And other moments from a blurry life

A woman in a black bra, holding a purple crystal, with a blurry face
A woman in a black bra, holding a purple crystal, with a blurry face

If I could paint just one thing really well, I would choose bare branches against an empty sky. I would like to paint endless images of bare branches against infinite empty skies. But I am not good at painting.

I can sketch a series of interconnected boxes, but the lines are never straight. I am incapable of drawing a perfect circle. I made a sculpture once, of a mother dragon holding a baby dragon, and it was pretty decent, as far as third grade work goes. I never kept up with sculpting. I probably would not be good at it…

Read everything from Sara Benincasa — and more.

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The author and her large grey cat, who has green eyes, sitting on a couch with a laptop, which the cat surely does not wish for her to access
The author and her large grey cat, who has green eyes, sitting on a couch with a laptop, which the cat surely does not wish for her to access
My little demon

When I adopted Polly the Demon Queen early in the pandemic, I was not a cat person. I was not an anti-cat person, but dogs were my preference. I thought I’d just foster her for a few days, and then she’d move along and I’d get a new furry temporary roommate. I still lived in Los Angeles, a beautiful and wild city riddled with lost, abandoned, and feral animals and humans.

Year ago, I had a puppy, but I gave her up in the ensuing breakup proceedings with my boyfriend. It was my choice, and it was the best one…


A brief romantic ode to the Garden State

The author drinking from a mug that reads “BITCH, PLEASE. I’M FROM JERSEY.”
The author drinking from a mug that reads “BITCH, PLEASE. I’M FROM JERSEY.”

Let me tell you why I’m like this. If you don’t know what I mean, that’s fine — you don’t know me, and I don’t expect you ever will. But I know me, and I know what I’m like, and now you’re going to know, a little bit, kinda. This is a story about a state the size of a postage stamp, wedged between New York, Pennsylvania, whatever’s south of Cape May, and the beautiful goddamn Atlantic Fucking Ocean. This is a story about New Jersey and me, and maybe you, if you’re lucky enough to be from here, too.


Not everyone craves a return to “normal.”

Sunshine through Spanish moss hanging from tree, with more trees in background
Sunshine through Spanish moss hanging from tree, with more trees in background
Photo by Daniel Ruyter via Unsplash

I have often said that a panic attack is the inverse of an orgasm. This usually gets a good laugh, because it incorporates the element of surprise — when I start the sentence, nobody sees orgasm coming (you’re welcome). But it also produces a laugh of recognition in anyone who knows that it’s true. And as our society slowly gets moving again, more people are becoming familiar with one of the least pleasurable involuntary responses imaginable.

Since I was a child, I have spent plenty of time with this particular abrupt form of terror. I have felt pained over the…


A row of six chairs on a vast green lawn looking out at the ocean under a wide blue sky
A row of six chairs on a vast green lawn looking out at the ocean under a wide blue sky
Ahhhh. Relax.

Relaxation exercises are a kind and simple route to remembering that it is possible to change one’s own mood, even if just for a little while. As someone who has dealt with panic attacks and depression on and off since childhood, I’ve long envisioned my array of favorite relaxation techniques as a toolkit. I’m not an expert, but I did take that kindergarten lesson about sharing to heart, so I’d like to present a few options to you today.

To make my qualifications or lack thereof clear: I’m not a psychiatrist, psychologist, yoga teacher, or monk. I’m an author, comedian…


This Is Us

The year of ghosts and dreams

It is early in a year in which I can’t remember how to sleep at night. I do my job in between naps, so often pinned to the bed or the couch by fatigue and grief. Frequently, I find myself awake at 3 a.m. here in New Jersey, texting with friends in Los Angeles. When I do fall asleep, long after they’ve finally gone to bed, the sun is on its way up, the blue-gray light of morning slowly brightening the blanket of snow. Sometimes I can hear the first birds chirp as I drift off, wrapped in my warm…


AOC and Katie Porter share the hard-earned ‘gift’ for noticing what others can’t yet see

Photo: Drew Angerer/Getty Images

This week, I opened my phone and watched Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez tell a story that managed to be both shocking and familiar. The congresswoman is an unusual individual, and her hour-long Instagram Live broadcast regarding the attempted coup at the Capitol was extraordinary. It was also horribly, painfully, and sadly ordinary.

Given her celebrity status and the seemingly endless cheers and jeers sent her way from all corners of the internet, it’s easy to forget that Ocasio-Cortez is also an actual human. She is not simply an amalgamation of some strangers’ hopes, dreams, and nightmares. She occupies an unprecedented place…


Photo by Milada Vigerova on Unsplash

Never trust a writing “expert”

I had the great misfortune recently to see an enormous volume of bad writing advice passed around in public by bored writers. Trust me, I’ve given plenty of silly, misguided, naive or just plain ridiculous writing advice in my day. After all, I used to be a high school English teacher, back when I had no business teaching anybody anything at all. …


This Is Us

She doesn’t pay rent, but we’re doing okay

Detail from “The Bowden Children,” John Hoppner, 1803

My dead roommate broke a dish the other day, so we had to have a talk. I’ll call her Annie, since she’s a ghost and can’t consent to being included in this essay. I like to ask permission for things like that. But I will tell you about our chat.

Annie decorated this home, when she was alive. She was the original owner and purchased the place about 30 years ago when this suburban New Jersey development was built. It’s a very nice apartment with a soaring three-story great room, two bedrooms, two full bathrooms, and one half-bath. It’s got…


Photo of me holding something I never actually carry, by Gia Cognata

The secret satisfaction of watching you spend

My Venmo membership is one of the most conveniently creepy aspects of my digital life. My profile is set to private, but to my absolute delight, most of you have a public Venmo profile. And I love watching what you do there.

Like most of my so-called microgeneration — that space between Millennials and Gen X known as “Xennials” or, as writer Anna Garvey memorably termed it in 2015, the “Oregon Trail Generation” — I rarely carry paper money. …

Sara Benincasa

Author, REAL ARTISTS HAVE DAY JOBS (and other books). Writer of scripts. Host of WELL, THIS ISN’T NORMAL podcast. Patreon.com/SaraBenincasa

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