Not all gloom

October 7, 2014

My last few posts have been perhaps a bit vent-y and full of whinging. I’m not going to apologize because sometimes a person needs to vent and whinge and this is my space to write about the things I seldom discuss with anyone in real life, but my life is hardly all gray drizzle and sorrows.

So this is a sort of “count your blessings” post even though I am ambivalent about the “count your blessings” type of memes that are currently tumbling around online. I’m not adverse to counting blessings, but always included in this activity seems to be the idea that we should be grateful because others have it worse. This, I’m not comfortable with. Yes, we take many things for granted and witnessing the misfortune of someone else can make us grateful for things we probably should have been grateful for all along, but the purpose of misfortune (if there is one – I’ll leave that to you) isn’t to spur gratitude in others. It might be a silver lining of misfortune, I guess, but that’s as far as I’ll budge. And sometimes it seems like the compare and contrast method of gratitude borders on the exploitative. So, while I’m grateful for my blessings, there are more blessings I’d like. And I’d like it if everyone had access to a nice, reliable base-line of blessings that included general good health, access to food, and assurance of personal safety.

I’m using the word “blessings” a lot even though it’s a problematic word and one that always stirs up all kinds of doubts and questions in my mind. I think that’s because it’s gloriously autumn here and this is the time of year when I feel most connected to the world and as though I am actually being blessed by something huge and benevolent. I’m grateful for autumn, then, for a start. For me September and October are full of beauty and release and relief, and the smell of leaves and the bite in the air make me feel like all will be well. Maybe this only works if you enjoy winter, too?

I’ve been walking to work two days a week for the past six weeks, and it’s so very good for me. I get more done and feel better about what I do. Also, endorphins. Also, it’s propelled me into a health kick that includes giving up my beloved Diet Coke and my regular dates with Ben & Jerry. This may not sound particularly indulgent, but having time – even for walks, and mental space to focus on myself – even for semi-tyrannical dietary changes, feels indulgent.

The hot water tap in the bathroom now works really well, and I’m so grateful to my dad for spending half a day replacing our faucet. I’m grateful that I have parents who drive out to visit and fix things and cook and connect with Dot and who love me unconditionally. I thought that loving unconditionally was just what parents did, but I’ve met some who don’t, or who can’t, and (here I am comparing again) it’s made me realize that my parents are quietly but undeniably amazing.

I am glad that I can make my daughter giggle and that there are still times she likes to cuddle.

I’m glad that I can make my way through a play date for Dot. I am still searching for good friends where I am, but I can carry on a reasonably friendly conversation for at least long enough for Dot to get some play time in with other kids, and for me that’s not nothing. We are having two families we’re thinking of cultivating as friends (sheesh, that sounds calculating!) over for pumpkin carving soon, and I’m hoping at least some of my visions of familial bonding and mulled cider and fun will be realized. It’s hard to go wrong with jack o’ lanterns, after all.

Here’s to a mostly happy October for everyone.




Watermelon Welcome

October 3, 2014

Dot’s school had a “watermelon welcome” event for the kids and their families. N was working, but I was there, of course, and she had a great time showing me her many tricks on the climbers and slides while playing with her friends. There were lots of kids there, lots of kids with siblings. Lots of baby brothers and baby sisters. Do you see where this is going?

And I hid behind a tree because now I miss Teddy, who should have been there, teasing his little sister. And I miss the baby who will never be because I’m responsible and reasonably unselfish when it comes to making decisions for my family. I want that baby, whoever he or she might be. And I started crying at the damned watermelon table but didn’t want Dot (or anyone else) to see me.

Someone told me that I should just go ahead and try for another, that money stuff always works itself out. This, from my perspective, is a fairly privileged viewpoint. Of course you work it out and do what you have to do for a baby once that baby exists. Once that baby exists, their existence becomes a priority that other things – your career, your family’s movement toward financial stability, your lack of bankruptcy, your oldest (living) child’s chances of going to college – can be sacrificed to support. But our income is too high to qualify for any sort of assistance, and our debt is too high to allow for much savings or “discretionary income.” We wouldn’t be giving up trips to Hawaii or Friday nights at the steakhouse or gifts of fine jewelry. We already go meatless on more than Mondays, and we drive a small compact (to be paid off this coming summer!). So we’d be giving up Dot’s college fund, my credit rating, possibly my job and income, possibly N’s chances of finishing & defending his diss, possibly (because of stress and money and time) our marriage. It would work out, but the way it worked out would likely hurt people I love and for whom I’m responsible. So the person who told me that can…bite my budget spreadsheet.

I’ve tried not being bitter about this, but I am. I’ll get over it. It’s something I can get over, I think, not like losing Teddy. But it hurts, and I’m fed up with things that hurt. I want a cookie, and a warm cup of tea, and three wishes.



September 11, 2014

Here’s a tour of the jumbled museum of my brain. It’s a working museum, so things may move as you look around. Also, there are tigers.

Exhibit 1:  I made a budget spreadsheet and N has agreed to fill in his bills and expenses so that we can finally work together on our finances. Like actual grown-ups. I think this is going to be really good. Also, as the daughter of an accountant, I should have done it years ago.

Exhibit 2: On August 23, I will have been married eight years. I’ve been thinking about all the ways in which my life is better for sharing it with N, even when we aren’t especially good at sharing. Eight years might be a long relationship by Hollywood standards, but it’s still a very young relationship in a lot of ways – a grade schooler of a marriage – enthusiastic, learning a lot, making mistakes, growing up a bit more every day. I am looking forward to seeing what our marriage is like when it’s 30 (even though that takes a certain leap of imagination and hope that borders on tempting fate).

Exhibit 3:  I think I need to just write this out: I really want to have another baby. I long for another baby with a longing that’s connected to but not the same thing as my longing to have Teddy back. I really don’t think we can afford another baby, or that it would be a good idea for my family. But I want one anyway. Now that I’m 40, I need to stop telling myself that there is still time. There might be a tiny window of time, but I think, by and large, my decision has been made for me. I don’t know when I’ll make peace with this. I am angry and sad and perhaps not as appreciative of the new babies in my life as I want to be right now. I am trying to keep this from turning into bitterness.

Exhibit 4: Dot has been wanting to sleep in her own bed for the past few nights. For the past few nights, there hasn’t been a baby – okay, a preschooler – in the middle of our bed. Of course, for the past few nights either N or I has been sleeping in her room with her, but I still think it’s progress toward a sleeping arrangement I’ve been looking forward to for a while now.

Exhibit 5: We had our first freeze last night and the maple trees outside my office window are obligingly changing colors. I love this time of year, but everything about it strikes me as strikingly clear, and piercing, and – not merciless, but absolute – in its beauty. The blue of the sky, the sharpness in the air, the hint of frost in the air – it’s the kind of beauty that breaks your heart for loving it. I don’t regret having my heart broken this way, but I sometimes wonder if I’m going to be strong enough to make it to October.

Exhibit 6: I wish there was a class or support group for socially awkward and introverted middle-aged women trying to make friends. When I was growing up my mom and the neighborhood moms all knew each other and had coffee and talked on the phone, but while I’m friendly with several people, I don’t have a community or neighborhood like that. I want one, though, and am going to see what I can do to make it happen.





You seem depressed

September 5, 2014

“You seem depressed,” he tells me.

This isn’t the first time he’s told me this. I think the first time was actually at a time in my life when I was feeling relatively happy and energetic and in control of my life, so I have to wonder – what are the signs of depression he is picking up from me?

Am I depressed? I don’t know. I don’t seem to be a good judge. I am sad about a big work project because it involves cancelling several journals and cancelling journals goes against every librarianly instinct librarians have. I can rage about a governmental and societal system that spends more time talking about supporting education than actually doing it, or about a university system where library budgets are never increased even though the costs of all these online subscriptions rise every year like clockwork, or about the fact that libraries like mine just lay back and take it instead of presenting some sort of unified front that would actually make a difference. But then he looks at me, worried. So rage (even reasonable rage) doesn’t seem to be helping my cause.

I am tired. I’ve been walking into work on alternate mornings, which I love, but it’s a long walk and I have to get up early to get it in. Since I’m pretty out of shape at the moment, both of those things might be making me tired. This is hopefully the kind of tired that comes before having more energy because! exercise! but I think it’s likely passing and not that big of a deal.

I am frustrated. Because he’s still smoking weed like a demented chimney, and while some of the worry is gone now that it’s legal in my state I still hate it when he comes home smelling like a marijuana fire and gives Dot a hug. I want to pull her away from that smell, but he’s her dad so I don’t.

I am also frustrated because he’s her favorite. Mommy’s okay, but Daddy’s really where it’s at. Daddy doesn’t say no. Daddy will always read another story, even at 11:30 at night, but Mommy just wants everyone to go to sleep. Daddy can be convinced to head to Starbucks for a leisurely breakfast in the mornings, but Mommy just worries about being at work on time, at school on time. Mommy plays hundreds of imagining games, but has to stop to do laundry, dishes, cooking. Mommy sometimes says no to invitations to play, which is something Mommy never thought she’d do, but sometimes Mommy is (see above) tired and needs to just sit for a minute, just a minute. Just a quiet minute, please.

I am worried. I am worried because we don’t talk about money or budgets with each other, because he waits until our rent is late to tell me he needs me to pay the rent. Because I can’t pay anything else after I’ve paid for rent and childcare and electricity and groceries and the car payments, and our car insurance is coming due. Because I can’t talk to him about money or he gets sad and turns to self-loathing because he’s not providing me with a castle. Because he doesn’t believe me when I tell him I don’t want a castle; I just want us to have a savings plan so that some day we can have our own house.

I am lonely. We don’t talk much these days, the two of us, which means when we do talk the big things loom bigger. He’s been reaching out – trying to make time during the weekdays to go for walks together and I was enjoying it so much. But now the school year is back in full swing and we haven’t gone for a walk together for a while. If I get at all passionate about current events he looks at me with a sad, concerned gaze and I want to run away. Why can’t I be passionate? What type of emotion can I show without upsetting him? What was I like before when I was the person he could like and enjoy without worrying about? Does being occasionally sad or angry or confused mean that you can’t be a happy person?

I am lonely. My college friends, who are in general my closest friends, all live far away. My friends here are almost all work friends. I hang out with Dot on weekends while he works. I try to catch up on cleaning and shower when he takes Dot out for a movie. I spend a lot of time alone, missing the people who could hear me tell stories and laugh without worrying that I was going to crack.

Am I depressed? I might be. Would this feel different from being overwhelmed by feeling tired, frustrated, worried, and lonely at the same time while holding it together to do my job, take care of my kid, and try to be supportive of someone who really is feeling depressed? I don’t know. I don’t think the amount of overwhelmed I am is actually that uncommon. I do know that not being able to talk about it without N feeling guilty or sad, without him being able to understand that a lot of this will pass, that a lot of it can be fixed if we work on it together, is exacerbating everything. I can laugh about all of this, can feel fairly happy about the prospects of things coming out all right, if I feel like I have a plan, like we have a plan.

But maybe I’m wrong. Maybe I’m no longer capable of real happiness since Teddy died. I know I’ve changed, irrevocably, and I’ll be carrying this loss, this weight of love and sorrow, for the rest of my life. I don’t think it means I’m depressed; I think it means I’m different. Maybe I’m broken, and what he’s discovering is that he doesn’t want to spend the rest of his life with someone who is broken even if she thinks she is mostly okay.

Maybe I shouldn’t post this, but I’m going to anyway.



The days went by

August 19, 2014

Little one, the days went by. Your days, the days when the entirety of what and who I am is wrung out and I remember so clearly the weight of your body, the stars on the blue blanket the hospital wrapped you in, your pale eyelashes and beautiful, stubborn little face.

The days went by, and I didn’t write here – there was no time and I was trying to put on a happy face for your sister who doesn’t know about you yet, and I had a cold, and we’d just returned from a grueling trip to Chicago, and there was no calm or quiet time. No time to put words, again, to the heartbreak.

But as the days went by I felt each and every break and crack in my patched heart. I felt them throb and stretch as they cried out in grief and told me of each emptiness that should be filled by you. I didn’t write, but I cried behind sunglasses as I chased Dot on her bicycle. I cried as I cooked dinner, and as I frantically washed all of our bedding and vacuumed the bedroom in a fit of paranoia about travel and bedbugs that turned out to be rather silly. I was even grateful, fleetingly and foolishly, that you’ll never be bothered by such things. I looked for you in every flower, gust of wind, and bumblebee. I  spoke your name into the wind and asked her to bring you word of me, but if she did, I didn’t understand the message.

The days went by, and I noticed that for the first year on these days since your death, no one called us. No one called to say they remember you, or that they miss you. It’s not surprising – harvest was on, and half of our family was recovering from that rather taxing Chicago wedding (no one mentioned you there, either, except me), and it has been six years after all. Except, well, fuck that. Six years is not a long time, is it? Is it? It doesn’t feel like a long time, especially in August. It feels like I could reach my hand out and touch those days, touch the mother I used to be and the father who watched you with love and devastation in his eyes and the small miracle of you, our firstborn, so nearly perfect and so fatally imperfect.

The days went by and I felt so terribly lonely this year, missing you and wondering why more people didn’t seem to be missing you, and trying to pretend I was fine (how I hate fucking fine!). I wish I lived in a world where I could talk about grief openly without horrifying people. I don’t want to shock or scare, just to acknowledge. You were here and loved and now you are gone and loved, and missed. I wish I could openly miss you without worrying about what people think.

The days went by and I thought about who you might have been at six. I’ll never know, but I imagine you would have welcomed Dot’s current fascination with bathroom humor and would have encouraged her to new heights of fart jokes and silliness. I imagine that you’d be helping her figure out this bike riding thing, that you’d have little patience for my constant reminders to wash your hands. I wonder if I’d be reading you Harry Potter about now. I’d give my life, paradoxical as it seems, to be able to read Harry Potter to you, Teddy.

The days have gone by, and here I am, again, wondering where all this love I have for you goes. I hope it reaches you somehow, somewhere, even though I don’t get to shape it into actions like reading or hugging, even though your ears no longer exist to hear me telling you I love you, and play nicely with your sister, and eat at least three bites of veggies, or no dessert, young man.

I say the words anyway, the same old words: I love you. I miss you. I wish you could have stayed.



July 10, 2014

Back in graduate school, long before I met N or even thought about parenthood beyond the abstract, I had what I think was a panic attack. That’s the practical, likely name for it. I woke up in bed, certain that someone was sitting on my chest and holding my arms down. I couldn’t breathe or speak or scream, and I intensely wanted to do all of those things. A Chinese-American friend told me later that she thought it was a hungry ghost, and I spent a lot of time thinking of old nightmare stories where the mare doesn’t refer to horse but to a goblin or hag or unspecified supernatural being (usually female) that sits on top of a person and feeds off of their terror.

But I was living in a dark apartment in graduate student housing in a new (to me) city, and was teaching for the first time under the supervision of a mentor who never answered any of my questions or took any interest in my teaching except as a way to get out of teaching himself. So “panic attack” seems to be a good diagnosis. Reasonable, recognized, scientific. I am a logical person, with a fairly skeptical mind, and panic is easier to talk about than supernatural attack. But I’ve never been able to wean myself away from superstition and the belief in things unseen (or I’d be happily atheist right now). I’ll never know if voicing my anxieties kept the nightmare from coming back, or if it was the rowan berries and twigs I tucked into the corners of my windows and over my door.

I used to dream about saving the world. I was Girl Robin Hood, or the person with superpowers who dived into the sea to turn back the darkness and the monsters, or the leader with a plan. I was fierce and powerful and beautiful in my dreams. That nightmare in graduate school made an impression on me not only because of the substance and terror of it, but because it was such an aberration.

I don’t dream as much now, and my dreams have softened. I haven’t saved the world in a long time, though I once gave the god Thor a really great kiss before he went off to die in Ragnarök, and enjoyed the dream-privilege of Neil Gaiman babysitting Dot in his apartment so that I could have time to do some writing. Good stuff, but I sometimes miss being the hero myself. I think that might be a part of me forever lost with Teddy’s death.

Last night I dreamed that I turned my back on Teddy and he died. He was Dot’s age, in my dream – a little boy with short fair hair and some sort of internal injury. And I pulled him out of a bus – or a plane – or something – and held him before laying him on the ground next to a stranger. And Teddy was hallucinating, calling the stranger “Daddy” and talking about what they were going to do tomorrow. I wanted to keep holding him, to stay, but someone told my that Teddy couldn’t be moved, and that we needed to drive others to safety, and I heard a small gasp, then turned around, and he was dead. And then I woke up and he was (of course) still dead, and I cried in a way I haven’t for a long time and then overslept and had to push to get everyone up and out of the house.

It’s warm summer here – I fling the windows open in the evenings and rush to shut them and keep the cool air inside in the mornings. I’m aware, especially so this morning, that the warmth and smells and sounds are pulling me back to those days of hope and desperation before Teddy’s birth and to the dumb, raw grief that followed. Still. Still, I feel this. And this nightmare of last night – I got to hold him again, see him again – but I’d rather have a good old traditional nightmare sitting on my chest or to be hagridden than to dream that I let him go.

I wish I could dream of saving him, just once.



Ugh, and ugh again

January 29, 2014

N has asked me to “unfriend” some of his family members on fac.ebook. He doesn’t have much of a social media presence, but I do, and at one point or another, his family members have friended me as a way of getting more news about him. I know that these friendships are more about N and Dot than they are about me, but I still don’t like having another person, even my best person, try to tell me who I should connect with online. For much of his family, facebo.ok is the only place where they see photographs of Dot, or get news about what she is doing. My mom and I talk every week, but N doesn’t talk to anyone in his family that often and this silly social media connection is the best connection they have.

So why the unfriending? Well, N’s dad invited all of his grandkids (except one, except ours) on a ski weekend in Colorado. I’m sure they had good reasons for not inviting us or talking to us about it. We live farther away than N’s brother and sister; we have turned down invitations to visit in the past; N’s relationship with his father is prickly; Dot had a busy January filled with dentistry and her first ever dance program; N’s never been that interested in skiing (I grew up in MT, so no excuse there); right now we don’t have the financial resources to fly out to CO and stay in a ski resort. So, I’m sure they have their reasons, but I wish they would have invited us anyway.

If they’d invited us anyway, the onus of not being there would be on us. Our decision and our call. And maybe they didn’t want the rejection of a no from us, which would be another understandable reason, I guess, but I wish they’d risked at least a phone call to feel us out. As it is, they’ve really hurt N’s feelings. Not mine so much, but I don’t have the long family history of divorce and step-parents and half-siblings and rejection and denial that he’s had to deal with. I’ve always known my family is right there for me if I need them, that they want me with them at family gatherings and that if I’m not invited it’s because they already know I can’t come because they’ve checked with me. N hasn’t grown up with that surety. For me this was a “your family is weird” moment, but for him it’s a “my family forgets/rejects me (and my child) again” moment.

And now I’m in this weird place where I can either just unfriend the family members (unlikely), or try to engage in further conversation about this. Neither of which I want to do. I could also lie about it, which I know is supposedly a terrible thing to do, and relationships should be based on honesty and [insert another commonplace about honesty here], but I can’t help but wonder if it might not save hurt feelings all around. It’s not just N’s decision, for one thing: it involves my connections and also Dot’s relationship with her grandparents, uncles and cousins. It’s pretty sad to have your best connection with your grandchild be through fa.cebook, but I don’t want to cut that connection without further thought and discussion.

I wish they would have given us a call.