Day 6

Who is someone who inspires you and why?

SNORE.

Ok, sorry, that was rude. Why are prompts always so sincere and self-help aisle-y? Why aren’t they ever like “If you could murder one person and get away with it, who would it be?” or “If an electric outlet was a tiny surprised face ( =o ), what do you think it would say?” or “What was the longest you were ever forced to hold in some urgent bodily process?”

I don’t necessarily want to answer any of those either, but.

I’m inspired by Sam Irby. She’s so funny that I have read something like 100 recaps of Judge Mathis, a show I have never once watched, just because she wrote them. And she’s never been anyone but exactly who she is — she never tried to do whatever other people were doing, and she still isn’t. She has a million imitators now (including sometimes me), but her voice was always authentically hers. And I’m able to find her inspirational because she’s my age and tired and misanthropic and lives in the midwest and doesn’t make, like, videos or any complicated shit, so she feels more accessible to me than most funny people, who tend to be in LA congregating in groups and making little movies on their phones and fucking each other.

Day 5

What is something you wish you knew how to do?

So many things, but the first that comes to mind is I wish I knew how to make a shitload of money. Just a waterfall of continuous money. A giant Scrooge pit of money. Really ugly money, inappropriate money, fuck you money. That kind of money that makes its own money, that only rich people have. Total freedom money.

Then I could own 100% of my time, every last measly second, and I could spend my whole life doing all the many things I want to do and not one goddamn thing else ever — hanging out with Edith, writing, reading, traveling everywhere, learning how to speak every language and to play the piano, helping women get abortions. You know, all the normal stuff we’d all do with our time.

I realize this is a bit of an “I wish for infinite wishes” answer but it was the first thing that came to mind.

Bloganuary

My company is doing a daily blogging challenge for January, which I intended to participate in. I’m already blogging daily, so it will be no sweat! But then I forgot about it.

So, I’ve missed the first three days. Here are one sentence catch ups:

Day One: “What advice would you give to your teenage self?”

Do drugs. It’ll make everything much easier and more enjoyable for you.

Day Two: “What is a road trip you would love to take?”

I wouldn’t.

Day Three: “Write about the last time you left your comfort zone.”

I gave birth last March.

Done! Ok, those were easy. Now:

Day Four: “What was your favorite toy as a child?”

I had a doll named Leah who was my constant companion for many years. She was just a regular sort of baby doll with a plastic head and arms and legs, and a fabric body. The last time I saw Leah, her fabric body was absolutely black with grime, she had marker everywhere, and the middle and ring fingers of her left hand were bitten off (the same two fingers that I liked to suck on my own hand). I carried Leah with me EVERYWHERE until I was old enough to be shamed for it. I said she was my sister, and I became very annoyed and offended if people called her my “baby.”

We have lots of pictures of me at various ages with a giant purse holding all my toys and books (I was always afraid of being bored, which wasn’t an idle fear as an only child is often dragged on hours worth of dull errands and doesn’t have the coalition power to overrule things, so I did not travel light), and the purse would be zipped up almost all the way with Leah’s head hanging out of the gap, so she could breathe. My mom said that when I took Leah along to preschool, she worried about me being teased for it, but one day she visited and all the other kids were like, “Elizabeth, do you and your sister want to play blocks?”

(What my mom did not know is that this was because I was actually a bully in preschool, so it was sort of an “I am the one who knocks” situation, but that’s a bit much for this post, and anyway I grew out of it.)

Leah is currently in a box somewhere, and as my parents are moving in with me and we’re slowly going through storage, she will undoubtedly be unearthed at some point. I hope she has survived the long years, but I suspect time has not been kind.

Yo-Yo

I’ve previously mentioned my love for What We Do In the Shadows. One of the show’s actors, Mark Proksch (who you might also know from Better Call Saul) used to book himself on morning shows in the Midwest as a yo-yo champion who was going around to schools doing demonstrations to promote environmentalism. However, when interviewed, he just went into tangents about his divorce or family problems or whatever, and then failed to demonstrate any yo-yo-ing.

I love this sort of stuff so much. There’s nothing more fun than someone who is doing something bizarre purely to entertain themselves and maybe their friends. More here.

Co-Napping

Although Edith is very good at sleeping through the night in her own bed now (well, most of the time), I still nap with her. During the weeks, her nanny puts her in her baby swing for naps and sits in the playroom with her, and on the weekend, I go get in my bed with her and hold her while she sleeps.

There’s no reason why she can’t nap independently at this point. I just haven’t really been pressed to make her — I value the closeness on my days off. It’s fun to cuddle her. And I either sleep or read while she sleeps, which is what I’d choose to do with the time anyway if she were in her own bed.

But now it’s starting to butt up against some other things. I had friends visit and we didn’t have that much time to hang out, and there was a good two hours or more where I was napping with Edith when I could have been spending time with the adults. And today I joined a friend’s virtual baby shower, but it happened at the same time as Edith’s main nap, so I had to tap out five minutes in and go lie down with her.

I guess at some point, I’m going to have to let her take her own naps. Honestly, I don’t think she’ll even mind at this point — it’s me. I’m not ready to let her go.

Weather

It’s been warm as summer here till now — today, it reached a high of 80 in the afternoon. Over night, however, it is supposed to plummet down to the 20s. It won’t actually get cold enough this weekend to blow the electricity grid out again, I don’t think, but everyone is just expecting it to go down. Apparently this neighborhood lost power for five days in the one last February, and no one has done anything to improve the situation in the year since, so I imagine that at some point, it will become an issue again. (Last year, I was on a shared grid with the local hospital so I didn’t lose my power at all, which was fortunate because I was extremely pregnant and alone and didn’t really have much of a sense of humor about things at the time.)

My plan is to put the baby in the car and head over the border into a state that maintains its infrastructure and get a hotel room there. I realize that’s a bit privileged, but I can always say that my intent was just to drop Edith off and come right back.

Happy New Year!

Everyone is saying 2021 was a shit year, as bad if not worse than 2020, and I get it, but Edith joined us this year, so I can’t really feel any other way than that it was the best year of all time, not just for me personally but also for all mankind even though they don’t necessarily know it.

One of the main things that I’ve really taken note of throughout the pandemic is how many people were truly genuinely happy before it. I don’t mean to sound cynical — I’m not exactly surprised that people were happy and enjoyed their lives.

But no, actually, I am surprised! How were you all that happy, and I didn’t know it? You didn’t seem like it at the time. I mean, you all seemed okay, I guess, but I didn’t realize that everyone else was having so much fun. I guess I thought we were all just “whatever, it’s fine” about things, but y’all were really into it!

I wasn’t happy at all; I was a miserable sack of shit for…I don’t even know how long, really. I had no right to be, it was no one’s fault but my own, and I realize it’s ungrateful to be miserable when you have a lot of privilege, but studies all indicate that we have innate set happiness levels, so my unhappiness was less about my circumstances and more that I’m simply a melancholic person. I didn’t realize how miserable I was until I had Edith because I had forgotten what being invested in life even felt like, but now I’m excited about the coming year because a lot will be happening and I am looking forward to all of it, new things are happening every day. Edith’s going to walk this year and she’s going to talk. She’s going to turn one. She’s going to get more teeth and get bigger and do a bunch of other stuff. Meanwhile, I get to hang out with the coolest person I have ever met all day every day (and all night, sometimes, though I don’t love that as much), and I’d rather live through general societal collapse and environmental devastation with Edith than in stable, normal times without her.

For example, today I was sitting in the playroom with Edith and she became absorbed in standing at her bookshelf and pulling all her books into a pile on the floor. Since she didn’t need me for the moment, I took a second to look at Twitter, and when I looked up, half of Edith’s diaper had come undone somehow and there was (suddenly, unexpectedly) a load in it and a poopy footprint on at least one of the books. I have no idea how it even happened; I had only looked down for a fraction of a second. Dealing with that killed at least an hour, during which time I wasn’t able to think about anything going on with the broader world — for that period of time, my concerns were very clear, immediate, and actionable. See? Every day with her, there is something brand new and unexpected. She brings so much to my life, she’s blown my whole heart open.

Meanwhile, I hope you all have an unexpectedly wonderful 2022, or if not, at least a tolerably comfortable one.

2021 Reading

My reading life changed quite a lot this year, round about March. Newborns will get in the way of your reading and no mistake. Given that I do not have as much time to read these days, I finally made a change I’ve been meaning to make for some time — now, if I’m not feeling a book, I abandon it. I’ve always been a completer, but life’s too short and I’m too busy to be compulsive about reading for no reason. If I’m not enjoying a book, I don’t have to choke it down like vegetables.

Also, once I had Edith, all my reading switched to ebooks, on my phone, so I could read them in the dark while she’s sleeping (which is where I do most of my reading now). I don’t know that this made much difference to the way I read or the type of things I read, but it’s a big enough change to seem significant. I think it’s harder to focus when reading on a device; it’s too easy to flip back over to email or Twitter or Slack. It’s not an immersive experience. So I maybe read less also for that reason.

I read at least part of 72 books this year. Of those, I abandoned 4, so I read 68 books in full.

The books I loved included:

  • White Noise by Don DeLillo
  • Autumn of the Patriarch by Gabriel García Márquez, trans. Gregory Rabassa
  • Waiting for the Barbarians by J.M. Coetzee
  • Calypso by David Sedaris
  • Trick Mirror by Jia Tolentino (yes, I’m aware she was canceled)
  • So You Want to Talk About Race by Ijeoma Oluo
  • No One Tells You This by Glynnis MacNicol
  • The Vanishing Half by Brit Bennet
  • Ace by Angela Chen
  • No One Is Talking About This by Patricia Lockwood (my favorite of the year)
  • Uncanny Valley by Anna Weiner
  • The Hunger by Alma Katsu
  • Klara and the Sun by Kazuo Ishiguro
  • Piranesi by Susanna Clarke (second favorite of the year)
  • Luster by Raven Leilani
  • There’s No Such Thing As an Easy Job by Kikuko Tsumura, trans. Polly Barton
  • The Argonauts by Maggie Nelson
  • Plain Honest Men by Richard Beeman
  • Where’d You Go, Bernadette? by Maria Semple
  • Several of the Miss Marple novels by Agatha Christie, specifically:
    • Murder at the Vicarage
    • The Body In the Library
    • The Moving Finger
    • They Do It With Mirrors
    • A Pocketful of Rye
    • 4:50 From Paddington

The following books were fairly enjoyable or interesting, or else just ok:

  • Seize the Day by Saul Bellow
  • Mirror Lake by Thomas Christopher Greene
  • Mr. Bridge by Evan S. Connell
  • Dead Souls by Nikolai Gogol, trans. Andrew R. McAndrew
  • Spooner by Pete Dexter
  • Holy Skirts by René Steinke
  • Blackbird House by Alice Hoffman
  • Hunger by Roxane Gay
  • Bad Feminist by Roxane Gay
  • Nice Try by Josh Gondelman
  • I’ll Be Gone In the Dark by Michelle McNamara
  • Becoming Duchess Goldblatt by Anonymous
  • Bad Blood by John Carreyrou
  • So Sad Today by Melissa Broder
  • Something That May Shock and Discredit You by Daniel Lavery
  • Singled Out by Bella DePaulo
  • Detransition, Baby by Torrey Peters
  • Some Trick by Helen DeWitt
  • White Is For Witching by Helen Oyeyemi
  • How Should a Person Be? by Shelia Heti
  • My Brilliant Friend by Elena Ferrante, trans. Ann Goldstein
  • Just Kids by Patti Smith
  • Good Neighbors by Sarah Langan
  • The Thousand Autumns of Jacob De Zoet by David Mitchell
  • The Outsiders by S.E. Hinton
  • Night’s Master by Tanith Lee
  • Sync by Steven Strogatz
  • Pachinko by Min Jin Lee
  • The Red Tent by Anita Diamant
  • Louisa the Poisoner by Tanith Lee
  • The Dinosaur Artist by Paige Williams
  • An American Marriage by Tayari Jones
  • The Crossover by Kwame Alexander
  • A Murder Is Announced by Agatha Christie (not as enjoyable as most Marples)
  • Several of the Jeeves novels by P.G. Wodehouse, specifically:
    • Thank You, Jeeves
    • The Code of the Woosters
    • The Inimitable Jeeves

Then there were those I did not enjoy:

  • Fear of Flying by Erica Jong
  • Fury by Salman Rushdie
  • Queen Takes King by Gigi Levangie Grazer
  • Doubles by Nic Brown
  • G by John Berger
  • Broken Monsters by Lauren Beukes

And then the four I didn’t bother to finish:

  • Wrack & Ruin by Don Lee
  • Heart-Shaped Box by Joe Hill
  • Within These Walls by Ania Ahlborn
  • Cast a Bright Shadow by Tanith Lee

So overall, having a baby hasn’t completely put a damper on my reading, but it has obliterated my ability to think about, digest, and certainly to write about what I have read. For example, I would like to share some additional context for some of the books above — what I especially liked about a number of them, for example — but I’m fucking exhausted and I have to go to bed instead.

Maybe next year!

Ahhh

The nice thing about being sick is that when you get better, everything suddenly feels very easy by comparison to doing it while sick.

Until you forget again.

Creepy Day

As we occupy the bizarre liminal space between Christmas and the end of the year, the weather in Texas has been similarly marginal and indecisive — it’s mostly hot, but often very overcast; it always seems like it wants to rain, but then it doesn’t. Every so often, it will become suddenly, strangely cold. Today’s weather can best be described as ominous — the sky was low and flat and dark and everything took on a sort of paused, surreal feeling. Edith and I took our afternoon walk to the playground through mostly deserted streets, and whenever a stray person did appear, I had the strange desire to shoo them back into their house.

At the playground, Edith didn’t really want to swing, which was strange, although her compulsion to eat wood chips was in full force. Right when we arrived, a little boy with a skateboard scuttled out from the play equipment, shot us a sort of horrified look, and then dashed off as if fleeing, looking back over at his shoulder at us several times. That was strange. After we left the park, we went to the soccer field and sat in the grass for awhile, so Edith could eat a cracker and look around, and a man walked by with a load of mail. We said hello, and he continued on, but then when he got to the far side of the soccer field, I said, “We should go home, it’s about to rain,” to Edith, and he whipped around and stared at us with his mouth open. And then, as he walked away, he looked back at us several times with a sort of suspicious disgust.

I don’t know what that was about — maybe he suddenly thought that I seemed like I might be having some Betty Draper-style breakdown, sitting in the middle of the field with my baby when it was about to pour down? Like, maybe he was suddenly concerned? I don’t know.

I have a rain shield for Edith’s stroller, which I’d never used before, and I put it over her stroller on the walk home. It was pretty handy and I was feeling pleased with my foresight to have bought it and stored it in the stroller basket, but then I noticed it kept tugging weirdly to one side. This was because Edith had grabbed the side of it, bunched it all into a big wad in her fist, and was gnawing away at it.

“Stop, Edith!” I said. “I don’t know if that’s BPA-free!”

But she wouldn’t stop, and eventually she pulled the whole cover off and I rolled the stroller over it in the damp street.

It didn’t really ever open up and commit to raining, though. It was so humid that when we got home, I had to crank the air up, but this weekend, it’s supposed to be down in the 20s. I always tend to get sick when the weather is switching frequently between hot and cold, and that might explain why I’m having such a hard time kicking this cold.

Or maybe it’s because this week of the year is always cursed.