Thursday, November 29, 2012

Things changing and the truth

I'm afraid that my November task got derailed.

I'm afraid that instead of successfully dedicating this time to compassion and actively being kind, I've turned inward, instead.  It's been a wholly negative thing, folding more into my myself. 

A lot of attention came my way, all at once.  It's funny, because, if you asked my parents and siblings, they would bill me as something of an attention seeker.  I've always kind of believed it about myself, that I yearned to be seen and heard on a grand scale.  It turns out, though, that getting a lot of attention rattled me.  It made me feel exposed and vulnerable, and made me realize that, as much as I believe in telling the truth of my life, even when it's hard or unflattering, I have a fear of being vulnerable.

The past few weeks have been an anxious time for me.  I have felt pressured and challenged in big ways.  At the hardest moments, my life has begun to feel unwieldy, like it was expanding out of my control.  It has been so hard, sending my thoughts and ideas out into far reaches, where they haven't been before. 

When I write here, on my blog, I am sharing my experience, for the most part, with women who believe in things, who think about things deeply and who have a wide and creative view of the world.  Many of you are mothers.  Many of you believe in the process of struggle.  When I write my words here, while they aren't always met with total agreement, they are always considered thoughtfully and respected.  I feel grateful beyond my wildest dreams for you, the women who have surrounded me, listened to me, and shared your stories with me, your thoughts and your fears and who have helped me to feel understood.  I love you.  You make my world a wonderful place. 

You have given me a place where it feels safe to be vulnerable. 

It has been hard, sending my love and thoughts and fears out into the public realm.  It's been hard, writing about having babies and losing loved ones, about struggling with my self-perception and my hopes for my daughters... writing about the things that make me what I am, and to have people pass by me with barely a glance.  To have them misinterpret and criticize me.  It has been hard to open myself up to the world, because the world is a struggling thing.  The world is full of good and bad.  

I feel like I have been fighting some feelings, that I need to acknowledge them.  I feel as though I'm supposed to be able to automatically focus on the positive, that by getting such a wonderful opportunity and not feeling totally positive, it might be perceived that I'm not being grateful, that I'm not appreciating what I've been given.  I'm not going to fight with that, anymore.  I'm just going to admit that yes, I'm getting something I've always wanted, and it's been hard,and scary for me. 

That is not all there is to it, though.

It has also been amazing to find more of you.  It's been amazing to hear from you, from mommies who are struggling, from women who have lost things, who believe the world can be better for our children, that the world can be better for ourselves.  It's been heartbreaking and humbling to try to receive a world of compliments with grace.  It's been touching and life changing to have so many women, (and a few brilliant men; I see you, too and I love you), reach out to me with such tenderness and love and gratitude.  To read about your lives, how we're the same, how we're lonely and we're afraid, but we have each other.  It's been amazing, too.

Mostly, it's been a lot to process.  I've been experiencing anxiety.  I've talked so much about here about how I was thrown into a state of anxiety after having my first baby.  I believed for a long time that it was probably mostly a physical reaction, that the changes happening in my body were probably to blame for most of the ways I was feeling.  But, I think I've learned over the past few weeks, that my PPD and anxiety were probably a lot more related to the bigness of the ways my life was changing, than to hormones, or whatever.

Some things are just true about me.
I am a person who is easily stirred up.
I do not handle criticism well.
I get overwhelmed by kindness and don't always know how to feel and what to say.
I feel simultaneously driven and talented, and crushingly self-doubting.

I'm feeling my way through this, trying to learn and grow.  I know that I need to step back, to reach out and to try to fill myself with love.  I need to hug my babies, cut paper snowflakes and steal candy canes from the tree.  I need to cook slow meals, to eat good food, visit beautiful places and spend time with my infinitely brilliant and hilarious friends.  I need to hold hands with my husband, wrap presents until way too late into the night.  I need to sing Christmas songs and smell all of the candles in the store.  I need to stay warm, to wrap my girls up in blankets and scarves.  I need to seek the sunlight; it's becoming so scarce.  I need to sit still and read.  I need the woods.  I need to take walks.  I need to cry and write and keep my head high.  I need to tell the truth.  I need to tell it, instead of keeping it inside.  I need to take it easy on myself.  I need to be kind, to be compassionate, to try to see the people around me, to acknowledge them.  I need to be open to all the ways things are changing.

I need to accept, somehow, that I am enough to handle it when things change.  Things are changing all the time.

Sunday, November 25, 2012

A time of babies

This time of my life, my early thirties, is good.  It is a time full of babies and weddings.  New school shoes and, "Show Daddy how high you can jump in your new kicks!"

It is a time of memories, they're so near.  They hover around me like beams of light through water.  My daughters were born, once.  That happened.  They were shimmering and soft and real.  When I see pictures of them from the first day of their life, my skin is rubbed raw and torn.  I look into their lost little faces and think, I almost can't remember you, but the scent of your skin is etched into my veins.  The warmth of your skin, how pink and perfect and pale.  I remember your face on my throat, your soft, milky breath across my cheek.  I remember when we were the same thing.  You were covered in me, and I held you, always.

How wonderful and terrible a thing it is to live in a time of babies.

It is important, I'm sure of that.  It is important to hold hands and circle around our pregnant friends, to call them in the morning, those newborn mornings that can feel like being exposed under a spotlight.  It is important to hold all of the babies of the world.  To covet them, whisper to them, get drunk on them, to remember your own.

It has been a hard and easy thing to decide not to have any more children.  It is too risky, even if the risk is small.  It is also too scary, to go through postpartum nights and worrying over medication.  Bolting awake at the sound of a tiny cry.  Hearing cries everywhere.  Sinking under the water in the bath to drown them out.  Calling from under the white light of the bathroom, standing in the tub, dripping and cold.  Echoing. "Honey?  Was that baby?  Is everything okay?"

My friends are getting married.  They are settling in with the loves of their lives.  Some of them are divorcing, some of them are abandoned, all of them are perfect and sweet and lonely.  We all want someone to get inside of.  The world is so big and we are so tiny, we but birthed a world, we bled a river, we cried an ocean.  Our babies were born and we love them.  This is such a time to be alive.

Thursday, November 22, 2012


I'm all alone and the house is dark.  The babies are sleeping.  There are Christmas lights wrapped around the bannister.  I've been worrying lately, that I'm not good enough.

I think a lot about this book.  Right now, I am exhibiting a fear of scarcity.  I wake up in the morning and think, "That wasn't enough sleep."  I also think, "What will I do, now that so many people are looking at me?  Is there any way I am enough to handle this?"

I've been waking up in the night with ideas in my head.  They rouse me and my eyes snap open and adjust to the darkness.  There is a tiny green light on my tooth brush that shines bravely from the far corner of the room.  It bares witness to the parade of thoughts that start banging their cymbals as soon as I come to.  They crash and clash their way into the future, marching so far away into the horizon that it is impossible to see where they travel.  I can hear them, though.

I wasn't raised to believe in myself.  I never learned how.  What has been created in me, is a trembling sort of self-reliance.  I am afraid of everything, of every big step, but I do everything, anyway.  Every move towards greatness I've ever taken had been unsupported.

Until now, I suppose.

Until I sat across from my friend in her house full of beautiful things, a phonograph and a birdcage.  A piano that her husband plays.  I told her about my fears and she was so gorgeous and kind and generous, everything seemed silly.  I started to make jokes about the things that have been keeping me up at night.

I used to be a fuck up.  I used to be from a small town.  I used to recognize policemen, know them by name.  The women behind the counter at the gas station reported my comings and goings to my mother.  I used to be afraid, just like I am, and will be, forever.  But, I have a universe of love settling around me, now.  I have my children and my husband and our little house on a hill in a city.  My daughter's teacher holds my hands while she speaks of my child.  She tells me that I should write a book about parenting. I want to tell her, "I'm trying.  I'm trying to write a book about everything."

I admitted that all of this sudden attention has shaken me up.  (Have I mentioned that I was interviewed for the TODAY show online?  That television producers have been calling me about the success of this piece?  That I am the proud newest blogger for the Huffington Post?)  I admitted that, I woke up one morning with the shivers, and that I've been downright anxious over the past week; everything is happening so fast. 

I got a message this evening from an old friend that I love very much.  I was sitting alone, it was Thanksgiving night.  He wrote to me:

Mom just told me about your new gig and I just read your post about panic attacks and anxiety. I'm here to tell you to shut up. You, my dear, are a strong, brilliant, super awesome girl who has walked thru hell, only to come out the other side a stronger, even more brilliant woman with an amazing family. This, to me proves you can do anything you want, and you can do it well. I am so proud of you. Congratulations, more women like you need to be published. You will be great and you will impact many many people with your words. I love you and cannot wait to read the new blog.

I can't tell you why this message got to me, specifically.  But, I think my friend is right, that I need to shut up and just do this.  I need to sleep at night.  I need to trust that my ideas and thoughts will be here, lining up impatiently when I wake up, after getting more than enough sleep.

PS.  Holy shit, you guys!  The Huffington Post!

Sunday, November 18, 2012


Sometimes I am a monster.

I roam the world with my terrible, wonderful claws in front of me.  The sound of them scraping on cobblestone and stripping away moss, ripping at silently creeping vines, is the sound of my heart beating.

But sometimes, I slow down, with a belly aching.  I retire to my hands and knees, sinking into the silt and sand.  I am pulled apart relating to my molecules, tiny bits of me are deposited in my wake.  My knees disappear and then my thighs, as I drag myself to the water for some coolness.

Some mornings, I wake up and all that is left of me, is that I am a smooth brown pebble on an empty expanse of beach.  If the tide comes in any further, I will be swallowed whole.

There are times where I make no moves except to cling to my love.  My love stays the same, hovering gently around me like a mist, no matter how wonderful or terrible or small I become.  It is the electricity that inspires my breath and the tiny blinking of my eyes.

I used to be afraid of these seasons.  I used to feel that being scared and tiny meant that I was failing.  I hated my silence, moments where I meant to speak, but couldn't find the words.  I have always feared the settling of winter over everything.  I have always attached myself to wandering and breaking free, to bared skin, and breath that comes easy, to biting and singing and howling.  Stoking the light inside myself until it threatens to make a star of me.  It threatens to carry me into the night, where so many other stars were taken and they burn.

I'm coming to understand that I need to come home, too.  I need to bury myself in dirt, to feel the compact seed of my being, and wait.

There isn't always sun.  There isn't always a path in front of me.  I am not always able.  The future is like a cauldron carrying all the parts of me.  Things bubble to the surface, an intention, a grasping hand, a bent finger bone, and sometimes there is nothing. I am submerged, the raw, scraped frame of me, tendons and a mess of veins.  I am in a place that is quiet and heavy.  I can fight to take a breath, fearing this place to be final, and struggling, tearing things that need to mend; or I can sink willingly and without control into the dark and still.  I can be planted silently in a patch of ground that will see the sun again, once high tide has had its day.

Summer is a different thing than winter.  I have seasons like this, inside of me, too.  I will try not to be afraid.

Winter forrest  
photo by robert wirrman   

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Offbeat Mama and how my words went around the world and back.


I don't know where to begin.

I woke up yesterday morning feeling blue.  It was my third day of a bad stomach flu; probably my 12th or 15th or I don't even know-th day caring for somebody with the flu.  It all blends together when you're the mommy.  Nights and days and blow up beds next to the couch and cartoons at 4am.  You know what I mean, we've all been there.  There sucks.

I woke up feeling electric and exhausted.  I couldn't make it to the top of the stairs without stopping to catch my breath.  I stepped into the shower.  I was anxious about making it to the end of the day.  The water was so warm; I just cried.  I called my sister and my husband and told them that I was giving in.  I wanted to go to the hospital.  My face was seriously in the mud.

On the way there, I talked with Kurt about avenues of love, about how I wished for a bigger house with a big, happy kitchen, I wished to live closer to old friends.  I talked about how being a mommy is isolating, about I felt like the pathways of openness and love were shuttered for me.  The lights had been turned off.  I wrote about it the other day.  I just felt lonely and sick and small.

I have a lot of ideas.  I spend a lot of time doing laundry.

I came home from the hospital in the afternoon and checked my email, to find a note from Ariel at Offbeat Mama saying that my post about telling my girls that I am beautiful was their highest trafficked piece ever.

Whoa.  What?  Amazing.

And then the love and support started to pour in.  I was flooded with comments and emails and messages and tweets and texts and phone call from so many brilliant and beautiful women (and a few gorgeous men), sharing their experiences and thoughts and struggles with me, and with each other.  My words have been shared on facebook over 70,000 times in the last 36 hours!  So many people were passing my piece along that the server at Offbeat Mama crashed and had to be enlarged!  (Here is where I also admit that I don't really know what that means, but it totally made me feel proud!)  Ariel wrote an article about how, despite going viral, my piece wasn't attracting or producing any meanness.  People were simply sharing it with one another because it resonated with them, and meant something to them.



This has been a lot for a sick mama in a filthy sick house where everybody is wearing mismatched socks and eating from a mysterious bag of cheese puffs that showed up after Kurt went grocery shopping, to handle.  Just when I was saying, with tears in my eyes, that I wished more people could reach me, that I wished my life was a current without pooling, that I wished my life was an open thing of love, that I felt like I was set adrift, some days.  I felt like the only time I communicated with adult human beings was out of the corner of my eye at the playground.  Just when I cried into my hands and admitted that I felt alone... the world cracked and tipped over and SO MUCH LOVE spilled out.

What I am trying to say is, hello.  I see you.  I'm so glad you're here.  Thank you for being you, and for being in this with me.

And also, a big THANK YOU to the women at Offbeat Mama for helping me to share my story, and to everybody who has contacted me to say, "I feel the same way you do.  I get it.  Let's do this together." 

These past two days have been so full of love and promise.

I feel like a brand new mama.

I wasn't expecting this when I woke up yesterday.

Thank you.

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Being sick

I started to get sick, a few days ago.  Only, instead of getting sick like a person, I go crazy.  It's not very flattering, but it's true.  I had terrible panic attacks, after Scouty was born and they are etched in my memory.  I don't have them, unattached, anymore... but any time I start to feel sick to my stomach and lightheaded, any time my temperature rises, if I feel unsteady and weak, I revert into anxiety.

I take my pulse.

I spend hours looking up symptoms.

I lie awake in bed picturing terrible things.

What if I pass out while Kurt is at work and there is no one to care for the girls?

I make myself about a thousand times sicker by being afraid.

So, that's what I did, this time, too.  I became convinced I was having some sort of heart... issue.  I don't know, failure?  Attack?

I was texting Kurt my symptoms while he was at work, to evidence the fact that I was definitely dying.  I wrote, "I'm sick to my stomach and I feel like I can't breathe."

I wrote, "I'm dizzy."

I wrote, "I'm just worried that I'll die and no one will pick up Scouty from school."

And then I wrote, "I'm lonely."

I have a dream about a kind of life where I can be sick, where someone will tuck a blanket under my chin and make me tea.  In my dream, there is sunlight and there's a whispering stream.  There is air to breathe.  There are women with arms and hearts and they can take care of my children.  There are no dark corners.  There is no midnight.  In my dream, I sleep and sleep and I am better.

Getting sick illustrates, for me, how very barely I'm holding things together.  I don't think I'm unusual, either.  It illustrates how okay I am, as long as nothing goes wrong.  Because, as soon as something goes wrong, I become afraid that I'll die and leave my girls and the world will be cold and closed down.

My mother used to take her pulse obsessively at the kitchen table. 
She was lonely.
My grandmother died, obsessing over the knots in a cord that raised and lowered the blinds. 
She was lonely.

I dream about someone to tell me how silly I am, how nobody lives forever. 

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

C-sections, ppd... my birth experiences

I could write forever about birthing my children via c-section.  I could tell you about how my incision opened up, became infected and had to be re-sutured.  I could tell you about how I wanted to breastfeed desperately, but that my breasts never became full of milk, despite feeding and pumping around the clock.  About the guilt that, even though I was tearing myself apart trying, breastfeeding just wasn't working.  About postpartum depression and anxiety.  About feeling like I was going insane.  Going to the emergency room with heart palpitations, sure that I was dying.  I could tell you about agonizing over the decision to take medication.  About the fever and panic and sweating and insomnia.  I could tell you about how I called my doctor in the night, sobbing and choked with fear, how he said, "I can't understand you.   Why don't you call me back when you've calmed down?"

My mortality was so connected with the births of both of my children.  I was sure I would die.  I faced it, trembled against it, tried to strangle it in sweating palms.  Birthing my children was something like dying.

I wrote this today in a comment on a beautiful friend's blog.

Scouty’s birth was traumatic and mishandled, too and it totally destroyed me. I wanted to try for a VBAC with Louise. I asked my doctor if it would be a possibility and he said, “Well… no.” I thought about switching doctors, but was having a somewhat complicated pregnancy with bleeding, and in the end I just felt like sparing myself the stress and possibility having a traumatic 2nd birth and scheduled a c-section, too. It wasn’t a choice I wanted to make, but I just wanted Louisey to be here, safe and quickly and for NOTHING like my first birth to happen again.

I’ve felt a loss so many times about how I will never birth a baby naturally. I HATED my c-sections. I had pretty much every complication a woman could have as a result of them. I felt so sad that I would never have a beautiful, empowering birth… never be a birth warrior and goddess. It sucked.

But, there was a moment, after my section with Louise where I got out of bed for the first time and walked to the shower. Everything was quiet. My baby girl was sleeping. Kurt was holding my hands and trying to help me. It hurt so bad that I was dry heaving, which put me over the edge into a universe of suffering and pain. I thought I wasn’t strong enough, but I made it into the shower. I just stood there, gray-faced and trembling and sobbed and sobbed while the water ran over my defeated, mutilated body. I couldn’t bend down to wash myself, so Kurt knelt at my feet, fully clothed and getting soaked by the water. He washed my feet and my legs and my incision. He looked up at me and he was crying. He wrapped his arms around my thighs and held on to me tight. He cried and said, “Thank you, thank you, thank you.”

I will never know what it’s like to triumph in birthing a baby, but I feel like I became a warrior and a goddess in my own, lopsided way.

If you're finding me because you searched, "c-section and I feel like I'm dying," I see you.  I want you to know that every single day, somebody finds me my searching something similar.  There are so many of us, mommies who are recovering darkly, who feel lost, and also, we're okay.  I love you, and you are going to be okay.

I mourned the births of my children.  What I went through didn't seem human.  It didn't seem possible to endure.  I returned home on legs that would barely carry me, and I was expected to carry the lives of my children, of the most important and beautiful people to ever exist.  My body was gutted, destroyed.  Nothing worked.  I couldn't make it to the top of the stairs.  I couldn't feed my babies with my breasts.  I know that some of you think I simply didn't try hard enough, but you're wrong.  I suffered greatly to feed my children, tried like the last breath of a stumbling woman in a desert.  I hated everything about how my birth experiences unfolded, hated every bottle, every moment of guilt and panic and all the ways I was lacking.

But also, here we are, my girls and I.

I thought I wouldn't survive at times, and our love bloomed and bled across the expanse of the my life.  I thought I wouldn't survive, and instead I thrived.  I became a thing like the sky.  I grew arms like oaks.  Love wound through my guts like a creeping vine.  It squirmed inside of me, breaking free of me and shooting skyward.  My love propped me on a living, pulsating scaffolding of bravery and truth and tethered me to the sun.  I thought I would be annihilated by the pain.  There was a dark eleventh hour.  My finger bones snapped and I gnashed my teeth.  I became a mama goddess, too.  I became a wonder of fertility of softness, of late nights and warm beds; a body capable of unimaginable things.  I labored and tore open, too.

Sunday, November 4, 2012

Compassion and acts of kindness - Happiness task for Nov

So, doing things differently has been a great success.  It feels good to challenge myself not to succumb to a routine.  There have been some side effects, like... I'm sure you've noticed that my blogging schedule has been disrupted.  I'm trying to write here when I have something to say, not simply because I feel like I have to churn out updates or all of my readers will disappear.  I'm sure that my "stats" have suffered over the past month, but I mean... why am I doing this?  Because I want to collect a bunch of something?  I want to write here when it feels like the right thing to do.  Breaking my routine helped me to understand that.  So, hopefully, you're still here with me.

Hi, by the way.  I appreciate you.

So, choosing different ways to spend my time has helped me in a lot of ways.  It's been fun.  It's helped me to be more mindful.  It's inspired some deeper thinking.  I've started taking yoga classes and I got off of the elliptical.  I've liked it.  It also feels like it isn't even remotely the beginning to becoming a happier person.

This month, I was going to start meditating in the morning and at night.  That was going to be my happiness task, but, I keep coming back to a feeling that real happiness has more to do with other people than with searching for something inside myself.  I will definitely try meditating, but right now... thinking of piling on another me-centered task doesn't quite feel right, the way that compassion and acts of kindness do.

Since my happiness tasks are meant to be added on to, instead of abandoned at the end of each month in favor of a new one, it seems like a better idea to me to work on being kind to others, before I try to dive into trying to be kinder to myself.  I've been focusing on myself, my whole life.

So, that's my theme for this month.  Practicing compassion and performing acts of kindness.  I'll hope you'll join me and come up with billions of wonderful ways to make people feel good.  Share them with me.  I hope you will.

The thing, for me, is that I don't think I have happiness somewhere inside of me, waiting to be tapped into.  I don't think that looking inward is where I need to start.  (God knows I look inward probably the most out of anybody in the world.)  I am very invested in examining myself; my motivations, my behavior, my thoughts, my fears, my actions.  I think I need to begin, right now, with kind of letting go a little bit.  I can trust myself enough to let go.

This month is meant to be a practice in turning my gaze outward.  I am aware that I have talents and abilities and arms and legs that could all be serving someone else.  I could surprise you, if I tried.  I could make you smile.  I could be actively kind, instead of settling for simply doing no harm.

Something important is that I could be getting my kids involved in helping, also.  I could be teaching them that, as people, as women, they are capable of so much good.  They are amazing.  They could do amazing things in the lives of people who need amazing things pretty badly.

People need amazing things, desperately.  We're losing ourselves, getting buried and drowning.  We're afraid and sad and amputated.  We don't feel beautiful; we don't feel that the world is beautiful.  It is an act of bravery to believe in beauty.  Even the concept of love has become, for us, a thing of anxiety.  What if something terrible happens?  What if my child suffers?  What if I lose the things I love?  What if I am lost to those who love me?

Here is what I want, in a perfect dream born of all the light and hope inside of me:  I want to say, What if something amazing happens?  What if it happens because of me, because we all die and lose things, and I am not afraid of that?  We are also all born, and I wasn't afraid of that, either. 

I am more afraid of my life slipping through cracks made by worry and "what ifs."  I am more afraid that the people who love me are losing me already, because I am too afraid to live my life, to be what I really am, under all of the defenses and conventions that have piled onto me.  I am too afraid to be vulnerable, to love with my entire being, to love boundlessly, in ways that reach into the darkest and forgotten places in the world.  I do not need to hoard my love and ration it in clumsy handfuls under the shadow of fear that there won't be enough.  I do not need to stuff it into the arms of my children, telling them to run and hold on to it tight.

The thing is that I believe in love like I believe in surgery and biology.  I believe the gulls and their dances on the sand.  I believe we are built, as animals, to love.  I believe that love fixes things, it grows, when it is encouraged and allowed.  I do not have to save it for my only ones.  It does not become concentrated in my fists.  My love is bigger than concept.  It is bigger than my sweet girls with their pink cheeks and their bodies warm, next to me.  It is bigger than I am wed.  It is bigger than my sister and her child.  I have no way to imagine all the good my love could do, if I could somehow become brave enough to set it free.

So, that's what I want to do.  I want to swell and pound and grow.  I want to live with an unwieldy, growing creature of love inside of me, one so giant and bright that it pours out of my fingertips and shoots from the ends of my hair.  I want it to take me everywhere I am meant to go.  I want my love to create avenues, and lakes and cities, to heal wounds and lift the dampening of fear that has settled over my life, over the world.

This is my new task.  I am going to run with it.

Love isn't Love Until You Give it Away