Updated: Aug 31, 2022
This is survival writing.
I typically have really well thought out topics to write about – this month, I don’t. I have no motivation, tbh. So, I’m writing for survival. Survival in terms of managing this self-isolation and still creating. Something that helps ground me and keep me sane is visualizations. It’s strange because they equally take me out of my body into another world and put me right into my body, in the here and now. I’m going to walk you through how to utilize this with me by going through all of my senses (touch, sound, sight, smell, and taste) to describe all of my “bests.”
The best thing I ever tasted. The best thing I ever felt against my skin. The best thing I’ve ever laid eyes on. The best…
After you read mine, I want you to do this for yourself. Go through all of your senses, as in depth as possible. If you don't have access to certain senses, that's okay. Do what you can. Write about (or imagine) all of your “bests.” And then use your words and imagery to create that safe, warm, delicious space for yourself. You deserve it.
Smell I have a very sensitive nose. I attach scents to memories and smell is, for sure, one of the go-to senses I activate to calm my nervous system. When I’m in the middle of a panic attack, I lightly wet a washcloth with cool water and put eucalyptus and mint soap in between the folds. I lay that across my forehead or put it behind my neck. When I’m feeling completely out of control, I grasp the washcloth between both hands and press it directly underneath my nose. I don’t really care for the smell of eucalyptus or mint outside of these moments – they have a sense of urgency that put you right in your body, it’s not quite soothing as it is unnoticeable. It says, “LOOK AT ME” and I do. I immediately become aware of the hairs inside my nose; how they tingle when I take a breath. I can feel the depth of my breath and how wide my nostrils are as if the mint is propping each nostril open, almost to the point of being uncomfortable.
But, without a doubt, it forces me to be present. I cannot be stuck in the past, letting a traumatic memory loom over me. And I cannot concern myself with the future or the unknown. I’m obligated in that moment to pay attention to how the eucalyptus travels through my nose and hits the back of my throat, I can almost taste it. It’s quite clingy, eucalyptus. I wouldn’t call this “the best thing I’ve ever smelled” in terms of deliciousness, however, it’s the best thing to smell when I need to feel alive. Nothing has saved me like eucalyptus and mint.
Sight Two things actually come to mind if I have the option of splitting my #1. Hope that’s okay. I’ll start with what came first. Every Sunday for over fifteen years I was at my grandparents’ house. My mom and I moved around a lot but the one constant, the one thing that remained the same, was Grammi and Popi’s house. It became synonymous with tradition and houses the majority of memories and conversations that shaped me. Conversations with my grandmother about how to properly make a doodle – leftover pie crust, lots of butter, cinnamon and sugar. These conversations were about the importance of indulgence. Or lessons on beauty – how far a little lipstick can go and the importance of smelling divine. And deep conversations with my grandfather about the meaning of life and forgiveness; why compassion and selflessness need to be the center of my being. Their home was a safe space but the drive there was nearly as precious to me.
My mother and I lived about 45 minutes away so the journey to see my grandparents is half the memory. It was country, yall. Narrow roads and farmhouses. Unkempt, grassy hills that went on for miles. Feeble fences and faded “welcome home” signs across people’s lawns. Every few miles we could spot a deer or see a fox dart into the distance. But the best part, by far, were the trees. They soared out of the earth, higher than I could see from my backseat window. I swore they touched the sky. In the summer they were lush and green, thick enough that I imagined walking through them would be difficult. The car moved quickly past them but they were so dense they looked crowded together.
In the winter, their leaves fell and, finally, I could see beyond what I thought was a never ending forest. I saw wooden and brick houses or sometimes emptiness. It wasn’t a mystery after all. But my favorite season was fall. It became a tradition to pay close attention to the turning leaves. We would point to our favorite tree consumed by orange, red and yellow. Tree after tree we saw bright burning leaves, often disrupted by a vibrant green, an ode to the ones that were taking their time to turn. When I close my eyes, I can still picture that drive to my grandparents’ house.
The second thing is totally unrelated.
In college, my first boyfriend and I were pretty conservative. Not because I went to college conservative and virtuous; because he was a man of god who fell for a rebel and instead of rushing him to deviousness, I slowed down. We created other kinds of intimacy that felt safe at the time given how different we were. We spent a lot of time in bed, napping between classes, feeling each other’s skin. He was Nigerian, had gap between his teeth and he, without having to employ poetry here, was Black as hell. In my dorm room I had blue and pink curtains hung across my windows, they were sheer enough that the light showed through depending on the time of day. My bed was right next to one of the windows and when the sun was highest in the sky and we were laying there together, we could feel the heat in unison and the rays created a blue hue on his skin. And then the sun would shift a bit and it would turn to purple. Or we would adjust the curtains and the sun beams would peak through and a cascade of yellow and orange would splash onto his shoulders or nose or chest. To this day, he is, and those moments were, the most beautiful thing I’ve ever seen.
Taste I’ve recently been eating a lot of cheesecake. Food is absolutely a comfort for me, so I could spend hours going over the best things I’ve ever eaten from varying categories. Instead, I’ll tell you about this cheesecake. I don’t know that I’m really a cheesecake enthusiast. I won’t dismiss a good slice but certainly it’s not my first choice. Like, there’s this café across from my house that serves ice cream (and edible cookie dough) called unicorn poop. It’s blue and has rainbow sprinkles and tiny chocolate chips – it’s so fucking good and tastes like cotton candy and a childhood free of trauma LMAO Or I’ll even take a fresh baked, undercooked chocolate chip cookie with just the right amount of chocolate chips (I like my chocolate chip cookies more cookie than chocolate chip-y). But this cheesecake …this cheesecake is divine. It’s a mini pie, not a slice. Imagine an entire cheesecake shrunken to fit into the palms of your hands. AND IT’S CINNABON FLAVORED. If you’re a fan of mall cinnabons, let me fucking tell you, SIS. It’s that, but a damn fucking cheesecake. So, the top is like the clit of the cinnabon (you know what I’m talking about, that middle part that’s the ooeist and gooiest) and then under that is the cheesecake. It’s the creamy kind of cheesecake too, not the kind that’s kinda dry and gets stuck to the roof of your mouth. It’s smooth, baby. And underneath that is a THICC layer of buttery, graham cracker crust. And did I say the entire thing is drizzled with cinnamon bun icing?? That shit is fucking DRUGS.
(Just going to drop this here for anyone interested, pretty sure they ship nationwide. And it’s owned by a Black woman! sweetdelightcheesecakes.com)
Sound The ocean is definitely calming as fuck for me. But I gotta go with music for this one. Particularly, classical or live music. My mom is a band teacher and flutist. I grew up listening to her play and the sounds of Vivaldi, Handel and Purcell. I sang in Peabody and church choir while the handbells rang in the background and I also, played the violin, piano and flute, myself. Percussion really spoke to me though. Maybe because I was the only girl in the percussion section or maybe because it allowed me to bang out my frustrations or control the entire band by creating the tempo on the snare. I’ve been attending concerts and live shows since I was in elementary school, too. Destiny’s Child, Brandy, Spice Girls, B2K – I’m a concert veteran at this point. And while I loved seeing my idols in person, my focus was always on the band behind them. The person effortlessly playing the keys, the importance of the bassist or, the center of my world, whoever was on the drum set. Classical and live music mean a lot to me.
So, currently (and for some time now), my all time favorite thing to hear is the Claire De Lune by Debussy. It’s iconic, you’ve likely heard it. For me it’s a song of persistence and triumph. It introduces itself slowly albeit intensely before giving you a bit of a break just to then overwhelm you. Can you make it through? “How dedicated are you?” is what it asks me. It moves into practice and patience, reminding you to keep trying, and then rewards you with a bit of softness. A slow, sweet applause. And then guess what? It says, push harder. Practice and focus one more time before your final mastery. I love it so much I’ve dedicated nearly a year to learning it on the piano.
Honorable mentions go to that song from Her called Photograph (a very gentle song for lovers) and Une Barque Sur L'ocean (a bit more intense but it breathes with you during tough times).
I saved my favorite for last. Again, I have two if I am given that option. Let’s just go head and bang this out. The ocean for sure is, top 2 for me. Being in a big ass body of water is terrifying for most people, but being butt ass nekkid in the sun, with water surrounding me is humbling and grounds me in the center of my being. It’s the literal sensation of water against my skin – how cool or hot it is, the movement it makes when I flutter my legs or how calm it is when I float on my back. It’s how small it makes me feel – I’m not “me” in that moment I am simply apart of something bigger, something alive, something important. It’s how my head feels pressure when I take a deep breath and go under water, bubbles coming out of my nose. It’s the droplets falling down my face when I break the surface and the saltiness on my lips when I open my mouth to take a breath. I feel like the ocean knows my spirit and asks nothing of me but to be still and connect.
And lastly, I cannot write about my senses without talking about a lover. There are few things sweeter than being in the arms of a lover. Whether I’m laying my head on their chest or being squeezed between their arms; a deep, deliberate hug or a heavy arm over my waist as the little spoon makes me feel sheltered and warm. Especially with this self-isolation shit, I want nothing more right now than to burrow my face into the armpit (is this weird? I don’t care LMAO) of my love and feel their hands cupping my face. I need eye contact and hugs and back rubs and kisses on varying places. Human contact, please!
Anyway… What are your favorites and “bests?” Go through your senses and dream about them in detail. Get lost and disconnect from this world for a bit.