Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Metropolitan Girl Seeks Vampire, Finds Enlightenment

They meet cute online, where loneliness is all you have in common. Sometimes that's enough. It's mid December and 'tis the season to feel badly about being alone. She sets up a profile to find a man, inadvertently adding an extra digit to her minimum age for a desired mate, leaving her cruising cyberspace for a man four hundred and one years or older. He suggests that perhaps she is being a bit too ageist and should just settle for someone who enjoys Renaissance Fairs. Witty banter ensues. They talk on the phone, mostly about his work and his family. She finds his attitudes to be vastly unspoiled, often in staunch opposition to her cynical sensibilities. He is attractive and kind and leads a clean life, a consummate catch on paper. But it is not meant to be, she is a city girl, he lives in the woods. Sure, opposites attract, but this isn't practical. Did I mention she is lonely? They agree to meet in the city closest to him, about eighty miles from his wooded retreat. They eat lunch and make small talk. After, the kind of scene transpires that happens when people haven't been touched by another in awhile and they may never see each other again. He invites her to the woods for a visit. She agrees. She'd like to see how the other half lives. She comes to find out they live a tranquil existence filled with birds warbling, smells of homemade pie, and unconditional canine adoration. She could get used to this. She returns to the city, but continues to visit the woodsman. She meets his family at his birthday gathering. Pictures are taken and funny stories and pleasantries are exchanged. Although their conversations remain light and insubstantial, there is a certain intimacy derived from cooking and eating together. That combined with quixotic fantasies of her youth and a nesting instinct derived from the comfortable surroundings make her feel like she should be in love with him. She exudes that "I'm ready to take that next step" aura, even though she's not. He walks two feet ahead of her in public. It's not meant to be, she tells him officially. He is too far away, we are too different, we are old dogs, there are no new tricks. She turns her sights back to the city.

They continue to email on occasion, mostly small talk regarding life's ins and outs and what's for dinner. The kind of chat that you cherish when you are dating. She presses on with looking for love in the city. She makes rapturous speeches about how the woodsman is not her soul mate as he is too staid for an urban wildflower like herself. Her mother remarks after seeing his picture, "I don't know, honey. He looks good and you're not getting any younger." After a period of quiescence, he returns to her email box, asking a routine favor, which she obliges. He thanks her with tickets to a show in his town. She figures, why not? Did I mention she is lonely? She shows up with a new attitude, this time she's just here to get out of the city. He tackles her for a kiss in the grocery store on the way home from the airport. Indifference proves to be an intoxicating cologne. She enjoys spring colors, meat killed with a bow and arrow, petting furry friends, and small town musical theater.

And for awhile, it's all quiet on the communication front yet again. He reappears in the email inbox fortuitously while she is in the midst of self doubt and anxiety about her first half marathon that she is scheduled to run the next day. She doubts herself; she's not sure she can do it. He assumes she has diligently trained, which she has. He tells her she should stop being concerned and start giving herself credit for the hard work she's done. The outcome of the race is immaterial. She runs it in record time.

She gets caught up in the sultry splendor of summer in the city and turns another year older. In discussing the celebrations a few days after, he remarks, "I didn't know it was your birthday". Of course he didn't. She's not his girlfriend. She keeps looking in the city.

Christmas comes yet again with all its pageantry and caroling and gatherings and loneliness. She suggests they meet when she comes to his closest big city on a shopping trip, as she needs to deck the halls and purchase gay apparel. 'Tis the season for merriment and food and festivities and family. Or whatever you can throw together to fill the void. They share a fancy French dinner at an upscale hotel and make small talk about his work and his family and even though they're not dating, it's pleasant enough. Sometimes it's nice to pretend to be something that you're not around the holidays. Afterwards, there's the kind of encounter you have at Christmastime in an upscale hotel when it's been awhile and you've stopped believing in Santa Claus. The season of giving casts a spell that causes them to make plans for her to visit the woods once again.

The New Year's tarriance is quiet and restorative. There are sing-alongs at the piano and soups from scratch and the sounds of the creek outside the window. It's all deliciously conventional and she thinks perhaps someday there could be more than small talk. At the airport before returning to the city, she assures him she will let him know when she makes it home safely. He replies, "Just tell me when you're coming back". A hint of romance from the usually stoic woodsman.

She is back in the city and thinks not of the woodsman. She thinks only of her city life, a life that is rich and fulfilling and does not require the love of a man. She comes to realize that being romantic is a characteristic, a personality trait, like being agreeable or thoughtful or neurotic. It's not a product of the right two people together. Eureka! She realizes she's not being rejected by the world; she's just not finding those who are romantic in their nature. She makes grand declarations about how powerful it is to be a woman. About how important it is to be on your own, to realize your own strengths, to make your own decisions, to forge your own path. She receives amazing feedback from friends and strangers alike, thanking her for her courage and inspiration. Her college boyfriend tells her he hopes his daughters grow up to be like her, independent and smart and thoughtful and witty. On the outside, she is fearless and empowered. On the inside, she is still an empty shell. She feels like a fraud. She yearns for peace and quiet, both inside her mind and outside her window.

The woodsman is insistent that she come to visit again. It will be good for her to relax and take a break from city life. She concurs. He emails and calls, bringing his best and most interested self yet to the equation. But the numbers haven't changed. Again she wonders if perhaps there is a bridge to be built over such a large gap. She envisions them making a fire, making dinner, making love.

She is to call him to finalize the arrangements for her impending visit, but the call must be postponed. She must call her brother back, a minor family emergency has occurred. She lets the woodsman know that they will talk when she gets it sorted out. Later on the phone, he remarks, "You never talk about your family. I forgot you had a brother". She decides to make other plans in the city.

It ends, just as it began, with an email. Let's not do this, it can't work, the scheduling is too difficult, we're too different, it's just not possible. Let's keep in touch and stay friends. It was fun while it lasted, best of luck to you. A small talk conclusion hides the bigger feelings that never came to the surface on either side.

She continues to look in the city. Not for love, not for romance, but for connection. She surveys the faces of passersby, wondering what their lives are like, wondering what is to become of the rest of her life. She goes to work and enjoys the company of friends. She runs errands and goes to social events. She wonders if this is all there is. She envisions a quiet place of her own, perhaps with the unfaltering love of an animal companion. She puts her dance card back on the table and smooths out its tattered edges. The woodsman may not have told her he loved her, but he did. And she loved him in return. And she learned to stop being concerned, to give herself credit for all she's done and that the outcome of the race is immaterial. She makes no plans for the rest of the race, except to finish strong.

Monday, April 25, 2011

Praise the Lord! Pass the Peas!

My first impression of organized religion was fairly discouraging.  My mother attempted to take my autistic brother and me to Sunday school when we were wee folk.  We were turned away by many churches as my brother was deemed to be “potentially disruptive” and we certainly wouldn’t want anything like that happening in the house of our Lord, amen.  I remember this was one of my first memories of feeling indignation, which is a strange sensation to feel as a youngster.  My tiny mind couldn’t grasp being judged by people who didn’t know us at all….and didn’t God make my brother exactly who he was?  Why would He deem him unworthy of hearing Bible stories and being part of all the hoopla that the people who took over Sunday morning TV went on and on about?  Why were we excluded automatically for something that was completely out of our control?  My mother explained that it wasn’t God who was judging us, but the mere mortals who were in charge of the churches that didn’t get it.  At which time, my immature, completely confused mind came up with “Well, screw them then."  (Turned into a bit of a recurring theme….)
Fast forward to my teenage years.  I met my first gay friends in high school and I recognized that most religious organizations did not accept their lifestyles, often proclaiming them as “evil”.  My somewhat older, slightly wiser mind said, yet again, “But God made these people this way!  And they are the nicest people I know!”  Welcome back, indignation.  The only other exposure I had to church was when I spent the night at my Catholic friends’ houses….I ended up at the Sunday morning service, sitting in the pew while everyone else took communion.  Now I was indignant AND excluded.  Not a fun combo.  But at that age, I felt excluded and indignant in a lot of other arenas, not that unusual in my tumultuous adolescence.  In my twenties my only church visits were when my friends got married, which almost always involved middle aged know- it-all ladies shushing me.  At that point, it was official.  Religion, church….we’re through.  And bullshit from folks like Fred Phelps and the Westboro Baptist nutcases continued to seal the deal.
As I grew older and (hopefully) wiser, I met lots of folks who opened my heart to concepts I’d previously rejected.  Many members of my ex-boyfriend’s family are religious and they have proven themselves to be some of the most kind, tolerant and accommodating people I’ve had the pleasure to know.  I’ve never had a problem with spirituality (defined as: of, relating to, consisting of, or having the nature of spirit; not tangible or material, you’ll notice that higher powers not mentioned, just an idea that there is something bigger and brighter than what we understand as regular folk)…in this current climate of war, injustice, economic lopsidedness, and Kardashian worshipping, I’m grasping at anything that provides comfort and peace and keeps me from getting hammered and kicking garbage cans.  A friend and I recently had a heavy discussion about spirituality/religion in terms of it being a source of inspiration and motivation that NO ONE can take away from you.  This last part is a big deal in my book.  I firmly feel that happiness is derived from our connection with the rest of the world, however, our romantic relationships and friendships are dependent on other people…you cannot control the rest of the world’s behavior or feelings, regardless of the nature of your relationship.  They can decide to leave you or treat you in a manner you find to be unacceptable and there’s nothing to be done on your part but suck it up and drive on.  In an attempt to continue my quest to open my mind and my heart to concepts that provide solace that aren’t dependent on others, I agreed to attend a church service this last weekend.
I had a great deal of time to kill before the service started at 5:30 pm.  I opted to go to Big Star to have some lunch and people watch.  If you haven’t been to Big Star, it is a fantastic place with top notch tacos, a stunning selection of single barrel bourbons, and classic country and rock played on a turntable.  They have mastered the oxymoronical concept of an upscale honkytonk.  As the place does kick ass, it is where the cool people of Chicago go to see and been seen.  Tattoos, piercings, heavily made up high heeled hottie girls, Lou Reed’s Perfect Day cranked to vinyl perfection.  I ordered some fish tacos and a margarita and took a look around.  As I am someone who often drinks and eats alone, I’m pretty accustomed to sitting quietly and taking it all in.  But I was very aware, that although I was surrounded by Chicago’s coolest cats, I was most definitely alone.  After finishing up a fine repast, I decided to meander over to the church and wait outside for my friend as it was a beautiful afternoon.
Urban Village Church has their Sunday evening service in Wicker Park.  I arrived early and was greeted by many encouraging signs outside….one read “Church that is INCLUSIVE!  Gay, straight, tattoos, suits, Cubs fans, Sox fans”.  Okay, I already dig the humor.  I sat on the steps waiting for my friend, reading a book.  Every person that went by to go inside stopped and said “Hello!” or “Hey, how’s it going?” or something similar, in a genuine, sincere, no weird vibe sort of way.  Inclusive, indeed.
We found spots inside when the service begin.  Started with some “gathering and singing”, very pleasant hymns, followed by some interpretive dance that the usually haterish me would have been judgmental of, but my heart had already grown three sizes under some sort of off season Grinch clause.  Some discussions of their small groups (They have a running group! A LGBTQ specific group!  Music!  Couples dinners!)  Some scripture (read by a guy named Madrid St. Angelo, you know a guy with a name like that means business), then to the main entrĂ©e sermon.  Trey Hall started with the word of the day: hermeneutic.  Defined as the theory and methodology of interpretation, especially of scriptural text.  As a self proclaimed word nerd, I was pretty jazzed to start on this note.  Trey explained it as a portal, a way in, a key to understanding and connecting to the scriptures.  Then he launched into the topic of the day, FOOD.  You had me at hello, Mr. Hall.  Interesting discussion of a Michael Pollan article about how we are all fascinated/transfixed with watching people make food on the television, yet people are cooking less than ever.  We have no time to cook, yet we have time for television, a puzzling state of affairs in our processed food laden, socially disconnected world.  Discussion of cooking for the hungry, the power of cooking and eating together, food blogs of interest, all fascinating topics to this non-religious yet somewhat spiritual super foodie gal.  Followed up with more singing, the Eucharist, and some plate passing and we were out.  I have to say that even as a skeptic, I felt a powerful sense of community, an authentic friendliness, a feeling of NOT being alone, in stark contrast to my hipster lunch.  Surprising and delightful.  I left the church with a sense of calm, like my brain had taken a much needed hot and soapy shower.

I received a handwritten card from one of the pastors of the church a few days later in my mailbox.  Not promoting anything, just thanking me for attending.  Call me old fashioned, but a handwritten anything in this day and age knocks my socks off.  Am I a religious nut now?  Hardly. Will I go back?  Not regularly, but probably so.  Would I go to other churches?  Sure.  I can see now that there are people who are striving to make religion accessible and inviting to ALL people….that’s a concept I can get behind.  And if you want to talk food, I say HALLELUJAH.

On another note, I am currently in story writing school on Tuesday nights, which is taking up all my free time and writing energy….I hope to post some updates about that in this space if my head doesn’t explode from having homework for the first time in decades.  Thanks to all who support my nonsense from near and far.  I couldn’t do it without you.

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Scenes From An Airport Neighborhood (Unpack Your Bags And Make Yourself At Home)

Does enchantment pour out of every door or just on the street where you live?  I currently live two blocks from Chicago’s close and convenient Midway airport.  I’m sure your mind automatically went “BLECH” when you read airport, but hear me out (okay, read me out). 
Some airline lingo 101 for those of you not in the biz, airlines write their flight schedules for their various “base” cities, cities where all trips start and end, generally speaking.  As many people choose not to live in their base city, they must commute to work, often using their flight benefits to get there.  These commuters require a place to stay before/after trips as the trips and flight schedules don’t usually allow for people to fly in/home the same day their trips start/end.  Hopefully you’re still with me.  These places are commonly known as “crashpads” and every neighborhood near an airport that operates as a crew base is full of them.  They come in all shapes and sizes, apartments, houses, hotel rooms, you name it.  The concept operates under the idea that many people will split the expense of whatever residence they share as no one will be around very often.  The crashpad experience is as varied as the people involved….sharing domestic space with other people that your only common thread is your employer can yield some unpredictable results.   Imagine the person you dislike most at your job.  Now imagine listening to them snore at night.  Imagine them in the bathroom when you really need to go.  Imagine coming home to them after you’ve had the world’s shittiest day.  But what if they listen to you bitch and moan?  What if they’ve made dinner and they share it with you?  What if they offer to wash your clothes while you take a nap?  What if they don’t end up being as dislikable as you’d once thought?  It’s all a pretty fascinating social experiment, one that the makers of reality TV should seriously consider.
I started my career ten years ago, commuting out of Seattle to Oakland.  I shared hotel rooms with other flight attendants before and after trips, as that was the Oakland way, often sleeping in the same bed with people I didn’t know at all. Not as fun as it sounds. When hotel rooms were too much dough, I slept in a sleeping bag in the flight attendant lounge, another sucktastic experience.  When I came to Chicago not knowing a soul, I lucked out on getting into a great crashpad, one that was dropped into my lap by someone in the Fate Deals You The Right Cards At The Right Time department.  I’ll spare you the details, but let’s just say everyone involved took a leap of faith trusting that I would be worthy of a top bunk bed in a house with eighteen other people, none of whom had ever laid eyes on me.  Sleeping in a twin bed where you can touch the ceiling is a real blast from the past, let me tell you.  I slowly got to know everyone, and unlike most of my other crashpad situations, I developed a bond with a lot of my roommates.  It’s a strange job for friendships, mostly people are away more than they’re around, you can connect with people and not see them again for years (handy when you don’t hit it off), often the gig is a blur of nameless, faceless people, with your nights spent in generic hotel rooms where your love of miniature shampoos has run dry.  To be at home tends to be your greatest pleasure when you travel for a living….but to have a crashpad that acts as your satellite home away from home is a rare treat and makes the job much more pleasurable.  I enjoyed that scenario for five plus years.
I moved to Chicago permanently almost two years ago.  I picked a tiny convertible loft in the South Loop area of downtown Chicago as I thought I needed the Urban Experience.  I loved the allure of walking to cool shops and bars and certainly walking home wasted from Lollapolooza after mashing with a boy half my age was something from a wish list I hadn’t yet written.  I enjoyed my slick digs, assuming I was exactly where I needed to be.
Slick digs, however, proved to be expensive.  When my lease came up for renewal, I ran into a friend who was moving out of her two bedroom joint by the airport who suggested I check out her place….more divine intervention from our friends in the Right Place/Right Time department.  I opted to make the move purely for financial reasons as it cut my bills in HALF.  Half is A LOT.  Half means less airplane, more time to write, or spend time with friends or WHATEVER.   I moved all my stuff into the two bedroom with no lease, thinking only of the cost savings and the joy of having a guest bedroom and an office to write my nonsense in.
My old crashpad is a short walk away from my current apartment.  When I moved back, I started seeing my crash family all the time again.  We make dinner, we go to the store, we bitch about work, we drink wine, we borrow clothes, we sleep over, we do STUFF.  Stuff that makes life worth living.  Stuff that I missed out on living downtown in my slick digs.  I don’t regret starting there; I had a great time.  But I am now a happy resident of Westlawn, a neighborhood filled with a wide range of immigrants and transient airline workers alike, a neighborhood packed with kids on bikes and ice cream trucks and pictures of the Pope in the windows and taquerias and little to no slick action.  When I walk around my neighborhood, I see dogs barking, kids practicing cheerleading routines, people hanging out on their stoops and doing yard work, which brings me unexplainable joy.  Something I didn’t know my life was missing.   And when people ask, “Why on earth would you live near the airport?”, I now answer, simply, “I have family here”.  Family are the people we choose to be in our lives, people who support you, people who celebrate your triumphs, and console you on your dark days.  People who put their faith in you and trust you will do right by them.  ‘Tis powerful stuff.
Should you ever find yourself at Chicago’s close and convenient Midway airport, drop a line.  I’ll buy you a taco if you bring change for the ice cream truck.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Get Your Poem On, People!

April is National Poetry Month.  It's also Jazz Appreciation Month, National Sexual Assault Awareness Month, and National Stress Awareness Month (are we not aware of stress the other 11 months?  hmmm.....) and probably National Eat A Cashew While Taking A Bath Month, who knows.  But I wanted to give a special bloggy shout out to the poets.  I'm always awed by good me it feels like the most amazing way to make mere words into art.  The first poem that really rocked my world was "The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock" by T.S. Eliot, pretty hilarious to think of myself as a big haired, overly made up, leather jacketed tough girl being bowled over by the story of man dealing with growing old.  It was recently replaced as my top poem by "Privilege Of Being" by Robert Hass, a poem that is a compelling combination of sex, loneliness, angels, and magazine articles about intimacy.  Check it out if you're not familiar.  For my personal salute to my love of poetry, I opted to go with a few poems from poets not as well known, one from a woman I used to work with, one from a pen pal, one from a friend of a friend.  Enjoy.

Words for the Waltz by Kary Wayson (commissioned for the Roethke Readings)

All night long I've resisted his help.
What is the opposite of fast?

Forcing a kid who's throwing a fit
--you standing thing you never sit!
You'll run us all aground!-- Help

has water
just like this: to get us
turned around.
But this kid kicks when you pick her up so

there: throw her down.


--and we have arrived.  We have
arriven.  My minions
push down the plank of my neck
and back.

We stand on four legs like a makeshift table
until all hell's dispatched.
So into the itch!  Into the thicket!
The careful course is cast.

We make emotional revisitings.
On the hills of impassioned ants.


Snail snail glister me forward
bird my back to the wall.
God begot me from my father
and delivered the hospital home.


All day long I've resisted that red
while I tried to make it match.

I've taken the ax of my effort like a paddle
and I'm hacking at the shadows
of my feet.

I've taken the ax of my effort like a paddle
and I'm dragging this raft
through a lake

made of concrete.


Oh hell, oh well.  Admit
you made a mess.
Now you must tear up the carpet.
Now you must repaint the walls.
The color says nothing but there is a judgement:
everything but the garbage can must go.


Often stranded in the middle of a feeling the feeling
of wanting so many is more.
Snail snail glister me forward trail the trailing
translucent cord.


Think of it!  A sycophant!
A guttersnipe!  A gripe!
Good help has rivers
filled with fish--sidelong pickerel

smiles.  Would with the river and would
with the fish.  His red face

the same from behind.


All day long I've insisted on help.
In the basement
I'm like a bad cramp.
The sun is against me the moon would not have me
my tantrum matches the lamp.


I've taken
the ax
of my effort
like a paddle
and I'm hacking
at the shadow
of my throat.

I have taken the ax
of my effort
like a paddle
and I'm dragging
this lake

through a hole
in my boat.


There's a mirror

next to the window and a window
on the wall.  Smile, he says
in the middle of the fuss.  Eat it.
Now swallow.


"Twas a lovely dive, my lively dove
What's winter for?  To remember love.

Good help has daughters
just like this: "My father
invented water."
God help us daughters just like this:
I with no rights in this matter.


The body's a closet
with cats in the back.
The seas's grown woolen
and white.  I am
his consolable widow
now--one syllable
bigger than wife.

Kary has two books of fabulous works, Dog and Me, and American Husband.  She is also foxy and a super nice person.

Running from sleep in a country town by Tom Woolery
The last lightning bugs go
homeward to their sleep
replaced by stars
replaced by clouds
replaced by dark sky
that holds the new moon
in its belly.

In the night pastures, the corn
dreams fitfully of the coming tractor.
On the porch, a farmer is drinking tea
Now, it is exactly three in the morning
and my feet are guessing where the road lies
in the dark miles between street lights
and though I run this route every night
each step is a faith leap
not knowing if a next will follow so I become
faster, each stride is faithfulness
to the stride before.

Things have come to this —
drinking warm milk with Sominex, playing Ella
and anything to idle this engine that howls of the hair
of my graying head, the engine that quickens knowing coyotes
are still in the field, behind the trees where crows sleep,
tracing the perimeter of my eyelids, waiting as they waited
for my father when he slept on Christmas Day, dreaming
of tubes to relieve cranial pressure through the end of times—
until I shift gears, dress in darkness, lace my running shoes
and force them to stumble down roads that need repaving
have needed repaving for a dozen years or more,
passing barn shadows
cast by porch light.

A single lightning bug glows near a barbed wire fence.
After short darkness, I see it flicker, again

in the exact space, so I stop running,
wipe the sweat of my face
with a soaked shirt, rest
my hands on my knees,

At the fourth flash I see the legs of the spider
edging the light, soothing the fire, singing the storybook
spinning a sleep
At the fifth light I see that the spider has wrapped
the package entirely, it moves
its legs quickly over its prize,
wrapping the silk one hundred times more strongly than necessary
as if the light itself might allow it to burn free--
It is the love of craftsmanship.

It is the love for completeness.

The sixth flash of light,
like a flashlight beneath bed covers. 

The spider has retreated into the edges now,
waiting as if at a campfire perimiter
counting the seconds
and waiting for the thunder of darkness.

I do not wait for seven--
my feet are already running
muscle memory retracing the route to my drive
while I think of in particular nothing.

Tom lives in Springfield, MO and although we've never met, he never fails to blow my mind.

Lastly, "The Problem With Politics" by Danny Alexander
You came to me
After conceding to give
Stephen King another try,
Well into Salem’s Lot,
You were excited by the character of the priest,
His sense of loss,
Living in an era with no clear lines
Between black and white,
No tangible demons to kill.

So much we could have talked about
But I had to quibble
With the idea of one era versus another,
With the idea of black and white,
With the concept of demons.

King was smart enough to hand
His character
And you
What you needed
I could have said something useful
Or I could have just listened.

Instead I talked polemics
And killed that life-saving conversation
As I did so many times before
And after.

Danny is a friend of a friend, and although I don't read Stephen King, the self awareness of this poem speaks volumes.

If you're of a mind, discover a new poem before April is over.  I'll be back with more original nonsense soon.

Thursday, April 7, 2011

The One Where She Stops Being Polite And Starts Getting Real

I had intended for my next post here at WWYN to be a salute to Poetry Month, featuring poets that I enjoy and in some cases, know personally.  Still working on that one, but I had a few big ass thoughts to share in the meantime.

As I figured out with the last post about Facebook, a vast majority of those that I am virtual “friends” with I don’t talk to very often.  Perhaps you are a friend of a friend, perhaps I flew with you once and we hit it off and the wheel of scheduling fortune hasn’t put us together again, or maybe you live far away as I’ve lived a few places.  Well, sit right down because I’m going to get all interpersonal on your asses.
My life is currently better than it’s ever been.  I just agreed to be involved in an eight week course in storytelling, which is my creative passion, and I’m really thrilled about it.  Spring is FINALLY showing itself here in Chicago, and there is always something fun going on.  I am surrounded by friends to enjoy the city with and I have a job with amazing flexibility that provides me the time and the dough to really dig in to my new hometown, to go to school, to not just survive, but to really LIVE on a level I never imagined possible.
In trying to make the above scenario even better, I’ve assessed the relationships in my life.  I have been in Chicago almost two years and I’ve been putting a lot of effort into building a support system here.  My work friends are fantastic, but the job puts people away from home a great deal, which makes spending time together challenging.  I’ve opted to try to cultivate relationships with people who are here all the time, and I’ve been pleased with the results for the most part.  But starting new relationships has been an exercise in “What do I want in a friend….what’s really important here?”  Heavy stuff.  Here’s what I’ve figured out.
I was raised with one sibling, my brother who is autistic.  My parents were divorced early on, leaving my mother with some serious responsibilities.  She remarried, but from day one the message sent to me was loud and clear…..DO NOT NEED ANYTHING.  EVER.  It’s inconvenient, your brother is already a huge burden, you need to be part of the solution and not part of the problem.  I received this message and acted accordingly.
Fast forward to my adult life, I've gravitated towards situations that were all take and no give as they felt like what I was accustomed to.  It’s just with this latest era of awesome that I’ve had to assess what I really need out of people in my life and the answer is RECIPROCITY.  I’m not saying the people in my life cannot have problems, in fact, quite the opposite.  I will talk to you until we’re all blue in the face, I will make dinner and bring wine,  I will hold your hair while you barf, I will put you in bed, I will make you breakfast.  Over and over until you are better.  I have had my share of problems; I’ve struggled with depression, and have attempted to fill up the empty place in my soul with booze (FYI as it’s a depressant AND a liquid, this is an automatic FAIL) and have had copious amounts of reassurance to get me where I am now, self confident and ready to take the world by the balls, most days.  But there are still some people who I only hear from when they want things, that are all talk and no action, that have a lot of redeeming qualities but reciprocating friendship is not their strong suit. 
I’m putting these people on notice.  I have no time for those with no time.  As I mentioned, my current life climate has never been sunnier, but firings will continue until morale improves.
Much like everyone thinks they have great taste and superior driving skills, when we all know that can't possibly be true, not many people realize that they are emotional vampires.  It’s just a blind spot we all have in ourselves.  I’ve had favorable results from being honest with people (a VERY recent phenomenon) and that’s how it will be handled, case by case, person by person.
I’ll close with a poem from Langston Hughes...April is Poetry Month!
Folks, I'm telling you,
Birthing is hard
And Dying is mean
So get yourself
Some loving in between.

Life’s too short to not have it be filled with the kindness and respect that you deserve. It's more important than brain power or material crap or a perfect ass. Oh, and Ice Cube says check yourself before you wreck yourself.  That’s some smart advice as well.