A couple of weeks ago, I got to learn and participate a little in an African drum circle. Which isn’t something I would have ever sought out myself, probably, but I’m really glad the opportunity came my way. The man leading us made sure we understood that a drum circle is just that–a circle, a community. You can’t just take a drum and go off in a corner by yourself (because that would clearly annoy your neighbors pretty quickly); you have to be with a group, practicing a rhythm and beat together. It’s about belonging to something larger than yourself, and connection.
The African word he taught us is “ubuntu.” Which, as he explained it, means: I am me because of you, and you are you because of me. So simple, and yet . . . not. In a time of year when ads want us to believe that love and connection can be shown with things–things as superficial as a mass-produced necklace or an overused saying–I think ubuntu stands out as even more real and solid. A day, a life, has meaning because of the people who are connected to it and to us. The memories, traditions, gestures, and affections.
I am me because of the writers who have shared their stories with me; because of my family and friends; because of my teachers and mentors; because of the people who have loved me, and the people who have hurt me; the people who are here, and the ones who’ve gone; the ones near and those far; those I’ve known forever and those I’ve known only briefly.
One of the other things being part of a drum circle, even for only a few minutes, highlighted is that I have absolutely no rhythm. (Which isn’t a new discovery at all.) Think about it too much, and I completely lose the rhythm of drumming (or dancing or clapping or . . . well, anything). But if I stop thinking, and just listen to everyone around me, I can totally stay with them. With them, I can find the beat. Ubuntu.
NYC is not an easy place to live. The rent is high, the crowds are thick, the subways are stinky, the greenery is sparse. It’s easy to find things to complain about. But when you love it, you really love it. I had one of those weekends.
I went to the US Open for the first time on Thursday night, which was so much fun. A perfect late summer evening, quality time with my sister, a full moon, and seeing the last set from four rows back because the match ended so late. Going home I had train issues that could have made me hate the city. When I tried to make the connection to my train, it was not stopping at that station, you see. So I would have had to go in the opposite direction for a stop and then switch. At 1:30 in the morning. Instead, I went out to the street and got a cab–which is a treat for me. Riding over the Brooklyn Bridge and along the BQE, looking out at the city’s lights with the windows down, was the perfect end to an already great night.
Other things that I <3-ed about NYC this weekend:
* reading in the sunshine on the Brooklyn Promenade
* the Cyclone
* Nathan’s fries
* fantastic fireworks over the boardwalk at Coney Island
* lots of guacamole with friends
* Prospect Park
* the full moon
* the feeling of autumn in the air
* hearing one of my favorite albums wafting out a window down the block when I walked by
* and literally as I typed the last, a FIREWORK went off outside my window!
I am thankful that I woke up to the smell of the turkey cooking; that both of my siblings and I were all able to come home for the holiday; that we still put the Macy’s parade on while we make coffee and help around the kitchen and generally putz around; that everyone still stops for a minute when Santa comes at the end; that my cousins and their kids joined us; that we sit around, talking and listening to each other; that Thanksgiving is a day to slow down and catch up with life; that my parents’ home is a warm, inviting place full of life shining in a dark, snowy, starry night.
I am thankful for a job that I believe affects people and makes the world better; that I help to bring kids and teens the kinds of stories that will stick with them and help them figure out life, choice, love, school, friendship, independence, and so many other things; that I get to know and work with awe-inspiring, creative people; that what I do is all about connection.
I am thankful for amazing friends who are funny, smart, passionate, giving, strong, and generally incredible people.
I am thankful.