Books and Media 2022; Looking Up and Ahead

From the top of Schoolmarm, Keystone, Colorado, December 2018

Friends!! Happy Happy Old Year!

So many excellent essays and posts everywhere for the New Year, are you soaking them in? Do they lift you up? What stands out for you from 2022?

I have to say, I’m ready for things to be easier and lighter. These last two years were pretty damn shitty for a slew of reasons… and I don’t necessarily wish for anything different. What doesn’t kill us often does make us stronger, and not always. Some of it just maims and scars, and we could be just as strong and well without it. Whatever, it all just is.

Love and gratitude stand out for me… Also commitment, resilience, and of course connection. Connection, actually, is both the beginning and end of getting through hard times, no? The trust, love, strength, respect, and attention we share hold us all up, bond us closer through crucibles of crisis, and magnify themselves, don’t you think?

Three posts resonate in particular with me this week, which I share below. May they lift or ground you, whichever you need. May you notice and receive whatever else you need as well, to start 2023 in peace and confidence, and to sustain that sense of “I’ Got This,” no matter what comes. Oh and as usual, I’ve included my list of books and notable media at the end. Books in [brackets] are yet to be finished; entries in bold are my favorites. My home Word file denotes romance novels in blue, but I think you can figure it out based just on the titles. There is a theme emerging among the romances I love; maybe more on that later. 😉 I created ‘Inspo’ on Spotify soon after writing the Playlist post last month, along with separate ones for writing and workouts. That subscription is well worth the cost!

ONWARD, my friends. All we have is this one life, with one another. Let us make the most of it all, ya?

Let It Be So

Donna Ashworth wrote the poem “When I Go,” which inspired my post of the same title. In her message for 2023, she reminds us to treat ourselves with a little more acceptance, compassion, and generosity. I wholeheartedly concur–if we can do this better for ourselves, then we are much more likely and able to do it for one another:

“Why do we start a new year, with promises to improve?

“Who began this tradition of never-ending pressure?

“I say, the end of a year, should be filled with congratulation, for all we survived.

“And I say a new year should start with promises to be kinder to ourselves, to understand better just how much we bear, as humans on this exhausting treadmill of life…”

Follow the link to read the rest.

23 Manifesto Rules for the Year

Holding ourselves in acceptance and compassion can manifest in specific practices; we can frame them as resolutions, intentions, hopes, or whatever. For me right now, it all still comes back to self-awareness, self-regulation, and community building… Mindful, peaceful intention in action and interaction, or something like that.

I only recently found Rachel Marie Martin, and her work resonates so far, especially her 23 ‘rules.’ I choose to hold them loosely, some more than others, and I look forward to seeing which ones recur in my psyche over the months to come. If the excerpt here speaks to you, check out the entire list on her Facebook page.

1. Stare fear in the face. So often fear stops us. Instead live fearless – knowing when to stop and when to move and when to be brave.

2. Invest in your friends. Good friends listen and show up. Do the same. Friendship is give and take and give and take. Friends are the ultimate gift.

3. No excuses. You must take care of yourself: heart, body and soul. There is no excuse for forgetting you. Your family needs you to love you with the same tenacity that you love them.

4. Guilt doesn’t need to dictate choices. Don’t let guilt stop you from taking care of yourself. Guilt keeps one stuck.

5. Read real books again. Watch a mini-series. Start jogging. Do something that is not work, not chores, but simply that makes you happy.

6. Love your body. Your aging body. Yes, that. And stop lamenting the wrinkles, but embrace them as another year lived.

Anam Cara

How many times do ‘relationship’ and ‘connection’ occur on this blog, I wonder? More times than most other nouns/ideas, I bet. They are my Why. And yet, they are inadequate words to truly express the depth to which I mean them. So I was especially grateful years ago to find John O’Donohue’s explanation of anam cara, ‘soul friend’ in Celtic. That direct translation hardly captures the meaning, either, and his book of this title is a bit dense and esoteric. So I thank Maria Popova for her long form delve, “Anam Cara and the Essence of True Friendship”. Her essays read slowly in the best way–leisurely yet intense intellectual consideration, like sipping the smoothest bittersweet Belgian hot chocolate. I picture the cafe where my best friend from college (an anam cara, for sure) and I always sat, with all the time in the world, enjoying each other’s company and whatever random wonders occurred to us. Read her post in a warm, comfy chair, including the most eloquent quotes from O’Donohue’s writing:

“With the anam cara you could share your inner-most self, your mind and your heart. This friendship was an act of recognition and belonging. When you had an anam cara, your friendship cut across all convention, morality, and category. You were joined in an ancient and eternal way with the ‘friend of your soul.’ The Celtic understanding did not set limitations of space or time on the soul. There is no cage for the soul. The soul is a divine light that flows into you and into your Other. This art of belonging awakened and fostered a deep and special companionship.

“A friend is a loved one who awakens your life in order to free the wild possibilities within you… The one you love, your anam cara, your soul friend, is the truest mirror to reflect your soul. The honesty and clarity of true friendship also brings out the real contour of your spirit.”

And she puts his words in 21st Century context with crystal clarity of their profound, countercultural importance:

“…being an anam cara requires of a purposeful presence — it asks that we show up with absolute integrity of intention. That interior intentionality, O’Donohue suggests, is what sets the true anam cara apart from the acquaintance or the casual friend — a distinction all the more important today, in a culture where we throw the word “friend” around all too hastily, designating little more than perfunctory affiliation. But this faculty of showing up must be an active presence rather than a mere abstraction — the person who declares herself a friend but shirks when the other’s soul most needs seeing is not an anam cara.”

It’s all so much, isn’t it? So much stimulation, emotion, tragedy, possibility, uncertainty, profundity, incredulity, and so much more. *deep breath*

Maybe one of the more important life lessons, that can only come with living it longer, is to hold it all with stronger yet looser conviction. To realize my own mission and have it validated gives me confidence. It also frees me to let go those who can’t see, don’t come along, or even reject it. We all walk our own paths; you don’t have to come on my journey. If our paths cross in a ditch or other obstruction, or your trail looks more interesting or efficient than the one I’m on, I can change directions and choose a new route for a while. There are infinite ways to get to where I’m going. I can just really enjoy and revel in the view as I walk.

To the New Year. Another cycle begins. Bring it.

Books

  1. Pathways to Possibility by Rozamund Stone Zander
  2. Liminal Thinking by Dave Gray
  3. 52 Pep Talks for Writers by Grant Faulkner
  4. Useful Delusions by Shankar Vedantham and Bill Mesler
  5. A Little Hope by Ethan Joella
  6. The Wisdom of Your Body by Hillary McBride
  7. Be Water, My Friend by Shannon Lee
  8. Summary of Why We Sleep by Matthew Walker, by Readtrepreneur Publishing on Hoopla Digital
  9. Curious by Ian Leslie
  10. The Icepick Surgeon by Sam Kean
  11. The Other Dr. Gilmer by Benjamin Gilmer
  12. The Upside of Irrationality by Dan Ariely
  13. [The Mindful Therapist by Daniel Seigel]
  14. Plays Well With Others by Eric Barker
  15. [Atlas of the Heartby Brené Brown]
  16. High Conflict by Amanda Ripley
  17. The Lightmakers’ Manifesto by Karen Walrond
  18. Power Moves by Adam Grant
  19. Mentors by Russell Brand
  20. I Am Spock by Leonard Nimoy
  21. I Must Say by Martin Short
  22. Sparks Like Stars by Nadia Hashimi
  23. Be Quiet, Be Heard by Susan Glaser and Peter Glaser
  24. The Midnight Library by Matt Haig
  25. Buried Deep by Margot Hunt
  26. Dirtbag Anthropology by Kate Willett
  27. The All or Nothing Marriage by Eli Finkel
  28. [The Year of Magical Thinking by Joan Didion]
  29. Welcome to Your Teenager’s Brain by Abigail Baird
  30. The Way Out by Peter Coleman
  31. Remarkably Bright Creatures by Shelby Van Pelt
  32. A Republic, If You Can Keep It by Neil Gorsuch
  33. The Egg and Other Stories by Andy Weir
  34. The Fix Up by Kendall Ryan
  35. Playing For Keeps by Kendall Ryan
  36. Part-time Lover by Lauren Blakely
  37. The Ruthless Gentleman by Louise Bay
  38. Delayed Gratification by Lauren Blakely
  39. Instant Gratification by Lauren Blakely
  40. Kismet by Lauren Blakely
  41. The Dream Guy Next Door by Lauren Blakely
  42. Never Have I Ever by Lauren Blakely
  43. Private Player by Louise Bay
  44. Not Until You by Corinne Michaels
  45. If I Only Knew by Corrine Michaels
  46. Satisfaction Guaranteed by Lauren Blakely
  47. Consumed By You by Lauren Blakely
  48. One of Those Flings by Lauren Blakely
  49. Your French Kisses by Lauren Blakely
  50. P.S. It’s Always Been You, Parts 1, 2, & 3 by Lauren Blakely
  51. Special Delivery by Lauren Blakely
  52. Lucky Suit by Lauren Blakely
  53. Cocktail by Lauren Smith
  54. Bossy Brit by Kendall Ryan
  55. One Hot Scandal by Anna Durand
  56. Melt For Him by Lauren Blakely
  57. Portrait of a Thief by Grace D Li
  58. Lethal in a Kilt by Anna Durand
  59. The British Bastard by Anna Durand
  60. Irresistible In a Kilt by Anna Durand
  61. The Pretending Plot by Lauren Blakely
  62. One Hot Christmas by Anna Durand
  63. One Hot Crush by Anna Durand
  64. One Hot Chance by Anna Durand
  65. One Hot Roomie by Anna Durand
  66. Heired Lines by Magan Vernon
  67. The Bromantic Comedies by Erin Mallon
  68. Royally Endowed by Emma Chase
  69. Brit vs. Scot by Anna Durand
  70. One Hot Escape by Anna Durand
  71. The Duke’s Twin by Lauren Smith
  72. Forever Be Mine by Lauren Smith
  73. Royally Screwed by Emma Chase
  74. Royally Matched by Emma Chase
  75. Rory In a Kilt by Anna Durand
  76. One Hot Rumor by Anna Durand
  77. Sweet Liar by Laurelin Paige
  78. Sweet Fate by Laurelin Paige
  79. Incendiary in a Kilt by Anna Durand
  80. He Loves Me, He Loves Me Not by Iris Morland
  81. My Rebound by Carrie Ann Ryan
  82. Devastating in a Kilt by Anna Durand
  83. Two Pretty Lies by Kelleigh Clare
  84. Rivalry by Laurelin Paige
  85. Ruin by Laurelin Paige
  86. Revenge by Laurelin Paige
  87. [Tomorrow, and Tomorrow, and Tomorrow by Gabriel Zevin]
  88. Rising by Laurelin Paige
  89. The Break-Up Album by Lauren Blakely
  90. Big Ben by Nana Malone
  91. The Benefactor by Nana Malone
  92. For Her Benefit by Nana Malone
  93. Work For It by Talia Hibbert
  94. Justice Falling by Audrey Carlan
  95. Perfect Chaos by Jodi Ellen Malpas
  96. The Plot by Jean Hanff Korelitz
  97. The Opposite of Woe by John Hickenlooper
  98. Relentless in a Kilt by Anna Durand
  99. Humble Pi by Matt Parker (started in 2021)
  100. Beginner’s Mind by Yo-Yo Ma
  101. The Earl of London by Louise Bay
  102. Unzipped by Lauren Blakely
  103. Cheeky Royal by Nana Malone
  104. Cheeky King by Nana Malone
  105. Royally Remembered by Emma Chase
  106. [Anti-Diet by Christy Harrison]
  107. Misadventures With a Time Traveler by Angel Payne

Podcasts

TED Radio Hour

–What Leadership Looks Like  https://podcasts.apple.com/us/podcast/ted-radio-hour/id523121474?i=1000559059996

Hidden Brain

–What We Gain From Pain  https://hiddenbrain.org/podcast/what-we-gain-from-pain/

Separating Yourself From the Pack  https://hidden-brain.simplecast.com/episodes/separating-yourself-from-the-pack-AXNnRTlI

–Reframing Your Reality Part 1  https://hiddenbrain.org/podcast/reframing-your-reality-part-1/

–Reframing Your Reality Part 2  https://hidden-brain.simplecast.com/episodes/reframing-your-reality-part-ii-WQxXOCRz

–How to See Yourself Clearly  https://hidden-brain.simplecast.com/episodes/you-2-0-how-to-see-yourself-clearly-YFbSe_NE

–Making the World a Safer Place  https://hiddenbrain.org/podcast/making-the-world-a-safer-place/

Peter Attia Drive

–DBT Skills  https://peterattiamd.com/shireenrizvi/?utm_source=podcast-feed&utm_medium=referral&utm_campaign=220822-pod-shireenrizvi&utm_content=220822-pod-shireenrizvi-podfeed

Other Media

David Epstein, on Breaking With Your Tribe https://davidepstein.bulletin.com/the-bestselling-author-of-high-conflict-explains-what-it-takes-for-someone-to-break-with-their-political-tribe/

Peter Coleman, On Abortion, Now Is the Time to Talk

–Michael Bungay Stanier, 5 Questions to Deepen Trust Audio Lesson https://www.mbs.works/wp-content/uploads/2022/09/5-Questions-to-Deepen-Trust-Audio-Lesson-by-MBS.mp3


Spotify Inspo playlist

Bask In the Wonder

Kelley Dallas Fine Art Photography, Facebook, 12-23-2022

If I ever get a tattoo, it’ll be a toss up between a little cartoon buffalo and the Colorado flag “C”. I was born in 1973, the Year of the Ox, bison thrive in Colorado, and my initials are CCC. …I’ll probably get some combination of the two… So there, I’ve just decided! I wonder if I can/will design it myself, or if Daughter will do it?

Here at the end of 2022, in the midst of a polar bomb cyclone gnarling much of the country, I’m happy and grateful to have some time off and a functioning furnace. The shortest day of the season has passed; everything gets lighter for the next 6 months now. So for this post, I share some light and wonder on my mind. Keeping it in my pocket for the still dark days ahead.

Designed to Survive

Driving west on I-70 from Denver, around the Genesee Park exit, I always look for the buffalo herd at the overlook to the north. I have yet to see them in the winter, and I slow down anytime they’re around. I just love these animals–so strong, resilient, and majestic. And HUGE. But the thing that amazes me most is how they can survive the brutal plains winters–their coat, holy cow (pun!)! Its thickness and structure insulates body heat such that snow and ice don’t melt on the pelt, even over such a vast surface area. I wonder if the circulation in their legs and feet have that countercurrent heat exchange anatomy that penguins have? Regardless, this is my spirit animal (sorry, moose). All hail, mighty buffalo.

https://www.noaa.gov/stories/how-do-snowflakes-form-science-behind-snow?utm_source=pocket_reader

The Beauty of Nature and Science

I have known for a while that ice takes up more space than water because of the obligatory orientation of oxygen and hydrogen in a frozen state. But it never occurred to me that this is also why snowflakes always have a hexagonal crystal shape. Thanks to NOAA and Scientific American, now I know–it’s still all about molecular structure! And depending on atmospheric conditions surrounding each individual flake as it forms while falling, the crystal takes on its ultimately unique configuration. I also learned that the flakes themselves occur when freezing water vapor interacts with solid particles in the air. Sky ice needs a nidus on which to form–a seed. So does that mean more snow falls in places with more pollution? I wonder how else pollution affects the properties of snow?

Ooo, what analogies can we make to humans here? How do our crystals form in life, and what particles in our environments facilitate what kinds of flakes we become/create? When are we light, airy powder, versus heavy, laden sleet? Fun and philosophical to consider!

Love Really Is All Around

Sister and Brother-In-Law were over last weekend, and we all watched Love Actually–again. It’s still as funny as the first time! And trope-y as it is, I continue to appreciate how the film depicts the various shapes, depths, and circumstances of love in all its forms. Romantic, platonic, parental, marital, fraternal, carnal, unrequited, or other, love and connection between humans are remarkably complex, and worthy of effort and reverence.

It seems like I’ve written every year on this blog how hard things are, how challenging and destructive we humans can be to one another. And it feels worse every year, no? I know this is only partially true. Thankfully, every year I also learn better how to hold the polarity of People Suck and We Are Awesome with more peace and balance. Holidays seem sometimes to amplify both tendencies, and yet reliably, I see connections outshine divisions at this time of year. Take the neighbor who strung Christmas lights from his own house to the lady’s across the street, because he knew she was having a hard time since the pandemic. Then the whole neighborhood started doing it, to the point where a couple who was thinking of moving decided to stay because the community had become so connected. Turns out, showing kindness to others improves our own happiness and well-being. Friend Donna Cameron knows this well, and we all benefit from her writings on it.

Empathy, compassion, and kindness, however, do not require us to give up our own needs–literal selflessness is not necessarily a vitrue. See Adam Grant‘s book Give and Take for an evidence-based treatise on why ‘otherish giving’, a balance of generosity and healthy boundaries, is optimal for relationships and health.

Lastly, props to Topher Payne for writing an alternate ending to Shel Silverstein‘s The Giving Tree. Instead of giving everything to her friend the boy over her lifetime, until there is nothing left of herself but a stump, Tree calls out his self-absorption and negotiates a more respectful, reciprocally loving and fulfilling relationship. I wonder how the world would be if we taught such crucial skills, explicitly, in formal education? I mean is it really less important to know how to take care of each other than how to do algebra?

https://lithub.com/somebody-finally-fixed-the-ending-of-the-giving-tree/

What light and wonder hold you this season? Please share here and everywhere!

May we all enjoy one another’s presence, openness, grounding, kindness, love, and connection, this holiday and well into the New Year.

Giddy Up

Sylvan Dale Guest Ranch, Loveland, Colorado

How is your mood/mindset today? Is it intentional, or did it just happen? What word would you choose for it?

For a couple months now I have practiced setting an intention for the day before getting out of bed, encapsulated in one word. I try to make it aspirational, but often I land on something to counter some heaviness or negativity I feel upon waking. It’s like self-reassurance or something, a DIY pat on the back. On 12/15 I awoke mopey, apathetic, and unmotivated. Thursdays are my busiest days at work, so I had to 打起精神來 (da qi jin shen lai), as Ma always says–literally ‘hit rise energy come’–something akin to ‘get moving’ in English. So my mantra for that day became “Giddy up.” I don’t remember the last time these words even occurred to me, but they apparated that day and carried me through.

The next day I started listening to now Senator John Hickenlooper‘s memoir, The Opposite of Woe: My Life in Beer and Politics. Somewhere in the middle of the book, someone attended a psychology class wherein the professor asked a series of questions along the lines of: What is the opposite of joy? Sadness. What is the opposite of X-emotion? Y-emotion. What is the opposite of woe? And a student stood up and said, “I believe that would be Giddy Up.” HA!! It took me a second… 😉 Henceforth Hickenlooper calls up the phrase in his own self-motivating moments.

So now I feel cosmically connected to “Hick” junior (read this Twitter homage to his dad–I dare you to not be moved). My senior year of high school, I was invited by girls I admired to attend an Amnesty International event at the Wynkoop Brewery, which Hickenlooper had opened with some partners only a couple of years before. I will always remember that day fondly, feeling so included. The stories of that restaurant venture, the first ever brewpub in Colorado, and his life in general, are told with moving poignance and good humor in the book, which I highly recommend. Sometime during his tenure as governor of Colorado, I started following him from afar. These last 10ish years, I have always found him to be down to earth, smiling, and approachable in interviews and public appearances. And I absolutely love that he has always refused to run negative ads during any of his political campaigns. His Facebook posts share good work done in Colorado and Congress alike, and help me feel connected to my home state through someone I admire and feel proud to ‘represent’ me.

Throughout the book he tells engaging stories of his meandering life paths, personal and professional intertwined. He owns his flaws as well as his strengths, neither over- nor underplaying either. His ex-wife has surmised that due to emotional losses early in life, he became a pragmatic, rational-dominant thinker and doer, which served him well in business and then politics. Along the way he also had opportunities and support for self-reflection, including marriage counseling. He has done the inner work of developing his emotional mind, which I also very much admire. Today, working in such a polarized governing body as the US Senate, I hope he can set a dialectical example of respect, pragmatism, and collaboration that others will follow.

I know many of my people in Colorado have mixed feelings and opinions about Uncle Hick, as I will now think of him. Of course that is to be expected, and he himself respects it. He recognizes that in government, trade offs are the norm–if nobody is 100% happy with your work, then you’re probably doing it right. Hearing his perspective, both seriously committed and self-depricatingly lighthearted, as a scientist (English major turned geologist who took 10 years to finish college)-entrepreneur-politician, gives me such hope. He discusses the importance of public-private collaboration and the need to update or eliminate obsolete regulations. He embraces an evidence-based, team approach to novel problem solving (eg inventing effective and accountable recreational cannabis policy in the first state to make it legal). He keeps his compass pointed toward the core value of helping people, while leveraging business tactics to grow economies, and not wasting resources. He describes how he chooses battles worthy of fighting, all in good time. After study and deliberation, he is willing to change his mind on important issues, out loud and without shame (eg capital punishment).

I know I must be severely biased toward Uncle Hick just because he is from Colorado. Often during this book, I recalled feeling a similar admiration while listening to Neil Gorsuch’s memoir; he is another Coloradan. I imagine these two men differ greatly in ideology and politics. I also imagine that they respect each other and would engage in healthy dialogue around their differences if given the chance. Colorado is a big place, with a vastly diverse geography and population. It’s also one of the healthiest, most desirable places to live, by any metric. People there are consistently the friendliest folks I ever meet, compared to anywhere else in the world. There is just an ethos, something ineffable and yet palpable, that allows differences to be acknowledged and overcome, and things to get done. One day I will get back there and participate in person. Cannot. Wait.

Giddy up, indeed.