When I was younger, comfort looked a lot like solitude, and more acutely, avoidance. I’d burrow myself in the corner of the big blue chair in the living room and read chick lit for hours on end, the acoustic guitar of Ingrid Michaelson’s Pandora station insulating me from the words I didn’t want to hear: that my father was cheating again, my mom lacked the means to leave him, and that everything would be easier if I was just somehow a little bit less. If I couldn’t hear the conflict, it didn’t exist, and I could deal with it later or not at all, depending on if I wanted to finish my book.
I’ve always associated being comfortable with escapism, so I’ve never quite understood what self–care is supposed to look like when you aren’t sad, or yearning, or a mix of both. If everything is surface–level okay, do you really need to carve out time to check in with yourself? Or do you just plod on? I still don’t know the answer, so comfort looks a lot like watching eight hours of RuPaul’s Drag Race against a looming deadline, wandering around Center City with my phone off when I really should just call my mom, and ordering goPuff instead of buying groceries. In short, comfort looks like procrastination.
Lately, that’s become a bit more complicated. My version of comfort isn’t sustainable—at least when everyday brings something to avoid. There’s the endless drone of Zoom lectures and meetings and happy hours, none of which accomplish much other than exhaustion. Or the lopsided pile of emails in my inbox, asking me to buy things and write about things and fill out things, even though those tasks feel Sisyphean at best. Even my Instagram feed is screaming at me to be hyper–vigilant, a cycle of half–fact–checked infographics shouting to read theory, donate money, and perform some activism.
To let you in on a secret: Most days I want to ignore everything. But I know doing so isn’t going to bring me the other, better form of comfort: the relief of accomplishment. There’s something quietly beautiful about closing your laptop and crossing off the last item of your to–do list. Sure, chasing that feeling is a byproduct of grind culture, but I think celebrating the small wins is more important than having days when you don’t win or lose anything at all. Maybe, true comfort is in finding the balance.
This week’s edition is about looking for comfort in the inanimate, since abstractions can’t always hit the spot. We have roundups of country songs and house plant shops that make the doldrums of quarantine feel like a warm blanket, and an interview with the cast of Bad Trip about what it takes to make a guilty pleasure film in an age desperate for laughter. Most importantly, we acknowledge that comfort may be elusive, but small joys are never too far out of reach.