Cabinet of Curiosities

Are you a collector? 

Do you find yourself drawn to certain things and ever wonder why that is?

Over the years I collected the typical things like dated Christmas ornaments, figurines, and dolls. But I’ve also collected things that wouldn’t exactly be considered ‘collectibles’. My first collection (I remember very well and was very fond of it too) was clothing tags that I placed on my bedroom wall. It wasn’t only the tags I was interested in but the arrangement as well – maybe more so; I would spend a considerable amount of time moving them into pleasing compositions. 

More recently, and for the past several years now, I’ve amassed quite a collection of fragments of various things, mostly vintage and usually favoring a certain color family (usually from the mid-century) as you can see from this photograph of my cabinet of curiosities. And the more broken, the better. 

I wonder what Freud was have to say about that. 

According to Wikipedia…

When people think of collecting, they may imagine expensive works of art or historical artifacts that are later sold to a museum or listed on eBay. The truth is, for many people who amass collections, the value of their collections are not monetary but emotional —and often, not for sale. Collections allow people to relive their childhoods, to connect themselves to a period in history or to a time they feel strongly about. Their collections may help them to ease insecurity and anxiety about losing a part of themselves, and to keep the past present [1] Some collect for the thrill of the hunt. Collecting is much like a quest, a lifelong pursuit which can never be complete.[2] Collecting may provide psychological security by filling a part of the self one feels is missing or is void of meaning.[3] When one collects, one experiments with arranging, organizing, and presenting a part of the world which may serve to provide a safety zone, a place of refuge where fears are calmed and insecurity is managed.[4] Motives are not mutually exclusive; rather, different motives combine in each collector for a multitude of reasons.
(Psychology of Collecting – Wikipedia)


Frequency Illusions

Have you ever heard of frequency illusion? It’s the term for that phenomenon where, as an example, you buy a new car and suddenly see the same kind of car everywhere or read about something new and then hear someone mention that same subject soon afterwards? It’s also known as the Baader-Meinhof phenomenon (but frequency illusion might be a bit easier to remember!). Regardless of what it’s called it all has to do with selective memory and our brain’s affinity for pattern recognition. If you get a chance, do a Google search – it’s pretty interesting stuff.
But it got me to thinking…

Maybe this is why all the bad news we see/hear/read starts to feel so overwhelming.  

Maybe we’re using selective memory with all the negative information the same way we use it with the interesting stuff we actually seek out.  

I quit reading the news a long time ago for this very reason but occasionally something will slip through the cracks. And just a crack’s-worth of information is all it takes to settle me into a funk for quite a long time.

And unfortunately, a little bit of funk can soon become the foundation for a lot more funk to build on.

Allowing negativity to settle in isn’t difficult at all; it requires almost no effort whatsoever to view our world and see all that is bad. One story will build on another story and soon it seems that ALL stories are the same – the cast of characters may be different but the storyline is identical; it becomes ‘fill in the blank – insert bad news here’ story after miserable story. And with anything that gets repeated and repeated and repeated…its gets old and tiring and HEAVY – sometimes too heavy to bear.  

But we tend to think that when we ‘worry about something’ we’re somehow actively doing something beneficial to the cause. We actually think that our ‘worry’ serves some sort of purpose; that it somehow helps the situation.  

If I ‘worry’ about your problem – can you ‘feel’ me worrying? Can you feel me being concerned about you? Does it help you?

No. You can’t. And it doesn’t.

The only person who can feel the heaviness of worry and concern is the person doing it.  

It serves absolutely no beneficial purpose whatsoever. It is not beneficial or helpful in any way – to any one! Worry and concern are weight-bearing emotions that break us down by adding stress to our lives. Do you need more stress? Don’t we have enough to manage without adding the extra weight of the world to the load?

So how can we avoid this sort of thing? How do we not allow worry and stress to consume our lives?  What can we do to keep from feeling as though we are being inundated with negativity all the time?  

Besides turning off the constant stream of negativity from all outside sources (or, at the very least, limiting those feeds considerably) the key is to become keenly observant to what is good.  When we see or hear something positive we want more of the same. 

We should train ourselves to seek out the positive and allow it to become the foundation for more of the same to build on. And not just in a new-agey-feel-good kind of way either – but in a more habit-building, Pavlovian-conditioning kind of way. We need to actively seek it out; go out of our way to find it and make it a consistent part of our day to day life.    

Some might say this is a ‘head-in-the-sand’ way to live. But I say it’s the only way to live.

Try actively searching for and noticing all (or only) that which is good about your day even if that means having to give the benefit of the doubt when you may ‘know better’. There is a popular saying now to ‘fake it til you make it’ and there may be no better time in our history than now to put it to use!

Prime example…The above image was taken at our local garbage dump (stinky smell and flies included) or was it??   It’s all in your perspective!


What’s Your Superpower?

Wouldn’t it make more sense if humans started out mature and knowledgeable and THEN grew younger??

I mean, I’m just beginning to figure things out! Unfortunately, by 9pm though, I can barely stay awake long enough to read much less strategize on saving the world! 

It’s also unfortunate that we tend to spend (i.e. waste) so much of our time trying to figure out what it is we’re meant to do in the first place. We don’t have to necessarily save the world to make an impact though; we can simply tidy up our own little corner of it making it a pleasant place to hang out while at the same time offering value to our surrounding neighborhood.

One of the best ways to do this, I think, is by gaining self-awareness. 

Understanding our strengths and (maybe even more important) our weaknesses can be very insightful and a great reminder of what we are capable of and also what it is we most love to do (or where we should be putting most of our efforts for the best outcome).

I’m a big fan of personality tests and the one at is a fun, quick and painless way to gain this insight. Not only is learning about ourselves helpful but we can also begin to understand why others do the things they do; making our relationships stronger. 

I think it’s nothing short of life-changing.

We all have some form of superpower; the sooner we can figure it out and put it to use…the better


Have you ever felt adrift – as if you’re moving but not really in any particular direction?
I have – for several months now.

Since that’s not exactly a bad feeling to have, I’m not sure why it’s been bothering me as much as it has, but even still, I’ve been trying to figure out what’s causing it and also what to do about it.

Several months ago I found myself at the finish line after setting (and achieving) a couple of significant goals. And when I say these goals required me to stay focused that is truly an understatement; I was living a very restrictive (self-inflicted) lifestyle in order to achieve these goals in the limited timeframe I’d set for myself.    

During this process though, I learned a couple of things about myself: a) I can actually stick with something once I make up my mind to do so, and b) I had the power all along!!  

Knowing this has opened up a world of possibilities.  

In other words: note to self: “The meter is running…what else ya got??”

That would explain the ‘floundering about’ feeling I’ve been having.

So, if you happen to be like me and view your life as one, big, outstretched map before you – deciding where to put those little map flags on the map is almost as much fun as actually going to the ‘places’ (insert any goal here) they represent. You’re determining the path you will take that will lead you to your next adventure (whatever goal that may be). And the goals you set and achieve along your route are nice reminders to propel you further along, reminding you that you have what it takes to decide where you’d like to ‘go’ next.    

Now, I know there are tons of blog posts/self-help books out there about goal setting (I’ve read the majority of them) but no matter how much I read about it, nothing helped quite as much as going through it myself and looking back on it now.  

But the first and most important thing I learned was this little nugget of information:  

You have to want it badly enough. READ THAT AGAIN.  

You have to want it badly enough.

If you don’t want it badly enough you won’t stick with it long enough. End of story.  

Had those authors put this little disclaimer on the cover of all of those self-help books and blog posts I’ve read, I would have saved myself SO much reading time!

But here’s the good news – if you DO want it badly enough – here are three things I’ve learned to help get you there.    

1. Staying focused and goal oriented is a great confidence builder. But you have to be very specific about what you will or won’t allow and stick with it. NO EXCEPTIONS. This is important. Be honest with yourself about what it will take to reach your goal and keep that goal in sight at all times. If veering off the path at any time will cause a setback; make sure you are aware of this so there will be no surprises or disappointments. Keep track on a daily basis because….

 2. When you have a lot of confidence you can achieve a lot of stuff. Knowing where you are on the path at all times will help you stay on track. Seeing your progress is a great motivator. And don’t buy into the ‘I’ve done so well I will treat myself’ downward-spiraling mindset either. That is the worst thing you can do! And try…

 3. Working under pressure of a deadline – it ups the stakes significantly – the goal is no longer just something you’d ‘like’ to achieve – it becomes the very thing you want badly enough! Remind yourself every time you think about straying how it will impact your ability to reach your goal. It will keep you from getting the thing you want most. How dare that temptation!! And after working so hard to get where you are… In the beginning stages of goal setting it’s sometimes necessary to be in an ‘all or nothing’ mindset – at least until the process begins to move forward (with little extra effort). Momentum is very important. Your goal will become very personal at this point and that’s a good thing.


 So ask yourself: What goal do you want to achieve?


Do you want it badly enough??


 If so, then just remember this:

 Be Specific.

Monitor and defend it.

Own it!


It really is that simple!



Ta Da!!!

This past year I set three primary goals for myself: a fitness goal, a financial goal and a creative goal.

They were significant goals too (in my opinion) considering I’d never had much (i.e. any) luck achieving anything even remotely close to them before and I devoted nearly 100% of my time working toward them. I had to. I didn’t give myself much/any wiggle room to do otherwise because I knew my track record with goal-setting all too well. If I took my eye off the prize for just one minute I knew what would happen and what always did happen in the past. It simply wasn’t an option this time.  
After the year was up (actually, it was more like 10 months) and after successfully achieving all three goals I’ve come to a few conclusions about goal-setting in general.

First, let me clarify a couple of things: A) I definitely expected to have more of a “TA DA!!!” moment on completion, and B) I really expected to have more of a “TA DA!!!” moment on completion!!

I mean, seriously! I worked really hard and relentlessly so!

The TA DA!!! moment never came. I’m still very happy I completed the goals and would definitely do it all over again knowing what I know now but I was more than just a little perplexed by the lackluster finish.

I recently read that as we make progress toward our goals, our goals will continually change. They will increase to become deeper and more meaningful. A good example of this would be the goal to lose weight. As you work toward your goal and once you achieve your goal, you find yourself at a healthier place from where you first began. You’ve lost the weight but now see a bigger prize on the horizon. You’re no longer satisfied with simple weight loss – now you may be considering a 5K or a weight lifting competition.  The simple weight loss goal may propel you to set your sights even higher and possibly in a more long-term/life-changing way. And…as an added bonus: we’re no longer left contemplating the question, “now what”.

You begin to see a bigger picture. It’s a picture full of possibilities and one that offers the potential to serve as a jumping off point instead.
And there is something really intriguing about having a goal out there on the horizon waiting for us; something new to set our sights on, just barely out of reach, but not too far – so that we have to stretch a bit further, focus, plan and get excited about something once again. 

In retrospect, there really is no reason to celebrate with a TA DA!!! moment as if it’s the big finale; instead of the usual, “now what” we could say, “what next?” and start making plans – reminding us, yet again, that it truly is all about the journey. 
The art of living does not consist in preserving and clinging to a particular mode of happiness, but in allowing happiness to change its form without being disappointed by the change; happiness, like a child, must be allowed to grow up. –Charles L. Morgan 


I read a good article on Tiny Buddha recently (I’ve attached it below).  
The message was great – but I read a lot of great articles; the difference with this one was – there’s a really good chance I might actually remember it. Why? The author chose to use metaphors in this article and I’m a big fan of metaphors – I guess that’s because I’m a visual learner. I’m wondering if most creative people are.
But even though I’m aware of the fact that I’m a visual learner and that I relate well to the use of metaphors; I was also a bit curious why this was.  

I know that metaphors create mental images that help to paint a picture or tell a story. I know that. I get that. I actually create metaphor scenarios all the time; it’s my version of mental note-taking, but I’m sure not everyone benefits from it as much as I do. I wanted to know why.  

So, I went on-line hoping to find the common denominator. Finding a common denominator is helpful when I’m trying to sort things out or organize thoughts and ideas. It’s usually a first step in my thought organizing process.    

And I think this quote by Orson Scott Card sums it up nicely. “Metaphors have a way of holding the most truth in the least space.”

I like that.  

The power lies in its ability to drill down to the subject immediately without the additional confusion of gathering too much information too soon. Like diagramming a sentence to determine the noun and the verb before worrying with all the other stuff…(a good example of one of my metaphor scenarios in action) and for those of us who need that type of organization, simplifying makes perfect sense.  

 So, here is the article…hope you benefit from it too (whether or not you need the help of metaphors!).

You Don’t Need to Fix the Past in Order to Have a New Future

By Amy Johnson
“The future is completely open, and we are writing it moment to moment.” ~Pema Chodron
My family recently drove from Michigan to North Carolina—twenty hours roundtrip. To entertain themselves, my five-year-old daughter Willow taught my three-year-old son Miller to play rock-paper-scissors in the backseat.
Miller learned the hand signals and got the overall concept pretty quickly, but he had a hard time with the fast speed of the game. Willow narrated, “Rock-paper-scissors…go! Okay, next round!” But Miller wanted to linger.
When he chose paper and Willow chose scissors, he’d see her scissors and quickly try to change to rock so that he could win the round.
Or if he chose rock and she chose scissors, he’d want to stop and hang out in his win for a while. He’d celebrate, gloat, and become frustrated when she was already on to the next round.
My husband and I tried to explain to Miller that it was a quick game with no time to hold on to what was already done. There’s also no need to hold on—each round brings a brand new chance to win or lose.
While we tried to teach him that it made more sense to leave the past behind and look toward the next round, his let-it-go-and-move-on wasn’t up to par compared to his older sister’s.
Miller turned rock-paper-scissors into a slow, thought-heavy emotional roller coaster, where every move felt important and meaningful. What could have been a fun and easy game was not very fun for him.
It was clear to see how Miller was getting in his own way. And then it hit me that I—and most people I know—do the same thing in our adult lives. We innocently get in our own way as we focus on what we don’t like and try to make it better when it would be far easier to leave the past behind and look toward the “next round.”
Life is always moving through us—nothing is permanent. New thought and emotion flow through us constantly, creating our rotating and fluid experience of life.
Sometimes we stay out of the way and let our experience flow. Willow was staying out of the way as she played rock-paper-scissors (and she was having a great time, I might add). And sometimes we’re more like Miller, innocently blocking the easy flow of life with our opinions, judgments, and disapproval. We don’t pick up and move on as much as we focus on righting what is already over.
In hindsight, I can see how I’ve dammed up my own flow of experience at times in my life, especially when I was struggling with things I wanted to change.
When I was facing a confusing and uncontrollable binge eating habit, for example, I thought what I was supposed to do was to examine it, analyze it, talk about it, and focus on it with a whole lot of emotion and energy until I made it go away.
But more often than not, that created more suffering… It left me even more convinced that my habit was a serious problem that I needed to solve, and it left me feeling hopeless because I didn’t know how to solve it.
Of course, there’s a lot to be said for understanding ourselves and our experiences in a new way and taking action where action is needed. Those are absolutely necessary. But keeping our “problem” under a constant microscope, trying to use our intellect to solve it as if it’s a crossword puzzle, is not the way to freedom.
If new thought, emotion, and insight are always flowing through us like a river, doesn’t it make sense to look upstream at what’s coming next, especially when we’re experiencing something we don’t like? It’s just like we told Miller in rock-paper-scissors: if you don’t like what happened in this round, let it go and look toward the next round.
But we forget this when it comes to the big things in life, don’t we? It seems responsible, necessary, or adult-like to hold the problem tightly until we fix it.
If our moment-to-moment experience of life is like a river rushing through us, our “fix-it” attempts are the equivalent of standing in the middle of the river, filling a bucket with the water that has already flowed past and carrying that bucket with us everywhere we go.
We obstruct the momentum of the river and analyze that old, familiar “problem” water to death, not realizing that if we only turned and looked upstream we’d have an excellent chance of seeing something new and different.
Looking upstream we might see with fresh eyes—looking downstream, we’re just looking at more of what we already know.
With regard to my binge eating habit, I realized that my best chance for change would come from letting go of everything I thought I knew and being open to fresh, new insights and ideas. Not carrying around the past or analyzing the problem; instead, being open and unencumbered.
As I began to see my habit-related thoughts and behaviors as things flowing by me that I didn’t need to grab ahold of, they passed by more easily. Each and every day I found myself less in the way, realizing that I was very separate from those unwanted thoughts and urges.
When my habit-related experience looked more like leaves floating on the surface of the river than like gigantic boulders, life took on a new feeling of ease. I saw that I could gently dodge some of what was coming down the river rather than stop and fight with or fix it. The healthy “me” was more visible than ever.
Not staring at your problems is not ignoring or denying the issue any more than Willow was ignoring or denying the previous rock-paper-scissors round when she easily moved on. Take note of how your experience feels. When life—which really is very game-like—feels like a difficult, not fun, emotional rollercoaster, you’re holding on to something, innocently getting in your own way.
Maybe even the bigger issues in life really aren’t so different than rock-paper-scissors—you get what you get, but you don’t have to stay there and try to change the last round. Let life flow and as you do, the healthy, clear, peaceful version of yourself will be more visible than ever too.  
Dr. Amy Johnson is a psychologist, coach, and the author of The Little Book of Big Change: The No-Willpower Approach to Breaking Any Habit, and Being Human: Essays on Thoughtmares, Bouncing Back, and Your True Nature.


Have you experienced Adobe’s Slate app? It’s free and simple to use. I created a ‘story’ called ‘Self-ish: A Journey of Self Portraiture’ with it. Lots of possibilities for creating illustrative stories effortlessly! 

Give it a try!