AUGUST TL; DR
Pieces too long? Read this monthly summary!
This TL;DR is late, by WEEKS, and I’m sorry! Things have been A LOT, and that a-lot-ness pushed this monthly summary back.
PLEASE ADD MY NEW SENDING ADDRESS to YOUR CONTACTS so that this email continues to arrive in your mailbox:
WITHOUT FURTHER ADO…
Are you overwhelmed by the long articles, or don't have the bandwidth? Have no fear: TL; DR for AUGUST is here! This digest summarizes the vital bits from the previous month's "How to Live" newsletter so you don't miss a thing.
This piece from August 9th, 2023, introduced Don Ritchie, a Man Who Saved Nearly 500 Lives by Asking a Simple Question.
In the Eastern Suburbs of Sydney, Australia, spectacular ocean cliffs made from Sydney Sandstone overlook the Tasman Sea. The cliff’s dramatic drop-off into the water below makes the view a popular tourist destination known as The Gap.
But since the 1800s, The Gap has been known to locals for something bleaker than its spectacular view—suicides. For a long time, only a three-foot fence separated a person from the edge. In 2010, local officials recorded one person a week attempting to end their life at The Gap.
In 1964, a quiet 38-year-old life insurance salesman named Don Ritchie, and his wife Moya, bought a house on Old South Head Road, in eyeshot of The Gap.
It wasn’t long before Ritchie began noticing that some people who stood on the edge suddenly disappeared.
It didn’t take him long to realize where they’d gone and why they’d come to The Gap in the first place.
Ritchie knew he couldn’t just sit there and watch people disappear. He sensed his presence might be of value. So, every morning, he began scanning the cliffs from his window, and when he saw someone standing precariously close to the edge, he grabbed his dog and headed out for a stroll toward the cliffs to ask if he might help in some way.
This is the story of The Angel of The Gap.
The August 16th piece was about the Negative Undercurrent That Lines Toxic Positivity.
People who practice Toxic Positivity falsely believe negative emotions are wrong because they feel bad.
Instead of feeling what they feel, they opt out, cultivating positivity by looking at the bright side. Worse, they expect others to follow suit. They don’t just dislike their negative feelings; they don’t like anyone’s, so they wind up “bright siding” (“Look on the bright side!) those pulling them down.
Negative emotions aren’t bad. They’re essential and often valuable.
People who demand you suppress your negative feelings don’t understand emotions. After all, we cannot numb a single emotion. That’s not how it works. If it did, do you think I’d be anxious? Hell no.
With emotions, it’s all or none.
Acts of love require allowing people to feel how they do without demanding they change or feel differently so that you are comfortable being with them. It’s not an act of love to tell someone to feel differently than they do.
When we avoid suffering, we avoid growing. When someone demands happiness at all times, they are not living in reality; they are living in avoidance, and there is nothing more emotionally damaging to a person than not facing what’s real.
The August 23rd piece was about How We Get Through The Hardest Times
Julia Rothman and Shaina Feinberg have a bi-weekly illustrated column called Scratch that appears in the Sunday Business section of the New York Times. The column shares the rarely told stories of people and small businesses.
But, when the pandemic hit, businesses got struck hard, and Rothman and Feinberg didn’t know what they could add to the already overflowing reports about lay-offs and closings of iconic businesses and recently opened mom-and-pop’s.
They were at a loss. What could they offer?
When Feinberg told Rothman a story about how her mom dealt with a cancer diagnosis by making to-do lists (included in the book), Rothman realized that was their next column.
"How We Got By: New Yorkers' Advice for Getting Through a Crisis," became one of their most popular columns.
They realized that, like them, people needed stories about living through hardship, and so they set out to get stories from people they knew, people those people knew, and strangers they met on the street.
They interviewed and drew 111 people. The result is an exquisite book about the universal experience of suffering and how many people faced with trauma, horror, hardship, and grief don’t necessarily “get past it” or “outgrow it,” but they carry it with them, as they live their lives, learning how to tolerate discomfort and uncertainty, without remaining paralyzed forever.
The stories cover a broad range of hardships: From the death of a child to a man who escaped the Syrian army. The moral of every story is this: We all suffer in various ways, but the connective tissue threading humanity together is resilience.
Today’s piece is a sneak peek at that book.
The August 30th, 2023 piece was a Guest Post by Meredith Arthur about Breakdowns
Ignoring life’s ruptures doesn’t mean they aren’t there.
I asked our mutual friend and fellow anxiety explorer Amanda Stern if I could write to you about breakdowns. Amanda and I share a love of emotional investigation, a ceaseless curiosity about mental health, and a desire for community and clarity in the treatment of anxiety disorders.
I’m the Chief of Staff of Pinterest’s innovation lab and have spent my career in technology as a writer, producer, and product builder.
At age 39, in the middle of a frantic run of startup jobs, I found myself bedridden with migraines and fainting on my morning commute. I was curled up in a chair, wracked with pain, when my neurologist told me that my physical symptoms were a sign of anxiety and diagnosed me with Generalized Anxiety Disorder.
Until next week, I remain…
❤️ New here? Subscribe!
🙋🏻♀️ Email me with questions, comments, or topic ideas! [email protected]
🥲 Not in love? Unsubscribe!