Not actually about chocolate

By Mir
January 3, 2011
Category Growing

So. I told you that I went ahead and made a vision board this year, and I am simultaneously eager to share and feeling weirdly shy about it all, like maybe I will try to explain why it was so awesome and you’ll be all, “And? You… made a collage. Welcome to the arts and crafts shack, Mir, and next week we might let you churn your own ice cream.”

There are people who insist I must be a creative person because I’m a writer, and those people make me laugh, because when I think of creative I think of people who are WAY LESS TYPE-A than I am. Creative people go with the flow! They are in tune with the universe! They do not shriek at their children to PICK UP THIS MESS and hyperventilate when the week’s dinner plan is somehow thrown off course. Creative people are ZEN. Or so I tend to believe, anyway.

I am not Zen. I am most often the polar opposite of Zen. I am the person bitching at Zen, asking why it’s always LATE and why can’t it just HANG UP ITS COAT and why can’t it just CALL if plans change? Yeah.

In short, I believed that making vision boards is an activity for people who already know what they want and how to pursue it. But desperate times and all of that; I knew that I was sorely in need of at least an ATTEMPT to have a little chat with myself about, well, me.

2010 wasn’t the worst year of my life, not by a longshot. A lot of stuff happened that was hard, yes. Plenty of what we went through as a family I would’ve changed in a heartbeat, if I could’ve, absolutely. But I am not so tunnel-visioned as to believe we have it so awful. In many ways, I am incredibly lucky.

But what I realized, as I thought about undertaking this exercise, is that everyone I talked to about vision boards spoke of what they wanted to bring to fruition in their lives. It’s about focusing your energy on what you want. It’s about knowing your goal and making it central to your consciousness. These were the sorts of things people say. And the more I read about it and talked to people about it, the more I realized that what happens to me when times are tough is that I just… stop wanting. I go from crisis to crisis, wanting only what will fix the immediate issue, and never thinking beyond it.

When Otto says to me, “What would you do, if you could do anything?” my answer is invariably, “I have no idea.”

And that was why I decided to do the board, because—whether or not I pass the litmus test (whatever it may be) for being a “creative person”—the notion that I’ve become someone who no longer dreams scares the hell out of me. When did that happen? That’s not who I want to be; that’s not what I want to model for my kids, and not who my husband deserves.

Karen advised me to gather up some magazines, put on some good music, and just… start cutting stuff out.

On New Year’s Eve Day I went out for groceries in anticipation of the kids’ return later that day. While I stood in the checkout line, I marveled at how many of the available magazines were about celebrities and/or alien abductions. But I flipped through a few things and finally selected a Family Circle and an Oprah magazine to add to my little stash of magazines here at home. I want you to know that IT PAINED ME to give Oprah my money, but an image caught my eye as I flipped through, and I had to have it. (I remain ashamed, however.)

I came home and put the groceries away. Then I gathered up my magazines, my board, my scissors and my glue, and I sat down with them on the couch. I put on some good music and started browsing and cutting.

I made two piles: Whole pages I ripped out, and individual items I carefully cut out. After I’d worked my way through my stack of magazines (I think I had six), I started laying out pieces on my board, and then glued them down in layers.

Here’s the part where it gets a little woo-woo: I didn’t have a plan or an idea. I just cut out what caught my eye. And I didn’t end up using everything I cut out, but I ended up with… exactly what I needed.

Here it is (click here to see a bigger version if you want to check out the detail):

The big black-and-white face on the right was the reason I bought the Oprah magazine. I liked her; she looks peaceful to me. And most of the stuff I cut out was no real mystery; obviously my family is important to me. Obviously a Scrabble board featuring desirable attributes would appeal. Putting the dancing couple in the middle of a map that features places like Trust Street and Peace-of-Mind Highway is not exactly a mystery message.

The woo-woo came in when I was about two-thirds through and trying to decide if I really wanted to sully my “serious” project with the exhortation “don’t skip dessert.” I’d cut it out because it made me laugh. But did it belong on my board?

And that’s when I got it.

I skip dessert. I don’t know the answer to the “what would you do if you could do anything?” question because my response to stress and uncertainty is to clamp down, shut off everything except what I need to be completely practical, and stop wanting.

I don’t just skip dessert; I don’t even think about dessert. Dessert ceases to exist in my world.

And friends, I don’t want to keep living in a world without dessert.

I think that maybe the way I get the calm and the magic and the hope that I put on that board is by remembering that no matter how hard things get, it’s okay to have dessert. To have joy. To open up. To put the day aside and FEEL SOMETHING that may not be entirely practical. To be me; me the PERSON, not me the mother or me the writer or whatever other role I think I’m supposed to fill.

I finished my board, sealed it, and made Otto hang it up for me over my desk, here. All of the words and images on it mean something to me. But more than anything, I look at “don’t skip dessert” and think that in 2011—no matter what else happens—I may just remember how to dream, after all.


  1. Karen

    SO.. what are you making for dessert tonight?

  2. Mrs. D.

    Never skip dessert!

    And I laughed too at the writer=creative because there is this assumption that creative is carefree. I, too, am a writer, but am anything but carefree. I am an OCD uber-planner. On the one hand, I think that to be a successful writer who works from home, you HAVE to be OCD in some ways or you’d never get your work done. And there is the whole aspect of writing being a puzzle – you have to collect all the pieces of a written work and assemble them in a way that makes sense, right?

    But at the same time, I have lost my ability to be spontaneous and I miss it. I think that will be one of my goals for 2011 – regain the spontaneity!

  3. amy turn sharp

    you are going to have a lot of fun in 2011 – dreaming is ace. xo happy new year.

  4. Annie Mouse

    “I skip dessert. I don’t know the answer to the “what would you do if you could do anything?” question because my response to stress and uncertainty is to clamp down, shut off everything except what I need to be completely practical, and stop wanting.

    I don’t just skip dessert; I don’t even think about dessert. Dessert ceases to exist in my world.”

    Thank you. This is exactly what I’ve been struggling to express to my partner when he asks why I make certain choices. Wanting feels dangerous.

  5. Randi

    I LIKE IT! That’s a really cool idea – and yeah, it would pain me to give money to Oprah too. I swore that we’d never get her new OWN network – turns out our DirecTV package includes it. DANG IT!

  6. Leandra

    Ooh, i love this. I wish I’d done this with the kids over the holidays b/c BOY did we need some activities. But maybe we can do it this weekend.

  7. navhelowife

    Wishing you a year of virtual (or real) desserts, including brownies, cakes, ice cream, and whatever else keeps you in the land of dreamers.

  8. Mamadragon

    I love it. I loved the Scrabble board the most at first, and then I looked again and I liked the hammock the most, and then I liked the woman with the wild hair behind the ampersand….

    I think this is one of those things where you will find different parts taking on new significance throughout the year. Within a few weeks “Don’t skip dessert” will not be so meaningful, but some other part will take on personal meaning and you’ll focus on that for a while. It will be interesting to see how the meaning evolves for you over the year.

  9. Mom24@4evermom

    I started reading this, somewhat skeptical, in a good for you, but a little “out there” for me way, and by the end, I completely got it. Good for you, definitely would be good for me. Thank you for making me think outside my box. Good luck remembering not to skip dessert this year.

  10. Jenn

    I read your writing in a few places so I’ve heard about this vision board a couple of times and always thought, “that’s nice for her.” And now I’m thinking, “hey, this could be nice for me.” I’m on the edge of passing up a project I’ve always dreamed of because it doesn’t seem to fit my family now. And I’m not sure what I’m left with or what to focus on. Or whether to bite the bullet and make it work. I’m proud of you for diving into the Woo. Thanks for leading the way. Happy New Year!

  11. missing the mom jean

    Outstanding! I’ve heard of the vision boards before and have always wanted to do one. Instead (and being a bit lazy about it) I use post-it notes about my office with little uplifting sayings I come across. I especially love your scrabble board. Good job!

  12. Jennifer

    I skip dessert. I don’t know the answer to the “what would you do if you could do anything?” question because my response to stress and uncertainty is to clamp down, shut off everything except what I need to be completely practical, and stop wanting.

    I don’t just skip dessert; I don’t even think about dessert. Dessert ceases to exist in my world.

    And friends, I don’t want to keep living in a world without dessert.


  13. Sheila

    In 2011, it may also to be helpful to remember that sometimes, it is OK to have dessert FIRST.

    (Or is that just crazy talk?)

    Thanks for sharing your vision, and your revelations. You are one of the most generous people I “know, ” and I look forward to another year of you making me laugh, sometimes cry, and always think more deeply about things.

  14. My Kids Mom

    I disagree. Every Thursday you spend a moment enjoying the dessert of family life. You tell us about the bad things, the stressful things and the things that make you angry… and then you tell us what reminds you to step back and appreciate the love. Love Thursdays are good for all of us, and certainly qualify as dessert. Add a bite of chocolate to those Love Thursdays and you’ll be all set.

  15. Angela

    Very cool, Mir! And I LOVE Dar Williams. :)

  16. Valerie

    Thanks for this post! What a great vision! It reminded me of a quote that I had seen on a book store magnet about six months ago. I had been meaning to get crafty and display it prominently in my house. The quote is a little twist on Otto’s question; and here it is:

    “What would you attempt to do if you knew you could not fail?”

    Fear of failing is probably the biggest obstacle in our lives. Think of what could be accomplished without the fear of failing? Oh, the possibilities…

  17. Jan in Norman, OK

    Amen! (This is what my therapist calls being the “benefactress” of one’s own efforts. I think I like “Don’t skip dessert” better.)

  18. Sharon

    Guess I should figure out why I am crying about this eh?

    Thanks Mir!

  19. MomCat

    Excellent! I’m going to come back and look at this post whenever I am feeling down this year.

  20. elz

    I never skip dessert. Ever. It’s sort of my mantra. I love the idea of a vision board. But, right now I feel a little bit like Buffy after the defeating the Mayor ascended into a big lizard “Fire -bad, tree-pretty.” (Yes, I use Buffy the Vampire Slayer references for my life analogies, what of it?!).

  21. JennyM

    Wow. I tend to (unjustly, I’m a cynical b*tch, I know) roll my eyes at this sort of thing. But there’s a tiny part of me, deeply buried, that knows I used to be a Creative Person and this is something that maybe I should do, for some of the same reasons. “If you could do anything, what would you do?” I have no idea, and who the hell doesn’t know what they would do if they could do anything? And here’s the thing — the reason I haven’t done one of these? It sounds so stupid to actually articulate it, but here it is: I don’t know what I’d put on it. And I *know* that’s the whole point and it’s an *exercise* and you’re not supposed to *think* about it, just do it and see where it takes you, etc. But thinking is what I *do*! It terrifies me to think about (ha) not thinking, and seeing where it takes me. Because WHAT THEN? What if I don’t like what it tells me? Or, worse still, what if I… can’t do it? What if I end up with nothing?

    I realize I’m veering into crazytalk, and that it’s some indication of how badly I need to get my mind and my inner life back on the rails that just writing a comment to a blog post about this makes me feel like I’m getting hives.

    Maybe seeing that someone I imagine is similarly type-A did this and found some value and meaning in it is the nudge I need to try a little self-reflection.

    And maybe it’s time for me to find a therapist. Geez. Well, I think I may have just started to work through something here. Thanks, Mir!

  22. Helloheather

    This is one of the top most inspiring posts of yours I have ever read. I LOVE this. Thank you for spelling it out. Thank you for sharing it. I want to make a vision board now. I need to make a vision board. I spent most of 2010 slogging through life with a newborn, post partum depression, sorta kinda probably regular old depression, a preschooler maybe quite possibly a little bit on the spectrum, and, and, and… I want to focus. And also, now I want to do an art project. :)

    Thank you, Mir, for writing this blog. I’ve read it for years and years. I’ve occasionally commented, but not very often. But I have appreciated what you’ve put out there. Thanks.

  23. Aimee

    Now I want to make a vision board. My husband and I have mantras that we use for our screenwriting and what we want to make happen, but I think having a visual representation might be even better.

    Do NOT forget what dessert is, young lady! Either literally, or metaphorically.

    BTW, I luuuuuuuuuurve Dar Williams, and Out There Live in particular. I can’t think of better music by which to build a vision board.

  24. Heidi

    “my response to stress and uncertainty is to clamp down, shut off everything except what I need to be completely practical, and stop wanting.”

    Come to find out, that’s how I deal with grief; I shift into survival mode. Then a lovely little thought floats into my head – allow the flow. Deep breath, shoulders down, another deep breath. Another lovely little thought floats in – in sorting through the grief, I’ve been focusing on the past. Now, what do I want to create for myself for the future?

    I’ve never been a new-year-new-start kinda person, but I’m welcoming the shift this year!

  25. Karen

    Wow. What Jennifer said. What Sharon said. What Helloheather said.

    Thanks for this, really.

  26. Debbi

    First, HUGE Dar Williams fans in my house! We have met her a few times when she was just starting out, she is just wonderful! And her music is filled with so many great stories/advice.

    The board is such a great idea, I will be working on one with my son. I think we need it after the year we had. Thank you so much for the inspiration! and for sharing.

    Wishing you a WONDERFUL 2011 !!! you deserve it.

  27. Kendra

    Well, girl, you’ve already set the wheels in motion…I made a vision board once and it was what i “thought” i should put on there (as a budding health coach) instead of what I ENVISIONED. Having that one phrase, “don’t skip dessert” did a lot to tweak your awareness about things you don’t allow yourself to have (dessert, to start…gasp!).

    Go out there and be a little more “gluttonous” with your life!

    (p.s. I still haven’t sent out christmas gifts, because I suck like that)

  28. Tracy B

    I haven’t done a vision board in years. I think I’m gonna drag out the magazines and glue and get busy. It’s a great remindered and even better goal setter! I have alot of expectation for 2011. I’ll be praying for all us that it exceeds our dreams! Happy New Year, Mir!!!

  29. Katie in MA

    So it sounds like you DO want to come back next week and learn how to churn your own ice cream. :) Good on you, Mir. I think that’s a lovely dream to kick off a motivational dream-cycle!

  30. Tara (Do These Kids Make Me Look Crazy?)


    I would like to write some pithy, chipper-sounding comment about how awesome your vision board is. But honestly, I’m just a little jealous. I found your blog a few days ago after my husband informed me ON CHRISTMAS DAY that he’s been planning to divorce me. I googled, “blogs about divorce” or some other related phrase and this blog came up. Um, did you know there’s not very many blogs that chronicle a divorce? (I plan to write one, and have started, but it’s too ridiculous to actually share right now. I have to get past the whole “pathetic woman who was dumped on Christmas day” stage). So, anyhow, I come here and now you’re all remarried and happy-ish and other words that I wasn’t prepared to read.

    Okay, that was a vent, and yes, I am glad that you’re not all broken and weird like I am right now. I’ll come back, but I’m going to be secretly giving you dirty looks when you write, “Woot!”.

    Just so we’re clear.

  31. laura

    Well done! I think motherhood takes the spontaneity out of some of us. My head is so full of everyone else’s stuff, when I have the brain space or extra time on my hands it’s so much easier to do nothing. I like the idea of having a visual reminder for those times when it’s easier to shut down than branch out.

  32. Dsilkotch

    1. Mir, I love your vision board! It is beautiful and inspiring.

    2. Tara, that is horrific, I am so sorry. What kind of douchebag ends his marriage on Christmas day?? You can read my story if you want, it didn’t start out as a divorce blog but it turned into one around March of ’08. I’m a big oversharer, so my ‘broken and weird’ stage is out there for the world to see. This I know: it gets better. Just keep walking until you get back into the light. I’m sending healing thoughts to you and your kids.

  33. happyfamilytravels

    I love the idea of a vision board but I can’t ever bring myself to actually do it…weird, huh?

    So glad you made yours though and think it’s so cool how you subconsciously came to the “skipping dessert” thing! Just love it!

    Good luck with your board and Happy 2011!!

  34. Ashlee

    That is a great vision board!

    A thought on creativity: I was reading Eugene Peterson’s Traveling Light and came across this. I wrote it down immediately, loving no longer having an excuse to not be creative. “I believe we are made in the image of God and that because God is a creator, we are creators . . . In Christ we are set free to create. He sets us free to live – toward God, with people, in the world – as artists, not as copiers. He sets us free to use the stuff that God gives us to live something original.”

    Your vision board is such a good example of this – living originally with God’s stuff:) I hope that makes sense and is a bit of an encouragement! I really appreciate your words here and am consistently encouraged and/or humored by you and your take on life. Thank you!

  35. Julie

    Love this! You’re inspiring me to make my own vision board ~ never done one before but I may just have to give it a try!!

  36. Amelia

    love, love.

    love it.

  37. Another Dawn

    Mmm…. dessert. Call me when it’s ready.


  38. Lisa

    Thank you for sharing this. I needed to see it. I want to tell you, I don’t know you, but I love you. Thank you. And that is all.

  39. Hally

    You somehow make the simple seem more beautiful and more meaningful. Thank you for sharing your special space with us. Chocolate is pretty good too!

  40. NTE

    I think this is an amazing post – and so much like my life that I almost skipped commenting because all I could think to say was “yes… yes; I get it.” Dessert – I stopped thinking in terms of dessert, and how can I live like that? Why is Zen such an intruder in my life instead of a welcome friend? Gah.. so much, so much. Thank you.

  41. Liza


    I have the exact same strong-confident-healthy scrabble board section IN THE UPPER LEFT CORNER of my vision board.

    And thanks to that moment of bizarre but delightful synchronicity with your brave post here, I will blog about and photograph mine tomorrow.

    We’re doing this. You and I are being strong, confident, and healthy in 2011. And all the other good stuff, too.

  42. Meri

    Thank you. I needed to read this right now.

  43. Brooke

    My mama always said “Life’s short, eat dessert first!”. :)

  44. Tanya

    Thanks to your post last week, I made a vision board. I wanted to write my own blog post about my experience before I read your post about your experience just so the lines wouldn’t be blurred. I’m glad I waited because I might have been tempted to just leave a link to your blog to say how I felt about it instead of putting myself out there with my own feelings about it. Does that make sense? Anyway, I love my vision board and it very possibly could turn into a life altering experience for me. Thanks for sharing.

  45. mamaspeak

    So glad you shared. You are such a good writer, your description epitomizes how I think a lot of mom’s feel. We tend to get lost in the shuffle, and then the kids leave & where are we? I strive not to do that, because my mom did that. She still is driving me a little crazy because she doesn’t get that I’m not an appendage of her. It took me till my 30’s to realize that myself. (I’m 43 now.) Doesn’t make it easier, doesn’t mean I don’t feel lost, but it does mean I know I need to make sure I don’t lose me in the process of all of this. Thanks for being able to articulate my feeling so well.

    Also, creative people are often the biggest control freak/perfectionists on earth. They usually aren’t very zen unless everything is exactly to their liking. ;-) Not that I would know anything about it.

  46. Sheryl

    My wanter has been broken for quite some time. Not sure why, but maybe I’ll make a vision board too.

  47. Katie

    “Dessert ceases to exist in my world.” This gave me chills. I completely get that.

    To Tara: big HUGS to you. Divorce is never pretty and especially if it wasn’t your idea.

  48. parodie

    That’s really cool, Mir. Thank you for sharing. It’s always interesting how other people’s insights can spark our own… I know that I often forget (or avoid) dreaming, something that I notice because I have a lot of trouble praying for things for me but no trouble praying for others. And I know both are important and necessary. Anyway – thank you.

  49. Lara

    Your vision board is beautiful! I liked the idea when I read about it in your earlier post but was a little skeptical. Thanks for sharing the journey and end result – it’s very inspiring. Going to give it a try myself :)

  50. Heather

    *sniffle* Very nice work! I have MEANT so many times to do a vision board – even going so fara s to cut things out, but I just never got to it. I think that I am scared to dream.

  51. Anna

    ((hugs)) Yes, Mir, you deserve this. I can identify with a lot of this. I panic and shut down and all that.

    I almost like the comments more. I’m not alone!!!

  52. Jen

    Thank you for this post. Just…thanks. You articulated what I’ve been feeling for so long was missing in my life. No hope for the future, no dreams, just survival. Just, get through this day, keep your child alive and as happy as possible, fold some laundry, go to bed, lather rinse repeat. This is a good reminder that all the things I’m facing in life right now, big scary things (trying to keep custody of my 2.75 yr old away from my abusive ex, getting said child assessed for language delays and possible spectrum disorder) will pass too, and it’s OKAY to have dreams. Helps that my non-verbal child said “I love you” to me this morning, clear as a bell. And asked for a hug. Now that I think about it, life is pretty damned good. Thanks Mir.

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