An Idle Imagination

In times past, I’ve never enjoyed idle time. Something about actively not doing anything made me feel lazy, unproductive, and well…bored. If I don’t have a to-do list that’s as tall as I am or a million things to keep my attention and drain my energy, then what am I doing with my life? Wasting away into a quiet oblivion, destined to be a failure that lives in one of those huge, rent-controlled apartments in Greenwich with a half-dozen cats, a garden, bookshelves full of steamy romance novels, all alone knitting and drinking tea? (Well, add in a lover and being the author of a few of those novels and maybe that doesn’t sound too bad…)

But lately with a lot more tim eon my hands and a new reason to explore opportunities, I’ve found myself with more idle time than what I know to do with. My first instinct, of course, is to fill it up with coffee and drink dates, classes, aerobics classes, freelancing, and cleaning sprees. But after a while of filling up my days with time slots and blocking off designated periods to do designated things, it occurred to me that really, idle time with no obligations – except to myself – is a great way to think of new things. It’s a great time to consider things I never took into consideration. It’s a good time to figure out what I want, what I need, what I desire, what’s most important, what’s happening, what could happen – and the differences between all of those.

Idle time is a great way to…imagine.

To stop doing everything just as I did it. Even if my choices have led me in different directions than I expected, maybe I could be making better decisions. Maybe I could be a better person. Maybe I could be happier or stronger or full of more spirit. Maybe I could be a more knowledgable writer who takes greater risks that reap more reward and of course, more shortcomings. Maybe I could be a better friend who slows downs and listens when her friends needs them, who is supportive and more readily available, and who actually returns phone calls, emails, and text messages (I’m sorry). Maybe this blog could be better or maybe I don’t want to blog at all. Maybe I want to live in New York – maybe I want to take a year off and move to Australia for the hell of it and to fully experience going down under.

Maybe idle time gives me freedom to dream and to imagine all of the things my life could have, if I stopped for a moment. If I stopped filling it up with all of the things I have to do because of who I am – maybe who I am is different from the person I imagined. If I stopped being dead-set on one career path and imagined all the innovative ways I could do what I love, make money doing it, and broaden my skill set.

Maybe if I stopped doing because that’s what I’ve always thought got me places and started imagining because that’s what I feel like I doing – I’d imagine myself doing and being something more than what and who I am.

Daily Gratitude: I’m thankful for unexpected opportunities. No matter how scary they may be.

Louie Armstrong Moments

The morning my flight left from JFK, the last day of my summer internship several years ago, I set my alarm early so I could take in as much New York as possible before our extended separation. I decided to sit  in Madison Square Park, a place I frequented to people watch, lay out in the sun, and meet friends before heading out. Though not anything particularly spectacular, this miniature space of green housed several of my memories from that summer.

After stopping at a café across from my apartment, I grabbed a scone and coffee, and found a table near Shake Shack. For an August morning, it was rather chilly and the leaves were falling much earlier than I anticipated. Yet, the energy of the park, even at this early hour, was buzzing. There were families and dogs, couples and strollers, children and musicians, waking and rising, starting their New York days with conversation and caffeine.

I sat in a wrap dress and cardigan, my hair air-drying and curling, writing in this giant blue journal I kept almost daily while in New York. Even though I now live here permanently, that tattered and worn notebook remains one of my most prized possessions and will always have a home on any bookshelf I own. I scribbled sentences that don’t mean much, yet mean everything – and as I was finishing up the last paragraph, a single yellow leaf stained with red tips fell to the page. Seconds later, a tiny bird landed on my patio table, picked at a crumb I left, and flew away.

Charmed by the simplicity of that single moment, I smiled, and looked up, catching the eye of an older woman reading a book across from me. Maybe she was watching me or just happened to look up at that instant, but when we locked eyes, we shared the same thought in that park on a Sunday, when the sun was making its way mid-sky.

I’ve always called these experiences New York moments. Recently, however, I discovered a better fitting name from my friend, K. She calls them Louie Armstrong moments.

We were sitting at Fig & Olive on the Upper East Side, after just leaving the opening of Pipino 57 – Wella Professionals Flagship, where champagne and celebrities were ripe, and talking about our unique New York experiences. Though, maybe not that unique. If you hold a certain love for the city, if it is a place you’ve always wanted to live in, your experience doesn’t differ too much from the other dreamers who always wanted to gaze at the lights of the Empire.

And that’s kind of the beauty behind a Louie Armstrong moment. Where you realize what a wonderful world it really is by sharing it with other people, even the ones you don’t know and never will know.

When you’re in a place where most people are strangers and not friends, it’s easy to feel alone. You can walk miles without seeing a familiar face and when you battle the street trenches and crowds, you can feel like just another number, just another gal whose hair is frizzy from the humidity and whose feet are tired from unreasonable heels. But if you wait for it, if you don’t look for it, but stay positively alert – you’ll find yourself sharing an experience with someone you don’t know that you’ll cherish forever. For me, it’s with a woman who witnessed a bittersweet ending to my first New York adventure, for Kate it’s the natural smile of a man who watched butterflies take flight unexpectedly. Both of our Louie Armstrong moments coincidently happened in Madison Square Park, but we’ve had more.

And we’ll continue to. As long as we’re blessed enough to live in New York, that is. I’m sure it is capable to connect in a fleeting instant with people you’ll never see again anywhere, but for me, the only Louies that I remember are in the place where I see weathering trees in Central, and tulips too – for me and for whoever walks by. I see skies with scrapers; stars that don’t come out at night. I see the colors of the rainbow in Chelsea, so pretty walking by. I hear taxis cry, I watch them speed, and I realize they’ll see so much more New York than I’ll ever know.

And still, I think to myself, what a wonderful world.

Stop, Drop, and Roll

Recently, I made my first trip to Ikea.

For those of you outside of New York, Ikea is kind the place to go for young professionals with a little budget and the need to find furniture for their tiny apartments or rooms. Though I’ve been in the city for a while, I had yet to make the trip to Brooklyn to see the massive warehouse of  boxes filled with a million parts. The reason for the cheap price point is partly because everything you must assemble yourself – an experience I’m sure I’ll blog about when all is delivered to me soon.

Mr. Possibility and his car (a rarity for someone to have here) made the journey to Ikea with me, and after taking a trip down memory lane eating in the Ikea cafeteria, which is similiar to the food and feel of college, we walked around the maze. I carefully checked off the furniture I needed to buy, deciding how functional it was, and how much space it would take up. I thought about my color scheme and I considered the investment I wanted to make into something I’d ultimately put together with my own two hands. I wondered how long I would have the items and how reasonable I needed to be versus how trendy or modern I wanted to be. We went from bed to bed, laying on each, deciding which one was too soft or too hard. I briefly looked at frames until I decided I didn’t quite need one, but could do with risers. I fell in love with a dresser with a lovely Victorian mirror, but then realized it wouldn’t even hold half of my lingerie, much less my t-shirts and such.

Four hours, several unexpected and great phone calls, two hot dogs, and a denied card later (cashiers shouldn’t try and charge you four consecutive times for a large sum of money), I’m riding back to Williamsburg with Mr. Possibility and my mind is racing.

It’s running as quick as the cars speeding by us, but not nearly as swiftly as he’s driving. It’s running through a series of memories I’ve experienced over the last few years, through all the changes I’ve endured, and the many places I’ve called home. It’s running through all the men that have been and the love I’ve been lucky enough to experience. It’s running through the purchase I just made, the money that flew away in a split-second, and it’s worrying about one day not having enough. It’s running and running and part of me wants to scream at Mr. Possibility to stop. To pull over. To come to a screeching half. To let me get out and let me run and run, run far away from wherever I am, and wherever I’m going, and just rest.

To stop making decisions and stop wondering if they are right. To stop spending money and maybe even stop making it. To stop putting my heart out on the line for someone with possibility because with that, they have the possibility to rip the line underneath me. To get this fire out of my heart by stopping, dropping, and rolling into a miniature ball that’ll protect me from any pain. Any anxiety or lack of hope or disappointments.

But as he looks over and puts his hand on my knee, stealing a kiss on the side of my head while traffic comes to an actual stop – I smile at him and breathe a sigh of relief. Fire isn’t so bad. The flames have varying intensities and the best ones aren’t extinguished instantly. They may burn and they may scar, but fire keeps us alive. It’s why we worry. It’s why we doubt or we question. It’s why we feel vulnerable and why we cherish each day.

Without fire, there can be no life. So you can stop and you can drop. You can roll away from growing up or distract your mind from racing. But wildfires don’t stop or drop, but they do roll. And they will catch up to you, somewhere along the way. Even if it is on the expressway back to an apartment you’re living in with someone for just a few more days until the next chapter of your life begins.

With possibility.

Committed to the Now

I once dated a tall, tanned, and chiseled Australian. Our affair, was indeed an affair: short-lived and insanely passionate. He had an art with enticing, a knack for titillating, and an undeniable way of melting me in the palm of his hand. I didn’t expect more out of what we shared than what we did, but when we played show-and-tell, it certainly wasn’t kindergarten appropriate.

Maybe it was his accent or his blasé attitude toward most everything or his talent of reaching the depth of my heart and other parts in the same stride – but from the second we laid eyes on each other, the light was lit. He was my Foreigner and I was his Southerner, no other title, no other commitment, and no other anything required or effective to describe us. While I thoroughly enjoyed being romanced and teased in the short time we indulged in the company of one another, I was also constantly fretting.

The thing about dating a sexy guy from down under who enjoys going down under is that they don’t really have a concept of time. And though I know it isn’t accurate, I would almost attest to the fact that they don’t understand how to use a phone either. In person, they will fill up the room and then some, but when they’re out of sight, they might as well be totally out of mind, or out of your own mind you will go worrying. Sure, you will mostly likely see them again, but they know they’re lying when they promise to follow-up, and if you expect a long, drawn-out texting conversation during the workday, you’d be as poorly mistaken as I was. Things ultimately fizzled with the Australian because I couldn’t let go of myself enough to appreciate the joint affinity for what it was then.

Years later and a few less entrancing foreigners later, I discovered a theme that the States – or perhaps, just me – doesn’t seem to adapt to. In European countries and obviously with the Aussies, plans aren’t meant to be so concrete. This is an over generalization of several populations, but as a sweeping statement that could be utterly inaccurate (excuse me if that’s the case), foreigners aren’t as much concerned with what they want forever more, but what they want right now. They see life as more in the moment than a year or so from now, or even a week, if you’re the Australian.

I haven’t traveled a significant amount and most of what I’ve learned about culture has been from conversations with tourists in New York, through anthropology and sociology classes in college, and from being an avid reader of current events, as well as history. I don’t observe the ways of life abroad – though I’d love to – and my language skills are limited to English and almost-conversational Italian. But I will say from people I’ve met, what I’ve read, and what I assume – Americans don’t live as beautifully as many in other parts of the world.

And lately, for better or for worse, I’ve been living a little less American.

I’ve been unconcerned with the big picture and more focused on making decisions day-to-day, significant or insignificant, affecting my life greatly or not at all. I’ve liberated myself enough to enjoy carbohydrates to the extreme without feeling too guilty and I’ve accepted last-minute invitations to drink or dine, or to run or to nap. I’ve entertained online and in-the-store  decorating dreams of my soon-to-be new apartment, without worrying about price or budget, what’s practical or what’s not. I’ve spent lengthy amounts of time lounging, often alone naked in my own skin, not caring much about what I should be doing, but about what I wanted to do. And not what I want to do that will get me what I want tomorrow, but what I want…now.

And what I want in the moment transforms with the moment. I’ve changed my mind endlessly, I’ve noticed a dramatic shift in my tastes and my preferences in just the last six months, and I’ve adapted to the New York life more so since I started this blog than before I ever frequented WordPress daily. I haven’t planned out my entire weekend in fear that if I didn’t, I would be stranded home, by myself, feeling unsocial and unloved because really, being in the quiet company of myself doesn’t seem like a punishment as much as it does a prize. While I can’t go completely Australian by waking up at noon to lounge aimlessly as my Aussie once described his life prior to the States, other than what work requires me to do after hours, my after hours have been open. To taking a jog, meeting with a new or old friend, or discovering the art of being free from a penciled schedule.

These choices and this shift in my maturity have made me a little less committed. Not to my career, to this blog, to my friends, or to Mr. Possibility, but to myself. The only thing I’m really committed to is the me I am, now. I still put my needs before much anything else, as I should as a 20-something, but I’ve learned how to be less rigid in my own ways. We know people get stuck in their routines and mindsets, and if I can help it, I’d like to be open to change and growth for as long as allowed, if not forever.

But forever is a funny word, isn’t it?

Once we say we’ll do something, love somebody, live somewhere, or be someone forever – you’re attached to whatever and whoever that may be. Or maybe not so much in America, where everything seems to be reversible, excused, or divorce-able. But, overseas in nations where they may live dreamily and think more about wanting in an instant than wanting for a lifetime – once they decide to devote a lifetime, it’s taken seriously.

Because while they were busy not taking themselves or the pressing matters of 10 years from now too seriously, they were learning to listen. To the world and its people, to what makes them happy and satisfied, and what’s easy to move away from. Maybe that’s the trick the Australian was trying to teach me and I never could quite understand until now:

Listen to what you want, don’t be committed to being someone or something forever, and don’t worry about the next time you’ll get what you desire or if you will get it at all, and learn to celebrate your life, instead of wasting it. After all, it is the little things or in the Australian’s case, the not-so-little things, that really do serve their purpose right then, right at the right moment, and though you yearn for more, you’re happy just to of experienced it at all.

Could I Be Happy?

Last night, as I was picking up groceries that make up my diet – orange juice, humus, grapes, bananas, Greek yogurt, and dark chocolate – I was forced to wait in a ridiculously long line. The grocery store by my current apartment is new and attracts customers from dozens of blocks away, and therefore, is always crowded. I usually don’t mind – it gives me the opportunity to eavesdrop and people watch.

Curving around the escalator, I noticed a good-looking man in front of me. He looked early to mid-30’s, was well-dressed and groomed, and had a simple basket full of good food and good beer. Not really inclined to say much of anything to anyone, when he looked back and shared a grin with me, I returned one, and then took my eyes in a different direction. A few moments later, as I casually looked his way again – a family had appeared. His arm was around a lanky young boy in soccer clothes, and a pretty curly-haired blonde in boots was laughing with a little girl whose face mirrored her’s.

The children had been in the bakery, picking out the one sweet treat they are allowed to have with their mom, and when they returned – so did the light in the man’s face. As the kids were somehow entertaining themselves with a display of sugar cookies (seeing who could reach the top), the man leaned over and kissed the side of his wife’s face, and as she probably has since they met, she warmly laughed, and looked into his eyes. They were about the same height but she looked tiny next to him and their body language was so easy and so loving, I noticed the others behind me watching them too.

As any child would do, the brother and sister duo returned, begging for cookies on top of their goody from the bakery. The man automatically dismissed their pleas but mom chimed in by teasing, “But Dad, they are peanut butter. Your favorite.” Blushing at what seemed like an inside joke, he agreed they were his top pick, and allowed the kids to have them – under the condition that they couldn’t have eat any tonight. At 8 p.m., I thought that was a smart decision on his part, having baby-sitted and mistakenly given sugar way too late. Excited, the siblings returned to pick out the best dozen, and mom teased again asking, “But I want one tonight, can I have one tonight?” Dad wrapped his arms around her waist, squeezed her hand, and in a sweet-and-sexy tone promised, “Oh yes, you can have one tonight.

I had zoned in so deeply to their conversation and watching the family interact, that I hadn’t noticed my arm had fallen asleep holding a heavy basket, or that I was next in line. Minutes later after selecting debit and thanking a cashier that didn’t say anything to me, I walked the two blocks back to my packed-up apartment and for the first time, in a long time, I felt sad.

Don’t get me wrong – I’m really happy with my life. My weeks are spent writing articles and blogs, attending events and happy hours, trying new foods and neighborhoods, and spending time with friends I love and a Mr. Possibility I adore. Soon, I’ll be able to run in Central Park and this summer is filled with trips I’m counting down to, and within a few weeks, I’ll move into a new place on this island. My life is constantly in transition, I have more freedom than I know what to do with, and much of the beauty of my 20s is that they are unplanned, unknown, and uninhibited.

I’ve spent 203 posts – or 203 days – reaching this point of content. Of being ale to feel secure in my single shoes, of not feeling like a man is the end-all-be-all to my existence, of not feeling incomplete without admiration from the opposite sex. I’ve developed a security in myself and should Mr. Possibility and his many possibilities walk away tomorrow, I would be upset, but I would be fine. His presence isn’t the most important component of my life, it’s just a bright one. I’m no longer defined by a man and I don’t feel this incredibly intoxicating urge to be in a relationship or to be reminded of how wonderful I am by a guy. I think I’m pretty great without someone telling me, as I should – I’ve worked hard and loved long to get to where I am.

So why did I feel sad after witnessing a healthy, engaging, and adjusted family? Why did it leave a poor taste in my mouth and make me feel like my life was hollow – filled with boozing and blasé brunching? Even though I know I’m nowhere close to wanting or being prepared for marriage and children, why did I instantly want both of those responsibility-ridden things in that moment?

Well, because I want them. One day, that is. And while I can push at the American dream and work as hard as I can to raise myself up from my heelstraps, move to the city I always knew I belonged in, and go on countless amazing and awful dates – I cannot control success in love. Or in creating a family.

And maybe that’s what is the hardest about being single – the lack of control. Even if you do all of the right things, find a peace inside yourself, and love the life you lead – if you want children and you want to get married one day, you want it. It isn’t something you can or you should change, it is just part of who you are – encoded in a DNA that few understand. And if we observe the world around us, the women who have found it and the women who have not, we realize which category we’d like to end up in. Sure, happiness isn’t defined by if you get Cartier or if you are able to produce offspring, and there are splendors a career can give that nothing else can match -but for me, and the life I hope to have, I don’t want to kiss or be kissed goodnight by my byline forever.

The question is – if I’m not among the lucky who finds someone they can tolerate and agree to share a bed and bathroom sink with until death parts us, or if I can’t carry a baby or afford to adopt or if my eggs becoming infertile by the time I become ready for that chapter – then what?

Can I still be happy? As satisfied and blessed I feel to be where I am today – miles and miles away from needing to even worry or think about such things – I can’t answer that question. I’d like to think I could find happiness anywhere with anything – but I also know that I wouldn’t want to do it without anyone. I’d rather have a someone and few little somethings.