Category Archives: Inspiration

The Problem with Fear

20th November 2015

Growing up, my parents taught us that if you don’t have anything nice to say, don’t say anything at all. With four kids, all of which seem to have inherited the quick and occasional Irish temper, it was repeated with a relentless fury in our household.

When that advice didn’t stick, it was usually thanks to the screaming of the “s word”, a reigning master insult we would each throw across a room more than our parents would have liked. For the record, the “s word” was likely defined by the atrocities of “stupid” or “shut-up”.

On the upside, it turns out calling my brother Erik stupid approximately a bazillion times didn’t change his upbringing by so much as a fraction. Of my three siblings, Erik is my closest in age and, statistically speaking, probably received the highest frequency of this foul language. Today, Erik is an astrophysicist and possibly the most rational and humble human being I have ever met.

In the days that have followed Paris, my mom’s voice has been on repeat in my head with each media report, Facebook post and sideways comment. While I’d like to respond to each and every post fueled by hate with a retaliation of more than scary s-words, my experience thus far has proven that it’s likely not very conducive to getting anything accomplished.

So as I sit here, trying to decide whether it’s more productive to open my mouth, or not say anything at all, I’ve reached this conclusion: hateful comments aren’t at fault for or a solution to what’s unfolding in the world around us.

Here’s the thing about hatred, negativity and tempers: we control them. Individually. Erik did. Which is why my words didn’t inhibit his ability to turn out to be a stable, loving and brilliant brother later in life, despite my best efforts.

The outside world, myself included, doesn’t have the power to control our reactions. When you take a step back and consider this human superpower to self control emotion, it’s a pretty incredible gift. It’s why above all of the heartbreak you’ve stumbled upon breathtaking stories like this in the days since Paris.

We were designed by our Creator to think, to love and to act individually. So what if instead of channeling our actions into an influenced spirit of hate, we sought to better understand what was causing it to rise up inside of us in the first place?

We can blame hate on the actions of others, but if I categorize hate as an emotion I control, then I’ve made the conscious decision to allow it to control me. If hate is a conclusion I somehow reached, then there must also a way I can reverse it.

It starts by understanding that hate is simply fear, dimensioned.

A few months ago, I had the pleasure of hearing from professional Red Bull kayaker Steve Fisher speak at an Atlanta Creative Mornings event on the topic of action, and subsequently, of fear. If you think you understand fear, pause now and watch the trailer for Steve’s last project here.

While the rest of us may deem him insane, Steve breaks down what he does for a living quite simply.

Fear is an assessment of risk.

Fear is subjective.

Fear isn’t calculated.

Risk is calculated.

We assess risk by understanding it; breaking it down into statements, actions and the likelihood of a particular outcome. By understanding risk, we grant ourselves the permission to dissolve fear.

Ultimately, like hate, we individually have the power to control fear. We grant fear the power to inhibit us from taking action, or in the case of those horrific actions take in Paris on Friday night, to succumb to it. We can’t change someone else’s fear, the same as our inability to dissolve their hate. We can however choose to dissolve our own fears and fight for their opposites.

I know from experience that someone else’s hate cannot control my happiness, the same way my hateful words couldn’t control Erik. In the light of the what’s unfolded in the world around us, I refuse to succumb to fear. I refuse to share an emotion with a group of individuals who haven’t taken the time to calculate, understand and connect with what’s driving their own irrational emotions.

I choose understanding.

I choose curiosity.

I choose conversation.

I choose community.

I choose faith.

But not fear. Not isolation. And most certainly not hate.

We have a long, and very hate filled, road ahead of us. I’m certain our superpowers of emotion will be tested again and again in the days to come. If we control any of what the world throws our way, let it be how we control our fear. Let it be that we face our fears and channel them into a search for more ways to help, not hinder. Let it be that we open our ears to new conversations, not hide in old ones. I’m hopeful in doing so, we may collectively find a power and resilience to fight for good, together.



26th October 2015

Damp grey Monday. After a weekend filled with more than a few fall excursions with my favorite person, we’re back to Monday, and a gross rain filled Monday at that. As the rain barrels down on our rooftop, I can’t help but set my thoughts back to our fall filled weekend and a word that’s lingering in my head as a result: expectations.

As running and I haven’t been on the prettiest of pages lately, I’ve been in search of podcasts to fill the miles I could normally, quite happily, fill with silence. A few weeks ago, I stumbled upon a podcast released earlier this year called Invisibilia.

Brought to us by NPR, Invisibilia documents the invisible forces that control human behavior. It is so incredibly fascinating that in the last few weeks, I’ve found reasons to stay out on the road, just to finish episodes.

But back to expectations.

In episode three, Lulu and Alix explore how the expectations we set for both ourselves and others can quite literally transform the world around us. The pair begins by sharing a story from Robert Rosenthal, professor of psychology at the University of California.

In his experiment, Professor Rosenthal brings a group or ordinary lab rats and labels them either “dull minded” or “bright minded” before handing them over to a group of test subjects. While the rats did not possess any difference in intellectual value, when handled by people with these preconceived expectations, the “bright rats” were able to improve their maze learning by 65%, simply by the way they were held, spoken to and interacted with. In other words, expectations changed the outcome.

I found the entire episode fascinating and couldn’t help but gush to P about what could be possible if only we forced ourselves to think differently about our situations. Luckily, we were quickly able to put the thoughts into practice (unknowingly) this weekend as we set out on our first long-ish mountain bike ride in North Georgia.


A short break early on in our ride.

Last fall, we stumbled upon the Jake and Bull Mountain trail system and have been dying to get back up on our bikes. While we didn’t take the plunge on the full trail (see elevation estimates below), we did set out on a shorter loop that would take us ten miles and across some of the most rewarding trail we had seen in years.


We cruised through the first eight miles or so, passing horse after horse, fording two creeks (to which I made more than a few Oregon trail references) and settling into the silence that is listening to gear shifts and leaves crunching. If there is way to feel closer to having heaven on earth, I haven’t found it.

But, oh mile eight. We started up a steady climb, that while not terribly steep, went on. And on. And on. After not biking for a few months, it kicked out butts. Until at about mile nine, when P broke the silence and reset our expectations with a simple reminder, “don’t forget, when we finish this, we can go find boiled peanuts.”

The view of the pumpkin patch (and home of the boiled peanuts) we visited after our ride.

The view of the pumpkin patch (and home of the boiled peanuts) we visited after our ride.

It made all of the difference. If we had watches, we would have probably noticed clocking our fastest mile after that moment, but alas, no watches.

It was the perfect reminder that expectations don’t have to be world changing or even life changing, but they can be moment changing. So while it may be damp, grey and Monday, I’ll hold on to the idea that event the smallest of gestures can set your expectations off in an entirely new direction, and maybe daydream a bit about our next trail ride adventure.

Mr. Kelly and I circa 1990

The Important Places

13th May 2015

It’s a joke in our family that my grandpa was part gypsy. Never one to stay in one city, one job or stick to one story in a single sitting, Edward Kelly was a man of adventure and of narration. Through his seven children and too many to count grandchildren and great-grandchildren, he most certainly passed along a mix of wonder and disregard for contentment. However, it wasn’t until recently that I had a moment of reflection for his disposition in my own life.

Mr. Kelly and I circa 1990

Mr. Kelly and I circa 1990

For weeks now, I have been on the hunt for the perfect destination for a trip for P and I to take later this year. To call it a case of wanderlust would be a vast understatement. It’s almost as if I’ve convinced myself that the countries of the world will slowly disappear if we don’t choose the correct ones, all in the right order.

P has reminded how silly this sounds on multiple counts and as per usual, I’ve fought it. As if right on cue this week, that gypsy of mine stepped in. Mr. Kelly sent me a series of these moments that my uncle-in-law would call God moments. A single moment where time drags its feet to a halt, clarity rushes inward and you know without a doubt someone is screaming for you to pay close attention, right at this very moment.

Whether it was truly my Grandpa or my brain finally coming to terms with the “calm yourself down” notion, I can’t be sure, but let’s just say I’m a sap for these types of moments when they happen, and I believe that they truly do.

Cue the God moment.

Kelly moment. Moment of clarity. Whatever you feel like calling them for your own personal well being.

This past Thursday night, my brother arrived in town. For those who don’t know, he’s away in Chapel Hill, NC being a super smart astrophysicist. For realsies. I work to discover things on the Internet and he works to discover new solar systems. An even sibling playing field, but I digress. What this boils down to is that we no longer see each other as often as I’d like.

Erik and I likely searching for dinosaur bones

Erik and I likely searching for dinosaur bones, or pre-historic shark teeth

Thursday night, Erik gets to town. P and I fight Atlanta traffic for what seemed like hours to get to my parents’ house for dinner. As we are sitting around the table (four siblings, two parents, one new husband), likely arguing about why Amanda didn’t make her desert sooner and now it’s melting, I noticed a look exchanged between my parents.

A look that took the lust right out of wanderlust, exchanged the a for an o and focused right in on the wonder part.

It was in that quick glance between two people that I understood. The most important places, trips and adventures in the world pale in comparison to the company we keep. That one hit me loud and clear. It was in that moment that I realized, for my parents there was no greater adventure than watching a rare adventure around a dinner table unfold.

These are the important places, because as it turns out, gypsies are more than just nomads. They are a community, a tribe and a connection that forces us to forget that adventure isn’t so much of a place, an action or even a destination.

Adventure is a state of being.

A state of joy, of content, of challenge and of support. An adventure that if we’re lucky enough, we’ll seek out every single day. I needed that reminder this week. Thanks Mr. Kelly.



PS, if you haven’t seen it, please take a moment to watch the short film, The Important Places. It was the icing on the cake and the push I needed to get these thoughts on to digital paper this week.