Walking is one of my favorite ways to get around New York City. For the distances I don't have time to walk, you'll find me on the subway. And the same was true for Paris when I lived there as a student. Maybe because I have big eyes, a lot of nervous energy and am a slooow reader, walking has always been my favorite form of education (and exercise). And I like to walk alone, in a bubble, like a visiting Martian, safe and invisible.
But it feels like my relationship to walking around New York City is becoming a different kind of education. And I suspect that this change has something to do with the breaking down of my self-containment in the writing of this blog.
When I first moved to New York, I felt slapped in the face by everyone I passed. Being a country girl, I looked people in the eye and had a smile all ready for 'Good morning!' But person after person walked right past me without even a glance my way. I was stunned by the coldness. I even took it personally. What happened to manners? It didn't take long for me to put up my own wall and be as cool as everybody else.
Mr. Green (a native) once remarked that New Yorkers aren't unfriendly, they just don't want to waste time. If you want directions, people will give them to you, but they might not stop moving as they do. New Yorkers are also real. They don't fake 'nice'. Can you imagine saying "Good morning!" (with feeling) to the hundreds of people you pass before 9 AM?
Today, rushing around doing errands under my skimpy umbrella, a woman I've seen around the neighborhood for decades crossed my path. She's probably fifteen years younger than I am and I've never known her name. Whenever I see her, we smile, nod or say hello,. And we keep walking. There's something vulnerable about her which has always made me nervous. Today when she said hello, I stopped. We talked for ten minutes and, to my surprise, it left me feeling more free. It felt like I'd overcome a fear which I hadn't even been aware had been ruling me. Could it be that because I'm accepting the possibility of my own vulnerability that I could let her in?
Connecting with someone, getting down off my high horse and being a pedestrian among pedestrians is a risk I don't generally take. Sure, I'll give directions to tourists, but to get into a conversation with someone who I'm going to be running into all the time is a commitment. "I've got too many friends already! The next thing you know she'll be asking for a favor!" Today these voices didn't even dare to come out of their holes.
Talking frankly here and hearing that you identify is a powerful force pushing me in the direction of taking risks and expanding. I thank you for that.