Something personal

Cathy ZielskeCZ Life99 Comments

The other day I was on a walk, as I’m trying to work a bit less and move a bit more, and it felt like everywhere I looked, I saw hearts. From this tree stump to leaves on the ground, I was seeing hearts around my steps and for a second I thought to myself, “Well, thank you, Nature, for the comforting messages.”

Have you seen the movie Signs? There’s a scene where Mel Gibson’s character says to his brother, played by Joaquin Phoenix, “See what you have to ask yourself is what kind of person are you? Are you the kind that sees signs, that sees miracles? Or do you believe that people just get lucky? Or, look at the question this way: Is it possible that there are no coincidences?”

I was thinking about that on my walk, seeing all the hearts and realizing that there was a time in my life where I was looking for signs. I was looking for things outside of myself to provide some sort of direction, or affirmation, or sense of control over my life—something to help me figure out all of my shit. But the thing is, for much of my life, it was just an endless circle of dissatisfaction. Always hoping that at the end of the day, someone else was going to make it better. At the very least, there had to be something or someone I could blame for it.

Then I started therapy.

I feel like the statement—Then I started therapy—could either be a perfectly timed punch line or the last sentence of any chapter in a page-turner of a book. It implies that something you thought you knew might not have been built on the solid ground you’d banked on. It implies a bit of a good old-fashioned shake up.

I can attest to this unequivocally. All the things I thought I was so sure of have been shaken up and dumped out onto a somewhat liquified ground and I have spent the past six years figuring out how to regain my footing.

Things like, “I’m a passionate, high strung woman! To know me is to sign on for the ride of your life!”

The reality, however, is much less glowing. “I’m an immature woman-girl who is going to throw fits and act like a baby until everyone around her does her bidding.”

And that person I’m referring to was never really seen in public. I just saved her for the people who are closest to me. Especially Dan.

Which sounds so crazy typing it out, but it’s true.

I’ve changed a lot of things since starting therapy.


I’ve mentioned there are some stories that aren’t mine to tell… ones that involve my kids as they figure out who they are on this big blue spinning ball. But there are also stories I’ve realized that if I tell them, I don’t know if they will be as satisfying to read.

If I tell you that my number one goal right now in my life is to be responsible for everything (my actions, my pain, my emotions, just to name a few), it might not be as fun as hearing me piss and moan about having hot flashes and being chubby.

If I tell you that another goal of mine is to become much more invisible in life, so that I am able to actually SEE what is going on around me and connect to the fact that life is about SO much more than my small experience of it, I’m also not sure how that will resonate. And I realize this goal, the goal to be less in the forefront, might actually seem a little incongruent for someone who likes to go all in by singing slightly off key karaoke in her office on Instagram.

Just because I’m working on my personal development doesn’t mean I’m not having any fun.

And being invisible is not code for playing small. If anything, the more I learn about what life actually offers, the more I can offer to others. In other words, I can play bigger than was previously possible.

For a long time, I was a woman who would start talking before she even entered a room. It never occurred to me that I should walk in and listen first. Therapy, which really has been about personal development, has helped me to develop a spec of self awareness, and not the “I am one with the universe” feel-good crap that is so prevalent out there today. Part of my problem has been the inability to realize there are other people in the universe besides me. I would wager to say that isn’t just my problem. We are a planet of people who don’t want to see perspectives other than the ones we hold and fiercely protect.


Here’s one thing I’ve learned in therapy: we all want to find a way to feel good. Either about ourselves or life or whatever. And in doing so, you can do some really damaging stuff to get and keep that feeling.

But when I use the term ‘we’, my intention is not to lump the world in with my neurotic behaviors. I’m just sharing something personal that I’m working on.

Part of why I haven’t been writing about this stuff is that the more I know, the less I am knowing. And that is both life changing and humbling at the same time.

That’s a line from a Cloud Cult song actually, and Dan used to quote it all the time and when he did, I just thought he was being pretentious. But today, it’s actually helping me to understand a lot of the reasons why I’m sharing less personal stuff here. The more I learn, the more I realize how little I can truly speak with authority on. Not knowing everything can really shake a person up. That makes me feel very vulnerable. I am learning that I have a lot to learn and right now, that’s presently my top goal.

That and paying the bills.

So if you see more here on the crafty stuff (that I’m seriously having so much fun with), it might feel less personal, but know this: the woman behind the curtain is working her little tushka off to be a better human.

I still have hot flashes every day, and I’m also chubby.

In case you were wondering.






Cathy ZielskeSomething personal

99 Comments on “Something personal”

  1. #1

    Beauty in words. This was a courageous and thoughtfully executed post. Keep up the good work and keep the cards coming.

  2. #2

    A thousand wows. Thank you so much for sharing this with us. The way you expressed it is great, too. Beautifully written!

    I’ve done my share of therapy in recent years and it is true about knowing less as you learn more. I’ve needed to find my voice and start making myself more of a priority, which sort of sounds like the opposite of what your goals are, but yet similar in a way.

    Here we all are, trying to figure it all out and it’s so much easier when we know we’re not alone, no matter what we struggle with.

    Thank you again, Cathy!

  3. #3
    Lezlee Alexander

    Fabulous! WELL written as usual! And thanks for sharing – truly. Actually? THIS is what your followers ARE looking for from you. 😉 The real stuff. You’re human. So are we. How cool is that! Folks AREN’T with you here just for the crafty stuff, the witty sarcasm (admittedly pretty cool!), the kids – but you. Just you. The REAL you – warts and all, my friend. ‘Cuz we’ve all got “warts” out here too. Thanks for putting it out there. We’re all totally cool with it. And if it feels like less hiding and whether folks will accept you still with this stuff? Totally. That’s what friendships – even cyberfriendships – are built on. (hugs!) Very glad you’re seeing hearts a’plenty – that has to be a good thing. Happy Friday!

  4. #4

    Thanks for sharing, Cathy. This is the kind of post that takes your blog from great to really worth reading. Oh, and the great design stuff, wit and cute family, too! 😉

    1. #4.1
      Cathy Zielske

      Appreciate that. I have had this as a working draft for a while and just decided to post it. Still feels a bit vulnerable, but it’s out there, right?

  5. #6

    The way you keep things real is the reason I keep coming back. Currently, you are the only blog I read because all of the others just seem to be making their life seem too perfect (and maybe their lives are perfect). My life is far from perfect and I appreciate when others are not afraid to share their unperfect, unscripted lives too. Thank you for keeping it real and relatable. And your IG stories are the best of any I see on a daily basis.

    1. #6.1
      Cathy Zielske

      Oh, it’s far from perfect. I think what has been hard to take in over the years of therapy is how much my part plays into the chaos of things. I’m really grateful for the woman I work with. She’s helped me to grow up. I never knew that’s what I needed to do.

  6. #8

    Thank you so much for sharing. When someone opens up to others it helps the others to open up and share as well-maybe to another someone and so on and so on. “We are all just walking each other home.” Ram Dass (Not the exact quote, but the sentiment is correct.

  7. #10

    Life is in the journey – with all it’s twists and turns. So lovely to watch you evolve in all of your imperfection. It gives me hope. You ROCK! xoL

  8. #11

    I adore you- the yin to my yang. I’m working on speaking/making it personal more. The woman behind the curtain here does have things to say and she can stop biting her tongue all the time… it’s ok to have a voice in the internets world or at the meeting or wherever.

    Rock on, sister.

  9. #12
    Jacquelin G

    Oh this resonates with me. Thanks for this. Therapy is a humbling experience. I love what you have written. For me therapy has been a long journey, not if becoming one with the universe, but accepting I am not the centre of it. It has been a rough ride. But I am so glad I am doing it, and grateful to you for sharing some of who you are becoming. Oh, and I also have power surges and I am on the plus side of chubby.

    1. #12.1
      Cathy Zielske

      Thanks for your comment. Years ago, when I started therapy, it was so I could pretty much justify that I was always right and Dan was always wrong. Oh, how wrong I was. Didn’t realize that it actually wasn’t about him at all. That I had a lot of work to do on myself to grow up and start giving to people. 🙂

  10. #13

    This was one of my favourite posts. There is nothing quite like hearing that other women are experiencing the same things as you, whether it’s doubt, inadequacy, insecurity, wonderment (is that even a word?) or simply realizing the world keeps spinning on its axis regardless of your personal challenges. I am learning that life is less about sunshine, lollipops and rainbows and more “it is what it is”. Your well-written words inviting us to share your journey were very timely. Thanks for sharing the reality that is (your) life.

  11. #14
    Sandra B.

    Um, you know we will never stop worshipping you, right? (I’m not sure how this unsolicited, semi-anonymous adulation helps, except maybe to keep you in therapy. This comment’s intent is to reassure you to keep doing what you’re doing.)

  12. #16
    Tammy B

    Happy that therapy is working for you. Happy that you are showing us your crafty, card making side (which is still personal)! I love reading your blog. I look forward to every post, no matter what you put in it. Cheers!

    1. #16.1
      Cathy Zielske

      Thanks, Tammy. Maybe this post and sharing it will let me realize I can write about this stuff more in this space, whether I know anything or not. 🙂

  13. #17
    Heidi Gauvin

    Well said! Personally, I’m always looking for signs because I truly believe nothing is a coincidence. And at the same time, I’m doing my best to keep my shit together. Because that’s half the battle. 😉

  14. #18

    SO appreciate reading this today. Funny…just last night (in the throws of, let us just call it a ‘less than stellar evening’), I was thinking ‘I wonder how Cathy found her awesome therapist, cuz I need someone like that’)!
    I appreciate that you share what you’ve learned, and these words of wisdom 😘.

    1. #18.1
      Cathy Zielske

      I found her through one of my two best friends, and she still works with this woman today, and my other best friend also started working with her just this year. It’s cool for me to have two of my closest, dearest friends working on their stuff, too.

      I think if you find someone who just tells you what you want to hear, that might be a sign it’s not the right fit. 🙂 This has been the most challenging stuff and honestly, there were times where I thought: I’m done with this shit. But I’m so glad I kept and continue to keep working. Turns out it’s not about what I get from life, but what am I will to give TO it. 🙂

  15. #19

    Definitely needed to read something like this today. And I need to find a therapist! I think my husband would appreciate me not being a crazy yelling fool all the time.

    1. #19.1
      Cathy Zielske

      I was a crazy yelling fool once. And for a long time. And I would fill with anger at the slightest provocation.

      I will tell you that it’s a choice. It’s learned. That I can say without a doubt. When you figure out what the issues are that underly anger, it can change who you are.

      That person that I was… the one who was angry and entitled… that person had zero self esteem, actually. I could never feel good about who I was when I was throwing fits and angry when things didn’t go my way.

      And yeah, this comes from years of therapy and trying to find a way to have my cake (the right to get angry) and eat it, too. Turns out it will never work. 🙂

      Turns out the goal is to own all your crap and deal with it like a grown up. Easier said than done, but that’s what I’m doing and it turns out that it’s helping me in every area of life.

  16. #20

    Love this. Without going into too much detail, I’m the person that has to deal with the parent that thinks the sun, moon and stars revolves around them, to the exclusion of all else, and I can’t say that it’s enjoyable. Good on you for wanting to maintain relationships with your family and friends and seeking ways and means to extend those. As always, I appreciate your honesty.

    1. #20.1
      Cathy Zielske

      Oh Diane, the changes I have made… I will tell you that my children were THE key for my motivation. To really BE a real parent, not just one who expects them to do everything I say because “that’s the way it’s done” but to be a parent who sees them as separate people, who have real needs to be seen and acknowledged. It’s what we all needed as kids. It’s what we spend a lifetime trying to make right if we didn’t get that real stuff.

      I wish I’d started this work years ago, as in a lifetime ago, but I’m grateful for how it’s helped me create real bonds with both of my children. It’s never too late to learn, you know?

      1. #20.1.1

        Well, kudos for acknowledging that there is a different way than “what’s always been done”. I think we all struggle with that, in many ways, and recognizing that maybe a different way would work better for the overall flow is huge.

  17. #21
    Sue Ogden

    Wonderful words Cathy. I like that you keep it real for all of us. I have been in therapy for a long time (major depressive disorder), but since I moved to Charlotte the therapist I have found is challenging me in ways no one else had. I think now that the depression is under control, it’s good I’ve had this change. I’m discovering it is not all my husband’s fault, and that I bear some responsibility as well. Too much info probably, but you should see what I held back! 🙂 Anyway you are not alone in this boat! Also, Dan? I am so impressed he took a chance and changed careers!

    1. #21.1
      Cathy Zielske

      Not too much info. It’s hard to realize that we might actually be responsible for our own discontent. It’s so much easier to blame others, and then move away from whatever the real pain is. I’ve spent a lifetime doing that.

      I have asked Dan to write a post about his career change. His back to school To Do list is SUPER long, but he promises this will happen.

  18. #22

    Isn’t amazing how imperfectly human we all are. Your post is beautifully written, you expose the inner-you, and that takes great courage and guts. I admire you for sharing your imperfections, we are all perfectly imperfect. I am a good example of how long and hard it can be to work on oneself, I’ve been at it for 25 years, that is 25 years of therapy. This is something I do not like to share, but if you can well… Life’s ride can be a roller coater so hang on tight and fight the good fight, it’s worth it. Thank you for being you and keep following your instincts!

  19. #23

    Honest, thoughtful, and very real. Thank you. We live in a society based on oversharing and I find it very intimidating. I really like to have things that are just mine or my families. They seem more precious to me that way. I applaud you & your efforts to know yourself and be the best you can be. And I love your crafting shares , so carry on !!

  20. #24
    Kathleen S.

    “might not resonate”? Quite the contrary!, nothing resonates more than honesty about growing into new levels of maturity. You have a unique ability to express yourself — cutting the crap out of more than scrapping — and it’s one of many qualities that keep us coming back for more. Great journey, thanks for sharing it!

  21. #25
    Vikki H

    I discovered you through guru Jennifer McG and immediately followed you on Instagram and bookmarked your website. You are my opposite but your words today rang so true for me. My poor sweet, patient, kind, wonderful hubby has tolerated a lot. It’s never too late to learn and change! bravo, sister!

    1. #25.1
      Cathy Zielske

      Life is change. That’s something I fought for a long time, too. Always something new every day. 🙂

  22. #26

    I have found in my 50+ years of living that sharing our thoughts, worries, personal physical issues etc. makes them all so much easier to bear. Who knew all ladies my age carry tweezers for those chin hairs that grow overnight???
    Please do keep sharing your craftiness (adore your cards!) and as much of ‘you’ as you can. We are right there with ya!

  23. #27

    Many years ago our third son made us realize we were in uncharted territory as parents. We didnt understand his constant negativity towards himself. I feared as a teen he would turn to drugs or worse if he didn’t understand who he was. He was always kind and compassionate with others if they made a mistake but never with himself. Every problem
    In his fourth grade classroom was because he did something wrong. He is extremely intelligent and never ever stops thinking. Poor kid was so stressed! I am thankful that we opened up our parenting style and family values to a counselor. Some days I wish a few teachers were more understanding but his counselor did a great job helping him cope
    with people who didn’t
    understand. Our son is now 16 and has the ability-most of the time-to adjust his attitude and perspective to a more positive place and embraces his quirkiness without beating himself up. I spent four years going to counseling with him weekly. I told him often how much I learned about myself along the way. Some days I would leave and wonder who the counselor was aiding more. 😊 I am really proud of our time spent working with his counselor. I am grateful for people who speak out about their experiences because a good counselor is life changing!
    I tell everyone that counseling for our son not only helped make him the confident young man he is but also made us much better, less judgemental parents/people. You have built such a great platform to empower people to be the best they can be despite this ever changing bumpy road called life. Your blogging legacy will be your honesty and willingness to discuss real life issues and of course you will always be known for your gifted craftiness! ❤️

    1. #27.1
      Cathy Zielske

      Loved reading your story here, Joy. Thank you for sharing and advocating for help when it is needed. The part about becoming less judgmental. That is golden.

  24. #28

    Loved this. I’m at a transition in my life right now and I don’t really know where I’m headed or where I fit. Anyway, try to enjoy the journey, right?

  25. #32

    I’m a heart finder. I take them as God saying I’ love you’. As I swiped up to read this blog story, I kinda thought it might be about your faith. 🙂 It wasn’t but, it’s a great story nonetheless. Do you & your family have a relationship with Jesus? Just wondering, being Dan grew up as a pastor’s kid. I grew up Lutheran but have been born again since I was a teen. Have a great weekend!

  26. #34
    Julie Otte

    Love love love it! I’ve been transitioning into the next phase of life, kids growing up and leaving and finding my footing as a middle aged mom. Reading your stories makes me feel like 40 and 50 are the new 20-something, like its ok to just be ok. I’m not fat, I’m not thin, I’m ok. It’s oddly comforting.

    1. #34.1
      Cathy Zielske

      It’s definitely a time of change, this middle age, emotional, physical… all of it. 🙂

  27. #35

    God bless you! Amen! Hallelujah!!! What an awesome testimonials. We all have our own fights. Not easy this thing called life! Thanks for you thoughts and honesty!

  28. #37
    Kimberly Reed

    Your post IS an act of vulnerability which is part of living a whole hearted life. Vulnerability isn’t weakness. It is showing up, not being assured of an outcome. And doing so repeatedly (which you are doing). Seeing a therapist, figuring out your shit, being self aware and becoming more self aware = being a badass. Yes, I just listened to Rising Strong by Brené Brown, TWICE in a row, because I know I missed stuff, and I didn’t want to miss anything. Her words resonate with me. Glad you posted, and shared some of your more personal stuff. You are a badass. You may not always feel like it, but you are.

  29. #38

    Thank you for having the courage to share this with us. So many if us have been there too, and you speak for us. This is one reason why I follow you, because you speak so honestly and openly. Other reasons? You are funny and hella talented.
    Thanks for sharing your journey…oh oh, that sounds like an Emily McDowell card! Love ya through thick and thin! 💖😘👍🏼

  30. #39

    Thanks for sharing. My husband is currently in therapy because the anti-love he is carrying around needs to be let go. Many of the things you said, especially in the comments, rang so true for him and us. I grew up in “Mayberry” with “Sheriff Taylor” for a father, so I have a difficult time relating to my husband’s self-awareness.
    And yes there’s a billion things we don’t know, if fact we don’t know how much we don’t know. And that can be really overwhelming for some.
    Thanks for sharing as always. ❤️

  31. #40
    Susan Little

    Thank you for being honest and real. May God bless you on your journey, it sounds like the adventure of a lifetime. As someone who is hoping to join a design team someday I look up to designers like you. Thanks for showing me it’s okay to be human.

  32. #41

    My mother told me that in our 30’s, quite often we think we do know it all, and we try to tell everyone and change them… i remembered that then, and couldn’t wait to get older so that now i can sit back, love my family and friends freely, and tell everyone that I am learning more every day about so much I don’t know.

  33. #42

    love your transparency – thank you for that! the struggles are real and we all have them in one way (or 20 ways) or another. you’re a stellar human 🙂

  34. #43

    An absolutely beautifully written, insightful post. My most humble thanks for sharing and allowing us to find some commonality in each other. Cheers.

  35. #45

    I have been a fan of yours since I bought your first book back in the day. And after reading your latest post, I want to be the president of all your fans! As a child who grew up with a mother who would fly off the handle with (sometimes) no provocation, I grew into an adult with the same behavior. . . . And couldn’t see it. I went from terrorized to terrorizer because it was the only way I could feel in control. I am finally at the point in my life where I figured out the pattern and what would set me off. Not perfect , but oh so much happier.
    Thank you being vulnerable and “letting us in”.
    Take care.

    1. #45.1
      Cathy Zielske

      Oh yes… the elusive control. That’s the thing, and you said it so well. Hugs to you.

  36. #46
    Brandy Wasko

    I can relate to everything about you right now. My oldest daughter is also a senior in college preparing for GRE and grad school. My second is a senior in high school. I am having many problems realizing I can’t help much with their lives anymore and their problems can no longer be fixed by me. It’s been so hard to realize my job as a mother is no longer a full time job and that I need to spend more time with my husband for the start of the rest of our lives. I’m sure that sounds odd but everything besides the kids has taken a backseat to trying to raise them. The daily struggle to find happiness is real and I too have found additional new hobbies besides just paper crafts to bring a smile to my face. Oh, the shopping for new supplies and the endless new ideas found are enough to get the heart beating 🤗 Just know by just being you and your honesty about your life you are an inspiration to all who follow you. Reading your words makes me feel not alone in the struggle of the everyday.

  37. #47

    Thank you for sharing Cathy. I admire you and appreciate you and that you share your journey. We are in this together and relating to each other feels so good.

  38. #48

    Oh dear me… “I’m an immature woman-girl who is going to throw fits and act like a baby until everyone around her does her bidding.” It’s like you’ve got secret hidden cameras in my home. This blog post… this one more than any other one I’ve seen lately… completely resonates with me! I feel like I’ve just had a therapy session… in the best possible way… and for that I say THANK YOU 🙂

    1. #48.1
      Cathy Zielske

      🙂 Trust me, Shell… it took a long time for me to own that behavior. When I did, I could see it was learned, and that it was a choice. I don’t behave like that any more and therefore have more self respect.

  39. #50

    I have loved your posts since I first came across them some years back. This post is absolutely precious. Thank you for sharing. Someone out here really needs these words. Being brave/crazy enough to share them makes me love you even more! Thanks again. Lisa

    1. #50.1
      Cathy Zielske

      Thanks, Lisa. I have really pulled back from sharing stuff like this… but, this felt good to just get out there. It’s what I am working on, you know? So why not write about it? 🙂

  40. #51
    Holly Barstow

    Cathy, that was a breath of fresh air in a universe of foul air. Proud of you for digging deep, which is hard, speaking your truth and your fear, and being thoughtful about what and how you share. Anyone who thinks that therapy is for timid snowflakes has never entered therapy. But imagine if they did – and everyone owned their stuff! Whatever you choose to share I’ll be ready to read with respect and admiration. You go, Karaoke girl!

    1. #51.1
      Cathy Zielske

      Thanks, Holly. I always say, “If your therapist tells you from the get to that it’s someone else’s problem, not yours”… probably should get a new one. 🙂

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