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.



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.