“I used to live right over there, on that corner!”
“I made it very very clear…!!!”
“Someone take over, I can’t do this, I don’t know where we are!”
“Who is watching Billy?”
“Excuse me, is this Christopher street?”
I have a moment in which I am at home in a city that likes to remain a stranger as I tell a stranger that she is, indeed, on Christopher Street. It’s really a fluke that I know that, as this is my first time in this area, but I had just checked which street I was on, and what do you know? I can blend into the world, act like a local, tell her “yes! You’re on the right track.”
I’m in this part of town because I’m in a bad mood, and I hate bad moods. I’m not talking about a bad mood that is there for a reason, and therefore gives fire to my writing, or inspires me, or pushes me to be better. This is a bad mood that just sits in me, causing me to get irritated more easily, and feel generally low about how little I’ve been able to actually accomplish so far in my life.
I woke up in this bad mood, and I don’t have time for it. This week requires creativity and joy and excitement, and I can’t make time to wallow in self-pity, or whatever the bad mood required to allow me to slip out of its clutches. So I do something that usually works. I take myself to a part of the city I’ve never been to, and try to lose myself in the unfamiliar.
What initially attracts me to the area is a park that I found on google. They call it a secret garden and it looks like the perfect place to undo this bad mood and take deep breaths and realize that no matter what, life is going to be more than okay. I find the park, I find a seat, and I sit. I read my book, but I begin to feel antsy. I move to the other side of the park, yet deep in my stomach, I feel uneasy and uncomfortable, and I’m getting frustrated.
The park is silent, other than the squawks of birds who have the liberty to not care what humans think of them, and the occasional buzzing bee, yet the peace I’m so desperately seeking is refusing to settle in.
After trying to force it for all too long, I turn on my google maps to check out what else is around me, and I see that I am only a few short blocks from the water, and it’s like my legs know where to go before I realize it.
As I get closer to the water, I feel my heart begin to lift, and I wonder why I ever thought a silent park would be the perfect place to release the tension that was building up inside of me. I sit down near the water and take a deep breath and feel the tension ease out of me at last. I stare into the depths of the churning sea, and I feel the calm I had been seeking begin to enter me.
The other day, one of my students and I had a discussion about what calm is. I argued that calm is when you can find a place that is quiet, distraction-less and peaceful. She argued that calm does not have to equal that, that you can find a calm amidst the chaos.
I don’t truly grasp what she meant until I sit near the chaotic sea and feel a depth of calm I haven’t felt in a while.
As the waves slam themselves into the walls of the pier I sit on, I’m not sure precisely what it is, but I know that there is something so magical about the waves that keep returning to the shore, with the same intensity every, single, time.
I sit at the water, and breathe, and think, and cry a little because that’s how all of my bad moods finally leak out.
I leave, and I get on the subway, and I’m standing because I always stand.
A man, homeless, walks on, muttering intelligibly, about to walk past me, but then one man looks him in the eye and asks:
“What’s going on, man?”
They start to have a conversation, human to human.
I don’t know if this man is a real man in all parts of his life, but today, right now, he is, because he isn’t afraid to talk to someone that everyone else avoids eye contact with.
Maybe beyond money, beyond medical intervention, beyond anything this homeless man needs is a human to look at him as a human.
“Excuse me, is this Christopher street?”
But wait, I’m not a local, I’m as lost as you are, maybe more because I’ve convinced myself I know my way around, but I don’t, and that can be taken literally or metaphorically, but either way, I like your dress, and we probably have so much more in common than we think…
The thing is, either you can read this sorry-excuse-of-a-blog-post and pull a thousand meanings from it.
Or you can read it as my very detailed account of my day that may seem meaningless.
Or you can read it like I wrote it, as someone who sees meaning in every encounter, but is trying to come to terms with the fact that I don’t always know the meaning, and some moments in life can be taken at face value and appreciated and remembered, and not everything has to be the life-changing moment I wish it was.
Sometimes, bad moods come, and they go, and that is that.