On High School and Futility

An animated gif video clip of Jerry Seinfeld on a red carpet interview saying "Do you ever pull out your high school yearbook and think 'that was great! Let me go back and relive those four years!'"
E! Online

A story about futility:

My high school grad class has a Facebook group. I left this group years ago, because, well, do I need a reason to leave a Facebook group for my high school grad class?

HOWEVER, recently, some friends from those days who I do keep in touch with mentioned that there was a thread on the group where everyone was posting life updates and that it was a fun opportunity to spy on everyone's lives.

I figured what the heck, if social media is good for anything, it's spying on other people's lives. I LOVE spying on other people's lives! I rejoined.

Well.

These 126 life updates were EXACTLY the same: marriage status (married or divorced), number of children, and what city they live in. THAT'S IT. The big variation was some people adding in what kind of work they do.

A "fun opportunity to spy", indeed! Everyone (with two exceptions) has the exact same life!

I GET IT. Our relationships and family status are very significant parts of our lives, especially if you're in the thick of raising three kids. But the fact that none of them seemed to think ANYTHING else about their lives was interesting or worth sharing??? AT ALL??? I'm sure at least some of these people have picked up fun new hobbies or had some big accomplishments in the last 18 years!

Ugh.

I wasn't going to even engage with it, but then I thought, you know what, I will. I'm going to post an update about my life and I'm not even going to mention relationships or kids because they are not the only things that matter in life. I posted a cute photo of me and my cat (obvi) and gave an update that included my work, an accomplishment, and a hobby. So well-rounded! That'll show 'em!

A few minutes later, a comment! 

It was brief: "marriage family kids ?"

That's it. That's all the words and the exact punctuation.

I laaaaaaaauuuuuughed.

At myself for thinking that I was really making a bold statement about the value of life outside of marriage and children with one little Facebook comment.

At them for being the perfect example of the opposite.

At all of us, for existing in the world.


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This Week's Gratitude & Delight Roundup

An animated gif illustration. There is a black background and a white speech bubble with the text "thank you" inside it that blinks on and off. Around the speech bubble are two white stars that wiggle back and forth.
Ivo Adventures

This week I have been grateful for

Getting my closet slightly more organized as I make plans to redo the whole thing because it gives me a sense of control.

Saying hello to my nephew over video chat and seeing his GIANT smile (like, huge, I don't know if his mouth is big or what, but it takes up half his face) because I love that kiddo.

Having friends who I can unpack complicated things with because I don't get stuck in my own brain and it feels like we're in it together.

Video chats with the kinds of friends who are so close and comfortable that it ALMOST feels like we're in the same room because I don't feel so alone.

Standing in the sunshine because it is fresh and bright and alive.

Being able to give someone something they requested because I got to help them AND clear some unused stuff out of my home.

Bending over, saying "oof" and then realizing my body didn't actually FEEL oofy! Because bodies not hurting is better.

Gertie making a point of curling up with me or reaching out as if she is trying to hug me because it feels like love.

A friend and a neighbour to get my bag back because they both went out of their way to help me.

This Week's Delight:
- My dad calling someone a dipstick
- A TikTok video about potatoes that made me laugh so so hard
- Putting Bernie into the Friendly Giant set.



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Do I Have a Weird Internal Process for Turning Calendar Pages?

An animated gif illustration showing a drawing of a wall calendar on a wall with blue and white stripes. The pages of the calendar rip off one by one, showing each month. The images for each month progress through a bare patch of land and then a house being built.
Thoka Maer.

I feel like my internal process when it comes to turning calendar pages is weird. Here's an example month of my process, assuming that it's a brand new calendar page on day one. Does anyone else do this?

1: Turn new calendar page, feel a small endorphin hit from the freshness of a new month and seeing a new picture. Want that hit again, but know it won't come for another month.
2:
3:
4: Wonder if it's time to change the calendar page. No, turns out it has only been a few days.
5: Okay, but NOW it's time to change the page? NO?
6:
7:
8:
9:
10:
11:
12:
13:
14:
15: It's been a while, time to change the calendar page now?
16:
17:
18:
19:
20:
21:
22: Ugh, a month is SO LONG.
23:
24:
25:
26:
27:
28: Just a few days!
29:
30:
31:
1: Completely forget about the passage of time or the existence of calendars.
2:
3:
4:
5:
6:
7:
8: Oh yeah, the calendar! [flips page, process repeats.]


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Learning! Roundup: Researching Death, Happy Families, and Potty Mouths

An old black and white photo from the New York Public Library Archives, showing two Black nurses, wearing the old uniform dresses and caps, one with a cape, standing facing one another. They are smiling, as if in conversation, and holding vials for injections.
New York Public Library

How to Research Death

I learned more about how longevity and fitness-based research is developed from this article than I did about the value of exercise (although I did learn that doing HIIT-style workouts is better for your longevity and overall quality of life by a pretty small margin, although that margin might mean a lot when you're dying). Apparently, scientists studying longevity like to use elderly participants because they are more likely to die which will make it easier to identify if, you know, the interventions are making a difference.

It's a bit morbid and a lot logical.

The Recipe for a Happy Family

Being happy with your partner and kids, if you go that route in life, may depend on psychological flexibility. This includes traits like being open to new experiences (good or bad), connecting to the present moment, and maintaining "deeper values" despite other stressors in life. Honestly, these seem like a recipe for increased satisfaction in life, in general.

(Also, I read the full list of traits of psychological flexibility in the article, and went, oh crap, I may not be psychologically flexible.)

Potty Mouths



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This Octopus Could Be You

In case you needed to see this today, here's an octopus using a shield and smacking another octopus that gets too close.


Maybe it's about personal boundaries. Maybe it's about American politics. Maybe it's about nature being its natural self. Choose your own adventure.


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Following Our Guts Is Hard, But Not That Hard

An animated gif video of a woman saying "I've just got a feeling I can't shake."
Giphy

“Don’t do what you know on a gut level to be the wrong thing to do. Don’t stay when you know you should go or go when you know you should stay. Don’t fight when you should hold steady or hold steady when you should fight. Don’t focus on the short-term fun instead of the long-term fall out. Don’t surrender all your joy for an idea you used to have about yourself that isn’t true anymore. Don’t seek joy at all costs.

I know it’s hard to know what to do when you have a conflicting set of emotions and desires, but it’s not as hard as we pretend it is. Saying it’s hard is ultimately a justification to do whatever seems like the easiest thing to do—have the affair, stay at that horrible job, end a friendship over a slight, keep loving someone who treats you terribly. I don’t think there’s a single dumbass thing I’ve done in my adult life that I didn’t know was a dumbass thing to do while I was doing it. Even when I justified it to myself—as I did every damn time—the truest part of me knew I was doing the wrong thing. Always."

-Cheryl Strayed

Things I love about this quote:

First, the obvious: listening to our guts. This is the trick of life, isn't it? To not shut out the part of us that knows when something is right or wrong.

Next, the joy. Don't give up all your joy, don't prioritize joy above all else. This combination is as perfect as a sunrise. Oooooh, and the idea of holding onto an old idea about ourselves and letting that steal our joy??? It's just so real I want to hug it! But like a tough love hug where it gets set straight.

Then, being hard. Have you noticed that the hardest part of doing something you know is right is usually the part where you decide to commit to it?

It's like there's a path over there and your gut knows you should follow it, but you can't even see it because there's a giant Monument of Impossibility and Dread blocking it that makes you feel a pit in your stomach just to look at it.

For me, the monument's plaque says, "Other People." There are always people who are invested in us following whatever path we've been on so far who will be hurt or upset by us making a change. Just the idea of telling them I am going a different direction makes my insides feel all twisted up in a knot.

Once we commit, though, and start walking towards that monument, it blips out of existence because it wasn't even real in the first place, it was an illusion our brains created just to make things harder. We are rewarded with massive elation and relief. We are doing it!!! 

The process of getting there is all very hard. But as Cheryl says, it's not as hard as we act like it is. Definitely not hard enough to justify ignoring what we know to be right.


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Hating On Our Past Selves is SO Over

I just realized something!

When I dunk on my past self, all I am doing is perpetuating the self-hatred I held back then!

I joke sometimes about how I must have been a real "pill" or a "challenge" in high school, and have sometimes marvelled that people stayed friends with me.

I base these statements on facts like that I was pretty into Evangelical Christianity and I tried to convert my non-Christian friends at most sleepovers. Or my general hyperactivity. Or the fact that it kind of took me a while to realize that if I could see my period-stained underwear when I sat cross-legged in my shorts, then everyone else could see it too.

HOWEVER.

Focusing on those things and saying things like, "I can't believe I even had friends" just means I believe all the terrible things I believed about myself back then! It says that I was, indeed, lame and unloveable and I just managed to somehow turn it around and gain some worth as an adult???

That's malarky!

The fact is that as a teenager I may have been zealous and loud and sometimes not grasping what people were physically seeing when they looked at me, but I was also fun and smart and engaged and creative and willing to step out and be different and those are pretty effing cool traits, too.

So I'm not going to join in with Former Andrea's self-hatred by talking about her as if she was the worst. She was great!

Will you join me? Let's all love on our past selves!!!!

An animated gif video of a little girl holding a mug, saying, "I don't care if you like me, I love me."
Giphy


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This Week's Gratitude & Delight Roundup

An animated gif illustration. There is a black background and a white speech bubble with the text "thank you" inside it that blinks on and off. Around the speech bubble are two white stars that wiggle back and forth.
Ivo Adventures

Remember how I was going to start actually doing a gratitude journal again? And then I decided to use y'all for my accountability to actually do it?

Well, week one, it's working!

Here's a roundup of some of the things I was grateful for:

- A video date because it reminded me that there are single men out there who like to have conversations.

- Finding out that the reason my heat isn't working properly may be as simple as buying a new $30 thermostat because I may actually get a functioning heater!!!

- Getting a bunch of blog posts drafted because I like writing.

- Having a virtual happy hour with my soulmate-bestie because she is my everything.

- Getting an easy-but-boring and time-consuming task done at work because then I don't have to think about it.

- Several non-rainy commutes to and from work because then my bike ride is so much more pleasant.

- A few meaningful and tough conversations with friends because they made me feel closer to them.

- Gertie lying on my chest and purring and reaching out like she wants to hold me because it makes me feel warm and loved.

- A morning spent writing a comedy book that will probably go nowhere but made me laugh so much while I was doing it.

- A sunny walk because it made me feel free.

- Trying a new "ritual" for a group that meets weekly because it felt nice and I think it helped bring meaning to our gathering.

Also, this week I was delighted by the sky, Gertie, and my nephew's smile.

A wide-angle photo of the sky. The sun is low, the sky is blue and there is a streak of clouds diagonally across it. At the bottom of the photo are the silhouettes of a row of trees.


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I May Genuinely Be a Worse Person for This

I've discovered something about myself that may make me a worse person: I think... I like arguing with people on Twitter?

Recently, I made the terrible mistake of commenting on Erin O'Toole's tweet about how prisoners shouldn't get priority in vaccination schedules (because they're criminals and obviously we should let our justice system and moral judgements about someone's character have a say in the distribution of healthcare).

Naturally, a lot of people responded. The smart thing to do would have been to ignore those responses and go on with my life, but I couldn't help it. I engaged. And it was... kind of fun? To snipe with strangers online?

Do I need to be cut off? Should I do some soul-searching? Am unfulfilled in other parts of my life?

An animated gif video of a cat carrying a kitten away in its mouth with the text "that's enough internet for today"
Giphy


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Ziqiang Liu's Reflections

Take a gander at this work by Ziqian Liu. It's so simple but so evocative, like a bunch of little haiku photographs. 

Also, if my recent post on the creepiness of art that's all just beautiful women made you wonder if there's, here's a non-creepy way to have your work consist primarily of women, here's an example. These photos often just depict separated body parts of women, which could be even creepier in the wrong hands, but they are actual artistic constructions, thoughts, and ideas. Not just, "look at this beautiful woman, she is beautiful" over and over again.

An art photograph that depicts a woman lying face-down, but it appears as though the front half of her body is in the floor, you can only see the back half. There is a small circular mirror beside her with a hand reflected in it.

An art photograph where w a circular mirror has a tulip laying across it, and two arms come out of either side, with one hand reflected in the mirror. It looks slightly broken and mournful, but lovely.


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Seeing Your Whole Self in Barnor Hesse's 8 White Identities

I've seen this image circulate quite a bit in my social media feeds:

A graph of the 8 white identities, going from white supremacist to white abolitionist. Full text available later in the post.
Barnor Hess via The Slow Factory

Just like my understanding of the happiness-hacking social media post shifted the more I saw it, so has this one.

The first few times I encountered it, I read through the categories, trying to figure out (or confirm) what category I belong in.

I no longer think that's the most helpful way to use this chart, as a white person.

I have realized that instead of trying to stuff my whole self into one box (the most advanced one I can honestly claim, obviously), it may be more helpful to ask myself in which contexts I fall into which categories.

If I look at each identity, even the ones I am loathed to belong to, and honestly ask myself if there are any contexts or situations where this describes me, then I can begin to actually do something about them.

While ignoring the more regressive parts of myself might allow me to feel a bit more comfortable about my position in the world, it also means I will continue to perpetuate harm, and the whole point here is to stop with the harm. (Or one of the whole points, anyways.)

People are not consistent enough to always fit one label. We are wavy and fickle and we are all a little bit hypocritical. We may have super-strong convictions and then go back to our hometown or enter a new workplace where we aren't sure of our place or even just be really tired and find ourselves breaking them.

It doesn't mean we are terrible people, it just means we need to find ways to bolster and support the person we want to be. But we can't do that if we pretend we never falter.

[IMAGE TEXT: 8 White Identities by Barnor Hesse

White Supremacist: Clearly marked white society that preserves, names, and values white superiority.

White Voyeurism: Wouldn't challenge white supremacist; desires non-whiteness because it's interesting, pleasurable; seeks to control the consumption and appropriation of non-whiteness; fascination with culture (eg: consuming Black culture without the burden of Blackness)

White Privilege: May critique supremacy, but a deep investment in questions of fairness/equality under the normalization of whiteness and the white rule; sworn goal of "diversity"

White Benefit: Sympathetic to a set of issues, but only privately; won't speak/act in solidarity publicly because benefitting through whiteness in public (some POC are in this category as well)

White Confessional: Some exposure to whiteness takes place, but as a way of being accountable to POC after; seek validation from POC

White Critical: Take on board critique of whiteness and invest in exposing/marking the white regime; refuses to be complicit with the regime; whiteness speaking back to whiteness

White Traitor: Actively refuses complicity; names what's going on; intention is to subvert white authority and tell the truth at whatever cost; need them to dismantle institutions.

White Abolitionist: Changing institutions, dismantling whiteness, and not allowing whiteness to reassert itself.]


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Okay, Okay, I Get It, I Need to Get Back into Gratitude!

An animated gif illustration of a white plastic bag with a yellow smiley face and the words "thank you" on it, blowing as if in the wind
Brenroy

Last week's episode of the podcast Nerdette included a chat with poet Ross Gay who released an essay collection called The Book of Delights. The book is exactly what the title says: he spent a year handwriting little essays to honour something that delighted him that day. Those essays are the book.

He spoke about how looking for delights every day really helped change his perspective on life.

Also on the episode was Dr. Y. Joel Wong, discussing the scientific backing for the power of gratitude to support your mental and physical health. Coincidentally, his summation of the research is exactly what I suggest in my book Feeling Better: A Field Guide to Liking Yourself: write it down (don't just think about it) and to keep it simple by committing to just noting three things a day, in point form.

In further gratitude-related prompting from the universe, my dad finally got to have an in-person visit with my grandma in her long-term care facility, where she has lived in near-total isolation for almost a year. He asked what she wanted to say to the family, and she said:

"Being thankful is the only thing."

She said we have to "touch it." (Again, this is from the woman who has been quite literally alone with her thoughts for the better part of 10 months.)

Over the past couple of years, my habit of gratitude journalling has wained--which is a nice way of saying I'm not doing it anymore, and whenever I've tried to start, I've had a really hard time re-introducing the habit.

Well, this is motivating me! I am going to get back at it, but! Since I obviously have struggled with making it happen, though, I need some extra accountability. Here it is: once a week I'll share a little roundup of the things that made me grateful that week.


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Can We Stop Calling Men Women Just Because They Clean Something?

An animated gif video of a man vacuuming, dancing enthusiastically as he does so
Giphy

Can we please stop with calling men "housewives" or "Mr. Mom" or even just "the wife" or "the mom" when they engage in domestic labour?

I'm sure it seems cute and funny and nice that the dude is comfortable enough with his masculinity to be like, "Yeah, I'm the mom, dig it!" but truly, all that does is reinforce the idea that the man is doing a woman's job! We are literally calling a man a woman because he is cleaning or taking care of his own children.

Here's an excellent gender-neutral replacement term for the partner who is taking care of household responsibilities: the house spouse!

It rhymes! It's cute and playful! It makes you think of an adorable little mouse dusting! It can be used by couples (or thruples!) made up of any combination of gender identities! And, most importantly, IT DOESN'T ASSUME ANY PARTICULAR GENDER'S DEFAULT RESPONSIBILITY FOR HOUSEWORK. 

(Credit to my friends Matt and Blythe for coming up with that one. They are a really wonderful pair of people who seem to naturally default to gender equity in their relationship and I thrill to see it.)


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