Tuesday, September 22, 2009


With much calmed, what I have to say is this: Thank the gods for Netflix Instant Viewing.

As my husband would say, I am not an early adopter (almost typed adapter - same difference). I resisted a cell phone, resisted Netflix, resisted watching movies on the computer, am still actively resisting Facebook (oh but the pictures! The connection with Snapfish and printing at Walgreens in Miami, where Eric's mom can finally keep up with her granddaughter's changing face...).

But after months of depression watching whatever the gods of mercy or torture put on late-night tv, I am now four seasons in to Law and Order: SUV. It is absorbing enough to take the edge off late-night feedings and early-morning pumpings. It's quality enough not to resent the minutes taken off my life watching it. It's gruesome enough that I remember to count my blessings instead of sheep.

There's the IT Crowd for family feedings and Word World for morning dressing time. There's movies and movies galore - so much that you never have to worry about running out of things to watch or re-watch.

And so, baby time is blissed-out media viewing time. Add a little reading during pumping before bed and suddenly, life's not so bad.

Now if only libraries delivered...

Monday, July 27, 2009

Hot, Calm Night

Realizing again how much the world is governed by entropy. Being a homeowner really keeps this foremost in one's thoughts. The carpet that was new upon moving in is ... dingy and spotted. The fans that were so cheery and industrial-cool last summer are dusty and in one case, broken. Baby swing? More of a baby statue memorializing fun. Toilet? Constantly moving from order to chaos. Clothes? One day from dirty.

I know I should be focusing on the joy in my life. All the blessings. A healthy, easy kid. A loving, kind, thoughtful husband. (But ... even though ... )

In the face of all that's right with my life, I'm starting to wonder if my tendency lately to dwell on dissatisfaction indicates a chemical imbalance from the roller coaster ride of pregnancy and nursing and a return to fertility, so mother nature tells me.

I've got an acupuncture appointment tomorrow, and I've been talking to the practitioner in my head for the last few days. He diagnoses that I have much imbalance, many little cancers of the mind, but, he says reassuringly, "We will fix."

So I try to do what I can to move toward health. Clean the kitchen. Clean the bathroom. Fill the water pitcher in the fridge. Sit outside with the Christmas lights on. Light a candle. Turn the fan to blow over my set jaw. Write.

As my boy Eliot whispers in my ear, "Anything is better than nothing." (But he still killed himself, my dissatisfied self complains.)

I spent half a day and some hours this weekend putting together a list of poems that other people list as their favorites (Love Amazon.com!) and saving them to my poetry file. I invited two of my poetry-loving friends to have an evening of poems. I will come well-stocked!

I wonder how much I'm not learning about myself by not keeping up better with the friends of my heart. Mordechai just jumped in my lap to remind me that I'm not learning from my pets, either. He's got a lot to teach me about going where others can take care of you, where you can love unconditionally, no matter how many times you get thrown across the room (yikes!) or ignored.

And so, time to pump, read a bit of Wonder Boys, maybe a B.H. Fairchild poem or two. And sleep for a few hours until it's time to wake and pump and watch bad late-night t.v.

Such do the blessings continue.

Friday, July 24, 2009

Mommy Moment

Let me start by acknowledging that I've always struggled separating "real" emotions from chemically-induced similacra of feelings. In the end, does it matter whether what you're feeling is a response to real stimula or just manufactured because of hormones? Maybe it matters in terms of how seriously to take it. How much to base decisions off it.

But even if it's "fake" emotion, doesn't it come from somewhere? Isn't it you, too? Just you hyped up on life's greatest little gift to women?

I've got this on my mind for two reasons.

1) I've got my first period after having a baby just 4 months ago in April. Some of my girlfriends are getting their first period after 2 years! I'm guessing the difference is that I'm back to work and therefore pumping instead of nursing during the day, which my body knows is not nearly as good as the real thing.

Because of #1, coupled with post-pregnancy hormones and breastfeeding hormones, I'm having intensified fears, anger, and feelings of helplessness around my job situation, which is not so viable right now. I'm not sure what to do about that or what I can do about that, hence the panic.

2) I had a dream two nights ago that I decided to cheat on my husband with this guy we know. We were at a party and flirting, and in the dream, I consciously chose to make plans to meet up with him later that night and do it in a bathroom somewhere in the house. (That's the language of the dream - very high school somehow...)

I stood in front of a mirror and went back and forth. Is this worth risking my marriage? I pictured Eric's face, tried to feel what it would be like to lose him, tried to rationalize the fact that I was going to make this horrible choice. I decided maybe I wouldn't sleep with this guy, but I would make out, and if things got out of hand, I'd deal with it then (and that meant I'd probably go all the way).

So there we were, lounging in the bathroom, not touching. It was awkward for both of us, and we knew the stakes were high. It would take a lot to get over the hump and actually start touching. But the air was electric, charged with what might be anticipation if we let it become that. We talked, laughed, and somehow got on the subject of puppy poop. We made joke after joke about stepping in poop on the lawn. And ... the dream was over, spell broken. My brain hadn't been able to go there.

But I woke up totally guilty. I had decided to cheat! I imagined it! I played the scenario out in my head in detail!

Do I tell? It means nothing. Was a dream. Is not real. But my feelings of guilt are real, and I was still soaked in the dream, like cigarette smoke on your clothes after an evening in the bar.

So I told. Apologized. Said I felt guilty. And do you know what my fabulous husband did? He wrapped me up in a big ole hug and said, "Oh, honey. I'm so sorry!" Sorry I had that dream and felt bad about it! What a guy! And so I felt close to him again and knew that I wouldn't make that choice in waking life. And knew that our relationship could weather my dream indiscretions.

But still, what does it mean that I went there in a dream?

And the job thing? I just don't know. It's one of those decision points - what do I want to be when I grow up? What am I capable of? What's realistically possible, given this economic climate?

I feel my best when I'm facilitating public involvement processes. Could I find enough work to make a living doing that?

I also like using the technologies of project management - budgets, spreadsheets, schedules. Is there a job that allows me to mix a little of this in, or would this just auger well for owning my own business?

I love putting together documents - desktop publishing, editing, technical writing, etc. Are there jobs where you get to do that? Jobs that I can still do bits of the above?

I love teaching. How does that fit into all this?

And if there is no perfect salaried job out there ... am I brave enough, smart enough, saavy enough, connected enough, and motivated enough to make a go of it? And is it a viable idea given the craziness out there? Given that I have a newborn and a husband whose job is similarly unstable?

Good lord. Is it any wonder I'm emotional?

Sunday, July 12, 2009

Self-Portrait by David Whyte

It doesn't interest me if there is one God or many gods.

I want to know if you belong or feel abandoned.

If you know despair or can see it in others.

I want to know if you are prepared to live in the world with its harsh need to change you. If you can look back with firm eyes saying this is where I stand.

I want to know if you know how to melt into that fierce heat of living falling toward the center of your longing.

I want to know if you are willing to live, day by day, with the consequence of love and the bitter unwanted passion of sure defeat.

I have been told, in that fierce embrace, even the gods speak of God.

Wednesday, July 01, 2009

Finding Stillness

I've been thinking lately about singing meditation, mostly because the only time I have to connect with my deeper side on a daily basis is as I sing to Umea -- while she's eating or close to sleep. I find that I'm not all that patient with nursing. After the first few minutes -- when she's cute, and smells so good, and if feels so good to hold her -- you have to just sit there, thinking of all the things you need to do and could do if you didn't just have to sit there, being the producer of milk and inducer of good baby/momma hormones and general inducements toward intimacy.

I've found some hymns that always seem to break into my unending stream of should-be-doings and take me to a more conscious place. One is almost postmodern in that its message and effect reflect each other.

Find a stillness, hold a stillness, let the stillness carry me.
Find the silence, hold the silence, let the silence carry me.

In the spirit, by the spirit, with the spirit giving power, I will find true harmony.

Seek the essence, hold the essence, let the essence carry me.
Let me flower, help me flower, watch me flower, carry me.

In the spirit, by the spirit, with the spirit giving power, I will find true harmony.
That one's just for me. Then there's another that Umea seems to like.

Come, come, whoever you are,
Wanderer, worshiper, lover of leaving.
Ours is no caravan of despair.
Come, yet again, come.
That makes a beautiful round, as does this one, which I also sing often to Umea:

And everyone 'neath a vine and fig tree,
Shall live in peace and unafraid.

And into ploughshares turns the sword;
Nations shall learn war no more.

Then there's this little ditty, oddly uptempo:

Soon the day will arrive when we will be together,
and no longer will we live in fear.
And the children will smile without wondering whether
on that day thunder clouds will appear.

Wait and see, wait and see,
what a world this will be,
when we care, when we share,
you and me.

Some have dreamed, some have died to make a bright tomorrow,
and our vision remains in our hearts.
Now the torch must be passed with new hope and new sorrow,
and a promise to make a new start.

Wait and see, wait and see,
what a world this will be,
when we care, when we share,
you and me.
How about this one? Sung to the classical Finlandia tune.

We would be one as now we join in singing
our hymn of love to pledge ourselves anew
to that high cause of greater understanding
of who we are, and what in us is true.

We would be one in lving for each other
to show to all a new community.

We would be one in building for tomorrow
a nobler world than we have known today.
We would be one in searching for that meaning
which binds our hearts and points us on our way.

As one, we pledge ourselves to greater service
with love and justice, strive to make us free.

I feel that if I could learn these well enough, I might carry more stillness with me into the stream of moments that have been carrying me ever faster through my days. I might be filled with more ... spirit, gravitas, calm, meaning.

I feel a slipping lately, a widening gap between where my days carry me and where I feel my strengths are, my source of power, my sense of myself.

I told a friend that I have this feeling about myself as though I'm expecting a friend to come in from out of town. I can't wait for all the great conversations we have, staying up late into the night, all the catching up we have to do. But she's not here yet, and I must gather my stories to make the most out of each moment she's here.

So I must sing. Gather my stories, and sing.

Saturday, May 16, 2009

Umea Comes

Umea was born six weeks ago on April 3. We've made it this far, and I'm just starting to feel that we're getting used to each other. I didn't have that bolt of lighting love that some mothers feel. Instead, I felt wonderment that this thing that I've been wanting for so long -- a child, a daughter -- is finally here and a simultaneous effort not to try to turn this into anything I dreamed. I know she is her own person and that our relationship will take its own shape despite any dreams or intentions I might have. I wonder sometimes if I'm trying too hard to stay unattached to outcome. It may be interfering with my ability to enjoy these moments fully and to bond with her in a way that's unapologetic to what she might feel when she's a teenager.

I find myself thinking often that nothing is permanent, and while I enjoy her now, she may not always be here. I'm not sure where this macabre reasoning is coming from, but it does signal fears that I never would have expected of myself.

I actually had a dream the night before last that she was dead. It was right before Halloween, and some friends asked whether they could use her body for their haunted house, and I agreed, because, well, there was nothing to be done. It wasn't until her head was separated from her body that I collapsed into sobs on the kitchen counter, finally feeling the loss.

Part of it is feeling overwhelmed with the responsibility for caring for such a helpless creature, especially when I feel I know so little about what to do. There are so few options when she cries -- feed her, burp her, put her to bed. The relentless repetition of days tends to remove the portent of a brand new life and precipice of a new love.

Yet there are moments, of course, when it all comes crashing through all these defenses and excuses and life patterns. She's very much smiling these days. After naps, when she's lying propped up on my knees, she breaks into a crooked grin as we stare at each other. She's begun exercising control over her hands, and sometimes at the breast or when she's on my shoulder, she'll knead me or grab my hands. In these moments, it's as though she's breaking through to my dreams of what motherhood would feel like, what it would entail. This both frightens me -- what if it ends? -- and surprises me -- how did I know how this would feel? It's as though I'm becoming a mother in reverse.

It's perhaps as a wife that I'm learning the most. That part of life is much more surprising than motherhood, somehow, as though I didn't imagine it as fully as I imagined having children and therefore aren't as familiar with its rhythms and edges. Not that it's hard. In fact, it's much less dramatic and much richer than I ever dreamed. The chemical badness that always attracted me to my favorite boyfriends is replaced with an intense trust and appreciation. He follows through -- most of the time -- and when he doesn't, he either intends to or tries to on hearing its import to me or to us. I can trust that, which is so awe inspiring. I'm much better than I would have thought at phrasing requests plainly and positively. I hardly ever think about whether he knows me or not; that hardly seems the point, somehow. He loves me and has agreed to share a life. As long as I keep up my end of the bargain and keep tabs on myself, then he'll know me as well as I make the effort to teach him. As well as I make the effort to teach myself.

Everything else fades to background. For me, having a kid is like living in a land of Platonic forms. It's all the essential building blocks of life, evolutionarily speaking. Caring for an infant, securing a partner to support us, sleeping, eating, walking.

There are friends, too. They bring food and ooh and aah appropriately over our sweet girl. There is the tacit acknowledgment that I am now, suddenly and irrevocably, a woman, where before I was playacting at it. Now there's no question I'll be 50 and round and pudgy and worried about hosting visitors one day, as my mom does.

As for Umea herself, she's amazing. Utterly charming. Mecurial, with a twinkle in her eye from the first week. People commented on it. They tell me all the time she looks like she has stories to tell. She's got a great voice already -- low and pleasing. Even her noises are professional-sounding, as though she's a real performer already. She's got a temper, and she doesn't have much transition room between humor and anger. She can go from a smiling session with me to unconsolable crying in the space of a few breaths. But she's also in love with the world already, staring intently at everything for minute on minute. She's got achingly long fingers, long feet and long toes, a cute pug nose, rosy cheeks, high forhead, great, blue eyes that are so intense as to be disconcerting -- people tell me that, too. And lots of dark hair that always elicits a comment. We don't know where that came from, and yes, we think it will change.

I wish, somehow, that I could love her more, but it feels like I'm waiting for something. For her to grow up more, or to become conscious of herself and therefore able to differentiate herself from me, or for a promise that she's not going anywhere? I'm not sure. Maybe all these things. Maybe love and trust take time. I do notice that reuniting with her after we're separated for a while gets me closer to feelings of adoration than anything else. Maybe I just need perspective, a little distance to see the picture clearly and know -- this is love. This is our family. This is it.