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Monday, June 10, 2013

Bloom Where You're Planted

It's amazing that after 11 years of living in Manhattan, there is always a certain amount of shock to the system upon return when I leave the city for more than a couple days. Maybe those who are born here or in other frenetic, crowded, loud places don't notice it as much but for the rest of us, reintegration to NYC life can feel quite abrupt.

Since moving here at 18, I've often heard people throw around the John Updike quote, "the true New Yorker secretly believes that people living anywhere else have to be, in some sense, kidding" (I'm pretty sure Carrie Bradshaw paraphrases that in every SATC episode) usually as a way to stroke their ego or reassure themselves when city life starts to become questionably abusive. Because I live here I can say it: we've got big egos in the Big Apple. Sure, some of our boasting and big-talking is deserved but nevertheless we won't shut up about ourselves and our city.  New York is more stimulating, more diverse and more intense than anywhere else that I've lived or visited and my younger self - the self who really felt the need to "make it there" and thus make it anywhere- looked down upon other places simply for their lack of moving and shaking. I took pride just in saying I lived here, as if it implied a certain amount of strength- physical, mental and financial. A fellow transplant and I once discussed that at our high school reunions when people asked, "so what do you do?" saying "I live in New York City" was answer enough. No other proof of our legitimacy in this world was required. We didn't need a big job or two kids. We were New Yorkers, and that was enough.

Maybe it was all the time spent in my mother's garden, but I keep thinking of the phrase "bloom where you're planted." I can't remember where I first heard it but apparently it's a Mary Engelbreit quote (yes, that lady who illustrates gardening calendars) that is paraphrased from a Bible Verse (1 Corinthians 7:17-24). Seeing as how the two foundations my mom raised us on were Catholicism and the love of her "green children" it could be from either source. As I start to move out of the ego-driven "prove myself" years, my horizons are starting to expand into other worlds of possibility, both geographical and personal. I don't think "bloom where you're planted" implies that we should feel stifled, compelled to live in the city of our birth until death, or stay in jobs or relationships or cities that no longer serve us. What it means is, that the physical location we find ourselves in- for whatever reason- should not be a necessary requirement for us to thrive. 

I realized during the past two weeks in Maryland that I am actually quite an adaptable creature who is both open to and respectful of different ways of life. I don't think to love and live well in New York City should mean that we lose the acceptance of others who need more than 450 square feet in which to live and prefer the sound of birds chirping over jackhammers and car horns. I don't think we even need to make the personal choice to be one way or the other. I live my city life, but also love the relative calm of suburban life as well. I didn't feel like I was "kidding" while living at home. I felt a bit like a kid having my family take care of me, but with all the reading, meditating and relaxing I did I felt myself blooming, like I've never bloomed before. 

Every experience we have should expand our capacity to feel comfortable in any setting. We should not seek to leave the new environment as quickly as possible and return to our comfort zone (even if that comfort zone is a crowded, angry metropolis) but rather soak in the lessons that the new place has to teach us.