we're not meant to heal
but we have to, anyway
Channeling is a semi-regular dispatch from Jenna Wortham about creativity, life, everyday mysticism, and coping mechanisms.
Feel free to share excerpts of Channeling on social media or send it to someone who you think might enjoy it. As always, thank you for your time, energy, and presence.
I’ve been on my sabbatical for about five months now. The first two months I tried to recover from burnout. I went to a lot of dinners, saw a lot of art and music, had my chart read, and stayed up late talking on rooftops. I swam at the Rockaways as much as I could. It wasn’t so much resting. It was gleefully experiencing the city like I was in my twenties again: No rules, curfew, or deadlines. It was exhilarating. When I left the city about three months ago, I finally rested — I slept nine to ten hours a night for about a week. Then I started the long process of trying to figure out how to write a book. I suspected I might sit down at a desk and discover there was nothing left, like maybe the last two years had wrung every good thought out of my mind. I worried that there wouldn’t be anything worth putting on paper for anyone to read. But I actually love the process of figuring it all out. I love getting zooted up on caffeine and spending time with my own mind — following it down every rabbit hole. It’s such a miracle that I even get to do this, especially after a decade of being a reporter chasing down stories that weren’t often my own. I’ve had to get better at not worrying too much if other people will find my ideas as interesting as I do (regular check-ins with Wesley, author friends, and my book group chats are a huge, huge help). And as much as I love it, it’s not easy work. My project requires deep excavation and sometimes it’s really fucking hard to reckon with a culture that doesn’t want us to be embodied, or whole, and has a lot invested in us never getting there. Some days I go really, really slow. I have to eat a piece of fresh fruit to remember I am okay. I put my feet in water, I touch a plant.
Last week, I talked to Dr. Bessel van der Kolk, who wrote the omnipotent The Body Keeps the Score. I’ll save most of our convo for the book, but there’s one thing that I can't stop thinking about. Dr. van der Kolk told me that our culture of denial is keeping us from being able to process, to heal, to move forward from our collective trauma. I’ve heard Prentis talk about this a bit, but I don’t think I was able to make the connection between the way a real lack of acknowledgement for all that we are going through, have gone through, and will go through, is keeping us suspended in a state of compounding grief. We live amid these overlapping, concentric crises of climate, overwhelming inequities, social justice failures, systemic failures, the eradication of basic human rights, housing exclusion, pandemics, and epidemics. How does anyone recover from that? Even when we “win” (like with a guilty verdict), we still lose. It sounds bleak, but the validation of our culture’s inability to reckon with how much damage it inflicts on us felt really helpful. I felt relief, and made a little less crazy in that moment. We’re not meant to make sense of it. We’re not meant to be sane. We’re not meant to heal from it, to find peace, or closure. There will always be something else, another indignity, another horror. And yet here we are, figuring it out, doing what we always do — finding a path through, in spite of everything that is in our way.
the pegao, the tahdig, the cracklings, the crispy bits:
Flowstate.fm, playlists for deep focus
Okra fried rice (I add mushrooms & tomatoes to mine; perfect wfh lunch vibe)
Oprah x Gary Zukav on dealing with powerlessness
Super new moon + a total solar eclipse in Sag — the last one until 2023 (!)
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