Monday’s Meditation: On Why We Chicken Out & How Not To

Monday, February 20, 2017

There are lessons in life that come to us in the form of broad, vague abstractions, and there are those that are of the acute variety. 

While skiing recently, I experienced the latter sort, the kind that hits you over the head with its significance. Duh, it seems to say. You getting this?

Why we chicken out and how not to.

I love skiing. No matter that I absolutely refused to strap on a pair of skis during multiple family ski trips taken as a child, preferring instead to munch on the giant rice crispy treats and glug back the hot chocolate that for my sister and cousins were the reward for braving the cold slopes. People change. Ski bums evolve.

Still, that stint of protesting the slopes set me back several years of experience. Today, I am an enthusiastic, albeit mildly timid skier (I’m told the cautiousness one feels about the prospect of breaking one’s limbs or killing oneself is part of the normal ascent into adulthood–another reason, perhaps, why I should have begun when I was much too young to consider such unhappy possibilities.).

While my nerve has seemed to vary in the past without much of any discernible reason (I nonchalantly skimmed down a black diamond the first time I decided to ski), this time a very obvious pattern emerged: any time I stood at the top of what appeared to be a daunting, steep, drop off, I lost my nerve.

I stared at the incline. I granted the butterflies in my stomach a bevy of seconds too many to flutter their nauseating wings. I told myself I could do it. I knew I could do it. I could almost do it! But I couldn’t do it by then; I’d studied myself scared.

“No, not ready,” I’d announce, sticking my poles in the snow and heaving myself back up, like a kid climbing down the steps of a diving board. “Can’t. Hey, let’s do this easy one, okay great.”

And on the other hand, there were the times when I chose not to stop before skiing down. I got off that chairlift, skied right towards that black diamond and then kept on going. And I didn’t fall on the way down, either.

Every time, it happened that way. 

When I stopped to stare, and contemplate, and wonder whether I had it in me, and whether I’d break my body if I tried, I chickened out. I pictured arm casts and crutches. I saw in an instant the long trajectory of recovery that I might have avoided if only I hadn’t attempted to challenge myself. “Should have known I couldn’t do it.” I heard my future-injured self saying in my head.

When I went for it, not letting myself so much as pause, I weaved my way down with confidence and control. Knees slightly bent, skis parallel, adapting to the terrain, I was Lindsey Vonn. I was exhilarated. I was having a blast

The lesson was, and is, as I have already categorized, obvious.

The longer we indulge doubt and fear, the more paralyzed and freaked out we become. The more time we stand listening to our fight-or-flight, mammalian, scaredy cat brains, the less capable we are of proceeding with boldness, courage and creative flair. 

The smart risk begins to seem unwise. The act of vulnerability begins to appear as too much of a gamble.

But once the skis are on, we’re already succeeding. Once we’re bored by the easy trails, we’re ready enough for bigger mountains. Once we’re approaching the precipice, it’s the voice of faith we need to raise the volume on. Faith in the fact that we’re far more capable than we realize, and faith that the trail won’t really be so bad. In fact, it’ll probably be really, really, more-than-unearned-rice-crispy-treats-and-luke-warm-hot-chocolate fun.

Monday’s Meditation: On The Way Technology Traps Us & The Truth That Frees Us

Monday, February 13, 2017

Why thinking for yourself is more important than ever.

The pervasiveness of people and platforms eager to tell you what’s best for you is increasing at a staggering speed. Do you feel that, too?

Other individuals, marketing agencies, and capitalism in general have been around for as long as any of us reading this have, sure. What is new, or newer, though, is the extent to which outside sources are able to infiltrate our brains, and gain access to pivotal information about our private lives.

With each click we leave behind us a trail of breadcrumbs that, when collated by outside agencies, reveals our interests, our spending habits, our location–everything, essentially, needed to manipulate us. 

When we pin an image of a wedding party, and then find our feed filled with bridal imagery, promoted pins for engagement rings and wedding registry services, we realize our every move is being monitored.

When we peruse a pair of shoes online and then find the brand behind said shoes cropping up on every webpage we visit, we remember that what’s being presented to us is no coincidence.

Fielding the barrage of computer-generated recommendations based on our personal data could keep a person occupied for their whole life: Instagram recommends we follow these accounts based on the photos we’ve liked, Google autofills our search terms in based on what others have searched for.

The algorithms are churning away, spitting forth engineered, robotized, generalized personal options just for you.

Do you ever get the sneaking feeling that you’re no longer the one doing the choosing in the part of your life that’s spent looking at screens (which, these days, is a significant portion)? That somewhere along the line, perhaps in what was an arbitrary or anomalous action, you suggested a preference? And that now that isolated action is the one that’s been plugged into the algorithms, so that you’re stuck in your decision of the past? That your world is narrowed for you based on what an external source deems to be relevant?

Differentiating between what you choose for yourself and what’s been selected for you has increasingly become the challenge of our times. 

As has always been the case, so will it always be: the one who knows what’s best for you is you.

Google may be comprised of some of the brightest minds on the planet; the mysterious Facebook algorithm may be worth billions, and still, those entities are never going to be as in tune with you as you are.

Compared to your intuition, an algorithm is a defunct, unreliable robot. Compared to your internal guidance, your virtual world is a noisy, impulsive gale storm.

Choose with resoluteness and singularity of purpose. Be on guard against distractions. And never expect anyone or anything else to expand your world for you. The power is still in your hands to plug in new, surprising information. The machines are following your lead. 

 

Spotlight On The Most Strikingly Designed Ceilings

Thursday, February 9, 2017

Last week, we spotlighted a space designed by an untrained designer, a woman who champions a democratic approach to the decorating of spaces. I don’t know about you, but her New York City townhouse had me more convinced than ever that one can get a hell of a long way with the ruling mantra “pick what you like best and put it in your house and it’ll look great.”

There’s a line, though, that separates hobbyist from professional, and as of this week, I have decided that line is a ceiling.

I want to know who among us, lacking any sort of formal design training, has thought to crane their neck backwards to utter the words, “Let’s really elevate the look of this ceiling.” Seriously, if that’s you, pipe up so we can all applaud your impressive know-how.

As for me, I can’t claim ever to have considered a ceiling ripe with stylist potential, beyond it being the sometimes-home to overhead lighting. 

But hey, you can really do a lot with ceilings, it seems! 

Painting, and molding, and shiplap, and you go give everyone who visits a crick in their necks, Glen Coco.

Striking ceiling designs to inspire your inner design nerd.

Design by Shelton, Mindel & Associates; Photography by Joshua McHugh

Striking ceiling designs to inspire your inner design nerd.

Design by House Of Jade Interiors; Photography by Lindsey Orton

Striking ceiling designs to inspire your inner design nerd.

Page Mullins and Holly Williams via Country Living

Striking ceiling designs to inspire your inner design nerd.

Design by Lori Gilder and Rebecca Reynolds

Striking ceiling designs to inspire your inner design nerd.

Design by Kelly Deck

Striking ceiling designs to inspire your inner design nerd.

Design by Orac Decor

Striking ceiling designs to inspire your inner design nerd.

Design by Tamara Magel

Striking ceiling designs to inspire your inner design nerd.

Design by A Beautiful Mess

If adorning our actual ceilings is too daunting for us mere design mortals, we might still be empowered enough to select a light fixture that throws the pattern we aren’t brave enough to put on our ceilings, on our ceilings. 

Striking ceiling designs to inspire your inner design nerd.

HGTV

Striking ceiling designs to inspire your inner design nerd.

ELLE Decoration, April 2015; photography by Giorgio Possenti via

That’s all I wrote for this week, family.

It’s almost the weekend, though, which means it’s a prime opportunity for you to get your closet editing on with the help of the Live Simply Closet Edit Masterclass. Go sign up and join the fun. (People are having fun, I swear.)