We just returned from New York City. We flew in from La Guardia about 7pm last night. It was a four day trip to celebrate my best friend Steve’s birthday. We partook in some great meals while in New York. We met up with lovely friends. We saw two hilarious Broadway shows. We also took some time to just sit at cafes and take in the people- sites of New York.
Lingering over lunch or coffee while in a big city like New York is one of our favorite things to do. We have been doing it for a long time. Our first trip together as a couple was to Manhattan. We had been dating for less than a month when Steve flew to New York to meet me. At the time I was a flight attendant working out of Newark Airport. Steve came up to celebrate his birthday. That was 1986.
We have been to NYC many times since then. Sometimes we went as tourist. For twelve years we went to work the New York Gift Show with our gift line from Studio Vertu.
This trip was different. It was planned as a leisure trip and a celebration but there was a palpable sense of melancholy that neither of us anticipated. Expect the unexpected right? We never know what the next moment will bring, as the saying goes.
We arrived Thursday afternoon which was Steve’s actual birthday. With checking in and making plans on how to celebrate, we kept busy and enjoyed the “New York Experience.” Over dinner we recognized that this birthday seemed to make us more nostalgic than others. Maybe it was the fact that we had celebrated his birthday those first weeks of our relationship here in NY. Or perhaps it was because we are looking at closing another decade of our lives soon. Yes maybe that was it. Those numbers we choose to put on ourselves can certainly affect us. Whatever the reason, this low grade sadness was not what we thought we would experience on this mini vacation but we both felt it. It seemed to grow as the weekend progressed.
Friday afternoon, we headed to the West Village. This is where we would stay and hang out in our early trips to the City. Things are really different than 1986. We have pictures of us sitting in a West Village cafe drinking European beer and glowing with the newness of ‘US’. There is joy in these photos. We usually walk by this historic ‘Rob and Steve landmark’ when we are visiting. Sometimes we stop for a beverage. Sometimes we just wave and smile.
This trip there was a sign on the door.
“We enjoyed serving you from 1970 to 2017. Thank you for your business. It is time for us to move on.”
The melancholy we were feeling moved up a notch. “Things change. Everything is always evolving.” We said to one another as we continued our walk.
There was another spot in the west village we liked. It had restaurants on all four corners with outside tables. Since the weather was exquisite we decided to go there. Two of the four were gone. One was now office space and the other had brown paper on the windows.
You can almost hear a funeral dirge at this juncture right? You get the point. We were slowly allowing ourselves to be swallowed down a dark hole created by nostalgia and tight attachment to the “way things used to be.”
It was not pretty on either of us. It felt heavy and depressing. At a different point in our life we may have just started a pub crawl to try to alleviate the pain of the moment but we both acknowledged that avoidance is not where we are at this point in our life.
This was something we needed to look at and discuss. If we tried to ignore the white elephant in the room it was only going to make things worse. Too many glasses of wine were not going to make the reality of tomorrow any easier. If anything it would be worse.
I truly think our practices with yoga which go beyond the poses we do with our body to include meditation, self-reflection and self- study are more vital to us now than ever as we grow up.
A loose translation of the yoga sutras reminds us that we are invited to experience all of Nature- which includes our body, our senses—- as well as trees, flowers, the weather— you name it – it is nature. We are nature. The invitation is to experience it but also acknowledge its impermanency. With this acknowledgment of nothing in life is permanent, we are also “advised” to let go of our attachment to it. It is this attachment and holding on that takes us to the point of pain and suffering.
Everything changes. Cafes come and go, relationships shift, our bodies age, people we love die. It all sounds heavy unless we learn to be aware in every moment.
We have a quote by Henry Miller on our refrigerator given to us by our friend David Wilson at least twenty years ago.
“The aim of life is to live, and to live means to be aware, joyously, drunkenly, serenely, divinely aware.”
Once we broke the seal and talked about our melancholy it helped us both. We kept reminding ourselves and each other to be aware of what is now and not to fantasize about the past.
To long for youth or what was, is a path that leads us to suffering.
Learning to embrace the process our body is going through, keeps us in the moment and enhances our feeling of self-love.
Immortality is not the nature of the physical body. How do we develop a relationship with the internal witness that has the ability to acknowledge all the stages of life and be comfortable with them? Yoga states that this internal witness is the immortal piece of us that can appreciate all the stages of life and stay fluid as we experience them.
We knew we were given an opportunity on our trip to NYC. We were given a chance to stay aware and present with ourselves and each other. How could we change our experience from sadness to joy? How could we keep our heart and soul soft and not restricted? We decided to explore parts of NY we were unfamiliar with and create new experiences.
So, we went to the Upper East Side and Upper West side. We went to new restaurants and walked different routes. It was great. It did shift our melancholy. It was a great experiment in shifting our perception. With a shift in our perception, we shifted our reality.
This time in our life is beautiful. We don’t need to compare it with the past. We need to live fully in the now. When I look across the table into my friend’s eyes I see the beauty of the vivid blue as it is in this moment. Can I do the same thing as I look into the mirror at a new and ever-changing me? Yes and so can you.