A young woman I know, who was married within this past year, has just announced her pregnancy. I am delighted for her and her husband, and wish them and theirs all the very best.
I was surprised by the depth of memory that her announcement brought back for me: the recollections of what it was like to tell my parents, my coworkers; the strangeness of all the body changes; the slow-moving fish sensation deep within; the anticipation; the rigors (and tremendous difficulties) of labor and birth; and beyond. I am glad I have experienced these things. I am equally sure I would not want to experience them again.
If I could pick one part of it all to relive, I would like, once more, to feel the deep-rooted desire that led me to become a mother -- that hunger for something more than the moment, for something beyond myself; the commingled fear and joy and the infinite question of being open to the possibility of bringing forth a new life.
To yearn. It is what drives the species. To be past the age for that yearning is a freedom in one sense, and a loss in another. It's strange place to be. A no-man's land (no-woman's land?) of invisibility, undesirableness, irrelevancy. Now what, I wonder?
I reviewed all of the tax forms this evening; we received them from our tax preparer yesterday. (Apparently we all are waiting until the last minute. Good times.)
This year, for the first time, a return needed to be prepared for a neighboring state. (This was due to the Project, which was conducted in an adjacent desert state.) That's fine -- income was generated there, income tax should be paid there.
Yet when I reviewed the form, it was patterned exactly like our federal tax return: Beloved Husband is the primary, and I am the Spouse.
I do not object, per se, to the denomination of "Spouse": I certainly willingly identify as Beloved Husband's spouse, and have done so for nearly twenty-six years now. It is just the way it is presented on the tax forms: a stark second-class status -- a person who is a hanger-on, a mere appendage. And given that I was the only one who earned income in the neighboring state, it seems... insulting somehow to still have the return under his name with mine as the auxiliary.
Why must I be secondary on the forms?
I am not secondary.
I am the Rock, the Glue that Holds Everything Together, the One Who Takes Care Of Things.
In my experience, headaches come in two varieties. The first is a nebulous pain, accompanied by a need to lie down and go to sleep immediately; the second is a deeper, harder pain which wakes me up and makes returning to sleep difficult. They come with different auras, too: a nebulous-sleepy headache sometimes comes with a vaguely amorous feeling and a craving for carbohydrates; a hard-wakeful headache is preceded by hypersensitivity to sound, to light, and to touch -- everything is too much. Both are unpleasant. Mercifully, the easier headache (nebulous-sleepy) occurs more often than the hard-wakeful headache.
It can be difficult to distinguish the triggers for the two types of headache. Indulging in chocolate will often bring a nebulous-sleepy ache; consuming cheese will virtually always bring a hard-wakeful pain. Dust, weather -- often hard-wakeful but sometimes nebulous-sleepy. Sometimes, there is no rhyme or reason. Hormones? Stress? A hidden ingredient in something I've eaten? Who can tell?
Migraines are a different beast entirely They are usually preceded by an increase in both types of headaches; the headaches appear alternately, and grow, appearing more frequently until they coalesce into a full-blown migraine. Migraine comes with nausea, sometimes vomiting, and worst of all, a dizziness that makes it impossible to move my head a fraction of a millimeter in any direction without dire consequences.
I had a migraine earlier this week. It was thoroughly awful.
After the worst has subsided, the migraine slowly ebbs away, and in the ebbing, my brain frequently gets stuck: stuck on a thought, a worry, some kind of obscure obsession that takes the forefront of all thought. Sometimes it is an ordinary thing: the taxes are due. Other times, it is a panicky sensation about something I did not do that I should have done, or something that I may have done that I should not have done. Why did I say that? Why did I not say that? Trying to deliberately focus on an alternate thought is unsuccessful. I have to wait it out. Ugh.
When in the throes of an impending headache (or an impending migraine), my temperament changes. I may be far more cranky than usual; or weepy; or despairing. I wish I could separate regular feelings from headache-feelings, but I cannot; perhaps, rather than differing in content from what feelings I might have normally, headache-feelings are merely a more extreme form of such ordinary feelings. It is all very strange sometimes.
The only silver lining to it all, is that on occasion, my brain will get stuck on love. Love. It is a fuzzy, yet intense, mysterious sensation, this headache-borne Love. It is rare, but welcome -- for to be able to feel love in its unbridled form, untainted by Ordinary Life, is most unusual.
Ah, Love. Even in the midst of pain, we find you. Or, perhaps, you find us.
It is rare that a song speaks to me the way this one does; the first time I heard it, I was in a particularly vulnerable state of mind, and it nearly brought me to tears. I gave you all my energy And I took away your pain 'Cause human beings are destined to Radiate or drain What line do we stand upon 'Cause from here it looks the same?
For those of us who are inclined to be Givers -- who enjoy, more than anything, caretaking and helping -- we run the risk of running empty.
It is OK to look after oneself.
In fact, it might be important.
I do enjoy a bit of Scrabble. It is not an easy game: despite all of the word games I play in an attempt to hone my skills, I am not good at visualizing high-scoring moves. I try and try to imagine my letters forming complex combinations (ideally, using seven or more tiles), yet do not often succeed. I rarely win -- but that is fine with me, because in truth I really gain greater enjoyment from watching my opponent(s) play. A furrowed brow, a rearranging of the tiles, a glance at the dictionary, and then -- voila! -- a lengthy word spanning multiple point-enhancing squares. It is a marvel of human thought.
Especially when a single move yields two hundred and forty-eight points, for an ultimate score of 574. Magnificent.
As you may have guessed from the photos over the last several days, I was away this weekend: I went northward to visit Cherished Friend. It is always reassuring to see him, for despite time and distance, he is, as always, ineffably himself. Knowing that he is Constant, makes easier the thought that someday (and perhaps sooner rather than later), he may move farther away. I will not contemplate that possibility in detail yet; rather, I will take the future as it comes. That is all anyone can ever do, really.
While I was up north, we took the opportunity to do some hiking in a lovely state park. The trees -- oh, the trees. Living in the desert as I do, I forget how much I miss the forest -- until I am in the midst of the trees. There were mysterious birch trees: not quite the same as the paper birch of the New England of my youth, but still light-barked and stretching high into the air. There were evergreens, too. And moss, and lichen, and patches of snow, and leaf litter. A crow. Orange and black butterflies. A snowmelt-fed stream.
There is something so very soothing about the forest: the quiet, the distant woodpecker, the trickle of water, and the scent of pine. Time stands still. In this busy, busy world, the forest is transcendent. We should all spend more time there.
I did not take nearly as many pictures as I thought I had; yet I do not need many photos, for the forest was so permeating, it seems as though it soaked all the way to my core. If I close my eyes, I can be there again for a moment. And for now, that is enough.
Lovely Offspring the First is two dozen years old now. As I check in on a very rotund April the giraffe, I am reminded of that last week when I was pregnant with Offspring the First, waiting, waiting, waiting, for her arrival. How can it have been so long ago?
She is a lovely person, Offspring the First: sweet, thoughtful in her words, witty, charming. She lights up the room wherever she goes. It it a privilege to be her mother.
Let's talk politics for a little bit. Tangential politics, but politics.
::: shudder ::: OK, here we go.
It has been revealed that in 2002, the current Vice President, Mike Pence, indicated that will not eat a meal alone with a woman who is not his wife. Nor will he attend a social event at which alcohol will be served unless the accompanies him. (We shall, for our purposes here, assume his rule remains in place today.)
One of the reasons touted to explain his staunch prohibition is something along the lines of, "to avoid temptation/the appearance of impropriety" -- a chivalrous thing, a respect-for-marriage thing.
Eyeroll. Sigh. And gnashing of teeth.
Pence is cutting off the possibility of any woman earning his confidence in the workplace by refusing to participate in the nearly universal business activity of a "business lunch" or "business dinner". What? Apparently he cannot trust himself (or her? which is it, anyway?) to be alone together with a woman-not-his-wife. Why? Must everything have some kind of sexual undertones (or overt overtones) for him? How weak-willed and hyper-focused-on-sex are you, Mr. Pence, that you are unable to work one-on-one with a woman not your wife, or even to be present in a room full of people if alcohol is also present? Does your mental acuity and willpower dissolve in a drop of ethanol, or with a bite of carbohydrate?
In a male-dominated field such as politics, it is nearly impossible for any woman to advance without occasionally having a business meal with a man, or attending a function at which alcohol may be served and men may be present. Imagine if a woman had self-imposed rules like those of Mr. Pence. How far would she get in her career, do you think? I think we all know: not far at all.
How many women's careers have you stifled, Mr. Pence, by your behavior?
I find myself thinking, too, what if I were in Karen Pence's shoes? I'd be horrified at the thought that my husband was limiting his dining partners and his social-function-attendance in such a manner. What of co-workers, individuals who share his professional interests, of women who serve in the same organizations or on the same boards as he does? Surely a working meal is an effective and enjoyable way to conduct business? And if he had to attend a social function at which there would be alcohol, would that mean that I -- regardless of my desire to be there (or even, for example, if I had a cold and were under the weather) -- would also be required to attend?
Is this really a highly controlling relationship, disguised as some kind of "chivalry"?
A close marital relationship is certainly something to be admired; a codependent relationship, however, is less admirable. Marriage creates a union; it does not, however, erase individuality. Every marriage is enriched when the spouses periodically enjoy activities without one another, including having meals with peers, and spending time with others, including -- gasp! -- others of the opposite sex, with whom they have mutual interests.
It is possible for two heterosexual individuals of the opposite sex to spend time together, even alone together, without being overwhelmed by carnal desires. It boils down to trust. I trust the individuals with whom I spend time alone, and they trust me. Seems quite simple, actually.
Are you not trustworthy, Mr. Pence?
Come join us in the 21st century, Mr. Pence. You will meet many delightful people, some of whom will be women-not-your-wife, but that is OK. Your life will be enriched. And perhaps politics will become ever-so-slightly-less of an Old Boys' Club.
I had a large chunk of pig, and decided to divide it and cook it overnight so as to have choice of lunch items tomorrow. On the left is cranberry pork; on the right, southwestern pork. We shall see how they turn out.
As I have mentioned previously, when I was a preteen, the feminism movement was strong, and there was a tremendous push to encourage young girls: "you can do anything!" "You can have any career you choose, if you set your mind to it." "Girls are just as good at math, at science, at everything, as boys." I believed it. I had no sense that things might be otherwise. The all-girls high school I attended (and at which I received the most excellent education) further underscored the potential of each girl to achieve. We learned self-reliance, fortitude, perseverance. All very good traits that have served me well, not only in college, but thereafter, and always.
There is one downside, though, of which we were not aware then, and about which we were never taught:
The curse of the competent woman.
When you are smart and strong and capable, self-reliant and persevering, so much is expected of you. And you willingly take on task after task, juggling and multitasking, because women can do anything, so surely you should be able to do ALL THIS too.
And then, some days, you realize you are tired. And occasionally overwhelmed. Really, what you would like most of all is for someone to make you dinner and take care of all the million little things for a few hours, just so that you can have a respite from all the things that a competent woman does. But, you are a competent woman -- you can do. And so you do. You do not ask for help, because that is most definitely not what a competent woman does. You do, and do, and thus it becomes: barring an Absolutel Crisis, you are expected to continue to do all that you do.
Why? Because women can do anything if they set their minds to it.
So very tired.
Too tired to ask for help.
Perhaps, for now, a nap is best.
There are places I'll remember All my life, though some have changed Some forever, not for better Some have gone and some remain All these places have their moments With lovers and friends I still can recall Some are dead and some are living In my life, I've loved them all
I am not crafty at all. Yet, for some mysterious reason, I decided that I should make a decoration for the front door for this Easter season. Here is my effort. It is a bit humble, but not too bad overall.
Why are all the little things so... annoying?
Inability to speak a language well enough to haggle at a garage sale.
Absence of replacement toilet paper rolls in the ladies' room.
The slow driver who does not use turn signals.
A roll of tape that refuses to start cleanly.
These infinitesimal items -- oftentimes tolerable -- sometimes become less ignorable.
Why is this?
Sometimes, we hold a small, yet deep-rooted, anger inside. It is a seed that sprouts in the mulch of injustices and unkindnesses that have been bestowed upon us. It is watered by our righteousness in How Things Should Be. It is warmed by our unspoken and unmet hopes and desires. When we are thwarted or disappointed -- that kernel grows. When we are lonely or heartsick -- it grows. When we are wronged -- oh, how it grows.
Our senses are heightened by the presence of that internal anger. Sometimes, its verdant growth casts a shadow over all else: and then the minuscule grievances that might otherwise be not worth mentioning, seem to stand out in stark relief. We are weighed down by the anger within, and so, we lash out at the petty annoyances. They seem to be clear examples of All That Is Wrong With The World.
Anger is a tricky emotion. It is one of the very few that (as society tells us) Men are legitimately allowed to show. Women, on the other hand, must not show their anger: our job is to placate, to mollify, to dismiss, excuse, smooth over, forgive, forget -- and anger has no place there. Someday I will dissect the Male and Female of Anger.
Today, though, the question is: what to do with our anger?
For anger that is based in How We Want Things To Be, the solution appears to be:
Acknowledge that This Is The Way It Is.
Generally speaking, we cannot change the ways of the world.
Specifically speaking, we cannot change other people.
Wanting, expecting, or hoping otherwise is folly.
(This, we know -- yet it is eternally human to Hope, despite all odds.)
If we let go of What Is Not, we can accept what Is.
Acceptance is the first step to letting go of Anger.
An old hit from Depeche Mode -- Enjoy the Silence -- is enjoying a resurgence, thanks to a remix/cover version by KI Theory that is apparently being used in a trailer for a movie, Ghost in the Shell. (I know nothing about Ghost in the Shell. I am an old person.)
Nevertheless, I do like the cover. Take a listen. What do you think?
Stressed males tend to become more self-centered and less able to distinguish their own emotions and intentions from those of other people. For women the exact opposite is true... [s]tressed women, however, become more 'prosocial'....
Sometimes, I think that men and women are not so different. Other times, I suspect that they are nearly different species in their thoughts, motivations and actions. The truth no doubt lies somewhere between the two poles.
I do not spend much time with other women. My offspring are grown, and so there is no young-mother camaraderie at the playground; I have traditionally worked in male-dominated fields, and so my peers and colleagues have more often tended to be men. I am not particularly interested in stereotypical "girly" activities such as shopping or hair/makeup/clothing styling, or even yoga or drinking wine, and so have not had much opportunity to meet and interact with other women over such bonding pastimes.
In truth, I do not necessarily feel as though I am 'missing' such female companionship. While I might occasionally be lonely for company, the company I would like is person-specific, and not generally gender-based.
Perhaps the crux of the matter lies in the degree of empathy I already use on a daily basis: there is a set group of people to whom I am empathetic and with whom I concern myself. There is only so much Me, and there are days -- many days -- when I think that I cannot take on another person, cannot spare any additional empathy because there is none left.
Would that be different if I knew more women? Perhaps if I had a more consistent wellspring of comfort and empathy for myself, I could draw strength from it, and could in turn nurture more people. It seems that other women might provide such a source. I cannot imagine having such a wellspring, though -- I may have done without it for so long, that it seems a foreign concept at the moment.
Right now, self-preservation requires that I limit use of my resources, lest I give too much of myself away and crumble.
All three of the Offspring were in the nest for several days this past week. It was lovely to have them all here -- there is something undeniably comforting about having them all in one location. (Must be the herding dog tendencies that many mothers have; circle circle circle everyone is accounted for and safe and sound circle circle circle.) I brought in some take-out food from a local restaurant one night; another night, we all went to the movies; and the final night I cooked steaks for the meat-eaters and fancy ravioli for the vegetarian. We hung out, and got along. It was Very Nice Indeed.
Sometimes, I look back and think about times past, when we would have pancakes for dinner and I would read them books before bedtime. When I could, many times, somehow magically ascertain the things they needed, and the words they needed to hear. When running through the sprinkler or going to the park was all we needed to be happy.
Sometimes I think about how I could have been a better mother when they were young.
I hope they know that I tried, and will keep trying, every day, always. I am here for you, my beloved Offspring, no matter how near or far you may be. Your children are not your children. They are the sons and daughters of Life's longing for itself. They come through you but not from you, And though they are with you yet they belong not to you.
You may give them your love but not your thoughts, For they have their own thoughts. You may house their bodies but not their souls, For their souls dwell in the house of tomorrow, which you cannot visit, not even in your dreams. You may strive to be like them, but seek not to make them like you. For life goes not backward nor tarries with yesterday.
You are the bows from which your children as living arrows are sent forth. The archer sees the mark upon the path of the infinite, and He bends you with His might that His arrows may go swift and far. Let your bending in the archer's hand be for gladness; For even as He loves the arrow that flies, so He loves also the bow that is stable.
I have quite a fondness for Lady Gaga. She is an outspoken champion of marginalized people (especially in the LGBTQ community); she is creative; and boy, can she sing. She is occasionally over the top (see, e.g., the Meat Dress she wore to the MTV Video Music Awards some years back), but in truth, her raw talent carries her beyond any attention-grabbing antics.
Try this one on for size. You and I. It is perplexing, visually fascinating, and a simple and charming song as well.
A Facebook friend posted the below picture today.
It did not sit well with me.
"Women were created to do everything a man can't do." Technically, the only thing a man can't do is to gestate. So does that mean that women were created solely to gestate?
I understand that men and women are different, and that complementary people make good matches. Yet the idea that women are being lessened somehow when they are seeking parity for doing things that men also do, is just not right.
Equality does not mean sameness. It means equal treatment in status, rights, and opportunities. Whether we choose to maintain that status, to use those rights or to take advantage of those opportunities, is up to us.
Let us hope that we will, some day, achieve parity.
I am developing a cold.
I thoroughly despise being sick.
I remember, a thousand years ago now, what it was like to sick as a child. I'd stay in my room. Sometimes I would get the small black and white television to keep me company, set up on a chair a few feet away from the bed. There were only the four channels -- ABC, NBC, CBS, and PBS -- and I would have to get out of bed to change the channel (which meant usually that I did not). New Zoo Revue was standard sick television fare.
I would occasionally get that tasty orange-flavored aspirin, or, if antibiotics were necessary, pills ground up into a little bit of applesauce (not so bad). I would get meals in my room -- soft-boiled egg in the egg cup, toast, ginger ale, soup -- and periodically would be instructed to go take a shower to cool off, and I would return from the bathroom to fresh and clean sheets.
It was no fun being sick. I did feel cared for, though.
(Looking back, I have realized that I previously wrote a post almost exactly like this - here. The sentiments are still exactly the same. Indeed.)
April the Giraffe (http://www.aprilthegiraffe.com/) is hugely pregnant, and, thanks to a strategically placed webcam, thousands and thousands of people have been eagerly anticipating the arrival of her calf. We all hope it is soon -- including, no doubt, April. She waddles around, looking vaguely uncomfortable. (I am reminded of the last days before Offspring the First was born -- lots of waddling around, being vaguely uncomfortable.) Her keepers ensure that she is receiving lots of attention, plus extra carrots -- she reaches for them with her tongue, taking them from a human hand that stretches out to her from just behind the camera. It is amusing.
I hope she delivers soon. My empathy for her heavily pregnant state is tremendous.
Dignified, reserved, clever, and ever-so-intelligent Offspring the Second turns twenty-two today.
How time flies.
He is such a lovely and thoughtful person; under his quiet exterior is a razor-sharp wit and a tender heart. It is a pleasure to spend time with him on those rare occasions when he is here. His is a quiet light -- but it always shines.
Happy birthday, Offspring the Second. May the Universe bring you All Good Things, Always.
Whilst shopping at the buy-in-bulk store, I perused, as I always do, the clothing section. There are typically some plain-but-serviceable garments, a few interesting frocks, and a handful of genuinely ugly items of apparel. This time, there was a plethora of baby clothes. I don't usually pay attention to baby clothes -- yet these were so cute, with little monsters and alligators and polka-dots and such.
It's been a long time since I've felt that fleeting yearning for an infant.
I know I'm too old now to entertain the thought of a newborn. And entwined in that knowledge is, as always, a molecule of grief for time gone by and doors closed. Alas.
Besides, at this stage in my life my responsibilities preclude caring for babies -- or, for that matter, adding any other creature (be it pet or human) into the population of "those whom I love and to whom I tend". I am maxxed out, as the saying goes.
I would still like to hold a baby for a little while, though.
Many of us spend our whole lives running from feeling with the mistaken belief that you can not bear the pain. But you have already borne the pain. What you have not done is feel all you are beyond that pain. ― Kahlil Gibran
Last weekend, I went with my mother to the grocery store. (We do not often go together, as she lives in the frozen northeast and I live in the desert southwest.) There was Yet Another Winter Storm brewing, so we scurried in and out of the store quickly to retrieve what we needed before the flakes began falling again.
After I loaded the groceries into the trunk, I returned the cart. Since there were no "cart corrals" in the parking lot, I brought the cart all the way back in to the store. (When we had gone in, there were hardly any carts inside, and yet there was a stoic and steady stream of shoppers braving the cold -- so returning the carts to the front of the store seemed necessary.) Along the way I picked up a second cart that was lingering in the parking lot and returned it, too.
When I got into the car, my mother said, "You are a lovely person." I replied that it was the least I could do to return the carts all the way inside the store given the weather, and she responded, "No, I meant lovely looking."
Ah. Outside vs. Inside.
Leaving aside a mother's clear bias regarding the attractiveness of her children: what a divergent use of the word "lovely."
My mother uses "lovely" in the traditional sense of physical beauty. Once she explained what she had meant, we discussed skin care regimens, and the delight she feels when people cannot believe her age because she has such pretty, youthful skin. I am pleased for her.
When I think of someone as being "lovely", I think of a radiance of an inner quality. People who are lovely are people whose company one enjoys; who are kind and helpful; who bring a bit of happiness to those around them. This is the lovely I seek to be.
Physical beauty (whatever one may have, or have had) fades. Yet to be lovely from the inside out, will shine, always.
Way back when I first described duck, the neutral party, I mentioned that when I was a wee little girl, I had, in addition to the tiny duck, a wee ceramic pig as well. I assumed that both had been lost to Time. While perusing through Things Stored In The Basement with my father this past weekend, however, we came across some toys from days of yore: AND BEHOLD, THE PIG WAS AMONG THEM.
I am delighted. Ah, pig. I am so happy to see you.
NinjaHead resides with a muffin-baking woman known herein as Herself. Herself has a Beloved Husband, with whom she shares three nearly-grown Offspring. When she is not writing Things, Herself nurtures a visceral fondness for small furry creatures. The household menagerie, which has varied in size and composition over the years, presently contains a minuscule middle aged chihuahua, a most mild-mannered senior chihuahua, and a very small hamster who, due to the prominence of his gonads, seems to need trousers for decency.