Or, A Trio
I'm going to be precious and say this is my most personal entry yet but isn't every one?
Earlier this year, I started talking to someone. And I don't mean a "talking stage" - we were talking about books more than once a week, about other things sometimes. In the way of these things, for some of us at least, I developed a crush. I told them and this was their response
That's what I get for ignoring the "values, not interests" advice I got from a podcast whose archive I return to.
I wasn't gutted, per se. I was just... shall we say... intrigued by
the source of self-regard this display of desire. Old hands know I would usually subsume this in the reading of romance novels with the knowledge that, on some level, what I'm after is the fantastical (sadly, this includes and isn't limited to being treated like a human being. Low bar, I know) more than the steamy scenes (these can get pretty same-y if we're being honest). *Proceeds to recast self as fantasy reader on account of this tangent*
I mined my one wild and precious life for the root of this crush on someone who went to great lengths, in the wake of the revelation, to treat me with a certain remove. I get where they were coming from - it's tough for a lot of us to bounce back from a declaration of unrequited like - so this millennial interrogated themselves.
And what did they find, I hear you ask? Loneliness. One was lonely. Like a lot of people socialised to value the nuclear family and its trappings, the thing I would reach for would be another person and not, say, deeper links to the people in my given and chosen family.
I'm trying to be gentle to myself and those like me.
On to the books that led to me throwing out my grand newsletter draft so that I could tear myself open (is this where I say an L is a Lesson?) —
I went on a little getaway over the weekend, returning on Tuesday (I'm writing this in the car home) and I spent a lot of that time trying not to look at screens, the #1 way to read for the person who can't remember the last time they carried a print book out of their home. I ended up reading 3 graphic books - one on each day I was away, before the mountains and swimming pool grabbed my attention.
The first, Seek You: A Journey Through American Loneliness by Kristen Radtke, was one I'd listened to and I enjoyed it so much I put a hold on the e-book. This book felt like a hug from a stranger who gives good hugs or like a wildly relatable post on social media. One of those ones that finds you just when you need it and envelopes you. The way Radtke writes about loneliness, reaching for other people, the effects of loneliness on mice and men - was intensely familiar. To be so seen by a book is a priceless thing and sometimes to be understood is half the work of addressing what ails one.
Then I read Tidesong by Wendy Xu, recommended by Rumaan Alam on the Today Show. Like the next book I read - The Boy, the Mole, the Fox and the Horse by Charlie Mackesy - it frames friendship as a site of relieving the feelings of rootlessness that so often lead to loneliness for folks. Tidesong is so beautiful and touching I sat at the pool after thinking about it and how my friends have held space for me as I've navigated these unpretty feelings this year.*
*The goal going forward is obtaining, then maintaining, beauty when next these feelings strike, if at all. I wish to be free of them, as you can imagine.
The Boy, the Mole, the Fox and the Horse felt like a book of aphorisms and it's a sign of how deeply I was in my feelings that I was enraptured till the end. There's a story, sure, but it felt more than anything a rah-rah hype book for the things that can make life worth living - kindness, friendship, cake.
This is starting to read like an end of year note or a meditation on the modern condition or something similar. What it is, I hope, is room for me to invite you to think with me about the places loneliness leads one and the form(s) it takes. This in the wake of bell hooks' passing, a monumental loss which I realized I processed by saying "I'm so grateful for all the words she left us" as I spoke to my dear friend Winnie (who recently graduated with an MSc in Occupational Health and Safety!!!) to mean — we are less lonely in our grief for having her words to unite around, to return to, to commune with.
Way past the end of the Pomodoro so here are last week's books. I finished two series by Christina C. Jones - the Love Sisters and the Wright Brothers - and it was such a joy to listen to novellas and books featuring Black love (I love Black romance that features two Black people, followed by interracial romance that doesn’t feature White people) in a week when reading print proved oddly difficult.
I hope you have a great week and a lovely time reading. Talk to you soon!