living intuitively

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ebb and F L O W
Images by Brooke Richardson Photography

Images by Brooke Richardson Photography

Life is a repeated cycle of getting lost and then finding yourself again. There are many smaller cycles within that cycle where you get lost to a smaller degree and then remember yourself again. Sometimes you do it to yourself on purpose, consciously or unconsciously. Every time you get lost it is so that you can learn something or experience something from a different perspective.
— Jay Woodman

Tell me if you relate to this:

I’ve been going through a funk. I feel…off. Out of touch with others and myself. Not [as] connected to others or myself. Things don’t flow like they usually do.

This isn’t the first funk and it won’t be the last. And that right there…that’s a life lesson I’m continually learning: that life is cyclic. In every way: physically, emotionally, spiritually, biologically, professionally…all of it. There are ebbs and flows in all things. Flow is an operative word in multiple senses. It’s key to remember to go with the flow of life, and not resist it.

Easier said than done, right??

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I may get a few “ME TOOs” from the following statement: I derive much of my value and worth from my accomplishments. Not just the big achievements (awards, degrees, etc) but also my daily doings. I measure the success of my day by my productivity. Not healthy, and something I acknowledge and work on daily.


We have so little faith in the ebb and flow of life, of love, of relationships. We leap at the flow of time and resist in terror its ebb. We are afraid it will never return. We insist on permanency, on duration, on continuity; when the only continuity possible in life, as in love, is in growth, in fluidity - in freedom.
— Anne Morrow Lindbergh

Discipline is my default. As I keep learning throughout life, too much discipline can be as detrimental as too little. It’s about BALANCE: physically, mentally, emotionally…all of it. Going 100% all the time ain’t sustainable and ain’t healthy. I consider my drive/discipline my biggest strength(s) and my biggest downfall(s). Being driven + disciplined generates my accomplishments but also causes my issues (physical/spiritual/emotional).

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Let’s take fitness and nutrition for an example (or exampleS, I guess, since they are two areas? You get what I mean!). It’s naturally much easier for me to restrict myself and push myself than it is for me to indulge/relax myself. And before your eyes roll out of the back of your head like, “Gag me! Get over yourself” let me note: This isn’t a humble brag, trust me. Your body needs ebbs and flows to thrive and operate optimally. It doesn’t do well when you’re stuck in one speed, whether that’s fast or slow - or even moderate. My go-to gear is turbo.

Not only that, but I go on kicks with certain foods that last for YEARS, y’all. I shit you not. My body craves the same dang thing(s) day in and out, multiple times a day. For example, I’ve been eating the same salad daily since 2016 (only breaking when I travel - and even then, if I have a kitchen, I grab ingredients to make it). I would have it for every meal (and occasionally do). My body legit craaaaves it. Yes, i’m a weirdo, but I have theories for why I crave it repeatedly: 1. The nutrients are what my body has shown to be deficient in/what my body needs to sustain my current lifestyle; 2. My palate prefers fresh, plant-based ingredients. Before this prompts another eye roll, here’s why: This is partly because I grew up eating healthy, wholesome foods, and partly because I focus on giving my body what it truly needs/wants, allowing me to eat intuitively. It just makes me FEEL better. This may sound obnoxious - I get it. But look: We all have our superpowers. Some can belt it like Beyonce, some can move it like Michael…I genuinely love eating like a bunny. It is what it is.

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Okay, back to cycles and balance regarding fitness and nutrition: My go-to gear is hard and fast (that’s what she said. I HAD TO. I’m sorry. Yes, I’m secretly a 12-year-old boy). I get a high from powering through an insane workout and only eating a certain amount. Part of it is a control issue, sure - that’s a whole other conversation (if I feel frustrated/powerless in other areas of my life, I focus on the areas I can control, blah blah blah). But also: My body and mind both like routine. It'’s easy, it’s energy efficient, and it’s proven in the past to be effective. But just because something was previously effective doesn’t mean it will continue to be effective - and this is true for SO MANY ASPECTS of our lives, including eating and exercising.

If you haven’t been seeing/feeling the results you want, this next part may be your missing key:

Finding one approach and sticking with it ‘til the end of time is not only boring, it’s ineffective. Unrealistic. Life is not static, it’s dynamic, and requires us to be so as well (if we want to thrive and step into our power).

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Nature itself is cyclic (eg seasons), and so therefore are our bodies. I mean, our sleep has cycles, so why wouldn’t our metabolism? No day is truly the same, with our energy input/output, hormone/stress levels, etc. Our energy intake/expenditure must keep pace accordingly. And moreover, our bodies are fascinatingly intelligent. It’ll soon realize it’s receiving a certain number of calories and adjust accordingly. For example, if it’s only getting 1000, it’ll slow down to accommodate. That’s why it’s important to change it up and keep it dynamic and guessing, regarding both content and amount. Same with our fitness regimen, on a macro and micro level. Sure, steady-state cardio (SSC) has its place (walking, for example, can be restorative in multiple ways) but HIIT workouts kick SSC’s booty when it comes to efficacy and efficiency.

Not only that: intense SSC - especially prolonged (for an hour+ without any breaks) - can actually be detrimental! As in it will actually do your body (metabolism) more harm than good. This is good news for your sanity, your size, and your schedule! Sure, movement is the most important thing, but a 15-minute HIIT/Tabata workout will yield faster and better results than going for an hour run at the same pace. Plus it’s more FUN. Way easier to stay engaged. And doing the same workout over and over (even if it’s an interval workout) ain’t good either. Gotta switch up the type, duration, and intensity of workouts. Fitness queen Chalene Johnson covers this on her podcast, The Chalene Johnson Show (Episode #403 Calorie Myths: The Problem with Eating Less and Moving More and Episode 414 Cross-Training Your Nutrition and Getting Honest About The Fitness Industry).

it’s important to work with our bodies and their natural flow. Same goes for our lives. Some of you are good at this. Some - like me - must learn this.

Play and downtime are JUST AS IMPORTANT as go time. Science is continually and progressively proving this. To be at the top of our game in any area, we require recovery. This is the same for our minds and muscles! A truly fit person knows this, and prioritizes recovery. There’s no glory in going hard 24/7 with no breaks. I used to be one of those who took pride in never “needing” a rest day and having a hard time relaxing - whether regarding my workout or my work. But now I know this indicates faulty thinking and unhealed areas. It’s working twice as hard for half the results. NO THANKS.

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Relaxing our mind and body allows our body to restore itself. Letting our imagination run free sparks inspiration and innovation. It’s important to embrace - not resist - the fluctuations. When you’re feeling drained, just allow it. Don’t fight it. Defying it will just make you spin your wheels and delay your recovery. Sure, it can be tricky to know when to nudge yourself and when to back off, but keep at it. Eventually you’ll dial in and know what you need and when you need it.

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One of my tricks is to just remove the pressure from myself. I stop telling myself I HAVE to do something, and tell myself I don’t have to do anything. I get to do what I want. I grant myself grace. And magically, somehow, whenever i remove that impetus, I usually reclaim my motivation. Not always, and when I don’t - that’s when I know I truly need rest.

And you may again get lost in the noise and need to recalibrate, and relearn this lesson of going with the flow. But c’est la vie. This only proves the point that life is cyclic, and we often revisit past lessons, and will continually do so.

Just remember:

For a truly balanced and fulfilled life, the lows are as important as the highs.

xx,

-w-







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Helping the H U R T
Images by Abbey Armstrong Photography  Color edited by me

Images by Abbey Armstrong Photography

Color edited by me

Hurt people hurt people. That’s how pain patterns get passed on, generation after generation. Break the chain today. Meet anger with sympathy, contempt with compassion, cruelty with kindness. Greet grimaces with smiles. Forgive and forget about finding fault. Love is the weapon of the future.

In the Babemba tribe of South Africa, when a person acts irresponsibly or unjustly, he is placed in the center of the village, alone and unrestrained. All work stops, and every man, woman, and child in the village gathers in a large circle around this individual.

Next, each person in the tribe speaks to the individual, one at a time, each recalling the good things the person in the center of the circle has done in his/her lifetime. Every incident, every experience that can be recalled with any detail and accuracy, is recounted.  All his/her positive attributes, good deeds, strengths, and kindnesses are recited carefully and fully.  This tribal ceremony often lasts for several days.

At the end, the tribal circle is broken, a joyous celebration occurs, and the person is symbolically and literally welcomed back into the tribe.

HOW BEAUTIFUL IS THAT.

I’ll go ahead and answer my own question: phenomenally beautiful

We all know hurt people hurt people, right? If you didn’t realize that then, well, now you know. It’ll explain A LOT on why people do what they do.

If people are acting a fool and are being rude/unkind/inconsiderate/nasty/etc, it’s because they’re not right with themselves. They’re insecure/traumatized/etc. They’re so consumed by pain and negativity, they have little to no capacity for empathy and love. And since anger feels better than pain/shame, people lash out. Here are some examples of people masking their pain/insecurity with hatorade:

  • An employee vilifying their boss for not promoting them

  • A jealous person blaming the other woman/man for “seducing” their partner (“You homewrecker! You ruined my relationship!”)

  • A business owner demonizing a competitor

  • An individual reviling a provider of well-intentioned constructive feedback

We could go pretty deep here exploring the many elements to this, but suffice it to say: Hurt people hurt people.

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I’m grateful I realized this truth early on in my life. It’s softened the blow when I’ve had venom spit my way, or faced betrayal. Don’t get it twisted: it can still sting, but at least I understand the cause, and know not to take it personally. That’s crazy liberating. It’s like there’s an invisible bubble protecting your sense of self worth, deflecting the hate and doubt from permeating.

And just because you empathize with the causes of someone’s negative behavior doesn’t mean you condone it. That’s where boundaries come in. You can still love them while making it clear certain words/actions are unacceptable.

And also - and this can really bite the big one - be wise and humble enough to recognize the truth bombs in negative feedback. Sure, that person’s delivery could REALLY USE SOME FRIGGIN’ POLISHING, but try to remain open. Try not to shy away from reflection. View it as an opportunity to become even more of an allstar. If the feedback hit a nerve, that right there reveals an unhealed part of you. Lean into it. Figure out why.

And maybe the affected nerve is the one of caring too much of others’ opinions, and requiring external validation. The key to making it through the cleansing - but often brutal - fire of negativity-inspired self reflection is to operate on a solid foundation of self love. Knowing your shadows don’t define/control you, and neither do others’ opinions. Knowing you’re strong enough to brave the blows and use them to become even STRONGER and more self aware. Knowing you can directly face the negativity and extract what you need to evolve and get better, not bitter. This comes from loving yourself through ALL of your phases, even the ones where you feel beaten down or less than. You may not feel you’re quite there yet, but it is absolutely within your reach.

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The hardest thing in the entire world is to remain kind even when people aren’t. Remain honest even when you’re met with lies. Remain good even when things go terribly. And above all, understand the pain and heartbreak you feel isn’t a reflection of something you’ve done wrong or anything you lack. When people hurt you that means there is pain within them and something they lack that they haven’t figured out how to process or heal from. Hurt people hurt people. But don’t let them change you. Understand those are the people who need love the most.
— Kirsten Corley

So I was listening to a podcast with Marianne Williamson on Oprah’s SuperSoul Conversations. Marianne introduced a novel perspective:

When people are physically injured, we typically react with compassion, and usually try to help. You’re bleeding, I’mma grab a bandage/tourniquet/etc. But if someone shows us (intentionally or - more often - unintentionally) their insecurities/traumas/etc, it’s easier for us to ignore/judge/dismiss. But they’re the people who need the most compassion!

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Sure, as I mentioned, boundaries are key. You can empathize with people and not condone certain behavior, and it can be tricky distinguishing between empathizing and enabling. But no matter what, you can always offer love and kindness. Sometimes this must be from afar, but love is always the answer. We all get “hurt” and all need love. Some are better at healing themselves than others, but we all have healing power within us we can apply to both ourselves and others.


xx,

-w-

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F I E S T A like there's NO MANAÑA
Images by Brooke Richardson Photography

Images by Brooke Richardson Photography

Life should not only be lived, it should be celebrated.
— Osho

I love celebrating. Celebrating people. Events. Ideas. Progress. Being alive. Tacos.

To me, life is meant to be celebrated.

And as you can see from my examples, I’m an equal opportunity celebrator. Life itself is a celebratable moment. Celebrate the small and big wins

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Celebrate getting out of bed in the morning. Celebrate choosing water over soda. Celebrate your decision to choose love over judgment (toward yourself/others). Celebrate overcoming fear. Celebrate your promotion, your new commitment to a life of health + purpose. Celebrate a perfect record of overcoming everything life has thrown at you. Celebrate being ALIVE.

I truly feel this is one of the keys to a truly happy life.


The more you celebrate your life, the more there is in life to celebrate.
— Oprah Winfrey

And I believe people are meant to be celebrated. That’s why I love birthdays so much. Birthdays are an opportunity to celebrate that person’s existence, and their latest trip around the sun.

Celebrating is a way to show our gratitude for what we have. A way to express our appreciation for our blessings in life. A way to say thank you to yourself, to others, to the universe/higher power. And gratitude is ESSENTIAL in life.

Sure, it’s important to exercise discipline, and work hard. As with everything else in life, it’s about balance. But to achieve true balance, we should regularly acknowledge our wins. Not be so consumed by our ambitions that we fail to recognize our accomplishments, and what has gone well in our lives. It’s easy to be consumed by the daily minutiae, or our major objectives. Celebrate the steps you’ve taken, the hills you’ve climbed, the obstacles you’ve overcome on your way to that peak. Don’t wait until you’ve summited to high five yourself/others.

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Small celebrations sustain us along the way. Because guess what’s happening along the way? Life. Life is happening as we’re working toward our goal(s). And life is meant to be celebrated.

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Celebrations can take many forms. They don’t have to come in the form of huge bash with confetti (though those are fun too!). Here are some others ways you can celebrate:

  • Send your friend a thoughtful, appreciative note/text

  • Take a luxurious bubble bath

  • Eat your favorite meal

  • Treat yourself to a massage

  • Buy someone a thoughtful gift

  • Allow yourself extra alone time

  • Booking a photo shoot to show your progress

The options are endless!

Celebrate others. Celebrate life. Celebrate YOU.

xx,

-w-

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Eating vs. Getting Bread
Images by Abbey Armstrong Photography  Color edited by me

Images by Abbey Armstrong Photography

Color edited by me


Success is not counted by how high you have climbed, but by how many people you have brought with you.
— Dr. Will Rose

You know how drive + hustle are glorified? We’re told to strive for more: more money, more recognition, more ______.

I personally take issue with that. Why?

Because we are all different, with different dreams, different definitions of success, different ideas of happiness.


Success. There is no one definition. Everyone’s success is different. You can’t compare your success to someone else’s.

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For some, happiness means a simple, stable, routine life: working, hanging with family/friends, etc. Who are we to say that’s unacceptable? Who are we to define happiness for others?

Sure, it’s important to ensure you’re not merely seduced into complacency by your fear/comfort zone. And I don’t think a non-hustling life releases anyone from striving to be the best person they can be - that’s a human responsibility, independent of lifestyle choice.

But let’s live and let live! Happiness is different for everybody. Values vary.


It is not success if you’re unhappy.

What a CEO considers a successful life may not match a schoolteacher’s idea of such. To some, success means total financial independence with a sizable savings account. To others, success may mean freedom to travel the world and try new endeavors. To still others, success may be leaving a profound legacy of improvement and change.

Cool, man! It takes all kinds to make (and balance!) a world. It would be too chaotic if we were all overachievers. Dare to live your truth, “motivational” quotes be damned. We all have roles to play, and contributions to make. We all have value to add.

So decide for YOU and ask yourself: What is my definition of success? What does happiness look like for me? By what standards will I measure myself?

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And don’t forget this important part: Be okay with and detached from others’ standards they may try to apply to you. Stand solid if they attempt to recruit you to their way of life. Smile if they try to nudge you in a certain direction. Realize we’re all on our own journey, trying to figure life out and orient ourselves in the world. Not everybody will accept you and get you, and THAT’S OK. It really is. It’s wildly liberating once you realize that.

People should determine their personal definition nof success and release others’ definitions of success.

Know you. Do you. Love you.

-w-

Try not to be a person of success, but a person of value.
— Albert Einstein















L A B E L S
Model: Byron Hunt; Photography by me

Model: Byron Hunt; Photography by me


When you call yourself an Indian or a Muslim or a Christian or a European, or anything else, you are being violent. Do you see why it is violent? Because you are separating yourself from the rest of mankind. When you separate yourself by belief or nationality, by tradition, it breeds violence. So a man who is seeking to understand violence does not belong to any country, to any religion, to any political party or partial system; he is concerned with the total understanding of mankind.
— Jiddu Krishnamurti

Would you agree with me that we typically feel compelled to label: people, items, emotions, experiences, ideas…pretty much everything!

Sure, there’s value in labeling. That’s how we’re able to know what the hell we’re referencing. Otherwise, our convos would take twice as long trying to describe what we’re referring to, and it’d all be one continuous scene of The Little Mermaid (“Whozits and whatzits galore. You want thingamabobs? I’ve got 20!”). Obnoxious and frustrating to the max.

Labels are part of our culture - in every sense of the word (personal, professional, legislative, judicial, pop culture, music, etc). They contribute to the infrastructure upon which society is built, upon which laws are passed, upon which food is sorted and Netflix is categorized. When I’m browsing for new jams, I don’t want to have to scroll through a shi* ton of random opera ballads to get to my preferred music.

Labels make our lives easier and more efficient. They allow our brains and bodies to navigate through life more effectively amid the onslaught of information we’re blasted with every second of every day. They help us make sense of the world, with all of its complexities.

They also can bestow us with a common purpose. It can offer a sense of belonging/pride/commonality/community, particularly in the case of nationality/cultural identity/etc. It can provide a cause/entity to cheer for, a common point to rally around. They give us traditions, and opportunities to connect with other similar people.

However…

These benefits (efficiency, simplicity, community, pride, etc), can come at a price.

It can become problematic/limiting/divisive/misleading/self-defeating when we apply this labeling compulsion with no consciousness, awareness, flexibility, or fluidity. When we tattoo those labels, so to speak, making them costly, painful, and time-intensive to remove (I really took that tattoo metaphor and ran with it, didn’t I?). Labels can also mask our universal commonalities and pit us against the “outsiders.”

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Society values clarity and decisiveness. We’re prompted to label people as good or bad, right or wrong, successful or non; same goes for ideas, etc.

This dichotomous and limited way of thinking doesn’t account for complexities: within individuals, within groups, within the world in general. People do good things. People do bad things. Life isn’t always black and white.

And I want to live in a world where people’s gender/race/skin color are irrelevant. Just because I may be regarded as a privileged white woman doesn’t mean I’m not allowed an opinion or a say or a hope for a more inclusive world.

Furthermore, it limits our growth and happiness, and clouds our view, when we apply labels to ourselves! Particularly regarding our identities. We’re conditioned to establish our identities on factors such as our skin color, our profession, our IQ level, our prevailing temperament, our body type, our gender, our music taste, our religion, our political affiliation. Lawd help us if we step outside our established identity: a straight male shaking it at Zumba, a Republican voting for a Democrat, a bodybuilder loving the ballet, a grandma digging Metallica.

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It’s easy to feel locked into a label and feel pressured to maintain that image. For example, men in certain cultures (looking at you, ‘Murica) are typically discouraged from expressing emotion - especially in the military. To cry is considered weak and “sissy la la.” What kind of bullshit is that?! Think about it: They are discouraged from expressing HUMAN EMOTION.

I’ve previously discussed the dangers of emotion repression, and the takeaway is: it ain’t good. Those emotions don’t just disappear into the ether - they fester and make their way out eventually and demand to be addressed.

Former Army Special Forces Green Beret Greg Stube acknowledges this in his stellar book, Conquer Anything: A Green Beret’s Guide to Building Your A-Team. He was fully indoctrinated in the masculine military, “rub some dirt on it” (he actually uses those words) mentality…until he almost died in Operation Medusa in Afghanistan in 2006. He was finally forced to grapple with what it means to be human, to be complete, and to be truly strong: mentally, physically, and emotionally. Having repressed that facet of being human for so long, he was knocked for a total loop when he was blown to smithereens by an IED (improvised explosive device) and forced to accept a very different reality, one in which he couldn’t just rub some dirt on it and soldier on. Through soul searching, reflection, and personal “come to Jesus” talks, he came out on top - and acknowledged the importance of transcending certain labels to embrace and cultivate what it means to be human, and what it means to be truly strong.

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So what happens when something happens and the label no longer fits?

We get fired. We go bankrupt. We get voted out. We get sick. We flunk a test. We gain/lose weight. We experience an existential criss that triggers re-evaluation of our priorities/affiliations/beliefs.

Like Greg Stube experienced, it can be devastating, if your identity is tethered to that label. Suddenly you start wondering who you really are, if not your label(s). If I’m not a high-powered lawyer/straight-A brainiac/size 0/Christian/president/husband/etc, who am I? What’s my place in the world? What do I have to offer? Am I still worth loving? So many of us feel conditionally loved, whether we realize it or not. We’re led to think (sometimes intentionally, sometimes unintentionally) that we are accepted/loved because of those labels: doctor/Mormon/star athlete/parent/do-it-yourselfer/subject matte expert.

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This also applies to emotions. Let’s say you’re known as the carefree, happy, optimistic one. The one who sprinkles sunshine wherever you go and elevates the mood in any situation. You’ve learned to effectively play this role. But what happens when you have a bad day? Or even a bad year? Are you supposed to deny yourself feeling those “negative” emotions?


When you welcome your emotions as teachers, every emotion brings good news, even the ones that are painful.
— Gary Zukav

What you resist, persists.


Feelings like disappointment, embarrassment, irritation, resentment, anger, jealousy, and fear, instead of being bad news, are actually very clear moments that teach us where it is that we’re holding back. They teach us to perk up and lean in when we feel we’d rather collapse and back away. They’re like messengers that show us, with terrifying clarity, exactly where we’re stuck. This very moment is the perfect teacher, and lucky for us, it’s with us wherever we are.
— Pema Chodron

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Which leads us to emotion labeling. Emotions aren’t positive or negative; emotions are emotions. Emotions are natural and wide-ranging, and most importantly: emotions are messengers. They come and they go, so we should let them move through us, view them with curiosity and no attachment, and discern their message. By denying/ignoring/repressing them, you are stunting your growth, preventing your freedom, and blocking true happiness.


Feel the feeling but don’t become the emotion. Witness it. Allow it. Release it.
— Crystal Andrus

Ultimately, as the opening quote indicates, labels separate: us from each other, us from ourselves (our true essences). While they do serve a purpose, it is crucial for us to be aware of them and fluid in our allegiance to them. As long as we interpret them loosely and keep an open mind, we’ll all be better off.

xx,

-w-


Once you label me, you negate me.
— Soren Kierkegaard