There’s a…crystal store like two blocks from my new office on South 4th Street, and I’ve stopped by twice to buy sage and then wave it around a friend’s apartment and now my own (I had never, before three weeks ago, done this! Seasons change.). I do not feel cleansed; I’m definitely also doing this wrong and should be put in jail. So the mood of this newsletter, what I want you to envision, is: my bedroom is now smokey (my security deposit…), smells like burning dried shrubbery, and my eyes are kinda burning because I refuse to open a window with my AC on. Hold this image in your mind, thanks.
When I was 14 a lot of bad shit started happening in my family. It was hilarious, the amount of bad shit. If you must learn at some point that the capacity for terrible things is actually limitless, this was the first time I had to learn it. Things were so bad that our brains had nothing to shoot back into the shitty abyss except clichés. “It’s all uphill from here;” “God wouldn’t give us anything we couldn’t handle;” “Everything happens for a reason;” and, my fave, “This is definitely rock bottom.”
One particularly dark day, I got some bad news and threw maybe my last tantrum ever. It was a weekend because both parents were home, and it was around the holidays, because before the tantrum, I’d been setting up little glass figurines around a nativity scene in our living room. During the tantrum I shook the little Jesus figure, which didn’t help my cause. My mom sent me to my room.
A few minutes after I went up there she came in, found me sobbing on the foot of my bed, and hugged my snotty hair against her lap. She said, “This is definitely rock bottom,” and like all the other times my mom said it, I believed her. It wasn’t a choice to believe, but an instinct. Before the series of events that dominated most of high school started unfurling, nothing truly awful had ever happened to me. So when she looked at me, also crying, and promised things wouldn’t get worse, I didn’t just trust her; I trusted that the limit to feeling bad must exist and that I had my palms flat against it.
This is a very [insert my age, but it’s older than 25] thing to say, and I’ll feel a little ugh about it later, for sure, but a new limit I’m testing now is the edge of what I know. This has the opposite effect of reaching out to the wall of Bad and finding only air. It’s comforting, so far. I keep trying to describe the feeling of this to friends, and here is the metaphor that makes the most sense so far: It’s like getting swept up in a wave, flailing your arms and legs around, and waiting to feel the squish of the sand so you at least know where down is. A nice thing about getting slightly older is that the sand is easier to find.
Something about this is also disarming; I’m deeply suspicious of the ease with which I can make certain decisions, how there’s not as much that rips me into shreds and derails my life. I’m sure that shit is coming because I’m young enough to still be, basically, in training wheels. But I think (some) stuff is easier because I’ve been flipping around in waves for a while now. I know what the feeling of the sand is like.
The third, galaxy-brain layer to this blog-letter is that I can’t get the image of Spongebob rolling the dice in Eels and Escalators out of my mind!!!!! I keep picturing his little yellow sponge-hands throwing those goddamn dice, thinking he’s got double escalators (good, to be clear), and then watching them flip, comically, over to eels. *Presses fingertips to temples, rubs little circles* I am searching for a nauseatingly tidy, college essay-ish way to tie this all up, but honestly there’s so much sage in my nostrils and maybe also my brain folds, and so I’ll leave you with that. This is an interpretive newsletter. Fuck it!!!!