sweeten your day with advice from sugar

cheryl

Have any of you seen Wild? It takes Cheryl Strayed (and you, lucky thing) on a journey through the Pacific Crest Trail, encountering revelations at every turn. The best part, though, is that this journey isn’t just through the rained on, sunshined on trees of 27 national forests. And it doesn’t only take you into Cheryl’s sometimes scandalous, often heartbreaking, and perpetually challenging memories. You’re also guided, even pushed, to the crevices of your mind that flourish on doubt, breed jealousy, and infiltrate fear into your thoughts. Through Cheryl’s journey, you take a journey through your own mind as you face flickering questions and uncover answers.

I just read a fantastic (as per usual) piece over at Brain Pickings talking about a little something called motherfuckitude. It comes up in Cheryl’s latest book, Tiny Beautiful Things: Advice on Love and Life from Dear Sugar. Before she wrote Wild and the world was seized by her wisdom all at once, she wrote for an advice column called The Rumpus under the name “Sugar”. Her advice, at the age of twenty-six, speaks to the awesomely wise and unbreakable spirit she has always had.

She never dismisses or deflects the true questions of those pleading for an answer. She digs her hands into the dirt of it. It’s as though she looks at the modest weed people present to her, as though this is all that is irking them or scaring them, and she digs into its roots, unapologetically and necessarily.

I need this book in my possession. I want to say it’s because I’m a twenty something (well, twenty-nothing at this point) who craves Cheryl’s answers to just about everything on a daily basis, intent on finding that glimmering cove in my own mind that points me to them. But it’s not just for twenty-somethings and twenty-nothings. It’s for thirty-somethings and eighty-nothings, and everyone in between and beyond. And it’s not about answers at all. It’s for anyone wanting direction. For anyone wanting renewed inspiration and sharpened humility. It’s for anyone who needs some “motherfuckeritude.”

But being a motherfucker, it’s a way of life, really… It’s about having strength rather than fragility, resilience, and faith, and nerve, and really leaning hard into work rather than worry and anxiety. – Cheryl Strayed

We all need some more motherfuckeritude in our life. Go read about it, and turn this Thursday into a motherfucking Thursday.

P.S. After reading this piece, you may experience a sugar high, a craving for even more sweet advice and wisdom. If so, head over to NPR and check out Dear Sugar Radiowhich features the two “original Sugars”, Cheryl Strayed and Steve Almond, “[fielding] all your questions — no matter how deep or dark — and [offering] radical empathy in return.” (I gobble up this podcast at least once a week.)

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A Few Words on Doubt

The following paintings have stayed on file for a while now (months even) because I haven’t been able to articulate how I feel about them. Are they worth posting? Will anyone resonate with what I’m saying? Is this just a “fluff” post? When it comes to this blog of mine, there are hoards upon hoards of drafted posts gathering virtual dust for exactly those reasons. But sometimes I need to ask, and we all need to ask, what’s stopping us?

As you can see from my sporadic posting, I tend to succumb to the voice in my head that challenges the value of my thoughts and ideas. In fact, he or she or it has become something of a jedi in wielding these powerful words of doubt against me – and not only in the sphere of blogging. Doubt can parade into every part of my life. Is this outfit too look-at-me? Did I just destroy that first impression? How can I even consider applying for this? 

All of those questions, hesitations, and insecurities brought on by doubt means one thing: Doubt stops me in my tracks when I’m on the road to something good, to something happy and meaningful. And so I’ve come to realize:

The grip of doubt on our ambitions can be exhausting; the grip of doubt on our confidence and happiness can be lethal.

Doubt, to me, is easier to face when it’s personified. Rather than looking at it as some intangible force that renders us weak and powerless from the inside out, as this seems virtually impossible to contest, try looking at it as something outside of yourself. Try looking at Doubt as the bully that picks on you when you’re being you. When you’re leaping into new ventures, finding happiness in the now, or sporting red lips to the grocery store – Doubt is the one who pulls you back, mid-air, from that euphoric mental jump you’re taking into new places.

As any bully then, Doubt grew up in an atmosphere of insecurity. It did not arise out of malice, but genuine fear and uneasiness about its value. So, as hard as it may be, give Doubt a hug. Stroke its frazzled hair and talk through its worries. Why, Doubt, do you not want to apply for this writing contest, or this internship? Because when you scream into my ear that I don’t have the slightest chance, or that this is a waste of time because there will inevitably be better writers, better applicants, and better people out there, I know you don’t really think these are valid reasons. I think you, and I, am worth it. I think that we can do this together. I just need your support. 

Whenever I look Doubt in the eye, I can see that my worries are its fears. It’s fascinating, really, to look inward and see the multiple relationships we have with ourselves alone. It’s incredibly valuable, albeit difficult, to challenge the more painful relationships. I often tiptoe around them, not wanting to confront where they have come from, but as soon as I sit with them, I feel my ambitions and confidence returning.

 

I need to remind myself to practice looking inwards daily. My life right now is made up of so many if’s, how’s, maybe’s that I could burst from uncertainty. It’s as though I’m losing myself a little bit the more I let Doubt take over me. Who knows – maybe if I don’t confront Doubt, I will become Doubt. On the contrary, however, if I let confidence back in the picture, I can return to the self I find pride in. I like that self.

So where do you stand on Doubt? What is its role in your life and how do you cope?


 

***

In full circle, here are the paintings that I didn’t think anyone else would find interesting/cool/neat/groovy/awesome. But you know what? I think that was Doubt speaking.

Kim McCarty’s Boys & Girls

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Like blurry afterimages drifting past closed eyelids, Kim McCarty’s watercolors hover between presence and absence, innocence and wisdom, and past, present, and future. Working rapidly, at times using only a single color and at others a haunting, bruise-inspired palette of acid yellows, greens, and browns, McCarty’s portraits evoke the sense of uncertainty, ambivalence, anxiety, and loss with which we view today’s generation. – Maloney Fine Arts

We see a lot on the internet. Some, rightfully so, may say too much. But true and complete genius strikes me still when I see it. Kim McCarty’s series, Boys & Girls, overwashed me with wonder.

First, I felt a sense of loss. Heartbreaking loss. The blurred colors almost look like the product of tears watering them down. Then, I saw passion. That same use of blurred reds, pinks, and peaches in the woman leaning forward looks to me like a body that is radiating warmth after making love. The woman approaching us, whose naked body is a myriad of greens, yellows, blues evokes a similar sense of earthy sensuality rather than explicit sexuality.

When I consider the title, my perspective changes. The fused colors don’t necessarily represent sorrow but merely an unformed impression of the world around us. Adolescence and childhood is a time of absorbing what’s around you. We are unsure as to who we are, filling in the lines of our dreams and personality as we age. Perhaps the edges become more defined with age and perhaps they don’t. Perhaps we don’t even want them to.

So, there you have it. The thoughts, short & sweet, that sat on the shelf of half-written blog posts for months on end. Now, I could write more, but there’s something satisfying about showing the thoughts in their unedited form – the form I had doubted for so long – presented as is. As is. Hold my hand, Doubt, we’re getting better at this.

*m

January’s Pressures

I think of all the months, January very well may have it the hardest.

Just around the corner of New Year’s ecstasy lies the first of January, gleaming in the light of a fresh start. She’s dressed in garments of hope, and ambition, wearing a beret made up of future artistic endeavours, and peers through sunglasses moulded with confidence. We practically knock her over when saying hello, bursting with anticipation as we shake the hands of a new year. We begin to recite to her the dreams of 2013, and she smiles and nods and agrees with our aspirations. After all, how could she deny us this giddy desire for a whole year’s worth of days? The first of January is no stranger to such greetings, as it comes every year without fail. Whether we publicize our greeting with her or not, everyone has the same twinkling wish in the backs of our minds for the best year yet.

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Then we meet up with January 15th.

How are the daily runs going? January 1st told me all about them. Sounds really great. You mean you didn’t actually get up every morning at 7 to go for a jog? You know what, that’s cool. At least you go three times a week? O-oh, well once a week is really good too! Oh, no times a week? I guess you can’t succeed in all of your resolutions. I’m sure your school work is going swimmingly then. No? Have you been keeping up with the readings? Have you dedicated an hour to blogging everyday? Have you made sure to line up a summer internship yet? No? NO?

WELL THEN. I GUESS YOU FAIL.

January 15th pretends to be sympathetic, but we all know she’s a judgemental bastard. You came to January 1st with such ambition and innocence, and now you’re slowly admitting defeat to every day after. But hey! Wipe those hypothetical tears away! Go back into your closet and grab those hypothetical garments of hope and ambition and all that jazz! Snatch those glasses moulded with confidence that are gathering dust and put ’em on with pride! I challenge you to face up to one of your New Year’s resolutions for today and push that condescending reminder of your procrastination to the very back of your mind. Put it out of the way. January, as hyped up as it is with new dreams and rules, is just another month to try and be your very best. Every month should be greeted with such anticipation. Every day should be greeted with just as much excitement.

That is all, lovelies. I’m off to fetch a pita.
*m

Words of Wisdom Wednesday

Dr. Neil DeGrasse Tyson, an astrophysicist and one of the most brilliant people I’ve ever heard speak, was asked by a TIMES reader,  “What is the most astounding fact you can share with us about the universe?”

Watch this. And your mind will be blown. 


“Experience is what you get when you didn’t get what you wanted.”
“The brick walls are there to give us a chance to show how badly we want something. The brick walls are there to stop people who don’t want it badly enough.”
~Randy Pausch
“But you see,” said Roark quietly, “I have, let’s say, sixty years to live. Most of that time will be spent working. I’ve chosen the work I want to do. If I find no joy in it, then I’m only condemning myself to sixty years of torture. And I can find the joy only if I do my work in the best way possible to me. But the best is a matter of standards—and I set my own standards. I inherit nothing. I stand at the end of no tradition. I may, perhaps, stand at the beginning of one.” 
“So that when I look up at the night sky, and I know that, yes, we are part of this universe, we are in this universe, but perhaps more important than both of those facts, is that the universe is in us.”

Again. Boggles my mind. 

“I’m selfish, impatient and a little insecure. I make mistakes, I am out of control and at times hard to handle. But if you can’t handle me at my worst, then you sure as hell don’t deserve me at my best.” 

I’m leaving you today with two more videos, and if you watch both, perhaps not at the same time, but even if just throughout the day or the next week or even the next month, I guarantee you will be just as moved as I was. 

*m

One of Those Days!

More like one of those months. But that’s another story (aka universities you are infinitely too intimidating so please just send me flowers and sunshine instead of making me research the endless amounts of programs and applications and scholarships and yadayadayada you all seem to have).

But generally, it is just one day out of the week where you suddenly find yourself with only 10 minutes to do something to your hair, put together a relatively acceptable outfit for the people of the world to see, and most likely judge, let’s be honest, find something to quickly devour without pouring orange juice and cereal into your mouth and hoping for the best, and lastly, make it seem as if you wake up looking as fresh and happy as Audrey Hepburn…

“…I have no flaws…”

…not an easy task. Some would say impossible! But! I have come across some words of wisdom, and hopefully, will look at the clock and see 10 minutes and just think, “Hah, this is like an hour with my efficiency.”

Let’s just take a look at some girls who look as if they really just don’t need to try at all, because, hey, this is what we’re aiming for right? The “I share the same joy Audrey Hepburn has when she wakes up and realizes all she has to do is throw on a black dress, some lipstick and eye liner, and is ready to take on the world.”

She’s just on the phone with one of her many suitors, super casual. 
Oh hi there! We’re both wearing some core parts of our boyfriend’s wardrobe, if not all, and yet, with a swish of red lipstick or showin’ a lil’ bit o’ leg, we’re still looking fine.
The structure is so child-like, but the bolder pattern, along with her laid-back hair and minimalist makeup, makes it look surprisingly easy to pull off. 

So fresh! So happy! Of course the sun framing her face as if it were a subtle halo is helping the whole angel look going on… note the black leather pants. Nice touch.

I have a thing for these types of sweaters. Paired with a dainty gold necklace and you have me. 

hey.
And now, what we have all been waiting for, how to achieve this oh-so-natural look and be fully ready to face the world in ten minutes! 
Two simple tasks that are handy to finish before the precarious situation arises. 
Have two back-up outfits at all times. 
Have an “on-the-go toothbrush” in your purse.
Now what to do… when disaster strikes.
Some effortless hair do’s obviously are key. Leaving your hair down, if you’re like me, whose natural hair is similar to that of Hermione circa 2005, is simply not an option, and pulling my hair up into the classic messy bun is just about the best way to tell people, “You’re right! I did wake up five minutes ago!” (But hey, sometimes it happens.)
How to:
“Just grab the frontmost section of your hair, twist it back and downward then pin in place with a bobby pin. Gather the rest of your hair in a ponytail or bun at the nape of your neck.”

^The descriptions we’re given are never quite that simple. I technically followed their play-by-play, but I ended up looking as if I was some haggard woman from the 19th century caught in the middle of shooing rats away from her kitchen. The key is to play with it yourself, experimenting until you find your own way to achieve it.

Or there’s this variation. Which I must learn how to do as soon as possible.

Or you could simply opt for some particularly bold glasses, some sort of statement in themselves, and a completely minimalist bun. I would if I could find a pair like these.

It seems to me there are a plethora of effortless women gliding down the streets who have merely taken a few pieces of hair and twisted them into some elegantly disheveled bun. 

How they pulled this off, I don’t know… but it has become my latest endeavor, to figure out the intricacies of this ^ hairstyle. 

Such a breezy, ballet-like look to this bun, with the sash holding it all together perfectly.

And then: Make-up, shmake-up. Keep it minimal in times of crisis. Eyeliner/mascara, moisturizer, hint of blush/bronzer, and some chapstick. Simple simple. (And hey, if you want to be really snazzy, swipe on some lip gloss on the go)

Last: Breakfast, your best friend. Breakfast is always there for you, just a super duper loyal guy. So eat him. That’s the best way to repay loyal friends, obviously!

Words of wisdom from the experts! Check ’em out.

The 10 Minute Difference Between Stress and Happiness

Some last minute tips:

  • Blast pump up music. It’s energizing and will speed you up.
  • Don’t forget to eat. If it’s before class, you’ll be dumb. Before a dinner date, you’ll be too obsessed with eating to have fun. Plus your stomach might growl before your food arrives. Awkward.
  • Take off old make-up and do what you can to smell nice. No matter how pretty you are, being smelly=problematic. A one-second spritz of perfume will only add… one second onto your getting-ready routine.


Until next time, peace out.
*m

Beautiful Words.

“I would like to be the air
that inhabits you for a moment
only. I would like to be that unnoticed
& that necessary.”
–Margaret Atwood from Variations on the Word Sleep


So avoid using the word ‘very’ because it’s lazy. A man is not very tired, he is exhausted. Don’t use very sad, use morose. Language was invented for one reason, boys – to woo women – and, in that endeavor, laziness will not do.”
Dead Poets Society, 1989
“Maybe I love you,
maybe I just like the sound,
but if you disappear,
you’ll still hear
when my heart hits the ground.”
Holding Us Back, Katie Herzig
*m
{quotes from my tumblr}

Some Valuable Words of Wisdom

I definitely know a few who should abide by this… please, my poor little twitter feed is being filled to the brim with the most inane and futile tweets, but at the same time I think it’s too harsh to “defollow” them. That sounds like, “I thought I would like what you had to say, but now that I have read your tweets, I know I was mistaken.” Oh, buurn!
*m
{image credited by clicking}