Cup Runneth Over

It was nice to end the week with a party. Though there were enough people in the house that my disposition quickly exceeded its comfort levels. One of the guests, Sarah, said to me, as we both took a step backward against the pantry cabinet to  let more people into the kitchen, “You must be like me–as soon as there’s an influx of people I back up against a wall and just stand there.” I laughed, “Yes, I’m a textbook introvert.” Sarah works with my cousin, Emily, who was hosting the party for a co-worker, Alexa. Alexa is getting married this weekend.

My wallflower tendencies actually go against my belief system. As a writer I find it important to be silent enough to observe but engaging enough to participate. The source of my anxiety during social events is due to acute self-awareness, which easily translates into self-absorption, which more or less means I care too much about myself to be curious about other people. Also, I don’t have confidence in my approach. Usually, instead of doing a thing I want to do I just don’t do it. Or I find some completely chicken-shit way of doing it and then later hate myself for copping out. Regardless, I conclude to give myself a hard time for finding a way to do something or for ignoring it until it goes away. But something I’m learning is that if it’s truly important to you it doesn’t go away. It sits with you at work and stands with you in the shower and hovers over you at dinner parties. And that wedge creating this darkening distance between yourself and everyone else…that’s insecurity, which is the highest form of conceit.

There was a little boy at the party, the son of a friend of Alexa’s. His name was Lucas but his mother called him Luke, except for when he was outside running through our backyard and she was asking him to come in, they were about to leave. She addressed him fully, then, but with patience. He’d been cooped up and nervous inside the house. I was sitting in one of the Adirondack chairs on our back porch watching him run around the yard. He’d reminded me of another blond-haired boy I’d seen playing outside at a vineyard once in North Carolina. There was something about watching children play outdoors that mesmerized me. The earth gave them freedom to unleash their energies and they didn’t much care what they looked like doing it. What I appreciated about his mother was her awareness of this. As she called for him to come inside she did so with a tone of amusement in her voice. After he’d calmed down and was exhaling thick puffs of gray breath into the air, she said, “Did you get it all out?” “Yeah,” he sighed and trudged up the steps toward her.

I don’t know if I’ve ever been sure of wanting children before that night, but witnessing the respect buoying between this mother and her son subjected me to an intense longing. And though I don’t have children, nor am I even remotely close to bearing any in the near future, Lucas made me realize that I didn’t need to have a child right now in order to do well by one who might come to me later. That feeling isn’t so much about wanting to be a mother–though that too plays a part–as much as it is feeling a certain amount of responsibility for the world’s youth. The issue with a good many people in this country, and maybe any country, is that we tend to want to extend our accountability only as far as our own families. But when the definition of what it means to be a good parent or child ends there we are actually stunting our perception of what it means to be a good human being. One of my bigger conflicts as a child was observing this disconnect within my own family. And, if I’m to be completely honest, that disconnect can break over time until it’s you falling between the cracks as well. I realized Friday night, the day before I was to meet Lucas and his mother, that the people who believe themselves to be closest to you are not always the ones who respect you best. Sometimes the people who raised you will issue such atrocities from their mouths that you will hang up the phone with them and cry and realize exactly what kind of reality you’re really living in. You are no longer safe either, you’ll think–but then maybe it’s best to feel that way, maybe it’s best to be cast out with the people they disregarded all your life. Rather to be out there with humanity than shut inside with hatred.

I reference an unsettling phone call I had with my mother over the weekend. While part of me feels obligated to detail the conversation for various reasons as they relate to social issues, I also feel the need to protect her privacy. I am still treading that ground of uncertainty when it comes to writing memoir. And though I’ve been having trouble processing something that she said to me, she is my mother and I love her and that’s not a boundary I’m ready to cross. But all of these little incidents pointed me in the direction of the future–having to ask myself the hard question of, What exactly am I doing with my life that isn’t merely benefitting myself? Maybe it is one of the more specific concerns of the creative person that they feel “called” to contribute something useful to humanity. It has taken a lot of time and work and mental rearranging for me to get over the ego that often straddles creativity. In my early 20s I was concerned with my contribution out of self-importance, but now, in the wake of this horrid election, it’s not that I feel I should contribute something because I’m creative but that I must because I’m human, and because there is now this desperate, frantic desire rustling in my chest that wants to help people and give them hope.

I lied when I said I wanted to write a collection of short stories earlier this month. Well, it wasn’t so much a lie, I guess, as it was an episode of wishful thinking. Even after learning this lesson years ago, I still get caught up in the idea of things rather than the reality of them sometimes. I said I wanted to write a collection of short stories more so because I feel it is what I ought to do in order to be taken seriously as a writer rather than it being something I actually want to do as a writer. The truth is that my heart is not in the short story right now but in the essay. My heart is also in opening a bookstore. These two things don’t necessarily have anything to do with each other. As far as personal writing goes, Ashley left a comment on my essay about my cousin, Abbey, that’s been sitting with me now for weeks. The one thing I liked about my old blog, which I’d named The Coffee Journals, was that it strengthened my frame of mind as a writer. I felt a little more justified in calling myself one than I did before and maybe even than I do now. But that was also the time when I was at my most mentally harried and insecure, which interfered with my original intentions. After a while, I could sense that I was writing mostly for my own gain rather than to communicate something genuine to readers. I wanted to justify my emotions rather than use them as a tool. But the initial idea had been important to me and something I think worth revisiting.

Opening a bookstore is something I’ve wanted to do for years. I’ve gone through several names, but recently landed on one with an idea that I think may stick. My trouble with this project is that I feel completely clueless about business. I’ve done some reading on small business ownership, recently bought Entrepreneur’s guide to starting a business, and have begun working on a business plan for the bookstore, but I am still incredibly out of my depth. I’ve started this before only to cease all progress because I would stress myself into paralysis. Then opening a bookstore was something I would regard as a goal for the future, maybe in retirement, but probably wasn’t meant to happen now. Except, then the election happened and my mother said what she said and I met Lucas, and it suddenly became very important that I do this thing now rather than later. During my research, I read an article that stated the most common source of failure when starting a business is procrastination. I also realized I was making completely idiotic excuses for myself, like I’m too young, which is especially idiotic because I hate when people cast me off because of my youth. I’m 26, for God’s sake. That’s younger than many, but it’s not infantile. In the words of Emily’s mother, I’m a grown-ass woman. Despite what Hillary Clinton’s loss may suggest to some, with education and resolve I am perfectly capable of doing this. I don’t have to wait on age to get started. I can make preparations now and then it will happen when it’s meant to happen. Women are especially worried these days, and with good reason, that their dreams aren’t as realistic as they once thought, but that is all the more reason to strive for their accomplishment. If we don’t continue to beat at this barrier then it never will fall, and future generations of women will continue to be stalled.

I say this as though my cup runneth over with conviction. It doesn’t. But I want it to. I want to be the kind of woman who can step away from the pantry cabinet and into the throng and not question herself so much.

Weekend Necessities: Election Edition

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Eva Peron in 1951 at a rally in Argentina // Getty Images

I had a different introduction to my weekly Weekend Necessities series, along with a handful of other links to share, prepared in my drafts this week. But with the election, and especially its outcome, I wanted to speak to that a little more because I haven’t been able to rally from the concession quite as smoothly as I would’ve liked. I know that Hillary Clinton is a complex career politician and she brought with her a lot of baggage that gave many people, even those who voted for her and especially those who didn’t, great concern over her potential leadership. But the thing about Hillary’s hypothetical presidency was that it would signify something more than the weight of her imperfections. It would symbolize a step forward for–yes, women–but also that America is ready to take seriously its minorities. Because when a minority is lifted up it actually reestablishes the values this country was founded on, which is that, regardless of our biological genesis, we are creating opportunity for a better world. That Trump based his campaign on backwards, hateful thinking that could unravel the last 8 years of President Obama’s efforts in this vein is painfully distressing.

Something that I wrote on Facebook the other night still sticks with me, about how the central issue surrounding this election has been a massive fear of irrelevancy from both sides. Our system favored Trump, but our popular vote favored Hillary. It’s been a stressful tug-of-war between people who are afraid of moving forward and people who are desperate for it. Now that we have our results the only thing to do is throw ourselves into loving and kindness and laughter and work. Someone made me laugh yesterday when I was feeling at my lowest and it turned me around completely. I took everything a little less seriously for a moment, but just a moment. I still know the repercussions of this election could be ghastly. Even the people I know who voted for Trump didn’t like him and didn’t want him in office, but they were so hell-bent against Hillary they voted for him regardless of the stream of hateful comments he left behind. That’s a terrifying thought. But I also know people I love who voted for him, and that’s a grievous conflict for me as they feel my voting for Hillary Clinton is a grievous conflict for them. It’s all hard to make sense of.

What this person who made me laugh reminded me of, though, is that this isn’t just happening to one person, it’s happening to everyone. And the only way to respond to this is to approach each person we meet with love and kindness and maybe a little good-hearted snark. If we can engage warmly and openly with people, listen when we need to listen, speak up when we need to speak up, laugh when we need to laugh, then we can work through anything. That is what history tells us: Humanity prevails. If not, we wouldn’t be here. It may not be easy, but we can make this better. Despite our differences. I really do believe that. Below are some articles I’ve been reading this week that speak to this spirit and offer ideas on how we can best move forward.

Design*Sponge founder, Gracey Bonney’s, response to the election. She writes, “I write because it makes me feel connected to other people. And connecting with other people gives me hope.” As a writer myself this is a phenomenal impact I can attest to and something I hope to chase after more fervently in the aftermath of this election season.

An interesting perspective from a citizen of the UK, as this election happens in the wake of Brexit.

A collection of articles gathered by Literary Hub on Trump’s victory written by various voices of the literary community. Make sure you read Roxane Gay’s, The Audacity of Hopelessness, on the New York Times, if nothing else.

Erin Boyle of Reading My Tea Leaves ruminates on how she will approach her children with the reality of this event and how it will affect them throughout their lives.

Joanna Goddard shares her own sources of inspiration in response to this event and offers guiding words that can help us both digest and utilize this outcome for the benefit of ourselves and others.

And of course, Hannah Brencher fights this with love, love, and more love written as an uplifting epistolary listicle.

There is also this interesting Ted Talk I listened to the other night on my way home from the gym defining what it really means to be disgusted and how we can dispel that feeling from within ourselves.

I feel almost as though this list wouldn’t be complete without providing some timely articles from Maria Popova’s Brain PickingsShe shares a poem by Naomi Shihab Nye this week who writes that “…it is only kindness that makes sense anymore, / only kindness that ties your shoes / and sends you out into the day…” and a poem by Lucille Clifton from 2015 who asks us to “…come celebrate / with me that everyday / something has tried to kill me / and has failed.”

And finally, President Obama is featured on Humans of New York with wisdom that got him through his congressional defeat in 1999.

Having experienced the particularly grave drama of this recent election in a way that feels much closer than it did when I was in college, it’s hard for me to believe I ever felt so lackluster about politics. I’ve never seen myself as a political person, in part because–from a young age–I’ve observed people close to me become consumed by it, made bitter toward other people because of it. My ideas of what it meant to be political began and ended there, but outside of these people, and especially with the help of the Obamas, I’ve come to see that politics doesn’t have to be like this, and that maybe there are ways we can reinsert sophistication and eloquence into the system.

I hope everyone enjoys their weekend. Remember: talking openly and respectfully with people whom you share disagreements can actually brandish you with a stronger ability to empathize. In the words of F. Scott Fitzgerald, “The test of a first-rate intelligence is the ability to hold two opposed ideas in mind at the same time and still retain the ability to function.” It is possible to listen to and understand someone, respect them even, and yet not agree with them. This very special ability is what can help us, I believe. We just have to be open to giving people our time and attention, and most importantly, our consideration.

On Voting & Differences of Opinion

tyler orehek
Photo by Tyler Orehek

I wanted to say something today about voting–about being a human being in general, really–that has been sitting with me since Sunday night. I won’t go into the specifics of why I feel the need to write about this, only that it involved someone very close to me being chastised for the way they think simply because it didn’t fall in line with another’s way of perceiving the world.

 

First of all, I want to tell you the way I told this person whom I care very deeply for:

Your opinion doesn’t count for any less because you are young, and your youth certainly doesn’t make you any less wise. You are also not any less empathetic for being single and childless. Like anyone else in this country–this world, even–you have the right to a formulated opinion. Regardless of who you support, if you do it with grace and humility, that still deserves respect. The problem with this country is that many of its people don’t know how to have constructive conversation about their disagreements. I hope you never become deterred from sharing your viewpoints in the future, only remember to hold on to that grace because it will be the thing that grounds you. As long as you are pointed toward goodness and not your fear then your heart and mind will continue to lead you right.

This comment, condensed here and lightly edited, was not well-received by another person close to whom I was addressing. We were both shot down for being young and ignorant, to which I had more I wanted to say, though not directly to this person. My reasons for sharing it through my Facebook profile, where the critic of my comment couldn’t see it as we are not friends on Facebook, was due to my disinterest in arguing through social media on topics that have a tendency to be diminished by the supporting platform. I also had no interest in approaching this person’s response as an attack, and I felt the point in addressing it at all was not so this person could see it, as they are probably not likely to change their mind anyway, but so I could hopefully reach people in my own network and encourage them to continue opening their minds and hearts to others who interpret life differently from them. As I told my cousin this morning as we huddled together in the cold waiting to vote— I’m not going to stop spreading what I believe to be right simply because someone has a problem with the way I see things, especially when my message is not born of hatred and fear, but rather love and enlightenment. I also told Ashley last night via text that I was tired of hiding behind my opinions afraid that others would not receive them well, and I realized that everything I had used to encourage this wonderful person in my life to keep pushing forward I was not utilizing for my own development. So it felt incredibly important that I wrote what I did as a way to move past that anxiety and grab hold of all the things I actually value, which are courage and bravery and a vast longing to inspire human goodness:

You’re not a bigot because of who you vote for or how you think, but you might be a bigot if you use the reason for someone else’s voting decisions or thought processes to belittle, condescend, and diminish that person because you’re too scared to wrap your mind around how that person might be feeling and thinking. F Scott Fitzgerald said that a strong mind is one that can hold two opposing viewpoints at once without losing sense of reality. You’re allowed to discuss and understand the way someone else thinks without agreeing with them.

This is not the time to castigate each other for our differences. If ever there was a time we deserve each other’s respect despite those differences of opinion, this is the moment. I know that’s incredibly hard to do because we’re going to want to believe that certain people don’t deserve that courtesy from us, but at some point we have to familiarize ourselves with humility. That is the only way to survive anything.

Though it is my sincere mission to strive for love and kindness in everything I do, I know that not everyone is going to receive this stance well, as evidenced last night. No matter how vulnerable you make yourself, no matter how honestly you speak, some people do not want to hear you trying to make a difference. Just know that your youth is not an excuse to be blindly dismissed. Unless a person has reached such an age in life that they become an all-knowing deity, they too still have a lot left to learn. And while age does grant you life experience, if that life experience has left you tunneled and blind then I dare say you are learning anything at all.

Luckily, you are not the person these people have to answer to and vice versa. The only thing of importance is to know who or what it is you are answering to and to continue running after that belief with all your heart and strength. If you are getting anywhere at all you will know by the way your heart and mind expand. Fear is the thing that keeps you blind, keeps you restricted. If a young person knows more than you it is because they have let themselves be curious where you have shut down in fear.

5 Important Things

The following listicle (yay, lists!) includes some things I wanted to take the time to jot down because they’ve been stewing in my mind for a while. And by a while I mean, like, years. Part of this blog’s function is to be both a landing page for my ideas and a record for putting them into practice. While morning pages help me filter out a lot of subconscious sludge, there is still conscious sludge to be scrubbed cleaned. I’m hoping if I can start implementing these things into my routine then I will be better able to use them as a foundation for daily living. A lot of my activities tend to get compartmentalized in my mind, so that I feel pretty baseless most of the time and like there isn’t anything very substantial grounding me as a person. I feel a lot of this comes from a lack of consistency, something I’ve always struggled with, but I think too that I just haven’t figured out quite where each of my interests align with each other, and that is part of why Necessary Text exists at all. So consider this an ongoing project of figuring my shit out.

 

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Susan Sontag, photographed in her home office // Getty Images

 

Write a short story collection
When my last story was published over the summer I felt an urgency to take myself more seriously as a writer, which didn’t happen. I went in the opposite direction, something that happened following my first ever publication. I’ve realized recently that this idea of getting published purchasing a certain amount of seriousness by which you can now bribe yourself with is the cheapest currency you can haggle with as a creative person. One thing I’ve learned about publishing from reading Anne Lamott’s Bird By Bird is that getting published offers very little validity in the actual publishing sphere, and most notably in the consumer’s sphere. I should’ve certified myself a long time ago, before the first acceptance letter. You are a writer when you write. If you’re not writing, you’re not a writer. It’s like calling yourself a fisherman and then NEVER going fishing.

My point is—it’s been five months since I received my last acceptance letter, three months since the publication went live on the journal’s website; I’ve written one short story since the happiness, all the while failing to establish a time for writing that is wholly, uninterruptedly mine. This bothers me immensely, especially since receiving a forwarded email from my friend, Ashley, discussing the nature of hiding a person may adopt in order to evade themselves. It read: “Think, act, and speak today from the place of your highest truth. About all things. Including your relationship, your life work, your thoughts and your choices. It is time that you came out of hiding on some things, don’t you agree?”

We’ll skip over the part where people ending paragraphs with knowing questions really freaks me out, and move on to the part where it felt like someone slapped me awake from a mental daze. I think I’ve been trying so hard to be someone I think I’m supposed to be based on my current circumstances because I have this idea that if I’m here God must want me here for something and I always assume it’s a matter of career path and career path may very well have nothing to do with it at all, or it may be a mere contributing factor. And while I’m not a particularly fanatical corporate person, I don’t dislike it. Working in a corporate environment has helped shaped my attitude tremendously and that is something that has molded more than the professional area of my life. With that being said, I’m not sure I want to stay corporate forever. The things I would really like to do for my “life work” are much removed from the corporate sphere, and I think it’s time I understood that in trying to play a role I quite possibly was not meant to stay in for very long could actually take me farther away from the role I’m meant to fulfill long-term. I’m not being honest with myself if I say I want to work my way up the corporate ladder, even though I’ve thought about it a lot and have nearly convinced myself several times it was what I wanted to do.

What I really want, and what flits around my mind quite a bit when I’m deep in the throes of fantasy (sorry–mine aren’t always of the dirty sort), is being an independent creative worker. That has always been my “Big Dream”, my “End Goal” and yet I’ve done nothing in the way of actually trying to attain it. I let myself get hampered down with complaints about not being able to find the right time. Well, I have found the right time. It may not be the most ideal time, but you know what? I didn’t think 9:30 was the most ideal time for a church service when I was growing up either, and since I am not actually going to church at the moment I think a stellar substitute for worshipping God would be to actually do the things He keeps pestering me about, and to do it during the time a person would typically partake in the ritualistic worshipping. And since my parents like to go to Sunday brunch on occasion, I’ve decided the best time for Sunday writing would be from 7-10 a.m. An hour to get going, an hour to fuel the fire, and an hour to wind it back down. I will still be incorporating morning pages into my routine every other day, so I’ll still be writing regularly, but Sunday mornings are now blocked off for creative work. The idea of writing Sunday mornings has sat with me for a long time, almost a year now actually and maybe longer. I’ve considered it, ignored it, and come back around to it, which I always take as a sign that something should finally be done about it now.

Adopt a minimalist approach
I wrote briefly about feeling torn over the concept and practice of minimalism the other night, and since it continues to be a matter of curiosity for me I’ve decided to do some research into the lifestyle to better observe and situate the practice in my own life, and to gauge whether or not it is something I’d want to commit to long-term. Another related interest involves the slow living movement, something that seems both unattainably luxurious and for mere visual affect on the internet (which isn’t to say it’s not totally gorgeous, because it is) but whose general idea could be worth looking into. For my part, it’s easier for me to enter a depressive state if I feel like all of my activities are meshing together and I’m moving too quickly through my life. This isn’t to say that I’d rather be a lazy bum, only that I want to be able to slow myself down and not feel like I have to rush through everything, which can be very easy to do no matter your lifestyle. Routine especially, I think, makes a person more prone to hasten the activities just to survive the banality, but I want to apply more focus to the smaller, seemingly banal moments that make up my existence. There are a few blogs I’ve found that I want to use as the foundation for my research that I would like to share with you, but I’ll do that later on. I have a feeling that once I get started it will become very involved, so I’ll delve further into this idea and topic then.

Enhance yoga practice
I first got into yoga with my friend Brittany several years ago, who had been practicing already for some time. It was something I was always interested in trying but too scared to try by myself, and so when Brittany and I found a local deal we decided it would be something fun for us to do together. I loved the classes we attended but it was a while before I incorporated it into my daily routine, and even then I didn’t establish a regular practice. My relationship with yoga is staggered and, like my relationship with writing, less serious than I would like it to be. There is a book for beginning yogis I would like to read to form a better understanding of what the practice fully entails. My relationship with yoga has been mostly physical, which really only gives you half the benefits of the practice. I think doing some reading on its history would help bridge the physical and spiritual so that its mental and emotional benefits work more efficiently.

Build stamina
I finally got to a point over the summer where I could run one mile on the treadmill without stopping. I know this probably doesn’t seem like a huge feat, but running has always been difficult for me because my stamina adapted to 3- and 4-minute bursts of energy when I was younger. Meaning, when I took competitive dance, my body became used to lasting for the amount of time a performance did, which was hardly ever longer than about 4 minutes. So… I think from now on my main focus in the gym is going to be running so that I can rebuild my stamina back to lasting through that mile and then going farther to, say, a 5K perhaps? I think I would like to run at least one marathon sometime, even it’s a short one. My hope is that running will not just affect me physically but build up a strong mental stamina, as well. There is a book (of course there’s a book) by Haruki Murakami on the benefits of running and his experience with the practice that I would love to read for a little research and encouragement.

Reconnect with God
While I don’t think the importance of strengthening faith can be fully contained in a listicle, another Sunday activity I’ve been wanting to incorporate into my weekly routine is reading the Bible Sunday nights before bed to complement the other literature I read throughout the week. I realize this will make for a very slow reading process, as the Bible is quite large, but if I’m being honest I’m not interested in rushing through a tome such as the Bible. I actually don’t like to rush through any books I decide to read, which is why I’ve always been at odds with yearly reading goals. I usually end up focusing more on the quantity of the books I’m reading rather than the experience of reading them, and the experience is what you read for. Also, something like the Bible, and faith in general, is a lifelong endeavor. It’s something I will always be learning. As Elizabeth Gilbert stated in a Magic Lessons episode, “Mastery is boring.” And I don’t like to, as my friend Craig calls it, “put God in a box.” To me, He is ever-expansive. And anyway, bad things happen when a person tries to master an entity like God. It’s why Lucifer can’t have nice things.

Bonus Thing of Importance

Learn coding/graphic design
I place this interest in a sort of “runner-up” situation because, while it is something I’d like to teach myself at some point, the above items on my list take priority. I’ve attempted to learn coding through Codecademy before and I’ve also dabbled with Photoshop in the past working on personal projects, so I know that they both can be very time consuming and tedious. This is the only reason why I’ve placed it in a less urgent category. And while Codecademy is very accessible and a completely free learning resource, teaching yourself to work with a quality design program is not as accessible and definitely not completely free. Adobe does have the Creative Cloud subscription now, which I used whenever I still had my Canon but I recently cancelled my subscription because I was only using one of the programs from the Photography plan–which includes Lightroom and Photoshop–and even then I wasn’t using the program very much. It’s only $10/month, so if you are a budding photographer/designer this is one of the more affordable subscriptions for teaching yourself to work with design programs.

My reasons for spending the money on the subscription, however, became unjustified. Though there is a free design program, PicMonkey, which offers a Royale subscription for only $5/month that can get you started in playing around with design. It’s what I used for the minimal branding I have going on here at Necessary Text–and I even used the free version. It’s going to seem ridiculously user-friendly if you’re not familiar with Photoshop. However, if you have used Photoshop before PicMonkey may actually feel less user-friendly. But it is definitely a good starting place for beginning designers who aren’t sure about spending the money on a design program. PicMonkey is a great way to figure out whether or not you want to make that investment.

I’m interested now to know if there are things you would like to implement in your own life–what’s holding you back if you feel challenged to get started or how is the experience of enacting these new activities affecting your daily life? Let me know in the comments!

10.29.16: 10:42 pm—home, on the couch

What I need right now is a comfortable place. I find my life largely uncomfortable and am looking for ways to soften it. It’s difficult sometimes knowing where to start. There are so many untidy areas I would like to neaten. But I think the first step is accepting sleep as my friend rather than my enemy. As an addendum to this it is important to use my time outside of sleep productively but also with a healthy lenience, and to restructure my days so that I am allowing myself the courtesy of rest while also devoting my time to the things that keep my body moving, which are to read and write and serve God.

“True life is lived when tiny changes occur.”
–Leo Tolstoy

Photo by Nicole Franzen, Italy

 

The house was clean, in a passable way. I had a bowl of spaghetti warming in the oven. The thought was to eat it while watching Amelie but I wasn’t thinking of the subtitles, too much time twirling noodles onto my fork, missing all those lines. I like foreign films because it’s like reading a book while watching it happen. The first one I ever saw I watched in a small university classroom during a creative writing course. It was called La Vita è Bella and I thought it was beautiful. At some point in the evening I had gone to my room and slipped my copy of The Artist’s Way from my bookshelf. I can’t remember now why. I must have been drawn to something within it, something that I hoped would give me perspective. While I’d been cleaning earlier I couldn’t stop thinking about my life. Cleaning is often a reflective period. I do it mostly when I feel there is something to be purged. Knowing that I don’t clean nearly often enough. The burden will sit with me for some time before I locate my resolve and set to work, but once I get started I like to take my time. When I was growing up my mother resented the burden of keeping house, which taught me to recognize opportunity in everything I do. Life does not have to be a chore, but we have a terrible habit of treating it so.

Lately I’ve wanted to ease my foot against the brake pedal. Not so hard that I come to a stop, but gently  to a nice coast, the kind when your foot barely seems to be doing any work, just resting, and you’re drifting at a pace where you can acknowledge things as they pass you by. I can’t recall what I was doing when I started to reconsider my daily routine. Routine is one of those words that always seems so stringent, unrelenting, but I don’t think it has to be. This idea comes after a time when my routine was stringent and unrelenting. It drove me into a deep fear. After a while my body refused to respond to anything less than at least 7 hours of sleep, but 8 was the money shot. I wanted to wrap myself up in so much guilt during those weeks. But it was no use. My body demanded rest, and I have finally decided to understand that fighting it would be a great mistake. The idea isn’t to run ourselves ragged but to make sure we are well-prepared to use the time we have. Sleep is part of that preparation.

Before I sat down to dinner I flipped open my book, sifting through its pages for…well, I had no idea. But I knew it when I saw it finally, fluttering in the left margin like a bird’s wing. It wasn’t even something Julia Cameron herself had written, but a quote she was sharing of Tolstoy’s. They were peppered throughout the book these quotes, and this one I had both circled and starred, as though it had meant something much more to me when I had read it than any of the others. I suppose it still does. The book is still open to this page as I write and every now and then I look over at it, as though it were a cat that might stretch its limbs and leap away from me at any moment. I did not follow the rules of this book when I read it the way I’d agreed, but there is an Artist Date Julia had asked of the reader that I would now like to fulfill, which is to keep a log of that which inspires me–something I think this space was headed toward all the time but which I now have a clearer head for since revisiting these pages. As always, I wanted to make things too large and am now trying to mold them into a size I can manage.

I’ve been interested lately in simplicity, a word I like to use en lieu of minimalism. I can’t decide whether I think minimalism is interesting or ridiculous. I think the notion is useful, but the lifestyle behind the word has made it too much of a spectacle. The kind of minimalism that is popular often seems luxurious and unattainable and in direct conflict with that which it promotes. But simplicity I admire. It has a softer texture than minimalism, which bruises the lips.

What I need right now is a comfortable place. I find my life largely uncomfortable and am looking for ways to soften it. It’s difficult sometimes knowing where to start. There are so many untidy areas I would like to neaten. But I think the first step is accepting sleep as my friend rather than my enemy. As an addendum to this it is important to use my time outside of sleep productively but also with a healthy lenience, and to restructure my days so that I am allowing myself the courtesy of rest while also devoting my time to the things that keep my body moving, which are to read and write and serve God.

God and I have been as distant friends this year. He may be someone I was very close with once but who recently moved to take a job abroad, and though we say we’ll keep in touch we don’t always make the time. This is a slightly malfunctioning analogy, as I of course know if anyone took the job abroad and struggles to make the time it is I who is guilty. A brown leather Bible sits on my nightstand, its small arm tucked into the thin sleeve of its jacket. Rarely do I take his hand, open him up, admit that I need him. Though I think about doing it all the time I remain obstinate. It makes me drowsy with sadness. Every time I think I’m tired from lack of sleep I may very well be tired of myself instead. If I could take a long week to myself I think I might be able to shed this skin, but I will have to find another way. Maybe I’m hoping this can be my way, keeping record, sloughing off the dead pieces in small strips.

Downtown Design

Back when I was in college, Downtown Columbia had very little in the way of economic development that resonated with my sphere of interest. The Nickelodeon was still on the backend of Main Street in a dilapidated building that did a pretty stellar job of keeping my curiosity at bay. It wasn’t until a couple of years ago, when they moved into their new building on the State House-facing side of Main Street, that I ventured over to the theater to see what it was about. The Nickelodeon is now one of my favorite spots in the city. And it is to my utter delight that Columbia has continued to do a wonderful job in their redevelopment efforts. Main Street continues to grow, the Vista is moving into a second phase of development, and the Bull Street project is an event to be anticipated, especially since Spirit Communications Park seems to have made off well with citizens (well, you know, aside from those complaining about park distributed fireworks).

As a result, various of the city’s businesses have utilized gorgeous modern design in their branding, which of course would catch my interest, as I am a seasoned designer…

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Anyway, I wanted to highlight a few of their efforts, starting with what is now known as The Main Street District (ooh, fancy). I happened to be on a brisk walk one afternoon a few weeks ago when I noticed two burly bearded men carrying around large decals fashioned with the new logo to paste to various street-side objects. Also, I’m fairly certain one of my superior’s faces is plastered to a sidewalk structure outside of the art museum with his person staggering the letters M, A, I, & N. As they explained via Twitter, the city center was going for something akin to Greenville’s downtown branding efforts as a way to better engage the community, which I thought was a sound move. Only, I just took a gander at Greenville’s efforts and while I certainly adore Greenville, I kind of think we do it better.

(I’m just saying…)

sweetcreamco-300x300Before The Main Street District got their act together, however, Sweet Cream Co. already had their shit figured out. I remember the day I first took notice of their building–another post-lunch afternoon whilst enjoying a brisk walk down Main–and seeing for the first time the most gorgeous topography I’d ever witnessed this side of my existence. I’m going to be honest, and slightly snobbish, for a moment–I really didn’t think I would ever see a business in Columbia with nice branding design (which is to say, the branding design that I, in particular, find nice). But then I’m just one to find attractive the clean, simple lines of the modern logo. Also, these people make the most delicious ice cream that has ever passed through my mouth, and for that I thank them.

copper-horse-distilling-logoI had no idea Copper Horse Distilling even existed until I was browsing So-Co’s website last week and noticed a Made in Soda City stamp at the bottom of their page. Curious, I clicked on the logo and was redirected to a site dedicated to that which is, well, made in Soda City. As I was perusing the list of companies and their projects, I came across Copper Horse Distilling. My first thought was, “This is a distillery, why in God’s name have I not heard of it before?” My second thought was, “My God, look at that lavishly designed logo.” Needless to say, I’m going to have to gather up the regular recruits for a trip to what I’m assuming will be a rather suave adulting experience. I mean, look at this devilishly decadent horse. You cannot tell me this guy doesn’t know how to have a good time.

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Live in or around Columbia? Seen any branding designs you’ve liked? Or if you live elsewhere and want to share your city’s branding projects, I’d love to see those too! Share in the comments.