Dispatch II: Mostly Philosophizing, Also Some Funny Photos.
Although I am practicing sitting in silence (I promise, mom!), my daily walks are moments for me to feel connected. I oscillate between catching up with friends and my favourite podcasts, letting voices other than my own seep into my brain, fill its ripples with stories that don't involve the news cycle or quite frankly: me. I suppose you could argue that what I’m seeking is less so connection than to drown out those voices but hey, you’re not here to therapize me. And regardless, it’s a respite turned ritual that is one of the most grounding and I’ll say it, fun, parts of my day.
I’ve rewritten that sentence a few times, slashed the fun out of it and then reinserted it so tentatively. In a time of crisis, it sometimes feels callous to talk of fun when I am aware of how many individuals are suffering, heartbroken, and terrified.
And then, there’s the context of my generation. Because as much as we talk about self-care, it often feels as though pleasure has been marketed as an indulgence. Hedonism has become a bad word, not one used to simply describe the pursuit of pleasure.
We have a tendency to want to put a multi-tasking, productivity-centric approach to experiences that heretofore might've been described as being undertaken "for fun". We want to know we squeezed our time dry, that we extracted all the productivity pulp to justify pleasure. It's the reason so many people are turning once-loved hobbies into businesses or using their time on the treadmill to reach Inbox 0. I have been guilty of both.
Anyway. That was perhaps a long winded and more misanthropic introduction for the piece I set out to write. But for some reason, the lightness of the piece I actually wanted to write felt like it warranted explanation. A justification for the indulgence in even writing it down and believing that you might be interested. As a writer, I often struggle with the concept of self-indulgence. I mean, how self-absorbed must you be to spend hours every day working on pieces in the pursuit (at least in part) of readership? Do I really think my work deserves the grants I apply for? That the interweb might be made better by my words? Do I really believe I might be the voice of my generation? The answers swing from defeatist “no”s to allowing myself to believe that maybe, just maybe, It’s very possible that I might be a genius whose Nobel Prize is just a bestselling novel away. The in-between is mostly me trying not to give an answer, putting my head down and just doing the work without overthinking it. That is generally where the magic happens.
I know I’m not alone in this. And now more than ever, I think a lot of us are sitting at home with that load of a question: what matters? In part I am reassured that in times of crisis, people are turning to books, music, films. They’re turning to art. And presumptuous as it sometimes feels, it’s comforting to think that one day, my work might envelop readers with the same warm feelings that my favourite novelists offer up through their own words.
So I suppose I’d better jump into the real reason I started writing this in the first place. Forgive the format. Maybe try to think of these posts more like you’re just reading my diary. It’s non-linear and self-centered but hopefully you can enjoy being intrusive. I know I do.
This afternoon I was on the phone with my best friend. It’s funny, we’ve been talking more than ever but have yet to run out of things to discuss. Even if nothing really seems to happen these days, more often than not, we spend hours laughing, sharing stories that our busy schedules had previously tucked into the “Talk About It Later” file.
I’d gone on a different walking route and about an hour in, ended up walking under an arch that distorted my voice with its echo over the line. Explaining the distortion, I started describing my setting but quickly remembered that I could just send a photo (I only recently got unlimited data). I stepped back from the arch and got the shot, then, as a joke, flipped the camera and took the kind of selfie that our moms might take. Poorly framed, funny-looking, basically the stuff that comedy gold is made up. No one was around to see me take it so I took a few more. Me pinching the arch. Pretending to hold it up like it was the leaning tower of Pisa. I sent them to her and we spent the following minute adding to the joke between gasps of air.
“It looks like you walked to France!” she said, before laughing at how vast the space was and how funny it would’ve been if someone had been there to witness all my selfies with this discount Arc-de-Triomphe.
While we talked, I kept snapping photos, sending them to her every once in a while with the kind of caption that once again, our moms might use. “From Paris with Love!” “Taking in the sights #cityoflights”
Although it was one-sided, it felt like a game we got to play from afar. We were laughing at this idea of being a tourist in your own city while the city is on lockdown. At how easy it was to make a fool of yourself when no one else was around. At just how good it felt to laugh about things as nonsensical as staged tourist selfies.
When I got home, I told her that it was too good an idea to keep to myself. I want to see #neophytesaroundtheworld, reinventing if only for a moment this idea of confinement. I’m not trying to minimize the hardships that have come with this crisis, but maybe suggest a lighthearted way to confront it in those sacred moments outside.
The point is not necessarily to just pretend to be a tourist and send those photos to your friends, though she and I can assure you that it’s a good starting point.
I suppose what it all boils down to is that allowing yourself to indulge without guilt will refill your cup like nothing else. And I don’t just mean face masking while doing your taxes. I mean really indulging in something that you do just for you (and if you’re lucky, that you might even be able to share with a faraway friend). Correct me if I’m wrong but that’s how play is defined, right? An activity of enjoyment without purpose? Forgive the paraphrasing but you get the sentiment.
So lean into play. Do something for fun. Not to monetize, not to check off your to-do list, not to get ahead. Those things are important, but creating a time and space for pleasure is, too. Laughter won’t cure this pandemic but it will definitely help make it endurable.