Not like always — like sometimes
Reader, I must confess, Chicagoland feels good to me.
Yes, I have a great deal of highly stressful moving pieces I’m shifting about as I find how to plug them in: healthcare, housing, and employment.
And today, I know these things will come in time, when I need them, as I need them.
I must be patient, and it’s easy to be patient when I’m staying with my little sister, Heather (I am the oldest of 3 — my brother is 18 months my junior, and my sister is 8 months my junior). For the past three days we’ve played board games — Exploding Kittens, Scrabble, and Monopoly mostly — watched old sci-fi, eaten snacks, laughed, and slept. And one of the many things I appreciate about my “kid” sister is that she is eager to talk about subjects I enjoy, that she can easily transcend the “small talk,” the superficial and go with me, easily and instantly, into subjects that have true heft: WWI, organized religion, and art. Also, she loves board games, and I love board games. And she kicked my ass in Monopoly last night. The tables turned swiftly after the below was photographed.
Monopoly is a gross capitalist game.
And because it is predicated on capitalist workings, Monopoly is also a mean game.
And also I really enjoy playing it, in the right setting, at the right time because it is slow, simple, and as stupidly absurd as capitalism itself.
I mean, Monopoly is all about “what if all you needed to succeed at capitalism was a little luck, a modest paycheck ($200 at Go!), and relatively sound counting skills?” And so Monopoly is a capitalist fiction, until it devolves to the scene (as it always does) where I’m offering the other player my handful of $1’s and Atlantic Avenue, my last non-mortgaged property, so I can pay my sister rent on a place where I lived momentarily, and unintentionally. That’s capitalism. That’s America. That’s Monopoly: the game version of American Capitalism. Only there’s nothing at stake, and so it’s hilarious to grovel, to place bets, to buy up the whole-fuckin’-block.
In my Actual American Life there’s a lot at stake. With my divorce will come debt. Mucho. And in the movies the divorced people come away with pocketfuls of cash. To begin, I will have nothing again — and I suppose that makes sense in a cosmic way. To begin, I will have nothing.
And if I dip beneath the horizon of my learned patience and peace, I touch the searing surface of my rage. This is America. Reader, I have held jobs since I was fourteen years old. And not to brag, but I think I’ve come a little way from pushing carts in the Jewel-Osco parking lot. And if you were basing my growth and development along “career” lines on money, you might see me as a failure. That’s the myth of meritocracy we push in this country: “if ya just work hard you’ll be rich with paper money!” This is the myth that allows so many Americans to still follow the Trump Gospel. There are some very small, very broken Americans who look at a thing like Donald Trump and think he must be very smart, very hardworking, very virtuous because he has paper money and for many Americans, because of how we’ve been groomed since the time of our birth, our human worth is based on the amount of paper money we own. Myth of Meritocracy: Donald Trump is wealthy in America because he worked so hard.
Fortunately, a good many Americans know it’s much more complicated and for the likes of a thing like Trump, “hard work” and “virtue” have fuck all to do with how he came to own the paper money.
I haven’t been lucky in paper money, and I’ve been lucky in a lot of other ways. What I know now, about me, about life, about love could never be bought with money. Could never be bought, period. To quote one of my teachers, Bob Marley, “My riches is life forever.”
I’ve written before about Bob Marley on this blog. If all you know of Bob Marley is that he smoked weed, then you’re truly missing out on what was the magic, the teaching, the genius of a soul like Bob Marley. And in the end, he died young of cancer. And someday, I will also die of cancer, and I learned by reading and viewing texts about Bob Marley, about how one such light dealt with his very human mortality — and I’ve read of his struggles and his brilliant “bounce backs” and of the love he had from his community home in Jamaica, a love that sustained him. And he was a brilliant poet and musician who came from nothing, and is now more legend than man, and if you can’t appreciate a human story like Bob Marley’s, what exactly is wrong with you?
I fear being left behind. Always have.
And sometimes, I have been left behind. Sometimes, reader, you have, too. And sometimes I’ve not been left behind — like the time in the early 90s when I got caught in a trout line (longer story for another time) and my cousin Josh swam out into the river to save my life and he did save my life because I was drowning. Or the time, this past week, when one of my bffs, Megan, agreed to drive cross country with me in order to collect Abe from Arizona. Or the time, in these past few weeks, when all of you have called, or texted, or messaged, or sent money to show me I have not been left behind.
And I also fear it. And it’s so hard, in the wake of an “end,” this divorce, where I was the recipient and not the petitioner to say to myself, “See! You were left behind! Like always!”
But it’s not “like always.”
It’s only “like sometimes.”
This morning, in my super-secret-booze-workshop, I was thinking about how often, in those years I was drinking most heavily (some years were less boozy than others this is true) that I felt utterly hopeless, that I felt I was a brittle leaf, lost from its tree, blown about in a chaotic wind, how I tried to exert control in places where I will never have any, how I held myself to impossible standards, and how my drinking became about obliterating my Ego — which ruled me, utterly. My obsession with attempting to construct what others thought of me was a big part of my wanting to drink to oblivion. I felt like Sisyphus. The sheer weight of my expectations for myself, the pace of attempting, incessantly, in tremendous futility to outrun my true emotions wore my body, mind, and spirit down to so many filthy, tattered rags.
And this is not to say I am no longer governed by Ego. I suspect all human animals are, at least a little. A little ego is a little necessary. Hell, this blog is an act of tremendous ego. Right? And Ego, as I understand this concept, does not mean “selfishness” per se, though that can be a part of it. For me, Ego was often about frantically assembling a patchwork of ways that I might present myself to others so that no one would ever suspect the depth of my pain, the truth of my fear, and the reality of my shortcomings.
Alcohol let me run, for a few stolen hours, from such egomaniacal pursuits.
By the end of my “drinking times” I was drinking to pass out. I was drinking only to get capital-D-Drunk. I could not stop, so God had to intervene for God is the force that wants all living beings to live. That, to the best of my knowledge, is God’s most basic intent: that we might live. And that we are also happy and well in body, mind, and spirit while we live our finite little lives, that, too, is the great intention of the God I mean when I say “God.”
Can we come up with a better word for this? Because now that I’m back in Chicago, talking about God to my friends and family, I am concerned that people might confuse me for a religious woman, and I am no religious woman. “God” makes me sound like a Christian. “Higher Power” just sounds awkward. “Universe” or “cosmos” makes me sound like a hippie and here, reader, is a first hand example of how I worry to control what others think of me. I do not want to be seen as a Christian, awkward, or a hippie — though maybe, deep down, I am a few of these things. And I cannot control the connotations people have with these ideas, these labels, I can only know with certainty that I am certain about what I mean.
Be good, hooligans.