This morning I drove my husband to work. We share one car and my motorcycle was in the shop. Excited about having the car to myself on a Saturday, I packed a bag of healthy fruits and my new 40 calorie crackers. I figured I'd drop him off and find a nice Starbucks with an outdoor space where I could write, gnosh and watch the world go by. I'm a pretty simple gal. My recipe for a perfect afternoon involves iced coffee, access to wifi and a power source, and a quiet place to 'nest'. Bonus points if this writing space is surrounded by nature.
Jumping onto Lake Shore Drive, we had an impromptu 'staff meeting' for our monthly storytelling show in the car. As producers, we have to regularly weigh in on talent bookings, the menu, venue, or ticket sales. Running a show of this size just coming out of the pandemic involves a lot of decision making and organization. At one point, I got quiet and gently held his hand. I love producing together, but sometimes I just want to be "us" again. Vic and Johnny. To see his face. To notice what he's wearing that day. To BE in the moment together.
Windows down, we passed Lake Michigan on the left, Lincoln Park Zoo on the right. I got off the Drive and parked in front of the Happy Camper Old Town. Now Johnny is a DJ and works in these huge venues. Loud. Crowded. Hi-energy. Full of people half our age. Even entering the surrounding neighborhood is a shift for me - with young people in their workout gear, headsets in, confidently going places. Seeing and being seen. It's all very jazzy, cute and urban.
Suddenly I felt very tired. I kissed him goodbye. Now that he was sorted, it was finally time for me.
What would I do with this delicious free day? I could go anywere. Do anything.
First step - get out of this congested part of Chicago. I hopped on 90/ 94 West and headed up to Edgebrook/Saugunash. I'd heard about a neighborhood festival with vintage cars and a sidewalk sale. Ok, whatever. Something to do. I figured I'd check out the festival, search for my "Starbucks sanctuary" and do my thang.
Merging up the highway ramp and into traffic, I was in motion again, an observer. Gospel music filled the car and I drank in the visual flow of vintage apartment buildings, massive factories, and bill boards. The Metra train ran alongside me. Kicking it up to 65 mph, I happily headed out of downtown.
Opening up. Calming down. Energized again.
When I got to Edgebrook/Sauganash, the 'Sidewalk Sale' was two stores with card tables hawking tacky sale items. The "Vintage Car Show" had 4 retro cars and a few old guys kicking the tires. There was no Starbucks in sight. The only saving grace was a lush forest preserve with a bike trail. Crap. I didn't have my bike and there was no way I could hike wearing my flip flops.
For 20 minutes, I circled around trying to find any cafe where I could salvage this afternoon. My inner soul was calling me. Victoria! Where are you? Please slow down. Give me some time. Find a place to write....
I circled and circled. Nada. Zip. Nothing. Really? The only place with outdoor seating was an ice cream shop with Adirondack chairs full of sweaty, loud kids.
Suddenly I felt completely unprepared for this day. And I was mad at myself. Why hadn't I put the bike rack on the back of the car? Thrown my running shoes in my bag? Why hadn't I mapped out the nearby cafes in advance? Summer in Chicago is so short and we have to take advantage of these nice days when we can.
What was my deal today? Well, first of all I was trying to be spontaneous. I had also had a really busy week and no time to "plan fun". I thought just having the car would open me up to worlds of adventure! Well, it didn't. It just opened me up to circling around TRYING to have fun, which honestly is really exhausting.
How hard could it be to find a quiet table outside, decent coffee and a sacred slice in time to reflect, synthesize and write? Evidently very hard.
Suddenly, this weird anxiety came over me. After holing up in my apartment for 15 months during the pandemic, the traffic and number of people around me felt overwhelming. They were driving fast, on a mission. I could not linger. I had to have a purpose, a direction. I felt like I was supposed to be going somewhere, but where?
This strange feeling of LOOKING FOR SOMETHING outside of myself came over me. Most of the time I languish in the here and now, happy with what each moment brings. But here I was searching. Trying to fill a hole. Running.
I headed home, frustrated. I was trying to have an adventure and I had failed. I felt jealous as I passed families happily riding down the bike trail on McCormick Avenue. I could have been chilling on my yellow Schwinn, with an iced coffee in my cup holder, listening to A Tribe Called Red, this EDM/DubStep group I'd recently discovered. But, no. Here I was in my (sacred?) car watching others enjoy their rides.
"Just get your iced coffee with almond milk, Victoria!" I told myself. "That's one thing you can easily accomplish today." Pulling my SUV up behind the others in the Starbucks drive-thru, I felt like a cliche as I paid with my iPhone and headed back home.
When I opened my door to leave the garage, it hit me. Everything I'd been searching for all morning was right here in my own backyard. I was greeted by a dove and a baby bunny rabbit scampering across the grass. My wrought iron table. My private sancutary. My nature. My silence. They were all here - waiting for me.
I could run an extension cord out of the garage and tap into my home wifi. Completely alone out here, I could blast my music, write for hours and even do some ecstatic dance if I wanted to! Slowing down and sinking into the expansiveness of now, I noticed that the ferns along the fence had grown as high as my waist, the hostas had covered the back garden with light purple flowers and orange lilacs were reaching towards the nourishing sunlight.
I cut up my fruit, sipped on my iced coffee, noticed the bird and cicada sounds surrounding me and began to write this piece. Content in the serenity and gratitude for my tiny slice of heaven, my Muse stepped up to the mic and was able to shine.