Thursday, September 22, 2016

I Sold My Car

Today marks the first day of my vacation. I'm taking a vacation. Some old buddies from my days in the Atlanta improv scene threw together a reunion show. We've all since moved to different states, kept in contact, but not all been together since Matthew and Carol's Wedding, and not everyone made it to that. Of course, not everyone is making it to this either, but it's as good as any reason to head to the Atl.

Chicago is moving ever closer to winter, and as it does, so too does my soul. My dark, deep, troubled soul. I'm better, but I'm trepidatious. I'm keeping my head up, though. I've been biking the past few days...days merely, after about a month long break, and I've been feeling this intense level of uplift in everything. Despite a brief moment of loss of control right around the worst days of my lady cycle, the days leading up to the last have been easier than ever. And A LOT has happened. 

I've been weeping and gnashing my teeth over my recent gumption to move into sales at my current job. I'm good at working with people and getting people to trust me (like a fox), and since I actually genuinely try to be an actual trustworthy person, it's kind of easy for me. The hardest part is getting the hell off my own back and ass. 

I've been trying to figure out what this damn demon creature at my heels has been, this anvil tied to my ankle and dragging me down into darker waters. I've been fighting it, like a warrior princess. 

And just like every warrior princess, I've had to solve a problem....not like Caroline. If you've never seen Spirited Away, change the status of that. Put it on your list. It's a great example of the maze of trials I've been tripping along these past months since December, when I couldn't shake the feeling that I wanted to die. 

The story is universal, like a fairy tale...but the kind that hasn't been altered by religion, by dogma. The kind that empowers because it forces the hero to solve a problem, to meet with the hag, and to obey her commands without complaint. To do the work. 

When the problem is solved, the hero has succeeded and receives that for which she has been fighting. In the case of Spirited Away, the hero's parents have been turned into swine, and she must complete the tasks to solve the problem and to return her parents to their human forms. 

People want to help, and people do what they can, but she has to turn the levers, choose which doors to open. 

I think somewhere along the line, whether it be white male supremacy or capitalism.....or is white male supremacy just a small bi-product of the inherent nature of capitalism (I'm more inclined towards this)....we stopped appreciating having agency over our own lives. We stopped being taught what that meant, and I'm talking about all of us.  

I always imagined I'd send my old 1999 Honda Civic off into the sunset with a final road trip, but the girl wasn't having it. The clutch needed to be replaced. 

I called Triple A, and to send me back to Chicago, they sent the guy that took me to the mechanic I had to visit in Indiana, where my girl gave up the fight. He was a big man with a long white beard. He had a step-daughter with him that told me about her boyfriend's recent arrest within the first minute of meeting me, and we all piled into his old tow truck. 

I finally hit that wall of "how much money do I want to keep putting into this car," namely because my dad hit that wall a while ago. I spent the better part of my day in a tow truck, with this unique family who loved Linus, of course, and discussed the basic realities of living life with me, which is a lot to ask for from a day, and I didn't ask for any of it. 

At one point my chariot driver turned up an old country song on the radio and started singing to Linus as we chugged our way into the belly of the beast of Chicago rush hour. Every time someone honked at us for running red lights, the man and his daughter would yell at them as loudly as they could...from Indiana, but speaking that Chicago road rage language that you really can't appreciate until you realize how many assholes own cars in this damn town. 

She regaled me with stories of her "old man" and how his ex has been making their live's a living hell since he started dating her. Which reminds me. I want to challenge all women...and all men with this: no one can steal your boyfriend or girlfriend. Everyone has free will and the ability to make choices. Don't ruin both of your lives by trying to get someone that didn't choose you back into your life. Choose your life over that nonsense. 

I said this, or some version of this out loud in the truck, and my driver, in between drags from his cigarette, leaned forward and pointed at me to affirm my musings. We also smoked a joint in the truck, once we were in Illinois, and it wasn't a crime; he didn't because he was working and driving, but his daughter and I partook and he told us about driving a tractor trailer coast to coast for years. "It gets in your blood." 

He drives a tow truck. He also drives a limo, wears a suit or a tux, depending on the event, but if he can drive his beat up tow truck, he'd rather do that, meet people, buy old cars and work with his neighbor to fix em up and resell them or sell them for parts. It made me think: don't do what you do because you need a job. Do what you do because you HAVE to do it....even if it's driving a it because it's in your blood. I what you have to do to get to that point, but don't ever stop trying to get there. Success has many faces, and contentment is not always what you expect.  

I had respect for this man, and I think he shared the same for me as he helped me swing myself from the cab onto the flatbed to grab something out of my trunk. So I sold him a monument to my past, parts of which I continue to leave further and further behind each day that I wake up believing I have inside of my little frame everything I need to take care of myself, and if I don't know how to do it yet, I'm open and excited to learn because if I never stop learning, I never stop living. (and you're welcome for that sentence)

I do a lot of things that make me nervous, that make my heart race. Sometimes getting out of bed is that thing, and sometimes counter offering a price $50 higher than my potential buyer's initial offer makes me feel like I'm going to throw up. I did it anyway, and he said yes. So I got my stuff, and I said goodbye to my girl. May she live in our hearts forever. 

 And I keep looking forward. I have a whole vacation to enjoy. 

Ol' Emmie, Dec. 1998 - September 2016. Photo Credit: Apryl Cox-Jackson

Monday, September 12, 2016


We are, at our core, animals. Society, in fact, is a way that we separate ourselves from the animals. Society grew from our ability to create and write down a language, and more than a few theorists believe that this, language, is what has separated us from our true and happiest selves. Once we learn language, some say, a veil is drawn over our eyes, and we no longer feel like we are a part of everything else that exists because we have created a way to differentiate ourselves, for lack of a better way to say it, in writing. I now see the difference between myself and the not myself which is represented by these symbols that are not the same as the symbols that represent me. Am I just making it worse at this point? I know I’m ALWAYS harping on this.

We are a part of everything around us, but we separate ourselves from whatever isn’t human, and we don’t stop there. It seems we are constantly on the lookout for more ways to differentiate ourselves, to feel unique, when the reality is, we ARE unique, without making any attempts.

I, in my desperate need to put my hands in the dirt, planted some tomato plants I bought from Home Depot in my backyard in mid July. As I watched everyone tout their own home grown tomatoes, I dug up my young tomato plants and moved them to an area of the yard, I felt, had more sun exposure. Maybe minutes.

So I bought a full length mirror at Lowes, and every morning I would prop it up on a bucket full of water and angle it so that the sunlight was reflecting off of it and onto my tomatoes. I have no idea if that was even useful.

I also packed the kiddos in with mushroom compost, fed them fish emulsion, and spent at least five minutes with each plant a day, chatting and pruning back the endless shoots that they send out, desperate to grow, to vine. Talking to plants totally works.

I even resigned myself, in this Zen Buddhism sort of way, to only getting a couple of pieces of fruit. The act of planting and tending was emotionally worth the time it took because it reminded me that nothing is as straightforward as life. It just keeps moving. It just keeps swimming, regardless of me, regardless of anything.

I have discovered a number of tomatoes now, each different, green, transparent, each a beautifully sculpted expression of life, and I am a part of it. Finally, again. There is no subtext, nothing to decipher. When I think about it, I know what they need, just as I know what I need, and the work that I do to maintain them is an extension of the work I do for my own maintenance.

Everything else is just signs and signified, a way to distinguish ourselves from the rest; the distinctions are obvious, but the connections are what matter the most.

Saturday, September 3, 2016


Here I am. Saturday afternoon, and I’ll admit it. I lurked a couple of times on Facebook and Instagram because I love everyone’s pictures, but since I've been forcing myself to stay away from it, I have been more connected and more aware, and that has made all the difference.

It’s been nostalgic. Remember when we didn’t live like this? It wasn’t that long ago that life seemed a little simpler, but I don’t think I would give it ALL up. We live in a remarkable time and have access to so much information, it's hard to imagine not having this kind of access, but just like everything else, it requires temperance.

Here’s something that I’ve noticed: the longer I sit still, the more I want to sit still, and the longer I sit still, the darker my thoughts get. Nothing makes me feel more hopeless than multiple days sitting in front of my television, computer, or phone thinking of all the things I need to do and not doing them. Don’t misunderstand me. There are days when all I need to do is sit in front of the television, but there is never a day that I don’t need to walk my dog or feed myself, and therein lies the distinction.

Say it’s age, say it’s the drugs, but I’ve always been this way. The hardest part of my whole life is actually having to live it. Just like Buffy the Vampire Slayer said in Buffy the Vampire Slayer season 5 episode 22 before sacrificing her life to close the door to a hell dimension that her annoying fake sister's blood opened by doing this.

At dinner with a lifelong friend the other night, I confessed that I would never be happy if I couldn’t make myself do things after she admitted to the same foible. It doesn’t matter where I am or what I’m doing, if I’m not doing anything, I’m lost.

Life is work, but you do have to be conscious of your own threshold. You have to find the balance. Even the French, with their, like, five or six weeks of government mandated vacation time (it’s not a joke, that’s real as hell), have to do laundry and wash dishes, cook for themselves to feed themselves, sweep the damn floor. Life is work.

Life is not “success.”

I’m a good salesperson. I can close. However, my assignment for this month at work is to find 20 viable leads...over the phone. I got the assignment and a book on cold calling. I’m a good salesperson, but this assignment is balls. I’m not jazzed about this part of the job, but I’ll do it because I need the money and the practice of having a work ethic.

I’m not kidding when I say I’d rather produce than market and sell. I can only take the weight of the American economy for so long. I’ll produce what you need or want, and I’ll make you feel good about buying it from me, but I’m not desperate to make you my bitch, and therein lies the distinction. That’s where the manic-whispered violence of Glengarry Glen Ross (which I fell asleep during: brass balls, always be closing, we get it) comes into play, the desperation to control people for what it pays, and trust me, it pays well.

Anyway, that's computers...phones...touch we can't live without it, they'll always have the most money.

And that’s capitalism. Y’all.

Happy freaking labor day weekend.

There's a bouncy castle a couple of back yards away from me and a kid friendly DJ. But the weather is incredible.

Thursday, September 1, 2016

Over the Hump

Wednesday was exhausting. It was my route day, the day I traipse around River North, Chicago with a little green bag on my back, an apron, shears, loppers, leaf bits and stems, a towel, a spray bottle containing mild castile soap, mint alcohol, and leaf shine (so calming), a copy of Clarissa Pinkola Est├Ęs’ Women Who Run with the Wolves, a water bottle, ibuprofen, and a two gallon water bucket.

At the end of every Wednesday, I am sore, I am hungry, insatiably, and I am content. For the most part. I love working with my hands.

It’s hard to be away from social media on this day because it can be a bit of a lonely day. Despite the sweetness of the little fellas (plants), they don’t say much. I tried listening to music in between my accounts, and that helped a bit, but all in all, I felt a lot more connected with my surroundings and at peace. Dangit.

I felt a little grateful too. Sometimes I dread this day because I’m tired, or stressed, but today I soaked it up. It helped that it was about 75 in the sun with no humidity with a pleasant wind by the river. I took bigger mental pictures of the towering shrines to corporate America. It’s such a remarkable panorama from 57, but the buildings are so close, I feel I could wrap my arms around them on 43. On 25, I’m inside a photograph, surrounded by mirrors, flashing in the sun, and beneath them, there is a river, and on the river, there are boats and kayaks, trees and tables under umbrellas, buses and cars, cyclists and pedestrians, but on the other side of the double paned window, it is silent and still.

A lady at the front desk of a hotel I service asked if I would like a bottle of water, and I responded with wide-eyed disbelief, a pause, and, “yes.” “Well, get one,” she said, “you deserve it.” Well done, front desk lady. I totally did deserve it. I gulped it down on my way to my last stop, this company that edits media: commercials, film, lots of commercials, all sorts of different people on computers. It’s probably my favorite stop. Mostly because I have a crush on every boy at that office.

They all have beards and tattoos and stare at computer screens watching the same millisecond over and over again until it’s perfect. Hello? I mean, even the guy with the ponytail is hot, especially the guy with the ponytail. It’s work, y’all, so I gotta just enjoy it for what it is, but I’d marry any one of those nerds if they asked.  

The woman that produced the “like a girl” ad campaign...I think, also works there. She introduced herself to me on the elevator one cold day back in March, said she admired that I worked with plants. She was everything a powerful creative woman should be, mostly because she told me to eat whatever I wanted when I was there in front of the interns, who then had to hound me to eat waffles every day after that. I treated a pest problem in one of her plants and revived her Jade.

Then there’s the office manager, who has a desk in a closet and dresses like a QUEEN. She is fierce. She’s got this 1950s pinup girl thing going on, and her hair is almost always done up. Sometimes she’s got a killer face on too, and she’s lovely without makeup.

It’s the fun stop.

Then I hopped on the Grand bus heading west and squeezed myself into my spot amongst the sardines. Look. I’m not railing on babies and kids and stuff. I love em. But I hate...with a passion reserved for very few…those giant SUV strollers. At 5:30 P.M. on a Wednesday going OUT of downtown Chicago. The front half of the Grand bus was overtaken by a slew of precious children, a wagon, and an SUV.

Every time the bus pulls aside to pick up new riders, everyone looks around desperately for a way to squeeze five more people, and they all look butt hurt the whole time, as do I. We were surrounded by a sea of traffic as well, so it took a good half hour to get the half mile out of the center of town.

I finally acquired a seat, after watching a little girl try to pretend she knew how to tie her shoes until a standing woman helped her, and she hugged her knees to her chest with a satisfied grin. I took out the huge book I’d been lugging around with just enough time to read about three pages before pulling the “let me off” chord. It’s a dense book.

I listened to music the whole time, too. Billie Holiday and Fiona Apple, Sinead O’Connor and Tori Amos.

This morning, there are dark grey clouds in the distance, and I am going to a Cubs game tonight, so I hope they clear up.

I'm starting to think that maybe taking a week long break from social media is a good idea once a month. After all, who am I beholden to on the internet? Who am I beholden to in the world?