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.

dd

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

Why Modern Relationships Suck*

*(And reasons why they don’t.)

-This post was originally written by request (with alternate edits) for LoveTV.-

I’m married.

A lot of people ask me why, and I don’t blame them.

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This was our actual engagement photo, because marriage is jail.*

Modern relationships suck. Didn’t you know? It’s everywhere.

If you Google ‘Modern Relationships,’ you’ll find a medley of bitter blog posts and cynical tweets about why Millennials fail to commit. Our Facebook feeds are full of reasons why love is doomed. It can seem like everyone is happily single (because relationships are a waste of time), unhappily single (because break-ups are the worst), or soon-to-be single (because commitment is boring/stressful/hard). And those of us who are in relationships find ourselves crossing our fingers, waiting for the other shoe to drop.

A lot of click-bait articles and relationship ‘experts’  are declaring a state of emergency for millennial love. We believe them, so they’re right.

Right?

We say our generation is too busy, too self-involved, too distracted. We blame technology, our upbringing, our finances, and each other. We swipe right, hook up, hang out, and disappear. But that’s just the world we live in, right?

Wrong.

We all have a natural tendency to believe what we see. When all we see on social media are unhappy people bemoaning relationships, happy couples look pretty delusional. But the truth is, people in strong relationships might just be too busy putting work into their partnerships to gush about how awesome they are online. And in today’s culture, avoiding social media can be like wearing an invisibility cloak.

Marriage used to be the only acceptable channel for love, sex and long-term intimacy. Nowadays, there are other options. And that’s great! There have been countless apps made to facilitate, simulate and imitate nearly every aspect of human connection. But with so many ways to diffuse our feelings, it’s easier than ever to see what we want to see, and believe only what makes us comfortable.

So what’s the real reason behind our failure to commit? Hint: It’s not me, it’s you. Relationships are not any harder today than they were fifty years ago. The only difference between our commitment issues and those of our grandparents is simple: we just have fancy phones, now. Back in the day, a shitty relationship was still shitty, whether divorce was an option or not. Modern couples don’t have new problems; we just spend more time raving about them online.

I think that modern technology hasn’t changed our need for connection, but simply enhanced it. We, the socially connected-yet-chronically-isolated Millennials, are not too ‘damaged’ for love. We’ve just grown more afraid of it.

It’s an easy problem to ignore, because there’s nothing wrong with being single. It’s great that we’ve accepted single life as a positive thing. But there are ways to enjoy our options without writing off our basic human needs. Some of us really are happy being single or celibate forever (I see you, Aces!) But for many, it’s more convenient to say we’re ‘incapable of commitment’ than to face our real issues (fear, insecurity, unhealthy patterns, etc.).

With so many other big problems to deal with in life, it’s easier to buy into the notion that relationships just ‘suck,’ instead of investing time and energy into their success.

But here’s the thing – if you continually blame your heartbreak on society, know that your dream guy or girl might be, too. And denying love’s potential just makes you 100% more likely to never make that connection. Dodging relationship obstacles (and not overcoming them) is the quickest route to failure.

Success in love is just like success anywhere else; it takes work.

If you set out to run a marathon, only to quit the second you start feeling uncomfortable [or tired, scared or in pain]… you won’t even get halfway.

If your goal is to make a million dollars, but you can’t take risks, bounce back from loss, endure criticism, or spend years in pursuit of that goal…you’ll never be rich.

…Why should love be any different?

We are fully capable of greatness. Our generation lives for passion, persistence and ingenuity. We are not ‘lazy,’ as trends had once predicted. But now that ‘lazy’ has been replaced with ‘anti-social,’ we have a new label to overcome. Millennials are devoted to making dreams happen. But when it comes to love, we fall and can’t get up.

I’m not saying this to discourage anyone, or to label a whole generation – quite the opposite. I just think Millennials are capable of a lot more than we give ourselves credit for.

Success in long-term love isn’t harder for us; it’s just not as mandatory. We don’t choose to see committed love as important as wealth, fitness, travel, or other #goals. This is why, when we reach success in all these other areas, a lot of us are still unhappy. Victory doesn’t always taste as sweet when there’s nobody to share it with.

So here’s some unsolicited advice from someone who’s definitely not an expert but has learned some stuff the hard way: Changing your story begins by making a choice. If you want to find (and keep) the love of your life, a shift in perspective needs to happen. Happy relationships are like any other goal: we choose to fail every day that we don’t try.

Eat your vegetables, or don’t. Apply for jobs, or remain unemployed. Exercise daily, or complain that it’s too hard. Either way, success or failure is your decision. You can work hard to get better at loving yourself and others, or you can keep pretending it’s impossible. A mistake doesn’t have to mean ‘game over.’ Pain does not have to be death. You can let failure push you away from your goal, or use what you’ve learned to do better next time.

They say, “Success comes when opportunity meets readiness.” Millennials have a wealth of opportunity, but a lot of us just aren’t ready. And for now, that’s okay.

Skill and luck in love can only come with practice. So get out there and practice.

xo

* P.S. – Marriage is not jail. It’s like a really fun amusement park, with a long line to the bathroom and no exits whatsoever. Thanks, Mitch. I love you.

Additional Notes:

I am not an expert, and nothing I write should replace professional help. 

You can see the original piece on LoveTV here.

You are wonderful. Thank you for reading.

The Conversation Continues.

Thank you, friends.

Because you took the time to read and share last week’s piece, We All Know Him was republished for the Huffington Post. We made the front page. The response was huge. Our dialogue about rape culture continues to expand and evolve.

I am so grateful.

This week, I’ve heard hundreds of unique perspectives about consent and accountability. It’s fantastic that so many people are taking action. Change is coming. People are talking. YOU are making this happen. 

Thank you to every individual who reached out to share personal stories with me. You broke my heart, taught me things, and inspired me with your bravery. Your continued effort to understand these issues and spread awareness (both online and IRL) is making all the difference.

Last week’s discussion also attracted its fair share of angry readers who tried to shut it down. I appreciate them very much, because they merely further my point. Silencing victims of sexual assault has never made things better. Dodging uncomfortable facts with aimless arguing can only distract us from the issue at hand. For some, it’s sensible to approach difficult subjects head on, without ego or hatred. But for many, conflict is the easy way out.

These topics are difficult, no matter how we approach them. Between rape culture, violence, economic instability, the election, sexism, racism, unreliable media coverage, and an uncertain future…most of us are worried about something. We have too many burdens and not enough muscle to carry them by ourselves. Nobody changes the world alone. We need each other. 

A lot of us (myself, included) would love to go about our business without having to think about these things. After all, we can’t feel responsible for things we don’t know, or don’t care about. Ignorance rests easy; it doesn’t care to know what the bills are, or who’s paying. Meanwhile, there’s someone in the other room, crying over a pile of receipts.

To be awake is to be responsible. Sometimes, it feels a lot like loneliness, overwhelm, anger, sadness. Worry.

A lot of you are pressing through these obstacles. You’re choosing to stay awake, even when it’s exhausting. I want to take a minute and thank you for that, because it’s hard.

It can be scary to listen, and risk being unheard or proven wrong. It’s more convenient to shut others down and minimize our own vulnerability. But as long as we’re fighting, nobody’s right. If we stop yelling and start talking, we’ll hear and be heard. Eventually, we’ll find some answers in common.

“Anything that gives light must endure burning.” – Ethan Hawke, Rules for a Knight

There are millions of people in the world who want to make it better. We each see the truth with different eyes, and I love that. It’s what makes life interesting. I just hope we can be honest and committed to understanding one another.

This might not always be easy. I’ll be the first to admit that I’ve got a lot to learn. I created this blog to start over, and I’m proud of what we’ve built, together. Let’s keep growing!

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(Image: @lildebsunflower)

Thanks to ratings-driven news networks, hate is pretty loud. But the ones who ultimately write history are the ones who win. I am in awe of everyone who connected with me this week. You’ve taught me so much in sharing your stories, hearing each other, and resolving conflict together. By having the courage to take action, to speak, and to listen… you are inspiring change.

The lighthouse stands alone. But by doing so, it saves lives. So if conflict has you feeling hopeless, stop swimming in it. Stand tall. Show them what it’s like to be awake. And if you feel alone, squint your eyes and watch. There’s another light in the distance, waving with the same intention.

It’s me. Hi. I love you.

We have a lot of growing to do, but humanity is alive and well. If Darkness is the absence of Light, our solution is to simply shine. As long as I’m writing, you’re reading, and we’re both sharing our stories…you and I are persevering. We’re facilitating understanding. We’re taking action. Moving forward.

Let’s talk.

xx

 

We All Know Him.

I’ve met my own Brock Turner.

That said, I’m pretty sure most of us (if not all) have come across a few versions of him at some point in our lives. At best, we know him as a mere acquaintance who ‘does dumb stuff at parties,’ but is ‘a really good guy at heart.’ At worst, we know him as the boyfriend/classmate/relative/friend who does the unthinkable…and either nobody believes that he did it, or they do and nothing happens.

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Most guys like Brock Turner never even go to jail. And most girls, like the one he raped, are forced to live with the consequences. 1 in 5 of us, in fact– according to statistics. But when I align that number with my own personal experience and that of my friends, it’s the majority (not the minority) who have been sexually assaulted at least once. I can count on one hand the number of girlfriends I had in college who had never been sexually assaulted in some form.

That’s bad. Really bad. How is that number even possible?

“Firstly, in case you were laboring under the misapprehension, a rapist isn’t a person who hangs around in dark alleys waiting for vulnerable young women. Men who rape are, at least in the vast majority, men like Turner. They have favorite foods, hobbies and friends. Their families love them. They go to parties. Stopping men like Turner doesn’t mean looking for psychopaths; it means addressing how nice, educated ostensibly normal men end up raping women.

“And that means facing up to the truth – all of us, including Turner himself who, in his own court statement, refused to accept responsibility for his actions and repeatedly laid the blame on booze.

“He was willing to slut-shame his victim and absolve himself of responsibility, rather than accept that what he did was wrong. We cannot allow this to continue. There is no amount of alcohol in the world that would make having sex with an unconscious woman acceptable.” – (Source)

We picture rapists as strangers attacking women who walk alone at night. But that’s probably the least common scenario.

Most of us don’t recognize rapists as manipulative boyfriends, drunk classmates at parties, or over-entitled guys who think they can coerce their way out of the ‘friend zone.’ We ignore them, make excuses for them, or even egg them on.

That’s how Brock became “Brock Turner.”

The night he raped a woman behind a dumpster, Brock took a photo of her naked breasts and sent it to his buddies in a group chat. Judging from the screenshots that surfaced online, none of his friends seemed to think this was weird.

Dude-bros: If your buddy sends you a nude photo of a woman he’s purportedly just had sex with, what’s your reaction? Do you ask him if he had her permission to photograph her and send it to people? Do you call him out on his behavior? Do you say anything? If you react with a smile, laugh, or a ‘way to go, buddy’ – you are part of the problem. I (personally) know too many guys who have sent (or been sent) nude photos of women without having permission. And it’s terrifying.

Humanity takes a backseat the second a human body becomes a thing and not a person. Brock saw this woman as his plaything, not his equal. It’s the frighteningly “normal” perspective of a young college jock who will do anything to impress his friends and massage his own ego.

You probably know a Brock Turner, or two. It’s also likely that you know someone who has (or will be) raped by one. Doing nothing, ‘brushing it off’ and egging on dangerous behavior just makes you guilty by association.

Our behavior (and reactions to other people’s behavior) shapes society. And we (as a society) shaped Brock Turner. 

Too many victims are afraid to admit (even to themselves) what happened to them. Too many rapists – and their circle of friends/family – refuse to recognize force, coercion, and manipulation (with alcohol, guilt, threats, or other means) as wrong. By blinding ourselves to what’s happening, we protect our rapists and influence new ones.

If we can’t rely on the system for justice, we have to start with ourselves.

MEN/GUYS/DUDES/BROS/BOYS [& their FRIENDS]:

  1. It doesn’t matter what your (or their) ‘intentions’ are.
  2. Anything other than an outright ‘yes’ is a no. 
  3. It doesn’t become consensual halfway through, or afterwards. 
  4. If it doesn’t start as consensual, it’s not consensual.
  5. If a ‘no’ becomes a ‘yes’ because of fear, guilt or booze, that’s still not consensual. 
  6. If it’s not consensual, it’s rape.

Read that again.

Guys: please be accountable for yourselves and your friends. If you’ve crossed the line even ONCE in your life, come clean. If your friends or family have, say something.

Every major social shift begins with an uncomfortable conversation. So let’s talk.

We all know Brock Turner. What are we going to do about him?

If you’re angry, be part of the solution. Do something beyond simply sharing articles and commenting your outrage. Say something more than “how sad” and “I’m sorry.” Maybe start by saying “I will not allow this by ignoring it anymore.”

Because this is not about Brock Turner, or the nameless woman he raped.

It’s about me.

It’s about you.

[Awareness + Action] x Persistence = Change.

xx

22 Things I Learned at 22

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This last month, my husband and I drove up the California coast to Canada. We made stops in Big Sur, San Francisco, Portland, and Seattle. We finished the drive in Vancouver, and spent the next few weeks in Canada. There were highs, lows, surprises, dangers, adventures, joyful discoveries, epic meltdowns, massive breakthroughs and so, so many questions.

Saying “screw it” and hitting the road was a great end to my year – because that was the year. And here’s another birthday, down.

I’ll never be 22 again. What a bummer. What a relief.

Spoiler: 23 is just a slightly older, wiser version of young and stupid.

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22 was not the year to ‘figure it all out;’ it was the year to stop trying to. And it’s funny – the less I waited for answers, the more there were. Here’s a few.

22 Things I Learned at 22

Laugh about it the second ‘later’ comes.

Things you hate can become things you like. 

Changing your mind can be a really good thing.

You’ll never be this young and bold again. Invest in some mistakes.

Diets are silly. Self-care is not.

Own your baggage. You’re the one carrying it.

Honesty is the most uncomfortable (but valuable) gift you can give someone.

It’s nobody’s job to understand you. Except, perhaps, your therapist.

Your brain IS your body. Feed it, love it, let it rest. 

Self awareness is more valuable than money, success, or looks.

Flaking out on fun just because you’re sad is usually the less worthwhile choice.

Just go outside.

Dry shampoo is a miraculous invention.

Ask for help. Offer help. Either/or. Both. 

Cynical is just another word for ‘narrow-minded.’

Trying things that make you feel stupid will actually make you less stupid.

Nobody figures it all out. Not even you.

J.K. Rowling, Oprah, the Dalai Lama and Beyonce all have people who don’t like them. Do what they do, and forget about it.

True friends are really important.

You are really important.

If it’s bad, survive. It’ll be over before you know it.

If it’s good, enjoy. It’ll be over before you know it.

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  xo

It’s my BFF’s Birthday.

13680259_2045631318995344_8597191524614865181_oI love my husband, but there are very few love stories in history that compare with the shenanigans of Julia Cannon and myself. In honor of her Uterus Emancipation day, here are some enlightening videos.

Embarrassing Ourselves On A Beach in High School:


Embarrassing Ourselves For the Internet, As Adults:

Currently Embarrassing Everyone on a Professional Level:

You’re welcome, internet. Julia Cannon is your new girl crush and my first love. 

We have molested pianos together, escaped creepy parties, spotted the elusive 6 ft Alaskan Skateboarding Rabbit, danced with fruit, hated each others’ dating choices, tolerated each others’ dating choices, finally come to terms with the fact that we will never be married to each other, been each other’s therapists, devoured mountains of junk food, climbed actual mountains, made a lot of people laugh, written letters, done stupid things and believed in each other on an evangelical level.

In short: I like Julia’s butt and I’m glad it was born. 

Her music is really awesome, too. Listen here.

xo

17 Things I’ve Learned From Marriage

 

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As of July 17, 2016, we’ve spent 365 days being married AF. 

Here are 17 things that I learned from Year One.

1. Things will go wrong, so start laughing now.

2.  Nobody’s perfect, and that’s great.

3. You can almost die on your honeymoon and still have lots of fun.

4. The past is just a waste of the present.

5. There is such a thing as too many popsicles. 15 is not a snack.

6. Love uncovers weakness like a black light at a crime scene.

7. The opposite of a deal breaker is acceptance; choose that.

8. “Just kidding” are two very important words that live between ‘haha’ and the sofa.

9. Never do the sofa thing. It’s dumb.

10. Marriage has taught me that life isn’t fair.

Exhibit A: Works out never, maintains six pack.

Exhibit B: Works out always, maintains muffin top.

k

Photos by Vanessa Powell 

11. We all learn things the hard way.

12. Trust in what you don’t know.

13. When in doubt, you’re probably wrong.

14. There is no such thing as ‘happily ever after.’ That’s just something creepers say, to get you in their van.

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“Come on in. There’s candy.”

ANYWAY –

15. Weddings don’t matter, marriage does.

16. Money doesn’t matter, time does.

17. Fear doesn’t matter when love matters more.

#ThanksMitch.

Marriage is 90% fantastic. 

The gods dish out that 10% just so we don’t get bored. 

kl

“We drink because we’re married…we’re married because we drink.”

Happy Anniversary to my main Mitch.

I told you I’d embarrass you.

xo