Monday, June 15, 2015

Conversation 32: Cait Reynolds

Hello all! Grab a cup of something wonderful and have a seat, because you are in for a real treat today. 

Today, it is my honor and privilege to welcome to the blog someone who personally inspires the living hell out of me: the amazing Cait Reynolds!

Welcome, Cait! Tell us a bit about yourself.

CR: I'm Cait Reynolds. I like to say I'm a writer, transplanter, lover, and human being...not necessarily in that order. I am terrible at writing bios about myself and will do almost anything to get someone to do it for me. Like...bake cookies. Or do their laundry. Or something. But, I'll do my best here.

I live in Boston with my husband and our snuggly, neurotic, metrosexual diva of a dog, Denny. I like Jack on the Rocks, good cheese, and books about the history of science. I speak French and understand enough Italian to get myself in trouble. Oh, I have a kidney transplant - going on 8 years now. Woo! Go me! 

Finally, I'm not hallucinating for no reason. I'm hallucinating myself successful. I'll let you all know if it works.
You are one of the most fascinating people it has ever been my privilege to come across in life, honestly. You’re inspired, inspiring, witty, fun, and mind-bogglingly smart. I am more than a little in awe!

That said, here are your questions…

Q1: You’ve been through medical challenges that most people could not begin to fathom, yet you have a tenacious grip on life and a will to be happy that is astounding. Could you tell us a little about your philosophy on life and happiness?

CR: I believe that happiness is a choice. We can't always control what happens to us, but we ALWAYS have a choice about how we react to it and deal with it. That choice is pretty much the only guaranteed thing in life that we have control over. I choose to be happy and optimistic because the alternative seems to me to be a waste of precious minutes of life when I could have been happy. I want to die knowing I spent my time on earth being happy.

I know everyone follows their own path, but for me, I'm pretty hardass about plowing ahead and being disciplined in choosing happiness. Even in the worst situations of my life, I have known deep down that once the initial grief and shock passed, I would steel myself to focusing on choosing to be positive and optimistic. 

Choosing happiness for me is like a natural reflex now. It wasn't always. But, just like working out, it's a habit and a strength you develop over time, attempts, failures, and eventually with ease. I refuse to be passive or be a victim because now that I know I have this deep well of determination, being anything other way seems like the equivalent of being an emotional couch potato.

Q2: What are the things that feed your soul? I know popcorn feeds your body: I love it too and would also definitely take it with me to a desert island, no doubt… (See Cait’s blog for more on her love of popcorn.)

CR: Strangely enough, reading non-fiction about history and science makes me so happy. This world is so amazing, and everything from the history of astronomy to ancient Chinese detective novels, to how much carpenters were paid in Renaissance Italy is all so engrossing and fascinating to me. I want to know ALL THE THINGS!

I find Japanese wood block print art very soothing and relaxing to look at. I love all kinds of art, but with my hyperactive brain, I make it a point to find things that are visually soothing.

My true happy place is at the beach. I love jumping in the ocean, beach combing, sitting under the umbrella with a non-fiction book, or just staring at the changing light on the water. You just can't have a bad day at the ocean. I even love cloudy days on the water. 

Basically, my soul is like a Pinterest board gone way, way out of control. But, I like to think it keeps me interesting. 

Q3: That it does! You are always moving, going, doing, being, experiencing, adventuring. What is something on your dream list that you haven’t done yet and how do you plan to accomplish it?

CR: There are three main places on my bucket list that I am going to get to: Mongolia, Easter Island, and the Arctic Circle. I'm fascinated by remoteness, vastness, and historical mystery.

Ironically, the easiest one is the Arctic Circle. My best friend lives in Alaska, so all I have to do is show up on her doorstep, and boom, we are Arctic-Circle-bound.

I have actually figured out how to get to Easter Island. You go JFK to Santiago, Chile, and then fly 8 hours out into the Pacific to the island. Interestingly enough, Easter Island has a Holiday Inn, a Hertz Rent-a-Car, and a modern medical facility. Rapanui-ho!

In terms of Mongolia, you go LAX to Seoul, South Korea, and from there, you catch Korean Air to Ulaan Batur. I want to ride across the steppe (or at least a little part of it) and go traipsing about for a bit in the Gobi Desert. 

I also want to run the Boston Marathon. We shall see. 

Q4: There is so much we can learn from you… Tell me, what advice would you give to anyone who may be facing health and medical challenges on an ongoing basis? What is the best way to keep your chin up and your heart set on happiness, despite it all?

CR: There are two parts to my answer for this. 

First, practice choosing happiness. This isn't just like flipping a switch. You have to work at it, building up a reflex and habit that eventually kicks in automatically. Choosing happiness isn't about ignoring awful truths or the reality of your circumstances. It's about saying, "Okay, what is good in this situation? What am I grateful for? Is there anything I can work on that might change things for me?" Choosing happiness is about taking ownership and control over the one thing you will always have control over - your mind and heart. 

Second, I like to say, "Until you're dead, you've got a future." But, bear with me here. If you have a future (a day, a week, a decade), then you have time. Time implies opportunity to make choices. Ergo, you will always have a choice. So, choose to say, "You know what? This thing that is happening to me sucks, but I'm not wasting my precious life energy on moping. I'm going to go sit in the sunshine and read an awesome book. Or, I'm going to make it a point this week to talk to three friends I haven't seen in a while."

Just...choose happiness...with all your heart.
Q5: *bonus question for everyone* Do you collect anything? If so, why?

CR: You mean aside from my small obsession with handbags and Saoya jewelry from France? LOL! 

Actually, I collect editions of "Beauty and the Beast." It's my favorite fairytale. I have several versions in French that I bought in Paris, and I have some very rare versions illustrated by Mercer Mayer and Errol LeCain. 

Wow. That is all I can say at the end of this interview: Wow. I am going to be thinking about it for a long time, and admiring you, endlessly!

Thank you so much for spending some of your precious time with us today, I truly appreciate it!

You can all find out more about awesome Cait and her writing by visiting her at:

See you all next time for another fascinating Clockwork Conversation, during our continuing June Interview Extravaganza!

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