Sometimes I’m loading up my pill organizer and I look at those jewel-bright yellow and pink capsules in my hand and I am once again flattened with joy that I live here, now, and not in the 99.975% of human history in which antidepressants and thyroid medication didn’t exist yet. I spent some of the summer churning through Hilary Mantel’s Cromwell trilogy, for example, and the narration (understanding that the books are of course modern-day imaginings of life in the 16th Century) put me frequently of the mind that regardless of how down-the-toilet shitty we are convinced our current planetary landscape is, it is still, on the balance, better to be alive now than it has ever been, ever, along nearly every vector we have an imagination for.*
*I’m sure there’s an equal-parts-shitty argument that can be made, as well; that life is suffering, no matter when you do it.
Of course, it’s also entirely possible — even likely — that we’ve had the fortune to witness Peak Human Race in our lifetime, and that arrow of improvement, the thing that means now is better than 99.975% of the rest of the time, is about to get pointed in the other direction for a good long while.**
**Usual provisos: I don’t, even now, think we’re facing the end of the human race; just a huge, unavoidable reset button that will wipe some gargantuan (like, half; or, three quarters) of the biodiversity off the planet and force those of us who survive into a Neo Dark Ages that makes the first round look relatively civilized. There won’t be antidepressants again for a long, long time. I suspect the human race will get to try this “civilization” thing again towards the end of the millennium. Gods, but to have a time machine to be able to watch that happen!
Arguably, I will never find out, given it takes decades and even centuries to calculate these sorts of things, and I’m likely to exit stage left in the next 30 or so years. I think a lot about generational time, geologic time, and cosmic time these days (partly because of my writing projects, and partly because it’s neat). I’m on the downslope of my own time here, and (occasional moments of paralysis notwithstanding), for the most part, it’s neat. The structure and guardrails of the resources I have to spend are a lot clearer; I feel alive with purposeful intentionality. When it comes to living on the planet, though, Gen X likely nailed it. My sister and I had a laugh explaining the “sweet spot” meme to my parents a couple weekends ago:
My folks are the sort of well-meaning wealthy white people who (to the best of their recollection) never chose to do evil and, to an extent, think that they therefore did their best. The state of things, in this calculus, must I suppose therefore be because of something else; other groups, other forces, other individual choices. It’s a perfectly reasonable way to look at the world — I am not myself cold-hearted enough to say that they are wrong — but it makes it difficult to have a conversation about how everything netted out to the end of the world anyway. They seem bummed, like they didn’t get what they were promised. I think the proper definition of “behaviourism” means something else, but in my head the word describes the idea that if one behaves correctly, one gets the desired outcome. (Basically, a non-religious version of “be a good girl and you get to go to heaven.”) But this kind of thinking hews closely to the line of thought that gets you to “keep politics out of childrens’ shows,” as though apoliticality is a neutral thing that exists outside the conversation of force and privilege, rather than being a tacit reinforcement of the force and privilege of the status quo. The status quo is always political.
I spent the summer marinating in my own privilege, of course; the kind of midlife leap I’ve taken in 2023 — to leave a job; to contemplate a wholly new direction for spending my own time; to slim down on lifestyle and scale up on personal richness — is only possible because I’m the son of wealthy white people. I told anyone who asked me what I was doing with myself that I was “living on the fat of the land,” which I meant both literally — I signed up for, planted, cultivated, and thoroughly harvested one of my condo building’s 83 community garden plots, eating entire weeks’ worth of meals I’d grown myself for a handful of dollars — and more poetically. I learned, or tried to learn, the practice of unproductivity (which is a gargantuan privilege, especially now). I learned, or tried to learn, how to follow my inner voice (and yes, I allowed myself to call it “the Force” more than once). I learned, or tried to learn, how to be brave with the way things are for me right now — another privilege, because I’ve so rarely had to feel the fear of them being the other way.
A normal day
7:30am: Wake. The cat’s been unusually good with me all summer. He tends to watch and wait, rather than howl and zoom; although, sometimes, the latter thing.
7:30-8:30am: Coffee and contemplation. My active social apps right now are Instagram, BlueSky, Letterboxd and TikTok, and I check the first three (plus email, plus Vulture, plus Variety, plus the weather) in the morning. I almost always write in my journal at this point, as well, about the day before; I’ll sometimes amend or add during the day.
8:30am: Morning pages. I am writing a novel / novella / personal experiment in poetics, so, I tend to do that here. The M.O. for this project has always been to follow my own creative impulses on what, and how much of it, to put down on any given day, but the summer-long average was probably in the neighbourhood of 600 words a day, which means the plural on “pages” is a lie.
9:00am: Meditation, usually alone, sometimes with voice prompts, rarely with my Sangha because I usually don’t remember in time that I can do that.
9:30am-noon: “Write like it’s your job.” This was a brainwave I had way too late in the post-job recovery period, but I figured, if I want to earn a living as a writer I might as well see if I can actually do it at scale, meaning not as twenty or thirty harvested minutes a few days a week and spending the rest of my time wishing I had more time to do more of it. (In other words: conduct an experiment to determine that time is, in fact, the barrier.) Good news! Time is the barrier! My productivity has been overall good; I have polished one spec screenplay, drafted another, am revising a pilot script and (ideally) will draft another and finish draft and revisions on the novel, all before the end of the year. I also finished Blogging The Next Generation: Picard recently; I wasn’t counting that work as “job” writing until recently (I considered it more recreational) but then I realized, that’s nuts.
Also, full disclosure: I do not write solidly for these 2.5 hours, nor are they always 2.5 hours, nor do they always happen in the morning as planned. I putter. I eat breakfast. I clean the house. I move the toys around (constantly). I do all the normal shit, sometimes as procrastination, sometimes as simple spacing.
One rule I try to stick to in here is to keep all my devices on their most restricted mode, i.e. no notifications, messaging completely disabled, no checking email, and so forth. I try to make sure the only “communication” I am doing is with the writing itself.
Noon-2pm: Lunch, watch a TV show or something, maybe work out, maybe do yoga, depending on the day.
2-3pm: Take a fucking nap. Good lord how did we lose sight of siestas as a regular part of human life on this side of the world!!
3-6pm: Admittedly I’m shaky as hell on this time block, but I am trying to use it to focus on job searching, connecting with people who can help with that or with the writing projects, researching online (stuff as variable as writing grants or companies I might want to do PM work for), or general “getting life shit done” that needs to happen in any single-person household, i.e. the groceries, the bills, the whatever-admin-tasks that riddle a life.
I’ll also have a tea break in here and read a book, because that is civilized.
6-10pm: Eveningtimes are for whatever. There are too many shows, so I am forever trying to get the number of things I am actively watching down; but, binge mode doesn’t work for me so I tend to only be able to watch one really good episode of something before I need to do something else or at least, watch something else. Right now I’m doing the second season of The Bear among other things and the idea of eating two of anything that rich makes my stomach hurt, so, one episode a night, max.
Or I might watch a movie, or play F-Zero 99 (I got a Switch for my birthday), or walk around the neighbourhood. I don’t, it seems, socialize in the evenings much anymore; a couple of times a month, at most.
10pm: Fucking bed, right? Well, sometime between now and 11:30 at the latest. No devices in the bedroom, that’s a rule, so I turn everything off, prep coffee for the next day, and read a book till it falls on my face. This usually requires me to stay awake at least long enough to give the cat his nightly snuggles, because he is very insistent on that, and climbs aboard within 5 minutes of my laying down.
Night: Look, some of my dreams are incredible, and sometimes they go straight into the morning pages the next day.
- I’m having a lot of dissonance issues engaging with the Palestinian genocide online. That said, reading this piece was the first time after the October 7 Hamas attacks when I didn’t feel completely insane.
- Land Ho, Gaby Del Valle’s superb piece on tradwifery, inspired much of the thinking that led to this post!
- No but seriously, this is a great tomato sandwich. Take it from a guy who ended up with probably 4x more tomatoes than he expected or needed this summer.
- Project Hail Mary: Look, in a lot of annoying, writer-y ways, this is book is really stupid. But it is also the most fun I’ve had reading a book in a year. I’d have cast Jack Quaid for the movie, myself — I know, too young, but such the right vibe — because I’m obsessed with Jack Quaid, as it turns out.