make meaning Archives - Kristen Kalp

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That’s just the way it is, internal oppression, and smashing the patriarchy.

This is an episode of my podcast, That’s What She Said!  You can listen in or read the condensed version below.

Patriarchy is, as defined by the Google in simple language, “a system of society or government in which men hold the power and women are largely excluded from it.”

You might agree that patriarchy is a thing, or you might be like, ‘But wait!  I have power!  I own a business/write books/say what I want/do what I want!”  And yes, that’s true.  I’m not talking about empowerment of a single human, but of systems of power tipped in favor of males.

To draw the outline of this issue in everyday, relatable terms: I grew up attending the Roman Catholic church, which influences — by Google’s stats as of today — 1.2 BILLION people.  A lot of people, a lot of influence, yes?  Not a single woman at the local, regional, state, national, or global level can be ordained, which means not a single woman is in power in the church.

I also grew up in the United States, where, at the national level, 20%ish of politicians are female.  The majority of people holding political power are male.

Those are simply facts, and I don’t have the time or energy for man-bashing.  Nor am I ‘racist against white men,’ which is one of the most hilarious things to ever have been flung in my direction as criticism.

Even if no power gap or pay gap existed, there would be shit-tons of *internal* work for women to do before we’d be truly equal.

That’s because internal oppression is a thing.

Internal oppression occurs when you begin to adopt and act like an external oppressor inside your own head.

In women, that looks like continually defaulting to patterns and norms that keep you small (physically, spiritually, emotionally, and financially).

Here’s a quiz for sussing out your internal oppressor.

Do you:

+ deeply believe you’re not worth it?

What I mean is, your internal fulfillment comes after the needs and desires of your partner, your children, your pets, your extended family members, and/or world peace. Once all suffering has been eliminated in the 435 people closest to you, YOUR needs can take center stage. (Read: you will never be fulfilled and that’s somehow okay because REASONS.)

+ routinely shove your opinions down and/or trying to talk yourself out of having those opinions?

You most definitely have feelings about the current political climate. You have subjects that make you feel like you’ll implode with rage, patterns that you ache to avoid repeating, and people who make you batshit with their antics. You don’t have to go from failing to express yourself to launching tirades to anyone who will listen, but you’re allowed to have opinions. And express them.

See: very white dudes who said *they’ve* never seen how women are treated differently than men, and they’re pretty certain those stats about women making 40% less than men are false. That happened, for the Ballsy class! Dudes express doubt about ACTUAL FACTS that women are sharing, and discounting their experiences as females (which is what we’re talking about) while they are…males. That, my friends, is the definition of misogyny patriarchy in action.

If guys can discount facts and call everything they don’t like as fake news, like they did today, you most certainly have the right to express your love of a TV show or a poem or tacos, or stand up for injustice wherever you see it.

And make no mistake: discounting women’s accounts of their own experiences is injustice. Every damn time.

+ speak in question marks more often than periods?

+ routinely override strong instincts about a person, place, project, or venture?

That can mean good instincts, like ‘I should take that class!’ or protective instincts, like ‘I should avoid this street today.’ Those tiny nudges and intuitive hits are vital to your aliveness, and they grow with time and attention.

When you ignore your instincts, you deaden your truest self, which makes reaching fulfillment at any level more difficult.

When you honor them, your connection to yourself — and therefore the world around you — grows. As Brian Andreas says, “The first intimacy is with yourself.”

+ delay pursuits, projects and ideas until later, which often becomes never?

The unwritten books, the untaught classes, the unmade art, the forgotten hobbies or abandoned tools — these things are dying to be made.

We actually care about what you have to say.

It’s easy to believe that isn’t true, and doesn’t the world have enough of whatever you offer? No, no it fucking doesn’t. It doesn’t have your voice — and so long as you’re not another hate group extremist selling out tours of hate — SPEAK UP.

Maybe you’ll never have worldwide fame. Maybe you’re not making the next Titanic or Black Panther or Harry Potter or other blockbuster that beats all sales records and goes on to net billions. That doesn’t mean your work isn’t worth making. Have only blockbusters touched your heart? Have only the biggest, most popular works of art moved you at a human level? Have only people with a minimum following of 1 million people shifted your ways of being in the world? No, of course not.

You can be the one who moves people. But you have to start.

As Rob Bell says, “Make a crappy version of the thing.” Not the perfect version with an unlimited budget and an unlimited amount of time and 14 espresso-fueled interns working nonstop. Make the version that has wheels and can move, even if it’s not a sports car. You’ll naturally iterate on the first version, and from that tweaking you’ll make a better, less crappy version of the thing.

+ get caught in perfectionism with projects that are ‘almost’ done?

Perfectionism is another form of fear and feeling less than — like, if you could just find THE PERFECT FONT, you’d be bulletproof and no one would think or say or feel anything even slightly negative about you ever again. Only that’s now how it works, and you know it and I know it and can we just acknowledge that taste is relative, so keeping your work from the world is only hurting you? Because what if it’s amazing?

What if it’s more fulfilling than you could have imagined? What if you could help people or touch people or move people or love people with whatever you’ve got in ‘almost’ phase right now?

+ ask for permission to complete a normal human task or justify a business expense?

(i.e. Can I take this class, person who is not involved in my business? Can I go to this workshop, friend who has no idea of whether that workshop is worth it?)

My partner actually guffawed when I said, “Would it ever even *occur* to you to ask me about buying new speakers, if you needed them?” His work as a DJ needs certain tools, and purchasing those tools in order for him to make a living is not up for debate. Please allow yourself the same grace. If you need it, buy it.

If your instincts keep moving you toward a thing — a topic, a project, a film, a class, a program, a place — honor them without asking anyone else what they think you should do.

+ go out of your way to remove hurdles to your partner to atone for your absence?

i.e. I’m going out of town and must stock the fridge with meals (Been there, done that, came back to dudes who just ordered pizza every day anyway.)

You are not required to take care of your partner as if he or she is a child. Assume anyone over the age of 18 can feed and bathe themselves without destroying the house.

+ keep your daily work invisible?

‘Wait,’ you say! ‘My partner doesn’t know where the kids get picked up after school! I’ve never sent them grocery shopping and they don’t know what brands we like! I’ve never shared my meal plans or secret morning routines that keep everything moving smoothly, and I put the kids to bed at precisely 7:15 but they’re not home until 7:30 and have never seen the way I do bedtime with the secret bedtime song and the exact global positioning of the bedroom door that allows the life-preserving, boogieman-thwarting light from the hall inside!’

They don’t know because you haven’t shown them.

That’s keeping your work invisible, which ensures that only you can do it. If you never write down the routine, share the meal plans, record the tasks, update the schedule, or shove off some everyday tasks that you’ve decided ‘take too much work to explain,’ you will never get out of the current predicament. Take notes, write it down, and share what you do whenever possible. The moan of ‘I just can’t do it like you do’ is often bullshit that keeps you shackled with unrelenting amounts of invisible work.

+ routinely give your work away for free?

If you’ve acquired skills by expending time, energy, and/or money, you’re justified in charging money for them. That yoga training cost hundreds of hours and thousands of dollars. Those ‘self-taught’ camera skills ate up years’ worth of weekends and thousands of dollars’ worth of workshops. You’re still paying for your degree in that field. Your work is worth money. Always.

Even if you can’t believe your SKILLS are worth money, your time alone is justification for charging dollars in exchange for your work. Okay? Okay.

+ refer to your “little” project or say it’s “just” your business or “only” a recital/premiere/showing/event that you’re actually really proud of?

If you don’t respect your work — and by respect, I mean refusing to minimize it — no one else will. When you minimize your work, you’re minimizing your very BEING on this planet. You don’t have to do that in order to be liked, make money, or gain an inkling of success. In fact, we’re more likely to give you money when YOU trust you.

+ treat your business as a hobby because it doesn’t make X dollars, where X is 20 to 200 percent more than you currently make?

Those ‘less than’ patterns will stick around no matter how much money you make.

The legitimacy of your business is first a function of your attitude, not your income.

Your business becomes serious the minute you take it seriously. So, you made $300 last month? AWESOME. You’re gonna make $3,000/30,000/300,000 this year? Rad. Financial success is not the only success: have you found more internal freedom? A creative outlet? A way to pay for a magical trip to a tiny island? Have you found others who wrap you in community and thus, make you feel less alone in this being-human thing? Those are all forms of not-money success, and they’re made when you respect your work regardless of its current financial earning.

+ pretend you don’t know what you already know, at some deep level?

The project lost its spark. The deadline for that grant passed and you didn’t apply. The relationship is over. Facing the truth of a situation, no matter how hard, prevents the pain of avoiding it. (Which is arguably worse, and can go on for the rest of your life if you let it.)

That’s NOT just the way it is.

These are patterns you can change, with a bit of pattern recognition and focused attention. Ballsy brings attention to these particular patterns and helps you move through them in a healthy, vigorous way. You don’t have to shrink yourself to be well-liked, and you sure as shit don’t have to deny your deepest knowing and fiercest instincts to survive as a women in the world.

Quiz time!

Here are the questions one more time, so you can see ’em quickly and answer honestly.  An answer of ‘yes’ is a point.

Do you:

+ deeply believe you’re not worth it?

+ routinely shove your opinions down and/or try to talk yourself out of having those opinions, even in not-life-or-death matters like where to eat dinner or what to do on Saturday afternoon?

+ speak in question marks more often than periods?

+ routinely override strong instincts about a person, place, project, or venture?

+ delay pursuits, projects and ideas until later, which often becomes never?

+ get caught in perfectionism with projects that are ‘almost’ done?

+ ask for permission to complete a normal human task or justify a business expense?

+ go out of your way to remove hurdles to your partner to atone for your absence?

+ routinely give your work away for free?

+ refer to your “little” project or say it’s “just” your business or “only” a recital/premiere/showing/event that you’re actually really proud of?

+ treat your business as a hobby because it doesn’t make X dollars, where X is 20 to 200 percent more than you currently make?

+ pretend you don’t know what you already know, at some deep level?

If you answered yes to two or more of these questions, the Ballsy course will help you tremendously, whether you own a business or not. 

It’s a four-week class designed to help you take up space as a woman in the world — in your home, your work, your business and/or your life — while undoing habits that have kept you frustrated and dissatisfied for a long-ass time.  I co-teach it with Nick McArthur, a dear friend who used to be female (birthed 4 kids, wore nail polish even though it felt wrong, etc…) and transitioned to male about two years ago.  He has the unique life experience of living as both a male and a female, and his perspective is wise, touching, funny, and helpful.

Last chance to register for Ballsy is Monday, July 23rd!  Check it out

Then join.

P.S.  Pick up the first Ballsy audio session and workbook.

Make Meaning ⚡️M-School #5

It’s easy to make meaning from the prettiest, best moments of our lives, but that’s not the job of M-School.  (This is episode 5, here are episodes one, two, three, and four.)

Making meaning from failure is the most important act you’ll undertake during our time together.

Before we go any further, grab a piece of paper and list 5 of what you consider to be your biggest failures. You don’t have to share these with anyone, but go ahead and write ’em down before you keep going. PLEASE.


😑  That time (okay, those many, many times) I would steal away to Grandma’s house and Mom would yell, “Don’t have a bowl of ice cream!” before I left, so I would have TWO bowls of ice cream when I got through Grandma’s front door. I was 5 (and 6 and 7 and 8 and 9), finding ways to get around the rules.

😑  That time I laid on the floor in SEAL (Special Education for Advanced Learners) and Mrs. Spisso yelled at me for being so uncivilized. But the floor was cool, blue tile against my cheek and the stools were so uncomfortable. I was seven, listening to my body and delighting in my senses.

😑  That time I gave up on being the Valedictorian of my high school because I refused to take an additional chemistry class my Senior year. On previous episodes of Kristen Takes Chemistry: the worst burn our teacher had ever seen. Goggles with tears floating up to my eyeballs and the inability to move my injured hand for weeks. I was 17, following my strengths and seeing that the sacrifice wasn’t worth the payout.

😑  That time my book didn’t get published even though I sent it out for a poetry contest I was sure I would win. I was 21, trying to share my gifts with the world.  (And eventually I published that book anyway.)

😑  That time I closed my photography studio and was sure Brand Camp would have to die with it, ’cause no one listens to people who aren’t photographers. Instead: book deal, ebooks, programs, coaching, the constant unfolding of the path. I was 30, honoring my deepest instincts.

😑  That time I was floating in the middle of the ocean and slammed my kayak paddle down and said, “I want a divorce.” I was 32, honoring the voices within me that didn’t want to be married anymore, and hadn’t for quite some time.

😑  That time I held an event called Brand Camp for 132 peeps in the mountains of Pennsylvania and lost over $43,000. I was 33, listening to every impulse within me that wanted to create something lovely and daring, big and bold and unpredictable. (WHEW BOY was it unpredictable.) I had never felt so connected to my purpose for being on this planet.

Getting around the rules, listening to my body, delighting in my senses, following my strengths, sharing my gifts, honoring my deepest instincts and the voices within me, creating something lovely and daring and big and bold and unpredictable.

If you take those side effects out of context, they sound so innocent. But each one came with a price, and that price was failure. The same is true for you.

You try and it doesn’t work. You tweak your goals, you give up on some dreams looking like you’d planned, you dig yourself out of debt (or loss or shame or grief or terror) and you find a way to move on.

When you catalog your failures, big or small, devastating or mildly entertaining, remember that they’re the ways you learn to make meaning. We humans often learn our deepest lessons through pain and failure and seemingly endless inner torture. We recommit to a hasty decision despite every fiber of our being screaming that we shouldn’t. We give up on dreams we held for years for what seems like no reason. We keep eating bigger and bigger bowls of ice cream.

With time, we make meaning. We get to see the little Kristen, a second grader lying peacefully on the floor, and realize that she’s rebelling in her own way. It’s a quiet, gentle rebellion that doesn’t give a fuck about what her teacher thinks.

We see the seeds that yield meaning later in life. When you look back at how freaking HARD life is right now, and how much you believe yourself to be failing in some areas, you’ll see the seeds beginning to blossom.

Without giving up on being valedictorian, I would have way more burn scars all over my body, not just my right hand.

Without Brand Camp, I wouldn’t have known how deeply committed I am to having a business.

Without giving up on my marriage, I wouldn’t have met the love of my life.

Grab those 5 big failures you wrote down, and fill in the blanks:

Without _________________, I wouldn’t have _________________.

Without _________________, I wouldn’t have _________________.

Without _________________, I wouldn’t have _________________.

Without _________________, I wouldn’t have _________________.

Without _________________, I wouldn’t have _________________.

Once you can see why your failures are absolutely necessary pieces of your magical puzzle, we can go deeper to actively create more meaning.

This is just the beginning!  Keep listening to this episode of That’s What She Said:

P.S. Magic often feels like broken.

Remember? Your aliveness, coral reefs, and your 📱

I stumbled upon some new-to-me news this week, and I wanted to share it at both a physical and metaphorical level. Across the world, coral reefs have been seemingly healthy, then they bleach, then they die forever, and the whole process can happen in just a few months.

Stick with me, ’cause this is about your own aliveness as much as it is about the ocean.

“Reefs occupy just 1% of the world’s marine environment, but they provide a home to a quarter of marine species—including a unique set of fish, turtles and algae. Many of these species could be lost permanently, but with temperatures only expected to rise in the coming decades chances are slim that reefs will be able to rebuild from scratch.

‘You can’t grow back a 500-year old coral in 15 years,; says Eakin. ‘In many cases, it’s like you’ve killed the giant redwoods.'” — A Most Beautiful Death, Time Magazine

coral reef photo (click for source article)

This faster-than-anticipated dying is happening at a physical level to coral reefs, but it’s also happening at a metaphorical level to our human interiors.

Let’s talk about your interior continent.

Home of the still, small voice within you that whispers wisdom.(See: this blog post and podcast. 1 of the 3 threads that keep you going in the direction of your own depths.)

The knowing that frees you to safely ignore the most prominent voices and ‘experts’ in any given field if they don’t resonate with you all the way to your bones.

The whisper that points to the next step. The never sexy, often-a-pain-in-the-ass next step that will advance your being. Not necessarily your career or your following or your bank account, but your very being. (*Totally* hypothetical example: taking yoga teacher training for the entire month of May even though you don’t actually want to teach yoga. At great cost, and in freaking Texas.)

The interior continent might account for only 1% of your total life, but I would argue that 25% of your good ideas, creativity, clarity, and sense of fulfillment are generated within it. And the tricky thing is…

You can’t hear that voice when you’re scrolling on Instagram. Period.

That voice doesn’t shout over the 43 marketing emails in your inbox. Ever.

It doesn’t pop up and do jazz hands when you’re clicking around on Facebook or playing games or watching Netflix. Not once.

It waits.

Quietly and patiently.

For you to pay attention.

And it’s really, really easy to stop paying attention.

There’s a whole world within you that could go the way of the coral reef population of the world. You could slowly dry up from the inside out, 📱 in hand, and most people won’t stop you and shake your shoulders to see where you’ve gone.

are you serious GIF


Once, a friend was talking about how much she needed more money and so she was going to take a job with a HUGE promotion, only it would require her to be away from home 5 out of every 7 days (she’s a homebody) and drive 4-6 hours per day (she rolls down the window and pants like a dog if cooped up in a car for more than 2 hours at a time), and yah she’d be alone all the time but DOLLARS.

I sat there, listening calmly on a bench outside the Starbucks, and kept asking about her life force. Her ikigai, her soul. Over and over and over, until she heard me and got a little pissed off and realized that I was never going to buy in and say I approved of this new-but-very-terrible plan.

Consider this your shoulder shake.

This is me, holding you gently and looking into your eyes and saying, “You don’t have to live like this.” You don’t have to resign yourself to the fate of a dying coral reef, half stilted and bleaching, with the future of your own vitality hanging in the balance.

You can bet on wonder and delight, on a deeper life and on thriving.

You can reclaim your own interiors from scrolling and never-ending busyness and one more click on the latest content.

Space is how you start.

It’s about making room to pay attention.

It’s about giving the vibrant, vital ecosystem of your own interiors a chance to regain some oxygen.

It’s gently sweeping the detritus of perfection porn, dueling voices, digital noise, and overwhelm out of your being.

It’s about remembering who you were before Steve Jobs decided to make his particular dent in the universe.

Do you remember? Do you remember who you were before you could carry a screen around and escape boredom and despair and deep thinking and empty spots in your day at all times?

Because I do.

I remember, you looked up and noticed things. Weird things and people things and everyday things. And dog things. Definitely dog things.

I remember, you took your shoes off and sat down. Outside. With the trees and the air and the sounds of birds. And snacks. 😉

I remember, you didn’t use to care about algorithms. You used to care about books and clouds and catching the eye of that person you wanted to talk to but were too shy to approach.

The way I remember, you were a little closer to whole.

Space allows you to reclaim your wholeness.

Space is absolutely necessary, today and every day, to do the hard work of knowing what you feel, how you want to live, and how best you can be of deep service to everyone and everything on the planet.

You can reclaim it whenever you’d like. You can turn off the screens, lock your phone away, and step outside with nothing but clothing between you and the great outdoors.

⚡️ If you’d like my help doing that work, Space is *also* a 21-day class designed to help you find more room to live in your own interiors.

Space will help you break up with busy and get a handle on your 📱 habit.

During the class, I’ll send you one e-mail per day for 21 days in a row, with simple-but-not-easy tasks to complete. There are even options to get gold ⭐️ extra credit on about half of those days, because overachievers are my people. 😉

By the end of those 21 days, your interior coral reefs will be 10-20% more alive.

You’ll also have cut about ***2 hours of phone use per day** from your life if you follow the prompts and play along.

What could you do or become or enjoy or create or notice with an extra two hours a day? What could you pick up or try or make or pay attention to if you weren’t tethered to your phone?

Space will help you find out.

Pick it up here.

We start on Monday, June 11th, 2018, and class rings in at $69.

👩🏻‍🚀👩🏻‍🚀 2 for 1 live-in bonus! Once you’ve checked out, send me the name and e-mail address of your partner or roommate and I’ll enroll ’em in class at no extra charge so you can take on the challenge of making Space together. This means accountability with an actual, real-life human you can make eye contact with on the daily!

tls GIF

Whether you buy the class or not, I wish you deep, wide, and expansive space to hear your heart and feel your deepest desires.

With all my love —


TL;DR Fight back. Tune in to your own interiors. Don’t let the world and its infinite screens suck your life away, because you are a goddamned treasure and if no one else will tell you that, I will. Today, and any damn time you need to hear it.

👩🏻‍🚀 Space starts June 11th, is $69, and will help you break up with your phone already.  Join here.