The Delights of Distraction No.75: Our Lonely Hearts Club Inbox

It’s Viv and Ami, your weekly curators of stuff we found around the web that we thought you might like to read, watch, listen to or just enjoy. It’s great having you here. 

Unless you’ve been extra-cocooned in your omicron cave, you might have noticed that the retail industrial complex has been bombarding you with the presumptuous notion (and we’re implicating ourselves here), that Love is in the air. A “marketing calendar” used by content creators and social media/ad agencies have marked the days running up to today with hallmark names such Teddy day, Rose day, Chocolate day, Kiss day and Hug day. How quaint; to think we can count down the world’s glorification of romance into such easy boxes.

Although we have rebranded today as one to celebrate the real MVPs in your life: your friends; in the wake of the devastation of intimacy from the pandemic, we wonder if today should be about acknowledging the canyons of loneliness here. People who lost their loves, who are heart-broken or have nobody to love. People whose hearts overflow with affection but with nowhere to put it. How do we channel that inward sorrow and direct it outward instead?

If you have someone in your life who is marooned on an island of loneliness - maybe just a bunch of flowers won’t cut it. Maybe you could send them a text, an email, or drive across that moat and tell them how lovable they are. Maybe you tell them that it is their duty to love in whatever way they can (their dog, cat, literature, music, father, sister, friends, nature, cinema) and to move boldly into that love - deeply, dangerously and recklessly - and restore the world with their awe and wonder.

“Life will break you. Nobody can protect you from that, and living alone won’t either, for solitude will also break you with its yearning. You have to love. You have to feel. It is the reason you are here on earth. You are here to risk your heart. You are here to be swallowed up. And when it happens that you are broken, or betrayed, or left, or hurt, or death brushes near, let yourself sit by an apple tree and listen to the apples falling all around you in heaps, wasting their sweetness. Tell yourself you tasted as many as you could.”  Louise Erdrich

And here’s some of our faves for the week: 

To joy scroll: Dagou is a Chinese, gay illustrator who draws intimate scenes of longing, yearning and passion between non heternormative couples in love. His work is particularly transgressive in a country where sexual minorities are not recognized. “In my mind, everything can be love – kissing, hugging, sunsets, tears, bouquets, birth, destruction. I use my pen and paper to trace and record each one, hoping that I can get closer to the truth.” 

To read: This piece - It’s your friends who break your Heart, has been doing the rounds this week, and for good reason. It’s soft pay-walled, so in case you can’t read it, here’s a chunky excerpt: 

“I was undergoing a Great Pandemic Friendship Reckoning, along with pretty much everyone else. All of those hours in isolation had amounted to one long spin of the centrifuge, separating the thickest friendships from the thinnest; the ambient threat of death and loss made me realize that if I wanted to renew or intensify my bonds with the people I loved most, the time was now, right now. 

But truth be told, I’d already been mulling this subject for quite some time. When you’re in middle age, which I am (mid-middle age, to be precise—I’m now 52), you start to realize how very much you need your friends. They’re the flora and fauna in a life that hasn’t had much diversity, because you’ve been so busy—so relentlessly, stupidly busy—with middle-age things: kids, house, spouse, or some modern-day version of Zorba’s full catastrophe. Then one day you look up and discover that the ambition monkey has fallen off your back; the children into whom you’ve pumped thousands of kilowatt-hours are no longer partial to your company; your partner may or may not still be by your side. And what, then, remains? 

With any luck, your friends. According to Laura Carstensen, the director of the Stanford Center on Longevity, I’ve aged out of the friendship-collecting business, which tends to peak in the tumbleweed stage of life, when you’re still young enough to spend Saturday evenings with random strangers and Sunday mornings nursing hangovers at brunch. Instead, I should be in the friendship-enjoying business, luxuriating in the relationships that survived as I put down roots. 
And I am luxuriating in them. But those friendships are awfully hard-won. With midlife comes a number of significant upheavals and changes, ones that prove too much for many friendships to withstand. By middle age, some of the dearest people in your life have gently faded away. 

You lose friends to marriage, to parenthood, to politics—even when you share the same politics. (Political obsessions are a big, underdiscussed friendship-ender in my view, and they seem to only deepen with age.) You lose friends to success, to failure, to flukish strokes of
good or ill luck. (Envy, dear God—it’s the mother of all unspeakables in a friendship, the lulu of all shames.) These life changes and upheavals don’t just consume your friends’ time and attention. They often reveal unseemly characterological truths about the people you love most, behaviors and traits you previously hadn’t imagined possible. 

Those are brutal. 
And I’ve still left out three of the most common and dramatic friendship disrupters: moving, divorce, and death. Though only the last is irremediable. 
The unhappy truth of the matter is that it is normal for friendships to fade, even under the best of circumstances. The real aberration is keeping them.” 

To WTF: What do you think the most romantic thing you could do for someone is? Go on, take a moment to close your eyes and really imagine the acme of romance? Now, did any of you think: Well, I could arrange for a flight in a small plane fitted out with a bed that will fly around for 45 minutes so that my significant other and I might get intimate with each other at 25,000 feet, to join the mile high club?

If you’re one of our readers, and therefore a sane person - I hope not! But this is the service offered up by LoveCloud - and their booking is on the fritz so apparently there seems to be a market for everything. 

To listen: Last week, the country’s most celebrated singer, Lata Mangeshkar, passed away at 92, which resulted in an outbreak of tributes and sentimental playlists that flooded our inboxes and Whatsapp windows. Here’s a playlist where the Nightingale sings solo, her tunes mostly from the 60’s and 70’s. They’re all embedded from Youtube in a single page so you don’t have to click through to listen. 

To cook: Gifts of food can do so much, both for the recipient and the giver. They’re a way to share part of yourself, a way to nourish someone else, to give them a treat, either as a celebration, or a pick-me up when they need it. And they also make someone feel seen, cared for, and loved. Our favourite Chef John from Food Wishes on Youtube, teaches you how to make 6 indulgent, chocolate treats if you need to go all out for gastronomic seduction. 
To watch: The winners of the Best Illusion of the Year Contest for 2021 have been announced and among the top 3, the one that really got us was this one by, Michael A. Cohen - the Changing Room Illusion. So much of our perceived world slips right by in front of our eyes. 

To love: "Pathways” by Rainer Maria Rilke.

Understand, I’ll slip quietly
away from the noisy crowd
when I see the pale
stars rising, blooming, over the oaks.
I’ll pursue solitary pathways
through the pale twilit meadows,
with only this one dream:
You come too.

To end: For the lonely, the brokenhearted, the melancholic, Ursula Le Guin considers, “It is our suffering that brings us together. It is not love. Love does not obey the mind, and turns to hate when forced. The bond that binds us is beyond choice. We are brothers. We are brothers in what we share.” It is our pain that brings us together. Perhaps the deepest measure of our character is how much we go on giving when what we cherish is taken from us - when a loved one is lost or the world withdraws its mercy. That is what the poet Jane Hirshfield explores in this poem: 

The heart’s reasons 
seen clearly, 
even the hardest 
will carry 
its whip-marks and sadness 
and must be forgiven. 
As the drought-starved 
eland forgives 
the drought-starved lion 
who finally takes her, 
enters willingly then 
the life she cannot refuse, 
and is lion, is fed, 
and does not remember the other. 
So few grains of happiness 
measured against all the dark 
and still the scales balance. 
The world asks of us 
only the strength we have and we give it. 
Then it asks more, and we give it. 

Thank you for reading, to the open-hearted, whole-hearted, and broken-hearted…we will see you in your inbox next week. 

Viv and Ami

P.S. If you are just joining us you can explore all the previous editions here. If you would like to sign someone up for the newsletter, you can just reply to this email. P.S.S. Here's our peek-a-boo mug launched last week which has become an instant hit. Guess it's just too cute to resist!

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