Sunday, February 14, 2010

open house

Well, here I am, finally: in the next apartment! I moved on Feb 1, into a sunny, quirky pad smack in the middle of the city. This being New York, looking for the apartment was incredibly stressful and grueling, and it became another test of my ability to trust my instincts and to keep in mind a sense of what’s important to me. As usual, I didn’t quite ace the test: I forgot that I even had instincts, felt completely overwhelmed and rushed, and got utterly rattled by various brokers doing a hardsell on “building amenities” like roof decks, lounges, gyms, climbing walls (!!), and room service (!!!), or expecting me to be bowled over by a teensy “terrace” or a glam and glossy high-end kitchen.

But I don’t really picture myself sprawled on a chaise on a Financial District roof deck or splurging on room service on a daily basis, and to me, New York balconies and terraces seem kind of sad and gray and grimy, and just something else that you have to furnish and clean. And I have survived my entire life — and cooked countless meals — without the aid of a fancy-schmancy kitchen.

Somehow, despite my feet being so tired and my head hurting from hours on craigslist, and in spite of my near-irresistible desire to just throw in the towel already, I was able to deflect the deals being lobbed my way (free two months’ rent! no fee! no deposit!) and hold out till I found the Mr. Right of the apartment world. After a particularly frustrating morning of looking and not finding, I had lunch with a wise broker friend who told me, “I’ve seen it over and over again: It’s fate, your home is out there, you will find it, it will all fall into place.”

Yeah right, I thought, with absolutely no faith in the idea of fate, and went off to meet yet another broker to take a second look at a few apartments I’d see earlier, in a building on Broadway. Each of the three apartments he’d shown me before had had a fatal flaw; one got no light, one faced the back of another building, and one was on a low floor and seemed too noisy. But they were big and spacious and not too madly expensive, so I figured what the hell, might as well look again.

The broker and I zipped up to the tenth floor, and he marched down the hall into an open apartment. I followed, took a look around, and said, “This is not the apartment you showed me before.” “Yes, it is,” he said, kind of belligerently. “No, it’s not,” I said. “Yes, it is,” he said, peevishly. “No, it’s not,” I said, equally peevishly, “and I’m 100 percent sure, because I love this apartment. I love it, and I want it.” He looked at his paperwork and said, “Oh my God, we walked into the wrong apartment.” We’d barged straight into a recently vacated place that was still being primped and had not yet been listed, and wasn’t supposed to be shown for another week, and… well, you know how it ends. (I apologize to my broker friend for doubting his wise, wise words.)

So here I am, living life in the next apartment! I love the neighborhood — it’s half gritty and seedy old New York, and half buzzy hipster New York — but mainly, I love having my very own home once again. I love having my long-lost stuff* back with me (though when the mover was bringing it all in — box after box after box — I nearly had a meltdown at the sheer mass of it all). I love being able to make spontaneous plans with friends that require only a quick stroll across town, rather than a schlep to the station, a boring train ride, subway hell, and so forth. I love having things delivered — Indian food, a new table, groceries, books — and I love the doormen and porters who make everything so damn easy. I love that my pals stop by for a chat and a glass of wine. I love watching the constant happenings on Broadway. And man do I love the giant industrial windows that are let floods of sunshine into my afternoon.

In fact, overall — despite the fact that I should probably be panicked at the prospect of paying an outrageous Manhattan rent — I’m actually quite relaxed. I have found the elusive feeling of being open to what’s around me, curious about what’s coming my way, not too caught up in anxieties or expectations or fears. And the openness is clearly perceptible to others: I’m meeting people left and right, cool projects are popping up, and my calendar is just full enough to keep me busy without driving me to insanity.

Paradoxically, I want to keep a tight grip onto this sense that I’m not latching onto things. I’m trying right now, as a practice, to let each experience stand by itself. If I can stay focused on the moment, I have a better chance of staying tuned in to what I’m feeling, rather than getting caught up in what it all means, or judging an experience based on what it leads to, or what I want it to lead to, rather than what it is.

Of course, there’s a reason this is all referred to as a practice. Especially during a time of great change like this one, I can get swept up into all sorts of anxiety about what will make me happy, where I’m going, what I should do, what I should feel. When I crawl back inside from that particular ledge, I try to come back to the moment, to stop spinning way ahead of myself, to enjoy the here and now. Yet herein likes another paradox: I may not want to get caught up in a cycle of predicting and controlling and fretting, but I also have to take into account the need to plan ahead somewhat, and the need to take care of myself. It's as if I have to try to create a framework in which to operate, so that I can stop myself from zooming into situations that seem hardwired for disaster and still find a way to be awake and aware and in the present — to feel the flow — and to trust in the fate that helped me find my next apartment.

* Examples of my beloved stuff pictured here — how did I survive without it??