The #MeToo Movement Matters, So Does Your Reaction To It

I hope you feel uncomfortable, uneasy, and understandably upset while reading this.

Super uncomfortable, even. Uncomfortable enough to want to click away to something more jaunty, more on-the-surface. Less laden with hurt, and less truth-filled. But, fight the discomfort. Keep reading.

Why? Because I want you to change, even in the smallest way. I want you to quiet that voice in your head that automatically puts this blog into ‘another story of men treating women badly’ bucket. And, I want you to care enough by the time you reach the last word to actually do something about sexual predatory behavior against women.

I want you to feel uncomfortable as you read this for a litany reasons. So many reasons. And, if one thing comes of you reading or sharing a story like this, I hope that  you’re able to empathize with, or start to understand how I (and many women) feel in public when we leave the fortress of our own safe spaces – that is, if we’re among those who have safe spaces at all.

Put simply, when we’re out in the world full of rushing, commuting, hustling, working, moving people – we’re at risk. Constantly.

This is our world today.

A world where men still belittle, sexualise, harass, stifle, and expect women ‘just take it.’ Openly. Randomly. Continually. At work and at home – and beyond. And, before we start off with the ‘not all men’ argument, I’ll put this right up front: I know not all men objectify and harass women. Good men are all around, but most good men don’t speak out. Don’t act out. Don’t stand up against daily micromoments of sexual harassment. I, for one, have been lucky to have grown up with – and in adulthood been surrounded by – good, strong, kind men. I’m under no illusion that some men truly do work hard to ensure women are safe. Because of this, I love men as I love women. As equals. As friends. As colleagues. But, I’m also a realist. We’re not equals. Not by a country mile. Not yet.

Let’s get real.

Men objectify women constantly – even when they don’t know they’re doing it. It happens in small moments, in big moments, and in the moments in between where a long glance, a throw-away statement, or a slight unwarranted touch still go unmentioned or unnoticed. It’s in-built into even the most liberal of societies that masculinity, at its core, is synonymous with being somehow bigger, brawnier, and entitled than women. And these traits transcend physical size (Believe me, I know. I’m a big woman.)

As you read this, and as you read article after article about Trump, Weinstein, and other depraved men, I want you to feel lots of things, but mostly gross. Gross because my story is average. In the great bell-curve of humanity, my experience and existence is akin to that of most other women. Right in the middle – but to both ends of the extreme curve, too – we have similar stories to tell. That in itself is gross. I also want you to feel as gross as I did when an old man on public transport in Rome thought that dry-humping me in public was okay. As gross as I do every time a man puts his body in my personal space and touches me without consent. As gross as I do every time I speak, type, post, or otherwise communicate while having to wonder ‘will this be read as flirting?’

I want you to feel the fear of walking alone after dark. And the intense anger I have to internalize when I walk to work in the morning while men in trucks lean out of their windows shouting degrading, disgusting words in my direction. You want to see my tits? That’s too bad. It ain’t happening, asshole. There’s a reason I’m wearing three layers on a hot day. You like my legs? Well I’d like it if you kept that to yourself. I’d rather you, Mr Catcaller (and all of your friends who laugh & think that public harassment is okay), knew just how intrusive your jeering looks, non-consensual touching, and degrading words make me feel.

I also want the other guys in said trucks to shut their friends up. To make everyday sexual harassment taboo. If you don’t speak up, out, or against – you’re part of the problem.

If you’re still here, keep reading.

If you’re online at all, I’m sure you’ve noticed the #MeToo posts across Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter this week. Hundreds of thousands (perhaps, by now, millions) of women are using this succinct, powerful hashtag to show just how prevalent sexual harassment and abuse is against women. It’s disheartening. It’s scary. It’s banal in that we need to keep coming up with impactful ways to show just how widespread the mistreatment of women and girls in EVERY DAY LIFE is. Last night I thought about the #MeToo hashtag. I thought about my mother, my daughter, my fiancee, my friends, my colleagues, my heroes… and I realized that I don’t know a single woman who doesn’t have a story about male predatory behavior.

Not. A. Single. Woman.

In thinking long and hard on the subject, and in trying to find ways to make meaningful discourse commonplace across the world – I retreated to the place I always retreat when I’m feeling ponderous. My own head. I started writing this blog before every putting pen to paper, and hands to keyboard. I thought about the innumerable times I’ve been harassed, felt unsafe, and been talked down to because of my gender. The unwanted gropes in rugby clubs. The unwarranted catcalls and professional moments of being called Sweetie while being talked over by men. I hoped beyond hope that my own daughter would suffer less vile behavior over the course of her lifetime. I hope.

It’s fair to say that I don’t know how to force a change in male behavior or shift the narrative around poison views of masculinity that drive such behavior. But, I have some ideas on where to start.

What follows are a few things we can all do to stop the normalization of sexual harassment. Hopefully, together, we’ll not see another generation of #MeToo posts. But, the cynic in me, sadly, thinks we will.

1. (Dudes) Get comfortable with being uncomfortable

In the world we’re living in today, masculinity is judged in thousands of different ways – and most of them all lead back to sexual conquest. In fact, potentially all of them do. That means that even the idea of standing up for equality for women, and in treating them as equals goes against everything society says makes a man. My take is simple. Get uncomfortable in your own skin. Actively challenge how you measure your own worth as a man – and as a human. Dig into learning about what bothers/scares/worries/belittles women in interactions at work, in public, at home. Read blogs by women who have been raped, assaulted, or harassed. Don’t click away. Feel anger on the behalf of those who’ve been hurt, yet see their words as harrowing. Also, know that painful memories are shared with in hopes of stopping similar behavior in others. The truth of the matter is this: women feel uncomfortable almost all of the time. Those who say they don’t are either magical unicorns who never leave the house, or are absolutely drinking the proverbial Kool Aid of patriarchy. Here’s a quick win, don’t get all up in my grill. Don’t think it’s okay to put your body in my space without express consent. Don’t exacerbate the problem at work and come up to my desk, or any woman’s desk, and put your foot up on my chair so that your crotch is in my face. Don’t. Do. This. I’ll call you out on it. Loudly. It’s gross. It’s in appropriate.

2. Be hyper-aware.

Be aware of your body. Your voice. Your aura. Your manspread. As women, we’re aware of all of this all of the time. We know how much space we’re allowed to take up. We know how much we’re supposed to say in meetings before being spoken over or not spoken to at all. Be hyper-aware of the fact that all women have, in one way or another, been objectified (if not worse) by a man.  And every time it happens, it hurts. Here’s a good rule of thumb: Treat all women like you’d treat The Rock. I mean, you wouldn’t inappropriately touch, fondle, catcall or speak down to (or over) Dwayne Johnson would you? Not if you valued your life and physical well-being you wouldn’t! Not only would The Rock immediately let you know of his displeasure, he’d probably go to great ends to make sure you never displeased him so again. Also, an important fact to be aware of is that most women really like most men. We do. But just because we laugh at a funny joke or smile at you, doesn’t mean we want to go to bed with you. Most often, we only want to interact as equals. Be aware.

3. Stand up, Act Up, Speak Up

If your friends are the idiots leaning out of car windows wolf-whistling and shouting obscene sexual profanities at women while they walk or jog in public, and you don’t shut them down or speak out – then you’re an active part of the problem. If you’re in meetings at work where women are spoken over, call others out on this and make space for female voices to be heard and acted upon. And, if you see someone who is uncomfortably close to a woman and feel her discomfort, help. Do something. Don’t just shrug and move on. To be better, you need to do better. Act better. Speak out more. Standing up for women is a great first step in bucking a centuries-long tradition of belittling them. We all have the ability to do this in moments both big and small, day in and day out. We’re all in charge of our actions and reactions. Take ownership. Even the smallest actions you take powerful ones.

While the above is just the tip of the proverbial iceberg when it comes to changing how society views sexual harassment and equality, I think there are some good nuggets to chew through when it comes to making sure women are respected in daily life – not harassed.

Women, we need to speak up, too.

Loudly. I know it’s scary, and it’s hard being that b*tch who calls people out on their bullshit. But we need to do it. The onus falls on us to act in solidarity. This doesn’t mean we all need to go out and burn our bras (but oh, a life without bras!), it simply means we need to be vigilant. We need to actively speak about our consent or non-consent. We need to yell right back at the catcallers if that’s what it takes. If all we do is giggle at jokes that men in power tell (jokes that are meant to put us in a subservient, cliche, weak position),then we’re propagating the problems as much as our male counterparts are. We all need to work together on this one, Team. We need to read more, learn more, act more, speak more, do more. Be more.

I hope this made you feel uncomfortable, uneasy, and understandably upset.

I felt that way writing it. I feel that way living it.

#MeToo

Social Media Is Dead, Long Live Social Media

A few evenings ago, I had the immense pleasure of sharing a room with about 70 local digital and social media minds to talk about the ever fascinating topic of Social Media ROI. I’ll be honest and tell you this: I stopped going to most social media gatherings centered around this topic a long time ago because I feel like I’ve been there, done that.

We’ve hashed, re-hashed, and re-re-hashed the subject a million times as an industry to seemingly no avail. Trying to find a ‘golden measure’ of social media success is oftentimes akin to hitting your head against a brick wall. The brick wall doesn’t budge. But your head does. And, all you’re left with is an achy melon and the knowledge that bashing yourself against an inanimate object for over a decade isn’t good for anyone involved. Especially you.

That said, I went along the other night for a few reasons. Firstly, I knew the person putting on the talk. She’s a cool cat, and amazing at what she does – if anyone could draw interested, interesting, and engaged people to the venue to really get down to nuts and bolts and talk, she could. And, she did!

The night itself was great. The venue was funky, and open plan – mostly brick, too (yikes! protect your heads!) The speakers for the evening were engaging before, during, and after the proceedings. Dialogue fascinating. And the crowd asked important, evolved questions. Yee haw! Though we all took angles in talking through social media ROI, a common thread was woven across the tapestry of topics. And, when boiled down, the most important takeaway for me from everyone in the room was this: humans matter most.

In marketing.
In storytelling.
In channel planning.
In brand and social media ROI.
Yep, humans.
They’re the best.

Seems pretty commonsensical, right? That people matter more than platforms. More than analytical tools. More than data and insights. More than anything. But your brain would boggle and your head spin at the amount of times I’ve been called into a meeting and been told to “prove the worth” of Facebook as a line-item on a community or direct marketing campaign pitch. You’d fall out of your chair in shock (or maybe not) at how often I still get asked about whether audience should go before channel. Here’s something I can tell you without a single doubt in my mind: ROI is driven through the human condition. All of it.

AUDIENCE. FIRST. ALWAYS.

Let’s taking a quick walk down memory lane, shall we? I remember the first time I was hauled into a senior manager’s office to sit next to the CEO and CFO and talk social ROI. The exec knew that that new ” social communication channels” were lining up to be the new next-best-thing, but weren’t sure how these emerging channels would slot into the existing marketing mix. Fair enough to ask the hard questions as bean counters. But, at 25yrs old I wasn’t quite as well versed in the language of cash-flow and P&L ledgers as I am now to be able to have eloquently answered the questions put to me as I could now. In fact, my attempts at speaking ‘marketing talk’ to digital people, and vice versa, were fumbling at best. I failed a lot at convincing people of the value of social media, but also kept at it. I kept talking passionately about community and the returns in the long run. From that, I got more and more wins on the board. It was all simple psychology and basic marketing fundamentals – just on new platforms. Right? If only the IPA study about brand building in the long term had been out a decade ago!

The funny thing is this: social media has always just made sense to me. At all junctures. It’s never been strange, other-worldly, or foreign. Maybe because I’m inherently a creative and love learning new ways to share images, or stories, or video. Social has been another avenue (or, more recently, major freeway) on which businesses and individuals were able to tell powerful stories in a more relevant way than perhaps traditional advertising could. In my life, social media has become a passion, a profession, and almost an obsession. From the beginning, social media ROI has always been in relationships – it still is. Before the tracking tools. Before the analytical powerhouse back-ends. Before the ad platforms. Before custom and lookalike audiences. Before all of that, and to this day, I firmly believe that social media ROI is in all of us. It’s in emotion, familiarity, and trust.

So when I say social media is dead, we all know it’s not. It’ll never die. But, it will evolve and change quicker than Beiber’s hairstyle. Social is powerful. It unites us. It divides us. And it earns us the right to speak about things other than just our products. Social media allows brands banter, heart, and voice. Each touch-point, each piece of content, each story is a chance for you and your brand to differentiate and ingratiate yourself to consumers. Put people first, and your ROI will be ever-growing.

Long live social media.
Long live all media.

Growing Older, Wildly

I need to start off by saying that this is a second attempt at writing on this topic. Previous to this iteration, I had eight-thousand fabulous/inspirational/hilarious/perfectly woven together words filling a blank page. So smug at FINALLY writing something of merit (or so I thought), my blog sputtered, spun-out, & died on me.  Hoping against hope that a draft had been saved (it hadn't), I'm now left with four words on a mostly blank page and a belly-full of regret. C'mon Cass, you know to hit 'save' often. GAH!

With all of this said, please note, that this second attempt might be as good as the first, or simply okay. It might also turn out to be complete crap. You decide. Writing is my favorite indulgence and salve at present, so I'll try again. And, this time, hit save more often as we go along.

Right, here we go…

Last weekend was my birthday. For someone who doesn't really 'do' birthdays (my own), I had a full 48 hours of spoiling, treats, selfish indulgence, and friend-and-family-filled frivolity  that was truly magical. There were lots of laughs, frozen cocktails, and moments of introspection amongst the din of celebration.

At one point, mid-meal in a fave little cafe in Ponsonby, I looked around the table filled to the brim with my beloveds. My favorites. My soul-people. And, I took it all in. The sights, sounds, tastes, and slight cocktail-buzz of the moment filled my gooey heart to bursting-point. And, I hate to admit this, I cried. Happy tears.

You see, we all blaze our own paths in life. And, mine's been a trip – that's for sure. From a young age, I've always done what's best for the people I care for. I've toed imaginary lines drawn in the sand of societal propriety while calmly placing my own desires and wants to one side to ensure the happiness, growth, and fulfillment of those around me. I've always grown 'older and wiser' with each year that passes – but not this year.

This year has been a time to find my feet. To walk, crawl, run, stumble, jump, and skip as far as I can… even if my feet have had to go backwards or sideways to eventually end up moving me forward.

Getting all introspective, I've decided that my next trip around the sun will not be about my feet anymore (at size 11, they're big enough, thank you!), it'll be about finding my wings and growing older wildly. This change in the way I take myself into each new day has been a long time coming.

I've spent a lot of time coming to terms with me. Learning to not just like who I've become over the years – but to love who I am now, and who I will be. All awkwardness, fear, hesitation, and bold brazenness that I am, I will accept and wildly put out into the universe with hopes of connection, laughter, and growth.

With so many lessons under my belt over these past 36 years, I've got a few tips/life hacks to share with you if you're looking at ways to genuinely get super comfy in your own skin (and I mean wearing-life-like-a-fluffy-smurf-onesie-comfy.) A lot of what I've learned is fairly cliche/common sense. But, like most things, it's easier to understand HOW to do something, than it is to actually get moving on DOING the thing.

When you start DOING, you open yourself up to failure and hurt. And, the journey to accept and share your imperfections will be a tough one at times. Shining brighter in a beam of vulnerability is, in my mind, better than staying locked up behind a mask of intrusive perfection. I hope you get something out of the below – and maybe even the above – and if you've got your own life lessons for growing older wildly, please let me know what they are!

Be your best you.
How wishy-washy does this sound? Seriously. But, it's true. There are times when we all have to actively try (super hard) to quiet our own inner-voice. You know the one. It's tinged with self-doubt and criticism and will only ever pull you down. But you need building up! To start moving forward, you need to be your best version of you, while accepting imperfections are just part of being human. Whether it's finding time in a day to meditate, looking at yourself in the mirror and finding something you love about your look each morning, or simply maintaining physical fitness – just do something positive for you. Guilt-free. No interruptions. Just know that you're on the road to happiness when you're comfortable being unapologetically you.
 

  • Apologize & forgive.
    Team, it seems so simple, but it's not. The easiest way to be free of guilt/anger/regret is to own your mistakes . We all fuck things up. We all make mistakes – most of the time, unintentionally. Putting ego and pride aside is hard. Really hard. But once you start to simply say "I'm sorry." (and mean it) you'll find your relationships become stronger, your foundation of support unmovable. In the same vein as apologizing, comes forgiveness. When someone else owns their mistakes, remember how you'd like to have your words of contrition received – and receive theirs in kind. We're all fighting our own battles. Forgive, let go, say you're sorry… and live happier for it.

 

  • Accept praise readily.
    This has been something a lot of us struggle with, accepting praise. From childhood, I've had to consciously tell myself to just say "Thank you." when someone says something nice to me or about me. The truth of the matter is that, more often than not, when someone praises or compliments me – I feel the need to belittle myself and my achievements in an effort to dampen them down, to seem less braggadocious. Where did this ugly habit creep into my world? At what age or juncture in our personal journeys do we learn that accepting praise can only happen if we ensure we shine – but not too brightly. I'm not sure of when or how, but one thing I am certain of is this: it's taken a while to poo-poo this approach to accepting and being thankful for praise. I am unrepentant in my ability to accept praise gracefully these days. Older, wilder, and thankful for kind words and gestures of others.

 

  • F*ck the critics.
    Obviously, not literally. As far as life strategies go, learning to silence the doubters, dickheads, and critics is a imperative to being comfortable and confident in your own being. It's also the hardest strategy to master, because it means not only silencing the opinions of others – but silencing your own inner-voice of doubt. In the past few years, my life has been turned upside-down, shaken, and then (still in disarray) placed neatly back right-side-up again. With all of the topsy-turviness of life, I've learned to quiet the opinions of people who don't bring growth, kindness, or positivity to my life. It's almost as simple as throwing a switch and deciding not to give a damn about someone's opinion of me. And, once you find that 'off' switch, it's just so much easier to just place everything that doesn't grow you in a Fuck-it bucket and move on. Critics? Who are they anyhow…

 

  • Wear what you want.
    Seriously. I'll keep this short and sweet. Wear what makes you feel good. Because, when you feel good you can take on just about anything.

  • Change constantly.
    Change is the best part about getting older. Call it evolution, growth, finding yourself… whatever you name it, it's change. And, it's beautiful. How boring would it be to live life without seeing/doing/experiencing something new? Beauty is in the small moments, the big KAHUNA about-faces, and in the cracks that let light and color into dark times. Don't fear the only consistent thing in life, learn to embrace it. And, love it. It's completely okay and normal to be afraid of upsetting the rhythm of life when you just start getting comfortable with routine. It's also completely okay to wait for the roller coaster to hit the pinnacle of the highest drop and throw your arms up and head back… taking in the force of free-falling with rapture and intrigue. No matter where you are in your journey, be all there. And, change it up a bit. If even just for giggles.

There you have it. A few life lessons as told by someone whose opinion is no more important than the next person in line. 36 trips around the sun have taught me to look at life as a joyous, sometimes sorrowful, journey. A precious gift to unpack, enjoy, and to dive into headfirst. Here's to growing older wildly. And loving every hedonistic, gentle, catastrophically amazing moment of it.

 

My Top Sixteen in 2016

Let’s be honest. From the moment Bowie died, the wheels started to fall off for 2016. The fact that the universe began tilting askew only ten days into the year should’ve been worrying at the time. And, with the beauty of hindsight to look back on, the passing of such a gargantuan icon so early meant more than many of us could’ve known at the time. 

Whether it was Bowie or just some kind of fu*ked up aura, from very early on in 2016 it was apparent that the highs were  going to be seriously high, and the lows were going to be the lowest many of us had ever known. For me, and I think for a lot of folks out there, I’ve been left with a calmness, a feeling of relief, that this year is over and a new year is beginning. This trip around the sun was mixture of saccharine sweet happiness, rotten milk, all wound up with a kick of vinegar and spice just to keep us honest.

January was celebrated, sun-drenched, and full to the brim with friends and family. A big ‘ol Californian contingent spent time vineyard hopping on Waiheke Island, and then played at being tourists around the North Island. A great start to a year that, with the gift of hindsight, was to become a superbly confusing, but beautiful, one.

We celebrated the birth of our beloved Sloane in February. Enjoyed Auckland Pride in Ponsonby. Played in the sunshine as often as we could. And then, we rocked through March. We became engaged in Melbourne. We celebrated. And then, spent time with our loved ones in April back home for a blink-and-your-missed-me moment, while I ticked a professional-bucket-list-item off in heading to San Diego to speak at the Social Media Marketing World Conference.

May and June were a blur. Of work, of life, of finances. I bought a house. Mended fences. Fell deeper in love. And, pushed buttons – challenging the status quo. Attempting to get others to believe in the value of Common Sense.

Together with family and friends, I stayed standing even when the world shook around, below, and above me. Sometimes I wondered if it was all worth it – it was, and is.

July was bliss. Home. California summer. Love. Las Vegas nights. Hollywood birthdays with new friends. Old friends rediscovered randomly on Santa Monica Blvd cross-walks. Wow, July. My favourite month became even more superb.

August came and went quickly. Which was a blessing in the end. Because, as I would find out, the meaty part of the year was still ahead of us – and, let’s not confuse this meaty bit with a prime cut of filet mignon, it was a dry, stinky jerky I’d soon be chewing on.

September and October brought uncertainty. Pain of loss. Loss of a belief in the goodness and fairness of others. Loss of trust. Loss of confidence. Loss of self. Had I not had my stunning fiancee, adoring baby girl, and friends & family who continually reaffirmed that ‘you are fine, you are capable, you are better than this time…’ I’m not sure I’d be writing this right now with any semblance of a positive spin.

A light in the darkness, our beloved nephew Oscar was born on the eve of another trip home to California to see my best friend of over 30 years marry her amazing Eddie. California was kind, gentle, loving, and soaked in sunlight. The trip home in October restored my faith in me. In my capabilities. In the solidifying of what matters most in life (hint, it’s the people you love most – not any of the other noise).

Late October, it was back to New Zealand, where I began a new adventure professionally. Meeting new people with big ideas, sparkling with passion as a business, and married to doing world-class work as a true team – I’d found my place and my people!

November, you were a superstar – save for a certain American presidential election which I have almost completely erased from my mind for the sake of keeping my sanity in check. If I ignore it, it’s not really real – right? My darling and I had an amazing birthday getaway on our beloved Waiheke Island and we spent the entire month laughing and dancing in the kitchen. Seriously! November, you’re my Boo.

But, all good things (I’m learning) must come to an end. Early December brought unexpected change. The wheels looked like they’d fall off. The ride got wobbly. Tears. Loss. Disappointment. But, after just having had a lot of change, I shook it off. And… joy, sunshine, happiness, thankfulness, and more were restored to my head and heart.

Looking back on 2016, it’s been a mixed bag. Not just for me, but for all of us. While I greeted each new day with energy and hope, I also felt an omnipresent wariness of life-lessons yet to be learned (or, learned again).Because of this, and keeping in the tradition of lists at the end of years, I’d like to share sixteen things I learned (or had reaffirmed) in twenty-sixteen.

In no particular order, here’s what I’ve got for you! Take the gritty, the pretty, the optimistic, the not-so-positive, the uplifting and mix them, mould them, and meld them to suit.

More than anything though, remember this one thing: 2017 is coming.

Sixteen lessons I’ve learned in 2016

1) Sometimes kindness will be echoed with deception, disappointment, and deceit – be kind anyways. Yep, some people are just dickheads. Plain and simple. No matter how kind, hard-working, loving, helpful, or patient you are – they’re only out for themselves. I learned this (again) a few times this year. But, ya know what? I decided it’s more important to cut loose the bad eggs without letting them cool my fire, calm my passion, or temper my kindness. Everyday is another day to practice being kind. If you can be one thing, that’s the one thing you should be. It’ll ensure you a life full of love, friendship, and strong connections with those who matter most.
2) Work is work – spend time in the office, be passionate, be firm, and always learn… but remember that family & friendship is everything. This one is pretty self-explanatory. In a world where we’re all ever-connected, and trying to climb that proverbial ladder, we often put our friendships, marriages, and important relationships last. If this year has taught me anything, it’s this: work is work. While you can be passionate and proud about what you do, it shouldn’t replace your time with family and friends. Finding a good work-life balance (or, rather, integration) isn’t always easy – you have to work at it. But, believe me, the important stuff is your time and your people. Invest there, too.
3) Saltwater is the best salve. Beaches, tears. The beach has been my saviour for many years. Whether on a Californian shore, swimming in the Mediterranean, or looking out across the Pacific attempting to see home on the other side – the ocean and the sand beneath my feet have always been the best way for me to find silence, and calm. There’s a quote about seawater and tears both being the most healing things in this world, and I for one can say this isn’t far from the truth. If you can find a beach, go sit near the water. Watch the power of a gentle tide. The ebb and flow – like the heartbeat of the earth itself. When you feel small, you’ll find your centre. Promise.
4) 3am is the perfect time of day to restart. And, to sweat. When I tell people I go to the gym at 3am (not everyday!) the answer is always “Oh my god, you’re crazy!” Well… nope. I’m not crazy at all. In fact, I know myself well enough to be able to damn any clock or set metric of time if it means I get to prioritise my health. One constant in my life has always been athletics. Dad had me catching pop-flies by the ripe old age of two. From there, my life was full of sports, of teams, and of learning to work with and alongside others. Exercise for me is more than just physical, it’s the clearing of the mind while the body takes over. A sweaty, sometimes uncomfortable type of meditation in motion. The time at which I do it? It’s not important. Doing it is what matters. And, right now as a mother, colleague, friend, fiancee and more… 3am is the time I can have for me. Just, me.
5) Taking time to think deeply, to feel immensely, and cry recklessly is important. We’re all so damn busy. All. The. Damn. Time. One of the most healing, balancing, and strengthening things you can do in our connected age is just stop. Smell the roses, if there are some, or just look out a window and think. Let your mind and your body ‘just be’ for a while – and you’ll be amazed at the clarity that comes with small, meditative moments to yourself. I find my silence in motion. Exercise, walking by the beach, hiking outdoors… just me, the breeze, and an hour to feel. A lot of the time I’ll take time to recognise and allow emotions to overwhelm me. Yucky, ugly crying. Loud, rowdy thoughts. Chilled, calm soul. Whatever you need to balance, do it.
6) It’s okay to ask for help. This one seems simple. In fact, it’s a piece of advice I happily delve out to friends and family alike. Often. But, when it comes to treating ourselves as well as we treat others, the rules oftentimes don’t apply. When it comes to asking for help though (be it financial, emotional, or otherwise), it’s important to allow yourself the ability to do so. Weakness is not inherent in realising you need extra hands to carry the weight of your world – it’s strength that comes with allowing others to help. For me, asking for help has gotten easier with time. Just as I love helping my friends, I’ve realised that my friends love helping me. So… in 2017, when you need a hand up, ask. It really does take a village.
7) It’s okay to trust other people at first glance – and keep trusting them – even if you’ve been burned before. Right, so this is a hard one for even me to swallow. This year’s come-to-Jesus moment happened all at once, when people I trusted broke our shared trust irreparably. After this happened, I found a voice inside my head whispering (sometimes shouting!) ‘DO NOT TRUST ANYONE ANYMORE!’ My head and my heart were trying to keep me safe. And, if I’m honest, I listened to both for a while. But, I found that not trusting people caused me to be completely unhappy. Completely un-me. At the heart of who I am lies a happy human. A person who believes in the good of people and the world. So, not trusting means not moving forward. And if you know me well, you know that sitting still + Cassie = not possible for long. A turning point for me came when I started a new adventure – and found a safety net in new plans, new adventures…and new people. People whom I trust completely. The moral of the story? Just because you’ve been burned before, doesn’t mean you can’t safely stand (or dance) next to the fire again. Be bold. Be brave. And, trust in the goodness of others. 
 
8) It’s also okay to change your mind. Often. Yep. It is. Believe me… I’ve changed my mind more times in the past year than I had in the previous 33.5 years combined. Why? Because I am a grown-ass adult woman who is allowed to consistently learn, evolve, change and mould myself into a better version of who I am now and will be in the future. Just because you feel like pizza for dinner on Wednesday, doesn’t mean you can’t have Thai on Thursday and Japanese on Friday. I highly recommend getting comfortable with recognising moments in which you might just need to suck up a bit of ego, and flip-flop on a choice. Be it a big or small moment, allowing yourself to change your mind also allows other people to see a bit more of your genuine self. Holding tight to outdated beliefs – or even just being hard-headed for the sake of it, won’t get you very far down the road of life. And, it won’t find you happiness. That’s for certain. So, in sticking with a theme I see materialising now, go easy on yourself. Allow the winds of change to carry you where they may – just adjust those sails when and where you can.
9) Justin Beiber really is a mastermind musically (yes, I went there #Belieber) – so are Gaga, Adele, George Ezra, Keith Urban, and Christine and the Queens. Music is a language unto itself. Transcending languages, cultures, and experiences – it’s the one thing that can serve to glue us silly humans together as one. That said, it seems like (this year in particular) there are a lot of music snobs about. How about this, snobs… why don’t we just let people like what they like, and spend time not hating on Beliebers, country music fans, hard-house aficionados, et al. This trip around the sun, for me, was one made amazing when we talk about music. I discovered a lot of new artists (new to me), and really went back to the soul of what I love in music – storytelling. Think about Queen’s lyrics. Bernie Taupin’s. George Michael’s. There’s a new revolution happening, and it’s luckily favouring singer-songwriters who can yield both a pen and electric/acoustic guitar. No matter the moment, there’s a song for it or memory to be made through music. So, whether you love Slipknot or Bach, just do you. Turn it up. And, soak it in.
10) Shit is going to happen. When it does, roll with the punches and start your hustle. Shit is, well, shitty. And, it happens a lot. But, so too do good times. This year has been a decisively weird one because it seems like most people had a rough year, but not many of us can really say why. I mean, good stuff happened. A lot of good stuff. Probably more good than bad, really. But, the bad just seemed to be omnipresent. More like someone constantly poking at a bruise than an occasional sprain or broken bone. Does that make sense? What I’ve learned from the universe constantly prodding at ouchy bruises this year is this: complaining doesn’t help any situation. Neither does sitting still and wishing anything bad away. It’s perfectly normal and okay to rage and mourn when bad shit happens – but only for a little while. After the fall, you stand up. And you hustle. What do I mean by hustle? You stop feeling sorry for yourself – at least outwardly. You start smiling (again, outwardly). You start believing in yourself – wholly. At 35 years old, I’m fairly adept at the old bob-and-weave when life throws a punch or two at me. But, when a punch lands squarely between my eyes, I wait for the little cartoon birdies to clear, and then get on with it. Because, motion begets motion. And, moving forward makes me happy.
11) Putting yourself first must always come first. True story. This one, though seemingly simplistic in theory, is a hard one. Especially if, like me, you’re a mom, wife, colleague, boss, friend, cousin, daughter… etc etc. Modern life is, as we all know, BUSY. And ohhhhhhh, how I detest the glorification of busy. Oftentimes it takes just as much intestinal fortitude to take time for oneself as it does to take on a big project. I had learned over the years, but especially in the past year, to never ever apologise for taking time to myself. For taking time to work on myself. To better myself. To find my centre and learn. I found out the hard way (almost burning out completely) that being the best me that I can be is the best way to give to others. As cliche as it sounds, putting me first some of the time, helps me put others first the rest of the time. And, I’m a much happier human for it.
12) Binge watching YouTube channels (erm, hello Hannah Hart and Lacie & Robin) is a perfectly apt use of time. I never really was in to YouTubers. Never binge-watched channels. Never really consumed shows on YouTube voraciously… until 2016. This year was a year of discovery for me (in more than one way, on more than one channel and platform), and in that I have learned a lot from simply binge-watching funny, interesting, insightful, silly, crazy, in-depth shows online. My two fave channels, are above. Hannah Hart, a newcomer into my realm of knowing, is a big star on the interwebs. She’s got millions upon millions of followers, has a new book out, and a movie, too! But, she’s just Hannah. And, I love that about her. Her content is refreshingly funny, self-deprecating, and genuine. Check her channel out if you have time – she’s constantly creating new stories and shows. Something’s bound to tickle your entertainment fancy with her. And, alongside Hannah, I love Lacie & Robin. Though they may not have millions upon millions of followers, they’re just as amazing storytellers and content creators. Gorgeous women through and through, I am more than proud to call them friends. And, am more than okay admitting I binge-watch their content when they release it like a true fangirl should. 🙂 People always say ‘use your time wisely’ and I reckon watching all of the ladies listed above is as good a use of time as any.
13) Getting out there on a limb means you’ll gather more fruit… or something like that. Simply put, you’ve got to put yourself out there every once and a while if you want to learn, grow, and move up in life. Staying comfortable is okay if your goals in life are centred on comfort. But, if you’ve got goals that’s bigger than where you are right now (or, by rights, smaller), then you need to do something different that what you’ve always done before. That means getting used to being uncomfortable. And learning how to mask discomfort with confidence – until confidence is all you know (I’m still working on this bit). Just putting yourself out there for a new job, a relationship, a friendship… anything… is difficult. But, once you take the first step or make the first move, you’ll find that things usually end up for the better.
14) Being the most genuine version of yourself is the only way to really find happiness. Really! This year was the year when I stopped giving a flying f*ck about the opinions of people who have no discernible effect on my life. And, in doing so, have become the happiest, best version of me I’ve ever been. Ever. Living in the most genuine, unapologetic, open, and giving way possible has been healing. Epiphany after epiphany has happened. And, I’ve connected more deeply than ever with people I love on more levels than I ever knew possible. Moral of the story: just be. Happiness follows suit.

15) Find a happy place – a consistently healing place – and go there, often. My happy place is the beach. Any beach. But, particularly, a beach on Waiheke Island near vineyards, restaurants, and endless hiking trails for long meditative walks while sipping strong coffee. When I feel lost, down, out of energy, or otherwise just in a funk, the ocean heals me. A few times this year, when I thought I was at breaking point, I simply got into my car and drove to the ocean. Most of the time I’d sit in my car, windows down so I could hear the waves crashing on the shore…and think. Just think. Most of the time I’d lose myself in feeling small. And a part of something larger. And then, quickly, realise that whatever worry was tugging at my heart wouldn’t stay forever. From that point on, I would start working through solutions to whatever problem needed solving. Emotional, financial – whatever it was, it could be built up, torn down, or sewn up securely at the beach.

16) Call your parents (and your grandparents, if you still are lucky enough to have them) regularly. Just chat. Connect. Love them. The more time that flies by, the less you have to spend on the people who love you best. Call Mom and Dad. FaceTime. Skpe. Text. Remember to let them know you’re thinking of them as much as they’re thinking of you. You’ll never regret taking the time to chat about everything and nothing at all. I promise.
2016, you’ve been a frenemy to many of us. Just this week my childhood crush, George Michael, was taken at 53yrs old. Along with Bowie, bookends of a year than can also now be put to rest with sadness and genuine adoration in equal parts. 
Here’s to a new trip around the sun. To balance, to you. To all of us.
Love and light.
Cass 

Photographs & Memories – October 2016

October was sundrenched. Warm. Californian and ethereal. I love the way sunlight dances on water. How blue the skies can be when you spend time looking up. The last remaining rays of summer shone through every moment of our trip home. And, my heart is settled. Cali, this native child loves you.

Changing How I View Change

The only constant in life, is change.

But, let’s face it, knowing that change is inevitable doesn’t make facing it particularly comfortable or easy. In fact, as a card carrying creature of habit myself, I’ll be straight up with you: change makes me shake in my proverbial (and literal) boots more often than not.

As a confident, capable human… why is that? Shouldn’t I be able to just roll with the punches and deal with the hand that I’m dealt without any speed wobbles?

Erm, nope. I can think of quite a few reasons why being nervous about change is good – and why my stomach still churns a bit at the thought of sudden, drastic, unexpected changes in life.

The first thing that makes me fear change is simply that I have grown-up responsibilities (like mortgages and bills and all of that adulting carry-on). To feel safe & supported, I need to have a firm foundation of stability across the main areas of my life. These areas include financial, emotional, spiritual & creative aspects of who I am and what I do. Should these foundations be rocked, moved, jiggled, or even hinted at being drastically altered – panic sets in.

Or at least tries to set in.

Without stability, and without a sense of being able to provide for my child, my fiancee, and myself – my world (and my sense of self worth) start to crumble. Having knowledge that our next meal, mortgage payment, hug, laugh, and moment together might not be safe all add to my feelings of worry in times of change. At the core of who we are intrinsically,  (where our basic, instinctual drives reside) we need more than anything to live in a state of comfort – which usually means habitual daily routines. When our routines are disrupted. So too are the supporting pillars of happiness and confidence.

Another reason change has always been a bit nerve-wracking for me is that I like being able to define who I am – on my own terms. We all do, right? And, to do that, I need to understand my place in the world and how my actions effect others – their well being, their health, their core values. To do this well, means I need to have (or at least feel that I have) some control over my own circumstances.

Let me elaborate more on change – and why it can break a person. Change takes away our sense of being in control of our lives & our destiny.  When I start to feel like I’ve lost all control, I take a step back, breathe deep & start to make decisions – even micro-decisions are a starting point to turn negatives into positives. I usually decide that I have in me the power to change, and that everything starts to balance itself out again. It may take some time, but my mind becomes clear, the weight on my shoulders lighter – and my confidence is restored in going through the mental steps of building positives out of perceived negatives.

I’d be telling a big ‘ol porky-pie if I said I haven’t given in to the depth of despair on more than one occasion. I’m not an automaton. I know the darkness of failure. I’ve tasted it, wallowed in it, & given in to self-doubt. But, not for long. In fact, as I get older, I am able to fall & fail fast. And then pop back to my feet, taller & stronger than before. As my ten-year-old told me yesterday, “Mom, you climbed a mountain, a really big one, and now you’re just going down the other side. The next mountain’s gonna be bigger Momma. I can tell!” (what a kid!) Having the love & support of people who continually remind you of your worth is hugely important to rolling with changes.

Is there anything good about change? I’m talking about a mushy, warm, happy-tickle good thing. YES! YES THERE IS AMAZING GOOD IN CHANGE!

If I’m honest, the good is in the slowing down and taking the time to think, reflect, and also getting super focused on planning, potential outcomes, and building resilience. By slowing down and counting my blessings, as well as looking at my achievements and skills to date (I’m talking personally & professionally), I’m able to really shine a light on the positive nature of uncertain times. The old cliches about the worst of times teaching us the best of lessons exists for a reason. That reason being that, for the most part, what doesn’t defeat us really does make us stronger. And stronger equals resilient equals a state of mind focused on success.

Because, if change is inevitable, and control is the key to feeling firm in your foundations – then giving into your own power of taking control of all situations and how you react to them means that you’re in charge of your story. Not happenstance. No other person holds the keys to how you view the world. It’s you. It’s me. It’s all of us.

Today I see change the same way I see life. Nothing is permanent. Even if the word “permanent” is a falsity when included as a binding part of a promise. Everything is in flux. Always. Nothing, and I mean nothing, is permanent. Each new day, each new experience, each new moment is a blessing and a moment to learn, to refocus, and to remember just how lucky we are to be above ground. Getting comfortable with being uncomfortable is a process. A life-long one. So too, is change.

Embrace the process.
Ride the waves.
Be the change.
And, when you can, help others through moments where they’re feeling vulnerable. Kindness first. Smile much. And believe that, together, we can truly overcome anything.

Who Stole My Zen?


The world is fast. Beautiful. Broken. Uplifting. Harsh. Everything at once. It can build us up & tear us down quickly. All it takes is one interaction – one word, one Tweet, one text, one fleeting moment to change the course of a day or a life.

If I think about the world & my place in it too much, things (sometimes) can feel overwhelming – in a beautiful way, mostly.

Mother. Partner. Daughter. Aunt. Friend. Colleague. Boss. Ex. Bestie. Stranger.

Most days I ask myself: Which part of me will I strengthen today?  And, inversely, which part will I allow to crumble – if even just a little bit?  Because, let’s face it, when you focus on one area of life, others can slip. And, I’m completely cool with that.

When it comes to making decisions though, I find that, sometimes, the best way to decide is not to decide on anything at all.

Huh?

Practicing silence, stillness, and focusing on the present is a great way to just “be”. Whether it be relationships at work, at home, or in the abstract – when moments arise where everything seems too much, I find a quiet space, a silent moment & look for my personal zen.

Personal zen? It’s that special, untouchable thing that helps me return to a calm, content, happy & driven being with an end goal of staring in wild wonder at the beauty of the world around me.

Over the years, I’ve learned (mostly through falling, failing & getting back up again) that balance is always achievable if you take the time to do you. To work on & build your inner resolve. Time, effort, & introspection are all integral to getting there with the balance thing.

But where does one start? I reckon a little bit of practice daily, & one big decision to take ownership of your own zen could look something like this:

  • PRIORITIZE
    Put yourself first. Seriously, do it. Because, weirdly enough, being your own Number-One is really hard for a lot of people – specifically working women. We’re taught from day-dot to make others happy. And that we can only ever be successful if we look the part while playing by rules written not in our own hand. Throw that bull$hit out the door & put yourself first. Find what makes you happy – be it exercise, time to reflect, or even meditation. Do you. First.
  • WORK, FAMILY, FUN
    Work & family are all intermingled these days, aren’t they? Shutting off is damn hard. So, finding a profession that you love & working with people you love mean that you’re able to find zen in the very place that pays the bills. Personally, my team at work are my family. While we might not share blood, we share laughs, love, kindness, drive, & shared objectives. Having fun is a must – & this means coming home is just as amazing as heading to the office on a Monday. #winning
  • AMBITION
    Don’t be afraid to kick butt & be good at what you do! As an American living in New Zealand, I do sometimes still struggle with the “tall poppy syndrome.” I was always taught that you’re not a great leader until you create other great leaders. Personally, I find so much joy in seeing my team at work, my child, & my loved ones succeed. Celebrating the success of others, & actively helping others to grow themselves is the best work any of us can do. My advice? Never, ever be afraid to be proud of your achievements. And, in the same vein, always let others know when you’re proud of their successes too!
  • MOVE YOUR BODY
    Exercise. It’s basically magic. The best kind of magic human beings could ever hope to master. When you’re feeling low, when your confidence is lacking… hit the road, the gym, or the pool. We humans were made to move. So, make time to do just that. Lose yourself in the sound of your beating heart. Make being comfortable with the state of feeling uncomfortable your new norm. And, if you can remember one thing about fitness let it be this: it’s easier to stay fit, than to get fit! So, make a habit of fitness. Mind, body, soul. Start moving. You’ll be amazed by how quickly you find your zen.
  • GET INTO THE GROOVE
    Music. It’s a common language across all of humanity. Minor chords, variations of the majors. They work to lift us up & bring us spiraling back down to earth. Find your groove, own it, & lose yourself in the words & chords that make you feel like yourself. Whether you’re blasting out Ryan Adams, swooning to Joe Jonas, or find yourself rolling through Cam Country… music heals, uplifts, & help us all find our center. Turn it on, turn it up, & do you.

Balance, confidence, & zen. However you find them…make your life your own. And, enjoy every breath you’re blessed with.

And, feel free to leave your tips on finding your zen in the comments. I’m keen to hear your thoughts.

 

Cass