a break from routine

I just spent the day in the city, most of it in Brooklyn with two old friends, and it was invigorating and transporting to have a day off. I feel grateful to have been uprooted from what has become an all too familiar routine. I’ve fallen into a rut without really realizing it and having a day off shed light on what I have, and what I am missing, like a satisfying social life. And as I get older and lose more people who are dear to me it becomes all the more important to have that in person time. There are friends I hardly ever see and getting together with two of them felt like a step in the right direction.

These two friends know each other through me and it was the first time the three of us had gotten together.My friend J orchestrated the whole thing and I was pleased to just have to confirm the date and have her take care of the rest. It was only last year that I had reconnected with J, who was part of what I consider collectively, the ones who got away…the friends who after V’s diagnosis either distanced themselves from us or felt distanced from the barrier of grief and overwhelm that kept me from letting many people in, as much as I needed community. I lost some good dear friends over the years, and J was one of the disappeared. And it was only through her diligence in tracking me down (I don’t have a social media presence and she didn’t have my current phone number) that we reconnected after nearly twenty years.

She was someone I had a fifty year history with, since being campers at Boiberik, a Yiddish socialist cultural camp that we both attended together, staying in touch and becoming close again when we both lived in the city. It felt better than I could have imagined to see her again after so many years, to continue our long bond.

On the other hand L, who I worked with at the Manhattan Borough President’s Office, had stayed a friend through all those years though I saw her less and less, now a few times a year at best, not like when we used to go out together frequently. When I used to get free tickets to theater and dance events she was a constant companion, someone who appreciated everything from the best opera to grass roots performances in tiny community theaters. She was a much better date than most of the men I went out with in those many years of bad dates that made up a less appealing part of my single life in New York.

They were both good friends, part of the fabric of an active social life that unraveled rather quickly. In a matter of a few years I went from someone who went out several times a week to someone who went out four or five times a year. That took some getting used to. 

And I’ve felt even more enclosed and shut off since Covid, which made hard circumstances even worse. The pandemic really did a number on V and by extension, the rest of the family. It took years to get him even remotely regulated again and even so he’s retained certain pickiness and idiosyncrasies. Only walking in one park. Only eating very limited foods. Only engaging in limited activities when at home. I do the best I can to revive myself during the days when he is in school but then I get all depleted again. It’s important to take real breaks, something I can forget about until I do it.

So it was good to have a whole day off, to take a morning train and have the freedom to wander the streets of the city. I walked down to the Union Square Greenmarket, near where I lived for twelve years, a farmers market that was such a big part of my life. There are crowds of people buying produce and while I told myself not to buy anything since I’d be walking around Brooklyn for much of the day, I can’t resist getting two big beautiful bunches of lilacs for my friends. 

I hop on a subway and enjoy the ride – after all these years I still am captivated by the view of the Brooklyn Bridge I never can quite capture on my phone (it’s the one time all day I took it out to record all I was seeing) and instead get a photo of steel and road and nothing even remotely reflecting how breathtaking the ride over the river is. I walk down beautiful brownstone streets to meet up with L first, stopping at her apartment to drop off flowers that she puts into two vases, and then we walk down to the restaurant where we are meeting for lunch. We sit at an outdoor table on a perfect spring day and J joins us and the three of us catch up. L is helping migrants get the services they need when they get off the bus at the Port Authority bus terminal. J is still working as a therapist – she sets her own hours and so had arranged a good sized break in her day for our lunch – and just became a grandmother a day ago so she is positively jubilant. It’s hard and not always necessary to go into all of the details of one’s life so I offer broad strokes and admit some of what I’ve been feeling: high stress and worry, yet all in all stable and content. I feel like I could spend hours more with them, that what I’d really like is a friends’ retreat, to just spend days talking and hanging out. I realize how much more I need that in my life.

We order our lunch and talk and eat delicious Israeli food and talk some more until L has to go and J and I continue on to Prospect Park – she doesn’t mind lugging her lilacs – where I used to take the boys constantly. I also went there with friends, including L, to lots of concerts in this park. Some of the best performances I’ve ever seen.  There are so many memories everywhere I go. Twenty years living in the city is a long time and everywhere there are reminisces, familiar spots and places from a life I need reminding of sometimes.

Then I need to get back home so we head back to the subway – J goes further into Brooklyn and I back to Penn Station and my train, and so ends a lovely day in the city. I come back home and everything is exactly as it’s been except for me, since I’ve gotten out and away enough I could not think of my daily stressors and routine. I’ve walked 16,000 steps without realizing it, something I love about city days, just walking for miles. It’s wonderful to break with my isolation at home and I hope to do it a lot more, to nurture that part of me that needs friends, and city energy in my life.

10 thoughts on “a break from routine

  1. I spent a day in the city this week as well, going even further back into what “used to be”, seeing art and wandering by myself; not since I was in art school! I hear every bit of this. Was such a beautiful day out. Out of time, out of life, out of routine.


  2. Sounds like a lovely respite from the grind. So glad you’re saying yes to these outings!


  3. It’s well studied that socializing is good for your health. Good for you for making the effort.


  4. Sounds dreamy! Savoring time with old friends… May leisurely retreats with friends (and family) be in your future.


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