How to Move Forward When Your “Metrics of Success Have Been Blasted to Shreds.”

A story inspired by Rob Bell.

I grew up in a born-again Christian household, in a largely born-again Christian town. Church on Sunday, sometimes on Saturday, youth group on Wednesday. Church camp, Vacation Bible School and field trips during the summer. No Harry Potter, no Sabrina the Teenage Witch – no dressing up “like anything scary” on Halloween. I remember church and all of it’s functions being a time to socialize with friends, but little to nothing else. Even as a small child attending Sunday school I was always aware that every teaching should be taken with a grain of salt. Not to be interpreted literally, akin to the Grimm’s Fairy Tales on my shelf, or my favorite Aesop’s Fables. Useful stories and cautionary tales. Written by men and usually not very feminist.

Recently I’ve shifted my thinking from a strictly atheist perspective to more of an agnostic outlook. I used to take comfort in the simplicity of believing in what you can see. In science, in practicality, in the fact that when I die all that happens is my own decomposition. Back to the earth. I haven’t quite decided what I believe in now, but what I do know is that the universe is far too complex to believe any of our senses are producing the “truth” because our scope of understanding is simply too small. I do believe that each of us is a tiny part of one larger piece – the earth, plants and animals, and that is why our joy and our suffering is so intrinsically connected. So while I do not believe in god or a creator, I do believe in purpose, in connectedness, in energy, and ultimately in the simple fact that at the fringes of what we like to believe are “scientific facts” are actually whimsical and largely unexplained phenomena that all lead back to the same theme: We can’t believe what we think we know, because at this time our lens is not advanced enough to see what lies beyond our comprehension. There is so much more that we are blind to. When my body goes back to the earth, what really is it feeding? Isn’t that exchange somehow a form of magic?

My entire life I’ve been drawn toward a sense of connectedness. To plants, to animals, and to a feeling of belonging that I can’t quite explain. It’s not a nostalgia for my past or a wish for an ideal future, but a peace I feel on certain days when the smell of wet leaves and dirt sends me off to a place where I truly belong, but haven’t been yet. Crisp air, the sound of wind chimes, and white garden roses losing their petals, my husband and our animals – it’s magic. I feel like every choice I’ve made is leading me down this path, but I’m not sure where it goes, I just know it’s right, and when I get closer, I feel it. I’ve always been good at following my heart. Until this point I’ve always chased tangible dreams. College, business, career. And then one day I realized that all of these successes are amazing, but haven’t led me toward that feeling – to that place I’ve haphazardly been traveling to since the beginning. Toward that connection to something my soul feels but my senses can’t describe or articulate. To the unknown future that I know is there for me to discover. So for the first time I’m sitting with an open heart – trusting the universe to show me why I’m being pulled toward a feeling and a life that by all accounts can’t be measured by traditional metrics of success.

I recently discovered Rob Bell, a pastor and speaker who’s sermon-like podcasts on the Robcast often shed light on feelings or dilemmas that many of us can relate to. I’ve found that when strict religious underpinnings are removed from teachings like his, I love listening to smart and relatable sermons, and often use the time to learn, reflect, and meditate on the ideas. One of his latest episodes “A Hymn For the Curve” is about those of us that are drawn to do things differently, who know things can be better so we change our behavior accordingly. For those of us that simply aren’t sure why we’re drawn to be different, but we are. We take the path less traveled and are often misunderstood. Maybe we’re ahead of the curve, maybe we see something that others can’t yet see. Maybe if everyone saw it then the change wouldn’t be needed. But it is.

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He shared a version of this story:

There are a group of people living in a village near a river. One day they notice a body coming down the river so they jump in to pull it out. Then they notice another, and another, and another. The bodies start coming down the river so fast that the people can’t pull them out fast enough.

Another group of people living nearby observe the problem and decide to help, so they build a dam to help catch the bodies. The bodies begin piling up, but their method makes it easier for them to catch more to pull out at a time. The bodies keep coming down the river at a rapid rate, and eventually the dam will break under the weight because it will become impossible for the people to keep up, even with the dam.

A third group observes both methods, and after watching for a while, they turn their backs on the other villagers and begin walking upstream.

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What we know is that the third group is going exploring. To the other villagers they appear to be dismissive. They seem uncaring and unwilling to help. But in reality, they’re traveling into the unknown to discover where the bodies are coming from and why they’re coming down the river to begin with. They are seeing what the others couldn’t see so that hopefully they can change behaviors and therefore, change the outcome.

Maybe when we’re drawn to something we can’t explain, it’s the universe leading us to the magic. Our minds just haven’t caught up yet.

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Photo: Amanda Lankila Photography

A Lesson in Gratitude

I have this rule that with writing, I don’t need to stick to my plan. I’d say that fifty percent of the time I sit down to write whatever is on my blog calendar something entirely different comes out. And that’s okay with me. With writing I don’t force it, because the second I let a schedule supersede my heart, my head, and whatever that impulse is that pulls me toward a different topic or idea, this blog project will have become work. The unpleasant kind. 

I turned 31 a couple of days ago. My plan (for the second year in a row) was to write the quintessential 31 Things I’ve Learned in 31 Years post. I’d started a list before I turned thirty to do the same thing, then decided to launch my blog with my Context post – raw and real. Less cliché. More me. A year later I sat down to write out a list of lessons with their appropriate explanations and realized that after the last couple of weeks, there are only two things that I think are important enough to share, and timeless enough to matter another year from today.

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Practice gratitude. Even when it’s difficult.

“Pray” for the peace, love, and happiness of all beings. Because good things happen when your heart realizes connection rather than separateness from everything in this universe.

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A couple of weeks ago I had a “bad” week. Without getting into too many details, one of my rabbits Velveteen unexpectedly died, and I found myself in a sad and self-loathing place. Self-blaming for the accident and digging up tragedies from my past that I feel partially responsible for still. For those of you that may not know, I have another rabbit (Velveteen’s sister) Fleece who I became ultra-concerned about. Having never spent a day away from her sister since birth and for the last five years, I wondered if she’d pull through, or become so depressed she’d die too. Fleece spent a few days in a somewhat catatonic state, eating and drinking irregularly, but enough to convince me she would be okay. I kept her close to us for a few days and in doing so decided to put her in a smaller hutch and let her sleep in the gym (spare room) close by after spending the days in our bedroom. One night after putting her to bed I accidentally knocked the pullup bar my husband keeps in the doorway down and in doing so gave myself a bump on the head, a fat lip, and a fairly sizable cut on my face. 

Potential face scars aside, talking to clients all day at my beauty business was painful physically, but because of the fact that Velveteen had just died and I didn’t want to talk about it, it was emotionally exhausting to spend a week not explaining the full truth of what really happened. I felt not good, I looked not good, but to all but one client who I explained the situation to, it was just a silly accident, “no big deal.” Not a mistake made in a hazy self-loathing sadness. It’s my fault that Fleece is alone in the first place and now my face is bleeding. Perfect.

In writing this, it becomes even more painfully clear that I was making everything about me. 

That one client who I’d told the whole story to is a good friend who is real and non-judgmental. She’s been through more than many of us, and still listens with an open heart, offering a contagious laugh when really that’s the only good option that makes any sense amidst the sadness. I told her that when the universe is literally smacking me in the face I really try to step outside myself, look at the big picture, and try to pull the lesson out of the resistance. She understood, but we couldn’t figure out what the lesson was.

A week, and 1,000 applications of neosporin and anti-scar cream later, my face is looking and feeling much better. Fleece seems to be maintaining a low-key energy but appears to be recovering from the loss slowly. It was my birthday weekend, and because of the holiday (yes, I was born on actual Labor Day, 1988) my husband had several days off that coincided with mine. Having more than a day together rarely happens. And we went to yoga, and brunch, and the movies. We hung out with the dogs, took them to the park, cooked together and just enjoyed our quality time. It was probably the best birthday weekend I’ve ever had. Just slowing down and enjoying each others company. And then Kanan went back to work and I got to spend one whole day to myself – I worked out, read my Rolling Stone and Esquire magazines cover to cover, and then watched Sex and the City for the rest of the day. Something I have likely not done in years.

At the end of our Sunday morning yoga class we spent about five minutes in our final resting pose, encouraged to meditate, breathe, and relax. As I was mentally repeating what has become my morning meditation mantra: “May all sentient beings know peace, love, and happiness” I saw an image in my mind, clearer than a dream, of Velveteen’s body turning into stardust and rising and swirling up into the sky, becoming one with the stars. And in that moment I felt the sadness slip away and be replaced with gratitude. Gratitude for that exact moment, for Velveteen’s sweet soul that she graciously shared with me for five years, for the clarity that comes with letting yourself slip away for long enough to see the big picture, and for the lesson.

As it works out, I had simultaneously been reading Michael Pollan’s book How to Change Your Mind, and I highlighted a quote (that he quoted) that says everything:

“A human being is a part of the whole called by us ‘Universe,’ a part limited in time and space. He experiences himself, his thoughts and feelings as something separated from the rest – a kind of optical delusion of consciousness. This delusion is a kind of prison for us, restricting us to our personal desires and to affection for a few persons nearest to us. Our task must be to free ourselves from this prison by widening our circle of compassion to embrace all living creatures and the whole of nature in its beauty.”

(Walter Sullivan, “The Einstein Papers: A Man of Many Parts,” The New York Times, March 29, 1972.)

Sometimes it can be difficult to practice gratitude. It can be difficult to see ourselves as part of a much bigger universe. It can be almost impossible to take the selfishness out of situations. But the lesson I needed to see in my “bad” week was to be grateful, and to remember, quite plainly, that it’s not all about me. I needed to spend time reflecting on what Velveteen gave me and taught me, but instead I was focusing on the past, on being sad, on my own guilt and regrets. The cue to slow down and wake up should have been obvious with the smack to the face, but with practice I am beginning to understand Pollan’s idea (and the idea of many before him) that “the loss of self leads to a gain in meaning.”

Women In Business Series:  Kelly Lende Owner Pawsitive Experience

1) Explain what your business and professional background is.

My name is Kelly Lende and I own Pawsitive Experience – a full service professional dog grooming salon in Eureka, California. I have been grooming since 2012 when I completed a month-long intensive training and then an additional 100 grooms to receive my Professional Pet Stylist Certification. After working in different types of grooming salons for a few years I rented a booth and started to build up private clientele. I took everything I learned and turned it into my ideal groom shop for pet safety and comfort, opening Pawsitive Experience in January of 2017.

2) Tell us about your personal background/growing up around animals. Do you have any Pets now?

When I was born my family lived on a small ranch where I grew up with the sweetest yellow lab, Maggie, and an appaloosa quarter horse named Clipper. They were the best. My sister and I would dress Maggie up in different outfits, and I remember sneaking down to the field where, with the tap of a rock against a metal fence panel, Clipper would let us climb onto her back with no saddle or even a halter, and she would walk us around the five-acre field. I was in love, and it didn’t take me long to realize that I wanted to work with animals – I remember wanting to become a veterinarian.

Over the years I’ve owned bunnies, sheep, birds, dogs, cats, horses, rats, hamsters, fish, and even a steer. Each one held a special place in my heart, but there has always been something about dogs that I love the most! My husband and I now own the sweetest little terrier mix, Scruffy, and my beautiful blue standard poodle, Lincoln. We like to do everything with our fur babies, from camping and hiking to trips to our favorite vacation rental in Carmel, CA. My life wouldn’t feel complete without them!

3) What led you to a full-time career working with animals?

Shortly after I graduated from Cuesta College in San Luis Obispo I decided to become a registered veterinarian technician like my older sister. I was so jealous of her mentally stimulating career which allowed her to work with animals, so I moved to attend Yuba College and before I had even packed up my apartment I applied and was offered a job at Petsmart as a bather in the groom shop. I never really liked the job. It was so fast paced that I didn’t even remember most of the names of the dogs I bathed, but I was in college and it was paying the bills. After just a few months they asked if I would like to attend academy to become a groomer. At the time, good pay and full-time flexible employment was my priority, so I agreed. I headed off to Sacramento for a month-long training and I fell in love with it. I spent more time with every dog and I got to connect with them as well as use my artistic talent. I quickly began to excel and when I got back to my store, I built up regular clients quickly.

After a few months the semester was ending and it was time to apply and start the two-year vet tech program when I realized, I wanted to do this job forever. I was working with animals, getting to be creative and artistic, and doing something that made me smile every day. 

4) Do you think that your business has allowed you to understand and connect with animals better?

I do. I can usually immediately tell how an animal is feeling when they come in, and am aware of their emotional changes during the grooming process. For instance, I may be told a dog is aggressive but realize they’re actually just scared. I feel like I am very in-tune with small signals and behaviors, and I can tell that the animals are also in tune with mine. If I am stressed or upset they know that, therefore, being aware and in control of my own emotions is also a key part of my job. My business is successful if my dogs are safe and feel as comfortable as possible while in my care. Making money is nice, but the emotional and physical well being of my clients is my number one priority.

5) What is one valuable lesson animals have taught you about yourself?

My work with animals has showed me the importance of patience and compassion. Grooming is something that can frighten many dogs, but with unending patience and compassion for their sweet little souls I can help ease them through every process. Dogs are so innocent. Ninety-nine percent of the time the seemingly naughty dogs are just scared and need to build more trust with me. I love having the patience to slow down and understand what they are really going through. 

6) What is one valuable lesson animals have taught you about themselves?

Animals have shown me the happiness and unconditional love that comes from living in the moment. I think that is why we all love animals. They never hold a grudge. They never accuse, blame, or expect anything from us, and are filled with joy at the smallest act of kindness. If you pay attention, they can show you how to love, and how to live if you want a happy life.

7) What is one valuable lesson animals have taught you about other people/the world as a whole?

When I first started my grooming career I thought it would be perfect for me because I got to work with dogs and not with people. I thought people were the source of every problem in this world, and I would be happier avoiding them, but in fact it showed me the opposite. In a sense I learned to see people through the eyes of their dogs, who can look past all our quirks and just appreciate us. I found that there are so many more people out there who treat their dogs as a part of the family and couldn’t imagine a life without the love and laughter they bring. Dogs have taught me there is something good and kind inside every person. 

General Questions:

8) What is the best piece of advice you’ve ever gotten?

I’d have to say when my husband told me I was capable of opening my own business. I’ve never had self-confidence, and opening up your own business, no matter how small, is scary. Without his belief in me I probably wouldn’t have my cute little shop, or the opportunity to bring a little happiness to our furry, four-legged friends. 

Additionally, I grew up watching my dad run his tire shop, Mulkey and Kovacovich, which helped instill in me a strong work ethic straight from childhood. Even though he closed the business when I was still a preteen I remember thinking that I wanted to run it when I grew up. Throughout my life I learned, as many of us do, that I had to work hard to succeed. I learned the value of integrity and the importance of clocking countless behind-the-scenes hours. These lessons have helped me so much along my professional journey.

9) What has been the biggest challenge/biggest reward from owning your own business?

All of it is a challenge! Owning my own business has been so much harder than I thought it would be. When you become your own boss, suddenly the work day doesn’t stop at 5pm, but instead continues around the clock. Finding the balance between giving it my all at work and keeping my sanity is something I’m still in the process of perfecting. I now make sure to silence my phone after work, take time for myself and my health, and take good vacations every now and then. 

The greatest reward has been to create the exact type of business I’ve always wanted and watch it succeed. I worked in several places before opening my own shop, learned from all of my experiences, and then dreamed up the ideal grooming scenario. Watching it come to life has been amazing.

10) What is one book that changed your life? Briefly describe why.

If I only get to pick one book, it has to be Loving What Is, by Bryon Katie. This book taught me how to find my own truth and to stop believing everyone else’s. I learned to recognize and notice the thoughts in my own head and then how to question if they are actually true for me. It taught me to how to have a relationship of love and honesty with myself, and therefore with every person I meet. I am still working on this process every chance I get, and for me it has been completely life-changing.

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4044 Broadway Street, Eureka CA

707-497-8279

https://m.facebook.com/pawsitivepetstyling/