You can only spend so much time alone in a country before you really begin thinking about every single person you pass. First instinct, so jealous they're all going home to their families. I am jealous of my kids every day when they go home. I know people are away from home far longer than I am, and that it's only been a bit over 3 months, but I think the holidays make it hard. Once Christmas is passed, I'm sure it'll get better. The truth is I love it here, most of the time. Some days are better than others, and I can go from feeling completely at home to noticing that 7000 mile gap stronger than ever.
But what has stood out to me time and time again is that I love the people. This is generally speaking, and kindly overlooking the adjummas shoving me in the back to get by me on the sidewalk, onto the bus, etc.
Yet, that can be set aside because what you begin to notice more are the small acts of extending a helping hand to a stranger (me) , starting up a conversation (with me) for the sole purpose of being genuinely interested in the person sitting next to you on a subway. At first this was hard to get used to, but now, I find myself craving it. I love this culture of kind people. Who are always offering to help and trying to get to know about you.
It gets you thinking. About every person that walks by. Every person who you've tried to get to know. How hard have you ever tried to get to know a stranger? How often is it mere politeness motivating you? When's the last time you shared a plate of food with someone sitting next to you? HOW OFTEN have you ever tried to bridge a language barrier to speak to a stranger while waiting to check out groceries? Because it has happened countless times here in a short 100 days. And I can't remember the last time it happened in New York.
It gets you thinking constantly about who is sitting next to you, walking in front of you. You just become more aware of it. The people I meet here, it's crazy how fast friendships form when you travel. You know you have so much in common with them before you even have a conversation. I think of the people I keep in contact with. Friends, family, the terms become so relative. Even think about the letters you write, the emails you write. Who are you writing to? Friends, family, lovers? What are they about? What you're doing, what you're feeling, who you've met? Why do you write? To send updates, to wish happiness on a special occasion? How often do we write to say thank you? To thank the people who make our days better in a hundred small ways just by being in our lives?
So maybe you get thinking that.... it's too bad that we can't write to complete strangers. I remember reading a blog a while back that wanted to write hundreds of letters addressed to people she'd never met. What a thought that is. If somehow you could vocalize the small thread connecting us to them, them to us. If something that exists in them that we find beautiful or real, we could let them know. And the something between us that exists beneath everything, acknowledged or unacknowledged, like forgotten gestures, moments, and strange and rare affinities.
There are always connections between people, things to admire, trust that goes unnoticed, small kindnesses, shared silences. Even sitting next to each other at a bus stop. An obstacle of language or not, what could we do to say, thanks?
There is so much we don't talk about, so much we have trouble believing in. I can tell you I am often filled with doubt. Like, what did I do in signing up for this. Despite the friends I've made widspread across this country, I'm essentially still alone. My family and friends 7000 miles away. Literally. WHAT DID I GET MYSELF INTO? The love is hard to see. Hard to feel. Love letters? I should be writing parallel hate letters. We may wonder about how much love has to do with it? Where is the love, to quote my Black Eyed Peas posse?
But I think it's important to keep trying. Don't give up, and TRY to look for the broken pieces that spell out l-o-v-e every day. Fix crossing space and the kind of intimacy that is lacking. It doesn't have to be a letter, an email, or even a text. But finding a way to send a little love, it counts. In whatever form it takes.
Life's too short. We were born to love.
It is when we are doing this that we function most powerfully. The world has led us to believe that our wellbeing is dependent on other people loving us. But this is exactly the backwards thinking that has caused so many of our problems. To quote Benjamin Disraeli, "We were all born for love. It's the principle of existence, and its only end."
With something to think about ;)