A ladybug with a death wish dive-bombed my keyboard as I assumed the position to begin writing this.Nature and the world at large are attempting to intervene in my creative process by sending its most formidable creatures to scare me shitless. Yes, I am afraid of ladybugs. You may stop reading now. I won't let nature get the best of me, though. (When I caught my breath again, I swiped it with a pillow. Out of sight, out of mind. …Right?) I won't let that ladybug drive me to distraction, even though now I'm sort of wondering…crap. Where did it go? Under the sofa? Stuck to the pillow? Crawling up my leg? IT WILL NOT GET THE BEST OF ME. BECAUSE? My mantra today: "I have to write. I have to write. I have to write." Subtext: MY PEOPLE WANT ME TO WRITE. I ran into the loveliest not-quite-stranger I know from the Internet last night, in my neighborhood. She saw the Knight in Shining Camry walking up the street and knew he was my boyfriend. Then she saw us embrace halfway up the street and bounded up to us to say hello. She checks my blog every day; she's "kind of obsessed with me." Which might scare anyone else but me. It's possibly the highest compliment I can think of receiving. Because I get "kind of obsessed" with people all the time. So, if nothing else, she is my people. And, you know, she wants me to write.
God. Is that ladybug on my neck now?
But I need to write for myself, too. There are things swimming in my head, splashing around, demanding to be let out. "Watch my dive!" they beg. And if my now-crisp recollection of Labor Day weekend's sheer joy somehow fades before I give myself the time to sit down, think about it and write something worth a damn, I won't forgive myself. Everything I saw, did and felt — and the things I very notably did not see, do or feel, mainly anything negative — needs to be Han Solo–frozen in time. Documented, word for word. Somewhere. Anywhere.
But this has been a bad week. One of the worst weeks I can remember since this spring, possibly before I booked my flight to Paris. And coming down off a weekend like that? The bad hurts even more. Tuesday morning brought a rude awakening, and despite my best efforts to rise above it at the trill of each subsequent day's alarm: FAIL, as the kids say. Epic fail. The excruciating tedium of my commute — at least an hour and 15 minutes, each way, the wrong way — the stress of my job and the fact that I'm entrenched in the worst only family drama I've experienced since my parents' divorce all reared their ugly heads at once. "Woof, woof!" Cerberus yipped, more than a pinch of Schadenfreude in his bark. "Welcome to Hades. Hope you didn't have any other plans today. Because you aren't leaving." So instead of collecting my thoughts into fragrant bouquets of prosies, I cried. Buckets of tears. And I sulked, every day. And I wrote my mother a four-page letter, which depleted my word supply — and emotional fortitude — for a few days. Oh, and I ate so many brownies that it makes me ill to think about now. Though it didn't then (my feelings are delicious). And this morning, my blessed Saturday, the only day in my week that can be totally devoid of stress, I woke up fretting again. Until I just decided — no more. Because I much prefer the Chicago lakefront to the banks of the river Styx. Hell is too hot, anyway. And I'm tired of sulking and crying, and that stupid three-headed dog.
Instead of wallowing in bed with Buffy, though she could have helped me deal with my demons in another way, I got on my bike. Well, my friend Doug's bike — long story, but that's neither here nor there. Well, the bike is here. There. Down there, in the basement. Anyway. I got on a bike, and a cool breeze carried me past a mass of ALS charity walkers, Segway tourists and wet dogs playing fetch at the beach, south to Navy Pier, where I picked up my race packet for a 5K tomorrow, and back through the middle of Chicago. Down one-way streets the wrong way, unabashedly. Past public housing and dead factories on roads reduced to gravel and white chalk that kicked up onto my calves. Across Division Street and straight into the orange barricades blocking off the hipster craft fair I could have missed completely. I reveled in my serendipity with a new camera strap, a pulled pork sandwich with sweet-potato fries and amber beer in a clear, sweaty glass. And I remembered that kitten-in-a-meadow poster adage that it takes more facial muscles to frown than it does to smile, and I did. Smile. How nice.
Actually, if you don't mind, three-headed Hell poochie, I'm going to get on this little rowboat and find my way — all the way — back to happy. Watch this space. And watch out for ladybugs.