2019: The Year of Discipline

“Happiness is not a goal…it’s a by-product of a life well lived.” 
― Eleanor Roosevelt

If you’ve been around this corner of the internet for a minute, you’ll know that I don’t really get into resolutions so much as I do yearly themes. I’ve found this to be a much more useful way to frame a year and the things I want to achieve in it.

A lot of good has come out of my Year of Health and I think my next focus needs to be on making some of the big changes I’ve made stick. This has been a good year after a few harder years, ones of hustle and grind. I’m starting to feel as if that hustle is paying off more, and that the grind is not taking the toll on my mind and body that it once did.

Looking ahead, I’d like to turn my attention to maintaining positive equilibrium and trajectory. 2019 is going to be the Year of Discipline. What is this going to look like you ask?

Fewer Lazy Days
I’ve been pretty honest about the fact that being married to an introvert has made me develop some homebody tendencies. And I’m not mad about it, I take great pleasure in down time and scheduling time by myself or with Jeff. However, looking back, I see that I have allowed myself to default to lazy far too often in the past year. Whether that means staying in bed too long in the mornings, goofing off on the internet too late at night, or just generally lazing about–those are hours and days I won’t get back. Now, I’m not throwing in the towel on relaxing, but I do want to be more thoughtful and intentional about how I use my leisure time, so I’m going to try and schedule at least one small activity a week to get out of the house more and take advantage of the city. Especially during the summer!

Financial Discipline
I made big progress this past year in making healthier money habits, next year is about maintaining them and holding myself to a policy of radical honesty. I will continue to document my makeup spending freeze and report truthfully on my purchases. I think I will resurrect my item based goal and see if I can hold myself to a goal of only buying 19 items in 2019–and I’ll hold myself publicly accountable on this as well.

Staying Healthy
Let’s be clear: I still hate exercising. I will probably hate it until the day I die. But it’s good for me, makes me feel better about life overall, and keeps my body and brain in a better state–who every could have guessed it! I’m most able to stick with exercise routines when I do the work of building them into my other routines and making it difficult to deviate from them, so that’s what I’m going to try to do more of in 2019.

Emotional Discipline
One of the things I still don’t feel I have enough of a handle on is how effected I am by other people’s moods, circumstances that I cannot control, or simple bad days. Rather than swinging from highs to lows so easily, I want to work on being more stoic and resilient and less susceptible to emotional influence. I’m not entirely sure how to best achieve this, but I think it will involve being more considered in the media I consume, more measured in my own speech and actions, and generally attempting to be more thoughtful and slow to react. Good luck to me…

Dress for the Job I’ve Got
I’ve gotten my career to a place that I’m proud of and at a more senior level and now I want to be sure I look the part. As my trivial and superficial goal, I’m committing to more discipline in my in my morning routine. I want to get up earlier and spend more time putting together more and better prepared outfits, using my accessories and jewelry more often and effectively, and to upping my grooming game. Instead of whipping my hair into ponytails and buns when I’m at a loss–this will be the year that I finally tame my damn mane!

Let me know if you’ve picked any goals or themes for 2019 in the comments!

Weekend Links: Festivus Edition

“Blessed is the season which engages the whole world in a conspiracy of love.” 
― Hamilton Wright Mabie

My ducklings! My darlings! My scrumptious Christmas puddings!

I’m officially on holiday, can you tell? By the time most of you read this I will likely be on a plane somewhere over the Atlantic Ocean, winging my way westward to the nation of my birth. The past week has been a frenzy of work activity to close as many tasks as possible, whilst juggling the occasions and events of the festive season. The Christmas “do” is over, I’ve dropped off presents to my London peeps, and Now I’ve got eight hours on plane to catch up on podcasts, audiobooks, and reading. How I’m looking forward to it!

We are shamefully unprepared for this holiday. I mentioned previously that November seemed to skate by at warp speed and by the time I felt I had looked up, it was halfway through December and I had managed nothing on my seasonal To Do list. Even our holiday packing is a last minute affair…I pen these words to you in a fit of desperate procrastination between outfit wrangling for two weeks and toiletries. And the sheer amount of mismatched food we need to eat in the next twelve hours to clear out the fridge is positively bonkers.

You’ll get a scattering of missives from me over the next couple of weeks, but I’m taking a proper holiday this year and mostly checking out. You can keep up with our Stateside shenanigans here if you feel so inclined. See you a bit nearer to the new year!

Let’s start with the news. Once again the stories are still breaking fast and hot as I put this post together but what a week! The American president is officially an un-indicted co-conspirator in multiple investigations and his bagmen are being found guilty of crimes left and right. It’s been amazing to watch the propaganda machines whirl this week. In normal times a credible allegation of involvement of a foreign power in his election campaign OR a credible allegation of major breach of campaign finance law OR an allegation of significant and corrupt business practices in his private capacity with corresponding state level investigations OR multiple mistresses would derail a politician. To have all at once may genuinely overwhelm our democracy. It’s an incredible testament once more of how much of a curve this man is graded on and I’m truly baffled as to how many people decided this was the guy they were willing to overturn all the rules for.

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It speaks volumes that he can’t seem to find a competent, willing, able, and viable chief of staff, a whole week after (perhaps presumptively) announced his incumbent was leaving. Though I swear if Newt Gingrich gets it, I will set something alight…

From The New Yorker, summarizing so much of the news out of Trump world generally: “It may be only part of the full story, but what we now know is a powerful tale that combines elements that are familiar from other Trumpworld scandals. It is, at once, shockingly corrupt, blatantly unethical, probably illegal, yet, at the same time, shabby, small, and ineptly executed.”

How politics became one of the many things replacing more traditional religious practices in the west, and why.

Another hero of mine down. God damn it, Neil.

Glove and Boots is back!

Thank god.

Our bigotries cost us. Morally, without question, but also financially. I had a long and delightful conversation with a friend recently after we both saw an item online praising a woman for choosing to take a lower paying job at her husband’s request so that he wouldn’t feel intimidated or inadequate. Congratulations, was my take, you have literally put a price on that man’s pride and the whole family got to pay it. Other prejudices cost us too, and here is a much bigger and darker story about one such bill.

Why lip gloss is relevant again. Look, I’m open to being convinced on this, but lip gloss was the bane of my teenage years and I see no reason to go back down that dark road again.

Why that gene editing story in humans has so many people up in arms: the truth is we simply don’t really understand the complexity of how genes interact within us and the few times we’ve meddled with other creatures, the unintended consequences have ranged from strange to alarming.

Good. He should be anxious. I’m particularly struck by the line that states that that President wants to move away from legislation (actual outcomes) and towards politics (which I think we can safely file under showmanship). This is not a man who has ever actually been interested in governing.

Face facts, countrymen: we didn’t “miss” the rise of white supremacy and nationalism, we’ve been pointedly ignoring it or making excuses for the institutions or cultures that perpetuated it.

We must examine the notion of “adults in the room” who keep getting worn out by (in this metaphor) an adolescent-in-chief. As one writer at Vox has summarized it: “Consider the fact that Trump is now on his second secretary of state (Rex Tillerson and Mike Pompeo); his third national security adviser (Mike FlynnH.R. McMaster, and John Bolton); his second secretary of health and human services (Tom Price and Alex Azar); and his second EPA administrator (Scott Pruitt and Andrew Wheeler). He’s just nominated his second UN representative (Nikki Haley and Heather Nauert), though Nauert won’t serve as a Cabinet-level official. By Trump’s methodology of counting interim officeholders, he’s on his third VA secretary (David ShulkinPeter O’Rourke, and Robert Wilkie) and will be on his third attorney general (after Jeff Sessions and Matt Whitaker), should William Barr be confirmed by the Senate. And then there’s the intra-White House turnover that has given him two press secretaries (Sean Spicer and Sarah Sanders) and five White House communications directors (Spicer, Mike Dubke, Anthony ScaramucciHope Hicks, and Bill Shine). And the fact that Trump has removed both the chief of the FBI (James Comey) and the head of the Federal Reserve (Janet Yellen) for dubious reasons.

Time Magazine named their Person(s) of the Year.

Final Vox piece this week, and it’s Ezra Klein’s take on Paul Ryan. It’s not kind (nor should it be): “To be clear, I am not particularly concerned about deficits right now, just as I wasn’t in 2010. But I took Ryan seriously when he said he was. I covered the arguments Ryan made, the policies he crafted, and I treated them as if they offered a guide to how Republicans would govern. I listened when Ryan said things like, “In Europe, generations of welfare-dependent citizens are hurling Molotov cocktails because their governments can no longer fund their entitlement programs. We can’t let that happen here.” Ryan’s office did not grant my request for an interview for this piece. But now, as Ryan prepares to leave Congress, it is clear that his critics were correct and a credulous Washington press corps — including me — that took him at his word was wrong. In the trillions of long-term debt he racked up as speaker, in the anti-poverty proposals he promised but never passed, and in the many lies he told to sell unpopular policies, Ryan proved as much a practitioner of post-truth politics as Donald Trump.

Meanwhile, in Britain… The Prime Minister survived a vote of no confidence but was subsequently humiliated with the EU and generally continues to have the political’s world’s most poisoned chalice of a job. British politics has been wild this week.

Brexit explained through a metaphor. Come for the thread, stay for the follow up puns.

This week in Mormon news, a weirdly deep piece on defecation. Yes, seriously. There is some downright lyrical, scatological writing this this piece. How the hell do I find this stuff…

Reminder…

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Hm. Giulianni seems like he’s looking for his next gig.

WHO DOESN’T?!

Not great for Ivanka. I mean, not surprising, but not great.

 

Things to Leave in 2018

“We should not judge people by their peak of excellence; but by the distance they have traveled from the point where they started.” 
― Henry Ward Beecher

A by-no-means-exhaustive list of stuff that you should give yourself permission to simply ditch in the upcoming year:

Subscriptions you aren’t using (we ditched NowTV)

Crippling self doubt and/or loathing. God, the time you’ll get back…

Any sense of shame or dismay about your faves–if you like cheesy pop music, reruns of specific sitcoms instead of that new prestige drama everyone one else is into, certain video games, or anything at all that gives you joy, lean into that feeling and let your fan flag fly!

Social media feeds that do not positively contribute to your life in some way, or that magnify unhealthy or negative tendencies

One toxic relationship–doesn’t matter what kind

One bad habit

Any tendency to speak unkindly about yourself

Self flagellation over that one Big Idea or task that you can’t seem to make progress on. Take a break, give yourself some grace, focus on something else for a bit and see what happens

The broken gadgets and mismatched cords in that one drawer you never open

Clothes that don’t fit

Books you don’t like

Stuff you don’t use

Obviously this is mostly a self reminder, but more seriously, list me some of the things you are going to try to leave in 2018?

Weekend Links

“How did it get so late so soon?” 
― Dr. Seuss

Happy weekend, kittens! I cannot believe we are a week into December already, January will be here before any of us knows it. We remain woefully unprepared for the holidays, but are spending the weekend doing some overdue gift shopping and preparation for our travels which kick off soon. And so, straight on to the links! Let me know what you’re getting up to in the comments.

Well, the Mueller investigation dropped a series of updates this week and did so on a Friday, because that’s how we roll in 2018. Methodically and slowly–and through what appears to be very carefully coordinated public document processes–a lot of disparate threads of investigation are putting together a theory of the case. And doing so in a way that cannot be hidden under confidentiality protocols. Whatever you may think of Mr. Mueller and his team, they are incredibly good and savvy at their jobs… The more information is confirmed publicly, the worse the circumstances look for not just Mr. Trump personally, but the large and entangled web of family and associates who are responsible for protecting him. Whether due to deliberate coordination or de facto assumption of responsibility to protect their business/political interests, an awful lot of people have been untruthful over a long period of time, about the same topics and relationships–including the President. The Atlantic has a pretty good breakdown of the whole situation.

Your weekend long read about the real long term damage to the government that is occurring while we watch: understaffing, willful ignorance, and petty chaos.

Related. Literally no one is surprised.

Why is being held accountable so terrifying under patriarchy…for the dudes?

2018 wasn’t all bad.

The irony is lost on no one.

…Did we want this? I’m not sure….

Well here is a fun bit of holiday data for us to enjoy!

Meanwhile, here in Britain

Cool. What are you going to bloody do about it?

More end of year lists to enjoy; here’s one about podcasts!

Pantone has announced their color of the year for 2019.

Marvel dropped the next Avengers trailer. I am in DEEP mourning for the loss of Chris Evans’ beard.

What a strange tale of hippos and cocaine and species invasion.

Bring Me Books

“Books are the quietest and most constant of friends; they are the most accessible and wisest of counselors, and the most patient of teachers.”
― Charles W. Eliot

This may be a strange thing to say, but I actually fell in love with reading all over again this year–and that’s saying something because I’ve been a voracious reader my whole life and have never fallen out of love with it. We’ve been very happy together since approximately age four. At this point I’ve read well over 50 books so far this year, and that doesn’t count several re-reads of old favorite novels or short stories. And it certainly doesn’t count the sheer amount of newsprint, magazine, and digital media I read on a daily basis.

But this was the year that I really came to understand how much reading helps and grounds me. I think for most of us, besides childhood playacting, books are the first real exercises we get in imagination and projection. These are invaluable tools for processing the world, especially as adults (goodness knows we’re stuck in this phase longer).

In my quest to get healthier this year, I’ve come to the realization that reading helps with all of my brain problems. It stops the anxious skittering of thoughts, it helps me focus on a single (usually enjoyable!) task, and it takes me out of my own head and into another world. It silences my ego. Next to actual therapy, I think it’s one of the best things I am able to do calm myself when worked up over a problem or stuck in a feedback loop of fretting. For me, it’s practically meditation.

When insomnia strikes and sleep is not on the cards, books! When I feel overwhelmed or stress, books! When I just have a spare half hour on the Tube or lying in bed on a weekend, books! I am happier when I make the time and effort to read a lot.

So what did I read this year? I’m working my way through every single book and short story by Agatha Christie. I did a six month dive into the history of Mormon polygamy, which was an important bit of reading for me. I’ve discovered some great new romance authors. I’ve made an effort to read various political and social histories of the US–racial, economic, environmental, and ideological. I’m intentionally mainlining feminist authors in a way that I haven’t since university.

While this is not even close to my most book heavy year, I’m delighted to have discovered an old love in a new way. What books did you read this year, and which were your favorite?

A Tuesday Ramble on Willpower

“Tis in ourselves that we are thus or thus. Our bodies are our gardens to the which our wills are gardeners.” 
– William Shakespeare

As we move towards the end of the year and the seasonal self-reflection it is wont to bring, I’ve been meditating on what I hope has been some personal growth in 2018. I’ll do a deep dive into this at some point later in the month. In the meantime, I’ve been thinking a lot about certain personality quirks that I’ve grown to recognize and understand about myself better over the past 12 months. I’ve learned a lot of personal lessons about resilience lately, where my reservoirs of it lie and where I could do with a little more…irrigation? I’m losing myself in the metaphor a bit, but work with me!

I’ve come to think that one of the most useful and simultaneously detrimental aspects of my personality is the fact that I tend to be an “all or nothing” type. I don’t exist comfortably or gracefully within certain shades of gray. This informs my work life, my politics, my passions, and most of the things I choose to spend my time and attention on.

An all or nothing mentality has served me well. When I’m motivated and dedicated, I absolutely get shit done. When I have a goal or an ambition, I can throw myself into the work that supports it and stay pretty well on track for a very long period of time.

The trouble comes with The Wobble. The off day, the slip up, the mistake, the crack in willpower. Because when your brain is in all-or-nothing mode and you’ve just failed at the “all” part…well. That way wanton self-indulgence and self-flagellation lies.

Willpower has carried me through depressive episodes, health downturns, crippling anxiety and self doubt, cosmic worldview shifts, and just plain sad circumstances. It is the grit that has allowed me to have a life of multiple moves, to function in a country where my kith and kin are thousands of miles and an ocean away. It enabled me to make it as a freelancer for several years, and to work in one of the best but toughest cities on earth.

But willpower has also caused or enabled me to stay in bad jobs, failing relationships, toxic friendships, and unsustainable circumstances long past the point I should have known to exit. It has caused me to grit my teeth and endure what in hindsight I realize I should have flipped the bird at, or at the very least firmly shown the door.

Giving up and saying “enough” are not the same things and it’s only with the benefit of hindsight that I realize how often and how badly I have conflated the two. While much less bad about this than I used to be, it’s an issue that raised its head several times in 2018, and it’s something that I want to really get a firmer grasp on in 2019.

I’m curious, is there a part of your personality or mindset that acts as both your personal superpower and Achilles heel? How have you harnessed this balance, or is something you are still working on?

November Accountability

“While money can’t buy happiness, it certainly lets you choose your own form of misery.” 
― Groucho Marx

I forgot to tally up my monthly spending and goal keeping; shameful C.!

This was a great month for self control, all things considered. Especially when you factor in the temptations of Black Friday (which is slowly turning into an entire week of consumption) and the start of the holiday season. Jeff and I are exercising more and eating well in anticipation of all the other kinds of consumption we are looking towards in late December, which is nothing but positive.

My new precious…

Personal purchases: As mentioned in my favorites post, I picked up an LK Bennet tweed jacket, new with tags and worth £325, and a pair of boots for £28 at my favorite consignment shop. My slip up was for a dress from Sezane, which continues to design for my wanna-be-cool-girl aesthetic very temptingly. I also picked up some new socks and tights, both of which are permitted in the rules as in cold weather both are de rigeur in Britain. To compensate, I’ve been very on target with bringing my lunch to work and making hot drinks at home. This may be the most cliched bit of advice on the internet to reduce personal spending, but it works.

Home and other: For the house we bought a new exercise mat because our previous one (which was about five years old) was pretty badly damaged. In the new year I’m planning on taking some of our prints and artwork to be framed finally, which will make me feel a lot better at the state of our… lack of decor.

The big ticket items this month were our first batch of Christmas shopping and Jeff’s birthday, which we celebrated at an amazing West London joint–which I’m already thinking of asking to return to for my birthday. Easily one of the most gorgeous meals we’ve ever eaten!

What progress did you make on any of your goals last month, and what are you looking forward to most for the Christmas season?