How to Do 50 Things

From drawing a bird to forgiving your ex

Illustrations by the author

A few years ago, I was feeling lost. “Stuck in the weeds” was how I kept referring to my state of existence. A little voice in my head kept telling me, incessantly, “You can’t do anything.” It literally said those words!

One day, I woke up feeling tired of the voice. So I decided to slap back. “Surely I can do some things!” I said out loud. (A word of advice: It’s best to argue with the mean voices in your head in the privacy of your own home.)

I decided to make this a project: I would write about how to do things. Over the past few years, I’ve shared advice on everything from how to substitute eggs and how to do a French braid to how to visit the Chicago Field Museum and how to write Roman numerals. Eventually, I started feeling better. I realized I knew how to do a lot of things! I’d finally gotten unstuck.

Maybe you would also like to get unstuck. So here’s how to do 50 things. Some of these are things I know how to do well. Others I probably have no place offering guidance on. But the project is done. I hope it inspires you to think about what you know how to do. I bet it’s more than you realize.

How to …

1. Name your pets

Ask children for help. They’ll pick a bunch of names you don’t like, like Elsa from Frozen and John Cena, which will make whatever name you pick seem so much better by comparison. We named our cat Norman by choosing the first author we saw on our bookshelf: Norman Donaldson.

2. Wrap a present

It turns out it’s best to do it diagonally. Set the wrapping paper on the ground so it looks like a diamond, and then place your object in the middle. Wrap. You’ll use less paper. When I started reading articles about upcycled gift wrapping, all of the ideas involved cutting things out of tissue paper, using pieces of fabric, and stamping with potatoes. It seemed like a lot of work for something that gets ripped to shreds. But then again, maybe that’s the best kind of thing to spend time on: something that has to be destroyed, and so you enjoy it for the shortest and fiercest amount of time.

3. Identify a plant

Last year, I wanted to identify five new plants that I see on my walks. There are a lot of apps that allow you to do this, which might be the best use of smartphone technology that exists. I spent money on the fanciest one, but a free one called Seek is probably the best because you can also identify frogs with it. I learned that the edible flowers growing in a cement bowl outside of my house are called bachelor buttons, which got that name because people would wear them to signify they were looking for love.

4. Fix your sewing machine

The first time I broke my sewing machine, I fixed it myself. I had to take it apart, unscrewing pieces that the average user is not supposed to unscrew. I figured it out by watching videos on YouTube about fixing sewing machines, and I felt so triumphant. You can do the same. I like to take things apart and put them back together again because it reminds you how much work goes into something becoming A Thing. It’s strange to think that every Thing in your life didn’t just plop out of the sky fully formed — someone had to invent it, design it, build all the parts, and put them together. If you ever forget how amazing humans are and how well we have collaborated over the course of the history of time, take apart a sewing machine.

5. Use your public library

Anytime you hear someone mention a book and you think to yourself, “I would like to read that book,” guess what? You can hop onto your public library app and put a hold on the book. It will probably be checked out, and then many weeks will go by, and it will turn up at your library long after you’ve forgotten about it, like an amazing gift, right at the moment you need it most.

6. Do a 5 p.m. ritual

The day is over, and you need a boundary between your work life and your home life. Turn your phone on airplane mode. Put on music that calms you. Set a timer for one hour, and heat up a big cup of herbal tea. Wrap yourself in the coziest blanket. Listen to the songs, smell the tea, and slowly rub some nice-smelling lotion into your hands. Just think about how nice all those things feel in your body. Don’t worry about thinking about anything else.

7. Paint a bird

A bird is just a blob that has wings, a beak, a tail, and legs. I have never met a blob I could not turn into a bird.

8. Dance for an hour

The caption on this Facebook post from 2006: “this was after our AMAZING DANCE PARTY MARATHON. we danced for forty-five straight minutes. here is the playlist: of montreal: rapture rapes the muses; mgmt: kids; blondie: hanging on the telephone; britney spears: toxic; electric six: gay bar; wham: wake me up before you go-go; christina aguilera: dirrty; serge gainsburg: vous n’aves rien compris; metric: combat baby; spice girls: if u can’t dance; the new pornographers: the laws have changed; the blow: pile of gold; the faint: glass danse. we were sweating”

The secret here is to create a playlist that is one-hour long. Fifteen years ago, my friend Kim and I did this every few weeks in one of our Chicago apartments in Hyde Park. At the time, I felt hip for liking CSS and Ladyhawke. We picked fun outfits and ordered pizza that would arrive after the hour of dancing. Our rule was that you could drink water, but you couldn’t stop moving.

9. Grow microgreens

I’ve read about lots of methodologies, but this one is my favorite for its simplicity and for how well it worked for me: Spread an inch of soil across the entire surface area of a lunch tray. Sprinkle a layer of raw sunflower seeds and a little more soil so you can’t see the seeds anymore. Water it all so it’s, like, really wet. (Never let it get dry, okay?) Stick the whole tray under a grow lamp or next to a very bright window. In five days, cut off the little greens and put them on your salad. It seems like it should be more complex this, but it isn’t. Sunflower seeds are great for remembering that plants want desperately to grow.

10. Date three people at one time

I have been dating three people at one time, with almost no drama at all, for three and a half years. Here are the secrets: Tell the truth about what you’re feeling and what you’re doing. (“Don’t ask, don’t tell” doesn’t seem to work, at least not in the long term and without drama.) Let your partners get to know and love each other. Make time for all the people you’re dating, and while you’re at it, make time for your friends and family, too. Make sure everyone in your life feels prioritized sometimes. And finally, always stop and nurture the feelings of anyone who’s feeling hurt or threatened. When someone feels jealous or scared, tell them that makes sense and listen to them. Try not to be defensive. Remember that love is hard. We were taught that it is scarce; it takes time and gentleness to learn that, actually, love is abundant.

11. Find an owl

It can be difficult to find an owl when you’re looking for one unless someone clever has told you the location of a nest. People aren’t supposed to do that because owls don’t like to be seen by humans, and so the basic principle is that if you see an owl, you don’t tell other people where you’ve seen it. I’ve found one reliable strategy, and that is to follow blue jays. Blue jays flock together and make an amazing amount of noise when there’s an owl nearby. If you follow the noise of the loudest blue jays, you’ll probably find a bird of prey of some kind, and it’s likely that that bird will be an owl. (Chickadees, similarly, have led me to many hawks.) It also helps if you need an owl. Owls show up when you’re looking for wisdom or if you’re hollowed out by loss. They have a way of knowing how to do that. My mentor Peggy told me to be still for a long time at dusk. Stillness is hard for me, so I can’t vouch for this method, but Peggy has seen whole boatloads of owls, so.

12. Decorate your first Christmas tree

When my husband, Luke, and I moved in together, I wanted a Christmas tree. Luke bought a small one while I was at school and carried it the mile and a half from the tree lot to our apartment. The tree was small, but all trees are kind of heavy, and so I was deeply moved by this gesture. I wanted to procure ornaments for the tree as another sign of goodwill, but ornaments cost money, and we were quite broke. So I rounded up a collection of things from a recycled art supply center and painted the things and poked the things and put glitter glue on the things and finally stuck twisted paperclips into the things until the things sort of looked like decorations for a Christmas tree. A string of lights helps a great deal. We mostly haven’t kept any of those old ornaments because we’ve gotten “real” ones since then, but there is this one plastic orb — you know, the kind you get out of the 50-cent machines at the front of a restaurant — that I opened up and painted the inside of with glue and then sprinkled silver glitter in there, and that one survives. I love it. I try to put it toward the front.

13. Read magazines

I subscribe to 10 trillion magazines, and that is only slightly an exaggeration. The New Yorker I read from the back forward, pretending that I am only reading for the cartoons and then allowing myself to get distracted by this or that, eventually reading entire chunks of big and heady articles. The health magazines I flip through looking only at the pictures and the headlines. The rule is to stop when something is interesting but to tell yourself you’re only passing through. A magazine should never feel like a chore or something you have to get done. A magazine is a relic of a time when there was something linear and finite to capture our attention, before there was scrolling and clicking and rabbit holes. This is really quite a precious thing. I bring the magazines to school for my students to read, and they love them. It’s nice for your mind to be moving through a simple, single thing for its own pleasure.

14. Read books

I started to read them on the treadmill, and this has changed my life. I used to think this would make me feel carsick, but it does not, and that is probably because I am not that fast on the treadmill. You don’t have to be, either! I walk while reading the page on the left side and jog while reading the page on the right side. I hold the book open with a clip reading light. I get through so many books.

15. Sleep when you are scared at night

I’m not all the way sure about this one because I am always scared at night. My heart races, and it’s so difficult to sleep. I distract myself by playing reruns of Gilmore Girls on my phone with my eyes closed and my phone upside down, trying to imagine the pictures of what is going on on the show. And somehow, it is always eventually morning.

16. Buy a winter coat

I finally bought an ankle-length puffy coat. In October, while I was waiting for the train in a shorter coat and a pair of tights, I thought, “There is no reason I need to suffer this much through the cold. It doesn’t make me better. It doesn’t make me tougher. Who cares if I look unhip? Why am I not wearing a coat that is basically just a blanket?” I congratulated myself for making such a grown-up decision and bought the coat from my phone while I was on the train. The ankle-length coat has lent itself not only to comfort but also to unexpected moments of joy. In particular, I have walked to Lake Michigan almost every day in January. This ritual is keeping me whole.

17. Keep your clothes clean

I recommend that you wear an apron more often than you think you should wear an apron. You can wear an apron while you’re drinking coffee, watering plants, or lifting heavy dusty items to relocate them to the basement. The downside is you get used to wiping your dirty hands all over your body, and sometimes you forget that you don’t have an apron on at that time.

18. Draw on the train

The train is a great place to draw, but don’t listen to people who are like, “You can just draw people on the train and they won’t notice.” People notice what you’re drawing. They’re feeling poetic looking at you just as much as you’re feeling poetic looking at them. A good bet is to draw their shoes.

19. Hide Easter eggs

Living with only adults, it seemed like a great idea to hide Easter eggs around the house when no one was home, but time got away from me, and I ended up not doing this until two days after Easter. That ended up being a great way to do it because the plastic eggs and chocolate eggs and fruity jelly beans were on deep discount at Walgreens. The rule was that if you found an egg and you were going to remove it from the shelf, you had to eat it right then. If you didn’t want candy right then, you had to leave the egg for later and hope no one else found it. I refilled them and re-hid them all the way through October. It made our house more fun to live in for those of us who appreciate candy. I also hid a few outside our house in the public areas, and someone found them and took them. I hope that the person who found them felt happy and not terrified that the people in the yellow house might be trying to poison children.

20. Find the good stuff at the thrift store

This is a little bit of a trick because it’s much more difficult to not find the good stuff at the thrift store. It’s everywhere! One place where there is unexpected good stuff is amid the oversized books. Old oversized books are usually funny and filled with ways that people used to think. These books can be cut up and made into whimsical envelopes.

21. Deal with all the magazines you have after you’ve read them

What? This isn’t a problem for you because you don’t subscribe to 75 magazines? Why not?! Magazines are a great deal. For $10 a year, you can have an entertainment source that you can bring into the bath or on the train and not feel too bad about getting it wet or losing it. You can have material for your vision boards and your collage nights. (Collage nights might not be a thing, but maybe I’m making them a thing, writing them into existence.) After you’ve read them, you can post a picture of your magazine stack to your local chapter of the Buy Nothing Club. A teacher or a person who runs an after-school teen center will snatch them up, and your magazines will have a new life as craft supplies for strangers.

22. Write jokes

There is only one way that I know, and here it is: You have to sit very still and have on only the most gentle music (or no music at all or the sound of waves maybe — I don’t know; I haven’t tried waves). You have to think, “Okay. Trying to think of jokes. Trying to think of jokes.” And you think about everything you’ve noticed and everything you’ve noticed when you’ve noticed, and when your brain sticks to something, you think, “How could that become a joke?” And then sit and hope your brain will answer you. I think jokes are floating around in the air, and you just have to wait for them to fly low enough so you can grab them.

23. Do standup comedy

In New Orleans, I would occasionally do standup. I never got great at doing standup because I kept thinking there was some trick to it. I thought if I told jokes about “stuff that was real,” people would think I was amazing and I’d book a special instantly. In fact, the people who were best at standup worked really hard at it, not just at the clubs where they tested it out but also in their off-hours. A secret: When you perform standup comedy, people are actually rooting for you. They want you to be funny. Also, if no one has told you this before: Punch up. Don’t make fun of any groups that have less access to privilege than you do. This seems like it should be so obvious, but if you think it’s obvious, you’ve never been to an open mic night in Lafayette, Louisiana.

24. Motivate yourself to do a hard thing

I called myself a standup comic on my dating profiles and to strangers at parties, but I actually really disliked staying up late, and you have to stay up late if you want to do standup. Anyway, the only way I could convince myself to bike to a club to do a set was to promise myself any treat I wanted at the 24-hour gas station on the way home. Usually, I chose one salty thing and one fruity thing that I could eat rhythmically: Skittles and Fritos; Sour Patch Kids and popcorn; Mambas and Ruffles. Then I’d lie in bed with all my makeup still on and eat those snacks all the way to their conclusion and sometimes fall asleep without brushing my teeth.

25. Deal with your accidental rooster

It took a lot of effort to keep Foot the Chicken alive in the first place. I blogged about her being a “her” and about the triumph of saving her life. She soon revealed herself to be a rooster. We kept talking about how we were going to have to get rid of him, but I didn’t want to. There are these collars you can put on roosters that gently quiet their crowing by not letting them expand their throats as much. Poultry experts agree they don’t hurt the rooster. But there are exactly zero helpful videos on YouTube about how to put these collars on. My suggestion would be to get the rooster to love you so you can easily catch him and start off tight, but make sure he can still cluck, cluck, cluck. Understand that it is trial and error, and most people struggle a lot to figure out the collars.

26. Clean the bathroom

Use a Magic Eraser on your bathtub. You can wash the mildewy inside plastic curtain thing in the washing machine. Shake out the bathmats before putting them in the laundry. Lemon and baking soda will take you very, very far. Complain to your husband that his poop is the poop that is mostly splattered on the inside of the toilet because you, the woman, poop daintily and would never splatter and that he should therefore be responsible for scraping the poop off the inside of the toilet bowl.

27. Lay out a book

The secret to using InDesign and Photoshop is to think of the specific next step you need to take and Google it. For example, if you need to start a new book-sized document with 200 pages, Google, “How to start a book in InDesign with 200 pages.” Marvel that there are 90 videos on every single thing there is out there that you could ever want to do, and watch them. Follow the directions of the people who made the video, and then comment, “Thanks! I found this helpful!” The people who made the video will appreciate it. That’s really all they want, a little validation.

28. Collect something

Anything can be collected, and a lot can be written about the nature of collections. If you haven’t watched the video about the bowerbird nests, stop what you’re doing and watch it now. In it, you will learn that collections sometimes grow tiny fungi. In high school, I collected a Sweet’N Low packet from every restaurant I went to and wrote the name of the restaurant and the date. I collected spatulas. I collected fake bananas (by which I mean I had more than four but fewer than six). I have collected artifacts about the people I’ve dated in labeled boxes, although I do this less in adulthood, where my relationships are so solid that it doesn’t feel like I need to hold on to anything in order to keep them in place. I have a lot of rubber stamps in a typeface drawer next to my desk. Books are collections, stones, plants. You hold on to more than one because you want the variety. There’s a single hard-and-fast rule about collections: You can only get one item for your collection at a time. For example, if I go to a garage sale and there are three spatulas there, I can only choose one. It has to be the best one. To get more than one would cheapen the whole experience.

29. Let go of your collections

I think the spatulas are now in my mom’s garage? I don’t know for sure. I’m sorry to my mom; she probably doesn’t want them there. Or maybe she gave them away a long time ago. I don’t know, and it doesn’t matter. In truth, we don’t need most of what we hold on to.

30. Paint birds on your fence

First, paint the fence white, and this is going to take a lot more time than you initially think it will take. It is deceptively hard to paint fences. There are all these nooks and crannies. The fact that 1950s television shows let their teenage boys paint fences for 25 cents a fence or whatever is a gross exploitation of labor. There’s nothing simple or easy about painting a fence. Once it’s white, get small bottles of acrylic paint in lots of colors that say specifically that they are waterproof. Get a book of birds. Remember that birds are just blobs with beaks and tails and feet (see #7 above). Paint the birds.

31. Create a winning smoothie

I’m about smoothies. Once I had a roommate who said you should chew them because chewing is very important; another time, I read that you should drink them mindfully. But I don’t want to do either of those things. I want to drink something sweet that is still somehow so good for me and feel full afterward and be multitasking the whole dang time. I want to be able to tell my friends, “Yes, I have eaten a lot of spinach today.” So here’s what I put in mine: a cup of frozen fruit, unsweetened coconut water if I went to Costco recently and regular water if I didn’t, hemp protein, pea protein, a date, a ton of spinach or kale or both. I fill the blender, I drink it all morning, and I have terrific skin.

32. Get your sourdough to happen

The secret to making a good loaf of sourdough is that your sourdough must be quite bubbly, which means you have to feed it a lot so that it will fart. Feed it every day for a week, and make sure that it is climbing up the walls of your jar. I also recommend getting a countertop scale. They’re cheap, and if you ever decide to get into selling drugs, you’ll be one step ahead of everyone.

33. Screw in a lightbulb

This is an easy and intuitive job, and it makes you feel like you’ve really accomplished something in your day. I recommend you go change a lightbulb right now. If you don’t know how to screw one in, trust me: Grab a new lightbulb that looks like the lightbulb you’re trying to replace, and you’ll figure it out.

34. Feed the birds

This is less a question of how and more a question of when. There a few times a year where keeping your bird feeder stocked will really pay off. Those times are just before spring migration and to a lesser extent just before fall migration. Here in Chicago last spring, we had a bright blue indigo bunting just sitting outside the window of our study. Go for the bird food mix that is second-cheapest. The cheapest one won’t have the really good stuff the songbirds like, but actually, birds aren’t especially picky. Also, cut open a few orange halves or put out some dishes of jelly in early May for orioles and other fruit-loving songbirds. Watching birds from your own window feels like getting an amazing television subscription service that only you get to watch.

35. Endure the winter

Regarding the birds from the paragraph above, it is kind to put out food in the winter. You are going to only get sparrows, an occasional chickadee, and a downy woodpecker and maybe a mourning dove or a robin or even a junco, but the birds kind of count on us in the winter, especially when it’s really bad. And it cheers you to know you’re helping others, even if the others are birds. Other than that, there is no coat that is too long of a coat. You’ll never be like, “I wish that I hadn’t gotten this long coat” when it’s a cold day. Also, buy wool tights and shit that you can layer under your clothes, and don’t wear jeans. Also, sleep as much as you possibly can. And drink tea with honey. And don’t get mad at people if you can help it because everyone is suffering because it is winter.

36. Make a pie

The early English people knew that a pie was the easiest thing to make, and it was. You just need a crust, which is basically just fat and flour and a bit of water and salt. (Foolproof: Start with two and a half cups of flour with a pinch of salt; cut in one and a quarter cups of cold butter or substitute; then stir in six or so tablespoons of ice water until it’s the right consistency and refrigerate.) But you don’t have to get it exactly right for it to work; most things will work. Fill it up with fruit (fruit pies are correct, and chocolate or creamy pies are incorrect), and then add some cornstarch and a little sugar if you want to. Roll it out, bake it. You have to know this is easy. You can use biscuit dough or puff pastry or frozen pie dough. You can use frozen fruit or old fruit or a mix of fruit. You can use honey or maple syrup. You can use flour or arrowroot powder. If you get it a little wrong, then whatever! Eat whatever you made over ice cream. Pie is a perfect food, and no one can take that from you.

37. Hem trousers

A boy I was dating once saw that I had a sewing machine and asked if I would hem his trousers. I didn’t know how to do this and should not have said yes, but I wanted him to like me. I made him put on the trousers and then folded them up to the bottoms of his ankles, and made a line with a marker. I cut the trousers a little below the line, then folded the hem under, and sewed it closed with my sewing machine. He told me good job, but he never wore the trousers around me, and I understood why. You should pay someone to do this for you. It’s good to be able to pay people sometimes to do things that they know how to do better than you know how to do them.

38. Finish writing a book

I have finished writing three books that have been or will be published. There is one fact that I have found to be universally true: Somewhere in the muck of the middle of the book writing, you will get bored of this book and want to start another book. This is the point at which you will need to have some graph paper. Decide how many minutes each square on the graph paper will represent. Start to think of your book in terms of minutes and not in terms of any meaningful content marker. For me, each square is 25 minutes. When you have worked on this book for 25 minutes (or your chosen number of minutes), you get to color in a square or put a tiny sticker in a square. Decide that if you are not finished with the book by the time you have filled up the whole page of graph paper, you can put it down then. But you have to work through the graph paper first. Make sure it is a big piece of graph paper with pretty small squares.

39. Establish habits and rituals

Be gentle with yourself, because it’s hard to establish a habit. But pick at least one habit that feels really, really good. Examples: Rub lotion on your legs at 6:25 p.m. Brush your hair with your eyes closed every day when you’re done with work. Eat a single raspberry to celebrate waking up. Your habits should not just be difficult and miserable. They should be fun and exciting and things you look forward to, too. Doing one nice thing for yourself every day will help you know what it feels like to establish a routine, and it will help you establish other ones. I also recommend setting an alarm on your phone to remind you to do your thing every day. Here are phone alarms I’ve used in the past: “Brush your teeth,” “write a paragraph of something,” and “unusual bird interruption,” which went off every Friday at 3:22 p.m. and reminded me to watch a video about an amazing bird.

40. Throw a party after the pandemic

Set a start time. Make activities for people who are antisocial to do at the party. One example is to make a list of discussion topics (again, themed is preferred) that people can use while they are at the party. Ask everyone to bring one thing to the party such as chips, a drink, an item to exchange, a poem, or a single crayon for the coloring table so that they are committed to coming to the party. Give presents to your guests that match the theme of the party so that they feel like it was worth their while to come to your party. And don’t forget to set an end time. When the end time comes, say to the people, “The end time of this party has arrived. Thank you for coming; now please leave.”

41. Mail sugar cookies

For Groundhog Day this year, I mailed 20 batches of groundhog-shaped sugar cookies across the country. Some of the cookies were better than others. I hate to say this, but the ones with eggs were better. I made a batch with eggs and a batch without. The eggs were from my chickens, which to me is not an ethical dilemma. Anyway, that’s not the point of this. The point is that I used a fancy vacuum-sealing machine that my sister gave me for Christmas one year and gently vacuum-sealed them. Then I put them in bubble mailers and mailed them via the good old-fashioned USPS. You should not over-vacuum-seal bread or cookies because it will smoosh or crumble them. Do it manually, with the touch of a Renaissance artist. Alternatively, my friend Bethany’s mom mailed her sugar cookies for Christmas by individually Ziploc-bagging them all and then putting them in a box with bubble wrap. That also worked. At the end of the day, shipping a sugar cookie is less of a challenge than you might think.

42. Teach teenagers to put their phones down

Say this: “It is hard to have a phone. I mean, yeah, it is also fun to have a phone, but you know how addicted you are to it. You realize that it is pulling you all the time. And when it pulls you, it sometimes tells you something that you don’t want to hear: You get a mean email from a friend or a conflict-y text or not enough people liked your Instagram post or someone thinks something is wrong with your Instagram post and has commented about it and their comment has gone semi-viral. Then you have to stop everything and deal with that. It is exhausting. It is a lot. If, right now, you can let yourself put your phone away for the next 90 minutes, that would be a gift you could give yourself. You would be letting yourself be present. And you could use the excuse of, “My teacher made me, so I had to.” I’ll take the blame. And then just bliss out. Daydream if you want! Doodle. Read a paper book where all you’re doing is reading a book. For 90 minutes, the time could be yours. And it will mean something to the other people in the room if you are present. It feels good when you’re talking with someone and they put their phone away. You don’t have to do this. I am not forcing you to do this. I am just inviting you to do this. If not for 90 minutes, maybe 60 or 30. See if you can dare yourself to feel good.

43. Deal with all the flies in your study

This is what I think happens with flies. I think there is one in your study. There is also an alien-fly mothership invisibly floating in a parallel plane in your study. If you kill the one fly, the alien-fly mothership releases two more flies into your study. You will never kill all the flies. They will increase exponentially until you die. You have to become friends with the flies. That is the only way forward.

44. Choose a candle

Smell the candle. If you like the way it feels in the back of your mouth when you smell it, choose that one.

45. Forgive your ex, with whom you might want to be friends

What did you love about this person before? Maybe you aren’t thinking about those things because it’s too painful to think about them. But think about those nice things for a little while and remember that there were so many lovely moments that helped to grow you. Chemically, humans have the big, overwhelming lusty feelings for a year and a half. After that, our desire to have sex with each other changes into a different kind of choice. But culturally, we act like it’s blasphemous to allow relationships to change from kissy-sexy relationships into platonic relationships. A question might be: Did this relationship need to end? Or did it need to change? Maybe it needed to end. Or maybe it would have been nice to keep the friendship, to finish watching The Wire together, to have this person you love but don’t kiss. If that door is still unlocked, knock on it! Relationships don’t need to be all or nothing.

46. Forgive your ex, with whom you will never again spend time no matter what

I am so, so sorry you got hurt. Your hurt makes sense. People do terrible things to the people who let them in, and it is usually because they themselves are hurting. You have drawn your boundary, and that was one of the hardest parts. And now you are holding all that weight. Forgiveness is not a thing we do for another person; it is a thing we do for ourselves. It allows us to make room. Anger is dense and bulky; it’s okay to decide you are going to leave it behind.

Now, look. I know that this is easier said than done. I am basically saying, “Just do it!” If it were so easy, you would have already done it. Anger is there for a reason, and it has some work to do. First, you must decide if your anger has done what it needed. Very often, anger is necessary to free us from versions of ourselves that we need to outgrow.

But if you are ready, I suggest these tools, and take them or leave them. 1) You don’t have to tell someone you forgive them. You’re doing it for you, not for them. 2) Go ahead and say that out loud: “I forgive Lenny. I am doing this for me and not for him.” 3) Take a deep breath. Try again tomorrow.

47. Make vegan cheese

Go for something spreadable instead of sliceable or meltable. You need cashews and a blender. (You might want to first soak the cashews in water or boil them and drain them.) After the cashews, everything else you add is kind of up to you and is probably going to work great. I would start with lemon juice and salt no matter what and a little liquid to get those cashews moving around. Other choices might include a mellow miso, nutritional yeast (the gold standard of old-school vegan cheese-ifying hacks), chives and other fresh herbs, a boiled carrot, a seeded jalapeño, or truffle oil or salt. This is going to sound waaaay too simple, but listen: You can just add these things willy-nilly until you get the texture and flavor you want. It’s incredibly hard to get mashed cashews wrong. I think because it is not pretending too hard to be cheese but the essence is still intact that your nonvegan friends will accept this cheese.

48. Make pancakes

If you eat eggs, it will be difficult to believe how easy pancakes are. Put your eggs (two or three) in a blender along with a banana (or two or three) and some oats and some salt and some baking soda (just a little!). Blend. Pour it into a pan that has been preheated and has been treated with a little oil. Flip. The end. If you don’t eat eggs, that’s okay; pancakes are still not that hard. It’s basically just flour, oil, a sufficient egg substitute, baking powder, something a little sweet, and salt. I am intentionally not making a recipe here because I want to encourage you to experiment. I want to encourage it because it is actually going to work out. You know the consistency that batter is supposed to be, right? Add things until you reach that consistency. Your pancakes are going to work out. (It helps to know that the difference between baking powder and baking soda is that baking powder is just baking soda that has the acid already added in. Baking soda reacts to an acid in your food, so if you’re making something with fruit, like a banana, you’ll want to use baking soda. If you don’t have the acidic ingredient, powder is your pal.)

49. Finally go to therapy

Just as forgiveness is something we do for ourselves, therapy might have to be, for at least a little while, something we do for other people. If you are framing therapy as selfish — “Oh, my life is not that bad, I’ll just get over it”remember the last time you yelled at someone or canceled a plan because you were too upset or talked for an hour at your friend about your problems, knowing that you were asking her to take on a lot of your pain. If you are in therapy, you can say, “I am working on this in therapy. Thank you for being patient with me.” The people you love will be so, so grateful.

50. Write 50 how-tos

Start by thinking that this won’t be this hard. “You like to write,” you think. “This project will provide structure.” But it won’t go like that. You’ll want to quit, but you hate letting your people down. So you’ll try again every few weeks, re-imagining how you’re going to finish this. And then you’ll realize that maybe these how-tos don’t have to be elaborate. They can be small. And in the end, you’ll look at your collection and feel proud that you did it. You didn’t quit.

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