Third Place

Dear Friends, 

It’s been three months since my husband, Craig, and I settled in Manhattan. While I understood it would be a challenge and take time to make meaningful connections here – everyone seems to scurry from one place to the next in hurried determination – I didn’t expect it to be this harrowing.

After all, I had no trouble making friends when living abroad in two foreign countries. I had built-in opportunities through the boys’ schools and sports clubs, my workout groups, and neighbors. It’s true that we are new empty nesters, and our sons are now grown and live in different cities; we can no longer count on the ease of meeting other parents through them. But why am I surprised that I haven’t made a single connection on an island of 23 square miles and 1.63 million residents?

I partially blame myself. 

Since our return from Europe (Craig and I lived in Stockholm and London for over eight years), we have been focused on work and reconnecting with friends and family in neighboring states, gathering for celebrations we would otherwise miss if we still lived across an ocean and a six-hour time difference.

I’ve also been spending too much time inside our apartment. I didn’t set out to pass my days sitting at a small desk in the guest room, but I needed a private space, a room of my own if you allow, to establish a routine as a new writer. Writing a memoir is a soul-searching endeavor that requires you to revisit and examine significant moments in the past, some of which can shake and bring you to tears. Until I was more comfortable with the process, I wouldn’t consider venturing out, although I fantasized about living a writer’s life in the city. (There’s also the fact that I often talk aloud. Something about speaking the words makes them real and helps with editing. Not sure the public would appreciate my practice, but then again, this is New York City 🤓.)

My online writing community and work as a property manager and board Co-Chair for a national nonprofit kept me from noticing that I hadn’t yet made a friend IRL. I had grown accustomed to my routine and wondered if I had unknowingly become an introvert. (The answer is brilliantly clear for those who know me well.) I even retook the 16 personalities test to see if my source of inspiration and energy has shifted these past years, especially as I spend a good portion of my days in isolation. But, I am a person who needs the energy of others to be at my best.

So, I searched earnestly for fellow writers and ponderers in local cafés. Many coffee shops I visited did not invite lingering, as evidenced by the limited seating and lines of nomophobics edging toward pick-up counters. Admittedly more of a fan of their community outreach than coffee, I imagined spending mornings in the creative buzz of a Starbucks, fueling on their milder Veranda coffee blend and tapping away on my laptop. I wandered to several of their renovated stores near my apartment and saw similar changes where they notably traded their inviting nooks and tables for the digital convenience of preordering and take-out.

I’m wondering what is left now that this beloved Third Place for writers and creatives doesn’t seem to exist in brick-and-mortar. Surely there is something I’m not considering. After all, this is a major city. If London has local pubs, Stockholm cozy cafés and Fika, undoubtedly something similar exists here.

In the meantime, I want to be intentional about making friends I can give my energy to while discerning the kinds of people I want to surround myself with. I’ve thought about this for some time: how we are the average of the five people with whom we spend the most time. In an exciting city like this one, I’ll need to think differently about ways to make connections outside of writing and step out of my comfort zone.

I am deeply grateful for my community beyond state and country lines and virtually, including you, dear readers. Thank you for taking the time to read and share.

In the spirit of friendship, I am curious if there is a facet of your life that can benefit from contemplating or thinking differently. What would stepping out of your comfort zone look like?

With love and this Season’s best wishes to you for a healthy and joy-filled 2023.

Nancy

Morning bite at a London cafe before writing

Capturing Our Stories

Dear Friends,

The six-month memoir writing course I began in May is coming to a close, and I am feeling apprehensive. While I have a clear view of the end, my memoir is far from complete. I’ll need to create for myself the encouragement, community, and accountability the course and its excellent instructors provide. Even though they are preparing us for this transition, I am nervous.

My final coaching consultation is coming up soon, and I want to take full advantage of my coach’s time and expertise. To prepare, I read my intake form – a series of questions they asked us to complete at the beginning – to remind myself why I chose to take the course and, more importantly, why I need to write my coming-of-age story. In the form, I found a letter I forgot I had written. I wrote the letter to my future self, who, throughout the course, would likely be drowning in self-doubt and the range of emotions writers often feel when they expose themselves to the page.

As keepers of our family’s stories, it’s lovely to capture these memories in a journal to pass on to our children and younger relatives. Our unique journeys are tied to our ancestors and our bloodline and inform us who we are. We can learn so much about ourselves by looking back. We have the opportunity to immortalize the memories that live in us.

Thank you for reading. xo


Dear Nancy,


You are finally embarking on a creative journey to write your coming-of-age story. You thought it was over when you released La Mariposa to the world. I mean, what a challenging pushed-you-to-the-very- fucking-edge experience that was! And you did it. Remember how that perpetually dark month kicked your ass, girl? Sweden in November, especially when the brief sunshine didn’t penetrate the thick, wooly clouds for seven entire weeks, is no joke. Yet, you worked tirelessly through the depression to cross the finish line and accomplish what you believe was your calling on this earth. But after two years of soul-searching for what’s next, you found there is still more to do. The piece of the puzzle needed to complete that mission is your story – the one that led you to create La Mariposa in the first place.


Long gone are your abuelitos and abuelitas whose songs and stories link you to your Puerto Rican tierra and ancestry. Your parents, constantly overwhelmed, never learned them or wrote them down. Soon they will take all remnants of their past with them, save a few photographs that survived the divorce. Your journey, as unique to theirs as it has been, is tied to them and your bloodline. It’s now up to you to preserve what you can for the next generation, lest they forget who they are.
You also vowed to help someone like you along their journey so they wouldn’t feel as alone and invisible as you did, abandoned at the dilapidated bridge between cultures. You succeeded in adding a new link to the family chain, but it came at a steep, arguably unnecessary cost.


Expect Imposter to show up at the door often. When it does, tell it to fuck off. We both know it’s not truly going to vanish. But trust that you will do what you always do to forge ahead: remind yourself that you intend to be helpful, that the work is what really matters, not the lies that will inevitably pop up in your head.
Silencer will undoubtedly be there, too. It will try to cover up what needs to be said to protect the familia. Take comfort in knowing that you will focus on all dimensions of your characters, including the good, and focus on the reason for the chosen behaviors. That’s where truth rests.


You’ve chosen to work alongside Brooke and Linda Joy because you’ve taken many of their classes, and you believe they want to help memoirists bring their stories to life. You know they will do their part to support and nudge you ahead, but it is up to you
to face the intimidating page alone. Take comfort that you will grow as a writer and find your voice with each page you write.


I hope you stretch wide outside your comfort zone and create something you are proud of.


Love,

Nancy

This Thanksgiving, I felt the urgency to take a picture of Papi’s hands. He’s a can-fix-anything kind of person, and I never want to forget what his capable hands look like.