Thursday, August 10, 2006

Catching up amidst crazy times....

My brother, Poor Mad Peter, sent me my semi-monthly reminder to post - and to be honest, I've been building up to this post. So here I am, and here it is...

A catch-up over the last month or so...

The Employer
The vacation I took really wasn't much of one. And a handful of tragic mistakes I made in my hurry to get away from work caused, oh, about thirty times the amount of work as if I had stayed in town and gone to work that week. God in heaven, what a mess.

My week away from work has been followed by two entire weeks from hell, trying to (a) atone for plain, simple, in-too-much-of-a-hurry mistakes I made in the rush to get the hell out of town, which never really happened the way I wanted it to, anyway, or (b) boneheaded maneuvers by my coworkers, trying to correct my errors, which generally made them worse. So the general reaction when people say, "How was your vacation?" is, "What vacation?"

I should have been working all day both days over this weekend - but just could not possibly bring myself to do it. I didn't even work long hours last week, but it was like being in a room with four needy two-year-olds, all saying, "Mommy ...mommmy ... mummymummymummy - MOMMYMOMMYMOMMY!!!" At one point, our Lotus SameTime instant messaging system was indicating 14 IM's flashing insistently at me. It was unbelievably draining. And I'm going to be working tonight, getting ready for another Hell Week this coming week...

There is one bright note - I have a second co-worker joining the team, who is going to be working remotely from Memphis, TN. She's brand-spanking new, and is going to be involved in "observing" during this Hell Week, and then going for three weeks of training - but there is hope, long-term, I guess.

The Vacation
The actual week away was in three phases:
- Sunday and Monday, spent in Chicago, futzing around, waiting for work to be done on the car. (I actually ended up working most of Monday anyway.)
- Tuesday and Wednesday, spent in Chicago instead of Saugatuck, dealing with a rather nasty bio-hazard-grade gastrointestinal plague of some sort.
- Late Thursday through Sunday, hanging out with my sister, ordering new glasses (under Sue's careful guidance), spending even more money on the car, and eating fresh-off-the-farm sweet corn and grilling steaks.

All in all, it wasn't bad having 4 days away from The Employer, but it sure wasn't worth the price I paid when I got back. I am convinced that Ohio sweet corn is one surefire way that God shows humanity that summer isn't going to be all hellish weather and humidity forever...

Life in the Big City
After some truly hideous weather (compounded by the fact that the current apartment-in-the-hood is only air-conditioned in the bedroom), we have had a break in the ghastly portion of summer weather, and this weekend has been truly, truly glorious. Just an absolute dream come true.

I missed out on the Gay Games (held here in Chicago last month), but since I never watched the Straight Olympics (even when they were on TV in my own living room) I'm not surprised that I didn't travel across town to see the gay version here, either. Oh, well. I caught the last day of the Tall Ships appearance in Chicago, but it wasn't anything I hadn't seen before - after all, living in Connecticut (30 minutes away from Mystic Seaport) it wasn't as big a deal for me as it might have been for some.

Traffic has been fractionally better in town - the "get off the Dan Ryan" traffic has been mitigated by vacation absences. So there have been blessings there, too.

The Living Situation
In this same two week period, my landlord received word that after trying to find a less-toxic job with the Chicago Public Schools (he'd been a high-school history teacher for four or more years), he'd finally gotten a new job - but in Alpena, MI (in the northeastern "lower peninsula" of the state).

And his new-job orientation started August 14th. (Yup, tomorrow.)

So he and his father have been doing all the "improvements" (like putting in new flooring in the kitchen, re-doing the bathtub enclosure, and replacing tile in the hallway, all the things to make the place less like a crack-house) that he originally told me he was going to do over last Christmas break and early this summer.

So the apartment has been turned upside down - all the kitchen, hall and bath stuff pushed into the living room. They also tore the back deck off the place (it was in imminent danger of falling down) so I had no access to the washer, dryer, or trash for two weeks (unless I wanted to walk two blocks around and come in off the alleyway). And the bath and shower were out of commission for three days.

So it's been insane, at a level that I can only begin to describe.

But I guess the big news is not really news at's just kind of a surrender. Somewhere in this last week, my willingness to keep fighting it out here in Chicago broke, once and for all.

Part of it was need - my sister Sue is looking at some scary health issues, and she and her husband are going to need both physical and financial support over the next 3 to 6 months, at the very least. Part of it is my own need for healing and reconnecting with family and sane life - I've needed to withdraw, and just take it easy at some level, for some time. My meltdown earlier this year proved that.

But part of it is just being done with Chicago. I came here to go to seminary; I would not have chosen to come here, for all the charms of big city life, given the choice. When that dream fell apart, I thought that Chicago would be a viable life-hub, being close to Big Transportation, Big Business, etc., etc.

And I have come to learn a lot about myself - stuff that I wouldn't normally have chosen to learn, but good stuff nonetheless. At times, I still mourn the loss of my "regular ministry" career - much as Moses mourned not passing over into Canaan - and I wish I could still feel "a part of" the religious community that tossed me out. But more and more I can see that it was probably not for the best....but it's OK. Acceptance has been slow in coming.

But I've also come to see that this is just not my town. I am tired of the noise, tired of the hustle and bustle, tired of public transport, tired of it taking 30 minutes to go 5 miles by car, tired of the cost of living and the taxes and the fees and the politics and the parking and all the rest of the crap. I'm ready to be somewhere else.

And as much as I needed to put down roots here, I just haven't done so. When I leave here, the people who will miss me will be counted on both hands, and still leave a couple fingers free. And virtually every one will be in the recovery community. Part of that is my fault - my failure to stay connected to the few seminary friends who really worked hard to remain connected with me. But I can't help believing that my road lies elsewhere...

My sister Sue is not doing so good. She was already dealing with multiple sclerosis and fibromyalgia, two particularly ugly conditions. But in March, she fell at work, twisted her back up, and generally has been somewhere south of "damn uncomfortable" ever since. Walking from the parking lot to her work-site has been increasingly difficult, and finally the workers' comp folks signed her off for two weeks of recovery and alternative therapies.

As of last weekend, she ain't gettin' better. A visit to the neurosurgeon pretty much said, "We can try some time off, we can try some therapy, but surgery is on the horizon." Now she has some more definite guidance about when we're going to hit "the horizon," and I really need to be in Toledo when that happens.

So my primary goal with my employer is to get a title change and a pay boost by the end of August, and then give my notice that I need to do an "alternative work arrangement" (also known as "working remotely"). This shouldn't be a big deal - we already have people on our team working from Tennessee and New Jersey, not to mention the crew from Mumbai and Chennai, India. And after all, if I'm in such demand that people can't do without me for five business days, they should be able to accomodate me on this. My goal is to be in Toledo and up-n-running by September 24th, with any cleanup the weekend of September 30th.

It will be an interesting five weeks. Time to winnow out, time to toss and keep. God, grant me the serenity....

Which I trust God will.


juniper68 said...

Hey Steve,
Wow, this is a lot of big changes .... sounds like coming from a place of good discernment, too.
Hope your time with your family will be soul feeding and not soul sucking (hmm, maybe I'm thinking of MY family, now)
And Steve, DUDE, TOLEDO? Is that where you are from? I was born there, and I have so much family there, too, so even though I dont remember ever living there, it always feels in a weird way like a home town.
All this long rambling to say that I'm glad you're going home. Blessings -

bobbie said...

i'll be praying!

Poor Mad Peter said...

May it be so, Steve man. We know from change, here in the polar regions (as you shall soon see)...

wilsonian said...

I'm really happy for you, Steve. I know that change brings it's own stuff to deal with, but there is something so freeing in knowing you've wrung the last out of a situation and are ready to move on.

I'm praying too.
Wide open spaces ahead for you, in many ways.