152 Transcript: From Hopeless to Happy (with Kitt Rothstein)
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J: You're listening to the Vibrant Happy Women podcast, episode number 152. I’m interviewing my best friend today and she's revealing some of my secrets, stay tuned.
J: Hey, my friends, it's Jen and I am so glad you're here listening to another episode of Vibrant Happy Women, and today is a very special episode because I am bringing you an interview with my best friend, Kitt Rothstein, and she's going to be going deep. I’m getting really vulnerable about old Jen versus new Jen and it makes me a little uncomfortable, and that's an indicator to me that that's the place I need to go. So I hope it brings you some value and that you learn something useful today from this interview.
Well, let me tell you a little bit about Kitt. I met Kitt in Madison, Wisconsin, oh, about a decade ago and at first, she thought I was a little strange (laughs); go figure. But circumstances kept pushing us together and we formed a deep friendship. In fact, Kitt became the very first woman I opened up to about my marriage and life struggles. Finally I could be real with someone and she was just the perfect person for that. In her regular day to day life, Kitt will drop everything to help other people. She thinks sometimes she needs healthier boundaries and that could be true, however I see it as her superpower. She has a love of connection, a love of helping and serving other people. When her kids want to play Frisbee she says, “You know, Jen, I think to myself, ‘Gosh, they're going to be graduated in a couple more years, I have to do it.’” So she will drop everything to play a card game or to cook or to chat with her kids, and she's the same kind of friend. So she has been amazing, probably one of the first people I have called a true best friend in my life. So we're going to hear from her today. Kitt’s going to talk about our friendship and then also share a few things her own life, and I’m so excited for you to listen. So let's go ahead and jump in.
Hey, my friends, welcome to Vibrant Happy Women and today, I’m so excited to be talking to the amazing Kitt Rothstein, mom of 3 and wife extraordinaire and my best friend. Kitt sadly moved away from Wisconsin and now lives in New Hampshire (sad face) (Laughs) where she is a creative thinker, enthusiastic friend, and lover of all things fun and whimsical; she's amazing. Kitt, thank you for agreeing to be on Vibrant Happy Women, I’m so excited.
K: Thank you.
J: Kitt is so modest and she's like, “Jen, this could be weird,” and so everyone, just know Kitt’s amazing and we're so excited she's here. And let's start with a favorite quote, Kitt, what quote do you want to share with us today?
K: I love lots of quotes but one that always comes to mind is, “Life it is what you make it.” And I don't even remember who said it but I often come back to that one.
J: And so how do you apply that one in your life with your kids? I want to preface that by saying, you guys, when I visit Kitt, their family life is freaking phenomenal. And I stay enough days that I think I’m getting a taste of the real thing, but they play board games and Kitt will run out and do Frisbee. That's the thing about Kitt, she’ll drop anything to connect with people, and that's why she's my best friend and I’m so lucky. So anyway, from my side of it, Kitt, “Life is what you make it,” you make it all about connection and people and you're really good at it, but now I want to hear your side of how you apply that one.
K: I just try and (Laughs)… I try and remember it's the moment, you know? I married a guy who has a theater degree, so obviously I’m not living the rich life. So we don't get to go and do a lot of those super fun, you know, Instagram snapable kind of things but I really try hard to enjoy the moments that we do have that are special just in little ways, you know, the simple things and so that's what I like.
J: So what's your current favorite board games, since I know you guys know all the best ones?
K: We just got a new one for Christmas called Century Spice Road, which we're really enjoying.
J: Century Spice Road, okay.
K: Yeah. I also really like, I think it's called Revolution by Steve Jackson.
J: Oh, that's a game? Interesting.
J: Cool. Well, let's dive in and hear about a low point in your life, and going back to that quote, “Life is what you make it,” how you made it out of that low point and you’re still focusing on living the life you want to have.
K: Okay, I’ve had lots of low points in my life, I’m a bit of a roller coaster, but the one I’m thinking about right now is 2016, I had just moved to New Hampshire a few months before that and was struggling with adjusting, it was an unexpected move and it always takes me a bit to adjust. Also at that time, I felt especially sensitive to the changes culturally that we were making as far as social media and opinions and it was, you know, the time when it seemed like everybody was ranting on their soapboxes on Facebook, and I was sensitive to a lack of tolerance that people had for somebody who did not agree with their particular opinions. I was astounded to see, you know, friendships that had been friends for decades just disappear over political issues or social issues of the time, and it was really weighing on me. I was really stressed out and unhappy and scared. I was expressing to you actually about, you know, some of the things that were difficult for me to handle at the time, one of them was time management and those kinds of things, and we talked about in… in the scheme of that, we talked about this concept of, you know, choosing how you want to feel each day. And that really resonated with me at the time and I realized I kind of had this, I don't want to say vision, but like a visual popped into my head (because I’m a visual person) of, you know, I have this sphere around me, this… we all do, we have these like a bubble, you know?
K: And that's our sphere of influence and it's a membrane and we can allow things to pass in and out of it. And I realized that I was allowing a lot of things into my sphere that were negative, and I didn't need to do that because I didn't want to feel that way. And so it was kind of an awakening of how did I want to choose to feel in this environment and what did I want to allow in and what did I want to keep out. And so I started making decisions that filtered out things that were negative influences, and a lot of that, I kind of took a huge step back from Facebook, I took a huge step back from reading news feeds and things like that. I started focusing on the positive aspects in my life, I got to experience love every day, I had great friends, I love nature, you know, all these things. And while I didn't do it perfectly, over the next few years, it’s 2019 now, I’ve really kind of shaped how I want to, not only be affected by things, but how I want to affect other things. And it's become a much more light and positive focus as opposed to just reacting to what's going on around me.
J: Hmm. So if you were to put to words how you want to be affected and how you want to affect other things, how would you even say it? You know, that's hard for people to do but it might inspire some of us.
K: So I realized I’m also going through the phase where I’m preparing to be an empty nester at some point, and so a lot of the roles that sometimes add to our self-esteem are going to be changing for me. And so I realized, you know, “What is my purpose beyond these responsibilities I have?” And I really felt inspired that I exist to share light and love with those who are within my sphere of influence, meaning that anybody I come in contact with, I want them to feel like their life was a little bit brighter, a little bit better because we had that contact. And so with that purpose, now all of a sudden, it changes the parameters of what makes you a success.
J: Mm-hmm. And so what makes you feel like a success? How do you know when you've achieved it?
K: Well, when I think back about, you know, you interact with people every day and so focus is less about accomplishing tasks and more about interactions and the quality of those interactions. So I work at a pottery shop with great ladies and when I go in and, you know, I want to have left to work, I want them to feel great because I was there, you know? I know that I don't get the power to have them choose, but I want to have added to their opportunity to have light and joy because I interacted with them that day as opposed to be a drain in on their energy. Does that make sense?
J: Yeah, exactly, exactly.
J: And everyone, my outside perspective, Kitt and I have talked about this but I’ve told Kitt one of her superpowers is doing exactly what she said, bringing light and love to those in her sphere of influence. Kitt has the superpower of being a fantastic friend. So, Kitt, what I love about you is you always put connection people ahead of your to do list, and I think that's brilliant and beautiful and that's what's helping you leave such a legacy. How do you do that though? Because for people like me, sometimes it's hard to drop what I wanted to do and go connect with another person, how do you make it so easy?
K: (Laughs) You know, this is one thing I love about you is that you say that is an asset and not a liability because…
K: … there's a downside to being like that. And the downside is, I mean, if you look at my kitchen right now, it’s a freaking disaster, but…
K: I think I am learning to appreciate the beauty and the power and the superpowers and everybody. I admire your organizational skills and your ability to fearlessly move forward and get things done, that has merit of its own. And so, you know, if everyone they was like me and willing to blow all their everything off to be with people, well, nothing would ever be accomplished in this world, right? So we need all kinds of superpowers and strengths and to celebrate and appreciate and love each one, I think that's the key. You know, you can still be you and yet you can appreciate the difference in me, and celebrate that. And that's the beauty, I think that's where you are into this really vibrant kind of happy way of living because now the people you come across with, you're not in fear of finding out something horrible, you're looking for something amazing.
J: Well, so I do think yours is the superpower and it saved me, you saved my day; (Laughs) no, for real. I mean… and I want to talk about that in just a moment, but are there ever times as a person where you get tired of helping others? I mean, or is it always easy for you?
K: Oh, no, absolutely!
K: I had one of those just yesterday where I had specific things that I wanted to accomplish, and from the get go, it was like sidetrack, sidetrack, sidetrack, sidetrack, and by the time I got to bed that night, I thought, “Oh my gosh! I have not even done one thing that I wanted to do.” But then as I look back and thought about it, it’s like, “Well, do I regret?” no because for me, it's still my living according to my priorities. So feeling accomplished, I didn't feel necessarily so accomplished because when you spend time with people, it's not a tangible thing that you necessarily see. You know, when you spend time cleaning your house, you have a tangible reward for that. When you spend time with people, you don't necessarily have a tangible reward for that and so it takes a… always a realignment of perspective on a regular basis. And, you know, sometimes I don't have that perspective really clear, but I am lucky enough that I’m sensitive enough to be able to realize that, “Okay, this is just a pattern, you're going to get through this and be back to what it was before.” And then also, you know, the downside to that is that you have to… people like me have to struggle with creating boundaries, which is not a strength of mine. And so sometimes, it takes getting to that point where you're just dreamed and done to go, “Okay, next time, I’m setting a boundary so that I don't reach this point.”
J: MM. So that's a delicate dance, when's the last time you had to set a boundary for example?
K: There's a big one, like a big landmark boundary that I can remember is, when I was feeling very frustrated about… I had asked a question and my spouse kind of snapped at me and I just kind of was like, “You know what? I’m done with this, I’m done with you belittling me because I asked a question,” so, you know, and we just had it out right then and, you know, he hadn't even realized he'd done it. We had this big talk and worked it out, but if I hadn't decided, “You know what? I’m done with this quietly not saying anything about this. We're going to talk about this, even if it gets ugly and mean,” or whatever, that was one of those times where I was like, “If it's going to change, it’s because I have to do something to…”
J: Yeah, you had to speak up.
K: “… initiate…”
K: “… a different pattern.”
J: Yeah. Well, so when I visited you, there's just such a great feel and I know that a lot of that comes from you, just that people person that you are and that willingness to listen and connect, but I can also tell that you get a lot of joy out of it. So I know a lot of people struggle with this and I really think it is a superpower, I guess, Kitt, I’m going to say I’ve interacted with enough women that I really think it's a superpower of yours. So I want to hear what goes through your head when, let's say you're in the kitchen and your kids come in and want to connect? Like, think of an example, do you feel like, “Ugh, I have to…” see, because that's what I would do, “Ugh, I want to finish this, I guess so, I’ll go play that game.” But you seem to be like, “Yeah, we're going to play a game!” So what's going through your head, and any advice for those of us who have a harder time with it?
K: I’ve been blessed with, I guess, a different perspective, maybe because I grew up with parents that were… and I love my parents, don't get me wrong, but they weren’t fun people and they weren't interested in being heavily involved in a teenager's life. And so I look at my kids who are all teens and young adults now and I go, “When I was their age, I didn't do this to my parents,” you know? Sometimes when a kid gets talking you're like, “Oh my gosh, this is so inane,” I remind myself, “Yeah, but I didn't talk to my parents, this is amazing, you need to be hearing this moment because this doesn't happen to everybody.” And so I try not to step on who is the bigger, you know, not necessarily what they're saying but the fact that they're saying something, that they're trying to make a connection in their way from their world. And that is helpful to reset me when I start to do the groaning and the sighing.
K: And then, you know, knowing that they're not always going to be there, you want to take advantage of the moment that they are there because those moments disappear and they don't come back, so…
J: Right. So, Kitt, you've lived in Idaho, San Antonio, Texas, Madison, Wisconsin, and New Hampshire, and one of the things I have clearly noticed is that you leave a trail of lifelong connected friends behind you; people adore you. And I know, you're like blushing and you’re like, “Whatever,” I know exactly what you want to say, but what are your thoughts on forming those friendships? I mean, you make it look so easy, what advice could you give for those listening on what it takes to be that friend? Can you toot your own horn just a little bit? (Laughs)
K: I think it takes flexibility. You know, I think when we get married into, “Well, this is the way I am and blah-blah-blah-blah-blah and take it or leave it,” you know, we're more focused on, “It's all about me,” as opposed to let's find commonalities, “Oh, I like that too. I’m willing to try this new different thing because you're interested in that, I’m…” you know, when you're open to different experiences other than what you're familiar with, that has a do with that flexibility. And, yeah, you might, you know, feel like an idiot or, you know, I can't tell you I like cross-country skiing, there's not a whole lot of people out there who like that.
K: But, you know, the connections they make when a friend is willing to go out there and fall on their face in the snow just because you said it was great, it binds you to them, you know?
K: So I think I’m a very flexible person, I’m willing to… if you're not comfortable going to my house, I’m willing to go to your house. If you're not comfortable in this kind of thing, I’ll meet you somewhere or, you know, those kinds of things. So I think maybe that gives me an advantage in making friends where other people lose out on opportunities because we're not quite willing to kind of be a little bit extra way and to form the bond.
J: Yeah, yeah, I agree. You’re super flexible and two other things I’ve noticed are, number one, you’re super real. That's why I was immediately drawn to you like a magnet. So, you guys, when I first met Kitt, she's that tall, which is the same height as me pretty much and she had on like 4 inch heels. And so she looked like this amazing and intimidating woman and she just… I thought, “My gosh, she rocks those heels with such confidence.” Those of you listening who are tall, you know a lot of times, we don't want to look taller, but Kitt totally rocked it; so she's super authentic. And then that piece that I feel like, Kitt, you'll drop anything to connect with a friend, it's so beautiful. And that's what saved me in all those years ago when we first met. I think, you guys, I have to just say I wouldn't be here on this podcast or doing anything I’m doing at all if I hadn't met Kitt, like… okay, cue music, ‘You Are The Wind Beneath My Wings’, Kitt.
J: But I was hoping, I kind of want to have you share your perspective of our friendship and how you've seen things change because I want people to be able to hear kind of the before and after of my life before meeting you and really, I believe how much it's changed because I met you, you know; like I really don't think I would be here without you. I mean, I know you don't want to toot your own horn, but fact is you changed everything because you were my friend. Ah, I know, cheesy but…
K: Mm-hmm. I remember that day when we first met in the hall and, yeah, one of the things you did comment on was, “Hey, we're tall! I like tall girls,” you know, kind of thing. And I remember thinking, “Well, there's a tall lady and she's a little bit smaller than her tallness,” because you were manic energied and very self-deprecating, which I understand, I often use self-deprecation as humor and things, but, you know, my it's kind of joking. And as we got to know each other, I realized yours was very sincere, you really did not think that you had a value. And as we got to know each other better, I came to see we didn't not really… you did not have a support system that gave you any sense of validation whatsoever. In fact, you were demeaned pretty much on a daily basis. And so when somebody told you something that was critical or negative, you really took that heart and took it as gospel truth and that was… that was alarming to me. I remember we had an occasion to work together with a group and all your ideas were like, “This is dumb, but I’m dumb, I know,” but I was astounded because here you were, I’m like you're this amazing person, you've got a PhD, you got all these kids you’re handling, you're so organized, you've got, you know, these mass skills and intelligence and you couldn't see it, it was shocking to me.
So as you began to try asked me and… and I remember the first time I got a call from you where you were in the middle of a crisis and just heartbroken at the time, I was just astounded that there's a burden you'd been carrying around secretly that nobody knew about, and I just thought, “Wow, and she goes through life shouldering this on a daily basis and nobody knows how amazing that is, how strong she is. She doesn't even know how strong she is because she's been carrying this for so many years and not even recognizing it.” And that time you were doing child care in your home and you were not very happy and you had difficult kids. Your kids are incredibly intelligent and headstrong and boundary pushers, and then you had a husband who basically thought anything that was introspective or involving feelings was crazy and black magic or voodoo or something, I don't know, he just really, you know, had an attitude of… I can't even describe it, it was just hostility towards trying to improve, change, look at yourself in a different way, his attitude was, “Nothing is wrong with me, anything that's happening is your fault,” and you respected him because he’s very intelligent and you of course took that all to heart and just internalized that all. Your family, your parents, they thought, you know, “Well, you just need to work harder, you just need to be a better mom, you just need to stop being so dramatic all the time,” it was always, “You, you, you.” And when you finally opened up to me, I think I might have been the first person in your life to tell you that you weren't crazy…
K: … that you had some amazing things.
K: And so from there, we kind of bonded and grew and my respect for you grew where I had kind of initially thought that you were maybe a little too intense for me, when I learned that, you know, about your burden you were carrying, burdens and the struggles you had, I was amazed and astounded by you and I thought, “Wow, she can teach me so much.” And we began to have this symbiotic relationship where, you know, I could give you a dose of sanity…
K: … and a perspective of a world other than what you were surrounded with at that moment, and you could give me strength and just in the way you shoulder things and went on and kept on trying. And I think that, out of that grew this beautiful friendship and this absolute trust and safety in one another. And I find it interesting that you and I have a lot of really differing views on things, but our love and our respect for each other just transcends those differences. And it doesn't matter because I know who you are and you know who I am and we can trust in that; and that's a beautiful thing.
J: I feel the same, Kitt. Well, you said that I might have been the first person to tell me I wasn't crazy, and I think that's true. I think in my entire life experience, aside from acquaintance friends, you were the first person who said, “Jen, you're not crazy.” And I called you so many times throughout those first 2 years of our friendship, just finally unburdening the horrible marriage that we had, the conflict that was killing me inside and constantly being blamed for all of it; it was awful. And I have talked about my husband a little bit, in his defense, he did not have the optimal childhood, he definitely has some different ways of thinking and that might have been born out of how he was raised and he did not learn to trust or have emotional closeness. But taking that further, he doesn't exactly understand emotion but he's come so far and so we're still together and things are much better; I want to qualify that. But back then, I was just learning to finally say, “This is not my fault,” and Kitt entered at the exact right time and helped me to see, “Oh, he's got issues, Jen, it IS not your fault.” It's almost like she had to ungaslight me a little bit and say, “You're not crazy.” So over and over again, Kitt just spoke these words of magic into my mind that helped me see, “Oh, I’m an okay person, this wasn't me all these years. I’m not an awful mother,” which I have been told at times, as awful as that sounds. So I don't know, you just opened up the whole world for me, Kitt.
K: Well, and, you know, I think it's important to note too that not all of my advice was awesome or anything, but you had a place to be heard and you had a place that was safe to make mistakes. We would talk about, you know, parenting and you were at odds like, “I don't know how to do this with this is,” and I’m like, “Well, try this, try that,” you know, and you would try different things and they wouldn't work with your kid so we would try something else and we would… we kept on moving forward. And I at times got angry with your husband about certain situations, but I never hated him because, you know, I mean, we were able to identify that there was some limitations that because of mental illness or whatever that we had to adjust expectations, and that allowed freedom for you to be able to, when you were getting blamed for things or called horrible things, that allowed you to separate that from you, to be able to label that and go, “That is a symptom and that is not a true,” do you know I mean? Like you would..
K: It gave you permission to go, “Okay, that's because of mental illness, that's not because of me and that gave you power to move forward in ways that you wouldn't have been able to before because you needed somebody… you know, I can't tell you how many times you called and go, “I just need you to tell me if I’m off base on this,” and you would explain a situation then I’d go, “No, you're thinking about it in the right way,” and then you go, “Ugh, okay, because…” I said, “I know, when he looks crazy, it makes you feel like you're the one who’s off.” And so, you know, I was that sounding board that, oh yeah, the North Star kind of thing for you where you could realign and go, “Okay, I’m still not off base. Everybody else thinks I’m way off base, but I’m not off base,” you know?
J: You know, again in my husband's defense, everyone's like, “Why are you defending him?” you know, it's not black and white and he grew up the way he grew up and he has the brain he has. And a lot of times, if he felt he was pushed into a corner, which I did when I wanted to talk about emotion and ask him too many questions, he learned as a child to fight like this where you just pull out all the stops and attack their character and their being with phrases like, “You're a horrible mother. There's not a maternal bone in your body,” I mean, he learned to fight like this. And in his defense, he almost never fights like that anymore, so people can change. And I know we throw around the word ‘narcissist’ or ‘sociopath’, and I’ve used those words before but I prefer not to use those words anymore because I’ve seen him change so much that I can't believe those labels even apply. But I think why you were so critical to the process, Kitt, is you helped me see straight. Like you said. you were the North Star so that I could begin to label and say, “You're calling names right now. That's an… a form of emotional abuse. You are attacking my character. You’re using all or nothing language.” I just started to stand in my place and pull my shoulders back and describe to him what he was doing. And because he's a logical person, you could see the wheels start to turn and then he would walk away. But every time I labeled, it seemed to get a little bit less. Is that your experience from your side of things?
K: Oh, absolutely. And I think that was what I was trying to point out was that, it's not just like, “Oh, I discovered this little truth and now everything's perfect,” it’s this trial and this error and this keep going. And that's another one of your strengths is this dogged and persistence that you were willing to keep trying even in the face of seeming failure. And I actually have a huge amount of respect for your husband as far as how he's been able to change and grow, and he's put in effort too, and I think that's amazing. And, you know, nobody is perfect in a relationship and so it's I think the power to change is one of those beautiful things which we all have, but not everybody taps into. And I have the greatest amount of respect for people who do tap into that and change, which is one of the reasons why admire you so much, just because the all those changes. Because a lot of us, we… we’re willing to try to change, and then when life gets hard, we don't want to change anymore, we give up hope and we don't keep trying. But you, you had that beyond trying, you had the ability to change to become and that, through that dogged persistence and that belief that, “It can get better and I don't have to live with life the way it is.” And that is such a powerful thing. You refuse to be victimized by it anymore.
J: Oh, I want to touch on that because I notice that some of the most unhappy women, including myself back then, our stories are that, “Well, I can't be happy because X, Y, and Z. Our marriage is horrible because my husband doesn't care how I feel,” I remember saying that, “I’m never going to be happy because I live with this monster,” or, “My kids are really hard,” it was just a constant victim story. But I feel like when I had that miscarriage in 2010, it just cracked me open, it was so painful. And I’ve had another ‘crack me open’ type of experience in 2018, and I want to talk about that in a second. But the pain became so great that I could either die or shift it up. And I feel like that miscarriage was a turning point when I said, “Enough, I cannot feel this way another day.” And so I started to build those boundaries with him, I started to label the inappropriate behavior. There was a time where, for several months, I withheld sex (Laughs). And some people may be opposed to that but I had to use the tool I had at the time to get him to go to a therapist, and it worked. And it became a turning point where I used every tool I had, I used positive reinforcement, I would give him back rubs when he did what I wanted; almost like animal training, as awful that sounds (Laughs). In the end, we're all animals and we love reward and we hate pain. And so I started training and labeling and describing and walking away when he hurt me instead of pursuing and demanding that he show love, which is a sick pattern that some of us to over and over, I just started, I guess, loving myself. But it gets murky remembering this journey for myself, so what's your perspective on, you know, all of that that I just said? Does it feel accurate or have I diluted it over time, you know?
K: Well, I think that miscarriage incident was… because I met you in 2010 but, you know, that was probably only the second or third time I’d had a phone call from you about, you know, a little glimpse into what was behind the curtain of your life. And I remember that anguish and that wanting to not exist, the whole, “I’m just so tired, this can't be what life is about,” kind of feeling. You know, I get that it gets murky because each of those incidents was so acute at the time, and then trying to think back over them when you've overcome them and move beyond them. You know, you were trying to gather tools before that but you had nobody to tell you that, “Yeah, that's a good idea,” everything was always undermined and, “You're being ridiculous,” and,
“Just let everything just be,” and… and all of that. So when you started to be able to add labels, you know, all these little tools that you put in your bag, you could talk to them about them with me and we would make a plan and you’d go forward and you’d try, and it might work for a day or sometimes it wouldn't work at all or sometimes it would work great for several weeks and then you'd have to try again. I think, you know, one of the themes in your story is that there is no one fix, you know what I mean?
K: Other than persistence. And as you kept adding to your tool bag, you know, going back to that area, you were so unhappy with your work as well as family as well as marriage. And so you started change where you could, you know, you start looking at other concepts, you know, the idea of shifting perspective. I remember that one coming up fairly early in our discussions where you're like, “I’m just going to change the way I look at this so that it serves me instead of diminishes me,” you know, kind of thing, and how you started to look at your job in particular because that was one thing that you had pretty much total control over, right?
K: Except you felt like, “Ah, I have to have this income, I can't do this and I also want this,” but then realizing, “Oh, but I’m choosing this because it serves my purposes of I want my kids to be socialized, but my kids can't just be going to a daycare because they won't understand them, you know, I want to be able to have summers off with my kids and I want, you know, these things.” And so you realize it's the same job, but now all of a sudden, this job is serving you and your priorities in some way. And it didn't mean that every day was a joy for you, but all of a sudden, you're like, “Ah, this is something that's serving me and it's not going to be forever, and I’m going to start exploring other options because I’m getting out of this.”
K: You know, “And in while I’ve got to be in it, I’m going to make it more bearable. I’m going to hire a housekeeper, I’m going to hire a helper, I’m going to only choose kids that I work and mesh well with,” you know?
K: Those kinds of things. So, you know, that's what I remember as kind of the fledgling wings of you really starting to take flight, and from there, you just kept experiencing success and adding and adding and adding. But that's not to gloss over the fact that there was many, many ups and downs in that whole process.
J: But if I hear you correctly, and this is what I think changed is I stopped feeling powerless, I decided to say, “What can I control? I can control how I feel, I can control how I perceive it, I can control whether hurts me.” Instead of wishing it was all different, I finally said, “I’m going to be happy no matter what.” And I wasn't always happy, but I don't know, do you feel like that's accurate?
K: I do feel like that's accurate. I absolutely feel like you started to take the reins and you weren't… I mean, you still had your, I call them ‘victim days’ but…
J: Yeah, pity parties. (Laughs)
K: … you know, when you… yeah, pity parties when you would call and I would remind you of how far you've come, “Let's look back on this,” you’re like, “Oh, thank you, I need that reminder because I don't remember these things,” you know? And when we would talk about how far you've come and the progress you'd made, you're like, “Oh, yeah,” and then you'd have strength to keep going, “Well, I guess I’ll try it again because something's getting better,” you know? And so, yeah, that absolute looking at what you could control and change, and then what I don't know that you realized but I saw was when you started to have a little bit less energy-drain from say your job, you could take that extra energy and apply it to something else because you were operating at, you know, below… you were extending more power than you had, that was kind of how you were living your life; you were living on fumes, you know what I mean?
K: And so when you started to take control and changing some things and things getting better in certain areas, it gave you excess energy or fuel to apply to other areas. And so it kind of became a snowball effect as you were able to gain more strength and… and energy, you could move forward. And one of the things that we noticed with you was when you're exhausted, your ability to feel in control and… I hate the word ‘control’ because that's not really what it's about, but feel like you were managing your destiny or whatever was greatly diminished if you were exhausted.
K: You know what I mean?
K: And so then you would have to adjust so that you could get the rest that you needed to get back up to where you felt like you could handle these other challenges again and move forward again. But as you did that, you kept gaining more and more because you don't realize until it's not there anymore how much energy it sucks to just deal with chronic pain, you know what I mean?
K: You know, you had a chronic mental and spiritual pain going on in your life on a regular basis. And then as you took steps to alleviate that, you had more energy because you didn't have to expend it to deal with that.
J: Yeah. And I know a lot of people listening can relate in a million ways, I mean, we all have pain. And I’m nothing special, all I can tell you guys is Kitt was the answer, I hope you can find your Kitt (Laughs) because… but something happened in the middle there where I stopped needing to call you, I almost never call you in a place of pain. And I have trouble understanding what happened, how did that shift happen? Can you analyze it for us? Because I don't really need you anymore, now I just can enjoy you, and sometimes I even get to help you change your perspective on something. But definitely…
K: Oh, you’ve always helped me all the way along. (Laughs)
J: Oh no, I feel like it was very out of balance, you were the giver and I was the taker for a couple of years, for sure. I mean, you were so generous to help me, yeah. But I mean like…
K: I could give you my theory, my philosophy on it, I don't… you know?
J: Yeah, I mean, sure, I don't know the answer, I’m curious, what do you think, therapist Kitt?
K: So I believe it's because, you know, I made reference to you gathering these tools, right?
K: And you kept filling… so now you have this huge bag of tools to help you navigate situations, you created a new reality for yourself. You know, the reality that you were in before was always… it was almost like a vacuum and it was sucking from you all the time. And through your efforts and your changes and your vibrant happy world that you’ve created, now you've created this reality that is empowering and building and energizing, and that doesn't have to come from one single friend anymore because your whole world is filled with this…
K: … this type of stuff. And it doesn't mean your life is easy, but you just have these tools to draw on and this positivity that comes into your… that's just part of your existence now that was not there before,
J: Wow, I think you nailed it. And I hadn't thought of it before but I guess you became the first person to provide me with positivity truly where I could trust you because you're so real and available flexible. But then, yeah, I started to have more and more experiences as I became a coach and got to talk to these people on my podcast and created my business and started sharing all the tools. I think you're right, I filled my life with so much positivity that I don't need to have any of my emotional needs met by my husband anymore, which freed him up because he doesn't understand emotion that well anyway. It took so much of that pressure off of him, and now he's starting to, I guess, be a friend; it sounds so strange to say, he's becoming someone I can trust. The other day, he randomly just brought me home chocolate and flowers, the other day, he apologized for something he'd done, very quickly. And then for the first decade or 2 of our marriage, he never apologized for anything. I can't really understand his shifts, but I do want to say… so for me, I learned to meet my own needs and that's empowerment, taking care of my own needs, but what do you think changed in Heathcliff? I mean, you don't often hear stories of men changing as much as he has, what has happened from your perspective?
K: Well, I think where he made giant strides, well, first, laying some boundaries down. And what was interesting about your boundaries was they weren't just to protect you, but they were actually oriented towards helping him towards better mental health as well, even though he didn't want it. And you have always had this great desire to help him as well. And so your boundaries protected you, but also were a vehicle for him to start doing something he would never choose to do for himself, if that makes sense.
K: So there was a little bounds there, I mean, little gains there, but the big gains came it seemed to me when you started to have big time trials with teenagers.
J: Yeah. (Laughs)
K: And him realizing that, “Oh my gosh, my long held philosophy of ‘just let kids being kids’ is not… not a great philosophy,” you know what I mean?
K: Or I don't know, I think that… I don't want to go into too much detail, but that… that trauma from those experiences, I mean, through that, you had to take care of you, he realized, “I’ve got to do something for me too,” do you know what I mean?
K: “And then we have to do something together, because if not, this whole thing is just going to shred apart.” And so I think that outside traumas is where you start to see these huge leaps and bounds…
J: I think you're right.
K: … of progress.
J: Yeah, 2018 with the 2 oldest, yeah, Heathcliff was in such a state of pain. There were hours of the day he could barely function at work, but then he would come home and just lie in bed and listen to guided meditations because he was in such a state of anxiety. And I was happy to have him do that rather than the alternative, which would be to just watch him walking around (Laughs) almost, I don’t know, not speaking but you could just see the pain on his face. I feel like the pain of watching your kids go through their experiences with (I guess I’ll just say it) drugs in 2018, the 2 oldest, cracked us both open in a really beautiful way. I feel like it was our best year ever because of all of that pain.
K: Yeah, and I feel like, you know, you've already been through that pain years before in relation to your marriage and what was happening there, but he hadn't gone through that pain yet. And now, he was living what you've already been through once and you're going through again, but you've already been there once, you know what I mean?
K: And so kudos to you for recognizing that, “Hey, if guided meditation is what's going to… that's a better alternative, do it,” for knowing that and allowing him the space to seek out his own healing as well.
K: And that I think also, you know, through that whole process, because you had the experience, he could trust you more, he felt like he could trust you more, you know, because you've been through some stuff. I don't know that he necessarily processed it that way, but I feel like, you know, where before in the early years, he didn’t trust you, you didn’t know what you were doing, you were crazy, right?
J: Yeah, right.
K: And so after seeing you transform and doing that, it's undeniable that some of the stuff of what you do absolutely is not crazy, it's amazing and it has validity, you know? And then when you have pain and where do you turn, you already knew that you could give him that leg up and go, “Here's where you’re going to go, here's what you do,” you know?
J: Right. And that was… that's interesting, you just triggered something in my mind, 2018 was the first time I feel like I heard him express deep admiration and approval of me, and essentially he said, “I don't know how you got Ephraim to the rehab place, I don't know how you did that.” I mean, because he heard about how awful it was. He said, “I couldn't have done it.” And you could hear admiration in his voice and I thought, “Wow, we've come so far,” (Laughs) you know?
K: (Laughs) Yeah, it really is amazing!
J: Yeah. Well, it’s… I do try not to think too much about it, I mean, I do retrospect a bit but it's hard to comprehend, I hope one day I can look back with greater wisdom. I’m not sure how it all worked and all these changes happened, but I do want to say there were times when you and I spoke, Kitt, where I said, “Should I leave him? Should I leave?” and… and I would go and meditate and pray and it was clear every single time that one of my big purposes on this planet is to help to save him from himself, (Laughs) from his childrearing, you know? And so I stayed and that's always been true for me. I don't know if it will always be true, you know, I don't know the future, but I felt to stay. And does that mean I advocate that everyone stay in a painful relationship? No way, but I do advocate for all of you to listen to your own intuition and figure that out for yourselves, for sure. Do you have anything to add there, Kitt?
K: Yeah, I do remember those and you were looking for an answer, you were looking for a direction, and I think I often was like, “Whatever you decide, it has to be because you know and it can't be because somebody told you, because you can't see the consequences down the road.” And so the only way you can make a decision of that magnitude is with total confidence that you know it's the right decision. Because otherwise, when the consequences come down the road, you don't want to be going, “Oh my gosh, should I have made this other decision x amount of years ago?” or whatever, and it used to drive you a little bit crazy that I would give you a straight answer on that. There was a few times where I was like, “Okay, leave him,” and you’d be like, “Well, but, blah-blah-blah-blah-blah.”
“Okay, don't leave him.
K: No, but, you know, and that was the way our phone conversation would go.
J: Well, I remember one time when you said, “Jen, I really think you should leave him,” but then you pulled back and knew you couldn't give me the answer, but I know you wanted me to leave him. (Laughs)
K: At that point based on that evidence, absolutely but that's why I…. you know, at that point, you were already confident bout that and I ultimately would have not… I mean, yeah, I always pull back because it really is… you know, it's your life, you're the one who's got to decide. You can get advice and things from other people, but ultimately it comes down to you and what your heart and your intuition is telling you, right?
J: Mm-hmm, totally. Did I choose okay, Kitt? Did I make the right choice?
K: Because you are who you are, obviously. Because you're amazing and all those things, all those choices equal the sum total of where and who you are today, so obviously you made the right choices.
J: You know, that's so funny but I’m able to see that without my pain in my marriage and with my teens, all of my good growth came from it. And I love being able to share what I learned with other women because in the end, I don't want anyone to be in pain, you know, like I was.
K: Well, and I have a question for you, do you feel like the pain that you experienced in those early years helped prepare you for dealing with the pain that came when your sons brought their challenges?
J: Oh, totally. I wonder… I don't think that's the sole purpose of that pain, but for sure, it gave me strength. It's true, I was the only one functioning at that point. My husband was pretty much worthless because he was in such a keyed up state of mind of fear and anxiety (Laughs). But I… it was fine, I had it, you know what I mean?
K: Yeah, oh yeah, you were amazing. I only got to witness a few… or, you know, be party to a few of those. You know, I think I only got 3 phone calls over that particular… those particular situation, maybe 5 but, you know, just hearing how you were talking, it was never from a place a victimhood. You were sad, you were heartbroken, but you also knew you were going to get through it, you know?
J: Yeah. I guess in the end, this is maybe cliché, but I’m even grateful for the experiences with our boys, because if I hadn't had all of that struggle, I wouldn’t have learned to just love them for them completely independent of their behavior, to detach it and say… and my husband’s still working on this, he's still very mad at one of our kids, and I keep telling him to go back to therapy but what good does it do? It's not going to help them change, in the end they have to choose, you know what I’m saying?
K: Yeah, yeah. And that's so amazing and inspiring, I just love it!
J: Well, I appreciate you helping me to share that story from your perspective. And again, I don't know, all of me wonders where I would be without you, but part of me also wonders would I be here at all. I don't think I ever would have hurt myself or, you know, done that awful thing, but I often wished I could just die, it was that painful. And to think I can now just talk to you because of you being such a good friend, I don't know, I’m just so grateful for you, Kitt.
J: Like, I’m a new person. I’m so different because I knew you, like what a legacy you've left just for that one thing. But you have dozens upon dozens of other friends trailing all across this country whose lives you have touched in a similar way, that's incredible! I mean, think about it.
K: I don't know, each friendship is so unique. And you say that to me and I just go, “Ditto, babe, ditto!” because it truly is a symbiotic relationship where the both of us, we strengthen each other and it’s great. I’m privileged to have many friendships that are symbiotic but none of them that's like ours.
J: Aww. Okay, when are we going to move next to each other and live on a lake?
J: That’s the goal. Everyone, help us…
J: … figure this out.
J: Kitt’s husband, Blake, is a fantastic chef, and I always say, “When my business is wildly successful, I mean, I’ll hire Blake to be my personal chef and Kitt can live in my house or backyard.”
K: Hashtag dreams!
J: Woo! (Laughs) I love it, oh man. Okay, well, Kitt, I guess we actually should get back to the interview flow, thanks for going deep with me. You guys hear how amazing Kitt is? She’s so real. She just shared all that with no pretense and so truthful, and so many people don't have that gift. Well, anyway, Kitt, I like to ask a formula at the end of every episode, what does it mean for you to be a vibrant and happy woman?
K: Ooh, that's a good one. Definitely love and perspective and flexibility I think are keys to that, and gratitude.
J: Cool, and gratitude, okay, love, perspective, flexibility, and gratitude; I love it. And one final challenge from you to our listeners.
K: Oh, from me to listeners?
J: Yeah, to everyone listening, a bit of advice or a challenge.
K: Okay. Take a look at your world from the perspective of how much love is exchanged in it, how much love you give, how much love you receive, wherever it comes from in whatever form it comes from. Bring your awareness, your top of mind awareness to love in your universe and see how that affects how you view things.
J: Wow! Holy crap, Kitt, you’re really profound. Everyone…
J: … tell Kitt she needs to like take all this advice to the next level and… I don't know what it means. I think she needs to have a podcast.
K: Oh my gosh, you’re fun.
J: Well, thanks, Kitt, for being on the show and you're my savior; aside from the real Savior, but yeah, you saved me (Laughs). So thank you for being here to talk about it, and I love you.
K: Aww, I love you too, you’re awesome.
J: So I hope you can get a sense for why I love my best friend, Kitt, and how supportive she has been. I’ll let you know that she told me after the interview that she was really nervous so I don't know if her full personality came across, but she is so much fun, so supportive, and Kitt, if you're listening, I love you so much. Thank you for being my friend, it has changed my world. I want to say, you know, I want to let you guys know that without my friend Kitt, I would not be here, I would not have this podcast, I would not be doing anything I’m doing. So for some of you out there who think your superpower, your gifts and talents aren't important, Kitt’s superpower of being an amazing friend has been hugely, life-changingly important to me, and by extension to any of you listening because I wouldn't be here without her. So I love her and I love her gifts and talents, and all gifts and talents make a huge difference in the world.
Well, I appreciate you listening so much, and I will be back again next week talking with a beautiful soul who I met at the Vibrant Happy Women retreat; her name is Jane. She's an older woman with beautiful white hair and completely chic and lovely and confident and active. And every one of us who was at the Vibrant Happy Women retreat last weekend commented on her beauty and her example of living this vibrant and happy life. So at the retreat, I decided to interview Jane live in front of all of the women who attended and I’m going to bring that interview to you next week; I can't wait. Well, in the meantime, I’ll be back later this week with a Happy Bit, and until then, make it a vibrant and happy week. Take care.