Friends in the City




Usually, when I have a break between the books and the baby, I turn to my blog. Almost-daily writing is good therapy and good practice, but it's also because it's my way of reaching out to people I have a relationship far, far away from NYC. Most people I know and love are not in this city. I'm not a native New Yorker and I'm certainly not a native of Harlem. I just have profound respect for the culture and history of this area. And I am now a mama living in Harlem. But one thing I find is that in this city of millions, it is so easy just keep relations with others to the occasional meet-up that's almost always fun and fabulous for me. You're meeting people, some you've known for ages and others that may actually come into your life for a season. I say a season because I fail to find the permanence of relationships in New York City. Everyone, including myself, is driven to do that thing that makes them feel passionate about living, about changing the word. They are on a quest to find not just a good life career, but love. In the end, usually one finds lovers, not love. In the end, you find co-workers, not friends. In the end, you find playgroups, but not a village (that it takes to raise a child). I was watching Paula Deen last night, or maybe the night before, and she featured a Tennessee family that I believe have a show now called The Neely's. I loved watching the clips of Sunday dinners where friends and family go and visit each other, gather to eat together, kisses, laughs, a jab here, a little arguing there, plenty of food and the feeling of togetherness.
When I was a kid, and I talked about the impact of two women and their families on my life in an earlier post, I realized that I was lucky enough to grow up in a village. This was before my parents family members started moving near us. When my parents were young, they found other young parents and they all lived near each other, they took turns with carpooling, they helped each other feed, shelter and love. The village always seemed to grow even though people came and go.

I'm trying to build something like that for my child and I can't. Our family lives in Long Island, Brooklyn and Mount Vernon. Her godmother is way, way upstate. My closest friends are no closer than 500 miles away, more like 1000+. Right now, for me, there is no village to be had. I am surrounded my millions of interesting and wonderful people who have little interest in something deeper. I could be wrong, but I think most people don't know how to get to that level I'm talking about. I think I can because, as I was saying to someone, more optimistic about people in general. I see the best in them and don't see why they wouldn't want to be in my little village of caring people. I see beauty way before I see beast.
Today I met some amazing women on another lovely Yahoo Groups gathering I'm in. But I left slightly wistful because my experience living in this city on and off for almost a decade now (and my childhood summers spent here) makes me realize that the likelihood of heartfelt relationships being formed are slim to none. Out of all these wonderful people, how many am I going to really get to know? Even if you become friends with someone, it seems for a season. Schedules, personality conflicts, laziness, whatever it is, stops it from becoming anything more than a seasonal thing. I'm sure there are those four friends out there in the city mimicking Cary and the Sex in the City gang, but I really wish the movie tackles whether or not they still visit Miranda now that she's moved to Brooklyn. Now that she has a baby. Now that she's more like real life.

What tends to happen is that people spend a lot of time online because the people in their emails are more comforting than the people that are neighbors, co-workers, etc. It's sometimes the only way to keep in touch with people you care for. For me, reading my friends' blogs are like passing notes in class again. We know how we are feeling that day or week. We can get a sense of what movies we watched and whether we liked it if we're Netflix buddies. We can share insecurities about parenting on bulletin boards. We can pull out the virtual scrabble board on a rainy night. I can relate wholeheartedly with someone in India having the same kind of day I am because we were both really sad about the news about Bhutto. I can sympathize with a new mom hundreds of miles away in my distance learning class because I know how she's feeling right now.

What's going on in 3B, 3C, or 3D on my floor, I couldn't tell you. I know my upstairs neighbors are renovating. Not because they told me, but because I can only guess that's what all the banging is about. Maybe being newer to the building, the community, that makes me an outsider. I'm not native. The only native is Amelia. Sometimes reaching out gets you only so far because people tend to think you're crazy. (Why is that girl knocking on her door again? Can't she figure out the woman doesn't care to have her company?) Why not socialize with the neighbors? Isn't that what you're supposed to do? Trade gossip about the super of the building or the councilperson. Invite each other to Super Bowl events. INVITE your neighbors to your KID'S Birthday PARTY. There's nothing worse than seeing the streamers and hearing the music and dragging your little one up the stairs when the fun is obviously down the stairs. TV makes everything look so nice, but I'm picturing friendly neighbors as the Deen and the Neely families getting together for a competitive cookout. They are picturing nosy and twisted busy bodies of Desperate Housewives if someone's knocking at their door. Another reason for the anti-social nature could be like a quote I just can't get out of my head. Chris Rock's character in the movie I Think I Love My Wife said that single people once you have children or you get married don't want to be around you anymore. They either don't want to smell dirty diapers and hate potty conversations or they want all of that and hate not being able to relate. I'd hate to think that haters would be at that level, but that's me just wanting to think the best about people. But I seriously can't get the stupid quote out of my head. My hand went to my mouth when he said it. Like, is THAT what happened?! Oh my GOD!

One thing I've learned, I'm too grown to care if people like me or want to be my friend, but as a parent now, I realize that I know I was blessed to have had what I had as a child. And I will knock on that door hoping to inspire some type of socialization. In Jamaica, I think it's just the way it is to have numerous adults in your life. When I was in Grange Hill, it was taking a village of families to raise so many boys and have them turning out so bright and on a decent path. I wouldn't be surprised if that little town has 10 boys to 1 girl on average. They weren't running the streets even though they were at that age where the temptation is high. Seriously, I saw a half dozen boys around the house at any given time for the holidays and I was told that there were actually I think 15 boy cousins of Amelia's. It's taking a small village to raise those boys and they fare better if they have many eyes on them, not just the parents. But my daughter has that village, just through her family in all honesty. That's how most Jamaicans were raised, abroad or at home.

Even if they are far, far away, they are there. And the holidays and breaks will give her time to step into the villages of people that love her. But me, I'm trying to create something here.
It's me that needs my Miranda, Charlotte and Samantha. I don't even have to be Cary. I'm really more Charlotte/Miranda with a Samantha split personality. I want my friends. I was disappointed when a dear friend postponed moving to NY. He would've probably moved to the east side anyway and I'd never see him. That's how the city is, 5 miles can be like 50 sometimes. If it sounds sad, well, it's just the truth that I feel. I may have friends in far away places, but every day, stop by and visit friends in the City--it's just not happening. I get sad about it sometimes. And to think I had to type a million words to say it. TV makes you want the Friends (oh, Monica), The Sex in the City (Samantha!), Seinfeld (GEORGE!) that are always there, no matter what. That's just not happening. I'm in great debate right now because I elected someone for What Not to Wear more than a year ago and they called me a couple days ago wanting to know if they could still proceed and that I'm still a good contact. Considering all calls to this person go unreturned and I haven't really seen the person in months, would I be spiteful and say, the story is dead, forget about it. She's vile. If this show happens, they call every six months or so and I'm never sure how to explain, Umm...we're like 5th graders and we don't talk anymore. So I hush, and grown uply say, Yea, sure, everything's great! I'm keeping that secret!! yea, sure! Whatever. I've decided if the thing does happen as soon as the taping happens, I'll quietly bow out and re-direct the producers call to someone else. I'm tired of keeping a great secret for a lousy friend. It hurts. This is getting to be a long post. But I'm not done yet.

So with that said, I'm taking the philosophy of the Celestine Prophecy, and general Buddhist philosophy to use the energy within myself to fulfill any needs, wants or desires. By growing my own energy in a positive manner, I will be fulfilled with the interesting beautiful things I can say and create. I will look less at what I am lacking and more at the bounty I have within. I will be confident that the love I give my daughter is so bountiful that it is more than enough. I will let my energy radiate around me. I will hold myself and others to less expectations. I won't try to force people into sharing time and energy with me. My writing, my art, my teaching, my own self love will be so fulfilling that I don't need to look to others, especially those with little or negative energy themselves. This takes practice, prayer and meditation. I'm working on it.

The author Octavia Butler, I've loved her writing for many years, was said to have been a recluse. She didn't really care to be around too many people. I believe she was content and I believe her time to herself made her books all the more powerful. I believe she was alone when she died and there was a lot of head shaking with pity on how sad that would be. Not everyone is blessed with the ability to be in a room with people and feel at home. Many people who are quite content with themselves prefer time alone. I think in order to grow creative sparks, one must be alone with those thoughts. That's how I'm going to try to see things. But I am a social person. I love to dance. I love to be at a party. I love to talk. But to be fulfilled with what I have, I must accept that what I'm wanting from others can be achieved within myself. Last night, I popped in an old school London jungle and techno CD after being inspired/reminded after watching a documentary on Goldie, an icon of the music and of many other things like Graffiti art. Amelia and I danced around until we got tired. We danced and danced and danced. I felt so full. It felt amazing sharing this CD I last listened to before she was born. But I kept dancing even after she went too bed. Alone, dancing, I felt so full.
Friends come and go. Some are toxic. Some are just the right medicine. Some will revolve in and out of your life for decades. Some will be permanent fixtures. Some will support you and vice versa. Some become like family. Some will try to destroy you. Some will just forget you. When it's all said and done, having yourself - myself - stronger and wiser and with infinite self love, is truly fulfilling. I don't think Octavia was lonely. I think she was already full. And truly, if I was going to be like anyone, it wouldn't be Cary. It would be Octavia. Tonight, at least. I want to dance alone. It makes better writing.

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