Submit Your Story

Do the following task and then post proof in the comments below to get into the show for free:

Remove _____ from your life

Or Post a story below to get in free!

A Month Of…
Stage 773
1225 West Belmont Ave
2nd Wed. Sept 9th
7:30 Food
8:00 Stories

Permanent link to this article:


Skip to comment form

  1. First:


    • Dan on June 6, 2014 at 5:10 pm
    • Reply

    I had trouble thinking up a creative way to do this… and what I found was, doing it gave me a lot of ideas. What is the meaning of glued to a sidewalk? Would an obvious art piece, would an obvious intentional placing of something be its own glue?

    While taking time to create this:

    No one said hi to me. Eyes seem to be averted. But people walked by all the time. It was well trafficked.

    And then when I went up to the top of the balcony of the nearby building, when I was out of sight, looking down, they came. For 30 minutes I watched as people walked by, stopped. Smiled, pointed to strangers, called them over. I saw them pull out cameras and camera phones.

    And I felt like an artist.

    When I walked by at 5:00pm it was gone.

    Someone had scooped em up.

    Art forever in their pocket. Art dispersed, traded, bartered, commoditized, forgotten, dropped, rolled, pennies to penny.

    • McKenzie on June 11, 2014 at 2:44 am
    • Reply

    “The Things We Find: glue a coin to a sidewalk in a public area.”

    As soon as I learned about this month’s task, I had the idea of instead of gluing a coin, gluing myself to a sidewalk to see what people would do. I’d just lay on a sidewalk, and look at the people that pass by with puppy eyes, but never say a word (after all, a coin on a street won’t speak up.)

    So one evening, I went to Old Town neighborhood to do the task. It was around 10pm on a weeknight, and there were quite a lot of people enjoying the almost-summer-ish air in the outdoor patios. There was a grocery store just past the blocks of bars and restaurants, and that’s where I decided to lay and wait for someone that would pay attention.

    I had a few possible scenarios in mind: (1) someone would help me up, (2) someone would call a police officer (or an ambulance), or (3) people would just ignore me.

    The first guy walked by. He looked like in his 30’s, neatly dressed in a button-down and khaki shorts. He looked at me, and I looked back. My head moved as he walked past me; he looked away, and walked away quickly. Ok, that was expected.

    Within the next two minutes, a couple came by. They both looked at me with concern. “Are you ok?” he said, “do you need help?” I just looked him up with the puppiest eyes I could possibly make. They looked at each other, and he reached his hand to me. As soon as I got up, an apology came out of my mouth. They were really worried that I had a seizure or something, and I didn’t want them to think that I was there to “ha ha, I got you!” them. They were still worried when we parted ways.

    As I walked home, I realized that I was only thinking about what people would do, and was totally unprepared for what I would do to people when people did something. A little sad realization that I wasn’t ready to reach back to people that were reaching out.

    If I could go back, I would thank them for being kind to a stranger. I would ask their names. I would tell them about the task I was working on, and invite them to the show. I would tell them that they made my day.

    • Thomas James on June 11, 2014 at 2:50 pm
    • Reply

    Airports. Sports Stadiums. Prison. Theme Parks. Within these contained environments, unique economies arise. Supply is mafia-controlled, and demand is subservient to avalability. A tuna sandwich? 14 dollars. And they’re not even good – rubber filling inside a box. Where you are will dictate how valuable something is.

    Enter Nickel City. The only place outside of a laundromat that a coin is a totem. Nickel city is a last bastion of arcades; a place where nerds and stoners rejoice and empty their coin purses and fill their appetite for button mashing and joystick yanking.

    The machines take nickels. Exclusively. It’s like a billionaire bought an island and instituted his own currency of poptabs. People go bonkers in here – “Galaga? FOR 20 CENTS!” It’s great to hear people eventually sound like their grandpas, haggling over haypennies: “20 cents for Mortal Kombat 2?! Outrageous!”

    This seemed like the prime place for some coin related shenanigans. Enter a man, four nickels, and some super glue. I did not want to break/sabotage anyone’s day; only to add an odd wrinkle. I decided a little acting was in order.

    I snuck in and played Galaga for a while (if you haven’t noticed, Galaga is the greatest game ever) and sort of laid low. Then I slowly took out the materials. A piece of cardboard, some super glue, and a handful of nickels. Ocean’s 1.

    I set cardboard on the machine, and dabbed some glue, then set the nickels on it. I played a few more games (all pranks should involve Galaga Playing). Then I set the cardboard on the floor. (Relevant interior-design revelation: Like all Nerd-havens Nickel City is rather Dark. The Floor is wood panelled. Given the lighting, cardboard camouflages pretty effectively). I put one foot on the cardboard and then began yanking on one of the nickels.

    Slowly at first, but everyone was engrossed in their less-fun-than-Galaga games. I became more animated. Charlie Chaplin would have been proud. Eventually a gentleman came over. “What’s wrong?” he asked.
    I told him I dropped some nickels, but that something’s wrong with the floor. He bent over and tried to pick one up. It wouldn’t come. Then he tried another. But I still had my foot on the cardboard, so they wouldn’t budge. He was perplexed, “is there a magnet under the ground?”

    I shrugged and attempted again. Then he said, “let me take one more crack.” He made one big gestured and, in a sneaky moment moved my foot, and he pulled up all the cardboard.

    He was proud…then horrified. “Did I just pull up a floor panel?” He asked. I did my best to not laugh, and look shocked. He was afraid he’d get a lifetime ban – and how then would he get his Galaga fix?
    He held the cardboard/floor panel low. I said, “no one saw us, let’s get out of here,” and I ran off. He was behind me and said, “there’s at least 2 plays here!” referring to the nickels still stuck to the board.

    • Taylor J Bridgeforth on June 11, 2014 at 3:33 pm
    • Reply

    First floor of Bayview Club Apartments, I glued an old penny on my neighbors patio. My neighbors patio is full of dolls and miniature tables and chairs for their two little girls. The two little girls consider themselves princesses until they find the coin but aren’t able to pick it up.

    The next three days, I could hear them complaining that they aren’t supposed to be able to pick up the coin, Prince Charming is because he’s stronger and can buy them all the ice cream they want with the coin. On day five, I didn’t hear them arguing about the coin and why Prince Charming was taking so long; I saw them each eating a Popsicle in the shape of tweety birds head.

    Their dad came out and asked if they wanted more, they screamed, “I do! I do!”

    Their dad replied, “Don’t worry, I can get all the ice cream you want!”

    The older child said, “Because of the lucky coin that never runs out of money?”

    The dad laughs to himself.

    • Dan on June 18, 2014 at 3:42 am
    • Reply

    Here are the Hosts June task completions:
    Link to Host completions of the task:
    Duo Yang
    Polly Y
    Cory O’Brien

    July 9th Tasks coming soon!

    • Dan on June 30, 2014 at 10:05 pm
    • Reply

    You’re Great

    I biked to Evil Olive for Rouge, a Steampunk evening of dancing and debauchery. Wed, July 16, 9pm – Thu, July 17, 4am is the next one. Along the way I thought about Journey to the End of the Night. How we change the cityscape for the players but also, for the passersby. I thought about ways to make the game more lively, and I thought about all the things I wanted to talk to Joseph Vourteque about regarding his role in the game.

    I go to a lot of events as a way to connect with fans of the game. As a way of networking. As a way of saying thank you to people who ran, chased, organized, or volunteered in any capacity.

    Luckily a good number of people who help us out, also work on cool projects so it’s pretty much a win-win for me.

    That said, I am not much of a Night Life sort of guy. Dance clubs and alcohol still bring back memories of dimly lit gym floors. Teenage prejudices and insecurities die slow and sometimes strange deaths. I don’t wear awkwardness as a badge of honor, or hang my hat on it as a self identifier. But… there it is, when someone asks me to dance, or even just eyes me at a bar with a come hitherto look. I lock up a bit and have to consciously remind myself those sorts of insecurities are of no use to me.

    I got to the Evil Olive, unintentionally, early.

    Vourteque popped his head out of the door. “The doors open at 10:00”

    I think I saw in his eye, a little pang, like he was contemplating letting me in early so we could talk about RAJEN while he busied about setting up. But that’s no way to get ready for a show so I said, “That makes sense, I’ll be around when the doors open.”

    Dressed a little bit to dazzle, I stood there next to a Julie Lunda, someone I’d never met. She tapped away at her phone to warn people coming in from afar that it wasn’t going to start till 10:00.

    I asked her, “Is this enough common interest, the fact that we both want to get into the same show, to spend 40 minutes traipsing about the city together?”

    Lunda, her hair a spectacular shade of purple, donned in a black dress replete with pearls, cocked her head slightly to the right to contemplate. Then said, “Yeah.”

    We headed across the street and finally made our way to a falafel shop where she introduced me to two more of her friends.

    At some point she tells me, “The thing about Steampunk, is that it’s filled with people that like to do things. They want to go out, they want to create, they want to do. If you’ve got a good idea for an adventure, they want to join you. If you’ve got a bad idea for an adventure, they will probably help you make it better.”

    That’s how I feel about the Chicago creative community as a whole. But I admit, Chicago Steampunk has openness and teamwork in spades. At least from all my interactions with them. They’ve just been awesome to work with.

    When we headed in to the dance party I thought I’d wave to Vourteque talk for a minute or two about Journey and then sneak away. But he was already in set and his set was going to run long. Seeing me, a little dear in headlights, Lunda one finger beckoned me over to a group of people she was dancing with.

    The rest of the night, was all smiles, and dancing until, exhausted I headed home.

    I had a couple ideas that fit this… I’ve been sort of trying to live “I haven’t met you, but I think you’re great” all month long. So I’ve got to meet a lot of new people.

    But… Julie was the one that really saved me. What could have been uncomfortable or lonely or confused, was instead inclusive, thoughtful, and tender.


    *all photos are credited to the photographer. In order: Julie Lunda, Bob Taylor, Photo & Editing by Tony Lopez Tattoo by Aaron Lee

    • venus on July 8, 2014 at 8:32 pm
    • Reply

    Andy & I went to meeting.the sign seem to be pretty much figured out by a few people which was great. We participated at the parade for a while by complimenting people.

    • Tim Lo on July 9, 2014 at 12:31 am
    • Reply

    I was at the Chicago Pride Parade, which also happened to be my first pride parade. It was hot, but manageable, and there were a lot of people. It was perfect for what we were going for. I arrived with Duo in time to tape some metal poles to our banner, and then we set off to claim a space on the sidewalk as our own.

    People quickly responded to our salutations and compliments. I chose to particularly compliment people who had a rainbow flag. There were many flag capes, and also flags of all sizes that were actually used as flags, being waved through the air.

    But beyond just yelling compliments, we also encouraged (and sometimes nearly demanded) that passerby take a compliment from the banner we had made. Once people understood what we were trying to get them to do, we ran out of compliments in approximately three minutes. We hurried to make more tear-away compliments for people, all the while trying to say as many nice things to people who were passing us.

    An interesting thing for me was trying to ensure I said kind things to people, but not creepy things to people. I didn’t want anyone to feel uncomfortable from receiving a compliment. Obviously sometimes people can feel uncomfortable about it no matter what I do, but the point was that I didn’t want to be misconstrued as a cat caller. So I stayed with safe compliments, such as complimenting flags, I mentioned earlier.

    We got a lot of love from everyone, and halfway through we started asking people to pass on their compliments as well. Some of the best parts were when people took a compliment without looking at it first, and then exclaimed that the compliment was something they were told before. A girl grabbed a compliment about her laugh, and happily said that her friends tell her she has a great laugh all the time!

    All in all it was a great time, and I’m glad I went. Not just because of the compliments, but also because going to my first pride parade was pretty great too.

  2. “I’ve never met you, but you are great!”

    This month’s theme is, as I interpret it, all about making positive connections with strangers, that otherwise would not have been made, by the way of compliments.

    The dictionary definition of compliment is “a remark that says something good about someone or something.” Regardless of the compliment giver’s motives, compliments are meant to make the receivers feel good, admired, or approved. So what better way is there to show people that they are loved than giving them big hugs?

    Duo Yang, my dear friend and one of the hosts of A Month Of, agreed to hug strangers with me in Millennium Park. It was a late morning on a sunny Sunday and there were many people—tourists, locals, families, friends and couples—enjoying the day without minding others’ business. We are both introverts, and the thought of talking to strangers alone made us uncomfortable, let alone giving strangers hugs. So we just sat on a bench across from the Cloud Gate (aka the Bean) and, without announcement, pulled up the signs that I had prepared earlier in the morning. Mine said “You are beautiful! Hugs for free” and Duo’s said “You are beautiful! DELUXE Hugs for $1” (“deluxe” was cleverly added by Duo at the last minute.)

    We mentally fortified ourselves for 30 minutes of sitting around and offering hugs. We were highly skeptical that anyone would pay any attention to us, and even thought of the possibility of leaving the park without giving any hugs. What happened in the next 3 minutes was beyond our imagination.

    Within a minute of pulling out the signs, I saw kids running by me, followed by their mum saying “yeah, go give her a hug!” All of a sudden there were two most adorable kids in front of me, and before I said anything, I had a 2 year old boy with golden curls hanging on to my knees. His older sister, no older than 4 years, flashed a reserved smile, came for me, and I gave her a big hug with both arms.

    As we watched them skip away, we heard another voice. There was a young lady with great tan and toned biceps holding out a dollar bill to Duo. “Can I get a hug?” she asked. Duo stood up, speechless from excitement. Just as he moved toward her, however, I caught a glimpse of a park security guard walking toward us. “You can’t do that here,” he said, “you can’t do stuff for money here.”

    We tried to explain that we were not taking money for profit, but he wouldn’t listen. Since our intention was not to get in trouble by acting guardian of freedom of expression, we told him we’d leave promptly. As soon as the security guard turned away, the young lady grinned and asked her friend to snap a picture of her with Duo. When Duo offered to give the money back to her, she insisted that we’d keep it.

    On the way home, I was recalling the conversation Duo and I had before we sat down in the park. We were struggling with the idea of complimenting strangers; compliment was supposed to be specific and sincere, and in order to give specific compliments, we would need to know the person we were complimenting. Complimenting strangers, by definition, seemed to lose the meaning.

    But what did we just do in mere 3 minutes? I put smile on the faces of two kids, and I could still feel the warmth from the hugs on my arms and in my heart. Duo helped the young lady create a special vacation memory; no doubt the picture of her and Duo would make it on her Facebook and she’d talk about it to friends. Our hugs brightened someone’s day, and made them feel good, and that’s what it mattered at the end.

    • Lynda on July 12, 2014 at 10:41 pm
    • Reply

    Upon reflecting on giving and receiving compliments after the show, I realized that sometimes I will give someone a compliment at a party or large social group context when I am unsure of how to approach them otherwise. And I almost positive that I am not the only person who does this.

    I have noticed that this trend is especially common amongst women. As soon as we encounter one another, the compliments start flying. We talk about our clothes, our hairstyles, our shoes, how great of a sense of style the other person has, etc. Compliments abound for the first five minutes of an interaction, and then we ask one another about what we have been doing.

    And I have realized that there are times when I will be complimented on something that I am wearing (I tend to dress with a lot of affectations), when the real message is, “You seem cool and I am unsure of how to approach you, so I am going to start by mentioning the first thing I notice about you and compliment it.” And this is okay! I do this too. Overall, it is a very positive way to break the ice with someone.

    I think that a lot of us experience a rush sometimes when we see someone and we have a sense that they might be really cool, but we do not know exactly how to approach them. It might sound really awkward if we said something like, “The way you use your voice when you talk gives me the sense that you might be a really mindful, intelligent person.” These are the more subliminal anecdotes that motivate us to want to get to know someone. The closest we might get to this expression might be, “You seem really cool!” but even that is a bit overkill to say to a stranger. It sounds a little suspicious. So, we give them a compliment on something that might be tangental to our overall “attraction” (note that I am using this in a general sense, and not in a romantic sense) to that person. In essence, what is being communicated is precisely the theme of the event: “I don’t know you, but I think you’re great.”

    Personally, I could almost use that phrase as a tagline for a whole series of experiences that I have on an almost daily basis. Strangers give me great ideas all the time without actually personally engaging me directly. Even with something as simple as fashion or style, I feel like I am constantly getting new ideas on alternative ways that I could aesthetically present myself to the world — Sometimes I see strangers who are really clever at doing this, and they inspire me.

    Other times I will hear someone laugh in a really heartfelt and genuine way and it will automatically transmit this tiny element of their happiness. Regardless of how I might be feeling in the moment, I will be happy reflecting on the fact that there are times in my life that I can feel that happy, unconsciously and unreflectively, and let it out in a laugh like that. I will feel this affinity for this person who I do not know (and might not actually even see) for reminding me that it’s possible to feel that way.

    When I was in my early twenties, I encountered this man via the internet. I believe it was LastFM, actually, and he had some really absurd screen name like “IamNOTaUser”. He messaged me based on the tiny one-paragraph self-description that I had put up on my profile, saying that he was thrilled to find such an “enlightened” and ecstatic person. I certainly did not think of myself this way at the time. That said, we kept up a penpal correspondence for years. And we never met. And during those years, I would refer to this person (his name is Josh) as “the most ecstatic person I have ever encountered” to my friends, leaving out the fact that I had never formally met him. I referred to him as an example of this awesome possibility of human experience. He became an example to me of a type of liberated person who was freely able to feel and express high levels of complete joy on a consistent basis.

    Even though our interactions were very limited, he made me realize that I was not doing anything wrong or weird in expressing exuberance in a way that for some reason comes very naturally to me. Here was this person who was doing this all the time, and I got the sense that he had cultivated an entire community of people who encouraged one another to freely express themselves and be happy. I will be as bold as to say that to this day, Josh remains an eminent figure in my mental conception of how far a person can go in life in experiencing complete joy, empathy, and love for life.

    Josh got engaged a couple years ago. I am sure that his partner must be a truly amazing person. I stopped talking to him after he got engaged. I remember feeling jealous and frustrated. My own relationships were going pretty terribly and I wanted to find someone with whom I could share joy. It seemed that he had done this. Throughout the course of knowing this person who I admired so much, I felt like I had failed him by not being a happier person and not living up to the things that I had initially told him I was so interested in pursuing. Further, I knew that I had slightly romanticized our correspondences. It felt silly to be attached to this image of this person who I did not really know, and I felt it was important for me to let it go.

    In a sense, this story is sort of the ultimate example of not knowing someone but thinking that they are really great. In a way, I feel similarly about great artists and my favorite filmmakers. It’s easy to fall into a sense of romanticizing and idealizing someone. Compliments can therefore be a way to enter an interaction with someone who might otherwise only wonder about or admire from afar. I think that people ultimately want to feel loved and like they are expressing themselves in a way that is noticeable, and compliments can be a way to relay this.

    My favorite compliments are those that are on something that I was not aware I was expressing. For instance, after talking with a woman at a show for just a couple minutes, she exclaimed, “I love your optimism! It’s so contagious.” That is one of the best compliments I have received in awhile because I did not have to do anything special or planned to convey something that she picked up on right away. More intimately, my last partner told me upon our parting that I had made him a happier person. He is one of the happiest people I have ever known already, so the idea that I could have made him even happier feels like such a great accomplishment.

    My friends now tease me about how apropos my middle name (Joy) is since I am often so enthusiastic. It makes me feel like I am doing something right if this is what people are noticing about me, and that’s why I think compliments are great. It’s a simple way of validating that we are conveying what we intend in a meaningful way and lets us know that others appreciate it. And in the end, I think it’s a great effort towards everyone supporting one another in simple, small ways to encourage greater happiness.

    • Noah on July 15, 2014 at 6:32 pm
    • Reply

    A girl, a boy, a complimentary pair

    A boy tell’s a girl, “Do me a favor. When you are at work today, can you compliment every person you see?” It’s a reasonable request, right?

    “Do you know how long my shift is?”

    “Well, I mean, just when you’re at the front desk. You only do that for an hour or two, right? It’ll be fun!”

    The girl does not want to do it, but the boy pushes. She does not want to think up, and give out, insincere compliments all day! He doesn’t want her to do that either. Everyone is beautiful, it’s just that the beauty isn’t always immediately obvious (he is not sure that’s true). Surely she can find something at least worth remarking on about any person. She acquiesces. She goes to work. After work she calls him. She is happy! She paid one compliment. She thought up many more, but was always too late or too shy. She complimented a man on his choice of book. He was friendly, they chat, the next book is reserved. She tells the boy thinking up compliments for everyone made her work more pleasant. I bet it’s true. I think there’s all kinds of positive reinforcement going on here.

    The boy had agreed to pay compliments to strangers too. He was supposed to do it on the bus ride home, but a friend drives instead. The girl is not happy. As penance he will do it despite preferring to burn a memento.

    I’ll go to the supermarket and compliment someone there. It’s one on a workday in a working class neighborhood. It’s not immediately evident who to compliment. Nobody is dressed to the 9’s. Nobody is dressed to the 2’s even. Everybodies cute kid is misbehaving. Nobody is buying anything laudable. A sloppy compliment here seems like it might be an insult. A cashier with interesting hair leaves her register. My cashier barely has the energy to do her job. I go home defeated.

    I’ll go pick up my book at the library and compliment someone there! It’s a crowded madhouse. I don’t risk it.

    On the walk home I consider crossing the street and complementing the hippie chick that’s always walking around with a ribbon around her head. I’m not sure she isn’t a prostitute. I don’t risk it.

    On the walk home, a guy and his gal walk toward me. Last chance! He’s wearing a t-shirt with a Punisher looking skull on it. I nod my head, put a smile in my voice and say, “I dig the shirt”. He scowls. He looks down at his shirt. We pass each other and he says nothing.

    The boy decides it counts. It’s penance enough. The Universe is angry. He’ll try some more compliments after he makes a burnt offering.

    • Dan on July 15, 2014 at 6:39 pm
    • Reply

    Here are the Hosts July task completions:
    Link to Host completions of the task:
    Duo Yang
    Polly Yuekivich
    Cory O’Brien

    August 13th Tasks coming soon!

    • Dan on July 29, 2014 at 12:35 am
    • Reply

    A Month Of… Moving On

    Lynda Joy is a good friend of mine and of Story Luck’s in general. Contemplating this month’s task, she sent me a Jungian quote:

    “In spite of its function as a reservoir for human darkness—or perhaps because of this—the shadow is the seat of creativity. So that for some, it may be, ‘the dark side of his being, his sinister shadow…represents the true spirit of life”

    I wanted to do a task where I collected random people’s old sentimental things, and disposed of them on their behalf. “The ring you can’t bare to give away. The letter that hurts to look at. Give it to me, and I’ll trash it. Fuck that stuff. You need a trash collector.”

    I made one or two uneventful posts to internet black holes.

    The only response I received was, “You are a pyro.”

    That was not my shadow. Instead, it took Adam Baker giving a soft spoken speech, and a gentle toss of paper to reveal it. And in it’s reveal, vanquish.

    Thank you, dear friend. I know your heart wasn’t freed that night, but you freed mine.

    I encourage you to come share your stories of Moving On at the live show! If you post a story about moving on in the comments here, you get into the show for free.

    A Month Of
    Stage 773 1225 W. Belmont
    Wed Aug 13th 7:30-10:00
    $10 free with a posted story or shared dish

  3. There is something strangely cathartic about seeing your own smirking face in a headshot while it lights up in flames.

    I have been modeling professionally for 7 years cumulatively. I started when I was 18 as a means of self-exploration because I felt like my outward appearance did not match how I felt myself to be and what I wanted others to notice about me. And to this day I struggle being taken seriously and being respected for my age while still looking rather girlish, but I am trying to rock my six grey hairs.

    Anyhow, I was signed with a modeling agency about a year ago and relied on that work to keep me going along with my other contract work (research, writing, and yoga teaching). My goal was to keep up the momentum for traveling by having enough income to save at the expense (puns!) of additional luxuries and to avoid being tied down by a full-time job. Indeed, I feel that I have successfully traveled more in the past year than I have cumulatively in my entire life. Traveling and studying in Copenhagen last year made me realize that I deserved more from life than the discontent I was enduring at my full-time job. I have managed to stay happy with a fairly meager income (freelancers know that it’s feast or famine) and the ultimate practice of Aparigraha (simple living).

    My agency booked me for a gig at 8am in Marseilles, Illinois on a weekday morning just before Memorial Day. I never did figure out exactly where Marseilles, Illinois was on a map but I do know that is is really far from Chicago.

    I remember taking down my pin curls (which I don for the classic retro look) and applying my make-up in a frenzy around 6am that morning. I knew that something felt very wrong. I had just returned from San Diego and despite feeling a little financially needy, I did not want to do the gig. It was a commercial gig promoting a local hotel chain. I was supposed to bring an old suitcase and stand in the lobby looking like an out-of-time guest at a kitschy antique style hotel. I texted the photographer to inform him that despite my best efforts, I might be late.

    I left in a frenzy, knowing I would probably hit traffic and be late. I managed to get about halfway. After exiting the highway, I was driving about 65 mph on a country road with gravel shoulders. I veered slightly into one of those gravel shoulders, tried to correct, and suddenly my car went flying. It started by swerving. The steering wheel seemed to suddenly have no power. I tried to hit the brake but the car seemed to be moving on its own. Then I started spiraling.

    Once my car started spiraling and beginning to turn over, I had the thought, “Oh my god, I really, really messed up, and now it’s all over and there’s nothing I can do.” along with a soft voice that kept whispering, “Please don’t die.”

    At about that moment, I hit a tree that stopped my car. Amazingly, I hit the tree on the passenger’s side. Realizing that I could move, I tilted the rearview mirror to check if I was bleeding. Red lipstick was streaming down my chin and my mascara was in streams. My sprayed-in-place pin curled hair was frazzled. I looked like a beauty queen nightmare. Aside from that, though, I survived with only a small scar on my knee and a set of recurring nightmares that I am training myself to wake up from and address. (For the record, I later found out that my car had a power steering failure, so for those of you who drive, please be careful about the warning signs that your car might be low on steering fluid.)

    I think the real point of this story is that the experience was a subtle metaphor for my life. It showed me in the most explicit way possible that I need to take more control of my life.

    So, I decided to give up modeling. I’ve decided that it is not really a fair or justifiable use of my time for myself or others, and that it was holding me back. It made me spend more time per week in front of a mirror and worried about my appearance than I care to have in my life. I felt like I would transform three times a day from working professional, yoga instructor, to glamor model, and like the protagonist in Leos Carax’s film Holy Motors (2012), I felt that my identity was in flux.

    Modeling is about being a character. It is about being this person who has a really strong aesthetic presence. And when people compliment me when I am dolled up (to tie in last week’s theme), it feels like an impersonal compliment because the look was so planned and choreographed. Recently, I have been falling my heart and really pursuing my research and writing career. I want to be recognized for my intellectual endeavors first because that feels a lot truer to who I really am.

    So, for this event, I decided to delete my online modeling portfolio. And for the ritualistic aspect of the prompt, I decided to burn my physical portfolio. I’ve done two images so far, my headshot being the first.

    This would be a lot easier over a fire pit. Sorry I missed you guys!

    • Kristin on July 31, 2014 at 1:36 am
    • Reply

    My story begins on MySpace, as all good early-2000 stories do. I had just come back home to semi-rural Ohio after my first year at a city-based college. Growing restless with lack of mobility, I turned to the Internet in search of new friends—and I met a boy! And not just any boy—a cute boy who lived down the street (a diamond in the semi-rural Ohio-rough).

    We spent that summer doing what is 19-year-olds do when they’re falling in love. We fought, we made up, we fought again, and over a few months, I came to understand what all those musicians and poets had been talking about all that time. As August came to a close, we realized that the inevitable was upon us, and I would soon be returning to school. The night before I left, I gave him my going away gift: promise rings for both of us, each engraved with “Vous et nul autre” – you and no other.

    ….Of course, I would come to regret this choice of engraving when he gave his ring to his next girlfriend a year later, who very much enjoyed repeating it on his every social media profile. (Which I totally *cough* just happened upon. Y’know. Accidentally. Not at all stalking.)

    We dated on and off for another five years, time and again drawn together by the memory of that one summer. But time is an active whittler of things, and with each year the memory was lesser, and lesser, until it was no longer a thing, and nor were we. But I still had the ring.

    I’ve taken the ring out a handful of times over the years—when feeling lonely, or desiring nostalgia—but the comfort was always false. When this month’s theme was announced, the ring was the first thing that came to my mind. I was still surprised by how good it felt to toss that thing into the lake when we met as a group some weeks ago.

    The theme this month and the ridding of the ring are both rather aptly timed, as earlier this week, my relationship of three and some years came to a respectful and loving end. There are many decisions to be made over the next month as we sift through our years of accumulated belongings, and I expect I will be losing several more sentimental items when all is said and done. There will be difficult moments, I know—but I won’t be hunting through my jewelry drawer anytime soon. No more dwelling on the past; I’m just excited about the infinite possibilities of the future.

    • Catherine on August 2, 2014 at 11:51 pm
    • Reply

    I wondered whether burning something was the appropriate means of moving on for me. I had said I would attend the bonfire with the other Storyluck individuals, but couldn’t help but feel that perhaps fire wasn’t the way for me. Fire seems so impersonal. It burns without regard, you simply have to let go. I wondered if I needed a more visceral, hands-on approach to my sentimental destruction.

    A week later, I think that fire was a good way to help me move on.

    I only moved to Chicago in mid-June, as many of the people at the bonfire can now tell you (I mentioned it a few times, I admit). I came with two bags, having just packed and gone. Where I was living, western Massachusetts, was not working for me. I had grown up in California, lived in DC, lived in the Middle East – so I thought the Midwest would be a good place to go next. With only two bags to my name though, finding something sentimental to destroy was hard. It wasn’t that I hadn’t packed sentimental things – it is inevitable that you do, since we in reality need little to survive, everything else is just comfort and sentiment. It was that I had to find something to move on from amongst the few possessions I brought with me, knowing most things I brought served a functional purpose.

    So I picked something small. Something I stuffed into my bag right before I left Massachusetts. Simple postcards and notes from my mother, meant to provide comfort.

    If this fire had taken place a month previously, it would have been a different thought process to choose to burn those. As it were, I picked these in order to distance myself from what has sadly turned into a toxic relationship.

    My mother has been diagnosed with clinical depression since 2008. She is not the person I once knew. Like all people with depression, certain things trigger my mom’s “bad days”. First is financial instability, an understandable trigger. Second is seasonal affective disorder, which for most manifests during the winter but for my mom manifests during the summer. She cannot stand the heat.

    The final trigger is me. I, simply by being myself in all my strengths and weaknesses, cause my mom to go insane in many ways. While living in Massachusetts with my parents for a few months, there would be times I would go downstairs and by saying, “Hello” my mother would begin to scream at me, saying such horrid things that if it was in a TV show you’d say, “That’s just unrealistic writing there.”

    And at times it felt like I was living in an unreality. Living with someone who has depression is a constant struggle, but when you are a trigger for their depressive states, it is a battle that will never end.

    But in the weeks leading up to my move, we were getting along. Her depression was in check and we could speak without her attempting to cut me down with her words.

    Two weeks after I moved to Chicago, it changed. She sent me an email that burned me, burned its words into my mind‘s eye never to be erased. She ended it with saying she did not want me to contact her again, that I was cast out from her life.

    I was damaged and broken and lost. I sent her a thought-out response, knowing it may be the last time for a while I could get her to read something of mine. I wrote in part of it, “I am not perfect. I have issues, ones that I work on, worry about and cry over. And you do too. They do not all stem from your depression, the burden cannot all be placed on that. But the difference is Mom, is that I never expect you to change. The problems you have, whether they come from your depression or from some other source, I love you with them regardless. I love all of you, just as you are. It does not matter if you do not want to speak to me again, if you say or think terrible things about me; I will love you. You cannot disappoint me.”

    I concluded with, “I hope you read this. This will be the last time I contact you. I think we do need some time apart. My heart is never closed off from you, and I want you in my life. Right now, I do not think it is possible. We both need to process how we interact with each other. The tension between us is from both sides, and we both need to step away in order to release it. I love you. No matter what.”

    Days later, she began texting me. Photos of my cat, still in Massachusetts, little texts saying she loves me and misses me. Finally emails within the week saying she misses me and wants to start talking to me again.

    But no more. If months ago this had happened, I would have immediately run back into her arms either figuratively or literally, ready to have her be a part of my life again. Ready to be able to call her up and ask for advice and hear approval in her tone. Ready for the attention and affection that is unique to mothers.

    But no more. I think I need this time away from her more than she does me. To gain more independence. To not have her as my sounding board in times of crisis. To be myself fully without questioning my own choices.

    When I tossed those postcards, sent over the years to me in my various places of residence, into the fire, my emotional reaction was a lot less apparent that the contributions and tales the others told that night. I did it quickly, with no fanfare. I believe the others thought I was slipping a fast one past them.

    It wasn’t that. I had weeks ago already begun to move on. This was just a small physical way to manifest that. I will never tell my mother I burned her notes to me, because she has lost the right to such details in my life. It will never hurt her, because at this point I am past all the petty things I could do to retaliate.

    The fire turned out to be a good way to move on. It was quick and sudden, like ripping off a bandage.

    Like cutting the apron strings.

    Like saying no more and meaning it.

      • Dan on August 3, 2014 at 4:19 am
      • Reply

      *internet hugs

  4. DSC02331

    Let me just preface this article by saying that I am an incredibly sentimental person. I can’t throw a ticket stub or listen to “Landslide” by Fleetwood Mac without melting a little. I’m just an emotional person in general, and I usually think this is a good thing. I’d rather be someone who felt everything and was painfully optimistic than someone who didn’t care.

    But after a break-up this past spring, I found myself thinking that maybe I put a little too much stock in the past. I think perhaps that I value things in the past simply because they are no more. So when the “A Month Of” challenge was announced to destroy something of sentimental value, I knew I had to do it just to see if I could. Earlier in the summer I donated all my childhood stuffed animals to the Salvation Army with relatively little post-donation depression, but I was pretty sure that was an anomaly.

    I knew exactly where to go for something of sentimental value. I have a shelf in my room that’s filled with little trinkets that all look like junk but are emotionally wrought with meaning to me. There’s a tic-tac container from my first kiss, holy water from my first trip to Europe, and there’s two chocolate coins from a trip to Disney, one of my last vacations with both my parents. These coins would be my victims.

    I grabbed them, felt their foil skins in my hand. I took them outside to my driveway where I could feasibly smash the chocolate without making too big a mess. I had the hammer in my hand as I sat cross-legged at the head of the driveway, and was about to smash them before I could think about it too much. But I realized that wasn’t the challenge. I had to let myself feel the emotional attachment and destroy it anyways. So I sat there and let my psyche go back and forth. You can never get them back if you do this. But they’re just objects not the memories themselves. Maybe you could just smash one. But that’s not the challenge!

    We’re never attached to objects because of the objects themselves but because of what they represent to us. These coins represented a time in my life before everything got complicated by divorce papers, weekends spent at Dad, and fights over finances. I haven’t been back to Disney since then, when I was seven, and people always say that everyone’s a kid at Disney. But I know that it’s never going to be the same. Honestly, the next time I go I’ll probably be going with my own children.

    Just like we’re not attached to objects, I don’t actually think most of the time we’re even attached to a memory but rather a retroactive interpretation of the memory. No memory is ever true. Every memory is just one person’s interpretation of an event. For me that trip was perfect, but for my mom it was the beginning of the end. If I try hard enough I can remember my dad spending most of that trip on his phone talking to someone else. I can remember shortly after the trip my mom discovering the perfume he had bought there for the other woman.

    We make memories seem perfect because that’s how we cope. If we thought that everything was always sucky we wouldn’t want to keep going, but looking back on the past and remembering mostly the good keeps us chasing those feelings we had.

    When I look at my shelf and those trinkets, if I try I can associate almost as many bad things with them as good things. I’ve spent the last few years, thinking more than I ever have about what I could have had growing up if my parents stayed together. I didn’t think about it too much when I was younger, because I was mostly focused on double the birthday and Christmas presents and bunk beds at Dad’s. But as I’ve gotten to know more people, spent time with their families, seen the long running jokes and the camaraderie, I’ve taken to wondering what if.

    What if is dangerous. It’s like waiting for your letter from Hogwarts to arrive. Sadly it’s never going to happen. I knew this and I know this, so I felt the weight of the hammer in my palm and let it come down on the chocolate coins with an unsatisfying clunk. The chocolate was so old, it just kind of shattered, and the whole thing was pretty anti-climactic. Probably because I didn’t really destroy anything, just two chocolate coins that were too old to eat anyways. I’ll always have the memories of that trip good and bad, but at least now I won’t have them sitting on my shelf taunting me with their what ifs.

    • Erin Orozco on August 12, 2014 at 6:42 pm
    • Reply

    I was thinking about the topic of ‘moving on’ and somehow got on to a tangent/inner monologue regarding my own writing and creative process. When, as a writer, do you know your work is finished? I, for one, can never be certain. Putting aside any value judgments as to the merit of a work, I never know when to let a piece go. This problem has been compounded for me because I’ve been sitting on a small but sturdy stockpile of “finished…?” materials for a number of years now, mostly poems and short bursts of microfiction, adding to the pile with every day that I continue in my endless task of writing, revising, and “completing…?” works. All of which I tuck into a corner of notebook or word processor somewhere to occasionally revisit and puzzle over what the heck to do with it all.

    I deluded myself for some time that I would begin the process of submitting my work to literary magazines because “that’s what writers do…?” I compiled quite the compendium of prestigious literary magazines and their submission guidelines, selecting some of the most well regarded publications, I suppose, because I assumed their accolades might rub off on me if I was chosen. In reality, it was a good exercise in procrastination because I never really intended to submit anything to those magazines and it gave me an excuse to play around with Excel when I had free time at my day job. But I think if I had sat myself down then, some two to four years ago, and asked myself what I imagined the outcome being once my poem or short story was accepted and appeared in a magazine hardly anyone I knew read–that I myself didn’t read–I wouldn’t have had a clear answer.

    I don’t mean to knock the literary community as it stands today. It does serve a purpose, and I admire the people who write to those audiences, and hope to do so myself in the near- to long-term future. But for me, it has historically provided a cognitive barrier to entry. If I could just perfect the words on the page, if I could affix them just so, then maybe, just maybe…

    Maybe what?

    I will probably always be embarrassed to see works of mine on printed paper or the Internet in the same way that many people dislike viewing pictures or hearing recordings of themselves. I will always be self-conscious of what I’m putting out in the world, even when I know it’s worthy of praise. I protest finality and am happier with the concept of fluidity–I am a Pisces after all. So I suppose in some messed up way, it’s oddly comforting to be able to treat my work as a never-ending cycle of creation and consumption. It is very, very important–but only to me. I’m a cannibal. And when your pre-existing work is relegated to some hidden corner where no one else can view it or, hope against hopes, look forward to future works, you can revisit the same pieces ad nauseum, reinterpreting and revising until even the changes bear little significance. Meaning that my working process as a writer up until that point bore little significance.

    So I took a small step towards challenging that premise recently. I did it very gradually, of course, because that is my nature (again, Pisces). I did a bit of Internet searching and read a few articles on writing for blogs, why creative writers keep blogs, whether any poetry or short story blogs existed and what their audience looked like. I even watched a TED talk or two. During this process, I happened upon a particularly helpful line from an Atlantic article published in 2008. I could summarize this article, or my research in general on the topic of blogging for writers, but truly this quote was my primary take away from all of that: “To blog is therefore to let go of your writing in a way”. Let go of your writing. It seemed like a command that I needed to follow.

    Don’t get me wrong, I’ve had conversations with fellow writers and artists, attended workshops, and read full-length books that basically amounted to the same simple instruction. But somehow, reading that one line in an article published six years ago, it made sense. In my experience, writing, regardless of who or what outlet it is intended for, draws a parallel to exercising. I should probably do so regularly, particularly since I feel so good during and after the act–but sometimes I need a little external motivation to get started. In my case, a blog was the perfect balance between external exposure and casual medium. Yes, I want citizens of the Internet to like what they read when they visit my blog, and to be entertained generally by any ancillary audio, video, or picture posts I share–but I don’t care enough to agonize over it extensively. Perhaps if someone (including myself) thinks it’s worthwhile, I may even revisit a certain work, revise it, expand upon it, and maybe even submit it somewhere more final. But that’s a way further down in this process for me. What’s more important for the time being is that the process itself is more holistic. Therefore, my blog lets me let go of my writing in a way: to write, review (briefly), self-publish, and begin again. Every. Goddamn. Day.

      • Dan on August 12, 2014 at 7:46 pm
      • Reply

      Link us to the blog asap!

        • Erin Orozco on August 13, 2014 at 3:51 pm
        • Reply

        Oof! It is: Have at it!

  5. My grandpa died on Sunday after a ten year battle against Alzheimer’s.
    He is being cremated this week.

    He did great things, made great things, and influenced great things.
    Also, he was a phenomenal storyteller.
    He will live on through them all.

    On Monday morning my grandma panicked, she suddenly decided she wanted to bury him, even though my grandpa clearly stated that he wanted to be cremated. “Sending him into flames seems so horrible” she said. “It will be bright and exciting, just like he was” I said. She calmed down, and things are moving forward as planned. My grandpa will be scattered in the ocean, two cemeteries, and who knows where else — he loved and lived in so many places, from Chicago to Italy.

    We may cast some of his ashes in artwork.
    He was a sculptor. He welded chrome car bumpers into animals and cast bronzes.
    He was often on fire, figuratively and literally.

    So that is the fire and destruction part of this assignment.
    The moving on part? Who knows for sure how that will work out…

    I love(d) that man more than I loved anyone else for years.

    Everyone who met him loved him, he led a charmed life and charmed you right back. I don’t know how to add photos here, but if I could I would share a picture of him standing with arms wide open to the sky, wearing his sailor cap, on top of the life-sized stegosaurus he welded from chrome car bumpers… which is an awesome image on its own, but then you realize that the life-size dinosaur that he made, and is riding is wearing giant roller-skates.

    I idolized that guy, and for good reason.
    I was in kindergarten during the dinosaur episode. I was a child whose grandpa made dinosaurs out of cars. It was an unbeatable combination.

    So you might imagine that I am totally broken up about his passing, but I’m not. After watching his mental and physical health decline for ten years, and watching his transformation from demigod to, well, I don’t even want to think about it, his passing is a tremendous relief.

    I was so saddened by his transformation at about year 6-7 that my inner circle of friends (some of whom I had known since elementary school) actually stopped being friends with me, because, and this is a real life quote from one of my ex-best friends, “I’ve never seen you like this before, and I just can’t remember what makes you happy.” Which is a pretty shitty thing to say to someone who you’ve been attached to the hip to for 14 years.

    My friends didn’t understand my grieving process (to be honest though, neither did I). Their voluntary destruction of our relationship added salt to my wounds from my involuntarily deteriorating relationship with my grandpa. My grieving process became more complex… not only was I losing my family but I was also losing my friends. Everyone I cared about, really.

    I burned bridges with a lot of people.

    I’m not on speaking terms with them anymore. My first and only serious boyfriend and I broke up, and we lost our gorgeous apartment. I moved into my parents’ attic for a while, and then I moved in with my grandmother after my grandfather moved to a total care facility.

    Its been nice to be there for my grandma, pre-and-post death of my grandpa.
    In fact, I even have new friends.

    I feel like I can finally stop grieving.

    • Catherine on September 11, 2014 at 10:24 pm
    • Reply

    So I am posting this the day after the event, but I don’t live in Chicago anymore – I’m not bound to your rules!

    You need some background to the story: If you read my previous post here from August’s theme on , you’ll notice pretty quickly my relationship with my parents has been rocky these past few months. My relationship with my mother has been volcanic – it all spewed out with such angry velocity I got not only burns but whiplash to boot before I finally said I’m just going to get off the damn volcanic island to more stable ground. Burn that damn bridge while I run for the mainland too. For months I have not spoken with my mother.

    The night of August’s potluck I revealed to the gathered friends and strangers a semi-secret: I was moving to Fargo, North Dakota the next day. I had lost my job in Chicago suddenly the week before, applied to some jobs, got the interview immediately for one of them and offered the job the next day. I was unemployed for all of 36 hours. Not a bad turn around. The job was the type of work I wanted to be doing, working in international education – they required an immediate start and to be honest while I had met such lovely people in Chicago in my brief time there I knew nothing was really holding me to Chicago. So I said yes to the job, yes to a new start in a year of stopped-and-starts-and-stopped.

    I told a room full of strangers this (actually multiple rooms of strangers. Friendly bunch, Chicago.), I told a few friends this, but I did not tell my parents. I kept it off social media – I did not want word getting around to them somehow through there. And while some people find it easy not to tell their parents things, for me, it was incredibly hard. I had been very close with my mom. I never had a rebellious phase in high school, never felt the need to sneak out. It wasn’t that I was an angel, but my parents and I had a strong relationship where I could say, “Yup. Went out drinking last night. No cops, no problem.” and my family wouldn’t fly off the handle. So remaining silent on losing my job, getting a new job and moving to a completely different part of the country that I never thought I would live in (or even visit in all likelihood) was pretty damn difficult.

    And that brings us to the theme for September: Building Bridges. It had been a week. Seven days doesn’t seem like a lot but I had already kept the secret for two weeks and every day I kept it longer I could feel my internal organs slowly twist themselves around each other a little bit more. My insides were becoming the Gordian knot and I had the sword in my hand to cut it apart and but my head and my heart were in constant battle, dancing with logic and emotion and trying to find order in the chaos.

    Seven days can seem like forever.

    My insides finally said, “Enough is enough! Cut the knot! One phone call cuts the knot!” My mind finally said, “You have made the move. You have started your job. You have accomplished what you set out to do.” My heart whispered, “Yes, but will your parents be proud of you, condemn you, will they make you doubt yourself? Will they do what they have been doing so well this past year: make you feel like complete shit?” I breathed. As I exhaled, the air in my lungs burst forth and exclaimed, “Whether they approve or not, you have done it. It is better to tell them than live in the unknown.”

    My lungs, unusually wise, were telling me Schrodinger is stupid.

    My hand reached for the sword, commonly referred to as a mobile phone. “Dad?” “Hey honey how’s it going, haven’t heard from you in a few days.” “It’s going fine. Can we arrange to Skype tonight?” “Yeah sure, I’ll have your brother fix the webcam.” “Okay. And…can you ask mom to be there too?” “….Okay? Yes, she’d love to see you.”

    The knot was starting to fray.

    I sat in the residence hall I was staying in, a temporary housing situation provided by the university until I found an apartment, my breath and my heartbeat dancing to different tunes.

    “Hey Kiki! How’s it going in Chicago? Is that your apartment behind you?” “Hi Dad. Sorta.” “Here’s your mom!” “Hi Kiki. I love you and miss you.” “…………………………………………….Hi Mom. I have something to tell you both.”

    Over the past week or so I had planned out what I was going to say to them. Scrawled and scratched and stared at the words until they were as close to expressing my choir of discordant organs in some semblance of truth.

    “I kindly ask you both to remain quiet until I finish. I am not calling you from Chicago. I am not even calling you from Illinois. I am calling you from Moorhead, Minnesota. It is right next to Fargo, North Dakota. I moved here a week ago for a job….” They immediately begin going, “Ooh where! Let’s get out the map,” pulling out the large US map curled in the corner of the office. Of course they could not keep quiet for even 30 seconds. They so frequently didn’t listen to me before, why would I expect the same now?

    But I continue on, explaining the job and why I took it and more importantly why I did not tell them any of this until it was too late: “You told me I was too dependent on you. In many ways I was, and I needed to make this decision without your interference. Without the worry of what either of you would say. I must trust my own decisions fully and you must trust me to make them. To find my own way to happiness and success however I choose to define those things. …whether you approve or not of these choices does not matter to me anymore. I made them for me, and I am happy. I am making a life.”

    While they had murmured and commented through the whole thing, I had kept going, shutting out their commentary, pushing through to the end.

    Finally it was silent. The sword had sliced through the entire knot. Whatever happened next, I was a free woman. The sword had turned into a shield, ready to protect from what I believed to be the coming onslaught of a mother who cannot control her emotions and cannot control her explosive, negative reactions toward me.

    Seven seconds can seem like forever.

    “I’m so proud of you!” “Yes, this is so wonderful! Couldn’t be prouder! How do you like it so far how are the people are work when are you finding an apartment…”

    My shield buckled. Not under the weight of disgust, disappointment and vitriol, but under the unexpected ambush of love and pride.

    I had built a bridge back to the volcanic island my mother resides on and embodies. I had assumed it would still be spewing molten hate. I had been ready to walk through fire and ash and empowered with my choices go through unscathed, walk across the hot coals and have feet clean of madness.

    Instead the volcano was dormant, peaceful even. Time and distance had exhausted it of its current supply depression-style crazy.

    I don’t expect the volcano that is my mother to have gone extinct. Even though in this instance she reacted positively, I know better. The molten core is still there.

    The bridge has been rebuilt. It is a drawbridge now. The next time the volcano starts smoking, I’m pulling up the bridge. And perhaps that is the way to have bridges – not to burn them when things go wrong but to modify them. Build gates, create drawbridges, have a toll that must be paid. But don’t destroy the structure itself.

    You’re welcome for the mixed metaphors! Consider this a mythic Mediterranean flavor story.

  6. Hidden places are of course internal and external and both literal and figurative.

    So the literal hidden place is both Toni Patisserie and the Cultural Center. These were the places where I met and fell in love with a new lover, with my city of origin, and most crucially with myself again.

    It started a few weeks ago. No, more than that. June 15th was when my last lover left me, our home, and our relationship to pursue continuing graduate school in another city. I kissed him goodbye and hugged his dog, who had been our cuddle buddy and friend throughout our entire relationship. (In fact, his dog even got the first kiss in — as I was resting on KTS shoulder on our third date, I closed my eyes and Dawa snuck in this perfect gentle dog kiss right on my mouth.) My relationship with KTS was the best relationship I have ever been in with the happiest person I have ever known in my life. A month later, I was given a contract journalism assignment as a contender for a full-time position in a new city for a job that seemed to meet me where I was in terms of my talents and skills, but for which I had absolutely no prior experience. Because the entire contracting proceed exceeded everyone’s expectations, I became set into foreseeing a reality of myself with this job. And it did not work out; I was amongst the top two contenders and the full-time was given to someone with more experience. But it was the first time that I realized that I cold be employed as a writer, which I think I had just completely forgotten. I had studied psychology and neuroscience and framed myself as a researcher.

    Okay, so that is the background to set the stage. For weeks every time I would go out and someone would flirt with me, I was angry and hurt because I just wanted this person to be there who was not there. I wish I had given myself more space to heal. In mid-July, I went on one date and it went surprisingly well. I told him upfront that I was still in love with KTS and recovering from heartbreak. But we started to really open up to one another. The fact was that I had a lot of insecurities about my life. Namely, I had watched someone who I loved do exactly what I want to be doing, which is going to a PhD program and pursuing something within himself that he loved more than our relationship and that could not accommodate our relationship. And so this man told me, “I really like you and would like to be with you, the same you, once you get your feet on the ground.” And that really hurt.

    So again, I stopped dating and trying to find a relationship. I spent a lot of time with my family and started building up my writing portfolio, focusing on graduate school myself. I traveled to Portland, which is one of my favorite cities in the US. And then someone fell in love with me…because that’s just how it happens sometimes.

    For some reason at the beginning of August I decided to start dating again because all of these people were expressing interest and a lot of them seemed really interesting. I think I just wanted to talk to someone who could really get me because I was starting to feel really overwhelmed by the intensity of my own mind while also having A LOT of fun expressing it freely and creatively. Sometimes being lost and finding ones way can just be really fun, energizing, and exhilarating. So I went on a series of dates and just talked a lot. And asked a lot of questions, but was encouraged to talk more. I am not sure why. At one point, I started talking in a French accent! (I think it was because he was Ukrainian and I was trying to match him in coolness through manner of speaking.) So I just ended up talking about all of my passions and then eventually I was trying to talk people out of wanting to be in a relationship with me if they expressed too much interest. Because I really felt undateable. I had way too much of my own shit to figure out. But it was funny, watching myself go through these conversations.

    I think it probably seemed like I was flirting because of the way that I laugh at myself. I would say something to the effect of, “You really should not date me. I am kind of a mess right now. I’m figuring things out and I know what I care about in my life, but I don’t know how to do it. I think it’s cool that you’d be open to supporting that, but I am not sure what I have to give.” Thing is, I am a very giving person and I have a lot of love to give. It gets me into trouble.

    Anyhow. Here is the real story: then I met the meditating calligraphy artist. Of course I did, right? The aspiring writer and yoga instructor falls in love with the 6-years older eccentric and mindful artist who specializes in crafting and presenting the written word in a visually compelling way — no surprise here. He had invited me to come check out his work while he was creating it at the Cultural Center. This is the gift of the artists — they can invite you to do something that is wholly intense but not at all very invasive. They can invite you to look into the void in a context which is inherently safe (there is no danger), which is not usually the case when confronting intensity within oneself, others, or the world.

    DB was from Minnesota originally, studied in Chicago, and was visiting from Berlin. (Ironically, I had applied to Berlin School of Mind and Brain in the spring for October 2015 admission; apparently because I had my transcripts sent from my university rather than with all of my other application materials, they could not process my application.) I loved the way that he used his voice to talk. He had the Minnesota charm and that way of saying his o’s. All my life, people have been asking me if I was from Minnesota and teased that I have a touch of a Minnesota accent (I have never been to Minnesota). During our relationship, I started talking like DB. He said at one point that he noticed himself talking like me. But I definitely wanted to talk like him. I hope in my life that I continue to exhibit DB-like verbal tendencies because they are slightly magical. I still catch myself slipping into modes where I feel like I am talking like him, and it’s great.

    When I first met DB, I was running late. I am very much like the rabbit in Alice and Wonderland in that sense, as I am almost always exclaiming, “I’m late! I’m late!” while clutching my wind-up watch necklace. The Cultural Center had closed so he was outside. I told him I wanted to see his piece still, so he told the guard that he was an artist there and said, “And this is my girlfriend” thumb-pointing to me. And we had just met! I thought it was so presumptuous, but I understood how it figured into the context.

    We sat in the windowsill of the room where he was working on the exhibit. There were only two walls complete at that point; the angry political wall and the love wall. He had just finished the love wall. During our conversation, I was facing the angry political wall and he was facing the love wall. He told me that I did not really know how to meditate, and that I should not try to understand meditation. He also told me that I did not have to show or prove anything to him, that he could see that I was wildly intelligent and passionate right away. It made me feel safe and accepted.

    I knew that I loved DB when I looked at his sketch books. It was like their was suddenly this giant schism that allowed for an opening, like lightning piercing my soul. I felt like I was going to cry, vomit, and laugh all at once because the sensation was so overwhelming. I felt like it reflected back to me something SO, so deep within me. Something I had never encountered externally, and certainly had never seen or met anyone else who expressed it.

    The fact is, no one else can show you your core. You have to find it for yourself. No one else can love you for you. So while DB reflected and presented various flashes and tones upon the prismatic faces of my soul, the final piece to this…puzzle I have been experiencing, to this ‘hidden place’ within myself…is just that, it is within me. And someday, someday I may find someone who wants to meet me 50/50 and share their core while I share mine. But I am not there yet; I am not really ready.

    And while I can feel shame and guilt for not having been the person that I am becoming yet and for DB, I don’t think he was there either. I feel so hurt that I opened myself up to this giant vulnerability with this person who I trusted…and we never even had a conversation about our expectations from one another and from a relationship. We were too “in it” to have that conversation, and I figured that was okay because I was so set in how I felt and how important this romance felt. He told me he had gone on a date with someone else and then stopped expressing interest in me. My mind raced and I wanted to take responsibility, that I had done something wrong or that I was not good enough or that I could have communicated better. Perhaps fragments in all of that are true, but in the end…I have to just continue pursuing something bigger, and greater, and more important — which is my dharma, my path.

    Our relationship played out like a movie, but I have the benefit in a sense in this situation because the movie is still here. It is still going on internally within me, and also externally within my city. That is why I choose this story for hidden places. DB’s exhibit is still here, and it’s great. As much as I can feel and hurt from the ghost of our relationship in that room, I can also just feel the love and energy all upon those walls. And it was hidden to me in the sense that I would have never thought to go to the Cultural Center. Another favorite hidden place is Toni Patisserie across the way. The bar stools along the window there offer the best people watching I have ever experienced. The French pastries are affordable and delicious; purchasing one gets you free bottomless coffee for the day. So go, sit, watch, meditate, work, whatever — it’s a “hidden” gem.

    The full path of this story with reflections is told more wholly on my blog, under the “HIdden Places” posts, for those who are interested :)

  7. Oh my god that was long. Sorry guys!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.