The Sunday Post for December 1, 2019

Each week, the Sunday Post highlights just a few things we loved reading and want to share with you. Settle in with a cup of coffee, or tea, if that's your pleasure — we saved you a seat! Read an essay or an article online that you loved? Let us know at Need more browse? You can also look through the archives.

This is a season of longing. It may be a sweet, shivery longing, if there's a hope of getting what you want. Or spare and aching longing if outcomes are uncertain, the feeling you get from the warm light of a stranger's closed-tight window. Either way, it's more powerful than the small, excitable yearnings of greener seasons. It builds on decades (assuming some advancement of age) of palimpsested holiday expectations.

At worst, at this time of year, the entire world is a stranger's closed-tight window — because the big longing of the holiday season is for home. Home, however you define it: a person, or many; a place; a gathering. Or: an end to wandering, an end to wondering. Home as the place where, when you are there, you know it's where you should be.

That's the sharp tip of the knife, isn't it? This is the time of year when you're supposed to know where you belong, which almost no one does for more than half a heartbeat.

Ten of my recommendations for good writing habits

Writing can be a kind of argument with longing — a way of articulating a belonging (not accepting, let's not get crazy) relationship to the world. Lydia Davis's advice on taking notes speaks to this: observe, she says, express. Learn to see how the world belongs to itself. Learn to tolerate the longing that comes from being in the world.

I do a lot of writing and note-taking on trips: in airports, on airplanes, on trains. I recommend taking public transportation whenever possible. There are many good reasons to do this (one’s carbon footprint, safety, productive use of time, support of public transportation, etc.), but for a writer, here are two in particular: 1) you will write a good deal more waiting for a bus or sitting on a train than you will driving a car, or as a passenger in a car; and (2) you will be thrown in with strangers — people not of your choosing. Although I pass strangers when I’m walking on a city street, it is only while traveling on public transportation that I sit thigh to thigh with them on a subway, stare at the back of their heads waiting in line, and overhear sometimes extended conversations. It takes me out of my own limited, chosen world.
The homeownership obsession

Homeownership! One of the most expensive ways to (try to) satisfy the longing for home. Homebuyers imagine a house as the setting for all sorts of belonging: social, economic, familial. Katy Kelleher tracks the political and social changes that are packed into that myth. And note: as an experiment in belonging, if homeownership fails, it can be awfully hard to shake loose.

There are two different tales we tell ourselves about houses. The primary story is not about ghosts or demons or red rooms or ghouls, but rather about bright futures, long lives, children, grandchildren, and hard-earned success. The second story, the darker story, is about the horror of being trapped.
What's wrong with me?

Chronic illness is a deep kind of unbelonging, an unsettling from the self. Meghan O'Rourke documents all the forms of longing that come with an autoimmune disorder: for company, for certainty, for the lost state of good health.

As my flare subsided, I kept up with the dry brushing. The metered portions of non-dairy kefir. The flax seeds and the cinnamon. The monitoring of my lab results. Then, as I was staring at my array of brown pill bottles one spring morning, fretting about having run out of one of my supplements, a flicker of rebellion stirred in me. I wasn’t nuts—I had improved on the new regimen. But I had become trapped in my identity as a “sick person,” someone afraid of living. If my mission in life had been reduced to being well at all costs, then the illness had won.