Hi, loves. 🌿
On buying it all
My email is flooded with notices about things I need. Should want to need. Probably need. Surely have already missed out on. My inbox is such a loud place right now — if I get one more Flash Sale reminder that the boots I love but bought and returned in two different sizes last winter (such a narrow boot! Whose feet are that slim?) are 70% off ONLY RIGHT NOW I will surely break down and buy them anyway just to make the emails stop (I know they won’t stop). Either that or throw my phone in the ocean once and for all.
Last night I made my kid cry — by accident! I swear! — when we had a tough and unexpected conversation about capitalism. She’s been busily making her Hanukkah list, and once that was done, she started on her Christmas list (the joys of a non-Jewish grandparent). Much to my chagrin, the kid clearly knows her way around Amazon. She knows how to find pencil cases and pillows and bean bag chairs and side tables and highlighters. And then she’s overwhelmed with all the choices she could make but isn’t making: maybe a blue lamp? Or a grey one? Or pink! Or maybe not a lamp at all but a rug?! The agony of choice! So I said: Guess what happens when you spend weeks trolling Amazon? You just want more.
This is the conversation that made her cry the other night — my announcement that one of the perils of spending so much time online is that it never, ever, ever satisfies. You will never buy enough things to fill the void in your soul. I did not put it this way, I promise, but I did say: I know when I spend a lot of time looking at (let’s be frank) Alex Mill, Clare V. and Nisolo on a loop, all I ever want is more of those things. I never just get the one perfect sweater and move on. I want more sweaters, ever more sweaters. And I live in Southern California for crying out loud.
I don’t have a particularly addictive personality but this is what the internet — and certainly online shopping and certainly social media — were made for: To make us not be able to disengage, ever. To keep our faces tethered, mindlessly, to the screen, ever more desperate for…whatever. Things, information, gossip, news, entertainment, more more more.
I am ready for it all to stop.
What I’ve learned, however, in the wake of my declaration that I have gone off Instagram is that I cannot go off Instagram. As hard as I try, which is, admittedly, not that hard. So, yes, maybe I do have an addiction, one orchestrated and seeded by evil techies in Silicon Valley who want to keep me — keep us all — distracted and distraught, as I toggle from recipes for the perfect pie crust to hostage release videos to workouts for women over 40, my heart being ripped and put back together in nonsensical ways. The world was not meant to be experienced this way, and I can feel my brain — my whole self? — being fried, sputtering into little self-pieces.
This week, after a week of visiting family and old friends, I’ve found myself falling into a kind of blank despair, mostly, unsurprisingly, about the world. To see hostages returned to their broken families is agonizing — only more so because we now know a little bit of what they’ve experienced, and because so many are still captive. To see children my daughter’s age too terrified to speak, elderly women my mother’s age deprived of medicine, raced to hospitals, mothers my age sobbing into their children’s shoulders, husbands and sons still trapped: it’s all just beyond devastating. As are the images of Palestinian families walking through the ruins of Gaza, praying for a ceasefire to continue, for a chance to live in peace, with food and water and shelter, in safety. A home. Just a home.
But maybe the solution is make some chickpeas and chicken for dinner to get in those 40g of protein!
This is a confusing world.
I did, however, watch American Symphony, the documentary about musician Jon Batiste and writer Suleika Jaouad. This perhaps, if anything, contributed to my sadness: it is a study in the starkest contrasts, this movie, about how Batiste’s meteoric “rise” came with the return of Jaouad’s second Leukemia diagnosis and bone marrow transplant. But within the sadness, there was also joy, or perhaps it was awe, witnessing both of their utter devotion to their art, the way one can see music-making — art-making — as a spiritual practice, as a means of survival.
This is one thing that’s been lost for me in these times of endless texts and emails and “have you heard the latest?” and news that pings its way not only onto my phone but stamps itself on my heart long after I’ve closed the tab: the willingness, the reminder to make art. To not just take in endless “content” but to also leave ourselves the space to be and make and dream and process.
I say this not because the answer to anything is to Make Art Not War (though I do believe this, to my very core), but because I think I’ve forgotten that it’s even possible, that there’s actually a longing somewhere in here, beyond the immediacy of today’s panic. That none of us are intake machines. That I can close the tabs on my computer and pick up my notebook. Write a few words. That I can lie on the floor and listen to music. That I can sit on my kid’s bed and doodle with her. That these things are living. That we are human beings, alive.
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