Bookends

A week after I started this blog, I went to Disneyland with Dawn and her family.  Yesterday, a week before I’ll be ending this blog, I went to Disneyland with Dawn and her family.

This may not seem that special, being that I go to Disneyland all the time.  But Dawn doesn’t.  As far as I know, Dawn has been to Disneyland twice in the past eight months: once, a week after I started writing, and once, a week before I stopped.

Naturally, once I realized this, I started comparing the two trips.  And the truth is, not much has changed.  I mean, the parks are basically the same (with California Adventure under permanent contstruction), Doug and I are basically the same, Dawn and Joe are basically the same…

But the babies?  The babies are significantly older.  Andrew, who was hard-pressed to articulate the words “big wheel” on our last trip, formed a whole sentence – “Only take one piece” – while sharing his popcorn on this one.  Lilly, who mostly just slept and cried and pooped unexpectedly back in August, is now silly and playful and has enough hair for pigtails.  Leave it to very small children to remind us how long eight months really is.

Compared to when I started this project in August, Doug and I are now that much closer to 2012, the year of marriage and babies.  And while it may not be as noticeable as the changes Andrew and Lilly have made, I think it’s safe to say we’ve progressed as well.  We’ve each gotten a raise, and have built ourselves an emergency savings fund.  Doug’s teeth are beautiful.  I am finally (almost) open to the idea of planning another wedding, and – I hope so anyway – am able to take pregnancy announcements in stride a little better than I could before I started blogging.  I have a strong support network that didn’t exist before I opened myself up and asked for one, and I feel like there’s very little left for me to say, that hasn’t already been said, on the subject of my pregnancy, my miscarriage, and the effect the whole ordeal had on me.

Looking at myself and my life from the outside, which is where I mostly look, I feel like I’m in the same place as I was before I started writing.  I mean, I’m not famous.  I’m not rich.  I’m not married.  I’m not so healed from my PTSD that I’m begging my friends to all get pregnant so I can plan their baby showers.

But inside, if I really take the time to examine the difference between my August self and my current self…  I am calmer.  I am more self-assured.  I am more confident about what happens next.  I am more able to identify things that are upsetting me – and identifying them makes them so much easier to get through.

Disneyland and I may be permanently under construction, but eight months is actually kind of a long time.  The proof is in the pudding:

Lilly, 14 months, and Andrew, three-years-minus-four-days, sitting on Mickey Mouse's house, 4/10/11.

Advertisements
Posted in family, friends, future, perspective, positive thinking | 4 Comments

Harsh truths, part 2 of 2

A continuation of this post, responding to an article my mom printed out for me several years ago.

5. Getting your way is usually not as important as finding a way to work together.

Reading this truth, I keep thinking of the time my ex and I spent taking ballroom dance lessons, first in a class setting while we were living in Wales, then individually in California, with one of my close friends’ parents who happen to be instructors.

I am not what you’d call a natural leader – I lack the outer confidence, and the skills of an extrovert.  But I do wholeheartedly believe, most of the time, that I know what I’m doing.  (The flip side of this is that, when I don’t know what I’m doing, I’m miserable.)  So naturally or no, when my ex and I were taking dance lessons, I would wind up leading.  And because he was unsure of himself and his dancing ability, and because he had a tendency to cowtow to me in situations where he was unsure, he would either let me lead, or would tell me to stop leading, without really being able to step up and lead himself.

For all the things we had in common – sarcastic senses of humor, fluency in French, good singing voices, appreciation of academia and quietude – we were, by all accounts, horrible as dance partners.

Doug and I, on the other hand, started out with nothing in common except our place of employment and the city we grew up in.  Doug is athletic, a great cook, and a natural leader.  His abilities are all very physical, and he is a born charmer in large group settings.  I am book-smart, a great writer, and a natural at empathizing.  My abilities are all intellectual, and I thrive in smaller groups and one-on-one interactions.

We see the world and act in the world so very, very differently, that one could easily assume we butt heads all the time.  But it isn’t true.  We’ve almost always been able to balance each other out, to become interested in each other’s interests because we are interested in each other.  He reads books because I read books; I ride bikes because he rides bikes.  We don’t compete in these areas because each of us knows how unfair a competition it would be; instead, we encourage each other to help create a sort of grey area of shared interests, so that, say, while we are on a bike ride that might be a little too hard for me, we can ride side-by-side and discuss a book that might be a little too hard for him.

A coworker/mutual friend once told Doug that, with respect to his interests and activities, he “could do better” than me.  I was a little insulted, but surprisingly, not all that insulted, because in a way, she was right.  He could find someone – anyone, really – who is more like him; I could find someone more like me.  But I wonder whether the same harmony would be there in these “upgraded” relationships.  Somehow I doubt it.

6.  A great marriage doesn’t mean no conflict; it simply means a couple keeps trying to get it right.

I feel like this goes back to what I was saying in the “relationships take work” section: in my first marriage, my husband and I had no desire to fold to the other’s opinion.  He wanted me to be a docile housewife, who had no male friends and no single female friends; I wanted to embrace the side of me that had spent a few years acting in The Rocky Horror Picture Show, getting half-naked on stage and flirting with strangers every weekend.  In the three years we were together, we never reached a compromise, because neither of us really felt like giving an inch.

Doug and I have conflicts that creep up in our day-to-day lives.  Occasionally, he’ll say or do something childish, irresponsible, or offensive, and I’ll wonder how, at 25, he hasn’t outgrown this bullshit yet.  Occasionally, I’ll be making fun of him in what I think is a playful way, and suddenly realize I’ve taken it a step too far, and have crashed into the wall of hurt and disbelief that I also occasionally run into with my mom.  Our fundamental differences in nature and talents mean there are lines we can cross, sometimes too easily, with regards to how we view the world and how we treat each other.  The best either of us can do is keep making notes of where those lines are, and promising to try to stay behind them in the future.

Which brings me to…

7.  You’ll realize that you can only change yourself.

Wouldn’t it be wonderful to come up with a description of our ideal partners, then have that person materialize in front of us?

Well, no, not really.  Because at the time that we got together, my ex was my ideal partner: he respected me, he fawned over me, he told me I was beautiful.  This was everything I could have possibly wanted after a few on-again-off-again college relationships.  But it turned out not to be right.  What I first saw as respect and fawning was actually my ex putting me up on a pedastal, as this perfect woman he’d created from the clay I was already made of.  I woke up one day, years later, wondering how to get the hell down – but it wasn’t the version of me on Earth that he wanted. 

Likewise, when I met Doug, he was perfect for me inasmuch as he was the polar opposite of my ex-husband.  That is to say that his youth, his immaturity, his slightly malicious sense of humor, were exactly what I thought I wanted.  But those aren’t necessarily things one wants over time.

Yet, for all my “Douglas!”es, all my attempts to reprimand him for an off-color joke in public, I know that I am never going to erase the part of his personality that acts this way.  (It’s genetic, after all; he gets it straight from his dad and his favorite uncle.)  What I can change is how I feel about this side of him.  I can remind myself that his youth will keep me young, that his irresponsibility will show me how to relax in the face of stressors over which I have no control, that his bad jokes will…  Well, they’ll get me to snap “Douglas!” at him, and possibly hit him lightly on the arm or the thigh, a reaction which somehow always seems to net us both a smile.

8.  As you face your fears and insecurities, you will find out what you’re really made of.

This is the one that most affects me going forward.  Because my first marriage failed for reasons I should have seen all along but didn’t, I am constantly looking for signs that my relationship with Doug is doomed as well.  Not enough sex?  It’s the beginning of the end.  Arguing over who’s spending too much time doing what?  We must be en route to a break-up.  Enjoying the time I get to spend without him?  Time to figure out how to tell my parents I’ve let them down again.

Of course, none of these signs really marks the end of my relationship, as I’ve spent the last two posts examining.  But recognizing that this is my biggest fear – that the unknown elements of the future are my biggest fear, really, both within and outside of the context of my relationship – means I’m more likely to do what I’ve just done here.  I’m more likely to look at all sides, to ask myself (and my partner) the crucial questions about what may or may not happen, and to try to determine whether my fears are grounded.  And hopefully, should I ever discover something actually wrong, this pre-emptive tactic will give me plenty of time to get in there and rectify the situation before it’s too late.

For the time being though, every time I submit my relationship or my life to this kind of intense scrutiny, I come up with the following: “You know, I think it’s going to be okay.”

I know who I am, and I know what I’m capable of.  I’ve spent the last nine months 28.75 years working hard to figure all that out, learning to embrace the good and show some compassion for the not-so-good.

I don’t know about the snoring kid in the bed next to me, but I am, for better or for worse, as prepared for the next step as I likely ever will be.

Posted in divorce, future, love, marriage, positive thinking | 2 Comments

Harsh truths, part 1 of 2

I’ve had this article hanging out in my piles of papers for months now – maybe even longer, according to the date my mom printed it for me: 11/19/2008.  It’s a Redbook article that was featured on WebMD: “8 Things No One Tells You About Marriage” by Ylonda Gault Caviness.

My mom printed it for me, I’m sure, to show me that as much as my first marriage didn’t work out (at the time of printing, I’d been divorced for a year), I shouldn’t expect my eventual second one to be all rose gardens and glass slippers, either – and that that’s perfectly okay.  For the record, I believe that when my mom sees these marriage tips and thinks of me, it’s her way of letting me know that she’s open to and supportive of the idea that I will one day be married again; her way of letting me know that she does believe in a happily-ever-after for me.  And this particular article lets me know that she believed in me even after I’d squandered my first chance, even if she wasn’t able to articulate it out loud at the time.

In her article, Caviness lays out her eight “surprising, enlightening and sometimes hard truths” about the reality of marriage, and then talks about what they mean and what they have meant in her own union.  And since I’ve been holding onto this article for two-and-a-half years now, having read it already but not been able to dispose of it, I think it’s about time I looked at my own marriages, past and future, through the lens of her list.

1. You will look at the person lying next to you and wonder, Is this it?  Forever?

I have done this, specifically.  I did it with my ex, and I occasionally do it with Doug (particularly when the reason I’m awake and he’s not is because he’s snoring loudly and stubbornly, and I can’t roll him onto his side).

The difference between Doug and my ex is that I no longer have a concrete idea of what I would like instead of the person I’m with.  When I was with my ex, and I would step back and wonder about what I had so obviously settled for, there were all these examples present on TV and in life, of men that I was more attracted to, men that were more romantic, men that seemed to be better matches for me chemically and sexually.  (I’ll get to that last one later.)  I held onto and flirted with my exes from before him, because somehow they made me feel like more of a woman than my husband did.

With Doug, even though he isn’t exactly attractive lying on his back with his mouth hanging open and his jersey-knit boxers bunched up around his waist like an ill-fitting loincloth,* it’s not him I concern myself with when I ask, “Is this it?”  If I fantasize about how my life could be better, it’s because I am worried about our financial situation, or disappointed by the size and state of our home, because I feel like we deserve better, and maybe we aren’t doing everything in our power to get what we deserve.  (Or maybe we are, and life just ain’t fair.)  If I see attractive men being romantic on TV, or playfully flirt with someone in real life, they only serve to remind me of how lucky I am, how unrealistic TV is, or how I need to step up my romance-and-flirting game with the amazing man I share a bed with.

2. You’ll work harder than you ever imagined.

This Valentine’s Day, I saw a card in Target that said, “I don’t know why they say relationships take work…”  I scoffed, and later told my friends about it, insisting that it was obviously meant for someone in a new relationship.

I did not work at my relationship with my ex-husband.  That relationship required no work at all, because I was completely unwilling to put any into it.  I rationalized that it had started out “perfectly” (which, if you read this, you’ll see wasn’t even true), and therefore the perfection should continue.  So I made my ex do all the work, expecting him to conform to what I wanted, while I stubbornly kept doing the things that drove him crazy – claiming these things were inherent parts of my personality that he should have known about and accepted from the get-go.

Actually, it’s possible that those things were inherent parts of my personality, and that we just weren’t a good match to begin with.  Regardless, I was stubborn, and so was he, and I don’t think either of us was very invested in putting in the work to reaching a compromise.  So instead we just made a bunch of demands and pissed each other off all the time.

Doug and I, on the other hand, work at our relationship every single day.  Because I love him and have an interest in keeping him around, I have learned to use “I” statements about things that upset me, instead of blaming him for my feelings and demanding that he fix himself.  For example: after our argument outside of Costco the other week, Doug and I agreed to spend more time together – actually present in a relationship with each other – instead of him having a relationship with his bike and me having a relationship with my blog.  So Thursday morning, when we were walking through our neighborhood, and toward the end of the walk, Doug started telling me about his future bike rack options, I wanted to scream.  Instead, I said calmly, “I’m feeling like maybe you didn’t hear me when I asked you not to talk about the bike so much.” 

I braced myself for another Big Discussion, but instead Doug threw an arm around me and apologized.  “I’m sorry, baby,” he said.  “I didn’t even realize I’d started talking about it.  How did we get on this subject anyway?  Let’s talk about something else.”

Granted, he tends to be less abrasive and/or explosive than I am in general, but I was really, really surprised that my being so calm and so genuine netted me exactly the response I was looking for.  So it appears that, not only do relationships take really hard work, but the work pays off.

3. You will sometimes go to bed mad (and maybe even wake up madder).

Toward the end of my first marriage, my ex and I would go to bed mad all the time – primarily because arguing in the evening makes me really, really sleepy.  Like fighting, for me, uses more mental energy than anything else (maybe not calculus or open-heart surgery, but I’ve also never tried those things).  So we’d be mid-screaming-match, and I would just kind of fall asleep.  Maybe it’s my body’s way of keeping me from saying something I’d really regret?

These days, I feel fortunate inasmuch as Doug and I have never gone to bed angry.  Sad, yes; disappointed, maybe; but not mad.  Then again, we don’t fight as much in general as my ex and I did, so I guess the odds are in our favor.  Still, should the day come when we’re arguing at midnight, chances are, I will fall asleep in the middle of it.  I just don’t subscribe to the theory, “Don’t go to bed angry; stay up and fight all night.”

4.  You will go without sex – sometimes for a long time – and that’s okay.

I have gone without sex for a long time.  My ex and I chose not to have sex before we were married, so technically, I went without sex[ual intercourse] for almost three years.  And, as I unfortunately confirmed on our wedding night, my ex and I were in no way sexually compatible, which is a hard thing to learn when you’re denying yourself sex.  So even after we started having sex, we didn’t have much.

The peaks and valleys of activity in my sex life often remind me of that one episode of Grey’s Anatomy, where Izzie is talking about her sex drive as a sleeping beast: when it’s not being fed, it doesn’t know it’s hungry; but once it’s awakened… watch out.

My beast, as it turns out, can be kind of lazy inside the context of a long-term relationship, and I’m still coming to terms with the “and that’s okay” part of this.  I don’t always want sex, but I want to want sex.  I want the closeness it brings, and the adrenaline and the seratonin.  I get frustrated when Doug asks and I don’t want to, but I get equally frustrated when Doug fails to ask at times when I would say yes.

I guess what it comes down to is that, during the first few months of a relationship, we have lots of sex because we’re still learning about the other person’s body and how it may or may not work with our own.  Later, as we become more comfortable together, this insatiable need for the physical tapers off, but the sexual education of the relationship doesn’t stop.  Instead of learning about each other’s bodies, it becomes about learning to navigate the dance of when and how and how often, learning what sacrifices to make in order to make time for sex at all (because once it’s lost its priority status, it can be hard to squeeze in to a busy lifestyle).  It’s about learning to embrace the peaks and forgive ourselves the valleys – a process which, it seems to me at least, will probably continue for the next 50-60 years.

So much the better.

To be continued…

*People have asked me how Doug puts up with me posting all this personal information about him and our relationship all the time.  For the record, I have never been concerned about the way anything I’ve said here might affect him, until writing this blunt description.  I’m hoping that all the nice things following it will give him the grace to forgive me.

Posted in divorce, family, love, marriage, sex or lack thereof | 7 Comments

Friday night

I’ve got some good stuff ahead of me.

See, I happen to be shacking up with a man whose entire family was born in the month of April – or at least it seems that way, judging by the amount of groaning they did three years ago, when we told them we had an April due date.  So between their plans, and our plans, and various other plans, there’s something going on every weekend for roughly the next six weeks.  And therefore, we’ve requested those weekends off.

It’s been years since I’ve had weekends off.  In the business we’re in, it just doesn’t happen.  And because this is the first real Friday night in this series of weekends, I want to just revel in my plans for the next several weeks.

Saturday, April 9th: ride bikes if not raining.  Repeat last Saturday’s afternoon of dog-walking and burrito-eating.  Doug’s mom’s actual 50th birthday – go to dinner with family and close friends at local restaurant.

Sunday, April 10th: Disneyland in honor of my nephew, Andrew’s, third birthday.  Plan is for Fantasy and Tomorrow lands, as well as California Adventure park, which includes (my favorite) the Toy Story ride.  Purchase new Mickey Mouse antenna balls.

Saturday, April 16th: TBD, pending official invitation to Doug’s sister’s birthday party – last we heard, it was planned for this day.  If not, however, we may try to stage a weekend getaway.

Sunday, April 17th: One-time due date.  Plans TBD (see Saturday).  If we stay in town, Andrew’s official birthday party is a brunch on this morning, and we can still have the afternoon/evening to spend together doing something nice.  Also, last day of Bakery Closed blog project.

Saturday, April 23rd:  We’ll be at Disneyland again, from Thursday, for Doug’s cousin Torrey’s birthday (which was actually last month).  Spend whole day with awesome relatives visiting from Virginia.

Sunday, April 24th: Easter Sunday.  We actually didn’t request this one off, so we’ll likely be working in the morning, then going to some family or another’s house for dinner.

Saturday, April 29th: Doug’s mom’s 50th birthday party, at fancy country club with cash bar.  Dress up, sneak in own booze, drink, dance, gamble at fake tables.

Sunday, April 30th: Took day off to recover.  No set plan.

Saturday, May 7th: Tour de Cure ride to support diabetes research.  Doug is riding 100 miles.  I am riding 55 miles with my brother Martin, and possibly my dad, who, although healing “like a teenager” from his broken collarbone, won’t be back on the road until the week before.  Please read this, then donate to my ride if you haven’t already.  (And thank you so, so much to those who have.)

Sunday, May 8th: Took day off to recover.  No set plan, but it’s also Mother’s Day, so I’m sure we’ll wind up having dinner with some family or another.

Saturday & Sunday, May 14th-15th: Carrie is coming into town to help me clean out my bedroom at my parents’ house, and rid it of all the stuff that reminds me of my ex: wedding dress, framed photos, love notes, gifts, etc.  Wining/dining/writing silly letters to gay-English-doctor-friend imminent.

Okay, so maybe it’s only five weeks.  Still, I’ve got a lot to look forward to.  As for this, my first Friday night of the series, it’s raining and I’m cozied up at home alone.  I’ve got TV episodes to watch, beer to drink, chocolate to eat, books to read, and legs to shave. 

I’m going to have to cut this short, so I can maximize and relish my time.

Posted in family, friends, future, love, positive thinking, present | 2 Comments

Over-share/under-share

I’ve been noticing, these past few months, that I’ve started to really “own” a lot of parts of my life I used to think merited secretiveness.  Like the two-year relationship I had with another girl’s boyfriend while I was in college.  Or the slight overlap between the end of my first marriage and the start of my relationship with Doug.  Or the fact that I’ve been married at all – when Doug and I moved to Seattle, I looked at the fresh start as an opportunity to write out that entire chapter of my life story.

It’s not that I’m suddenly proud of these things; it’s just that I’ve learned to feel less ashamed about them.  They happened, and because they happened, I became the person I am today.  Had things been different, I would be different; my life would be different.  And my life is pretty great.  So while I’m not bragging about my past indiscretions, lately I’m more comfortable being honest about them, both with myself and the people around me.

Which brings us to my miscarriage, something of which I have never been ashamed.  I, for one, would be happy to talk about my pregnancy-and-miscarriage experience with anyone who asked, but there seems to be a certain taboo about the subject, and talking about it makes people uncomfortable.  Which is funny, because people have no qualms talking about divorce, or politics, or war.  I would think those things would be equally discomforting, if not more so, since there are actually people responsible for them.  A miscarriage is more akin to a natural disaster than a man-made one.  We should be banding together in the wake of a miscarriage, and sending aid and supplies to those affected, instead of just sweeping it under the rug.

But I digress.

I don’t talk about my miscarriage in public much, because I’ve been trained not to.  But damn if there aren’t times when I want to shout it from the rooftops, so that the people around me will have a better understanding of yet another thing that has happened in my life and shaped the person I am today.

At work, I have about 15 superiors.  Some of them know this part of my history, either because we’re friends on facebook and they’ve stumbled across one of my blog posts, or because I’ve told them, or because I’ve made brownies for them in the wake of their own lost pregnancies.  Others of them do not know this part of my history, and that makes things kind of awkward.

For example, one of my supervisors used to live in Santa Barbara, and, before joining ranks with the grocery store, was a manager at a coffee shop where my friend Monica worked for a few years.  Every so often, he’ll ask me how Monica’s doing, or he’ll ask about her daughter, and I’ll have to remind him that she and I don’t talk much anymore.  It makes me feel shitty, to repeatedly have to tell this guy about the end result (lost friendship) without the explanation (Monica got pregnant right after I’d lost a pregnancy, and therefore our friendship spontaneously combusted).  What must my supervisor think of me, that I can rave about how much I love Monica, tell him stories about when she and I lived together, and then wrap it up with, “Oh yeah, but now we don’t talk.”

And yet, there’s never been a good opportunity for me to approach him and explain everything – and if I did explain it all, say, one day when we happened to be eating lunch at the same time, it would seem so non-sequiter, and kind of depressing.  So I just keep telling myself that if and when he gets transfered to another store, I’ll tell him what really happened between me and Monica before he leaves, just so I’m left feeling so dishonest and unsettled around him.

Then yesterday, I was standing in the backroom next to a white/clear plastic trashbag full of more white/clear plastic (for recycling), which we tie onto our baler at about waist height.  I was wearing a light pink shirt.  One of my supervisors came around the corner, and I guess the bag and my shirt were all blending together in just the right, optically illusive way, because he glanced up and said, “Whoa!  For a second there, I thought you were pregnant!”

This man also knows nothing about this part of my history.

“No no,” I said, then probably said it a few more times.  “No no no.  That’s not happening for a while yet.”

“Yeah, Doug would probably flip out, huh?” he said, trying to make one of those typical guy-to-guy jokes.

“Doug would love it.  It would be the best day of his life.”

“It would?  You know that for real?”

“Yeah,” I said.  “But there is a time, and a place, and a financial situation, and a relationship status for that…”

“Really?  A relationship status?”

“Yeah, if we want to proceed with the least amount of criticism from Doug’s family.  And we are not in that time or place or financial situation or relationship status.”

“I’m sorry,” my supervisor said.  “I actually have no place asking you about any of this.”

So he walked away feeling uncomfortable, and I stood there wondering about the things left unsaid.  This supervisor is really intelligent, and has a wife and two little kids of his own, so I’m sure he would have been compassionate to my situation if I’d decided to share it with him.  But there’s a time and place for that kind of sharing, too – and the back room at work is not the place, and while-we’re-trying-to-get-shit-done is not the time.  And, I wondered, if I had opened up to him about why it’s really weird to tell me a plastic bag was making me look pregnant, would it have left him more uncomfortable than my being cryptic about it?

For the rest of my shift, part of me wanted to approach him and appeal to his love of facts and statistics.  “You’re a smart guy,” I imagined myself saying.  “So you must know that a quarter to a third of all pregnancies, and up to 50% of first pregnancies, end in…”

I would make him say it, and then I would tell him, “And that’s why Doug and I have had all this time to think and plan out what the circumstances for my first successful pregnancy should be.”  But again, I never got a good opportunity.  And I wasn’t sure I had the statistic exactly right, anyway.

I don’t like not owning this in my everyday life, with my circle of acquaintances.  But I’m not really sure where the line is, and I certainly don’t want to cross it.  Because again, there’s a time and a place to get all in-your-face with people about pregnancy loss, and I feel like work ain’t it.

I wonder, though, if a little taboo-filled honesty would actually improve awkward situations like these two.  And if so, I wonder whether I should speak up out of context one day, just to fill these guys in.

Posted in friends, miscarriage, work | 6 Comments

The dinner party

Last night I mentioned that we were having a bunch of friends over for dinner.  “A bunch of friends” really only meant two other couples, who had met each other once, briefly, and whose connection to each other is only through us (and a mutual love of Disneyland).  It just turned out to be convenient to have everyone over at once.

While I went to work yesterday morning and then had my therapy appointment, Doug, ever my hero, spent his day cleaning our apartment from top to bottom.  We’d picked up and vacuumed our bedroom the day before, and I marveled as I stood on a part of the floor we hadn’t seen since before we moved in 18 months ago.  (This is, sadly, actually true: there were still a few boxes of crap in our room that hadn’t been opened since Seattle.)

Our friends showed up around 6.  One couple brought the main course; the other brought fixings for dessert; we’d planned a few sides.  At first, as we all sat around making small talk, flipping through a women’s health magazine I’d borrowed from the breakroom at work, and constructing this meal, I was a little concerned about whether everyone would get along and whether they’d all enjoy themselves – which is often the problem when introducing friends to other friends.  But by the time we’d pulled our table out of the corner and set a few extra folding chairs around it, by the time we were all seated and commenting on how we had more food than any of us really knew what to do with, everyone seemed to have relaxed, and therefore, so had I.

After we’d eaten, we cleared off the table and Doug brought out one of our favorite party games, Loaded Questions.  Much innuendo and laughter ensued, and everyone took off again around 11, which I consider to be a totally reasonable time for dinner guests to go home.*

Once the door was closed and locked, Doug came over, smiling, and gave me a quick kiss.  “We just had our first dinner party!” he said proudly.

Somehow, I hadn’t realized this until he said it.  I was floored.

I thought back to a time before Doug, and before Andrew and Lilly, when my ex and I used to go over to Dawn and Joe’s house for dinner and board games on a regular basis.  Sometimes, it would be just the four of us, but sometimes a few of Dawn’s other friends would be there, too.  I was in my early 20s, and I remember thinking what a cool, grown-up thing it was to invite people to your home and serve them food.  I remember looking forward when my ex and I would be married, have a place of our own (we were living in my parents’ house at the time), and could be cool grown-ups too.

Of course, my and Doug’s home now is nothing like Dawn’s was when she was my age: we live in a small apartment, with mismatched, hand-me-down furniture and a tiny kitchen.  (Ok, so Dawn’s kitchen is pretty small, too – but somehow mine seems even smaller.)  I think it never occurred to me that I could entertain without wedding-gifted china and servingware, and a matchy bathroom set.  But apparently I can.

This is the sort of thing that child-free 20- and 30-somethings should be doing with their time, right?  This is the stuff I need to embrace and enjoy now, while I can, before babies come along and leave me without the time or energy to plan dinner parties, or before children are present, so my friends and I can’t be squealing and laughing about four-foot penises and salad-tossing at ten o’clock at night.

I feel like last night also set me up pretty nicely for my housewife project.  The apartment is basically clean, and if we can keep it that way for a few more weeks, well, that seems like a much better starting point for my efforts at keeping a home than the disaster-zone-apartment did.  And now that I know Doug and I make decent dinner party hosts, I’ll be more confident about being the sole hostess to future dinner parties, or cooking something fancier than Hamburger Helper for just Doug and me – which is to say, throwing dinner parties for two.

Looks like my cute aprons are soon going to be used for more than playing dress-up.

*One thing I can’t stand: when I have someone over, and I am ready for the night to end, and the other person doesn’t get the hint, and I end up having to “entertain” way later than I even want to be awake.**

**KG, this is not in reference to that night the other week when we hung out here longer than we had originally intended to, talking about our crazy relatives and drinking the best wine ever.  That night was awesome, and totally worth my losing sleep and being late to work the next morning.

Posted in family, friends, love, past, perspective, present, Uncategorized | 8 Comments

Every little thing, is gonna be alright

I have that song stuck in my head, and I don’t even like Bob Marley.  But I’ve been surprising myself today with the thought that maybe, just maybe, I’m going to turn out just fine.

First, I was at work, cashiering next to a guy who has a 22-month-old son, and is pretty much obsessed with babies and small children.  Every time a customer coming through my line had a kid, he’d stop what he was doing, turn around, and all but touch the baby.  The final straw was when I overheard a conversation he was having with one of his customers, and the customer was bragging about how she’s better at calming/taking care of her god-daughter than the little girl’s own grandparents are, because she’s not afraid of babies, and apparently these grandparents are.

I know that babies are like dogs and bees, in that they can smell fear.  I’ve actually worried on multiple occasions whether pregnant women have the same sixth sense (until a friend reassured me that pregnant women are too obsessed with themselves and their future children to worry about what the people around them are feeling).  And I’m not really a natural with babies and small children; I do okay with the ones I know, but overall…  not so much.  And it concerns me, that I might wind up being a shitty mother because I lack this natural way with children.*

Later, though, I was stocking wine with another guy, whose wife happens to be pregnant with their first child.  We were the only two in the aisle, when in walks this kid – probably about 10 years old, and at least three times as wide as I am.

“Finally!” the kid called down the aisle.  “I’ve been looking for one of you guys so I could tell you a joke.  Because that’s what I do every time I’m in here.  It’s my thing.”

My coworker didn’t even look up from his case of wine.  I turned to the kid.  “Okay, shoot,” I said.

“Knock knock.”

“Who’s there?”

“Irish stew.”

I thought for a second.  I like to guess knock-knock jokes.  “Irish stew who?”

“Irish stew in the name of the law,” the kid said, deadpan.

I told him I liked it (I did) and got back to work.  Then another kid came looking for the first kid, and they walked away.

My coworker then admitted the kid had scared him.  I’m guessing it’s because he was fat, and confident, and loud.  And then I realized, the kid did not scare me.  And I thought, if I can find it in my heart to humor a boisterous fat kid wanting to tell a store employee a knock-knock joke, then I’ll be just fine with my own kids, who will probably be more like me, anyway: skinny, and shy.

I came home, logged into my email, and immediately got accosted on chat by my pregnant friend Beth.

“I have a question for you,” she said after making small-talk for a few minutes.  “Baby shower: you want an invite, right?  Or no?”

“Yes,” I said immediately.

Then I realized I’d just asked to be invited to a baby shower.

Then I realized I meant it.

Then I added, “But I have to see you before the shower, so I don’t get smacked in the face with pregnancy and cooing women.”  (Like I mentioned the other day, I haven’t seen Beth since she told me she was pregnant.)

“Well yes,” she said.  “That would be good.”

So we made plans for dessert next week.

And then I got the best email ever, from this most amazing woman.

I’ve been thinking a lot about something that keeps on coming up in your posts, our emails, and everything really.

It’s the fact that you want a baby now, but are stopping yourself from going for it.

I’m about to go on a blunt rant here – so please bear with me:

Before my first miscarriage, I wanted to be a mom. I mean, of course I did. But after my first miscarriage?
It became a complete obsession. I wanted another pregnancy NOW. I wanted to have it fixed NOW. I wanted all the answers and everything NOW.

The second the universe told me – “you can’t have this”, every fiber of my being said to me:  screw you universe! I will have it and I will have it NOW!

I was thinking to myself this week – “what if I go into the next pregnancy as if I didn’t have a miscarriage?”
I know it’s a bit of a fantasy scenario, because i did. I had two of them, and now I know what I know. But – what if I tried?

And it got me thinking about you. Say you didn’t have that miscarriage. How happy would you be with your life right now? How would your life be different?
I can tell you one thing for sure: You wouldn’t be wanting a baby this badly.

I know that hearing that from anybody else would probably make you want to choke that person. But this is coming from me. I’ve been there. Twice. I know what you’ve been through.

I know you’re nearing the end of your “project”. And I think that one of the bad things about you being a part of our community is that you are so exposed to the fear and the problems.

I think that in terms of where you are in your life, thinking about those problems is what may be making you think about how badly you want a child – in terms kind of like mine: if there are hardships ahead, I want to get them over with.

But guess what? You’re in a different place! you’re lucky!

For example, you have people like me, who get to be your guinea pigs, and go to endocrinologists and tell you what kind of tests they’re going through and all that good stuff.

You’ve got time. Time to get to know your body, to gain as much information as you possibly can.
You’ve got more of a support system in place than anybody I know has ever had in your specific position.

So I think you’re going to be fine.

I’m not trying to downplay your PTSD, but I think it may be aggravated by that need you have to have another baby.

And I know this can’t be easy to do, but you do have the luxury of letting yourself just “be.” right now.
I know you’re already making an effort to do that on a lot of levels. But think of it this way: if not for that miscarriage you would not be wanting a baby right now. You would be totally happy for that 2012 date.

That’s your luxury. I’m screwed for example, because I live in a country, where if I’m not preggo by the time I’ve been married for 6 months I start getting grilled by strangers about it. As a married woman, I have a hell of a lot more pressure, and I feel the lack of a child much more strongly.
Again, not to downplay your feelings. But your circumstances allow you to, at least outwardly, live free of that expectation.

You’re not there yet. You still have time before “society” or “they” or whatever expect you to have a kid. You still have time to live without that pressure. For fuck’s sake, embrace that!

Embrace it and be grateful that your past experience will make you starting a family something that comes with the knowledge and maturity that you wouldn’t have had otherwise.

Embrace it and be thankful that it colors your big life decisions, like whether you should stick close to your family or move away. Because if you hadn’t have had that experience, your decisions would probably be far more rash, immature, and regretted later in your life.

Embrace it and look at how much stronger it has made you and Doug.

I know what I’m saying here isn’t news to you. And I know it’s easier said than done. But just think about it: Think about how much wiser you are. Think about the fact that if it weren’t for your loss, you would be happy exactly where you are.

And maybe – just maybe – try to reconcile the two into a much happier “now”.

LOVE YOU!

My favorite part was that she was concerned that it might be too blunt.  I actually had to pause at the line, “I know that hearing that from anybody else would probably make you want to choke that person,” because I couldn’t understand what I was supposed to find offensive.  As far as I’m concerned, this is the best cheerleading I’ve gotten in the past three years – maybe the best cheerleading I’ve gotten in my entire life.

And now I’ve got a bunch of friends over for dinner.

Yeah, I think this life is gonna be okay.

*Dawn has told me that she used to have the same concerns – and apparently so did her husband.  When Andrew was a baby, Joe once admitted to Dawn that she was actually “a much better mother than [he] thought she would be.”  This gives me hope.

Posted in friends, perspective, pregnant women, present, Uncategorized, words to live by, work | 10 Comments