This is cross-posted from the Haute Macabre blog today, but I think in my effort to post once a day in February, this should count as a post here, too!
I’ve been struggling lately. I know I am not alone; I believe we all encounter this particular phenomenon in the 21st century and I don’t think it necessarily does me any good belaboring the point, if not only to say that yes–I too suffer from this modern-day affliction of social media comparisons. Sometimes when I log into Instagram and see person X, Y, or Z being successful and ambitious and motivated, it just makes me feel like a big, stupid blob in the shape of a human.
And yes, yes, I know, we all know, that Instagram and Facebook, etc., are just highly curated, specific aspects of people’s lives and no one knows what is going on behind the scenes. I have some friends who have written so beautifully and articulately on this subject and of course, it all makes so much sense when you’re reading these thoughts and nodding your head and saying “yes, yes that is SO TRUE!” But…sometimes knowing these things on an intellectual level doesn’t do your sensitive, vulnerable heart an ounce of good when you happen scroll across the accounts of certain individuals and then all of your insecurities and fears are triggered and you begin the lousy-feeling blobular spiral. And so, sometimes, it’s better not to look at all. Or at least…spend a lot less time looking.
I’ve been trying to recall how I spent my time before I was constantly and routinely peeping in on people’s lives and projects and purchases and press events on social media. I think I had some interesting past times and habits, possibly? I finally remembered how I used to be in eternal pursuit of the perfect new album, and would spend hours reading new music reviews and listening to everything that came across my radar. I used to channel my frustrated and untrained artistic inclinations into things like creating little fantasy outfits and stories to go along with them. Oh, yeah. My languishing How To Wears. I forgot about how much I loved them!
So in an effort to remind myself of the things I like to do and the things that I have a knack for, here are a few recent ensembles I have pieced together, and as an extra something, I’ve shared the new (to me) music I was listening to when I created them!
P.S. If you’re looking for the item particulars included in the feature set, you can find them here. Accompanying album: Demonologia by Mala Herba
P.P.S. I have made this disclaimer before but it’s been awhile: sometimes some of these things may be sold out. I’m sorry! It happens! And most of these things are not budget-friendly. I don’t have economical daydreams!
I was upset by something I saw on Facebook this past weekend. I won’t go into any details and I will never confront the individual, but I’m still thinking about it almost 24 hours later. It was just…mean. There’s no other word for it. Mean.
It’s possible that this person’s observations and remarks hit me so hard because I too, can be mean. I’ve tried to reign it in over the years. And I don’t think it’s that I am mean to someone’s face. But I have certainly been known to make a snide or snarky remark, sotto voce, or perhaps internet-dm-voce, to a circle of close friends or sisters, about someone who I think has done something dumb or foolish.
Maybe I thought I was making a funny observation. Maybe I thought I had some sort of point, hinging on some sort of principle. I don’t know. I’m not denying it, though. I can definitely be kinda bitchy, and I am not sure that I always recognize it for what it is when I am doing it, but when I see it in someone else…oooof. It is not a good look. It’s awfully ugly, as a matter of fact. And in seeing this, and drawing parallels with my own behavior, I begin to feel a deep sense of shame. No doubt this is why I can’t stop thinking about this other person. Because that’s been me, as well. More times than I can count.
Bernard Meltzer is credited with having offered the following:
“Before you speak ask yourself if what you are going to say is true, is kind, is necessary, is helpful. If the answer is no, maybe what you are about to say should be left unsaid.”
And granted, there’s nothing fun about keeping your mouth shut. The experience of someone laughing at your clever commentary can be a high, and certainly one that I can ride on all day long. And there’s nothing worse than someone pooh-poohing your fun, I know! “That’s not nice,” seems like such a weenie thing to say, or to hear, like having a bucket of water dashed in your face, when you’re being hilarious, or at least you think you are, and on a roll!
But…more and more I realize (and I’m pretty sure I have always known this, deep down, where my heart is supposed to be) that being cutting and contemptuous, disguised as clever, and at the expense of kindness and compassion…well it’s not being clever at all. It’s rude and shitty.
There’s nothing clever or cool about shitting on people who are just enjoying things and living their lives. You’re just mean. And you look like an asshole. And so do I.
Maybe let’s just say nothing next time. Or if we do, let’s be more discreet* about it.
*And here’s where maybe I am the biggest asshole of all. Am I upset because the person was so mean and shitty, or because they were so thoughtless about who might be reading their words? Am I suggesting that we keep our mouths shut, or that we read the room and know our audience if we choose to flap our mean girl mandibles?
As usual, I have no answer. Maybe it’s just best to write about these things, passive-agressively.
You may have noticed that Unquiet Things has a new look. You have a keen eye! After about five years I think it was time for a change, don’t you? Many thanks to the folks at RecSpec for helping to shed our old form and emerge as something new, brimming with moody glooms and midnight blooms, but with an overall look and functionality that remains familiar, because let’s face it, we don’t like change very much.
A lot of blogs that I see recently just don’t look like a blog to me. They look more like a commerce site, like they are trying to sell me something. I suppose I am mentally and emotionally stuck in the look of the 2003-2008 era blog. Maybe before people realized they could monetize their content…they didn’t even view it as “content” yet perhaps, and they were just shouting into the void, hoping to make a connection. When blogs looked like blogs! So that’s my comfort spot. And “when blogs looked like blogs” is also maybe the dumbest sentence I’ve ever typed. Whatever! I know what I like!
Additionally, you have perhaps noticed I am posting more frequently than usual here in this blog space. Indeed, I am. For the month of February, I have challenged myself to create one blog post per day for the entirety of the month. I’ve got a few ideas, and a handful of things already scheduled, some snack-sized, and others more meal-shaped morsels. But you know, with words. Not food. But there might also be food! You know me.
I used to love to share music with friends and would compile playlists on a weekly basis featuring the new, or new-to-me artists that I had uncovered. I both love music and I also love it when someone says, “hey, thanks for introducing me to this new band, I’d never heard of them!” I guess it’s a bit of an ego thing. I always want to be the reason that someone found out about something new and cool. I want credit for something. That’s probably an embarrassing confession, but it’s undeniable. It is also probably something to look at more closely and sit with for awhile, like why is that important to me, and what am I getting from that recognition? I don’t know the answer right now, but it’s a drive that’s compelled me for as long as I can remember.
Sometime in the past few years I’ve slowed down when it comes to seeking out and sharing new music. I don’t have the time for it that I once did, but aside from that, it’s possible I have become more comfortable with just listening to other people’s suggestions, recommendations or even whole-ass playlists. What a weird and dumb thing to think and write, but it’s like, hey, why not let someone else do all the work and get the credit for once? It doesn’t always have to be ME. And also, I don’t have to know everything, I can’t find or don’t have access to everything, so why not listen to someone else’s offerings now? Think of all that I have been missing while I was trying to do it all on my own!
HOWEVER. as part of something else that I will touch on at a later time (although I will note that it is an initiative having to do with revisiting old activities that I loved as an effort to keep myself off of social media) I kinda miss my eternal quest for fabulous new musicians, every-song-is-perfect new albums, and breathtaking new songs and pieces of music. And so I have slowly been dipping my toe back in, and thought I might include a handful of favorites here today.
But ok, wow. This is super frustrating. Apparently with whatever version of WordPress I am using, I can’t embed bandcamp albums. Boo! Stupid WordPress. Whatever. Anyway!
MALA HERBA is a solo project of a sound artist and queer music activist Zosia Hołubowska. Their sets fluctuate between minimal darkwave, experimental interpretation of Eastern- European traditional music, noise soundscapes, and dark techno. Demonologia “is peppered with allusions to Eastern European music, magic, herbalism, and demonology, combining these references with contemporary electronic music. The results are akin to a disco at a witchy ritual.” (I’ve gotten out of the habit of writing about music, so I realize I am pulling a lot of quotes here. This is from The Quietus.)
Pitchfork describes this duo’s sound as that of “disco extravagance with Old Hollywood glamour” and “lush, shape-shifting glam rock, orchestral pop, and breezy psychedelia.” Sounds about right. I concur,
On weekends my partner and I will often share a bottle (or two, le whoopsie) of wine and stay up til the wee hours of the morning listening to music. We particularly love to find new artists and musicians through KEXP live shows.
Tomo Nakayama is a Seattle musician is and songwriter and his most recent album, Melon Day has been touted as an “exuberant synth-pop spectacular” and we just adore this guy. His offerings, to me, just feel so universally relatable. In “Get to know you,” Nakayama sings:
Tell me stories, tell me rhymes Tell me anything you like Tell me all about the good things That could make you feel alive Could be just one little spark Just two strangers in the dark, honey I’d like to get to know you I’d like to get to know you now
…and this conjures so vividly for me the wonderful, exhilarating nostalgia of a first date wherein we went from coffeeshop, to restaurant, to bar and stayed out until 4 in the morning talking and laughing and learning all about each other the first time. Feels! Lots of them!
Bonus! A BPAL Playlist!
Lastly, the folks over at Black Phoenix Alchemy Lab polled their fans with the question of what songs make them thing of BPAL scents. The results of this enquiry are reflected in this playlist. I think friends who have been listening to my mixes and playlists for a long time can probably pick out the song that I submitted! Any guesses?
On YouTube this week I shared my Ten Books I will be reading this Winter and Spring, along with various reading habits I’ve picked up over the years. I’m trying to make a habit of a corresponding blog post for these video offerings, for those who would prefer to read rather than watch. See below for all of the things I mentioned in the video!
I thought I might check in today and share with you the books I plan on reading over the next few months. If you caught my post over on Instagram, you may have noticed a stack of ten or so books that I shared, in the last week or so. Most of the titles included in that post are the ones I will be mentioning today, although I did make a few swaps for a book or two that I would prefer to read sooner rather than later.
A few people asked me if I was really reading all ten of them at once and the answer is yes! Sort of! Maybe. I didn’t begin each book on the same day, and I am not reading from all of them every day, but I am at least a chapter into each book on this list and some of them I have already finished.
This juggling several books at once is a habit I picked up while I was spending weekends caring for my grandmother before she died. When she was sleeping–which was most of the time–there wasn’t much that I could do for her, so I ended up bringing various projects and books with me to pass the time. Of course, more often than not, I found myself scrolling on my phone, which, while not only being pretty unproductive, I can also find looking at too much social media to be awfully detrimental. So I promised myself that after I spent half an hour reading a chapter from various books, usually a combination of fiction, nonfiction, poetry, and graphic novels, then I would allow myself a quick few minutes looking at my phone.
I found this very helpful with not only curtailing my screen time and making the day go a bit faster, I was also making headway with my TBR stacks and even getting into those books which had been sitting on my shelves and gathering dust for the longest time! And it’s a habit that I practice to this very day; when I set aside a portion of time for reading, unless it’s some sort of really riveting mystery or horror novel that I am compelled to read straight through, I typically do read a few chapters from a stack of 4-5 books. I find that keeps your mind constantly engaged and thinking and making connections, and as a writer, it’s the discovering and digging into those connections (which usually adds additional titles to your stack) which I find so fascinating and really, just an eternal source of inspiration.
It’s difficult to say what these strange slice-of-life snippets are about, the characters are often fearful of something nameless, or if their dread and paranoia does appear to focus on something concrete, whatever that is, it probably won’t make any sense. I would suggest these ominous visions are best experienced in the lull of liminal hours for people keen on terse tales of unease and unidentifiable weirdness.
Strangers is an exploration of the world and our relationship with nature through a series of essays linking the environmental, the political, the folkloric and the historical. It felt like a deeply necessary, urgent read for all human people anywhere along their their journey, who wish to experience life and living in a profoundly intimate and compassionate way. There is one particular essay about a cockroach that I highly recommend. And that is a sentence I never could have foreseen myself typing out.
HABIT NO.2 This second habit that relates to my reading is that I always keep a notebook and a pen nearby when I’m engrossed in a book. Whether it’s to jot down an unfamiliar word or turn of phrase, to capture a phrase or sentiment that particularly ensnared my heart or set my imagination alight, or make notes on this, that or the other interesting tidbit or topic for further research, I have found my booknotes absolutely essential to deepening my experience of and engagement a story while I’m reading it. Equally as important, I revisit the thoughts and words I’ve recorded there for inspiration in my own writing when I am working on various projects.
I was reminded of having rented from Blockbuster (!!) and watched Perfect Blue many many years ago when I recently spied it on someone’s goodreads list and realized that the film I had seen was either originally based on a book, or that there was a book adaptation of the film. Intrigued, I found a copy online and probably paid too much for it, because it is not easily available. For those unfamiliar, the basic premise is that there is a cute Japanese pop idol, Mima who is working to transform her image to something a little more mature and risque, and this does not sit well with an obsessed fan who desperately wants her to remain “pure” and thinks he has a plan to save her soul. After finishing the book I immediately had to rewatch the movie because aside from the very basic plot I just gave you, they are handled so differently. The movie (directed by Satoshi Kon, who also did the fantastically bizarre Paprika) was a surreal psychological thriller in which there are actually several characters who are experiencing unraveling mental states or are losing/have lost their grip on reality. It’s not just got an eerie vibe, it’s downright sinister feeling in certain scenes. The book itself is much more straight-forward in terms of being a stalker/slasher story. If you like twisty and thinky and strange, go for the movie. If you like twisted and gruesome served straight up, then go for the book.
Though I am not very far into this book by essayist, social critic, and culture buff Sady Doyle, I can tell you two things. A history and examination of the patriarchal and misogynistic fear of “monstrous” women, covering everything from literature and cinema to mythology, religion, history and current events through the lens of a brilliant –and funny!– writer is right up my alley and two, Black Phoenix Alchemy Lab has created an incredible collection of scents inspired by this book and the monstrous feminine archetypes which perpetually recur in storytelling. They are all really incredibly interesting fragrances and they are still available for purchase.
HABIT NO.3 So, I was at one time what you might consider an absolute and utter monster, and I used to dog-ear my books to mark my page! But no more! I have become a major bookmark enthusiast and I have an entire box on my shelf devoted to them. As I’ve mentioned in previous videos, I am a passionate art collector, and when any of my favorite artists releases a version of their work in a bookmark format, I will always grab one. Aside from that, I recycle the postcards and notecards and greeting cards sent from friends and use them to mark my place in a book as well. I’ve got quite a surplus at this point and whenever I gift a book I always slip one of these tiny pieces of art in the pages to accompany it. Oh! And if you have an instax camera, those snaps make great little gifts.
An idea that’s become a way of life for me (though it’s been a long journey in becoming so) is that there are potential portals to magic that permeate every instant of our lives if we slow down, take notice of them, and actively choose to think of them as such. Our everyday routines are more than just rote habit, they can truly be sacred rituals, full of pleasure and meaning. In Making Magic, Briana Saussy speaks directly to this belief and writes of how magic is found at the very roots of our experience. Magic doesn’t have to be this arcane, abstract thing– belongs to everyone, and it is a part of everyone’s actual lineage. Filled with exercises, hands-on work, and guided journaling, it helps us to remember and reimagine how to engage with the extraordinary in your everyday life.
I originally learned of this author on an episode of the Faculty of Horror podcast in which hosts Andrea Subasatti and Alex West were the 2007 Steven King adaptation movie, The Mist. Which I don’t know about you, but that’s a bleak masterpiece and it’s probably one of my top ten favorite films of all time. I’ve not read any of Mark Fisher’s works, nor had I heard of him before this podcast, but I believe he was an academic, a theorist and philosopher, who often wrote on dark and difficult subjects, and I am sad to learn is no longer with us, as he passed in 2017. The Weird and the Eerie offers discussion of the literary styles that one might describe as ‘weird’ or ‘eerie’ and which can be found in forms of fantastic fiction. I am not very far along into it and I have a suspicion that this is going to be one of those difficult reads that is even more of a struggle to discuss (especially if you are someone, like me, who is lacking in an academic background), but for purposes of clarification and because I found it interesting, here’s something I read in an article about Fisher’s differentiation of these two terms: “…..the weird should be understood as that ‘which does not belong’, most commonly finding expression in ‘the conjoining of two or more things which do not belong together’ (10–11). The eerie, on the other hand, indicates a different type of affect – one that is not so much about the terrifying intrusion of something that does not belong, but more often with a frightening absence where one would expect a presence.” (Source)
If you have read this wondrously knowledgeable scholar, historian, and second-generation witch’s previous offerings,Witches, Sluts, Feminists: Conjuring the Sex Positive, and Cat Call: Reclaiming the Feral Feminine, then no doubt you were over the moon to learn of her most recent title, Witch Hunt. A hybrid travel guide and memoir which at points dips into the realms of historical fiction, Witch Hunt reflects research gleaned from travels to seven countries, forty-five cities, towns, and villages. Through her intrepid adventures across Italy, France, Germany, Ireland, and the United Kingdom Sollee explores the fraught and fascinating history of these haunting figures from the past and uncovers how the archetype of the witch has been rehabilitated as a symbol of power.
HABIT NO.4 I don’t think we can talk about cozying up with a book–or at least I can’t anyway–without the very important discussion of what snacks accompany your stories. When I was young I used to pilfer oyster crackers or saltines from the kitchen cupboard and stuff them under my pillow to nibble on when I was rereading Harriet the Spy for the umpteenth time. When I was old enough to buy my own snacks I would pour a combination of various snack sized baggies of cheetos and doritos and funyuns into a bowl and munch on what my sisters called a “Sarah Special,” while I read Stephen King, and sure, mock all you like, but to this very day I maintain it’s a delightful treat!
As an adult who is more concerned with appearances than I was as a teenager, I’m too embarrassed to be seen shopping for things that coat your fingers in orange dust, so instead I make a big batch of popcorn, drizzle it in butter, and sprinkle it with salt, nutritional yeast and nori for a savory, salty, crunch snack that is only slightly less embarrassing and if you saw how much of it I can put away in one sitting you’d see what I mean by this.
Editor Emily X.R. Pan shares in the book’s introduction that Foreshadow is an ode to the short story, and that what makes this medium of story-telling so remarkable, is how the author must sharpen the experience of a story, condense it into something powerful. They must take all of the things that make a good novel and compress it into a neat little package. She further reveals that when we “tell the blank page a story…. it will tell you who you are.” and that “always, there is something of the author preserved like a fossil in amber –you can see it so much more clearly because the story is sliced so thin.” If this sounds like the editors of this collection are excited at the opportunity to celebrate unique young adult short stories and showcase underrepresented voices in the genre, and if that is getting you excited too, I think that excitement pays off in the luminous and fantastical stories they’ve chosen to include. What makes this book even more special is that after each offering the editors take a closer look at the techniques employed in the story, highlighting different aspects of the craft, and in addition to that, there are writing prompts and interviews with the authors about their processes and inspiration.
In Edgar Allan Poe’s “Sonnet – To Science” the poet’s laments the dangers of scientific development and its negative implications for poetry and creativity. Illingsworth, an expert at the forefront of the intersections of science and poetry disagrees with these sentiments, noting that the more we find out about science, the more we realize what a beautiful and incredible world we live in. With this book and its accounts of six groundbreaking scientists who also write poetry, he is attempting to determine whether these disciplines are complementary, whether scientists who embrace poetry were also increasing their understanding of the world, expanding their language and thereby their capacity to communicate their science to others.
For those who are unfamiliar with this individual, Hildegard Von Bingen was a 12th century mystic, scientist, composer, herbalist and inventor of one of the earliest known constructed languages by a woman. Educated from the age of eight at a Benedictine monastery at and later becoming an Abbess, Hildegard experienced prophetic visions since childhood and spent many years writing the visionary works. She is a truly fascinating human in many respects but I’ll be honest here– I am a few pages into this into this “mutant fiction of speculative mysticism” wherein the works of Hildegard von Bingen have been reimagined in a novel format and I have got no clue as to what the heck is going on. So I am going to cheat and read to you the back of the book. I’m also going to link to a very interesting interview with Lemmey if you’re interested in reading more about this author’s “collaboration” with Hildegard von Bingen.
“In this story of survival and miracles, Hildegard encounters love, both queer and divine, and great peril. As the visionary healer travels through the unfamiliar landscape following a great cataclysm, she discovers the mythic quantum energy of viriditas in the natural world around her. Her journey becomes one of return, to the sacred truth of her own being.”
I am going to further cheat by sharing with you what I messaged a friend, shortly after beginning this book: “I am reading this and getting spectacularly excited and emotional and I don’t know why because I don’t understand any of it! But it’s like my little cells and atoms are all crowding together and jumping over each other in a frenzy, shouting I KNOW THIS I KNOW THIS! I feel them bubbling and boiling in my blood because I bet they DO know something and my brain just hasn’t figured it out yet!”
HABIT NO.5 I suppose this last habit is more of a compulsion, really. When I finish a book, I IMMEDIATELY have to begin a new one. No waiting! I get antsy and irritable and weird if I don’t have my next read lined up and ready to go after the final page of the previous book has turned.
So what are you reading now and over these next few chilly winter months? What are your reading habits–good, bad, weird or otherwise?
I have written poetry for most of my life, but I don’t always share it. I used to actually attend and participate in poetry readings in my twenties, if you can believe that! Since that time I’ve gotten more shy and squirrelly and self-conscious and I can’t imagine doing that now, but if I can’t share my efforts on my blog, then what is this space even for?
This first one is something that I actually had submitted somewhere, but I don’t think they are going to use it, so oh well. Nothing ventured, nothing gained. The second one is just something I’ve been thinking about for years and years–it’s actually something that happened at a poetry reading!
Something about the moon but it is always my mother
This moon how it drips and pools and you— these many years gone.
Will I weep when the looking glass dims and your reflection clouds and a moon is just a moon and mourning is only night mist soaking the pads of cat feet and there are no more mirrors on the cusp of a night in autumn when on the morning your photograph has finally begun to fade.
Untitled; a sandwich; my heart
I recall an old woman, on stage, a local poet’s society meeting. A line she spoke aloud aloud from her recent writings, an ode to her husband. Her beloved’s face likened to a smear of yellow mustard trimming a sandwich she’d eaten in a deli in Brooklyn long before I was born.
Long before I knew there were places like Brooklyn and a world of sandwiches. Long before I knew how good a sandwich could be in a space where you felt safe with someone you loved.
I recall the kiss he gave her after our gathering dispersed– in the strip mall parking lot, under the sodium lamps. A tender thing. Lingering. Soft. In the grainy warmth of those yellow lights, he did look a bit mustardy.
And I envied the many sandwiches between them.
I should have been embarrassed by my hungry gaze but could not look away, and as he held her wobbling elbow slowly searching for their parking spot. I wondered then, at the heat in my face, and who might one day sigh and smile and describe my cheeks in terms of cured meat and blushing salami.
I am a sloppy knitter. I’ll be the first to admit that. I don’t measure things and I don’t knit gauge swatches, because eh, I can’t be bothered. I knit for fun and also for therapy and while I get that grabbing your ruler and counting your stitches per inch are foundational steps and have myriad benefits for both your finished garment and your overall knitting practice, they are…decidedly not fun. They feel too much like math homework. Which is the opposite of therapeutic for me! This DEATH BEFORE SWATCHING is a stance I have stubbornly stuck to for years, and I don’t know why I dig my heels in about it, but I suspect it’s because I failed Algebra II in tenth grade and took it again in summer school–and failed again–and so maybe I am scared?
Sometimes I get lucky! Through absolutely no measuring or swatching at all, I made not one, but two really lovely sweaters last year that fit me perfectly! Well, let’s say 85-90% perfectly! But mostly this cavalier attitude regarding whether or not I actually have enough yarn to finish a project or am I playing a wooly game of chicken, or am I knitting too tightly or too loosely with this weight yarn and this size needles, it comes back to bite me. More times than not I actually do not have enough yarn, and half of the time I wind up knitting an elephantine kaftan when I was meant to be knitting a regular-sized sweater.
It was just such a sweater that I unraveled over the holidays. I had been knitting it for the greater part of a year, but as I began working on the sleeves, it finally occurred to me to try it on. It was massive. Much, much too big. And short of starting over, there was nothing I could do to fix it. That sucked.
So. I ripped it apart and knit up a hat. Which is…also slightly too big. Whatever! There were no lessons learned here.
…and here’s the rest of that sweater. Reincarnated as the beginnings of a rustic shawl! And if this shawl is a bit oversized, I think that’s fine.
I have only just recently learned of the pleasures to be had in mid-afternoon bath-time reading. It is the most marvelous, most delicious thing.
This past weekend, I drew myself a bath and did a little photoshoot of the tub, the books I planned on indulging in while the water grew cold and my toes pruned up, and arranged all of the related accessories, to include my beautiful new bath tray from Peg & Awl. Full disclosure: I am actually taking a product photography course over on SkillShare, and I just wanted to try out some of the concepts and techniques that the instructor was sharing! You can laugh if you like, I guess it is a little silly; I don’t have any professional reason to be learning these things, but I thought it might be nice to figure out a few ways to make the pictures I take of my food and my knitting a little bit nicer.
…which doesn’t really explain why I was taking pictures of my bathroom, but I was pretty excited and I had to start somewhere, right?
I mean, come on, people! If you don’t like baths or books—that’s on you, man. Don’t make it my problem.
As it turned out, I didn’t end up reading either of these books in this particular bathtub session. I grabbed something else instead…. but I am very much looking forward to reading them both, and I have a sneaking suspicion that many of you will be interested in them, too: Unknown Language, which I believe is a sort of fictional narrative attempting to convey Hildegard von Bingen’s expansive impact, and A sonnet to science: Scientists and their poetry
Also: if you’re curious about the geode planter sitting above the soap dish, it came from Tal & Bert! And the bath salts I was using didn’t really turn my water this acid green shade. It was more like “I did an accidental pee” yellow. So you can imagine why I tweaked the colors!
I am tired. I bet you are tired, too. This has been a weird year. Has it even been a year? Has it been a thousand years? I feel like I’ve aged immensely in these last 365 days and yet…I’ve experienced nothing. I can’t quite convince myself I’ve done nothing, I won’t allow myself to think that. No matter how furiously that self-effacing little demon on my shoulder tries to bully me into thinking it! I have idle tendencies, but I’m not lazy.
And I don’t mean to say that you are lazy if this year has been too much for you and you can’t function. No. But “I’m not lazy” is a mantra I have to repeat to myself, internally, all the time until I believe it. I grew up thinking I was lazy. I was told in so many ways that I was lazy. I came to believe that I am, indeed, a lazy, indolent person. Perhaps because I am slow to move and act. Often times this has to do with fear and anxiety. Also because I have a tendency to act only when I am ready to act. Don’t rush me! Perhaps also because I am not hugely ambitious, at least in the ways that the rest of the world, and perhaps my generation, define success. But I am not lazy! A few years ago, I made myself look at my progress and motivation and drive, and dammit, I am not lazy. But I still remind myself of this, every day.
I am always working on something. Baking, gardening, knitting, researching, writing, sometimes even making myself do the things that scare me! I mean, I published a book this year! This year, of all years! That counts for something right? But at the same time, I don’t feel like any of it counts at all, like it is entirely possible that this year hasn’t actually counted for anything. Although I have done things, learned things, made progress on, and completed personal projects… I have not gone anywhere new or exciting (or even old or boring) or seen or met anyone. All of these things are different marks that add up on the yardstick for which I measure my years, and this year is terribly off balance.
This past summer, I think I felt that keenly, and so I overloaded myself with tasks and projects and all manner of what I suppose amounts to busy work. I may not have been able to travel to see friends or family, but I dabbled in a multitude of cuisines, I perfected my sourdough starter, I finished a knitting project that I have been working on for five years–I can’t say that I didn’t do anything. I did all of the things. But…it all feels pointless? Wasted? And now it’s December and the year is ending in just over two weeks and I am tired. And I need to rest. Why is that so hard to admit?
On the knitting front: I think this is the first time I’ve worn something I knit in over a decade!
While I love to knit, I discovered that it’s more about the process and the journey for me, than it is about the destination and end result. When I am done with a project I set it aside until I feel I’ve found the right recipient, or, more frequently, they reveal themselves to me mid-stitch, before the pattern is even complete. I’m never sad to say goodbye to these projects because they were never meant for me to keep.
This sweater, though…maybe it’s going to stay with me a while. I hadn’t knit a sweater in a very long time. I tend to stick to things that don’t actually have to fit, like intricate shawls and the like. Measurements mystify me! But I was gifted a book of patterns late in 2019, so I thought I’d give it a another go. It was probably a fluke (because I did no maths, and much like merging onto the highway, I just close my eyes and prayed for the best!) and wouldn’t you know? It was perfect!
Of course, living in Florida, there are not many opportunities to wear such things. But today is chilly and here we are! Warm and cozy and it fits beautifully.
I think this one has found its home.
This was meant to be a divorce blanket for my baby sister. She could have gotten married and divorced again in the 4-5 years it took me to knit this!
Each and every square was knit with my deepest heart’s love for this beautiful, brilliant, brave woman, and with wishes and dreams that her life as she goes forward is exactly as she wants it to be. And more or less it has been, I think, and utterly without the help of this blanket! Well, it’s the thought that counts, anyway.
Thank you to the many friends who have contributed yarn to this project over the years. I appreciate you all for your help.
Reading: Though I’m a life-long fiend for all things horror, my love for the genre does tend to wax and wane. Sometimes I become a bit unplugged, only to dive back in with a voracious ferocity that’s probably a bit alarming from an outsider’s perspective.
Recently I was gifted a copy of Matt Glasby’s The Book of Horror: The Anatomy of Fear on Film, and it has marvelously rekindled my love for all things horrid, haunting, and harrowing. Glasby examines some of the most frightening films created and explores with us what it is exactly, that makes them so scary. Which sounds like it might be a dry, scholarly affair, but it’s not even a bit! The analysis is tightly written, wryly humorous, and exceptionally insightful, and, coupled with the spare elegance of Barney Bodoano’s striking black and white artwork—I’m utterly immersed and enthralled and I haven’t been able to put it down.
The advent of the winter months are casting their strange spell and making me forget, as I do every year, that baking in Florida in November is pretty much the same as baking here in July. Still, the heart wants what the heart wants (even though the heart doesn’t even care for sweets) and so that means Swedish cardamom buns and cranberry scones.
I really don’t have much to say about them, but I did think they were nice photos!
I have been feeling some kind of way in the last few weeks. I can’t put my finger on what it is, or why…it’s somewhat inexplicable and mostly inexpressible and it’s for sure not a particularly nice feeling.
The closest I can get at it is this: I have been hearing various friends at various points in time say that they need to delete their Facebook accounts or stop scrolling through Instagram or maybe even stay off of social media entirely, because it makes them feel crappy about themselves. They compare themselves to friends and acquaintances who have perhaps had more achievements and successes, who have gotten married or had children, who have traveled the world, who seem beautiful, valued, fulfilled, and happy…and in seeing all of this, they find that they are coming up short in their own lives and wonder where they went wrong. Rather than be bombarded by their social media reminding them of these short-comings every time the page refreshes, they delete these platforms from their devices, removing the temptation to subject themselves to these feelings.
I thought that I never really understood or properly empathized with the dissatisfaction or disappointment or depression/despair they experienced from these interactions (oh, the arrogance!) because I believed that I measured my success differently. I genuinely believed I wasn’t paying that much attention to what everyone else was doing. Or if I was, I was happy to see that they were doing well. And I am!
But I suspect…I’m more attentive than I thought I was to what X/Y/Z person was progressing with, making strides toward and ultimately achieiving and succeeding in. And inevitably, we relate information about others to ourselves, and it would appear that I am not immune to that, no matter how much I imagined myself to be! And while I might not covet the lifestyles and timelines of say, that enthusiastic person posting pictures from their themed-engagement photo shoot, or the third-time mommy-to-be celebrating milestones in her kid’s lives, or the career woman who was just promoted to Regional Director of Whatever…I do take notice of the various ways in which the people whose interests align with mine are putting themselves out there and achieving things. And I wonder what is wrong with me that my expectations for myself are so vastly different and what opportunities I might be missing because of that.
I guess when it’s stripped down to essentials, what I’ve been feeling of late is the dull hum of inadequacy. It’s been buzzing through my brain at a frequency I couldn’t quite attune to, but in writing about it just now, I think I’ve dialed it in. And I hate to blame social media, but it’s so easy to lose ourselves in what we think we should be doing/wanting/having because we see those individuals whom we admire involved in all those things…but are those things really the things we want for ourselves? Or is the algorithm just brainwashing us into thinking so? And so maybe it is better to step back. To remember who we are and what we want for ourselves, and use that clarity to both connect with our identity and cultivate our self-esteem.
Psychology today writes that:
“A stable sense of self comes from thinking about who you are absent any feedback. What are your values and preferences in the absence of anybody knowing about them? Can you be proud of the person you are who isn’t publicly posted?”
So I can certainly see how taking a step back from Instagram and Facebook can provide some time for self-reflection, to strip away all the clutter that you’re constantly barraged and the constant need to “create/curate content”.
I don’t know where I’m going with any of this navel-gazing, because while social media creates these uncomfortable and upsetting comparisons for me, it’s also a source of so many wonderful connections. And while I realize that my efforts fall far short of anything that would be described as a journalistic or literary tour-de-force, I do like to try to keep my finger on the pulse of things, so to speak, for writing purposes– and social media platforms can be such an amazing source for the sorts of tidbits that I like to stay on top of. So what can I do? Just keep it all in perspective, I guess. As poet and writer Lisa Marie Basile wrote on Instagram recently: “The universe is nearly 14 billion years old. I promise that bitch on Instagram doesn’t matter.”
Seen too, just today, via Sarah Faith Gottesdiener’s Instagram:
“It is a fucking relief to dive deep into your own well, to move forward in your own integrity, and forge your own path. It is a breath of fresh air to acknowledge your own needs, dreams, and particular talents. We all have our own unique roles to inhabit and our own particular calls to heed. The more we stay in our own energy, the easier it is to attract what is for us. Do you understand?” (Read the rest of it here, it’s exactly perfect.)
I think I do understand. And so maybe you will be seeing a little less of me in my familiar haunts. You can always find me here, though.