it wasn't really the greatest week to have a birthday in quarantine

but i dealt with it, because we're all dealing with things

First off, I would just like to apologize. Mainly to myself, but I suppose this could also be to whoever is reading this, because you all are supposed to be holding me accountable. That accountability mandate didn’t really work last week though, did it?

So. I am wholeheartedly sorry for not fulfilling the one basic purpose starting a newsletter, which is to generate new content once a week. But can we also just agree that finding things to write about while in a pandemic is extremely difficult?

I have major respect for anyone who is using this time to write daily quarantine diaries and come up with essays that they’ll eventually publish in The New Yorker or The Atlantic and be optioned into bestselling novels, or write screenplays that’ll win a Best Picture Oscar every four or five years. As for me, I can’t even come up with a topic to write about without dunking on myself for not coming up with a topic to write about!

Here’s a Weekly Section That Will Have a Cool Title Eventually (is Quarantunes too on the nose?)

I listen to a lot of music, so thought it might be cool to have a section where I highlight what albums I’ve been listening to over the past week:

(I’m actually an Apple Music user, but the Spotify links are for all you plebeians who haven’t worshipped our tech overlord yet)

Sonically, these two albums couldn’t be more different from one another, but they’ve arrived at a perfect — somewhat unseemly — moment. I listen to the soft Americana sounds of Waxahatchee when I need to wistfully stare out the window, longing for The Before Times as a single tear slips down my eye. When I need to forget about any sort of fuckery our country is in, the retro-future pop of Dua Lipa does the trick.

This is the Main Story Section (again, cool title TBD)

My birthday was last Saturday, and I found there to be a surprising amount of people asking what my plans were to celebrate. I didn’t expect to have any plans, not even before the quarantine was I thinking about a restaurant I wanted to go to, or what sort of speciality cocktail I wanted to try with friends. In the years past, my birthday has never been a momentous occasion, aside from a party my boyfriend threw together that I’m still immensely grateful for. Just last year, I spent the entire day of my birth finishing my senior year capstone, which was a celebration of some sort, but nothing wild happened.

Yet when I woke up on Saturday I immediately felt the heaviness of the present moment weighing upon me. Even though I hadn’t planned a schedule for the day, there was a realization that all the infinite choices I thought I would have on my birthday had been squashed. There was a chance I might have wanted to stay at home in The Before Times, but now I didn’t have a chance at all. The absence of making a clear decision on what I wanted to do was more of an issue for me than the actual birthday itself.

That morning I woke up with a sore throat and a sinking feeling in my stomach. The sinking feeling was most definitely anxiety, but as I’ve been doing every day, I decided to ignore that it was anxiety and jumped to the worst case scenario. I woke up and proclaimed to my boyfriend the issue of my sore throat. He was not deterred by my un-birthday-like attitude (god bless him) and calmly explained that there was plenty of DayQuil in the cupboard for me to take and feel better. I had been thwarted, yet again, by logic and reason.

Like most people with anxiety, I have a mind that wants to find the horror in every situation, especially the ones that are supposed to be filled with the most joy. The minute I’m thinking, “maybe I do deserve a birthday celebration in quarantine,” the mind is immediately coming up with ways that celebration can be ruined:

  • What if I have the coronavirus

  • People are dying and I’m supposed to be celebrating a birthday?

  • What if I have the coronavirus

  • This DayQuil is making me need to violently shit

  • What if I have the coronavirus

  • I haven’t been outside in forever but I don’t want to take a walk even though I know I should but I don’t want to talk a walk but I really should but I don’t want to take a walk but

  • What if I have the coronavirus

The DayQuil actually did make me need to violently shit. At least my birthday taught me a valuable lesson, which is to never take DayQuil again!

A Quick N(S)on(g) Sequitur

I mentioned Waxahatchee’s St. Cloud at the top of this newsletter. I don’t trust anyone reading this to actually listen through the 45 minute-long albums I’ve recommended, but I strongly encourage you to listen to this one song in particular as I’ve been hearing it nonstop in my head while writing this:

When I say I’ve been “hearing this song nonstop in my head,” I specifically mean these first few lines of the refrain, which open the track:

That's what I wanted
It's not as if we cry a river, call it rain
West Memphis is on fire in the light of day
Give me something, it ain't enough

Katie Crutchfield — the singer/songwriter behind the Waxahatchee moniker — had the idea for the track when she noticed the “sun reflecting off the water” while driving over the Mississippi River towards West Memphis. By using her words, it’s easy to conjure a picture of a beautiful fiery sunset making its way below the waves. Yet something “isn’t enough” for Crutchfield. Even now, I’m still unsure why she is not satisfied with the natural beauty of nature around her. But the feeling surrounding her low growl in that last line is much more recognizable.

As humans, we experience pain that eventually passes away, like rain rather than an ever flowing river, but rainwater never fully disappears into the atmosphere. It evaporates to exist right above us, waiting for the moment to pummel back into our lives again in the form of a small rainstorm or an enormous hurricane.

Back to the Main Event

Once the unpleasant symptoms of the DayQuil wore off, I was starting to piece together some semblance of what a normal birthday might consist of. I video chatted with some college friends, and while I honestly cannot remember what we talked about in our hour-long conversation, there was a small joy in being able to talk about insignificant things, like how our high school lunch systems were set up (most of my friends were shocked when I told them my high school occasionally offered spring rolls on its “Chinese Food Day” — “I wouldn’t trust a spring roll from my high school cafeteria..”).

The biggest hurdle to jump over after that conversation ended was the matter of taking a walk. I hadn’t been outside in days, having felt particularly scarred from a stroll around the neighborhood that my boyfriend and I had taken on Monday. We both wore makeshift masks, which restricted my breathing, which then of course increased the speed of my breathing, which made me moody and irritable for the majority of our slight-less-than-thirty minute walk.

I didn’t want to deal with the consequences I would wring upon myself if I went for another one of these tortuous jaunts. Notice how the fear was less about the act of walking and more about how my mind would beat itself up in the duration of the walk.

After lunch, I pouted to my boyfriend and limply explained my dilemma. I’m now realizing that I tend to pout a lot when I want to garner sympathy or validation that I’m not shooting myself in the foot when I make these ridiculous excuses for not doing things. Never one to be a quitter in the face of my bullish anxiety, he offered a compromise, opening the door to the backyard and suggesting we only step outside for a bit. I sulked a bit — my anxiety isn’t a big fan of compromises — but relented and walked into our backyard, still wearing my pajamas and slippers from the night before.

Give me something, it ain’t enough

The sun hit first. It wasn’t like I hadn’t seen the sun in while, we had windows which afforded us to have lots of natural lighting during the day, but there’s something different seeing daylight with one’s eyes rather than behind a mesh window screen.

West Memphis is on fire in the light of day

It was cold, so I huddled next to my boyfriend for warmth, squeezing his waist as we looked into our yard, and the yards of our neighbors, and the streets beyond those yards. I heard the wind around us and the distant sounds of cars and buses, carrying people with their own anxieties about the day, about the past month and about future months. Today was my birthday.

It’s not as if we cry a river, call it rain

I looked up at the sky and saw the light of the day, clearly shining even behind clouds. I looked down and saw an abandoned treehouse in our backyard that I’m not sure we’ve ever used and probably will never use, given its shoddy construction. I looked up again and saw the face of my boyfriend staring into the distance, with his own feelings and worries and dreams that I may never know about.

Then I thought of my own feelings and worries and dreams all at the same time, and when I say that, I mean I literally was just thinking about the concepts of feelings and worries and dreams, and the congruence of all those abstract thoughts got me teary. I leaned into my boyfriend and as a tear slid down my cheek, I whispered, “This is nice.”

That’s what I wanted

There, I’ve given you a pitch, The New Yorker. I’ll have your agent call my agent because I don’t want to be too forward about this great piece of writing I have just presented you with.

As for the rest of my birthday, things went upwards from that overly dramatic moment, so there isn’t really much to talk about there. Who wants to hear about happy things like having a nice homemade dinner or being surprised by birthday cake or being treated to a gourmet coffee subscription as a gift because your boyfriend heard you say you wanted to try grinding your own fancy coffee after you both watched a Bon Appétit video?

Thanks to the readers of this newsletter for helping me hold myself accountable, but more importantly, a big thank you to myself!

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