Why we keep taking the easy route (even when we don’t mean to)

January 11th, 2016

The moment I decided I was ready to learn how to fly an airplane, I approached my husband, Martin. He’s one of those people who could live and breathe all things aviation. From the moment we met, it was clear that he wanted nothing more than to share that passion with me.

“Okay, I’ll learn how to fly,” I said. “But I just want you to know: I don’t do landings.”

Landing an airplane involves a detailed process of calculating exactly where you are and where your plane is taking you. The immense number of variables—your elevation, rate of descent, angle of your wings, wind patterns, radio tower instructions, etc.—influence exactly where you’ll touch the ground and the level of grace. Without your detailed focus, a plane won’t be able to perform its magic.

Now if you ask me, flying a plane sounded much more enjoyable without all that stress. I figured I’d much more enjoy the excitement of my plane leaving the earth and rising around my beloved blue Montana sky if I didn’t have the hassle of getting back down.

“You’ll just do all of our landings,” I told Martin with a shrug.

“Is that what you’ll tell the examiner, too? He can just land for you?”

why we keep taking the easy route in life

I know you’re probably laughing at the absurdity of my predicament. I admit it sounds a bit foolish. The thing is, I wanted to avoid landings to protect myself—and I don’t just mean physically. I wanted to skip and the part of flying that’s hard and painful. The easier path just sounded, well, easier.

We all try to ignore part of our story because it’s hard and it hurts. It’s no fun to get our butts kicked, screw up, or disappoint anyone—especially ourselves. Do we really want to deliberately set ourselves up for all that junk?

Life feels much easier when we walk away and live outside of any positive benefits that might come with the entire experience. We disengage to protect ourselves, thinking the path of least resistance makes sense.

The irony is that the more we attempt to separate ourselves from things that feel hard, the more we stop writing our own stories. Joseph Campbell was a brilliant writer who said, “The big question is whether you are going to be able to say a hearty yes to your adventure.”

The reason I love journaling so much is that it makes me feel more joy and gratitude. When we write journals, we get to live experiences twice—once in the world, and once on paper. Recording our stories helps us see our experiences with more depth. We get to review, reflect, and learn from our stories, which makes us understand more about ourselves and the world. Steve Jobs believed it was important to connect the dots between our experiences. To him, “Creativity is just connecting things.” One moment links to another to another, and they shape who we are.

But some stories involve tears. We live in a world where showing our vulnerability can be looked down on as a weakness. After all, we have so much to be grateful for with only our first world problems! The pressure makes us feel like our hardships aren’t worthy of being acknowledged. So what do we do? We bury them. We stop stretching to live full lives, subconsciously afraid of the unknown pain that might come.

Over the years, I’m learning how journaling isn’t just about the joy and gratitude. It’s also about acknowledging challenging things—both big and small—that scare us and make us want to go back to bed and hide under the blankets. A journal is a tool that connects your head and heart by use of your hands. It’s a place to engage in your feelings. For now, I’m going to keep sharing happy journal entries and inspiration on Instagram. But I’m also thinking a lot more about the hard stories and how we can open our hearts to them.

Eventually, I faced my fear of landing—it wasn’t easy. Martin and I worked together the entire summer. I can’t tell you how many times he said, “Let’s do it again” and “Go around.” Occasionally, I heard the most deflating words of all: “I’ve got the controls.” No discussion, no chance for correction—I had to surrender the plane instantly as he rescued our descent. There were days when I wanted to cry, days when I did, and plenty of times when I was sure I should just throw the towel in and kick the plane’s wheel as hard as I could. It was awful.

As we kept practicing our flight patterns, it wasn’t just my landings that were improving. I got better at all the aspects of flying. One morning, Martin jumped out of the parked airplane just before I was about to make a radio call that we were taxiing to the runway.

I’ll spare you the details, though I think you can derive the conclusion: I survived my first solo flight! As it turns out, I can do landings. We all can.

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Join me at Making This Home each month for a thought-provoking, life-altering monthly essay. If you’d like, receive these stories in your inbox by signing up here.

The photo in this post was taken mere seconds before I did my first solo landing I documented my entire flight journey in diary form.

Give a story to a child in need

December 3rd, 2015

give a story to a child

When I was growing up, I dreamed of writing a journal about my life. Kids would get on huge waiting lists at their school libraries to check out “The Amazing Adventures of Kate the Great!” Never mind that my story wasn’t anything out of the ordinary; I just wanted to create something that would inspire and help other kids. It’s been a dream of mine ever since.

Last spring as the school year was wrapping up, I stumbled on exactly what I needed to do.

My mom’s a school librarian. “You know what I hate about my job?”

I pictured stacks of books waiting for plastic covers and other piles she needed to organize and put on shelves. I wasn’t expecting what she actually told me.

“There’s this little boy who hasn’t returned his book.”

She briefly mentioned that he was moving from home to home. I imagined a child with freckles on his face and dirt under his nails—a boy exactly like my son. Then I could see his shaggy, unwashed hair, dirty clothes, and insufficient winter coat. And I wondered if he ever forgot exactly which home he had to go to after school.

“He’s supposed to return his library book, right?” my mom continued. “And if he doesn’t, I’m supposed to fine him.”

I nodded. I think we’ve all experienced the frantic search for overdue library books.

“But he can’t pay a fine. He doesn’t have any money. And worse: it’s just a library book … but I think it’s his only possession.”

If a child owns just one book, what should it be?

This was my big aha moment because even today, I know exactly what my childhood favorite is—“The Amazing Adventures of Kate the Great!”—because it’s the story of me.

When a child owns a book that he fills with all of his adventures, ideas, and dreams, it gives him a sense of empowerment. He discovers that he is creative, funny, beautiful, and most of all: worthy.

This is where the Gadanke mission—Celebrate your story!—begins to craft a deeper meaning. I’m shifting mediums; some handmade journals are retiring. One of your kids’ favorites is now a professionally bound book!

Time Capsule: A seriously awesome kid’s journal

time capsule journal for kidsInvite your child to explore his creativity and discover how mighty the pen can be by diving deep into what sparks his interest. With this time capsule journal, he will record awesome adventures, achievements, and milestones as he improves his penmanship. The engaging prompts encourage him to write and doodle stories—both serious and silly—while building self-esteem. He can even add interesting photographs and memorabilia!

kid journal by katie clemons

Order before December 10 and receive the incredible free goodies listed here.

pirate journal for kids

And here’s the most powerful part of this story, as we approach Christmas:

give a story to a child in need

I couldn’t stop thinking of that little boy and his only book. Every year, thousands of children are displaced from their homes because of domestic violence. My local shelter for battered women and families is a part of the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence (NCADV). It provides mothers and children with safe places to stay, everyday necessities, and resources to move forward.

Gadanke has created the Give a Story project to help build these children’s self esteem and give them something to call their own—a journal to celebrate their story!

Today if you are able, I ask you to help me invest in a child by giving him a journal. Purchase one at 50% discount; I’ll take care of everything else, and your gift will be delivered to NCADV to give to a child on your behalf.

Together, we can give kids the chance to write their own rich and beautiful endings.

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Join me at Making This Home each month for a thought-provoking, life-altering monthly essay. If you’d like, receive these stories in your inbox by signing up here.

What The World Wants From You

November 6th, 2015

what the world wants from you

“My story’s not interesting. Nobody wants to hear it.”

How often do you and I think these unworthy thoughts? The sad universal truth is that we all think this way sometimes. We do it a bit too much … and sometimes, we don’t even realize we’re downplaying our significance. We get up each morning and go about our day. It feels like a hectic rhythm that we repeat as the calendar turns day after day. Things that used to feel exciting—moving into a new house, playing a particular boardgames with the kids, volunteering, and whatever you do—begin to lose their sparkle. The things that fill our days no longer seem fascinating, unique, or remotely interesting.

Midlife crisis? Time to introduce change?

Not at all.

I have found in my own life that the best thing to do is simply look at my routine a little differently. What would my grandmother think of these everyday things like streaming video or video chatting with faraway family? Would my great great grandma be blown away by the fresh oranges sitting on my countertop? Then I look to my left and right. What seems beautiful about my life to the woman on the opposite end of the country or the world? How about the one down the road?

The goal isn’t to brag and boast about what you have or emphasize anything you don’t. It’s to celebrate the little things (like video chatting!) that have become so everyday to us.

What would your neighbor or close friend compliment you on? What does she admire or appreciate about you? How would she call you brave?

That, my sweet friend, is a story that makes you beautiful. And the world wants it. We want you to write it down. (This time of year, I can’t recommend Gadanke’s gratitude journal enough. It’s a sweet and simple journal that triggers pockets of gratitude in everyday moments.) Carry your head high. And when we ask, “How are you?” tell us about that silly board game or the oranges sitting on your countertop.

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Could someone you care about use this letter of love and encouragement? Please forward this message to her, and mention how you appreciate her or think she’s brave. We can always use more love notes in our world!

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Each month, I write an essay about intentional living and storycatching. If you’d like to join me and receive these essays by email, securely sign up here. I also recently shared a similar version of this essay with Gadanke newsletter friends.

Recommended writing prompt journals to gift or keep for yourself on today’s topic: She, an introspective journal and The Little Things gratitude journal.