A few things: January 2022

How about a monthly round-up post (which I haven’t done in a while) to get back in the swing of things after taking most of January off from writing (and most other things, other than work and spending time with my children while they were home)?

OK. We’ll start here:

What I’m curious about, at the moment, is what happens after a point-in-time event. And the particular point-in-time event I’m thinking about is the federal holiday commemorating Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

Consider this question in the spirit of its intent, which is curiosity:

What actually changes, or is changed, after a commemoration day becomes encoded in our calendar and held in place for decades?

The battle to establish a federal holiday honoring Dr. King’s work and legacy was long and hard-fought. Signed into law on November 2, 1983 by President Ronald Reagan, the holiday is still — still, in 2022 — called “King-Lee Day” in Mississippi and Alabama (yes, Martin Luther King, Jr. and Robert E. Lee).

With the accelerated public outcry over enduring racial injustice in the U.S., MLK Day in 2021 and again in 2022 were marked by reinvigorated calls to service and action, the words of inspiration shared widely and publicly.

And then what happened on Tuesday, Wednesday, yesterday? Who made and delivered sandwiches, cleaned up neighborhoods, spoke up for the marginalized on Tuesday or Wednesday? Who looked in the mirror or took a moment of silent meditation to consider that injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere?

Like 9/11 commemoration, MLK Day brings a wave of public do-good-ism. For one day. And then, all too easily, we move on.

A thought here would be to take the commemoration day and devote as much time to internal reflection as to making sandwiches. Not one instead of the other, but time for both. And in that internal reflection time, perhaps a short (or long) visioning exercise?

To be the change one wants to see in the world, one has first to see that change, to have an image of what’s desired in the future state.

How does an annual commemoration day actually move those ideals forward, from year to year?

Again, the spirit here is curiosity, not criticism. What’s behind is done; what’s ahead is unknown. Marching forward into whatever comes next, curiosity is, in my personal experience, a better companion than fear, uncertainty, and doubt.

Speaking of Visioning…

Let’s take a little detour and then come back, briefly, to this line of thought.

In January 2020 I attended a vision board class. Yes, it was exactly what it sounds like: 3 hours of cutting and pasting images on a piece of poster board, lightly guided by a woman who’d been making vision boards for herself for years.

Did it feel a little silly? Yes. Was I a teensy-weensy bit competitive in wanting my board to look prettier than the other boards? I was. Did I think the time worthwhile? Sort of, at least at the end of that day.

Then the pandemic hit, and I put that vision board behind a shelf and didn’t really think much about it because there were so many pressing needs at work and at home that “vision” didn’t seem accessible, and any past thoughts of “future vision” seemed naive and empty.

When things started to ease, I cleaned and rearranged the room in which I’d stashed that January 2020 fantasy. Looking at the board a year later, remembering how carefully I’d selected and placed each and every image, how I’d matched those images with words and dreams in my head, I was stuck (dumbstruck, actually) by how much of what I’d wanted to do and get done in the year had actually come to fruition: “Strengthen purpose. Deepen resilience. Cultivate joy.” Spend time with my daughter. Re-commit to cooking. Make art. Write. Claim my personal space and make it beautiful. Surround myself with my favorite color for inspiration (There’s more, but the rest will remain just mine.)

My January 2020 vision board

Do I now have a mauve closet and clothes? A bohemian canopy bed? Hell no. Having exactly those things was never the idea.

The point was (is) using images to inspire me to work toward what I want in my living space, in my creative time, in my family life. And that, perhaps, is the key behind the vision board craze — which is why Inc. ran, within the same 12 month period, two seemingly conflicting stories: “Why Vision Boards Don’t Work” and “A New Study Shows 1 in 5 Entrepreneurs Use Vision Boards. The Results Are Backed by Neuroscience.” (Related, from How Stuff Works: “Can a Vision Board Really Affect Your Future?”)

If you don’t know where you’re going, Alice, any road will take you there.

My favorite tools for looking ahead and leading with vision are the worksheets from Ink+Volt. (Yes, I recommend them every year, and one year I do hope you’ll give them a go.) (No, I don’t get even a penny if you swoon over the goods at Ink+Volt and drop a fortune on journals and pens. I recommend things I like and use, free and clear of any affiliate marketing agreements.) And the Ink+Volt blog also has a post on vision boards that has terrific suggestions, if you’re open to considering the exercise.

Back to the very top, before we move on to other topics (reading, cooking): If you participated in an event or activity for MLK Day, if you shared a quote on social media, or felt any inspiration watching or reading anything that day, it’s not too late to spend some time thinking about what you want to see come true by January 16, 2023, when we’ll once again honor Dr. King’s life and legacy. What’s your vision for a better future, and what work are you willing to do to make that vision come true?

Reading

Books:

My book group read and thoroughly enjoyed Katie Kitamura’s Intimacies. Next up: Gary Shteyngart’s My Country Friends. Still working through The Quiet American. Considering re-reading Caste.

Articles worth a click:

It Won’t Be January Forever (Molly Jong Fest, for Vogue)

Françoise Gilot: “It Girl” at 100 (The New York Times)

Female Dolphins Have a Fully Functional Clitoris (Smithsonian)

Watching a Partner Change Is Hard. Accepting It Can Be Harder. (The New York Times)

The Near Enemies of Awakening (Jack Kornfield – years old, but timely now)

Sniffing Out the Connection Between COVID and Yankee Candles (MEL Magazine)

Ground Truths, Dr. Eric Topol’s free Substack newsletter about COVID (Dr. Topol, Substack’s writer in residence, is founder and director of the Scripps Research Translational Institute)

Full Stack Family Medicine, Dr. Bertie Bregman’s free Substack newsletter that you need to read/subscribe to, even though most of you have no idea who Bertie is. (Short version: he’s a friend from college who’s writing a terrific newsletter.) Gem from a recent post is his advice on dealing with the stress of our current time: Move. Learn. Breathe. That one’s worth repeating:

Cooking

My son invited a friend to stay with us for a few days before they headed back to college, and we made (actually, they made) green chile chicken tamales. No, I don’t have a recipe to share. But this, from The Spruce Eats, is pretty close.

I made David Tanis’s Spaghetti with Lentils, Tomato, and Fennel, and it was delicious.

Also: Pizza, using Bittman’s trusty dough recipe. True story? I made one pizza, thinking I’d save the other ball of dough for another night. My son said, “This is pretty good, Mom. Is it frozen?” “No, I made it,” I replied. “Wow,” he said, “pretty good!”

And then I had to make a second pizza. Rao’s marinara and shredded cheese on top, in case you’re wondering about that.

Sometimes, cheese pizza really is the answer.

Pizza: It’s what’s for dinner.

Up ahead I’m going to make more of the banana bread from Sally’s Baking Addiction (best recipe I’ve ever used for banana bread). And then I’m going to venture out there and try baked fish in Tahini sauce (Saveur). Oh yes, I am. I am.

Will report back.

Soon.

See you then.

P.S. Proof that even a well-established and crowded product category will always make room for a fantastic newcomer: This granola is delicious. Really, really delicious. Like, bring the bag to your work table and eat it as a snack while working/writing, delicious.

7 thoughts on “A few things: January 2022

  1. No idea what a vision board is, and why it’s helpful. If it’s what I think it is let me tell you about Paul McCartney who you may have heard of. He was asked how he could write all the songs that he has without being able to read and write music. He looked at the interviewer and smiled. Then he tapped his head with his finger. And, that’s what I think.

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