Every day is not the same
Every day feels the same.
We wake up, feed Zoya, play with her, put her down for a nap, try to get in a shower and eat breakfast during her short nap, feed Zoya again, play with her again, quickly scarf down lunch, put Zoya down for another nap while we catch up on housework and errands, feed Zoya again, keep playing with her, prepare and eat dinner while trying to give Zoya solids at the same time, start the bedtime routine, bathe her and put her to sleep, and then have a couple of hours to ourselves to catch up on life before we have to give her a dream feed and we go to sleep ourselves.
Every day feels the same.
But here’s what I’ve come to realize: while the big patterns of the day never change, while we do the same things over and over again, the little things are different, and are important.
One day, Zoya began laughing. Another day, she started to roll over. Another, she ate her first bite of zucchini. One day, she started sleeping better at night. And one day, she realized that smiling and cooing at me would make me smile too, so she started doing that more and more.
One day, we discovered a new restaurant in town that offered delivery. Another day, the sun was shining at the perfect angle that we had sunshine all through our walk in Springbank Park. Another, we got some kind and heartfelt cards in the mail. And one day, I got a new pair of fleece-lined jeans that kept me warm every time I went outside.
Each day brings with it its own surprises, its own delights. Every day may feel the same, but every day is different, and each one is filled with reasons to smile and moments of joy.
I love discovering something new about Zoya every single day. I love discovering something new about the world around me every day. I love knowing that even though every day feels the same, I’m buoyed by delight in different ways all the time.
If you haven’t heard Amanda Gorman recite her poem at the Presidential Inauguration yet, do yourself a favor and take some time to do that:
I Am Accused Of Tending To The Past
i am accused of tending to the past
as if i made it,
as if i sculpted it
with my own hands. i did not.
this past was waiting for me
when i came,
a monstrous unnamed baby,
and i with my mother’s itch
took it to breast
and named it
she is more human now,
learning languages everyday,
remembering faces, names and dates.
when she is strong enough to travel
on her own, beware, she will.
Dubbed undetectable, I can’t kill
The people you touch, and I can’t
Blur your view
Of the pansies you’ve planted
Outside the window, meaning
I can’t kill the pansies, but I want to.
I want them dying, and I want
To do the killing. I want you
To heed that I’m still here
Just beneath your skin and in
The way anger dwells in a man
Who studies the history of his nation.
If I can’t leave you
Dead, I’ll have
You vexed. Look. Look
Again: show me the color
Of your flowers now.
I hope everyone who has ever hurt me is safe tonight. I hope everyone has a place to go home. I hope my worst ex’s opinions aren’t as bad as I sometimes think they might be. I hope all the people who ever broke my heart are wearing masks and not attending indoor events. I hope all of their fears keep them safe. I hope everyone is still alive, and healthy. I hope no one is a name on a list anywhere. I hope no one is in a hospital bed, is calling an ambulance, is running the numbers on their health insurance and medications and ventilators. I hope the most everyone is doing is watching the news. I hope everyone I have ever cared about and ever lost in small or large ways, through personal atrocities or simply through the gentle negligence of time and forgetting, is sitting on a couch tonight and the couch is comfortable.
The experience of being a human is inseparable from our ability to remember. You can’t build relationships without memories. You can’t prepare for the future if you don’t remember the past.
In the weeks following, I thought frequently of other people I had missed without fully realizing it. Pretty good friends with whom I had mostly done things that were no longer possible, such as trying new restaurants together. Co-workers I didn’t know well but chatted with in the communal kitchen. Workers at the local coffee or sandwich shops who could no longer dawdle to chat. The depth and intensity of these relationships varied greatly, but these people were all, in some capacity, my friends, and there was also no substitute for them during the pandemic. Tools like Zoom and FaceTime, useful for maintaining closer relationships, couldn’t re-create the ease of social serendipity, or bring back the activities that bound us together.
Snow, like love, is useless. Working harder and doing more get nowhere with love. The joy it offers, if it offers you joy, does not last and does not result in any achievements. It does nothing, and then it disappears. “Joy is stupid,” I overheard my neighbor saying on the phone a few weeks ago, her voice full of the thick and giddy curdle of it. She was celebrating, raising a glass to stupidity. Snow is as stupid as joy, pointless, fleeting, turning into annoyance within a day. Maybe that’s why it raises up such big emotions in those of us who love it, something to celebrate that has no value or deservingness at all, a beauty that erases the self who engages with it. I am nobody to the snow; the grace of it in the dark uprisen morning, coming down silent on a sleeping city and turning the whole place bright, reflecting the streetlights to a soft purple, is nothing I can put into a list of successes. There is no action to it. It has nothing to do with the individual; snow is a collective experience, against work, against accomplishment, against a singular ordering of more and less, better and worse, success and failure.
That is the great virtue of chips: They are here for us to eat them. So that is what we will do. I will put the first chip, now, into my mouth. I will set it delicately on my tongue like a communion wafer. Instantly, the flavor snaps against my taste buds — that earthy, cheesy tang — flashing like a firecracker, lighting up the whole wet cave of my mouth and radiating out, further, to fill my whole head, my whole being. These chemicals are transcendent, Proustian, as powerful as any drug: They trigger nodes of memory that stretch back years, decades, back to old Super Bowls and family reunions, back to the outside world that I am trying to forget. Another chip. Another chip.
We are a country built on fabrication, nostalgia and euphemism. And every time America shows the worst of itself, all the contradictions collapse into the lie I’ve heard nonstop for the last several years: “This isn’t who we are.”
Post-truth is pre-fascism, and Trump has been our post-truth president. When we give up on truth, we concede power to those with the wealth and charisma to create spectacle in its place. Without agreement about some basic facts, citizens cannot form the civil society that would allow them to defend themselves. If we lose the institutions that produce facts that are pertinent to us, then we tend to wallow in attractive abstractions and fictions. Truth defends itself particularly poorly when there is not very much of it around, and the era of Trump like the era of Vladimir Putin in Russia is one of the decline of local news. Social media is no substitute: It supercharges the mental habits by which we seek emotional stimulation and comfort, which means losing the distinction between what feels true and what actually is true.
While the religiously charged demonization of globalists dovetails with QAnon, religious maximalism has also gone mainstream. Under Trump, Republicans throughout the country have consistently situated American politics in the context of an eternal, cosmic struggle between good and evil. In doing so, they have rendered constitutional principles of representation, pluralism, and the separation of powers less inviolable, given the magnitude of what is at stake.
Everyone is looking for something fun to do as the world burns down, a neat way to pass the time as the tides roll in for good. Everyone wants to capitalize on the rising dread, the falling stars, the desperation, the longing, the isolation. We’re all lonely now but in the most claustrophobic way, knowing that our days are numbered, knowing that we have to squeeze every last drop of joy out of the smallest things, now or never, now and forever.
The inauguration of Joe Biden and Kamala Harris should be a celebration, not only because a humane person has been elected as the 46th president of the United States (the lowest bar), but because Kamala Harris will be the first woman vice-president, the first Black vice-president, the first South Asian vice-president. Whether you share her politics or not, this is a big deal and it has been completely forgotten as we watch the spectacle that is the Trump presidency sputters to its inevitably ignominious end.
It is intriguing to speculate how the world might look, had malaria never existed. If Hannibal had conquered Rome, would Europeans today speak languages derived from Punic instead of Latin? If the transatlantic slave trade had not been so lucrative, would America have avoided civil war and segregation? If the quinine-fortified Japanese army had not battered the Chinese nationalists so badly, would Mao Zedong’s communists have been able to seize power?
Making people feel better about their own bodies is an easily marketable goal because it is a toothless one: As fat activists have always acknowledged, the issue isn’t that marginalized people have failed to love themselves enough. It is everything else that comes with being a fat person: the stigma that begins in a childhood where nearly half of 3- to 6-year-old girls say they worry about being too fat and other kids in the same age range describe their bigger classmates as “stupid” and “lazy”; the rampant bullying not only from strangers on the street or the internet but from family and romantic partners; the prejudice from hiring managers who discount candidates based on weight alone, and from doctors who fail to take seriously immediate medical problems until a patient has lost weight.
My wife and I got together with other couples every now and again. And I’d even gone on a few “guy dates” with newer acquaintances I’d met through my kids or on an assignment or wherever. But all too often those seemed to be one and done. We’d go grab a couple beers, and then spend those beers talking about how we’re over-scheduled and never get to do things like this, while vaguely making plans to do something again, though we both know it will probably never happen. It’s a polite way of kicking the ball down the road but never into the goal. I like you. You like me. Is that enough? Is this what passes for friendship at this stage in life?
I could spend hours watching this snowflake generator make snowflakes:
And a few more:
- Awesome, weird and everything else
- Every presidential inauguration poem ever performed
- A Year Without Clothes
- A New Tool in Treating Mental Illness: Building Design