The New Normal

Accidentally took a five-month hiatus there. In my defense, I moved to a new city (in a new state) and…got a DOG! So I’ve been busy adjusting (doing absolutely nothing but look at my dog while she sleeps and take pictures of her). And then, of course, we slipped quickly into an international crisis.

Although I am an introvert through and through, and staying home without any contact with people is my dream, it’s still a scary time. There’s a lot going on in the world, a lot of uncertainty, and even I, someone who will willingly lay on the couch every night and feel no FOMO, am on the verge of going cuckoo.

I am eternally grateful that I’m no longer in my New York apartment, and instead in an actual house with space and a yard. And just having a car, knowing I could be on the road out of here in minutes is infinitely reassuring to me. That being said, getting emails from work, my favorite restaurants, stores, saying they’re closed until further notice is horrific to me. Not knowing how long we’re stuck in this state of at-home purgatory is really something. I’ve been focusing on leaning into the things that make me feel good.

1. Delete Twitter

Delete delete delete. On Super Tuesday when things started really going south for Elizabeth Warren, I deactivated Twitter and deleted the app from my phone. That day was coincidentally also the last day I commuted to New York for the forseable future because of COVID-19. Coronavirus was a threat while I was on Twitter, but it wasn’t quite yet into the U.S., and we weren’t being instructed to social distance yet. I am VERY thankful that I’m not on there now. There’s enough commentary going on around me and in my own head, I can forgo the memes and other info to spare my sanity there.

2. Limiting News Intake

Similar to getting off of Twitter, I am severely limiting how much news I take in now. I am a huge fan of Pod Save America, and have looked to them for guidance in the past, but right now I can’t get more than a few minutes in without feeling the panic come in. So now, I get my urgent alerts from the New York Times, and check the home page of the Times once, maybe twice a day to get an idea of what I need to know.

3. Comforting Content

Now the fun part. Over the years, there have been different shows, movies, stand-up specials, etc., that I return to over and over again because I know them well and they make me happy. Off of the top of my head, my go-tos include:

  • John Mulaney  – I’ve always been a huge fan of Mulaney, since I watched (and re-watched, and re-watched…) his “New In Town” special in college. Whenever I’m having a rough day I fall back on his specials and interviews to make me feel better, if only for a few minutes.
    • Mulaney radio on Pandora is an excellent place to start. When I’m working and need something on in the background, I put this on and all my old friends come on and tell me the jokes that have always made me laugh.
    • John Mulaney and Nick Kroll’s Film Independent Spirit Award Monologues in 2017 and 2018. The 2017 one was one of the first things I laughed at after the election, and those jokes are still funny.
    • John Mulaney and Nick Kroll’s 92nd Street Y interviews as Gil Faizon and George St. Geegland. A deep cut, but these two doing these events in character are some of my favorite things on earth. I quote them daily to people who will never understand.
    • Desus and Mero – This is 30 minutes long and the week it came out I watched it like seven times a day. It’s just three people chatting about New York City for a half hour and literally one of the funniest things I’ve seen.
  • Las Culturistas – a favorite podcast of mine which took a hiatus from December to March, and came back just in time for a global crisis. A few of my favorite episodes:
  • Seek Treatment– also mentioned before, Cat and Pat are the definition of chaotic good. Their shows are split into three and are posted Monday, Wednesday, Friday, but if you subscribe to their Patreonyou get them all at once. I broke down and subscribed when they announced that Patreon subscribers get video versions of the podcast during social distancing. Worth every penny.
  • Schitt’s Creek – I like to have something in the background while I work in the afternoons, and after Andrew blasted thru Schitt’s Creek, I agreed to watch the whole series. I’m now fully caught up and we’re less than a month into social distancing. It is quick and funny and sentimental all at once.
  • Survivor – I grew up watching Survivor with my parents, but fell off the wagon while I was in college and beyond. They have kept up, and my sister even goes home to watch with them. In this trying time, I’ve been convinced (it didn’t take much) to get back into it, and after catching up on the current season (SEASON 40, where ALL CONTESTANTS ARE PREVIOUS WINNERS) I am fully on board. I’ve even started Season 6 (Men v. Women). There’s something about the show that is it’s own little world inside the game, and it’s so fun to lose yourself in the characters and drama. All 40 seasons are on CBS On Demand.

4. Comforting Schedule

I know people say that when you work from home you should keep your same schedule, and I’m sure to an extent that’s true, but what I’ve found is to do the things that make me feel safest. Rather than waking up making my bed, showering, actually getting dressed, etc., I snooze a little, I walk Genny, I have my cup of tea, and I get to work.

I “get dressed,” in that I change out of my pajamas into other sweatpants (more on that later), put on a bra, wash my face, and go down to the kitchen to work. I eat lunch around noon every day, and end each day with a workout when I can. I’ve been extra thankful for the body weight workouts, guided outdoor runs, and yoga on my Peloton app, and that it’s nice enough out to run a few miles a few times a week. I’ve always worked out after work, and being able to expend some energy and effective way to step away from my computer at the end of the day.

Then I shower and hunker down on the couch with Genny to read or watch TV, probably old seasons of Survivor.

I’m not militant in keeping a schedule, but to have a routine that’s as low stress as possible has been a sanity-saver, even if I’m not physically interacting with anyone other than Andrew and my dog.

4. Comfy Clothes

Obviously. I am not a psychopath who will wake up and get fully dressed to work from my kitchen table. I started out wearing a sweater and leggings, since I do have to make periodic appearances on video calls, but quickly found joggers to be even more comfortable. The ones I love most are these affordable ones, and if they weren’t backordered, I’d try these as well.

The first thing I ordered when I first learned that I was working from home indefinitely were these slippers. There’s something so great and comforting about wearing warm and soft shoes. I’m addicted to them.

I’m sure my wardrobe will change a little as it gets warmer outside, but until further notice, I’ll be living in soft sweaters. They still manage to look professional on video calls, while simultaneously feeling like I’m in pajamas. I have this Everlane one in two colors and in heavy rotation. I also got this one in my most recent Nuuly and am absolutely addicted to the color and style.

stacked bookshelf with art

5. The Books, Of Course

The best way to stay cozy and escape this hellscape? Reading, obviously. I’ve been reading at a much slower pace since adopting Genny and no longer having a commute, but I’ve still managed to find a few I absolutely love.

If you want to be simultaneously grateful for our Intelligence agencies and horrified by all the terrorist plots they foil while you go about your everyday life: Life Undercover: Coming of Age in the CIA by Amaryllis Fox

A memoir of a former CIA agent who served without formal cover, this book rocked me for a few different reasons. To begin with, there is so much I don’t know about how the CIA works, and I think that’s okay. But all of the secrets Amaryllis had to keep from her family, even her spouse, was nuts.

While most undercover agents are deployed with formal cover, AKA working as a diplomat with backup from foreign embassies, Amaryllis had informal cover, meaning that she had an entirely fake identity made up (buying ethnic art in the Middle East) and had to pretend she had no relation whatsoever to the US government. All the while, she was communicating with folks buying and selling nukes on the black market, either trying to recruit them to be one of her sources, or to sell her the bombs so she could take them off the market permanently.

Secondly, I absolutely drank up all of the different spy tactics that they actually used. To communicate with one source, Amaryllis was given a gmail address and password, and they would make arrangements by leaving each other notes in a drafts folder, rather than risk leaving a trail of sent email messages. While old school agents like for sources to request a meeting by leaving inconspicuous chalk marks in specific places, newer-age ones gave their sources Starbucks gift cards and asked them to buy a coffee when they wanted a meeting. Then the agent would check the balance every day from a cyber cafe to see if any money was missing.

As intrigued as I was by learning all of the spy methods, I was horrified to learn how often the CIA receives credible terrorist plot threats that never make it to public knowledge. It’s essentially constant. And the methods in which entire societies could be taken out were horrifying. One in particular deeply affected me:

One report talks about a martyrdom operation where instead of blowing himself up, the bomber would infect himself with a lethal virus and sit on the New York City subway system, breathing until he dies. We run the simulation. It takes under two weeks to reach the urban breakdown point — the death of 10% of the city’s population. One attacker, hundreds of thousands of casualties.

Given the state of the Coronavirus, consider me thankful I left New York. I’ve read this quote to dozens of people at this point because it was so horrifying to me.

I will be thinking about this book for a very long time.

If you want to feel like you’re living footloose and fancy free in Paris in the late 50’s and also laugh out loud: The Dud Avocado by Elaine Dundy.

Often I go through phases of thinking I’ll never read an amazing book that I love again. I was in such a slump when I read this book. I love books about rich women just doing whatever they want, especially going to Europe, and not only is The Dud Avocado that, but it’s funny, sexy, and a little gritty, even.

Sally Jay Gorce gets her rich uncle to fund two years abroad in the years after WWII. She is a mistress, an actress, and also just a mess. She loves a con artist, loses her passport, is always wearing the wrong thing. But she also doesn’t take herself too seriously, has a sharp wit, and is incredibly self-unaware. This book made me want to sit in a grimy Parisian cafe and drink champagne and coffee and judge people.

Would especially recommend if your upcoming Eurotrip got cancelled due to the virus.

A light read, set in Philly that uses a light hand to cover some pretty serious issues: Such a Fun Age by Kiley Reid

Reese Witherspoon’s book club picks are hit or miss for me. Sometimes I find them a little too light and underdeveloped. While Such A Fun Age is light, Reid also manages to cover a lot of issues about race and class, without seeming heavy or condescending.

The book opens with one of the narrators, a rich white lady called Alix, calling her young black nanny, Emira, to watch her kid late at night in the middle of a family crisis. Emira takes the baby to a local grocery store where she’s accused of kidnapping. The plot spins out from there, with Emira just trying to do her job well, and Alix trying to make up for the false accusation and help mentor Emira — even though she never asked for such guidance.

A very quick read that I enjoyed a lot not only because it’s set in Philadelphia, but also because it made me laugh and think. I’d love to have an in-depth discussion about this.

If You Love Old-School Magazine Culture, Drug Memoirs, and hot messes: How to Murder Your Life by Cat Marnell

When Cat’s memoir came out a few years ago, I was so enthralled by the excerpt in The Cut that I missed my subway stop on the way to work. She blended all my guilty pleasures: The Devil Wears Prada-era magazine culture and a messy addiction.

I didn’t know of Cat before her book came out, but her and her demise were pretty well-known in the media world. She had been addicted to adderall since she was in boarding school. She kept that addiction while she worked her way up in magazines, where she would up becoming a beauty editor at the now defunct Lucky.

I gobbled this book up. It’s like a trainwreck, I couldn’t look away. And Cat is so self-aware the whole time. She knew she was messing up over and over again and couldn’t stop herself.

I also lavished in the details about early-aughts publishing. The events! The private cars! The free products! The glamour! I know all too well that magazines aren’t what they used to be, and it was like visiting an old friend to hear about the glory days.

I listened to the audiobook of this, read by Cat herself, which made it even nuttier. It was like your crazy, messed-up friend regaling you with tales of their nights out, and who keep going out even when you beg them to stop and get help. A wild ride.
A lavish and beautifully-written book about being smart, young, and dumb: The Idiot by Elif Batuman

This book is hard to categorize. Essentially, a Turkish immigrant, Selin, goes to Harvard in 1995, where she falls in love with someone she met once, and communicates with them over the newly-invented email.

Over the course of the book, Selin is lost and opinionated. She takes random classes and meanders around Harvard without any sense of direction. The only time she exhibits any drive is surrounding her classmate that she has fallen in love with. She volunteers to teach English in Hungary over the summer to be close to him.

Over and over again, Selin is perceptive and funny, but her lack of ambition and naivete is so frustrating. However, Batuman is an incredible writer. The writing is lyrical and sharp, and regardless of how frustrating Selin is, she’s ultimately relatable and you root for her, even through her misadventures.


Sill with me? These past few weeks have been a real doozy, but we’re all in it together, and we’re all doing the right thing. A little nuttiness and cabin fever now is well worth a healthy world when this is over, in my opinion.


For more book content from me, you can follow along on Instagram and Goodreads. Also all the books I mention on my site (and some I don’t mention) can be found on my page on Bookshop.org, which is helping keep independent bookstores open #inthesetimes.

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