Discover more from THE FEELING by Kate Carraway
THE FEELING: Magical Feeling
Theodor Adorno, Jessica Simpson, skincare, decomposition, meditation, plus a Q&A with Sheryl Lisa Paul
I am alone in a hotel room, writing not on any signature stationery, but with annoying wifi. I’ve been reading some Theodor Adorno, some Jessica Simpson, having the longest, hottest showers, and working. I realized I’d forgotten most of my skincare and anything that might function as a t-shirt, and I’ve slept real, real nice.
(A wildly undercontextualized line, part of a line, from Adorno’s Minima Moralia, which has me squirming inside its clenched, unremitting fingies: “…there is no longer beauty or consolation except in the gaze falling on horror, withstanding it, and in unalleviated consciousness of negativity holding fast to the possibility of what is better.”)
(I meant to read the Jessica Simpson memoir right after having a baby, but around then what I wanted was depth and immersion, not the butterfly kisses of her teen-dream life story, but as always the joke is on me because shit is for-real-for-real inside of ten pages. How funny that this was my avatar of Normal Girl legitimacy and aspiration-revulsion for so long!)
I’m just here for work, the part you can’t do at home, or around anyone else, or in any familiar habitat. The part where you don’t need skincare or a t-shirt, where you dissolve into your own elements, where you pass a mirror and see your recently cut curtain bangs, like all of your forever-efforts of polished insouciance, already growing out, already too-too-too long and messy as hell, because given the opportunity you are ever-decomposing, reverting to factory settings, returning to a self and a self-care that overprioritizes the pinky-gray brain, plucked out of the body and placed, by its own consciousness, into a Baccarat crystal bowl — as if it weren’t one with the nerves and the nervous system, the blood and the guts, the skin and the skincare — but also, at the same time, can finally feel it all, feel it in full, and do something with it, finally finally finally, without the glowing, buzzing stimulus of other people (and, importantly, their internets).
Within minutes of pulling off your hat and jacket and jeans and your dad’s old hi-tech long-sleeve ski shirt, of letting Larabars and pens and Mason Pearson brushes fall out of your hands to land where they will, scattered across the forest floor of the hotel room, the solitude and the difference will initiate the process of unbecoming. There is magical thinking, and this is magical feeling: not a sustainable way of entering the body, and not even necessarily an ideal feeling-state, but helpful in its limited way.
Once, pre-2020 years ago, I was on deadline while Simon was working/shouting from home, and the person who trains and sometimes walks Jem was around to pick her up, and the person who cleans the house and keeps me in line was around to do that, and also someone was on their way to fix something, and while I had arranged for most of it and paid for some of it and wanted all of it, and I needed and need the kind of house that is more of an organism than a storage locker (and maybe I should be taking this into account as I consider whether or not I will be re-entering the world of the Frozen Embryo Transfer and all of its implications), I couldn’t believe that I had created my life — and I did; I made it — to be so busy and noisy and lite-chaotic. I remember walking up the stairs, slowly, thinking, so, I did this? On purpose? Like I had been pretending to be a champagne-socialist mini-matriarch, just playing at it, and then like in a Disney children’s fantasy, it came to life.
In addition to simply being in love with Simon and in love with Jem (though, like everyone who has loved a dog, I also love… every dog), and having the kind of model-mother who kept a large house very organized and highly operational (mine is small, and I struggle), I relate to something by Elizabeth Gilbert (who is underrated by writers who haven’t taken a hot sec to read her work, for the obvious envy-reasons), about how interesting it was that her own super-social, tall-blonde-poppy smiling self ended up single and roaming (this was before she met The Guy in Eat, Pray, Love, before the nice house with the “sky library”) and how her sister, quieter and more internal, ended up a married mother. Like, they each needed to be reaching out at something not already, or easily, part of them. Without the kingdom on Sugar Mountain of my friends and Simon and now Strawberry, my natural tendencies would keep me here, ever-unbecoming in the magical feeling, too much and for too long.
On that note:
I’m taking a few weeks off THE FEELING, sort of because a lot of my regular work is happening all at once, but mostly because I want to finish the meditation teacher training that I quit after having Strawberry, and it’s important to me to do it. (I mean, I want to finish this particular training; it actually takes longer to become a meditation teacher, in the kind of meditation I practice, than it does to get a Ph.D., or, yes, to become a doctor.) (The paid edition, THE FEELING Diary, will still go out as scheduled at the end of the month, I got you, I got you.)
This also means I have to once again make some desultory efforts around yoga — yoga is very good for me in the sense that it is a presence-practice and a however-long daily reminder that, yes, I have a body, and it moves like this and this, it can do this, maybe some other time it can do that, and very bad for me in that I just don’t like it — but, fine.
(Most meditation teachers are also yoga teachers, and that is not my favored path toward feeling, and into and out of the body, and toward infinity, but agreeing to some modes and norms I don’t immediately like and understand definitely is.)
THE FEELING Q&A: SHERYL LISA PAUL
I only care about the stuff of wellness and self-care and related concerns that actually do something, and there was nothing more useful to me per-son-a-lly when I decided, like decided-decided, that I wanted to be free(-er) from the anxiety that had been ruining my life, than Sheryl Paul’s work. (In some previous newsy I really skated over how this free-er-ness actually happened, which I will revisit sometime in full in case it is its own kind of useful.) (Imagine my vibe when I asked SLP to do this and she was immediately like “Sure”; it reminded me of when I had to interview some billionaires ((not that one, or the other one)) for work and found out that they were infinitely easier to get a hold of and talk to than a mid-tier businessdude who is both under-resourced and up in his ego.)
Sheryl’s book The Wisdom of Anxiety: How Worry and Intrusive Thoughts Are Gifts to Help You Heal is one of those all-timers (p.s. are you seeing how The Body Keeps The Score continues to ride the bestsellers list???) that has really helped not only me but my important metric of “several different kinds of people I know.” She also has courses, a blog, and offers private sessions (and her Instagram is actually good). She says she had her first panic attack at 21, and “since that time has been a devotee of the unconscious — endlessly fascinated with the labyrinthian maze of the inner world.”
What is your “project” or what do you want to say about what you “do”?
I’m a counselor who specializes in anxiety, intrusive thoughts, and panic attacks. I work primarily with highly sensitive people, helping them understand that sensitivity is a gift, not a curse, especially when we learn to work with the challenges that come with sensitivity.
What makes you feel “well”?
Tending to my body with healthy eating, regular exercise, and a good night’s sleep. I also spend time each morning and evening in a prayer/meditation practice that stems from my passion for spiritual Judaism.
Is happiness something you actively work toward?
I wouldn’t phrase it quite that way. I see happiness or joy as a byproduct of accompanying ourselves through the various emotions and challenges that exist in a day and in a life. When we learn to meet ourselves with compassion and trust ourselves, joy naturally occurs.
Do you feel connected to your body?
Absolutely. I rely on my body to communicate my needs, boundaries, and truths.
What is a good habit that you used to have, and have lost?
What an interesting question! I recently recommitted to my spiritual practices so I feel very embedded in them right now, but if you had asked me that question in October I would have said that I had stopped my prayer/meditation practice and missed it.
What is a good habit that you’ve recently formed?
Heading out to my studio first thing in the morning or as soon as I can to pray, study, sing, chant, and meditate. No screens allowed!
What is your relationship status? Do you feel “at home” in that status?
Married for over twenty years. My husband IS my home.
What is your best relationship advice?
Choose someone who is willing to grow. Anything can be worked through if both people have a willingness to learn and grow. And when you get stuck, which you likely will, seek the support of a skilled EFT couples therapist (Emotionally Focused Therapy).
What do you find most challenging in a relationship?
When there’s a trauma collision, meaning my trauma collides with my husband’s trauma. That doesn’t happen very often anymore, and when it does we’re able to catch it quickly before it escalates, but it has caused a lot of trouble in our marriage and I’m so grateful that we’ve finally been able to heal it.
What is something you know for sure about your feelings and emotions?
I know that they’re beautiful. I know that they come and go. I know grief lives in a heart-pocket next to gratitude.
What is your most unwelcome feeling?
Are you actively healing from something?
See above :). Yes, I’m currently working on some very deep layers that live embedded inside the panic.
What would it look or feel like to be “healed”?
Hmmm… another excellent question. I don’t think that exists. I think we’re all on a complicated and non-linear journey of self-knowledge and healing. I think that we can be healed in certain areas of our lives, like around a mother wound, but I wouldn’t say that there is such a thing as complete healing.
Are you in therapy? If so, what does it do for you?
Yes, I love therapy. It offers a space where someone else is holding and witnessing, which is essential and restorative for me since I do a lot of holding and witnessing in my work and home life.
Do you feel like you "choose" your thoughts?
No. I think I choose how I respond to my thoughts. But I do think that the more I feed my brain nourishing ideas, the more interesting the thoughts are that arrive.
Do you meditate?
When do you feel most rested?
When I’ve slept over eight hours and when I’m on vacation.
When do you feel most engaged?
When I’m studying spiritual texts, writing, dancing, in nature, singing, blessing, praying, connecting with my husband, listening to music while cooking, laughing with friends.
Where is your phone when you sleep?
Downstairs in the kitchen. Very, very far from me!
Are you a crier?
Absolutely. I cry frequently and consider it potent medicine.
How do you feel about Instagram?
Oh, it’s a double-edged sword, for sure. I love it as a marketing tool and I appreciate how I’m able to connect with my audience there. I’ve also made a couple of very special friends there. But I also look forward to the day when I can get off of it.
You have a weekend free of obligations and responsibilities. What do you do with it?
Spend time with my husband and two teenage sons. Hopefully go for a hike in the beautiful Rocky Mountains. Laugh. My husband is the funniest person on the planet to me, so I count on him to bring the humor. And if we’re lucky, nobody will get triggered :). But that invariably happens and then we have to slog through it.
What do you take simple delight in?
Good food that also makes me feel good.
Right now, the paid subscription to THE FEELING gets you the monthly bonus edition of THE FEELING, called THE FEELING Diary (the latest is “Somewhere in Kauai Where I Can Disappear”) which is a more personal (and longer/weirder) kind of thing, as well as access to the archive of THE FEELING that goes back to 2016, and is a nice, sweetie-peanut way to support Kate and THE FEELING.
Most days I have been eating something, at least once, called a “Busy Salad” which is a salad that has a lot of stuff in it, more stuff than you’d think, because I finally realized smoothies spike my blood sugar (even without a ton of fruit, quick-drinking instead of chewing food is I guess not the best, per my heroic naturopath???) and I am always negotiating between what I want (something that is hand-delivered to me, beyond that, who cares) and what makes me feel good (unfortunately, “effort”) and a Busy Salad is at least improvisational and doesn’t mean you have to actually cook. I think I’m also drawn to a busy salad because Elaine Benes was an early point of “Oooooh” identification and not knowing what was in her Big Salad is a great unsolved mystery of my lifetime.
I have some other travel coming up and when I suggested to Simon that when I’m in NY we could have Strawberry stay with my sister in New Jersey for a day or two, and go and do things, you know, together, alone, like people, and he looked just crushed and said “But she has to be Bright Lights, Big City!” This was nice for the usual cutie reasons but also for the fact that Simon has no actual idea who Jay McInerney is but is always absorbing and interpreting my cultural knowledge in ways that surprise and delight.
Related: Simon asked me if my passport was valid and I didn’t know, an out-of-body experience. Once I was just wandering down the street and realized that I was supposed to be on an airplane at that moment. It wasn’t, I missed a flight. It was, I missed an entire trip. (To be fair to me, that trip had been rescheduled from an earlier date, and I had never made the change in my iCal because I was like 25 and because I’m a stupid bitch.) Anyway, it felt like that.
I wanted to watch TÁR last week but it cost $24.99 to rent so instead I watched J. Lo’s Marry Me which had such a jank-ass wtf-ery filming style that it looked like everyone’s parents’ TV, and a The Good Wife-level sense of the actors having filmed their scenes separately, and just so many opportunities for the emotional logic to be smoothed out a little, just, the way some people can’t not tuck in your tag or fix your hem, it’s like, “Ughnngghh, give it to me.” But anyway, the soundtrack is GREAT! “King king king! Ring ring ring!” or whatever! Actually really good.
Related: I am currently writing a script, for which I will only “likely” get paid and which I will “very likely” not get made, where I just gave up — finally, finally, finally — and called the main character Kate. Like: fuck it.
“My consuming interest in feeling better and getting better and being better has to be regularly tempered with ‘I just want to be trash for a while’ and crucially ‘and have that be ok’ and while I anticipate myself at these junctures and give myself so much space to be really wrong and bad and so entitled and wildly self-absorbed (although, hey, my therapist said that while I am these things, in their ways, I am ‘too charming’ to be truly entitled, and while I actually agree — I feel entitled to what I feel I, and everyone else, is owed, but not to what someone else could or ‘should’ give me — I just liked that compliment TOO MUCH to leave it alone), I also like the wide, welcoming permission of someone else [here, Roxane Gay] fucking saying it for you.” — me, here, in 2018
Possibly useful administrata for the anxious: schedule difficult medical appointments on Tuesday mornings. If it’s on a Monday, you’re thinking about it all weekend. Tuesday morning means that only Monday is wasted if hypervigilance is your emotional amulet. (It is for me, still, sometimes.) Morning appointments, morning everythings, are much less likely to involve an error or a fuck-up; morning results might get to you or your doctor same-day. If anything goes down that needs follow-up, you have the emotional balm of three available weekdays in a row to deal with whatever. Also, for those of us with time-space synesthesia, Tuesdays are blue, which is so optimistic. (Is this a safety behavior? Maybe! Ask Sheryl Paul.)
I love you, I love us.
“You want me / Well, come on and break the door down / You want me / Fucking come on and break the door down / I’m ready / I’m ready / I’m ready” — “Talk Show Host” was a b-side on the Street Spirit single and more importantly and everythingly was on the Romeo + Juliet soundtrack (is my emotional-culture email newsletter actually a ‘90s/‘00s culture podcast?) and the dynamic transitions specifically, between “door down” and the final “I’m ready,” from a loose, leggy question to an aggro come-on to a cosmic trill and then back again, have been playing in my head all week. The guitars! Anyway.