Seductive, sincere, and at times hysterical and heartbreaking, this memoir follows author and good girl, Kayce Stevens Hughlett out of her carefully constructed comfort zone into the world of international travel, healers, wise winged mentors, and inspiring versions of humankind. SoulStroller introduces a fresh and exciting way of experiencing and living life on one's own terms---expanding readers' world views whether they choose to visit destinations like Paris, Ireland, or Bali, or get to know what home looks like through fresh eyes. Labeled shy and rendered virtually silent by age six, Kayce had been raised to fit the role of perfect wife, doting mom, and accomplished woman. She fulfilled her mission by her mid-forties when society said she had it all. Society was wrong. When her eldest child disappears into the haze of addiction, her perfect world changes faster than you can say, Get it right! Ethereal, gritty, and relatable, SoulStroller is the evolution of a woman too timid to speak her mind into someone who writes her own rules and redefines what it means to live with silence, compassion, and joie de vivre.
|Publisher:||Boutique of Quality Books|
|Product dimensions:||5.90(w) x 8.90(h) x 1.00(d)|
About the Author
Kayce Stevens Hughlett is a spiritual guide, artist of being alive, and speaker, whose career began at a multi-national accounting firm. Co-creator of SoulStrolling, Kayce holds a Masters in Counseling Psychology from The Seattle School of Theology and Psychology and is a Certified Martha Beck Life Coach. Kayce is a trained SoulCollage facilitator and colleague of Abbey of the Arts.
Read an Excerpt
Life as I knew it ... Gone
"You may not have signed up for a hero's journey, but the second you fell down, got your butt kicked, suffered a disappointment, screwed up, or felt your heart break, it started."
— Brené Brown
Labor Day Weekend, 2003
There is an eeriness in the atmosphere and the sky turns a putrid shade of grayish green moments before a tornado hits. On Labor Day weekend in 2003, the signs of impending doom were less obvious than gray-green skies, but they were there. Deep inside my bones, a niggling unease told me our family walked a fine line between tranquil domesticity and despair. I could feel the twister coming but hoped it would lift back into the sky before striking.
"Who wants to go see Finding Nemo?" I asked. It was Saturday morning. Our family of four sat scattered around the kitchen and dining room eating breakfast and catching up on email and current events. It was rare that we were all awake and in one place at the same time.
"Me! Me! Me!" Ten-year-old Janey bounced up and down. "Can I get popcorn?"
"Sure, honey. Movie sounds good to me." My husband Bill looked up from his Blackberry.
"Do I have to go? Sounds lame," Jonathon groaned over his Cheerios.
"It'll be fun," I urged. "We haven't done anything together in a long time and summer's almost over."
"Yeah. I know. I'd rather go to Bumbershoot with my friends," Jonathon pressed.
"We already had this discussion," Bill replied. "No Bumbershoot. You're too young to go alone."
"Daaad." Jonathon made that phlegm-clearing noise, perfected by teenagers everywhere to show disgust as only they can.
I don't remember the inciting conversation or even if there was one, but on that Saturday evening in early September 2003 after we'd gone as a family to see Finding Nemo at the Bay Theater, Jonathon walked out of the house and didn't come back. Our beautiful boy with my smile and my father's lean build disappeared.
The hours that followed Jonathon's disappearance were a blur. We called every friend we could think of, but he'd jettisoned his old crowd and the new list was elusive. The hours dragged on. We were panicked maniacs, calling anyone we could think of until we finally called 911 and a kind, somewhat patronizing police officer showed up at our front door.
"These things usually resolve themselves quickly," Officer Bounds assured us. I could feel the subtext: Overreacting parents, here we go.
It was odd to see the police woman sitting at our dining room table, poised with her note pad. She reminded me of a young Sharon Gless from Cagney and Lacey — feminine, all business, and dressed in navy blue chinos and a white button-up shirt. "Any friend's house he might be at?" "We've tried them all," Bill answered.
"Okay. What was he wearing when he left?" The questions were incessant, but they felt like our only lifeline to getting Jonathon back. "Eye color? Hair length? Hair color? Height? Weight? Any distinguishing marks?" We answered as best we could.
"All right, Mr. and Mrs. Hughlett. Since he's only fourteen, we can put out a missing person/runaway report and keep an eye out for him. Please let us know if you hear anything."
She left her card on the table along with a copy of the incident report.
"Is Jonathon coming back?" Janey peeked around the staircase where she'd been hovering.
"Of course he is, honey," I assured her with a confidence I didn't feel.
Officer Bounds walked out the front door and moments later Bill headed out the back to begin a late-night driving vigil. It was futile, but necessary. We had to do something. I stayed home with Janey and tried to get some sleep, but mainly I stared at the coved bedroom ceiling. Bill came home around 2:30 a.m., and the two of us tossed and turned together. Our silence was heavy with thoughts of the direst kind. He's gone. Dead. In a ditch somewhere. Kidnapped. Stabbed. Shot. Lost. Scared. Alone. There was nothing we could do or say to comfort each other. Exhaustion finally won and we nodded off, only to awaken at daybreak overcome by a sense of guilt that we could sleep while our son was missing.
After a full weekend of hide and seek between Jonathon and us, the pièce de résistance came when Bill called from Harborview Medical Center.
"Um, honey, um ... I don't know how to say this ..." His voice creaked on the line like a garbled recording. "They've done a blood draw and an intake screening for drugs." He paused and I heard him sob. "The nurse says he needs in-patient treatment now." That sentence stretched out over thirty seconds or more.
I could hear my husband talking through the phone line, but his words weren't connecting with my brain.
"Wha-what?" I gasped, breath vacating my lungs and threatening to never return. A mass settled inside my throat while I struggled to inhale. Twilight filtered in through the windows of the living room where I stood. Photos of Bill, Jonathon, Janey, and me smiled down from every angle. I pushed the phone away from my ear as if it were a venomous snake. My arms felt like twenty-pound weights were tied to each wrist, and my legs gave way as though someone had kicked me behind the knees. Curry, our golden retriever, circled me on the Oriental rug, panting in confusion.
Our beautiful, boundary-pushing Jonathon was fourteen years old — full of life, full of confusion, and apparently full of drugs.
Time stopped until anger took hold. How could this be? What the fuck? No! No! No! It's got to be a mistake! I was furious. Terrified. Lost. Searching. Grasping for answers. How did this happen? Why couldn't I protect him? How could I keep him safe? Nothing had prepared me for this, not even my own experimentation with alcohol and pot that I secretly indulged in as a teenager. The borders of my love and understanding were being stretched to their very limits.
The boundaries that adults set for me when I was a child flared in my mind. Do things right. Follow the rules. Stay inside the lines and everything will turn out fine. I once heard that fine was an acronym for fucked up, insecure, neurotic, and exhausted. F.I.N.E. Well, here we were. Everything was fine.
Somehow, I made it to Harborview on that Labor Day evening to meet with Bill, a doctor, and a social worker. Before the night was over, Jonathon had agreed to enter his first in-patient treatment center.
Tired. Bone tired. Weary. Worried. Then and now. Digging up the bones like a grave digger, resurrecting the story of that summer of 2003. I feel the exhaustion of that time, the exhaustion and worry more than the details. The worry I couldn't name, was afraid to name, am still wary to name. The underbelly, undercurrent, the river that runs beneath our stories like the one in Hades. I see it. A river of hell. The one with gaping mouths and peeling flesh and floating bones. A life out of control. A child gone. A mother, wife, and woman, alone with her thoughts.CHAPTER 2
Follow the Rules
"Maybe, in spite of everything and because of everything, you are miraculously, perfectly whole."
— Bakara Wintner
"Mommy, I don't feel so good."
"What? No. You're fine." My mother reaches her painted fingernails (Avon's latest winter shade) toward the bottom of my taffeta dress and fluffs the tulle petticoat into a larger circle. "You were flat on one side. That's better. Now stand up straight."
I'm in kindergarten and my sister, Dianna, is getting married. It's the evening of the rehearsal dinner or some equally important affair. Our household is in a flurry and I've spent all afternoon having my hair brushed and teased by a woman dressed in a bubblegum-colored smock. Her fingertips are brown with nicotine stains and every time she leans down to whisper in my ear to say how pretty I am, I nearly gag from the smell of stale coffee and cigarettes. Now my hair looks like a tiny helmet formed with Aquanet spray. I'm wearing a black velveteen vest that covers my chest like a soft plate of armor. A tiny girl dressed for show, but the attire doesn't protect my fragile soul from the acerbic tone flowing from my mother's lips, which match her nail polish.
"This'll have to do." She tries to adjust a stiff curl next to my right cheek. The curl resists.
I squeak out the words one more time. "But I don't feel good." "Goodness gracious, Kayce. I don't have time for this. It's a big day. You should enjoy it. Now, let's go." She tugs at my hand, but I don't move. "What?" She throws me the look.
I feel my heart withering underneath the velvet bolero and my throat closes up inside my dry mouth. My pink-glossed lips tighten into a grimace and I feel my two front teeth wobble under the pressure. My tiny body wavers and when I think I might fall on the floor, my mother scoops me up and lays me on my sister's four poster bed. A deep sigh escapes her lips. "We'll be back later," she says and turns away, closing the door without a backward glance.
* * *
I grew up in Bethany, Oklahoma, a land of red earthen clay trimmed with miles of golden fields and dotted by man-made lakes and oil derricks. Oklahoma is a far cry from the evergreen landscape of Seattle where I now reside. In Oklahoma, blistering humidity leaves a sheen of moisture across your skin through the summer, which begins in April and can carry on until November when storms, brutal with black ice, become sport for those brave enough to dare driving on it. I have a healthy respect for black ice.
Born the second daughter and third child to Daisy Ernestine (an Avon lady) and John David Stevens (a mechanic and truck driver), I was raised to follow rules and be polite while doing so. I was constantly corrected about appropriate use of grammar — always say please and thank you, never say "ain't." My crooked posture was a source of constant criticism from my mother and other teachers. I attended etiquette school to become more ladylike and soaked up beauty pageant culture, although I never qualified to compete. I wore corrective shoes, had plastic surgery for a lopsided lip at age thirteen, and frequented beauty parlors from the age of five. But inside my well-groomed exterior beat the heart of a street fighter, a "firecracker" as my son once called me.
As my mind scans through the stories of my early childhood, I can hear my mother speaking as though I were still six years old. "Kayce's our shy girl. She doesn't talk much." I ingested that line like a dark witch's potion. I tucked the potential firecracker into my back pocket with the fuse on a slow burn. Instead of lighting up my world, I chose to believe that as long as I followed everyone else's rules and stayed within the lines, life would turn out right, no matter what the situation.
Inside the silence and all of the rules, I learned that asking for what I wanted or being my true self often led to disaster — someone got hurt, disappointed, or felt ashamed. One of my earliest memories is standing in my crib with outstretched arms. I'm about two years old. I can see the anguish on my face and hear my own wailing cry. I need someone to comfort me. Perhaps I've had a bad dream or my diaper is full. It doesn't really matter. In my mind, I see my young mother nursing a black eye and for a moment I wonder if my father was to blame, but in a flash of certainty I know the answer is no. I was the one responsible. I feel it in my bones.
I remember that Mother was on her way to get me that night when she misjudged the angle of the doorway in her grogginess and hit the doorframe with her upper cheek. In the chaos that ensued — mild cursing, tears, an icepack — I was forgotten, left standing alone, and my mother was the injured party.
There was always a downside to being me. I'd be having a glorious time one moment and the next minute criticism or self-doubt would bring the joy-making to a halt. Kindergarten was the one magical place in my childhood memories. Skipping around the block to Mrs. Peck's school was a grand adventure. I had a sparkling wand of ribbons and stars and loved to wake the other children up after naptime on our floor mats. I felt like a fairy princess.
On my walks to and from Mrs. Peck's, dandelion wishes called my name and stray kittens became my best friends. If I was feeling especially naughty, I'd scan the block to make sure no one was looking, then scuff my saddle Oxfords on the pavement. The white leather reminded me of the heavy corrective shoes I had to wear at nighttime. Sleeping in the torturous contraption was supposed to correct my toes that turned in at an unacceptable angle. They had a thick metal bar attached to the soles with the toes turned outward. It's hard to SoulStroll when your feet are tethered together.
* * *
A SoulStroller has feet free to wander.
Another story surfaces. I'm six years old and it's September in Mrs. Collins's first grade class. I have to pee. I glance at the black-and-white clock over the door and hope it's close to dismissal time. No such luck. Bulletin boards with neat displays of Dick and Jane readers are arranged around the room, and a row of twelve-inch-high alphabet letters sits beneath the florescent lighting panels. I inch my right hand into the air like a soldier offering a flag of surrender. The teacher doesn't see me although I swear we make eye contact. I curl inward and feel the underside of my plaid wool skirt stick to the seat and form an itchy nest around my thighs. My Oxford shoes create a muted tap dance on the black-and-white tiled floor as I shimmy side to side, holding my breath and trying to be quiet.
See me. Don't see me. See me. Don't see me. My feet wiggle side to side and my left hand slides beneath my skirt, putting pressure on the white cotton panties that cover the v of my crotch. It's wet, damp. I'm losing the battle to hold the flow back. I hope my classmates don't notice the sudden whoosh.
For a moment relief fills my sixty-pound body until I look down and see the putrid yellow ring at my feet. I try to make myself as small as possible and concentrate on keeping the crayons within the lines of my coloring sheet. I seek perfection on the page in front of me even though I know the wrong I've committed won't go unnoticed.
After my classmates pour out of the room like bumbling puppies, Mrs. Collins stares at the puddle in disdain, clucks something under her breath, then turns away to call my mother, whose own embarrassment is evident in her face when she comes to get me.
In fourth grade my mother, father, best friend, and I went to a lake resort for a long weekend. My friend and I felt the freedom of running around the complex on our own, giggling as we pushed every elevator button before climbing out and scuttling poolside to sip Coca-Cola. The most present memory of that time, however, was when I later found a photo of my friend and me on the diving board. When my mother saw it, she commented on my chunky thighs and roundish belly, then insinuated how it was too bad I wasn't more petite like my friend. I was ten years old.
When we were thirteen, that same friend used her small hands to write in my journal about an incident that I was too ashamed to pen for myself. One day a boy from our class stopped by my house after football practice. My parents were out and when he realized this, he said something lame like "I'm tired." Before I understood what was happening, we were laying on my bed. His attention was sweet and confusing. I'd only kissed one boy before, during a spin-the-bottle game at a sixth-grade party. The boy on my bed kissed me with dry, closed lips and then without prelude, slipped his sweaty hand under my blouse and proceeded to fondle my bra-covered breasts. A dull roar rose in my ears, laced with my mother's words: Good girls don't. I'm not sure if she ever finished that sentence, but it spoke volumes on its own. Tears formed in the corners of my eyes, and I lay on my bed like the giant Raggedy Ann doll in the corner of my room and waited for the time to be over. Once again, my words failed me.
Good girls don't was the mantra of my hometown in the '60s and '70s. While women's liberation was happening around the country, the preachers, teachers, and parents of Bethany, Oklahoma, were making sure that young ladies behaved in a respectable manner. My mother's sex talk consisted of our hometown mantra, plus her sage advice not to sit on boys' laps, "because they can't handle it." Girls were divided into three classes of sexual prowess: those who did it, those who didn't, and those who probably did but kept it very well hidden. I fell solidly into the middle group until I was in college, when heavy petting mixed with alcohol and low-grade marijuana tipped me over the edge into a "girl who did it."
In August 1976, I married the boy who'd been my first sexual partner and who brought me flowers when my father died in a trucking accident eleven months earlier. I was nineteen years old. My sister and mother tried to talk me out of getting married at such a young age, but for once, I swore I knew what was best for me. They didn't know I'd broken the sacred good-girls-don't rule, and I was certain that if they did know, they'd agree this was the best course of action.(Continues…)
Excerpted from "SoulStroller"
Copyright © 2018 Kayce Stevens Hughlett.
Excerpted by permission of Boutique of Quality Books Publishing Company.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.
Table of Contents
A Note From the Author xiii
Part 1 Way Back When 1
1 Life As I Knew It … Gone 3
2 Follow the Rules 9
3 Beautiful Boy 17
4 Entering the Desert 21
5 Voice, Call, & Kittens 29
6 The Silence of Going Solo 37
Part 2 Illumination in the City of Light 47
7 Paris Perhaps? 49
8 Bienvenue à Paris 55
9 Sustenance & Statues 61
10 Leap Day 67
11 Meeting Tess 75
12 Absorbing Paris 81
13 A Gift Each Day 89
Part 3 Pilgrims, Babes, & Threads 97
14 Irish Whispers 99
15 The Ancestral Mind 109
16 Following Threads 119
17 Darkness of the Night 125
18 Dancing with the Ancestors 133
Part 4 Wings, Humps, & Hooves 141
19 Standing on Holy Ground 143
20 Seriously? Be? 149
21 Past Horse, Present Bee 157
22 Egypt Reverberations 165
Part 5 Le Cadeau de Paris (The Gift of Paris) 177
23 Seasons & Calling 175
24 Three Aunties & A Rooftop Dancer 181
25 No Proof Required 191
26 Oh My God! 201
27 Jetlag Gyrations 213
Part 6 Lucid Meets Liminal 221
28 This Story Is Not Linear 223
29 Buongiorno 229
30 Old Paint 241
31 Permission & Promise 249
32 Mirror of the Soul 255
Part 7 Signs & Souls 265
33 Why Bali? 267
34 The Signs Are Everywhere 275
35 Healing, Balinese-Style 281
36 Rain Dance 289
37 Like a Ton of Bricks 295
38 Generational Healing 305
39 Lonely Liquid Time 313
40 Mile High Prayers 321
Part 8 Fini for Now 331
41 Following the Story 333
With Gratitude 343
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
For anyone with wanderlust this is a must read! The author is so down-to-earth in her writing, and her story is incredibly moving and at times heartbreaking. It's inspiring to women everywhere who shy away from the expectations put on them, and incredibly honest about the difficulty and strength behind reclaiming your life and writing your own rules.