COEUR d’ALENE — Competition, boredom and fear hold women back from appreciating their actual lives each day.
“We live up here, right? In the perfect, in the ideal of how we want things to go,” Alexandra Kuykendall said, gesturing with one hand raised in the air, the other hand a space below.
“And then there’s reality, right? And there’s a gap. And we have to figure out how to reconcile this gap or we start to resent the life we’re living. And I do not want to be someone who resents my life.”
Kuykendall, a mom of four daughters, spoke to a large audience in Lake City Church on Saturday as the keynote of the second Breathe women’s conference. Her morning presentation, “Loving My Actual Life,” was woven with personal stories and reflections to inspire other women in their life’s journeys.
She showed a few photos on the screens at the front of the auditorium. The first were professional shots that showed her in an immaculate kitchen. Then she brought up photos from her actual phone photo gallery: a funny face, dirty dishes in the sink, the kids during an impromptu sleepover.
“This is my actual life — a little bit scary, a little bit beautiful, and a whole lot messy,” she said. “This is the life that I do not want to miss.”
Competition and the feeling of being inadequate are exacerbated by social media. Kuykendall, an author and podcast host, recommends taking breaks and “figure out a way to manage social media so that it doesn’t manage you.”
“I can see what my high school friend who I haven’t talked to for 10 years is doing on her vacation. I’m looking at everyone else’s highlight reel while I’m standing in my actual life. Study after study shows this is not good for our mental health, that people tend to be more depressed or unhappy or more unsatisfied when they go off social media than when they go on. I do not fault us for wanting to put our best foot forward, but we have to be mindful as consumers about how we are consuming that, because that’s exactly what we’re doing, we’re taking in everyone else’s highlight reel.”
The boredom that weighs women down and makes them feel caught in a routine or rut can be shaken by trying a few simple things. Drive a different route to drop the kids off at school, add music or new ingredients to mediocre meal-prep time, find ways to be creative or rearrange the furniture to give yourself a change of scenery.
“There are so many small twists and changes we can put into our daily routine to just make it more interesting so that we’re not resenting the routine, but we’re embracing it and saying, ‘This is my actual life and I am going to use all of my five senses in it,’” Kuykendall said. “That’s a great guide and a great way to just mix things up.”
The third barrier to loving actual life is fear. Kuykendall, of Denver, told a story of going to pick up her kids from school and driving into a lockdown situation because of an active shooter.
“Gunfire coming from right near the school, is what it sounded like. I had never experienced fear like that before,” she said.
She and other moms ran into a friend’s house for cover and they waited for what seemed like an eternity to know what was going on.
“I called my husband and I prayed. But I knew, when I prayed, ‘God, please keep them safe,’ in that same moment, He may not,” she said. “We pray prayers that are desperate prayers, that are genuine and good prayers that often are not answered the way we want. That is fear. I want my children to be safe, and honestly, this was neighborhood gunfire. They could come into this house at any second. I did not know what was next and I thought, ‘Is this the day that our life story changes forever?’”
The students ended up being fine and everyone went home, but Kuykendall said she saw on the news that night the police did kill someone in front of the school where the suspect chase ended.
But that fear for her children Kuykendall experienced was somewhat alleviated through those prayers. She said having faith and trusting in God helps in a time of fear.
“If we depend on prayers being answered the way that we want, we are going to be disappointed sometimes. We just are,” she said. “But if we put our trust in who God is, we won’t be disappointed.”
This was the second year for the Breathe women’s conference, co-organized by Cindy Jeansonne and Cheryl Slavens. Attended by about 300 guests, the one-day event included breakout sessions with presenters who spoke on several topics that delivered empowering, motivating and comforting messages.
“We drain our tanks. We need to refill them,” Jeansonne said.
She said they host these events to give women a place to feel encouraged and that they’re not alone in whatever they’re going through.
“To give women hope,” she said. “We all have seasons in our lives ... When we are grieving a loss, navigating hard times, feeling lonely. A day like today gives hope.”