Saturday’s Beautiful and Authentic Surprise

When I went to bed last night I knew of three things that I would do today: attend Mocktails and Conversations, sponsored by the United State of Women, see a play at the Chicago Dramatists, and end the day with a Mardi Gras party.

Today’s plan changed shortly after I got out of bed this morning. At 5:26 a.m. I awoke and told my body to go back to sleep because I was not going to yoga. I am not yet ready for the Saturday morning flow. Twenty minutes later, I woke up again and repeated my instruction. And 20 minutes after that, I again awoke for the last and final time, at which point I acquiesced and listened to my body.

I went to Rachel’s class at 8 a.m. I was even early, which never happens. Rachel showed me the sequence in advance, assuring me I was strong enough. As I looked it over I received a number of warm hellos, and questions about my absence. Three of my fellow yogis were with me in December when my hernia made its final blow, that resulted in surgery. I joked that I was on medical leave for PTSD – trauma from bad dates – at which we had a few laughs before Rachel had us in mountain pose and focused on our intention. Lots of twists and stretches followed that at first felt good until I felt some tugging near the site of the hernia repair. I first ignored it, then I accepted it and scaled back, and then I stopped and went into child pose before taking my savasana 20 minutes early. Just as I started to settle into to accepting my body’s current limitations, I felt a gentle touch on my feet. Margaret stopped her own practice to tuck the blanket around me. She made sure I was snug. Her unexpected gesture reminded me why Essencia is such a special place: It’s people like Margaret, and both Rachel and Kerry who checked in on me later, women committing unselfish acts. They fill my cup.

On my way home, the next change occurred. The play was canceled because of the weather. Would I like to meet for lunch instead? Like I was taught in Improv, I said yes and rolled with it. We’d meet after the United State of Women event.

I didn’t expect to be flying solo at Mocktails and Conversations. I planned to attend with my friend Marianne, who I met at Galvanize Chicago last summer (the first Chicago event put on by the United State of Women). Sadly, Marianne’s mother passed away this week. I was on my own just like I was when I met Marianne last summer. I grabbed my name tag, a Chamomile mocktail from Sound sparkling tea,  and a sandwich and my first of many macarons from Vanille. The vibe in the dimly lit space located in the heart of the west loop inside this rebirthed century-old building was lovely. Women were talking to each other. And I quickly joined in.

I dove into a conversation about the governor’s race, which quickly addressed the FBI tapes with J.B. Pritzker and former Governor Rod Blagojevich. One of the two women who I was speaking with said J.B.’s press conference this week with elected black officials condoning J.B.’s behavior was plain wrong. She said, we’ve condoned this behavior for too long, it’s time to stop it.

The Chicago Tribune laid it out like this:

Pritzker’s strategy for gaining the support for African-American voters is similar to his overall strategy — coalesce establishment party leaders behind his well-funded candidacy. He has the backing of two-thirds of black aldermen in Chicago and nearly half of African-American state lawmakers.

Pritzker also has the support of Illinois’ top statewide black official, five-term Secretary of State White, who appeared in an early TV ad offering a testimonial.

Listen to the tapes here.

We nodded our heads in agreement and talked about the other gubernatorial candidates, including how appalled that Jeanne Ives is the same gender as us, and then Dan Biss and Chris Kennedy before Hadiya Afzal stopped by and introduced herself.

Karen and Hadiya
Karen and Hadiya

What a fantastic surprise! I was overjoyed! Hadiya is running for DuPage County Board; a county where you wouldn’t know that Hillary Clinton won in 2016 or think its 18 member board has one Democrat. Hadiya and I spoke for a while, before the speakers started, at which point I grabbed the programs on my chair and just started writing and taking notes. As Richard Boykin a Cook County Commissioner running for re-election and whose digital campaign billboard greeted me on way to the event lauded county policies supporting equal pay, I felt less than inspired and walked away. I needed to thank chef Sophie Evanoff, of Vanille, for sponsoring the event. I admired her. I told her she did a hell of a job when she spoke on a panel of entrepreneurs at a breakfast sponsored by Crain’s last year. I loved that this woman CEO was the one working on a Saturday afternoon plating the macarons and croissant sandwiches.

Moments later I thought of Sophia when Kim Foxx and Tina Tchen talked about women being successful when they do what they love. The distinction was made between men and women who run for office, women run for office to make a difference, men do it for the power and ego (this clip is enlightening). J.B. Pritzker and Rod Blagojevich are perfect examples of how ego and power trumps, actually bastardize, elected office and public service.

I have six pages of notes from the conversation by Tchen and Foxx led by Maaria Mozaffer. My head bobbed in agreement a lot. And so did other women. It was the third time I heard these women speak at a women’s event in the past year; their sense of purpose and absence of ego is what kept me engaged and inspired.  It is the first time in my life that I feel like a national organization is really making strides building a grassroots movement, and I applaud the United State of Women for working to represent the mother dealing with a domestic abuser, the hotel worker being sexually assaulted by hotel guests, the aspiring politician needing guidance to find her voice, the retired career professional struggling to make sense of a country that never enacted ERA, and every woman in between. When you see it play out in front of you, and you have actually benefited from it, it’s more than a pleasant surprise, more than a moment, it’s a life event, and I am in awe of its impact on me and my fellow women thus far.

I reconnected with a few women who I met last summer at Galvanize before I met a friend for lunch. Over the course of pizza and a glass of wine, I smiled and listened to his commitment to women’s issues, and gender equality, and graciously accepted his early endorsement of my candidacy, whenever that might be! I cut the afternoon short, to get home to write my blog and make it to my Mardi Gras party.

On my way to the car, I smiled at two women who I just saw leave the pizza joint. We exchanged hellos, and then one woman grabbed my arm and stopped me. She said, “I don’t want you to think this is weird, but I need to tell you something. You are an incredibly beautiful woman. I was struck by you when I saw you inside. I admired you inside the restaurant, and I thought I really needed to tell you that.”

Is that the best Saturday surprise ever? Yes! I was surprised, stunned, humbled, and grateful. I thanked her and wished her a lovely afternoon. Maybe it was the early rising, maybe it was the yoga, maybe it was the macarons or the company? I don’t care. How I thought my day would play out, and how it played out were two different scenes. I loved the latter, especially the fantastic and unexpected Saturday surprise, from a kind and generous stranger no less. The compliment’s impact is real and lasting because it came from a place of authenticity, and not ego.

2 Thoughts

    1. I have. And it’s something to experience, when you find someone in politics who is that authentic. Just like the woman who is decisive is tagged a bitch for being assertive, the same standards apply to a man who is empathetic. It’s wrong either way with both sexed. And I’m sure I sound like a contrarian, given what I wrote a few hours ago. I’m going to keep this with my post 90 day pile. Thanks for sending!


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