Picking My Way to Shore
On retreating, resetting, and reaching for simple pleasures
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A quick hello and welcome to my new subscribers! The theme of Name Three Things is “illuminating hope in uncertain times.” My intention for this newsletter is not to dissect current events or politics, but to explore the ways we find connection, purpose, and optimism in this game of dodgeball we call life.
I am squeezing this October newsletter in just under the wire. I had a whole other issue drafted before recent world events rendered it out of touch with the grief and anxiety so many of us are experiencing. Uncertain times, indeed.
Nearly three weeks later, I’m starting to feel the ground beneath me again, yet even as I type these words, they feel hollow and performative. I’ve been playing a constant game of emotional relativism, calculating the degrees of separation from my safe place at home to my friends and family who are worried about their own friends and family at the epicenter of a war zone. Not to mention the astounding losses that are compounding each day.
The alarming rise in anti-Semitism, weaponization of opinions, and intolerance for anyone who either expresses their views without razor-sharp precision, or chooses to refrain from commenting publicly, makes me want to retreat from the internet. In this hair-trigger climate, you truly are damned if you do and damned if you don’t.
Seeking the ordinary
The fear and uncertainty of the last few weeks initially reminded me of the days following 9/11, except in 2001, we didn’t have smartphones or social media. We sat in front of our TVs, affixed to cable news, which repeated the terrible footage on a nonstop loop, with a chyron ticker across the bottom of the screen to maximize our trauma.
At the time, I was newly self-employed and working from home, and I remember coming outside each afternoon that first week to sit on the curb of my cul-de-sac with my neighbors. We were all unnerved and didn’t know how or when life would start to feel normal again.
A recurring theme in the memoirs I read and newsletters I follow is the duality of life—the inescapable sorrow, grief and worry that coexists with beauty, joy, and laughter. It’s a life lesson I learned decades ago when my daughter was diagnosed with a life-threatening disease, and part of my own story that I share in my essays and memoir-in-progress.
It’s a lesson I continue to learn whenever current events upheave my sense of safety, autonomy, or justice.
I’m resetting my daily priorities to fit in the fundamentals that are essential to my well-being, but the first to get dropped when I’m knocked askew.
So, when will life start to feel ordinary again? When I allow it to. Here again, I recognize that I speak from privilege. I am not living in a war zone. My family and friends are not in imminent danger. For my own mental health, I’ve pulled back from social media in the last week and I’m shifting my attention to what’s right in front of me. It’s helping.
I’m also resetting my daily priorities to fit in the fundamentals that are essential to my well-being, but the first to get dropped when I’m knocked askew. Getting outside. Breathing fresh air. Taking walks. Working out. Eating healthy, whole foods. Meditating. Sleeping. Allowing myself to temporarily tune out what doesn’t serve me and to do so without guilt or apology (as I explain myself, nonetheless).
I’m also making an effort to notice—and amplify—the little moments that bring me joy and hope. Some people call them glimmers. The wonderful writer, Jeannine Ouellette, calls them shimmers and shards. I call them stepping stones—my path from tumultuous waters to the safety of shore.
Speaking of shores, last weekend I went with my husband to the small beach town I’ve been going to since I was a kid, and where we hope to eventually move as empty nesters.
There was a statewide beach cleanup on Saturday and we volunteered. So much about that morning eased my stress: the crisp, fall air, the sound of the ocean, the sparkle of sunlight on water, the warmth on my face, and the satisfaction of muscles sore from hours of walking. We met a volunteer named Mary who was in charge of our location and felt inspired to make this a regular thing.
Our last few trips down the shore, we’ve ventured out to the restaurants and small businesses open year-round for locals. I’ve shyly initiated conversations with strangers, hoping to meet more people from the community we want to be a part of someday.
“We’re planning to move here full-time in the next few years. We really like your restaurant/bakery/coffee shop/boutique.”
It’s my way of connecting the dots, mentally inserting pushpins in a map to make my world feel smaller and more familiar. I feel lifted after these encounters, assured that all of humanity isn’t at war and ordinary pleasures are still within reach.
How do you find balance during uncertain times? Please share in the comments.
Three Things That Entertained Me (because laughter and joy are essential)
1) I finished season 3 of Only Murders in the Building about a month ago and cannot rave enough about Steve Martin’s performance in the fictitious Broadway musical, Death Rattle Dazzle, that serves as the backdrop for the storyline. Martin Short (also hilarious) is the creator and director of the murder mystery in which three infant triplets are the primary suspects. Watch this clip of the best song from the show: “Which of the Pickwick Triplets Did It?” which should earn Steve Martin an Emmy (or a Tony—please make this an actual show).
2) “If a Tarantino film were a band of musicians, you get Khruangbin.” – @user21173294. I stumbled onto this IG reel and now Khruangbin is my favorite ultra-chill Pandora station.
3) Drew Talbert is a writer and comedic actor who’s created an entire cast of characters who work at Bistro Huddy, his imaginary restaurant. Check out his video of a guy coaching his parents on how to order in a restaurant. Did I mention he plays every role? I’ve sent this to about a dozen people so far.
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