How To Stare Into Someone's Eyes: A User's Guide

by Claire Davidson

 

I was listening to a podcast the other day (You Made It Weird, with Pete Holmes, if you need a new one) and the guest was talking about her father’s death. She had loved her father dearly, but never felt they had a particularly emotional bond, which I suppose may be common for men from that era. He was a successful businessman, who had a kind heart but wasn't the greatest at connecting with his daughters. But she discussed how in the last few minutes of his life she bonded with him more than she ever had. She had rubbed his back, and held his hand, and told him she loved him. And, barely able to move his mouth, he uttered “I love you too.” She said that her father looked her in the eyes and maintained eye contact with her the whole time—and what a moment that was, to be truly seen by him for perhaps the first time. Without the distractions of, well, life, getting in the way. 

I don’t tell you this to instantly depress you, but because hearing this story was an important reminder for me. How much move love could we all be feeling if we didn't wait until death to be fully present with others? I mean with the stress and minutiae of day to day life, it is the easiest thing in the world to be somewhere else mentally than where you are physically. (Do you know how much time I spend checking Instagram? You don't want to know.) But to sit with someone and not retreat to the nearest distraction is hard. To look someone in the eye and not look away. 

Yes, it might feel a little weird at first, because to function in today's world we often have to disconnect, especially those of us who are sensitive souls. We find coping mechanisms to deal with the horrors of the daily news and our own shortcomings and anxieties, whether it's drinking too much or incessantly checking the internet (been there). When life gets too real (which it always will) it's much easier to take ourselves out of the present moment than sink into the love that lingers just beneath the surface of our own mind-chatter. It is much easier to look away from life, and those we love, than fully drink in the moment. But when you can do it—whether it's with your boyfriend, your mom, or your barista—you get to experience the magic of true presence. You see another soul whose life has been filled with joy, regret, fantasies, and wrong turns, just like you. And that feels like the real enchilada. Like the whole reason we're here. It feels like love. 

They say many people become more spiritual in the last five minutes before death than they ever were in life. We all have such a finite amount of time on this planet with the people we care about. We have a handful of moments to truly see others and let ourselves be seen. So instead of turning to a distraction the next time we're bored and fidgety, what if we turned to someone we loved and stared into their eyes? Sure, it may sound cheesy. But think about it this way: any moment between two people can be as holy as the last one you have together. Any moment can be the moment you choose to see another person. Really see them.

Whatever you think of Hallmark holidays or romantic movies, our world is in serious need of love right now. And the older I get, the more convinced I am that presence is love. So I hope you'll join me in a call for more presence and less distraction. I'll keep snap chatting, but I think more staring contests are also in order.

XO

Claire

Namaste, or Should I Go?

It’s the dead of winter and since my New Year’s hangover is gone (bourbon) I’m ready to escape the tundra. I’m recently back from a trip but I’m antsy to go anywhere warmer already. I’ve done a thorough Pinterest search on where to go next and I so often find myself coming back to yoga retreats.

I’ve been in love with the idea of an ashram since Eat, Pray, Love  and aside from being tempted by the epic pasta scene, I think Bali was the most moving part of the movie. The beauty behind going away and explicitly taking time to just hear your own voice must be amazing.

But the cynic in me has to wonder—is this really worth it? What if it ends up like the substitute yoga instructor? You know—the one who comes in when your go-to is out and you just cannot jive with their pace and flow? Is that sentence in-and-of-itself a sign of my rigidity? Maybe I need this more than I thought?

And what happens after? Will I come home and konn marie my home?  Will my fiancé recognize my enlightened spirit or will I just revert to a shopping binge as soon as I have access to Amazon Prime again?

I still think it’s worth the trip but I think this is one of those things you really have to invest in. Is that contrary?

I’m still filtering out all the tequila from my pores but if you’ve got suggestions on where to go to re-center in a post-vacation vacation, I’m all ears!

Jess // @xojco

 

 

A fox is back. Ya know, again.

Image by @Hrudka

The thing is, writing is one of those things that doesn’t work until it just does. And by just does, I mean, you make yourself do it.

Maybe it’s a New Year’s fling, maybe I’m feeling like life’s getting a little too manageable so I need a wildcard, and maybe, I think this time around, it’ll work. But there’s some adage about persistance and whatnot. But I’ll skip that and assume you know that when we foxes write, it’s from the heart and when we don’t write, it’s because our brains have distracted our hearts.

So, while we’re here, learn and grow with us as we continue growing Scotch & the Fox, and be patient with us, too.

This time, it’s an adventure.

Usually with S & F we get so inundated with all the things we want to do/write/see/taste that we can’t possibly achieve them all. So we’re going to try to teach an old hound some new tricks and remix this beast until it tastes juuust right.

We’re going to adventure a little more, because exploring is good for the soul.

We’re going to talk about our feelings, because politics, hormones, word-vomit.

We’re going to talk about food, because it helps us metabolize the scotch.

We’re going to talk about alllll the other things we’re experimenting with because we need witnesses in case we break out in hives. Ya dig?

New year, same URL. That’s a good enough catalyst for us.

Jess // @xojco

Moody Bitches

Before I picked up a copy of Julie Holland's Moody Bitches, I would have told you it was degrading to reduce women to our hormones. Now, deep in Holland's scientific explanations of estrogen, progesterone, serotonin, and testosterone, I see a different side: that taking our hormones more seriously might be the most empowering thing we can do for ourselves.

I'm sure you, too, have read article after article, "think piece" after think piece, that starts with some version of this statement: "women today are more overworked, over-exhausted, depressed, and anxious than ever before." And you sit there, and you think--yeah, I'm stressed. I'm tired. But I have a good life, and I should keep that shit to myself.

The truth is, women of all backgrounds, experiences, and lifestyles have been taught to ignore our complex inner worlds in exchange for outer docile complacency. Even if you're a badass bitch, I'm guessing a small part of you has, like most women, been socially conditioned to perform more social niceties, issue more apologies, and conceal your true feelings more so than men. (Men have their own socially-constructed ideals forced upon them, too, like the myth that they should always exude bravado and masculinity--but that's a whole other thang.) From the 1800s on, "hysteria" was concerned a feminine medical condition. You know what the symptoms of hysteria were, booboo? Frustration, sadness, complaints. You know, probably because these women were living in the 1800s with zero independence, autonomy, or rights.

So now we're in 2016, and Julie Holland has written this book and it's telling us one simple thing: that our moods are not negative. That they hold us back. But the truth is, our moodiness is a source of power. We can mine our unique, feminine, emotional complexity for GOOD. The peaks and valleys of our estrogen, for example, link directly to our bodies' seretonin levels. At the start of our cycle, an influx of serotonin makes us naturally more accommodating and chipper. Once those levels start to plummet, mid cycle, though, we turn inward. We are more prone to crying, to get angry, and to issuing big ole' "FUCK OFF's" to anyone who wants anything from us.

This is based in our primal nature. This is the time of our cycle that our bodies' think we might be pregnant, and if so, we better stay indoors away from danger (or modern annoyances like social interaction and traffic) and load up on complex carbs. You know, to take care of another thing that might need us: a baby. Our bodies tell us to conserve our energy, and that isn't wrong. Wanting to lock yourself in your room with a tub of ice cream isn't some pathetic montage a la Bridget Jones Diary. It's kind of...natural.

As are the more blunt, rough-around-the-edges thoughts or feelings you may have during your period. Holland explains that the anger or sadness you feel during this time isn't irrational. It's real. It's just that the serotonin you have during the earlier part of your cycle is better at blunting those sharper thoughts. Holland suggests writing down or tracking the feelings you have during your period and revisiting them at the start of your cycle when you're feeling less angry. Chances are, you'll see how a version of those thoughts is signaling you to make some change--it's trying to help you get some need met that has gone unmet. Feeling angry at everyone isn't necessarily productive, but having a specific annoyance with someone during your period could signal that it's time to have a diplomatic discussion with them at the beginning of your next cycle.

You can see this is as genius, you can see this as ridiculous, you can posit that we are smarter than our biology. But if you, like me, are sick of article after article saying how overworked and exhausted we are without issuing any real solution, consider this: we have been taught to eschew our moods as silly, when really, paying attention to them and what they're trying to tell us (GET MORE SLEEP. FLIRT WITH THAT STRANGER. CONSERVE YOUR ENERGY ON THIS COUCH, GIRL) might vastly improve our lives. We might end up more balanced, less exhausted, and more, well, natural, instead of feeling like we're fighting against society's current anytime we need comfort, time to ourselves, and yes, fucking chocolate, bitch.  

Grandma's Advice For Having Guts and Going For It

It’s a gray November morning and I’m about to learn two important lessons on doing what you love and having guts.

The scene unfolds like this….

On top of the checkered table cloth sits three coffee cups; two creams, one decaf. A glazed apple turnover and a vanilla tart. Three forks; two un-touched, one with maroon lipstick stains.

Three hands hold onto coffee mugs; one warm and rough, one cracked and small, one soft and dainty. The hands of my mother, my grandmother and me.

We sit at a patio in a small “french” cafe having brunch. My grandma pretends we’re somewhere in Europe as the Bachman’s employees water plants around us in the indoor cafe.

This is about as “snooty” as my Northern Minnesotan grandma gets. Still, she eats the corners of the turnover with as much grace as she can muster … that is until she talks and food sprays everywhere.

Grandma is peppering me with pastry dough and questions as she covers the basics: job (when are you going to be rich?), boyfriend (when are you getting married?), apartment (when are you going to buy a house?), books I’ve read (when are you having babies?!).

Some of these questions I take with a heavy grain of salt (I hope to be just as inappropriate when I’m 86), and yet some of them lead to meandering answers full of uncertainty and mild panic.

I find myself trying to explain why work is stressful lately and how I don’t really want to settle down yet and I’m not sure if my boyfriend is “the one” and no, I don’t know what my next career move is and maybe I should travel now while I’m young and — oh crap — I have NOTHING figured out, do I?

Grandma gently puts a hand on my wrist and gives it a few squeezes. She leans in close and then gives me two important pieces of advice….

It was all very simple, really.

Grandma starts matter-of-factly, “Ashley, you always wanted to write a book. Where’s your book? Go write a book! It’s not hard, just sit down and start writing and then get it published.” I try not to inundate her with the sobering statistics of failed writers, and instead take an “okay, grandma” approach.

She then tries to convince me that my mom also wanted to write a book and that we should write one together. (My mom is shaking her head.) I joke saying that we could take turns with each chapter. She feels like that’s been done.

This is my first piece of advice from grandma: Ignore excuses. Do what you love.

Grandma continues, “You can invent something! Your uncle invented many things when he was younger but he never had the guts to do anything about it!” I look at her skeptically. She doesn’t seem to notice.

“You know neon lights? Your uncle was the first to invent neon lights, but he never told anyone and there you go - someone else did it and became rich!”

Again, I take the “okay grandma” approach and let her know that I once had a great idea for a retractable extension cord, until later I found out that you can buy one on Amazon for $29.99.

“See!” she says, “you could have been rich!”

This is my second piece of advice from grandma: Invent something. Have guts.

What struck me most about that coffee date with grandma was the simplicity of everything she said and did. Most of it truly isn’t grounded in reality (it’s really not that easy), but at the same time, what if it was?

Sometimes we can get overwhelmed by seeing all of the obstacles ahead of us. Mostly this is a defense mechanism. It’s also a pain in the ass. You can look at what stands in your way and use it as an excuse to not start, or you can ignore excuses, do what you love, probably fail hard and break through to something beautiful.

We invent things all of the time. Stories, outfits, recipes, processes, drawings, feelings… it’s about making something. What grandma was giving me was an excuse to think big and create fearlessly and to not stop there. Sharing our creations with the world takes guts, but it enables us to share who we are with the world. (And according to grandma … become rich as well.)

So what if we just did what we said we were going to do? I’ll admit, I’m a chronic planner and non-risk-taker. But the frankness and naivety of my grandma’s advice was refreshing. Stop worrying about the game plan, just throw the pitch.

If only it were all as simple as grandma says.

Maybe, sometimes it actually is.

What Stories Do You Tell Yourself?

We are born with stories written on our palms, future laugh and frown lines etched into our tiny cheeks. Ancient wisdom and foolishness coursing through our veins; our hearts destined to break and do the breaking. We come into the world as unfinished stories.

We grow; we are molded. We act; we observe. We listen to the narrative of mom’s laugh and dad’s opinions, we watch each part played out and during the intermission, in line for concessions, we decide who we are.

Every day onward, the world tells us what to do. What we can’t do, what’s important, and how to behave. We form our likes and dislikes and tell people about them. We never stop. I’m me. I like this. I don’t like that. I’ve never been good at that. This is what I value. This is what upsets me. This is who I am in my family, in my classroom, to men, to women, to my neighbors, to my lovers, to my coworkers, to my children.

We let the world finish our story, becoming a closed book full of premeditated answers. On first dates and one hundredth dates, we spit out the same lines: we like seafood, we were embarrassed in the 8th grade, we’ve always wanted to go to China, we dislike ourselves in high-waisted jeans, we can’t bake, we never know what to say to children, we like this band or that, we’re too sensitive.

Know yourself, we’re told. Read the book the world has written for you. Be the person you’ve been taught to be.

If only we knew it was okay to open the book, to tear out the pages, to discard them and rewrite them. To listen to the ancient wisdom and foolishness that was there before the narrative started; that will remain after the narrative ends. To be with ourselves and decide what we are, in each moment, every single day. To find beauty in new places. To find new beauty in ourselves. To do something we’ve been telling ourselves we can’t. To re-categorize our life story—to reassign it on the bookshelf of human existence. Maybe it’s not a drama; maybe it’s a comedy. Maybe you’re not too this or too that; maybe you let go of grudges; maybe you see how silly you were for believing you couldn’t do anything you set your mind to. Maybe you’re the heroine your ancestors have been waiting for.  

What Do You Do With The World?

I try to be optimistic. I fail regularly, but I keep trying. I don't know when it happened, but over the last year or so, amidst so much upheaval, terror, and violence, it became much harder for me to keep a smile on my face. Every time it would appear, another terrible event would occur to wash it away. It feels wrong to smile when innocent lives are being lost. It feels impossible to find joy some days when a fear of doing simple things now seems justified. Are we really safe anywhere in our own country? What will become of our planet and all the nut jobs on it who are on suicide missions to take out innocent people with them?

It suddenly seemed that the way I had always viewed the world: with a little bit of paranoia, and a whole lot of fear, was not only justified, but perhaps not even intense enough. The world has become such a terrifying place to me, it sometimes seems like what has happened to our planet and the people on it is just part of a bad dream. So what do we do? Keep looking through our instagram feeds and double clicking pretty pictures of tulips, making hot toddys and decorating christmas trees and buying wool sweaters online? 

Yep. That's exactly what the fuck I'm going to do.

Because short of never leaving my house again, I don't know what else to do with this world. Most days, I don't really like or understand it. But then I think of all the people who are hurt, just like me, at the violence that seems to surround their cities and states and countries. People who are driving home from work to eat pasta in front of their television and try to have a good laugh instead of thinking of all the ways the upheaval of society can tear a person apart. People who are playing with their dogs or working on their art or making jewelry. And I realize I can't give up on trying to have hope, because if everyone did, then the world might really go to shit.

What do you do with the world when it starts to seem bleaker? Do you ignore it? Do you drink? Do you gamble? Do you shop? I've tried a few of those, but I wish there was a way to turn this pain into hope again, to feel like the world is on the verge of something good instead of something maddening. So if you have any spare hope today, would you mind sharing it with me? I'll be over here petting my dog, baking cookies, and trying to stay focused on the good. Because I think thats all I can do. And I'm incredibly lucky and blessed to have another day to try--to love my loved ones and breathe deep and look for the light.

Can Anyone Hear Me?

Being an Introvert in a Very Loud Place. 

By Ashley Haugen

- In a gentle way, you can shake the world. - Mahtma Gahndi

I recently discovered that I’m an "introvert." I had always heard that term thrown around, but never really thought it applied to me. I mean how could it? In my circle of friends I enjoyed being outgoing and adventurous. In college I had always felt very confident leading small groups and speaking in front of classmates. Wasn’t that the opposite of introversion?  

Three years after graduating, I landed a job at a startup company as their blog manager and copywriter. It was an exciting time to be a part of the organization—everyone did everything and the business was ours to create.

The problem? I was surrounded by extroverts in a work environment that promoted constant collaboration over working alone. Although I didn’t realize it yet, my needs as an introvert were poorly matched for the office culture I was currently in. 

During the day I’d notice that meetings gave me sweaty palms and a knot in my stomach. The bathroom stall was a sanctuary of silence. Most times I’d come home exhausted and anxious. 

What happened to me? I was increasingly frustrated that I wasn’t being heard at work and I felt like I was becoming the “quiet girl.” It seemed like I was being drowned-out by people who were constantly talking, talking, talking.

Now I’ve spent most of my grown adult life fighting the word, “quiet.” It’s never given as a compliment, or at least it’s never received as one. For all of you loud-mouths out there take note—telling a woman “you’re quiet” is never a nice thing to hear. 

Which is rather infuriating because there’s nothing inherently wrong with being quiet. In fact, I think it’s a skill that is unfortunately mistaken for a lot of not so nice things. In today’s society being quiet is synonymous with being scared, dumb, shy or a pushover. 

Quiet is not bad. Quiet means that you’re listening. Quiet means that you’re thinking. Quiet means that you’re being respectful. Quiet means that you’re processing. Quiet means you’d rather fill the air with quality over quantity. 

After months of feeling frustrated at work, a gift changed my life. My sister bought me the book, “Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World that Can’t Stop Talking” by Susan Cain. I read it in two days. I felt like she was speaking directly to me! I found myself sharing passages with my friends saying, “Omg, this is SO me!”

Take this one for example: 

“If you’re an introvert, find your flow by using your gifts. You have the power of persistence, the tenacity to solve complex problems, and the clear-sightedness to avoid pitfalls that trip others up. You enjoy relative freedom from the temptations of superficial prizes like money and status. Indeed, your biggest challenge may be to fully harness your strengths. You may be so busy trying to appear like a zestful, reward-sensitive extrovert that you undervalue your own talents, or feel underestimated by those around you. But when you’re focused on a project that you care about, you probably find that your energy is boundless.” 

I started to see parallels between what Cain was writing and what I was experiencing at work: 

  • Introverts tend to think first and speak later … and I was surrounded by people who loved to “think out-loud.”
  • Introverts like to be prepared … and I rarely knew the itinerary of upcoming meetings.
  • They’re often calm and easily distracted … and the open office environment was constantly pulling me away to answer questions. 
  • They enjoy focused work and have tremendous powers of concentration … and our group working sessions were draining me. 
  • They’re often gifted writers and excellent listeners … and I shined when writing or leading a group. 
  • They prefer taking time to assess before diving into the next step … and our break-neck speed felt reckless. 

I also tried too hard to be like my colleagues and ended up feeling depleted by the end of the day. As Cain writes in her book, “extroversion is an enormously appealing personality style, but we’ve turned it into an oppressive standard to which most of us feel we must conform.” 

After reading her book I felt like a weight was lifted off my shoulders. You mean there were other people out there like me? Turns out my coworkers weren’t louder, faster or smarter than me. My work environment just wasn’t set up to let me thrive. I didn’t yet understand or acknowledge the tools that would help me be heard.

Soon after, I gained the confidence I needed to start turning the tables at work and harnessing the unique skills I brought to the table as an introvert. I started asking for agendas. I started working remotely for projects that required intense concentration, like writing. I took ownership of more projects and advocated for solo work time first, collaboration later. If I wanted to go for a run instead of happy hour, that was okay. Best of all, I stopped comparing myself to others and let me be my true self. 

Takeaway tips for introverts:  

  • Recognize and celebrate your introversion. It’s not a dirty word. It’s okay to be quiet. 
  • You don’t have to be aggressive to be heard. Ideas can be shared in writing, in one-on-one conversations and in earning respect for doing high-quality work. 
  • Ask for what you need to perform best. Once I understood that I need some time to mentally prepare for meetings, I asked my co-workers to make sure they attached an agenda and any pre-work to the invite. 
  • Sometimes you just gotta suck it up and mingle (or give a speech). At the end of the day, networking and public speaking are still incredibly valuable skills to master. The good news is 1) it doesn’t last forever,  and 2) the more you work at it, the better you get. 
  • Be an advocate for other introverts. Stick up for the other “quiet” people. Try to facilitate meetings or activities that allow both types of personalities to play to their strengths. 
  • Understand that there’s a scale. You don’t have to be all one way or the other. In fact, many people are really somewhere in between, and can fluctuate throughout their lifetime. 
  • Speak up when you do have something to say. Introverts tend to think before they speak which allows us to process multiple points of view or information. I’ve found that if you consistently provide insightful dialogue, you don’t have to be constantly talking to be heard. 
  • Focus on creating deep and meaningful conversations, (something you’re good at!) instead of comparing yourself to the schmoozing guy collecting business cards. 
  • Honor your alone time. Introversion is really an indicator of how stimulated a person gets by their surroundings. It just so happens that introverts are more easily stimulated, hence they seek out places and activities that allow them to “regroup” with less stimulation. If you need a night in, take one. There’s a distinct difference between loneliness and solitude that some on the outside don’t understand. 

I hope these tips give you some good ideas to let your inner voice shine, whether you’re an introvert or just know someone who is. It’s time to put the “roar” in quiet. 

Am I Present Yet?

Namaste. Woo-sah. Namaste. Woo-sah.  Is it working yet?

Didn’t think so. Because as I’m sitting here, I’m considering changing out of my work clothes, debating on finishing my day-old sushi (won’t) and thinking I should study but really just want to catch up on The Mindy Project--my mind is effectively racing. I should probably check my work email too, and touch-up my website because I’m a #girlboss like that but maybe I’ll just relax?

Maybe.

I’m home alone this week and after traveling so much this year (my heaven) I’m trying to enjoy the daily rigor of just being at home and having almost nothing to do. My nature tells me I should make plans, work ahead and generally get shit done. I have “Free” time and that’s a rare commodity according to the mountain of laundry threatening to consume me in the other room.

I took a break from ‘gramming for a week because I had deadlines and after that Essena O’Neill video I felt kind of guilty. I like sharing moments of my life with my Instafam. I enjoy editing the pictures and laughing at the outtakes later. I also enjoy sitting around a table and not seeing one person on their phone, so, I tried it. I cut myself off from posting for a few days and literally nobody noticed. Which is good because after about 30 seconds of thinking about it, I stopped noticing, too.

I keep pretty busy naturally so cutting out five minutes of combined editing and photographing doesn’t save much by way of energy expended, but when I forcibly made myself stop doing things (the laundry) because I felt like I had to, I found I was breathing a little bit easier. I’m still in “relax-mode” before my editing deadlines start creeping up again, but for a hot minute I found myself leisurely cleaning. How? Turns out, it isn’t always about doing nothing. It’s about doing because you want to. I got home from a Target binge and began putting up my new wall décor. I then accidentally cleaned my kitchen because it looked all-wrong against a messy counter. Not planned, yet somehow way more rewarding than if I made myself do the blasted laundry.

Daily we’re presented with #goals and illusions of sitting in cozy sweaters looking out rainy windows, but who actually has time for that? Instead, I’ll find my mindfulness and peace in cooking a big dinner, then avoiding the dishes by doing my homework. I can feel the tension uncoil as I feel like my life-hack is the secret to relaxing and being present in the best way I know how: by getting shit done.

This is not an ode to procrastination but a mere seedling to plant that proposes you don’t have to “do it all” all the time. Sometimes doing nothing in the form of doing something not useful might be just what the doctor ordered. A Hulu binge, 3 hours at Target (what you don’t do that?), reorganizing your sock drawer—whatever it is, just let yourself enjoy it, because that’s what being present is really about. 

Never Judge Someone You Haven't Had A Cocktail With

I'm guilty of it as much as anyone: judging someone I really don't know. We see people on the street, on the internet, or in a magazine and make assumptions about their character. We decide we know how much money they make, their political beliefs, and even what they think about themselves. That last part is extra ironic, because get to know anyone well enough and you will discover:

  1. They have made mistakes
  2. They're improvising this life stuff just as much as you are, and:
  3. They don't always think magical, fluffy things about themselves. Sometimes they have sharp, choice words for their own subconscious. Sometimes they aren't sure of much. Sometimes they wish they were someone else. 

I saw a comment on something I wrote a few days ago and my instinct was to think "god, they must be a really shitty person to sit and troll my work all day." But the truth is, maybe they're not. Maybe they're as complex as I am, and had a rough day, and took it out on something trivial like a blog post. Maybe they're sad, or, maybe not. I don't know. I've always been more of a defensive person than I'd like to admit, but I don't need to be. This person doesn't know me, and I truly don't know them. 

In interviewing people over cocktails, I've learned that no one is really who you think they are. We contain so much more joy and sadness and regret and longing than any surface level interaction could ever reveal. The most joyful people can have a serious case of resting bitch face. The most scarred people you'll ever meet can come in petite, pristine packages. Sometimes, you don't fully know someone after 20 years; so you certainly don't know shit until you've at least had a scotch with them. Until you've at least seen that glimmer in their eye as they finish a glass and a story and you see their layers unfold and you hear them tell a dirty joke and admit they're not perfect and allude to leagues of lives they've lived prior to the one they're in now. That's where things get interesting.

I've stifled my own ability to live in this gray area by judging people before I've met them. I've done it countless times, and what energy does that create? The shitty kind. So, can we all do one another a favor? Can we try to be a little more compassionate? Can we try and be encouragers instead of critics? Can we reserve judgment until we've at least had a round with someone? Then, we can decide they're an asshole. Promise.

Years That Ask Questions

Zora Neale Hurston said "There are years that ask questions, and years that answer." Talking to a friend the other day, she mentioned that the last few have felt like nothing but questions, and I couldn't help but agree. Is there a tangible unrest hanging in the air or is it just like Ye said at the MTV awards: CUZ WE THE MILLENIALS, BRUH.

Whatever the reason, I'm trying to embrace question-asking with a little more gusto these days. So much of what we're inundated with through social media are supposed "answers." The answer to your bad day? A perfectly curated instagram post with a cup of coffee, a chunky sweater, and the latest issue of Vogue. The answer to your shitty mood? A vegan smoothie with a side of new yoga pants. I'm not hating on that because I LOVE IT. You know I do. I love going on the internet and feeling like things are pretty and put-together and motivational. That's what it's there for, it's an escape. But can I tell you something? I'm sick of pretending I have more answers than questions. 

I don't really know what I'm doing half the time, which can make it feel inauthentic for me to believe I have anything worth saying. But over the past few months I've realized something: I do know how to sit in that discomfort. I do know how to take care of myself even when the questions outnumber the answers. And I'd rather have a voice that helps others be ok with their own questions than no voice at all. I'd rather put good things into the universe than hope someone else does. After everything the internet can put a girl through, I still have a small hope that someone could come to S&TF to feel a little better about her own questions, whether they last a year, or two, or never stop.

Because the truth is, no one has this shit figured out. And if someone claims they do, RUN. Double tap that photo from a distance, but please don't start comparing yourself to their constructed persona of perfection, because it isn't real. 

I'm not writing this to sound like a defeatist or a pessimist. In fact, giving in to the questions of life has forced me to be a little more positive. If none of us knows what the hell we're doing, why don't we enjoy each moment for what it is, even if it might not be perfect? Why don't we go easier on ourselves and others with more compassion and care? 

So welcome back to the fox den. I may not have all the answers, but I have a ton of questions. For you, for myself, for all of us to think about together.

PS - I want us to take care of each other and ourselves a little better. Let me curate a self-care package for you each month? Starting in November, you can have scotch & the fox goodies delivered right to your door. Stay tuned. 

On Anticipation

Anticipation can be such a dirty word amidst all our zen proverbs and meditation. It somehow connotes a nervous energy, a refusal to stay in the present moment, a restlessness borne out of anxiety or repression that cannot be cured. While I'll admit I do have trouble staying in the present, I still owe most of my life's positive changes to anticipation. To that feeling in your bones that tells you to start planning, dreaming, thinking and doing. 

Sometimes I've been deaf to anticipation. There have been plenty of times I've felt in my gut something wasn't right but my ego wouldn't listen. I would feel too frightened or embarrassed to face new challenges and chart a different course. But with each passing year it becomes harder to ignore those calls for change. Those intuitive pings that clue us in and psyche us up for our next big adventure.

One of my favorite lines about anticipation and change comes from an Ani DiFranco song (because I'm secretly still an angsty 8th grade alt-rocker.) "For every hand extended, another lies in wait. Keep your eye on that hand, girl--anticipate." While I'm pretty sure Ani's talking about a relationship in the song, I've always heard those words as an extended metaphor for life. It's scary to start thinking that as we get older there are less hands in wait, fewer chances to change who we want to be. So why believe it?

As mere mortals, there are plenty of things in life we can't control, but we can't let ourselves be numb to those that we can. For all the surrender we're forced to embrace, we still have to be aware of our potential to change. To delve a little deeper into the belly of our intuition and make conscious decisions about our future. To never underestimate the amount of opportunities around the corner.

Some changes are slow, while others have to be made immediately. One of the steepest learning curves in life may be knowing the difference. Understanding when to be patient and when to be bold. Knowing when to make your move and when to wait your turn. But if we can tune in to the frequency of that small voice that discerns between them, that tries so desperately to tell us to keep going, keep changing, keep growing, keep moving, we might just find some hand lying in wait, right around the corner, extending itself, beckoning us to accept our next great adventure.

Regret

Regret­­­
/rəˈɡret/
verb

1. to feel sad, repentant, or disappointed over (something that has happened or been done, especially a loss or missed opportunity).


Or rather, the feeling you get when you think of all the things you should have done. The choices you could have made. What would have been… A rose-tinted logic that makes us anxious, self-conscious and worst of all, resentful.


I come face-to-face with regret all too often. She usually meets me in the mirror on my birthday or follows the champagne bubbles on New Year’s Eve, leaving a bitter taste in my mouth—a flavor I can never seem to swallow with grace. But she’s there, every year, in sync with the ball drop and the cue of “Auld Lang Syne”.


But this year, I want things to be different. Not only because I dislike the feeling of unrest that Regret so casually leaves in her wake, but because this year, my gratitude sings louder than my regret.


I am a planner by nature and if I could wake up and organize the next 365 days of my life I certainly would. Perhaps I was a girl scout in a past life, because I love being prepared, but despite all my best-laid plans, 2014 completely threw me for a loop. My career, my family, my home, my heart—it all went through the ringer and through the tears, and fears, I survived.


I made difficult decisions. Straight up sucky choices that I wasn’t sure of, and probably never will be. Some options slipped away from me by the limitations of time, or because logic, that canny wench, won out overall. My conscience was torn apart and reborn despite all good intentions and somewhere along the way I made sweet, tiny, and glorious coups. It was, by all standards, chaos.


But that mess and those hard decisions are the salt of life. I spent many years looking back and thinking about what choices I made and how I could have done them different. In the end, I never quite figured out time travel, so the dwelling was for naught. I didn't have a perfect year, and I certainly have some regrets that I’ll never let go of (getting a Bob-cut circa 2007, for example). But the absolute beauty of it is that there is still time to drown Regret in her own poison with the antidote of gratitude. Perhaps the year won’t tie-up nicely in a perfect 2014 package, but as we many may know, time moves to her own beat regardless of our requests to slow down or speed up.


So no bitter bubbly for me, lady Regret. Instead, I'll forgive the fates for their daily tests, and embrace all the deliciously happy moments that "shoulda, coulda, and woulda" tend to drown out and I’ll raise a toast to possibility instead:


Cheers to 2014 a year rich with flavors of every sort, but especially the sweet ones and all the many more to come.

25 Things I Learned in 2014

Hey you. Yeah, I'm talking to you. I see you trying to slink away all sly-like, as if you didn't just happen, but you did, didn't you? 

You were wild, 2014. Yes, like that movie based on a book that's coming out. Have you seen it? You were a bit rugged, a lot untamed, sometimes steep and as ever, unexpected. You sent blessings in the form of strong women and stronger whiskey, good listeners and good laughs, small moments of grace interspersed with major moments of emotional flailing about. I learned a lot from you this year, mostly the hard way because we humans are such a fun little species, aren't we? We're not concrete, like years. We're messy, like bones and muscles and heart and spirit.

For one, you taught me that MPLS is full of crazy cool, smart, sexy, empowered women who pick themselves up and dust themselves off; women who represent the resilience and intelligence and true foxiness I'd always admired and hoped to illuminate on this blog. 

You also taught me a lot of other things--things I'd spent 25 years not fully understanding. Things that may take me another 25 years to fully understand. You said, quiet at first and then a little louder: 

1. Self-respect does not come at 30, or 40, or 85. It does not show up on your door one day when you've "arrived" or "made it" or lost five pounds or Achieved an Achievement. It comes when you learn your God-given worth and how to avoid situations and people that don't honor it. 

2. Be wary of anyone who places too much emphasis on age. They wish they were younger.

3. Worry is your worst enemy. Do whatever you can to squelch the voice inside that looks for bad news (and I know it's a loud fucker.) 

4. Life isn't as _____(fill in the blanks: funny, tender, right) without a dog. 

5. Being an introvert is fine, but sometimes you just need to go to the party. Just go. You'll have fun.

6. While you're at it, always show up with a bottle of wine or a block of cheese. Really nice people should get both (And crackers!)

7. People that make fun of you for putting yourself out there are terrified to put themselves out there.

8. Celebrate anything you can. A wedding, a birth, a fucking perfectly made waffle. Life is so precious and fast. Marvel at what you make, the good in the people around you, your own ability to laugh after crying (which is an amazing human feat, no doubt.)

9. The most interesting people in the room are usually under 5 or over 80.

10. Thou shalt pack emergency granola bars.

11. Never underestimate the power of a glass of wine with a good friend on a weeknight.

12. Give unconditional love to the people that see your crazy and love it anyway.

13. Pick your battles.

14. Face gossip with silence.

15. Go with what's right for you, what feels natural, what makes you the calmest, best version of yourself. Everything else is bullshit. This applies to relationships, friendships, career choices, and brunch selections.

16. Never read the comments section. On anything. Ever.

17. Ten hours of sleep will make you feel like a superhero.

18. Forgiving usually helps in the forgetting.

19. We are all supremely wise and supremely stupid about different things. 

20. Mindless social media scrolling will make you sad. Use sparingly.

21. How harsh you are on others has a direct correlation to how harsh you are on yourself. Let both parties off the hook more often, please.

22. You can and should have friends who see the world differently than you. The view from your mind's eye isn't the only one (or the prettiest). 

23. Once you do the things you were "supposed to do" i.e. go to school, move out, find a job, you will have a tidal wave of existential confusion as to what you actually want to be doing. 

24. As Amy Poehler says, "you don't have to laugh if it's not funny."

25. Turn off the news and go to sleep. Good things start at the end of your next peaceful thought. 

The Good In Bad Signs

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Everyone talks about a murder of crows like it’s a bad thing. Specks of ominous black perched against leafless trees, burdening the night sky with their mysterious apathy, scattering guiltily all at once like a crime has truly just been committed. I saw them tonight, after dinner, and it struck me cold.

Perhaps it was the bleakness with which the last month—November—had entered our lives. The changes its brought. The signs and symbols its shown me, that I’ve tried hopelessly to sift through to find some semblance of truth. Sometimes life has a way of burning off the dead bits to blaze you a new trail. I once had a fortune teller explain that the “death” card in its tarot stack didn’t usually mean a literal death, but a metaphorical one.  Ever since then I’ve looked curiously at seemingly ominous symbols, wondering, what kind of death do you stand for? How can you help me end something I don’t want in my life?

As humans we are terrified of endings, terrified of the changing of one thing into another. But the death of old patterns, toxic energy, and draining environments is good. It’s a positive ending, one that gives hope to a new beginning. Tonight, as their tiny bodies emptied out of the sky, flock upon flock of motioning matter, I chose to see the murder’s presence as a death to hopelessness; a death to those moments where I can't see beyond my own nose and my own foul thinking. (That's a really intense bird pun and I hope you picked up on it, because I don't like to waste those.) I chose to see it as a death of bad energy. And I believed, for one small, possibly wine-fueled moment, that this moment was the start of something better. And isn’t that so, so good?

-claire

What I Learned From Getting All My Shit Stolen

It was a Friday. I had just gone to the gym and done a little shopping afterwards. By the time we came home, Ivy had already fallen asleep. Instead of making two trips like a sensible person, I opted to carry every damn bag up three flights of stairs in addition to a sleeping V in my arms like a human pack mule. Shopping bags, gym bag, work bag, bag bag- I had it all. Needless to say, I practically collapsed at my door as I set a few bags down to unlock our door. I went inside, business as usual- even forgetting to close and lock the door behind me, and got my little ready for bed. A sleepy pajama change and a begrudging trip to the bathroom to brush teeth and Ivy was fast asleep. Except that it wasn’t because it wasn’t until the next day that I had realized something was missing.

Someone had taken my work bag from outside my door- which, mind you, is on the third floor of a locked-entry building. My work computer, my portfolio, my planner, my sunglasses- you name it, and it was inside my bag. My beautiful J.Crew black, laser-cut, leather bag. And while all of those things are desperately important, the most important thing in that bag only cost 4 dollars. My journal. My most intimate thoughts and fears and pleasures and treasures were now in some scumbag’s clutches and at any moment he or she could open the pages of my heart and let my soul bleed off the pages without a stitch of remorse.

It got me thinking. Thinking about the value I place on things. Over the course of the night I had lost well over $1,500 worth of things, but the possession that had me losing sleep was my intellectual property. Sure, I felt violated beyond belief, but I was more so upset that I could never get that journal back (unless by the grace of god, that sexy police man from the fifth precinct heroically finds my things- it could happen). I could never finger the pages I had poured myself onto, or look back years later at how silly 25-year-old me was. Because I fully assume I will think 25-year-old me was silly and, damnit, I’d like tangible proof.

The point is- I absolutely miss my computer and I thought for a minute there my career was over, I miss that bag- it was a good, good bag, and I miss my sunglasses. No for real, I miss my sunglasses. But those are just things. And in due time, I’ll be able to afford a new bag and maybe even some new sunnies- but those things are replaceable. My intimate thoughts are not, which is where the real wealth lies. To the asshole who stole my shit: ENJOY IT. I really hope you do. I’d hate for you to have messed with me so fully, only to receive a headache in return. Someday when I’m a famous writer, I give you permission to sell my journal on ebay. Only so I can buy it back and then fuck with your feedback rating (0% because you’re a sick bastard, but shipping was fast!). Clowns like you can learn from journals like mine; buckle up before you turn the page. 

-megan

PSLs V. The World

Alright, I’m putting out a plea. Can we please stop using the term “basic bitches…” incorrectly?

This is not a post hoping to ban a phrase; we all know that doesn't work. But lately “basic” has become a verbal reflux—a linguistic panacea of sorts—for simply not knowing much about someone. “Clearly this bitch uses too much Valencia on her IG and loves snappin' pics of her PSLs in plaid outfits. Ugh, you love fall AND pumpkin-flavored beverages? SO BASIC.”

K, well, you should love fall, but that’s another story.

As humans we have the inherent need to put people in neat little boxes. But even the most seemingly simple person is a web of messy mistakes, small triumphs and complicated choices like anyone else. Do they wear their scars on their sleeve? Do they show the world their talents or quirks or vulnerability? Perhaps not. But that's okay. And after interviewing people professionally and recreationally (if there is such a thing) for the last few years, I've learned something important: just because someone isn't an open book about their complexity doesn't mean they don't have a story. Or, in the words of Yeezus: We're all self-conscious, I'm just the first to admit it. 

I bet Kanye likes PSLs. But I digress.

There's nothing wrong with playing your cards a little closer to your chest, but I happen to vote for more of an open book policy because I think the world could use it. If more people would talk about difficult or uncomfortable things it might make them less difficult or uncomfortable. And maybe in turn it would help everyone get over this itch to label or judge people based on silly superficial nonsense like beverage choices or instagram filters because we'd realize Oh, there's Jan--Jan likes pumpkin spice lattes, but she ALSO has a nervous tick she's working on with her therapist and in her spare time collects vintage scarves. See Jan go, in all of her beautiful, gritty complexity!

But we're not there yet, people, and so we need to stop leaping to conclusions about what we don't know and about the totality of someone's experience based on their love of popular things or "simple" pleasures.

Whether you wear your story on your sleeve and share it with others or journal it away or even bury it behind a bad habit it's still there. One's complexity, however close to the surface it dwells, has nothing to do with what kind of $5 beverage you prefer. Assuming that it could is basic. 

So let's put an end to this Basic Bitch Witch Hunt by agreeing it's basic to use labels in the first place when we're all complex individuals. Let's let everyone like what they like whether it's immensely popular or completely unheard of--I swear I'll join in on the mission. And maybe, in turn, you could help me out with my open book policy. Maybe we could each bring forth a bit more of our faceted, freaky personalities and let them air out in the open for a while to dispel this myth that anyone is plain or boring...even if the only thing freaky about you is an intense love for pumpkin-flavored beverages. I can't hate. They're fucking delicious.  

-claire