each and every one of us is unique and marvelous just the way we are. I’m willing to speak up for those that may need help finding their voice.

 

Screenshot_2016-02-19-14-33-05-1

 

3.  Every person is unique and has a story to tell.

As I just mentioned, we are all unique. We all have a past that makes our story unlike anyone else in the world. We have each come so far but we have so far to go. The events in your life that transpired to bring you where you are now has shaped you into the person you’ve become. I’m eager to hear those stories and I’m looking forward to helping as many people celebrate their uniqueness as possible.

 

dd853aa63c96e13d3c6479ed8d28a6ab

 

2.  The time is right.

When I graduated in 2006 with a Bachelor’s in Family Life Education, I was eager to start a Master’s right away and continue my education. I wrestled with that for a while. Being a divorced dad with two kids meant any time I spent pursuing my education was time not spent with them. I basically had to decide whether to pursue my education or spend as much time with my children as possible. Needless to say, I chose the latter and it’s a decision I will never regret. I’ve had the honor to attend nearly every sporting event they participated in, coached each of them in several sports, and was there for virtually every activity. Being their father has been the greatest gift of my life and if I had to choose between my education or time with them again, I would choose them each and every lifetime!

 

105_0409

 

1.  It’s what I have been called to do.

Many years ago, a wise friend spoke truth into my life. She said, “Ya know, I can really see you counseling, writing, and speaking.” That nonchalant statement worked its way into my soul and has never left. After many years of applying myself and consistently learning and growing, I know this is exactly what I am meant to do with my life. I’m extremely thankful for the life my current job has afforded me and my family, but I will be spending the rest of my working days helping as many people as I possibly can.

 

psychology session sign vector

 

Peace my Friends!

 

~Travis

 

counselingawareness-1-copy

You Don’t Have to Try

Standard

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

img_20161019_002150

SHOW UP! 

Standard

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! 

Standard

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

Standard

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