▒ Thread-letter: How I Live Now
The life-changing magic of living together.
It’s a thread-letter day. I would love for this letter to spark sharing and conversation within the community. Leave a comment directly, or respond to another reader’s comment and talk to somebody new.
✦ How do you live now?
✦Do you live with others or alone?
✦ How does your living situation impact your other relationships? Your pursuits and passions?
✦Do you like it, or do you seek change?
I’m absolutely gutted. I write to you on the heels of being more or less born again. Today, I surface after succumbing to a food poisoning so merciless, it compelled me to send an SOS text message to T. hours before sunrise, while I was still being turned inside out.
For the first time ever, I FaceTimed my mother, not sure if she’d even know how to take the call. She answered, and from our respective beds we chatted about her morning walk on the beach, haircare, and the forehead rub she’d give me if she was in California.
Surrendering to illness, however temporary I sense it will be, is nevertheless a difficult way to encounter my vulnerability. Yesterday, without warning, my desire to be witnessed and taken care of increased exponentially. Simultaneously, my plans for the next 24-48 hours — work, hosting community potluck at the ranch, surfing, and painting the studio — became obsolete. Time was rendered irrelevant, and suddenly everything that was in place was neither here nor there.
The last time I fell sick was the seemingly regular initiation ritual that most tourists go through when they spend prolonged time in a different country. I had been living in Mexico for one month when I ate street tacos against my better judgment and was subsequently leveled for the next four days.
At the time, I only knew a few people in town, and none of them well enough to accept their care had I asked for it. But I needed help, and ultimately resorted to awkwardly reaching out to my AirBnB host, whose husband dropped off Electrolit and saltines later that day.
I was lonely in Mexico — even more so as a sick person. I realized the shallow depth of the support network I currently had, a reality I imagine all solo travelers contend with at some point.
Until yesterday, I hadn’t been a sick person at the ranch yet. I didn’t know what I expected in this relatively new iteration of my life, abundant with landmates and a boyfriend.
If I’m in a relationship, I instinctively reach for my partner when I’m in need, even though I’ve spent many a letter questioning this habit. A lot of my conditioning about relationships, especially primary ones, stems from a toxic lineage. Throughout my life, I’ve sought to dismantle my beliefs and to create an understanding of giving and receiving unique to me, based on my actual values and personality.
I want my relationships to take shape differently than the ones I’ve witnessed in my family and the culture at large. I want them to be free to embody a multitude of dynamics and roles, and to serve functions or purposes other than the ones commonly assigned.
Because of this, often, and sometimes with scrutiny, I revisit the needs I expect my partner to meet. I ask myself what inviting radical flexibility into this preset might allow for instead. As a result, I don’t expect the same things from my relationship that I once did with other men.
I suspect this tolerance is partly because of my age and the blessing of experience and perspective that comes with it. Time helps me know myself more. I take better care of me now. I’ve learned, through trial and error, what happens when I don’t. Nowadays, I meet my own needs more exquisitely than I did when I was 23 or 27.
I’ve also learned to take better consideration of the greater context around my individual self. Who exactly are the people I share my relationships with? Who am I most often influencing or influenced by? Where do I notice their wells overflow, and where does it seem like their wells run dry? How can I adapt accordingly so that everybody is set up — not for success, but for harmony?
It’s been a while since I’ve been sick and had a partner at the same time. Admittedly, yesterday I indulged in daydreams provided by my new circumstances. In the hours between sending T. a text message and receiving his reply, I imagined him bombarding me with concern, a phone call as soon as he woke up. I pictured him asking me questions about my condition and offering to bring me something right away. Though I knew it was a stretch, I even thought of him taking off work for the day and coming over to keep me company.
In reality, T. wished me rest and recovery when he heard the news, and then continued on with his life and the day’s work ahead of him. Despite my midnight plea and fantasy, T. did not step into the caregiving role yesterday.
I wanted to be insulted by his laissez-faire attitude. My ego tried to zoom in, to dissect what it wasn’t getting and make meaning from it. I felt myself merging with thoughts that render me a victim and make other people wrong, or uncaring. Didn’t he know how much I needed him?
Luckily, I had little time to entertain this mindset. Once my landmates were onto my malaise, I was whisked away into the ambulance of their care, a vehicle driven by many instead of one or two.
Bri and Marsha coordinated a mid-morning errand to get me Electrolit - not Pedialyte, and not red or blue — and saltines. Farmer confirmed where to even get Electrolit around here. Lucia promised an end-of-day grocery run for last minute requests on her way home from work, and also tracked down my favorite local loaf of bread, the only thing I like to eat after my body purges itself. Later on, Marsha brought a bouquet of flowers to my room while Bri sat bedside with me and made me laugh.
At dinner, Scott called up to my room and offered a bowl of stir-fried vegetables and rice in case I was hungry. “Cooked with high, high heat. Nothing risky,” he teased. I asked him to set it aside. This morning in the fridge, I found a bowl covered in foil with my name written on it. ANNA.
On his way home from work, T. called. He listened to me describe my bloodshot eye and recount how many times I puked. He offered to bring me soup, but I declined. I had everything I needed. I didn’t actually need him. When I wished him a nice evening at the end of our phone call, I felt myself transfer over to him the generosity, love, and grace that had been bestowed onto me throughout the day.
I’m thinking about how I live now, how it means I can afford to give T. a pass on delivering the responsibility of care that usually falls onto a partner in nuclear family units. Because of how I live now, I can afford to release my relationship from being the only thing that fulfills my needs in the ways typically expected of it. Because of how I live now, I can zoom out and see where I am fulfilled, by T., and by all of the other people around me.
Tell me, dear reader, how do you live now? Are you with others or alone? How does your living situation impact your relationships? Your pursuits and passions? Do you like it, or do you seek change?
I finally listened to Sheila Heti read her book, Motherhood. It was a book I paused repeatedly so that I could text friends segments from it, followed by “!!!!!!!!!” and “HOW DOES SHE DO IT” and “I WANT TO WRITE LIKE THIS”. This book is so achingly good that it actually freaks me out.
(Not surprisingly, the book was named the Best Book of the Year by New York magazine, was a New York Times Critics Pick of 2018, and was chosen as a Best Book of the Year by the Times Literary Supplement, The Globe and Mail, The Chicago Tribune, and Bookforum.)
Salted Strawberry Crunch Ice Cream Cake by Lily P. Crumbs. This recipe is on a temporary, somewhat ad-hoc website, so one must click the link and then scroll to the bottom of the page for the recipe. WORTH IT.
The perfect 30-minute at-home workout with hand weights, a great trainer, and no annoying music.
Dr. Sara Gottfried: How to Optimize Female Hormone Health for Vitality & Longevity on the Huberman Lab Podcast. If you haven’t picked up on it, I am becoming a hormone nerd and loving what I’m learning.
This poem I wrote in July: