A Strange Happiness

Note: This is the longest post I have written in months. But I think it’s worth reading through to the end. I hope you agree.

The last two weeks have been interesting. Let’s start at the beginning. Last Tuesday. I received a very snide, and rather obnoxious email from a friend of a friend of a friend who I had sent my resume to. It was a last straw. I am sure she was having a bad day, and it came out in that email, but it upset me nonetheless. I called my mother, and lets just say by the end of the conversation, my face was wet. I wasn’t so much hurt by the email as I was upset at the lack of progress I have made since I got here. Response to my resume has been less than exuberant, and that email was just IT. I needed a break. My mother heard this without my even saying it.

The next day, she called and asked if she could come to visit for the weekend. Of course, I said yes. She arrived Saturday morning, before the “wintry mix” hit. That afternoon and evening, over the course of 6 hours, we had snow, sleet, wind, ice, and rain. We had a great time powering through the weather. We didn’t let it stop us from anything! The rest of the trip was equally fun (well, even better really, since there was no crazy ice or wind to deal with!). She left on Tuesday afternoon, just a few hours before it began to snow again.

Now, I have been here for a month. It has been a good month. Truly. I have not been so happy since I lived in Austin. As I write this, tears are spilling out of my eyes. How could something as hard as this make me so much happier than the last five years? The years where I made so many good friends, and bought a house, and rekindled my relationship with my parents. How could this month virtually alone, and without a sense of purpose make me so much happier? It has been a struggle to come to terms with this. Not because I don’t understand it, but because no one else understands it. I love my friends, and my parents. I love my house. But there was something about Dallas that was so stifling that I just couldn’t breathe. I felt so trapped beneath my life. The stability and seeming comfort. It wasn’t what I grew up knowing. My father was gone for half my life, starting a new job 6 months before we moved to the new city. Traveling for business. Generally being the absent father even while being in the same room. And here I was, working with him 50 hours a week. Don’t get me wrong, it was great for our relationship. It really gave us a chance to understand how much we loved each other despite everything, but it wasn’t my normal. And staying in Texas for 15 years? That was obsurd given my childhood! We moved every two to three years. That is what I am built for. I am built for change. I am built for the new. I am good with the unknown. Once Dallas became too familar, I felt claustrophobic. I thought I had longed for the stability, but the reality is, the stabilty is stifling. For someone who loves to plan, that seems like a contradiction, but I prefer to plan for the unknown. Discover. Sort out the big stuff, and let the little stuff fall in place. In all honesty, I love stress. I thrive on it. I need it to grow. I had to create it in Dallas, and all that did was cause problems.

Not to mention the conservative nature of the state of Texas. Guess what folks? I’m liberal! I have always been liberal. I will always be liberal! I still won’t say I am a Democrat entirely, but I am liberal. And I am sick of having to defend that. And forget defending my political beliefs. How about my religious beliefs? I am agnostic. I have been agnostic since I was a first able to process the word. It does not mean I don’t believe in God, it just leaves open the possibility that “God” might take a different, non-Christian, or non-Jewish, or non-Hindu, or non-Islamic form. But does that fly in Texas? No. In Texas, I might as well have been Atheist. I haven’t told a soul that I am agnostic for the last 10 years. An entire decade avoiding the word for fear I would be forced in a corner and required to defend myself. That’s crazy!

I was told on numerous occasions that I was going to hell for not being sure if I believed Jesus was the son of God. Are you kidding me? Telling someone they are going to hell, or that you are “Worried about their soul” is the absolute most condescending thing you could possible say in life. Because the teller believes it. They believe that you will be spending eternity in the absolute worst place they can think of. It doesn’t matter than I don’t believe it. They do.

Look at where I come from for a second. My father is Jewish and my mother is Methodist. If I decide Jesus was or wasn’t the son of God, then I have just denied one half of my family’s basic belief system. How could anyone expect me to do that? In my own opinion, God understands that.

But we are off topic. I moved to Chicago with the hope of feeling normal. Or at least not ABnormal. And I seem to be succeeding. The people I have met so far are all understanding. And strangely these topics have already come up in several cases. It’s as though the topics aren’t as taboo up here. Could it be that people are just more open to differences here? That they are willing to accept you, even though you aren’t just like them? Or even though they didn’t prove you were wrong?

I don’t quite know what it is, but I don’t feel afraid here. I don’t worry about offending people, I don’t worry about being different. Everyone is different here. Almost no one is FROM Chicago, like they are in Texas. They all come from somewhere else and they all felt alone and lost. But they all had a map in hand, and found their way, both physically and mentally. I feel it here. I feel that satisfied buzz that I rarely got in Dallas. Everyone in Dallas is searching for some unobtainable truth. Here, people seem content with what they are finding, even though it’s not what they expected.

The only thing I wish for is a satisfying use of my time. Without a job, I feel directionless for most of the day. I can look for jobs, but there are only so many hours in the day when you can do that before you just can’t anymore. And as I haven’t made a zillion friends yet, I still have a lot of free time. The free time was ok before my mother came to visit. But after having company 24/7 for 4 days, now I am craving contact. And that is one thing I wish I had here. Contact. Physical contact with friends. It will come in time. It always does. I started out knowing 4 people in Dallas. Three of whom I hadn’t hung out with for much of the 5 years previous, yet I left Dallas with dozens of friends. And in all honesty, I have already made 4 or 5 friends here. In just a month’s time. But it’s nights like this, listening to Journey’s “Don’t Stop Believin'” when I cry tears. I say tears without exemplifying them, because they aren’t sad tear, yet they aren’t happy. They are relief tinged with reflection. Which is the mixed bag of emotion that I have been feeling for the past month since I set out on my own in the perfectly fitting, solo drive to Chicago.

My happiness here is directly linked to my sense of self, and my ability to be at peace with that self. I am not entirely sure if it is actually the city of Chicago that has given me that feeling, or simply the freedom of starting over that has done it, but MY GOD am I glad I did. I hurt people by leaving Dallas, and for that I am so sad. But my happiness had to take precedence, finally. Everything I need is in my head. Everything I want is within the reach of my hard work, and in Dallas, I forgot that. I let the outside determine the inside. How foolish.

All I ever really needed or wanted was to feel comfortable in my own skin and my own brain. After that, everything will just fit.

And for that, I am unbelievably happy!

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3 responses to “A Strange Happiness

  1. Wow. Very well-articulated. And very insightful. I am so thrilled that you are gifted with this time to be still (even if it drives you crazy not having a full time position)… it’s in the stillness that we can look at ourselves honestly. As the author of “Eat Pray Love” quotes in her book (I think originally said by a Zen master): “You cannot see your reflection in moving water.” Have you read that, by the way?

  2. Hey!!! It’s been way too long since we connected. Thanks for checking in on me over at 511. Just wanted to say “hi” and tell you that I relate so much to what you write here. It’s how I felt when I left Dallas and moved to LA (talk about cultural juxtaposition!) and I feel it again, to a lesser extent, here in Philly. There is something so exhilarating and strangely satisfying to me about moving somewhere completely new and “learning” it. I went to the Philadelphia Museum of Art last weekend and kept reminding myself “I LIVE here! I can come here as often as I want. I don’t have to rush to through and see everything all at once.”

    I look forward to reading about your journey. Good for you for making it!!

  3. Thanks Lori. That’s comforting to hear–that you felt it too. Keep in touch!!

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