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Weekend Watchlist

clt

Happy Friday! My spring break starts today and after looking at the weather forecast for the upcoming week (70 degrees here I come) I am getting pumped! Drew is going to be on a man-trip with his Dad for the week, so its just going to be me and Mila. I am looking forward to catching up on some big projects, visiting friends, painting, and hanging out with my cat. In other news, here are a few things I enjoyed this week from around the internet.

  1. I am obsessed with these skin oils. Obsessed.
  2. Loneliness is a public health issue.
  3. A gift for fellow lovers of science fiction. You are welcome 🙂
  4. Further evidence on the benefits of exercise.
  5. These look tasty.
  6. These are tasty. Delicious actually. And super easy. I made them for Drew and scored a permanent placement in the wife hall of fame.
  7. DIY seedlings with a Spring theme.
  8. A random acts of kindness generator!
  9. Why do we teach girls its cute to be scared?
  10. These yoga pants are awesome.
  11. I hope to visit this Honeybee Sanctuary over my spring break!

(photo by Charlotte’s Got Alot)

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Motivation

Inspiration

terrapin

Inspiration has traditionally been discussed as a passive factor beyond our control. Something which comes to us from an otherworldly, external source and settles into us when we are ready. When we are worthy.

In many ways we have been encouraged to stop trying so hard to wrangle it and wrestle it into submission. Inspiration is not ours to own. It is something which a select few are privy to. And these select few are the artists, the thinkers, the philosophers. It is their job to inspire through their work. Should the remaining masses want to inspire, they have been encouraged to do so through their actions/deeds, setting a good example for others to follow (this is often aligned with a particular religious or spiritual dogma).So, a few people can be privy to inspiration. The remaining can act as we have been told in hopes it will “inspire” others to also act in a similar way.

*Sigh*. If you have read here for even just a short while it should come as no surprise that I really dislike this line of thinking.

To me, this conceptualization of inspiration comes from an allegiance to the notion of scarcity.

It comes from the belief that the world is a place of dearth, that there will never be enough of anything to go around, and that most individuals (save for a privileged few) will never have enough inherent within them to access true inspiration (not dogmatic doctrine masked beneath the guise of inspiration) and share it with others.

I want to debunk this traditionally passive and privileged notion of inspiration. I want to assert that inspiration is intimately connected to creativity. It is an active force accessible to anyone willing put in the work required to attain it.

Yes. You must do the work–when it’s easy, when it’s hard, when it’s a struggle, or is a mess.

If you do this, eventually inspiration will descend, an idea will take root, and the work will take flight. But that ONLY happens when you put your nose to the grindstone. It only happens if you are continually curious and open to the help, advice, and inspiration of others.

Mihaly Csikszentmichalyi, father of the notion of Flow, writes in his book Creativity: The Psychology of Discovery and Invention:

“An idea or product that deserves the label “creative” [or “inspired”] arises from the synergy of many sources and not only from the mind of a single person… A genuinely creative accomplishment is almost never the result of a sudden insight, a lightbulb flashing on in the dark, but comes after years of hard work.”

To truly believe that sitting around and hoping that inspiration will descend from the heavens is hopeless; waiting for that good idea will simply leave you waiting a very long time.

Walking toward inspiration can sometimes feel like we are walking through a swamp. It is hard work but it is the only way you’ll get close to the thing. The process is like working a muscle. We have to flex and work our inspiration muscles everyday so that when the right circumstances arise, we are open and ready to grab it and run with it. For me, this means working through the assignments and tasks that I am not as excited about or interested in, but also actively seeking and creating tasks for myself that I am excited about. This helps me to prevent myself from getting stagnant or allowing my energy and excitement ready from waning.

I have found to occasionally stumble upon inspiration, I need to continually challenge myself to find the specific areas of research and study that I am personally interested and pursuing them. This can be hard, especially in grad school or in a hierarchical organization, but it is possible if you are willing to continually ask questions and be curious.

It is possible if we are curious not only about the world around us, but also about our own potential. This means pushing ourselves to new places and trusting in our potential.

We can do whatever it is we set out to do, as long as we approach it with an open mind, with a sense of curiosity, if we are not afraid to ask for help when we need it. It is also vital, in my experience, to strive to eliminate attachment to the outcome and, rather, invest ourselves more in the process.

And to me, this makes the practice and process of inspiration and creativity sustainable. I went into academia because it gave me the opportunity to pursue my interests, and be curious about how things work and operate. How I work and operate. I get to learn and grow on a daily basis and I get to make a career out of this. I am really lucky.

I am finding it is easy to lose sight of this at times. It is easy to get lost in the swamp-land of deadlines and expectations and forget that it is our right to live our lives anyway we want. I have to remind myself sometimes that we have a fundamental right to exercise our curiosity and be open to inspiration in any way which seems authentic to us. It many ways, it is our responsibility.

We have a responsibility to ourselves and to those in the future to be as authentic and curious as we can be.

And this responsibility affords an awesome opportunity to begin to shape our lives, our careers, our professional fields in a way which is aligned with values and interests. So what if no one else approves of what you do? What if no one likes it? If you do the work well, with a sense of integrity, it doesn’t matter because you have done it in a creative and inspired way and this makes it invincible to judgment, by yourself or others. And doing work in this way is exciting because it is from this place which others can be truly inspired.

I am so excited for the next generation of academics because I see us in a unique position to begin to move our fields toward a place where we are encouraged to pursue our passions and interests in a creative way, rather than in a way which simply supports the system that is in place. We have the opportunity to shape our fields and careers in a sustainable way. In a way which we can be excited to go to work on most days. In a way which we can live our careers out in an authentic and inspired way.

So this week, I hope you have the opportunity to work hard, be curious, be creative, and maybe wrap it up with a little inspiration 🙂

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Weekend Watchlist

weekend

Here are a few things I enjoyed this week from around the internet.

1.) My brother started a podcast! (caution, explicit language)

2.) I am excited to start gearing up for baseball season. Go Nats!

3.) How people learn to become resilient.

4.) Hypnotic ice stacking on Lake Superior.

5.) Everyone in America is more broke than you think.

6.) Are you a leading white female? If so, prepare for backlash.

7.) The US senate confirmed the first female Native American judge!

8.) How the suicide disease changed this young woman’s life forever.

9.) Flower arranging tips to feel like a pro

10.) A Ballerina’s Tale: The Misty Copeland Documentary.

Happy weekend!

Uncategorized

Weekend Watchlist

 

friday

Happy Friday! This week started strong and quickly faded as I battled one of the worst stomach bugs I have had in years. I am much better than I was Tuesday, but am still feeling super weak. Drew has now caught the bug and I feel terrible for sharing the illness with him.

This week, I was forced to take a full 2 days off to rest (which I completely needed and was grateful for), but am now super behind in my work. I already decided to remove myself from one manuscript I was planning to collaborate on this semester, and am considering removing myself from a second. It is really hard to say “no” to projects, especially when swimming in the “publish or peril” world of academia, but I am taking this week as a sign that I need to slow down, focus on what I already have going on, and devote my energies to my own projects and ideas.

All that being said, I did a really great job of slowing down today (ha!) and spent over 12 hours working trying to catch up on what I missed this week. Of course, we all know that “working” is code for savoring manic bursts of intense productivity tempered with pleasant and leisurely web-surfing, kitty snuggling, music listening, song singing, and husband nursing 😉 Therefore, I give you a slightly delayed, but ever enjoyable, list of what caught my eye this week today.

 

  1. Macarons! My newest obsession 🙂 I scored an amazing deal at Michaels last week and was able to purchase this Macaron Making Kit for only $3.20!  I love this video tutorial for Valentine’s themed macarons. If you browse the site, you can find many other cute recipes as well 🙂 Bon apetite!
  2. MAN BRAIDS. I shared this video on my facebook page today and had to share it here as well. Because when all the other people seem to be all about man buns, I am over here like, but what about the man braids?! Also, is it just me or is that the same guy from the Herbal Essences commercials of yesteryear?
  3. HARRY POTTER. As I was typing “Harry”, I accidentally typed “Happy” three times. A very appropriate Freudian slip because I was over-the-moon happy to learn that the J.K. Rowling, the magical mage herself, is releasing an 8th book in the HP series this summer! July 31 is our anniversary, perfect timing for a perfect gift! I also think this confirms that I will unavailable the first week of August due to a highly anticipated “trip” back to Hogwarts 🙂
  4. Tiny, Terrified, Sloth. Behold, my spirit animal. This is one of the cutest things I think I have seen and reminded me of this amazing video.
  5.  Wanderlust is Coming to Charlotte…and I can’t wait!
  6. Trauma and the Brain. Trauma is my main line of research and I appreciated this quick and relatively easy to understand piece on the long-standing impact that traumatic exposure can have on the brain. Much of what I do with trauma clients is work to help them reconstruct their narrative and I like this article as I think it can help others to understand why trauma feels so jarring and overwhelming, and can give us an appreciation for the limits of our mind. The brain isn’t perfect and the reconstructed narrative doesn’t have to be either–as long as it is in line with your values and how you wish to live your life moving forward, that is better than perfect. That said: if you or someone you know is struggling in the aftermath of a traumatic event, the nationwide crisisline and hotline directory can be referenced for additional resources state-by-state:  http://www.aaets.org/crisishotline.htm

 

 

 

 

Motivation

Creativity

creative

How often do you think of yourself as pursuing a creative profession?

I have to admit that in a Psychology graduate program, that was a hard leap to make at first. “Creative professional” were not the first words that came to mind.

“Scientist”? Yes.

“Helping professional”? Definitely.

Part Full-time Nerd”? I wear that label with pride.

“Creative professional”? This one is a little more of a stretch.

As I would guess many of us do, I tend to group the “creative professions” into those which center around the fine arts (i.e., painting, sculpting, illustrating, etc), writing, musicians, singers, etc. Psychologists, especially Clinical Health Psychologists, don’t easily fit into that category. Sure, you can make an argument that doing research is a creative endeavor and and I would whole-heartedly agree. You could even argue that that working with clients requires a creative mentality. One size does not fit all (though I am sure some would argue to the contrary). But still, categorizing myself as a creative professional is not a ready association. Or at least it wasn’t until recently, when I read “Big Magic” by Elizabeth Gilbert.

You might know her from her memoir “Eat, Pray, Love” (or maybe you saw the movie). In her new book, she forays into the world of creativity with the mission to help us all embrace our inner-creative and get to making.

According to Gilbert, if you are alive, you are a creative person. You and I and everyone you know are descended from tens of thousands of years of makers and creatives. Decorators, tinkerers, storytellers, dancers, explorers, fiddlers, drummers, builders, growers, problem-solvers, and embellishers—these are our common ancestors.

Being creative doesn’t have to be about writing stories, or painting pictures, or playing instruments (though it certainly can include these things). Creativity is also, just as importantly, about styling your hair and choosing your outfit. It’s about the throw pillows you choose for your home and the selfies you take. It’s about singing at the stoplight, its about helping your kids learn how to count using gummy bears and pennies, and its about finding research ideas that ignite warm and fuzzy feelings of curiosity inside of you. Because all of those things are creations. The act of making, in whatever small way, opens you to the potential of living a creative life without the fear of failure, no matter what your idea of failure is. It puts you in touch with the inner (and often hidden) artist within you.

“The universe buries strange jewels deep within us all, and then stands back to see if we can find them. The courage to go on that hunt in the first place—that’s what separates a mundane existence from a more enchanted one.” – Elizabeth Gilbert

While I began to consider myself as “creative” and apply this to my graduate identity, I experienced a mixture of excitement and fear. On the one hand, I was so excited to embrace that I am in a creative profession. To me, creativity is what sets the great scientists apart from the rest. It is where the truly innovative studies and research designs come from. It is where the ideas (both big and small) come from that keep the field moving forward. It is what allows interventions to be modified, even if just ever so slightly, such that the treatment can resonate with each client we work with, no matter what their background is. It is the force that inspires future generations to pursue a satisfying and exhilarating career.

On the other hand, while I was excited, there also existed a sense of both fear and apprehension as I attempted to own this label. Yes, I wanted to be creative but I struggle with fear on both sides of the creative gulf: I fear the results of the hard work itself will not meet my own expectations, and I fear that my hard work will not be received in a way that meets my own expectations. That fear gets in the way of my ability to create without (self)judgment. It is a viscous and downward spiral- I get a creative and potentially unique/quirky/innovative idea, I get excited, the fear creeps in, I start to doubt my creative motivations, I doubt the quality of my idea and my capability to implement the idea, I consider giving up on the idea, and I begin consider resigning myself to riding the wave of status qua moving forward. It just seems easier. It just seems safer. If you are an academic, graduate student, (nay, if you are a human being) my guess would be that you can relate to this cycle in some way.

I think the key to breaking out of this cycle is curiosity. Finding those things that we  genuinely want to know more about. This can be an idea, or this is can be a sense of curiosity to see what we can make. What we are capable of. Regardless, the key to breaking out of this cycle of fear is finding those ideas or things that ignite a warm, rosy glow if interest deep within you. Finding those things that you just cant get out of your head, that you absolutely need to know more about, or that you absolutely need to try/experience.

It is about living a life that is driven more strongly by curiosity than fear. It is about knowing that there isn’t anything at stake in the act of creating besides satisfying curiosity.

If you simply create (or make, if that’s a more comfortable word for you) because you do, because you want to see what you can make, then you have no expectations and failure is no longer an option. Fear, to paraphrase Gilbert, will still come along for the ride, but it doesn’t get to drive.

In my brief tenure as a psychologist, it is the “creatives” that have inspired me to continue on. Their passion, curiosity, and desire to just explore things that they are interested in for the sake of interest, with no expectation to publish or get a grant or change lives, etc, is what made me want to be a scientist and what continues to motivate me.

When I started grad school I committed myself to curiosity. I was going to pursue the things I was interested in. This has led to about a million ideas. Many of them have fizzled but a few have stuck. I have been lucky to have a few which I cannot get out of my head. They keep me up at night. I dream about them. I think about them all day. And they are accompanied by that warm rosy feeling. It took me about a year to get over my fear of sharing them with my advisor, but once I did it completely changed my experience. I no longer think my ideas are something to be ashamed of. Rather, they are an extension of myself and a chance to get to know existence more intimately. Sharing all my random thoughts with him has, at times, made him want to pull his hair out. But it has prompted some really interesting conversations and has helped shape our relationship such that it is more collegial. More importantly, by sharing my ideas I have come to be proud of them, of my curiosity, and of my creativity.

I have found that curiosity is like a muscle, it you work it, it gets stronger.

Allowing the ideas to flow generates more ideas. I email about 10% of my ideas to my advisor and share maybe 10% with others in brain-storming sessions. The rest? I write some of them down to return to at some later point. Others don’t stick and I just let them flow through me. With each idea, whether it is a keeper or not, I take a moment to thank my mind and the universe for a brief glimpse at creative introspection. I thank them for making my life a little richer and more colorful in that moment, for helping me feel a little more connected. With that sense of gratitude, I can let the ideas go and have freedom to either pursue what I am working on already or be on the lookout for the next one. Sometimes the ideas come back. Oftentimes they don’t. Either way, it is OK.

I have found that by redefining creativity as the process of simply making and by redefining my end goal as simply an opportunity to pursue an interesting idea, I have come to love my work. Sure, grad school is stressful. But I really do believe I have the most amazing career out there. I get to be curious and creative every single day.  I have stumbled into a career that is intellectually satisfying AND fun. I really do feel lucky and credit a change in perspective as the key to making the whole experience manageable. If you are looking for some creative inspiration, I recommend Liz Gilbert’s book. If you have already read it, I would love to know what you thought about it and if you have been able to apply any of the concepts to your own life.

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Weekend Watchlist

snowday

 

Happy Friday! I woke today to a beautiful 1 inch or so of and, accordingly, the city of Charlotte is officially shut down. Coming from Washington, DC this never fails to make me laugh (especially since they and so much of the Northeast is in the midst of a blizzard–stay warm and safe everyone!), but Charlotte does not really have snow plows or salt, so it is actually much safer to stay home. I have no complaints and have enjoyed a wonderfully cozy morning working from home with Drew (who also was told to stay home today from his corporate job). That being said, it is lunch break time so I thought I would post some things that I came across this week which caught my attention.

 

1// Things That Only People Who Hate Talking on the Phone Will Understand

This post speaks to my soul! If you know me at all, you know I am terrible at talking on the phone, returning phone calls, listening to messages, aka basically any activity that involves picking up my phone and using it. I am notorious for being unreachable and, while this is something I am actively working to improve on this year, it is a daily struggle. This pretty much sums up my feelings toward the phone. 🙂

 

2// The Presidents of the United States: When They Were Young and Hunky

The comments beneath each picture make this. I laughed out loud so many times. So. Many. Times. I mean, just look at #6, #14, #38, & #42! I would love to know which captions are your favorites. Also, is it just me, or does a young James Polk seem vaguely reminiscent of a present day Tom Hiddleston??

 

3// Man Posing in Traditional Boudoir Poses

WARNING! CONTENT IN THIS POST MAY MAKE YOU SLIGHTLY UNCOMFORTABLE…however, you are almost guaranteed to laugh. This was the first post I opened this morning. It set the tone for a perfectly silly day. I still giggle like a little girl each time I open it!

 

4// How to Ask for a Raise

On a more serious note, I found this article on how to effectively ask for raise quite useful!

 

5// Sesame Street Moves to HBO

“Is Sesame Street the most important children’s television show of all time? Why else would there be such a vibrant, charged conversation around the biggest move the series has made in ages? I think it’s like asking, ‘Is George Washington the best president of all time?’” said Rich. “It defined children’s television. It basically created the field.”

I never really watched Sesame Street growing up (Mr. Rogers was more my thing) and was surprised to learn it has been on the air for over 46 seasons–close to half a century! This is a really interesting article about the upcoming move to HBO and what it might mean for the show. On a related note, this article claims that Elmo ruined Sesame Street…do you agree?

Motivation

Monday Motivation- MLK

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The summer before I returned to graduate school, I had the great privilege of teaching at a leadership camp. I spent the week with a group of 15 middle school students traveling around Washington, DC, Virginia, and West Virginia helping them learn about leadership, our political system, and freedom. It was an amazing week filled with memorable experiences; however, my most memorable moment came at the end of the week. The topics of the day were the Civil Rights Movement and Martin Luther King, Jr. The lessons that day were particularly poignant as the DOMA ruling had just taken place that morning. I was instructed not to discuss it with my students (I think the camp was afraid of political and religious leanings), but I couldn’t help myself. How can you be in DC, discussing civil rights and freedom with children, on the exact morning of DOMA and not discuss it? So, I defied authority and went for it.

We had a rich conversation about equality and freedom without any sort of religious or political leaning. I was so proud of my students. We discussed the freedom which America offers its citizens and were able to reflect on just how far we have come in 50 years (and just how far we still have to go). At the end of it all, I took my group to the steps of the Lincoln Memorial. We stood on the spot where MLK gave his famous “I Have a Dream” speech (pictured above). Each of my students were given a copy of the speech. They were instructed to look out at the mall and picture it filled with people. Not an inch of standing space available. They pictured themselves back in a time when basic rights were unavailable to certain subsets of individuals based on how they looked or what they believed in. They imagined what it would be like if they were one of those people. Someone who has the same thoughts, feelings, emotions, hopes, dreams, desires, etc. as everyone else, but who was denied the expression of these basic human tendencies as a result of misunderstanding and prejudice. Then, they took turns reading stanzas of the speech out loud, reflecting all the while on the power of the human spirit. On how far we have come as a nation. They reflected on the power of dreaming, on their own unique dreams, and on the urgent need for dreams to persist throughout ones life. On the necessity for dreams to be put into action and on the corresponding courage required. Finally, they reflected on the need to work together and rely on one another to actualize their dreams and affect lasting change in our world. It was powerful and there was not a dry eye in sight at the end of the exercise.

I left camp that week feeling utterly exhausted following a week of late nights and early mornings. I also left entirely inspired and excited for our future. I still carry this excitement with me. It is easy to look out at the world, with all of its sorrow, hatred, violence, and suffering, and become discouraged. It is at times like this when the message of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. becomes increasingly important. We all have a dream. Dreams for how we can improve our own lives and the lives of those around us. There is no right or wrong dream, as long as you are dreaming. I encourage you to reflect on your own, unique dreams today and on steps you might take towards actualizing them. What can you bring to the day that moves you closer to where you want to be? What can you bring to the day that helps move others closer to where you want the world to be? I assure you that if we approached each day with this mentality, our world would be a much more peaceful place.

In the spirit of MLK, I will leave you with a video clip of his iconic speech. I hope you have an amazing week and may you never stop dreaming!