A Year in Loss and Gains
olfactory training post-covid, a museum of microsoft word, etc
Hello hello hello. It’s been a minute; I am in that end of the year burnout-fog that accumulates in between endless zoom calls. It’s not so bad; I’m writing letters to friends and taking two baths a day just because. And reading a lot and waiting for my mind to tell me it’s ready to tell me why I’m compelled to circle the same kinds of ideas across industries. It’s that feeling you get before you sit down to outline and everything begins to make sense - the anticipation before a really deep breath you haven’t taken in awhile. That’s where I’m at right now.
In any case, I wanted to share some stuff with you while I dawdle. I have divided it into gains and losses. There was a reason behind this at some point - but I lost it. Ha ha ha!!!!
First, the essay I wrote on Ugly Laws is online now. I’m proud of it and linking to it is as close to an end of the year roundup I feel compelled to do right now. (FWIW, I try to link to all my online work on my contently, but I probably spaced on a few this year, since I’ve mostly been working on my book.)
That aside, here are non-Arabelle pieces I’ve enjoyed lately:
Leslie Jamison wrote an essay on her loss of smell post-COVID for VOGUE’s Nov 2020 issue. It’s online now here.
ALLURE has a piece on olfactory training, which you have to do if you’ve lost your sense of smell due to COVID. I’ve been wondering about this practice since the beginning of the pandemic so I’m glad to see it being written about.
The modern world has become too complex for any of us to understand - on supply chains and the lack of accountability creating crisis capitalism.
On that note, it’s time to stop looking to brands to save us.
I keep returning to Carrie Lorig’s memoriam to her friend, Molly Brodak. An excerpt:
This entire tweet thread, on scented candles consumption in COVID:I couldn’t just walk past this Tweet, so here is some fun #dataviz Scented candles: An unexpected victim of the COVID-19 pandemic 1/nThere are angry ladies all over Yankee Candle’s site reporting that none of the candles they just got had any smell at all. I wonder if they’re feeling a little hot and nothing has much taste for the last couple days too.Terri Nelson @TerriDrawsStuff
This cool essay on digital archiving and the hands that get scanned too, as a consequence of this invisible labor. (You may want to re-visit my missive on archives as a chaser.)
Have you visited the virtual Museum of Microsoft Word? It is so cool.
Finally, Alexander Chee’s wonderful essay on overcoming writer’s block.
I didn’t write a lot of public facing work this year; I don’t think I did much last year, either. There used to be more shame about it but not today. I’m proud of what I’ve been able to do for myself in private spaces, in writing you can’t see yet. I have written 40 drafts of one essay that began in 2017 and made a breakthrough, finally, a few months ago - that would have been enough for me, just that itself. The printed out drafts are so thick they don’t fit into a shoebox - I measured! And I’ve got many more drafts to go. I am on the 5th draft of another thing that took me perhaps 2 years of on and off research to metabolize enough to do; something I’ve been trying to parse out the logistics of over the course of several different writing residencies. That ended up being fun, and not just frustrating, and that - that counts too. I have hours and hours of interviews with people all over the world I’ve had to do for a different essay and that is not done but I’ve learned so much. I was rejected from pretty much every residency I applied to this year but it helped me understand how to write a project budget and understand how out of my fucking mind I am to have gotten so far on my own dime, for so long. That was a good lesson to learn. I made friends this year. Impossible, but true!
I do not have any deep thoughts to provide you with at the moment, just languid sincerity. I promise to keep missing my friends and to keep reaching out in new ways. I promise to keep trying to adapt, to rest in the moments that I have to experience and to be grateful for the moments I get to captain myself. I promise to have a little forgiveness for myself; this is hard for me to do but I’m trying to not hide from depression by working. It’s important to find other ways to sit through it. I’m telling you so I can feel accountable to be better at it. To keep my own promise.
What have you promised yourself lately? What are you proud of this year? What does abundance mean to you right now? And also… what would you like to see out of this newsletter next year? Let me know, will you?
Near every single stable thing in my life has been flipped on its head a few times over this year, which sucked and sucks, but it caused me to finally seek therapy, after years of feeling like "it wouldn't do anything for me." So I'm proud of that.
I really enjoy the slice of media you've enjoyed/found interesting that you show through the newsletters, following those links usually leads me to learning new things or rethinking ideas.
Thanks for the words this year.