The Introspective Salon
Noticing progress is the best feeling. Whenever you’re working on a project or a personal goal it can feel like it’s taking forever to see results, but when you notice them, whether because you’re tracking progress or because you’re being observant in a moment, it is the best feeling ever!
This happened for me recently in a rather unexpected scenario. I’ve been working on my self-worth and confidence for a really long time, so sometimes it feels like I’m going nowhere and still feeling the same shitty ways about myself that I always have, even though I know that’s not true, it’s hard to believe it without evidence. I have been much more vigilant about keeping track of my progress and becoming observant to the ways in which I’ve grown, but there hasn’t been any times where I’ve acted on this progress in public (at least as far as I've noticed), until I met Nebula the Happy Space Monkey.
I met Nebula last night when I was I hanging out with a new friend. I have had a friend crush on her for a while (you know that friend crush feel, right?), and we've had tentative plans to go to the Glow Golf place in the mall together, and last night we finally realized our plans. After Glow Golf, we walked around the mall, and she wanted to stop at one of the kiosks because they were selling those little Happy Monkey toys (apparently, these are knock-offs to the crazed Fingerlings, but I'm not seeing that they're any different).
They were having a Buy One Get One Free deal so I agreed to get one with her. I had my eyes on a little white monkey with a pink tuft of hair - she looked like a little space monkey - while my friend was eyeing the little turquoise monkey with a purple tuft of hair - she looked like a little 90s troll monkey.
With visions of possessing our own little happy monkeys, we walked up to ask about it. The guy said, "Oh no, it's one for $15 but two for $25."
“Well, that’s dumb,” my friend scoffed.
I explained to the guy that that is not what we wanted and we were about to walk away, but then he started to haggle with us! The haggling caught my friend off guard, and then I caught my friend and myself off guard by pushing back!
"What about $20?" he asked.
“The sign says buy one get one free," I said.
"OK, would you do $18?" he pleaded.
"I just don't understand why the sign says buy one get one free if that's actually not the deal you're offering," I said.
"Oh, yea, my boss said there was some deal . . ." the kid mumbled something I didn't quite understand, "but if you want two for $15 then I'll do that."
"Well, I mean, obviously that's what we want," I said. And my friend and I walked away with two little happy monkeys for the deal that was advertised!
I feel pretty damn great about that. It might seem small and insignificant, but because I’ve become observant to my progress, I know this indicates a shift in my confidence and understanding of my own self-worth. A past version of myself would have simply told the guy “no thank you” when he tried to sell up the price. I would have blamed myself for being innocent and easy to fool, but this version of me knew that he was trying to cheat us. This version of me wasn’t afraid to point that out and get the advertised deal.
When we walked away my friend was laughing, “I can’t believe you did that,” she said. I kind of couldn’t believe it either, but then, I also could believe it - I can believe it - because I’m not the same timid person that I used to be.
Initially, I only went in on the purchase because my friend was so excited to get a little happy monkey of her own. I didn’t totally want one for myself (ok, I kind-of wanted one for myself), but I’m glad that I have her. Nebula, my little happy space monkey, can remind me of how far I’ve come.
Something a lot of people probably don’t know about me is that I’m a low-key paper hoarder. I don’t mean important documents or receipts, I mean craft paper. I have a random collection of patterned and textured papers and gift wrap. I save any kind of pretty paper that I think might work well in a craft. I do this mostly because I like to make my own cards for birthdays and holidays, but sometimes I endeavor in a different craft project and find that all these papers I’ve saved really come in handy. As an example, for Christmas last year I made my mom a scrapbook. I don’t have a lot of scrapbooking supplies, but I have a lot of random paper. I was able to use those resources at my disposal to make her scrapbook. I don’t think I ran out to the craft store once to get anything new, I made everything with all that paper I already had.
Over this last weekend my little paper collection came in handy again because I made a vision board. I’ve been thinking about making one for a few weeks, but I’ve been hesitant because I think they can be a little hokey. The best way to achieve goals and make the life you want is to have an action plan, but I couldn’t let the idea of making the vision board go. I figured I have the time and the supplies and the desire so I might as well do it.
I don’t know how interesting this is going to be for you, as the reader, but I’m invested in exploring this board and what it means to me. If you happen to take inspiration from it, I’m honored, but if not, then I invite you to stop reading at any time.
My vision board is a little different than others that I’ve seen in that I only used one magazine clipping. Most the vision boards I see online are pretty pictures from magazines, but the only magazines I had was a small stack of New Yorkers and they just aren’t cut out for vision board making. There aren’t many ads and there aren’t many pictures. I did take one cartoon from a New Yorker and I put the rest of my stack in the recycling. I may be a low-key paper hoarder, but I do know when it’s time to cut ties.
To start my vision board, I wrote out all the things that I wanted it to reflect:
This way I could keep it focused on the goals and dreams that really matter to me right now and not get sidetracked by simply picking pretty papers or cute stickers.
I then collected all the items that contributed to my goals and dreams and played around with different placements. In the end, I think I essentially broke it down into four quadrants and I'm going to take you on a tour of each one.
Whimsy and creativity. Inspiration for becoming a published author. Lovely words. Try new things. Art.
(Oh, in the interest of complete honesty, I also took that little stack of books by Judy Blume from the New Yorker. It's a little embarrassing how long I looked through those magazines before I finally realized I wasn't finding enough to warrant the search. Let this be your warning, if you make a vision board, don't use New Yorker magazines).
Anyway, for this quadrant, I chose to write out the names of two women that have really inspired me recently, Judy Blume and Amanda Palmer. I want to be a thoughtful and boundary pushing author like Judy Blume and I want to take action and be persistent about my passions like Amanda Palmer. (I’d also just love to adopt Amanda Palmer’s style and aura and way of being, but a vision board should be realistic).
I also included some images, like the panda unicorn, to reflect my desire to maintain whimsy and creativity in my life and in my work. I especially like the cartoon I clipped from the New Yorker because it reminds me to push against what’s standard and create what I want, even if it defies logic. I am a writer, after all. I can make whatever worlds I want. I may write primarily realistic fiction, but that doesn't mean I can't push boundaries there or play around with fantasy elements in other writing and work.
I included a little bit more than nature in this quadrant, like “fresh diet” “style” and “simple.” I also included a sticker that says “made from recycled paper” to remind me to be mindful of producing as minimal an amount of waste as I can. I think that these all tie back into nature pretty seamlessly, though style is a bit of an outlier. That would have made more sense in Quadrant 1, but oh well, it blended in nicely with the paper. Overall, this quadrant is a reminder to get outside and appreciate the beauty of nature. I find a lot of peace and stillness when I can do that. Plus, I’m super lucky in Colorado because there’s hardly ever a day that’s not nice enough to get outside for a walk, at least.
Love and family
One of the most important areas of my life to foster is relationships. I’m so blessed to have a loving and supportive family and a few (but damn good quality) friends and I feel pulled to pour my energy into those relationships as much as I can. I included the word “shine” at the bottom without much thought, but looking at it now I see it as a reminder of how wonderful fostering these relationships makes me feel.
As for Spanish, I used a bit of magnet so that I can play around with my Spanish magnetic poetry kit Unfortunately, the makers of this set didn’t do the most comprehensive job, so I can’t write very riveting sentences and it doesn't appear that they have every word in both its male and female variety, (which is why I have toda instead of todo. Just in case you noticed that - know that I know and it's bothering me greatly). But hey, I’m only learning the basics right now anyway.
I have a bit of an outlier with the butterfly wing encased in plastic. I wrote “ala de mariposa” on it, which means butterfly wing in Spanish, to tether it to this quadrant, but it also fits in with the nature or creativity quadrants. I’ve had this wing for several years now. It has stayed intact, even though I’ve never had it protected like I do now. The wing’s longevity and slight brokenness inspires me. To that end, it also kind of fits in with the “God” quadrant, which I’ll explore more in a moment.
Then there’s this other little outlier, my I am . . . board. This doesn’t really fit in with any of the categories I initially listed, but were I to give it a category now I’d call it “self-improvement” or “self-exploration.” To make it, I used another piece of magnet and glued a little cardboard frame around it. The magnet is so that I can interchange the word with my (English language) magnetic poetry kit often. I think it’s important for a vision board to have moving pieces because if you look at the same thing every day, eventually you stop seeing it. The placement of this works well in between my creativity quadrant and my relationships quadrant because I think those are the two elements of my life that influence who I am the most. I left the board blank for the pictures I took, but I have since put up the word “loving.” I’m looking forward to figuring out what word to put up next!
Nature and God
For a few years now I’ve been thinking more steadily and reflectively on death and dying, which has sparked a lot of existential and spiritual thinking. I want to return to a more consistent spiritual practice. I’m not sure yet how I’ll do that. I’ve been putting off going to church again, but that is ultimately something I’d like to do. I’d like to pray more. I’d like to give more. I'd like to be more mindful of peoples' brokenness and how it shapes them, and how worthy we can all be of forgiveness. I’d also like to have more conversations about God and the universe and what’s out there so I can better understand my own thoughts about it.
To make this quadrant, I used Velcro to attach a clothes pin so that this can also be a movable part. I have a box of cards called “Pocket prayers” and for now, I aim to interchange these cards. Maybe later on I’ll find other things to affix to this quadrant, but I like the Pocket Prayers because they are non-denominational prayers and they offer universal sentiments of hope, appreciation of nature and beauty, gratitude, and peace.
I spent a whole morning making this vision board. I had the time to do that and I thoroughly enjoyed myself. I love organizing things into different categories and coordinating colors and themes. While I enjoyed it, I wouldn’t necessarily recommend a vision board to a busy person because it requires a lot of work and reflection that could be put to better use on an action plan. I definitely wouldn’t recommend a vision board to someone who hates paper crafts because even if you use magazine clips or print outs from the Internet, you still have to do a lot of searching and cutting. I think that vision boards are best suited to people who truly want to make one because they aren’t quick fixes to achieving your goals. I don’t have any delusions that looking at this every day will manifest success, but it is nice to be reminded of my inspirations and dreams. I hung it up right next to my desk so I can see it every day and easily interchange the moving parts.
If you stayed with me through this journey, I want to ask, what do you think about vision boards? Have you made one? Do you now want to make one? Or is a project like this a total waste of time for you?
The last time I think I truly enjoyed social media was back when I had a MySpace account. I used to take a lot of pride in designing my page and I would actively seek to learn how to use the interface so that I could make a really cool looking page. I also truly enjoyed taking pictures and sharing them.
Shoes. Very interest. Much intrigue. Many aesthetic.
I miss those shoes, actually. Those loafers were pretty magical.
I found a lot of gratification in taking and sharing these images. It was fun to share a hobby.
The older I've gotten, the more I have used social media in a much less engaging way. I have nurtured the horrible habit of mindless, passive scrolling. Ever since I made the switch from MySpace to Facebook I stopped engaging with the platform and started merely using it to zone out. That's why I ended up getting rid of Facebook for years and why I now use it very, very moderately. For me, mindless scrolling was contributing to mounting anxiety and feelings of shame and then there's that whole comparing game. That's always fun. I'm sure I played the comparing game with MySpace, too, but I always balanced it out by engaging with the platform more. I would message my friends and fill out those little surveys where you actually had to copy and paste and type your answers - those surveys that predated the infamous BuzzFeed click and pick quizzes.
I'm not trying to muster up some flood of nostalgia for MySpace, here (though I do think those surveys are probably more beneficial to the young users of social media than Buzzfeed quizzes). I'm finding, though, that I've been missing that element of engagement.
A 2015 American Psychological Association study found that passive Facebook use contributed to more negative feelings and feelings of envy (www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/25706656). Wow! It's no wonder that scrolling passively was making me feel so terrible.
I pulled back from sharing as much on social media in college. I started to feel very embarrassed about anything that I would share and I would constantly think about what I could share, even though I knew that sharing would likely lead to me feeling bad. In fact, the act of thinking so much about what to share made me feel bad! It was such a vicious cycle. I would share something and then get no response and I'd feel embarrassed. I'd see other people sharing and get a lot of responses and feel shame. I have such a negative track of thoughts laid out in my brain associated with Facebook that I don't think I will ever go back to using that platform regularly again, but I have been trying to engage more on Instagram because I use that platform at least once a week, if not every day, and I don't seem to have the same negative cycles with it that I did with Facebook. I've been sharing more personal stories and expressing my interests through Instagram and I'm trying to get better about engaging with other peoples' posts beyond simply liking them. I don't want my process with Instagram to ever match the process that I created with Facebook. That was misery making.
Social media can be such a great tool for an introverted person like me who struggles to make relationships in real life. I could really be using it to my benefit, but I've been using it for so long to my detriment. Since I've started working on engaging more with social media, I have felt much less frustrated with it. I am now even kinder with myself when I slip into using it to procrastinate, and because I don't beat myself up about it, it's easier to log off when it's becoming a problem. It's also easier to keep it from becoming a big distraction because when I engage it feels like I've done something productive and I can then move on to the next productive (or not) task!
I have become a little obsessed with self-improvement. If I notice a trait or quality about myself that I dislike or that makes me uncomfortable or unhappy, I want to change it. I see it as an opportunity for growth rather than an opportunity for acceptance. While it’s not a bad thing to want to change and improve, it can be harmful when the desire for change is rooted in self-loathing.
A few weeks ago, I broke down crying because for a long time I had been suppressing a need for my husband to clean up his messes in the kitchen. This isn’t a new cycle, I’m pretty sure I’ve even mentioned this exact scenario on this blog. Often, I push down my discomfort with mess so much that it eventually boils over and I cry and shame myself and feel downright miserable. I am a tidy and generally organized person, but I resist the heck out of it. For some reason, I don’t want to be like that. I think I need to change. I don’t see the opportunities there. Being tidy and organized are traits lots of people wish they had, and yet, I resist them. I resist a lot of things about myself that I don’t like because I feel a lot of contention over the whole idea that people need to accept themselves and if others can’t handle it then too bad because I think it leads to a lot of problems. For example, if I were to simply accept my anxiety and not bother trying to get better, then I'd be asking people to put up with a lot of annoying behaviors like arriving places way too early or reacting negatively to any changes in plans. There is a balance, like everything, of self-acceptance and self-critique. I have been leaning way too hard on the self-critique side of that scale and it's making me feel terrible.
Self-improvement is a noble journey, but it has to start from a place of acceptance. It seems so counter-intuitive to me to accept something that I don’t like before I can change it. It also seems wrong to me to simply accept some things and not bother changing them at all, like my tidiness. Tidiness only makes me unhappy to the extent that I haven’t learned to deal with the untidiness of my husband, but becoming untidy myself won’t solve the problem, it will only make me more uncomfortable.
I’m reminded of the serenity prayer, a prayer that used to mean a lot to me, I remember because I had it hanging above the light switch in my bedroom when I was a teenager:
“God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change. Courage to change the things I can, and wisdom to know the difference.”
Somewhere along the line I got too hung up on the “courage to change the things I can” part of that prayer, but the whole prayer is titled after Serenity. I guess I just kind of forgot about that last line and never really found the wisdom.
There is a balance between accepting my own need for order and finding serenity in the midst of disorder and I don’t have berate myself or ignore my own needs to find that balance.
I’m learning to reflect on the wisdom line of the Serenity prayer. I’m learning to find the power in self-acceptance and know when to seek improvement.