I love the city of Chicago. The first time I came here, I called home and told the hubs, “I think I could move here!” It was April. He told me to come back in February and then call him.
I’ve been back many times and from the moment I get off the plane in O’Hare, it feels like I’m home. I don’t even feel that way when I go to San Francisco and it tops my list as my most favorite city. Chicago always comes in second…go figure.
So I’m back this week for work. This time it’s just me, alone, in a hotel room the size of my walk-in closet with a bathroom the size of my pantry. It’s very nice, just very, very small and very, very, VERY expensive. No matter, I love it here.
Last night as I walked up Michigan Avenue and snapped these pics, I started thinking about my last trip here – about 10 or 11 years ago. I was with my team and we were presenting a class. I remember being more concerned with where we were going to drink than the class we were delivering. There was a reception after the first day and when it was over, I went to my room and did some work and then came looking for more drinking buddies. No one was there. I remember thinking, “What’s wrong with me? Why is it never enough?” I also remember feeling very, very alone.
I sensed my boss knew what was going on because she specifically told me not to go out drinking with the class participants. I remember thinking, “What is HER problem? I’m a grown ass woman!” She knew I was out of control and was just too polite to really call me out on it. I likely would have imploded if she had actually said anything anyway. Remembering those times brings a special kind of shame to my heart.
Last night I sat with that shame. I let it wash over me. I let it drift from shame to guilt because, to paraphrase Brene’ Brown, guilt says I’ve done something wrong, shame says I’m wrong. I’m sick to death of shame. But guilt is part of me and I have to honor it in order to move past it. So I did and by doing so, I was able to see this city I love with a new perspective.
Wanting to soak up some local color, I stopped for dinner at a little dive of a neighborhood restaurant/bar in the basement of a building. It was fairly early so the place was pretty much empty except for several “regulars” at the bar. This was just the kind of place I would have LOVED in my drinking days. As I waited for my deep dish pizza (so much for my eating plan), I watched and listened to the folks at the bar and, rather than feeling envious of their ability to drink, I just felt a deep sense of sadness. Not for me…for them. Why weren’t they on their way home to their families? What would bring them into the basement to drink when the weather was so beautiful? Why not get a jump on traffic or rush hour?
As I listened to their conversation (it wasn’t hard…you know how loud we get when we drink), it became even sadder to me. They spoke of kids and wives and husbands. They discussed Halloween and parties and weekends. Why were they wasting time in this dark (and cozy I have to admit) place instead of making their way home?
The longer I sat the more they drank. No one else came in. The bartender knew each by name and brought their drinks before they asked. A familiar pattern to me. After I finished my meal I overtipped the waitress and made my way out of there, silently bidding goodbye to the locals.
And thanking God that I was no longer one of them.