Mastering the Art of Wholeness One Day at a Time

We’re born whole.
All of us, in our own way.

When we’re little we’re confident in knowing who we are without question or doubt. We simply, are. As we master the art of motor-skills we reach out towards the world with each waking moment. We look under rocks to see what’s hiding there, we wonder how it is that light can dance on water, & we’re pretty darn tootin’ sure that there’s nothing better in the world that spending a day at the beach.

From our first breath we know what we like (hugs!) and what we don’t (being hungry/wet/etc). We also know what makes us giggle & what fills our minds with endless curiosity.

In the beginning all of our milestones are celebrated, too. Our first smile, our first words, our first spaghetti dinner (so beautifully messy), our first steps. As we grow, we’re told we can do anything – and I mean anything – if only we put our minds to it & work hard. More than anything though, we’re safe in knowing that we’re special.

Unique.
Individual.
Quirky.
Beautifully nuanced.
If we’re lucky, we maintain our awe when it comes to celebrating the differences in others. Mostly though, we learn that sameness is safer.

That said, when we’re young we find wonder in others. In their skills and in their successes. We play games, form teams, and work towards a common goal all for the sake of being together and growing together. We move through childhood hungry to learn and ready to take on the world. Oh that big, wide world. It really is our oyster in the beginning, isn’t it? 

Everyone tells us the world is our oyster. Which even now at 38yrs old makes me giggle. I love the idea of the world being something interesting & shiny – but as someone who doesn’t particularly enjoy oysters, I’d rather the world was a musical & approach life like that.

But, I digress…

As a 4yr old, I loved playing sports. 

I’ve loved being a part of a team for almost my entire life. There’s something inherently grounding about knowing you’ve got the backs of your best buds on the field of play & that they know you’ve got theirs. Trust is established. Sometimes it’s broken. But mostly playing sports means we’re learning how different skillsets make a group of people stronger than a single individual. Also, beyond learning how to play by an established set of rules, teamwork builds up confidence & resilience in all of us. 

When I was four years old, I started playing softball. Even though I was one of the youngest kids on the team I loved the physical, mental, & emotional aspects of playing a game I loved. In my first year, I excelled. In fact, I took out “The Little Slugger Award.” Not only was I quick rounding the bases on little feet, but I could connect my bat with a pitch more often than not. For full disclosure, my Dad played for the Los Angeles Dodgers back in his Glory Days – as Springsteen calls them – so I could catch a pop-fly & throw a ball before I could even put one foot in front of the other.

If anyone was swinging for the fences it was Little Cass (fun fact:I’m still swinging for proverbial fences daily). Believe you me not only did I play the part, I looked it too. I swaggered like a little slugger & owned my athleticism. I wore high Bobby-socks with stripes, short golden shorts, a purple jersey, & a visor that reigned in my pig-tails (just) while keeping the sun from my eyes. I walked confident in knowing myself. I stepped up to the plate without fear of a slider or curve-ball. More than that, I loved my bruised shins & skinned knees.

Off the diamond, I took pride in out-pacing the boys at foot races. 
Eat.
My.
Dust.
Stinky, beautiful, silly boys.

Ah to be a child of summer in Southern California, eh? 

Through primary, middle, high school I was comfortable in my skin. I was comfortable in my competitive & curious nature. I was passionate about my dreams & was single-minded about doing what was right by my own moral compass. The Little Slugger was growing up. And, she was growing into who she knew she could be. 

While sports were a big part of my maturing into an adult, music was as well. I played clarinet in the marching band & sat as second-chair in our concert band. From 8yrs old I took lessons, practiced a ton, & honed my skills when it came to ye olde liquorice stick. NERD ALERT! Am I right?

When little doubts about the coolness of clarinet playing started to trickle in to my psyche in high school, I swapped the clarinet for the piano. Whilst most of my peers were deep into honky tonk country twang or emo music like Nine Inch Nails, I was into Elton John. He was all glitter, glamour, & amazingness (he still is). So, following in Uncle Elton’s footsteps, I took to playing rock music on a classical instrument. I love it then & I love it now.

Through teenager-hood, I kept my nose clean, studied hard, played music, learned experimental photography, wrote poetry, played sports & got more & more excited about the whole “the world is your oyster” thing we’d all been promised.

Fast forward to university life.

After high-school I had one last hoorah of a summer to share with friends before heading north up the 101 through LA & Ventura & on to my college campus. Upon arriving in a new town full of people I didn’t know, I became more introverted than I’d ever been. My confidence took a hit. But, Santa Barbara is a magical place & I met people & made friends quickly. I also found solace in the comforting nature of playing sports.  

I had dreams, too. BIG dreams. Whilst at UCSB – a school that had tenured professors & Nobel Laureates at our disposal – I wanted to do two things with my life: the first was to play tambourine in Elton John’s band, and failing that – I wanted to travel the world as a photo-journalist.

My poor parents were forking out dinero like no one’s business to educate me & here I wanted to live on the road shaking whatever I could shake (yes, including that which my momma gave me…) in a band of older, foreign men. Oy vey! My parents, being the amazing humans they are, laughed the Elton fantasy off & masterfully steered me towards a more secure future. When I graduated from UCSB after four years with a degree in History & Spanish Language/Literature, I put my tambourine away. Tucked gently away in a box or a dresser drawer somewhere.

Graduation day was a trip! Family from across the USA came to celebrate. Missouri mixed with So-Cal mixed with the UK. It was magical, fast, & the earth seemed to be spinning at a pace that was faster than normal. At one point in the day though it seemed as if the world stopped for a moment & pivoted in place. Actually, the world didn’t pivot – what it did was it threw me for a good ‘ol 360.

Looking back I reckon this 360 happens to almost all of us at a big juncture in our lives when we cross the threshold from child to adult. 

Enter working life. 

Whoa, welcome to the real-world, Little Slugger. Where once the world I was told that the world was my proverbial oyster, I learned that wasn’t true. Lots of grit, very few pearls.

The world it seems, is a ladder. And, to climb it, we must start at the bottom rung & climb only as & when we’re allowed to. Your gender, skin colour, economic standing, & culture all determine how quickly you get to move from rung to rung. The rules? They’re the rules & we’ve got to play by them. Yuck.

At the point in life when we learn that we must play by rules we never had a hand in writing, things get uncomfortable. So to become more comfortable, over time – without even realising it – the rules become us. We become them. We don’t question anymore, we simply do what we think is “right.” In doing so we tend to lose ourselves to labels assigned to us by random job titles, undefined skillsets, & somewhat relevant professional experience. We truly believe that this is the only way to be happy & stable & to pay the bills every month when they come due.
Again, yuck.

In today’s modern media world, world we’re connected to our devices & to each other all of the time. There’s no clocking in & out for the most part. We’re tethered to our emails. The pings, buzzes, whizzes, whimpers of notifications tell us we’re busy & important.

We’re always on.
Everything we post, comment on, like or share becomes a part of what is now deemed our “personal brand.” People we don’t even know form opinions on our skills or bankability by the people we follow on LinkedIn & by people with blue-ticks who re-Tweet us on Twitter.

Older Millennials like myself are of an age where we’re the test-cases for a huge social experiment that we’re not sure is going to turn out super amazing for our physical or mental health. We dove into the world of online & digital without nary a look back – & now that’s a lot of what we seem to be doing. Looking back. Social media & the people who built platforms to hook-us (hello dopamine) have a lot to answer for. But so do we, the willing participants of said experiment. When do we decide that enough is enough? I don’t have an answer just yet for this question, but I’m working towards one.

I remember long car drives as a kid. We’d roll down the windows & sing to whatever tape was in the player. Mostly it was Tom Petty or Wynonna Judd. We didn’t have phones to distract us. We took photos without anywhere to post them other than to our friends through the mail or on our bedroom walls.

It’s different now, eh? Do you find it hard to remember disconnected times?
I sure do! In the world we’re working in & navigating today though, we’re on. Logged-in. Liking, sharing, commenting, hash-tagging. To what end though? What I’ve noticed quite a lot recently is that, even though we’re living in new times, we’re still doing things like our parents did before us. And there parents before them. Ad infinitum… 

We get up each morning, get in our cars, hustle kids to school and head in different directions to spend time with people who aren’t our family or loved ones. If we’re lucky, we don’t get stuck in traffic for an hour before arriving at an office where we send emails, cover our asses, and sit in meetings all day.

Only to wash, rinse, repeat day in and day out… year after year… and for what? Security? The ability to intertwine our job title into the fabric of our own importance? 

The longer we play the games of adulthood, the more we believe in a false-idea of becoming who we should be. 

Right here, right now we’re living in an era where anxiety, depression, & suicide rates are sky-rocketing. In the past two trips around the sun I’ve lost six (SIX!) friends to depression & suicide. That’s six too many. We’re a generation of lost kids – kinda. We’re lost not only to others, but to ourselves & we’re digging our heels in deeper & harder when it comes to how things should be. We’re blinded by a blurry past-tense that the generations before us believe we need to bring into focus while living in a present-tense that is just that…tense.

Work-life Balance is BS.

Enter work-life balance.

Never truly-defined, we chase an idea of work-life balance that is, at its core, an illusion. As we chase this illusion, we move further away from who we are at our core. If you can’t define something at scale then how do you attain it? Dunno. But we’ll try! We’re hard workers.

That 4yr old Little Slugger I used to be? Yeah, she became a whisper of a memory that was merely a ghost. A memory. A thing of the past. For many years I learned to dress as someone else & recited lines verbatim from professional up-skilling books like a good corporate citizen. I replaced the Little Slugger in me with a woman in a business suit who straightened her hair every day, wore expensive heels, & donned make up – all in an attempt to hide herself. To fit in. I tucked away the intense blonde curls that used to naturally grow out from my under my cap. While she was away, I missed my Little Slugger. So much.

A few years ago I worked for a company with a great reputation as a place to be employed. My first day on the job was magical. Great people, great vibes & lots to dig into & help with. Not long into my tenure with the business, a senior member of staff took me into a room & told me that I was not, in any form, to communicate outwardly through social media, digital media, or anything IRL without express consent of the business even if said communications were personal & seemingly unimportant.

My opinions? Yeah nah.
They weren’t mine to share anymore.
Huh? Wha? Bacon powder…?
How’s that supposed to work?

Before working for this particular business I’d built myself up a fairly strong personal brand over the course of a decade or so working with some big brands across sectors. I loved the challenge of new tech & media. I loved learning, growing, & sharing ideas. I spoke passionately at conferences on a range of topics spanning from professional to personal & back again. I also stayed sane by writing blogs for myself & an occasional article or three for publications with big readerships. Oh, I was also friends with a whole lot of people from a whole lot of different walks of life.

All of these things were giant red-flags for the company.
I was told I was a risk to the brand.
I was told to stop or else.

Or else.

Long story short:
Over the course of my tenure working for this company I stopped.
I went with the safe route – mostly.
I succumbed to or else.

I stopped tweeting.
I stopped blogging.
I stopped speaking.
I stopped seeing my friends.
I stopped going to the gym.
I stopped taking photos.
I stopped learning.
I stopped calling my family.
I stopped smiling.
I stopping chasing my creative passions.
I stopped being me.
<insert sad panda emoji>

I STOPPED BEING ME! And, I crashed & burned big time emotionally because of it.

For a long time I was angry with the business who’d given me the cease-&-desist order for the hard times I went through. But over time I realised that I’d played the game, their game. And the game won (as did my eventual therapist & her bank account for all of the sessions I needed to un-do the un-doing of me.) I was at fault for not pushing back. I could’ve chosen or else & probably been better for it. I didn’t though.

Toeing the line meant breaking down. My marriage broke down. My confidence broke down. My mental health broke down. My life became something that was not my own. Leaving the job was the biggest gift ever. It took a while for me to stop being angry with myself for playing the game. Especially when I could see it happening in real-time.
But, I’m better now. Much, much better. And, kinder with myself.

There’s hope for all of us, yet.

In truth, we all play the game. And, in playing it we become a part of the machine. So the machine keeps going…slow, steady & unchanging. All the while, we lose pieces of ourselves. We take up less space. We speak up less, and we forget to lift (or fear lifting) others.

Recently there’s been a revival of purpose-driven brands though. Businesses big & small who champion their people & who truly believe that great brands aren’t built from the ground up, but rather from the inside out. When I think of great brands I think of their people. 
I think of the women of Wildfang.
I think of the people who make Patagonia magical.
I also think about Nike.

Nike? Yep! As a business, it seems as though (from the outside looking in) they empower people from all across their organisation to post, create, & curate information about their time working for the businesses. I feel like I know more about the beating heart of the gigantor that is Nike than I do about some local brands closer to home.

I also think about my friend Miri Rodriguez from Microsoft. Miri is a powerhouse. She’s a storyteller, a momma, a friend, a colleague and one helluva human being. She also happens to work for Microsoft. In knowing Miri, I’ve taken a different view of a brand that once was corporate, buttoned-up, cold, & looming in my eyes. 

People matter. 
People being themselves matters.
Good brands aren’t built from the ground up, they’re built from the inside out. 

Life-life Balance rocks my socks.

I have a hot-take on work-life balance: I don’t believe it’s actually a thing.
In fact, I call bullshit on the entire notion of it. Instead, I believe there’s something more attainable & real, I believe in life-life balance.

So many of us talk about the ever-present struggle to attain work-life balance. WORK- LIFE BALANCE. Ahhhh… if only. 

Let me explain, I don’t start & end when I walk into an office or a meeting. Nope, I bring myself – all of myself – along for the ride. The quirks, the silliness, the passion, the belief in a better world. And when I bring my whole self to work, the ensuing trust engendered means the business gets just as much a halo effect from me as I do from working with them. Chasing the unattainable is what our parents & our grandparents did. It’s not what I’m about to commit to. Not for one more day/hour/minute. 

The reality of the work-life balance fallacy is that we’re living in the most connected time ever known to humanity, yet we’re still expected to disconnect from ourselves when we’re at work. Lucky for me, I’ve found a great business to work with that is filled to the gills with people I admire, respect, & like. I’m allowed to be me. All curls & denim & big ideas.

A little while back a colleague of mine lost her father. Her Dad had been ill for a long time & had weathered some scary storms of getting ill & then getting better again. So, when the end was actually nearing she was understandably upset. We’d seen her ride the rollercoaster of grief – hope, sadness, despair. We’ve all been there, all of us.

Here’s where magic happened: Instead of asking her to wipe her tears & park her grief at the door, our leaders wrapped her up & lovingly supported her through some of her darkest days. Watching a trusting relationship between colleagues unfold in real time & with real tears filled my heart. Our friend brought her whole self to work.

She showed up when she could on her terms.
So we showed up for her.

This is what I mean by life-life balance. 

We all get 24 hours in a day. 
We do not stop being who we are when we cross the threshold to an office block. 
We get one life.
One. 

Living it individually & authentically is the only way any of us will ever be truly happy or connected to ourselves, the people around us, & the environment that sustains us.

Back to good.

How do we then find ourselves if we spend most of our time in places where we learn to be anything other than the confident, curious small humans we were waaaaaaay back in the beginning?

We must empower each other in our weakness & walk confidently in our unknowing. Weaponising the unknown or poo-pooing curiosity is like shutting off a tap when you’re already thirsty. In a world that awards a highly curated, overly-perfect ideal of “self” at work, it’s necessary for us to feel comfortable in our own skin. To do this we must allow for imperfection.

What does empowerment look like for me? Well, it means sitting at the boardroom table in double-denim, docs, & a backwards baseball cap while simultaneously being respected for my experience, ideas, and passion. Because, in reality, getting back to who I was when I started out life – hungry to learn, impassioned by the mundane, and driven to help others is where I want to be more than anywhere else.

It’s also where any brand I work for will get the most value from me. Over the past few years I’ve gotten to know myself again. I’ve learned to trust my intuition & I’ve started having playing just for the sake of having fun!

4yr old Cassie, went away for a long time.
I spent almost 20 years pushing the Little Slugger away.
But, lucky for me, she didn’t go too far. 
She’s back & ready to take on the world.
She’s at the plate, smiling & swinging for the fences.
She whispers “Bring on those curve-balls. Bring on those change-ups.”

I don’t have any high socks, short-shorts, or pigtails anymore – well, I do, I just kinda wear them at home when not many people are looking at me – but I am very at home in my skin.
And, I wish the same for you. 

Go on, revisit your passions. I hope, in doing so, that you find your Little Slugger again – that part of yourself that is curious, comfortable, & charging ahead without fear. 

When you re-connect with yourself, confidence & calm are what you’re left with.

Talk about magic! 

Come At Me, 2019! 

It’s January 1st, 2019. I’m writing this from the future. Kind of. 

I’m sitting in my living room in Auckland, New Zealand looking at the ocean. The ball hasn’t yet dropped in NYC & most of the the Northern Hemisphere is still winding-up for a night of frivolity.

From my vantage point, the first sunlight of 2019 just peeking out from behind the clouds & is warming my feet as I sip a coffee. My computer is perched on my lap. It’s peaceful. Quiet. Blissful.

Deep breath in, deep breath out. The tippity-typing sounds of my keyboard are all that I hear (other than a sweet song of our local Tui couple who live in the Kauri tree outside our window), & they’re currently serving to remind me that I’m determined to start this year right – right here & right now. 

After the coffee is finished, that is.

My wife is happy, still lounging in bed. Our daughter is on the couch next to me. Giggling intermittently at something on YouTube, eating Nutrigrain, & regaling me with minute-by-minute updates of how/when/where she met her idol (a Shortland Street actor) on a small town beach somewhere 14 minutes out of Whangamata yesterday morning. 

This life.
This IS The Life.
Idyllic, right?
Yeah, completely. 

As with most new starts, heralding in 2019 with my two beloveds is the best gift I could imagine. We were well abed before the fireworks started exploding over our city last night (lucky for us, we can see & hear them from home) which means we’re well rested & ready to see friends & family today. 

Yes, there will be mimosas ahead.
And no, the diet doesn’t start until tomorrow.
Or, actually, it’s not starting. Screw diets. 

Hugh Jackman (uh huh, the buffed & uber-cut Wolverine himself) recently said that all of the steamed chicken & broccoli in the world is not worth being a TEN. “Be a six, a seven… be anything! Just eat the yummy stuff while you can!” Hugh, I’m with you. I’m eating for curves from here on out, not for speed. 

I digress. Seeing that it is New Year’s Day, I can’t help but look back on the most recent trip around the sun we all made it through. I can say, hand on heart, that last year was a constant lesson in growing up. And thankfully, in growing older.  

I grew up a hundred times last year.
Maybe a thousand if you split big moments into smaller ones.

I grew up in flying to California for work & in driving across the desert to see Elton John in concert for the 21st time in 21 years. This time we had great seats. Seats so great that not only could we see Elton right up close – but that we were invited on stage AND I DANCED ON STAGE while Elton played Saturday Night’s Alright! Holy cow, Batman! If you know me, you can imagine the weight of this moment. A moment that came & went faster than any other moment before or since. This blink-and-you’d-miss-it moment was something my 12yr old self could only ever dream of. Something she dreamt of for decades. And now? Grown up Cassie has cried a lot of happy tears since remembering it. Bucket List dream, tick! 

I grew up in saying “F*ck it!” to the cost of a ticket home for a 4 day turnaround. I hopped on a plane to surprise my hero (my Mom) on her 70th birthday & spent time with my brother & his family in doing so. We got Mom good, too. She was BEYOND surprised & I think it’s fair to say that she had a magical birthday. Talk about money & time well spent. Memories are all we carry with us for life. I grew up going home. I also grew up throwing caution & my bank account to the wind. Invest in people & moments. Always & often. When you can, take a side road or push yourself beyond a well-worn routine. I promise you’ll find magic in the unknown.

I grew up staying close to home & in travelling across oceans & countries to speak on topics close to my heart, & even closer to my profession. Social Media Marketing World, two VidCons, Digital Day Out, Growth Marketing & too many more to count. I grew up as I grew into my own voice. A voice I’ve made quieter throughout my lifetime as not to be seen as too opinionated or obtrusive. F*ck that. I grew into me, into the words I spoke & speak. Instead of running away from having an opinion, I backed myself. I swallowed my anxiety. I found myself in my fear & transformed it into excitement instead.

I grew up when depression hit me. Literally, right in the face. When my wife picked me up off of the concrete floor, the black eye it left was a doozy – but not as much of one as the slog back to finding myself. You see, I’d been lost for a lot longer than I thought. Growing up is hardest when you have to admit you’re not as strong as you think you are. When you showing your weaknesses to others is all you can do to survive. With great support, great insight, unending love, steadfast friends, the best therapy, & the right medication, I worked my way back to me. I am still working my way back to me. And, I’m cool with that. 

I grew up when I learned that kindness is often mistaken for weakness, yet I stood strong in my own skin. Frightened, but safe. I refused to be an asshole just because being an asshole was easy, or everyone else was being one, or because it felt good to be a jerk. I held my tongue when I needed to. And I let it loose when necessary as well.

I grew up by opening up. And I mean really opening up. Talking to people I trust about hard stuff meant I was able to build foundations of stone in relationships instead of falling for the sweet words spoken by people with feet of clay. By sharing my whole self with others I’ve realised that I need to practice what I preach & be kind to myself first. The good news is that I have promised to be nicer to myself. To give myself the space to fail, learn, grow, & repeat. 

I grew up a lot last year. A lot. In ways that perhaps even I’m unaware of right now. I lost friends & made others. I let negativity crawl into my heart & it almost broke me. I also ate far too much Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough ice cream (can someone ever eat too much of it?) I apologised when I messed up – believe me, I messed up my fair share. And, I’ve started to find comfort in relaxing. We don’t always have to pray at the altar of busy-equals-important to be successful. Slowing down is the best way to dive deep & create.  

This year, I’m sure there’ll be just as much (if not more) growing & knowing more about myself, my beloveds, & the world we all share. I truly believe that the journey is what we’re here for. Not a pre-determined destination. 

My hope for 2019 is that I’ll be able to grow older as well as to continue to grow up. Our time here on earth is finite. Each day we get above ground is a blessing. To everyone reading this, I wish you the best of the best. I wish you happiness, kindness, optimism, & adventures. And, as Whitney Houston once crooned to Kevin Costner as he walked across a chilly tarmac & away from their slightly weird love affair “above all this I wish you looooooooooove!”

Bring on this year. It’s bound to be a goodie.  

15 things for 2019 

  1. Just buy the damn ticket home, you’ve got the money (if you don’t, you’ll pay it off.) As often as you can, be with the people that made you. Be in the places that heal you.
  2. Try new things often. Start. Simply, start. Nothing’s scarier that not doing something… so jump in. The water’s fine, I promise.
  3. Enjoy the heck out of routine. Never feel guilty about routines that help you feel grounded. Whether it’s your first sip of a morning coffee, a not-so-secret-dorky-handshake with a colleague, or the way you reach for your toothbrush before bed. Relish in routine when you can.
  4. Talk to your friends. Ask them questions. Listen to what they tell you about yourself. Truly listen. And if you need to pivot or make a few changes in your life, that’s cool. The journey of a thousand miles starts with one step. You’ve got this.
  5. Talk to strangers. Sometimes the most insight you’ll ever find happens in conversations with people who have zero context of who you are or where you’re from. When you’re a blank page to a new person, you get reflected back to you the openness you give. Be open. Laugh often.
  6. Enjoy the hell out of your greatest hits playlist. Why is it that we feel guilty listening to the songs of our youth on repeat when we know there’s a GIANT AMOUNT OF NEW MUSIC happening out in the wide world? I have tried for so long to stay up with the kids. Nah. Not anymore. I reckon we should all relish in tunes that get our motors running. Sing all the songs you love over & over without shame. Repeat is a feature on iTunes for a reason, Team. 
  7. Enjoy your work. This one is very important. It takes remembering that what society says is valid work isn’t actually what validates any of us. If what you do day-in-&-day-out does not feed your soul, find something that does. There’s no such thing as “balance” when it comes to work & life. You only get one life. Treat it as a gift. 
  8. Get outside more. Run. Walk. Jump. Climb. Sit. Sleep on the beach. Breathe in the air. Swim in the ocean. Surf. SUP. Skateboard. Skip to your lou, my darling. Do whatever it is that moves you. Just get outside more.
  9. Prioritise time for yourself. Hand on heart, I am really shitty at this. I give all of my time to others. Well, 99% of it. And, though I love my people, as an introvert I need time to myself to decompress. I love being in my own company & sitting in an emotion or moment & feeling it. Make time for yourself if that’s what you need. Tell those you love what you need & protect your headspace. 
  10. Walk away from drama – or, run from it. This one’s simple. If people don’t make your life better, then they’re making it worse. As with your job, you have the ability to chose who you spend your time & energy on. Spend it wisely. 
  11. Fall in love with the words that other people write – then write your own. I love a good hour or two getting lost in #inspirationalquote hashtags on Instagram. The elegance & eloquence of other people’s pain & passion drives me wild. The musical movement of words on a page fill my soul. And, in turn, I put pen to paper (or fingertips to keyboard). Falling in love with words is my favourite way to while away an afternoon. 
  12. Food is fuel – and FUN. As Hugh Jackman said above – eat. Don’t worry so much about being a TEN. Ten is kinda perfect. Perfect is boring. But, you know what’s never boring? Cake. Eat the damn cake. I’m not saying you should ignore the kale or the broccoli or the sashimi – but along with the inherently healthy, a treat is okay if you’re lucky enough to have one.
  13. Hug your little humans more often than necessary. Cliche alert: they actually do grow up so fast. So, so, so fast. I remember the moment I found out I was pregnant with my daughter as if it was yesterday. The detail, the fear, the excitement. That’s saying something, too, because I can’t even remember what I had for dinner yesterday. I also remember the moment she was born, her first words, holding her & rocking her to sleep 1,000 nights in a row. She’s almost 13yrs old now. She’s her own perfectly imperfect micro-adult. I miss the baby years, HOWEVER I love her now more than ever. And, I still cuddle her, yell out from other rooms how much I love her, & try my best to annoy her, kindly. 
  14. Dance. Anytime, anywhere, with anyone. My wife & I dance basically from sun up to sun down 24/7/366 & we aren’t in the least bit sorry. No music? No worries. Just dance regardless.
  15. Remember, no matter how bad it gets, there’s help. The most important of my list – this is a reminder that hidden behind even the blackest of storm clouds is a summer sun. Asking for help is hard. When I asked for it, I felt like a failure. I felt weak. I felt broken. But you know what, my friends & family helped me get through those feelings. Now I feel strong. I feel worthy. I feel potent. I feel helpful & hopeful. We all fight our own battles. We wage our own wars. If ever you need me, I am here. I see you. 
2018, Wrapped Up.

SELLING MY SOUL TO THE SCROLL

DEAR LORD,  SOMEONE SOMEWHERE PLEASE TAKE MY PHONE AWAY FROM ME!
Hide it from me.

Throw it out the window from the 100thfloor (but, ferchrissakes check for pedestrians below please, I don’t want anyone injured.)

Toss it overboard into the sea – have it swim with the fishes (then retrieve it to dispose of it sustainably if possible.)

Seriously though, please someone help.

I HAVE NO SELF CONTROL & AM ON MY PHONE FOR WORK, PLAY, & COMPLETE MIND-NUMBING RIDICULOUSNESS AT ALL TIMES!!! HELLLLLLLLLLP!

Whew.
Sorry about all of the shouting to start this all off. But, I needed to get that off of my chest. Recently I’ve been struggling with how damn addicted I am to screens, & to scrolling.

Mindlessly, mostly, too.

I’ve been thinking a lot lately about how much more productive a human being I could be out of work hours if I spent less time on any kind of device. Thinking ain’t doing, I know.

But, it wasn’t until the recent iOS update that I was hit squarely between the eyes (seriously, right in the brain) with irrefutable information on how much time I’m spending on my phone. With the new “screen time” data available that I now see – in unmistakeable numbers – just how much of my time I’m wasting scrolling.

The numbers aren’t pretty, Team.

A small story:
Day one after the new iOS update I confidently opened up my phone to check my usage data for the day. I’d had a busy day at work & busy bookends to the day doing the school-run & school pick-ups. Surely I would be an exemplary example of digital mastery and methodical app mastery.

Um, nope.

I’d spend THREE HOURS on my phone on social media alone. I spent 2 hours of that time on Instagram. What the actual f*ck? I couldn’t even remember being on Instagram. Let alone any of the content I’d apparently consumed. Yuck.

From this point, I realized I’d need a self-intervention. After having taken all social media apps off of my phone this time last year – they’d crept back into my daily life & back onto my homescreen. When I say ‘crept’ I mean hit my iphone like an avalanche of time-yet-to-be-wasted. GAH!

From the second day of recording my screen time, it became glaringly obvious that I’m still a tech/social-media addict. I know I’m not alone in this. But, when you’re someone who studies the physiological & psychological effects of new media on our brains – I should be better than Josephine Bloggs at logging off. Right?

Again, nope.

Right now I’m wrestling with taking all social apps off of my phone again. It is definitely time to start putting limits in place to stop myself feeding the feed with a soulless & unending scroll that my attention isn’t even paying attention to.

Because time-wasting is most literally wasting time. And there’s nothing I abhor more than wasting our most precious & unrenewable resource as humans.

Hints

  1. Be super intentional when it comes to your time & attention
    Don’t just be intentional, throw a cape over your shoulders & be SUPER intentional with who & where you spend your time & attention. I have found it pretty hard/frustrating to focus my attention with my phone anywhere within eyesight. To counter my own lack of intestinal fortitude when it comes to ignoring the siren call of my iPhone, I try to put my phone somewhere out of eyeshot from the moment I get home from work. I find myself being pulled back to it like a fish caught on a fishing line. But the more I practice the distance-method of living with tech, the better the results of ignoring the need to feed the feed!

  2. Take the apps that drain the most of your time off of your phone
    This time last year I took all of my social media apps off of my phone. Why? For the same reason that I’ll be doing the same thing again this year: they are a waste of time 99% of the time – for me at least. Mindlessly scrolling in an unaware & numbing way is such a darn waste. By taking apps off of my phone, I’ve foundthat my time online is much better spent. I hop onto a channel, do whatever it is I feel I need to, then hop off. Simple? Seemingly. The urge to tap into another universe (AKA social media) is strong. Going cold-turkey is one way to get more of you back into your days!

  3. Set yourself a time limit for aimless scrolling (chewing gum for the brain)
    If you can’t go app-less on your phone, or you’re prone to aimless scrolling on your desktop – fear not! A good way to get out of the habit of scrolling is to set yourself a time limit. I try to scroll for no more than 15minutes at a time before getting back on track & focussing in on more productive pursuits during the day (or night.) You might need 30 minutes of mindless online socialising to calm your brain a bit – the important thing is to set yourself a realistic limit so that you’re not heading online for a single google search & then look up only to realise you’ve spent ten hours reading through the entire history of the Vikings when they landed in England. Tough cookies though, them Vikings.

  4. Notice what makes you feel good, bad, or indifferent… do more of the former & less of the latter two
    This is so so so important. SUPER important, even. Being present & understanding your gut feelings when you’re online is something a lot of us don’t do well – myself included. It’s hard to make a concerted effort to understand your feelings & emotions when you’re mindlessly scrolling. That said, once you start to understand what makes you feel good, bad, or otherwise, you can curate your feeds to suit more positive interactions. Just because you’re supposed to love Beyoncé & follow kale-eating macro health bloggers doesn’t mean you have to if following them makes you feel a little bit less that the awesome you already are. It’s totally okay to unfollow or never follow the crowd in the first place. You do you, Boo.
  5. Read more books with actual pages
    Whoa. What? Yeah, I know… right? Books with pages. They’re bad for trees, but man alive, they’re sure good for your brain. They don’t have notifications, in-built distractions, or need ad-blockers to keep $hit you’re not interested in from stealing your concentration away. Books with pages are great because you can write in them, you can touch each page as you turn it, & there’s no such thing as an endless scroll. You know how far along you are in a story simply by looking at how deep you’re literally into a book. If there’s one tip in this article I follow fastidiously, it’s this one. Books with pages are modern day rock stars. Truly.

 

IMG_6785

Hello Darkness, My Old Friend

Hello darkness, my old friend
I’ve come to talk with you again
Because a vision softly creeping
Left its seeds while I was sleeping

And the vision that was planted in my brain
Still remains
Within the sound of silence

In restless dreams I walked alone
Narrow streets of cobblestone
‘Neath the halo of a street lamp
I turned my collar to the cold and damp

When my eyes were stabbed by the flash of a neon light
That split the night
And touched the sound of silence

 And in the naked light I saw
Ten thousand people, maybe more
People talking without speaking
People hearing without listening

People writing songs that voices never share
And no one dared
Disturb the sound of silence

Fools, said I, you do not know
Silence like a cancer grows
Hear my words that I might teach you
Take my arms that I might reach you

But my words, like silent raindrops fell
And echoed in the wells of silence

 And the people bowed and prayed
To the neon god they made
And the sign flashed out its warning
In the words that it was forming
And the sign said,

The words of the prophets are written on the subway walls
And tenement halls
And whispered in the sounds of silence

 Ah, the Sounds of Silence.

Simon & Garfunkel’s haunting ode to the darkness & the light is ghostly & beautiful. Throughout the song, two seemingly opposing forces that work together to build deep foundations in the heart of a busy, urban loneliness. Every time I hear this song I get chills.

Every.
Damn.
Time.

I can remember the first time I heard this song. The way goose-bumps crawled down my neck & into my soul. These lyrics weren’t jaunty, twangy or trite. Pop music this was not. The words that threaded together to build a world in my mind seemed to be holding onto the remnants of deep-longing & hurt. That, with a dash of sweetness found in soft voices, helped to cut the bitter taste of it all.

Deep in my little girl’s soul, after hearing this song, I understood completely that becoming life-long friends with darkness would be a beautiful, sometimes wild, ride. So, I did what any buckled up.

And, though I could never put my finger on it, from a young age I dove into finding & exploring the yin & the yang of my being. Through this searching, I learned inner-strength that allowed me to smile through times that usually called for rage or sadness. I also learned to relish in the different ways in which one human could interpret silence.

Diving into language, melodies, & dreams of darkness became an escape for me. A meditative one (though I didn’t have the words to explain it as such until recently.)  For my entire life, I’ve chased the promise of stillness & silence. This chase, unlike others I purposefully lace-up for, is one I’ve always known to be futile – but worthwhile, & beautiful.

Finding Beauty in Uncertainty

Bliss. Living near the edges of doubt & change means that you can see the perfection in the imperfect. You’re able to taste the bitter & the sweet. And, you’re able to accept yourself as whole – even when you’re at your most broken.

All of the elements of personal-fulfilment I’ve chased during 37 trips around the sun have been imperfect. Much like me. Darkness, stillness, sunshine, rainbows. They all coexist in me as a fairly well functioning community. They all have the power to both heal & destroy me in equal measure. Sometimes they do both at the same time. Fulfilment has always been a tug-o-war between healing & destruction. A roll of the dice, even. All taking place in the here and now.

Call it what you will but the two sides of the same coin that I flip to wish upon are really more like vacation destinations that I’ve been to a million times before. When I call “heads!” or “tails!” I’m choosing from two different realities that look the same. They’re both home. And, they’re as familiar as anything. But, they feel completely different.

These are my retreats.

Retreats of the soul.

One of these retreats is a place where I find rest & calm. A place where the morning hustle to get kids to school (only to dive headlong into traffic) is okay. The rush is do-able. Nothing’s really a hassle. My thoughts don’t act as weights that pull me down or scream out at me “BUT YOU COULD BE DOING SO MUCH MORE THAN THIS!” In this place, I can handle anything life throws at me.

This first retreat is where I spend the majority of my time. There’s no laundry pile too tall to break me, no responsibilities too overwhelming to steal my smile, no anger, no doubts, no Mom-guilt, & no rush. This place is basically a forever spa treatment. In this place, the idea & fear of being busy all of the time doesn’t exist. Worries drop away as the sounds of gentle, flowing streams fill my head.

I stretch out on a massage table. Muscles, mind, & soul relax. I can smell special oils. Ah, special oils! Along with the flowing water, I hear the gentle gongs of spiritual music. I breathe in the inviting warmth of glowing candles, drink in the sweetness of human touch, & relish in a pleasurable pain as all of my muscles are worked over.

I love this place. This place heals me. This place empowers & lifts me. Rooms filled with kindness, forgiveness, self-confidence, others willing & able to give freely. If I could, I’d spend quite a lot of time here. Heck, I might just stay on forever. I mean, who wouldn’t, right?

Unfortunately, there’s only ever limited time in the first retreat.

The Dark Side of Retreat

Another place, similar – yet very different to the first – exists in me too. This is a place where I need to steel myself upon entering.  Instead of feeling welcomed or relaxed, I tense up as I open the door to step across a shadowy threshold. The silence, darkness, & stillness work to haunt instead of welcome me. My feelings of inadequacy chase me here, running circles around my most tempered thoughts. The end goal of the ghosts that live here? To exhaust me – or even break me – completely. Sometimes, I think they might.

The calming relaxation of my first retreat shifts into a literal low-gear here. Gears grinding, hearts breaking, time standing still. In this place, I cannot focus. I’m unable to see or feel anything other than fear, brokenness, & hopelessness. My vulnerabilities become Kryptonite injected directly into my bloodstream. I am lost, confused, & frightened here.

All of the strength I’ve built up over a lifetime of wins & losses & learning disappears, dissipates in every waking moment. Who needs contentment built through adversity & joy when there’s a place inside of yourself that works quickly & without warning to undo all of the good stuff?

How is it that these two places offer such similar experiences – yet cause such disparate emotions in me? One is my place of healing. The other silently tears me to shreds one negative thought at a time.

Depression is a real shitter.

Call it what you will, the darkness of depression is a real shitter. It’s hard to put into words how one moment you feel fine – good even – & the next you’re not sure you feel anything at all. You teleport without reason or warning from your first retreat to the second. You’re off balance & off course. And, you know it, too. You just don’t know how to fix it.

It’s hard. It’s so, so hard to explain what’s happening inside yourself when you don’t understand it. Speaking to loved ones can be frustrating & feel counterintuitive. I get embarrassed when I can’t find words with ample enough impact to explain the inexplicable emotions that sometimes render me powerless. I feel even dumber not being able to simply share the numbness, the powerlessness, the empty spaces.

So, when we step it up a notch & try to talk to strangers about what we’re feeling (when we still can’t find words good enough to say to those we love most), it’s no wonder so many mental health issues go unspoken about or illnesses left untreated a lot of the time.

There’s this kind of a tug-o-war that happens in my mind sometimes where I know for a fact that I’m not in a space that will allow me to be my best self. Most of the time, I can even say to myself “Self, you’re down & you’re anxious. Don’t make decisions now. Be present. Be kind.” My inner-dialogue whispers “Cass, ride this wave out.”

Unfortunately, these kind internal whispers are quite often drowned out by the din of my even louder inner voice that shouts things like “You’re useless!” over  & over until I start to believe it. And thus, the struggle goes on.

Finding Peace & Riding Waves

I used to think I could weather every storm alone. Blame it on ego, on self-reliance kicked into over-drive, or on a simple overshooting of my own abilities – but what I know beyond the shadow of a doubt now is this: we all need other people at some point to help us get better.

Most of the time, our loved ones will stand steadfast in our corners – ready to fight our demons for us. But they can’t fight our demons for us, can they? That’s not how it works. We all have to suit up, hop in the water, & learn to ride the waves that break near shore. For me, hopping in the water meant seeing my GP & talking to a therapist regularly. Learning how to manage my own negative self-talk & building foundations on which to move forward have been instrumental in me kicking depression.

What I have found helpful over time too is recognising that some of the people we love most jump right in next to us – paddling in tandem to ride the wave together, differently. At the same time, others will stand on the pier next to you cheering you on & pointing out the best waves to ride. Others still will realize that they don’t know much about the surfing you’re doing, so they wait on shore with a warm, dry towel to comfort you once your back on terra firma.

These people are legends. And, they’re doing their best to help.

In opening up & being as genuinely truthful as we can be, our beloveds are armed with the knowledge of how to best coax us out of stormy seas & into calmer waters. Sometimes it’s as simple as asking them to listen to us as we fumble to find ways to explain how we feel. Other times, it’s just sitting with us while we whimper in a corner. 

Ask & You Shall Receive

As I get older, I find that the easiest way to make peace with darkness has always been to light a fire of honesty. To speak simply & to be heard without needing to be fixed. Opening up is scary. Admitting you need help but that you’re not sure exactly why is scary, too. But, it’s necessary.

If you or someone you know is struggling with getting lost in the vortex that is the second retreat, please ask for help. Asking is scary, but necessary to build your crew around you to see you through the rougher seas that we’ll all be faced with in life. Finding beauty in silence & darkness is like retraining your brain to love what you’re supposed to shun.

Depression? It sucks.
But, there’s more to life than the darkness.

Hold on & hold out.
And, bring your surf board along with you.
You’ll catch that next wave to shore.

Where to get help 

The below resources are some that I found on an article from The Spinoff looking to #endthestigma around talking about depression & suicide here in Aotearoa. Please, if you need help, reach out. It’s scary & brave at the same time – facing the unknown. But there are so many people who are here to help. 24/7/365.

As with many folks, I am here to talk should you ever need to reach out. It is okay to not be okay. Each day is a new start, & I’m positive we can get through it together.

Need to talk? Free call or text 1737 any time for support from a trained counsellor.

Lifeline – 0800 543 354 or 09 5222 999 within Auckland.

Outline –  0800 688 5463 (10am – 9pm weekdays, 6pm – 9pm weekends)

Samaritans – 0800 726 666.

Suicide Crisis Helpline – 0508 828 865 (0508 TAUTOKO). Open 24/7

Depression Helpline  – 0800 111 757 or free text 4202. This service is staffed 24/7 by trained counsellors

Healthline – 0800 611 116

Counselling for children and young people

Youthline – 0800 376 633, free text 234 or email talk@youthline.co.nz or online chat. Open 24/7.

thelowdown.co.nz – or email team@thelowdown.co.nz or free text 5626

What’s Up – 0800 942 8787 (for 5–18 year olds). Phone counselling is available Monday to Friday, midday–11pm and weekends, 3pm–11pm. Online chat is available 7pm–10pm daily.

Kidsline – 0800 54 37 54 (0800 kidsline) for young people up to 18 years of age. Open 24/7.

For more information about support and services available to you, contact the Mental Health Foundation’s free Resource and Information Service on 09 623 4812 during office hours or email info@mentalhealth.org.nz

Living Your Life On Purpose: A Busy Person’s Guide To Ultimate Fulfilment

It’s 11am on a Tuesday in Auckland, New Zealand & I’ve just flown in from Los Angeles. Before you ask, no, I didn’t do the literal flying. The pilots did, obvs (*insert Dad Joke about tired wings from all that flying here*)

Right now my mind, body, & soul are balanced. Why? Well, for almost every second of the twelve hours I spent winging my way back to reality, I thought about freedom.

All kinds of freedom.

Freedom of choice is huge for me – when I feel super fenced in, I usually feel that way because I don’t feel in control of my time, my decisions, or my future. Having freedom of choice is integral to me being able to live my life purposefully.

Freedom be myself – it goes without saying that there’s a difference between acceptance & inclusion. So often we have to hide parts of ourselves to fit into a certain culture. From where I stand right now, being me is more important than the alternative.

Freedom to accept my present situation – we’re all right where we’re meant to be, even if we don’t like everything about it. I’m one of those super annoying rose-coloured-glasses people who can find good in 99.9% of situations I’m in. Being able to accept the good & the bad means I’m free. Worst case scenario, you change & struggle & grow. Right?

And by rights, the freedom to change who I am & what I believe in.

So I took the time, Team.
The time to ponder, question, struggle, grow & change.
Time is such a precious gift – how lucky I was to have had some to be able to dig deep.

On this trip, I had many a plane, train & Uber ride in which to embrace my wandering mind. I don’t know about you, but it’s been a REALLY LONG TIME since I allowed my mind to wander beyond the realm of doing. I’m consistently pushing myself to do more, create more, be more… but I never allow myself the time to wander without reason.

Last week, wander I did.

Four of the five days I was on the ground in California, I walked half marathons. Not purposefully mind you (which is ironic considering the title of this article, but roll with me). I never set out thinking I’d walk a crazy distance each day – I only set out thinking that, no matter how uncomfortable it was, I would allow my mind to wander. I’d allow myself the gift of discovery. I’d be kind to my body with nourishing food.

Walking near the Pacific Ocean, I dove deep into my own mind. One major blessing I had was that I had no data on my phone & there was little access to WiFi. So, after habitually taking my phone out of my pocket about 20 times to aimlessly look through it – I trained my mind to stop. I put my phone in my backpack (NERD ALERT! At least it wasn’t a fanny-pack/bum-bag) & took out a pen & paper.

As I walked, if an idea hit me, I wrote it down. Scribbled remnants of clear-minded creativity. For the first time in 15 years I wrote poetry. A tickle in my soul said write. So I did. And, while my first poem was rusty, the 15th was/is pretty damn good.

I watched people a lot. Observed families on vacations. Saw Germans jump into the sea for the first time – flailing arms overwhelmed with excitement & adventure. I watched young people busy falling in love watching sunsets (totally not in a creepy way, sheesh). And, I looked on as sporty joggers made their way from Manhattan Beach Pier to Hermosa Beach & back (still not creepy).

The output of a few days of not being on a deadline to create, shift gears, & strategise? A whole lot of beautiful, jumbled, actionable clarity around where I am, who I am, & where I’d like to go in life in the next few years.

The reality of being back on home soil though, is that I’m absolutely frightened about losing this newfound momentum. I’m nervous I’ll forget who I am at my core. But, let’s be honest… that ain’t gonna happen on my clock.

Whilst walking, scribbling, & not being a creepy watcher-of-all-the-people, I wrote down some thoughts on living life purposefully. On finding fulfilment everyday. And, in building in time for creative & deep thinking.

These next tips & tricks are absolutely do-able.

They’re free for us all, too! And, if you’re like me & find yourself at a bit of a cross-roads (oh no, does this mean I’m getting old?) you might just feel better about the cross-road itself after reading through.

Right, here we go…

  • Smile More
    This is a seemingly (ahem, misleadingly) simple ‘hack’ when it comes to living life more purposefully & feeling fulfilled on the regular. Smiling is, in all actuality, a self-fulfilling prophecy for happiness in both the psychological & physiological sense. When you smile, even if you really don’t feel like it, your body sends all kinds of happy juju-vibes into your bloodstream & you end up happier. Weird, right? But, science makes this so (& maybe a bit of magic, too). Smiling more isn’t just about you either. It’s about the happy juju-vibes you’re able to spread to others. And, if the world needs more of anything, it’s happy juju-vibes. Plus, selfishly, making others feel better about themselves is my ultimate fuel. Having the tank consistently filled through kindness rocks. So, while it may seem super simple, just do it. Smile more. Smile often. Smile until your cheeks need a rest.

 

  • Do Unto Others
    If you haven’t heard this saying before… where the heck have you been? I absolutely live my life by this motto & always have. Oftentimes overused & underdelivered upon, these words have had a profound effect on me at many junctures throughout my life. Like a nagging voice in the back of my own head, these words act as tenets to my existence & consistently force me to think beyond my own self, beyond my own frame of reference, beyond even my own narrative around a journey. By purposefully acting on a kindness first viewpoint on life, I find my sense of fulfilment is topped up daily. If you live with a viewpoint that your actions & words do matter to others, then you live more completely. When you do unto others you get back what you give. Even when there’s nothing in it for you in the moment other than even a quiet moment to skite around being the better person, good begets good. Do more good to others & more will come to you. Ah yes, a prefer recipe for fulfilment.

 

  • Get Used To Being Disconnected (observe people)
    We’re always on. Always connected. Always buzzing, pinging, & beeping. And, we’re addicted (for the most part) to our mobile devices. That little red notification button is more addicting that crack – seriously it is! So it’s no surprise that droves of uber-and-over-connected people are learning to turn off. There are retreats in all corners of the world literally dedicated to turning off your phone & learning how to work through the silence that settles in your mind & soul when you don’t have something in your hand shouting out to you constantly to consume. I for one can tell you I am a fully-fledged member of the majority of people who’re too connected. I’m shit at just being in the moment. And, my goal in life is to become less shit at being present. Yesterday, walking on the beach without anything in my hands, I realised that my little baby is now a 12yr old independent (& beautifully stroppy) young woman. I blinked & she grew up. Sure I have 300,000 photos of her on Facebook, but looking back, I have only a few dozen deep memories of her childhood that happened without a camera in hand. Since returning home, I’ve put some tactics into play around disconnecting. At work I leave my phone on my desk & take my apple watch off in meetings. At home I leave my phone & computer in different rooms to where the family is. I’m not going to lie, it’s a struggle to not have my technological safety blanket with me at all times… but good god, it’s freeing to be always in the moment. Looking into the eyes of people you care for is magic. What you see reflected back might just get you through the toughest days you’ll ever face.

 

  • Listen More (to yourself, to others, & to the universe)
    This tip dives deeper than simply turning your listening ears on. While most of us are always in a hyped-up state of working through answers to pauses in conversations instead of listening to hear – we are all facing a crisis of understanding why it is we do what we do. Listening is multi-faceted & especially feels foreign if you’ve been sipping the Kool Aid of oneupmanship for years & years. Listening to yourself is extremely important to living more purposefully. What is your gut telling you about a situation, a project, or an opportunity? Tune in to your intuition & you’ll grow & change faster than you could ever imagine. Also, listen to others. What are the people who love you telling you? What’s not actually getting through? For me, it’s that I am worthy. I am good enough to follow my dreams. Sure it’s scary, but my beloveds have my back. Why not take a risk. Why not just jump? Beyond humans, listening to the universe (yeah, yeah, I know it sounds super hippy-esque, but roll with me here) is one of the best things you’ll ever do when working towards more fulfilment. Stop, observe, try new things. What’s coming your way? What’s not? And, what can you do to help shape fate? When you take the time to listen more, you get back more. And, you’re able to be more to others. Listening ears/soul, ON!

 

  • Try, Fail, Learn, Grow, Repeat ad infinitum
    At what age or juncture in life do we go from being invincible (remember being 5yrs old, dressing as Super Woman, & flying out of windows?) to being afraid to try at all for fear of failing? Why does growing up usually mean praying at the pew of comfort when it comes at expense of adventure? Personally, I’ve always fought against getting comfortable. For me, comfortable usually delivers a hearty dose of boredom. And believe you me, when my inspiration tank is empty, my wheels turn towards other avenues & ventures. As far as living a truly purposeful & remarkable life goes, the best & worst times usually blend into one & the same because it is in those moments of discomfort than we learn the most. It is in these moments that we grow. My life mantra is that we must all at least try. If you want to play tambourine on stage with Elton John, you’ve gotta at least buy a ticket to the concert, right? And, even if you get on stage & don’t happen to have a tambourine handy (damn it, Cass!) … at least you’ve tried & know better for next time. From a professional sense, I’ve always pushed myself into roles that scare me a little bit. Selfishly, I want to grow. I want to stretch. I want to help others. To do this I need to stay in motion. Standing still is safe, sure. But it’s also boring. If you’re looking for purpose, if you know what drives you, get out & try. Learn to be okay with failure. Learn, grow, & get back on that horse. I promise you, you’ll look back on this very moment in a year or 10 years & be so damn proud of yourself for moving forward.

And there you have it. Tried & true ways to dive deep into what drives you & to put them into action.

If you’ve got your own methods for not only finding your purpose, but ensuring you stick to the things that matter to you most, please comment below or shoot me an email.

I’m always happy to learn from others!

As always, thank you for reading.

#KindnessRocks #KindnessRevolution

A Letter To My Mom On Her 70th Birthday

Dear Mom,

You don’t know this (yet), but I’ve been writing this for months. Years, even. It’s taken me a long time to put into words something worthy of celebrating someone who’s been not just my best friend & North Star, but that to so many others.

The second I hit ‘publish’ on this letter & set it free into the great, untamed wilds of the interwebs, there will be a knock at your door. The knock will be significant for two reasons.

The first reason being the most obvious… no one ever comes all the way up the hill unannounced & then knocks at the front door (and, can I say here in a public forum, just how amazing your new front door looks?) They just don’t. Ever.

Mostly we all just rock through to the pool & then into the house as if it’s our own. Because, well, you’ve always made it feel like it is. Rob & I have only ever known your home as our home… so, ya know, knocking at the front door?

Secondly, the knock will be significant in that the people on the other side of the door are the only two humans you grew from nothingness to the adults that stand in front of you.

Rob & I have arrived to surprise you. Please don’t fall over or pass out (if you don’t do either of these things though, I’ll know that Dad spilled the beans about the trip!)

We’re here to celebrate you. To thank you. And, to shower you with love. In this moment of surprise, if you feel even 1/1000th of the happiness you bring us (& have done for 36yrs), then our deception in surprising you will be worth every mile, minute, & fabulously silly turn we’ve taken to get to you. On this, remind me to tell you about Javier, the Amtrak dude in business class on the Surfliner I took yesterday. YOU. WILL. HOWL!

I could write a novel about you. And, if you ever want me to, I’m happy to. I’d love to write about your childhood. Your adventures growing up as a country mouse & moving to a big city (ahem, shall we mention the abalone sandwich & guacamole debacles?)

I’d also love to share with the world stories about the kindness you exude. The strength that seeps into every ounce of your being. And the way your eyes dance when you giggle. Because, let me tell you, depending on how much red wine you’ve had – they ChaCha, they Rumba, they Two-Step, & they waltz like a ballroom dancing competition on uppers.

But at the expense of time & novel writing, I thought I’d share ten things that make you the most amazing human I’ve ever had the pleasure to have known.

Also, a bonus, not only are you the best human, YOU ARE MY MOM!

HOW LUCKY AM I???

Right, so in no particular order, here’s how I celebrate you, Momma. On your birthday. Today & every day, here are just a few of the things that cause me to adore, look-up to, & to love you without bounds.

Happy birthday, Momma.

  1. You Have The Patience of a Saint
    No really, you do. I don’t know how you raised two kids who were 16 months apart, held down a 50+ hour-a-week job, did all of the traditional female roles in the household, volunteered your time to the community… AND DID NOT KILL A DAMN ONE OF US. Lord knows there were times when ringing our necks would’ve been completely permissible in a court of law. Remember that time I tried to get away with driving up to LA to go to the waterpark & then threw the WHOPPER OF ALL WHOPPER tantrums when you caught me out? Yeah. I remember you looking on in shock & a little bit of hilarity. You actually could’ve reacted with something akin to homicide. And, you could’ve walked away scott free. But you stuck around. And, you kept a calm & cool head along the way. I always like to say that my base personality is more like Dad – a bit fiery, very silly, & reactive. But you, with your calm head & lessons that could be scripted into a Holy book or carved into stone helped to temper me. To teach me more about playing the finite game in life. To enjoy each moment we’re given. Thank GOD or whatever that higher power is out there for you.
  2. But, You Also Have a Nolan Ryan Arm & Aren’t Afraid To Use It When The Right Moment Presents Itself
    While you may have been as saintly as any Saint most of the time, you could also be naughty as the devil. No flies on my Momma, nope. No sir. No way. You were & are a woman of strength & conviction. You spoke up, spoke out, & put your neck (& I imagine ass) on the line to fight for better. To do better. Your throwing arm was also a thing to behold, especially if Rob or I were being bullied or treated unfairly. One of my most vivid memories of childhood took place in the stands at the high school gym. Rob was playing in a late Friday night game (we girls had just finished our game with a win!) & it was a battle on the court to be sure. At one point in the third quarter, a senior on the opposition threw an elbow right into Rob’s freshman face. Rob went down fast. The next thing I know all I can hear is Dad’s voice yelling “No Jennifer! No! Don’t do it!” to which I turned around & saw you – crazy eyed & hellbent on making it to the violent offender – with one of your 6 inch heels above your head. Lock, set, THROW! Thankfully Dad caught your arm just as you were about to bazooka this 18yr old asshole into the year 2099 with a $1000 high-heel. As all this was unfolding, Rob got up (black eyed) & played on. The-elbow-throwing senior on the other team saw you & ran off of the court cowering. And I sat there, beaming. MY MOM IS A MUTHAFUNKIN BADASS WOMAN Y’ALL. Just try something, and a black suede Balenciaga will be your dinner if you do.
  3. You Cook, Oh Can you Cook!
    Rub a dub dub, thanks for the grub…yaaaaaaaaaay, Mom! Right, let’s talk about Betty Crocker Homemaker of the year. Mom, you can cook. There’s a reason every main memory of my life is associated with some kind of yumminess. It’s because you always made sure we ate. And boy did we ever! Remember my obsession with pork chops? And spinach souffle? And croutons? And, no. Not all of them at the same time, folks, sheesh. You always made sure that we had plenty to eat. And, you helped us learn how to set a proper table and to present meals in a beautifully artistic way. Food literally has to look good enough to eat, right? You sure taught us about the art of presentation when it came to cuisine. That skill in itself has helped me so many times to pretend I’m a real adult when I was completely out of my comfort zone. Putting on a good dinner party is a magical fast-forward step into being seen as an adult. 21yr old me thanks you!
  4. You’re The Most Heliotropic (Kind) Leader I’ve Ever Known
    Everything you do is kind. You smile at everyone, talk to everyone (EVERYONE). You make other people feel heard, worthy, & important. Watching you as a small child treat people equally, regardless of social stature or title was magic. That said, it was watching you as a leader at work when I was young that helped to be the leader & the human that I am today. One who puts kindness, empathy, understanding, gratitude & forgiveness ahead of office politics & ego. So many people live life professionally spinning in a giant wheel. They go round & round & round in a never-ending rat-race that might (or might not, for most) eventuate in a big title & some cash in the bank. And for what? A fast-track to the graveyard where you can’t take your fancy title or Roller with you when you go? Gawd, I am so thankful that you taught us about what’s real & really important in life. Getting to know people, working as a team, moving towards a common goal, & allowing others to be just as flawed & imperfect as we are. I still don’t understand folks who are in positions of leadership who don’t know how to connect with others. Laughter is so important. Trust is necessary at all junctures. No successful business was ever built upon the broken backs of others. Instead it’s common experiences, shared struggle, & individuals following their passions that make success long-lasting & impactful. Thank you for teaching me this. Thank you for embodying this.
  5. You Make People Feel Smart, Empowered, & Loved
    No matter where you are or who you’re with, you make people feel pretty damn good about themselves at all times. As a kid I thought all Moms were like you. Sensible, funny, & ready to talk the ear off of anyone who was up for a conversation. As a grown up, I realise that you’re special. Grown ups, for the most part, are weird & can be super antisocial. So, having you as my mentor & teacher throughout life has meant that I love connecting with people. Hearing their stories. Laughing. I can’t even begin to count up how many people have told me & how many times I’ve heard stories of your generosity of spirit. I get pulled aside at parties, events, & in the company of long-time family friends to be told just how special you are. And, let’s just put it out there, the more red wine people drink, the more hilarious stories are that come out about you & the adventures you’ve taken people on over time. Adventures that these folks hold tight to as some of the best times of their lives. I won’t mention the New Orleans story, this is a G rated blog, but let’s just say that you’re definitely something & someone to live up to! If I could ever embody even an iota of the way you make feel others feel, my life would be worthwhile as heck. A mixture of self awareness & true giving of energy & spirit, Momma you’re truly a legend.
  6. Your Missouri Shines Through Often
    You’ve been in California for a long time now, but you really can’t take the Missouri out of the girl, can ya? One thing I love about you is how you’re able to take all of the pieces of yourself & put them together to form a worldly, intelligent woman with a bit of twang running through everything you say & do. If it weren’t for you, I don’t think Rob or I (or our kids) would know how to use colloquialisms such as “Well I’ll be damned.” or “God love ’em.” in context so perfect that – no matter where we are in the world – we’re understood. There’s something about following our adventuresome spirits towards wide open spaces on the road to Hannibal that makes my entire self smile. Just grab a rental car in Kansas City, hit up the Sonic for a pork tenderloin & Mr Pibb, put a Wynonna Judd cassette in the tape player – & cruise into good times on the way to the farm. California is cool, but it’s the Missouri in you that I love the most.
  7. You Taught Me To Collect Memories & Moments, Not Things
    I’ll never forget your battle cry when heading into adventures: “Have toothbrush (& a clean pair of undies), will travel!” Like Wonder Woman without the booty-baring costume & sans cape, you’re always up for having fun. Whether we’re driving, flying, on a boat, plane, or train… you’ve aways been my #1 person for adventures. From the time we were really small, I can remember you telling Rob & I that it was memories that we were paying for when we went places. We didn’t need things (though, let’s just take a moment to stop & pay tribute to cheap souvenirs in tacky touristy shops abroad), we just needed each other. The best investment ever made is in experiences & experiencing life with others. And, it might be a trip to the beach or a trip to the Alps, either way, you always taught me to have a glass of wine, a bite of the cake, & to take in the moment. Enjoy each adventure, no matter how small. Here’s to the next one!
  8. You Are One Helluva Grandma JJ
    Now, I’ve always known how fab you are as a Mom. But it wasn’t until our little Pootie girl was born that I saw your true silliness & depth shine through. From the moment she was born, I understood the magic of grandparenthood in a way that only a someone who has become parent themselves could. Just as Grandma Roma was my hero from the moment I took my first breath – you are my daughter’s hero. There’s no question about that. You’re her soulmate. You’re her everything. And OHMYGAWD I thought I was spoiled growing up, my kid has the world (& Grandma JJ) at her fingertips. Watching you two together reminds me that magic still exists. And, seeing you now with Rob’s girls is such a joy & a pleasure. How the heck are you good at ALL THE THINGS? I’m not sure how you find the recipes for & then mix your potions of kindness & generosity, but I’m glad that you do.
  9. You Enjoy A Nice (or slightly mediocre) Glass of Wine
    Let’s talk wine, shall we? For a woman of the world, you’ve always had quite the palate for a lovely (or not so lovely) drop. When I think about you, I often think back to our European whirls together, & all of the times you’d order a 1/2 ‘giraffe’ of vino di tavolo at the local Italian & end up giggling until one of us was in tears. I love that you’re just as nonplussed drinking a $1000 bottle of wine as you are excited to drink a Two-Buck-Chuck as long as the company is right & the conversation is flowing. Ice cubes in red wine? Why the heck not! Warm white? Sure thing, if the mood is right! As with everything in life, you’re in it for the right reasons. To enjoy, to share, to make memories of occasions. Wine snobbery? Nah, not my Momma. She’s happy to be at the table with people she loves. Everything else is a bonus.
  10. You’re 70! Holy Shit, You Made It!
    MOM! YOU’RE SEVENTY! Remember when turning seventy seemed old? I guess in 2018 seventy is the new forty – or something like that. Because, when we’re honest, you have the outlook of a Gen Z, the technological nous of my millennial compatriots, & the experience of a Boomer. So, the last thing anyone could ever call you would be old. In fact, sometimes I think you’re younger than me. I mean, to quality that statement would be simple, right? I’m abed by 9pm, you’re up into the wee hours. You’re the first one to jump off of a mountainside (albeit, strapped to a handsome young man with a glider), the first to do most things. And, with time, you seem to be getting more & more adventurous. Thank you for the million trips you’ve made from California to New Zealand to help us parent our best girl, for the late night phone calls, for the FaceTime sessions that start in tears & end in laughter. You’re everything I hope I grow up to be & then some.

Happy 70th Birthday, Mom. We love you.

You make this stuff look good! Now let’s go get donuts, drink wine, & dance on tables.

Speak Out & Shout, Every Voice Matters this International Women’s Day

Wake Up To Change 

I woke up this morning as I do every morning. Full of hope for the day ahead. Full of excitement at the promise of new adventures. And, let’s be honest here, slightly sleepy & bleary-eyed after what’s been a manic start to a jet-lagged week after two weeks back home in San Diego filling my soul & recharging my inspiration batteries.

Today’s a special day though.

One a bit different to other days. Today my Twitter stream & Facebook feeds are dominated by headlines of female world-leaders, strong women we meet every day, marches, protests, & (typically) cats.

Seriously, Internet? Cats? Still?

I guess if cat worship was a ‘thing’ for ancient Egyptians, then it makes sense in the internet age – kinda.

In amongst the usual algorithmic clutter of content, & off of the back of over a year of #MeToo, #TimesUp & #NeverAgain cultural movements, I’m heartened to see a huge surge of powerful posts pointing towards the tidal swell towards equality.

Words are forming.
Language is building.
Sentiment is taking shape – we’re moving from impassioned pleas towards demanding action. Now.

Vivid images.
Eloquent text.
And, vivaciously poignant videos.

Sheesh, it’s 7am & I’ve gone through this Kleenex box next to me crying happy tears, angry tears, impassioned tears. I should note here, Team, I’m not usually a crier. But, as I said earlier, today’s different.

A Happy And Heavy Heart

Friends, family, colleagues, brands, politicians and businesses across the world are bringing International Women’s Day to life this year across digital and social media in a way I’ve not experienced before.

My heart? Today, is happy & heavy. Happy that so many people are not merely recognizing today as a tick-box exercise in political correctness, but rather a necessary element of driving informed, honest dialogue around gender inequality at work, at home, and beyond.

Heavy because we still face a large opposition of naysayers. People who love the patriarchal BAU of inequity & inequality that keeps most down, & lifts only a few. There’s also a heaviness in knowing that one day a year of shaking the internet isn’t enough to bring gender parity closer to reality.

Having a day set aside to celebrating the social, economic, cultural and political achievements of women feels great, but stings just a little bit too. Ya know?

What happens tomorrow? Who among us will continue to talk, argue, scrap, and otherwise fight for women’s rights?

Will we just go back to ho-hum, everyday acceptance of the world as it is. Will we still be supported by our bosses, our lovers, our family if we speak up consistently? I’m not so sure we will be. At some point we are labeled as that feminist or that girl with opinions. 

Will the wheel keep spinning or will our voices quiet again until March 8th rolls around again next year? How will we continue the dialogue daily between all people – women & men alike?

Take Action

This time last year I made a promise to myself, to my colleagues, & to my family to do better. To speak up & speak out. And to call out moments of harassment, mansplaining, inequity, & otherwise detrimental interactions towards women.

365 sleeps later? I’m bloody proud of myself. Slowly but surely I see my younger colleagues – male & female alike – standing up for each other. Allowing each other to speak. And, treating each other with more kindness.

There’s still a lot left to be done though. Old Boys Clubs still run rampant through corporations large & small.  Women are still paid less then men in the same (or even lower) positions. Vernacular & language around leadership are still very male.

Make A Promise

As I did last year, I again am making a promise to do more for women in hopes that we actually start shifting the balance towards fairness. There’s a large piece of work to be done in disentangling visibility from power. They are not one & the same, though they are often treated as such.

My call to action for women & men today? Don’t be complacent. You have a voice, use it. Fight the fear of standing up for yourself or someone else. Do it. Make change happen through your own consistent actions. Small, large… whatever.  Just stand up for something or someone.

Every little bit counts.

Here’s to strong women everywhere.
May we support you. May we lift you up. May we celebrate you. May we be you.
And, may we raise the next generation in your light.

#IWD2018 #PressforProgress 

Walking A Tightrope: Braving The Unknown

Here’s the thing about young, handsome Argentinian lifeguards on beaches… they’re very convincing.

VERY.
CONVINCING.

Maybe it’s was his accent, my broken Español, or the casual way in which his eyes lit up when I said “Is that hard to do?” that I decided to go out on a limb yesterday. Literally.

(NOTE: my decision may have been swayed simply by the fact that I am competitive as f*ck, & a cute kid decided to go before me – I couldn’t wimp out & still be a semi-cool-Mom after that!)

Tightrope walking, I can assure you, is not for people afraid of falling. It’s also usually not something 36yr old mother’s who have never tightrope-walked before do at a public beach on a super windy day.

But, what the hey. My inner voice whispered seductively to me “New year, same me… let’s do this, Cass. You wanted to adventure more. You wanted to make memories & try new things. Here’s your first shot at it. And, you’re only three feet above the ground.”

Damn you, seductive inner voice. As awkward as you are, you sure are convincing. Potentially just as convincing as our new, tanned friend from Argentina. So, with a little gust of wind catching me up the backside & along the path towards the tightrope (as well as a healthy cheering on from my beloved & my bestest pal) – I kicked off my jandals & climbed a tree trunk (not very high) to the springy, stringy thing I would soon be walking – or falling – across.

Lucky for me, mi amigo nuevo, saw I was nervous & gave me his hand. Though he was there to steady me as I took my first VERY uncertain first step, he also talked me through where my line of site should be, how to relax & unravel the tension in the rope through my balance, & showed me how to have fun while completely terrified.

Anyone who knows me well, knows I used to be terrified of heights. Strangely, over the years, I’ve gotten much better with heights – but walking that uneven & unsteady rubber-band was pretty nerve wracking for me.

I may have only been three feet above Terra Firma, but it just as easily could’ve been 30 or 300 feet as far as I was concerned in the moment!

Making it all the way across, I learned a few things in the minute I spent without my feet firmly planted on the ground.

Mostly, I learned these key lessons:

  1. Be courageous
    This is seriously not as easy as it sounds. Most of us like to think that we’re daring… at least a little bit. But, in practice, I personally end up turning down opportunities to try new things for fear of what others – and even my own inner-voice – might think. I consistently tell my daughter that she can’t be good at everything. You have to start somewhere, and somewhere is usually right at the beginning. No one starts off as a master. Masters were always once beginners. So, while I might end up sounding like a $.50 fortune cookie, I reckon we should all start at the beginning. Without fear. Without judgement. But, more so, with hope, joy & a sense of adventure. Courage is contagious – pass it on.
  2. Don’t Look Down
    As my Argentinean friend told me as I started walking from one tree to another “Look only ahead, not down, not to the side.” This really resonated with me in the moment – and resonates even more now thinking back on his words. We oftentimes spend so much time looking in a direction other than that in which we’re heading that we lose sight of our end destination. Even with strong winds whipping at your back, or with wobbly footing, if you look ahead & focus on what you’re hoping to achieve – your chance of getting there inherently grows by leaps & bounds. I always tell my teams at work that, as a manager, it’s my job to provide a ‘North Star’ for them to steer towards. It’s their job to get there – whether it be swinging across Orion’s Belt or sliding through the big dipper. Keep your eyes up. Move with intent.
  3. Have fun falling
    This is something I’ve grown to embrace & love over the past few years. Falling, itself, is fun. It’s the landing, if you’re not prepared for it, or it comes too soon, that hurts the most. It’s taken time, but I’ve started to not just face my fear of falling (and, failing) but to embrace it with my eyes wide open. Most probably squealing all the way to the bottom where a soft landing (or slight thunk) awaits. Falling, like flying is all part of the journey. If you embrace each moment, you’ll find fun just around every corner.

 

So, there you have it. A small moment. But, big lessons. Here’s to more travelling South Americans on Auckland beaches this summer, helping us all face our fears – while reminding us, there’s no shame in having a helping hand to steady us while we learn.

Gracias, amigo mio. Que te vayas bien.

 

Tightrope walking!
Tightrope walking!

Why It’s Important To Be A ‘Challenger’ At Work

I’m stuck.

And I’m hoping you can help me out with a little modern-day conundrum.

Here’s the deal:
I don’t get the narrative we’re sold about how we should all live our lives.

Wait, let me rephrase, I do get it. I probably understand it far too well – and it’s messing with my head a bit recently.

You know the narrative I’m referring to. It’s the one that’s been built upon thousands of years of tradition, religion, and accepted inequality.

We’re told what we should do. We’re told what right and wrong are. And, for the most part, the great majority of people in our beautiful world buy into the whole shebang.

We’re not born sheep. But we’re taught to act like them more and more as we grow older.

What’s the deal with Keeping Up With the Joneses? Why are so many people obsessed with ‘stuff’ – so much so that they spend the majority of their lives in traffic or in offices to obtain the stuff they rarely use because they’re so time poor?

When did we all forget to just take in a sunset, or to find joy in time spent with family? When did the ideal of ‘busyness’ creep into our lives as a marker of success?  When will we, as a collective, go back to a pursuit of happiness and kindness over cold, hard cashola?

I’m not sure how to answer the questions above.

We all go about our days, weeks, months and years fairly similarly. All the while, we duck and weave that little tug inside of our heads and hearts, all to keep enlightenment and deep thought at bay.

It’s as if we live so fast and hard that we fear slowing down. We’d rather keep up the pace of facade than face our most genuine selves – just in case we realize we’re not sheep.

In most western societies, we start our journey to ‘success’ by going to school. At school we’re taught that we must sit still when we’re told to, run and play on a schedule, obey, learn by rote, and ‘repeat after me.’

We do what we’re told and get a lovely little pat on the head.

For following the rules, we’re given gold stars. Sticky sweet-fixes that hard wire our baby brains to tell our adult brains that we should conform to imposed standards instead of adapt while we learn.

We (especially us girls) aren’t supposed to ask questions, be curious, or speak out (especially not out of turn.) Lord forbid any of us ever questioned why we did what we did, or why we learned what we learned.

We just went with the norm. Didn’t make waves. We have always been told not to make waves, haven’t we? We’re just here to play the game by the rules someone else wrote. We’re not to change the rules (or even attempt to re-write them completely).

Nope. We’re here to just accept the world as it is. Inequalities dripping from the underbelly of unbreakable glass ceilings.

We’re told to repeat the mantras and learn the jargon.

Success is not measured by kindness or joy brought to others, but rather in quantifiable numbers on bank ledgers and the logo we wear on our clothing.

After school we’re supposed to find a ‘nice boy’, settle down, buy a house, have some babies to raise, and quietly delight in cooking meals for our brood.

Afterwards, doing the laundry, juggling a corporate career, and trying to find time for inner-peace as well. All the while striving to make it to the pinnacle of our human existence: retirement.

Grey haired. Porch sitting. Rocking chair knitting. A grandchild bouncing on each knee. Yep… those are supposed to be our best years.

While this scenario might be a dream for many, it’s a nightmare for me.

At this precise moment in time, as I sit here tippity-typing away on my MacBook (such a cliche) raging against the rules by which I’ve been told to live.

Before you ask, yes, I’m acutely aware of the ultimate irony of my life to date.

That irony being that I’ve followed the Path-of-Good-Educated-Girl-Who-Does-What-She-Should to a T. I’d get an A++ in the school of life for following the rules.

Yep, the path I’ve walked down has always been that of least resistance. Which isn’t a bad thing. I’ve just always been one to choose my battles while weighing all of the odds and thinking of the longterm.

Why choose the road to Normalville?

I did it because I thought that path was supposed to be my ticket to happiness. And, it was for a good long time. I also didn’t want to let my family and friends down.

In trying to live up to the ideals of others, I took a while to find myself.

For a long time, I was right on track to live the same, cookie-cutter life as most of us who were raised in the pre-Facebook, Zack Morris, Xennial times of rainbows and butterflies and sun-drenched sappy love songs.

Gag. Someone change the channel, will ya?

Every day I’m rufflin’ (feathers, that is)

How have I ruffled feathers? Simple. I’ve asked questions. Lots of them. Of myself and of others. Mostly to learn, to evolve, to innovate – and ultimately to grow as a person.

What I’ve found super intriguing is that asking questions causes people to stop and think. Sometimes abruptly. And, most people don’t like doing that. It’s uncomfortable.

Stopping to really evaluate a situation or choice makes most people feel uncertain – in themselves and in the world around them.

It makes them think about their own life choices. And, makes them remember that they have the ability to chose. Nothing is pre-determined.

Basically, asking questions causes most people to step outside of the comfortable narrative they’re buying into.

Me? I’m getting comfortable with being uncomfortable.

I’m recently divorced and am onto my second marriage. I don’t fit any stereotypes anymore – though I used to fit them all. That spectrum people talk about? I skate up and down it on the daily.

I’m simply, unapologetically me. And, I’m happy in my skin for the first time in a very long time.

I’m also a better parent, partner, colleague, and friend for it.

Sitting here on the cusp of what I hope will be an epiphany (and not a pre-midlife crisis), I’m questioning everything.

My home, my car, my bank account, my hair colour, my clothes, my plan, my purpose.

Why question everything? Because I’ve seen the Challengers. They’re brazen and brave. I’ve even toyed around with the notion of being one without committing to it whole-heartedly.

It’s that one-toe-in, one-toe-out approach that’s the worse! You’ve tasted true freedom of choice, but then teeter back to normalcy.

I’ve seen the spark in their eyes, these Challengers. I’ve breathed in the passion in their souls, and felt the burning heat from the fire in their smiles.

I’ve pontificated late into the evenings and gone of on otherworldly tangents – learning all the while – with these oddballs who poo-poo societal norms.

I’m ready to be a Challenger.

I’m ready to commit to Otherness. Outsiderhood.

I want to be someone who exudes individuality. Someone who lives for the pleasure of living. And, someone who works and toils endlessly the betterment of others.

I want to spend time with people I love. Earn money to live, not live to earn money (this is an old hippy chestnut of a saying, but is a goodie I cling to.)

And, most importantly, I want to be genuinely passionate about asking questions. I want to hear other peoples’ stories and forge my own path. Write my own narrative. Be happy without the confines of normality.

What are your thoughts on bucking the trends?

Why must we all follow similar, already forged paths when there are potentially better/different/alternative ways to get from one place to another?

Here’s to questioning, challenging…

…and to being The Challengers.

Slowing Down to Speed Up: Top Tips For Playing the ‘Professional Long Game’

I caught one heck of a flu bug this time two weeks ago.

You know the kind: a truly knock-down, stay-down kind of virus that had me crawling on my hands & knees to get from my bed to the couch where I would collapse & whimper entire days away.

To say this bug was a zinger would be the understatement of the year. I was felled & absolutely miserable. Usually active at work, at home, in the community – I had to stop. Not slow down. Not bring things down a notch. STOP.

Like running headlong into a brick wall, I was left with a wicked headache from the blunt force & found myself splayed out on the floor – unable to move, forced to concentrate on simply breathing & healing.

Simple, basic survival became seemingly complex. And, at times, mustering enough strength to sip some water drained me completely. I was so sick that I couldn’t even rage at silly people on Facebook who misdiagnosed me with a common-cold instead of a mountain-of-a-virus-that-would-crush-any-man-flu-known-to-humanity.

Gah! I can be a wimp at times, but this was the real deal.

If there’s anything I am, it’s constantly in motion.

Being so ill, I couldn’t do anything. Literally. I couldn’t eat. Couldn’t sleep. Definitely couldn’t do anything I’d typically class as ‘productive.’ Which meant I wasn’t just unwell, I was also frustrated to the point of tears.

Most days I’m up before the dawn (between 3am – 5am). I read, write, gym, & plan for the day ahead. I find I’m most productive early on as I greet each new day. Plus, sorting through things early in the morning leaves time for the ‘meeting culture’ of modern corporate world where there seems to be little time for actual ‘doing’ in between all of the planning for the doing (there’s an entirely different post on meeting cultures coming!)

So, being home for a week without being able to muster the energy to do anything other than get better, was a wake-up call that I needed heading into a busy summer season ahead.

For the first two days of groaning on the couch, I tried to will myself well enough to do something. Laundry? It needed doing. Writing? Blank pages weren’t going to fill themselves. Work emails? They were calling my name. Wedding planning? Only a month to go, Cass… do something!

But I couldn’t. I played mental war with myself. Judged my own ability to heal quicker that I was. Talked myself into at least trying to do something. But, nope. Body says “STOP!”

So I did. I stopped. And, it was awesome. Oh hindsight, you’re a funny & illuminating gift. In stopping for a week to heal & in slowing down for the next two weeks – allowing myself to truly physically get better’ – I’ve been able to recharge & become more efficient with my time at work & at home.

I concentrate on specific tasks more readily, & I listen to my body more. When I’m tired, I slow right on down instead of pushing myself past the point of exhaustion.

I honestly think that the universe had something bigger in mind in choosing to give our household this gross virus. What was that something? I reckon it was learning a well needed lesson.

What did I learn? Mostly, I learned to quiet my own inner-voice of self doubt.

The world didn’t stop just because I did. Funny that. So, in the spirit of sharing life lessons & wisdom, below are some ways that I’ve found help me to embrace a slow-down (self-imposed, or otherwise).

Cracking the corporate world (or life in general) isn’t about burning out or burning up… it’s about those sprints & rest periods. Both are as essential to success as the other.

Slowing down to speed up? That’s the ticket!

  1. It’s okay to feel weird when you slow down

    Slowing down is weird for a lot of us – for so many reasons. We’re taught that, to be successful in corporate environments, we must always be busy. Busy in meetings. Busy with reports. Busy looking back. Busy forward-planning. I call this our collective ‘Glorification of Busy’ & have made an earnest effort to not use the word ‘busy’ when people ask me how I am. So it’s only natural that, when we are forced to slow down or stop, we feel somehow not worthy enough. Not productive. Not at the top of our game (which, if you’re ill – you’re not meant to be! You’re meant to be resting.) I think we need to start spending more time slowing down on purpose. We need to get comfortable with bucking the trend & shake off our collective burden of busyness. I personally am much more efficient, engaged, & creative at work when I slow down & take time out to think, create, & prepare. Even the fittest sprinters on earth can’t sprint all of the time – they perform in magical bursts of amazing athleticism, & then rest & recover. We need to work this into corporate life, too. Here’s an idea: let’s all feel weird together more often & revel in slowing down so that we can really hit the ground running when we need to.

  2. You don’t have to fill every moment – let every moment fill you

    I know, I know. Talk about a syrupy-sweet bullet point. That said, I believe in this so very much. We get caught up in so many moments of stress, & tiny detail, & workplace politics that we forget to stop, look up, & really appreciate the amazing people around us. If you’re like me & head away from home each day to spend most of your waking hours in an office building, then you’ll know what it’s like to be thrust into a goldfish bowl of strangers from different ponds – suddenly working towards a shared objective or common goal by rights of working for the same organisation. So often we get lost in our own little moments by trying to fill them up, that we forget to look up, take a deep breath, and simply enjoy the presence & unique expertise of our colleagues. My personal brand at work is one I’ve chosen with my eyes wide open – I believe in heartcounts,  not headcounts. I believe we’re all in this together, & because of that, should treat each other with kindness, respect, & allow ourselves to be vulnerable, genuine, & have fun while we’re at it. Filling moments isn’t key to success in life & work – allowing moments to fill you is. Finding joy in the mundane. Celebrating wins with gratitude. And slowing down to get to know each other & build trust are fundamental to balance.

  3. Enjoy the small details (dew drops on blades of grass, laughter of colleagues, hugs from family & friends)

    I love getting lost in a moment & really honing in on the beauty of small details that, all added together, paint the bigger picture of the world we’re all living in. As a mother, I’ve been able to watch the joy of discovery for so many ‘firsts’ on my daughter’s face – and her joy has consistently reminded me to look for awe in the minutia of our daily routines. Some of my fondest memories of work over the past 15yrs have been when colleagues and I have fallen to the floor in fits of laughter – exhausted from project work, but in it together & therefore able to enjoy time together literally ROFLing. On the weekends I desperately search out time to spend walking outdoors. There’s absolute magic in how the colors of the leaves on tress don’t change at all, but then seemingly do so all at once. Slowing down can simply be reveling in a long hug with a bestie, or complimenting a colleague. Little moments of awareness make up a life fully lived.

  4. Read actual books (tactile)

    Yep. The kind with pages & no instant notifications (AKA distractions.) I’ve always loved reading, but have drifted towards e-books over the past wee while. I can’t tell you how amazing having a physical book in my hands – & making the time to read it uninterrupted – is. Sometimes I can only steal away 15 minutes or so, but even a little bite of the bigger pie in a world of being time-poor is a sweet-fix for the mind & soul. I’ll also bring my books along to the gym & read them whilst on the elliptical or stationary bike. Books are magical portals into other worlds, realities, thought-patterns, & emotions. If you’re keen to slow down more & still do something, my advice is turn off your device & pick up a good book.

  5. Drive to the beach

    This is my absolute, go-to, zinger-of-a-remedy when I know I’m burning out. Going a million miles a minute isn’t something you can do forever. It’s also not something  that most people do at the beach. But, deep thinking, meditation, & getting lost in daydreams is. There’s something soothing in the rhythm of the waves that slows the body & soul at once. Sand underfoot, salty air being breathed in. It’s like a big ‘ol RESET button for busy urbanites. I love how powerful & grounding it is to feel small next to the ocean. When problems & worries add up & feel bigger than Ben Hur, sitting on the shoreline helps me feel tiny & reminds me that the stresses & problem of now aren’t as big as we all think. Sitting next to a living, breathing entity that is ruled by the pull of the moon is a salve for even the weariest hearts. When a re-set is needed, find your place.

So, there you have it! Some tried-and-true advice on slowing down in order to speed up. We all have to feel as though our proverbial cups are full – full of passion, purpose, love, energy – and when they start to drain, it’s up to all of us individually to take the time (and the responsibility) to slowly refill & refuel.

Resist the urge to glorify the state of busyness. Spend time on slowing down.

~ Cass