A year is a long time

And no time at all

Lately I’ve been thinking a lot about the saying “The days are long but the years are short.” If you haven’t heard this particular phrase, it refers to raising kids. I can confirm that no days—ever, even while deathly hungover—have ever felt as long as those spent parenting very young children. And no years are feeling shorter than they are right now, the teenage years. Although based on the fact that we all got in a screaming match the other night trying to agree on what movie to watch as a family (resulting in exactly 50% of our family in tears) I can tell you that even some of these days have their long ass moments.

In terms of your inevitable follow up question, no we sure didn’t decide on a movie, we have been incapable of agreeing on a movie for over a year now. We finally gave up and watched 4 straight episodes of The Office. It was the right call.

Anyway.

My life separate from parenting hasn’t held to this long days / short years formula quite as neatly. A lot has happened in the past four years, especially the past three, no wait actually nothing tops this past one. Extreme ups, extreme downs. Of course I’ve been writing this newsletter over that year and it’s occurred to me I was probably having a li’l bit of a mental breakdown that whole time? HA HA HA whoops, sorry about that!

I have been awash in uncertainty, grappling with big life changes, and there have been many dark nights of the soul. But slowly that little train of misery hit peak misery (I hope) and starting chug-chugging back down the mountain and I am terrible at train metaphors I’m sorry. I’ve had a solid reprieve from all of that since this summer and W-O-W turns out you can feel absolutely fucking great about your life when you have even just 15% more stability than you had before, back when you had 0%. 15% is more than 0% no matter which way you slice it!

So as I head into Year Two of this newsletter, a couple things:

I will be writing this newsletter less frequently than before. Sort of by accident I ended up writing one of these every couple of weeks. But I’m currently focused on some big projects and I need (and want to!) stay focused. More than anything, I need to take ownership of where I allow myself to become distracted all under the guise of “Yeah man but it still counts as writing.”

I may pepper in EPIC LINKS ONLY newsletters to alleviate my many open tabs! One of my favorite things about doing this newsletter is sharing stuff I have found and love and think you might appreciate too. So I might cheat and wing those into the rotation every now and again. Please forgive me if they don’t come with a rambling nonsensical entry such as this one. Or—you’re welcome depending on how you feel about this thing.

Lastly, THANK YOU for subscribing. I went on a heavy unsubscribe binge earlier this year. I just couldn’t handle the weight of always having so many good things I wanted to read and not enough time to read them all. So I especially appreciate that you are still here and you allow me to occasionally haunt your inbox (and if you want to unsubscribe, hey, no hard feelings. I GET IT.)

Last weekend at this time I was wrapping up my annual Writers Weekend (I’ve written about it previously here and it’s where all of these photos were taken this year.) I went into the weekend infinitely more energized and hopeful than I did last year. A year feels like a long time for me these days (on a personal level but not on the parenting front, so it is a confusing state of being.) For about ten years of my life it seemed hardly anything changed at all. And over the past four years it has changed profoundly and in ways I couldn’t have predicted every single year. So when I went into last weekend I was ready to be open to whatever might happen. Well aware that I’m very good at suddenly focusing on the writing I don’t really need to do and avoiding the writing that sorely needs my attention.

After flailing a bit on the first night and working on an article that has been hanging over my head for two months, I started fresh the following morning and finally, finally dug into truly working on my book. The hard parts of it. The essays. The equivalent of the last questions on the test. The ones I’d been putting off. By the time I was ready to head home Sunday morning, I had written 8000 words. I have never done that before, ever. Not in that short period of time. Not even when I was working on my first book under a much tighter timeline.

If you are also a writer you know how rare and fleeting that feeling of flow can be. I can honestly say I’m not sure I’ve ever felt it in quite the same way that I felt it last weekend. I was engaged in what I was writing, truly and thoroughly engaged, to the point where I forgot time and didn’t fall victim to my usual distractions (hello, three Instagram accounts). I wanted to work away at these essays, not just do a quick shitty pass on them and kick the real work down the field like I typically do. I reopened the doc after every break, first thing in the morning, as soon as I returned home, and I kept working. I felt like the words were pouring out of me with something I would almost characterize as precision, like everything I had been thinking and talking about and rolling around in my brain had actually gelled into something that made sense. I felt like I could’ve kept going forever. I have tried to write every day since I returned, even if it’s for just an hour. I am so hesitant to let this streak go.

Now I know what you’re thinking. Does it rhyme with “go fuck yourself”? I promise I am not here to be all WOW LOOK HOW EASY WRITING IS YOU SHOULD TOTES TRY IT. Only that writers do a solid job of bitching about writing, complaining about how hard it is, often taking an active role in actually making it harder (welcoming distractions, dodging the work, fucking around in general) that I think it’s okay and necessary to recognize that rare state when everything feels like it’s clicking. I mean, hot damn is it rare. When you’re not doubting yourself or creating busy work elsewhere or just dreading opening that doc again (or whatever your own project / creative / work equivalent is). It just feels good. We’re all pretty great at going on and on when life is terrible or something feels bad (see: Nov 8, 2016-present day 2019.) I don’t want to let these happy, secure, optimistic moments pass without recognition.

Anyway. All this to say — you’ll be hearing from me less, I’ll be writing more, I will share links when I can, and I’d be remiss if I didn’t say I think you look fantastic in that sweater.


NEW FROM ME:
• McSWEENEY’S: “Successories for Her” I remain disappointed that no one has latched onto one of my favorites: “Behind every successful man is a woman pretending to be a gorilla” because it’s absolutely accurate.
• THE NEW YORKER: Some Questions for People Who Shout “Woooooo!” During the Hardest Part of a Workout (Update: I am afraid to return to the places where I workout for there will be a tidal wave of passive aggressive high fives rained down upon me.)
• A BOOK! NO, A DIFFERENT ONE! Did you know that McSweeney’s is publishing an almost 700-page gilded-edged behemoth of a book, featuring humor pieces from their 21-year history? Well, you do now. And it’s out November 5th! I have a piece in there as do a million (a hundred?) other writers. It’s the perfect gift for anyone / everyone who needs to laugh ruefully which in 2019 turns out is absolutely everyone except that human thumb in a necktie, Stephen Miller. Fuck that guy, don’t buy him this book. He doesn’t deserve it AND HE NEVER WILL. Preorder KEEP SCROLLING TILL YOU FEEL SOMETHING here.
• I was happy to see AMATEUR HOUR included on this list! From the New York Public Library: “9 Books That Are Emotional Rollercoasters”

THINGS FROM ELSEWHERE:
• BRAND TWITTER: If you’re a sucker for brands roasting strangers, wondered when brands started thinking that tweeting on 9/11 was a good idea, or the glorious birth of @NihilistArbys, this one's for you. “Brand Twitter Grows Up” from Vulture. Never has there been a more perfect last line than this one: “The arc of Brand Twitter is absurd, and it bends toward sales.”
• CREATIVE SABBATICALS: A sabbatical? In a national park? Are you kidding me? Gah. “Amble, a crowd-funded start-up, organizes monthlong retreats that pair creative professionals with budget-strapped national park conservancies.” Read about the program here.
• PARENTING: This is an incredibly brave and honest piece and thank Jesus the NYT didn’t allow comments on it. “The Rage Mothers Don’t Talk About” by Minna Dubin.
• GRIEF: Got two for you here. From The Washington Post “The transcendence of Nick Cave: After losing his son, the post-punk icon found communion with his fans” and the launch of Lemonada Media’s podcast Last Day, co-hosted by Stephanie Wittels Wachs, focusing on a loved one’s last day. In her own words: “Our first season, we’ll be talking about opioids because, unfortunately, it’s the epidemic I know best. My little brother, Harris Wittels, comedian and beloved human died of a heroin overdose in 2015.” Listen to the trailer here.
• HUMOR: This is absolutely perfect and I can’t stop re-reading it. Accuracy level: 10,000% “Just Another Nineties Work Day”
• POETRY: If you read AMATEUR HOUR you might remember the essay about the poet (her name is Julie Cadwallader Staub) and her one poem that always brings me to tears—which is funny given its title (If Life Were Like Touch Football). She has a new book of poems out this month, Wing Over Wing! Since she is also my neighbor (we see each other just about every morning out walking our dogs and how weird is life?) I know exactly the moments she is talking about in the poem below:

Turning

By Julie Cadwallader Staub

There comes a time in every fall
before the leaves begin to turn
when blackbirds group and flock and gather
choosing a tree, a branch, together
to click and call and chorus and clamor
announcing the season has come for travel.

Then comes a time when all those birds
without a sound or backward glance
pour from every branch and limb
into the air, as if on a whim
but it’s a dynamic, choreographed mass
a swoop, a swerve, a mystery, a dance

and now the tree stands breathless, amazed
at how it was chosen, how it was changed.


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