Let's start at the beginning... ... and your first 'homework' assignment.

Let's start at the beginning... ... and your first 'homework' assignment.

You’ll find the voiceover for this article here. Please note that I didn’t edit anything about it - so you’ll definitely hear some tears and pauses, as some of this post was difficult for me to read. Thanks for your support!

Ok, things are about to get interesting and I might share some things that could be difficult to hear. But trust me - it gets better and better and better. In order for any of ‘this’ to make sense, we have to start… as cliché as it might sound… at the beginning.

Sharing this more recent photo of me doing some Kula Cloth shenanigans, as a reminder of how I spend my days now. Things are about to get a bit heavy… so let’s start with a skosh of lightness.

In order for me to explain this properly, I need to set the stage for you and tell you where I was in my life about 15 years ago. These are things that I’ve never shared with most people - but I feel like knowing about them is relevant in order to have a complete grasp on the depths from which I resurfaced. I understand that most people (i.e. you) are encountering me right now in the midst of a ‘high point’ in my life - I have a successful business, I dance and ride motorcycles and eat cookies seemingly all the time… it would be very easy to say, “MUST BE NICE”. It would be very easy to dismiss anything that I have to say about transformation… because from all outward appearances - what on earth would I want to transform?

But, friends, you are meeting me over a decade into my personal journey of transformation - and the person you are meeting now is not the same as the person that I used to be. When I tell people that I was a, ‘chronic complainer’… most people laugh and don’t believe me. “NOOOOO way! You’re so positive!” And yes, I am… now. But trust me, I wasn’t.

<deep breath> Here we go.

In 2008 I got married to somebody whom I had been dating for about 1.5 years. His hobbies were watching television and doing nothing. My hobbies were escaping from all of life’s problems by disappearing for days at a time into the mountains. My relationships with my family members were also strained during this time - without getting too detailed out of respect for them - I will just say that things were a bit of a mess. Like a giant, layered mess. In the midst of all of this, I found out that I was getting laid off from my dream job as a Park Ranger. I still remember sitting on a picnic table in the park shop as my boss told me that I was going to be bumped from my job due to budget cuts. I remember staring blankly into space - feeling numb, sad and terrified.

Park Ranger Me working at Twanoh State Park in Union, WA on the Hood Canal

While I was a Park Ranger I had written a relatively popular blog about hiking called, ‘Toward the Mountaintop Inch By Inch’. I felt ‘called’ to pursue this avenue but I couldn’t possibly see how writing a blog could provide any sort of ‘stable’ income. While I loved being a Park Ranger, I often looked at other humans who were seemingly creating their own lives of adventure of fun… “HOW THE HELL ARE THEY DOING THAT?!”, I’d ask myself. “How did they get so lucky?”. Ultimately, I gave up my blog - even after I was offered a monthly writing spot with the Washington Trails Association Magazine.

After being given my official layoff notice, I panicked. Instead of being open to the infinite possibilities of what could happen, all I felt was fear and failure. I couldn’t possibly envision the creative life that I really wanted for myself… so I started looking for jobs in Law Enforcement, because I thought it was the only thing I could do. Ultimately, I was hired with BNSF Railway as a Railroad Police Officer. I have to admit, this was actually a pretty fun job at first - and, shockingly, mostly positive. I spent a lot of my time educating people about dangers of trespassing on railroad tracks (people and trains don’t mix), and I really enjoyed it.

Ok… ok… one of the very cool parts of my railroad job.

Wherever you go… there you are.

Prior to starting my job at the railroad and simultaneous to losing my job as a Park Ranger, my relationship with my partner at the time had crumbled into non-existence. We had decided to get a divorce, and I was in the process of moving into a one-bedroom studio apartment in Tacoma, Washington. As a child, I was the oldest of three girls and I stereotypically fit the role of of the oldest child: ‘perfect’, an overachiever, and good at everything that I did. Except that I really wasn’t - and I was beginning to feel like there were cracks forming in my façade. I tried desperately to repair the gaping holes in what I saw as an ultimate failure.

Riddled in shame, I deleted my Facebook accounts, moved into a studio apartment alone in Tacoma, and ghosted everybody that I knew - even my closest friends. I was unable to talk about what was happening with my divorce and my family, because the shame that I felt was so intense. I felt like a complete failure - like the ‘picture perfect’ image that I had painted of my life as the fun-loving adventurous woman was falling apart and exposing me to the world as a fraud. After a particularly triggering conversation with my father where he asked me what my ‘legacy’ was going to be, I collapsed into a heap on the floor of my 645 sq ft apartment and sobbed for hours. Finally, I finally worked up the strength to pull myself to my computer and to Google the phrase, ‘How can I forgive myself?’

I continued working for the railroad, and I slowly started to ‘re-enter’ the world again - making contact with a few of my friends, but aptly avoiding the ‘elephant’ in the room… my divorce and living alone in an apartment.

What you focus on is what you find.

I’ll skip ahead a little bit, but here are the important bits that you need to know about what happened next: I met my now husband Aaron, and we dated long distance for a few years before deciding to get married. Once we got married, my complaining about work and ‘my life’ amplified.

My job at the railroad became less and less fulfilling. I started noticing the things that I didn’t like about it: my schedule, the trauma that I was being exposed to on a very regular basis, being expected to work in a dangerous environment with little or no sleep, etc… the list went on and on. The more that I started to notice all of the things that annoyed me, the worse it seemed to get. I found any and every opportunity to complain about what was happening. I personally handled almost 20 fatalities while working at the railroad, and my PTSD from these incidents was causing issues in all areas of my life. The police department that I worked for had zero protocol for mental health care post traumatic incident, and so I began to investigate the possibility of creating a peer support group for myself and my co-workers who were suffering from nightmares and stress as a result of PTSD. Along the way - I re-discovered meditation - although I didn’t realize it at the time, this was a very important moment for me.

Me, at Camp Muir during my phase of ‘If I’m not hiking, I’m not happy’.

A recurring pattern for me has always been what I like to call, ‘Grass is Greener’ syndrome. I was unhappy with my life situation, and so I thought that changing the situation would solve my problems. This happened over and over again in my life - and I never had quite noticed that the common denominator in all of these situations was… ME. I was unhappy at the railroad and feeling incredibly unfulfilled. I wanted to do something in the outdoor industry, but I had absolutely no idea how to go about doing that. My focus could be summarized as follows:

  • I don’t know what I want to do or how I would do it (lack of clarity)

  • I don’t have enough skill to do anything else (lack of knowledge)

  • I don’t have enough money to start a business (lack of abundance)

  • I hate my job and my schedule and I want to do something else and then I’ll be happy (handing over my happiness to an external source)

In a fit of absolute despair and surrender, I threw up the white flag. I distinctly remember one day just posing a question to the cosmos, “I GIVE UP. HOW DO I DO IT?”

The answer.

The answer came for me in the form of almost dying in a car wreck on Steven’s Pass in January of 2017. My mom and husband and I were driving home from a perfect day of snowshoeing when our truck (with me driving) hit a patch of black ice and spun across the highway into the path of an oncoming semi tractor trailer. To this day, I still cannot explain how I am still here - truthfully, it is a miracle that defies explanation. But what I do know is that there was a part of me that was destroyed that day - and that was the part of me that was afraid of doing anything.

Photo from our snowshoe trip, the day that everything changed for me. You can read my original account of that incident that I wrote under a month after it happened (and about year and a half before I started Kula Cloth) on my unmaintained personal website here.

You see, in that moment of staring into the face of my own mortality, I wasn’t afraid. Seriously - there was no room for fear. It felt very surreal and it all happened in ‘slow motion’ - but it was devoid of fear. For the next two weeks, I couldn’t stop crying. I began to ask myself a simple, but profound question: If there was no fear in the moment where I was looking at my own mortality… was it possible that the fears that I had about pursuing my dreams were manufactured… by me?

At the time of my near death incident, the primary energies within my body could be described as: trauma, fear, doubt, frustration, negativity, complaining, despair, distrust, skepticism, and sarcasm. I spent the majority of my time focused on the things that I didn’t want. I had decided that I would be happy once those things were ‘fixed’.

The day after my near death incident, everything changed. Out of the blue, I did a gratitude meditation and I placed my hand on my heart and felt it beating gently under my skin. I felt the air moving in and out of my lungs. I realized that my heart and lungs were beating and breathing without me needing to do anything at all. The gravity of this gift felt like a tidal wave of gratitude (a feeling that was very unfamiliar to me) - lifting me off my feet and throwing me into the churning waters of a place that I had forgotten about. “Oh my God,” I thought, “I’m alive… and I had no idea.” I didn’t know it yet - but all of the pain… all of the trauma and despair… everything had led me to this single moment in time - my first moment of awakening to something beyond the thoughts in my mind. It was the first moment in my life where I saw a glimpse into something that I didn’t know was there. It is a moment that many humans will (hopefully) experience - and it is a moment so powerful that you will look back and weep with joy at the journey that took you there - because, somehow, you suddenly know that it all of the sh*t is going to end up making sense.

Me, and my husband Aaron last year. Trust me friends, it gets a lot better.

And so, friends, gratitude is where I will leave you all today. I used to think that gratitude was a cliché word created by bloggers who wanted to sell overpriced journals. Once, I tried doing a gratitude journal, and I quit on day three. Apparently, writing ‘I’m grateful for my coffee today’ on three consecutive days does not conjure the feeling of gratitude appropriately. “This is B.S.”, I said, as I threw the book into the recycling bin. Little did I know then that gratitude would soon become the foundational glue of my entire life.

I’ll continue this story next week, but I want to give all of you one tiny ‘assignment’ - should you choose to accept it (and I hope that you do). I’m going to share a very short (5 minute) gratitude meditation below, and I hope that you will take 5 minutes today to complete it. If it feels good to you, commit to doing it every day for the next week. No expectations - just see what happens.

Click on the image, or click here to find the link for the 5 minute Gratitude Meditation.

Well, friends… we are just getting started - and I am excited to build this foundation - because where we get to go from here is exciting and beautiful and fun and adventurous…. and also sometimes scary and unexpected. But I hope that you can now begin to see that ‘Cheery Anastasia Who Dances A Lot And Runs a Pee Cloth Company ‘ was not always this way.

My husband laughed when I told him what I was writing about because he agreed it was important for all of you to know, “Otherwise you just sound like an overly positive Disney movie character,” he quipped. And he’s right. You need to know the truth about where I’ve been - so that you can understand why all of the stuff I’m about to share is important - and most importantly, how it relates to you.

I’ll end with a poem (by me). I hope you love it and I hope that you know how much I truly appreciate you being here. Please know that you are, always have been, and always will be a radiant beam of light. You are worthy and deserving of anything and everything that you can dream - and it is my greatest hope that my words will help you discover a tiny bit more peace in your life. You aren’t alone, friends. Sending you all a lot of love today.



Up here above the clouds
Swirling down below
The same as thoughts that keep you
Tossing to and fro

Amidst every choppy sea
Or every raging storm
There is a place of fear
That has become the norm

So familiar it becomes
We can’t shake it from our view
It hides within its shroud
The truth of me and you

The world can seem so dark
Existence very frail
But once you know what’s real
There’s simply no way to fail

Returning to a place
That never went away
The fear and doubt released
Peace comes in to say

You’ve never been forgotten
You’ve never been alone
You simply don’t remember
The nature of your home

It isn’t way out there
With money, things or stuff
It’s always been right with you
Even when things are rough

Nothing real can be destroyed
Nothing unreal exists
The stillness that is created
Dissipates hatred like a mist

Listen to your heart
What it’s been saying all along
You are a piece of something more
You always will belong

P.S. This next week I’m adding on to this Substack… a new ‘column’ called AMA with AMA (Ask me Anything with Anastasia M. Allison… go figure, my initials worked perfectly!)… so if you have any questions you want to submit for a future column, you can e-mail me directly at anastasia@kulacloth.com … or you can drop them anonymously into this Google Form here.


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