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Cruel Compendium #31 🌅
Setting boundaries, prioritizing pleasure and remembering that you are going to die
I’m Jillian Anthony, and this is Cruel Summer Book Club, a newsletter about change, heartbreak and healing. In the Cruel Compendium I send out links to everything I’m reading, listening to and thinking about. ICYMI, last week I shared that I’m moving to Austin, Texas! And a long list of book recommendations that came from a lovely email exchange between me and a CSBC reader.
I’m going to die. And so are you. By Katie Hawkins-Gaar. How zooming in on your own mortality can help you appreciate your life today. Read my interview with Katie about grief and her wonderful newsletter here.
I Married Young. I Was Widowed Young. I Never Want A Long-Term Partner Again. By Rebecca Woolf. This piece will stay with me for a long time.
As women reimagine who we can be, we are prioritizing our pleasure and learning to be unapologetic in our desire for non-traditional relationships that are just as valuable — if not more — than long-term monogamous partnerships. There is so much emphasis on time investment when it comes to relationships. We validate long-term partners and scoff at one-night stands. We assume that one great love story is more powerful than a dozen shorter ones, and that in order to find happiness we must partner up and stay together, for better or for worse — even when things get worse than we could have imagined. This happily every after narrative does more harm than almost any other I can think of. It whispers in the ears of miserable wives: Stick it out. It insists that leaving means failure and sacrifice is a sacrament.
Why we need more stories about older women by Mary Sharratt. Have you ever noticed how most women in literature don’t age?
But coming-of-age stories can only take us so far. We need to imagine lives beyond Act One, beyond a vague glimmering on the horizon. We need signposts to help us navigate our long and unavoidably complicated modern lives. We live in an age of divorce, blended families, and many of us pursue several careers and many paths of discovery over the course of a single lifetime. Contrary to cultural expectations, women do have exciting, juicy lives after forty and beyond. Contemporary fiction should explore and celebrate this.
An excerpt about body shaming in Hollywood from Casey Rose Wilson’s memoir, The Wreckage of My Presence. God I love her.
Why you need a cohabitation agreement by Vicky Spratt
…You should be drawing up a cohabitation agreement to make sure you’re protected if the worst happens. In recent years the number of cohabiting unmarried couples has risen sharply. However, unlike married couples, cohabiting couples have relatively few protections so if things do go wrong, it can get messy. Like, really messy.
“The kindest people are not born that way, they are made. They are the sounds that have experienced so much at the hands of life, they are the ones who have dug themselves out of the dark, who have fought to turn every loss into a lesson. The kindest people do not just exist – they choose to soften where circumstance has tried to harden them, they choose to believe in goodness, because they have seen firsthand why compassion is so necessary. They have seen firsthand why tenderness is so important in this world.” –Bianca Sparacino
A note from me: I’m disturbed by the hundreds of deaths—including more than 60 children—in Palestine this week, as well as 10 killed in Israel, and am following along with the news of violence in Gaza closely. Accountability is important to me, so I want to share that I am personally undereducated about the history of the region’s conflict, Israel’s creation, and Palestine’s displacement, which I recognize is part of my privilege. This year I’ve learned not to speak when I should be listening, so I am taking the time to educate myself, read and reflect. Thank you to those of you doing the labor of education and activism. I’m listening, hoping for a swift cease-fire, and keeping the suffering civilians of Gaza in my thoughts.
Questionable self-care advice
I wrote out my own boundary circle this week. Here’s how to do yours, from wellness consultant Alex Elle: “Literally draw a circle on my page, and in the inside of that circle, I list the things that leave me feeling heard, seen and supported and things that I want in my relationships with people - so, like, clarity, open communication, honesty, et cetera, right? On the outside of the circle - anything that is a distraction, anything that leaves me feeling uneasy or anything that's just not welcomed inside of that circle of boundaries, it stays on the outside. And I'm able to get super clear with like, OK, if I'm going to be in relationship with certain people in my family, here is what I need, and here is what I don't.”
Journalist Nisha Chittal writes one of my favorite newsletters. Every week, I know I can count on her to teach me something new and enlightening on the state of labor in America, and to send out excellent link roundups to what she’s been reading and writing (she’s so smart on social media, culture, food and much more). Plus, I love to read about her life in Brooklyn and her adventures in cooking. Subscribe here!
I think I need this moon lamp
Jami Attenberg’s #1000WordsofSummer runs May 31-June 13 this year! Pick a writing project, sign up for her newsletter, join the Slack channel and let’s f*cking write.
This TikTok exploring Canada’s ice caves from one of my favorite creators is absolutely stunning
Readbetter is a tool to read your favorite Substacks on your Kindle
Slavers of New York is using a sticker campaign to educate people on the history of slavery in New York City and the city’s influential slave owners (like the Stuyvesants, Lefferts and Nostrands)
I took Hollaback’s (a global, people-powered movement to end harassment) free bystander intervention training a few weeks ago, and it helped me gain the knowledge and confidence to make a difference when I see anti-Asian or other kinds of harassment in public. Sign up for a training here.
This thread from Rachel Brougham about losing her husband, the grief process, and showing up
This thread about major life shifts:
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