49. I exist in my moments
Chill or intense
What I’m up to
I had what felt like the longest day ever. I didn’t have any food or water until after 6 pm (but I DID have coffee)! After dinner tonight, some friends and I took turns answering the question, “What feeling are you experiencing the most right now?” My answer? Fatigue. I am really tired.
Dinner was with friends, friends we’ve had weekly dinners with for 5+ years. My weekly social routine includes walks every morning, Tuesday dinner with friends, Thursday dinner with other friends, and Saturday morning coffee. A night with a bigger group of friends maybe once a month. I feel very lucky.
What I’m reading
I’m still plugging away at Love Marriage by Monica Ali. It’s good so far. I’m listening to the audiobook and I am enjoying it, but it puts me to sleep within minutes every night! (I think that’s more about me being tired than about the book.) I am literally listening to it 10 minutes at a time.
I’m about to finish teaching Gatsby for the fifth time. Still love it. Today what stood out was one of the central messages of the book: it’s better to care and be a fool than be carefree but careless with others.
Honestly, I’m spending most of my free time not reading… but watching a show. Finally started watching Billions and I am hooked. It’s been recommended to me multiple times, but I put it off because I didn’t like Paul Giamatti and Damian Lewis. I’ve changed my mind because they are both very very good in this show.
One of my friends, C, said it best — I just love stories with people who are really good at what they do.
What I’m thinking about
My friend/colleague D called me “intense” today. I was taken aback — but not offended, because of course I know he’s right. I can’t decide, though: is intense good or bad?
I would love for people to use these words when describing me and my “vibe”: Relaxed. Chill. Effortless.
But honestly I think I’m: Intense. Heated. Full of effort. :)
The grass is always greener.
What I’m learning
I was listening to an On Being podcast interview with Robin Wall Kimmerer, the author of Braiding Sweetgrass, yesterday. She said she “can’t think of a single scientific study in the last few decades that has demonstrated that plants or animals are dumber than we think.” Rather, every new discovery expands our understanding of their sentience. Our views on other living things are just limited because we measure everything by the yardstick of our own experience and capacity.
I listened to an Invisibilia podcast episode years ago about how language determines our reality: different cultures have different words for emotions, and not having words for specific emotions means that we don’t really feel them. Likewise, in the interview Kimmerer talked about how our use of the word it “distances, disrespects, and objectifies” flora and fauna; we refer to non-human living things with the same pronoun we use for inanimate objects. She posits this language is “at the root of a worldview that allows us to exploit nature.”
I see it. Taking the "livingness” out of plants and animals makes it so much easier to use them for our benefit. I willfully ignore the sentience of animals because I want to eat their meat. My father-in-law told me he cannot bear to eat octopus ever again after watching My Octopus Teacher. I’m afraid that learning about any living thing would lead to the same conclusion — how could I exploit this being, knowing ____?
Kimmerer’s work reminds me of Richard Powers’s The Overstory. It’s a novel in three parts and I didn’t love all parts equally, but it’s 100% worth the read for just the first part; I have never been able to see trees the same way again. I can’t do it justice, but this is the idea that stayed with me: we overlook the “livingness” of trees, rocks, mountains because they live at a different speed than we do. My understanding of time is relative to my own lifespan. In my lifetime, a rock may not change. But flip it around, and from the perspective of a tree and the tree’s lifespan, I am but a gnat. Blink and I’m gone. They, on the other hand, are moving, communicating, existing in their moments the way I exist in my moments.
It makes the idea of any intimacy with God even more mind-blowing.
What I’m doing
I went out for coffee with a new friend yesterday. This person and I have been friendly for years and our social circles overlap, but it’s the first time we’ve intentionally hung out. It was so refreshing to talk to someone who doesn’t work at school. I feel like all my closest friends here are colleagues, and all we can talk about is work!! It felt crazy and wonderful to actually get to know someone new. We asked each other questions like, “Where did you grow up? How did you meet your spouse? Do you like living here?” I loved it.
I mentioned above that I have a pretty routinized social calendar (that I love!). I guess I have turned into a creature of habit because it has gotten harder for me to put myself out there socially. It is not so easy making friends as an adult, which makes me so extra grateful this friend reached out.
My counselor told me that one important way to deal with stress is to regularly talk to people who aren’t part of our everyday community. Doing so reminds us that there’s more to life than our particular problems.
What I’ve saved
Saved but haven’t read: “Writing While Asian.” (The Atlantic)
Until next week,