Coming to My Senses

Dear Di

What a beautiful quote.

The nest of fish was crisp under a coarse snow of salt and smelled so simple and good I thought they might save my life.  Just a little.  Just for that moment. – Paula McClain

What a perfect reminder to be present in our bodies, in the world of our sensual perceptions. It’s nice to be reminded that a piece of fish, a bowl of fruit, can save one’s life: in that – perhaps – it is the reclaiming of the only things that truly make-up our lives? Touch. Taste. A sense of balance, perpendicular to the earth, in vrksasana.

They say there are actually as many as 21 senses. Lately, I’ve decided to stay with those.



For now, at least. If there really is more to our existence, there will be time for  when I’m forced to untether from the 21.

It’s so good to hear from you. This wriggling into a new year has not been easy for many of us. For disparate reasons. Maybe it does have to do with our expectations? I feel that for months, I have woken with a sense of dread, and a fear that sits in my muscles, stitching them together with cold, wire threads. I’ve been wearing a corset of sorts, unable to breathe. The corset is not literal, but the breathing problems are.

I read somewhere that protest was becoming the new brunch. We tie ourselves up with fashionable constraints sometimes, don’t we? I look at Melania Trump’s heels and think they are our cultural equivalent to (albeit non-invasive) foot-binding. I see the sea of pink pussy hats in a photo, and am both encouraged and reminded of my conflicted identity as a victim. I read a black woman’s account of her son’s brief life in the USA; and I am shamed, silenced and confused.

There is a balance somewhere between apathy and the absurd. I’m still looking for it.

I’m taking a break from social media, and I’ve removed all the news apps from my phone, save the New York Times and NRK. I get up at 5 and do yoga and meditation before I check the news. I figure, if the world is ending, I will have squeezed another peaceful half-hour of life before it does. I’m not saying ignorance is bliss, but why forfeit all that is good?

I’ve checked the Times this morning. The world didn’t end. It’s the same amount of personal apocolypses that has always been scattered over the globe on any given day. So I sit here, with the rosemary oil burning slowly over a tea candle, writing. And I’m grateful for this little room. I could swap the rest of the rest of the house for just these few square meters behind this veleteen curtain.

I think of you and your safe spaces, public spaces, your unique blend of voyeurism and participation. And I take care that my admiration doesn’t become envy.

I guess there are things we choose, and then things we can only choose to frame in particular ways. You talk about self-care. I think that is difficult. Finding the balance between kindness and firmness with myself. Or perhaps realizing those are not opposing attitudes at all?

I love the image of you “floating” home, and up your marble staircase after an evening of music and laughter. I am glad the triangle of your life is finding form. The social aspects, the creative, the personal.

Last week a student told me his parents remind him often that if a person is not successful by the age of 24, they more than likely won’t be. It broke my heart. What a narrow view of successful. What a narrow passage through life. Narrow and linear. I find the older I get the more reticent I am.

Do you allow yourself to believe that your life sucessful, Di?

I have moments of clarity. I have moments where I seem to touch that space of contentment, where life is meaningful of its own sake. Of itself.

My life, too.

Then the moment passes and I worry about being productive or useful again.

Speaking of which. It’s time to head downstairs to dress for work. To catch the train and face the teenagers who view me with half-veiled pity… and fear. Yes, follow your dreams, I would tell them if they would listen: follow the dreams, but be conscious of what is real, and what is really worthy of a life.

This morning, noticing the chamomile tea on my deks and the sunrise creaping through the gaps in the blinds – I am successful.

E. is out of town. I will bake fish for dinner this evening. And think of you.

Much love,

This is one of a series of weekly open letters to friends – friends who write back to me on their own blogs. Please click through.  Category: Correspondence.

If you’d like to catch up, read the letters in chronological order her

3 Replies to “Coming to My Senses”

  1. This was very moving, in a quiet, almost serene sort of way, like those times you stop to watch a bird sit gently on a branch before it moves on to the next one.

    Social media is a time sink, and a source of major upset for many, so I don’t think anyone can criticise you for putting it aside to be in your life more. I do miss your posts on my wall, though. Perhaps I’ll write a letter, too.

  2. This could be my favorite letter yet. The balance between apathy and absurdity and the relatable conflict between shame, silence and protest. Painfully good. I share in that choked feeling and probably hope too.


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