Somewhere between

Flourish Vol. 41

Hi again, from somewhere between. Between injured and healed, between my old body and new, my former life and what’s still to come. It’s in the weather, in the foggy mornings and the golden afternoons. It’s in the air, in this sense that we are idling in the gray hours, about to tilt into the unknown, into a pandemic winter and post-election America. The equally likely possibilities that everything and nothing might soon change, and there’s nothing left to do but wait (and vote — please, for the love of god vote.)

Before I get too ramble-y, I have to thank everyone who read my last newsletter, which was both my most personal and most read to date — a combination of outcomes I never could have anticipated. The response was overwhelming and heart warming and more love and support than I ever expected, really and truly. I heard from people I had not spoken to in years, people for whom I assumed my life was of no consequence, or my specific journey would not resonate. It’s made me so happy to think that sharing my experience might help someone else feel more informed about making the same decision, one way or another, in their own life. 

(One of the nicest compliments anyone’s ever given me and truly the energy I’m trying to manifest)

And of course, this seal of approval from my #1 Flourish fan:

So thank you, for being a part of this journey with me; it made the roughest days of my recovery so much more bearable.

Overall, I was incredibly fortunate to have a very stress-free few weeks of recuperating, filled with board games and binging The Haunting of Bly Manor (seriously, watch it) with my favorite people. But finally, after what felt like both a few minutes and a few years, it was time to rip the band-aid off and resurface to reality, whatever that means anymore.

I’ve found myself grappling with writer’s block lately, only able to write in fragments and scraps I tuck away to make sense of someday. My attention span has dwindled; I find myself hopscotching from one activity to the next, with so little captivating my interest for very long anymore. Life right now is exhausting, and overwhelming, and sorrowful and surreal and achingly beautiful at times. I feel a bit like a snail without a shell, all my nerve endings exposed and fried from Zoom fatigue, declining calls from friends and wanting only to retreat inward, to hibernate, fast-forward through all of this to the world that waits after. Because it has to be better, right?

My colleague Addy was able to summarize this feeling so succinctly, in a way that seemed to resonate with so many:

It has, of course, already been a year of trading one reality for the hope that another might be slightly better. A year of sacrifices, though I recognize I have it much easier than most. There are things about my life in Oregon that are objectively much better than my life was in Los Angeles; and there have been, inevitably, things that are worse, or absent entirely. I have become numb in some ways to this pandemic slog, but every now and again it hits me, how strange it all is, a static shock to my brain that makes my breath catch in my throat. The realization that I now live a state away from my coworkers and closest friends. The memories of tightly packed concerts and drunken nights out and spontaneous trips that all feel like another lifetime now. These days, I flinch when people sit too close to one another on TV.

I used to firmly believe I was quick to adapt. I adapted to lockdown and working from home, as so many of us did, to our strange new precautions and social interactions, to crises at work, isolation, anxiety about my health, to virtual yoga and game nights, to a state of mind where all my future plans fell away. But there was always the hope that kept me going, that normalcy would eventually return. That this was temporary. But as we head into the darkness of winter, into political uncertainty, into a future I have no grasp of, I’m not so sure anymore.

I feel like I am so desperately looking for smoke signals that this will all be okay; in the news and in expert analyses, in art and history and therapy and the stars and clinging tightly to the people I love. I am trying to keep my head above water each and every day. I am learning to live in the moment, because it’s truly the only guarantee. The future is a roll of the dice and the past is a useless map in these unprecedented times (how long, exactly, do we get to keep saying that before they become precedented?)

So instead of the predictions and polls and speculation and racing thoughts in my head about things over which I have no control, I am learning to be in the present, to trust what is, to take what comes. Writing is the one thing I have always understood, and my recent writer’s block — and subsequent onslaught of inspiration to get back to it — has reminded me that you can’t force it, can’t fake it, can’t put it on a schedule. It happens when it happens, and I’m learning, little by little, to trust the timing of it all.


Recommendations:

If you need a boost of serotonin and miss travel as much as I do, give My Octopus Friend a watch. It’ll restore your faith in humanity for a little while, and make you want to book a trip to South Africa as soon as this is all over // I thoroughly enjoyed Hulu’s Monsterland, and while not every episode was a hit for me, “Plainfield, Illinois” absolutely destroyed me. Watch it when you need a good cry. // Oh how I’ve been loving the poetry of Louise Glück, this year’s winner of the Nobel Prize for Literature:

“We look at the world once, in childhood. The rest is memory.”


I had discovered the YouTuber itsblitzzz about a year ago (I may have mentioned her in a previous newsletter) and despite being incredibly beautiful/stylish/cool and the type of Angeleno lifestyle vlogger I would’ve normally found insufferably pretentious, something about Julia’s personality just radiated no bullshit-authenticity and immediately put me at ease. I discovered her via her ASMR videos, but soon became a fan of her lifestyle content as well, through which she offers tips and tricks for a more conscientious approach to cleaning, eating, and mindfulness that doesn’t feel preachy.

So imagine my surprise when I opened YouTube today to see Julia had posted a collab with none other than Miss Phoebe Bridgers herself. Truly a colliding of worlds I didn’t know I needed. I’d completely missed this Pitchfork article from June in which Phoebe cites ASMR, and specifically Julia (who she calls a “hipster wellness witch,”) as inspiration for her latest album, Punisher.

“I have been watching ASMR videos since I was a teenager, before they were all that. They were called “whisper” videos back then. I was doing a school paper on the lymphatic system and I stumbled upon all these weird massage videos that were specifically for people to fall asleep to. I would watch them for hours at the school library.”

I too discovered ASMR back when I was in high school — if not earlier — before it was all that (I take a strange pride in being an early evangelist of it), before I even knew it had a name. It was this paralyzing, all-consuming sense of calm, and yes, “tingles.” I loved to sit in quiet libraries, listening to people speak in hushed tones or rustle papers. I loved to watch the incredibly dated VHS tapes my mother rented to learn knitting, or the educational videos they’d play for us in school, or the staticky public access television that aired in the early hours of the morning. My most reliable source of ASMR, though, long before the now countless YouTube channels dedicated to it, was public radio, and so it was fitting that an episode of This American Life was what finally gave my ASMR a name.

Over the years I’ve encountered my share of ASMR skeptics, or people who argue that it’s somehow sexual. And much to my frustration, there are plenty of ASMR channels looking to capitalize on views that do nothing to dispute this. But it has always been one of the few things that has quieted the din of the world around me, an automatic response from my brain that I truly can’t control and wouldn’t want to anyway, and I’m so happy to see other creative, introspective people speaking about its influence in their life.

Plus, it makes me so happy to see the usually-stoic Phoebe Bridgers smile.

Anyway, those are probably most of my thoughts for now. Oh, and if you’re in a state with early voting please do it. Like, NOW!

Godspeed, we’ll get through this.

-Olivia

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