“Nothing is more punitive than to give a disease a meaning - that meaning being invariably a moralistic one.”- Susan Sontag
Peanuts, Charles Schulz, Snoopy with his siblings.
I woke up to the clouds quietly swimming through the sheetcake sky. They move almost too fast for my morning. I struggle to move the covers off my body, which I had carefully wrapped in numerous layers, as my landlord does not seem believe in turning on the heat. I fell asleep on a cocktail of over the counter antihistamines and my own medications. I’ve stopped drinking coffee after noon and gotten rid of all the alcohol in my house. It probably seems productive or like self-ownership, and some of it is. It’s also a highly-ritualized, get-well response to a lack of control and ability. I work, I write in order to make up for the days I spend mostly on the couch. The time I spend crying and not having the strength to move my hands to wipe away tears. Depression, anxiety, disorder all as ways to create some kind of order, movement, and meaning. I’m reminded that Sontag has famously argued against metaphor, against interpretation, against assigning punitive or moral meaning to disease. This extends, I would argue, to mental health. And my Virgo nature continues to tell me, do better.
Last night, struggling to move for an hour, I watched Charli XCX play an online DJ set. I smiled for the first time in days when she played her infamous song Taxi. I don’t always know how to invite more of these moments in. I suppose they are somewhere deep in me and I just don’t have access to them right now. I wish I lived somewhere where I could be in the woods. I wish I lived somewhere I could drive to the beach and sit. I don’t care if it’s a cold beach. I don’t care if it’s a beautiful beach. I want to tell the ocean I love it. I want to feel temperature on my skin again. I want to remember what it feels like to be sad outside in the fog of the East River. Where is Arthur Russell now? What would so many of our icons have done in this time? Would knowing even be helpful?
I spent the week trying to find a comforting TV show. It didn’t fully happen, but I tried to let the wispiness of the search fuel some amount of pleasure. I went from British detective shows to Gilmore Girls to Insecure to Peanuts specials.
I tried to think about what Snoopy meant to me, as a depressed kid. It felt like a small space of the children’s universe where one didn’t have to be happy and that was ok. When Charlie Brown ruins Christmas, it’s ok. We all sing a song. The melancholy of the snow, the music, the jaded view of Charlie Brown in the face of consumerism and spectacle. There’s a bitterness amid the bright colors.
I watch a documentary where CBS interviews Peanuts creator Charles Schulz, my first icon. “If I suffer, Charlie Brown has to suffer.” He says. It reminds of me the recent quarantine Megg, Mogg, and Owl comics that Simon Hanselmann has been drawing. Endless suffering. Suffering on suffering is funny. If we can contain it in a box and watch it from a safe distance we feel better about our own suffering. It is a safe space to relive and process trauma. When Lucy yells at Schroeder: “Aren’t you afraid of a lost love? It drives you crazy! You can’t eat! You can’t sleep!” and she destroys his Beethoven bust and piano. The rage, the pathos, the sorrow in a little girl scorned. The depression, the fear, the anxiety in a little boy with a dog. I love Peanuts’ like a security blanket because it is not a safe world and it is ok. Everyone will rise to see another day, even amid the houses on fire. This play-space produces a fantasy where we can at least make it to the next day. Obviously, this takes place under a certain socioeconomic portion of the world that allows for a certain kind of optimism. But I also don’t mean to suggest a blind-eyed optimism, only an optimism of survival that can get us to the next point.
I write a lot about the mythos of Peanuts as a constellation that guides certain fantasies. The idea of living in the West for instance is tied for me to the comics where Spike roams around and the coyotes try to kick him out of the cactus he lives in. My ideas of being “home” for the holidays are linked to the Christmas special, A Charlie Brown Christmas. My ideas of snow. My ideas of Minnesota. My ideas of nostalgia. My ideas of contemplation. Peanuts allows for practice of self-contemplation. Of pause, of reverie, of timelessness. I’m trying to find moments of stillness to ebb the flows of mental intensity that can cause on-the-floor moments, even if I know I won’t always be successful. And that’s ok.
I hope you’re doing well. I have a new video art piece up at PH Gallery. The next episode of The Nonbinary Carrie Bradshaw comes out this Tuesday find it at nonbinarycarriebradshaw.com, Spotify, Apple Podcasts, or wherever you get your podcasts.