Friday, October 1, 2010

Celebrating the Ordinary

Richard and I took a mini-vacation last week in New York City. I grew up there but hadn't been back to visit for a long time. A few attempts had to be canceled because of a relapse in my pain condition.

Growing up in NYC meant that I calibrated my energy level to that of the City. Walking fast, talking fast, always scanning the environment for dangers and treasures, absorbing large chunks of stimuli without gagging -- all these became routine for me. And when I return to NYC, I effortlessly fall into these rhythms. Whereas New England feels a bit too tight and California feels a bit too loose; NYC is a perfect fit.

This means that it is easy for me to slip into automatic pilot mode and slither invisibly through the crowds and see only a blur of concrete and color around me.

But this trip was special -- because it didn't have to be canceled. I spent four inspiring days walking the streets, holding my sweetie's hand, and paying attention to the world all around me -- a world that in the past was muted by familiarity, and in recent times was a world eclipsed by pain.

This trip was a gift, and I noticed everything. Here's just one half hour:

10:15 am -- I get on the subway heading downtown.
10:20 -- A group of five men, dressed in mariachi outfits, board the subway car, play guitars, and sing Guantanamera.
10:30 -- I get off the subway and start walking towards Union Square where there is a marvelous farmers market.
10:35 -- I walk by a large, squat man shouting with a classic New York City-Tony Soprano accent into a cell phone: "If you don't get that f-ing sh-t to me by f-ing tomorrow I'll blow your f-ing head off."
10:40 -- I continue walking and look across the street where I see three people walking and laughing. One of them is wearing a costume rabbit head with large cartoonish ears.
10:45 -- I meet Richard in Union Square and we share a perfect apple.

What a glorious, ordinary, pain-free day in the City! Celebrating the ordinary not only gives me a lift in the moment, it replenishes the reservoir of great memories that help get me through the more painful days.

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