Heroics (Addendum)

Okay well right after I wrote that whole thing about distrusting heroics Zina told me she’d done her first volunteer shift administering COVID vaccines and I will admit that in that moment I found myself whispering “oh my god she’s a hero“.

But that’s not the addendum. The addendum is about SAINTLINESS, which is adjacent to heroism.

I remember my mum telling me that people would say “Oh, you’re such a saint” or “You’re so selfless” or “I don’t know how you do it” when she shared that she was taking care of my dad (and freelancing, and running the household, and so on, and so on). It made her furious because it felt like a classification that divorced her from having the right to lose her temper sometimes, or to find what she was doing impossibly difficult, or to demand (and deserve!) help from her friends.

“Then again,” she added, “that’s probably because I wasn’t complaining to them. I didn’t want to be a downer.”

I do this—play it off when I talk about what’s happening with my dad. I try to put other people at ease because the alternative means engaging fully (sometimes in front of people I don’t know well and maybe don’t trust) with the immensity of my grief.

Saints, superheroes, “successful” people…there is a flattening that comes along with these labels—a reduction in interconnectedness. It’s what drove me to give that XOXO talk in 2016, and it’s what keeps driving me to try and talk about this stuff more publicly; to push back against the part of me that wants to make out like I can do it all on my own.

tl;dr: I’m becoming increasingly wary of any label that obscures our reliance on one another and denies us our wholeness as human beings. I think that’s it.

What Do You Call It?

“I thought by the time I was doing this I’d be with someone.”

I cried when I told her—another one of the myriad griefs threading through this kintsugi year: that not being in a romantic partnership somehow rendered me incapable of facing my father’s decline.

But when I was writing the FAQ about my move, I kept drafting and deleting a passage about how becoming single had actually given me the freedom to leave Portland.

Because it’s not true. 

I mean, it is, but not the part about being single.

It’s Valentine’s Day as I’m writing this and I feel so far from being “single.” 

“Most other people have a switch that gets flipped between friendship and relationship,” he used to say. “But you love people on a spectrum.”

I felt seen by that (he was good at making me feel seen), but there’s no decent shorthand for that kind of life. Or if there is, it’s couched in the culture of labels, and they’ve never done much good for me.

“Housemate,” for example, feels wholly inadequate for my relationship with Zina. We’ve lived together in one form or another for ten years; just the two of us for the last seven. The term we settled on at some point was Boston Wives, but that often involved giving an impromptu 19th century history lesson on female cohabitation to whoever was doing the asking. When we entered a Registered Domestic Partnership two years ago, I breathed a sigh of relief because I could just call her my wife and let everyone else muddle it out for themselves.

But what does that mean, really?

I’ve told people “Well, we’re not in a romantic relationship—” but then I stop. We take baths together and buy each other flowers and read epistolary science fiction love stories aloud in bed and fuck me if that isn’t romantic, I don’t know what is. 

We turn to each other, in amongst all these activities, and say “We’re so rich.”

The older I get the more wobbly my definition of being “in a relationship” becomes. It sounds so singular.

I used to think I wasn’t very good at making friends. Being liked, sure, but not being vulnerable in the way truly reciprocal, intimate friendships demand. Never to ask, never to need. Far easier to unilaterally support other people to shore up my own sense of being worth something. Far better to fling all my devotion and intimacy into one heteronormative partnership and pin my hopes of making it through any major life challenges on that

It’s a decent plan until it’s not.

Because I’m still going through this reckoning—relationship or no—and it’s forcing me to recognize that somewhere along the way I started figuring out how to be truly vulnerable. I picked up a community of (for lack of a better word) friends.

There are friends who bring me pie when my Kickstarter funds and soup when I’m down with the flu. 

Friends I have flown across the country to support through unspeakable loss, who I know would do the same for me in a heartbeat.

Friends who are also lovers. Whose parents I have met. Whose kids I get to help look after when I visit.

Friends who will yell on the phone with me about books and websites at all hours of the day and night, pacing the block, gesticulating.

Friends who send nudes but also commiserating texts about caring for loved ones with dementia (a potent combo).

Friends who know how to reassure me of my intrinsic value when I think all I’m good for is being productive. 

And these are the people in my immediate circle. Never mind the far-flung folks online, around the country—around the globe—with whom I have shared hotel rooms and letters and meals and Zoom calls. And then the circle beyond that: the strangers who have read my work and feel some degree of connection through that avenue. People I have never spoken to who might, given the invitation, share something heartfelt or helpful out of the blue.

I don’t know what to call all that, but when I stop to think about it I get dizzy and start to cry.

And beyond it lies the thing I hesitate to name because it feels trite: my relationship with myself. This person who delights me the more I get the measure of her, who has words of wisdom when I feel lost, who makes me laugh and brings me intellectual baubles and dazzles me with her tenacity and vision. I love my friendship with her most of all.

So here I am: not single, but communal. A dragon curled atop her glistening hoard. 

Rich.

2020 in Reading: The Big List

The landing outside our bedrooms is tiny—barely big enough for one person to stand alongside the single floor vent that’s supposed to heat the entire upstairs. But! There’s enough wall space for two tall pieces of paper, so that’s where Zina and I have kept our reading lists since 2015.

I’ve never really gotten into tracking my reading online, so this practice has served as my visual archive of books devoured. It’s a lovely way to remind myself of when influential authors first appeared in my life, and to lend shape to the years. I used to keep the old ones pinned up in my room for easy access, but my impending move has meant getting rid of a lot of papery ephemera, so here they all are for posterity:

A collection of six tall, thin pieces of paper with lists of books written on them. They're dated from 2015 to 2020 and have the name Lucy at the top of each one.

Since I’m trying to keep more of myself on my own site, I figured I’d upload the whole catalogue from 2020 as a blog post. I’ll do a followup with a little more about my absolute favorites, but for now: here’s everything.

LegendRough Guide to Ratings
🎭 – Plays
📝 – Poetry
📖 – Books (Fiction)
📓 – Books (Nonfiction)
💬 – Graphic Novels
❤︎ = Yes
❤︎❤︎ = Oh Yes
❤︎❤︎❤︎ = Hell Yes
  1. 📖 The Starless Sea – Erin Morgenstern ❤︎
  2. 📓 All About Love – bell hooks
  3. 📓 Trick Mirror – Jia Tolentino ❤︎❤︎
  4. 📓 Atomic Habits – James Clear
  5. 📓 The Way of Zen – Alan Watts
  6. 💬 Unversed – Ed. Jonathan Hill
  7. 💬 Uncomfortably Happily – Yeon-Sik Hong
  8. 💬 The Chancellor and The Citadel – Maria Frantz
  9. 💬 The Northwest Passage (Vol. 1) – Scott Chantler
  10. 💬 The Hunting Accident – David L. Carlson & Landis Blair ❤︎
  11. 💬 Delilah Dirk and the Pillars of Hercules – Tony Cliff ❤︎❤︎
  12. 📓 Deviced – doreen dodgen-magee
  13. 📝/📓 Letters from Max – Sarah Ruhl & Max Ritvo ❤︎❤︎❤︎
  14. 📓 Van Gogh – Steven Naifeh & Gregory White Smith ❤︎
  15. 💬 Gaugin: The Other World – Fabrizio Dori
  16. 📖 The Ten Thousand Doors of January – Alix E. Harrow
  17. 📓 Madness, Rack, and Honey – Mary Ruefle ❤︎
  18. 📖 Axiomatic – Maria Turmakin
  19. 📓 The Crying Book – Heather Christle ❤︎❤︎
  20. 📖 Looking for Jake – China Miéville
  21. 🎭 Macbeth – William Shakespeare
  22. 📖 The Bird King – G. Willow Wilson ❤︎
  23. 📖 Steel Crow Saga – Paul Krueger
  24. 📖 On Earth We’re Briefly Gorgeous – Ocean Vuong ❤︎
  25. 📓 The Salt Path – Raynor Wynn
  26. 💬 Displacement – Kiku Hughes
  27. 📓 Time is a Thing the Body Moves Through – T. Fleischmann
  28. 📖 The Raconteur’s Commonplace Book – Kate Milford
  29. 📓 Pleasure Activism – adrienne maree brown ❤︎
  30. 📖 Tales from 1001 Nights – Trans. Malcolm & Ursula Lyons
  31. 📖 The Fifth Season – N.K. Jemesin
  32. 📖 The Mermaid, The Witch, and The Sea – Maggie Tokuda-Hall
  33. 📓 Constellations – Sinead Gleeson
  34. 📖 The Reapers are The Angels – Alden Bell
  35. 📓 The Weight of Glory – C.S. Lewis
  36. 📖 Gideon the Ninth – Tamsyn Muir
  37. 📖 You Are the Friction – Ed. Jez Burrows & Anna Hurley
  38. 💬 The Golden Age – Cyril Pedrosa & Roxanne Moreil ❤︎
  39. 📖 Flights – Olga Tokarczuk
  40. 📖 Annabel Scheme and The New Golden Gate – Robin Sloan ❤︎
  41. 📖 How to Be Both – Ali Smith ❤︎❤︎❤︎
  42. 📖 A Burning – Megha Majumdar
  43. 📖 If Beale Street Could Talk – James Baldwin
  44. 📖 Blandings Castle – P.G. Wodehouse
  45. 📖 Summer Lightning – P.G. Wodehouse
  46. 📖 Heavy Weather – P.G. Wodehouse
  47. 📓 Funny Weather: Art in an Emergency – Olivia Laing ❤︎❤︎
  48. 📝 Citizen: An Americal Lyric – Claudia Rankine
  49. 📖 A Room with A View – E.M. Forster ❤︎
  50. 📓 Close to the Machine – Ellen Ullman ❤︎
  51. 📓 The Power of Ritual – Casper ter Kuile
  52. 📖 Artful – Ali Smith ❤︎❤︎❤︎
  53. 📓 Coming to Writing and Other Essays – Hélène Cixous ❤︎
  54. 📖 Attrib. – Eley Williams ❤︎❤︎❤︎
  55. 💬 Go With The Flow – Lily Williams & Karen Schneemann
  56. 💬 Knight and Beard (Vol. 1) – Tara Kurtzhals & Sarah Bollinger
  57. 📓 The Heroine’s Journey – Maureen Murdock
  58. 📖 Each of Us a Desert – Mark Oshiro ❤︎
  59. 📖 Self Care – Leigh Stein
  60. 💬 Syllabus – Lynda Barry ❤︎❤︎❤︎
  61. 💬 Grass – Keum Suk Gendry-Kim
  62. 📝 Handwriting – Michael Ondaatje
  63. 📓 Letters from Tove – Tove Jansson ❤︎❤︎❤︎
  64. 📝/📓 Rilke on Love and Other Difficulties – Trans. John J.L. Mood
  65. 🎭 The Tempest – William Shakespeare
  66. 💬 The Best We Could Do – Thi Bui ❤︎
  67. 📝 Beowulf – Maria Dahvana Headley ❤︎❤︎
  68. 📝 The Rime of the Ancient Mariner – Samuel Taylor Coleridge
  69. 📖 Piranesi – Susanna Clarke ❤︎❤︎
  70. 📓 A Reading Life – C.S. Lewis
  71. 📓 Better than IRL – Ed. Katie West & Jasmine Elliott ❤︎
  72. 📓 Split – Ed. Katie West & Jasmine Elliott
  73. 📖 The Waves – Virginia Woolf ❤︎❤︎