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Mindfulness, Inspiration and Tangents

Me, thinking about how wonderfully ventilated eyelet is.

It’s funny (and sometimes initially scary) what happens when you practice mindfulness. You notice what you devote most of your attention to, for better (the one friend who automatically gives you half of her French fries without you asking for even one) or worse (the “friend” who always asks if you should really be eating those French fries).

What I noticed was how much time and energy I was spending in pursuit of a longtime career goal. I had always planned to someday be a repped, produced screenwriter. But then I noticed how I felt in this long, winding, and surprisingly expensive pursuit.

Aspiration? Perspiration.

For years, this aspiration was partly sustained by a fantasy about what my life would be like when I “made it.” It meant someday having a gorgeous mission-style home in Pasadena, or maybe a glassy two-story with a rooftop deck in Venice. It meant draping my lithe body in flax-colored linen. Having tan feet wrapped in barely-there sandals. Hair that always looked tousled by waves. And having meetings with “important” Hollywood folks I thought would validate my talent, while somehow providing all the inspiration I needed to come up with brilliant stories again and again.

Years went by. There were day jobs with snack tables full of Oreos, M&Ms and Pringles. I was not lithe. The loose, neutral layers that covered me were meant to camouflage – not flatter – my body.

I was writing screenplays in my spare time, but these scripts were not passion projects. Over the years, I had devoted so much of my time (and money) to writing. I knew I had the talent to take it further, but that would mean devoting myself to a field that I could ultimately find disappointing. And this thought made me feel increasingly uncomfortable.

A mid-life tangent

It took what I guess could be my version of a mid-life crisis – except it was the opposite of a crisis. It was a tangent that took me off the path to becoming an inauthentic version of myself and onto what would truly inspire me.

I was in London in early 2018; my first time there. While I visited some friends, I stayed in a hotel and had plenty of time to explore on my own.

I wasn’t even aware in the moment that I was practicing mindfulness during those days spent alone. But without any expectations of this city, I was able to be completely present. I took everything in: The architecture. The damp air. The scent of fried food wafting from pubs. The taxi-drivers’ jokes. The marks on the roads that cautioned which way to look for oncoming traffic.

Neal’s Yard, London. Note the couple snogging in the background. I promise I wasn’t spying on them.

I went into Charlotte Tilbury and bought myself a red lipstick. (This lipstick has become my signature color.) I strolled through Covent Garden. I visited Westminster Abbey and the Tower of London (being sure to snap a photo of the Norman toilet for my mom – because that’s just the kind of weird stuff she enjoys). All of this color surrounded me, and I wondered…why was I wrapping myself in this representation of the person I thought I was supposed to be?

A Norman toilet at the Tower of London. Positive: An armored guard would likely shield you from being Lannistered. Negative: No Charmin.

I felt as though, in this new (to me) place, I could leave who I had been behind.

A tangent from self-awareness to self-(re)styling

I returned home with what felt like new eyes. Styles I previously would have never given a second glance suddenly caught and held my attention. Suddenly, it’s “bring on the color!” While I used to think I hated patterns (borne out of my fear of magnifying my curvy shape), now I can’t get enough of florals, dots, and more. I used to fear femininity. Now, in the second half of my forties, I want to fully embrace it.

On Instagram, I found style and lifestyle accounts from English bloggers, which led me back to American ones such as the Atlantic-Pacific. Blair’s fearless use of color and whimsy fascinated me. Her style is distinctly her own. What was mine?

I’ll admit, I spent a LOT of time on Instagram. Still do. I was discovering what I loved – personalities, style, places, ideas – and it thrilled me. But this post-London scrolling and saving and reading was different. I wasn’t just thinking, “I like this.” Instead, in my effort to understand this new version of myself, I used mindfulness tools and asked myself, “Why do I like this?” “Why does this inspire me?”

Intentional attention

One of my favorite podcasters, Alison Rosen, made an astute observation on a recent episode. She noted that we seem very aware of why we don’t like certain things, perhaps because we try to figure out what is bothering us in order to avoid it in the future. And it’s odd that we don’t give as much attention to why we do like other things, or why they make us happy.

And it is odd, right? We focus our attention so much of the time on the negative, instead of the positive. This is probably true even for those of us who practice mindfulness. But if you know anything about the law of attraction, you know that like attracts like. I wondered what would happen if we spent more time thinking more deeply about the things, people and places that bring us joy. For me, the answer was this: I attracted more of what I love.

So, what’s a Tangentier?

I found a surprising bonus to this intentional attention: When I read about, listen to or watch other people talking about their passions and things they enjoy, their stories also energize me. Those stories, Instagram posts, and girls’ nights out tangentially lead to inspiration. Just as they led to the creation of this site.

A Tangentier is someone who takes inspiration from others and turns it into inspiration for someone else.

My vision for The Tangentier is this: A place where we all can share what brings us joy, curiosity, a laugh, etc. Where we can be intentional about focusing our attention on what we love. So if something here stirs in you, dear reader, a tangent to a memory or current love of something, someplace, or someone – I invite you to comment and share it with me and the other readers. It could be a book that made you laugh so much your La Croix came out of your nose and you realized grapefruit isn’t so delightful when experienced nasally. Or a modest little street in your town where its residents have planted the loveliest gardens. Or the funkiest damn shoes you ever dared to wear.

Your comment may spur a tangent from me, which will hopefully spur one from a reader…. and on, and on, and on.

What you’ll see here

When I realized I didn’t feel inspired to write scripts, I knew that I did feel creative flow in other areas. Ideas for essays come to me frequently. And I feel a strange yet wonderful sense of freedom around being able to speak in my own voice instead of through the filter of a zany, recently orphaned protagonist working through a harebrained scheme to get her inheritance.

The result of this freedom is that you might see a post about a fashion trend, a movie, a musical artist, or a painter. Some posts might involve all of those things. You’re also just as likely to see a more serious post about shame, stress, and, of course, mindfulness. All of these posts will be positive and offer links to resources that I enjoy and/or find helpful.

My hope is that this process will bring some inspiration to you, and vice versa. This site will be more fulfilling for all with your tangents, so I hope you’ll join in.

Robyn Kern is the Tangentier. A long-time writer based in Los Angeles with a degree in screenwriting and an interest in mindfulness, many tangents led her here: a place where people can come to find and share inspiration, dwell in each others' passions, and learn how to surround themselves with what they love on the daily.

40 Comments

  • Wendy Dutwin

    Congratulations on the launch of The Tangentier and a very Happy Birthday!! I so remember your trip and that I was on a bit of my own tangent in Paris at the time and find myself here yet again doing the same thing- only this time as you so eloquently put it, striving for the focus on things I like versus what I don’t like. I think what you said is so important about shedding the inauthentic for the authentic. And while there can be a lot of discomfort and confusion in the messy protoplasm of such a transition, there is always truth waiting on the other side of such courage. I’m excited to be walking a path of truth with friends like you! Speaking of walking, I’ve recently discovered my happy place in Paris- the Promenade Plantée or La Coulée verte, a gorgeous tree-lined walkway above Paris in the 12th arrondissement. It has been providing me a lot of peaceful reflection and a beautiful skyline for my own reading and writing. https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Coulée_verte_René-Dumont

    • Robyn Kern

      Thank you, Wendy! This walkway you linked to looks amazing! The perfect length for a healthy walk, and it ends in a spiral staircase?! It sounds magical. I’ll have to visit it! See if you can take photos of it in the different seasons to see how it changes.

  • Linda Burkett

    I’m so happy for you! What a wonderful forum for you to share your myriad gifts in a “novel” (!) way. I love your initial offering and can’t wait to see how this and you continue to evolve!❤️

    • Sheila Lidsky Weinstein

      wHATS THE EASIEST WAY to comment? I seem to be having trouble finding the best place.

      And speaking of music, the 50’s and 60’s put me back where I had no worries. Just boys, friends
      and fun. xoxo

      • Robyn Kern

        This way to comment is the right way! I think the station I listen to is now considered an “oldies” station – even though the music is from the ’80s. Glad the music of the ’50s and ’60s can transport you. 🙂

  • Deb Stein

    Great job lady! This site is amazing and I see your true self shining through. Glad to know you and see this come to life.

  • Meryl Lidsky Kern

    I’m blown away not just by your writing talent but how your self assessment has changed & how you’ve come to value all those traits that make you you.
    While I do love weird stuff, I feel most at peace enveloped by nature, in the woods, on a safari, at home surrounded by beautiful flowers, animals & birds. It’s a different kind of peace than when surrounded by family & friends though that too brings me such
    I work on using filters that allow me to be more mindful. I’m also working on the power of positive thinking trying to emulate my sister in law for more personal peace.
    Wishing you lots of feedback & inspiration on the launch of your blog

    • Robyn Kern

      Thanks, Mom! I’m not sure why yours and Dad’s comments ended up in the trash (I was able to recover them). I swear I didn’t apply a parental filter. 🙂

  • Lloyd Kern

    It’s interesting how a father and daughter can have parallel aspirations and be over thirty years apart. Yours is entertainment and movies and mine is ( was) sports and baseball.
    For years growing up, my desire was to get a job in baseball and I did what I thought would get me there. I went to the best undergrad business school in the country and thought that would be my ticket to baseball. My career counselor at Penn was totally useless in this regard and became a CPA and CFO prior to my retirement. My dreams of getting into baseball continued and became fulfilled in 1977 when a friend and I purchased a minor league baseball team about an hour from where we lived in Connecticut.
    I kept my day job but oversaw the business while my partner was working full time with the ball club. My boss at the time was concerned that my productivity was going to decline as a result of this. In fact, the reverse was true. I became more focused at work, got two promotions and excellent raises and bonuses. In addition, I was doing stuff I had never thought about. I got calls at home from local sports writers and tv people asking about our team. Accountants generally don’t get calls at home unless something bad happens.
    Even after I sold the club after five years of operations, I continued my involvement in baseball including today. I have made many friends in the game over the past 42 years and hope to maintain them.
    When I was still working, I tried to avoid talking about this involvement because I knew that if I began to talk about it, I wouldn’t be able to stop. Now that I’m retired, I can talk about it as much as I want. In fact, I attend classes at Temple University where I give a course on current sports which has been well received.
    Robyn mentioned that her pursuit of screenwriting became a bit expensive. My ownership in baseball also was somewhat costly but it led to other opportunities that would never have happened or provided such joy.
    I think that doing this blog will provide rewards that you can’t imagine at this point. I look forward to continuing this journey with you.

  • Paul Ditty

    Happy Happy Birthday Robin and congratulations on the launch of your blog. Loved reading this first post. A great reminder on what’s important: feeding the soul and experiencing life in the moment. Cheers!!

  • Brooke R

    Yayyyyyy!! Robyn, you’re an inspiration, a fantastic writer, and you make a damn good case for red lipstick.. So happy for you, blog mama 🙂 Can’t wait for the world to discover your unique voice and amazing perspectives.

    • Robyn Kern

      Thank you, Brooke! I can honestly say this probably wouldn’t have come about had I not met you. So I owe you extra thanks!

  • anne mary novak

    Thank you for doing this. I really appreciate you putting yourself out there and providing a space for others to inspire and draw inspiration. I look forward to seeing future posts and sharing my own.

  • Maureen Bierhoff

    I love your writing style! You are very talented.
    What brings me joy is my three year old grandson, Max. We have so much fun together. We play catch, we color Paw Patrol pictures, and we read many books together. He has such a happy personality and just exudes laughter and fun.
    Hope this helps!

  • Carol Beringer

    Dearest Robyn! Welcome home to yourself ~ and all the bits that took you full circle. I remember all of us sharing together in the joy you describe . The group that organically formed 17 years ago! An eclectic confluence of nonjudgmental souls from a wide range of ages and interests. It was special.
    Much love,
    Carol

    • Robyn Kern

      Carol! Thank you so much for reading. You definitely had a big part in my self-development. Your studio is where I first discovered what could be possible for me. I miss being there. You’re right – it was very special. Love, Robyn

  • Kristi

    Robyn! This is amazing & so inspiring I’m in tears… and not just from thinking about LaCroix coming out my nose holes. I can’t wait to see what inspiration you share with us. So happy I get to keep reading your words.

    XOXO
    Kristi

    PS – Lipstick is on point!

    • Robyn Kern

      Kristi! Somehow your response ended up in the trash. It figures you couldn’t get through a filter! Thanks so much for your support. 🙂

  • Adrian

    Beautifully said, Robyn! I can’t wait to read more and you know I LOVE your signature red lipstick so it was fabulous to hear about its origin story too 🙂

  • Liz Maloof

    Hi Robyn, Cheers from New Hampshire!
    We all come into our own at difference ages and are inspired by a bag of experniences and memories that we collect and carry along the way. Wishing you the best on this your new found journey. Here is to the little girl I watched grow into a wise woman. The best is yet to come. Love You, Liz

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