Saturday, February 14, 2009

Valentine to NYC

Okay, it’s time to fess up about a few Valentine’s truths. This holiday can be tough for a single person. All the commercials, all the messages from the media...the idea is shoved down your throat ad nauseum that you aren’t anybody unless you’re “matched.”

Well, sorry, but I’ve learned that’s utter bullshit.

Truly. This is not just bitter I-don’t-have-a-date Valentine ranting. This is a hopeful love message. This is my Valentine to all the strong, interesting single people out there. And it’s a Valentine to NYC. But I’ll get to that later...

First, let me say that while being single can at times be tough, it sure beats being in a bad or even mediocre relationship that asks you to give up any part of yourself. If there’s anything I’ve learned on this Year as a Gypsy, it’s that few of us devote the kind of energy, attention, and romance to ourselves as we do to others. Why do so many (women especially) change themselves or deny themselves just to be in the company of an other? We’ll go out of our way, clear our schedules, hugely inconvenience ourselves to woo a love interest...but do we ever just romance ourselves? How often do we pay attention to the things that truly make US happy (as opposed to the things that make the ones we love happy)?

Traveling alone can at times be…well, lonely. (It can also be exhilarating, stimulating, and inspiring). There’s lots of time for reflection and self-discovery. I have re-discovered the joys of romance even while on my own. Why wait for someone else to buy me flowers? Why wait to have a date to hit a restaurant I’ve been eyeing? Why not always use the best sheets, the good china, the sexy lingerie? Trust me—life is lots richer when you behave as if you’re ALWAYS in the midst of a love affair.

I came to NYC for this three month period, looking at it as “an audition” for living here. I’d convinced myself that this was where I should live. I landed at LaGuardia with that heavy commitment in mind. Shortly after I arrived, I got smacked down—hard—by the blues. I felt profoundly lonely, very far away from the ones I love, impatient with the exasperating supporting cast of men in my life, and—much to my dismay—unhappy. Unhappiness was very unfamiliar to me. Call it shallow if you wish, but I wake up most days just happy to be alive, able to delight in this silly dog I temporarily live with (who wags her tail in her sleep), the birdsong outside, someone walking by whistling “My Girl.” Life is full of reasons to be happy. So why was I in a funk?

Because I had cold feet about my wedding.

My wedding to NY that is.

I got here and knew within a few weeks in my heart of hearts I’d probably never be happy living here. Don’t get me wrong—I love NY. I think it’s the best city in the world. But when I picture living here permanently, it doesn't sit right in my soul.

Eight months now into my experiment, there are things I miss deeply about my own home in Ohio. I’m not saying Ohio is better than NY or vice versa. They are two very different places, impossible to compare, and I revel in their differences...but, oh, how I miss a great, big garden, the daily presence of horses, having my own cat that I can let safely out into my own backyard. I miss genuine quiet.

I know how flexible and adaptable I am. I could get used to living anywhere. I could be happy anywhere for the right reasons. If there were “a driver” ( a friend’s term) for a move here—such as a site-specific job or a partner who had one—I’d feel differently. But since I can do my job anywhere, and I currently don’t have a partner why was I forcing myself into a relationship with NY? It feels false to uproot myself from my fantastic tribe of family and friends for no real reason other than it would be "cool" to live in NY. I can indulge in a fling with NY, but the idea of marrying it made me feel claustrophobic.

This is where I get back to my original point: I learned to listen to what truly made ME happy, instead of doing what I thought might impress other people. Sure, it might be hip to be the kind of person who lived in NY, especially the kind of writer who lived in NY...but that’s not the authentic me. The authentic me likes to go barefoot all summer, likes the fresh-baked cornbread scent of crop fields on a hot summer night, likes seeing deer wander through my neighborhood.

Suddenly, the blues were gone. The wedding was off, no hard feelings. Just having relinquished that commitment, a huge load was lifted from my shoulders. I could love NY again with no strings attached.

Knowing this is temporary—a winter romance, if you will—everything changed. As if to prove a point, the temperature even warmed up and the sun came out! Instead of having the blues, I feel open to possibilities.

So, I may not marry New York…but I plan to indulge in a helluva passionate affair with it before I go! I have a feeling that I’ll rendezvous with it every so often for the rest of my life. That’s just the kind of lover New York is.

"At the center of your being
you have the answer;
you know who you are
and you know what you want."


1 comment:

  1. Katrina: I loved this posting. It was almost as good as reading one of your books. You have such a profound soul and I feel privileged to listen in on your thoughts because they make me feel so right (for lack of a better word). Thank you for sharing.
    Monica Kittle Pierson