Got distracted by cabin

Matt and I spent a week in Barbados for Thanksgiving, most of it in a small Airbnb (we pay our rent on Matt’s credit card and get the points, so this vacation was “basically free”). There was a ramshackle hotel with an outside bar next door, a little corner store a 10-minute walk away, and other than that, you needed a car. We didn’t have a car, didn’t plan on going anywhere. We got groceries our first day and were happy to spend the rest of the week not doing much. We’re good at not doing much.

And yet: Whenever I go on vacation, I always have a small hope that during that vacation I will be inspired to write a book. This is only a little bit illogical. The idea, I think, is that a new place can do weird things to a person, including making them want to do something they have dug their heels in the ground about all the rest of the time. But this hasn’t happened, and it didn’t happen last week, despite the fact that I partook in my favorite ritual when flying out of JFK terminal five: buying a fresh notebook and pen from the Muji store. 

I did use the notebook, though sparingly. We made our grocery list on it. I attempted to journal in it three times. Our second morning I wrote a page-long play-by-play of what we had done the day before. The third morning I did the same. The fourth morning I wrote half a page and trailed off with, “it really is appalling how hard it is to for to fill one (1) page.” 

There is a recurring thought exercise I do without really knowing I’m doing it. I envision myself in a cabin, one room. There’s a bed in it, some windows, some light shining through, though the bed is mostly in shadow. I’m in the bed. The thought exercise is, will I ever get out of the bed? 

In the scenario, I am alone. I haven’t built out the backstory, I don’t know if it’s because everyone has vanished or maybe I’ve just gone mad and moved alone to Nova Scotia. But I have nowhere to be and there is nowhere to go. There is no calendar, no clock, no computer, no phone. The door is open, I can leave the cabin, but not to go to town, there is no town. 

Will I ever get out of the bed?

Sometimes I think, no, I won’t. I will stay in the bed until I die in the bed. I think this when I’m depressed, and sometimes also when I’m not depressed but simply in my own bed, thinking about the need to get out of it to go to work, to the store, to anywhere, and how impossible that seems, how distasteful.

Other times I think, well yes, obviously I will get out of the bed. I will get out of the bed to urinate. Or thirst will drive me to get a drink of water. The body will require me to overcome the brain, to get up from the bed, to go outside. And once outside, I can see how that’s just the first step to feeling a little better, to stretching and soaking up the sun, to finding more purpose, to going for a little walk. I can see how things would move along at a good clip after that, picking flowers, arranging them on the windowsill, yes, yes, OK. 

So then the second question is, would I ever write a book, in this scenario? I thought about this second question after failing to fill one (1) page, while sitting outside on a patio 10 feet from the ocean. 

In that moment, I thought, as I almost always think, no, no I would not write a book. I could have all the time in the world and nowhere to go and nothing to do and I would not choose to write a book, no. And then sometimes I think, yeah maybe. Like maybe I’d stay in bed for a month, leaving only to pee and drink water and eat granola bars, or whatever, and then maybe I’d write a book, sure. 

This apartment by the beach was not so unlike the cabin, really. OK, yes, Matt was there to keep me out of bed, the sea was there to stare at, there were breezes that felt good on my face. But other than that: there wasn’t really anywhere to go. The paths weren’t great for walking, it was too hot to venture inland on foot (after the trek to the corner store each morning, we were soaked in our own sweat). There was nothing to do but do yoga (Matt did it every day, I did it twice with him leading, as he’s training to be a yoga teacher), swim in the sea, read the books we brought, fill pages of our notebooks and …. scroll through our phones. Which I did quite a lot of. We had service, there was wifi, it was too hard to pretend it wasn’t there. I read one book and half of three others, I couldn’t get into them. Would I have finished them without the phone? Maybe, eventually? Maybe not. 

In the airport we’d said, “it would be nice not to look at our phones.” I think I kept mine in my bag the first day. But then I had to plug it in, and then it was just there, may as well scroll. I don’t feel bad about the scrolling, really. I’m as addicted to my phone as the next person, but I’ve set up some guardrails that have helped me not feel totally insane about it and I mostly stick to them. Right now we are on another kick of keeping phones out of our bedroom. I’m usually the first to crack on this one, but after my week of scrolling I’m feeling pretty into it, still.

What would I have done, at the beach, if I hadn’t had my phone? This is a question that is starting to seem as improbable as my mysterious cabin scenario. 

Watercolor by Matt Davis