Living in an Ever-Changing Now
When "return to normal" means something other than what you'd hoped.
There’s a bright golden haze in the skies overhead thanks to the raging wildfires, the pandemic is spiking again all over the country, and we’re all watching billionaires fling themselves off the planet inside big metal dicks.
And how are you?
We’ll tell you what: we’re confused. This newsletter went through three completely different drafts on three completely different topics because the zeitgeist seems to have shifted under our feet in the time it took us to get our shit together. We originally wanted to talk about how things have changed for us on a personal level after so much time on lockdown. We wanted to mention how amused we were that high summer came and, like clockwork, we turned toward thoughts of pumpkin spice and cozy sweaters, just like we used to in the Before Times, when we constantly planned or looked forward to what was next. It meant that our seasonal clocks were back on schedule after a 15-month long fugue state in which time had no meaning and we measured the passing of the seasons like cavemen, through leaves and shadows. It meant that the holidays might be good again this year instead of the depressingly solitary and low-energy faux celebrations attempts we made last year. It felt like one more thing to indicate that everything was blessedly normal again.
And then, because we are as the universe made us and can’t help but see the flipside of every point of view (or overthink things, if you’re being less charitable), it spurred on a whole musing session about how our time on lockdown generated a skill for living in the now that we never truly had before and don’t want to lose now that it’s not the necessity it once was. We joked with a friend recently that, because we’d experienced our first full-body MRI since the last time we were on a plane, we didn’t find flying quite so hellish because we’d learned the trick of shutting down completely in an unpleasant or claustrophobic situation. A plane’s just an MRI with wings if you can pull inside yourself and hunker down till it’s over. Our time on lockdown had something of a similar effect on us. All those months of social distancing taught us that we could spend that time wallowing in the past and pining for a future that felt depressingly far away or we could learn to take our amusements and stimulation where we could get them, in the moment, and live day to day.
So, we wanted to write about how we were putting aside our pumpkin-spiced view of the future and taking our newly generated skills to task and enjoying the moment we’re in, turning our faces toward the sun and just existing. We wanted to let you know that despite scoffing at the idea for most of the past year and a half, we think we really did come out of that hell-time a little changed, with an appreciation for slowing down and realizing that every moment of your life is you living the life you get; not just the big-ticket events and milestones, but the time spent folding laundry or peeing or day-dreaming too. Before we could even pull those thoughts together, however, the now that we were trying so hard to live in changed on us.
We spent a good chunk of 2020/21 spinning a lot of plates on a lot of poles keeping our little indie media empire alive and kicking during a time of social and economic turmoil. To our utter delight and gratitude, it paid off when we got the chance to go back out into the world to promote our book, 15 months after having our book tour canceled by COVID. We took a few days to enjoy ourselves in Las Vegas after our promo responsibilities ended and then came home to crash. Hard. We were grateful to have all that wonderful Cannes Film Festival red carpet content for our site, of course, but our brand new baby newsletter suffered a bit and for that we apologize (even as we acknowledge that we may have needed those few weeks to recharge). It didn’t help that our time out in the world gifted us with the one thing we missed least during lockdown: a lovely, lingering common cold.
What amazes us right now is how quickly the world seems to have shifted in the time it took that cold to run its course. We happily wandered the casinos, clubs and hotels of the Las Vegas Strip completely maskless, secure in our vaccination status, indulging in a victory lap and return to normalcy after a year inside. Now, just a few weeks later, with states like Nevada recommending a return to indoor masking because of a spike in new cases, hospitalizations and deaths, we feel like we dodged some sort of Delta bullet. It’s eerie how similar it feels to March 2020, when we canceled our book tour and within days, our publicist, who’d spent several days with us, and no less a figure than Andy Cohen, who interviewed us in a tiny little studio at his Sirius radio show, both revealed they’d tested positive for COVID. It’s hard to really assess how concerned vaccinated people should really be about their own safety, but Americans are particularly bad at living in gray areas (let alone making sacrifices on behalf of the community) and we once again find ourselves defending our choices to people who still think our concerns might be overblown. At the same time, we keep encountering stories of people (some in our own lives) who feel that they have good reason not to get vaccinated, even though every single reputable medical authority is urging people to do so. In other words, while we were all “Oh, we’ve evolved so much and grown as people suffering through that now-over difficult period ” in our heads, the world conspired to laugh at our self-absorption and remind us once again that things don’t change as much as we might like them to. The pandemic never went away and normalcy is an illusion. We’re all back to arguing about masks and conspiracies because the hell-times never end. Yeah, we returned to normal, alright. The “normal” of people being ignorant and stubbornly tribal, which seems like the only thing we can count on anymore.
But okay, fine. Let’s try and apply some sort of self-actualized, semi-evolved way of thinking here. We have to think we came out of all of that crap with something worth using. So here’s what: We’re going to mask up again and return to a limited form of social distancing; staying away from crowds and seeing only the people we know are vaccinated. But we’re living our lives without the kind of quarantine restrictions we imposed on ourselves a year ago. We’re also going to try take a more forgiving approach in encouraging the unvaccinated to reconsider. We think yelling at them clearly does no good and there is a subset of unvaccinated people who are less driven by ideology than they are by mistrust or misinformation. Calling those people idiots or assholes isn’t going to budge them. This is starting to become a pandemic of the unvaccinated and there’s a lot of fear and anxiety swirling around as public pressure becomes greater and greater. People don’t become more open to persuasion in that sort of situation. If anything they tend to dig in even further. We’re going to try to live in the now – whatever now that is – in whatever passes for a normal life. And instead of yelling and screaming about ignorance or fear, we’re going to do our best to appeal to people’s better natures, because we still believe such things exist.
Please get vaccinated if you haven’t and consider wearing a mask around people you don’t know, even if you think they’re dumb for not wearing one around you.
In Happier News, Here’s a Cat Picture.
It’s times like these when we walk past Daisy (who, you may remember, we once described as the laziest animal we ever met), and say “You know, you don’t have to love your life that much, girl. You’re making it look bad for the rest of us.”
Helpful Tips for the Harried Homemaker
Since we once promised that there would be recipes (just as we both went on a “We’re going to be in Fire Island this summer” diet), you should know that because of our recent birthdays, Tom highly recommends this cherry pound cake from Martha (and suggests that you add chocolate chips) and also recommends this lemon cake, also from Martha (and suggests that a simple vanilla buttercream is perfectly fine with it and that you should add a tablespoon or two of vegetable oil to the cake batter because Martha’s butter-based cakes tend to be dry). Also: these are the best cinnamon buns Tom ever made – and he’s made a lot. There. That oughta keep you housewives busy.
Photo by John Baker, Tom & Lorenzo