Cishet Kismet

Time to fine-tune your exit strategy.

When pondering whether or not to stay with your actual spouse until you’re dead (as you promised you would a long-ass time ago, remember?) the first thing you need to consider is cash flow. How many rock-hard, throbbing rolls of currency can you squeeze into your greedy fists as you hit escape velocity? If the answer includes some complicated discussion of revolving credit, current HELOC rates, and the tax hit you’d take if you withdrew a large chunk of your 401k, you’ll probably need to get your brand new lover out of your car and back into your dreams in a nice clean act of Billy Ocean reverse-osmosis. 

You’re also going to want to run through some of the codependent task assignations you’ve made as a couple over the past decade or so. Because most high-functioning egalitarian marriages turn both parties into finely tuned specialists who cannot survive on their own. One spouse can bake an elaborate lasagna but doesn’t have the subtle wrist action to shove an antibiotic down the older dog’s throat. The other spouse knows how to order and install the filters on all of the HVAC vents but can’t hold more than three grocery items in his feeble brain at one time. One can spackle and paint an entire room with the dexterity and finesse of a professional contractor but doesn’t like to put on pants or leave the house more than a few times a month. The other strikes up jovial conversation with the man from the gas company but is not sure how to pay an actual gas bill -- or how much the habitat around him costs, for that matter. (“How much can cable possibly cost?” he’ll ask you in mixed company, and everyone will titter like he’s just doing his best Lucile Bluth imitation and didn’t lose his monetary management privileges a solid decade ago.) Ask yourself: Can you two mutants manage to stay alive without each other for more than a few hours?

This is about the time that you’ll start to notice the deep, deep (dick-deep!) differences between wealthy urban liberal professionals and their less-wealthy suburban moderate counterparts. Hip, rich city types like to pretend at total loyalty and duty to their spouses in public. How else would they get away with all those cool cocktail parties and steamy hot mixers cleverly disguised as children’s parties with tumblers of bourbon where the piñatas and jumpy castles should go? These people will treat you like some varietal of dirty harlot if you dare to, say, make direct eye contact with one of their spouses. Meanwhile, their lives are so heavily staffed and serviced that the faintest whiff of dissatisfaction sends them into an existential spiral, one that seems easily remedied by a single late-night call to the version of Merry Maids that comes with a blow job. (That’s offensive because the life of a cishet married human is inherently offensive at some deep, deep [deep-dickingly deep!] level. You can’t get the filth out. Trust me, I’ve tried.)

You’ve probably also observed by now that these rich urban motherfuckers actually have the cold, hard cash to fly off to Bali with their lovers, or to ditch their spouses for the burlesque dancer they met on a recent business trip to Morocco. You (a mere non-loaded mortal) drag out one pathetically unprovocative story about making out with a girl once, and all of these supposedly sophisticated elites react like you’re there to dig your toes into somebody’s ball sack under the table until he leaves his wife and his secret Merry Maid mistress for you. (That’s offensive because these things actually happen, ask Arnold Schwarzenegger.)

Meanwhile, all of these soft-pawed twats are about to start swapping spouses -- splitting up households and creating new blended versions and then splitting those up and starting all over again until every single progressively-educated 5-language-speaking uber-child in the next room has 6 stepparents and 14 half-siblings and 23 maids named Harriet like some exponentially expanding sci-fi-horror parody of “The Brady Bunch.” They should all just buy a big midcentury modern compound together so they can fuck each other at random each night as wine-and-crudité hour draws to a close.

But out in the suburbs, people are legit swinging – or at least giving it a solid try. If you have a husband as hot as mine you know these things, because hot wives are everywhere but hot husbands are as rare as pink diamonds. Suburban types know they don’t have the cash or the staff support to actually leave their spouses, plus they don’t watch movies like “Marriage Story” (I haven’t seen it, just a guess) and they don’t read books about how conventional marriage is just another tool that the high-capitalist fascist overlords use to manipulate you into handing over all of your data and cash while they fuck your life in the face for free.

“Wow. I want to have sex with all of your wives.” This is what a relatively dweeby, non-douche-bro suburban husband was overheard exclaiming to a kitchen full of husbands at a holiday party in the suburbs recently. Instead of marveling over what a dick the guy was, the wives used their rich imaginations to collaboratively form a vivid mind-image of what fucking the guy as a herd might look like. 

In the suburbs, many of the women stay home and vacuum while their husbands go to work in the big city as IT guys. Some of these suburban husbands even have manly jobs, like they’re homicide detectives (ungh, yeah) or they’re restaurant-equipment salesmen who do a lot of macho glad-handing and also machinery repair (using their gigantic manly hands!) in their three-state service region. Something about this hardy population of early-bloomer males with good enough frames to play football in their youths seems to inspire the wife population to do things like amass huge volumes of cheap but increasingly daring lingerie and chat openly about searching for pole-dancing classes that still offer a solid ab workout. These women say things like “Holy shit, your ass looks amazing in those jeans! Dave! Check out Molly’s ass right now!” I’m sure that sounds completely fucking rancid to you city folk but dude, my ass does look amazing and at some point, you stop fighting the tide and you just NOM NOM NOM eat that shit up like you like it. Because you do like it, motherfucker.

Sure, when I first landed in the suburbs, I used to cringe at the pole dancing discussions. I used to roll my eyes at the lady who wore a thong and yoga pants to school pick-up, so that everywhere you looked all you saw were two perfectly articulated ass cheeks in your face. But now? I am that lady. When you work out as much as I do, why wouldn’t you want people to see your naked body everywhere you go? No one has less fucks left to give in this world than a second-rate suburban Karen like myself. There just isn’t a hell of a lot to do up here, outside of shopping for cheap dish soap at the local Big Lots. You have to amuse yourself inside the wretched confines of your filthy dirty depraved disgusting mind. 

But do these suburban humans actually divorce each other frequently? Seemingly not. Seemingly they go to strip clubs and swinger bars and come home empty-handed, armed with stories of nasty innuendo and very little actual fucking. Seemingly they remain a solid team of two while admiring various juicy ass offerings in their midsts. Seemingly they flirt rabidly and openly yet continue to fuck each other with gusto behind the scenes.

Personally, my tastes run somewhere in between the city and the suburbs. I like the idea of aggressively flirting while remaining loyal to my perfectly serviceable husband forever and ever, but I also very much relish the notion of ditching my dumb boring smelly old husband for my personal trainer and absconding to some delightful Mediterranean country with half of our cash, all of our children, and zero of our badly trained pets. My husband is an extremely handsome white man with an advanced degree whose dick still works. He will do just fine without me. Hell, he’ll be way better off without a vainglorious whore like myself dragging along behind him like some cross between a blow-up sex doll and a Speak-n-Spell that never shuts the fuck up no matter what you say or do. I’m not worried about him one bit. He probably has his next five wives lined up inside his imagination already. He’s probably been fucking them inside the rich corridors of his mind like Jimmy Carter for years now.

More power to him. Everyone laughed openly at Jimmy when he said that shit about cheating inside his head years ago, but he stuck it out with Rosalyn and you just know he’s still giving her the good Southern loving she deserves with clock-like regularity. (Hot tip: If you can imagine it, that means it’s actually happening.)

But we all have to be like Jimmy now. We all have to retreat into our imaginations as the world turns darker and every movement and sound we make is captured and digitized and stored by the exact same high-capitalist fascist overlords that are fucking our lives in the face as we speak. Forget sexting and dirty trysts — no one gets to screw around on the DL anymore. There is no DL. You can barely write an email with the faintest insinuation of impurity to an innocent non-colleague friendy (cute platonic-ish friend-ish) these days without landing yourself in some Easily Blackmail-able and Revenge-Porned database somewhere. You can fuck your life in the face by ditching your spouse entirely on a random whim or fuck your life in the face by staying with your spouse until his ass falls out, there are no other options. 

You knew this tale of sexy fun had to turn dark eventually, didn’t you? That’s how Molly does it, bitches. Settle in and get used to it, because it might just last forever. 

It must be Sex Week, because Polly just unpacked some adorably romantic adjectives about picking up some hot slices of ass to go. And yes, I agree, this is the best newsletter in the known universe, tell all of your boring friends about it already. They could use a little wild and dipshitty fun in their lives — trust me, I’ve read Polly’s letters, I know.

Ground to cloud

No countdown necessary.

You’ve spent your whole life tying your key to a kite string and waiting for a storm. Think of all the time you’ve wasted. This bolt moves upward. I’ve been storing up this electricity for days. It’s easy, I tell you, but your eyes are still blank, heavy with the unimaginative glaze of eternal postponement.

But forget the clouds for a minute. I can build us a ship that will take us far out to sea, where we can set it on fire and then try hard not to drown. Let’s do it! I can see now that caution is what will kill us all, not risk. Caution is what they prescribe when they see their own high stakes reflected in your eyes, when they can smell their own deaths on your skin. Caution is what they urge when you have the audacity to call yourself an artist – the most incautious word – and then build castles out of cold, empty air. Their caution tells them to cut down more trees so their castle will be bigger and better than yours. Their caution makes their tired eyes encounter your flying buttresses as saggy and indiscreet. Their caution stands alone under stone archways five stories high and announces, “You are only hurting yourself.”

Caution sits on its hands when it should be speaking in tongues.

Look me in the eyes and feel a haiku forming in your mouth in spite of your best efforts to stop it. Press your sonnet into my skin with the palms of your hands. Watch your favorite pat phrase melt into prose around your ankles. Listen as your leaden mission statement falls to the floor with a dull thud, then graze my lips with wild adjectives you didn’t think you knew.

Feel your body rising up against the weight of your caution. Now you understand inside your arteries how little you have left to lose. Now you feel in your temples how much you are already losing, how much you destroy with your polite words and careful steps. It’s amazing, really, how long you’ve built with such crude materials. Can you taste the pity on my tongue?

This hour is calling you to make a fucking effort.

Because cautious sailors are not allowed to board my ship. I check their papers and if they aren’t written in iambic pentameter, all dreams of distant shores are extinguished in a single breath. These seas are too violent for your blood, I tell them. You want firm ground under your feet. I can see that clearly now.

I don’t blame them at all. Sometimes it’s better to sail alone anyway. As I look back at the shore, I feel compassion for their empty hearts, taking the long walk home. Soon the smoke from their fireplaces will rise helplessly into the night air, an omen of their cautious plans to burn down the world.



Take and eat.

I’ve spent my whole life asking the same question: Where do I put this?

The Hallucinogenic Toreador by Salvador Dali

Where do I put this feeling? Where do I put this messy tower of words? Where do I put these images flooding my brain? Where do I put this song, lodged in my head when I wake up, determined to haunt me until I go back to sleep again?

Where do I put this feeling that the world we inhabit is just a drab shadow of something better, a gray, cold planet spinning in sync with some colorful, brilliant planet just one or two light years away? Why can’t people speak in movie dialogue or song lyrics, their words a manifestation of the intensity I feel inside my bones? Why am I trudging through this flaccid world, mumbling along with these busy and distracted zombies, when inside my head lives Days of Heaven and Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind? Why does the sublime taste like madness when it’s coated in a thick layer of shame, inherited from my parents in the form of punitive responses to raw need, inherited from their parents in a half-empty bottle of cheap vodka, inherited from their parents in the form of stoicism and a sex life like a rape kit, every sweet touch a form of ownership, every less-sweet touch a mix of violence and erasure. Wheeeeeee!

Let’s keep tracing our steps backwards. We are only a few paces away from starving peasants now, scrabbling for tubers in the mud, or frightened apes, hiding in dank caves. Mozart could eat cake, at least. Virginia Woolf found a few years of peace, maybe. Emily Dickinson had her slant of light. Every now and then there are a few brief flashes of divinity on a planet crowded with crude creatures, sweeping dirt floors and socking each other in the teeth, in spite of the iridescent infinity living inside their chromosomes.

I guess it makes simple sense that every word from our fearless leaders now feels like a grope in the dark, a hip thrust aimed at violence and erasure. But erasure isn’t what it used to be. Being rapey doesn’t feel quite rapey enough anymore. Mother Earth is the last available woman to violate and get a real charge out of it. Hers are the only eyes still registering surprise. You would really do this?, her eyes ask. You know it will destroy you, right? But you want to go for it anyway, just for a second of feeling like the biggest boss, the greatest ever, the most supreme chalupa of all? That’s how flaccid and enraged you feel the rest of the time?

I guess that at least explains your resting flaccid-and-enraged bitch face.

Where do I put this feeling? It expands in every direction now. The shame under my skin is echoed in the aggressive patter of news talk shows. The dread in your cells twinkles in sync with the sparkling particulate in the air. We can only nurture hope in the farthest reaches of our bodies’ galaxies now. Our nerve endings are emblazoned with the knowledge that we’ll keep burning the oily bones of our ancestors until we are all dust. These monsters know that each less-sweet thrust is a form of erasure. That’s why it turns them on so much. Our world will die the way a snuff film ends.

Where do I put this? What if I smear it all over the fucking place? What if I wipe it all over my naked body and post it on Instagram, next to some brand of lip-plumping gloss that I couldn’t recommend more full-throatedly, my voice echoing the sweet melancholy lilt of a dying songbird? The predatory whore builds a nest, then widens her territory. Only she and her sister whores recognize that every good whore is a predator. You might not fear her, but… you really should.

Because I don’t care if you think I’m being grandiose. I don’t care if you think I’m showing off. I don’t care if you think I’m gloating over my embarrassment of riches in the sloppiest, most whoring fashion imaginable. Sloppiness is necessity as the clocks drip off the wall. I will gloat, motherfucker. My milkshake brings all the boys to the yard, but I drink my milkshake. I drink it up.

Ask me the eternal question: You mad? I am neither crazy nor angry. Even as you covet me or smear me or shame me back into some dark cave, I feel nothing but mercy for you. I won’t fight you. That job belongs to someone else now. I can eat you alive, sure, that’s easy. But I’ve always found your fisticuffs hopelessly unimaginative and monotonous. (OH, hi Jon Favreau. Gosh, don’t you miss bringing a piece of your liver to the table? When’s that dull guy going to take his helmet off? You think Baby Yoda can carry this giant shit sack to the bitter end?)

Fuck fighting. I’m better at showering you with love. I was always more full of love than anything else. And I know you’ve been nibbling on the same sad scraps that I have. I can see how erasure sometimes feels like the sharpest weapon you have left. I want to wrap you up inside my enormous shaggy Hagrid sweater until you can finally relax, until your eyes go from grey to bright amber, the glorious glinting gold eyes of our ape ancestors. You and me, we are not that different. I know you need my love. Or… maybe I’ll eat your head first. No that’s not a metaphor, I mean literally ingest your entire meaty head. Please try not to underestimate me again. Oh well, too late.

Being digested might feel a little bit like being loved, though, if you focus really hard.

Where do I put this feeling? I will eat it. I will relish every bite slowly. I finally realize that this feast was fit for a king, and I am the king.

I used to think this feeling was pointing me toward love – or maybe this feeling was love. I used to think it was melancholy, the curse of humankind. I used to think this feeling was madness: the manifestation of being way too much for anyone to take. I used to think it was a by-product of being oversensitive or broken. I thought I had an affliction. I thought I was doomed. I thought acceptance or money or fame or devotion or sex or beauty would heal this feeling. I thought I could climb on top of my mountain of shame and shine like the sun and be adored and it would feel like destiny.

But now I know better. The only word I have for this feeling is hunger. This feeling is desire. This feeling is the realization that longing is a way of touching the sublime.

This feeling never needs to end. Hunger is eternal. This feeling is a year-long orgasm. This feeling is a decade of bliss. Maybe two decades of bliss. It’s hard to count the years forward, into the future. It hurts a little, to inch closer to our premature demise.

But I know now that this feeling belongs to me. I can finally taste the truth. I am on the colorful, brilliant planet now. I will try to send postcards occasionally, but I’m pretty busy. While you’re waiting for my next dispatch, please know in your heart that I wish you all of the love in the world. It’s inside you, actually. You just have to dig for it. Keep going until you find that iridescent infinity living inside your chromosomes. Trust that you will reach it. I don’t know how much time we have left, so if I were you, I would start digging right now.

This week’s Ask Polly is about feeling like a defective human being. I love love love this Buzzfeed essay by Katherine Miller on our broken sense of time and this essay by the delightful Adam Sternbergh about watching “Frozen” fifteen million times. Sarah Miller is one of my favorite writers of all time, and this morning the NY Times published her essay on the ungodly plague of Karens buzzing around us, wheeee! This week I became a Buzzfeed News member because they employ a ton of great writers and reporters pursuing unconventional work and I want to keep them in business. Join me!


Your crush is crushing you.

This post is for the person who has written to me 16 times in the past three months. I understand narrowing down your whole life to a single point of light. I get it and I do it. It’s a sign that you’re an artist living inside the body of a pedestrian. It’s a sign that you are a poet pretending to be a civilian. It’s a sign that your life is gray and sullen, but inside you lives a clean, pure being made of radiant colors. In order to thrive, you have to expand that single obsessive pinpoint of light until it’s as wide as the sun.

The pinpoint demeans you. You put on a collar and a leash every morning. You tell yourself that this is all you deserve. I would publish your letters here but the last thing I want is to diminish you further. Because I am exactly the same as you. I want connection, but I also have a bad habit of fixating on the exact people who can barely see me at all, who don’t understand and don’t want to, who are built to reject me. A person can resist the temptation to do this to themselves for decades and then start it up again, like a former drinker falling off the wagon. This is why people in recovery keep calling themselves alcoholics forever. They understand their own essential nature. They understand what a danger they are to themselves and others, simply because their imaginations are wider than the sun, and can be narrowed down to a single, blazing laser that can cut through steel.

Here’s how obsession works: When something bright and shiny and new is introduced into your environment, it kicks up positive sensations. You feel more alive. You feel seen. You remember what you’re made of. You reconnect with your animal self. You realize that you don’t just have a few needs, you are a flaming ball of desires. There is a void that needs to be filled. Notice how it sounds like I’m talking about a drunk taking a drink again, or a sex addict flirting with a stranger. That first move toward the light is full of promise. How could this be dangerous?

And for a while, you can swim through that feeling and create a different kind of a life from it. It’s an escapist indulgence, sure, but your feet are still glued to the ground. “This is helping,” you tell yourself. “I like this. I forgot about this.” Maybe you get out of the house a little more. Maybe you imagine that you deserve a bigger life than the one you have. I’m not just talking about you, remember, I’m talking about everyone with a rich imagination and a naturally obsessive mind and nowhere to put all of that generative brain activity.

But once you keep going back to the same place, over and over, and that place isn’t really a person so much as the idea of a person, and your thinking about that person shifts slowly into magical thinking, in which their recognition and acceptance and admiration is the only thing worth fighting for, that’s when your “fun” turns into a weight on your back. Instead of bringing you more life, it makes you feel less and less alive. You realize that you’re living inside a fantasy. You’re ashamed. You feel delusional and gross.

And even if you use all of this industry and focus to make things – write music, craft poems, create art, build something – you might end up feeding the obsession along the way without knowing it. It’s easy to make a person into something bigger, and to imagine that you know that person very well already. Even when you don’t know quite enough, your imagination will fill in the gaps. But if your imagination does this long enough, it chips away at your own humanity. Everything starts to feel hollow and empty.  It’s almost like you’re sculpting a replica of God using chunks of your own flesh. You’ve projected everything good that’s inside of you, all of your radiant colors, onto someone else. You’ve imbued a stranger with all of your interior riches. You have made yourself into a husk.

I have done this many times over the course of my life. I will probably do it again? I like to fixate on whatever I don’t have – places, people, things. Ultimately, I think I use it as a slow, arduous path that leads toward noticing what I do have. Eventually, I notice that my fixation is causing me pain, and taking me out of my body, and squatting on my life. That’s when my work is to sharpen my focus on my immediate environment instead. I dial into the people around me. I deepen my appreciation of what’s here. (The more energy I funneled into the obsession, the more difficult the transition from fantasy to reality can be.)

Fantasy and reality can seem like opposing forces. But creating an imaginary world for yourself engages all of the same skills you’ll need to heighten your appreciation of reality. The key is to take that pinpoint of focus and widen it. Stop training your telescope on a distant planet that you can barely see, and focus on the grim, empty world you inhabit until it becomes illuminated and full. This smear on the window is one of the rings of Saturn. Stay present and feel the dust in the air. There is a shift in the atmosphere. You are the author. You are the distant star. You are the object of your own obsession.

The circumstances of your life right now are as beautiful as you imagine mine to be, and mine are as beautiful as the circumstances I imagine belonging to my obsession. Celebrating your hunger doesn’t mean dancing about the next day’s hunt in the moonlight. It means living with your hunger in this moment, until you reach the point where you can feel it in your bones: Nothing is missing from this picture. The hunger itself is worth celebrating.

I stopped reading most of your letters a long time ago, just as you would stop reading someone else’s letters if they just kept coming and they started to seem a little unsteady. You believe in your heart that you’d read such letters, but no, you wouldn’t, because you’re healthier than that, even at this low moment in your life. No one wants other people imagining them unless the obsession is mutual. I don’t want to feel like what I create is making strangers feel lonely and crazy. I did read your last letter, in which you refer to yourself as “emotionally homeless” and ask me to spare a small bit of my frontal lobe for you. My in box is crowded with the emotionally homeless already. There are tents erected there. Some have made it clear they will never leave. I have a lot of compassion for all of them, but I still ignore most of them. I do my best sometimes, and sometimes I don’t do shit. There are these phases where it feels like everyone needs a piece of me. This makes me blame myself for getting too intimate on the page, for showing too much of who I am.

But let’s not get all prudish and self-abnegating about this, just when we’re starting to have fun, goddamn it. I’ve gained too much from this new ASS OUT path and I don’t want to abandon it yet. All of my writing feels alive to me at the moment, and for a writer, there’s nothing better than that. Sure, it’s messy and reckless and not perfect. This state is not about perfection. I wrote a song the other day with the line “I’m expanding like the sun.” That’s how it fucking feels to be in touch with your appetites again. It can feel delusional. You might suspect you have some sort of personality or mood disorder.

It’s the world that’s broken. It doesn’t make room for art or artists. It wants our shame instead.

I want you to move from a life of shame to a life of art. I should not be writing these words to you at all, but I’m doing this because I want you to understand that I see the humanity in you. I know you’ll feel embarrassed and believe that I view you as a creeper. Dude, I am the creepiest creeper. I regularly feel connections with people whose reaction is, “Please go away.” I still reach out to new people often because I am a weird lonely child with an open heart, just like you are. We are just human beings. The thing about obsessions is they’re built out of the fabric of your own mind. But now I want you to see that you have trussed up a raw chicken in the finest most elaborate garments, worthy of a king. If you met me in person, what you would think is this: “Her lips are very chapped.”

The idea of a person, even when it’s turned over again and again in your mind, can never live up to the heaven that lives inside of you. But when you take that heavenly, high-powered lens of yours and you train it on your immediate habitat, you will suddenly see that what you have is sublime. You will walk out into the world and you will view all of the sullen, muddy features around you through the sharpening glare of your own imagination and intellect, and you will see other human beings with chapped lips. They are everywhere and they have heaven inside of them, too.

I want you to stop writing to me because it’s starting to bum me out. I would just block you but I don’t want to send you the message that you’re beneath contempt, because you are exactly like me and everyone else alive. We are all needy motherfuckers out here in the world. I won’t read your letters because I am a very busy human with multiple different demanding creative projects who doesn’t know you from a fire hydrant bolted into the sidewalk. That doesn’t mean that’s all you are. My eyes don’t consecrate you. Your own eyes do. Celebrate them instead. Celebrate the sad, dumb humans in your midst, until you can see their radiant colors.

I will not respond to anything you write again, and if you write or comment regularly I’ll unsubscribe you and block you, because you’ve demonstrated that this activity is no longer feeding you — it’s fucking with you instead. That said, I respect your intelligence and I also respect your drive to make something from your current state of misery, so I want to leave you with some concrete advice: You need to exercise every single day until you sweat. This alone will save you. If you’re already doing that, do more of it. Take notes on your current circumstances. This stage of your life won’t last forever. Grow something out of this horrific, thankless shit pile. Forge connections with other people’s work. Read more newsletters, starting with The Chatner Shatner and The Stage Mirror. We’re living in a golden age of startling, intimate, melancholy writing by stubbornly unique authors who have no allegiance to dusty outdated standards around what makes certain words on a page more worthwhile than others. Read Priestdaddy by Patricia Lockwood. Read What Doesn’t Kill You Makes You Blacker by Damon Young. Read We’re Doomed, Now What? by Roy Scranton. Read Heavy by Kiese Laymon. Take a walk and listen to Mozart’s 41 symphonies in order from 1 to 41. Listen to what an obsessive, lonely mind can create, how it evolves, what it eventually becomes. The last movement of #41, Jupiter, is where you are headed. Listen to that one over and over. Maybe you are already here.

Learn to play an instrument. Patient mastery is a balm. Start a book club and invite some fire hydrants around you to frustrate you with their bad book suggestions. Look for the divine in their weak taste. Notice their quirks. Elevate their stubborn verbal tics. Volunteer somewhere. You’re a giver. Reach out. All of these misshapen lumps bolted into the sidewalk are smarter than they look. They need love, too.

Look for the blessings in everything. Listen to Chance The Rapper’s “Coloring Book.” It will get you in the mood. You don’t have to see this mood as Christian. Jesus need not be involved if you’re allergic to Jesus. Commit to finding meaning. Commit to belief and faith. Suspend your disbelief the same way you do when you’re feeling obsessed. Use your magical thinking as a pragmatic means to an end, to build a more robust existence for yourself, to cultivate more compassion for yourself and others, to create mad art from your unmet appetites.

Writing this to you was a blessing for me. I have also been a little obsessed lately, and in the past few days I’ve had to dig for the reasons for my obsession. I’ve had to talk about it, even though that part was fucking embarrassing. I think my obsession was really about seizing power the way some men do, effortlessly, from the day they’re born. But it kept looking like something more concrete, something I could reach out and grab. This turned it into a weight on my shoulders. I had to ask myself: What am I chasing and why do I love the chase so much? Can I feel this sharp and alive without this fixation fueling it? Can I make myself open to the world instead of one single person? Can I turn away from my imagination long enough to look straight into the eyes of the people I already love? Can I look straight into my own eyes and see heaven there?

We all crave affirmation. We all want to be seen and heard and loved deeply. Sometimes we only want to be seen by the people who refuse to see us. When that happens, we have to recognize it, and then ask “Who already sees me clearly?” It’s still hard to shift focus emotionally, even when we recognize what we’re doing intellectually. This work is as hard for me as it is for you. This work is hard for every single person alive. We all have to do our best, every day, to work very hard at something, to dig our nails into something that might keep us from slipping off the edge of the earth.

Circumstances change constantly. Even when your life is full, you never know when this world will kick you to the dirt and leave you all alone. It’s up to you to see that no one else can make you feel more alive. And even when you imagine that the right person’s approval could render you glorious and vibrant and divine, your imagination isn’t tripping when it comes to you. Your imagination sees you clearly. You are already glorious and vibrant and divine. You are an artist pretending to be a pedestrian. You are a poet disguised as a civilian. You are the sun. Feel yourself. That is your job. Do your job.

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