Do you trust your gut? A friend and I were discussing this the other day.
I don’t, really, for the record. Though I wish I did! There’s something that feels vaguely feminist to me about being in touch with your intuition (which sounds too close to “a concept of the ancient feminine divine, or something,” ugh, never mind). But to trust your gut is another way of saying you have faith in yourself. I find that inspiring.
I started thinking about this in the spring, when I read this Ada Limón essay about reentering the world after the pandemic. (Alas, if only.) She writes about asking herself, “What do I need?” and trusting the answer. “All my questions,” she says, “begin in the body.”
Around that same time I was also reading a self-help-y type book, on the recommendation of my sister, who says it changed her life. (She charmingly refers to books like this, of which she has read a few lately, as her “universe books.”) The author writes a lot about claiming your truth, about sinking into an inner space of knowing. I think it is a lovely idea and all, that people hold the answers they need within themselves. But it has never felt natural for me. I can imagine asking, what do I need, and just hearing an echo instead of an answer.
“Most people are afraid,” Ada writes, “if we listened to our bodies, they would lie to us. Who do we trust more? The body or the brain?” And beyond the binary of truth and lies, or of body and brain, there’s so much else to untangle: What’s trusting your gut, and what’s just heeding your anxiety? Or reacting to fear? Or social conditioning? How could we separate out what our intuition is telling us we want from what capitalism or patriarchy says we should want? It’s tempting to think that my truth lives somewhere beyond or beneath those distractions — that if I only got past them, I’d find the real answer, the truth of what I desire, and know what to pursue.
(But there is another way of thinking about this, too: that desire is desire, no matter where it comes from — none more “real” or “legitimate” than another. You could spend time parsing out its root but that won’t change the shape or force of the desire; it might not even change what you do about it. “Now you begin to see the problem with desire: we rarely want the things we should,” one of my favorite scholars of desire once wrote. I don’t think that’s what the universe books are saying, though.)
I was reading an album bio the other day where the artist says her album was, in part, inspired by trying to close a distance she felt from herself. “The writing was kind of born from this desire to get back to an intimacy, or honesty, with myself,” the artist says. (Asking the body what it wants.) I liked that because, in the midst of thinking about intuition, it reminded me of something else I had been pondering. A friend said to me once that I was very honest with myself in writing this newsletter. He meant it as a compliment, though I almost felt like I couldn’t take credit for it: I don’t know how else to be; I couldn’t fool me. But it helped to see this artist positioning being honest with herself as the opposite of feeling distance from herself. Because I know what that distance feels like. Perhaps intuition, rather than (or in addition to?) a set of answers, is just one way of tending to that gap. Even if it mostly contains the echoes of my questions, I suppose it’s still a useful place to start.
Here are some other things I have been consuming lately: Indigo de Souza’s Any Shape You Take; Low’s Secret Name; Katy Kirby’s Cool Dry Place; Midwife’s Luminol; The Microphone’s the Glow pt. 2; a bootleg upload of Hop Along’s entire set from Pitchfork Fest, which got taken down, but here’s one song from a different angle; The L Word: Generation Q; snippets of Blow-Up and Moonrise Kingdom over Matt’s shoulder while he works; snippets of 90 Day Fiancé over my mom’s shoulder in the living room; The Human Cosmos by Jo Marchant; On Freedom by Maggie Nelson; more late summer tomatoes; clementines; pumpkin-flavored iced coffee from Dunkin
Thanks for reading. I hope you feel close to yourself; see you next twenty-fourth.