Sep 11, 2014

Happy

I've always felt a little guilty, but I shudder when posed with unendingly positive people.
The "don't worry, be happy" mindset makes me want to gag, or giggle, or both.

Don't get me wrong, I want to be happy. I am, at heart, positive, hopeful. My chosen profession, in fact, depends upon the optimistic and hopeful belief that everyone can be healthier and happier, with work and resources well distributed.

I also cherish the notion of less weighty, more euphoric experiences. A day on the beach, and night on the town? Sign me up! I'd love to giggle until dawn.

But no, I am not always happy, and no, I don't feel like I should expose myself only to driven positive ideas that push me to be all that I can be. I don't believe every day will be beautiful, I don't believe every door closed is an open window (well, umm, maybe, perhaps). Sometimes things are hard or the weather is shit or I am exhausted and I don't believe that I should ignore every nagging sad or confusing or frustrating thought as dead weight.

I used to feel weird about this. Wonder if it was rooted in some kind of fear driven cynicism, caused by the sarcastic hipster demeanor that was letting everyone know I was too smart to hope, too wise to believe.

I no longer believe that.
Because I am not cynical all the time and I DO want to today and any day that can be to be peaceful and happy and gorgeous and fun.

But I do not believe every day can be. And that is fine. And I am not always happy. And that is fine.

And here is why: because I believe all emotions, all honestly rendered and critically examined reactions have value?

Jealousy? That can be a sign of things missing in your life, elements you need and have not been focusing on. Or maybe it draws attention to something you did not realize you valued.

Anger? Maybe something or someone is not working in your life. Maybe you were truly, deeply wronged, and need to work on that not happening again? Maybe your intrinsic sense of self worth is asking you to look around and figure out how to be more at peace, and maybe that is a voice worth listening?

Sad? well, there are a million different reasons this might be the case, many legitimate. Perhaps you are mourning a loss, maybe you are experiencing a trauma, or simply finding things difficult.  Integrating and understanding the things that are making you less than happy allows you to acknowledge the value of things you might have lost or be missing.

And on and on.

But to put it another way: When I was young, life felt much more like a battle. Between good and bad, between happy and sad, negating one with another in a holy war that would end, I imagine, with my walking on sunshine with health, wealth and a beautiful family.
Now I recognize things are not black and white, not that this or that. These things take their texture from the full range of human emotions and reactions, and that peace and beauty has more to do with balance and integration, than rejection and negation.
And so I have come to find intense determined happiness, smiling when we are down, insistence of rejection of the less fair emotions as a negative experience, indeed, an ugly instinct. A head in the sand instinct, intrinsically false, and finally, one that guides one away from growth, discovery, and yes, true happiness.

Saved

I've listened time and again to their stories of the people they have saved...the sad, lost souls, drug addicts, what have you, who were lost, screwed, just totally fucked until they stepped in and showed them a better way of life and led them away from their imminent demised. Some of them truly are saved, they go on to live richer lives, grateful for their riches, grateful. Others, less so. They falter, they fall, they go back, or change, or move on. They are ungrateful, they are ingrates. They do not feel the sacrifices made to bring them out of their destitute lives, they do not understand the love and struggle their benefactor endured to change them.

No. I am not talking about a priest. I am not talking about a missionary. I am not talking about a deity.

Oh the ugly American. Oh the hidden superhero, driven to save instead of help, fancied, in their own mine, a hero and victor.

Understand, I think the desire to help people in beautiful. The desire to be part of a solution in world in which there are so many ways to be part of a problem is important, moving and I wish I saw it even more often than I do.
There are a great many ways people need help and a great many ways you can be there for people in need.

But that help needs to be rooted in respect, driven by less a selfless desire to give than a driving need to better your world and help everyone reach their potential. It needs to begin with the understanding that there is no saving, no trash grabbed before it reaches the incinerator, no soul pinched before it descends to hell in your holy little hands. Help begins with allowing people the tools they need to move themselves where they need and want to be. And that is it.

To save someone is an entirely different manner. To fancy oneself a savior, inherently ugly. It is a patriarchal step towards ruin, in which you see yourself as not just equipped with the tools to help, but somehow better, somehow inherently in the position to offer grace on your own terms, in scape of your own value system.

There is a Vonnegut quote that postulates that evil lives in mans desire to hate and believe that G-d hates along with him. It is that ego that allows man to make war gladly, to punish without reserve or limit.
I'd postulate that the need to believe that your works, your love, your desires are equally holy, equally without question and endowed with unending power is just as ugly. And that it is ego, unadulterated, to want a minion of those who are eternally gracious, who owe your their happiness, or who owe you at all.
And finally, that you should always question, you should always know: you might be strong, you might be lucky, but you are just that, a strong lucky human, and it is nice of you to help.

Or, to put it better.

We don't need another hero.

Do you work, and do it well. Then go home, relax, and find peace in the good you do and the gratitude you owe, as well.

Aug 25, 2014

Don't hate the player, hate the game

What I hated most about it was the game...the gimmicky bait and twist aspect of it all.
The make up and heels and maybe I am interested and it is my job to make you interested even if I am not to prove that I am worth something to myself and others game.

I am talking about dating of course.

And, ofcourse, I never played it like that. I was more a knee high boots and a grimace and I don't fucking care if you call me tomorrow sort of player, but I guess, in the end, I played it, if somewhat poorly, none the less.

The thing I could never get around were the subtextual rules. On the surface it should have been obvious that we were all just there to meet new people and hopefully someone we could love or like and make new friends and lovers.
But there was always something more than that, because where egos are fragile other agendas were bound to brew. And for every lovely (or not so lovely, lets be honest) person just looking to interview and select a new partner or friend, there were others looking for followers, looking for fans.

And so I find myself in the dating game once again.
Only it is different this time. It is the new mom dating game where we try to meet and greet and seduce new moms into being your new BFFs so you have someone to call in the middle of the night when your kid won't sleep or someone to meet at the park and drink beer out of coffee mugs while wave at your adorable littles (actually, I have never done, that, but now I am wonderying whhhyyyy)

And this is just as hard, because what I lack in charm I make up for in breastilage, and in the past that got me about as far as I can go.

But lets face it, in this new crowd cleavage only goes so far (hell, all new moms have cleavage, right, if even for a scant time) and figuring out what will bond and amuse is even farther as we discuss strollers and baby carries and books and naptimes.

But what gets me still are the collectors, the prancers, and the namecard carriers.
For every well exposed set of legs that stole the show back in the day there are now the high end diaper bags and DIY wraps and hand made snacks that show you are even more super mom than the rest.  And these people aren't looking for friends. They aren't looking for kindred spirits to soar and topple with, to gossip with and to show up, at the park, in yesterdays clothing and some whacked out hair and a gallon of coffee while they giggle as their kids toddle about the yard. They are looking for fans. Admirers of their parenting style and accomplishments.

But like a singles club it is hard to resist their lure as they collect your number and throw it on the pile and you wonder: was a genuine collection made or is this mom just looking for another name to know, another person to wave to in a group... and, worse, it is hard not, just a bit, to compete with creatures, dressing your baby just so, feeding them organic snackies and showing just how much you care.

So here is the thing. I am looking for love. And maybe a few one night stands. Metaphorically, of course.
I don't need any fans and I need, even less, someone to envy and emulate.
You'll find me at the play yard. Amazing beautiful ridiculous toddler climbing everything and anything as I try to stop her while not spilling my coffee and keeping most of her clothing on. That is me, and I'm not much to look at, but my intentions are pure.

Jun 19, 2014


If I were to ask you to drop one thing to day it would be the qualified apology.

 

That is the “I am sorry, but”

 

I mean, unless it is in the vein of “I am sorry, but I need to ask you to move so I can get my wheelchair around…”

Or something of the ilk.

 

But the next time you find yourself muttering an apology, followed by the word “but”…

Ask yourself, what is the purpose of the “but?”

 

Are you giving context for your transgression? If so, perhaps you might consider dropping the “but” and making it clear your apology is authentic by simply using “and” or nothing at all.

NOT: I am sorry I am late, but I  was caught in traffic (thereby absolving oneself of blame and clarifying a certain lack of personal concern) BUT: I am sorry I was late. I got caught in traffic and next time will allow more time to get here.

NOT: I am sorry I was rude, but I am having a bad day (thereby clarifying that your behavior is outside of your own jurisdiction and quite actually the fault of an outside party, not to mention that you are not willing to mitigate such behavior in order to prevent another person from having the same bad day) BUT: I am sorry I was rude, I am having a bad day and should not have taken that out on you”

 

See the distinction.


Or better yet, if context provides little comfort or clarity, just drop the details, after all.

“I am sorry I was late, I should have planned for traffic”

“I am sorry I was rude, I shouldn’t take my bad day out on other people”

 

AND, more saliently, if you are not sorry, best not to utter words that mean that. If sorry if being used as a disclaimer (I am sorry for violating this societal norm, but as you can see, even though I am aware of it, I actually just don’t give a fuck about it it!) then just drop it entirely. Wear your devil may care attitude proudly, because at that point by apologizing you are just clarifying that another’s possible discomfort is their own problem, one you are aware probably exists, but which comes secondarily to your own and you are being patronizing by letting them know you considered their feelings, then decided not to care.

Apr 17, 2014

track no 5

the record is less broken than scratched
you ask and ask and ask and you always have questions, why so many questions? why are you always complaining and why can't you just let it go
but to you it is the same question, over and over again
until you decide to answer the question yourself with a new question that you already know the answer to

you skip that part of the album and remind yourself that it wasn't your favorite song, but you still hear the opening chords every time that other tune ends

Someone commented, once, that nothing prepares you for the smile your child gives you when you walk into a room.  They were right.  Observing that huge beautiful smile, inspired simply by my presence, floors me every time.

But it is nothing compared to the tears.

And I know how negative that sounds, so I will phrase it another way: nothing  prepares you for the experience of having your child burst into tears when you leave the room.

Because, see, hopefully by the time you have a child you have had the experience of another person’s joy at your entering a room. If you are lucky, and have chosen wisely, you have created a life in which a great deal of people smile at your entrance. But unless you keep company among the enormously emotionally unstable, you probably have not experienced much panic or despair at your simple and temporary exit.

But babies..holy shit:  you walk away, you turn around, you enter the room and neglect to immediately pick them up: waterworks. At the moment my daughter is going through that developmental phase where she is more shy and more insecure, and as a result she bawls almost every time I leave. Seriously, unless we distract her completely:  wailing, and I assure you, it is crushing.

And this is what I was unprepared for.

And I find that the elements of what makes this so moving also encapsulate a lot of what has taken me by surprise about parenting:

 Babies are fragile and dependent: Physically, emotionally, they are new. Everything is confusing on some level and as much as their bodies are awkward and soft and open to injury, their feelings are raw. This alone gives me constant anxiety, and I wasn’t expecting this, I wasn’t expecting to walk around picturing the myriad of dangers that could constantly come her way, imagining the variety of ways I could fail to protect her from harm, or even, inadvertently hurt her.

Babies are open and expressive, with no filter:   I am so used to the composure and reserve of adults who hide their emotions or manage their expectations that by extension, I am not used to acknowledging the effect I have on others. I have been shocked by this, over and over again. I simply cannot believe how important I am to her. And there is a lesson in this as well, because there have, no doubt, been people who have been saddened by elements of my disappearance, or by my perceived rejection, but they have done me a solid by not making me that my problem too. Or have they? In the end as much as we love to tell people that they are responsible for their own emotions, we are undeniable interwoven and interdependent and is best to remember that your actions effect others.

Babies are resilient: Because while my child does, indeed, burst into tears every time I leave, she also can be cheered up, within seconds, by the most seemingly trivial thing. The world is ending until she sees the dog or her own image or a finger puppet. Knowing this comforts me and reminds me that wallowing, finding too much importance in her tears, and more to the point, not trusting her recover is just not fair. She is fragile, but she is also strong, and as important as I am to her, I am not her world. And she sees so many things that inspire her, inflate her spirit, allow her to move along, that it is, frankly, amazing.

Love is more simple, and more complicated, than we think: This is the big one. Of course, everyone is right. The love I feel for her was wholly expected and yet still has shocked me with its depth and encompassing nature. But the way she loves me back has what has truly shocked me.  The chasm between or physical bodies is a presence that cannot be explained and is sometimes confusing. So much of our adult lives is about commonality and practicality and we base the love and bonding we experience with others on things like common tastes, or intellectual achievement or shared goals. But in the end, while all of these things are important, they are not as tied to the essential core of love, which is more elusive, more ephemeral.  I have never had a conversation with my daughter, and I won’t for many more years. Her preference may prove to differ from mine on every little thing. And this is wholly irrelevant to me when I consider her love, and it is not something she is considering when she bursts into tears or when I turn around for one more kiss because she does. The innate and powerful love we feel for each other reminds me of the intangible aspects that makes me love others in my life.  It reminds me that I cannot gather information and credentials and facts and details and build love. I can, perhaps, use these things to engender trust and understand another’s aim, but love will be born of other things.

 

 

Oct 17, 2013

average

some people have a way of making you feel decidedly average.

and in the interest of avoiding a screamfest lets just put aside...here...the conversation of how nobody can make you feel a feeling that you don't give them permission to help you feel. lets just pin it down with all the other teethgritting psychology that focuses the entirety of the blame inward, okay?

so yes. average. not quite bad, just awe inspiringly uninspiring. comments are dropped, jokes are made, ongoing notations of the things you do that are pretty much expected, less than extraordinary, generally underwhelming.

I assume they think they are just stating the obvious: facts you have obviously accepted in the wake of their unbelievable obviousness, or maybe they are under the impression that there is shared intimacy in hashing over our mundane failings.

but I'll tell you a little secret: no one likes to reminded that they are not an amazing person.

and I don't know why the notion of being average is so demoralizing, but it is. maybe because most of us are trying, and some of us are trying pretty hard, and it is exhausting to imagine that with all of this hard work we are just bobbing up around the 50% line.

look, I know I am not a beauty queen, and I know there are people who are smarter and more successful than me. I am not special.

But the thing is: to me, I am. Me, my family, my friends, they matter to me and that makes them special. And to have someone you care about make it so very obvious that whatever significant intimacy you share have doesn't endow you a similarly special sheen is ...depressing. It makes it clear how glaring your averageness is.

I've said it before: love is your 15 minutes of fame. most people don't get to go on TV and wow the world but they can be the coolest, biggest, most awesome thing to those who care about them. they are important, and that can be so much more than average.

the human ego is a delicate thing and sometimes we owe it to eachother to tell the lie we mean; that we are glorious beautiful superstarts bringing our A game to the table. at least in our shared protected universe.

Sep 18, 2013

out of nothing at all

the strangest thing about having a child is that you create a whole new being to love, almost instantly

and although I like to joke that an infant is less like a child and more like a pet, the reality is that they spring into your life loaded with an emotional gravity unparalleled

but what mostly stands out is how rare it is to find new love, and how gradually it normally builds and how weird it is to almost instantly have strong attachment, a bond with gravitas, when it didn't exist before

to be honest it is both beautiful and terrifying. I have felt love before but it always developed gradually, steadily, in a manner that dulled the peripheral fear of loss, rejection, the knowledge of the kind of impending effort all things that matter eventually require

but bam, there she is, in the world, screaming and cooing and unable to tell you anything clearly and you love her and you are batshit crazy with fear and can see every danger from a mile away, every threat that could take this love because if it could grow so instantly, who says something couldn't take it just as quickly

or maybe I am just a dark dark creature that way

but also, well shit, it makes you want to grow love everywhere, because love is amazing, and well, that is the point



Jul 14, 2013

So, the moment I made the appointment for the induction I felt relieved.

And then, an hour later, I felt like crap.

I can't really explain it.

No wait, I can.

I have something to admit, for years I have (secretly, quietly) scoffed at women who were so mournfully wounded by their birthing experience. I just couldn't understand it. I refer, of course, women who had very healthy babies and were able to recover fully in a reasonable time period. Not tragedies or horrifically harmful birth. But I never could quite understand how women who wanted a natural birth but had to have a c section, or who thought they could swing it drugless but then couldn't  and found a need for an epidural couldn't just move on, why they harbored such attachment to a process so clearly outside their control.

And on some level I do still hold to the belief that the whole point of this experience is to have a healthy baby, and that believing you can do so your way, and only your way, is just unhealthy way of trying to control reality. The belief that you can control this process seems a little too full of hubris for me, and I think holding on to the resentment and heartbreak of bringing your baby into the world in a less than perfect fashion is a little selfish, self punishing, and mostly self involved.

Which is why I scheduled the induction. Because even though a part of me was thinking it was silly and everything was healthy and that this was a perfectly normal gestation period, and that I wanted to wait it out, it only took one good (and totally unnecessary, it turned out) scare with the babies health and a few tiny statistics around still birth  and older moms to make me think that maybe waiting until labor was selfish and a poor risk.

But still. And again, a humbling moment as I regret every unnecessary and self congratulatory piece of advice I have forced on a pregnant woman and every judgement I have passed on a woman self evaluating the birth.

Because here is the thing: it is ABOUT the endgame. It is about the baby. It is about their health. Of course it is. Why else would anyone go through birth, let alone pregnancy, if it wasn't.
But it is also, in the end, it is also still about you. The woman. The pregnant woman. Because you still exist. You still matter, and even if you are entering a world in which a dependent is now your top priority and you will die for this baby and yada yada yada, the reality is that you are about to go through  shit ton of pain, frustration and confusion only to entering an equally confusing time. And for your own mental health some part of you knows it is important that your needs, your well being, that YOU don't disappear.

And I think that was what got to me in the end. I could stomach and was actually not at all scared of the birthing process when it involved me pushing a baby out that was ready to come. When I would have been partially laboring at home and at least moderately in control of the process for a bit and when I believed I would have a say and a presence. But the second I looked at the list of drugs I might get, the variety of interventions this might entail, the moment I understood that birth was about to become a process that I couldn't even understand well enough to advocate for myself during the process, I felt myself disappear. I felt the irrelevance of my own pain, self control and role in the birth. And I know that is an exaggeration, I know that is a big leap: but you tell me, as a non medical professional, handed a pamphlet that lists drugs you will administered and procedures you will experience, how in control do you feel? How present and guiding do you feel in a process that you can only google to begin to understand?

And this...this made me feel more despair than I have ever felt. Ever.

And forgive me now while I make another huge leap, but I can't help but to feel this emblematic in some many ways of what women  experience on other levels.

Gender roles have changed so rapidly, so constantly, for the last century that I think both men and women struggle to find their place, to identify who they are and what they need outside their chromosomes. I think women don't have the whole market share on that. But I suspect they have the monopoly, still...

And you see that more when it comes to babies and birthin babies and even deciding to never birth babies. I mean, look at all the laws the govern pregnancy, preventing pregnancy, stopping pregnancy, and birthing and it is hard not to conclude that society views a woman's right to control her own destiny as less a given then a mans, and that much of that roots in her role as a  mother

But you begin your life and live your life, at first, as a woman just finding ways to become you and make your world what you need it to be, sharing it with others etc. The reality that you may, some day, become pregnant, for most modern women is not just secondary, but deeply abstract and removed from your self image and self awareness.

And then you become pregnant and something very strange happens. You somehow become more special. People look at you differently: reverence, affection, respect and even fear wafts off of strangers and people you love. People treat you like you are more fragile, more important, more dear. And some part of you knows this is not you at all, but the function you have taken on. And the reality that this new role, even if you have been CEO of a company or a world leader before, is the thing that makes you special right now is confusing. It is heady and heart warming but also alienating because it has so very little do with you and who you actually are as a human, and is just some primal archetypal reaction to something anyone can do, from the dumbest meanest woman on the planet to the most brilliant saint.

So there you are, a living subset to a new whole that doesn't even exist yet. And if you are a questioning sort some small part of your brain can't help but to wonder what happens when the pregnancy ends. Where do YOU stand when this being that is so eclipsing makes their actual entrance?

I fully understand but cannot yet comprehend that having a child creates new priorities. That this is, for most, a beautiful and important progression in which selflessness is an important element is only an intellectual fact for me for me at the moment.

I believe, on many levels, that the goal of living is to grow and understand that so very much of our mentality, our biology still pushes us towards breeding, towards being vessels to bring new life into the world.

But I think we have also evolved beyond a point in which that is all we are. We produce offspring so they can live a full life and we expect them to live a life beyond the offspring they, themselves produce.  And as a woman having a girl baby who will be a woman I want her to have a holistically fulfilling life beyond making babies.

And I want this for myself. Still. Because I think it is important for my health, for her health, and for everyone who cares about me. And I believe I can have it.

But  some small part of me now understands that this includes staying present, staying important during the birthing process, during the days that follow into motherhood, during that time when your needs are absorbed by your child.

So I guess what I am saying is: I am scared. Not scared of the pain or the discomfort or inconvenience. Although all those things make me anxious, nervous, of course. But in the end they seem inevitable, and I have never believed that childbirth might be pleasant. Isaid it before and I'll say it again: I suspect it will suck and then it will be done with. And now I just suspect it will such more and longer. Which is harder but not impossible to stomach. But I guess some small part of me believed it would still...be mostly mine. Mostly me. Me and her. Me. and then me and her.
And as this process becomes more automated, more confusing, more medical and goal oriented I see it is, quite actually all along has been her, then me in the pecking order of things. Not just in the minutiae, but in the larger broader details of my own life and those who care for me. And that scares the hell out of me. In some very good growth oriented ways, but in some other more disconcerting ways. Because the strength to have a presence, especially in a world that has a difficult time respecting women in a multifaceted manner, is scary, and it seems even more daunting when your priorities so massively shift.

And I am just now understanding how we lose our ability to face and change that reality in some of the least suspecting places.