Hey there! I had a fun little Saturday yesterday – I got my hair done (a slightly new cut and a bold red color), went on my weekly “Food Adventure”, where I try a new restaurant (I went to Modern Market for a Blueberry Pesto sandwich), and did some shopping at Trader Joe’s (picked up some cold brew coffee concentrate)!
Today, I’ve been working on some freelance projects while catching up on “Pose” (I think I have three episodes left). I am going to yoga later and am still debating if I should make a trip to Michael’s today – I have a coupon that I might not be able to pass up!
But the real reason I’m writing today is to share with you the latest read from Blanche’s Book Club! It’s “Big Magic: Creative Living Beyond Fear” by Elizabeth Gilbert. Before I dive in, here is the official book description from Amazon:
“A must read for anyone hoping to live a creative life… I dare you not to be inspired to be brave, to be free, and to be curious.” —PopSugar
From the worldwide bestselling author of Eat Pray Love: the path to the vibrant, fulfilling life you’ve dreamed of.
Readers of all ages and walks of life have drawn inspiration and empowerment from Elizabeth Gilbert’s books for years. Now this beloved author digs deep into her own generative process to share her wisdom and unique perspective about creativity. With profound empathy and radiant generosity, she offers potent insights into the mysterious nature of inspiration.
She asks us to embrace our curiosity and let go of needless suffering. She shows us how to tackle what we most love, and how to face down what we most fear. She discusses the attitudes, approaches, and habits we need in order to live our most creative lives. Balancing between soulful spirituality and cheerful pragmatism, Gilbert encourages us to uncover the “strange jewels” that are hidden within each of us.
Whether we are looking to write a book, make art, find new ways to address challenges in our work, embark on a dream long deferred, or simply infuse our everyday lives with more mindfulness and passion, Big Magic cracks open a world of wonder and joy.
If you know me, even if only through this blog, you probably can already guess that I LOVED this book! It felt like it was written from the things swirling around in my brain. I have always valued creativity, and I talk extensively about it in my blog class – that we must nurture our brains to be creative, and act upon it when it happens.
I wrote down SO many lines from this book that spoke to me and I’ll share them with you here:
- Without bravery…they would never be able to realize the vaulting scope of their own capacities. Without bravery, they would never know the world as richly as it longs to be known. Without bravery, their lives would remain small – far smaller than they probably wanted their lives to be.
- Do you have the courage to bring forth the treasures that are hidden within you?
- The universe buries strange jewels deep within us all, and then stands back to see if we can find them.
- The courage to go on that hunt in the first place – that’s what separates a mundane existence from a more enchanted one.
- I am talking about living a life that is driven more strongly by curiosity than by fear.
- …When courage dies, creativity dies with it.
- Keep your eyes open. Listen. Follow your curiosity. Ask questions. Sniff around. Remain open. Trust in the miraculous truth that new ideas are looking for human collaborators every single day.
- Let inspiration lead you wherever it wants to lead you.
- I don’t want to be afraid of bright colors or new sounds, or big love, or risky decisions, or strange experiences, or weird endeavors, or sudden changes, or even failure.
- Your own reasons to create are reason enough.
- I have dedicated my entire life to the pursuit of creativity, and I spend a lot of time encouraging other people to do the same, because I think a creative life is the most marvelous life there is.
- You don’t just get to leap from bright moment to bright moment. How you manage yourself between those bright moments, when things aren’t going so great, is a measure of how devoted you are to your vocation, and how equipped you are for the weird demands of creative living.
- I have watched so many other people murder their creativity by demanding that their art pay the bills.
- Perfectionism stops people from completing their work, yes – but even worse, it often stops people from beginning their work.
- Perhaps creativity’s greatest mercy is this: By completely absorbing our attention for a short and magical spell, it can relieve us temporarily from the dreadful burden of being who we are.
- Following the scavenger hunt of curiosity can lead you to amazing, unexpected places.
That about sums up the book, right? I feel so lame that I haven’t read any of Gilbert’s any other books – but I’ll be adding them to my list! I’m recommending this book to anyone looking for a push to live their dreams, whether that be making a career change or picking up a new hobby or even taking a trip off the beaten path.
The next book Blanche’s Book Club will be reading is “Leah on the Offbeat” by Becky Albertalli. I hope you enjoy the rest of your weekend!
We’re already a week into August, and I have been thinking a lot about the goals I set for myself this year. It’s time to check-in and see what I’ve done and what I’ve got left to do, because I refuse to let another year pass without doing these things!
Raise the standard (In progress)
I wanted to generally raise the standard I hold for my LIFE. I want to do quality things, spend my time wisely, and have quality people in my life, even if that means not very many. And so far, I think I’m getting there. I’ve learned that by cutting less-quality things and people out of my life, I have more time for myself, and more time with the people who support and love me.
Get more involved in ZTA (In progress)
I was really lucky to be involved in a sorority in college, and although I made my mistakes (and there were downsides to it), I think that giving my time and my mind to these ladies could really be a great experience. In April, I took over the position of Judicial Advisor for the ZTA Theta Psi chapter, and am really looking forward to school starting in the fall so I can start attending meetings and getting more involved.
Don’t wait for tomorrow (CHECK!)
Since my dad passed away in February, I have taken this (my friend calls it my “YOLO mentality) to the next level. There are times I’ve felt completely reckless, but we are never promised tomorrow, so whatever it is, I’m doing it today!
Attend an estate sale (Needs Help)
I still haven’t done this, and I don’t even know how to find out about estate sales near me! Help! Do I Google? Pick up the newspaper? What are some tips once I attend? I need all the assistance…
Write, just to write (CHECK!)
Earlier this year, I went to a writer’s retreat for the first time. I have also been journaling almost every day, and it’s really helped me, mentally, and it’s helped me organize my thoughts so I can produce better blog content (it’s a win-win)!
Treat yoself (CHECK!)
This was less of an excuse to spend money and more of an excuse to use things I already have instead of saving them for “something special”. Case-in-point: my Jaclyn Hill eyeshadow palette. I bought it thinking I would use it for a dance showcase, but why just that? I pull it out on random weekdays and wear it to work, because I’m alive, and that’s a gift. I also finally wore a chambray jumpsuit that’s been in my closet for an entire year, never worn. This has been a fun one!
Take a road trip to Marfa, Texas (CHECK!)
I went to Marfa in June, and although the trip took an unexpected turn, I got to see what all the hype was about, and I finally got to pull off on the side of the road and SEE Prada Marfa. Not to mention loads of tumbleweeds! Read all about that trip.
Pay off two more credit cards (In progress)
I have already paid off one card, and I’m really close to paying off a second! It feels so great to finally have a little more financial freedom – in fact, life feels a lot different by making even one or two less payments each month. Suck it, interest rates!
Less time on social media + less social comparison (In progress)
If you follow me on Instagram or Twitter (both @Orangejulius7), you probably know that I spend a decent chunk of my time using the stuff. But in my defense, it’s what I do by trade, and I enjoy using social media! So, while I haven’t done a stellar job cutting back on time spent on social media, I HAVE cut back on comparing my life to others. I know that we are all on our own path, and everyone’s life looks different – and it may not be actually what we see on social media.
Meditate + show up for yourself (In progress)
I started using the Calm app to guide daily meditations, and although I haven’t meditated every day, I’ve done much more than I expected to! I have also started doing more yoga, and really try to use that time to focus on breathing and spending that hour for myself and my mind.
Don’t try and please everyone – it’s going to be okay (CHECK!)
This is a big one for me, and it gets easier and easier every day. I know that my personality isn’t for everyone, and I truly believe I’ve stood up for myself more this year than I ever have. I’ve learned just how much I can do on my own, and how much I can accomplish, and I can do it in my own way. This will be a forever practice, but I think I’ve nailed it thus far.
What goals did you set for yourself this year? Have you accomplished them yet? What do you need to do in order to cross those goals off your list? We’ve only got a little more than 4 months until the end of the year – how will that list shape up?
Last night was yet another showcase for my Dance Austin Studio family. This was the Summer Meltdown, Take 2, which was a music video series. It was, of course, different from other showcases Dance Austin has hosted in the past – it was a four-week series followed by a video shoot, instead of a live performance.
The kicker was that no one (except maybe the choreographers) had seen the videos before last night’s premier – I think all of us dancers were a little anxious to see how all of our hard work turned out.
Naturally, all of the videos were awesome! Each of them had a funny twist, and it was cool to see the different personalities come out in each video.
I know that after each dance showcase I perform in, I write up all the feels from the day in what’s become my traditional showcase wrap-up. But, there wasn’t quite that same batch of feelings after last night.
Yes, it was really weird to show up at The North Door and not have to race to the “backstage” area and get ready for tech rehearsal, or find a spot with decent lighting to put on all of my show makeup. Instead, it was a little more leisurely, and there was a black carpet with a step and repeat #fancy
But I’d be lying if I told you I didn’t have enough emotions swirling around in my mind not to write some sort of something about the state of my life lately.
The truth is that, as I’ve alluded to some in recent weeks, I am struggling pretty hard in the mental health department. I’m chalking it up to grief, and although I’m still not entirely ready to put all of my chips on the table, I’ll offer up what I can thus far.
I’ve experienced loss several times in my life. I lost family members when I was a kid, and when I was in high school, it felt like I went to way too many funerals – those of my peers. It was surreal, and I started to form very small bits of dealing with grief and even just the taste of how short life can be.
In college, though, I suffered a loss that I still cannot talk about without tearing up. He was also my peer, the first person I met when I went to college orientation, we were each other’s dates to Greek functions… I felt a closeness to him unlike any other.
And he was killed while crossing the street.
A good friend told me the news as I was driving, and I pulled off the road to compose myself. I called my dad, and he talked me through it.
Several years later, I had natal reading where a professional looked over the stars during the time of my birth and during the years of my life.
“How does death fit in to your life?” she asked me.
I explained to her that I’d suffered several losses; one particularly difficult. We talked about the photo I have of him and I – framed on my desk at home with a candle beside it. She told me he was my soul mate, and it was likely that we’d met in a previous life, and that he was protecting me from the other side. I could keep his energy alive by lighting the candle and honoring his memory.
But little did I know that even a loss as tough as that one seems like a drop in the bucket compared to losing my dad.
I’ve talked enough on this blog about the relationship my dad and I had to get me in a shit-ton of trouble with most of my family. And even though my dad isn’t around to reprimand me or control the ship, I’ve kept quiet on the home front.
There’s something unsettling about all of it.
As horrible as it sounds, I felt some sort of relief in that my every day, physical life wouldn’t change after my dad died. After all, I hadn’t talked to him in years. We didn’t exchange texts, or cards, nothing.
But it’s been almost six months since his death, and I can tell you that I don’t even remember what it’s like to go a single day without crying; or thinking about it; or feeling guilty.
There have been times I’ve wondered why he had to be the one to go instead of someone else – and then I feel horrible because I know that no one deserves to go through what he did.
So many people have said to me, “Your dad must have been so proud of you.”
And while that’s an incredibly nice thing to say, I don’t know how true it is. My dad was TOUGH. He was quick to tell me all of the things I did wrong, and I can’t recall him ever saying he was proud of me.
At the beginning of this month, I felt so alone, so in the dark about how I was really supposed to get back to how things were – even just inside myself. I feel like I can’t pull myself out of this funk. I realized that my normal cures for bad days weren’t working.
Because this isn’t just a bad day. This isn’t a breakup. This isn’t a fight with a friend.
This is grappling with a major loss. It’s contemplating the meaning of life. Religion. Family.
It’s the realization that hindsight is a cruel bitch.
On the other side of this darkness, though, I’m also experiencing incredible success in my career. Not necessarily in my day job, but in my work as a blogger, editor, and digital strategist. I’ve had work literally fall into my lap almost every single day. I lived in Louisiana for 12 years and barely felt like I’d made a name for myself; been in Texas for less than three and I feel like so many people have reached out for my writing expertise, and I cannot explain how much that means to me. The fruits of my recent labor are allowing me to do things I’ve never thought I could do.
Part of me wonders if my dad is helping me from the other side – but then I feel guilty for even thinking that way. It’s a confusing place to be.
I decided to seek help from a professional (which is a chore in itself). So, I got a referral, and my mom helped me find a few options… and now it’s up to me to make the appointment. I’ve done therapy a few times before (for years), but this time, I’m considering medication.
But with medication comes all sorts of questions and worries. What will it be like? Will it change my personality? Will it make me less creative?
I’m still thinking on it.
In the meantime, I decided to focus on what I was putting into my body and how I was treating it. So, I stopped drinking entirely and am focusing on a plant-based diet. The no-drinking thing is a little more of a chore than I anticipated – I’ve been drinking lots of organic lemonade after realizing that non-alcoholic wine was not really a thing I’m going to do (ha!).
I’m doing more yoga (even if it makes me cry) and trying to get better sleep at night. And I’m still dancing.
Which brings me back to last night’s video premier. Our video shoot was 3.5 hours – beginning at 6:30 am, outside, in the Texas summer sun. And the resulting video was less than three minutes.
It was clever, and looked great, and it was funny to watch. But I couldn’t help but notice that we sure did put allllll of that time into just a few minutes – a highlight reel.
I’m sure you know where I’m going with this. But it’s a lot like life – you spend your whole life living it, no matter how long or short of a time you’ve got – and perhaps it takes you the entirety to realize one thing, or do that ONE thing.
And it all boils down to that highlight reel.
The same could be said for relationships or weddings or vacations. It’s those few moments that stand out.
Last night, one of my fellow dancers said, “You’ve been doing some road-tripping, right?”
I nodded, and explained to her that ever since my dad died, I am going for it, and I’m doing it without much of a second thought. I’m going to the places I’ve never been, eating new foods, facing my fears, and I’m doing it whether anyone is coming along or not.
I’ve already got two more trips planned this year, and I’m eyeing another one.
I don’t know what you dream of when your mind starts to wander, whether it’s dancing on a stage or being in a music video; maybe it’s seeing a Broadway play or getting published in a magazine.
Whatever it is – DO THAT.
At the end of our time here, you’re going to want certain things in that reel, and the time to accomplish them is now.
If I’ve learned anything about myself in the past six months, it’s that we are often our own blockade. So toss the fears aside. Just go for it.
To my dance family, thank you for providing such a supportive environment for me to even think these things. Some days, I struggle to show up to class. Other days, it’s all I want to do. But you’re there, and I hope I can return that favor to you whenever you need it.
I know everyone is saying it: OMG it’s already August?! That’s right, 2017 is flying by! And another shocker, I feel like I’ve come nowhere on my goals. So, I’m revisiting them today to see if I can’t accomplish something or get back on-track, somehow.
GOAL: Start With Kindness. As you can tell by the name of this blog, I’ve spend a chunk of my life feeling sour about things that have happened to me, and choices I’ve made. But in general, I wouldn’t classify myself as bitter – I’m actually pretty kind and very giving.
In the last year, I’ve thought a lot about a kindness campaign started by my favorite radio show hosts, Johnjay & Rich. Their campaign, #LoveUp, encourages everyone to do something kind for someone else – whether big or small, and whether they need it or not. I’ve already started my own #LoveUp acts of kindness, and they’ll definitely be making appearances in 2017.
PROGRESS: The last time I wrote this progress report, I’d purchased a snack for a fellow dancer after class when he was short on cash. Since then, I’ve purchased Starbucks for a few people in line behind me. It’s the simple things, y’all.
GOAL: Be a Practicing Writer. In my previous job, much of my day was spent writing. Whether or not it was stuff I actually wanted to write was not the issue, but I wrote a ton during those years. I blogged, I wrote freelance articles, I wrote books, poetry… and I really haven’t immersed myself in my craft since.
This year, I used birthday money to buy books on screenwriting, and I volunteered nearly 20 hours of my time toward the Austin Screenwriting Festival, listened to many podcasts on the craft, and have researched courses to take to learn on it – but haven’t actually DUG in there and started typing! So, I’ve got to do it – whether or not its work anyone sees, its time.
PROGRESS: I’ve totally sucked on this for ALL of 2017. The last time I looked at these goals, I was struggling to even write these blog posts. But, I’m happy to report that I am, at the very least, getting my grasp BACK on this blog, and am also working to carve out more time to W R I T E – ’cause that’s what writers do, right?
GOAL: Just Go For It. I spend a lot of time analyzing situations and decisions, trying to figure out if I should do it or how or when or why, and frankly, it’s exhausting!
When I moved to Austin in 2015, I had basically no money, was living in an extended-stay hotel, and I spent my evenings going on “adventures” – where I’d basically just drive to a place that sounded cool and check it out, so at least I’d learn my way around the city and pick places I wanted to visit later. It was simple, fun, and it really helped shaped the way I look at the city. I’m definitely aiming for more adventures in Austin, and elsewhere, in 2017.
PROGRESS: I’m still kicking this one’s ass. I’ve flown to two places already this year, and am about to book trip #3. I’m also trying new things, and doing new things, because JUST DO IT. This is the best advice I’ve given myself this year. Taking on this attitude also encouraged me to JUST get a blood test, JUST get my eyes dilated, just do things – all things because YOLO.
GOAL: Act, Believe, & Receive. I’ve spent the last several years really trying to focus on myself. After years of abuse from various places, I lost myself and I was letting other people create my course. It took therapy, time, and lots of self-reflection for me to even begin to build myself up and allow me to just be me, and I’m finally starting to feel like myself again.
In these last few weeks of 2016, I’ve felt it, and it’s not going anywhere anytime soon. So, in 2017, I’m going to act more confident, believe in myself, and receive the treatment that I deserve.
PROGRESS: On a recent trip to Indiana, I got smacked in the face with some weird truth from friends and family. Frankly, I haven’t felt the same since. But, it’s all good. It was time I learned a few lessons, and now? I move on with confidence; ask, believe, and receive!
GOAL: Be Intentional. As of yesterday, I started listening to “The Minimalists” podcast, and although I’m just four episodes in, I am hooked and craving for more learning on this lifestyle choice. The Minimalists are particularly two men who left corporate America (and six-figure salaries) to live simply in terms of having less things, but to also live with intention and do everything on purpose – down to drinking one perfect cup of well-made coffee instead of just guzzling another K-cup.
PROGRESS: I’m still packing up clothes and books after cleaning out my apartment, and I’m also taking a look at my GIANT stash of beauty products – using up the remaining ones before I buy new. But, I’m also intentional about small, daily things. I get up early and enjoy a slow morning before work; add a few slices of fresh lime to my soda water before I go sit on the porch. It’s small, but it’s those details that make things a little more special.
GOAL: Live High. Initially, I was thinking of a fantastically mellow Jason Mraz song titled as such, but then I thought of that moment at the Democratic Convention this year when Michelle Obama talked about her approach to bullies: “When they go low, we go high.” Essentially, I want to give myself permission to do things just for me. I do a pretty good job already of having no shame for watching hours of TV each week (hell, each night), but I want to do a better job of encorporating happy and healthy habits into my life, and not apologizing for them.
PROGRESS: I think I’m doing pretty good on this one. I am back to eating healthy (mostly vegan) foods to reward my body for all of the work it does. I do a face mask almost every night and still treat myself to pedicures, which feels especially great when I hang out at the pool! There’s no harm in rewarding yourself for all the work you do!
GOAL: Choose (& Plan for) Your Destiny! This started as kind of a joke between me, and well, myself, because someone told me earlier this year: “Everything that happens to you is because you let it. You choose your destiny.” In the way it was delivered to me, it seemed more of a way to avoid blame, but the more I thought about it, the more I felt it in all areas of my life.
Spent my Saturday working? Well that was obviously the destiny that I chose. No more being a victim; no more going along for the ride. We choose our destinies!
PROGRESS: I live by this hardcore. This guides my daily course, helps me to avoid toxic friendships and loser dudes. I choose my destiny and I know it’s going to be great because that’s the kind of taste I have!
So, I still have a little work to do before the year is up, but I’m feeling pretty good about the way things are rolling. What about you? Or perhaps you’re already looking ahead to 2018 – I know I’m starting to think about possible goals for next year. I’d love to hear yours!
Last week, I mentioned that I’ve been suffering from extreme fatigue lately. As promised, I spent the weekend, and each night this week really making an effort to get quality sleep in hopes of pinpointing the problem (you can expect a progress report next week).
Part of solving the problem involves taking a solid look at how I spend my time, and if I can devote any extra time to rest. The conclusion thus far? My life is… kind of plain.
I know I sound like Coolio (see: “Gangsta’s Paradise”) right now, but I’m starting to wonder if this is it for me. I’ve been religiously watching this season of “Girls”, and Sunday’s episode involved a laundromat, Hannah’s mom, and a giant bag of weed gummies.
After choking down several of said gummy worms, Hannah’s mom is trying to set the record straight on her future: “I’m alone. This is it. For the rest of my life.”
I swear everything but that line was ringing in my ear for the next hour – hell, I’m still thinking about it. Because this is the most single I have ever felt.
Ever since I can recall, I’ve had some sort of guy in my life – even if only in “crush” form. And it’s been a long time since even that has happened.
My new job has come with several opportunities to travel, which means I’ve had lots of time to bond with my coworkers. “Holly, why don’t you date??” They ask. “You’re cute!”
As flattering as it is, that’s part of the problem. A majority of the men I’ve dated haven’t seen beyond that – and it’s resulted in a lot of relationships that aren’t trusting or healthy. It’s left me so cold, that at times, I don’t even want a male waiter.
Monday morning, a guy called me. I was washing dishes and missed the call by accident; but when I saw it on my phone, I thought certainly it was a mistake. I hadn’t talked to a guy on the phone in six months (yes, six months), and I didn’t even know if I’d have anything interesting to say. After all, I was cleaning my kitchen at 7 am on a Monday morning.
I took a leisurely drive across town Sunday morning and I got to thinking about dating. Most of the people I know who are my age are married, many of them have been married for years, and have children. I look at their lives from afar and sometimes it seems as if they’ve lived entire lifetimes while mine is just strolling along, very similar to how it was three or five or even ten years ago.
Maybe once you hit a certain point in life, you just end up single, I thought. Because the thing is, I don’t ever put myself in situations to meet a suitor. I’m very aware of this, partially because I don’t think I’m ready to date, and partially because my hobbies: dancing, reading, blogging, and cooking aren’t really conducive to meeting straight men.
Every week, I go to work, the dance studio, the library, and the grocery – give or take the laundromat, and that’s pretty much my life. And I have a feeling I’m not alone in that routine (or rut, you make the call); we’re not in college anymore, not really hitting the night scene, or not putting ourselves in new social situations on a regular basis.
Obviously, I never planned on being single at this point in my life. I honestly thought I was going to be married before I was 25. I’ll be 32 in July. However, I have always believed that my life can be fulfilling even if I don’t have a partner.
But what exactly will that life look life? You know when you first start a relationship and everything is so exciting and nearly perfect? I definitely miss that feeling.
The sad part is, much of the excitement I’ve experienced in the latter part of a relationship is the fear of losing it entirely. The last relationship I had was turbulent, I hardly slept, and it thrived on abuse of the alcohol, sexual, and verbal variety.
I’ve never really known what a real, healthy relationship looks or feels like, which leaves me to often associate dating with a sense of weakness within myself. That if I even have the desire to date, then I must be feeling weak, as if I’m not enough on my own.
Somehow, I survived watching every minute of Nick’s season on “The Bachelor”, and in the finale episode on Monday, Vanessa had a heartfelt conversation with Nick’s father. She asked him if love was enough to make a marriage last, and he told her no. That outside of love, it takes sacrifice, compromise, and the realization that you will no longer come first.
I am certain that show is scripted, but DAMN. #TruthBomb
Maybe that’s it – maybe I’m just not willing to put anyone else first just yet. But I have always imagined being in a relationship where I get to do things for my partner; even if it’s just the little things like bringing him coffee or baking his favorite dessert.
Sure, I’ve done those things. But they went unnoticed and I was often taken advantage of.
There are days I feel really strong and proud of myself for building a life where I’m generally happy, and I’m making things work. But I’d be lying to you if I wasn’t very, very cognizant of that fact that I slip into bed each night alone; with no one beside me, no one on the phone, and often, no one on my mind.
There is no path, or standard, for how a single person lives a fulfilling life – because everyone is just waiting for your “Save the Date” card to arrive. I suppose this is a path I’m going to have to make, on my own, of course, and I’m probably going to have to stop for naps along the way given the current state of things.
Don’t worry, I’ll make my own coffee.