I think fall has (dare I say it??) finally arrived here in Astoria. I haven’t looked at any future forecasts for the upcoming days, but last night I slept with my window open in long pants and a t shirt and it was GLORIOUS. That is enough of a sign for me. The other, and most obvious sign for me, is that school is back in session. Some parents are rejoicing with a resounding, “Yipee!”, while others are wiping away tears as their little ones go to pre-school or kindergarten or day care for the first time, thinking, “How did they get so big? Where did the time go?” I literally do the exact same thing every time I get a picture of my nephew. He is the love of my life, my main man, my bff, and after spending 5 weeks with him upstate, coming back to the city has never been more difficult. I love my family to pieces and going from one extreme (being surrounded by loved ones All. The. Time.) to the other (being alone 80% of the time) has not been fun. I feel lonely and listless, as if without the love of others to urge me on, I have little direction and motivation. Sure, I have my singing and auditions and jobs to fill in the gaps, but it’s not the same, is it? No, it’s definitely not. The void is still there. I’m fine until I experience what I didn’t know I was missing, but then once it’s uncovered, what do you?
What I did was get back in the swing of Single Girl Cookies, Astoria style. Last week I was at Immaculate Conception School for my first drop back in the neighborhood since being away. Now, if you’ll recall back to my last drop before I left town for August, I was at Sal, Kris and Charlie’s having a not-so-pleasant encounter with Charlie as he became increasingly belligerent in an attempt to give me my next drop spot. He had said go to Immaculate Conception Church because that is where his mother is a parishioner and for all the work they do with the homeless.
So went last Thursday to see about sharing the cookie love. If you’re unfamiliar with IC, it’s a giant church on the corner of 29th and Ditmars, really quite beautiful. I locked up my bike and walked around the building to see if I could find an entrance to the church office. I was raised Methodist and we have a rectory that holds the administrative offices for the church, so I was looking for something like that. Couldn’t find a thing. So, i went into the church (the only open door) to see if that would yield different results.
Nearly empty, save for a one or two people, the inside of the church is really something. I always feel, when entering a catholic or orthodox church, this urge to be hushed and extra reverent. This was no different. It’s quite large inside, with electric votives dotting the length of the church for prayers, confessional booth off the right side, and long wooden benches that could easily fit 4 to 5 hundred people. Not finding what I was looking for, I sat for a moment. I now had the church all to myself and felt moved to pray. Prayer is a personal thing. How we pray, when we do it, if you even use that word. But we all do it. Maybe you call it meditation. Maybe it’s just a quiet moment where you check in with yourself. This was me needing a moment to ‘right’ myself again and move in a forward direction. Here I had biked all the way up to Ditmars (fairly far from where I live), toting around a plate of cookies, going to this place because a man I don’t particularly care for sent me here, still feeling lost and lonely in my own life – I was in need of a time out.
I came back out, mentally weighing my options. I started to walk down the block a ways and noticed an entrance to Immaculate Conception School. It’s amazing how blind I can be to the rest of the world when I’m too inward focused. I thought, Surely someone is in here that would appreciate cookies, and I was right.
I rang the bell and was let in and greeted at the top of the stairs by a woman that turned out to be the principal, Eileen Harnischfeger. I started explaining why I was there and she stopped me and invited me into the office where I could explain once for everyone. In the office, I met about 5 more women. I started again, got half way through before someone said, “Hey, aren’t you the cookie lady? I saw something about you on the news!” 🙂 She had recognized me from the spot Channel 7 ABC Eyewitness News did this summer. She proceeded to fill the other ladies in on what Single Girl Cookies is all about. I told them I was sent to IC Church but not having found anyone there to deliver to, thought they surely would appreciate a sugary pick-me-up as school gets back in session. I was met with a resounding “yes!” and as I left, I’d bet those cookies didn’t last 20 minutes.
My return for the plate has now sent me to another catholic school, St. Francis of Assisi, on 46th Street and 21st Ave, which I went to this week. I had a somewhat similar experience there, where I could not find anyone to give my cookies to! I went on Thursday around 3:20, which I figured was the perfect time to miss the chaos of children leaving school, but still catch the teachers. It worked at the last school, I thought it would work here! Wrong. I saw cars in the lots, and even a kid or two in the playground. but couldn’t get in. So, I tested my indomitable spirit and went up the next day!
I made sure I went up earlier in the day to make sure people would still be there. This time when I rang the bell, I was let in and also greeted at the top of the stairs by Principal Anne Stefano the way Ms. Harnischfeger had greeted e at Immaculate Conception. (I definitely like the safety aspect of that). She seemed skeptical at first (as many of them are) but warmed up to my initiative as I went on. I’ll be back up there on Monday or Tuesday for my plate and we’ll see where they send me next! I wonder how many Catholic schools there are in the neighborhood….I may be making the rounds 🙂
After all is said and done, I still feel a little bit lost, a little bit lonely and a little bit out of sorts. But not as much as before. By looking outside yourself and helping others, you open yourself up the the world, to connection, and you start to refocus your energies. Instead of “Man, this sucks, what about me?” it becomes, “What can I do for you?” and takes that negative feeding energy and creates something good. And as I’m sure my friends can attest, talking about it helps. If you’ve got someone to take to about the way you feel, you’re not right then that you’re not alone. None of us are.
So as I continue down my path of self discover and sharing kindness, I know that day when things feel ‘right’ is drawing closer and closer. I’m not there yet. But I’ll get there.
Copyright 2013, Renee Heitmann