Mar 4, 2021 4 min read

#283: Out There I Have To Smile

#283: Out There I Have To Smile

Happy Thursday and welcome to March, loyal readers, and thank you for opening The Highlighter. In this week’s issue, you’ll find articles about the challenges of parenting , the finiteness of life , the distraction of class-based grievances , and the perils of revenge bedtime procrastination . Pleas

Happy Thursday and welcome to March, loyal readers, and thank you for opening The Highlighter. In this week’s issue, you’ll find articles about the challenges of parenting, the finiteness of life, the distraction of class-based grievances, and the perils of revenge bedtime procrastination. Please enjoy!

In particular, if you like this kind of thing, I encourage you to read the articles in pairs (the first two, the second two), to see if you draw the same connections as I did. Seemingly unrelated articles, when read back to back, sometimes reveal intriguing insights. I’d love to hear what you glean.

+ Last Sunday, as part of Article Club, 20 of us gathered to discuss “How the Black Vote Became a Monolith” (#262) by Theodore R. Johnson. It was a great conversation. Thank you to everyone who participated, including loyal readers




, who facilitated small groups. If you’re wanting to read more deeply and connect with other thoughtful people, check out Article Club.

Out There I Have To Smile

Out There I Have To Smile

For Heather Lanier, whose daughter Fiona has Wolf-Hirschhorn syndrome, there’s a big difference between living “in here” and “out there.” She writes, “In here applies little pressure. In here asks no questions. In here often lets you and your kin be as you are.” But “out there,” Ms. Lanier and her daughter face physical obstacles — like narrow doorways and steep stairs — and people’s stares, excessive concern, and harmful questions. Most exhausting, they have to perform happiness. They have to smile all the time.

“You ask: Am I happy? I say, sometimes less than before. Because she wakes six times a night. Because regular trips to pediatric specialists are no strolls through the park. Because special educators sometimes see her as broken, in need of fixing. Because her needs often exceed my energy. Because every time I’ve hovered above her convulsing body at night, counting the minutes, I might have gained something like courage or ‘life experience,’ but I also felt gashed in a bodily place that I can’t find, I can’t name. Because loving someone has never been so hard.” (21 min)

A Matter Of Life And Death

When Marjorie Williams finds out she has liver cancer, at age 43, she is given six months to live. But the devastating prognosis does not prevent Ms. Williams from living fully and honestly along with her husband and two young children. In this outstanding, moving piece, she writes about the liberation she feels realizing that she lives on borrowed time. “Sometimes I feel immortal: whatever happens to me now, I’ve earned the knowledge some people never gain, that my span is finite, and I still have the chance to rise, and rise, to life’s generosity.” (52 min)

+ I’ve been asked, “Why so many articles on death?” It’s simple: They remind me, again and again, to live.

Peanut and Teddy, who belong to loyal reader Donna, are currently working on a book on friendship. Want your pet to appear in The Highlighter?

Inside A Battle Over Race, Class, And Power At Smith College

Two years ago, when a Black student at Smith College complained about racial profiling, the school’s white president mandated anti-bias training and called for “reconciliation and healing.” But ever since an investigation found no evidence of wrongdoing, a backlash has ensued, led by white staff members, including Jodi Shaw, who claim that class matters as much as race in building an inclusive environment, and that conversations about race cause undue discomfort. Two questions arise for me: (1) Haven’t we heard this distraction before? (2) Why so much attention on a tiny college in Massachusetts, tuition $55,830? (14 min)

Revenge Bedtime Procrastination Is Real, According To Psychologists

We know we should prioritize sleep. We know not to keep our phone at our bedside, or drink coffee late, or scroll through Twitter. If we know these things, why do we continue? The reason, according to clinical therapists, is that we’re savoring our rare alone time. We’re relaxing, despite our exhaustion.  Most important, we’re stubbornly taking a stand against capitalism, which has stripped us from leisure. We know that sleeping will help us feel refreshed, but refreshed for what, exactly? More productivity, more obligations? No way. We can’t have that. Let’s stay up all night. (7 min)

+ Please share a time you participated in advanced revenge bedtime procrastination.

+ Reader Annotations

: Loyal reader


loved last week’s lead article and shared her appreciation for its author. “I love Anna Deavere Smith. I have seen her in her plays at the Berkeley Rep, and miss so much going to see live theater with a message.” Thank you very much for reaching out, Susan. I also look forward to seeing Ms. Deavere Smith perform again in Berkeley once we’re all safe!

I hope you feel accomplished

now that you have successfully completed yet another issue of The Highlighter. I hope you enjoyed it. Let me know what you thought by hitting reply or by clicking on the thumbs below.

Also, let’s welcome

Jane, Minna



, and


, our reading community’s four new subscribers. I hope you find the newsletter a solid addition to your email inbox. Also, thank you to loyal reader


for getting the word out!

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On the other hand, if you no longer want to receive this newsletter, please unsubscribe. See you next Thursday at 9:10 am PT!

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