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HOW I BEGAN TO LOVE MORNINGS
PART ONE: BAD MORNINGS IN CHICAGO
On the best days I got out of bed. On the worst days I didn't. I woke up to a loud alarm going off. The first thoughts that start firing through my brain flood me with anxiety. Are aliens invading? Am I going to prison finally? Is the IRS here? Am I fired? Pleasant alarms do not exist. Alarms are mean, unfriendly beings telling you when to wake when you are not ready. Ugly beeping bleeding into my head. I set it for 15 minutes later. But then I couldn't help looking at all of the messages on my phone. I have always used my phone as an alarm.
Cell phones and sleep should be entirely separated. A cell phone should have it's own room. A room where when you want to be distracted you can go hang out. There's other cell phones hanging out eating chocolate cake and watching The Real Housewives of Whatever County in there. I would check text messages, or the lack of. Then my eyes would wander over to my email. The days agenda, things I didn't do yesterday, and things I haven't addressed in months flying at my eyeballs.
The worst moment of waking is the flood of anxiety that would rush into my bones.
I imagine heroin feeling the opposite way, a warm rush of life into your veins. Waking was the opposite drug. A drug of death by anxiety. It never felt light waking up, always a heavy flood of emotion, weighing me down. Most of it worry, would my life be like this forever?
I was chained to a desk, a desk that sucked the creative energy out of me. Waking was even more horrible after a weekend of binge drinking. I couldn't tell the difference between my body and the blanket on me. My body felt completely weighed down. My brain felt like a hive of drunk bees. Swarming around with no place to go.
After three or four rounds of hitting snooze, I would slowly arise. Today it was grey, cloudy. These days make it even more difficult to arise. Who on earth can function on a cloudy day when you already don't feel like getting out of bed? There were many cloudy days in Chicago. Chicago is infinitely grey. I'd stumble to the bathroom and empty my bladder. Then I would groggily shower, feed and walk my dog. After all that, time to head to work.
My commute was the best part of my morning routine. I biked to work when I lived in Chicago. It woke me up. It was my coffee. Winding through bike lanes, streets and other bikers. My attention had to be 100%. My brain had to anticipate every move in advance. I loved the smells of the city. The burnt concrete smell, the smell of fresh rain on the city pavement, the smell of the city's rails. On Kinzie when Milwaukee forked off there was Blommer's Chocolate Factory. I felt like I was biking through a bowl of warm, melted chocolate. Sometimes there would be a really skinny lady running right by the factory. She must have been in her 60s or older. She was so skinny I was worried about her legs were going to break. Her body looked fragile, like it would shatter into pieces if someone touched her.
I kept on riding into the chaos of Kinzie. Now you are in River North and can see the lavish, generic lifestyle of the coveted young rich people of Chicago. Cookie cutter high rises, everyone is Patrick Batemen in this hood. I turn left on State Street. This is a somewhat dangerous turn as there is a tunnel.
I used to go through the tunnel when I had an office on Ontario and LSD. The tunnel smelled like baby diapers most of the time. There was a burger joint down there and I wondered how anyone could eat there. I was always dodging puddles and busses in the tunnel. I would emerge from the tunnel thankful that I hadn't died from the smell. The non tunnel wasn't any safer.
My office was closer to the Miracle Mile in later years so going through the tunnel made no sense anymore. I rode past a Subway, the smell haunting me for blocks after. Just as I would think the smell was out of my system and I was done craving a footlong for breakfast, I would pass by another Subway thus starting up the craving again..
Finally I would arrive to the building I worked at on medical campus in Streeterville. My first office I was able to bring my bike in. This would elicit some interesting remarks in the elevator in the morning. Especially on mornings where the weather was less than ideal. That is about 95% of the time in Chicago. "How do you ride in this?" There were a lot of people that said, "I wish I rode bike still." I always found this comment interesting. I would challenge the person. What on Earth is stopping you? Riding, shoved into a train with 5,000 weird smelling people in the morning? That's how you like to start your day? Smells of too much cologne, too little of showering, freshly washed hair, hair that hasn't been washed in months, smells of people trying to hard or too little. There isn't much in between on the train. Would you prefer to deal with a system you can never control? Delays, detours, and unpredictable behavior? If you bike you can choose your route. You can choose your pace. You can choose to pass someone or not. You can even choose to ignore some of the traffic signals, although I wouldn't suggest it. I would encourage people that they could indeed ride a bike. I was confident they could do it. They would be gazing at my bike, daydreaming about the possibilities. Then they would say, "Yeah maybe someday" and get off the elevator.
People would say that the weather would stop them from biking. You still have to sit outside when you wait for the train or bus. You are freezing cold because you are not moving. When you bike, in the winter you are sweaty because you dress warm and you build heat as you ride. In the summer you are sweaty because it's hot. You are always sweaty. I would get off the elevator and walk my bike to my office.
My morning didn't end here. A lot of times I would now make my breakfast and sit at my desk and figure out my day. By now I had accepted my lot in life, and I used food as a way to excite myself about the milestones in my day. There was breakfast, lunch, and maybe an afternoon snack to look forward to. Sadly, food has served this purpose a lot in my experience with office jobs.
Every day I would wonder how much longer I would be able to continue the grind to what I felt was nowhere.
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