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.

Social Commentary

What He Said

“This is a challenging and solemn time in the life of our nation and world. A remorseless invisible enemy threatens the elderly and vulnerable among us, a disease that can quickly take breath and life. Medical professionals are risking their own health for the health of others, and we’re deeply grateful. Officials at every level are setting out the requirements of public health that protect us all, and we all need to do our part.

The disease also threatens broader damage, harm to our sense of safety, security and community. The larger challenge we share is to confront an outbreak of fear and loneliness, and it is frustrating that many of the normal tools of compassion, a hug, a touch, can bring the opposite of the good we intend. In this case, we serve our neighbor by separating from them. We cannot allow physical separation to become emotional isolation. This requires us to be not only compassionate, but creative in our outreach, and people across the nation are using the tools of technology in the cause of solidarity.

In this type of testing we need to remember a few things. First, let us remember we have faced times of testing before. Following 9-11 I saw a great nation rise as one to honor the brave, to grieve with the grieving and to embrace unavoidable new duties, and I have no doubt, none at all, that this spirit of service and sacrifice is alive and well in America. Second, let us remember that empathy and simple kindness are essential powerful tools of national recovery. Even at an appropriate social distance, we can find ways to be present in the lives of others, to ease their anxiety and share their burdens. Third, let’s remember that the suffering we experience as a nation does not fall evenly. In the days to come it will be especially important to care in practical ways for the elderly, the ill and the unemployed. Finally, let us remember how small our differences are in the face of this shared threat. In the final analysis, we are not partisan combatants, we are human beings, equally vulnerable and equally wonderful in the sight of God. We rise or fall together and we are determined to rise. God bless you all.”

— George W. Bush


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.