Three Inspiring Books That Have Turbocharged My 2016

Sunday, January 31, 2016

Earlier this year, I'd mentioned how towards the end of 2015 I was reading a couple of books that were really making an impact on my mindset going into the new year. We're about five weeks into 2016, and I wanted to share how those two books- plus one more- are still helping me meet my resolutions a month out.

First up is the fashion blogosphere's favorite inspirational book, #Girlboss by Sophia Amoruso. I love her irreverent prose and the illustrations in this book are pretty rad. As someone who didn't take the road more travelled (and THAT is a saga all unto itself), reading Amoruso's story helps me deal with the embarrassment and insecurity that comes from living life on a different path than the one I was taught to want. For me, reading her book reminds me that it's okay to be different but still want- and deserve- success. Reading about how hard she worked makes me want to work hard, too.

Next is Elizabeth Gilbert's Big Magic: Creative Living Beyond Fear. We all recognize her from the crazy popular Eat Pray Love (which I only just read last week, literally). Gilbert takes on all of the psychological barriers that can stand in the way of creativity: fear, lack of inspiration, unworthiness, giving up, and so on. For my fellow writers, this book especially will be helpful to you- because Gilbert is a writer as well, and she just gets it. If there is some kind of problem you are having with your creativity, there is a section in this book that will address it. This book is what I turn to when I find my courage flagging. There is also a great podcast that goes along with the book where Gilbert coaches various creatives through whatever it is that's holding them back; I like to listen to that while driving and it complements the book well.

Finally, there is mainstream minimalism's pop culture calling card The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up: The Japanese Art of Decluttering and Organizing by Marie Kondo and translated by Cathy Hirano. As an adult with ADHD, I have spent literal DECADES trying to stay clean and organized. I'm still not as clean or organized as I could be, but ever since I cleaned out my apartment after reading this book, I've found it to be much easier to stay organized. What I liked about this book was how it recommended people go about getting rid of things. One of the ways my synesthesia manifests itself is that I tend to believe that objects have feelings- which obviously makes it hard to get rid of anything. There was a Shinto aspect to the discarding where Kondo recommended people thank the objects that they were getting rid of and which really helped me. 

I do have to butt in here and say that the biggest problem I had with the book was the recommendation to throw everything away. I don't know if maybe the municipal waste system in Japan is different, but I simply couldn't condone the idea of sending useful items to a landfill. Consequently, instead of throwing away items, I separated them into "sell" or "donate"; this satisfied my conscience. Ultimately, I won't say that this book has completely cured me of my cluttering tendencies, but it has helped me stay organized for much, much longer than I have before. And because I'm organized, it's easier for me to try and work on my goals.

I hope that you read at least one of these books and find them useful to you. Whenever I need encouragement, a kick in the pants, or a bout of decluttering and organizing, these are what I turn to.

What about you guys? Have you read any books lately that have really helped you? Please tell me because I'd love to read them!

On Shoveling Snow

Monday, January 25, 2016

There is a quiet world of soft white outside my window right now. The snow is falling fast, making the next street over seem like it's lost in mist. And while it's quite pretty indeed, there is something discouraging in the view.

I've gone out 3 times in the last 2 days to shovel snow, and yet it's building back up, as though I'd never even tried in the first place.

See, the plan was this: if I went out every once in a while and shoveled, well, then it would be better than having to do it all in one go, right? I'm not sure what the totals are right now for my area, but I'm betting I've lost the office bet (my guess: 8"). From where I sit, I can see my car parked at the end of the driveway. It looks almost completely covered. Again.


That's where I feel I'm at in life right now. I have so many different plans for what I want to do in the next couple of years. But right now, they all seem so far away, and the work I do towards them feels small and pitiful. It all seems rather pointless, so why not just give up?

This is the part where the shoveling comes in.

This year, I decided to try something different when the snow falls. Previously, I'd waited until the snow finished and then dressed myself against the cold as best I could, trudged outside, and spent maybe 2 hours shoveling enough snow out of the way to free my car. However, I wondered whether it might be easier to do it in batches, rather than all in one go?

So far, it's been a bit depressing. I try and I try, and nothing really seems to happen. I continue to try in the hope that it will be worth it in the end, but what if it isn't?


I'm writing this final part on the other side of the snow storm. The street outside the house I'm staying at is not well treated. When I drive into work later today, I hope I don't run into any issues.

I finished my last bit of shoveling yesterday. It wasn't fun, but it wasn't 2 hours of work either. I finished it in about 30 minutes. My area had a grand total of 18 inches.

Was it worth it? I think so. I'm glad I put the effort in to do the extra bits of work, even when it seemed a bit hopeless. And so I'll continue to put the extra bits of work into my other projects, and hope that at the end of it all, I was glad I put the work in for those, too. 

After all, the effort is the only part we can control, and I'd rather do my best than not do anything at all. 

The One Sunscreen I'm Using This Winter

Saturday, January 16, 2016

Back when I was still reviewing the 2015 Sephora Sun Safety Kit, I'd broken the offering down into 3 parts: physical, chemical, and miscellanea. I never did get around to the chemical part (oops), but even if I had, it wouldn't have done this little gem any good, because summer is the wrong time of year for it.

Vita Liberata's Passionflower and Argan Dry Oil Broad Spectrum SPF 50 isn't really a summer sunscreen- at least, not for me. 2015 saw a few oil-based sunscreens hit the market and I expect this trend will continue into 2016. I hope it does, because for me, oil based sunscreens are an excellent winter sunscreen.

I have normal skin that sometimes gets the tiniest hint of oil in the T-zone, a leftover from my teenage years moonlighting as an oil field. Because I use 2-3 acids in my daily skincare routine, I always worry about skin flakes congregating in the lower half of my face. Oil based sunscreens during winter really help with mitigating this.

The advertising copy for this calls this a "dry oil", which is marketing speak for "this oil absorbs fairly quickly but is still an oil but we want to catch your attention so we'll call it dry and make it seem ~*~unusual and magical~*~". The company also repeatedly uses the phrase "stunning dewy radiance" which actually means "this shit makes your face real shiny, k?" But I mean, it's a sunscreen. that's an oil. No shit it's going to make your face shiny.

What will help mitigate the shininess is to use only 1 pump of the stuff and massage it into your skin really well. I used to use 2 pumps, and boy howdy did that give me some stunning dewy radiance. I was so radiant I was flashing back to my oil field years. I was stunning small animals with my radiance. It also doesn't absorb quickly if you use too much. 

However, once it's in there it tends to do pretty well at moisturizing your skin. I have a moisturizer from Silk Naturals that I'm using right now and this is an excellent supplement to that. My skin doesn't get as flaky when I use them both in tandem, so I'm pretty much sold on oil-based sunscreens for winter.

If you're a Sephora Beauty Insider, this sunscreen is currently on a promo that will net you 2x the points when you purchase it, through 01/18/2016. Even though my sample size shows no signs of running out any time soon, I'm considering purchasing the full size- since, after all, I'm going to be wearing this every day for the foreseeable future.

Thoughts on Fear, the Year Behind, and the Year Ahead

Friday, January 1, 2016

It's the waning days of the year as I write this post, gathered from scraps of paper pilfered from work. By the time anyone reads this, it will already be next year, and perhaps everyone will be tired of "end of the year" posts, and no one will read this. I'm oddly okay with that; I think this post is a little more personal than I usually get- so if it remains a shout into the void, I won't be too bothered. 

I've been reflecting a lot recently, both on the past year and the growth I've experienced as an individual. 2015 wasn't what I was hoping it would be- but then, what year is? We all start with such high expectations, only for life to curve in ways we can't see. Some years we miss the turn, and crash in a ditch among brambles and poison ivy, but if we are lucky, we have a team who will help get us out of the ditch and back onto the road.

Most of my years have had more crashes than successful turns, but I've been practicing my driving, and perhaps I was simply luckier this year, but I feel that I was able to navigate the turns a little better than last time. I'm afraid just typing that sentence- as though expressing satisfaction with how I've grown as a person will invite terrible things into my life- a kind of magical thinking I'm prone to and that I'm getting very, very tired of. 

That is what I want from 2016- to learn how to live despite my fear.


I've been reading two books lately that are definitely influencing me- Elizabeth Gilbert's Big Magic: Creative Living Beyond Fear, and The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up: The Japanese Art of Decluttering and Organizing. Both are quite interesting on their own, but together seem to have a synergistic effect- because both are about how to shed shackles of fear and try to live the life you want.

In 2015 I only just began to realize how much fear controls my decisions- fear of what? Fear of failure, fear of embarrassment, fear of pain, hurt, and a thousand other tiny things that all add up to a giant, hulking monster of an emotion. Fear is a reptilian thing- it lives in the part of our brain that was there before the meteor, and all of our self-awareness and reasoning is a scaffold that was built on this calcified emotion.

How do you fight something this essential to how we operate? How do you reclaim the parts of yourself that you value- the bits on the scaffold- from something that lurks, largely ignored, below the surface of your consciousness?

I guess you start by being aware.


Awareness is a funny thing; for me, it takes ages to develop any sort of awareness about anything. Situations, relationships, how I feel about things- I tend to live so obliviously that it's kind of a miracle I'm still alive. 

(But am I truly oblivious? Or is that something I cling to subconsciously, as a way to justify my actions?)

In 2015 I slowly learned a lot about myself- some good, some not so good- but forgive me if I want to share only the good parts with you. Some things I need to keep to myself, if only for my own sanity. I am not trying to be a tease, or withholding- some knowledge takes time to process before you can let it out into the world, whether in books or essays or confessions. 

Objectively speaking, 2015 was a dismal year for my ambition of being an author. I sent my queries to so, so many agents- the current count is 145. And do you know how many offers of rep I've gotten?


That's quite the number.

It's tempting to think of that time and effort as being wasted. When I look at the pie chart on QueryTracker, it's enough to make me wonder if perhaps I'm a tad delusional? Why would I keep trying in the face of overwhelming evidence that this isn't working?

Well, that's one of the things I learned about myself in 2015: that I'm capable of facing the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune- and will keep trying anyway.

I didn't used to be this way; I used to think of myself as being a quitter, who gives up at the first sign of adversity. Some of this is just who I am; but a lot of this, I've learned, is because of how my brain is wired. ADHD coupled with MDD and OCD is quite the motivation-killer. I have a few more roadblocks than other people, but this doesn't mean I'm defective. It just means that I have to take this into account when going about my life.

That's another thing I learned in 2015- how to work with my limitations.

My limitations are many. I'm disorganized; I'm chronically late; I'm not good at compromising; I let my emotional state dictate far too many of my actions. I could go on, but then it would be 2017 and I'd still be writing this post. 

I feel that once you're aware of your limitations and how they effect how you treat others, you can do 2 things: you can ignore them, and continue as you always have.

Or you can change the outcome.


For 2016 I have a few more mundane goals: to rebrand my blog and launch it under my own domain; to finish my current novel; to branch out into video production and explore my passion for it. All of these things will be difficult; they will require many changes on my part. But if I am to at least try to pursue the life I want, I need to be willing to make the changes necessary for this. I already know the consequences of continuing as I always have: a life I'm not happy with. We only get this one life, and the idea of spending it not doing what I love is the saddest, most terrifying thing I can think of.

I hope anyone who reads this is able to spend 2016 building to live the life they want. There will be curves and roadblocks and detours. There may be an unforeseen crash or two. But I hope I get back on the road, and I hope you do, too.


My thoughts on all of this- fear, awareness, limitations- are still murky and will change over time. This is by no means a definitive post on the matter. But I think that if there is one thing I want to resolve to do in 2016, it's to be aware of my fear, how it limits me, and how I can overcome it to achieve the life I want.

There are a lot of changes that would need to be done for this- mindset changes, daily routine changes, changes that I don't even foresee yet- and this is where it all has the potential to break down. Change is one of the hardest things to deal with- yet, as Octavia Butler so brilliantly noted, "The only lasting truth is Change". 

Change is another thing I'm afraid of. One of my limitations is that I don't react well to it. I'm aware of this.

Time to change it.