Book Review: How to be Interesting (In 10 Simple Steps)

Yes, this is a book. Find How to Be Interesting (In 10 Simple Steps) by Jessica Hagy on Amazon.

First off, I was bound to like this book at least a little because the author is also the author of Indexed, one of my favorite daily weblog reads. I’m a data nerd, if you couldn’t tell. I literally have a pinterest board dedicated to infographics.

If you ever doubted I’m quirky, the fact that I read a book on being interesting should give me away. A kinky friend had tweeted about it, so I picked up a copy. As other online reviewers note, I wish I’d grabbed a physical copy instead of a digital one, because the graphics would make great coffee table conversation starters.

Overall, easy read, a lot of pointing out the obvious. Important to note – interesting doesn’t mean things will be good or go your way. I felt that in some of the advice, in that following the recommendations likely would take you on an interesting journey, but one with many ups and downs. Not that that is a bad thing, but still.

Things I bookmarked:

  • Reclaim your spare moments.
  • What’s known to you is often a mystery to others.
  • Don’t wait for invitations when you can host.
  • If it is unappetizing: Do not eat, date, or sign up for it. If the mere thought of it is depressing: Do not major in it, sit through it, or devote your life to it. If it is not important to you: Do not do it only because it is important to someone else.
  • Irony gets in the way of experience. Drop the pretense, and you’ll have room to carry the day.
  • You have treasured people, places, and things. They are precious and powerful. Fight for them. Don’t just let them lounge in the back of your mind.
  • You are not wrong to be unique. You are not incorrect because you are different. You should not be sorry for being interesting.
  • If you want to matter, you have to climb all the way into the mess that is before you.
  • If you’re arrogance is more obvious than your expertise, you are someone other people avoid.
  • Your greatest accomplishments, no matter how impressive you think them to be, are someone else’s worst nightmare.
  • Don’t feel terrible for wanting something. Save the guilt for never giving yourself the chance to try.
  • The more you absorb, the more you can exude.
  • Avoid people who make you feel crappy. Don’t return their calls or take their antagonistic bait. The only way to win their game is to quit playing along. Besides, no one is fascinated by your constant irritation.
  • Most people, even the nasty ones, are doing the best they can.

Motivational, right? All are things I regularly try to remind myself of when dating and interacting with folks. Sometimes, when people come to me for advice, I think I shove some of these down their throat inadvertently.

Fear and Letting Go

The oldest and strongest emotion of mankind is fear, and the oldest and strongest kind of fear is fear of the unknown. –H. P. Lovecraft

I went on vacation a week ago with a good friend. We drove South and hit the beach, Orlando (Harry Potter world!), and some port cities on the return trip. It was great – I got a pedicure and a massage.  I read a few books, learned about some new music, and bought some fun souvenirs. I bonded with my friend a great deal. I got to swim and play in the ocean. I also got a much-needed break from life.

It was a bit of awkward timing, though, since I had just had a huge week. I briefed the most senior staff in our agency, and got pretty good feedback (gratifying). I also learned I’d be running my next project, managing a more senior person, and would not be getting a salary or position increase. I also had gone on a couple of dates with someone that went pretty well. A lot has been happening, essentially.

I realized on vacation that I’ve been buried by fear lately. I’ve never been one to outwardly succumb to fear. If I have been afraid, it’s manifested in low expectations and losing myself in activities.

Inaction breeds doubt and fear. Action breeds confidence and courage. If you want to conquer fear, do not sit home and think about it. Go out and get busy. –Dale Carnegie

I’ve been afraid, though. Afraid of running this next project and having to navigate uncertain waters. Afraid of leading my team into the warzone, of managing someone older and more experienced than me (and arguably more qualified), of not doing something correctly. I’ve been afraid of being in a serious, long-term relationship. (And I hope I haven’t self-sacrificed past opportunities because of some hidden fear.) I’m afraid of power exchange as a concrete part of a relationship.

Fear doesn’t become me. I was reading the “Secrets to your twenties” book, and it just sort of reinforced that fear is good. Fear means I’m alive. Fear means I’m challenging myself. Fear is an opportunity – an opportunity to grow, be stronger, improve myself, and learn. Moreover, fear is natural – it’s the response to uncertainty.

Eleanor Roosevelt said it best, though:

You gain strength, courage, and confidence by every experience in which you really stop to look fear in the face. You must do the thing which you think you cannot do.

I’d resigned myself to doing just that. I got a few kicks in the ass and supportive comments, and they’re right. I know what I’m doing. I’m good at my job. I can handle challenges. It doesn’t matter that they don’t want to pay me appropriately, it’s still a good opportunity. In the dating world, D/s is flexible, and as long as the communication is there, it doesn’t have to mean losing myself. Long term relationships don’t have to mean losing my independence or my life. Really, if it’s a good fit, the person can blend into my life.

Today, I found out I will get the salary and position promotion when I start my next project. Turns out, the higher ups like me more than the lady who spoke to me first does. Basically, I’m now more motivated, which is good. I need to embrace the things that scare me. The dating thing may not work out for other reasons, or it will – who knows, but at least I’m not scared of it anymore.

A last quote I liked about fear:

Curiosity will conquer fear even more than bravery will. –James Stephens

 

Book Review: Adulting – How To Become a Grown-up In 468 Easy(ish) Steps

Adulting: How to Become a Grown-up In 468 Easy(ish) Steps by Kelly Williams Brown (See her blog here)

I give this book a 3/5 stars. It was a quick, easy read. The author’s tone is entertaining, and there are some nuggets of advice that are worth bookmarking. A lot of the steps are things that are obvious upon reading, but that you may never have listed before. It’s nice to have a reality-check reminder once in a while of how to take care of certain “adult” things.

Some helpful tidbits I earmarked (assume quotations unless there are [xyz]):

Adult isn’t a noun, it’s a verb. It’s the act of making correctly those small decisions that fill our day.

Step 6: Stop enjoying things ironically, just enjoy them.

Step 10: Be okay with being alone. … You, meanwhile, will be with yourself for the rest of your life, so you’d best learn to enjoy your own company.

If it’s making a galloping noise, it’s probably a horse, not a zebra. In other words, the simplest explanation is probably – not always, but probably – the correct one.

Step 17: Get used to giving more than you get. A natural transition, as we go from being kids to adults, is to go from being self-oriented to other-oriented. When we’re little, all this love flows to us, and none is expected back. That ratio has now changed, and if you don’t acknowledge it, you will not be a pleasant person to be around.

Step 27: Create a correspondence drawer.

Step 43: Every so often, bleach your sink, tub, and toilet.

Put smiley faces on your boxes [when moving]. It reminds you that you actually like your possessions, that they are not just hundreds of pounds of dog poop that you have to transport across state lines.

Step 72: Buy ‘The Joy of Cooking.’ 

Step 84: Do not fear the puff pastry. [Summary: put in fridge night before use, use a little flour, cut it up and put things in it, bake according to directions on box.]

Just because there is an idea bouncing around in your head does not mean it needs to be sent out into the universe.

Step 93: Do not RSVP ‘maybe.’ When someone asks you to do something, you have three options: Option A: Say yes. Option B: Say no. Option C: Say “Gosh, that sounds wonderful, but please let me check my schedule,” then get back to them within twenty-four hours with Option A or Option B.

Step 95: Learn how to make an appearance then bounce. [Summary: show up on time, hang out at least 30 minutes, chat with three different people, than say you cannot say – don’t qualify it with why not.]

You shouldn’t discuss something you feel intensely about, because your side of the conversation will probably sound like a lecture…interests are great to share; passions, people need to be careful about.

Step 116: Determine what you care about, then dedicate some of your time to it.

[Sign of a crazy person] Returning to a topic that you are not returning to, more than twice.

Step 130: Deal with line-cutters and their ilk as though they are sweet but dim people who need some gentle correction. … Your voice will express sympathy that they didn’t get this right the first time, but  optimism that with your guidance, they will manage.

Acid hurts the vessel that carries it more than any object it might be poured upon.

Step 169: Don’t verbally undermine yourself. … If you’re going to share your opinion, say it as though it were a declarative statement. Not a question? That you have? Floating around in your head? And you hope others will agree with? But if they don’t, that’s okay, too? Just say it. And if you really feel that unsure about it, then don’t waste that other person’s time with verbal waffling.

Don’t let the great be the enemy of good when it comes to saving. Something is infinitely better than nothing.

Step 218: Get comfortable with the idea of refinancing.

If the mere thought of checking on something (your finances, your health, a friendship) stresses you out, take it as proof positive that you need to check up on it sooner rather than later.

Step 243(a): Get a good steamer.

[Wash stains with cold water – hot water makes the stain set. Also – use hairspray to get it out.]

I navigate life by saying the super-direct, awkward thing we’re all thinking.

Step 296: Do well in your long-distance friendships. … Make sure you don’t go more than three months without talking on the phone.

Book Review: The Happiness Project

The Happiness Project: Or, Why I Spent a Year Trying to Sing in the Morning, Clean my Closets, Fight Right, Read Aristotle, and Generally Have More Fun” by Gretchen Rubin.  Spoilers may follow.

Brief summary: The book follows a woman as she dedicates a year to diligently trying to improve her demeanors, attitudes, and habits towards herself, her daily life, and those around her.

My thoughts: This book was amazing. It provides many small ways you can greatly impact your own life. I’ve implemented some very tiny things after being inspired by the book, and I’ve already felt my happiness multiply. It is also a great book for self reflection. I wrote a post already before I’d finished reading, see here “Happiness, Discussed.”

Relevant Quotes/Snippets of Awesome (with my commentary, of course):

“I’d always vaguely expected to outgrow my limitations.” — I don’t know why, but I did too. Don’t you remember being young and idolizing adults, thinking how wise and together they were? It’s disconcerting to reach those ages and still have the limitations you always have had.

Rubin wrote several ‘Secrets of Adulthood,’ or things she has realized hold true throughout her life. The last one is a great reminder — how often do you put something off or avoid it because you don’t think you’ll do it well enough or you are overwhelmed by the pressure of doing something well enough? Instead, focus on just doing something, even if it’s brief or poor. For example, if I haven’t called someone in a while and I feel guilty, I avoid contacting them at all even when I think about emailing because I feel like I have to call to make up for it. In reality, calling is the perfect, but emailing is still better than nothing and thus good. Life lesson, BOOM. My favorites from her list:

  • People don’t notice your mistakes as much as you think
  • You can choose what you do, you can’t choose what you like to do
  • Happiness doesn’t always make you feel happy
  • What you do every day matters more than what you do once in a while
  • If you’re not failing, you’re not trying hard enough
  • Don’t let the perfect be the enemy of the good

The ‘Hawthorne Effect’ is described as how people being studied improve their performance, simply because of the extra attention they’re getting. This is a personal trait of mine that I wish sometimes I didn’t have. I have high standards for myself, but if I think eyes are on me or that I need to please someone else, I work harder and do better at achieving my goals. In many ways, this is how D/s could really help me be my best. When I know someone else’s pleasure and happiness is at stake, I will work out that much harder, get things done that much more efficiently, etc. This is why my apartment is always most clean when other people are coming over.  I didn’t realize this was a common thing amongst many people, so it was interesting to read about it.

Interesting tidbit: “The most reliable predictor of not being lonely is the amount of contact with women. Time spent with men doesn’t make a difference.”

A quote of a quote – Pierre Reverdy, “‘There is no love; there are only proofs of love.’ Whatever love I feel in my heart, others will only see my actions.”

“Enthusiasm is more important to mastery than innate ability, it turns out, because the single most important element in developing an expertise is your willingness to practice.” — Why you should pursue your passions in your career (because you’ll innately be better at those things since you like practicing them)…and, you know, why I’ve been told I’m good at giving head, even if I don’t have all the skills and experience of others.

“I have an idea of who I wish I were, and that obscures my understanding of who I actually am. Sometimes I pretend even to myself to enjoy activities that I don’t really enjoy, such as shopping, or to be interested in subjects that don’t much interest me, such as foreign policy. And worse, I ignore my true desires and interests.” I hate how frequently I’m guilty of this, especially in DC, where there’s so much pressure to be sophisticated. The author puts a lot of emphasis on “being Gretchen.” Not letting others influence her desires and fun, but being herself. Easier said than done, sometimes.

“The brain is stimulated by surprise, and successfully dealing with an unexpected situation gives a powerful sense of satisfaction.” This is why I love trying new things, and I thrive on new experiences.

Another quote of a quote – C.S. Lewis “When I became a man I put away childish things, including the fear of childishness and the desire to be very grown up.” 

And another – Proverbs 26:20 “Where there is no wood, the fire goes out; and where there is no talebearer, strife ceases.”  I need to rule out gossip altogether from my life. Truth. The idea of spontaneous trait transference (brought up in another part of the book) also supports that goal – “people unintentiaonally transfer to me the traits I ascribe to other people.”

“Familiarity, it turns out, breeds affection. The mere ‘exposure effect’ is the term for the fact that repeated exposure makes you like music, faces — even nonsense syllables — better. The more often you see a person, the more intelligent and attractive you’ll find that person.” — This is why it’s important to regularly say yes and show up to things.

“One of the best ways to make yourself happy is to make other people happy. One of the best ways to make other people happy is to be happy yourself.”

Goals and New Year – 2013

Overarching goals: get in better shape, get more organized, take more time to myself, focus on my hobbies more. See below for metrics/how to.

Fitness and Health:

  • Participate fully in my friend’s charity weight loss challenge as a tracking mechanism.
  • 156 times to the gym or 4,680 minutes of cardio, whichever comes first.  (This equates to 3 times a week for 30 minutes each time. Could go less times but work out longer, or more times but work out less.)
  • Register for, train for, and actually complete a 5K.
  • No electronics after 11:30pm.
  • Drink water every morning first thing and with dinner.

Organizing Life:

  • Create a budget and stick to it in order to (1) pay of all of my credit cards and (2) save at least $1,000. Consider using Mint as a helpful tool. Also, enforce by taking out cash at the beginning of every month and using that for any entertainment, food, shopping, going out. Use debit card for gas, online-only purchases (amazon/itunes), and grocery shopping. Manage online credit card statements and eliminate unnecessary monthly charges.
  • Friend organizing: Collect and organize addresses, phone numbers, and contact information for all friends can think of.
  • Digital organizing: Collect and organize online bookmarks, clean up sites I follow in my google reader, compile all passwords, organize saved documents & photos on my computer.

Time to self and focusing on hobbies:

  • Stay at home 2 nights each week. Can substitute for hanging out at someone’s house. Need this time for laundry, cleaning, groceries, cooking for week, working out.
  • Take 52 photos.
  • Write at least one short erotic story.
  • Create Kinky&Awkward website or blog, fill with moments.
  • Go to at least one never-been-before destination, either domestically or internationally.

Kinky Goals:

  • Learn more about rope from the top perspective: sommerville bowline, double coin, TK, decorative karadas.
  • Acquire a flogger and learn to properly use it.
  • Continue to improve my “saying no” skills when it comes to pick up play and negotiations.
  • Have good sex with someone I care about, whom I lust for, and whose company I enjoy. Part and parcel, more blowjobs and orgasms! Again, all safely, with carefully considered partners.
  • Watch the movie Secretary, finally. Preferably while tied up.
  • Experience wax play as a bottom.
  • Try cupping and/or fire cupping.

To-Do Activities:

  • snow tubing
  • kayaking
  • cooking class
  • racquetball
  • bingo at a bingo place
  • National Zoo
  • Botanical Gardens
  • Twilight Polo
  • Williamsburg
  • Dancing at Glen Echo
  • Hiking/Walking/Photography in Great Falls or Rock Creek Park
  • Military band concert
  • Ocean City/Atlantic City/Virginia Beach – visit one
  • Top Golf
  • DC Rollergirls or Charm City Rollergirls
  • The Mansion on O St
  • Spa World
  • Museum of Crime and Punishment

Random Collection of Inspirational Things

“Do not chase people. Be you and do your own thing and work hard. The right people who belong in your life will come to you, and stay.” – WuTang

“If you’re going to try, go all the way. Otherwise, don’t even start.” – Charles Bukowski

“Don’t wait until everything is just right. It will never be perfect. There will always be challenges, obstacles, and less than perfect conditions. So what. Get started now. With each step you take, you will grow stronger and stronger, more and more skilled, more and more self-confident, and more and more successful.” -Mark Victor Hansen

“If you are depressed, you are living in the past. If you are anxious, you are living in the future. If you are at peace, you are living in the present.” -Lao Tzu

“Have you ever dated somebody who is evil? Life is about friendships. So when you start dating someone evil, and your friends are like ‘I don’t know about that person,’ and you say, ‘You don’t know them like I know them.’ That’s what you say, right? ‘You don’t know them like I do.’ And it’s like, ‘Look at that burning building, I think I’m gonna run into it.’ And your friend says, ‘No, you’ll die.’ And you say, ‘But I’m cold.’” – Matt Nathanson

Helen Croydon, The Telegraph, September 20, 2012 (http://www.telegraph.co.uk/women/sex/9553083/Slut-Selfish-Sad-No-just-a-single-woman.html)

I’ve spent most of my life single. I’ve had a few long-term relationships and far more than my fair share of short-term ones, but I’ve always felt a greater zest for life when navigating the world alone. My energy, my sense of adventure, my ambition, my friends, my fitness, my career, my joie de vivre all seem to thrive when single. I have loved men ferociously, but a little part of me wilts when I belong to someone else.

But Why You’re Not Married …Yet, a candid relationships guide published last week, suggests the reason a single woman doesn’t have a ring on her finger is because she is either a bitch, shallow, a slut, crazy, selfish, a mess, hates herself, a liar, acting like “a dude” (author Tracey McMillan is American and has been married three times) or thinks she is a goddess. There is a chapter devoted to each reason.

Stress, Learning, and Cravings

First, work is nuts. I never realized quite how much of a perfectionist I am, at least in terms of meeting my own personal standards. My boss’ incompetence is just growing and growing. He tries to do certain things administratively that directly contradict what the boss above him says. He takes too long to finish projects and is very behind, which is hindering the progress of our report. Furthermore, since I can’t trust him to do things, I have to do a ton more than I should be doing, and I simply don’t have time to do it. There are very intense deadlines being set by upper management, and the agency we’re working with is stonewalling us and not providing data we’ve requested. All this on top of catch up from going overseas, people’s holiday absences (including my own), and normal life pressures. EEEEEEP.

Otherwise, everything is busy. Trying to see friends and do normal life things (bills, dr appointment, groceries, job/fellowship apps and loan payments) on top of work and going in/out of town is leaving me very little free time. I alter between wanting to curl up in a ball, be intensely dominated, and have the shit beaten out of me. See below listing on options for realigning the internal stress.

It’s funny though…I’m going through a kind of kink withdrawal. Between going overseas for work for 2 weeks and the prep before/after that, and now leaving for a wedding, then leaving for thanksgiving, I won’t be able to attend a kink event until Rapture at the end of the month and I haven’t been to anything since Fetish ball. I’ve been experimenting with orgasm control/denial with someone new, but that’s a different type of torment and release.

On a relevant sidenote, teasing and denial has reiterated and taught me a few things:

  • One, when I’m incredibly aroused, I do indeed vocalize.
  • Two, when I’ve been teased for a few days, I can get aroused enough to take a dildo, which means YAY! sex is possible without the physical therapy my OBGYN recommended. Rock on.
  • Third, I have a bit of an oral fixation; sucking on things turns me on. Probably has something to do with my first kinky play partner’s “training”…but is also probably somehow related to:
  • Fourth, I literally get off on getting my partner off. When someone I like and am attracted to (important points, it’s not like every person I know getting off gets me off) is receiving pleasure, I physically react. They shudder, moan, get hard, and I shudder, moan, and get wet. Handy hardwiring, that. I realized this a good while ago, but the extent to which it holds true fascinates me.
  • Fifth, having been allowed to climax, I’m now missing the denial. I enjoyed the edge of arousal during the day. I hated, but also loved the torment of teasing without release.

But, back to the withdrawal and stress…Basically,  I’ve never been one to cry when I’m stressed. Working out and being productive does help a lot, but not quite enough. The frustration at work and everything makes me want pain to process it all. Options for processing/realigning the stress:

  • Warmth in blankets and hot cocoa while in a ball watching bad tv, basically hiding away from it all.
  • Drinking copious amounts of alcohol.
  • Finding my old roommate and recentering with her steady comfort and awesomeness. (Which hopefully happens tomorrow, so will hopefully improve my mental state)
  • Laughing hysterically with friends. Don’t worry, I’m not going to start spontaneously laughing hysterically alone.
  • Wrestling/grappling, or an excuse to fight really hard, use my energy, and still lose.
  • Bondage for similar reasons – I want to struggle, lose, then settle into helpless peacefulness.
  • Pain because it helps me release the pent up tension by creating tension of a different type, tension I can’t ignore and have to face but can then release.
  • Serving someone else in a very intense power exchange way, so that I don’t have to think or worry about anything. So much lack of control in a bad way from work/life, so it’s good to have an intentional, healthy lack of control in order to recenter and refocus.

Problem is, not really in a good place to get one of the latter options. I keep leaving town, so I can’t attend a kinky event to get someone to meet me up and help there. I don’t want to have one of my play partner folks help me out because it counteracts the control I’ve surrendered. And while I’m accepting enough of my need for pain to joke about it or talk about it with either a complete stranger (no risk) or a very trusted friend (no risk), I feel too exposed and raw bringing it up outside of those contexts. Basically, I still feel all dark and twisty for this way of coping, so I hate calling attention to it. So, stuck…annnnd stuck with this stress and mental frustration is not fun.