It’s not that I didn’t know.
“When you move out of the city,” they said (from anonymous bloggers or neighborhood friends), “you’ll be lonely.”
One of the hidden gifts of parenting in the city is that you are surrounded with people doing it alongside you. I knew my neighbors well. The ones whose kids my kids loved to play with, the guy who sold ice cream and bottles of water in the park, the man who played the drums and bought all the kids cheap water guns, the several homeless people who slept in the park, the various store clerks, even the kids or people we knew to avoid.
Many of these people were simply on the same schedule as us, so it didn’t take any coordination for us to all play together every day. For others there were some text exchanges or simple, “we’re heading out” but effort was minimal.
We saw some people every single day, others were routinely peppered in throughout the week.
Community had a sort of rhythm to it. And while we had definitely put in work to start the engine, it didn’t seem to require much at all to keep going. It played to my “I forgot to plan ahead” strengths.
(Side note: of course, there were those friends who weren’t in our neighborhood. The coordination to see them was much more complicated.)
So, it’s not that I didn’t know what we had. I knew.
And it’s not that they didn’t try to warn me. They did.
Just a few short weeks ago we moved from Manhattan to Phoenix, Arizona. Moving across the country with kids isn’t simple, moving during an international pandemic makes it significantly more challenging. Coordinating the move amongst family tragedy complicated things even further.
But we’re here. We have good work to do and good friends to work alongside. We’re glad to be here. I’m actually eagerly expectant about all the new friendships we will form.
But I spent the last few days in a funk.
As I’ve been learning to embrace the feelings I have (instead of telling myself what I should feel instead), I’m trying to stop and listen to the sadness. It took me a few days (and an emotional breakdown) to identify loneliness. In 3 days I had only seen my family.
Even during the strictest part of the shut down I saw my neighbors (through a mask) when I took out the trash, did laundry downstairs, or went for a walk. Living in a pre-war Manhattan building has it’s challenges (and boy we could tell you some stories), but it also means I got to chat with Julia across the hall, and sweet Jesu next door. It means going for walks or to the park with our dear friends in 3B and even making awkward chit chat with other neighbors in the elevator.
It meant socially distanced happy hour in the park with a high school friend, and walking a few blocks to visit our dear friend after her surgery and take her little dog for a walk.
And when the playgrounds re-opened, even when we didn’t coordinate ahead of time, we saw people we knew every day.
As we do the work to find a place to live (we’re in a temporary spot right now), and discover all that is here in Phoenix, I imagine that a month from now I will be feeling differently.
But, for now, I’m missing our NYC life. It wasn’t even close to perfect (and could downright drive you crazy sometimes), but it was a certain kind of beautiful.