And Counting

Chipped maroon nail polish, lukewarm black coffee, a clanking of the steam pipes waking up my frigid apartment – is this my life?

One, two, three.

It’s the end of 2021, we’ve made it – haven’t we? I was unsure it would be possible that we’d survive another year, flourish another year. We’ve been doing so much more than the 2020 “flourishing in our fishbowl” – there truly was an inconceivable moment where things felt mostly normal again. Very much a ‘party like it’s 2019’ aesthetic, am I right? It was sickeningly easy to get back in the groove; before the Earth shook again, “Ah, ah, ah,” she said, “Hold my beer.

Then at the start of the domino effect, or wave of her wand, the stress of life becomes so unmanageable it turns me into this sharp-clawed, cat-eyed gremlin – hissing at those who dare hold my gaze. As I sink low, the numbers raise high and any sense of normalcy previously in our grasp begins to slip away right before our eyes. The new world order is being reinstated, with much ado about nothing.

Four, five, six.

There are few incessant things I’ve started to do habitually this year, that all center around me “checking in” on myself.

  • To gauge my happiness level, I ask myself, “When was the last time I sang?”
  • To keep my stress/self-loathing in check, I confidently tell myself, “I am great at my job,” “I am a great friend,” etc.
  • To ensure I’m actually living, I ask myself, “When did I last do something that would be beneficial to future me?”
  • When I’m feeling lost, and I can’t grasp why, I simply ask myself, “When’s the last time I wrote something?”

Sometimes it’s helpful to ask yourself if you’re okay. If you don’t, you may not even realize that you’re not doing so hot. Remember: you can’t fix something if you don’t know it’s broken.

Seven, eight, nine.

When life is spiraling, I try to find a way to regain control. My most frequented ways are online shopping (it’s up to me what get’s added in that cart) and creating playlists (I choose the song, order, and vibe – what else could I need?)

My favorite buys this year: this couch, this chair, this primer, these boots, and this coffee

My playlist highlights:

Ten.

It’s hard to know which way is the right way, if I’m following the right path. I’m a firm believer in fate and destiny, but contradictorily I believe in freedom of choice. Everyone is on some great path, but each path has these curious side trails that are available and can ultimately diverge you from your greater path a bit. Sometimes these small trails are incredibly fun, worthwhile, or even a sick shortcut to get you where you need to be even faster than the great path would have intended. Yet, sometimes these side trails are actually something lowkey verboten with loads of red flags and “Do Not Enter” signs that we ignore – leading us to go through some things we really weren’t intended to go through, but made us endure some additional “character building” that pays off anyway.

Truly, that’s the beauty of free will – we have the will to choose the easy way, the hard way, the fun way, the dangerous way… it goes on. But the power of fate and destiny, will always ensure we get where we’re supposed to, no matter how convoluted of a trek we make it.


“Life’s what you make it, so let’s make it right.”

H. Montana

I Made a Vision Board for 2021: Part One

Let me be the first to say that I am a natural pessimist, an anxiety-ridden, serial depressive who is an enneagram 6. I’m not one for religion, overly positive mantras or crystals, but I’m willing to try just about anything at least once if it’ll improve my mental health and life. Like many others, 2020 was a rough year mentally, physically and emotionally. Fresh off the hell that was Q4 2019 (see How to Heal a Broken Millennial Heart for further understanding), 2020 was doomed from the start. It was to be a year of transition, a metamorphosis if you will. 

When 2020 started, I was at my heaviest – emotionally, physically and mentally – and the most uncomfortable in my own skin. Each day was a trial, presenting countless obstacles for my personal and professional life. However, through all of the changes and adjustments, one thing prevailed: I suddenly had time. More time than I knew what to do with. 

I began having to confront things that I’d been able to push away thanks to being busy at work or by spending time with friends. I discovered pieces of myself that I wasn’t a huge fan of and wanted to change that. Serendipitously, 2020 became the year of realization and inner growth. Now, I won’t be one of those bloggers or influencers that vomit positivity and about how great 2020 was. Don’t get me wrong, 2020 SUCKED. But through the darkness, we can find light. That’s why I wanted to make a vision board for 2021.


What is a vision board?

A vision board, sometimes referred to as a dream board, is a physical way to manifest what you want. It’s a visualization tool used to manifest or ‘visualize’ what dreams or ideas you want to project into the universe. Personally, I’m not into all that touchy-feely stuff, but again, anything is worth a try at least once. This year, I’ve learned that there is no bigger obstacle than myself. I am what creates (and thus destroys) my own happiness. I am the only one who controls that. 

What is included in a vision board?

It can be anything you want. There are a few different ways to go about building a vision board, so truly there is no wrong answer. I made two – one for general ideation (completed) and one for specific goals (in progress). I included quotes, reminders, photos, souvenirs, small tokens/gifts and stickers. Besides the cork board itself, I only purchased one magazine to cut up – otherwise everything else was just stuff I had lying around my house. This does not have to be an expensive project – but it will require some time and thought. 

How does it work?

Vision boards serve as a physical reminder for what you’re wanting to achieve. Seeing it everyday will help keep your goals or ideas at the forefront of your mind as you progress through the weeks and months. It can help to motivate you in a passive way. Rather than an obnoxious alarm on your phone or a calendar reminder, you can be met with a peaceful, self-created image that hangs on your wall as a friendly notice.


Here’s my vision board, broken into four segments: travel, healing, growth, reminders.

Top Left  – Travel 

Each year, except 2020, I plan a trip abroad. I love to travel and to help visualize that, I’ve included a photo of the airplane when I visited Scotland, a luggage tag from France in 2011, a polaroid from the condo in Marco Island and a few travel themed stickers. I hope to travel, whether a big or small trip, and remember how lucky I am to be able to do that.

Top Right – Growth

Midway through 2020, I was invited to join a personal and professional growth program through my company. I was hesitant at first, feeling that I was already at a transitional point in my life, but decided, ‘why not?’. I had nothing to lose, but so much to gain. I’ve included two acronyms to remember daily: one from the work program (S.N.A.P.) and one from the Emotional Detox book by Sherianna Boyle, MED, CAGS (C.L.E.A.N.S.E.)

Bottom Left – Healing

As mentioned in How to Heal a Broken Millennial Heart, 2019 was a shitstorm before 2020 dreamed of it. I’ve included a dream catcher from a Lakota reservation that my grandmother gifted to me, a postcard from Annecy, a fortune cookie and quotes. This section will serve as a reminder that healing is a priority throughout this year – even when it doesn’t always feel good.

Bottom Right: Reminders

The bottom right has no true theme, but just gentle reminders. The moon cycle is a reminder that everything will pass and change. The polaroid is a reminder to get out every once in a while, embrace nature and the relationships that I’ve cultivated over the last year. Lastly, the patch, simple and straightforward –  have a nice day. 

Stay tuned for part two: goals!

The 5 by 5 Rule & Selective Energy

I tend to live life in the gray. Meaning, I’ve never fully felt like an extrovert, nor an introvert, I’m not full blown OCD about things, but I am Type A – it’s my way, or the highway (most of the time) but I guess that’s the Taurus in me. Yet, I do firmly say it’s only my way most of the time, because I actually strive to find compromises with people so everyone can be happy… but one thing I incessantly struggle with?

I usually get worked up over the tiniest of things.

This reverts back to the whole Type A thing, when I have a certain way of doing things, and I communicate this “amazingly perfect” way to others – I assume they will hop on board and think, “Oh yes, wise Emily, your way is spectacular I wish I had always known this manner of doing this task! I will now and forever do it this way!” But the crazy thing is, most people don’t automatically hop on my bus. They can see in the moment how great, efficient, and fluid my way is… but it’s not their vibe. They have their own preferred way and *deep breath* I have to accept that.

Something someone had told me years ago was the 5 by 5 rule:

“If it’s not going to matter in five years, don’t spend more than five minutes upset by it.

And honestly, up until like three days ago, this rule always bugged the crap out of me. It would make me want to yank my hair out and scream, “I CAN’T THINK ABOUT FIVE YEARS FROM NOW, MAYBE I WILL STILL BE BITTER THAT THE WRONG FONT WAS USED FOR THAT THING. DON’T TELL ME TO REDIRECT MY ENERGY!”

But this is the thing, little “errors” like spacings, or fonts, or filters, or scheduling genuinely could get me worked up. Like, I have explicitly laid out this yellow brick road for you Dorothy, why are you rollin’ down that red path?!

But you know what? If Dorothy wants to drift and do her own thing, that’s her business.

This whole crazy covid life we live has really put the 5 by 5 Rule in perspective. I can tell you right now that any of the stressing I did in 2015 has no business in my 2020 mind, and I can only assume that 2025 will have its own problems and its own blessings (trying to stay positive here).

The world is already so messy right now, don’t let the mess take over your head. Especially with the current happenings, the scary unknowns, don’t waste your time stressing on small things – focus on the big picture, the stuff that matters, and when the little things start to get under your skin, put the 5 by 5 Rule as the background vibe in your mind and turn your immediate focus to a tangible beauty for a few minutes.

A tangible beauty being something like absorbing the sunshine (even just sitting in front of your window), a quick laydown in your comfy bed, a slow walk around the neighborhood… find a tangible beauty in life to replace the current irritations attempting to dig roots into your skin.

Don’t feed the beast – it’s so, so easy to feed it. But imagine what feeding the beast could do, with each angry bone you toss it, the thing grows and grows, and what does that do to your inner child? Have you ever seen a child excited for the company of a terrifyingly rude and ruthless beast? One that could scream at them for the littlest of things?

Nope? Didn’t think so.

Don’t misunderstand, the big thing I’m not saying is “Don’t stress – ever!” Stress is inevitable, being totally carefree is hard and anyone who seems carefree all the time… or says they’re carefree all the time… is probably full of BS. But what they’re doing right (maybe) is not sweating the small stuff, they only stress about the things worth stressing about.

Ultimately, when you catch yourself getting worked up and overwhelmed, think about the 5 by 5 Rule, yes – but mostly choose where your energy goes.

Sometimes it’s as simple as firmly saying to yourself, “I’m not going to give into this stress. I’m not going to give into this situation. This is not my vibe, this is not worth my precious time and energy.

. . .

Remember the Fifth of November

I have a list of films that I always recommend to people and V for Vendetta has been at the top of that list for over a decade. I watched this film for the first time in junior high, just a few years after its cinematic release and was immediately moved by how timelessly poignant this film is. Released in 2005, this dystopian film takes place in 2028 – 14 years after a horrific virus outbreak ravaged London. Following the story of protagonists Evey and vigilante ‘V’, the audience watches as a tyrannical government is overthrown. Every year on the fifth of November, I watch this film. But during a recent viewing with a friend, I was startled to see the unfortunate and uncomfortable similarities between this film and the hellscape of 2020.

How could a film from 2005, based on a 1980s graphic novel, so accurately depict our current misery? Let’s break that down.

**DISCLAIMER: This film is controversial, graphic and deals with a multitude of sensitive subjects including pandemics, LGBTQ+ issues, homophobia, medical torture, kidnapping, etc. Please watch at your own discretion. SOME SPOILERS BELOW – BE AWARE.


The Setting

Set in modern day London, the country is run by a hyper-conservative, tyrannical government that took control following the explosive ‘St. Mary’s virus’ that consumed the lives of at least 100,000 citizens. Freedom of speech is nearly non-existent, nightly curfews are in place, roving ‘finger men’ police the residents with complete ruthlessness and surveillance vans roam the streets listening in on citizens.


The Villain

The first and most obvious villain is dubbed as ‘V’, the vigilante who demands justice from those who wronged him. V is modeled after Guy Fawkes, a failed rebel from the Gunpowder Plot of 1605 who was immortalized by the British tradition of Bonfire Night. However, the true villain is the government, and more specifically, High Chancellor Adam Sutler, the reigning fascist power in the country.


The St. Mary’s Virus (SPOILER)

The St. Mary’s virus is credited for what brought the tyrannical government – Norsefire – to the ruling party. Showcased publicly as a horrific, random virus, St. Mary’s was later revealed to be a biowarfare created by the very government supposedly protecting citizens. Released in three separate locations – a water treatment plant, a primary school and a hospital – the majority of virus victims were those that the government deemed ‘undesirable’.


So why is this film so impactful?

Once, dystopian landscapes were a far fetched idea used as propaganda or science fiction to entertain the masses, but now it’s different. For me, it feels like we are teetering on the precipice of something major in the United States. Never before, at least in my lifetime, have we been more divided as a nation, although I understand that the generations before us have watched as tyranny ruled countries and have witnessed first-hand the wrath of wars, totalitarianism and fascism. As a pre-teen watching V for Vendetta for the first time, I was astonished to see how a country could change overnight after one incident – one virus – and that so many innocent lives could be lost.

But now, in 2020, I can fully see how that can happen. I hope that there will never be an end of V’s or Evey Hammond’s or Inspector Finch’s, those who strive to find the truth and fight for a better world for us all.

“He was Edmond Dantés… and he was my father. And my mother… my brother… my friend. He was you… and me. He was all of us.” – Evey Hammond, V for Vendetta.

From Lies to Love: International Overdose Awareness Day 2020

My mom died in 2005 from a drug and alcohol overdose. I was in middle school at the time, and for many years after I felt humiliated when people asked me how she passed.

“I don’t know.”

“What? How do you not know?”

“I… I just don’t know.”

I lied about it often.

My entire life I’ve craved acceptance. Yes, even as a child I was a people-person and performed incredibly well in large groups — but you never really know what goes on behind the scenes. I felt I’d be judged for my mother’s actions, when in reality, the way she chose to live her life had absolutely nothing to do with how I was perceived by others; ESPECIALLY as a middle school child! But I was 12 years old and wouldn’t have believed you. I wanted to fit in and not be known as the girl whose mom died from drugs.

I hated that she overdosed. I still do. My mom was fucking awesome aside from her addiction and I still find myself resentful that I didn’t get to spend more time with her. I want to know her more, especially now in my adulthood. I 100% know she would have been by absolute best friend and as I write this I feel furious.

But through the anger I can feel her. Through my unprocessed grief I see her every time I look in the mirror. I laugh with her each time I laugh with my baby sister. And I thank all the higher beings that I can celebrate her life with my loving grandparents.

It just sucks. But I’m working through it and I know I’m not the only one who feels this pain.


According to the CDC, 67,367 drug overdose deaths occurred in the United States in 2018. Even though the number of drug overdose deaths decreased 4% from 2017 to 2018, the overall number of drug overdose deaths was still four times higher in 2018 compared to 1999.

SOURCE: cdc.gov

I know my mom meddled in a variety of different drugs, and I also know her drug of choice was Lortabs… washed down with vodka. It’s something no child should ever have to see — but I saw and heard a lot of things you shouldn’t as a child. Oh well, I guess I learned what not to do for my future children, right?

Lortab is a form of opioid, and opioid addictions run rampant in America. Americanaddictioncenters.org report that 91 people die every day in the U.S. from an opioid overdose. The numbers seem to vary from one state to the next for a variety of reasons: low income, ability to take time off from work, ability to travel to a clinic, and more. Kentucky, where my family is from, seems to be one of the hardest-hit states.

Opioid death rates state-by-state, 2016. Source: Fair Health

So, what is International Overdose Awareness Day?

International Overdose Awareness Day (IOAD) started in Melbourne, Australia in 2001. It is now recognized globally on August 31st, with 874 IOAD events happening in 39 countries in 2019. In 2020, their 20th anniversary year, the campaign is set to break their own record again.

IOAD was created to raise awareness to overdose and reduce the stigma of drug-related deaths. The IOAD website lists other wonderful reasons for the day:

  • To provide an opportunity for people to publicly mourn loved ones in a safe environment, some for the first time without feeling guilt or shame.
  • To include the greatest number of people in International Overdose Awareness Day events, and encourage non-denominational involvement.
  • To give community members information about the issue of fatal and non-fatal overdose.
  • To send a strong message to current and former people who use drugs that they are valued.
  • To stimulate discussion about overdose prevention and drug policy.
  • To provide basic information on the range of support services that are available.
  • To prevent and reduce drug-related harm by supporting evidence-based policy and practice.
  • To inform people around the world about the risk of overdose.

You can read their 32-page partners’ report for 2019 here.


How you can help:

You can donate to their campaign here so they can continue to drive awareness, confront stigma, and provide education. They also have an Activities Page to find events happening near you.

If you want to make an impact in your own community, do a little research! A quick google search of “International Overdose Awareness Day + your city/state/country” should provide you with some sort of organization, events, or donations you can be involved with.

Have the tough talks with loved ones struggling with drug addiction. Do it now while they’re still with us, and please, have patience with them. Change can only happen once they realize it needs to happen, but you can be that helping hand. You can be the one to open that door to a better life for them.


I eventually grew out of lying about my mother’s death because I knew that’s not what she would have wanted. She’d want me to be strong, truthful, loving. She’d want me to be a woman who raises awareness where she couldn’t. I will hold strong in that to honor her name.

Remembering you, mom.

Joy Yvette Ford

February 23, 1967 – November 17, 2005

Love, Linds