500 plus days have passed when I said goodbye to New York City and hello to my country suburban life. And I am here to tell you I am okay. Infact, I am more than okay.
Yes, I drive more and walk less. And the playgrounds are less crowded so I don’t have to play “spot my child” in the midst of hundreds of others. When it’s hot outside, instead of sweating through my clothes to find the nearest playground with a water feature, I visit a friend’s swimming pool, or head to our community lake.
I guess what I am saying is that life is easier. And as someone who thrives in the struggle- this is a revelation. Somehow, almost living two decades in the city was my badge of honor. I survived my twenties, got my masters, fell in love, got married and had two babies. I was a city mom for five years before we left for greener pastures. Somewhere along this wild and crazy journey I had to ask, what I am struggling for? Am I done believing that to be great and meaningful it had to be hard? The answer now, a year away from the city grind is No. It does not need be hard to be meaningful.
My family as a collective whole is much happier out of the city. When my oldest daughter asked why we left the city again recently, I asked her what she thought, and she said “trees?” And my response was, “Yep, that’s pretty spot on. Trees.” Trees, meaning room to breathe, space to move, greenery to bathe in and nature to listen to.
But let’s back up a few months. Six months after leaving the city whenever anyone would ask me, “So, are you happy?” I would answer with, “I am not, not happy.” People didn’t really know what to do with that answer. But it was the truth. I was not unhappy, but I was also not blissfully in love.
I was taking my time to feel myself in this new place. And if you know me personally you know I am going to answer you as honestly and authentically as possible. This “not, not happy” left me feeling weird. So I did what any “normal” New Yorker would do, I went and had a session with my therapist. I wanted to explore my answer. Should I be worried? Should my answer be different? Am I numb and detached? She of course said to me that I was exactly where I should be and with an exhale of relief I went along in my “not, not happy” existence. And then somewhere towards my year anniversary, I realized, perhaps I did not want to admit my happiness because somehow this meant I was losing my city-self. Like somehow I was losing a huge part of my identity.
I am not sure I have fully made peace with this realization and so I have just allowed for the observation. An observation: since our move I’ve found a real community. But that feeling came at the expense of anonymity-something I loved about the city. I loved that after dropping my daughter at preschool in the city, I was no one and everyone. I could go to a workout class and be in a mix of ages, genders and races and no one knew anything unless we talked about it. I found that liberating versus being just seen as a mom, or a working mom, or whatever label you want to put in front of “mom”. With that said, having a community is nourishing. There is a network of people and families that truly have your back, whatever you may need.
Because I work in the city a few times a week, I still get my weekly city fix. I can get a whiff of my anonymity. I can get the buzz from the pace of city life, as well as a much needed shoulder swipe or hip check from a stranger walking by, reminding me to stay awake.
I will say, winter in the country is not for the weak. City snow storms are like sweet, romantic movies. Somehow everything is still open, food delivery easy, fitness classes packed, and walking the streets is like being inside a magical snow globe that says “I love New York” over your head.
In the country there were so many snow days that they took days away from our spring break. And during one storm, we lost power for 6 days. Thankfully we had a partial generator that allowed us to stay in the house. We had the basics — heat, water, a fridge, a working stove, a few lights in the kitchen and a place to charge phones and ipads. But we had to use lanterns to go to the bathroom and bed. Both girls had the flu during this time. We were told this was the worst winter in 40 years in our town. Somehow that statistic didn’t make me feel any better, I was certainly being initiated into the realities of living outside of urban life.
Life is always in movement. Always in transition. This year just happened to have a lot more transition and change than others. We moved out of the city, I entered a new decade, I learned how to drive again, became a part-time commuter, my oldest started elementary school, I found a new community and network of friends, while working hard to maintain my city self. My husband and I made it a year of ‘yes’. Yes to date nights, meeting new people and Sunday dinners with families we wanted to get to know. Yes to just going with whatever came our way. And I am really proud of us. We came out of this year stronger, more connected and more in love. And I learned a lot about myself. That’s the thing about really challenging stuff: its not always pretty but you end up with a lot more faith in the natural flow of your life. And that’s a pretty amazing place to reach.
Deb Ross is a licensed acupuncturist and board certified herbalist in NYC. She has been involved with, studying and practicing Chinese Medicine for over a decade. She holds a Master’s of Science degree in Traditional Chinese Medicine from Touro College, focusing on Acupuncture, Chinese herbs and Tui Na.