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10 Things Taking Up Space in My Brain This Week

From rediscoveries to well-targeted Instagram ads.

Let's try something new here... Usually, when I write 'The List,' I begin on Monday then gradually add to the post and make adjustments throughout the week. But last week was an extraordinary week for a few reasons, and I found that I couldn't quite land on my usual set of three to five recommendations. Instead, I experienced bursts of inspiration that stemmed from rediscoveries of old favorites, future plans, key routine changes, and even one well-targeted Instagram ad. 

So while this list shares some similarities with 'The List,' it's mostly a brain dump of ten things that were on my mind last week—from the superficial to the significant. It's less curated, and a little more all over the map, kind of like my week was: There was a rough start, followed by some long-awaited, very exciting personal news (that I'll be sharing soon!), a home-cooked Ethiopian feast (see my new favorite condiment, below), and the bittersweet departure of one of my best friends from L.A. The List will be back, but let's try this for now—without further ado, in no particular order, here are 10 things taking up space in my brain this week:

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There are so few books I've kept after finishing them that I don't even need to reference my bookshelf to list them out: Hourglass by Dani Shapiro, Dept. of Speculation by Jenny Ofill, essays and novels by Hanya YanagiharaJoan Didion, Yaa Gyasi. Most are easy to pick back up, and flip to any given page, since they read like poetry—but I've only ever kept one actual book of poetry. Last week, after finishing Lacy Crawford's Notes on a Silencing, I picked back up Tracy K. Smith's Wade in the Water. I'd read it years ago when the collection was first published and she was the Poet Laureate, but hadn't picked it up since. And, like things read multiple times, it struck me completely differently this week than it did the first time around. In 2018, I was struck by the beauty and structure of the poems—this time, I took notes on the themes of "both." How something can be both public and private, how a country can be both beloved and steeped in hatred and racism, and how the past can also exist in the present. How one thing, especially people, can be many things at once: superficial, deep, in a rush, thoughtful. 

Every time I read a poem, I read it three times (a habit from high school English class), and even those reads—seconds apart—can reveal new epiphanies. It reminded me how much I enjoy poetry, when I give myself the time to enjoy it, and inspired a new routine, of reading a poem and listening to Smith's podcast The Slowdown, which I first mentioned here. This poetry phase may not last long, but was exactly what I needed this week. 

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This floral activewear set, which came into my life through a very well-targeted Instagram ad, reminds me of leggings I wore as a kid, and are nostalgic to the point of being comforting. I have a soft spot for floral patterns and went as far as to set an alert for their launch. While I ultimately didn't buy them (they didn't quite pass this test), they're clearly very much still on my brain...

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On Saturday, I shattered all previous binge-watching records with Pamela Adlon's show, Better Things. In it, Adlon is a working actress in L.A. and single mom raising three girls (the character is loosely based on her, and her relationship with her daughters). Her daughters can be bratty, just as Adlon can be hot-headed, and there's plenty of messy dysfunction—but there's also a lot of love and so many relatable moments. It's as accurate a depiction I've seen of mother-daughter relationships since Saoirse Ronan rolled out of the car at the start of Lady Bird. You'll either love it or you'll hate it—but, if you ask me, it's an excellent way to spend six hours. Also, the soundtrack is fantastic (I borrowed quite a few from it in starting my fall playlist!). 

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I've worn makeup exactly twice in the past six months, and haven't applied nail polish in an eternity—but last week, I needed a pick-me-up when my period made me break out. I put on a face mask and gave myself a manicure, applying two coats of Dior Nail Glow. It's practically sheer, but just pretty enough to help me feel pulled-together when I was feeling anything but.

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An Instagram post by Theron Humphrey (@thiswildidea) was among the things to inspire Jonah and me to buy land nearly two years ago, with the ultimate goal of building our own house. While we're still paying off our land loan (hence my self-appointed ban on super-cute, floral activewear), Humphrey is onto his next project: a home in Montana, with a budget of $100,000. He's been documenting the process here, and I'm avidly awaiting the next installment! 

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"And I have learned that my image, my reflection, is not my own," Emily Ratajkowski writes in her essay for last week's New York Magazine. Throughout the piece, she reflects on what it means to be a model, a public persona, who her image belongs to, and who she really is (similar themes to Paris Hilton's new documentary, which, as a Simple Life fan who once had "Stars Are Blind" as her ringtone, I obviously watched...).

If you watched I May Destroy You on HBO it won't come as a surprise that its creator Michaela Coel was just named one of Time's 100 Most Influential People of 2020 (I've thought of the finale nearly every day since watching it). It's worth reading every short profile on the list—but particularly Lena Waithe's of Coel. In it, Waithe writes, "In my mind she’s a descendant of Nina Simone. She doesn’t need our approval or applause; she’s too busy relishing her newfound freedom."

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Earlier this month, Peloton launched both Bike Bootcamp classes, which combine cardio intervals with strength workouts, and have single-handedly reminded me how much I love the heart-pounding challenge of lifting weights (even if the weights I'm using are heavy household objects...). I'd gotten into a rhythm of doing more or less the same workout every day—but variation is good! In my case, I'm extremely lucky to own a stationary bike, but the same could be said of nearly any workout. Try barre if you've been walking everyday, go for a run if you've been doing dance cardio. You may be surprised by the impact of a simple switch. (I was!)

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Last week, my friend texted me, "Which season of handmaids tale are we at?" but she was referring to real life. Margaret Atwood's speculative novel, where women are stripped of basic rights and wealthy men have absolute power, has been feeling less and less like fiction and more like a promise lately. It's difficult to convey just how much is at stake if Trump wins this election: This year alone, he's downplayed the coronavirus and contributed to the deaths of 200,000 Americans, committed countless human rights abuses against immigrants, legitimized racism, and will do everything he can to strip women of their right to choose by filling RBG's seat with a new Supreme Court justice—even after Mitch McConnell blocked Obama's nominee nine months before an election (reminder: We are 36 days out). And I haven't even touched on environmental issues. It's overwhelming and emotionally exhausting, but how disappointed in yourself will you be if you look back at this election and think, "I could have done more"?

If Biden is not far Left enough for you, read this. If you truly feel that Trump represents your morals, review this and consider this. Then: Check if you are registered to vote (it takes one minute!), write postcards and letters to voters, phone bank, text voters, adopt a state, and have conversations with friends and family. Let's goooooo!

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A photo taken by friends that partially inspired the trip

A photo taken by friends that partially inspired the trip

Jonah and I just booked a long weekend trip in October to two National Parks we've never visited: The Grand Canyon and Zion. We'll be camping and would love any recommendations you have! 

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It's been a year since I gave up on meditation but last week I began Headspace's 'Letting Go of Stress' course. As soon as I make my coffee in the morning, I bring it over to my favorite reading chair and sit with the course (which I've downloaded offline, so I'm not tempted by anything else on my phone). Turns out, meditation is exactly the pause I'd needed. 

Let's keep this post to 10, but I also enjoyed this essay on writing better sex scenes, am making my way through a jar of niter kibbeh (seasoned ghee) from the Ethiopian grocery store Selam Market, and happily rediscovered Sapp Coffee Shop this weekend.

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