Why, all of a sudden, have I been feeling lonely today?
I can’t say I rightly know. It is the first time since arriving here that I have felt like this! Only I do notice that having friendships based on social groups – where you see each other fairly regularly at a class, or where you work together – is only a part solution to my need. There may be many people in my daily interactions but the contact is superficial, often not much more significant than the stereotypical “hi how are you?”; conversations very rarely go to the touchy-feely and God-ish sort of deeper stuff that those of you who know me know I thrive on! It has been a long time - 136 days since leaving home - of meeting constantly new people, and being upbeat in every new circumstance with those antennae waving around in the air to sense who might need or want a friendship, or, even better, to find someone on the same wavelength. Now wouldn’t that be a wonder … ???
(And in fact there was one of those wonder moments last week, most astonishingly. Perhaps today’s emotion is the rebound after that remarkable meeting. Tania?)
However when I looked at my diary this morning and saw another blank day where no-one would notice if I existed or not – unless I made the effort to go out and find something to be involved with (which of course I did) - I admit to feeling a little melancholy.
I do long for the trees to start showing some green, to prove that I am not stuck in an eternal New York dry-mild-light-barren winter season. It reminds me of Narnia’s seemingly endless ice and snow, where the animals tell the children that under the spell of the white witch “it is always winter but never Christmas”. There is no spell on the US, to be sure, although many here apparently relegate the notion of climate change that might explain the erratic weather patterns we have been experiencing to the same fantasy realm; and we have had some very very very cold days. But compared with a UK winter this has felt to me to be one single long phase of nearly but not quite spring – apart from on Wednesday last week (yes, just one day) when the world walked about in summer dresses because it made 26 degrees, like an average English summer’s day! The fact that there are more daylight hours here makes a huge difference to how it feels to me, with an average hour less darkness in New York than at home throughout these months. That is a big plus! But there is something I love, of course, about the early afternoon dusking that characterises the British winter, or the long late mornings when the sun is only just rising, to the right of the church tower, as the children leave for school. In my garden, at least; ah, Kimpton, my home! Seeing snowdrops in Central Park in the otherwise totally barren city landscape made my heart leap. Yes, I am at heart a country girl. And perhaps feeling a teensy bit nostalgic and homesick.
But don’t get me wrong: I am having a super time here! Yet it’s not so bad to acknowledge the real emotion that is present, is it? It doesn’t define me, but it might reveal something that is worth heeding. If there is any reality to living my life with faith in a loving God it has to be right here, in what I am experiencing, in these circumstances.
So here are some of the things that have I been doing in the last couple months [heehee][sic]. They have required me to look far and wide and deep, create ideas, ask questions, knock on doors, pursue leads, attend interviews, follow referrals, be courageous, be flexible, be available, persist, trust, smile. This is my life!
I have been diligently attending my ballet class (Apple#101) and, if my kind teacher Joan can be believed, with good success.
Luca and I have together been learning Tai Chi in a weekly class, on a Monday evening where possible, or a Saturday lunchtime when the ballet has clashed.
We have joined a meditation group at St Barts on a Sunday afternoon.
At Epiphany Church, which is the local catholic parish round the corner, I have joined a planning team to generate some exciting new ideas and to get them out of our heads and into the pews, out of the church building onto the forecourt, and into the streets of the neighbourhood. It is renewal time! My roles are going to be in music and prayer/ spiritual direction of course (that’s who I am!); the others on the committee are very gracious to welcome all sorts of ideas that I come up with, based perhaps on a certain novelty value with me coming from a different land and culture, and a different church background. I am learning loads about American social and catholic culture. Plenty of unexpectednesses there!
I have been invited to become joint City leader for Sidewalk Talk (Apple#106) – discussions to follow.
I have been welcomed to sit in on a fortnightly evening training course in Ignatian spiritual direction, which is lovely for meeting like-minded people.
One of the NYC hospices has invited me to join the listening and home support service, with training starting soon.
Since early January I have been participating in a free 10 week course at the School for Practical Philosophy.
I have joined the local swimming pool and the Citibike scheme.
This week I am attending an “Meet Up” orchestral rehearsal with my oboe to play a Clementi symphony.
And I have been working on my profile and the documents for the music and spiritual direction work I am planning. Here is the snazzy new business card I have printed (contact details omitted):
Being alone is a funny thing. There is solitary, and there is lonely; not the same at all. I used to so hate being on my own that I felt forced into an extrovert role, although I found the buzz of constant relationships and distractions always draining, and there was never enough space. Since discovering that I really like my own company, which was especially helped by learning to meditate, I have definitely decided that I am more the introvert. But then I find I am missing having a normal, good old chat with someone who I don’t need to explain myself to.
One of the downsides of social media platforms, like this blog you are reading right now, is that it becomes once removed: I am writing for you in general, and you read it as a third party communication. It is not a personal letter I write to you, and there is no stimulus to a personal reciprocation. More’s the pity.
Thanks when you do; I appreciate y’all.