Good Stuff in January 2023 ✨
Things that caught my eye, ear and/or heart this month
One thing my sabbatical revealed was how much daily energy I used to metabolize Internet media.
Not just consuming it…
…but doing something with the information I gather.
responding to a friend’s update
putting things in my to-do list
adding events to my calendar
changing a habit (let’s be honest, how often does this happen?)
buying stuff (more often mulling over buying stuff)
texting a link, etc.
Also, the emotional energy of tracking all this info: the heaviness of knowing I’m missing news from friends, failing to reach out, forgetting to follow up, falling behind on current events, etc., and the fatigue that comes with knowing there will always be more, more than I could ever process, forever.
This doesn’t bother everyone. Some folks are natural info metabolizers and are energized by that flow. My husband, Rael, for example. In one week, he can take in more media and transform it into usable data than I could in a month. I swear, he must listen to podcasts in his sleep.
I tend to digest stuff more slowly, via my own reading and listening, friends’ recommendations and a small number of authors, artists, and other Internet personalities I follow. Sometimes it’s stuff that has been around for a while.
With that context, here’s what stuck with me this month.
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Sara Petersen on social media ambivalence
Retooling my online habits sounds simple and high-minded, but in fact the process has come with self-doubt, guilt and bouts of real loneliness. I appreciated this glimpse of‘s online/offline struggle. The word inexorableness stood out:
There was nothing surprising or disappointing or upsetting waiting for me on Instagram. On the contrary, I had received some lovely messages during the break. The sentiments of the messages made me smile. But it was the act of logging on itself, of seeing the rows of purple-circled faces multiply on top of the app. So many people’s stories waiting to be viewed. So many people’s lives waiting to be consumed. It’s hard to describe why it made me so blue, but the inexorableness of it all knocked the wind out of me. No matter how many breaks I take, all the noise, the consumption, the output, the input, it will keep going on and on and on and on. So much energy expended from so many individuals being poured into - what?
Read: Adjusting to Life Back Online in
Alison Gopnik on the unpredictability of midlife reinvention
This seven year-old piece by professor Alison Gopnik is a gem. Part literary detective story, part global academic romp, part sharp, touching reflection. I’m a fifty-something Jewish empty nester + Cal grad who’s beginning a mindfulness practice, so the idea of a “Berkeley bat mitzvah” made me laugh out loud:
I had always been curious about Buddhism, although, as a committed atheist, I was suspicious of anything religious. And turning 50 and becoming bisexual and Buddhist did seem far too predictable—a sort of Berkeley bat mitzvah, a standard rite of passage for aging Jewish academic women in Northern California. But still, I began to read Buddhist philosophy.
Read: How An 18th Century Philosopher Helped Me Solve My Midlife Crisis in The Atlantic
Catherine Newman on parent friendships
Life is long (hopefully) which means, alas, there’s plenty of time to screw up and/or grow apart. Catherine Newman offers this comforting reminder:
We don’t need to be perfect to stay in each other’s lives, though. We can swim toward the shore of longevity through the unnerving shallows of our children not getting along with each other for a day or a month or a year. We can screw up and apologize and be forgiven. We can forgive and reorient and move forward. We can grow apart and set new boundaries and still want to spend time together.
Read: The Beauty of Friendships in Parenthood in the Washington Post (I had to sign up for a free account to see this link, but I don’t see a paywall)
Oliver Burkeman and Christian Dillo on tolerating (but not indulging) your inner critic
The tricky thing about “listening to your gut” is that it can be hard to tell the difference between one’s “gut” and one’s inner critic. But rather than fight this element of the human condition, Oliver Burkeman affably suggests a more sustainable approach: accept and redirect. He expands upon this quote from Christian Dillo’s book, The Path of Aliveness:
"Thoughts don't tend to knock, they just show up in the house," Dillo writes. "The host's job is not to barricade the door but instead just not serve any tea."
Burkeman is the author of Four Thousand Weeks: Time Management for Mortals and he writes a wonderful bi-monthly newsletter, which is where I found this quote.
Kelly Corrigan on saying no
I’m aware I risk turning this into a Kelly Corrigan stan* newsletter. But listen to this five-minute mini-pod and tell me you’re not glad to hear it.
The temptation to be oh-so-casual and easy-to-do-business with sometimes overrides my better judgment.
Liz Gumbinner on parenting teens
OK, another disclaimer. I linked toin last week's community post, "Favorite Follows for Parents of Adults,” because I’ve treasured her writing since the mid-2000’s and I think we should all be reading her fantastic newsletter. She then linked back to this newsletter, which I'm now using to link back to hers AND THIS MAY GO ON FOREVER.
Whatever. This reassuring post about parenting teens resonated deeply with me. It also made me miss my kids in that joyfully melancholy way missing can feel.
Think of the teen years as the time in parenting that we first get to step back and see that maybe we’ve done a few things right.
Liz, if you link to this post, we might break the Internet. ;-)
Giyen Kim on kindness in unexpected places
You'll hear more aboutin the months to come. Not only is she (like Liz) one of my old friends from Ye Blogging Days of Yore, she’s also my neighbor. No kidding, I can walk to her place!
Giyen is a masterful storyteller, and this struck me as more reflective of my lived experience than the "everyone sucks" narrative blaring through many outlets these days.
Now, there are times that I get grumpy at the world, like today. But then I recall this story about how complete strangers cared for my kid and me when we needed help the most. Tell me that doesn't give you a little boost too.
Read: Stranded at LaGuardia in
I’d love to hear what you think about these pieces. If you’ve come across your own good stuff, drop a link in the comments.