Musings + Essays

On Living in New York Right Now.

By: Jen Shoop

It has been difficult to like living in New York this past month. I mean–it can be difficult to like living in New York under normal circumstances, but it has been particularly so in the context of this pandemic. We have no other options, of course: driving to my parents’ would have put them at risk; renting a house somewhere else seemed financially and logistically irresponsible given that we’d no sense for the duration of this situation; and we weren’t comfortable with the ethics of leaving the “epicenter” of the pandemic anyhow. But it has been tough. There have been strings of days where ambulances have careened down the street outside my window every other minute, en route to Mount Sinai. There have been heart-rending stories of how this virus has impacted loved ones and their loved ones. There have been desperate emails from doctors in our social network asking for spare PPE for their hospitals, and a particularly disheartening text from one dear doctor friend and former neighbor: “I’m just trying to survive.” On the self-pitying front, there have been limited trips to Central Park in weeks: we rarely leave our apartment unless to walk the dog or make an emergency food run. The Mayor insists exercise is essential to wellness but how on earth to balance with the narrowness of sidewalks and the lurking potential of contracting the virus from, say, the handrail in our lobby, at least during what seems to be the peak of this pandemic? There has been the startling, pit-forming realization that we are one of four units in our building that remains occupied. There have been moments of frustration when our groceries have not arrived, or we are unable to place a new order, and we are lingering over a few sad-looking strawberries and the last dregs of milk for mini. There have been very long days of entertaining two small children while running on fumes in under 2,000 square feet.

We have felt cooped up and desperate for sunshine and one afternoon I must have terrified my father when I went silent on the other end of the line before saying, through a wobbly voice: “This is hard.”

It is hard for everyone, everywhere. And it is very hard for some.

But I have been wondering why we live here right now.

And yet. New York always makes it up to you. More than that: she always makes it, period. She is tough. She hangs in there. Britain’s known for its stiff upper lip, but New York’s is nothing to shake a stick at. When you least expect it, she cheers you on through the text of a neighbor wishing you a Happy Easter! and inquiring after your children and you feel a new bloom of kinship with this city. And she still shows off in the spring, even when that spring can only be enjoyed from a window fourteen stories above a street on the Upper West Side, and reminds you, through the reverberating cheers that echo across her sixteen (?) avenues every night at 7 p.m., that she is sturdy, resilient, all-American grit and that she’s not going anywhere.

I miss seeing more of her than the ten or twelve windows in my apartment permit, but that day will come.

In the meantime, sending extra love to my fellow New Yorkers today–hang in there. We are, it seems, through the worst.

Post Scripts.

+Swings — a memory from Central Park in the not-so-distant past (though it feels like a different life, now).

+Lessons from childhood.

+These elegant, scallop-trim sheets are 40% off!!!

+Still some crazy-good steals in Dondolo’s clearance section: a $16 cardigan, the most precious smocked floral blouse (just bought this for mini), and the sweetest bubble for a baby.]

+I have been largely focused on buying and organizing activities for my toddler, but micro could use a little variety, too. Ordering him this classic.

+A precious (affordable!) sunhat for a little gal. (More bonnet / sun hat ideas in this Magpie Mail post.)

+From Shopbop’s recent markdowns: a chic, late spring sweater for under $40, Chanel vibes for $136, and who else has been eyeing this Ulla dress forever?!

+These floral hoops are just so pretty.

+Micro’s Patagonia fleece is now marked down to an astonishing $31.

+Such a pretty set for a little lady.

+These espadrilles in the blue floral stripe would look just perfect with a breezy white dress this summer.

+Shirt dresses FTW.

+God bless Tim McGraw.

+Have you stocked up on new loungewear? You deserve some.

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21 thoughts on “On Living in New York Right Now.

  1. Coming to this a week late, but wanted to say that you will be stronger after this crisis, just as New York will! I think it’s extremely admirable of you & your family to shelter in place at home in NYC while so many people have left town (at great risk to others). I know I, too, would grapple with the ethics of leaving the epicenter, and I think it speaks volumes about your character that you stayed, and are taking it seriously. I know the old adage that it takes a decade to make a New Yorker, but I think you’ve well earned your badge!

    Stay safe; stay well β€” xx

  2. Oh Jen, I am thinking of you and your family. My kids are the exact same age and it is SO HARD even in DC where we have a little more room to breathe. I can’t imagine how tough this must be in NYC yet you have shown such calmness, grace and patience – three things I feel I am sorely lacking these days! Your blog was a highlight of my day before all of this, but even more so now. Stay safe and sending virtual hugs and cocktails! Xoxo

    1. Oh, Katie! Thank you so much for this sweet and encouraging and generous note. Sending hugs and cocktails back your way, too. xx

  3. My husband and I moved from Manhattan in January to northern Virginia, and it is so eerie to hear from friends who still live in New York — and for us to imagine what our life would be like if we had stayed. Sending you and yours all the good vibes/thoughts/prayers during this very difficult time ❀️ You are so right — the same grit that makes New York a difficult place to live is also what will help it make it through this.

    On a related note: I loved the mention on your Instagram stories the other day about your neighborhood singing New York, New York — gave me all the feels as a former New Yorker who will always love the city!

    1. Hi Megan — Ahh, you know it too well, then. It’s a double-edged sword, this city! And man, it was SO moving to hear the streets of UWS break out into song together. I was watching out the window, trying to hold it together, and then I looked down and saw this sweet older couple dancing on the sidewalk and I totally lost it. New York spirit!!


  4. My sister is an RN in NYC at a major hospital and has been working on one of their “COVID floors” for the past month now. We’ve driven into the city to drop off supplies to her and it was so eerie to drive through the UWS at 7pm on a balmy Thursday night in early April and see the city so desolate. There were some people out walking dogs and food shopping. But for the most part – no one.

    I cannot wait to gallivant around the city, be it in August, October or even next January. There is no way out of this but through and NY will make it through!

    On another note – I am currently quarantining with my parents and high school aged brother. My mom has turned to me countless times and said “I really feel for the people with kids under 10”. It’s HARD. Sending hugs and wishes for baby and toddler naps!

    1. Hi Molly! Yes – you’ve seen it first-hand. So little traffic and the pedestrian vibe is…tense. It’s a weird time. You are so right: no way out, just gotta buckle down and stick it out. Thank you for the well wishes and a special hug and thank you to your brave sister. Thinking of her.


  5. Thinking of you all in NY! Here is a nice book and coloring book by a SF Bay Area pediatric psychiatrist you may find helpful.

    Dr. Daniela Owen wants to share a free resource that she put together with the help of illustrators, a non-profit, a foundation, and her husband. They’ve written a book for children to help them cope with the current global pandemic and created both an illustrated book and a coloring book version (both attached to this email). The book validates the distress children are experiencing during such an uncertain time and uses mindfulness and cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) strategies to help them manage discomfort. Their hope is to spread these free resources as widely as possible. So please send along to anyone or any organizations that might benefit from these books.

  6. I was hoping you’d speak to this and am so glad you did (so poignantly, as always!)…glad to hear you are all hanging in there despite the circumstances. I can’t believe only four units are currently occupied. I’m sure you’ve heard this from your parents, but things in DC aren’t nearly as extreme as in NYC in this case, but it alarms me how many people just seem so…lax? about the whole thing. We’re intentionally planning our dog walks based on high-walk traffic times (longest walk pre-8am, mid-length right after lunch, and shortest right after the workday since the sidewalks are busiest at the latter) but it seems like so many people (cough, runners) aren’t being respectful of social distancing! It’s so weird. Also, I’m sure you guys do this as much as you can, but we take two paper towels out with us any time we leave and use that to push elevator buttons and open doors. I’m excited for the time that ending every day doesn’t require sanitizing door handles, keys, phones, and light switches but like the commenter above, am trying to remind myself that our 540 square feet is what’s keeping us safe right now. Sending love your way!

    1. Smart, Monica – I actually hadn’t thought about the paper towels to push elevator buttons and now feel like an idiot. Thank you!

      Sending love right back at you. We’ll make it through this!!!

  7. I’m sending you love Jen!!! Down here in Brooklyn, the scene is similar. I only live in a 10-unit building, but more people are vacating each week. This can freak me out and also, admittedly, makes me jealous. “I wish I had somewhere to go,” I think, bitterly, but then, realize, of course I *could* go somewhere but staying here feels the best choice for me and my family right now. (It has helped me a little to view the people leaving through a bit of a selfish lens: Fewer people in the building means less risk for us.)

    Re: Exercise. I am so over people telling me to exercise, as if it’s feasible in a tiny 2-BR apartment with 2 cats and baby and husband WFH. I feel I would give anything to walk — or run! — but even with so many leaving the city, it’s still way too dense out there (for me) to be anything but anxious when I’m outside, which I only do for groceries in a mask and gloves.

    It is hard. It is so, so hard.

    Wise words from my therapist: “Anything you can think to do to make your life easier right now is the right thing to do.”

    I repeat this sentence to myself many times a day. And also, “Power through with love” which I read on your blog! Thank you.


    1. Sending love right back to you, Joyce. Big hug. Big, deep breath. Your words feel like a lifeline as I realize that so many other lovely moms are in this city, grappling with the same fears and concerns and complications and just trying to do their best — you make me feel normal :). I smirked at your comment about “people telling me to exercise.” It’s the same way I feel about people telling me to “savor this time at home with your kids.” I mean, yes. But also — AHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHH!

      Will be thinking about what to do to make my life easier :). Thank you. I can tell you that my hour of audiobook listening is really, really helping.


    2. hahaha. “Savor every moment!” Sure, a fine sentiment at its core. AND one could argue it’s literally life’s work to learn how to savor the present moment. When people tell me that, I comfort myself by remembering, unless I’m talking with a Zen Master like Thich Nhat Hanh, the person advising that I savor my every moment is certainly not savoring their every moment on their side. πŸ™‚ Now I’m going to go do some audiobook listening!

  8. I feel you! I’ve been waking up earlier than ever to get in my daily run or walk before the streets/park get too crowded. As long as I’m out the door before 6:30am and get creative with my routes, I’m ok. I have been doing a lot of running in the road. I imagine it’s a lot harder to get out early and move with agility with small children in tow, though. I have been trying to think of my <300 sq foot apartment where I have been alone for the last 5 weeks as less of a prison and more of a protection. Inside, I am safe.

    1. I love that. Yes – a better way to think of my home: a safe space. Thank you for the shift in perspective. Thinking of you, Anna! xx

  9. Oh my. I can only imagine the surreality in NYC right now, and yet the strength and grit shown in the nightly clanging – wow. I used to live on the UWS, and my sister, a dietitian at an NY hospital still does; your descriptions of the city along with hers are so poignant. My heart aches for so many right now. Hang in there.

    1. Bravo to your sister!!! Will be thinking of her tonight at the 7 pm cheer. Thanks for the sweet note. xxx

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