There are a lot of ways my marriage fell apart, but there was one big relief when we finally decided to get a divorce: I didn’t have to move to the small town in Iowa where my ex-husband would be practicing.
(Thank you to everyone for the kind emails about my divorce. I am okay. I’ve been okay for awhile. And the secret no one tells you about divorce is that at least half the people who get one are happy when it happens.)
A million people told me I could not move to Iowa, even before I had decided to move. “You won’t be happy there,” they said. “You are a city girl.”
It’s true. I love my high-rise apartment with a east-facing view of both the Hancock and Willis buildings. I love that I can walk, ride my bike, or take public transit to anywhere because I don’t have to own a car. I love that the grocery store is across the street, and that exercise with my dog involves concrete, a river, and towering skyscrapers instead of a boxed-in backyard.
There are so many things to love about Chicago–the energy, the activity, the people. I’ve lived in other cities too, of course, but Chicago is the one I keep coming back to.
There was another relief that came with the divorce decision: freedom. Most people cringe at the thought of instability and blank slates, but I embraced the idea. With no ties to job or family, I thought maybe I could finally travel, or live somewhere else for awhile. Not that I didn’t love Chicago–I did. I knew I would be back someday. But I am also a glass-half-full type–and in the midst of a divorce, the glass is actually a beer and you are really tempted to finish it off. I thought that might be easier if I could ditch my old life for a bit.
Then, he came along. Han Solo, that is.
I’m a little nervous to write about him again, because even though he approved of the nickname, he took some slack from his coworkers. And everyone reacts differently when they see themselves through a writer’s eyes. My dad, for example, was all business. The day after I posted a story about him, he wrote me an email with a list of corrections that included, “Those women are in their late 40s….not yet 50 (and there weren’t six of them; only 4 could attend).”
So Han Solo might not want to be on the blog anymore. Of course, everyone in my life is potentially on my blog. That’s just the way it is. That’s what writers do.
I’m not sure it matters, though, because even if my compulsive propensity for writing about my life doesn’t ruin things, I can’t decide if I want to stay in Chicago, where Han Solo works. I haven’t told Han Solo this directly. But he knows I won’t resign my lease, even though it’s going to cost me a ton of extra money to go month-to-month and I don’t actually have money right now because I’m trying to make a living as a writer.
Also, I won’t buy a couch. I haven’t had a couch for a year, actually, because our old sectional didn’t fit in my new apartment. I just never got around to buying a new one. People think this is weird, but whatever; my apartment is carpeted. What bothers me about not having a couch is what it says about my intentions.
When I was getting married (and when I was thinking maybe I didn’t want to get married), there were lots of things I didn’t buy. Shoes, for example. And a veil. We had to buy both a few days before the wedding.
Then the morning of the wedding, I realized that I had no idea how I was doing my makeup. I had never bothered to come up with anything. Who doesn’t worry about this before their wedding day? And I realized that I never had my dress custom-fitted, so by the end of the night it was practically falling off me in the pictures.
I am not sure how to explain the couch or the lease to him. It is clear that I’m leaving my options open. I’m just not sure why.
I have always convinced myself that I am strong because I have the strength to leave bad situations that others would put up with. I am best at leaving jobs that suck. I’ve left a lot of those, without having a contingency plan, and it’s always worked out.
But now I’m wondering if that’s not strong at all. Because Chicago is a bad situation, financially, and I’m trying to find the strength to stay. I’m looking for a reason to be here that is not external. And it feels much harder than leaving would, even though I know staying is best for me. So here are some ways I am trying to stop running from my problems:
Identify the real problem
I think all of this would make more sense if you could see my financials. Chicago is not the ideal place to start a writing career. But Chicago is where my relationships are right now.
The real problem is not my location, though. It’s money. And leaving Chicago is not a revenue-generating activity; it is a time sink. So it is probably better for me to focus on projects that make me money right now, instead of moving away from one of the few places in the world where I have a support system of friends in place.
Choose a new compass
Jobs, school, spouses, and property keep us grounded. They are our roots. I have always hated how these ties boxed me in. But now, I have none of them. It would be so easy to pick up and leave.
I have no compass. These commitments used to guide my decisions, and now that they are gone, I have nothing to guide me. I have nothing that forces me to stay in one place.
But you can’t grow if you are not at least moving in a certain direction. So choose a new compass. Choose something that really matters in life, that will affect your happiness positively. And use that compass to guide you in decision-making.
Imagine your day-to-day life in the new place
Let yourself research and dream. Find out exactly how much that fully-furnished apartment in downtown Buenos Aires is going to cost you. Find out how much the plane ticket will cost. Find out if you can bring your dog with you.
Now that you have some imagery in your mind, picture your day-to-day tasks in the new place. You will still sleep for 8 hours. You will still buy groceries. You will still walk your dog every day. And you will spend more time doing these mundane tasks than you would at home, in a place you are familiar with.
The reality is that your day-to-day life does not get more glamorous with a big change. After a while, it feels the same as your old life did. And your problems will be the same too.
Find a project that gives you roots
The paradox of choice is paralyzing, so don’t make a choice directly. Make a choice that forces you to put down roots, somewhere, for at least a short time.
I want to explore the possibilities with Han Solo. This is okay as long as he’s on my blog, and part of my latest project. Because I can’t write about my life over the past year unless I can talk about my healing and recovery, and Han Solo might be a part of that.
Writing is my job; and for now, I need to write about what’s happening in Chicago. I’m still not ready to buy the couch, but this is my small way of having roots.