TV & Poetry

I like to think of me and Thomas’ brain cell count as a zero sum game: if he’s gaining brain cells, I have to be losing them at the same rate. For example: it’s 8pm on a Saturday evening and he is doing readings for his policy classes. Therefore, in order to balance out his brain cell gains, I must lose the same amount by binge-watching “Love Island.” I don’t make the rules.

(Look: it’s not my favorite show, but I’ve already rewatched “New Girl” twice during the pandemic and I read an entire book today so I’m not sure what else to do with my time.)

I’m feeling lighter-hearted now because it’s 6am and I’m always more optimistic in the morning, but a lot has been weighing on me the past few days. My excuse for watching “Love Island,” therefore, is the same one most would give: it’s escapist. If I can’t be outside or with friends due to a pandemic and wildfire smoke, I might as well live vicariously through the dramas of 20-something-year-olds in Las Vegas.

Most of the weight I’m experiencing is feelings of helplessness; I see my friends (not to mention the world) struggling and I feel powerless to help them. Maybe it’s the pandemic or maybe it’s just life (probably the latter) but so many of my friends are going through tough times and I want nothing more than to make their pain and anxiety and hurt go away. Maybe I feel more helpless than usual because it’s hard to physically be there for others and therefore I’m relegated to sending texts, cards, and small gifts to let them know I’m thinking of them. I sit on my couch and read (or watch “Love Island”) but no matter how hard I try to concentrate on some alternate reality my thoughts inevitably return to my friends and family.

I don’t know what to do with this pent-up energy, this frustration that I can’t flip a switch and make the problems of those I care about go away. It’s not like I had that power before – though I can probably attribute a lot of my anxiety to the fact I can’t accept that as truth – but something about being physically still and confined aggravates it. That’s probably why my most effective form of escapism (or coping mechanism, whatever you want to call it) is being outdoors and exercising. (Jury’s still out on the fine line between helpful and harmful there.)

The sun is finally rising (I think? It’s impossible to tell through the smoke) and I want to end this post with a poem I read yesterday:

I, like most others in California right now, have been dreaming of rain…

My intention for today is to keep the spirit of the rain within me: “to fall, to be fellow, to feel to the root, to sink in…”

It’s 6am and I’m Bored!

Last week I accidentally unmuted myself during a work call while funneling the remains of a family-size bag of popcorn into my mouth. A few seconds later: “Hey, Maddy, could you mute yourself?”

F*ck. Such is my life these days.

This week, however, my work laptop decided to stop functioning entirely so I’ve been trying to do my work using a combination of my phone (which has my work apps and VPN access) hooked up to a bluetooth keyboard I happened to buy last year. I’m feeling both resourceful and stressed.

It’s 6:19am and I’m sitting on the couch drinking coffee after waking up at 5 with awful period cramps. I spent a good portion of last night curled up in a ball on the couch before convincing myself that a pint of mint chocolate chip ice cream would make the pain go away. (It did temporarily, for the record.) Now I’m banking on the fact that coffee will help, though there’s a better chance it will have the opposite effect.

Speaking of coffee: as of last week Safeway started stocking the Starbucks pumpkin spice blend which I’ve been using to craft my homemade cold brew:

^Also how I feel every morning drinking my home-brewed iced coffee.

I was planning to go for a ride or jog but the combination of cramps and smoke outside means I’ll be hanging out on the couch until my 8am meeting, which is just as well considering I have plenty of work to do and only a phone to do it with!

The sun through the smoky sky in Berkeley earlier this week.

Thomas just emerged groggily from our bedroom, which reminds me that last night I discovered he doesn’t know who Jason DeRulo is. Or, more accurately, he “maybe recognizes the name?”. I love Thomas but sometimes I wonder how I’ve stayed married for three years to a man who lives under a rock.

I can already tell this day is going to be a struggle so there’s only one thing left to do:

Watch this performance on repeat.

Having My Cake…and Being Stressed Out, Too?

I feel sad, angry, and helpless about so much: fires blazing across Northern California, coronavirus raging on, friends who are going through tough times, ongoing fights for black lives…

I sit at my kitchen table each day and try to focus on work but it feels increasingly trivial. I take meetings in between reading articles about the latest fire destruction and the updated coronavirus death toll, I toggle between my work email where I respond to colleagues and my iMessage where I respond to worried friends, and I tinker with presentations while my mind wanders to the world outside of my computer screen.

Amidst all of this, Thomas and I celebrated our third anniversary. It felt both selfish and necessary. Taking the time to celebrate our love sent me into a spiral of self-critical thoughts: You’re so selfish, It’s unfair that you have so much and others have so little, How can you justify spending time to cook a nice dinner together when the world is burning and workers are sacrificing their health to put this food on your plate? But it also filled me with love and gratitude for everything I have, and with continued strength to be there for others who don’t have as much.

As I’m typing this and trying to explain the paradox of feelings I’ve encountered over the past weeks and months, F. Scott Fitzgerald’s famous quote comes to mind: “the test of a first-rate intelligence is the ability to hold two opposed ideas in the mind at the same time, and still retain the ability to function.”

I had always assumed he was referring to academic or philosophical intelligence but in the process of googling his exact words I finally read the context in which they were written:

Before I go on with this short history let me make a general observation—the test of a first-rate intelligence is the ability to hold two opposed ideas in the mind at the same time, and still retain the ability to function. One should, for example, be able to see that things are hopeless and yet be determined to make them otherwise. This philosophy fitted on to my early adult life, when I saw the improbable, the implausible, often the “impossible” come true.

I had never read that following sentence: “One should, for example, be able to see that things are hopeless and yet be determined to make them otherwise.”

Huh. Maybe the kind of intelligence he was referring to has more to do with emotion than I originally thought. While I used to interpret the quote as “make sure to think critically and continuously challenge your beliefs,” his subsequent example of simultaneous hopelessness and determination feels much more relevant to my current emotional state.

(Does being in constant possession of conflicting emotions make me…emotionally intelligent? Ha????)

Either way, as I read his message today, sitting in the kitchen as clouds of smoke hover outside our window, it provides me with a much-needed dose of optimism and determination. Maybe I can make more of a difference than I thought even when things seem contradictory or wrong. Maybe feeling many things at once is a strength – or, if nothing else, the reality of human nature. But how can I hold everything at once without feeling overwhelmed, confused, or paralyzed? (It’s too bad F. Scott Fitzgerald didn’t answer that question in his next paragraph.)

Anyway, here are some pictures of the dinner I made to celebrate our anniversary on Wednesday (what’s the point of having a blog if not to brag about a meal you cooked?):

“When in doubt, eat strawberry cake.” -F. Scott Fitzgerald, probably, at some point.