Max's Notes


    Oops I did it again.

    Yep, I bought another "cleanse" book. So embarrassing!

    It's like Anne Lamott with her bathroom scales. Buying one, stepping on it, hating it for telling her how to feel, calling it names, taking it down to the Goodwill and saying, Hey guys. Got another scale for ya. 

    I haven't done this in a long time. I was in Oakland, the weather was glorious, especially for late January. I was working outside (!!!) and I started to believe in spring again.

    Suddenly I was in the mood for lighter food! In my moment of restored optimism and faith that I would soon want to eat something other than beef with pork, I bought this book about juice and salad and "cleansing."

    Am I going to get a juicer? I am not. Am I going to cook out of this book? Maybe a salad. Am I going on a cleanse? HELL NO, if past performance and my contempt of diets are any indication.

    But I lost my mind and bought this near-useless book. Ugh, what is my lesson?!

    Just this: Buying another cleanse book and giving it to Goodwill is not a big deal. It is a slip, yes. A bit of backsliding and a waste of $20. I listened to a thought that I've been able to ignore in the past (ooooh, buy me!) and this time didn't ignore it.

    Which matters nothing. I am not preserving a shining record. I do not care about being perfect not because it's impossible, but because being perfect is IRRELEVANT to the project of doing my best to keep important commitments. Like eating well and generously, and not going on stupid "cleanses," which, sidebar, the body doesn't actually require.

    So it is, exactly, with that donut you had or that argument you had or that other little indulgence. All-or-nothing is a setup for unnecessary surrender."Perfection" is just a tool your bad habits use to get you to give up and live life their terrible way.

    "Perfection" the idea is just poison. Throw it in the bin marked "irrelevant thoughts I can safely ignore forever" and carry on.

  • Pushy relatives pushing food: Oh, they mean well

    It’s common for people to dread the holidays, because of all the boundary violations that come with the season. I don't mean relatives who say things like "I'm going to let you go to the grocery store for me," as if you've been begging. I mean the unwanted food being pressed on us by well-meaning relatives. 

    Except, some of us suspect, they don’t really mean well. They’re really trying to sabotage us … maybe because …

    • they couldn’t handle it if we were to succeed at losing some weight
    • they’re afraid we’re changing too much, and they don’t want us to get too far away from the family
    • they need company in their own overeating or weight class

    Or may they’re not trying to sabotage us. Maybe they’re just trying to make sure we still love them, and they don’t recognize love when it comes at them in the form of hugs and kisses and gift-wrapped Uggs. They only see love if it looks like eating their food until you can't stand any more, right?

    Tcha! NO. While it’s true there are many badly behaved relatives in this world, and the holidays can provoke even the best-behaved, other people’s experiments with our boundaries are never the main problem.

    The problem - and this is actually good news - is us. Specifically, our failure to say No and mean it. Not to others, but to ourselves. If Aunt Hazel’s self-respect is riding on how many of her red-and-green sprinkled cookies you eat, she’s gonna make you multiple offers. And if you’re wobbly about what and how much you’ll be eating this holiday, she will unerringly sense this, and sweeten her deal until you take it.

    I have witnessed this over and over: a firm boundary does not get tested more than once. And by firm I don’t mean enforced with anger or belligerence. I just mean unambiguous. No one’s confused what No means, including you. If you say No, and mean it, Hazel will find another way to feel good, guaranteed.

    But last week we talked about how one or two holiday meals are not a disaster, unless we don’t go back to normal the next day. It’s when we say, Oh NOW I’ve blown it, screw it, it doesn’t matter, I guess Grandma was right when she said I’ll always be fat, and we continue our bingey way until April, except for a short break around January 1. That's the disaster: Not the holiday, but the post-holiday boundary breakdown.

    So watch out for that "screw it" thinking, because it’s very pervasive and very sneaky, and its undoing requires a bit of grit on your part.

    And keep this in mind: A boundary is not a diet. You might actually decide to eat a cookie to please the lady. Cookie eating is an act you are free to decriminalize any time you want to. We’re just talking about a few days out of the year.

    Unless we’re not. Unless we’re talking about most days out of the year. If the real problem is that we don’t have boundaries and guidelines that we practice 90% of the time, then it’s no good flipping out on Hazel.

    She’s not the problem.

  • Got your wedding season remedies here

    As I write, it’s just after Memorial Day in the States, I’m staring down a to-do list that would take Mary Poppins a year to sort, and trying to get back in the groove of a week with a day missing out of it.  Always in recombobulation. Never actually bobulating. Fully bobulated is my fantasy and how I wish to be remembered, perhaps on my headstone: "Max Daniels. A life of Total Bobulation!" Maybe an emoji:


    (Just kidding. My real fantasies involve earrings, cocktails and textiles, and as for my headstone, and I would totally take anything above 67.)

    Anyway. Let's talk about June.

    You may know June as the arrival of good weather - though not us in New England where we’re having Juneuary, again - or as the end of the academic year. Some of the people I’ve talked to over the past couple weeks know it as the season of weddings, graduations, reunions and beach holidays, aka Time to Freak Out and Apply Extreme Measures.

    By which I mean go on a diet, of course. Which is a bad idea, because in the short term: hunger, boredom, and that relentless Help-me-I’m-being-held-captive feeling.

    And in the long run, as my learned colleagues Traci Mann and Janet Tomiyama amply showed, dieting results in weight gain. (Not always. Just 97% of the time.)

    So, some suggestions that I think work better for the long run, if you agree the odds of avoiding weight gain following a diet are stacked against you:

    1. First, and the easiest place to break this cycle: DON’T go on a diet. Learn a more sustainable way of getting control of your weight and eating. (I know you know I have one.)

    2. Plump for a really nice outfit / bikini / ball gown / killer set of accessories so you can feel like the most fabulous woman at the party. You know you will do this FIRST THING when you lose “enough” weight. How about considering that you’re enough as is? And if you can’t do that, how about faking it, just because it’s an assignment from your coach <- that’s me, for the purposes of this permission slip. Clothes may not maketh the entire woman, but they are a posture miracle and the pictures will be worth it and the knock-on effects of treating yourself with respect are like a freight train of unstoppable wellbeing that will touch every aspect of your life, and your kids’ lives as well. And then you can get that outfit taken in whenever you need to.

    3. Speaking of pictures, guess what? A lot of those Instagram envybombs ARE POSED, and it is becoming more common to see women showing themselves “posing skinny” contrasted with “posing normal,” minutes apart and looking like two different people, just because they’re body-positive and feeling sisterly and want to spread the Let’s All Relax Shall We! message. You too can train an Instagram husband to get your best angle. (Need not be your actual husband.)

    4. And if you’re really fed up and ready to stop hating yourself over a number for the rest of your life, start looking for the real source of the suffering. It’s not on your hips. It’s in your mind. Round up those critical thoughts, shine a bright light in their eyes, and ask them Where did you get that idea? Who says I can’t get married at this weight? Who says I don’t deserve to lie on the beach and enjoy the wonders of the natural world? Where is this information coming from? Because you will find that it comes from culture, not from you. And there are already many things that you and culture do not agree about. Your worthiness at any weight can become just one more. 

    Easier said than done, I know, but it's worth doing and can go 1,000x faster with help. If you have been thinking about getting help with any of this, now is a very good time to do that, before summer is under way and life starts moving to a different rhythm. 

    We can have a no-obligation conversation about it - just let me know you’d like a quick chat.

    Either way, let's meet on the beach.

  • Bonjour, Happiness!

    Max's Notes are my personal takeaways. No background at all, just the standout usable bits I want to remember from my reading. If I write about a book here, you can know that I found it sane and useful - and most likely it made me laugh.

    Use at will! Take what you need, leave the rest.

    Bonjour, Happiness! Secrets to Finding Your Joie de Vivre, by Jamie Cat Callan

    You were warned! I have persisted. More with the Frenchwomen.

    The Saturn Return: Another chance to grab the brass ring, attend to leftover dreams. Last up to around age 59.

    Frenchwoman do not give house tours to their guests. They like to keep their secrets. They regard blabbing and dishing as very American.

    The secret garden, mentioned in Ooh La La!, can be the bedroom. (But not if all your guests see it.) The secret garden is for sleeping late, journaling, reading, and enjoying scent, candles, flowers. It is good to protect and nourish one's secret garden.

    Do not save the best for "best;" you will spend more trying to achieve pleasure that could be yours already.

    Changer les idées: Take a real break. Don't bring everything with you.

    The Frenchwoman is not ashamed of looking like she made an effort, because she DID.

    Frenchwomen do not buy in bulk. (Partly because shopping is a chance to flirt, and be seen.)

    Le regardez: Being seen, being appreciated. Frenchwomen like it. They like looking at themselves, too, and apparently do not feel ashamed for it. 

    And they will make an entrance. You hear them coming. Click click. (They're wearing heels, duh.) They frame themselves in the doorway, wait until they're seen, smile, make their grand entrance, click click click, bisous all around, unwrap their scarf, and everyone is hypnotised. Suggestion: Practice this move when nothing is at stake. 

    Dinner parties. They have them a lot. Here's how:

    • Store-bought desserts. No shame. Because their bakeries kick ass, so why not? But a lot of places around the world have good bakeries.
    • Keep it simple: kir royale, a little nibble, maybe a first course of a split fig with crumbled chèvre and mint, a simple cassoulet, store-bought bread (see above) with the cheese course, simple salad, dessert, then espresso. NOTHIN TO IT.
    • Warm the cheese on the counter for a while - don't pull it right out of the fridge
    • A trou normand - "Normandy hole" - is a palate cleanser, a little gap. Apple sorbet with a shot of Calvados.
    • Take the pressure off by only serving your tried-and-true recipes. You don't need a big repertoire. Serve the stuff that has make-ahead components.
    • Serve each course separately on little plates. 

    Some other things about eating:

    • "Manger" is something les animaux do. "Dîner" is what the people do.
    • Frenchwomen don't take seconds
    • Snacks are RIGHT OUT
    • and the kitchen is closed outside mealtimes

    Those lists of closet basics? Oh, yes, this book has one too: 

    1. Classic white button-down
    2. Pencil skirt
    3. Perfect-fitting jeans
    4. LBD
    5. Neutral jacket
    6. Cashmere pully
    7. Cardigan
    8. Trench

    (Note to self from my reading of this book in August 2016: I HAVE NOT ONE OF THESE. Shocking! Note from February 2017; Situation: Remedied. (Partly.))

    Things to consider:

    • Your handwriting should have panache
    • You could have a potted herb garden
    • See Babette's Feast (why have I not done this already?)
    • Take care of your sick neighbors with a covered dish. It's not hard.
    • Take dance lessons
    • Keep up your languages
    • Spa day. (This just keeps coming up.)
    • Always: good shoes or boots.
    • There is no word in French for "flirt." Because it's what they are soaking in?


    "Money is not so important. Beauty: VERY IMPORTANT!" -I'm sorry this is just a note, not an exact quote. It's the right idea though.

    Takeaway, or One Thing I Will Do Different Now

    If this book can be distilled into a single important principle, it is this:

    Happiness doesn't come from a giant leap, so take your pleasures frequently. For me, the cheese course.


  • Ooh La La! French Women's Secrets to Feeling Beautiful Every Day

    Max's Notes are my personal takeaways. No background at all, just the standout usable bits I want to remember from my reading. If I write about a book here, you can know that I found it sane and useful - and most likely it made me laugh.

    Use at will! Take what you need, leave the rest.

    Ooh La La! French Women's Secrets to Feeling Beautiful Every Day, by Jamie Cat Callan

    Okay, a little background on this one, actually. I LOVE these "secrets of Frenchwomen books." LOVE. Cannot get enough. For a woman raised in a Puritan society <-me, there is always something worth the price of admssion.

    So there will be more Jamie Cat Callan, and other Anglophone observers on how the French do life. Especially the women.

    Now for the bits:

    The Frenchwoman will always choose pleasure over work. Thus, there is no "getting work done." Instead, there are massage, creams, seasonal spa trips, "taking the waters." <- New favorite phrase.

    Frenchwomen want to look beautiful, not young. "Take care of your skin and act your age." (They do like their cellulite creams, though - and apparently believe in their efficacy. Note to self: Investigate.)

    They believe that beauty originates within. Do as much to feel good as to look good. Go to the hammam and spend the whole day.

    What is this "guilty pleasure?" How can it be pleasurable if it causes guilt? How can it cause guilty if it's pleasurable? The guilty pleasure is an alien concept that makes no sense in the French context.

    Changer les idées! Change things up in a small way, frequently.

    "For Frenchwomen it is more important to be artful than to be beautiful."

    Mme. Poupie Cadolle, lingerie tycoon, is very dismayed by seamless, smooth bras. (Me, too! HATE THEM.) Why would you want to imply you are without sexy lingerie or anatomical features?

    A Frenchwoman will have a secret garden in the middle of life: Space for staring out the window, whether melancholy or happy, just being. Not being on the phone. 

    Frenchwomen like to be looked at. Have a dinner party; it needn't be complicated. For fun and frivolity, and to have an audience. It's okay to be a little theatrical. You're only middle-aged once! Participate in the theatre of life.

    "Mais monseiur, comme vous êtes compliqué!" Translation: Sir, you are so ... complicated. Meaning: You are being a jerk and seriously offending me. GTFO. (Memorized.)


    "We transfer the handicap, and make it an asset! We fight against the beauty norm!" -Josy Mermet, style consultant. Translation: FUCK BEAUTY NORMS. If I say it's an asset, IT IS. 

    Takeaway, or One Thing I Will Do Different Now

    Short term: Hit the hammam, and spend all day. There's a very affordable one in San Francisco.

    Long term: Participate in the theatre of life. Refuse to feel bad about wishing to be, on occasion, a tiny bit of an artful spectacle.

  • Love Warrior

    Max's Notes are my personal takeaways. No background at all, just the standout usable bits I want to remember from my reading. If I write about a book here, you can know that I found it sane and useful - and most likely it made me laugh.

    Use at will! Take what you need, leave the rest.

    Love Warrior, by Glennon Doyle Melton

    The "representative": a false self that Glennon sends to attend high school and take her real self's place in other dangerous environments. This representative eventually becomes a problem for her, especially in marriage.

    Note to self: GDM may fire her representative in favor of living in a fully authentic manner everywhere she goes, but I love the notion of a representative. Personally, I have several representatives on staff. I'd never promote one to CEO, but they're fantastic for talking to bank managers and cops and the IRS.

    How (NOT) to respond to someone else's calamity:

    • Shovers cram your tragedy into their story, and make everything tidy. "Everything happens for a reason! You'll be fine! Off you go now! I've fixed you and given you hope!"  
    • Comparers got no room for your particular grief. It's just like theirs, or someone they know. "Why you acting like a baby? Nothing special about you, twas ever thus, I got more examples if you want em."
    • Fixers know exactly how to clean up this catastrophe. They read a book about it and if you can hang on for a second, they'll look up the title. "No need to spend one more moment in pain if you will just do what I am telling you."
    • Reporters are just connecting so they can extract the juicy details and pass them on ASAP, usually under the cover of concern.
    • Victims are people who are wounded that they didn't hear news of your troubles sooner, from you. Why didn't you call them right away? "I thought we were friends!"
    • God Reps (few in my world, but if you go to church, and Glennon does, I guess you're pretty vulnerable to this class of hardship vulture) need to tell you what Jesus wants you to do about your difficulties. Since God religions are mostly, by definition, patriarchal, this kind of approach is going to stick in your feminist craw. 

    Note to self: Obviously, there's only one way to receive news of someone else's devastation: Listen without prejudice, unless they're paying me for advice.

    Very important corollary note to self: When anyone offers unsolicited advice, it is safe to assume that anything they say is about them, and not you.

    ^^^ This is why I read books like Love Warrior. Not for advice, but for backup.


    "I'd rather lose [Craig, Glennon's husband] forever than lose myself ever again. I will never abandon myself again. That is all I know." 

    Takeaway, or One Thing I Will Do Different Now

    Next time someone shares bad news, listen kindly and stay stumm. Repeat forever.

  • Max's Notes: Year of Yes

    Like CliffsNotes, only not. Max's Notes are my personal takeaways. No background at all, just the standout usable bits I want to remember from my reading.

    If I write about a book here, you can know that I found it sane, useful and funny. Take what you need, leave the rest.

    Year of Yes, by Shonda Rhimes

    "You just have to train yourself to love salads." --Betsy Beers, Friend of Shonda. Like Shonda, I thought that was some kind of punitive restricting dressed up as being healthy. I've rearranged my thinking about that as I've trained myself to love vegetables more than cheese-n-bread.


    "Bulk cheese never hurt nobody."

    Takeaway, or One Thing I Will Do Different Now

    As Mr Jones thinks that my love of good cheese is the thing that will turn him into a bag lady, I have begun to say Yes to bulk cheese.

    First, though, I priced Velveeta because I thought it would be good for big lulz when Mr Jones opened the cheese drawer. Guess what? Velveeta is expensive, y'all. You might as well get Mt. Tam.

  • Max's Notes: Better Than Before

    Max's Notes are my personal takeaways. No background at all, just the standout usable bits I want to remember from my reading. If I write about a book here, you can know that I found it sane and useful - and most likely it made me laugh.

    Use at will! Take what you need, leave the rest.

    Better Than Before, by Gretchen Rubin

    "Every time you break the law, you pay, and every time you obey the law, you pay." -John Gardner [!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!]

    "Identify the problem" [suck list, 5 why's]

    Bedmaking correlates with wellbeing

    Foundation! First things first - and we decide what's first.

    "Obligers" really do want accountabilitiy

    Therapists teach you to be accountable to yourself. Coaches keep you accountable to the coach. [MAYBE.]

    People will pay more to get less of a desirably bad thing (Halloween candy)

    Nuclear option: Donate to terrorists if you don't keep your commitment. UGH.

    "Starting is harder than continuing."

    "'NOW' is a an unpopular time to take a first step."

    If asked to commit to something far in the future, imagine it's happening next week - or tomorrow - to get your real answer

    No finish line

    Abstainers and moderators are VERY DIFFERENT [People Vary] - and very judgemental of each other

    Make it EASY to do what's good

    Make it HARD to do what's bad

    Inconvenience strategies:

    • Increase energy required (put things away)
    • Hide cues
    • Delay (expl: email only after 11am)
    • incompatible activity / distraction
    • raise cost (tax)
    • block altogether (expl: toss tv)

    PLAN FOR STUMBLES (use if/then rules)

    A stumble is not a reason to give up

    It's VERY hard to get up. Try to avoid stumbling AMAP even tho you can't avoid them completely.

    Rather than "starting tomorrow" maybe think about morning, midday, afternoon and evening. If you "blow it" in the morning, you can still reset today.

    Consumption snobbery is a GOOD HABIT

    Wait 15 minutes / distractions

    Pairing: When I do X, I do Y also (physical therapy and podcasts; mascara and meds)

    Get clear about what you REALLY want (i.e., identify the problem). Do you want to spend $$$ on couples therapy? Or could you just spend $ on hiring a cleaner?

    Identity: "I'm FUSSY. I'm the FUSSY one."

    Takeaway, or One Thing I Will Do Different Now

    • Cook a fresh pot of brown rice on Sunday evenings, so it's ready to go for weekday lunch base (make it EASY to do what's good)

  • Introducing Max's Notes: 10% Happier, by Dan Harris

    Have you ever looked at CliffsNotes? I've never actually used them for academic purposes, but I glanced into one in the shop one day. My impression was one of very thoughtful analysis. Masterful summing-up. Solid, if somewhat neutral, discussion of the text. A thoroughly reliable background for anyone needing the fundamentals. 

    This ain't that. Max's Notes are my personal takeaways. No background at all, just the standout usable bits that I want to remember. If I write about a book here, you can know that I found it sane, useful, and quite funny.

    Use at will! Take what you need, leave the rest.

    10% Happier, by Dan Harris

    Harris's shrink's addiction recovery Rx: "Care for yourself as you would a thoroughbred"

    The mind's activity is like the waterfall; meditation gives you access to the space behind the waterfall

    Tara Brach's RAIN method:

    • Recognise
    • Allow
    • Investigate [bodily sensations]
    • Non-identification

    HHDL: Compassion benefits itself. Be wise selfish, not foolish selfish.

    Yale study of default mode network (DMN) [Damn!] (The part of the brain that ruminates about past, fantasizes, obsesses about self, projects future.) This is deactivated in meditation, but also in meditators NOT meditating. "In other words, meditation created a new default network," i.e., being here now, all of which = neuroplasticity, or retraining the brain.

    "Suffering" is a bad translation. We should say "ultimately unreliable or dissatisfying because nothing is permanent" or "stressful."

    Military personnel describe that under stress, their "training kicks in." THAT'S WHAT I WANT: THOROUGHBRED training, tho - not killer training.

    Multitasking is something a computer with multiprocessors can do. We have ONE processor.

    Epiphany engineering: Think hard, focus, research, then DROP IT

    "Most Americans didn't brush their teeth until WWII" - soldiers had the habit imposed, and then spread it. "Public health revolutions can happen quite rapidly."

    Takeaway, or One Thing I Will Do Different Now

    • Write out a "thoroughbred" Rx, from Dr Max to Patient Max

  • Wayfinder's Quest Post #115: Diamond SUUTRA

    Dwelling in mystery! AMAZE.

    Coincidences (aka Spontaneous Unsolicited Upgrades, aka signs of Forming)

    As you may have read in her latest YEARbook, Havi has taken the phenomenon of spontaneous unsolicited upgrades and upgraded them to SUUTRAs: Spontaneous Unsolicited Upgrades of Treasure, Radiance, Abundance. I'm adopting her term because my crazy unaskedfor upgrade this week was actual diamonds. Thus I have an honest-to-goodness Diamond SUUTRA to list in my Wayfinding report.

    What we are doing here:

    Dwelling in mystery.

    Luxuriating in desire.

    Seeking the hot tracks.

    Working magic.

    Glorying in the pageantry and spectacle of the phenomenal world.

    Gracefully negotiating the contradiction between revelry and spirituality.

    (If there is one.) 

    Here it is: I really truly love my engagement ring. It's a big, ugly, lumpy lump of gold, made up of little lumps put together, the way Andy Goldsworthy might. It's somehow very 70s, also very Danish. It was made by a Provincetown jeweler, and all over the Outer Cape people recognize his work and exclaim over it. It really fits my hand, which is not easy. And I didn't even pick it out; Mr Jones did. He didn't know my taste anything like as well as he knows it today and he got something just perfect.

    And still. Like my friend Briana knew by age 3, DIAMONDS.

    So after many years together, Mr Jones had been thinking to surprise me with a diamond when his daughter, who I will style Miss Jones because why not, said to him: Max needs a diamond.

    He did not say I am way ahead of you daughter. He said What makes you say that?

    And she said I just know. Trust me on this.

    (I did admire Miss Jones's engagement ring. Sincerely, but not extravagantly or enviously. I maybe injected a note of overcasualness in trying to throw her off the scent of my lust. Obviously I failed to cloak my desire from her considerable psychic powers.)

    So it is possible that her urging caused him to upgrade his original plan, because I wound up with an adventure as well - a surprise journey through the countryside, or so it seemed, until we wound up at a fancy suburban mall, where Mr Jones steered me in the direction of a … Wolford shop? Uh oh. I thought What's happening here? Are we buying some extremely expensive-yet-mumsy Swiss stockings? and I had a nervous moment before Mr Jones took my elbow and guided me into the jeweler next door, where I became a bit delirious, and the next thing I knew someone was putting a very Game-of-Thrones-looking ring on my hand.

    (I hope it was Mr Jones. I really don't remember.)

    The ring has an inverted diamond, which means it points up, like Everest, and it's very dark, "meant to evoke twilight," as its maker says, and maybe to him that means vampires and werewolves and the Pacific Northwest, but to me it means the best time of day. This ring is so beautiful.

    (Also, it is an actual upgrade, intended as such. Of course Mr Jones is a software person, and thinks in terms of "upgrades," but it tickled me to hear him say I thought it was time you had an upgrade. Because he definitely does not read this blog.

    And I will show you a picture later, when it's back from the shop where it's being resized.)

    Another SUUTRA: I have gotten very keen on naughty underwear this year. One of my sister students at the School of Womanly Arts put me onto Agent Provocateur, which is a fancy British brand with stuff for the seasons, which goes on sale, and "Classics," which do not. These of course were the things I wanted. They just had their sale, and although the girl in the shop assured me that the pieces I wanted would never be included, they threw them into the sale at the end for 75% off. And they still had my size.


    Further treasuring myself. I think this means organizing my underwear drawer this week, which probably sounds like polishing the silver or cleaning the fridge. But it feels like a particularly delicious kind of self care. Making sure the good stuff is ready to hand. Setting things up so that making good choices is the easy way.

    That, actually, is what 90% of my work is about. So I will say it again: Setting things up so that making good choices is the easy way.

    Updates on past experiments, aka Treasuring Myself, aka Act Natural

    This may strike you as extreme and insane, and maybe more fitting for a person recovering from having been raising in an attic or a basement or Kamchatka. Or, I don't know, maybe a hippie town. But I don't know any other Boulderites my age who have this problem. Anyway.

    While I was in Portland a couple weeks ago, I noticed that one of my sister agents, who I will call Agent Orange, had amazing hair. Like maybe the best hair I have ever seen. Really full and bouncy and, clearly, the object of affection, attention, care, love and time.

    [Time! The thing that signifies care better than just about anything.]

    And I noticed that, as I often do when drawn to something beautiful, I instantly went through this process:

    Step 1: admire [something]
    Step 2: desire; wish I could have something like it
    Step 3: deny; tell myself it would not be possible
    Step 4: feel sad
    Step 5: dismiss; calmly recite reasons why it's not possible for me in an attempt to pacify myself
    Step 6: feel more sad, disappointed, a little relieved (no risk! no work! no big change)
    Step 7: accept the verdict "you can't have that" and carry on as if that's true

    (Wow, look how many subpersonalities, as my Zen teacher would say, are involved here. Definitely a Small Sad Me and a Miss Slighcarp type: a knuckle-rapping governess whose job it is to say No! and lambast me for wanting in the first place.)

    But sometimes a further process can occur, which is

    Step 8: desire comes back, even stronger than before, now with added anger, which could be expressed as belligerence toward the denying part of myself, or with renewed determination

    And then, maybe, Step 9, rather than return to the beginning and repressively stamp down the desire, perhaps with added verbal abuse for persistently

    Step 9: Consider that Hey! Maybe there's a way to have this thing... 

    So the task "make appointment for Bumble inversion cut" has been on my to-do list a long-ass time. Huge resistance. But the mental image of Agent O's fabulous hair kinda egged me on, and I forced myself to make the appointment - helped by the fact of far more unpalatable items on my to-do list, like Get new doctor, Get new dermatologist, Get mammogram, augh - and instead of acting like a big embarrassed weirdo at the salon, I watched and listened carefully as the stylist explained exactly how to get volume, and I did not curl up and pray for death when she showed me 86 ok 3 tools I do not currently use.

    And when she said Most people do not use anything like enough product in their hair. Do not be afraid to use a lot, I heard the voice of my father say "She's just trying to see you more stuff," but I merely responded "Ok maybe. Thanks for the heads up. I'll take that under advisement." So I let her do whatever she wanted and I will say, my hair is bangin right now.

    (And that makes this inversion #2 this week, so perhaps inversion is a Clue.)

    I have mentioned before about my idea, erroneous I mostly know now, that I was so ugly that any visible attempts to make myself less ugly would only invite ridicule. Like, public humiliation. Like, haha look at that hideous chick wearing lipstick. Did you ever?!

    (This strength of this belief is stunning to me now. GOD! WHERE DID I GET THIS IDEA??!!)

    To this day, I take mostly horrible pictures because I am on fire with intolerable shame if anyone sees me "preening" e.g. checking for egg on my face or some equally outrageous egotistical concern. The antidote for all this might be "Go where they have a vested interest in helping you look better, and will say nice reassuring things while they're doing it and most important of all, my acting natural while the whole wild and crazy enterprise is happening.

    One day, I will not be acting natural when I put "product" in my hair. It will just be natural.

    Well! It'll still be artifice. But I'll do it naturally.

    Destination: Date night

    What has happened? Nothing on this list, but Mr Jones and I went to Deep Ellum in Brighton this week on our way home from an errand. Great burger, perfect fries, unbelievable cloud show from the deck.

    Also I think it's time for updates. The new Best of Boston list should be out now.

    1. Alden & Harlow
    2. Alinea (Chicago)
    3. Area Four
    4. Asta
    5. Battersby (Brooklyn)
    6. Beast (Portland)
    7. Belly Wine Bar
    8. Bondir
    9. Brine
    10. Clio
    11. Coppa
    12. Franny's (Brooklyn)
    13. Hartwood
    14. L'Aquitaine
    15. L'Espalier
    16. Myers & Chang
    17. No. 9 Park
    18. O-Ya
    19. Pok Pok Noi (Portland)
    20. Ribelle
    21. Roberta's (Brooklyn)
    22. Sarma
    23. Scampo
    24. Shojo
    25. Toro
    26. Toro Bravo (Portland)
    27. West Bridge

    That should keep us busy for a while, but please feel free to suggest additions.


    Let me know what you think. You can report on your own Wayfinding experiments, or tell me about the best places for naughty skivvies, or just say Hi.

    You might also enjoy

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    Wayfinder's Quest Post #114: What happens when I treasure myself?

  • Wayfinding Week 41: Doing it right now, by degrees

    What is this Wayfinding? It's a series of experiments with Martha Beck's "technologies of magic," as described in her book Finding Your Way in a Wild New World." They are Wordlessness, Oneness, Imagination, and Forming. We do the experiment together!


    Two of my important teachers, Byron Katie and Brooke Castillo (and a whole lot more: the Buddha, Shakespeare, Eckhart Tolle), agree that there is no external circumstance that can cause us pain. Only our thoughts about our circumstances can cause us to suffer.

    Fine. I accept that, in large part - if we add a rigorously applied distinction between pure "clean" pain, experienced in the moment, and "dirty" repetitive suffering, kind of like the difference between breaking your tooth and probing the break every two seconds with your tongue.

    What I'm disliking today is any notion that you shouldn't attempt to change your circumstances. I don't mean that there is fun or profit in compulsive maximizing (I don't find it there, anyway) or that nirvana is to be found in constantly seeking better accommodation, if you prefer the Buddhist description.

    But why hang about the pain factory? As a massage therapist once said to me regarding his commitment to pain-free techniques, "Anytime you cause more pain, you're just causing more pain." And he did not add, And now it's in your body, but he may as well have.

    I see no reason not to change your circumstances while working on your habits of mind. I do it all the time, and tell you what: Changing shit is fun! Actually watching yourself change shit to suit your pleasure is just pleasure in and of itself.

    Moreover, it's a great way to get feedback from the world. Try shit. See what works. This particular life might be short, and we're not at the beginning of it.

    Now, in the realm of changing my personal cirumstances, I am in Portland this week. Being in Portland is really a substantial change from being in Boston. The Fuckedness Index, as created by William Gibson, is pretty low here. The coffee is amazing, especially at Barista. The cocktails at Aviary, just this week named Restaurant of the Year by Williamette Week, and coincidentally right across the street from my hostel, are fantastic, especially the One Night in Bangkok (if you go, have them make it extra limey). The Bollywood Theater is delightful, especially the little Indian carb bombs called Vada Pav, basically some kind of breaded potato inside bread. And the raw vegan kale salad from Pixie Retreat is as good as I remembered.

    First-ever drink with an umbrella, at Aviary. My childlike excitement is genuine.

    And that's just the food I've sampled in Alberta Street. There's also the extremely chill hot tub scene, inconceivable in Boston, believe me, and oh! The massage.

    And everywhere I go: Good soundtrack.

    Yes. Good change. It's only for a week - slightly extended due to the airport chaos of Hurricane Sandy - but a nice example of Doing it Right Now. By degrees.

    Coincidences (possible signs of Forming):

    I'm at the Fluent Self's Crossing the Line retreat. I signed up for it over a year ago, and was really not too sparky when I set out. It didn't feel like it was the right thing at the right time anymore.

    Turns out, it's exactly the right thing. Very right timing.

    This past year, starting with seeing Byron Katie 13 months ago, I've been On The Floor a lot. One weekend with Katie, and I Hit The Wall and was knocked On The Floor for a month. Every retreat and vacation, On The Floor. After going half-time at my day job in September, On The Floor until 10am every day.

    And by On The Floor, I mean literally on the floor. Putterputter then back to the floor. I really don't think I've been so slowed down since the Great Year of Unemployment, which began when someone else's bubble burst, and ended when I got part-time webmonkey work at a 400-year-old web-enabled institution and met Supergravity Jones.

    (The Great Year of Unemployment, by the way, was not even a slightly bad thing. I spent the whole time reading, sleeping, playing boardgames, watching tv (!) and going out to hear live music. I feel certain it extended my life expectancy by way more than a year.)

    I was still working out why all this lying around On The Floor when I arrived at Crossing the Line. Where coincidentally we are On The Floor throughout the day. Like, a lot.

    Havi calls this "Conducting." Best part: no justification or explanation needed. Just noting of benefits, which are huge. Yay! No more needing to work why. Big, big, BIG YAY! for that.

    (If this "conducting" interests you and you want to try it, email me, and I'll tell you a little bit more. There's some structure to transmit.)

    Another coincidence: of nine people at the Crossing, three are Martha Beck coaches. I didn't know either of them before, but I am super glad to be connected to them now.

    Turns out I am not the only Martha Beck coach who takes pictures of her drink. Whew!

    Updates on current and past experiments:

    About a year ago, I saw a picture of a Martha Beck coach on Facebook, having an In Person coffee date with three other Martha Beck coaches, right here in Portland. I had the biggest surge of I WANT THAT! Connection. Co-location. Conviviality. Coffee. Plus magic and witchery. OMG. Looked so amazing.

    Saturday night I had that. SO. GOOD. Me and three other Martha Beck coaches, two local, one probably soon-to-be local. 

    It was magic and kinda witchy. Total dream come true. Thankful!

    Your turn!

    If you're doing a similar wayfinding experiment and want to report results, or reading Martha's book and want to talk about it, leave a comment below.

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