I’m a New Yorker, through and through.
Can’t tell you how many times I’ve crossed over the George Washington Bridge — sixteen singles in hand to pay that ever-rising toll — only to drive over the suspended bridge that spills out into the parkway stretched parallel with the Hudson River.
Can’t tell you how many deli lines I’ve stood in, taking my ticket and then ordering a bacon, egg, and cheese on a bagel — a New York bagel — the only kind of bagel in the whole wide world with the right ratio of crunch and fluff factor.
But I gotta tell ya, there’s only one way we take our bagels (when they’re not sandwiched with bacon, eggs, and cheese . . . of course). It’s not with a little bit or even a dollop of cream cheese. It’s with a smear, a whole, thick spread of cream cheese. And the bagel is rarely toasted because it doesn’t need to be when it’s as fresh as you can get ‘em in New York. My favorite place, of all places, to get bagels is Rockland Bakery. There, they roll them out on stacked racks by the hundreds — the sesame bagels, the pumpernickel bagels, the poppyseed bagels, and the salt bagels.
But, these days, I no longer live in New York — and I’m gluten-free (due to my health), so I miss my beloved bagels, cream cheese and all. One thing remains, though. One thing that’s always been true and will always be true.
It’s the proverbial . . . you can take the girl out of the city but you can’t take the city out of the girl.
I grew up just miles outside of New York City, and I can tell you the fast-paced hustle and bustle that the world knows New York for is true. We talk fast and we walk fast. We have places to be and we know where we’re going. Where I’m from, the Tri-State area, is easily one of the largest, most populated metropolitan areas in the United States. This makes opportunity in New York both abundant and scarce, which then drives cultural pressure to be competitive and competent.
We jaywalk, we cut corners. We do what we gotta do. We don’t have time to spare, not even a New York minute, because, for lots of different reasons — historically and presently — time is money and money is time.
All of this brings a smile to my face as I think about The City That Never Sleeps and its suburban sisters that are just as restless. But, it also stirs a question in my spirit as I think about the ways in which I wake and work and walk.
I feel it in my blood and my bones still — that city-pace living — even though I’m six hundred miles from home, living in the South where everything is seemingly slow. I notice the impulse when I’m going through my to-do’s and see the long list of things that need to be bought, fixed, and done. I see it when I rob Peter to pay Paul because I can’t wait another second to get a barking bill off my back. I see it when I’m out walking with my boys. Placing my hand on their backs, I gently nudge them to hurry along, muttering things like, “Let’s go,” and “Keep up,” though we’ve no real place to really get to.
In these moments, I’ve begun to examine my pace and ask myself: Why are you rushing? Why can’t you slow down?
As a writer, I’ve convinced myself that I live a slow life simply because I lead a pensive thought life. But, the two aren’t mutually exclusive. Just because I think deeply and dream of living a slow and rested life doesn’t mean I’m actually living it.
I have cards on the counter — cards for friends and family — that should have gone out a month ago. Instead, they’re sitting there blank and bare. I pass them, just like I whip past the magazines on my desk. I am surrounded by all of these pastimes, invitations to slow down and do things that take time and require intention and attention. Instead, I fast-walk through life, unhinged and speeding like a city subway with no brakes to slow or stop.
I love New York just as much as the next person but, my goodness, she has branded me with a birthmark that is hard to lose and let go of. Twelve years ago, I thought I gave this life up, this way of chasing after the kind of city-paced living that taunts you to go, go, go and do, do, do.
In the rare moments of quiet and calm, before I find myself reaching and rushing to the next thing — or the next place to be, or meal to make, or email to answer, or checkbox to check — I’m beginning to sense the Holy Spirit’s hand on my heart, leading me to believe that He alone can rewire the rhythm in my soul. I sense Him whispering to me, telling me to stall and stay a while longer, to tolerate the quiet, and spend my spare moments standing in awe of Him and all the work that He is doing.
Yes, this native New Yorker is coming to terms with the truth. That, we can slow our stroll, take our time putting the kids to bed, chopping our vegetables, and brewing the morning’s coffee. The one and only thing we need in a New York minute is Him.
All we really need right now — and forever more — is His presence, His Word hidden in our hearts, His praise on our lips.