^^ Turning 30 in Prospect Park with these little loves and the handsome man behind the camera. ^^
In mid-March I went to my first socially distanced birthday party just days before New York City went into lockdown. We all met at the park, and sitting in a circle we wondered aloud about the the virus. We ate dessert and laughed and went home, not yet realizing it would be close to two months before we saw each other in person again.
In April, I attended my first Zoom birthday party. It was for my childhood best friend Imali and at the time, crowded amongst the squares of 40 other friends also in self isolation, I still couldn’t fathom this situation extending all the way until my birthday at the end of May. Yes, it was getting worse everyday but the idea of it continuing six weeks from then seemed impossible (*laughs heartily at past self*). Yet a week later, I went from thinking “this will be over soon” to quickly Googling how to make a funfetti birthday cake for one.
Dear Fellow White People,
We have to do better. As individuals, as families, and as a community. It is on all of us to be actively dismantling (hell, blowing them all up!) the systems of oppression, built for our own privilege, that have been killing Black Americans for centuries. When the protests first started in Brooklyn against police brutality and the murders of Breonna Taylor, George Floyd, and countless others, I really struggled knowing where my voice and presence should be. Was it at protests? Was it speaking out online? Was it collecting donations for black-led racial justice organizations? Was it within meetings rooms or talking with family and friends? Was it reading? or petitioning local and national lawmakers, representatives, and police chiefs?
Of course, it’s all of these forms of showing up, but it’s been important to learn how to do so mindfully and with the awareness of empowering, and not, detracting from Black voices in my support of Black lives.
Since moving to New York City in 2015, the number one question I get asked is, “Do you think you’ll move back to California?” Sometimes it’s a bit more pointed with “When are you moving back to California?” but I respect that my grandma is a woman who likes a deadline and to do list as much (if not more) than I do.
I am guilty of asking this question all the time too, curious how others see their time in this city as a stop or the final destination. And during this time of physical distancing, I have been thinking a lot about the idea of home. Can home be two places? Three? Four? Five? When is a place granted the title of home and what does that mean to different people? What does that mean to me?
Last Sunday evening, as per my usual cool kid routine, I sat down to organize my planner for the week. It’s a whole thing — the colored pens come out, lists from the previous weeks make an appearance to be condensed into one space, and by the end I am feeling so full of organized life that I can’t help but scoop the cats up for a dance party.
Typically this is how it goes but last Sunday, with my colored pens and lists at the ready, I realized I didn’t really have anything to fill in my time after work. And then my brain immediately turned into this …
The first show I watched when self-isolation began in March was the Netflix original series
Locke & Key. I had never heard of it before, or knew at the time it was an already popular comic series, but was drawn in by the trailer promising what seemed like Alice in Wonderland meets Pan’s Labyrinth meets Coraline.
The show starts with the Locke family moving from Seattle to a small town in Massachusetts to live in their late-father’s childhood home. The family has just survived a shooting at the hands of an unstable student their father was treating who ambushes their home, killing their father, and attempting to gun down the rest of them as he demands answers around the Locke family house and the keys.
Hoping for a fresh start, the Locke family moves across the country to an incredible family mansion that turns out to also be magical, as the youngest son, Bode, begins discovering magic keys around the house. But not all magic is good and as Bode attempts to find more, he unleashes a dark spirit that has been trapped in the family’s well house and is determined to destroy the world. With supernatural forces at play, the Locke kids — Tyler, Kinsey, and Body — must investigate the mysterious circumstances around their father’s death in order to find the answers and discover nothing is what it seems, including the hero they thought they knew.
It’s an amazing show, but what really stood out to me as a viewer was how Locke & Key digs into the intertwining of grief, PTSD, and trauma — an intertwining that has deeply impacted my own life, but I have rarely seen represented on television.
It would be impossible not to think, even a little, about loneliness right now. It’s a feeling that comes and goes like every other emotion under the sun, catching me off guard as Monday becomes Tuesday becomes the weekend once again. Loneliness is a word I have forever shied away from, but after these past four weeks of self isolating alone, I have a couple new feelings (and of course, thoughts) when it comes to the L word.
It all started over a dinner conversation. One of my best friends mentioned she’d heard of this event called Daybreaker. Originally held in a warehouse in Brooklyn, Daybreaker is a sunrise dance party that travels around the tip of Manhattan on a boat from 6 a.m. to 8 a.m. The goal of the event, which is held across the U.S., is to inspire community and wellness through a giant dance party and for the earliest of early birds, a 5 a.m. yoga sessions to really get the good vibes flowing.
The more she described it, the more I felt the event’s siren song calling to me for no other reason that I needed to understand why this existed. And not only existed, but why hundreds of thousands of people around the country were voluntarily getting up before the sun to dance with a bunch of sweaty strangers before heading off to their 9 to 5pm.
And one year later, with my bathing suit pinned into my skirt, I found myself waiting in line to board this party boat about to break the dawn to the best of my abilities.
Everyday has proven to be a little different as this period of self-isolation stretches on. Some days remain relatively normal as I am still working full-time and the hours of the evening fill up quickly with writing or chatting with loved ones or watching Alta Mar or Locke & Key. But then somedays, like today, are steeped in a heaviness that remains difficult to shake. It’s on days like these, the blue days I call them, that I find books especially important in providing me another world to escape into. Whatever day you’re having, I hope you know you’re not alone in it and that despite how it may feel right now, this will not last forever.
While in my last post I gave recommendations for books that will give you a good laugh and books that would give your heart all the feels, this time around we’re traveling to a different shelf on my bookcase and talking about fantastic fiction and noteworthy memoirs to keep you company during this time of self-isolation.
I had originally planned to write this blog last night, along with filing my taxes, spring cleaning my closets, building a blog business plan, calling 127 people, and baking a pumpkin loaf. Not to spoil anything, but what I actually accomplished was finishing Tenements, Towers and Trash by Julia Wurtz and the Netflix original series Alta Mar — two things that hold zero productivity points on paper but in reality, gave me a much needed respite from the constant intake of pandemic news.
The first day of self-isolation, when we were asked to officially work from home, I found myself hyperaware of my sudden need to lean into productivity and almost guiltily, have something to show for my time at home. “Uncertain about a situation? Make a list about it!” my brain yelled at me while playing a carnival organ. “There is no anxiety to see here behind this curtain! Just focus on these good ole’ fashion, unrealistic to do lists that will eventually bring you anxiety but until then, will distract you from the anxiety already brewing over the pandemic!” My brain is very theatrical in times of crisis. Bless it, it’s like an ever running production of The Cursed Child and Moulin Rouge combined.
Productivity, for better or worse, has always been my coping mechanism through uncertain times, giving me a fake sense of control in times when I really had very little. It should work wonderfully in theory, but then again so should MC Hammer pants. What my productivity coping mechanism almost always fails to take into account is that sometimes what my body actually needs is to slow down, acknowledge the uncertainty, and just be.
Going into week two of self-isolation, as cases of coronavirus ramp up by the thousands in New York City, I’ve been trying to avoid as best I can the social media posts displaying all the things one can accomplish during their time at home. Work out everyday and get a six pack, learn a new hobby, learn a language, clean out your entire house, write a novel — this is your time to make all your dreams come true! At times it has felt like every voice is yelling to be a part of the conversation that we all need to be making the most of our time at home.
And this conversation is driving me absolutely crazy.
^^ When the self-quarantine kicks in hard. ^^
I have always found a special kind of solace within the pages of a book. Whatever my mood or the circumstances of that moment, books have been constant through all the chapters of my life and given me both anchors when I felt adrift in the larger world, as well as expanded my perspective far beyond just my own experience. I try to read every day because for me it’s a form of meditation. Now more than ever, I find myself spending most evenings wading out the uncertainty of the coronavirus from my couch, immersed between the covers of a book with a large mug of tea. In the hope of providing you with the same solace my favorite books have provided me, here is a handful of book recommendations to keep you company during your time of self-isolation.
PS. If you’re looking to order any new books at this time, consider ordering from local bookstores online. Ones I adore that could use reader support now more than ever include Books Are Magic, Greenlight Bookstore, and Community Bookstore.