We Hope This Finds You As Well As Can Be Expected

Some online friends recently ran a 40+ person zine trade that they called We Hope This Finds You As Well As Can Be Expected. Look at these beauties:

My zine was called Quarantine During a Pandemic is a Perfectly Normal Time for Your Heart to Freak Out. It’s about wearing a heart monitor, a thing I did for a few weeks a few weeks ago.

If you want to read my zine you can download and print out this PDF file here and then fold it and cut it like our friend Austin Kleon describes in this video here. Easy! The end.

Still, Look:

Woke up from a dream last night about a murder and thought: holy shit this is a perfectly wound plot. Went over the details in my mind to ensure I’d remember the basics when I woke up, which I did not. The memory of the memory is all you get sometimes. The feeling that somewhere in your brain there’s a more capable version of you, but it’s harder and harder to access.

Take as read the background radiation of the planet on fire. Black people being beaten and murdered and abducted by the police, every single day. Abolish them immediately, irrevocably. The pandemic, the voluntary shelter in place. The newfound fear of other people – their proximity, the atoms they exhale.

Last fall when I started therapy one of the big things I wanted to work on was: how do I stop living in constant fear about the planet dying. 50-75 years, give it. Forget science maybe eventually figuring out the carbon in the atmosphere thing, you can’t change the temperature of the ocean. Once the biodiversity of the coral reefs is gone, the rest of the ocean follows, and that’s (really!) pretty much it for life on this planet. Our part of it, anyway.

My therapist wanted to check in about that recently. Well, I said. It’s been a while since I had any panic attacks about the world ending in 50 years, since the timeline’s moved up. Since it’s now, instead of someday. Look at how much daily stress and panic I can absorb. Look at me, getting through the days.

Kind of.

Writing about writing is boring and I live I fear of needlessly occupying people’s attention with things that don’t matter so I’ll skip ahead. Before [gestures wildly] I had a really good routine: up early, bike downtown, coffee shop for 45 minutes before work. Day after day it added up in to a bunch of books about Kim Kardashian. Still, it got done. The last few months, I couldn’t find my way back to that other space, with nowhere to go. I always had this idea that writing required focus & attention. A form of prayer, some kind of secret language between me and the universe that required devotion, space, solitude. A stepping out of one’s everyday life, into something sacred. And then I thought: what if it doesn’t?

I write with the TV on now. Background noise? No: I’m on S10 of Bones and can share thoroughly-considered opinions on any aspect of the series. But I keep my laptop on my lap and Scrivener open and tuck sentences away here and there – when the scene is boring or involves that one guy I don’t like. It starts to feel more and more natural. Day after day it starts to add up into whatever it’ll add up to. Look at me, getting through it.

It’s called being hot have you ever heard of it

The definition of “hunk” has changed a lot over the years — mustaches, hairy chests, the number of inches between the knee and the hem of the shorts — but one thing that will always really turn people on is when you update your blog. People. freak. out. When people see an updated blog they are like Damn….me likey. They actually say that.

Like everyone lists Updated Blogs as one of their top interests on Tinder, but how rarely do you meet an actual person who doesn’t just talk about updating their blog, but who frequently and consistently updates their blog. Someone who can update their blog twice in a row? That’s genuine hunk shit. There’s so many people making promises about updating their blog, talking all kinds of game about how many posts they have in drafts, how thoughtfully they curate their content calendar in Google Sheets. Whispering in your ear about how they’re going to update their blog, and then push it out across social, and then come back around to retweet a reminder later. So you do all this work to get close to them and finally they let you peek in their drafts folder it’s like 1 or 2 very small, partially formed posts and no evidence of any long-range content strategy at all.

There’s just something about a freshly updated blog that puts people in the mood, that makes people think about commitment, the future, building a life. As a reader you can’t help but imagine what it would be like to be in a relationship with someone who is really good at updating their blog. You see yourself waking up in the morning, crisp cotton sheets, sunlight streaming gently in. You look over and there’s your hunk, sitting up in bed, updating their blog. The whole day stretches out before you. So many ideas for you to inspire, so much content for them to create.

friends wth

For the longest time -most of my life- therapy/self-care/me-time, whatever, was just “writing”. Shut the world out, type words until I figure out how I feel about [whatever], understand enough about myself to know what I need to let go of. It worked! It was good.

But then at some point a few years ago it wasn’t enough, I needed to be doing more for my mental health, so I added running. Amazing? No ear buds, no playlists, just me and my breath and the horizon. Focus on the self and my surroundings. Be present. It felt good, positive, it worked for a few more years.

Then, last summer, that suddenly wasn’t enough either. I don’t remember the specifics but last summer was bad. It got so dark, all at once, and it was like: go to therapy or don’t be alive. The idea of the process of finding a therapist is forever exhausting so I very quickly decided it would happen online or not at all. This decision was cemented immediately by a sign from the universe in the form of [website I work with] randomly giving me a code for 3 free months of [online therapy site I was already thinking of signing up for]. So yes OK.

Initial attempts were not good, the first few therapists I reached out to were sucky and annoying, but for whatever reason I didn’t give up, I was like: I’ll try one more therapist, and it was perfect from our first interaction. Still meet once a week. I don’t have weekly goals or anything but we talk about radical acceptance, cognitive distortions, being a “curious observer” in my life and towards my decision-making. Mindfulness meditation, breathing meditation. A few times a week, at least, or at least the application of guilt if I don’t do those things.

I also quit gluten, pretty much? Not really related to therapy but two people in my family turned out to be celiac so it easily fell under the general category of Doing Things That Are Supposed to Help. This in addition to my already no dairy and no drinking. Stopped running b/c of plantar but was riding a bike to and from work every day, at least until work stopped being a thing I go to. Trying to pick up spanish again, practicing every day. Switched to deodorant and shampoo bars to get some plastic out of my life. At one point I even made my phone screen totally black & white so it would be less interesting to look at.

All this mental health stuff happening in my life before pandemic, before quarantine, before apocalypse, before my mental health really, lbr, even started getting pressure tested. I don’t know what’s helping or working anymore. It’s weird to look back at last summer as a time I could step outside myself and say “You’re mental health is bad”. What would the me then think about the me now? Weird to even think of seasons, the concept of “outside”, the idea of time passing, the sense of one day being different from the days on either side of it.

Um. I can’t remember what my point was going to be when I started writing this. Doesn’t matter! I’m literally only posting this because I haven’t posted anything here yet this calendar year and I am looking forward to saying I accomplished one thing today. I am forcing myself to do this. It’s excruciating.

twenty nine scene

I don’t want to get into a whole thing about best and worst and year-end lists, but OK some notes to self, off the top of my head about various things from this year:

Seeing Ariana Grande live for the 2nd time, at the beginning of the tour. She cried, her voice breaking, during “say goodnight & go”. Thousands of people shouting “N! A! S! A!” The immensely moving power of hearing “Into You” (an exquisite, perfect song) live, one of the most randomly spiritual moments of the year.

Went to see Built to Spill and ended up falling in surprise love with one of the opening bands, Prism Bitch – one of the most engaging live shows I’ve ever seen. Am hoping & praying they return to Boston before too long

Started & abandoned a lot of books. At a certain point I realized it probably wasn’t about the books! Maybe I am just becoming a person who gives himself permission to not finish books. Or: I still don’t know what I like.

Making the Trader Joe’s zine with Sarah. Laying it out was a little more work than I expected – as I wrote at the time, it’s wild how the tools for this have gotten worse over time, rather than better, but maybe something to do with the death of print ??‍♀️. Anyways weird to feel so much pride & enthusiasm around something so fawning about capitalism, but whatever! Gotta find your joy wherever you can on the trash heap at the end of civilization.

Peach still the best app.

Got intro’d & then very into the poetry of Brenda Shaughnessy. I have read a lot (a lot (a lot)) of dystopia/post-apocalytpics books, both fiction and non-fiction (reading about climate change & mass extinction has become one of my main fun hobbies in the past few years!) but The Octopus Museum was the first time I read a book on those topics that felt genuinely harrowing.

Jami Attenberg’s All This Could Be Yours was a tough read. Amazing, unique, powerful, but it took me a long time to get through. It’s about a bad man who’s in the hospital at the end of his life, and it landed in my life at a time when my father (let’s say: a complicated man) was in the hospital at the end of his life. Anyways. There’s a lot of things about that I don’t want to put on the internet but: it was a difficult book to get through, for all the best reasons.

Most engaging non-fiction book I read this year, that even months later I’m still thinking about: Gut by Giulia Enders. It’s about how your intestines work. If that sounds gross to you you will not love this book.

Tracking favorite songs became increasingly difficult b/c of how Spotify doesn’t pay attention to modes of listening. I usually have ambient music on in the background while I write so Spotify thinks that’s my favorite music. It’s not! Technically I think if I dig through the data a bit I actively listened to Jaden Smith more than anyone else this year. I’m fine with that.

What else.

Finished a book, S1 of Cutie Cutie Ghost Show, took a few weeks off, and then started S2. A lot of the writing hasn’t been on the page, it’s about things happening off screen, in the background, building the Bible of the world. So it felt like a slog for a while, but it was necessary, putting ideas on shelves, within easy reach. Now the world makes sense in a way that allows me to pull the chapters together much more quickly than I could in the last book. Still, I struggle with feeling like it’s not going fast enough, because it’s not, it never will, my writing does not go fast, or enough. But at the same time, I love the experience of immersing myself in each chapter, love the way (ugh, it’s so horrifyingly cheesy to even think this, but it’s true) the way the characters surprise me with the things they say or do. I’ll start posting new chapters in January and I’m looking forward to it.

book cover for S2 of Cutie Cutie Ghost Show
Cutie Cutie Ghost Show! S2!

Next year: new books by Amy Spalding, Miranda Popkey, Emily Gould, Zan Romanoff. Four books I’m confident I’ll enjoy, by people I like. Thinking of them like a modern pack of teenage literary ninja turtles.

TV: Killing Eve S2, Fleabag S2, The Witcher S1 which I have watched twice, The Terror S1, Fortitude S1 & S2. Elementary S7, a perfect show to the very end. Rewatched all of Justified & New Girl, as I do every year, as I will continue to do every year.

Saw Knives Out twice, could sit through it again with no trouble. First time, could not get over Toni Collette’s performance, 2nd time, could not get over Marta Cabrera’s.

AO3: Knives Out Marta/Benoit fic but that’s all I’ll say about that.

Sitting in the theater, watching Parasite, a mix of wonder and delight and worry, the main experience that comes to mind when I think back on “what movies did I see this year?”

Brain stuff: my bell of mindfulness app that rings randomly throughout the day, forcing me to stop doing whatever I’m doing and notice what I see, what I hear, what I feel. Thinking a lot about Radical Acceptance, how to practice it, how to apply it. How to not be so angry about everything all the time, which misses the point completely.

More and more wanting to inject randomness into my daily life. The different way home. The walk down the street I never noticed before. Happily going slightly out of my way if it takes me somewhere I’ve never been.

Bike riding, to and from work every day. Even in the winter? Especially in the winter.

A thought that occurred to me yesterday when I was listening to Bassically by Tei Shi, a song that came out years ago and is one of my favorite songs of all time. I get goosebumps on my arms, every single time I listen to it. No other song has ever done that to me. Chills! Every time! And I always think: there will come a day when this song no longer does this to me, when I no longer experience this song physically when I listen to it. Maybe this time, now, is the last time it will happen. But so far it never has been.

As of this writing the best beverage is Orange Vanilla Coke and the best candy is Trader Joe’s Sour Scandinavian Swimmers.