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.
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.
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?
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?”
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.