Overloaded

When I first moved back to Baltimore from New York, I went through a very difficult time.  I think there were a few different reasons: for one, I had just left the most stressful and psychologically damaging environment I've ever encountered.  For another, I had been displaced: my little brother was all grown up, my friends had moved away to colleges of their own, and even my room was taken (a friend of my sister's was living there.)  I also had a lot of extra time on my hands, my only responsibility being a standard nine-to-five job, and when I have too much free time I ususally end up tangled in a web of introspective mishmash.

Of course, this time came to an end -- with my knees buckling under me as Rob swept me off my feet. But there was one aspect of this period I never understood: my emotions were constantly in high gear.  I went to see The Grinch that Stole Christmas and slunk down into my seat, trying to hide my tears, when the monster's heart grew three sizes bigger.  ("Are you crying?" my date asked in disbelief.)  On the way home from Dancer in the Dark I cried so hard that a stranger stopped to see if I was all right (and if you've ever ridden a Baltimore city bus, you know that's really something.)  Even a glimpse of sun shining through the clouds on a cold day might set me off.  It wasn't just hormones, either; there was a profound spiritual element to these outbursts, as if my eyes had been opened to the great suffering and beauty that were, together, the meaning of our earthly existence.  In some ways it was a gift; in others, a great burden.

Last week this all came back to me as I read a sociologist's take on city life, an excerpt from Georg Simmel's work:

"There is perhaps no psychic phenomenon which has been so unconditionally reserved to the metropolis as has the blase attitude.  The blase attitude results first from the rapidly changing and closely compressed contrasting stimulations of the nerves . . . [city life] agitates the nerves to their strongest reactivity for such a long time that they finally cease to react at all."

Did living in the city make me act this way when I left it?  I don't know.  But it's an interesting thought!