#21 Something more than what I felt which was nothing
It’s been a few weeks since I’ve written here and I do want to explain that I’ve relocated to a place
where writing has been historically easier (kidding that’s not a thing) where I only have one job, which is to write, and I seem to have come out the other side of whatever the fuck the last few years were, so this bodes well for this newsletter.
I made it across the United States—from New York to California—in five days, driving on the day Roe was overturned from Santa Fe to Los Angeles in one gulp. That morning I was on the phone with a friend who lives in Europe, a dude, who was the one to inform me. He said “oh shit Roe was just overturned if you need to go I understand.” I didn’t need to go because Roe was overturned, but I thought that I should be that affected so I lied and said yes, I was upset, I needed to get off the phone.
Emily and I were supposed to record a podcast with Angela Chen that day on her Very Brilliant Book That Everyone Should Read about asexuality, and the two of us got on a zoom to discuss whether we were in any condition to record a podcast, and because I felt that I was supposed to be feeling something more than what I felt, which was nothing, I tried to conjure emotion. Emily cried and had real actual feelings about it and could not record the podcast, and I borrowed her emotional state in my email to Angela, lumping us together as one pulsing horrified unit. “We’re fucked up we can’t record.”
One could argue though: being so fucked up about the state of things that you aren’t fucked up about the state of things is the definition of fucked up.
The week after Roe—my first week in LA—unfolded uneventfully. Some furniture was delivered to my new apartment, most furniture was held on backorder. I went to a hot yoga class that reminded me why I don’t go to hot yoga classes. I bought a ten dollar oat milk latte and complained that where I’m from such things only cost four dollars fifty; went paddle boarding with my sister and her family; had no less than eight calls with Spectrum trying to get internet. My cat hemorrhaged her fur, and I read very much about abortion, and I was still embarrassed by the lack of recoil in my corporeal and psychic self to the discharge of that ruling. I wondered if something in me—my outrage or empathy or whatever it is that we have that keeps us as horrified today as we were when we first comprehended horrible things to be horrified about—had broken.
On Saturday, still shrugging, Emily came to visit, and I drove to pick her up at Burbank airport. It was hot, I was wearing a ridiculous onesie I bought at Anthropologie a decade ago that had been waiting in the back of my closet for its comeback, and there was no remote parking so I had to keep just looping around and around and killing the earth. When Emily finally texted she was ready I pulled up to the curb as directed by the gloved, fluorescent-yellow-vested traffic person, where I squeezed in behind a guy putting a suitcase in a trunk.
The man with the suitcase turns and yells at me, something I remember to be like “oh my god someone help me this woman is trying to kill me with her car.” One of the gloved traffic persons starts yelling and running at me from the front; another runs from the side so I am surrounded by three people who are very upset about my parking and yelling at me about my parking. I try and put my car into reverse and I find I am too much animal to do that and I also don’t think they want me to reverse because now the two gloved people are at my door gesturing me to open it. I don’t know what they want but they are all saying different angry loud things and waving their hands and so I finally wave my hands back at them, helplessly, while one gloved person knocks on my window. They all appear to want me out of the car, and so I get out of the car, which is exactly when every single bit of fury that’s been gathering in my nethers swims to the surface to explode all over the fucking lot of them.
Out of the car and securely inside of my rage, two men—one gloved the other not—confer and agree that I don’t know how to drive, shouldn’t be driving, that they should take my license away, which is when I become a lady in a very loud and possibly out of fashion onesie standing outside a baggage claim screaming nonsense. “YOU’RE RIGHT!!! I’M JUST A STUPID FUCKING WOMAN. I DON’T KNOW WHAT I’M DOING I DON’T KNOW HOW TO DRIVE. WOMEN SHOULDN’T EVEN BE DRIVING!! TAKE MY LICENSE AWAY TAKE IT ALL AWAY FROM US WE’RE DANGEROUS SIRS!!!!! I SHOULDN’T BE ALLOWED ON THE ROAD, SIRS!!!!” Lock us up, etc. You get it.
I remember Emily standing there, stoic, possibly humiliated.
It was a true and real fucking meltdown followed by all the tears that couldn’t come when I needed them to: when he couldn’t tell me I mattered; when I drove away from my home; when they took away what few remaining rights we had over our own bodies; when they said yes to guns and power and men and patriarchy and money and absolutely no to humanity. Tears finally coming correct, on the day Texas completely outlawed abortions and made bodily autonomy a crime for half its population.
I apologized to Emily but mostly I was proud to show her I could emote, be righteously furious and irrational. I was relieved to be very, very upset.
A thing I keep thinking about this week as people organize protests and political actions and donation drives—all things I value, some I participate in1, am glad are happening—is the 2017 Women’s March in Downtown LA. I lived down there at the time, right in the middle of where the protest began and ended; most of the encampments that are now threaded throughout Los Angeles were then concentrated a few blocks away from my home and the protest.
At the end of the march one of my neighbors who lived in those encampments—an older Black man who was houseless and sometimes cognizant and able to speak, other times totally out of commission—sat shitting himself on the sidewalk in front of my building, diarrhea dripping from his wheelchair, his body folded over itself. We called 911, we waited with him, we watched him refuse help because help was worse than sitting in the middle of the sidewalk with shit all over you. Mostly though, we watched while people with protest signs and protest songs blaring from portable speakers wearing protest t-shirts walked around him and his pain-mess, averting their eyes, pretending he didn’t exist so they didn’t have to be uncomfortable. Out of the hundreds and hundreds of people that saw him, two stopped to ask if he or we needed help. I remember a sign that said “If you are not outraged you are not paying attention”; a sign that said “Unity”; I remember the song “We are family” being played by a group who sang along with it and danced around him, careful of his shit puddle. Not one of those people with those unity or family or paying attention signs stopped and the whole protest was made farcical to me because of that.
Hell is not the laws they pass or the rights they take away. Hell is living in a society where we are so fucking dead inside we step over bodies on our way to the protest for the sovereignty of bodies.
I have read many articles this past year that assert we’re losing our fucking minds and yeah, for certain, we are. (As I was writing this paragraph a new one went up about this new cross-breed of mental illness). I keep thinking back to my Kundalini training when our teachers reminded us again and again that we were preparing for a mass psychosis, that the transition from the Piscean age to the age of Aquarius (a thing) would be too much for some, that people would lose their heads and they’d be all running up to us in traffic screaming their fucking faces off and we’d be all chill and like help them calm down with Ego Eradicator.
I have not been chill as the world has gotten worse; I’ve also not been surprised in the least by it. I’ve counted on this, expected this, and not because I’m some great political activist who follows these things, but because how else could this go? There’s that Krishnamurti quote about it being no sign of health to be well-adjusted to a sick society. And still we think that people sick with addiction and depression are the fucking outliers. And still we strive to make all of this work, to piece it back together, to adjust adjust adjust. We think it was better six years ago, ten years ago, x years ago, and now it’s really gone to hell, but I tell you I have seen people stepping over bodies since I can remember.
I don’t know what to do, just like no one knows what to do. I only know for me: it has something far more to do with what a cunt I was to those people at the airport than how many times I call my representative. I only know for me: there is a root, and I am consistently distracted by the symptoms, and I want to find that root.
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Ten Things Right Now
Love addiction; a lot of books; a very good movie; should we stop tracking our periods on an app owned by Hamburger Chef Fever?
I’ve read and listened to a lot of (fiction) books over the last few weeks. The Copenhagen Trilogy by Tove Ditlevsen (originally recommended to me by Jessica Hoppe) (hard recommend); Department of Speculation by Jenny Offill (hard recommend); facing Love Addiction by Pia Mellody (recommended by Laura McKowen) (hard recommend); Mother Hunger by Kelly McDaniel (I actively dislike this book but it was helpful?); Matrix by Lauren Groff (beautiful; not sure how I feel about it so maybe recommend); Parable of the Sower by Octavia E. Butler (caused immediate onset of depression and yet couldn’t put it down?); Bittersweet by Susan Cain (hard recommend). In the middle of: ; On Earth We’re Briefly Gorgeous by Ocean Vuong; Being Mortal by Atul Gawande; Parable of the Talents by Octavia E. Butler.
The intersection of Dobbs and the War on Drugs means pregnant people who use drugs are more fucked than ever; a republican in Minnesota accidentally legalized edibles; and a psychiatrist tries Ketamine for treatment resistant depression, tells about it.
A few years ago I got v. scared about who was using the data from my period tracking app and did some very light digging only to discover the app was owned by the same folks that brought us the Hamburger Chef Fever app. Yes, we should probably delete our period apps. Also note: I still have mine because I can’t be trusted with paper and calendars. I’m just saying we probably should.
We went to go see Everything Everywhere All At Once in a real live theater with reclining seats and the kind of popcorn you put your own butter on and it was, for many reasons, the best three hours of 2022.
This has nothing to do with anything other than it was one of my favorite long form reads from the past few weeks. His commitment.
This song on repeat on my drive back to California which felt like exactly what someone like me would listen to on repeat on their drive back to California. This version of Under Pressure by Karen O. and Willie Nelson; Baltimore by Nina Simone.
“As bad as everything is, it’s still good to be alive.” There was this part in the book Bittersweet where I think an oncologist or someone who deals in life and death pretty directly and who might have every reason to be pessimistic, said: “The death sentence has come. It was always here from the moment you were born. And what do you live for then? I love everything about life. Familial love. Parental love. Spousal love. Lust. I love beauty. I love fashion. I love art. I love music. I love food. I love plays. I love drama. I love poetry. I love movies. There are very few things I don’t have an interest in. I love being alive.” I had to rewind it and listen multiple times because it was so specific. He wasn’t speaking his list of gratitudes or appreciations; it was a direct explanation of what this person loved about being alive and when I heard it, I realized it was exactly what I love too, or have come to love about being alive in these few years where I couldn’t channel all my reason for existing into another person, a job, a vocation, a cause, etc.; where I had to realize that there isn’t a point of being here other than being here. I have come to love it all, too. In that spirit: There’s some people that remind me that even though this is a trash fire, it is still so good to be alive, to be here at all. This is all a very long way of saying Chris La Tray is one of those people and I love his newsletter.
This article on the problematic nature of the term codependency which I agree and disagree with; more on this topic
Announcement: Quitting Quitted
Emily and have paused doing our Quitted podcast for now. Emily has her reasons which she discusses in her newsletter. Mine are pretty simple: it doesn’t feel like a full-body yes. It feels like a question mark and I’m tired of forcing question marks.
This doesn’t mean it’s over, doesn’t mean we’re quitting Quitted. It only means for now, I know where I want to be, and it’s sitting at this desk writing these words into this computer and that’s pretty much it.
We created 21 episodes, each one of them alone worth the entire effort because of the guests we had, the stories that were told, the wisdom shared. Thank you to each and every single one of those folks who gave us their time and their stories and their vulnerability; it was pretty unbelievable to have such candid and real conversations outside of recovery circles; bless each of you that were courageous enough to bare yourself in this way to us. Thank you to those of you who listened and rated and shared and commented; it actually did really well as a podcast, we hit the top 200 in Apple a few times and were in the top .05% of podcasts in terms of listenership which was surprising. Big Special Thanks to Cathleen Kisich for volunteering your time and energy and love and support and making our show run like my new overpriced Nordic coffee maker; to Adam Day for being the genius sound engineer and friend I asked Jesus for. And finally Emily: I’d do it again if it just meant being your friend.
Lastly I want to say: Writing is great because you can just edit out all the bits that make you sound like you’re a terrible human. I couldn’t do that with this podcast. I was in a TERRIBLE place when I recorded it and try as I might there was no fucking way to get around being Eeyore. There was this one comment who said I was the kind of person you didn’t want to get stuck with at a party because I’m so fucking miserable and complaining or something and oh, I think that was the best part of the whole experience. Some people were really mean about me and this time, they were pretty much right. You definitely did not want to be at a party with me this past year; I don’t have kids and a partner so I am pretty selfish and useless as a human; I interrupt a lot; I very much act like I know more than I do. In a weird way, it made me a lot less afraid of what They say, or that They might see the terrible bits I try and hide on social or in my writing. For that alone I am deeply deeply grateful. There’s something sweet and freeing about feeling like you did it all wrong, that you might have been very unlikable or terrible, and that it matters just as much as the things you did where you were at your best and they said all the nice things.
Corrected. Previous version worded incorrectly so it sounded like I am involved in all these activities. I am not active in any physical protest currently (haven’t demonstrated); I donate funds