Week 20: Hold on

Fan mail, fish therapy

These emails are supposed to be a 35-week experiment in getting (and staying) un-stuck, and yet this week I feel so…stuck. At least I know it isn’t just me. How to deal?

1) Write some fan mail.

Last week I opened Jenna Wortham’s newsletter at precisely the moment I needed to read it. I was so flooded with gratitude for all of her work in that moment that I immediately clicked Reply and wrote her a thank you note even though I wasn’t sure that my response would reach her. As I drafted — searching for the “right” words and also striving to be succinct because she is so succinct, because I wanted to respect her time and inbox — I just allowed my fangirl self to override my Self That Thinks Better of This (Medium). And it felt good. It felt good to say, hey, I really appreciate all that you do and don’t share. And, hey, it felt so special that you linked to that particular song just now, because I had a baby a year ago this week and that song is one of just two songs on our Good Morning playlist.

It just felt good. It truly was enough to articulate the gratitude and put it out there at 4:11 on a Tuesday afternoon while I was hooked up to a soulless breast pump. Part of me genuinely believes that I’d be writing about this even if what happened next hadn’t happened.

BUT IT DID. And I’d be lying if I didn’t say that it felt EXTRA GREAT when, precisely five hours later, at 9:11 local time that night, she replied to me:

thank you for reading! and congratulations on the new life <3

I mean.

When I posted exuberantly about this on Instagram, I got a lot more responses than anything I’ve shared in awhile. (I think I got more DMs after this than I did even to the one in December, when I shared that I’d gotten into a Lyft solo, mentioned something about my kid in the course of the conversation, and then actually heard the driver comment, “So, Dad’s babysitting today, huh?” A truly satisfying shower of eyeroll emojis and WTFs ensued.)

People want to show and share love!

Should we turn this into some kind of challenge for 2019? My friend Kira suggested a fan mail party, with the option for remote folks to join via video chat. Feel free to take that idea and run with it.

2) Make a “hold onto this” list

I recently subscribed to a new-to-me newsletter, Catherine Andrews’ The Sunday Soother, and in looking through some previous issues read one called You must hold onto these things. (I’m not sure what the settings are on her newsletter; you might be prompted to subscribe before you can view that, so I’ll summarize a little here.)

In this mid-August 2018 installment, she writes about being in a cab the night before and hearing the song “Crazy in Love” on the radio. The song took her immediately back to the day of Obama’s first inauguration, which she spent “working” out of Big Bear Cafe in DC (read: crying and celebrating with strangers to a barista-provided Beyonce soundtrack) and how powerful and beautifully emotional that memory was. But then she goes on:

Last night, as that same song came on the radio, I was aware that the very next day -- today -- here in Washington, D.C., neo-nazis were streaming into the city, a year to the day after they'd converged on my college town, beat people, terrified students who circled to stand up to them in front of slaveowner Thomas Jefferson's rotunda, and killed a young woman who had taken the simple but powerful act of showing up to say, No, this isn't okay.

…And I'm not even sure what I'm trying to say here in this newsletter. Just that sometimes both the horror and the terror and the beauty and the joy are flooding in all at once and we are really in the middle of it right now. It's completely overwhelming…What can you do? I think, maybe, just hold on to the small and grounding moments where you can.

So proposal #2: Make a list of some recent “things to hold on to.”

Off the top of my head, ready for this?, one of mine is a moment back in December after my child started vomiting for the first time. It was the middle of the night and she’d been sitting on my lap in her sleep sack staring blankly into the middle distance and making unfamiliar noises. I felt utterly humbled — and not in a good way — because after 11 months shouldn’t I know what was simmering under her surface? Was she going to have a seizure and die? Was she in a trance? Something was very wrong. Finally she erupted (ugh, sorry) and it was at least something I could categorize. I had a name for this and could relate to the feeling.

Happily, the second thing that came to mind was when we took her to the aquarium last week.

“We're in a river of it all right now. Don't let it sweep you away. Hold on where you can,” says Catherine Andrews. I don’t think she’s wrong.

3) Backup plan: Avoid everything, sink into links

See you next week.

I’m going to try to write three pieces of fan mail in the meantime.

Photo credit: A. Shah

Thanks for reading! This is week 20 of 35. If you’re seeing Move and Groove for the first time because someone shared it with you, you can subscribe here.