Required Viewing

This week, a certain TED talk appeared as part of an assignment for one of my college classes. It’s called ‘The Danger of a Single Story.’ I was floored.

Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie’s words are timely, illuminating, and written for everyone.

It’s for you.

If you have twenty minutes (and I feel safe in assuming you do, considering most people spend significant time on their smartphones these days) – this talk is worth your time.

https://embed.ted.com/talks/chimamanda_adichie_the_danger_of_a_single_story

Thank you for sharing your stories with me. 2017 is off to a roaring start.

xo

A New Year’s Revolution

 

Hi.

Are you here?

Did you survive 2016? If you’re reading this, you must have. Congratulations.

I’m proud you, and me, and us. We’re at December 31, 2016. We made it.

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2016 has been a scary, sad, overwhelming and tumultuous year. It’s also been an exciting, triumphant, beautiful and adventurous year.

…I just listed a whole bunch of contradictory adjectives that could easily be fit into a single day – and that’s usually how it went. Humanity 2016 has been a hot mess. A lot of people died, systems were disrupted, dreams collapsed and change came quickly. I struggled. Everyone did.

But like many of you, I’m trying to focus on the good stuff.

In 2016, I worked hard and was blessed to be a part of some truly wonderful things. I also failed a lot, found weaknesses I hadn’t dared to notice prior. I quit, started over and asked for a lot of help. Many things I thought I’d finish this year might never see the light of day, and a number of things I never thought I’d do – well, I did them. It all led me this far, and I’m grateful for that.

Some highlights:

-I was invited to model for PinupGirl Clothing

-Hosted some fabulous live shows

-Came very close to a certain brand of success and admitted that it wasn’t what I wanted

-Wrote & Co-Directed my favorite music video ever with my best friends.

Started this blog in a state of extreme vulnerability and honesty

-Began writing in earnest, and had some deeply powerful encounters in response to my pieces featured by the Huffington Post

-Enjoyed a road trip from California to Canada

-Survived a darkness of the deepest kind

-Found an unexpected day job and grew greatly as a result

-Left everything to join the Standing Rock community, which overturned my world again

-Jumped out of a plane, overcoming fear of flight & falling

This list makes my life look awesome…and it is. But I could have easily focused on the horrible things. There were many, for all of us…but that should not diminish the things worth celebrating.

I’ve experienced things I’m deliriously happy and proud of. I’ve also experienced things that devastated and rattled every part of me. I’m grateful for it all, but unsure of where to go next.

2016 was the best and the worst year of my adult life. Today, I’m stuck on a thin line between welcoming 2017 and dreading it completely.

If I care too much, I struggle so hard I lose myself. But if I let apathy take over, I careen too far in the opposite direction. Control is hard to find on either end of the spectrum. My happiness lies somewhere in the middle….but fear, self-doubt and perfectionism hate the middle. My faults feel safer baring their teeth through extremes. It’s been a struggle to keep those ends at bay while I plan and organize for 2017.

At the end of most Decembers, I like to do a little “year-end review” where I go over everything (good and bad) that happened during the year and set new goals. Sometimes, a certain word will stand out and repeat itself, until it becomes the word for my year. And this time, the word ‘strategy’ kept coming up. It sounded good, so I went deeper and kept scribbling the blueprint for 2017. I put ‘strategy’ at the center of all my plans.

But the harder I worked at planning, the more strict and unforgiving this ‘strategy’ became. My plans grew more ego-centric and achievement based. Before I knew it, I’d spent three hours writing insanely detailed plans for things that might happen six months from now. And I was a nervous wreck.

Had I learned nothing from this crazy, unpredictable and humbling year?

On the edge of a 2017, I’d once again swamped myself in that frantic, competitive and totally miserable state that I had fought all of 2016 to overcome. I was comparing myself to others, seeking validation in the unrealistic future version of myself that I was currently constructing. As I continued over-planning, my ambition morphed to masochism and tore me down in minutes.

I’m going to skip the crappy bit where panic took over. I’ll skirt around the section where old patterns tripped me up. And I won’t go into detail about the part where a friend called me out on my Type A shenanigans and it was embarrassing.

I’m skipping ahead to the good part: “F*ck it.” 

Those two words are directly responsible for the biggest highlights of 2016, and I’m taking them with me into the new year.

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Almost none of the best things this year happened because I planned them. My favorite accomplishments and biggest milestones caught me by surprise. I just did things because I wanted to do them, and the outcome always exceeded my expectations. Why? Because I had no expectations.

2017: Expect nothing, just be kind.

The world doesn’t need more strategy. It does not need more bestselling authors, hot-shot screenwriters or movie stars. We need more people who create, share and communicate with love. We need more honesty and respect.

Sure, I’d love to become wildly successful and never worry about money or validation again, but it wouldn’t change what’s inside. It wouldn’t change what’s happening around me, either. The world doesn’t need more #goals. It needs more actual kindness – to ourselves, and to others.

In June of 2016, I started this blog as my personal initiation to an Unrestricted life. The goal was to reject anything that’s held me captive, including my own negative patterns. I wanted to find freedom in choosing my humanity instead of building a false image. I came here to be authentic, compassionate, and present – whether nobody’s reading, or everyone is.

And it was hard. It’s still hard. Sometimes, I forget and slip back into that LA mindset of constant acquisition, comparison and ego. But the foundation is here, and it’s time to keep building.

I’m recommitting to my vision. Fear never worked, and never will. My achievements and failures don’t make me better or worse than anyone else. My only competition is the person I was this morning, and she wasn’t very nice to herself.

Letting go is not my resolution. It’s my revolution.

What’s yours?

xo

F*ck 2016 (Carrie Fisher Edition)

Before any important decision in 2017, I’m just going to ask myself: “how many f*cks would Carrie Fisher give?” and then do what I want. 🔥

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This goddess is my patron saint of badass women. There’s so much she could have kept hidden, but chose not to. In speaking out about her struggles, Fisher improved countless lives.

She was so much more than a princess. She was a love warrior of the highest degree. Her uncompromising spirit will long outlive the rest of us.

Together, we can overcome anything. Carrie Fisher is just one example of what speaking out and facing fear can do. She said and did whatever the heck she wanted, and the world was better for it.

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Thank you, madam. You will be missed. 

xo

Image sources: here, here, here and here

 

Merry Christmas, Ya Filthy Workaholics!

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Snarky Photo Courtesy Of: express.co.uk

It’s hard for me to stop working.

I’m a passionate person, and highly driven. When things go well, I’m on top of the world. When projects go badly, I triple my efforts in trying to fix them. 2016 has been a garbage year, for a lot of people. I am no exception. There’s too much to do, too much to fix, and not enough time.

Now, the holidays are here. The candles are lit, Christmas cards are arriving, lights go up on surrounding houses, carols drift by with each passing car…and I’m working. I’m typing furiously, checking boxes off of my to-do list, and fighting a heavy cold. Now is not the time for rest. My hustle is unstoppable.

Everyone around me is hunkering down in cozy sweaters and sipping egg nog with loved ones. Why are all my friends so relaxed? It’s both mystifying and enviable. I’d love to lounge around and feel merry. But the very thought of doing nothing makes me feel anxious. Why?

I guess I’m just not ready for the year to end. With so many projects up in the air, and a mountain of unfinished messes on my desk, I simply can’t stop working. My goals are huge, and I’m never going to reach them if I stop now.

It’s been this way for nearly every holiday that I can remember.

I’m scared that if I stop working, success will pass me by. I’m worried that if I don’t have a list of new achievements to show my friends and family, I won’t be making them proud. And if I’m not making my family proud, they aren’t going to love me.

…In typing this, I realize just how f*cked up that sounds.

My name is Rachel, and I’m a workaholic…?
At least, that’s what my family, friends and therapist tell me.

But how reliable can their opinions be, really? For the sake of this blog post, I’ve decided to turn to the real expert in my life: Google.

Searching: “Signs You Might Be A Workaholic.”

Results:
-“You may be a workaholic if… you devalue self-care and personal priorities in favor of professional goals.”
-“The thought of not working is more stressful than actually working.”
-“You don’t take real vacations. You sneak in work wherever you can.”
-“You rarely tell your bosses ‘no,’ but your friends and family rarely hear ‘yes.’”

Uh….sure, I display all of these qualities, but I think there’s a difference between ‘workaholism’ and a successful mindset. I thought passion and persistence were good things. I work hard, so I can play hard…someday.

After all, this isn’t an addiction. It’s dedication and drive!

I want everyone to see me as ambitious, busy, and on the way to something great, because that’s who I want to be. I’m terrified of sitting still, because I’m not a lazy person. I’ve got important things to do.

…That said, I should be working on my dreams, not Googling made-up diseases.

So screw you, Google. I’m fine.

-“You never call yourself a workaholic.”

…Shiiiiit.

Mental illness is no stranger to me. I’m not exactly hiding that I’ve struggled with depression, OCD and CPTSD for most of my life. I don’t need – or want – to add one more label to my long list of problems.

But that’s why I’m wrong. The problem is already here. Becoming aware of it and adding a handy label won’t add fuel to the fire. Noticing the rainstorm is just step 1 to finding your umbrella.

So, I’m coming up with a plan. Perhaps there’s a way to trick my workaholic brain into embracing the impending holiday as an opportunity, instead of a drag on my momentum. I’m making a list of tips for myself to follow as the holidays unfold. It you’re anything like me, I hope you’ll give it a read.

This is me telling the internet that I’m going to follow my own advice.

You’re welcome to join me.

A Workaholic’s Guide to a Happy Holiday

Week 1. Pre-Game!
In the week leading up to your holiday plans, you can maximize your productivity in a final year-end push. Tying up loose ends in this way can help to diminish your guilt and stress while you’re away.

A: Schedule your final week of work with the most intense tasks, first.
Then in the last few days of this workweek, give yourself more time in the evenings to relax. This will help you practice ‘putting it down’ and focusing on what’s important.

B: Give yourself a year-end review.
Go over your calendars, notes and milestones from the year and make a list of your biggest accomplishments. You’ll be surprised by how much you’ve done in the last 365 days.

C: Don’t plan what’s next.
Take your list of accomplishments with you for the holidays, and skim over it once a day if that makes you feel better. The holidays are a time to celebrate what’s important, and you are worth celebrating. You’ve worked hard to get here, so stop and appreciate it for a week or two. Every business needs to take a little time out for inventory, and you are no different. Celebrate what you’ve got!

Week 2. Merry Christmas!
Whatever holiday you’re celebrating, this time of year is about family and friends. If you’ve cut them out of your life, now is the time to reconnect. If being around family overwhelms you, remember to squeeze in some ‘you’ time. The holidays can be triggering for many reasons. It’s tempting to fall back into work mode, and hide there. But don’t give up! The following steps will help you make the most of this time away from work.

A: Get lost in activities.
Play scrabble, go skiing, build a snowman. Engage in a long conversation with your grandma, and ask her what life was like for her at your age. Whatever your family and friends like to do for the holidays, jump in. Putting work down is surprisingly productive for your general sense of well-being, health, and clarity of mind. Life is happening in front of you. Don’t miss it.

B: Give yourself five minutes (every other day) to scan your emails.
Don’t analyze or reply to any of them, just skim through subject lines. It’ll give your peace of mind in knowing that nothing’s caught on fire while you’re away, and lower your anxiety. That said…make sure to set a timer, so you don’t get sucked in.

C: Put down your Smartphone.
Everyone around you is taking pictures, and they’ll be there when the holidays are over. Social media can be a one-way ticket to comparison, competition, emotional triggers and conflict. Do your professional spirit a favor and unplug for the holidays. You’ll come back to your work refreshed and ready to rock, without any extra baggage.

Week 3. Have a Happy New Year.

A: Remember that list of last year’s accomplishments? Keep it. When you’re on the plane back from your holiday travels, pull out that list and think about how far you’ve come. Add “enjoyed the holidays” to the end of that list, and decide to do even better next year. Now that the holidays are over, you can jump into goal-setting and evaluating your priorities for the new year. Enjoy the brainstorm, but don’t burn out.

B: Set aside time to examine what you missed over the holidays, organizing emails by priority and responding in little chunks.
Pace yourself and ease back into your routine. Don’t work late. Instead, use your evenings to relax (like you did before the holidays). Implementing a healthy balance will make you even more productive in the long run.

C: Take time to review what just happened.
We can only understand the object of our addiction once it is taken away. So how were the holidays for you, really? Do your shame-based feelings suggest that a deeper healing needs to take place? Call your friends and family to check in, now that the holidays are over. Ask them what they think. Remember where your support system is, and use it. There are many ways to achieve a healthy balance in life, so figure out what’s best for you. Perhaps you can commit to reading relevant books (like Daring Greatly) and implement their teachings. Maybe therapy is a good option.

The new year is a great time to commit to your success – and a healthy mindset is key to success in all areas.

I’ll be working to follow my own advice this holiday season, and I hope you’ll join me in the journey.

Are there any tips that work (or don’t) for you? Let me know in the comments.

xo

This post originally appeared at LoveTV.co.

The Weight of Water.

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Standing Rock was hard to leave.

I don’t know how to summarize this in an easily digestible way. It’s a 400+ year struggle that many of us learned next to nothing about in school. My analyzing brain is steaming and frazzled. I just…can’t.

What on Earth can I say that will fully convey to you the terrible and beautiful reality that I was so honored (and appalled) to witness at Standing Rock?

It’s going to take me a bit to translate what I’ve learned, but something tells me that the language I’m most comfortable with is not even close to enough.

This movement won’t be defined by politics. It can’t be squeezed into a box and tucked away on history’s shelves. It’s bigger in shape and scope than any hashtag, t-shirt or headline could suggest.

The community that has assembled at Standing Rock represents a circle of solidarity that transcends geography and time. What you’re hearing of it now is just a tiny crescendo in the ballad that’s been sung for centuries before we were born. It’s just finally reached a volume (thanks, Internet) that’s piercing the veil of western privilege and smashing past and future together for the world to see.

It’s humbling, horrifying, illuminating and revolutionary – ‘Evolutionary,’ as Ed Higgins puts it.

We are all two-leggeds, they say. If we are to evolve, we must evolve together.

The fight at Standing Rock is one of peaceful resistance – water & fire, thought & action, glued together in prayer. Empathy. Respect. Wisdom. Love.

This week in North Dakota, I saw history dance in a circle with its uncertain future. I spoke with people on all sides of this circle, including some who would prefer to smash it.

Walking into a group of ‘ProDAPL’ protestors yelling racial slurs was definitely one of the riskier things I’ve done in my life. Only one of them stopped yelling long enough actually speak with me, and what she said was a gift (as upsetting as it was) because it helped me to better understand the opposing view.

Beneath our battles, most people want the same basic things. When we dehumanize others, we dehumanize ourselves. And without understanding, there can’t be any progress. The people of Standing Rock shared that message loud and clear, this week – not by talking, but by doing.

The truth is, I saw more cooperation and love in this environmental war zone than anywhere else I’ve been on Earth. Getting back to LA is jarring, but this just illuminates the work to be done here.

It’s time to listen, learn, and create a future that does not perpetuate trauma, but heals it. We need all hands on deck. Everyone who marched across the country in support of #NoDAPL added something truly unprecedented to the spirit at work in ground zero. The crowds of volunteers braving winter in North Dakota and building, building, building are all the proof I need that America’s going to be okay.

The events of this week restored my faith in humanity, in ways that I did not expect.

Now that I’m back in LA, I’m choosing to follow the Standing Rock elders’ example. I’m funneling my post-election feelings (of which there are plenty) into positive action. And I’m grateful that there are millions of other Americans who are choosing to make the same commitment.

America is much bigger than I imagined. It’s not quite the country I grew up thinking it was. Fortunately, it’s still full of GOOD people who are doing their best to help, without recognition.

This week taught me to look for the helpers. There are helpers everywhere.

Join us.

An Unraveling.

The Dolls

Since I was little, I’ve had a collection of porcelain dolls and they would stand on top of my bookshelves, peering at me through yellowing lace and from under gaudy plumed hats.

I used to have nightmares about those dolls and their cold cheeks, their blank eyes framed by someone else’s lashes, their perfect curls and full pouting lips.

I would dream that I was trapped in porcelain, that I too was peering through glass eyeballs from the top of my bookcase.

I couldn’t move, or talk, or think – I could only exist, a fragile, hand-painted porcelain child frozen in perfection.

When I woke up, I would cry with relief at the blood pounding in my temples, my trembling fingers, and my own eyelashes.

Those nightmares have since given way to new ones, but I still have those dolls, and every time I see them I suppress a gasp and I wonder if there is someone in there, staring through glass pupils,

voiceless.

-“Alice J. Byrd,” 6S Volume 2 [2009]

This was my first published piece. At 15 years old, I thought I’d marry an Emo rock star and write under the same fanciful pseudonym forever.

Having my work featured in 6 Sentences was the best thing that had ever happened to me. Everything felt possible in a brand new way. This started a new life for me, where I could be whoever and whatever I wanted.

At the time, I wanted love. This required being noticed. I was determined to make it happen.

Here I was, at 15. I felt pretty, in this picture.

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And there I was, at 20. I felt fat, in this picture.

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In my quest to be worthy of love, something went very wrong.

I took my heart to Hollywood and put it up for sale. Admiration morphed into assimilation. Comparison was my life. I wasn’t a voice anymore, but a brand. I hadn’t known it then, but at 15 years old, I had written a self-fulfilling prophecy.

At 20, I looked back at my 15 year-old self and felt ashamed of her. So I kept her a secret. The world couldn’t know who I really was. I didn’t think they’d want her.

When people looked at me, they saw someone who was making her Hollywood dreams come true. This Rachel was ambitious, successful, photogenic.

She was someone else.

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“I suppress a gasp and I wonder if there is someone in there, staring through glass pupils…voiceless.”  Five years after I wrote those words, I found myself imprisoned within them. And if I trapped myself any longer, I knew I wouldn’t make it out. Something had to change.

The shift was gradual, painful and necessary. I chose to eat food again and focus on healing. I got into the habit of writing again, one agonizing word at a time.

Luckily, the truth wanted to be heard. My delicate, ‘professional’ persona wasn’t strong enough to contain her. Today, I thank my younger self for giving me another chance at the life she always wanted.

At the end of 2015, I stopped pursuing modeling jobs…but the universe had a sense of humor.

The second I said “I quit,” all the good stuff started happening. A few months after my decision, PinupGirl Clothing reached out to me and asked if I wanted to shoot. This was my favorite brand, asking out of nowhere. WHAT? Working with this body-positive, female-driven company was something my younger self would have been proud to see me do. So I said yes.

I wanted to be the woman that 15 year-old Rachel would have looked up to.

Healthy. Genuine. Fun. Happy. Intelligent. Classy. Smart. Courageous. Whimsical.

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These photos were also taken five years apart, and I love them. (Left: 2011. Right: 2016.)

I love them because both are genuine. Both of them are beautiful. Both of them are smart. And both of them are writers. The girl on the left just didn’t know it, yet.

Vulnerability is strength. When I accepted and embraced the ordinary, I finally felt extraordinary.

A lot of us don’t feel empowered. We struggle with competition and comparison, no matter how successful we are. But beneath every airbrushed fashion model is a girl who wanted love. Behind every jaded actress is a child who craved acceptance.

Within every ordinary human is an extraordinary being.

Can you see yourself? Because you’re pretty damn wonderful. How you look does not define you. Neither does social media, who you know, or what you do for money. What defines you is a fragile link between who you really are and what you choose to show people. It’s a personal choice.

I’ve tried to remodel my old website and public Facebook page to reflect who I am now. But I can’t bring myself to delete all the old stuff. Yeah, I went through a million phases and made a lot of mistakes, but they made me better.

I’m grateful to have met some important milestones in the last few years, but what makes me truly proud are my failures. They’ve taught me more than all the good stuff combined. I am grateful for every little step, every first time, and every do-over. Those things were what led me here. 

Today, I look back at the little piece I wrote at 15 and can’t help but marvel at it. I don’t care if it’s good or bad, or how it compares with what I’ve done since. Those six sentences meant a lot to me when I wrote them – and they’ve come to mean even more, now.

I loved to write, until I convinced myself I couldn’t. I loved myself, until I decided that I shouldn’t. This year has been an unraveling.

Now, we’re here. It’s your turn.

What’s something wonderful you did, before you taught yourself to hide? 

The world and I would love to know.

x

 

The Smartest Tree I’ve Ever Met

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Humans have a lot to learn.

Our eyes can only see so many colors. Our ears can only hear a few select frequencies. In the grand scheme of things, we know next to nothing about life in the universe. Our perception is limited, and that can be infuriating. It’s easier to just pretend we know everything.

Sometimes, having this kind of vulnerability scares me. I overcompensate for it by trying to do everything, defying my nature. I act like I’m invincible and don’t have needs…until shit hits the fan and I burn out.

Trees are the exact opposite of humans. I like the way they do things.

I breathe in oxygen (yay) and breathe out carbon dioxide (gross). Trees do it backwards: they inhale carbon dioxide (gross) and exhale fresh air (yay).

I’m soft and sensitive; trees are hard and tough. I’m movable and clumsy; they’re strong and firmly grounded. I can’t make up my goddamn mind. Trees don’t see the need to.

It doesn’t take much to hurt a human, but it takes a lot to end a tree.

Trees are carved into, spray painted, and mutilated. They keep growing.

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A few months ago in Griffith Park, I noticed a little sycamore tree with a badly charred trunk. It had hundreds of bright green leaves sprouting through its own ashes.

The tree’s deepest trauma became a rich bed of nutrients for its most beautiful gift. That’s a superpower I’d like to borrow.

Life with no direction didn’t always bother me so much. Mystery used to excite me more than scare me. Self-care was a daily treasure, not a shameful aversion. Self-compassion was not frowned upon as self-indulgence. Adulthood changed the way I treat myself, and not for the better.

These past few weeks have been overwhelming, in good and bad ways. With so many great changes coming on, I’ve lost a great deal of sleep. I’ve forgotten meals. I’ve ignored the things that fuel me, in favor of things that deplete me. I’ve spent one too many mornings crying from exhaustion.

On one such morning (okay, this morning), I tried to recall the last time I took a walk in the park for no reason. I realized it was months ago, the day I saw the burnt tree.

It’s important to remember how little I know.

When the thought of insignificance makes me fearful, I’m an asshole to myself. But when I appreciate my smallness, anxiety disappears.

Ego is abusive. Self-compassion is motivating. A tree won’t deny itself sunlight. She’ll grow around obstacles to reach it, and that takes a lot of patience and self-care.

So, that’s what this week is all about – being nicer to myself.

You’re welcome to join me. 

Trees are great teachers: By taking in the things we need, we’ll be better at bringing fresh air to others. Our roots will run so deep that we’ll be able to endure the fire, when it comes. This kind of strength requires water, air, rest, and self-compassion.

When I decide to make myself happy first, I feel better if/when things don’t work out in other areas.

When I choose to see myself the way that I see all of you, it gets easier to say “good job” and “relax.”

So…good job. Relax. Go outside.

Okay.

xo