Forward

I’ve been vision boarding since I lived in Chicago. For a while before I got a third roommate, we had an empty front room (closet with a window) and I would huddle in there to make art. My first vision board came during a time of deep depression and turmoil in my social life in January 2013. This was the year I would eventually leave Chicago to go to school in Texas. The vision board was orange all the time everything. It had boots meant for walking away from abusive people, trash situations, and bad habits. It had a pick-up truck, my childhood dream car (a symbol of tapping into childhood joys). December 30th, 2013, I was on my way to being a burnt orange Longhorn, brightening the chances of success in my career, and leaving behind the bad (and the good, which had given me the strength to strike out on my own) in my old home.

On December 31st, 2017, we had too many people to our tiny one-bedroom to have a very fun, very loud party. The hit of the night was a table for vision boarding, complete with a hodgepodge of magazines and glues, for our guests ambitious pleasure. Here’s what I came up with:

vision board

A rough and dirty analysis of my 2018 vision board, and how I did

TAKE THE POWER

Lord, it is hard for me to look at 2018. I have to take off my glasses and squint because I don’t want the full, in focus picture. It was an incredibly hard year for me personally (bad) and professionally (good). Did I take the power? In some ways, yes. I took control of our tiny space to make it a very colorful, pleasant place to live. In power struggles between me and society and me and whoever about our wedding, Sam and I won. I let my anxiety manifest in productive, artistic, just-for-me ways. I felt powerful at work, for the first time in a long time (and finished two huge projects of which I am insanely proud). I did not take the power over my depression, my physical life, or my money (?) life.

ABOVE AND BEYOND

Did I go above and beyond? Professionally, yes. I performed interviews by myself, compiled all of our project data into a useful analysis, and provided a motor of positivity when things felt impossible. I earned the trust of my colleagues – okay really just the one. In my personal life, I nurtured my friendships and my family relationships in a big way, though sometimes above and beyond meant abandoning self-care.

MODERN WOMAN + REAL PEOPLE

Most of my feelings of being a modern woman have been hard-fought this year. Deciding to keep my last name; shutting down people who want to make my upcoming nuptials about tradition, themselves, or baby-making; taking time to go to therapy when I needed it; and letting myself do things that felt silly or pinterest-y, but felt right to me. In the end, it was the real people in my life that gave me the power to do these things. Friends who held my hand, figuratively and literally, as I moved through the world. These are my most successful vision boarding categories!

FORWARD

Where could I grow? What could I master? 2018 was a slog. One of my blog goals for myself was throwing off the yolk of Instagram, but I found that Instagram made me happy, so despite the trend in screentime monitoring (this gives me more anxiety than facebook and news twitter combined), I let it bring me joy. I tried to give up self-blame but that little bastard thrived this year! What a shiny glow it had! I did well at giving up some of my “living in the future” tick in most areas, but with a wedding coming up, this also got out of hand. I let myself have maybe three negativity spirals, down from maybe 3,000. Finally, my old friend boredom was a big mood in 2018 as it was in 2017, compounded by some of my worst financial problems in many years – but I found crafting, I found a few blogs I loved to read, and I found my love of planning.

Small goals are the way forward in 2019:

Bring people together for a very fun bachelorette party in New Orleans

Figure out what to do with all these f*cking pom poms

Frame my This Year’s Model record cover

Finish the cloth napkins for the wedding

Be there for my family by listening and offering my self-care resources

Be there for my friends by listening and being thoughtful (they have a lot of self-care resources!)

Go to therapy and /or pre-marital counseling once a month until I’m Oprah

Paint when it feels right (finish Dag’s lizard, you asshole)

Walk when it’s nice out

Advocate for my mental health

Get above ground during work once a day

Get a pedicure

Get married

Go to Portland, Seattle, and Vancouver for our honeymoon and Dan and Della’s wedding

Accept kindness

Give kindness

Do one chore and drink two glasses of water when I get home from work

Don’t cry about money – money isn’t real

Curate my digital life in a way that is meaningful to me

Use our instant cameras

Make two new friends

Nurture two new friendships

Learn to make two new meal and two new baked good recipes

Make a 2019 vision board

Moisturize more of myself

Say one nice thing about my body to myself every day

Get a haircut, you ragamuffin

Do things that make me feel beautiful

Forward

 

Moon ‘tude

Yesterday, my friend Lexie (who runs the amazing blog Copper Oranges – of endless inspiration to me, especially the posts about her wedding) posted her answers to the Moon List – a series of questions to ask every moon cycle. As I’ve been writing for myself and not sharing, I found the Moon List to be an excellent exercise in introspection and taking stock of what’s going on around me, and I wanted to share. Some of you may know I have an adversarial relationship with the moon, but some of you may also know that I love the idea of regular check-ups to keep the chain on my bicycle brain greased. Thanks to Lexie for the great new practice!

01    OBJECT (NEW): A NEW OBJECT THAT HELD SIGNIFICANCE

The saga of the oven is familiar to most of my friends and family. My favorite thing to do on a Sunday is to roast a chicken and sit on the couch in the golden hour and listen to music. This is an activity that I attempted oh so many times in the (ahem) humble apartment Sam and I have lived in for about a year. Our previous oven was charming: it had a piece of metal that you had to navigate to fit baking dishes inside. It was charred black from years (maybe decades?) of people trying to roast chicken during the golden hour on Sunday. It filled the house with practically billowing smoke, and it cooked at whatever temperature it damn well felt like. This month, for its last trick, it stopped turning on altogether.

The new oven arrived after two calendar weeks of using the Instant Pot, complaining to our property manager, complaining to the property manager’s supervisor, complaining to all of my friends and family, using exactly 100% of my capacity to negotiate, and four hours of our maintenance friend cutting apart our kitchen island to fit an incorrectly sized oven. But by god, if it isn’t the sweetest thing to evenly cook a gorgeous chicken. If it isn’t the sweetest thing to pull perfectly golden cookies out of the oven. If it isn’t just the absolute sweetest thing to cook in that 100+ degree heat without turning the whole apartment into a fire hazard. The oven represents more than that. It represents my perseverance, my will to stand up for myself and my family, and my ability to treasure nice things, in a life so often marked by just getting by.

02    OBJECT (OLD): AN OLD OBJECT THAT TOOK ON NEW/DIFFERENT KIND OF MEANING

A couple of weeks ago, a UPS man left a box of jewels on my door. The box contained broken brooches, forgotten pearls, treasured costume jewelry, and neglected rings. Friends and family collected these beautiful items for a wedding project I’m working on that has taken on enormous significance, symbols of my love and community.

03    UTILITY: DESCRIBE AN OCCASION WHEN YOU FELT USEFUL.

See: oven gladiator.

04    STORY: WHAT’S THE BEST STORY YOU HEARD?

Della and Dan, my lovely neighbors – a true gift to my group of friends in the last year – recently got engaged. Their engagement story isn’t mine to share, but suffice to say there was a beautiful charcuterie board, a song, and a lot of love. I really treasure these moments from my late twenties and early thirties, after years of my friends and I dating duds and flailing to find ourselves, with or without partners. To see my people’s glow reflected off their people… now isn’t that the sweetest thing.

05    NATURE: AN ENCOUNTER WITH THE NATURAL WORLD

I’m an inside kid and the most I’m willing to venture into nature is to see a beautiful body of water and get my hair wet. During our trip to Chicago, Sam and I woke up to a perfect (perfect) 74 degree day with tufts of clouds and took the #6 bus down to my old home, Hyde Park. We sat on the (man-made), bouldery beach, our bums getting wet from the lapping waves. I thought, “If this isn’t nice, I don’t know what is.”

06    MINOR SECRETS: DESCRIBE SOMETHING YOU DID IN SECRET.

Put all of Sam’s favorite songs on the jukebox at the Aristocrat Lounge. It wasn’t a secret for long.

07    PROPORTION: A SPECIFIC MOMENT THAT REMINDED YOU OF THE SCALE OF THE UNIVERSE; THAT YOU ARE PART OF A GREATER WHOLE

See: lapping Hyde Park waves.

08    CULTURE: A LIST OF FRONT-BURNER INTERESTS FROM THE LAST MONTH

Queer Eye.

The book Hold Me Tight by Sue Johnson.

The Romanovs.

Travis McElroy.

Kacey Musgraves.

09    WHAT WAS MISSING LAST MONTH?

A healthy, balanced, budget-friendly, home-cooked diet.

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?

Sunkissed

In summer, my self-care comes in the form of a vintagey swimsuit, the smell of sunscreen and chlorine, and a tequila, lemonade, and soda in a big orange tumbler. Never happier than when air-drying after a quick dip, my new home is not inside the apartment I share with Sam, but on the ratty old lounge chair at the side of our teeny tiny pool. Yesterday, we listened to Pet Sounds and took little forays into the pool as necessitated by the 100 degree heat. Life is good.

But of course, there’s always tweaks to be made and nuances to be learned in every self-care regime. Here’s what I’m up to.

Skin

Y’all gave me some pretty extensive and, in some cases, expensive skincare tips and I followed a few to try to get rid of my dull and sometimes acne-riddled skin. The most important thing I learned is that no one agrees about skincare, and you need to do what’s right for you. My skin clears up in the summertime, and I’ve finally found a system that works for me.

In the morning, I’m washing with Cerave foaming cleanser, recommended to me by skincare genius Megan. I sometimes use a facial brush, maybe once a week. I’ve noticed that this is a great way to lightly exfoliate without causing me to breakout or dry out. I got mine for $20 on Amazon. When I’m done washing, I moisturize my face, neck, and chest with St. Ives Collagen Elastin moisturizer, recommended to me by Lisa and Stefanie. I love this stuff. It’s cheap and I’ve never had a moisturizer that makes me feel soft and hydrated without making me feel greasy. I use Neutrogena Clear Face sunscreen in SPF 55 under my make-up. I top off with Pure BB Cream from Maybelline, which I love because it doesn’t clog my pores and it lightly covers my array of acne scars and lingering, cool, definitely not embarrassing adult acne. It also doesn’t cover what we can all agree are my very adorable freckles.

In the evening, I use a generic Walgreens sensitive skin makeup removing wipe (I only use this when I’m wearing eye make-up, which is just about never these days) and finish off with Simple Micellar Water. I love not having to suds up and throw water at my face at night when I’m winding down, and this stuff is fast, easy, and gets rid of my make-up. I started using a Neutrogena retinol cream at night, but I really hated it. I worry about wrinkles, sure, but not enough to keep using something that felt greasy and heavy when I want to go to bed fresh-faced. I hope one day I’ll get old and pruned up like Georgia O’Keeffe, and I will think fondly of the time I threw a tube of retinol into the bathroom trash. Unpopular decision: I stopped moisturizing at night. This has been a total game-changer for me. I am about 50% less greasy during the day, and this is a dream come true.

Tunes

Carly Rae Jepsen “Cut to the Feeling” and Lorde’s Melodrama – end of list.

Shoes

I finally learned that wearing DSW $40 flats is ruining my dang life. After a third bout of immense foot pain left me unable to walk normally for almost 3 months, my doctor and a shoe salesman brought me into the light. The man said I had “some arches” (sorry to be braggy) and thus a person who spends more than $100 on safe, stable shoes was born. Vionic, I live for you. The only non-supportive pair of shoes I wear are my Target sandals between my bedroom and my office (the pool).

Miscellaneous

The things that are keeping me happy so far this summer (summer starts in March here): my bluetooth speaker to keep the tunes cranking all summer; L’Oreal Kids swim shampoo so I don’t become a bleach-blonde scarecrow; nighttime AND morningtime showers; night swims; nightcaps on the balcony; ceiling fans; rosé spritzers; spin class; bike shorts; swing dresses; big Topo Chicos; Mexican Coca-Cola; and, finally, dogs.

Election

We woke up in a world cut open, all of the hate and sadness and confusion spilling out. It was easy to tune out Donald Trump, my Facebook feed filled with Hillary support or cynical distrust of the whole apparatus. All the while, he was spewing doctrines of distrust of other people, violence, and backwards thinking – and I wasn’t listening, as hundreds of thousands of folks, even in my own state, gathered behind him saying, “He tells it like it is.”

What does that mean, tells it like it is? That implies a shared reality, a shared way of looking. People all over were surveying their lives, their country, and saying, “Muslims are bad. Women are asking for it. Mexicans are the problem. You don’t deserve health care.” Hearing it back, hearing what “it is” was so powerful and resonant that it mobilized people who frequently don’t vote.

The most heartbreaking part of my night came when I was watching the NBC coverage on YouTube in my bed, and they interviewed a woman and asked her, “Why, as a woman, would you vote for Donald Trump?” and she said, of course, “He tells it like it is. You know what you’re getting.” How horrifying that you would accept the reality that people just like you are assaulted and degraded and that there’s nothing you can do about it, so you might as well elect someone who puts that out on the table. My stomach plummets every time I think of Hillary Clinton, the most qualified, capable person to ever run for president, and all the women just like her who are overshadowed by unqualified, undignified men because of misogyny (including internalized misogyny), because of hatred and fear.

Waking up at 3 am to the horrific news made me more resolute in my self-care project – and extending this care to the people around us. The government isn’t there to help us. The people have spoken. The government is here to oppress the groups that were already struggling in order to maintain the status quo. What can we do? We must take care of ourselves. We must protect our bodies, our assets, our souls. We must be kind to our neighbors. We must be outspoken. We must not be defeated.

As silly as it seems, let’s do a Thanksgiving Advent today. This one doesn’t come from a hat. Research a way to give back to marginalized groups in your community. This could be getting involved in a political movement like Black Lives Matter, or working at a food pantry, or volunteering at a Planned Parenthood, or going to a community meeting, or giving money to a charity that means something to you. I know I have put my head in the sand for far too long. It’s a bad day in so many ways, but it’s a good day to raise up the people around you, to remind each other that we are important and our rights are important.

Lorna Simpson (b. 1960), Untitled (A lie is not a shelter), 1989, gelatin silver print, 59 x 48 in., National Museum of African American History and Culture, Gift of Billy E. Hodges, TR2008-34