Kimberly Warner: “Can only ruin your life if it ruins your character, otherwise it cannot harm you”

I started this project as a search for understanding. It was a way to learn to thrive with my own chronic condition. As I come to know these inspiring, brave, and creative unfixed humans, it’s clear that Unfixed is so much more than my own discovery — it’s a shared experience. Together, we are learning to find […]

The Thrive Global Community welcomes voices from many spheres on our open platform. We publish pieces as written by outside contributors with a wide range of opinions, which don’t necessarily reflect our own. Community stories are not commissioned by our editorial team and must meet our guidelines prior to being published.

I started this project as a search for understanding. It was a way to learn to thrive with my own chronic condition. As I come to know these inspiring, brave, and creative unfixed humans, it’s clear that Unfixed is so much more than my own discovery — it’s a shared experience. Together, we are learning to find joy, happiness and fulfillment under any circumstance and under any condition — even during a global pandemic. As we mine the resources within ourselves, gleaming insight from our adversity, it is becoming more and more clear that this segment of the population — those living with chronic conditions — may have a heightened version of uncertainty in their lives. But at the end of the day, every human on this planet is unfixed. Adversity is inescapable. We all can learn from the lives of those who are unable to escape pain and difficulty, who live with it every moment of every day, and are using the pressure of their lives to transform themselves into more virtuous, kind, resilient and compassionate human beings.

As a part of our series about “Filmmakers Making A Social Impact” I had the pleasure of interviewing Kimberly Warner, an award-winning filmmaker based in Oregon. After earning degrees in pre-med and biology at Colorado College, and in the midst of working on her masters degree at National University of Naturopathic Treatment, Kimberly picked up a camera for the first time in her life and abruptly changed the course of her life. Telling stories, educating and evoking conversation through images and film became her passion.

Thank you so much for doing this interview with us! Before we dive in, our readers would love to get to know you a bit. Can you share your “backstory” that brought you to this career?

Filmmaking captured my heart a decade ago. Prior to picking up a camera, I had been immersed in graduate school studying acupuncture and Classical Chinese Treatment. My lifelong desire to understand social, emotional and physical wellness had landed me along more traditional paths of study at first — biology with a pre-Treatment track, ethnobotanical Treatment and then classical Chinese Treatment and acupuncture — but a deeper yearning to educate, advocate and inspire instead of just treat, kept reshaping my studies.

Ten years ago I began using a camera as my main tool for telling stories, asking questions, evoking conversation and empowering others to do the same. I am discovering now that “wellness” is so much more than pills, herbs and cures. It’s an on-going dialog with ourselves, our values and our purpose as we navigate the inevitable challenges of life within ourselves and our communities. Turning a camera toward these conversations is redefining health, wellness and what “living a good life” looks like for me and while a doctor’s salary would sometimes be nice, I am endlessly grateful to be exploring these topics through the transformational and redemptive capacities of storytelling.

Can you share the funniest or most interesting story that occurred to you in the course of your filmmaking career?

Which one do you want? A room full of children, their string instruments and a pile of puppies? A U-Haul full of half-naked CPR dummies? A jar of severed prop toes? I have a collage of favorite moments I keep in my back pocket, pulling them out especially during long grant or script writing sessions when production feels light years away.

I do return over and over again to the resounding joy of collaboration that is at the heart of filmmaking. My short film 9 had an elaborate, small town street scene that involved a lot of coordination between actors, fire and smoke special effects, extras and crew members as well as the town itself. We were lucky to have the cooperation from the city and the businesses on the street that would need to be transformed after dark. One of the buildings was a tall, five story retirement home and we were concerned about noise levels keeping some of the residents up into the early hours of the morning. Of course, if we didn’t get permission from the residents, I knew I’d have to start over and search for a new location. But it was so lovely! Everything about the location was perfect — it looked like a set from a Hollywood backlot — cobblestone streets, historic storefronts and vintage street lamps.

Not only did we get the green light from the retirement facility, but on the evening of filming, many of the residents’ windows were wide open all night long — curious faces occasionally peering down onto the street. One woman told us she had planned to take sleep meds to get through it but instead chose to sit in her favorite chair and watch the action all night long. In short, the town opened their hearts to us.

The experience was a source of pride, collaboration and community for everyone involved. After we wrapped the next day and were heading home, I was shocked to receive a call from the city’s special events permitting department to let me know they were tearing up our check. The permit was granted at no cost. Sometimes you can’t put a price on experience and in the case of that one magical evening in a small, unsung town, everyone involved became a star.

Who are some of the most interesting people you have interacted with? What was that like? Do you have any stories?

That’s a really hard question. Everyone I work with is fascinating — both in front of the camera and behind. I grew up in rural Wisconsin with a strong sense that “the world out there” was way out of reach and way cooler than I’d ever be. I think some of that will never die — every time I meet someone new, my debriefing session with my husband always sounds a bit like “Wow, this person! They’re amazing! I can’t believe it! You’ve got to hear this!” Of course, time has a nice way of bringing me back into reality but I still believe at the heart of it, everyone has something beautiful to share — sometimes it just takes a little effort to mine it.

I am currently working with twenty incredible people on a feature documentary called Unfixed. It’s about humans living with chronic, debilitating conditions who are learning to turn their messy, uncomfortable and painful journeys into fuller definitions of surviving and thriving. Originally I intended to only focus on two or three subjects but after in-depth phone interviews with dozens of people in the US and UK, I fell in love with the diversity of their experiences and created a way for twenty of us to be engaged in the filming process for an entire year. (I’ll go into depth on that in a later question.)

But to answer your question, I will pick one person that is fresh on my mind right now. One of our subjects, Brian Nice, is an accomplished fashion photographer, athlete and Traumatic Brain Injury survivor. He had two bleeds as a result of a cavernous malformation in the brain. Most people do not survive this condition but after two surgeries and a decade of dedicated physical therapy, he’s still with us. Brian is one of those unforgettable people who will can make you laugh until your gut hurts, weep with empathy and then punctuate it all with another joke.

What is remarkable about Brian’s journey is his unwillingness to throw in the towel on his chosen craft. He is bound to a wheelchair, his hands shake uncontrollably and he sees double unless he wears his signature eye patch. Given these circumstances, many would think photography is a thing of the past. Instead, Brian says it’s important to show the world how he sees now, which in his words is “like living inside a Picasso painting.” He uses a Holga camera now and chooses to not have a counter-weight to counteract his shaking. Instead, the double-exposure effect gives the viewer a glimpse into his unique and surreal perspective.

Talking with Brian, it is clear that art is therapy. Coordinating his hands and his vision to create an image is a physically arduous and therapeutic task but even more, it’s clear that continuing to take photographs is his way of elevating and even celebrating his new way of seeing. Brian’s condition certainly entered him into the hard school of adaptation ten years ago and there’s nothing easy about it. He doesn’t sugar-coat his moment-to-moment struggles to exist. But his perseverance, appreciation for art and bottomless appetite for good (and bad) jokes is a testament to Brian’s strength of character and the powerful impact it has on anyone lucky enough to be in his presence.

What are some of the most interesting or exciting projects you are working on now?

Currently I’m the creator, director and co-producer of the feature documentary Unfixed (mentioned in a previous question.) Unfixed is an inside look at a community of people learning to thrive with chronic conditions. In a culture obsessed with fixer-upper stories and solutions, these individuals wake up each day without a cure. But each, in their own way, is learning how to make their unfixed path a heroic journey.

In 2015 I developed a neurological disorder called Mal de Débarquement Syndrome or MdDS that manifests as a never-ending perception of rocking, bobbing or swaying. The unsteadiness that I live with feels like the ground is constantly moving under my feet. Laying down or closing my eyes does not make it stop. Whatever surface I’m on trampolines or turns to liquid and my equilibrium is always trying to correct for it. There is no cure.

As months turned to years, my sense of self dissipated as my relationship to my body, my career and my community faded. Some call this the dark night of the soul or midlife crisis. Because there is terminology for it means I’m not alone. Our stories are different but many of us know what it feels like to try to hold onto the last skinny roots of a former identity as the entire cliff falls away. Just below the veneer of “the perfect life” we all know that living is hard and the list of reasons really isn’t that long. Fear. Loneliness. Helplessness. Pain. It’s a scary place to be when you think the rest of the world is going to keep on going while you’re stuck trying to figure out how to put your pants back on.

I found myself longing to learn from people who, like myself, didn’t have a cure on the horizon but were still seeking to live full, purposeful lives — people saying “yes” to the messy, uncomfortable, painful journey of being alive and learning to incorporate their conditions into a bigger, more vital definition of themselves.

So I turned my own experience as a documentarian into an opportunity to find these people. Beginning in early 2020 I assembled what I call the Unfixed Community. Each month, these twenty unforgettable people create self-recorded, monthly videos, answering a question I raise at the beginning of every month. Raw, honest unpolished moments stream in fifteen days later and then my team edits together segments of this content to create a collective response to a topic pertaining to chronic illness. They are from many walks of life: a salty lawyer, turned artist turned public speaker, a Black teenager, a Buddhist, a Hispanic veteran of the coast guard. Some are living with the aftermath of a cerebral stroke, others with autoimmune disease, degenerative neurological diseases or daily debilitating migraines.

Seeking out these subjects for the film, engaging with and learning from their lives, empowering them to tell their own stories is becoming my own way of saying “yes.” I am documenting the process, but I am also very much in the process. I am part of the community. And like everyone, we struggle some days more than others. We check in. We give each other grace. We offer kindness and empathy. While our symptoms differ, we all desire to live well. And through this project, we are learning to do this together.

Which people in history inspire you the most? Why?

The Stoic philosopher Marcus Aurelius had some great ideas that still have the potential to radically change how we live today. Adversity is inherent to life. Aurelius decided it was important to embrace this fact instead of try to wish or pray it away, and using it as an opportunity to act from wisdom, justice, temperance and courage.

It’s natural to want obstacles and pain to disappear. But do you know anyone who has successfully removed hardship from their lives? Five years ago when I developed Mal de Débarquement Syndrome, I tried everything within my power to make it go away — countless visits to neurologists, naturopaths, osteopaths, ENT’s, physical therapists and psychiatrists. You name it, I tried it. My entire sense of purpose and self-worth was wrapped up in fixing myself. As you might imagine, after two years of failing in my conquest, I was left with a deep sense of hopelessness and worthlessness — not to mention the depression and anxiety that accompanied my already unnerving symptoms.

Aurelius believes that hardship “can only ruin your life if it ruins your character, otherwise it cannot harm you.” My compulsion to root out my own pain undoubtedly ruined my character in those first two years. All my values were displaced by one, nagging obsession — finding a cure. My sense of worth was consumed by living fixed instead of living well. Five years later, I am grateful to have the perspective of my short-sightedness during those initial years — how my inability to accept my experience actually caused more suffering. Acceptance doesn’t mean resignation. I would whole-heartedly welcome a cure and I still try new therapies to help the symptoms. The difference now however, is that my life’s purpose isn’t wrapped up in getting better. Through accepting my condition, I allow it to teach me, crack me open to the vulnerabilities of being alive and practice kindness toward suffering. If I am unable to be compassionate to my own pain, how would I ever be able to be present with it in another? Experiences of irrepressible grace and compassion live hand in hand with hardship and I believe real life initiation, not scholarly understanding, opens us to the truth of this paradox.

Lets now shift to the main focus of our interview, how are you using your success to bring goodness to the world? Can you share with us the meaningful or exciting social impact causes you are working on right now?

The personal and societal challenges of living with chronic illness is really entering the spotlight for me as I work on my documentary Unfixed. The majority of Americans have at least one chronic illness, and as many as 1 in 5 have multiple chronic illnesses. Many of these are more manageable, such as asthma or diabetes. Some are chronic and immediately life-threatening, such as heart disease or cancer. As the population ages, though, and Treatment advances, more and more people are living with chronic, disabling disorders that dramatically upend their lives — personally, psychologically, professionally, and financially. Pain and other neurological impacts, changes to mobility, and struggles with mental health and capacity are just some of the effects that come from these chronic conditions.

The medical professions are increasingly learning to serve and communicate with people living with chronic conditions. In western Treatment, illness has long been treated, understandably, as an enemy to vanquish. Diseases are a problem to be fixed. This language pervades our health communication strategies. As a result, our culture is obsessed with fixer-upper stories, miracle cures, and pill-popping solutions. Our movies are animated by these stories, our TV medical shows dubbed, tongue-in-cheek, “diseases of the week” and “Chasing the Cure.” For many Americans, though, including myself, our illnesses cannot be wished away. We cannot change the channel. We are, as I say, unfixed.

The unfixed person is learning to see the world differently. Uncertainty has become a certainty. They’re learning that pain and joy can exist simultaneously. They haven’t turned their back to the possibility of healing or a cure to their condition, but they’re learning to engage with life despite the lack of a fix. More often than not, they have reordered their lives to prioritize relationships, creativity and learning over status, acceptance and position. Our biology does everything in its power to fix us. But when biology fails, the unfixed person embraces adaptation in its place.

I feel that we need more models for how to live a powerful, unfixed life — a life liberated from inflexible notions of how we must feel physically or mentally in order to live fully. Life that embraces a beautiful chaos. An unfixed human may be in pain but is learning to integrate it into a larger definition of their life. They may feel the limitations of their body, but their spirits are bold and positively engaged with themselves, their families or their communities. They may even be dying, but actively, consciously so. Unfixed aims, through the telling of these stories, to uncover people who are finding ways, grandiose or intimate, public or private, to find meaning and purpose through their unique story.

The documentary follows our subjects’ personal arcs closely and is engaging them through the duration of the pandemic. In many ways, the pandemic arc is an abbreviated snapshot of what someone with chronic illness will live with for the rest of their lives. We are investigating these paralleling storylines closely. What is it like living with uncertainty? What are the challenges and the positives that can come from uncertain times? How do loss, grief, anger and helplessness live in someone with chronic illness? How do they live collectively on the planet right now?

What are the coping mechanisms the chronically ill have learned to help them come to terms, find hope and acceptance within situations outside their control? And lastly, how do we thrive under these conditions? How do we unconditionally live a life full of purpose and meaning whether we have chronic migraines, Lou Gehrig’s disease, cancer, or are under quarantine?

I started this project as a search for understanding. It was a way to learn to thrive with my own chronic condition. As I come to know these inspiring, brave, and creative unfixed humans, it’s clear that Unfixed is so much more than my own discovery — it’s a shared experience. Together, we are learning to find joy, happiness and fulfillment under any circumstance and under any condition — even during a global pandemic. As we mine the resources within ourselves, gleaming insight from our adversity, it is becoming more and more clear that this segment of the population — those living with chronic conditions — may have a heightened version of uncertainty in their lives. But at the end of the day, every human on this planet is unfixed. Adversity is inescapable. We all can learn from the lives of those who are unable to escape pain and difficulty, who live with it every moment of every day, and are using the pressure of their lives to transform themselves into more virtuous, kind, resilient and compassionate human beings.

Many of us have ideas, dreams, and passions, but never manifest it. But you did. Was there an Aha Moment” that made you decide that you were actually going to step up and take action for this cause? What was that final trigger?

My “aha moment” happened more through personal desperation than anything else. I wish I could say the initial motivation was altruistic!

After struggling with Mal de Débarquement Syndrome for two and a half years, endless doctor visits, cycles of hope with new treatments followed by hopelessness, anxiety, terror and a constant inability to understand what was happening inside my brain, I was forced to reexamine every one of my assumptions about healing. I found myself asking these questions:

Are we in control of our wellbeing?

What role do family, community and societal conditioning play in our pathologies and healing?

Pain is inevitable but is suffering truly optional?

Do our broken parts ultimately long to be healed or just held and what virtues develop in us when we accept and allow our illnesses to transform us?

How do we learn to say “yes” to all of life’s experiences, even when they’re terrifying and painful?

And, finally, how do we simultaneously learn to embrace and accept these challenges but also continue to be advocates for the alleviation of suffering in our fellow humans?

A family member planted a seed around this time of questioning. She said, “Kimberly, what would it be like to live with this condition forever? How would you do that?” I remember it made me really uncomfortable but it stayed with me and over time, it grew, festered and pushed me into wanting to pursue this inquiry, not just within my own life but in other’s lives, in people living with a diversity of complex conditions and finding ways to cope and thrive in a multitude of ways. At the time I was the farthest thing from thriving and engaging with my own life and purpose. My purpose was consumed with going to specialists and watching the threads of my former life disappear and my pursuit of a fix taking its place. So when the seed grew and the hard, relentless and redemptive work of time wedged open the possibility of acceptance in my heart, I realized I needed mentors and models to show me the way.

This is how the documentary Unfixed began. Now, eight months into the project, “Aha Moments” are becoming a regular part of the journey. Each month, when I receive the subjects’ self-recorded videos, I am renewed and stunned by their submissions. They are growing empathy from suffering, kindness from hopelessness and rejection and a spirit of community and sharing from isolation. No matter how much our collective species resists hardship, it really is the key to fostering lifelong virtues, and I see these qualities emerging and shining in every individual in the film.

Can you tell us a story about a particular individual who was impacted or helped by your cause?

I wish I could answer this one about five years from now. I don’t want to fabricate an answer here. My honest truth is that I’m only at the beginning stages of my journey in advocating for people with chronic illness. I am still very much a student and finding my voice with my own condition. Eight months into production I certainly have heard positive feedback — the film journey is helping individuals grapple more honestly with their experience, they feel less alone, they feel more empowered to advocate for themselves and are seeing their condition in a new light.

But to really know the answer to this question, we need the test of time. I have been living with MdDS for five years but only two of those years have I been willing to open to a new sense of purpose and vitality that can coexist with my pain. I’m testing the unfixed theory out on myself and it’s ringing true for me and for some of the subjects in the film. I also know it won’t resonate with everyone and some even resist the term “unfixed” as if it’s a glass-half-empty philosophy — that by focusing on the parts of us that don’t fit into the cure-based model of health, we are turning our backs on hope, positivity and a cure. My motivation for doing this documentary is to ask these questions, challenge our notions of what a good life is supposed to feel like and hopefully create a more inclusive playing field for human expression — one that includes suffering, uncertainty and unpredictability and values these experiences as part of what makes a human heart shine in the most incomprehensible of ways.

Are there three things that individuals, society or the government can do to support you in this effort?

1)The most important thing that needs to happen is for individuals to deeply and honestly examine why disability and illness makes them uncomfortable. It will be difficult to make change in society, in services and in policy unless people are willing to first face their own frailty and learn to embrace vulnerability with compassion instead of fear. We may think this statement applies to someone else, but how often do we decide to not engage with someone in a wheelchair, a child with intellectual disability, someone next to us on the train with Tourette’s Syndrome, a friend who has chronic pain and is falling into a deep well of depression? Are we frightened by the possibility that this could be us? Are we afraid we might say the wrong thing? What would happen if we engaged with people unlike us instead of turning away?

2)There is an emerging field in Treatment called Narrative Treatment. One of the core principles of narrative Treatment is that receiving patients’ stories helps to build empathy in physicians and, in turn, improves the quality of care. A number of recent studies have shown that higher levels of physician empathy may be associated with more positive outcomes in patients. A few universities now offer this advanced degree and I sometimes imagine the scenario where every medical student is required to supplement their education with this training. Patients would leave doctor visits feeling more empowered by their experiences and engaged with their treatment plans. Caregivers would have a better understanding of how to best support their loved ones. Sickness and disability in general may have the potential to be elevated into their proper place in society — as natural and powerful teachers in our lives — instead of experiences that diminish our character.

3)Something else I’d like to see in our health care system is an appointed health care advocate for anyone needing extra assistance navigating the medical, disability and insurance systems. I know this profession already exists but they aren’t prevalent and for those lucky enough to have had one, say they are indispensable. Learning to live with the new circumstances of one’s condition is hard enough. Add to that the endless filing out of forms, disability applications and mediating conversations between caregivers and practitioners and it’s not hard to understand why people with chronic illness feel buried by daily existence. If our primary care practitioners had the ability to engage a health care advocate from the onset of illness, paid for through our insurance plans, a lot of the logistical stresses of being sick could be carried by a professional so patients could direct their energy toward their own mental and emotional well-being.

What are your “5 things I wish someone told me when I first started” and why. Please share a story or example for each.

  1. Read, Pema Chodrin’s — The Wisdom of no escape

I received this little book when I was 19. I read it in one sitting and had I been introduced sooner, I likely would’ve been spared a lot of personal agony during my teens. The message is simple. Lean in to the difficult stuff. Treat hardship as opportunity. Apply this to our own personal obstacles as well as those we encounter in our communities, our work and our relationships. “Amor Fati” is a term the Stoic philosophers use, meaning “Love everything.” We can’t escape the challenges ahead of us but we can choose our response — to see every obstacle in our path as if it’s exactly where we need to be. We can’t escape the obstacle in the path. The obstacle IS the path.

2. Never stop taking pictures and videos for yourself

It’s easy to get bogged down in the details of scripts, grant writing, team management and the infinite minutiae of making a film and getting it off the ground. I have been derailed by details and lost sight of my original passion for filmmaking many times. My best remedy for this is to step outside, go on a short road trip or explore a new part of your neighborhood with a camera. Any camera. As a photographer friend, Chase Jarvis, once said, “The best camera is the one that’s with you.” It doesn’t take long for the spark to return, the pure joy of observation, composition, meeting life with curiosity and using our cameras to document and craft what we experience into something meaningful.

3. Find partnerships in like-minded organizations and communities

Filmmaking is not a solo-sport, especially documentary filmmaking. During pre-production on Unfixed I realized it wasn’t going to be hard finding subjects for the film but I needed experts in the field as well. Some dedicated online research revealed a wealth of organizations and advocates within the chronic illness communities. Mutually beneficial relationships with them didn’t happen overnight but I devoted a lot of our pre-production time to learning from and dialoging with the organizations that supported my vision. Currently we have seven partnerships, each with a unique angle and approach to advocating for those living with chronic conditions. Through these relationships we are not only significantly growing our audience but there is a rich, cross-pollination of information and content that is grounding the Unfixed documentary’s inquiry and message in real-world efforts.

4. “Treat success and failure, both these imposters, the same”

My dad loved this quote, casually sharing it over dinner conversations, but I didn’t give it much credence in my youth. Getting good grades, advancing to higher levels in my ballet training, receiving awards — these all felt good and like any other teen, I wanted more. Conversely, a string of injuries and traumatic events outside of my control felt like personal failures and instead of seeing them as a natural part of being alive, they slowly chiseled away at my sense of self-worth. I drew my identity from successes not from set-backs. This resistance to failure didn’t paralyze me, I’m too impulsive for that. But when things didn’t turn out the way I’d planned (which happens all the time!) I would often withdraw into myself, afraid of my own messy, imperfect existence. I learned to connect with others through one half of myself, leaving the more vulnerable bits to fester in my solitude. Now, a recovering perfectionist, I can confidently say that some of the most creative and rewarding experiences I’ve had are born from failure, from things not working out as planned. Welcoming success and failure into our lives shifts our values away from personal gain and toward a life motivated by virtue, courage and compassion.

5. “Don’t go to film school” — Werner Herzog

I laughed out loud when I read this in an interview with the great filmmaker Werner Herzog. While I don’t 100% adhere to this statement (and I doubt he does either), I do agree that life experience can’t be taught in school. Herzog said that instead of school, get a multitude of jobs — factories, farms, gas stations, schools. Filmmakers are storytellers. In order to tell great stories, we need to get our hands dirty with life. This is where we meet the unusual characters who will become our protagonists and our villains. This is where our assumptions about life will be challenged and tested and where we begin to formulate questions about our communities and our society that are driven by our own personal experience.

If you could tell other young people one thing about why they should consider making a positive impact on our environment or society, like you, what would you tell them?

To be honest, I’m not sure I would tell a young person they “should” consider anything unless it’s an authentic curiosity. Too often phrases like “positive impact” and “contribution to society” or even “service” connote obvious careers in social justice, advocacy and civic involvement. I want to emphasize that humans make positive impacts in the world through an infinite number of paths. Many of us would argue our lives have been saved by art, poetry, music and literature. Others are transformed and bring positivity into their lives and the lives of others through nature — gardening, homesteading, creating and sharing healthy meals with family and friends. And what about the athletes? Do they push their muscles and coordination in order to bring change into the world or are they compelled by the magnificent potential of the body and teamwork, motivating us in our own lives to be better versions of ourselves when their ten thousand hours overcome obstacles and triumph?

Have you ever noticed how when you give undivided, unbiased attention to anyone or anything, it becomes precious or at the very least, interesting? Being led by a voracious curiosity and using this as a force of positive action in the world has the power to not only foster a childlike wonder for existence, but it can transform relationships, abrogate prejudice and build stronger, healthier communities. It’s a win-win for everyone when someone decides to approach all of life’s challenges and opportunities with curiosity, love and attention.

So this would be my recommendation to youth — follow your greatest curiosities, work hard and devote yourself to asking questions and pursuing the truth you are seeking. Someone will listen. Someone will be grateful for your work. Someone will pick up your torch and take it to the next level of discovery and possibility.

We are very blessed that many other Social Impact Heroes read this column. Is there a person in the world, or in the US, whom you would like to collaborate with, and why? He or she might see this. 🙂

Maria Popova! She is a one-woman empire of curiosity and exploration into what it means to live a decent and rewarding life. She has devoted her existence to the search for truth, beauty and meaning, mining literature, science, art and philosophy from every corner of the earth and then explicates her learnings on her colossal blog titled Brain Pickings. It has been my internet browser’s opening screen for over a decade. Her daily entries are a compass for my thoughts, a lighthouse to guide me home and a deep taproot to nourish exactly where I am. Collaborating with this fascinating, wise and wildly inquisitive human would be my version of traveling the outer-limits of space.

Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?

My dear, in the midst of hate, I found there was, within me, an invincible love.

In the midst of tears, I found there was, within me, an invincible smile.

In the midst of chaos, I found there was, within me, an invincible calm.

I realized, through it all, that…

In the midst of winter, I found there was, within me, an invincible summer.

And that makes me happy.

For it says that no matter how hard the world pushes against me,

within me, there’s something stronger-

something better, pushing right back.

— Albert Camus

The poem by the French philosopher Albert Camus is my compass and has revealed its wisdom over and over again as I navigate life with Mal de Débarquement Syndrome. The symptoms I live with never go away, there is a constant sensation that my body is unmoored on a stormy sea. The inherent, physiological response to this is to brace against it and resist, which only causes more tension and anxiety. So the idea that Camus presents — “In the midst of chaos, I found there was, within me, an invincible calm” — this really strikes me as the core of my work. Don’t get me wrong, it’s not easy. It’s a moment to moment practice to relax with the sensations and allow them to co-exist with the rest of me.

I am discovering that through this practice, there really is an unconditional peace and calm that can hold the turmoil. In mindfulness meditation, it’s called awareness or the witness. I sometimes like to imagine it as the part of myself watching the movie of my life. She’s not the one experiencing the pain but she’s also not emotionally unattached. For me, Camus’ “invincible calm” arrives when I can observe the wild perceptions of my brain while simultaneously holding them. Allowing them. And in my best moments, even loving them.

How can our readers follow you online?

The Unfixed website is a great place to start — From there you can navigate to all the social media buttons, sign up for the Unfixed monthly newsletter and subscribe to our Unfixed Community YouTube Channel. We are also now streaming on The Disorder Channel, which you can find on your Roku or Amazon Fire devices. My personal website is and Instagram handle is kimberly__warner (that’s two underscores) if you’re into photos of cats, chickens and all the green, wild things that restore me every moment of every day.

This was great, thank you so much for sharing your story and doing this with us. We wish you continued success!

    Share your comments below. Please read our commenting guidelines before posting. If you have a concern about a comment, report it here.

    You might also like...


    “Forgive Yourself ”, Michael Nova of and Parveen Panwar, Mr. Activated

    by Parveen Panwar, Mr. Activated

    Living in the Limbo of Chronic Illness

    by Mary Wilson

    Overcoming Caregiver Catch-22

    by Joanne Gouaux
    We use cookies on our site to give you the best experience possible. By continuing to browse the site, you agree to this use. For more information on how we use cookies, see our Privacy Policy.