5 Favorite slices of life from this year
It’s been such a joy to have friends share in this year-end tradition by writing their own lists! Make sure to check them all out at FridaySwell, a Medium Publication I created with hopes of more collaborative writing in the future. For continuity sake, I’m posting my list again here on weekendswell, but head on over to FridaySwell to read mine alongside others.
1.What category is the World Cup in?! It delivered beyond expectations this year, and all the shows listed below pale in comparison. A worldwide, month-long, 64-game event watched live by over half the world (3.5 billion), its massive scale is less important than the way it brought my small worlds together. Reconnecting with friends from college on a group chat, building bonds in the soccer channel at work, and even within my own family: Knowing Argentina was up 2–0 in a quarterfinal, I casually stopped by the store on the way home until all of my kids TEXTED ALL CAPS
as the Dutch tied things up, me now racing home (with my phone on the dashboard showing the game). One day, we even hosted a viewing party with new friends from Cameroon to watch their team beat Brazil.
I love how the international nature of club soccer comes to life in the World Cup, as Premier League players from teams we watch week in, week out, now join their countrymen in a great reshuffling to play against each other. It’s hard for me and other Americans to comprehend just what the game means to others around the world, where futbol is as much religion as it is a sport. (If you’re curious to find out though, watch Andres Cantor call the final moments of Argentina’s win here and try not to cry)
Oh! and even the U.S.A. had a good showing, making us nervous and eventually proud. Let’s do it all again soon!
2.I returned to painting this year — a latent creative outlet awaked perhaps by Van Gogh’s exhibit at the SBMA. Newly freed by a willingness to be a learner and determined to chip away at the concrete of perfectionism, I’ve loved putting a brush to paint and just playing with colors.
I even took the paints on an adventurous trip to a remote island and painted this beauty below. I’ve since filled my shed with blue skies and ocean waves and look forward to much more time to paint after I finish my schooling in May.
Every now and then it even turns out looking good. But even when it doesn’t, it opens up part of me that can get lost under other responsibilities. It helps me imagine joyous places and even harder emotions. More than anything its made me a better observer: after working on painting trees over the course of a month, I see the trees outside my house differently — the way the sun lights up the outer leaves more directly than the muted glow of the trunk. To paraphrase Proust, “The landscape painter does not need new landscapes — they need new eyes.”
Travel and Adventures
3.I had so much fun this year visiting Hannah in Brooklyn , snowboarding with Zach and Matt and friends, going to Portland to see family, Palm Springs with friends, visiting everyone in San Diego, and going on an island adventure. Heck, after a few pent-up years, I’m even excited to go into the office once a week. And as always, the best adventures are the ones nearby: riding bikes to a happy hour, wandering past the butterflies to the ocean bluffs, walking to coffee with Mo.
4.Spending a few hours at the Shower Truck over in Isla Vista every Friday is a true highlight from the year. (Showers of Blessing provides free hot showers to people experiencing homelessness.) Now, if I thought I was being such a “big giver” over there, I would never write about it. But it’s so much the opposite — I have received so much — that I’ll go even on weeks when they are overstaffed. As I admitted last year, “The feeling that my time is important is a self-righteous backpack that I rarely set down; its heft blocking me from looking someone in the eyes.” (read the rest here).
It’s a few hours a week in such an eclectic and beautiful community of people — with very little distinction between clients, volunteers, and staff — chatting about sports, food, weather, or news on how various clients are getting along. Over the year we’ve had a few deaths, a few clients find more permanent homes, and enabled hundreds of 12-minute warm showers. I also love that its local — right in the church parking lot, I can pedal my old cruiser bike there in about 20 minutes. Its one of my 2022 highlights.
5.Breathing is way underrated y’all. We do it all the time, day and night; it happens without our control, or even thinking about it. But if I asked you to pay attention to your breathe for 1 minute — without changing or controlling it, just watch it — guess what? You’d overdo it: taking control, you’d purposely breathe deep, as if you suddenly got put on a stage and you had to make your breaths look good.
What a perfect frickin’ metaphor for everything.
Learning to simply watch my breath through a short meditation practice or yoga has begun to open my inner ability to “just watch” my emotions come and go. And my thoughts. And my obsessive planning. Practicing letting go of control of small, inner things, has helped greatly in other areas of life.
Whew! ok lest you think this introvert was just out and about all year, here’s what I watched (and loved) along the way:
1.This dark comedy has enough humor, Irish countryside beauty, and suspense to get me counting down the days to each episode’s release. Created by and starring Sharon Horgan (also from the hilarious show Catastrophe), the show flashes back and forth into the lives of five sisters and one bad husband. Bono’s daughter Eve Hewson also stars among many, including Brian Gleeson (Frank of Ireland) playing the clumsy investigator trying to take the sister’s down. (AppleTV)
2.Adam Scott leads the audience through a “What is going on here?” adventure in an underground workplace where life is severed: at work, he has no knowledge of home, at home he knows nothing of work. But why would such a company exist? Watch and find out! Anxiously awaiting Season 2 (AppleTV)
3.When a Christian friend said he felt disloyal watching this fictional megachurch evangelist family be skewered, I wondered in jest if this might be the one show on TV Jesus would like. I mean there is more than one way to turn the temple tables, and satire works just as well as anger. This family is clueless, selfish, and badly behaved, and it’s way too much fun watching the wheels come off as they milk their flock for money. (HBO Max)
The White Lotus
4.Written and created by Mike White (who we all remember as Ned Schneebly from School of Rock), this show somehow creates suspense out of almost nothing happening. With its human-voice soundtrack and perfectly luxurious settings, both Season 1 and this year’s Season 2 were captivating. (As a bonus, Mo’s cousin Robby hosted and then had a cameo in the first season which was filmed at the Maui resort he manages) (HBO Max)
Tied for Fifth
5.For when you don’t have the guts to just call it a Top 9
Shrill — Aidy Bryant (former SNL cast member) breathes something poignant into existence with this loveable and quirky cast of friends in Portland. I didn’t know how much I loved it until I finished it and missed all the characters (except her lame boyfriend. Definitely don’t miss him, and she shouldn’t either!). (Hulu)
The Bear — intense and fast moving, unlike any restaurant kitchen show I’ve seen. (Hulu)
Pen15 — poorly named, emotionally created, and hilariously honest, Maya Erskine and Anna Konkle wrote and starred in this comedy about being Junior High BFFs. I mean, it was funny until I cried, and then it was funny again — how these two women in their thirties made us believe they were still 13 can only be accomplished by brutally honest writing. (Hulu)
Derry Girls Season 3 — The wee Derry Girls complete their adventure and draw out the empty nest emotions we are also going through. Plus, the parents get their own episode for a high school reunion! (Netflix)
3.Pure 80’s rock fun. Created in 2021, this album nods to riffs and themes from Van Halen, Kiss, and many other rock bands from decades earlier. If not the melodies, then the guitar solos surely set this album apart. Skip your Red Bull and just crank up this album, especially the song, The End of the Game.
Alpha Zulu, by Phoenix
2.Easy to enjoy anywhere, with any crowd, this is an album for all seasons to bring back the pure fun of music. Play it in the background or put on headphones and listen away.
Sometimes I Might Be Introvert, by Little Simz
1.Full of twists and turns, melody and rap, this is a full-album listen lasts beyond the initial joy. The album has enough variety to feel like a playlist, extending its shelf life. Favorite songs are the soulful “Woman” with Cleo Sol, the energizing “Speed”, and the mysterious duet with Obongjayar, “Point and Kill”. Turn off shuffle and give it a top-to-bottom listen:
Only three albums? Yeah, send some recommendations! In the meantime, here is the playlist I created for those late afternoons at work when I need a little kick:
♦ weekendswell ♦
Did last year’s favorites stand the test of time? See for yourself : 2021 Year-End Lists