to love with/out regard

I am burned out and feel like I have nothing of joy to contribute from a genuine and deep place right now. Just being honest - it sucks! I’m rarely here, haven’t been here in a while. In years.

The other day in my journal I asked myself what does rest look like. For me, the answer keeps changing. Being online isn’t any form of rest right now, so I’m trying to dis-entangle (lol) myself from the habit of doomscrolling for my working hours - which, to be honest, are most of my hours, and probably yours. I fell getting out of the bath the other day super stoned running on half a bagel, and afterwards was like, “Yeah, my coping mechanisms are perhaps untenable. Time to figure new things out.” So there are some other options I’ve been trying… puzzles, which I now love. Sometimes I just watch the clouds. None of it is noble and after I finish a puzzle I’m confused by the accomplishment. It is just as active an action to me - trying to not work.

I want to push against creating a hierarchy of care work. I don’t think it makes sense to feel more accomplished or smug if I manage to meditate for a half-hour over like, filling in a page of a coloring book. That being said, I am trying to figure out ways of rest and care that aren’t multi-tasking in their goals; I tend to clean when I’m stressed or depressed and avoiding something. I have been trying to not do that - instead, I’ve been trying to sit with the idea I don’t have to be productive or in control to take care of myself in some form. And it feels impossible. It feels like I’m punishing myself for learning something I was taught all my life and still get rewarded for. But I think that discomfort is necessary. I think it means the work has to be done.

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I’m of the opinion that the more impossible something seems, the more necessary it becomes. So I’m just rolling around screaming in my discomfort, and it’s fine. It’s impossible, and I’m trying to do it anyway. The attempt is an act of love. It is my daily constitutional - systems testing myself to force an understanding of what needs to be upgraded to work better in times I’ve never been in before. Who knows if it will work. I’ll let you know.

…and don’t you think it’s funny I’m writing about burnout when I also write so often about beauty and self care and survival? I do. But I can’t really help it. I have nothing else to say right now. On that note, I revisit with great appreciation the idea that writing is not therapy.

What I am proposing is that we get real about what it means to render an experience for the sake of art, for the sake of sharing. To craft something and chisel it until there’s room for more than catharsis. What I want is the space for you, as you’re reading this essay, to read these words and supplant your own knowledge where mine breaks, to apply these ideas to your own work and your own opinions and purposes. To remember your own moments as a child on the other side of the glass. I want us to de-romanticize the way we’d like to read and describe memoir—voyeuristic and raw and vulnerable and brave—and wipe the metaphorical blood from the typewriter (eh hem, computer) and admit that all writing, all art, is projection, illusion, a performance. Documentary photographers are still lighting their shots.

They are still choosing just the right angle to allow us—the viewers—to take in the glory of the subject, or the absolute despair. There are other people and other scenes just inches outside of the frame, other ways to focus the lens. The photographer is not choosing the low speed film and wide shot to dupe us, they’re making these choices to show us the truth.

Some of the reading I have been sitting with this week, also about love and regard:

I really wanted to think about sensory experience and inhabiting the body in a way that is not exhausted by the condition of vulnerability and abuse. What does it mean—for those persons whose bodies are most often subjected to the will, desire, and violence of others—to imagine embodiment in a way that’s not yoked to servitude or to violence? For me, this was essential to thinking about radical politics: What does it mean to love that body? To love the flesh in a world where it is not loved or regarded?

The Herculean balancing act of Gornick’s prose has something to do with her desire to stay in the story, a desire furiously weighed against her longing for narrative absence. It’s the quandary of the organizer, who wishes to mobilize the masses, as well as the author who writes to move and woo them: how to rarify and promote one’s self enough to redescribe the world in one’s own terms, yet remain generous and self-effacing enough to let someone else inhabit it. 

  • I deeply love and appreciate Che Gossett’s work, and have had this conversation open on my computer for a few weeks. Some snippets:

Ru Kaur: What I’ve found to be a helpful way of framing harm and accountability and justice within an abolitionist framework also relates to the relationships that we have with ourselves, as well as with other people. So when are the times that you breach your own boundaries, when are the times that you’re not forgiving of yourself? When are the times that you are self-critical and judgmental? This is stuff that we do every day! These ways of being with ourselves and others take a long time to divest from, because they’re everywhere. So just to finish on that point — it’s not just about changing our relationships with each other, but actually the relationships we have with ourselves. And it’s not going to come easily, but that doesn’t mean that we give up because things just can’t remain how they are.

I’ll end here, leaving you in that maze of entrances and grace. I share this gut feeling that anything can lead to anything else - and right now, my exhaustion stems from opening up too many doors but finding fewer exit points. I’m getting lost in the sauce! Time to log out.

After I send this out, I’m going to go flip through this book I bought the other week, The Book of Trees. It’s a visual compendium of how we structure knowledge. It’s different than I expected, but in a way that I appreciate for the surprise. I’m contemplating structures of knowledge as stories of power themselves. I am interested in it, I think, because I’m trying to figure out ways to make the work - the work of planting my own tree to share with you - easier to bear. I have to figure out more ways to surprise myself, and care for myself. Find some shade of my own under my own creations.

I hope you find some sunshine and shade in equal measure this week. And every week! Be well.

p.s I spent some time and compiled this bookshop list of all the books I have ever mentioned in this newsletter - in paid editions and free ones. It will be updated on an ongoing basis. I hope it helps you find a new book to enjoy! And please consider sharing this newsletter with your friends and favorite nemesis. Thank you for your support.