am sitting in a plush armchair on a deck overlooking the Atlantic Ocean where it meets the shore of a small town in New Jersey, drinking an iced coffee that I mixed for myself with an indigenous brew and some creamy almond milk, thinking to myself that if this isn’t nice, what is? The sun has just risen and it feels like fresh makeup on a face, still too new to have set in and therefore carrying no possibility of mishap, or danger. The air is neither thick nor thin — perfect enough to breathe in deep, and with your eyes closed, transport yourself to a tender memory that would not have been possible without salty air.
If this isn’t nice, what is?
I remember that I was told not to quote Kurt Vonnegut when I captioned a picture with the same sentiment last week and still wonder why, but not enough to have asked. Waves are breaking at a pace of a crash per five seconds and the sun is now coming in and out as if a toddler eager to perform in front an audience but still refraining for whatever reason. Is this learned behavior?
I have been thinking a lot about getting lost and what it means: in action, in thought, in physical space. To me, there is no other way to lose yourself that is so satisfying as letting your thoughts take you where they want. And there is no better place to do this than in a plush armchair, overlooking the ocean. No better time than before anyone has woken up but after you’ve made yourself a coffee. What is it about immersing oneself in nature that commands a sort of forced poetic narration? Would I have compared the sun to a shy but attention-hungry child had I been seated indoors? Maybe I’m just too aware of the process: I know I’m writing for an audience. I am always writing for an audience. Can I even write, or think, without an audience in mind?
Have you ever considered the abundance of matter around us? The wind and the birds and the soil and the trees and the sand and the stone that engulfs us. It’s hard to fathom the earth’s vastness until you are no longer mining your memory to develop the narrative and instead allowing for what’s around you to tell you what to think. How to feel. Where to go. When you’ll get there.
Narrative is wrapped so tightly around identity and lately I feel that my identity is at risk of losing itself if I can’t commit to getting lost occasionally. Letting real life, not virtual life author a chapter or two. Constant, immediate feedback all the time, every day, even hour shapes the stories we tell ourselves. We become machines of reaction instead of those of proactivity. The praise, the backlash, all of it is dangerous and when these stories become the sum of those we tell ourselves, we get lost in sentences we’re not writing. It is unconscious and dangerous and I want nothing to do with it.
Having kids hasn’t changed me. It’s added purpose to a void I have been desperate to fill, one I have been trying to load with anything that will take, but I’m the same. Still as vain, still as self-absorbed, but now some of this absorption lives on two properties outside of me.
When mothers tell me parenthood has made them selfless I wonder how true this is. Would I, for example, care with the same conviction for a child not my own? If the answer is no, is my child just a new way to demonstrate my selfishness? If my answer is yes, was I selfish to begin?
I love to dress, but I have spent the greater half of the last 18 months unconsciously iterating and landing on a style that I am beginning to feel no longer suits me. It’s uncomfortable and dissatisfying because here I have invested time and money in clothes to encapsulate my person — lightweight tea dresses to represent the ease with which I want to live, and boxer shorts with broderie anglaise that define the superficial tenets of leisure, an illusion literally fabricated to connote endless time. My endless time. But now I think I have outgrown it all. I want to look different. Silk tops and fitted skirts. Trousers and vests and jackets and loafers — a summer four piece suit. Buttoned up! To connote what?
Should I feel frustration when my style wants to change or understand that it is part of a process of evolving identity? Is style, too, like a shark that dies once it stops moving? The shift happens like clockwork but what informs these changes? Sometimes I wonder if I’m just reacting to abundance. Accessibility. Commodification. The style principles that I harvest and internalize serve as outer-layer manifestations of my more sincere and profound insides, but when they become so common, popular; the standard — ubiquitous! That’s the word — I guess I feel less original. More complacent. Like with my clothes and therefore my mind, I am not pushing an envelope that requires constant challenge.
The sun is getting hot, this chair no longer feels so plush and I am pretty sure that if I listen closely I can hear a crying baby. I wonder if she means it, if something is wrong, or simply knows through learned behavior that when she cries, I come for her.
Collage by Madeline Montoya.