TEDx: What to do when life stops working

On November 3, 2017 I had the privilege of sharing the TEDx Swansea Women’s stage with brave women in our community. Many of you were cheering me on from around the globe, and when I got home there were eager questions… when do we get to see the video?

I’m not sure, so I thought, in the meantime, you can read what was on my heart to say last night.

Those 15 min or so were such a blur that I don’t remember what I actually said, but here’s what I wanted to say.

Thanks for all your love and support, and the invitation at the end is real.


I have two questions for you tonight. Here’s the first one:

 

Have you ever been in a situation where you looked at your life and thought, $%*(£!, ‘How the hell did I end up here?’

 

‘Here’ as in, I thought I would be, should be ‘there’,

 

And the gap between ‘here’ and ‘there’ feels THIS BIG

 

And you feel this big.

 

And not only that, all these thoughts running through your head…

 

How did I get here? How do I get there? Shit, I did it again.

 

And the worst… I really hope nobody finds out.

 

Well, if you’ve ever felt that, deep breath, you’re not the only one.

 

I’ve been there twice.

 

The first time, was 15 years ago. I was living in Manhattan, on the Upper East Side, in a 5th floor walk up.

My life revolved revolved around 2 things. 1 going to work, and 2 working out. I’d leave work and go for a 5 or 6 mile run around Central Park and then go to the gym. All in very vain efforts so that my arms looked just like Madonna’s, and making sure there would no longer be any confusion between the back of my hamstrings and a bowl of cottage cheese.

 

I’d pick up some food for dinner on the way home, and on days where I thought, you know, you’ve done good today Kendra, and was really craving something sweet to treat myself, I’d stop by a place called Gourmet Garage. They had these cookies that looked amazing. You know the ones were just the right amount of thickness and these tell-tale cracks on the top leading you to believe they were going to be super moist and super gooey on the inside?

Except these ones were calorie-free and while they looked divine, they tasted like ass.

But, I’d buy them anyway, telling myself they’d taste different and be the real thing tonight.

I’d walk up those 5 flights of stairs, counting calories the whole way up, secretly beating myself up that I lived ‘here’ in this tiny apartment, instead of ‘there’, in a swanky doorman building with an elevator, because at least my ass gets tighter with each step.

I’d have dinner, wait for my roommate to go to bed, and because I never really felt full, I’d eat those cookies that tasted like ass, all 5 of them at once, but then because I still didn’t feel full, I’d rummage the kitchen looking for more food.

It didn’t matter how old or stale the food was, or even if it wasn’t even mine, I’d stuff myself with all this food until I was finally, painfull, full.

 

But because, the real pain was the thought of facing the world tomorrow with all this grossness inside me, I’d tiptoe to the bathroom and make myself sick, vomit, to get rid of everything I’d just eaten.

 

I had what you might call a problem: bulimia.

 

And for a really long time I didn’t admit to myself I had this problem.

 

I, Kendra, was the ‘good girl.’ I never got it wrong, had problems. Mess, failure, not in my realm of possibility.

 

Admitting I had a problem was painful for me, so once I finally did, my response was to Fix it. Fight it. Get rid of it as quickly as possible.

 

To fix this, my solution was quite logical. Stop throwing up. Because if you’re not purging, you’re not bulimic. Problem solved.

 

And that worked, for 18 months.

 

Until it didn’t. And then I found myself ‘here’ again with my head over the toilet bowl.

 

And that’s when I had to ask myself, if will-power and trying to fix and fight and erase my problem wasn’t working, what would?

 

So, I started to look beneath the surface.

 

And when I looked, what I found was a gift.

 

I found an invitation to not have to be fighting myself and my food all the time. I found an invitation to step out of the fight, and just be free to be me.

 

You see, my relationship with food, was a mirror for what was going on in my life.

In the same way I would eat food that looked good on the outside even if they didn’t taste good, I was trying to create a life that looked good on the outside, even though I was dying inside.

 

So the invitation, was to stop trying to be someone I thought I was supposed to be, and start making choices that actually reflected who I was. Play the sports I loved, wear the clothes I liked, do the work I want to do, eat the food I want to eat.

 

And the more I did that, the less I needed food to make me feel full. And the less I had this tension building inside me that I needed a release from.

 

And I was no longer ‘here’. I was no longer bulimic. I was finally free.

 

Life was great. I thought I was good to go.

 

Then, I found myself ‘here’ again.

 

This time not with food.

 

I year ago I found myself walking into my local town hall with a stack of papers this thick apply for benefits. The two businesses that my husband and I started 3 years earlier were not sustaining us financially.

 

Now for you, benefits may not seem like a big deal. For me this was the ultimate, pull-the-plug, game-over failure.

 

Forget the good girl, I was also the smart girl. I was the straight A student, an Ivy League grad, I had worked for a company with a book, a movie and a song named after it.

 

I had done everything in my control to guarantee me success. And here I was the ultimate failure.

 

I felt like my life was going to end.

 

And similar to bulimia, it took me a while to own up to this failure. The reality was, we had not been financially sustainable for about 2 years, but I was in denial of that reality. Telling myself next month will be different.

 

However, once I did accept that next month might be the same, UNLIKE my approach to my bulimia, I didn’t not try to fix my situation.

 

I knew that bandaid-ing and just doing what I could to put more money in the bank wasn’t ‘the answer’. What I learned from bulimia was that something in me that needed to shift in order to have a much more sustainable solution.

 

And so decided to practice the same thing that got me out of bulimia.

 

I started off with, It’s OK to Let Go. Asking myself, what I am holding on to that’s keeping me stuck?

 

With bulimia, it was a pair of size 4 jeans, that I told myself, once I can fit into them again, everything will be ok.

 

This time it was the idea of having a ‘successful coaching business.’

 

And so I had to ask myself, what might happen if I let go of being a coach. What would that create room for?

 

And what about having a business? What if what my heart wants to create is more of a social enterprise, or a non-profit, or maybe just a creative outlet? How might I do things differently then?

 

And success? What if I let go of success being something you can measure in terms of money in a bank account? What if it’s something different, like just showing up?


What would all of this create room for?

 

I also had to practice the really hard part of believing that My Presence is Enough. That my presence is greater than my performance. That my presence with you here, is greater than what my website looks like, or how many people are on my mailing list, or following me on Instagram.

 

And while I’m letting go of my need to ‘do’, also valuing what I do well.

 

I had to face my fears. My two biggest ones: 1. running out of money, 2. you finding out.

 

Well, the day I was asked to speak at TEDx I logged on my bank account, and we were overdrawn on our overdraft. I didn’t even know that was possible!!!

 

And now you know.

 

And I’m still breathing.

 

So what was all that fuss about?

 

And I was facing my fears, I started to invite in more Love. Because Love Never Fails.

 

I learned how to love in new ways this year. Having gratitude for what is as I logged on to bank account and saw red, instead of freaking out.

 

And the really big pill I had to swallow was learning to Receive. Because our benefits application got denied, and yet we were still provided for, and the thing is… I didn’t single handedly manufacture that provision. That was hard for me to accept.

 

Practicing all this led me to more of my Truth, and with that, once again, more freedom.

 

I found the Truth that, while I love coaching and am a great coach, I also love writing and am a great writer. I also love dancing and can hold space really well for others to dance and heal through that process.

 

Another Truth… well, I had written a book 2.5 years ago and had sat on it all this time because I didn’t think it was good enough. So I finally published it on Kindle.

 

I realized that it’s more important for me to be present in my marriage than have a successful business, and truth is, I fail miserably at that daily.

 

And this Truth… I am still figuring life out. And that’s OK.

 

And while there’s a part of me that would really love to stand here tonight and be able to tell you that by practicing this, my bank account is now looking great…

 

The reality is it looks quite similar to how it did last year.

 

But here’s the thing, I am different. By practicing this I have shifted so much shame and fear I was carrying…

 

and that is priceless.

 

So, what does this have to do with you?

 

Well, if you’re reading this and you can relate to my story and you’re looking at your life and finding yourself ‘here’, dont worry. There is hope. There is a sustainable way out that doesn’t include fighting and hustling for your self-worth.

 

The faces you see behind me are of beautiful souls I’ve met along my way that also have found themselves ‘here’ when they wanted to be ‘there’, fighting with their body, bank account, relationships, health…

 

 

And they too realized the answer is to step out of the fight to a 3rd option ‘here’, of just being free.

 

The other thing is, I look at my story, and out the stories of these women and I don’t think this is just about our story.

 

18 months ago I was at home visiting my family, and my mom and I we were walking around the neighborhood talking about the state of the world and,as you do, got onto the topic of the war on terror.

 

And I walked away from that conversation thinking, something doesn’t feel right. War. Why are we calling this a war?

 

And I realized this:

 

I know what it’s like to be at war.

 

I’ve been at war with myself, my body, my bank account.

 

I’ve been my own terrorist.

 

And fighting DOES NOT WORK.

 

And so if fighting doesn’t work for me, and it doesn’t work for these women, why would it work for us, for humanity?

 

We are living in a world where there is disconnection, disagreement, so many differences, and there is hurt, and pain, and fear and shame and all of this pointing to what’s not working. There’s probably at least one thing where you could look at the world and think, ‘how did we end up ‘here’?’

 

And I see this and I think… what if this is the invitation? What if this is the same invitation I had?

 

And I think, what if? What if we all started to practice what I’ve been practicing, what we’ve been practicing?

 

What if we all asked ourselves what are we holding onto? What if we could let go of us being right, and them being wrong? What if we could let of of whatever it is we’re relying on outside of us to define our self-worth?

 

What if we started to value ourselves for who we are, not what we do? And started to do this EVEN IN OUR MESS. Not after we get to perfect and things are fixed, but while we’re still failing, and learn to love ourselves anyway.

 

And then, be able to give the same grace and space to the person next to us. No matter how differently they vote, pray, or think.

 

And what if we shifted from a posture of fear to love? Instead of having to protect, we could step out and actually care.

 

And while I don’t know exactly where this will take us, I know it will lead to Truth. The Truth of who you are, the Truth of who we are, and to the true desires of our heart.

 

At the end of the day,  we all want the same thing: Peace. Freedom. Joy. Love.

 

So what if we stopped fighting for it, practiced this together, and got there by taking one step at a time of acting on our Truth with Love?

 

I’m not saying this is easy. It’s friggin hard and I don’t get it right all the time.

 

It’s also probably the long-game and it might get messy along the way.

 

But I have to believe that this road, the same road I’ve been travelling, is what brings us to sustainable solutions for our world.

 

So here’s my 2nd question for you tonight:

 

Will you practice this with me?

 

Will you practice with with us?

 

Will you practice this FOR us?

6 Responses

  1. Fiona

    Hi Kendra . I Love your writing skills and reading about your truth, your honesty.is refreshing Thank you for sharing and you are inspiring to me and others. Huge love and Blessings xxxx

  2. Helen

    Wish I had been there to see you in action Kendra – talk was inspirational to read. Well done

  3. Angela Davies

    Thank you for this Kendra xx It’s inspirational and honest and has really made me think.

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