In June 2010, my husband Dave and I drove from San Francisco to Lake Tahoe to Sun Valley to Glacier National Park to Banff, Canada, to Port Townsend, Washington, to Portland and Grants Pass, Oregon, to Redding, California and back home to Sausalito. Long road trips are fun because we can fill our trunk with goodies, stop whenever we get inspired, gaze at mind-boggling scenery, scope out teeny retro towns, and hike on mountain trails. We made few reservations, found great B&B's on our laptops. The greatest reward of travel is to be in places that are unfamiliar and not taken for granted.
I tend to fall asleep when people engage in small talk for too long. I found out why after reading this article in Scientific American Mind: "Feeling down? Having a stimulating conversation might help. Researchers at the University of Arizona and Washington University in St. Louis used recording devices to track the conversations of 79 students over the course of four days. They then counted the conversations and determined how many were superficial versus substantive, based on whether the information exchanged was banal (“What do you have there? Pop corn?”) or meaningful (“She fell in love with your dad? So, did they get divorced soon after?”). CONCLUSION: The happiest subjects participated in a third as much small talk and had twice as many in-depth conversations as the most unhappy participants.
Recently, I had a handbag epiphany. A loud inner voice shouted: Cris, stop putting dark-colored items into your purse. No black! For years, I'd spent time fumbling around in my purse, looking for my wallet, readers, sunglasses, make-up, camera—hard to find because they were in brown, navy and black cases. The inside of my purse looked like a dank, creepy cave. Now almost everything in it is vibrant: bright yellow, hot orange, neon green, lava red, and hip turquoise. I've simplified my purse life. I'm wearing more colorful clothes, too.
I adore books on neuroscience and the new psychology of unconscious decision-making: Sway, Predictably Irrational, How We Decide, and The Hidden Brain. I also watch lots of 20-minute videos from Ted.com. Below is a video about choosing things:
Sheena Iyengar looks deeply at choosing and has discovered many surprising things about it. For instance, her famous "jam study," done while she was a grad student, quantified a counterintuitive truth about decision-making, that when we're presented with too many choices, like 24 varieties of jam, we tend not to choose anything at all. This and other ingenious experiments have provided rich material for Malcolm Gladwell and other pop chroniclers of the human psyche. If this brainy video captivates you, go to my website BrainBiases.com for more.
Half of my wardrobe is recycled duds. Why would I stoop to wear other people's clothes when I can afford expensive clothes? Three excellent reasons: I like how the more organized thrift stores arrange by color. I love playing with colors, different shades of the same color. I love buying cheap because I can quickly toss items that were mistakes without feeling guilty. Finally, recycling is the green, caring, smart thing to do. When I'm on-the-road, I visit lots of new thrift stores. By the way, Dave buys all of his Hawaiian shirts from the Human Society Thrift Store on Kauai—so guys, this tip is for you, too!
Birth and death, profit and loss, success and failure, health and sickness—
these qualities are the world in its constant transformations.
Day in and day out, they vanish into each other before our very eyes,
and we don’t know where they come from.
The Master maintains her balance whichever opposite she enters.
She lets things go through their changes and stays focused on what is real.
She is like the ocean: though there are waves on the surface,
in its depths there is perfect calm.