let go

The sounds of settling.

A man with a waxed mustache, twirled ironically to anachronistic perfection, drove me to Schaumburg last night.The wales on his rust-colored corduroys ran horizontally, and the pants' pockets were lined with calico and seemed to scream, "Screw you, I'm a nonconformist!" He says he only waxes the mustache to keep the errant curly hairs out of his mouth. I'm not sure I believe him.

We zipped along the back roads in his Honda Fit talking about music and food and the horror of the suburbs. Destination: Ikea. There, after successfully navigating the particleboard Labyrinth, I bought a flat cardboard box that magically became a shelving unit, and a rug that looks like my brain feels: jumbled, abstract. More than a little unsettling, like a circus in a nightmare. Whimsical, from the right frame of mind. Its long edges curled up in a stubborn sneer, like my friend's moustache but less friendly, through the rug's first night in its new home. But it looked better, more at home, in the morning.

Most things do.

My new home has welcomed me with all manner of strange but somehow familiar sounds: creaky floorboards; ancient plaster that shatters with the slightest tap of a nail through the hollow, perennially patched and repaired walls; radiators that gurgle and squeal like larger-than-life teapots. I can see the Brown Line just outside my living room window. My squealing radiators threaten to turn the whole place into a pressure cooker, so the windows have been open since the day I moved in, when the snow fell relentlessly, inch after inch, hour after hour. My moving crew was not fond of me that day. It's a 45-second walk, door to door, to the train — so I've heard. I always forget to count as I cut through the alley and race up the escalator to beat the next train into the station. Inside, as my music plays softly or Rachael Ray prepares yet another obscenely unappetizing dish on my obscenely huge television, the time passes in uneven increments — five to seven minutes apart, longer on weekends — marked by a digitized "bong, bong…doors closing!" and a hollow, garbled conductor announcement that would make Charlie Brown's teachers proud.

The trains clatter away in either direction, leaving behind the hiss of exhaust and howl of emergency vehicles along Western, the quiet hum and snow crunch of passenger cars prowling for parking on the street separating me from the train station. The city lives and breathes around me. It makes me feel alive. And at home.

Home: I waited to feel that for six months in Wicker Park. It never happened. Most of my photos are still stacked in corners, waiting to be hung. What should be the dining room is still a disaster area for homeless knickknacks and paper avalanches waiting to happen. Tearing through the pantry, I really thought I had garlic salt, but the boxes are all empty and broken down; it's nowhere to be found. But I pad around in slippers, the grit of salt and filthy snow grinding into the old wood floors I haven't made time to clean yet; I sip wine from stemless glasses that never made it out of their cabinet on Hermitage; I make dinner without my garlic salt, and I feel at home.

Somehow, everything fits here. Even the robin's egg–blue cabinet.

It all needs just a little more time to settle. Patience. Patience.

And that whimsical, unsettling rug, already relaxed into its bit of floor, will be what brings it all together.

Reverb 10: Only five minutes?

On the last day of November, I signed up to participate in #reverb10, a month-long challenge to blog every day of December based on prompts provided here. Here’s hoping it keeps me honest. I've dropped the ball recently, but I'm forgiving myself. Life steps in sometimes and demands attention. Anyway. Today’s prompt: December 15 5 Minutes. Imagine you will completely lose your memory of 2010 in five minutes. Set an alarm for five minutes and capture the things you most want to remember about 2010. (Author: Patti Digh)

Two things before I start:

  • One, Patti Digh is a genius. I love her. She's where the monkey bars thing came from.
  • Two, this is a damned disaster. Give me five minutes, and I'll give you some e.e. cummings, scattered, half-to-poetic but mostly just ludicrous crap. So.

Five minutes. It would take longer than that just to get through the bad stuff. I'll try. We played Apples to Apples on New Year's. Kissed at midnight, played the guitar. Then spent the next day in our pajamas. The trouble started when we moved in together. But there were moments. I have grainy pictures of me in my purple hat, holding up some stupid tchotchke in the furniture store. Buying our bed together. Picking out drawer pulls at Anthropologie. We were planning a life together. Out of order: That first night, dragging my chair down a flight of stairs and spending 20 minutes jamming it back through the new door. Blogging in the cold and dark, feeling like I was embarking on my next big thing. Which I guess it was.

The panic attack over how short the curtains were, that was a big thing. The little bruises peppering my upper thighs because there was never enough room to get past the bed without bumping it in the night.

Then one day, I left. Took my bruises with me.

The summer of social media, the summer of indecision and heartbreak, more heartbreak. His, again, and a trail of rebounds who I still love dearly for beautiful little things. My now-friends, which isn't a euphemism. Then one day, I let go of the monkey bars. And everything was scary and free and mostly just scary, but I did it anyway.

There aren't a lot of vegetables in my life now. But I have friends. Lots of friends and lots of time.

Reverb 10: Letting go, three months later.

On the last day of November, I signed up to participate in #reverb10, a month-long challenge to blog every day of December based on prompts provided here. Here’s hoping it keeps me honest. Today’s prompt: December 5 Let go. What (or whom) did you let go of this year? Why? (Author: Alice Bradley)

I let go of the monkey bars. (If you're new here, click that! It's a link! Today, it could also be seen as something of a cop-out!)

The Cliff's Notes: I quit my full-time job, gave up my health insurance and paid vacation, the regular paychecks and 401K, my two-and-a-half-hour daily commute, the frustration of working for people with no interest in caring for their employees, and the general self-loathing that went with doing a job my heart was no longer in. An opportunity to work for myself, be on my own, presented itself. And I jumped at it. It wasn't a popular decision with my family — a situation not altogether unfamiliar to me at this point — and I knew it wouldn't be easy in a lot of ways.

But I did it because 27 years old is too young not to take a chance that might end in failure. It's too young to choose security over freedom. I did it because 27 is too old to still be worried about what's expected of you. I did it because despite the tough sell to my family, there are many, many safety nets, security blankets and downy-soft support systems lined up to catch me if I do lose my grip. And I did it because, contrary to all the news stories written in the past year about foolish, spoiled, naïve Gen Yers, it's never foolish, spoiled nor naïve to expect — no, demand — that a job be challenging, fulfilling and rewarding.

Three months later? I've left the monkey bars and hit the playground running. The twisty slide and the tire swing and the merry-go-round are all at my disposal, and I'm just getting started.

It hasn't been easy, just as I expected. I'm getting by on a bit less money than before. I'm paying through the nose for my health insurance (that's a link, too). I'm beating back the occasional attacks of crippling loneliness.

But I'm also embracing my freedom. I've been running up a storm; I'm getting back in shape. I spend my work days at Starbucks. I go to therapy in the middle of the afternoon. I love the people I'm working with, even though I rarely see them in person and we're scattered all across the country. I'm finding out I'm a pretty decent salesgirl. I'm starting to blog more; I'm proud of more of it. I've signed up for an eight-week writing course.

Challenging. Fulfilling. Rewarding.

Here's to letting go of the monkey bars and reaching forward to what's next.