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.

 

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Adding More ‘Me’ Into My Days

Lately I’ve been taking stock of things. You know, adult-y, important, life-y things.

And, in taking stock of all these adult-y & life-y things, I’ve come to a fairly heavy, yet ridiculously common sensical conclusion – there’s just not enough time in the day.

Seriously! I work hard. I support my family. I try as hard as I can to stay in good touch with friends. That said, the time to do things beyond the daily routine seems as elusive as something, erm… elusive.

With time coming out as the main winner in the what-I-need-more-of stakes, I’ve gone around in circles (not literally) to figure out where I can cut corners, clip edges, & add more of time into my days.

Ruh roh, Rorge!

Bad news alert: Other than altering the algorithm of the universe & manufacturing more actual time, there’s no short-cut to making more space in our calendars other than doing just that.

In taking the time (see what I did there) to take stock of 37yr old me, I’ve come to find that I am really good at making time for others. And, by rights, I am shockingly bad at spending time on me. That’s set to change though. It has to.

I’m not sure when exactly it was that I stopped prioritizing time to understand my own thoughts, values, & goals – but I imagine it was when I was staring down the barrel of a traditional lifein my early 20’s.

Married at 23yrs old, child by 24yrs old & wanting to fit into templated cultural standards imposed on me, I went with the proverbial flow – even at times when I felt like swimming against the tide.

Living the ideal of Western adulting was an easy way out. I see that now. The few times I tried to fight to find my individuality, I was put squarely back in my place. Plus, I was  safe, content, mostly happy, & cool with how life felt when there wasn’t any conflict.

So I stopped fighting.

That was then. I built my life & my sense of self on pleasing others & helping others to succeed. This filled my soul almost to full, but the last little bit was always missing. The deeper I dug into what made others tick, the more I realized I wasn’t wholly aware of the things that make me tick.

Not knowing myself made it hard to truly know others, though. And, with the end of my first marriage & in falling in love again, I knew I’d have to really invest in myself to be happy & to make any close relationship truly flourish. Yassssss, ain’t flourishing grand??!?

Let me tell you this: the act of trying to understand oneself is an act of unravelling in itself. It’s also a piecing together of a puzzle that I now realize will always be a whole picture, even when incomplete.

So, how have I been adding more me into my days?

A bit like this…

1.      Allow yourself to be complex

Nothing is simple. Not a single damn thing. Especially not human beings. Humans, as being are inherently a state.

To behuman.

To bein motion.

To beanything is to be human.

Right? So when we try too hard to streamline who we are, or in an opposite turn, ignore who we are completely – then we lose ourselves. By allowing ourselves to be complex & to love the minutiae of who we are, we then give ourselves permission to be imperfect. We strive not for the simple, but for the beauty in the details. And, beyond everything else, when we embrace the complexity of being human – we embrace the beauty of who we were, are, & will become all at once.

2.     Say “Bye Bye” to the Binary         

We all reckon there are only two sides to a coin. But, good news, life isn’t like flipping a coin. Our trips around the sun, should we be lucky enough to experience enough of them, are beyond black & white. And, let’s be honest, Yin & Yang only offer us all so much in terms of understanding the world around us. No singular pro or con, expression of self, or way of being is binary. When you look for them, there are grey areas in which to pay, explore, & discover who you are. In doing so, you learn what matters most to you. And, when you know what matters most to you, you prioritize your time differently. You fill your soul more readily.

3.     Know your tipping point & really feelyour feelings 

We’re nuanced. Hugely so. However, when it comes down to it – we’re our own best judges when it comes to whether or not we’re about to speed full-tilt off of a cliff face or not. My coping method for corralling stress for a long time was to keep moving. My favorite quote was (and sometimes still is, but in a different way) ‘motion begets motion.’ By not slowing down, & by speeding towards a cliff-face I ignored all of my ore-determined warning signals that are in place to tell me I’m heading towards disaster.

Lately however, I’ve been making a concerted effort to really feel my feelings. I’ve suited up, grabbed my goggles, & decided to swim in the mire & murk of confusion. I’ve gotten comfortable with discomfort. And, in the process, I’ve become more attuned to understanding when, how, & why I need to slow down. By tuning in to my gut feelings, I’ve been able to sit in discomfort long enough to change tact. In doing so, happiness & relief follow. Halle-frickken-lujah!

4.     Step away from sameness

Same ‘ol, same ‘ol. There’s comfort in routine – to a point. I find I’m at my most creative, passionate, & driven when I am challenged. Challenges aren’t born of monotony. They just aren’t. When we surround ourselves with difference – time flies, innovation happens, & silliness is welcome in spades. Making a concerted effort to change little things, to shake stuff up a bit, & to embrace the opposite of sameness gives us all a better view of who we are & how we feel when we’re learning. I’ve always found beauty in difference, and as I grow older, I now realize that it takes a truly concerted effort to step away from sameness.

5.    Chase your happy

Listen to your gut, and when it’s feeling happy, take note. Then, chase that feeling. If there are big chunks of time in your day to day life dedicated to things that make you feel anxious or unfulfilled, throw them out. Seriously. Chase your happy. Those notes you took earlier when your gut told you that you were having a good time? Keep them close to you & read them back when you need them. Most importantly though, lace up, stretch, & sprint towards the things that fill your soul. I love to mull things over & wade in worry as much as the next person. But, there’s no better way to be happy than to chase your happy willingly. Go on y’all, try it.

10 Things I Know For Sure At 37 (Well, Kinda)

Cassie Roma Wordpress

I turned 37 this week. Holy moly, THIRTY SEVEN!

This means that I’ve now outlived Hank, Jesus, & Marilyn in terms of years spent on this spinning rock we call home.

I won’t lie to you, 36 was an interesting trip around the sun for me. I had some amazingly high highs, & some killer lows. My family grew closer, my friendships grew stronger. I married my best friend & soulmate! I traveled home to California three times, spoke at some of the world’s most prestigious industry events, & was elected Chair to an amazing Pride organization. I still have to pinch myself when it comes to how lucky I’ve been.

That said, it’d be remiss of me not to take a moment to nod to the lows that happened, too. You know those moments in life when you think “I couldn’t possibly handle another kick to the guts.” & then another one happens? And another. And another… ad infinitum.

Yeah, I got kicked a lot. Right in my soft bits. I also had some unsteadiness in my own identity. I guess you could say that I fell upon some rough times. Author & researcher Brené Brown called her own ‘rough time’ (AKA an early-midlife crisis) an unraveling.

So, I’ll say it: Last year, I unraveled.

In fact, if my journey through this world is seen in the light of being a knitted sweater of sorts – yes, an awkwardly ugly-yet-amazing Christmas sweater is just fine with me – last year was the year in which I tugged a loose string far too firmly & everything came undone. I’ve always had a knack for keeping myself on my toes!

And, as a true adult does when struggling, I found myself the most kick-ass of professionals (yassssss, counselling FTW) to help me learn to re-knit myself together. I’m no sweater, yet. But at least all of the necessary parts are right here in my lap waiting to be spun together in time.

So, without further ado, below are 10 things I know for certain heading into my 37thyear that I’d like to share. Hopefully these lessons are familiar to you, & maybe a little bit helpful, too.

  1. Grey hair, it’s there – embrace it (or colour over it)
    I’ll level with you here, there’s no EASY WAY to find your first grey hair (or have your spouse/child/BFF find it.) There just isn’t. I can deal with smile lines, laugh wrinkles, & diminishing eyesight… but the hair change? Wow. It’s a beautiful reminder of how lucky we are to age. But, it’s also a bit of a wake-up call. Time to really buckle down & enjoy the journey, kid. Now’s YOUR time.
  2. Glasses are cool
    Hair changes. Eyesight changes. Waistline changes. And, the older we are, the cooler we look in glasses. Seriously, this is a proven, data-driven fact. Once you’re in your 30’s, you go from a nerd-bird to a cool-cat overnight simply by wearing corrective lenses. I have embraced the four-eyed-factor of my life & have many a pair of tortoise shell glasses filling my days & bringing me literal clarity. Win-win!
  3. Self-care (book in time for this)
    If you’re not prioritizing your own health (physical, mental, spiritual), you’re not doing time management right. Have too many meetings to meditate? Too many errands to be able to exercise? Nah. Recalibrate. You are your most important person (if you’re not, you should be), & you deserve time to take care of you in the ways you want/need. If you’re super busy at work/home like I am, book in time for you. Early in the morning, late at night, or sometime during the day – you’re worth 30 minutes of you, daily.
  4. Exercise more (seriously, book in time for this)
    Get up & move. Seriously, move your body as much as you can. Remember that feeling of being a kid & running, sprinting, jumping, playing, & sleeping like a rock? Yeah, it was the best! As adults, lots of us have forgotten how to move our bodies. How to spend time on doing things we’re built to do – like walking, jumping, lifting things (no, you don’t have to become an Olympic weight lifter…but it is a fun sport!) etc. Moving your body helps to temper your mind. Make time to move. I promise it’ll be the best time you spend all day!
  5. Who are you? Who, who? Who, who?
    Someone recently asked me “How much of you are you filling your days with?” when I did the math the answer was shocking. None, really. I had forgotten who I was, & how to tease out small selfish pleasures from moments in the day. Now? I take time daily to walk & think. To listen to music. To write poetry. And, simply, to re-discover the beauty of childhood imagination & play that has been dulled down with the marching on of time.

  6. Family matters
    More than anything, family matters. I know most people think this is a big “No duh!” statement – but you’d be surprised at how many folks I know that are pulling long hours, emailing whilst at home, spending time on stuff that seems important…that really isn’t. Our modern culture tells us stories about success that include forsaking everything in the pursuit of money, title, & status. I’m here to call bullshit on all of it. The only thing that’ll matter when you’re being buried is how much you loved the people who loved you back. Spend time on family – chosen or given – & you’ll find that success is in the eyes of the people who need you most looking back at you smiling.

  7. Being a good spouse means being 100% you
    I’m not gonna beat around the bush on this one. I’ve been a spouse to two people now. The first person I was married to taught me a lot about love, giving, & being selfless. He is kind, he is worthy, & he is a big part of who I am still. Marrying so young, I know now that I didn’t really know who I was or what I wanted to become. For a decade I floated through life seemingly at the whimsy of the tides. As I came into maturity, I started to uncover who I was becoming. When confronted with the truth, I realized that I wasn’t meant to be married anymore. I wasn’t fully me – which meant I’d never fully be the spouse I could be if I were 100% myself. Fast forward to marriage number two, I am now fully aware of who I am. And, I am a much better spouse & partner for it. I don’t get caught up in my own head anymore or stay quiet when I want to speak. Being a good spouse, it seems, means knowing who you are & accepting yourself enough to accept another. Ah, love!
  1. Know when to listen & when to speak up
    We have two ears & one mouth – use them in proportion. This little bit of advice was handed to me as a small child & I have tried to live my life by this mantra. Sometimes it works, sometimes my mouth outruns my brain. But, after 37 years of learning how to interact with others, I know how important it is to listen…and I mean really listen to others. Listening without the intent to reply is a skill that takes time to build. As does having the courage to speak your truth when it feels scary to do so. The precarious balance of knowing when to speak/send that email/reply to that text vs simply listen & take in another’s opinion is an interesting one indeed. 
  1. Read Maya Angelou
    Every morning I find a passage, poem, or quote by Maya Angelou to help ground me for the day. Her strength, passion for kindness, drive to be courageous, & ability to weave words together fills my soul. Having someone to look to as a human North Star is so important for me when it comes to staying balanced & in the moment. More than reading her words & hearing her voice inside of my own head, hearing her speak her words & taste them before she speaks them is magical. Her kind of magic, even just a moment of it, is what the world needs more of.

  2. Practice thankfulness by the minute
    Not by the hour, the day, the week, or the year… practice thankfulness by the minute. Spread kindness around like it’s the air that you breathe. Share both as far & wide as you can. And, even when you’re at your lowest point – remember that the simplest of actions (a smile, compliment, or kind email) can make someone’s entire world a brighter shade of happy. Saying ‘Thank you.” & writing down the things that you’re thankful for daily also help you remember just how many silver linings there are – even in the angriest, darkest of rainclouds.

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!

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.

 

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

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

My 24 Day Challenge: Baby Steps

Let’s Go Back to the Start

When I undertook my Advocare 24 Day Challenge I wasn’t looking for an easy way out. Okay maybe I was. But, no matter how much I was hoping for a magical weight loss plan, I knew deep down that my true goal in just over three weeks would be to break some of the bad habits that have been part of my daily life for a long time.

To say the first week was a challenge would be an understatement of massive proportions. Not snacking between meals, giving up my 10am chocolate fix and trying not to eat AFTER dinner was hard. Really hard.

After the first week was over, I had three more days of a fairly strict “cleansing” regime to complete. Having the first 10 days with an eating and action plan fairly planned out worked really well for me. After that however, I lost a bit of passion and direction on the plan. I never stopped eating healthy and I picked up the pace on my exercise regime, but without something stringent planned out for me and a coach in my corner – I wobbled a bit when it came to staying the course.

I know my personality and I know I get the most out of plans and goals when I have someone looking over my shoulder and cheering me on. Someone helping me plan out my meals, pushing me with my exercise and (in the end) reminding me of my goal. Stepping outside of my comfort zone in relying on myself as an individual instead of part of a larger team (I’ve always played team sports) was an experience that forced me to grow. I’m glad for it.

It is now Sunday and Friday of last week was day 24. Yesterday we went out to dinner for the first time in months and I chose something healthy but also splurged on curly fries. Any guilt? Nope. Yesterday morning I did and intense hour-long boxing session and then followed it up with an hour of cross-fit. Today I am walking around like an 80-year-old and my muscles are screaming at me – but all in a good way. I love working hard and feeling the changes as they happen.

All in all, my 24 Day Challenge was a step in the right direction. A baby step. Now it’s up to me to make sure the changes I made during the past month become lifestyle changes. I will never be one of those people who can eat only chicken breasts and broccoli. I love cheese too much. And a cheeky glass of wine. Happily though, learning to eat smaller portions and only when I’m actually hungry will be great initiatives for health and longevity in my life moving forward.

I started the past 24 days as a healthy, fit person. Today, looking in the mirror, I see someone who’s healthier and fitter. That’s awesome.

Here’s to a happy, healthy and fun-filled summer ahead. Thanks to everyone who encouraged me along the way and who continues to do so in the days and years ahead. As I always say to others when they ask for fitness advice “It’s easier to STAY in shape than to GET in shape.” Treat your body right. Smile. Laugh. Dance.

Life’s too short not to enjoy every moment of it.

My 24 Day Challenge: Day 19

Setting myself up for disaster

In my last post pertaining to my 24 Day Challenge I wrote about the necessity to set yourself up for success if you want to achieve a goal – especially a lofty one like changing your lifestyle. Losing weight is hard enough mentally, so setting yourself up for success by feeling good about making better decisions is super important. Having others tell you they notice your hard work is paying off is like a cherry on top of the proverbial cake (that I won’t be eating any of anytime soon – well, maybe just a tiny slice!)

So, when I met this weekend head-on knowing full well that there would be temptation everywhere in the form of cotton candy at the school fair, wine at the Westpac Rescue Helicopter Open Day and amazing treats at a BBQ, I steeled myself to know that I wouldn’t and couldn’t be perfect. Thank goodness I set myself up for a little disaster – because I fell for everything. Hook, line and sinker.

The wine at the Helicopter Open day was gorgeous (all 3 glasses of it), the cotton candy at the school fair was yummy and the cheesecake (a small slice with fruit) at the evening BBQ was divine. And the Dorito’s, don’t get me started, it might only have been a handful but they were beyond yummy. The day was like a free-pass to fail. And I grabbed it with both hands and carried on like someone who was having their last meal on death row. At the end of the night I even snuck in the gobbling down of my favorite lemon tart from the French Cafe down the street. And, I guitily loved every morsel while I was eating it.

Needless to say, I ate too much last weekend (yesterday to be exact). Worse still, I ate too much of the wrong things. I’m starting to think that going into the weekend with a mind-set that was already focused on “I know I’m going to fail” meant that I was going to go the whole-hog regardless. And man did I feel like one afterwards. I actually felt uncomfortable physically when we got home but since I’d already broken my diet with flair I kept on snacking. My stomach was so damn full and I lacked any energy. It’s not surprising that I fell asleep in a heap on the couch before 7pm. Yikes!

Lucky for me though, I exercised A LOT last week and kept it up over the weekend. So there’s not as much damage done as there could have been – I’m hoping I broke even. That said, I took a definite step backwards as far as seeing my bikini body return goes. I’m not going to let it get to me though. I know I am a creature than enjoys good food and an occasional wine. With summer on its way the prospect of a lot of social engagements (the calendar is full for the next 4 months) I will have to try harder to really remember that lifestyle changes are just that. Indulging now and then is perfectly okay as long as it’s paired with a positive outlook and a good long run outside. I can do this!

Here’s to the sunshine ahead…bring on Thanksgiving, Christmas and La Niña.

My 24 Day Challenge: Days 4 & 5

Since days 4 & 5 fell over the first weekend of my challenge – I thought I’d update on them both as a package-deal. First and foremost I should start this out by
admitting that weekends are rough for me when it comes to eating healthily. If ever there was a time I struggle to stay away from cakes, junk food, ante
pastas (cheese laden – yum) and an occasional wine or cider, it would fall on the weekend. In fact, it happens most weekends. Thankfully I am a gym junkie,
so the damage done on the silly days gets negated during the week – but eating as if I deserve a treat on the weekend sure makes losing any weight difficult
to say the least.

Friday night was the big struggle for me, not having “a few” of my daughter’s takeaway chips was like winning a gold medal for me – silly, I know, but it felt good to stick to my guns for once. Yesterday was awesome. Healthy eating, two hours of hard-out exercise and a lovely dinner. Today, Sunday, was a mixed bag of good and bad. In the morning I attempted to hit the gym for an hour of cardio (which is usually easy) and only made it to 35 minutes before petering out. Low energy was the culprit. Obviously I need to learn to balance my energy better before working out. After the gym the family headed out on an amazing drive around West Auckland and all around the Kaipara Harbour.

The day was stunning. Blue skies, white-fluffy-clouds and gravel roads that ended at empty beaches. In the afternoon we ended up at the Parakai Hot Springs and spent hours whizzing down the water  slides at break-neck pace. It was fantastic. Here’s  where my first hic up of the challenge came into play – I didn’t pack any healthy snacks and as we left around 4pm I was VERY hungry. We stopped in Silverdale to pick up some fish for dinner on the way home and Hubby bought Miss5 a donut (A HUGE ONE) at the bakery next to the fish shop.

I usually don’t like donuts – but I caved. I had a BIG bite. Yikes! Thankfully it was chocolate (not my fave flavour) and dry. Krispy Kreme it was not. I know in the scheme of things (considering my great week of eating and
exercising) that this isn’t a biggie, but for me I feel like I now need to re-focus my efforts for the next 19 days.

Tomorrow is a new day and I’m ready to conquer it. That said, it’s also Halloween! I will be steering well clear of the treat-sized chocolates this year, and for good reason. Here’s hoping trick-or-treating is frightfully amazing and that people hand out apples instead (hey, it might happen, NOT!) All in all, the last 48 hours have been a win. One minor “oops” moment isn’t going to curtail my efforts to continue getting fit.

Bring on day 6!!!