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 28, 2013

but...

"I'm sorry, but it was really busy today"

An hour after she had stopped by and been unmistakenly rude, I was still smarting a little. I had only had a quick question, a question I had taken great pains to communicate clearly and politely, knowing how crazy things had been for everyone, and it had been communicated, quite clearly, that the question was annoying and possibly stupid without the slightest professional and personal courtesy.

When I ran into her, an hour later, after a few slightly friendlier words, she offered the above apology.

She had apologized. All better.

But something inside me still stewed. She had said sorry. But...it did not feel like an apology. It did not feel like someone who genuinely realized that they had been inappropriate or unkind. It simply felt like an explanation, a reasoning thrown at me to insure that I did not unreasonably find her inconsiderate.

And my immediate thought was "shit, I was busy too, and I managed to treat you with patience and respect" but what I said was "no, no, I get it, sometimes it gets crazy around here". Implying somehow that it was only natural that they would be rude, or short, or inappropriate when things got hard or busy, implying that the actual thing that bothered me was petty and insignificant in the context of their own suffering.

I milled this over in my head. This happened a lot, especially with the individual in question, and more often than I like I was stopped, just short of satiated, by the phrase "I am sorry, but..."

I  know, I know, I am a stickler for semantics.

But there is something about an apology with a qualifier that always feels just little less than apologetic.

I thought about the wording. What would have made a difference? Had she said "I am sorry, it was really busy today and I was inpatient as a result" ...would that have helped? Had she skipped the explanation, a simple "I am sorry I was rude earlier" would that have been enough?

I think the answer is, surprisingly yes.

Now, understand, I realize the explanatory part was probably offered as a way to clarify why she was 'rude, to insure I knew it was not personal or the result of an interpersonal conflict. But by adding the but" I also couldn't help to but to feel it was intended to illicit empathy.  And intended, on some level, to absolve a certain level of blame before I even had a chance to consider whether she was, quite actually, forgiven.

See, there is something about an apology with a qualifier attached that sends a particular message "I screwed up, and when I tell you why, you will have to understand and forgive me"

And I don't know that this is fair to the person deserving the apology.

Because here is the thing: we offer apologies because we feel bad, because we recognize a transgression we have performed, and because we hope the offended will realize, once we apologize, that we did not intend, offense, and that we value them enough to ask for forgivenes. But that is what we are doing ASKING for forgiveness and ACKNOWLEDGING our culpability.

And by qualifying, you are dispersing blame and even, just a little bit, sending a subtextual message to the person receiving the apology: that there was a good reason you erred and only a person completely lacking in understanding would blame someone, still, with good reason. Which is to say, you are not, any longer, entirely asking for forgiveness.


Words are just words. But they are all that. And the tendency to twist and turn a simple phrase to mean something other than it should is, sometimes, hard to resist.

But next time you hear the words "sorry" begin to come out of your mouth consider this: what was your transgression? And do you believe the person you are apologizing to was wronged? Do you believe they are due an apology?

If the answer is, quite actually, no...if you find you are using sorry to explain your situation, or clarify the context or just as an excuse to bitch and moan, consider biting that words back.

But if you are actually sorry, consider apologizing for exactly what it is you did wrong...and leave it at that. No qualifiers needed. Because doesn't the recipient deserve just that?

Which is to say, think about whose feelings you are really protecting when those two words pop out of your mouth

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.

Jul 10, 2013

You think you are helping, but...

"Go for a walk"
"Acupuncture"
"Massage"
"Castor Oil!"
"Sex"

Anyone who has ever been pregnant and has eagerly anticipated the end of this blessed time has heard these, and more, in the counsel of "how to bring on labor."

In fact, I'd venture, anyone who has ever been pregnant has heard a bevvy of advice on how to handle every symptom in the book, some very useful, some less so.

I am very fond of shared wisdom. I think secrecy, shame, discomfort in the variety of issues that plague our bodies and minds only serves to increase suffering. Likewise, I think, without open exchange of ideas that old cures, commonly used and often very intelligent solutions get lost in the shuffle. Old wives tales exist for a reason, and it is always fun to re learn that chicken soup actually DOES help the common cold every 25 years or so.

So I think advice, when openly solicited, and sorely needed, definitely has its place. I even think, sometimes, we need to help those too shy to help themselves. The world is hard, and it's embarrassing to have problems. Sometimes too embarrassing to ask for help.

So all of THAT being said, I'd like to discuss, just a bit, the way advice can give just as much shame, discomfort, and misguided information as a world of silence.

This week I have heard:
"You need to go to acupuncture"
"Walk more, I walked that baby right out of me"
"A massage will do it! You just need to be relaxed"
...and so on.

 And as I heard more and more of this several thoughts crystalized:

The first was this response....
Most people who were not induced chemically don't know what brought on their labor. Not really. Some people wake up in labor and others find their water breaking in the galleria. You seldom here them proffering advice to go to sleep or go shopping. And if you walked all the time or went to acupuncture a lot you were more likely to go into labor when these things happened. Or maybe it was happenstance. Or maybe not. But mostly you just don't really know. More than likely what brought on your labor was a full gestation period and your baby being ready to rock. I am sure all of these things helped your head space and moved things along a bit. Once the process has started walking is well documented for moving things along. But I know people who tried all of these things. For days. Without results.

But what is the harm right? All of these things have some history of helping and isn't it good to feel empowered, to do healthy things for your body?

Or is it? Because as I heard more and more of this I began to realize something else:
That I was becoming self conscious about NOT going into labor. That the sense that I was going to go into labor "late" was somehow reflecting on me poorly, somehow revealing my own laziness at not walking enough, or being relaxed enough, or not doing all the important holistic things that would let my baby know it was safe enough to come out.

Basically, I began to feel like I had not earned a fast, healthy, timely labor.

And yes, I realize some part of this in an unhealthy internalization of anxiety, and a propensity to take things the wrong way.

But, also, pregnancy is a sensitive time, and I don't think I am alone.

You only have to spend a minimal amount of time on chat boards, informational websites, read books and blogs, to see how much guilt, anxiety and confusion surrounds pregnancy and birth. There are whole c-section help groups online where women go over all the things they feel like they or their provider did wrong to get them to this predicament. And, understand, these aren't women admitting to a drug problem or some other very poorly advised medical practice. These are women wondering if, after two days of labor, they didn't try hard enough, if they didn't ask enough questions, if they somehow did not earn a vaginal birth. And then there are the women who question the multitude of other complications, and not so complicated hurdles that come with carrying a baby into this world.

So I guess what I am saying is: done correctly, information can be powerful. It can empower. But administered in other ways it can carry the flip side of this message: because if there is something you can do to make something happen, and that thing isn't happening, what is that saying about the person who is not achieving? That they didn't try hard enough in some important way?

So look, I am, today, 40 weeks pregnant. This is the average gestation period of a baby. Hopefully she will decide to join us soon, maybe in an hour, maybe in a day, maybe in a week. At this point anything can happen, and I am happy to do what I can to keep myself  and my baby healthy and sane as we wait for that day.

Because the only goal of this, at this point, is to have a healthy baby with the healthiest birth possible. Why else would I walk around for 9-10 months voluntarily feeling this way? And while I really appreciate that you walked your baby right out of you or can guarantee labor followed by the glorious intestinal cramping that castor oil promises, I am skeptical about the true results: having a baby when she is good and healthy and ready. But I won't tell you that. I will congratulate you on a beautiful healthy baby and a job well done.

So I guess the real point is: I have been a bit of a know it all my entire life. Way too invasive, way too prone to share something. And it really is meant with the best intentions: because I really don't want everyone else to have to learn the hard way what it took me embarrassing pains to discover.

But it took this pregnancy to finally realize how damaging and obnoxious that can be.

Because, in the end, you can communicate accidentally much more than just your information. You can communicate judgement and transmit subtle messages of achievement, creating anxiety where none should be found.

So I guess I am saying: if that piece of information is just too great to keep to yourself you might want to sensitively feel out the depth of someone's knowledge and their desire for advice.

But sometimes you just have to trust that intelligent well informed people have access to information, and are already using it, or not using it accordingly.

Jul 7, 2013

on writing

I don't understand why anyone would try to write

I don't mean this is in some sort of degrading or falsely provocative fashion

I understand why people DO write, and I understand why I write

But I have noticed a trend of websites, movements, blogs and so forth in which people take on challenges, or begin a writing ...regimen, in the seeming hope of providing more words, and this baffles me.

I have, at times, made myself write, told myself "this month you write", but this was always because sometimes I forget about the things that make me feel better. Sometimes I question whether it is a good idea to really say the things I want to say, put the proverbial pen to paper, and get out some of the uglier, more confusing thoughts I have. Mostly I question whether it is a good idea for others to read what I write. That last blog post I wrote, for example: I feel guilty already. For all the friends who will feel shorted by it's loneliness, all the people who will feel bad if I feel bad, or charged with righting any wrong feeling they note another experiencing.

Bit I did it anyway. Why? Because the moment I pushed "publish", a weight flew from my shoulders, and I felt much much better.

So yes, in complete contradiction to my opening statement, sometimes I need to make myself write things and I understand why that can take some forcing. Sometimes there is a push to hit that "new blog" button or to open up a new document.

But I never, ever have to try to write.

So back to my confusion: why the push to be expressive in word? Why the movement to force lyric or prose, continuously, as a hobby, as a quota, as a goal unto itself?

I ponder this in the same way I ponder why I would suddenly take violin lessons so I could work my way to twinkle twinkle little star.

Which is not to say that new pursuits aren't their own reward, or that creative endeavor cannot be inherently rewarding.  I think little is more rewarding that just this.

But more, I am speaking to this: I have no true desire to hold a violin, and I don't have the slightest belief that I will grow or express more if I learn to play one.
And in general, I think most people who feel compelled to pick up a paint brush, or suddenly learn a new instrument, have always wanted to paint or already are driven to make music, and a good many have done something similar for a good deal of their lives.

But somehow, I suspect, that writing is different. Because it is used in so many ways, and because most people can speak, and understand words, and can spell and type, because they are already armed with the rudimentary skills, they are more likely to feel compelled to use them in a less than natural fashion. They are more likely to think "I am a writer" because the learning curve is so much less steep, and so much less alien.

And sometimes this is wonderful, because a new writer is born at 30, 40, 50. A great talent is discovered, or just as wonderfully, a new mode of cleansing expression is explored.

And yet...and yet sometimes it just feels academically macho. Bloated or self congratulatory. Sometimes I wonder if it isn't a gluttony of expression: the intellectual equivalent of going out, every day, for a meal at an over priced mediocre diner instead of saving up for that meal that really, truly thrills.

I wonder if it isn't just wasted energy or misleadingly draining for those who partake. A mile marker that gets them no closer to where they want to be.  If they don't experience the rush and the purge of just writing when and how they feel like it does it accomplish, anything, truly?

Or maybe it all feels the same. Maybe everyone feels better when they write and they just need to try. Like cardiovascular health it is a universal means to an end.

No idea.

Which brings me back to my original stance: I just don't understand.

the princess and the pea

we all know that the highest incident of suicide happens around the holidays.

for many people this is confusing, and shocking, and completely against intuition, but for others it makes perfect sense

I have no right to claim understanding of the motivations of those who hit such depths of dispair...what drives a person to spiral to that level, to say goodbye to everyone and everything familiar is...personal, to say the least, mysterious to all that don't live in their head on most levels

but I think, sometimes, I begin to understand how the most joyous, celebratory, and momentous occasions can, ultimately, be the most lonely, alienating, and halting in their tracks

the other day I read this phrase on a pregnancy site "being pregnant is one of the most joyous and wonderful experiences of a woman's life" and I didn't even make it to the rest of the article. in fact I want to say I laughed out loud, but mostly I just stared.

I have no found pregnancy to be joyous or wonderful. I have, in fact, found it to be confusing, alienating, uncomfortable, and at it's best, at times, exciting and hopeful. But mostly I have found it to be frustrating, anxious, and more often than not, lonely.

Understand, I do not, by most counts, live a lonely life. I have many friends and acquaintances. I generally have at least a few social engagements every week. I am around people all the time.

But what is that phrase: alone in the crowd? The other day I sat there contemplating the warm familial rush you see represented on TV, in movies, around major life events, and the chasm I sense when I look at my growing belly and it's possibilities and realized that the last time I felt this way was the period approaching my wedding, and the way I generally feel on birthdays, on Jewish holidays, during times that I mostly associate with tradition.

Because, in many ways, though I have much in the way of a social life, I have something much more inconsistent, disfragmented, and confusing when it comes to "tradition".

And when I hear friends complaining about their sister always being over, their mother in law visiting for months on end, their relatives taking over their weddings, their obnoxious cousin ruling their shower, all I can contemplate is their overwhelming lack of gratitude, their complete immunity to the safety this claustrophobic world provides.

And yes, they say, you can build your own family, create your own traditions, synthesize your own annoying sister in law and favorite uncle. And, for the most part, I believe this to be true.

But I think, in a world steeped in tradition, where media shows every bride surrounded by bridesmaids and every baby born into a rich circle of parents, grandparents, cousins, uncles, and recently familied best friends, the cognitive dissonance can be deafening when you very independently find yourself making your own wedding decorations, or designing your own nursery, or packing your bag for the hospital and interviewing post partum doulas.

And, objectively, I don't even know if you can say the latter isn't somehow better, more freeing, but it is, most certainly, for some, more lonely.

There are, now, many many websites that deal with holidays blues, post partum depression, and all the surprisingly common emotional trials that come with the best times in life. Thank heavens for that. But that doesn't change expectations, and it doesn't prevent us from wanting, expecting and never not hoping that each peak will be solely beautiful and happy.

Perhaps this is a good thing too, everyone should seek new and beautiful heights, and are bound to be stunned, to grow from the beautiful view....but the air can feel awfully thin on the highest peak for some, and sometimes it can get pretty dangerous if you aren't tethered to a whole party of people who know that, indeed, altitude sickness is both common, and normal,