The last few years have really hammered home the endless ways in which this life can dumpster fire. Fortunately, coping mechanisms exist. As the new year fast approaches and the idea of making resolutions feels more hilarious by the minute, we can at least take some of our favorite distraction strategies with us into 2024. Here are ten of mine:
Who needs self-examination or quiet time for meditation? Do we really need to let our thoughts roam free all willy-nilly? Instead, why not try drowning your thought-nadoes out with other people’s! We’ve got news (Mo News is a current less triggering fave)! We’ve got comedy (Handsome with Tig Notaro, Fortune Feimster, and Mae Martin or Say More with Amy Poehler as unlicensed therapist Dr? Sheila)! And we’ve got conversations between people who feel like friends due to how often their body-less voices fill my studio apartment (WTF with Marc Maron, Onward with Rosie O’Donnell, This Might Get Weird with Grace Helbig and Mamrie Hart, and What Now with Trevor Noah)! All these radio wave strangers will make the voices in your head just another part of the droning ambience of being alive.
2. Iliza Schlesinger’s viral rhapsody imploring Gen Z to give us Millennials a f*cking break already
Nothing has felt more cathartic than watching Schlesinger become the physical embodiment of the phrase “I’ve had it up to here!” Which I did probably a good 20+ times in a row. “We’re here to tell you that you are NOT NICE… and we have HAD IT!” After cheekily ensuring that her show was a safe space and thanking the two Gen Zers who publicly identified themselves for coming to the show, she launches into a beautiful history lesson of the millennial experience to give the “contextless generation” some much-needed perspective. From being raised on a diet of the mixed messages of our Boomer parents, not being able to buy homes, chastised for buying fucking avocados, to a reminder that we did the 90’s first. “You are angry and I get that… we are angry too but we have heartburn and our backs hurt but we are right there with you and you take it out on us,” Schlesinger says in an appeal with another important reminder, “Never forget we forged social media. Never forget we walked on Instagram so you could run on TikTok.” Nothing but respect for the Elder Millennial Queen.
3. Ruby Amanfu “Beautiful, You Are”
Ever made the mistake of listening to this song five minutes before your next Zoom meeting and finding yourself in tears? I sure have! And you can too. Let Ghana-born, Nashville-raised vocalist and songwriter Ruby Amanfu lull you and your inner child in with a soft drum beat and warm rasp that lands as gently as a whisper. With lyrics like “One look at you and I see stars that shine up over my head” to leave you warm and fuzzy like a hug from your best human friend and a cuddle from your favorite furry one. It’s a song that sees you even when it feels like the outside world doesn’t.
4. Regina Spektor
According to my Spotify Wrapped, my #1 artist of the year was the Maestro of quirk and kitsch, Regina Spektor. I’ve been fangirling over her ever since I picked up a copy of “Soviet Kitsch” (which turns 20 next year) at Amoeba Records in, what feels like, another lifetime. I still feel as I did then that there is no one who sounds quite like Spektor, whose sweet soprano lifts songs inflected with lush orechestral melodies, jazz bends, and punk snark with lyrics that feel like poems or riddles that unlock deep heart-wrenching truths when you finally figure them out. Seeing her on tour this past July was one of the most moving experiences at a show I have ever had. She is truly a master of her craft and to witness her in action is a gift.
5. Redbone “Come and Get Your Love”
While I don’t remember the first time I heard this song, most likely on the oldies station on the radio in the car or possibly playing through the speakers of my dentist’s office, I do know that since that mysterious moment “Come and Get Your Love” has been one of my go-tos when I want to be in a good mood. Redbone was the first Native American band to reach the top five on the US Billboard Hot 100 in thanks to the song, released in 1974, which also went certified Gold selling over a million copies. If happiness was a song, it would be this one.
6. Cabaret (2021 London Cast Recording)
Sometimes the world is a devastatingly dark place and can cast a frightening mirror on the darkness within ourselves. At times it’s important to bear witness and remember those parts within us. In London, The Kit Kat Club is in full swing and over the summer I got to experience the otherworldly talent that is Mason Alexander Park as our Emcee (Eddie Redmayne plays the role on the cast recording). Descending downward through a labyrinth of winding stairways lined with fringe and metal-stringed curtains, audience members, illuminated in a red glow, slink to a first bar in a basement. Drinks flow and performers materialize posing in the mirror, giving side-eye while playing piano, and interrupting the queue as they move through the liminal space between the present day and pre-war Berlin. By the time one gets to their seat the seduction of something eerie, and maybe a little dangerous, has set in. I won’t go in to the rest of the story except to say that it is terrifying in its prescience. How slow a burn hate can take to build and yet how breathtaking in its swiftness the descent of a society into the intoxication of violence and antisemitism. Life is a cabaret, old chum. What role will you play.
7. Mike and the Mechanics “All I Need is A Miracle”
After spending time within the depths of despair, something’s gotta give and put some pep back in your step. This song randomly popped into my head one day and has been on repeat ever since. The lyrics belie the story of love gone wrong and the regret that follows, “And I know you were never right/I’ll admit I was never wrong… And though I treated you like a child/I’m gonna miss you for the rest of my life,” a sentiment that seems all too common right now. Whether it’s holiday stress or feelings of helplessness about the state of humanity, we could use a miracle or two that can bring us back together.
8. Insight Timer App
If you’re like me and have been having trouble getting to sleep before 3am every night, might I suggest the Insight Timer Application. Try some floaty music against the backdrop of a storm. Or maybe a guided sleep meditation is more your speed. There are nearly endless options to create the perfect sleepy-time soundtrack while you snuggle up with a bag of Doritos because it got so late that you’re now too hungry to sleep and Doritos are more energy efficient and less dangerous than making something at that ungodly hour. Namaste.
9. Gilmore Girls
When Fall rolls around and all the cozy cues kick in it only means one thing: It’s Gilmore Girls season. Amy Sherman Palladino’s writing is music to my ears. Full of quippy comebacks, references to bygone Broadway, and cringey pop culture references that haven’t held up (and some that, surprisingly, did). Trips to Stars Hollow leave me aching for a time and place that never was but felt like it could be and relieved knowing (as long as the Netflix gods allow) I can drop into Friday night dinners and quirky town halls any time.
10. Pure Moods (1994 Original Release)
When distressed I start searching for things of comfort from my childhood: McDonald’s quarter pounder with cheese, sleeping at odd hours of the day and night, shutting myself off from everything and everyone, and music compilations from popular infomercials from the 90s. For those who remember, Pure Moods was A VIBE and, more importantly, when I was introduced to the ethereal and Celtic musical stylings of Enya. Now you, like me, can listen to the New Age that took over the airwaves while reminiscing over it being “only $19.99 if you order now” all to just listen to one Enya song and maybe also that one by Enigma.
Happy New Year, everyone! Since we all need a break, may 2024 be boring and just ok.