In April, we -Vivita and Avneet, the co-founders of The Wishing Chair, released the "Delights of Distraction" newsletters; a grab-bag of some of our favorite links across the internet that lent some diversion, inspiration, and solace during these unsettling times. We hope to continue this weekly correspondence as long as it resonates with you, our readers - our true sources of joy and delight. If you are just joining us, you can find all previous editions here.
Okay, we know how you feel. This apocalyptic year is coming to a close with the wedding season, Christmas and New Year's at its heels and the sclertoic economy needs any help it can get - so we imagine you've been bombarded with endless holiday gift guides. From "Best gifts under INR 500", to "What to get the Husband who has everything" to gifts for the Cat Lover, the Baker, the Candle-stick maker. The links are a rabbit-hole of guilt-fuelled stress and depleting bank-account anxiety: Wait, you didn't buy that over-priced toiletry set of body washes for your mother in law.
While it's easy to trash the whole concept of gifting as a capitalistic conspiracy, designed to find excuses to induce cash from your wallet, the thing is this: gifts are so much more than links in listicles. Gifts, especially during weddings, are a warm welcome to new additions of extended families. They’re thinly-veiled apologies and salves for this year’s many, many faux pas. They’re tangible forms of empathy for a rough couple of months. They’re concrete versions of gratitude for coworkers who treated you like collaborators and friends. They’re a way of saying, “I know you, I pay attention, I see what you like.” Gift-giving is a love language in and of itself.
So here's Wishing Chair's own gift-giving guide, in this very "special" year when most of us are at our wit’s end, likely apart from the people we love, and just trying to get through this all in one piece:
1.Hand-write a card. A personal note is heart-warming and touching and makes up for even the worst gift! If you're unsure about what to write, include some fond memories you shared, an inside joke or the traits about the person you truly appreciate. We hope this doesn't feel like a blatant plug, but we have some lovely hand painted cards you might like here.
2.Approach gift wrapping as art therapy. Turn on some of your favourite tunes, make yourself some hot chocolate (or grab a wine bottle) buy a bunch of happy gift wrap, and get folding. It doesn't have to be perfect, it just has to look like you made the tiniest effort. Get inspired to get crafty by browsing this lovely pin board of gift wrapping ideas.
3. When in doubt, and especially if you're gifting that person who really does have everything - get them a consumable, activity or donate to one of their favourite causes. You can rarely go wrong with cookies, alcohol, fancy bottled foods (like chutneys, infused oils, flavoured dry fruit) books, cookbooks, puzzles, board games or a donation in their name. Basically, something they can feel good about, or use up - and won’t just take up space, be re-gifted or forgotten in the back of a closet somewhere.
4. It goes without saying that this is a tough year, but especially for small businesses. Support your community and consider how you can include local, small businesses that rely on artisans, crafts people and other local folk in your gift-giving. Trust us, that a real human out there does a happy dance everytime you support their labor of love.
5. When in doubt, a gift card rarely fails. If you’re crunched for time, we think gift cards can be a big sigh of relief for both the giver and the recipient.
6. Okay, cheese- alert, but we do think some of the best gifts are free. Hand-written letters, a curated list of their favourite songs, an anthology of your favourite recipes, a poem that makes you think of them. You needn't splash out to make someone feel loved and special.
7. Lastly, give yourself permission to just…do what you need to do. Don’t beat yourself up about it - whether you managed to buy something or just send a fervent text message. This year of ALL years, remember to be tender with yourself. The close of 2020 is really about celebrating what’s most important — your health, family, and loved ones in your life.
And now back to our regular programming, our faves of the week:
To Read: Here's two of them: The first is a glittering miscellany of unexpected facts. Topics range from clowns to frogs, sarcasm, smell, Lego, micromorts and weight-loss. Some of it is good news, like, "All of the ten best-selling books of the last decade had female protagonists". Some pretty gross, "Lab-grown meat start-ups have a secret: Those cultured burgers are grown in a fantastically expensive liquid called Fetal Bovine Serum. It’s exactly what it sounds like." - but it's all guaranteed to be pretty fascinating.
As women who have been recently ushered into our 40s, growing up to the Spice Girls, and now more like Old Spice Ladies - this essay made us re-consider all of the arbitrary age markers we set for ourselves in order to track a successful life, and how those markers are much more prevalent for women who are constantly racing against the biological clock. We think the place the author comes to finally is a space we grow increasingly more comfortable in as time passes: that aging isn't so bad and the future might hold so much more than we could have imagined.
To Joy (?) Scroll: Every December, AP releases “A Year of Photos,” images from around the world that are said to have captured the essence of the past twelve months. Although West-centric, regardless this particular collection is riveting, heartbreaking, and, in some instances, hopeful. They narrate the universal story of a year racked with loss and destruction, with a few pockets of joy squeezed in between. As you scroll through these images, you could perhaps heed advice from David Kessler, author and grief expert, "Our goal is not to ignore those images or to try to make them go away—your mind won’t let you do that and it can be painful to try and force it. The goal is to find balance in the things you’re thinking."
To Listen: Apparently one of 2020's cultural touchpoints has been the phenomenon of socialized nostalgia - as people who can't be together reminisce from corners of the world on an online space of their poignant shared memories. This website: 2020 is a song, is a crowd-sourced ever-increasing play-list of music that has helped people get through this year. A website that will forever exist as an audio time capsule homage to 2020.
To Motivate: We came across this encouraging Reddit post for all hopeful creatives and firestarters: “Read this if you’re concerned your idea has been done before and you’re feeling unmotivated.” A reminder that “The idea doesn’t matter nearly as much as the execution does. No one will have your taste, your mind, your unique perspective on the matter.”
So if 2020 was the year you tore it all down, then maybe 2021 is when you want to build it back up anew; if it's a representation to a true, authentic version of you - then it's already special.
To Check Out:110 Years of Poetry: The Poetry Society of America has been celebrating its 110th anniversary with a video series featuring eleven contemporary poets, reading some of the great poets of the past.
To Watch: We never expected to tear up about a computer playing a game we don't even understand - but this documentary AlphaGo (streaming for free on Youtube), that chronicles the time period when hundreds of millions of people around the world watched as a legendary Go master took on an unproven AI challenger for the first time in history - was a surprisingly compelling and incredibly moving watch. Paired with our previous recommendation from a few weeks ago, My Octopus Teacher on Netflix these films are deeply thoughtful meditations on what makes us human.
To Cook: We know some very enthu-cutlet bakers who have been soaking their dry-fruit for Christmas cake for the last couple of weeks. While we proceed to judge them and secretly hope they invite us for a Christmas dinner, we'd like to share a delicious Christmas recipe that doesn't require eons of soaking, happens to be eggless and can be adapted to be child-friendly too (soak the fruit in rum for adults, in apple juice for a PG-13 cake). Here's the recipe, and if it comes out great - do share far and wide in the spirit of gift-giving!
And finally we would like to leave you with this sensory, haunting poem - that reminds us to stop, stare and point out the beauty in our world whenever it graces us. When we're overwhelmed by a ceaseless barrage of bad news, try to remember moments, after the storm had passed, lingering at your window, enthralled by the post-storm sunset burnished across the sky. We can all stare at it together.
"Poem Beginning With a Retweet"
--- Maggie Smith
If you drive past horses and don't say horses
you're a psychopath. If you see an airplane
but don't point it out. A rainbow,
a cardinal, a butterfly. If you don't
whisper-shout albino squirrel! Deer!
Red fox! If you hear a woodpecker
and don't shush everyone around you
into silence. If you find an unbroken
sand dollar in a tide pool. If you see
a dorsal fin breaking the water.
If you see the moon and don't say
oh my god look at the moon. If you smell
smoke and don't search for fire.
If you feel yourself receding, receding,
and don't tell anyone until you're gone.
That's all for this time folks!
Stay safe, make good choices and keep that light on,
Viv and Ami