happy new year.
it’s been precisely a week since the first day of 2021, which also happened to be the first day my partner and i spent in our new home, an arrival we eagerly awaited after months in an apartment that had become physically and emotionally stifling. the new place is awash with eastern sun, a stone’s throw from my favorite park, and cradled in a sturdy, post-war building on a quiet, leafy street.
currently, i am sitting cross legged on a stool — one of just three pieces of furniture we have left after the move — typing in a room that is bare apart from a few precarious piles of books and two potted plants. the plants, like me, are a little worse for the wear — a bit dry and wilted after some chaotic weeks — but we’re here. …
sending you extra, intentional warmth this week, from my pocket of the void to yours.
so. like many, my partner and i recently cancelled our very tentative, but dearly-held plans to see family for the holidays. it was a decision that, despite feeling inevitable for weeks now, still stung.
in fact, it was “triggering,” reviving old feelings of entrapment and dread. it seemed to send my spirit hurtling back to March of this year, to those first, grim months when the walls of the world were suddenly collapsing in on us, the most familiar and precious things — city streets, loved ones’ bodies, groceries, our very doorknobs — transformed into vectors of potential threat. …
what a week.
do you feel different?
i feel different.
no, the relief is not total — there’s still a vindictive lame duck in White House, plumbing new depths of disgraceful and potentially dangerous behavior. there’s disappointment and sobriety in fact that over 70 million Americans voted for Trump — not to mention many of his acolytes, including multiple candidates who openly support QAnon. and of course we know that no single leader or party can offer complete or instantaneous solutions to the entrenched problems that face this country — and no election can substitute for ongoing, grassroots work.
and yet. …
it’s late morning on Friday, Nov 6, and i’m exhausted.
i’m sure that goes for most of us, of course. nevertheless, i think there’s value in taking our own, personal travails seriously, in accounting for the individual ways we’re struck by the moment, the world, in which we live.
so, taking a cursory inventory of my personal weariness, i find: a body weakened by a week of poor sleep and superfluous adrenaline, a mind numbed by a deluge of ballot-related updates and speculation, and a heart heavy with the un-surprise of an electoral map once again revealing a raw-red core. …
something unusual happened this week. for only the third time in the past eight months, i Took A Trip.
it was nothing extravagant — only a two-day jaunt upstate. my partner and i, having recently acquired our first-ever car (a used Prius, as per our demographic cliché), made reservations to camp in the Catskills.
something else unusual happened. i let myself get excited.
as i wrote last week, i have trouble allowing myself to “get my hopes up.” i too often preempt myself with disappointment, hedge my bets with pessimism. …
“okay, now, this is really too much.”
i couldn’t even begin to tell you how many times i’ve said or thought these words in the last year. in the last four years. each time, i consider the irony, the absurdity, the grief in the fact that the words mean a little less each time — undercut, like a nation’s confidence in a compulsively-lying leader, by the accumulating weight of self-evident contradictions. by which i mean, i’m still here, even after so many blows, so many declarations of “too much-ness.” …
when was the last time you got exactly what you wanted?
i ask because this year, it seems to me, has been one defined by disappointment, dismay, outrage. at the best, it seems, we are “surviving,” enduring the long slog between let downs, offenses, fears. we are “getting by,” it seems — the tone i hear tends to be both valiant and glum, an admission that none of us is living the life we want, but hey, at least we’re healthy/housed/sane.
and i’m glad to hear those caveats, the at-least-performative admission that privilege does, as ever, play a role in our experiences of this time. …
i’ve been rained on a lot this week. it’s one of the many ways the pandemic has rendered my life more elemental — with most indoor spaces still closed in New York City, “going out” has never been so literal. as a result, i find myself more attuned to the inflections of the weather than i’ve ever been, at least in my adult life. i begin each day standing at our broad, Eastern-facing windows, trying to read the clouds, even lifting the window to stick a few fingers into the air, just for a taste. …
“…in these uncertain times…”
how many times have we read, heard, or said something along these lines in the last few months? it’s become something of a joke — but like so many clichés, the heart of it is too resonant to laugh off completely. we still need the caveat, the perfunctory nod to the fact that we’re living in freefall and chaos and ambient anxiety, before carrying on with our exchange.
i appreciate that, because i don’t want to normalize our current state too much. i want to keep that footnote, the one that says: there was a Before Time, when we shared unmasked smiles on the street, when a simple trip to the grocery store didn’t leave my skin crawling, when people planned things like weddings and vacations with a blithe confidence that planes would fly, that parties would be thrown, that our children would go to school. …
hello again, friends.
confession: i don’t think i have anything to say today.
i’m starting this newsletter later than i usually do — friday mornings i normally get up before dark, spend a little time meditating, and then sit down to let my thoughts from the week coalesce into something i feel might be worth sharing. often, the seed of this letter will take shape earlier in the week, prompted by a striking headline, some local event, a provocative conversation, a piece of art. i’ll pluck that passing thought and begin to turn it over in my head for hours or days, until it finally takes some kind of expressible form. …