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Being Present (Even When it Sucks)

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I lived in Chicago for more than a decade. I learned to love the city even when the icy wind whipped Lake Michigan into arching waves that froze.

Winter in Chicago

I learned so much in Chicago. I saw the Cubs win the World Series here. I got divorced here. I worked for the Governor and as the tourism director of the state of Illinois. I earned my yoga teacher certification here. Most importantly, I met my late fiancé, Jeff, here. It’s from Chicago that I set off with my one-way ticket to see the world after he died.

But, in this post, I have yet to meet Jeff. I’m still in yoga teacher training, and I’m late for class as the first winter storm sets in. I somehow managed to end up on my back with my legs over my head in an icy jumble of fake fur and humiliation:

Somehow, over the summer months filled with carefree flip-flops and tank tops, I always forget how to wear the heavy boots and coats that the Chicago winter demands.

So, when it’s time to dust off the stocking caps, locate the gloves and root out the scarves from the back of the closet, I feel a little lost for a couple of weeks. Or rather, I will lose my gloves (or at least one of them), a hat, and at least two scarves. 

By the end of the winter months, of course, I’ll have a worn, but effective shoe bag for my snowy boots when I switch into heels, my gloves will form a perfect little nest in the pocket of my gigantic winter coat, and I’ll have long-ditched the umbrella for a hat with ear flaps that will fend off the ever-present sideways sleet.

I’ll have Chicago’s infamous wind tunnels mapped out, and I will know to follow the beaten path and never take a shortcut across new snow or ice.

View from my apartment in Chicago

But those first couple of weeks will be a mess of layers and mistakes.

The epic fall

So I shouldn’t have been surprised that first icy day – the day that I pulled out the knee-length down jacket with the huge hood – that I ended up on my back with my legs over my head in an icy jumble of fake fur and humiliation.

It was with deep regret that I pulled out the big coat. Chicagoans all have one. The frumpy, but oh-so-warm staple that will become far, far too familiar by April. But the ice outside was for real and – though still only November – it was time for the coat.

With my down jacket shield and my knee-high, rubber boots, I marched into the last remnants of an early winter storm, rushing down the street to make up for the lost time spent rummaging through my closet.

I forgot that part about not taking shortcuts.

Slightly distracted by my headphones and vaguely studying my note cards for an upcoming test in my yoga teacher training class, I veered left and over untested ice.

Disaster struck.

It was one of those slow-motion falls. My left foot slid out unexpectedly and my right tried to correct by starting one of those cartoon runs where both legs move really fast, but no real progress is made. Eventually, after a very real struggle, both legs went up and over my head and I crashed down on my left elbow surrounded by note cards.

Thankfully, down jackets really are a shield, and – other than a small bruise on my elbow – it was only my pride that was damaged. (Especially since a nice, young man actually had to help me up as I was really deeply entrenched in new ice after my cartoon-like ice skating maneuver.)

A Reminder to be Present

It was, however, a nice reminder that it’s time to focus on my steps. Each step has a purpose and should be placed carefully. I am learning in yoga teacher training to be present in all moments. And, at that moment, I was not present. I was plugged into my headphones, studying as I walked, and everywhere but in that moment.

So, this winter, even when the weather makes me want to hide within my layers, I resolve to be present. Even when it sucks.

About the Author

Hi! I’m Jen!

I’m a freelance writer and travel blogger who quit my nine-to-five after my fiancé, Jeff, died of cancer at the age of 40. When he died, I realized that life is just too short to delay our dreams. Since my dream was to travel and write, I now travel and write full-time. Today I wear hiking boots instead of heels and collect experiences instead of things.

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