It was somewhere around the end of February when I began to feel a familiar discontent. The malaise and boredom that set in after a few months of toiling away at work and life in general were transforming into fatigue. As a person who makes a living via writing, editing and photography, it’s important to notice when this perfectly natural and normal “down cycle” starts and to quickly take steps to combat it. This isn’t just for those of us in creative professions. Even in an infinitely inspiring city such as New Orleans, we are all prone to burnout. Which is why today, I’m offering up my nine ways to slay malaise. Or as I’ve been calling them: Rut Busters.
Do you have paid days off coming your way? Take your days off. It’s so easy to keep putting off scheduling vacation days. I’m as guilty of it as anyone, but as soon as I realized I was feeling less than enthusiastic about doing the things I love to do (writing, photography, cooking, biking), I knew it was time to take a few days off. I scheduled a mini-staycation from Good Friday through Easter Monday and got down to planning a few of my favorite and most inspiring pasttimes.
As an artist, I gain gobs of inspiration from simply viewing the work of others. A visit to the Ogden Museum of Southern Art on Thursday — when it’s free to Louisiana residents — had my mind working overtime in the best way. Two exhibits in particular captured my imagination: “Arthur Kern: The Surreal World of a Reclusive Sculptor,” and “A Place in Time – Part 1.”
The former is a collection of haunting and beautiful sculptures by retired Tulane Professor of Art, Author Kern. It’s both retrospective and debut, as Kern was never interested in exhibiting his work, rather allowing it to accumulate over the years in his Uptown studio.
The latter exhibit features photographs from 1865 to 1945, including early 20th century photos of New Orleans and, my favorite, Depression-era images by Works Progress Administration and Farm Security Administration photographers, such as Eudora Welty and Walker Evans. Evans is by far one of the artists who has most influenced my own photography. To see four vintage prints by him was one of the highlights of my weekend.
Nature has always served as inspiration for me. Getting away from the city landscape and into a rural or forested area lifts my spirits like no other act. Add to that the adventure of hoping on a bike and hitting a trail and it’s better than therapy. Mark and I hit the Tammany Trace trail for a more than 15-mile ride through the trees, rivers and breweries. Click here to read a more detailed account of the trail and the breweries. A day near the beach in Bay St. Louis or a hike at Jean Lafitte National Historical Park and Preserve were also on my mind and are both quick and easy escapes into nature.
Much to my delight, the Louisiana Derby happened to fall during my vacation days. This is the third Mark and I have attended since moving to New Orleans. As Kentuckians, we are avid fans of horse racing and jump at most excuses to visit the New Orleans Fair Grounds. (Click here to read Mark’s Full Sport Press coverage of the Derby.) Donning a big hat and a lovely spring dress, sipping on (virgin for me, because of Lent) Bloody Marys and watching thoroughbreds thunder down the track gets the blood pumping and is guaranteed good fun. We didn’t win a dime on Saturday, but it was a feast for the eyes and ears. Your idea of fun might not include gambling, jockeys and horses and that’s A-OK. Go boating, get tickets to a musical or concert or clean your bathtub if that’s what you are into. Who am I to judge?
Cooking is one of my favorite hobbies. I love to try new recipes, create my own concoctions and whip up old standards. An afternoon or evening crafting a great meal is soul soothing and fun, especially when Mark joins in on the endeavor. We also enjoy checking out new (or new to us) restaurants. This weekend, we finally got around to hitting Ancora on Freret Street. The Neapolitan style pizza is divine and they also have expertly made craft cocktails. The salad made with arugula, tempura carrots, roasted beets and brie blew my taste buds. If that innovative paring doesn’t inspire you, you need to pull out the big guns.
Gifts from Me to Me
There comes a time in every gal's life when she must take matters into her own hands and send herself a bottle of her favorite perfume. Whether I’ve completed a challenge to abstain from alcohol for six and a half weeks or am feeling a little burned out, mailing myself a bottle of my signature fragrance, Chanel Coco Mademoiselle, puts me in a festive mood. Include an encouraging note to yourself in the package. It might feel silly while you are typing it, but upon opening, it’s a guaranteed smile.
Novels, biographies, art books and magazines offer the easiest form of escape. Cozying up on the sofa or the porch with a great book or the latest issue of Vogue or Garden & Gun is both relaxing and motivating at the same time. Currently, I’m reading “Zelda: A Biography,” about Zelda Fitzgerald. An endlessly fascinating person and artist and writer in her own right, it seems biographers are only just discovering the depths of F. Scott’s wife’s talent. This is the third book I’ve read about her in the past year and I just cannot get enough. She was brilliant, fabulous, clever, gifted, humorous and, like her husband, tragic.
My Lenten abstinence ended on Sunday, and as promised, I was at the ready with a bottle of much-anticipated Veuve Clicquot Brut Rosé. Despite having one day remaining in my staycation, sipping champagne for the first time since Mardi Gras felt like the best possible way to wrap up my time off. It’s impossible to feel burned out when you are sipping your favorite bubbly.
Cheers to discovering, cultivating and — most importantly — practicing the things that bring you joy, inspiration and motivation. It’s easy to put ourselves on the backburner and be stingy about doing those things that bring us a little (or big) slice of happiness. Do you have tried-and-true rut busters? Please share in the comments or email me at Melanie@MyNewOrleans.Com.