I don’t tell him nearly enough, but my father, who is an architecture connoisseur and long-time Frank Lloyd Wright enthusiast, is a man in my life for whom I am truly grateful. As a small gesture to show him some love, I booked us tickets to tour Wrights home and studio in Oak Park. To our great surprise, we discovered that the Robie House, gem of the Wright Prairie style movement was offering gratis entry today as well. After a lunch at a Forest Park diner, where we took a seat at the counter to enjoy our lunch, we headed south to Hyde Park. And that is where we found out that the whole city was offering the opportunity to visit architectural gems, with a tour included, for free. Apparently, it had been going on all weeekend, and we had been ignorant of the facts and late to the party, as it were. But, late or not, we arrived, and it was an absolute treasure of a day. I couldn’t possibly list all the things that I not only love and appreciate about my dad, but also have had the fortune of inheriting from him as well. My time with him was incredibly fulfilling; from the dialogue and laughs to the deep understanding and appreciation for art and design. It was beautiful. Pictures cannot capture a meaningful relationship in its entirety, but they are wonderful triggers that will transport me to precisely this day for many years to come. (Featured image is Wrights home)
One of the most incredible things about the journey of life is how often it takes you full circle.
I mean, we’ve all been there: running into the past in some form is not highly uncommon. On the contrary. It happens pretty damn often.
Well, today was one such occasion. I’ll say I ‘ran’ into the chap that I was dating a few months back, but really, it was no surprise. We had been in touch; I knew he was going to be where I was going to be; and, though this would be the first time we saw each other since our mutual break-up, I knew that we are both secure enough in ourselves to make, at the very least, cordial conversation.
There’s a twist in the story, though. It wasn’t like I was visiting our old stomping grounds while out with some friends. No. Rather, I was going to be with my son; the very same little human that was never introduced during our dating relationship. After everything was said and done, he was finally going to meet my son. “Huh,” I thought to myself, “Fancy that.” Ironic? Maybe a little. And I had no idea what to expect.
Arguably, the best part of life is the surprises it presents you with. My confrontation with the recent past was better than I could have ever anticipated. It was comfortable, familiar, and not one bit awkward. In fact, I even remember thinking that he looked really good. Why shouldn’t he? He’s still the same person, in many ways, that I was attracted to when it all first began. The coolest part, though, is that he is the first man of my past with which I feel comfortable sustaining contact or a friendship. While we were talking, I realized that, when I told him I was happy for him, I legitimately was. And when he mentioned that we should catch up over food, I was actually ready and willing. Not because I was looking for something that may or may not still be there. Not at all. We know we aren’t it. But, he’s still someone that brings a certain element of joy to our interactions, and why not invest in people who have that ability?
The same goes for a girl friend I knew in high school. We lost touch thereafter, and during a dark part of my life, I wrote her off and figured I would never hear from her again. But, during a time of transition, I wagered my odds and reached out to her. My God, am I glad that I did! Not only did I find out we were in similar situations at the time, but I also realized that she was both the same awesome girl I had known as well as being someone older and wiser and a hell of a lot of fun. Without taking the risk and seeing her, though, I would’ve never known that. Now, here we are going on a girls weekend tomorrow. And I couldn’t be more grateful to have her friendship.
So, I dunno, chaps. Sometimes the past should stay the hell where it is. And sometimes it should come around for another round of hellos. I never know who has what to offer until I confront the person, I guess. But I do believe that taking the chance is worth it every time. At least I will know what is on offer, one way or the other. And, more often than not, I am moved by the power of fate, destiny if you will, bringing people back as permanent, or even temporary, fixtures in my life. The fact is that every person I meet is very much a part of getting me where I am going. And these meetings, my dears, are an incredibly powerful happening, indeed.
It is perpetually remarkable to me how the passage of time knows no slowness; yesterday, there was snow on the ground, and many of us were wishing for a new beginning and a better year in 2017. Today, it is summertime in the Windy City, and half of 2017 has run its course. And I sit here and think, “Well, that went fast.”
In another life, perhaps, I would be on the tail-end of my Euro-Excursion; the three week trip I planned last December that would’ve started me in Berlin to visit good friends, seen me through a solo trip to Scotland, and ended in Greece, basking or burning on the shores of the Aegean in the company of a dear friend. Thanks to my new job, the trip was not one I could take, but I can’t find any remorse because I am incredibly happy and grateful to be where I am. I know that, in the big picture, there will be other opportunities for travel. Right now, though, I have to take advantage of other opportunities as they present themselves.
This weekend, for example, has been one of a lot of light and a lot of love. Friday evening was the finale to a year of mentoring an incredible young woman from Lebanon. I took her to a sushi dinner, we went shopping, and ended the evening with a pile of custard to eat. What is most remarkable about my time with her is that, though she is sixteen years old, she has the wisdom and grace that most adults strive to find. I am continually astounded by her astute remarks and beliefs about life. In fact, if I were ever to have a daughter, I would hope that she would turn out to be like this girl: a beautiful and enlightened, intuitive and gracious student of the world. It moved me deep within when she expressed how much I had helped her during her year on exchange, and that my advice had had the power to tweak her perspective. All I could ever desire is having the ability to reach someone with my words. And, apparently, I had done just that. Wow, such an honor. What she maybe didn’t realize, though, was how much she had helped me during the last year. It was symbiotic really; I mentored her, and she most certainly did the same for me. And I cannot thank the universe enough for sending her into my life. I will miss her physical presence terribly, but I am tremendously grateful to have had the time to share with her and look forward to staying connected in the future.
As I went into Saturday, I was rather wary and unsure about where the day would take me. I was jointly attending my son’s preschool picnic with my ex, and time with him is truthfully never an occasion I look very much forward to. However, I was determined to spend as much time as possible getting to know the other parents and building new relationships with like-minded people. Et viola, that is exactly what I did. Though he was present and part of some of the conversations, I focused my energy on putting my best face forward, fully embracing the moments in which I could potentially make a new friend, or learn something from the other parents. It went better than I ever could have expected, and I walked away from the gathering with a sense of hope and gratitude for the exchanges that I had been able to be a part of.
Thirty minutes later, I was parallel parking in front of a cute building on a quiet street in Pilsen, Chicago. One of my best friends had recently moved into an apartment there, and I was going to see it for the first time. As the breeze sailed in through the windows of her charming and spacious apartment, we sat on the couch and talked about life and all its facets, while sipping a cold beer. I mean, honestly, does it get any better than that? An Uber ride later and we were on the North Side, pushing through the garden gate of a friend of hers to drink more beer and socialize while the sounds and smells of Division Fest provided entertainment on the other side of the fence. For the second time that day, I felt extremely welcome by the other attendees, and I was able to meet a lot of really awesome people. The motif of the day, I realized, was that meeting new people and having meaningful exchanges bring incredible value to a day, hour, or moment.
As we walked through the festival, hanging on to each other so we wouldn’t be swallowed and separated by the crowd, I found myself smiling at strangers and they smiled in return. I noticed in detail the smells from the food vendors, and picked up on tidbits of conversation as we passed by other groups of festival-goers. It was incredible to be so present in the moment.
While in the line for Döner Kebap and curry fries (where I also found Club Mate!), we mused about the quandaries presented when dating a total stranger. It was a group conversation of both men and women, and it was as funny as it was informative to trade ideas and stories about such things with others who were seeking the same things as we were: namely, food, companionship, a laugh, advice, and connection with other humans.
Back at hers, after the sun had set, we sat on the back deck and drank red wine mixed with soda. The antennae of the Willis Tower glowed in the near distance, and we continued our more private conversations from earlier in the day. It was still remarkably perfect weather, and we were able to lose track of time as we laughed, conversed, and listened to music. Though it was late and I had been up early, the powerful feeling of rejuvenation prevailed, eliminating the feeling of exhaustion that seems to be present quite often on weeknights.
Times like these show me how incredibly fortunate I am. I am very much aware that my life is nowhere near perfect, and there are many instances that cause me stress overload where I need to remind myself to take a few deep breaths in order to save the situation. However, there are also so many beautiful moments that are so full of happiness and light, that hanging on to the energy from these is powerful enough to keep me afloat during the times when I feel like the dark rabbit hole is threatening to pull me back in. Sometimes, it takes a lot of effort to maintain a healthy mind, other times, letting go and being effortless is all I need to do.
As time goes on, though, I make a habit of reminding myself that there are so many reasons to be happy. Even if a day sees plenty of blockers, there is at least one moment that can be flooded with happiness or gratitude. And that one, single, solitary, moment makes all the difference.