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Why You Need To Make a List of What You Need

September 15, 2016
what do you need

A few weeks ago my therapist asked me what I feel like I need.


It’s a weird question out of context. Not what do you need for this session? Or what do you need to get through this work week? or what do you need to really feel like your wardrobe is complete? (solid brown leather belt, black cashmere crew neck). Just what do you feel like you need?

We talk a lot about self care and I had a feeling this was part of that whole minefield I can’t quite seem to figure out (it’s crystals and good mani/pedi, no?).

Apparently if you’re going to try to take care of yourself then you need to figure out what your self needs.


Apparently it’s specific, not universal (beyond the crystals and mani/pedis, of course). Seems simple enough.

I spent the following week working on my little list. I thought I’d use moments where I was having a strong emotion and try to figure out what would help me better deal with those emotions. We need self care when we’re emotional, right? So maybe my emotional moments would be a path to information on what I need to feel not bad?

Conveniently last week featured some super annoying emotions. I performed at some storytelling shows and was nervous. I hosted some storytelling shows and was anxious. I’m trying to produce a storytelling show in New York and it’s making me frustrated. Then typical writing struggles, industry struggles, loud neighbor annoyances, pulled-a-muscle-in-my-neck shit kept popping up. This is all on top of the fact that I’m feeling stuck, creatively, and nothing slows my roll quite like that.

Anyway by the end of the week I had a list that looked like this:



more space to work/think

quieter space to work/think

better sources of inspiration?

more time to work/think

Less focus on how other people think I should work/think

Distance from constant focus on what everyone else is doing


[Side note: guys do you think I’m doing enough focusing on working and thinking? Feels light, but I dunno. Please address in comments]

I was proud of my little list. To me the headline was: time, space, calm, distance. Makes sense. I am, above all, frustrated and I historically deal with that by muscling my way through with a series of action items that include everything from rearrange writing schedule to better accommodate space/time to more mani/pedis.

But do you see the theme? Beyond the work/think obsession, what’s the common thought here?


Shut the doors. Wall off the world. Please everyone just stop Instagramming so I can think about how I can get unfrustrated by thinking and working really hard in a tiny bubble all by myself.

It’s painfully obvious, but I didn’t see it – until I got so frustrated last Friday that I couldn’t get a single thing done and so I cried, a lot. This never happens. So much so that my dog started running around the house barking in a panic.

And then, because I cried, I got delivered something that I actually needed: supportConnection. Someone else.


R listened and asked questions and listened more and said I wish I’d known you were feeling this way. I got the chance to say a lot of things out loud that I’d just been saying and then squashing in my head over and over again. It was helpful to hear myself say those things and to hear another person react, honestly. But, I think most importantly, it was so, so nice to step outside the tiny bunker where I was hiding and trying to fix everything so I could emerge triumphant, with a fresh mani/pedi.

On Saturday morning I made a new list:



More comfort expressing how I’m feeling

Practice asking for help

I didn’t throw out my old list because I wouldn’t have the new one if not for the first. And I do think there’s merit to the need for retreat from time to time. That is my OG style and I’m not going to shed it because of one good cry.

But short, very-personal-story short – it’s nice to make yourself a list of what you need. Keep it somewhere so you can add and subtract things. Maybe check it when you’re feeling out of whack? Because I think the real lesson here is that we have these needs, as we should. And the sooner we can figure them out, honor them and go get them met the sooner we can get back to regularly scheduled mani/pedis that aren’t responsible for making everything better. (Though if you’re stuck in that spot, and girl I get it, try DND #419). It really brightens the mood.


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