More than any other time I’ve visited, this time I got a taste of what it might actually be like to live here: concerts and parties and theatre and movies and dinners and bagels for breakfast and the New York Times in bed on Sunday morning, noodles in Chinatown, the swift breeze on the Brooklyn Bridge looking out at the Statue of Liberty while curling up in the arms of a cute boy, the same one who’s been on all of the other aforementioned city adventures.
It doesn’t seem quite existentially fair, the fact that I’m stuck in Chicago. And “stuck” isn’t even the right word, because I do not feel as though I’m being punished by going home or as though my life there is in any way incomplete. I’m happy in Chicago, and it’s where all my friends are, where my children live, the place that houses every joy and accomplishment I’ve seen in my adult life (I’m choosing for now, to forget that it’s also been home base for all of life’s disappointments and failures as well). The women who supported me through my brain tumor and my break-ups with both The Philosopher and The Narcissist are in Chicago, not to mention that it’s where I got (and continue to get) sober.
It used to be that I went to New York to find part of myself that I didn’t think existed in Chicago, perhaps A-plus-something, or (more likely) A-minus-lots of things. I became a different person in New York, probably a similar transformation to the one I’d undergo when heading into the city from the suburbs and The Philosopher would say, “I don’t like the person you become when we come downtown,” and I’d be thinking that I didn’t much like the person I became when I left.
But that didn’t happen this time, and beyond having a remarkable weekend (plus a day) with an equally remarkable person, this trip (and the coming-home) is more difficult than usual because I’m the same person coming and going. Nothing has changed, and what makes it hard is that with this realization comes another: it’s at least half true that waiting nine years until the boys are out of high school was mostly an excuse, a story I told myself because I didn’t feel entirely ready to make such a big change. Yes, it is true that the boys keep me tethered to Chicago. But it is also true that they are tethered to me, and I am an adult, who can make choices, and things can be worked out, and it is entirely possible to leave Chicago without abandoning them.
In a sense, then, coming and going this time around feels as though it is part of my recovery, yet another realization that the only thing preventing me from living the life I have always wanted is ME. It’s a tough, tough thing for me to come to terms with. But since I just signed a lease for a year, and coming back here for weekends on a monthly basis is definitely a possibility for now…well, I have some time. I will say that I’m returing to Chicago thinking that it won’t be another nine years I’ll be staying. Namaste.