Five weeks to a new life
A photo essay of the bridge in-between
Thank you to everyone who reached out after my last newsletter. I am doing much, much, much better.
Something that I found interesting about those first few weeks in April is that although I had completely disappeared from social media, left long-standing group texts, couldn’t write, couldn’t think, cut off communication with even my closest friends initially … I kept taking photos. Even when I was essentially non-functional, I would notice the way the light hit a certain wall or that we had two daffodils popping up in the yard (that we had not planted). I think sometimes when you’re the most broken you’re also the most open (or most desperate) to notice the smallest details, to hunger for evidence of a beautiful life.
Twice, in dark moments, I took a photo of myself in the mirror because I needed proof that I still existed, that I had not disappeared completely. Those photos don’t scream Insta, they scream help. But I won’t delete them. You’ll never know how far you’ve come if you don’t remember where you’ve been.
Being off social media for long, or even short, stretches of time has been a good regular practice for me over the past 7 months in general. But as just about anyone knows, when a bomb goes off in your life it becomes not a practice, but a necessity. Just like blood flowing to an injury, all your energy and focus (such as they are) must flow to the crisis in your brain. You can no longer process such suddenly seemingly pointless shit as someone’s cool lookin’ breakfast, trip to Rome, dog galloping through a field. That was you not so long ago, of course. But suddenly it feels alien, unnecessary. Actually offensive.
In looking over the photos I took, photos that I captured in the spirit of the olden days — simply to take, not to share — I think what is particularly interesting is that a few of the most beautiful or seemingly joyful images were taken at some of my worst and most distraught moments, my lowest points. And some that would seem to indicate, say, unhealthy coping strategies or a looming darkness were actually taken during my highest highs. There’s one photo I included that isn’t mine but will forever represent an experience — a turning point both emotionally and creatively — that was so exquisitely painful that it almost deserves some kind of an award.
What I learned over those 5 weeks — a bridge between my old life and this new one — is that one person can utter a certain combination of words that will reveal to you what you had completely missed all along. Words that will kill what you believed. You are at your lowest. Then a different person can tell you a new story, and demonstrate through his actions, what you had been missing out on too, in a very different way. You are at your highest. And you suddenly realize that you have actually, shockingly — somehow — passed through the very worst of it.
This isn’t to discount the agency I have in my own life or the work I have done to make it to this point — an amount of work, if I do say so myself, that in the short term was constant and overwhelming, sometimes humiliating, awash in gross vulnerability and fury and sadness. And in the long term has taken actual years, like having another full-time job. If anything, I should be wary of placing such power in anyone else’s hands to change my brain one way or the other. But sometimes you cannot get out of your own way. Sometimes you need someone to reveal yourself to you — gift you with a new story, through new eyes — without having to work so goddamn hard for it.
I am not going to continue writing about this as it is happening, for the privacy and sanity of all involved. But also? I feel like the old story, the old experience, is just that — old.
Those 5 weeks somehow contained some of the worst but also a few of the best moments of my life. I don’t know how that’s even possible, but it’s true. I no longer want to examine it, or anything that came before it. I have spent so much of my life sifting through rocks, hoping for gold. Instead I want to pay attention to all the ways this new life unfolds and surprises me. The power I have to make it even more surprising. To believe again in a beautiful, and very different, life. And even though I am not free-free yet, I am free in all the ways that matter.
To everyone who told me “see you on the other side” — I’m here. Hi.
NEW FROM ME
• Once upon a time I used to write things that were funny! Who knows when that’ll ever happen again! Good thing I had one in the bank for The New Yorker, my friends. Find out why I partially know 73-1/2 different workouts here: “I’m Not a Professional Athletic Trainer, I’m Just a Woman”
• In a world where a new book has a 5-minute window to get eyeballs on it, you cannot imagine how thrilled I am that The Washington Post let me review a 30-year-old book! This book completely changed my entire framing of marriage and family when I read it a few years ago: “The one book about marriage I wish I’d read before my wedding”
• BUT YOU SEEMED SO HAPPY was featured on Good Day LA 🌞
• I’ve been rewatching Seinfeld and for everything that hasn’t aged well (plenty), I cannot get over how goddamn hilarious so much of it still is. Or all the storylines that would no longer work because of cell phones! Crazy times. Anyway, I didn’t remember the below scene from watching the show originally, but have now rewatched it at least a dozen times. I die every timeeeeeeeee. Which brings me to ….
… how it’s my new vibeeeeee. And to prove it, here’s a new playlist that I’ve been playing the absolute shit out of:
THINGS FROM ELSEWHERE
• This was a great (and sad and thought provoking) read: “My Time With Kurt Cobain” in The New Yorker.
• I loved this one: “Your Camera Roll Contains a Masterpiece” in The New Yorker. “If you take enough photographs, it’s almost inevitable that you’ll eventually get an extraordinary one, for reasons you might not understand. Cartier-Bresson was a hunter in his youth, and photographers have often described his brand of street photography as a kind of ‘hunting,’ but it might be more accurate to say that it was like fishing — a sport in which you can do a lot to optimize your chances but still can’t know for sure what you’re going to get.”
• One of the most raw, impactful pieces I’ve ever seen on miscarriage: “My Miscarriage, in Photos: When I got pregnant, my partner took out his camera. In the turbulent weeks after, he never put it down.” in The Cut.
• I’m not sure I can go on knowing this place exists and I do not live in it.
• Hi. I laughed. From The Onion: “Signs Your Partner Is Not Sexually Satisfied”
You can find my books here. You can find my writing here. You can find my copywriting and creative direction work here. You can find me on Twitter. You can find me on Instagram. You might find me in real life again, driving the backroads, music blasting like an absolute douche, sunroof open bébé.