My Word for 2016: Permission

Two of my thought-leadership role models, Gretchen Rubin and Ann Shoket, recommend choosing a single-word theme to shape the new year.

Other than signing up for a new Goodreads Challenge (I’m aiming to beat my 2015 challenge of 52 books with 55 in 2016), I haven’t made new year’s resolutions in the past couple of years. Instead, I set small goals throughout the year. However, I like the idea of a one-word theme. Gretchen’s is two words, “Lighten up,” and Ann’s is “Deeper.”

For 2016, I’ve chosen PERMISSION as my one-word theme. One aspect of myself I’d like to work on is self-compassion because I tend to be highly self-critical.

A few months ago, I had planned to work through a to-do list I had made on a Sunday afternoon. I don’t remember what was on it, specifically. It was probably running errands, doing some cleaning and other things to get ready for the week ahead. But I felt too tired to power through the list. I wanted to take a nap, but the voice in my head told me that if I did, that would make me lazy and self-indulgent. What reason did I have to be tired? I hadn’t stayed up late. In a brief moment of self-compassion, I thought, I am giving myself permission to take a nap. And this permission was a light-bulb moment for me. As it turns out, I wasn’t lazy, I was sick. The next day, I woke up with a bad case of the flu. My body needed rest; I gave it permission to take that rest.

The theme of permission, to me, isn’t about sleeping. It’s about getting out of my own way. It’s about providing myself with opportunities to work hard and also to have fun. I want to give myself permission to say yes and permission to say no, and permission to let go of the guilt that comes with those choices. 

2015 was a good year for me. I finished paying off over $35,000 of credit card debt, adopted an adorable cat, took three courses at NYU (including fiction, which was terrifying, but fun!) and got promoted at work. In 2016, I’d like to do more writing, so my goal is to give myself permission to write, and permission to say no to things that aren’t as important as writing.

What would you do if you gave yourself permission?



Three Surprising Things I Learned from The Book of Joan


The closest I came to meeting Joan Rivers was when she spoke at the Lucky Magazine FABB Conference in 2011. She was a lively, entertaining guest, and made sure to remind us several times to watch her new show, Joan and Melissa: Joan Knows Best. The conference was running a Q&A with Joan on Twitter, and I asked what I most wanted to know: How did Joan deal with her many critics? My question was selected.

“F–K EM!” she said matter-of-factly, with a fly-swatting wave of her hand.

After Joan’s passing, Melissa Rivers penned The Book of Joan, full of memories and anecdotes of her mother’s work ethic, quirks and family life. Here’s what surprised me most.

  1. She loved true-crime TV. Joan’s DVR included Wives with Knives, Scorned, Forensic Files, Lockup, Lockup Raw, and Law & Order. She and Melissa also bonded over reading true crime books. Joan’s favorite character in literature was Ted Bundy.
  2. She carried a giant purse full of stuff everywhere she went. There is a whole chapter on the purse, and it apparently always weighed between 18 and 25 pounds. Needless to say, Joan often had a hard time finding her cell phone.
  3. She rarely ever read what was written about her.  I suppose, in light of Joan’s attitude towards her critics, this revelation should not have been surprising. “Melissa, I don’t need to hear strangers say terrible things about me; that’s why I have family.” In the internet age, proliferated with armchair critics and an increasing pressure towards political correctness, a public figure who doesn’t respond to, or even read, her criticism is rare. (For more on this, check out “Joan Rivers and the Power of Not Apologizing” over at Esquire.)

Disclosure: I received a copy of this book from Blogging for Books in exchange for an honest review.

Book Review: THRIVE by Arianna Huffington


With the publication of Thrive and the creation of the Third Metric section of The Huffington Post, Arianna Huffington is spearheading an important cultural shift towards a more holistic definition of success. (Full disclosure: I have written for The Huffington Post). In Thrive, Huffington argues that success should be quantified by a “third metric” which includes well-being, wisdom, wonder and giving back. The book’s four sections are dedicated to these four pillars.

Thrive combines both personal anecdotes and heavy research.  Two important points Huffington makes that I think anyone in the workforce can appreciate are that over-working causes us to be less productive in the long term and the phenomenon of under-sleeping is a dangerous health risk rather than a badge of honor. It’s important to set boundaries for how much time we spend working and “plugged in” to technology in order to maintain health and happiness.

Most importantly, rather than encouraging us to quit our jobs, ditch our smartphones and move to a remote island, Thrive contains actionable advice for living mindfully, which is its greatest strength. A lengthy appendix with further reading and resources is also included.

If you’re interested in reading more books like Thrive, check out 10% Happier by Dan Harris and The Happiness Project by Gretchen Rubin.

 [Note: I received a copy of Thrive from Blogging for Books in exchange for my honest review.] 

One Year, One Essay

The essay I published on The Huffington Post last week, A Season of Darkness and Light, is the only piece of writing I published in 2014, with the exception of a piece I wrote in 2013 for that was published in January.

My father’s suicide is an issue I have always wanted to touch on in my writing, but never quite knew how. While I’ve never met anyone who writes for the money, it was the prospect of winning the large cash prize in Glamour magazine’s essay contest that prompted me to start untangling 19 years of grief and shape it into something publishable. I submitted a 2,000 word disjointed mess in early 2014 and filed it away for a while.

In addition to being a paid contributor to a print magazine, another writing dream of mine is to write Young Adult fiction. It’s one of my favorite genres to read. This summer I decided to actually, finally try to write fiction in an NYU class called Getting Into the Writing Habit. During the class, we tried different prompts and exercises to come up with material. Despite my professor’s encouragement, I’m not positive that fiction is for me. I found it really difficult. There are so many decisions to make when creating a fictional world, and it seems daunting. I felt blocked by all of the clutter that was still in my mind from working on my essay and my feelings about my dad.

In the fall, I signed up for a course with a private writing professor whom I admire. She asked each student to bring in an essay, so I dusted off the Glamour contest essay, reworked it, and read it out loud. I started crying in the middle of the second page, so another student took over. Then she started crying as well. It was a mess, but I got useful feedback.

I rewrote the essay over and over and cried a bunch more along the way. I submitted it to The New York Times. After a week, during the Christmas party at work, they emailed me back, passing on it. I pitched a few more places and didn’t hear back, so at last I published the essay on The Huffington Post.

Getting paid would have been nice, but what I wanted most was to have the essay completed and published so other people who have lost someone could read it and know that it’s ok not to feel like sunshine and rainbows throughout the holiday season. So even though the essay is only around 800 words, I feel like I accomplished something big. I can finally file it away and move on.