It’s easy to forget just how exhausting this electric city is. The extraordinary energy and ambition that are so foundational to its character, are the same such qualities that can be so depleting, slowly seeping into our souls, and burrowing between our brows. It is easy to acclimatise to this way of feeling, and to equate the sense of fatigue and burnout with productivity. I often find that, as much as I adore this perpetually inspiring place, it is only on occasions when I escape the city, be it for a friends wedding or family vacation, that I notice how tiring it can be.
With wedding season over and my vacation budget in the toilet, I’m bound to my beloved Brooklyn, and must make a concerted effort to carve out, even schedule, little moments of “me-time” to balance out the crazy with a dose of calm. The ways in which I do so are neither innovative nor all that exciting, but I find they do the trick.
BREWING A CUPPA
I am convinced, as I frequently remind my co-workers when admitting ignorance to the latest youtube sensation, that at my core, sits an eighty-three-year old English woman in a moth eaten sweater, complaining about the weather and the state of the “youth” these days. As such, tea time is a ritual from my London upbringing that I fully embrace, and that is a key contributor to my overall sanity. To be clear, I don’t mean the high falutin Downtown Abbey-esque ordeals involving tiny quiches and polished silverware - no, the classic, cheap, bulk batch of builder’s tea (PG Tips to those in the know) will do me just fine. Paired with a good (or trashy) tome or dogeared New Yorker, a good cuppa can transport me immediately back to my childhood kitchen, listening to the rustle of papers as my family argues over the Sunday supplements.
WRITING (BETTER YET, READING)
Though I suppose this isn’t so much “getting out of my head” as “clearing out the clutter”, putting pen to paper has always been one of my favourite forms of escapism. Be it a piece of prose that’s been circulating for months, or some fabulously vicious email I wish I’d had the cohones to send, those five, ten, ninety minutes of scribbling are ones of real catharsis for me, an almost literal expiation of the worries and whimsies that busy my mind on the daily. And when, more often than not, my own words are mired in a sort of mind muck at the end of the day, I reach for one of the battered books on my shelf, happy to lose myself in another world for a half hour or so.
TV time was a bit of a luxury growing up and, in a pre-Apple age, my sister and I were responsible for providing our own entertainment when bored out of our minds. Many scraped elbows and bruised knees later, it became clear that being physical, whether by climbing a tree, or kicking a football, was one of my preferred sources of recreation. And while it served as an outlet for excess energy as a child, these days, exercise is the thing that seems to replenish me when my batteries are running low. I am by no means an athlete but, regardless of whether I’m wobbling my way through hip hop yoga, or simply ambling around the block between projects, being outside or active in some way or another gets me out of my mind, and into my body, (even if that body won’t always do as it’s told).
FINALLY, (BUT OF NO LESS IMPORTANCE) COOKING
Though odd for a family devoid of dancers, my father and I both bear the trait of walking on tiptoes when barefoot. I note this only because it plays part of some of my favourite childhood moments with him, when it was not uncommon for us to meet in the dark of our midnight kitchen, dancing an awkward, berobed ballet around one another, in search of some sweet (him) or salty (me) snack. Since then, the kitchen has always been a joyful place for me, a place to connect, rehash the day and, most importantly, make some sort of delicious mess for devouring. My time working with Michelle, founder of the fabulous world that is Cook Space, has broadened my culinary horizons manifold, helping me eschew the stricture of recipes and simply trust my instincts to create something from my cupboards on a whim. Does it always succeed? Absolutely not. But no matter how disastrous the results, the process of making a meal, with shoes kicked off and sleeves rolled up (and phone tucked well away), is what acts as a release for me. And though there may be Fleabag reruns or Nina Simone classics blaring from my laptop, at these moments I ensure my phone is tucked well away, so I can occupy my hands with something other than scrolling through social.
In none of the aforementioned areas, not a one, am I at all accomplished. My heels will never reach the floor in downward dog, my lemon chicken will never taste quite like my mother’s, and my paltry poems, no matter the personal anguish I may attribute to its content, will always pale in comparison to Neruda’s. But no matter. These little rituals, ones where I can put down my mess of gadgets and just look out into the world, are my means of restoring some perspective and, on occasion, some much needed peace to my world.
It seems a shame that at a time where so much relies upon technology, I find my moments of solace are ones where I am cut off from it, often purposefully so. But, alas, though the cacophony of sounds, smells and stories that make up this place never fail to amaze me, ,the luddite in me shan’t be silenced and I find myself increasingly content to appease my inner grandmother with these escapist endeavours. If Ms. Simone would care to join me on my travels, all the better.