Nothing cured me of living in Atlanta like actually living inside the city.
That’s my answer to any surprise that I would leave Georgia for my original hometown of Birmingham. (Atlanta friends, I miss you. Atlanta traffic? I do not.)
Six years ago, during a difficult divorce, I visited three favorite Southern cities: Atlanta, Nashville and Birmingham, the city I’d left behind when I moved to Illinois in 2000. This bird needed to find a true nest. Listening to deep, wild instinct – every human’s birthright – after choosing to bury it under someone else’s preferences and demands was not a conscious decision.
But pain comes bearing gifts, because it rouses our spirits and even excavates them if necessary.
In the comfort of suburban Atlanta where I knew no one I began a listening project, secret even to me. Holy wisdom worked with benevolence, as I learned to hear my own voice and to hear God in an undistracted silence. I fought my solitude at first, making true friends only after I relaxed into it.
“Getting comfortable” often means “settling into a rut,” and I was, until a job at an Atlanta synagogue beckoned from 35 miles away. After years of working solo, I would join a wonderful team working to bring people closer to God and to each other. My heartfelt marketing approach would benefit a religious organization. I would have the adventure of living inside the city, close to everything with a coveted three-mile commute from my Buckhead apartment. A Presbyterian church would be my landlord.
These things did happen.
But nothing is “all good” or “all bad.” Instead of asking questions, I jumped into my new environment with my expectations up and my guard down, wearing a pair of rose-colored glasses that life would knock right off my face.
Those Buckhead townhome “condos” were extremely fragile, and I heard the church was trying to buy out the final nine or 10 individual owners while using cheap rent to fill as many other units as possible. (The entire property was reportedly marked for eventual sale and/or demolition.)
Property management worked hard, but I experienced:
- sudden, severe power surges, day or night.
- five interruptions to the water supply in three months.
- walls so thin that I checked my phone each time a neighbor’s phone chimed with a text message.
- escalating noise problems next door, such as drunken parties into the morning hours and lengthy karaoke “concerts” at anytime and for all ages, including a 4-year-old resident (plus a keyboard and a dog).
- flooding in my unit, from top to bottom.
After the midnight flood, I recognized the carpet service van parking outside my unit at 3:00 a.m. I’d seen it in the neighborhood so many times, I thought residents must get a discount. Neighbors weren’t getting their carpet cleaned; they were getting a clean-up after their own floods.
When life challenges us, it’s easy to think we made a bad decision, “the wrong move.” But cocoons are not meant to be comfortable. A cocoon is not a nest.
And life is always working in our favor, because God is.