2017 has been a slog for so many of us, for so many reasons. The news came so fast it felt like one endless wretched week and, at the same time, a thousand years. It’s an endless raging present of news alerts and dyspepsia. But we’ve all carved out our coping mechanisms.
This year, while the world crashed and burned around us, I decided to focus on what’s most important: fixing all of my physical and emotional flaws. My solutions have included: improv classes (to cure my fear of public speaking), photography classes (to redirect my anxiety and also see if maybe I am an art genius; this was not the case), very expensive skincare items (to extend my youth), bangs (to begin a hair journey), a cognitive behavioral therapy workbook (see: anxiety), and pilates tower classes. God, I love pilates. You put your leg in a thing, you push it, you look around and everyone else is 65 years old, you do a bunch of other stuff, and voila: a full hour of not thinking about North Korea.
— Ellie Shechet
Rock of Love
That I’ve managed to persevere through 2017 and Hulu has put up all of Rock of Love, Vh1’s take on The Bachelor starring Bret Michaels and about two dozen erotic dancers who are funnier and more wild than Bret could ever hope to be, is not a coincidence. The women of that show have given me FUEL to keep going because I’ve becoming almost obsessive about finding out what they’re up to now (a lot of them live in Florida) and revisiting what they were up to then. It’s also opened the door to rewatching Charm School and all the other celeb-reality shows that peppered the aughts. In healthier developments, I’ve started taking unironically enthusiastic fitness classes, doing yoga, and have decided—as of yesterday—to get really into candles.
— Madeleine Davies
I re-joined ClassPass to try to get some circulation through my body, and I bought a dozen plants (having previously owned zero), which turned out to be great for my air quality, home decor, and general happiness.
— Clover Hope
French Bulldogs on Instagram
This year I tried meditation, but it drove me crazy. I started to crochet, and abandoned it. I attempted to bake more pies and cookies, but they all sucked. The only thing that really brought me pure joyful reprieve from the hell cycle? The dozens of famous french bulldog Instagram accounts I followed this year. There’s Mutta, the athletic bulldog living in Japan. Or @waltergoodboy, a precious boy from Brooklyn. These many, many accounts have cleared my skin, watered my crops, and fed my soul this 2017. And because Twitter became a full-blown dumpster fire this year, these little stinkers made Instagram my only worthwhile social media feed. Maybe one day I’ll actually have my own dog and then I’ll never need to stare at a screen again!
— Hazel Cills
This year I tried many things, as my colleagues did, that might help me stop thinking: I experimented with skincare, gave myself a horrible case of cystic acne, and finally settled on a routine that worked; I started watching RomComs; I finished the Sopranos; I started boxing. But the thing that was the most helpful in permanently improving my life and establishing a healthy routine was personal training. I did it every week for one hour at a small all-women’s gym with my trainer Leanne Shear, and actually saw myself get significantly better at something. This has happened basically never. It’s a miracle. Oh, and I got engaged and started looking at pictures of flowers—a fact which has shocked me as much as anyone.
Escape to the Country
As the world continued to crumble in ways both large and very small, I turned to television for comfort. Reading books still works, but my attention span often found me holding a book in one hand and staring into my phone, so the immersive pleasures of lifestyle television and a tiny bit of marijuana slowly started to replace that vice. Deep in the bowels of Netflix lies Escape to the Country, a British television show about politely doddering British couples who are eager to leave their lives in the big city behind and move to a sprawling, ramshackle home nestled in the verdant fields of the British countryside. I’m not sure how I discovered this gem but as Netflix’s algorithm often knows me better than I know myself, I’ll place the blame squarely on its shoulders. Unlike the slick, over-produced happy endings of American home improvement shows, no one ever walks away with a fully-staged home covered in shiplap, big clocks, or restored period details. For the viewer, that means less internalized panic about giving it all up and moving to Waco or the Fountain Square neighborhood of Indianapolis and more reveling in lush shots of rolling green hills, fluffy clouds and old-ass farmhouses with beams and gardens and hearths and snugs. It’s visual Xanax in a way that my other disgusting vice, YouTube beauty tutorials, is not—I don’t want anything after I’ve blown through three episodes in a row, my ass slowly becoming one with the couch. I just feel like my heart has been bathed in the warm light that they always talk about at the end of yoga class—a good thing.
— Megan Reynolds
Getting a Puppy
After six months of cruising PetFinder in a Trump-induced stupor, I adopted a puppy, Louise. I already had a dog, Rosie, who is 14 years-old and perfect. It’s not that Rosie wasn’t enough because she absolutely is, but she’s not exactly a distraction from the news or the anxiety it provokes. I lie on the floor next to her and look into her soulful brown eyes, and I know that the world contains goodness, but she asks so little of me. I needed someone to demand such an outrageous amount of attention that it would physically prevent me from looking at my phone and thinking about the world: that’s Louise. She’s a nutcase. We were told she was half lab, half cattle dog, but it turns out she’s a plott hound mix. These are high-energy, anxious dogs that are bred to run long distances in search of ducks that their owners shot out of the sky. I have never hunted and live in an apartment in Brooklyn. The AKC says they’re terrible dogs for apartments and cities. Louise chews everything and requires both constant supervision and four hours of exercise a day. My husband and I have completely changed our lives to accommodate her. I love it.
— Kelly Stout
I’ve always been an avid gardener, but this year my garden grew from a few herbs and easy-to-grow basics (like cucumbers and bell peppers) to cover most of my backyard. My yard is blooming with citrus trees and tomatoes, leafy greens, a variety of beans, and a range of fruits. I feel like the news cycle has consumed me body and soul, rendering any lingering sense of individual control a complete fiction, and gardening was the only place where it could exist again. So I gardened. I grew and preserved and gave away more food than I can remember. I made goddamn jam. Then I was hit by a hurricane and a lot of my smaller vegetables died. I think it was a metaphor for the vicious cycle of life or something, but I’m probably insane. At any rate, after half of the garden was destroyed, I just started over. Maybe that was the metaphor?
— Stassa Edwards
Getting in Shape
Every year of my life, I’ve said, “This is the year I get in shape.” In 2017, I actually did. I’ve lost 45 pounds this year; I can do 100 squats and feel nothing, except my muscular ass with my powerful hands. I don’t know why this was what I turned to—not vanity, nor societal pressure, nor worries about my general health ever pushed me to such extremes. It can only be concluded that feeling so powerless after the election, and in the subsequent year, made me want to take back control. Everyday, I form my body in some small way that the news cycle cannot touch. Or maybe I’m just getting strong enough to break a molesting congressman’s neck with my hamstrings.
— Aimée Lutkin
Wine and Forensic Files
I’m not gonna lie: a new wine store opened up near my apartment and on the long nights I didn’t feel like dealing, I popped over and picked up a bottle of Jolie Folle Rosé (it’s crisp, not too sweet, and most importantly $15 for a liter) and got just numb enough to doze gently to sleep, as though there aren’t thirty-eleven existential threats teetering at the brink of every second. I realize this is not the healthiest way to deal, but if it works for the French! Also, I found solace in binge-watching Forensic Files on Netflix, another thing that got me to sleep in a year I’ve been at my most insomniac; if using a show about murder as a kind of lullaby sounds rather unhinged, I would agree but it befit the times, and besides, after about 10 episodes you’ll agree that narrator Peter Thomas (RIP) has one of the richest, most calming voices in media. His particular way of pacing out cadences was my just-warm bottle of milk. (Plus, I love the original theme song, which is guitar heavy, pushed through 100 flange effects pedals, and sounds written by a guy who spent 1996 listening exclusively to Tool and Alice in Chains.)
— Julianne Escobedo Shepherd
This year, I got really into meditation. As a result I started loving ambient music so much that if there isn’t some sort of fuzzy hum droning in my ear at this point, I feel naked. Additionally, I am now considering founding my own wellness cult for like-minded individuals with practical interest in youth-preservation. I’m kidding about the cult (barely), but not about meditation. I love it. It gives me the warmest illusion of safety. Imagine being able to turn off the 24/7 news cycle, the pervasive dread, the nonstop marathon of your mind. You can—or at least slow it down to a tolerable trot via meditation. You can actually create your own pathway to happiness depending on how you focus (dig my vernacular, join my cult), and meditation helps you learn to harness your focus. This can be applied to many things beyond temporarily opting out of cultural misery—a more active decision in what you allow to bother you is another lovely byproduct. When I meditate, I try to keep my mind clear as possible, but sometimes I can’t help but considering my place in the universe as I attempt to meld with the moment. And then I think about how insignificant I am on this planet, and then I think about how insignificant our planet is in the universe. No one is depending on us for anything! If the earth overheats and humanity is extinct...the universe keeps going because earth is dust and humans are dust’s dust. When you orient yourself like this in the universe, it’s kind of hard to care about much of anything, really. Even the most profound discoveries and significant insights just feel like products of passing time before we die.
So maybe don’t think about yourself in terms of the scale of the universe.
Obviously, I have often turned to my oldest, most trusted coping mechanism—romance novels—and lately Lucy Parker’s Act Like It, Alisha Rai’s Forbidden Hearts series, and Santino Hassell’s Illegal Contact have done me a great deal of good. But like everybody else, I’m all too easily distracted by Twitter and news alerts, and I needed something hands on, something that required enough attention that I couldn’t pick up my phone every five minutes yet didn’t demand so much brainpower as to short out mental circuits already strained by work, parenthood, and everything else. Hence: cross stitching.
At some point in the spring, I realized that cross stitch was the perfect soothing activity for someone spending a lot of time in their house and looking to maximize their entertainment-per-dollar value. Plus, if I made Christmas ornaments, I could give them away, so they wouldn’t add to the clutter in my apartment. I am not doing ironic or subversive designs; I am doing the warmest, most sentimental kits I can find. (After several mugs, I’ve moved on to Christmas cupcakes.) There is something so soothing about starting with a blank piece of fabric, threading your needle, and slowly building up a picture one stitch at a time. You get better over time—faster, cleaner, confident in more ornate designs—but there’s really no fancy footwork necessary. All you need is patience. Originally intended as a sort of forced down time, a restorative mindlessness, I’ve found it surprisingly sustaining. So much of parenthood is repetition. You feed them again, and again, and again. You repeat a word again, and again, and again. You tell them again, and again, and again. Eventually—hopefully—it does take. I find something encouraging in the act of adding stitch after stitch after stitch, turning that white fabric into a picture over the course of hours. It feels like a reassurance. And I hope, too, that that reassurance can be applied to other types of repetitive, grinding, seemingly impossible collective work. How many protests make a difference? How many stitches make a picture?
— Kelly Faircloth