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Something to Think About (357 posts)
It's true, women are famous for not asking for help when we need it. We think we can do it all. We can do it all! But sometimes it's okay to ask someone else to open that jar of pickles. To help pick the weeds. And when you think about it, this is just a reminder of all the ways in which we wear ourselves out by doing too much. A reminder that bodies wear out. That we only make so much cartilage, have so much energy. So consider this your friendly non-doctor-blogger's prescription to you: if you're hurting, or even if it's just that you're tired, ask for help. Your hands, your whole entire self, will thank you when you're older.
The Best Way to Get The Help You Need
Why Asking For Help Is Not a Sign of Weakness
Angelica Dass's ongoing project Humanae offers a thoughtful way of looking at this puzzle of skin color. She photographs a colorful array of humans and then matches their skin tones to the Pantone color system. And it's no exaggeration to say the results will reconfigure anyone's color-vision. Look how pink and peach and rose and beige and mahogany and coffee-colored we are! What's most surprising is the endless variety -- if color is supposed to be divisive, then the sunburned and the very pale must be going to war -- and how beautiful every single shade is.
One Movie Star's Complexion Aha! Moment
Helping an Adopted African Daughter to Love Her Skin
Each week, we'll be letting you know about new releases the editors of O and Oprah.com couldn't stop reading. This Monday, we're gearing up for Oprah and Cheryl Strayed's discussion of Wild this weekend on "Super Soul Sunday" by checking out Strayed's newest book, just published on July 10:
Tiny Beautiful Things: Advice on Love and Life from Dear Sugar
By Cheryl Strayed
While writing her best-selling memoir—and the first Oprah's Book Club 2.0 selection—Wild, author Cheryl Strayed penned an advice column for the literary website The Rumpus. There, she worked anonymously, using the pen name Sugar, replying to letters from readers suffering everything from loveless marriages to abusive, drug-addicted brothers to disfiguring illnesses. The result: intimate, in-depth essays that not only took the letter writer's life into account but also Strayed's. Collected in a book, they make for riveting, emotionally charged reading (translation: be prepared to bawl) that leaves you significantly wiser for the experience. To a livid woman whose husband cheated on her with her employee, she says, "Acceptance asks only that you embrace what's true." To a woman who suffers a late miscarriage, she says, "Don't listen to those people who suggest you should be over your daughter's death by now. ... They live on Planet Earth. You live on Planet My Baby Died." She then shares, "I know because I've lived on a few planets that aren't Planet Earth myself." Later, she reveals stories about her own struggles with sexual abuse, divorce and marital infidelity (all of which create a much larger backstory for a reading of Wild). One of the most moving anecdotes in the book is a letter that a 22-year-old reader asks Strayed to write to her younger self: "One hot afternoon during the era in which you've gotten yourself ridiculously tangled up with heroin, you will be riding the bus and thinking what a worthless piece of crap you are, when a little girl will get on the bus holding the strings of two purple balloons. She'll offer you one of the balloons, but you won't take it because you believe you no longer have the right to such tiny beautiful things. You're wrong. You do." And like most of the pronouncements in this collection, the subject of those last few sentences can—and should—be changed to "we." As in, we all have the right to such tiny beautiful things—both the purple balloon and the compassionate book it inspired.
See Cheryl Strayed and Oprah this Sunday on "Super Soul Sunday"
Read the best quotes from Wild
We've all heard it before: There are no new stories, but only new ways to tell them. Which is why when there is an actually new presentation of the Big Themes, it's completely arresting. This miniscule, minute-long movie, aptly named Tiny Story, pretty much says it all, with just a dot; it's basically instructions for living well. Begin. Dream. Listen. Learn. Wait. All you need to know to live a good life, in under a minute. There's nothing tiny about that.
Take a Whimsy Break
An Animated Meditation on Kindness
A Personal Fireworks Display
The upside of this kind of mania is that it goes both ways. This weekend I had finally sailed to port at the end of a supermarket voyage, both kids in the cart – at least I think so, somewhere there under all the berry cartons and bunny crackers– my list clutched in my fist like a besmirched treasure map, all my energy devoted to willing the kids to stop wailing for cookies and freedom...and there it was, the final gauntlet. The Clerk. She held the future of our day in her hands. Would she glare at my mewling young, shout out my way-more-than-I’d-thought-total, even, expect me to bag my own groceries while also convincing my baby of the wisdom of silence?
No. No she did not. This woman, she gave my daughter a sticker. Then she carefully, methodically, jigsaw-puzzled my purchases into my disgusting, over-re-used bags, with an artistry I have never before seen. She worked quickly, but you could see the concentration on her face. In a few moments, she had, with the precision of an eyebrow threader, filled one bag with the frozen goods, one with the boxes, one with the perishables. Fruit was nestled safely in a protective fence engineered of cereal boxes. Each bag was easy to lift, not too heavy. Unpacking the groceries at home would be a breeze, for in organizing my bags she had also organized my kitchen.
"You’ve changed my life!” I said. She nodded, sagely. She knew.
The thing was, she’d dealt with my groceries, with her job, for which she is likely not paid enough and certainly not much celebrated in the public imagination, the way I’d hope to deal with every task, no matter how large or small: with care and attention, with thought and organization, without expectation of glory or acknowledgement; doing a small task the best way possible simply because it is possible to do it well. I thought of her later that day as I loaded the dishwasher and took an extra 30 seconds to actually line up the dishes properly; again as I sat down to respond to an email in a thoughtful, sane way, yes, even spelling out every single word.
I'm not suggesting that everyone has to love their job every second. But since, every second, we have jobs to do, why not do them as well as possible, with the ninja-like mindfulness of, you know, a store clerk?
Finding A Love for Laundry
The Art of Living in the Present
Transform Your Life by Altering Your Thoughts
Nussbaum explains how the resulting charts Quicken creates help her to see a snapshot of her life, what she values, what she needs vs. what she wants, what matters to her and how she lives. There are financial planning benefits, sure -- she shares how Quicken changed the way she saves, for example -- but it also creates a snapshot of a life. Remember that deserty treat shared with a friend? Quicken does. How much of your resources do you devote to groceries? Lunches? Shopping? Mysterious CVS purchases? (As Nussbaum puts it, " I like to be detailed, except when the charge is from CVS, because I can never remember what the hell I went in there for.")
In other words, your banking is telling a story. The question is, what kind?
Suze Orman's Money Class
Make the Most of Your Money
The other day I was feeling bummed about the paunch, and was glumly considering my options. I asked my neighbor, who's a personal trainer, where I should start. "Three minutes running, three minutes..." "Crying?" I guessed. "Um, no. Walking. No crying." A run in the 90 degree heat? Okay. I immediately went to air-conditioned cafe and the thing is they have these really special donuts.
Evening plans: shame spiral.
Then I was talking to my husband, and moaning about the paunch, and a thought struck me: I love this problem. Don't get me wrong, it's a problem. If there's one thing I hate more than working out, it's shopping for clothes, so never getting back to my normal size is out of the question. But I am so mindblowingly lucky that this is my problem. I mean, I'm not talking the-mom-in-What's-Eating-Glibert-Grape obesity here. And I'm not starving either. I mean: Hooray! It's just a non-delicious muffin top! That's not to say I want to keep it around, but it did occur to me that if I treated my problem with loving kindness, or more accurately, an amused detachment, it's possible that I would have less angst and more energy to combat it. Like, instead of feeling depleted by it, I should be thankful for it. Hey, baby weight! Wasn't that fun when you served a purpose? Guess what, buddy? The baby's out! The baby walks and talks! So, listen, you know what you might really enjoy, is this, it's called "salad"! How lucky, to have this paunch around to convince me to exercise!
What's your paunch? -- that little problem annoying your subconscious all day? A small debt piling up on the Victoria's Secret credit card you refuse to believe you even have? A kitchen that seems to mess itself up when you're sleeping? A sense that your blah haircut is the key to all your life's inadequacies? Trust me, I know that there are big problems that are hard to love: bankruptcy, disease, bangs that refuse to grow out gracefully. But maybe if we can remember to treat our paunch-like problems with love, we can remember that it's actually kind of fun to, I don't know, run for three minutes.
9 Rules for Everyday Senseless Joy
The No-Gimmick Way to Make Change in Your Life
So, you're planning to tour the universe. First you'll want to sit down at your computer. Then you'll want to put on your headphones. For this "quick and dirty" tour, you can pack light. Don't worry, you'll be home before dinner. This is a universe tour on grand scale. But also on a tiny scale. Actually, on every scale. As in, which is bigger, a human or a giant earthworm? The United States or Pluto? DNA or a carbon atom? You're about to find out. When you're ready to depart, just click here.
Kind of puts everything into perspective, doesn't it?
It's Blue O'Clock
The Wind Map
Seriously though, when you really consider the everyday things around you, they start to seem like tiny miracles. I had a minor freak-out yesterday about spoons. Who invented spoons? I'm so glad they did! Or, consider the button. Seems like a humble enough object, right? Have you ever given a button any thought more developed than, "Oh man, looks like I lost a button, darn" --?
Jude Stewart's illustrated history of buttons on Slate will have you in love with buttons before you can say, "I don't even know how to sew on a..." Stewart writes, "The button—with its self-contained roundness and infinite variability—has a quiet perfection to it." Of course! Haven't you always thought that, maybe without realizing you thought that? This essay is a must-read for its lush attention to buttons and all they reveal, including the racy side of buttons you may have never considered. Apparently in medieval times buttons were displays of wealth; in the Renaissance smugglers hid stolen jewels in hollow buttons; an unbuttoned sleeve once signaled a love token from a lady. Today, buttons inhabit the virtual world as well, "promising to connect us to marvels with a single click," As Stewart writes. "Buttons, in short, offer everyday pleasures." Yes. Right. You bet your buttons.
How Everyday Objects Could Save Your Life
Rules for Everyday Senseless Joy
Hm? She was talking directly to my soul, obviously, but also to the neuroscientist Richard Davidson, who has studied the way we can change our brains. According to Davidson: "based upon everything we know about the brain in neuroscience... change is not only possible, but change is actually the rule rather than the exception. And it's really just a question of which influences we're going to choose for our brain. But our brain is wittingly or unwittingly being continuously shaped." (For more of the scientific nitty-gritty, listen to or read the entire interview here -- you will not be disappointed. Even if you are the type of person who is wired for disappointment.) Davidson explains that in his work studying the brains of meditating Buddhist monks (and more recently, preschool-age children), he's learned that happiness and serenity can be learned, and that after enough practice, brains can actually be changed for the better. He says, "I think that's very important and I think that most people still don't think of qualities like happiness as being a skill rather than it's typically conceptualized as a fixed trait and some people have more of it; some people have less of it."
What works, according to Davidson, for Tibetan monks and preschoolers alike, is to practice meditation and mindfulness -- to cultivate self-awareness. I know that in my family we are having a lot of tantrums -- the preschooler; uh, her mother -- and the idea that we can step back, examine our feelings, and teach our brains to deal with them in more productive ways is intensely appealing. Happiness is a skill we could all stand to develop. It's like the old maxim goes: You can never be too happy or too mindful. (That's how it goes, right?)
Richard Davidson on Beating Anxiety and Finding Happiness
5 Things Every Happy Woman Does