An E-mail Exchange About Mid-Summer Anxiety

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07.28.16
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On Thu, Jul 21, 2016 at 3:59 AM, Leandra Medine wrote:

I feel like saying this might make me sound like the world’s biggest asshole, but do you ever feel like July is a fallacy? What I mean by that is we assume summer is coming ’round the mountain and get so excited to take it a bit easier…but then I tend to find that I am my most overwhelmed and overworked in July. This is a pattern. I have a mental breakdown every summer right around this time. Is that just me?

I’m not sure if it’s work anxiety veiled by another layer of anxiety that is defined by my feeling like I should be having the best month ever, so why aren’t I, and then that gets me thinking: is the pressure to enjoy summer and all of its rosé just too much?

The larger question, obviously, has nothing to do with summer and everything to do with social media or the artist formerly known as Keeping Up With the Jones.

On Fri, Jul 25, 2016 at 12:03 PM, Amelia Diamond wrote:

Well see, the thing for me — and the reason I think July is supposed to feel like The Best Month Ever — is because of premature end of summer anxiety. PESA. It puts more pressure on the weekends. Same with the holidays: short window to have the most beautiful romantic cinematic days and nights of your life.

Insta scratches the scab because friends see the well-cropped and lit Instas then say, “Omg, are you having the best summer ever?!”

You say, “Yea, def,” because you don’t want to come off like an ungrateful asshole, but what you want to add (and won’t/honestly can’t) is: I had a great day, for sure. A few really excellent hours where I felt lucky to be alive. I also got an email that ruined my mood, checked my bank account — which made my mood worse, spent three hours working in the morning and felt embarrassed the entire next day about how much I drank.

But I like July. This actually might be my best July in a long time? I think it’s because I’ve somehow stopped fighting against reality. Now I’m like, okay, look. Work is work regardless of the month. Drama is drama. Rent is rent. All regardless of whether it’s July or not. But if you think of July as a bonus on top of your regular life, then it’s kind of nice…

Yes/no? Why DO you feel like it’s hard for you?

On Mon, Jul 25, 2016 at 12:17 PM, Leandra Medine wrote:

That’s a really lovely and important mental gesture, Amelia — the surrendering to reality. You really did take this month to let loose! How do you think you were able to do that?

So much of what bogs us down and makes stuff hard is the level of expectation we build in our head, which circles back to your point about summer peer pressure. I think I get caught up because I see the sun shining, and my mom is calling to ask if I want to meet her for lunch, or if I can come to her summer house early that week. I want to do those things so badly, but also can’t because there is so much work to get done and I wouldn’t be able to enjoy those things because THIS is my priority, my sort of raison d’être. So — I’m aware it’s a PPP (privileged person problem) to be working so hard that you can’t meet your mom, who’s alive and well and in the same city as you, for lunch, or go to her second home for a weekend but I get caught up in my mind’s narrative.

The frustration turns into guilt because I’m acutely aware of the PPP-ness and then I get exhausted and just relinquish it all, get under my covers and tell Monday to fuck the fuck off. I will say, though, because I am someone who is so obsessed with how I am feeling every second of every day and therefore can’t stand the uncertainty of dis-ease, I’ve been doing this thing for the past two weeks where every time I find myself in my bind, I step back and ask myself: what’s the worst that could happen? What’s actually bogging you down? Then I go off and list five things I’m grateful for (not overarching things like health and a place to live, though those are extremely important, too, but more transient, immediate things: like the freckle on my shoulder, which I got from being in the sun too long on Saturday, or the smell of a new body cream that I just started using…shit like that).

On Mon, Jul 25, 2016 at 12:54 PM, Amelia Diamond wrote:

I was able to do that by…I don’t know, actually. It’s easier written out than practiced. But something I learned when I first lived with my roommate was that I could get super mad every day at everything he did that annoyed me (like leave dirty clothes around or not put things back where I liked them) and start fights — which I did, all the time — or, I could accept that this is how he was, and this is how I was, and that it was easier to just be like, “Part of my life now is putting things back all the time, and tidying constantly.” It took me a year to get there. And I still get mad. But I think at some point you surrender — and maybe you surrender after a ton of breakdowns and then you’re tired and give up. But not in a depressing way!! In a way that makes your life easier. Sometimes I think we fight brick walls when we could just walk the long way around the block and use a door.

Again, easier written out than practiced.

I like your way of doing it: of asking, “What’s the worst thing that could happen?” And then listing the things you’re grateful for. Does it calm you down?

Something I said I wanted to do this summer — then I started, then forgot, and now am inspired to pick back up because you said that — is write one thing down every day that I did that was fun and specific to the summer. Because we have Instagrams to look back on, but those tend to capture weekends. It’s nicer to remember the Monday that you left work for an ice cream at lunch or the Tuesday you met a friend for a drink after work even though you were supposed to go finish X Chores.

Should we start doing One Fun Thing a Day?

On Mon, Jul 25, 2016 at 12:58 PM, Leandra Medine wrote:

Yeah! I love that so much. I tweeted from @LeandraMedine on the first day of summer something to the effect of, “Nothing is more satisfying than an early walk through Nolita on a balmy first day of summer,” and I saw it last night and felt so jealous of the former me on that walk, but not in a malicious, or like, I’m-wasting-my-life kind of way.

But hey! Now that we’re here and you’ve already opened the pandora’s box that is summer peer pressure, here’s a question: do you think ROSÉ PRESSURE is a thing? Sometimes I see a nice chilled glass sitting on a table on a sidewalk cafe and feel like if I don’t grab it off the table, I will have never lived at all. I don’t even like rosé that much.

On Mon, Jul 25, 2016 at 3:51 PM, Amelia Diamond wrote:

ROSÉ PEER PRESSURE IS SUCH A THING.

It’s the color, I think. It’s the color of a sunset filtered through Valencia and if you’re around friends starting at 4 PM and you don’t have a glass of it in your hand, people assume you hate happiness. Or that you don’t drink but people know I drink.

I feel like I’m ignoring summer if I’m not drinking it! Like tonight, it’s a Monday, and I’m very tired and alcohol bloated from the weekend and want to work out tomorrow morning, so I should go home. I’m also currently on the “no” diet.” But if you said to me, “Amelia, let’s go get a glass of rosé after work,” I’d think to myself:

Why not?
Because you’re tired.
Yeah, but it’s summer!
Oh yeah, you better go.

On Mon, Jul 25, 2016 at 4:38 PM, Leandra Medine wrote:

So maybe that is actually exactly what my anxiety is about, right? Because I have the same feeling. Like, yeah, I should go home, but then I see the sky and feel like…it’s shining and I know it’s hot, so I really ought to spend all the time I can outdoors because when the snow starts falling, I will look out my window longingly and regret those summer mornings and evenings spent at home, being productive. It’s stupid but what can I do? The thing is, if it’s making me anxious or like the “looseness” of summer is a fallacy, maybe it’s also a waste. Not maybe: it is a waste. So you might be on to something with acceptance. Surrendering is a big motif of meditation, too. I don’t know, I’m trying to figure out why I feel like this and how to make it go away but I wonder if part of it is just forcing myself to get comfortable with the fact that summer is not a metaphor for 24/7 daisies and giggles. I think I spend too much time hyping it up before summer actually gets here, and then when it arrives, I’m frustrated that I’m not happier.

I don’t know. Help me with my privileged people problem, Dr. Diamond.

On Mon, Jul 25, 2016 at 6:19 PM, Amelia Diamond wrote:

For a completely unqualified opinion, I think that what you’re doing is overthinking summer. (That’s what I did last summer.)

Part of the fun of summer is that it’s loved by mostly everyone. We can all agree that this time of year is special, either because it actually is or because we carry bits of nostalgia around in jars and those bits somehow haven’t died from lack of oxygen. When we start to realize that we don’t love summer as much as everyone else does, we’re like…what’s wrong with me?

But you asked what to actually do. I think it’s a mindset. I think you lower certain expectations and relish in the little things. You set summer bucket lists: I really want to eat X, try Y, do Z.

And then you eat X, try Y and do Z, so that way you have things to look forward to and buffer the blah in your day.

“This meeting blows so hard but at least at 7 I am going to see that movie.”

“This day is the worst but who cares because Sunday I had dinner with the 10 funniest people I know.”

I think that in the same way we talk about balance and finding it and constantly adjusting it — a little on the left, a little on the right — we have to remember that the same goes for summer. That it doesn’t have to be The Best Month Ever or else it’s the Very Worst — there can be some great dinners thrown into a shit week that make you rethink your answer when someone asks how your summer is going.

Long-winded. What’s one thing you’d love to do this summer?

On Mon, Jul 25, 2016 at 6:25 PM, Leandra Medine wrote:

Get pregnant?

On Jul 25, 2016, at 6:25 PM, Amelia Diamond wrote:

I knew you were gonna say thaaat. ONE OTHER THING THAT DOESN’T INVOLVE PROCREATION.

On Mon, Jul 25, 2016 at 6:43 PM, Leandra Medine wrote:

Actually take a vacation but not go anywhere? Like just take three days off in the middle of the week because I feel like it would be nice?

On Jul 25, 2016, at 7:01 PM, Amelia Diamond wrote:

I actually think you should. I think you should be one of those people walking around midday that makes the rest of us wonder why the eff you’re not at the office. Like have a lunch outside with a glass of wine at 2 PM on a Wednesday.

OR DON’T HAVE A GLASS OF WINE. Have a tequila shot. Yolo.

On Jul 25, 2016, at 7:59 PM, Leandra Medine wrote:

But do you feel like the breaks and drinks and mental health vacays we prescribe to each other (because we do it a lot! And sometimes, even just the THOUGHT is enough) are a cheap shot? Or does it feel that way to me just because we so rarely take our own advice? Your story on why vacation is good for work really struck a chord because it’s something I know to be true, but it’s so hard to extricate yourself from the wheel. Sometimes you can’t see past it.

But I know I’ll regret not sitting outdoors more when the sun goes away.

On Jul 25, 2016, at 8:51 PM, Amelia Diamond wrote:

“Because we so rarely take our own advice ”

But what you just said — sitting outside while the sun is shining — sometimes I think that’s all it needs to be, at least when that’s all it can be. That quote — “life’s a daring adventure or nothing at all” — it’s beautiful but sometimes we need to hear, “Life’s an adventure and a shit show and a lot of work and a lot of naps are required to make it through.” We think in such extremes: “Summer or nothing at all.” But what if it’s: “A little bit of summer to make regular life a little bit sweeter.” You know?

P.S. I had salad AND gelato for din. A metaphor for ?.

On Mon, Jul 25, 2016 at 10:11 PM, Leandra Medine wrote:

This is what they mean when they say be present, right? Be aware that you’re making a choice to sit outside and eat your leftovers-for-lunch on a sunny stoop and feel proud that you did that for yourself instead of indulging a sad desk lunch and instead of saying “it could always be better,” change the tune to sound more like, “Hey, there are worse things.”

Kurt Vonnegut’s uncle used to say, “If this isn’t nice, what is?” That’s how I feel about ingesting hot New York City air that is at once fresh and disgusting.

I don’t know why I told you that.

On Mon, Jul 26, 2016 at 3:26 PM, Amelia Diamond wrote:

Me neither, but I like it.

Collages by Ana Tellez; photographs via Getty Images. 

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