Hi can we talk about love please
ლ(ಠ益ಠ)ლ IT'S CANCER SEASON EVERY DAY IN MY BRAIN
My themes for this year have been: tender discipline and disciplining tenderly. Towards my work and towards myself, it’s been an every day constant practice to try to stay in the moment, stay in my body, locate my feelings and observing when I’m overanalyzing and making moral judgements towards my feelings rather than moving through them. It’s so easy to become numb and to cycle through anxiety, grief, fear, neurosis, and to only share those feelings, as if repeating them to everybody in a casual apology does anything to resolve them. I mean, of course sharing how you feel is important! Vulnerability is really hard, and brave. But I also think that constantly returning to the worst things and the constant unending horror… and just sharing it, like the worst gossip…. no one needs that. It is important to understand how absurdly terrible our situation is but we know it is bad. I am far more interested in what we can do about it in ways that aren’t just reactionary but also worldbuilding, foundational, resilience-breeding. We have to build the worlds we want to survive for, and the places we want to live in.
I don’t really think we’ll see our own utopias but we should still work towards them. I am so much more interested in how we carve out joy for ourselves and if we are even thinking about what joy can mean when it seems almost morally bankrupt to feel any, ever. (I’m still thinking about the differences between joy and relief, which I mentioned last newsletter.)
There’s this buddhist idea of samsara; it is our endless patterns that bring about our own suffering. I’ve been trying to learn what that cycle looks like and how to parse it out into operable components I can change. That means a lot more quiet in my life, no radio in the morning, I read the news but don’t watch television and every morning I go outside and sit under my favorite tree and then give some basil plants a kiss and stare at every single plant in my garden until I can’t think of anything, and then I build a list for my day. I am still trying to not pick up my phone first thing - I try to only get on it until after I say hi to my garden, but I am failing at this particular thing. Still, parsing out samsara means making sure when I have conversations with my best friends, we try to figure out ways to end the conversation with things we’re excited about and grateful for and happy to have witnessed, rather than always and exclusively sharing our fears. I guess it’s because we feel like our fears are endlessly replicating, and I mean, they are. But the human spirit is resilient and can create antibodies out of strange, fearsome intruders. We survive by learning and rejecting them, letting them shape us but not devour us entirely. There’s a poem by Mary Oliver with a line I think about all the time: Joy is not to be made a crumb. When you feel it, just give in. Don’t hesitate. There’s a lot that can never be redeemed, but joy is always worth feeling.
I have this photo Alexander Chee tweeted of the David Wojnarowicz exhibit at the Whitney in my 2018 moodboard folder. It’s along the same heartbeat:
Some excerpts from my snippets folder that speak towards these threads, too. If you click on them they should lead you to their source:
Instead of trying to build lots of ways to protect myself from the world I am trying to plant myself deep into the earth by making lots of stuff I love and want to share with people. So when I feel unmoored – and I will, eventually – I’ll have so much of me just growing around me, to comfort me and to bring me back home.
Tired: approaching the world as an architect of ideas and things, and also a builder who can dismantle structures and things much larger than me to build my own, in my own image. Wired: a gardener of things I love that will eventually push roots through even the biggest, obnoxious things, eventually claiming them for my own growth, unsure of how it will turn out but optimistic about what can happen with enough care, love, and energy.
There’s this phrase activists use often now, that I think about a lot: They tried to bury us. They didn’t know we were seeds.
Anyway. I wanted to talk to you about love! I guess I did, in my own way? I just wanted to hold space for you to think about how you’re really treating yourself and also appreciating the world around you lately. Are you building lots of walls to protect you from bruising? Or are you planting things you love that will keep you company in the sun and shade you when you need them?
With that, I leave you with an on-theme reading recommendation: Alexander Chee’s How to Write an Autobiographical Novel. It has a chapter on roses and love that is relevant to this letter. I love it fiercely. There is also bell hooks and the seminal work, All About Love, and Alex Molotkow’s latest for REAL LIFE, on Crush Fatigue.
From All About Love:
“If we were constantly remembering that love is as love does, we would not use the word in a manner that devalues and degrades its meaning. . . definitions are vital starting points for the imagination. What we cannot imagine cannot come into being.”
Never forget that justice is what love looks like in public.
With lots of love –
p.s This is a free letter, but there will be paid-only letters too. Please support and subscribe if you can! Thanks for reading.