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A Writing Retreat at the Madonna Inn

by Jackie D on January 7, 2016

madonna innSomething I’ve noticed now that I’ve started to mention to people that I want to write a book: a lot of people look at me like they feel sorry for me — probably because it’s a ridiculous thing to want to write a book. But I have no shame about it, and even though writing has felt a little exhausting lately, it’s exhausting in a good way, like when you feel like you’ve actually made progress on something. So I’m going to keep pressing on and hopefully taking more of these little “retreats” throughout the year.

I’ve wanted to visit Madonna Inn for a while because I didn’t believe that any place in life could actually be so thoroughly hot pink and I wanted to see it for myself. Of course, I would have preferred to visit with a group of girlfriends, but I don’t know the next time all of our schedules will allow for it. So I woke up around 8am on New Years Day and drove the 3 hours up the coast from LA to San Luis Obispo, and I arrived at the hotel around 2pm (stopped in Santa Barbara for lunch, because tacos).

madonna innmadonna innBlog Madonna Inn 9I spent the afternoon wandering around taking a few photos, and then I sat by the pool and read for a while. I was starving by 5:30pm so I went to the bright pink steakhouse right when it opened and treated myself to a steak — I can’t even remember the last time I ate steak. I read my book while I ate and then went back to my room and wrote until I fell asleep on my laptop. In the morning it was more of this: eating, reading, writing. I highly recommend sitting at the bar for breakfast (before 10am, which it was when it got really crowded) and eating at least one giant waffle (or 3).

It was, as you can tell, a very simple weekend: eating, reading, writing. I took some photos. I sat by the pool. I listened to music. I took a long shower.

madonna innmadonna innmadonna innmadonna innThe hotel was anything but simplistic — it really is as bright pink as it looks in the photos. And it’s the best. There are pink basketball and tennis courts, the steakhouse has bright pink booths, the carpets are pink floral patterns, the barstools are pink leather. And you can’t miss the bathrooms in the steakhouse (the waiters will also tell you this) — the girls’ bathroom is also bright pink and apparently there is an actual waterfall in the men’s bathroom (will sneak a peek next time). The cocktails are pink, many of the rooms are pink (not mine, mine was bright yellow), all of the souvenirs in the souvenir shop are pink, the rental bikes are pink, the golf carts are pink. Guys, if you hate pink, stay away from this place.

But the ridiculousness of this hotel is exactly why it was the perfect place for a little writing retreat. When you want to do something as ridiculous as writing a book, it helps to force yourself to sit still for a minute in an equally ridiculous place.

And waffles don’t hurt either.

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IMG_8067 copyThe Weekly 7 is usually a list of great things I found around the Internet or in real life during the week. I publish it on Sunday mornings or evenings because it goes nicely with coffee in bed or a hangover on the floor.

Rather than making specific New Years Resolutions each year, I generally pick one sentiment for the year and stick to it. But there are a few specific things I’d like to accomplish in the coming year in addition to my sentiment (which I am keeping a secret for now, because I’m sure everyone cares?):

  1. Take more photos.
  2. Improve photography skills as I take more photos.
  3. Go to Japan!
  4. Finish writing the draft of the book I’ve started because fuck it, let’s write a book this year guys.
  5. Use writing as an excuse to have solo “writing retreats,” aka weekends spent at exotic hotels who happen to be having great deals (above photo is from my first such trip of this year at the Madonna Inn in California)
  6. Save a specific amount of money that I will not disclose here.
  7. Keep up my one sentiment from last year: to give fewer fucks. Who’s with me?
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2015: Happy Alone

by Jackie D on January 1, 2016

IMG_80382015 was a big relationship year for a lot of my friends. One of my best friends from childhood got engaged in February (and I’m going to her wedding in a week), another celebrated her 1st wedding anniversary in May. One of my New York bffs and one of my LA bffs have been going through some of the milestones you pass when you’re in your first serious “grown-up” relationship. Another of my New York friends just got married in December.

And they are all so happy, and I am genuinely so happy for them. We’re at that age where things either become really serious or they don’t; friendships begin to change because people begin to separate into “coupled people” and “single people.”

For that reason, 2015 was the year where I was more aware of being single than I have ever been before. At times it was slightly frustrating and a bit scary — I’ve been watching so many of my friends go off into relationships while I am, in a way, left behind. Instead of planning a romantic weekend away with someone, or booking a “couples trip” with other couple friends, I’ve been planning a few trips to take by myself, or making myself dinner alone at home, or falling asleep at night with a book on my face rather than an arm wrapped around me.

2015 was a big year for me in terms of my job, which is going really well, and I think it would be easy to look at that and say, “Oh, well you’ve been spending so much time focusing on your job that you haven’t had time to focus on a relationship.” But I hate that argument and I don’t think it’s fair that so many people still believe that a person can only have one or the other: a successful job year, or a successful relationship year. I also think it’s unfair to my friends who have had great relationship success this year — it doesn’t mean that they haven’t spent time focusing on their jobs, or that they are doing poorly career-wise.

Of course, there is a little part of me that thinks: if you really, really wanted to be in a relationship right now, wouldn’t you have tried harder to make it happen? I definitely could have put myself out there more this past year, although 1. that takes a lot of energy and I blew off a few dates because I realized I’d rather focus that energy on something else, even if it was just reading or cleaning my room or going to see a movie; and 2. I’m not exactly sure where the “there” in “putting myself out there” is — bars? Dating apps? Pizza? Definitely pizza.

I don’t even know exactly how to classify how it has felt this year, to just be really, really aware that I am single. I got a sweatshirt that says “Happy Alone” from one of my favorite companies because when I first saw it, it made me laugh. When I wear it in public people have one of two reactions: either they laugh like I did (kindred spirits!), or they look at me like they don’t know whether they should feel sorry for me or not.

I saw a girl post an Instagram photo of herself wearing the sweatshirt and she noted in the caption that she bought it not because she was happy being single (she wasn’t single, she was in a relationship) but just because she was happy spending time by herself, reading, drawing, watching TV, just enjoying those quiet moments alone where she didn’t have to talk to anyone or share her personal space.

Events or circumstances of this past year have forced me to be alone several times — I was the only single person at a bachelorette party, I was date-less at the wedding I attended, I showed up alone to a volunteer meeting to start working at that bookstore I’ve mentioned dozens of times, I’ve gone to bars by myself on the occasions when the only 3-4 friends I have in New York were busy, I’ve gone to movies alone, restaurants alone, museums alone — alone, alone, alone.

I’ve also never craved alone-time as much as I have this past year, living in this crowded city. There were times on the subway when I’d have to shut my eyes and turn up my music and tell myself, just three more stops, three more stops and a few blocks and you’ll be home, alone, away from all of these loud people, just alone in a room where it only smells like you and the walls are clean and nothing has spilled on the floor and no one can ask you for money. Alone, alone, alone.

It helps that I know that I have friends I can text whenever I want, books that will keep me company when I’m alone in a restaurant, Twitter feeds & articles that will remind me that the world is bigger than my relationship status, and a job that challenges me and offers me the opportunities that I dreamed about when I was a kid.

Most importantly, I know that being alone in 2015 doesn’t mean that I’m going to be alone forever. I mean, I guess that’s a possibility, but let’s cross that bridge when it’s been 50 years. For now I’m fairly certain that it’s just an alone-phase of my life, and so I am trying to enjoy it, to relish in the quiet, the lack of drama, the ability to focus on my own needs/wants/interests without having to take anyone else’s into consideration. I don’t want to look back on this time and regret not getting the most out of it while I could.

As this post goes live, I’ll be headed up the California coast to start off 2016 in one of my favorite ways: taking a solo trip to a colorful place I found when I was browsing the Internet at home one night before I went to sleep — alone.

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