This and That on Saturday: ideas, projects and books

On Writing

Yesterday as I blogged, I realized it’s becoming difficult to come up with new content every day. Apparently, seventy days worth of words is all I have without some sort of break in between. I’m not giving up on the one-hundred days project, not at all, but I am feeling more challenged. This is actually a good thing. It means I am looking for new things to say instead of rehashing old ideas forever. I feel like I’ve taken seventy-three cleansing breaths, and now I’m ready for anything.

I started a separate book review blog. You can click the link, or find it in the page menu. The Mo’Joy Reads page will direct you there. It’s a teeny, tiny, baby blog with just a few entries so far. But it’s making me immensely happy. It’s so clean, organized and lovely. I’m using categories and tags to help facilitate looking up subjects and genres. I’m toying with author tags too. I’m like Monica from Friends with her label maker. SO HAPPY. Feel free to check it out.

On Reading

Earlier today I was commiserating with a friend who is reading too many books. I have too many on-going myself right now, even after trying to carefully curate my consumption. (I get alliteration points for that sentence, right?) I started reading on Netgalley and went a little crazy with book requests. So I’m hammering through some advanced reader copies and trying to wrap up a few loose end books. I’m still having a great time reading all sorts of new things for the 100 Story Summer. I’ve picked up so many books I might never have otherwise. In fact, be looking for a review today of The Girl in the Tangerine Scarf which may end up being one of my favorite books of the year. SO GOOD!

For years, I’ve felt a bit guilty about giving in entirely to my desire to read like a maniac at every spare moment. But this little side-project of mine has actually proven not only fun, but a huge productivity boost. Instead of getting fewer things done because of my reading, I’m doing and enjoying a lot more. I think I’m just not wasting time like I used to. This is an unexpected and delightful side-effect.

On the Month-of-No

The landscape of summer has shifted a bit since May when I got the idea for a month of no. It has actually opened up a bit more, relieving me of a few more responsibilities for a nice little window. I’m going to keep refining my schedule and saying more no than yes this summer. In fact, if it’s not a hell yes, it’s a resounding no . I like myself a lot more since starting this little plan. Although it can’t go on forever, this little window seems tailor made for me to take advantage of it and listen. Since I’m learning to trust my gut more and my guilt less, I’m going with it.

On Running

In January I set a little goal to lose 36 inches. I can’t use a scale because I obsess over numbers and climb on the awful device no less than twenty-seven times a day to see if I’ve fluctuated an ounce. It’s ridiculous, and not very healthy for me. We don’t actually own a scale. But for whatever reason, I can healthfully engage with a tape measure.

Anyway, since January I’ve been walking, and then walk/running, and now, I’m a runner again. I’ve had an on-again-off-again, mostly off-again, relationship with running since the half marathon almost two years ago. In fact, I’m beginning to toy a tiny little bit with doing another one. NEXT YEAR. Part of my crash and burn was training too fast and too hard for the last one and then a really difficult experience with heat and humidity actually forcing the route to close for marathoners.

This month has me clocking some of the longest distances I’ve run since before half marathon training (remember the giant toe blisters? and the terrible fall? I was a beat up girl). I remember, now, why I loved running to begin with and what a healing practice it is for me. The continued shrinking is nice too. I’m a little bit ahead of pace to meet my measurement goal by the end of the year.

So here we are. Caught up on the little things that matter so much to me, but seem difficult to work into a blog. Happy weekend to us all. I hope you find a good book to read, a quiet place to rest and someone you love to share it all with!

 

Shaking it Up: Evolving to make life work for me

Since I started this one hundred day project, I’ve been sort of winging it. I began on a whim, and since then, writing every day means I don’t have much time to plan ahead. But it’s June now. The month of No. Yesterday I identified several things which make me grumbly. I know because I was grumbly. Since then I’ve journaled and meditated, read a book and had a run. These are all things which make life work for me rather than against me. In my journal this morning I wrote:

Evolution is the natural process of staying with something. Sustainability depends on change; nothing growing is static. Essentially, you have to shake it up or let it die.

Even in just three days of margin, I see things which don’t fit the life I’m working towards. These things are simple choices which change the tone of my day drastically, but which are hard to identify as lode bearing choices when life is busy. Eventually, these choice will serve me when I say yes again as well. Hopefully, by then they will be habit.

I actually started thinking about change last night in relation to reading. In my effort to read one hundred stories this summer, I’ve opened myself up to a wider range of book types than I normally choose. Doing this has not only helped me realize how many different types of literature I enjoy, it also has given me a better understanding of techniques and tropes which work (or not) for different genres. Changing my reading has changed how reading works for me.

Granted, I could possibly have gone another twenty years reading exactly the way I always have, reading the types I always choose and been perfectly happy. But allowing an evolution, of sorts, in my reading life has created something I enjoy more than I was already. Who doesn’t want to enjoy something they love even more than they already were?

Of course this got me thinking about any number of choices I could intentionally change, and how those changes might also make life work for me even better than it already is. How can I write better, plan better, relate to others better? Not more quantity (that’s the rat race) but more quality. I don’t necessarily want to produce more, I want to better perform and enjoy what I already know I love. And then for fun do some completely new things as well on occasion.

Because I find comfort in routine, I can hang on to something far too long. Because my perfectionist freaks out that I might not do a new thing perfectly, I can be reluctant to change. But what I shared from my journal is a sign that I am breaking free from those worn out patterns of behavior which don’t serve me well anymore. Those three little sentences are new pattern of thought an internal revolution which could lead to me enjoying life even more than I currently do.

Inevitably these changes start out a bit awkward and uncomfortable. They will change and shift, seeming to stutter before they hit a familiar groove. But the more I shake things up, the more I find routine is good, but it’s better when it’s balanced with a few edgy things to keep me on my toes.

I’d love to hear what or if you are doing anything to shake your life up. What things have changed to make life work for  you even better than before?

 

Finding Calm: Something Fun Sunday, Ep. 6

The week has finally arrived. My middle daughter’s graduation party is this week, and I am knocking down the details while trying to maintain my cool, calm demeanor in the middle of it. *snort*  OK, maybe calm isn’t the first word that comes to mind when you think of me, but I am working on creating margin, so I have no need to panic, and making time to sleep, exercise, eat and create. Which brings us to the fun stuff.

I know Saturday is technically the day I talk about books around here (On the blog, at least; I talk about books at home on the daily). But I feel it’s necessary to put first things first when I speak of fun things. This week marks the release of Modern Mrs. Darcy’s summer reading guide. As usual, I’ve obsessed all week over what is available at my library (nothing), and what is available on overdrive (a few). I’ve picked out the ones I can’t miss, and the ones I am not so sure about. I’ve arranged and rearranged my too read list based on what I want to read now and what is coming due at the library. What can I say, book are serious business around here.

Today two of the books on the reading guide are on sale for kindle. I’ll link them at the bottom of the page.

Having reached the pinnacle week of May, I’m personally anticipating arriving in June and not feeling completely burned out. For me, this is a huge win. But as an introvert, I know by the time June rolls around, I will feel maxed out socially.

June is officially the month of no. I will not make commitments nor will I travel. I will not be out four nights a week. No will be a word I use often and with great relish. With my family and close friends I try to say yes as often as possible, but next month even those will be sparing. It’s good to give and give joyfully, but there is also a time to lay low and replenish. I loved this article about saying no.

A key component in my daily balancing act is the calm app. I’m using it twice a day currently. Those fifteen minute chunks may be the most important thing I do each day. My anxiety is better. I don’t struggle as much with anger and resentment. I feel calm (go figure). There is a free version if you want to try it out, and it’s apple and android compatible.

Finally this:

Graduation

I can’t even apologize for the language. In this month of nostalgia and misty eyes, when people express sorrow that I am growing older and my children are leaving home, this is how I feel.
Empty nest party time is almost here, folks. We’re powering through.

 


How to wake up and find inspiration

Remember the journaling class I signed up for with my birthday money? Even though it’s only been four days, I’m having a great time learning, shifting my perspective and rediscovering inspiration. In fact, today’s lesson was to write about things which inspire and how to create more opportunities to experience those things. As I wrote, I realized I haven’t bothered with inspiration much recently. When you live in survival mode, there’s not much room for inspiration.

Survival mode isn’t always something we consciously choose. It certainly may be if we receive a terrible diagnosis or when a loved one faces a crisis. Birth and death and transitions can all be times when we focus simply on getting through the day intact. This is appropriate, but hopefully temporary. Sometimes, however, survival mode is crafty. It rises slowly around us if we’re mired in toxic relationships and unhealthy thought patterns, or when our environment suffocates rather than enriches us. Before we know it, we’re drowning. All we can do is keep our head above the water, sometimes not even that.

Perhaps we suffer from trauma. Forgetting there’s any other way to live, we keep our heads down. We strive to meet all the “shoulds” and exceed all the expectations.

I’ve been living this way, and failing miserably on all three accounts.

I don’t know what or why I began to wake up from this perspective. Although, I’m certain it began slowly.  Just as we can’t be certain what moment dark becomes dawn, we only know suddenly we can see again. At least, that’s what waking up to inspiration is for me. Maybe it was a series of unimportant choices each one leading to the next, like stepping stones back to myself. Perhaps, my spirit simply couldn’t sleep any longer. Awake at last, she nudged and prodded, slowly bringing me back to life.

If I had specific answers, I could write a 5-step program and be a millionaire.

I only know day-by-day, I find inspiration in the most unexpected places.  From a community of journalers, to a podcast, to conversation with a friend in recovery, every place I turn confirms the path I’m traveling is the one to life and light and beauty. It will eventually lead me home to myself.

I’m alert now, awake to promise and possibility. I’m searching and seeking, trying and failing, forgetting to care about what anyone else thinks.  When I journaled today I wrote about new experiences, exploring, learning, finding my voice again and using it. I wrote about reaching out and meeting new people. Traveling. Moving. Changing. Beginning again.

For most of us, it isn’t that inspiration is so hard to find, it’s that we are so focused on how to get through what’s next that we simply miss it. Most of us, just like me, don’t even know we’re living this way. I don’t know what inspires you to create.  I can only determine what inspires me. But I also hope, if you need a wake up call yourself, you might take a few minutes and think about, or write down the answers to a few questions:

  1. What inspires me?
  2. How can I develop opportunities for inspiration?
  3. How can I have more adventure?
  4. What do I want to do next?

    The crazy thing about this writing, reading, being vulnerable adventure I’m on is how much fun I’m having even when I’m afraid. Every day holds something new, even the hard days. I’ll hang on to this being awake feeling with everything I have. The time for sleeping is over. Inspiration is waiting to be discovered, here, there, everywhere I go.

Lovely things: Something Fun Sunday Ep. 5

Today is the last day of birthday week (it is, however, only day 4 of birthday month). Many things about this week have been wonderful and lovely. I’m prone to introspection as it is, but this week always adds an extra measure. Introspection can be a double edged sword, though, and some of this week has been wrestling with unlovely things as well. Wrestling isn’t a bad thing, as long as you know when to set it down and walk away. This is a skill I am improving.

I wrestled with what to share this week. “Fun” seems as though it, perhaps, should be a giggle-fest, but this week’s thoughts are more gentle and healing than entertaining. However, they bring me joy and joy is fun, after a fashion. Most importantly, I get to define fun in my own space, so these things are fun for me.

I’ve been playing with various forms of bullet journaling for the last six months with varying degrees of success. I love the freedom of writing what I want, where I want, however I want, but my inner perfectionist struggles with the more rigid pages like calendars and daily schedules. For my birthday, my husband gave me a Nomatic Planner. It has all the freedom of the bullet journal, with pre-formatted pages for the more rigid planning. I love it. LOOOOOOOOVE it.

To accompany my planner, I signed up for an online journaling class (thanks some of my birthday money from mom) from one of my favorite bloggers. Write to Flourish registration closes today, but it’s a good price for a short class. I’m a hit or miss , but I’d like to be more hit, and more focused when I do. I consider this class an investment in myself, something I need to do more often.

I also received the pocket copy of Shane Claiborne’s Common Prayer: Liturgy for Ordinary Radicals. I’ve had the digital copy for a bit, but I find with my prayer books and Bible, I really want a book to hold in my hand. I’ve already made much use of this Prayer for life Transition:

Lord, help me now to unclutter my life, to organize myself in the direction of simplicity. Lord, teach me to listen to my heart; teach me to welcome change instead of fearing it. Lord, I give you these stirrings inside me. I give you my discontent. Igive you my restlessness. I give you my doubt. I give you my despair. I give you all the longings I hold inside. Helps me to listen to those signs of change, of growth; help me to listen seriously and follow where they lead through the breathtaking space of an open door.

Isn’t that lovely? It certainly gives words to my scattered thoughts lately.

I also read a lot of books this week, all of them lovely in their own way. You can read about that here.

Finally, I am in the process of setting up a bi-weekly, or monthly email. I’m still working out the details. Previously, when I did this, it was simply a digest of the past week’s posts, but this won’t be formatted that way. It will be sort of newsy and personal. A way to communicate without throwing everything out into the social media sphere. Heck, it will be an adventure for us all. If you think you want to actually hear more words from me, you can sign up below. It will be about ten days before I send out my first email.

Have a lovely week filled with fun things, friends! I am so grateful for you.

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Something Fun Sunday: Ep. 2, Poetry and the Dance of Joy

I don’t know about you, but after a busy week, I am ready for some fun! Even if my week is full of mostly good things, when I reach the end of a long stretch of busy days, I’m glad for a few days of breathing room at the end of it. Aside from tackling my demons, leading a community care class, and writing every day, I also managed to watch a season of Gilmore Girls. I spend a lot of time thinking about food since I decided to do a modified Whole 30, pescatarian style. Suddenly and without planning, I also changed my morning walk to a morning run. I haven’t run very regularly since the half marathon. I like me when I am a runner. It’s an activity that does great things for me even while making me grunt and sweat and sometimes cry a little.

Oh, and I came up with really fun summer reading plan for myself!

We’ve also experienced some heavy emotional things this week, so I’ve been especially glad of my heightened awareness of things which make me smile, and especially laugh out loud. So without further ado, something fun for Sunday.

On Tuesday we were so fortunate to be able to see Matilda the Musical at the Fox Theater. I didn’t know much about the show going into it, but oh my goodness! What fun! The music was so fun and whimsical. The staging was absolutely fantastic, and the actress who played Matilda was just divine. Way back in the stone age, Hunky and I met performing on stage.  Early in our marriage we had tickets to the whole Broadway season at Bob Carr auditorium. But it’s been so long, I had tucked all the memories of just how magical theater is away down inside. I’m so glad they are awake again now and that we got to have such a fun night.

(I’m also not at all sorry that I snapped at rowdy eighth grade boys mid-performance and made them afraid.)

Speaking of good musical theater, I had entirely forgotten about this gem of a show

I don’t even remember who posted this on facebook, but I watched it at least five times and almost laughed until I cried.

Speaking of genius, have you seen this amazing poem floating around this week? I truly love sharp and beautiful word craft, and this perfectly fits the bill. Ah, mansplaining.

MansplainAnd one more very quick thing, a book I have very much been looking forward to not only released this week, it went immediately on sale! Tsh doesn’t know this, but we are kindred spirits. Contemplative and longing to wander. She actually wanders far more than I do, so I’m living vicariously through her.  I was willing to wait for my birthday to pick this up, but instead, I caved, bought it on sale, and already started it. Lovely.
Here’s a link to the digital version, which is the only version on sale.


Tsh Oxenrider, At Home in the World

 

Friends, I hope we all have a week filled with beauty and laughter and the encouragement of friends when the first two are hard to find.

Can I be Honest a moment? Thoughts from a disgruntled procrastinator

Can I be honest a moment? I really hate Georgia summer. I mean L-O-A-T-H-E with every fiber of my being.  I’m trying to convince myself that “at least the mornings are still cool; It’s not so bad.”  But we’re already running the air conditioning every day, and I’m super bummed about it.  If there is a hotter, more humid, more unrelenting place in the world, I never ever ever ever want to go there. Blech.


I started a modified whole 30 eating plan on Monday. It’s mostly ok until the evening rolls around. Then I want to eat all the things including actual non-edible objects.  I’ve eaten nearly a pound of pistachios in three days in an attempt to keep myself from throwing down cheese, or chocolate chips or rice or bread.  On Wednesday, I almost murdered every person I encountered including the people who are the actual lights of my life and my dog.  I’m over that now, but those evening munchies are hanging right on.

I can’t stop watching Gilmore Girls. Call me late to the party again, but I have never watched it before. I started in January (after we entered political bizarro world) and finally, I have made it to season seven.  It’s like I’m cramming for the world’s most caffeinated and cleverly dialogued exam. I’m binge watching six or seven episodes a day. Must. get. to. the. end. so I can live again. Yes, I will totally watch A Year in the Life. NO! No one has spoiled it for me, so keep your opinion to yourself, Missy! (Oh hey, there’s some of the Whole 30 anger).

I am the world’s worst procrastinator. It’s something I struggle with all the time, and while I have made huge strides with it, I still find myself putting off what needs to be done. Then I rush, rush, rush at the end and beat myself up for it. Isn’t that a mean way to be to myself? I’m just sharing this because it’s 6pm Friday night, and I am only now sitting down to write today. All day long, I knew I needed to do this but I didn’t. So here I am. This whole self-awareness thing, and finishing what I start thing, and being creative thing, it’s easier in the morning. Please remind me of that tomorrow.

 Seriously, what is up with Starbucks and unicorns? Why are people acting so shocked and appalled at this drink (which looks like fairy vomit if you ask me.)? I’ll sit down and drink a cup of Starbucks any day, but friends, all their flavored drinks are sugared up garbage. It’s fine if you like it because every person gets to make their own choices about what they put in their body. But let’s all take a deep breath and stop acting like Starbucks has crossed some sort of moral sugar line with their latest drink option.  If you thought it was healthy to begin with, unicorns aren’t the only delusion you may need to be concerned about.

Incidentally, I don’t know if it’s the dreadful advent of summer or the fact that I just watched a Christmas episode of Gilmore Girls–complete with snow–but today I listened to the first Christmas music of 2017. It may be a record. I swear it was only a song or two, but still. It’s April. My anywhere-but-here vibes are spilling over my holiday boundaries. Maybe I’ll just have a little mini-Christmas celebration each month on the 25th.

Just in case you thought I have it all together all the time around here, I thought I’d take a moment to be honest. Some days are good. Some are bad, and some you just lay your cards on the table and air the whole thing out. And now, I have another Gilmore Girl episode calling my name.

The intersection of margin and play: A Playful Manifesto reboot

Nothing feels more expansive to me than an unscheduled stretch of time.  When I take a day to refocus, I swear, I can actually feel my brain, my physical brain, relax.  Learning how to create margin in my schedule and responsibilities is an on-going process, but I am getting much better at it.

While I not looking at my to-do list and not vacuuming the bedroom, my brain was deliciously occupied with plans and fun projects for the summer (I can barely stand not to write about it today, but I’m saving that fun for the weekend. It’s going to be great!). I hooked new yarn and dreamed about our new bed. For a little while, I stood outside and glowered at the tomatoes which aren’t going to grow anymore apparently.  I watched an episode of Gilmore Girls, or seven. What?!! I’m almost done with the whole show!

In other words, today was great big unruly, lazy, restful enjoyment, and I don’t feel one bit guilty about it. It’s true; I require a good deal of margin to be at my best, but I’ve decided my best is worth the wait.

Last week, I planned to start a sort of throw-back Thursday theme, sharing writing which originally appeared on the Middle Places blog (A moment of silence, please.  They were good years). Instead, I decided not to stress over an in-depth project today.

However, while I was sorting through the word treasures, I found this fun little piece from last summer, which completely fits my mood today.  I remember feeling full of hope and inspiration when I wrote it. Which helps me believe that maybe I don’t hate everything anymore. Maybe I just hate some things, now. It seems a little writing, running, music, booking and hooking and great deal of margin is exactly what I need in this season.

So as a reminder to us all: The playfulness manifesto, a reboot

 

Playful Manifesto

Today, I will not lose myself in the mundane or the hum-drum.
Time is precious and happy memories last a lifetime;
No one reaches the end of their days with regret over unwashed laundry.

I may make a to-do list, but I reserve the right to leave items for tomorrow.
I may sleep in, or I may get up early to see the sunrise.
Some weeks I will do both,
And take naps.

Refusing to hurry, I will waste time.
If there is cake, I will eat it.
As often as possible
Yes! will be my response to myself and my loved ones.
I will read books that make me feel.
I will watch movies and eat popcorn.
Since, both ice cream and watermelon both have healing properties,
I will have second helpings of both

I will smile often,
Be in pictures with my family.
 The words “beach body” or “bikini ready”
will not be a measure of self worth.
I will wear pajama pants at inappropriate hours.
As the sun sets,
I will drive fast with the windows down and the radio on
Full blast.
I will live in the moment.
When I forget to live in the moment,
I will breath deeply and try again.
Then I will try again.
I won’t stop trying.

I will swim in the lake.
 Lie in the sun,
Rest.
I will stop looking at the time while rushing everywhere.

Playfulness is as important to life as discipline and responsibility.
I will not lose myself in in should and must.
Instead, I will laugh, because laughter is a miracle.
Embracing imperfection I will remember
just because I can’t do a thing perfectly doesn’t mean I shouldn’t do it.
It’s perfectly acceptable to be weird.
or eat cake and ice cream for breakfast.
I don’t have to conform to the modern definition of anything.

 Now, let’s go out and play.

Something Fun Sunday: Episode one

I think that success is having fun. – Bruno mars


Last week, I shared about my Sunday struggles
, and my plan to reframe how I feel by adding something fun each week.  I dubbed it “Something Fun Sunday.” This week, I made sure to take notice of books, events, songs, and moments so I could share them today.  I’m pleased to say, it worked! I was definitely more mindful of enjoyable moments. I anticipated their arrival and savored them longer, and then reflected on them more often in further anticipation of writing about it.  These are all keys to happiness. Without further ado, here’s Some fun things for Sunday
I’m an unashamed Marvel movies fan. No, I didn’t grow up reading the comic books, and I don’t know all the lore and back stories. I just know I enjoy a good completely imaginary action flick.  So when Craig showed me the new Thor: Ragarok trailer, I was thrilled! It’s not many movie trailers which make me laugh aloud, but this one does. “I know him! We’re friends from work!” I crack up every time. Watch it here.

Two books added to my enjoyment this week. While I tend more towards literary fiction and non-fiction, some weeks I want cozy chic-lit filled with tears and laughter and a guaranteed happy ending.  I want a great story about relationships and life and the crazy way its beautiful and terrible all at the same time. This week, I found it in Taylor Jenkins Reid’s One True Loves.  I don’t want to give anything away, but, friends, if you need a cozy good book this week, this is it.

On Thursday night, my book group gathered (more fun things!), and we ended up talking about an entirely different book. The Happiness Project is a long-time favorite.  In fact, I’m undertaking a happiness project of my own this year. I reread this book almost annually and was so excited it came up because it’s currently $1.99 on Kindle. I don’t know how much longer this deal will last, so if you decide to read it too, I wouldn’t wait too long to buy it. Incidentally, when I talk about how anticipating, experiencing and remembering an event increases happiness, that’s a concept I learned from Gretchen Rubin.

I’m a bit late to the bandwagon (aren’t I always?) We’ve had family premium on Spotify for about six months now, and the whole experience is wonderful. I’d forgotten how much I like music, and how entwined my mood and music can be. New music at my finger tips and the ability to make playlists for every mood?  YES, PLEASE!! EVERY DAY ALL DAY LONG!  A couple weeks ago I ran across this little gem, and I’ve probably listened to it sixty-eight times since then. So now I share it with you, enjoy!

Introvert Cookies: how I defy cultural norms

Each week when we meet together for Celebrate Recovery, we have snacks.  It’s a well-known law in the south that wherever two or more are gathered in His name there will be a covered dish. Now, I’m not opposed to snacks in the least, but I gave myself permission to defy cultural norms and not take food every place I go. Therefore, I don’t snack socially anymore (the basic, don’t eat if you didn’t contribute principle – my own rule, not anything imposed upon me). It reduces my stress level and my waistline. Win-win.  But Monday evening, my friend was concerned about the quality of her cookie contribution. I sacrificed my principles and taste tested a cookie, strictly for quality control.

It was delicious. Amazing. Soft, crumbly, buttery shortbread cookie topped with melted caramel and chocolate, which then cooled into a sort of shell. If someone made a homemade twix bar, it would taste like this cookie, only this cookie makes twix blush with shame. I know this because after the first cookie I ate two more. I am the sort of friend who will sacrifice deeply in this way.

There was, however, one slight drawback to the cookies. The caramel, as it hardened, became very, very chewy. And as my friend does not stint on ooey-gooey toppings, it wasn’t a thin layer. The result was an amazingly, delicious cookie which rendered the eater entirely unable to communicate during the consumption process, or for a few minutes afterwards. Worth it.

While most CR guests are in small group, two or three of us set out the snacks in a separate room. This is where the quality control occurs, and it is where two of us succumbed to shortbread cookie ecstasy and silence for several minutes. What’s funny about this is both of us handling the set up are highly introverted. Together, we share our introvert struggles, anxieties, and what we like about our personalities, even when they make it difficult to fit in. We are also quite comfortable to be together quietly for large chunks of time, as introverts do. On Monday nights, these quiet setting up moments are sandwiched between two periods of high social interaction for us, This little bit of quiet space is always welcome.

So here we are, alone in a big room, chewing cookies. And chewing cookies. More chewing. And still more chewing, delicious buttery, caramel-y cookies.

It went on for a bit.

And then, we got the giggles. We attempted conversation, but we just couldn’t do it. We could not talk and consume this cookie at the same time. Instead we immersed ourselves in cookie-chewing until the experience ended. After we laughed and giggled…and ate another cookie…we decided to call them Introvert Cookies. If handed out to a room full of people, these cookies would halt conversation for a very long time. Which of course got us giggling even more. We had to eat another cookie to prove our hypothesis.

Sure enough, delicious silence. Just like I like it.

It’s interesting to me, as I look back, not just on this silly moment, but over the last year, how much more at ease I am with myself. My decision to eat before leaving home so I don’t have to take a covered dish somewhere, or my contentment with sitting quietly in a room even with other people around, or a hundred other quirks and oddities which make up the essence of me have long been a point of internal contention. One day I finally realized I don’t have to conform to popular culture. I don’t have to buy certain things, or eat certain ways, or be on certain bandwagons just to fit in.

I can do these things, and sometimes I do. But when I do, it is without pressure or resentment. Giving myself permission to be who I am has freed me to do everything more wholeheartedly.

It helps when we realize, we all exist in imaginary cultural boxes. Christians think this. Teen-agers do that. Poor people are this way. The world works that way.

Except it isn’t true, not all the time, or for every person. Boxes are neater, sure. And whole lot easier. We all experience tremendous pressure to conform to box where we mostly identify. But what would it look like if we didn’t? I don’t have the answer, but exploring the possibility has led me on a very healing and exciting journey.

If you like, we can share an introvert cookie and think about it.