annual 100

53 Things I Learned in 2014

An entire year with nary a post save one, at the very end? O, how the bright-eyed girl of 43 who was posting multiple times per day in 2004 would have laughed had you told her this!

Without further ado, we continue this new twist on a 10-year-old tradition with 53 things I learned this year—one thing for each year I am old.

What will the new year bring? What won’t it, amirite?

  1. Hair we go again.
  2. What I really need is so much better than what I think I do.
  3. They have that 110-lb. Blood-Donor Rule for a reason.
  4. Giving talks is still fun.
  5. But not as much fun as watching people get it.
  6. Dogs will change your life.
  7. And, sometimes, your livelihood.
  8. And always, your capacity to be patient.
  9. Take the f*cking donuts.
  10. Releasing books almost beats reading them.
  11. Helping your friends make jam is the new helping your friends make quilts.
  12. There’s a difference between not doing something wrong and seeking to do things right.
  13. It’s all the difference.
  14. William Trevor is dark in the good way.
  15. An evening’s walk in the desert is as relaxing as a week’s stay in many places.
  16. Vegas, however….
  17. You never know where your next pen pal may come from.
  18. Accidents make the best popsicles.
  19. Theater is one of the smartest things I can say “yes” to.
  20. Especially as it yields hidden treasures.
  21. Cleaning ladies earn every cent of their money.
  22. My new-favorite blogs are all newsletters.
  23. I am absolutely, positively not a copywriter.
  24. For hire.
  25. Making art feels like making love—to yourself.
  26. And you don’t need a nap afterward.
  27. Although naps are awesome!
  28. Cauliflower is God’s gift to the gut-afflicted.
  29. All the juices just wish they were watermelon & lime juice.
  30. I am adjacent to too much love and greatness not to have done something right.
  31. Spas are not actually torture chambers.
  32. Just when you’ve given up hope, a savior appears.
  33. And I’m not talking about Angelina Jolie.
  34. Although she is awesome!
  35. Just when you thought you knew everything, bacon in the oven!
  36. I finally get that Chinese saying about being responsible for the life you save.
  37. I also finally get why giving is better.
  38. Especially when you don’t feel like it.
  39. Nobody wants a bald chick on their jury panel.
  40. Su-u-uddenly, Scanpan.
  41. If Rob Brezsny didn’t exist, we’d have to forecast him.
  42. You do not have to have hair like a girl to dress like one.
  43. I do not miss auditioning.
  44. I always miss acting.
  45. It’s a good thing zoodles are not on the side of evil.
  46. It may take 43 years, but one can resuscitate a love of dorky holiday traditions.
  47. My sister was raised right.
  48. The first step in getting to the Beverly Center is knowing where you are right now.
  49. The best day to write is everyday.
  50. The best day to start doing it is today.
  51. Or the today that was your 53rd birthday.
  52. Eyeball beans really do make for a better 12 months.
  53. Eventually, even your crickity YouTube video will be legitimized by a #TBT.

Stay tuned for more, if you like. Happy new year, either way!

xxx
c

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tiny bottle of glass cleaner by bathroom mirror

52 Things I Learned in 2013

Did I say that 2012 was a doozy? From that long-ago year’s relatively cushy vantage point, I quite literally did not know the half of it.

This was the year that the other shoe dropped. I still haven’t sorted through 2013’s considerable lessons sufficiently to retrieve salient talking points, much less wrangled the time to get them in some kind of order, but trust me when I say that finally, after 52 years, I walk around with the sense that everything is, at its root, just fine. If you were worrying, please stop. And if you weren’t worrying, for god’s sake, don’t start. I mean, I also finally get that what you do is none of my business, but one of this year’s lessons was that worry solves exactly nothing. Action, on the other hand….

Alas, 2013 is not the year that sees me returning to the extensive cataloging of yore. On the other hand, I no longer view submitting fewer items than the “full” 100 as some kind of defeat; hell, I barely see it as less-than.

Without further ado, then, here are 52 things that I learned this year—one for each year I am old. A new tradition! For a new year!

  1. Surrender.
  2. No, really: S-U-R-R-E-N-D-E-R.
  3. Crap, like rust, never sleeps.
  4. Crisp sheets are worth the ironing.
  5. This includes pillowcases.
  6. But not, strangely enough, the bottom sheet.
  7. Pink is my favorite color.
  8. I am more surprised by this than anyone else.
  9. Never underestimate the entertainment value of random shit.
  10. Always let your wig do the heavy lifting.
  11. I’m just not that into Twitter.
  12. People are awesome.
  13. Occasionally, this includes elected officials.
  14. No matter how broke you get, you won’t regret what you spent on art.
  15. When in doubt, write like you talk.
  16. But above all, write.
  17. If it came from anywhere other than the place where your legs meet, get it in writing.
  18. Especially if “it” has to do with health insurance deductibles.
  19. More often than not, I’m the dumbest person in the room.
  20. More and more, I’m down with that.
  21. When you have to produce the goods, a dress makes you feel like a million bucks.
  22. Alas, the shoes that’ll get you there safely make you look like a tiny duck.
  23. Sign heaven exists, and it’s just east of the 110.
  24. I’m not done with acting.
  25. Oh, boy, am I not.
  26. Less gossip = mo’ better.
  27. The truth shows up when you least expect it.
  28. True miracles help make more miracles.
  29. Whether you know it or not.
  30. And most of the time, you won’t.
  31. Jacarandas!
  32. Death by a thousand cuts works the other way, too.
  33. Stories make more sense the more you tell them.
  34. Getting old means everything seems like it happened yesterday.
  35. If it’s good and it’s loving, it’s a “yes”.
  36. The journey of 3,798,493 steps starts with a single Fitbit.
  37. A solid deadline beats good intentions every time.
  38. The cure for loneliness is not more “me”-time.
  39. You meet the strangest people opting-out.
  40. Parties aren’t the worst way to ring in the new year.
  41. Subscribing to just one magazine is okay if there’s just one you want to read.
  42. The undocumented life is well worth living.
  43. It’s okay to ask for help.
  44. No, really: IT’S O-K-A-Y.
  45. Heaven on Earth is a voice lifted in song.
  46. This is the last year Facebook puts together a better highlights reel than I do.
  47. Those Buddhists know a thing or two about a thing or two.
  48. Getting fired feels horrible.
  49. Reconciling yourself to it with grace, however, almost compensates.
  50. Almost.
  51. There will never be a “done”.
  52. There will never be a day when this doesn’t make that a little easier to bear.

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photos of the author with shaved head

51 Things I Learned in 2012

This year has been longest I can recall in the decades since they started flying by. It has challenged me in ways I could not have predicted even twelve months ago, when I foolishly thought I’d mapped the full landscape of challenges.

Much of what I’ve experienced I have not been able to share, partly owing to a lack of adequate processing, partly due to exhaustion, and partly, I’m afraid, because of Facebook. It is perilously easy to let social media drive, and to content oneself with lobbing the occasional comment (or cold French fry) from the backseat.

Which is why this year almost became the one in which I did not do a List. How could I, when so many of my lessons have been private? And why bother, when, for the rest of it, I can just direct you to My 20 Biggest Moments (as chosen by Al Gore Ithym)? Sure, it’s lazy, ill-managed, and trite, but have you seen Congress lately?

Then it occurred to me: what better way to exercise my new-found and very-hard-won habit of doing things imperfectly than sharing a smaller, less hilarious list? If people unsubscribe in droves, well, less pressure moving forward, amirite?

So here, for the first time ever, a list of the 51 things I learned over the past year. Slightly more than half, far short of “perfection”, and a fine symmetry with years lived.

May 2013 be the year of your dreams, whatever those may be.

xxx
c

  1. Just when you start to doubt it, the internet reminds you of how hard it rocks.
  2. And by “the internet”, I mean “the people on the internet“.
  3. And the internet.
  4. “Humbling” does not equal “humiliating”.
  5. Traveling for work is the most exhausting perk you’ll ever love.
  6. I should have been reading The Sun 20 years ago.
  7. You of the Past will always overestimate the willingness of You of the Future.
  8. There are worse afflictions than terminal earnestness.
  9. No. More. Scarves.
  10. Falling behind has its compensations.
  11. That Joni Mitchell song about taxis and parking lots also applies to gumlines.
  12. And savings accounts.
  13. But, oddly enough, not to hair.
  14. Instagr—wait, I mean Flickr.
  15. The most expedient way to learn about yourself is to have smart people ask you questions.
  16. Shaving your head dramatically reduces your dating opportunities.
  17. But sharply increases photo ops.
  18. A little lighting makes a big difference.
  19. God will wait until you’re good and ready.
  20. Or maybe just ready.
  21. Fuck manicures.
  22. New Orleans is a thousand times better than I ever imagined.
  23. Except for Bourbon Street, which is a hundred-million-billion times worse.
  24. Hormones are nature’s way of saying “That’ll be $80 a month, please.”
  25. New York never misses you.
  26. Eventually, you stop caring.
  27. The universal cure for what ails you is a Dole Whip in the Tiki Tiki Tiki Tiki Tiki Room.
  28. Giving blood feels as restorative as getting blood.
  29. Nothing beats hanging out with old friends.
  30. But stumbling across their new books runs a close second.
  31. A bad video can be too long at a minute.
  32. A great play can be too short at eight hours.
  33. Victory tastes even sweeter when it’s Sugar’s.
  34. I love playing an asshole.
  35. But I make a much funnier loser.
  36. Gelson’s has the best air-conditioning.
  37. Also, the best egg salad.
  38. And, unfortunately, the loudest televisions.
  39. TEDx is the new “done”.
  40. A Breville tea kettle will change your life.
  41. Not to mention strip the paint off of your kitchen cabinets.
  42. It’s only foreign until you do it once.
  43. Receiving accolades is surprisingly less fun than doing the things that earn them.
  44. A professional knife sharpening is worth its weight in Band-Aids.
  45. Sometimes the best thing you can do is almost nothing at all.
  46. Or at least, what looks like nothing to the outside world.
  47. Besides, I wasn’t not blogging; I was helping you maintain your information diet.
  48. Beginnings are always lovely.
  49. Cancer still sucks.
  50. Things change.
  51. But when they don’t change fast enough—which is almost always—this helps.

See you next year!

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Photo of me and shave artist supreme, Brandon Massengale, by some other person at Bolt Barbers, West Hollywood.

100 Things I Learned in 2011, Part 2 [50-for-50 edition]

You know what you learn when you do a review of the back half of a year in which you did a massive, 50-day-long fundraising thing-a-majiggy? That it takes WAY MORE than the actual 50 days to do it. Seriously. There’s a full six months of my life (and counting) that’s all 50-for-50! 50-for-50! 50-for-50!

So here’s a one-time-only, half-of-100-things list devoted (almost) exclusively to my biggest teacher ever.

In other non-news, good lord—no wonder I need a nap.

  1. “Possible” lives next door to “impossible.”
  2. Neither one can be routed on Google Maps.
  3. Goddamn right it takes a goddamn village.
  4. The “O” word isn’t as magical as the “S” word.
  5. Or the “P,” “A,” “G,” “M” and “B” words.
  6. Not to mention the “DLP” and “WCWW” words.
  7. But some of the biggest movers live quietly behind the scenes.
  8. Appliances don’t give a crap about deadlines.
  9. That goes double for #@$% hackers.
  10. $25 haircut isn’t as bad as you’d think.
  11. But it can’t touch a $50,000 one.
  12. Swears look better neatly stitched.
  13. Or covering your naughty bits.
  14. The breaks you think you can’t take are the most necessary.
  15. Flip-flops and street lamps don’t mix.
  16. Neither do shaved heads and anything loose and flowing.
  17. Unless you’re aiming for “Buddhist nun.”
  18. You really do lose 80% of your heat through your head.
  19. Banjo makes everything better.
  20. Self-deprecating humor doesn’t hurt, either.
  21. But I’m pretty sure puppies trump everything.
  22. Make time to shred.
  23. Before you shave, moisturize.
  24. After you shave, moisturize.
  25. Everyone loves a good cry.
  26. And a photobooth.
  27. And flan.
  28. Even the ones who don’t think they do.
  29. Recovery takes longer than you think.
  30. Definitely longer than the two weeks you’ve allotted on your calendar.
  31. Getting back to work doesn’t always involve work.
  32. Unless you count “play” as work.
  33. WHICH IT TOTALLY #!$&@ IS.
  34. So are massages.
  35. (I know, I know.)
  36. The first thing that goes is reading.
  37. The next thing is blogging.
  38. And finally, when you think it’s all over, newsletter-ing.
  39. Dating feels different on the other side of 50.
  40. And when the only hair color you can check is “None.”
  41. And you’re in no hurry to check any other box.
  42. We won (one category)We won (one category)!
  43. It feels good to be in GOOD.
  44. I finally know what the Facebook timeline is good for.
  45. Which means they’re bound to screw it up before December of 2012.
  46. People love a good story.
  47. With a happy ending.
  48. But watch out for those impromptu pig-whistling lessons.
  49. You can’t repay kindness.
  50. Pass it on.

See you next year!

2011

2010

2009

2008

2007

2006

2005

2004

Awesome hat a handmade gift of the awesome Sarah Clinton, community manager for the awesome Richmond Animal League. If you enjoyed this post, go make an end-of-year contribution to them! Or to WriteGirl! And buy yourself something from Amazon while you’re at it—that’ll help keep the lights on here. And hey, HAPPY NEW YEAR to you!

100 Things I Learned in 2011, Part 1

the author revealing a pit stain while "dancing"

It was an olé kinda year

I, for one, am flummoxed. Also, baffled, perplexed, confounded, and generally mystified.

No sooner do I finish off my list of 100 things for 2010 than I’m sitting down to do it again. How is this possible? Who is stealing this time? And for the love of all that’s holy, PUT IT BACK.

Well, no matter. While some days it seemed like this entire year was one long beg-a-thon, upon closer scrutiny, a few other things did, apparently, happen. Who knew?!

Of course, I’m not at all sure how much I learned from any of them, but oh, well—tomorrow is another year, right? Hahaha! Also, GET OFF MY LAWN. (If one does not earn the right to say that at 50, I hardly see the point of birthdays.)

Okay, then! Here we go…

  1. There’s nothing better than doing work you love.
  2. Except getting paid for it.
  3. And possibly, being able to succinctly describe it.
  4. Pay for the nonstop flight.
  5. You will, anyway.
  6. Comedians make the best philosophers.
  7. But nerds make the funniest ones.
  8. Menopause is Latin for “You’re never more than one marshmallow away from your fat pants.”
  9. Balance is more of a journey than a destination.
  10. Writing better takes longer.
  11. But writing longer doesn’t guarantee “better.”
  12. Making it a miracle anything gets written, ever.
  13. Instagram won.
  14. For now.
  15. Fear does not disappear with experience.
  16. It does, however, don a series of increasingly exotic and beguiling outfits with which to confuse and/or bewitch one.
  17. Never underestimate the rejuvenating effect of punctuation.
  18. The shortest route between you and 6-year-old you is the Soap Lady.
  19. I still get distracted incredibly easil—holy crap, is that a new iPhone grocery app?
  20. Goals, like food, work better with portion control.
  21. And on smaller plates.
  22. Stories are my favorite “content”.
  23. Times 3, times 365.
  24. The only thing better than going on hiatus may be coming off of it.
  25. That doesn’t mean I don’t want to do them both again.
  26. Just less far apart.
  27. It doesn’t have to be human for you to Facebook-stalk it.
  28. I love weddings.
  29. Especially when they belong to other people.
  30. Or better yet, all the people.
  31. Portland is even better in the summer.
  32. And on foot.
  33. And when you improvise.
  34. Fear is my all-time muse di tutti muses.
  35. But I am envy’s bitch.
  36. They should call it “Southwest Fairlines”.
  37. “Together/single” is less “better/worse” than it is “apples/oranges”.
  38. The quickest route to self-knowledge is a good interviewer.
  39. The only thing more fun than a Justin Tanner play is turning someone on to a Justin Tanner play.
  40. Or turning everyone on to a Justin Tanner aphorism.
  41. You can have too much of a good thing.
  42. Fortunately, someone is always making new good things.
  43. Unfortunately, that doesn’t extend to everything.
  44. Roger Ebert’s taste in movies extends to music videos.
  45. Thievery rocks.
  46. I have the world’s worst gaydar.
  47. I’m not the only one fed up with the constant happy of Facebook.
  48. Not to mention those stupid inspirational quotes.
  49. But fixing the Internet is complicated.
  50. Fortunately, fixing your reactions to it is simple.

Look for Part II later this week! In the meantime, remembrances of years past:

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2009

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2006

2005

2004


100 Things I Learned in 2010, Part 2

caricature of the author by the artist Walt Taylor

The chin! The chin!

This year didn’t kick my ass so much as it snuck up behind me, whispered in my ear it would kill me if I made so much as a wrong move, and slipped off into the night before I could make out what the fuck it looked like. This year was easily the worst since I got sucker-punched by 2002.

Still. This year could have been SO much worse. I know this. I mean, I forgot this, but then I remembered, and so sometime a month or two ago, I started making another kind of list, of things I was really, really lucky to have. Stuff like friends and health (especially when I got it back) and relative solvency, of course, but also stuff like “sunshine!” or “rain!” or “electricity!” (Although electricity mixed with rain, not so much.)

My point is this: I write because I have to, but I also am never far from realizing I write because I get to. As in, “I am alive for now, and living people GET TO WRITE.”

So as this year draws to a close, I reiterate: I am alive for now. LIVING PEOPLE GET TO (fill in your Thing of Choice  here.) For my part, I am grateful for this year, and pledge to try my best not to slip out of gratitude for too long at any one point during the next.

Besides, sometimes the shittiest years bear the greatest fruits. Fertilizer, yadda yadda.

May you gently lay to rest your previous year, and rest your arms to open themselves widely to the next. Thank you, and I hope we’ll see each other in 2011!

xxx
c

  1. It’s hell in the hallway.
  2. Never judge a bra by his cover.
  3. My sign-painting obsession is not an anomaly.
  4. Hypnosis feels like cheating on your pain.
  5. But it hurts so good.
  6. There’s almost no mood that 100 miles of open road and a “singalong” playlist can’t fix.
  7. Keep that comfort television toward the top of the queue, too.
  8. Habits before tools.
  9. Fun has a high switching cost, but a stunning overall ROI.
  10. Compassionate understanding is more effective than strict punishment.
  11. Although neatly-drawn boundaries come in mighty handy.
  12. Halve the meat.
  13. Double the veggies.
  14. Deep-six the carbs.
  15. Anyone who says you can have it all, doesn’t.
  16. Everyone loves a good hack.
  17. And a peek at someone else’s setup.
  18. The answer to more things than not is “less.”
  19. (Underwear and socks, excepted.)
  20. Lemongrass is magic.
  21. Hippie “deodorant” is the toiletries equivalent of the “CLOSE DOOR” button on the elevator.
  22. When it comes to inboxes, “zero” is a journey, not a destination.
  23. Unloading beats acquiring, hands-down.
  24. Facebook is the best thing to happen to birthdays since cake.
  25. Coconut is the best thing to happen to Larabars since Larabars.
  26. Hotels are worth it.
  27. That goes double re: springing for the single.
  28. If you’re not paying for the service, you’re the product being sold.
  29. An open jar is an empty jar.
  30. Discovering bona fide Christians could almost restore one’s faith.
  31. I may never be immortalized in ink.
  32. Vinyl, however, is another story.
  33. With a rather bittersweet ending.
  34. There are angels all around you, if you know where to not look.
  35. Slow leaks cause steadily mounting anxiety.
  36. There’s no news like really fucking great news.
  37. Ask around all you want, but you already know what you need to do next.
  38. Sorry, not that.
  39. Yes, that.
  40. Don’t forget the Epsom salts.
  41. There’s no free qi.
  42. Misery (still) loves company.
  43. Muppets (still) rule.
  44. For good or for ill, you’re making a difference.
  45. Less video.
  46. More music.
  47. Crushes are better in individual serving sizes.
  48. Troubles are better shared.
  49. Fear is a yellow light, not a red one.
  50. When life lets up, you’re probably not living it anymore.

Yup. This 100-things thing is indeed an annual thing:

2010

2009

2008

2007

2006

2005

2004

Magnificent drawing of yours truly, the clown, © Wally Torta, gentleman and scholar.

100 Things I Learned in 2010, Part 1

Amy Jane Gruber and the author by John Gruber

If SXSW were smart, they'd license this for a big-ass ad

I know that normal people marvel over how fast time flies when they see Rite Aid putting out the holiday tchotchkes in July or read stories of their college roommates’ babies get busted for dealing meth, but I’ll tell you what, nothin’ sez “Old timer!” to this old timer like posting your SEVENTH annual “Things I Learned in Whatever Year” to your blog.

This year was not an easy year for many people. On the other hand, easy years are rarely memorable ones. And, as my memory ain’t what it used to be (I think), maybe I’m better off with a “challenging” year.

Part 2 coming at you on Thursday…

xxx

c

  1. Love is easy.
  2. Forgiveness is hard.
  3. Which means that actually, love isn’t easy at all.
  4. December is way more fun when you do it in January.
  5. The best slide shows present you.
  6. To get down with the future, meet the kids who’ll be running it.
  7. For someone who never liked dogs, I sure turned out to like dogs.
  8. Then again, no one told me they had medicinal properties.
  9. You’re never too old to learn how much you have yet to learn.
  10. Or too good to make light of it.
  11. The way to read a lot of books is 40pp at a time.
  12. If you build it, they will cum.
  13. You may never work harder than the year you don’t “work.”
  14. Exhaustion is the true mother of invention.
  15. The two greatest blogs about change are newsletters.
  16. But the king is the king for a reason.
  17. There will never be enough hours in a day.
  18. I don’t know why or how, but wishing works.
  19. I finally have enough author friends to form a football team.
  20. And 2011 is bringing in some strong starters.
  21. As for me, we’d better hope those Mayans were wrong.
  22. Car washes are infinitely better when you add free magazines.
  23. Everything is infinitely better when you add hot guys.
  24. The best pictures are inevitably the worst pictures.
  25. When it comes to chasing, I give up.
  26. Uniforms rock.
  27. Pen pals rule.
  28. Nothing underlines the need for self-love like a run-in with one’s inner shithead.
  29. At a certain point, “procrastination” becomes simply “one’s working style.”
  30. The biggest learning is in the doing.
  31. Cheap is beautiful.
  32. Ice cream is better than gossip. For everyone.
  33. You’ll hate half of what you try.
  34. If you’re incredibly lucky.
  35. And unusually diligent.
  36. Feminism and heat are not mutually exclusive.
  37. I’d walk a thousand miles for a singular comment.
  38. Two thousand, if the comment comes from the elusive Dan Owen.
  39. I like my books like I like my eggs: hard-boiled.
  40. The biggest skies are the hardest to get to.
  41. But when you hitch the right ride, they’re beyond worth it.
  42. Maybe video ain’t so bad.
  43. When life won’t buy your lemons, offer it lemonade.
  44. On the other hand, when assholes spill oil, set them on fire.
  45. Although some of them are pretty good at self-immolation.
  46. Nothing feels as good as true service.
  47. Belly laughs run a close, close second.
  48. Then again, these days, belly laughs are the highest form of service.
  49. Social media is dead.
  50. Long live social media.

Part II is here. And have I mentioned that I’ve been doing this 100-things thing for SEVEN years now?

2009

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2007

2006

2005

2004

Photo © John Gruber via Flickr.