This time last year I was on my knees. Literally.
It was my first holiday season divorced and living back in Chicago, alone. My girlfriend called me out on my obsession with the man I like to call the Southern Svengali — the one I kissed for two nights while in Charleston in late October. She said she could not hear about it, or him, anymore.
My non-relationship was affecting my relationships.
I felt desperate and scared. I called a friend who advised me to get on my knees and ask God to remove my obsession him every day.
I did. But I needed something more.
This time, in addition to taking on the weekly reading and writing assignments, I committed to the weekly Artist Date – the weekly hour or so block of time, alone, to fill my creative coffers – and to a weekly blog about it for a year. Fifty-two Artist Dates. Fifty-two blogs.
Thursday is Artist Date 52.
I am sitting in a Starbucks on Michigan Avenue killing time before Hubbard Street Dance Chicago. It is 6 p.m. and I have been downtown since 11. I am tired. I am questioning the wisdom in staying here as opposed to driving home at 2 p.m. when I was finished with my work and returning later.
Until I get the text which lets me know I am exactly where I should me. It is from my friend Matt. He is at a coffee shop around the corner, also killing time, before his couple’s therapy session where he will ask his wife for a divorce.
I tell him where I am. Within moments he is standing over me and then we are hugging each other tightly. Teary.
I remember when he told me that he and his wife were separating, more than a year ago. I still lived in Seattle, but was visiting Chicago – smack dab in the middle of my own divorce.
Matt is appropriately anxious. I reflect back to him how thoughtful he has been through this entire process – never rash. We hold hands and we pray together, in the middle of Starbucks. It doesn’t seem strange.
He leaves. And shortly after, I do too, pulling my wool long-underwear back on over my tights. It is December and the temperatures are already in the teens.
I love Chicago at night. Especially during the holidays. Michigan Avenue twinkles with white lights, and skaters glide around in circles on the tiny patch of ice in Millenium Park.
I walk up “the hill” that is Randolph Street to the Harris Theater. My body has once again adjusted to the flat Midwest and takes note of the incline.
I pick up my ticket at will-call and make a beeline for the bathroom, peeling off my long underwear. Winter in Chicago is a lot of work.
My friend Lori is coming out. We embrace and talk excitedly about her ceramics show. Lori is a genius potter. We met her at Lil Street Art Center, where I was stumbling through a beginners’ class. Lori taught me how to glaze.
She asks if I will come back to Lil Street. I am not certain as I have committed my creative energies to my writing and my dance – at least for now.
She asks if I remember Kevin from the clay studio and reminds me he is a member of Hubbard Street. I do remember. It is one of the reasons I am here.
We part company and I run into a woman I have danced with. She is enrolled in Level three West African Dance. I am in Level two. Later, I see Mayor Rahm Emanuel.
The world seems small and I am a citizen of it. Or, at the very least, a citizen of Chicago.
The woman in the seat next to mine is alone. As is the woman next to her. We make easy conversation. She is a Weight Watchers member. I am a Weight Watchers leader. She is looking for a massage therapist. I am a massage therapist. She is a widow. I am a divorcee.
She tells me she lost her husband four years ago, and she tears up. For the second time today I am clear that I am exactly where I am supposed to be. Right down to my seat: BB10.
The performance, One Thousand Pieces by Alejandro Cerrudo, is inspired by Marc Chagall’s America Windows – the installation I visit every time I am at the Art Institute, my favorite. I shared it with Matt a few months ago when we met downtown for a member’s-only café re-opening. It was summer and we sat in the courtyard noting who was checking the other out. It seems a long time ago.
It is my first time seeing Hubbard Street Dance. The dancers’ bodies are strong. Gorgeous. Not sinewy, like ballet bodies. I think my legs approximate the same shape as theirs, albeit less toned and I feel at the same time cocky and ashamed admitting this to myself.
The stage is glossed and looks like water. I am looking for Kevin. My eyes occasionally roll back into my head. This almost always happens to me at performances. The lights go down and my sleepy kicks in. Except for last year when I saw Alvin Ailey Dance Theatre – twice.
My seats were good – dress circle one night, main floor the other. My experience was dramatically altered by looking straight at the dancers as opposed to peering down at them. I vowed then I would always buy good seats for dance. These seats are good – the Harris Theatre is small and there are no “bad seats.” But not good enough.
And then it is over.
The performance, but not my Artist Dates. They “work.” Like being on my knees works. Not so much in desperation (although I am certain I will find myself there again many times in this life), but in prayer – the antidote to it. Exactly where I am supposed to be.