I can remember thinking I was starting small, at least, that’s what I consciously intended to do – to start small and keep it small…so as not to be noticed, or not noticed too much, out of the old shyness…And now I found I couldn’t stay small, my eyes stayed closed but my voice lifted, and kept lifting, I got louder and louder, I did not feel I had control of it, exactly, it was something I’d released that now rose up and away and escaped my reach.
Zadie Smith, Swing Time
It is easy and thrilling for me to tell you that you are a creator goddess warrior queen.
It is probably easy and potentially thrilling for you to tell that to another woman.
And you definitely are.
And she definitely is.
The question continues to persist — how do we root the idea that we are powerful into our own bones and nervous systems?
Like in a permanent, we-no-longer-need-to-expend-energy-trying-to-reteach-ourselves-that-we-are-worthy-deserving-enough-strong-and-beautiful-as-we-are kind of way?
Imagine the energetic capacity that will flood our veins.
Imagine what we could build together.
Say not, 'I have found the truth,' but rather, 'I have found a truth.'
One of my dares for myself this Spring is to be bolder in my thinking, speaking, and doings.
The relentless people pleaser in me would prefer to keep my most polarizing views and edge-pressing ideas to myself.
We need everyone to like us! She quivers.
But I am clear about a few things right now:
1. Staying in the safe, medium, comfortable space moves us backward, culturally, and is a recipe for mediocrity, creatively.
2. To do what I am here to do, I must dare to go beyond my need for being liked.
3. #1 and #2 only work if I simultaneously hold myself rigorously accountable for what I say and do.
Doing the brave thing means risking ruffling a few or a thousand feathers and regularly putting myself in the hot center of discomfort.
Another dare I am issuing myself this Spring is to move toward curiosity and away from claims.
Do you also feel pummeled by claims and guarantees?
THIS smoothie will make you thin!
MY plan will change our country!
Click HERE to change your life!
Claims give us a rush of dopamine and a promise of something greater, while simultaneously rendering us powerless and in a perpetual state of not-enoughness.
If we don’t buy it, believe in it, or download it, we are automatically less than and an outcast — but if we do buy it, join it, download it, and don’t see the result that was promised — we are still not enough, still on the outside looking in at the cool kids, and now, also, a failure.
The good life is sold to us as a before and after story – stripped of the complexities of true transformation — but before and after, while pleasing to watch on a tv show, seems like more of an impressive feat of editing and curation than an actual human experience.
Have you ever experienced this? Told yourself a story that once you quit your job or buy that thing or meet that person or lose that weight your life will finally and immediately burst into color?
Just like a movie montage from the 90s?
Maybe the bold thing I'm trying to say is I am interested in leaders brave enough to admit they don't have all the answers and admit that lasting change is a complex and often nonlinear process.
Maybe the bold thing I'm also trying to say is that I believe there are a lot of unethical and irresponsible practices happening on the internet.
And I'm mad about it because it is not helping us.
We don't need more people capitalizing on, and profiting off of our feelings of not enough-ness.
We need invitations to return to the power within us.
This Spring I am inviting myself to fall back in love with deep questions, curiosity, and the murky, liminal, sometimes infuriating space of true change, and to pay attention to leaders and voices who are courageous enough to do the same.
I'm checking myself on all of it – I don't get to write this in a letter to you without owning up to when I may be out of alignment, too, and I commit to stepping up my own accountability.
It does not seem that societally or creatively we have more to learn about blindly believing other people's Truths with a capital T, or hastily claiming our own in order to sell things or establish authority or get people to like us.
It does seem there is more to discover about inviting multiple perspectives, being bold enough to make questions sexier than answers, and being more thoughtful about the power of our language – being aware of the responsibility when people are watching and listening to us and always checking to make sure we are walking our own talk.
Curiosity invites us to first listen — within, and then, to each other — before we blindly believe or claim truth.
I watch myself being so easily gobbled up by the quick and slick claims that I sometimes forget to wonder what I really think about the thing being said in the first place.
What if it's time to tune into our own voice before we turn outside to experts and #influencers?
This spring I dare us to make listening, questions, and curiosity the hottest new trend.
We can really make it a thing if enough of us do it together!
Like flamingos and beards!
In service of this, below are 13 provocative questions that I have been rumbling with these last few months.
I don't have answers, but I am enchanted by the radical possibilities...
I love what if questions for this reason — to me they are an invitation to imagine — a mini thought experiment that allows us to try on an idea before committing to it.
I'm curious what stirs in you...
13 Provocative Questions for Spring:
1. What if time were your best friend? Your lover? The product of your creation?
2. What if you feel more like a volcano erupting than a flower blooming this Spring? What if your volcano is exactly what we need right now?
3. What if you decided that you matter? What if you spoke to be heard? What if you let yourself be fully seen?
4. What if we measured our worth by the amount of time we get to be creating things or the shine in others’ eyes — instead of likes and audience sizes and how much money we're making?
5. What if we need to grieve our childhood dreams to fully become the adults we are destined to be?
6. What if we did one brave thing a day for 100 days?
7. What if social media is a spiritual training ground for cultivating deeper integrity, moral fortitude and self-respect?
8. What if your career is organized around a series of questions and themes that you were born to explore instead of a fixed title or identity?
9. What if you could move beyond your need for recognition and acknowledgement? What matters more than being liked?
10. What if no one could change your life but you? What if everyone who claims that they will #changeyourlife is just trying to sell something?
11. What if the at times paralyzing anxiety so many women are feeling right now is nature’s evolutionary alarm — a warning from something greater that change cannot wait?
12. What if we could eradicate perfectionism and imposter syndrome?
13. What if the best is yet to come?
MY DARE TO YOU:
Take at least one of the above that speaks to you and dance with it for a while, without trying to effort a hard and fast answer, and, instead, try it on, play with it, apply it to something going on for you and listen and pay attention to what comes up.
My hunch is the insights you source internally will be more potent than what someone else tells you to do or think.
Perhaps you will write to me or head over to my instagram and share with me what you are discovering.
Perhaps you will tell me about other ideas you are exploring right now.
As always, I love hearing from you, and your thoughts shape what I write about moving forward.
The Collective — ONE. LAST. TIME.
(YES of course I am singing the Hamilton song while I write this!)
The Collective is currently open for the last enrollment period of 2019.
There is one spot open in a New York group and one spot open in the online group for women leaders and entrepreneurs, as well as a few spots in the Thursday online groups.
Application is open until April 10th, but interviews will be scheduled for the next two weeks — you only need to schedule the interview by the 10th.
If you are a woman-identifying creator, and feel that community support and work with me will be useful to your growth right now, click here to schedule your informal interview.
Much is developing in my corner of the world this Spring, and I look forward to sharing what is unfolding over the coming months.
In the meantime --
To listening within!
To making questions cool again!
I believe in us.
Living is a form of not being sure, not knowing what next or how. The moment you know how, you begin to die a little. The artist never entirely knows. We guess. We may be wrong, but we take leap after leap in the dark.
I imagine if you are reading this post, you are making some sort of leap in the dark.
Perhaps you are raising a child. Writing a play. Working on your next film. Leading a group of people to think differently. Transitioning from something not serving you to a brighter calling. Creating a business with heart and a hunch and heaps of enthusiasm and not much else.
A leap in the dark means you have sacrificed the security of a map.
A leap in the dark means your only guides are... whispers? a hunch about a territory yet to be explored? a boiling curiosity?
(Except on the days when you really need an answer.
Then, mystically, even the whispers seem to ghost you...)
Poet David Whyte observes that humans are the only species who can refuse to be who they are.
A mountain is a mountain. A wave is a wave. A flamingo is a flamingo. But humans have the exceptional ability to construct an identity ostensibly more appealing than the one that belongs to us.
We can pretend to show up as someone we would rather be.
Flamingos don't have this luxury.
What I continue to learn about love is parallel to what I continue to learn about creativity — acceptance is the winning strategy we forget to use and:
the best way to increase your energetic capacity for all the things you want is to release any idea of how it is supposed to go.
This one takes vulnerability to share, but I believe the parts we want to crop out of our pictures are the most interesting parts, and one of my highest responsibilities to you is to walk my talk, even if my voice wobbles.
I am standing at the top of a water slide at an odd but strangely appealing midwest version of Disney Land + water park extravaganza, when it all of a sudden dawns on me that this Grandma thing is actually happening.
I look down at my loving, fiery, Grandson-to-be, his enthusiastic face brightening as we approach our turn.
He is four. I am 34. Becoming a grandmother before I became a mother was never a part of the plan.
I was my best supportive self when we got the news that Michael’s daughter was having a child. The situation was complex and the last thing he needed was my resistance.
Inside, a little girl in me screamed — THIS IS NOT HOW IT’S SUPPOSED TO GO!
This article was originally published in the January 2019 Burning Issue of W42ST Magazine and edited by Ruth Walker.
On January 1, 2018, my journal reads:
spend less time on email and more time experiencing the rapture of being alive.
Inspired by the intoxicating words of Joseph Campbell, it dawned on me last year that the rapture I desired was not a someday, once-I-finally-arrive sort of thing, but, rather, a choice I could start prioritizing at any moment. If I wanted more rapture, I needed to make space for it to enter in.
Rapture did not appear to be blowing up my social media feed, nor did I think that I would be 103, in a mu-mu and rocking chair and telling my grandchildren about those award-winning emails I wrote. After gorging on the depressing statistics about how the digital world is ruining our brains and bodies, I followed the advice and drafted a protocol, convinced that a plethora of boundaries was my pathway to more aliveness.
24-hour digital breaks each week
Unplug during vacations
Limit email, social media, and the news to after morning writing.
Only check social media and email at specific times during the day
Don’t have important conversations with your phone in your hand
Keep your phone in your pocket while walking so you can smile at people and birds
We make our world significant by the courage of our questions and the depth of our answers.
Every year at this time I ask myself, everyone I'm working with, and everyone I love some version of the following:
What are you proud of?
When did you feel alive?
What didn't work?
What did you learn?
What is your next frontier?
Who will you become to rise to it?
I grow most from listening to people talk about the complexity of their whole experience and small daily happenings. So, I'm sharing a candid look into my nonlinear process and my 2018 learnings, acts, celebrations, and failures in the hope that something here sparks something meaningful and useful for your own process as you envision the coming year.
What if the Holidays were a launchpad to our next Becoming?
(Instead of something to recover from).
The projects and visions we are dreaming up for 2019 matter.
A lot. Maybe more than ever before.
Actualizing them will require us to evolve into the next versions of who we are here to become.
To do this, we can't keep doing things the way we have always done them.
If we want a different 2019, we will need a different December.
Of course bring on the joy, the hope, the love, the cookies, and everything we love about our Holiday traditions.
But what if we said a big fat NO to allowing the next month to completely-
wipe out our checking accounts
re-root us in old patterns
clobber us with "not enough-ness"
—and instead allow it to send us into the new year with POWER?
What if the Holidays could be a resilience-invoking, spiritually-fortifying, energy-building launch into our best year yet?
Wayne Dyer says: When we change the way we look at things, the things we look at change.
To that end-
Here are 18 Ways of Cultivating Power & Presence This Holiday Season:
A few mornings ago I woke up to a text message I had written to myself in the middle of the night, with only three words—
Most of my life I have been desperate to hear messages like this from anyone who will offer it—teachers, colleagues, clients, coaches, agents, books, therapists, partners, parents, friends, retail associates, Instagram followers, cats.
With bated breath, I wait for the moment in a conversation, book chapter, or hot date, when I finally hear the words--
Keep going, Kimball!
You're doing great. Don't you dare stop.
Better than almost anything, praise and encouragement is an addictive high.
Criticism is a blow from which I take weeks to recover.
There isn't much in between.
But the mysterious, much-needed, midnight text felt like standing on new--and firm—ground...
On our most recent Full Moon, I led myself through a DIY moon ritual.
(Stay with me, even if moons aren't your thing ;)
The last few months have felt like a dramatic rollercoaster of feeling fired up and exhausted to the bone—inspired by breathtakingly courageous voices in our national midst—hopeless and crying every day—operatic waves of love for everyone I know + strangers with kind eyes—discovering seismic anger I was trying to pretend wasn't actually there and then realizing I forgot to eat or drink water for hours.
HANDS UP IF ANY OF THIS IS YOU, TOO.
I don’t know how to do moon rituals so I googled it because my off-the-hook Sisterhood tells me the moon can help in challenging times.
I went outside on our porch and lit several candles, some palo santo, and sage.
I filled a bowl of water in the sink downstairs and spilled most of it on the way up the stairs.
I followed some of the directions and made up several new parts.
This is what a DIY Moon ritual looks like when you are a nonlinear duck.
I wrote down things I long to let go of ::
Carrying pain that does not belong to me.
The Patriarchal disease of scarcity and its accompanying symptoms of not ever enough.
Overwhelm & feeling behind.
Hopelessness & exhaustion about the state of our world.
I burned each one and then placed the papers in the water.
I legitimately nearly lit our deck on fire.
I did some uncensored dancing.
I felt very very alive.
I wrote this letter to my warrior...
A letter from a broken/rebuilt woman to a POTUS who has—understatement of the century—lost his way.
Tuesday, October 2nd. The day The President of the United States of America did the unimaginable and mocked a survivor of sexual trauma. Mark this.
From now on there will be a "before Tuesday October 2nd" and an "after Tuesday October 2nd".
When Trump was elected, I decided I would try very hard not to respond to his verbal abuse and disrespect with the same.
That would be fighting the patriarchy with the patriarchy, and that is not how we turn this thing around and take everyone higher as we do.
So I have focused, relentlessly, on refraining from publicly criticizing the man or the administration (of course I’ve occasionally slipped—some days the horror is simply too much), with oppressive hate, name-calling, or slander.
I made a rule that I wouldn’t say his name on my Instagram, or post funny memes mocking him.
Not to avoid trolls and mean comments—I already have those!—but refraining from letting my little corner of the world be pulled to such a low and inhuman vibration (and isn’t saying his name repeatedly giving him what he wants)?
Every time I want to retaliate with finger-pointing, meanness, and scare tactics, I remind myself to refocus the conversation on good people doing human things, how to empower us to keep rising, and how to keep us creative, courageous and sharp in our leadership so we are READY for the new future—the non-patriarchal, non-white supremacist, non-binary, LOVE-fueled brave new world we are building out of this hot f*****g mess.
I believe in this future and I continue to believe in it and I do not believe we are doomed.
Tuesday, October 2nd...
Once upon a time a woman has a desire—
To rise up in her career.
To make something of her own.
To allow herself pleasure.
To love her body.
(Because it is her birthright.
Because she was born to want big.
Because desire is biological and the engine of evolution)
She might say she wants it to a few people, or a lot of people, or maybe nobody.
Maybe she makes a vision board or a list of what she can do to get there. She excitedly buys a motivational book or two, and creates some accountability for herself.
She carries on, but doesn’t feel like she is moving fast enough. Because she has been taught by the Patriarchy that she is never enough no matter what, and that the gap between where she is and where she wants to be is a sign of weakness and inadequacy—instead of an opportunity to enjoy the pleasure of being inside of a desire—she turns to the only toolbox she has been given; the master’s toolbox is not fun but it is familiar...
Come home my body whispered for 100 years until I finally responded.
Real homecomings are profound but exasperating (and not like the movies). Sometimes our reunion is so tender it takes my breath away and some days I think it’s all BS and I long for the fake ease of our old estrangement.
Learning how to have an actual relationship is not the same as #slaying with a hard core workout or a green juice. I tried fixing her but duh, everyone knows 'fixing' debilitates relationships.
Then I remembered that nonviolent communication is good for inside relationships too so stop telling her what she is supposed to want and instead just start asking and listening and asking if she has any requests. Not easier but more truthful.
She had been waiting a lifetime to be asked of course so she had a litany: basic respect, an apology, eating breakfast, kindness when looking in the mirror, attending to the pain we have been ignoring for over a decade, to stop being secretly proud when I “forget” to eat, to remember that advertising, the patriarchy, and ballet did not always have our best interest at heart so we will need to collaborate on a new operating system.
Therapist Esther Perel says it is the job of a person who has betrayed a relationship to keep vigil for it.
I am keeping vigil by slowly answering her requests and saying one small apology every day.
My new doctor says the pain I can’t seem to shake is my body’s way of saying the way have been doing things is not working. We have gotten remarkably better but I have to keep up the vigil because forgiveness is not an overnight job.
Who are we without our pain? I ask her.
Trusting each other again, she says.
I love you.
I'm sorry it took me 3 decades to say it.
Please teach us how to stop feeling badly about ourselves when we are not #slaying at #wellness and #selfcare in an #instaworthy way with a lot of perfectly placed #plants in the background. And show us some evidence (hopefully soon) that grace is a more effective strategy than just clicking HERE for the 10-Easy-Steps-to-Success Program That Will Change Your Life. And help us see that having this conversation does not mean we are slacking // failing // not doing enough.
I know you know this but grace and joy are your birthright and you are never not far enough along to deserve them.
I know you know this but non-results oriented wandering and wondering lead to your wonderwork.
I know you know this but cramming the schedule and piling the projects is not a definition of our worth as humans.
What would happen if you lifted one ounce of the pressure off of your sweet heart//to do list?
It is August so what if you said not for now to one or two things that are making you feel like you are carrying a wet blanket and see how the world doesn’t end?
Your intuition has some updates for you so what if you gave yourself 5 minutes or a walk or 1 hour this week to have a reunion with her?
Loosening the grip makes space for grace which is the prerequisite for creative genius and other stuff we want.
I know you know this but it’s more fun to work on closing the gap between our knowing and how we are walking when we do it together. And we can let social media be a place where we trigger our perfectionism or where we remember our wholeness; I propose the latter.
I believe in us and our nonlinear unfolding.
Creativity is a wild mistress.
You light a candle and carve out nice beautiful space and time for her and she decides to just... opt out. You feel like a loser and sit at the table alone and pretend to squeeze out something that is actually nothing and compose social media posts and grocery lists in your head alternatively.
But THEN, on the day the calendar has appointments like It’s Time to Write Very Important Emails and It’s Been a Week Since You Exercised and You Really Have to Sit Through This Meeting Creativity dramatically enters, like Beyoncé at any concert but especially Coachella, inhabiting your full being and body so all-encompassingly and ecstatically that you have no option but to run from the room, like you madly have to pee... or throw up...frantically searching for a container expansive enough for her avalanche, quick enough so that you don’t lose the firebombs she is hurling at you.
She wears a fantastic dress and usually she looks like Frida Kahlo and she hopes you understand, darling, that she is always non-negotiable and she does NOT work around anyone else’s GOOGLE CALENDAR.
Also WHAT are you doing on that silly device? she says.
You know I'm the real fun.
And you do.
Because she is intoxicating.
To our mistresses and their wildness.
A few days before a special election in New York, I was rushing into a Brooklyn subway station with too many bags strapped across my body and too many thoughts scuttling around my brain. Suddenly, a woman handed me a flyer and said:
Hi, I’m Ede Fox. I’m running for City Council.
On auto-pilot, I begrudgingly and awkwardly (no free hands!) took the flyer and hurried down the stairs.
She was Ede Fox? Not a representative for Ede Fox? Not a volunteer on the Ede Fox campaign?
I heard her say it to someone else. Her voice was strong, warm, and unapologetic.
Hi, I’m Ede Fox. I’m running for City Council.
The theme of my quarter one was creativity and process, and instead of starting the year with long lists of goals and habits, I spent the first few months creating a set of intuitive rules / not rules that I want to live into.
Beginning a new year with excessive goal-setting and habit-installing before I have clarity on the quality with which I want to show up and what I want to show up for exacerbates people-pleasing habits and makes me participate in patriarchal structures of achievement that don’t seem to be serving us anymore.
Once upon a time I had a wild idea that my Dad should star in his own show. And then I had a wild idea that maybe I could direct it.
A multi-faceted artist who spent the majority of his career directing and artistic directing opera, my Dad is also an extraordinary singer.
Though he has sung throughout his life, a singing career proved too risky in his earlier years, and when opportunities for leadership positions emerged, he took them so that he could provide more consistently for our family.
Childhood memories revolve around his singing: sitting on the floor of church choir stalls while he sang (cheaper than babysitting), high C’s at the end of every happy birthday (I was embarrassed but secretly proud) late nights banging away duets on our out of tune piano (more fulfilling than high school parties). When I went to see his star turns at summer theaters, I remember looking around at the other audience members and grinning because I had the best secret in the room: I was the daughter of my dad.
Dedicated to my Grandmother, and to all of the women living within each of us.
The incredible Kristine Oller created the video. Click to play above, or click here to share with your communities.
With love, deep admiration, and solidarity,
receive My Book of rules // not rules for creating anything