Sunday, June 7, 2009

3 weeks in

Three weeks ago I moved to Chicago. The following are some selections from my recorded thoughts, feelings and deeds.


“…drove to Chicago, in a van, with my friends…”

I actually did not listen to any Sufjan on my way to Chicago, nor did I drive a van. I did however drive with friends, or behind them anyway. C and A, in their little Jetta, toted a trailer packed with my furniture. They barely let me pay for their gas and didn’t even stay long enough to let me by them dinner. They stayed just long enough to heft all my heaviest stuff up the windy back stairs and into my new bedroom.

I unpacked everything except kitchen stuff that night then watched Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets with A…It felt good to wake up in the morning and be surrounded by my own things, an island of comfort in this alien ocean.
…I want to be diligent in proactively engaging in things that I velieve or want to have become foundational elements of my life: contemplation, exercise, writing, reltionships (with people and the earth).
Now is the time to act…


…I made waffles for breakfast and French pressed coffee. A and I went out so I could get a library card and bank account. The LC was acquired without a hitch. The first bank we went to offers a free 4-piece Pyrex set upon opening an account. I eyed the box and felt excited at the prospect of storing it away in my closet. Unfortunately they require and IL drivers license, something I neither own nor plan on obtaining. So, on to WaMu where less than a week ago I’d closed my account. There Damir, my “personal banker” accepted me for who I am, KY drivers license and all…

…I took out the trash and proceeded to walk to Lake Michigan. The clear sky had clouded over and wind entered the city…I wandered around the sandy lake shore, picking up perfect skipping stones that were swallowed quickly by short aggressive waves instead of skipping across the surface. So many seagulls, and people—walking dogs or kids or partners or alone.


…I walked to the lake again this evening, trying an alternative route. The neighborhood is beginning to feel more familiar now, the streets woven with such precision. The day could not have been more beautiful. I sat at the lake watching people, reading the bible, jotting down observations…On the way back I stopped at a used bookstore I’d notice on the way called “Armadillo’s Pillow.” It smelled of incense and was dimly lit with wonderful nooks and narrow halls formed by tall shelves of books. I bought two postcards and “73 Poems” by e.e. cummings.


Well, today was Isaac’s due date and he has yet to make an appearance. A. is watching Lord of the Rings and I am wasting time doing God-knows-what on my computer…


Omnivore’s Dilemma. See previous post.


A. wasn’t feeling well yesterday so she spent most of it on the couch. I divided my
time between the computer, books (Ramayana and The Omnivore’s Dilemma), walking and talking on the phone…Intermittently through the day A. would feel like she was having contractions. Every noise from our neighbors—with my window open they sound as if we’re sharing a room—woke me with the thought that Anne was going into labor. No such luck.


“Sometimes I wish I was somebody else; sometimes I wish I had more to give; sometimes I wish I was better than this; oh, Honey, let me sing to you…”

Oh Joe Purdy, I hear you and you can sing for me any day.

…This would be the day I go downtown. My first time venturing outside the neighborhood alone. I don’t even want to estimate how many times I visited the bathroom that morning. My body’s stress responses are predominantly physical…I can’t deny that I was nervous. It was a pleasant anxiety though, I gave it space as partner to excitement. A new adventure. A chance to prove myself to myself. A change of scene. A long awaited reunion with a dear friend.
I walked to the Loyola station and climbed to the wrong platform twice—thankfully making it to the southbound side without missing my train.
From my corner seat I could observe everyone in the car and noticed a young man with glasses and a bright green shirt noticing me. I tried to arrange my face and body to look composed; “I belong here.” In my mind it finally struck home, “My God, I’m here, I’m really doing this!”

I exited at Lake, underground, taking note that the walls by the stairs had tiles indicating what street you’d surface at. I headed left at Randolph and climbed the stairs to the chaos of downtown State St. Towering sky scrapers, packs of people, signs that stretched from a building’s head down to its waist. I walked in the wrong direction for blocks, just past the river before I checked my map and realized I wasn’t heading toward Millennium Park.


Isaac’s second due date is today. We’ll see if that’s anything he puts much stock in…

D and A continue to delight me, a little more each time I see them and I am touched by their inclusiveness. D, ever ready to instruct me on the city; it’s layout, history, politics. He shared with me too, on the same walk back from dinner at the Viceroy and Mango Lassis at the Sweets & Snacks cafĂ©, about his travels in India and Nepal. It was kind of a funny conversation to have walking down the sidewalks lined with shops displaying sparkling saris, a video store with a poster of Shah Rukh Khan in the window and side walks teeming with Indians. He warned me about how you don’t have to worry much about your safety, but you do have to watch you money as they will try every angle in attempting to cheat and hustle you.


This is the first day that I have really felt down-hearted. The realization that I will not be returning to KY is settling in. I’m sad fore what’s been left behind: dear friends, a lovely town, a job that I knew and was good at—where I contributed—places to go and a place to come home to…

I like to believe that I can be a valuable contributing human even without a work schedule, but I’m beginning to doubt it. My over-inflated sense of self-determination and intrinsic, driven, goodness is losing air. Maybe that’s a good thing. I think I was beginning to develop a cockyness that overlaid some still rooted insecurity…


Isaac was born tonight around 8:30 p.m. It’s nearly 11 p.m. now and I am waiting for word that A’s parents are on their way here to the apt. Funny how it worked, the moment we took our eyes off the pot it boiled. Most of A’s labor took place in her sister’s car on the way down from WI to her hospital in Evanston, IL. I wonder what our lives will be like now? I wonder what A is feeling?


In the hospital with A and Is. A. has been such a natural, coaxing him to eat, comforting his cries; it’s lovely to see. Now she is trying to doze a bit as Is sleeps between my legs on this little cot where I spent the night.


First full day with Is at home, scrambled eggs and black bean soup, my wonderful outing with Az, our unexpected rendezvous on the el, perusing the life aquatic at John G. Shedd Aquarium, chill'n at JPUSA. I took the train a few stops in the wrong direction…I had a lot of fun today, hopefully I’ll learn to be helpful soon.


K.U. called me tonight. I thought it was an adventurous move on her part and told her so. I also said I hope she doesn’t have any false expectations about my coolness just because I’m Adam’s sister. I don’t mind that I said it, but it’s a bit sad that I think that way.

Had a wonderful chat with A’s mom L today. She told me the story of her life as a young woman in Long Island, New York, contemplating convent life; to a happily married mother of six (with 12 grandkids!) in OskKosh, Wisconsin.


Reclining on the couch, reading while cradling Is, a moment of awareness met me. I took note of the light streaming through the tall windows that I had laboriously cleaned earlier in the afternoon, the way the trees that loomed outside and the shade’s A’s mom had sewed broke it into scattered beams that played in the embroidered flowers on my shirt, he bared skin of my chest where the shirt’s neck had shifted, Is’ five small fingers clasping one of mine. I heard the pounding bass from our upstairs neighbor’s music, dulled only slightly by the floorboards and accompanied by his off-key crooning. Their noise annoys A—who I hop is successfully napping—but it amuses and delights me. Here we all are, separate but together, sharing our lives; albeit unintentionally.


…It was hard for A. to see her mom go, “I wish my mom would just move in!”
“Are you scared now that it’s just us?” I asked.
“A little,” she said, wiping tears from her eyes.
“It is scary.”
We were sitting side by side on the couch, silent for a while. I don’t remember what was said, but a moment later we’d found something to laugh about.

I’ve drifted in and out of wakefulness—gone to the bathroom, eaten ½ a banana, even knocked timidly on A’s door—since 6 a.m. It’s ten to 7 now and I am sitting up in my bed, covers on, lights off.

I told A I would take Is in the morning, but now I am wondering, what’s the protocol for that? Do I just go in there and risk waking her if she’s already asleep? Do I wait until he’s awake, knowing that at that point he’s probably ready to feed? Acts that come so naturally to a mother, I am having to slowly learn. One thing to definitely work on is asking more specific questions.


Digital media is delighting me today. This morning/afternoon I watched the recently made Bollywood film, “Paheli”…I’m not often moved to distraction by stories these days, it takes more (or perhaps it’s a matter of timing and theme?) to captivate me. “Paheli,” with Shah Rukh, Rani, accomplished it. I find myself hungry for something that I don’t know the taste of. Feelings like this beg the question; is it better to side step stories that stir yearning and restlessness, or is it better to embrace them; to follow them like clues to the heart of the universe (or at least, to my own heart)?

Just as I scrawled that question mark, the Bowerbird’s singer (the other digital media that I’m currently delighting in) crooned, “well, I don’t know.”
Walking home from the market, arms laden with a purse and two bags of groceries, I was not afraid to smile in the face of strangers. After I did, I felt even better.
Outside, it is cool and cloudy. A. decided to wait for a nicer day to go out with Is, but I had the excuse of groceries to escape the confines of the apt. Amazing how simply walking through a door can feel like unfurling shining wings.


…Is. had an appointment for a DNA/Paternity test this afternoon. Holding him while A. still slept, I thought how this test dispels the cozy illusion that Is. is all A’s and that everything is as it should be.


I need to get over my cell phone fixation. The proclivity I have towards obsession surfaces in the most random and useless areas…

What I want has been much on my mind today, and I don’t mean just in a wireless provider. I’ve let my mind look to the future and consider what it is I’m working toward and hoping for. The images I conjure fork in vastly divergent paths. Laying on the couch in the quiet of the morning when A. is sleeping in heard bed and Is, in my arms, I read “Ominvores…” and conjure up the dream of pastoral living; growing vegetables and having chickens for eggs and maybe even a cow for milk. I’d live in a house with extra rooms so I could be open to visitors—people who need a change of scene, writers, friends, family—

…In the book there is a brief allusion to Chilean child labor and my mind transported me to the scene, a witness (for peace? a journalist? an advocate?). Someone who travels and writes trying to frame my vision in words, to plant an image in minds and light a fire in hearts. Then, the sound of Is’ breathing, the warm weight of his body in repose on my chest, reminds me that the latter is not a lifestyle in which a day like this would be a likely experience, and I am liking this day…

I imagined myself in the activists life—maybe I could foster infants when on a furlough of sorts. I imagined getting the call, having just returned home to my husband (where’d he come from?) after a mission: “Amy,” the voice on the other line would say, “we have a baby, will you be available to take him?”
I say I will have to talk to my husband, feeling the pit--that will steadily grow throughout the day--begin forming in my stomach. No time seems like the right time to bring it up. Finally, at dinner, I lay it on the table.

“____ called today,” I say, shifting food around my plate with a loosely held utensil.
He’s sitting across from me, the room is light, we’ve just grown quiet after talking about something, I don’t know what.

“She says they have a baby that needs placement,” I continue.
He sighs and looks away, I stop speaking and wait.

“I feel like I hardly know you Amy, you’re always buried in something. I don’t know if you married me because you wanted a husband or an extra pair of hands.”
I’m holding on to the first part of what he said, turning it over in my head.

“Sometimes I feel like I hardly know you too. It seems like there’s this certain place a person comes to in relationships, or in most things really. Like a wall. And you either give up there—walk away or just stay stuck in a kind of suspension—or you dive in and discover this other life below the depths. I’ve never dove. I don’t think I know how to. I’m not sure I would even be able to.”

“Amy,” he says, rising from the table, “you tend to have a knack for getting what you want. When you decide what that is, let me know.”
He is tired of my abstractions. As he walks away I consider asking, “So, what about the baby?” but decide that now is not the time.