Living without fear in Chicago

There are times when, as a parent, as a Chicagoan, as a citizen of society, I want to pretend that the news doesn’t exist. That others’ misfortunes are light years away from affecting my nearest and dearest. And that hiding in a blanket tent is a viable – and completely adult – option.

Chicago’s theatre community suffered three losses in recent weeks. All random, all accidental. One was a mother, another a partner, all were part of Chicago’s fabric.

And now my anxiety – never the most stalwart member of my psyche – is through the roof.

Nothing has changed, I’ll be the first to admit that. No single thing has occurred which suddenly makes today more dangerous than last week. And perhaps it’s just the presence of social media and instantaneous news that raises my internal terror level to red, because now “community” and “news that hits home” has the ability to span time zones.

Whatever I attempt to tell myself, this much is certain: Life is so fleeting. It’s also so frail. Sad news has the ability to zero in on these facts with laser focus. And following such news, it becomes especially hard to send relatively helpless offspring into the world with little more than a “Well, good luck!” Because prenatal vitamins aren’t a guarantee against future hardship. Early childhood Spanish lessons can’t ward off sadness. And they haven’t yet invented socially acceptable suits of armor.

Parents have always been anxious. Tragedies have always befallen loved ones. And despite people trotting out tropes like “flying in airplanes is safer than driving in cars,” I don’t feel even one iota better. Because you know what? Hearing that kind of thing doesn’t make me want to fly more – it makes me want to drive less. But we have to. We need to travel and interact and be in random places at random times.

And as for that blanket tent – did you know that 52 percent of accidents occur within five miles of our homes? I write this not as a harbinger of doom, but as an oft-needed reminder of how incredible we all are.

Despite horrific news and heavy hearts we (usually) get out of bed each morning – and trim fingernails, defrost the chicken and feign wakefulness during meetings. We drive people places, snuggle on couches and occasionally print photos for framing. Isn’t the Keep On Keepin’ On spirit of humanity rather amazing? (Although perhaps I shouldn’t begin my career as a motivational counselor just yet, as I spent the entirety of the other afternoon taking way too many Buzzfeed quizzes on my phone and drinking reheated coffee.)

We all know the fragility of existence. The true miracle is how we layer that knowledge with life’s beauty and adventure and somehow – just somehow – carry forth the business of living.

Without fear.

Outwardly, anyhow.

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