Tuesday, July 31, 2018


I don't know when it happened, exactly (oh, probably not long after 9/11), but I absolutely hate flying. I would rather drive for days than fly, which is not logical whatsoever because it's far more likely that you'll have a terrible car accident than have a terrible plane accident. Maybe it's a control thing -- I am driving the car, I have this illusion that I have the power to avoid horrible things, and although there's a lot more vehicular accidents I would bet a lot more people survive car accidents whereas a plane accident? That's usually a tragedy of terrifying scale. 

I used to fly frequently to visit my dad, a big transcontinental flight from NYC to LA every year. But that was when there were fewer restrictions on your liquids, and shoes, and carry-on items (I mean, I brought my VIOLIN with me with minimal stress) and checking baggage wasn't a sign of weakness. 

But now I hate it, and I am heading into my first solo flight in over ten years to go visit a longtime friend in Nashville...tomorrow. The last time I flew solo was actually to go visit her in Brooklyn when I was first dating Bryce. I flew JetBlue and it was a gloriously short direct flight but it suffered a delay getting back into Rochester that involved me getting hit on by an Australian Elvis impersonator and not getting in until 3 in the morning (those things are unrelated). Bryce didn't have a cell phone then. That was the moment when he realized the value of being able to take a call in an airport. The fact that he stayed was a harbinger that we were going to last. 

The time before that was when my dad flew me out for a week after the horrible (and yet in retrospect wonderful) revelations about my marriage, and I was so grief-stricken and shell-shocked that honestly I didn't care about turbulence or delays or possible in-flight disasters. I was probably a nightmare to sit next to.

So now, in this Summer Of Doing The Things, I am finally going to go visit my friend I've known since college but really became tight with when we worked together in children's publishing, a woman who I can have a phone date with after months of silence and end up yakking away for upwards of three hours. I always said, "I should come visit you!" but never really thought it would be a possibility, and then this summer I decided WHY NOT? We're not taking a big trip, I'm tutoring a bit, and it seems like the timing is perfect. I am so excited, and she's so excited, I've never been to Nashville, and we haven't spent more than a few hours at a wedding together in probably a decade, so this is going to be awesome. 

I leave tomorrow. On a plane. By myself. And I. Am. FREAKING OUT. 

First, I can't find my packing cubes. If you are unfamiliar with the joys of the packing cube, acquaint yourself! They are miracle accessories that help you Tetris your way to a highly organized suitcase and make it far more likely that you will fit all your shit into a carry-on. I discovered them around the California trip and I'll never go back...except I CAN'T FIND THEM. They are not in my suitcase. They are not under the bed. They are missing, and I am starting to hyperventilate. 

Second, I got a text alert about weather in NYC. Like, "A Delta Waiver has been issued due to weather that may affect your travel. To rebook, search for alternate flights via blah blah delta website blah blah." WHAT DOES THIS MEAN???
For 50% thunderstorms?
No weather advisory or warning or anything?
And it DIDN'T say "heavy rain" twenty minutes ago. 

I called to see what that means, and if I should reroute through a different connection, but the wait time is 34-48 minutes. They are calling me back. Goody, 34-48 minutes to perseverate about how this trip is clearly DOOMED between the Case of the Missing Packing Cubes and the Mystery of the Vague Weather Alert. 

When I booked the flight, I sprung for the Economy Plus option to give me priority boarding, seat selection, the option to have a glass of wine, and peace of mind. I hate the boarding process, the cattle-to-slaughter feel of it all, and all I want to do when it's close to flying time is GET ON THE PLANE and open my book and settle in to my new cramped space in a flying object that I hope will sustain my life for a few hours at ridiculously high altitude. It was worth it to me. But now I wonder...if I have to rebook, will I lose that? I also managed to book flights that did not involve getting up ridiculously early or flying in the middle of the night -- is that now possibly endangered? 

And, to top it off, in the time I've been writing this and checking flight info and weather info and generally feeling my heart rate skyrocket and my pulse lodge itself in my eyeballs, the radio station on downstairs CHOSE THIS MOMENT to do a test of the Emergency Broadcast System. 

Maybe I should go read my book until the Delta agent calls me back. Maybe I should continue the search for the missing packing cubes. Maybe I should position myself facedown on the floor of my office. 

This is all just normal 21st Century flying nonsense, right? This is not some kind of harbinger of a fiery plummet into the Appalachians? 

Thanks for virtually holding my hand as I basically spew my anxiety into the web. Breathe with me and tell me it's going to be okay. What are your tips for reducing flight anxiety? 

Friday, July 27, 2018

The Life I Thought I'd Have

Yesterday I went for a drink with my tap class (once a month they do Tap and Tapas, so you dance and then you tipple, which is my kind of dance studio). One of the dancers is getting married this fall, and she was talking about house hunting. She teaches in a district that is in the far reaches of our county, and lives more centrally, and is looking at a long commute. She acknowledged that she might not always teach in that district, but that she has to look for houses that have good highway access because "you wouldn't want to move districts and then have maternity leave untenured; that's a big risk."

I sincerely hope that things go the way she is planning -- house, wedding, not long after, baby. But it has put me in a bit of a funk hearing that on replay in my mind since last night, because once upon a time I felt that way too -- so sure of how things would work out.

I remember when we were talking about getting married, before we were engaged, we had breakfast at this place that no longer exists and discussed the pros and cons of marriage. One of the things that weighed heavily on me was that I didn't want to be unmarried and have a child together, and I was straightforward from the beginning that I really wanted to have a child. One part of the discussion was that we could get married in a couple years, maybe four, but I indignantly exclaimed, "I'll be THIRTY SIX in four years! Remember? Babies?"

We did get married when I was thirty-three, a decent enough age, but I was an untenured special education teacher that first year. I remember thinking that I wasn't being positive enough because while I really wanted to get pregnant, and that was the Year of the IUIs, I had some relief that it didn't happen when I was still probationary and hoping for a tenure track position. I remember weighing in my head the impact of maternity leave on my newly-accumulating seniority, thinking on how much (or, then, how little) I'd be able to take and still be pretty safe in my job.

Clearly, all that worrying was completely unnecessary.

Still, hearing this young woman talking so optimistically about the accepted progression and be encouraged by other dancers (all of whom had children), "Oh, yeah, you don't want to go out on maternity leave untenured," as if it is a done deal, as if that is just what happens. But for me, it reminded me of the alternate reality that never unfolded, of the possibility I once felt but is forever lost to me.

We've also been in a mode this summer of really evaluating our house, and deciding if we should stay with minimal renovation to fix the garage as is and the poorly constructed back room against the garage, do a major renovation with the garage and back room and a room above the garage to enjoy the wooded backyard and gain more living space, or fix what needs to be fixed and move to a home that has a functional garage and more driveway and a basement that won't give Bryce a concussion, among other things.

We've met with a couple contractors and a realtor. And every time we talk about the addition, we mention that we had plans drawn up previously, but that OUR NEEDS HAVE CHANGED, and so we can have a different kind of addition since we really don't need additional bedrooms.

The first time we said that to a contractor I immediately teared up, because while it was a clean way to sum up "our entire vision of what our life was going to look like imploded and we're never having children and so we just want a house that works for the two of us," it still makes me sad. It's a heavy four words.

But it's true -- we don't need our house to be a family house. And, as Bryce said when we were chatting about it for the fifteen zillionth time, it's weird how our house really acclimated itself rather quickly to a home with no children. All of our furniture purchases, our revamping of the nursery to my office and the living room to have multiple seating options and be more open... it all worked seamlessly. It's almost like the house didn't want us to have children, which I know is a totally loopy and strange thing to say, but it feels sort of true. Even through our jokes of "what's buried under this house, ha ha" when things went so spectacularly wrong, there was truth of this FEELING that the house didn't cooperate with our wishes for children, that there was a weird incompatibility there. It doesn't help that Bryce had dreams of a dark and malevolent force that was somehow central in our house and there were several times in the two week wait where I got searing low belly pain at the same time that Bryce had a dream like that, which is just plain weird. But we could also just be grasping at any reason, no matter how unlikely, that things just didn't work out for us any way we tried.

Today though, the person we met with who is both a realtor and a renovator, he said, "It's fine that you don't need to have more bedrooms for you, but if you ever sell this house you'll want to have bedroom space added if you do an addition, because it will make it more marketable."

And then I got that feeling again like at after-tap drinks... EVERYONE ELSE follows the progression. OF COURSE, the likelihood of some other couple without kids who love gardening and woodworking and music and scads and scads of books coming to buy our home is not high. OF COURSE it's probably going to be people who expect to have a baby or two, who are looking for a family home. Because that's what people do. That's the expected progression.

Again the life I thought I'd have, but will never come to pass.

It made me sad. All of this talk about the house and how it's evolved is exciting, and it points to the life that we DO have, which is not sad at all. BUT. It opened wounds I felt were developing a thin layer of scar tissue, and left me standing in the backyard, weeping, just overwhelmed with this idea of our house as two homes -- the one that was supposed to be, and the one that it is, and how we have plans for both possibilities and only one will come to fruition. It was like seeing the ghost of the family we would have been like a transparency over our existing blueprint, able to be seen but impossible to grasp. Utterly intangible.

I was so, so, so very sad. I wept for the children that didn't come. I wept for the father Bryce will never be. I wept for the mother trapped inside me who will only ever parent indirectly, sideways. I wept for the life I thought I'd have.

I made Bryce concerned that I'm not happy. Which is not the case at all. I am happy, and so grateful for our life, our marriage, and our beautiful, cozy home. Our life is NOT sad. I am not mourning this life, because it is downright magical. I'm mourning the other life that seems further and further away, the one that I was once so sure could be ours with a little hard work and a bullheaded insistence that it HAD to happen for us just because no other alternative made any sense at all.

After standing there in my sweaty bathing suit top, covered in dirt from pounding in edging in my patio border garden, Bryce finally ignoring my pleas to not hug me because I was totally gross, I decided that the medicine for my melancholy was MORE GARDENING. I may not have a baby, or a child, and I may not need another bedroom for another human in our home, but I have a lot of plants and garden space. And I can do something about that.

I can create space for more plants, and beautify existing spaces, and weed out unpleasantness so that my beautiful flowers can grow unimpeded. I can eke out a little control over my life with hard pruning of out of control, invasive honeysuckle. I can chase the sadness away with a little sweat equity. I can then sit back and appreciate the life I DO have, where I can garden as much as I'd like and not have to worry about keeping an eye on my child, where I can sleep in because we decided to have Thunderstorm Wine last night to celebrate the first storm we were both home for, where we can go see Monty Python's The Holy Grail with John Cleese speaking in person tonight and not need a babysitter.

It was just what I needed. I pruned, I weeded, I pounded, I sweat, and I even discovered a little treat. I'll always be sad about the life I thought I'd have but don't, but I am so very fortunate for the one that did come to fruition, which has so much enjoyment and beauty in what we do have.

See all that edging, sort of like a raised bed? I POUNDED ALL TWENTY FEET OF THAT. 

This is what it looked like before, just sort of spilling over onto the driveway, messy messy and likely to wash away.
See that crazy bush to the left, against the fence?
GONE! And in its place a funky stumpy unicorn. 
While pruning I was visited by this little guy -- a wood frog! Never seen one in the garden before.

He's got neat markings. Cute little guy. I felt like he came by to say, "you're okay."
(Or I live close to woods, so he was just pissed I disrupted his habitat with my therapeutic pruning.)
Yesterday before tap, sitting under our redbud tree which is now big enough to sit under in the shade, admiring the garden and feeling real lucky.

Monday, July 23, 2018

#Microblog Mondays: It Was Time

We are on a cleaning kick lately -- the first round came when we put one of those ductless air conditioner splits in our bedroom, and we had to move the bed and tidy things up for the workmen. Holy crow we should move the bed more often -- there were probably 4 cats worth of fur wadded up under there and clinging to the baseboards (gross, I know). But, we cleaned up the nightstands and the bookshelves, and the assorted clutter that just accumulates at astonishing speeds over not a whole lot of time.

It looked lovely after the clean (and the air conditioner thing is AMAZING -- living in a cape cod you're basically sleeping in the attic, so even with central air it never truly cools down...but now it's gloriously chilled upstairs), but we didn't feel an overwhelming need to attack further or attack other spaces, even though "purge the things" is on our summer list.

But then we went to see a house on Sunday (more on that later), and there's something about a house staged for showing that is just so CLEAN and so UNCLUTTERED that inspired us, if not to buy the house, then to go home and organize and purge and pretend we live in a tiny house. It doesn't feel that far off, even though our home is at least four times the size of a tiny house at 1600 square feet. I have a bit of a tiny house obsession.

So we attacked the bedroom and the closet some more, and in doing so I had a moment of, "WHY are these out and taking up so much of my bedroom bookshelf space?" when I saw all of my "how to deal with infertility and adoption" books taking up at least 18 inches. Pretty much all of the infertility and adoption reads on my sidebar still lived there, along with a few related memoirs, which I moved down to my memoir shelf. (Yes, I have a memoir shelf.)

Taking them off the shelf was so freaking freeing, as was pushing the stack over so they toppled across the floor and acknowledging all of the hope and pain and work and fruitless toiling that went into buying and reading (and rereading) all those books.

I stuffed them in a drawer in the nook, where I can't see them but they still exist, because I'm not quite ready to let them go completely, but they no longer deserve precious shelf space. They reflect a version of me that doesn't exist in quite the same way anymore. They are part of my whole, part of my ever-evolving story, but I just don't want to look at them anymore.

It's amazing that this grieving process just keeps going, at its own pace -- I could have never cleaned out that shelf at any time last year, it just wouldn't have felt right. But now? It was just the right time.

Want to read more #Microblog Mondays? Go here and enjoy!

Monday, July 16, 2018

#Microblog Mondays: That Time* I Cried in Target

Last weekend we went to Target after our favorite Mexican restaurant dinner, and I went to the Paper Rebel section in Greeting Cards to get a support card for a friend.

That's when I found this:

Can you see what this says?
"If Britney can survive 2007,
you can do absolutely anything."

I saw this card and did a double take. And then I started laughing maniacally, and I took a picture of it and sent it in a text to my friend I used to teach with, message reading, "WHERE WAS THIS LAST YEAR???"

See, when I had my breakdown at school, I had to stop in the bathroom before this friend drove me home with the school psychologist following, and I joked, "Nobody hand me clippers because I'm having my Britney Moment! Just kidding, I love my hair. But this is a clippers kind of day..." and she laughed, only to be admonished by the concerned psychologist that "this isn't funny! This is serious!" To which she replied, "I know, but even in this darkest moment Jess is STILL FUNNY."

So that's how I went from laughing to crying in Target and went back to buy the card for myself because there was only one and it was just too perfect.

And yeah, I framed it.

While I'm not sure I agree with "you can do anything" sentiment, it's a great reminder that she survived that difficult period in her life, and SO DID I. If I could do anything I might also have a Vegas residency and make a zillion dollars dancing half-naked with snakes, but I guess I'll be content with a great marriage and a career I love and a happy life on the other side of my own personal tragedy.

* I say "that time" like I don't often end up in tears in Target... It's a fairly regular occurrence.

Want to read more #Microblog Mondays? Go here and enjoy!

Friday, July 13, 2018

Huh. I See Myself in Serena Joy

I loved The Handmaid's Tale as I love most things Margaret Atwood -- I have my mass market, $5.99 copy, all brittle-spined with yellowed pages, from when I first read it in high school. When I saw the copyright of the first American edition of 1986, I thought I'd had a copy from when it first came out, but later realized that made zero sense as a) I was ten and no one would give this book to a ten year old, b) a copy from when it first came out would have been hardcover, and c) I noticed the additional date at the bottom: "Twenty-eighth printing: December 1991." Ah. That makes more sense. I was 15 in 1991. The same age as Eden.

I loved Season One because it both closely followed the book and delved deeper into the world Margaret Atwood created -- you got to see more of June's life in the days before, and what happened to her husband, Luke, and get answers to what happened to Moira. You got to see more of the other side, too -- the Gilead folks. Maybe even feel a little something for them. And it ended very similarly to the book, although Offred wasn't pregnant in the book.

So I was so fascinated as Season Two came out, because where could they go from here? The book was done, there was no more material there, it had to be all original, and really take us deep into the horrors of Gilead, into the minds of the people who created it, into what a handmaid's pregnancy looks like for all involved, what's going on in Canada for those who've escaped, and how brutal everything could be.


(okay, so now is where I warn you that there are some spoilers ahead, in case you haven't seen it, and also confess that I am still reeling from Episode 10, and haven't finished the season yet because I've been warned that it's pure emotional horror, but also REALLY GOOD TV, so I feel like I have to watch it even as it rips me apart on the inside)

Have you been sufficiently warned?

What I love about Season Two is that you get deeper into people like Serena Joy and Aunt Lydia, who are awful people, who do terrible things in the name of their belief, but who are not one-dimensional villains at all. They have backstories and struggles of their own.

It has been very uncomfortable to relate to Serena Joy. In part because she shows some level of humanity that makes you feel okay about starting to like her, and then she takes that away with, oh, I don't know, smacking a Martha so hard she falls or holding June down while her husband rapes her. Those things make her unlikable, obviously.

But there's these little moments where I was like, "oh shit, I feel for her."

- When she's setting up the nursery, a nursery for a baby that's not growing within her or biologically hers, and it's this connection to a tiny life that she hopes to raise.
- When she has her baby shower and it's kind of awkward but she has all the ooohing and ahhhing over little things but can't sit there rubbing her belly, and then says with increasing aggressiveness "LET THE LITTLE CHILDREN COME UNTO ME."  That was creepy, but also something I could understand, this strong desire for a baby and feeling of "it's so close, and if I just WILL it to happen it will..." That desperation and single-mindedness took me back. Not enough to oppress a country full of women to get what I wanted, but I could understand it.
- I don't condone smacking anybody, but her fury at when June talks about her own baby shower and reminds her of what she doesn't have, that I could understand. This sense of "ARE YOU KIDDING ME, here is this moment and you are bringing your own experience into it that I'll never have in the same way and RUINING it." It was a salt-rubbed-in-the-wound moment that's happened to me in different circumstances.
- When she's in her greenhouse, tending to her flowers and her plants, putting all her nurturing energy into them when she's feeling the conflicted feelings of waiting for someone else's pregnancy to bring her baby to her. I had tears in my eyes when she was stoically transplanting seedlings and pruning roses, because I've felt that way -- I can't nurture a life, but dammit I can make some flowers grow. (Of course that metaphor gets real icky with the whole "Nothing more than a flower to bee" piece that comes later.)

There's a flip side though -- I totally get that THE WAY she is accomplishing her family is completely awful, with reproductive slavery and the treating of Offred as a vessel for her baby more than an actual human, and being surprised when she is not grateful for little "kindnesses" like showing her the nursery, because this is a nursery for her baby that she is not even going to be allowed to stay with in the house after the birth, and she is nothing to these people but a walking uterus and placenta. That maybe June brings up her own shower because she thinks that they are having a moment of confiding, but maybe it's more that she wants to remind Serena Joy of all she's lost to be here as her vessel, that she had a life and a family before and this has stolen all that away from her.

But it is difficult to watch the Serena Joy story, and to see myself in the desperation to have a baby, the willingness to do (almost) whatever it takes to have that tiny human in your arms. It is difficult to realize that in this world, I'd be more a Commander's Wife than anyone else, unless I was an UnWoman and off in the colonies because I refused to play along with the insanity. Yeah, I'd probably be an UnWoman because I basically tithe to Planned Parenthood and I don't think I could be a Martha, complicit in all that went on in the house and powerless to do anything about it but free from being a Handmaid due to lack of working reproductive parts. But in terms of the infertility, that makes me feel for Serena Joy.


I do love the sedition, the brief feeling of hope that maybe she'll realize that she's made something that may have come from a deep faith and a (misguided) belief that the world could be better if the roles of men and women were more Biblical, but that has deeply disenfranchised her. That she wrote the laws that keep her from writing. That she does truly detest knitting. The visit to Canada was fascinating for that -- to see her smiling as she looked at people living ordinary lives, not scowling at their sin. To see her disdain flicker across her face for the pictorial schedule she's handed. I had so much hope that she'd go more in that direction instead of punishing Offred for her part in their brief friendship and colluding that resulted in her whipping by telling her she can't stay after the birth and then participating in her rape. I don't yet know how the last 3 episodes pan out, but I don't have high hopes. She seems to be like, "huh, well, I sort of screwed myself here, but I can't admit that I made a mistake, so I guess I'll just be all in, and REALLY be hideous in the name of my faith." I do hope that she sticks it to the Commander, and the teaser from Loribeth about Episode 11 gives me hope that maybe at least a little more subversiveness is forthcoming.

Something else in Season Two that was interesting was the juxtaposition of June's pregnancy and the flashbacks to Moira's time as a surrogate. I loved that, because it showed the difference -- one was consensual, an agreement that was made in good faith with a huge dollop of choice, and still painful -- even more painful than originally thought, but DEFINITELY not the same thing as Offred's situation. Which is reproductive slavery. Sanctioned rape. The treating of a woman as nothing but a vessel for another couple's baby, with no regard for her as a person. It made me think on people's thoughts on adoption, and those who were so mystified as to why a birth mother would get to choose the adoptive parents for her baby, as if she was nothing but a vessel for a child that should go to a more deserving couple, and her worth was nothing, just the baby.

Episode 10 was difficult, so difficult to watch, and I am dreading but also looking forward to finishing out the season (between today and tomorrow, I hope). I did not feel for Serena Joy at all in that episode. All my feels were for June. And the scene where she is on her knees in the snow, finally able to let her heart bleed out all over the place now that her child is driven away and she doesn't have to put a brave face on anymore... I sobbed until I had frog eyes. I sobbed for all the mothers who are separated from their children. I sobbed for my children who never got to be, but who I mourn for the futures they never had, for the alternate reality we may have played out had things gone differently. I sobbed for the pure loss that June hemorrhages into the icy winter air.

Bryce doesn't understand this, much like Not A Wasted Word's husband who called it "Misery Porn" (a term I absolutely love). He was like, "If it is triggering you, WHY are you watching it? Why are you choosing to sit on the couch all huddled up and crying?" He has zero interest in watching it, and wanted to know how many men watch it since "It seems to be all about pregnancy and childbirth and women being treated horribly" and he also said he doesn't ever choose actively to watch something that will trigger feelings of loss or trauma. So I do watch it all huddled up and crying and alone, usually when he's not home. I watch it because it's good. I watch it because it is thought-provoking. I watch it because I have a bit of a self-flagellating streak, probably.

I am nervous to finish out the season, but also so grateful that there's such good TV to watch, even as it makes me uncomfortable and angry and desperately sad. It is an incredible vehicle for empathy. And, as Roe v. Wade becomes increasingly fragile, a terrifying cautionary tale that a society like Gilead isn't so impossible to imagine becoming something closer to reality. 

Monday, July 9, 2018

#Microblog Mondays: Tales of Telling

I feel like I've wondered multiple times recently if I'll EVER be done telling people that things didn't work out for us parenthood-wise, most recently here when I ran into a student from two years ago at a local festival and she wanted to know if we'd "gotten our baby yet."

Well, I can tell you it's not done, not yet, and I suspect there will always be people who I will run into who haven't seen us in forever or who I don't know through social media, who will wonder what happened, and it will throw me for a bit of a loop.

When I went to graduation, I saw a student of mine from last year and her mom, because her older brother was a graduate. It was lovely to see her, and to stop and chat briefly -- but then at the end-of-the-year district-wide celebration I ran into her mom (a teacher in the district) again, and she said, "I hate to ask, but my daughter was so excited to see you, and she wanted to know... what happened with adoption?" I took a breath and said, "Oh, oh yes, of course...well, that didn't go well. Not at all, actually, and last year we hit a bit of a rock bottom and decided that 8 years was enough time to slam our heads against the wall and so we are now childfree." And she looked a little sad but also totally understood, and I asked her if she would tell her daughter but not in a "boo hoo" way, because while it is sad it is also wonderful to not be living in the in-between.

Today I was running a bit late for tutoring and I walked into the library in the town where I teach, and a librarian was at the front desk who I haven't seen in forever, and I knew her back when I had one student with autism who did a lot of community-based instruction and he worked in the library, shelving books, and she was the supervisor then. I've run into her a few times but realized it had been QUITE a long time ago when she was like, "Oh my gosh, it's you! How ARE you?" and then said in hushed tones, "I hate to ask, but...baby?" Again, it was a take a breath and then, "Oh, ohhh no. Noooo. That didn't work out. Eight years of heartbreak proved to be too much to continue." And she looked sad but was understanding and said, "oh yes, that's so hard, my daughter's friend has had a heck of a time, just like you guys, and when do you say it's enough?" I had a moment where I felt I had to let her know that adoption didn't work out, either (she looked positively shocked at that one), but said, "It's been a year now, and it's honestly okay. We're good. Life is better when you're free of all that." And then she APOLOGIZED for bringing up a painful subject right before I had to tutor, which was actually quite refreshing (and at this point it doesn't always reduce me to tears, it's just matter-of-fact, so it was fine).

And the last one was no one we knew personally, people we saw at a graduation party who we've seen at other parties with the same people, infrequently. It was amazing, though, because the question was, "Do you think you'll want to have kids?" -- which made me feel like "DAMN this neck cream is working out!" because at 42, nobody usually asks you if you're still thinking about it, usually it's asking if you have elementary aged kids or whatever. And when I said, "No, it didn't work out for us," she moved on and showed us pictures of her dog. Win.

I may still be telling people about our tale of woe and subsequent happiness and freedom from constant awfulness, but the way I am reacting to it is definitely improving. So that's progress, at least.

Want to read more #Microblog Mondays? Go here and enjoy! 

Friday, July 6, 2018

Liver Update: 3-Month Progress Appointment

I had my doctor's appointment this week to go over my bloodwork and my progress with the whole weight loss thing to save my liver. I was so nervous, because last time the scale was evil and I felt like I was not making any progress at all (it said I'd lost ONE pound, ONE!).

So I did a couple things.

* I made my appointment in the morning, so I could hopefully have the scale be closer to my at-home, post-pee-pre-breakfast number. I think doctor's scales are a conspiracy intended to make you feel terrible about yourself.

* I wore the lightest clothes I could think of -- new short linen shorts (fun red-and-cherry-blossom print ones from my last Stitch Fix) and a white tank-top, and easy-to-slip-off flip flops.

* I took a picture of my scale number at home to prove the conspiracy.

* I didn't drink my coffee before the appointment, in case it caused water retention or raised my blood pressure or something vile like that.

And the verdict was... 

Well, the scale number wasn't what I see at home, but it did say I'd lost 8 pounds (9 since January). I do not understand how my home scale says 12 and the doctor's scale says 9, but whatever. The doctor was very pleased. Unlike last time, I wasn't reduced to tears of frustration and fatalism.

But the bloodwork -- the bloodwork was AWESOME.

* My liver values are way, way down. Back in the normal range.

* My triglycerides are also way down -- almost a third lower than my January bloodwork.

* My cholesterol is high, but the ratio is good and on an improving trend. My doctor was like, "it looks like genetics is against you in this department, but the ratio is more important than the number, and you're doing okay there."

* My glucose was at the high end of normal, but my A1C was totally normal, so I am no longer flirting with pre-diabetes.

It was awesome to have the doctor be so happy with the results, and to feel so encouraged by the results. It's AMAZING what a difference a few pounds makes when your body hates you and converts everything into evil.

Another fun fact -- apparently every extra pound you carry puts an extra 6 pounds of pressure on your knees and ankles, so my weight loss so far has alleviated upwards of 50 pounds of pressure on my joints. Which makes sense, because while my knees are super crunchy, they're not painful. Which is lovely.

And so I continue on, working to get down 20 pounds from my starting point, because it is so good for my health, I feel so much better, and I'm finding ways to get fun exercise into my day. May I be able to keep it up!

Thursday, July 5, 2018

Facing My Fear

I was in the library the other day for tutoring, when a book jumped out at me from a display. The clever self-populating display -- Someone Just Returned This! -- had everything from books about pre-diabetic diets to beachy romance reads to a Jon Ronson book, So You've Been Publicly Shamed. And on the second tier of the display a pink and blue book caught my eye.

Big Magic: Creative Living Beyond Fear by Elizabeth Gilbert

Image result for big magic elizabeth gilbert
Published by Riverhead Books,
an imprint of Penguin Random House LLC

What caught my eye was the "BEYOND FEAR" part -- it grabbed me and whispered, you need this book. I love Elizabeth Gilbert, but I did not love Eat, Pray, Love. In fact, I never finished it and it just didn't speak to me, at all. Maybe it was where I was in my life when I started reading it, but I let it go. And then discovered through essays and posts on social media that while I did not like Eat, Pray, Love, I LOVED Elizabeth Gilbert herself.

And I absolutely love this book. I devoured it in about two days. I flagged things. I am thinking about buying a copy to mark up and keep near me.

What I love about it is that it's not about CONQUERING fear, it's about LIVING WITH it. It acknowledges that fear is a part of life and any time you go to try something new, most people have that voice in the back of your consciousness that whispers vile things and shuts you down, and you have to work through that inner naysaying voice to do the things that bring you joy.

And I loved that it reminded me of Mel, and several posts that she wrote (but I can't seem to find to link to specifically, despite searching over a year of posts which was very enjoyable but fruitless for my purpose) where she talked about writing for the sake of writing -- because it brings you joy, because it is important to you, because you want to CREATE something -- and NOT because you want to necessarily become the next J.K. Rowling. That being authentic and feeding your creative self is important, because when you lose that in order to try to get published or picked up or whatever, you often don't get published or picked up or whatever. (But that authentic writing, writing that you do because you love it and it's meaningful to you and you did it for YOU above anyone else, that can surely be successful, but it can also be a side effect of the greater purpose, which is to write passionately, and well).

Elizabeth Gilbert wants you to greet your fear, make friends with it, acknowledge that it's there and probably always will be, and then tell it "okay, I'm going to ignore you now and be creative and do what brings me joy." There is no magical fix for being afraid of criticism, or failure, or not being good enough -- the answer she sees is to meet that fear and then walk on past it, even as it stares daggers at your back. It's going to be there. But you don't have to listen to it.

One of my favorite quotes from the book is this one:

"And you have treasures hidden within you -- extraordinary treasures, and so do I, and so does everyone around us. And bringing those treasures to light takes work and faith and focus and courage and hours of devotion, and the clock is ticking, and the world is spinning, and we don't have time anymore to think so small." 

And this one:

"You can live a long life, making and doing really cool things the entire time. You might earn a living with your pursuits or you might not, but you can recognize that this is not really the point. And at the end of your days, you can thank creativity for having blessed you with a charmed, interesting, passionate existence."

The book is all about harnessing ideas and nurturing them before they decide to leave and visit someone else who will do something with the material, and pursuing creative endeavors like writing despite the fear that might otherwise stop you from uncovering those treasures inside you.

It sent me further down a path I've been traveling recently, thinking about patterns in my life and just how much of it has been formed by fear. I love my life, and where I have ended up despite heartbreaks and bad circumstances, but there are a lot of twists and turns that were almost entirely made up of decisions based on fear, and I don't want to continue in that way.

One goes back to college, and the moment where I decided that I did not want to continue in the secondary education program attached to my English degree. It's true that when I watched my video in a mock lesson where I taught my peers analysis of "Tintinnabulation" by Edgar Allen Poe with my professor and he asked me "What kind of a teacher does this make you want to be?" that I started crying and quietly wailed, "I don't WANT to be a teacher, actually!" It's true that I said that I didn't feel as excited about it as everyone else seemed to be, and I was having a hard time envisioning myself as a teacher, and it just didn't seem right to me. But that wasn't the whole truth. The whole truth was that I was afraid. I was afraid my lessons weren't good enough, I was afraid I lacked the authority to convincingly employ classroom management, I was afraid no one would take me seriously, I was afraid that everyone would see right through me and see the failure that I was sure to become, and I was afraid that I'd somehow have to get my driver's license before field experience (and DEFINITELY student teaching) started and that would mean having a car, too, and I had no idea how to get the money for that as I really didn't have much saved at all. And so I quit. Honestly, I thought very poorly of myself, lacked all kinds of confidence, and was fearful of independence -- which led to my decision more than anything else.

That same quality led me to the next decision based on fear. After graduating college, I was with my boyfriend (who would become my ex-husband), and things weren't as terrible as they would get but they weren't great, either. I thought about breaking up with him, briefly, but I was afraid to be alone. Afraid no one else would want me. And I really, REALLY wanted to get out of my parents' house and be on my own, to begin my adult life, and I didn't see how my $24,000 editorial assistant salary in the NYC area was going to allow me to do that unless I moved in with my boyfriend. I was scared to try to do it on my own. And I waffled back and forth between "Things are good and so what there are bumps, everyone has bumps" and "What am I doing, I deserve someone who is going to treat me well and be nicer." And I went with, let's move in together -- we both wanted out of our parents' houses, we both wanted a more adult life, and it seemed like a good move.

It wasn't.

This was followed by the decision to continue on and marry a person who was capable of amazing cruelty and scared me to the point of running out of the apartment to sit in the courtyard (not super relaxing, as it was Yonkers right on the border of the Bronx, and while I didn't feel unsafe it was disconcerting to get woken up in the middle of the night to police chasing a car thief up our fire escape yelling "Freeze motherfucker, FREEZE RIGHT THERE!" so being outside was sort of iffy, but felt safer than staying inside on many occasions). I married someone who frequently told me I was fat and stupid. I married someone who yelled at me a lot and punched me in the arm and shook me by the shoulders and threw things at my head, because even when three different people tearfully begged me not to marry this man, my answer was "But we've already booked everything for the wedding." "I've got my dress already." "It's too late." I was afraid. I was afraid of disappointing people, of being alone, of needing to find a roommate and an apartment, of the awfulness that would probably ensue if I called off the wedding, and I didn't want to even entertain it.

So I didn't.

And then I stayed far longer than I should have because I was afraid again of leaving -- would people think being treated shittily was enough? Was Nicole Kidman's smeared face transferred onto the ivory living room wall paint above the couch because my Glamour magazine had been thrown forcefully at my head (he missed), enough? I wasn't afraid because of a stereotypical "If I can't have you, no one can" type thing, or being told that if I left I'd have the shit beaten out of me, because I never had the shit beaten out of me. I was afraid to strike out on my own. I was afraid to have people be disappointed in me for having made a bad decision. I had no confidence in myself, none whatsoever. The only good decision I made was to go back to school for teaching, because it was either that or have a baby and he said he wasn't ready and wasn't sure he wanted kids at the time, and I wasn't willing to put both off. So I went back to school, in a weekend program where I could continue working full time and freelancing because I paid for the whole thing out of my own personal money with no support whatsoever other than student loans for the second year because it was no longer possible to freelance and complete a Master's Degree and work full time.

And then I could start my new life, because I was given the gift of infidelity, and that meant to me a "socially acceptable" way to leave the situation. No one could blame me for not doing enough if I left because I was rampantly cheated on, right? And if anyone tried to say that it was my fault, that somehow I had "let this happen" through my inadequacies as a wife, and that I should give it another go, well those people would clearly be assholes and I shouldn't listen to them.

I was afraid of all the uncertainty wrapped up in leaving, but I had a LOT of support from friends and family and a lot of things slid into place so that I didn't have to be homeless or quit my teaching program because I had nowhere to go and no savings because all the savings were in his account and the divorce took nearly 2 years to come to settlement. Many wonderful people made those rough couple of years possible.

And this is where I learned to live with fear, at least in my personal life, and to go for what I wanted and to choose my life partner better. It turns out I deserve to have confidence in myself. I see my life now and it is AMAZING how sheerly different it is from my life 15 years ago. It's also amazing how different I am. I am thriving in my teaching career, I am married to an incredible man who is supportive. Our life is so full, despite not having the children we so wanted, and we have a cozy, inviting home and colorful gardens and just a tremendously wonderful existence.

I do feel like I slid back into the fear with infertility, and I felt like once again I was in an emotionally and physically abusive relationship. I was afraid to leave it. I didn't want to let people down, or have regrets myself that I didn't do enough before moving forward to something else. I became far more anxious again and afraid to take risks, to branch out, to do different things.

And then I broke up with infertility and the dream of parenthood, even though it was probably the hardest thing I've ever had to do, and I've been focusing on living beyond fear. Again.

I've taken up tap dancing again, and Buti Yoga for the first time, and I said yes to chaperoning the 8th grade D.C. trip. I pursued National Board Certification as I was in the death throes of chasing parenthood, which in retrospect looks very, very similar to pursuing a Master's Degree in teaching as my marriage imploded the first time around. I was feeling out, "what can my life be about when this doesn't work out?" in a very similar way. I also had the courage to attend a literary conference in my city, alone and feeling very deficient and mildly unprepared, but I did it and it was good for me.

I found Big Magic right at a time where I am working at writing more, not long after that conference. This summer is about exploring different avenues. It's about branching out and facing rejection (which is inevitable) so that I can have the possibility of getting out there in the world in new ways. I love this space, this space is at the heart of me, but I want to explore more ways to write and have it read, of course in addition to this precious slice of the internet. That voice always comes back to me when I want to write more: You suck. Who do you think you are, submitting something for publication? You aren't a good writer. You shouldn't even try. But recently I've been telling that voice to shut the fuck up. It can live there, crouched in the darkest, dankest spaces of my subconscious, but I'm going to ignore it and shine my light on other parts of my mind. This book helped me to see how much of my life I've sacrificed to fear over the years, and how much I'd like to move beyond that small, shrunken existence and live that transcendent creative life.

Image result for big magic elizabeth gilbert
Image courtesy of PopSugar

This makes Bryce very happy, as he's been encouraging me to do more since, oh, forever. It's so frustrating for him when I read a book or a blog post and go, "Yes! I should do something exciting! I should push myself and expand what I write! I feel so encouraged!" and he is like, "I'VE BEEN SAYING THAT TO YOU FOR YEARS, BUT OKAY, GIVE ELIZABETH GILBERT ALL THE CREDIT."

I want to work hard and devote time and see what happens. I want to answer a resounding yes to Elizabeth Gilbert's question, "Do you have the courage to bring forth the treasures that are hidden within you?" 

Monday, July 2, 2018

#Microblog Mondays: Making Friends With Yoga

Yoga is one of those things that I usually prefer to do alone: in my TV room, in front of one of my many DVDs that I probably know by heart now, wearing nothing but shorts and a sports bra, with no one to witness my excellent form, my complete faceplant, or the way that bridge pose or shoulder stands make my bosom suffocate me. 

My best friend loves to go to a yoga studio, in part because she found one near her that offers both sweaty yoga and relaxing yoga, and this crazy thing called Yoga Wall where you can be upside down for most of the hour, and in part because she has three children and the time including the drive is a blissful minivacation (and usually the best time for us to have a phone conversation uninterrupted). 

The only time I went to a yoga studio was when I went to Fertility Yoga, which was lovely when it served its purpose and then it kind of soured yoga classes for me. Maybe if I didn't associate yoga classes with opening my hips and increasing pelvic bloodflow, maybe if I didn't associate yoga with a horrid class with a substitute instructor who told us to do an opening mudra over our uteruses and do a visualization where we did our best to persuasively invite our babies floating in the ether to come to us...which might have been powerful had it worked out, or had I not miscarried a couple of weeks earlier and was stymied as to why my invitation was always rejected, why I was continually stood up in this regard. Acupuncture has similarly been ruined for me because I associate it with the ability inability to make my uterus receptive to an embryo or two, or my ovaries capable of making embryos that didn't whittle away in the dish.

I don't intend to go back to acupuncture, and I never intended to go back to a yoga class, until a margarita-fueled conversation with a friend resulted in signing up for Buti Yoga at the same studio where I take tap classes. The video that explained this form of yoga was terrifying, filled with very earthy, half-naked women sweating and whipping their hair around and talking about unleashing their inner power. Some of that sounds good, but most of it looked a little overwhelming, and like I wouldn't be able to keep up...but at the same time I was really, REALLY drawn to it. 

Well, surprise, we signed up and we both showed up last Monday and IT WAS AWESOME. There were no bare midriffs and no sweaty hair-whipping. Just a small group of women, sweating it out and opening chakras and dancing and doing plyometrics and feeling a very primal connection to our bodies. It sounds like I've drunk the kool-aid, but it was a seriously invigorating class. And I kept up! Some things I cannot do (I have never even heard of this "flipping your dog" thing you can do to extend a three-legged dog), but I just modify and nobody cares. And everybody is sweating like a beast. It's my new favorite workout.

I was initially nervous to be in a yoga studio again, because I remember many a shavasana where tears just rolled down my cheeks and settled into my cleavage as we did our final meditation and everything was so focused on the miracle of getting pregnant, a miracle that just never panned out for me (for long, anyway). But it feels amazing to go get out of my comfort zone, to join the company of other women carving out time in their busy schedules for fitness of body and spirit, and to be a part of a supportive environment that has ABSOLUTELY NOTHING to do with what my body can't do, but rather helping it to get stronger in ways I absolutely can control. 

Want to read more #Microblog Mondays, likely ones that actually are micro and not cheating like this post? Go here and enjoy!