places of comfort

by s.

I read something the other day that made a passing reference to people’s “places of comfort”. I loved that phrase and I wrote it down but I didn’t note where it came from, so I want you to know now that when I talk about places of comfort, I am stealing words.

I went to Bayside again this past weekend and sat on Michelle’s couch and she fed me snacks as she let me edit her life a little bit. We drank mimosas and I leafed through her portfolio and it felt to me like like she had found, in an unlikely place like Bayside, a place of comfort. It is a place large enough for her thoughts, her husband, her giant dog, and some cheese and crackers, and that is about it. There is some solace to be found in the simplicity of ice cream sandwiches at the 7-11 around the corner.

Homes are those places quite often, for sure, but I think there are a world of others too. I would wager that some of us may find that place of comfort sitting in an office chair behind a large computer monitor. I have at least one friend who exists in the space behind a bar; I know many who come alive in kitchens. I am always a bit envious of those who find their place of comfort in the office. It is a place that I find comfortable but one I could never call home.

There are special sorts of people whose places of comfort are other people. These are the ones who draw out the best in you not because they feel they have to, but because doing so just happens to feel like where they belong. I suspect things would look much different without them around just as much as I suspect that we lost just a tiny part of their magic when we started referring to the work they do as “networking”.

I thought a lot about this as I sat across from Michelle at dinner and we ate sushi and talked, somewhat accidentally, about Serious Things. You find your places and you keep them: sometimes they work for a lifetime. Me, I think I trade mine in when it feels like time. It used to be the third tree in a row of four next to the grapevines behind my house; it graduated when I did to the tiny park across the street from Magnolia Bakery and the old bookstore that used to not be Marc Jacobs-branded. For a long time, it was any one place that contained both a cup of coffee and a book in my hand. It has been, and surely will be again, the Manhattan bridge. I hesitate to say where it is right now because you could find me there and that might make it better or it might ruin it, and when one has a designated place of comfort this seems like an extraordinary risk to take.

A place of comfort, you see, is the place where you are always some version of your best self, where it takes very little effort to do so. It seems strange to me now to think that I ever could have been my best sinking teeth marks into too-high frosting in the park, but we were all young once. I will laugh later at what I now consider my best; I will do it from the comfort of being someone better.

“This is how we learn,” is another thing that I like to say that I stole from somewhere. It works best if you say it when you’ve fallen over or burnt a meal or sent an errant email, but it seems fine to admit that it’s occasionally sincere. It is after we do the learning, I suppose, that we crawl from one place of comfort like turtles and cozy up in another whenever we get the chance.

It seems exciting to have left those awful cupcakes behind.