Physically in San Francisco, but mentally still in New York City, the monkey is finding himself in a schism of lifestyle. Settling into the San Francisco vibe has proven tricky, and having New York Times bloggers barking in my face isn't helping.
MONKEY BUSINESS by Tony Asaro (Composer/Librettist)
If you were on the internet at all last week, you undoubtedly saw the New York Times Opinionator Op. Ed. by Tim Kreider, "The 'Busy' Trap. You undoubtedly also saw many "busy" people posting it to facebook triumphantly, and you may have even seen some eloquent rebuttles. I particularly liked this one: "Tim Kreider Debunked: In Defense of the Busy Trap" in which author Phy Tran takes Kreider down for being overly simplistic.
Though debunking Kreider is not the point of my blog post, I would like to take a second in pink to mention this whole latch-key imagery Kreider uses. He spent 3 hours of unstructured time at home in which he remembers playing. I wonder how his parents would remember those 3 hours–they were WORKING during those that time of day. He had latch key time because they were employed being busy. A child with no responsibilities is going to be able to be idle. Those supporting a family often don't have the luxury to have afternoons off. Just saying.
So here I am, exactly one month since moving back to San Francisco, a glorious city which moves proudly at roughly half the speed of New York City. I am currently unemployed, and the weather has been pretty glorious. And somehow, with my days completely free, walking around this paradise with the California sun shining down on me, I can't fucking relax.
Nico, my boyfriend, sleeps eight hours a night usually. He also naps on rare occasions. And many days, he enjoys “quiet time”. These things are completely foreign to me.
Living in NYC, I told myself a lot of lies. One of the lies I created and still kinda believe is “I function best on six to seven hours of sleep. Any more than that and it’s like I slept too much.”
This is bullshit. Sleep is good; therefore, more sleep is better. Period. If you are having trouble because you slept too much, it’s probably because you feel guilty about having slept too much. Or you weren’t able to cross some of the things off of your ever-mounting to-do list. It’s not the sleep itself.
I grant that this is not an easy adjustment. A month in, I still feel guilty about sleeping until 8:00. This morning, Nico had to go in to work early. I woke up at 6:40 when he got out of bed, and I decided to reset my alarm for 7:30. Instead of sleeping, I laid awake until 6:55 at which time, I got up and started making my slow cooker turkey and black bean chili.
And I don’t know if I’ll ever be good at quiet time. There’s laundry to fold, and emails to respond to, and people to see. But Nico is amazing. He can sip coffee at the kitchen table and not check his phone and not look at his watch and not rush. I am jealous.
I am a rusher. I’m always booking things back to back. “If we catch the 6:12 BART train, we can get off in the Mission, and get to Jenna and Lisa by 6:55. The movie starts at 7:10.” This trait is uncomfortable for him. I wish it was uncomfortable for me, but as of right now, I thrive with a schedule like this. (As I type this, I am sitting on a train to a summer camp where I’ll be teaching for the next two weeks. I barely caught this train–I had BARELY enough time to go home and shower after yoga. The sweat is still beading up on my forehead.)
Naps, I’ll admit, have been easier to get used to. Curl up next to Nico and I’m OUT! This gives me hope that I’ll be able to successfully chill out in all of the above ways.
It’s Evident In My Yoga Practice
I practice yoga at Laughing Lotus on 16th St between Guerrero and Dolores. This is the SF branch of the studio where I practiced in NYC. Both locations focus on a spiritual/physical practice–lots of love and light and philosophy and compassion along with the standard asanas. The different centers definitely reflect their respective locations, though.
In the packed classes in NYC, the practice is almost Jazzercize in its exuberance. Lots of inversions, arm balances. It’s fast and strong an sweaty. Someone is always harmonizing the opening chants with the third above perfectly tuned. Everyone wears Lululemon.
SF Lotus is tranquility. SF Lotus is peace. SF Lotus is serenity. SF Lotus is frustrating. Don’t get me wrong: it is also strong and sweaty, but it’s a quiet sweaty strength. Rarely is the chanting in tune, and Lululemmon is anathema.
I practice in SF knowing that it’s exactly what I need, not another handstand. But the “Look what I can do” New Yorker in me wants to MOVE AND FLIP AND PUSH PUSH PUSH PUSH PUSH! (Not that this is what NYC advocates, mind you.) My SF practice is only frustrating because I have yet to shift gears.
It’s Evident With My Friends
A month has gone by, and I’m still treating my move back to SF like I treated my visits home from NYC. I have to see this person, and have dinner with this person, and schedule a meeting with this person, and if I have coffee with this person at 3:30, they can drop me off in San Mateo for happy hour with so and so, and then THEY can bring me to San Bruno for dinner with…
Sitting down for a meeting about my new theatre company–more info about that to come soon–my friend and company member, Aimee, looked at me during the meeting and said, “You’re still on New York time.” She nailed it on the head.
Similarly, I saw a distant cousin last night. He had lived in NYC for two years but moved back to the Bay Area in 2010. We had been talking for a while when he looked at me, smiled and said, “Don’t worry. It took me six months.” Ugh. Am I wearing my anxiety for everyone to see? Worse yet, do I still have five more months to go?
Some things have already changed. I’m eating better. I’m cooking most of the meals I eat. I’m exercising more. I’m tanned. While I feel funny sleeping eight hours at night, I am doing it. And I’m pretty sure I’m going to love all of these things eventually. Until it all changes over, I guess I'll just fake it until I make it.
I don’t know if I’ll ever totally succumb, though. I do hope to keep a little more pep than your average San Franciscan. I’ll check in with you in five months. We’ll see where we’re at.
TONY ASARO is a composer/librettist currently working on various musical theatre and opera projects including the award winning Our Country. To learn more about Tony's writing, please visit unrelentingmonkey.com. NEVER STOP SWINGING!