Newsletter #12: Loneliness, Social Media, Summer, and Daffodils (?)

published8 months ago
5 min read

Everybody hurts, sometimes....so, hold on♫♫♫

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A Ross "hi" to you today,

I've been feeling a "hi" myself lately and but-also-simultaneously glad at the arrival of summer (mmmm, ice-creams), so I thought I'll share my misery-confusion-what-it-is-it-that-I-feel with you. We're really taking this relationship to the next level, huh?

Happy misery-reading!


Poetry

I recently read Watermelon by Lynn Ungar and it is my new favorite summer poem:

"You know
what summer
tastes like—the pink flesh
of a generous earth,
this rounded life
fully ripe, fully flavored.
How could you be ashamed
at the tug of desire?
The world has opened itself to you,
season after season.
What is summer's sweetness
but an invitation to respond?
There is only one way
to eat a watermelon.
Bury your face
in the wetness
of that rosy slab
and bite."

I wrote "Summer Night" last year amidst the pandemic because as much as I detest the summer days sometimes (too hot and too long), I always absolutely adore summer nights:

"I sit at last, free, under the summer night
The air is a dry, crispy, sweet bowl of warm soup
I read a chapter or two; then another and more
I clean my desk, to make space for an empty page
The table is too clean, my spine tight, jammed, stuck
I sit on the floor
With all its uneasy sitting, familiar dust specks,
It is homely
A bird has come outside my window,
unstiffening to constant chaotic movement,
Like me, free at last
A leaf has made landing, heaving a sigh of rustle
I breathe with it, till the sun rises
The morning dew and the nightly air; they carry
a familial bond - made of scrapes of art, of solitude
Again, I arrive, at last, free, under the summer night."

What do you feel about the summer - excited? exhausted? both?


Book

Remember I was feeling blue? So I'll talk about The Bell Jar by Sylvia Plath this week.

I won't kid you - it isn't a pleasant read. It's intense, dark, and powerful. But some books need to be that way to get their point across - they need to make you uncomfortable before your perspective (and heart) changes.

Sylvia Plath published this semi-autobiographical work under a pseudo-name, but she wasn’t there to witness it when the work gained widespread momentum under her real name. Plath had killed herself less than a month after The Bell Jar hit the shelves.

It is the story of Esther’s 20th year, drawing a parallel to Sylvia Plath’s. The reader witnesses insight into depression and mental illness through Esther and her sufferings. It is about the crisis of identity, sexuality, social norms, and a story of survival. Sharing one of my favorite passages from the book when Esther uses figs as a metaphor for all her sister lives - the different results of all the lives she could have:

“I saw my life branching out before me like the green fig tree in the story. From the tip of every branch, like a fat purple fig, a wonderful future beckoned and winked. One fig was a husband and a happy home and children, and another fig was a famous poet and another fig was a brilliant professor, and another fig was Ee Gee, the amazing editor, and another fig was Europe and Africa and South America, and another fig was Constantin and Socrates and Attila and a pack of other lovers with queer names and offbeat professions, and another fig was an Olympic lady crew champion, and beyond and above these figs were many more figs I couldn’t quite make out. I saw myself sitting in the crotch of this fig tree, starving to death, just because I couldn’t make up my mind which of the figs I would choose. I wanted each and every one of them, but choosing one meant losing all the rest, and, as I sat there, unable to decide, the figs began to wrinkle and go black, and, one by one, they plopped to the ground at my feet.”

Talking about feeling lonely and blue, I ranted how social media (and Netflix and Headspace) makes it all the more difficult to embrace the already difficult, rewarding, shitty personhood. Read it here.

"Instead of giving you another ‘hack’ of how you can keep social media at bay, I’ll just say dedicate chunks that are social-media free (or better, screen-free) instead of the other way around. Experience that Victorian age of time going the speed it should, of the world feeling real (and not reel), and of no dopamine machine messing with monkey minds.
The world won’t be different in the two hours you spent away from screens, but your brain would feel like it’s fresh out of the laundry.
Nothing like clean sheets, huh? "

Some Good Things

Talking about how social media can be deceptive, there's a recent video of John Green that I love called "What's Not In The Frame" and it applies to everything - even newsletters (you didn't know that last week's newsletter was written by someone running a 103 fever, did you?):

Here is an essay I love called "Between Loneliness and Solitude" by Donald Hall. It is raw, heartfelt, and insightful:

"Forty-odd years later, I spend my days alone in one of two chairs. From an overstuffed blue chair in my living room I look out the window at the unpainted old barn, golden and empty of its cows and of Riley the horse. I look at a tulip; I look at snow. In the parlor’s mechanical chair, I write these paragraphs and dictate letters. I also watch television news, often without listening, and lie back in the enormous comfort of solitude. People want to come visit, but mostly I refuse them, preserving my continuous silence. Linda comes two nights a week. My two best male friends from New Hampshire, who live in Maine and Manhattan, seldom drop by. A few hours a week, Carole does my laundry and counts my pills and picks up after me. I look forward to her presence and feel relief when she leaves. Now and then, especially at night, solitude loses its soft power and loneliness takes over. I am grateful when solitude returns."

And as usual, it is impossible to not end up on The School of Life when pondering life (or anything, really). Here's The Roots of Loneliness:

"We stop feeling lonely when, at last, someone is there to acknowledge with frankness how perplexing sex remains, how frightening death is, how much envy one feels, how many supposedly small things spark anxiety, how much one sometimes hates oneself, how weepy one can be, how much regret one has, how self-conscious one feels, how complex one’s relationship to one’s parents is, how much misery one harbours, how much unexplored potential one has, how odd one is about different parts of one’s body and how emotionally immature one remains. It’s the capacity to be honest about these potentially embarrassing and little-spoken of sides of human nature that connects us to others and finally brings our isolation to an end."

Not to end the newsletter on a blue note, here is a picture Linda shared of daffodils that brightened up my day:

Photo by: Linda

Question/Prompt For The Week

Please feel free to use the "Reply" button as your personal, anonymous diary. And, if this question reminds you of any artwork, I want to know!


I would love to take this opportunity to interact with you. If you have anything to share, a feedback to pass on, or simply want to say hey, reply to this email and we'll take it from there!

Until next blue-summer day,
Rochi


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