There is a moment in Chanel Miller’s Know My Name when she reminds herself that a world of beauty and calm exists alongside the everyday chaos. These few sentences describing her scuba diving trip to Indonesia made me think of something my mom tells me. Every time my mom and I travel, particularly to warm places, she’ll tell me to take mental pictures to warm myself up on a cold day. While she means some literal cold day in the upcoming December or January, I find myself most remembering these times during some of the hardest times of my life; times when I feel most cold.
My eyes are clenched tight, shut away from the noises that cloud my peace. My bare feet are imprinting the layers of sand; my toes squishing and pulling the tiny stones. The sand is a pure white, almost like God himself clenched diamonds too tight and let the remnants scatter beneath my soles. I am navigating through teal beach towels and amateur sand castles shaped by plastic drinking cups. My steps are methodical, careful not to step on anyone else’s escape. I pass the voices of other travelers, the speakers spewing a Latin dance, the scattering of green canopy chairs; my brain instructs my hips to keep going, navigating me through obstacles until my feet reach the cool, turquoise blue of Mahogany Bay. My painted fingernails tightly grip my rented yellow float. A breath fills the deepest parts of my lungs as I give myself permission to feel peace.
All at once, I collapse into the bay, plunging myself into the salt-filled blue. I can feel bubbles of expelled, old oxygen purging from my body as I drop to the sandy floor. The shapes filled of air are pushing away from me, finding a new home amongst the algae. I let the salt seep into my skin, letting it fill all the cracks and hurt. My hair swims in the warm water, twisting and dancing from the almost unnoticeable current. I squeeze my eyes tighter, knowing I must come up to breathe soon- but not just yet. I want to savor this moment of stillness. I stick my tongue out slightly, barely separating my pursed, peeling lips. A rich salt consumes my escaped taste buds. Finally, I place my wrinkled fingers on the back of my hair, collecting strands and smoothing them as I pull my head out of the water. I am careful to leave my sun-toasted shoulders immersed.
I inhale Honduran air, almost greedily, like this is the only opportunity I might have to breathe on my own. My eyelids open wide, unafraid of the salt water that is crashing lightly on my chin. My toes dance me in a small circle amongst the sand, my arms loose and expanded, unapologetic of the space I take up. In one simple exchange, I breathe in the Honduras sun and palm trees, while simultaneously breathing out my “me too,” and the heavy words resting quietly in my heart. I pretend my pupils are polaroids, taking mental pictures of everything around me.
To my right, two large Carnival cruise ships eagerly lying in wait for their passengers. Click. To my left, a boy is playfully splashing the ripples of the water, while spinning around on his yellow raft. Click. Towards shore are groups of people radiating in the convivality that Honduran sun and icy drinks invite. Click. Above me is a bright Central American sun, beaming light past my sun kissed scalp and into the darkest corners of my mind. Click. I invite the impending sunburn, as if it might melt the coldness out of me as well. I take another breath, letting it crawl through my abdomen, as I plunge back below the sun-filled surface. Click.
As Chanel suggests, amongst a world of doubts and everyday routine, a world of frustration and me too’s- might I never forget that this world exists too.