Self Care in the Bubble Bath of Nihilism

My friend was having an emergency of the existential sort. She’d been to a “no hope” lecture about global warming. We met at Gabriel’s, out on the highway, and had lunch in the pretty courtyard. Of course I had no answers but she did cheer up. There’s nothing like company.
Self care, particularly in today’s world, doesn’t seem to be about relaxing in the tub, exercise, or chocolate. I’m not against any of these things, but frankly human life isn’t the equivalent of a hard day at work. My friend Ana and I have joked that life is “the long emergency,” based on a phrase from a New Yorker essay, decades ago, about fossil fuel. Poet Frank O’Hara seems to recommend “meditations in an emergency,” and I’m going with that thought.
I told my friend at Gabriel’s that my goal, a Buddhist one, is to stop my own suffering. In terms of the self, that takes a lot of intention. I’ve spent the last month organizing a reading of 100 Thousand Poets for Change. The event was beautiful, too windy for a tent, up on the track at Santa Fe Community College in front of Ethyl the Whale–life sized, made of plastic waste. At the end, people came up to me crying. One person said, this is better than religios services. What was my purpose? Nothing very grand or elevated. I wanted to feel ok–connected, in community, at peace–for a few hours.
A lifelong awareness of my own mortality–and of everyone’s–led my long ago to try and reconcile how “good” and “bad” entwine. If I ask myself how can I enjoy this lunch with the turmoil in the world or how can I be weeping on this lovely autumn day, I tell myself: Mir, you solved this koan a long time ago. Solve it again.

Privacy–Is Google or Facebook Hogging The Bathroom?

I grew up in a fairly large ethnic household without much privacy. And in the last thirty years, I have always had to share a bathroom with 1-3 other people. So privacy is an issue for me. My younger siblings used to ransack my room, searching for contraband. I finally got a way to lock my bedroom door from the outside–and happily I wasn’t sharing a bedroom.
My first husband–may he rest in peace–used to read my diaries and journals. My current husband Rich lived for many years in a commune, and is relaxed about sharing space–sometimes a little too relaxed.
I’m territorial, and you might be too if your sibs looked for your secrets and cigarettes and your spouse read your old love letters.
Also, my mother was big on…commenting. Or criticizing–my hair, my body, my clothes, my friends, my choice of reading, my taste, my beliefs, my hopes, my fears, etc. And that created a lack of privacy. If the expression on your face is fair game for feedback, then the privacy of one’s own thoughts becomes important.
Of course, as a writer, I walk the fine line of confession and controlled self-revelation. As a rule, the reader sees what I want the reader too. (Except for the very astute reader, who can observe unconscious motivation). For example, there is a lot I’m not telling you about my mother here–and I’m not going to tell you. So there is still an element of my maintaining my privacy.
Much of the world lives with very little physical privacy. Millions of people live entire lives without what the 1st World considers basic privacy for biological functions. So I know that as a person who needs privacy, I’m pretty lucky to have some. Virginia Woolf wrote famously about a Room of One’s Own, and although I agree I know Jane Austen wrote in company and I doubt Sappho, who was running a school and raising a daughter, had much splendid isolation.
Which brings me to the issue at hand, social media and loss of “privacy.” I’ve kept the issue at bay by not using a cell phone. I’m roundly criticized by friends and family for this, but right now I’m quite content. The truth is–Goggle has no idea where I am. Ok–I’ll tell you. I’m headed to the bathroom–alone.

Jane The Widow

Jane The Widow

I prefer my widows cheery, although God knows I was beyond morose. When I was newly widowed I wept constantly, blowing my nose, rubbing my eyes. When asked how I was, I responded “I’m fucked,” over and over. However, even at the start, I craved some role models of widows who hadn’t completely collapsed, who had some kickback to life. I did find them—and found one inside myself—but it took a while. I wish that all those decades ago I’d been able to watch “Jane The Virgin.”
Usually television doesn’t have a profound effect on me, and “Jane” was no exception. Funny, cute, full of great Latina actresses, and some meta riffs on telenovelas and narrative—yes. But not much more. Until, to my shock, Jane’s new husband Michael DIES. Leaving Jane a widow. And in a very clever move, three years passes in the middle of a season. So we don’t have to watch Jane grieve. We get to see her recover.
“You’re in a long term relationship with grief—but it has to evolve.” That’s what Jane’s abuela tells her. Abuela herself is a widow—something we know but don’t focus on. I felt like Abuela was talking to me. I wrote it down.
Grief, despite our investigations, our systems, seems to have a life of its own. It’s like love or hate—it doesn’t yield to the purely rational. Sometimes I feel a door open and find myself prostrate sobbing on the floor—for my first husband, for those I lost to AIDS, for a high school suicide. These griefs have not gone…anywhere. Not away, not under. They are here, as fresh as they were when I preserved them like rose petals. They are part of me.
The one thing I still can’t stand is other people having opinions on what a widow can and can’t do. Remember Scarlet O’Hara, widowed, dancing with Rhett Butler beneath disapproving eyes? Even today there is some kind of allowable social opinion on when widows can date, or love again. Jane The Virgin nicely sidesteps this with a decorous passage of time. But, shocking as this may seem in our buttinsky world, what a widow does is no one’s business but her own. Smoke cigarettes, lie in bed eating ice cream, marry again, sell your house, join the Peace Corps—the truth is, you get to do what you want as a widow. And that is because—get this—grief does not make us stupid.
It may make other’s uncomfortable. But so what. For those of us who grieve…in our own ways, it makes us wise.

Criminal Minds

I’ve been stressed out about a practical matter in my life. This isn’t the time or place for details, but let’s just say that although the end is clearly in sight I’m feeling a bit like Hamlet in his soliloquy where he says that things like legal delays and irritating people have put him over the edge. (OK—I’m wildly paraphrasing, but you know what I mean).
So I’m watching trash. My old friend Miriam Bobkoff, a librarian, and sadly now deceased, always quarreled with my use of the word “trash” to describe what she considered “genre” in film and books. To take her point, I’ve always consumed a fairly steady diet of “genre”—preferences running more to spy and suspense plots than straight up murder mysteries.
However, right now, I crave the narrative flavor of wrongs that are righted—preferably within the hour. For over a year, my low rent television consumption was the entire series “House.” It wasn’t even really trash, and it hit many of my sweet spots—crippled protagonist on pain meds (yes!), rare diseases which are catnip to my inner hypochondriac, and longer lines of story/character development which I love.
Then I finished, life got more complicated, and I stumbled upon “Criminal Minds” which is basically composed of things I hate—violence, sex crimes, serial killers, menaced women and children, stock characters, no basic conflict other than generic good vs. generic evil…And I’m watching it. Quite a lot.
I feel better when those psycho killers are profiled as…psycho killers. And caught and locked up. I wish my own problems—both internal and external—were as tidy.

Letter To My Younger Self by Clyde Long

Dearest Clyde,

I write to you from seventeen years past your drop dead date. Turns out you will not replicate Dad’s fate. You will not strand three sons, you will live on and on and you will need to live life with the assumption of living. Your loss gives you the terrible wonderful chance to salvage the fatherhood that you missed as a boy. Recall the shame of a dad not there, the struggle of a mother to replace the impossible to replace. All this can build a strength you have, a scar of wisdom beyond your years more and more as the years pass. Not to death dwell, but those fears and worries that Mom has — turns out she’s right. I wish she weren’t.

Thousands of forks in the road will lead you to where I am now. Whatever else you do, be sure to ask out that cute girl from the La Raza party you met first week of classes.

The Porches

I’ve been to about twenty writers’ residencies in the past 40 years. These have been widely varied,from granddaddies Yaddo and MacDowell with spacious studios and three squares a day to a small trailer out in Great Basin at the edge of a bombing range. In Iceland, an active volcano loomed outside the window. In Petrified Forest, I was the only person sleeping in the park, in a WPA style cabin rattled by the spring wind. At the Betsy Hotel, my stay came with beach towels and use of umbrella seating.
Each place has its advantages, its irritants, its adventure. I like to go just to…go. I was glad to discover The Porches in Central Virginia as a way to break our cross-country trip, our visits with friends and family, a bit of a quest to see how others are dealing with community, relationship, retirement (and work), and aging.
One fortunate thing in my life is that my ability to write seems timeless—it takes me out of myself. So I enjoyed that this week.
The Porches is gracious, peaceful, and a great setting for creative endeavor. It costs more than fully funded places like the near-by VCCA (where you are still asked for a donation) but less than the B & B equivalent. It reminded me more of the international residencies than the ones in the U.S.—not super competitive, simple application, and available for a short term stay. Some of these, at least in Scandinavia, tend to be “artists’ houses” funded by the state which you can use as a visitor or as a part of a writer’s union or group.

The musings below are from my ongoing 100 Cups of Coffee project—I’m over a third of the way through. Have been developing it partially on the blog—sometimes taking out the coffee context. Thanks for reading!

http://www.porcheswritingretreat.com/

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The Porches. In my room—a rather fancy cozy B & B style room, a large painting hangs, showing a bend in the road. The blacktop curves away to the left, and it and the shoulder disappear into grassy hills with blue and purple/black mountains behind. Four white trees stand in a grove and the road, with its white dividing line, leads beyond the viewer’s vision.
Yesterday drove just such a winding road with Rich to drop me for three days at this charming house and garden, to write.
Wisteria climbs up the column of the second story porch rail. At 8 am it’s almost too hot out, and I’m glad I already went for a walk. Green hills stretch before me, imperturbable.
I look in the mirror, hoping for wisdom, finding a familiar face.
Dead insects, who writhed towards the light.
I don’t remember what I dreamed.

***

A garden. As always, it seems, the head of a woman, neoclassical, in stone or clay. Or maybe she is a pot, with a fern growing out of her head to signify…thought…or dream.
Pink geraniums, wicker furniture, the sound of a train cuts through my sense of solitude, intensifying it.
A train going somewhere, indifferent to this hamlet with its locked church, its historical marker, one or two cars passing early on a Sunday morning, the feeling of…being left behind.
The train implies elsewhere, a lot of elsewheres, but since it will not stop, takes no passengers, and will not slow enough—even in my imagination—for me to jump it I stay here with the bees in a bush of soft mauve flowers. With my pills for what ails me in advanced middle age, my modest hand wash, a pile of silky embroidery thread for a too large cross-stitch tablecloth I may never finish. And a novel I appear to have finished the first draft of just this morning, and not exactly on purpose.

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Ties That Bind

I have two of the necessary parts for this project.

The text:

Ties That Bind

When I was a teenager, I’d hide in my father’s cedar closet and try on his ties—around my waist as a sash, around my forehead as a hippie headband.
I was sixty years old when he died. I took three of his ties without telling anyone , cut them up, and knitted them along with wire, yarn, lace, string, and scraps into mourning pieces.
Did I ever truly know him? His ties were narrow.When they went out of fashion he held on to them, waiting for the style to come back in. And they did, although by then he no longer wore ties or anything formal.
He was many people, more than I am. I can’t tell if he knew who I was.

AND the three knit (no purl) pieces:

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Now I need to figure out how to “frame it.” A fabric book? A scroll? Or?

Cheating at the Game of Life

The Game of Life–the board game, that is, is pretty stupid. But my daughter loved it as a child. I think she liked the tiny cars with pink sticks for mom and girls, blue for dad and boys. I grew up as the eldest of four. Our rule was–winner cleans up. That way a bad loser could trash the board and throw things with impunity. I had systems for everything. When playing Candyland with a younger sib–later my daughter–I’d cheat. I’d set up the cards so the younger player would eventually win. A friend of mine was stunned to hear this. But I didn’t want to spend all day playing Candyland.
Now–the site 538 claims: “Stop Playing Monopoly With Your Kids (And Play These Games Instead). Oliver Roeder writes: “Parents want the best for their kids. This, no doubt, extends to the board game closet. But Mom and Dad may not be aware of the drudgery and fickle chance to which they’re subjecting the family. In a recent piece, I found that some of the most beloved childhood games — think Candy Land, Snakes and Ladders, Monopoly — just aren’t very good. The data emphatically says so. But where there’s data, there’s also hope.”
Actually I disagree. I think Snakes and Ladders is good preparation for life (real thing, not board game.) It is an ancient east Indian game that is based totally on luck. It teaches karma, fortune, reversals, acceptance.
And what is the “best” for kids? Maybe a dose of fatalism has its place. Maybe it is ok to have your big sister cheat so you can win. Life may be more than pink and blue sticks in a car. Or not.

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Hugging Mom Emoji: An Ongoing Mother-Daughter Lovefest Via Imagined Emojis by Bibi Deitz

Hugging Mom Emoji: An Ongoing Mother-Daughter Lovefest Via Imagined Emojis

My mother has a flip phone. Some, like me, might say she’s caught in another time—say, the year 2000. I have a brand new, gold iPhone 6, but I can hang with the neo-analog. A few months ago, when my mother was visiting me in Brooklyn, I introduced her to emojis. She loved them so much that she considered upgrading to a smartphone for a moment—but just for a moment. We can’t exchange them, of course: In this modern era, different generations of technology come with their own languages; we create new iterations of communication so quickly that a years-old phone cannot talk to a new one dexterously, like someone speaking Japanese to an Italian. So instead we started making up our own emojis, which I call imojis, for “imagined emojis,” or, more specifically, momojis, for obvious reasons. Here are some of them:

From my mother:
“Little drawing of a sock” (accompanying “I found my socks!”):
The imoji that started it all. I can’t remember how or why this was important enough to send a text about; but, then again, these days just about anything is important enough to send via text.

From my mother:
“Little picture of a mom hugging and kissing her daughter”:
The genius thing about a describe-your-own-emoji, much like a choose-your-own-adventure, is that one can visualize such an emoji without having to use the same hackneyed picture over and over. Don’t get me wrong: I adore emojis, and the news that 250 more are to be released soon is some of the best news I’ve heard in a while. That said, there are only so many times that one can send the two girls in leotards holding hands emoji before it starts to lose its luster.

From me:
“Big grin on pretty woman’s face”:
This was in response to my mother’s long-standing variation on the ancient smiley face (the classic colon followed by a close-parenthesis), which is, simply, “smile.”

From my mother:
“Honorable mother smiles beneficently upon honorable daughter”:
This was in response to my “Big grin on pretty woman’s face” emoji. Another great thing about the tailor-made emoji is that the process allows for personality to shine through. While it is true that the way in which one chooses to use emojis shows character—am I sending obvious emojis all the time, such as smiley faces and hearts, or do I go the distance sometimes with, say, a saxophone or an pot of honey?—emojis are inherently prefab. The difference between my imoji and my mother’s response is plain, and that’s part of what makes these little technological gems so precious.

From me:
“A post office on fire, as in fiery hell”:
This pretty much speaks for itself. I was at the post office near my apartment in Brooklyn. It’s notorious for the length of its slow-moving lines. I had to wait, because I needed postage for a letter to London. Come to think of it, though, why isn’t there an picture of a post office on fire in the existing emoji lexicon? This seems important, and universal. Aren’t most post offices akin to insufferable infernos?

From my mother:
“Emoji of mom, hoping no lasting effects will accrue”:
Here is a little bit of a sad one. After my mother came for a visit, during which we marveled over the Brooklyn leaves red and orange and yellow in their mid-autumn coats, she sent a photo of the tree outside of her house in New Jersey accompanied by this text. It was a mostly lovely visit, with the exception of a difficult half hour in which we couldn’t decide whether to go to the Met or the Brooklyn Botanic Garden, and somehow this transposed and garbled to become a feeling of not being welcome in my home for my mother. I’m not sure how this happened, as is the case with every argument—the teacup isn’t washed or the window is carelessly left open and, without a roadmap back, two people start fighting about who is more to blame for an antediluvian injustice—but we were able to let it go quickly and enjoy the yellow-rumped warblers and the acme of leaves in full color. Later, once my mother had returned home, this sweet sentiment came through, on the wings of satellites.

From my mother:
“Emoji of a mom standing looking lovingly at her dear daughter from afar, eyes soft and arms slightly outstretched in a gentle, almost hugging shape”:
By far, this was the most elaborate momoji to date. No further elaboration necessary, but can’t you just see it so vividly?

From me:
“Emoji of a daughter throwing hands in the air excitedly and sticking tongue out to taste snow falling next to emoji of mother clapping hands and smiling wearing big blue down coat and large winter hat”:
In response to: “It’s snowing!” I mean, hey—why not?

From my mother:
“Hugging mom emoji”:
I think this is my favorite. Simple, direct, charming. And full of love.

From me:
“Daughter frolicking in the snow emoji”:
The New York tri-state area’s first real snowfall of the year provoked quite a flurry of momojis, ending with this one, sent from a cozy restaurant on Union Square while snow fell, soft and insistent, outside picture windows. I was not, in fact, frolicking—rather, I was eating burgers with three girlfriends—but I could not send four hamburger emojis, so I was forced to be creative instead.

Made up emojis—or, as my mother sometimes spells them, “emogis” (because, you know, she’s my mom. Also, she’s 60.)—are so much better than actual emojis. I love emojis, and I use them, sometimes a little too liberally, to express the gamut of emotion within a medium that is stark and bare-boned and often cryptic. I am grateful for emojis. But sometimes, when the right one doesn’t exist (I’m looking at you, Unicode Consortium—where’s the post office on fire emoji? The hugging mom emoji? The wolf emoji, the clam emoji, the motorcycle and bassinet and ice skate emoji?), imojis are germane in a way that lexical emojis are not.

Postscript:
After I wrote this essay, my mother and I exchanged a series of texts about the phenomenon of liking the way one looks in a photograph after the fact, but in the moment thinking one looks crazy/awful/like a dead rat. “Perhaps later we are released from whatever critical thoughts we had of ourselves at the time, because we have forgotten them,” my mother wrote. I agreed that that was part of it, but pointed out that later we still harbor critical thoughts of ourselves. A moment later, she responded by saying, “Yes, but now they are new critical thoughts, and the old ones have faded a bit to make room for the new!” And then, folded into the crevices of the text like chocolate chips into cake batter, a new momoji: “Mom smiles softly, and a bit wistfully, as she sits in her chair with her stripey nightgown on, thinking of so many examples of this.”

It hit me then that the best part of imojis is that they occasion an opportunity to describe our feelings and actions in real time—a new frontier in the cascade of fresh opportunities for communication as provided by the phenomenon of text messages in general and emojis in specific. Sometimes, to be sure, a smiley face with hearts for eyes or an umbrella with raindrops or a helicopter or bicycle or palm tree or alligator or Statue of Liberty is all that we need. But when emojis fail—when a lone mushroom or caterpillar or slice of cake is not sufficient, there are imojis. And they unleash a fount of expression that is often closed even in face-to-face dialogue, because imojis afford the opportunity to express real and deep emotion in nonthreatening and adorable way.

“Daughter sits pondering momojis and imojis and emojis and life at large at a desk in Brooklyn, thinking of her powerful and astonishing love for her mother while snow melts in New Jersey and already-melted snow evaporates in New York, as James Blake plays and wind blows and someone somewhere is having the best day of their life.” Daughter, out.

Bibi Deitz lives and writes in Brooklyn. Recent work has appeared in Bookforum, The Rumpus, Berfrois and BOMB, and is forthcoming from Marie Claire.

Thinking of Moving To Brooklyn? Bibi Deitz Did–And Wrote About It!

Brooklyn

Note: The following is an essay I wrote three months ago, when I first moved back to Brooklyn. A month later, I signed a longterm lease in nearby Prospect Heights.

I just bought a bunch of bananas and, because I could, my favorite treat, a vegan, sugar-free chocolate pie at the bodega down the block. No need to find a health food store. Anyone who says New York is unfriendly and overwhelming has clearly never lived in Brooklyn.

I have. I do right now, as of a week ago, when I moved into a sublet for a month in Carroll Gardens; I also lived here as a kid for two years, in Windsor Terrace and the neighborhood that still goes by “Greenpoint,” but is now unrecognizable to its Nineties self. When we lived there, you had to push your sixty cents through bullet-proof glass to get a candy bar. I did walk the ten blocks to the train by myself at the age of twelve, but I was a street-smart kid. Also, my mother was going through a divorce.

Carroll Gardens is an entity unto itself. In the early mornings, parents and children walk in droves toward the schools; by ten p.m., all is quiet. Even most delis close by nine. It’s a neighborhood inhabited by families and professionals. There are no hipsters. They can’t afford the rent.

Neither can I, but I happened upon this place by chance: the golden fleece of sublets. It’s a four-bedroom apartment for $2,100 per month. You can do the math, but suffice it to say that I could be paying that solo if I lived down the street. That’s the thing about New York real estate: there’s magic to it. There is no one rule. If you believe in it, it will serve you. It’s like a whimsical, fey little deity who serves one and screws the next.

Call it magical thinking, but I do believe in the New York god of real estate. How could I not: I grew up in a loft on Avenue C and 4th Street that cost a grand per month. Even back then, it was a deal. We could’ve bought the place for a hundred thousand, but no one had the foresight back then to have any idea what the neighborhood would turn into, or the money with which to have such visions.

My sublet is a little room in the middle of the apartment, which is occupies the entire second floor of a small brick building. The floors are wide wood panels that creak and stretch underfoot. There is a small window and, next to my bed, I’ve put a vase of yellow roses, asters and daisies. My roommates are young professionals. I feel as though I’ve entered some sort of special ring of heaven.

It’s temporary, though, or it could be. This room belongs to a girl who may or may not be moving away indefinitely. My future is in her hands, or, actually, in the hands of the roommates at large. There’s talk of letting this room fall to empty, and just having three roommates, instead of four. I suppose I understand—less roommates, less hassle—but why would anyone want to throw away $525 rent in a prime Brooklyn locale? I know I sound like a broker, but this is just truth.

This state of being has the potential to be nerve-racking. Is she coming back? If not, will the Powers That Be let me stay? I weigh the potential consequences of every action. Should I cook chicken at ten p.m.? Should I use the wide wood table in the kitchen for a writing desk in the afternoons? Should I take a bath? The answer, thus far, always turns out to be yes. I was hungry, and the kitchen has incredible natural light, and taking a bath is always the right thing to do.

In other words, I weigh the consequences of every action, but mostly I do as I please. While I am on a month-long audition of sorts, I cannot withhold my needs for thirty days in hopes of being inducted. If this place doesn’t work out, I’d certainly be pissed about missing out on all of those baths.

Meanwhile, I learn the neighborhood. The church on the corner is famous, an old Catholic spire-y number with white-washed stone and Corinthian columns. There’s a vintage store on Court that just reopened, and, though I peeked my head in on the way home the other day, I was starving and had to leave immediately. This is a good thing, because it’s overflowing with things like high-waisted Pucci swim bottoms (no top, of course) and they’re all outrageously expensive. I found the nearby bodegas, hardware store and laundromat. There’s a park a few blocks down Clinton. And the subway is a seven-minute walk.

I want to call this home, hang a shingle, set down roots: whatever it is that one does when one commits to a neighborhood. I wouldn’t know: for the past few years, I’ve been in state of “we’ll see.” “We’ll see,” I said to my then-boyfriend when we moved into our first place together five years ago. “We’ll see,” I told the man who’d then become my fiancé when we found our next place, two years later. And we saw: we broke up, which I always suspected we would do, and I finally got to return to New York, which is what I secretly and not-so-secretly wanted to do for most of our relationship.

I loved him. But I love New York in a different way.

He and I were not a good match, and New York and I are soul mates. Of all the places I’ve lived, the city always feels right. It’s the oversized cashmere sweater of cities.

This is not to say that it’s always comfortable. Sometimes, when it’s pouring rain and freezing, it feels more like a damp, dirty sweater that someone has been sleeping in for a week. But it’s still cashmere. There are always moments of grace: the old woman who asks if I can tie her shoe for her, the little girl on the street who tells me I am beautiful. Moments of serendipity: the F train doors close in my face only to reopen, as if charmed, a second later. Moments of synchronicity: I walk out with my friend to get a taxi for her a few nights ago, since she doesn’t know Carroll Gardens; the cabbie we find is pulled over, eating dinner, but he agrees to take her back to Crown Heights and, once there, I hear that he drops her on a desolate corner where a girl with three suitcases was waiting patiently and somewhat insanely for a cab to come along. That’s New York: you just have to trust that it will provide.

Because it always does. Always, unfailingly, indefatigably, the city provides just what you need at the right time.

It might not always be on your timetable. But it is always the right time.

The other night, the friend who took the taxi back to Crown Heights and I discussed how transportation in the city serves as a vehicle for synchrony. When you’re in “the flow”—trusting, being patient, practicing kindness and compassion—it seems as though the trains play along. I’ve had plenty of opportunities lately to give this theory a whirl, since living in Brooklyn is synonymous with subway usage, unless you’re Michelle Williams. Even she’d probably like to take the train sometimes, and maybe she does: it’s by far the fastest way to Manhattan if there’s any traffic.

Perhaps my friend and I are crazy. But I swear: if I’m anxious, stressed-out and angry, I miss the train. I get on the wrong one. I get on the right one going the wrong way. If all is calm, though, the trains run smoothly: they arrive just as I hit the platform, they time themselves well for optimal transfers, they speed up between stations to deliver me on-time to my destination.

Maybe that’s just the city and her whims.

Brooklyn has a way of making everything easier. It’s quieter, cleaner, friendlier than Manhattan. It doesn’t have the same glitz and glow, but instead has its own spin: the glitz is made of artisanal, hand-painted sea glass from Coney Island and the glow is soft, natural light at sunset, gloaming.

I’ll take it. It’s not about the rent, or the hardwood floors, or the bathtub—although all of these help—it’s about the peace of mind. I can wander the neighborhood late at night with a mug of tea in hand. I can open the door to the back yard and eat the bodega banana on the patio in the morning. I can lie in bed and listen to dogs bark up and down the street, sentinels. It’s like living in a small town, and also living in the big city. It’s both ways, which is the best way of all.