Everyone Is Having a Really Hard Time Right Now
On Adele, the moon, and other things to get your spirits up
My little loves,
I’ve had the roughest week ever — like, so rough it’s too TMI to even share — and so many different kinds of roughness, too. Family roughness, body roughness, interpersonal roughness, career roughness, on top of a near-comical series of menial, everyday kind of fails that had me feeling defeated by Thursday.
As I confided in several friends, I found something in the air. We’d all been experiencing this overwhelming friction, some of it different, some of it the same, some of it exacerbated by the encroaching holidays. We’d all been going through it alone, quietly, as the shadow-side of the eclipse has willed. Personally, I felt inconsolable. I saw no end to this crushed feeling and nothing to pry me off the ground.
Cry your heart out, it'll clean your face
When you're in doubt, go at your own pace
I guess my question is, how did Adele know? Her highly anticipated 30 is easily her best, but also something of a departure from her usual. It is raw, emotional, a quintessential “breakup album.” It is grown, real, and sonically engaging. A career-defining release! I will reserve my more music-critical takes for this Thursday’s episode of Like a Virgin, but I want to talk, without any facetiousness, about the power this record has.
Let me start by saying I have never really been an Adele stan. Of course, I think she has unmatched celebrity charm. Of course, I love her music (aka not a sociopath). But I haven’t given her albums much of a close listen. In fact, her music was something of a punchline to me — a comically perfect balladeer for our generation. Turn on one song and everyone is crying, overwhelmed with joyous heartbreak.
And the thing is, Adele really did not have to evolve. She is universally beloved more than almost any other celebrity on the planet, according to literal social science. She could do another record with the same perfect ballads and reap the same reward. She is alarmingly relatable in every interview and appearance she makes. Case and point, her reuniting with her high school English teacher:
But 30 is different in so many ways. She opened up her wounds. She metamorphosed her sound and told the realest story she could tell, a story about what might be the most difficult period of her entire life. For these reasons, the album hit me hard (and yes, okay, I am also 30).
I don't recognise myself in the coldness of the daylight
So I ain't surprised you can read through all of my lies
The Sade-esque song about her son, “My Little Love” is perhaps the best example. Production-wise, it is so alluring. It is uncomplicated, but not at all simple. And entwined in the lyrics are voice memos and conversations with her son about her state of mind — a kind of confessional that could be cliché but instead is so devastating, you almost feel bad you’ve listened in on what feels like a very private moment.
But the thing about heartbreak is that healing requires, well, more heartbreak. When we are down, we like to feel more down. We listen to sad ass music, we watch Coco, we seek out reasons to wallow.
Adele has said in interviews she considers the album to be a kind of therapy. On My Little Love, when she says through tears, “I feel paranoid, I feel stressed, I feel lonely, I am having a very bad day” — she did not have to do that. She could have sung it with a pretty melody and made it #1 on the radio. But instead, she shared her unfiltered woe because she wanted to feel it even more. It is so generous, such a gift.
The other night, I was reading tarot for one of the aforementioned friends going through a tough time, and her obstacle card was The Moon, one of my favorites in the deck. Tangentially, I read that the recent lunar eclipse in Taurus “encourages us to tap into the wisdom already flowing through our veins. This archetype helps us to transmute mystery into practical lessons and tangible formations.”
Mysterious wisdom?! you might think. Where the heck will that come from? A lot of times when we are so inside our fear, we didn’t realize we possessed the tools to get us out of our ruts the whole time — Dorothy’s ruby slippers, you know the drill. But as our culture becomes more avoidant and dissociative, that mysterious wisdom gets harder and harder to access.
Traditionally, the moon card represents the shadow of the unknown. A paranoia or looming fear, and you don’t even know what you’re afraid of. All you know is that it feels out of your control.
I'm so afraid, but I'm open wide
I'll be the one to catch myself this time
In cultural lore, in movies and poetry, the moon can be everything and also nothing. In the 1969 Apollo 11 landing, the moon represents American progress and technology. In Moonstruck’s Oscar-winning screenplay, the moon represents serendipity, near-mystical romance. If you ask Wallace and Gromit, the moon represents cheese.
And that is kind of the best thing about the moon, as well as the unknown. We can choose its meaning and make it our own. We can, if we want to, project anything we want onto it and feel the sweetness of catharsis. And in that way, the power of Adele is that she is kind of like moon. An unparalleled brightness, magnanimous and emotional. In her own wallowing, in her art, we feel something in our own selves, something we’d been trying and failing to conjure.
One of the greatest obstacles I’ve had to contend with these past two years, especially this week, is the feeling of loneliness. I’ve written about it before, but something I’ve only realized recently is that one of my best remedies for loneliness is the communal experience of culture. Whether it’s 30, or an episode of Real Housewives, or the latest Gaga press clip — experiencing it along with the people I love has been a part of my healing.
And that’s why we have music, why we have art, why we have creators like Adele. Something you could be so far removed from, like a behemoth pop star or a planetary mass orbiting the earth, can suddenly be the projector screen for your own hurt. It’s too easy to look at something we don’t understand and see fear. But with a little reframing, and perhaps some weepy ballads, we are on our way to healing.
Sometimes loneliness is the only rest we get
And the emptiness actually lets us forget
Sometimes forgiveness is easiest in secret
p.s. Tune into LAV this week for more, okay?
some things that brought me joy this week
1. My boi Angela Dimayuga was on my other podcast this week to discuss why she is a food domme and umami king, as well as her new book Filipinx. Not only is it gorgeously art-directed, but the level of research, energy, heart, and interviews conducted for this project really sets it aside from your average “cookbook.”
2. As a closeted Swiftie, I feel a little sad that Red (Taylor’s Version) had such a close release date to Adele because I feel like I could have savored it for a full month or more, but 30 is such a singular tour de force I have no choice but to move on. The album is one of her best though, and I did not expect to be as enraptured by it as I was. We discuss the history of the original album and its new version on Like a Virgin with Swiftie Sargeant Bowen Yang, if you want more of my takes. I will say, however, that “Nothing New” is now one of my favorite songs Taylor’s ever written, and Phoebe is of course perfect on it. The devastation of feeling so disposable, as young as 22 years old when she wrote it — it echoes in my head over and over.
“I’m a pretty impressive person, and it seems like nobody is impressed. And it’s driving me god damn crazy.”
3. On the same sentiment, a painter I love shared this little quote from his latest subject Maurice Harris, the florist from one of my fave reality shows this year, Full Bloom. This feels like a mantra anyone can own, the frustration and knowningness of your self-worth. I hope you know that I find you impressive, that you are not crazy. One day the world will know it too. <3
4. B. B. Homemaker returns to the joy digest to let you know that Tide+ Ultra Stain Release is a life-changing detergent and I will never buy anything else. I found it after conducting an embarrassing amount of research on how to properly do laundry (you are probably do it wrong, FYI), and this came highly recommended. I’ve deemed it newsletter-worthy because I had an egregiously stained batch of whites — stains too embarrassing to write — and I was shocked when 100% of those stains were out in one wash, with no additional bleaching or care needed.
5. Who’s watching Ultimate Girls Trip? The Peacock original (why, gay gods!) crossover event bringing together Real Housewives from different franchises has delivered something that is a slightly different flavor from your average Housewives franchise, and I thoroughly enjoyed the change of pace as a one-year-old Bravo-sexual. Everyone knows the show format thrives on vitriol and completely stupid plot points, but UGT, where it does have those things, also has a lot of heart. The women speak extensively about their personal lives and traumas, and more interestingly, soOoOOo much about the experience of filming Housewives in general, how it’s impacted their lives, and some behind-the-curtain details that Bravo usually forbids the girls from giving airtime. Will be discussing at length for this week’s Like a Virgin!
6. I’ve recently fallen in love with the work of Namio Harukawa — an artist I’ve seen around Instagram, but only recently saw attributed. Her pulpy fetish art features, well, women with huge asses sitting on men’s faces. It really is that simple, and I am forever a fan.
7. I made this tomato galette and hoooo girl, it is good! I subtracted some cheese and added onions, basil, and smoked sausage. I also used pearl tomatoes instead and halved them. Obviously, it’s just a fancy pizza. But nonetheless satisfying.
this week’s action
No words following this weekend’s lack of accountability for that one famed murderer in Kenosha, Wisconsin. I am trying to take the focus off him and more on the organizers on the ground who need support for their ongoing protest efforts. I’ve verified this source with other organizers: venmo @UWMadisonBIPOC-Coalition.