Anne Marie Ward
Creative, Editor, Researcher, & Writer

Nonfiction

Essays & Research

A Heightened Sensitivity to Joy

Sometimes, it’s nice to just sit in a good chair.

My body physically harbors stress the way that someone might harbor a criminal relative who comes pounding on their door in the middle of the night, on the lam after some shady goings-on. Not wanting to open the door, but unable to turn them away. Or sometimes, it feels like my body’s in full-blown mutiny: raging against my mind’s worry by raising some psychosomatic hell, with muscles tightening, synapses firing, and hyperactive nerves flaring into widespread pain. A War on Me.

I’ve always been like this: Adrenaline-prone with a nervous disposition.

But I find comfort in a good chair; I find relief. Fordham’s LC Student Lounge has some good chairs. At least, they did, before a recent re-decorating. Armchairs in a soft blue, with solid arms, and firm backs. And after hours of slouching in my desk, slouching in the Ram Van, and slouching under the weight of my loaded backpack, the comfort of sinking into one can make me almost teary and elicits a huge sigh of relief. Bliss.

I shed my burdens, physical and mental, my backpack and my worry, and fall back into the chair, thankful that I no longer have to support my own weight, a literal support-system that is vastly underrated. I sling my legs over one arm, with my shoulders resting back on the other, and I pull a clementine from the front pocket of my backpack. Softly, I hold it in my hand and bring it to my nose, appreciating the fruity, citrusy scent, like a poor man’s aromatherapy, that brings a smile to the corners of my mouth.

Peeling the clementine has the comfort of familiarity, the same zen of folding clothes, spreading soft butter across warm toast, or sitting in the imprint of a particularly well-loved armchair. Its pleasure comes from its ease and simplicity, especially when maneuvered with intention.

The rind is both rough and soft on the pads of my fingertips, and I stack the pieces neatly on an open spot of the armchair. The orange rind is a beautiful contrast to the soft blue material on which it rests, and it makes me think of Van Goghs, with firey sunflowers painted on a cooler background, with brilliant stars in a night sky. I pull apart small section by small section and really try to focus on the flavor. It’s sweet with the citrusy zing that makes my tongue sting just the tiniest bit. But the juice is so refreshing that the zing is understood and loved, all because it is felt.

My body also lets me know when I’m taking care of myself. Muscles relax, nerves quiet, stillness reigns, and I can appreciate, with greater clarity, just how nice an absence of stress feels, just how good the plush of an armchair is, and just how succulent a clementine can be: A heightened sensitivity to joy.

Originally featured in The Ampersand in December 2018.