I hate my beautiful view.

In particular, this view, which is what I see from the couch in my living room:

The lighting isn’t always quite so biblical.

I live in Rome, so “Hey y’all, I see a pretty church from the living room window” is not earth-shattering news. Still, it’s a particularly large church on a particularly green hill that’s particularly lovely when seen from the 8th floor of an apartment building. There are daily bells, and when the windows are open and the wind is right, you can hear the monks chanting vespers in the evening. I haven’t been Catholic for a long while, but I’ve never lost my love of High Church camp — Velvet! Gilding! Incense! — and I find the whole thing quite charming. Or, I used to.

My husband and I are thinking of moving when our lease is up, and the other day he asked me if I’d miss the view, which is not something we’re likely to find again given that I’d like to live closer to the ground. My immediate, unequivocal response was “Fuck that view.” I love my view, I’m deeply attached to my view, and I’m fucking sick of my view.

The view was a common subject for lockdown sketching. Did that accelerate or postpone the hatred?

Thanks to endless lockdowns and second and third waves of Covid and poor vaccine rollout, I am very rarely not in my living room and I very rarely see another view. This is the only view I’ve had for over a year, it’s beautiful, and every day it wears on my soul just a little more, because I can no longer look at it without thinking of the thousand other views I might have seen this year but couldn’t. Because I know that it will be my view again tomorrow. Because I know every window and brick and tree. Because I don’t know when possibilities will become options again. Because my brain wants something else, if only so it can say, “Meh,” and remember how much it loves looking at this particular church on this particular hill.

Is this a metaphor? Of course it’s a metaphor. Taking in the same view day after day is the death of perspective, which is the death of empathy. Taking in the same view every day makes it too easy to start thinking: this is the world, the whole world, the world that counts. To make decisions and create structures based on your singular, limited view. To double down on the status quo, because it’s the only possibility you can see. None of that creates space for variety or growth or thinking beyond yourself.

The more unchanging your perspective, the more trapped within it you are; the more trapped you are, the more quickly you become aggrieved; the more aggrieved you feel, the harder it is to connect with others; the harder it is to connect with others, the less likely you are to see the merit in their own lives and struggles. All because your view is the same, day in and day out.

It’s why Issue One had a poet, a civil servant, and a biblical scholar. It’s why Issue Two will have a naturalist, a bartender, a photographer. It’s why reading widely and deeply — to understand other life experiences, so they can inform our ethics and politics — is so very important. (Which is why the personal essay will never die, but that’s another newsletter.)

But it’s also not a metaphor. Because I’m still in this living room, on this couch, looking at this church, and I will be again tomorrow and tomorrow and tomorrow.

I hate my beautiful view, but I love that I understand why.


The week in Pipe Wrench.

  • Michelle had a brilliant idea for the topic of this newsletter at 5am one day and didn’t write it down, even though she knows better, because it was such a good idea that she would definitely remember it in the morning, and we don’t have to tell you how that story ends. So you got this one instead. It’s probably just as good. Probably.
  • Issue Two contributors are primed and waiting for a draft of the feature story, which is in the final stages. 
  • This week’s Golden Trophy of Generosity (an award Catherine just made up to honor anyone she’d otherwise repay with luxury beverages) goes to Jasper Wang, VP of Revenue and Operations at Defector, in the distinguished category of Best Pro/Con Email About Insurance. May we all never find out if any of our policies actually protect us from digital media’s black swans of calamity. 
  • Michelle is going on vacation next week! Please wish Michelle rest and relaxation! Also please take and value vacation whenever you can. Rest is non-negotiable

And now, three tweets that caused
Michelle to feel painfully seen this week.