We spent the weekend in NYC, a city that, for me, redefines itself on each encounter. New York is oversized- everything from the buildings to the crowds can seem bigger than you can imagine. Yet in such a place, the small details make deeper impacts.
Walking from our hotel towards the train station yesterday, I noticed amazing architectural details on everything from street grates, bronze medallions embedded in the wide sidewalks, to bronze window protectors that looked like real rope, intertwined. There are some great buildings on Lexington near Grand Central where the designs carved into the granite evoke both art nouveau and almost an aztec sensibility. These small details and hidden beauty I usually miss when I’m in New York, mostly because I tend to be hurrying from place to place, going to or from a meeting, or looking at the things in the windows instead of the container they’re found in.
The muggy day, where rain seemed to come in the light sprinkle variety- just enough to make me nervous about taking out my camera, but not hard enough to require us to duck inside- made the walk through the streets Sunday morning peaceful. There weren’t too many people up and walking around in this weather, so it felt like New York was more ours than usual. While I wish I had taken more photos of these small details that really captured my attention, I’m just as happy that they were left to my memory and experience.
Chris Penn wrote a post today about how we sometimes want to bottle moments that make us happy. Simple sounds and smells are incredibly evocative for bringing up emotions, and I know the sense of Miami tropical humidity and rain in New York will bring up this walk with my family, noticing the every day, feeling lucky and special.
The trick to creating these moments, and to re-experiencing them when we need them, very much in the method-acting way of evoking real emotions when we need them, depends n being present and in the moment in the first place. Not worrying about the past or future, but being fully connected in the moment. That sounds simple, but so often we are in a place, or with friends, but mentally, we are making lists, thinking about what clever thing to say next, or worrying about what people think of us. We have a noisy cocktail party happening within our own skulls
, with our self-talk drowning out our ability to pay any attention, to experience our friends, our family, our surroundings.
The thing with people checking email on their phones, checking weather, not turning off the ringer- all of this is not just a question of manners. It’s a question of priorities. If you are constantly taking other calls while you are speaking to your mom, your spouse, or your kids- if you are trying to answer emails in an attempt to multitask while your spouse is talking to you n the phone or in person- this tells the other person, there in the room with you, that they are less important to you than the other stuff demanding your attention. Is this what the people closest to you deserve?
Learning to unplug, to go device free, to be in the moment requires its own amount of focus in the present. Sometimes it means confronting people in your life who are unhappy with you. It means facing situations that are less predictable than email or online interactions. Things can be messy and risky. People you have to interact with in person may or may not like you, they may judge you on the way you turn a phrase, or what you wear. Its more personal, more risky, but it’s also more rewarding. The in-person interactions you have will always mean more to you than the transient, electronic driven interactions. The touch of your child’s hand. The kiss of your spouse first thing in the morning and last thing at night. The contented sigh. A hug from a close friend. The joy in the eyes of someone when they spot you from across the room. This means more than any tweet ever will.
Never underestimate the power of being in the moment. This is what will matter in the long run.