Janilaal Celebration Crown and Sneaky Fork Moment. ©2011 Anjani Millet
We work hard. We give well. We love deeply. But do we remember to appreciate our own open heart and generous spirit? Take a moment to love and notice what you did, thought, felt, said, or gave last year that is a testament to the excellence of your spirit. Take a few minutes to appreciate the person you have become. Here are a 10 ways to show yourself you care, and to mark the achievement of becoming the person you have become.
Ten Ways to Show Yourself You Care
1. Flowers. Buy yourself some!
2. Take yourself out on a date. But before you do, dress nicely, buy yourself flowers (see number 1), and consciously note why you are doing this: because you are wonderful.
3. Write down private thank you notes to you from you, and stick them in pockets – coats, pants, shirts. Offer little thoughts like, Thank you so much. I love how loving you are. I love your generous nature. You have made me laugh. You took such good care of the family this year. Thank you!
4. Send yourself a gift. Log on to Amazon or other gifting sites and send yourself a token of your appreciation. Get it wrapped!
5. Mail yourself a lovely card, signed by hand. We all love getting things in the mail, especially hand-written notes. Who does that for you anymore? You do.
6. Foster a relationship with your future self by hiding money you’ll find later. My favorite gift for myself was a $50 bill I hid in a book I knew I would get to, but not for awhile. A year later, when I finally got around to reading it, I had completely forgotten about it when the money fell out onto my lap. It was an amazing feeling of gratitude for my former self and a connection across time, from that moment to the one in which I first placed the money. It made me cry.
7. Make a backward-in-time chart to note the things about this moment that are because of something wonderful you once did or decided. For instance, earlier this year I looked around my family and realized my daughter, and her family now, all came from that moment in high school in which I took a dare and talked to her future dad. I appreciate the young woman I was!
8. Share with a friend the 5 best things about you, and ask them to do the same about themselves. Then, make a toast to the hard work you’ve both put into being a great person, and how well you’ve succeeded.
9. Lipstick and mirrors. Write a note in lipstick on your bathroom mirror about how charming, lovely, or hilarious you are. Love the love notes. They are fun to wake up to.
10. Be kind in thought and deed. You know you are kind to others, so do unto yourself as you would do unto others – practice kindness toward your own mind and soul. Guard your thoughts, and remember what your mother taught you: if you can’t say something nice to yourself, don’t say anything at all.
Congratulations on being you!
Mermaids Whisper in the Garden. ©2014 Anjani Millet
What is readiness? What is creation? Is it magical? Is it ethereal, mercurial, or winsome? Is it a distant dream, or a discipline? There are as many answers as there are people, I’d guess. To me inspiration is mostly a case of listening though if pressed, I’m not entirely sure what it is I’m listening to! Is it the subconscious, or God, or the sound of wind in the leaves?
I love what Picasso said – “inspiration exists, but it has to find you working.” That’s been my experience too. For me, inspiration sails on the winds of momentum. Creating the space for inspiration – for listening – seems to beckon and seduce it out of hiding.
Perhaps that’s the true nature of inspiration – it is a shy deer in the woods. I like that. Inspiration is shy. To consider that inspiration is so flimsy and flaky that it can never be counted on makes me feel sad and lonely. Instead I like to think that inspiration is an actual living thing, a person, a being, a someone who is just a little shy, someone with whom I must be gentle and inviting.
Yes. That makes me feel better.
I think I’ll have to pin that above my desk for the next time I’m wondering what to shoot or write about!
A few years ago I found $50 I had tucked into a dictionary long before. I had hidden it there years before as a little gift from me to me, which I knew I’d forget putting there but would find one day. “When I do”, my past self thought, “I will probably feel loved and remembered.” I went to the bank and pulled out the money, tucking it in between the letters L and M, tucked it away for a future self who didn’t yet exist.
Two years later, as I was looking up the spelling for Langoliers, (a horrible movie!), the bill sussurred out from between the pages and tickled itself all the way down my legs and onto the floor. I felt the kindness and compassion of my former self flooding into the present moment, like a sweet, chalky perfume I’d once loved and nearly forgotten. It was me who had so thoughtfully made this effort, who who really cared about me all the way back then. I felt swept up in compassion from my own, former self. In that moment, I was at a time of struggle which I could never have foreseen back then.
It’s much easier to look backward – after all, we know the person we were before. Or do we? And looking into our future selves is even more nebulous – we know we’ll be the same person, sort of, but that person does not really yet exist. In six months from now, maybe we’ll have put on a pound or two over the holidays, but still be basically happy. Or perhaps will we find it in 16 years, after, who knows, a major financial windfall and the start of a new love affair, or after we’ve strangely gotten into the most amazing shape of our lives and finally gotten that job we always want?
Or maybe, when we stretch out our thoughts to ourselves in the future, we’ll reach into a void of pain and loss. When we stretch out to the future, we grasp the wispy suggestion of what and who we might in general. That person might be happy when they find this gift… but then again, she may need a little encouragement… or maybe a lot.
Sipping Coffee with Shadows
Why do self-portraits matter? Why do we really do them? Is it just to capture a moment, as if we were a tourist visiting our own lives? “Here I am, with my new hat!” Or “Look at me! I’ve in the bathroom at a fancy hotel!”
Maybe. But in a deeper way, I believe we photograph ourselves to tell ourselves our own story, to ourselves – it is always the story of I. The true purpose of self-portraits is to make a gift of ourselves to our future selves. Maybe, when we create a self-portrait, we are trying to see into our own eyes – the ones that will be, down the road, one nebulous, unknown day. When we photograph ourselves, we are talking to ourselves across time and, truly, across realities – in the moment we shoot a self-portrait, we are real – flesh and blood. But our future self is only the tiniest twinkle in our own eyes now. And if we try, yes, we can love that person. Loving our future selves will make a present day, some day, just that much sweeter.
But today, in the present moment, our past self is really only a memory, and the only proof that we lived exists in the form of photographs.
What if, some day in the future, when we really need it, we feel the hand of our real self from the past touching our lives? Who was thinking of us, loving us into the unknown days and years ahead? What if, through a self-portrait of encouragement, we make a tangible reach from the past into the current moment, when the two of us come together, our eyes looking into our own eyes, past to future, and back again? Maybe when we look into our own eyes from the past, we will feel the hair brushed from our face today, a warm hand tugging on our sleeve, an old friend arriving unexpectedly on our porch, bringing us chocolate cake on a Sunday morning for no good reason at all except that they love us?
But who does that? Who loves someone who doesn’t even exist yet? Who leaves them gifts they know they’ll find?
You do, that’s who.
And this is the real reason for self-portraits. We do them for love.
Even more so if the gift you give your future self is simply encouragement and kindness when you might need it the most. This is what I discovered last week when I found a self-portrait I’d shot two years ago in Spain. I was standing on the balcony of a beautiful room overlooking the Mediterranean coast, in Begur. I’d just attended a travel writer’s conference and we were given gorgeous accommodations in exchange for writing about the our experiences in each hotel. I couldn’t believe my life had taken me there. I couldn’t believe my feet were on that balcony and my eyes were seeing that sumptuous blue water, or that my skin was soaking in the buttery Spanish fall sunlight. I couldn’t believe my life, somehow, through some luck and a lot of hard work, had gotten me there. It was blowing my mind. I picked up a camera, not to capture a snapshot of the place. It was a private moment. I was alone, and I wanted to say something about what I felt. I wanted to talk about my life in the poignant silence of a photograph.
Yesterday I found the photo as I was looking preparing to edit something else. I didn’t even remember taking it. I opened it up and what I saw was strength, certainty, and calm in my face; I looked happy. I remember feeling as if I were resting deeply in my own perfect path, as if at last I were resting deeply in the arms of my dreams. I saw something else too – the lack of questions in my eyes. No. I saw no questions. I saw only answers. I made that self-portrait not to share where I was, though I was on a balcony in Spain, overlooking the sea. I made it as a statement of encouragement, a one-way conversation between me and me, that would occur at an unknown date in the future. That date was today.
I’m at the tail-end of two full years living nothing but questions, one tumbling across my life right another, and another, a turbulent river I can barely seem to climb out of. It’s felt as if my mind has been drowning in unknowns for so long that I’d forgotten what it’s like not only to know, but to not even need to know. I didn’t remember I was that person – the person who knew, until I looked into those eyes – my own eyes, two years before.
Yes. I feel loved and remembered, by me, by my past me.
And so, where are you? Are you strong right now? Do you have even a moment here or there that you feel certain? Happy? Strong? Confident? Or even just amused by and affectionate toward yourself? Or do you wish you did?
When you do, tell no one your plan: grab your camera and dress up a little, for yourself. Go to a place you love and feel loved – even if it’s the tiniest corner of your own kitchen. Relax in your chest. Hold the camera before you, and relax your eyes. This a private moment, between you and you. Look into and straight past the lens into your own eyes, your own soul, your own future self who will need this one day. As you look, relax your irises, feel them really relax and dilate. Then, when you feel kind and open and at ease, pick up the camera, bring it close to you, with your elbows bent – and imagine – know – you are speaking to yourself through yourself, one into another, now to then. Don’t worry about smiling. Just breathe your kindest, softest breath of gentle, loving kindness toward your own heart, and take the shot.
Don’t look at it yet. Put the camera down. If you felt uneasy or worried, put the camera down. Have a sip of tea. Look out at the yard. You live, and you are good. Shoot again when you feel you have more to say to yourself, when you feel more open, when you arrive at the feeling you want to wrap up in a soft bundle and offer it through your eyes.
Now you can review the photo if you can. Be careful not to judge yourself now – you want to stay very open and gentle in your feelings. If you would prefer a different moment, then relax, breathe, try it again. Sip that tea.
When you feel you have really captured a feeling you love and cherish that you might like to feel again one day, save it on your computer to a file called A Gift To Me, or Photos To My Future Self. If you can, email it to yourself on a certain day, or attach it to a calendar appointment 1 year from now. Surprise yourself with it. Print it, and put it in a book you know you’ll read, and label the photo like a gift card: “This too shall pass,” or “You are good,” or “Hi. It’s me. I like you.”
Save this photographic moment of encouragement somewhere you’ll be sure to find again one day. In this way, with a camera, say yes to kindness and save it for a rainy day. It’s a gift made by your hands, and your eyes, and it’s just for you, bundled up warmly in the form of a loving, thoughtful photograph.
One day, you too might feel loved and remembered by the past, who cared for you before you even existed.
If you try this, or ever have, write me and tell me your story. I’d love to hear it.
Only good things,
At last arrives my silvery peace, that elusive twinkle I barely remember. This, told to me by my spinning brain and quiet calendar, is the first moment of real, genuine, and deep peace I have had for over 10 weeks, as we have begun our journey of caring for my mother in her affliction with Alzheimer’s. These are the flowers which adorned her father’s grave just last week, only a few short days ago.
I say, when peace taps lightly upon this door, yes, I say yes, Friend, please come inside. Make yourself at home (every day for the rest of our lives. )
Self-Portrait on Glass Table by Anjani Millet
I Give In: Self-Portrait on Glass Table. Copyright 2014 Anjani Millet
I am writing here because I am exhausted and maybe at an important moment. This is the truth, this is me, and this is what I have to offer.
I am up to my eyeballs, two states away from home again, taking care of my mother with Alzheimer’s and my grandfather, 102, who is on his way out. I have been sleeping in my grandfather’s hospital room at night and caring for my mom during the day, switching shifts with my two siblings. Today we meet with the family to discuss whether to put him on a feeding tube or let him go, as he directed years ago. This is a terrible decision for any family to have to make.
Yesterday I took my mother to a neurosurgeon to discuss the mass in her brain, on top of Alzheimer’s. It appears to be non-threatening for now. At 9pm we rushed her to the ER in terrible pain and vomiting. Oh, my friends, I can never unsee my tiny, 100 lb., 4’8″, 83 year old mother on her little hands and knees vomiting in the kitchen.
Love offers a thousand ways for a heart to break.
There is no “aside from this.” I can’t begin to describe how squared into a corner I feel. It is taking a whole team to care for both of them. Our lives, all of them, are simply waiting in the distance.
Trying to find time or even a quiet space to work, or just putter…oh… Oh dear. I know this won’t last forever but exhaustion is right now.
Here is the merciful peace Into which I am dissolving in the question about how to find time or space to do “my own work:” I have no choice but to be the eyes and hands I am, and to be in the life in which I find myself. I have fought my own vision for decades now, but I am too tired to fight it anymore or even search for what it is. I give in. I can only be me. My own life is all I have to offer as an artist, and now, perhaps, I can and must let this be enough.
I went into business as a photographer and writer in the 80’s for over a decade, and then left for 12 years. Since I returned to my work as an artist 18 months ago, I find I still operate under the tired and old idea that the personal should be entirely separated from the artistic and business. That rule has constipated my creativity and soul, and stopped me from posting and sharing 90% of my work with you.
I give in. I can only be me. I can only offer me. I don’t have time to focus on the “right” work, the right subjects, the rules I believed were the right way to be and work as an photographer, a writer, a business person.
Those are the rules that are slowly killing me, my throat in a stranglehold by my own hands for too long. I am forced now to integrate my own actual life with my work. Yes. I give in. I am only this.
Today, like every other day, we wake up empty
and frightened. Don’t open the door to the study
and begin reading. Take down the dulcimer.
Let the beauty we love be what we do.
There are hundreds of ways to kneel and kiss the ground.
The personal is political, yes. And, the personal is the artistic. The personal is the business.
In great tiredness I release the old noose of my own making and say yes, I suppose I will have to be just me. I don’t have the time not to.
I write this from my hands and eyes, and extend this to you from my loving, supportive heart. I hope my own vulnerable moment might help you. If, like me, you placed your own best self aside in deference to the “correct” way to live, or the “best” way to do business, in whatever that may look in your mind, I extend my hand, and I invite you to let life wear down your walls a little bit. I hope for us both when we hear ourselves knocking at the door, we open it up and invite our own selves in for tea.
What is the first thing you see when you wake up each morning? Is it the tired beige curtains you got in the divorce? Or perhaps it’s the flapping spiderweb fob hanging from the ceiling above your bed?
And what is the first thing you hear? Is it the death screams of the crappy, black and silver Radio Shack alarm clock? It is alarming alright, like an angry fuse box being stabbed to death on the nightstand.
Waking up to crappy sights or wretched, soul-destroying sounds is no way to start the day. I want to share one simple step you can easily take today to make the first moment of your day better, every single day. It is what I call Morning View.
Place one thing you truly love directly in your line of vision when you open your eyes first thing in the morning.
I call this Morning View.
Here is my Morning View. The beautiful, amber glass leaves of this antique chandelier sparkle and clink happily in morning sunlight, just above and left of my bed. This is one of my favorite possessions, and my eyes land upon it first thing every morning. I sleep on my left side, on the left side of the bed, so it hangs on the left side of the room just above the bed. No lights are connected – I let morning sunlight do the delighting.
The clinking leaves are the first thing I hear, as well. I do my best to get enough sleep that I awaken naturally, without an alarm. If I do need help waking up, I use an app on my phone called Ambiance, which I set to awaken me with the sounds of morning bird call in a meadow, or a babbling brook.
It is an act of sweet kindness to protect and nourish our eyes and ears in the first moments re-emerging from rest. Small details add up when we care about ourselves enough to make life a little more pleasant to start out the day.
Do you have something beautiful you see or hear first thing in the morning?
Only the best to you.
Copyright 2014 Anjani Millet
When my mom was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s last week, I learned to lean in, turn toward her thoughts, and be like water. This I learned from the wind of a dusky summer night as I sped down the long Utah highway to be by her side. Fighting the wind is the surest path to tears.
Today is Monday, and that means waking up to the brick wall which is my own hesitations. I’ve decided that 2014 will, for me, be The Year of Yes. I’m doing my best not to fight hesitations now, but to listen to them and act upon them – or not act, depending on the nature of the hesitation. For instance, recently I had a decision to make in my business and I was dragging my feet. I sat my hesitation down in my mind like a friend over lunch and looked and listened, and then made my decisions based upon what I heard. I don’t want to do that kind of shoot. I just don’t.
So… I say yes! Yes to that brick wall! Dress it up, invite it in, have coffee with the pretty wall!
We all have our own brick walls, both internally and externally. Maybe, instead of fighting them, it’s time to decorate the wall. Dress it up, take it out for coffee, and enjoy the walls we’ve got. They are probably there for a reason, and rather than being the enemy, maybe – just maybe – like every good wall, they are protecting the good stuff inside, and connect to the doorway in.
Leave me a comment and let me know, what’s your wall, and how do you get across it?