Do you have stories inside of you that you would love to share as part of your legacy but no one has heard them because you don’t think of yourself as a writer? What would you say if I told you that by starting a journaling practice a few times a week you can learn to express yourself authentically, which can transform not only your own life but the lives of others.?…
Do you have stories inside of you that you would love to share as part of your legacy but no one has heard them because you don’t think of yourself as a writer? What would you say if I told you that by starting a journaling practice a few times a week you can learn to express yourself authentically, which can transform not only your own life but the lives of others? Well, our guest Nkem says you can by starting a simple journaling practice.
Some Benefits of Starting a Journaling Practice
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Nkem, Peggie Kirkland
Peggie Kirkland 00:04
Welcome to the Momma's Motivational Messages podcast, where women learn to stop putting themselves on the back burner and start paying attention to caring for themselves first, so they can be better for everyone else in their lives. I know you'll be inspired by the stories of resiliency and starting over of health and self healing, of gaining clarity through journaling, of showing self love through world travel, and the list goes on. I encourage you to relax and enjoy. I'm your host Peggie Kirkland PK.
Peggie Kirkland 00:46
Today we're welcoming to the show Nkem. Nkem is a writing coach, writer, a podcast host of Wellspring Words, the podcast, and a writing workshop facilitator who focuses on writing and wellness. Welcome to the show, Nkem. I'm so excited to have you here today.
Thank you for having me. Peggi. I'm super happy to be here.
Now Nkem, I mentioned what you do in the introduction. But what can you share about your background that would help my listening audience to get to know who Nkem is, like where did you grow up? What's your educational background? How did you get into podcasting? That kind of stuff?
Sure, sure. Yeah, good questions. And it's always so interesting when I'm asked this, because my journey so far has taken such a weird route. And the weirdness of it just shows me that I'm really where I'm supposed to be because it's beyond what I could have expected for myself. So I'm Nigerian American. First generation, Nigerian. I was born in New Jersey, my parents are from Nigeria, and then moved to California at some point, and then moved back to the east coast to New York City to go to university. I went to FIT, which is the Fashion Institute of Technology, and I studied fashion business management. And I was so so so into fashion. In fact, I was an artist and a fashion designer from when I was really young. I started sewing by myself at 10. And I was just super, super, super, super creative.
And so when I studied fashion business, when I was in school, I was super into it. I was like, like, just loving everything. And then I got out of school and went into the fashion industry. And I was like, Oh no, this is not for me, this is not fulfilling this is not this, I don't feel any real connection to what I'm producing because I'm just kind of like doing the numbers and random things. It doesn't feel connective. And but at the same time simultaneously, I was always teaching writing.
So while I was in university, I worked at the Writing Studio at FIT for three years. And then after I graduated, I was always seeking these opportunities to to to tutor and writing and to teach writing, whether they were paid or volunteer, like I just always wanted to be in that world because I always felt so connected to people through words. And we didn't even need to talk like, of course, there would be some some talking. But mostly our communication would be through how they're communicating their ideas and their projects through their words and what I'm learning about them through that. And it took me a long time to really articulate that I was able to see who people kind of truly were through their words. I just had that feeling for a long time. Yeah.
And so after leaving the fashion industry and working in nonprofit business development for about six months, and that job not working out, I went back to the fashion industry, because I was like, New York City got to pay this rent. And then I got fired from that job. I was like, You know what, I'm not gonna be here jumping around from job to job stressing myself out just to pay like, you know, $1,200 in rent when I could live overseas. So I, I actually realized the dream that I had for a long time to teach English overseas.
And so I went to Korea for a year in 2017, and taught English. Yeah, taught English to grade school students and a couple of high school students. And it was really a blast. But that was still me in this transitional phase of am I, like who am I basically, because I had just left the fashion industry and a lot of people teach English overseas when they don't know what to do. So that's really where I was.
But in that time, I had connected with somebody who I met at a conference many years ago, a Writing Centers conference, who worked in Abu Dhabi, in the UAE, at New York University, Abu Dhabi. And I was just sitting there chatting with her catching up and telling her what I was doing in life and she was like, you know, I'm leaving my position and you'd be the perfect person to replace me in the Writing Program.
Peggie Kirkland 04:46
Wow, wow. Okay.
So I applied. It took like six months because, you know, large institutions and their processes. It took a long time, but I I got the job there. And then I went to Abu Dhabi and I worked in New York University, Abu Dhabi for three years in the writing program as a writing instructor, and like, just completely deepened my whole life in terms of writing, pedagogy, rhetoric and composition, and, and creative writing, and deep thinking and analysis, and all types of things, so it was really academic at that point.
And then I was like, at towards the end of that, and when the pandemic was hitting, and I was like, you know, what I really want to know who the writer is, like, that's really where my passion was starting to shift towards, and I found myself sort of like life coaching my, my students a lot, along with teaching them the writing skills and everything. So yeah, then I left that job. And I decided to, like fully go into what I'm passionate about, and the podcasting came because I love to talk.
I mean, you could probably tell by now, I love to talk and I love to talk about things that I'm passionate about. And I would have these conversations about writing and spirituality and wellness with people, like the friends I had in the circles, and maybe some of them would be really, really good, which would, like inspired me to start a podcast, and some of them would be kind of dull, which would really inspire me to start a podcast as well, because when someone is agreeing to be a guest on my podcast, they know that they're coming for this kind of discussion. So we can go full in there don't have to be any filters. We know what we're talking about. So that's kind of how the podcasting came into play.
Well, it sounds like you had quite a colorful few years there.
Peggie Kirkland 06:28
And that, you know, it's interesting how that alignment comes to us. And how things sort of happen, almost, divinely, if you will. And I think if you're listening, and if you're connected, that you can hear those messages and act on them. And so I it sounds like that's what that whole journey to South Korea, and then the UAE. It sounds as though that's what that was like for you.
Absolutely. And I don't want to make it seem like it was just an easy like, someone called me on the phone and said, Here's where you're going next. And I picked up when I went. It was difficult. These things are difficult to know what what is actually the truth. Am I following this instinct, this urge because I'm just being impulsive or because it's actually something that I'm meant to be doing. And of course, it turned out to be the latter. But you don't know that until you actually trust and take that leap of faith and do it.
Peggie Kirkland 07:26
So I'm a little bit curious about the title of your podcast. Wellspring. Can you share Wellspringwords. Is there some significance to that?
Absolutely. So I have to back up a little bit and talk briefly about Wellspringwords.love; www.Wellspringwords.love which is a digital anthology that centers on storytelling, the voices, the writing of women of color, specifically. And so it's an online journal that really just highlights the creative expression of women of color. And that I started that last June because I needed something to do during the summer when I was just staying at home and not traveling and everything.
And Wellspring words, if you take the word Wellspring, it's really a source of abundance, like when you have a wellspring of something, it's like it's never ending. It's all around and it's never depleted. And then the words, it's just because mostly, you know, practically, because we're talking about writing, but when we, we kind of translate that over into the verbal space. There, there are never ending thoughts and musings and imaginations that are happening imaginings I should say, that are happening within us that we don't always get the chance to or feel comfortable with sharing.
So taking this idea of Wellspringwords is saying that you have a lot to share; you have a lot to express and to feel. And the podcast is one of those places where you can do that, you know, like you're not going to be cut off or what you have to say is valid, even if what you're saying might be controversial. There are always ways to discuss around that because you're human with your own thoughts and, and experiences and interactions and whatnot. And that's kind of the offshoot from Wellspringwords.love the digital anthology, where when you're writing, it's the same thing.
I know, for me, and for other writers who I work with and who I surround myself with it's like, okay, if I don't right now, am I going to have the words to say; if I don't like pick up the pen and write this thing that this inspiration that dropped into my mind right now? Am I going to, is it going to come later? And my thought is like, yes, it will because it came now, you're not, It's not like you only have a certain amount of words, you only have one book inside you; you know, you only have one article to write, or one song and that's it. And if you don't get it right, then you know, you failed. There, there're a wellspring of words, wellspring of thoughts and, and everything that I mentioned previously.
And so my listening audience is comprised of Gen X women, that's women anywhere from 43 or so to just about 60 and the kinds of things and concerns that they have are around trying to find work-life balance, dealing with discrimination in the workplace, dealing with having their voices muted.
Peggie Kirkland 10:18
I'm curious to know, how can you use writing to help those women?
Oh, I love this. I'm getting the chills because, because yes, this is this is a huge, a huge issue. And I feel it as a deep empath. Even without like seeing somebody how the, the effect of silencing of being silenced and silencing yourself, it is so pervasive in our society. And it is something that is projected, like we projected onto other people when we don't know how to see ourselves truly.
And so writing comes into play, when you can actually bring those thoughts and musings and feelings out from the inner sanctum, I call it or the inner space; sometimes it's not a Sanctum for people, sometimes it's like, I don't even want to go in there, you know, to bring it out from that space and put it onto the paper. And whether or not you delete, you know, what you write, or you throw out the paper or you keep it forever, you've actually expressed your truth.
And before we talk about, you know, the systems, because there are some serious systems that are that sometimes feel like they're preventing us from actually expressing and being ourselves and not being silenced. We have to recognize that for ourselves. Can we see ourselves truly? Can we honor ourselves? Because I believe that we have the power, like the power is all within us. And I think we're probably aligned in that thought, you know, like if we, if we follow this divine calling of who we are, and how we feel we would be more fulfilled than we are now. So writing comes into play when we're really thinking about how to express ourselves to ourselves first, and then secondary comes other people, tertiary comes larger systems, but it needs to happen with ourselves first,
As I was doing my research, I noticed that you said something when you were in Mexico City, you said, "As I reflect, I realize that over the past year, I changed, I transitioned from a mostly external creature, to a mostly internal one." And as we talk about the benefits of writing as a release and as a transformative piece, and as a way of reclaiming ourselves. What would you say hearing that quote again?
Yeah. Oh, gosh, yeah, that that one I wrote that is really difficult. Such a difficult, I could just feel it right now, such a difficult moment, when I was just like, kind of contending and reconciling my selves because I mean, if you if you would ever meet me in person, I'm super bright. I'm a Leo said, if anyone's into astrology, a Leo sun, so very bright, and like extroverted, can be very extroverted, but I was coming to learn about myself.
And that's the thing when it comes to writing, it helps you to learn, when you're putting words and feelings and try to try to put words to the feelings anyway, sometimes, I was coming to learn that I'm not just an extroverted person who has everything on her sleeve, or, you know, there's a lot that's happening inside me that the world doesn't know, and that I don't even really know. And so these things are coming out, because they want to, like this is part of my truth. And I need to find a way to make sure that I honor them and that I give light to these, these places that these these parts of me that are usually so subconscious or so internal are so just in my emotions and feelings.
So yeah, it makes me think of like the importance of writing even more so in that way. Or maybe like some people don't really feel so connected to writing as a thing, because there could be a lot of shame, or even some trauma associated with writing when people were in school, and they didn't do the thing that they were supposed to do or say it the way they were supposed to say and then they got, yeah, they got castigated because of that. And so really, I'm talking about authentic expression, I use writing as my tool. And it tends to be very helpful, even if people don't don't like gravitate to writing naturally. If you were to begin a journaling practice or to begin a writing practice of some sort, you will for sure start to begin to express yourself more authentically.
So what would that look like, beginning a journaling practice?
Any practice is is something that happens with consistency with and has some sort of periodic, like elements, right? So it's daily or it's weekly, I'd say daily or weekly, I wouldn't say monthly, it's probably too long in between each session of writing. But for someone, let's say who's just starting out and wants to, you know, get to know themselves a little bit more and say, okay, like, let's put pause on all of the external things that are asking me to be this person or that person or that person. Who am I?
You could start with that question in mind, and write that at the top of your, of a new notebook. You know, starting a new journey with a new notebook, a new journal, new pen and write, "Who am I?" at the top and, and what I usually go to first and how I guide my clients and workshop participants is free write. Put the pen to the paper or your fingers to the keyboard and just write for three to five minutes, nonstop, whatever comes out comes out. And the hard part here is not actually writing because you can write the thoughts you can say, I'm supposed to be writing right now. And right now I'm supposed to be writing. You could write anything; the hard part comes when you want to judge yourself for what you're writing. And that's where you know that there is something to investigate. I mean, that's the way that I see it.
Obviously, this is all coming from my own lived experience in my expertise and my perception, but that's where you know, there's something to investigate. And I would say just like every day, or every once a week, if you're starting out, and it's something that's a little bit overwhelming, ask yourself a new question. Or think about something that resonated with you that week, something that somebody said or concept that kept coming to mind, put it at the top of your paper and just free write about it. Because then you start to understand how you think, what you think about, you know, what are the thoughts that are going on in your head? And it's it's the kind of self-therapeutic mechanism.
As we were talking a little bit before the interview, we talked about the fact that you're a millennial, and that the listening audience is a generational cohort, or two above that.
Peggie Kirkland 16:26
So as they're listening to this, they're thinking they could be thinking, well, you can tell that she has writing in her blood, listen to the way she speaks. She's gota cmmand of the language. She's younger, and you know how it is with these millennials, they have no problem sharing what's going on in their lives every day, in every way, on every platform.
Peggie Kirkland 16:50
What would you say to someone who might be thinking that way about the power and benefit of journaling? And just writing in general?
Yeah, I mean, I think that that's probably a lot of those thoughts are true. I mean, I don't have any, I'm not here to combat that, you know, There're generational differences, for sure. But it doesn't take away, as you said, the power and benefit of writing, because first before we even bring up any social media platform, or any other kind of way that, you know, millennials or Gen Z, present themselves to the world. In this technological era, the benefit of writing, and, and, and the self-inquiry is for the self. That's where it comes in first. It's not for anybody else, it's for the self and what you do with that, for me, now, you know, I'm transitioning from being like a writing instructor, a writing teacher to being a writer as well. So the benefit for me comes from sharing that before, you know, after I do the whole inquiry and working with myself, then I share it. And that's part of my own journey.
But I would hope that if anyone is thinking, those kind of thoughts like oh, you know, she's 28. Right now, I'm 28. She's 28. She's, you know, this is her background, of course, like, this is who she is; I hope that that kind of separate thought doesn't prevent someone from taking a tool that can be super useful and using it for themselves, because it doesn't have to be an us versus them kind of thing. I know, that's a common rhetoric that's, you know, common, you know, discourse that's happening right now, about, you know, this is what Gen Z do this is what Millennials are, this is what Gen X do baby boomers, everything. But we're all humans at the same time. And we're all going through things, and it's really just a tool that we can use for ourselves.
Oh, that's awesome. That that makes me more comfortable. But I mean, I don't have a problem with that. Because writing has been something I've been doing. I think I first discovered myself or my elementary school teacher discovered me as a writer when I was seven years old,
Peggie Kirkland 18:55
enter a competition with people who were two grades above me.
Peggie Kirkland 18:59
I never quite heard what happened to the prize. Anyway, that's for another show I guess. You said something that I think is pretty powerful self-nquiry is for the self, and one of the things one of the themes of my podcast is the umbrella of self-love, and you know, self-care, through self-love. And I read something. Again, I really loved your writings, by the way.
Peggie Kirkland 19:35
They are so beautiful and so resonant. You said, it was titled,"A moment in time, coming home to your true self and writing." And a quote that I picked out was, "People outside of me do not have the power to dictate how much I love myself." And then later on you say you ask yourself the question "Did, I just plant a seed of self-love?"
Peggie Kirkland 20:05
And I could hear, Oh, I hear what that does to you.
Peggie Kirkland 20:09
And so I'm wondering, have you ever struggled with self-love, loving yourself?
Yes,Pggie the answer is yes. Which which human hasn't, and you know, when you read that quote back to me, I thank you, by the way for bringing that up, because I haven't read that piece in a long time. And you are always planting seeds of self-doubt, or,
Peggie Kirkland 20:34
always planting seeds of self, others are always planting and you know, if we think about ourselves as gardens, our minds as gardens, our hearts, our inner world as a garden, that whatever grows from that garden is then reflected in the outer world, it's important for us to plant the seeds of self-love. And for me, these days self-love is is really looking at the holistic picture of, how do I put it?
I mean, if I were to treat myself as both a friend and a daughter, I don't have children, right, but I have, I love people. And I love young people, especially. And I love to empower young people. So if I see myself as my younger self, a friend, a daughter, a student, someone who I really want to nurture, but I don't want to control that's really the important element not to control is asking myself, okay, is what I'm doing now beneficial to my my thoughts, my feeling, my embodied experience of life. Is what I'm eating now beneficial to me, knowing how I feel how I would feel after eating this is? Who I'm talking to now, is this somebody who aligns with me? Do I always feel like my ego is up when I'm with this person?
All of these questions really come down to loving myself because to love as I've you know, I've written about it in order for me to process and to reflect on what it actually means to love. Because this word love is really thrown around a lot. And it really confuses me the way that we use it in society. So I've come to this kind of definition that to love is to be, like to truly just be in who you are at the moment just to have this presence and say, I know that I am here on this earth as human. And I feel all these things, and I have all these experiences. But that doesn't change that I'm here and I'm present, I'm living this life fully.
And so whatever that means, in terms of like, my interactions with people, I have to come back and recenter and say, do these actions align with the way that I love myself? And can I feel comfortable being in this moment? If I can't feel comfortable being in this moment that I need to investigate, and something needs to shift. And that yeah, that's I mean, that's where I'm at right now. But daily, you know, I have to remind myself, and planting those seeds of self-love, and to water those, those plants, I guess you can use the metaphor, right? Water those those plants and continue that self-love. And conversations like this really do amplify that for me.
Peggie Kirkland 23:01
Wow, it sounds like one of the I don't want to say byproducts, because that seems to put it in a lower place, if you will. But one of the benefits of writing is this whole idea of connecting a person to their own well being and as a vehicle of personal development, if you Yeah. Can you touch on that a little bit?
Yeah, absolutely.So it got me what you just said right there got me thinking about one of the, one of the themes that I like to use in some of the workshops that I run, and it's just the present experience, like really being present in the moment. And so I translate this to poetry, because the way that I see poetry is kind of like taking those in between spaces of the moments and talking about them or feeling into them.
So for instance, you having I'm having a conversation with you. And there is a moment between what I say and what you hear, and then you hear it and then you you resonate with it, and maybe saying and you give me feedback. So instead of talking about what we're talking about, I might write about the what I'm thinking about or feeling in those moments between me finishing my thought and you receiving it, and then you given me the feedback.
And that for me is the poetry but we don't really get to experience that if we're too busy in our minds, thinking about, you know, what, I have to do this, or is this person going to or, you know, is what I'm saying, and planting those seeds of self doubt, like I mentioned earlier, but if we're just present in the moment, and really just take the time to really observe where we're at, how we're feeling, and even the external right, like, if you're sitting on a couch or a bed, what does it feel like to you? And what does that feeling remind you of?
That is really that's a way of understanding how you understand the world and understanding how you understand yourself and I hope that these concepts are not too esoteric or too, like, abstract, because for me, they feel super concrete. And I think that I'm a little, you know, worried about them being too abstract because we live in a world that really just makes us try to focus on like, what's going on outside of us, what do other people think of us and worrying about the future and all things that we really can't control. So that's why I tried to bring it back to the present moment. And, and that piece, if that makes sense,
Peggie Kirkland 25:27
That makes perfect sense to me. But if we were to come back in, as it were, from what you're calling the abstract, which to me, was quite concrete. And I hope for our listening audience as well. Let's talk a little bit about the role of perfection in the lives of women. I remember I did a podcast where I talk about the honor roll, something that's called honor roll hangover, where, you know, people tend to, and especially women, they want everything done perfectly. And as a result, they find themselves really stressed out, physically exhausted, mentally, mentally drained, sleep deprived, and all of that, all of those things. And you say about that, "...because I may never feel quite perfect, but may always hold the desire to achieve perfection deeply within me, the process of intentionally living in grace is upheld as a tenet of the self I'm becoming through the process of shedding."
Peggie Kirkland 26:42
What are your thoughts about perfection and the impact it has on the lives of people, and women specifically?
Yeah, oh, I don't want to be all more of it. It's the but I just have to say, because it feels this way, perfection is deadly. This idea of reaching perfection is truly deadly, and not just deadly to the human physical body, which it can be when it gets to the extreme of the stress that comes with trying to achieve perfection. But deadly in the sense of when you have a dream, and you want to achieve this dream. And you instead of allowing the dream to take place and taking like the appropriate measures to reach that dream, just trying to make it perfect and trying to achieve the very thing that you pictured in your mind. I mean, that can kill a dream.
Peggie Kirkland 27:37
That can kill someone's drive; it can. And once that a one a dream like that is killed, it really just takes away the ability for a person to want to pursue other dreams, because it's not like we only have one dream in our lives and in our minds and in our hearts, you know? So I think that this, this idea of reaching perfection is deadly because whoever defined perfection for us, no one; it's a word. But what is the definition of that word in that particular area? Like what does it mean to be a perfect daughter? What does it mean to be a perfect friend, lover, partner, you know, parent, writer, what does it mean? What does it mean? And we need to define that for ourselves.
I know that this is not anything revolutionary to say. But we do need to define what it looks like to achieve a point that we feel satisfied with. And so that takes away this whole concept of perfection. Because when we say okay, I'm going to define what perfection means for me, you still might be or we still might be trying to reach something that is not really achievable, attainable at the end of the day.
But if we say, okay, if I if I'm trying to work to this point, let's say right now I'm writing a novel, I'm trying to work to a point where I'm satisfied with what I produce, I can read through the story, I can feel the characters in the story. And I'm not, I'm not criticizing how I'm writing. That, for me feels good. And that feels satisfying. So I think it's really just about reclaiming some of these definitions that have been used to suppress us to silence us, but actually now using them to our benefit.
And so I bring that up to say, listen, when we talk about self-care, generally, a lot of focus is put on yoga, healthy eating, diet, exercise, therapy, and all of those are important. But today, we sort of went a little beyond that, in taking a look at how writing can help us to, as I said earlier, and I think you said as well, to reclaim ourselves to help us to go deeper inside and really find out who we are, especially in a society that doesn't really give us the space or the grace to do that. And so as we come to the end of our interview, Nkem, sadly, what is one thing you would want listeners to know and remember, from our time here together? Too many things, right?
Too many things, and i'm like, Nkem, just be intuitive about it. Don't think with your heart, think with it. Don't think with your mind, think with your heart. And what's coming to me is that you alone have the power. And that power doesn't necessarily need to be forceful or violent power, it is power as in, you are a creator, like you. You have this whole world in you. And you're living in a vibrant world outside of you. And you have the power to not allow whatever's happening in society to necessarily affect you. And I know it's easier said than done. But just to know that you have it can start that process of learning who you are, and actually using that power. You have it.
Peggie Kirkland 31:00
Thank you Nkem. And if you're listening out there, I hope you are. You can get started today just by working with the prompt that that Nkem gave us starting with, "Who am I?" And just free writing. Is that correct? Nkem?
That's right. That's right. That's right.
Peggie Kirkland 31:18
Okay, well, I'm sorry, we have to go now. We're wrapping it up. Nkem, how can listeners get in touch with you if they wanted to benefit from this extensive knowledge base that you have, and this opportunity to really explore some of the stories, we all have stories, some of them have been bottled up inside of us forever. Sometimes our children don't know our stories, because depending on the generation you're from, you just don't tell certain stories. I think it's time to let those stories out. So if someone is listening, and they're ready to do that, or ready to at least explore the possibility with you? How can they find you?
Yes,absolutely. And I just want to say beautifully said I agree with you. 100%.
Peggie Kirkland 32:04
Yeah, there are many ways to connect with me, I do one on one coaching where if you're interested, let's say you're interested in seeing what that would look like to have some support in this getting to know yourself and writing more into yourself and into your life, you can find me on www.bynkem.co. And you can find my one on one coaching there and schedule a session for us to chat and get to know each other and see what might work best. If you're someone who uses Instagram. You could find me @naturallyfree123. And then also if you're looking for more kind of group sessions, where there's a sacred space and container held for these kinds of creative explorations, then I hold workshops via Wellspringwords that I mentioned earlier in the episode. And you can find that information at www.Wellspringwords.love and on Instagram @Wellspringwords.
Okay. And all of these will be linked in the show notes, so you don't have to worry about that. Well, Nkem, thank you so much. It's been an absolute joy to have you here today. Thank you very much for all of the wisdom and knowledge and passion that you poured out and poured into us today. I really appreciate it.
Thank you so much. Peggie it's been a wonderful way to start the day and you really just enliven the spirit in me. So thank you.
Peggie Kirkland 33:37
If you've been inspired and encouraged by the positive messages in today's show, please take a moment to rate and review the show on Apple podcast. This will help to keep the show alive. And remember, sharing is caring. So don't forget to share these gems with friends and family strangers to if you like, let them know it's available wherever they listen to their podcast. I'm counting on you to share the love. Until next time, this is PK sending you much light and a whole lot of love.