My return to the city — what’s that hammering in my chest?

Last Saturday, I returned home to Grand Rapids after a weeklong writer’s conference on Glen Lake in beautiful northern Michigan. As I approached the city, heading south along US-131, River House rose into view. Almost immediately I felt my body tense and my heartrate jump. I expected the tension to disappear, but it didn’t. It’s still with me, a week later, albeit not as strong as it was.

I’ve read a lot of articles about how living in an urban environment creates stress: traffic, people, noise, activity, air pollution, etc. But I didn’t think that applied to me. Until this week. I’ve paid close attention to my environment this week — noting the undercurrent of traffic noise I hear when I’m at home (a mile from I-196), noticing that there’s never any total darkness at night and that I’m always aware of people being around, even when I’m walking my dog in the early morning and no one is in sight.

Don’t get me wrong — I love living in GR, I’ve been here 14 years and I’ve never been happier living anywhere. In fact, I’d love to live downtown in the heart of it all.

But I wonder, at what cost do I live in Michigan’s second largest urban area?  For all the conveniences of living close to stores, entertainment, fab dining, coffee shops, friends, bike trails and green spaces, is it worth it?

I think that I think it is… but I can no longer ignore the effects of living urban.

So, fellow urbanites, that brings me to my next steps — but what are they? Yoga? Meditation? Prayer? Knitting? What do you do to help yourself cope with living in the city? What brings you the physicality of peace in the midst of the hubbub?

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