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Eating.

It is said that a person "goes vegan." Like how someone "goes crazy." And so often, these are closely married thoughts. When a friend or family member pushes away the mashed potatoes because of the milk and butter hidden inside. "I'm vegan now," the self-righteous asshole quips. She has gone crazy. She has gone vegan. 

For me, it feels the opposite of crazy. So sane. A mixture of caring for beings, a conscientious spirit, and an out of control relationship with food. Because of this last reason, it makes so much sense that I slipped in to vegetarianism so easily 5.5 years ago. Easiest lifestyle change. A girl in my freshman year class horrified me with tales of factory farming. And as we walked through Chinatown on the pretty August day, I pledged to try not eating meat for 2 days and see. 5.5 years later, I'm chatting with a friend who horrifies me with tales of dairy farming, and also questions how I am able to be pro-life (with humans) but I feel comfortable eating eggs (because they are delicious, packed with protein, cheap). And then I think and think for the next 5 hours and bam, vegan. So easy. 

This would never happen with other lifestyle choices. If you try to convince me that leaving a dirty crusty pot soaking in warm soapy water is BETTER IN ANY WAY than washing it out right away after cooking, I will question everything else you say for the rest of our relationship. In other words, I'm not one to be easily convinced. 

But this. For someone who has felt powerless with food things for over 10 years, for someone who has felt almost no control over my relationship with what goes into my body, ANY opportunity to grasp the reigns is more than welcome. And this is probably why going crazy, I mean vegan, was so easy for me. It's a breath of fresh air. Being able to say no to something, is a rush. And saying no has the added bonus of being calorie-free.

I am in no way saying this is a healthy relationship with food. Absolutely not. It is not. It is a coping technique. Others might see my decision as any combination of the following: 1) self-righteous privileged annoying person who likes to be different 2) easily grossed-out person, specifically when it comes to such stomach-churning nasties as rennet, mechanically separated chicken, and a rape gun, or 3) fad-following naive unthinking wannabe hippie. None of these describe me. Really, this is about a fat girl trying to find control in her life. Totally uncontroversial.

So, order your side of bacon and specify you'd like the NON vegan French toast, and leave me alone. I am busy going sane.

Cambia, todo cambia

The best parts of this new healthier? happier? life are the inexplicable surprises that have effortlessly appeared. For example, I've always wanted my skin to be shinier, in a radiant sort of way. One day about two months ago, about a week after going totally vegan, I was looking in the mirror at this shiny part of my upper forehead near my hairline. I assumed it was oily like my T zone, so I rubbed at it with a tissue but it didn't go away. I figured it was some silly phenomenon that would disappear. A couple days later, I'm gazing in the bedroom mirror awestruck at this shiny patch! There was a classmate in my Spanish class my sophomore year of college who had the radiant skin I wanted, and I would stare at her. Now, for some unknown reason, I get to have it too!

Another change is that I feel much more colleague-ey with my co-workers. I feel like I have something to offer, as opposed to being a clueless volunteer coordinator, or a clueless interim housing manager, or a clueless case management intern. I feel like we are on the same page now, and I can count on having adult conversations with these people. I'm putting myself down less (can't remember the last time I did), I'm more confident about my decisions, and even more confident about asking for help. 

I can't put my finger on one thing, but I do worry that it's not rooted enough to be able to withstand a major life change. Would a break up make me spiral backwards to low self esteem land? Would a string of work disappointments throw me back to walking on eggshells world? I think this is the next step. To find more confidence in my capacity to be confident. Everything can change so, seemingly, quickly and without direct causes. So, will this new healthier happier me change too? 

Ghost: A Story, A Ghost Story

The first date was high on LSD, fitting puzzle pieces of dialogue together like a melody. A voyage to China on an unnamed ocean, with every thought knowing confidence and finding itself spoken.
The second date, hours later, was a stolen bicycle ride. Through concrete geometry to a marble aquarium on the easy tide. Invigorating winds tore at my helmeted head, coaxing my dress to inch south as we faced north, like my bed. He recited those words from a poem of Pleiades, with Exhibit A directly above, such brilliant ladies.
The third date, again, hours later, was cautious, a dance around the air and its flirty softness. Air that had lost molecular consistency and was delicate concepts, anorexic and silky. They pleaded to stay intact and at play, but we crushed them all up and kissed anyway.
The second day we met was a delinquent act of trespass and concentrations of sweet extract. A scaling of the fence, a window knock, a calla lily bunch, and another disregard of the clock.
The third was tense and inconsistent. Waves crashed, painful and, worse, flippant. Resistant and obligatory cotton candy sex. Followed by a decade long conversation to discuss and dissect.
I walked to the train in red eyes and sweat, 30 minutes in heels, blisters, and regret.
The fourth day escapes, I recall a massage of my face. And the vacuuming whir of rearranging and correction. Shred and share and a return to affection.
The fifth a disaster of mountainous heights. A homework date of political fights. Gerrymandering talk to sound wise and win elections with eye-rolling tries and intellectual rejection.
The sixth a reaffirmation of compatible hints and a cuddle of puzzles aligned and warmly fit.
The seventh a tendril, a tentacle connection from me to him and hell is beckoned. Attachment threatens this infant romance and the whole world of us knows we don't stand a chance.
The eighth is a breath, a step back to assess. Love is perceived in a water glass filled, and the next kiss is empty, broken and chilled. I won't ever love you in this way. I will hurt you and will always be 92 centimeters away.
The ninth is with a ghost who barely exists. How to continue driving down a road refusing to persist? The drugged China sea laughs knowingly at me and I step forward into the day sans lover, maybe free?

Stakes



My job ends next Friday, so me being me, I feel compelled to surround that with emotion and drama, which will end up anticlimactic as everything is fine and I adapt to new life in a healthy way.

But for now, I am worried and terrified. This being my first long term full time job, I started out very invested and continued getting more and more invested to the point where I sort of defined myself by this job.

I think that I will miss having a stake in something greater than myself. Sure, I will still have clients at the shelter, and I will have a stake in their future. But not the same.

Wonder if this will become painful...or maybe not at all.

Horrors of the Green Line




For a minute there, I simply refused to take the Green Line.  Rumors that it was contested gang territory kept me off it for a while.  Then a terrifying experience of being yelled at for 15 minutes for being a "slave-holding white supremacist" at 3pm on a Monday kept me off for a bit.  The all-encompassing unsavoriness of witnessing a man and his penis do things that should not be done next to me on the El.  Being called "fresh meat" in a completely audible voice not even trying to be discreet.  This shit doesn't happen on the Brown Line.  So I steered clear.

Then, today, I had to take it because it was 45 minutes shorter of a commute than taking any other transportation to a work function.  This was a mistake.

This punk (bless his heart) spends the entire journey from Ashland/Lake to 43rd St. whispering into the ear of a gay-presenting man all of the ways he is going to kill him.  I was across the aisle, so the whispers were those harsh whispers that evil characters on cartoons use...that especially vile, hissing kind.  What confused me was when he started calling this young man various offensive names associated with lesbians...but I guess he just ran out of material.  What kept the gay-presenting man from moving about 10 minutes earlier, I will never know.  But eventually at 43rd, when he was being told how he was going to be abused and eventually murdered with the use of a cane, he moved to another seat. 

What is and has been torturing this vile young man's life to such an extent that he feels 1) compelled 2) entitled to share these fantasies of murder with his would-be victim?  What is it about the Green Line that such outliers transport themselves on it?  Brown and Green Line meet for some moments but really their respective inhabitants are living on different planets. 

What can I proactively do, aside from glaring at the tormented young man the entire time?  He caught my eye a number of times; I think he wanted people to hear how bad-ass he is.  So, I think my assertions would have done nothing.  Maybe.  I have implored a young man to clean up his litter...with success...on the El once.  I could have waited for the well-groomed and jeweled man to flee and then moved into his old seat and asked, calmly, of the provocateur, "I couldn't help but overhear what you have been saying, and I wanted to ask what you think of gay people?"  I think this would have been a nice way to open him up for conversation, sans (or at least masking) my judgment.  Alas, I didn't do anything.  Neither did the well-coiffed, accessorized man.  

It's National Coming Out Day tomorrow.  May those of us with something to say come out and say it. 

Missed Connections

I've been feeling pretty isolated lately.  Outside of of work and school, my interactions with others consist of ordering a coffee, telling the hair stylist how much to chop off, and wishing peace be with you to church strangers with their limp handshakes and wandering eye contact.  This wouldn't be so awful if it was my intention.  But it's not.  I desire more connection with the world around me, and lack of it leaves me wondering why?  Why is my life a single actor play with plenty of running credits but only one actor?  Worse, I don't seem to be a supporting actress to anyone else's play either.  We talk about transmitters and receptors in social work school.  What is the deal with all of these transmissions and no receptors nor receptions?  Leaves me feeling a bit unnecessary and superfluous to the planet.  I am reminded often at work that anyone with a pulse and a modicum of social grace could do my job.  The Hyde Park hug, of which I wrote last week, ends up making me angry when I feel like this.  Like I'm the anomaly because I am existing in such an interwoven land and yet I'm woven into nothing. 

I've always been a loner.  So I don't really have the skills to be not one.  It is a mystery to me how individuals manage to fill their phones with text messages, their Facebook walls with posts, and their Saturday nights with people.  This is foreign land to me, and while I want to emigrate there, I'm not sure if I want to assimilate or not, because heck I think I am great, and all I really want is for other people to think so too.  Not to change myself for the validation of others.  I guess what I'm saying is that I would rather the world change its attractions and re-orient them to me...than for me to morph into what the world finds attractive.  Not in an I-want-to-date-you kind of way.  But that my thoughts are attractive, my way of living.  That they shout out "Hey, come join in."  Missing connections.

I can put my finger on it!

Hyde Park=Merida

Here is why. 

When I lived in Merida, I was free, by myself, with appropriate attachments to where I slept and ate, where I learned and tested, and that was that.  Same with Hyde Park.  In Merida, life was a miracle, people were fascinating specimens full of knowledge of this world of which I knew so little.  I'm told to be careful in Mexico, be careful in Hyde Park.  And walking down the sidewalks in both of these places, in the grocery store, on the buses, I feel more at home, safe, and somehow taken care of than I ever have living anywhere else.  Men do the 'after you' dance only here and only there and no where else I've ever lived.  My tote bag lurches with the bus and before I can uncross my legs, 2 men are handing me my mozzarella cheese sticks and school books.  As I stuff them back into my tote bag, I laugh at thoughts of Lincoln Park disconnectedness from each other and recall bad memories of smashing pickle jars and flax seed oil and no one helping.  Something beautiful exists here. 

People are rooted to Merida, rooted to Hyde Park.  No transplants like in Lakeview, Lincoln Park, Albany Park, etc.  Transplants make me nervous and uncomfortable when I view them in their new environment.  Migrants from across the border trekking to Albany Park, tip toeing around, disappointed with how life turned out, immersing themselves in little Mexicos, trying to pretend this never happened.  Migrants from the suburbs and small town USA into bubbles of cute, clean superficiality, credit card debt and empty relationships in Lakeview and Lincoln Park.  Wherever you are from sounds quaint and sheltered.  Everyone is your mirror image, and if not, they don't belong.  

Not in Hyde Park.  Not in Merida.  People's grandparents live down the street.  They were baptized in this gorgeous church and remember when that vacant lot was not a vacant lot. 

And the parks!  And festivals!  I live about the same distance from Washington Park as I did from Parque Aleman.  The same amount of distance that I can feel the music in my chest as I sit on my bed.  Festivals up to my eyeballs.  I remember a festival in Parque Aleman that was SO colorful, SO happy, I just had to stop by on my way home and see what was up.  It was an Alcoholics Anonymous party.  Today in Washington Park is something about a circus, with signs everywhere saying "We Play Too Much!"  Two weekends ago was the Africa Festival.  Before that, 53rd Street had the Reggae Festival which I serendipitously stumbled upon as my Meridian friend and I took a stroll through my new land.  Today is the Jazz Fest down the street on the other side of Hyde Park.  Please, try to convince me that the Taste of Lincoln or Lincoln Park Arts and Music Fest was ANYWHERE near as amplified, alive, and genuine.

'Illegitimate' business on the sidewalks give me some hope for humanity.  Sell me some tamales from your wooden table perched proudly on the miniature sidewalk.  Sell me some cigarettes and neon flashy things on the corner of Cottage Grove and 51st as police cars cruise by and pieces of the road crumble and sink.  You look just like Merida. 

I feel free of competition here.  I feel like we are all ok with our vulnerabilities and letting it all hang out, as they say.  I like this.  In Merida, I wore small amounts of makeup, spent 4 seconds thinking about what to wear, how to do my hair.  I talked to everyone and thought every person was incredible and sort of on a pedestal and sort of 'below' me and so therefore we were all on the same level.  I felt like I had secrets about who I really was and I could reveal just exactly how much I wanted to reveal.  So much freedom!  And here it all is again.  Welcome back.

Equidistant radii

I poured myself into 15-20 tissues a few hours ago, mumbling emphatically to my mom things about "no control" and "too much responsibility" and "why'd I sign up for this" and "not ready, not ready, NOT READY FOR THIS."  The Metra came on schedule, and I stayed inside the whirring Prius.  The massive white carnation of kleenex on my lap continued to blossom as I attempted to mentally STOP minutes from approaching, ticking 1, ticking 2, ticking 3, and passing...getting closer and ever closer to tomorrow.  Unable to emotionally? intellectually? recognize the fact that my Metra was in front of me and I was to board, my mom was forced to drive me all this way.  I spent the car ride with the seat reclined 100%, knees and mouth oddly touching, as I drifted in and out of sleep.  If it wasn't  the nausea that woke me, then it was the pounding post-cry-your-face-off headache, or the whole-body chills, followed by firey forehead sweats. 

So silly though, because I know that life is cyclical and unbroken.  I get samsara.  In my 24th year, as I spend my days at 2400 N. Fullerton, the suffer joy suffer joy suffer joy suffer cycle is straight up what is up.  Complete, incomplete, complete, incomplete, complete, ahhhh.  "The eye is the first circle; the horizon which it forms is the second; and throughout nature this primary figure is repeated without end." -Emerson in "Circles."  Tomorrow will come and I will arrive where I need to be and I will have outgoing moments and somber moments and Katietude moments and leadery moments and pure being moments and I will receive information (orientation to grad program) and digest some, while some morsels bounce off my brain, and then I will go to work and have similar experiences.  Then it will be Tuesday.  Not a big secret what that day'll bring. 

"The life of man is a self-evolving circle, which, from a ring imperceptibly small, rushes on all sides outwards to new and larger circles, and that without end." -Emerson in "Circles."

Not planning on nirvana-ing any time soon.  I guess it's more so about maintaining an equidistant position from the circumference of these freaking circles.  I think that's the point of all of this. 

You don't knowww me

You really don't know me, people shouting white girl names at me as I exit my bus.  I get that to you, "Becky" and "Allison" are the same person, and I am the same as them, and that person is Naive White Girl in Wrong Part of Town. 

Hi.  I live here.  Can you please realize that what you just did right there, THAT is racism.  That means that what you said was racist.  And therefore YOU MIGHT BE A RACIST.  Yep, that awful jab of a word.  That might be you.  You're black and you're racist.  Let it sink in. 

What's great is that you are security for the fair.  I just came from my security gig.  Maybe if you'd taken a closer look, you'd have seen the block S E C U R I T Y lettering on my t-shirt and realized we might actually have something in common. 

Jesus!

It is Sunday and something told me to go to church this morning.  I looked up the address and worship time of the local Unitarian Universalist church and walked on over.  Mingled, read the bulletin, peed, what have you, until it was a few minutes before it was all about to go down.  When suddenly I realize I'M IN THE WRONG CHURCH.  The "Union" in the title of the church into which I'd stumbled threw me off apparently.  The Unitarian church was a few doors down, which I realized from a combo of 1) The church's address on the bulletin was 5600 S. and the scribbled address on my piece of paper was 5650 S. 2) There was no one tripping over themselves to express how super welcoming they are to gay folks, Buddhist, atheists, and that whole oft-forgotten lot (Unitarians wouldn't be caught dead sans gay flag and a painting of a menorah)

So I was faced with the option to climb over my fellow pew-sitters and head down the block and just catch the start of the Unitarian service, OR stay put and see what these friendly people had to say.  I stayed put because the pastor was DAMN SEXY. 

Seriously, talk about a FINE man of the cloth.  What these folks had to say was very nice and we sang and the afraid-of-change (even good change) part was nice and sexy pastor's sermon even mentioned Namibia, which was nice because that country is rarely referenced, and he has been there, and I am traveling there soon, and the tyranny of resolution and being okay with agitation and not resolving cultural, racial, class differences right now lickety split.  A very old, very shaky man with large red framed glasses made a long speech about how this church has been a prime example of how long change does take, but that, looking back over decades, how far we've come.  It must be a good feeling to have been at the forefront of social changes before that social change was even cool (or federally mandated).  Then, a large black woman wearing straight up tattered clothing got up there and said how much she was struggling in life and how god answers her prayers.  During the collection, she gave 3 quarters, which struck me because it was such a perfect moment of someone with nothing giving something.

What really got me RILED UP was afterward when we changed rooms and were lectured to about youth violence in Chicago, this nascent program the church has to address this violence, how they have put a lot (80 hours) of thought and work into creating this project, and how they need our help.  I am all about ending violence in Chicago (/everywhere), so hey sign me up.  But WAIT they will be ending said violence with none other than..wait for it...a CONCERT.  A multi-media concert.  And they need our help making cookies, being roadies for the musicians, posting fliers.  This will cost $15,000.  Send in your checks.  Oh and yes it will be accompanied with pastoral care to families of victims, sincere conversations with principals, clergy, community organizations in these afflicted areas.  Great.  People who agree with each other will gab about for hours and days and years and zero children will be impacted in any way.

HELLO.  Not addressing the root of the problem.  You have the attention of 30-40 members of your congregation.  Do you know how much knowledge and skills and potential power is just waiting to be unleashed from these people?  Why dumb this all down and have the woman with years of teaching high school males in a lock-down facility go on and BAKE BROWNIES.  Why have this man with 3 decades of professorship at the university POST FLIERS.  If you are an English teacher, you need to go tutor the worst-performing English students at a dangerous elementary school so that they don't flunk English and then every other class and then drop or get kicked out of school.  And then have nothing else to do with their Tuesday afternoon than join a gang and carry out some violent acts, resulting in the murder of a person, whose name this church will pronounce at their monthly vigil.  VIGILS.  Don't even get me started on those wastes of time (and resources!). If you are a lawyer, I'm going to need you to pro bono yourself on over to a courthouse, a police station, a prison and share with these youngsters their rights.  If you are an employer, employ newly-released felons.  If you are a pastor, visit perpetrators in jail and prison, hear their stories, open their eyes to something new, some self-esteem, a broader world, other possibilities, tutor them in math for the GED.  If you are a nutritionist, a retiree, a stay at home mom, there are more WORTH-YOUR-WHILE tasks to be completing if what you really want to do is end youth violence. 

It's harder to address it this way than with a multi-media concert. That's the point is that it's hard.  Please don't lose sight of the fury that spurned your interest in the first place.  Like one of the pastors said, let's be aware of our fear of change (even good change).  Like the sexy pastor said, let's be okay with agitation, discomfort, putting ourselves in a new awkward environment.  Like the shaky old man said, let's be at the forefront of change.  Just because everyone else has benefit concerts out the wazoo doesn't mean they 1) Change anything 2) Are a proper use of time.  Like the poor tattered woman who gave her most precious resource, money, let's give our most precious resources and skills.  Amen.