Friday Five: The Last Self-Help Book I Will Ever Do, TV Shows Galore And A Gym Outfit To Please My Inner Goth

This has been what I call a “FEEL ALL THE FEELS” week. Emotionally gritty and draining for a few reasons: job stress, family issues that aren’t mine directly but still hard to bear witness to, usual routines gone to anarchy. Everything’s been kind off for me: exercise, eating, sleep, stress, emotions. Ironically, the least stressful part of the week was parenting Budgie, which only goes to show you how crazy it’s been around here. Meh! At least the week is over! This is what kept me engaged and somewhat sane…

+ I enjoy reading a good self-help book. I know people bag on self-help all the time — and I do see how striving for ‘happiness’ and ‘success’ without interrogating those notions can actually give rise to dissatisfaction and anxiety. But as an earnest person, I know I’ve been given one life during this turn of the wheel — why wouldn’t I want to make the most of it? Yet, as I was paging through one book or another, confronting yet another “week-by-week” program full of intensive journaling and various exercises, I was like, “Who has time for this?” It’s way too easy to use self-help as a kind of substitute for meaning-making action and experiences. So I decided…NO MORE SELF-HELP DOING. Glancing, paging through, speed-reading: okay. But I’m not going to spent two precious hours making a vision board when I could spent them actually writing or creating or having an adventure with my toddler. (I’m not bagging vision boards — I think they can be fun — but I’m very ‘been there done that’ about them.) That said…I did come across the book Design Your Life by Ayse Birsel and went through it pretty quickly — she’s a industrial designer who uses the processes of deconstruction and reconstruction and applies it to ‘lifestyle design.’ If you are looking for a FAST, simple way to look at your life and figure out what your overall vision of it could be, it’s a good read — and still draws insights into what’s pulling at your life and what you want more of. Her exercises are simple, easy to follow and quick — most don’t go beyond 15 minutes and there aren’t a lot of them — and it’s all designed to access your intuition and instinct. It’s mostly useful for those who are searching and refining their direction in life — practical tips on implementing insights into action aren’t plentiful. Now that I’ve told you about this book, I’M NEVER DOING ANOTHER SELF-HELP BOOK AGAIN!

+ I know I keep mentioning THIS IS US these days, but if anyone else is keeping up with the show…the last episode was such beautiful devastation! Sterling K. Brown, who won an Emmy for his work on the OJ Simpson season of AMERICAN CRIME STORY, proves himself one of the best in a pretty solid cast — his performance is just so good and impeccable, as is the actor playing his biological dad, Ron Cephas Jones. These are the kind of feels I can handle: beautifully acted, well-written and directed and structured in such a way that they don’t feel out of control!

+ I’m back to HBO for Sunday nights, as well, now that the final season of GIRLS is back. I go back and forth on GIRLS all the time — sometimes it just irks me so much, but sometimes it just gets what being a young woman in her 20s living in a city trying to find her way is all about. I haven’t been watching as closely in past seasons because each of the characters has been off doing her own thing. (And Adam Driver hasn’t been on it as much — he was always the standout actor in the cast for me.) But in a way, the new season seems to be bringing the original girls back together, although not without fractiousness. Speaking of fractious, I find it interesting that my least favorite character at the beginning — Shoshanna, played by the brilliant Zosia Mamet — is now one of my favorites. Mostly because — speaking essentially as a trained dramatist here — her arc as a character actually seems to be propelling her toward meaningful change. (Interestingly enough, the same thing happened for me with SEX AND THE CITY — ‘Rules’ girl Charlotte changed in such as a way as to expand her definition of what a good mate for her was, and it’s a shift I often see in real life.) As GIRLS has progressed — or perhaps, regressed! — Shoshanna has become the one to call out her older friends’ shenanigans, and has struck out on her own in terms of shedding NYC hipsterish affectations. She’s worked in Japan, she wants to be a successful businesswoman, and she’s starting to make no apologies for who or where she wants to be. (Also: I would LOVE to see a ‘Shoshanna in Tokyo’ movie.) I found myself that there comes a point where you have to shed your peer group’s assumptions, mores and values to truly find your own, and she seems to be heading there — and I hope it’s a fascinating one to watch, especially as the other characters still seem mired in stupidish relationships and self-absorbed self-sabotage.

+ I know this is turning out to be a TV-heavy edition, but I chalk that up to my mind turning to mush at the end of the day this week because my heart has been so wrung dry by life! (I’ve also been reading a lot, but I’ll tell you about those books in a future post.) But…Netflix’s latest season of ‘Chef’s Table’ is up. If you are a foodie — or just interesting in the ways that cooking reflects history, art, culture and philosophy — this show is absolutely exquisite and proves that food doesn’t reflect just status, decadence or wealth, but artistry, creativity and intellectual engagement. This is the third season — past seasons have featured chefs like Chicago chef/homeboy Grant Achatz, Milan’s Massimo Bottura and Sweden’s Magnus Nilssen, along with a fair number of female chefs like kaiseki maestra Niki Nakayama. I’ve only watched the first episode of the new season, featuring a South Korean Buddhist nun who makes absolutely marvelous dishes — but wowza, the show is such a treat. (It always makes me so hungry to watch, but sadly, all that is snackable after dark in our house is often a bag of BBQ chips!)

+ Outfit of the week: the harried, emotionally draining week sort of put me off my fashion game this week, and there were many days where I really didn’t pay much attention to what I was grabbing from my closet. (#fashionbloggerfail!) But luckily, my closet is fairly well curated enough that most of my outfits were still cohesive — and, I stumbled upon a ‘gym Goth’ uniform that felt unexpectedly fun. Black-on-black floral print leggings (an old pair from Fabletics, of course!), black ballet shirt, army-green field jacket: all I had to do was switch into black ankle boots to feel good for the rest of the day after my workout. Athleisure WORKS, people!

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