June 28, 2019

Slowing to a crawl

Here’s something I had forgotten since the last time I had a major relapse of my depression and my anxiety at the same time: my cognitive function suffers, and continues to suffer months after I’ve re-set my medication and have started to feel better.

I’m a little slower at getting things done these days, and there are many things that I’ve just put on hold because I can’t bring myself to jump into them right now. My cognitive load isn’t any heavier than it was six months ago, but my cognitive function has not recuperated enough to carry that load right now.

Even though I have sent over 150 pieces of postal correspondence this year, I have only sent three letters in the past two months, and zero in the past month. (In fact, there is a stack of unopened correspondence from friends—at least a dozen envelopes, if not more—sitting on my desk.) I may have already read 39 books in the first half of this year, but only a handful of those were finished in the past two months; in June, I have not completed, or even started, a single book. I took a break from my community and nonprofit work back in February, and still have yet to emerge from that break now that I am ostensibly feeling better.

Since February, and perhaps more intensely over the past two months, life has slowed to a crawl. This is mostly because I can not keep up with the pace of everything happening around me; instead of trying to catch up, I have retrenched, become even slower, even quieter, even more removed.

This is, of course, part of healing. I know things will be better soon, and that I need to give myself the time to recuperate and get used to my post-relapse life, but it still feels strange and unfulfilled to look back at the first half of 2019 and see things slow and halt, instead of progress and move ahead.

The halfway point of the year allows us to think back on what we have done and chart a course for where we will go next. In 2019, what I’ve done in the first half of the year is nothing but recuperate; everything else has been put off and gone by the wayside in the an effort to focus on healing. I need to be better at reminding myself that healing and recuperation is important, and is a lot; it’s okay if everything else has slowed to a crawl, because taking care of myself is a mammoth undertaking in itself.

That’s the message I take with me into the second half of the year: that it doesn’t matter what I’ve accomplished or what outward markers I have of progress, as long as I am slowly on the path to becoming myself, again.

Poems of the week:

Ah, Ah
Joy Harjo

Ah, ah cries the crow arching toward the heavy sky over the marina.
Lands on the crown of the palm tree.

Ah, ah slaps the urgent cove of ocean swimming through the slips.
We carry canoes to the edge of the salt.

Ah, ah groans the crew with the weight, the winds cutting skin.
We claim our seats. Pelicans perch in the draft for fish.

Ah, ah beats our lungs and we are racing into the waves.
Though there are worlds below us and above us, we are straight ahead.

Ah, ah tattoos the engines of your plane against the sky—away from these waters.
Each paddle stroke follows the curve from reach to loss.

Ah, ah calls the sun from a fishing boat with a pale, yellow sail. We fly by
on our return, over the net of eternity thrown out for stars.

Ah, ah scrapes the hull of my soul. Ah, ah.

(Joy Harjo was recently named the first Native American U.S. Poet Laureate in the history of the role.)

Self-Portrait as So Much Potential
Chen Chen

Dreaming of one day being as fearless as a mango.

As friendly as a tomato. Merciless to chin & shirtfront.

Realizing I hate the word sip.”

But that’s all I do.

I drink. So slowly.

& say I’m tasting it. When I’m just bad at taking in liquid.

I’m no mango or tomato. I’m a rusty yawn in a rumored year. I’m an arctic attic.

Come amble & ampersand in the slippery polar clutter.

I am not the heterosexual neat freak my mother raised me to be.

I am a gay sipper, & my mother has placed what’s left of her hope on my brothers.

She wants them to gulp up the world, spit out solid degrees, responsible grandchildren ready to gobble.

They will be better than mangoes, my brothers.

Though I have trouble imagining what that could be.

Flying mangoes, perhaps. Flying mango-tomato hybrids. Beautiful sons.

A few things to read and explore:

On Summer Crushing:

It is not true that all people get crushes and it is not true that all people want to be someone’s crush. And it is definitely not true that these things happen in equal measure for everyone. But for the people who do crush and want to be a crush, I think that desire can rise and dissipate with the movement of seasons. I always found that my hopes of having a crush existed most eagerly in the early months of a year, as winter faded away. Those hopes peaked in the middle of summer, when I would strive to be romantically unattached, so that my heart could be tugged in any direction it pleased. I would guess this seasonal relationship might have to do with the structure of my life when I first discovered what crushes were. Which is to say, when I was in school, especially when I was in school but before my friends and I could drive, when even if a person was romantically linked to someone else, they would most likely part ways before the school year ended. Or pretend that they were going to give it a try over the summer if they lived in neighborhoods that were close enough. But, in the end, the seemingly never-ending possibilities of summer won out.

Ta-Nehisi Coates’ full opening statement on reparations at House hearing (full transcript here):

Ta-Nehisi Coates Revisits the Case for Reparations:

The case I make for reparations is, virtually every institution with some degree of history in America, be it public, be it private, has a history of extracting wealth and resources out of the African-American community. I think what has often been missing—this is what I was trying to make the point of in 2014—that behind all of that oppression was actually theft. In other words, this is not just mean. This is not just maltreatment. This is the theft of resources out of that community. That theft of resources continued well into the period of, I would make the argument, around the time of the Fair Housing Act.

Juneteenth Returns to Its Roots:

The reparations debate now necessarily extends beyond slavery, drawing from Jim Crow and more recent discriminatory practices in the North and West. Scholars are producing estimates of exactly how much wealth was stolen by tools such as restrictive covenants and mass incarceration. And, critically, researchers have also clearly outlined exactly how state power helped produce the wealth of those who have it: through favorable tax policy, social insurance, powerful institutions, and massive land and wealth transfers. America has pursued most of the programs Du Bois desperately wanted to create during Reconstruction. But the country has enacted them mostly for white people instead of the scions of the enslaved.

Instructions for Survival in a Country Where 20 Percent of the People Want You to Leave:

Explain to your kids that life will go on like normal. This election doesn’t change anything. You’re staying here. You’re not going anywhere.

Don’t think about the fact that every fifth person you meet in elevators, on buses, in grocery stores, thinks you’re doing something wrong simply by existing here.

(Related: my earlier post about the 29%.)

Abolish the Billionaire Class:

Vast concentrations of wealth in the hands of the few is both how and why there is so much poverty and insecurity among working and middle-class Americans, despite there being so much wealth overall. Thanks to their cumulative labor — in factories, schools, hospitals, care homes, restaurants, and throughout the economy — an immense amount of wealth is produced in a society like the United States, but much of it is expropriated by billionaires in the form of rents and capital income. No one earns a billion dollars, but hierarchical economic structures and a skewed political system ensure some nevertheless acquire it because of the property they own. A billion dollars, let alone the over $100 billion amassed by Jeff Bezos, is not a reward proportionate to someone’s social contribution. It’s institutionalized theft, plain and simple.

The Sweetgreen-ification of Society:

We are losing the spaces we share across socioeconomic strata. Slowly, but surely, we are building the means for an everyday urbanite to exist solely in their physical and digital class lanes. It used to be the rich, and then everyone else. Now in every realm of daily consumer life, we are able to efficiently separate ourselves into a publicly visible delineation of who belongs where.

We lost the lunch line. We lost the coffee cart. We’re losing the commute. Innovation has bestowed upon us an entire homescreen worth of transportation options that allow us to congest the roads and never brush elbows with those taking the subway. Meanwhile, the crumbling of the subways aren’t felt by an ever growing number of the somewhat well-to-do.

The Swimming Pool: Fascist Blue Rectangle or Immersive Democratic Space?:

The pool is the only place in my (increasingly cauterized) life in which I exist, semi-naked, in close proximity to people with whom I share no intelligible connection. The fact of my difference is as numbingly boring as anyone else’s. The pool is a space where many ways of being, and knowing, are brought together, without any attempt to reconcile them. Nothing is flattened, nor idealized, either.

The New Wilderness:

The question we need to ask is not whether our data is safe, but why there is suddenly so much of it that needs protecting. The problem with the dragon, after all, is not its stockpile stewardship, but its appetite.

Alone Together: Robyn’s Dancing On My Own’ Opens The Corners Of Community:

What’s true of most human experiences is that you’re going to have more than one emotion at a time,” she says. It’s very rare to have all of that in a song.” […]

This is what’s so confusing, so endearing and so lovable about this song. When I talk to people about it, they tell me how it always manages to make them feel less lost — eager to dance themselves toward the next day, or the next party, or the next lover. It’s a song about loneliness, but the moment you hear it, you instantly feel less alone.

No one is talking about the biggest problem with Slack:

Having the ability to mute and block doesn’t change a workplace’s policy—it just helps protect victims.

Everyone should have the ability to mute, block, and generally augment their experiences online, because having the ability to tailor your privacy settings and how people can reach you creates safety. Ideally your workplace has a system in place to mitigate both online and offline harassment—but what happens if that person doesn’t stop?

Speed’ remains a beautiful movie about the importance of public transportation:

Speed might scare some viewers away from their morning commute, but the movie inadvertently captures what’s special about public transit. Whether we want them to or not, buses, trains, and other shared means of transportation bring us into contact with the world beyond ourselves.

Gisèle Mounzer has created an interactive map of all the locations in The Odyssey:

Interactive map of The Odyssey

And a few more:

And here’s a Tiny Desk Concert, starring the cast of Sesame Street, to leave you with joy a song in your heart this coming weekend.

Don’t worry if it’s not good enough for anyone else to hear—just sing, sing a song, my friends. See you soon.

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