making ends meet (a new beginning)

hello there, friend.

if you're familiar with the space, it's been quite awhile, hasn't it? 

the last time we met here together my life looked very different. the last time we met here i lived in columbus, ohio. the last time we met here i was married. in the past two years or so there as been so much change. there's been grief and mourning and beauty and love. there's been so much healing and i've spiritually grown over ten feet tall. 

so, while there are plenty of details to be shared about those changes, i think i'd like to share in small bits. i will share them here as time goes on, in the meantime, maybe we can get coffee and talk about it all. for now, i just want to say hello, and i hope, despite all of our growth and change, we can pick up where we left off. 

among the many things i have to speak with you about, i must say that my mental health has ebbed and flowed since we last spoke. there have been some high peaks and some very deep valleys. but i'm still here. with the help of therapy and art and friends i am still here.

i hope you stay here too. 

life can be inexplicably heavy and aching and harsh winds, but we hold on together. i'm here. you're safe. the storm always passes. 

oh, by the way, if it's your first time in this space, welcome! please feel comfortable to come as you are. keep your shoes on if you want, the floors aren't that clean anyway. 

if it's your first time in this space, please let me introduce myself. 

my name is ashley dun. i write poetry and talk about deep feelings and the sometimes-scary-human-moments and healing from those together. in february of this year i moved to santa barbara, california and i am cleansed daily by the beauty and kindness of this place and its people.

and speaking of poetry, 

i've been working on a new book

quite a bit actually. working so hard that it is actually almost finished. and it will be released through secret midnight press - before the end of the year. the moment i know a specific date, i'll let you know. i'm very excited about this one, ya'll. 

so, all this to say, if you're a familiar, i've missed you. if it's your first time here, i'm so glad you came. i plan to express myself here regularly again. 

i'd like to start by doing a Q&A post in the next week. please email me your questions and i will try to get to as many as i can :) if you want, tell me one of your favorite things about yourself after the question! sign with your name if you'd like your name posted, or leave it blank to remain anonymous <3 

send your 'Qs' to theashleydun@gmail.com and check back for the 'A' post very soon.

if you haven't realized yet, it's been awhile since i've been here, so i'm not entirely sure how to wrap this up. so i'll leave you with a photo of me hanging out with a cat named crybaby lovewonder.

i hope that your day has been and continues to be gentle to you. 

talk to you soon, friend.



Listening to:

Dionne (feat. Justin Vernon) - The Japanese House


my new poetry book: a lens to see behind the sky

on the two year anniversary of my first book's release, pre-sale begins for my second book: A Lens To See Behind The Sky. 
pre-orders begin november 14, 2018 with a ship date of december 1, 2018. getting to you in time for christmas.
pre-order on amazon - or through secret midnight press for an exclusive signed copy!

i can't believe it's been two years. in 2016 my good friend jesse cale and i decided together to finally put together our books of poems written over years. 

instead of just self-publishing, we wanted to create a home, a world even, for fellow deep-feelers like us. so on november 14, 2016 we launched secret midnight press. you can read more about that here.

that day i published my first book of poetry. a simple little book called smoke signals (burn this). the response to this was overwhelming, and i was immediately inspired to continue creating. so over the past two years i have been writing and dreaming about my next creation. 

if this is your first time here and you haven't read any of my poetry, i've posted a good amount of it here!

if you've been here before, you know that i speak quite a bit about my struggles with mental health issues, and this book is no exception. there are dark moments. moments which i hope help shed a light on the daily struggles of depression and anxiety. moments which i hope help those who relate feel less alone. 

when i began dreaming of this book, i knew i wanted it to be more immersive. to contain ways for the reader to interact, to be challenged even to think deeply and to look inward. 

i've been enamored by vintage books for as long as i can remember, even obtaining a pretty decent sized collection. so i wanted to bring in some of those elements to this book.

there will be a vintage-inspired special edition hardback available exclusively through secret midnight pressi am the most excited about this. 

i was gifted a vintage typewriter when i was seventeen, and still use it often. i used it to create letters and collages with old photographs to experience throughout the book. 

all of the old photographs throughout the book were taken of or by my great-grandfather william s. dun.
his son, my grandfather, was a war photographer as well. creativity, it seems, runs deeply in my family. 

the photography my great-grandfather william took of his travels all over the world and his time in the war evoke such emotion, which i think fits in the world of poetry; in the world of feeling everything. 

i also reached out to my friend emma ruff, who is similarly passionate about poetry and vintage things, to create a handful of collages based on my poetry. here is a sneak peak of her wonderful art:

some more important things about this book:

Smoke Signals (Burn This) will become part one of the four parts of this book
this means smoke signals as a single entity will be discontinued

i also included poetry from the collaboration book with jesse cale live poems love poems.
i plan to do at least one US tour in 2019 reading both new and old poems. hopefully other countries as well! what city could i meet you in? we're hoping to tour this coming spring :)

this is my final typewriter poem that i will be running as a contest on my instagram. check my instagram stories to win a signed and framed copy of the book's title poem. the winner will be entered to win a signed copy of the book once it's released.

thank you, as always, from the bottom of my heart. for those who have been there since day one, who have encouraged and supported my growth through all of these growing pains the past couple of years. and to you reading this right now.

i hope this book makes you feel seen. 
i hope this book gives you courage to fight the darkness. 
there is light on the other side. 
i promise. 
i've seen it. 



Listening to: 




i don't remember what i was wearing. i don't remember what i brought with me. i only remember what i wasn't allowed to bring. a razor, tweezers, makeup, cell phone. they collected these things while i checked in, my parents signing the consent forms, a glossy haze over our eyes. my breath was bated, scanning the open room of the people i'd be spending an indefinite amount of time with. the hierarchy was stark and obvious. white coats ruled the land. they could come and go as they pleased - a royal privilege. the blue scrubs distributed medication. no one realized that these were the ones really running the show. their humble degrees, simple task of handing you a small pill with water and checking under your tongue - they had the power. i observed these things in the first brief moments before my mother walked me back to my room. "these rooms are typically reserved for the more disturbed" the white scrubs leaned toward my mom and said in a loud whisper, "solitary confinement." she continued to explain that they were waiting for a shared room to open up for me. "it's our busy season." whatever that means. 

the small bed with a scratchy grey blanket was in the far corner of the white room, a small table with a lamp next to it. above the bed was a large window, the whole world on the other side. this window had bars across it, god forbid i would try and exit this way, seventeen floors up. 

my mom and i sat on this springless mattress, fighting feeling anything. how can a mother be equipped to say goodbye to her daughter in a solitary room in a psychiatric ward in a local hospital? how can a daughter be prepared to stay strong for her mom while her own world is walling up in front of her? the answer is that one cannot be prepared for this circumstance, we gave in and ended up crying until we couldn't anymore. she squeezed my hand and left. as the door closed behind her the walls seemed to shrink in. 

the following week exists in my memory as a black and grey watercolor painting, left outside in the rain. knocks on my door woke me up every few hours to be refilled with tranquilizers. i could barely carry myself to the common area. "it'll help you to socialize. watch TV with the others." i felt like i was deep under water, creatures around me were inanimate, they talked but it might as well have been heavy rocks dropped into the ocean. 

i met with a team of however qualified whomevers, sitting around a long table, they asked me questions about my health. there were no study notes for this quiz. my new roommate gave me hints to the answers. she'd been in for months and learned the hard way how not to answer. she'd learned to say what they want to hear. 


looking into a prism, this is a brief, flash reflection of my experience in the psychiatric hospital ten years ago. self harm and suicidal ideation took me there. 

i don't talk about this with many people. i fear the stigma that will follow. 

loaded words with blank-bullet meanings. 'crazy', 'unstable', 'weird'. these words really hold no weight as there is no true antonym that exists. 'normal' is a prerogative. 'vulnerable' is an adjective i'll allow. to me, vulnerability is bravery and trust. you're baring your weak parts to a potential threat in hopes that peace will come from it. true humanity is not to hide. i believe humanity is finding strength and sharpening it. we must realize our weaknesses and work to strengthen them. this is survival. 

here's the thing. when you look a stranger in the eyes your souls briefly connect. what's behind those blue and brown windows is a tapestry of experiences. joy, suffering, and so similar to your own. 

'weird' means a more colorful tapestry. 'crazy' means a few loose threads from use. 

throw stigmas out the window. keep judgements at bay. stories are beautiful, and your soul is even more.

please share your story. please ask for help if you need it. there are communities of people who are safe, who want to listen.

for suicide prevention week (september 10-17) Secret Midnight Press is donating 20% of profits to The American Foundation for Suicide Prevention (this includes sales of my book).

please remember that you are loved. please remember that it gets better. i know this because i've been there. it gets better.

i'll leave you with this friendly reminder:

my new book is coming to you in november! and with each blog post leading up to this i will be doing a contest on my instagram story. 

i will be hand-typing a new poem, and if you repost my story, you can win a signed & framed copy. 

plus the winner is entered to win a personalized copy of my new book once it's out. 



Listening to:

Happiness - Jonsi & Alex


the world of atlas black: year two + announcement!

hello sweetest soul,

it's been awhile. i've taken some time off blogging for many various reasons (mostly mentioned in my last post), but i've missed it dearly. this is a special place, and i'm ready to talk with you again more regularly. i've been working on learning my way around vlogging, so that'll be a new thing for us coming soon :)

but right now i want to talk briefly about this past weekend. 

there was music, there was poetry, there was hope. imagine you've been holding your breath for weeks and months and someone finally tells you it's okay to exhale. that's what Atlas Black was for me. 

it's a world where you can be whoever you want to be. create a character, or be the most stripped down version of yourself. i found myself being a little bit of both. i found myself on stage sharing my soul to a group of humans who couldn't be more gentle with it. it's a loving community of creatives, feelers, fire-breathing living creatures. you're allowed to be you here.

on sunday my friend jesse cale put on black feather wings and i put craft glitter glue on my face and we went on stage and shared our hearts. this was just one of the many layers of the weekend that was The World of Atlas Black .

Atlas Black is a yearly art festival put on by secret midnight press. it's a dream we had in 2016 and brought to life in 2017, a dream where creatives can step out of the darkness and feel free if only for a moment. here is a video describing the vision: watch here.

videos of me reading:

our newest author lee martens kicked off the evening with her beautiful and heartbreaking stories. we also offered an open mic at the end and so many stunning humans shared their art. i was in awe of the vulnerability and raw talent. 

meeting many of you afterward was even more inspiring. the amount of love and honesty shared in this space warms me from head to toe. 

we talked about mental illness and the struggles of being a creative empath. we talked about hope, about knowing that your joy is worth fighting for. you are worth fighting for. 

i plan to talk more about these things in the coming weeks. i can't wait to dive to the depths again with you. to discuss the hard things, the things that weigh a lot, but how we can help each other lighten the burden. we're in this together. 

thank you for making it this far. it's time for the announcement:

i let the world know on stage this weekend that i am finishing up my new book! 

coming to you in november. and with each blog post leading up to this i will be doing a contest on my instagram story. 

i will be hand-typing a new poem, and if you repost my story, you can win a signed & framed copy! plus the winner is entered to win a personalized copy of my new book once it's out :)

i am so excited for this new chapter, friends. i can't wait to share and grow stronger with you. 



Listening to:


a blog post on why i took a break from blog posts

when i look into the mirror i don’t see myself. 

i see a reflection through the lens of everyone else. i see a person who isn’t as pretty as that one girl, as funny as that other person, as interesting or smart as she wants to be. it’s a comparison game and the more time i spend in front of screens, the worse it gets. 

like most people with smart phones, i would say that i’m addicted to social media. or at least have been at different points. i can’t be in an elevator or waiting room without constantly scrolling through these portraits of posed lives. we’re all putting our best foot forward and there’s nothing wrong with that. i think the problem is when we forget that people are people which means they suffer too. even if it doesn’t look like it on their page.

i find myself comparing amounts of followers and likes and retweets and i can feel my self-worth taking hits all day long. these painful punches knock me to my knees and for what? for this false sense of success and security in numbers. 

but i’m working on it. 

i spent the summer seeing an incredible therapist who helped me work through a lot of the relentless dark thoughts that have always seemed to just be a part of ‘who i am’. turns out this isn’t the case. i defined my values and gifts and the things that fulfill and bring me joy. turns out those things are ‘who i am’ and not my self-esteem that day or any culmination of compliments or insults. i am much, much more than that. 

i am the sky, and the dark thoughts or days pass through like storm clouds, but those storm clouds don’t make the sky anything less than the sky. the 'i'm not good enough' thoughts can float by and i am still me, strong, and with gifts to share. 

my self esteem and identity have been linked to social approval for too long. so earlier this year i started to slowly attempt to tame this beast. in the world that we’re in, unfortunately, in certain career paths, a social media presence is crucial for success. so as much as, on my worst days, i’ve wanted to just delete everything and go dark, i don’t believe i have this option. and then i remember the lovely things about it, like all of the kind people and their words and the friends i’ve made. so i decided to work on having a healthier relationship with it. 

if i start noticing myself allowing the numbers and comparisons to crush my spirit, or if i’m noticing that it’s difficult or impossible to be present in the moment, i’ll delete the apps - even if just for a day or two. the first day i did this was painful. i kept opening my phone and going for the ghost of the instagram or snapchat apps and feeling uncomfortable that i may be missing something important. the second day was easier and i began to nice a sense of relief. 
i wasn’t looking at my experiences through a lens of what other people may want to see. i realized how much this was robbing me of truly living in the moment. i’m able to be in a beautiful moment, and not feel the need to take photos to impress other people. i can just be there and feel it all. so i guess what i'm trying to say is,

i'm working on it.

as i've been trying to find the balance of a healthy relationship with the internet, i found myself backing off more and more. i haven't written on here in what feels like ages, and i've been quieter in the day-to-day elements of social media. i'm taking time to find joy outside of other peoples' approval. it has, and will be, an ongoing battle. i care so deeply for people, i want to help, i want to love, and i want to be loved. i'm working on balancing those wants with a healthy sense of identity. 

i so appreciate your patience through this process. i would love to hear any stories or experiences working on this relationship with social media. it can be such a beautiful, connecting tool that awakens us to so many things going on in the world. but never let it rob you of joy and fulfilling experiences or relationships right in front of you. 



Listening to:


first round of tour dates are here! jesse and i will be doing an instagram livestream today (friday 12/1)  at 6pm eastern :) hope to see you there!


a small note in the midst of a storm

pulls at the 
thread that 
holds you 
together you 
feel it unraveling
this painful 
from yourself 
this frightening
freedom of 
overwhelming thought
letting the light in where
it hasn't been before
blinding and burning it's 
awakening senses
that are better kept
sleeping it's 
grotesque in its
reality not hiding 
like the others just
baring boney 
teeth there's
nothing to hide
opens up the autopsy 
of what's really


sometimes i sit and daydream about what it would be like to live a quiet life. to have a quiet mind, a heart that sleeps soundly at night. i am truly envious of those who are able to walk through life without soaking up the sorrow of it all. i absorb all around me. it's beauty and it's suffering and it's hard to find balance. 

depression isn't just feeling 'sad'. it's not always related to circumstances, it's not an equation to solve. someone once asked me if i knew what the root of my depression is. i told them i wish there was one. because if there were roots, i could pull them out of the ground and be free. instead it's a component of the soil, a natural element that i'm not sure i'll ever have the tools to remove. 

recognizing this is not a white flag of defeat. no, i'm shaking hands with it and agreeing to work with it. i'm agreeing to row against the rushing current because there are calm waters ahead. 

some days i'm fighting. some days i'm soaking in the sun. others i let the rain come down on me and i weep with the sky. it's a cycle just like everything is a cycle. we rotate together. 

what calms me is that i'm not in this alone. what calms me is that there are people who understand. what i'll never know is why some people don't try to understand. i'm jealous of the people who don't have to. 

in the meantime i look for speckled sunlight, rays floating through leafy branches, the rustling of life when the wind comes. i know that the earth suffers with me. we're aware of the weight and fragility of existence. 

as a feather on a bird's wing, we're here for a brief moment but we are involved in the movement. sometimes i sit and daydream about what it would be like to live a quiet life. i'll find my peace in soaring wings. 


if you've followed my blog for some time you'll know that writing is a catharsis for me during the bad days. i'm not always able to end on a hopeful note, but i always try. 

things are busy as ever with secret midnight press (launched summer boxes today !!) and i have big plans and goals for my personal writing. after finishing up my eight week self care series, i decided that i'm going to take some time to work on my new book, soak up the summer months. i will continue posting as often as i'm inspired to (which may very well be once a week), but i won't be on a set schedule.

please subscribe so that when i do post, you'll see it in your email and we can keep doing this thing together.

knowing you're out there, reading this, feeling it all with me, brings more comfort than you know.

i'm so thankful for this safe place, and have so many plans for us to come.



Listening to:

(^this video is so wonderful)


self-care / part 8 : forgiving yourself

self-care series
((part eight of eight))

i'm not sure how long the term 'self-care' has been around. some people might hear it and cringe because they believe it's something millennials came up with as an excuse to take long baths every night and prioritize laziness over responsibilities. some people might write it off as being overly sensitive and wasting valuable time. or maybe it just scares some because they've never taken the time to even think about what it would look like to take care of themselves. 

i think i can relate to the last example. this eight week journey has truly been an enlightening one. if you're just stopping by now, i'll give you the highlights. 

part one taking the time

some might argue that time is the most valuable currency. recognize that your contentment is worth an immeasurable amount. you deserve self-care.

each soul is as unique as a fingerprint. the better you know yourself, the better you can know your strengths and weaknesses, as well as gifts that you give in relationships, and what you need from others. knowing yourself is loving yourself.

pushing your limits and doing the things you are afraid of will build incredible strength and confidence. even if you fail, it is worth the wisdom gained from experience. 

part four accepting love

it can be difficult to take a compliment or really let someone into your heart. it's scary to be this vulnerable. but there are people that want to love you where you are, you just have to let them.

no one is perfect. we all have flaws, some we can change and some we cannot. recognizing the difference between the two is so important. once you determine the weaknesses you can strengthen on your own, set realistic goals to overcome these challenges. 

part six knowing your worth

you are more than a number. you are not your instagram followers, your grades, your weight, your age. you are a sparkling spirit that makes the world better. 

part sevenforgiving someone

if i haven't said it enough, we are all flawed. we hurt others out of our own brokenness. recognizing that your wounds were given by wounded people can be freeing. forgiveness (even if it's not asked for) is an incredible weight lifted off of you.

and now this brings us to the final part of our self-care season. personally, i saved the worst for last. or more accurately, the most difficult. so we've established that we're all flawed, broken, but incredibly special and wonderful at the same time. we've taken the time to bring light to our dark places and and realize that no one is free from insecurity and pain. we've maybe even taken small steps to let go of a hurt that we've been holding onto.

even through all of this, it may still be difficult to look in the mirror. maybe when you close your eyes at night there are painful visions of moments you wish you could change. maybe your grip isn't as tight as you wish it was. what i want you to know is that everyone experiences this. everyone falls and fails and cracks around the edges. 

i recently had a conversation with a friend about how everyone is 'weird' in their own way, just some people hide it more than others. 'normal' is relative. normal can change on a daily basis, or it can change after a traumatic experience. it's okay to shift and adjust your normal. it's okay to take five steps forward and then two steps back. this is the dance with life that we are all learning and will never truly master. 

the point is that you're trying. and the fact that you're still reading this means that you care about your happiness. you care about your mental health and clarity. maybe it's buried beneath layers of shame and guilt and uncertainty, but hope is there.

self-care is not just repeating phrases about loving yourself and maybe getting an occasional massage or pedicure. self-care is a life-long journey. it is a practice. take your time with it. breathe it in and let it make a home in your heart. you'll fail because we all fail. you'll get hurt because you're human. 

self-care is fighting for your joy through the pain. it's finding peace and contentment in any situation. it's being patient with yourself while you grow.

please never forget that you deserve it.



Listening to:


self-care / part 7: forgiving someone

self-care series
((part seven of eight))

words can cut like the sharpest knife. abandonment hollows you. neglect and selfishness are a toxic poison we've all drank. we're all victims in some form. no one is spared from emotional abuse, it's the root of our humanity. survival of the fittest. save yourself.

i still remember harsh words spoken to me when i was a child. i remember being very young, and a girl in my neighborhood pointing and laughing at me with her friends. she was taunting me for my (pre-braces) crooked teeth. i was horrified, but also very aware of one thing... this girl's teeth were more crooked than mine. 

it was a lesson i learned early in life which shaped my worldview. the one that hurt you has been hurt before. bullies are the most broken. hatred is a weed that grows when love isn't there to pluck it out. 

so while there's no excuse for treating another person poorly, knowing that the cold heart is a broken heart can give us a powerful tool to carry throughout our entire lives. 

the first step is recognizing the darkness in the person that hurt us. we're all broken, we're all bleeding. but it's up to you to rise above the injustices of life. it's up to you to fight for your happiness. 

i've been told that holding a grudge is like drinking poison in an attempt to hurt someone else. we only hurt ourselves. somehow it's easier to hold onto the hurt. we can cling to it and control it. maybe we think that if we let it go it will grow. that holding it tight keeps it at bay. but this is simply not true. it is a shackle at our feet for which we have the key. 

forgive him for you. forgive her for you. only you can set yourself free from bitterness and the heavy weight of anger.

there is one thing i'd like to clarify. forgiveness does not mean approval. it doesn't mean that you're saying that what they did to you was okay. you're merely accepting it as a part of your story. a coal in the fire of the kiln that shapes you. you're making peace with the fact that the person that broke you is more broken than you. it's wishing healing and wholeness for them, despite what it seems they deserve. 

we are all on a journey. as humans we will hurt people, despite our best efforts not to. if you are holding tight to pain in your palm, releasing it is one of the best things you can do for yourself. it can be a process, take your time. you deserve to be free. 



Listening to:


self-care / part 6: knowing your worth

self-care series
((part six of eight))

- your worth is beyond numbers -

each night i lay in the dark, desperate for sleep and instead of counting sheep i count calories. as the tally racks up, i berate myself for being born as a living creature who needs food for survival. 

each morning i carry my corpse to the scale, barefoot on the cold glass i watch the numbers spin. it's gone up .2 and suddenly its harder to hold myself up, as though the weight is added to a bag on my back. 

i unlock my phone and open each social media app one by one. i've dropped a follower and my photo likes are nothing compared to hers.

subconsciously i add up these numbers and feel the punch of a stamp on my chest. the total number labels me and everyone can see it glowing in the dark. 

hi i'm 325, nice to meet you. 

i catch myself, repeat the number, trying to correct myself until i'm finally able to say my name. 

this is a problem that i believe plagues every person at some time in their life. from age to weight to net worth we're surrounded by numbers. it's easy to find your worth in them. 

this is something i've struggled with ever since i can remember. as i've been working to shift my focus from self-hatred to self-care, i've become increasingly aware of my daily struggle with self-esteem. i've let the voices of the media make themselves at home in my heart. they tell me that no one will like me if i'm not thin enough, if i'm not pretty enough, if i'm not wealthy enough. and the expectation is practically unmeetable. 

as i work to capture these negative thoughts as they happen, i am trying to replace them with positive ones. i must believe in my heart that i am worth loving. and it's not easy. 

i imagine that i'm not alone in this struggle. that i'm not the only person out there who has tried to find my self-worth in these temporary things. if you're with me in this, i hope you know how wonderful you are. i hope you know that your spirit is so strong and your life holds so much more meaning than the shapes and numbers that you hold onto. you can leave a legacy of love and acceptance, but this starts with you. 

you must dig out the hurtful thoughts by the roots. don't let them back in. look in the mirror and say 'i love you.' tell yourself that you're worth is found in the lives you touch, the joy you bring to those around you, the warmth you give. these things can't be measured in numbers. tell yourself that there are galaxies within you, a unique beauty that only you can give.

it may not be easy. it may be something that we fight for every day, but i know that it'll be worth the fight.

we're in this together. 



Listening to:


self-care / part 5: accepting your flaws & setting goals for change

self-care series
((part five of eight))

i've always considered myself to be self-aware, which for me also includes being incredibly insecure. i have memories of being very young, looking in the mirror, and only seeing things i wished i could change. 

still not a day goes by that i don't think about the smallest details of me that i wish were different. but what good can come from just sitting around thinking these thoughts? really, i'm only slowly sipping at poison.

so while i'm working on taking care of myself, i thought about how i could grab onto these thoughts as though they're balloons, let some go, and take others and shape them into something beautiful. 

while these words are so often thrown around, they hold a life changing amount of truth: nobody's perfect. a human is a human, we all struggle and suffer and cry and wish we could change. 

so let's take that desire for change and let it fuel a fire of love and passion within us. let's find what we have the power to change and set realistic goals to change them. emphasis on realistic. 

if you wish had a different sleep schedule, that you could wake up earlier than noon on your days off, maybe don't set your alarm for 6am and expect a change overnight. or if you are wanting to cut back on sugar, it doesn't always work to eliminate it completely the next day. for some people the extreme change can be what they need. in my experience, i try and make these big changes and when i don't see results right away, i give up. most often, i think gradually easing into change can be the best thing. 

sometimes the first step is asking for help. it's hard to make changes alone. this can be as simple as going to a dermatologist for your acne, or as big as asking help for an addiction. accountability is so important. 

if you look in the mirror and wish your teeth were whiter, allow yourself to budget in whitestrips from the grocery store. you deserve it. it can be little things like this that we constantly think about being different, but don't take the step to change them, maybe because we don't feel that we deserve that extra care. i'm telling you now that you do. 

so we've identified some things that we have control over in our lives. what about the things that we don't? this is the bane of existence, but it's an eternal truth. we'll never have full control. there are some things about ourselves that, realistically, aren't in our control to change. these things are mostly appearance-related for me. 

so maybe there are things about the way you look that could be fixed by plastic surgery or extreme measures, but this isn't entirely realistic for you. i don't love my nose, but i don't plan to go under the knife any time soon, so instead of dwelling on it, the healthiest thing for me to do is accept that it's the face i was given, and focus on parts of it that i love. i do love my eyes, so when i start to think about what i don't like, switch gears in my mind to what i do. 

nobody's perfect. we all have things about ourselves that we wish were different. it can be easy to think that everyone is looking at you and only seeing flaws. maybe you do struggle with comparison and looking at people around you with a critical eye. i've found a practice that helps with this: if i'm in line at a grocery store or sitting in a busy mall, i'll look at each person near me and think about the lovely things about them. i notice the woman in front of me has beautiful hair, and the young girl walking by has a warm and lovely smile. this can be a way to train your brain to notice the beauty first. as you're doing that with others, you can start doing it with yourself. and if you get a chance, tell the person what you think is beautiful. compliments can truly make someone's day and possibly help with their own insecurities. 

know that your soul is so special and so valuable and so much more than the skin surrounding it. you are strong and have the power to make peoples' lives better, and what is more beautiful than that? 


Listening to:


self-care / part 4: accepting love

self-care series
((part four of eight))

hi, dearest one.

here we are together in this little space of the internet. it’s nice to feel like i’m not alone right now, that you’re reading this with me and we’re in this thing together. although i’m currently sitting in a crowded airport terminal, i can get so lost in my head that i feel lonely, isolated by the tornado of thoughts around me. writing here helps me. 

so we’re half-way through this series on self-care. each week i try to focus on the elements that i am writing about (typically as a note-to-self), and each week i feel more aware of how poorly i take care of myself. 

the common phrase and biblical principle ‘love others as you love yourself’ seems simple and straight-forward enough. but what we don’t often think about is that maybe we don’t really love ourselves. if we’re consumed with self-loathing, looking in the mirror and berating the reflection, how well can we really love another person?

this realization caught me off guard. as most people are, i am my worst critic. i dissect my reflection into sections and thoroughly examine all of the pieces of me that i don’t like. too many freckles, a tiny chip in my tooth, an unpleasant voice. and the list goes on. 

i make these lists every day. lists of things i wish i could change about myself, many of them that i never will be able to. many of them that no one else would wish to change about me. many of them that others find endearing and lovely. my brain distorts it and tells me that it’s unloveable. 

i was incredibly fortunate to grow up in a loving and supportive environment. my parents allowed me to express myself and told me daily how much they love me. but for years those words passed through me as though i were a ghost. these words were just words, i wouldn’t allow them to be a seed that would take root in me and grow into something wonderful.

this is a daily battle that i may very well fight the rest of my life. a battle against society’s standards of beauty, a battle against loud insecurities that ring in my ears without ceasing. 

but there are ways to make headway in this battle. to win the fight, even if just for a moment. it begins with loving yourself. 

when you look in the mirror and pick apart the reflection, comparing it to the invisible person next to you that you feel is better, take notice. catch your thoughts in the act of trying to make you feel small. catch them in your hands and transform them. 

make the choice to see the things you love about yourself. maybe only one comes to mind right now. my advice is to write it down. each positive thing about yourself that comes to you, keep it with you and use it as a weapon in the fight. hold tight to these things.

these are the thoughts that water the soil and prepare you to accept seeds of love that others plant in you. then when you hear words of encouragement, kindness, help, you’ll feel them fully and accept them as truth.

because you deserve this. whatever you do, don’t forget that. you deserve to feel the peace of unconditional love. 

it starts with you.

go in boldness, dear friend.


Listening to:


self-care / part 3: wandering (facing fears)

self-care series
((part three of eight))


is this what living looks like?
like there's this gaping 
wound in my chest
like salt water
washed over it and 
breathing is more like
gasping and
this can't be what living looks like. 
like the night never ends
and the stars have been
eaten alive by 
the black sky and
I’ll never know 
why the sun never seems
to rise in the places my
eyes look upon through
broken glasses.
this won’t be what living looks like.
I will sew up my shattered
spirit with twine and 
I will
be my own light.
I will
be a spark to 
ignite the sun and
defeat the
cold dark of night.

this poem has been on my mind lately as i wrestle with some fears and insecurities that have been berating me lately and making daily activities a bit more difficult.

if you're on this journey of self-care with me, hopefully taking the time to get to know yourself (part 2) has helped you find out more about what you deeply desire out of your life, and what may be holding you back.

insecurity and anxiety have held me back from living my life too many times. i know that traveling is something that makes me feel alive and strong. there were times in my life when my anxiety was so bad that i couldn't get into a car for even a short road trip, much less get on an airplane to a new city. at times i've thought that i'll never get to enjoy traveling again. but this is simply a lie.

as i've mentioned to you, anxiety and depression come and go in waves in my life. as anxiety took a step back last year, i had enough strength to book a month long trip to europe. i made the plans, and as each day got closer to my trip, i kept thinking of ways to get out of it. i was so sure that i was going to be a complete mess and hate every second of it.

i talked to my doctor about this and he prescribed me an anxiety medication to take as-needed. (this is a personal choice, but one that i recommend if you feel that your mental health is taking joy away from your life). so i had this prescription in my pocket, and even just knowing that it was there was a huge relief to me. it allowed me the strength to step onto the plane, and that trip ended up being one of the best things i've ever done in my life.

wandering can start in your mind. let your thoughts wander to places that maybe make you a little bit uncomfortable. dreams that are so large, you're afraid people would laugh if you told them. don't worry about what those people think. honestly, i believe in you. i believe that you're capable to do such incredible things. you can change the world and don't let anyone tell you otherwise.

dip your toes into the water of your dreams and ambitions. realize that the water is warm and welcoming. it starts with that step, with acknowledging your hopes and recognizing your fears. the more aware you are of these two things, the further you can separate them until your fears no longer have power over you.

talk to people that you trust about these things. you'd be surprised at how many people are in the same exact boat as you. know that you're stronger than you think you are.

maybe this week, do one small thing that scares you - starting a conversation with a stranger, complimenting someone that isn't very nice to you. remind people that you love them, because maybe in that moment their fear can shrink as well.

we need each other. we're in this together, and as i fight for my joy, know that i'm fighting for yours as well.

continue living boldly, dear friend. joy and light are just on the other side of what you're scared of.



Listening to:

Sia - We Can Hurt Together


i had mentioned that during this series i would be livestreaming on vertigo each week. the app is quite new and has been having some technical issues, so i'm going to wait until a new version is released and we can hang out on there without any glitches :)


self-care / part 2: getting to know the person living in your skin

self-care series
((part two of eight))
hello stardust,

it's so nice being here with you. i've been feeling a bit off lately, like the wind is blowing harder than usual and i'm struggling to stay on this tightrope. being here with you and talking about these things feels like a branch to hold onto. so thank you for that.

this is the second part of my series on self-care. this week i wanted to talk about getting to know yourself. it's an interesting concept and something i think about often. am i more soul or body? are they separate? is my personality/wants/dreams separate from the reflection i see staring back at me? a bit off topic, but interesting to think about, i think. so if you're looking in the mirror you see a slightly distorted version of 'you'. it's not even a perfect representation of what people see when they look at you, and there's a much bigger part of what makes you who you are.

i think of it like my body is an apartment that i'm renting. it's my responsibility to take care of it while i'm here, to feel proud of it when i meet people. but it's not me. what is me is much deeper and more complex than skin and bones. my soul is what survives longer than my body. my soul is what people think of when they think of me; how they'll remember me when i'm gone.

it's easy to know and understand the temporary shell that surrounds your soul. you can touch it and memorize the colors and curves. it's not so easy to understand what's underneath. but it's much, much more important.

when you get to know that person, making life-choices becomes a cinch. this knowledge is nourishment for every area of your life. it's a way to water relationships in your life and watch them grow. a way to save time by avoiding doing things you know will ultimately make you unhappy or hurt you.

so if you think of yourself as a friend, you can begin this process. you care deeply for this person, but maybe don't know or understand fully who they are. so the first thing you would do with this friend would be to ask them questions.

maybe you don't know the questions to ask. some things that continually help me with these questions are personality tests.

i’ve always loved taking these kinds of tests. any silly thing that i scroll by saying, ‘what type of leaf are you?’ catches my eye and i have to find out. 

this may sound a bit shallow, or even narcissistic. but as these tests have brought me insight into myself that i couldn't have found otherwise, i realize how valuable they can be. these tests can help you learn the deep things about you that will then help others understand your needs. they can help you understand your gifts.

i tend to be a little bit superstitious. i love finding signs and deeper meanings. so when i take a test that tells me my spirit animal and it ends up touching a unique place in my heart, i'll hold onto it. 

for example, years ago i took a quiz to tell my what my 'spirit animal' is. i'm always curious, and sometimes the outcome doesn't seem quite right, but at the time it felt dead on. this quiz told me that my spirit animal is a swan, and over the years, i've seen swans on significant days of my life, and it seems like a sweet little blessing. here is the simple description this test gave about my spirit animal:


Powers: Foretelling future through dreams, dream-walking

Swans are idealistic, open-minded, and passionate. Your good nature often leads people to think they can take advantage of you, but they should be careful—beneath that serenity lies a fighting spirit. Your love is fierce and unconditional, fueled by the certainty that it should last forever.

i recently (years after the first time) re-took this quiz and got the hawk as my spirit animal. here's their description of this:


Powers: Communicate with the divine, discern powers in others, photographic memory

Hawks are the messengers of the Spirits. Adept with language, you might be a writer or a teacher. Your ability to assess situations impartially means that people often seek your guidance before making decisions. A brilliant visionary, you sometimes forget the mundane details of life like eating, sleeping, or paying bills.

so i try to take each test result with a grain of salt, not attaching it too deeply to my spirit, but acknowledging that i have gifts that i can share with others.

so as i've gotten to know myself, i've learned not only what gifts i have to give, but what gifts i desire to receive from others. these are often the same, but sometimes it's more complex than that. a good test to determine what you like to give and take in relationships is the love language test. there are a few of these out there, and they are typically geared toward romantic relationships, but i think it's good to know for any kind of relationship in your life. 

when you know what you need and can communicate that to the people in your life, your relationships can be so much stronger. or maybe this person is unable to give you what you need (or vice versa), and it's a good idea to distance yourselves.

a couple of other tests that i highly recommend are the Enneagram (more information here) and the Myers-Briggs (more information here).

these are both very well established tests which can give you thorough insight into your personality. i've taken the myers-briggs test multiple times in the last ten years or so, and have consistently gotten the same result. every time it tells me i am ENFP (extrovert, intuitive, feeling, perceiving). and the description that goes along with it describes me to a T.

this has been particularly helpful as i can often have introverted tendencies, but know deep down that after a difficult day, the best way thing for me is to be around a friend or two. my social anxiety will also often tell me that i should be alone, but in reality that only makes me feel worse.

that's just a personal example, but knowing myself can help me filter out lies that depression and anxiety often try and make me believe.

i truly believe that knowing yourself is a way to love yourself; to know what you need out of life, and not settling for less. you deserve all of the joy and fulfillment this life has to offer.

have you ever taken a personality test that has been an epiphany in your life? i'd love to hear any other ones you guys recommend!

just a reminder:

during this series i will be posting each week at 5pm Eastern Time and going live on the Vertigo music app at 8pm Eastern Time. 

see you then.



Listening to:

listen with me to my playlist tonight (wednesday 4/12) at 8pm :) we can chat while i livestream and it'll be lovely.

you can download the free app for iphone herespotify premium or an apple music subscription are needed to listen along. if you don't have either, you can still hop in and chat with us and see what songs we're listening to.

if you're unable to make it tonight, i'll be posting my playlist on here tomorrow :)