Thinking Smaller

I have love notes on Post-Its taped to my laptop, in the spaces where the heels of my hands rest when I type. The notes are faded, only a few of his sharp, slanted letters remaining. But I have them memorized, and the sentiment is what it’s all about anyway.

I have only learned one piece of practical advice from Seventeen magazine, but man, do I use it often. Ready for it? This is how you remember the essentials you cannot leave home without: P.M.I.L.K. (“Haha, it sounds like ‘pee milk’!” Yes, I know. Yes, it is hilarious.). That means: Phone, Money, ID, Lip gloss (yes, lip gloss), and Keys. Scoff all you please; but for those of us who frequently hear our moms’ clever echoes of “you’re not gonna get anywhere far without those”- from the many times you’ve left the house, only to come back for the car keys- mnemonics like these serve as a necessary survival mechanism from our own “blondness” (my mom’s term of choice, no discrimination intended). Sometimes we all need some help Getting It All Together.

I am staring at three clementine peels next to my computer on the table. They spiral, stretching out of their balled-up shape. They could curl back up into that form if they set their minds to it. I could twist them into illusions, into air-clementines, waiting for someone hopeful for its fruit to meet its hollow center in semi-disappointment, reminding themselves that there are much, much worse things. But then…

A friend once observed the way I like to seek self-expression and self-realization in mundane objects. Creature comforts. How I choose my nail polish colors based on their names, taking ten minutes to ascertain that my shade of magenta suits my mood perfectly, or at least ironically. (“Peace, Love, OPI” is my go-to.)

These are some things I want to share with you. If you want to comfort me, a red popsicle is a good place to start. A bag of crunchy grapes is also a safe bet. If you want to sit beside me and sway back and forth in two-inch movements, play me some Tame Impala or Zusha. If you want to hear me ramble and wax nostalgic, play me Hadag Nachash. If you want to know about my memories, ask me about the initials on my ring or about my light blue cashmere sweater. If you want to know how I write, watch me shrug and try my best to put it simply: I have no idea.

I have no ideas, rather. A sad excuse for “writers’ block,” except not. It’s not that I’m hitting a creative wall, per se, but that I’d rather study that wall, run my hands over its cracks and crevices, than climb it.

I can’t write big right now. I can’t think big right now. I only want to peel clementines and feel music beats aligning with my pulse. I want tangible. That’s what I’m craving. I want to write something that could be drawn on paper. I am trying to write about things outside myself. Not completely outside but not the internal, contemplative, broad concepts. Not the things I care about and ramble about at your Shabbat table when you made the mistake of bringing up racism or the Talmudic source for particular synagogue structures. Not the things I try to bring up instead of the weather. This is unusual for me, and also completely fine.

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Everything is perfectly fine and I am fine as ever. I have five documents open with titles such as “Fleetwood Mac” (no connection to the writing’s content whatsoever), and “Pluralism or Something,” fetuses of essays or poems or unclassifiable beings to be born someday. But not right now, and probably not this week.

It’s rare for me to say I have nothing to say, and rarer still for that to be true. And while Jewish Identity, Social Stratification, Conspiracy Theories, Spiritual Quests, Feminism, Zionism, et cetera (just a few of my varied interests) are nowhere near “resolved”, and while I am nowhere near done reveling in nuance and emoting dramatically while debating all of these topics and more, I’m just not feeling it right now.

I want to rearrange the Prince and Joyce Carol Oates and Keith Haring postcards on my wall. I want to tune out the conversations around me on the subway, instead of my usual eavesdropping. I want to peel so many clementines, my gaze and my fingertips focused solely on separating their skin, dissecting fruit instead of philosophy.

Is it okay with you if I write small for now? Is it okay if the contents of my purse and my desk are pretty basic, something like minimalist clutter? Would you mind if for now, I leave the peels there for a few minutes more, and stare at them with no analysis? They don’t take up too much space. Can I unpack my things, I mean literally my belongings, and have a seat for now? Can you withstand my response of “nothing much” when you ask how I am, and believe with confidence that I mean it? I swear I do. I just don’t have any big ideas today. I have little things. These things, the clementine peels and mint tins and earbud cords and greeting cards keep me sane, keep me company, until the next Big Idea arrives.

The clementines and I are just being here together, in no rush to Bigness.