If you belonged to the world, the world would love its own; but because you do not belong to the world, and I have chosen you out of the world, the world hates you. John 15:19
I am a bi-annual visitor to New York City and fashion myself as somewhat of an expert on all things Gotham. I am more than eager to share my experiences and recommendations to anyone, asked or not; yet if I were placed among a room-full of life-long New Yorkers I'm sure I would draw a few eye rolls or perchance a Bronx cheer. They have a condescending tolerance of the tourist...we do grease the wheel a bit, but how annoying. I admire and emulate them, their little over-priced apartments, yellow cabs and frenetic pace -- but after a few days I am fastening my seatbelt as the plane points home.
I am not a New Yorker, and make no claim; but I point with pride that in a very small way I have succeeded in disguising my tourist status with one of the more ubiquitous residents of the City: the hand-bill hawkers.
They are on every corner; "Want to see a comedy show?" "Would you like to try a tour bus?" "Are you going up the Empire State Building?" They try their best to lure us to venues well-suited to remove tourist dollars from their owners, and most of us are fairly easy to spot with our glazed eyes pointed skyward and cameras clutched firmly in hand...but not I. I have carefully observed the natives walk by unscathed, and have adopted their mannerisms and style. Eyes straight forward, a look of disinterest with a touch of malaise, and nary a map or camera in sight...nine times out of ten, I walk by unmolested. While I am not a native, for fleeting moments I feel that way every time I fail to draw their attention.
It is a ruse, a well-executed act by a yokel from the streets of Buffalo trying to be something he admires but is not. I love New York, but it is not my home, and when there I am but a tourist. I work with a lovely lady who lived much of her life in New York and recently moved to the area, and when I pontificate on the lure of the City she says in no uncertain terms, "Nice place to visit. To live there? Not so much."
Mel Torme sang, "There's a Broken Heart for Every Light on Broadway", and I am sure he was probably right. Many come to New York with dreams in hand and find success, but many more do not. It is a hard place, I am told, one that does not show mercy. Art Garfunkel pined "New York, you've got money on your mind...and my words won't make a dime worth's of difference..." As Manhattan continues to gentrify one thing is abundantly clear: money means welcome. Those who have not are welcome...to leave.
I have done a yeoman's job of convincing myself that I would fit right in and find success. I am in no position to live in New York, and am quite sure such an attempt would end in disaster; yet I consider and plan. There isn't any truth to it, and down deep I know that. My wife is firmly grounded in reality, but I have an uncanny ability to fabricate reality when it suits my fancy.
As Advent begins I have been gifted with a realization that fabricated reality for me is not limited to New York City. I have been playing a part, and the ruse is falling apart.
When the plane lifts off the ground in Buffalo on route to the Big Apple I become something different, but something apart from reality. Almost two years ago I left my faith for the world, for many varied reasons. I have tried to fit in, fit the bill...but I have failed. I am paralyzed by anxiety and angst. I suffer bouts of sleeplessness and anger. I have lost compassion, patience and mercy. I drink too much, weigh too much, and am away from home too much. I tried to become something...but it was not reality; it has beaten me. I have discovered that living to survive means nothing; living to succeed is self-perpetuating defeat and empty of meaning. I cannot dedicate my days to obtaining the comforts of existence. I need to hope in the reality of eternal life.
I have not divorced myself from the Church completely. When in New York I attend daily Mass at St. Patrick's, an hour in 24 of play and adventure; in my life I have kept my Sunday observance, kept appearances...but it has been a grain of sand, really. For so long my faith defined me; now it is window-dressing, nothing more. A hard reality to swallow.
I am not a native of the Earthly city; that has become increasingly clear. It has rejected me as it has rejected the hopes and dreams of many before me and many to come. I am not at home with continuous self-promotion. I am not at ease with hardness of heart. The world knows that, and in some ways mocks me because of it; unlike the ruse I have prefected for the hand-bill hawkers of the streets of New York, at every turn I am recognized for who I am...I can no longer pretend. I see that now.
I throw myself upon the mercy of my God and ask your prayers. I need to come home.