The heatwave remains unbroken and every day I feel a little more unravelled by it. Outside of work, it's been difficult to concentrate on much, to feel deeply absorbed by anything other than an immediate and pressing need to run cold water over pulse points.
I did read some interesting things this week. Jessica's Read.Look.Think was, as ever, stocked full of treats. In particular, I liked this piece, which I'm guessing is a kick up the arse many of us need to some extent, one time or another.
This morning, I read this piece by Claire L. Evans over on Aeon.
"Travel is inherently narcissistic. Even if we’re looking to be knocked off our axis, we’re still in the business of self-improvement. People want to go to faraway places and return changed. A lot rides on this expectation. We hunt for perspective, for miraculous connections, but when these moments happen, we don’t always recognise them — or we look in the wrong places. There is a collection of jungle villages around Ubud on the Indonesian island of Bali, which is as remote and humid and disorienting as any foreign place. The landscape is clogged with temples spewing incense, and yet long lines of Western tourists snake out the doorway of the single mountain temple that featured in Elizabeth Gilbert’s book Eat, Pray, Love (2006). It’s easy to laugh at these people. It’s easy to say that they are missing the point, but are they? Maybe they’re just mainlining into the essence of what travel is always already about: pat revelations about the self. When we were in Bali, we went to a different temple, and our dirty tennis shoes looked ridiculous beneath the stiff embroidered sarongs we were commanded to wear. I felt nothing, except for self-consciousness and the impulse to snap a dozen pictures I haven’t looked at since.
The strangest dissonance of this life is the uneasy balance we strike between chaos and routine."
This is going to sound self-indulgent no matter what way I say it: But one of my own posts that I think about most often is this one, about the tension between routines and the desire for reinvention in a post-travel state of mind. I wrote it just after I got back from Ireland (the trip before this last one). I came back thinking I might unemigrate. That feeling faded, as I felt it would even then. And on this last trip, I couldn't reconnect with the same idea at all.
And I thought about all that again today - not about whether I want to move or not, which all seems incidental and would work out fine one way or the other - but about how much a function those feelings are of something we don't necessarily have access to in the moment. How strongly we believe present feelings are real and concrete and we could ride them like waves into change. But when we don't, they become less real and even become unrecognizable as our own.
If I was to sum up my thirties, I'd say it's the decade where I'm learning to keep going without feigning certainty.
My younger self liked to feign certainty in such situations. I'd blaze ahead without guarantees, doing bold things. Immigrating to Canada, for example, was bold and blazing and for reasons mostly unfounded. But I love it here — not in a way that makes me think I couldn't love other alternatives, but in the way that I've become attached to the quirky arbitrariness of my own life, the sense that it's not about picking the right place or person, but about finding small pockets of joy any way, anywhere, with strangers or friends. But mostly quietly and alone.