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THE FEELING: Confetti Month
It's my birthday! Also: emotional miracles, life lessons, Simon
This is my Birthday Week, the last smiling sigh of Confetti Month, a time I choose to mark, to maximize, to stretch into infinity, not because I am looking for ways to “get,” exactly (and seeking positive attention around your Adult Birthday surely has the opposite result) but because celebration and fun and happy garbage is important, and driving important days into the hard earth is important, and remembering that every sleepy, churning, working, bill-paying, collapsing person you know is also a new baby, perfect and deserving and aglow, is important.
On Sex and the City, Classic Edition, when Carrie’s shoes being stolen from a party at Tatum O’Neal’s apartment leads to a thing about how it’s unfair that couples with kids get all the presents, and that there is no gift registry for not marrying the wrong guy, Carrie says to Charlotte (?) that birthdays don’t count, and are “a wash,” since everyone has one. But isn’t that what’s BEST about birthdays? Everyone has one! Birthdays are the functional democracy of socioemotional life. They’re for everyone: flat and status-neutral and unequivocal.
And birthdays are great. They are. Yellow cake and Veuve for breakfast is available; opportunities for love and appreciation and connection and dopamine — the good kind, organic, free-range and grass-fed — are right there. Also, I mean, death is coming, so.
A few birthdays ago, in the morning, I read Emily Gould’s profile of Katja Blichfeld: “‘That anxiety I used to, like, wake up [with] every morning, truly for my whole life, this sense of something going wrong, this sense of dread and doom’ — that, she says, has been suddenly, miraculously erased. It’s wonderful, but also confusing.” I just… disintegrated, I guess, from recognition that swung immediately to desperate envy. (Birthdays are also, yes, a lot!) I wondered, I needed to know, when would my constant sense of dread and doom be miraculously erased? How? What and where was my revelation? What magic trick, what realization or alignment or clicking into place, was coming??? Was it?
The feelings of wandering through an open field, and of hacking through a dark, dense wood, both endless, and always alone, will never really go away, I know that by now, I knew that then, but what Katja told Emily sounded like a delicious, incredible taste that was available to me, too, if only I knew where to look for it.
It turns out: my release from anxiety — which I experienced as, like, daily gummies and heroic doses of dread and doom — wasn’t a single revelation, or euphoric in any way, like what I’d imagined had come for Kool Katja (who had realized she was gay); it was instead an ugly and painful experience of loss and fear and anger and stupidity and sadness exploding together, like the San Diego fireworks mishap of 2012, in the gray midst of a pandemic, a high-risk pregnancy, and several people I love going through very hard things, some of the hardest things, and finding myself powerless to fix it.
All of it, together, was either going to turn what was still good over to the worst part of my life, or, I was going to give up. I gave up. My release was in surrender, which I had never wanted, or believed I could experience. (Like: me??? Pinky and the Brain?) The release was in suddenly (and super-shamefully) realizing that I was not, in fact, “in control” of anything. “Control,” in the form of personal hypervigilance especially, was what I counted on, until I realized I had already lost it, of course had never had it, that it was an emotional-support simulacrum all along, that all my efforts had gotten me was a clinical insensitivity to cortisol, and semi-weekly migraines. But the illusion: the illusion had felt so good.
So instead of keening into the empty field, this year I made a little list of things that I do know, that have revealed themselves to me in and around that surrender: that attention is love, and love is attention (I’m not saying these aren’t already obvious, but I didn’t necessarily know); that meditation in all of its forms and all of its difficulties is, probably and improbably, my purpose; chemistry, affinity, whatever it is that magnetizes two people, is apparently rare, and I seem to have a lot of it, and should care for it better… I should care for it the best; that this is all there is. Again: yes, duh.
THE FEELING Q&A: SIMON Q. CARRAWAY
So anyway I asked [my husband] Simon to do my little rotating pushy-nosy-needy-lovey Q&A for my birthday, which was this week, did I mention? back in maybe December mostly because I am kind of obsessed with how obsessed with him I am, sure, how he is very much my object of study (I will still get ***into it*** with him until the argument reaches corners of the galaxy previously visited only by Voyager 1) and he’s nice so he did. (Convenient that I wouldn’t even ask to post a photo of him, because this platform is hostile to images ((and layout generally)) and he would say no anyway.) Also we don’t have the same last name, I’m just being a sills-bills.
Simon works in finance, is smart and sharp and fast and funny, is an extremely real adult grown-up person who is truly, mostly, free (and who is interested in and aware of the ways in which being a super-cis-het-white-male-booming-giant allows him to operate in this world), and most importantly is breathtakingly thoughtful and kind and oriented toward other people. I have a lot of problems with community care, while simultaneously believing it to be the ultimate purpose of so much self-care, and I think it’s funny that my best model for such care in action is a guy who says things like “Six figs start with a three.”
What do you think about the word “wellness”?
I’m Gen X, so my foundational idea of wellness is go to the gym or eat a salad. Obviously I’m a little more eyes-open about what wellness means [now, because of ME!]. I don’t “get” a lot of what falls into the category, but one of my great maturing moments was realizing that not everything has to be for me or about me.
What makes you feel “well”?
I come from a classically British background, so it’s a well-made tea and sitting down to collect myself.
Do you feel connected to your body?
I played sports and have a lot of old sports injuries as a result. I like knowing my body, I just wish it felt a little less banged up.
What is a good habit that you’ve recently formed?
I’m drinking in the moments, trying to really be in them. Strawberry is always seeing things for the first time and I’m trying to participate in the wonder.
What is your best relationship advice?
Measure twice, cut once. Everything you say or do winds up on the scale that weighs your relationship. Say what you mean, but you don’t have to say everything.
What do you find most challenging in a relationship?
In this particular one it’s that you’re more emotionally evolved than I am.
In what ways do you wish more people were like you?
I wish people were less selfish and less gullible and voted their actual interests.
What is something you know for sure about your feelings and emotions?
I was raised by repressives to be a repressive.
What is your most unwelcome feeling?
Feeling like I’ve failed someone.
Are you actively healing from something?
British parents. I’m still carrying the loss of my mother from 2016. I don’t expect that to ever go away.
Who are you envious of?
Do you feel like you "choose" your thoughts?
Most of my thoughts are reactions.
Do you meditate?
When do you feel most rested?
1986. I seek relaxation more than rest, so it’s often at the end of the night with a glass of wine.
When do you feel most engaged?
Any time I’m with Strawberry. She needs attention because she’s a maniac but also because she’s this delicate little creature.
Where is your phone when you sleep?
They’re both charging somewhere near me.
Would you rather go six months without touch, or without music?
Music. I love both, but music is way less of a give.
What do you take simple delight in?
Cooking without a recipe and having it work out.
Do you regularly feel guilty? About what?
If “1” is total peace and calm and “10” is total chaos, where is your life right now?
When she’s awake, 86 out of 10. When she’s asleep, 8.
In what area are you currently thriving?
Work is going well. Strawberry is very happy. And despite pandemic, two careers, dog, kid, life etc. I think I’m half of a pretty great marriage. [Brag?]
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Really feeling the consensus following the “Nepo Baby” t-shirt incident/non-incident that Hailey Bieber is “not it,” is giving “smug” without earning it, is missing it. Hailey reminds me of Khloe Kardashian: she is ignoring her own, real, natural talent to pursue someone else’s talent. And the whole ordeal reminds me of that Justin Bieber GQ profile where the reporter comes across Hailey in Justin’s hotel room and notes that she is doing… nothing. “When we enter, Hailey is wearing a black crop top and tight black pants, sitting on a pristinely made bed. She is doing nothing — no TV, no book, no phone, no computer, no music, no oil paints, nothing.” (Another moment from that piece that I dug in a different way is Justin saying that he doesn’t really use a cell phone because “I don’t want people to feel like they can just get in contact with me that easy” like, yeah man! You’re right!)
On the occasion of what is apparently a very good new book (it would be… the first good one in a while, SOWWY! I’m SOWWY!), Bret Easton Ellis did an interview in Interview of many mini-interviews with a solid selection of mini-famouses (and major-famouses I guess, but who knows anymore… Work in media long enough and everyone just blurs into the same human-shaped, sometimes startlingly beautiful, collection of desires and fears). Sidenote, the podcast about Bennington College and BEE and Donna Tartt et al that is mentioned is suh good.
I had never seen an episode of One Tree Hill until Wednesday despite my doctoral work in Gilmore Girls and Friday Night Lights (this is a joke but also I did write a long paper on Kim Kardashian’s affect and production of glamour during my master’s) and while it is more Dawson’s Creek than GG or FNL or The OC (which is to say, not as good) I am zipped all the way in, committed to however many seasons of meandering quality it will give me.
This piece in n+1 by Max Abelson about Janet Malcolm and journalism, how “the form” is necessarily compromised, was moving to me, especially w/r/t something liiiiike the complications of someone twitching inside the limits of something they basically perfected, and because it’s an opportunity to see those previous conceptualizations of, and conversations with, JM in one place and kind of take in how fucking good she was, and how much her work, and that kind of work, matters.
“Overhearing a friend of mine — a post-six-foot post-punk — once call a dandelion's fluffy seed-pod a ‘wishie’ was revocutetionary, to me, and I'll never forget it; to honor that and him and my birthday next week here is a list of what I want:
- Céline tri-fold bag, black, calfskin, not sure what its show name is but let's call it ‘The Fuck Experience’ for now
- to play a long, competitive game of Balderdash on like a Saturday afternoon with mad drinxxx and then fall asleep at five AND/OR a multi-Sunday game of Risk or Settlers at someone else's house where a puppy won't disrupt the board by Monday morning
- Weleda Skin Food for every sink, every bag, every computer, every Area of Pause and Contemplation in my home
- invitation to Davos
- crazy Friends season six Jennifer Aniston extensions
- on my command, women stop dating and sleeping with fuccs of all stripes, ages, genders
- language with which to communicate to a hair colorist what I actually want because "chewy, Carolyn Bessette but golder but PALE" isn't working very well
- Sugarfish sashimi delivered at 4pm EST every day
- butchy hiking boots
- week alone in Big Sur
- ice-cream cake with ‘Kathryn’ spelled right”
A tip: in your Gcal, for next year, find a Saturday a few weeks before your birthday and make notes about what would be the best-possible scenario for a party, or solitude, or whatever it is you want, like want-want, so that you don’t let it run up on you like a loose dog. Every year, when my birthday is over, I realize I want a few days alone to just be and think, but never plan it, and have now made that 2024’s problem and solution, officially.
I love you.
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