Finding the Joyous Shruggie Within

Hello, darlings!!

As you may have guessed from the GoGo's gif above, we Your Beloved Dames will be on vacation next week, because Dame Margaret's best friend is getting marrrieeeeeeeeeeeed eeeeeee!

But FEAR NOT! We leave you in CAPABLE HANDS Namely the MAXIMUM ERUDITION of not one but TWO PhD-holding sisters, our beloved Kathryn VanArendonk & her sister, Actual Scientist Laura VanArendonk Blantonnnnnnnn!
(not ACTUALLY Kitty and Laura, but some of our Very Favorite Fictional Sisters, SO.)

We think you are going to ADORE what they put together. We are certainly looking forward to it!

Ask Two Bossy Dames!

Another month, another question plucked from the obscurity of our Google Form submissions and answered with brilliant insight and deep compassion, this time by Dame Sophie!  

Hello Dames!

First of all, thank you for being a weekly source great recommendations, happiness, joy and general wonderfulness. Never stop speaking to my soul, dames. My question has something to do with how awesome you are. I am constantly amazed and impressed by how much you do: the newsletter (which alone demands a huge amount of reading/watching/researching), being always on twitter, Margaret’s podcast, participating in other podcasts and newsletters, and so on. On top of it all, as far as I know, you have your regular jobs, and probably other projects I am not familiar with. And probably even a life outside of the internet!

My point is: you guys do so much and you do it so well, and I am wondering if you have any tips for someone who is trying to do a lot and constantly feels like she’s failing at it.

For context, I have a 9-to-5 job as a journalist that pays the bills, a website + podcast about TV, and a profound desire to read/watch All The Things and talk about them. I am fortunate to have a group of friends (who run the website + podcast with me) who have similar urges and with whom I have great conversations about All The Things. And yet I am constantly feeling like I’d want to take on more ~projects~ (like say a place where I can write for myself, like a blog or a newsletter) at the same time that I feel like I am wasting time I could be putting into improving skills for my Actual Career. I keep struggling with how to combine both things (I work at a Serious Newspaper and both jobs don’t really intersect), how to balance the time I put into both or how to find energy for one when the other is taking up so much of me.

My question is not only about useful organization tips (Dame Sophie introduced me to Bullet Journal this year and I am loving it!), but also about how you decide what new ideas you’ll take on, how you prioritize your various projects, and how you deal with the fact that while you might want to, you’ll never be able to Do All The Things. Because, well, no one does, and I don’t care how many times people hit me with the “You have as many hours in your day as Beyoncé/Lin-Manuel Miranda/A Really Hard-Working Successful Person!” motivational shit that honestly only makes me more depressed about how I’m wasting my life away.

In summary, I would love to hear more about your own experiences combining the many different aspects of your lives.

Thank you! And best wishes,
All The Things Abby

Dear Abby,
(See what I did there? Oh, the cleverness of me!) 

First off, AMEN to sweeping aside that garbagey, guilt-inducing “you have the same number of hours in the day as Beyonce & Lin” nonsense. You know what else Beyonce & Lin have? A STAFF. (Lin tweeted this very week about the team of Linterns who are helping him deal with multiple IKEA bags of fan mail!) As a fellow parent with a full-time job, I particularly appreciate how Lin has been very open about having an assistant, how his Dad drives him lots of places and accompanies him on work trips, and the help he & Vanessa have with their son. Nobody does everything, all the time, without help, and we should all be as clear-eyed about this as you are.

Wanting to Do All The Things is a very common problem among creative, ambitious types, and I’ll be the first to tell you that you’re right, it’s impossible! You can’t! It’s fine! Making decisions to do some things is also making decisions not to do other things. I am deep in what I’m calling a Joyous Shruggie phase. Imagine this guy ¯\_(ツ)_/¯ twirling around a hilltop, all Fraulein Maria-style. That’s me, every time I remind myself I can’t do everything and life is short. It’s very freeing to decide that I’m just not going to play Pokemon Go, for example, and will instead let the considerable joy my friends have in it wash over me while I do some other thing. (This week, that thing is reading UPROOTED, by Naomi Novik, please come find me on Twitter to join in some sylvan magicks lady fantasy yelling.)

Let me suggest that based on your description of yourself, you are already A Really Hard-Working Successful Person, Ms. Serious Journalist With Great Friends Who Share Your Interests. There’s nothing like a personal inventory drafted for an advice column to hold a mirror up to yourself, eh? Please be assured, you are both crushing it and killing it.

But! If you’re having a hard time getting to that magnificently freeing Joyous Shruggie place, here are some tactics that may help you as you decide on Side Project 2K16:

  • Think through your priorities. Which do you think will be the most important for the next couple of years: developing skills you know will be useful for meeting your current career goals, or working on a passion project that may (or may not) yield alternate paid work opportunities and help you develop skills that could take you in a different career direction? After you’ve thought about this for a bit, do this forced choice priority planning exercise. This is a tool I’ve used in both small and large work departments, and my husband & I even used it successfully in our house hunt years ago. How do your mulled-over priorities compare with the results you got from the worksheet

  • Consider your new project as a pilot project. Give yourself a time frame -- a few months, a year -- and re-evaluate. If what you’re doing isn’t working, retool/renavigate/reboot or make an executive decision & quit it to do something else. This is not failure, this is giving yourself time and space to choose to do other things.

  • Give yourself freedom to be crap, and also to stop. Two Bossy Dames is good because we’d both been working our way towards doing something this good for years. But not everything we do in these pixel pages is a triumphant success, and even sometimes when it is, we give ourselves permission to stop doing things that aren’t working for us anymore so we have time to do other things (RIP This Week In Hamilton, back one more last time in honor of it being A Bit Of A Week for the show). Watch yourself for fatigue and fading interest, and make changes as needed.

  • As we’ve recommended before, get yourself a great partner. Working in a partnership makes each of us feel responsible to each other, keeps week-to-week structural tasks moving smoothly, and prompts us to be honest about when we need breaks. This newsletter is time consuming, it does require a great deal of effort and expertise. We appreciate you noticing! It’s also a lot of fun, because we write something each week that is the kind of newsletter we would enjoy and tell our friends to subscribe to. Two Bossy Dames yields both tangible and intangible benefits for each of us, and for Dames Nation, too. Chances are good that your project will fall somewhere in this sweet spot. Or maybe your sweet spot is simpler & less amorphous than ours. If so, great!

  • Listen to Note To Selfs month-long series on starting a major project, Taking The Lead. It’s about two women, Rachael Ellison and Leslie Ali Walker, and their journey towards developing an app “to help harried working mothers who still want to rise up in their professional ranks.” I think it’s super-valuable listening for anyone who has a job and a dream, regardless of their parenting status. (I have many more thoughts about it, too, but they aren’t germane to your particular question!)

I hope this has been helpful! May the Joyous Shruggie guide you well to your next thing! Let us know how it goes!

Dame Sophie

We believe in you, tiger!

Dame Sophie’s Idiosyncratic Snack Tray of Linky Goodness

We’ll get to this in a just a moment. Patience, lambchops.

  • You may be relieved to know that the remainder of 2016 is cancelled. You may also require a more continuing self-care as societies around the world appear to crumble to dust (let’s talk about the nightmare unfolding in Venezuela, shall we? And hey also Turkey?? WHEEEE.). If so, Another Round re-ran their self-care episode, full of good ideas & jumping-off points, and The Unfriendly Black Hotties had some characteristically smart things to say this week about the distinction between self-soothing and self-care. In addition to doing practical things my future self will thank me for, I’m also a big fan of girding my mental loins via humor, so here’s God creating animals, and I’ve got one more hilarious, soul-nourishing doozy for you coming up next.

  • Remember last week, when we all had a good chuckle over the sorting quizfor a True & Correct (i.e. not endorsed by JK Rowling) North American School of Witchcraft & Wizardry? Over the weekend, I learned that the same beautiful genius who created Eaglecrest, Tumblr-er sashayed, has also developed the greatest Star Wars fan theory of our time, namely: Boba Fett is a lesbian. Search your feelings, you know this to be true, as true as (spoiler for The Empire Strikes Back) Vader being Luke & Leia’s father. As you may imagine, some Star Wars fans got real mad about Boba Fett’s lesbianism, trying to “fact check” it and “well #actually” it and they are just missing the whole, entire point, which is that Boba Fett is a lesbian. QED! Please enjoy the archives of the tag Boba Fett is a Lesbian 2k16, which tell the tale of sashayed’s struggles to educate the world and bring a little fan-based, subversive joy into all our lives.

  • Speaking of subversion! From the archives of my Facebook three years ago, all my friends and I loudly & enthusiastically agreed that Dirty Dancing is a subversive feminist masterpiece. This is the piece of media that really woke me up to the dangers of illegal abortion, and while my mother was mildly horrified to learn of this plot point when she asked my friend Jen & I how we liked the movie after picking us up at the multiplex, she did take me to a major abortion rights rally on Washington the next year. Thanks, Mom! (And if you’ve ever wondered, hmmm, how did Irish kids of the 90s relate to Dirty Dancing? the charming podcast Juvenalia has your answer.) (PPS if you long for more of that Dirty Dancing-style Catskills in the 60s vibe, but with a more melancholy plot about impossibly beautiful adults, try A Walk On The Moon.)

  • What would my music discovery, sharing & enjoyment life be without Spotify? BuzzFeed ran a highly compelling profile of the genius playlist artisans (at Apple & Google Play Music, home of Songza, of blessed memory) who keep our workouts at peak effectiveness & our weekend lounging maximally chill. (h/t our beloved #girlgang co-instigatorAllybro!)

  • Finally, five years ago this week, thanks to the good offices of Heather & Jessica at Go Fug Yourself, the world learned that Matt Lewis can wear the hell out of a three-piece suitHot. Damn.

Animal cruelty, amirite?  

Dame Margaret Feels A Strange Stirring Within Herself, And Also Some Other Things:

"[Incoherent noises of profound longing.]" - Dame M.

  • I caught an early screening of Ghostbusters last night and, in addition to being newly convinced that longtime #Damescrush Kate McKinnon is the front of a secret (and highly effective) lesbian recruitment campaign, I was nearly moved to tears by a throwaway shot of a bust of Harold Ramis. I wish I could say that this was because of a particular attachment to his work, but it isn’t-- I’m woefully unfamiliar with much of his work, as 1975-1998 is my cinematic blindspot. No, instead it was because of the wonderful essay his daughter Violet wrote about him, and her complicated feelings about the remake. The remake is a delight-- a bit sloppy in places, but extremely funny, warm, and goofy. You will be glad you went to see it. Based on Violet’s words, I think Harold would have liked it. I certainly hope that Violet and her daughter did.

  • ​This is a weird gem that Facebook’s nifty memories feature coughed up a couple of weeks ago, one that I have just been LONGING to share with you all. It’s an essay by Wes Anderson about how, as a brand-new baby director, he hosted a private screening of RUSHMORE for famed film critic Pauline Kael, then a gorgeously ornery old lady living in Western Massachusetts. Her initial reactions to the film included (1) asking Wes Anderson ''Did the people who gave you the money read the script?'' and (2) informing him that ''Wes Anderson is a terrible name for a movie director.” It’s a wonderful look at two of our favorite weirdos.

  • And finally, PLEASE READ this profile on Hillary Clinton by Ezra Klein, hands-down the most important thing I have read this week. It takes on the question of why Clinton is beloved by her staff, colleagues, and other politicians, but distrusted and disliked by so much of the American public, and it answers the question incisively, with many anecdotes that have made me…. lose entirely whatever chill I once had about getting to vote for her in November. She could be our first HERMIONE GRANGER PRESIDENT and I am just… a bit giddy at the thought of it all.

"[a sound that's maybe choking and maybe sobbing but you can't quite tell and you don't particularly want to get any closer to find out.]" - Dame M.


This Week in Hamilton

History has its tear-filled eyes on youuuuuu

In light of Lin, Pippa, Leslie, and Daveed leaving the show, we thought we'd throw you another round-up. We loved you, Original Cast! We can't wait to meet you, New and Touring Casts!!