Monday, January 11, 2010

'she will give birth in pain'

When I was pregnant with my daughter, I wanted it to be as natural as possible (um, in a hospital), in the water even, but after a few dozen hours of labor, I gave in and got drugs. Holy moses, I thought I'd died and gone to heaven. I wanted to make love to that anesthesiologist.

With my son, there were no delusions of grandeur - I knew I was headed straight back down the road to another spinal. Both my husband and were enthusiastic about regaining that pain relief for me. No shame.

Finn went 10 days past his due date. I had stretch marks on my belly that were pulled so tight they started to scab up. I was beyond capacity and when my midwife suggested we start talking about induction, I was all over it.

We stopped at a drugstore and stocked up on snacks (cheetos and snickers - keeps you satsified) before we got to the hospital. It was late evening - 7 or 8? It felt so odd to be at a hospital, doing something so monumental, without our daughter. They loaded up the induction drugs and - here's where it gets confusing - and the nurse (to her credit) asked if I wanted any drugs. AND I SAID NO. I said something like 'nah, I feel fine now - I'm just gonna ride it for a while'. Even at the time, I remember wondering why that came out of my mouth. Barry didn't understand it either; he was confused (someone who does not like a change of plans) but wise enough not to press for a logical answer at that point. But I kept on keepin' on; I refused that epidural for as many hours as I could and eventually gave in

I don't feel like this had anyhintg to do with birthing 'nobility'` - like I was trying to recreate a birth where maybe I wouldn't need drugs? If that was part of it, I assure you it was not the first thought. I feel like this is typical Stacy behavior. Like this is totally my MO. Like I enjoy letting shit get really really bad before I let myself fix it. Like I wanna see how far I can take it. How long I can go in misery before I seek relief? Does that make me a masochist?

I finally gave in, of course. This story would be so much stronger if I had stuck it out. Does there always have to be a breaking point? Can we truly bite our lips throught the worst things, until we bleed through to the end - and does a glorious moment come where we can rise above because of that? And does the breaking down make us weaker? Or does breaking and coming back together ultimately make us stronger? Birth is always painful [though I am sure the devil women who have orgasms in labor would disagree]; birth of a new child, birth of a new life of one's own. It all hurts - if it doesn't, I guess we're not really doing it, are we?

One of these things first...

I got my hair cut earlier this month. It was a New Year's/birthday chop and ohhhhh did it feel good to let go of the old and embrace the new. When I showed the stylist the picture of the girl with the white-blonde mohawk, and I watched the pleased look come across his face, I knew I'd chosen correctly.

The salon was empty; I knew I should have felt like an asshole, but I was too giddy to do that. And the music; I had heard it before - it was this beautiful, haunting sound that I couldn't place. "This is Fleet Foxes," he told me. "They are from Seattle." When I lived in Athens, I was in my favorite boutique (hi, Helix), alone and feeling magnificent. I was totally into the music they were playing over the speakers at the time, so I asked the cashier who we were listening to (notepad in my hand). "Cole Plane," she told me. "Cole Plane?" I repeated back. "COLE PLANE." I was really disappointed I couldn't find them anywhere, internet or otherwise. Weeks later, the song 'Yellow' by Coldplay was all over the place. Oh. Duh.

I really felt the change. It was tangible. It was all over the floor & in my eyes and scratching my neck and it was annoying as shit. When I stood up and saw the revolution the stylist had created on my head, I felt ten years younger and all I could think was 'why didn't I have the balls to do this 10 years ago?'.

Driving back home up A1A, I was flooded with this sense of completion for the time gone by, and at the same time, a bubbling up of the life I still had yet to begin. Not everyone is at the top of their game in their twenties. Or their thirties. I feel like it's all been far too much fun and games. And whatever I was going to be at 23, is gone now, forever. But now I'm looking at this huge sheet of clean canvas that will someday be the portrait of these next 30 years. Here I am; rolling up my sleeves and digging in.

Thursday, January 7, 2010

Second Chance

We just joined the YMCA. I am a little bit in love with the YMCA right now and I love it so because I can tell that the YMCA really, really loves me. And all moms, apparently. The membership is sixty-some dollars a month for our whole family and that includes access to the hundreds of thousands of group exercise classes and endless aisles of workout equipment and swimming pools and showers and basketball courts and ping pong tables and billions of spinning cycles, which is awesome, but it would all be worthless if it were not for the fact that the Y really really loves me and every other mom in the world. Because do you know what they have there? Do you know how and why it's fun to play at the YMCA? Because they have free childcare.

FREE CHILDCARE. FREE. and unlimited. (Well, slightly limited, but in no way that will ever affect me.)

Monday-Saturday, I can drop my kids off for up to two hours and go take a class or go swimming or get on the elliptical and listen to podcasts about budgeting or indie rock or sex therapy OR WHATEVER and no one will interrupt me. No one will ask me for water or throw the remote at my head or take off all their clothes and run around naked (I assume there are rules against that at the YMCA) - I will have access to alone time. Me. Alone. Oh, god, I'm all weepy just thinking about it.

But get this, it's even better because this is totally a mutually beneficial thing because now? my kids get to go have a little pre-school in their world where before there was no way we could afford to give both of them that. Bam! Free social interaction and fun times for A&F. And they totally dig it. New kids to play with, new grownups to tell their jokes to; rad.

Yesterday I took a Pilates class and it was fantastic. Ava colored a picture of an ugly rat and the teacher cut it out for her with kid scissors and she was amazed by those tools and couldn't stop describing them to me in the car on the way home. The daycare ladies loved the kids and complimented their behavior and I got to feel like a stellar mother. Today I took Yoga. I don't think I expected it to be quite so trying upon my sense of balance, but I felt wonderful, just totally blissed out when class was over. Per the routine, I removed the kids from the KidWatch room and took them outside to the big playground. Where moments later, a kid bit Finn's Colbert ear. I was grateful he didn't break the skin - but Finn was pretty pissed. I don't blame him - there he was, happily going the wrong way on the big orange slide when this little boy, Max, climbs up behind him and nips at him, totally unwarranted, like a teeny Mike Tyson. The mother was completely embarrassed, and I appreciated her humility and quick action, but I also made a point to let her know that this was not a big deal. Really, how much of a toddler's behavior can you control? And how is that anyone's fault that their kid bites people? It's a weird quirk, but when you can't really express yourself fully to other people, feelings get manifested in all sorts of weird ways.

We watched 'Babel' a few months ago. The theme of the movie was about breakdowns in communication throughout different cultures. I found the film to be the most anxiety producing piece of cinema I had ever encountered. I wanted to enjoy it; I knew this was depicting a universal problem that affects anyone who goes outside of their comfort zone. But, I realized, watching the events unfold and feeling my blood pressure skyrocket, this is the reason I could never imagine travelling to the beautiful land of Southeast Asia, the arid desserts of the Middle East, the fragrant, fecund cities of India. These are all countries where chances are slim that, in an emergency - or terrible misunderstanding - scenario I could easily access English-speakers. These are places that, just like the characters in Babel, I am afraid I would be lost in translation. Does that make me ethno-centric? Ignorant? Fearful? Being unable to express yourself to someone, not being understood no matter how desperately it matters that you are - what a universally terrifying scenario.

In my marriage, the biggest and most challenging journey outside of my comfort zone I'll ever have, I have often felt unheard and misunderstood. And I have often resorted to ignoble means to get my point across. Throwing dishes and curses at my partner rarely gets across the point that I really want to drive home - but it certainly makes an impact. To truly express my passions takes some real time and effort and vulnerability to put it all into the words that can create effective change ~ and I have gone for years now, bypassing those extra steps and just simply giving up and biting ears. I hope that, were my mother there for these outbursts, she would also yank me away and scold me in shame. But she's not and just like Finn, my friend would never bite me back. Like Max, I'm left taking a little time to think about what it is I've done...and to develop my verbal skills, so that in the future, I won't feel like I have to attack to be heard.
At what point do we want to stop impressing other people? Even the most self-assured among us have come upon another person who we're so galvanized by, we cannot help but to try to pop a wheelie, or climb a water tower or otherwise unicycle our way into that person's heart.

We were in Old Navy in some mall in ugly, sunny Orlando - my old roommate and I. I was working at Disney World (so was she; we lived in corporate housing for the sadly underpaid college students) and therefore, I was full of virtue by association. The same did not hold true for Joie, though, and for that I envied her. She was this strikingly beautiful, hysterically funny Hispanic girl who just radiated confidence and I loved and was comforted by that. There were actually 6 of us in that 3 bedroom apartment (two girls to a room and they charged an arm and a leg that was automatically deducted from our paychecks) and I wasn't bunking with Joie, but another girl - Katie. Katie is another character who gave me a couple of zinger memories that I will surely share another day. Anyway, so Joie was my BFF in the house, but at the same time, I couldn't get too close to her because I was truly intimidated by how fucking cool she was.

I guess I was looking to prove myself to her, that I was cool, too (god, at 22, really?) and I could be dangerous! and break the law! We were wandering, like young people without money or sense of urgency for their lives passing them by, and then we were in Old Navy. What a shitty store, Old Navy. It's like the Worst of Gap. Everything was ugly so we didn't stay long, but as we were leaving, there was this giant barrel of key chains that were emery boards shaped into ugly objects. Like a skateboard, and an apple, and the ubiquitous hearts. Joie stopped to rifle through them, picked one and walked casually out of the store. "Oh, shit!" I yelled in my head, my stomach sinking, "I have to do this! I can't not do this! I have to do this!" And I was terrified! Because even when I worked at Target in high school I would be sweating the entire time I drank the I Sprite I would take from the soda tap when all I had actually paid for was water. Shoplifting actual objects was completely unimaginable. I had never even let myself have the desire to, because I knew there was no way I could follow through without freaking out and peeing myself upon someone, anyone giving me a sideways glance. So I was scared, but I couldn't hesitate; she was already out the door and me standing there like an idiot was neither cool nor nonchalant. All I could think to do was to imitate her moves: hand into the barrel, feigned interest in items, and then, naturally push lucky clover into my sweating palm. Exit all slow-motion-Reservoir Dogs-style. I walked out with that nail file key chain doing my best to not physically acknowledge the idea that I owed anything for it - terrified to the end of every hair on my body that an employee would stop me and my life would be over.

Of course, no one stopped me. No one gives a damn at Old Navy about people walking out with 'their' products, nor do they care about the people who make their products. If they did, they wouldn't work there. Like me, working at Disney. I had these childhood fantasies come true when I had the opportunity to work there, but the more I learned about the company, the more disgusted I was by it. Or maybe I'm just saying that to impress you - so you don't think I'm one of the clueless masses who buys Performance Fleece.

I don't think we talked about it. I may have teased her about it in the moment I met her outside the store, but I knew it wasn't any sort of event to her the way it was to me. I remember when she had to leave the program early because her father was very sick...was it that he had already died? I didn't have a clue what to say to her. I was so heartbroken, for her and what she must have been going through and I had no idea how to properly relate (which I still regret - not being a very strong friend at that time for her), and also, for me. That semester in Disney was like summer camp. You were thrust amongst strangers who, because of distance from home and proximity to each other, quickly became your support system - your family. Joie was like the big sister I'd never had. She was wise and clever and sneaky and gorgeous and ballsy and all the things women admire in their siblings (if they're lucky) and I still don't think she has a clue how badly I wanted to be her for those six months. Although I held onto it for a long time, the key chain didn't help.

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Catalytic Conversions

I married into a Catholic family. I really didn't want to have anything to do with that aspect of my husband; I guess I sort of believed that it wouldn't matter in the long run. Aside from wanting our future children to attend parochial schools, he was Catholic in name only, voluntarily attending Mass only on Easter & Christmas. He created a whole points system for rules of attendance and was funny/totally juvenile and ridiculous. But then, after our first daughter was born, I felt like I should join in on the foolishness...or at least try to get a grasp on what exactly 'it' was.

I was raised in a John Lennon no-religion "God is Love and Love is all you need" house. I was never baptised, we never went to church, though there were vague references to God and Jesus (as far as my mother was concerned, Jesus was the messiah of parking spots and when Mom found a good one was about the only time his name was praised). I formed my beliefs from what my mother talked about - her ideas about reincarnation and karma and being that God was indeed a loving God there was no hell all made sense to me, so I took many of them, including a general discomfort with the G & J-words, as my own. So it was really, really weird when I started attending Catechism classes. There was a TON of Jesus to contend with. And God, and the Holy Spirit (fave) and so many rules. So many rules of what was okay when and what was never okay and what would be eternally damning you and who could do what and who couldn't do what and man, they were not into gender equality AT ALL. I mean, Mary, yes - I will give big points for giving Mary such an important place in the Church, but for the average woman, meh. Women cannot be ordained in the Catholic Church, and I was very disappointed to find out that being a nun isn't given nearly the same respect, nor considered a sacrament, the way being a priest is. That was one of my biggest sticking points with the Church - that and 2) that clergy could not marry/were to be celibate for life & 3) their stance on homosexuality. These things all made me sad. [note: now, I'm just talking rules and bylaws here. The history of the church is often horrifying in & of itself, but if I can put grievancese aside and love America, I can do the same & love Catholicism, too.] I was willing to swallow the virgin birth idea and transubstantiation, but the amount of things that had to be repressed to be a leader in this religion made was really a bummer. Regardless, I kind of fell in love with Catholicism. The cathedrals and stained glass were gorgeous, Mass was a beautiful ceremony - I actually liked that it was always the exact same formula, the singing was lovely and the community was amazing. And I couldn't take communion until my process was through, so I felt like I was becoming part of a quasi-exclusive club. Plus, 80% of our friends were Catholic and I loved how excited people were about my 'becoming' a member, too. That an embarssing thing to admit but, I said it. Peer pressure.

So I let all my objections with the Church go and accepted that Christ had died for me and was thinking of me when he died on the cross, and that every time I sinned I was retroactively causing him more pain on said cross (that's a lie. I never thought that part was true). I also accepted that water could be holy and so, too, could a chapel full of people singing the same songs and reciting the same prayers at the same time all over the world. There was beauty in these centuries-old rituals and no matter what sticking points I had, I couldn't deny 2000 years of tradition. That I wanted to be a part of it felt natural to me, even if many of its guidelines didn't. The night I was to be accepted into the Church, I was nervous like I hadn't been in years. Like first date nervous with someone you really, really liked, but you were afraid might see through you and then not like you anymore? Remember that kind of butterfly feeling? It was palpable. And I remember Barry holding my hand in the car - I can still see his big freckled hand, blonde hairs reflecting in the sun, on top of mine, gently squeezing reassurance into my hand.

I was pregnant, huge, in this white robe, up in front of a church full of people on Easter eve, and scared that the man on the crucifix would shake his head at me and the priest wouldn't talk to me and I would be excommunicated with out ever being communed in. But it didn't happen like that at all. It was beautiful. I later described it my to aunt as feeling even more intense and communal than my wedding (and my wedding really was the best day of my life) - there was such electricity in the parish, but the warmest, most loving electricity you could imagine. I felt like every one of those people was singing because they wanted me to hear those words. It was truly and thankfully, a fully spiritual experience. I felt wonderful. It was like a high that lasted for days. How the hell do you explain that? Was it a funneling of the energy of everyone there into me that took me so heartily up to cloud 9? Or was it something even bigger than that?

I was so happy. I was truly so full of grace for 6 days and I will never forget what happened on the 7th day because of the immediate guilt that racked my heart and knocked me right back down to the ground. It was evening time and I was coming home, alone, and as I pulled into our driveway I saw a man rummaging through our trash can. I guess I wasn't paying attention or he was at an invisible angle to me, but when I saw him he was so close to the car he scared the shit out of me and I called Barry to ask him to come outside and shoo the man away. I rolled down my window and I immediately began yelling [this was my primary learned form of defense when we lived in that house] at this poor man. I think we must have just had something stolen from one of our cars because I was very pissed and very defensive of my driveway space/trashcan. Barry came outside and sent the man away and I felt this rush of awful, awful guilt at having yelled at a homeless man for going through my garbage. That fear and anger were my first reaction and not pity and help - how awfully narcisstic and cruel. I am shaking my head as I type this. I am still, three years later, so disappointed in myself. I still carry that guilt.

Monday, January 4, 2010

Roll on.

I met my husband when I was 22. I find that number shocking now; how young I was! I remember, even at the time, thinking this was all happening too fast - that I had just come into my own self and I wasn't ready to end my run as this wild, independent girl quite yet. One night I confessed to a fellow bartender (pleaded, really), that I wasn't ready to get married - wondering if she had some secret on how to postpone my fate. It was a fate that I really wanted (oh, how totally in love I was with this guy), but at the same time, I was somewhat reluctant to head toward. I was really good at being single. [Well, if by 'being single' you meant 'drinking heavily and getting into dangerous situations where I always escaped scot-free with my sense of humor and charm -and virginity, yeah- still intact'; then yes. I was excellent at being single.] Plus, I wanted to travel. I had this one grand plan, my big ever-present daydream, to pack up the Civic with all my worldly possessions and just go and land where ever the wind blew me. I knew I could stay at the local youth hostel until I got on my feet and oh, the people I would surely meet there! Maybe I would bar tend, that's an easy thing to work around and isn't everyone in service just there to support their next step anyway? But what I really wanted to write and write until my fingers fell off - for Lonely Planet and for my own personal 'Great American Novel' gain and eventually take over Samantha Brown's job. I wanted to absorb all the beauty I could find out there, pull it all inside of me and let it leave its mark forever all over my muddy little soul and then I just wanted to shine those sights and sounds and feelings back out through a calligraphy pen onto endless sheets of textured paper and relive it all over and over and over again. I wanted to fill myself up in every way a single person can - with experiences that are big and beautiful and blinding but have nothing to do with anyone else. I was at a point in my life where I was totally into physical contact but not at all into the idea of attachment. Bonds like that were only going to slow me down. So I had relationships, I had crushes, I had fun. No sweat.

And then one night, after 'leading' a room full of semi-potty-trained 3 year olds and hating nearly every minute of it, and not having to go to my second job (server at redneck wing bar), I got a call inviting me to a party in the city. And ugh, I was tired and not in the mood. And one could claim this was magic, that I was invited to this party because we were destined to meet that night - but it was bound to happen at one point or another - we were running in so many of the same circles, he even had pictures of me at parties he had been at but had no idea who I was. It was inevitable that we meet. But it happened that night - the week before Christmas and I saw the immigration papers on the wall and was shocked that no one had introduced me to this Mick before - clearly I had not been stating my preference for Irishmen loudly enough. No matter; I would never have to point such desires out again. I knew from the moment I saw him and I made jokes about it the next day, and then that Friday night with my family; that I had to leave early because I had 'a date with my future husband'. Barry was a very laid back guy, but at the same time, he was extremely focused. I found the former appealing, the latter amusing. So many grand plans, schemes, ideas - his imagination was something else. And at the time, I was also in a frame of mind where I was quite lofty with my goals - but as the relationship progressed, that part of my mind began to quietly close shop. But for the one or two drunken outbursts to strangers where I admitted that I felt like with the birth of this relationship that part of myself was dying (but never expressed so eloquently/coherently), I just wandered on my merry way toward that destination.

We will celebrate our 6 year anniversary this month. I met Barry 8 years ago and I'm not sure at exactly what point I lost myself. I mean, not completely - there are plenty of times where I can see/feel myself shimmering through. And the 'being single' we referred to earlier has no place nor any appeal at this point in my life. Additionally, becoming a mother, twice, has irrevocably changed who I was into another kind of person, too. My goals from year 22 are pretty incompatible with all of these things. Do I still mourn the path I strutted my engagement ring right on past? Only sometimes, and not for very long. I feel like I didn't mourn properly for that death. Like part of me is still hanging on to those post-adolescent dreams as if they are all my heart is capable of being thrilled by. Our relationship only has the potential of its weakest member and my imagination for the future needs to be stirred up now. My map needs to be scribbled out onto something tangible and I need to carry it in my back pocket and pull it out when I get all worn down.

I need to grow up. But that's another (monstrous) ball of wax for another day.

Sunday, January 3, 2010

I drive a mini-van. I didn't really want to drive a mini-van at this stage in my life, but I have a hard time arguing with my husband's logic, so I am the primary driver of a 1999 Chrysler Town & Country, which is overflowing with the types of things other families keep in their garages. [We currently live in an apartment...but I remember fondly the dumping zone in our former lives as homeowners.] This is quite a ride, ladies & gentlemen. One day, a backdoor handle just popped right off the car in my hand. The other door has no interior panel - well, has no interior panel attached to it; said panel sits up against the previously mentioned door whose handle died earlier last year.
And let us not forget, there are juice box explosion stains and there are strawberry ice cream smudges and I cannot believe this is true, but there is still the remnant of a sticker from the previous owner's parking pass on my windshield. This mini-van is not 'my car' - I rarely address i t as such. This (very convenient, but very inefficient) ride is just that - a vehicle for transportation. I don't love this car, I have never loved this car. Which makes me sad, because I know what it's like to love a car.

My first car was a 1984 Honda Accord (Colby), but that's a story for another day. My second car, just the thought of her makes me smile. My red 1991 Honda Civic hatchback coupe. The youngest car I have ever owned. I was a Senior in high school, working at Target and I remember seeing her in the driveway of a neighbor's house on my way home from work one day. And I vividly remember haggling with the very nice family who owned her over me lowballing them. I was paying cash, which gave me an advantage - and I remember the wife - Lori, reminding her husband of some past instance where they apparently had cheated some system and now giving me a deal would sort of even things out for them. There were lots of crosses around the house, so I knew the strength of religious guilt was on my side.

I rode home, completely giddy, in my new car; my new little red roller skate of a car that had not only a radio, but a CD PLAYER and fully functioning speakers AND, oh god, it had air conditioning. And it was clean and small and adorable and it was mine to decorate (and boy, did I) and customize and to love. That car took me everywhere I needed to go, from Savannah to Blacksburg, VA, without question or stall and do you know how much gas cost back then? I have a picture - and this was two years later, when I was in college - of a Quiktrip with regular gas for 69c a gallon. (c=cents. SIXTY NINE CENTS! A GALLON!) She & I were an item, she was my sidekick, my running mate. I remember my sweet friend who named her for me - because she needed a name and so I petitioned my classmates (in my sociology class? my home ec class? P.E.? All of them?) and then Melissa said "I think it's 'Suzy,'" and she was right; that was my car's name for the next 8 years. Suzy meant so much to me, I suppose, because she was the symbol of my freedom. [Of course, and my husband insisted that I sell her almost immediately after we married - HA.] I was free to go wherever I wanted, whenever I wanted in that car. I could pack up everything I needed and leave for good in that car (and I did, and boy, did I revel in the fact that such exits were possible). Suzy put the world at my feet and for that she will always be holy in my mind.

Two cars and 13 years later, I am driving in the most luxurious mini-van money could buy in 1999. Seat heaters, leather everything, temperature/mileage/blahblah gauges, motorized seats & windows, cassette & CD player (thank god for the former - iPhone/Pandora compatible)and a trailer hitch...just in case I want/need to tow something. Like a boat? Behind my boat? It's all very nice, and then totally not nice at all, and has lots of electrical quirks and good lord almighty, there are the snacks embedded in the carpet, I nearly forgot those treasures. Sure, it's a functioning car and who am I to bitch about having reliable transportation, but, well, dang, I miss the zip of a little car. I miss economical fuel milage. I miss being in love with my car, or at least liking my car.

My husband is supposed to give it the A-Team van paint job. I think that could kindle some serious feelings of affection.

Made by Lena