Self Care transition

What Treasures Await?

Last week, my nephew and I stopped at the local library for a contactless pickup of some things he’d placed on hold. He exited the lobby with a bag — a large paper grocery bag — full up with treasures, and he couldn’t have looked more excited!

From the backseat, he reached in and tallied his Christmas vacation spoils: the Scooby Doo videos, the Jurassic Park videos, the Captain Underpants book, and other classic 9-year-old contraband. He was giddy at the prospect of so much time and so much to explore!

I must confess, I am feeling likewise giddy at the prospect of 2021. It is giddy tempered by the sadness and grief we’ve all felt about 2020, but it’s a hopeful perspective nonetheless.

And while my bag of booty does not include cartoons and dinosaurs, there are plenty of treasures to yo-ho-ho about.

Just this morning, I signed up for my 9th annual Goodreads Reading Challenge with the promise to try to read 50 books. First up? Brené Brown’s The Gifts of Imperfection: Let Go of Who You Think You’re Supposed to Be and Embrace Who You Are.

You’ll find there’s a running theme here at the top of 2021. I’m all self-improvementy right now, all I’m OK, You’re OK but everything feels like it needs a little work. Everything feels like it needs a good shaking out, really, like it needs (or I need) to be unfurled and hung out on the line to flap in the fresh air for a while.

Do you know what I mean?

Here’s a funny story…

Every year for years, I’ve kept a Vision Board here in my office. It’s included all of the things I hoped to accomplish or dreamed about. Cut out photos, postcards of dream vacations, words and sayings — all compiled to help me manifest my vision. And every morning, I’ve turned on the light, lit incense, and said a little prayer…for years…until it became rote. Rote, uninspired, spirit-less.

My vision had become spirit-less.

So last January when my friend Judith suggested I take everything off the bulletin board, I was only momentarily stunned. Stunned, then inspired.

In retrospect, I think that blank Vision Board and its lack of expectations is what saved me in 2020, what kept me sane and above water while the waves of quarantine, isolation, loss, and detachment crashed over our heads.

But it’s 2021, a gorgeous blank page at the beginning of a new chapter!

In preparation, I bought some colored pens and a new journal. Collaged its cover with purples and reds and gold leaf!

I’ve consulted the angels, petitioned the runes, and created a simple list of self-care intentions.

I am journaling now with kindred spirit Susannah Conway, unraveling my year in a series of questions and writing prompts.

I’m taking an online workshop called Finish Strong, Start Stronger, hosted by the lovely and loving Emily Fletcher.

I’m meditating on the one Word that will guide and inspire me in 2021.

And I’m gathering special pieces for a new Vision Board, creating delicious treasures to seek out in the coming year.

There’s no pressure, no grand expectations or plans, just a beautiful bag of spoils to be had if I just reach in…

©2021, Jen Payne. Photo by Davis Bartus.


Creativity Photography

Because Things Grow: Hope

Last year, my holiday postcard wished friends and family “a twisted, imperfect New Year.” Was I psychic?
And while I certainly did not wish 2020 on anyone, I am still of the mind that twisted and imperfect makes for a life LIVED. Twisted and imperfect is the dark, rich compost from which things will grow…

Read more in our Holiday Newsletter

With hidden links, videos, and rabbit holes to explore, the Holiday 2020 Newsletter is meant to be savored slowly. Enjoy!

©2020, Jen Payne

Vision’s Hard to Come By when It’s 2020

About 10 years ago, I took a workshop about Vision Boards with the lovely Lisa Lelas. If you’re not familiar with Visions Board, they are a great way to set your intentions, to work with the Law of Attraction to manifest your goals and dreams.

They’re part collage and part meditation, part craft and part reflection. You cut out pictures from magazines, add words and phrases, and include meaningful symbols to create a picture — your vision — of what you would like to see come into your life.

One of the exercises in the workshop was to think about the things that brought us joy as a child, and ways we could bring that back into our lives. I happily remembered my days as a little girl, always playing outside and exploring the woods near my house. To represent that, I cut out a woman walking outside with a contented smile on her face. The other thing I remembered was enjoying reading books and writing stories, so I cut out a picture of a desk with a stack of books and a typewriter.

Fast forward four years, and there I was, with not only a daily woods-walking habit, but publishing my first book, LOOK UP! Musings on the Nature of Mindfulness, about the experience of reconnecting with those things that brought me joy as a child!

Vision Boards can be powerful tools that way. For years, I recreated mine every December — see one version, above — setting my intentions for the new year ahead: write, travel, create, love, meditate. For years, I loved my Vision Board. Paid it daily homage with incense and incantations.

But then my best friend died suddenly, and the Universe started regularly walloping me over the head with unseen circumstances —philosophical, spiritual, political, technical, medical. And my beloved Vision Board just wasn’t cutting it.

As a matter of fact, I started to resent it.

This past December, I was telling my friend Judith about my Vision Board conundrum — surely the daily exercise of cursing my goals and dreams was not manifesting positive outcomes. That’s when she said the unthinkable:

“Take it down.”

“Take it down?” I was shocked, but I let that idea sit for a while.

And a while more.

And then, one day in January — I took everything off the Vision Board. I took down my visions of traveling, of writing and publishing, of being a yoga warrior and mediation maniac. I took down Thoreau’s reminder to “go confidently in the direction of your dreams,” because even his encouragement had been falling on frustrated, deaf ears.

At first, I felt a great loss. As if letting go of those visions was somehow letting myself down or giving up on myself. Giving up on hope, perhaps.

But then, there was a sense of relief. Like some pressure had been released or the volume turned down.

As if, for a while, it was OK to just be.

As if it was OK to just get up and attend to the day as the day presented itself. To live in the present.

I’ve been reminded of this exercise lately, as we settle into this new way of being in the world, as we learn to let go of our visions and our dreams for our immediate futures here in 2020. As we change our expectations to match these strange, crazy times.

It is OK to just be.

For now, it really is OK to just be.

Today, five months after my Vision Board experiment and almost three months into the Covidpause, my Vision Board sits nearly blank on a wall in my office. Nearly blank except for this: Anything is Possible, Gratitude, Be Happy, Play.


Essay ©2020, Jen Payne. Anything is Possible by artist Melissa Harris.


In Which Emily Got Baked and More…

I hope you are healthy, doing well, and able to adapt in some manner to our current day-to-day.

It’s interesting to me that while we are all going through the same thing, this COVID-19 pandemic, each of us is experiencing it in different ways. Our physical health, our mental health, the well-being of our family, our finances, the lack of social interaction, how we feel about uncertainty — each of these contributes to our unique, personal experience.

So how are you dealing with your experience of COVID-19?

I will tell you that I have one friend who is cooking and gardening daily. Another has been purging and decluttering since March. One has filled every moment of every day with physical activities — yard work, house repairs, minor construction projects. And another is simply comatose.

I’m somewhere in between all of that — a hodge-podge of creative projects, housecleaning, attempts at self-care, mask-covered errands, and deep, deep, dream-fill sleep.

“My grandmother once gave me a tip: In difficult times, you move forward in small steps. Do what you have to do, but little by little. Don’t think about the future, or what may happen tomorrow. Wash the dishes. Remove the dust. Write a letter. Make a soup. You see? You are advancing step by step. Take a step and stop. Rest a little. Praise yourself. Take another step. Then another. You won’t notice, but your steps will grow more and more. And the time will come when you can think about the future without crying.” – Elena Mikhalkova, Midwives of the Soul

hodge-podge /ˈhäjˌpäj/ noun 1. a muddled-together bunch of stuff; 2. a dialectical concept in Discordianism that posits that the tendency for restriction and control in society is matched proportionately by a counter-resulting tendency for chaos and randomness, and vice-versa.

Hodge-podge, also: an unorganized group of items. Like this newsletter…in which I thought I’d just pull together some odds and ends for you to consider…

Emily Got Baked

In celebration of National Poetry Month and NaPoWriMo I wrote a poem a day. You can read all 30 of them here, then join me as I cap off the celebration by baking Emily Dickinson’s Coconut Quick Break. (recipe)

Barefoot in the Kitchen

This extended pause in our regularly scheduled programming has found me more and more in the kitchen. Emily’s cake is the most recent creation. But I also tried my hand at some of these recipes you might want to check out yourself!

Mango Cocktails
Coconut Cake
Balsamic Roast Beef
Coffee Cake
Parker’s Beef Stew

Red meat, alcohol, and cake – a holy trinity.


Ina Garten is my go-to food guru, as you can tell from the number of her recipes above, but I confess…I have more recently been inspired by Mr. Stanley Tucci. As you may recall — see “Waiting for Stanley Tucci” — I’m a big fan.

Apparently, so is the whole rest of the world now, after this yummy video of Mr. Tucci’s evening cocktail hour.

Negroni anyone?

Combine equal parts gin, Campari, and sweet vermouth in an ice-filled Old Fashioned glass; stir gently and garnish with an orange twist.


Speaking of vicarious…This month, on Random Act of Writing, we’re taking a little Road Trip. Want to get out of the house and take a trip vicariously? ROAD TRIP: BIG BEND starts up on Monday!

Final Realizations

We are seven weeks into this pause, with at least three more weeks to go before things slowly begin to open back up.

These are difficult times, certainly. But if you’re able to — savor them and remember them. Remember the time spent doing things you enjoy, that extra time with your loved ones, the pleasure of making a meal or taking a nap, the inner strength you found to deal with your circumstances.

Because before you know it, that big machine is going to start churning again, and we might be seduced back to the way things were before…maybe.

Or maybe we’ll start to make some changes…

“In the bad, we find the good,” writes British performance artist and poet Tom Foolery, who created a thoughtful video called The Great Realisation.

I’ll leave you with that to think on as we step bravely into the next month and into our next chapter.

Take good care and be well…

If you’re looking for something new to read, my books (now available in print and as ebooks) can be purchased from my ETSY SHOP. Bonus: they come autographed, with gratitude and a small gift.

Books Creativity Poetry

17 – Moonshadow

Goddess eye winks from
a 6am sky, says
you’re not ready to see
what I have to tell you
hides herself behind
spring-bare branches,
laughs at the folly
of technology which can
only see her as a white something
against the grainy dark,
hardly refelctive at all of
her otherworldly glow,
her unseen strength,
her surprising grace
this morning while I drink coffee,
or yesterday above the Sound,
while I washed dishes,
gazed unthinking to the south.

She, a cloud almost
against the midday sky,
translucent as if vapor,
winking then too or
lid half closed in prayer
for what she sees before her,
this sweet, lonely sphere
grown silent in a shadow
not of her making,
but eclipsed instead
by its sick and dying self.
Yes, yes, now I am sure
she was praying…
for us and for you,
and for me, too,
watching her from a window
this morning transformed.

Poem ©2020, Jen Payne. National #NaPoWriMo. National Poetry Writing Month. If you like this poem, you can read similar in my books, available from Three Chairs Publishing on my ETSY SHOP. They come autographed, with gratitude and a small gift.

Books Creativity Poetry

16 – Pandemic Perspective

The glass is half full.

The glass is half empty.

The glass is about to break into tiny shards,
fall to the floor, cut up your feet,
and incapacitate you
until April, May, or
possibly September,
could also be next year…

We’re positive we’re not sure.

Poem ©2020, Jen Payne. National #NaPoWriMo. National Poetry Writing Month. If you like this poem, you can read similar in my books, available from Three Chairs Publishing on my ETSY SHOP. They come autographed, with gratitude and a small gift.

Books Creativity Poetry

15 – Quit Giving Me Gray Hair

If it was last year here,

I’d be so this year, dear —

young women dyed for this

a trend not to miss

they thought gray was dope

pushed that envelope

went silver, ash, smoke and ice

totally willing to pay the price

but mine came free, oh yes it did

my stylist and I, we blame COVID

since this year gray is not so big,

I went and bought myself a wig.


Image: Pink Twin, Purple Twin, Walasse Ting. Poem ©2020, Jen Payne. National #NaPoWriMo. National Poetry Writing Month. If you like this poem, you can read similar in my books, available from Three Chairs Publishing on my ETSY SHOP. They come autographed, with gratitude and a small gift.

Books Creativity Poetry

14 – Pandemic Mechanics

I’m trying to imagine
the giant mechanism
my homunculus
must maneuver each morning,
how enormous the
the weights and counterweights,
the mile-thick ropes and pulleys,
necessary to close off this reality


close off this reality
just enough so I get out of bed,
do my hair, make coffee
right-side up instead of
upside down like it feels
when I peer through the crack,
one eye closed or cautious squint
knowing I have the privilege to ask

is it safe to come out?

what’s for dinner today?

do I have time for another poem?


Poem ©2020, Jen Payne. National #NaPoWriMo. National Poetry Writing Month. If you like this poem, you can read similar in my books, available from Three Chairs Publishing on my ETSY SHOP. They come autographed, with gratitude and a small gift.