Saturday, September 25, 2021

Ravenswood Notes: Assuaging Fear

    So much is said about a city like Chicago, it's unusual to run into an entirely fresh take. But if anybody has ever postulated, as EGD Ravenswood Bureau Chief Caren Jeskey does today, the city as revered ancestor, I haven't encountered it. Her Saturday report:

     It’s 5 a.m. and I’m up writing from my Chicago apartment. The Brown Line and Metra rumble by repeatedly in the near distance, sounds that make me smile. I don't even mind the gentle shaking of the building. I am a die-hard Chicago fan who experiences this city as a living entity, a family member— perhaps one of my eldest ancestors. At once warm and fierce, she lays down the rules. Be strong. Don’t give up. Don’t complain, and if you do get over it soon. Be smart and savvy, and know your place. You might be privileged but don’t forget where you came from. Don’t look the other way when others need help. Stay on your toes, aware. Keep those car doors locked these days and stick to safe areas at safe times of day, but love and respect all of me. Do not live in fear. Be brave. Be tenacious.
     Since I am speaking of my particular family, Chicago has also guided us to grow things in her soil. Green beans under the skyway on the far south side. Roses wrapping around the Virgin Mary statuette in the Vet’s Park area of South Deering. Tomatoes and cucumbers, grown out of necessity by an immigrant railroad worker, to sustain the family, precariously (and often unsuccessfully) protected from rabbits, squirrels, and birds in the shadow of Senn High School. Eye popping, deep green leaves and happy, colorful flowers in a copious container garden on a back deck in Rogers Park. Rows of crops planted outside of the McCormick YMCA in Humboldt Park, where a Schwinn bike factory once stood. Palms rescued from the alley on a porch in Ravenswood. And always, always propagate.
     Avocado pits cracked open as roots break free, rambling vines spilling out onto window sills in glass jars filled with water. Jade and Tradescantia zebrina pups sprouting up from clippings that friends and neighbors shared. A baby rubber plant that’s at least 25 years old on an alley salvaged end table in a window on Wilson.
     I thought I’d be writing about fear today. Waking up at 4 a.m. after not enough sleep prompted me to take two hydroxyzine (not a regular habit since as an old school Polish/Irish/Lithuanian girl— who turned 52 this week— I am deathly afraid of prescribed medications even if they are needed). I have a feeling my Polish ancestors were the type who made tinctures from herbs and medicinal plants they grew themselves. While I am also drawn to natural remedies, I am out of practice and don’t have the intuitive sense of which plant medicine I need these days. Plus I don’t trust it enough not to die while forsaking pharmaceuticals like a Sri Lankan shaman tragically did this week
     In the past, I had tens of jars of dried flowers, roots, and leaves that I’d pull out in the wee hours when anxious thinking tried to take hold, preventing me from enjoying my zees. Chamomile and peppermint to relax, star anise to settle a tummy, sage for purifying and comfort, senna after eating too much cheese, St. John’s Wort to boost the mood.
     Today I reached for the prescribed meds and embarked upon a meditation. This combination usually works. Breathe deeply, choose a mantra. “Clear mind” on the inhale, “don’t know don’t know don’t know” on the exhale (as taught to me by Ana Forrest many moons ago), or simply “I am OK right now. It’s time to sleep.”
     But no. I’m wide awake and realized that fear woke me up in the first place. I’m having complications after round two of three of a dental procedure, and that scares me. Will my gums ever be the same? I’ve had a falling out with a childhood friend, which is unnerving even though our expiration date may have come. I’d like to be in a state of calm acceptance about this. I will get there, but have been ruminating about our last conversations and how angry I feel about being misunderstood. It will take some processing and active healing though, since one of the reasons I came back home was to reconnect with people. Since I got back in May, I’ve learned that I have some healthy friendships and familial ties, but I also have vestiges of a sometimes broken past to face.
     I could go on about what troubles me, but you get the drift. We all have things on our minds. I know that as I age, and those I love age, it behooves me to live a life that’s as present as possible, taking each challenge as it comes with as much grace and courage as I can muster. Good rest and healthy habits that contribute to the most balanced version of myself are the only recourse for the daunting task of being human.
     Off to water and prune. Wishing you a good day.


  1. Meds and meditation provided little help this time. I hope venting helped.
    When I try everything and the “song” still won’t get out of my head I try to keep busy.
    Not easy to do when you’re trying to get some sleep.
    When I get to this point I get out of bed and watch something mindless on TV.
    It gets me through the night.
    Then I default to the mantra “this too shall pass”.
    It does. You know that.

  2. If the Brown Line and Metra are close enough to produce "gentle shaking of the building"...then you live very near to Ravenswood Avenue--where the two lines run parallel to one another for about twelve blocks.

    I lived east of the tracks in the late Eighties, near Paulina. Went for outpatient treatment at Ravenswood Hospital for a short time. It was still a thriving facility then. Did some research and was quite shaken when I learned that it closed two decades ago, and became an urban ruin for years. Looks like some of the complex was saved and recycled.

    I left for good in '92. So much of the Chicago I knew and loved is gone. You can't stop the clock. Ask the man who knows...this German/Polish/Lithuanian/Russian Jew will turn 75 next summer, if I'm still around. Happy belated birthday!

  3. You're right! Right by Ravenswood & Wilson. It's fun to revisit old Chicago (oh, reminded me of Old Chicago) isn't it? Looking forward to wishing you a happy 75th next year.

    1. Thanks in advance, Caren. It's not until mid-August. Good thing I didn't say "Try Ravenswood Hospital if you're looking for a therapist." I'd still be wiping the egg off my face! I do remember Old Chicago, but I never went there. There was also a brand of beer with that name for a while. Can you still buy Old Milwaukee?

    2. Apparently!


Comments are vetted and posted at the discretion of the proprietor.