Monday, March 14, 2016

New York I Miss: Friends

Before I lived in a big city, I dreamed of going one day and what I pictured was me sitting at a cafe out in front, sipping a drink and watching people.  When I lived in a big city, sometimes the only thought that got me through that NY winter was the thought of summer, sitting at a small table at a cafe, sipping a drink, and watching people. Now that I've moved away to the country and am on the cusp of the warmer months, I am yearning to be sitting outside at a cafe, sipping a drink, and watching people.  It was my favorite thing.

I've already done a series on the people, but I know there is much more to say.  I also know that toward the end of our life there,  the pull to nature was very strong for me. I yearned for the country, the quiet and stillness, the soft and the green and the open sky. And I am loving it, I am. But there's one very important thing missing for me and that is the people. And to be specific, every day, all the time, no matter what I am doing, I miss my friends.  Fortunately I am currently working on making new ones and that does quite a bit to soften the blow.

I mentioned before that it took us ten years to build our family there. City living is special in so many ways and one of them is that it forces you to bond, to fuse with others, because you rely on that so desperately.  I often joked about how i kind of hated how much I NEEDED my friends.  You can imagine how my friends took this.  But I just thought, people in other places live in their quiet separated lives in their separated houses, driving in their separated cars, generously spaced out from one another with room to breathe and they do just fine.  But now I'm realizing that breathing room is highly overrated, that human connection is vital to my survival and happiness, and I need my friends as much as I ever did and the idea of an isolated life is I think just an illusion.   

The problem is that they are there and I am here.  I do have friends here, I must say, some from the old days and some new, and I am deeply grateful for them and do my best to hang onto them, to keep it going.  But the lifestyle here is still quite a detached lifestyle, compared to what I have been used to. I'm actually getting more used to it and this blog post has been in my drafts for months. But something that struck me immediately, upon moving here, is that people live in their fortresses, keeping them in, and others out, and the neighborhoods are vacant, as there is not such a quite pressing need to be out, particularly at certain times, so no one is.  You really have to go out of your way to interact and, well, I am realizing that being alone is not good for me.  Which is funny because I love nothing more than being alone in my own house.  Probably because I can finally write, do music, and think my thoughts at my leisure.  But I generally can't go too long without some quality human interaction.

In New York, you had to be with people or you wouldn't survive.  You needed them to help you with things, logistically, because hardly anyone had family to help out, and because the living there is just hard, as mentioned. When I try to describe it, I see that most people don't understand. And neither do I. How DID I live there?? I find myself asking me this many times.  But mostly, and I think this is really what it is-- you need others because New York living sets itself up as a necessary support group.  Not only does it require it--you constantly have to talk about the trauma one endures from living there (and also the joy)-- but that's just what everyone does there.  It's the favorite pastime. They are always talking about living in New York.  Of course that's not all i talked about with my friends but i think living there specifically, with them, gave us a special kind of friendship.  At times, while in NY, when i looked back at our decade+ time there, i realized that I had grown up in New York.  I arrived as a newlywed at 23 and left at 34. I learned so much. I learned how to make friends when I lived there. I made the kind of friends i'm realizing not everyone makes, or needs, or feel they need. An idea I find flawed, self-limiting, and lonely. I learned how to talk to strangers and connect. How to reach out and how to see signs of reaching out. Dang, there's just so much sharing that happens in that place.   

I miss the New York friends you make just by stepping outside your house.  When you share an experience with a stranger that bonds the pair of you forever, without even knowing their name. Knowing that another soul in the world also witnessed that unbelievable thing you witnessed.  You have a friend in that.  And it feels amazing.  Or when you are publicly feeling feelings.  I kind of am a firm believer in public crying.  Not like everyone should do it... but maybe?  Whenever i would see someone crying in public, just unabashed, walking down the sidewalk, heartache helplessly pouring out for all to see,  all of the social barriers and detachedness we instigate come crashing down and I found myself hurting for them. Because we all know hurt. Seeing it in others connects us.  Public crying is ok. And when someone sees you having a bad moment and says a kind word, that's a bond. That's a connection. That's a friend. And it's powerful. Because of this, I learn a tiny bit of the meaning of true charity.  I think that is something I miss about the compacted kind of living.  You're constantly falling into each other's laps, you can't help but catch a glimpse into people's lives and they into yours. You can look away, but there isn't much space for it and your gaze will likely quickly fall on something, someone else in a moment of their own.  I miss that.

My pal Brooke who has been with me on this life journey since the age of 13, lives blocks away from me now. This is wonderful and serendipitous.  We get together as often as we can (but I could do with more) and the other day she brought up a quote one of our high school friends told us? Or something? Sort of as a reprimand or warning? Maybe it was one of us? Details are hazy but this is what it is:

Make new friends but keep the old. One is silver and the other is gold.

It's kind of a lame saying, like new friends aren't as good. I disagree.  But I'm throwing it out here because my good friend, an old one, said it, and now in this new phase, living near each other, we get to continue to develop our friendship which is, rather golden.

I recently went to dinner with some college friends. It is so fun to have friends that go way back. Even with people I don't spend any time with. If i knew you in Jr. High, there's a bond there.  But every time we 4 get together we talk about mega real life stuff.  This last time a friend was sharing stuff about a difficult time and I asked her what the most beneficial thing was for her.  Because people would offer help or words but we all realized the best thing for us was just someone to listen.  Just... listen.  This sounds obvious but i think it's harder than we think. If we care about someone and want to help them, what if we just listened?  I am terrible at advice. I never have anything good.  I have a good friend though who once thanked me for being a good friend because I'm so bad at advice. Though I desperately wanted to give some because I thought it might help, I ended up just saying nothing and she ended up somehow thanking me for it because, as it turned out, that's all she needed.    I accidentally helped by accidentally just listening. (I'm trying to figure out how to word this so it doesn't sound like a brag. "Turns out, i'm an amazing friend."  I can't do it. I guess it's just a brag.)   But this makes me think: Hmm.   Just keep quiet, Jen.  I have to remind myself.  Just listen, without judgment.  Let them feel validated. Shut yer yap.

I don't know if I make friends terribly easily. But I do know that friends are terribly important to me. So I try to be friendly, to put myself out there. To be upfront and real and say, perhaps, the thing that people would be scared to say, because it might just foster some kind of connection. Set a spark to a new beginning. Or at least just share a moment from which something could maybe one day build. It's something I strive for anyway. So in this new suburban world, we sit outside on our grass and make ourselves available to others. Instead of putting up a fence on our corner house, we might put in some bushes that don't shield us completely.  We hope to invite others over and in, to give them a safe place to share a little bit of themselves. And I try to make myself readily emotionally available. To give a little, then invite a little. It's tricky business sometimes, making friends, but a successful exchange can be magical, and life is not as good without them. So here's to the NY friends who taught me so much, who(m) i love dearly, and to the new (non-silver) Utah friends to add to my glorious collection.


Sara Clifton said...

You somehow took my heart, squeezed out truth, and formed it into words. I'm left here with a squished up heart. Bleeding, but still happy. Happy for the silver now, and for the golden then. Thank you.

Amber Alvarez said...

This post echoes my heart chambers. As of late, I only speak in Facebook Stickers, so this is a stretch, a healthy one I am sure. (Insert picture of clapping). I reread the post about THE PEOPLE too and that helped not a little, but a lot.

Last week I got good and down in the dumps for the missing of a man named Nick. He worked at our local diner. He owned a home in Greece. He visited it once every three years to do yard work before the rainy season. He was kind. Once he drove to Queens to help my brother move a bed down a dangerous, creaky staircase. Our connection was fleeting and our friendship was deep. If I saw Nick in the window late at night after a long day I'd stop in and sit at the counter. He'd get me a plastic glass of water and we'd decompress from our long days. He'd fill me in on the most interesting Arts and Culture bits in the NYT and the weirdest parts of THE POST. We'd fill in a few spots on crossword puzzles together. He was one of so many easy/complicated relationships that are part of your every New York day. I never knew his last name. I miss him dearly.

We live in a big apartment building in Utah now. Last week I took a box of Corn Flakes and a cup of milk down to our lobby. I sat there in the blue haze of morning just to watch people go about their day. Just as I was about to pack up an elderly woman sat next to me and introduced herself and her dog. It's a start.

This week I'll be hopeful. I'll keep my eye out for Silver and Gold. I'll try to manage my expectations and remember we're planting new roots. Short shrubs seem just right. ;)

Emily said...

Oy Jen! Well I miss you.

I'm currently trying to figure out how to push myself into the lives of all my neighbors. Sounds like a good plan right? I just don't know how it works out in suburbia! We just found out that our neighbors on one side don't really know our neighbors on the other side. They've both been there for 15 years!! One house away! I freaked out a bit.

I'm with you on the listening thing too. I'm terrible at it, but working on it.

)en said...

Beauty, Sara. That imagery is 👌🏼

)en said...

Shorty shrubs are fun too! I love that. That makes me think of this giant monster bush on the corner of my parents' house. Started out all stumpy and inconspicuous and now it's in your face and magnificent.

Love the NY stories. Just text them to me when you're having a moment

)en said...

I know!! So weird! But then you don't want to be the annoying new person that comes in, says "that's different" and tries to shake things all up that have been un-shaken for 15 years. You know?? I feel that too though. Sean and I have decided to quietly observe and get the feel of the place. See if there's already existing drama or elements we should be aware of. 😀
Then again, maybe peeps just need a good shake up. Don't we all?