I’ve gone and done it

I’ve become someone who listens to podcasts all the time.

I’ve gone and done it: I’ve become someone who listens to podcasts all the time.

I don’t know if this is a long term shift for me, or if it’s just because I’m particularly addicted to “Two Girls, One Ghost,” but the other day I flipped to Spotify’s music tab, threw on some Jenny Lewis and had the thought: music feels new again, whatever that means.

I know there are already a million people apparently eager to discuss the intricacies of podcasting, podcast culture, and its significance in the media landscape, so I’ll spare you. That’s not what I came here to talk about.

What I did come here to say is that I’ve been thinking about why it is that listening to the same podcast for four hours on end has become a pleasurable activity for me — especially, I learned a couple of weeks ago, when I spent the bulk of the weekend painting my living room. 

This isn’t a brand new thing in my life, I’ll admit. When I was in late middle school, I listened to talk radio stations at night, while falling asleep. I kept a radio at the foot of my bed, and I took to leaving it on all night with the volume set nearly as low as it could go. Paranoid that my parents would be irritated if they heard it, I slept in the opposite direction on my bed so that my ears would be closer to the speakers and I could keep the volume on my radio even lower.

By the end of eighth grade, I had memorized the various radio hosts’ voices, their programs, their theme songs. 

I listened primarily to a now-defunct independent radio station that aired out of Boston or some other nearby city, but probably Boston. It was mostly comprised of editorial news programs, the kind where listeners call in to offer their opinions in an impossibly spot-on reply-guy tone of voice and during which everyone does a lot of “uh-huuuh, right, right, absolutely” —ing. You know what I’m talking about.

I don’t know if I began this because I adored listening to stories as a child or whether it was because I took deep, swelling, overbearing pride in being well-informed (or at the very least, aware) of current events, but TBH it was probably a bit of both.

My whole life I’ve had a delicate relationship with the dark, you see. I’m easily prone to spooking, and sort of probably inherently spooked from being raised on stories about angels and demons and all of the absolutely wild and supernatural stories contained in the Bible that only serve to make ghost stories all the more believable. Add into the mix the highly unfortunate attraction to tales of the paranormal, whether a movie or a book or whatever, and we have a tenuous intersection of self. 

This continues to be a problem for me, and whether or not I’ve binge-watched Buffy before falling asleep seems to have little to no bearing here. It’s not every night, to be sure — it comes in phases, most certainly. But when I am in that particularly anxious mode, I wake up every night, like clockwork, between 2 and 4 a.m., afraid to look around my room, lest I peer into a dark corner, or out into the dark hallway, and see something

My fears here lack precision. Am I afraid of seeing the ghost of a stranger? Of a loved one? A shadow person? Something else? The answer, truly, is that I’m afraid of all of it, and my mind will reach to the fear closest to the surface and latch on, completely, and entirely against my will. 

This early-early morning terror happened a lot the winter that I spent living on Martha’s Vineyard, alone in a guest house that I rented in Oak Bluffs. I would wake up in a sweat, convinced I had heard a sound outside my room that indicated an intruder, or possibly something a bit less human, a bit more ambiguous. My body would feel like it was full of cold, wet cement and I would tell myself over and over again that those sounds happened in the daylight, too. Unfortunately, I’ve never been a good liar, and least of all to myself, and this rational train of thought did almost nothing for me.

The only salve I’ve found for this propensity is a specific cocktail of melatonin and talk radio, and I religiously imbibe the latter. The pleasantly droning voices analyzing the day’s news, or else dissecting some other niche cultural artifact, almost always rip me from my state of terror and rock me back to sleep. There’s a regularity to it — a predictability, to boot. I can’t, I’ve found, let my mind wander too far toward the mysterious when a perfectly metered news anchor is telling me about spats in the Senate or the price of gas. It’s beautifully, wonderfully mundane.

All of this is to say that I think this infantile desire to listen to someone else carry on a conversation that I’m not involved in appears to be bleeding into my waking life, and right now I’m not complaining. I find it hard to be nervous before work when I’ve spent the 45 minutes prior to my arrival listening to two friends recount their recent trip to Las Vegas, or else two friends sharing stories about haunted houses, or else whatever important lady has most recently talked to another important lady running for president. It’s easy to focus on edging my living room (although I’m still very bad at it) when I’m following the rise and fall of someone else’s thoughts. 

And perhaps more insidiously, sometimes I want to be around other people but I don’t want to talk to them because I’m tired or emotionally thin or just feeling a bit into myself. Podcasts assuage a lot of that desire.

Surely, there’s surely an upper limit to the relative usefulness of this practice, but I think I’m tuned in enough to my own emotional state to ward off any concern that I’ll fall down too much of a rabbit hole. So here I am, truly — that person who listens to and recommends listening to podcasts. So much so that I’ve now written some one thousand words about it. Next stop, starting one for Manqué. And you know me by now; I’m only half kidding about that.

Xoxo M

summer is a lie :(

happy solstice

As seen on Manqué. Sorry not sorry!

It’s here. The longest day of the year. The official start of summer.

As a teenager, I was fixated on the phenomenon that the summer solstice marked. I mean, how can one deny the poeticism of such a day? To teenage me, it felt steeped in resplendent expectation: what can you accomplish when the sun shines longer? Seemingly everything, I thought.

But this year, I’m caught up in the irony of the situation — namely, that the longest day of the year marks the start of the season most closely associated with late sunsets and early sunrises. Longer days! Shorter nights! We exclaim. Except, not really? For much longer? This summertime-ness starts to die on the very day that it starts.

My internal clock has felt the throes of this shift for months, already. I can’t remember the last day I didn’t suddenly bolt awake at 3:45 a.m., just moments before the sky begins to lighten and the birds outside start anxiously chirping at the start of another day. Some days I fall back asleep; some I don’t. Each unwanted awakening serves as a reminder of all the dreaded, sun-soaked fun to come. I throw a pillow over my face and wish it away.

When I lived on Martha’s Vineyard, this season was marked by screaming crows, stationed in the trees outside my open window. Day after day, their caws ripped me from sleep, and I loathed them. Not only did those caws ensure I got less sleep, but they also triggered an upsetting adrenaline rush in my stomach — the result of being wrenched from a dead sleep by a large bird’s screaming in my ear as I tossed and turned in my humid, rented bedroom. I was working as a fledgling reporter at the time, having moved to the island alone just weeks after graduation. Struggling to find my footing professionally and socially, those birds felt like a curse, announcing the start of every day before I was ready to accept that it was happening.

There’s an episode of “Dawson’s Creek,” (yes, we’re talking about it again,) called ‘The Longest Day.’ Two of the main characters (Joey and Pacey) relive four possible scenarios wherein they tell their mutual best friend, Dawson, that they are dating, something that will surely upset him. The episode is excellent on first viewing, I’d argue, but monotonous upon re-watching. Just make a decision, already! Pick one path and commit to it, at least for the span of a single episode, I found myself thinking recently, as I plod my way through the show yet again. 

The monotonous repetition of that episode comes to mind when I think about the summer solstice this year. Myself a veritable summer bunny, I spend most of the rest of the year daydreaming for longer days, with all of their vitamin-D-induced emotional stability and their open hours for spending time outside. I fantasize about living in a part of the world where daylight extends beyond what must surely be reasonable for a person’s sense of passing time. But in practice, I think life would start to feel a bit like that one episode of “Dawson’s Creek.” I can’t imagine a version of that type of life that wouldn’t come with increased pressure to get as many things done as possible between waking and sleeping. 

Adding hours to the day sounds great in theory when my to-do list is bursting at the seams, as it is this week. But if I’m being honest with myself, I can’t handle it — and I certainly don’t want it. Instead, I’d rather focus on the leisurely delusions I have for this season. And if that means progressively sleeping more over the course of the next several months, so be it. I’d love that. I’d prefer it. 

So, happy summer. And a happy longest day of the year to you, reader. May we keep our sights set on longer nights and deeper sleeps ahead.

another post about the olive garden :|

Surprise Spring Seasonal Affective Disorder

It’s true: Manqué is live. We’re slow going — which is very difficult for me!! — but we are up and at ‘em with real stories up and new ones planned.

This and an unexpected wave of what I have termed Surprise Spring Seasonal Affective Disorder (SSSAD) have kept me puttering around our home, staring longingly out of windows and wishing that the sun was real as I scroll aimlessly through Pinterest and forget to respond to texts instead of stopping in here to say “hello!” (No, but really. If you’re not in New England, you may not know but, in April alone it rained something like 19 out of 30 days according to some weather website article that I read in the midst of feeling forsaken by the seasons.)

I’ve been compulsively collecting plants for what feels like three weeks, taking control of the outside of our home the best I can. I didn’t know it until recently, growing up in apartments, but I’d describe my ideal yard aesthetic as “potentially abandoned but certainly well-loved cottage stumbled upon in the woods next to an overgrown grassy knoll, definitely a witch’s home in a previous life” and have done my best to cultivate that vibe in spite of the sun’s absence. As in, we put our vegetable garden in the front yard and I’m entirely thrilled. (That is not my vegetable garden. That is an old flower bed that was previously covered in red mulch.)

At the risk of sounding too diary-like, I’ve been thinking a lot lately about how life changes at a rapid pace even when it feels like you’re standing still. A year ago, yesterday, Nathan and I graduated with our master’s degrees. A few days later, we adopted Tilly. A few days earlier, he became an uncle for the first time. And a few weeks after that, we decided to break our lease in New York with less than two weeks notice, pack up all of our stuff (and our very smol pup) and head back to Massachusetts. A year later and I’m planning a vegetable garden? W h a t?

I’m going to stop myself now, as I veer on sounding like a prolonged Instagram caption. It’s spring. It’s spring!

Oh, re: Olive Garden. We are going there tonight. When you’re here, you’re here!

me, when I don’t wear mascara

why do people bring their anti-social dogs to the dog park

Today, I swore I’d get a bunch of writing done, including prep for next month’s Manqué launch. Instead, I’ve been laying on my bed for the better part of two hours, reading articles about what it means to be basic and sending side-by-side photos of my face next to elven women from The Lord of the Rings, captioned, “me, when I don’t wear mascara” to people in my life who probably won’t find the concept nearly as amusing as I do.

I’m trying to remind myself that every day doesn’t need to be as productive as the last, but it feels like a platitude more than sage self-care advice. Internalized capitalism and Protestant work ethic etc etc etc.

Things I am thinking about today in no particular order:

  1. what is pink lemonade

  2. why do people bring their anti-social dogs to the dog park

  3. this wild grief website

  4. olive garden — when you’re here, you’re here

Truth be told, I’m not focusing on much at all. Tootles.

kind of good

you deserved this all the time

Today was good. Like, “I backed into a spot between two cars in a parking garage at 7:30 in the morning” kind of good. Like “my train ran express from Worcester to Boston” kind of good. Like “I got on that train ten minutes before it was scheduled to leave” kind of good.

I just assumed I’d feel really shitty all day. Because it’s my grandma’s birthday. The first one since she died last summer. But instead, everything went right. The sun was out. I had a green juice. I had productive conversations.

Grief is like love in that no one really cares about or understands it except for the person experiencing it. We all say that we are so sorry for you or so happy for you, but I don’t think we mean either of those things, not really.

I think we say we are happy for people who are in love because we are really relieved that they are not alone (and it isn’t our responsibility), relieved that they have a support system (that isn’t us), relieved that maybe they have an interesting story about how they met their significant other (because maybe there’s hope for us). But beyond that, we don’t really care, do we?

In turn, when it comes to grief, we are sorry for someone’s loss because we feel sorry for all the people in our own lives that we have not yet lost but know that we someday will, or because we remember the people we already lost and someone else’s grief triggers that personal sorrow-memory. Which is different from being “sorry for” someone’s loss. Is that sympathy? I don’t quite get it, I know, but I don’t quite think that’s it, and if that’s it, it doesn’t seem real.

I know I said that today was good and it doesn’t quite sound like it here, but I really did and I do mean it. The sun was out, I was early for my obligations, and conversations came easily. But in the background was my grandma’s absence and flitting memories of visiting her grave for the first time since the funeral, which I did last week, and the discomfiting acceptance that I will never again send her flowers and that I have hours upon hours of interviews recorded with her that I do not have the mental stamina to listen to yet.

Yet every time something went astonishingly, uncharacteristically right for me today, I thought of her, and I thanked her, out loud, and everything was flat. And it made me think of multigenerational epic novels and how we are tethered to the people — and especially, the women, I think — who raised us, in ways that we can’t possibly ever be tied to anyone else.

But the other weird thing about this grief is that sometimes it can drive you to joy. Because even if you can’t communicate, you know that those women you’ve lost would be proud of you, not just for making the train early or for parking your car in an impossible situation, but for feeling that happiness at all. For having those victories. Because those women who raised you taught you to believe that you deserved to feel happy — they treated happiness like the end goal, trained you how to find it in express trains and obligable small talk with strangers, if you had to. And you try to take that with you into your daily life, although it’s really goddamn hard to be that optimistic at every turn. But then it falls into place for one entire morning and you remember that they told you that you deserved this all the time. And here we are.

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