December 31 – Core Story What central story is at the core of you, and how do you share it with the world?
(This post was written in the end of December, but due to some computer issues, it was not posted. It has been backdated to reflect when it should have been posted.)
One of the things I always love about Non-New Yorkers is that when New Yorkers get a bit of the existential ennui (or, heaven forbid, the existential grippe or malaise) these Non-New Yorkers purse their lips and furrow their brows and say, “Well. Maybe you should leave New York for a while.”
And even if I can’t see them pursing their lips, I know, just know, they are doing it. Like a latter-day Vicki Lawrence in Mama’s Family, with the raggedy grey wig and the threadbare housedress and looking like she was living inside of a Whitman’s Sampler box, probably pining for the days when she could bust out with “The Night the Lights Went out in Georgia,” and be done with all of it and all of the people wanting her to mete out advice like she was actually their Mama.
There are few things in this world I like less than the well-meaning, albeit misguided chorus of, “Well. Maybe you should leave New York for a while.”
Maybe you should come to New York for a while, and understand the beauty and wonder that are here, before you suggest that somewhere else, somewhere that is right for YOU, would be even momentarily better for me.
Let me tell you…
I did leave New York for about nine chaotic months. But in recovery, we call that kind of leaving doing a “Geographic,” as if the troubles won’t follow like the little dust cloud that shadows Pigpen from Peanuts. Because even when you arrive, largely unscathed, in a new, Non-New York place, where the dust and grime haven’t yet settled and things aren’t blighted or crumbling, or cast in a faux shabby-chic kind of shit-caking, you realize one day while you are eating panang tofu in your (mostly empty) new place that while the place is new and shiny, YOU are still shit-caked and trying to pass yourself off as shabby-chic. Shabby-chic would be at best charitable, and at least…disingenous.
You are still You. And your heart is full of New York Feelings. And you could call up a therapist in your Non-New York town to dispose of all of your New York things, but all of the therapists have New York names, like Ellen Rosenblatt and Ira Kornfeld.
And there you are — alone at square one, party of shit-cake. You did exactly what Vicki Lawrence told you to do and it got you precisely nowhere.
But perhaps, that is the core of this story.
I used to depend so heavily on what others thought of me, and I used to not be able to filter other people’s advice from the things that my own heart and head and gut were saying. One look from Mama, and I would go scurrying in the direction of a Non-New York place. Because maybe what ailed me was that I just needed to get out of New York for a while. Maybe what ailed me was whatever someone told me was what was ailing me.
It had not occurred to me that the things that my head and heart were telling me were hurting were actually the things that hurt. I was caught up in my various identities — daughter, sister, friend, wife; ex-wife; lawyer; woman — and had forgotten what it felt like to feel like Me.
So the moral of this story; and the story of this year, really, is that I am on a search; a quest; definitely a journey, possibly a mission. And leaving or staying or coming and going is not going to define me, or cure the guilt or fear or anxiety or any of the things I want a change of scene to fix.
I will always be a seeker, a finder, a wanderluster. But I came back to New York to settle the things that had shaken me, and the story of this past year is one that will continue. I have to sit with the feelings, and be responsible for what happens, instead of blaming place or time or circumstance. The problem is not New York. The problem — and of course, the solution — is me.