It is Monday evening and I am on a non-stop flight from Chicago to Los Angeles. I have just spent a long lovely weekend in Chicago. It is the first time I have been to Chicago in years. I could, I suppose, turn this blog post into a travelogue about my time in Chicago and tell you about what a lovely birthday I had and what lovely and generous friends I have—however that is not what this blog post is about. This blog post is about something else, something I am still in the midst of processing—something that I will discover as I write.
When I first planned the trip to visit friends for my birthday weekend I knew that there was something personally meaningful in it for me( even though that wasn’t the main reason I was going), as it would be the first time Keith would be in Chicago together. If you are new to my blog let me catch you up, many years ago( six-years, I think) I left Chicago and in doing so I left behind my dream of being a parent and the dream I had of raising a kiddo there. It was not easy to leave( understatement). I loved Lake Bluff. I wanted to spend the rest of my life there. Only it didn’t work out that way. Having a kid didn’t work out. My marriage didn’t work out either. I was, as you can imagine, not so happy that I didn’t get what I wanted most. Rather, I had a three-year hissy fit about it.
However, the last three years I have been completely hissy fit free. I am happy that it all worked out the way it did. I am extremely happy with my life and I have even come to love living in Los Angeles( proof that miracles do happen).So, even as I planned the trip and delighted with anticipation at seeing my friends in Lake Forest, I was, I think, hoping that going with him back to my old home would show me that I was completely immune to the pain of the past….and mostly it did.
As Keith had not seen my life in Lake Bluff I gave him the tour: this is where I lived; this is where I fell on ice; this is where I ate tomato soup; this is where I substitute taught; this is the lake. It’s not a tour many would endure but he loves me and knows I needed him to see the life that I’d had. During the tour I found that I felt surprisingly little. I think the best way to describe how I felt when I saw the set I had once imagined would house my happily-ever-after was nothing. We drove by the place where a picture of me had been taken when we moved away, a place that I had stood and sobbed, and seeing that site now I felt nothing. And as beautiful as Lake Forest and Lake Bluff are, and they are, they no longer looked like enchanted mythical lands that I had been forced out of. Rather, I could see the beauty without the longing. Somehow my healing, and the joy of my new life, I could see Forest and Bluff for what they are and not as an Eden I had been cruelly ejected from. It was, I can tell you, nice.
My dear friends ,who we were staying with, have two of the most beautiful, adorable, sweet, and kind children that you are likely to meet. Being with these girls was more enjoyable than our trip to the Art Institute or a dinner out in the city. And what was also lovely, lovelier than I can say, is that I could enjoy these beautiful and wonderful girls without feeling sad or envious or anything except delight and relish. I felt nothing but lucky for having these beautiful girls in my life, blessed to have wonderful friends, and spoiled to have the life that I do. This, my friends, is what healing looks like.
When I was packing to leave to come home today I was overtaken by tears. Keith saw my sadness and asked me a number of questions all with the intention of trying to make it better. When I said no to all his inquiries he finally said, “Do you want to live here?” “No”, I answered, “that’s not it. Of course I don’t want to live here, I love our home, our life, my practice. No, I don’t want the snow and the ice and the cold. I don’t want to live in a long ago Eden. I don’t want to live in this place that is meant for families.” I didn’t know what it was that I was crying about but I knew that living there wasn’t it. These tears weren’t about wanting something, of that I was sure. No, this wasn’t what this was about. Rather, this was me crying for a past me, and for all the pain I endured … and the reality that this life that I had so long dreamed of would never-ever-ever be mine, and, yes, even though I am happy about that( SUPER happy with what is) there remains a sadness for what was never to be.
As I sit in the dark of the plane typing these words, I feel my eyes burn a little and I feel some residual ennui even as I happily anticipate going home( Pasadena, that is). Simultaneously, I feel something kind of like closure…only it isn’t exactly that( I make this disclaimer as I need to leave the circle open to the possibility of me spiraling around through this once again, if even if at a different level and entering from a different place). Yes, of course I will go back to Forest and Bluff again, but never again will it be the place that it was for me. Never. It has fundamentally changed. Now when I go there I will go there to visit my friends, to play Mermaids with the girls and to see them graduate from middle school or for my friend’s birthday party, or maybe even for a conference….but I won’t ever go home again. It is now NOT what I want. It is now what I wanted, it has moved into past tense and the lovely thing about that is that it allows for a future in which I can go back…only not back home.
“You can’t go back home to your family, back home to your childhood, back home to romantic love, back home to a young man’s dreams of glory and of fame, back home to exile, to escape to Europe and some foreign land, back home to lyricism, to singing just for singing’s sake, back home to aestheticism, to one’s youthful idea of ‘the artist’ and the all-sufficiency of ‘art’ and ‘beauty’ and ‘love,’ back home to the ivory tower, back home to places in the country, to the cottage in Bermude, away from all the strife and conflict of the world, back home to the father you have lost and have been looking for, back home to someone who can help you, save you, ease the burden for you, back home to the old forms and systems of things which once seemed everlasting but which are changing all the time–back home to the escapes of Time and Memory.”
― Thomas Wolfe