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On this episode of Unlocking Us

In this episode, I’m sitting across from my friend Karen Walrond and she’s helping me access joy. You may remember Karen from a two-part podcast we did last year on her book The Lightmaker’s Manifesto, which is all about working for change without losing your joy. And I literally just called her and said, “Will you be on the podcast this week, because I’m in such deep struggle and I can’t access any joy? I feel guilty if I’m happy about something because the world is such a shit show right now and people are in so much pain.” If you’re struggling with how to be fully connected in your life and feel joy and acknowledge beauty and also fight for the things that we need to fight for right now, this will be a great podcast for you. It was a game changer for me.

About the guest

Karen Walrond

Karen Walrond is a lawyer, a leadership coach, a photographer, and an activist who is wildly convinced you’re uncommonly beautiful. Her first book, The Beauty of Different: Observations of a Confident Misfit, provides irrefutable evidence that the thing that makes you different is the source of your superpower. Her current book, The Lightmaker’s Manifesto: How to Work for Change without Losing Your Joy, helps us name the skills, gifts, values, and actions that bring us joy; identify the causes that spark our empathy and concern; and then put it all together to change the world. Born in Trinidad and Tobago, Karen currently lives in Houston, Texas, with her British husband, Marcus; their American daughter, Alexis; and Soca, the super mutt.

Show notes

The Lightmaker’s Manifesto by Karen Walrond

The Lightmaker’s Manifesto: How to Work for Change without Losing Your Joy by Karen Walrond

The Lightmaker’s Manifesto includes creative and practical exercises, including journaling, daily intention-setting, and mindful self-compassion, that are complemented by lively conversations with activists and thought-leaders such as Valarie Kaur, Brené Brown, Tarana Burke, and Zuri Adele. With stories from around the world and wisdom from those leading movements for change, Walrond beckons readers toward lives of integrity, advocacy, conviction, and joy. By unearthing our passions and gifts, we learn how to joyfully advocate for justice, peace, and liberation. We learn how to become makers of light.


Brené Brown: Hi everyone, I’m Brené Brown and this is Unlocking Us.


BB: And if you can hear excitement in my voice, it’s because I’m sitting across from, in real life, my friend Karen Walrond today. And she’s helping me. She’s really helping me. You may remember, Karen, we’ve done a two-part podcast on The Lightmakers Manifesto, her new book, which is all about working for change without losing your joy, and I literally just called her and said, “Will you be on the podcast because I’m losing my mind? I’m in such deep struggle and I can’t access any joy, I feel guilty if I’m happy about something, because the world is such a shit show right now and people are in so much pain, and I know that that’s not good, and I write about that not being good, but I can’t pull myself out of it and I don’t know what’s going on.” And she sits down with me, and it was just healing. That’s the word I have to use. It was healing. Her words are healing, her images are healing, it was healing. I’m so glad you’re here, if you’re struggling with how to be fully connected in your life and feel joy and acknowledge beauty, and also fight for the things that we need to fight for right now, this will be a great podcast for you. It’s a game changer for me. I’m so glad you’re here.

BB: Alright, before we jump into the conversation, let me tell you about my friend Karen Walrond. She’s a lawyer, leadership coach, photographer, and activist, who is wildly convinced that we are all uncommonly beautiful. Her first book, The Beauty of Different: Observations of a Confident Misfit, provides irrefutable evidence, the only kind of evidence Karen would ever provide, that the thing that makes us different is the source of our super power. Oh, it’s such a good book. Her current book, The Lightmaker’s Manifesto: How to Work for Change While Holding on to Your Joy, helps us name the skills, gifts, values, and actions that bring us joy, identify the causes that spark our empathy and concern, and then put it all together to change the world. Born in Trinidad and Tobago. Karen currently lives in Houston, lucky me, with her British husband, Marcus, who’s my favorite, their American daughter, Alexis, who’s also my favorite, and Soca, the super mutt. Let’s jump into the conversation. Hi everybody, I’m here with my friend. Writer, creative, photographer, podcast host, just person extraordinaire, Karen Walrond. Hi Karen.

Karen Walrond: Oh, hi friend. How you doin’?


BB: I’ve been better.

KW: Yeah, child.


BB: I’ve been better.

KW: Yeah.

BB: You want to just tell them what the first thing you said to me when you walked in here. It was so mean.


KW: Mean? I’m never mean to you. What did I say?

BB: No, what do you think you said? “I know what you need.”

KW: I did, I said, “You need a sabbatical.”

BB: And I said, “Oh my God, I think I’ll take one.”

KW: And then you said, “No I won’t.”


BB: Yeah, “Because you said for how long?”

KW: Yeah, yeah. For how long?

BB: You said, “A year.”

KW: And I said, “A year.” I said, “You should take a year. You should get bored. I need you to get bored.”

BB: And then I fought her, and I said, “I get bored, I get bored after a week.”

KW: And I said, “No, you don’t, you get restless. There’s a difference. I need you to get bored. Bored. Bored. Bored.”

BB: Yeah. A year’s sabbatical. I think in all honesty, I’ll give y’all the set up for this conversation, I’m not falling apart, but I’m perpetually not okay. And every time I seem to get the earth under my feet a little bit, it starts moving again, which means there’s a problem, I’m trying to control the earth under my feet.

KW: And I suspect that that’s the feeling that a lot of us share.

BB: Yeah.

KW: Yeah.

BB: I don’t know. I do know, I actually don’t know, and I do know, but I think one of the things… There’s many things going on for sure. Really, really hard year last year. COVID, two years, super hard season for my marriage, COVID is hard, hard parenting, making all those decisions. I got hurt, of course, playing pickle ball and limped around for two or three months. I don’t understand why that happened because I did play tennis, a lot of tennis in my 20s, so I jumped back on that court and went crazy, competitive, then got hurt, of course. But I’ve since learned consistency over intensity. Little hard stuff with my parents. I’m at that age. You know this age.

KW: I know that age, yeah. Intimately.

BB: Yeah. And then so I took, for the first time in my whole career, four weeks off.

KW: How’d that feel?

BB: It felt good. I didn’t get bored.

KW: You need to get bored.

BB: I know, I’m thinking about what you’re saying right now, it’s hot in here. It’s hot. I’m hot.


BB: But I came back and then the Spotify Joe Rogan stuff happened, and I think that was harder on me than I thought.

KW: Yeah, I bet. It was tough and then you handle it, right? Because that’s what Brené does, and that’s what we all do, we handle it. And then you start to think about it. And then it hits you, right?

BB: Yeah, because a lot of the things that people wrote where I just kind of roll my eyes and people block things on the team or I delete them, but then you think about them and they’re like, threats against my kids…

KW: Sure.

BB: Threats against me.

KW: Only so much you can take, right?

BB: Yes. So, this is this good set up because then what I asked you about… Was it Monday?

KW: Yes.

BB: I think we’ve seen each other up and down and steady… Would you agree?

KW: Yeah, we’ve known each other a long time. Yeah.

BB: But I think with the invasion of Ukraine and then these incredibly cruel dehumanizing laws in Texas around trans kids. I’m finding it hard to move through the world right now, and one of the things that’s happened, and I always know this as a flag, is I was at my son’s game on Saturday, and he made this beautiful shot and scored a goal, and it was so… And I jumped up and I was like, “Yes.” And then I started crying. Had to go to the bathroom. I’m like, “How dare I be excited about this when there are kids his age fighting in Ukraine. When there’s kids his age probably contemplating whether life is worth living, because of what the adults in the state, not all of us, but the leaders, some of the leaders are saying.” And then in that moment where I realized that I couldn’t get to joy, I knew I was in trouble. And I thought about you.

KW: Yeah, because you’ve got to get to joy.

BB: You have this thing that you say… And I want to make sure I get it right. You say that you will never apologize for embracing joy and beauty, even when the world is falling apart, because joy and beauty are your fuel for activism.

KW: Amen. I absolutely say that. And I stand by that. Yeah.

BB: You know I believe that, right?

KW: I hope so.

BB: I do. I’m going to read this to y’all, this is from Braving the Wilderness, and this is on the chapter on strong back, soft front, wild heart. Would you… I feel like right now, like it’s questionable back, hard front, and under the covers is where… So, here’s what I write.

BB: “The mark of a wild heart is living out the paradox of love in our lives, it’s the ability to be tough and tender, excited and scared, brave and afraid, all in the same moment. It’s showing up in our vulnerability and our courage, being both fierce and kind.” Here’s the part that gets me because I wrote it. Pissing me off. “A wild heart can also straddle the tension of staying awake to the struggle in the world and fighting for justice and peace, while also cultivating its own moments of joy. I know a lot of people, myself included, who feel guilt and even shame about their own moments of joy.” Then I write, “How can I play on this gorgeous beach with my family while there are people who have no home or safety? Why am I working so hard to decorate my son’s birthday cupcakes like cute little minions, when there are so many Syrian children starving to death? What difference do these stupid cupcakes really make?” Then I write, “They matter because joy matters. Whether you’re a full-time activist or a volunteer at your mosque or a local soup kitchen, most of us are showing up to ensure that people’s basic needs are met and their civil rights are upheld, but we’re also working to make sure that everyone gets to experience what brings meaning to life: love, belonging, and joy. These are essential irreducible needs for all of us, and we can’t give people what we don’t have; we can’t fight for what’s not in our hearts.”

BB: I’m going to end this section, there’s a couple of more paragraphs, but I’ll just end, “A wild heart is awake to the pain in the world but does not diminish its own pain. A wild heart can beat with gratitude and lean into pure joy without denying the struggle in the world. We hold that tension with the spirit of the wilderness. It’s not always easy or comfortable, sometimes we struggle with the weight of the pull, but what makes it possible is a front made of love and a back built of courage.

KW: I love that.

BB: You think all that’s true, right?

KW: I do, I do. And. And. So when I wrote my book, The Lightmakers Manifesto, I interviewed a lot of people, and I interviewed a lot of people who make it their life’s work. Activism. It’s not something they just do on the weekend, it’s what they do. And the thing that became really apparent in what they said is that activism, in order to have longevity in the work, has to have a rhythm to it, that there’s an ebb and there’s a flow, and I will say that the older I get, I’m starting to believe that that is the natural order of things. Is ebbing and flowing. It’s reason we have ebbing and flowing tides, we have waxing and waning moons, we have seasons. I think you ebb and flow and so just like…

BB: Wow wait, I’ve got to stop you here. I have goosebumps. Okay, you said the older you get, the more you believe that this is the order of things and what were the examples?

KW: The tides coming in and out, right? The moon, the phases of the moon, the seasons of the year. I think it is our nature, it is nature, it is natural to have an ebb and a flow. And in order to have longevity in activism, for example, you have to be able to ebb and flow, sometimes you go in hard and you fight, sometimes you have to stop. We inhale and exhale. Everything has a rhythm. Everything has a rhythm. And so, what I would say is just like we used to say, “Can women have it all?” And the answer to that is, “Yes, but maybe not all at the same time, right?” You can have all of these things, but you also have to be able to stop. You have to be able to regenerate. And what I would say is, and I’m very, very mindful of this now, and if I were to write my book again, I might move the chapters on self-compassion and self-care to the front, because I think we often think of being able to tap into joy or in self-care or self-compassion is something you do when we’re spent.

KW: And I think, honestly, if we do that when we’re spent, it might be a little too late, that what we do is we front-load with it, and then we gather the energy to go in and change the world and do the good things. Stopping and accessing joy and accessing gratitude is what reminds us what we’re fighting for, it reminds us what we want for the rest of the world, so I think… Yes, for sure. It is possible to do it. I think it’s necessary to do it, I think we can’t do it unless we tap into joy and tap into gratitude, and tap into appreciation and laughter and beauty, you have to do that. You have to… Because then… What are we fighting for?

BB: I’m going to ask you a really hard question for me personally. Everything you said right now, I literally, I’m so pissed that I just shaved my legs, because I got goosebumps from head to toe, and now I’ve got razor stubble. What do you think the mechanism is, that moves you from knowing that, and living that, to it feeling a million worlds away. I know you’ve been there.

KW: Sure. Sure. You know I’ve been there, I’ve called you when I’ve been there.

BB: Yeah. No, I’ve seen it, but how do you think I get from knowing that, we’ll just use me as an example because I’m in the shit show right now, but what is it about us that moves us from moving with the tide, moving through the seasons, going with the ebb and flow, to fighting? To fighting it? What happens? How do we get here?

KW: So I would say for me, I make it a practice to identify the good and the beauty, I mean, I do it religiously, religiously. If I don’t have a practice of doing that when times are good, when times get tough, I won’t do it. Unless it’s innate, like brushing my teeth. We hear so much about gratitude practices, and I am just dogged about it, dogged about it, so that even in the difficult times like… Let’s just take for right now, let’s take the Ukraine. I will say, I was just telling my partner this, that every time I feel like, “Okay, I’m ready to go.” Something happens in the world and I’m like, “Seriously, how do I deal with this right now?” And so, there’s a couple of things that I do when I can feel that. What is the way that you say… When you’re hooked?

BB: Right, yeah, yeah, yeah.

KW: Then the first thing I do is maybe I’ll take a media break for a day. Trust and believe the world is not going to change so much in one day that you’re going to miss the opportunity to help. Right, so I’m like, “I got to get my head right.” So, I may take a media break. I also, for example, I follow all kinds of media that talk about good news, talk about the helpers, talk about the things that people are doing that are helping. And figure out how can I help those helpers, because often those helpers know better than I do.

BB: Yeah, yeah, for sure. They’re on the ground.

KW: They’re on the ground, they know what’s up rather than me. So if I can support them, then I can feel a little bit better, and then I will also make sure that I’m staying connected to my family and sometimes staying connected to my family means celebrating something great that they’ve done, and making sure that they’re okay and that everything’s set. But I do it literally every single day, I journal about it when I start my day, I do a prayer of thanks when I close my eyes at night, and I do it as a practice, so when hurricanes take my house away like one did, or when really tough things happen, I have so much of a practice of “Okay, it’s time for me to go to bed.”

KW: “What’s a good thing? What’s something good that happened? What is something that I can hang on to? What is something that I can hang hope on to, so that I can go to sleep and wake up tomorrow and try again?” And I think it really, really is a practice, I don’t think it… If you’re not used to doing that, it’s like an atrophied muscle, it can feel a little awkward to try to do it, and you can feel guilty, like, “How dare I do that?,” because it’s not something that you’ve done all the time, and so I do it, I’ve been doing it for 20 something years, maybe even 30 years now, and it is just part of what I do every single day, I have to. It’s the only way I can make it through.

BB: Wow. And I’ve never known you not to do it. Yeah. And you’ve taught me a lot. I don’t know if you know this, I was thinking about, while I was lying in bed last night because I knew I was going to get to talk to you today. I’m going to start crying. There’s a 99% chance. But the year that we met, I was taking up photography. Do you remember that?

KW: Yep. Uh huh.

BB: And you were this amazing photographer, and for Lent that year, I don’t ever give up anything for Lent, I always add something positive, and so I made myself take a picture with my big camera, which I barely knew how to use, although you taught me like F stops and stuff, I took a picture every day, of something I thought was beautiful during Lent. Fucking changed my life.

KW: Yeah. Yes.

BB: It changed my life.

KW: It’s so common at the end of the year, people to say, “Well, that was a crappy year. Don’t let the door hit you on the way out. I can’t wait for the new year.” I often tell people, “Go look in your cell phone camera at your archives, and you’re going to notice that the year wasn’t as bad as you thought.” Because we tend to pull out our cameras when something good has happened, we’ve run into a friend or we’re having dinner, we’ve got a great latte or whatever, we pull it out and I’m like, “I bet if you scroll through, you’re going to find moments that you forgot, were really great in your life.” And back to this feeling guilt about joy, there’s a part of me that really feels… I don’t know if it’s partially cultural, I don’t know what it is, but to me, if we feel guilt about the joy then the bad guys win.

BB: God. Yes.

KW: Right.

BB: Yes, because I can’t get out of bed. And I get fearful about speaking out about things that are important to me and… Yeah, they win.

KW: They win. We can’t let them win, we can’t let them win, and joy is how we develop resiliency. I was talking to our friend Laura the other day, and I was saying “The idea… ” I’m a black woman, I’m from the Caribbean, I’m from Trinidad that has a huge Carnival, which would normally be going full bore this week, and I was thinking about how Carnival in Trinidad and probably in Brazil as well, and even in New Orleans, it comes from the enslaved… The enslaved are the people who started the carnival, it certainly is in Trinidad, and talk about oppression and sadness and horror and trauma and everything. And there’s this time when we’re going to dance and sing and play. It’s because of things like that, that we become resilient, is because of being able to tap into that or making… Not even the capability, but making the effort and the intention to tap into that, that we remind ourselves of our humanity. We remind ourselves of why we’re interconnected, why it matters, why our work and our tears matter, they matter because there’s good. And so for me…

BB: Wow that’s beautiful.

KW: I feel like joy is… You have to do it, otherwise, why are we here?

BB: What’s the point?

KW: What is the point? What is the point of helping people in Ukraine if we don’t know what that help could get for them? We don’t know the joy that could happen. That’s why we do it.

BB: It’s so crazy. You really answered the question, you really unlocked this… You gave us some keys. Because people listening are like, “Brené, you’ve been writing about a lot of this stuff for a long time, what’s wrong with you?” The thing is that it’s a practice, it’s not a knowledge base.

KW: Well, yes.

BB: And that’s what you said, it’s a practice, you’re dogged about your practice, and it reminds me of the James Clear podcast.

KW: On habits, yup.

BB: Yeah, we don’t rise to our most lofty goals, we fall to our worst systems. And the systems that I’ve had in place, small things like gratitude after grace, we’ve just been skipping. Writing things down for me that I’m grateful for. Taking pictures of things that I think are beautiful, to not share with anyone but for myself. I’ve let go of so many of those practices.

KW: And let’s be real, one word. In pain, often, those are the first ones that we want to let go. I know that for me.

BB: For sure.

KW: If I’m in crisis or…

BB: Yeah, they piss me off when I’m in crisis.

KW: Sure, I’m not going to go work out, I don’t have time to do that, or I’m not going to go do the things that I’m supposed to do to take care of myself, I don’t have time to do that. I mean, I’m 54, I’m about to be 55 years old, I’m just getting this. Like, I’m just getting how important the practice is. And I’m probably in the last four or five years, I’ve finally been like, “No, I have to do this.” If it is that the only thing I’m grateful for at the end of the day is I took care of myself, I stopped, I drank extra water, I hung out with my partner or my daughter, then that’s it, that’s fine. But I have to do this, because if I don’t do that, I know I’m going to feel worse at the end of the day. I’m going to feel worse. And the worse I feel, the more likely I am to give up, and I’m not giving up.

BB: So, can I share something personal about you?

KW: Okay, sure. Uh-oh. [laughter]

BB: We can take it out if you don’t like it.

KW: Alright, go ahead.

BB: I saw this practice in you, and this is probably one of the reasons I so selfishly was like, “Can you just talk to me on the podcast? Because I know I’m not feeling alone.” I saw this practice in you before Harvey. Harvey is the hurricane that…

KW: Took our house.

BB: That destroyed their house. Massive trauma.

KW: Yeah.

BB: Yeah. But I saw you not the day of Harvey, or the day after Harvey, or the buckets of water, but man, not too far after the actual hurricane, the water started to subside, I saw you pull yourself through that with this practice.

KW: Yes, 100%.

BB: Is that true?

KW: Yes. There’s no way I would have been able to handle it. And what was really interesting for Harvey, which is a bit different than the trauma that’s going on in the world, because this is a personal trauma, but what was very interesting is because I had been… What’s one good thing, practice for decades at that point. What shocked me was how easy it was to find the good thing. Even as we were wading out of our house, the day we waded or the night we waded out, it was midnight, a neighbor who hadn’t flooded took us in for the night, and it was a neighbor that we didn’t know very well, and that was my one good thing, that there were good people in the world.

KW: We were literally leaving everything behind. We collapsed in their guest room or their game room, we had left 10 minutes earlier, knew the house was filling up, and I could still go, “Okay, one good thing today, I’m safe and dry. And these people who I don’t really know that well who’ve taken us in, that’s a huge good thing.” And the only reason I could stop to do that is because I’ve been doing it for 20 years, I had made the practice of doing it in 20 years when things were great, so it was very easy for me to tap. Now, that’s a little bit different than watching injustice in the world, because the gratitude I felt in that moment was so profoundly personal, and every night of the two, three weeks of mucking houses and doing everything else, I could always come up with something really, really huge. A stranger showed up and knocks on our door and said, “Hey, do you guys need help? I’ll help you muck out your house.”

KW: So that was something very, very personal, but as you have this practice, and you start to also look for… I do, look for things that, “Okay, this is a really crazy day, I need to have something to say was good about this day tonight when I go to bed.” So I’ll look for it, and like I said, I have social media accounts that I follow that are good news, what’s happening, and so I will go look for those things, or I will go find something, or I’ll go read a story, or something that I can do just to remind myself, even with the crazy, they’re still good. They’re still good. And because I have that practice when life is great… As a matter of fact, honestly, when life is really good, it’s harder to find something when things aren’t really bothering me that much, and it was a fine day, I’m like, Okay, well, what is… I had a good coffee this morning.

KW: But when things are bad, that’s when you really start to do it, and you have to have a practice and you have to have that practice. If you are a person who cares about other people, if you are a person who cares about the world, you have to have that practice so you can remind yourself and gather the energy to go back in and keep working for that. It’s not about healing the wounds, although it definitely helps, it’s about gathering the energy to go in. It’s a proactive thing, if that makes sense.

BB: Wow, I needed to hear this. You’re my one amazing thing today.

KW: Well, I’m glad to hear that. You’re mine.

BB: I know really, and I’m so glad to be honest with you, that I’m falling apart a little bit in front of all of y’all, because I think sometimes people believe if you know this, that’s your defense, but it doesn’t mean jack shit actually, if you’re not practicing it. I know this, and so let me just take it a step back a little bit.

KW: Sure.

BB: I’m trying to think about what gets in the way, what stopped my practice? And I think for me, it could be just exhaustion.

KW: Sure.

BB: It could be just too much.

KW: Yes. Yeah.

BB: Too much. Yeah, and not acknowledging when things are too much.

KW: Yeah.

BB: I don’t know. What do you think? Not just for me, but for everybody. What gets you off your practice?

KW: Well, there’s a couple of things, I think. One is, of course, when things are just hard and overwhelming and you’re full of feelings, that’s enough to get you off your practice. I think, honestly, not to be all rah-rah about it, but I think, frankly, capitalism and grind culture does it.

BB: God, yeah.

KW: I feel like we think, for some reason, the words “self-compassion,” “self-care,” even “privilege,” have gotten a bad wrap. Those are really ugly, horrible words. Self-compassion is considered selfish. I contend that the word privilege, it’s not a dirty word any more than being blonde or tall is. If you have privilege, you have privilege, it’s what you do with it. Privilege gives you the privilege of helping other people. And so, I feel like a lot of times we just think, to your question about what knocks us off our game, is we think that if we stop or if we even recognize that we’re in pain, that’s weakness, and that’s selfish, and that’s not a strong back.


BB: Sorry, we’re having technical difficulties. We’ll see you next time.

KW: I think that’s the culture we’re in, and everything tells us that. If you’re not producing, if you’re not moving, if you dare look away, then you’re part of the problem, because we need all hands on deck. And I don’t think that’s true. I think we need hands on deck, and sometimes it’s not going to be your hands, and sometimes it will be your hands and somebody else was going to be able to take the break.

BB: Someone else is in a different season.

KW: Yes, absolutely.

BB: Mm, man. You know what really pissed me off about what you just said?


KW: We do that.

BB: Yes.

KW: We do that to each other.

BB: We do do that.

KW: We do piss each other off.

BB: We do.


BB: Is the tough part, because I keep telling myself, even yesterday when I was, again, having a hard time, I was like, “Come on, Brené. Jesus, toughen up.”

KW: Yeah. Yes, we do that all the time. And so, what I would suggest, one is… You knew I love journaling.

BB: Y’all should just wait.


KW: So, I’m a big journaler. I’m not about to tell everybody to journal although, really, you should all journal. But one thing that helps me, especially when I’m struggling is I ask myself three questions. And this is a really good, easy thing to do, and you don’t even have to have a page. Literally, just jot it down. And the three questions are, “How can I feel connected today? How can I feel healthy today? And how can I feel purposeful today?” How can I feel connected, healthy, and purposeful? And you think about it in that moment. How can I feel connected? Okay, I don’t want to talk to anybody. You know what? I’m going to text Brené. I’m just going to be like, “Hey, having a hard time but thought of you.” So, I’m going to write that down on my to-do list. How can I feel healthy today? Well, I sure as hell am not in the mood to go to the gym, let’s say. I’m tired, I’m exhausted. You know what? I’m just going to drink a lot of extra water today. Or, I am going to take a disco nap, a 20-minute nap at some point today. And I put that on my to-do list.

KW: How can I feel purposeful today? Well, what can I do? What can I do? Maybe I’m going to read the paper and find out more… I don’t even know where Ukraine is on a map, I’m going to do that. I don’t even understand what the phrase “defund the police” means, I’m going to look that up. Or donate something to a cause or whatever. But what’s something that taps into purpose? And put that on my to-do list. And that’s it. And start a practice of doing that. And a lot of times what I find answering those questions does, it tells me, “Oh, I’m in struggle.” Like, how can I feel healthy today? I don’t want to feel healthy today. Okay, what was that about? So, then you say, “You know what? I just need to be gentle with myself.” How can I feel purposeful? I don’t know. How can I feel purposeful? Okay, what’s one little thing I can do? A little tiny thing I could get educated on something. I can ask. And having that starts to make you feel like, “Okay. Well, I’m doing something.”

KW: Even if what the doing something is, is stepping back a bit and taking a break and gathering that energy, because now it feels thoughtful and intentional, and you’ll cut yourself some slack when you do that. And I think that’s just really important to be able to recognize and acknowledge where you are in that ebb and flow, where you are in the rhythm, because that identification of that is what’s going to help you get back in the rhythm again, and get back in that ebb and flow, and figure out what you can do.

BB: God, I love this conversation. I even started, before you even told me about waxing and waning and ebbing and flowing and seasons, I actually said, “I can’t get settled in the earth.”

KW: Mm-hmm.

BB: The earth is shifting underneath me. And then, I’m trying to move the earth to match my feet, instead of…

KW: Moving with the earth.

BB: Moving with the earth. Yeah, I’m going to work this metaphor to death now. But for me, what you’re talking about is getting grounded. Those three questions are grounding.

KW: Yes.

BB: Like, to get moved. And it’s so funny, the connection thing. Steve the other day was like, “God, what are you watching?” And I was like, “I’m watching my show.” He’s like, “Why are you watching all these mysteries in France, in French?” And I was like, “Because the U.S. mysteries are not far enough away.”


BB: I need to disconnect from the continent, baby. I’m solving shit in France. Like, I have moved on.

KW: In 1843.


BB: I’m gone. Gone.

KW: Sure, absolutely. And I think you said that you’re going to work it to death, that metaphor. But I think that metaphor is really… I mean, just helpful. I think there’s a reason why when we want to calm down, like watching the ocean and watching the waves crash…

BB: Yes.

KW: Like that rhythm thing feels so good, because that’s what we’re all wired to do. We’re wired to do that, that sort of back and forth.

BB: I wish y’all could see her right now, she’s moving. Like, now I’m going to crawl in her lap, hold on.

KW: That’s why we like hammocks. There’s something about that, and just fall into that. Fall into that. Fall into that, because you’re going to get farther that way.

BB: Remind us of the three questions again.

KW: How can I feel healthy? How can I feel connected? How can I feel purposeful? Those are the three questions. Ask yourself that every day. Done it for a week, 10 days. And for me, I journal it. But, again, if all you want to do is just answer those questions. But the point is really just to stop and check in, and just check in. How am I doing? Is this the part of the rhythm where I go hard, and I help and I do stuff? Or is this the part of the rhythm where I need to stop and gather, and gather the energy again and just inhale? Like, when we work out, we inhale and then we put all the effort in when we exhale. But at some point we’ve got to inhale in order to be able to do that again. It’s that back and forth, that flow.

BB: You’re my friend, Karen Walrond.

KW: You’re mine, Brené Brown.


BB: Wow, okay. You need to read Karen’s book. I’ll see you outside somewhere swaying. I’ll know if you’ve read it if we see each other, and instead of shaking hands or fist-bumping, we just sway together. It’s The Lightmaker’s Manifesto: How to Work for Change Without Losing Your Joy. I was looking, I was like, “Hey, my name is at the top of the book,” because I wrote an endorsement for it. And it says, “Karen Walrond shines her light so we can find our own.” Well, God bless America, truer words have never been spoken than today, right?

KW: Oh, thank you so much. I appreciate that.

BB: Yeah. I’ve lost my way a little bit, and just knowing is not enough. I’m not doing, I’m not practicing.

KW: Sabbatical.

BB: Goddamn. I’ll see y’all next year, I’m on a one year…


BB: I am going to take some time, and I don’t know what it’s going to look like, but I am going to take a sabbatical and I’m going to take long enough that I get bored.

KW: Yeah.

BB: I’m going to call your ass and be like, “I’m losing my mind.”

KW: I’m like, “You’re just restless. Get bored. Get bored.”

BB: Thank you for being here.

KW: Always a pleasure, always.

BB: Okay. Y’all can find everything about Karen. Oh, photos too. Will you send photos of the journal?

KW: I definitely will, I promise.

BB: Yeah. I mean, wait until you see them, right? It’s next level. It’s not bullet journaling, because she was doing this before that was even invented. It’s art and journaling and…

KW: Thank you. Making a mess.

BB: But it’s beautiful.

KW: Thank you.

BB: Yeah. You can go to the episode page on, and just look under Unlocking Us or just do a search for Karen Walrond. You’ll also find on Unlocking Us, we did a two-part podcast on just the book, where we talked about some really hard and good important things. Yeah. Y’all stay awkward, brave, and kind. And let’s end with the three questions.

KW: How can I feel connected? How can I feel healthy? How can I feel purposeful?

BB: Karen Walrond right here. Boom. Thank you.

KW: My pleasure.


BB: Unlocking Us is a Spotify original from Parcast, it’s hosted by me, Brené Brown. It’s produced by Max Cutler, Kristen Acevedo, Carleigh Madden, and Tristan McNeil, and by Weird Lucy Productions. Sound design by Tristan McNeil and music is by the amazing Carrie Rodriguez and the amazing Gina Chavez.

© 2022 Brené Brown Education and Research Group, LLC. All rights reserved.

Brown, B. (Host). (2022, Mar 9). Brené with Karen Walrond on Accessing Joy and Finding Connection in the Midst of Struggle. [Audio podcast episode]. In Unlocking Us with Brené Brown. Parcast Network.

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