Angela Natividad's Live & Uncensored!

10 May 2020

Rules for the Immediate Term

  • Be indulgent with friends, who are fighting demons of existential neuroses, even if they're fronting like it's all good. That's a coping strategy, like manic baking and oversleeping. (I know, because it's mine.) Some people have never been alone with themselves this long.
  • Be patient with colleagues and clients; it's hard to take the concept of "bottom lines" seriously right now, even if it defines survival for most of us. No one knows what'll matter when this ends, or how the levers of civilisation will alter. "Base reality" is literally under construction. We won't get another grace period like this in our lives.
  • Forgive yourself. If it's all taking a toll, make your standard no higher than One Big Thing to do each day. Everything else can be cream on top. You'll advance, slow but sure. It'll keep the creeping strangeness at bay.
  • Be real with people. Don't lead them on, or ghost them if you've made a commitment: Don't create more chaos. If you did, give them peace.

Cooperation is our superpower. If the best you can do right now is mind yourself and your mental health, help others by not adding to their neurotic demon echo chamber.

I hug you all, but only figuratively.

24 April 2020

A meditation on seeds

It's apt that my last post featured Madeline Miller's Circe because I happen to be re-reading it as part of a social campaign, the #CirceReadalong by Little, Brown & Co. for the book's paperback release.

This week I've read chapters 1-5, and it feels good to be back in this world. My eyes slide down the story like water over stone, and small synchronicities are leaping out, things I didn't see before, because I've changed and the world's changed, too.

This marks France's sixth week in enforced confinement. Between my last post and now, I left Facebook (then returned), then all the social networks (just for a break, then returned). I left operations at Hurrah, days before confinement dropped. I quit smoking. I learned to cook. (It's fun! Who knew?)

And spring began.

I'm digging the introspection available in this strange snow globe, the opportunity it's provided to burrow and tease out the particulars of what I want to become at this point in my life. I've got all the time in the world, it seems, holed up in my office with its soft yellow light, a frankincense diffusion going and tea brewing and my fingers kissing the keyboard until the black outside goes deep electric blue, a world briefly submerged, it seems, by water—my favourite part.

Here are two quotes from those early chapters of Circe that've leapt out, for me, in relation to the confinement I'm living.

That's my life right now. As we all know, I'm also mortal. So part of me feels a little dangerous, like getting really spendy on the Croisette when you know it's all on credit. 

It's such a gorgeous way to encapsulate the immortal conception of time. I thought about how, in the narrative, many generations pass between Circe meeting Prometheus and meeting Glaucus. She doesn't feel that time pass, and we don't either. Most of it passes in idleness, boredom, small pleasures in the home she's always known: A childhood.

Six weeks have gone by. The world outside my window is a timelapse of the springtime sun rising and setting, and the moon traversing her phases in between. I feel the ways I've gotten strange, rewilded. I am already so far from the person I've been for the last five years that thinking about it gives me vertigo. It's frightening.

This feels like the compelling, unavoidable conflict happening in all our conversations right now. Per a YouGov poll in the U.K., just 9% of polled Brits want their lives to return to how they were. A Sociétés poll in France found similar results for one French person in two: When all this "ends"—and I'm sceptical we see an end the way we assume things end, neatly and on time, a train ride from one place to the next—people want to seriously revisit the rhythms of their lives and how they consume.

It takes, what, 60-odd days to change a habit? We'll all have been in some context of confinement that length and longer still. We are changing whether we want to or not. 

Yet when you look at how certain governments are trying to strong-arm a return to economic "normalcy" into the too-near future, there's palpable concern that all of this will have been for naught. Can they enforce a return to mindless consumption, a new iPhone every year, double the plane-trips to compensate for all the networking events and conferences missed... maybe just with masks and elbow-bumps?


I think they'll try, but the reality we knew is gone, whether we like it or not. "Normalcy" packed her gone-for-good suitcase and didn't look back. 

Pandemics have a way of ending a chapter that everyone mistook for reality itself. The Bubonic Plague ended feudalism—reality as most Westerners knew it for an unbelievably long time. The Plague of Athens corroded Athenian democracy. The Spanish Flu struck the match that would become the fire that would sever the formal colonial bond between Great Britain and India. (Among other things.)

"But," some guy somewhere on Twitter whines, "you're talking about times when we had less scientific know-how and technology."

Shut up. It is blind confidence in the dogma of our current reality that makes it so hard to learn, not only from our own history, but from what these new rhythms we've taken on are already telling us. I'm not saying I don't believe in science or tech; of course I do. I'm saying our models are currently unsustainable, which is something we all hopefully know by now. I'm saying we get this free crash-course in how much our kids actually eat in a day, what consumables matter most, which food is actually local to our areas, who our neighbours are, what we care about, and for whom we matter.

Our systems are more fragile than we believe. Nothing is a monolith. And if we are so married to something that's gone, we will be poorly equipped for the progress we can make in the brave new world flowering before us. Mourn if you like; that's healthy. But don't drag the corpse around and force people to interact with it.

Personally, I look forward to the day this changed world, and this changed me, meet. I haven't any idea what we'll create between us, but the timing is right. Nothing I've already been seems to fit anymore.