Mood Swung – Monday January 31st

During my current mood swing, I have decided I’m finished mourning. I don’t have anymore sadness left in me, so now I’m back to normal. Phew. That was challenging, but now it’s over and I’m sure I’m be completely fine from here on out.


In accordance with my new mood (however long it may last) I would like to write about my amazing new diet. It’s so easy and fun, just about anyone can do it! Now here’s the system:


First, become a compulsive exerciser. Get up earlier and earlier in the morning to take classes at the gym, and jog when you walk your dog at night- even when it’s snowy and you’re wearing snow boots and a huge puffy coat and people that you lumber past mistake you for a homeless lady.


Next, find yourself a competent mental health professional and spend thousands of dollars on therapy. I prefer a psychiatrist, because they meet my personal needs, but you can choose any reputable therapist. Make a weekly appointment and allow yourself to puke out your neurosis and phobias, thus appearing normal the rest of the week.


Third: Visit a Chinese herbalist and purchase various herbs and tinctures for approximately $350. Put complete faith in the effectiveness of herbs, even when required to fill your belly-button with strange smelling concoction.


Finally, join Weight Watchers and bask in your new topic of obsession- points. Take great pleasure in eating all your fruits and vegetables and remember that the point of food is to fuel your body and mind, not to be used as an emotional-hole-filler.


This amazing combination of self-help remedies will remind you that you’re not powerless, stuck, or a turd.

How Turbo Tax Made Me Cry- Thursday January 27th

I started doing my taxes this morning.


Personal info: Did you have a baby is 2010? Yes.


About your dependents: To qualify as a dependent a person must meet all six requirements, one of which is: Has the person lived in your home for at least six months?


No, my dependent only lived six days. He never came home with us. I would give everything- my sight, my hearing, my arms and legs, my own life- to have had him living in my home for six months. I would give everything to have just one day with him at home- no machines, no wires, just Tom G, me, and our son.


But that’s not what we had. And what we had was precious still. I’m crying and my heart hurts and I’m scared and I’m crumpled up and crushed, but I’m not mad. Life is painful and beautiful at the exact same time.

Nice and Easy- Tuesday January 25

Ok, now that I have remembered I can control the regular part of my depression, I’m in a better spot. I joined Weight Watchers last night and feel so much better. I’ve got a plan, I know I can do it, I know it works. When I was dieting on my own, every muck up was reinforcing the nagging voice in my head that thinks I’m a loser or an idiot or a bad mom. It’s like I was deliberately hanging around in a corner of self-loathing.


Well not anymore my friends! Not anymore! I’ve joined a community! I’ve given myself tools to succeed. It’s a lot like training a dog actually. You can’t just let the dog wander around deciding for itself how to fit in in your home. You have to give it guidelines and opportunities for success. Then you can’t yell at it when it has an accident here or there. You just keep giving it love.


So today is day one. I feel outrageously relieved and hopeful and in control. I don’t know how I’ll feel tomorrow, or Sunday (weekends are the worst), but today is good.


My grief can sit and stew and simmer. But my depression is going to get smacked down. And then maybe I’ll have the confidence to get another bean in my belly. Maybe I’ll stop thinking of my womb as Tommy Jr’s house, and be able to welcome the idea of another baby living in there.


I want to be better, I really do. It’s just easier to be sad, it feels so natural. But I’ve known for quite a while now that the hardest thing is usually the thing you need most.

More Words Forming Sentences – Monday January 24th

I am depressed. I’ve been trying to hide it, or push it down, but it’s just there. It’s sitting on my chest and squeezing all the good out of me. I’m not interested in anything anymore. All my energy is spent on getting out of bed, showering, and acting normal. I think if I can just keep acting normal soon I’ll feel normal. But it’s not working so far. I’m so depressed my bones hurt.


I’m doing everything I can think of and following as much advice as possible: running, yoga, shrink, Chinese herbs, support group, connecting with other baby-loss moms, trying to socialize with my friends. It’s not working. I’m just stuck feeling like a faker.


But I was thinking today that I might be approaching this from the wrong angle. It’s actually more likely that my depression is like the Federal budget. My grief for Tommy Jr is like defense spending, which isn’t accounted for when calculating the deficit. So military spending might be gigantic, but it’s separate and really alongside the rest of the federal budget. The two items seem to have the same priority level, taking into account historical ebbs and flows. They are separate, but they have similar characteristics.


I guess I’m taking the scenic drive to explain that I’m just god damn depressed, and I also really god damn miss my baby. So maybe I can work on just the regular depression, and not focus on the insurmountable grief of losing my baby. I’m pretty sure that I need some exposure to sunlight, more exercise, forced socialization, and forced volunteering. I say “forced” only because I’m so depressed I have to force myself to do most things. I remember now, just today I really realized, that I was like this before too. I was depressed in high school, in college, after college well into my 20′s. Then I decided I had had enough, and I started saying yes to people’s invitations. I started letting myself be busy, and not allowing myself to mourn my relationship with my couch. I wrote thank you notes. I initiated plans. I showed up.


I don’t mean to make this another weepy, uplifting post. I just have been stunned by the enormity of my depression, and I have to spend a lot of mental energy keeping it intellectual. Once you let these things enter the pit of your stomach- you’re done for. You’re left quivering under dirty sheets for weeks on end, terrified every time your cell phone rings. In your brain, you can remember that depression is just another part of the human condition and it’s nothing to fear- it’ll pass. So that’s how I realized that the depression is multi-facited, and was relieved to recognized one of the pieces.


Alright then. I’m going to start small, but I’m going to get back into my normal life suit. I know that my grief is not going to be affected by the current administration.

Keep Running – Thursday January 20th

A couple of days after I posted my first essay about running, I got a text message from my friend Dan. Well, I didn’t know it was Dan at first because when I dropped my old iPhone into the toilet I lost a lot of phone numbers. Anyway, Dan texted me that he had left a book for me with my doorman. After peeling myself off the couch and retrieving it, I stared at the cover of “What I Talk About When I Talk About Running” by Haruki Murakami and felt immediately intimidated. Haruki looked fit, and he look self-assured, and he looked like a natural.


I do not look like Haruki.


But my philosophy has always been to read all books given to me with intention. Books recommendations have a way of revealing insight into your friends that you might have otherwise overlooked. And Dan is a very special person. When he is interested in something, he learns about it, then he does it. He does stuff all the time. He and his wife Elizabeth- one of my all-time dearest friends- make their own sausages, make their own ice cream, make their own anything they want. These people are doers. And when they do something, they do it well. So I started reading Murakami’s book.


At first I felt wildly frustrated. This is a guy who’s life’s philosophy seems to be: Decide on doing something. Work outrageously hard. Become awesome at it.


That is not my philosophy. I’m more like: Complain and complain about wanting to do something until your friends and family wish they didn’t have to answer the phone when you call. Wait for an opportunity. When one comes along, blow it up spectacularly because you are scared and unsure of yourself.


I couldn’t relate to Haruki’s motivation or success. Then, about half-way through the book he describes a moment where his body doesn’t cooperate, despite the practice and hard work. So, he practices more and works harder. Then he gets better. He never loses confidence. In fact, it’s almost like he doesn’t need confidence, because he’s got a gigantic reserve of perseverance.


I think I might have a little perseverance. Not make-your-own-ice-cream perseverance, but go-to-the-gym-every-day-instead-of-lie-on-my-floor-and-cry-perseverance. That should count for something. I mean, I know it counts for something.


So, Mr. Murakami, I get it now. Keep trying. That’s the real motto. I can do that. And big thanks to Dan, who knew I’d get the point, even when I complained about the book that time I saw him.

Buzzing and Crackling – Tuesday January 18

I think I generate a lot of emotion for one smallish person. I mean I’m denser right now than I have been in the past- despite inconsistent efforts I still haven’t lost all my baby weight. I don’t even thing it still qualifies as baby weight, it’s more like emotional padding. The point is sometimes, most times, I feel like I’m buzzing and crackling with emotion. I was sitting in my apartment today worrying that I wouldn’t be able to keep myself affixed to the couch- like any moment I’d be lifted up into the air by the ferocity of my own angst.


Was I always like this? I never know anymore. I can’t find where the grief ends and I begin. I think I write a variation of this concern about once a week.


The pain goes in waves, but when it’s present it’s physical. I can’t imagine someone sitting with me not noticing it, or smelling it, or hearing a buzz or something. When the pain passes the relief is palpable. Every emotion hits me like I’m becoming self-aware for the first time in my species’ evolutionary history. I can’t believe anyone has ever felt like this before. But I know that I’m not the first, and I’m not the last, and this isn’t the worst, and that it’s not really going to end, and it’s not going to kill me. But it does nibble at me. It’s a school of well-fed piranhas just checking what’s floating in their river.


I made it through the weekend. It was a little challenging- I locked my keys in the car Friday night during rush-hour while I went to pick up Ramona from daycare. AAA came in juuuust under two hours. But the rest of the weekend was a mixture of fun and tolerable. Tom came home late Sunday night and we saw a new doctor Monday. I don’t know what to do, every doctor I’ve seen seems competent and kind-hearted. So did my last doctor. But I need to know how these people perform in emergencies, because that’s what we’re worried about. And it’s impossible to know if they’ll be patient when I’m freaking out, if they’ll listen to me when I’m crying, or if they’ll trust me to know my own body.


I guess I’m feeling frustrated all around. The good news is that I made it to the 6:30 am Yoga class today, then ran for 40 minutes after. At least I have that time to turn my brain off. At least I have Tom G back!

Without Tom G- Thursday January13th

Tom left today to visit his uncle in Santa Barbara. He’s still on winter break and it made perfect sense for him to take a solo trip to see his family. I was sure I could stay home by myself…until yesterday. I spend most of the day whining softly: “Don’t go, please, don’t go. Mew Mew.” But in the (tiny) normal part of my brain I knew it was a good idea and I was happy he was able to go.


This morning, Ramona and I dropped him off at the Blue Line and she whimpered as we drove away. I wanted to whimper too but her whimpering was so loud I felt like I couldn’t compete. She and I often wind each other up by trying to top the others anxiety, insecurity, sadness, or excitement. It’s a pretty good diversion actually, even though she usually wins.


Tom being gone presents many problems. First, and most obvious, is that my interest in human interaction slumps radically if you take him out of the equation. Secondly, unless I’m closely supervised I eat wall to wall pretzels. I’m talking about pretzel bagel and cream cheese for breakfast, turkey sandwich with pretzel bread for lunch, microwavable pretzels and nacho cheese for dinner, and chocolate covered pretzels for desert. It may seem like a nutritious meal plan, and it probably is for sumo wrestlers or Olympic Swimmers, but for 5’3″ women in their 30′s it’s not very practical. Without the all-pretzel diet, I don’t know what the hell I’m supposed to feed myself.


Another challenge is my passion for naps. I’m pretty sure I’m going to go home after work and try and take at least a 30 minute snooze. Again, that’s a good plan for kindergartners or people in the 20′s who suffered through a day of work with a hangover and get to reward themselves with a nap. But for regular people fighting depression and chronic insomnia…it’s a bad idea.


Finally, well, Tom’s sweet smile and spirit keeps me from crying all the time. I don’t know if I’ll have the strength not to indulge myself and just cry and cry until he comes home. I don’t know if I’ll be able to avoid the disturbing feeling that losing Tommy Jr was my fault, that I should have been better or smarter or healthier. I’m crying as I write this for god’s sake!!


The bad feelings are like roaches. Just when I think they’re gone, I’ll turn the lights on and catch them scattering out of the corner of my eye. But when my Light is on a trip to visit his Uncle, I’m afraid the thought-roaches will crawl into my bed and nest in my ears when I’m sleeping. Maybe I’ll nap with Kleenex wadded in my earholes.

Step, Step, Step – Monday January 10th

I’m writing this at my desk, with a belly button packed full of white mustard seed, lotus leaf, and cinnamon twig made into a paste with red wine vinegar. The concoction is held in place by a cross of band-aids. It stinks. But it makes me relieved too. Apparently I’m still determined to heal, physically and mentally. I thought recently that I might just give up and give in, but today’s appointment reminded me that I still want to try.


I went back to the Chinese Herbalist, Dr Guo. I might not have a lot of faith in religion, but I have all the faith in the world in Dr. Guo. I originally went to see him a few years ago because I was having painful and severe digestive problems. I had undergone multiple tests at the hospital and was left with no answer. My insurance company, however, was billed $10,000 for some inconclusive bullsh*t and about 20 cans of strawberry flavored barium.


I went to see Dr. Guo, paid $350 for a visit and a month supply of herbs, and I was digesting pain free and pooping like a baby in three days. I immediately adopted a scornful attitude toward Western medicine and had to be careful not to outwardly sneer at people who referenced their “doctor”. In fact, although my psychiatrist is trained in the Western tradition, she let it slip early on that she also goes to Dr. Gou. That happy coincidence convinced me to stick around and work on my mental health. At least for a little while. My faith in Dr. Guo extends to his patients.


My last appointment with Herb Master Guo was in September of 2009. Tommy Jr was just a sparkle in his Dad’s eye. I was complaining of allergies and sleeplessness. When I got pregnant a few months later, I let my gynecologist’s confident attitude lull me into complacency. Without thinking and despite my instincts, I signed up for a 100% Western pregnancy.


I know it doesn’t seem likely that things would have gone differently if I had been under the additional care of Dr. Guo. It also doesn’t seem likely to me when religious people try to explain their beliefs to me. I know in my heart the Guo could have helped me, just like some people know in their heart that god has helped them in their lives. I’m not saying Guo is God, just that I cannot be convinced that this man is anything other than the best doctor I’ve ever known. I don’t know if my son would be alive today if I had been seeing Guo, I just know things would have been different, more organic, less horrifying.


At our appointment today he looked sad, he said softly, almost under his breath, “Sorry” one time. He didn’t tell me I’d have such an easy pregnancy next time, or that he could be able to intervene. He just said that he could help me get healthy, and that as a healthy person I’d have a healthier pregnancy. He told me, in his own way, that he would be on my side next time. Out of respect for the Herb Master, I waited to cry until I got to the car.


I was so afraid to go back to Dr. Guo. I was scared that he’d say I made a mistake, that it was my fault. It’s like he was the last person in my life who I had to confront with my story, and brace myself for whatever unspoken judgements they might have. I know that my own projection, but it accounts for a lot of my anxiety and isolation. Dr. Guo rewarded me for my faith in him; he told me he’d be there for me.


He also told me I was retaining a lot of water, which is probably why I didn’t feel like I was losing weight. That’s what the belly-button pack is for. Few things make you feel as proactive as mixing a noxious paste and bandaging it to your navel.


Oh! Also- for the curious- I’m still running. I had little set back last week, but burned up 3 miles today.

Dangerous Boobs – Friday January 7th

While Don* and I were in Paris we bought a set of coasters from a guy on the street- you know one of those little tourist craparia stands? The are black and white nudey pictures from the ’20′s. I thought they were quaint and charming. The girls are in very old fashion lingerie and they’re kind of chubby and some have hairy armpits. It didn’t occur to me that they were sexual, just kitschy.


Back at home the suitcases got kicked around the apartment for a shocking amount of time. Eventually they just became fixtures in the living room- like really impractical pieces of furniture that invited a banged up shin during your middle of the night pee. Somehow they got unpacked. Because I have a pretty several allergy to hard work I can’t say for sure if I helped do a lot of the actual unpacking. I may have supervised, or napped, or hired someone to do it, I’m not sure. The point is we finally found the Parisian nudey coasters.


Don looked nervous as I cut them out of the plastic cover. “You sure we should use those?” he asked.


I laughed. “Yes dear, we should use the coasters.”


“Well they’ll get all ruined.” He pleaded sincerely. I smiled and arranged them in a little stack on the coffee table. I went to the bathroom and when I returned all six coasters were spread out on the table, side by side. I sat next to Don and we watched TV for a while. Absentmindedly, I restacked the coasters. Don’s eyes remained fixed on the TV. “Want a glass of water?” I asked.


“Yes please” he smiles.


When I returned from the kitchen the coasters were lined up again across the table. I put the glass down on one. It was the hairy arm-pit girl. “Oh,” said Don “I really like that one. Are you sure you want to put that glass over her?”


“You like this hairy armpit girl?” I asked doubtfully.


“Oh yes.” Don the gave me a three minute lecture on what she had going for her and how it’s probably not the best idea to get that coaster wet and risk damaging it. So I moved my glass to the chubby gal sitting in front of the Eiffel Tower. “No no!” Don gasped, “not that one either”. I got a longer explanation about what a wonderful picture that was. Then he moved to the next picture. He pointed out each girl’s attributes in loving detail until my eyes glazed over. When he finished, he looked up at me.

“Now do you understand the problem?” He asked.

“Yes,” I replied. “We’ve got pictures of naked ladies on our coffee table.”


*Names have been changed to protect the innocent-ish.

My Newest Idea – Wednesday, January 5th

When I got home last night I looked through Christmas cards that I didn’t have the guts to open before. We got such sweet, dear messages of hope and love from so many people. I was really touched and let myself cry for the first time in days. Tom joined me on the couch and we just cried for a while. But he was wearing a light blue shirt and I didn’t want to ruin another one of his shirts with my mascara. So I leaned back and let the tears run off the sides of my face, instead of mashing my whole head against Tom’s sweater.


It made me start thinking (and stop crying) about how I’m wasting an opportunity. I could channel my pointless crying into serious practice: I could become a weeper! If I practiced free-throws as much as I cry, I’d probably be at like 87% by now and becoming a lovely crier is much more useful then free-throws. Especially because I’m not on a basketball team or anything.


My pretty weeping training will be demanding. I will master the art of having tears come slowly out from the centers of my eyelids. I’ll learn to dab gently at the corners of my eyes to keep my make-up intact. No more coughing and wiping snot on my sleeves. I’ll grow my neck longer, so I can turn away dramatically from the witnesses of my lovely crying. I’d silently plead for comfort with my wide eyes swimming in tears, then show my strength and resolve by whipping around my swan-like neck and gracefully dabbing at my eyes.


This is very exciting. I’m really looking forward to showing off my talents and the next movie/theater/awards show where I will be admired and pitied by my peers for my lovely weeping. I’ll be so skilled they’ll think I was born this way, and I’ll blow their minds by telling them I learned how to do it. Maybe I’ll offer classes. Soon pretty crying will be like bikini waxes: girls will always wonder if doing it will some how improve their life. The answer of course is no, but this way they have an alternative to pouring hot wax on their genitals.

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