Ashton Kutcher, International Superhero of Human Rights and Unrestricted PRO.

(Trigger warning: sexual abuse. Viewer discretion is advised.)

So Ashton Kutcher is basically Batman, now. He’s pouring all of his money, time and resources into technology that’s saved the lives of thousands of children.

Yes, really. THOUSANDS. The Department of Homeland Security can’t even keep up.

He just testified about slavery and human trafficking before Congress, and it was absolute FIRE. (Video below)

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I see you, Swooning Lady watching Batman speak. I feel those feels. They’re appropriate.

Welcome Ashton Kutcher, Chairman of Thorn: Digital Defenders of Children and International Superhero of Human Rights. 

I’m sharing this here for two reasons:

  1. Slavery is an important issue that affects everyone. Knowledge is power. The more awareness there is of this problem, the more children may be freed – here and now, in 2017. The stories Kutcher shares in this video are vivid and traumatic in nature…but if you can stomach the pain in hearing them, sharing could help save lives.
  2. Ashton Kutcher is a wonderful example of someone living an Unrestricted Life.To anyone who says, ‘I can’t change the world, I’m just a ____,” here’s someone who has done the most he can with what he’s got. He recognizes his advantages (money, fame, influence) and uses them to their fullest extent. He’s not worried people won’t take him seriously, because it’s not about him. It’s about the problem he’s working to solve. By freeing himself to commit fully to his cause, he’s freed thousands of others.

You don’t have to be a famous actor to use your unique advantages for good. You can be creative AND political AND academic AND scientific AND be a parent/friend/spouse/leader/volunteer, or any combination of those.

It doesn’t matter if nobody knows you…or if everyone does. You’ll never be ‘just’ anything. You’re someone who does things that only you can do. Only you have the power to harness your abilities for good. 

“Life shrinks or expands in proportion to one’s courage.” – Anais Nin 

If you’d like to use your skills to help save lives with Thorn, check out their Get Involved page. There’s even a survey to fill out if you have non-technical skills you’d like to lend to their organization.

Or, if your passion calls you elsewhere…what’s something you have, know or do that can be used to improve your community? Batman wants to know.

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THANKS, BATMAN. LOVE YOU, BATMAN.

LET’S ALL BE MORE LIKE BATMAN.

xo

Gratitude, With Attitude.

We all have heaps to worry about this week, I know. But in times of crisis and frustration, choosing gratitude can be an act of rebellion in and of itself. So I’ve kept a gratitude journal.

It’s helped to refocus my mind on the positive and relax at the end of each day. And I’ve found that naming the good things (with a healthy dose of sass) can help a dame through anything. 

Here’s a few things I’m thankful for.

1. I’m grateful the cat chose to drool on me during my morning meditation. It snapped me back to the present in a very tangible way. Spending the next ten minutes fending off her hellish fluff was an exercise of using love in confrontation.

I love her stupid face. I say that knowing she’s smarter than me.

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2. I’m grateful that our latest political disasters have mobilized millions of people who might otherwise never have become activists. No matter what our government says or does, there are many good people working to make things better. I’m thankful for the right to join them.

And even if the world is ending…clever signs have improved my life so much.

3. I’m grateful for the old lady who screamed “USELESS C*NT” in my face at my day job, triggering a massive week-long CPTSD meltdown. This incident brought to mind a certain quote from Tim Ferris: “In all cases where doubt crops up, ask yourself, ‘If I had a gun to my head and had to do it, how would I do it?’ It’s not as hard as you think.” 

I think that old lady was the human equivalent of a gun to my head. As agonizing as it was, her actions (and their aftermath) forced me to admit what I truly need in life. I’d been struggling with uncertainty for quite some time when it came to my daily work, but guilt kept me from acknowledging what needed to change.

Sometimes, breakdowns lead to breakthroughs: I had to face the music and put my health first. I’ve since put in my two week’s notice, with heaps of thanks to the wonderful people I’ve worked with. I’m grateful for their encouragement and support during this transition. They’ve been incredibly understanding, and I’m lucky to call them friends. The lessons I’ve learned at this job will  only help me grow as I move forward to new things.

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Inspirational platitudes aside…leaving this job with no Plan B in place is terrifying.

I’m Type A. I like the plans. I’d like to see those plans, now. But finding my next step is not nearly as nerve-wracking as singing Happy Birthday off-key in front of Elton John (aaah!), or delivering bad news to Miles Teller (AAH!), or bringing champagne to Jerry Seinfeld (with no warning whatsoever…AAAAAAH!!!).

I’m sweating just thinking about these wonderful, terrifying memories. But I’m so glad they happened. I love you, P. Always will.

4. I’m grateful that my husband sleeps in until 2 pm each day, leaving me alone to face the Existential Dread.

lBy sleeping our lives away, Mitch gives me plenty of time to write, do schoolwork, and panic about my life before harassing him awake. His impenetrable sense of inner peace and calm about the world with no rush or hurry whatsoever makes me go batshit crazy, but I’m grateful for his example.

I could be more chill. I could. But he’s so good at it, I won’t.

Yin and yang. I’m glad he’s cute.

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5. I’m grateful that I grew up in Sarah Palin’s hometown, among some very Trumpy people. Having an extremely conservative and sheltered background only fueled my desire to question everything. So now I’d like to save the planet, protect women/LGBT/POC/Immigrant rights and make great art in the process.

And its true, the goal of becoming more famous than Sarah Palin keeps me working through the night. Someday, I hope that when Sarah says she’s from Alaska, people ask her if she can see Rachel from her house.

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…Also grateful for Tina Fey. That won’t change.

6. I’m grateful for Eddie the Eagle. If you haven’t seen this adorable, heartwarming and life-affirming flick, you should watch it right f*cking now. 

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7. I’m grateful that you’re reading this blog. I’ve got nothing deep to say today, so I’d love to hear your sass! What are you thankful for, in spite of everything else?

xo 

 

Life Without Facebook is Not What I Expected.

Social media is the new gin. I just can’t stomach it the way I used to.

Deactivating Facebook is hard. Taking it further by permanently deleting all those years of photos, messages and contacts can feel a bit like murdering your past AND future selves.

It got a little creepy at the end, there.

“Emily, Olga and 798 others will miss you,” says the Matrix. “Are you sure?”

Yes.

“…You don’t have to leave us, now. Let us help you change your settings!”

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For quite some time now, Facebook has become a magnifier of our world’s collective woes. As much as I love seeing what all my friends are up to, constant access to their psyches has become exhausting.

After wasting several hours constructing an argument with a relative on Facebook…I looked up, saw it was 2 am, and promptly died inside.

Hint taken.

Facebook is my new ex-lover. I had some anxiety about ending things, but it wasn’t that bad. It got better!

1. Expectation: I’m going to lose touch with all my friends.

Reality: My friendships are improving…a lot. Instead of simply reading what I chose to share online, friends have been taking the time to text/call or meet with me directly. I hadn’t realized just how little I’ve seen/heard from most of my friends outside of social media. It’s only been ONE WEEK since I quit Facebook, and I’ve already enjoyed a serious boost in the quality of my relationships.

Oddly enough, less time spent on social media has made me feel more social. And catching up is better in person. Who I am on Facebook is a filtered, curated version of what I’m okay with everyone seeing. One-on-one, it’s a different story. I like the truth, without the gaps.

2. Expectation: Having fewer friends will make me very sad.

Reality: It’s nicer to have five good friends to talk to than 800 acquaintances you don’t see in real life.

For the quality of my relationships to improve, quantity had to go. Most of my old Facebook friends have not reached out, and probably won’t. There’s no way that 800 people will think to text or call me – and it’s actually a relief. I like them all, otherwise I wouldn’t have added them. But real life is smaller than our Facebook feeds suggest.

This isn’t burning bridges, not in the least. But there is some peace in knowing who I’m not that close with. It’s okay to move forward. People grow apart. Letting it happen naturally just saves energy, time and guilt.

3. Expectation: This won’t be good for business. My professional contacts will forget that I exist. No one will think of me, down the road. 

Reality: My productivity has skyrocketed – and again, the quality of my relationships has improved. 

Using my personal Facebook as a means to ‘get ahead’ makes me feel like a sociopath. As normal as that’s become these days, I just can’t freakin’ do it.

If we’re destined to work together, Facebook won’t stop us. You’re already on my blog, so…thank you. I like you. Say hi!

My other site is still in business, and it’s super easy to contact me. Sure, I could miss some smaller gigs (FB networking groups, for instance), but all that does is force me to finish the big stuff I’ve already been cooking.

4. Expectation: I’m going to have Facebook withdrawals. 

Reality: I’m DEFINITELY having Facebook withdrawals. Before deletion, I hadn’t realized how frequent my Facebook visits were. In the days that followed my departure, I’d be working on my laptop and (here’s the scary part) without even thinking about it, I’d type “f” into the search bar and find myself at Facebook.com. My brain had programmed itself to seek out Facebook automatically. It wasn’t even conscious, anymore.

Now that my account was gone, I noticed. Here I am, again. For the tenth time, today. These knee-jerk Facebook visits would happen again and again while I worked at my computer. Once I noticed this pattern, I began to see others. After years of constant social media reinforcement, my focus went to shit.

It’s only been a week, but my attention span is growing. My page count has gone up…by a lot.

5. Expectation: I’ll regret deleting Facebook.

Reality: I regret not doing it sooner. It sounds so simple to quit a social media site, but doing this has impacted other areas of my life.

If I really want to have that Unrestricted goodness, some cleansing is in order.

Facebook was making me feel bad, so I removed it from the equation. Taking this step empowered me to acknowledge other things in my life that need to change.

Social media in an unnatural environment to be spending so much time in. We’re making up rules as we go.

Facebook can be great, sometimes. I love when viral topics lead to very real stuff, like Women’s March LA. But on its own, my feed is not reality. It’s a reflection of what people are reacting to the most. This skews emotions quite a bit.

Venting online makes us feel in control of things that overwhelm and intimidate us. We say things we don’t mean and polarize each other. It’s easy, because the consequences we face are relatively shallow compared to the damage our words can cause.

In person, there’s a pause. Most of us tend to think before we speak (for at least a half second). Somehow, a stranger’s feelings matter more when you can see their face. Without empathy, we’re not engaging – we’re reacting.

Divided, we suck. Connected, we thrive.

On Facebook, life is edited to boost my own engagement. It’s not real, and I feel it.

It’s lonely watching people’s lives and knowing I’m not really in them. It can be isolating to feel like I don’t measure up to my own virtual image. And it’s hard to filter through so much daily conflict. I just want some meaning.

At last week’s Women’s March in DTLA, I saw reality at its best. People can be really awesome when they get offline, go outside and meet each other with respect. Even if we don’t agree, you and I are human. That’s easier to notice when we’re making eye contact.

I hope to get to know you. Outside. Where there’s light and air and empathy. I’d like to know what makes you happy, not just what makes you mad. I want to ask you how you’re doing, without presuming to know the answer. I’d love to get my focus back, and have more time for meaning-making. Deleting Facebook was a tiny step in that direction.

So far, so good.

xo

 

 

Reclaiming ‘Vanity.’

Confession time.

It’s a long one.

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I can be a real asshole when I’m feeling insecure.

There have been times when I’ve silently hated on other people’s selfies. I’ve unfollowed other women in the past, because comparing myself to their photos made me feel like crap. Sometimes, I look in the mirror and completely trash myself. It sucks.

You’re only a model because you’ve fooled them all with makeup, insecurity says. How dare you feel beautiful, today? You’re just lying to yourself. 

Self-acceptance feels unreachable…forbidden, even. It hurts.

But it’s not always like that. Some days, when I’m feeling good, I look in the mirror and think: “Damn, I look great today.” And I mean it! It feels nice. Nobody else bothers me on days like these. I don’t compare myself to others, and genuinely feel joy for other people’s success. In a healthy state of mind, I can appreciate beauty in a healthy, constructive way.

The end…ish.

Before long, shame drags me down. Something triggers that deep wound I’d since forgotten about, and my secret little cesspool of self-loathing starts churning and rumbling all over again.

….I’d like to take this time to thank a little word called ‘Vanity.

The dictionary defines Vanity as “excessive pride in or admiration of one’s own appearance or achievements.” When I really start to feel myself, insecurity reminds me that I’m being vain. Then the shame kicks in.

I grew up in an environment where self-love was a sin. Taking any pleasure in my appearance was wrong. I was instructed that Vanity was a woman’s downfall. Looking in the mirror for too long was enough to warrant a prayer for forgiveness.

Ugh.

I’m all grown up in logic now, but the guilt still creeps in when I least expect it. It sucks me dry of self-esteem. Those years of self-hatred I’ve suppressed can sometimes look like insecurity, jealousy, and social anxiety.

Vanity. Bad. I’d be committing a sin for liking myself at all, so I just choose not to. That’s the way to deal with things! It’s a virtue to be humble, right? Maybe someone, somewhere will notice how pious I am in my self-deprecation. They’ll say I’m pretty, but I won’t believe it. Somehow, that will make me worthy of their love.

After all, Cinderella didn’t get to be a princess until a handsome prince fell in love with her. And in chick-flicks, the geeky girl doesn’t get to know she’s hot until someone takes her glasses off and tells her she’s the one. That’s just how it’s *supposed* to be.

“Hot Girl Who Doesn’t Know She’s Pretty” is one of the most popular female archetypes in TV and film. On the other hand, confident characters who flaunt their beauty tend to get labeled “the bitch.” No wonder we’re all so scared of ourselves. 

Today in your local high school bathroom, several girls are facing the mirror and competing for lowest self-esteem:

“I’m so fat.”

“No, you’re not! You’re so skinny. I’m the one with a tummy.”

“Well, at least you have boobs. I’m so flat.”

“But all the guys like you. None of them notice me.”

…Chances are, the youngest girl might not have thought to hate herself until this very moment. If all of her older, prettier, more popular friends hate their bodies, then who does she think she is?

Vanity. We have all been conditioned to fear it, in some way or another. I realize now that this kind of shaming was designed to keep women from realizing their worth.

I‘ve come to believe that someone, somewhere invented “vanity” to keep his wife at home. Why not? It’s effective! If I feel inferior to my partner, he’ll always have the upper hand. Even if he’s abusive. Even if I’m unhappy.

Shame is a cage we build to restrain ourselves (and each other). As women, we’re told that our worth lives in the eyes of others – whether that’s a romantic parter, a group of girlfriends, or the entire freakin’ internet.

Self-loathing has almost become expected of us. A lot of it’s internalized, but the feelings are there. Beating ourselves up for this wastes a lot of time we could be spending on literally anything else.

But this is just a list of symptoms. Let’s dig deeper and kill the virus.

I’d like to start the healing process by reclaiming the word ‘vanity’ for myself. It’s the word that used to scare me most. Let’s give it a makeover. There’s a difference between confidence and narcissism. It’s time to stop condemning ourselves for knowing that we’re worthy.

Self-appreciation isn’t shameful. It’s just honest. There’s nothing wrong with being smart, looking good, and knowing both are true. When a woman looks in the mirror and loves what she sees, nothing can stop her.

I try to remember this when I put on my makeup every day. My concealer wasn’t made to diminish me. My lipstick is not applied to steal attention. My eyeliner is not for anybody else. And so what if my cat-eye isn’t perfect – I’m having fun!

Makeup helps me feel striking, confident and powerful. And yes, I post photos of myself when I’m feeling brave. But my selfie is not a cry for validation, anymore. It’s just my face. And I like it better when it’s not trying so hard.

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My roots are showing! And I like them! Also, the lighting is really good! And I look  a lot like my mother! Yay!

Photos have become my way of expressing of self-love, without needing permission. Publishing my words online is another means to the same end. I like me as much as I like you. We’re both allowed to know that.

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And here’s a super blurry mirror selfie because I felt DAMN fine that day. I’m wearing my grandma’s dress! And a scarf! I feel so sassy! YAY!

Vanity. It’s not self-promotion; it’s self-possession. This is me, taking ownership of myself in a way that makes me feel empowered.

As you embrace your own confidence, I challenge you to encourage it in others. The more you share, the more you have. Appreciation has a lovely way of coming back around.

So, float your boat. Feel good, however that means to you. Let other people do the same.

Often, individuals who seem the most self-involved are actually the most self-critical. It took me a long time to realize this. Judging other women for their “narcissism” is ultimately a reflection of my own insecurity. By the same token, encouraging others makes me feel good, too. How we treat others is a reflection of the way we see ourselves.

You’re allowed to know you’re attractive. You’re encouraged to recognize your own brilliance. Acknowledging beauty in others will not diminish your own. 

Vanity, redefined, is self-love.

It’s gratitude. It’s expression. Own it. Live it. Celebrate it. Share it.

…This is not about makeup or selfies or #goals. It’s about you, beneath the filter.

Lucille Ball once said, “Love yourself first and everything else falls into line. You really have to love yourself to get anything done in this world.” She wasn’t kidding.

The future is a girl. She stands in front of the mirror and loves what she sees. She wears red lipstick if she feels like it; she wears nothing when she wants to. And she is not ashamed.

xo

(I originally wrote this post for LoveTV. Thanks for reading!) 

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 out 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

-Road tripped from California to Canada and enjoyed a lot of ‘first time’ adventures

-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 mental illness, 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 again, I was a wreck.

Had I learned nothing from this crazy, unpredictable and totally 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 I broke down in tears and panic took over. I’m skirting around the section where I fell into old patterns again. And I’m not going into detail about the part where my husband called me out on what I was doing 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. The most life-altering events came along uninvited, and that’s a good thing. My favorite accomplishments and biggest milestones of this year were totally unplanned. 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. That familiar soul-sucker called Fear can just f*ck right off. It’s never worked, and never will. I will never be better than anyone else, because that’s an illusion. 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, she improved countless lives (including my own).

Carrie Fisher 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.

My deepest condolences and prayers go out to her beautiful family. ❤👑

In honor of Carrie Fisher, I challenge you to use vulnerability as a strength. Give no f*cks, for a second. Try it out:

I DARE YOU to come clean about something you’ve struggled with. You never know who needs to hear it, until you say it. It can be small, or it can be huge. Whatever you’re dealing with, let us know.

My struggle: C-PTSD & trauma recovery.

Her struggle: Bipolar disorder & addiction recovery.

My cat’s struggle: Existential dread & hairballs.

Your struggle: __(it’s going to be okay)__

In 2017, we need to be there for each other. Carrie listened as much as she shared.

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 f*ck 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