Brief Notes on Staying

I am still on a high from reading They Can’t Kill Us Until They Kill Us.  I know I already told you about this book by Hanif Abdurraqib and I’m starting to worry that I am overselling it but I keep coming back to it again and again and again.  I even decided to write my critical paper on it this quarter for grad school.  It’s getting out of hand.

The critical paper is on the essay called “It Rained In Ohio On The Night Allen Iverson Hit Michael Jordan with a Crossover.” I don’t even know that much about basketball but, at the risk of even further overselling Abdurraqib, it’s brilliant.

So naturally I’m procrastinating and re-reading his other essays instead.  I just read this one again for maybe the fourth or fifth time. It’s called “Brief Notes on Staying // No One Is Making Their Best Work When They Want To Die“and it’s about writing/creating/working even when we are deep in a grieving space, as he was when writing this particular piece.   I resonated with so much of it, especially the questions surrounding grief as a means for great art and the way he tells his reader what he is actually feeling instead of how he would like to feel or thinks he should feel (“What I’m mostly saying, friends, is that I am sad today.  I am sad today, and I may be sad tomorrow.”  — damn.).

Unfortunately I can’t find it online so I can’t send you to the full piece (you’ll have to buy the book!) but I thought I’d post two quotes here to give you a glimpse…


All things do not pass.  Sometimes, that which does not kill you sits heavy over you until all of the things that did not kill you turn into a single counterforce that might.  No matter what comes out of a person in these times, the work that we make when we feel like we no longer want to be alive is not the best work if it is also not work that, little by little, is pushing us back toward perhaps staying, even if just for a moment.”


“But the way I think about grief is that it is the great tug-of-war, and sometimes the flag is on the side you don’t want it to be on.  And sometimes, the game has exhausted all of its joy, and all that’s left is you on your knees.  But, today, even though I am sad, my hands are still on the rope.  I am making my best work when my hands are on the rope, even if I’m not pulling back.  Life is too long, despite the cliche.  Too long, and sometimes too painful.  But I imagine I have made it too far.  I imagine, somewhere around some corner, the best part is still coming.”