plus the return of Dear Bear
Graham Sutherland, Western Hills, 1938-41
I woke up feeling so behind on this life. I’m in a house upstate with four friends, sitting at the dining table and writing on my laptop. Everyone is sleeping. The patio is covered with a layer of crunchy leaves. Last night when we drove up it was pitch black outside, no city lights and no stars, the cold cutting through my sweater when I stepped outside. I meant to write all week but my mind was too scattered.
When I write I feel so myself. I think this is the life of mine that feels most comfortable, eating chocolate in the morning and typing on the keyboard. It’s the same feeling I got when I was hiking alone in Park City and I would pause for a moment to listen to the rustling of branches, of small animals moving through the undergrowth. Alone in my own mind.
I’m so rarely alone these days—I’m too busy showing up in my other lives. Working or talking to a friend or getting dinner with S. The way I see it, we show up so differently with different people: your work life is different from your romantic life is different from your life with friends. It’s just sometimes those lives converge.
This is all I think about when I’m first getting to know someone. Who are you when you’re with your spouse? Who are you when you’re with your best friend? I like imagining people in different contexts. I like how when you truly know someone you understand who they are in all their lives.
With friends I’m chatty and exuberant, eager to ask them questions. Amiable, usually not disagreeable. Sometimes observant and sometimes distracted. With S, I’m an odd mix of responsible and thoroughly unreasonable. Always in the middle of arranging for something to happen, making a restaurant reservation or rescheduling with a friend or booking a bath for Akko. (And yet I’m totally unable to do things like open a wine bottle or use a swiffer). When I’m alone I’m perpetually on my phone, maniacally toggling between Twitter and Kindle and TikTok and texts. Often reading or writing.
I don’t think any version of myself is truer than another. We’re each of us ecosystems: all my lives are dependent on each other. I would be sad if I were alone all the time, but when I don’t have any time alone I feel suffocated and panicky. Sometimes one life “swallows” all the other lives, and this can be unhealthy—I think this is what happens to people who are workaholics or have their entire identity subsumed by parenthood. I guess the truth is many lives add up to one complete person.
Note: I am bringing the advice column back! Please feel free to ask me questions here.
I was in a series of toxic (on both sides) and codependent relationships all through high school and college (think super anxiously attached). in my last one, i got seriously hurt and have been single for 4 years. i think the pendulum swung all the way the other way and i have massive commitment issues. on the surface it seems like i'm almost avoidant attached, though i know deep down i still feel a ton of anxiety. i've been dating around a ton, half-assing every relationship and generally feeling extremely unfulfilled.