What does it mean to be kind (to ourselves & others) during these trying times? In this week’s episode, Katie admits to road rage, Karen discusses how she realized that someone difficult in her life was suffering, and the pair agree that boundaries are a form of self-kindness.
Karen & Katie also put into the universe how wonderful it would be to have Tamara Levitt, the voice of the Calm app, on the podcast.
Resources from this episode: the Calm app.
Katie: Hi, I’m Katie Morrell. I’m a creative and writer based in the San Francisco Bay Area.
Karen: And I’m Karen Hawkins. I am the founder of Rebellious Magazine for Women and co-editor in chief of the Chicago Reader.
Katie: You are listening to Of Course I’m Not Okay: An Audio Project. Join us as we talk about mental health, coping with quarantine, and what conversations we wish the world was having and isn’t.
Karen: For some of our episodes we’ll chat with writers and creatives to get their take. Thank you for joining us on this journey.
Katie: Okay, here we go. Karen, this is, this is a monumental moment, I think for the both of us and our technological advancement, would you agree?
Karen: I, a thousand percent agree with you, Katie. And I feel like we’re speaking to each other from the future.
Katie: We are speaking to each other from the future a.k.a. two $49 microphones from Amazon which, if you’re listening and you have heard any other episodes, you know how much better this sounds. I think? I hope at least, I have yet to hear it on playback.
Karen: Oh, good Lord. If this does not sound better to everyone else, I just, I’m going to write Jeff Bezos a letter. Jeff@amazon.com, listen. Friend. Let’s talk about it.
Katie: Yes. I mean, I will say that as wonderful as you sound, and as I hope okay as I sound, I will say that there, it does not come with(out) some glitches. At the moment, I am sitting awkwardly at a desk with 11 books propping up my very small microphone that I am talking so close to. That I’m pretty sure I’m just, like blasting everyone’s eardrums out. I really hope I’m not. I mean, the only thing I like about this microphone at the moment is that I guess it’s working and also it is pink in color. So-,
Katie: -that’s nice. But we have two very different microphone experiences, I think, right now.
Karen: Yes, yours is quite (inaudible) and, oh my God. See, I feel like, I feel like you can hear me breathing into it, which is making me crazy. And I feel like every time I touch it, it does something. Oh my God, I’m going to make myself crazy. So if you listened to our last episode with the amazing Dr. Tania Israel, and you saw the photos on our Instagram, she was wearing this headset that Katie and I were very much coveting because we’re both having, you know, whatever. We have them, we have the mic issues. We have-
Karen: Mic envy. And so I ordered the one that she has and Katie and I just spent a good half an hour figuring out how to use our respective mics-slash-headsets, and so I’m wearing this headset that makes me look like I am working in a drive-through. It might sound great, but I look like I’m about to take your order at Wendy’s.
Katie: You do.
Karen: Not that there’s anything wrong with Wendy’s. If you’re listening, we’d love to have you as a sponsor.
Katie: We would love to have you as a sponsor. Also, I like your fries. So please send some fries-
Karen: And some Frosty. Can you send us some Frosty and dry ice?
[Editor’s note: Apparently the plural of Frosty. . . is Frosty.]
Katie: Ooo! Ok you know what, forget that. Forget the fries. I like Frosty. I completely forgot about the Frosty. Damn. I don’t think I’ve-,
Karen: Why not Frosty and fries?
Katie: Oh, that’s true because you dip your fries into the Frosty. Ooh. Okay. You’re right. I’m happy that we are testing these new technology waters, but-
Katie: You know, there’s just, there’s some room for improvement.
Karen: And we’re an audio project, not a podcast. When we’re a podcast, none of these things will be issues anymore.
Katie: Exactly. And also Wendy’s will be a sponsor and we will both be eating fries with Frosty, while we’re talking to each other, yet not picking it up with her amazing new mics that will-,
Katie: You won’t be able to tell listeners that we will be eating Frosty at every single episode.
Karen: Oh my god.
Katie: So, something to look forward to. Yes. But I have to tell you, Karen, I had such an incredible time last week talking with you and Dr. Tania Israel about this topic of, you know, kind of talking across the political divide and for people who are listening, if you haven’t heard that episode it’s episode seven. I highly recommend checking it out. I had so many people reach out to me this week and say that they were buying Dr. Israel’s book and saying that they-.
Karen: Oh good!
Katie: Yeah, I know. I’m like, ‘Oh my God! Yes! Do it! Buy it!’ Like, it’s so incredible because she’s such like a colossal BadAss. Like, it was just so amazing to talk to her. I was like, I was, I was proud of myself for not fangirling on her, basically and just like, you know, cause I really wanted to, like, she was just such, but I kind of want to just be friends with her actually. Like, she’s great.
Karen: We have to somehow, yes, parlay this into being friends with her. And have her back on to talk about fun stuff. And I feel like I also heard from people who loved her and who feel like, who just both felt comforted by her presence. Like, she just has this very relaxing voice, and also comforted like, ‘Here’s a place you can start.’ Like, I feel like people just feel overwhelmed and they’re like, ‘I know where I want to get to with this person in my life. I just don’t even know where to start. And it’s just over.’ So I feel like people also felt comforted. Like, there is a framework that you can use to have these conversations here.
Katie: Totally. It was so amazing. Her ideas about talking and, you know, approaching people with curiosity versus, like, judgment. And I mean, it was just, it was very mindful to me. Like it’s not surprising that she’s a practicing Buddhist and it’s like, I just felt kind of, I was, I felt Zen when I was talking to her, even though the topic was so hard to tackle.
Karen: Totally. I also, one of the things I really appreciated that she said I wonder if, how, I wonder how it landed with people of different generations, but this idea that like this idea of safety. That, you know, our bodies respond to danger exactly the same way, regardless of what the danger is. Like, you’re being chased by a tiger. You’re having a hard conversation with your dad. And that we feel very unsafe. But that really, you’re fine. You’re not being chased by a tiger. You’re not gonna die. It’s uncomfortable. And you feel unsafe, but physically you are not unsafe in the same way.
Katie: Yes, yes, exactly! It’s like the fight-or-flight concept. It’s like, that’s just, cause it feels like that in every situation. I feel like people can relate to that on so many levels with so many different types of like “threats” where it’s like, ‘You’re literally not getting chased by a sabretooth tiger, and so you’re, you’re going to be okay. But yeah, I agree. And I also really liked the part where she was talking about how to go into conversations with parents, especially, or people of different generations, trying to understand where they are coming from and trying to realize they’re not going to be where you are because they came from a different place. And I loved her talking about how like, we get so, what is it, impatient with ourselves when we learn something new and realize – I loved that so much! – It was like, we are impatient with ourselves, the self we were 10 minutes ago-,
Karen: Yes. That we’re impatient with ourselves from 10 minutes ago. And then, we are in patient with everyone who was like who we were 10 minutes ago-,
Karen: That we have somehow evolved from that person and have no patience for anybody who is not as evolved as we are.
Karen: When it’s really just, like get over yourself.
Katie: Exactly, exactly. Yeah. And I also think that one other thing with her is that she was pretty honest. Like if it’s not a safe situation, it’s okay not to have the conversation. And like some people, I liked how she said also that like some people will want to talk about this and some people won’t, and that’s okay. And it’s like, that’s just, you know, it’s okay to not, like have to have this conversation with everyone. But I think it’s very specific to everyone’s individual situation that is for sure. It’s hard to not get charged right now. Speaking of being charged and how to respond to it, one of the things that I feel like when we were talking to Dr. Israel was like, her level of real equanimity. Which is like a Buddhist term for just kind of being in your own body, being calm, being kind, being loving. And I feel like that is part of what we kind of landed on today, was like talking about kindness. I would love to hear what you have to say about this. Cause I feel like this is something everyone is grappling with at the moment.
Karen: Exactly. And it’s about being kind to yourself of course, and then being kind to others. And I don’t know if we’ll be able to play this song. I think we can play up to 30 seconds maybe? As I was thinking about this, this week, I thought of this Ani DeFranco song. Turns out it’s called Pixie. I would never have remembered that if I hadn’t looked it up, but it’s on Little Plastic Castle. If you were an Ani fan from back in the day, then you know what I’m talking about. And the chorus of the song is, the part that was echoing in my head this week was ‘Suck up/and suck up/and be nice’ Just like, you’re having a bad day. Everybody’s having a bad day. I don’t need you to take your bad day out on me.
Karen: And I feel like why I landed on this is a couple of interactions I had this week. And the realization, like I was telling you earlier, that people have taken the stress of COVID, and I feel like the first six months we were all internalizing it. And the stress of it was manifesting itself in like, wanting to kill the gummy jar we couldn’t open.
Karen: And wanting to set the library dropbox on fire.
Karen: I did want to strangle the Tar-get guy, but it’s not his fault. And now I feel like people are, just have just turned it outward. Like that stress and that anger is now just, it is just pointed at everybody else.
Katie: I totally agree. I mean, I hate to admit this, but I am feeling some of this myself. Like, I, I don’t want to be the person to get mad at other people, but when I-, I mean, I’m not someone who has road rage or anything like that, but I will say that there are some choice words that I have in my car that are very different than the words that I used to say when someone would cut me off. And It’s like, ‘Okay wait, I need to check myself, like ‘Holy shit, like what’s going on here?’ I mean, I think it’s a manifestation of the stress in my body that’s coming out. And it’s also just, it’s hard to digest everything that’s happening, and then figure out how to make it, like a safe environment for yourself. And when you can’t make it a safe environment for yourself, and I’m not, I’m not empathizing, or I’m not validating any meanness that other people have toward others. But, just to try to understand, it’s like part of me thinks that maybe if they’re not able to digest it themselves, like they just have to spew it cause they have to get it out of their bodies. If that makes sense.
Karen: Exactly. No, totally. I get it. And if you’re not in therapy, if you don’t have an audio project you record with somebody like you don’t, as we’ve talked about, you just don’t have that outlet and you don’t have a way to get it out of your body in a way that’s healthy or that is productive. Or, you know, there’s nothing wrong with anger, of course, but it’s what you do with it. And I feel like I just, I had interactions with people this week where I felt like they were really impatient with each other and in this space of reading into everything the wrong way. Like, and not even the wrong way, but just like, I’m going to interpret every interaction with someone as if they’re attacking me. Or as if they don’t want to do their jobs. Or if they’re, you know, like if there are 10 ways to interpret something and five of them are like positive and five of them are negative. Like they’re always going to go to the negative end. I feel like that’s where people were this week and know it’s a sign of stress and depression and all of the things. And I just really feel for people and just hope we can all get back to a place of kindness and not reacting out of that anger and that fear.
Katie: Mhm. I know it’s so hard. Cause it’s like, when you’re on the receiving end of that also, or at least when I’m on the receiving end-,
Karen: *whispers* ohmygod.
Katie: I can only speak for myself, but I just meet it with more anger. Like that’s like, I’m just like, ‘Oh, you really? Okay. Well that’s what we’re doing now.’ And so it’s like, and that just it’s like your shadow side communicating with their shadow side. And it’s like, ‘Got it. Okay. I think I need to check myself.’ But how did you feel in those interactions, Karen? Like if you, you know, you don’t have to divulge what they were if you want to, but just like, did you feel anger? Did you feel like sadness for them? Or how did you feel?
Karen: I think, in some of them, I – and I’m trying to like, not give too much away – I feel like, it’s really easy to get, to feel an emotion about someone when you don’t have to interact with them. And then when you see the person, you realize like, ‘Oh, you’re a human being and you are also struggling. And I have attributed all of this malice to you and I have projected all of this weird shit onto you when really you are just having a super hard time.’ And like, ‘I never bothered to ask if you’re having a hard time, I just decided you’re fucking around or whatever.’ And I feel like I got in one of these conversations was just like, ‘Oh right. We’re in a pandemic. You are having a hard ass time like everybody else. I need to calm down and check this weird, like, ‘You’re not doing what you’re supposed to?!’ You know, like, you can’t come at somebody with that. And I feel like it was such a good reminder of like, ‘Oh. Right. Sometimes you just have to listen.’.
Karen: Listening. That’s a whole ‘nother conversation, cause I feel like that’s-, Your face! I wish people could see your face right now, cause you’re all clenched like, Goddamnit, I have to listen!
Karen: ‘I don’t want to!’
Katie: ‘I don’t want to listen!’ And I’m with you. Of course! Especially when that person is triggering you or that person is treating you in a way that you’re just like, ‘Wait, I don’t deserve any of this. Like, ‘Wait, why am I-,’ I definitely feel like there’s a lot of emotional spewing happening. Which is, you know, I think it happens all the time, but in this environment it’s like, damn it’s just tough. I think that everyone, it’s like that quote, which I’m going to botch, but it’s like, Everyone’s going through something that you know nothing about. Or you know, like it’s like that kind of thing, to have empathy for everyone. It’s just, I dunno, I think that also brings up the topic of how to act when people are unkind to you and like, and I don’t have the answers to that, but part of me wants to say that I’m really awesome at, like, setting boundaries with people and like saying like, Hey, that’s not okay. Like, that’s not, whatever you’re going through? Also not okay to put it on me type of thing. But yes, I wish I was better at that. I’m not.
Karen: I definitely try, I certainly try. And I, I feel like I, when I don’t succeed at it, I feel so awful. I feel like that’s, that’s one reason I try so hard. Both cause I try to be a kind person, but also because I know if I fail, or if I fall short the way that-if I fall short from what my goal is, I know that I’m just going to beat myself up for it. So it’s just like, let me just do this right, so I don’t have to feel bad about it later. Regardless of what happens, or how it lands or how it goes to that person, I want to be able to walk away from it saying like I did the best that I could.
Katie: Totally. I mean, that’s such a wonderful, high-minded, high vibration, way of being like, that’s incredible. That’s why you’re so incredibly wonderful. How do you even, how do you go about that? Like how, can you take me through the-, like in a situation – we can totally make us fictional – but like, if let’s say that someone’s coming at you and it’s like, not entirely pleasant. Do you just like, sit there and have deep breaths? Or how do you actually do it? Cause I, I think it’s hard.
Karen: I try to take deep breaths, and I try to understand what the person wants. Like, what is your goal here? Like, if you are just coming at me, crazy cause you need to vet and don’t feel listened to and are having a hard time, I’m going to sit here and I’m going to listen to you and I’m not going to take any of it in and I’m going to give you a space to like, just go there. And now it’s out of your system. And maybe that’s all you needed. And so I just try to figure out like, is it that? Is there something very specific you want? You know, I, I just, I feel like I try to go into it like a reporter, like what, where are we trying to get to here? Like what do you want?
Karen: If you’re just freaking out, go ahead and freak out. But if you want something, let’s figure out how you can get what you want in a way that’s more productive than coming at me all crazy.
Katie: You’re going to the root. Like you, you don’t want to talk about all this surface bullshit that they’re coming at you. Like, babababababa. Like, you just kind of want to go underneath and be like, okay, ‘What are we really talking about right now? Like what are you trying to get to?’
Karen: Exactly. What are we really talking about?
Katie: Yeah. Yeah. I get it. I mean, that’s, I will say that in my marriage with Tyler, I have gone through extensive therapy on this topic. And I think it’s very hard when you’re in a close relationship with someone like that to do that in real time. I think I’m better at it with people that I’m not married to. And so, but at the same time, I will say that things have actually, like, I’ve become a better partner over the years trying to figure out, like, if he’s upset about something, like pausing and saying like, ‘Hey, what-?’ Like, like you do. ‘What is this really about?’ Is something else bothering you?’ I will often say, ‘Is something else bothering you?’ And I will also say to him, and this is like one hack that my therapist taught me, which is, and I feel like your therapist you’ve mentioned in a different episode has asked this, like, ‘What do you need right now?’ And me asking him, ‘What do you need right now?’, It usually diffuses the situation. If I’m genuinely asking it, if I’m like, ‘WHATDOYOUNEED,’ Then it’s like, it’s not exactly the same energetic level versus like, ‘I care about you. Can you please tell me what you need right now?’ And then he usually answers and I realize like, ‘Oh shit, he’s really stressed or something else is upsetting him.’ You know? I would like to think that I take that stance with other people. I am much better at thinking empathetically about what other people’s motivations are for their activities when it’s not someone who’s in my, you know, three-or-four-people, tight-circle-of-family type of thing. It’s just harder to get my head out of my ass in that tight circle sometimes. I think it’s very common for everybody.
Karen: I think it’s extremely common. And I also feel like there are very few, outside of therapy and outside of relationships with people who are in therapy, there are very few times in your life where you have somebody ask you, ‘What do you need?’
Karen: As an adult, like as you’re, when you’re a kid, you’re constantly being asked that.
Katie: Right, of course.
Karen: Do you want a sippy cup? Do you want milk? Do you want water? Do you want some cookies? Yes, of course I want cookies.
Katie: Right. Always.
Karen: People are constantly up in your face asking you what you need. As an adult though, to have somebody actually say to you, cause as an adult, you’re expected to serve your own needs. But of course we can’t always do that. So I think there is something that can break you out of whatever cycle you’re in to have somebody just say like, ‘Let’s just take a minute. What do you need right now?’
Katie: But yeah, I do think that like, the thesis of being kind right now is so important. And I feel like all of our listeners, I’m sure, are very, very kind-hearted human beings. But I also don’t want any of you listening to think that you’re a horrible person if you don’t always have a hundred percent kindness, a hundred percent of the time, because this is just hard. Like this is, I don’t know. It’s just tough. I think, again, Calm app. Sponsorship opportunity. It’s always open.
Karen: Tamara Levitt, we want to talk to ya’ll.
Katie: Tamara Levitt. Oh my gosh. Oh my gosh. What if we could get her on the podcast? Karen? What! Seriously? I am looking that up. I wonder how that would, that would be amazing. I wonder if she would do a guided meditation for us. For those of you who don’t know who Tamara Levitt is, by the way, she is the person on the Calm app. It’s calm.com, highly recommend checking it out. Free. You can get a subscription also, but Tamara is like the main voice, I guess. Is that how you would say it?
Karen: I know, I forget what her name is. She does the, she narrates the Daily Calm and like she writes a ton. I think she writes. And she narrates the Daily Calm, which is like a 10-minute meditation every day. And she has a bunch of other things. She has this very cool title. And if you’ve ever seen the Calm commercial on television, it’s rain on leaves. It’s my rain on leaves. And she’s the one who’s saying, Take a deep breath. Like, that’s Tamara. Oh my God, I would die.
Katie: I would die. I would be so, I would really have to take some deep breaths. Not because I was not going to be kind, but just because I would be so nervous and excited to talk with her, but I bet she would just be like, ‘Hello Karen. Hello, Katie.’ Maybe she’s zen all the time. I kind of doubt it. Cause she’s a human, but you never know. I dunno. I’d be interested to know how she’s coping with quarantine actually.
Katie: But yeah, I mean, I think that for everyone listening, like if you’re in interactions with people at the grocery store, or like me, having some road rage feelings more than you usually do, you’re not alone. And it’s like, I think we’re trying to make the case for being kind. I’m sure all of you are very kind, but at the same time, like it’s also okay if you just have a bad day, sometimes it’s just like remembering that everyone’s coming from a stress place at the moment.
Karen: Absolutely. And that you don’t have to be somebody’s punching bag. Like being kind doesn’t mean that you have to just like, take whatever people give you. That it also, kindness is also about boundaries and, oh my god, what is Brene Brown say? ‘Clear is kind.’ Like we have this way of talking around what we’re trying to say and not being clear and thinking that the person’s just going to somehow interpret, like read our minds to interpret what we really mean, when really you should just say what you mean. And yeah, kindness doesn’t mean being a punching bag. So if somebody is coming at you crazy, kindness can also be kindness to yourself and just like walking away. Setting a boundary and walking away.
Katie: Yes. And saying it’s not okay. And that’s, that’s okay. I mean, it’s kind of like back to our second episode about rage. It’s like you can express feelings. Like you don’t have to just walk around like Big Bird and just like be super happy all the time. Like you can, like Big Bird was a really weird reference. But if you, if anyone is a fan of Sesame Street, she’s pretty happy most of the time. She or he, I don’t actually know. Or maybe they’re nonbinary. I’m not sure. But the thing is, is that it’s usually like very, very happy, like blowing-rainbows-up-your-ass type of thing all the time. And you don’t have to be that way. You don’t.
Karen: You can be Oscar sometimes.
Katie: You can be Oscar the Grouch and it’s totally okay. And it’s like, it’s just, but I love what you say about like, kindness is boundaries. Kindness is kindness to yourself. And also being around people or interacting with people that make you feel good, and that respect you. That’s also kindness and not being around people who don’t make you feel good. Like even now during COVID like, I think curating who we’re around and who we interact with has never been more important. And yeah, I think that that’s, it’s like, it’s important for your mental health to be around the people that lift you up.
Karen: Absolutely. Especially now.
Katie: Yeah, totally. So if any of you listeners want to tweet at us and tell us about your experiences with kindness or boundaries or how you created boundaries in your life, please do. Cause we’re always very, very interested. We’d love hearing from you.
Katie: Yeah. All right. Well to kindness, Karen, I hope you have a very kind week. It’s so wonderful to hang out with you.
Karen: Cheers. Same.
Katie: Cheers. Adios!