Reading List: If You Haven’t Listened To “drivers license” On Loop, Have You Even 2021ed?
I’m not going to lie, y’all. I’m tired. I’ve found 2021 to so far feel more tiring than the end of 2020, and the end of 2020 was freaking exhausting. But I’ve always felt the remnants of stress well after a trauma occurs, like an aftershock or tsunami after an earthquake. Four months into the pandemic, my hair started falling out. That scared me, so despite my fear of being in public, of being around strangers, I went to a dermatologist at UCSF, had vial after vial of blood work drawn, was examined and poked and asked a million questions. In the end, there was nothing physically wrong with me, no condition revealed in tests, no disease or condition that would indicate I should be losing hair at the rate I was, there was only GESTURES AT THE WORLD. But the doctor was kind, and he surmised it was stress, and mentioned he’d seen an increase in patients with similar symptoms. And I laughed. Of course it was stress.
I think about my grandmother and her twin sister, evacuated to the English countryside during the Blitz in WWII, separated from their families to stay with strangers to save their lives. My urban-dwelling teenage Nana finding herself doing manual labor on a farm, far away from her friends and family, all the while knowing that her beloved city, her country was under attack. I think about how the physical repercussions of that trauma must have manifested themselves, how it must have lingered in her body for years, decades, a half century.
I mention all this as a reminder that this is all still hard and traumatic, hard and traumatic on our bodies and minds and relationships and souls. Whether you’re still struggling to educate your kids while trying to keep your job, or you’ve had to cancel your wedding twice, or you’ve got preexisting conditions that make you more at risk, or you’re being so careful while others aren’t, or you’re leaving a long-beloved career, or you’re disabled and finding work even harder to navigate, or you’re stuck in a small apartment in a strained marriage, or you haven’t hugged someone else in months, or you’ve lost your job, or you’ve had to move, or you’ve had a baby, or you’re scared, or you are just tired, so tired, of all of THIS… it’s ok to not be ok. It’s OK to want to cry or take a sick day (that’s what they are there for!) or just scream (wouldn’t it be amazing if we could all just scream for a bit?) It’s OK, because I promise you we’re all there with you.
Anyhoo. I want you to know that I mean it when I say “be kind to yourself”. And I’m with you, even if it’s just in spirit.
To the Longreads.
Max Brooks, World War Z - What possessed me to start re-reading a novel that portrays the start of the zombie apocalypse as a bungled societal response to a pandemic, only this one leads to the ravenous undead? Nothing I can think of, nope, not at all, no reason.
Paul Tullis, How ecstasy and psilocybin are shaking up psychiatry (Nature) - I was connecting with a colleague last week about the importance of leadership in the workplace being up front and transparent about mental health. It’s not hard for me, dear reader, because I sit here talking to you every morning about substance abuse, depression and anxiety, but it’s not as easy for others to comprehend why some of us are 100 percent transparent about our once-weekly standing lunchtime therapy appointment. Which is why I was happy a friend of the Missive shared this piece with me - I am always glad to hear that medical professionals and regulating bodies are exploring new avenues for addressing mental health, because after the year that we’ve had, we’re going to need all of the tools we can get.
Jonathan Swan and Zachary Basu, Inside the craziest meeting of the Trump presidency (Axios) - I don’t want to think of the ex-president any more than I absolutely have to, but what is remarkable about this account of the moment his quest to remain in the Oval Office swung from legal challenges to The Big Lie is just how relatively absent he is from this conversation. He’s a non-entity, and somehow that scares me more. Absolutely bonkers.
Anne Helen Petersen, the diminishing returns of productivity culture (Culture Study) - I spent 30 minutes last weekend googling “productivity day planners” because I’ve been so busy and sometimes feel like I just can’t get a handle on everything that is up in the air. Then I started reading Petersen’s piece and OOF: “This is the dystopian reality of productivity culture. Its mandate is never “You figured out how to do my tasks more efficiently, so you get to spend less time working.” It is always: “You figured out how to do your tasks more efficiency, so you must now do more tasks.””
Pam Mandel, I Am Not Throwing Away My Shot. Or Am I? (Nerd’s Eye View) - Pam is one of the greatest travel writers out there (have you read her book The Same River Twice? CUZ YOU SHOULD) and her struggle with the ethics of how “being in the know” gives some earlier access to the COVID vaccine over others is hella important and relatable. For example: “This underprivileged population is bailing out NPR listeners while retail employees go to work each day and have to ask, over and over, people to pull their masks up over their noses, to step back, to wait, please, we’re at capacity.”
Have a good weekend, my doves. Stay safe, wear a mask, and be kind to each other ❤️