Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Angry Young Women

While in New York earlier this month, I met up with an old friend whom I hadn't seen in a decade. The best thing about good friends is that you can pick up the conversation after a long pause and it's like you've never been apart. She and I would certainly qualify as "bosom friends" in the parlance of Anne Shirley and we share many similarities.

As our conversation meandered through our evening together, we both noted that despite the fact that we feel like one of our goals in life is to go unnoticed, we both actually broadcast messages loud and clear to world all the time. More often than not that message begins with a great big capitol letter F.

"Why are we so angry?" I asked her.
"Because we've gotten hurt and its easier to express that as anger than admit to being hurt," she said.
"But what do you do if you've been hurt and you know that it will never be resolved. What if the person that hurt you will never ask for forgiveness?" I asked.
"I guess you grieve it and move on," she said.

Now, the idea of what to do with wounds that will never be redressed is a concept that Josh and I have spun around in conversations for many years. These "unforgivens" tend to accumulate in your soul when the person on the other end is unwilling or unable to let you resolve the damaged relationship. The answer that my friend gave me to this question seemed spot on. These kinds of breaks are akin to death in that the other person is unreachable. Why hadn't I thought of it before?

My experiences with grief have been limited, but when I have grieved, I have found it bewildering. Perhaps there is something in me that resists permanence because I have a hard time accepting that there is nothing I can do (may I introduce you to my inner control freak?). Anger is active and it means you are still in the game fighting. However, when you are fighting about something whose time has passed, then continuing to be angry is more damaging than letting go. I believe my friend is right, and the answer out is through grief.

And so begins my grief project. For the rest of this year, I intend to learn how to be a better griever so that I can clean out the detritus of past hurts that are holding me back.

Friday, April 22, 2011

In Praise of True Love and Cheap Housing

Sometimes you know that a change is coming and it takes an unexpected form. For the last couple of years, we have been focused on the project of moving from our current house. After months of open houses, research on neighborhoods, and fixing up the more desperate parts of our house, something just didn't seem right. Every neighborhood we visited seemed lacking in someway (too expensive, too suburban). On the other hand, the work that we did on our house made us feel more positive and less overwhelmed by its problems. Then they began to build a train blocks from our house and we realized what an amenity that will be. In short, we fell in love again with our crappy old house in our unassuming neighborhood.

Nevertheless, change was still coming. Just not this change. During the last six months, my stress levels at work had become increasingly high and both Josh and I had the nagging feeling that we were living a life that was unsustainable. Somehow without thinking, we had become another double-income couple in search of the upper middle class American Dream. To most people, this would have been a great indicator of our success. For the two of us, bizarre non-conforming contrarians that we are, we were overwhelmed by the feeling of being a machine in service to a dream we never wanted in the first place.

So, I quit my job. Yesterday. I was able to do this because my husband really loves me and because our crappy old house that we love even more now is dirt cheap. I am officially off the treadmill of enormous daycare bills, stupid suit jackets, and long hours expending energy in service to someone else's vision. Now we can try again to pursue the full expression of our values - the dreams deeper and older and more uniquely ours than large houses in the "right" neighborhood or impressive job titles. We have returned to our original promise to each other back when we first got together - "a life of squalor and misery." This life that will be full of creativity, love, and the pursuit of our real dreams.

Sunday, April 10, 2011

I Heart...

 The mark of a good friendship is the ability to pick up the conversation where you left off even after many years of separation. By this measure, New York City is one of my closest friends. Upon arrival, the fond feelings took over and I couldn't wait to spend hours “just talking” with the city I didn't realize I'd missed so much over the past decade. In the case of New York, “just talking” requires a lot of walking and a lot of subway riding. I revisited the places that I spent so much time in during the three years New York and I were roommates. Some things had changed to be certain (for me, too), but the essential things were the same.

Here is a list of some of the best things I stumbled upon during the week I spent with my dear old friend:
1. The street musician in Washington Park who plays a full-sized piano. He played “Here Comes the Sun”
2. Female taiko drummers in Union Square playing to benefit Japan relief efforts.
3. Walking the High Line, a beautiful new greenway converted from an old rail line running above the Meatpacking District. Did I love the public art, the plants cultivated in the old railroad ties or having a celebrity sighting (Louis CK) the best? Hard to choose.
4. The look on my friend's face when I took her to Milon, and Indian restaurant in the East Village. All I can say is you just have to experience yourself.
5. The Pearl River Market's new digs on Broadway in Soho. Clearly the awesomeness of their wares contributed to the success that allowed them to move from their run down digs on Canal Street.
6. Finding a choir practicing in the Cathedral of St. John the Divine, a centering moment after having to wrangle bandages onto my feet in a bathroom stall to cover blisters (also grateful that the 110th Street Rite Aid was still there).
7. Eating a slice of Coronet pizza in a practically deserted Riverside Park and appreciating how much my old neighborhood (Morningside Heights) is an oasis of calm in the city.
8. Getting to know Brooklyn a bit. Walking across the Brooklyn Bridge and buying a cool originally designed t-shirt for Nate from a street vendor.
9. Seeing all the city kids and admiring their independence even as they retain their true “kidness.” like the group of boys about Ellis' age talking about Mario Brothers characters and then running of the path to climb rocks in Central Park.
10. Great cheap food everywhere. Great transit. Great people who look out for themselves and communicate directly.