On Holding Dear Things Loosely

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Getting over a painful experience is much like crossing monkey bars. You have to let go at some point in order to move forward” – CS Lewis, A Grief Observed

I’ve been hesitant to post pictures of my newish home. I’ve been in this gorgeous apartment since November (about four months already) and all the while a guilty voice has plagued the back of my mind saying: “isn’t this what your blog is supposed to be about?” But I’ve lacked the courage to post anything about the special EB Winterburn artwork gracing my walls, the dappled brown and white cowhide rug, the special recipes I’ve been concocting with treats from the farmer’s market, my new kitten Violet, and what has made my home come alive most – the people who spend time here.

I hesitate first of all because I love this space dearly – inordinately. 355 has become a place of peace and healing and rest. I love it too much to let it go. The space has truly become my beloved home; it’s all mine, and I love it for that. And secondly, I hesitate because I’m battling the lie that anything I really enjoy in my life is probably too good to be true and is likely going to be taken away from me, the apartment, Violet, my job at Oscar, you name it. The mental struggle is real, however the fear is unfounded. Finally, because the sheer terror of the unknown (Can I stay here? Do I need to move? Can I afford this apartment all on my own?). As a master of responsibility, it’s completely out of my comfort zone to live in a place that is outside of my budget. This place clearly is significantly more expensive than I’d want to pay (or be able to pay) for any place in the city.

Today a lot of ends were tied up and simultaneously severed. Today I’ve been challenged to hold my life with open, outstretched hands.

Letting go in the way CS Lewis writes about in A Grief Observed means holding things loosely for the right reasons. In my context, it means giving up control of my life’s timeline. Sure, I want to have a family and a partner in crime (er…life), but that’s not part of my story right now and won’t be for a while, or maybe even at all.  Of course I’m not 100% okay with or completely content will the idea of indefinite singleness, but I trust my Guide and where he’s taking me. Even if it’s not always easy or fun.

It also means embracing my home while recognizing that I am not in control of whatever might happen to it.  My home is cozy and beautiful, full of the odds and ends from places I’ve lived before, finally finding rest within four brick walls. This apartment has been given to me as a gift, and I must treat it like one – overflowing with thankfulness and delight that today, I will stay here. This means watching in hope that God can provide for me and Faith that he will do so.  So far he hasn’t left me to my own devices. He’s given me this place for now, if it isn’t my semi-permanent home, I know he’ll open the door to another one.

Maybe not being in control is the most beautiful part of life after all. Maybe this time of pruning – where so many dear things have been removed taken away – will become one of the most beautiful seasons in my story. Chesterton said, “he can only get away from death by continually stepping within an inch of it.” It’s high time I begin to follow his advice and begin to let go.

 

 

Painful Roots

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I never thought in a million years I’d be here.

As a kid I spent hours imagining my own fairy tale romance without a hint in my mind that that perhaps the stars might align against me and perhaps my dream would not come to pass.

I used to make fun of girls like me. I’d question how they’d ever let themselves get to the point of engagement and let everything fall apart despite any effort or attempt they may or may not make to save the relationship. I’ve had to realize that sometimes, most of the time, life isn’t about you.  Despite your best efforts, you can’t control your own fate. Sometimes you must to face the music – amidst the pain – and keep walking forward one step at a time, one foot in front of the other.

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Instead of heading to what would have been my wedding, I returned to Florida just before Christmas with my raw, exposed heart in my hands and the need to do something impulsive. I highlighted my hair, bought a plane ticket to L.A. and rescued a kitten thinking these would somehow quench my need for escape.  I returned to NYC with a gnawing at the back of my soul that I didn’t want to acknowledge because words have power…until now:

  1. Staying in NYC will be painful, difficult, and complicated, but it’s necessary. I must be refined and confront my fear.
  2. I need to tie myself to this place no matter how long or short my stay might be.

Two months later these resolutions haven’t left my mind, but I’ve been too afraid to name them. Two months later, I’m now resolute to turn away from any thought of running towards a shiny new adventure and turn to my beautiful beaming city. I strive to put down roots, deep and strong as they can grow in this city and in my community.  I may not have a man to ground me to this place anymore, but he’s never been the only thing that could. I am here for the long haul, whether that is 3, 5, or 20 more years. It’s my firm conviction and hope to tether myself to this city however and in whatever way I can.

Mine, O thou lord of life, send my roots rain.
-GM Hopkins

I hope that during the hard days to come you can remind me of my conviction to stay.

 

On Saturdays We Recharge

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No home is perfect – except, perhaps one that is is not lived in. My home isn’t perfect, but I love it. It’s cozy and sentimental, bits and pieces strewn together from the past four years and seven cities of my life. Each piece has its own story. Together, they remind me of where I’ve been, and who I’ve become.  Despite how much I enjoy my room, it’s strange how little time I spend in my home.

They say it’s a “New York thing,” to only return to the place where you live to sleep. For the most part, the saying holds true for me. But tonight I have the entire apartment to myself. After a whirling 24 hours proving true NYC’s motto “the city that never sleeps,” I’ve locked the apartment door and have settled in for the night.

Spending time at my apartment slows the blaring cadence of city life to a hum and reminds me that I am a human who desperately needs to rest and recharge. As a human, I know I can’t run a sprint forever, but as an ever-moving New Yorker, I can’t help but feel guilty once I finally sit down to rest.  There are so many other things I could be doing that should have been done already, people I need to see whom I should have seen months ago, and places I’ve had on my NYC bucket list for years that I could be visiting. Instead, I’m having a date with my comforter and journal. It takes all my willpower to shut those “should do-s” out of my mind, grab a book or an iPad, and cozy up into the pillowed corner of my bedroom (in the picture above) until my eyes grow heavy with sleep.

Take time to rest and don’t beat yourself up about it. Without that precious time to recharge, you’ll never be able to finish your sprint anyways.

How do you relax and recharge in the city?

Taking the rush out of the morning

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Sometimes my morning during the work week is a disorganized flurry. On these all-too-familiar days, I throw on my shoes and rush out the door to find that I’ve forgotten some crucial something: my keys, credit card, or metro card. It takes me an hour to get over the funk my mind gets into when I’m stressed because I forgot something or didn’t do enough of what I thought I needed to do at the start of the day.

I’m learning that it’s OK to slow my mornings down and not do a million things before I leave my apartment (make an elaborate breakfast, read a few chapters of my book, clean my room, pay bills, do some chores around the apartment, or all those seemingly tiny things that fill up an hour in no time). Over the past two weeks, my prized Chemex – found on a seasonal clearance rack at Dean & Deluca after New Years – has helped me slow the morning down.

I love how I feel like I’m crafting something beautiful at the start of my day, even if it’s just a cozy cup of coffee. I love the precision this art demands: measuring the weight of the grounds, the temperature and volume of water, and pouring a slow and constant stream that allows the grounds to bloom. It’s satisfying and it’s antagonistic to the traditional NY morning rush to get from point A to point B as quickly and as efficiently as possible.

What do you do to slow your day down?

Stop and Smell the Peonies

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We are far too preoccupied with trivialities, especially those of us who live in a big city like New York.

In the early 1900’s GK Chesterton (my favorite author, whom you’ll undoubtedly hear from frequently) described a forthcoming peril of the modern world, saying that “intellectual, educational, psychological and artistic overproduction, which, equally with economic overproduction, threatens the well-being of contemporary civilization. People are inundated, blinded, deafened, and mentally paralyzed by a flood of vulgar and tasteless externals, leaving them no time for leisure, thought, or creation from within themselves.”  (emphasis added)

The nascent beginning of this project came about to help me process and learn to thrive amidst the hectic rush of NYC. The tasteless externals surrounding my own work life left no time for leisure, thought, or creation. I needed to emerge from my concrete existence and return to the earth.

From 2007-2014 I moved at least three times each year. The idea of having a home, nonetheless a beautiful home, was elusive – something I felt like I never had and feared I never would. Eventually, I made the commitment to move back to NYC. I spent a year throwing myself into my work and was left completely exhausted. Although I had an apartment – I still did not feel at home in the city.

When I began a new job (hello Oscar Insurance!), I decided it was time for a change.

Here, in NYC, we are concerned with becoming the best at what we do: excelling at the office, getting things done, developing our side projects, making sure we visit the right restaurants, seeing the best bands at even better venues, enjoying the trendiest galleries, having friends who are in the right scene, and traveling to exotic destinations. We forget that the most treasured parts of life are an alternate form of productivity or achievement – the kind of leisure Chesterton mentions that is fading away. I know if he were here today he wouldn’t mean binge-watching Netflix for an entire Saturday or trying to ‘keep up appearances’, but cultivating intentional, meaningful moments that paint life with joy.

Living in the most dense city in America means that space is limited, therefore apartments are small. Here, life typically isn’t centered around the home.  Signing sublease after sublease after sublease reinforces the effort of making each pit-stop a home. But home is not elusive. Where there is a creative will, there is a way. This is my attempt to walk through a full and leisurely life in NYC and cultivate the right things – friendship, beauty, gratitude, goodness, a lovely home – while taking precious time to enjoy them, like the bursting peonies from the Grand Army farmer’s market in the picture above.

I’m glad you’ve decided to join me on this new adventure.