A long, strange year

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Citrus and light   

This year
I spent a frantic week doing final revisions on the book, then flew directly to Iowa for a family event. I got home and collapsed in a heap. Then I got on a plane again and spoke at an event in Texas, then flew back to Iowa watched people stand around in a school gymnasium, an event that is often conflated with "democracy." I put on lipstick and a velvet jumpsuit and went to a friend's 50th birthday party. I spent an afternoon strolling with a friend who was visiting from London. I held a friend's new baby. I ate my last meal in a restaurant—olive-oil fried eggs with sautéed kale— and afterward I hugged Aminatou without knowing it was an indefinite goodbye.

I downloaded a face-mask pattern. I watched toilet paper sell out everywhere and felt smug about owning a bidet, then felt bad about feeling smug. Everyone else was doing it, so I watched a sad docuseries about a man with a mullet who kept tigers in cages. I stood in my closet and read half the book out loud to myself. I bought a ring light. I desperately wished the girls were here for a beveragino. I waffled about whether it was safe to go out and protest in a pandemic. Someone posted a video of humvees idling at the gas station down the street. The helicopters circled overhead. I had my nose swabbed. I set up subscriptions to buy my household staples from Black-owned businesses. The book came out! But it still didn't feel real, somehow. We talked to strangers about it on zoom, over and over. We found out we made the best-seller list, and I realized I had no idea if any of my own favorite books had ever been best-sellers. I walked the same loop in the park, again and again. I shredded my cuticles. I called and texted strangers in Los Angeles and Michigan and North Carolina and asked if they had a plan to vote. I made dinner. I cleaned up. I made dinner again.

I mailed letters and sent voice memos. I MISS YOU, I wrote. I LOVE YOU, I said. We waved and air-kissed goodbye at the camera. I oven-dried oranges to decorate the tree. I made my family's recipe for ranch-flavored party mix, which yields four gallons, even though I live with one other person.

I wrote this newsletter every single week, and you read it.

I'm grateful.

Some short quotes I saved
Throughout the year as I read, I try to remember to copy and paste the lines that speak to me in the moment. It's not comprehensive, it's not a "best of," but here are a few of the words I saved in 2020.

"A personal refrain of mine lately has been that we are living in a clarifying time. The deceptions—personal, shared, and systemic—our country depends on in order to continue abusing us without accountability are being exposed. And I believe that how each of us responds to these revelations will rightfully set the course for the rest of our lives." -Saeed Jones.

"Pretending that nothing has changed is a way of living with ghosts, or maybe a way of being a ghost oneself." -Helena Fitzgerald.

“I know about sorority, I know about an all-women world. It’s not a utopia. It’s part of my life.” -Celine Sciamma.

"[B]lissful ignorance as a way of avoiding defending the indefensible." -Emily Cochrane.

"It feels impossible in the way only possible tasks can seem, when you know that despite the scale of what you must do, it’s not really beyond the realm of possibility to do it, and so it feels impossible because you know you must. -Brandon Taylor, Real Life.

"Labor, whether of the body or the mind, is more than a way of getting things done. It’s a form of contemplation, a way of seeing the world face-to-face rather than through a glass. Action un-mediates perception, gets us close to the thing itself." -Nicholas Carr.

"I now know that jealousy is fear in a dress." -Jillian Anthony.

"If you look through design history and you see something that looks really radical, that’s what you’re going to be doing now. If you think that’s nice, that’s what you’ve already been doing. If you think it’s tired, that’s what you were doing five years ago. But if you think it’s ugly, that’s what you’re going to be doing in five years." -Paula Scher via Austin Kleon.

"One thing when you’re alone a lot is you fall into the pit of yourself, so I create obstructions as a way to get out of that space, so I can come back refreshed and want to be myself, as opposed to, 'It’s you again.'" -Eileen Myles.

Pie chart
Who did we judge in 2020? People wearing masks as chin straps, people not wearing masks at all, whoever made this rancid hand sanitizer, the framers of the US constitution, the authors of US history textbooks, "election fraud" conspiracy theorists, everyone we follow on instagram at least once, OURSELVES
The Year of Judgment Pie
(Honestly, any of these slices could/should have been 100%.)

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Our collective year
Next week's edition will have be a collectively told story of how we all spent this long, strange year. A whole issue about your experiences of 2020. Here's a little taste, in case you won't be on email next Friday:

Our days were filled with walks and lit with SAD lamps. We sat in bed and scrolled instagram for hours. We brewed our own coffee and whisked matcha lattes. We did the NYT crossword and the spelling bee game. We did ten minutes of Duolingo Spanish and felt a massive sense of achievement. We finally started stretching, and turns out it really does feel good. We also started wearing sunscreen (TikTok convinced us), even though we basically never leave the house. We took our temperature and used a pulse oximeter every morning. We checked out other people's masks and judged them—or made a note to get the one they have. We watered the plants. We gua sha'd while watching TV. We talked to our sisters on the phone for hours. We went to Al Anon. We wore perfume, just for us. We hand-washed our clothes because we were scared of the laundromat. We showered at night, after coming home at the end of the day, cleansing the body and mind. We did nightly yoga on the living room floor, followed by a good cry. We asked our partner what the best part of their day was. We slept fitfully.

Robert E. Blackmon

I endorse
Drive & Listen, which lets you feel like you are in a car driving around a city far away, listening to local radio. A true thrill in these homebound times. (via my pal Myisha Battle)

A grief survey
We all grieved for something or someone this year. My friend Ngaio is working on a project about a specific kind of profound grief—the loss of a loved one—and wants to know about the actions, insights, and prompts that you have found helpful during your non-linear process.

If you have a few minutes to tell her about your grieving experience, click here. The survey doesn't include specific questions about your loss, but is focused what you found helpful in the aftermath. 

The Classifieds

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"I love this newsletter. The only one I subscribe to, it's my digital teddy bear. It arrives at the end of my week and while I'm waiting for a scalding hot bath to run, I curl up and open at least ten more new tabs every time." -Lauren. I never get tired of hearing about how this newsletter fits into your weekly routines.

"The one newsletter I actually open and read all the way through is @annfriedman’s." -Taylor Kim. This was a long one, so if you made it to the end today, I applaud you.

This newsletter is ready to close out a strange calendar year.
Forward it and then put on your out-of-office responder.

Ann Friedman

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PO Box 26932 | Los Angeles, CA 90026
© 2020

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