Kindness is Cool

Two Words About Friendship
While working on my post about volunteering, I asked my friends and family via social media to tell me about their favorite ways to volunteer. I received many welcome replies including one from my cousin Lorena, who is one of the sweetest and most thoughtful people I know. She wrote:

It is so much easier to be charitable with people that we do not know. It is much more difficult and much more important, in my opinion, to be charitable with the people that we do know, the ones with whom we have the most contact and on whom we have the greatest impact. It isn’t volunteering per se, but perhaps a name should be given to it and a logo, right?

She makes a great point. Volunteering is easy because it’s an organized activity, usually with a clear beginning and ending. On the other hand, being nice to our friends, family and neighbors isn’t so clear cut. There is no end to being nice to your neighbors, listening to your friends, or remembering to call your relatives.

Because I really love volunteering, I strongly encourage you to try it. Contributing to your community is incredibly rewarding. But remember to look at the people right in front of you, too. The way you treat the people closest to you will shape their lives, so act with love.


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The Quotebook: Malleus Maleficarum


Well, ain’t that just the gosh dern truth?

I bought a copy of this book a few years ago because I feel it’s important to remember that shit like this did exist. The world has been taught that a self-possessed, sexual woman is a dangerous thing. Turns out, they’re right. ­čÖé

Don’t know what the┬áMalleus Maleficarum┬áis? It’s a┬ámanual for identifying, persecuting, and punishing people thought to be witches, mostly women of course. More history and the complete text are available here.

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The Quotebook: Sweet Potato Queens

sweet potato queens 2

Words of wisdom from The Sweet Potato Queens’ Book of Love┬áby Jill Conner Browne.

I always wished I could actually adopt this attitude. There was definitely a time in my life when I needed to hear this. Girls, if you’re worried about someone liking you, just tell yourself “another one will come along.” There are over 7 billion people on the planet, and you have got some seriously good shit going for you. Plenty of fabulous people are just waiting to appreciate your charms, so get the fuck out there and socialize with people who adore you and don’t worry about the schmuck.

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Your Brain is a Box of Inspiration

Day 299 / 365 - Box of Inspiration

Chuck Close says, “Inspiration is for amateurs — the rest of us just show up and get to work.”

When I first heard that statement, I was a little perturbed by it because I like inspiration in general, but I also think he’s right. Consistent, abundant, good work comes from having a wicked work ethic.

I was thinking about this in San Francisco because I’d been out of my normal routine and my usual writing environment for several days, and I was finding it hard to sit down, focus, and accomplish anything. I found myself wanting inspiration. It’s like comfort food for the creative brain.

I’ve learned to cultivate it and to work without it when necessary. You have to cook dinner even if you don’t have your favorite spice, and you have to practice your art even if you don’t have that perfect sense of inspiration. In fact, sometimes a slight lack can be an inspiration in its own way, forcing you to innovate and find something interesting where at first glance you only see humdrum.

I used to only sit down and write when I “felt” like it, which was fine when I was a little kid and had tons of free time, no responsibilities, and no concern for income. But when you have even a little pressure to produce, you can’t wait for the mood to strike you. Pus, I find that what I once thought was a feeling of inspiration now feels sortof languid and melancholy.

As a creative adult, you have to know what interestes you because that’s where your inspiration lies, not in some vague passing emotion. What questions persistently draw your attention? What issues never fail to get a rise out of you?

For me, it’s feminism, sex, religion, and the incredible uniqueness of the individuals I meet — the miraculous connection between any two human beings, and the entirely new energetic being that forms amid groups of people. This is all very interesting to me, so when I need to write, I go back to those ideas and see what strikes me. There’s always something, but if it’s not obvious and I just don’t want to write about that right now, there’s always reading.

Read a damn book, y’all. Get a new perspective, a new idea. Absorb as much as you can. Or just go out and live a little bit. Don’t necessarily be writing all the time. Don’t take notes. Just absorb everything. Later, when you’re ready to create, the impressions that are most powerful and resonant for you will rise to the surface.

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What Makes You Glow?

Ideas por doquier

“It is not how much money we make that ultimately makes us happy between nine and five. It’s whether our work fulfills us. If I offered you a choice between being an architect for $75,000 a year and working in a tollbooth every day for the rest of your life for $100,000 a year, which would you take? I’m guessing the former, because there is complexity, autonomy, and a relationship between effort and reward in doing creative work, and that’s worth more to most of us than money.”

-Malcolm Gladwell in Outliers

Malcolm Gladwell’s books are changing the way I view success. This quote in particular reaffirms something I have known to be true for some time now. Work that is easy and pays well but is meaningless creates misery. That’s why I’m so willing to work my tail off as a yoga teacher and a writer — these things are meaningful to me.

When I finish teaching a yoga class, the students look calm, happy, sometimes even radiant. They say “thank you,” and they mean it. It’s truly rewarding.

When I finish writing a poem or essay, my brain feels a sort of happy exhaustion not too different from a post-orgasmic glow.

For a long time, I thought that working hard should be enough. I always heard that hard work could be satisfying, and in some ways it was. I was proud to say I’d been handed a series of seemingly impossible tasks and completed them with flying colors. But I still didn’t feel fulfilled by the work. Choosing to do the work that is meaningful to me was a major turning point.

My wish for you as we begin 2013 together is that you find meaning, joy, challenge, and inspiration. That you will do the work of your dreams and be radiant.

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