Category: Writing Mama

Thirty Two-bular

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Happy Birthday to me…

I wrote a post at this time last year, when we were on the verge of moving again, when I was still finding my way in the adjunct / teaching artist jungle. I’m so grateful to be more settled this year later, with a steady job and well-behaved house and an ever-strengthening community. I appreciate the ways that life evolves beyond my control, that it’s not always as I plan; I’m learning to trust the future a little more. And to embrace my present.

I happened to stumble on this nugget of wisdom as I was scrolling Facebook today, soaking up the plethora of birthday wishes, and it really spoke to me. It’s from a fellow writer / mom and rings so true, especially as I continue to navigate my writer identity in the context of being a working parent. (That is a huge theme in my life now. The theme of my thirties, perhaps. That and figuring out how to be a better, more patient mama!)

“Sometimes we have to leave a tiger behind. This is what the courageous writing life demands of us. We will not get it all done. We will not end up the person or writer we thought we were becoming. We will lose hair and friends along the way. We will accept what comes. We will release what is leaving. And we will write our small flicker of light into that darkness because it is what we are here to do.”

About writing, yes, but seems applicable to so much more. I used to think that success looked a certain way and that was IT: a successful series of novels, a tenure-track academic position. It was all sort of hazy and tinged with sepia. I did not see all the forks in the road, or the long odds, or the way that success twists, turns, accumulates, evolves.

I welcome the new year. 32. It’s where it’s at.

P.S. That is a peanut butter mousse pie with chocolate ganache. In other words, mindfulness in a slice.

P.P.S. Thirty-two seems like a nice age to get knocked up, right?

It’s Up!

The Salon essay is up right now. I’m dying a little. I want to keep this little space anonymous (such as it is) so I’m hesitant to link directly to it, but it’s on there now – it was the cover last night (Sun) but you have to scroll down now. It’s called “The Mystery of my Dead Brother’s Son.” This is an essay I wrote, rewrote, abandoned, revised, cut down, put aside and came back to over the course of three years, and when I suddenly realized that I could just chop out big chunks of back story, it came together. I’m still amazed that after all that, the Salon editor accepted it precisely thirteen minutes after I pressed send. I truly started shaking at my desk. I hope my coworkers assumed it was too much caffeine.

Egads.

Anyway, I hope you enjoy! It’s a sad story, in many respects, so I feel a little funny about my excitement. Yet it’s been over three years and time, of course, softens all things. Also, I’m happy to be sharing something that was so damn intense when it happened that it needed to be told, yet I could hardly talk about it. It’s a relief to release it into the world.

Thanks for your kind comments about it earlier. Xo.

The Productivity Disease

It’s six o’clock and my mind is racing. “How did it get so late?  I was going to write! I have to write more! I was going to plant the snap beans! I was going to jog!”

Never mind that I: cleaned and organized my closet, dropped clothes at Goodwill, got the mandatory emissions test done for our car, filled out and faxed my employee paperwork, started to reorganize my half-done novel draft, weeded the flowers, researched and finally identified the tree out front (mountain ash, it turns out), and a hundred other little things.

And this is on a day when I am a) not working and b) not mothering.

Having this time to myself for a few days has put this problem into sharp relief. I’m calling it the Productivity Disease. It has to stop. If I can’t put the kibosh on this race-against-the-clock mentality, I’m pretty sure I’ll implode. But how? It’s so deeply ingrained, insidious and, in its way, seductive.

In college, when my alarm went off, I used to bolt upright and swear because I was already so stressed about what I had to get done. Nowadays I often wake up and am already disappointed in myself because I didn’t get up earlier. When Uno asks me how my day was, I often respond by listing everything I did (or didn’t) get done. My to-do lists are endless, amorphous, and impossible. There’s no race to the finish line, no yardstick against which I’m being measured, but I cannot seem to internalize that.

I’m thinking about this a lot lately, as we make space in our lives for child number two (fingers crossed). Parenting has put a glaring spotlight on this issue. I don’t want Jaybird to inherit my terrible, constant dissatisfaction. My own mother – no shocker, here – used to list all of her tasks *constantly.* Every day was another chance for self-improvement. She stayed later than all the other teachers, went in on the weekends (“they are second graders,” we used to tell her in exasperation), and never could exercise enough. Or have a clean enough house. Or what have you. We could not have fun until we finished our chores/work, and there was always so much of it.

For a long time, I thought this attitude was healthy. Look at everything I was getting done! Applications! Papers! Late shifts! Meetings! Dinners! Of course, at the same time, I didn’t enjoy any of these accomplishments for more than two seconds. I was always so focused on the negative space, on whatever I wasn’t doing.

The productivity disease impedes actual productivity. That’s what I’m finally figuring out. My anxiety about what I have to do doesn’t help me DO IT. It just makes me miserable and sweaty. Berating myself for not writing doesn’t make me feel like writing. It doesn’t equal good writing, either. Just like deciding I have to get a million things done before dinner doesn’t actually make our evenings any happier. In fact, they’re more tense that way.

At a teaching artist ice breaker once – they’re always very earnest – I had to describe my greatest fear. Immediately, I thought: “missing opportunities. Not accomplishing enough.” Now, that was before Jaybird was born! But I still fear these things. That’s why I had such trouble letting go of getting a PhD. If I deliberately didn’t do it, I was choosing to fail, went the (irrational) thought process.

Uno and I have been talking about it often. I struggle with my temper. I get angry. I react. I hate it when I do. Repeat. I have been trying so hard to be more patient, but it’s not something I can just *will* into existence. I have to actually relax. I have to be kinder to myself. I have to stop saying “I have to” or “I should.”

I’m trying these little mantras out: “I’m doing enough. I’m doing what I’m supposed to be doing. I’m in the right place at the right time.” Just saying them provokes an anxious ripple in my stomach. I want to contradict them immediately.

If only awareness were enough. I will keep on trying, though. My thoughts about this are still jumbled, but it’s good to try and pin them down.

The Second Baby Game

From the start, we have wanted to add another kiddo to our family. We didn’t have an exact date in mind, but we knew we’d do it, and that barring unforeseen fertility issues, I would carry. After the first year of parenting, with all of its sleep deprivation, I was hard-pressed to imagine adding another baby. And as year #2 progressed, I still felt like we weren’t ready. Jaybird took a loooong time to sleep through the night, Uno had just started a new job, etc. Plus, I was raised in a big family with siblings spaced closely together, and I worried about Jaybird feeling crowded out. My childhood was marked by a real competition for my mom’s attention.

It was really after his second birthday that it started to feel more possible. As he became more independent, and as we felt more settled in our new city and lives, we both started to imagine our next baby. But we hadn’t stored any vials, and his donor was sold out, so we thought we’d have to start the long search for another donor… Until the bank emailed to say that two vials had become available! It was an act-now-or-lose-your-chance moment. We bought them. Then it happened again: three more vials, a couple of months later. We put those on the credit card too, and voila, suddenly we had five vials.

We’ve paid for storage through March. So much to do! We must find an RE. I must get hormone levels and such tested, and would like to do that through my regular doc, as my insurance doesn’t cover fertility. I have tracked my cycles the last six months or so, but I haven’t ever paid THAT much attention. It’s such a new world for me, even though I saw Uno go through it and supported her all the while. I feel like I don’t know ANYthing about my body. I’m looking at myself in the mirror thinking, hello, uterus, are you in there? How about you, ovaries? What’s up? Everything ok?

We all know how long this process can take. How nerve-wracking and heartbreaking it can be. How each TWW is such an eternity. Are we ready? How long will it take? We have just five vials and that makes me nervous. Then again, we know a lot more now. We know not to bother with unmedicated cycles, for instance …

Whew. The readiness question. It’s not just about the physical and financial issues, obviously. We do feel ready, emotionally, for another little being. There’s room in our family, our home, our hearts, and our lovely king-size bed (aaah, co-sleeping will be so much easier). I worry that we’re too stressed and busy, though. I’m trying to figure out a career and a pregnancy / infant period doesn’t exactly make that any smoother. I already feel like I don’t have enough time to write. Mainly, I worry we don’t sit down enough, take breathers, that we’re always checking things off of to-do lists, and that a new baby will send us into overload.

Also, I don’t know HOW in the hell I will give up caffeine. I’m telling you. No idea.

And what will it be like, switching roles? Uno loved pregnancy and nursing; will she be jealous? Will I be as good at it as she is and was? A new person is a monumental change; our family will go through growing pains, I’m sure. I want to safeguard my bond with Jaybird, and worry about how all the hours with and physical needs of an infant will affect us.

But: we are so excited. Uno and I discuss it … oh … EVERY SINGLE DAY. Jaybird pats my belly and talks about putting a baby in there. We toss out name ideas. Our families are chomping at the bit. My cousin is trying right now and it’d be wonderful to have babies at the same time-ish. My mom just bought Jaybird a board book called “My New Sister.” (Hoping much?) I sense this second child out there, waiting for us.

I feel myself preparing. It’s mainly mental. I am craving calm. I’m trying a new mindfulness practice when I can, sort of combined with writing. It has been wonderful and weird, in that I find the quiet breathing for five minutes opens up an emotional minefield and sometimes I just cry. Don’t worry, I’m not losing my mind – I think I’m trying to find it. I want to get back into therapy. I feel protective of my sleep, my family’s down time, and my own space.

I’m so much less tolerant of bullshit lately. For instance, I’m working with a really difficult, demanding collaborator on a commissioned piece). And I’m so ready to just cut him out of my life. I DO NOT NEED THIS. Fortunately, we only have one more round of revisions. I think I can, I think I can … I think I need more meditation. Breathe in the world, breathe out your thoughts of wanting to punch a certain someone in the face.

I also have this grant wherein I’m supposed to be working on my novel, and I’m sad all the time that I don’t have time for it. It’s my other baby. But the idea of adding child #2 doesn’t scare me in that regard; I just want to work on both babies, to be with my kissable son, my smart, funny wife. It’s all the other stuff I want GONE. That collaborator and the related project. My students, all of them, augh. Not really. But kind of.

I write this and ask myself once again: are we ready?

I think so.

Still Scribbling Away

Thank you for the birthday wishes! My celebration is extending, as I’m spending a long weekend in NYC for a good friend’s wedding. Yes, NY, NY, one week before our move, and all by myself, believe it or not. I’m flying solo as the trip was a bit much to swing for all 3 of us, and it’s amazing how easy it is to move through the world without a toddler. I am so efficient! Unencumbered! I don’t have to plan carefully re snacks, bathroom breaks, entertainment, or ways to wear myself out. I’m mama incognito. I watch the other moms sympathetically and then settle back into my work.

I’m lonely, too. I already miss my wife’s conversation, my son’s warm, wiggly body, the way he repeats everything I say. I feel a pang thinking that I’m missing story time. He’s had a harder time lately with separation when I leave in the mornings, particularly on days my cousin watches him, and it makes me crazy. He cries my name as I leave and I feel like quitting my job right then and there. First time I’ve experienced this, by the way, as it’s usually directed at Uno, and it’s definitely painful (if perversely reassuring). We haven’t been apart much in two years. This seems like both a luxury and a small miracle, on reflection.

And yet, I’m grateful for the independent time. As I wrote recently — and I know so many can relate! — it’s rare that I feel like I can access this part of myself. Rare to be alone, able to indulge in my thoughts. This trip is linked to other trips in my mind, my younger self off in the world, often solo. The photo prompt for yesterday was “something you wrote,” and I snapped a picture of my old journals, many filled in Latin American villages or small shared East Coast apartments. Hard to imagine all that time, now, and all that uncertainty and unknown. I like remembering it. I like feeling the space between then and today. I miss the adventure, but not the angst. I do hope we can figure out a way to go abroad as a family — possibly live overseas at some point? — but right now, life is about planting strong roots.

Today: airports, coffee, bad food, a good book, grading on the tray table, texting Uno when I can. Tomorrow: old friends! New York! A much anticipated wedding! Sunday: home again, my boy, my wife. I’m a lucky bastard, and I know it, and I hope I can keep remembering it through sleeplessness and stress.

Here are the journals. One of these was written in the nineties when I was a high school exchange student, one in Boston when I was temping and agonizing over what to do with my life, others when I backpacked through Latin America after college (lonely, amazed, sick, naive, bold, by turns). Now I suppose blogging has replaced all this scribbling. What will Jaybird write in, on, about? Hmmm.

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15: Birthday (Dinnertime)

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I missed a few days there, but I’m back and feeling festive on my thirty-first birthday. This homemade chocolate fudge cake was to die for. Jaybird kept yelling “Happy BIRFday MAMA!” and we had a small, warm dinner with good company. The best. I’m happy to be venturing further into my thirties: decade of greater confidence, of knowing what I want, of owning that.

Also: I found out today that I got a writing grant! It’s a small big deal, a local thing, great for making connections and building a new literary community. Plus I get office space, writer colleagues, workshop time…and I agree to finish my new novel in a year.

Because I totally have time to do that.

Er, well. This also happens to be my decade of makin’ it happen.

Housekeeping, Or, The Evolution Of A Blog

Well, given that I have some nice fat deadlines coming up, I am procrastinating by cleaning up the blog. It’s a time-honored technique that will result in increased productivity, ultimately. Right? Right.

I’ve been meaning to change up the look and feel of the blog for some time: a fresh theme, some categories for easier navigation, etc. The stops and starts over the years have made this blog feel kind of schizophrenic, to me, and I really want to streamline it. Like many of my fellow two-mama bloggers, I started this little venture as a way to survive, and document, the TTC process. Trying to get pregnant the lesbian way … in Texas … before most of our peers … Whew. It was an adventure. We needed company. And happily, thankfully, we found smart, thoughtful, helpful, witty, and kind friends to accompany us, as we accompanied them. Even as I’ve dipped in and out of actively writing and commenting I’ve kept reading, following heartbreak and triumph and ogling cute babies who turn into cute kids. I can’t believe it’s been three-odd years since I started writing here. Is that even possible?

We got pregnant, obviously, and the blog changed. Since Jaybird’s birth we’ve written about your “typical” mommy blog stuff, sometimes, i.e. how to make your own diaper wipes or how many teeth our baby has or what have you, but I’ve never really felt like that was the blog’s primary purpose. I can’t even keep up the baby book, for gods’ sake. I often wondered if it was time to give it up, especially when weeks or months (!) passed between posts. But — as another wonderful blogger recently reflected — there’s something so compelling and necessary about this corner of the internet we’ve claimed. Uno used to write here and doesn’t any more, but she will still say to me, “ooh, you should blog about that.”

I find this is a place to vent – or reflect – or celebrate – or some combination of the above. It offers community. It’s a way to update certain far-away friends (not my family, though!) It’s also the place I can talk about being a non-gestational parent most easily. More than anything, I need it for that. I often feel that I am finding my way in the dark, in the woods, on a rainy night, as regards “mom culture” and my non-gestationality. Thanks to .rlg. for that noun, btw! This blog is my go-to space for talking about being a queer parent, from being jealous of breastfeeding to finding donor siblings.

I like the immediacy of blogging. The honesty. Yet: certain things feel off-limits, like conflicts between Uno and I, which exist, of course. So, it’s honest but not exhaustive, and that is a line I’ll continue to walk, as is the anonymity aspect. I’ve put up more photos than I ever thought I would, revealing details that an intrepid Googler could probably use to discover us, which I don’t really mind until I imagine my mother-in-law or student or colleague doing the discovering. I also feel guilty, often, for getting behind on commenting on other blogs. And I get annoyed with myself for dropping topics I mean to explore.

Those worries aside, I’m not going anywhere. Dearest little on-again-off-again blog, I can’t quit you. I’m grateful to have the space, to have readers (that’s you! thank you!), to have discovered two-mom and TTC blogs. A quick blog post is a great way to just SAY something in my own voice, to get myself moving and unstuck.

And, well, maybe — probably — hopefully — this blog will include some TTC 2.0 in the next twelve months, coming ’round full circle. This time I will be the hormonal one and it may not be pretty. You’ve been warned.