Super Us

Years ago, when I was feeling especially normal and non-super, I read Emily Gordon’s fantastically silly Super You, a self-help book about using your past and your weaknesses to become powerful. Gordon, who you may know as the writer of The Big Sick, says, “Change is mandatory, growth is optional, and greatness is inside all of us.”

I’ve changed, I’ve grown, and I’ve gotten slightly, steadily better at acknowledging my greatness – but lately I find that so much of my power is derived from the greatness in other people. I’m planning a wedding, and you can find me slack-jawed looking at a chateau wedding with thousand- dollar napkin budgets on wedding blogs, wondering just how we are going to do it. As I ride a rollercoaster that is so far very fun, with slight obstacles, I anticipate that there will be an upside down portion, a steep decline, and a stretch where we’re whizzing at 100 mph in the dark. However, I’ve grabbed ahold of my wedding motto, and it’s slowly becoming my life motto: people first.

What does people first mean? It means following these steps:

#1: Be super

This is the part I learned how to do from about 400 years in therapy, 4000 self-help books and podcasts, and 4 million really supportive friends. I try to focus on what I’m good at, both in life and in wedding planning. I’m an Information Professional, so I’m able to find information that your average bear might miss. This led me to some off-the-beaten-path wedding venues with a boatload of character. I’m crafty and I have an artistic vision, so you’ll find me on a Tuesday night tying myself up in yarn because I saw something on the Internet that inspired me and might look good hanging from a wedding guest chair. I’m a super planner, so I am patiently (okay, impatiently) explaining my five-hue color-coding system to my eternally understanding fiance (“No, the mauve means we definitely maybe need it – what about this aren’t you getting?!). Like with all of my big projects, I try to start from a place of strength.

#2: Be vulnerable

This is the least fun part. If Batman is any indication, part of being super is that you have to get really mad about your parents getting murdered… or something? I have to feel the feelings instead of ignoring them, and continue to be great. In the frame of wedding planning, this has meant having a glass of wine and sobbing to Sam, “I don’t want to be a normie barn wife” after seeing some very cute, very un-Emma-and-Sam barn venues. It has meant lying down on the couch with my head in my hands when the 3 wedding coordinators we met didn’t seem like they’d be my new best friend. It has meant getting really mad at Etsy wedding dress return policies. These moments of vulnerability when working on a project are the part in the superhero movie where things get creative and dramatic and I usually wake up from my movie-nap.

#3: Find your heroes

I don’t know what the Avengers are and I can’t give it a goog, but I imagine it’s something like a really cool gang of very super monsters and doctors or something. Lately, if I can’t do something alone, I am trying not to blame myself for not being good enough. Instead, I look for someone who can support me. Sometimes, I don’t have to look far. After the Normie Barn Wife episode of 2018, I stopped what I was doing. It wasn’t fun, and it wasn’t our fault. My mom always says, “Be still and listen.” This is a great way for my Avengers (or X-men or Fantastic Four or whatever of these comic book things is most applicable) to find ME. One of my super powers is that I’m a connector – I connect with people and then I bring them together. When I hit the obstacles of not wanting to be married in a barn and wanting our wedding helpers to be totally rad, I waited, and someone special appeared. This means, with a little effort, I’ve amassed a crew of a fun and dedicated maid-of-honor, a punk rock, ranch-owning Austin writer and wedding expert, and a wedding helper that doesn’t balk at the word “port-o-potty” in a world of candy-colored chateau weddings. It turns out acknowledging my own power has magnetized me with other powerful people.

★ ★ ★

Okay, so I said people first, but really I meant people third. Therapists and wedding bloggers have two things in common: they wear cute shoes and they always tell you to ask for help. But it’s a process. Without all of the demolition I’ve done on my hang-ups and have-nots, without those moments of persistent weakness, I wouldn’t be able to find the right help. This concludes my lengthy confession that I have never seen a superhero movie or opened a comic book.

Leave it in 2017

I feel confident walking in my suede gray booties, sitting down at a table and using the language I’ve learned in three years of graduate education, and tossing my (yes, I washed it, and yes, thank you, it is natural) hair – that is until I twist my heel going down stairs, fumble over an answer to an unexpected question, and get my hair caught in those damn little buttoned keyholes on the back of every dress right now. Confidence, you elusive beast, I am ever hunting for you, trapping you, losing you, and lamenting you. Because of this, I live for the unflagging confidence of Myleik Teele – she’s successful, self-made, and honest. Her podcast, My Taught You, is where I go when I need to hear something new in the genre of self-help. This past week, she posted a podcast on things to leave in 2017. She (confidently!) reframed the end-of-year list as What We Learned instead of What We Liked. Always a copycat, I decided to make my own list of what to leave in 2017.

The Instagrammable moment

I love to ‘gram. I love to ‘gram my voluminous feline, Florence, my archival finds, my baby pictures, my silly pals, my brother’s Emmy, sunsets, paintings, and Oprah. However, in some of my most precious moments this year, I sat with friends slumped over in rumpled post-work work clothes, or without make-up eating breakfast tacos, or with wet hair drinking a less-than-picturesque, but necessary, tequila soda. I cried happy tears into instant coffee, I put my feet up in neon pink, paint-covered Jesus sandals, and I felt grateful in my pajamas. My valuable life experience doesn’t always fit a square frame with a Clarendon filter, and as I’ve realized that, I’ve been trying to capture the aesthetic with the app, but gather the emotional someplace else (can I say in my heart? Oprah would). I’m still looking to communicate and crystalize special somethings in Instagram, but I am also trying to limit my ‘gram envy of people with robust Insta stories, clean latte art, and the perfect winged liner. May the rest of their messy lives be as charming as mine!


This one’s a doozy. I’ve learned so much about being my own best friend. Practicing positive self-talk like, “Okay Emma, you can do this, because you are so smart and also beautiful!” has been a great starting point. I give myself a lot of credit, which is easier because I have surrounded myself with people who openly support me. I know when I’ve succeeded at work, when I’ve painted an especially creative painting, and when I’ve been kind and helpful. Unfortunately, positive self-talk usually speaks at a reasonable, conversational volume, while self-blame is blasting its message, Mad Max style, from a wall of amplifiers. I blame myself for fading friendships, for small mistakes, for big mistakes (those happen too), for conversational missteps, and even for not being able to fix other people’s problems. This is something I want to shoot from a cannon back through the first 17 years of the 21st century, leaving me free and clear to live the next 83. But how? I’m going to grab a megaphone and talk back. Taking a moment to have an inner dialogue is not something I do frequently enough. Accepting that I’m not perfect, but that I’m working my ass off, and telling the Mad Max monsters to back off, is how I’d like to spend my 2018.

Living in the future

Okay, if that one was a doozy, this one is a hurricane. I’m a planner. I spent 2016 planning for a new apartment with my returning long-distance someone. I spent 2015 planning for a new job. I spent 2014 planning for a new career. I have spent the end of 2017 pining for a shiny future, if only to distract myself from the American hellstorm raging around me. I think of this as one of the best parts about me: I’m prepared, I’m hopeful, and I’m usually armed with the best party supplies, or housing spreadsheets, or updated résumés. But it also speaks to my tendency to steamroll present moments and to feel bored in the calm before the shiny future. So how best to stop the steamroll? My powers of observation. In this moment, I’m thankful for my mod orange couch and the drool-encrusted pillow where Florence has made her home. I see the painting of a dog’s pink tongue, cookbooks with new adventures for weekends, a cake dome I won in a raffle – all little treats that are alive in this present moment. Goodbye to a life lived in a time machine. 2018 is all about using my senses to enhance my present happiness.

Negativity spirals

I am great at seeing this in other people, but am I any good at stopping them in myself? I woke up an hour late, I forgot my eggs, and no one has fixed the thermostat in a week. I’m pissy to my gchat friends, I skip a key point in an email, and I forgot ibuprofen. The first two hours of my day could easily snowball into a cranky evening. Yesterday, I realized that stopping and putting a tiny bit of sugar in my mouth, or texting an emoji to a friend, or looking up a Leslie Knope gif, easily derails the Crap Train. Sometimes setting a timer and crying for five minutes is just the thing. Crap Train service discontinues December 31st, 2017.


This has been a big one for me in the last couple of years. I have a ton of friends, a ton of hobbies, and yet I still find myself curling up on the couch after dinner, an unread book on the ottoman, scrolling my phone and sighing dramatically (I’m fun). A wise flagpole sitter once said, “If you’re bored, then you’re boring” and OUCH, maybe so. I’m compiling a list of things to try during the Boring Hours of 7.30 to 9.30 at night. These things include: baking projects, freewriting, bath time, podcast reviews, sending mail, making crafts, and inviting friends to do things more frequently. Boredom, I’ll see you in hell (after 2017).

★ ★ ★ ★

Farewell to 2017, I hardly knew you. May I look back on you as a period of resistance, persistence, endurance, occasional celebration (I see you, Doug Jones), knowing thyself, and, I guess, growth. In the eternal words of Danny Devito, 2017, retire b****. 2018, you’re up.

Matches struck unexpectedly in the dark

It’s day 13 of my favorite season – Thanksgiving Advent. It’s nearly a month of suggestions to make your day a little bit better, and then your month a little better, culminating in the best day of the year: a day to be thankful that you have food, traditions, family, friends, and most of all, you’ve met dogs before.

Thanksgiving Advent reminds me of a favorite Virginia Woolf passage from To the Lighthouse. She writes:

What is the meaning of life? That was all- a simple question; one that tended to close in on one with years, the great revelation had never come. The great revelation perhaps never did come. Instead, there were little daily miracles, illuminations, matches struck unexpectedly in the dark; here was one.

During Thanksgiving Advent, I try to fabricate these little moments, to take out all the flimsy matchbooks I’ve collected from restaurants and get sparking. Instead of waiting for these daily miracles, I push my friends and family to make them for themselves.

I thought it was time to check in with myself (and you) about this little tradition to talk about things I’ve learned this month. Here’s what we’ve done so far:

November 1st: Uninstall an app that isn’t contributing to your happiness.

November 2nd: Tidy up

November 3rd: List your finer qualities

November 4th: Send mail

November 5th: Order something new

November 6th: Get an audiobook

November 7th: Make a signature cocktail

November 8th: Compliment a stranger

November 9th: Confide in someone

November 10th: Make a meme of your pet

November 11th: Throw out three things

November 12th: Do something you’ve been putting off

November 13th: Vocalize the best in even the worst thing that happens to you today.

The big themes of Thanksgiving Advent are self-care, whimsy, responsibility, and variety, which are the major categories I’ve been working on for self-improvement (except the whimsy – I’m honestly the mayor of Whimsy Town. See Thanksgiving Advent as a concept as an example).

As for self-care, I’ve found Thanksgiving Advent to be a great reminder to believe in myself. I’ve hit some rough patches lately, some personal and some inspired by the onslaught of reminders about violence against women. Above all, I need to believe that I can, and have, and will, overcome what life throws at me. Somehow, writing down that I have good hair and adding a maraschino cherry to a whiskey ginger and pressing the tiny X on NextDoor put me in a place to stand, face against the wind, ready to bop the next whack-a-mole of life.

One new thing I’ve noticed about Thanksgiving Advent is that I relied more heavily on “responsibility” ideas. Maybe it’s the fact that I’m months away from 30, but I have a newfound appreciation for the joy of having done something that I dreaded but has improved my life. Things like tidying up, throwing things away, confronting something I’ve been putting off – these are the tasks that have a long-term resonance on my happiness. Yesterday, I put brush to canvas on a really intimidating, exciting painting commission, and looking at it right now, I feel like a Real Painter.

Today is my favorite Thanksgiving Advent, something I relentlessly strive for on a daily basis: Vocalize the best in even the worst thing that happens to you today. In other words, avoid flailing or wallowing in life’s tiny turmoils or big obstacles. Challenge yourself to feel lucky and to push through.

One more thing I’ve been feeling this TA season: the rush of connecting with other people who just need a reminder to be happy as the days get darker. Lots of you have reached out to say how a particular task helped you. Even more acquaintances or long-lost friends favorited TA Instagrams, or sent me a cat meme. Thanksgiving Advent has me doing some of my favorite things: sharing positive experiences with friends, old, new, and in-between; being the star of the show (being honest here – you probably already knew this about me by now); fostering creativity; letting fate take the wheel; and helping people get over the hump of a bad day. These are my little illuminations, these moments of connection as we share a daily miracle. By Thanksgiving, we’ve built a path lined with luminaries.

Baby steps

It’s 10 am. I’m about to take my break, a nice walk in the Texas sun to slay my coworkers in a pedometer challenge. I stand in the work room, arms out, and drop my torso down near my knees. 1, 2, 3, 55 times.

What’s up, lil pup? I’m addicted to quantifiable physical challenges – this time the 30-day Squat Challenge app. I’ve written about my past forays into running, an activity I’ve put on hold for the time being because of recurring foot injuries. Now I’m getting experimental with new activities. I’m 13 days into the squat challenge, doing 60 today. I’ve integrated hand weights back into the mix, huffing and puffing, thinking about Madonna’s Gollum arms.

These new physical challenges – the pedometer, the squats, the Michelle Obama quest – they’re part of a larger experiment for me. I’m embarking on new routines to seek new fulfillment. A friend recently asked me what my goals were for the next six months and I was blanker than a ‘90s kid’s check. Now that I’ve finished school, gotten a job, revamped my painting business, and set up a comfortable home, I am reframing my goals. They are no longer these big adult milestones – they are smaller, quieter, check marks on a to-do list, adding up to a marked up piece of paper crumpled in the recycling.

Here are my new micro-goals, quickly amassing check marks and contributing to a feeling of progress:

  1. Eat more vegetables – even if this means hiding spinach in my food, like I’d do for a child
  2. Practice my yeses and my nos: cancel when being alone will contribute to a balanced brain; take on new challenges that scare me.
  3. Do a little bit everyday. This is a holdover from my Make days. Even if I have to force myself to paint one stroke, it’s momentum that adds up.
  4. Get back on the horse. One piece of fried chicken doesn’t mean a spiral into a life of sin. One mistake at work doesn’t mean burying myself in tasks I know are easy.

The check might not be blank, but $5 a thousand times is, well, you know your times tables.

What are some of your smaller goals right now? What are the baby steps that are contributing to your mental or physical health? How have you found happiness through small changes?

One Year: Body Talk

I’m unreasonably obsessed with TimeHop. For those unfamiliar, it’s an app that aggregates your social media posts and photos from years past on that date. It helps me celebrate, and celebrating is one of my greatest skills. I’ve celebrated the anniversaries of concerts, of meeting friends, of other people’s weddings, and today, I’m celebrating the first birthday of Yoga Farts.

Yoga Farts was a project to motivate me to write, reflect, take care of myself, and connect with others – and wow, it has not disappointed. The blog transformed from a Tumblr to an honest-to-goodness website. Since then, I’ve written about exercise, skincare, eating, mental health, and so on, ad infinitum. One of the greatest self-care skills the blog has provided me with is the power of reflection. So much of life is mindless – the snack you have at 3 pm, the scrolling you do before bed, the “lol” texts you send in response to a well-timed gif – but Yoga Farts has given me a space to say, here’s what I’m going to do, and here’s why.

That said, in a series of posts, I want to return to some of my favorite pieces from the past year and explore how I’ve been doing.

First and foremost: food.

In January 2017, I wrote a post called Weighing In. This has been my post popular post on Yoga Farts to date, and I have some theories as to why. First, weight is a huge struggle for so many people, and we’re often curious about other people’s journeys. Second, the subject can be so taboo – this post was insanely difficult to write, as I struggled to love myself as numbers piled up on the scale. I wondered how many had noticed as I put on pounds, but more than that, I wondered how many people had experienced similar struggles. So I wrote.

In a follow-up post about how I felt about my weight gain since 2010, I wrote, in painstaking detail, about what I was doing about it. This was maybe the third hardest thing I’ve ever written. Dieting is so incredibly personal. Since I wrote that post, I have fallen on and off the food tracking wagon. I have suffered from debilitating injuries. I have had too much wine. I’ve eaten cakes. I’ve celebrated with margaritas – hell, I’ve just celebrated margaritas. But I’ve held fast to the principle that food can be my power instead of my downfall. I’ve gained weight since those January posts – I’ve cried about my body, I’ve lamented salads, I’ve sat in support groups. Most recently, while listening to an episode of the Call Your Girlfriend podcast I usually love so much, I felt a simmering rage at a “body positive” take-down of diet culture. Just as I cannot stand, I cannot support, the crippling societal message to women that their value is their thinness, I found myself feeling the same strong emotions about these women telling OPRAH that she has been tricked by diet culture and that she’s perpetuating the oppression of the cult of undereating. I still struggle with throwing off the yoke of thin-centric body image – but have found the body positive movement telling me how I should feel about my body equally demanding and demeaning.

Woo! That one was a doozy. Takeaways: I’m still striving to love my body. It’s a process. I’m learning not to listen to anything Society capital S has to say about who I am. The inimitable Zelda Barrett put it thusly: “Your body is yours and yours alone and there’s nothing wrong with wanting to feel at home again.”

As the inimitable Emma Marie Martin put it, “Society can call me when it decides if it wants me to be thin or fat. I’m just gonna be over here doing me.”

Side A

I’ve been on a tear. I’ve been tearing through creative pursuits, work projects, new albums, favorite recipes, and self-help innovations. I’m riding the wave with the ducks I have in a row for the first time of my twenties (and it’s about damn time): a balanced brain, a happy relationship, a decorated home, a great job, at least $100 in my bank account right now maybe (unclear). The thing about waves is that they crash, and for me this happens when I’m required to sit still. The other night, after exhausting all the creative work I could do, I cried because I was bored, because I was hungry, because it was Sunday, because life is expensive, 🎶 because because BECAUSE – because of the wonderful things I’d done 🎶and had left me listless.

There’s no one self-care experiment I’m trying right now, so here’s a post as mixed up and energetic as I am. Lately I’ve been up to some:


I got the idea early (can’t sleep past 5 am club!) yesterday morning to create a playlist of songs about loving yourself. Obviously it’s mostly Lizzo and Beyonce, but also some Santigold, Amber Coffman, and Avey Tare. I’m opening up this playlist to everyone! Please share with me your power songs.


I lose the term “reading” loosely here – perhaps scrolling would be more apt and honest. Out of the thousands of memes, I plucked an amazing thread on free/cheap self-help that I found really helpful and I want to keep as a lifeline during harder times.


We all know I love #bossbabesATX, especially their fantastic meets where you can mingle and share projects. Lately they’ve been crowdsourcing answers to discussion questions and posting some of the answers on their blog. I found the conversation about self-care right up my alley, and laughed out loud at some of these cute and honest answers.


I find myself working through health and fitness goals and being so discouraged by my setbacks, which spawn new and harder setbacks. After some soul-searching, I’ve found a coach who can help me through some of these tougher hurdles (the frequency and consistency of my exercise; drinking; mindless eating). She’s something of a life coach, a dietician, a motivational speaker, and a personal trainer (easy on this aspect). So far, one of the greatest things is telling her some small victory for me and having it be celebrated and claimed, like a mountain climbed. I’ve learned that asking for a little extra help can do wonders. I’m sure some of her wisdom will spur future posts.

Showing up for myself

In an effort to harness some of my creative energy for good, I created an Instagram just for my paintings. This puts all of my (admittedly poorly documented) work in a single place I can point to when people ask what I create. The results have been astounding to me. People have been loving my work and dreaming up custom painting orders. I do my paintings for little profit – I spend a good deal on monthly supply orders and charge about $35-$60 a painting – but I decided that some of my extra cash would be used to help my neighbors in Houston, through the Houston Food Bank. Painting orders are open now – just shoot me an email at martin.emmamarie at gmail dot com!

• • •

That’s my self-care mixtape for right now. It didn’t require too much rewinding or hitting record at the exact time a song came on the radio. It wasn’t given to me by a high school boy in the 1990s. There are no Promise Ring songs about it. Nevertheless, I’ll hope you’ll submit your own tips for me to explore and songs for me to sing along to in the shower. Don’t leave out Hüsker Dü.

Anatomy of a sick day

Some people have perfect pockets of the week where self-care easily fits in: Wednesday night yoga or early Sunday aromatherapy or Thursday afternoon therapy. The soothing routine of it is a big part of its healing properties. When things get tough, that Tuesday lunch meditation session shines like a lighthouse in a sea of (pardon my French) bullshit.

I have some of my own routines: Sundays, Sam sleeps in and I listen to soft music, light all the candles, and paint. Every other Wednesday, I get a half-hour table massage and chat with my massage therapist Lee Ann. Every other day, I take a walk or a jog before work. But some of my most potent self-care moments are unexpected or or out of the ordinary.

Last week, I got a bug. Something was going around, something very rude to the tummy, and I caught the fever and exhaustion of it – but my iron stomach resisted the rest. I powered through most of the week but found myself completely unable to get out of bed on Thursday. After calling in as the next victim of whatever jerk germ had taken hold of our agency, I saw the opportunities ahead of me: I could really rest, hydrate, and catch up on the lower-impact activities that sometimes fall by the wayside during the five-day, eight-to-five work week. I found myself pondering what would heal me the most in mind and body. Here’s what I came up with:

  1. I’m a strict three-liter-a-day kind of girl, but when I’m sick I tend to not want to go back and forth between the sink and the bathroom. Thursday, I gave myself permission to crack open sparkling water after Topo Chico after ice cold tap water.
  2. I busted open that dog-eared Soup Box Cookbook and made some really nourishing food. My mood lately is to cook two things at once, that way I can have food for lunches or for a second meal. This time, I made low-fat, veggie-heavy cream of chicken rice, while roasting chicken and artichokes in the oven. The smell itself was a miracle worker for my headache. Plus, vegetables are supposedly very good for you? Huge if true.
  3. I got a little fresh air before it got extremely hot out. It was just a quick walk, but it cleared my head and tired me out enough to go back into my nap coma.
  4. I found a calming, easy listening podcasts, a bit by accident. A podcast I listened to occasionally about (a show I do not watch) The Bachelor, Rose Buddies, converted into a podcast about enthusiasm, Wonderful! No, that wasn’t just me exclaiming – that’s the name, punctuation and all. Every week, wonderfully sweet Rachel McElroy and Forbes 30-under-30 media luminary Griffin McElroy talk about one thing each of them is pumped about. Examples include the phrase “no worries” and the notes Carly Rae Jepsen sings before the chorus in “Cut to the Feeling.” The podcasters talk just above a whisper as to not wake their baby, which was just the volume I needed when my head was pounding.

By Friday, I was well-rested, enthusiastic, and nourished, ready for the last push before the weekend. I avoided the pitfalls of a sick day: sleeping the entire time and being just as tired the next day; eating junk food; and feeling unproductive. Being away from a screen for most of the day helped most of all, though perhaps it was second to Carly Rae Jepsen appreciation.

What are your best sick day sanity home remedies? How do you push through a fever without ODing on Gatorade or falling into a Netflix shame spiral – or is that your cure?

Keeping up with the Scorlazys

Twitter is a scary place to a lot of people. Even people whose entire career and ~brand~ was built on Twitter routinely tweet things like, “this website is a trash fire lol” or “logging off forever.” People take year-long Twitter breaks. People do log off forever. For me, Twitter has been a lifeline. After a big falling out with some of my IRL friends in Chicago, people I met through my most Twitter-savvy friend became my closest pals – some even became like family. I find that a lot of my self-care gurus are irreverent, silly folks from that “trash fire” of a website, from @imteddybless to @yayfrens to @emilyvgordon. Just this week, Chance the Rapper tweeted some of the best advice and encouragement I have heard in a long time:

canceling plans to read is ok. skipping a party for the gym is ok. staying home to cook is ok. lets encourage it & respect self improvement.

In the spirit of Chance, world’s cutest Chicagoan, I’ve embarked on some Twitter self-help. I’m ready to share it with y’all, perhaps as a little encouragement for the long trudge coming out of a three-day weekend. Last week, someone retweeted the brilliant @alliewach’s unofficial endorsement of the Google app Keep as a mode of self-care into my timeline. Always game to improve my self-care routine based on the advice of total strangers, I checked it out. Part Pinterest, part Notes, part alarm clock, Keep gives you one button to click to access your inspiration, your calendar, your grocery list, your self-care reminders, etc. etc. forever.

What am I keeping in Keep?

  • My dang grocery list, which I now actually keep up with (har har)
  • A picture of that girl who pulled a sword out of a Cornish lake
  • Chance’s great tweet
  • A reminder to run (“you ding dong”)
  • A reminder to drink 3L of water at the end of the day if I haven’t yet already
  • Blog ideas
  • Things I need to buy eventually (a couch, Malört, printer ink – the essentials)
  • Notes from events like BossbabesATX

So far, Keep has become a good friend, something I look forward to hearing from throughout the day, something I enjoy looking at in my downtime, and something that sets me on the right track. Adding another app to the mix has proven a great way for me to stay off Notes and alarms and also saves me hours searching “girl sword England” every time I want to send it as a funny (arguable) response.

Now that that’s all out in the open, logging off forever.

Tiny Bahamas

I used to do this relaxation exercise where I’d imagine I was in an elevator that could look however I wanted it to look. I’d usually decorate it like a drawing room in a European palace – lots of luxe fabrics, gold ropes, purple pillows, and plush ottomans. As the elevator went up, I added items that relaxed me: my cat, a scented candle, a framed, signed photograph of Peter Jennings – you know, spa stuff. The elevator would get to the top floor and I’d get out and step into my ultimate place of bliss and calm. I always imagined this place as the sandy beaches of Saugatuck, Michigan. The most underrated state in the union (in my extremely correct opinion), Michigan has clean, tan sand beaches and warm August waves. I’d float there on my back until all of that pesky reality stuff slipped away for a few minutes.

Two weeks ago, I got to really go to that place, not just in my imaginary elevator. It was my first time back in five years, and this time I got to show my boyfriend around. My parents organized a lovely vacation for me, my brothers, our partners, and their pals. After a cleansing week of ciders and roses in Portland, I got to extend my relaxation time in Michigan, where our tiny private beach had flooded, and the waves were lapping against the 94-step staircase down the bluff. I am back to work now, refreshed and renewed, but because my next vacation is in December, I want to take this magic feeling with me as long as I can. Here are some of my ideas for incorporating vacation into my daily life:

  1. I went to bed early and woke up early on vacation, so early that my fellow vacationers, who slept to normal hours, weren’t up until I had long bottomed out my Twitter feed (mainly populated by New Zealanders who were on my schedule). I started reading to pass the time, and wouldn’t you know, I felt fulfilled and less antsy. I’m not saying I’ll be up reading War and Peace on a Monday morning, but it’s something I am going to incorporate into my Saturday and Sunday mornings.
  2. I didn’t feel pressure to do anything at all unless I really wanted to. This meant smiling and saying no to riding someone else’s bike, ducking out of dune buggy rides when the line was too long, and walking on the beach only when I wanted to. This gave me time to really savor and enjoy what I did end up doing, which included a good deal of reading and napping and swimming. I am bad at this at home. I often say yes to things that don’t satisfy me, as a way to fill up my time. In fact, the empty space in my life, unoccupied by obligations, is what makes me happiest.
  3. I wandered a lot, down beaches and streets, more than I ever would in my ordinary life. In Portland and Michigan, I didn’t drive, and this was a huge change of pace. It reminded me that I can walk in Austin too – I can drive to fun neighborhoods, then walk around and check out the street cats. I can walk along the golf course. Heaven help me during this heat, I will enjoy a stroll in the early morning now and again.
  4. I ate lots of seasonal produce, including my favorite fruit in the world, sweet cherries. As I try my darndest to eat healthfully, I found this great guide for what’s in season, which can also double as meal inspiration.

∙ ∙ ∙

I feel very cliche and privileged to say that vacation has been a godsend for my mental health, but here we are. I want to reframe everyday events as vacations – my day trip to see Zelda in San Antonio, my bi-weekly work massage, and my time sipping Topo Chico in the sun can all be experienced as tiny vacations. Fellow non-millionaires, we can put on the Banana Boat, eat some pineapple, and feel maybe a fraction of the refreshment of a vacation to the Bahamas, but hey, it’s something!

Myself being myself

When I read The Waves in during my BA in English, it was utter gibberish to me. I had devoured To the Lighthouse, Mrs. Dalloway, Virginia Woolf’s writer’s diary, and her letters, but The Waves eluded me. It was like reading French as a non-French speaker, mon frere. I would listen to my very favorite professor, a tidy British woman with endless quiet enthusiasm, talk about this book and want so badly to understand it.

Years later, I returned to The Waves and found myself transfixed by its poetic rhythms and powerful character-building. I was incredibly surprised that maybe I had gotten smarter, or at least more equipped to understand this complicated text, when I felt like I had mostly been drinking Malort and riding my bike. Sometimes during times of anxiety, I turn to a random passage and get carried by the motion of the waves. Today I returned to this:

How much better is silence; the coffee cup, the table. How much better to sit by myself like the solitary sea-bird that opens its wings on the stake. Let me sit here for ever with bare things, this coffee cup, this knife, this fork, things in themselves, myself being myself.

In my last post, I wrote about slowing down enough to make things manageable; to make manageable the things that make me anxious about having fun. I’ve written about my failed attempts at meditation, about the “capacity for delight” in small things, but this passage is a different frame.

Last night, I had a dream that someone in my life rejected me after telling me to be myself, and being turned off the moment I took this advice. To be myself is something I think about a lot – something I struggle with. Parts of myself are cobbled together, the pieces taken from other people and works of art and memories and pop culture. Sometimes I hope to reject these pieces that seem foreign to me: the moments when I fly into a rage like so-and-so; the endless worries like you-know-who; the desire to walk out of a restaurant with that glass of wine like Rihanna.

There are parts of me that feel quintessentially myself: my penchant for listening to Beach House and lighting candles while I drink coffee on Sunday mornings; my kindness; maybe also that Rihanna desire to steal glasses of wine.

On a recent episode of the podcast Invisibilia, a guest posited, “You have a vocabulary of the self – a range of people who you become.” This struck a chord with me: it seemed a statement of profound possibility.

As an exercise, I decided to make two lists: one of moments and activities that give me that Virginia Woolf feeling – that myself is as tangible as the coffee cup. Next, I decided to make a list of people I’d like to be, that I could contain within myself. Here’s an excerpt:

Myself being myself

  1. Taking notes from a podcast
  2. Floating in the pool or the lake
  3. Talking to my cat
  4. Doing a gesture of friendship
  5. Getting to the airport 12 days early

Myself being Rihanna with the wine glass

  1. Virgie Tovar: Virgie, in addition to having a dope name, is an activist who writes about accepting and celebrating women’s bodies, particularly fat women, who are so often marginalized for their bodies. I first heard her on Call Your Girlfriend and I was taken by the idea that fat women often dress in dark colors or neutrals as not to call attention to their bodies, and Virgie’s fight against this! As someone who struggles with body acceptance, I love the idea of celebrating myself in bright colors and textures and being unapologetically myself in my body. Virgie is someone I aspire to be more like in my pursuit of loving myself just the way I am, even as I aspire to grow and change.
  2. Lorde: Lorde is my favorite barely-not-a-teen-anymore except Tavi of course. Lorde has an #aesthetic for sure – she’s the good witch of New Zealand. She isn’t afraid to sing about things that feel youthful and frivolous, while still maintaining a strong identity. At the ripe age of 29, I hope to move past the fear of judgment when I write about things that feel silly or less serious than some of my other subjects. I also want to dress more like a Stevie Nicks in sneakers.
  3. Jane Claire Hervey: Speaking of looking up to women who are younger than me, I have to recognize Jane Claire Hervey for transforming my life in Austin. Jane founded #bossbabesATX, an organization that puts on meet-ups, talks, festivals, political events, you name it. #bossbabes gave me the courage to promote this here blog and has given me some of my favorite people. Jane puts it all out there. She dreams it, she does it. I know I have this within me: I’m thinking specifically of former projects like Thanksgiving Advent and Side Dish Literary Mag (RIP). The power of Jane compels me.

I love the idea that I can both be myself and contain multitudes, to have selves I haven’t yet discovered – and to have role models that motivate me to explore these selves.