Snapshots

Monday, Penn Station, 6:33 p.m. I’m standing with a few hundred other people, staring at the Amtrak departure board, hoping that the Northeast Regional is leaving on schedule. Alas, it is not. The encouraging ON TIME message for Penn Stationour 6:43 departure shifts to 20 MINUTES LATE. Then 35 MINUTES LATE. But as the red digital clock display clicks past that deadline, no sign of our train.

I stare at the board, survey the cavernous waiting room, checking to see if I can figure out where a hoard of people are streaming out of one of the gates, indicating our train’s arrival. I listen to classical music—right now, Erik Satie— piping through the PA system, alternating with NYC and Jersey accents announcing all the other trains that are leaving on time, interspersed with a ubiquitous, calming woman’s voice telling us to watch for bags left unattended and other suspicious behavior. “See something, say something,” she melodiously cautions.

Travel is exhausting. I am wrapping up two days of business meetings in metro-New York—much of it devoted to the fall Board of Trustees meeting of The Good People Fund, a wonderful Jewish philanthropy, and a late Monday afternoon meeting with some of my favorite clients, who are based in Manhattan. I enjoy seeing all of these people, learning from them, feeling like I’m making an important contribution as a volunteer and through my consulting practice.

Rubin MuseumBut I am tired. Very tired. Travel requires much vigilance. I have been extra-careful of my bandaged ulcers, wary of getting an infection. Over and over, I’ve cleansed my hands and bandages with anti-bacterial hand gel, just to be safe.

I’ve packed my overnight, rolling suitcase (a great gift from my sister for my birthday last spring) as sparingly as possible. But still, it is heavy to schlep up and down stairs when there is no escalator or ramp, and my right wrist is tired from pulling it around Midtown. I’ve worn my favorite, most comfortable shoes. But my feet are wearing out.

And I’ve made many strategic trips to the bathroom. I really, really don’t want to get stuck in the subway or walking long city blocks, suddenly needing to go.

Chess Players NYCI’ve tried to balance all of these logistics, all the physical strain of travel, all the concentration and participation in hours of meetings, with some moments of pure pleasure. If I push too hard without pausing, I feel spacey and sometimes even woozy. This is incredibly frustrating. But my body just has limits. And there is wisdom in honoring that.

So this trip, I squeezed in a brief tour of the Rubin Museum of Art, a little gem on West 17th Street that contains stunning art of the Himalayas and surrounding regions. As I strolled through the galleries, serene Buddhas offered a moment of peaceful reflection, and my breathing eased.

Snapping photos on my iPhone between appointments also provided a good way to stop, slow down and pay attention to local color—chess players in Union Square and a farmer’s market, the slice-of-pie silhouette of the Flatiron Building and my beloved, iconic Empire State Building.

I got so immersed in taking photos, in fact, walking uptown toward Penn Station, that I arrived with only 15 minutes to make one more pit stop and pick up a sandwich and drink for supper on the train, before boarding. Or so I thought.

Empire State BuildingStanding here, watching, waiting. It’s nearly 7:30 p.m. before the voice on the loud speaker announces that the Northeast Regional is leaving on Track 8W. I hustle with my rolling bag to the gate. Settling into my seat in the Quiet Car (no cell phones or loud conversations—would someone please tell the young lady a few seats back to read the sign?), I’m relieved to finally be on my way home

As our train emerges from the Penn Station tunnels, I pause from the follow-up email I’m writing to savor the view—the New York City skyline, sparkling like diamonds and rubies against the black night. My hands feel fine.

Evelyn Herwitz blogs weekly about living fully with chronic disease, the inside of baseballs, turtles and frogs, J.S. Bach, the meaning of life and whatever else she happens to be thinking about at livingwithscleroderma.com.

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