Tuesday, May 29, 2012

New York anniversary, year 2.

There is a feeling that New York fosters within the bowels of the subways, a moment that feels as though someone has cooked it up specifically as a smack in the head for anyone who was thinking they could remove themselves from the wonderful demographic cesspool that New York is so famous for and escape to the suburban pockets of uniformity of their youths. This, of course, is the moment when you realize that the person sitting next to you on the subway is getting off at the same stop as you. I mean, sometimes this person looks like you, but, let's be real, more often than not they look like nothing you've ever seen before and can't believe exists in polite society, and now they are getting off at your stop. With you. Moving in tandem through your neighborhood, potentially living in your building. My narrow midwestern mind has a moment of panic as it tries to process how this person could possibly be existing on a parallel track to my own. New York smiles quietly at the literal and metaphysical tableau it has created just for me, gently cracking open my skull and prying until the light and air starts to hit me right in my under-used brain.

New York is a constant reminder to each and every one of its ridiculous inhabitants that we are all the same.


I remember the exact instant that my small brain expanded to house the information that I was part of a connected ecosystem, that my tiny actions on this earth could potentially impact every other human being on the planet, if not every creature. Maybe some people are born with this sense of scope hard-coded into their brain, but I was definitely not. I'm guessing I could say the same for many of the folks who grew up in nice shiny bubble communities in the midwest. Not that I'm knocking any of that. It certainly was nice.

Anyhow, I was eight years old and we were moving from one lovely suburb of western Michigan to another when this particular expansion took place. Despite the fact that a move meant I would have to switch schools, I had generously decided to forgive my parents for this as it meant a new bedroom for yours truly, and I had long since proclaimed my current bedroom to be tragically undersized (my tendency to over-dramatize situations has not progressed much since then). I remember that in the midst of my triumph, my mom was stressing out because the people trying to move into our current house were anxious for us to get out so they could move in, but the owners of the house we wanted to move into were stalling on closing because they had not yet found a new house to move into. She was explaining the situation to me on the verge of tears, and I did not understand what she was making such a big deal about. My brain was registering one one channel only, and that channel was the huge purple bedroom in my future - how could anyone possibly be upset with times such as these ahead of us? So she ditched the realtor-speak and went for a simpler explanation.

"The people buying our house can't move in until we move out, and we can't move out until we have some place to move in, meaning we need the people in the house we're buying to move out. And they don't want to, which means we have to wait. Us moving depends on whether they move."

At that moment, the light-bulb went on and I realized that not only did our move depend on their move, but there were people trying to buy the house of the people trying to buy our house, and that THEY couldn't move in until we moved out and the people buying our house moved out of their house and into our house. And someone was trying to buy the house of those people as well! And the same went in the other direction, for the people who were moving out of the house we were trying to move into. What seemed like a singular event ("let's get a new house!") was in fact a much, much larger affair, and involved jumping into a line of millions and millions of people all moving houses at the same time. You couldn't, then, decide to change your own situation without impacting innumerable other people, people you will never meet but that were involved in the transaction you made when you were eight years old and begged your parents for a larger bedroom.

I don't remember my reaction to this, but I do remember trying very deliberately to digest the shock and take in the enormity of the truth I had just uncovered. I don't think I've slept quite the same since.


Today marks two years since I moved to New York City, another year of catalyst added to the heat of my particular journey of self-expansion. I closed year 1 on the beach in Miami; year 2 at the office preparing all kinds of planning presentations, so I hope you'll forgive me that my reflections aren't quite as blissed-out as they were last time around.

Everything has changed, but not much has changed. I still hate the heat, I still miss Chicago (the tulips on Michigan Ave in the spring! ack), and I still create all kinds of stress for myself from the energy and dichotomies that the city presents. But the whole thing appears as a more mature sort of struggle, through a lens of gratitude for the proliferation that my life here continues to foster. Life is, after all, pretty grand.

Someone told me this weekend that the first two years are the hardest. As these have been two of the best years of my life, I certainly hope they're right, and I continue on.

I continue to try, I continue to take it in, I continue to expand, I continue to arrive.

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

My Best Intentions, or, How the spirit animal of Elizabeth Gilbert kicked my whining ass into gear.

I've been barreling through a lot lately. This isn't really the forum to discuss such a thing, so I won't. But I will offer up a prayer of acknowledgment to the universe that I know it could be a lot worse, and am so grateful that it isn't. And that I'm so thankful that it's nothing to do with Sir or our relationship or our health or my family's health or anything like that. Things will be okay.

My go-to option for self-soothing is always to hurry through whatever book I'm currently reading and get myself back to center with some Eat Pray Love. Scoff if you must, but clearly you haven't read the book (and may have seen the terrible, terrible movie). My love for this story, for the author Elizabeth Gilbert, is immeasurable. She is speaking directly to me. I want to be her, or at least be her best friend and confidante. I want her to teach me. Even on my best days, I read Eat Pray Love in between every other book I read, as a palate-cleanser. When I'm feeling particularly anxious, I just put it on repeat. Per the aforementioned, I'm currently on the third go-round of this particular jaunt.

The people on the C train must think I read very, very slowly.

I had just come to the part where she learns about David's guru and is surprised to find she'd like her own (page 25 of the paperback) when my own tired, defeated heart stood up and declared the same.

"I, too, want a spiritual teacher!"

Or, you know, maybe a mentor. Maybe Elizabeth herself could mentor me. She lives in the tri-state area (I think); I live in New York City. I bet ol' Liz is dying to give up her precious free time to have coffee with a twenty-something in her quarter-life crisis, musing over witticisms in some tiny café in the Village and offering sage advice on writing and yoga and travel and life.

It was so brilliantly simple.

Except it wasn't, and about five seconds of Googling led me to the conclusion that she wasn't looking to be sought after for mentorship, or anything really. After a split second of deflation, I decide that it's okay with me that she doesn't want to be found, because that seems pretty in line with the character she paints for herself in her books. And, there's nothing worse than finding out that a public figure you admire isn't exactly how you thought they'd be. So instead of a mentor, maybe she can be my spirit animal. Spirit-Liz will have plenty to offer me, I'm sure of it. And I do hope that my Spirit-Liz will come in handy, because I could really use the guidance.

What Would Elizabeth Gilbert Do. Maybe I'll make bracelets.


The worrying grain of sand in my oyster-shell, the singular thought that whole of my melancholy spins from and comes back to is always the same: I want to be a writer. And I do. I really, really want to be a writer. I would also like to win the lottery. In my cautious and over-practical mind, it feels like these thoughts have equal merit and possibility, which leads me to act on them more or less evenly, which is to say, not at all.

I wish I could tell you that my aspirations to be a writer are admirable, refined, guided by years of study and devotion to fine literature, but really, they're all knobby knees and elbows, tripping over themselves with crazed eyes and coffee breath and no real excuse for themselves. They're a herd of gawky teenage wildebeest in the safari of my anxiety-riddled mind, knocking over the gazelles and scattering the hornbills as they thoroughly ruin what really did have the potential to be a pleasant panorama, if only I could shut them out.

Sitting on the subway last night, consumed by everything and feeling very sorry for myself indeed, I felt that old herd of longing start to stampede in my already over-saturated mind. Spirit-Liz stirs in her meditation, opening one eye but saying nothing.

"I WANT to be a WRITER!" My aspirations exclaim in their impatient frenzy, running and jumping and braying and panting, as wild and desperate as ever.

"Really?" Asks my Spirit-Liz, looking down on me kindly, one eyebrow raised.

My aspirations slow their stampede and look up, hurt. "Yes, of course really!"

"Oh, okay." Spirit-Liz smiles knowingly, closing her eyes.

Stampede over. "What IS it?" My aspirations explode, exasperated.

"Well, its just that you don't LOOK like someone who wants to be a writer."

That shut me up.

So this morning, I set my alarm early and crawled meekly out of bed, so early the cat was still stretching and looking at me funny (I am, to say the least, not known for being an early riser). I made a pot of tea and unfurled my yoga mat in the office, moving through sun salutations until I could feel the blood flowing and the landscape start to still.

And now I'm here, with my bare feet and my NPR t-shirt and my very best intentions.

And I really wish I could stay.

My other spirit animal.