Issue #124: How to Wake Up to Your Life
Let's stop distracting ourselves.
Morning Person is a weekly newsletter packed with obsessively-curated recommendations and ideas—let’s get to it!
🎥 ‘Poor Things’ in theaters: Because I’d been primed to love it by friends, I was surprised to spend the first thirty minutes of Yorgos Lanthimos’s surreal, Victorian-era crazy quilt of a film wondering, “…what the heck is this?” The movie is strange—there are duck heads transplanted onto pug bodies, and burps that grow into bubbles—and only gets strangers, but as it does, I could feel my mind and tolerance expanding alongside Bella Baxter’s (played by Emma Stone). A sort of Frankenstein’s monster with a dark backstory, she applies a shameless childlike wonder to violence, sex, and pastries in her path to developing a consciousness in this beautifully shot and designed, thoughtful movie that should be seen in theaters, if feasible.
📚 Saving Time by Jenny Odell: Odell’s first book about the attention economy forever changed the way I think about productivity and the inherent value of rest. Her latest book, which I read when it first came out but is available today in paperback, looks at the quality of time in a post-industrial culture—how we measure it, live by it, and manage it. It is denser and more academic than How to Do Nothing, but worth the effort. For a more consumable approach on time, try the Atlantic’s podcast series “How to Keep Time.”
🧅 Roasted Onion, Everything: The first time I recognized the ~*latent potential*~ of onions was when I made these Cuban-inspired Mojo Meatballs. The recipe calls for roasted red onion wedges that are so show-stealing that I ditched the meatballs altogether and just made the sauce and onions in subsequent recreations. Last night, I made tomato-roasted onions from the latest issue of Bon Appetit, served alongside rotisserie chicken (I’d just made a Costco run) that reinvigorated my love of onions. The recipe isn’t yet available online, but it’s essentially this cabbage recipe with onions. In short, you char onions in a cast-iron pan, then cover them in a sauce made of tomato paste, paprika, bouillon paste, and apple cider vinegar, thinned with water. Also loving: onion confit, caramelized onions, and my onion/fennel galette. My breath smells amazing, TYSM for asking.
Note: For the first time ever, I’ve recorded myself reading the full post, available to paid subscribers. It’s long and packed with information, but I also think it’s on one of the most important topics I’ve explored. I hope this makes engaging with it, or reading it on your commute, a little easier. You can also expand the full thing in your browser here.
You already know the way this story begins… When I exploded my life and my marriage, it was largely in reaction to the realization that I had been sleepwalking1 for thirty years; going through the motions of “good” grades, college, career, husband, and house.2 It was as if I woke up and realized, Oh, fuck. I don’t want any of this. I spent the immediate aftermath ripping myself out of the only life I’d ever known, operating in survival mode. As difficult as that was, it turns out that the initial awakening, and accompanying logistics, was the “easy” part. What’s proved to be much more challenging is the task of building a life that reflects this recognition, and honors a more attentive and intentional way of being.
It’s the difference between going through life sleepwalking, self-soothing through dopaminergic rewards like shopping, to-do lists and inboxes, TikTok, substances, and other distractions, versus engaging wholly in life. Settling into the good and the uncomfortable; the inherent difficulty that comes with being a person. To be, as Mary Oliver writes, “a bride married to amazement,”, as Buddhist thinker Jon Kabat-Zinn puts it, “living more in the actuality of our lives,” or even Emma Stone said of Bella on Sunday at the Golden Globes, “to fall in love with life itself.” When the in/out lists flooded my feed and my inbox3 at the end of last year, they felt like a battle cry for this reorientation away from the doing and self-distracting into being present and intentional.