Special Episode: Side Hustle Hangover

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Special: Side Hustle Hangover

It’s a cycle you may have found yourself in: you make a lofty New Year’s resolution or two, become discouraged by a lack of progress and ultimately abandon the whole thing by mid-January, feeling defeated. If so, you’re not alone. In this special episode, Lorilee shares why she let go of yearly resolutions altogether and learned to take sustainable, simple steps toward her own self-care through rituals like breathing, mediation, and writing. The things we tend to each day will grow and flourish, so which seeds will you choose to cultivate?

“Side Hustle Hangover” is an excerpt from Cultivator and Creator: An autoethnographic study understanding the addicted artist, which you can read in full here on her website page all about her thesis.

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Show Transcript:

[Intro] Lorilee Rager:

Hey there. I am Lorilee Rager and this is Ground and Gratitude. It’s a podcast about designing the life you want, one that not only grows but also gives.

This is a solo episode. That’s just me, talking to you. I found in years past that every time I make a new year’s resolution, by mid jan I feel… Maybe you’ve experienced this too… I wanted to share this short piece from my thesis where I reflect on a similar feeling. Hopefully you can take something from this in case you were feeling shitty, hungover or overall blah from any new years resolutions you’ve already broken?


Over the course of this work, I’ve come to the realization that side projects fail faster. We all have tried to help a friend on the side for their kid’s birthday party invite or our grandma for a cookbook cover design, and we never can seem to get to it or we rush through it. Not giving a task we care about the proper time it deserves. That’s the kind of ‘being too busy’ feeling trap I used to get stuck in that kept guilt and shame in my gut.  A new practice in meditation, writing, and a mindfulness focused approach to my daily habits, values, and boundaries helped fill up my inner gratitude cup of ambition and along the way helped my design practice, too. I’m still grateful for family, friends, and all those clients, but now I am unapologetically grateful for who I am. What’s the bushels per acre or the ROI in this? One life saved – my own.

The key is remembering you have a choice. Always. You can pause, breathe, and stop for a piece of buttered toast.

So the other night I was texting with a friend, confessing that I’d eaten buttered toast for breakfast. I felt the need to confess because I’ve been pretty devout recently to be extra healthy in all the ways. It’s been a strict lifestyle of no alcohol, no Xanax, and clean eating. I’d been good at staying up on this wagon until that day.

You see, that wagon is really big, heavy, and piled up with lots of things. Where I come from, a good wagon can carry a whole field of tobacco. It works well for a yard sale. And makes the perfect impromptu stage up at the town square for singing the national anthem for the Fall Festival.

Well, my metaphorical wagon has some pretty massive weight to carry and pull along some days. It’s packed full of a lot of work, a demanding family, a little grad school, healthy living, sober living, but don’t get me wrong, it’s full of joy, too! There’s a little space for gratitude and the ever-needed knee-slapping humor as well. However, staying on that wagon is not nearly as easy as it feels like it ought to be.

Daily we’re all busy. Contrary to popular opinion, busy isn’t something to be proud of, and it’s not a specialty to be listed on your resume. It is, however, a commonly used word by many who don’t really have it all together. So I focus each day on controlling the busy, planning the chaos, and being extra efficient and productive. Each day it’s a conscious effort to get all the things done, right, well, and on time. Hour by hour is planned, budgets are set, all while meeting your step count, stand up goals, water ounce intake, and helping the kids make more healthy choices, spending less money, feeding the dog, and repeating it all over again the next day. 

So mid-morning of my extra efficient day when the buttered toast skipped across my path, I slipped off my wagon. After my 5 a.m. workout, morning pages, and a big proposal meeting at the local Chamber of Commerce, I got a message that my grandma was in town. She was just down the street at Moss’s Country Kitchen having a late breakfast after a doctor’s appointment. I didn’t realize it, as we so often don’t, but I was inching toward the edge of my wagon. I hadn’t had any breakfast but had had my two large cups of coffee, and after my charmful proposal presentation performance I was feeling drained. I knew some quality time with my grandmother would be just the right thing even though it was not on the day’s schedule.

I called her back to say I was headed to the diner. She said she would order for me so I wouldn’t have to wait, as she knew I was busy. Right as I sat down, so did a platter of scrambled eggs, hash browns, bacon, and two pieces of white bread toasted with delicious butter, dripping and shining in the reflection of the pick up window heat lamps. I took a deep breath and scooted the hashbrowns off the plate and on to my grandma’s.

You’re a little thing and need to eat more, I told her as I winked at the hovering waitress. Next a handful of jelly tub packets were set between us. Grandma needed help getting them open. I have to agree,those small little rectangle tubs are “hard boogers to get that shiny corner ahold of to peel back Why do they make them things so dern hard?” Grandma asked, trying not to feel embarrassed about her old hands not working as well as they used to.

From there I ate my eggs and inhaled another cup of coffee. Next up was the extra greasy bacon with another cup of joe topped off by the sweet and efficient waitress. She was on us like a preacher with a collection plate. “Ready for a warm up?” she asked after every sip we took out of the classic white diner mugs.

I hadn’t seen my grandma in quite a few weeks, as she was quick to remind me. She mentioned I’d been too busy jet setting all over the country. She was referring to my trip to Vermont for grad school and then to Florida for beach time for the boys’ Fall Break. Just before that, I hadn’t been able to make it by her house when they were putting up pear preserves. So she needed an update on me and a good reason why I couldn’t be there for the canning and conversation. She said they had a large time with Aunt Lonetta and Aunt Mildred and she had three jars for me in her kitchen I needed to come get.

As we got caught up on life, talk turned to the weather. She said the upcoming Farmer’s Almanac predicted a wet but mild winter, and so did the woolly worms. It came time to open up more jelly, and my toast was still just sitting there beside me. My scrambled eggs and bacon hadn’t really filled me up, and Grandma was certainly not done talking. The waitress was also eager to keep us in coffee.

So, as I jellied her toast some more, I mindlessly jellied myself some and took a bite. I think my brain was in shock. As the warm melted butter and light crunch of the toast and squish of jelly entered my mouth I was instantly happier. My forehead did tingle from the sugar rush, but Grandma never missed a beat talking about the hams she needs to get for Thanksgiving prep as she reminded me, to be sure to get myself one next week when they’re on sale at Walmark’s.”

We wrapped up our chit chat and finally asked the waitress to take the coffee cups away and bring us the check. The conversation was the best I’d had in weeks, I told her as I helped her up and out the door, and I was delighted to know her new hearing aids were helping her. The diner had a handwritten sign on the door that they were hiring for two chefs and a waitress. I told her we should apply and she laughed loudly, saying “Oh gosh, ain’t no way I could babe. I got too much to do cooking for the church and the senior citizens center.” Nevermind you, she’ll be 89 in a few weeks, has neuropathy, and can no longer stand more than just a few moments without help. However, yes, I agreed with her that she surely is too busy to come cook at the diner.

As I sat in bed that night about to turn out the lights, I didn’t log the toast in my weight loss app. I wasn’t thinking about how it had been another ‘busy’ day. I just thought about what  my friend had texted back: “Everyone needs the occasional buttered toast.” I no longer needed to feel bad or guilty about the confession of calories or the time I took with Grandma away from all the busy. Never be too busy to enjoy some occasional buttered toast. 

It’s in these little pauses, fleeting moments of toast and talk with your grandma, is where you find your steady. Mindfulness helps to ground you so you can begin to feel that slightest shift, that your sense of place is within you. Right where you are is right where you can grow. It’s not in a bigger client, or next year’s goals, or holding on to past grief, blame, shame, and fears. It’s a daily practice of rituals you design and build in the soil you’re in today. It is within you and forever giving, just like the farm always gave me. What I needed was already there when I approached it with willingness, surrendering to my inner voice that knew all along what I needed to hear.

Before this work I would likely not have paused for the time with my grandma or mindfully enjoyed the buttered toast. Yet I have learned slowly, through daily meditation and writing, how much I needed to change my habits and daily rituals to include what really mattered to me. Not letting the busy and and the bullshit run my day. By connecting with simple small meditations, writing has helped to draw my awareness inward. Instead of the artificial outward distractions of our loud world running my anxious mind, my own thoughts began to speak up, and I listened.

The rewards I’ve discovered in this work are in the daily exploration, imagination, creating, and making as a designer. In these small moments, being willing to wonder and be curious is when I reach understanding and then enlightenment. Then naturally the discovery and joy leads to gratitude. This openness is my happiness, and how I still get lost in the work of making logos and websites from needs, ideas, hopes, and dreams. Thinking I get paid for this as a living is an incredible gift of gratitude. And it doesn’t hurt that this career doesn’t have me worrying about the weather.

The key is the same today as when you were a child drawing and coloring: Enjoy the messy and have fun in the making. Don’t worry about or focus on the failures. Experiment and live into your truth as a designer daily, and love the seasons that come and go and cycle, and notice how each one helped you grow. Track the soil, weather patterns, and what you already had deep in your roots already within you. Be the steward of your own life and appreciate how the land looks today.

My father often said in business, “Look out for number one because nobody else is going to.” As selfish as I thought that sounded back then I took this to heart in this work as well as life, and now I know I had to show up and learn about my sense of place. Examine my history, where I came from, my truths and beliefs. Because only I could.

You can’t skip forward to the sweet corn at Thanksgiving without the sowing, growing, and harvesting. When you start in the field making that first pass with the plow, you have to circle back and make sure you’ve covered your ground. That’s where the gratitude design life begins to bloom. Only you can plant your purpose. Tend to what matters, thankfully, bit by bit, day by day, and the rewards will come. It requires faith and devotion to the work, and in yourself. Trusting that the sun will shine and the small daily work in you will grow.

It is still a work in progress, but because of this work and recovery from addiction, I have begun to understand I have a choice in life. I have a choice in the everyday; small, simple choices each day. I have begun to understand how operating under stress, anxiety, and addiction messes with your mind. Yes, I’m talking about the noggin, the brain, specifically the prefrontal cortex. Like Bessel Van Der Kolk says in The Body Keeps The Score, part of my research has helped me understand the brain in more detail and how it adapts to the pressures of occupying a burnout addicted, people pleasing designer:

Basically our stress hormones are meant to help us move, or fight back, and get out of the situation. If they keep being secreted, they keep you in a state of hyperarousal or put you in a state of helpless collapse… You have difficulty filtering irrelevant information. Gradually, you start feeling threatened everywhere. Instead of being focused on what is going on right now, your mind stays on the alert for threat, while you basically feel helpless to do anything about it… Things that other people see as simply unpleasant or irritating, are perceived as a threat to your very existence… You get trapped in your reactions without having much control over them.” Source link

Finally, I have given my brain the rest it deserves. I have given myself permission to feel my feelings and make decisions based on my needs. From there, my imagination and curiosity began to grow again. I found authentic joy in writing and making art in my new home studio. As I began to feel less pain, heart ache, and anxiety because of these new practices, I craved more. I learned in this work to be reliant on myself to fill my spirit, energy, and wellness, no longer seeking it from others or the next big design project. From this new daily pause and inward look, I found in myself true acceptance, love, and success.

This work gave me a natural inner peace that I created on my own. The reward has helped my stress and anxiety levels all but disappear. I feel my overall nervous system, immune system, and sleep system all have a balance. Yes there’s still peaks and valleys, highs and lows, but they are not as dramatic and quick fused. My breaths are deeper, my hand steadier, making my body’s inner bobber steady, like a fishing pole in the pond. 

Overcoming panic attacks without medicines and alcohol is a huge win. Having the ability to meditate for five minutes and visualize that I am ok, right now, right here, and visualize myself in my safe spaces is nothing short of a miracle. In his TedxMarin talk, Dr. Rick Hanson said, “Settling into this basic sense of okayness is a powerful way to build well-being and resources in your brain and being, and it’s a way of taking a stand for the truth.” Me and my brain are taking our stand in sober soothing.

World renowned spiritual teacher and New York Times bestselling author, Eckhart Tolle,  discussed in a Super Soul Sunday interview with Oprah how COVID-19 reminds us of the two polarities of life: order versus disorder. Eckhart explained how the current global pandemic, which is a time of chaos and disruption, is an invitation to accept the present moment for what it is. Eckhart shared how he believes we can suffer less during the pandemic, how this time might lead us all to a new spiritual awakening. The importance of stillness, the way in which our consciousness extends beyond physicality, and why love is to recognize another as yourself.

In my recovery practice and self care, I also learned the importance of seeing yourself. Telling yourself, “I got you.” Really looking at yourself in the mirror each day and seeing, feeling, and facing your own truth. In the tiny moments, brushing your teeth, to be in that moment. Not multitasking on your phone or watch or podcast. Looking yourself in the eye. This daily small act will begin to fill your buckets with your inner truth. From there, thoughts will arise: What do you think, how do you feel? Sit with those feelings and feel them. If it’s pain, ask: If my pain could speak, what would it lovingly say? Doing this will be part of a new ritual. This begins the small shift in self awareness.

Morning Pages Entry From August 15, 2020:

I felt the water on my toes this morning in the shower. As I mindfully stood there, it felt like a mini-massage. Like acupuncture, humming, little easy vibrations over the tops of my feet. I paused, took a deep breath. It made me smile.

Recognizing, feeling, and listening feels delightful. The fact that I’m not rushing out the door, overtired, hungover, often angry, at what I had no idea – feels like such a surrendering relief. I don’t know if I have ever noticed the feeling and calm of the water on my toes. If you have not, I highly recommend it. 

The warm tingle of life is good right now. Very good. There goes that optimism and happiness oozing out automatically. I spent the last month wondering what’s underneath that? Looking at the underneath, the hidden feelings, where are they? What are they? I’m looking.

I am happy simply drying my toes. I am feeling peace in my chest as I pat dry the calm. I’m feeling love in the fluffy towel as I dry the drops at the end of my longer than ever wet hair. Noticing that I am not feeling worried, anxious, or stressed. I would describe this feeling as ease.

Ease is not to be mistaken for any lack of projects, problems, and grad school packets due on my calendar. My head wants me to hurry up, move on to the next seasons of thinking, nail down action items. “Pick up the sloth’s pace,” my inner voice says. That voice sounding very much like Cinderella’s stepsisters terrorized me a few days this month, asking: What are you even doing? What are you going to do next? Where do you even fit in? Where does someone like you even belong in the academic world?

Using my new tools in grad school research and recovery, I pause. A new rule of no negative self talk and super powers of optimism quickly helps me to flip this Negative Nelly noise in my head. I stare into the mirror saying, “I got you,” and talk as kindly to myself as I would a best friend. Thinking about, what is one of your passions? What is something you could talk about forever? What if there were no rules in the whole wide world, what then would you make? 

The kind words begin to fill the buckets. Familiar words like gratitude, joy, optimism. Admiring my charisma, while admitting to myself on the other side of the shelf there’s trauma, recovery, healing, and mindfulness. Closing my eyes, hand to my chest, I take a big deep breath in and hold for 4, 3, 2, 1, and out through the mouth. There now, don’t we all feel better?

I see my hardiness, resilience, kindness, toughness, courage, boundaries, fear, anger, conflict, self compassion, curiosity, and imagination. I got you. Toweling off I tell myself to keep going, one day at a time, one piece at a time, just give it 1% today, just try, it took 3 big tries to get sober, maybe third times the charm. Bless your heart. Remember Dolly and find out who you are and do it on purpose. xo

That’s it for that entry of morning pages Those pages are just one example of how I now examine myself without judgement or denial. The shouting sounds of fear in my head became just a whisper, and I now find great joy as I look at the hard places inside of me. I was addicted to approval, from others and the false high of client approvals. Now I understand and feel an authentic reward in self love, acceptance, abundance and the simple rituals like breathing, mediation, and writing. 

Part of dealing with the hardiness in the land and in life is to practice gratitude for all you have at your feet. Then you think about what’s my plan today to make this vast land that I own, that I’m responsible for, grow better. In this almost meditative state you’ll find the richests places to plant, and then to sow, water, repair, and reap the beliefs that will carry you forward. The seasons come and go, the cycle of the seed dies and plants grow, the sun rises and sets, there’s always that look onto the horizon. You use your experience from years past, the weather and land conditions right now, and the future of the unknown storms and droughts that might appear, and press forward today. It’s simple, but not easy, to design a life you want to plow through every day, rain or shine. 

You cannot control what yield life produces, but you can make the choice to care for yourself and the earth a little every day. You can build your safe space and gather your buckets, harvesting all the goodness your heart can hold and leaving the rest behind. It’s not just one logo or one seed. It’s a thousand tiny seeds you care for a little at a time that add up to the bushel baskets full of joy, hope, and happiness you seek.

The End

[Outro] Lorilee Rager:

Happy new year, and thank you so much for tuning in to Ground and Gratitude. You can read this piece and you can also find some more information about the show and listen to past episodes at GroundAndGratitude.com. Be sure and join me next time for more honest conversations exploring what it means to truly live a life grounded in gratitude.

Producers of Ground and Gratitude, Kelly Drake and Anna McClain.

Ep. 7: Shame Free Eating with Dietician Julie Satterfeal

Shame Free Eating with Dietician Julie Satterfeal

Julie Satterfeal is a registered dietician, author, speaker, podcast host, and coach helping people to develop a shame-free relationship with food. Julie is a weight inclusive, anti-diet dietician with an empathetic, thoughtful approach. She joins Lorilee on the podcast to discuss her important philosophy, why dieting doesn’t work, and what authentic nutrition actually looks like.


  • On Julie’s playlist: “Crowded Table” – The Highwomen
  • Why Julie focuses on relationships with food rather than weight loss
  • Understanding intuitive eating
  • Anti-fat bias and diet culture
  • What it means to eat shame-free
  • Learning to love and respect your body (and yourself)
  • Challenging perceptions of ideal beauty
  • Debunking diet myths like BMI
  • Taking small, sustainable steps toward shame-free eating
  • One tool for our G&G toolbox

Mentioned in this episode:

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Sponsored by Her-Bank.com

Episode 7 – Julie Satterfeal Transcript

[00:00:00] Lorilee Rager: Hey there. I am Lorilee Rager and this is Ground and Gratitude. It is a podcast about designing the life you want, one that not only grows but also gives. 

Before today’s episode, I’d like to tell you about where I bank, Her Bank by Legends Bank. This episode of Ground and Gratitude is sponsored by them. Her Bank celebrates, honors, and supports women, especially entrepreneurs, by providing financial services and resources through a core team of experienced female bankers, which is so reassuring to me. Her Bank creates a bridge to help women overcome barriers when it comes to money conversations and decisions while providing women with a better banking experience. Check out Her-Bank.com to learn more. Her Bank is a brand of Legends Bank. Legends Bank is member FDIC equal housing lender.

Today I’m sitting down with the endlessly wise and caring Julie Satterfield. Julie is a registered dietician and runs a diet coaching business called Shame Free Eating. She also hosts a podcast with the same name. She takes great pride in her unwavering history as a non diet, weight inclusive, intuitive eating dietician and in leading people towards a greater love for themselves and lifelong peace with food. We’ll be talking about how to find joy in food and remove the shame that diet culture puts in our lives. Just so y’all know, we will be talking about some difficult topics surrounding food and diet that may be a little triggering for some people. So with that, let’s dive right in.

Okay. Good. Hi Julie. How are you?

[00:02:12] Julie Satterfeal: I’m great. It’s good to see you. 

[00:02:15] Lorilee Rager: I know it’s so good to see you too. I really appreciate you doing this. I know you’re busy with your own podcast and all your other things.

[00:02:22] Julie Satterfeal: No, I’m so excited to be here and I love that you’re, that you’ve got a podcast. This looks so great.

[00:02:29] Lorilee Rager: Thank you. Thanks so much. So the first kickoff question is hopefully not too difficult. But I would love to know what song is on repeat on your playlist today. 

[00:02:53] Julie Satterfeal: Well, I have this one on repeat periodically, I really love it. And, um, it is a song by The Highwomen called Crowded Table. And I adore it.

[00:03:09] Lorilee Rager: I absolutely adore them, that it, everything I’ve heard that they’ve put out I’ve loved. And so I have listened to that. It’s been a while, so I’m glad you mentioned that. I’ll have to key that one back up again. 

[00:03:20] Julie Satterfeal: Yeah. I love getting tips for music that I love that I maybe have not listened to in a while, but that’s a, um, that’s a go back to. I was listening to it in the car with my daughter yesterday.

[00:03:34] Lorilee Rager: Oh, that’s perfect. Yes. That’s, that’s why I actually opened with that question, because I always want to know what am I missing or what Idid I forget about or, so, yeah, that’s a good one to bring back for sure. Okay. Perfect. Well, um, all right. I thought we could just begin, um, with a fun question also, and this is a Southern thing, of course, but I’ve thought about talking about supper. Do you call it supper? Do you call it supper or dinner? 

[00:04:02] Julie Satterfeal: Um, both because I have, I’m Southern, I have a Southern, one side of my family is, my grandmother deep South. And so she would always call the last meal of the day supper and lunchtime dinner. I tend to call dinner dinner, the last meal dinner, but I will be formal when I need to. 

[00:04:27] Lorilee Rager: Right, right, right. I definitely grew up with a Southern grandma that was supper was the last meal and dinner was the middle meal, lunch, lunch. Yeah. So, um, yeah, I thought that we would talk a little bit, speaking of supper, bringing us around food, I really wanted to just kind of hear your story and how you got started and explaining a little bit about shame-free eating and your, your passion that you have for helping people from a nutritional standpoint. Tell us a little bit about that. 

[00:05:05] Julie Satterfeal: Yeah, I would love to. So I’m a registered dietician. I don’t share that a lot when, I try to avoid the topic of what do you do sometimes because it can be a real touchy subject. And as soon as I say I’m a registered dietician, people are like, oh, you probably eat perfect. And I put that in quotes. And, oh, don’t like, I don’t want to tell you what I just ate. Or they start asking me about the newest diet and what do you think of this? And it’s just, ugh. But, um, it makes me, it makes me sad. And so, one of the things that I say is that I am a weight inclusive anti diet dietician. And so sometimes I will say that because that really is, um, how I have practiced from the very beginning. Even when I was in college and I started learning about even therapeutic diets, it was very obvious to me that, um, I certainly didn’t want to follow one of those. I was like, whoa, man, I hope I don’t get diabetes or celiac disease because there’s no way I can do that. And then I started realizing, well, nobody can do that. Nobody can do this in the way that it is presented. So whether it is a therapeutic diet for, um, healing something in your body or people are focusing on weight loss, there’s so many confounding factors. I mean, we don’t, um, first of all, our body does not like to lose weight. It’s going to resist that. We know that 98% of all diets fail and, um, our body just is geared against it and so many things happen when we try to restrict food. And so this was really pretty intuitive to me from an early age. And so I kept trying to figure out, well, how can I help people if they need to make nutrition changes without throwing them into this tailspin of diets. And so that’s where it really emerged. And when I was a senior, the year I graduated from college, a book called Intuitive Eating, um, came out. And when I read that book, I went, oh my God, this is exactly. Okay so there are other dietitians that understand this, but that was almost unknown at that point. And it’s started to become more known,. um, and I’ve just always practiced within the scope. And so for years, and years and years, people would say, well, can you help me lose weight? Well, no, I can’t, I don’t focus on weight loss, but I can work with you on your relationship to food and your body and we can talk about how we actually create change in our life. But most of the time we have to focus on, I call it how to eat before we can look at what we eat.

[00:07:58] Lorilee Rager: Yeah. 

[00:07:59] Julie Satterfeal: Long story.

[00:08:00] Lorilee Rager: I love it. Um, it really, it resonates and begins to make sense to me just as I’ve gotten older and started to now, in my forties, look at my relationship with food and, and begin to, to try to really understand my own why. Because I understand the tailspin of diet, all the diet culture, the way I was raised, speaking of, you know, dear grandmothers and Southern food and eating too much and being, you know, loved with food, and then the body shaming and body image of just puberty and high school and college and all of that. I definitely now can see all the ways it just, wasn’t a healthy relationship, really maybe ever with food that I’ve had. And so I know when we met many, many years ago, um, and it’s so interesting also how graphic designers get to connect with some people in the greatest ways over, you know, your first brand many, many, many years ago. Um, but I really, I really, um, was interested at the time. But it’s also one of those things where from a professional standpoint, as a, as, in my profession, as a graphic designer, and I wonder if you can relate as well, it’s not something you really want to confess, um, when you’re working with a client relationship to also be like, oh, you know, I really want to know more about what you’re saying, because I may personally be struggling, you know, behind closed doors or behind the scenes. Um, and in recently, in my own, uh, sobriety and recovery, the eating thing has, has become a new challenge that I just didn’t expect. With sugar, anorexia, and, and it’s something based on my research from grad school that I’ve learned is kind of a common numbing coping mechanism in the way we use food. Um, and I’m beginning to try to understand intuitive eating a little more. So could you explain a little more in depth what that is? I mean, I know we only have so much time today, but maybe a surface level for our listeners. 

[00:10:14] Julie Satterfeal: Yeah. So one of the things that, that I talked a lot about is that food is a comfort and food is part of our history and it is okay to use food, to comfort us. And that’s wonderful. And that’s one of the ways that we come around a crowded table is to share and to, um, love, to love each other with food. And so when people are hurting or when we’re excited and we want to celebrate, we do that with food and that’s definitely okay. But it can cross this line, and I think what’s happened in our society is that we have really, um, we have such a huge anti-fat bias and there are so many messages that are just false about weight and health and size and health and size in general. And the stigma that is associated leads people to get really, really strict with their food at young ages. And oh my gosh, my body’s changing. Oh, you better not eat that. Like there’s so many messages. And so we can start these disordered eating patterns early on. And the way that I see intuitive eating fitting in is that we have to kind of break that. We have to take a look and say, you know what? This is the body that is taking you through life and it is strong and capable and we have so many factors that affect it, including, and most predominantly our genetics. Um, food and activity is really such a small piece of what our body shape is. And so we have to unlearn some of that and we have to take in, um, some body acceptance and learning how to respect our body in the process so that we can be present with food, learn other tools for tough emotions, but also learning how to listen to our body, give ourselves permission to eat, trust our body. So that’s kind of the foundation as I see it. When I talk about intuitive eating it is foundationally, we want to start to learn to trust our body and listen to our body and recognize what hunger cues actually feel like. And it’s okay to be full, it doesn’t mean that you’ve done anything wrong. And so taking all of the stigma out of eating and, um, really coming back to a gentle, loving place with your body. 

And once you can do that, it actually gives us so much more control and freedom around food. But when we’re trying to dictate everything we eat and count calories and weigh ourselves and, um, checking the Fitbit every five seconds, that actually takes control away and it makes us more obsessive and it makes us, um, constantly focusing on food. And food should not be the center of our, of our thoughts. We should be living our life. Food should be on the periphery. I mean, yeah, it’s great and we want it for this comfort when we need it, but we also want to have other tools in our toolbox for healing tough emotions and ways to deal with other things. 

[00:13:31] Lorilee Rager: Oh, wow. Yeah, that’s so true. And I never thought about the notifications that my Apple watch and my Lose It app in my former Fitbit days that chirped at me all the time, it, it made me feel obsessed, you know. And if I wasn’t thinking about it, it was this little reminder tapping, you know, in my brain, did you think about, you know, have you moved, have you ate, you know, log your food. And so,

[00:13:56] Julie Satterfeal: And it can make you deny your actual true feelings. Like what you really need, you might now deny because this computer or this idea of calories has given you new information. And you’re like, oh, I should, why am I hungry right now? I shouldn’t be hungry. It’s not time. I’ve already had my calories. And so now we’re denying what our body is telling us, and that leads down a harder road. Because if you’re not eating breakfast because you’re trying to save calories, and you’re not eating lunch or you’re having a small lunch, and then you wonder why mid-afternoon you’re starving and all you can think about is a snicker bar and a donut, um, it’s, that’s your body trying to tell you. But we blame it on our brain and we say, oh, I just don’t have willpower, I’m just this, I’m just that. And we beat ourselves up instead of just respecting the process and what our body’s trying to help us do.

[00:14:49] Lorilee Rager: Oh, wow. Absolutely. It’s, you’ve just made me want to turn off all my notifications of all these apps that do. 

[00:14:56] Julie Satterfeal: Do it. 

[00:14:58] Lorilee Rager: Um, because the beauty in what you said about intuitive eating, to me, is the words acceptance, permission, and trust. I mean, those are words I have never heard in a diet culture and in a diet plan. And they’re such comforting, important words that, that I think are so important in everything else in life. So applying it to eating also seems important and makes sense to me. So, yeah. Wow. So, oh, that’s good. And I definitely want to read that book. I actually noticed it was, um, in my Audible account, like with my subscription, like a new version. 

[00:15:41] Julie Satterfeal: Oh yeah, they do. They have a, um, a new one that came out a few years ago, just an updated, um, for the times.

[00:15:48] Lorilee Rager: Yeah. 

[00:15:48] Julie Satterfeal: Same concepts, just new, you know, texting. You know, when in 1995, when it came out, there was not any smartphones. 

[00:16:00] Lorilee Rager: That’s right. Yeah. I mean, I graduated college without a cell phone and that kind of blows my mind. 

[00:16:05] Julie Satterfeal: Same. 

[00:16:05] Lorilee Rager: I’m not that old, but yeah, to be 43 and, and know that I can say that it makes a huge difference, so, um, interesting, interesting. All right. Well going onto my next topic, I’d love you to explain a little bit about, you know, shame-free eating, which is the name of your business and company website. And really again, um, a little bit of my personal experiences is full of shame, binge eating as a child and, again, anorexia in high school and college. And then, um, later in life with marriage and stress and kids and being an entrepreneur, it seemed like I began to just binge eat or try to save calories for alcohol and wine and then, then find myself hungry and starving the next day and angry and confused and binge eat again in this terrible cycle. And it all, it all was filled with shame and it was the center of my attention and addiction, um, at the time. So I wanted to hear a little bit more of, you know, your take on shame-free eating and maybe where do we begin? 

[00:17:22] Julie Satterfeal: Yeah, that’s a great question. So, um, Shame Free Eating, I changed my business name to that a few years ago because I really found that it was just the crux of everything that I believe in and that I do in life and with my clients and with food. And I, I strongly believe that there shouldn’t be shame around our eating and I want to inspire empathy for everyone. And one of the ways that I do that is by letting people know that we can eat and we are allowed to eat and there’s nothing wrong with eating. And I don’t care if you’re having a doughnut or tons of broccoli or a soda or whatever it is, um, and I don’t care what your size is, you have permission to eat these foods and you should be able to do it and feel good and not feel like it means there’s something wrong with you. And one of the, um, people that I really like and have learned from in the world of shame is Brenee Brown. And she’s a researcher in Texas, and she has a definition of the difference between shame and guilt that I like to share sometimes. She talks about that guilt is like I did something wrong, shame is I am wrong. It’s like, it’s so deep. And you hear shame when people say things like I am an idiot, I’m so dumb, I’m a loser. And I think that we do that in our culture way more often than, I mean, we just do it a lot. And that, that way that we speak to ourselves, we would never speak to someone in our life that we love. We would never talk to someone else like that. And, um, so elevating the respect that we have for ourselves. And the love that we have for ourselves I think is so important and giving grace to the people around us. And, um, so that is kind of where, where the name came from, just Shame Free eating just is I want you to eat and enjoy food and love it in a shame-free manner, because that’s how you’re going to live the life that you want. Food, you don’t want to just be thinking about food all the time. You want to be able to eat it and enjoy it and let it go. And sometimes you might not enjoy it. Sometimes you’re grabbing something cause you don’t have time and you just only can get a, uh, granola bar on the way out the door. That’s okay, too, you know. So food is, should be flexible and it should move with our life. Um, we shouldn’t be wrapping our life around the food. 

[00:20:18] Lorilee Rager: Oh, food should be flexible. Wow. I love that very much because it’s, it’s not something I’ve ever thought about, uh, from a flexibility standpoint and, and a shame standpoint. I completely relate to Brenee Brown as well and her trying to help the shame culture. And like you were saying, the negative self-talk is something that I feel like we maybe all are so used to we even don’t realize we’re doing it. 

[00:20:51] Julie Satterfeal: Absolutely. 

[00:20:51] Lorilee Rager: While we’re brushing our teeth or while we’re in the shower or an hour after we ate that piece of cherry pie from grandma. And, and I think it’s so important to be, uh, I guess, intuitive enough and mindful enough to stop that. And, and I know, I think we all, at least in my experience struggle with what self-love is, but you said respect and I definitely can identify with self-respect. I can, I may, I may have to learn how to love myself and be kind, but I definitely know how to respect, you know, myself the way I would a best friend or a family member. 

[00:21:36] Julie Satterfeal: Yeah. And that’s perfect, what you just said, because it is a, um, it’s a journey. And I think that sometimes you hear that like, oh, you need to love yourself. And that’s just such a tall order, right, for a lot of people.

[00:21:52] Lorilee Rager: It is. 

[00:21:52] Julie Satterfeal: And so you have to start somewhere else. And, like, with body respect and body acceptance, how do I get there? Like society is telling me my body is not okay and society is telling me I’m not okay. And how do I get there? And so that is a continuum. We can start with that respect piece, and how do I learn even to respect my body and move into appreciating my body and myself and moving into self love, or radical self-love as Sonya Renee Taylor would say. Um, Another amazing book. But some of the ways that I feel like we can do that is really changing up our social media feed. You know, following different accounts that talk about self-love and body positivity and an anti diet culture, and intuitive eating and moving in some of these ways where you’re seeing different shapes and sizes of people living their life to the fullest and starting to change your perception of what beauty is and what ideal looks like. And as you surround yourself with that, I think it makes a big difference. I think also like in terms of our body, body functionality is huge. And so if we can, um, pay attention to what our body is doing for us, if we can recognize and value the, these pieces, like even just really small. You know, I’m able to make myself breakfast this morning, you know, or I am, um, able to take the dog around the block. And you see and feel and notice that functionality of your system and your body can lead you towards that respect and appreciation that will, that will move us along that contimuum. 

Yes. Yes. 

[00:23:48] Lorilee Rager: Oh, such good tips and takeaways in all of what you just said with changing your social media feed I think is huge. I mean, huge on so many other levels, but when it comes to shame and eating and body image and definitely self-love, I think muting all of the toxic-ness that makes you feel bad about yourself is a huge win. Curating that and removing that, and it’s really important. 

[00:24:17] Julie Satterfeal: Yeah. And you know, some people ask, well, how do, um, what do I do then? This is all fine and great, but what about if I need to make nutrition changes in my life? You know, what if I have diabetes and I need to do certain things to help my blood sugar? Or what if there are these other, like I mentioned earlier, celiac disease, you know, how do I incorporate this intuitive eating and this self-love with that? And so that’s one of the things that we work on a lot too is that, this, that we’re talking about is the foundation. Like you can’t start looking at and figuring out the individual foods in your diet that you need to, um, that you want to add for your health or that you want to incorporate without first taking care of some of this foundational work and learning how to listen to your body. But then as we start working through that, then we’re able to really, um, make these small changes and do these small things that can impact our life in a way that is going to be more sustainable than like what we all do on new year’s, like pick 10 things that we want to do and it all lasts for like two weeks. I mean, so we have to kind of put that application in there too. So we start with that gentleness and that love and that, let me start to trust you again, my awesome body. Then we can start taking these little pieces of, well, you know what, I really need to spread my carbohydrates and protein out throughout the day in order to help level my blood sugar. How am I going to do that? I’m going to start by having a breakfast that incorporates, you know, a nice amount of carbohydrate, a little bit of protein, a little bit of fat. And what’s that going to look like? We come up with lots of different ideas and then that’s your one thing. We’re going to work on breakfast. So the food piece comes in, but that’s like at the end, you know. All this other stuff is what’s going to set us up for being able to do that without falling back into guilt and shame when we can’t fix that breakfast. Right, because life is not that linear. It’s going to change and there’s going to be plenty of days where, what you planned, isn’t going to work. And if you, I’m terrible, I can’t do anything right, look I tried to do this and I failed, then what do we do? We fall back into the old patterns and we say, forget about it, I’ll start fresh later. If we can just let it go and be like, no, no, no, no, no. This is part of being an intuitive eater and living the life that has been handed to me and that I am creating. I’m busy today and that sandwich isn’t going to work, but I’m going to see how that, um, how I can work this moving forward.

[00:26:59] Lorilee Rager: Yeah. And that’s okay. 

[00:27:00] Julie Satterfeal: Yeah, for sure. 

[00:27:02] Lorilee Rager: It’s so funny because I would think, which I don’t want to start a new year’s resolution and diet and, and start all these restrictions and be miserable and not even able to think and have a headache and be angry at work or, you know, all, yeah. I don’t want to do that at all. And, and that’s why these, I think it’s so interesting to think. Well, we’re not even approaching it with, okay tell me what to eat, tell me what I should or shouldn’t eat right now, then I’ll worry about how I feel. Um, I wrote an essay in grad school that was called, Just Be Nice to Your Back Fat. And it was just, you know, that, that image you see of yourself before you get in the shower, and just making sure that you’re just kind to yourself and what you see that this is the only body the good Lord gave us. 

[00:27:47] Julie Satterfeal: Yes, yes. 

[00:27:48] Lorilee Rager: So be kind to it. And then thinking exactly what you’re saying, it makes me envision and I will nourish myself with a good breakfast and not shame myself into I’m skipping breakfast because of what I just saw in the mirror, per se.

[00:28:04] Julie Satterfeal: Yeah. Or shame yourself into eating something that you don’t like. 

[00:28:10] Lorilee Rager: Yes. Oh my gosh. Yes. 

[00:28:13] Julie Satterfeal: For the most part food should be enjoyable. And it should we’ve, we wrap, there are so many foods, there are ways to create the meals that sustain us that we also enjoy. And if it’s always terrible, it’s probably because it’s some crazy diet like that doesn’t have any carbs in it. I’m sorry. We got to have them. 

[00:28:37] Lorilee Rager: Right. That’s right. That’s right. They do get a bad rap. I think they do get a, carbs do get a bad rap. 

[00:28:42] Julie Satterfeal: They do. 

[00:28:43] Lorilee Rager: Um, yeah. Well, so tell me a little bit more, um, like what are some of the common, you know, questions you get, or the most common myths that you, um, help people understand and when it comes to the shame-free eating. Um, and, and what, what in general, um, I guess it’s not tips because I know that’s what people probably want first right out of the gate, tell me right now what I should do today. But, um, what are some of the common things that you say the most or talk about the most or, 

[00:29:20] Julie Satterfeal: Um, well, there’s a few. So I want to say that probably the thing that I feel like we have to come back to is this whole idea that a certain weight is healthier than another weight. And coming down to the BMI, which is the bane of my existence. Oh my gosh. So really just dispelling the idea. People go, no, no, no, no, if you’re in a bigger body, you’re not as healthy. Not true. Not true. You cannot judge someone’s actions or their health or anything by the size of their body. And like I said earlier, we come in so many different shapes and sizes and by trying to manipulate it from a young age, we are, um, resetting that set point, um, so we are going to probably be in a, in a bigger body later. But it doesn’t mean that we’re unhealthy and it doesn’t mean that we have to get into a smaller body to be healthy. And when we look at BMI, all it is is a cross section between height and weight that was developed in the 1700s by a European researcher, mathematician, statistician, astronomer. Okay. Has nothing to do with health. 

[00:30:36] Lorilee Rager: Wow. 

[00:30:37] Julie Satterfeal: He proposed that, and this study was done on like 40 European men or something, maybe 200 somewhere in there, um, probably not that many. Anyway, he, um, said, well, the average must be, so I want to see what the average is, and then that’s what we’ll go with. And this information has propelled forward, which is that the average of a European man in the 1700s is what’s considered healthy. And when you look, I mean, it’s, it’s just it’s mind boggling. But when you look even at the good research and you look at these long-term studies and you look at mortality, the people that are living the longest are the people in that category of BMI that is considered, and I’m putting this in quotes, trigger warning, overweight. Um, I think those are also things to remember is that these terms that we use to describe people’s bodies can be very hurtful and offensive. And, um, so it’s, uh, that’s one of the big things that I try to clear up is that. We can make changes in our lives and we can create, we can have health promoting behaviors without focusing on weight. And so there’s this whole, like we were talking about, this body acceptance, body love, peace that we have to really try and get on board with, learn to love this body that we have so that we can make peace with food and live in a way that feels authentic. But that’s probably the, that’s probably one of the really big ones. Just the weight and health piece. 

[00:32:31] Lorilee Rager: I had no idea the BMI history. It’s not even a diverse study. It’s not even global, it’s not. And from the 1700s and here I am today. And, and that’s what the doctors have and, oh, you so mentioned it. And it is a trigger warning because when I go online to my patient portal to make an appointment, you know, to get a flu shot or whatever it says in my list of ailments or whatever, anxiety and obesity. And seeing obesity, when I, you know, and I don’t care to say it, I fit in a size, you know, 14 to 16 pants and I’m 5’9″ female and I’m like, wow, I have obesity on my chart. 

[00:33:15] Julie Satterfeal: That’s a horrible word and label. 

[00:33:18] Lorilee Rager: It hurts. And it’s from the BMI index. I recently redid my paperwork on just like, uh, estate planning, and had to get a full physical. You know, somebody came to the house to do blood work. She pulled a scale out of her bag that was super old and like wobbly and set it on the floor and wanted me to stand on it, wasn’t calibrated in any way. Made it all, wrote it all out, and my rate changed because of the BMI index of what I was going to pay for my life insurance. 

[00:33:49] Julie Satterfeal: Absolutely. It’s furiating. 

[00:33:52] Lorilee Rager: This is huge. I didn’t even think about it. 

[00:33:55] Julie Satterfeal: God, I’m so sorry. That is traumatizing and upsetting. And we spend a lot of time on that.

[00:34:03] Lorilee Rager: Yeah, where we’re trying to do the best we can with what we have. And I, and I want food not to be the center of my every waking thought. And I want just, like you said, to enjoy gathering around a table and be flexible with it, and then you get hit with things like that, um, or you just get, you know, told you need to be on some type of medication versus even having a conversation with your health and how you physically feel. Um, yeah. It’s super, super interesting stuff. 

[00:34:35] Julie Satterfeal: So many, there’s just so many pieces of that we could talk about all day. 

[00:34:39] Lorilee Rager: I know. We really, really could. I know. Bleh. Well, um, so, what, what else, what else would you like to share about, um, shame-free eating? Cause I know we talked about, which we could talk about more, of self-love. Because you know, self love and food to me go hand in hand for sure. And then, how do we maybe learn to self-love our size or anything else. 

[00:35:09] Julie Satterfeal: Yeah, yeah. It, well, it’s a process. And I think that it just starts with giving yourself permission to eat and making sure that you’re getting enough to eat. When you have enough food in your body, things start to level out. Your thinking levels out, your cravings level out, all of that. And so that’s one of the places that I start with people is first we’re not going to do any of the diets. We’re not counting calories, we’re not weighing ourselves, we’re not following any of those. And then we’re going to try and figure out how we take steps into getting enough, enough food into our body and learning how to listen to our body, and sometimes that can take some time. So that’s really where we start. And, um, I have a program where I work with people for a year and it’s a online program and we have, it’s a kind of customized both one-on-one and group counseling and an online platform. And it’s a year because that’s what I’ve seen it just takes as we start working through this. It’s not just, I tell you all the things and you know it and now you can apply it. Because we go through all of these diets seasons and we go through all of the, the things that happen in a year, and it’s really great to be able to process it and work through it and see how do these principles play out in my personal life. So for me it’s really important that I work with everyone individually, know really what your life looks like and what you do day-to-day and what foods you like. And so getting to know people and understanding them and helping them work through, this, um, making peace with food and their body is just a long-term, it’s a long-term kind of thing. And I work with plenty of people for far longer than a year. I think just having in your head that I’m going to be patient with myself and I’m going to give myself grace and this is a process and I am unlearning information that has been pounded into my head decades. And it’s a process, it’s hard. And you’re getting the messages from everywhere, so also learning, how do I create boundaries? And how do I talk about this with people? And do I have to talk about it with people? And again, that’s a process. So, but you have to protect yourself. Just like when you go to the doctor, when you have to fill out a form, like you said, there are ways that you can learn to protect yourself a little bit and ways that you can, again, continuum, take steps. What I did this first time versus, okay, the next time I go, I’m going to prepare, I think this is coming, this is what I’m going to say, and you practice it, and this is how I’m going to respond to this. And just remembering that we have power and we have autonomy and, um, but that’s hard.

[00:38:01] Lorilee Rager: Yeah. Yes. Yes. Power and autonomy too. And I love that you said the seasons of diets because absolutely. I never, I never thought of course, I don’t believe in quick fixes, magical elixirs, six week plans, none of that’s ever worked because I’ve tried them all. But 12 months and the seasons of diets. I mean, that just blows my mind open because it’s so true. And you work with somebody and, and counsel them and coach them and then, and then the power of having, having you there through the entire seasons and cycles is really huge because yeah, you’re trying to unlearn, in my case, 43 years of, um, of this culture, that’s been, you know, pushed upon us. That I don’t, I don’t blame anyone. It’s not, it’s not a fault situation, but it’s my responsibility to, to learn better care for myself and understand the relationship with food. So having, having a coach or somebody in my pocket to help seems huge. And I know from my recovery groups, the power in community. 

[00:39:13] Julie Satterfeal: Oh, for sure. 

[00:39:14] Lorilee Rager: Oh, like-minded, sharing, you don’t really don’t even have to share a lot cause we all, we all just get it because we’ve been through it in our own stories, but there’s similar threads. 

[00:39:28] Julie Satterfeal: And it’s nice to have that community. It’s a safe place where we can talk about this and know that we’re not going to be judged and we are going to be loved. And, um, sometimes I tell people, definitely show up for the community pieces because you may not think you have a question, you may think everything’s fine, and you hear what someone else is talking about and you go, oh my God, I never thought of it that way, that is a thing. And so you get value and from these other people’s experiences, and I just think it’s so huge. Because what we’re exposed to on social media day-to-day in our lives is not this community. We’re exposed to diet culture and it’s really hard to get out from under it. So yes. Agreed. The community piece is so valuable. 

[00:40:17] Lorilee Rager: Yeah, I can understand that so well. Um, I think it’s just more, I feel more successful and more, I hate to use the word normal, cause I don’t know what normal is, but I feel, you know, more successful and normal when I’m able to hear somebody else’s share and be like, I thought I was the only one.

[00:40:36] Julie Satterfeal: Yes. 

[00:40:37] Lorilee Rager: You know, that sort of thing, so 

[00:40:39] Julie Satterfeal: Yes. 

[00:40:40] Lorilee Rager: Talking about it, it’s just, it’s just huge. I think it’s really an important key to the, uh, the iceberg of all this where people think the tip of the iceberg is food, but there’s so much more, um, underneath. 

[00:40:54] Julie Satterfeal: Yeah. And the tip is, the tip is food. But we got to get all the underneath first.

[00:41:00] Lorilee Rager: That’s exactly right. That’s exactly right. Well, um, yeah. Is there anything else you’d like to share or add before we wrap up today? This has been so good. Such, so many aha moments. 

[00:41:13] Julie Satterfeal: Well, I’m so glad and I love that you had me. I appreciate it. And, um, I just appreciate the opportunity to chat about this cause I think it’s so important and I think it’s a message that, um, I want everyone to hear. 

[00:41:29] Lorilee Rager: Yeah, me too. Gosh, me too. Me too. We shouldn’t be suffering alone, um, at all about it. So there’s power in sharing it. Um, okay. One last question that I will end with. So at Ground and Gratitude we have a toolbox, and I would like to ask is what is one tool that you would leave in the Ground and Gratitude toolbox for others? And it, it can be anything. It can be something that helps you get grounded, helps you get through what I call dry ground when it comes to farming aspect or a season or moment. What, what would be something you could leave us?

[00:42:07] Julie Satterfeal: You know what I think it has to be the practice of yoga. If you have never thought of that before, it is a wonderful way to get grounded. And personally, I fought it for a very long time. I thought I need to do yoga because I need to, like, be more stretchy. I need to be more bendy, I need to be more flexible, right. And then I would go and I was like, oh, quiet my mind, oh, breathe, you know. And I was like, I can’t do it. And, um, it felt like drudgery. But I went back to yoga over the pandemic and what, towards the end, like, we’re not at the end yet, but once we were able to go back inside, and I see it with my clients, I’ve experienced it personally, as something that the practice itself is so grounding and you learned to be in your body and you learn to appreciate its functionality. Which is why I leave it in this toolbox for you, because, um, if you can channel that and learn how to breathe and learn how to ground yourself, then you can take that from yoga and use it in your everyday life when things come in blind side you and things, um, turn you upside down. You’ve got this tool that you’ve been practicing, practicing, practicing. So if you have access to yoga, there’s a really great app that I like too. Um, I do like going to the studio and it’s just really the studio that I go to is very much about, um, nonjudgmental and not comparing and you know, each your own practice and 

[00:43:55] Lorilee Rager: Yeah, be where you are.

[00:43:57] Julie Satterfeal: Yeah. And I really love that. I think that it’s something that is valuable. 

[00:44:02] Lorilee Rager: I’m so glad you said that because I’ve off and on practiced and felt, like you described, at first about it. Once I understood that it is, it’s like, oh, this is on my terms. This is actually like not a group sport. This is a one-on-one thing. And I fell in love with restorative yoga. And really just like you said, if I’m really stressed out and really not sleeping well, doing it from an app, if I can’t get to a place, doing a restorative yoga or something on YouTube makes the world of a difference how I, how I feel physically and mentally. 

Oh, that’s 

[00:44:40] Julie Satterfeal: so great.

[00:44:41] Lorilee Rager: So, gosh, that’s good. I’m glad you’re reminding me of that for sure. That is definitely tool box worthy.

[00:44:47] Julie Satterfeal: Great. Win. 

[00:44:50] Lorilee Rager: Yes. Well, good. Well, thank you so very much for being here today. I can’t thank you enough. I just really, really appreciate it. 

[00:44:57] Julie Satterfeal: You are welcome and thank you for having me Lorilee. It’s good to see you. 

[00:45:01] Lorilee Rager: Good to see you too, Julie. We will talk again, promise. 

[00:45:04] Julie Satterfeal: I’m looking forward to it.

[00:45:09] Lorilee Rager: Thank you again, Julie, for opening up such a safe and positive conversation about putting the joy back in eating. And thank you for tuning in to another episode of Ground and Gratitude. You can always find more information about the show, resources to help anyone struggling with the negative effects of diet culture at GroundAndGratitude.com. Join me next time for more honest conversations exploring what it means to truly live a life grounded in gratitude. 

Ground and Gratitude is produced by the amazing Kelly Drake and AOMcClain LLC.

Ep 6: Imposter Syndrome & Self Care with Britney Campbell

Britney Campbell is the Senior Vice President of Marketing & Public Relations at Legends Bank, where she has played an important role in launching Her Bank, a Legends brand that celebrates, honors, and supports women.


Britney Campbell is the Senior Vice President of Marketing & Public Relations at Legends Bank, where she has played an important role in launching Her Bank, a Legends brand that celebrates, honors, and supports women. Britney is a gifted communicator and community-builder, and she sits down with Lorilee to share her personal experiences with confronting imposter syndrome, building self-confidence, and practicing self care. The two also discuss why it’s so meaningful to meet women wherever they are when it comes to banking and financial conversations.


  • On Britney’s playlist: Beyonce, Kelly Clarkson, India Arie and more (check out Her Playlist)
  • Setting healthy boundaries personally and professionally
  • Understanding and navigating imposter syndrome
  • Practicing self-care (beyond bubble baths and champagne)
  • Why showing up for yourself can empower you to truly show up for others
  • One tool for our G&G toolbox

Mentioned in this episode:

Sponsored by Her-Bank.com

Ep 6 Transcript

[00:00:00] Lorilee Rager: Hey, I’m Lorilee Rager and this is Ground and Gratitude. It’s a podcast about designing the life you want, one that not only grows but also gives.

Before today’s episode I’d like to tell you about where I bank, Her Bank by Legends Bank. This episode of Ground and Gratitude is sponsored by them. Her Bank celebrates, honors, and supports women, especially entrepreneurs, by providing financial services and resources through a core team of experienced female bankers, which is so reassuring to me. Her Bank creates a bridge to help women overcome barriers when it comes to money conversations and decisions while providing women with a better banking experience. Check out Her-Bank.com to learn more. Her Bank is a brand of Legends Bank. Legends Bank is member FDIC equal housing lender.

On the show today I’m talking to my dear friend and collaborator Britney Campbell. Britney is the Senior Vice President of Marketing and Public Relations at Legends Bank. She has also played a big part in the recent launch of Her Bank, a banking brand inspired by women for women. Britney is someone who helped me a lot with boundaries, so we will be talking today about that as well as things like confronting imposter syndrome and building self-confidence.

Welcome, Britney. Thank you so much for joining me today on the Ground and Gratitude podcast.

[00:01:51] Britney Campbell: Thank you for having me. I’m so excited to be joining you today.

[00:01:56] Lorilee Rager: Well, it’s just absolutely a pleasure and honor to have you as a dear friend and, um, and I’ll preface also a client, but first a dear friend. So I really appreciate your time. All right. A little kickoff question, a little icebreaker, not to stress you out, but I do need to know. What song is on repeat on your playlist today?

[00:02:21] Britney Campbell: Uh, do I have to name just one?

[00:02:25] Lorilee Rager: No.

[00:02:26] Britney Campbell: Well, as you know, I love a playlist anyway. So I would say, um, my Her Bank playlist is probably the one that’s on repeat a lot. Um, just some really uplifting, motivating songs. So when I’m not listening to podcasts, um, I’ve got that on repeat.

[00:02:44] Lorilee Rager: So, um, what are some of those songs? I need to know. What’s the vibe of Her Bank, as you mentioned?

[00:02:53] Britney Campbell: Yeah, Beyonce, Kelly Clarkson, um, India Arie, a little Whitney Houston. Um, you know, it kinda hits several different genres and different decades and, um, you know, sort of those things that even, as, you know, helping to create this brand, you always need that little bit of inspiration to help you think through like what kind of, um, all of the creative pieces, and sometimes I need that music in the background. So I would say that that playlist was developed, uh, out of trying to get some inspiration for the brand and just a lot of those female empowerment songs that just really, really gets you going anytime. Change, mood changers.

Got you.

[00:03:38] Lorilee Rager: Ooh, nice, nice, nice phrase. Yeah, I like that very much. Well, that is a perfect playlist. We will definitely have to share that to everyone, and I love it very much. It’s everything from wanting to sing in the shower, when I’m getting ready for things, um, but it’s, it’s a great one. So that, it makes me think about going back and maybe letting our listeners know and understand a little bit about, that one of the things that, that I value the most about our friendships, uh, friendship is about the honest conversations that we have about life, about leadership, about being a woman and, um, everything that you do, which also tends a lot to be marketing related, but there’s just so much more that, that you are that really, um, I think is valuable that I wanted to make sure that our listeners helped them understand a little bit more about how much you’ve helped me through all the years, as well, as a small business owner and as a woman. And even with the Her Bank brand, being women, empowering women, and it’s just one of those things that I think you and I have accidentally lived together. And so that, that is something that I’ve wanted to make clear and let everyone know that part of the things and that I value with you, first topic that I wanted to talk about today was boundaries, because you have this power that you probably aren’t aware of that you have, that you just bring this really calm, trusted energy into a room, and I do think you’re extremely, um, very, very good at being a communicator and a, a builder of, of groups of strong people and like-minded. But I think my first encounter with you that I remember as the most positive is boundaries. So I wanted to know if you could just talk to us a little bit about your boundaries or boundaries in general.

[00:05:41] Britney Campbell: Yeah. Um, I don’t think, there’s a couple of things that I didn’t, people didn’t really talk about. So, I didn’t start really hearing people strongly talking about boundaries and the power of no, and, um, those types of things until I got in my thirties. But, um, I think in my late twenties, going into my thirties, I was so involved, I got very motivated at a very young age and my career and in community. And I was, anything people are asking me to do, um, I was getting involved and jumping in and it was, you know, um, I didn’t realize it until later that, you know, I was pulled in so many different directions and trying to be all things to all people all the time and it was exhausting. And, um, you know, kind of around that same time, there was just some things that didn’t feel like I was in alignment anymore and it just was just off, the passion just wasn’t there as much. And then, um, stepped back and started just saying, you know, really I’m replaceable, at the end of the day. People value you, but I’m really just, uh, you know, I, I serve a purpose that, you know, I was taking on much more and I care, I felt like I cared a lot more about certain things than other people did. And, and then when I started to say no, or, you know, I’m not able to give a hundred percent of myself to these things, therefore I feel like I’m taking up space that could be utilized for someone else, I just started, like, this weight just started coming off of me as far as, you know, when I was being intentional about the things that I was doing and the people I was putting myself around and starting to, you know, say no with, not to be negative, but really to give myself freedom and to respect and honor the people that were trying to ask for my time, to say, I’m not going to show up a hundred percent for you because I’m not there and I’m not going to have the time or the ability to commit. And I think that that just bleeds over into other things with relationships and you know, other things where people can start to really be energy sucks. And they don’t necessarily know they’re doing that or meaning to, but it’s like after a minute, you’re just kind of like, why do I feel so heavy and exhausted all the time? And it’s just because your, your tank is empty because you’re giving it to so many different things. And so, I think it was just sort of an organic thing that happened. And I think the more, and then that started attracting people that were either in the journey of trying to learn how to get away from people pleasing, um, and trying to figure out boundaries. You start to create that other community, like you said, of people having the same conversations and trying to figure it out. And, um, and I, and if I could say something like related to our relationship, I really do see how boundaries has translated into growth, um, you know, for personally and professionally. So I don’t necessarily have this very identifying thing. I’ve just, it just was one of those things that once I recognized how much better I felt for being more intentional and less everything to everybody and setting those boundaries, I was a lot happier.

[00:09:05] Lorilee Rager: Yeah, well, I, I totally could see that in, in the few meetings that we were on, in, or if we were on a board together, a committee or something and how we would end it kind of migrating together as we walked to our cars with heavy, deep breaths to getting to the next thing and the next thing and the next thing. And, and I kind of call that synchronicity, that we, we had those conversations and then we’d have it with someone else that we just gravitated to that also just look tired and just knew they weren’t giving a hundred percent. And I loved how you said you said no because you knew you weren’t going to give that a hundred percent. But by saying no, you were saying yes to yourself and, and from a leadership professional standpoint is where it started, and then I saw how it also bled into your personal life in all the good ways by setting those really, really healthy boundaries to protect your energy and to give a hundred percent to what you did say yes to.

[00:10:05] Britney Campbell: Mhm. And you’re, like, queen of boundaries. Yeah, you’re queen of boundaries now.

[00:10:11] Lorilee Rager: I am now, thanks to you and your help. Absolutely. I know you, you quoted some of your favorite people and I know you have tons of resources cause you do, you do really do the work. You talk the talk and walk the walk, do the work. But tell me if you have any of your favorite people that you’ve read or listened to, and anything you kind of learned from them that, that you hold onto that, maybe mantras or anything?

[00:10:37] Britney Campbell: Yeah. Um, I would say probably the first time I’d really heard about boundaries and the power of boundaries was with Brene Brown. I think it was probably a Super Soul Sunday or something with Oprah Winfrey. And I was like, who is this woman? I need to know more about her. That may have been in 2013 or 14. Um, but one of her quotes is, um, “daring to set boundaries is about having the courage to love ourselves, even when we risk disappointing others”. And I think that if I looked at one of my core fears of one of those triggering things, it’s disappointing other people. Um, and you know, I lived a lot trying, you know, a lot of my life wanting to make sure everybody’s happy. I’m in a role that everybody has to see you with a certain face and a certain, you know, you have to carry yourself a certain way no matter what’s going on in your life. I mean, you could really be at a rock bottom place and you got to show up and, you know, be this person and take, you know, put the mask on some days. And, um, you know, she was kind of that first person that was talking about it being okay to be not okay. And it’s surrounding yourself with the right people who can support you and understand that you can be vulnerable with. And I think those are, I think, in pockets, those little tools, like I know you talk a lot about like your toolkit, but, um, you know, those are one of those tools and it’s in layers. Like when you can learn to set boundaries and you can start, you know, that’s, uh, that is a direct thank you to yourself, a gift to yourself and other people. But it’s also one of those things that just help you grow in vulnerability and being able to have honest conversations. And I know you talk a lot about honesty and truth telling, and I think, you know, those, all of those little pieces become what empower us and when we’re able to take that and empower someone else to do their own work and their own growth, it’s just one of those things that just, um, gets to be contagious in such a good.

[00:12:44] Lorilee Rager: Yes. Yes. Well, I totally agree. And love Renee and Oprah, which you have always, always told me about the Super Soul Sundays, which I wasn’t aware of. And until we started to talk and it was, it was, they were also saying the same things that I wanted to say, and that you were, I guess, gave me permission to say in a safe space. And then once I know, as, as busy women professionals, to be that honest and vulnerable was a really big deal and a big step. But I think, I think one of the things that, um, I’d love for you to talk a little bit more is how you, how we can have an honest conversation and ask, even if it was just planning our weeks ahead, the way we’ve grown and our growth, instead of texting, “what are you doing” or “what are you doing Friday” or “what are your plans this weekend”.

[00:13:39] Britney Campbell: Yeah, so, you know, as, um, you know, self-assured as I am, a lot of the time, um, I will say there’s definitely triggering questions of, um, “how are you”, which sounds so simple. Like why would somebody be triggered by “how are you”, which is a whole other chapter that we are not going to dive into in this episode. And so, um, but I think like, “what are you doing”, and, you know, and it’s sort of like, I think it reminds you of experiences where, you know, if you want to protect yourself and your own energy, you know how honest do you have to be with a person? Like, you know, “what are you doing”, are you asking what am I doing right now at this very second? Do you really want to know? This is a surface level, you know, whatever, but it is just one of those things that I feel like those questions to me feel so invasive. I don’t necessarily want to answer that because I want to control, like, whatever my outcome needs to be, not what your expectations are for me to answer.

[00:14:48] Lorilee Rager: Yes. That is exactly what you taught me when it comes to boundaries. Yes.

[00:14:53] Britney Campbell: Uh, so it is, it is, um, if that was a very uncomfortable, especially with very close friends, and I have a feeling that many of them will listen to this episode, and, um, so I don’t want to give away too many secrets. But at the same time it’s, um, you should learn from what we’re saying as well. Um, but it is that thing of like, I just, I want the ability to create my own schedule a lot of times because my schedule isn’t always mine because of work and other obligations. And although I do want to be social, like sometimes I just say, “I’m sorry, I just really don’t want to do that. I don’t, I love you. I love you, but I really just, I love being with my dog and I’m really into this Netflix series right now, and I’m going to cook later and that’s really what I want to do”. And, you know, I hope that I have now the group of friends that get me enough, get you enough, that just go “okay, next time, maybe”.

[00:15:56] Lorilee Rager: Absolutely. Yes, absolutely. Because there was that level of anxiety and fear I lived in with the people pleasing when I would get those types of texts and I would be like in full panic mode. And in full confession, I would vomit everything I was doing for the next four days also, and say, “but how can I help you?” So you helped me turn that around to be like, “oh, I’m not sure, what do you, what do you need” or “what’s going on” or “let me think about that”. So that’s valuable that you taught me. Um, but yes, so boundaries, I know, is a little complicated and we could talk about forever and ever and ever. Um, but that, those are, those are the first areas that you helped me with. And then another one that definitely goes together, I think at the same time, which is a really scary one, is imposter syndrome. What are your thoughts on that? Or maybe explain in your own words, if you want, about imposter syndrome.

[00:16:59] Britney Campbell: Sure. Well, if I’m being completely honest, I didn’t ever hear that term until 2020. And, um, you know, for, um, those that don’t know anything about my life, um, I moved to Nashville in 2019 after, you know, 39 years of living in my hometown. But it was just like, I got settled for a few months and then bam, COVID. So, uh, it’s just been a very interesting timeline, um, to be in a new space and trying to create community and these con, this community of women in particular, that I started to find myself in and having conversations with. I just kept hearing this term and I even had to Google it because I was like, I don’t want to use it out of context and I want to be sure that I’m understanding what other people are saying, because it sounded like I could have. Um, but in essence to me, imposter syndrome is just what, um, internalized things that we feel when we don’t feel like we’re enough and that we are being an imposter in the role that we’re in, because for some reason we don’t feel like we deserve that and that everybody else is going to see us as a fraud. Um, And definitely once I understood what that meant, I was like, “Ooh, there’s a term for that”. I have felt that multiple times in my career, um, and in my life, and, um, I think it’s interesting that women, that’s really where I was hearing this in particular was with women. And so I do find it interesting that that is a very common feeling. And in some of the books that I’ve read in the last, like six to 12 months, uh, especially those that are given some autobiographical things, they talk about imposter syndrome. So, you know, your Oprah’s, you know, all of these people we talk about, I’m sure all kind of go through it in their own ways. So I just, I find that very interesting.

[00:18:59] Lorilee Rager: Yes, for sure. Well, the word fraud is a really scary word and it’s a really, um, negative and it, just saying it kind of hurts. And it’s, it’s trying to figure out, I think, am I even qualified to say what I’m saying, to do what I’m doing. And this other kind of trap that I think connects to imposter syndrome, uh, is this comparison, you see someone else doing what maybe you desire to do, and they’re, oh, my gosh, they’re doing it better, or their pictures look prettier or is, does that, does that ring a bell or resonate?

[00:19:41] Britney Campbell: That hits me at my core, very deeply. Um, I think all of those things and, and, you know, imposter syndrome, I think at its core is the, um, comparison that is so crippling that we tend to do to ourselves. Um, and again, it’s like, you know, I don’t have, you know, I’m not qualified or people aren’t going to think I’m qualified. Um, you know, for me being in a bank, there’s certain expectations and certain, um, you know, stereotypes about, I think what I’m expected to be or say or where my expertise lies, and I’m probably not that in a lot of ways. And that’s been very challenging because I don’t necessarily show up as a banker and, um, my conversations, you know, honestly, aren’t really related to finance and money. It’s really more, you know, mindset and, um, a lot of other things related to the under, the things underneath our behavior of all of those things that relate to financial decisions that we have to make. And, um, you know, so I think for me, especially with this brand and how quickly things have evolved, um, I think any time you level up or you set new goals for yourself too, I think we’re all faced with that question of, “am I prepared for the journey that I’m about to go on?” Um, and I know for you like taking, you know, turning 40 and then taking on grad school and being a mom and, you know, a lot of the things that you have really pushed boundaries, um, I, I would be curious to see if those, like, all of that kind of came up for you too, along the way.

[00:21:30] Lorilee Rager: Right. That’s exactly why these two topics in particular were really important because in this journey of being a mom and an entrepreneur and the passion of, of trying to become a professor and all of that, finances came up and people think, oh, she’s an entrepreneur, she’s running a successful business, she’s got all of her shit together, I bet she’s got spreadsheets out the wazoo and I don’t even have Excel in my computer, is the truth. So here I am, you talk about imposter syndrome. And then I meet you many years ago and I’m so admiring what you’ve built from just a lifestyle and, and confidence level. And then I want to also bank where you work, because I see how amazing, you know, the customer service is and how kind everyone is. And I’m like, “Ooh, these people might know that I don’t have Excel on my computer”, but I’ve never been that honest with a banker, ever. And yeah.

[00:22:37] Britney Campbell: It’s like getting naked.

[00:22:39] Lorilee Rager: Basically. It’s like going to the doctor.

[00:22:42] Britney Campbell: Well, you took your own advice because, this will always stick with me because, you know, we talked about, um, when we were going to talk about switching agencies and starting to work with Thrive, you’re like, “you know, it’s like, I tell my clients, you know, you don’t do your own dentists, you know, your dental work, you don’t do your own doctor’s appointments, you know, so you have to have all these people to make sure, you know, everything about you is functioning and working for the greater good”. And, um, but then you had to flip that same advice on yourself when it came to having us as a resource, um, for you and your business. And so, um, I think that’s sometimes very interesting because there’s a lot of things that we can say out to others, um, and it comes so easily to try to help others and fix other people and you’re like, deep down those are my issues too, that I, you know, sometimes don’t take my own advice.

[00:23:41] Lorilee Rager: Absolutely. And I do want you to make, uh, to explain the Her Bank, a little bit, just the onboarding welcoming process, because that’s the process we went through, I think from a friendship level before Her Bank became what she is today. But it wasn’t, I didn’t, I didn’t walk into a bank and get handed a brochure. That’s not how we started our banking relationship. And this is getting real and honest about, you know, no Excel on my computer, and, and, but I’d love for you to tell kind of how you got started.

[00:24:16] Britney Campbell: Yes. Um, I think for me was, you know, Her Bank was very much grounded in things that we are, you know, I already knew that we as Legends Bank did very well. Meaning that I always had partnered, I was not again, not the banker, so I’m not going to be the one advising you on all of the things related to your finances. So I partner very well with those who do. Um, I’m more of a connector, um, in that way, and so, you know, took that and, and actually put it into practice with people like yourself, who I was like, you know, she, her office is literally right here. She’s back to back meetings. She doesn’t really have time to come to the bank. If we could come to her or find a neutral spot, she’s got to eat at some point, so maybe we can take her to lunch or do something like that to really save her time, get her in, uh, you know, everybody being a lot more relaxed to be able to have a conversation just opens as doors so that when you do have to be more vulnerable and strip down the layers of the things that maybe don’t feel comfortable talking about, um, you know, was really me organically, um, you know, had been doing that for a while before the brand concept came about. Um, 2020 being the interesting year that it was, I think it drove a lot more conversations about money and finances, because I think everybody was on an even playing field. Like there was a lot of uncertainty, a lot of fear, um, especially with the women entrepreneurs, because let’s be honest, um in a lot of ways, women are not only running the business, they’re running the household too. There’s a lot of dynamics there. And so for women being protectors and nurturers, I started just hearing different levels of vulnerability in those conversations and being the kind of person that I am, I just really liked to connect and listen and take that in to say, you know, where can Legends be that bridge and support and, and fill in where I’m hearing these concerns where they’re not able to get ahold of their banker and they aren’t getting the questions, or they’re not spending the time talking to them and helping to really put them at ease as best as they can under the circumstances. And so, I mean, you know, literally for having these raw, honest conversations, my first conversation was with my girls, Casey and Amelia, who are now really the part of the core team of the brand and Sabrina trying to hit those different angles, like if we were to do something, I want to think about different sides of the banking experience. And then my next call was with you to say, “hey, not only are you going to be my branding, um, sounding board for this project, but you are also a female, an entrepreneur, a mother, you know, somebody that is making multiple layers of financial decisions. How does this speak to you? And like, how do you think we can do this?” So, you know, really the partnership and the listening and the trying to figure out how to make something very relevant and speak to women, not just directly about finances, but to really connect to them holistically and, you know, lifestyle and just different levels of that, to say, you know, we want to be this resource and then walking you through a slightly different process, something that’s non-traditional and also where you don’t have to come to the bank and we make you sort of the branch giving you the digital tools and the technology to, to do your banking from wherever you need to do that from, whether it’s the office or your home office, or just at home while you’re in your, pajamas, um, trying to, you know, multitask with the kids. So anyways, that’s really kind of the essence of it. Um, and here we are today.

[00:28:12] Lorilee Rager: Yeah, that’s right. Well, I know that, that, you know, speaking of you, Casey and Amelia and the team, which are all people I’ve worked with, it was one of those things that, what works so well is once, once I got over the imposter syndrome and the comparison of other business owners, and, and overcame my fears to be just honest, it was, oh, well, “I’ll show you how to open Excel”, shoulder to shoulder. And here’s how you fill out the financial statement. And here’s what this means. And I don’t know what HELOC is. And I mean, I was just so terrified to say those words out loud, but because I did have this incredible relationship with my bankers, um, that answer any and every question, that don’t make me feel stupid about any question, and everything, you know, as, as a entrepreneur, you don’t necessarily know everything about payroll and, and all that, or I could text one of them and say, “oh, hey, I’ve got a limit on my mobile deposit, but I do this specific thing on the first and the 15th and I need this amount on this day”. They’re like, “no problem, it’s fixed, it’s done”. And I never had to go in the bank. That was all during COVID. Um, so it was just, there was so much that, that I learned just from relationships and friendships and boundaries and imposter syndrome, and those are not words you normally use when you say banking.

[00:29:43] Britney Campbell: No, they’re not. But you know, look at it like, you know, Tommy, our CEO, is been in banking for 30 something years and he is so smart and he knows all of those banking acronyms, and he knows all of those things. He does, I mean, we’re going to start talking about search engine optimization, so you start throwing out your, your SEO, PPC, all of those things that you guys talk and you can spit it out and you know, it makes, you know, some of us very uncomfortable because, you know, um, that’s your world, not ours. And so it’s sort of that same thing, it’s just flipped a little bit. But, um, you know, we say, you know, for all of those customers that we’re working with, it’s like, you do what you do so well, we don’t know your world, so we don’t expect you to know ours, but we’re here to kind of work with each other to help us learn, um, so we can work better together.

[00:30:41] Lorilee Rager: Yeah. But shoulder to shoulder level, high level approach versus standing behind a clipboard or looking, you know, down is, is just, you really broke the mold on that old, um, thought process, I would say. So do you have any tips on imposter syndrome maybe to share with our listeners on how to overcome it?

[00:31:03] Britney Campbell: Well, I think it’s waves because I would say, you know, am I better about acknowledging it and I think that’s probably the first thing is just being aware of when those things are like coming up, um, and those feelings of I’m not enough and don’t feel qualified. It’s like, I, I think we both shared that we call those scaries. Like, these are the things I’m fearing. It doesn’t mean that they’re real. Um, you know, it’s like thinking jaws lives in the swimming pool. I’m very terrified of that as a child, but it didn’t actually, wasn’t actually something to be very scared about. Um, it is, um, I said think awareness, one. I think sometimes having conversations with trusted people to have like you and Casey, there’s just certain ones that y’all will be honest with me, but you also know how to pull me out of that, like, sort of, you know, having some encouraging things to say or asking the right kind of questions to talk through those things. I think talking and being honest about sometimes we’re spiraling in self doubt and, you know, going through the comparison things, it’s having those trusted people. Um, and then when those people aren’t around, sometimes we just have to do the work by ourselves. So, um, you are such a, um, great resource for talking about morning pages and why journaling is so important, um, for, you know, dumping those racing thoughts and that craziness. But I do think that if you can take time to really write down your feelings and process them on paper, I think there’s a lot of power in that as well, just to be able to walk yourself through it. Like, sometimes it’s like when you say it out loud you’re like, ugh, how it was going on in my head and the narrative that I saw myself, like when I actually say it out loud, like that’s actually, you know, not, not the truth, so.

[00:32:59] Lorilee Rager: Mm, yes. So good. I love that. That’s one of the things in my recovery, they always say too, is watch the stories you tell yourself. Because you can, you can, can really talk pretty ugly to yourself. So I think those are great, great tips for overcoming it. So, well, so the last thing I was really interested in that I also, again, admire very much about you, and, is how you approach self care. And I am not talking champagne and brunches and all that, but the act of it, which is, I know it’s a buzzword and all that, but, but you, you do seem to, in all that you do with your very, very high level, intense job and all of your communication skills and relationship building, all of your gifts, I know have to be exhausting. So I wanted to talk a little bit about you, you explain a little bit more about how you practice self-care. That, I think, would be helpful.

[00:34:03] Britney Campbell: Oh well I think, you know, it’s everything from having a sweet little Frenchie dog and just being able to spend time at home with her, which is just part of rest and relaxation and just spending some downtime alone without like kind of, you know, being able to turn the noise down. Um, and you know, doing a sauna or taking a nap, um, there’s just a lot of things for me that, you know, I think, like you say, go beyond the, you know, Sunday funday, brunch, champagne, you know, um, you know, having the glass of wine at night, which I know a lot of, um, women are maybe listening to like, yeah, that is my self care. And, you know, I think for, I think for each of us, that’ll, it can look very different, but for me, um, life, a lot of the times it’s very noisy between having to keep up with what’s happening on social media, keeping up with what’s happening socially out in the world and the things I feel like I need to be a part of and, um, and want to be a part of, and then, you know, the distractions at work and the things that you’re responsible for plus, you know, trying to manage your relationships with your friends, your coworkers, your family, um, all of that gets very, uh, noisy, especially when all of those things are all happening, uh, kind of around the same time. So for me, weekends are pretty sacred. I really try not to make a ton of plans on the weekends if I don’t have to so that I can, like I said before, you know, sometimes my schedule is not my own and, you know, to be able to, to make things for myself. And, um, I love a good podcast, you know, while I’m cleaning or cooking or doing some things where I can, you know. I think, you know, I think you get fueled a lot of ways. I think you can get fueled energetically by the people around you, I think you can get fueled from the food that you eat, and I think you can get fueled from the things that you’re listening to. And so for me, like a Super Soul Sunday, or Brene Brown or Eckhart Tolle or something like that, for me, it’s just, um, takes that weight off. And also I’m always learning in the process. Like I feel like those kind of podcasts that 30, 45 minutes, now I do love some true crime also and indulge in things that are not that heavy. I think good laughter and having friends like yourself that you can just totally let go with and laugh and share stories and, and find the funny parts of like the really shitty moments and, um, you know, it’s like, I think we jokingly said, like, I’m not real, i, I, I, I’m not really that funny, I just have childhood trauma.

[00:36:57] Lorilee Rager: Exactly, yes.

[00:36:59] Britney Campbell: Just being able to essentially turn the negatives into positives. But anyway, that was a very long answer about self care. But I think, like I said, it’s just, it depends on what you need at the time that you, you know, you need to take extra care of yourself, so.

I totally

[00:37:18] Lorilee Rager: agree with that. Humor is a great, great way. Laughing is, is a very, very healthy form to, to cope, I think as well. And it, it was one of those things, you know, even when I opened accounts with you all many, many years ago, you brought, my thank you gift was not a Crock-Pot, it was not a toolbox, or whatever. It was a basket full of my favorite coffee and soaking epsom salt, eucalyptus, you know, foot rubs. And I was like, I have never gotten all of these wonderful things from a banker before. And, you know, I thought I’m going to take a bath. I mean, I haven’t done that in years and really, it just was one of those wonderful ways. I think we also connected just to understand, oh, that’s what you do for self-care, which, which really appealed to me as life just got crazy and anxiety was all over the place, and so many tasks were all over the place and, and the ways that you practice rest and, and boundaries and all of that, um, I really, really admired.

[00:38:28] Britney Campbell: Well, you’re doing it. And you know, I’m really proud of you. Um, you know, I, I think I’m still very much a work in progress to try to, I think it’s just a lot of plates to have to spin, to think about how you need to show up for yourself and other people. But I do wholeheartedly believe that, you know, you have to show up for yourself first, before you can properly show up for others. And, uh, that concept didn’t really, you know, wasn’t in my thought process and how I felt about things several years ago, but I think, you know, as we get older and you go through different life experiences and, um, you know, maturity, you kind of start to see, you know, you value, your value system is a little bit different. And for me, like flipping that saying, you know, I do care about these people in my life and I care about my work and I care about all these things that are happening, but if I don’t take care of me, number one, then you know, I’m not able to show up and be the best person in all of the other ways that I’m supposed to show up.

[00:39:36] Lorilee Rager: Yes. Well, I think you’re a very strong example because look at all that you were doing during a pandemic, moving to Nashville, getting that sweet puppy, and being a VP of a bank. And you added to your plate, the Her Bank, when you didn’t even probably realize you had the hours in the day.

[00:39:57] Britney Campbell: Well, I think, you know this better, um, than just about anybody, that when sometimes fires up inside of you, like, I could feel it in my belly that I was ready for something different when, um, when I, before I moved to Nashville. There was just like, I want to do more, I just don’t want to do it here. And it’s nothing against the community that has been so good to me and, and, and I’ve really dedicated a lot of time, um, and energy to, I just was ready for something different and inside I knew that. Um, and I think that while that was really scary, stepping into fear and saying, you know, again, that scary, it’s like, is it a real fear or is it just me, you know, and working through that has opened up so many doors and so many other opportunities that I would have never had had I not taken that, those leaps of faith. And, um, same thing with the concept of Her Bank. It’s just, you know, those opportunities, and then you take that next step and you take that next step, and then all of a sudden you’re like, I never knew what it felt like to fulfill a purpose or to feel like I’m in alignment with my true self until all of this kind of sparked. And you just, the hours don’t matter so much. I’ve lost, um, um, you know, I lost a lot of sleep with a lot of thoughts with notebooks by the bed, um, a lot of weekends because I do try to spend, you know, more time alone, um, you know, was working on it. And I think when that happens, you, you, you dedicate the time, even though in any other realm, it would be so exhausting and, and just mind blowing, like how much, you know, that would weigh on someone. It was, it’s been the most exciting thing I’ve ever done in my life. Um, I wake up with a different energy every day. Um, and to be on that same journey with you going through these things and also seeing some of my other friends and things that are happening in their lives, taking bad circumstances, whether it be a divorce or, um, you know, moving or doing anything else, but really, you know, making the best and also starting new chapters of their lives, which can be so scary, um, all at the same time has just been, I don’t know, like my life isn’t exactly the way that I would want it to be at this very moment, but it’s pretty, pretty close.

[00:42:37] Lorilee Rager: Right, right. That’s, that’s, that’s beautiful. You know how they say, you know how to make God laugh? Tell him your plan.

[00:42:45] Britney Campbell: Exactly.

[00:42:46] Lorilee Rager: I think you did a beautiful job of really manifesting this and listening to your own, just passion for purpose. And you, you kept running into the same, like you said, at the beginning of this, um, conversations and the same women needing support. And you just, instead of ignoring it and turning away from it, you, you, you built something for it. So it’s pretty amazing to me, I think so. Um, is there anything else that you’d like to share with us, um, today about everything from all these fun, fun topics, boundaries, imposter syndrome, and self care.

[00:43:33] Britney Campbell: Oh, I don’t know. I think, you know, I think one thing that’s not said enough is that 40’s are pretty awesome. I think, you want to talk about imposter syndrome in comparison and, you know, really, I thought, you know, I would be, you know, it’s really hard sometimes, especially when you start seeing so many younger people and entrepreneurs and doing all of these things and they’re so like savvy on the TikTok and, and the Reels and I’m going, I just can’t, I don’t know. I need someone to sit with me and go through this. And I really think that collaboration over competition is probably the best motto that, you know, you can have. And I, from a very young age, loved partnering with people that were in a different generation than me, um, and really learning from that because they’re learning from me too. And, um, you know, just being, and now, like, I mean, I’m for, early forties, you know what I’m saying? So we’re not like really far into it, but I think what has happened in this, like kind of two year span at this age has just been like, I don’t know, I, there’s a lot of people saying like, well, if I could tell my former self, like all of these things, but I really liked where, I like where I’m at right at this time, I wouldn’t trade that for being, you know, 28. Maybe 35, but definitely not in my 20’s.

[00:45:05] Lorilee Rager: Same, same. I understand. And I do, I think you’ve mentioned different generations, I totally agree. I think from, from the elders, you know, I’m talking 50 year old to 70 or 80 year olds that what they can teach us and have taught us as much as we both, I know, love our grandparents and really value how they grew up and what they did, to also grounding ourselves around women our own age to sh also sharing that with the younger generations and what they can teach us. So, yeah. Yeah, that’s really, really valuable and important, for sure, for sure. Well, good. Well, just to wrap up today, I wanted to ask one last question and that would be what would you leave in our Ground and Gratitude toolbox for others that maybe would help them get grounded or anything that gives, helps give you gratitude or gets you through the hard spots?

[00:46:00] Britney Campbell: I would say grace. Cause you’re already covered on the gratitude thing. But I would say grace, just because, um, on the journey to just getting better, you’re just always going to run into circumstances that will absolutely crush you sometimes, whether it be a family situation or a relationship or work. Um, and just to constantly give yourself grace to just move forward and always stay on that journey to continue to learn and be more self-aware and, um, you know, have that gratitude for the things that are happening, even if they’re not working in your favor, there’s a reason, and give yourself grace in the process.

[00:46:44] Lorilee Rager: I love it, grace, absolutely. Thank you so much for being with me today. I really appreciate it Brit.

[00:46:52] Britney Campbell: Thank you Lorilee. I’m so proud of you. I can’t even stand it.

[00:46:58] Lorilee Rager: Thanks. Ditto.

Thank you again Britney Campbell for having such an honest conversation with me about balancing your life, work, and self care. Thank you for tuning into Ground and Gratitude. You can find previous episodes and more info about the show at GroundAndGratitude.com. Be sure and join me next time for some honest conversations exploring what it really means to truly live a life grounded in gratitude.

Ground and Gratitude is produced by the amazing Kelly Drake and AO McClain LLC.

Ep. 5: Resilience and Rural Life

Resilience and Rural Life with Dawayne Kirkman

Lorilee sits down with longtime friend Dawayne Kirkman to talk all about resilience, family, their shared rural upbringing, and much more. Dawayne is the Vice President of Student Affairs at Clark State College where he works with students to overcome challenges and find success. His role has given him insight into the incredible power of mentorship and why it’s so important to “pay it forward.”


  • On Dawayne’s playlist: “All I Want for Christmas is You” – Mariah Carey
  • Owning where you come from
  • Witnessing alcoholism as a child
  • The power of forgiveness
  • How Dawayne found peace and healing for himself
  • Bringing purpose and passion into work
  • The importance of mentorship
  • Positive affirmations and being the best version of yourself
  • One tool for our G&G toolbox


National Suicide Prevention Lifeline: 1-800-273-TALK(8255)

🎧 Listen wherever you get your podcasts 🎧 OR Linked below:

Apple Podcasts Episode Link »

Spotify Podcast Episode Link »

Sponsored by Her-Bank.com

Show Transcript

Episode 5 – Dawayne Kirkman

[00:00:00] Lorilee Rager: Hey, I am Lorilee Rager and this is Ground and Gratitude. It is a podcast about designing the life you want, one that not only grows but also gives. 

Before today’s episode, we have a message from our sponsor. The Ground and Gratitude podcast is sponsored by Her Bank. Her Bank by Legends Bank knows that women are busy being the CEOs of their lives and their time is valuable. So Her Bank was designed to offer a banking experience that provides flexibility and convenience with care. This is why I value them as a partner of the Ground and Gratitude podcast. So check out Her-Bank.com online to learn more. Her Bank is a brand of Legends Bank. Legends Bank is member FDIC equal housing lender.

My guest today is a lifelong friend of mine, Dawayne Kirkman. From the day I met him in middle school, he has always had an infectious smile and joy beaming from all around him. He is a resilient, kind, and brilliant person. I am so very happy to call him a friend. He’s the Vice President of Student Affairs at Clark State College. Today, we are going to be talking all about resilience and family, and so very much more. You are in for a treat.

Welcome Dawayne. 

[00:01:47] Dawayne Kirkman: I love it. I’m so excited to be here. And I love that Dolly Parton’s in the background. 

[00:01:51] Lorilee Rager: Yes. We have to have Dolly with us all the time. 

[00:01:55] Dawayne Kirkman: She’s with me. 

[00:01:56] Lorilee Rager: Good, good. She’s here with us. Yes. My Dolly painting in the background is… 

[00:02:01] Dawayne Kirkman: I love it. 

[00:02:02] Lorilee Rager: She wasn’t supposed to be really the front and center until the pandemic hit, and now everyone knows she’s up here with me in my writing studio and she just, she just joins in. 

[00:02:14] Dawayne Kirkman: She’s a hero. She really is a hero of mine. 

[00:02:16] Lorilee Rager: Yes, mine too, mine too. 

[00:02:17] Dawayne Kirkman: My children get her books every month. Well, now it’s just Lilly. 

[00:02:21] Lorilee Rager: Oh, Imagination Library. 

[00:02:21] Dawayne Kirkman: Yeah. And she’s just someone that is just so creative and she’s cared about her community. Just so talented. I love her. 

[00:02:29] Lorilee Rager: Her songs and her truth, um, just really, really, really speak to me. I resonate with it. Her, her upbringing in the rural, you know, areas, we get it. We know this, we know this. 

[00:02:40] Dawayne Kirkman: I do get it. 

[00:02:41] Lorilee Rager: So well, that’s so funny because I was going to ask you my kickoff question, speaking of Dolly Parton and music, what song is on repeat on your playlist today?

[00:02:54] Dawayne Kirkman: [Laughter]. Okay. So Lorilee, this is funny. I am not, like, I don’t have any of the technology. I am so old. I do like a good CD. People would laugh at me, 

[00:03:05] Lorilee Rager: That’s okay, we’re not judging. 

[00:03:06] Dawayne Kirkman: You know. You’re right. So, I’m not going to be ashamed to admit this, that Mariah Carey’s “All I Want for Christmas” might be in rotation because it’s November the third and, uh, you know, it’s time, it’s time for the holidays. So, uh, 

[00:03:20] Lorilee Rager: I love that. Mariah Carey speaks to me too, even, even that you, speaking of middle school days and all of that. Mariah Carey’s where it’s at. 

[00:03:29] Dawayne Kirkman: Well, I love Christmas and I love the holidays I think just because it’s a simpler time. It’s family. It’s um, there’s also spiritual things that it means to me. And I’ve never been a big Halloween person. Like my kids love it, my wife loves it. I’m like, is it November 1st yet? Because I’m ready for Christmas and Thanksgiving and then Christmas Eve. So, uh, yeah, so I would, I’m, I’m half ashamed that it’s on my rotation, but then the other half of me, I’m not ashamed at all. 

[00:03:56] Lorilee Rager: If you could ask anybody at my work like November 1 is when we change the music on hold. It’s, it’s Hard Candy, Christmas, speaking of Dolly, like Mariah Carey’s on there. Yes. 

[00:04:07] Dawayne Kirkman: Come on. 

[00:04:07] Lorilee Rager: I’m in it. Cause I also, Halloween, I said this to somebody the other day, Halloween to me, maybe because I did grow up in such a rural area, my granny was the next door neighbor two miles down the road, and we 

[00:04:21] Dawayne Kirkman: You had to drive in the car and jump out. 

[00:04:23] Lorilee Rager: Yeah, and we were dressed as a hobo cause we had no money and it was just a plaid shirt of my dad’s, lipstick around my mouth. 

[00:04:29] Dawayne Kirkman: Plastic mask, not the outfit. Yeah. 

[00:04:31] Lorilee Rager: Yeah. And then you just go knock on the door of your granny, where she gave me some old fruit. 

[00:04:36] Dawayne Kirkman: Yes. Fruit and the popcorn balls. 

[00:04:38] Lorilee Rager: Popcorn balls, homemade. 

[00:04:39] Dawayne Kirkman: That I didn’t like. 

[00:04:40] Lorilee Rager: Nope. Stuck to your teeth. 

[00:04:42] Dawayne Kirkman: Yeah, I was like, no. 

[00:04:42] Lorilee Rager: Stale popcorn. Why does anybody want to do Halloween if this is what it’s about? 

[00:04:45] Dawayne Kirkman: Yeah. It’s such a big deal to my kids, but I’m like, ugh whatever. 

[00:04:49] Lorilee Rager: Jump me right into Christmas. Yeah, I agree. 

[00:04:51] Dawayne Kirkman: Thank you. 

[00:04:52] Lorilee Rager: Okay. Thank you. Good intro. Good song. Good choice. Um, all right, well, let’s dive into, um, now that I’m a teacher and a designer, I teach graphic design, and one of my first assignments is called the origin story. And I want the students to try to tell me in a, in a writing piece, their origin story and design some piece of art to go with it, any way that they want whatsoever. And it’s one of the things that I think is important about where you come from, your roots, um, your history, your sense of place and those types of things, which are also things I studied in my thesis. Um, so I wanted to begin asking you a little bit about your origin story, your family story, kind of where your roots began, um, around, you know all of that. 

[00:05:45] Dawayne Kirkman: Absolutely. 

[00:05:46] Lorilee Rager: Dive right in. 

[00:05:46] Dawayne Kirkman: Yeah. So, absolutely. So I grew up in a place that you might be familiar with in Todd County, Kentucky. I was actually born in Russellville and my kids get really torn up about it. We drive by it, I’m a bicentennial baby, 1976. And I’m like, that’s Russellville Hospital, but it’s like a now used cars place. It’s like this big brick building, and they’re like, “you were not born there” and I’m like, ” I really was born there”. But, uh, so I was born in Russellville and grew up in Todd County. Um, lived there from, from birth, through, uh, graduating from high school in 1994. So, you know, I’m proud to be a Todd County Central High School graduate. And, um, you know, just growing up in a small town there’s benefits to it, and there’s also, there’s also challenges with a small town and, um, things of that nature. But, uh, I’ll always be proud that Kentucky is my old Kentucky home. And, um, 

[00:06:39] Lorilee Rager: Yeah, yeah. As I’ve grown and traveled and, and gotten an extra degree, I began to almost be afraid to say I was from Kentucky or from the south, or, a Southern, uh, a Southern person.

[00:06:56] Dawayne Kirkman: Right. 

[00:06:56] Lorilee Rager: Um, because of the stereotypes or because of some of the slang of being labeled a redneck or just not, not intelligent because I don’t pronounce things the right way or the same way. Um, and being an art major, I’m also just a really bad speller and a bad 

[00:07:16] Dawayne Kirkman: Yeah, you’re creative. 

[00:07:18] Lorilee Rager: Yeah. So that sort of stuff, um, always, always is hard. But I agree that where we come from is, I think it’s important to own and I think it’s important to, to tell the story, because it can relate to a larger global view of, of something you’ve been through or something you’ve lived through or the way you were raised or your parents. Um, so I, I wanted to talk to you a little bit about if you’re, if you’re open to it, um, telling me your story about, you know, your father and, and maybe forgiveness and talk a little bit about that, if you don’t mind.

[00:07:56] Dawayne Kirkman: Yeah, absolutely. Um, it’s funny cause I went out right before this started and I went and got the marble from my car because I keep it in there just to remind myself. And, you know, I think, you know the story, but I’ll definitely be honored to share it because actually yesterday was my dad’s birthday. You know, um, he would have been 69 and, um, but, uh, so I just thought, you know, also yesterday was Dia de los Muertos, just trying to remember those that have passed on. And it was just interesting, I was like, oh, it’s neat, I’m talking to Lorilee today, uh, about my dad, you know, because I feel very much that it’s just trusting the universe and timing. So, you know, as you know, I grew up in Todd County, Kentucky, Elkton, actually it was between Elkton and Allegory. And, um, my dad was consistently in trouble with the law. You know, he got DUIs frequently and ended up losing his license. And, um, which also means you usually can’t go to work because you don’t have a car. He got PUIs, public intoxication, and he was in and out of the county jail frequently. And that was, just to be honest, it was just normal. It was just, um, it wasn’t, that’s just what we knew. 

And, um, well that summer he was sent to, um, Western State Hospital for the summer, and I don’t know if it was four weeks, six weeks, eight weeks. I, you know, I was in third or fourth grade at the time, and, um, I don’t remember. But it was not, um, it was, it was required. It was definitely not of his choosing. And, uh, but, uh, I remember even then it was really complicated because Western State had a lot of stigmas to me as a young child, because people that had lots of mental illness, that’s where they went, to Western State, uh, to get better. So I’m like, why is my dad going to Western State? Because we had been there before to see different people. And not that anything’s wrong with it, but it was just like trying to contextualize, okay, my dad’s going to this place with, um, for being required to detox for so many days, um, at Western State. And we would drive by Western State every time we went to town, like to go eat or anything, it was, you know, we knew it. 

[00:10:07] Lorilee Rager: And as a child you were kind of told, oh, that’s where crazy people go. 

[00:10:11] Dawayne Kirkman: That’s exactly what it was. Right. So it was scary. Uh, so he would, um, he was sent there for the whole summer. And, uh, I was in third or fourth grade and my mother, uh, Judy Goodknight now, uh, she’s one of my heroes, like just the best mother in the world. And my sister, Tina, uh, Young is, I always say, my first best friend. We were very close. We were very close tricycle. Uh, cause it was usually, usually just us three. And, um, so we would go to visit, we’d go to church on Sunday and our church was not too far from Western State and we would go to Western State after church and we’d go see my dad. And it was really uncomfortable because I did not deal with him a lot as a sober person. I knew how to deal with him, getting, drinking, getting drunk, being really drunk and all those things, but to, um, to deal with my dad in a completely sober, um, situation, I had never, I don’t recall how to best navigate that prior to that time. So it was very uncomfortable. So you’re at Western State. You’re, you’re dealing with a parent that don’t, that you don’t really know how to communicate with in a sober situation. And, um, you’re, you’re, you’re young and you don’t really understand what this all means. As a 45 year old, there’s uh, AA, there’s different programs, there’s AlAnon for families that have, uh, um, alcoholics in the family. I don’t recall if there was a program back then, if there were, I didn’t know about them. So, we would always go see him. And like the first initial Sunday was really uncomfortable and, you know, but he pulled out a marble. And he was like, you know, we’re like, okay, this is really pretty marble. Why do you have a cat eye marble in your pocket? He’s like, well, if I, if I never drink again, I can keep it in my pocket. It represents sobriety. I know I didn’t know what that word meant as a third grader, but I do now. If he never drank again, he got to keep it in his pocket. And we were really excited about that.

So yeah, this was like a new, a new beginning, uh, for some sense of normalcy that we had wanted, but just can never get our hands around. And so every Sunday we would go back. And we, the first thing we would do, we’d be like, can we see your marble? And he’d pull it out and we were so excited about it. And, uh, it was just, uh, it felt like a new day, a new season for him. He was even excited about it, like showing us, I think, establishing the relationship with my sister and myself. My sister was, um, she’s three years older than me, so she got to see my dad a little bit before he was getting too bad down this road of, uh, alcoholism. And so she remembers him working the train, she remembers him, uh, in a, in a way that I don’t have the same lens because he wasn’t working when I started, remember having memories, he was all already in a condition that was really tough. So, um, he finally graduated from the program and we were so proud of him. He got to keep his marble. And we went to the fanciest restaurant in town to eat, it was called Bonanza, I think eventually called Ponderosa, which I’m not sure if that even exists anymore. 

[00:13:19] Lorilee Rager: I don’t think so.

[00:13:21] Dawayne Kirkman: Yeah. But you know, Bonanza was a big deal.

[00:13:23] Lorilee Rager: It was a big deal. 

[00:13:24] Dawayne Kirkman: Yeah, it was a big deal. So we were so excited. And then after we went there, we went to look at new trailers, also a big deal because we had only lived in a really, a much older trailer. And we were excited because this felt like, okay, we hit the lottery. We were like at Bonanza and we were going to look at new trailers. We had, it was exciting. And our dad was better. And, uh, so as we’re going home, you know, he wanted to go see his brother and, you know, my sister, myself and my mom automatically knew that was a bad idea. We’re like, let’s just go home and let’s just enjoy the Kirkman party of four. He wanted to go see his brother and, uh, we knew what that would come with and it was just, um, a bit of a mess. We got there and I just I’ll charge it to ignorance, to be honest, Lorilee, I think if they knew then maybe what they know now of how serious it was. Like they were so excited to see him back. He was the fun Stanley. As soon as they saw him, they were like, Stanley, welcome back. You know, F the man. Here’s a beer. So as soon as they saw him, it was like throwing a beer to him. He was like, so happy to see him. And without instinct, it was just really crazy, he cracked the first beer of the first second he saw. No matter what he just went through, weeks and weeks of not drinking and having a program and really just, um, quickly started drinking. Um, and then my dad, as he would drink beer, was one person, but as he drank liquor became a different person, uh, much, um, much more intense, much meaner and, uh, rowdy to be honest, you know. So it was, as the night was progressing, or evening was progressing, my mom was devastated. We were both devastated. The rest of the family was, they were not as devastated, or friends, because it was just their friend. It wasn’t their husband, it wasn’t their dad, um, it was just the fun, uh, Stanley. 

I remember him pulling into his pocket, his marble and, uh, you know, making fun of it, like GD this marble, F this marble. It was a way of like maybe making less value of it, because I know he was disappointed that he was drinking, you know. So, making fun of it, using humor to hide his true feelings, you know? So he takes the marble and he literally throws it across the road into the field right across the street, and it was like a cornfield or something, some kind of field in Todd County. And, uh, we were very sad. That was so sad. And I know he was sad about that. And, uh, to even have like, understanding, I really do have to throw this away. And he threw it across the street. And, uh, my mother not wanting to keep us in a situation that we didn’t need to be in, took us home, myself and my sister. And then the next day, one of the more vivid memories of my young life, um, was pulling up to get my dad, because again, he doesn’t have a car, he’s not able to drive, uh, we had to pick him up. Um, he was out in that field by himself. All of his friends, all the family were either asleep, gone, or, so he was out there in a very hungover condition. Uh, and, uh, I’ve never been drunk but I can’t, I can’t imagine how that feels, like half in half out, but he was not drunk and he was not sober. But he was out there in this field, sort of stumbling through this big field of corn and trying to find this marble. And I just remember being young. I’m like, there’s no way, dad, you’re going to find that marble in this field. And, but I also think, I knew like literally too, like you, you’re at a crossroads in your life. I just, I think even as a young child, I was like, you’re not going to get this marble back. Even though we really want you to get it back. And I think that at that moment, I always tell people, um, that I found that marble that day for my dad and, uh, you know, figuratively I put it in my heart and that’s why it’s always meant something to me. I just realized that day, I was like, I don’t think my dad can carry this. I think I will have to carry this for my dad. 

And, um, I always, um, the last time I saw him, from that point on my dad’s life got worse and worse. It was continual stints in the county jail. He would come up to Dayton, Ohio, where I live now, and to be honest, probably was in a lot of homeless situations, uh, and was just always in a little bit of a chaos, unfortunately. And I remember the last time I saw him alive, I was a sophomore in college and it was Christmas Eve. And my sister and myself went to go see him. It was Christmas Eve. It was behind that, that clear glass and you know, this is Christmas. So, you know, it’s sad to see your dad in a situation that you don’t, you don’t need to be in on Christmas. And that was the last time I saw him alive. And then that summer, we had talked a couple of times cause he’d have to call collect, calling from the county jail. And, uh, I went to college as a junior, and then on a Sunday, September the 15th, I got a call from the Dean of Students that I needed to call home, that there had been, uh, uh, my dad had actually, um, took his own life. It was self-inflicted. And, um, that was, that was really hard to process because I felt, as a 20 year old, uh, there was just other things at that point, another marble to carry. Like I will always… so I just wanted to make, I always felt like I picked up that marble to make my family, the Kirkman family proud. I wanted to, I was the first male in my family to graduate from high school, let alone college. I was, um, to have a consistent job to not drink or– not that I’m a better person than my dad.

I always want to really clarify that I’m not a better person than my dad, but I always felt that marble, I wanted to not drink or drink beer or get drunk because I wanted to say that we did carry it. We, we finished the race and, um, I always think about, after he passed away, I was like, when I get to our heaven and I do, that’s a big part of my life, my own spiritual journey is that when I do get to heaven, when I see my dad, I always think about finding him, hugging his neck and say we made it and hand him his marble back because I’m his son. And, you know, I think as a 45 year old, um, you talked about forgiveness. I’m much more forgiving and understanding than I was as a young child and as a 20 year old, you know, I don’t think I knew the extent of that disease as a younger person. There was a lot of shame because we grew up in a small town because I was Stanley Kirkman’s son. And that, that was really tough. It was embarrassing. You know, my dad would be uptown drunk or go to Tina’s graduation drunk and a lot of public humiliation. So not that, that was unfair of me, but I still didn’t understand the root of the problem, of, whatever he was still trying to, to cover– I still to this day, don’t know what that was. But I understand that alcoholism was– is, is a real disease. And as a 45 year old, I, as a parent of three, uh, who gets things wrong on a daily basis, really realized the power of forgiveness. And, uh, yeah, so that’s um, I do carry that marble for my dad. And I’m proud to do it. I think it’s actually healed a relationship with him and that I’m actually, it’s not a burden. It’s an honor. 

[00:20:45] Lorilee Rager: Yeah. 

[00:20:46] Dawayne Kirkman: It’s an honor. 

[00:20:47] Lorilee Rager: It’s a beautiful symbol. And I do, I, uh, I don’t see a marble if walking through Miss Lucille’s thrift store and see them and think, I don’t think of you and your dad and that story.

[00:20:58] Dawayne Kirkman: Yeah. 

[00:20:59] Lorilee Rager: And how are… how we did, we grew up in a really small town in a dry county. And I mean, I think my graduating class was like 90 people or 91 

[00:21:09] Dawayne Kirkman: Yeah,

[00:21:09] Lorilee Rager: And everyone… 

[00:21:10] Dawayne Kirkman: 104.

[00:21:11] Lorilee Rager: Yeah, everyone knew everyone. And, um, but no one talked about it. We live, we had such loving educators. We had such incredible teachers growing up, I think in our school system who coddled us and cared for us and hugged us and knew exactly what we were going home to or dealing with.

[00:21:31] Dawayne Kirkman: Well, it’s interesting that you say that. There’s a teacher, one of my most beloved teachers at Todd Central, that I will leave a name for this podcast, they’re a private person. Um, you could probably guess who I’m talking about, but, um, she has similar situation with her, her, her father. And I remember in my senior class that I wrote about this and she actually checked with some other teachers because I think she didn’t know if I was telling the truth, uh, of some things that we were going through at home. And not that I’m, not that she thought I was a liar, but just the magnitude of it. And I think the story also resonated with her because I think she had lived in a very similar, um, existence with her father, really being an alcoholic in a small town and how difficult that is.

I still today remember, um, driving, Becky Weathers would drive me to school or Daniel [?]. And, uh, I remember there was a guy walking down in this ditch and it was clear from a mile away that he was like without a house in, in a drunken condition. And, maybe we were being insensitive about it. And then as we drove by, I said, “oh, that’s my dad.” 

And you know that that’s so hard, 

[00:22:44] Lorilee Rager: Yeah.

[00:22:44] Dawayne Kirkman: You know? Yeah. And I think I just was so used to that, that I had for a long time, there was a lot of resentment. And then as I’ve got older, I just remember being proud. I’m like, you’re going to have to find a place to forgive your dad. Cause you can’t put every problem that you have in your life on a single person. It’s a good excuse, but it’s just, you can’t do that. 

[00:23:07] Lorilee Rager: So true. It’s so true. 

[00:23:08] Dawayne Kirkman: And you know, I’ve often said that you can’t give grace to someone if you’ve never needed it. And I have needed grace a million times. And I’ve had to find a place that like, I have really forgiven my dad. And that was probably, I would say when I moved to Ohio, you know, there’s a church I go to up here and I just remember one Sunday, just being completely freed from the pain of that. And just like letting him be at peace and really trying to come to a place of trying to best understand his life and actually being a legacy for him because I’m his son. And I think I really take a lot of pride in that now, you know, my first name is Stanley. A lot of people don’t know that, I’m Stanley Dawayne Kirkman. And, uh, I used to be really tore up about it, but now, actually this new job, my email is like “Kirkman S,” “Kirkmans” and it’s like Stanley. I’m like, yeah. Yeah, that’s my name. And it doesn’t tear, it doesn’t tear me up anymore. I’m actually pro– I’m actually proud of it. 

[00:24:02] Lorilee Rager: Yeah. Well, uh, I would be too. You should be. Um, absolutely. I think about when you talk about forgiveness and why… I think why we do it and in my upbringing, in, in the church and things that it’s always preached to you a lot, but it’s also, how do you get there? And how do you, how do you… and why? Um, and I think what I’ve learned in my grad school study is like the name of this podcast being Ground and Gratitude is I wondered why do I go to forgiveness and gratitude so quickly in a troubled time? And,

[00:24:38] Dawayne Kirkman: Yeah. 

[00:24:39] Lorilee Rager: And, and I understood about myself is you said to give him peace, but it also gave you some peace. Um, and so I go to either, I want to forgive them and I want, and I want to be thankful for what I have or thankful that it’s better or not as bad as it used to be. Because that gives me peace. My inner, I call it my inner bobber, like you’re fishing and I need to get to my own peace quickly too. And forgiveness is a part of that. 

[00:25:08] Dawayne Kirkman: It is, I think about it with Johanna and Daisy, Lucas, and Lily. There’s things that I get really right. And there’s things I’m like, oh I really… I should reset that. And I really hope that my kids are able to give the same amount of grace that, um, I think any kids… No parent gets it completely right.

And no kids get it completely. Right? Yeah. You know, we– you know, I wrote something down and it said, uh, “Love cures. It cures those who give it. And it cures those who receive it.” There’s a lot in that. And, um, I don’t know. I’m just, I’m really excited to be on the other side of it. And I really do. I really do try to, like, as I talk to students at the colleges that I’ve worked at, it’s like sometimes as a child, you grow up too soon and it, it might be your family has debt issues or um, these issues that we’re talking about with my dad, your, your parent might be an alcoholic or things of that nature, and you might have to carry some of them. That’s not fair, but it’s just, it’s your lot in life. And, but still how to find peace with you. Like you said, your parents, your significant other partner and uh, still heal. 

[00:26:15] Lorilee Rager: Yeah. Well, 

[00:26:16] Dawayne Kirkman: Like you said, the peace for yourself. 

[00:26:18] Lorilee Rager: Yes. Um, speaking about when you said that your students, I wanted to also ask you about, through, through your personal journey and now in your professional life, your resilience and persistence are just two big glowing words I see from you. And tell me a little bit about why persistence is important to you and explain a little bit about your PhD, because I think the work you’ve done and the, and the work on first-generation and underrepresented students is so powerful too. 

[00:26:50] Dawayne Kirkman: You know, um, so when I, I’m actually, as soon as this is over, I’m going to go talk to a group of students. And I always talk to them about some things. Uh, and, but it’s just literally some things that are, uh, that I’ll share with them. Like we grew up, I don’t like the word “poor” cause Dolly says, “one is only poor if they choose to be,” but we did have a low socioeconomic status. You know, my mom was, uh, the, uh, working, the working poor, she worked at a sewing factory and, um, she worked so hard, but it wasn’t much money. So we were, I hate using the word, but we were poor. Um, I remember being in special reading in first grade and being sent behind the school. So there’s different little pods and, you know, going into special reading. And I remember talking to Ms. Gertrude Lucas. She was like 72 at the time. And, uh, I was like, “Ms. Lucas, I can read.” And she’s like, “You can honey,” but she’s like, “You’re poor.” And I think it was probably for at-risk students. At risk of failing. When she said that I was freed, I was like, oh, that’s fine. I know I’m poor. But it was like, I felt like challenged that someone said I couldn’t read. Maybe I wasn’t as good a reader as I think. You know, single parent family, back in third and fourth grade, there was like one other student in the class that was, that had a family that was divorced or divorcing. That was much less common, 

[00:28:10] Lorilee Rager: Absolutely, yeah. 

[00:28:12] Dawayne Kirkman: You know, no gifted and talented, no AP classes, even though I wanted them. Um, but I had cheerleaders in at the college, the one teacher that I was referring to earlier, I still think about how she literally changed my life. And um someone, I was in a presentation one day, Lorilee, and they said, you’re not at risk, you’re asterisk, and that’s a star. And not that I’m a star, but I always want people to– sometimes you can be labeled something that might stick, even though it doesn’t deserve to stick. And how can you get rid of labels and that no longer… no, you no longer own them? And, uh, I was talking about being, uh, perseverance and resilience. Um, I think if I do have a, a skill set, I think I’ve been able to be gritty. You know, I always talk about the, the, the, the turtle and the hare, the rabbit, you know, I’m not the fastest, the smartest, the whatever, whatever, but I will stay in the race and I’ll finish the race. 

[00:29:12] Lorilee Rager: That’s right.

[00:29:13] Dawayne Kirkman: I won’t take a nap by the tree, you know, like I, and I’m gritty, but I tell students that like, just stay in the race, just keep going. You know, you mentioned, um, you know, so after I graduated from Todd Central, I went to Berea College. I was really proud of that. It was the only school that I applied to because it was uh, for poor Appalachian youth. It was the first school in the South to accept women and, uh, students of color. And Mildred Beller in my honors biology class, she looked at me my freshman year, me and Holly [?] which is gonna make me cry. And she said, uh, “You’re going to Berea College when you graduate.” And I looked at her, I said, “Yes. Ma’am.” [Laughter] 

[00:29:50] Lorilee Rager: You know, you know, she’s my Aunt? Aunt Mildred.

[00:29:53] Dawayne Kirkman: I did not know that.

[00:29:54] Lorilee Rager: I just hugged her on Sunday after I took Aunt Lorenetta to church. 

[00:29:57] Dawayne Kirkman: Oh my God. I did not know that, she literally, she, I was in honors, uh, biology, which I was horrible at, but she told me about this college in Kentucky that if you go there, you work 10 hours, 15 hours a week and you leave, oh, no money for college. I was like, well, that sounds like I’m either going to be at Hopkinsville Community College or Berea. And I applied, I w– I remember applying to Berea and I got in and they said the very first week of class, they said, look to your left, look to your right, two of you won’t be here at graduation. And I remember thinking, “Oh, these, these two pitiful people. They’re not going to be at graduation.” [Laughter] Because I knew that I wanted to be a teacher. You know, I wanted to be, I, even as a kindergartner, I wanted to, I always knew I wanted to be a high school teacher, which I still like, how did you not do that? I got stuck in higher ed, which I’ve been very blessed by, but, uh, so I went to Berea and then I came up here to Dayton, Ohio. My mom actually, so, back in, when my mom grew up like from Todd County, Kentucky to Dayton, Ohio was just a migration pattern of go to Dayton, Ohio to work at GE Frigidaire come back down, things of that nature.

So there was a real, my mom actually graduated from Belmont High School in Dayton, Ohio, and she had went to a church here in Fairborn, and I remember I spent one semester in North Carolina for grad school, but I remember I was like, let me go check that out. I was, there were some things I was dealing with wanting to have a home church and uh, Wright State University, and I remember moving up to Ohio in 1999, early 1999. And just finding the church that my mom went to growing up in the, in the town that she had graduated from high school, even though she spent a lot of her time in Kentucky, too, but it was that migration pattern. Um, and really finding a special home here and, uh, graduated from Wright State and then, um, getting my Master’s there.

And then, uh, working at Sinclair College for a long time. And while I was there, they were like, you know, they had uh, some, what would you call that? Like some just, uh, benefits to go get your PhD. And, uh, so I went to the University of Dayton and that was, uh, I was uh, someone told me that PhD stood for “perseverance hath done it,” because that’s what it really is. [Laughter] It’s just about persevering. It’s uh, it’s the turtle. It’s about finishing the race. After finishing the classes and, um, comprehensive exams. I remember just stopping to be honest, I was like, I’m not doing a dissertation. I don’t have the capacity, uh, time, things of that nature. And we also had Daisy, Luke and Lily, and, uh, they were a convenient excuse and they were real, but, uh, I stopped out for like three or three plus years. I would, I remember, uh, she taught me at UD her name was Dr. DeLuca and she’s probably the meanest teacher I’ve ever had, [laughter] and she was probably five foot tall. And she had called me. I’m not joking, just as mean as she could be. She called me on the phone and she was like, are you ever going to finish this thing? 

[00:33:04] Lorilee Rager: Oh dang. 

[00:33:05] Dawayne Kirkman: Yeah. She’s like, “I got a bootcamp, you’re going to be in it and we’re going to get this thing done.” And I was like, “Yes, Ma’am.” [Laughter] So I actually started, and it took about two years, but, uh, you had asked about it and I was really proud of looking at the graduation rates of African-American males at a community college of just how, what we’re getting, right, what we’re needing to improve and how we can best support our students of color, that they lead to persist well and, and graduate at a higher numbers. And, uh, that was really important for me. Uh, I think that I understood it, not so much, uh, as an African-American male, but growing up, being someone who was a first generation college student. I understood some of the challenges of being underrepresented. Some challenges, definitely not all, but, uh, it was important for me to do that. And I was really proud to work with 15 African-American males at up a mid size, uh, community college in the state of Ohio. And those students were wonderful and I was really proud to, to do that study, um, with those young men and, uh, also proud to be done with that. Uh, [laughter]

[00:34:15] Lorilee Rager: I understand that. too, I do, I do. Well, it’s just really one of those things that I think is important in, you know, as Dolly Parton says, finding out who you are and doing it on purpose, you, you took this purpose all the way, to me, from your father and the marble, into your passion for life and your career and the way you help other first-generation, underrepresented students. And, and I know now in today’s world, it’s even more important than ever. It feels like this, this work that you’ve done, um, with, with everything that’s, that’s changed. So… 

[00:34:53] Dawayne Kirkman: Well, I’m really proud to work at a community college because, you know, I am a community college student, you know, I remember being in a trio program in high school, they were from Hopkinsville Community college. It was an educational talent search. Cause I was first-generation and I can’t definitely, “I can not remember her name, but I remember how she made me feel.” Dr. Maya Angelou said that, but, uh, she cared about me. She helped me with the financial aid application, which was very overwhelming because that was intimidating because my mother didn’t go to college and back then it was on paper, and if you messed up, you had to wait three to six weeks. So that, uh, educational talent search program really changed my life. And, um, I got to go to Florida A&M for the summer, uh, based on, uh, with Ritchie Hall. And, um, yeah, I’d never been on a plane. 

[00:35:40] Lorilee Rager: Wow. 

[00:35:40] Dawayne Kirkman: I’d never been to a historically black college and university and, uh, never had been the minority in a situation. It was just one of those summers that really changed my life. And I’ll always be thankful for that. And obviously, as I see students today, you do see pieces of you in students. I’m sure you do, when you, as you teach, but, um, yeah, I’m a community college student.

[00:36:00] Lorilee Rager: Yeah, it feels good if, and it feels good to give back and just to mentor and help those that, you know, are coming, coming along behind you. 

[00:36:11] Dawayne Kirkman: That’s right. I’m excited. 

[00:36:12] Lorilee Rager: I think that’s what we’re supposed to do. I really do. I think you’re supposed to share. 

[00:36:15] Dawayne Kirkman: You have to have a hand– I always tell people to have a hand up for a mentor. You need a mentor in every phase of your life, because someone’s been up the road, whether, I’ve been married 10 years, talk to someone that’s been married twenty years,

[00:36:25] Lorilee Rager: Yeah. 

[00:36:26] Dawayne Kirkman: And there’s different challenges with 20 years of marriage or your kids are going to graduate. And that makes me sound, I’m thinking about it. And I’m like, oh, I’m not ready for that conversation. And then always put your hand back to pull some along with you. that they, we all got shots that people helped us with, uh, different breaks, different teachings, and to always reach back. 

[00:36:42] Lorilee Rager: That’s one of the quotes you told me too, that, um, an important mentor had told you that said, “we belong to each other,” and it’s so true. And the hand up and hand down is beautiful to think of. As I helped my son fill out his ACT application last night to take that. Just really looking at… and even one year sober for me in recovery, it’s scary, but I do, I want to talk to somebody two years and five years sober, but I’m also going to help the person that’s just desperately trying to get that 30 day chip, you know, and yeah. Hands both ways. I love that.It’s so good. So good. Um, all right. Well, I wanted to, to also pivot to ask you a little bit about taking care of yourself. Um, that’s something, wellness is one of the things I say in my journey, now, of wellness, um, weight loss is, is part of it. It’s a big perk, but it’s not really why we did it. I don’t think. Um, but tell me a little bit about your journey on that. 

[00:37:48] Dawayne Kirkman: You know, it’s interesting. Um, this is, uh, I don’t know why I just thought about this, but I remember getting my haircut and, uh, he was a barber and he was like, he looked at me and I think you’ll understand when I say this, I’m like, oh, this is such the story of my life. He goes, “Dawayne, are you losing or gaining?” And I was like, oh my gosh, like, my life can not be consumed to, am I up or down? And I was just like, I’m so much more than that, but he was like, he was really confused. He’s like, are you losing now? Are you gaining? And I was like, oh my gosh. But anyway, uh, last, uh, last year, um, during COVID to be honest, I, uh, I got to a place in my life that I didn’t feel great about where I was on, um, as in regards to weight and like looking at some scenes with COVID, I felt like I was a potential statistic waiting to happen. And I was like, this is not who you are. You’re uh, you can do better. And that’s not for anyone else. That’s just for my shoes. Cause everyone has their own journey to be bigger, to be smaller to whatever. 

But I just wanted to be healthier for myself. I looked at my three kids. I, and I just remember. You know, just start walking, just start, you know, doing a little bit better. And, um, been really, uh, had a really good year on the whole, um, able to lose over a hundred pounds. 

[00:39:03] Lorilee Rager: Wow.

[00:39:05] Dawayne Kirkman: Yeah. But like trying to maintain that now that’s always the harder part. Yeah. So I think just being recommitted to that, as I’m getting older, it’s not going to be ever easier to do it, to get it off, but, uh, just as with pandemics, as you, as we grow old, how can I be best to my, to my, to myself. And, um, I know the physical is only one attribute of us, soul, spirit, and body, but, uh, I do think they mirror one another. And, uh, I think it can, if they are aligned just to be your best version of yourself yeah. Of whatever that means to, I think it’s different for everyone. And I think just to, you know, with weight for me, it’s something that I have battled on and off my entire life. Um, and, um, and I think it’s one of those things, like, I hope that I don’t pass this down to my kids. Like we talk about this marble, you know, I don’t, and I’ve always felt, I don’t feel like food’s covering anything for me. Cause sometimes I just think biscuits and gravy are really good. It’s not that I’m dealing with anything emotionally. [Laughter] I definitely want to be a healthy person and I want my kids to have healthy– understand what that means. So that’s what I was talking about. There will be definitely things that my kids will have to carry for me. 

[00:40:26] Lorilee Rager: I try to figure out now, um, to not have shame around it. Yes. Biscuits and gravy. You can eat it just because it tastes good. Not because you’re feeling your feelings depressed and trying to fill some other void. And I want to, you know, that’s what I want the same thing for me to pass down to my kids because I have yoyo dieted and tried everything under the sun. And, uh, but it was more of a internal shame and guilt and beating myself up for, you know, eating bad and yet doing– during the pandemic is, is really when I decided to get sober and, and just notice, yeah, I just, I just was tired of feeling tired. I was tired. 

[00:41:07] Dawayne Kirkman: Yeah. 

[00:41:08] Lorilee Rager: Just being comfortable in my own skin. 

[00:41:11] Dawayne Kirkman: Well, you know, we had talked about words that stick, like being called at risk at a very young age. I still, I still don’t love it. I still battle it. I’m like, am I, you know, um, am I able to be in the seat or things of that nature, but I remember us losing weight with a, like a personal trainer and like doing some, like. I don’t even know what they’re calling, like some like steps between like tires and, and he looked at me, he’s like, “Dawayne, you’re really athletic.”

And I was like, “What?” It was such a, I had never heard that word. I was like 44 years old. Like, what? I’ve never, no one’s ever said that. And he’s like, “no, like you have athletic ability.” And I was like, “oh, well, look at me. I’m athletic.” But just like that positive affirmation and really speaking to someone and, and how you envision them and how you really see them and words matter. They’re powerful. 

[00:42:00] Lorilee Rager: Yes. 

[00:42:00] Dawayne Kirkman: They really are. And you know, the greatest battle ever fought is in your own mind. And how, what are we speaking to ourselves every day? 

[00:42:08] Lorilee Rager: Yeah. Yes. Yeah. That’s exactly right. What you say to yourself is so important, I think. I think it’s the no negative self-talk is one of my rules. 

[00:42:19] Dawayne Kirkman: Oh yeah?

[00:42:19] Lorilee Rager: And I think, I think it’s so important and I love the idea of labels is so, is scary and sticks with you. But for somebody to say you’re athletic, I get it because I’ve never been there. 

[00:42:32] Dawayne Kirkman: It was like they called me something in a foreign language. 

[00:42:33] Lorilee Rager: Oh yeah. 

[00:42:34] Dawayne Kirkman: I was like, it, it really is like what? It was so weird. 

[00:42:37] Lorilee Rager: And for somebody to see you, so somebody that’s not from your hometown, that doesn’t live with you all day. A third party, completely independent that says that it means the world. 

[00:42:48] Dawayne Kirkman: And meant it.

[00:42:50] Lorilee Rager: It does, it really does. And I think sharing that and giving that compliment and that observation of a positive message to somebody is really important.

[00:42:59] Dawayne Kirkman: It is important that, you know, even when, like, I love how you said you don’t allow yourself to do that because I won’t do that to anyone, but myself and then Johanna gets onto me. She’s like, you would never let someone talk to you… the way you talk to yourself, like you would never do that to anyone else or let them talk to themselves in that way. So it’s very funny, like Johanna is a great like life partner that just, you know, I, hopefully I’m that way for her too, because we have to be kind to one another.

[00:43:24] Lorilee Rager: Yeah, absolutely. Well, 

[00:43:26] Dawayne Kirkman: I like that you said that. 

[00:43:27] Lorilee Rager: It was a really important rule I learned in recovery. That it was something and it was something I didn’t realize I did so much of. So when, when my coach was like, um, you know, you just need a rule because your subconscious hears that whether you say it out loud, so, yeah. Well, um, so yeah, the, the last thing I wanted to ask you is this has been such a great conversation, such incredibly important things to share. I think for people to hear our stories and know that they’re not alone in the struggles is, um, what, uh, tool would you leave in our Ground and Gratitude toolbox for others? It can be something that helps you get grounded or with gratitude or helps you through a hard spot, any quotes or mantras?

[00:44:17] Dawayne Kirkman: You know, I have a couple of quotes, but you know, there’s this, you said a song and I’m going to eventually sing it, I’ve just gotta get my nerve up. 

[00:44:23] Lorilee Rager: Do it. 

[00:44:24] Dawayne Kirkman: You know, there’s, there’s one quote that always sticks with me and it says “Hell’s doors are locked from the inside.” You know, if you’re going through something, sometimes you have to free yourself. No one else, even if they have the capability to do it. They, it literally doesn’t work. You have to free yourself. And, um, I think sometimes whether, whatever that fill in the blank is for you, even though you might have supporters and cheerleaders, you have to, eventually… Hell’s doors are locked from the inside. You have to free yourself. And, um, that’s one that I always remember. And then the, one of the greatest men that I’ve ever known, he was actually a ninth grade dropout from Hazard, Kentucky, Earl Childers, the only millionaire that I’ve ever known. Um, he just saw grace and everybody, like everybody. And he always said, “where there’s breath there’s hope.” And I love that. 

[00:45:17] Lorilee Rager: That’s so good 

[00:45:18] Dawayne Kirkman: Because if you just like, there’s that affirmation, that positive, like I see you, I believe in you. And, um, sometimes you can be too close to things like my dad, we like, oh, he’s not gonna make it because he had failed so many times, but it, what if someone said, like, “I do see you Stanley.”

 Where there’s breath, there’s hope. I think there’s so much power in that, of never counting someone out ever. And I, he just, ever, and he just embodied that, um, he lived that. Earl Childers lived that and I’ll always be thankful for that. And, um, there was a song that my mom was singing, because you did say songs, I really try to be a good student.

[00:45:52] Lorilee Rager: You did good. [Laughter] 

[00:45:54] Dawayne Kirkman: Yeah, it’s called “Wading Through Deep Waters.” And, uh, I always tell the story about my dad with the marble, but my mom’s my anchor, you know, I learned things that I didn’t need to, shouldn’t have learned at an early age from my dad, but my mother is my foundation and she doesn’t get the flowers that I think sometimes that she deserves and uh, I think myself and my sister got the best mother in the world. Uh, but she would always sing this song. Actually, Heather Blackburn would call me at college and she said, “Dawayne, are you saying that swamp song to me?” And I was like, “it’s not the swamp song. It’s called ‘Wading Through Deep Waters,’ but the swamp song, and it goes like this, uh: 

[Singing] Wading through deep waters, Lord I’m trying to get home. But the ways of life, they, uh, so high sometimes I think I’m gone, but when I think I’m gonna sink, I raise my hands up high and the great big hand of God comes down and takes ahold of mine. 

And, um, my mom, she just kept God at the forefront of our lives no matter what we were going through, she always, good days, bad days. She’s like, you just keep your eyes on God and he’ll see you through. And I think sometimes in my own life, these types of songs, they’ve never let me left me. They’ve set a foundation for my life. And if there’s been, as my mom would say, if there’s been anything good in my life that people have seen it’s because I’ve had a great mother and I I’ve had a God that’s been very graceful to me, because I’ve needed it.

[00:47:29] Lorilee Rager: Beautiful. I’m glad there’s not video right now because you’re making my makeup run. [Laughter] Beautifully said, and I will take mothers and marbles with me and put it in our, put it in our toolbox also. Beautiful. So this has been absolutely wonderful. I’m so, so thankful for you and thankful for your time and our friendship.

[00:47:55] Dawayne Kirkman: I’m so thankful for our friendship. I probably owe you a box of blow pops, [laughter] but you’re one of the best people in the world. I’m so proud of you. I’m cheering you on in every single way. And you make me proud. 

[00:48:12] Lorilee Rager: Thank you. You do too. I’m glad. I’m so glad we grew up together in a little town. 

I am too. 

Thank you. Thank you. Thank you. 

[00:48:21] Dawayne Kirkman: Thank you. 

[00:48:21] Lorilee Rager: That’s it. Goodness gracious.

Thanks again to Dawayne for coming on the show today to share such beautiful and personal stories. Wow. And that singing voice. I loved it. It was absolutely a pleasure to have him on the show. Thank you for tuning into Ground and Gratitude. You can find more information about the show and resources to help anyone struggling with mental health at groundandgratitude.com.

Please join me next time for more honest conversations exploring what it means to truly live a life grounded in gratitude. Ground and Gratitude is produced by the amazing duo Kelly Drake and AO McClain, LLC. 

Bonus Holiday Special: Rural Route One with Lorilee

Holiday Special: Rural Route One

In this special episode, Lorilee shares personal reflections on her childhood in Kentucky, detailing rich memories of Thanksgiving on Long Vue Farms and the safe spaces she created for herself as a young person. It was these sanctuaries — under the dining room table or out in the garden —  that created the conditions for healing and true gratitude, but somewhere along the way, Lorilee lost touch with this grounding practice, leading her to ask a question many of us still grapple with; where is my safe space today?

“Rural Route One” is an excerpt from Cultivator and Creator: An autoethnographic study understanding the addicted artist, which you can read in full here »

Listen wherever you get your podcasts or with these links below:

Apple Podcast Link to today’s episode

Spotify Link to today’s podcast episode

Also if you have time please rate & review if you like what you hear on Apple Podcasts. It really helps the show rank higher & I would really appreciate it.


BONUS – Rural Route One

[00:00:00] Lorilee Rager: Hey, I’m Lorilee Rager and this is Ground and Gratitude. It’s a podcast about designing the life you want, one that not only grows but also gives. 

Before today’s episode, I’d like to tell you about where I bank, Her Bank by Legends Bank. This episode of Ground and Gratitude is sponsored by them. Her Bank celebrates, honors, and supports women, especially entrepreneurs by providing financial services and resources through a core team of experienced female bankers, which is so reassuring to me. Her Bank creates a bridge to help women overcome barriers when it comes to money conversations and decisions, while providing women with a better banking experience. Check out Her-Bank.com to learn more. Her Bank is a brand of Legends Bank. Legends Bank is member FDIC equal housing lender.

So today’s episode is just me. It’s a solo episode, no guest. And I’m not sure the rules, I’m not sure who’s really the boss of me, but I do really think that everyone has a story. And I think your story matters, and I think your voice is important. And I just thought today I would read from my grad school thesis. I went to Vermont College of Fine Arts, where I got my MFA in graphic design. And my thesis was titled Cultivator and Creator, and it is a study on understanding the addicted artist. And my story starts out from my childhood and trying to understand my sense of place and where gratitude comes from. I think this is a time of year, because it’s Thanksgiving, that everyone is thinking about gratitude and thinking about giving thanks. Gratitude is really good for us research shows, so I really hope you can resonate with my writing in this special edition for Thanksgiving. Thanks for being here.

Rural Route One by Lorilee Rager, that’s me. I’d ask you to close your eyes and take a deep breath but then you couldn’t keep reading. Imagine with me a homestead just beyond the coal mines of Kentucky and the Smoky Mountains, right near the Tennessee state line. The hills roll gently, the soil is rich and tillable, and the views from the front porch are of bluegrass and wide open spaces. You are on beautiful Long Vue Farms in Keysburg, Kentucky. 

To help you find your bearings a bit better, Long Vue Farms is just an hour north of Nashville, literally on the state line between Kentucky and Tennessee. Looking out from the back porch, the backfield tree line is the Kentucky-Tennessee border. The farm is 800 acres of small grains growing in some of the richest, flattest, most tillable (and profitable) soil in South Central Kentucky. What we call the home farm. 

Long Vue Farms is also smack dab on the line between Todd and Logan Counties. It’s so rural that we often speak in terms of the county lines and old farms for landmarks. We’re just past the old Shelton place and Gilbert’s road. If you get to the Y in the road you’ve gone too far. I’ve always said when giving directions to the farm, “Right when you think you’ve gone too far and feel lost, go one more mile.” It’s the old Maude Gill place, where I was born and raised. 

It’s true about the farm being on the county line, which led to some complicated situations. When I was little our address was Rural Route 1, Allensville, Kentucky. Yet our phone number was a Guthrie City number 3-2057, but we were to vote in Adairville. Growing up neither county wanted to send a school bus to pick us up, each claiming we either weren’t in the county or on the route. It was an hour ride both ways on the school bus. Miss Fran was my bus driver and gave me a whole pack of double mint gum when I got off on Fridays. 

The two counties also fought over who paved the roads that far, and there wasn’t any 911 to pick up when we called about the barn burning. “Doo-doo-do! We’re sorry that’s not a working number,” was all I heard as I looked out beyond the towering mechanic shop and watched flames leap and flash like fireworks, engulfing our largest tobacco barn. I guess the smoldering sawdust piles got too hot inside from firing the tobacco, plus how the whole building was coated in creosote. 

We didn’t farm tobacco anymore after we lost that crop. Dad said that a tobacco plant destroys the ground anyways, that it sucks the life right out of soil, making it hard to grow any other crops after it. I can remember a few great uncles whose beloved Marlboro Reds seemed to do that to also. 

In 1976 the Maude Gill estate and farm had been abandoned and was going up for sale at auction. No one wanted it, maybe because it needed so much work. No one else claimed that spot on the map, so my father did. In an interview with my father, he said, “Because we sold our equipment business in Bowling Green, Kentucky, we were willing to relocate since your mother’s family was all here. We were looking for another business, i.e., large scale farming.” Our family got to build our own little community from scratch just the way we wanted. We paid to have electricity run to the house and built our own new dump shed and grain bin system. It was a massive investment, as well as a great feat, to run miles of county electricity, waterlines, and a grain storage system in the middle of nowhere. We made new roads together and had a nice gravel drive for many years (which I raked a lot to help the mud holes), but today it is paved with the finest concrete. One sign of a successful farmer is when he can afford to pave his own way. 

As reflection has pointed me towards my sense of place and the farm, I have realized the world through this lens was all I knew as a child, all that mattered. Now, through this work, I have looked closer, zoomed into sharp focus, and begun to notice where it blurred, where it was lost, found, scuffed up and broken. These roots may have gotten buried and hidden away, yet I still carry them with me. 

My memories rumble with the deep roar of our grain dryers, echoing off the metal grain bins behind the house. Sleeping to that sound is better than any white noise app you’re plugged into. The wind gusts easy now and then, the leaves swirl, and fall harvest season is here. The men are trucking soybeans in from the fields and filling up the bins. Dust covers the windshields of all the farm trucks parked by the shop, sticking to the heavy early morning dew. 

We’ve already had one frost that began to knock off the bright yellows, reds, golds, and oranges off the trees, flecking the fading bluegrass like confetti. The grounds are softly, slowly surrendering to the latest cold snap. I can see the bright leaves beginning to dim and curl as the edges get darker. They remind me of the cinnamon brown sugar corn flake crust from Mom’s sweet potato pie we always have for the holidays. 

The quilted place mats monogrammed “Happy Fall Ya’ll!”, the hand towels and aprons, all patterned with oranges, browns, golds, and amber plaids, welcome us to a time to give thanks- for all that we harvest, all we worked for, and all we stored. Now it is time to rest and eat well. The work on the farm is paused while we pray over the potluck. 

Butter melts in the sweet corn dish from the heat of last summer’s hard work shucking and silking the silver queen we put up with Grandma Smith. Mom’s fresh sourdough bread rises, as the cranberry slips out of the can. The Ball jar lid pops on the fresh canned September white peaches. Those are our family’s favorite, they were put up frozen after we bought them at Jackson’s Orchard and are really something to give thanks for, yum! 

Through the mud and the mess outside and in the world, this is a moment to take a deep breath, close your eyes, and be thankful. It’s time to bow our heads and say grace. Saying your prayers is the go-to way to get through each day, especially in the hard heavy times, and a must in the happy heartful times. 

I remember watching the 1965 film Shenandoah one of the first times with my grandma and the wonder of seeing something so similar to my own culture on TV. Jimmy Stewart – whose mannerisms and voice remind me so much of my Grandfather Thompson – plays Charlie “Pa” Anderson, a father of seven in Virginia during the Civil War. Pa doesn’t allow his sons to fight in what he believes “isn’t our war.” They farmed and did all they could to work together to make their father proud. At Thanksgiving, Pa says grace over a large family at a large table before a large feast: 

Lord, we cleared this land. We plowed it, sowed it, and harvested it. We cook the harvest. It wouldn’t be here and we wouldn’t be eating it if we hadn’t done it all ourselves. We worked dog-bone hard for every crumb and morsel, but we thank you Lord just the same for the food we’re about to eat. Amen. 

My own father’s prayer at the beginning of every holiday’s meal went something like this: “Dear Heavenly Father, hallowed be Thy name. Thank You for the roof over our head and all that You’ve given us and done for us. We thank You for this day and our daily bread. We give thanks for being able to gather together with our loved ones. We also thank You Heavenly Father for those that have gone before us (my father usually choked up big here), and we look forward to the day we can all be together again. Thank You for this land, the rain when we needed it, this meal, and this wonderful life. We thank You for all we have and all You’ve given us and done for us. In Jesus name, Amen.” “And God Bless the corn!” Luke, my son, would shout. 

We’d all laugh, trading glances and gentle squeezes on the arm as we’d say: “Ladies first,” line up, here’s your plate Grannie, grandkids will get you your sweet tea or coffee. Then a cue for the little ones to hold tight, don’t jump in front of Grandma, help her to her seat at the big dining room table. Ensure canes, walkers, ice tea glasses, and decaf coffee make it to the table with napkins, forks, and buttered bread. Now line up to get your plate, no more bread either, we saw you eat another piece while you took Grandma’s to her. 

The peaches thawed a little beside the tub of vanilla ice cream over on the dessert bar in the kitchen while we ate dinner in the dining room. The Chess pies cooled and set, and meringue as high as my hand tops the chocolate pies, soft and bubbled up like a calf’s slobber sucking from the bottle. Boy howdy, we gave thanks. 

Those were the calmer seasons in farm life, when both our bellies and grain bins were full and the ground was too hard to work. That’s when I saw my father do a rare relax for a few hours on a holiday and spike his boiled custard. Being responsible for so many mouths to feed while farming to feed the world, too – I understand how the weight of it can drive someone to drink. Agriculture is an intense and stressful line of work. Paul Harvey’s great speech turned 2013 Dodge SuperBowl Ad, “Then God Made A Farmer,” really says it best: 

God said, “I need somebody strong enough to clear trees and heave bails, yet gentle enough to tame lambs and wean pigs and tend the pink-combed pullets, who will stop his mower for an hour to splint the broken leg of a meadowlark. It had to be somebody who’d plow deep and straight and not cut corners. Somebody to seed, weed, feed, breed and rake and disc and plow and plant and tie the fleece and strain the milk and replenish the self-feeder and finish a hard week’s work with a five-mile drive to church.” So God made a farmer. 

As I began to think in grad school about the origin of my never ending always “attitude of gratitude” I started with a search that landed me smack dab in the middle of this southern sweet potato holiday memory. I’m craving answers to uncover why I am here and who was responsible for this habitual toxic positivity approach I unconsciously applied even when design projects and drinking had me spinning my wheels in anxiety and rage I was happy to ignore. 

This search led me back to the rural raisin’ on my family farm and old memories of family that uncovered the foundation of who I am. With my mother, I revisited long forgotten memories of where I first felt safe and grounded. This unearthed the realization that I’d lost my footing as an adult running my design firm, chasing deadlines and clients demands as hard as the lunchtime tequila shots. So remembering with my mother the times she found me content, happy, and comforting myself in a healthy way stopped the merry go round feeling I’d been hiding inside. Remembering these childhood moments began to reconnect to something that felt familiar to me. It felt like an authentic gratitude in a safe space I’d lost touch with. 

At that moment I realized that before the era of Netflix, news feeds, and nagging neck cramps, I had created safe spaces for myself where I could soothe my soul by myself. Rediscovering this gave my inner voice a jolt of “goodness gracious” like I’ve not felt since I was a child. I needed a space where I allowed myself to play, be messy, pray, and recharge. I learned that the solitude of a quiet, peaceful, safe place to retreat, rest, play or hide is an important part of where gratitude grows. This was an important realization, that we always need that safe space in our life. A place to be authentic, be creative, and nurture yourself. A place to make all your own, where you can hide, heal, and dig into your feelings. 

My earliest memory of a safe space I created for myself came out of a series of sweet tea sips with my mother about the farm house and the history of its structures. In the middle of acres of sunrises, stress, storms, and starlit nights, where all you could hear were howls from coyotes and the cooing of mourning doves, I made for myself a space. My mother tells a story of looking for me for hours when I was 8 years old. After searching all over the farm, the dog pen, and the playhouses, she found me under the dining room table. This is where I had made my first safe space. With a soft ribbon-edged blanket, a handmade sock monkey, a cabbage patch doll made from pantyhose and yarn, and a bucket of crayons, I sat happily alone. I also never seemed to be without a legal pad for doodling swiped from Dad’s desk drawer and a tape recorder for storytelling. Mom said after that anytime she couldn’t find me she knew to look in the quietest corners of the house. 

It was a perfect place to hide on happy quiet days alone or from louder, harder ones. The hard days I was too young to understand why, I just knew it was safer in my soft spot hidden away. Those were the combine header broke kind of days, or the drought dust choke us out kind of days, or the banks declined the farm loan kind of days. Those days my father shouted the most, and I knew it was best to stay in my safe space and color harder. 

Our dining room was the room where I felt safest, bedded down like the bird dogs out in the pens. We only used the big dining room for real special holidays and birthdays, like Easter, Thanksgiving, and Grandaddy Thompson’s birthday; most other days it was forgotten about, pleasantly dusky, with Mom’s hand-sewn tasseled drapes drawn. Marbled maroon wallpaper covered the cracks in the plaster walls and ornate dentil crown molding adorned the walls like icing topping a cake. I piled my softest blankets beneath the china plates stacked on the table by Mrs. Virginia. The china cups sat in rows, washed of Grannie’s custard and waiting to be put up in the cabinet. The silver lay shiny and polished in the velvet box on the antique sideboard beside Great Grannie Sweats crocheted linens, freshly laundered and ready to be tucked away. Grandma’s thick, cranberry red crystal wine glasses cast a rosie glow as they patiently awaited their next party pours. Jewels glittered on the heavy brass railroad lamps Grandfather Thompson had rewired from oil-burning to electric (his retirement hobby as an antiquer was paying off.). Lace doilies draped over the entrance to my sanctuary, protecting me and the mahogany table. It was a magical place of suspended disbelief, gently sparkling like the crystal chandelier above me. 

Safe spaces and hard days have intertwined throughout my life, and I’ve learned through my work how making a safe space for yourself creates the conditions for authentic gratitude. As Mom told her story, I remembered other safe spaces I found around the farm as I grew older, like in the garden with my grandma. Later in college, my first studio drawing class became a retreat from the bush hog bullshit barked at me from my father. Here is where I began to wonder: Where is my safe space today? Where did I lose it? Can Amazon get me one by tomorrow? As a child I made one on my own and today do I still carry it? Do I still carry the ability to grow and permission to play in my own safe container? Has been inside of me all along? Well bless my heart! 

Embarking on this inward, unflinching inspection of my sense of place has helped me uncover my own truths. A realization of my resilience, my choice of response to life, and that recovery tools that I used as a child and had long since forgotten are still in this muddy mess I’ve been stuck within. Revealing that my safe spaces were places made by me, just for me, to retreat with buckets of art supplies, blankets, and objects that brought me joy and comforted me. They were spaces that nourished and grounded me in my own inner peace, joy, and calm, but along the way I had gotten distracted and disconnected. Only believing I had to be a busier designer pushing more pixels around. 

From kids to client meetings, negotiating contracts, begging for payments, learning small business tax laws… with all these competing demands, I lost my way. I lost where I was even going in life. There wasn’t time or thought to pause, rest, eat well, play, gym, be a wife, a mom, a boss or care for myself. The days, months, and years flew by as the pounds came on, the dinner drinks turned to day time, and I tried to gratefully design faster in hopes that would stop the stress. 

More logos, more meetings, and more revisions became my priority. To stay up on design trends, sign codes, and in hand dates, I learned to drink my coffee strong and my drinks stronger. Working harder and faster, no moment spared to soothe myself, it seemed like numbing myself made more clients happier. 

My mother’s words not only shared the childhood safe spaces but it cast a frightening mirror at me watching my father live the same way I’d now become in my childhood years. As he worked to build a farm from 800 to 8,000 acres, so grew his struggles with stress and addiction from trying to run the perfect farm, with the perfect family, in the perfect town. For me, redbull and vodka and a little Xanax hushed that voice in my head for the afternoon pop up meeting that kept the angry client happy. 

Looking at my habits, I realized I had lost touch with my safe spaces. My addictions obscured my self-awareness so that I lost sight of the soft blanket skills I used to rely on. This uncovered unhealthy, learned behaviors and lack of boundaries I was ashamed to admit, like how I’d turned to drowning my hard times with hard liquor like my father. I had lost my creative, calming, coloring, childlike ways. I was so busy drinking, pleasing, and mirroring everyone else’s feelings and actions around me, I lost sight of the safe space within me. 

I had forgotten how I grounded my body, and paused to rest. As a child, after helping everyone on the farm with chores, I knew to soothe myself by making a safe space to be my creative, authentic self and fill up my cup. But somehow along the way, I had turned to booze to get me where I thought I needed to go faster and boxed up, ignoring my problems. 

Thanks so much for listening to me read this piece from my grad school thesis. I hope this holiday, and every day, you’re able to find a safe space where you can find your own gratitude and get a little more grounded. I wish you a very happy Thanksgiving. Thank you so much for tuning into Ground and Gratitude. You can read this piece and you can also find some more information about the show and listen to past episodes GroundAndGratitude.com. Be sure and join me next time for more honest conversations exploring what it means to truly live a life grounded in gratitude. 

I’m extra thankful for my producers of Ground and Gratitude, Kelly Drake and AOMcClain, LLC.

Ep. 4: Anxiety & Alcohol Free Living with Samantha Perkins

Anxiety and Alcohol-Free Living with Samantha Perkins

Writer and speaker Samantha Perkins joins Lorilee to discuss her journey to living an alcohol-free life. They explore the link between alcohol and anxiety, and share their own experiences with sobriety and the pressures and stigmas that surround drinking culture.

Samantha is the author of Alive AF: One Anxious Mom’s Journey to Becoming Alcohol Free and speaks about the impact that alcohol had on her life and mental health. 


  • On Samantha’s playlist: “Rhythm Nation” – Janet Jackson
  • How stereotypical portrayals of drinkers affect our own perceptions of alcoholism
  • The connection between anxiety and alcohol
  • Coping with childbirth, parenthood, and exhaustion
  • Making happy hour any hour and living alcohol free
  • Handling the holidays without alcohol
  • One tool for our G&G toolbox

Mentioned in this episode:

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Sponsored by Her-Bank.com


Episode 4 – Samantha Perkins

[00:00:00] Lorilee Rager: Hey there. I am Lorilee Rager and this is Ground and Gratitude. It is a podcast about designing the life you want, one that not only grows but also gives. 

Before today’s episode, we have a message from our sponsor. The Ground and Gratitude podcast is sponsored by Her Bank. Her Bank by Legends Bank knows that women are busy being the CEOs of their lives and their time is valuable. So Her Bank was designed to offer a banking experience that provides flexibility and convenience with care. This is why I value them as a partner of the Ground and Gratitude podcast. So check out Her-Bank.com online to learn more. Her Bank is a brand of Legends Bank. Legends Bank is member FDIC equal housing lender.

My guest today is the amazing, insightful Samantha Perkins. She is a writer, a speaker, a mom, a wife, and so much more. She has a BA of psychology from the University of Kentucky and spent 10 years in the mental health profession. Her book Alive AF is a great self published book all about her journey to become alcohol-free. In this episode, we’re going to talk all about sobriety. If you resonate with anything we’re talking about today in this episode, check out our show notes for resources about sobriety. Now let’s get this show on the road.

Welcome Samantha. Thank you so much for joining me and being on my podcast today. I really appreciate it. 

[00:02:00] Samantha Perkins: Hey, yeah, I’m so excited to be here. Thank you so much for having me. 

[00:02:03] Lorilee Rager: Well, it means a lot. And I know that we, uh, we became friends through another friend and haven’t actually ever met in person, but we did the book club and all of those really fun, fun things. So it’s great to talk about our topic today, being sobriety, because when I first met you, it was just, it was just a book club. So I didn’t, I didn’t, I wasn’t telling anybody, I don’t think anybody but our friend Laura, who we have in common, knew, you know, that I was even struggling with it. So, um, it just really, I loved learning that about you after the fact. And it really drew me to you, so thanks for being here. Yeah. 

Um, all right. So the first question I do have is something, I really, really love music and I love to make playlists, so I think it’s important to know, what song is on repeat on your playlist today? 

[00:03:02] Samantha Perkins: I love this. So I watched Dancing with the Stars with my kids on Sunday night, or Monday nights and this past week it was Janet Jackson night. And the kids had not heard any Janet Jackson. And I’m like, how have I let this happen? So we have been listening to Janet Jackson, Rhythm Nation. 

[00:03:19] Lorilee Rager: I was hoping you were going to say Rhythm Nation. 

[00:03:21] Samantha Perkins: I even listened to it this morning. So I’m like back to my, I told the kids that I used to dance in front of my mirror and make up dance routines to these songs. And they’re just, yeah. 

[00:03:33] Lorilee Rager: Absolutely, that is fantastic. Gosh, I love Janet Jackson and Rhythm Nation. Oh, such a good one. That is a fantastic, I will put that on my playlist, if it’s not already I’ll put it on my, my playlist. Yes. Okay. 

[00:03:46] Samantha Perkins: It’s good to return to for sure. 

[00:03:49] Lorilee Rager: Oh, perfect. And your kids need to know that. They need that in their lives. Yeah. Good, all right. Um, all right, well, so the first topic I wanted to talk about is, um, so you, you wrote a book and, um, kind of telling your story when, and I won’t try to even pretend to explain it because there’s so much in it that’s goodness and authentic truth about your life and completely vulnerable and beautiful. Um, but part of, a phrase you had in your book that made me laugh out loud was, um, your kind of original cultural, uh, stereotypical mindset of drunks and Ms. Hannigan, you mentioned Ms. Hannigan. Which, I love Annie and I love musicals. I adore Carol Burnett. But it just immediately resonated with me. And I was like, oh yes, that’s exactly what I thought. That’s what I thought a drunk was. Um, so yeah, I thought, I thought we could just start there and just that, kind of, like I said, cultural stereotype of the Ms. Hannigan, Ms. Hannigan’s. You mentioned also maybe a reference about Dirty Dancing, which made me also think about Grease, uh, you know, where there’s also beer and, you know, just, just the cultural side effects and the way. I even have a quote where you have, um, from your book that you said, I believed drunks were sweaty and jobless.

[00:05:15] Samantha Perkins: Right, right, yeah. I think for me, you know, when I kind of realized that alcohol was no longer working for me, I was, I had to go back way, way back to figure out, like, how did I get here, and you know, what’s going on? And when I was writing the book, um, I was just kind of unfolding what I grew up thinking. And it just hit me, like, these movies that I used to watch as a child, Annie being one of them. And, you know, Ms. Hannigan, she’s like slurring her speech and she’s like angry looking, stumbling around, and, you know, you can just tell that she’s, um, you know, a drunk. And, um, you know, she is such a stark transition from what you see in like the Dirty Dancing film, which is like everybody having a good time and they’re drinking and they’re dancing and they’re, um, you know, falling in love and all the fun things that you think that go along with that. And so I think I learned a lot about, you know, alcohol and kind of the cultural acceptance of it from, you know, movies like that and TV shows and commercials that I saw. And, um, I really started to believe that, you know, as long as you’re the Dirty Dancing version, you know, the Baby drinking a few beers at a party and you’re not the Ms. Hannigan version stumbling over and, you know, abusing young children, then you’re, you’re okay. 

[00:06:37] Lorilee Rager: Right, right. Yes, yep. That’s so true. And, and it just really resonated because the, um, I guess they’re called subliminal messages that we are sent and in front of, as, as children really do, um, you know, in influence us and when we become adults and start to try to figure out who we are, we look back at that and, and you really, you really wrote well about that cultural mindset. 

[00:07:14] Samantha Perkins: Absolutely. I think that it is just so, um, ingrained in, you know, starting at a young age, just that the messages that you get and receive just by even watching your own family members or, you know, your aunts and uncles or your, your, your friends’ parents, you know, you can just start to get a sense based on their interaction with alcohol, you start to form these beliefs. Um, you know, and back then my parents weren’t really talking to me, sitting me down and talking about drugs and alcohol. Um, it was just like, don’t do drugs, you know. There wasn’t a lot of conversation, you know. And so I think that, um, whatever I started to form in my mind is kind of where, what I believe to be true because no one ever challenged that or told me anything different.

[00:08:02] Lorilee Rager: Yeah. And as we, as we become adults and begin to see ourselves and question just anything about maybe our health as we grow older or while we’re having headaches or while we’re having joint pain or, you know, belly fat or whatever it is, we’re annoyed with, it, it seems like I just couldn’t, I couldn’t pinpoint and relate to it being alcohol, like you mentioned, causing any of these feelings, because I also didn’t see myself as Ms. Hannigan. So there was a huge gap disconnect. And, and that’s what I just, your book really brought that point kind of out loud and clear that I didn’t even know it was in my subconscious. 

[00:08:47] Samantha Perkins: Right, yeah. That’s the same exact thing for me, you know, over and over again, I would just assume that if you have a problem with alcohol, you’re Ms. Hannigan, you know? And so I wasn’t Ms. Hannigan, you know. I mean, I was, at times, I’m sure there were times that I stumbled around or whatever, but I wasn’t functioning like her or drinking during the day and you know, all of these things. And so I assumed, yeah, it must be something else. It can’t be the alcohol. And so, yeah, just from this misconception that I had as a child, I brought it with me into adulthood and then fought that for so, so long trying to wrangle with, you know, then what is the problem? If it’s not that. 

[00:09:27] Lorilee Rager: Yes, yeah. And, and yes. Oh, that’s so true. It’s so true because when you start to question, why do you have these aches and pains, or why do you have this crippling in my case anxiety, and, and you wrote about it a lot as well that I really resonated with too. And you said something about going back and I think it’s really important. If you can be curious enough, and really face that fear of looking back at what you’re afraid of. And, um, you also wrote about in childhood being afraid of the dark. And I mean, that was something that I hadn’t thought of either, but I was absolutely terrified of the dark. I mean, like paralyzing fear. Um, and that, so it’s like, wow, those were some of my earliest moments of severe anxiety and I didn’t even know what it was. 

[00:10:27] Samantha Perkins: Yeah. I definitely, um, started having anxiety when I was little and, you know, I didn’t have the words. Again, growing up in the eighties and nineties, people, aren’t, weren’t outspoken about mental health in any way. I’d never even heard the word anxiety, you know, um, talked about at all. Um, and so when I, I was having these feelings, I would describe them to my parents, you know it was panic attacks for me, that I was, um, choking, you know, because that’s what I felt, like my throat was closing. And so they, you know, would take me to the doctor and I was actually diagnosed with acid reflux. They were, you know, saying when I, when I laid down at night that I must be having like acid building up and coming up from my stomach. And I didn’t know, you know, I was a child. So, you know, I was like, okay, that must be it. But the funny thing was, as soon as I had a diagnosis and kind of like a plan, I was able to handle the dark and the sleeping a little bit better because it was like, I just needed to know what was going on and I needed some help for it, you know. And that was kind of my first early, um, my earliest memories of just really wrangling with anxiety to the point of, you know, debilitation, um, for sure. 

[00:11:40] Lorilee Rager: Yeah, there, there just aren’t, um, when you start to think about anxiety and like you said mental health, which also just really wasn’t, it wasn’t openly talked about and maybe there, there wasn’t a lot of just information in general around it. And even if there were, um, it wasn’t, I don’t remember it ever being focused around children. It was just around adults and maybe it was around some really tragic event that had happened to them or some major trauma that had happened or some substance abuse, you know. So there were all these little labels, but there weren’t, there just weren’t, uh, clear answers really to, to how to figure out what this was or what was happening. And you wrote about it, like I said, a lot in, from childhood to adult anxiety. Um, tell me a little bit about your journey as you began to wrap your head around wellness, um, and trying to think of healthy ways to live, but still with alcohol. 

[00:12:46] Samantha Perkins: Right. So yeah, I had the anxiety, I lived with it from, you know, from those, when I was diagnosed with the acid reflux and it kept, you know, I still have it to this day. But, um, I would say after having that, my, my two kids, um, you know, it really got worse. And I think for a lot of reasons, but one, you know, now I’m not just worrying about myself, but now I’m having to have anxious thoughts and feelings about these two, you know, helpless beings that I’m supposed to be in charge, you know? Um, and so I would wake up and I just would feel so overwhelmed. I would wake up in the middle of the night with my heart pounding my head sweating. And, um, I would start having these horrible, anxious thoughts. You know, just crazy things like, you know, I can’t take the kids to Target tomorrow because what if there’s a child abductor there and they want to get my kids, you know. Talking to you, I’m sure you can relate to this, but someone who doesn’t have anxiety, they just don’t know. And I would like build up these plans, like, you know, what will I do if this happens? And I’m like trying to control and plan for all of these tragic events that, you know, aren’t even real. Just looped thoughts and, um, just ruminating, anxious, anxious thoughts while my body was just having this reaction. And so I was like, I’ve got to get some help. I cannot live like this. You know, this is getting really out of control. And I just kept blaming it on, I must have, you know, I didn’t move my body enough today, I probably need to exercise more, and my diet needs to change, I shouldn’t have eaten, you know, the garlic bread last night with the pasta, you know, it must be carbs, you know. 

[00:14:27] Lorilee Rager: Yes. Blame carbs.

[00:14:29] Samantha Perkins: Exactly. And I’ve got to cut back on my sugar intake and I need to, oh, you know, the self-help stuff. I need to, you know, read self-help books and I need to go to yoga and you know, all of these things, oh, you know, clean my house to make it more zen like. 

[00:14:46] Lorilee Rager: Oh yes, feng shui, feng shui. 

[00:14:49] Samantha Perkins: It’s the clutter that’s caught making this worse. Meanwhile, still every night, you know, drinking a couple glasses of wine or a couple of beers or both, you know, just not knowing, really just trying to make it to that time where I thought it was appropriate to take some of the, you know, agony away. And, you know, for, at first it did. You know, alcohol was great at, um, taking that, that stress immediately away at first, you know. But I had no idea that that’s what was waking me up in the middle of the night to start with. 

[00:15:20] Lorilee Rager: Yeah. Yeah. That’s so true. Um, the, the carbs makes me laugh because we see them, we went from Ms. Hannigan culture as children to, you know, these crazy diets and Atkins and no carbs and eating pounds of bacon and beer was low carb or almost no carbs, trying to find the zero carb beer. And, but never, ever remotely thinking that that was also part of it. 

[00:15:47] Samantha Perkins: Never, not once. 

[00:15:49] Lorilee Rager: Not even in it with a doctor’s help or mentioning, and I also, you know, it was on all kinds of acid reflux things and tons of Advil, but trying to get in my water and try to do the 5:00 AM gym and yeah, just, I wasn’t moving enough. And, and it’s funny too, which you talk about, um, quitting carbs, there was lots of support and no pressure. No one questioned why don’t, why don’t you eat bread? Like when you said you weren’t having bread. But when you turn and say, you’re not having a drink or, right now, or you’re just taking a break from alcohol. I mean, the look on a person’s face, it just changes. 

[00:16:30] Samantha Perkins: Absolutely. And they, and they, I mean, based on my experience, you know, they think, oh, Ms. Hannigan. 

[00:16:39] Lorilee Rager: They want to know, ooh, how bad was it? 

[00:16:41] Samantha Perkins: Right, like what happened? You know? And I know that because I did the same, you know. 

[00:16:46] Lorilee Rager: Same. 

[00:16:47] Samantha Perkins: Yes. And so it’s hard to explain, and I know even to this day that there’s a huge misconception around my alcohol use and what I was and wasn’t, um, and it’s based on people’s own experience with there, you know, alcohol use. And, you know, I think they’re always comparing themselves to, well, you know, it wasn’t that bad, so, you know, it, it must be, um, mine is still okay. Or I didn’t get a DUI like she did so I can keep drinking, you know? 

[00:17:19] Lorilee Rager: Yeah, yes. Um, and then, so you, you begin to looking at those things to go, I’m not that bad, or yes, how bad was it, or I didn’t realize you had a problem, like we have so much fun together. And it was such a part of my identity that I was even scared. I wanted to feel better, but I was even scared to let that go because, can I still go to a party? I mean, can I still socialize with my friends? 

[00:17:50] Samantha Perkins: Right, yeah. It’s so, I think this is what keeps people from stopping sooner, because you just don’t see how you could, you know, be in a social setting at all, because alcohol is just everywhere, always. You, it’s, it’s hard to escape. It’s not like if you quit cocaine, you know where people are like, hey, you know, why aren’t you having cocaine tonight? 

[00:18:12] Lorilee Rager: Yep. The waiter at the table is not like, come on now. Are you sure? You wrote that in your book where they’re like, do you want to drink? Are you sure? I’ll just leave the menu here. And if it’s okay, and they won’t go, I’ll just leave it here in case you do want some. You just don’t have it.

[00:18:26] Samantha Perkins: Yeah. So it’s hard to see a life outside of drinking if you’re, you know, used to doing it. Again, like, you know, for me, it was everywhere. Kids’ birthday parties, the farmer’s market. It wasn’t just like the bar. And, you know, I think that, you know, if, you know, a baby shower, brunches, um, all of the things. So it’s like, how can I go to these functions and be the person that doesn’t drink? And will the people that I hang out with still want to be my friend? And, you know, it’s really, really terrifying to think about navigating that. 

[00:18:57] Lorilee Rager: Yeah. And you, um, you talked about, which I related to as well, when you did go to your first, you know, I think it was a neighborhood thing with, with your cooler of LaCroix’s, um, holding that can as a shield and, and realizing you did the same thing with, with beer or a beer bottle or alcohol you had with you. 

[00:19:21] Samantha Perkins: Yeah, I realized the first time that I went out to like a social thing without alcohol, I like downed six LaCroixs. And I’m like, what, why am I drinking so many LaCroixs? LaCroixs aren’t even that good. And I realized just behaviorally, you know, drink to my mouth, you know, um, every time the mood changed or I talked to a new person or somebody says something funny, I mean, I’m just using this as like such a kind of social buffer, I guess, in those settings. And I had done that for so many years. I couldn’t even put my hand down, even when it was a LaCroix. It’s just so crazy to think about. 

[00:19:59] Lorilee Rager: Yes, I do the same thing. And I remember getting really into Topo Chicos after deciding to get sober. And they were glass bottles so I felt a little fancier, I felt like I could do it. But then I drank the entire 12 packs, you know, and I was like, oh my gosh. I mean, this is like a bladder buster. What am I doing? But I probably consume just as much beer on a hot summer afternoon, uh, with friends, because I was, because it comes back to that anxiety that I had as a child in general of just the social setting and making sure everybody was okay and comfortable. And so I wanted to drink to take that edge off. 

[00:20:40] Samantha Perkins: Absolutely. Yeah, and I felt good. I mean, I was the person always offering more drinks to people. I felt good when everybody was drinking and having a good time. Like that was telling me, okay, this is where everybody’s happy, it’s okay. You know, no reason to be anxious right now. And so, yeah, it’s just crazy, um, that alcohol and anxiety have such a strong connection. 

[00:21:04] Lorilee Rager: Yeah. And, and you, you mentioned even Googling and Googling, which I did as well, because you can’t find that. You seriously cannot connect that. And it’s, I felt like I was, uh, in this continuous loop of trying to feel better and do better by going to the gym and drinking more water, like getting in my hydration all before five. Because at five, you know, we definitely we’re going to change what we were drinking.

[00:21:33] Samantha Perkins: Yes. I mean, I switched to, um, at the end of my drinking, I switched to gin and water, oh, with lime. Because, and I, you know, I said that the water would be hydrating, you know. 

[00:21:45] Lorilee Rager: I did the same thing with Tito’s and water. 

[00:21:47] Samantha Perkins: So I wouldn’t get as dehydrated and, you know, try to ward off the hangover, I guess. Um, so yeah, just all of the things that I was trying to do to, you know. And, you know, meanwhile, I think about Laura McCowen, of course I love her work and she’s an amazing sober enthusiast, coach, and all the things. But, you know, I read the quote from her, “drinking is like pouring gasoline on your anxiety”. And, you know, I just was like, wow, like, it doesn’t matter what the things that I do today, I can go to the gym and eat all the kale and drink all the water and change it up my whatever, but if I’m still drinking, it’s just not going to work, you know. And you’re right, you cannot find information. It’s really hard. I even, I mean, I’m, I’m always researching this stuff and, um, you know, like writing about it a lot, I know all this stuff, but it’s even hard for me to like pinpoint, um, you know, articles or science that can, can help that. It’s just, you have to dig for it. You’re not going to find it on your Google search. You know, “am I an alcoholic?” It’s not popping up. 

[00:22:51] Lorilee Rager: Because it’s just not, you don’t check those boxes of, like you had said, um, you haven’t missed work in the last, you know, eight days, or eight days out of the last 14. Like the quizzes, I wasn’t, I wasn’t passing those quizzes, which I guess passing them meant I was an alcoholic, I got. And I was, and yeah, and I loved how you said, “eat all the kale”. Yeah. I would eat all the kale and still have a roaring, raging panic attack the next day. And there just was not a connection to that, you know, maybe it was three very, very large pour glasses of red wine. I’m not saying it was two or three bottles. Yes, I’ve been there and split that and went that far too, but even just the two or three glasses. Um, so I, I think, and you had mentioned too something I think that was really important about just becoming a woman and getting married, but things that happen to us, like, um, the exhaustion of childbirth and spinning out as a new mother and that level of exhaustion.

[00:24:01] Samantha Perkins: Yeah, I definitely had postpartum depression with my first and I, you know, I remember looking at my husband and thinking, what have we done? 

[00:24:13] Lorilee Rager: Me too. Me too.

[00:24:16] Samantha Perkins: I mean, the baby is just so needy and I’m so tired. I cannot. And it’s funny because I had a friend who, she had like an older, you know, maybe like a two or three year old, and she said, this is not your life. And I just remember holding onto that thinking like, maybe she’s right, maybe some, you know, the tide will turn. But in those moments you just feel, so, I mean, it is so overwhelming. And I know not every single person has that experience, but I do think those women, especially predisposed to mental health, anxiety, and depression. I mean, it can just be so brutal. And nobody’s talking about that, you know? 

[00:24:54] Lorilee Rager: No, they’re just bringing you wine and champagne and diapers and sitting with you. And, and man, that combination was so dark and damaging for me that I’ve not actually really talked a lot about it, but even like, my body felt like it had been through some severe trauma with C-section. And, but then that pressure to be the perfect mother, um, and nourish them, I, I ended up choosing not to breastfeed because I wanted to drink so bad at night as a relief. And I didn’t want to dare do that to hurt my child. And, and it was just, in looking at those choices where alcohol was the only thing I thought that would give me rest in peace and relief, when it would just make the next day even harder. 

[00:25:44] Samantha Perkins: Right, yeah. I can relate because, well, I was breastfeeding and I remember reading all these articles about how like the oats and some beers could help increase your milk supply. So since I would be drinking this stuff, and of course, then I’m so much more tired and then I can’t come out of it. I mean, it just made things 10 times harder than they needed to be, I mean, just way harder. Um, and looking back, I just, I can remember feeling so helpless. You know, I would sit on the floor when my son turned, you know, like when he still couldn’t walk and he was like maybe six or seven months old, so he’s just basically sitting up, aand he needs you to be by him so he doesn’t hit his head. And I would just sit there, you know, drinking wine or beer, because it’s not like you can leave, you can’t do anything. I felt like I was held hostage to, you know, and so it just, it was like the thing, the only thing that would, what I thought would bring some sort of relief. 

[00:26:43] Lorilee Rager: Yeah. And you felt, not you, I felt, I’m thinking, and I also felt at the time that I was the only person in the world that felt that way because I thought everyone else was absolutely loving their child with completely clean hair and swaddled, beautiful, powder fresh smelling child in this cozy, you know, bubble bath experience, and that I was the one over here on the floor with a drink and the child completely just feeling alone. And why, why can’t, why can’t I figure this out? Why can’t, or you said something about find a rhythm to my life. Once this new human was here. 

[00:27:25] Samantha Perkins: Yeah. It was, I felt the exact same way. Just very alone and ashamed. You know, I didn’t want to tell people this is really hard for me. I mean, I felt like I just, I’m supposed to know what to do. I can’t ask for help because then I’m a bad mom, you know? I mean just all of the things. So yeah, combination of ashamed and exhaustion. I mean, it was, it was really, really a hard time. 

[00:27:50] Lorilee Rager: Yeah. And I, and I just remember drinking through it and thought, well, looking back, it’s like, oh, when were, when were the earliest moments that I, um, used alcohol to, to numb and stop those worry and shame and feelings, and it’s just really eye opening when I read your book just to see you felt the same way at some of those same moments and yeah, I don’t think I ever told anyone. 

[00:28:15] Samantha Perkins: Yeah, there was a distinct time when I realized like the alcohol went from like being something that you did out with your friends to like something that was a coping skill, you know. I mean, you know, something that would get you through the long dark miserable night. I mean, I’m laughing because I mean, it’s a horrible place, so I’m not making fun. I’m just, that’s what I thought in my head, like, this is what I’m going to do in order to survive. 

[00:28:42] Lorilee Rager: Yeah, and I do the same thing. I mean, I laugh and use humor at the most uncomfortable things. And looking back. I mean, I, I do think it’s comical when I look at all the other things you wrote about that I agreed with that, that you tried to do. I mean, we, we ate the kale, we drank the water, we bought the best diapers, we bought the best pack and plays, the most expense, like we bought and did every possible right thing, or what we thought was the perfect thing. But then you sat in the dark and drank at it instead of just, just really taking better care of ourself and really being honest and, and that community aspect of it.

[00:29:24] Samantha Perkins: Yeah, for sure. 

[00:29:26] Lorilee Rager: Yeah. So, um, another thing I was going to ask you about is, you had said it earlier too when you were looking at the checklist that, you know, you didn’t have a DUI and you didn’t, you didn’t do cocaine, you just had anxiety, bloating, and headaches. And when you Google that, you know, there’s nothing that says, you know, quit drinking alcohol. But can you tell me the story a little bit of how you, you went through that journey? Uh, what, what drove you to finally quit just based on your symptoms? 

[00:30:02] Samantha Perkins: Um, yeah, I would Google, I mean, I guess, subconsciously I knew it had something to do with the alcohol because I would Google, you know, am I an alcoholic? You know, and I think going back to what you said earlier, it’s so important to say that, you know, this wasn’t three bottles of wine a night. You know, sometimes I totally went overboard on the weekends or whatever, and I would get really drunk, but I mean, I’m talking about the two glasses of wine or the, you know, two beers and the half glass of wine right before I passed out into my bed. You know, it wasn’t, it doesn’t necessarily, it wasn’t always a massive amount of alcohol, but you know, I would Google, am I an alcoholic? And, um, of course, you know, the checklist didn’t apply to me in any way. Um, but I, I typed in this horribly vain sentence because I was thinking about how maybe if it were the alcohol, like, how would I be able to live my cool life that I’m living, where I go to breweries and I drink, um, you know, fancy beers that are brewed with orange slices, and all this yummy stuff. How am I going to live my cool life, you know, if it is, if it is, if it is the alcohol? And so I Googled, um, this is very sad, but this is where I was at the time, um, cool people who don’t drink. 

[00:31:16] Lorilee Rager: I love it. 

[00:31:17] Samantha Perkins: I know. Oh my gosh. And so, you know, I stumbled upon this blog where, this was the first time I’d ever heard someone talking about living alcohol free being like a freedom from anxiety, mental health issues, you know, all of these things. Um, you know, she was making it sound like cool not to drink. And I was like, huh, interesting. Um, and so I read and read and read and read and just let her words really, um, her name is Holly Whitaker, um, she just was taking such a different approach to, um, you know, what it’s, she was basically, she had all the things that I was hoping alcohol would get me. You know, she was living this life, um, that just sounded so great, versus what I thought being alcohol free would be which is miserable and lonely and sad. And so I was, felt really, really encouraged by her. 

[00:32:13] Lorilee Rager: Yes. I’ve read her book, um, is it Quit like a Woman? Yeah, I read Laura’s book first in your book club, which was absolutely life-changing. I mean, I stopped drinking that day, the day I read that book and got on your, your, uh, book club zoom that night and, um, then red Holly’s next. And it was just like you said, it was so interesting to look at the, the wellness side of it, where we had tried so many other things and then looking at alcohol in the science side of it as a chemical in your body and things like that. And, and really again, I was, I was just sitting there full of anxiety, bloated, with raging headaches and, uh, couldn’t take enough Advil and the Xanax wasn’t really helping, you know, like I thought maybe it was at the beginning. And so, yeah, I knew when you had said that. And did you also read another book? Um, 

[00:33:15] Samantha Perkins: This Naked Mind.

[00:33:16] Lorilee Rager: Yeah, This Naked Mind. 

[00:33:17] Samantha Perkins: So that was what Holly, when I stumbled on her blogs, that was the first book that she read. So I like instantly ordered it. You know, I, I basically emulated, whatever she did. I’m like, okay, you know, she, she seems like someone that I can relate to. First of all, she was a female, you know, she wasn’t even a, she, I don’t even think now that she has any kids, but just like being a younger woman, you know, someone who had just recently gone through this, I felt like, you know, I could relate to her. And so I ordered This Naked Mind and yes, this is where, like, she really started with the science and how alcohol impacts, um, anxiety. And I just was like, my mind was blown. Like things I’d never heard before. And I was, so I believed her, you know, I just, whatever it was, maybe I just wanted so badly something to tell me, you know? And so I just, I, I believed what she was saying and I knew that when I drank my anxiety got worse. And she explained everything from waking up in the middle of the night, you know, the sweating, my heart beating fast and why that was happening to me and, you know, why my ruminating thoughts were so much worse after drinking and, you know, just all the things. And I just was, I mean, I just was so happy to have found her work. 

[00:34:35] Lorilee Rager: Yeah. And the, what gives me hope, uh, in, in like having conversations like this with you, so honest, is to say that yeah, we were looking at it from the approach of what’s wrong with my anxiety or what is fueling my anxiety. It wasn’t this rock bottom that is the labeled again, the say Ms. Hannigan again. Like we, you know, you just, you really brought forth, um, that approach. It, wasn’t an AA meeting in a dark basement with paneling, secretly sitting in shame of something. And I’m not knocking that because Lord knows we all have our demons and different approaches to how we get better. But it was, it was just a really refreshing way to meet you and see somebody who I, again, thought was like me and, and was, was able to look at it just from a completely different angle, completely different perspective. 

[00:35:37] Samantha Perkins: Right. And I think because my mental illness happens to be anxiety and not depression, you know, when you’re anxious, I couldn’t let it go. You know, like I couldn’t let this feeling go. I mean, when I was feeling anxious, I was thinking about feeling anxious. And then when I wasn’t feeling anxious, I was worried about when I was going to feel anxious again. 

[00:36:00] Lorilee Rager: Yes. I so relate to that. 

[00:36:01] Samantha Perkins: So it was just so encompassing. So, you know, I think like the rock bottom was just, I had to have relief, you know? And, and I think that it was just a desperation in my own personal mental health. Yeah, but from the outside looking in, everything was just fine. You know, there wasn’t, weren’t any warning signs or, you know, no one knew that I was, you know, struggling with my mental health, you know, in the way that I was, because that is part of being an anxious perfectionist is making sure that no one knows that you’re struggling in the way that you are. Um, just, I feel now nothing but gratitude for having anxiety that led me to that because you know, my anxiety is not just, I mean, it’s so much better, but so are tons of other things in my life because of sobriety, you know? 

[00:36:52] Lorilee Rager: Yeah. That’s so funny to say that because of course the podcast is called Ground and Gratitude because I stay full of gratitude now because of these, you know, my inner weirdo. Like I’m embracing it. Um, this anxiety has taught me so much and it’s made me be a little kinder to myself and a little gentler to myself. Um, and yeah, I really resonate with that. 

[00:37:19] Samantha Perkins: Yeah, for sure. 

[00:37:21] Lorilee Rager: So there was something you had said, and I thought we could, we could talk a little bit because it’s the holidays. Um, which, there’s holidays year-round, you know, 12 year calendar, I know that. But I wanted to talk a little bit about, you know, handling the holidays for anybody that may be, you know, in that sober curious realm, um, or Googling, if you had any tips. One of, one of the things I’ll say before you start is, as you mentioned, which I really loved in your book, is you started to enter your house in a different way. You started just to not sit in your drinking chair. And I, I did that same thing and I didn’t realize I did it, but I thought that was a great tip too. But can you, can you tell us a little bit, anything you think about when you think of, you know, handling the holidays? 

[00:38:12] Samantha Perkins: Yes. Well, first I have so many thoughts on this, but first I just think that if you are Googling or if you are getting curious, like that’s totally fine. I think that people think if they are curious or if they’re Googling that, that means that they have a problem. And I’m just trying to get the word out there to everyone that like being curious about your alcohol use does not mean that you have a problem, you know? 

[00:38:34] Lorilee Rager: Exactly. 

[00:38:35] Samantha Perkins: Yes. Like it’s such a, it’s so good for you to be curious about the things that you’re putting into your body, you know? So I definitely want to tell people to, you know, continue to explore that curiosity. And that doesn’t mean, you know, you’re curious and that you have to stop drinking that minute. But, you know, just when you walk into a party or a work, um, celebration or a family Thanksgiving, you can ask yourself, like, do I really want to drink right now? Or am I just drinking because everyone else here is doing that, you know? Um, would I still want to come to this thing if alcohol weren’t involved? Because I think a lot of times, yes, we use alcohol to get us through all this crap that we don’t even like to do in the first place.

[00:39:15] Lorilee Rager: Absolutely. 

[00:39:16] Samantha Perkins: Yes. And so, um, you know, questioning like how, the role that alcohol plays, you know, while living your normal life. You know, you don’t have to like wake up and say I’m sober living for the rest of my life. I think it’s just good to get curious about it. Um, and yeah, so for me, I just had to, I couldn’t sit in the chair with the side table that could reach my drink because it’s not going to work. So I went back to my bed, you know, because I didn’t have a nightstand at the time. And so I would, you know, I couldn’t have held a drink in my bed and so it just felt like a different thing. And yeah, like I’d never went back out to the outside table. I have like little outside patio table. I’ve never went back out there. That part of the house is dead to me. You know, because that is just where I used to sit and, you know, try to, you know, relax and those kinds of things. So, you know, just changing it up in ways like that are really, really helpful. And, you know, I think there’s so much decision fatigue with people and your, your brain, there’s a lot of science around this and I won’t get too scientific here, but, you know, your brain loves how fast alcohol works. It loves that it floods your, your, um, your brain gets a flood of the feel good chemicals. And so if you’re like, ah, should I have a drink or go for a walk? Your brain’s going gonna say, you should have a drink, you know? Cause that’s going to work way faster and better. And that’s what it likes more. Yeah. So you want to go ahead and plan to have a walk, you know, instead of asking, should I have a drink? There’s a lot, when you tell your brain, I’m going to go for a walk for happy hour today, instead of, you know, deciding at happy hour, um, you can really get ahead of things. 

[00:40:57] Lorilee Rager: You said decision exhaustion. 

[00:40:59] Samantha Perkins: Yeah. Decision fatigue. 

[00:41:01] Lorilee Rager: Decision fatigue. I know that. I’ve never heard of that, but I know that. 

[00:41:05] Samantha Perkins: Yeah. So when you’re going into the party or the work function or the holiday gathering, you know, you want to go in telling yourself ahead of time, you know, I’m going to, take with you the drinks that you want to have, like the LaCroixs or, you know, the sweets and stay out of the kitchen or the bar where everybody’s drinking and, you know, find ways to take deep breaths. You know, I used to like go outside and be alone for a few minutes, or I would go to the bathroom and just be like, okay, you know, I can do this. Okay. It’s been one hour and I’m still not drinking. You know, it’s just those little things, um, because I think a lot of times people think that they’re going to just do exactly the same thing that they did before minus the drink. And that’s it, it might work, but you’re going to have to use a lot more willpower and it’s going to be a lot less satisfying. So you have to find some replacement behaviors, and things that will kind of fill you up in ways that the alcohol used to, you know? 

[00:42:06] Lorilee Rager: Yep. I love that. Changing up your routine, it is, it’s just huge. And you don’t realize it’s such a small, such a small thing. I, I think in, in the early days when I was trying to really, you know, test the waters on, on this anxiety connection to alcohol, I remember also being like, you know what, um, I’m not going to go straight home after work when I would and, you know, sit down at the same chair. I’m, you know, I’m gonna, I’m actually gonna stop at the grocery and walk every single aisle and pick out something new to eat, or something like that. Or take off an extra 30 minutes early, and like you said, really plan to go to the gym. And I remember, I drastically changed my work schedule, which feels, I say drastically, it was 30 minutes. Like I changed my Workday to 7:30 AM to 4:30 so I could get to the gym on time. Speaking of anxiety, I was terrified that we traffic and I wouldn’t get there to the five o’clock class. So, I mean, I changed my, my company business hours just to switch up that routine. Cause I knew, I began to learn that was the hardest part of my day, so I started to wind down. So I just think it’s a really, really good tip. Um, you also say, the joys of it, uh, of now, uh, of living this freedom, um, you said that, um, that happy hour is any hour now. 

[00:43:37] Samantha Perkins: Yes. Yes. I love, you know, I spent so much time waiting. You know, just waiting for the time that I can have the relief and I can even, there’s this, I can remember times when there would be this great song on the radio and I’d be like, oh, I can’t wait till I’m drinking again I’m going to listen to this song, you know, instead of just listening to the song. 

[00:43:56] Lorilee Rager: Just listen to the song. 

[00:43:58] Samantha Perkins: And so now I listen to the song and it’s happy hour, you know. It’s just so much less waiting and it’s so much, it’s so freeing and yeah, I love it. That, and I do, I like to drink mocktails. And so I can have one right nowif I want to. 

[00:44:14] Lorilee Rager: Absolutely. 

[00:44:15] Samantha Perkins: There’s no more waiting. I can reward myself. Yes. 

[00:44:19] Lorilee Rager: It’s so true. That’s huge. It would be, yeah. If I could just get to five o’clock, if I could just get to Saturday, if I could just. Instead right now it can be happy hour. You can absolutely do something that will make you get that same, is it dopamine? 

[00:44:34] Samantha Perkins: Yes. Yes, exactly. 

[00:44:35] Lorilee Rager: That that will give you at 5:05. Yeah. And retraining that, um, it’s just, that’s really a beautiful thing to think of. So I love it when you said that too, very, very much. Um, okay. Well, the last question is, which you’ve you’ve really actually just did, but you’ve given us so many, so many good takeaways. Um, but what would you leave in our Ground and Gratitude toolbox, um, for our listeners? Just as something maybe that gets you grounded or helps with gratitude or gets you through a hard spot or something you say every day? 

[00:45:12] Samantha Perkins: Well, for me, I, you know, I think about gratitude all the time. And so when I’m feeling anxious or when something’s going on, you know, I just try to be, um, as grateful as I can for just the smallest things, you know. Like, I love that I have my warm, soft blanket on right now. And I love that I have coffee every morning cause that’s my favorite thing. And I love that I, you know, I’m so grateful that I’m not sick today. I mean, just these little tiny things to interrupt the anxious thoughts or the, you know, the dooms, the doom thinking that like, oh, I’ve got this work project and it’s going to go really badly and, you know. Um, so I try to just be like, I’m so thankful that, you know, Lorilee asked me to be on this podcast and you know, like I get to do that with her, even though I’m a little bit nervous, you know? Those kinds of things. And it helps to just reframe for me a lot. And so Brené Brown says, “interrupt anxiety with gratitude” and I try to do that as much as I can, um, on a regular basis. 

[00:46:11] Lorilee Rager: Yeah. Oh, I love that. Interrupting that thought because I’ve, being such a ball of anxiety too, I just resonate with that. Something to interrupt it. And it made me instantly just think of like, before I hopped on here, the sweet hug I just got from my son. And I mean like, ooh, just instantly brings my anxiety meter down. So that’s great. 

[00:46:32] Samantha Perkins: Yeah. And you get to notice the things that are like the small things and how important they are and how good they make you feel if you’ll just take a minute and let it happen, you know? So that’s what I love. 

[00:46:44] Lorilee Rager: Oh, that’s perfect. Absolutely perfect. Oh, so good. Well, thank you so, so much for being on here today and sharing and being so just honest and, and laughing. I mean, who knew that it would be such a laughable and such a joyous conversation to talk about this hard stuff. You make it, you make it fun and feel less, uh, weird for, for me.

[00:47:07] Samantha Perkins: Thank you so much. You’re awesome. This was such a great conversation. 

[00:47:11] Lorilee Rager: Thank you, Samantha. We will see you soon. 

[00:47:13] Samantha Perkins: Okay. Bye

[00:47:21] Lorilee Rager: Thanks again to Samantha for bringing the joy into this really important and impactful conversation about being sober. Thank you for tuning in to Ground and Gratitude. You can find more info about the show and resources to help anyone curious about sobriety at GroundAndGratitude.com. Join me next time, please, for some more honest conversations exploring what it means to truly live a life grounded in gratitude. 

Ground and Gratitude is produced by the Kelly Drake and AOMcClain LLC.

Ep. 3: Diving Deep Into Therapy with Will Messer

Clinical Social Worker Will Messer joins Lorilee to talk about all things therapy. The two get into some of the different approaches out there, how to ask for help, and what healing looks like — all in the name of living a life full of joy, clarity, and peace. Will has extensive experience working with individuals and couples. He is a Certified EFT Therapist, Certified Enneagram Trainer and Coach, and level one AEDP Therapist based in Tennessee.


  • On Will’s playlist: “One of a Kind” – Lin-Manuel Miranda, Juan de Marcos González
  • Cultivating safe spaces
  • Connecting with a therapist and understanding why we seek to heal
  • Types of therapy
  • Mindfulness
  • The importance of connecting with and listening to yourself
  • Embracing joy, gratitude, and connection
  • One tool for our G&G toolbox

Mentioned in this episode:

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Episode 3 Transcript

[00:00:00] Lorilee Rager: Hey, I’m Lorilee Rager and this is Ground and Gratitude. It’s a podcast about designing the life you want, one that not only grows but also gives. 

Before today’s episode, I’d like to tell you about where I bank, Her Bank by Legends Bank. This episode of Ground and Gratitude is sponsored by them. Her Bank celebrates, honors, and supports women, especially entrepreneurs, by providing financial services and resources through a core team of experienced female bankers, which is so reassuring to me. Her Bank creates a bridge to help women overcome barriers when it comes to money conversations and decisions while providing women with a better banking experience. Check out Her-Bank.com to learn more. Her Bank is a brand of Legends Bank. Legends Bank is a member FDIC equal housing lender.

My guest today is Will Messer, one of the most genuine, warm and intelligent guys I know. Will has almost a decade of experience working with individuals and couples. He is a licensed clinical social worker, certified EFT therapist, certified Enneagram trainer and coach, and a level one AEDP therapist. I can’t think of a better person to be talking to you today about therapy. We’ll break down the different types of therapy, how to feel good about wanting therapy, and how gratitude and joy can help us all heal. 

Welcome Will. Thank you so much for joining me and being a part of the Ground and Gratitude podcast today. 

[00:02:02] Will Messer: Thank you so much for having me. It’s really good to be with you. 

[00:02:05] Lorilee Rager: Yeah, absolutely. I’m very, very excited to have you today. And I have a big, serious, serious question right out of the gate. It’s a big kickoff question. I hope you can handle it. 

[00:02:17] Will Messer: I’m ready.

[00:02:17] Lorilee Rager: I wanted to know what song is on repeat on your playlist today. 

[00:02:23] Will Messer: Well, it will be a kid song. Uh, my kids have been into the movie Vivo, so the song “One of a Kind,” which of course is the genius of Lin Manuel Miranda. Um, and it’s very catchy. So that would, that would be the one, yeah. 

[00:02:40] Lorilee Rager: That’s good to know. I have not heard that, but I love anything by Lin Manuel. 

[00:02:44] Will Messer: It’s not even fair how smart he is. 

[00:02:46] Lorilee Rager: Absolutely true. Absolutely true. Okay. I’ll have to listen to that one. I will definitely have to listen to that one. I was, um, thinking the other night, um, uh, the song Troll, that came from the movie Trolls, instantly made me think of being, the boys being really little and playing and watching Trolls and all that. So it’s, kids’ songs are okay. So kids’ songs are, they’re actually maybe better than they used to be. 

[00:03:11] Will Messer: Yeah, no, I think that’s pretty right? Yes.

[00:03:14] Lorilee Rager: Yeah. Good. All right. I like it. I like it very much, very much. Well, uh, so jumping right in, I wanted to talk therapy because it’s definitely my favorite topic now basically of all time. And I know it’s what you do for a living and a great topic. We’ve had some great, you know, side conversations as we became friends and talked about some really good personal stuff. And, you know, right out of the gate, I was, I was drawn to, um, the fact that you like to create a safe space, um, for your, your patients and probably for yourself and safe spaces, um, is something that I explored through my grad school research. And I wrote a lot about it because as I began to go through therapy and look at my childhood and sense of place, I began to remember safe places where I had warm blankets and my, and my drawing crayons or with my grandmother. And now it’s actually a really anchoring thought when I have maybe some anxiety or get upset. And your, your office and your vibe and your, your, um, practice kind of revolves around that. So I thought I would, um, I wanted to ask you a little bit about that. Can you tell me a little bit about it? 

[00:04:41] Will Messer: Yeah. Um, what do you want to know? 

[00:04:45] Lorilee Rager: Well, so specifically, how does therapy, in your thoughts, um, cultivate safety? Um, safety of the self.

[00:04:56] Will Messer: Yeah. Oh, that’s such a good question. How does therapy create safety of the self? Um, well, as, you know, what you said about your safe places and you mentioned your grandmother, right? There’s a person that’s a part of that for you. Um, and so I, so a lot of the work I do is, well, really all of the work I do is, in the therapy offices, is based on attachment science. Um, and I’m going to bring that back around to safe place because, you know, attachment and relationship is really our first safe place when we’re born, right? You know, the first thing we do coming out of the womb is cry, and, which is a signal for attachment, right. It’s a kind of a posture of, I can’t create safety for myself at the beginning, right. And so when we’re kids and we have safe attachment, we have secure attachment, we have people that we can signal with whether it’s cries and then it gets more sophisticated into talking and, um, you know, being able to verbalize our needs. But when we have that experience of a safe relationship, we are able to then, um, venture out more into the world. So like kids at a playground will go, they’ll go out a little bit, check back in with mom and dad, go out a little bit further, take a little bit more risk, come back in, and then go out a little bit further, right? And so what we’re understanding is that that child needs to get a sense that, um, somebody is still there to care for me to help them go create a sense of safety out in their environment for themselves. If that makes sense. 

[00:06:47] Lorilee Rager: Yes, absolutely. 

[00:06:48] Will Messer: To feel safe, to feel safe, going out further. 

[00:06:50] Lorilee Rager: Right, right. 

[00:06:51] Will Messer: So there’s this, there’s this real intimate connection between being able to have a safe relationship and establish a sense of safety within me. And then if you’ve never experienced safe relationship, and for a child who loses that as they get older and then maybe their caregivers are just unavailable, busy, or maybe their family don’t, their families don’t know what to do with their big emotions that they’re in distress about, a child will have to find other ways to find a sense of peace and calm. Um, so it might be, um, that usually those are those things away from a relationship are, um, things that really help the person step away from their feelings.

[00:07:36] Lorilee Rager: Ah, right. 

[00:07:37] Will Messer: Distract, numb, um, get away from, um, 

[00:07:42] Lorilee Rager: Escape, right. 

[00:07:42] Will Messer: And so I can think back. Yeah. Yeah. And so, you know, skip forward, like the therapy room, the relationship, the therapeutic relationship is really the cultivator of the safety in the room. And as a person has an experience of someone maybe like your grandmother, you know, like just really being there, really being with them, really having a sense that no matter how I am, how I’m showing up, that person’s there.

[00:08:13] Lorilee Rager: Yes, yes. That connection that’s um, you know, my grandmother didn’t judge me. My grandmother loved me unconditionally and, and her home and the things there and even the smells and the foods, you know, all surrounded that safety feeling. Yeah, yeah.

[00:08:38] Will Messer: Yes. Exactly. 

[00:08:39] Lorilee Rager: Right, right. 

[00:08:41] Will Messer: Yeah. So we’re, you know, we’re just, I’m giving, as a therapist, I’m trying to just set people up, whether I’m working with a couple or I’m working with an individual, I’m just trying to give them positive experiences of relational safety. So that it gets, starts to get internalized so that they can go feel safer in their environments because they’ve internalized acceptance. They’ve internalized, I’m okay the way I am. They’ve internalized being sad or angry or scared is okay. And that helps them to be able to move through that away from the therapy office. 

[00:09:17] Lorilee Rager: Just like you said, with the mother at the playground, um, I can see you can come to your, your office and the safe space and you get that same comfort, you know, as you maybe did as a child with your mother or grandmother. And then when you go out into the world, you feel better, you feel a little safer to, to tread lightly and then you can come back again, feel the safety, then try and go back out. I completely, I can see the analogy. And I think I even read about it. Maybe both Esther Perel has a talk about it and maybe Bessel van der Kolk in The Body Keeps the Score. And maybe even observing, um, a doctor observing parents or children, parents and children on the playground and watching that. And if the mother does disappear, maybe she just goes to her car for a moment, the distress the child’s in when they can’t find them. 

[00:10:15] Will Messer: Yes. 

[00:10:15] Lorilee Rager: So that makes complete sense. And, and I know that, um, specifically for me during the pandemic and being shifted quickly to online virtual learning for grad school and teaching, and, um, running my business, I created this, the spare bedroom that had just an old Christmas tree and dried dog poop in it and cleaned it up, added my favorite books and things. I didn’t even realize what I was doing, but I began to, I put my grandmother’s quilt here and began doing some virtual therapy and some virtual sobriety meetings. And, and now I get that warm feeling when I come and go just from this room. 

[00:11:03] Will Messer: And that’s where you are right now? 

[00:11:04] Lorilee Rager: Yeah. Yeah. That’s where I’m recording the podcast. 

[00:11:06] Will Messer: I love it. I love it. That’s awesome.

[00:11:07] Lorilee Rager: Yeah. Yeah, absolutely. And so the safe spaces concept just really started to affect me as I talked in my own therapy sessions about where I felt safe or where I felt grounded. And it, it just, it manifested into these happy childhood memories of safety. And then this space, I’d never had a space that was mine as an adult. It’s like, I didn’t think I needed it. 

[00:11:36] Will Messer: Yeah, yeah.

[00:11:37] Lorilee Rager: Um, so that, that was something that, um, you know, I wanted you to expand a little more and obviously explain to the listeners what you do. And, because I want people to understand how you help people feel good, um, about wanting therapy, about feeling safe, um, and, and all the different types of therapies. So tell me a little bit about that, if you can. 

[00:12:05] Will Messer: Yeah, to try to help your listeners, like, get a feel for why therapy and what it is, is that kind of what you’re going after?

[00:12:12] Lorilee Rager: Yeah, and why it’s good and safe.

[00:12:15] Will Messer: Yeah, well, um, yeah, it should be safe, right? It always should be. And so there’s, you know, there’s, there’s a, but having, having said that like, it’s a relationship, right? So you don’t jive with everybody, not everybody are you going to feel an authentic connection with. Um, and so I say that, you know, not to be kind of a negative, but I also want people to know going into therapy that it’s really normal if you don’t connect immediately with your therapist or with that therapist in particular at all. That’s okay. That’s the way relationships work, right? Yeah. I’ve had a couple, you know, three different therapists and, um, you know, like I’ve had that experience of like this person, yes. This person is exactly what I need right now. And I’ve had that experience of like, I like this person, I’m just not sure this is what I need right now, you know. And that’s normal. 

Um, but essentially you should just feel a very natural connection with the person. It should just, should kind of feel easy, um, for you to be you. And, um, you know, really we do, you know, one of the things I’ve been thinking a lot about lately is, you know, therapy is so heavy, right? Like it can be so heavy and it’s hard work. It is, it’s hard work a lot of the time and by necessity it needs to be that. But I think it’s easy to lose track of the “why” we do that. And like the reason we do the hard work and we feel the hard things is actually so that we can move into, um, experiencing more joy, more gratitude, more clarity, more peace. And be able to thrive long-term and do things like you’re doing, like building a beautiful, safe place for yourself, where you can continue to have lightness and joy and gratitude, right.

[00:14:17] Lorilee Rager: Right. 

[00:14:18] Will Messer: And so we, you know, we, and, and learning to stay with positive experiences, learning to be in them is in and of itself a very challenging thing for a lot of us. And, and, it can be really scary sometimes to actually feel good, right. So part of therapy is not, it’s not just, yes, let’s, yes, let’s move into where you’re hurting and let’s care for that, right? When we’ve, when we’ve cared for that, there’s something else that starts to emerge when we we’ve really dealt with hurt or the sadness or the fear, other feelings start to show up inside, like peace, like a sense of relief, like lightness. So the other part of the way that I work in therapy is really making a big deal about that and really learning and helping your brain really take in the experience of relief, of joy, of gratitude. That is really the healing part of therapy.

[00:15:24] Lorilee Rager: Yes. 

[00:15:25] Will Messer: So it’s like kind of two things. 

[00:15:27] Lorilee Rager: Right, right. 

[00:15:28] Will Messer: Yeah. We go down so that we can go up. 

[00:15:31] Lorilee Rager: That’s exactly right. I think of it, I call it with myself, um, the inner bobber, like when you’re fishing and you’ve got the little, little bobber that, it’s important to me, um, and I’ve learned this through a little bit of research with the Enneagram, being a number nine, that through therapy and talking that it’s really important to get my inner bobber to be steady. That, that I really stay fearful of, you know, high emotions of anger or even, even excitement, high emotions scare me or the really low emotions of sadness and fear. And that I had, I tried to do anything under the sun to keep that inner bobber steady and starting out as a child in my safe space maybe that was coloring and drawing and or cooking with my grandma. But as I became an adult, I, I, I, lost touch with those or, or dropped them and alcohol gave me that. But it didn’t fix what was really making that bobber tug and jump and jerk. So that’s, that’s kinda what I learned in therapy. And exactly, like you said, it didn’t have to be so heavy and so serious. Um, you know, it was, yes I needed to wrestle with some demons, but I also needed to just hug a little too. 

[00:17:04] Will Messer: Right. 

[00:17:04] Lorilee Rager: If that makes sense. 

[00:17:05] Will Messer: Absolutely. 

[00:17:07] Lorilee Rager: Um, and, and so I wanted to explore, because what I don’t understand, and I think, I think you can help us all, is what are the different types of therapies and the different like frequently asked questions maybe you get. Because as I now am comfortable with it and comfortable with talking about it and think everyone should be a part of it, I noticed a lot of people aren’t, or they’re just confused. I mean, like being a licensed clinical social worker with a lot of other letters behind your name, um, you know, like I know you’re, you particularly have like EFT and AEDP, so could you help us understand a little bit more of the types of therapies. 

[00:17:51] Will Messer: I can try.

[00:17:53] Lorilee Rager: Okay. 

[00:17:53] Will Messer: There are a lot of them. Um, so I, again, I will, I’m going to really kind of put point and center for anybody listening, the most important thing is just the organic sense of connection with the therapist. Like research-wise, modality in terms of what the letters are that a person is doing therapy, EFT, AEDP, really what matters is the therapeutic alliance and the therapeutic relationship, so. 

[00:18:28] Lorilee Rager: I agree. 

[00:18:29] Will Messer: Yeah. So take somebody, I would, you know, I probably would be drawn to try somebody who’s got a reputation for being good, right, over somebody with a lot of letters. 

[00:18:42] Lorilee Rager: Okay, yeah. That’s good.

[00:18:45] Will Messer: Yeah, but, so there’s a lot, I mean, I, I, our, our field is so, I mean, it feels like, is constantly evolving and changing, you know, for the, about the decade I’ve been in it already. Um, and I can’t speak to all of the history adequately and all of the evolutions. Um, I can maybe just tell you, what I think has really changed my career and really changed the way I feel about my work. 

[00:19:12] Lorilee Rager: Oh yeah, please, yes. 

[00:19:14] Will Messer: Um, I, you know, early on in my career, I was exposed to a lot more, um, cognitive type therapies where, you know, see, so cognitive behavioral therapy is one that comes to mind. Acceptance and commitment therapy has a pretty good, you know, a sort of CBT, cognitive behavioral therapy, but with a mindfulness piece that’s really important. I was really drawn to that, they felt comfortable for me. I’m a six on the Enneagram, so they, they were really up my alley of like, oh great, thinking the way we’re going to get there. You know? And which, you know, come to realize the shortcomings of thinking for myself personally. But, um, but they, they were, they really drew me in and I, and I don’t want to disrespect those modalities at all. Um, they are still very evidence-based and helpful for people. So let me make sure I’m clear about that. Um, what really drastically changed my career was when I came across, uh, a couple of approaches that are less top down. So like when I say top down, I mean, like, change your thinking and beliefs, and then let that permeate into transformation and through the rest of you. So that was more of the cognitive type of approach. 

What changed the work for me was when I came across more bottom up approaches. And by that, I mean, approaches that really get into the experience, the bodily experience, of our emotions and help support a person to be able to actually have the space, to feel through those things, to feel through the waves inside and their nervous system all the way through which then leads to the top and leads to more mental clarity, leads to this sense of, of stability inside and alignment inside. And that that’s where I came, I came across emotionally focused therapy, which is what I use exclusively with couples, um, and where it’s really focused on the experience of emotion. Which is not the same thing as saying we teach people to go do everything that their feelings tell them to do. That, oh, we’re just going, oh, you’re just telling everybody to just always be, you know, just make emotional decisions, which, you know, that’s not the same thing. It’s actually, it’s actually, when we have space to feel them, we actually end up making better decisions for us that are good for us. 

[00:21:53] Lorilee Rager: Okay. Right, right. 

[00:21:56] Will Messer: So for example, if I can’t feel anger, if I’m shut off to my anger and I’m in a work environment where there’s a lot of wrong things happening, but I can’t feel my anger, I will never have the energy and I will never find it within me to get out of that situation or try to make that situation better. I will be stuck just continually getting hurt, stepped on, or whatever, right. So I need the energy, I need to be able to feel that anger. That’s what anger is, it’s energy. I need that to be able to move me into a place of more flourishing, right? 

[00:22:36] Lorilee Rager: Yes, for sure. 

[00:22:37] Will Messer: Yeah. So, so the attachment based, um, therapies to me, um, they’ve been around for a couple of decades, you know, and, but I, I didn’t come across until about 10 years ago and they really have changed the way that I work and it’s emotion focused therapy. And then the other approach I love is AEDP which, a lot of big words, uh, accelerated experiential dynamic psychotherapy. Um, but if I could translate that, it’s just, it’s, it’s a relational therapy where the therapist is actually being a pretty real person, not being this distant kind of removed with a, you know, clipboard. Mhm, mhm, mhm. 

[00:23:21] Lorilee Rager: Right. Behind a desk.

[00:23:23] Will Messer: Yeah. It’s like, I’m actually showing up and I’m bringing my real authentic self into the room in a way that serves the person in front of me. And so a lot of people have that leftover image of therapists that they’re just indifferent, they’re just a blank wall, and you know, they’re just going to listen to me. And, and a lot of therapy I really feel is moving more toward, you know, a more active stance from the therapist. From a relational stance, which to me is like, oh God, thank goodness. 

[00:23:58] Lorilee Rager: Yes, I can feel the, I can feel the relief in that. Yes, absolutely. Absolutely. So it’s really interesting how you said the top down to the bottom up, because it had me thinking in my own experience of my first fears of finding a therapist three or four years ago. And my pretending to go in and pretending to be the right person and say the right things and think the way they wanted me to think. Like I came out of the gate trying to be this people pleaser and instantly had no connection. It is funny when you, when you lie to your therapist, they don’t seem like they’re a good therapist like it’s. But, but when, when push came to shove and my anxiety had taken over in my physical appearance and panic attacks and weight gain and, and everything. I physically had, I mean, had to throw in the towel and had to be honest. And I don’t know if that’s what you’re saying in the sense, but it makes me think of it that I, my feelings and physical emotions had just had enough. I couldn’t outthink it anymore. And so I went asking for help for anxiety so I could work harder, work faster, work better, help more people, do more of the people pleasing things. But I was like, just help me with anxiety. But it, it turned into, okay, we’re definitely going to give, give you some, some help and tips with anxiety and it turned now into this healthy thinking, clarity, freedom, I don’t bite my nails. And it accidentally led into this, I don’t need a drink anymore, um, situation, so. 

[00:25:45] Will Messer: And it sounds like you started being honest with yourself. 

[00:25:48] Lorilee Rager: Right. The truth, truth telling. It was really something I didn’t know is such a key piece. Um, when you already consider yourself a good person, an honest person, a positive person, a grateful person, you don’t want to be truthful and say, but I’m really, really sad and I don’t know why. Or I’m really, really angry and I’m not supposed to be, because we were taught, never be angry. 

[00:26:15] Will Messer: Yes. Yeah. 

[00:26:16] Lorilee Rager: Um, so. 

[00:26:19] Will Messer: Yeah, I love that. 

[00:26:20] Lorilee Rager: Does that, does that make sense? 

[00:26:23] Will Messer: It does make sense. And yeah, I think it’s one of the mysteries, uh, the, the great mysteries of life, which is why do some, why are some people when they start to face their suffering and they start to suffer, and often for us it’s in our thirties or forties at some point where we have those great bouts of challenges for the first time, a lot of people happens younger, some people happens later, but on average. Why is it some people are able to start being honest with themselves and some people aren’t? I have no idea. I have no idea what that is. Like, why do people wake up, some people wake up and some people stay asleep, you know. 

[00:27:04] Lorilee Rager: Right. The whole stuck and, um, rock bottom. And it’s hard to define and, and not everyone’s rock bottom looks the same. And you don’t have to have a Jerry Springer show atomic bomb explosion to cause it. But, I felt like we all have that inner voice, you know, gently telling us, it’s actually not screaming at us, I don’t feel like, but it’s gently telling us, hey, hey you maybe shouldn’t do that. Or, hey, maybe you should think about changing how you do that. So, I felt like the mindfulness, 

[00:27:43] Will Messer: That brings us back,

[00:27:45] Lorilee Rager: Yeah. 

[00:27:45] Will Messer: I’m sorry, go ahead. 

[00:27:45] Lorilee Rager: No, no, you go ahead. The mindfulness aspect is what I was going to ask you about, of it, of therapy. 

[00:27:52] Will Messer: What you were saying made me think of how we started, which is the safe space, you know. The mindfulness, to be able to be mindful you have to have some kind of space for yourself where you can listen and you actually listen inwardly and actually ask yourself what’s it, what’s going on inside, you know. And some of my memories of that were like, I grew up up a holler in West Virginia, you know, and I was the first kid on the school bus in the morning and the last kid off, you know, which meant I probably had an hour ride both ways.

[00:28:26] Lorilee Rager: Absolutely, me too.

[00:28:26] Will Messer: Did you really? 

[00:28:27] Lorilee Rager: Yes. Hour both ways, first one on. 

[00:28:30] Will Messer: That’s awesome. 

[00:28:31] Lorilee Rager: Tell me about that. Tell me about that. 

[00:28:33] Will Messer: Yeah. I just, I mean, so much of the time for me was just sit and was spent in silence. I mean, I’d interact with peers, but you know, there were, there would be a lot of times where all of us were just looking out the window, you know. There was, like, just this open space where I can process the day. And there was an, there was nothing else I could do. Like, I mean, there was literally nothing else I could do. So I was sort of forced into introspection, in a way. And I’m really grateful for that now, and I think I credit that a good bit with why I found my way into doing therapy, because being, like, being curious about internal things was something I had a lot of time for as a kid. And I think I developed kind of an affinity for, you know, exploring. And also just growing up in the country and it’s more quiet in nature, and, you know, I spent a lot of time as a, as a kid outside. Um, sometimes, a lot of times by myself. I was the youngest of my siblings by a good bit. And I had a friend, my closest friend was a mile, was like a mile away. We hung out all the time, but there was still a lot of times it was just me and it was just like, that was a lot of my safe space was nature and the school bus rides where I could really listen to myself. 

[00:29:51] Lorilee Rager: I absolutely completely relate because I was the exact same way in the Kentucky version. Um, and I know exactly what you’re saying. And I don’t think a lot of us get that today. I mean, I know we don’t because the smart devices and the electronics and the screens and the noise and the, I don’t even commute hardly that far. And I miss a good commute. And now if I do commute, it seems like I’m multitasking and texting or on the phone, or trying to get in three or four podcasts and listen to a book for a minute. I couldn’t imagine that I could immediately think back to childhood and being on that school bus with no devices in my hands and just looking at the cornfields as far as I can see. And that, that’s a true moment of peace. That I wish, that I, that I realize now, as an adult, through doing therapy, I now have a choice to make that happen.

[00:30:51] Will Messer: Yeah. 

[00:30:52] Lorilee Rager: That’s what I feel like therapy gives, in some way what you do gives me permission to understand I have a choice. There’s no reason why I can’t silently go on the country ride and get in my car. 

[00:31:07] Will Messer: That’s true. 

[00:31:09] Lorilee Rager: And that such a strange concept to me that you have a choice or realizing that you, you don’t have a choice. It seems like I came to therapy with all of this list of things to fix about me. I have to do this, I have to do this, I have to do that. I have to talk to my dad and I don’t want to, and I have to help this person and I don’t want to, and I have to, have to, have to. And what are your thoughts on, on that, just in general, of the choice or permission that therapy gave me to feel the feelings which led to understanding I do have a choice. 

[00:31:56] Will Messer: Yeah, yeah. I, what’s making me think is, I think it’s probably pretty common for some of our earlier therapy experiences for us to, um, make the therapy, try to turn the therapy into something that helps me just be better at the things I already do, which maybe are the problem.

[00:32:22] Lorilee Rager: Right, right. 

[00:32:23] Will Messer: Right. So like, 

[00:32:24] Lorilee Rager: Exactly. 

[00:32:25] Will Messer: Yeah. So if I’m going in for anxiety, which would be what I, what I go to therapy for is, you know, it’s like, just help me stress better, like help me find better solutions. 

[00:32:35] Lorilee Rager: Help me stress better please. 

[00:32:37] Will Messer: Yeah. You know, or if it’s somebody that really is people pleasing a lot, it’s like, how can, you know, coming in and pleasing the therapist and then wanting the therapist to help you make everybody else in your world happy, you know? And, and, and that’s kind of a part of it, is like, that, the therapy relationship then can actually help reveal your style of relating and your strategies that you use because you start pulling your therapist into that. 

[00:33:12] Lorilee Rager: Yes. 

[00:33:13] Will Messer: Right? And a, and a good, and a good therapist is going to be able to gently help you see that, right. And, and then help you to really start to listen inside and get in touch and connect with yourself. Yeah, because that’s really like, there’s a place under us, you know, to, to we, you know, you, and I have talked about Enneagram before, like our Enneagram number, our personality, it’s just our strategy. It’s just how we’ve learned to move through life and stay safe and get needs met. And, but there’s really something under it. There’s really something under that. We’re more than that. And, you know, part of that is, part of the way into that is listening to our feelings. 

[00:34:03] Lorilee Rager: Right. That’s right. And I think, I love how you said I, I do think, I know I do and a lot of my friends that are open to talking about therapy, or I guess we’ll call it therapy curious. They’re not gone there yet, but they wouldn’t talk to me about it and, and find it safe and nonjudgmental. And, and they are like, well, here’s this problem. Help me continue to attack this problem the way I normally attack it. It’s, it’s just like you just said that it’s, I think that, that’s, and if that’s what gets you in the door to having that conversation, by all means do it. 

[00:34:47] Will Messer: Yes. 

[00:34:47] Lorilee Rager: And, and, and I, I consider myself a hard-headed human that tried it multiple different ways. And it’s, now it’s comical to look back at all the ways I tried to attack something that I shouldn’t be attacking at all, but I shouldn’t even be approaching. Um, but I learned that through again, the therapy and meditation and mindfulness, and I remember not even knowing what mindfulness was and completely being so confused. And, um, I listened to a Oprah’s Super Soul Sunday podcast with Eckhart Tolle. 

[00:35:29] Will Messer: Nice. 

[00:35:30] Lorilee Rager: And she explained that as well. She said, um, what does that mean? What does that mean? You know, you tell me to feel my toes on the steps as I’m going upstairs. And that was the only thing I hung on to and was like, I mean, okay, I can do that, I guess. I mean, normally I’m running up the steps with my phone in my hand and a coffee and a water and a couple of books, and I’m bolting up the steps thinking about what I got to do when I get to the top of the steps. But now I actually don’t and I put my foot firmly on the step and feel the step. And that was really the tiny little shift. Does that make sense? 

[00:36:08] Will Messer: It does make sense. 

[00:36:10] Lorilee Rager: That was just like, ah, okay, just be on the step. 

[00:36:15] Will Messer: Yup. Which is something we knew how to do when we were kids.

[00:36:18] Lorilee Rager: Right, it all goes back to that. We did. 

[00:36:21] Will Messer: Yeah. We’ve just unlearned that because our brains got more sophisticated and, you know, got more, we, the prefrontal cortex got fully developed and we were like, oh, we can go solve everything all the time and let’s just stay busy up here in our heads all the time, all the time, all the time. 

[00:36:41] Lorilee Rager: And overthink it. 

[00:36:43] Will Messer: Yeah, and then just not be present, right. Not really be present in where we are and grounded where we are and, and within our own experience, like not connecting with anything more than our thoughts. 

[00:36:57] Lorilee Rager: Right. Yeah. Not the physical. 

[00:36:59] Will Messer: I’m really good at that. I’m really good at just being in my head and overthinking and looping and, um, yeah, I’m like, 

[00:37:10] Lorilee Rager: Yeah, me too.

[00:37:11] Will Messer: It’s one of those things I found myself out 

[00:37:14] Lorilee Rager: How do you, okay, so I’ll throw this back at you. How do you, how do you combat that? How do you, how do you stop it, stop that? Any tools or, or methods or ways? 

[00:37:27] Will Messer: Yeah. Yeah. I think for me, um, there’s a real relational piece. When I’m most underwater in my head and I’m worst case in everything and I’m really panicky, I like, there’s a sense that I’m, I’m just by myself there. So if I can find a way to not be alone and make myself ask for help, which I don’t. I, I, you know, I’m a therapist who, like, embraces people, ask you for help all day long, but I, myself struggle with asking for help . It’s so hard to just say, I’m really struggling. This is where I’m at. But if I can let my wife know that, like, you know, I can’t talk to her about details of my work, confidentiality, but I can tell her how I’m doing inside. I can, I’m really, if I can just say I’m really in my head about this case, it gives me some kind of like connection point to the here and now, which helps ground just a little bit. It doesn’t take it away. Um, But you know, or if I talk to my supervisor, if it’s a case, I can just not be alone in it, and, um, in some way. It’s, it’s not like I’m asking somebody to always solve it necessarily, but just the knowing there’s somebody that’s with me, that’s going to be with me, it’s soothing. Um, but also I, you know, I, um, like things that really force my attention and to be here. Um, like going and just hanging out, playing with my kids, you know, going somewhere, leaving my phone in the car, things like that when I’m, when I’m in a better place and I’m doing that type of thing more often anyway, just as a practice, I’m not even giving myself the option of going into problem solving work mode and that. Kind of like the school bus did for us as kids. Just like there’s no connective option. I’m just here, just now. Things like that really help me a lot. 

[00:39:31] Lorilee Rager: Yeah, yeah. I think changing the environment. I had read a tip of that too, that if you are really in your own head and really, you know, swimming and drowning of feeling in, in thought that just getting physically outside or physically in a different room helps. And, um, I write down, I do the morning pages every morning. And you talk about getting out of your own head. There’s something about dumping it onto that page and letting the page carry it. Um, but also like you said, the community of, of someone else, no, you don’t want them to solve it, you don’t even have to even vomit out all the details. It’s just, hey, this is where I’m at. Can you just kind of hold space for that 

[00:40:21] Will Messer: Exactly.

[00:40:23] Lorilee Rager: is a really beautiful thing for sure. For sure. Well, this kind of circles around the last question and topic is really everything we’ve talked about, which is really beautiful is how do you think we humans find, understand, and embrace things like joy and gratitude and connections? Um, how do we find it? Because gratitude can be so hard for some. 

[00:40:51] Will Messer: Yeah, for sure. And it, and it’s especially hard when, if you’re really in a bad situation and, you know, to, to find things to be grateful for can be tone deaf, if I as a therapist, somebody that’s in a really awful situation, if I just say, oh, just be grateful, be grateful, whatever. 

[00:41:10] Lorilee Rager: Yeah. 

[00:41:10] Will Messer: You know? Um, so yeah, I, I, I think, um, I’m going to keep, you know, sort of saying the same thing, I guess, is our best way there is by finding a way to be really connected with ourselves. And, and being able to get the support, we need to be able to really feel the things that are inside. Um, and of course, like the concrete practices, like really, you know, morning pages, you know, silence, meditating, yoga, writing, things that give you that sense of connection with yourself are a huge part of that, a huge part of that. But I think that connection with yourself really is the biggest thing. And whatever helps you to maintain a sense of, keep short accounts with yourself and your feelings and your emotional life. Um, you’re going to be able to move through emotions more quickly into a place where you feel open and expansive enough to stay with joy and stay with gratitude. 

[00:42:25] Lorilee Rager: Yes, absolutely. Absolutely. I can see, I see what you’re saying because you can’t just jump to the gratitude, you can’t go from the deep, dark, sad place, and then just flip a switch, and I actually talk about that in another episode called toxic positivity. You can’t just, you know, pray it away or be thank, more thankful, or it could always be a worse situation, because I see what you’re saying. You have to, just, the very first step, I see what you’re saying, is to sit with it. I call it, sit with sad and connect with it. And, and you don’t have to do anything, there’s no action. You don’t have to yoga it out or, or ride it out right then. The very first step is to sit with it because I actually can see gratitude in that. If, if, say when I, when I was at some of my weaker moments in sobriety and I really, really wanted the drink and I just sat with it, I just sat through the craving and sat through the sad or sat through the emotion, the next day, I was very, very grateful and I didn’t do anything. Actually take, I took no action, but I’m grateful for that. Um, finding it in the, in the just sitting with it is, um, part of it. 

[00:43:54] Will Messer: Yeah. I don’t really think that, I mean, one of the things I love about the therapy I use a lot of, AEDP, is there’s this word that they’ve created called transformants, which they define as the innate drive toward healing, innate drive toward flourishing. That really built within us there’s a drive toward that. And in other words, our bodies know how and, and, and want to be able to flourish because there’s, there’s real survival value in being in a place of flourishing because you can, when you’re in a place of, of groundedness and you’re in a place of flourishing, you can then prepare out for the future better. You can build security for yourself long-term more, right. So our bodies are trying to get us into that place, and that what happens in our emotions are a part of what carries us there. And they’re trying to carry us there. Our sadness is trying to tell us we need support and care so that we can move into a place of flourishing. Our anger is trying to tell us something wrong or dangerous is happening. You need to mobilize, you need to make this right, so that we can flourish, right. 

[00:45:15] Lorilee Rager: Absolutely. 

[00:45:16] Will Messer: And so it’s, it’s, we’ve, we’ve, what’s happened to so many of us is our, in our childhood, or even at some point in adulthood our feelings, our body’s signaling us for what we need, either we weren’t able to get it or we felt so overwhelmingly alone in a difficult emotional experience that we had to sort of jump off the surfboard. We had to like numb it with something like alcohol. We had to like, just distract and get away from it cause it was too intense, right. So then we’ve, we’ve had to look over and move past and the thing, the very thing that’s trying to help us thrive. And so that’s a lot of like what doing personal work is, is, in therapy and other ways, is actually being able to go back to those experiences where we had to jump off the surfboard and figuring out a way to stay on it all the way through and feel sad, like you’re saying, and be able to feel it all the way through. And if we’ve never had an experience of someone really being with us in that, then having somebody with you to give you the courage to stay with the wave, stay with that sadness, stay with that anger, let’s actually go with it, let’s let’s face that fear together. 

[00:46:37] Lorilee Rager: Oh yeah. That’s really powerful. And what a therapist does. You’re in that safe space for a moment to say, okay, we’re going to try to ride this wave that you’ve, that you’ve bailed on your whole life. You’ve jumped off every time, but I’m here with you. 

[00:46:52] Will Messer: Right. 

[00:46:53] Lorilee Rager: And we can ride it together and just feel it. 

[00:46:56] Will Messer: Yes, exactly. So it’s amazing what you’ll see when somebody can do that. And then the space, like if you’ve ever just had a good cry, you know, if, if you’ve ever been able to, um, like really face a fear or, or if you had some righteous anger that really needed to come out and you face somebody that you’ve been scared of your whole life, there is something that happens in the body that’s where the person just gets super aligned and you see, like, I can see their posture shift and their head gets higher and they’re just calm and they’re , they repeatedly will say, I’ll ask them what’s going on when I see that, they’ll say, I just feel really here.

[00:47:37] Lorilee Rager: Ooh. Yes. Yes. 

[00:47:38] Will Messer: I just, yeah. I just feel really in the room right now. I feel really aware of my hands and my feet in the room I’m in. 

[00:47:46] Lorilee Rager: Yes, ooh that’s good. And once you get just a small taste of that, you just, I mean, in my case, you just want more and you want it. You’re like, all right, I can ride these waves again. I’ll do it again and again and again and again until it, you know, is less scary. 

[00:48:05] Will Messer: Exactly. 

[00:48:06] Lorilee Rager: Oh, that’s good stuff. So good. Well, that is what I have to talk about today. This has been really, really, really great and such interesting, fascinating stuff. I love what you do for a living and love your transparency today and time. And, um, thank you very much. And one last question is what tool would you leave in our Ground and Gratitude toolbox for others? Something that maybe even helps you get grounded or your clients, or, um, anything that helps give gratitude or what I call helps get you through any dry ground or hard spots or seasons. Any tool. 

[00:48:49] Will Messer: Hmmm. To practice, like a practice, something they can do. 

[00:48:54] Lorilee Rager: Whatever, whatever comes to mind. I mean, it can even just be a mantra quote that you live by or a song or a flower, thought. Just some tool that we would put in the toolbox. 

[00:49:03] Will Messer: Yeah. I mean, like, the question I like to ask, and I think there’s practical, is just leaving people with this question of, what would you be like if all of the parts of you, all of the parts of you, the different parts of you, the happy parts, the sad parts, the angry parts, the grateful parts, all the parts of you were just a little bit less alone? Just a little bit less alone. What would it be like to be you if that were true? 

[00:49:42] Lorilee Rager: That’s a really good thought. 

[00:49:45] Will Messer: And I, I, we live in a society that is, has, uh, the pandemic before the pandemic was isolated. 

[00:49:53] Lorilee Rager: Yes. 

[00:49:54] Will Messer: We were extremely disconnected from each other and ourselves. And so my encouragement I would leave with people is to try to find a way to be less alone.

[00:50:06] Lorilee Rager: Yeah. 

[00:50:06] Will Messer: No, that’s, that’s not a sales pitch for therapy. I don’t think everybody needs to run and go to therapy. 

[00:50:11] Lorilee Rager: Of course. 

[00:50:12] Will Messer: But I do think everybody needs to be less alone. And again, whatever that looks like, I believe that you can have really therapeutic relationships without being in therapy. Um, but that would be what I would leave people with.

[00:50:26] Lorilee Rager: I love it. I love it. It’s a great one. And one that I’m definitely going to think of too. Very good. Thank you so much for being here today. 

[00:50:37] Will Messer: Thanks for having me. You’re welcome. This was, this was super fun. Anytime we get to talk I’m, I’m up for it. 

[00:50:42] Lorilee Rager: Ah, it was great, so good. Thank you very much.

Thanks again so much to Will for creating a safe space for us to have this conversation today and sharing so much great information about the benefits and challenges that come up with therapy. Thank you for tuning into Ground and Gratitude. You can find more about the show at GroundAndGratitude.com. Join me next time for honest conversations, exploring what it means to truly live a life grounded in gratitude. 

Ground and Gratitude is produced by the two famous kiddos, Kelly Drake and AOMcClain, LLC. .

Ep 2: Stories of Self Efficacy with Dr. Anne Wall

Listen here:

Dr. Anne Wall (a.k.a. Dr. Sweetie) joins Lorilee to explore the power of preparation and self-efficacy. Anne is a longtime educator who has taught at various levels; from elementary school up through higher education in undergraduate and graduate programs. She recently retired as a professor at Austin Peay State University. Anne shares stories from her own life about how she built the confidence and skills to excel in her career and beyond.


  • On Anne’s playlist: Frank Sinatra
  • Defining self-efficacy
  • Self-learning and experimenting with new tools and technology
  • Combatting procrastination by taking small steps
  • How to do the “next right thing”
  • One tool for the G&G toolbox

Mentioned in this episode:

Listen wherever you get your podcasts! Handy links are below too Apple and Spotify!

Spotify Podcast Episode Link

Apple Podcast Episode Link

Episode 2 Transcript

[00:00:00] Lorilee Rager: Hey, I am Lorilee Rager and this is Ground and Gratitude. It’s a podcast about designing the life you want, one that not only grows but also gives.

Before today’s episode, I’d like to tell you about where I bank, Her Bank by Legends Bank. This episode of Ground and Gratitude is sponsored by them. Her Bank celebrates and supports women, especially entrepreneurs, by providing financial services and resources through a core team of experienced female bankers, which is so reassuring to me. Her Bank creates a bridge to help women overcome barriers when it comes to money conversations and decisions while providing women with a better banking experience. Check out Her-Bank.com to learn more. Her Bank is a brand of Legends Bank. Legends Bank is member FDIC equal housing lender.

Today I am sitting down with my friend Dr. Anne Wall. Anne is a longtime educator who has taught at various levels, from elementary school up through higher education in undergraduate and graduate programs. She recently retired as a professor at Austin Peay State University, where she taught other educators to use technology in their classrooms as a tool to help students learn.

Our conversation today is all about self-efficacy; how, if we do the next right thing for ourselves, it leads to learning curiosity, and you feel more confident in our jobs and lives. Anne helped me a ton when I was writing my master’s thesis and I couldn’t be happier to have her here on the show today.

Welcome Anne, thank you so much for joining me today. It is such a delight to have you on my podcast.

[00:02:16] Anne Wall: Aw, well thank you for inviting me. I’m thrilled to be here.

[00:02:19] Lorilee Rager: Well, you and your whole family have helped me so much over the past probably 10 plus years, from friendships, to my thesis, to my teeth.

[00:02:32] Anne Wall: We glad, we’re glad to be of service, you know, we do what we can.

[00:02:36] Lorilee Rager: [Laughter]. So just a nice little icebreaker question I wanted to ask you that I am just dying to know is what song is on repeat on your XM, or iPod, or, do people still use that? On your playlist today. What song?

[00:02:54] Anne Wall: Well, I wouldn’t say it was just one song. I don’t have one, just one song I’m listening to right now. But this time of year, I love to listen to yacht rock radio on Sirius XM. So anytime I’m in the car, that’s what I’m listening to. I love the old songs I can sing along to. I’ve always kind of liked older music, even when I was young, I liked old music. So when I was in college, I used to like, you know, Frank Sinatra, I still like Frank Sinatra. But just kind of, yeah, just kind of weird, so I’d like, you know, this summer listening to the, the oldies and the summer songs.

[00:03:30] Lorilee Rager: I love some good seventies rock that makes me think of Christopher Cross.

[00:03:34] Anne Wall: Yeah. Oh yeah, yeah, yeah. The Margarita Song, you know that, so,

[00:03:40] Lorilee Rager: I like yacht rock, that’s a good choice. Good choice. Very good. Well, I love it very much. Um, I wanted to dive in today on a topic that is really interesting to me, that I discovered through our friendship, you did a thesis on, or your doctorate on was, um, which kind of connects to my story of grounding and gratitude and resilience and optimism. But the word is self-efficacy.

[00:04:10] Anne Wall: You said that very well.

[00:04:12] Lorilee Rager: I practiced a lot. I practiced it a lot.

[00:04:15] Anne Wall: It’s a tricky one.

[00:04:17] Lorilee Rager: It is. And, and I think, um, the first thing we should do is maybe if you could, in your own words, just explain what you think self-efficacy is or means for our listeners.

[00:04:30] Anne Wall: Okay. Well, I think, uh, it depends on the context a lot, but, uh, as a teacher, which I am, I’ve been a teacher of kids and grownups and, uh, everything in between. Um, but I think self-efficacy just means that you have the confidence and the skills and tools necessary to be able to do a job well, and you know, that. That, the self-efficacy part is that you know that you are prepared to do a good job. And when you don’t have that, I think you are afraid. You’re afraid of all the little things that you don’t even need to be afraid of. Uh, so self-efficacy means doing everything you can do to be prepared to do the job that you’re being asked to do.

So, um, in my situation, that just means preparing teachers or kids or whoever it might be, um, for what they’re going to be encountering in their classroom or, or wherever they might be.

[00:05:38] Lorilee Rager: Uh huh, okay, right. That, that’s how I interpret it too. It’s just, it’s just preparing yourself. And honestly, you’re not even for sure what, you’re just trying to be prepared. And in, in design and in an anxiety filled life of recovery I personally live in, I’m constantly wanting to be prepared and feel prepared and feel confident and feel more reassured if I can be prepared as possible.

[00:06:05] Anne Wall: Right. Exactly, exactly. And so in, in my life, um, my job was teaching, um, teachers to use technology in the classroom. And so I just felt like the more they knew and the more tools they had and the more prepared they were, the higher their self-efficacy to go into the classroom and actually be able to use those things.

[00:06:29] Lorilee Rager: So that made me think of a story you had mentioned of a great example of self-efficacy in the, especially in teaching and in the classroom, was a fourth grade teacher story.

[00:06:41] Anne Wall: Oh yeah. My friend Joanna. Yeah. So Joanna, yeah, she’s, she, um, Joanna was in, um, a graduate program that I taught in at Austin Peay. It was, um, for teachers primarily, we had non teachers in the program, but a master’s program in instructional technology. So each of the classes was designed to teach teachers how to specifically use, uh, a type of technology, um, in teaching, in the teaching and learning environment. So Joanna was a student in that program, um, back in the mid 2000’s. And she was one of those students that was just a shining star. You know, she just, uh, all of her assignments were top notch, and she was so engaged and involved in discussion boards. It was an online program, so we didn’t ever meet face-to-face, but we still formed good relationships with our students, I think. And, um, so I was one of the faculty in that program and that, the other faculty was, uh, Dr. Don Luck. And he was a great friend of mine and, um, a mentor, and just a wonderful all around person. So the two of us were the only two faculty members for that graduate program. It’s a small program. But we both just adored Joanna. And she graduated I believe in 2008 with her master’s and was teaching fourth grade in Hendersonville at the time and continued to teach fourth grade, went back to her classroom. As most of our students do that, they do stay in the classroom, a lot of them.

And so several years later I received an email from Joanna and she was just kind of checking in and said, “well, I’m still teaching fourth grade, but I just don’t feel like this is what I really want to do for the rest of my life.” and so I said, “well, you know, what are you thinking? What, what sounds like something that you might want to do?” And she said, “I want to do what you do.” And I said, “well, that’s, that’s a good, a good thing to do.” I said, “it’s a great, it’s a great profession.” I said, “I don’t know what to tell you exactly. Because,” I said, “this is such a specific position, as far as what we’re teaching, um, that there aren’t a lot of people, there aren’t a lot of jobs available, um, in this specific field. But,” I said,” all I can tell you to do is to be prepared, do everything you can do now to prepare yourself for the job, so that if and when a job becomes available, you’re ready. You, you know, you, you will feel confident and you will be ready with the degrees you need or, or whatever.”

So she went on and, um, I didn’t hear from her again for several years. And she went on and, and, um, got her doctorate and continued teaching fourth grade in the same school. She did let me know when she had finished her doctorate, she said, “just wanted to let you know, I’ve checked that box,” because the job does require that degree. So, you know, there wouldn’t be a way for her to move into that position if she hadn’t gotten the doctorate. But she went on and continued teaching. And so in the summer of 2016, um, Don Luck, um, had, he had had, uh, heart valve problems, his whole life, and he had had, uh, a heart valve replacement when he was a young man. And, um, it looked like he was going to have to have that same surgery again. Uh, he was just a year away from retirement, but, uh, the summer before he was to retire, he went ahead and scheduled to have this heart valve replacement surgery. Um, and that was in early June of 2016. And although the surgery went well and, uh, everything looked good, um, sadly he had a stroke during the recovery process and he did not survive. And it was terrible. It was really devastating to me on a personal level because he was my friend and mentor, and had been my teacher in the graduate program, you know, years before, and as well as my colleague and my coworker.

And he was scheduled to teach two classes in July in this, in the summer program. Um, and honestly we didn’t have anybody who was qualified to teach them. And so not only did I have to deal kind of with the grief of losing my friend. You know, all of a sudden the entire program has been dumped in my lap and, not dumped, but, you know, I was responsible for all of it. Yeah. And, and, and, and so the Dean was coming to me saying, “who do you know that could teach these courses? We’ve got, you know, we have students enrolled in these courses and we’ve got to have somebody, you know, that we can, that we can put in as a faculty.” And I said, “Joanna’s ready. She’s, she’s ready.” And so I sent her a very sad email to let her know about Don passing away and then went on to say, you know, he had two classes, he was scheduled to teach in July. Would you feel, you know, ready to do that? And she said, absolutely. So she did, and of course did a beautiful job. And then the next year we couldn’t, we didn’t have time to hire somebody permanently, so she worked as an adjunct for us that following year, and then applied for the job. And now is starting, this is her fourth year as a tenure track faculty at Austin Peay. And, uh, she’s just loving what she’s doing. And with my retirement this past year now, she’s, she’s leading the graduate program. So she, she moved right on up to the top.

[00:12:23] Lorilee Rager: That is a really, that’s a real world example. That’s a really long journey in self-efficacy that she was working on, like you said, in the mid 2000’s. And look where it brought her to be prepared just four years ago in a tragic situation. But I, that’s, that’s where it’s, it’s such a fascinating, um, part of someone’s makeup or behavior style is, to me when, when I hear about them having it and looking at it in myself, and you actually also shared a story that I loved of maybe your first example of self-efficacy in your own life, um, with a typewriter.

[00:13:04] Anne Wall: Oh, yes. I guess that was, that was many years in the making, self-efficacy many years in the making. Um, when I, when I was a little girl, maybe 10 or 11 years old, um, Christmas was approaching and of course my parents had asked me what I wanted for Christmas. And for whatever reason, I can’t go back there, I don’t know, I don’t have as clear memories of my childhood as I would like sometimes, and so I would love to know what thought process went into this. But I do remember that all I wanted for Christmas that year was a typewriter and I wanted a real typewriter. Now, I didn’t know how to type. We didn’t have a typewriter in our house, nobody in my house typed. Period. That didn’t happen. So why I wanted one, I have no idea, but that’s what I wanted. So Christmas morning came and I was so excited and I saw a package, you know, shaped, like it could be a typewriter and I opened it and there was a red children’s typewriter. It would type, but it wasn’t a real typewriter.

[00:14:11] Lorilee Rager: It was a children’s, so like a toy.

[00:14:14] Anne Wall: Yeah. Kind of a toy, kind of like the toy sewing machines, you know, the same sort of thing. And I remember thinking, I remember being a little disappointed. Looking back, I guess I probably just didn’t make myself clear in my list to Santa that the typewriter I wanted was a real typewriter. Now why in the world I wanted that typewriter, I don’t know. But I’ve always had kind of a passion for technology, even when I didn’t know what I was going to do with it. I wanted to, to have it, to use it, to know more about it. Yeah. It’s just, it’s, it’s unexplainable kind of, why, why you have these feelings. But in, in reality, it’s your, it’s the creative part of your brain telling you, I think, what you need to do, what you need to, what’s the next thing you need to do.

[00:15:06] Lorilee Rager: And you listen to it if you can. Yes.

[00:15:10] Anne Wall: And so, years later, uh, we started having computers in schools and, um, um, I was interested in that. So I was the computer mom that would come help take the floppy disks out and put them back in while the kids played Oregon Trail, or whatever they were doing.

[00:15:29] Lorilee Rager: Of course Oregon Trail.

[00:15:31] Anne Wall: Yeah, it’s still a good game. Um, but anyway, I just, I, I loved it. I just loved the whole concept of it, even though there were so little we could do with it at that time. And then in 1990, um, my parents for Christmas gave my brother and my sister and myself each, uh, uh, Gateway 2000 desktop computer. Great big, great big thing. I can still see that box that came in with the cow, cow print.

[00:16:02] Lorilee Rager: Yes, cow print. I remember.

[00:16:04] Anne Wall: Um, yeah, so anyway, I opened the and I’m, like, so excited and I get it all set up. But I mean, I think this is what I’ve, this is what I’ve just been dreamed of having this thing. And then I turned it on and there’s that like flashing C prompt, you know? And you’re like, oh, what do I do now? What do I do with this thing? I didn’t know. So I called my sister. She’s a lot younger than I am and I thought she’s, she’s in the know I said, “Julie, you know, what do we do with these? I go, I’ve got it all set up.” And she goes, “well, you need to get a printer. You need to have a printer.” And I said, “what am I going to print?” And she said, “well, you can get this software where you can make greeting cards and banners. So you need to get that.” I said, “okay, okay.” So I got the, I got the software and I got the, whatever, dot matrix printer, you know, that made the terrible noises. And I made a lot of cards and banners. And when I look back at it now, don’t you know, those were ugly. I mean, the worst look at things, black and white.

[00:17:10] Lorilee Rager: Yes, yes, yes.

[00:17:13] Anne Wall: But as time progressed, I was just so glad I had it because I could add new software, learn new things. And so I guess my little typewriter was getting me ready for my first big girl computer.

[00:17:27] Lorilee Rager: Yes. And then your big, big girl career and all the other things with technology and yes, for sure. I get that completely. I feel the exact same way. I remember our first computer and I remember we, we set it up. It was a Gateway and the big cow box that we emptied it out of. And being like, what do we do with it? And I think we, I think we played a music CD on it. We went and got a CD out of the CD player and put it in the computer and it played music and we were just like, “wow.” But we didn’t know what else we were supposed to do with it until college and emails came, like it was an invoice for tuition. But that was the only email I got. And then I printed that and gave it to my mother and was like, please help me with tuition, so.

[00:18:13] Anne Wall: So that could have come in the mail, but oh, well.

[00:18:16] Lorilee Rager: It probably did come in the mail also. It probably did both back then. And so I love that. I do, I do. Um, so when we think about teaching and education and again, self-efficacy, uh, I wanted to turn it towards some learning lessons that maybe you could share with us in your own life, even now as you retired. Um, and it makes me also think of technology advancing all the way into things like iPads and programs. Like you’ve mentioned to me that you’re interested in, um, Procreate.

[00:18:53] Anne Wall: Right.

[00:18:54] Lorilee Rager: So tell me a little bit about any, any of your Procreate learning.

[00:18:59] Anne Wall: Okay. Well, you know, that’s kind of a journey too. I think you, you, um, once again, Don Luck was a big influence in my life in this regard, because he was always trying out new tools. He was always suggesting, oh, you’ve got to look at this app, you’ve got to try this, you’ve got to, and he was forever suggesting things. He would just spend hours and hours and hours looking at new things and trying them out to see if they were worth sharing with our students. That was his main goal. Is this something that can help our students in the classroom? But he would share fun things with me as well. And so after he passed away, I kind of tried to continue on with that, you know, that task of, of, of finding new things. And somewhere along the way, I came across the iPad app Procreate. And I’ve always felt like there was, uh, an artist hidden away in, in me, but I’ve never encouraged it or, uh, let myself really explore that at all. Um, I’ve been kind of crafty my whole life. I do a lot of sewing. I do a lot of that kind of thing. Um, but as far as just art for art’s sake, to create something that is pleasing, I never really, yeah, just to play and enjoy it. I never really did that. And I found Procreate to be the tool that really kind of spoke to me in that way.

Um, it’s a, it’s an app that lets you draw and paint and animate and, um, there’s tons and tons of tutorials, free tutorials online. I joined a, um, uh, Skillshare, which is a, uh, site that has lots and lots of, of lessons of all sorts that, you know, might be how to watercolor on paper, or it might be how to water color on Procreate. I mean, it, it just, there’s all sorts of things, but there are lots of Procreate tutorials on there. So I just kind of started self-learning with, with lessons and classes that I could find online. And I found it was a pretty steep learning curve and at times I just wanted to say, “why am I even doing this? What is the point here? You know, am I really enjoying, this? Is this fun? Is this fun?” But once you learn the basics, just like anything else, it becomes fun. You, you’re not worried so much about what layer am I drawing on, and you’re, you’re enjoying the process of creating something new and original and, or learning something new.

And so, um, I really, uh, found myself enjoying taking lots of different classes. Um, one of the classes that I took early on was, um, drawing houses. And I know that sounds kind of funny, but, uh, somehow it just appealed to me. And, um, so I took a class on how to draw houses and these are not architectural perfectly to scale, but they’re not cartoony either. They’re somewhere in between. So you can kind of be free with colors and shapes and you know, maybe the plants aren’t exactly to scale and to color, but, but they’re fun. So I made one for a good friend of mine for her birthday of her house. She has a fairly new house and I thought, well, that would be a good place to start. And I got a good reception from that. So then I had a friend moving away and she lived in a really cute little older bungalow style house. And I knew she hated to leave it. So I drew her house for her as a going away present and she was thrilled. She really was. It made me feel great about just having put in the time and effort, because it meant so much to her, I think, to have that picture of her.

[00:22:49] Lorilee Rager: That making and, yeah and gifting it.

[00:22:52] Anne Wall: So, so then I kind of, from that point I jumped into, um, this class I took called Fauxsaics. And so it’s, it’s, you know, using Procreate to create images that look like they’re made with mosaic tiles. And, so one of the things about Procreate is you can get brushes that actually paint different designs. So one of the brushes for this class was a brush that actually paints tiles. So if you were painting a, the letter A instead of just in a regular stroke it would be little tiles, and yeah. And so then you could color them in, you could do all sorts of things. Then they would have backgrounds that would just be, you know, all different mosaic, um, designs. So anyway, I really, I took this class and I was really, really into it. And I told my daughter all about it. I thought if I share this, you know, that I will continue. I won’t quit. You know, if I tell somebody I’m doing this. And I was telling her all about it and she was excited about it too. And then one day I was, I got frustrated. I was working on a piece that had been part of the class and I kind of just kept hitting the same stumbling block over and over again. And I looked at it and I thought, so now, what are you going to do with this? I mean, what are you going to do with this? Why are you spending all this time, using Procreate to make mosaics, why aren’t you just making mosaics? I mean, that’s what you’re really wanting to be doing here, I think, you know. So, so I, this is about the time I was retiring and I thought, okay, maybe this is what I will, you know, I’ll venture in and learn more about in my retirement.

So, um, At the same time you had suggested to me, well, actually a year ago you had suggested to me to read the book, um, An Artist’s Way. And I had purchased the book a year ago, but I had been sitting, it had been sitting on a table in my laundry room for a year, and I decided retirement was a great time to pick it up and to start that process, 12 week process about discovering your creativity. And so I was reading that book and one of the suggestions or tasks was to create a space for yourself where you can go and be creative. And that had always been a problem for me because everywhere I had tried to do something, I had to clean it all up before I could do anything else. If I got out watercolors I had to put them all away. I didn’t have any place that was just a place I could, you know, leave everything where I wanted it and come right back to it. Um, I have a big basement, a big unfinished basement, but it had become kind of a storage room for everybody in our family and we had not done a good job of keeping it very organized. So I hired my 15 year old grandson to come over and, for a few days, and we just cleaned it out. And in the meantime, we set up a studio, it has a couch and a rug and a table and a nice, great big workspace and a nice light. And I started doing mosaics. And so I have

[00:26:20] Lorilee Rager: Real mosaics, off the screen?

[00:26:21] Anne Wall: Real mosaics. Yup. Yup. Now here’s something interesting. Real mosaics. In fact, I completed my first big piece yesterday. It was a birthday present for my husband and, yeah and it’s hanging in the wall in our sun room right now. And, uh, it’s a W. I bought a, a wooden carved now, you’ve, I’m sure you’ve seen them. They’re, you know, it’s the letter W in a, in a kind of a frame. And you can paint them or you can do whatever it was just raw wood. I was in Bell Buckle back in the spring and this lady was doing woodworking and selling them. And I brought it and it just been sitting in my basement and all of a sudden, I thought, “huh, I can mosaic that.” So I did. And of course he was, he knew I was working on it. He was checking my progress. He even helped me put the hanging hardware on it. He didn’t know it was his birthday present, but I couldn’t very well hide it from him. So when I gave it to him last night, he loved it. But it’s funny because the first thing that, um, I worked on in my class, my Fauxsaic class in Procreate was a W. And this is a W for our, you know, our last name. So I guess I kind of came full circle.

And I did go back. It was interesting. I went back to that at several times to look at how the tiles were laid, um, and the, and the movement of the tiles. And, and, um, it has been really helpful to me when I was actually doing the work myself to see how that app had kind of prepared me to, to, uh, to do that.

[00:27:56] Lorilee Rager: Right. So you can almost like digitally sketch the idea or the concept, but then go to this ancient art way, art form of mosaic in real raw material to make it. Merging the technology with

[00:28:11] Anne Wall: Yeah. And it’s been very helpful. I mean, I even took, um, I was, I’m working on another project. This is my first commission. I use that term real loosely because I’m not getting paid for it. But someone asked me to do something and I’m doing it. A friend of mine has a little learning library in her neighborhood. And she wanted some stepping stones that led from the sidewalk to the little learning, little lending I’m sorry, little lending library. And, um, so we, I’m making three stones that say “Read”, “Learn”, “Share”. And, um, so I have been working on those and I was, um, having a little trouble with how I wanted the letters. I hadn’t really done anything with creating letters myself with tiles. And so I went to the app and I took the tile brush and I just wrote out the letters so I could see how the tiles were laid out. And then I could transfer that to my stones.

[00:29:09] Lorilee Rager: That’s amazing. That’s absolutely amazing. And from a design perspective, it’s it’s part of our whole process, but we sketch something and then take it to the computer. But I love that you’re, you’re using it in technology first and then bringing it back to a hands-on raw material way. Um, very, very, very good. That’s fascinating to me. Again, I keep saying it self-efficacy and you learning Procreate, but you didn’t even know why, and going through the frustrations of it and learning and trying different things. Just, just being curious and stumbling into mosaics and then stumbling into making real mosaics and having that self-awareness and mindfulness. It’s really what we all aspire to do and have. So I really, really love that. I wanted to also now pivot to you mentioning The Artist’s Way, and wondered if you would share any also learning lessons about doing my favorite thing of The Artist’s Way, and my biggest takeaway is the morning pages and what you’ve learned about yourself.

[00:30:16] Anne Wall: Yes. Well, today was day 67. 67 days in a row that I’ve written three pages of my morning pages. So, The Artist’s Way, the, one of the first tasks is it asks you to write three pages of something every morning and just start writing.

[00:30:37] Lorilee Rager: Whatever you want.

[00:30:39] Anne Wall: Whatever you want. And so the first day I was really nervous and I thought, what am I going to say? What am I going to write about this? This is going to sound dumb. You know, I just started writing. Yeah, just started writing and I thought nobody’s going to see this, but me and I keep it hidden away. Nobody’s going to get to look at it. And so the first day was probably the hardest, just kind of getting into the flow. And then I kind of found that I had a pattern. If I say this, I always start with day one, day two, day three. So I, I, that’s just the first thing I write. And then I’ll talk a little bit about how well I slept. I just, you know, just to kind of get the pen moving.

[00:31:18] Lorilee Rager: Clear your throat. Right. Sure.

[00:31:20] Anne Wall: Yeah, exactly, exactly. And then before I know it, I’m at the bottom of page three and I have a few more things I want to say, and I can’t believe that I’ve written three pages yet again. But what I found early on in writing the morning pages, and it just helped me so much and continues to do so, is that often in my life I have not done the things I wanted to do, the things that would fulfill me creatively, because I had something I had to do. And whether that be grade projects for my students or write an article for publication, which we were expected to do, um, which was not one of my favorite things so I procrastinated about that a lot. Um, whatever it was, if it was looming out there, I would not let myself do anything, what I called fun or creative, I would say, well, you can’t do that. You can’t get out Procreate and play around because you’re supposed to be doing XYZ. Now I wouldn’t go ahead and do XYZ so that I could get out Procreate. I just would be stuck, just stuck. Just stuck. And so then I would finally, you know, the day before grades were due, I would get everything done and it would be done in plenty of time, but I didn’t have that free time that I could have had to do something I wanted to do. So when I first started back in June, early June, I had a lot of things that I had to do because I was retiring and I was, you know, there was just a lot of paperwork and things, forms I had to complete things like that. And the same thing was happening. You know, here I’m retired, I’m not teaching right now, but I have that same feeling. I can’t be creative because I have to do this thing. Uh, probably within the first week or two of writing the morning pages, I thought, okay, if I write down in my morning pages, today I’m going to do this, this and this. And it doesn’t have to be huge. It can be three little things, you know, but it’s going to move me toward my goal of getting that task complete, then I’m going to free myself up to do something I want to do. So I wrote down that first day, I wrote down three things and they all had to do with, you know, the retirement paperwork and whatever. And I did them. In fact, I did them first thing in the morning cause I was like, oh, I said I was going to do that, so I’m going to do that. And then the rest of that day, I was like, whoa, this is awesome. I don’t have those things hanging over my head. I like it. I like it. You know? And so now it has become such a practice that, you know, any, in fact, every morning now I say, okay, now what is it that’s, that’s bothering me. What’s, what, you know, even if it’s something as simple as you need to return that text, you need to text that person back, I know you don’t want to, and it, it, but you just need to write that person back and get that off your list. Just get that off your list. And I have become amazed at how really simple these things that I procrastinated about, they’re nothing.

[00:34:43] Lorilee Rager: That was my big takeaway. Yes. Yes. The mental shelf space that was consuming you. Like in, in my home, there was the same light bulb kept going out in the garage and I pulled in at night and was mad that it wasn’t fixed. And I would. Go in and I would come back out in the morning and flip on the switch and it was out again. And it just, it weighed, I had no idea how much it weighted me down. And it took maybe three minutes to get a step stool, unscrew it, put a new one in. And now when I pull in and out of my garage, it actually brings me massive joy that the light works.

[00:35:19] Anne Wall: Yes.

[00:35:19] Lorilee Rager: So it was such a small thing.

[00:35:22] Anne Wall: Yes, it’s exactly, that’s exactly how I felt about my basement. Because, um, my mother-in-law had passed away and all of her stuff had, you know, come to my basement and then all of our stuff and some of our kids’ stuff. Every time I went to my car I had to walk past it all and see it. And it was the same thing, like your light bulb, except it was like more than a five minute fix.

[00:35:45] Lorilee Rager: You had mentioned, um, was it a window ledge, just a dusty ledge?

[00:35:50] Anne Wall: Yeah. Yeah. Yes. That’s that was the funniest. So we’ve lived in this house almost 15 years. And as you come down the basement stairs, there’s a window, but it’s high. It’s high, as you’re coming down the stairs, you can’t reach it. And it had a ledge probably about six inches wide and over the years, the dust and dirt and bugs and whatever have accumulated there. And every time I come down the stairs, that’s the first thing I see because I’m looking straight at it. And I was like, uh, that just looks awful, that just looks awful. And then I would come downstairs and I’d see all the clutter, the furniture piled up in my basement. And so I was always kind of in a bad mood by the time I got to my car, my car, because I had to, had to look at all this. So after we, Charlie and I had finished reorganizing the basement, I was feeling so good about that. I was coming down the stairs and I was like, ooh, but that window sill is still really gross. So I have one of those cordless Dyson vacuum cleaners, and I just turned around and I went back upstairs and grabbed it and I went. That was it.

[00:36:57] Lorilee Rager: That was it.

[00:37:00] Anne Wall: It wasn’t even five minutes. It was just like, oh my goodness.

[00:37:04] Lorilee Rager: How simple was that.

[00:37:06] Anne Wall: Yeah. Yeah. You’ve spent so much time thinking about that, and it was nothing to do it. It was just nothing, so.

[00:37:14] Lorilee Rager: I love that freedom, and that level, I didn’t, I didn’t wouldn’t consider you or myself even a procrastinator cause we do, we meet deadlines, but we beat ourselves up in that gap of, of that Thursday to Tuesday deadline, about the Tuesday deadline and never let us experience any fun or joy because of the deadlines. So the procrastination, I just didn’t know it affected me physically so much, um, until I did the exact same thing in morning pages and began to realize maybe noticing some patterns or some the same cycles that I was stuck in.

[00:37:53] Anne Wall: Yes. Yes. I had a funny thing happen this this past week. Um, I had been out walking with a friend and I won’t go into too much detail, but she brought up a subject, um, that I was uncomfortable talking about with her. And yet we kind of had, she knew we kind of had this in common, but I, I just, wasn’t comfortable talking to her about it. I’m worried about it all day that day, you know, because we were planning to walk again the next day. And I kept thinking, what am I going to say if she brings it up? What am I going to say if she brings it up again? I really don’t want to talk about, I shouldn’t feel like I should have to talk about it if I don’t want to. And so I wrote my whole morning pages about it that next day. I mean the whole three pages was about, what can you say? If she says this, what can you say? And then, you know, and so I just went on and on and felt fully prepared. I can handle this like a grownup. I don’t have to talk about it if I don’t want to. So we go out to walk the next morning. She never even brought it up. It never came up. And I thought, isn’t that the way it is though. The things that we worry the most about are there things that never happen, you know.

That is

[00:39:04] Lorilee Rager: so true. That is absolutely true. And it does, that shelf space again, or the, the size of that problem feels so huge. But if you write it in morning pages, it actually reduces down to a bite size chunk.

[00:39:18] Anne Wall: Yes. Well, it gave me the, the what I needed, you know, I was prepared once again, it goes back to being prepared. You know, I was prepared so that if she said something, I could, I just had a nice little comment, you know, and, and, and move on, change the subject to that would be that. But never even had to do that. It just never even came up.

[00:39:38] Lorilee Rager: I love it, that’s great. Well, so one of the final thoughts, I, I love to hear your story, when it comes to also self-efficacy. Is how you got your doctorate and your story about how you met Don and, and what you went, your process of that.

[00:39:56] Anne Wall: Yeah. Well, I was, um, teaching fifth grade at Burt Elementary School. And Burt was an all fifth grade school, there were, um, I think 12 fifth grade classes, if I’m remembering correctly. And, um, Clarksville-Montgomery County school system right before I started teaching, and I was older when I started teaching, I, I actually didn’t start teaching until 20 years after I got my degree, so there was a big gap when I stayed home and raised my kids and whatever. But I had come back to teaching and, uh, I had, this passion for technology had continued to grow, especially after I had my own computer. And so the, the school system had made, um, all fifth grade classes what they call 21st century classrooms. That was in the 90’s, mid 90’s. So they, they were spending extra money on technology for fifth grade classrooms. So I thought, oh, this is a great fit for me, a whole school, a fifth grade, you know, this’ll be great.

So I went to work there and it was great. We did, we had, we, we back now, this is in the mid 90’s, we were all connected to the internet. We had carts with a wireless hub with laptop computers. It’s hard to imagine that that 25 years ago we had that, but we did. Now, it didn’t work great all the time. And you know, we, we had a lot of work arounds, but, but the technology was there. It’s amazing when I think about it, that 25 years ago, we had that technology. Um, so I had been enjoying, enjoying it very much and, and loving using the computers with the kids and what have you. And probably about my third year teaching, um, Don Luck, who was a professor at Austin Peay instructional technology and his colleague, um, came to one of our faculty meetings and did a presentation on their master’s program and, uh, trying to recruit students to, you know, to enroll.

I was hooked. I was absolutely hooked and I was thought, I am going to do that. It started it, this was in the spring, it started the following summer. I was gung ho. I remember talking to my principal about it and she said,” oh, Anne, I thought, I was hoping you’d get your masters in leadership and become a principal.” And I was like, “oh no, no, no. That is,” I said, “I’ve seen your job and I don’t want it. Thank you very much. Let me play with computers. No, ma’am. No, thank you.” So, so anyway, I talked to Don and said I wanted, I wanted to start in the program. And I did start it in June. And I finished the, uh, it was like a year and a half. So the following May, um, which I guess was May of 2001. And I graduated and had no plans other than continue teaching in the classroom and, you know, using what I had learned in the master’s program to integrate more technology into, um, into my teaching.

And, so I ran into a friend, uh, Carlette Hardin who was on the faculty in the college of education, but she was also in my book club so we were friends. And I’d had her for a class, I believe in my master’s program. And, um, I ran into her in the produce section of, uh, Kroger’s one morning just shopping. And she said, ” you finished your masters, didn’t you?” And I said, “yes, I graduated in May.” And she said, um, “well the person who is supposed to teach the undergraduate technology courses has just left. He’s just left us high and dry and we don’t have anybody to teach in the fall.” And she said, “the current Dean, uh, is,” the, the fellow that was Dean then, “is looking at, uh, what they call a grow your own program”, where you bring in local people that have been students in your programs and you, you mentor them along the way to get their doctorate and, and, and go ahead and become, you know, tenure track faculty. And, uh, so she said, “you wouldn’t be interested in doing something like that, would you?” And, I just immediately said, “yes, yes, what do I need to do?”

And I don’t know why I said yes, because I really was not prepared at all. But I knew that I was kind of like Joanna. I, I wanted that job. You know, I, I had seen what they did and I thought, oh, I would love this so much. So, um, anyway, the summer was long and we had a lot of negotiations going back and forth, but right before school started, they did offer me a one-year temporary faculty position. And the school system was gracious enough to give me a one year leave of absence as long as I was working on a degree. So I started working on my EDS, educational specialist, which is a degree is only in education and it’s halfway between the master’s and the doctorate. And, uh, of course Austin Peay didn’t have a doctorate at that time, so that, but, but, uh, state schools would accept an EDS as half of the doctorate. So if you transferred to, uh, TSU, which is what I did, they took those, that EDS as half of my, uh, credits for my doctorate. So I started in the, um, fall of 2001. And I was teaching full time and going to school full time and had three kids at home.

[00:45:22] Lorilee Rager: Wow.

[00:45:24] Anne Wall: Yeah, it was a lot. It was a lot. I said, I don’t remember much about those years at all. They just kind of, uh, happened. We got through them, I guess, and everybody got fed and everybody got Christmas presents. I’m not sure where I was but somehow, somehow it all happened. That’s right, because it’s a blur to me now.

Um, but, uh, then I went on, yeah, it was a lot. And then I went on to, uh, when I finished my EDS, uh, they hired me another year at Austin Peay. So it was a year to year thing because I didn’t have my doctorate, so they couldn’t hire me, um, until I did. So I ended up going to TSU and finishing up my doctorate there. Um, and that was an experience because we would have, there were several of us that were going together. We would have two classes, one that would be from 4:30 to 6:45 and then one from 6 to 9:15 or something. So we would have the, but it was a great way to get, oh yeah, at night and then come back. You know, drive to Nashville, do that and then come back and go to work the next morning. And it was, it was tough, but I finished it in 2004. And got hired as a tenure track faculty in the fall of that year and fall of 2004. And the rest is history. There I was.

[00:46:45] Lorilee Rager: The rest is history, it is. Well, it’s a wonderful story. And, um, everyone can call you Dr. Sweetie, because your nickname is Sweetie, but you do have your doctorate. And I just really stay, um, amazed about all that you’ve done and all that you accomplished and how resilient you seem. And I just was fascinated about the self-efficacy part of it and how it all played a part. Because it seems like, like you’ve like, you’ve taught me that, you know, everything in your life is preparing you for that next thing. Um, so I feel like that’s really important.

[00:47:28] Anne Wall: And I think, I think the thing that’s helped me the most is, is just breaking it down into little pieces. You know, it’s, it’s, it’s easy to look at a problem and think I just can’t do that, I can’t think about that. Or to think about something you want to do and think, well, I can’t do that, I don’t have this, or I don’t have that. I can’t get there, right. It’s too much. And, and I think the morning pages have helped me with that too. Is to say, okay, what little things can I do today? You know, there, of course they’re the little things you can do to take the weight off your shoulders and to, you know, so that you’re not progressing. But what little things can I do to prepare myself for, for that goal? And, you know, artist’s pages does that too, you know, set your goals and then, you know, what do you want to do in a year? What do you want to do in a month? What, you know, what can you do this week to prepare for what you want to do in a month? And I love that way of thinking, because it, it keeps you moving. It just keeps you moving in the right direction is what it does. And working towards the goal.

[00:48:37] Lorilee Rager: Well, this has been a wonderful discussion and so full of so much goodness and, and helpful tools that I think are important. So my last question is what tool would you leave in our Ground and Gratitude toolbox for others? Um, any inspirational anchors or a favorite quote or mantra that would help anyone listening to either get grounded in their own gratitude or get through tough spots.

[00:49:06] Anne Wall: Well, I would have to use my husband’s favorite advice he gives to everyone because it’s so true. And that is do the next right thing. Uh, he said that to the girls the whole time they were growing up and I think most of the time they just wanted to scream at him because they didn’t know what that meant. You know, what does it mean to do the next right thing? And it, and once again, it can seem so big when you are faced with a problem, it can seem so big. But when you think about the next right thing, I think that the word next in there is important because it just is a little baby step. It doesn’t have to be a great big thing. It’s just, you know, um, I want to eat healthier and I’m at the grocery store and I’m making spaghetti. Do I buy the ground turkey or the ground beef? Well, if I, my goal is to get healthier, then I’m going to buy the ground turkey. That’s just the next right thing to do.

[00:50:03] Lorilee Rager: Is turkey.

[00:50:06] Anne Wall: Is turkey, yeah. And you’ll never know once you make the spaghetti sauce that it’s turkey. It is, it’s just little things that you don’t have to solve it all today. You just have to look at what’s right in front of you and say, what’s, and sometimes there’s not going to be a real clear answer to what is the next right thing. But you can usually determine what’s the best thing to do. So, you know, you just have to go with your gut sometimes and say, I think this is the direction that I need to head in. But, um, it’s, it’s it served, it served me well, it served him well, and I think it’s certainly served our girls well, too. So that would have to be it.

[00:50:48] Lorilee Rager: Well, I think it’s absolutely perfect and we will take it with us and carry on and always try to do the next right thing is a good anchor. So I’m going to hold on to that one myself. But thank you so much for being here today. I really, really appreciate you being on the podcast.

[00:51:05] Anne Wall: You are so welcome. I’ve enjoyed visiting with you.

[00:51:10] Lorilee Rager: Thank you. Thank you, Sweetie. And we will talk to you soon.

Thanks again, Dr.Anne Wall for sharing her stories, insight, and tips about self-efficacy. And thank you for tuning into Ground and Gratitude. You can find previous episodes and more information about the show at GroundAndGratitude.com. Join me next time for more honest conversations exploring what it means to truly live a life grounded in gratitude.

Ground and Gratitude is produced by the dream team, Kelly Drake and AOMcClain, LLC.

Ep 1: Writing and Rituals with Natalia Ilyin

Listen here:


Welcome to the very first episode of Ground & Gratitude, a new podcast from designer and entrepreneur Lorilee Rager.

To kick things off, Natalia Ilyin joins Lorilee on the show to discuss routines; the rituals that keep us grounded, calm the mind, and make space for creative ideas to thrive. Whether it’s pouring yourself a cup of tea or sitting down to write morning pages, even small routines can lead to transformation.

Natalia is a Professor of Design, Design History and Criticism at Cornish College of the Arts in Seattle, and is also Founding Faculty of the MFA in Graphic Design at Vermont College of Fine Arts. Natalia is an author who recently published her third book, Writing for the Design Mind.


  • On Natalia’s playlist: “How Lucky” by John Prine
  • Breaking destructive cycles and turning bad habits into positive routines
  • The power of storytelling
  • Letting go of perfection and the academic, omnipxotent voice
  • Writing your truth
  • …and dealing with conflict
  • One tool for the G&G toolbox

Mentioned in this episode:

Listen wherever you get your podcasts! Handy links are below too Apple and Spotify!

Apple Podcast Link

Spotify Podcast Link

Episode 1 Transcript

[00:00:00] Lorilee Rager: Hey, I’m Lorilee Rager and this is Ground and Gratitude. It’s a podcast about designing the life you want, one that not only grows but also gives. 

Before we start today’s episode, I’d like to tell you about where I bank, Her Bank by Legends Bank. This episode of Ground and Gratitude is sponsored by them. Her Bank celebrates, honors, and supports women, especially entrepreneurs, by providing financial services and resources through a core team of experienced female bankers, which is so reassuring to me. Her Bank creates a bridge to help women overcome barriers when it comes to money, conversations, and decisions, all while providing them with a better banking experience. Check out Her-Bank.com to learn more. (Her Bank is a brand of Legends Bank. Legends Bank is member fdic / equal housing lender.)

I am Lorilee Rager, an optimistic entrepreneur, a small business owner at Thrive Creative Group, a graphic designer, a writer, a professor with a master’s degree from Vermont College of Fine Arts, living a sober life, loving my dogs, chapstick and my two teenage boys, and with one year of sobriety under my belt. I decided to start a podcast because I wanted to continue my own research and understanding of why I live the design life that I do, to understand why I chose gratitude, and why grounding is so important. The kinds of people that I will be talking to are creatives, entrepreneurs, doctors, professional business women and men, mothers, resilient humans, and maybe just your neighbor next door who’s been through some hard shit. So when you listen to the show, you’ll be hearing really honest conversations in hopes that it may help you get through your own hard time and understand where you can find some gratitude in the hardships of life. I’m excited to kick off the podcast with our very first episode.

I live just outside of Nashville, Tennessee, and I’ve always loved Dolly Parton. “9 to 5” is an anthem. It’s one of my favorite songs. But I never really understood how to work only nine to five. I mean, who does that? It felt out of reach as a designer and an entrepreneur with demanding clients, not to mention kiddos to feed, and people pleasing tendencies, perfectionism, poor boundaries, and a few not so great habits to boot. Basically what I’m trying to say is the word routine wasn’t even in my vocabulary until just a few years ago when I was in grad school. That is when I met my guest Natalia Ilyin. Natalia is a professor of design, design, history and criticism at Cornish College of the Arts in Seattle. She’s also founding and core faculty for the MFA in graphic design at Vermont College of Fine Arts. Natalia is an author too. Her latest book is called Writing for the Design Mind. Natalia is here to talk about that word, routine, that was not in my vocabulary, and how rituals like writing can get you grounded, can get you clear on who you are, your own values, and how it helps you understand the world around you.

Welcome, Natalia. Thank you so much for being here. 

[00:03:59] Natalia Ilyin: I’m so glad to be here Lorilee, I cannot tell you. 

[00:04:04] Lorilee Rager: Well, it’s an absolute honor and excites me very much to have a good conversation with you today. So I will just start out with a general kickoff question. And that is to tell me what song is on repeat on your playlist today, or YouTube channel, or video.

[00:04:25] Natalia Ilyin: [Laughter] I notice how you’re switching that up because I have no playlists. Who do you think I am? I’ve had like one song that I listen to all the time with. John Prine’s, what is that one? “How Lucky”. That’s what it’s called. 

[00:04:41] Lorilee Rager: Oh yes. 

[00:04:42] Natalia Ilyin: So I have one song and I listen to that one song. Exactly. Yes. 

[00:04:46] Lorilee Rager: It’s a great song. Anything John Prine is wonderful. 

[00:04:49] Natalia Ilyin: I absolutely agree. What a writer he was, you know. He was an amazing writer. 

[00:04:54] Lorilee Rager: I know. I was going to say fun fact is I grew up very close to Muhlenberg County, 

[00:05:01] Natalia Ilyin: Oh. 

[00:05:02] Lorilee Rager: which is his song “Paradise”. 

[00:05:03] Natalia Ilyin: Yeah. Where they, the guy trucked the whole town away, basically. 

[00:05:09] Lorilee Rager: Yeah, where Peabody, 

[00:05:10] Natalia Ilyin: Because it was Peabody’s mines. 

[00:05:14] Lorilee Rager: Yeah. 

[00:05:14] Natalia Ilyin: Yeah. I think it’s a real talent to be able to make something look like you just tossed it off the way his songs were. You know, he just, uh, oh, it’s just some guy picking up a guitar and saying a few odd things. But if you really look at the craft of it, it’s incredibly well-written. But of course I have to bring everything back to writing. 

[00:05:31] Lorilee Rager: I totally agree. That’s one of the main reasons I asked you to be on here, because of the writing. Because it is, it’s something that I think a lot of people do and care about, but maybe don’t realize. Just like in John Prine lyrics, it comes back to the writing, just like you were saying. 

[00:05:49] Natalia Ilyin: Well, you know, you know, with the book you just wrote, um, how hard it is to make something sound calm and relaxed the way you do. You know, when you’re discussing a friend or a relative, you know, that takes you hours to write, but it sounds as though you just tossed it off. 

[00:06:09] Lorilee Rager: Right. 

[00:06:09] Natalia Ilyin: That’s, that’s a sign of good writing as far as I’m concerned. 

[00:06:12] Lorilee Rager: Sounds simple, but it’s not easy. 

[00:06:16] Natalia Ilyin: [Laughter]. Simple but not easy. 

[00:06:17] Lorilee Rager: It’s what I say. Yeah. 

[00:06:18] Natalia Ilyin: That’s nice. 

[00:06:19] Lorilee Rager: Well, on that note then, what, something I wanted to talk to you about today that stems back to the book I wrote, my thesis for those listeners who don’t know, my grad school thesis that, um, I just finished a few months ago was, what really taught me how to do the writing was, um, reading your book, Writing for the Design Mind and learning about where you wrote, um, at the very beginning about rituals and routines, which is really something that wasn’t even in my vocabulary prior to grad school. So I just really thought we would start out asking about that.

[00:07:04] Natalia Ilyin: Well, you know, rituals and routines, that’s so funny, you would say that. I am such a ritual and routine person. Um, but you know, I wasn’t always. I was, when I was a young thing like you, you know, I was just running all over the place. Every day was different. I was wake up and drama was my idea of a good time. You know, if, if I could be, have a dramatic day where I threw a boyfriend out or something that was, that was just the greatest. I loved that. But when I finally came to myself, when I was in my early forties, um, it became clear to me that that was baloney and that if I wanted to do something in life, I would have to get my act together. And the way to get it together was to have routines and rituals. And it sounds so boring and you think, oh my God, that sounds really awful. But, but routine is really the key to work. And if you, and I’m not saying that you’re doing exactly the same thing every day, but routine and ritual are very much the same thing. You know, they, they calm the mind. They make you not have to invent the world every morning. And they allow you to have the space to have creative ideas. So the whole drama of the artistic life is really bologna. And the real people who really do work are the people who have routines and rituals. You know, I hate to break it to you. You drama queens out there, but that’s what it is. 

[00:08:31] Lorilee Rager: I totally, that was the, one of the first things I realized as I was trying to write and knew that I wanted to write that I had to change that chaos, and, uh, I felt like I was running a graphic design ER, and thought we need to, we need to figure out a way to quiet this down, so. 

[00:08:51] Natalia Ilyin: Well, don’t you think, Lorilee, don’t you think sometimes we invent the drama in order to not have to write. 

[00:08:58] Lorilee Rager: Absolutely. It’s, it’s the perfect excuse to blame a busy client or a hungry kiddo. Yes, absolutely. 

[00:09:05] Natalia Ilyin: Yeah, that day. 

[00:09:06] Lorilee Rager: That’s very, very true. It was a great excuse, yeah, until I really wanted to put something on the page and I really wanted to. So that’s where I took a really hard look at bad habits and then really turned those around into new habits that became rituals. And that was something that, um, in your book you talk about at the very beginning, that setting a place, a safe space, a desk, your cup of tea, you know, your favorite blanket. 

[00:09:39] Natalia Ilyin: Yeah. Yeah. You got to have the thing, you have a little blankie there, you know, everything. 

[00:09:43] Lorilee Rager: Yeah. 

[00:09:44] Natalia Ilyin: So notice that the way we’re speaking of these things, it makes you look like the bad person, right? Like you had bad habits, you were the drama queen. Actually, I called your listeners drama queens, so I just did that. Oops. Um, but the truth of the matter is it’s not your fault that you, um, put things, blocks in the road to keep yourself from making things. Your society has taught you to do that. The society doesn’t want you to be creative. Creative people cause trouble. So, you know, there there’s, there’s a lot of people that are telling you that there’s something wrong with you, and, and there are a lot of people who don’t want you to write, and so they make it so that you blame yourself and get into a whole cycle of self shaming and self blaming, when all you need to do is to step away from that whole thing and just write your truth.

[00:10:46] Lorilee Rager: Yeah, that’s exactly right. 

[00:10:47] Natalia Ilyin: It’s, it’s really hard to get out of there. 

[00:10:49] Lorilee Rager: Yeah, to break that cycle was part of what I learned just through the writing ritual of the every morning morning pages, which was something you had told me about in grad school. And just in that act of that very small ritual that wasn’t life changing, it didn’t alter my entire schedule, it didn’t derail the rest of the day’s chaos. But it was a morning, short little moment where I began to write there that I, actually gave me the clarity for exactly what you’re saying, where I began to identify those roadblocks, or my own self-sabotage, or where I couldn’t understand where I couldn’t hold solid banker’s hours or like Dolly Parton’s nine to five. I couldn’t, I couldn’t juggle it all. Right, and I wasn’t doing it successfully before grad school and before your book, but I didn’t realize it or have maybe mindfulness to it. Um, until I read your book and did your exercises. 

[00:11:56] Natalia Ilyin: When I think of all the things you’ve done in the last few years, it is unbelievable. And I think about your listeners, they may be at the beginning of your road, you know, they may beginning up their own road, you know, they may have gone through what you went, you’ve been going through, um, 10 years ago. But, but it’s always good to come back to those basic little rituals and those little routines and to, uh, reevaluate what is happening in your life and what is going forward. I’d like to say about morning pages, morning pages have a lot of adherence. A lot of people like that. And it, the first time I ever heard of that was Natalie Goldberg who wrote a book called Writing Down the Bones, and she was an advocate of that. And then it was picked up by, uh, The Artist’s Way, who was the wonderful woman who wrote The Artist’s Way? 

[00:12:47] Lorilee Rager: Julia Cameron. 

[00:12:48] Natalia Ilyin: Julia Cameron, that’s right. So, so that has a whole history and the reason it has a history is that it works. So I suggest if somebody is sitting out there going, “gosh, I’d like to write and, but I’m a designer. Designers don’t write.” Just, just get yourself a cheesy little notebook, as we said, not a big old expensive journal, and write things down, three pages a day every morning and the world will open up to you. It really will. 

[00:13:20] Lorilee Rager: Yes. Yep. That’s exactly right. And you have to schedule it, which, which was really important and made it a non-negotiable.

[00:13:28] Natalia Ilyin: Yes. 

[00:13:29] Lorilee Rager: And it was only one thing. It was the only one first step, or the 1% I call it. But if you, in my book, if you do one, that 1%, a year from now that’s 365% that you’ve done then. 

[00:13:45] Natalia Ilyin: [Laughter]. I hadn’t thought about it that way. 

[00:13:47] Lorilee Rager: 1% is easier to swallow, I think. 

[00:13:50] Natalia Ilyin: Yeah. 

[00:13:50] Lorilee Rager: Just write those three pages in the morning with no agenda, with no, but exactly like you said, in an ugly notebook from the grocery store or whatever composition notebook, because if you spend too much time on the pretty notebook, I don’t actually want to use it or write in it. Just like you said. 

[00:14:06] Natalia Ilyin: I can’t tell you, people always think, “Natalia’s a writer. I’m going to give her a journal for Christmas.” Let me just be clear on, I don’t need any more beautiful journals from people. Much as I love a present, I don’t use them, they’re too beautiful. I just have a big stack of beautiful journals and I write in a cheesy notebook from the dollar store.

[00:14:25] Lorilee Rager: Yeah. 

[00:14:25] Natalia Ilyin: That’s the way to do it.

[00:14:26] Lorilee Rager: I do the exact same thing. Um, well, let me ask you, if you can share, if you would like to share anything, any one thing in your own rituals that you, that’s your favorite ritual, um, when it comes to writing. It doesn’t even have to be a daily thing, but 

[00:14:43] Natalia Ilyin: Oh, well, first of all, I’d like to interject that, you know, it’s not that I’m like the white witch of writing. I mean, I’m not going around, you know, like smudging things and, you know, blowing on crystals. Although I do have a crystal and I really like my crystals. 

[00:14:56] Lorilee Rager: I don’t even have one. I want a crystal. 

[00:14:58] Natalia Ilyin: Oh, I have a crystal. Yes, I do. Anyway, I’m not, you know, it’s not like I am this person who’s in a robe or something with the rituals. It’s just, what you want to do is repeat actions every day and do a little amount, as you say, the 1%. Okay. Now, what was your question? 

[00:15:15] Lorilee Rager: What is one ritual that you, 

[00:15:16] Natalia Ilyin: Oh, what is a ritual that I do? Well, I am a, I’m a, I’m a big coffee ritual person and a big tea ritual person. As a matter of fact, you know, where I teach at VCFA, uh, Vermont College of Fine Arts, one of the places I teach, um, I’ve kind of become this weird tea drinking person that people think that I like love tea and everything like that. And it’s not so much, I mean, I like tea and everything, but what I like is the ritual of tea time. Because what happens is first of all, you don’t need calories, which is important to me because I’m always watching my weight, and you can have a cup of tea with a student or with anybody and talk. And that’s really what it is. So it, this ritual of tea time provides an opportunity for everybody put the phone down and talk. So that’s why, I guess that’s my favorite ritual. Tea, tea time. 

[00:16:11] Lorilee Rager: Yeah. I totally can see that, and agree. It’s, it’s a very grounding, uh, and anxiety reducing practice that I’ve adopted as well as, and as much as I like, 

[00:16:23] Natalia Ilyin: So you ended up drinking tea? 

[00:16:26] Lorilee Rager: I got a favorite mug. I got my favorite tea. And it became almost where I knew it was going to write when I heard the teapot boil and I got the favorite mug, which has a French bulldog on it because of my puppy. And, you know, then I began to take a little deeper breath and it made it easier to do the task of writing, which I really wanted to do. But I totally think that’s a great ritual. 

[00:16:52] Natalia Ilyin: Because all of these things reduce anxiety. So, what is anxiety? Anxiety is fear. Plain old gut wrenching fear. And when you’re in a situation where you don’t know what’s going to come out of your unconscious, which is also known as writing, it’s terrifying to your unconscious. So when you teach your unconscious that it is safe, then it will, it’ll talk back to you. It’ll give you good ideas. It’ll come out, it’ll come out of hiding. So treat your unconscious, like you would a child. And you know, when a child is nervous or anxious, what do you do? You go to those soothing routines. So you’re treating yourself, you’re treating yourself like a child. That sounds a little strange, but you are. That’s actually called loving yourself. It’s like, people would say, “oh you should love yourself.” I hate that, when people go, “oh, love yourself first, then love others.” People who have problems loving themselves have no idea what that means. 

[00:17:55] Lorilee Rager: Right. 

[00:17:55] Natalia Ilyin: Love yourself first, right? 

[00:17:57] Lorilee Rager: Yes. 

[00:17:57] Natalia Ilyin: So to love yourself first means treat yourself the way you would treat a child, any child. 

[00:18:02] Lorilee Rager: Right.

[00:18:03] Natalia Ilyin: And that’s loving yourself. 

[00:18:05] Lorilee Rager: That’s exactly right. 

[00:18:05] Natalia Ilyin: Like take care of yourself. 

[00:18:06] Lorilee Rager: Yes. In recovery we talk about that all the time, your inner child. Um, and then, if you don’t know our topic this morning’s meeting was not knowing what self-love is. 

[00:18:18] Natalia Ilyin: You’re joking. 

[00:18:19] Lorilee Rager: I’m not, literally. I will send you the message. 

[00:18:21] Natalia Ilyin: Oh, that’s great. 

[00:18:24] Lorilee Rager: But it was about, but they do maybe understand what self respect is and esteem, and you can, you can live esteemable acts, and that’s something we can understand a little more, until you can develop what self love is, and how you take care of that inner child that you’ve ignored because of your busy clients and your busy teaching job and all of that. So, yeah, that’s really, really important. All from a cup of tea.

[00:18:54] Natalia Ilyin: I do have a lot of tea and I do love those tea gifts, although I have said negative things about journal gifts, I’m very pro-tea gifts. 

[00:19:02] Lorilee Rager: Good to know. 

[00:19:03] Natalia Ilyin: I’m just saying that anybody who wants to send me tea, I’m here for it. 

[00:19:07] Lorilee Rager: Noted. Tea and chocolate. Noted. 

[00:19:09] Natalia Ilyin: Oh, yes. I just, I’m just asking for presents here. We should move on. Yeah. 

[00:19:14] Lorilee Rager: It’s all right. Okay. Well, speaking of moving on, um, the next thing I wanted to talk about was a little bit about, it’s something that’s just interesting to me because I get told often that I’m a good storyteller and very much enjoyed it as a child, telling stories or maybe little white lies for fun or things like that, but. 

[00:19:35] Natalia Ilyin: Sure.

[00:19:35] Lorilee Rager: I was just wondering in general, um, why, why do you think that we, write? Why do you think that we make marks, which is also in your book, but that also connects to the, sorry, this is three questions, pick one. Why do we tell stories? Why do you think?

[00:19:51] Natalia Ilyin: Oh my gosh, what a fabulous question, which I have no answer for, you rat. 

[00:19:56] Lorilee Rager: It’s okay.

[00:19:57] Natalia Ilyin: Well, first of all, let me just, let me just take that piece by piece. So you are a fabulous storyteller. It’s not that you sit there and tell yarns or something like that. You know how to create an environment that people want to listen and then how to create a hook. You hook them in, something happens, and there’s usually, in your case, a funny or bittersweet conclusion, right. So that’s telling a story. So why do we tell stories? You’re part of the great Southern tradition of literature of women, humorous slash they’re not really humorous, they’re, there are people who identify the oppositions in life and the strange, ironic twists in life, and they do it so that they’re, people get the impression they’re being entertained, but actually they’re getting a life lesson. That’s usually what happens with Southern women writers and I, I count you as part of that tradition. Whether you like it or not, you’re stuck there. Um, and so southerners, and I’m just going to say blanket things about southerners cause I’m half Southern so I feel like I can say that. 

[00:21:09] Lorilee Rager: You can, yes. 

[00:21:11] Natalia Ilyin: Southerners have held onto the storytelling tradition in a much clearer and, and more valued way, uh, than, uh, other people have in the states. And I don’t know why that is, but, and that’s something I don’t have the qualifications to answer or talk about really. But I do, I do know that when, uh, when I’m around Southern relatives or people that I like who are from the South, the storytelling comes out in a way that it doesn’t in other places. And I think that that’s one of the ways that, that families stay close knit and, um, that societies stay close-knit is by storytelling. 

[00:21:55] Lorilee Rager: Yeah. I do agree with that with societies. 

[00:21:56] Natalia Ilyin: It tells us who we are. Cause it’s really, yeah, it’s related to identity. This is who you are. When I was growing up, we sat around every Saturday. I had a big family, came from a big family, half Southern, half Russian, very weird. Anyway, uh, we sat around the table and, on Saturdays, and we told stories, family stories that we had all heard before. And we told them just to laugh, right. Or just, I don’t know what we told them for, but we told them. And I think that that had played a huge part in the fact that all of my sisters write, and one of my sisters is novelist, Anna. Um, but we all write. And we all write, we all tell stories. So, so it’s, uh, it’s a huge thing that you brought up for me because I feel that storytelling knits together a society. And when stories in a society are vastly different then you run into trouble, so. 

[00:22:53] Lorilee Rager: Yeah.

[00:22:54] Natalia Ilyin: See, look what you, I don’t know what your question was. We ended up there. 

[00:22:56] Lorilee Rager: I know but it was, it was a perfect answer. 

[00:22:59] Natalia Ilyin: What was your question? 

[00:23:00] Lorilee Rager: It was, why do we tell stories? But that was, that was absolutely beautifully said. Beautifully said. 

[00:23:05] Natalia Ilyin: But you know what? Another thing about stories is that they tell us who we are. They, they relax us. Again, that’s another anxiety reducing thing. So I remember when I was a kid, I was probably the only kid you ever knew who had panic attacks, but I did. And, they didn’t call them that then cause it was like a thousand years ago, but that’s what they were. And I learned young that if I had a panic attack, what I needed to do was find my grandmother and get her to tell me a story. And my grandmother was a huge Southern storyteller, so she would just launch in on something about some great grandfather or something or other, in the farm, right. And I would, it would relax me and I knew that I could get over it if she would tell me a story. So I would be lying there like, “get Granny, I need to hear a story.” Right, so storytelling gives us a place of safety and it makes us feel not alone in the universe, which is the great problem today. Now you wonder why, why is 33% of all, you know, young people have depression issues. I made that up, but it is something like 30%. 

[00:24:21] Lorilee Rager: Right, sure. 

[00:24:22] Natalia Ilyin: Right, like diagnosed. Well, how many stories are in their lives that are the kinds of stories that, that make them feel safe. 

[00:24:31] Lorilee Rager: Exactly. 

[00:24:32] Natalia Ilyin: And how many stories are stories that are created by the media that tell them that the world is ending? 

[00:24:37] Lorilee Rager: Yeah, that’s exactly right. Or hold it in, or box it up, which is, I speak from experience, very unhealthy. But telling the story is another way that connects you with people, connects you with strangers, connects you with, uh, like-minded, in my case, graphic designers and, and creates that safe space. And I think just like you said about your grandmother telling stories, in my hypnosis therapy, that’s one of the grounding anchor thoughts is, is the, uh, a story with my grandmother. And it’s just a really powerful way to, to reduce the anxiety. Yeah. 

[00:25:18] Natalia Ilyin: It breaks it. 

[00:25:19] Lorilee Rager: Yes. That cycle. 

[00:25:21] Natalia Ilyin: I don’t know what that is. It tells you who you are, that you’re not alone. 

[00:25:24] Lorilee Rager: Yes. Yeah. That’s exactly right. That’s exactly right. Well, yeah, that’s beautiful. 

[00:25:28] Natalia Ilyin: We do, we sound like two broken people. We have to start sounding like we overcame. Because we have.

[00:25:38] Lorilee Rager: That’s right. That’s right. Well, so it’s interesting how writing can connect to all of that. It was never something prior to grad school that I ever connected because the storytelling or being confident in writing, feeling like I could have a voice was something that I just didn’t, didn’t think was allowed or maybe there was a level of permission or acceptance or that it needed to be the perfect piece before I ever showed it to anyone in the world. And that was just, very many takeaways from your book, but, you know, understanding that, that my voice was okay, or permission, um, and not to try to have this strong academic or academia voice, that I didn’t have to come right out of the gate with that, was something that you taught me.

[00:26:34] Natalia Ilyin: Yeah. Yeah. So the academic voice, let’s talk a little bit about that. Anybody who’s listened to you and wants to write, um, they may be in, in school and if they’re in school, they often feel as though they have to write like a PhD. Got to write like, I can’t use the “I” voice, you know, I can’t use the first person. I have to make it all the “one does this and that” and use big words, big words you’ve heard from other professors and stuff like that. That is not true. Especially now. It was kind of true when I first started. I had to write a much more academic voice because people still believed in, uh, the omnipotence of the third person, that there was someone back there, it was like the man behind the curtain, in academic writing that, that was, that was telling you the truth about things, right. But these days in our post post-modern era, people don’t believe in the guy behind the. That’s what postmodernism did. It’s smashed that. We don’t believe in the unidentified voice. I mean, I don’t. Others don’t either, trust me. So, and that’s, that’s one of our problems because we can’t figure out whom to believe these days. But we don’t really believe that because we say, that somebody says something to us that it’s true. Whereas people really did believe that, um, in the modern era and before. So all this to say that you don’t have to write that way anymore. As a matter of fact, people trust you if you put yourself into it. They trust the voice. They say, “okay, this is what Natalia thinks. I’m going to trust that this is what she thinks. And I’m going to make my own, um, decisions about whether to, whether what she thinks has anything to do with me and anything, will affect my life in any way. But I know who talking and I know it is she.” Okay. That’s that. So what you want to do is then just speak in your own voice and make sure that the person knows who you are as you have your ideas.

Um, so Yan van Turin, who was my advisor, he was, uh, a very, very well-known Dutch designer. He sort of invented social activism and design in the 60’s. He used to say that the ethical stance in design is to show the conditions of the production. In other words, when you have the model on the, you know, the, the piece of paper, what do you call that? The seamless. And she’s prancing around, show the edge of the seamless paper so that the student, the person who’s looking at that says, “oh, that’s a setup. That’s a set. I see that that model is standing on a set.” That’s the ethical stance, according to him. He was a flaming Marxist, so you’ll have to forgive him. Anyway, that’s the same thing you need to do in writing. You need to show the conditions of the production. So you say, “I’m sitting here in my living room and I’m thinking this thought, I’m wearing scuffs and I’m thinking this thought.” And then the person, that’s the ethical stance in my opinion, so that the person can make their own decisions about whether to believe you or not. 

[00:30:04] Lorilee Rager: Yes, yes. You said that, yeah, I don’t need to tell them how to feel, but if I can describe the room and pay attention to the small details, which I think in my mind stand out more, small things, um, yeah, it can absolutely bring them to their own opinion. 

[00:30:24] Natalia Ilyin: Small things are it. I mean, if you start talking in universals, you know, if, if I had been reading your work and I heard all these universals, like “this is the way it is”, you know, and “we as designers feel this and that”, I would have been, had the old red pen out in one second. But when you say, you know, “I really liked the stamp and the stamp means to me, you know, I it’s from Burma and I’m really interested in,” you’ve got me. I believe you. You’re not talking in universals. You’re talking about very small things that lead me to think about universals without you telling me. 

[00:31:02] Lorilee Rager: Yes. Right, right. And that’s something that I learned from the whole writing process. Exactly that is that just by telling my story, maybe about my grandmother in the garden, or in the field working with my father, or church with my mother, that yes, it does somehow reach the universal, you know, in topics. But it was my voice and my story and my authentic truth, as scary as it was to tell, that, um, that, I guess gave me, you, your book gave me permission to, to say it.

[00:31:39] Natalia Ilyin: Oh, I’m so glad that the book did something. That’s really nice of you. It’s such a goofy thing. You know, that book, writing for the Design Mind, you know, I, I wrote it because an editor called me up and she said, “I really like these, these tips, you know, that you have for your students, that you, you know, writing tips or whatever it is. Will you write a book about writing?” and I, you know, I, what do I know about writing, I’m a writer, you know, I didn’t know, and I’m a writing teacher, but I didn’t really think of myself as a person who would write a book about writing, you know what I mean? It’s the same thing. I mean, I didn’t want to be like, this is the universal way to write. It’s just that the way I was taught to write, um, allowed me to think of how to teach writing to designers. You are a designer. You think, a lot of what you think is in pictures and in textures and in the way things go together and maybe there should be another bookcase between those two bookcases and, you know, you think that way. And so how do you, how do you teach a designer to write? And how do you teach a designer to relax and write and be a person and a write? Which is everything against what you learned in design school, which is to think in the universals and not put yourself into it. This is the modernist approach. 

[00:32:57] Lorilee Rager: Yeah, that’s exactly right.

[00:32:58] Natalia Ilyin: So that really affects, doesn’t affect you well, when you, when you, when, when you’ve spent four years in design school, in an undergraduate design school that is, uh, basically modernist, which most of them still are. And you’ve learned a bunch of universal precepts about what is right and what is wrong. It is very hard to write because you have to throw all that out.

[00:33:24] Lorilee Rager: Yeah. And like you were saying about your professor and showing beyond the margins, and I say it in today’s world, I guess, with people’s Instagram and showing what’s on the other side of the camera or not that perfect, picture perfect image and that sort of thing, which was, it was really, uh, once I let go of that side of the pool, uh, it was a very freeing thing. It was, it felt so good then it just kind of continued to flow, I guess. Or gush, maybe, from a water hose situation. 

I think 

[00:34:00] Natalia Ilyin: it was more of a, more of a, like a fire hose. 

[00:34:03] Lorilee Rager: [Laughter]. It was. 

[00:34:04] Natalia Ilyin: When you let that, you let go, you let it go. And, and you know, that’s really, what you don’t want to do is be a writer and an editor at the same time of your own piece. So you need to let the fire hose just go. That’s the that’s, they invented editors so they say, “well, you know, this part of the gush is sort of boring and this part of the gush is really great”. Um, but don’t try to be your own. You can’t be like sitting there, gush, gush, gush, and then all of a sudden, like I cannot do this. This is wrong, you know. 

[00:34:33] Lorilee Rager: And edit, edit, write, right. 

[00:34:35] Natalia Ilyin: You can’t do both. Don’t edit yourself. Higher editors. 

[00:34:39] Lorilee Rager: Yes. You can always run spellcheck for that. But not run the grammar checker tools, not, not the actual Grammarly. But hire a human, and not your mother, to fix your commas. 

[00:34:56] Natalia Ilyin: Yeah. Do not give your writing to your boyfriend, to your parent, to your child, to your dog. Do not give it to these people, except for maybe the dog. 

[00:35:09] Lorilee Rager: Maybe. 

[00:35:10] Natalia Ilyin: Because you are asking them to read it and tell you how good you are, because you love them and they want, you want them to love you. It has nothing to do with the writing. So do yourself a favor, avoid the pain of doing that and get someone you kind of know who you know is really smart to read your writing. You know, you know, someone who you trust, who don’t know that, all that well, and you don’t care if they love you or not. I mean, you care if they care about you, but you know what I mean? It’s not like one of those fraught relationships. Just don’t let them. I don’t let my relatives and my sister’s this way too. We really don’t let our relatives read our writing til it’s printed. When it’s printed, they can’t do anything to it and they can’t affect us, right. So it’s sort of like, “here’s a book for you to read.” It’s different from, “can you read my one page of personal stuff?” So just don’t do that. Don’t do it. Although Emma I think would be an excellent editor. 

[00:36:10] Lorilee Rager: [Laughter]. Well, I know that Emma and I have the same grammar issues, but I think that, I think even with my thesis, once family, some family read it, they began to think of a different story or a different voice, or change, like, my truth.

[00:36:32] Natalia Ilyin: And then you, then you feel like, “oh my God, you know, they’re right,” right. This is what I always did, “they’re right, I was wrong, I won’t write it.” And that’s the easiest way to block yourself. 

[00:36:45] Lorilee Rager: That’s exactly what I was going to say. If I was writing that thesis and doing the research thinking at the end times, visually envisioning my sister reading it, I would have never written it, it would have never come out. I couldn’t have been dead honest with myself, which is also what your book says, that you must tell the truth, or you must be dead honest with yourself in your writing. 

[00:37:04] Natalia Ilyin: Yes. Which is the hardest thing. Cause you’re so used to hiding behind, it’s like that dance of the seven veils, you’re used to hiding all your selfness, right. Either family, friends, design, all the guys who told you you were stupid, you know, all that stuff. Women who told you you were stupid. Sadly, I’d never had any women tell me it was stupid, but I did have a couple of men tell me that. 

[00:37:27] Lorilee Rager: Same. 

[00:37:28] Natalia Ilyin: So it does, it does tend to, uh, make you prance around in the dance of the seven veils. But you have to let all that go and tell your truth because that’s the only valuable thing you’ve got. You don’t have anything else to give people. 

[00:37:48] Lorilee Rager: That’s right. 

[00:37:48] Natalia Ilyin: So, so you have to learn to be able to write it. 

[00:37:51] Lorilee Rager: And you can’t fake it. 

[00:37:52] Natalia Ilyin: You can’t fake it. And you know, we’ve all read many, many things that are big regurgitations of other people’s thoughts, you know. And you know, because when you start regurgitating other people’s thoughts, past a certain point that’s what language is, but when you start just grabbing chunks and chunks from other people and just words and ideas, where are you in the mix? Where is academe? You’re not pushing academia forward. You’re not pushing thought forward or in our case design criticism forward, you’re just regurgitating your, your dooming yourself to being mediocre. So, so it’s really important to, when you use a words or when you use ideas, to make sure they’re your own. 

[00:38:42] Lorilee Rager: Yes. 

[00:38:43] Natalia Ilyin: The ones that you really think are true. And all of this sounds so, um, I’m being very like castigating, but I get mad about stuff. You know, I get mad about when people who are, people are led down the garden path of thinking they have to write a certain way in academia and it just, it ruins their, their individual spirit. I don’t like that. 

[00:39:06] Lorilee Rager: It makes them scared and afraid. Um, which brings me to my next question or point is most designers I know are extremely terrified of conflict and have a little bit of a people pleasing, um, problem. We’ll just call it a problem. And, and that’s one of the things that. It’s also in your book. I’m sorry, I keep talking about your book, but it’s, it’s your 

[00:39:33] Natalia Ilyin: No, I love that you’re talking about, can you just like, say it again over and over. 

[00:39:37] Lorilee Rager: Yeah. Writing for the Design Mind. Everyone, everyone needs a copy. But you had a whole section about argument, how writing is argument.

[00:39:46] Natalia Ilyin: Yes. Yeah. And when you hear that word 

[00:39:49] Lorilee Rager: your hackles go up, you get splotchy, all the emotions and tingley, bad, scary feelings. So tell me a little bit about your take on argument. Cause you made me understand that it was, it’s not evil.

[00:40:04] Natalia Ilyin: No. So, so, okay. So you’ve got a double whammy here, if you’ll pardon the expression. And you’re a designer. And so you’ve had a lot of social cues that have told you through the years how to get along with other people, and one of them is to mirror them. And when I say mirror, I mean just say back to them what they said to you and so they leave you alone. And, uh, notice that that’s very similar to what you do with clients.

[00:40:32] Lorilee Rager: Absolutely is. 

[00:40:34] Natalia Ilyin: Because designers are in the people pleasing business, that’s our business. We have to make it work for the client. So both of these things really are antithetical to what good writing is. So you have to get used to the idea of argument. So argument is not fighting with someone and hurt feelings and feeling bad and getting splotchy and your blood pressure going up and up. Argument is, think of the debate team. Argument is laying out a system of words that help people open their minds to your point of view. That’s all it is. So when we say argument in writing, what we mean is what are you trying to get across to your reader? What are you trying to get across? And so I define argument as everything you’re trying to get across. It’s not just, I win and you lose. I mean, sometimes it is that. 

[00:41:41] Lorilee Rager: Sure. 

[00:41:42] Natalia Ilyin: But it’s, you know, a poem can be an argument. It’s an argument for seeing the world in the way that the poet sees it for that brief encounter, right. So, so when you think of argument, don’t get panic, don’t panic. It just means that you have a reason for writing and you’re getting that reason across, you’re getting your idea across in a way that’s going to convince your reader that it wasn’t a waste of time to read your stuff. 

[00:42:12] Lorilee Rager: Yeah. Another word, um, I think of in a, in, as a graphic designer working with clients is you’re persuading them. That sounds less scary.

[00:42:23] Natalia Ilyin: That’s a better word. 

[00:42:24] Lorilee Rager: But it is. 

[00:42:25] Natalia Ilyin: Yeah, it, persuading is, well, there is argument and there’s persuasive argument, you know. Now that I’m going to backtrack on myself, which is, my students hate this. They’re just like, “wait, I just took notes and now you’re changing your mind?” So argument and persuasion are closely linked, but they’re not always the same thing. In, in our case. And our cases as designers, they are, they’re very closely linked. 

[00:42:50] Lorilee Rager: It, it feels better when I’m thinking about coming up with my defense or reasoning, uh, of, of what the idea is I’m trying to sell. 

[00:43:01] Natalia Ilyin: Defense is a nice word too. 

[00:43:03] Lorilee Rager: Right. Now we sound like lawyers, which we are not. 

[00:43:05] Natalia Ilyin: No way. 

[00:43:08] Lorilee Rager: No way. 

[00:43:09] Natalia Ilyin: No, but that’s another word you run into. 

[00:43:12] Lorilee Rager: Those are just scary words that I don’t think designers are taught to comfortably communicate when they’re trying to show their work, whether it’s in a critique in the classroom or in front of a board of the bank or, 

[00:43:28] Natalia Ilyin: Oh yeah, it’s really, I hate to break it to you, but when you’re involved in a critique and more, more, really more so when you’re involved with a client and you’re showing, you know, those three things that you’re going to convince them to do one of those things with, that really is a defense. So defense is also that scary word. And it’s what word, people who, they’re going to do a thesis or a, or a PhD, uh, run right into, because especially PhD really has a true defense of the ideas that are in the, in the work. Uh, the MFA, uh, to a certain degree, but, uh, not, uh, not at the level that a PhD has. So you hear people talking about their defense and it’s just terrifying. But all that is, is that they’re setting up the reasons why they did what. And they have to be convincing about it. That’s all that is. And it’s the same with your clients. So you have all these skills from design, but we just call them different words, but they’re all the same skills. They’re, they’re convincing people to like the work you’ve done and the reasons that they should adopt it. So it’s the same thing. 

[00:44:40] Lorilee Rager: It is. That’s exactly. Beautifully said, beautifully said. 

[00:44:45] Natalia Ilyin: Oh, that’s what I’m working on. I’m working on it. 

[00:44:47] Lorilee Rager: You’re doing very, very well. Very good. Well, um, we’ll just wrap up with the end. And as sad as I am to see you go, but we will, we’ll definitely have you back. But the end, last question is what is one tool you would leave an our Ground and Gratitude toolbox for others? Any kind of, like, anchor thought that maybe gives you gratitude, or it could also be a flower, it could be a smell of oil or something that maybe helps center you maybe before you write, or maybe it’s a cup of tea. What’s your favorite tea? 

[00:45:26] Natalia Ilyin: What’s my favorite tea?

[00:45:27] Lorilee Rager: Today.

[00:45:27] Natalia Ilyin: I don’t have a favorite tea. 

[00:45:29] Lorilee Rager: I was going to say it could change. 

[00:45:32] Natalia Ilyin: Um, a tool for your toolbox. I think that what I would do is suggest to your readers, and this is hokey, but hey, let’s be hokey because hokey works. 

[00:45:43] Lorilee Rager: Yes it does. Woo woo. We go woo woo sometimes. 

[00:45:45] Natalia Ilyin: It does. Woo woo. And I would say, go stand in front of your bathroom mirror. Look at your bathroom mirror and say, “I trust you, write what you want” and then go do it. 

[00:45:59] Lorilee Rager: That’s really great. That’s really great. So look yourself in the eye, which you actually rarely do, and one of the things that I say is “I got you.” 

[00:46:07] Natalia Ilyin: Oh, that’s good. I got you. 

[00:46:09] Lorilee Rager: And, so I trust you is fantastic. It’s a fantastic tool for the toolbox. 

[00:46:14] Natalia Ilyin: Oh good. I’m glad it fits in the toolbox because I was worried it was going to be too little for the toolbox. 

[00:46:19] Lorilee Rager: No. There’s no, we’re no judgment to the size of the tool. 

[00:46:22] Natalia Ilyin: Does the toolbox change size? 

[00:46:25] Lorilee Rager: Yes. Absolutely. 

[00:46:27] Natalia Ilyin: It’s a magic toolbox. 

[00:46:28] Lorilee Rager: But it could also be small enough for your pocket, if you need to take it with you on a trip.

[00:46:32] Natalia Ilyin: Well, that’s good to know. And will you get, will, uh, the security like pull you over? Cause you have a toolbox in your pocket. 

[00:46:38] Lorilee Rager: No, it’s TSA approved. 

[00:46:39] Natalia Ilyin: Oh, excellent. Okay, good. I’m glad. 

[00:46:41] Lorilee Rager: It’s well-designed, it’s a well designed toolbox. 

[00:46:43] Natalia Ilyin: I need this. I can tell it. I can sort of see it already. Oh, Lorilee, this has been so lovely to visit with you and hope that I’ll be able to visit with you more in coming months and talk about, you know, the important stuff rather than all the fluff.

[00:46:58] Lorilee Rager: Yeah. 

[00:46:58] Natalia Ilyin: Yeah. 

[00:46:59] Lorilee Rager: Absolutely. This was beautiful. This was so great. Thank you so much. 

[00:47:04] Natalia Ilyin: Oh, thank you.

[00:47:11] Lorilee Rager: Thanks again to Natalia for joining me and helping us all learn a little bit more about writing, routines, and the importance of rituals. Thank you for tuning into Ground and Gratitude. You can find more information about the show, about what we talked about today, some of my writing, even the morning pages that we talked about, and so much more on GroundAndGratitude.com. So check us out there. Join me next time for more honest conversations exploring what it means to truly live a life grounded in gratitude. 

Ground and Gratitude is produced by Kelly Drake and AO McClain LLC, the dream team.