Like most people who've lived in N.Y.C. for awhile, I have a love-hate relationship with it. When Sheep's Meadow is teaming with people enjoying the sunshine, train karma is on my side—yes, that is a thing—or I share a moment of connection with a random stranger, I feel like there's no better place on earth.
However, those days—when it's raining sideways, or when every train shuts its doors in my face, or when my shoulders hurt from constantly lugging my life around in my bag, like a nomad—it feels like the city is kicking my ass and I just keep coming back for more.
During those harder times, I realize I have two options for how to proceed: the hard way and the easy way.
The hard way consists of creating an armored exterior. Hunkering down with my elbows out ready to use my shoulders to barrel my way through a crowd, putting up emotional walls, and giving hard-and-fast "no"s when asked to give something—anything—of myself.
The easy way physically manifests in taking a deep breath, relaxing my shoulders, and softening my abdomen. I then have a split second to make the conscious decision to slow down and let go of needing to control every moment.
Like a broken record, I always opt for the hard way first, despite numerous examples of its past failures. And it is important to note that the hard way has its moments of necessity. Sometimes we really do need to put our armor up and protect ourselves by saying "no" or creating boundaries.
But, more often than not, I choose the hard way not out of necessity, but out of fear or habit. I spend my days feeling like I'm in a constant battle with the world; the tension in my neck throbs, my breaths are barely noticable in my chest, and I feel like one tiny alteration to my very narrow plan will create a catastrophe and cause me to drop every ball I'm precariously keeping in rotation.
In those cases, I eventually realize the error of my ways and, out of sheer exhaustion, try the easy way instead. Since the easy way involves letting go of that perceived control I have over life, it's actually the more complicated path to choose, but...
When I start to slow down and give myself room to breathe (literally and figuratively) I can see that often it's not the city (my job, the people I interact with, etc.) that's kicking my ass—it's actually me. The expectations I have of myself and others create the suffering in my days and the rigid mindset within myself.
The hardest part of taking the easy way? Making the choice.