Cute! Crazy-Eyed Gert

Gertie gets the crazies a lot of nights just as I'm crawling into bed. She's super lazy, so they don't last long, but it usually starts with her leaping off the bed, scurrying around the apartment once, and then jumping back up and attacking my blankets.  She gets the full-on crazy eyes while she does this.

Singalong! Black Velvet by Alannah Myles

Once I had a driver's licence and was shuttling myself around town, I started exercising my coolness by listening to the oldies radio station constantly.  Despite being recorded in 1989, this song was in regular rotation on that station, and I would sing along so hard.

by Alannah Myles

Mississippi in the middle of a dry spell
Jimmy Rogers on the Victrola up high
Mama's dancin' with baby on her shoulder
The sun is settin' like molasses in the sky
The boy could sing, knew how to move, everything
Always wanting more, he'd leave you longing for

Black velvet and that little boy's smile
Black velvet with that slow southern style
A new religion that'll bring ya to your knees
Black velvet if you please

Up in Memphis the music's like a heatwave
White lightning, bound to drive you wild
Mama's baby's in the heart of every school girl
"Love me tender" leaves 'em cryin' in the aisle
The way he moved, it was a sin, so sweet and true
Always wanting more, he'd leave you longing for

Black velvet and that little boy's smile
Black velvet with that slow southern style
A new religion that'll bring ya to your knees
Black velvet if you please

Every word of every song that he sang was for you
In a flash he was gone, it happened so soon, what could
You do?

Black velvet and that little boy's smile
Black velvet with that slow southern style
A new religion that'll bring ya to your knees
Black velvet if you please

Black velvet and that little boy's smile
Black velvet with that slow southern style
A new religion that'll bring ya to your knees
Black velvet if you please
If you please, if you please, if you please

Learning! The Kids Are Alright (and they aren't hooking up all that much)

Every once and a while an article starts circulating in my newsfeed with a title like "Hook Up Culture and the Death of Romance" or "How Tinder Killed the Relationship" or "Why You Should Be Freaking Out Over Young People Having Too Much Sex Without Enough Feelings".

I've always had two thoughts when I see these articles: 1) I really don't see any evidence in my friends-group that hooking up and emotionally shallow sex is running rampant at the expense of emotionally healthy relationships, and that 2) I also didn't know anyone who was watching Two and a Half Men, and that show was apparently the most popular show on TV for quite some time, so my sample group may be skewed.  Maybe there is a culture shift that has happened for everyone except for my friends, and the rest of the world is now obsessed with getting all the sex with none of the feelings.

Isn't in great when science comes to the rescue?  According to the New York Times' Science of Us column, research shows that if anything, earlier generations were having more casual sex than current generations, that freaking out over the sexual habits of young people has always been a thing to do, and that we all tend to think that our friends are having more sex than us which leads to a misperception of the amount of overall sex happening.

They even made a video about it:

Increase your followers by one with this easy step!

Ever wish you had more followers?  An entourage?  Paparazzi?  Wonder what it's like to have a stalker?  Brooklyn-based artist Lauren McCarthy's newest project can help you with that.  It's called Follower, and if you sign up, you literally get to have someone follow you around for a day.

If you get chosen, you simply get a text message on the morning of your following letting you know that there will be someone observing you.  At the end of the day, you get a goodbye message with a photo from your day.

It's such a fascinating look at our desire to be observed and share our lives, combined with our fear of "big brother" watching every move.

One of the things about this that I find most interesting is how she frames herself as a sort of supportive companion-at-a-distance.

"Right now I (Lauren McCarthy) am the only Follower. I have honed my ability to pay attention and follow with empathy and care. I will not intervene in your life in any way, but instead remain a casual observer in support of you. ... Your Follower acts as a passive observer and remote companion"

It sounds super interesting. Right now it's obviously directly connected to wherever McCarthy is. She launched the project in San Francisco ("the home of 'human on demand' services") and now operates out of New York. So hey, if you're travelling to New York anytime soon, consider signing up for Follower as a part of our tourist experience. How cool would that be?

Photos by Lauren McCarthy from her Follower project

PS: Did anyone else watch the video and think "oh my WORD, is salting your white wine a thing that people do?!?!!"? Because I did, and now I've looked into it and it is actually a thing! The CTO of Microsoft adds salt to his red wine. I didn't find anything on salting white wine though, like that woman does, just a bunch of articles about how wine has a bit of salt naturally in it.

Book Club: The Bone Clocks by David Mitchell

It's book club time again!  This last month my book club read The Bone Clocks by David Mitchell.  I loved it... and I thought that it was kind of poorly structured.

Overall Impressions

Overall I really enjoyed the book.  I will admit, it's been a while since I've felt that inner pull to read a story, and I was actually starting to worry that I didn't really like reading anymore.  This was actually kind of terrifying because I have always been a person who loves reading and what do you do when all of a sudden you don't like something anymore???  Panic, most likely.

Luckily, the panic has subsided.  I just had a bad run and everything is okay again.  I know this because I did not want to put The Bone Clocks down.  The narration style really grabbed me and the characters were incredibly real and interesting.  It was also sort of like one of those epics that spans generations of history, except it goes from the 80's into the future.

Oh, and you do not want to live in this future.  It's not quite a post-apocalyptic wasteland, but it is exactly where we are/could be headed.  Oil runs out, electricity becomes scarce, the internet is spotty at best, and guess what?  That does not inspire humanity to put its best foot forward.  But as you read it you will nod your head in terror that this is what your old age will probably look like.

So I loved it, but...

The Story

The story itself centres mainly around Holly Sykes, who is the first character we meet.  However, the structure of the whole thing is so bizarre (here's where I start talking about the things that didn't work so well) that we don't spend that much time with her.

We start off meeting her as a teenager.  She has a few strange and supernatural occurrences that are (mostly) wiped from her memory and then we jump to another character: Hugo Lamb.  Hugo Lamb is a dick.  I don't normally use words like that all willy-nilly, so take my word for it, it's true.  He is, of course, still fascinating.  He also has some teeny-tiny supernatural experiences (little tiny drops in the bucket of fantasy, which is, of course, what we all thought we were reading when we picked up the book).

The character jump, by the way, is completely jarring and unexplained.  The whole thing is written as a first person narrative, and all of a sudden that first person is a new person and you just have to figure out from context who this new character is.  It's like starting a whole new story in the middle of a story.

Eventually Hugo meets Holly, but they don't have a life-changing plot twist.  This happens with a couple of other characters, until we loop back around to Holly.

Even though the story only actually spans about 70 years, it feels like one of these sweeping epics because it brings so many different characters into the fray and delves right into their worlds.  This could be a good thing, or it could be a bad thing.  I'm actually not sure.

David Mitchell did that thing I love where he didn't really explain the world right off the bat - you just kind of figure stuff our as you go, but then he dumps a ton of exposition in the middle of the book.

The Characters

The only reason that the incredibly jarring jumps from character to character don't ruin the story is because each character is so interesting.  Holly is one of those smart, tough-as-nails types of women who will just survive forever.  Sure, she's a bit of a sullen teenager at the beginning, but I'm pretty sure all smart, tough-as-nails, survivor-y types are.

Her life, and those of the rest of her characters, are so regular and relatable, and that is what I think gives the draw to the story.  Even Hugo Lamb (the aforementioned human piece of male genitalia) who is completely unlikable as a person goes through these every day experiences that allow us an in to seeing the world as he does.

Me & Ryan Gosling: When he is glowing on a mountain

Have you ever noticed how Ryan seems to be glowing everywhere he goes?  Well, that's because he is.  Look at this photo, taken in the shadow of a mountain.  He looks like he's under stage lights.

The Artist's Way: Week Five

Week five of The Artist's Way is called Recovering a Sense of Possibility.  This week we really dive, like, cliff-jumping dive, into the spiritual side of things.  The main principle is to be open to possibilities, recognizing where we limit ourselves, and, one magical day, throwing those limits into some deep, black hole and being free, open artists.

With God as our source, the theory goes, we have an abundance of possibilities available to us, waiting to extend through us.

Okay, so my struggle with any of this kind of spiritual philosophy is that it seems to say "just put it out there and your life will flood with goodness", as if God or the universe or whatever are just waiting to give every single human being every single thing they've ever wanted, and as soon as we ask for it, BLAMMO!, there it is.

One look around the realities of the world, however, and you can easily see that, no, this is not the way things work.  Or at least if it does, then a lot of people are making their own lives horrible and it's all their fault.

HOWEVER, Julia Cameron does clarify that, although she believes it often does just "come" to you, it's more like praying to catch the bus and then running as fast as you can.  So I can be open to that idea: that we can work together with the Godverse to make things happen.

The Virtue Trap

Here's one thing that comes up in week five that is super hard for me: ditching The Virtue Trap.  Basically, The Virtue Trap is the sneaky need to always be nice and do for others and all those other very good things that are so easy to put ahead of doing your own work.  It's the inability to even try to book some time of solitude, no matter how badly you need it, because you know you'll be letting someone else down.

Sort of like the fine balance of trusting God to provide without sitting back and treating him like a vending machine, there is a sweet spot here, too.  Nobody wants to become a selfish meanie, always putting their needs ahead of their loved ones', but that doesn't mean you have to always shove your needs aside, either.

So how do you get over The Virtue Trap?  The good first step Julia Cameron offers is to ask yourself a few questions: "what would I do if it weren't so selfish?" and "what would I try if it weren't too crazy?"

I had a hard time even answering these questions, but I will keep them hovering in my mind.

There is also a series of exercises to help identify your own Virtue Trap weaknesses.  My favourite (and an easy one to do at home) is simply filling in the blank of "I wish______" 19 times, as fast as possible.  Try it.  Number 1-19 on a sheet of paper, write "I wish" at the top (or at each number if you are really on top of things) and then fill it in as quickly as possible.  Then look for themes or anything that surprises you or punches you in the gut with its deep truth.


This week's tasks and reflections were really eye-opening for me.  As usual, there was a lot of listing of things that all circled around the same issue: list five reasons why I can't believe in a supportive God; list five desires; list five adventures I'd go on if I was 20; and had money; list five postponed adventures I would take if I was 65 and had money; list ten ways I'm mean to myself; list ten items I would like to own but I don't; what is my favourite way to stay blocked?

I am starting to see themes emerge in my own desires and blocks.  The things I really want keep coming up, over and over.  Some of them are huge and, at least for the moment, unattainable, but others are small and doable, all I have to do is let go of some of my virtue trappings.

Okay, this is easier said than done, because my virtue trappings are people I love and care for very deeply, but seeing the possibility is a start, right?

Inspiration! On friendship and vulnerability

A little while ago I read about a study showing that people will consider a competent person more likeable and trustworthy if they spill coffee on themselves.  The most obvious explanation seems to be that when someone shows a bit of a human foible, we all feel a bit more comfortable around them.  After all, we're all just faking our way through life, so it's nice to see that someone else has similar imperfections to you.

Here's a little video from the School of Life basically telling us the same thing. Thanks, School of Life!

"We can only get close by revealing things that, in the wrong hands, would be capable of inflicting appalling humiliation on us."
-School of Life

Bitmojis, guys! BITMOJIS!!!!


Probably, you do, because for a person who writes about things on the internet I am always pretty far behind the internet.

Yesterday I was unexpectedly grumpy (someone had a case of the Mondays) and I asked my friends on Facebook to send me cute or funny pictures to cheer me up. I got a bunch of awesome adorable animals and hilarious babies in my feed, and those went a long way to brightening my mood, but the kicker was bitmojis. BITMOJIS! A friend sent me a series of hilarious and sympathetic bitmojis and I was instantly elevated from Grumpsville to Joy Town.

Then, in the evening, TWO OTHER FRIENDS sent me bitmojis and it was clear that the universe wanted me to communicate using only bitmojis, because unlike normal pictures that are worth 1,000 words, these are worth five bajillion words.

So now, just in case you are like me and had no idea what these magical little images are all about, I bring you, my top favourite bitmojis.  Go forth, download the free app, and create your own.

Side butt? REALLY?

I was just looking up some stupid fitspiration images, you know, so that I can feel terrible about everything (ding ding! It worked!), and I saw one that just made me want to slither off my chair and puddle up on the floor because if this is what's happening in the world, I might as well just give up.

I came across the image on a post criticizing the over-sexualization of fitspiration images, so that's at least a good thing, but they didn't MAKE this picture.  They just used it as an example of a typical fitspiration image.

I am not even going to care about the sexiness factor right now.  Here's my main issue: SIDE BUTT?  Really???  Are you serious that I'm now supposed to be parsing my butt into different portions, name them, care about them, and do special exercises for each one to make it as good as possible?  What even IS side butt?  Is it the side of your butt?  Like your hips?  I know what my hips are.  Or the part in between your hips and the main back portion?  Like an eighth of my butt on either side?  Is it the view of your butt from the side?  What the HECK is side butt?

I already am supposed to care about my toenails, toes, the bottoms of my feet, ankles (cankles), calves, inner and outer thighs (saddle bags!), under-butt area, butt, muffin top, back fat, lower tummy pouch, waistline, underboob, side boob, cleavage, shoulders (side and back), and neck.  Not to mention all the different parts of my face that each require different magical potions and blood sacrifices and toning exercises so that they never ever change from their glorious shape when I was 24 (except that I still had bad skin then, so not when I was 24?  I can't go younger, the skin just gets worse.)

Now you're adding side butt to this list?

This is actually just exhausting.  It's so exhausting.  It's too exhausting.  I can't do it.  I can't care about my side butt and do eight special exercises specifically geared at optimizing the sexual sexiness of that part of my body that I don't even know what it is.

Cute! One last look at Toby

Here is one last look at Toby, the lovely-to-look-at-never-to-hold kitty who owns are hearts and would eat them too, if she could. Fret not, this is not the last look at Toby because her life is in peril. It's just a last look because I was cat sitting her and now I'm not. Toby will live forever.

Singalong! Tonight, Tonight by The Smashing Pumpkins

I really wanted this song to by the grad song the year I graduated from high school. It wasn't on the ballot, which might seem sad except that I don't think I did anything to tell anyone about my idea.

by the Smashing Pumpkins

Time is never time at all
You can never ever leave without leaving a piece of youth
And our lives are forever changed
We will never be the same
The more you change the less you feel

Believe, believe in me, believe
That life can change, that you're not stuck in vain
We're not the same, we're different tonight
Tonight, so bright

And you know you're never sure
But you're sure you could be right
If you held yourself up to the light
And the embers never fade in your city by the lake
The place where you were born

Believe, believe in me, believe
In the resolute urgency of now
And if you believe there's not a chance tonight
Tonight, so bright

We'll crucify the insincere tonight
We'll make things right, we'll feel it all tonight
We'll find a way to offer up the night tonight
The indescribable moments of your life tonight
The impossible is possible tonight
Believe in me as I believe in you, tonight

Learning! Cyberbullying and empathy

New research has come out showing that, when it comes to cyberbullying, we engage in a little victim blaming.

Turns out that when someone posts something highly personal online, we feel less empathy for them if they get bullied for it.

In a recent study, participants were exposed to the Facebook feed a fictitious teenage girl where she posted one of four things, designed to be both positive and negative and personal or non-personal:

Personal negative: "I hate it when you miss someone like crazy and you think they might not miss you back :("

Personal positive: "I love it when you like someone like crazy and you think they might like you back :)"

Non-personal negative: "I hate it when a Game of Thrones episode ends and you have to wait a whole week to watch more :("

Non-personal positive: "I love it when a Game of Thrones episode ends and you can't wait until next week to watch more :)."
In all cases, this girl received a comment back that said "Who cares! This is why no one likes you." that received 6 likes.

Participants were asked to rate if they thought this consisted of bullying, whether they felt empathy for her, and whether they might send her a positive message or post something in her defence.

Everyone agreed, in all conditions, that the comment consisted of bullying, but when she revealed personal information people felt less empathy for her and felt she was more to blame for the bullying.

On one hand, I get it: the bullying on the Game of Thrones-related quote seems more out of the blue.  When people post really personal stuff online it tends to look like an annoying attention grab, and when someone is annoying it might seem like they are creating an opportunity for bullying.

On the other hand, this is terrible!  Revealing something personal should never be an excuse for bullying, and it should always be the bully's fault for engaging in such bad behaviour.  It doesn't matter how annoying a person is online, they don't deserve to be shamed or bullied.

Just another piece of human nature to think about next time you are online.  Maybe it's worth standing up for someone, even if you think they were "asking" to be bullied.


The Artist's Way: Week Four

Week four of The Artist's Way is titled Recovering a Sense of Integrity.  The basic idea here is to start to recognize and embrace how you really feel about things.  What you really want and think.  It's all about being honest with yourself.

The idea is that you can't create anything honest until you are being real with yourself.  If you are spending all your time pretending to like things you don't really get or to care about things that bore you, you will never be able to make something that is truly meaningful.

Here are two of the practical challenges/ideas that flowed from this chapter:

Reading Deprivation

Warning: during the fourth week of The Artist's Way, you are not allowed to read.

Sounds like torture, right?

Unfortunately, the logic behind this deprivation is sound: the less time you fill with input, the more you are forced to output. If you don't occupy your time by taking in the creative work of others, you are going to have to do something to fill that time, and that something will eventually emerge from within you, whether it's finally starting to write a sonnet, singing your heart out, having a dance party for one, or rearranging your furniture.

This challenge reminded me once again that this book is best experienced with a less-full schedule.  The idea was supposed to be that I would have acres of time to fill that I would need to find some other way to occupy.  Except that I had work in the daytime and things I had to do every evening afterwards, so there wasn't all that much down time.

That said, I still did get to make some changes.  I assumed that Julia Cameron didn't want me to get fired, so I still read things I needed to read while at work (emails, for example, are unavoidable), but I did eliminate the little time-fills I have grown accustom to: reading while I eat breakfast, watching TV while I clean the house, listening to talk radio while I get ready in the morning.  Instead I filled the silence (because silence is the worst) with instrumental music.

It made a difference.  It's no surprise that having TV or other talking on the background is a bit of a tether.  Instead of just giving my subconscious some noise to follow, it grabs my conscious mind and ties it down, just a little.  It makes it harder for me to shift activities, turn off, or even imagine my own stories.

I'd like to say that this experiment motivated me to shun the voices of others to fill the silence, and that I now let Bach accompany me through a creative and productive life, but that would be a lie.  As soon as my week was up, I had Netflix on in the background once again while I cooked dinner.

Still, a good reminder.

The Power of the Purge

I generally get pretty attached to things, and if something has sentimental value, especially if someone has given it to me as a gift, I feel compelled to hold onto it for the rest of time.  Last winter I started to feel a big inner drive against that hoarder instinct and started to let go of things - it felt incredible.

This week one of the things Julia Cameron discusses is that as we become more in tune with ourselves and what we really want, we become free to shuck off the things we don't want.  A closet, home, or life full of the old and unwanted does not leave room for the new and welcome.

Now, the book focuses mostly on getting rid of stuff, but I don't think that's really my big problem.  Sure, I have a bit of a hoarder tendency that I need to deal with, and it's hard sometimes to let go of things, but I'm already going down that path.

If we're talking about making room in our lives, though, my biggest challenge isn't going to be purging stuff.  What I really need to do is purge plans.

As a perfect case in point: this week, and with most weeks of The Artist's Way so far, I have not really felt like I had the time to really delve into the intended experiences of the practice.  Why?  Because I had a week full of plans.

I regularly skim through my calendar, disheartened at how full it is, with no idea of how to bring it down.  Rarely is there something in there that I actually don't want to do, and if there is, it's probably linked to an obligation that (at least for the time being) I can't shake.

So I got rid of unwanted clothes, like Julia Cameron instructed, but I still have no idea what to do with my schedule.  When nothing is unwanted except for the sheer volume, what do you do?

Inspiration! A new kind of gratitude

I am all about practices of gratitude.  It seems to be the number one closest thing we have to a magic wand that makes life better, and who doesn't want that?

Recently I came across a new version of a gratitude practice on the blog Raptitude.  It's called Radical Gratitude.  What is Radical Gratitude?  It is asking yourself, in unfortunate circumstances, "Can I be grateful for this, too?"

That's it.

When you're stressed out, when you miss your bus, when you have to work late, or your partner does something hurtful, ask yourself if there is anything in this situation that you can be grateful for, and then list what some of those things might be.

For example, I was getting ready to go to a meeting I really didn't want to attend.  Just the thought of it made my brain feel tight with stress and all I wanted was to suddenly become vomitously ill so that I could stay home.  (You know it's bad when you wish you were actually vomiting, and not pretending to be vomiting, to get out of something.)

Of course, the throw up stayed inside my body and I had to go.  As I was heading out, I tried asking myself if there was anything I could feel grateful for in this particular scenario.  I half-heartedly listed a few things: developing some new skills, building a network, working with people I like, that I had been considered competent enough to be invited to be a part of this group, and I was helping make positive change in an area that I cared about.  I was not suddenly overjoyed to be going, but neither was I dreading it quite so much.  I knew that it would be okay and that, at the very least, it wasn't all bad.

Another example: say you miss your bus.  What are the circumstances surrounding this that you can be grateful for?  You might be able to afford a bus pass.  You might be strong and healthy enough to walk five blocks to the bus with ease.  You might have a job where being 15 minutes late due to a bus is inconvenient, but will not get you fired.  You might live in a city that has public transit.  You might be able to enjoy a moment to quietly read your book until the next bus comes.  Okay, so you're still annoyed and inconvenienced, but your day doesn't have to be ruined.

There is the magic of radical gratitude: it won't suddenly make you feel cheerful about an unhappy situation (although it might), but it will help you remember that nothing is all bad.

Benefits of exercise that are way better than actual fitness

You know how we're supposed to exercise?  Like, a lot?  Like, according to the Canadian Physical Activity Guidelines, at least 150 minutes a week in bouts of at least 10 minutes each?  Ugh, right?  That's more than two hours a week!  Yeah, I want to live longer and be healthier and have a rockin' bod and be able to walk up the stairs without feeling like I've been trampled by the four horsemen of out-of-breathness, but that's all kind of whatever.

There are some benefits to working out that no one ever talks about, though, and I think we should give them some fitspiration love, too.

Cute! Toby the untouchable cat

This is Toby. Toby is beautiful.  Toby is untouchable.  As in, don't even bother trying to pet Toby.  But you can look at her and talk to her and stand very still if she chooses to rub against your legs.

Singalong! Insensitive by Jann Arden

You guys, what happened to Jann Arden? She was so great! I remember listening to this song as a young one and having a general idea of what the heartache she was singing about could be, but of course actually having no idea at all.  Also, the term "body bless" was just vague enough that I wasn't quite sure what she was talking about.

by Jann Arden

How do you cool your lips, after a summer's kiss?
How do you rid the sweat, after the body bliss?
How do you turn your eyes, from the romantic glare?
How do you block the sound of a voice
You'd know anywhere?

Oh, I really should've known
By the time you drove me home
By the vagueness in your eyes, your casual goodbyes
By the chill in your embrace
The expression on your face that told me
Maybe you might have some advice to give
On how to be insensitive

How do you numb your skin, after the warmest touch?
How do you slow your blood, after the body rush?
How do you free your soul, after you've found a friend?
How do you teach your heart it's a crime to fall in love again?

Oh, you probably won't remember me
It's probably ancient history
I'm one of the chosen few
Who went ahead and fell for you
I'm out of vogue, I'm out of touch
I fell too fast, I feel too much
I thought that you might have some advice to give
On how to be insensitive

Oh, I really should've known
By the time you drove me home
By the vagueness in your eyes, your casual goodbyes
By the chill in your embrace
The expression on your face that told me
Maybe you might have some advice to give
On how to be insensitive

Learning! All you need to know about your money

As the story goes, there has been a saying in financial management for years that everything you need to know about managing your money could fit on an index card.  Harold Pollack, a social scientist and blogger, was challenged to produce such a card after he blogged about his meeting with financial adviser Helain Olen.

Here is the card:

Picture and contents by Harold Pollack.

Obviously this is geared towards Americans, so hooray for you if you are from the USA!  The rest of us can probably make some pretty simple translations (I'm pretty much sure that RRSPs in Canada are the same as 401(k)s, for example).

I personally don't have enough income rolling in to save 20% of my income or invest, yet.  I can, however, be sure to pay my credit card balance every month, save what I can, pay attention to fees, and consider what I can be doing with my tax rebates.

The best Valentines you could ever give to anyone ever

A few years ago I made some Valentines that I thought were pretty fun.  Well, I do declare that these ones are even better!  No matter your level of romantic bliss, there is a Valentine here for you.  Enjoy!

Me & Ryan Gosling: Doing construction

This is what it's like to do renovations with Ryan.  He's super helpful.  But you know what?  His motivational comments from the side really do help!

Do you know what I Can't Feel My Face is really about?

The other night (and by the other night, I mean like two months ago, because I have no concept of time) my friends and I were watching an endless video stream of Jimmy Fallon's Lip Sync Battles (as you do), and Tom Cruise pretended to sing The Weeknd's I Can't Feel My Face.

Did you know that the song is not confusingly about how he loves some girl so much that he's so happy he can't feel his face?  That it's actually about DRUGS?  Yes, that's right, it's about how when you're high on cocaine you can't feel your face.


Okay, so if you've ever done coke I guess this is not a surprise for you, but I have not, and so I was surprised.

Live and learn, guys!

(Also, did you know that when you look up a song on Wikipedia the description includes what key the song was written in and its tempo?  I did not expect such detailed information.)

(I don't really like the song, otherwise I would put this fun tidbit into a Singalong! post, so instead I'm just dropping it, out of the blue. But I will share the video in case you don't know what the heck I'm talking about.)

Photo by Jarould

Inspiration! Five exercises to live wisely

There was an article in the NY Times this past summer (yes, my log of inspirational articles to write about goes back a long way) called Live Wisely.  It describes a 5-week course that exists at Harvard University called Reflecting on Your Life, intended to help students figure out how to spend and make the most out of their time at school.

The exercises are obviously geared towards university life (choosing courses, for example), but can easily transfer into the lives of us work-a-day mundanes as well.  Below I'll summarize the exercise as given by Harvard, and then offer some modifications for "real life".  (As if real life is a thing)

1) How do you want to spend your time?

If you're at Harvard: For this exercise, students list how they would like to spend their time at college and what their goals are.  What do they want to have done at the end of their time at school.  Then they list what they are actually doing with their time.  Next the question comes: how do your commitments match up with your goals?

If you're not: The life application seems pretty obvious.  What do you want out of life, and how are you spending your time?  Since university provides an excellent four year span of time to measure, it might be helpful to break off a smaller chunk of time than "your entire life".  You pick what makes sense for you: maybe you want to pick a season, like what you'll do over summer.  Maybe a year, maybe four years.  Maybe you're in a time of transition - how are you going to use that time?

2) Choose a major

If you're at Harvard: Then you actually have a major to choose.  If you have a couple things you're deciding between, ask yourself what you like to do in your spare time.  What do you enjoy?  What books or clubs do you want to join?  Where do you want to make a difference?  Maybe try studying that.

If you're not: The concept of "major" most easily transfers into the idea of what kind of job you should pursue.  Do you feel like there's room for a change in your professional life but you don't know where to turn?  Again, what do you care about?  What kinds of things do you want to in your spare time?  Where are you volunteering, or what online courses are you taking, just for fun?

If you're so wiped out from work that all you have energy for in your spare time is watching TV and drinking with your friends, then reframe the question: imagine you are on a one year paid sabbatical.  You've already taken a month to vacation and are well-rested and maybe getting a bit bored.  What next?  How would you choose to fill that time?  Do you start tinkering and building things?  Making movies?  Volunteering for an animal shelter?

3) Broad vs. Deep

If you're at Harvard: Would you rather be extraordinarily good at one thing or fairly good at a lot of things?  Structure your courses and life to suit that.

If you're not: Same question.  Then delve into professional and personal development as you see fit.

4) Core Values

If you're at Harvard: Take a sheet with 25 values on it and circle the five that best describe your own core values.  Next, mentally play out what will happen if two of your values come up against each other.  The given example is a student who wants to be a surgeon but also wants a large family - the core values of usefulness and family will come into conflict at some point.

If you're not: You still have values and they will still come into conflict with each other.  While they don't explicitly say it here, I don't think the goal here is to solve your upcoming value conflicts in advance, but to play out some scenarios in your mind and think about what you might do in those situations.

I found the list of values they use for the exercise from Ethical Leaders here.

5) The Fisher Parable

If you're at Harvard: You are presented with a parable of a fisher who has a simple life.  In the morning they (I'm going gender-neutral here, deal with it) fish for a few hours, sell them, and then enjoy a relaxed day with friends and family.  An MBA student approaches and sees how the fisher could become rich by starting up a proper business, opening a cannery, and even donating free fish to the poor.  They would then be able to spend more time with their family, knowing they had been successful and made a difference.

The question is: which fisher do you want to be?  The one with the simple, relaxed life that doesn't make an impact on a broader level but is happy and family-oriented, or the one who works harder, runs a business, and makes a bigger dent on the planet?

If you're not: Same question.  Then you even get to compare it to what you're actually doing in life.  If you just want a simple life, why on earth are you busting your butt 60 hours a week?  If you want to change the world, well then you might need to start taking some chances.

The Artist's Way: Week Three

Week three of The Artist's Way is called Recovering a Sense of Power.  The idea is to embrace and take conscious steps into spiritual open-mindedness, and acknowledging the fear that comes with answered prayers and possibilities.

The big message of the week is that as you "help yourself" to little kindnesses and treats, as well as to the work you want to do, you will find more kindnesses and possibilities appearing.

Honestly, I'm not sure how I feel about this concept.  It's like The Secret or sketchy spirituality that treats God like a vending machine.  I just don't see this world as a place where people are just given good things in their lives just because they ask for them or take steps towards them.  Certainly not in a direct way, at any rate.

That said, I see the value in actually trying something, even if it seems stupid.  In fact, I think that we usually get the most out of fully throwing ourselves into something we think is stupid.  At worst, you confirm what you thought before.  At best, you experience something unexpected and (hopefully) great.

So that should mean that I threw myself into a search for synchronicity, right?  Nope.  Sure didn't.  I am starting to feel like this log of my time doing The Artist's Way is a log of reluctant bare-bones participation.  Not exactly what I was going for.  I want to give this more of a chance.

It wasn't one of the exercises, but Julia Cameron does talk about taking little treats and kindnesses for yourself and making a list of things you want in life, and then allowing them to come to you.  I am righteously skeptical, and feel like I have sort of tried these things before, but I am going to try it again.  You never know, right?

Besides, when it comes to all this kind of stuff (The Secret, manifesting your desires, whatever), I do believe that it is extremely beneficial to think through what you want and that just by doing that, you make yourself more likely to take positive steps in the right direction, so there is really nothing bad that can come of this.

Okay, let's move on to what I did do, and got a lot out of, which was the exercises:

This week's exercises included things like listing the five traits you liked about yourself as a child, five people you admire (and then five people you secretly admire), five people who are dead that you would like to meet (and then five people who are dead that you would like to hang out with in heaven), five people who nurture you.  In all these cases, you then list what the traits are of these people.

It was easy for me to see that I most admire and want to be around people who are open, hopeful, non-jealous, inventive, creative, and who just do things (instead of imagining doing them).  People who are enthusiastic and supportive and who will take an idea seriously enough to follow through on it (or help someone else follow through on their idea), but not so seriously that it can never grow or change.