Posted by: sulya | 7 December 2009


New York
Concrete jungle where dreams are made of,
There’s nothing you can’t do,
Now you’re in New York
These streets will make you feel brand new,
the lights will inspire you,
Let’s hear it for New York, New York, New York

– from Empire State of Mind, Jay-Z feat. Alicia Keys

I had a snow day from work this past Saturday.  I told myself I would get a thousand things done, did maybe two of them and then spent pretty much the rest of the day semi-comatose on the sofa in front of my 20 some-odd channels.  At a certain point channel surfing lead me to Much Music and to the song quoted above.  I’d never heard it before because I pretty much never listen to the radio and it’s new.  Good energy even if I don’t like all of it.  I fell particularly hard for the line “These streets will make you feel brand new.”

I was in New York a while back.  Hot summer.  Tumult.  Turmoil.  Had some plans to do some things that didn’t work out and I found myself sad and worried and sitting in Battery Park.  In the grass, staring at a pigeon until he stared back.  I had only to lift my eyes from the ground to see the Statue of Liberty.

My paternal grandmother – the one for whom I’m named – came into Ellis Island in the very early part of the 20th century.  I have no idea what that statue meant to her when the boat docked and they changed her name to Sara.  I have no idea what the word “freedom” meant to her, if anything.

Freedom.  Liberty.

They are bandied about so much these days it’s hard to classify and define them in any generally effective way and  I hesitate to even say them sometimes because they can be used as an excuse for doing some pretty hideous things.

But when I was last in New York, sitting in that grass,  there was meaning.  The statue, the words “freedom” and “liberty.”  It was intensely personal, too, like a caress down your spine.

Shivers.  Clarity.  Bittersweet Pleasure.

For one moment I was entirely free from doubt.

Doubts about myself, about my life, my choices, my beauty, my intelligence, my passion, curiosity, instincts.  I could see my failures and shortcomings too, but without judgement, without meta layers of self-denigration.

Just me.  As I was then, as I have always been, as I am.

And I liked her.  I trusted her.

Then I forgot her again.  All of her.  Over and over.

A friend of mine drives a Jeep Liberty and at a certain point they started to show up everywhere.  I’d be sitting at a light and there’d be one behind me, one on either side.  I joked that it was like he was sending them.

But he wasn’t.

I was calling for them.  I was writing freedom into the poetry of traffic around me, surrounding myself with “liberty.”  The freedom to let go of bad habits and find that inherent trust and like of self again.  The freedom to – as I am always saying to my four year-old son – make “good choices.”  I was trying to remind myself of what it felt like to sit in the grass that day – both lost and found

And I think I am closer now.  Lying on that sofa, listening to that song about New York.  Remembering.  Feeling brand new.

Doesn’t mean I’m any less sad or worried about certain things.  Just means I’m not taking responsibility for more than my share anymore and maybe it’s going to stick this time because instead of it just being a flash of certainty, it’s day-to-day thing.  A little bit more every day.

Like I’ve held my breath, drunk the glass of water upside down and stopped hiccuping. I may actually, truly, be free.

But, maybe I should go back to New York City.  Just to be sure.



  1. Be free, darling.


    Yah, they love you ANYWHERE.

    We all a little NYC now and then.

  2. Thank you, love.

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