When life decides to kick me in the teeth, I spend a couple of days having a pity party. Binge-watching something, wearing pajamas all day, eating a lot, and drinking martinis are an excellent respite from life when you need one. The best part of those activities is that doing them in excess for more than two days starts to feel disgusting. They have a definite endpoint.

Once you crawl out of the sludge, you peer cautiously around and think, “Well now what the fuck do I do?” I tell you what you do—some reinvention. Valleys in life are created specifically to give us time and space to reset. You don’t have to view it this way of course. But the alternative is to wallow in it, convincing yourself that NOTHING will EVER be good again and GOD why does my life continue to be such SHIT? Because you keep telling yourself it is, that’s why. Anyway, I’m not Oprah, so let’s leave the pep talk. If you’re having a run of bad luck and want to press the reset button, here’s how to do it. If you don’t, go read Nietzsche.

paul rudd reading

Step One: Prepare

*Clear a large space on a table or desk, or the floor if you’re one of those weirdos who likes squatting.

*Get a big-ass pad of paper like this one I stole from my children. Or one of those giant Post-It pads that you can stick on the wall.

–Some of you may say, “What about a white board?” I say pffftt to your white board. You can erase things on a white board and that’s not what we’re going for here.–

*Gather up a whole mess of pens and markers. Sharpies, ballpoints, gels, markers – the wider variety of style and color, the better. Use a different one for each step in the process. It will help delineate your thinking and make it easier to absorb when you look at it from afar.

Step Two: Set the mood

*Put on some music. You’re looking for something inspiring, with a little bit of kick-ass thrown in. But not so distracting that you can’t think. Obviously this is entirely subjective; if listening to Kenny G makes you want to take over the world, put that shit on. (And message me, because you are an unusual human specimen.) If you’re lazy, god bless you and play this.

Step Three: Start simple

What problem are you trying to solve? Sounds logical, but determine that first. It’s easy for your mind to clutter up with 1,000 different thoughts and worries, especially when you’re depressed or upset. So shove all the clutter to the side for a minute and think about what needs fixing and what you want to achieve. Fill in the blank: I want to _______. Find a new job, start a company, change a key relationship, improve an aspect of your personality – just a few of the options you have. Whatever you come up with, write it large in a bright color at the top of the page. Whenever your thinking gets stuck, look back up at that.

Step Four: Construct the ideal skeleton

Go mad-libs and write down a bunch of words that describe the ideal construct of your goal. If you want a new job, come up with a list of attributes for the ideal one. If you’re aiming to improve your marriage, write the adjectives that describe a happy relationship. Take a stream-of-consciousness approach to this and don’t cross anything out (hence why we’re not using a white board.) If you wrote it down, it means something to the process, even if it may seem incongruous at the moment.

Step Five: Add on the squishy stuff

Now that you’ve determined the black and white, let’s visit the internal hippie for a moment. Think passions and values. What’s important to you? What makes your heart aflutter? Facebook comes in handy for this—what do you post incessantly about to the point that everyone around you wants to scream? Write that down. A few of mine: writing, politics, women’s issues, my children, Texas, and music. Oh and Wonder Woman.

 Go a little broader with values, approaching it like you’re running for office. Equality, freedom, community, independence, etc.

 Step Six: Imagine the end-game

 What are you hoping the results of this reinvention will be? Come up with three or four things you can imagine happening when you fill in your blank. A couple of mine were financial independence and overcoming my fear of offending people (which is a *whole* other post).

 Step Seven: Underline!

I know, you’ve been waiting for this one. There’s nothing like a good underlining session. At this point, you should have a couple of pages covered with words and phrases. If you don’t, you’re doing it wrong. Go read through the steps again. Jesus. Slacker.

Now take one of your boldest brightest markers and start underlining those words/phrases that are:

-Most relevant to your goal

-Most likely to help you achieve your goal

-Attributes you want associated with your goal

Step Eight: Go have a drink

If you’re anything like me, you have a short attention span and you’re bored with all this introspection. Put the markers down and the paper in a safe place. Go make yourself a drink. Part two can wait until tomorrow.

Enters the room by kicking the door down. Obnoxious Austinite. Conflicted Texan. Writer. Procuress. Sot.