Sitting in the West Village today at a miniature Brazilian restaurant overlooking Bleeker, sipping coffee that was just a bit too hot, reading New York magazine, I looked outside and thought to myself: “I wish I could put this feeling into words.” I’m not convinced I can, but I’ll try.
I’ve concluded that there are these periods in your life of great sorrow and doubt – where you mourn yesterday and though you’d like to hope for tomorrow, it seems far-fetched and like a fantasy. It’s almost as if thinking about the months ahead seem like a daunting ordeal, something to tag on the bottom of your to-do list, along with mediocre tasks like sweeping underneath furniture and dusting window seals. You experience disappointment and then you consume it, mimicking a caged bird with beautiful feathers that just yearns to fly so badly that it can’t sit still, until it tires and ultimately retires to pouting on a perch.
But its beauty isn’t gone, it’s just put on hold for a period so it can rest and recuperate and attempt to soar the next day, when maybe someone will open the door to release it into freedom.
That day always seems somewhere in the distant future, in a place that’s shadowy and paved with gloom on a road that’s rocky. The map leading there seems practical enough: work hard, believe in yourself and memorize as many names and faces as you can, and you’ll find your footing. You’ll be released out of captivity and into that brave new world you seek – your wings flapping with that uncensored ambition in the great unknown.
And while you probably head too far South when you should be shooting North, and you ignore the rules to take a detour that seems sexier and easier, you eventually find the way out. You wake up one day with a shiny attitude and shop for a new purse to go along with it. You accessorize your happiness the way you would your favorite outfit, pairing it with happy hours and dinner dates, tooting your own horn as loudly as you can, but remembering to be as gracious and humble as possible through all that glee. Everyone you know tells you how deserving you are, how proud they are, and your elders in the industry remind you that being tenacious only works for so long, eventually you’re older and instead of someone being surprised by your age, it just becomes natural. You should be brilliant and on top of your game in your late 20s, so play up that youthful spirit while it’s raw.
You fly through the streets wearing a blue dress and heels, carrying that confidence with big, powerful, bold steps, and you smile at strangers, tip a little more when you dine, and finally, feel at ease. Suddenly you’re singing the praises of your fate and serenading the universe with notes of thanksgiving, humming a sweet little tune that bubbles inside of you when you savor this fervor.
And that’s what it is – a romantic happiness. It’s warm and simple, understated to the world, but overpowering inside of you. It makes everything else seem ordinary and yet, you feel enriched by the extraordinary direction you’re suddenly allowed to go. You can’t even entertain thoughts about other parts of your life that maybe aren’t so fabulous, they suddenly seem unimportant and a waste of your energy. You’d rather think about this shine instead of giving any time to something sub par.
You revel in your company, not only of the fancy footsteps you’re following, the tailwinds for others you’re creating, but the friends who sat next to you in that awful little cage or fed you slivers of mango from outside, reminding you that one day, you’d be free again. It’s that happiness that you find when you’ve reached a goal or you’ve reached a level of comfort in your own blue-suede shoes that will soon switch from so-four-seasons-ago to hot off the redesigned shelves at Barney’s.
That fight from fearful to faithful is a long one. But you remember that without that fight, there can be no magical flight. Without resting those wings, they’d never be able to radiate in the sun or survive opposing winds. Or to sit peacefully in the good graces of the heavens and on the good side of yourself, cherishing this joy for all its worth, knowing that moments like this one and days like these don’t come around too often. They are brief and easily forgotten when the clouds gather and the sun retreats away again.
Trying to put this feeling into words or bottle it up to take a sip when we’re going through that rough time again, when our vision is challenged by horizontal bars of adversity is wasteful wishing. The point of such romance isn’t to hold onto it for very long. The best of flings and the highest height of passion are meant to be tawdry and temporary, concealed behind blushing cheeks and rouge lips, only brought out when temptation tempts or dreams most unbelievably actually come true.
Nor fighting or flying can last forever – but as long as we can make our way through each of them without losing our heads, or more importantly, our hearts, then we’ll get to keep the most precious gift either of them can give us. The beauty of a romantic happiness and the knowledge that being a caged bird isn’t so bad. If we’re never made to sit still, we’d never realize the opportunity the spread those colorfully wounded wings and try out a new bright, blue sky.