Thursday, November 20, 2014

We're heading out to where the sun goes down...

Sometimes I get asked for relationship advice, which always both flatters and surprises me.

Flatters because, who doesn't like being asked for advice? It makes you feel like you know things. And surprises because, me? I've fucked so very many things up along the way.

A friend of mine said that while that may be true, it doesn't mean that I don't have a helpful perspective on life. Which I appreciated.

So, after I posted about meeting Nick seven years ago and getting engaged in 10 weeks, I got a question about how I knew? How was I certain that he was the person and this was right?

I'd been asked this before, because really, 10 weeks?

And so this time, I responded to the question with the absolute truth, which was something I hadn't told Nick (but now have).

I didn't. I wasn't.

I knew that being with him felt really good, and that me made me laugh, and that he was smart in ways I found intriguing, and that I felt safe. Not boring safe, but certain that he would not abandon me. And also protected, like no harm could come to me if I were with him. I still feel this way.

(Plus, he had a lot of power tools. But this was just a bonus.)

But I didn't actually know. I wasn't sure. But he was. He was dead certain that I was his person and he was mine. So I rode on his certainty.

Actually, this is how we tend to be as people. He will make big decisions very quickly without ever questioning them. And then there I am, perusing the drinks section for 20 minutes because do I want Gatorade? Water? Maybe lemonade? Hmm.

Yah.

I knew that I had let go of some very good, solid men, because I could not commit. I pushed them away and I ran and then I had regrets. In retrospect, I broke my own heart a few times. And then there were times that I knew, oh, I knew. And then it turned out that really, I knew nothing, Jon Snow.

I mean, by the time you're 38, you've lived a lot of ups and downs.

So there we were.

He was certain and I went with it. I kind of thought, what the hell am I waiting for? Why don't I just try marriage? If it doesn't work out, at least I'll have tried.

I'm not offering this up as advice, because what do I know?

I'm just saying, so far, so good.

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

I mean, really.

I have now had three pregnancies, even though the third was short-lived.

But it reminded me, particularly having a miscarriage, of how strongly I believe that women should be in charge of their own bodies, in control of their fertility, and able to make their own choices about whether or not to carry a pregnancy to term.

Because even with a loving, supportive husband, I was really quite alone in my pregnancies. Not just this last, brief one. All of them.

It wasn't deliberate and I wasn't neglected. It just wasn't happening to his body, and there was only so far he could be involved.

In fact, with the most recent one, he said, "Tell me what I can do."

And I said, "I think you've done quite enough already."

But what if you were actually alone? Really and truly alone? It is overwhelming enough feeling psychologically alone and knowing you're supported emotionally and financially.

What if you had none of those supports?

As a woman, you are living pregnancy every single minute of every single day. Sometimes you feel terrible. Hormones make you a crazy person. You might be exhausted. Nauseated and vomiting in the bushes on the way to work or in your trash can at work. Any and all of these things at once.

They're totally out of your control.

When I filled my prescription for the little pills that would start the miscarriage process, I started thinking about what women have done and will continue to do if they do not have access to safe abortion.

It conjured up images of home abortions. The wire coat hanger is an enduring and powerful symbol for that. But woman who do not have access to clean and safe abortions have done and will continue to find means to terminate an unwanted pregnancy.

I mean, honestly. Can you actually imagine how desperate you must be in order to stick a piece of wire into yourself, hoping to thread it through your cervix, and also hoping not to rip your uterus or damage anything else inside.

Imagine getting your best friend to do this for you, because you are too terrified to tell anyone else.

I'm going to tell you now that I have friends I trust with my life, but hell if I'd trust them to try to find my cervix and poke anything into it.

I mean, really.

I am not a political person. But this is where I get fired up.

Monday, November 17, 2014

Anger

I didn't grow up in a yelling household.

In fact, even my dad, who was volatile and easily enraged, did not yell. My mother did not mete out punishment. You would have to wait until Dad got home to be in trouble.

It was terrifying, the waiting for Dad.

His blue-blue eyes would glow with rage, and you knew you were in Big Trouble. Sometimes he spanked. Sometimes he grounded. I was grounded a lot. A really lot.

I was a first-born rule follower, a people pleaser, but I would fight with my mom. And I would fight with my brother. I think these are the main reasons I got in trouble. Oh, yeah, and that one time when we lived in Egypt and Debbie Bangs and I took my mom's matches and lit a fire in the street in front of someone's house.

The lady came out and screamed at us and we ran, forgetting our bikes. We were easily identified.

But for the most party, my crimes were fighting with family members.

My parents did not yell at each other. I don't even know that they fought much. I remember one fight from when I was a kid, and they went into the other room.

I think the big thing was that we were not allowed to get mad. Maybe my brother was as a teen, because I know he was punching walls in high school, but not me. I doubt Betty really was either. Anyway, expressing anger was not within her comfort zone.

But there was a tremendous gap between Acceptable Male Behavior and Acceptable Female Behavior.

I remember this one particular incident when I was a college sophomore. My parents had driven me to school, leaving my brother, a 10th grader, home alone. He'd told me he was going to throw a party, which I promptly told my parents - partly because their house had been trashed the year prior when they left him alone. And partly because they had never let me do anything in high school, never left me alone, never trusted me at all.

Now these things seem so small and petty. But when they are your whole world, and you've always been the rule follower but never trusted (It's not you. We trust YOU. We just don't trust boys...), everything seems wildly unfair.

I was furious, absolutely beside myself with the unfairness of everything leading up to this moment in my life. And my father said, "Lisa, you look really unattractive when you're angry."

Lemme tell you how much attractiveness mattered to me at that moment. And how much more enraged I was by the statement.

Anger? I had anger. I had years of anger. I had his two suicide attempts and years of his crazy arbitrary behavior worth of anger. And I dumped every single jot of trauma and unfairness and what-have-you into his lap. It was terrible. And liberating.

Afterwards, I felt a whole lot better. The next day I couldn't even remember what I'd been so mad about for so long.

But prior to that, I don't think I'd ever expressed any real anger to him. What we did in our household - all except my dad - was tamp it down. Choke on it. Pretend we were fine. We were not allowed to not be fine.

I didn't even know how to speak about being angry until I'd had a lot of therapy. Being angry never felt valid. When you raised not being allowed, it is hard to feel justified in getting angry and expressing it.

But now, now I have a five-year old who enrages me, and I find that I yell.

I do not want to yell. But I get so angry. So very very angry. And I lose my mind. My head melts, and I yell.

Sometimes I don't even yell something at him. I just made a loud YEAAAAAAARRRRGGGHHHH kind of noise. Because I don't know what else to do.

It doesn't help. It terrifies him, and makes him cry. It makes me feel like a terrible human being. It gets him to do what I've been asking him to do in that moment, but it doesn't help for the next moment or for tomorrow.

And in fact, from the reading I've been doing, I understand that not only does it not help, it actually harms in the long term.

So it turns out that I need to learn how to constructively manage my own anger in the face of these triggers. So that I can be a better parent and can help my son learn to manage his anger. Because otherwise I will raise another human being without good emotional coping skills.

It's a cycle I would like to break.

This sounds stupid, but I am going to start taping up big pieces of paper with things like: STOP AND BREATHE! DO NOT YELL! IT IS NOT AN EMERGENCY. LEAVE THE ROOM AND CALM DOWN.

Really. Because in the moment, I cannot remember anything. My head empties of all reason and fills with anger.

I need and want to be a good parent. Even on my bad days, I need to be a good parent. Some days I manage, and other days I believe I do a good job. But some days I know for a fact that I suck at parenting.

And still these little people, these relentless little people, look to me for, well, everything. Even when I yell. Even when I yell and scare them and let them down.

I don't want to let them down. I love them more than my life.

It's all so fucking complicated. Who knew it would be this hard?

Thursday, November 13, 2014

It was a dark and stormy night

On November 13, seven years ago tonight, I met Nick at the Tabard Inn on what turned out to be my last first date.

I've said before that this anniversary is much more important to me than our wedding, because it's when my life changed. I loved our wedding, but by that point we actually knew each other pretty well and were firmly walking down a path till death do us part.

But not this night.

Some of you were with me leading up to that point, and you'd read about endless wretched dates, and dates leading to hope, and then dashed hope, and ultimately pointing to me dying alone. I've written about how at this point my luck turned.

By this point seven years ago I had, thank goodness, learned when to hold 'em, when to fold 'em, and so on.

You know our story, and you know it has involved challenges and joyous highs and crushing lows. I mean, it's life, and marriage is hard and parenting is not a picnic. There are moments of such riotous joy with kids - the kind of joy that you get nowhere else.

But dear lord so much of it is please put on your underwear, no, everyone needs to wear underwear, nobody wants to see your penis at the dinner table, please pick your cup up to drink, yes, I know dogs drink like that but you're not a dog, yes you can have a treat IF you eat dinner no you can't have one now no you can't have two now MY GOD JUST PUT ON YOUR UNDERWEAR AND EAT YOUR DINNER!!!

These little humans, just going about their day, suck much of the life out of you.

I somehow thought I'd get married and just because of that I'd be happy and my life would be great. Kind of like when I was a kid and I thought at 16 I would look just like Barbie. Or at least Teen Skipper, whose arm you twirled to make grow boobs.

What I've come to realize is you are who you are, life is life. It is hard to cooperate with someone else all the time, but the alternative is being alone, which is not as much fun. And it's all even harder when you also have to convince completely irrational little beings to cooperate with you. But the alternative is not having the little beasts, and that is unimaginable at this juncture.

It is difficult to maintain any space for yourself. And it's been even more challenging to hold onto our relationship - our just-the-two-of-us relationship, much less nurture it. And there may be people who can coparent, leading parallel rather than intertwined emotional lives, but we are not two of them.

This has been one of the biggest challenges. Everyone says it will get easier as the kids get older, and we are starting to see glimmers of this. We hit a point this year where we realized that we have to work on being us again, and loving and appreciating the person we married, because otherwise us will go away.

What I suppose I'm saying is, seven years has not been easy, and there have been some very precarious points along the way. Relationships are hard, duh. You forget this when you walk into a charming bar and meet a stranger and put your hand in his and get all giddy in your heart and breathless in your stomach.

Nick and I did not know each other when we got engaged at 10 weeks, but here and now, at seven years in, we most certainly do. But there's still room to grow.

And now I'm trying to figure out what to wear to look all pretty when I meet him at the Tabard this evening. Because I know I'm going to walk in all giddy in my heart and breathless in my stomach.

Friday, November 07, 2014

When the samba takes you out of nowhere; And the background's fading out of focus...

I have a little story for you, the topic of which is something People Do Not Talk About. But even though we're all our own special snowflakes, most of our lives are not so different. And I am not not talking about it.

So, here goes.

Once upon a time something incredible happens, something completely unlikely and unexpected. Something that you learn, after researching, that there is a 1% chance of happening. You're now the 1%!

Say you find yourself exhausted while doing a green smoothie cleanse and tired and nauseated for days after. You Google milk intolerance and ulcer and tropical stomach diseases.

You decide you have an ulcer. H pylori. Who knows? You're going to call your doctor about this.

Before you do so, you run into your friend Meg, who lived in Mauritania and has had schistosomiasis and is thus your local expert on weird ailments.You describe your symptoms.

She suggests pregnancy. Have you taken a test? You fall on the ground laughing.

You stop at CVS and buy a box of three on your way to have your hair highlighted. You might as well rule it out.

You are sitting there, foils in hair, and realize you need to pee. So now's as good a time as any to just get it over with.
Huh.

You text this picture to your husband from the bathroom. He writes back immediately. "In a meeting. Did you just send me this?"

"Yes. Cannot talk. At the hair salon."

And then you freak out in your own little foil bubble for the next hour or so. You think about your age. You think about your plans. You think about how tired you already are, and how much the two children you have drive you crazy.

You think about a little toothless baby gumming the side of your face. Or nursing and then sleeping on you, all milk-drunk.

You go home and pee on another stick. Same. You tell your mother, who says, "How did this happen?!"

And you reply, "I cannot actually have this conversation with you."

You realize you have options. You have been staunchly pro-choice your entire life. You would support any woman in her choice to terminate. You think it's insane that anyone - particularly an aging white man on the Hill - would presume to make this kind of choice for another person.

And then, over the next couple days, you realize that actually, you're really excited. Even though you know from Internet research that at age 45 you are basically from District 12 here, and the odds are not ever in your favor.

You get an ultrasound. You hold your breath. There is a teeny tiny heartbeat! This makes you cry! But it, this bunch of cells, this wee maybe baby, is very small. You need to come back in a week.

So you spend another week making plans and taking inventory of stuff and waiting until you can stop holding in this secret that's flitting about inside you, just dying to leap out and sprinkle glitter everywhere.

You return in a week, which was yesterday.

The same lovely ultrasound tech puts the goop on your belly and turns on her machine and you do not see much of anything. Neither does she. She looks very hard. She looks and looks.

She finally says, "I'm so sorry. This isn't a viable pregnancy."

Your little potential human stopped growing sometime in the past week and now just...isn't going to be.

You can choose to wait up to six weeks for it to go away on its own. You cannot imagine waiting. You can take medication, which should work the same day. Or you can have an operation. You choose door number two.

You cry all the way through your blood test, through canceling your upcoming appointment, through the waiting room, and then you sob hysterically all the way down M Street. When you tell your husband, he asks if people were looking at you and you say, "How would I know? I was crying too hard to notice."

Also, who fucking cares?

Your friend Meg sprints out of work and meets you and gives you a giant hug. She doesn't mind that she's walking down the street next to someone wailing like a banshee.

So door number two means putting four little pills into your ladybits and then waiting to expel the tissue. There will be nothing recognizable, they make sure you know.

The medication, upon examination, turns out to be something they use for ulcers. You find this a little funny.

A third child isn't something you were trying for, or something you ever thought possible, or even anything you would've said you wanted a month ago. At your age? Ha!

But you'd started to think that maybe you could luck into the 1%. That perhaps it was a gift, like when you met your husband seven years ago next week. The universe decided it was time to drop some unexpected joy on you.

But you also knew the terrible odds. So you tried not to get attached. (Because hahaha! you've always been great at not getting attached!)

You say over and over that know have an amazing family, one you did not think you would ever have, and you are so lucky, just the way you are. And adding another human would make everything far more complicated.

So why do you feel such a profound sense of loss? Why are you so devastated?