Tuesday, January 28, 2014

A New York Lesson

To have an uninterrupted block of time in which to read is to me a pure, unadulterated luxury.
Don't you just love that word luxury?  It just rolls off your tongue and sounds a bit sinful.
Reading for pleasure is healing and similar to putting your foot on the brake of life, stopping your normal crunched up, sometimes scattered daily routine, and allowing your mind to travel elsewhere.  When I find a book that has a compelling story line I am mentally gone and immersed in the characters and their lives and lose all track of the passage of time.  This past weekend, I found myself with two mornings in a row of relatively quiet hours in which to read and I used every second of it to enjoy a collection of short stories called "Good Bye To All That."
Essentially, the book is the work of 28 authors writers pouring their hearts out about why it was absolutely necessary and essential for them to live in New York City to become writers of importance, writers extraordinaire, and of course we all know that this kind of thing can only happen in New York City right?

My Favorite Building:
The Chrysler Building in New York City

Unfortunately, we also know that the best laid plans sometimes don't work out and then painful adjustments have to be made.  Usually this means leaving New York City, for at some point, even the most ardent of Big Apple lovers can get worn down by New York City and its frenzied pace.
But in between the arrival and the departure a vast amount of wisdom is learned by these authors about the hugs and punches of  life and each one lays bare their vulnerability in chasing their dreams and they write about how their New York lessons have stayed with them no matter where they ended up living after leaving.

One that particularly struck me, is a short story titled "Homecoming" by Mira Ptacin.  The author explains how she and her husband now live in a quiet and rural place called Peaks Island, Maine,  population 800,  years and years after living in New York City where they unfortunately practiced the selfish habit of constantly putting their careers first, always to the exclusion of their marriage.  While still in New York, Ptacin and her husband saw many red flags along the way signaling to them that they needed to spend more time together but none matched the impact of the sudden death of a childhood friend's father.

The loss forced them stop and wonder and think about what was actually important to them and eventually they ended up asking themselves a series of questions about what would happen to them if they got sick, who would take care of them, who would even care if they got sick or worse.  It made them re-evaluate their lives and they decided it was time to save their marriage or else pretty soon there would be no more marriage.

Loss can starkly show you what's truly important and what is a waste of your precious time.  Here is Ptacin's insight about the simplicity of life that she says she learned after her tragic loss:

"Brent's funeral was held three days after he died.  After the burial and as the sun was setting, we gathered at Brent and Rosemary's home.  We walked there from Andrew's childhood home, too, and we stayed until nearly 2 am, drinking on their wraparound porch, exchanging stories, eating Doritos, passing photo albums, and handing out tissues.  This went on for three nights, and kept going even after Andrew and I left town.

Here are some of the things I learned at Rosemary's that first week after leaving New York: I learned that when a widow is crying and smoking a cigarette, you let her cry and if you speak, it's to ask if you can get her another Diet Coke.  I learned that no one cares that much what you do for a living, but they will be grateful if you stay up with a six-year-old and watch Dennis the Menace because his grandfather is dead and he cannot sleep.  Rather than get into a political debate about the war, you thank an Iraqi veteran for his service.  You do not check your BlackBerry in the middle of a toast, and when someone hands you a crying baby, you hold it.  I learned that ice cream cake make grandpas feel really special, and when a neighbor invites you to swing by the food pantry during her volunteer shift so that she can take a look at that nasty poison oak on your shin, you go, and wait patiently until she can get free to see you.  I learned that you don't judge someone's worth based on what they can do for you and that you aren't expected to ask, "How can I help?"  Instead, you just jump right in."

That's exactly right.   

You just jump right in and embrace love and the whole range of magnificent feelings that life sends your way.

For when you put love first, you are home. 

No comments:

Post a Comment