Isn't It Pretty To Think So?

Dispatches on life, love and the human condition by a wanderer and hopeful romantic

Reflections on hunger, happiness and the Big Apple

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I’m back in Brooklyn now, and as if returning to the dead of winter after my lovely time away wasn’t enough torture, I’m on a three-day juice fast to cleanse myself of all the toxins I ingested and inhaled in Morocco, Portugal and over the holidays.

I’m nearly to the end of day two of the fast. (The days are shorter if you go to bed early; it’s 8pm and I’ll probably be asleep by 10.) I am actually feeling pretty good right now, but that’s probably because I’m on a sugar high from all the fruit juice. (Note to self: juice some veggies tomorrow.)

I haven’t eaten food — as in chewed and masticated something edible — in 48 hours now, and it’s been something of a revelation. I’m not as hungry as I thought I would be; don’t get me wrong, I get hungry, but when I do, I take a sip or two of juice and my hunger pangs go away instantly.

I’m a little weak physically — I went into Manhattan today to run a few errands and elderly people dashed past me as I climbed up the subway stairs. I expected that, but it’s not really as bad as I thought it would be.

It’s really what not eating does to the mind that’s proven most interesting. I feel slightly loopy and confused, and yet strangely clearheaded about things. The world around me feels unreal, dissolved into the background, yet my emotional reality is in hyper-focus.

It’s hard to explain, but I am having moments of enlightenment about people and situations that I haven’t had before. It’s like by removing the distraction of food, the mind is stripped down to its most basic level, and intuition and instinct become paramount. It’s a pretty cool feeling, to be honest, and I’m hoping it really is clarity and not hunger-induced delusion that I’m experiencing.

At the very least, my body really needed to cleanse after all of the rich food, alcohol and other toxins I put into it while I was away. My return to the states just in time for the December holidays added a whole new level of impurities to the equation. So it was time to flush it all out, just in time for the new year.

Being back has been difficult, I must say, but luckily seeing my family and friends has eased the transition. I’ve had some really lovely moments with people I love since I’ve been back, and I feel that much more grateful for them having been away, and knowing that I plan to leave again very soon.

Even before I started fasting, I felt more clear upon my return on a very basic emotional level. And the first thing that struck me when I returned to New York (and Philadelphia a little bit, too) is how unhappy everyone seems.

Granted, it’s been ridiculously cold way early for winter here on the East Coast (usually these frigid temperatures don’t happen until late January or February), so I’m sure people are none too pleased about that. (Hell, neither am I.) Winter in cold climates is a very bleak thing indeed, and I know that has something to do with the feeling in the air. But still, I feel this general sense of misery emanating from New York, something I felt even before I left.

I know it’s a broad generalization to be sure — some of my friends are actually pretty happy to be living here, and I know plenty of other New Yorkers who also love the city and wouldn’t want to be anywhere else.

In my opinion, though, they are in the minority — an opinion backed by research that New York is number 50 on the list of states where people are happiest — and more people than not are unhappy in New York.

Or, rather, they’re just unhappy in general, and they happen to be living here, quietly radiating unhappiness. I’m feeling that very strongly since I’ve been back, and I am trying to maintain a positive attitude despite that energy.

Even if I’m way off base about the general unhappiness of people here, I know one thing for sure: I don’t want to live here anymore.

Don’t get me wrong — it’s a great place to visit or to live part time. (Perhaps in the fall and the spring, my favorite seasons here; I was a fool to return in winter).

There are amazing things you can experience here that you can’t experience anywhere in the world, and I am so grateful for the time I’ve spent here, the friends I’ve met and the stories I have to tell about one of the greatest cities in the world.

For the first couple of years that I lived in New York, I would say that my greatest love affair here was with the city itself. I really loved the city as a tangible, living, breathing thing, as a character in the movie of my life, as my best friend who was always there for me when no one else was.

I loved New York when I lived in downtown Manhattan and would run on good-weather days at dusk over the Brooklyn Bridge, the Empire State Building in the distance reflecting orange from the setting sun.

I loved New York when I would walk down the streets of SoHo and NoLIta in the early hours of the morning on my way home from some urban adventure with my best friend who lived around the corner, and we would sing songs off-key not caring who heard us.

I loved New York, too, when I would bike around Manhattan and Brooklyn on sticky summer nights, on my way from one unexpected moment to the next, the breeze I made with my bicycle the only thing that cooled the still night air.

I loved New York every time I had a celebrity sighting, or saw an amazing theatrical production, or live musical performance, or an art exhibit that moved me, or an indie film that I knew hadn’t opened anywhere else in the country yet but was open here because New York is something special.

And even as I prepare to leave New York for a good long while, I still do love this city. I think it really is one of the greatest cities in the world, and that if you have the chance, you should come try on living here for awhile.

But now I know that doing that — living in New York full time — is a tough slog. While it has been one of the most amazing experiences I have ever had, it also has been one of the loneliest, and it is definitely not something I want to do anymore.

I know now my decision to stay only a short time before I leave again is the right one for me, and I look forward to returning to warmer and more cheerful climes very soon.

And it will be with the fondness I might feel for an ex-lover who I knew, in the end, just wasn’t right for me, that I will bid adieu to the Big Apple.

Author: elizabethmontalbano

I am a writer, photographer, lover, fighter, traveler and bon vivant currently residing in southwest Portugal.

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