No matter how complicated a problem is, there is always a win-win solution. My favorite recent win-win is a cross-generation community solution that I wish was around when I was in college. I could have used it. Heck, I could use it now.
Imagine if students (or entrepreneurs for that matter) could somehow obtain free housing while they were in school (or started their businesses). Now imagine that people in retirement homes could be surrounded by youthful energy. In the Netherlands they put these two needs together, offering free housing to students in retirement homes. In exchange for free housing, the students spend 30 hours per month being “good neighbors” to the elderly residents. They watch sports games together, celebrate birthdays, and visit them when they don’t feel well.
This story made me smile from ear to ear. I hope it makes you feel the same way. What a beautiful, wonderful gift for all of these people, young and old. We really are all in this together.
“The ache for home lives in all of us. The safe place where we can go as we are and not be questioned.” ~Maya Angelou
Home is a powerful word. It brings to mind images of our dream home or a childhood home, a city, or the people and occasions that symbolize the idea of home for us.
For me, home is a feeling. I’ve felt at home in many cities around the world, at museums and theaters, in parks, on rivers, at the ocean, and up in the air. Many times, home has been a yoga mat or a good book that lets me lose myself for a good long while in an effort to find myself again. Sometimes it’s a long walk with Phin or a long talk with a good friend. Home for me means comfort, somewhere that lets me be who I am without apology or explanation. A place where I can feel all my feelings and manage my way through them.
Now as I make a new new life in Washington, I’m hoping that I can help other people find that meaning of home, too. Maybe it will be through my volunteer work or teaching yoga or somehow sharing my writing in some format. What I do know is that there are a lot of people who need to find and feel the true meaning of home in their lives who’ve either never had the feeling before or who haven’t felt it for a long time. I understand that feeling of searching for home all too well. I’m spent most of my life in that mode, and I think I can help.
Yesterday I dipped one tiny toe into the whirling, swirling pool of buying real estate. A one-hour info session and I was already overwhelmed by all of the terms and considerations. So I did what I do whenever I’m overwhelmed—I breathe and take copious notes. I remind myself that when it comes to these giant life decisions that I’m just beginning to contemplate, I don’t need to do anything right this minute except pay attention, ask questions, and learn.
Once I accepted that I have all the time I need to make this choice, I started to relax. I went into student mode, a place where I’m very comfortable, and told myself that thousands of people buy and sell real estate every day. There are plenty of ways to get educated and experts with good hearts and minds who want to help. Many hands make light the load, especially when it comes to preparing to buy a home. And I believe in that old adage of real estate that when the buyer is ready, the right seller will appear.
When I settle into new circumstances, I find it’s helpful to take things one step at a time. Sometimes those steps will come quickly in succession and sometimes one step takes many months, or even years, of planning. With my move to D.C., things moved quickly and so did I. Phin got the all-clear from his doctors post-surgery, I learned it was better to job search locally rather than long-distance, and my wonderful friends had a fantastic space that was immediately available for me. All within about a week. Once I arrived, there was the matter of figuring out how to get around the city again, what to do with my car, and how to set up my life once more.
Now the job search is moving along and I’m slowly getting to know the city after a decade away from it. I’m loving life in D.C. as the perfect combo of so many things I loved about New York City in a more easily livable setting. Spring is on the way and I’m looking forward to being outside as much as possible along with everyone else in the city. Phin is also loving it, especially spending a lot of his time with his new canine pal and neighbor, Otis.
Today I’m taking the next tiny step and going to a real estate presentation. My hope is to buy a home here in D.C. at some point. I’ve got a lot of things to line up before that can happen—namely a job and exploring more neighborhoods (so far the one I live in is my favorite for its charm, convenience, and diversity)—though I’ve learned that with something as complicated as buying a home, it’s best to get started long before I’m ready to make the leap. This real estate session will be a bit like looking around the corner to get a tiny glimpse of what my future might look like. I’m looking forward to the view, even if that view is miles away in the distance. It’s comforting and exciting to make tiny steps toward such a big, long-wanted goal.
“May all who enter as guests leave as friends.” ~ Unknown
I’ve started to explore different neighborhoods in D.C., including my own! Though I have a general sense of some things in D.C., it really does feel like I’ve landed in a brand new place because the city is so different from 10 years ago. It’s blossomed into a fascinating mix of revitalization and preservation. Part of my exploration is to see how I feel in different neighborhoods as potential places to buy my first home. My hope is that I can build a home here that becomes a place where people gather and share and learn. I’m not exactly sure what form that will take, but I do know I want a house where people enter as guests and always leave as friends. I want my home to feel homey for everyone who visits.
One of my very dearest friends was in town on Friday. Though I’ve only been in D.C. for a week, I didn’t hesitate to invite her and her boyfriend over for dinner. She’s spending a year abroad and I’ve so missed being in the same city with her.
As soon as I extended the offer and she accepted, I panicked a bit. My place isn’t all set up. Heck, I don’t have any cookware, plates, silverware, glasses. I don’t even have a table. You know, all the things you need to actually cook and host a dinner. On top of that I’m running around trying to get my life set up, and interviewing for jobs. Am I really in a position to host a dinner at my home? Should I just order takeout? Should I email her right back and say we should meet at a local restaurant? What am I doing? These were the thoughts that ran through my mind.
Then I took a deep breath. I decided to improv it. I stacked up a few of my unpacked boxes and threw a cloth down over them. Voilà – end tables! I made some tasty Mexican food – easy to make vegetarian and ready in half an hour. I turned on the jazz station on my TV and we had instant dinner music. We sat on the couches, holding out plates and glasses. It was wonderful—comfy, fun, and relaxing. This is exactly the way I hope everyone feels when they come to my home. As long as hosting is done with love, it doesn’t need to be fancy. Come as you are is the only dress code in my home.
As I finished unpacking the last of my boxes, I realized I haven’t had my own space in almost a year. My apartment building in New York was converted to condos so my lease expired on May 1, 2014. After that I went to a temporary sublet and then to Florida to spend some time with my family.
During this time I’ve felt like I was adrift at sea. As I did my first grocery shopping in D.C. today, I realized I was starting to get my land legs back. I didn’t understand how much energy it took to conform to someone else’s space until I moved into my new D.C. apartment last week. Now in my own space, I’ve got more energy, more peace, than ever.
In yoga, the root chakra is often associated with our home. It’s where we feel most comfortable. It’s our refuge and a fountain of strength because it’s the foundation for everything else. When all is well in the home, we have a greater chance of all being well in life. And so I’m finding this to be truer for me than ever before.
Constantly being in someone else’s space was certainly a challenging adventure. I didn’t know how much I missed the solid ground of my own space until I didn’t have it. For a year everything’s been shifting. Now the pieces of my life that have been freely floating are falling into lockstep with one another. I don’t regret the floating—the sublet and spending time with my family were the best options I knew of at the time. Now I’m glad to be setting my own rhythm, and I’ll never take it for granted again.
Travelers go out on a limb. They see with fresh eyes. The sounds and scents of the new get their blood pumping and their imaginations churning. We can be travelers wherever we are, even in a city that’s familiar, even in our own hometowns.
Florida’s been my second home for over a decade and over the past few days here, I’ve spent a lot of time taking it all in again as if it’s the first time I’ve ever been here: the morning light, the dramatic thunderhead clouds, the wide open space, the peace. I appreciate all of it now more than I ever have before. I’m grateful for the small moments and details.
Travel isn’t just something I do; now it’s who I am, everywhere I go.
Tony Bennett left his heart in San Francisco. I leave mine here in New York. On these streets. With these people. And before I go, I’ve got to say thank you.
To the people, all these people. I’ll miss you most of all. The rude, the crude, and the kind, in masses and exceedingly long lines. Busy, moving, climbing, and often blocking my way. New Yorkers and their never-ending opinions, loud, boisterous, and strong. You have to admire a city of people who never admit they’re wrong. You taught me everything through your energy, drama, and noise. The doormen. The fruit vendors on every uptown corner. The city workers who make this city work. The musicians who play their hearts out on the street, in the subway, in the park, in the great concert halls and small hidden clubs that dot every neighborhood. The writers. The dreamers. My boss Charlotte Wilcox who taught me how to survive (on $396/week) and my boss Bob G. who taught me how to thrive. My many bosses in the land of never-ending cubicles, some hideous, some clueless, and some wise. My pot-smoking granny neighbor and the hoarder who set my apartment building on fire. Even the guy who just now almost knocked me over as he passed. Even you. Thank you all. You have given me material—it’s all material! —to craft, create, and grow a body of work and a life of meaning.
Of course to my friends. Friends who are family, my framily, in New York. Those who are still here and those who have gone on to new adventures in new places. You inspire me, keep me reaching, keep my striving, and that is no small gift.
To the food. I cannot leave without thanking all of the chefs and servers in food trucks, behind counters, in kitchens great and small. Some who charge a fortune and some who charge almost nothing at all. (Especially to Lenny’s, Tal’s, and H&H, thanks for all your fine bagels and schmears over the years.) You’ve all fed me well, in fat times and lean, and inspired me to see what I could create in my own tiny kitchen. You filled my belly and fed my soul. So thank you.
To the dogs of New York and their parents who love them. Thank you for giving Phin and me a community of kindred spirits, human and animal. To the Spot Experience for taking such good care of my little guy when I had to travel and couldn’t take him with me.
To Central Park and Riverside Park, you were sanctuaries to me in all kinds of weather. I would come to you when I was happy and sad and disappointed and confused because you would just let me walk and be.
To the trains, planes, buses, boats, cabs, and my own two strong feet that take me all over this small place so packed with life that it feels hundreds of times its physical size. Thank you for showing me the world without leaving the island.
To the museums. You have been some of my happiest homes in New York – from AMNH to MoMA to the Met – I often found myself wandering those halls, lost and found in equal amounts.
So New York, this is where I leave you. The end of another chapter in my New York life. For those keeping track, this is the third and I’m sure not the last. New York, you and I will always be together, at least in spirit. I’ll come back to visit and probably, eventually, to live. We’ll both be a little bit different and a little bit the same. Times change, we change, places change. Change can’t be stopped. You taught me that change is never to be feared, but embraced – fully, lovingly, and constantly. And that I’ll take with me everywhere I go. Thank you, for everything.
I was angry on Lexington Avenue. Phineas likes to take his morning trot down it from our home on 90th Street because he likes to be in the middle of the action. Against my better judgement, I let him. Yesterday was particularly busy with trucks, horns, angry commuters pre-coffee, and pallets of God-knows-what headed for God-knows-where. Plus it was Monday.
My heart started beating faster just trying to get Phin through the crowds, and then I just stopped (in my mind, not with my feet because on Lexington Avenue if you stop, you’re dead. You’ll get run over, by people.) It was sunny and cool and I realized it was my last Monday in New York. At least for now. I smiled, took a deep breath, and everything felt a little better.
Yes, this place is crazy and it’s often a pain in the ass. But that’s what makes it New York. Nothing’s easy so we’re grateful for everything, at least deep down anyway. On the surface, we keep on truckin’ because that’s the speed of life in New York. What I finally got, after all these years, is that life moves fast when we’re on our feet, but in our minds, we can slow it down. We can acknowledge the magic of this place even while our feet are running just to keep up with the crowd. More than any place else, New York is what it is and what we make of it at the same time, all at once.