We are all horrible to ourselves. I mean. Just awful.
We sat at Italian Village, the place where I had never been and felt ashamed as a Chicagoan. Didn't matter -- it was open, this seemed right. Christ, the band was playing Girl From Ipanema when we walked in. It could not have been more perfect if we wanted it to.
Warm bread, a little wine, some cheese and some meat. All is well. Wait...there was no cheese on that antipasto platter. I call foul.
One went home before the food and drinks, she has three kids and her mom was watching them. Busy day tomorrow, helping and healing more people. But she felt bad. Like she was disappointing us after a day of healing the masses and their aches, fears, and recurring pains.
The three remaining, headed to Italian Old School Chicago Glory because Fuck It, It's Open have seven kids...among them. Can you do that? Can you pool kids like tips at the end of the night? She has four, the one who still dances and teaches kids. The one who, after the show was over, had an alum (whom none of us remembered) say, "You're HER? I had a huge crush on you." Four kids, that one, and probably the best sense of humor about it of anyone I've ever met. Me, I have one. The indecisive woman who amplifies her old self around these lovely women, plays the role as Negative but Not Too because she can't seem to figure out where to put her hands and she isn't wearing pockets -- metaphorically speaking. Just the one child. Quit while you're ahead or be too frightened to admit that you Want and Don't Want More and Don't At All At All. Then there's A. She has no kids, because she's doing national tours like the show we just saw her slay. I have the nerve, the unmitigated gall my mother would say, to ask her questions about the production and how it compares to the tour she did 18 years ago and who the everloving fuck am I to ask any of these questions? No. One. But someone. But not in this context. It's embarrassing. The one with two kids speaks. She should have three, but she lost the baby right before Christmas. She cries, catching A up to the fact. She apologizes profusely for crying. We only see A once every couple of years and she doesn't want to see this, she reasons.
She is having a real and unguarded emotional reaction. To losing a child. It's a pretty good goddamned reason. We aren't interviewing her for a job. We're catching up on things and calling ourselves old friends. Shouldn't that be the time?
Even as I write this, I wonder if I'm something great in the back of my mind and maybe someone will read it and discover that, yes, indeed I am. Oh, her ramblings are superb and make Eggers or David Foster Wallace or other famous ramblers look like idiots, they'll say because they've actually read David Foster Wallace (I haven't) and are therefore more competent and smart and able to judge these things. They will. Not me, they will do it. Someone else will validate me and I won't accept it but it because, should it ever come, this mystery validation from a theoretical We, I will instantly disavow Their credibility. But Someone Else with More Qualifications will certainly be around soon to let me know the thing I could not tell myself.
I do not give me permission, and yet I give myself complete permission.
She didn't give herself permission to cry and grieve because surely the time has passed and this is Not What We Are Here For.
But then what else the hell are we here for? To connect beyond the highlight reel, even if we Weren't Always Close we're in a situation now that assumes it was so. Move forward and act accordingly. Cry. Tell me about it. Celebrate one another. It's so much easier with my Givens. The People I Surround Myself With Regularly. I know it. This isn't consistent so I'm trying to figure it out as I'm doing it. What do I walk away with? The knowledge that we do not give ourselves permission and we leave, walking in the cold to our cars, telling each other that no, we were the worst. At Least You Didn't...etc. We exhibit no kindness for our own actions, and infinite acceptance of anyone else's.
I say often we should make space for kindness to ourselves, and in small ways, sometimes we do. But damn, is it easy to just cut yourself deep. It's too easy. And it wastes precious time.