I finally left New York in the most fitting of all possible ways…
…at first light with the last remnants of bliss slipping weakly out of my bloodstream—a bright flower fading fast.
I was shit out of money and completely empty inside, but momentarily pacified by the lingering memory of last night’s many heated kisses.
In retrospect, it was as though moving to the city had ignited each and every unformed possibility within me, shining a spotlight on remote inner islands where lust, self-destruction and anger roamed freely. It quickly became a riotous blaze I could not contain.
I found the city thick and oppressive, even on the coldest of days.
New York’s landscape became my landscape—the taxis and subways throbbed fitfully in my blood and the skyscrapers swelled grotesquely before me, obscuring my sight. My brain churned hot, hot, hot like a stew that once cooked sat dense and bland in the cradle of my skull. I flew into a rage on the train on more than one occasion because someone dared cut in front of me and into the crowded subway car choked tight with passengers.
That first winter, I wandered the paths of Prospect Park alone almost every day. I burnt holes in my lungs and drilled hip hop into my ears in hopes of silencing the maddening locust swarm of should haves, what if’s and why not’s that threatened to claw their way out of my head.
Then I’d trudge home and settle in on my windowsill, shrouded in my parka and the deep lull of wine. Numbing myself by whatever means necessary felt like the only good thing. My doped up roommate was a languid fixture on the sofa like the growing pile of articles to read on my desk.
Months passed and winter turned to spring, and with it, lonesome wanderings to reckless nights of drinking.
Same game, different name.
I unfurled with the sunshine, but inside the same restless fire raged on within me.
I dated a different person each week, or so it seemed, and gave my body to them all too often with detached abandon. I was desperate to find a person I thought could give me the solace I needed, when in truth I needed to find that within myself.
Of course, I cannot really blame this on New York.
The city was a bystander—the perfect petri dish of chaos and debauchery for my darkness to snake its quiet roots throughout me and multiply.
In the wake of losing the only man I had ever loved, I saw no alternative but this madness. There was no roadmap for this type of grief; the hurt was something my heart had never known before.
I found myself on a seemingly graceless path—but nonetheless, an important one.
I’ve never handled heartbreak with the perfect ease some people seem to possess. Of course, the great secret here may be that each of us looks a hell of a lot more put together on the outside than we are inside—though who can measure such a thing? But, I digress.
I seem to stammer and trip and tear my way through the darker moments in life with all the elegance of a wild boar in the underbrush. Distancing myself from the pain gets easier in time; but in the moment, I embody it fully. I sink my teeth in and I wear it like a skin that covers everything, until one day the weight of carrying it seems like more than I can bear, and I am able to shrug it off and feel the sun on my body once again.
I suspect many of us are similar—“wearing” our pain like this is the mark of highly sensitive people, empaths, artists and the like. A close friend once described me as “an emotional beast.” What he meant was that I feel certain things more deeply than perhaps the average person on the street might say is healthy.
Could I benefit from more mindfulness in these painful situations, from stopping to breathe and meditate and disentangle myself from my feelings?
Absolutely—it will be a lifelong project.
Do I wish that I were a bit more calmly disposed, that I was always able to transcend my circumstances? Yes, without a doubt—but isn’t that a struggle that nearly all of us as humans share? Still, I probably could have saved myself a lot of heartache in New York had I been able to cultivate even a small amount of mindfulness. Instead, I gave myself over to The Process—it was a long and somewhat ugly one.
Robert Frost wrote, “The best way out is through.”
Rather than avoid or gloss over something in which we are trapped, we must face it head on and walk straight through.
No matter how long it takes, no matter how rough the road. It seems like the most character is developed by authentically grappling with one’s circumstances, and ultimately oneself.
Despite the number of bumps I so clumsily fell over on my way through the murky labyrinth of New York, it was a massive turning point for me.
I am now much more acquainted and comfortable with the range of possibilities within me. I know that I no longer want to nurture the things inside me that are dark, and that I do have some choice in the matter. Perhaps most importantly, I know how I want—and do not want—to live my life. There’s no price tag on these kinds of lessons, and I don’t think I could have learned them genuinely without my time in the city.
Love elephant and want to go steady?
Apprentice Editor: Alicia Wozniak/Editor: Jenna Penielle Lyons
Photo: Flickr/Mr. Brainwash, elephant journal archives