It's been a year. Not since I last wrote—though that's been long enough. A year ago, I lay in bed in a studio apartment and recorded a video of myself staring morosely into the camera, a string of Christmas lights over the window behind me next to bare white walls, Lucy Dacus's "Night Shift" playing in the background. I never posted the video—there's some level of public wallowing that's too much even for me.
The other morning, as we were walking out the door on the way to school, my youngest stopped on our walkway beside one of the rose bushes and exclaimed, "Oh, I love this flower! It's so pretty! I think it looks sad."
I looked at the rose, which was well past its full bloom and starting to slide toward decay, the petals starting to curl and thin and dry at the edges. "It does look a little sad," I said.
"It looks sad because of the color," she said. "The pink and red are spotty."
Then we moved on with our morning. We got in the car and went to school.
It's been a year. Not a good year by any measure. But not entirely bad, either. I have eaten well, certainly. I have left unreasonably long voice messages for my friends, who have not only listened but responded with great kindness and support. I've sung with strangers on the internet, and with myself. I've gotten to hear my kids laugh and feel their hugs, to talk them through the past year as well. I've demonstrated to myself that I have nothing to prove as a homemaker or parent, and I've started to learn to appreciate the freedom that comes with not having to spend so much of my time and energy trying to appease someone who didn't, ultimately, like me very much.
I went for a walk in my neighborhood yesterday (for my stupid mental health, as the TikTok youths like to say). Rounding a corner, I passed by a woman, perhaps in her sixties, dabbing her eyes with a tissue as she walked to her car. It took me a few steps before I noticed, but I stopped and turned and asked her if she was okay.
"Oh, I'm okay," she said, sniffling, "but that's so kind of you to ask, thank you."
I gave her what I hoped was a sympathetic look and told her to take care, and then walked on. I can't blame anyone for not wanting to divulge details about their private life to someone they don't know, of course. But I do find myself wondering often what it might look like if we stopped saying we're okay when we're not. And what a shame it is that a stranger offering the simplest moment of care might be seen as uncommonly kind.
It's been a year. I'm still waiting for things to be finalized. The end of a divorce feels a little bit like the last few weeks of college, when you're both excited and apprehensive about what the future will be like, knowing that no matter what you are on the cusp of a new era of your life, except that it stretches on for months. And there are a lot more emails "just checking in to see where we are in the process," and each email costs $35.
There are things that are going to remain difficult for the foreseeable future. Co-parenting seems like it's almost always harder and more frustrating than it needs to be, and as much as any of us hope to be the exception, few of us actually get to be.
But people keep telling me that some day I'm going to meet someone who appreciates everything that I am. I'm starting to believe it, if only because I've come to realize that so many already do.
Every day, each of us gets to decide how we will be. Not for anyone else, but just in order to get closer to being the person we want to be. I'm doing my best, and I know you are, too.
It's going to be okay, even if it isn't.
I wanted to show you something
The world is mostly awful, and probably getting worse. I'm sure I'll write about that at some point. In the end, if we're lucky, we'll have the opportunity to take care of the ones we love, and share the happinesses that will always remain. For now, I think maybe taking care means giving you something that you can use, or that might make you smile. The world is mostly awful, but it will always be beautiful, too.
- This impromptu choir built over a few days this week on TikTok, and looking forward to each new part was almost as lovely as the song, itself.
- Maggie Smith's poem "Sitting on an Old Bedspread Under an Oak Tree, Watching My Son's Soccer Practice" described a feeling that I know all too well lately, and it made me feel a little less alone.
- The anime Rokuhoudou Yotsuiro Biyori is about a café in Japan, the four men who work there, and how they nurture and care for their customers through beautiful and comforting food and drink. It is soothing, sweet, cozy, and filled with a simple decency that felt like an oasis.
What I've Been Up To
After almost a full-year hiatus, I brought Keep the Channel Open back in March. So far, I've released episodes featuring conversations with Yanyi, Maggie Tokuda-Hall, Anahid Nersessian, Ayesha Raees, Sarah Hollowell, and Fatemeh Baigmoradi. It's been a real joy getting to talk to writers and artists again, and I'm looking forward to bringing you more conversations soon.