There’s an iconic wrinkle folded upon New York: it’s a lonely place to live. It’s a romantic idea that I’ve fallen for numerous times, like the bad boy that people warn us not fall for but we do anyways. And so I go on, we go on, thinking that the loneliness is out there, slipping through the winding streets of Manhattan, when really it’s our own estrangement that put us behind the bars of solitary confinement.
When I lived in the East Village, I had one tradition I observed, something I detested at first until I came to love the things I hated. Every November 18th at midnight, I would walk down to my stoop at East 9th street and sit on the third step, right in the middle. Situated on the perfect spot, I would take out an American Spirit and could taste the memories of the year passed as its end touched my lips.
The first year, I cried. I was lonely even though I had friends.
The second year, I cried. I was lonely because those friends and I parted ways.
The third year, I cried. I was lonely (and angry) because the man I was dating had just left me to travel the world.
The fourth year, I smiled.
That night, I sat for a long time, as it was going to be my last birthday on those steps. I thought of all the things and buildings and jobs and friends and lovers that come and go quickly, as if they have their own expiration date discretely stamped within the cracks of their being.
Joseph F. Newton once said, “People are lonely because they build walls instead of bridges." As we grow, we’re taught to protect ourselves from getting hurt. If we don’t let people in to our lives, into our own vulnerability, they can’t hurt us, they can’t bother us, they can’t anger us or upset us. And especially now with all this technology and social media, there’s a smoke and mirrors effect rising to the surface. We think we’re staying in touch with friends and connecting, when actually we’re just keeping ourselves at a safe distance, building intangible walls instead of sturdy bridges.
My stepmother once said Scorpios are interesting characters because we always have our tails ready to sting. Her words came to mind recently as I find myself getting quickly frustrated as those few that I am close with, the few who anchored themselves in my life over the years. Sometimes I feel pissed off by things they do (or don’t), sometimes I feel deeply saddened at the choices they make rather than taking the advice I give them. Instead of trying to understand, I’ve been backing away. Bowing out from the battlefield. Raising my white flag.
Some may say, “Well, isn’t that the wise thing to do?” Yes, it is, but only when it comes from a place of understanding that the people who love you are not out to get you or make your life miserable, which is quite contrary to what the little voice in my head is saying. The people in our lives are there for a reason: to teach us lessons we need to learn. John, a very good friend of mine who’s been able to put up with my scorpio stinger, told me, "Our relationships with people are a reflection of where we are in our lives right now. Sometimes, we just don’t like what’s looking back at us." It’s easy to just dump someone because then we don’t have to face the problem anymore…at least, temporarily. We can just point the fingers at them instead, letting ourselves off the hook until the next person comes around and falls prey to the lessons we left unlearned.
A very, very close friend of mine recently made a decision that I believe is detrimental, one that will hurt her exponentially in the long run. I’ve tried and tried to give advice, but with every word, she got angrier and angrier. And of course, in turn, I became angry because she’s not listening to me as I beg her to take my words to hear because I love her, because I want her to feel better, because I don’t want her to suffer. So here we are, two old friends who were supposed to have dinner this week but now are too pissed off to see each other. I reached out again to John for advice, asking him to please guide me on how to deal with all of this. His answer was short and sweet but not so sweet because it was not what I wanted to hear: "How many times have you asked me for meditation advice only to not take my Rx?"
And there it was, my reflection, right in the little gchat window. It’s easy to point fingers, to be angry, to slam doors, to cancel plans. It’s hard to accept and forgive and understand. But as the saying goes, nothing in life that is worth anything is ever easy. So for now, I may still stomp my feet, but at least it’s on my way across a bridge.