Letter 24

October 24, 2019

On routines

I’m still figuring out my relationship to routines, and I suspect I will be forever. I’ve always loved the idea of having the perfect morning or nighttime routine, but routines are hard to force. I’ve successfully replaced my habit of checking Instagram as soon as I wake up with the routine of reading a few articles in my Instapaper queue and spending a few minutes journaling before I get ready for work, but I still need a daily reminder to read a book and drink a cup of tea before I go to bed to avoid scrolling through Twitter until midnight. But my life is full of tiny routines that I don’t pay much attention to—so I made a list of them: the routine of making a cup of tea and filling up my water bottle and eating a protein bar as soon as I get to my office, the routine of listening to the same podcasts in the same order during my commute every week, the routine of folding clothes and putting them away, the routine of putting on makeup, the routine of lighting a candle with a match and then leaving the match out on the table instead of throwing it away, the routine of texting my boyfriend every night before I go to bed, the routine of washing my face in the shower while my hair sits with conditioner in for a few minutes, the routine of emptying the dishwasher in the same order every time, the routine of checking the mail when I get home. I find comfort in making lists like this, just like I find comfort in my routines.


I’m awful at routines, awful at keeping habits, awful at following through with any sort of consistency. This means I’m sort of awful at taking care of myself outside of the necessities. It’s not that I get tired of repetition, it’s just that I’m actually tired. I am my own worst enemy, keeping myself from ever repairing the damage eczema and anxiety have done to my skin because I cannot fathom the long-term exertion of caring for myself on the regular. There were points in time in which I washed my face with coconut oil, dried my budding zits with apple cider vinegar, and finished off with a carefully selected night cream; this routine was maybe too much too soon, as it fizzled out fast. The only routine I truly name a routine, rather than just an attempt at remaining a person, is making coffee. Yes, I am addicted to caffeine and will get mind-numbing headaches without it, but the mornings I forego making my own coffee (when I buy it, or know it’s available at work, etc.) always feel off. The calm of setting up my drip—the only dish I wash right away—and spooning too-many-grounds into the filter subdues my generalized morning anxiety. I begin with a sense of control. I want more to cling to, I want more things I can name part of myself, but for now? …coffee good.


We recommend

📽️ It Must Be Heaven

I got to see this film at the opening night of the Arab Film Fest in San Francisco a few weeks ago. It’s directed by Elia Suleiman, a Palestinian director from Nazareth; so you know, basically family. It’s Palestine’s entry for the Oscars this year and probably the most I’ve ever cared about a movie getting nominated. It’s a vignette-y, quiet, poetic film taking place in Nazareth, Paris, New York, and then Nazareth again with just really BEAUTIFUL moments. There’s not a lot of dialogue, but the lines that exist…buddy, am I still thinking about them! If this movie comes to theaters near you, ABSOLUTELY see it. I’m still processing some parts of it that I have questions about, and have barely anyone to talk to about it! Help me!


📖 How to Not Always Be Working

Here are two things that I love: working on too many side projects at the same time, and books that give me homework. I scrolled past a photo of How to Not Always Be Working on Instagram, and it stayed in my head until I finally sought it out and grabbed one of two copies at Powell’s while I was visiting Portland. This is a book for anybody who routinely blurs the line between work and not-work, and also anybody who likes to take notes and make lists, as I do. For a little over a week, I started every morning by reading a chapter from this book and writing down anything I wanted to remember—lists of what I do for work vs. what I do for me, a description of my dream workspace, affirmations to think about when I’m feeling anxious or imposter syndrome-y. It’s often harder than we think to draw a line between “work” and “life,” and this book encourages reflection and exploration to find a balance that’s right for you.


🍽️ Bon Appetit’s lemon pound cake

I’ve been making a startling amount of things in my loaf pan, to varying degrees of success. My favorite so far was a banana bread that I know I can truly never replicate—but this lemon pound cake…it’s beautiful. Honestly, I kind of fucked up the actual cake, but the recipe itself is very good and I could taste what it was supposed to taste like, yknow? Anyway, no one I shared it with complained, but we all agreed it could be more lemon-y. Make sure your lemons are not tiny and sad, and also remember to wear gloves if your hands are riddled with cuts, like mine are.


📱 Notion

I feel corny saying this, but Notion has changed my life. It’s almost hard to explain what Notion is, because it is so many things—for me, it is a to-do list, a goal tracker, a home for various projects and notes. We use Notion to draft this newsletter and keep track of our past and future recommendations. Most recently, I used Notion to plan out a new game of Stardew Valley, because that’s just my personality. The point is, you can use it for almost anything you want, across devices. For a more coherent and professional description, visit their website. It’s great. You’re welcome.