A Season of Feeling
How to Embrace Summer: Eat Plants, Watch the Zoomers, and Listen to Japanese Breakfast.
Last week, I described how my annual summertime sadness was ushered in by a dead baby racoon on my doorstep. After the city came to take the poor thing away, I went for an evening stroll. Amidst the dim, cool light of dusk, I noticed a strange shift in my emotional state—I felt noticeably sad. Had I really grown attached to an animal that spent no more than an hour in my consciousness? My surprise at the all-to-familiar pang of grief, was immediately met with a sense of optimism. I was feeling something!
It’s easy when you’re depressed to not realize you’ve stopped feeling with intensity. It’s not that the emotions don’t come, they do, but they become flatline, like a passing thought I’m noticing occur in someone else’s body, rather than a feeling that pulses through my own. I tend to alternate between phases of living in this muted state and being hyper-anxious, and it’s only when I’m out of the former, that I realize how emotionally numb I’d become.
So as much as I don’t love the heightened anxiety that comes with the heat and humidity and the impression that everyone is out there living their best life (which feels especially intense this year), I’m trying to embrace my summertime sadness. Like that scene in The Holiday when Cameron Diaz, after years of not being able to cry, starts crying in the car, and then becomes elated at her tears—my sadness makes me hopeful, because feeling something is better than not feeling anything at all.
You see, this is what I’ve learned about grief over the years—the degree to which it hurts is inversely correlated to the degree to which I loved the person. Taking this emotional paradox—of extreme pain and extreme joy—and applying it to life in general, I’m realizing how a meaningful life is one, not filled only with joy, but one made up of all the feels. And yet, our instinct is to label the painful emotions as negative, and push them away. What if, instead, we just saw them as emotions? Better yet, what if we could embrace their presence, as a sign that we’re actually living. Because from my experience, living in a single emotional state is not really living at all.
After a year and a half of loss, seemingly everyone is grieving to some extent right now. (And if you’re into astrology, we’re entering a sun in Cancer, which, according to the all-knowing Madame Clairevoyant, invites us to to “rediscover your depths, to lean into emotion and vulnerability.”). Faced with so many “negative” feelings—namely, insecurity when it comes to socializing, body image and the future—my instinct is hide; to resist the demands of a Hot Vax Summer. Instead, I’m trying to reframe Hot Vax Summer as being less about feeling only good vibes, and more about being open to feeling, in all its different forms.
While the cultural craving for dissociation is still very much present—in our escapist TV shows, CBD cocktails and obsession with sleep—I’m resisting the urge to suppress the uncomfortable feelings; knowing that growth can only come when we face our pain. Imagine where we’d be as a society if we learned how to lean into discomfort; to develop the capacity to hold opposing truths in one hand—that we can both inherently flawed and good at the same time. But that’s a conversation for another day…
I leave you with the stunning closing monologue from I Know This Much Is True (originally from the Wally Lamb’s book of the same name).
“One day, at long last, I stumbled from the dark woods on my own, and my family's and my country's past, holding in my hands these truths. That love grows from forgiveness. That from destruction comes renovation. This much, at least I figured out, I know this much is true.”
Gone are the days when plant-based cuisine was some niche market catering only to tree-hugging vegans. Concerns over climate change (yes, reducing dairy and meat consumption is the single most effective way to reduce your environment impact), combined with the improved availability, creativity and nutritional content of plant-based foods has driven even the most carnivorous to dabble in meat alternatives.
For a flexitarian like me, I’ll admit I’m drawn to vegan cuisine less for ethical or health reasons, and more by fascination. It takes skill to transform jackfruit into a convincing barbecued pulled pork; ferment nuts and cauliflower into an umami-rich firm cheese; turn beans into a flaky fish fillet and seaweed into a juicy burger. While I used to seek out vegan chefs in fancy, overpriced restaurants to witness this culinary mastery, I love that I can now find it in my local grocery aisle.
Here’s my ideal summer BBQ plant-based menu:
🥜 So Delicious peanut butter cashew milk ice cream bars.
🍌 Dairy-free pints of Coconut Bliss banana brownie and So Delicious bananas foster.
🍦 Elmhurst oat milk vanilla soft serve.
🥥 Topped with Silk’s dairy-free whipped cream and So Delicious coconut whip.
Skincare routines have been stripped down over the past year and a half, but that doesn’t mean we’re emerging from quarantine any less concerned about our complexion. For those (like me) who have taken a newfound liking for the non-routine that rocking a bare face entails, drinkable skincare is the ultimate low maintenance solution.
The inside-out approach is known as nutricosmetics, and while it’s been a booming market in Asia for years, it’s only now picking up in the West. I consulted dermatologist Dr. Hadley King on what to drink this summer to support the skin. Her recommendations? Vitamin-C rich fruits like tomatoes and blueberries, and swapping coffee for matcha green tea. And of course, there’s now countless products formulated specifically for the skin. Read the story for the full list of sweet elixirs.
🏃🏻♀️ How the pandemic has changed our relationship to being busy.
“By being busy, a person signals to others how they themselves are a scarce resource on the market. Not having time to rest indicates that you’re in demand, and that your intellectual capital is highly valued. As a result, others consider you to be higher status.” - Shayla Love.
👑 This summer, everyone has main character energy.
“Post-covid, we want to reclaim control of our stories, exert ourselves upon the world, take our places as protagonists once more—and then post about it.” - Kyle Chayka.
🔥 Arguably no one is embracing main character energy like New York’s youth.
“Youthquake moments tend to emerge from austere and dark periods in history,” writes Steven Kurutz. “For New York’s 20-somethings, summer 2021 is shaping up to be the most anticipated of their lives.”
🛋 On the return of FOMO.
“The new normal is now inexorably giving way to the old normal with an onrush of vertigo.” - Matthew Schneier.
💃🏻 And clubbing.
“For the club kids, these venues and parties were more than drinking environments: they were therapy sessions, fitness routines, community centers, fashion magazines, dating apps, and foster families.” - Emily Witt.
🔮 Magical items to aid in your social reentry.
👫 We’re seeing friends again but I still miss those unexpected encounters.
“There are, inevitably, reunions ahead that will disappoint us in one way or another. Awkward pauses in conversations, in which you will begin to see differences that you never noticed before. And wider gaps, too—the ones created by grief (or even joy) that someone else will never understand.” - Clare Sestanovich.
⚰️ Before jumping into summer, consider processing what’s been lost.
“Rather than bulldoze past our grief straight into the delights of summer, we should take the time to work through it.” - Emily Esfahani Smith.
☀️ 58 things to do with yourself this season that aren’t about getting hot.
If anyone knows how to feel intensely, it’s the zoomers (but actually, science finds teens have heightened experiences because their pre-frontal cortexes aren’t fully developed yet). Lately it feels like they’re taking over the streets: I marvel at their dramatic displays of emotion, unapologetic embrace of their bodies, and general lack of awareness. They exist in their own world. And after a year and half of having their social lives cut off, they are out there THRIVING.
Few shows take me into Gen Z’s world like Betty (Crave/HBO)—about a young girl squad of skateboarders navigating young adulthood in NYC.
What made the first season great, holds up in the second, even though the characters have to face new challenges with the pandemic. The relationships and people are real. As Rachelle Vinberg says in this interview with the cast, “We’re normal girls, and that’s OK. We don’t need to be the best of the best, that’s not the point.”
Watching the girls skate freely down the streets of NYC felt liberating even in the Before Times. “With their feet rooted to their boards and an ability to whoosh in any given direction, they exist as both abiders and defiers of gravity, as the visual definition of freedom,” writes Jen Chaney.
Now, those ephemeral scenes take on a whole new meaning.
“Season two of Betty, landing at the perfect time as we begin to come out of our pandemic hidey-holes and back into the sunlight, shows us a New York where the pandemic has shaken the foundations but where objects in motion remain in motion. Just like these striving, sturdy women who glide-fly down the sidewalks, this city knows that often the best thing you can do, even in stressful times, is to just keep rolling.”
I’ve been obsessed with Michelle Zauner ever since reading her New Yorker essay “Crying in H Mart,” about grieving the loss of her mom. But I’m embarrassed to admit, prior to coming across her writing, I rarely listened to her band—Japanese Breakfast. It’s what she’s known for, and after listening to her new album, “Jubilee,” I can understand why.
It’s a departure from her previous two albums, which largely centered on her grief. Sheldon Pearce describes it nicely,
“Jubilee is actively trying to channel good things. The quirky songs, which shuffle across the indie and pop planes, are as much about finding and sustaining joy as they are about experiencing it. The album is full of glowing arrangements and hopeful storytelling that seem to prompt a fulfilling out-of-body experience. Her voice sparkles. It’s lithe, sometimes layered, and liberated. The music is lush in spots and sleek in others, opening with an explosion of colour.”
The understated, humble-yet-jubilant sound of “Jubilee” feels fitting for our current moment, as the world begins to open up again. It captures the contradiction of feeling overwhelmed with joy while simultaneously muted and weighted by grief; of longing to feel the rich textures of life while also wanting to hide. It evokes 80s nostalgia but feels futuristic too. It’s the perfect soundtrack for dreamy summer nights.
Some of my fave tracks:
Paprika — my reopening anthem.
Kokomo, IN — folksy, romantic longing.
Posing For Cars — melancholic, a build that reminds me of Transatlanticism.
Slide Tackle — biking through energetic, tree-lined streets on lush summer nights.