If you want a tour of Chicago, I’m not your (wo)man.
(apologies, Mr. Cohen)
Certainly I’m Chicago born and raised – born in Highland Park, lived in St. Charles for most of my life – hell, my apartment is straight off the dirty banks of the Mighty (Gross) Fox River, which I understand is not this gross everywhere. That was the beginning of the day.
A couple of days ago, my friend Dawn, who I call my boyfriend because, well, she is, said, “Hey bitch, you’re coming to Lollapalooza with me. I have an extra ticket and this can be your monthly “road trip.” It’ll be fucking awesome – Black Sabbath is playing.”
“Say no more,” I said, although my stomach was churning alarmingly with fear. “I’m in.”
Now, in my old life, I’d have said no.
Or given a wavering “maybe.”
Not because I didn’t want to do it, but because it was out of my comfort zone, which approximated about three feet in any direction around me. I’d made sure to start doing things that scared me – every teeny step I took was a minor victory. Yesterday, for example I braved the post office, which is one of those places – like the DMV – that makes me want to vomit because people always treat you as though you have an IQ of four because OMFG why did you stand in that line – IT’S THE WRONG LINE?
After signing my lease, I swung by the post office to pick up some of those “click and ship” boxes or whatever, so I can hunt down someone who is localish and send them shit to sell on eBay (which is scary as fuck). I’d planned to use the self-service kiosk and be in and out. The kiosk was down, which meant I had to talk to a real person and show what a post office moron I was. I sat with my anxiety as I waited in line and managed to do it.
One thing I’d been afraid of is no longer something that makes me weak in the knees.
Aunt Becky: 1
Post Office: 1 (The boxes I got to ship shit in were WAY too small for a “large” box)
For being a Chicago native (North SIIIIIIIIDDDDDEEE!), I’ve not spent much time doing the touristy shit around here. When I play tour guide, it’s all, “Here’s the dumpster I once threw something away in,” or “Sometimes I like cheese.” Not exactly the reception people are looking for.
I’ve never, for example, gone to the Taste Of Chicago - which we just call “The Taste” - which is this gigantic thing that always goes on during the dog days of summer (I don’t know HOW they predict the dog days of summer, but whomever does should be a weatherman). It’s one of those events that illustrates JUST how serious Chicago is about their food (answer: as seriously as they take to voting in corrupt governors).
I’ve also, oddly enough, never been to Lollapalloza, despite being an avid music lover. It’s always been too much, the crowds too big, and frankly natives know better than to try and go to festivals unless they feel like complaining bitterly about the tourists.
This time, though, I don’t care.
I’m not just going to see rad bands (although I will). It’s not about meeting a musician husband. It’s not even about being able photograph names of the port-a-potties (seriously, The Honey Bucket?).
It’s about taking a risk. Doing something different. Stepping outside the comfort zone I’d created for myself. And working on becoming free to be you and me.
Each time I do this, it gives me the confidence that I can do more. And I can.
Right now? That’s what I need.
Well, that and a cabana boy, but you can’t have it all.
(I’ll probably be tweeting a lot about Lollapalooza, so if you want to follow me, I’m shockingly @mommywantsvodka on the Twitter.)
Pranksters, how do you step outside your comfort zone? Do you try? What are some things you’re weirdly afraid of? Any advice for how to continue stepping outside this comfort zone?
Also: I love you.
PS. I love you MORE.
PPS. Don’t forget that tomorrow is another edition of “Shit I Found Saturdays,” a culmination of the awesomest shit on the web, ever. Best part? You can join in!
When I’d first begun dating Dave, he took me to his friend’s house so that I could meet them.
Sweet, I thought to myself, I’ll choose the BEST shirt I own.
The shirt itself, which I’d once picked up at Old Navy for approximately 42 cents* was a sight to behold – it was Peter Max style -
I actually had these bedsheets growing up. AND YOU WONDER WHY I’M LIKE THIS.
and prominently displayed across the boobs, “Free To Be You and Me.”
Me, I just liked the bargain.
But I knew the shirt could be, well, BETTER (and it neither involved vodka OR cowbell, I should note): I could add my NAME to the back of it. But not my REAL name; no. My NICKNAME, which was, at the time, “StinkyButt.” Not because my ass reeked or anything, I simply liked that nickname. I mean, what girl ACTIVELY calls herself “StinkyButt?”
(answer: a very select few).
Over at his friend’s house, his friend Rob goes, “Oh my GOD, I LOVE MARLO THOMAS! I grew UP on that record.”
I stared back – completely confused – was he talking about the musical Hair, which I’d been forced to watch on more than one occasion? Or, uh, was it in reference to the StinkyButt name on the back of my shirt.
“Oh my GOD,” Rob said. “You have NO idea what I’m talking about, do you?”
I shook my head slowly and replied slowly – “noooooooooooooo…..”
He slapped his forehead. “I’m SO fucking OLD!” he cried. “Wait – are you in high school?”
I giggled a little, “Nope, I’m 22.”
Apparently that answer did NOT help and he groaned, “I’m SO old!”
We both burst into gales of laughter.
I don’t remember the last time I felt truly free to be (you +) me.
When I got married, I tried everything I could to be a good wife. Dave’s a great guy – I’m sorry if I’ve ever made it sound on my blog that Dave is anything less than a great person. He doesn’t deserve that – we are, as I’ve said to many, simply two people who went their own ways. It’s sad (hence my crying hour) that it had to happen this way – we certainly hadn’t planned to allow things to get as bad as they had.
I’ve always been the classic overachiever – I can do ANYTHING! BRING IT THE FUCK ON! – which included being a good wife and a loving mother. There’s no doubts that I love my children fiercely – they have brought me redemption and filled my world with colors I didn’t know existed. I’ll never regret marrying Dave – without him, my world would never have become as bright as it is.
That said, I didn’t make a good wife.
I won’t say that I didn’t try, because I approach most everything from a balls to the wall, y’all perspective, but the steps I took weren’t enough; no matter homemade lasagnas you make or how spotless the floor is, two people who see the world in very different ways won’t magically see eye-to-eye just because you love one another.
Don’t get me wrong – I don’t blame myself for the state of our union any more than I blame Dave: we both played our part and we’re both walking away from this to find our own happy. And in my case, I’m going to find that girl who feels free to be whomever she really is, deep down in there. A girl I can be proud of. A girl who makes her own way, no matter how odd, fucked up, or twisted it may be.
It will be there that I can finally feel free to be (you +) me.
Pranksters, I owe you a debt of gratitude I can only repay (at the moment) with words. Without feeling the love you’ve bestowed upon me; without feeling like I have an army supporting me during my good AND bad moments, I do not know that I would get through this transition as well.
Writing has always been my outlet, my free therapy, and the way in which I process the events in my life – both good AND bad. For nearly a year, I lost that freedom, but not because I was told I could only write about:
- John C. Mayer
- My hatred of mayonnaise
- My vagina
No, it was more complicated than that – tell any writer that they cannot write about something fairly big in their lives, and they’ll feel as though their fingers had been chopped off. Suddenly, that’s the only thing I could think to write about and I know that my writing suffered for it. I’d actually considered shutting my blog down because, well, I never had much of value to say.
But in opening up about my marriage and divorce, I suddenly felt as though feeling in my fingers had returned – I’d managed to find the part of me that had been buried for so long. That brings me more joy than I can possibly express.
Knowing that you’re here – that you’ve been here – and that you’ve got my back, there’s no value I can place on that. Every word you’ve written, every email you’ve sent has reminded me that I will, in fact, come through this and be better for it. It all matters.
All of it.
“Thank you,” hardly seems enough, but I’ll say it anyway. Thank you, my friends, my chosen family** for being there for me. It is a debt I will forever owe you.
Thank you for reminding me that it’s okay to be free to be (you +) me.
*Bargains make my vagina happy.
**No, don’t drink the KoolAid
We went down to the edge of the water,
You were afraid to go in.
You said there might be sharks out there in the ocean,
And I said I’m only going for a swim
I awoke Monday morning with something gnawing in my guts. Assuming it wasn’t a tapeworm or other types of parasitic organisms, I rubbed the sleep out of my eyes as I tried to ascertain why, exactly, I was panicking.
And while I don’t particularly care for Monday’s one way or another, I remembered it was D-Day. The day in which I would tour the apartment complex I had once lived, many lifetimes ago. Sweetly nestled into the banks of the Fox River, surrounded by trees and flowers, the park within walking distance, I knew that if I was going to move out – to create a sanctuary for myself – it would be to this complex. Having lived in the area since I was five, I knew which apartments were good and which were not. These, it turns out, were the best in the area. A quick 3 minute jump across the river from my house, I knew that this was to be my next step.
However, I was still scared shitless.
Never having lived alone before; knowing that I’d be able to make rent as well as keep up on things like “the phone bill,” well, no one said I was born with great common sense. See also my old phone:
(Enlarged to show the AWESOME)
Visibly shaking like an overgrown Chihuahua, I waited for my appointment at 1:30 to tour the property and see how small this unit truly was (answer: not too shabby). I chattered on like I do when I’m nervous to the lady who was showing me the property, explaining that I was going through a divorce and moving out. I fist-bumped myself when I realized I’d only cried once. It was like some kind of record for me.
Back in the manager’s office, I began the arduous task of filling out a mountain of paperwork. It was then that I realized how lazy I’d gotten – I was so accustomed to TYPING that trying to write by hand with my awesome fireworks blister on my index finger on my right hand made my penmanship look as though I’d filled out the application with my toes.
I was all, “Damn, I’m good at filling out shit. Lookit ME knowing the answers and stuff! I should win an award of AWESOMENESS for my right answers! I bet they’ll give me the apartment just for my awesome answers!”
Until I got to That Page.
The one that asks you about your employment history.
I slumped in my chair.
While I do have my own company and a sparkly shiny name for it, I’ve always operated at a total loss – it’s hard to show paystubs when you’re a freelancer who occasionally gets paid by PayPal.
Before that, I was a stay-at-home parent.
I asked the kind lady with sweet eyes what I should do.
“Hmmmm,” she said, thinking. “Can you get a letter from someone saying they’ll vouch for you and pay your rent if you’re short?”
“Yep,” I said, figuring that I’d be able to ask one or two people to help me out by signing a silly piece of paper. If I came up short on rent, I’d rather take out a Craig’s List “fifty dollars a hand-i-job” listing to make up for any amounts I’d be missing* than ask these people for the money. I’m stubborn and my pride often gets me in trouble – which is why I so rarely ask for help. While I *know* what can happen; the scary shit out there, I am no mermaid. I’ve lived a fearful life a long-ass time, and figured that taking this plunge; this path, would help with other stuff along the way. You know, “if” “then” equations?
The two people who I asked to sign a stupid piece of paper – not a cosigner, I should add – didn’t quite feel comfortable doing it. They each had their reasons, most of which boiled down to, “we don’t trust that you’ll make your rent.”
Now, I understand the reasoning and that I can be classified as a risk, but I took their (in)actions to heart – maybe I really wasn’t ready for this. Maybe this was a BAD idea. Maybe I’d not be able to make it on my own. Fear took over and I began the process of doubting everything from my ability to wipe my ass to whether or not I’d forget to pay the electric bill.
Monday was an ugly day.
Tuesday morning, I awoke, dropped off some more stuff at the apartment rental office and headed out to therapy. I’d given it my level best, and if this wasn’t the path I was to take, well, I’d find another way somehow. It was entirely up to me, a both terrifying and awesome feeling.
I explained how I was feeling to my therapist, who promptly asked, “why are you basing your self-worth on those people?”
“I don’t know. Honestly, I don’t,” I replied.
But it reminded me of the girl I used to be – the girl who took risks, said, “fuck it, why not?” and didn’t give a shit about whether or not someone approved of her actions. That’s the girl I was. That’s the girl I will be. That’s the girl I am. I may be scared shitless, but I am still that girl.
I know this because this morning, at ass-early o’clock, I got a phone call from the apartment complex.
I have an apartment.
I can do this. I know I can.
If, for no other reason than I love being able to prove motherfuckers WRONG.
I may be living on the river, but I am no mermaid.
Not when I have my army of Pranksters behind me.