Tuesday, February 27, 2007


I definitely slept through my stop on the El this morning.

I have never done that before.

Before I left for work, I tied a purple string around my wrist to help me pray throughout the day for guidance about whether or not I should spend the weekend at a church retreat or whether I'm trying to do too much in my life right now.

Now, I think I'll pray for discernment to determine if God answered that prayer before I even started.

Tuesday, February 20, 2007

Because my old one is woefully out of date. Because my ability to pee in the woods is no longer quite so important in my life.

100 Things About Me

1. I live in the Humboldt Park neighborhood in Chicago, IL.
2. My church and my new best friend are only a few blocks away. My job is only 5 miles away and I can get there on the El.
3. I haven’t lived in this kind of geographic community since I was in college 8 years ago.
4. I’m 29 years old.
5. I have recently had lunch with a couple of daughters of men that I work with. It feels like not too very long ago that friends and colleagues of my father were having lunch with me as a favor to him.
6. I’m worried this means that I’m grown up now.
7. I’m worried that being grown up means that I need to know what I’m going to do with my life now. Is being a fireman still an option?
8. I’m going to grad school in the fall because I want to know more about urban community development and education. I’m going to the University of Chicago because I want to know really complex things that I can’t figure out just by reading books on my own.
9. I’ll have a Master’s Degree in Public Policy when I’m done after two years.
10. I get asked a lot, “What kind of job will you get with that degree?”
11. I don’t know.
12. I keep being drawn to the stories of people that live radical lives of simplicity and loving their neighbors. Their stories just resonate as right, like the sweet harmonies of the O Brother Where Art Thou soundtrack.
13. However, my skill sets don’t seem suited to living that life successfully. I’m afraid I won’t be very good at it and so my story would not ultimately sound like I want it to. I might end up dissonant.
14. This is why Shane Claiborne is my nemesis.
15. I’ve been reading a lot of Christian books lately. Blue Like Jazz. Plan B. Renewing the City. Walking With The Poor. Irresistible Revolution. Let Justice Roll Down. Velvet Elvis. Reconciliation Blues. Geez Magazine. Sex God.
16. This is unusual for me.
17. I think I’m starting to forgive other Christians for being such assholes.
18. I have read a book called The Spirituality of Imperfection and I won’t claim that it changed my life with a shaft of heavenly light and angel choruses. However, in combination with conversations with people who truly believe that they are broken and need help from God and other people, I’ve found a new peace with my broken self and my place in the world.
19. I have spent a lot of time with people in Alcoholics Anonymous since moving to Chicago. They're pretty cool. I think Christians should behave more like recovering alcoholics.
20. I moved to Chicago a year and a half ago from Orcas Island.
21. I had a tough time with the transition from a world of trees, mountains, ocean, dolphins, eagles, hippies, artists, and organic farmers to a world of dirty snow, garbage, traffic, skyscrapers, panhandlers, and catcallers.
22. I'm mostly OK with it now.
23. I moved back to Chicago because I didn't like only seeing my family twice a year. They would call me on Sunday afternoons and they'd all be at my parents' house having fun without me. Now that I think about it, once I moved back, they stopped getting together on Sunday afternoons.
24. If just one brother had moved to Seattle, I could have stayed on the island.
25. I have three brothers: Paul, David and Daniel.
26. I fit in between David and Daniel.
27. I'm the only girl.
28. That's right. I'm the princess.
29. I live with my brother Daniel.
30. We're partners against the world. We always have been. It makes it very easy to be roommates.
31. We watch a lot of wrestling at our apartment. Daniel pays the extra money to get the WWE 24/7 On Demand channel so he feels like he needs to get his money's worth.
32. My favorite wrestlers are C.M. Punk (His only addiction is competition) and Matt Striker, a former New York public school teacher who wears sweater vests and tiny little matching panties. Sometimes, he wears pleated khaki pants, just like every social studies teacher/coach you ever had. He's an excellent heel.
33. My mother thinks we're losing brain cells quickly over here.
34. In the rest of my spare time, I am a dilettante of crafts, a jill of all trades, as it were. I do a lot of different things to a very shallow degree. So, I knit, but only hats. I make jewelry, but nothing complicated. I quilt, but only using squares of fabric. I also have some other, more eclectic crafts that I make when the mood strikes me like little wire-wrapped dolls with handmade clothing and snow-globes. I've found that life is a little better if I'm making odd and whimsical things in my spare time.
35. On my best days, I consider myself a compilation artist.
36. But what I really like to do is read books.
37. I would prefer to read books rather than just about anything.
38. This includes cooking. I have four bachelor meals that I make on a regular basis: eggs on mayonnaise toast, frozen pizza, macaroni and cheese with peas please and tuna fish salad on toast. Everything else is either take-out or leftovers. That gives me time to read more books.
39. For a long time, I read mostly science fiction and fantasy books.
40. I intend to name my first-born son Isaac in honor of my favorite author, Isaac Asimov.
41. I wrote my undergrad senior thesis on science fiction and post-modernism, using The Hitchhiker's Guide To The Galaxy as my main illustrative text.
42. I got an A- from Dr. O'Gorman, the toughest grader on campus. She told me science fiction wasn't real literature at the beginning of the semester.
43. I still enjoy a good near-future, post-apocalyptic speculative fiction novel, but my fervor seems to have tapered off in the last several years.
44. I read a lot more literature lately (I just read The Invisible Man for the first time), as well as the aforementioned Christian books.
45. I attend River City Community Church. It is the last place on Earth I expected to be going to church. It's full of The Beautiful People. Everyone is young and we sing Contemporary Christian Music a lot of the time. But God says I'm supposed to be there (it's a long story) and I'm actually pretty excited to be a part of something very different. The church is only three years old and still very small. It has three pillars that are important: worship, reconciliation and community development. The reconciliation part is really difficult but makes my life experience feel a little more authentic. The community development aspect is completely in line with my intellectual interests (see #8). Plus, the sermons are phenomenal. I've also met some people that aren't assholes.
46. What I want out of life is to be surrounded by people that are willing to look me in the eyes and trust me enough with their feelings to speak the truth to me, even if they think I'm not going to like it.
47. I'm starting to find some of those people here in Chicago in this season of my life.
48. I'm starting to worry about moving to Hyde Park in the fall because it will be a whole new season in my life and I'm only just beginning to like this one.
49. My best friend from college might move to Hyde Park with me. She lives in the Quad Cities now but once she has her teaching certificate, she might want to teach urban kids. She'll be good at that.
50. I used to teach urban kids.
51. I loved it but the school administration burned me out and I had to go teach suburban kids for a while. Their parents burned me out and so I went to go live on an island for a little while.
52. I can't shake the feeling that I'm supposed to teach urban kids again sometime. Luckily, once you free yourself from the idea that tenure is a good goal and that you'll live off a civil servant's pension in your old age, you can go back and teach whenever you want.
53. Currently, I work for one of the largest para-church organizations in the country.
54. I had to sign a statement saying that I believed that Jesus Christ was my Lord and Savior in order to work there. That made me a little itchy but since it's true, I sucked it up and signed.
55. I run a teacher resource center that gets companies to donate office supplies to me so that I can give them to Chicago schoolteachers for free.
56. I also run a program that helps churches, rehab centers, neighborhood organizations and after school programs with personal care products that have been donated.
57. I was hired to build capacity in both of these programs and although some days I don't feel very productive, overall I feel like I'm doing a good job. Sometimes, I feel like I do a great job.
58. That's a good thing because basically, I work for Jesus. He can see when I'm surfing the internet instead of writing proposals.
59. I'm usually surfing urban community development blogs, which could legitimately be considered research.
60. I've had this blog for about 2 and a half years.
61. I think I've got about 12 readers.
62. My dad is my biggest fan. Hi Dad!
63. My dad also works in urban community development. I get to talk to him almost every day and Jesus doesn't even mind because it's about business. I think that's pretty cool.
64. I believe that Jesus died to forgive everyone's sin. I don't believe that he died just to save the people that acknowledge what he did. I think everyone's sin is forgiven and that everyone is going to heaven eventually.
65. I think that the reason we should try to do what God tells us to do now shouldn't be because we fear hell but because heaven is something we can experience sooner if we align ourselves with God's idea of what a good life is.
66. I get a lot of flak for these beliefs.
67. I can take it.
68. The tricky part for me is loving everyone. I want to do it because Jesus is a pretty good role model. It's hard because I don't actually like most people. They're often boring or annoying. Usually, I think that's because they remind me of parts of myself that I don't like.
69. I'm working on it, though.
70. I wish I prayed more. I think loving people would be easier if I prayed more.
71. I don't beat myself up over it, though. I accept my broken nature for what it is and just keep putting one foot in front of the other whenever I can.
72. Usually, that's what I do. Sometimes, I beat myself up over it. But then, the cycle of self-forgiveness begins again. It's a weird touchy-feeling oubouros.
73. Baking cookies is one of my top five skills.
74. Reading, interacting with teenagers, and analyzing communication for effectiveness are three of the others.
75. You'll have to know me a lot better before I tell you the last of my top five skills. Trust me, it's a good one.
76. I tend to like pop culture that gets cult followings without actually becoming part of that cult following. For instance, you won't find many people who appreciate Joss Whedon's TV work more than I do. However, you will find people that have memorized more dialogue and been to more conventions than I have. Other examples include the Star Wars universe, the movie Labyrinth, Neal Stephenson and the Muppets.
77. Pepe the King Prawn is my favorite Muppet. My favorite old-school Muppet is Rolf the Dog.
78. I'm not currently dating anyone.
79. I'm relationship-bored but I'm being very deliberate not to chase anyone down just because life has a little more verve when it's got a romance in it. I'm waiting until it's something worth my time and energy.
80. I'm not friends with any of my ex-boyfriends.
81. I'm really uncomfortable with that but it is out of my control. So, I try to accept the situation for what it is and just keep putting one foot in front of the other whenever I can.
82. The only piece of wisdom that I have actually earned for myself is that friendships are ephemeral. In different seasons of our lives, we have different friends. All of the other wisdom that I have has been learned from books. Universal truths! Woohoo!
83. I remember coming home from pre-school and saying to my mother, "Yesterday Carrie said she wanted to play with me but today she said she didn't want to be my friend anymore. Why?" I was three years old. I remember that my mother explained how some girls were just like that and I shouldn't take it personally.
84. I am still friends with Carrie. I'm having dinner with her, her husband and her toddler in a couple of weeks. She can claim most of the credit for our continuing relationship. How's that for irony?
85. Recently, I began spending time with my best friend from high school after living separate lives for the last 10 years or so. She lives in the city and we meet downtown to go to museums and free concerts in Millennium Park. She brings her toddler and we have a good time.
86. I have a best friend for this season, too. We met at a church party a year ago when I heard her say, "I have come to the decision that my personality does not mix well in large groups." It was just the kind of slightly awkward, totally wordy thing that I would say and when she began asking me a lot of slightly intrusive questions with an utterly charming sincerity later in the evening, I let down my defenses a little to talk to her. We communicate in some way every day.
87. That brings the total to four once you include my friend Erika, who cannot be linked to any particular season. I feel fairly flabbergasted to have four best friends in my life all at the same time. I used to believe that I would not ever have one. When I was in the 6th grade, I gave one of those charms that were hearts that you can break in half to say "be fri" and "st end" to a girl and she said she probably wouldn't wear.
88. I absolutely refuse to rank these friends in any sort of a hierarchical way. I simply enjoy them.
89. I like living in the city because of my ability to participate in all sorts of culture, like museums and free concerts in Millennium Park.
90. Sometimes, I usher at theaters so that I can see the shows for free. It's the best racket in town.
91. I also lucky enough to have a friend that works for the Lyric Opera, so sometimes I can get free tickets there, too. The last one I went to see was a stinker, though. If someone offers you tickets to the Dialogues of the Carmelites (except the title is in French), spend the evening washing your hair. You'll thank me later.
92. The most recent cultural event that I have discovered is fiction readings, which I like much better than poetry readings. It's basically just story-telling. Who doesn't like to be told a story? Plus, they are often in bars and bars have gin and tonics. What could be bad about that?
93. I wear a black hood that my brother David gave me almost every day of the week.
94. I try to acquire my clothing at thrift stores because the idea of sweatshops gives me the willies. It's not very loving to make people work 16 hour days in hellish conditions just so I can have cheap clothes.
95. I totally recognize that this is my personal issue and never want to push it on anyone else. God gave us all the gift of intelligence and it is disrespectful of me not to let other people go through their own discovery process regarding what is important to them because I had the freedom to go through my own discovery process.
96. I can hear both the El and the bus from my apartment windows. Both talk. They're not very good conversationalists, though.
97. Sometimes, I practice yoga. I prefer Iyengar. Lately, though, I haven't made any time for it.
98. I'm taking Calculus as a pre-req for my grad program and it takes up a lot of my time. It's also a lot like running alongside a horse with the intention of jumping on at some point. Right now, I'm just trying to keep a hand on the reins so that it doesn't get away from me.
99. I haven't sat in a math class in 12 years. The calculus isn't the problem; the algebra is.
100. I am glad that it is finally getting warmer. Now I don't have to walk around all day saying, "hatehatehate" in my head.

Wednesday, February 14, 2007

Sugar Daddy

I was out a few nights ago with my friend and we stopped by the bar where the guy that she has just recently begun dating works. We stayed for about an hour and then starting packing up to head home. She looked through her wallet to see if she had enough cash to stop at McDonald's on the way home to balance out the bourbon she drank. Ummm, grease and bourbon. But the point is, when she didn't have enough cash, this guy digs into a pocket and starts pulling out money to give her. He even went so far as to put a twenty and a five on the table and pushed it over to her.

Both of us reacted strongly with repulsion and insisted he put the money away. Almost simultaneously, we both explained that she would borrow the money from me. He protested a little bit under the combined weight of our double charm, he gave in gracefully and we all laughed.

As we talked about it in the car later, I jokingly asked if she wanted me to sit down with him and explain the error of his ways since he and I are friends, too. Of course, she said no but it has gotten me thinking: what would I have said to him if she had wanted me to sit him down and set him straight.

How exactly was his offer of cash for her to take with her more offensive than his previous offers (that were accepted) to buy her meals and drinks? Why was it inappropriate?

I'd love to get comments that wil help me understand romantic relationships even just a little bit more. Any help I can get, you know?

Monday, February 12, 2007

Incarnational Nostalgia

I have had a little spare time at work lately, waiting for phone calls and such, and I have spent some of it reading the blogs of some folks that are engaged in urban community development. One of the reasons that I have made the decision to get a degree in Public Policy is that I have a genuine interest and curiosity in the stories of people who are trying to change the world by moving into inner-city neighborhoods or, lately, are engaged in the messy work of racial reconciliation. This curiosity is the culmination of a lifetime of interests. I don’t know how to explain this, but I have spent so much of my life pretending to be interested in something because of the image of myself that it would create for others, that I’m often somewhat awed to discover that I actually have interests that I would pursue even if no one knew that I liked them.

These are the blogs that I have been reading and participating in:

Arloa Sutter’s Blog
Reconciliation Blues
Urban Onramps
Do You C What I C?
Our Family of Ten
The Margins

I have also been listening Rob Bell’s sermons that I download from his church’s website as I do my busy-work, filing and such.

I just found The Margins, today and I like it particularly because of the candor with which she writes about living in the middle of a crime-filled neighborhood. She does not necessarily attempt to find meaning in every experience right away, but simply presents them to the readers.

Sometimes at the CCDA conferences and when I am reading the memoirs of CCDA folks, I feel a little dissatisfied because folks aren't invited to speak at conference or to write books until they have actually shown some persistence with their incarnational ministry. (Incarnational ministry is when people move into neighborhoods that are broken so that they can follow Christ by actually being like Christ, who surrounded himself with the poor and the sick.) By the time they have been there awhile, their speeches and their books have to be written with a historical tone. Hindsight is 20/20 and as they look back on their experiences, they can see that every struggle worked out for the best. The stories are told as illustrations to a broader moral rather than told for their independent value. After Mom and I went to hear Anne and Wayne Gordon talk about raising a family in the hood, we left the room and she said to me fiercely, "Those people think each of those choices about where to send the kids to school and other decisions they had to make were inevitable conclusions. I wanted to stand up and say, 'Each of those choices was so hard and they had no idea whether or not it would turn out OK.'" Those of you that know my mother know that she is protective like that of only 3 or 4 people in the world outside of her family.

John Steinbeck writes a beautiful essay about “Why Soldiers Don’t Talk,” where he explains how men who go to war and women who give birth have a biological mechanism that causes them to be totally unable to re-live the pain and fear of those events because they will be required to repeat them in order for society to progress. All they can remember is that they were afraid and that is was painful. They cannot actually call up that pain and fear, the way most of us can do with tastes and music, they can only call up the memory. I believe that this is the other reason most memoirs and speeches of community development practitioners are a little blah. The immediacy is missing.

With the nostalgic tone that most people tell their stories with and the details that elapsed time and the need to summarize leave out, as an audience, we must use our imaginations to empathize with how hard it must be to live in under-resourced communities. Our imaginations aren't enough, though, because we are limited by our own lack of experience. We imagine an extension of our suburban, middle-class experience and that does not do their lives justice. This is why I was glad to find The Margins. Because the story is being told while it happens, there is no over-arching thesis to be proven. Her brain has not had time to protect her from the memory of being scared for herself and her children. Because of this, her faith in the midst of all she is going through shines all the brighter. Read especially Erika’s post A Walk in the Park to see what I’m talking about. She doesn't know yet that it will all turn out to be OK. But she does it anyway. That's pretty cool.

Thursday, February 08, 2007

Gravy grit

OK, what I'd like to do is write a post about all of the good things that have happened to me in the last few weeks and that will cancel out some of the whiny vibes that I've been putting out lately and then we can start fresh and I'll try to tell you some entertaining city stories.

Let's start with Martin Luther King Day.

I got to go to the The Peggy Notebaert Science Museum with my best friend from high school, Lorinda. We took her beautiful baby, Henry, and I was totally unprepared for a child who is almost walking with my cute little handbag. Handbags require one hand at all times. Almost toddling babies require two hands much of the time. I was also reminded several times that I don't think like a mom when I held him up to the replica of the Chicago waterworks. I knew Lorinda would have no problem with me letting him put his hands in the water, so I was feeling pretty good about getting close, but with the swiftness of a viper, his hands were in the water and much more slowly did I realize the consequences of that action would be tiny little wet sleeves. Oops.

The Wednesday night after that, I had a rollickingly successful dinner party with my best friend from now, Jess, and two of her friends from the Fiction grad program at Columbia College. The four of us had gotten together a couple of weeks earlier for Jess's phenomenal cooking and much much alcohol. We had so much fun talking about books and movies and ideas that we quickly set up another evening. I hosted that one and since I do not cook, we had the very best Chicago pizza that exists: Lou Malnati's. Although we had hoped that putting it on a weeknight might reign in our debauchery, our camaraderie overcame common sense and I spent most of Thursday hung over but happy. I seem to have found a group of people that I feel at home with. They entertain me and are entertained by me. They are straight-forward, which lets me relax in my own tendency toward putting it all out on the table. They are intelligent and read books and talk about art without being the slightest bit pretentious. I'm going to enjoy every moment of this foursome as long as it lasts.

Friday after that, I got to spend an evening with my best friend from college, Susan, at the Downers Grove South Speech Tournament. I didn't have to actually judge any events but I also didn't get paid like I had expected to. Still, any time that I can get with Susan is a gift. Over the course of the evening, she watched my crotch as I demonstrated the flexibility designed into my pants, we shared the joy of Jimmy Johns, we talked about her ex-fiance, and she encouraged me to go ahead and do some slightly dubious behavior in my near future. What else are best friends for?

Saturday morning, I made pancakes for Jess and her roommate, Leah. Sunday night, Daniel's band, Barely American, played a fantastic set at The Empty Bottle and I got to spend a little time with my blog buddy big belly epicure. Daniel's set included many original somewhat insurgent country songs. It also included their version of Jacque Brel's "Mathilde." I don't have video of them doing it but I'm going to try to post a Scott Walker version of it. Imagine my brother Daniel and three other guys with a standard garage band instrumentation with a much harder, much faster interpretation, although Daniel can really emote the complexity of the narrator's emotions. "My hands, remember all the years, remember when you caught my tears. My hands, you'll want to touch her now. Please try and be strong somehow. Mathilde's come back to me!" A killer key change, by the way.

Skip a week of being sick and we land on a week from Sunday. Jess and I returned from purchasing a new computer and went up to hear her new man read a short story of his at a bar somewhere near where all the yuppies live. Going to fiction readings in bars is one of the main benefits to living in the city. Because, unlike the island, the fiction tends to be good. And short.

Actually, rewind to being a the Apple store. Getting to nerd flirt while I asked them to diagnose my computer and then convince me to buy a new one was all sorts of fun. I don't get to do enough nerd flirting in my life.

At the beginning of last week, I hosted two community meetings at work. I am about to make some major changes in the policies and procedures of one of the programs that I run and I don't want to just hand these changes down from on high. I've done a lot of research about best practices of responsible charity and talked through a lot of these changes with some of the big dogs in Christian community development. But part of the philosophy of Christian community development insists that no one knows what will be good for the community better than the actual people that live in the community. So, I presented the new program to some of the folks that I partner with, asking themto approve or change the program as they saw fit. I was a little nervous going into the meetings because, after all, I'm a 29-year-old white girl from the suburbs. Hi-falutin book-learning and theory might not fly with people that are actually spending time with people that need help. But, interestingly, the meetings were textbook examples of what happens when you give community development practitioners a chance to talk with one another. I sat on the sidelines and just listened. They immediately began trading stories, asking questions of one another and even challenging one another towards the very goals that I'm working to incorporate in my new program. When they finally gave me a chance to talk, they were skeptical about a few things, but I had answers that satisfied them. I felt like I was worth the salary that I'm being paid during those two meetings.

So, those are the great things that have been happening in the midst of my struggles. I firmly believe that for life to taste good, it has to have a complexity of emotions. All good or all bad would be boring. As one of my favorite musicals, Jelly's Last Jam says, "You got to have grit to go with the gravy." Last night, I went to another fiction reading in a bar. This one was much boozier (although I heeded common sense this time because I had calculus exam this evening), had trivia questions that I could have won if I had been willing to shout out, a photo booth with Jess, and some extremely entertaining people. I'll go to another one of these next month and I'll be able to look around with the intent of sharing the details with you. Let's all look forward to that.

Tuesday, February 06, 2007

Taka sip of this water

I'm reading The Invisible Man because it is Jess's favorite book. What I find is that I'm a gigantic nerd. I want to take notes! It's making me think so much and the thinking is so pleasurable that I don't want to forget the thoughts that I'm thinking.

So, today I wrote in my journal, "Now you'll be better and when you git all right you'll know how bad a shape you been in, here, now taka sip of this water." The narrator is ill and Miss Mary comes along, takes him home and takes care of him. It mirrored how I felt this weekend.

You've read how sick I was. Then, two weeks ago was a week of broken things.

The very first thing, I mean the very first thing that I did after Jess loaned me a bunch of movies to watch while I was sick was to drop one on the asphalt as I was opening my car door and smash it. The new one I bought from eBay just arrived.

Then, I learned just how crucial the driver’s side mirror is to city driving after it was sideswiped one night while my car was
parked on the street. I have to wait for the weather to get above freezing so that I can glue it back on. In the meantime, I have to keep reminding myself that the reason my subconscious didn't register a car in the left lane before I changed lanes was not because there wasn't a car in the left lane like usual but before there isn't a sideview mirror to see it in.

Finally, I knocked my laptop off the couch where I had set it down in order to stand up briefly to retrieve something. The friendly Mac guys at the Genius Bar made a sympathetic face when I presented my iBook and told them I dropped it. When I added that it was open at the time, their facial expressions shifted to that look the people who play doctors on TV get when they have to tell families that the cancer has spread to the fingernails. So, I have plunked down the change from my piggy bank for a brand new MacBook with not much hope that they will be able to retrieve any of my files from the old one.

I got a couple of days' reprieve, did some good things at work, got some homework done, and then one of my friends got arrested for something she was doing right under my nose and that she was telling preemptive lies about to misdirect my attention, which felt pretty much exactly like what my ex-husband used to do.

Like Ralph Ellison's narrator, I did not realize how bad that made me feel until I felt better. I knew it sucked and I could verbalize why it sucked but I didn't realize it was making me physically ill. I was (and still am) wrestling with how to continue loving her even though she hurt me. My hurt wanted to shout, "How could you make me believe you were the type of person that wouldn't do that!" But my heart and my head both know that we're all the type of people that would do that, given the right circumstances. There are no good or bad people because we're all both good and bad.

So I went home. On Friday night, I let my mom make me mashed potatoes and hamburger gravy. She said I looked like I thought it was never going to get any better. Now, I know that time soothes all sorrows; I have that engraved on my ring. So, I argued with her about that, but now that the roller skates have been taken off my soul and I can look back on it, I probably did think I was stuck at a bottom.

In that state, I was presented with the manifestation of the new status of my relationship with Jeffrey. And with his mother's wonderful Christmas present and his crappy present, both obviously wrapped by his mother because not only am I not worth telling about his impending marriage, but I'm also not worth the effort of making a few box corners with colored paper.

After I ate, I took a nap. Then, I woke up and went to bed. Then I got up the next morning and judged a tournament, came home, sat by the fire and stared into it for awhile after eating a little dinner. Then, I took a nap. Then, I woke up and wrote a blog post. Then, I went to bed. I woke up in the morning, did a little calculus homework and took a nap. When I woke up from that nap, I felt better. Like Miss Mary said, " when you git all right you'll know how bad a shape you been in". It was like rainbows after rain showers. I had been asking the Lord to take away the weight of the double hurt and he did! Actually, what I had been saying was, "God, you're going to have to take care of this one, because I just can't." I had given up totally at working to fix either situation. I was content just to live there with that exhaustion that pulled at me like the flu as long as I had a couch, a dog and a fireplace.

I am amazed by my own resilience. I hope that I am grateful.

Saturday, February 03, 2007

Pidge's Son

I don't know what to do now. For the last month, I have been living with hurt, thinking that some time would help. But it has just gotten worse the longer I've been ignored. Now, everything just got worse.

Some of you have been reading my blog from the beginning, when its purpose was to document the unique experiences I was having in a totally different part of the country. While I was having those adventures, I dated my friend Jeffrey and I loved him fiercely but it became clear over time to both he and I that love wouldn't be enough to keep us happy and he drove me home to Chicago as one of my best friends. I will be forever grateful to Jeffrey for providing a safe emotional space for me to heal from my divorce. Because he was my partner, I did not have to grieve and mend from a place of loneliness but felt confident knowing that it wasn't my unlovability that caused my husband to leave.

When I would ask Jeffrey why he loved me, he would tell that I had a nice ass and that I was from his home town. This was his standard reply. He said the former because it is absolutely the God's honest truth. Let me know; I'll send you a picture if you doubt me. The latter was important to him because he'd had so many girlfriends freak out on him once they broke up. On an island, that can get pretty messy. Because our parents were friends, he could relax into the relationship knowing that even if it didn't work, our hometown entanglements would keep it from getting ugly. And this turned out to be the case. We broke up beautifully, with respect and acknowledgement that we both wished it would have worked. We would talk about who he should date once I was gone and I actually cheered him over the phone when the first girl that he did date was a friend of mine. He and I spent a ton of time together when he was here to celebrate Christmas with his family last year and I went back to the island twice to visit him. We talked on the phone fairly regularly. Even in the dissolution of our romantic involvement, he gave me confidence because it was so healthy, especially when compared to the awful nature of my divorce that I was having to face again now that I was back in Chicago.

But because just-friends love each other, too, I've learned that my heart can be broken by them just as easily as it can by boyfriends. When Jeffrey was here this Christmas for three weeks, he didn't make time to see me once. We had spoken twice in the month previous about when he would arrive and he told me he was excited to see me and we joked about what kind of present he would bring me. But, he didn't return any of my phone calls when I called his mom's house. I even sent an email with my day-by-day availability listed out for the duration of his visit. Once, I must have called when he wasn't looking at the caller ID because he picked up the phone and we talked. Again, he said he was excited to see me and that he had a present for me and we arranged a date and time that I would come by. However, when I showed up on his parents' doorstep for that party, the house was dark. No one was home. I left a message with my cell phone but could do nothing at that point but go back to my apartment. A few days later, I left his present on the doorstep when I was in town again and dropped by one more time to see if I could catch him. I haven't heard from him since.

That hurts. One of the things that I loved about Jeffrey and was equally frustrated by while we were dating was that he never did anything he didn't want to do and everything he did do was on his own terms. This means that he didn't want to see me over Christmas. If he had wanted to, he would have. His whole life is lived that way, from choosing sea kayak guide and recycling artist as professions to forgoing deodorant and growing dreadlocks but remaining a staunch carnivore. So, if we didn't spend any time together, it was because he didn't want to. Once it was clear that this was true, because he had returned home, I sent a postcard in the same style of the postcards I had sent while we were courting (and that he still has stapled to the bathroom wall) that simply said, "Well, that hurt. What happened?" I was still hanging on to the hope that there was some other explanation for why I didn't see him. I got no response.

So, I have lived with this hurt, bewildered but hoping that time would reveal what I could do to fix the relationship. The tricky part is that there is no way for me to start a conversation with Jeffrey about how his behavior negatively affects me. We never had a successful conversation on that topic the entire time we dated. If I started the conversation in a business-like style, he got defensive. If I started angry, he refused to engage. If I started hurt, he got indignant because he felt bad for hurting me. I don't think any less of him for this. It was simply a disconnect in our communication styles and was the primary source of our break-up. We both realized that there were probably other people out there that we could successfully resolve the inevitable relationship differences with and that we should make an effort to find them. So, now I come back to the beginning of this post, saying that I don't know what to do now. My options are tapped out.

Yesterday, I learned that Jeffrey is getting married. From his mother's Christmas letter. The fact that he is getting married doesn't hurt me at all. There is a quiet happiness flickering in there somewhere that someone makes him that happy. He and I have talked about this woman on a couple of occasions and I have always been happy for him, even if it hurt a little to be reminded that I couldn't make him that happy. We would talk about that combination of happy and sad and it made me feel good that we had a friendship that could asknowledge that for life to be good, it must have a complexity of emotional flavor. She came with him when he was home for Christmas and I was looking forward to meeting her. When I played out the scene in my head, I envisioned the slight jealousy I would feel but usually figured we'd get along really well, since I got along really well with many of Jeffrey's ex-girlfriends when I was the current one hanging on his arm.

What hurts is that he didn't tell me. He let me learn second-hand. That tells me that there probably isn't a way to fix this relationship. My feelings and my friendship are no longer any kind of priority to him. He no longer needs whatever it was our continued friendship used to give him.

Now, this is the way of all friendships and I have learned to accept with many other people. It is a universal truth and one of the few pieces of wisdom I've picked up in my life. Often friends drift apart as life circumstances change. Admitting this here and now helps me recognize that this is just another one of those inevitable shifts. I just didn't see it coming. We all feel that we have certain friendships that will last forever. This wrenching feeling is just the result of my mistake in thinking that Jeffrey was one of those.

Jeffrey's mom changed my life a little when she said, "Just because I no longer ride my bike all the time, that doesn't mean that it wasn't important that once in my life, I did ride my bike all the time." It was a sentiment I had heard and read and zillion times before, but I must have needed to hear it at that point because I felt a palpable shift in my heart as I thought about no longer being married and no longer being a teacher and the possibility that I might not be on the island forever. She used to babysit for my younger brother and I when we were little and I supposed she's the only other woman that I've allowed to be any sort of a maternal figure to me other than my actual mother.

Just because Jeffrey and I are no longer friends, that doesn't mean that it wasn't important that once in my life, we were friends.