Richard Ford was being interviewed by Terri Gross on her radio program Fresh Air. He had a new book he was promoting called Let Me Be Frank With You (HarperCollins 2014).
In this book he tackles the topic of aging. I vowed to pick it up. But what intrigued me even more than his thoughts on aging was when he and Terri Gross started talking about what he does with index cards. Yes, those white index cards that many of you may have done away with because you do everything on your electronic devices.
What he does is collect quotes on the topic of writing and then he transcribes the quotes onto index cards, one quote per card. Like if Ernest Hemingway said something about the writing process and Richard Ford found it fascinating, he’d want to write it down. He likes having the quotes on cards and being able to ponder them whenever he feels like it. Richard was talking my language when he spoke fondly about taking a random bunch of these index cards with quotes on them and carrying them with him on a trip.
When he’s on a plane he likes to read them. They inspire him and makes him appreciate the writing world he’s a part of. They reinforce his love of writing.
I could see him sitting in a seat near me on a flight. He’d be pulling out those index cards–maybe a little worn on the edges by now–and entertaining himself for minutes or hours. I’d look over at him and he’d be smiling, content.
Making Beauty Cards
I play with index cards too. And like Richard Ford, I bring them on trips – always in carry on, never in the luggage compartment. I wouldn’t want to lose them. They don’t have monetary value but they have great spiritual value to me. I use the word spiritual because I can’t quite find a word big enough to explain what I mean. That’s a good enough place to start.
Sometimes I keep them in my hotel room and look at them before bed but mostly I stash a few in my purse so whenever I need to, I can pull them out and look at them.
I call them Beauty Cards. And they’re not just for travel, they’re for day to day life here at home, too.
I usually make them on a Saturday morning. I go through magazines and cut out a portion of an image that appeals to me. I cut it to the size of the index card. Then I grab my glue stick and glue it on. I look at it in my hands and I smile, content.
Good times to reach for Beauty Cards
It’s remarkable how soothing these cards can be for me. They’re perfect to reach for when I’m feeling:
They bring me “home.” I love holding them in my hands and slowly taking in one image and then another one. Whatever cloud is over my head, once I’ve spent a few minutes with my Beauty Cards, it seems to go away. I feel more peaceful and quiet inside.
Looking at these images of dresses, I am reminded of my love of beauty and fashion. Maybe in the same way Richard Ford reads the quotes on his index cards and is reminded of how good it feels to be a writer, these images remind me of how much I love working with beauty and style and fashion. They say “yes” to me. They say, This is your path, this is your home.
Recently, after my brother’s unexpected death, I was feeling lots of things: lost, anxious, doubting myself, and more. Death of a loved one has a way of bringing you to your knees and making you question everything. I wondered if what I did in my professional life really made a difference in the world. Maybe I had taken a serious wrong turn! Maybe I was fooling myself!
Mother and I were talking on the phone nearly every day in that first month. I told her how I was starting to doubt myself and my choices. She quickly jumped in to remind me of who I was. “Brenda, you are doing exactly what you should be doing! Don’t think for a minute that you haven’t made a difference. You’re hurting now so maybe you don’t realize it. You need to be getting up every day and doing exactly what you’ve been doing,” she said.
I can’t say I instantly believed her but there was a resonance to what she said, the same kind of resonance I have when I look at these Beauty Cards.
Beauty Cards with words
Some images stand alone on my index cards. There are no words on them yet they have the power to speak volumes, especially the images of fashion or nature.
But sometimes I like to combine words with images.
These examples below have quotes on them that I cut out of an illustrated weekly desk calendar. When the year was up, I repurposed the calendar. Some of the illustrations found their way to a vision board. Quotes that resonated for me were perfect for my Beauty Cards. All these quotes came from Sarah Ban Breathnack, author of Simple Abundance (Grand Central Publishing, 2008).
My Beauty Cards are self-nurturing tools. I wonder what your cards would look like if you made yourself a set?
PatMarch 12, 2015 at 7:39 am
I understand your grief and feelings of insignificance but please know women, everywhere, are with you in your worry, grief and loss. You share so much of yourself, your incredible knowledge and love of fashion and do so happily, with joy and love.
Your faithful fans are always there and in your heart you know “this too shall pass”.
BrendaMarch 12, 2015 at 8:08 pm
Your words are like medicine for me! They make me feel better. Sometimes when these things happen it is easy to feel alone. Thank you for reminding me that we aren’t alone. I will embrace that wonderful reminder: This too shall pass! God bless you, Pat!!
RebeccaMarch 12, 2015 at 10:30 am
Thank you for this. I too have recently gone through a time when two family members were in hospital simultaneously – thankfully nothing life-threatening (my son due to an infection and my father due to a bad fall). When I was in the hospital with my son, I thought often about your tips and teasers where you talk about having to pack quickly and the importance of still dressing confidently. Thanks to you, I was able to pack a hospital bag for myself which provided me with clothes that left me feeling confident enough to speak to the various doctors and specialists about my son’s condition yet comfortable enough to sit and rock my son for hours while he napped (he’s 1).
Perhaps in the future I will make myself a set of cards to provide me comfort during difficult times.
BrendaMarch 12, 2015 at 8:03 pm
Boy, I sure felt those feelings that you described so well! Dressing confidently, being able to talk to doctors and specialists, feeling comfortable. We wear a lot of hats in those situations–much more than anyone might realize unless they are going through it too. I do recommend a set of cards for yourself! In my personal experience, I can say they help me transcend my troubles and find my center again…even if just for a moment or five minutes or an hour, which is all you need sometimes to catch your breath. I hope all is well now and everyone feels safe! Thanks for writing! All my best to you! Brenda
elena daciukMarch 12, 2015 at 11:35 am
Brenda – this is crazy! I do the exact same thing! it started for me while doing a vision board…but then as I updated my vision board…I realized there were pics that just made me smile…and I wanted some way of keeping them in tact…so I got a little box…with index cards…and every once in a while…I will pull some out…and admire the beauty…the beauty that is all around us…but many times taken for granted…some are pics…some are quotes…but they all inspire me…
BrendaMarch 12, 2015 at 8:07 pm
This is amazing! Wow, I’m so happy to hear about your experiences with this. When I read this, I had to agree: some images are just too fabulous on their own and speak so loudly to beauty and the language that has no words. I sure do appreciate the artists that take those pictures and say those words that we cut out and keep on our index cards! This is such a kick! Maybe one day we can find a treehouse and look at our sets of cards…and trade one or two of them like baseball cards!
elena daciukMarch 13, 2015 at 3:28 pm
sitting in a treehouse and looking at our sets together… best.idea.ever!!