Monday, October 27, 2008

The City Drains

In the car to the airport I watch the sky go by—the sky so blue and so big; where I live we’ve let it be that way, we haven’t crowded it with buildings and clamor and people. Wide and unhampered, I feel its joy. Sunlight plays off the leaves, vibrant green, deep red, smoky orange, highlights dancing as we whoosh by, trees and trees and trees. The mountains tell me they’ll wait, and the lake is still and gray. I ache, thinking about leaving it all behind, missing the rest of the season, every change, every sunrise and sunset. But I can’t let myself feel lost already. I find strength in forcing my mind and my soul to recall that, sustained by God, the leaves will turn colors again next year, every subsequent year, and the sun will continue to rise and set over the mountains, morning and evening, for as long as I can foresee. I may miss many moments, each one unique, but there will be more, and all of them fantastic.

I’m back in the city and right away I feel it: the pressure that constricts my lungs, the noise and the rush and the urgency, pulsing, pulsing, pushing toward a goal. Faster! In the cab I try to retain some of my composure, the blissful peace that a month at home bestowed, but already I feel it slipping. The conclusions that I came to, the slow deliberate consideration of options, the necessary realization that I can, must handle whatever comes next is suddenly replaced by COMPARISON, by COMPETITION, by the feeling that I am BEHIND and INFERIOR and about to LOSE all chance of success. The city yells at me in capital letters. I press my hands to my ears, hoping to erase the sounds with memories of long pinebrown walks through a forest to shul, talks with my father, songs sung with my sister—but the city is relentless.

Back in the dorm I try to forget my troubles as I hug my friends and ask them about their chagim. Yet within minutes I realize that I hardly recognize myself. This loud, giddy person—zany, entertaining—she is not me. For a month I was quiet, sweet, reflective, thoughtful, with a frothy, childlike joy. I return and my personality has shifted, I am a different girl. This manifestation annoys me. She is more shallow and less loved. She feels the pressure, the competition, and tries to drown out the voices with frivolity. She strives for attention, even—especially—among her closest friends. The city life is too rushed for the quiet one to survive. She struggles and thrashes and makes more noise than she cares to hear. I turn away.

I sit in class and try to feel. A month at home restored my ability to discover and accept my emotions. It was elation, pure and clear, to know that my capacity for love and fear and wonder still abides. I felt the emotional nuance of each chag, each Godly encounter, each human interaction, and I reveled in the awareness of it. Without emotion, life skids by untouched, there is no way to grasp hold of a moment. Precious sensitivity allowed me to live each day, to experience and grow. And now I am back, and already I feel a callus forming, my skin thickened, becoming impervious to nicks and scratches and soft caresses. I see opportunity sliding away, I feel loss, I want so much to stop this process. But what can I do? This city eats at my heart and diminishes Truth, but I cannot leave now.

So I will close my door and close my eyes and breathe slowly through my nose until I find my pace again. I will do this today and tomorrow if I must, but each time the equanimity I regain is less. And then the time will come that I will leave this city for a few days or weeks and I will find myself once more. And then, with the inevitability of night after morning, I will return to the city, again and again—until the day that life leads me to a new place, and I am liberated at last.


Moshe said...

Perhaps my favorite post!

Love it...and I think I understand it.


Erachet said...

I understand you.

Ezzie said...

Well put, well felt.

ella said...

It's funny. All of the things that you hate about the city are the ones that draw me to it. I love the continual motion of the streets and the potential that grows up the sides of the brick buildings. A million windows, all looking forward.
Still, I also feel the change in myself. I speak and do not recognize the words. I don't even know this voice. Well cut answers turn to mush in the midst of noises and pressures I had forgotten.
Don't stress. If you can make it through midterms you can make it through anything.

Good luck.

Perel said...

"less loved"...

more than you think.

it is so hard to be you, to be tranquil, in this place where everyone has a million different impressions of you, where people are judging you all the time, and never under the circumstances you would like.

but sometimes - even in places like this - there are flashes of the real you. people see these flashes and latch onto them, because you can tell when you see it.

there are pretty places in this city, although they're harder to find. but maybe making time to seek them out - to explore - might make us feel a little more at home with where we are.

keep on rowing!

Northern Light said...

You're right, the leaves and seasons and tranquility will return, and your time in the brash, thrashing City just lets you appreciate them more. A lovely, poetic post.

G said...

So long as you always know/remember which one is the true "you" and where you need to go to find her you will always be able to find your way back to there and back to her.

-- remembering...that's the key

Blocked drains said...

Plan the work n work the plan

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blocked drains said...

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