“Neverwhere” by: Neil Gaiman
Still in process of reading “Ten Years in the Tub” by: Nick Hornby
Watched too many seasons of “Top Chef”
“Sex and the City” rewatched seasons 3-6 for the millionth time
“The Morning Show”
In process of watching “Mrs. America”
Music listening to: Well – many things – but particularly Perfume Genius’s new album “Set My Heart on Fire Immediately” is perfection
Alright, so the past couple weeks have not been excellent for book reading. After I wrote the last blog, the pandemic blues came to find me. Nothing extreme, nothing for anyone to worry about my mental health. As I told one of my friends, I know what not being okay looks like – and the pandemic blues that I’ve dealt with – have not looked anything like what my “not being okay” times. Still, they found me and made my motivation to read and write – which I adore and make me feel most like myself when I do – became limited. What was not limited was watching great amounts of television. I have not been exclusively binging tv – of course. I still have to teach, in order to pay rent and bills – and because I do love teaching; as well as do my own yoga practice nearly every day. I still have other work and tasks, that are too boring to discuss, that I need to get done. I haven’t fallen into a depression where I’m unable to get done the things that need doing. It was just the extracurricular things that became harder to do there for a little bit (I’ve been feeling much more motivated the past several days – to do things that make me feel much more like myself— like taking time to write this blog).
While I am a deep introvert, and am grateful for that fact, because I think it has made pandemic living – as a single woman who lives alone with her cats – much easier for me than I know it has been for many more extroverted people – I think it would probably be worrisome if I didn’t have some harder times during this pandemic, when the whole world is upended. If I was always completely fine with never physically being around people, well – as much as I love being self-sufficient – that would make me worry about how closed off I am from others; y’know more than the acceptable amount. And, I’m terrified about the state of the world, and how dire it feels in trying to change it – if I weren’t ever impacted by that feeling – that would worry me.
All in all, I’m saying that by not being overly worried about my dips into pandemic blues – not judging myself too harshly for when I have them – has been beneficial in being gentle with myself and being able to climb out of those blues and feel more-or-less okay again. Learning to not be an asshole to myself for having normal human emotions, that include the periods when I’m not as productive and a bit more blue, I think has been key in not falling into past patterns of depression or eating disordered behaviors.
Most of us believe it in concept – life/healing/evolution isn’t linear. Being okay with ourselves not being linear is trickier; but that’s the work and all the stuff.
Lastly, I should say that this a long blog. And it is my damn blog – so I’m okay with that fact. But, I know that most of our attention spans can’t stay on one thing for very long — so I broke it up with subtitles, so if you want to read a bit at a time and return to it later — you can do so more easily. On that note:
Books: “Neverwhere” & “Ten Years in the Tub”
Anyways, I did manage to read Neil Gaiman’s “Neverwhere”, over these past two weeks, and I’m still reading Nick Hornby’s delightful, and the inspiration for this blog, book “Ten Years in the Tub” – it’s a long book – and I’m only reading a couple columns a day, so I think it’ll take me a bit longer. I’m only about halfway through now. I am still enjoying it, very much so. Hornby is wickedly funny and clever – and reading a column of his a day, about the love of reading, inspires me to read everything. It is a book I think I will miss once it is completed. I still probably have a few solid weeks ahead of me though – so I’ll enjoy them.
What is there to say about Gaiman’s “Neverwhere” that hasn’t been said a million times? It is a dark fantasy that is fun to read but also makes you contemplate the human condition – as an aspiring writer, it makes you wish you could’ve written such a thing, also makes you feel like “what’s the point?! I could never write anything as inventive.” – while also inspiring you to aim high in crafting such a full world and characters born from imagination. – Any book that makes me feel all those things, well, I’m grateful to have spent time with.
Besides the fact that Gaiman’s imagination is something to behold, he also does, not with an in your face way – he says much about the human experience. “Neverwhere” discusses much about:
- who we cast aside, (much to be said about homelessness, and who we let fall through the cracks of some imagined social safety net – that allows many to fall through)
- other darker realities that exist, yet we turn a blind eye to them because we’re so consumed by our day-to-day life
- what we’re willing to become numb to, because we think it is just the way life is, normal existence
- thinking that we want something, but once we have it, we realize it is not at all what we actually needed
- and, ultimately, wanting a life that, even if it isn’t accepted by larger society, is something beyond the mundane and something worth waking up for each day.
All of this is wrapped up in a fun dark adventure questing adventure ride. People have harped about the brilliance of Neil Gaiman for decades – I won’t prattle on – but, yes, I agree with people saying “Neverwhere” is a modern fantasy classic, it deserves to be remembered with other fantasy greats like Lord of the Rings, Narnia, etc., though, of course, it is much darker than these, which is appealing to many of us darker souled sort.
A friend/student recommended “On a Sunbeam” to me, which looks like a beautiful scifi graphic novel that looks to be about recreating gender and family, though I haven’t read it yet so who knows(!). I bought it and I am excited to dive in very soon. I may need to read some nonfiction first. As much as I love fantasy/scifi, I feel like my brain is missing some nonfiction, beyond Hornby’s columns. We’ll see whatever I pick up today.
TV: Top Chef & “Sex & the City”
So, while the past couple weeks have not been amazing for my normal reading appetite, they have been great(?) for TV consumption. Which, of course, isn’t actually great for my mental health – but whatever, it is what the pandemic blues gave me – so que sera sera. At the start of pandemic blues, I watched too many seasons of Top Chef. I realize that in my last blog I said that I was going to watch something else after I finished the Top Chef season that I was currently watching – but I didn’t do that. I finished the season I was on – whichever season Denver is– and then I watched Season 6, in Las Vegas, which I love because of the Voltaggio brothers. Watching their sibling relationship, during a cooking competition, is truly some excellent tv. I want more shows about sibling relationships, there aren’t nearly enough. I know that my relationships, with my sisters, have shaped my life much more than many of my romantic adventures. Of course. Anyways, after I finished Season 6, I told myself that I couldn’t keep watching Top Chef, so I made myself watch something else. Want to know why eating disorder recovery looks like? Sometimes it looks like watching too many cooking shows and then making yourself stop because you’re just being food obsessive.
I wanted to begin “Mrs. America”, as I said that I would in my last blog. However, while I needed to make myself stop watching food tv, I still wanted to watch something that I knew would be soothing. So, I watched “Sex and the City” – which, yes, I have seen many times. I started in Season 3, around the time when Carrie meets Aidan. I had told myself I’d just watch a few episodes – but instead I watched the rest of the series. Oh well. “Sex and the City” and “The Gilmore Girls” are the shows I’ve rewatched more than any other show. Knowing the characters and the storylines so in-depth is very comforting, which is what I was looking for in that stage of pandemic blues. However, I hadn’t watched “Sex and the City” for a few years, and it was a bit more surreal to watch it this time around because I’m now about the exact same age as Carrie, Miranda, Charlotte, and Samantha. The episode where Carrie turns 35 hit me square in the gut – as I turn 35 later this year. I do, ultimately, think I need a relationship less than Carrie – but sitting alone in pandemic quarantine – while watching her discuss how she was sad about not having a man in her life to celebrate her birthday – ugh, blergh and blergh. Anyways, watching all of them discuss that time in your life of your mid-thirties, now that I’m in them, well it feels different than it did watching them in my teens, my twenties, and even my early thirties. I understand what they discuss in a way that I never did before. While I believe we can always reinvent ourselves and become whoever we want to be – whenever we want to – goodness knows I haven’t achieved all of what I hope to, yet. There is much less feeling of that you’re in process of building your life, and much more a “well, I’m here. I’m smack in my adulthood. So, what am I going to do with it?”
I think about these questions much more existentially, and in terms of the work I want to do in the world, rather than in my romantic relationships—but the thoughts themselves feel very true. And the show does make you think about your relationships, particularly what I value the most, your friendships – your women friendships – and what they mean for you in your life. There is much about “Sex and the City” that has expired. There are episodes that I wish they would delete from their catalog – like, ugh, the episode where Sam moves to an apartment where trans sex workers work on her street. There is so much transphobia in that episode it makes me want to tear things apart. Can’t we just delete that episode? The episode where Carrie says that she could never someone who is bi -, and it is portrayed that of course dating someone who is bi- is absured, man that is an eye roll worthy episode.
All of this being said, I keep coming back to it because I still haven’t found a show that discusses friendship between women in a way that feels so true to reality, nor as inspiring. I always watch it and want to become a better friend – which is a much better feeling to walk away with – than wanting to find a partner. In my humble opinion. Not that wanting a partner is bad thing, I’m not opposed to having a partner if the shoe fits – but there are many shows and tv about romantic partnerships – not nearly enough about the love between women and their platonic friendships with other women. I keep coming back to it, because watching friendships between women just feels good.
It does piss me off that they ended the series with everyone ending up with a man. I would’ve loved for Carrie or Sam (I like the Miranda and Charlotte plotlines) to have found happiness being single/with their friends – particularly Carrie, I hate her ending up with Big, who is the worst love interest of love interests. But, whatever, it is a show limited by the constraints of the time it came out in – where happy endings still looked like romantic relationships. And it was a revolutionary show in so many ways – in terms of discussing and showing women’s sexuality and the importance of our friendships. I don’t expect everything to be everything; I still enjoyed the rewatching experience. Makes me want to be a better friend, which I know I’m not always excellent at because I don’t personally need the regular socialization, but that doesn’t mean that my friends are all okay with talking only every once in awhile. And, of course, the talking about being in your mid-thirties, – the experience of: so what the fuck are we doing with our lives now that we’re square in adulthood – well, yes, that brings up thoughts.
I should say, on that topic, I know I can be self-deprecating sometimes about what I do with my life. But, I do *love* being a yoga teacher. Truly. It gives me great purpose. It’s so hard to know what the future holds, but I think that I always want to teach yoga and meditation. My students deeply matter to me. I love holding space and supporting them in their transformation through the practice. I love helping them find connection to what has been earth shattering for me. I love seeing them have experiences that aren’t the same as mine, but still connect to the power of the practice. I love teaching yoga – I deeply care about building community and being invested in each other.
I think I talk self-deprecatingly about it sometimes because modern yoga teaching often (but not always) looks like incredibly physically talented individuals – who invest all their time and energy into teaching – who live and breathe yoga. I am not that person — (though I love and respect many of these people — they just aren’t me) – my yoga practice has not been a straight shot to gymnast glory (nor do I believe it should be – but what one believes in theory and what one says to themselves aren’t always in harmony). I want many other things besides just yoga in my life. I want to be a writer and an activist – about things not just yoga related. I always want to be a student of the practice, but I can only spend so many hours a day thinking about yoga before I need to read and learn about other things. I know many other yoga teachers also want many things in their life, – probably the predominant amount of teachers — but social media doesn’t always depict that reality. (It’s also fine to want your life to be completely about yoga teaching – I’m grateful to the many excellent teachers who have devoted their entire lives to the practice – it just isn’t me.) It is difficult to figure out how to do all those things, striving to be a good teacher – that is continuously educating themselves (and I do love being a student of the practice) – while also investing in other parts of themselves and this world — while being working class and in the gig economy. But, I’m trying to learn how to make peace with that reality. You can’t do everything. You do have to make some decisions about what you want to devote your life to; but it is my only life, and I have many aspects that I find fulfilling, when I sacrifice that reality, I become the least fulfilled version of myself.
I love being a yoga teacher, and while I don’t know what the future holds — I want to always teach. I’m fascinated with yoga, the philosophy and science of it – I love teaching it to others and holding community. I think about the areas that I am flawed as a teacher – often – often this about my own physical abilities (I do realize that I am very able-bodied; ashtanga yoga, my personal practice, can distort one’s idea of ability in strange ways. I realize that my practice ability looks different in the vinyasa world than it does in the ashtanga world — this is all very relative.). The truth is, I love teaching – I know I have certain talents in the area of teaching, such as inspiring others through story, connecting the overarching story/concept to what we’re doing on the mat,continuous curiosity to always learn and be a student, and community building (thank you to community organizing and years of political fundraising in terms of how to create compelling story) that when I let them be enough, they are strong — I intend to continue teaching for as long as life lets me. And the ways that I am imperfect, there are other teachers as well out there! We all have different skills that we can bring to the table. The yoga, particularly the ashtanga world, needs to become less hierarchical – and the more that we allow each other to share different knowledges – that it is okay to want different things from different teachers – the more we can build a sustainable community of people that simply want one another to evolve to their best abilities whether that is emotional, spiritual, or physical. I don’t expect to get all my needs met from just one friend, one book, one musician – I don’t feel that way in any aspect of learning – let alone via having one yoga teacher. Of course, I think dissolving this hierarchy in the ashtanga world, that each student must have one teacher, has to do with dissolving capitalism, because those who depend on the very fragile work of teaching yoga, are mostly all afraid of losing students and then losing the ability to survive day-to-day; but each part of destructive systems has to be destroyed bit by bit in order to attack the whole. Revolution starts at home, and all that.
The less precious I become about how I’m supposed to practice, teach, write, live my life – and more okay about the pursuing and striving for what fascinates and makes me engaged – learning how to be okay with the flaws – I think the better I become at things, because I actually do them, rather than become frozen in the idea that whatever I do won’t be good enough. At the very least, it feels better in the doing of them. When I’m so worried about having everything be exactly one specific way – I become a watered-down version of myself – caught in my head about how I’m supposed to be – and just not as plain good. Nothing I do will ever be perfect – whether that is teaching, writing, practicing, being in relationships – I will never get to that place. No one will. The more I become okay with that – the more empowered I am. The more I believe I leave my ego behind – and hopefully become of service to others (those students I care about so), and I think actually more myself in the world.
What did I start this with? Oh yes, I love teaching. My students mean so much to me. The practice means so much me (it saved me – in many many ways). *My teachers* mean so much to me. But, I want lots of things in this life/ I want to be lots of things in this life. What I want does not have to be what others want – but it is what I want. In the Instagram world where yoga teachers almost only talk about yoga (which is fine btws! Please keep doing what is right for you!), I’m learning how to make peace with the fact that because I don’t fit this mold, it doesn’t mean I’m not right as a yoga teacher – I have devoted many years now to this practice, nonlinear years – but I have a lot to share – and a lot to always learn – which when I let it, excites me rather than scares me. And I’m slowing becoming okay with the fact that I can teach yoga as a career, and want to write a fantasy novel, and literary criticism, and spend my afternoon reading a book about the Israeli-Palestinian Conflict; and yadayada. I’m learning how to be okay with the fact that while I do have to make some choices — I can be many things, too. You get my point – watching “Sex & The City” is this time of pandemic, as all of these women talk about what it means to be a woman in their thirties – and what are we doing in our lives – it made me negotiate and come more to terms with the fact that I don’t want to abandon teaching in order to be something else, but I also want other things, like being a writer, etc., and that is okay. It’ll mean I’m never a famous ashtanga teacher, ha, but I don’t want to be a famous ashtanga teacher. I like teaching a small community of deeply committed students. So, binge watching tv, tv you’ve even seen many times before isn’t always a loss (though I’m not going to straight up recommend it) – if it is good enough art, it can make you think deeply about your own self and life choices.
Anyways, what was I talking about? – Oh yes, after my “Sex and the City” marathon I watched two very bad early 00s rom-coms, (“How to Lose a Guy in Ten Days” & “Sweet Home Alabama” – go ahead and judge me – I judge myself), because I thought they would make me feel better due to nostalgia of watching them at a much simpler time in my young life – but really they just made me grumpy about sexism and the deep limitations of many rom-coms in discussing relationships. Speaking of bad rom-coms, weeks ago I tried to watch the rom-com “Sleeping with Other People”, the one with Alison Brie, and I had to stop. It takes a lot to make me turn off a movie once I’m in the middle. But it was so bad – I love Alison Brie – but it was beyond predictable – felt like the writer was using every excuse to see Brie in lingerie again and again – and the part where the main guy character tries to teach Brie how to masturbate because she says she doesn’t masturbate – it just infuriated me beyond measure. I couldn’t watch anymore. There is no guy alive that teaches a woman how to masturbate. No. Women have to teach men how to touch them. Which is what it is – I’m not shaming men – they often (trans bodies obviously provide exceptions to this) don’t have the same equipment, they have to learn somehow. But the idea that a man would teach a woman how to masturbate. Just – no. No. And no. Maybe the movie got better after that. I don’t know. But it was already so terrible – and after that just horrific bit that just sounds like cismale fantasy that has zero basis in reality– I couldn’t watch anymore. I think part of why I like “Sex and the City” is because it is basically a long feminist rom-com – that is fucking good and shows how complex relationships are – but has fun feel-good bits in it – I don’t always want to watch depressing shit – sometimes I want to watch something fun and lighthearted. I want more feminist rom-coms. Why are they so hard to find? Ugh. I had to rant about how bad “Sleeping with Other People” was – I still love Alison Brie – but damn the portion of that movie I saw was just bad. Bad.
Better Things: “The Morning Show” & “Mrs. America”
Going back to less annoying things, after the sad experience of watching two bad rom-coms, I starting watching “The Morning Show”. I’m still not sure if I signed-up for Apple TV for one month or if I just rented the series. Apple TV is confusing. BUT – holy shit balls – “The Morning Show” is truly astounding television – and I say this in the time of great television. It is art that tackles the hardest kinds of subject matter in this #Metoo era. You do have to watch the whole season though, in some of the early episodes it can seem like they aren’t being critical enough of Steve Carrell’s character (he is brilliant in that role, btws – good for him. As a beloved actor – for him taking on a difficult role of a horrific person – good for him for rising to that challenge in telling a story that needs to be told.) – but if you have those feelings early on, stick with it, it is like a novel that doesn’t make sense if you only read bits and pieces, you have to read the whole thing for it come together.
But, holy shit balls again, it is beautiful important harrowing art – the best work I’ve seen by any of these actors. Jennifer Aniston and Reese Witherspoon are unbelievable – the best work of Jennifer Aniston’s career by far, and I like her in many roles. I’m an Aniston fan. Give me characters like this for days – the complicated characters that show the full complexity of ourselves, the hard, hateful, shameful and also good and trying to be better bits.
“The Morning Show” is deep with its character development – which I what happens in my favorite stories – you feel these characters in all the portions of themselves. It portrays how the multifaceted sexism is in workplaces, in the large scale ways but also the smaller more insidious ways. It portrays how women have to operate in their lives in a way men do not; particularly women that want to be trailblazers. It also has conversations privilege and what we do with our lives – what matters – about power – and again and again these deeply difficult conversations surrounding #metoo.
God, it is so good.
I should say that there is a big content warning hanging over the entire series. If you can’t watch sexual assault – I do not recommend watching it – because that is the heart of the story. It also is talking about relationships, whether they are romantic, or friendships between women, or just longstanding workplace friendships, that often have complexities to them about what they are – in a way that is representative of how important and dynamic these relationships actually are. And, yes, these characters do some horrific cutthroat things, but we’re talking about excess capitalism and powerful public figures – to pretend they don’t make these decisions wouldn’t be true – but these characters struggle with these decisions and have moral parts of themselves that are in pain because of them, which strikes me as so much more real than something like “House of Cards” that took away so much humanity from different characters just to show corruption. I do not believe that most people are absolutely corrupt, people are complex, “The Morning Show” shows that. God, it’s good. The last couple episodes ripped me apart. It is the type of show where you almost don’t want to watch anything else for a long time, because you know it can’t be as good as what you just witness. But we’re in quarantine, so watch something else I have done. But, if we weren’t in quarantine, I probably wouldn’t have watched anything else for awhile – it is just that good. I highly recommend it. It is worth the Apple TV subscription, or the buying it from Apple TV, or whatever the fuck I did.
Also, I definitely have a big old crush on Mark Duplass’s character, Chip, which probably tells me some things I need to examine about my taste in men. But, yeah, definitely a new celebrity crush.
Oh yes, after “The Morning Show” I did finally start watching “Mrs. America” – and it is great. I’m only a few episodes in so I’ll wait to talk about it after I finish the thing. It is obviously my genre, y’know feminist tv, and I’m so happy it is out there, with big names attached. I think it has the power to educate many about women’s history. It is hard to watch anything after “The Morning Show” – because it is a difficult act to follow. But, a few episodes into “Mrs. America”, I’m adapting to not comparing the one to the other (which I was doing that first episode or so). They are very different shows – apples and oranges. I’m thrilled there is continuously growing great feminist tv out there now. I don’t want to get into that game of pitting feminist pieces against each other. They are different types of shows, the former is a political thriller and the latter is a historical drama – one has to be portray people and events that actually happened and the other can decide however it wants to create character and plot. Watching all this feminist tv does make me enraged at the patriarchy and want to fight it with everything – which is hard to do in quarantine, but I’ll have to think about the ways to still be effective.
I’ll chat about “Mrs. America” more when I’ve completed it – but so far, I’m enjoying. It is inspiring and enraging – which is a good combo in my opinion.
Lastly lastly, I’m listening to lots of music as always – but Jiminy Crickets – Perfume Genius’s new record “Set My Heart on Fire Immediately” is stunning. I’m trying to not listen to it too much all at once and burnout on it. But since it was released, I’ve had to listen to it a couple times, at minimum, every day. It is full of longing, melancholy, philosophy, and thoughtful fun. It is the type of music that I just want to lie down on my floor and listen to; it is beautiful. I highly recommend.
I think that is well enough for this blog post. I hope you’ve enjoyed. Congrats on making it all this way.Tell me how your quarantines are going – what you’re reading, watching, listening to – I want to know!