I’ll trade my wheat for some sheep

One of the best parts of family gatherings. I came in third this time (out of four) but still had a blast.

————–

NaBloPoMo Day 26

Advertisements

Contributions and Gratitude

I’m reading Sheryl Sandberg’s book Option B, and in it she talks about how recognizing your contributions to the world helps to build confidence and a sense of agency. She urges people to recognize this in addition to things we are grateful for. Yes, gratitude is important for cultivating happiness and joy, but she argues (and claims the research shows) that because gratitude is passive, it only goes so far. Meaning, gratitude practices acknowledge things you receive, while recognizing and celebrating one’s contributions to the world is more active – it’s something I’ve done to make the world a better place.

And so, I thought I’d give it a try. Here are a few contributions of which I am most proud.

  • Everyday, I am raising my children to be kind, compassionate people. I try to show them with my words and also lead by example.
  • I try to do small kind things for people around me, both friends and strangers.
  • I blog. I put my feelings out there into the world, in hopes that maybe someone will read them and feel less alone.
  • In my previous life (and I will again in my next life) I devoted my career to creating a safe space where clients could come to vent, heal, and be heard. I served as a crucial witness and container for suffering.
  • I keep my household running pretty damn well.
  • In spite of it all, I actually manage to take care of myself, too.

As another year comes to a close, I am also extremely thankful for the following:

  • My health, my husband’s health, my kids’ health.
  • We have enough. Of everything. Food, housing, transportation, money, clothes. In a world that is hell-bent on telling us we need more, more, more – and the flip side of that is that we never have enough – I want to remind myself that we DO, in fact, have enough.
  • Choice. I am privileged, and I have choices in my life. Living under a presidential administration that is working to take choices of all kinds away from citizens makes me realize just how precious and important it is.
  • Freedom of speech. We still have the right to say what we want and fight injustice in this world, and for that I am thankful and do not plan to take it for granted.

Happy Thanksgiving, everyone. I hope your day is filled with contentment, joy, and stuffing.

Rain

cheeks are red

ears are hot

the rain sizzles to mist

when it hits skin

 

lungs deflate

shoulders lower

water runs down my back

tributaries coming together

forming a river down my spine

 

arms fan out

fingertips float up to the heavy clouds

I spin

as if

inside a lazy tornado

 

hair whips around

drenched.

smacking the side of my face

sticking.

 

chin tips up

eyes flutter

dodging the drops

 

tears wed the rain

and they dance down my body

as one


I wrote this while listening to a friend of mine play the most divine improvisational piano music I have ever heard.  I also wrote this poem the last time I heard her play.


NaBloPoMo Day 10

 

Choosing to suffer

A friend of mine recently posted a video on Facebook.

This video seemed to be some kind of veterinarian (Dr. Andy Roark) speaking at a veterinarian conference, about veterinarian things.

Only, those things were applicable to all of us and I found that his message really stuck with me.

He began by speaking about the different between joy and happiness.  That joy is fleeting; it’s unsustainable.  It’s an amazing feeling, and it’s often why we do the work we do, but it’s just a glimpse.  And happiness is “full of pain.”  He said, “Buddhist philosophy says that life is suffering.”  It made me think of the far more lighthearted quote from The Princess Bride.

 

6afbce09a45741b1f79b1575a1677570

It’s true.

But I had heard all this before.  The part that got me was that he said, “The best thing that we can do is choose how we suffer.”  He went into an example of losing a beloved pet, and how much grief and suffering that caused him.  But it was suffering he chose, and would choose again.  He said, he could have chosen not to get a dog to avoid the suffering of eventually losing him, but he would’ve suffered a little each day coming home to an empty house.

And that’s when I got it for me.

Right now, I’m suffering.  I’m struggling.  Sometimes I’m not sure if I’m happy…but, by this guy’s definition, this is happiness.  It’s not JOY all day every day, (which is what too many people think happiness should be) but that wouldn’t make for a very meaningful life, for without suffering there is no joy.

There was one time when I was really breaking down about what a shit time I’d been having slogging through mommyhood, and someone said to me, “…but you’ve chosen this.  You wanted this.”

Yes, I’ve wanted to be a mom pretty much my whole life.  I wasn’t sure I could physically be a biological mom for an entire decade, but miraculously, here I am.  I planned this, I actively participated in building this life.  And man is it HARD.  Did I want all the suffering that comes with this?  Of course not.  I don’t want it and I don’t like it, but I chose it.

I chose it over the suffering of not having kids.  Feeling like there was something profoundly missing in my life.  Feeling like my family was incomplete.  Grieving the loss of kids not here.  Having a house that was too big, too quiet.  Too clean?  (Maybe there’s no such thing as too clean.)

Make no mistake, though: just because I chose the suffering that comes with raising kids, that doesn’t mean I don’t get to do just that…suffer.  Complain.  Lament.  Break down.  Have regrets.  Be human.  So yes, I did choose this.  But I get to own it, too.  Just as I get to own the glimpses of joy that peek through.  The hugs, wet kisses, sleepy bed-head faces.

I need to keep reminding myself that joy and suffering are not mutually exclusive.  And I need to keep reminding myself why I chose to suffer this way.

How do you choose to suffer?

 

 

 

 

Some Days

Some days
start out
at the bottom of a well, looking up
thrashing makes the chilled water slap my face
and flood my eyes.

My singing
echos
bounces off the walls and travels upward
hopefully someone will hear.

Other days
start out
with the warmth of the sun on my skin
I have to close my eyes
to shield them from the brightness
the warm breeze tugs at the corners of my mouth
like puppet strings.

My singing
spills out
like a volcano filled with honey.

Everyone can hear.

My Happy Thought

Robin Williams died on my son’s due date.

I loved this guy.  I loved his work.  I went through the stages of grief when I found out – starting with disbelief, of course.  I was (and still am) so sad that depression took this very talented human being from us.

After Robin’s death, in watching all the memorials on the news and daytime TV, and in seeing all the clips strung together on Facebook, I started counting all of his movies that touched me, that I grew up with.  It’s a lot.  His movies were so emotional; I’ve long known that his were the ones I went to when I needed to tweak my mood – which usually meant inducing tears and reconfirming my faith in the human spirit.

In going through my movie collection, I realized I didn’t own one of my absolute favorite Robin Williams movies – Hook – so I bought it and ended up watching it soon after my son was born.

I absolutely adore the story of Peter Pan.  There isn’t a more fabulous story that captures the sheer joy and adventure it is to be young and to remind us that we can always go back to Neverland in our hearts (second star to the right and straight on til morning) whenever we want.

In re-watching Hook, I was prepared to feel that joy and excitement that comes with the story, and I was also prepared to feel sad that the person I was watching who was once so full of life and youthful glee was now gone.

What I wasn’t prepared for was my new reaction to the story now that I am a parent.

Remember the scene where Captain Hook starts teaching Pan’s kids about how parents hate their children?  He very eloquently describes how kids’ whining and demands (“He took my toy! She hit my bear! I want a potty! I want a cookie! I want to stay up! I want, I want, I want, me, me, me, me, mine, mine, mine, mine, now, now, now, now…”) drive their parents crazy.  Maggie (fun fact – it was her character I played on the playground with my friends when this movie first came out) points out that her parents read to her, “because they love me very much!”  And Hook retorts back that parents read to their children to shut them up.

In to end the lesson, Hook gave Maggie an F (to which she freaks out…probably why I was suited to play her character) and then declared that her parents were happier before she was born.

This scene struck a new chord, one that hadn’t been struck before.

Holy shit – Captain Hook was right.

There I was, hopelessly sleep deprived with a wee infant attached to my boob and tears running down my face because I got it – but not the it I was expecting to get.  This movie was supposed to remind me how joyful life was!  Instinctively I knew I wasn’t supposed to be listening to the words of this dark and sinister man, but for the first time in watching this film, my eyes were opened.  The guy had a point.  In my very short career as the parent of a newborn, I already knew I’d do things I previously said I’d never do if it meant my kid would sleep.  I wished for my old life back on a daily basis.  I fought with my husband about nothing and everything.  Some days, I was kind of miserable.

I considered growing a beard and joining the crew of the Jolly Roger.

Thankfully, the movie continued and we came to the scene in the Lost Boys’ tree house where Peter was desperately trying to find his happy thought.  He picked up his old teddy bear and had a flashback to a hospital room where his wife was handing him his brand new baby son, saying, “Peter, you’re a daddy!”

That was it.  This is why I wanted to watch the movie in the first place.  He was flying again, and so was I.

I was bedridden for the first 12 hours of Dylan’s life due to some minor complications, so when we were in the recovery room at the hospital, Brian started changing his first diapers and rocking and soothing and being a daddy.  It was amazing for me to watch, and it had reminded me of that same hospital scene in Hook.  Through tears in my eyes, I shared my thoughts with Brian and my heart was bursting.

Hook really got it right in more ways than I first realized.  It fascinates me how quickly and profoundly popping a baby out of me has changed my perspective on the whole world, let alone this movie.  Before, I had thought that the story was more about “always being a little boy and having fun,” and now I see this whole new layer about the love (“It’s the L-word, Captain!”) and struggle between parents and their children.  Yes, it’s about learning how to stay young, but it’s also about learning how to grow up.  And most importantly, it’s about finding (and keeping) that happy thought that keeps us all going.

Well, Dylan is our happy thought.  Our poopy, screamy, cuddly little happy thought.

There are so many great lines to quote and parallels to make about this movie and life in general, but the best is at the very end, where I don’t feel like Robin Williams was really having to act much at all.

He said,  “To live would be an awfully big adventure.”

Thanks for sharing your talent with all of us, Robin.  I am so very glad that you’re not in pain anymore.

 

 

Today is my due date

I’m due today.

Holy crap

Well, actually, you’re due.

To come out.

Little Duck

We really can’t wait to meet you

Even though I feel like I know you already

You dance and hiccup and kick

And squirm your way up under my ribcage on the right side

Ouch.

You test the boundaries of your squishy little world

I can’t wait to show you my world

Little Duck

 

We’ve had our bags packed for weeks

We pretend to be ready, but we’re really not

Don’t worry, though, cuz we can’t wait to love you

and squish you

and pinch your little fat rolls

and sing you to sleep.

 

I don’t know what’s going to happen

And that’s pretty scary for me

So if you know, please tell me

Otherwise, we’ll just figure things out

together

as we go.

 

So get here soon

If you only knew the joy that is waiting for you

But then again, maybe you do

because how could you not?

So what are you waiting for

Little Duck

 

Come on out

So I can love you more

Holy crap, holy crap, holy crap

Amazingly Wonderful Worries

Eleven years ago today, I had my cancer surgery.

Today’s anniversary feels very different from the rest, in a good way.

Is it because the farther away I get from it, the less it hurts?  Partially.

It mostly has to do with the fact that I’m pregnant.  The cloud of fear and uncertainty that has been lurking for so long has mostly lifted, and it feels wonderful.  I feel like I can more fully leave my cancer behind, stop worrying about what my body can’t do, and look forward to what my body can do, what it is doing, and what that means for my future and the future of my family.  I am so blessed, and I just didn’t know how much until recently.

I say the cloud has ‘mostly lifted’ because I do find myself still worrying about how after-effects of my cancer and surgery could affect my pregnancy.  I suppose there’s a part of me that feels like this is too good to be true and that I shouldn’t get my hopes up, that my cancer could still rear up and kick me in the ass.  I suppose it’s normal that a small amount of fear like that will never go away.  And sometimes it’s hard for me to balance these continued fears and still make ample room for the joy and excitement I know that I also deserve to experience.  It does help that my doctor doesn’t seem too concerned about affects from surgery affecting my pregnancy.

Overall, my worries have definitely shifted, and I am grateful for the direction in which they have shifted.  After acknowledging my ever-present cancer worries and then placing them back in their box at the back of my mind, I get to worry about “normal” things now – am I taking good enough care of myself?  Is the baby developing ok?  Will delivery go ok?  Will fe be healthy? How the heck am I going to manage to be a good parent?  Etc…

I am thankful for these worries.  They mean I have something amazingly wonderful to worry about.

Which reminds me about something I’ve said before – that my experience with cancer and the resulting fertility uncertainty means that I get to be even more joyful than I would have been otherwise.

Eleven years ago I experienced one of the worst days of my life, and that’s ok.  It doesn’t define me, and I have allowed it to change me for the better.

Now get back in your box.  You’re distracting me from my joy.

A Corrective Experience

Last Thursday, Brian and I got to have a mini wedding redo, and it was pretty amazing.

—-

But first – a HUGE shout-out and THANK YOU to everyone who read my Freshly Pressed post, new followers (henceforth called Psychos), and especially everyone who left a supportive comment.  It really meant a lot to know that I wasn’t alone in my post-wedding grief.

—-

During our wedding, as soon as my photographer realized how sick I was, she told me not to worry, that we would come back and take pictures at some later date, and I am so thankful she told me that right away, because then I could focus on just getting through the wedding knowing we’d (Brian and I) have a bit of a second chance.

I took a few hours off work so that I could get myself all pretty and ready for the photo shoot.  Soon after the wedding, I had chopped all my hair off, and it was fun for me to play around with my new ‘do and get all dolled up.

I pinned the same ivory lace that had been in my hair for the wedding up under my curls so that it peeked out.  I wore the same pearl earrings my parents gave me for Christmas.  I affixed the same fake eyelashes, with some difficulty and perhaps a few swear words.

I was worried about how I would feel once I got my dress back on.  First of all, I was a tiny bit worried that my dress wouldn’t zip – it was tight to begin with and I didn’t hold back on those cruise buffets and dessert menus – but mostly I was worried that I would just burst into tears and cry my eyelashes off.

The whole process of getting ready was actually very sweet.  Brian and I didn’t see each other on our wedding day until I was actually walking down the aisle, and for this redo we got to be with each other and help each other get ready.  Brian had to help me step into my dress and hook me up in the back, and while this was the reverse of what our wedding night should have been, I enjoyed the experience.

And don’t worry, cuz the dress fit just fine, and I didn’t burst into tears.  I was actually…excited.  I was happy to get to wear my dress again, I was happy to get my picture taken again, and I was so relieved that it was just going to be us.  No family, no vendors, no pressure, no distractions.

We drove back out into the country to the wedding venue, and we commented on how much we love those surroundings, and how freaking beautiful our wedding venue is.  My dress was stuffed into the car all around me, and we had the AC blasting up my skirt.  It was like sitting on a fluffy, scratchy, but beautiful cloud.

We had a lot of fun during the quick photo shoot.  We got driven to the hilltop in a red convertible Cadillac and had our picture taken under the oak tree as the sun grazed the top of the surrounding hills.  We brought ice cream and sprinkles in a cooler and had the photographer get shots of us feeding each other ice cream.  We were just going to dance to our first dance song playing on my iphone when a staff person offered to plug it into their sound system.  As soon as “Come Away With Me” by Norah Jones came on, tears filled my eyes.  Those few moments we twirled around in circles really meant a lot to me, and to Brian.  That song was the first song to which we ever danced, back on our 3rd date 10 years ago.

After the shoot was finished, we decided to continue our mini celebration and we went out for drinks in a local restaurant.  Between the car and the restaurant, we heard no fewer than 10 cries of “Congratulations!” yelled from cars, passers by, and other diners.  That recognition and joy made me feel so good.  It reminded me how captivated I am by weddings in general, that I can’t help but stop and stare when I see two people starting the rest of their lives with such love, joy, and hope for the future.  I wonder if these people felt the same way towards us?

We ordered our drinks and sat down outside near the live band that was playing, and we just chatted and took in the scenery, beaming at each other like…two kids in love with alcohol in their systems.

The band was awesome, by the way.  They played some current covers, and some originals, and they played all the music to Super Mario Bros on electric guitar.  FTW.  And then I heard the beginnings of “At Last,” and the lead singer said, “This one’s for you two” looking straight at us.  We did what any normal, intoxicated, in-love couple would do and we got up and danced.  It was so lovely, I can’t even describe it.  I do remember whispering to Brian, “This is what therapists call a corrective experience!” and he laughed because I am a huge nerd…and he’s stuck with me now.

After a while, we got up to leave – it was a school night, after all – and after we made our way between all the tables, applause broke out amongst most of the restaurant-goers.  I broke into a smile and gave a curtsy before we left and headed to the car.

I am very, very thankful we got to have that little redo.  It did wonders for my mood and how I feel about the wedding overall.  It gave me some closure and now we get to move on to much more important and happier things.