"I'm not being optimistic. I'm just paying attention."
Belonging is badass.
People are just so good.
I see evidence of people’s goodness every day. I also feel the effects of the cultural tide pulling us in the opposite direction.
I’m not immune to cynicism. My naturally stubborn hope only goes so far, especially when I’m tired and vulnerable. And there’s a particular form of vulnerability that comes with being the parent of adults.
One of my kids is working through some hard stuff right now — stuff they’re handling with dogged courage, but it’s exhausting. I’m trying to balance offering loving support with maintaining a respectful distance, but there’s no line between these two things, is there? Right now, the support my kid seems to need most is my loving silence. It’s damn hard to know how to show up.
Oh, who am I kidding? There is no knowing.
THERE IS NO KNOWING. (I should get this tattooed on my forearm.)
The more emotional weight I carry, the less I can resist that tidal pull of cynicism.
We all need practices that drag us out of the cultural surf and back toward each other. One of my reliable practices is connecting with you here. This newsletter is an evidence-of-human-goodness gathering machine.
Your comments and emails and heart clicks form a tow line of care that reels me in when the darkness feels like the way of things rather than just December in the Pacific Northwest.
I say this newsletter is about empty nesting and it really is about empty nesting. But it’s also about us and who we can be to each other when we give ourselves permission to belong.
It can feel risky to believe in each other. But it’s even riskier to hole up in our imaginary bunkers and go it alone.
…disbelieving in care, in sharing, in the everyday banal precious luminous potential and in-our-face goodness of each other; disbelief, too, in the fact that we are so often the source of, the tether to, each other’s delight; i.e., when we disbelieve in each other, we are an easy mark; we are a market.
(Huh, just lingering on the word tether above. That quote may have ushered me into the tidal/pulling metaphor I keep returning to — an example of how our words/thoughts are indeed tethered to each other, as are we, which is the whole point.)
Ross Gay assesses the cultural tide with a canny, critical eye. The Book of (More) Delights, he doubles down on the evidence of our tethered-ness, and the subversive power of embracing it.
For the record, before you go there,
says Gay in a gentle nope to skeptics,
I’m not being optimistic. I’m just paying attention.
Ross Gay’s books are superlatively giftable. Like, right off the top of my head I can think of four friends who would freak out over these books. I recommend pairing The Book of Delights with its sequel, The Book of (More) Delights. Inciting Joy, which came out between the two Delights books, is also delightful.
More notes, links, and good stuff
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I wish I could say more about what’s going on with my kid, but for now, privacy. I will say I am blazingly proud of them. There is no knowing, but my gut says this choppy moment will settle.
“The decorator decided to turn the powder room into a jewel box of a space, adorning it with a tiny chandelier to distract everyone from the fact that it’s a room where everyone poops.” One of the captionsimagines would appear in a more relatable (and honest) home decor mag.
- movingly reflects on the importance of documenting life. Rael and I are scanning our film snapshots right now. This brought up MANY FEELINGS. To be continued.
I met one of Rael’s friends for the first time. Upon meeting me, she expressed unfiltered enthusiasm and then gave me one of the warmest, tightest, most heartfelt hugs I’ve ever received. Have you ever felt totally adored by someone you don’t know? I mean, seriously. It was so amazing that after a couple pleasantries, I asked her for another hug, and it wasn’t weird.
- offered this gem for when grown kids come home for the holidays: “I try to hold them loosely. I try to have just the right amount of all their favorite things—the gluten-free ravioli and the cherries in syrup and the almond cookies and the bacon—but not so many that the vibe is more tragedy than joy, if you know what I mean.” I DO KNOW WHAT YOU MEAN, CATHERINE, I DO. 😭 Also: her perfect lentil soup recipe.
- shared what it’s like when multiple kids get ready to fly all at once. Also! I’m excited about her oh-so-slow bookclub starting with The Comfort of Crows by Margaret Renkl. I LOVE Margaret Renkl. She wrote the gorgeous Late Migrations and writes wonderful opinion columns for the New York Times.
- updated and posted new versions of Edit Your Life holiday podcasts we recorded together, including episodes about creating simple holiday rituals, reducing guilt around holiday gatherings, and mindful gift giving. Listening to those episodes brought up many memories from our years of podcasting, and about how different life was when we recorded those conversations.
- is running for Congress! If you live in California’s 16th district (Silicon Valley), watch for her on your ballot next year. Julie wrote two books I think everyone should read, How to Raise an Adult and Your Turn: How to Be An Adult.
Do you have a literary crush?
What’s one of your delights?
Happiest of holidays, and I’ll see you here in January (or sooner, in the comments).
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This is Parent of Adults, a conversation about life beyond the empty nest with writer Asha Dornfest and a smart, kind community of subscribers.
Asha is the author of Parent Hacks: 134 Genius Shortcuts for Life with Kids, a gift book inspired by her community blog of 10+ years, and Minimalist Parenting with Christine Koh, which evolved into their co-hosting 250+ episodes of the Edit Your Life podcast.
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The story involved sleeping in a rental car when I was 18, a Moloka’i police officer, and a ten-dollar bill. Maybe I’ll tell you about it someday.
Thank you again for your nudges to follow through on celebrating my birthday. It was less about what I planned and more about what I allowed, which was to graciously receive friends’ celebration of me. Why is that so hard to do?
I use the term boyfriend loosely. Let’s just call it a platonic literary crush. However you might note that the cover of The Book of (More) Delights features two dandelion seeds floating over a coral background, and my newsletter logo is two dandelion seeds floating over a coral background, and Ross and I are obviously meant for each other.