Rarefied air

Flourish Vol. 43

The view from Innsbruck, Austria, one of the million and one places on my itinerary in Europe and elsewhere when this is all over.

We’ve reached the time of year between rotted pumpkins by the roadside and Christmas carols a few weeks too soon, this holiday limbo-twilight zone that feels like the entire year distilled into a few foggy weeks, the sun starting to slant just so in the early afternoons, the stars clear and bright in breathy, black nights, and two-thousand-and-twenty finally arcing toward a merciful end.

Somehow everything is all changing at once, and it’s all still exactly the same. I can feel the tide shifting, pressing new possibilities into my skin and carrying my body forward with an unrelenting momentum that never questions the future. But we haven’t yet reached the shore, still treading water in this interminable half-life, growing numb to the cold and drawing sharp, gasping breaths each time it hits us all over again.

Thanksgiving this year was a small affair at my house, with my parents and boyfriend gathered around our dining table and all my relatives at the other end of a video call, with crosstalk of home-buying and new babies, settling for virtual games with the brother I haven’t seen in a year, weighing the risks of being together and swallowing the realization that even as time is frozen my grandparents keep aging.

And still I thanked god, or whoever it is keeping the lights on in this life, for my family, for not spending the holiday alone in Los Angeles, for the unbelievably good fortune of being happy and healthy and alive at a time like this. I know many people who chose to skip this Thanksgiving entirely, fast-forwarding straight to Christmas and its promise of glittering, bulletproof joy, chasing that high as if it were something we could ever really touch.

Speaking of futile attempts to make happiness tangible, I’ve only just managed to pull myself away from more online shopping than is financially advisable to write for a while. Writing, as ever, has been a struggle; it comes and goes in blips and sparks, and so much of the time I feel like I’m shoveling lumps of coal into an old furnace and wondering whether it’s keeping anyone warm. But it’s all I know, and so I keep trying, again and again, to be at least a little better that I was the day before.

Recommendations:

Baking with fresh cranberries is one of my favorite winter treats, and this gluten free cranberry orange loaf was devoured by both the gluten-lovers and the gluten-averse in my life alike // I really thought blue light-blocking glasses were bullshit, but let me tell you they are saving my life these days // I’ve been reading Atomic Habits as part of a book club with friends, and it’s completely shifting how I think about goal-setting, chasing happiness, and choosing what exactly defines my identity. // The dream job is dead. Long live the good enough job. // How To With John Wilson is about everything and nothing and is insane and exactly you need in your life, just trust me.

My Black Friday/Cyber Monday buys have been mostly skincare and beauty-related, because I’ve spent the past nine months staring at every detail of my face on Zoom calls: Paula’s Choice for my favorite defenses against acne and aging, Glossier for this cult favorite, minimalist makeup kit, and this Colourpop eyeshadow palette, for obvious reasons. Oh, and if all that mask wearing has made you acutely aware of your breath these days, get a Quip (I promise, all the podcasters were onto something) and thank me later.

And for when you do leave the house, should you happen to live somewhere with real seasons, may I suggest earmuffs as an affordable luxury that’ll make you feel like a socialite wintering in the Swiss Alps.

I’ve listened to this approximately 11 million times since I realized Fleet Foxes blessed us with a new album, and it’s pretty much everything I hope for in a post-pandemic future (including European excursions and Robin’s smile, dear god.)

Also on permanent repeat: Genevieve Stokes is unfairly talented and unbelievably soulful for being just 18 (!) Excuse me while I go apply my retinol and try not to have an existential crisis…

“So hot you’re hurting my feelings” is the perfect lyric, and this cover is the perfect expression of it.

Anyway, we’ve (almost) made it to the last month of this mindfuck of a year, so go pour yourself a glass/draw a bath/indulge in your relaxing activity of choice and congratulate yourself for surviving every single way 2020 has tried to break you thus far. And take comfort in knowing there are better things to come.

-Olivia