Everything on the table

Flourish Vol. 32

Apologies for the literal and figurative lateness of this letter. I suppose I haven’t felt much like writing lately. Or maybe I just haven’t had much to write about lately.

Part of me has enjoyed this time to rest and reset and recharge, to catch up on reading and TV and sleep. To write, stretch, create, online shop with reckless abandon, to overanalyze my relationships and dreams, to dive into the depths of my own consciousness over and over again.

And then. The other part of me is tired of my own presence, my own mind – my own cooking, especially. This feels infinite and endless and I’m starting to forget a time when everything wasn’t this way. Where it once felt like my life was on pause, it’s beginning to feel increasingly like this is my life. This new normal. Stretching out into summer and fall and who knows how many cycles of seasons beyond that, months and years consuming themselves like an ouroboros.

I don’t hate working from home (more specifically, my bed) or taking meetings in my pajamas, or opening a bottle of wine at [redacted] p.m., but the rest of this all is foreign still. My coworkers established a pool of guesses as to when we’ll be back in our office again, our bets bleeding into late summer and early fall. Some days, any date this year feels too optimistic.

And yet, life goes on. Spring is blooming, summer is warming the edges of the horizon. People I know and love are filing for marriage licenses and planning virtual weddings, having babies, graduating high school and college. The future is resilient, even if we can’t quite see it yet.

As for me, in lieu of the family and friends I can’t see, I’m finding solace in nature. I went to the LA County Botanical Garden last week, absolutely thrilled to discover it was still open and accepting visitors (with reservations and masks.) There were wild peacocks roaming the grounds, fountains and waterfalls, blooms in every possible color, so fragrant I could smell them sweet and strong even through my mask. It was a little like I was seeing the world, feeling the sun on my skin, using my legs, for the very first time. (If only I could sneak away to catch the bioluminescent waves…)

I began drafting this letter before the news that staff cuts were imminent for us at work. A recession heading into a depression; things might not bounce back until 2021, maybe 2022, they say. It’s been a roller coaster of a week, with what’s sure to be another, even more roller coaster-y week ahead of us still.

I’ve worked in media for four years now. I’ve been through mass layoffs, union bargaining, walkouts, leadership changes, rebrands, switching companies, the entirety of this presidential administration. I’ve cried in conference rooms and in my car, cried over beers as people I loved lost their jobs. This can be a brutal, thankless industry. It can drain you and break you if you let it.

There’s very little glory and even less money in the work we do. But there are things, if you’ll forgive the cliche, that money can’t buy. This weekend I had the macabre honor of writing an obituary for a paramedic who volunteered to fight the pandemic in New York City, and who died because of it. That headline is tragic in and of itself, but as I began to learn more and more about who he was, all the things about a person that can’t be condensed down into a headline, I was in awe of this tremendous life he’d lived. I couldn’t keep up with the Facebook messages and the phone calls from people who wanted to tell me about what an incredible person Paul Cary had been; picking up extra EMT shifts after work, treating people with compassion on their very worst days. "Something I told his son the other day,” one of his friends said to me, “There are quite a few people walking this earth because your dad was on the job.”

There are good days, and bad days, and boring days, but sitting in my bed, holding back tears as people in states I’ve never been to tell me about a man I’ll never meet, it’s a surreal experience; it’s a job I’m grateful to do, it’s an experience I wouldn’t trade for anything. The reason, I think, that these lows are so low and these highs are so high is because every journalist I know has given their whole heart over to their work, for better or for worse. The best people I’ve ever met are right here alongside me, and there’s more than a little comfort in that.

As I watch my industry, like so many others, seemingly collapse into rubble, I don’t know what the future is going to bring. None of us do. It feels like all the cards are on the table, all bets are off, and I’m preparing myself for every circumstance at this point. But I’m trying not panic, or to spiral, or to get too far ahead of myself. And whatever happens, however this goes, I’m grateful for the life journalism has given me – because even through the heartache, it’s been a life beyond my wildest dreams.

Recommendations:

Thank you to my dear Ecleen for sending this podcast my way, more relevant than ever as so many of us are questioning everything we know: “A Life Worthy of Our Breath.”

If you’re reading this on Thursday night, you might still have time to look outside and see the super moon // I just started Never Have I Ever and it’s very funny and bubbly and the perfect antidote to life as we know it right now // I’ve been very into advice columns lately, and this one really got me today:

“The only real antidote I’ve found to a sense of ever-present sameness is to attend to things that grow and change: living things. Care for something alive—start with something small and pitiful like a plant, if you want. A cat; a friend; a neighbor. Be wasteful and unproductive in your pursuits.

Take this terrible opportunity we all have right now to note what you miss most, and that’s probably where you will find a few things you love.”

-Brandy Jensen

“You want for it to all make sense / someday it just might”

-Olivia