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As history tells us, there’s no such thing

Woman walking down a leaf-strewn path.
Woman walking down a leaf-strewn path.
Photo: d3sign/Getty Images

We’ve all heard it at some point this year, and have probably even said it: “When things go back to normal… ”

I found myself having such a thought this very morning as I took my sons for our daily walk. It’s understandable, of course. Life right now feels very strange. A pandemic has disrupted our lives. The country seems more polarized than ever. There’s little sign that the economy will rebound soon.

But any student of history knows that 2020 is hardly abnormal.

A hundred years ago, we had a pandemic — the Spanish flu — in the middle…

And that’s not necessarily a bad thing

Woman walking in thin light stripe and looking up, in studio with concrete floor
Woman walking in thin light stripe and looking up, in studio with concrete floor
Photo: Klaus Vedfelt/DigitalVision/Getty Images

On a recent Sunday afternoon, while typing emails on an unheated outdoor patio as the temperature descended from “nippy” to “fucking cold,” it occurred to me that there’s no bouncing back from a year like this. The pandemic will end, but our pre-2020 selves are gone forever. And that’s not necessarily a bad thing.

You’d be forgiven for reading this and thinking, “well yes, duh.” As soon as our worlds shrunk down to household units and pandemic pods, we began planning for who we’d become after this: the priorities we’d re-prioritize, the goals we’d chase down, the dances we’d dance…

Photo: David Buzzard— Images

There’s something weirdly satisfying about saying — and believing — things like “Only one month left in this cursed year.” When something terrible or unbelievable or plain ridiculous happens, we post on Twitter or text our friends, “Wow, that was so 2020.”

And sure, why not? “To make sense of the chaos and uncertainty, our brains look for patterns, an easy way to explain what’s happening,” Jordan Davidson explains in Elemental. “One of those shortcuts: blaming it all on 2020.”

But as Davidson points out, blaming 2020 for, you know, everything, isn’t actually very healthy: “This false hope that the…

Why nice people are jerks online

Two people holding their phones.
Two people holding their phones.
Photo: Westend61/Getty Images

Spending an extended amount of time on the internet can feel like being in a bad relationship: You know it would be healthier to call it quits, but still, you can feel yourself being sucked in. And the longer you stay, the harder it becomes to recognize yourself.

Coming off a long, grueling election week in a long, grueling year, that feels truer now than it’s ever been: Our personas online, especially on social media, are often far from the people we want to be IRL. We pick political fights with relatives in the comments of a cousin’s Facebook post…

Unhinged optimism isn’t healthy.

Photo: South_agency / Getty Images

Is there anything more American than a redemption narrative — the idea that deep down, we know we’re right? That the right guy, the good guy, our guy, always wins in the end if you wait around or watch for long enough?

During election season, this belief becomes something like an addiction, with the New York Times needles and the Nates (Silver and Cohn, that is) serving as our dealers — offering up hope, horror, tweets, and forecasts long after our twitching eyeballs beg us to look away.

As things stand right now, with Joe Biden looking victorious, one iteration…

What I’m telling my therapy clients today

Photo: Olivier Douliery/Contributor/Getty Images

As I watched the election results begin to roll in last night, I kept thinking about the work I do in my therapy practice as a couples counselor. When a fight erupts, I give each person a chance to tell their version of an event.

This practice never fails to astonish me because it demonstrates how two people can experience the same thing in a completely different way: One person sees themselves as the hero, while the other labels them the villain. One person thinks they handled a disagreement with maturity, while the other calls them a selfish child.


It’s an abuse of trust, but you can fight against it

Photo: AlessandraRC / Getty Images

We’re seeing hypocrisy play out in the political sphere to an extreme degree, and it’s driving many of us wild with rage.

The hypocrisy of Republicans installing Amy Coney Barrett to the Supreme Court days before an election was almost too much to take in. The blatant reversal of standards, logical contortions required to defend the move, and sheer two-faced twisting of the national narrative surrounding fairness — applied specifically to the Supreme Court, one of the most esteemed arbiters of justice in the world — is beyond what a reasonable person can bear.

We’re not just mad because of…

But we can still support each other

Photo: Kanawa_Studio/Getty Images

The night of Election Day, 2016, my upstairs neighbor came over to drink wine and listen to the results — we’d celebrate together, we figured. Late into the night, the numbers started to tell a story we hadn’t expected. We hugged before she went back to her apartment, both of us bewildered.

The next day, too, was all about hugs. I went to work early and there was only one other person in the office — a co-worker I barely knew — and without so much as saying a thing to each other, we hugged. Later that day I picked…

What my wrongful murder conviction showed me about how to get through 2020

Amanda Knox. Photo: Patrik Andersson

This year— with its seemingly never-ending pandemic and economic recession and with the president and his enablers threatening our democracy — isn’t just disorienting and sickening. It’s also deeply familiar.

It’s been five years since I was definitively acquitted for a murder I didn’t commit, and I’m still unsure what my best path forward is. I don’t know if I can ever restore my reputation or achieve anything that will impact my life as much as this external trauma has.

I feel perpetually lost.

This year, the rest of the country has joined me. All at once, so many of…


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