They sky is seamless gray,throngs of poets and novelists and essayist's are huddled under the awning heat lamps in the rain, smoking, someone is crying in the ladies room and it might be me.
It's AWP folks, the annual writer's conference - legendary writer's conference- that I am attending for the first time.
I'm in Chicago, and the first blast of frigid air that hit me sideways, on my way to Caribou Coffee, made me feel alive, alert and reminded me to breath, deeply. I can't remember the last time I was hit with a blast of frigid air, and I certainly don't remember it having the properties of resurrection when it did.
It feels like it's always 1997 in Chicago, and this conference, this brief visit to a city where so many of my long lost, indie rock college friends live, is a time warp for me. I spotted people from my days at Carnegie Mellon University the very moment I walked through the massive, gilded doors of the Hilton. I hadn't expected that.
My friend Tina was surprised when I gently laid my hand on the puffy coated arm of an old friend and said, "I'm a ....pastor, now. Don't freak out?" She experienced, and so did I, the gulley- the chasm- the Grand Canyon (!) between who I was, and who I am.
I'm not often reminded just exactly what I've been saved from, but I'm grateful for it when I am. I sort of wish I'd been able to keep in touch better with some of my old friends. That my old self, and my new self, had more in common. But I think that's an unrealistic expectation.
"I don't know if I'd be friends with the old you," Tina, said.
"That's the nicest thing anyone's ever said to me," I replied.
And I meant it, sort of.
I'm not sure I'd be friends with the old me, so unmitigatingly consumed with my own success in the world- who would I be? whom would I love? who would love me?
Would I be famous? Would my father apologize? Could I make my mother proud?
Before God happened to me, I had only myself. And focusing on, relying on, obsessing solely on oneself makes one an extremely uninteresting person.
I didn't expect to spend these few minutes writing, but I'm glad I did. In a sea of 10,000 writer's I am reminding myself here with these words, that every hair on my head is numbered, that I am seen, that I exist, that my story is a good one, and should be told.