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?

Weekend Links

“When the New York Times scratches its head, get ready for total baldness as you tear out your hair.” 
― Christopher Hitchens

What a week. Mueller and Manafort are playing cat and mouse, his former lawyer has plead guilty to negotiating with Kremlin officials the president is arguing with his own government over the reality of…science? Russian aggression in Ukraine has escalated, the US is lobbing tear gas at migrants at its southern border, Deutche Bank has been raided in relation to longstanding shady money (persons in our government may have the slightest personal interest in this…) and the war in Yemen is reaching new lows of atrocity. I for one am ready for the season of good tidings and comfort, universe. We need ’em.

Here are your links, tell me what you’re getting up to this weekend in the comments. I had an unexpected sick day this week where something nasty knocked me down for a bit so I’m probably going to be taking it slow this weekend. The holiday party season has kicked off and we need to pace ourselves!

NPR does the good work of fact checking: asylum seekers are not illegal and migrants are not invading forces. My two cents: it is possible to want sensible and strong border enforcement and think that teargassing people is morally indefensible. You want better immigration? Spend some of the money you applied to sending troops to the border unnecessarily over Thanksgiving to pay for the judges and clerks to help process asylum applications in the system that already exists to process these requests.

The misogyny is just a fun side bonus

Abortions in the U.S. are down, and for reasons we should all cheer: fewer unplanned pregnancies. Still work to be done in certain demographics and communities, however, and we should not allow policy makers to prevent that work from being done.

I love the Northern Renaissance masters and the intricacy of their work, so a piece on the hidden history and cover ups in Bruegel’s work was like catnip to me.

I cannot stop thinking about this piece in The Atlantic about how “young people” are having less sex and why. It snakes through the impacts of porn, the epidemic of loneliness, and the mess of modern life…but also touches on how rates of abuse may be shrinking leading in turn to less self-destructive behaviors, and how people of all genders may be feeling less pressure to have sex too soon, or in unsafe circumstances, or be overall less informed. As with all things interesting, the reality skates past a lot of preconceived notions of morality or normality and instead leaves you a lot to think about with no immediately obvious conclusions.

Touch down on Mars!

Girl Gang Good News Minute: my girl’s book just got a delight of a review!

The Guardian’s scoop about Mr. Manafort and the accusations of a broken plea deal is….big.

Also from The Atlantic, their cover story about the private corruptions and long term influence of Mr. Manafort’s work, regardless of the outcome of the Mueller investigation, is a long read but a sobering one. “And while Manafort is alleged to have laundered cash for his own benefit, his long history of laundering reputations is what truly sets him apart. He helped persuade the American political elite to look past the atrocities and heists of kleptocrats and goons. He took figures who should have never been permitted influence in Washington and softened their image just enough to guide them past the moral barriers to entry. He weakened the capital’s ethical immune system.”

Oh thank goodness, the NPR annual Book Concierge is here to make the world a better place.

This whole report is sad and unnerving. We humans are so comfortable in the myth of our own superiority and infallibility that I don’t think most people have a grasp of how cosmically minute our patch of rock is and what fragile a thing is life as we know. There is an oddly philosophical line out of the mouth in of a scientist in this piece that has stayed with me, “‘We notice the losses,” says David Wagner, an entomologist at the University of Connecticut. “It’s the diminishment that we don’t see.’”

This Ask Polly column at The Cut had me tearing up at my home desk.

They simply couldn’t handle him.” This is the best, weird story I’ve read all week.

This guy is scum, but so is the system that enabled him. Power and privilege unleashed and unchecked is awful for all of us.

British journalist, podcaster, literary woman and all around babe Pandora Sykes does a better job of explaining her love of vintage than I could… and I’ve been trying for literal years! She also leaves us this uplifting thought for the weekend:

https://platform.twitter.com/widgets.js

Five Things I Loved in November

“The house was very quiet, and the fog—we are in November now—pressed against the windows like an excluded ghost.” 
― E.M. Forster, Howards End

What a month, darlings. My life has been consumed with work again, but mostly pleasantly, I’m happy to say. I’ve been incredibly busy, but I am enjoying the work a great deal. But goodness, that means this month has gone by fast! We’re looking down the barrel of a two week holiday to the States to see family and I feel woefully unprepared for it in every way. The first half of December is going to be spent frantically preparing for the second half which will be spent frantically trying to cram in as many visits as possible before frantically trying to get back home in time for the new year. The holidays may be my favorite time of year but they are far from restful!

And with all that said, here are the things that have kept me going this month.

Christmas shopping

I LOVE Christmas shopping. I love finding the perfect presents for people, wrapping them, the process of gifting them. I may be behind on my holiday shopping for friends and family, but I am throwing myself into it with gusto now that Jeff’s birthday and Thanksgiving are behind us.

 

Netflix comedy specials

Netflix has picked up the mantle of Comedy Central, and I for one am loving it. As the news had felt progressively worse and worse over the past two years, I’ve been turning to comedy and lighthearted media more than ever. Yes I may have mainlined Sharp Objects, but I also never miss an episode of The Good Place and evangelize hard for media that injects kindness, thoughtfulness, humor, and levity into the world. This month I enjoyed a bunch of stand up specials, especially ones by Trevor Noah (recommended by Jeff) and was reminded of the vital and delightful role wit and satire should play in our lives. Comedy specials also fit my life right now, when I don’t have the time or attention to really enjoy a series the way I want to, but probably have an hour or two to spare here and there. If you’ve been enjoying, share your recommendations to me in the comments! I’ve been enjoying specials by Trevor Noah, Hasan Minhaj, Donald Glover, Allie Wong…huh. While I in no way intended this to be lacking in white dudes, that is definitely an unexpected bonus.

 

My new precious…

LK Bennett boucle jacket

This was a hell of a second hand find this month! Long on my list of items to buy was a boxy style, boucle tweed jacket–the nearer to Chanel the better. I found one at a beloved designer consignment store and, as I had in-store credit to use, the new with tags jacket that retails over £300 cost me just £28. I felt no shame breaking my no buy for this one at all. It’s a beautiful piece of clothing and if I take good care of it, it should last me for years and years to come.

 

Mac lipstick in Chili

I’ve favorited this item before but I have a goal to use up the bullet before the end of the year and have been wearing it most days in aid of that–with only the rare flirtations with darker, berry tones in honor of the season. This warm, brownish red is absolutely perfect for the fall and someday I will absolutely buy this shade again. However, I first have to get through the other items in my collection. In the meantime, it is only right and proper to salute those who have done good service in the lipstick wars!

 

Lip balm

Tis the season to moisturize everything. I used up two two tubes this month, not start to finish but it’s still a notable consumption pattern for me. One was the Glossier balmdotcom in coconut, which may be the first coconut scented or flavored item I’ve ever not actively hated. While this stuff is basically glorified Vaseline, it gets the job done in the season of wind chap. The other was DHC Lip Cream, which bears the strange honor of being the fastest I’ve ever used up in my life while I’m still not sure I like it. X. recommended it to me and because it came in a two pack, I’m going to continue to use it and see if my opinion on it forms more fully. Meanwhile, the comments are open to your best balm recommendations. Help a girl winterize her face!