Make a checklist…and you might win a trip to Hawaii.

Oh hey! To celebrate the release of my new book—The Checklist Book: Set Realistic Goals, Celebrate Tiny Wins, Reduce Stress and Overwhelm, and Feel Calmer Every Day—I have a cool assignment for you.

This assignment is a quick one. Just a couple minutes. You don’t need any special skills to do it. If you complete this assignment by January 22, 2020, you’ll be eligible to win some wonderful prizes—including a trip to Hawaii. For real.

THE ASSIGNMENT

Make a checklist. Any kind of checklist. Type it. Print it. Or write it by hand.

A few ideas. You could make…

– A simple checklist with things you want to do (and experience) today.

– A seasonal checklist with things you want to do (and experience) this spring, summer, autumn, or winter.

– A get-it-done checklist with a list of things you need to do to complete an important project.

– A loose-end checklist with lots of miscellaneous bits you want to finish up and clear out of your brain.

– A self-care checklist with various ways you can take care of your mind/body/spirit this week.

– A birthday checklist with all the beautiful experiences you definitely want to have on your b-day.

– A before-I-die checklist with important things you want to do (or say) before you transition into the next world.

– A final-24 checklist with all the things you’d want to experience if this was your last day on earth–your final 24 hours of life.

– A house-upgrade checklist with exciting steps to breathe fresh energy into your home.

– A visionary checklist. For instance: a checklist of steps to end bullying. A checklist for running for President. A checklist for healing the oceans. A checklist for bringing more love into your community, country, and/or the world.

– A quirky, silly, creative checklist. For instance: a checklist for transforming into a mermaid. A checklist for building a time machine. A checklist for your first stand-up comedy open mic show.

– Or any kind of checklist you want to make.

INSTRUCTIONS

1. Make your checklist. It can be simple and elegant. Creative and whimsical. Short or long. Typed or handwritten. Whatever style you want.

2. Share your checklist somewhere in the world. Online, offline, or both.

For instance, you could post a photo of your checklist on Instagram, Twitter, Facebook, or Pinterest. You could post your checklist on your blog and encourage your readers to make their own checklists, too. You could share your checklist in your email newsletter. Pin your checklist to a bulletin board inside your local coffee shop. Paint your checklist as a mural on the side of your house. Email your checklist to your five closest friends. Basically: post your checklist somewhere in the world where other people can see it. Anywhere you want.

3. Wherever you share your checklist, please include this phrase:

This list was inspired by THE CHECKLIST BOOK by Alexandra Franzen. Get the book at your local bookstore, local public library, or order it online: http://bit.ly/the-checklist-book

You can use that exact phrase or something similar. Thank you!

4. Important final step. To be eligible to win a prize, please fill out this quick form to officially submit you contest entry.

If you complete this assignment by Midnight on January 22, 2020, you’ll be eligible to win some cool prizes.

PRIZES

* 10 winners receive signed copies of The Checklist Book.

GRAND PRIZE

* 1 winner receives a trip to the Big Island of Hawaii (value: $3500). Three days and three nights. Accommodation and meals included, plus a $500 credit that you can apply towards your airfare. Spend a few days in paradise making beautiful checklists, working on creative projects, swimming, sunbathing, hiking, relaxing in a hammock, feeling invigorated and inspired.

Winners will be announced in this newsletter in February 2020. Winners will also be notified personally via email.

SUMMARY

To sum this up:

* Make a checklist.

* Share your checklist somewhere. Online, offline, or both.

* Include some links and stuff to help support The Checklist Book: Set Realistic Goals, Celebrate Tiny Wins, Reduce Stress and Overwhelm, and Feel Calmer Every Day. (Thank you!)

* Fill out this form to officially enter to win.

* Enjoy the experience.

HAPPY LIST-MAKING!

Have fun with this assignment.

I can’t wait to see your beautiful checklist!

-Alex

PS. Share this contest info with anyone you want! Here’s a link you can share: http://bit.ly/checklist-contest

PPS. You’re awesome. Thanks for doing weird challenges and completing tiny projects and making art with me.


Not perfect.

I attended a training program in Arizona—getting certified to teach fast-paced, energizing yoga/dance/fitness fusion classes.

Why? Purely just for fun. I wanted to take a break from my usual routine (writing deadlines, lengthy documents, publishing commitments, computer, emails x infinity) and try something completely different. Shake things up. Rocket-blast out of my comfort zone.

It was five days of sweat, creativity, kind people, and great vibes. I loved it.

And…I noticed something interesting.

The company that runs the program is an international, multi-million dollar brand with over 5,000 certified instructors to date—and now me, that makes it 5,001—and a loyal fanbase. A prosperous, thriving company.

On day one of the program, they handed us a big workbook with all the class materials.

The workbook had several errors. A few typos here and there. A missing word. One photo caption wasn’t correct. One sequence was out of date, as the trainer explained (“We don’t teach it that way anymore. I’ll show you the updated way…”).

The workbook wasn’t “perfect.”

Guess what?

Nobody cared.

It didn’t matter. Not even a tiny bit. The training program was fantastic. The curriculum was excellent. Lifelong friendships were formed. People literally cried when it was over and didn’t want to say goodbye.

Nobody cared about the typos.

This is the thing about perfectionism. It’s a pesky little monster. And it’s a liar. Perfectionism tries to convince you that your work isn’t “good enough” to be shared publicly—unless it is “perfect.” And yet, 1. Perfection is an aspirational destination that doesn’t actually exist, and cannot be achieved unless you are, I dunno, God. 2. Nobody cares about the little blunders as much as you do.

People feel the intention behind your work. They feel the big message. They feel the heart and spirit. They feel the vulnerability and courage. That’s what they remember. Not the fact that you spelled “the” as “teh” on page 42.

Best-selling books are released, all the time, containing typos. My friend Lindsey wrote an award-winning cookbook that’s missing the final steps for one of the recipes. Whoops.

Broadway shows roll nightly, even when actors occasionally flub their lines.

Barack Obama’s re-election team once released an important media campaign that misspelled the word “Congrssional.” Oops. He got re-elected anyway.

Oh, and Mayor Cory Booker (now a US Senator) took out a full-page ad, urging his constituents to “re-elect President Barak Obama.” First name, misspelled. Doh.

Even world leaders bungle things up. The globe keeps turning. The sun continues to rise and set. Life goes on. Love still blooms. Babies get born. Big goals still get achieved.

I once watched a world-famous researcher go completely blank onstage and forget the next part of her speech. There was an awkward moment of silence as she stared out into the crowd, mental wheels churning, mouth half-open. Then she chuckled at herself and strode across the stage—back to the podium—to grab her notes.

“Uh, give me a sec,” she told the audience, laughing at herself, shuffling through her papers. The crowd laughed along with her—kindly, not mockingly. I would bet $1000 that everyone in the room loved her even more than before, and felt even more connected to her, because of that “mistake” and how she handled it. Because of her imperfections.

Whatever you’ve been working on?

* That very-important email you’ve been hesitant to send out.
* The inspirational speech that you worry “isn’t inspirational enough.”
* The book. The song. The screenplay. The letter asking people to donate to your cause.

It’s probably good enough. It’s probably great. And, let’s be honest, if you spend another 10 hours pecking at it, fussing over it, double-checking, and mentally gnawing at it, will it become significantly “better” due to your efforts? Probably not. It’s probably as good as it’s gonna get. So, get it out there. Imperfections included. It doesn’t matter.

Don’t hold back, waiting for perfection. It will never arrive.

You are lovable, valuable, and powerful with all of your “typos” included—and so is your wrk. Oops, I mean work. Whatever. You get it.


X.

“So, this is where I can store my luggage for a couple hours? Until the bus arrives?”

The man nodded. Yup.

It was early morning on the Tahitian island of Moorea. Just a smidge after dawn. Already blazing hot. Sweat slithered down my top. I was woozy from 24 hours of nonstop travel—cramped airplane seats, ferries, vans. Like a time traveler. Body, here. Mind, elsewhere, lagging behind.

I tugged the zippers on my suitcase, backpack, and computer case, verifying that everything was secure. This is what I do when I’m anxious. I tug. And then tug again. I double-check things—straps tied, windows locked, candles blown out. Tiny compulsive tics, barely noticeable to others, confirming that I’m safe.

But in this moment, I could have tugged a thousand times and…I still wouldn’t have felt safe. Because nothing about my life felt secure. Everything felt chaotic.

Back home (did I even have a “home” anymore?) my partner was moving into his own apartment. Tenants moving into our house, the one we’d shared. Everything I owned was in boxes labeled “keep,” “donate,” and “sell.” He and I were still “together,” because we couldn’t bring ourselves to officially say, it’s over. Together, but not really. Sort of. Kind of. Who knows. TBD. The future of our relationship was unknown.

Everything had become so complicated. Problems with no solution. He wanted things that I couldn’t stomach, couldn’t agree to do, as much as I tried. And vice versa.

Hundreds of conversations with no resolution, spiraling back to the beginning, each one more discouraging and exhausting than the last. Could we find a way to stay together—without one of us withering and dying a little bit, every day? Could there be a solution that we just weren’t seeing clearly? How did this happen to me? To us? How is this my life?

Waves of anxiety consumed me. What was he doing in his new bachelor pad? Who was he seeing tonight—and was she prettier, more exciting, and more interesting than me? What happens after I get home, after this trip? What then?

I didn’t know. Anything.

And so, obviously, I really needed to confirm that my luggage would be securely stowed. The one fraction of my life that I could control.

“May I have a luggage tag, please?” I asked the man at the counter. “Like, with a number? Or my name? You know, so when I get back, I can get my stuff?”

“Don’t worry about it,” he said kindly. “I’ll recognize you. I’ll be right here.”

This didn’t satisfy me.

“But my laptop…” I trailed off, by way of explanation. He continued to smile, unbothered, unworried.

I exhaled wearily. Pressed further.

“I would really like a luggage tag. Please.”

He looked me right in the eyes. The smallest smirk on his face. The tiniest chuckle. His expression said, wordlessly, “Okay, crazy lady. Sure. Fine. I’ll get you…your precious luggage tag.”

He rummaged inside a drawer that probably hadn’t been opened in decades. Found a tattered, stained scrap of paper. Found a pen. Wrote an X on it. No number. No name. Just X. Handed it to me.

I glanced down at this sorry excuse for a tag. A tag with no mate. So basically, just a random slip of paper. Completely meaningless.

Our eyes met. He grinned impishly, as if to say, “Are you happy now?” We both started laughing. Big, rolling, belly laughs. The first time I’d really laughed in who-even-knows-how-long.

“Thank you,” I said, wiping tears from my eyes. “So much.”

I keep that tag in my wallet, to this day. A symbol, reminding me to unclench my ass-cheeks, laugh more, and stop clinging to the illusion of control.

Reminding me to have a little faith.

Faith in myself. Faith in my fellow humans. Faith and trust.

Trust that the suitcase will be fine. And if it’s not? You won’t die.

Trust that the bus will arrive eventually. And if it doesn’t? You’ll walk.

Trust that the money will come in. If not? Worst case scenario, you’ll come up with a Plan B, C, D…and eventually a Plan Z. You’ll figure something else out. You’ll land on your feet. There’s always another way.

Trust that your heart will heal, with patience and time and action, too. Trust that you will love again, miraculously, even more than before. Trust that the best years of your life are not behind you. The best is still yet to come. Trust that you are strong enough. Trust that you will survive.

Most of all, trust the luggage guy.


Begin again.

My friend texted me a video.

Twenty-two seconds in a sunlit room. Dappled light through the window and white curtains. Her. Playing the piano. Hesitantly. Tentatively.

She said: “It’s been 26 years since my fingers even touched a piano.”

She played about ten keys. I stared into my phone, watching, and cried.

To me, those ten halting notes sounded just as beautiful as a professional pianist playing “Nocturnes, Op. 48: No. 1 in C Minor” by Chopin. Because those ten notes felt like the sound of optimism. The sound of renewal. The sound of trying again.

It’s never too late to try again.

Many times in my life, I have fallen into a slump. Tired and lethargic. Mentally clouded. Disconnected from my physical body, from the pulse of creativity, from God, from the wonder and awe that’s available all around, at every moment. Disconnected from hope.

And yet, to reconnect, all it takes is a quiet decision–the decision to begin again.

Play a few notes. Make a new checklist. Write a few words. Lace up those sneakers. Unroll that yoga mat for the first time in forever. Smile at someone from across the room and maybe even say hello. Rise again. Open again. Try again.

Today is not over yet.

This life is not over yet.

And it’s never too late.

Even after 26 years.


There is no rush.

It’s been one year since B and I ended our relationship.

“The end” was a gradual unraveling that took several months. A great deal of unwinding and various matters to be sorted out. The house. The stuff inside the house. The money. The dog.

August 11, 2018 was the official last day.

That was the day we sat side-by-side on the couch in his new apartment—a space designed for one, not two. We tied up a few loose ends. We cried. We held each other one last time, cried more, and finally, with great agony, peeled ourselves apart.

The very next day, I bought a one-way plane ticket to Hawaii.

I figured a change of scenery might help to soothe my pulverized heart. Saltwater and sand. Sea turtles and sunshine. Definitely couldn’t hurt.

I landed at the tiny airport late at night—starlight, a soft tropical breeze, and the sound of Coqui frogs all around.

A friend picked me up. Asked how I was doing. All I could do was sob, heave, choke, mucus running down my face. There were no words to express how I felt.

She understood, and told me, “There is no rush.”

There is no rush to “get over it” and be chipper and cheery. There is no rush to “get out there” and start dating again. There is no rush to be “okay.” No rush at all.

She didn’t know it, but those four words—there is no rush—were precisely the words I needed to hear. I’ve remembered those words daily. All year long.

A few days after I moved to Hawaii, we got slammed with a hurricane of historic proportions. The strongest cyclone on record. Trees fell. Homes flooded. Power down. $42 million in damage. The street running perpendicular to mine became a roaring river, emptying into the sea below.

I boarded up my windows, then recklessly stood outside in the thick sheet of rain. Rain like a liquid wall. Like a solid mass. Rain like I’ve never seen. Thunder shattering the sky. I stood there, drenched. Sobbing. Laughing. Thinking, “Is this actually my real life?” Realizing, “I have control over almost…nothing.”

We plan, and God laughs, am I right?

. . .

A month or two later, I met with a Hawaiian healer and she told me, “Grief is like giving birth to a child. You’re giving birth to a new life—your new life. Your next chapter. Just like childbirth, you are not in complete control of the experience. You don’t get to decide, ‘the baby will be born at precisely seven p.m.’ or ‘I will be done grieving exactly three weeks from now.’ The timing is not entirely up to you. Yes, you can do things to alleviate some of the discomfort—you can breathe deeply, try to relax, meditate, visualize, hold someone’s hand—but ultimately, the process takes as long as it takes. It might be three hours. It might be thirty. Surrender and let it work through you.”

It is what it is.
It feels how it feels.
There is no rush, and,
It takes as long as it takes.

. . .

Friends ask, “How are you doing?”

The truth?

One year later, I am still grieving. There’s a lot more space between each wave of grief (hours of calm in between waves, instead of seconds) but the waves still come.

One year later, I still think about him every single day, at least once. I still cry. I still feel a thousand different emotions. I still have questions that will probably never be answered.

One year later, I am not—not even a little, not even .0001%—ready for a new romantic relationship.

Some days, I judge myself very harshly (“Why can’t I just be ‘fine’ already? What’s taking so long?”). But in my compassionate, patient moments, I remember, “There is no rush” and, “It takes as long as it takes.”

“When you love big, you grieve big,” another friend said to me.

And I loved him very, very big.

. . .

Of course, nobody enjoys being in pain.

When grieving, we want to know, “What can I do to feel better? What steps can I take? How can I lessen the distress so I can navigate through the day—so I can work, earn a living, keep a roof over my head, get some sleep, eat a vegetable once in a while, you know, function? And, so I can heal? What will help?”

So many things have helped me.

Yoga and meditation.
Driving my old VW bug convertible with the top down.
Walking. Running. Sweating.
Therapy.
Music. All kinds. Heavy metal. Reggae. Chorale. Classical. Dubstep. All the sounds.
Laying in bed while mom sat nearby.
Watching the sea for signs of whales.
Braiding my friends’ hair.
Purchasing a semi-financially-irresponsible number of massages because sometimes, dear Lord, you just need to be touched and soothed by another human being.
Laying across Grandmother Rock and asking for guidance. (I got bitten by a stingy, acidic little ant…does that mean something? Ha).
Asking dozens of people, “What is the point of life? Why do you think we’re here?” and curiously listening to their thoughts. Turning my attention towards big, cosmic things—bigger than my own individual pain.
Writing. And not writing.
Drinking. And not drinking.
Cookies. And kale.
Being with people. And being alone.
Less tech. More nature.
Reading memoirs written by Holocaust survivors. Restoring perspective. Remembering that things could be one trillion billion million zillion times worse. Remembering that human hearts are incredibly strong and resilient.
Mental reframes. Telling myself a new story about what’s happening and why. My favorite reframe: “It’s not a break-up. It’s a break-upgrade. This is a chance to upgrade and improve every aspect of my life.” (One of my next books will be called The BreakUpgrade.)
Making a daily checklist. Creating positive new routines.
Small moments of beauty—lemon slices in my water, a flower by my bed, gold hoop earrings, looking up at the sky instead of down at a screen.
Trying to find the humor in everything. Laughing in bewilderment at the madness of it all. Complete silliness. Mama Hotdog!

These things, and many other things, have helped me.

This last year, in particular, I have learned that there are many forms of healing medicine. Sometimes you need a boxing class. Sometimes you need to ignore all of your emails and go to the beach and swim next to a turtle. Sometimes you need to order various leotards from Amazon at 2 a.m. in the morning for some inexplicable reason, and it’s all okay.

. . .

If you are grieving a loss of any kind, I wish I had the perfect advice, recipe, or seven-step process for swift healing. I don’t. All I can offer is my own story, which is still unfolding.

All I know is you’re not alone.

All I know is you will laugh louder than ever, and cry harder than ever, possibly all within the same afternoon.

All I know is being near/in the ocean helps. Salt water and tears are so cleansing.

Well-intentioned people may urge you to “hurry up” (“Just go on date, sleep with someone new, c’mon, hasn’t it been long enough?”) but you don’t have to do this. Your internal soul-clock moves at its own pace, nobody else’s.

When you’re ready, your hut (heart + gut) will tell you. You will know.

Until then, breathe, hold a friend’s hand, surrender, let the waves and contractions move through you. It’s all happening. Lava cooling into rock. New earth being born inside your cells. What seems like a “loss” may eventually feel like “more than before.” This might take awhile. Tiny steps forward. One day, the ice will melt. Try to take good care of yourself. You’re doing a great job. There’s nowhere to be except here, nothing to do except this.

There is no rush.