Sunday, February 21, 2016

Unglued and unstuck

I think my definition of “bold and new and adventurous” has gotten a little tame over the years, but my next New Thing is still giving me the shake-up I need. I’ve always wanted to experience a year in New York City or London – going to theater, exploring the streets and sounds, being “in it.” Since it’s so expensive, the plan got shelved unless I found a job there (which I tried). Thinking about it now, I realize when a fantasy lingers but remains unrealized, some low-level disgruntlement can move in. You can ditch the fantasy or get a new one, but if you still dream of it, you can start feeling … deprived (if you are kind of immature and glass-half-empty).

Eventually, a new idea occurred to me: “What about doing it for three months?” This was a pretty revolutionary idea (if you’re pretty black-or-white-no-grays as far as fantasies go). I checked my calendar, but it had commitments sprinkled into the future. I looked again and – amazingly – I found four weeks free. I got online, checked out VRBO, and I have now rented an apartment in Manhattan for a month. In a couple of weeks.

I have to get a laptop. Yikes, I even have to get a cell phone! I have to make plans and plane reservations, tell my mother. I have to sign a contract, pick up keys, set up Wi-Fi in a new place. I have lived – with Tim – in the same house for 25 years; stuff that I once did annually suddenly seems intimidating. Where will I get mail? Will I need to get mail? What if there are bed bugs? I need to renew my driver’s license before I go!
I imagine walking the streets of New York all day, finding little nooks and crannies that intrigue me. Yes, I was born in Brooklyn and raised on Long Island, but I can add up all my previous days in New York City on two hands; now I’ll triple that … and I won’t have to head home on the Long Island Rail Road. I get to visit my mother without having to sleep on her couch.

I have friends who have taken off to live in Poland or Malawi or the Peace Corps. I have been the person who takes off to live in Costa Rica. I have loaded my car and moved every year. I have spoken other languages and exchanged currencies. So what is all this ungluing that’s happening over visiting New York for a month? Isn’t this just another vacation? Have I become too set in my ways?

I think the ungluing is about the preparation for visiting New York. I am still congratulating myself over negotiating the VRBO (Vacation Rental by Owner). I’m sure they’re laughing in Manhattan over the security precautions that Alaska woman took, making sure she was renting a place that (1) really existed and (2) was really available for rent. (I’ve read stories.) My friend Mimi mentioned that she uses VRBO all the time. Who knows what will become possible after this first-timer hurdle?

I once noticed that when I went on vacation, I drove myself crazy doing nutty stuff like repotting all my house plants before I left. It goes beyond straightening up so it’s all clean for my return; it’s more like stopping time in a moment of supreme orderliness. For all the moments I am gone, order reins in my universe! I conquer entropy!
So, of course, we’re using this time for Tim to rip up the old carpet in my office and studio. That means I have to completely empty the room before I go, disconnect all the electronics, and deal with the clutter-that-can’t-be-tamed. Which means I will return to the utter chaos of an empty room and everything squished into the laundry room in boxes.

I was feeling unglued before we even came up with this idea.

I told Sophie about the apartment, and she said she’d visit and stay with me for two weeks.


Suddenly the fantasy was clearer: to be in New York City without adjusting my plans or bearing responsibility for someone else. It’s not just a regular vacation: it’s a Third Third gift of un-stuck freedom. Freedom means you have to get unglued from the familiar, even from the roles that give you great satisfaction. It might be unsettling, but mostly, I think I will rise to the occasion. I want to feel myself rise to the occasion. I want to see who I am on my own.

So I actually told my daughter, “Five days max.”


  1. Such is love and self-interest. New York City is wonderful and this from an Alaskan boy who thought it and all large cities the work of Satan-world!

    Gene was kind enough to be my guide for the year we lived in and around Manhattan. It opened that life to me and helped me see the built environment has beauty and savagery -- just like nature.

    Have fun, and good decision on the kid. Let her find her own flat (for that sixth day)!

  2. Wonderful! I am jealous, even though I have no right to be, as I am about to set off on an exciting trip that I have been planning for a long time.

  3. I'm surprised to hear how many folks share my same fantasy -- some The City, some the solo trip, some the long time in one place. My excitement is building!


Sharing Button