🦊 Quick Brown Fox #41

The body knows when it's alone

Hey friends,

I hope you’re staying safe and doing well! To readers who celebrated Thanksgiving: I hope you had a wonderful break. We didn’t get to visit family this year, but had a relaxing long weekend (most importantly: there was pumpkin pie involved). I decided to take a break from QBF and didn’t send out an edition last week. The decision gave me pause, as I’ve been publishing weekly without fail for more than six months. I worried I’d be “losing something” by skipping a week and breaking my streak. After thinking about it, I realized I was being too hard on myself and too rigid with my schedule. Being kinder to myself is something I’m working on, and I’m proud I gave myself permission to take the break.

The week off also gave me a chance to spend more time playing, reading and reflecting. It made me realize how busy my days have become lately. I’ve long advocated for making space for serendipity, yet my schedule doesn’t reflect that. I need more space in my life.

I’ve decided to try a newsletter cadence of publishing every two weeks instead of weekly. The weekly cadence has worked wonders in terms of building publishing discipline. I’m really glad I did it for so long. But I think publishing every two weeks will give me better balance between creating and sharing. I’m looking forward to more space for larger projects (e.g. writing a book of stories!), more time to play with serendipity, and more room to breathe.

It’s scary to give ourselves empty space. We’re afraid we’ll waste it. But we have to trust ourselves (if we don’t, then who will?). In my experience, emptiness always leads to interesting and unexpected opportunities. It’s not all about output, of course. We need and deserve space to breathe. If we’re lucky enough to afford it, we have to try and prioritize it.

Thank you for being here with me on this journey. I appreciate your time, your attention, and the love and support you give me. I feel lucky to have a channel that keeps me connected to you.

P.S. We’re days away from the first QBF anniversary! In the next edition, I’ll be reflecting on a year’s journey writing this newsletter. Stay tuned!


I have a new essay to share with you: The Body Knows When It’s Alone. In the isolation of self-quarantine, I discovered the hidden wisdom in my own body, and finally learned to listen to it. If you prefer, you can read the full essay on my blog.

The Body Knows When It’s Alone

I drift between rooms like a spirit with unfinished business. After almost a year of lockdown, every corner of my home is etched into my subconscious. I can traverse my halls in total darkness with feline ease, my face lit by tiny bodily appendages known as screens. I stubbornly strive to recreate the before times, feebly sticking life’s puzzle pieces together with duct tape.

Riding the endless merry-go-round of instant messages and video calls, I'm always immersed in conversations. I feel like a social butterfly, flapping my digital wings with abandon.

And yet, all the digital calls in the world fail to stave off a nagging sense of discomfort. Something's wrong, but I don't know what.

Thankfully, my body knows.

When I see the virtual faces of friends and family throughout the week, it's easy to forget the reality: I spent that week alone. Today's technology offers only a crude approximation to human interaction. A video call is a far cry from the experience of being with others.

My body knows this. It always knows. It cannot be fooled by a video call.

A myriad of signals are dispatched by my body, hoping to warn me of my own loneliness. They span the full monty of fatigue — headaches, drowsiness, exhaustion. I am not listening. I hear nothing. I fumble along, blind to its warnings.

One day, my body sends me a signal I cannot ignore. It shuts down.

I wake up with chills and a sore throat, my bones announcing themselves all at once in an orchestra of stiffness. As I mope around the house, I experience the oddity that is a 'sick day' under lockdown. Normally, the day would be marked by staying home and avoiding everyone you know. Instead, it's just like any other day.

Every day in lockdown is a sick day.

I can barely recall the last time I saw a friend in person. I've been extremely conservative with self-quarantine, and the cost of my self-isolation becomes brutally clear in that moment. Something has to change.

I reach out to a couple friends to meet up (socially distanced and outdoors). We eat food. We drink coffee. We break bread. Immediately, I feel better. Sometimes, the simplest solution is the most effective.

The mind complicates. The body simplifies.

In a past life, I took in-person social interactions for granted. I would see people at birthdays, weddings, and more events than I wished to attend. Ah, to be blessed once again with the privilege of too much human contact.

It's a different world now. If I want to stay healthy, I need to see people. And if I want to see people, I need to take the initiative to make it happen. I need to think of in-person interactions like diet and exercise: crucial parts of my mental and physical health.

Luckily, I'll always have my body to remind me. All I have to do is listen.

P.S. Dear body, if you're reading this: I’m sorry it took so long to listen. You deserve better. Know that I'm listening now. I hear you. I love you.


The Goose That Laid The Golden Eggs

I’ve been reading Aesop’s Fables. It’s been giving me inspiration for the stories I’m writing. I’m a huge fan of the format of a fable — short stories with animal characters, featuring a moral or lesson inside them. Here’s one I enjoyed:

A Man and his Wife had the good fortune to possess a Goose which laid a Golden Egg every day. Lucky though they were, they soon began to think they were not getting rich fast enough, and, imagining the bird must be made of gold inside, they decided to kill it in order to secure the whole store of precious metal at once.

But when they cut it open they found it was just like any other goose. Thus, they neither got rich all at once, as they had hoped, nor enjoyed any longer the daily addition to their wealth.

Patience is a virtue.


The Many Faces of Woody

I used to love watching Woody Woodpecker cartoons growing up. Every so often, I noticed that he looked different. At the time, I didn’t fully understand why, but I concluded that each one was in fact a different Woody. I was convinced they weren’t the same person at all — the ‘new’ ones always felt like imposters.

Looking at these stills now, it’s fascinating to me how even the most subtle variations in design (the eyes!) has such a drastic impact on how we perceive the character. It highlights the degree to which we associate appearance with identity.

P.S. The same thing happened with Tom from Tom & Jerry cartoons. If you watched them growing up, how many different Toms can you recall?


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Until next time,

—Salman

🌎 salman.io | 🐦 @daretorant