I’ve started and stopped this newsletter more than two dozen times in the last six months. I didn’t want to be another Pandemic Project cliche, nor did I want to add unnecessary noise into the never-ending swirling morass that is Internet People Talk At You.
What is there to say or add — this long into global upheaval and reckoning — that hasn’t already been said by people more prolific and readable than me?
Instead, I’ve spent six months oscillating between despair, exhaustion, and anxiety to to 18 Zoom meetings a week, new hobbies, and too many extracurricular activities. I’ve joined I don’t know how many Creative Morning Field Trip workshops (Poetry! Tarot! Podcasting!), applied to and was awarded two big fellowships but also let dishes pile up while not bathing for days at a time.
I existed between “oh god, I am not doing enough” and “oh god, why am I doing the most?” On many days, I felt like I was broken.
And yet, I leaned into self-care. Not the goopy, mass-markety, consumery stuff you see on IG — I wasn’t wrapping myself in thick sweaters and wistfully drinking chai while staring out a window. I needed to figure out how to be in the world again.
I couldn’t continue volunteering at the local community garden, but I have the privilege of a porch, so I gardened — tomatoes, chiles, blueberries (lol), citrus trees, flowers to attract pollinators. I got a bike and started taking 30-mile masked bike rides through parts of Brooklyn and Queens I’d not normally inhabit — I expanded my world just when it felt like it’d stay small, forever. I learned about yoga nidra, and started practicing it when seated meditation wasn’t working (and even wrote a forthcoming article about its benefits for anxious, fidgety people like myself). I listened to poetry (via The Slowdown podcast) while I brushed my teeth. I watercolor now?
I think the biggest thing I did for myself, though, was redefine my relationship with news and social media. For a long time, I told myself the lie that I needed to be on Twitter and other social platforms because it was my job, I needed to be informed of everything happening so that my work was better, more researched. But did I need the constant barrage of bad news when it just kept me in a dark place? Did I need to wade into “the discourse” if I had no skin in the game? I certainly don’t need to be doomscrolling into the wee hours, as my friend Karen Ho so helpfully reminds all of us regularly.
So I took a break for a few weeks in July and August, logging out and deleting apps from my phone, plus setting up social media blockers and time limits across my synced browsers. I turned off push notifications, and banished news sites to those tertiary swipe screens, you know the ones, those screens that come after your most used apps. The news — the good, the bad — will be there tomorrow, as will all the hot and tepid takes, the memes, the negative feedback loop.
Am I “better?” The jury is still out on that one, but finding and maintaining practical routines has brought me back to myself. In some ways, it feels trite and hypocritical to even be sharing this with you, here, as an Internet Person Talking At You, but I have forgotten how to share and commune with others. In many ways, I’d like to reintroduce those routines into my pandemic life, too.
What about you? How are you navigating lockdown life? I’d love to hear from you, drop me a line!
— I’ve been reading (in audiobook format) Tasmyn Muir’s Gideon the Ninth and it is so escapist, so wildly out of my book wheelhouse, that I can’t help but stan. Stay with me: Lesbian necromancers in space have to solve a spooky mystery in a Gothic space mansion, while also navigating political intrigue and elaborate, lyrical sword-fighting interludes(!!) against other lesbian space necromancers.
— Remember laughing? Samantha Irby’s Wow, No Thank You. and R. Eric Thomas’ Here For It are so conversational, muffled social distancing feels like a distant memory. (I’m slowly building out my booklists on Bookshop, where if you buy a book, I’ll receive an affiliate commission. No pressure!)
— More of a listening experience, but I’ve been turning to the Healthy Minds app, produced by doctors and researchers from the University of Wisconsin-Madison’s Center for Healthy Minds, to ease into mindfulness training from a clinical approach. As a self-described “bad meditator,” I find the lessons approachable and informative, without being intimidated by the woo of it all.
— Free therapy, via the delightful Tabitha Brown:
"Don't you give up, don't you quit, don't give up," she says in one video. "Baby, you ain't done came this far just to get this far; you still got a ways to go. And I know right now it almost feels impossible, but don't you give up."
— A look into the lifestyle blog voter via Culture Study, about lifestyle blog-reading white women and what drives their voting choices. Chilling:
There are so many well to do suburban and small town women — mostly, but certainly not entirely, white — for whom all the ideological stuff, all the character issues, all the racism and white supremacist baiting, all the stuff so many people find morally repugnant, it just doesn’t figure.
— “Rest is a national priority.” I know many of us are looking for the escape hatch, and man, does Germany look good in this piece for Healthyish.
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