There is nothing more important in life than stories. We’re creating them all the time- the big, epic, where-the-hell-was-the-editor stories of our marriage or career or building a family, and the little stories of a day or a moment. I was talking to one of my Famous Photographer Friends (I am very much the girl next door in my circle of star-studded BFFs) a while ago, brainstorming for an art project, and we got to talking about how at the beginning of our careers we had this crazy idea that photography was about photographs. Now, though, we’ve come to our senses and realised the truth- that yes, we love that we are making incredible art, but what really matters is the story.
Easy, or amazing?
The thing about stories, though, is that they’re easy to miss out on. It’s easy to do the sensible thing instead of the daring thing. It’s easy to space out on your phone instead of making friends with a stranger on an airplane. Easy to stick to your routine instead of growing. Easy to stay comfortable. Easy, easy, easy…
So this month I’m here to to remind you that the new year is perfect time to shake free of your comfort zone and take some risks. Make some stories. Read some, too. Be just a little bit more of the person you wish you were. Above all, stop telling yourself you can’t. “Can’t” is a bullshit word and you’re better than that.
Why the hell do we call it a comfort zone anyway?
The truth is, your comfort zone doesn’t keep you safe. It doesn’t even make you comfortable. It keeps you from growing, from changing, from feeling proud of yourself for doing something hard and amazing.
What would you do today if you weren’t afraid? What would be your next story? Think about it.
It’s that time of year. We make resolutions, name our intentions, buy gym memberships, commit to minimalism and, in some cases, tell 2018 to go die in a fire. And actually, I love all that; I love starting out the year in a haze of determination and optimism. I love seizing this energy and using it to create a life I am proud of.
What I don’t love is all the people telling you what size you have to be to have achieved success. That a “bikini body” or flat stomach is your goalpost, that numbers on a scale are your scoreboard. That pisses me the fuck off. I get it; telling people they aren’t good enough is a billion dollar industry. But we don’t have to buy in anymore.
Did you know that there’s an increasing body of research that says that being “overweight” has NO negative impact on your health?
Did you know that the seeds of our obsession with skinniness dates back to quacks in the 1800s?
Did you know that it turns out those people who have made you feel like crap over the years are actually just assholes?* *citation needed *j/k we all know it’s true
The truth is, being HEALTHY matters. Exercise is the number one most effective thing you can do to improve your mood, fight anxiety, be more alert and productive, beat depression and live longer. But the size you are when you’re exercising? Pretty much irrelevant. And you don’t have to be a crazy fitness nut to get all of those benefits. Research says that 20 minutes a day- which can be 5 minutes 4x a day, btw- is all you need to feel better and live longer.
Another key component of healthiness is community. Humans are wired for connection, and when we don’t get enough positive social interaction, when we don’t have friends we can count on and a community that makes us feel valued, it has a profoundly negative impact on our mental health- which in turn impacts our physical health.
Happiness: Worth fighting for
Here’s your prescription for happiness in 2019:
- Get healthy. Find ways to move your body that feel good to you, and eat food that makes you feel good.
- Get connected. Volunteering is one of the best ways to connect to your community and feel great about yourself. Joining classes that interest you and talking to your classmates is bound to net you new friends if you allow it. And those girlfriends you keep meaning to make time for? Do it.
- Challenge yourself. Get out of your comfort zone, try something new, take a risk.
- Get mindful. Mindfulness is a scientifically-proven way to improve your happiness, concentration, relationships, and, well, life. And there’s an app for that! There’s no excuse, take 5 or 10 minutes a day and make that brain of yours a little better.
- Clean up. Let go of things and people that don’t bring you joy.
- Trust yourself. You are enough. You are worthy. You have nothing to prove. Own your joy and take up space.
Let’s make this the year we believe in ourselves, shall we?
This spectacular shot came together organically, as many things do on the Fearless retreats. We’d walked home from dinner (the restaurants in Revelstoke are AMAZING) and as I dallied to enjoy the night air before going inside, I glanced up and saw a silhouette cross an upstairs window. Inspired, I ran inside and told Colette (my Fearless assistant and BFF) to take off her clothes and go stand in the window.
(For us, this is pretty much normal)
Then I stood on the roof of my car and took some pictures.
(A little less normal, but I needed the angle)
Then I went excitedly inside to show people, and from our discussion this photo was born. The next night, Colette did a brief art posing demo and then took each woman and arranged her in the window while I moved lamps and cleared backgrounds. Then I went outside, stood on my car, and called instructions to Colette and Michelle (in the doorway) so they could call them up into the house- “a little to the left in the top right, arch a little more on the banister…”
The result was this spectacular photo, and more importantly, also a lot of late-night laughter the memory of being daring for the sake of art- exactly what the Fearless Women’s Retreats are all about. <3
Bali was nothing like I imagined.
I don’t exactly know where I got my ideas about Bali from, or even why I decided I needed to go. But I had a clear emotional picture of the place- serene, with lush vegetation, cool morning breezes (?!), and quiet people with peace in their hearts doing yoga. I, too, would learn to love yoga while I was there; I would become mindful, and, soothed by the island’s gentle palm fronds, finally learn to meditate without going on wildly impatient ADD adventures in my head while I waited for the gong to release me.
Obviously, it was none of that.
Paradise, writ LOUD
Ubud, where our gorgeously paradisical estate was located, was- outside the quiet perfection of our gardens and villa- colourful, raucous and friendly. The uneven streets were brimming with people, motorcycles, taxis, and religious celebrations. Children with drums and tinny shakers and long snaking dragon costumes roamed the narrow sidewalks collecting donations in what seemed to be the Balinese equivalent of a lemonade stand. There were offerings everywhere- no, EVERYWHERE, watch where you step- little woven bamboo boxes with incense and flowers and candy for the gods that were refreshed several times a day by smiling women in ceremonial dress.
I don’t think I’ve ever visited a city that felt so welcoming and yet so utterly foreign. Religion and spirituality were woven seamlessly into everyday life; wherever you were, at any given time, you could see an offering, or smell incense, or hear the music of a ceremony or celebration. It seemed as natural and expected a part of life as eating or dressing. There were temples on every street, and sometimes more than one- sometimes a garden with a fountain that you could just glimpse through an ornate gate in a high wall, sometimes great stone edifices with grand staircases, richly carved walls, and statues. I got the impression that in Bali skills like stone carving, sculpture, painting and woodwork were more widespread, kind of like being a good cook in Canada; noteworthy but not unusual, every family has at least one.
Arriving in Bali I expected serenity. When I left, it was with new friends, a fresh sunburn, the ability to bargain skillfully for a sarong (and FAR too many colourful sarongs), hundreds of incredible photos, and memories of standing naked in a rainstorm in a national park surrounded by brave, extraordinary women.
I did not, at any point, do yoga.
Looking for more? Check out blog entries about our past destination boudoir photography retreats