Building a better SJ

Trying to pull myself away…caught in a pattern and I can’t escape…


Sometimes I think I must be the least type-A person I know.

But that isn’t quite right: I love accomplishing things. I love being good at what I do. I love getting caught up in rewarding tasks. I can multitask like a mu’a fu’a. (I have, on occasion, been described as “tightly wound”…) But along the way, I’m also super-comfortable going with the flow, changing things up, constantly exploring new ideas.
(Oooh look! There’s one now!!, etc.)

You can understand how I often end up, then, with many To-Do lists—not so many Ta-Das. Or, more accurately, a good number of Ta-Das that are hard-fought victories in the battle against procrastination + perfectionism anxiety.
(Wanna hang out sometime? I’m tons of fun when a deadline’s approaching…)

Lucky for me, everybody’s in the spirit o’ resolutions right now, and there are lots of lovely resources on the ol’ web to help a girl like me get her self correct. (I would love so much to spend 2012 getting myself correct…) Imagine how much more I could do (and do well) if I just got my shit a little bit more together, you guys!

These two articles in particular are helping me guide myself to the land of Ta-Da:

“A Master Plan For Taking Back Control of Your Life” (right?)

from “The 99%” (nothing to do with Wall Street, ps.)

“10 Tips to Get Through Your Holiday Hangover”

from “Talent Zoo” (nothing to do with animals, ps.)

[Both are neato websites for creative-professional types. Check ’em.]

From #1, I especially like the idea of working in “sprints,” doing just one thing at a time. Can you imagine the freedom to allow yourself 90 minutes of uninterrupted time for each task on your list? Glorious, glorious fantasy!!

From #2, I love the idea of choosing an “intention” for the year to help you lean into change—vs. resolutions, which often call for light-switch-drastic adjustments. This morning, I thought I just might take my intention from one Mr. Alex Hitchens:

“Begin each day as if it were on purpose.”

Oh, sure, I might’ve made fun of that quote from HITCH once upon a time, but today I choose to let it inspire me.

Like this: The documentary I AM (from the guy who brought us Ace Ventura. No, really.) is well worth your rental. Oprah—from whom all blessings flow—introduced me to this gem last year. Tom Shadyac, the director, has this existential crisis when he discovers that becoming a millionaire doesn’t fulfill him. He starts to look around at the world and wonders what’s gone wrong. Why are we so connected but disconnected at the same time? He goes to some of the best minds we’ve got (scientists, philosophers, writers, Archbishop McDreamy Desmond Tutu…) trying to figure out what’s up with humanity.

The title I AM can be the answer to one of two questions:

#1 What’s wrong with the world?
#2 What’s right about the world?

It seems trite, I know, but maybe the answer really is that simple. What if I follow my intention in 2012, reminding myself to wonder, “What Would Hitch Do?”…so that my “I am” is the answer to #2. On purpose.


In the spirit of Living Your Best Life as Oprah would do…I’m excited to introduce a new Blog Challenge!!


 “And the Envelope Please…”

Inspired by awards season (which we’re counting as the six weeks between Sunday’s Golden Globes and the Oscars on February 26), the gang is back to blog about “Best of” experiences from our lives (and naturally some movies, too). The goal is 2 posts each week from each of us, so settle in for some red-carpet-worthy writing. Some glamour. Maybe a montage…

pioneers of continuing on

i’ve been feeling a little restless lately. nothing particular is wrong…in fact a lot of things are very right for me right now. still i can’t shake the feeling that’s like a match about to strike.

Ten years ago I was sixteen, and spending my June at Missouri Scholar’s Academy. I’d borrowed my dad’s James Taylor greatest hits cd (because I was an old soul), and I remember i would hear these lyrics (from Shed a Little Light) over and over again in my head that summer, as if i knew i was in for a big change:

There is a feeling like the clenching of a fist
There is a hunger in the center of the chest
There is a passage through the darkness and the mist
And though the body sleeps the heart will never rest

And I’m feeling now (10 years later!) that my heart is restless.
And it scares me a little. Because I know, for me, there’s a fine line between excitement and emotional risky business.

The same part of me that goes skydiving can also jump out of relationships with no parachute.
The same part of me that runs marathons can also run myself ragged with too many projects at once.

I want to do it all because I’m afraid of doing nothing.

Last spring I debated whether I should go to an extras audition for a local film production. (This was during Hurricane Sarah — as one of my friends likes to call that time, not inaccurately.) The audition, and subsequent filming, was something like 90 minutes away in Forsyth. So I decided not to go, and I considered it a victory, a moment when i was supposed to learn the lesson that “you can’t try for every opportunity”…and instead i’ve learned…the one thing you don’t try for turns out to be an oscar contender. See, the local film production was Winter’s Bone, which just this morning on CBS Sunday David Edelstein called the film of the year.

And I know I might not’ve even gotten cast…but the fact that I didn’t try drives me crazy.

Oprah in Rome

Oprah in Rome. ROprah. (from

This morning I by chance flipped to the back of my June O Magazine, and saw Oprah sitting in Rome with the caption: “I know for sure that all experiences contribute to who we’re meant to be.”

So I read it. Then I went to to find it so I could write this entry. And I by chance found this video of Elizabeth Gilbert, the ultimate stuck-in-a-rut-woman’s inspiration, where she says that all the oprah “experts” on “living your best life” are just “pioneers of continuing on,” when failure after failure has knocked them down. And even she, Ms. Eat Pray Love, has haggard moments of self-doubt. Sometimes my head is a neighborhood that you wouldn’t want to walk alone in at night, she tells us…and i know exactly what she means.

Me in Florence

Sarah in Florence, Florah. (from jennie's camera)

Sometimes mom comforts me when i’m feeling like this by saying i need to cut myself a little slack. After all, I’ve gotten to do some pretty cool stuff, and I need to let “real life” be what it is…as if somehow my more “adventurous” times have spoiled me for “real” life.
I don’t think that’s quite it. I think it’s easier to engage the adventurous side of myself when i’ve broken routine, and that’s what i long for. that’s why the 4 years i worked at MSA were so liberating. and that’s why i crave travel and being in new places. and that’s why i feel so restless right now. because i know i have the potential to rock life’s face off and that’s what i want to do so badly.

Help me, Oprah.

Oprah’s What I know For Sure column from the June 2010 O Mag:

“I know for sure that all experiences contribute to who we’re meant to be.”

Here’s the truth: I wanted to do an issue on adventurous spirit so I’d be inspired to experience more of it myself.

My life is overwhelmingly busy, just like yours. And filled with so many responsibilities and must-dos that when I stumble across some free time, I just want to sleep. Or read. My favorite place to be in the world other than reading under the oaks at my house in California is anywhere in Italy. And even then I’m looking for a good place to nestle in with a book.

But I’m open to changing my ways.

The idea of doing something unexpected, something unpredictable—daring myself to tune in to another way of seeing and feeling things—intrigues me.

When I was recording the narration for Life, the 11-part nature series on the Discovery channel, I realized once again that all life has value. (Haven’t killed an ant or fly since.) And I know for sure that all experiences have value and meaning, too, and contribute to who we’re meant to be.

Stepping out and doing what you’ve always wanted to do—even if it’s not dinner at the foot of the Pyramids but just a picnic for two on the porch (both of which I’ve been meaning to get around to)—is saying yes to life. And that’s something I’m sure we could all use a little more of.

And that means saying “yes” to missed opportunity and restless times, too, doesn’t it, Oprah? Balls.

too much of a good thing?

Folks, it’s been a long post-free week, hasn’t it? I can blame a busy sched (started classes, meetings all week, considering a big TBA purchase in my future…), but i can also blame…TMI.

That’s right, Too Much Information.
No, I don’t mean the awkward over-sharing, unasked-for personal detail kid. I mean just that:

Information. There’s TOO MUCH.

Just this weekend, thanks to Daily Show and Colbert reruns, I added two books to my list:
Crazy Like Us: The Globalization of the American Psyche: interesting take on mental illness and different meanings of “normal” all over the world. Author proposes that drug companies and a med-heavy attitude in the U.S. have influenced other cultures who view mental health in totally different ways (relying on community, spirituality, holistic health, etc.).
Fascinating. I am an advocate for medical treatments for mental health–but i also believe they aren’t the only answer. I wonder how much my culture, and drug companies, have influenced my attitudes…

Secrets of Mental Math: This author on Colbert was cracking me up. Stereotypical math geek… (he does math AND magic tricks!) Colbert would shout out numbers and he could answer instantly. I honestly don’t know if I’ll ever get around to reading this one, but watching this guy made me realize something about math…it really can make you happy. Think about it: do you ever see a math geek who’s unhappy? (I’m sure there are some, but I can’t imagine too many mathematicians grumbling, “I hate my job…”) There’s something about the, well, magic of it. Working with numbers opens up this whole other world, a world that much of the world misses out on much of the time.
That’s got to be a pretty cool feeling.

THEN Oprah talked to Jason Reitman about Up In The Air, and even featured some of the “actors” who portrayed the people George Clooney spoke to during the “you’re fired” montage. Turns out these are actual non-actor people who had lost their jobs this year. Reitman let the cameras roll as these people replayed their experience. Unscripted. Real emotion. Unbelievable.
Such a great movie, too. Got to see it in St. Louis with good friends. At the Moolah, an old Shrine Mosque-turned movie theater with great character and comfy couches. This movie surprised me. Really good storytelling (I read somewhere that it’s like a return to old-fashioned moviemaking. The simplicity [and complexity] of the story of one man.) and really good food-for-thought: how connection with people adds to a life (makes a life).

But see? There it is again, TMI: “I read somewhere…” It’s hard to keep track of all the information i absorb in a given week.

I love the sharability of 2010.
like hieroglyphics, print, telegraph, telephone, television before it–the internet lets us says “this is meaningful (or funny or interesting or special or scary or neat-o). and i want to share it.”
Share it with YOU and with the future.

BUT is there a point where i have to say STOP? i can’t take any more new ideas for right now.
What am i willing to give up for the sake of my own productivity (sanity)? This seems to be an idea I keep coming back to, huh? The limited amount of ME to go around and the unlimited amount of things out there to learn.
It’s a choice. I can’t keep being a passive absorber of information and expect to glean any quality from it. I have to learn to Just Say No to TMI.
(ha. this sounds like a disorder just waiting for some pharmaceutical intervention, doesn’t it?)