Love and Betrayal and Love in Peoria

I live in Peoria. I love Peoria.

I hate Peoria.

I live in Peoria. I love Peoria. I hate Peoria.

And back and forth, forever and ever, amen.

I'm going to talk about a bunch of old news but please stay with me...I really do have a point.

A few years ago, I think you would be hard pressed to find anyone who loved this city more than me. I believed in this city. I believed in its people. I believed in the power of neighbors helping each other and of businesses working together for the greater good. I believed. I believed so hard.

And then the bottom fell out.  And a lot of people know that the bottom fell out of my life. A lot of that was due to the fact that I have anxiety and depression and I suffered an extremely devastating bout with both of those.

But there were triggers and those triggers were so unexpected and so far removed from what I thought about how the world works that for months on end it just felt like people were running up and sucker punching me.

Multiple people who are members of a local (and well known) organization were hit with complaints from the city liquor commission and health department. The rumor started that I turned them all in. My business lost customers.

A neighboring business got hit with a complaint from the liquor commission about live music. They told many of our shared customers that I had turned them in. My business lost more customers.

Multiple people who are members of a local (and well known) organization were hit with complaints from the city zoning department.The rumor started that I turned them all in. My business lost even more customers.

In each of these incidents, I tried to address the rumors.  Regarding the initial complaints from the health and liquor departments, I proposed a solution that would keep everyone compliant. I stated that I had turned no one in. I asked the city council a few questions.  One city council person e-mailed me back and asked why I was "bothering with all of this again." Members of the organization e-mailed each other back and forth about how horrible I was. How I couldn't stand competition. How of COURSE I was a liar.

I asked my neighbors why on earth they thought that I would ever turn them in - it's not my style and I don't believe that's how communities are built.  I was told that "I was always going to be the first suspect and besides, there were just too many coincidences." Those people never spoke to me again and most of their regular customers actually boycotted my business based on the rumors.

When the business neighbor who had actually started the rumor that got all of the rumors started apologized to me for starting the rumor, I thanked them and asked them to please let people know that they had started the rumor, because it was impacting my life in a really negative way. The response was radio silence. To this day, I still get asked why I did this thing that I never did.

Around this same time, the person who started the rumor worked with the city to start an organization that was designed to sort of...unite people, I guess? And the public loved it. And I met with this person about a project and this person told me that they were not willing to work with neighbor a, b, c, d, e,f, g, etc. etc. on this project.  And then they would publicly continue the narrative that they were there to unite people. And then continually be unwilling to work with those same people.
And while all of this was happening, my health got worse. My business suffered. I was disillusioned. Confused. The rumors kept coming. People asked me about them all of the time.

And then the person who started the rumor that started all of the rumors that were pretty much killing me and my business used their new "unite people" organization to promote local businesses. Including mine.

SO - an organization that behind the scenes nearly put me out of business publicly promoted me. An organization that refused to work with most of its neighbors publicly sang all of their praises. And the city ate it up. And the people loved it.  And many of my "friends" told me to ignore it and quit starting "drama", all the while frantically posting on facebook about standing up for yourself and others and justice and whatever it is that you're willing to fight for online but not in real life. And the hypocrisy just ate at me. And I got really depressed. And paranoid about what the next rumor would be. And who had heard what. And would our customers ever come back? And why on earth were so many people willing to believe so many terrible things about me that went against everything that I had ever been? And why did people keep dismissing my experience? What was wrong with me?

Everything was spiraling and many "friends" started to distance themselves from me.

I got bitter. I got disillusioned. I had a nervous breakdown. And the person that loved Peoria with all of her heart...fucking HATED Peoria.

But it's been a while and life is better and I'm healthier and happier and I'm starting to fall in love with my city why on earth am I bringing this all up?

Because you guys...I was so naive. I had all of the hope and love and trust and faith and love in the world and I got the shit beaten out of me. And the recovery has been long and hard and also beautiful, but it fucking hurt really, really bad. And I absolutely spent a very long time talking myself out of slitting my wrists. I don't want all of this current happiness to somehow hide the ugliness that happened.

So today, as I start to fall in love with Peoria again, I do it with caution.  And as I start to work with other people who really love Peoria, I love what they love right alongside them...with a word of warning.

Some people aren't into my warnings. The idea for some people is, if you love Peoria, you mustn't speak poorly about any part of it. We must all support each other, no matter what, and no one and nothing is bad. Blinders.

*sigh*...I get it. I remember those days.  I remember loving Peoria so hard that you couldn't convince me that anything about it was terrible.

But you guys...that's not real life. You can't love with blinders on. I was living in a fantasy. And when the bubble burst, I nearly took my own life. No one who loves their city and contributes to their city with all of their heart should ever have to go through what I went through.

(My therapist actually told me that she could start a support group for people who went through something similar to what I went through and that her waiting room would be overflowing. Real life. This shit happens a lot.)

So let's be real.  Peoria is home to some of the best people I've ever met in my life. When all of the "friends" fell away, the real friends showed up to do the heavy lifting. There are some organizations here that are kicking ass in so many beautiful ways, that it is awe inspiring just to watch them work.  There are businesses who live and breathe #CommunityOverCompetition and who would bend over backwards to help fellow businesses succeed. There are some breathtaking views. Fantastic restaurants. Cool things to see and do and amazing opportunities. Communities and people who share the same values and desire to lift each other up. I love this side of Peoria.

Peoria is also home to people who are faking it. Who will use social media to tell the world how supportive they are and then quietly tear you down behind closed doors.  Businesses who believe success means making sure that their neighbor goes out of business. Who believe competition is to be feared and therefore destroyed. Politicians who say the right things to the right people to make sure that they get their vote, while telling you the exact opposite of what you literally just heard them say in front of a room full of people. People who won't think twice about ruining someone's life. People who literally just don't give a shit about other people...unless it makes them look good online and in the news.

That's real. That's not just Peoria. That's every city. And anyone who gives any city their whole heart should know that.  These ugly political games don't just play out on the national stage...they play out right here at home, too. Right in our backyard.

I really am falling back in love with my city...but my eyes are wide open this time. And honestly...isn't that the only way to fall in love? All in...but with your eyes open.