The Zoopness: Champagne problems 🥂🎊
That looks really hard and you’re doing a good job
A)I’m writing this on my phone because I think I have PTSD from my laptop this year and every time I try to open to write anything there’s a magnetic force field pushing me away, so please forgive any typos or formatting weirdness (I promise I haven’t opened the champagne yet) 😉
B)I think I’m just going to rebrand this as a Taylor Swift fangirl newsletter and/or only use T-Swift song titles and lyrics whenever possible. (Unsubscribe at the bottom 😘). My unsolicited advice? If you haven’t listened to folklore/evermore yet do yourself a favor and turn them on before midnight so you don’t miss the biggest things to happen in 2020😉. Jamie told me the Washington Post called her the Emily Dickinson of our generation and let’s just say they’re not wrong. IT’S SO GOOD.
I went to confession today for the first time in decades. I’m not sure exactly why, but I felt like I needed to do it before this year ended. To unload some of the heaviness I’ve been carrying. I was nervous because I didn’t really remember how it went (pretty sure Fleabag is not a helpful frame of reference here) but Fr Glen is incredibly good humored and helped me through.
Anyway, he was a patient listener and when I had finally exhausted my long list of all the reasons I’m a fraud and a failure, he just said, with so much compassion in his voice and eyes, “That sounds hard. You’re doing a good job. You’re doing a good job.”
And I just started sobbing. I was telling my dad last week that I think all any of us really want to hear when we’re unloading our burdens on each other is just, “That sounds hard.”
Turns out “That sounds hard. You’re doing a good job” is even better. He said the exact words I needed to hear in that moment. I needed an embodied reminder that we’re all made of holy star dust and that I’m not the one exception to God’s endless mercy. God is looking at all of us all the time with eyes that say “That looks hard. You’re doing a good job.” That’s how love sees. When we’re failing - falling time and time and time again- is when She is pulling for us the hardest. Think of the absolute sweetest fat cheeked baby or little kid in your life and the delight they bring you- that’s how God sees you. Right now - at 9, or 19, or 90. You’re beloved.
And as Fr Glen reminded me, nothing goes to wasted in the economy of grace. Our failures and our hurt and our wrongs that we can’t make right - the universe uses everything as fuel. And we get to participate in that creation if we’re willing to put down the shame that tells us that we’re not good enough or don’t deserve good things or can’t possibly be of service when we’re such a broken vessels. Shame lies to us and tells us that because it has a vested interest in us staying where we are, in the dark. Its tricks work better there.
The one Brene Brown podcast I listened to she talked about FFTs - fucking first times. How by their nature they’re uncomfortable and that we would all be well served to name FFTs when we see them, remember that discomfort is essential to growth, and that learning to stay standing in the midst of uncertainty is where we find our courage. When we do that, when we normalize the newness and discomfort, we can change our expectations and more easily accept things as they are. Find the good in what’s being offered in this present moment.
“We must be willing to let go of the life we planned so as to have the life that is waiting for us.” ~Joseph Campbell
As someone I work with keeps pointing out, this is a novel coronavirus. A year ago today the first cluster of unusual pneumonia cases were identified in Wuhan. None of us had heard the word Covid twelve months ago (and now we have an effective vaccine so honestly please just hug a scientist whenever hugging becomes a thing again! This required unprecedented cooperation on all sorts of levels and the fact that we got here is honestly kind of a miracle and largely thanks to people whose names we’ll never know). And even though I’m so often tempted to look at my own life and roll my eyes, imagining myself telling my grandpa who fought in the South Pacific in WWII how being stuck inside with my prosciutto and Netflix and bubbles (*literal* champagne problems) has felt like hardship and sacrifice… it has felt like hardship and sacrifice. I’m ashamed (there’s that word) to admit it, but it’s the truth.
This year was hard in ways I couldn’t have imagined one year ago. It was one giant FFT on a global scale and I think it threw all of us for a loop. I remember reading this thing at the beginning that said. “Remember: you’re not working from home. You’re working from home in a pandemic.” I think of the hellishly impossible stuff people I love have endured this year: sick family, breakups, lost jobs- and then just add “in a pandemic” to the end of it. To quote Taylor — long story short it was a bad time.
2020 taught me so much. It taught me to be satisfied with less, and to appreciate the importance of ritual and routine. To cherish the moments I get with the people I love, and to just generally take a whole fuck of a lot less for granted. It taught me that one day at a time is not just a battle cry of the weary but a mantra of the strong. It taught me that having access to good health insurance can mean the difference between life and death, sanity and madness, and that wellness is absolutely a universal human right. It taught me that usually my worst case scenarios don’t come to pass, even and especially when I’m positive they will, and to maybe temper my reaction the next time panic wants to take hold. That nothing is forever, and that kindness is much more effective than judgment (both with ourselves and others). That we cannot take clear air for granted, and that we’re tougher than we think we are.
There are things from this year I never want to think about again, and moments I’ll cherish for as long as I live. In reality, I sacrificed very little and was given so much. I have a friend who reminds me that when I’m able to notice when I’m not in pain, and nothing is irritating me, and I can feel my center, to just say to myself, “It feels like this.” And I’ve made so many “It feels like this” mental notes this year. What it felt like at the beginning of the pandemic to be united around a common purpose. In a forest of old growth and wildflowers in Oregon, weeks before they burned. When the vaccine worked. In my bathtub listening to folklore//evermore. Connecting with new and old friends abs remembering what it feels like to be seen. When Joe won. A hundred different moments with my nieces.
But we’re also older now. We’ve seen too much to just welcome 2021 with open arms. Who knows what’s lurking behind the next corner. It feels like limping across the finish line- my Christmas cards got out late, the little Charlie Brown tree I got never even saw a single ornament, and it’s just a hard, dark time of year. And somehow the race is so far from being over. There will be personal heartaches to reckon with in the wake of a year cooped up inside, either alone or together, and massive public health hurdles to overcome. We’ve only seen each other’s lives on screens, which as celebrity gossip magazines has taught me, can look much different than what’s going on behind the camera. Tomorrow is likely going to feel more like Groundhogs Day than New Years Day.
But tomorrow can wait. I made it to midnight on the east coast which was my goal (Brene Brown also said in that podcast that 38 to death is considered middle-aged, so I think I’m allowed to go to sleep whenever I want now?). Honestly the only thing I really wanted to say, in case you needed to hear it as much as I did, is that sounds hard and you’re doing such a good job. We’re in this together. ❤️
So to 2020 and her hard lessons, and to 2021 and whatever tricks she has up her sleeve. Wishing you all rest and peace and champagne without the problems. Happy New Year!
P.S. - if you get vaccinated, will you send me a photo? It’s been such good medicine for my soul seeing people I love get these vaccines!
P.P.S; UW is recruiting volunteers for a Covid phase 3 vaccine trial - esp looking for volunteers from communities without adequate public healthcare: https://newsroom.uw.edu/news/uw-medicine-starts-novavax-covid-19-vaccine-clinical-trial
“A Brave and Startling Truth” ~ Maya Angelou
“We, this people, on a small and lonely planet
Traveling through casual space
Past aloof stars, across the way of indifferent suns
To a destination where all signs tell us
It is possible and imperative that we learn
A brave and startling truth
And when we come to it
To the day of peacemaking
When we release our fingers
From fists of hostility
And allow the pure air to cool our palms
When we come to it
When the curtain falls on the minstrel show of hate
And faces sooted with scorn are scrubbed clean
When battlefields and coliseum
No longer rake our unique and particular sons and daughters
Up with the bruised and bloody grass
To lie in identical plots in foreign soil
When the rapacious storming of the churches
The screaming racket in the temples have ceased
When the pennants are waving gaily
When the banners of the world tremble
Stoutly in the good, clean breeze
When we come to it
When we let the rifles fall from our shoulders
And children dress their dolls in flags of truce
When land mines of death have been removed
And the aged can walk into evenings of peace
When religious ritual is not perfumed
By the incense of burning flesh
And childhood dreams are not kicked awake
By nightmares of abuse
When we come to it
Then we will confess that not the Pyramids
With their stones set in mysterious perfection
Nor the Gardens of Babylon
Hanging as eternal beauty
In our collective memory
Not the Grand Canyon
Kindled into delicious color
By Western sunsets
Nor the Danube, flowing its blue soul into Europe
Not the sacred peak of Mount Fuji
Stretching to the Rising Sun
Neither Father Amazon nor Mother Mississippi who, without favor,
Nurture all creatures in the depths and on the shores
These are not the only wonders of the world
When we come to it
We, this people, on this minuscule and kithless globe
Who reach daily for the bomb, the blade and the dagger
Yet who petition in the dark for tokens of peace
We, this people on this mote of matter
In whose mouths abide cankerous words
Which challenge our very existence
Yet out of those same mouths
Come songs of such exquisite sweetness
That the heart falters in its labor
And the body is quieted into awe
We, this people, on this small and drifting planet
Whose hands can strike with such abandon
That in a twinkling, life is sapped from the living
Yet those same hands can touch with such healing, irresistible tenderness
That the haughty neck is happy to bow
And the proud back is glad to bend
Out of such chaos, of such contradiction
We learn that we are neither devils nor divines
When we come to it
We, this people, on this wayward, floating body
Created on this earth, of this earth
Have the power to fashion for this earth
A climate where every man and every woman
Can live freely without sanctimonious piety
Without crippling fear
When we come to it
We must confess that we are the possible
We are the miraculous, the true wonder of this world
That is when, and only when
We come to it.”