If you couldn’t make Camp Mighty this year, this is me bringing a little taste to your laptop. (Mmm. Tastes like achievement. And gin gimlets.) For increased verisimilitude, please wear a paper party hat while you watch this video I filmed in my hotel room.
While we’re in Palm Springs, Olay is giving Alice Bradley of Finslippy a grant to cover the head shots she needed for her work as a freelance writer. She’s having them taken here at the Ace, and it’s our first foray into wish granting. [Ed note: Between you and me, Alice totally asked for more wishes. Which? Pro move. Now I'm sad that I'm not a genie. But mostly because I want to wear harem pants around without people asking me why I'm in my pajamas.]
If you haven’t requested an invitation to the Go Mighty beta yet, please go do that so you can enter to win a grant too. We’ll send a note to your inbox as we grow.
I’m doing a series of these videos, so please let me know in comments any questions you’d like answered about Life Lists. And then I will attempt to answer them. If you’d like to comment on my appearance, my sexuality, or my relative idiocy level, I think you’re supposed to do that on YouTube? So maybe click through. I don’t really know how it works.
It feels a little strange to write about this, because I’m hardly in a position to offer advice right now. Please think of this as something I’m sharing because it helped me sort the army of emotions advancing on my psyche. If you’re feeling equally defenseless in the face of something Big and Bad, or even if you’re just a little befuddled, I hope this will be useful.
When my best-laid plans for my family went awry, my impulse was to respond with a frenzy of planning, and list making, and goal setting.
Instead I napped and took too many baths. Sometimes I napped in the bathtub, which I recommend. Anyway, once I’d restocked enough energy to think about anything but impending doom, I thought now might be a reasonable time to reassess my priorities.
Fortunately, I came across a well-timed article by Martha Beck about using the emotions you’d like to experience to guide your goals (I think it’s the same one Lara mentioned in comments). You look at how you want to feel overall, and then choose activities that support those objectives. I thought it would be a smart organizing principle for deciding what to do next.
First, I needed to figure out how I wanted to feel besides “not like this.” So I did what the article suggested, and here’s how that process unfolded for me:
1. I made a list of all the things I’d like to feel that I’m not right now: content, rested, sane.
2. I decided the main thing I want is more peace, but that seemed too one dimensional, so I made a little outline of all the other emotions that define peace to me. Mine looked like this (forgive the inherent cheese, it’s the nature of the beast):
3. Next, for each emotion, I wrote down things that have evoked that feeling in the past. Holy hell, my friends. This was genuinely startling.
I realized how many things I genuinely love that I rarely do. For example, I thought about times I’d experienced joy, and I kept coming back to swimming. I particularly love swimming in natural bodies of water, and I almost never do it. This is ridiculous because we have a cabin a block from a river. Apparently I’ve been denying myself joy because it’s too much of a pain. Joy gets too much sand in the car.
I also realized how many mundane bits of happiness I needlessly deny myself. I used to love getting dressed in the morning, especially if I was feeling blue. Looking pulled together is like armor, it makes me feel so much more confident. Over the years, as my schedule has shifted to accommodate the people around me, I started to rush through grooming, to be stressed about how long it took. I stopped ironing, resisted the urge to change an outfit that wasn’t working. Getting ready in the morning became a chore, because I felt like everyone was waiting on me. Now when I feel time stress rising, I stop myself and think, “You enjoy this.” And I let my shoulders unhunch.
What’s Your Question?
The best thing about this process is that, for a while at least, it has given me a single question to ask myself about any decision in front of me. Will this make me feel more peaceful? If the answer is no, it’s off the list.
I need to make more time for water.
What’s the question you ask yourself before you make decisions? Or do you have another guiding principle for goal setting? I’m all ears.
Every day we make choices that shape our stories. We take chances! We do brave things! But maybe not often enough. Brave things are scary, and scary stuff frightens us. It suggests to our lizard brains that we’re endangering our ability to procreate.
In the couple of years since I started my life list project, I’ve learned a lot from all of you. More of you have written lists, more of you are taking risks, and some of you have started to give great advice on how to get started. Here’s mine:
1. Get your goals out of your head. You’re sitting down, right? Reading this on some sort of device that can be used to record things? Great. Please open a blank document, or grab a pen and paper instead. You don’t need to prepare, you don’t need to study, you don’t need a better pen. Just write the first thing that comes to mind. Here’s why:
“Because whether you realize it or not, you have all of these little things in the back of your head that you’ve always wanted to do and every few years (or months, or days, etc.) you re-realize that you’ve been meaning to look into taking a photography course and you think “oh yeah, I should do that…” And remembering that over and over is taking up useful space in your soul.” –Scarlet Lily
Do you hear that? Your soul is cluttered. That can’t be good for your complexion.
2. Relax. Don’t get hung up on what your list says about you. This isn’t about how intellectual, or sexy, or morally fit you are. It’s about listing some stuff that would make you happier. Just admit you want to be a backup dancer for Lady Gaga. Who cares? Lady Gaga is rad, and pants are overrated. If you put too much weight on what other people think, you’re doing a different exercise. An exercise you should consider doing with an expensive therapist instead.
3. Go to your happy place. Think about what makes you happiest. Baseball games? Visit every stadium within 1,000 miles. Long baths? Take one every Sunday for a year. Furry conventions? Let your flag fly, my fluffy friend. Spending more time doing happy things makes you happier.
4. Focus on yourself. Make sure your list items are about your goals and what you want, not what you want for other people. They can make their own lists.
5. Strap on a pair. You may hear a voice in your head saying that something you want is stupid, or too small, or not interesting enough. The voice may insist that your biggest dream will never happen. Why are you hanging out with that voice? That voice is a total dick.
6. Cut yourself a break. Then again, nothing on your list should make you cringe. This is the wrong place to punish yourself for being too lazy to hit the gym, or too ungrateful to call your parents more, even though all they’d do ask you if you’re ever going to move out. Anyway, if you don’t anticipate a task with pleasure, put it on your to-do list, not your life list.
7. Don’t worry about mechanics. Don’t think about how you’ll achieve any of this stuff yet. If you want to pose like Charlies Angels with Oprah and Alec Baldwin, write that down. By the time you get to 100 items, you’ll have plenty of doable tasks. Keep the seemingly impossible ones. Sometimes we’re poor judges of what’s possible.
8. Crib some ideas. Maybe you only come up with thirty things and then draw a blank. Go read some lists written by other folks, find some ideas that inspire you, and claim them. This isn’t cheating, because it isn’t a contest. Though if it were, you would totally win. You’ve always been such an able competitor.
9. Let yourself reconsider. You didn’t write your list in blood, which is good because that’s unsanitary, and also your list is bound to change. You’ll wake up one day and realize that you don’t actually want to jump from an airplane and plummet to the ground, you just thought it sounded badass when you wrote it down. Which brings us to our next point.
10. Make it your game. Your life list is a living document, and you make the rules. You can decide that the first rule of Life List is you don’t talk about Life List. You can add items to the list, or delete them, whenever you want. You may feel like you’ll never have 100 ideas, but once you do, you’re bound to think of more and wish you’d added them. And you should add them. Your objective isn’t to cross everything off, or hit the finish line, it’s to collect rich experiences for yourself.
Now go live a little. And send me a postcard.
After some diligent searching I found the rest of the Gatsby photos! Here are some details on throwing your own party.
To help our friends figure out what to wear, I included a link to a costumer site in the invitation.
My dress is a 70s reproduction worn with a silk robe as a coat and a cloche I picked up at Ambiance in town. I also had a bunch of cloches in my closet because I like hats, so I brought those along for hatless friends. I got Margaret’s black cloche at HandM.
We’d decided on a high-tea menu, so we set up a little table with a table cloth for the food. We served champagne in teacups, Prohibition style. We were in a public park, so the teacups also helped us dodge open container laws. Take that, coppers!
We also served Pimm’s Cup, which is sort of like a British mojito. They’re refreshing, and sweet, and you can make them ahead in pitchers so you don’t have to tend bar when you could be enjoying your party. Don’t put ice in the pitcher or you’ll wind up with diluted drinks and a lackluster lawn party.
Here’s the full menu:
A baked ham (which we ordered)
Rolls and condiments for simple sandwiches
Cheese tray with nuts and dried fruits
Three homemade cakes:
Champagne or sparkling wine
Bottled soda and water
We brought a croquet set to the park, and my friend Margaret printed up rules.
We got giant balloons for the kids. Ours were from a local party store, but you can order them online here. I’m not positive, but I think they’re the 60″.
I’m so thrilled to have the photos back, it was such a fun day. I was really touched by how many of our friends were willing to dress up.
By the way, if you like this theme, you’ll swoon over Mena Trott’s Gatsby Summer Afternoon. She sewed her dress, found vintage soda labels and made bottled drinks to go with them, and acquired a vintage phonograph to complete the look. Mena is dreamy.