His 5th Birthday – May 10, 2015

It’s hard to have this blog still exist.  I recently became a blog-writer-denier, in front of someone I had just met.  I don’t want people to know anymore and I don’t want to write very much anymore.

When I was in the third grade Mrs. Long had us write essays about what we’d be when we grew up.  I wrote that I wanted to be a writer.  I was already a voracious and mature reader, and my parents encouraged me.  I overwrote and overwrite everything, but I can’t help it- I’m addicted.  I’m a logophile.  I write lists to start my day and I write sentences to organize my thoughts and long emails I have to cut down (but don’t).  I doodle words when I’m on the phone, admiring the shapes that represent the sounds that conjure up images.  It’s like magic.

I loved writing.  I used to write prolifically.  I would write on this blog every single day.

On May 10th 2010 I gave birth to a baby boy.  I helped the nurse change his diaper through little openings in an incubator and read him The Hungry Little Caterpillar and got to hold him against my chest, twice.  (I’ve written these sentences over and over and over for five years now.) Then I started writing about it.  As I was going through it, from inside the hospital I started writing how I felt on this blog.  For years I wrote everything here- from the physical pain to the horrible secret thoughts.  But five years is a long time for other people.  The people who were there back then might think you can’t get over it, and the new people…well it does’t seem fair to subject everyone to all of it.  Everything in my life has changed in these five years except the sadness.

It’s impossible for me to write anything new about what happened.  One of the most consistent sufferings of a writer is the guilt of not writing enough.  There’s always more to write.  And there’s always more a person wants to write about grief.  It changes so dramatically and seeps out so unexpectedly.  A few nights ago it appeared as humiliation.  Another time it was fuel for aggression and triumph.  Usually it’s loneliness.

The loneliness is easy to redirect because my joy for life and shattering sadness are not mutually exclusive.  I never need help looking on the bright side: I live on the bright side.  I just have a summer home on the dark side.

I am self conscious about how sad I will always be sometimes.

On May 10th 2010 I gave birth to a baby boy. I helped the nurse change his diaper through little openings in an incubator and read him The Hungry Little Caterpillar and got to hold him against my chest, twice.

He was alive and he was his own self. That’s the sentence I would say if I could.  That’s what I would tell people.

Don’t Try – Friday August 1st

poem1982-06-11-the_old_big_timeIn anticipation of getting pregnant, many women take prenatal vitamins, get their body in shape, and do other shit I don’t know about.  I imagine there is a lot of sitting beside windows flooded with sunshine while holding their bellies and feeling serene.  They probably get professional photos taken of themselves and get pregnancy massages.

I act out.  If my acting out was described as a mathematical equation using literary references instead of numbers it would be something like  <<Hunter S Thompson + Oscar Acosta (Dr Gonzo) raised to the power of Bukowski divided by Tim O’Brien = One scared white lady about to jump off a really high cliff>>

Obviously Oscar Acosta’s disappearance shouldn’t be ignored.  And I use Bukowski instead of Hemingway because I think his demise was both incrementally spectacular and more subtle than Hemingway.

I am very grateful to be loved by a group of people who monitor my behavior without making me feel oppressed or weak.  I am already usually in a state of embarrassment and horror about the things I do.  The embarrassment isn’t just about the all apology notes I owe to people who were sucked into and then spat out of my acting out storm system.  It’s about the disparity between what people see in me and what is really there, underneath.  Close up – if I let them – a few people can see the sloppy stitches and the too many layers of White Out.

If something goes wrong there’s no escape hatch this time.  Hazel is here, and she and Tom need me.  I can’t disappear, or have a nervous breakdown, or.  I kept my shit together last time because I wasn’t ready to throw in the towel after one tragedy.  I’ve got too much pride in my intellect and understanding of the human condition to really consider calling it quits after I lost my son.  I might have felt differently if I knew what was in store for me and my family in the years that followed.

But this time, I do know.  I know I could lose another child, I know that if the pregnancy is successful it’ll be painful and scary and complicated, I know that Tom and I both work too much, I know that the things I do to help my children could be the things they think are the most annoying about me, I know the child could arrive in the proper time frame but still not be healthy, and worst of all slash I finally understand how little control I have over any of it.

And so I keep letting the water flow through my gills.  I tap into to a level of excitement and joy and love that a lot of people find overwhelming.  I let myself be as down and dirty depressed as I need to be, but only for a specific amount of time prearranged between me and my brain.  Unfortunately grown up life keeps happening at the same time, and sometimes it all gets a little sloppy.

Soon the scales will tip and Tom and I will want a living sibling for Hazel more than we’re afraid of what we know. And then, like all the creatures on the planet capable and desirous of procreating, we’ll figure it out.  Even if the worst happens (my personal definition of “the worst” changes by the hour) I already know I’m sticking this out.  I won’t lose my shit.  I’ve lived through pain, I know it doesn’t kill a person…but I didn’t know that until I was pretty old.  Hazel needs me around at least until she has to find that out for herself, and there’s no way that I’m going to let my absence be the thing that teaches her about pain.

That last sentence is staring me in the face.  It’s mocking me, it’s saying -”You know trying to have another baby introduces the real risk that you will not survive the gestation or birth.  It’s not a huge risk, but it’s real.”  It probably makes sense to apply some Joseph Heller to the aforementioned mathematical equation.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Imaginary Time – Wednesday July 2nd

You want to know why there have been so many remakes and variations of the movie “Freaky Friday” (including “Like Father, Like Son”, “Vice Versa” “Prelude to a Kiss”)? It’s because that actually happens all the time.  People wake up one morning in the wrong body, and they have to figure it out and just act cool until they go to bed one night, or get hit by lightening, etc etc  and wake up back in their old life.  It does happen all the time, and if you really think about it you already knew that. It’s probably happened to you.

Remember the show “Quantum Leap”?  Same basic concept.  Obviously there is a lot of romanticizing and dramatizing of the phenomenon which is why you might not have noticed when it was happening to you.  Some people look back on their lives and realize all through junior high they were in the wrong person, or their entire year abroad in college, or the summer between 11th and 12th grade.  During particularly stressful times you can get flipped in and out of other people within a matter of hours.  You look at the clock, realize it’s 6 pm and the past two hours you were just somewhere else, just trying to figure it the hell out.

I watched John Oliver interview Stephen Hawking a couple weeks ago on “Last Week Tonight”.  Stephen Hawking mentioned imaginary time and I couldn’t stop rolling the words around in my mouth.  After a few days of just saying the words, picturing them in my head, writing them over and over like a love sick teenager- I needed to know if it was Freaky-Friday-style imaginary time.

Predictably, trying to understand the actual concept was impossible.  I got three sentences into the Wiki page and had to lie down with a cold cloth on my head.  I did six or seven rounds in the ring with Google before I gave up.  I can’t even remember enough words from the articles I tried to read to piece together a joke about how little I remember of what it really means.  But when I’m not really concentrating on anything specific, those words slip back into my mouth.

Imaginary time.

In physics, it means something very very complicated.  In regular life it means waking up, or coming to, and being right in the middle of a different existence.  You know when you’ve felt like you were watching yourself act impossibly bad, or brave or beautiful?  That’s the jumbled way your brain tries to sort out the memory of it.  A lot of really hard habits to break also happen to take people to a comfortable or at least recognizable spot in imaginary time and let you just hang for a little while- like smoking cigarettes, or biting your nails, or heroin.  You can drive into imaginary time and end up at home.

People don’t talk about it very much unless you bring it up in just the right way.  Then everyone falls all over themselves explaining when it happens or where they go.  There are always a few people who act like you’re crazy, but you know those are the people who go somewhere really far.

Imaginary time.  It seems to just be a part of the human experience.  It looks best written in cursive.  It inspires mostly crappy movies.

 

4 Years Since a Birthday – Saturday May 10th

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There are codes that writers use to describe the way humans experience life.

“Her face crumpled”

“Her eyes filled with tears”

“Her heart ached”

These are short cuts and sure things.  It’s not laziness, it’s like spelling Lead Zepplin “Led Zepplin” so there wouldn’t be a bunch of assholes walking around saying Leed Zepplin.  Here though, I get the luxury of not caring if any of it makes sense.

Four years ago my son was born.  All of our lives flashed before his unopened eyes in five days.

Here’s what I mean to say: When I stop myself from doing something I want to do, I feel like I’m agreeing to have a rope tied tightly around my throat.  Any moment that I let my mind wander back to that thing, the rope gets tighter.  I can submit, and relax the muscles in my neck and trust that the rope will loosen with time.  Or I can panic and clutch and pull at it and bulge my eyes as it strangles me.

May 10th came, then May 15th, then all the other days.  The rope just became a part of my new life; sometimes just dangling there but most often rubbing the skin raw without choking me.

A lot of my memory is sensory based.  I remember the smell of a nurse’s hand lotion and the feel of cold steel under my finger tips and the sound of beeping machines and slaps of doors closing.  And the words.  I remember some words as clearly as I remember the smell of bleached hospital sheets.  I won’t write the words here now.

Here’s what I’m trying to say: My face crumpled, my eyes filled with tears, my heart ached…then I jumped the fuck off the bridge.  I keep landing without shattering, and the next day I know I have to get out of bed and jump again.  I’m not very different from anyone else it turns out, which I find comforting.  Every time someone tells me about a leap they took, I want to look into their eyes and see what made them do it.

Four years ago a tiny human took five days in May to change everything I ever thought I knew to be true.  His days changed every other day.  I always want it to be a happy birthday kind of day, but I don’t this year.  I don’t care if it’s a sad day, because the culmination of those five days and the following 1461 averaged out as pretty kick ass as far as I’m concerned.

 

 

 

 

 

When I Wake Up

I woke up with a gasp- the way people do on TV when they’ve almost drowned and are getting CPR.  I gasped.  The sun was shining outside and I looked around the room.  I was sitting at my desk, which was cluttered with papers and wires and eyeglasses and pens.  Everything was arranged the same as it was before I woke up, which was surprising.

Leaning back in my chair I could see my dog napping in a sliver of sunshine in the other room.  She sighed heavily as I watched her.  My eyes trailed slowly back to the surface of my desk, passing little balls of dust and dog hair that endlessly accumulate around the baseboards.  Being so awake felt like an ache, a too bright light.  I stood up and walked to the window.

The light of the springtime sun rinsed everything on the street below me.  Sparrows and robins flitted around bare branches and cars gleamed as they wooshed by.  I noticed for the first time in four months that my head was attached to a torso with arms and legs and hands and feet.  Inside my torso my guts and blood whirred along noisily.  I gulped air into my lungs, filling them and making my heart race.

As I dug my sneakers out of the closet I admitted that I recognized this feeling.  In the past it made me turn on music when I’m home alone, and buy new packets of my mechanical pencils so I can write on yellow legal pads and drive fast.  But there’s a restlessness that comes along with it too.  I’m uncomfortable being so awake.  Everything has edges, and all the edges are sharp.

I have to start running once I wake up.  I run until my lungs burn and my bones clatter and then I run around the block twice more.  Sleeping at night seems like an interesting concept, but one I’m far from being able to incorporate into my own life.  I think about something until I’ve figured how I feel about it, then I think it the opposite way.

Here’s the thing- I can’t stay awake very long.  Everything gets in the way.  Everybody pulls and calls and coughs and sits and rides and needs and blurs those sharp edges.  After a few hours or days or weeks or months the ache goes away.  It’s hard to notice unless something out of the ordinary happens, or you go to a museum in the middle of the day for no reason.  And blurred edges have a way of keeping you out of museums in the middle of the day.  Now I know though, after living for a little while, that I’ll wake up again.  With a gasp, the way people do on TV when they’ve almost drowned and are getting CPR.

 

I Was Just Thinking- Sunday March 30th

I spend a lot of time thinking about myself.  I think a lot about how my personality- my self- feels like an animal I am constantly trying to outsmart so it doesn’t eat me.  I have almost no control or insight into what going to happen next.  It is very easy to have a lot of personal insight when you feel like an observer of your self.  I don’t tell people that I think about myself a lot because that makes me sound like I’m a certain way.  I’m not that way though, I’m a different way.

I know for sure what happens to people after they die.  Your energy leaves your body and becomes whatever you wanted it to become.  You can go to a blue heaven with pearly gates, or become a new baby or a dog or a tree.  You can split yourself up and settle back in as your grandchildren’s eyebrows.  You can just be dead in the ground too, if that’s what you want.

Pretty frequently I get so sad that my heart actually hurts.  My stomach tightens and my heart aches.  Last week I went to the gym to try and run it out and I got chucked off the treadmill.  There were only about 72 people watching and gasping, but I keep thinking about how much worse it would have been if my pants had also fallen down.  When I do stuff like get dumped from the treadmill because I’m trying not to be so sad it makes me feel sort of proud of myself.  Because I know that not trying is easier.  Dulling the edges makes things hurt less.

Plus, the physical pain resulting from getting thrown off a treadmill really does distract from emotional pain- which I have less patience for the older I get.  I think some of my arm muscles got torn of the bone and that’s much more specific than swirling melancholia.  And two 98 year olds behind me who were power walking on the treadmill with walking poles will have that story to tell for the rest of their lives.  So all around, a productive day.

 

The True Spirit of Christmas- December 30th 2013

There was a yawning gap between the years that Christmas was magical and the years that I wanted to write an essay in defense of Ebenizer Scrooge.  He, like me, probably experienced the rude awakening of adult Christmases- it’s really a time of year when work revs up to a frenetic pace and every spare moment that you are away from work, and not doing laundry or walking the dog who will only walk six minutes at a time which is not enough to find a proper poo spot so she has to go inside because her feet are cold and immediately starts whining to go out again and see if maybe she missed a really good poo spot and your two year old tells you in no uncertain terms that if she has to put her coat on one more time she will make your life a living hell and you are not mopping the kitchen floor again because it is forever covered in a depressing mixture of salty dried black snow and the coffee grounds that you spill every morning and your family members are not calling you every 11 minutes to know “The Plan” and you are not campaigning your friends and family to give to charities this year because “we” don’t need more stuff but really its because you don’t have any more time to order something from Amazon and have it delivered by Christmas Eve, and you are not wondering which dry cleaner you dropped off all your dress up clothes to and did you actually ask to have that dress hemmed and you know there is something drastically wrong with your car but if you had time to have it looked at you would have had time to get a manicure or at least paint your nails or at least, at the very least, bite your nails evenly so they’re all the same length and then there’s the dishes and the floor should get one more mopping before vacuuming up those goddamn Christmas tree needles and when you’re not doing that you have no fucking idea how you’re going to decorate and shop and plan and cook and then clean all over again and not bitch AT ALL in front of your darling little girl who just learned about Santa Claus which makes you feel uncomfortable because isn’t this like the introduction to how your parents lie to you to get them to do what they think constitutes good behavior or to arrest the part of your childhood where you WOULD stare at then, wide eyed, rosy cheeked, gulping down every detail of a fat man in a red suit with a sleigh (whatever THAT is) and a gang of reindeer who come down your non-exisistant chimney and leave gifts for you labeled in your mom’s handwriting, and then right in the middle of the 890,332 th chore (wrapping gifts) it hits you: The Sprit of Christmas.

It happens at an unexpected time, perhaps, but upon reflection you realize it’s exactly the kind of low, bare-bones expectations of adulthood that’s allowed you this beautiful, almost religious moment.

The True Spirit of Christmas is when you buy a loved one an awkwardly shaped gift that comes with no box and you wrap it with such creative precision that when you apply that last piece of tape you actually feel the sweet spot in your hands like a baseball player.  ”What could THIS be?”  they’ll exclaim with excitement and unbridled anticipation.  The voila! A carry-on suitcase!  A bonsai tree!  A pair of novelty socks! No box, no obvious wrappable structure already inherent in the object…just the magic of the Christmas Spirit!

 

Goodbye Grip – Tuesday October 17th 2013

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Tom G – that long suffering, dear, ever hopeful, ever optimistic gem of a man- pointed out today that I hadn’t written a post here since July.  The truth is I write at least a few sentences everyday.  I come up with a great idea, sit down at the keyboard…and something serious comes out.  Something stressful and whiney, or something heavy and overly-explained.  So I don’t press “publish”.

I also noticed today that I am stressed out.  STRESSED OUT.  It’s probably the normal mom-around-the-holidays stressed out with the new steroid of owning my own business.  I bet even hippies who start local food co-ops or grill cheese stands in the parking lots at Phish shows get stressed the hell out if they really believe in their ability to succeed.  I wasn’t the sweetest, most even tempered woman before my partner and I opened for business in May…but I was old enough to have a pretty decent Grip.

That Grip has been substantially loosened.

It’s not just stress’s fault.  Comcast is at least 50% to blame.  I spent my 20′s learning how to remain calm to befriend and defeat the customer service person.  I was famous (in certain circles) for getting discounts by being nice and just asking.  Fees were waived and reversed, I used expired coupons, I got the personal phone numbers of tech support people.  I had defeated Comcast several times in the early and mid-aughts.

Everyone is now aware, however, that almost all customer service has gone to hell in a hand basket.  After spending hours and hours on the phone, repeating my address and last four digits of my social security and taking deep breathes and explaining again that I had been charged for something in error…one day I felt my palms getting sweaty.  One by one, my fingers uncurled until I was just hanging by my littlest digit and praying that the Grip would hold me.  Then I heard some one screaming.  It was a woman, she was screaming and stomping her foot.  I heard her mock the customer service person she was on the phone with- mocking his pat answers and stupid voice and career decisions.

It was me of course.  I realized when my own voice was echoing off the dining room walls and the phone was covered in rage-spittle.  The Grip was gone.  I was entirely unhinged…a decade of therapy and self help books and meditating and exercise to reduce anxiety just erased with one too many pointless conversations pleading with a piss-faced (probably), dough-lidded, numbskull.

The worst part is that I got the erroneous charge reversed.  And I was refunded another $80 for various upsets and outrages.  Because that’s how I found out that sometimes screaming at people gets them to act right.  I was hoping that my maturity and the wisdom of my advancing age would confirm my other life philosophy: You Catch More Flies With Honey.  You Catch More Flies With Fly Poison is kind of a downer.

So there you have it.  I’m going to press publish this time, and hope that writing again will help even out my Gripless existence.  I really don’t want to be one of those stressed out dicks in a skirt suit screaming at the Starbucks barrista for forgetting the whip cream. I mean, I would never order a drink at Starbucks that came with whip cream because I’m a snob about ordering actual coffee- not liquid candy bars- but who knows where this is going to all lead?  It’s time to take back control of my life.  First I’ll press publish, then I’ll look up what other cable providers service my building, then I’ll go to bed.

And when Hazel gets up at 4 in the morning and says ” MAMA WHEWE AWE YOU?  COME HEWE!” I’m going thank the universe for the 1265th time for the privilege of being a stressed out mom with a successful business.

If I Could Write, I Would Write About This… Monday July 22nd

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Life is moving too fast, and I’m constantly worried I’m not paying enough attention.  I should be writing this all down but then something else comes up and the moment slips away.  So today I’m going to stop being a blogging perfectionist.  I’m just going to make a list of things I wish I had written about.*

Here’s everything I can think of, in no particular order:

- Starting my own business

- Tom graduating from law school

- Tom starting bar review the next day.  Poor Lucky Me having to learn how to not be a total brat while he studies.

- Hazel’s trips to the beach

- My brother, sister-in-law and nephew’s 4th of July visit

- Hazel learning how to spin until she’s dizzy

- Hazel getting closer every day to talking by getting her animal sounds down pat (there was a lot of swooning by the adult crew when she “mooooo’ed”)

- Me worrying about a whole new set of disasters as a business owner

- Hazel starting daycare

- My renewed interest in running

- Tom getting closer and closer to the bar; my pride watching him study like he was born to pass this test; my continued struggle not to act like a brat

- The day I bought a potty and let it sit in the bag for two weeks while we contemplated how grown up Hazel was getting

- Hazel’s favorite hobbies: bashing her head and face into stuff, torturing the dog, kissing the dog, dancing, getting pushed on her vintage tricycle (only in the backyard until I find a helmet and attach the seatbelt), waking up at 5:45 and pointing at the TV for cartoons, dragging her bag of baby golf clubs around the house in search of the one baby golf ball that came with the set.

But the biggest thing I want to write about is how much of her own self Hazel is.  I thought when you had a baby they would be very much like you, almost like those plants that if you cut a piece off and put it in water a new plant grows.  I thought that’s why people put their children in beauty pageants and pushed them to play sports or whatever they didn’t get to do as children.  Our reality is that Hazel seems to have arrived on the planet as her very own person, with her own ideas and jokes and a passion for the most disgusting fruit on the planet (bananas) that genetics just can’t explain.

Sometimes I understand why people believe in God, or magic, or why I keep going to a psychic.  You watch this little person, this little Herself, and marvel at the mystery of our time on the planet.  So often I feel like a cave-lady, wondering how the natural world fits me in, wondering how the universe delivered this person into my arms.  And even when she’s biting me, or elbowing me in the throat while we nap together, or launching her face into the patio, I sigh with relief that she somehow found her way to me.

 

 

*and maybe I still will!

The Myth of Firsts- Friday March 22th

I had a lot of anxiety about missing all of Hazel’s “firsts” while I was at work.  It’s one of the many parenting misconceptions I got from watch TV and movies, and I was shocked to realize I had again been misled.

At first when I would see Hazel start to learn something new, I would become consumed with figuring out how to orchestrate it so I was there when she made her achievements. But while I was obsessing, I noticed that what I thought would be gigantic developmental milestones actually unfurled slowly.  A whole long process was made out of the art of crawling.  She spent days perfecting rocking back and forth on all fours.  I think it was two weeks before she was really motoring around the house, chasing the dog and laughing hysterically.

When Hazel first stood up on her own and looked around the room proudly, I thought I would faint with pride and love and fear.  My little hot potato was going to walk, and I was going to miss it.  After her first birthday party, I enlisted my Dad to stand two steps away and catch Hazel when I stood her up and launched her towards him.  ”She took a step!” I screamed and made a mental note of the date and time and that I was there, not at my desk in my office.

But the real walking happened in bits and pieces.  She would progress, then regress.  She would be reckless then cautious.  She wanted to hold our hand a lot to keep her balance so she could move faster.  Tom and I watched and applauded and took pictures and slapped each other on the back and in the midst of it all our baby because a little girl.  Just like that.

Obviously, this shattered myth makes me wonder about so many things I’ve avoided.  Swimming after eating, crossing my eyes while getting hit on the back of the head, riding my bike while I have my period, drinking alcohol while taking medication.

I think the one thing I’ve learned about being a parent is to have no expectations- not of yourself or your child or your spouse.  My family is our own little entity, and we are learning to function in our own way.  TV is great for so many things, but failed at predicting what it would be like to watch new people experience life (no offense TV, you know we’re cool right?).

 

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