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E is for Everything
A home for design, media, policy, life and everything in between.
The ties of flesh, blood and love that bind❣️
Greetings and hugs from Chicago, everyone.

From Houston to Bangladesh to Niger, this past week was one of terrifying natural disasters and loss of life. My heart goes out to those who have lost loved ones and are working to piece their lives back together, including Kris Ford-Amofa and her husband Yaw Amofa.

This story from the New York Times walks you through the daunting challenges they face in the wake of Hurricane Harvey: keeping a growing family safe and fed, coping with the loss of a home you worked years to save for — all while trying to put the pieces back together as the bills stack up and your employer is beckoning you back to work.  

“I have no control over anything right now,” [Ms. Ford-Amofa] said, her voice rising in frustration. “I’ve never sat waiting for somebody to take care of me. I’ve always done it myself. Now, I have to wait all the time for somebody or something. I have to wait, wait, wait.”

The piece also shows how, through the kindness of family, friends and strangers, they are moving forward a step at a time.* This family’s story is powerful and one of so many I am sure you’re all reading.  

We are all connected
If the eclipse served as a reminder of how small we are in the universe last week, Mother Nature reminded us this week how small we are right here on our "pale blue dot". It is also a reminder that, the only way any of us can make it is together. After all, we’re all connected in very real, flesh and blood ways. As Alondra Nelson, president-elect of the Social Science Research Council, outlines in a video for The Atlantic, the ties that bind the human race together are now more easily identifiable now than they have ever been, helping answer “questions about the past” and re-weave broken threads.

Two sides to the negative coin

It can also be easy in these times to slip into complaints and negative thoughts. On the former, I’ll direct you to Kaya Oakes’s piece for On Being, in which she writes:  

“ it is with any complaining. Done in a group as a form of release, it can be healing. Done to God in prayer, it can lead to clarity. Done in literature, it can create characters we cleave to as readers, our literary kin. Done in excess, it can toxify an environment or lead to a habit of lording it over those much less powerful than we are." 

Goodness knows I can run a mean b*tch session for one, which often leaves me feeling guilty afterwards. Next time I find myself wanting to complain though, I’ll consider extending an invitation for others to vent as well.  

This is also a time when we might be prone to negative thinking, especially if, like me, you spent years training to be able to find the flaws in things — a dropped frame here, a falsehood there — and second-guess others’ intentions. One of the life skills I hope to cultivate before I leave this mortal coil is to think more positively.

As a child, I struggled with object permanence, thinking if I left on a trip my beloved toys would disappear while I was gone. Even today, I have to remind myself that the stories in my mind are nothing more than stories. Stanford’s Graduate School of Business shared five strategies from executive coach Shirzad Chamine for people who want to turn their negative thoughts around. My personal favorite was number three, recognizing all of the Saboteurs — the different forms in which your negative thoughts come to you. 

"Chamine says some of the world’s most outwardly successful people are ruled by their various Saboteurs. Using negative emotions as fuel to push them, they’ll ultimately fall short of their true potential, he says.”

Early in my career I tackled my work as if I were sprinting through an Iron Man. “I’ll sleep when I’m dead,” I’d tell myself. “If you’re not the best, what’s the point?” I’d intone. Oh, here’s my personal favorite, “Get some caffeine, get angry and get to work.”  

I was telling myself this nonsense well after my prefrontal cortex should have reached full development, and yet I kept trying to go faster. Eventually, like the caffeine, the anger burns you up and out, and you’re left wondering where all of your get-up-n-go has gone. You can’t help yourself in that state. More importantly, you can’t help anyone else. Positive energy really is the best fuel. 

A creative love of self
That leads me to this lovely piece on self marriage from Sophie Tanner for the BBC. In the piece, she describes her wedding where she wed ... herself.  

"Marrying myself has helped me to appreciate my own company, to make time for myself and, quite simply, to love myself. We all have days where we feel crappy about ourselves or tied in knots about something. I always go back to my vows and make a real effort to act on them and move on."

It's a creative act of self-care and celebration of those people who make your life rich and wonderful (it’s also very QE1).  

Meanwhile, Ralph Ammer, on Medium, has a lovely piece with some how-to-draw basics that really got my creative juices flowing:  

"The basic craft of drawing is about two things: you learn to control your hand and to see.” 

In a world of adult coloring books, there’s something to be said for making the lines yourself. I’ll end with this quote on creativity from Scotty Barry Kaufman, the scientific director of the Imagination Institute:  

"Creativity isn’t a singular personality trait, … It’s a way of being that requires being constantly open to spotting and engaging in new ideas and experiences, without the expectation that these experiences will lead to inspiration or immediate creative outcome.”

Have a beautiful long weekend, everyone. Let me know if you host a great complaint-and-draw session.


*If you are able to give, be sure to find a charity you trust.  
Thank you to my supporters!
Thank you, as always to my two largest supporters: Natalya Pemberton & Tim Karu
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Do you wish I'd shared something else? Please send me recommendations via Facebook, Twitter at @emikolawole, on Medium or reply directly to this e-mail. I will always and whenever possible give credit where it's due for great recommendations and inspiration. Have a great weekend!
Emi Kolawole · E is for Everything HQ · Palo Alto California 94306 · USA
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