From the Editors:
This month I’ve been thinking a lot about gratitude.
That word has typically turned me off. I associate it with guilt — not feeling “thankful” enough on a daily basis for the many things in my life that are going well. Not spending enough time thanking God directly for them. Not telling the people in my life how much I appreciate them.
My efforts toward feeling more grateful have typically been the same: listing things I’m thankful for. And it’s almost always the same list.
My family, my friends, a job I like (finally), my health.
But in working on Cropped, I’ve begun to move beyond that list to understand what being grateful means for me on a daily basis.
Of course I’m able to quickly list off the things I am fortunate to have in my life.
But there was one part I was still struggling with: looking at all the things around me that other people have, that I want, and feeling sad or frustrated or deprived for not having them too. That’s the part that has to go.
It took me 25 years to understand that doing that hurts me. It doesn’t have to be on social media (although a lot of my wanting comes from comparing myself to others’ social feeds); it happens off the screen, too. Although it’s good and positive to have goals, my life shouldn’t be about observing what is possible for others and trying to get there too.
Lin-Manuel Miranda, the creator of the popular hip-hop Broadway musical “Hamilton,” talked about this idea in an interview with Charlie Rose. Rose asked him why he believes he became successful in the theater industry, and Miranda said it’s because he stayed in his lane — sticking with theater and writing, and not letting himself become distracted by all the noise going on around him.
I think gratitude is much the same. To some extent, it helps to have blinders on, and to stop thinking about all the jobs, relationships and material things I could reach for. That’s the part I want to ditch.
This month, let’s stay in our lanes.
Maria (and Marina)
WHAT WE’RE READING
A new addition to our letter where we share links to some things that have been on our minds.
I love these illustrations of women’s every days by Sally Nixon. There’s a woman brushing her teeth in the shower, another eating birthday cake alone at the kitchen sink, another in her underwear reading in bed, their expressions blank or contemplative or irritated. These are the ordinary activities we usually crop out of our social media narratives, but it feels so good to see them captured here. These moments are significant too.
Shout out to my mom for sending me this one. According to Chinese philosophy, we should stop trying to “find” ourselves. This idea in particular blew my mind (thanks, Mencius): “Concrete, defined plans for life are abstract because they are made for a self who is abstract: a future self that you imagine based on a snapshot of yourself now. You are confined to what is in the best interests of the person you happen to be right now—not of the person you will become.”
I’ve become obsessed with the idea of purging items from my life that are unnecessary. Simplifying my physical surroundings makes my mind feel less cluttered, too. I’ll confess I’ve never read “The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up” by organization guru Marie Kondo, but I loved this article about trying her decluttering methods. It’s funny and entertaining, and it made me want to go home and purge, purge, purge.
I know everyone is sick of “Hamilton” references at this point. … And I already made a “Hamilton” reference earlier in this letter. I promise I’ll stop, but this interview Lin-Manuel Miranda did for Time changed me. “The drawback of your twenties is the terror of not knowing if you’re actually going to accomplish what you set out to accomplish or who you’re going to be when you grow up.” He gets it.