I feel like the dust is still settling from BlogHer.

I don’t really believe in “meant to be” but I do believe in creating meaning out of what might otherwise be deemed coincidence. A few things happened in quick succession last weekend. Actually they all kind of happened at once, spinning me furiously so that when I slowed enough for the nausea to pass, I wasn’t sure what direction I was facing, or what I was even looking at.

I’m still trying to get my bearings.

The first thing was this: I wrote that post about how much it annoys me when bloggers ditch their blogs mid narrative, never to return. I used strong words. I wrote in all caps. Honestly, that was my angry voice, the one I use with friends in texts when we’re chatting about something that just really ruffles my feathers. I don’t usually use that voice on my blog. It was very much “me,” the “me” that I show only to some people. I don’t know how it snuck out of the basement rec room where it is normally relegated, or why it broke free, but it did. I guess I just feel really strongly about that particular topic, and so I said some shit and didn’t really think about the consequences when I scheduled it.

But there were consequences. And people came to my blog and one of them was quite frank in the dialogue that ensued. And it got me thinking.

So the whole time I was at BlogHer, surrounded by literally THOUSANDS of women who do the same thing I do (give or take)–in very different Internet spaces and with drastically varying results–I was thinking about what had transpired on my blog. As I watched women find their tribes and connect with their readers, I thought about how I knew almost no one there (at the conference) and I wanted so badly to meet the people I did know through blogging, but I’d probably never meet them, and I cared so much and I had no real way of knowing if anyone else felt the same. I spent the whole time at BlogHer listening, trying to figure out why ALL THE WOMEN write, realizing there are SO MANY OTHER PEOPLE, so many women who come to blogging to talk about other things besides not being able to get pregnant, and losing babies and feeling broken and alone. They come to write about all sorts of other shit and they find their tribes and it all just seems a lot simpler, and at the same time harder to understand.

The blogosphere is a big place. I used to think that when I’d fall down the rabbit hole of comment links or BlogRolls and found woman after woman writing about IF or RPL or adoption or parenting after all of those. But I had NO IDEA how much bigger the blogosphere actually is. How our little corner is a thousand times smaller than I ever could have imagined. I felt so small when I was at BlogHer. Our community felt small. I’m not quite sure what that means.

A couple of other things happened too. I watched Elizabeth with her best friend and I was struck, as the cracks in my heart deepened, by the fact that I don’t have a friend like that. I don’t have a friend who has walked with me through so many seasons of my life. I don’t have a friend who has known me for that long. Most of the friends I’ve ever felt close to are gone now. I could barely maintain a brief phone conversation with them today. I have no one in my life that knows me to my very core. And there is no one I know that well either. It feels like a gaping hole in my life, and there is absolutely no way to fill it. No one will ever be… enough.

Finally, there was a small mention on someone’s blog about getting together with blog friends and I thought, I will never do that. I will never spend a weekend away with women I know through blogging. It just won’t happen. I’m not close enough to anyone to do that, and even if I were, it would never come to pass. Maybe that woman was right, who wrote those things on my blog. Maybe I don’t have any real friends in the blogging world. Maybe it’s all just an elaborate facade. Maybe I need to get a real life.

Those things–the post and the responses it got, the things that were said, being among all those thousands of bloggers, seeing the physical proof of how large the blogosphere really is, and what a small percentage our community represents, witnessing a real, honest, true friendship, and being forced to recognize that I don’t have that, being forced to recognize what I actually have here, it kind of threw me into a tailspin. I honestly don’t think I’ve landed yet.

I’ve been making plans, because that is what I do when I get sent into a tailspin, I grasp desperately at something, anything, to ground me. When there is nothing in the present to hold on to, I grope desperately at the future. Except the future is only an illusion. It’s just smoke and mirrors, and I’m left with nothing in my hands but scratches.

I’ve made myself wait. I’ve held off on actually doing anything because I want the dust to settle and I want to get a handle on how I feel. The thing is, I might not know how I feel for a long time, so now I’m trying to decide how I can trust myself enough to make some decisions now, in the absence of accurate information. It’s hard to chose a direction when I’m not quite sure yet where I want to end up.

This posts makes almost no sense, but I’m going to press post anyway, because sometimes that is what we do.

Please forgive me.

Sleep Deprivation x2

I should have know that having two kids would mean I’d get less sleep. I suppose I did know, deep down, I just didn’t think about it much.

The thing is, neither of my kids are “bad” sleepers, but when there are two kids, the chances of one waking up doesn’t seem to double, but multiply exponentially. Especially when one wakes up the other.

I’m just so tired these days. Osita usually sleeps through the night but sometimes she has a “bad dream” and sometimes she wakes up so scared that she needs me to sleep with her for a while. Monito is generally a good sleeper, but he’s been teething now (both bottom teeth have finally pushed through) and some nights he wakes up and then puts him back to sleep rather quickly, but it still rouses me from sleep. Even if each one only wakes up half the time, that means I’m woken up every night.

And then there is my husband’s snoring, which is another post in itself. Let’s just say it’s loud and it makes falling back to sleep after dealing with the kids really difficult.

I haven’t gotten a solid night’s sleep in a LONG time.

My kingdom for one seven hour night of sleep. Seriously, I think it would make a huge difference.

Of course it’s not going to happen. Not while Monito is teething (and shitting his diaper every night, WTF?!) and not while my poor girl is having anxious, upsetting dreams.

Ugh. I just want to sleep. Why is it so hard?!

When was the last time you had a good night’s sleep?

Loves You Madly

This floor has a lean
It gives to the side,
Where marbles and water
Roll and collide.
In the fashion of something
You think couldn’t fall,
The floor tricks your step,
Throws you to the wall,
Loves you madly
So madly
Loves you madly

— “Loves you Madly,” Joe Henry, Tiny Voices

There was something else about the book What Alice Forgot that really struck me and made me think, and that how madly in love with her husband she was. A recurring narrative in the book is her disbelief that she and her husband are getting a divorce, because they had been so “besotted” with each other at the start of their marriage.

One of the first things I thought while reading the book was: I wouldn’t be all that surprised if I found out that Mi.Vida and I were getting divorced. That might seem horrible to say, but it’s true. I’m a realist (or at least that is how I see it) about marriage and my relationship. I have seen incredible, strong, mutually loving relationships broken or worn down over time. I don’t just automatically assume mine will withstand the trials of parenting and long term commitment better than others have. I hope it will, but I know that things happen and marriages fail.

Having said that I’m willing to work hard for my marriage. I already have worked hard for it, and I believe we’ve come out of the last seven difficult years of disagreement, loss, struggle, transformation, more struggle and parenting stronger for all we’ve been through. We’ve been to the brink a few times, and we needed professional help to step away from it twice, but we’ve remained committed to each other. I think we have as much chance as any other couple to make it for the long haul.

And yet… I wouldn’t say we’re madly in love. I don’t think we’ve ever been madly in love. Is that an awful thing to say? Or is it awful that I married someone I wasn’t madly in love with?

I love my husband, please know that. I absolutely love him with all my heart. We’ve been through so much and I know he loves me and cares for me greatly. He respects me, he appreciates me, I would even say he cherishes me. And I do the same to him. But do we adore each other? Are we besotted? (That is a word that is specifically used in the book.)

I spent my late teen years and the first half of my twenties looking for a relationship, or rather, wondering why I couldn’t find a relationship. So when Mi.Vida showed some interest in me, I was quick to invest myself fully in the possibility of a meaningful connection. I loved him, absolutely, but I wasn’t madly in love with him. I had never been in another relationship so I made a lot of assumptions, about whether we were right for each other, and whether we loved each other enough.

I wanted us to be right for each other, I wanted us to love each other enough, because I was approaching my late twenties and more than anything (even more than a good marriage) I wanted children, and I was terrified I wouldn’t be able to have them. So I pushed. I pushed for us to commit to each other. I pushed for us to have children. We never had that honeymoon period where it was just us, committing to being with each other and our relationship. We dove head first into making it about adding someone else to our family.

We committed to each other by having children, or trying to. I will admit, it’s not the best way to do it (having said that I’m really glad we did because with MFI and DOR (at 33) we probably would have struggled a lot harder to have kids had we waited) and I think our relationship suffered for it (the loss and struggle didn’t help). The last few years have been hard, and while I think it has strengthened our commitment to each other, I don’t know what it’s done for the “love” we feel for each other.

So I wonder a lot, do we actually love each other enough? I think we do, but it’s hard to know. I think one thing that stands in our way is that we both express love, and feel love, in different ways. In fact, the way I need him to show me love is one of the things he’s least good at, and the way he needs me to show love is one of the things I’m least good at. It’s like we have to fight an uphill battle just to make sure the other person knows we love them.

My “love language” is physical touch but Mi.Vida didn’t grow up hugging much. He rarely touches me physically unless he “wants something” from me (or, even if he’s trying to simply show me physical affection, he ends up wanting something from me). This drives me crazy, because even when he does hug me or cuddle me I’m always waiting for him to take it to the next level. It’s like his love comes at a price.

Mi.Vida’s “love language” is quality time, which I’m crappy at because of my ADD. Sitting through a movie (especially some of the weird, independent films he picks) is a real challenge for me. I want to be folding laundry or doing SOMETHING while we sit there for two hours (at least most of the time). It’s hard for me to just sit still and watch something.

We’re trying to get better at these things. Mi.Vida is working on just lying next to me and holding me, without trying to take it to the next level. I asked if we could not watch TV while we eat but actually talk to each other and that has been really nice. The funny thing is, when we both get that from each other, we have the capacity to take it to the next level more, which means more sex and feeling closer as a couple. There is a way to make it work, but it takes, well, work.

I guess I assume that if we were madly in love with each other we wouldn’t have to work so hard, we would just know, organically, how much we loved each other. Or maybe after you have kids that mad love has to tone down its intensity, and eventually requires work? I honestly don’t know, I’ve never felt it before. I suppose I’m banking on the idea that while mad love might fizzle out, the slow steady burn of our love could stay lit for a long time, especially if we keep stoking it.

Have you ever been madly in love with anyone? Are you madly in love with the person you ended up? Do you think mad love has a greater, or lesser, chance of lasting?

Cycles of Struggle

I was about to write a post about how things have been going really well lately. And quite literally the day I started drafting it in my head, shit seem to hit the fan here. Osita is having a really hard time. Again. I was really hoping that the farther out we got from 3 1/2 years old, the better things were getting. And they were for a while. Then it all went to shit again. LeSigh.

I find, during these times, that I don’t want to write much. Part of it has to do with the fact that I don’t feel all that comfortable talking about specifics when it comes to Osita anymore. But I think really what it boils down to, again, is shame. I feel very alone in the struggles with my daughter. I just don’t read about it on other people’s blogs. And I certainly don’t hear much about it in real life. Sure people can relate to a specific situation of defiance, but with very few exceptions, no one seems to be dealing with these things over and over again, or to the degree that we are. And while we certainly don’t deal with them constantly, we cycle through these difficult times more frequently than I’d like to admit, even to myself. I would say we spend more, if not most of the time, reacting to really difficult behavior, than we do enjoying the tranquil times.

It’s hard to discern why there is shame around this for me. It’s not that I think she has diagnosable issues that require professional attention (I think if that were the case I would feel less shame). But I also don’t think that what we deal with on a daily basis is necessarily “normal.” Can both be true? Is there a grey area between where most people experience parenting and where those with “diagnosed children” parent? Is everyone dealing with these same challenges, and I’m just totally incapable of navigating them?

Because sometimes these issues just feel so overwhelming. And I feel so wholly unprepared for the task. I literally feel like I can’t do it. That’s a horrible thing to feel as a mother, because I have to do it. I have to figure out a way. Except I don’t know what that way is. And it’s isolating. And it’s frustrating. And it makes me feel inadequate and inept.

And I guess that is where the shame lies. In the fact that I feel incapable, and in the suspicion that others are dealing with the same thing, and are MORE capable than I.

Anyway, I was hoping that by putting it out there I’d feel better about it, but honestly? I don’t really. My poor girl is having such a hard time and I don’t know how to make it better. I don’t know how to help her through it. And I don’t know if what I’m doing it improving her difficult experiences or exacerbating them.

And the idea that we’ll be doing this, in some form or another, forever, is… well overwhelming doesn’t really seem to suffice.

Maybe, the whole point of this is that sometimes you can’t know what to do. Sometimes there isn’t a right answer, and you can’t make it better, and in those situations, being a parent is just about loving your child unconditionally, no matter what they are going through. Maybe right now my biggest job is to just be here for her, even when she’s angry at me, or upset that she has to go to school, or overwhelmed by her own emotions and what little control she feels she has in this big scary world (at least on that point, I can absolutely empathize). I know what the hard boundaries are, the ones it’s absolutely not okay to cross. I can hold those boundaries. The rest exist in various shades of grey, and it’s okay if I muddle through that part of parenting.

At least I hope it is.

In the absence of a coherent narrative: BULLETPOINTS!

I want to write a real post. I have a lot of topics I want to tackle, but I can’t seem to find the time to develop a train of thought. I hope to hash out a few of them this weekend, when I’m finished with this month’s copyediting. Oh, and next week is Spring Break! So I’m sure I’ll have time to write then. In the meantime, bullet points, so I can get some of these little thoughts out of the swirling mess that is my head.

– Friday morning is my last 5:30am pumping session. I am so excited about this fact–I can’t wait to be done pumping. I start weening next Tuesday. Bring. It. On.

– My psychiatrist already wrote the script for my ADD medicine. I almost got it filled today when I was at Kaiser canceling my independent subscriber plan, but I was worried that if it were lying around the house, I’d just start weening right away. (I also think it will be $20 cheaper on my new Kaiser plan, and I don’t have a card for that yet.)

– I ordered a four canister case of formula for Monito today. It cost $100! And, if Monito continues at his current rate of 36-40 ounces a day, it will last us less than three weeks. {Is 36-40 ounces too much? He was drinking 25 ounces a day until my in-laws started watching him. They have been offering him a bottle every hour, and he takes them easily enough, so my ILs assume he’s hungry for them. But when he’s with me he can go 1.5-2 hours between bottles (and that seems like a reasonable span between 4oz bottles). What are your thoughts? I emailed his doctor, because I literally think I’ll need a “doctor’s note” to get them to start feeding him less. 40oz of formula a day just seems like too much. Blerg.}

– My poor boy has been really out of sorts lately. He’s drooling a ton, and pulling on his ear a lot, so I assume it’s teething, but I don’t feel anything coming in. I got him an amber teething necklace and it should arrive tomorrow. I hope it helps. He won’t let me put him down, and if I leave the room without him he completely loses his shit. I know he hit a big wonder week not long ago; I think between that, and the teething, he just needs a lot of mommy time right now. We’re becoming more familiar with the ring sling–it really helps with the hour before his bedtime, when I have to make Osita dinner and get her to eat it. I can’t believe he’ll be six months old in less than two weeks. That is crazy.

– I finally told Mi.Vida about all the credit card debt. (Did I mention that I hadn’t disclosed the severity of it? Yeah, awkward…) He took it in stride, though I could tell he was concerned. I don’t think he realized how little I was making during maternity leave, and how hard I was being hit by those unexpected insurance bills every month. He feels confident that we’ll be able to pull out of this quickly, and that we’ll stay afloat more easily now that we’re saving so much every month. I hope he’s right.

– We’re continuing to write down all our expenses. We’ve never made it this far. I hope the results are enlightening. Knowing I have to write down a purchase, and revisit it later, definitely makes me think twice about what I’m buying.

– I’ve been wanting to write a post about how petty I feel like I’ve been lately, but I can’t seem to commit an entire post to it. (Does this reflect a certain self-compassion, or an unwillingness to be honest with myself?) I will say that I am trying to combat this pettiness with empathy and it’s working, for the most part, but I still catch myself thinking petty things, like, “I’d comment on this post, but she never comments on mine,” or, “Why am I always helping so-and-so at work out when she never even thanks me for it?” I always follow up these tit-for-tats with a reminder that I’m not always great at XYZ thing I expect someone else should be doing, or try to put myself in their shoes and think about what I’d want if I were them, and usually it snaps me out of it. But I still have the thoughts in the first place, and it makes me sad, ashamed and embarrassed. I expect more from myself, and frankly, I should.

– I really am trying to comment regularly on a lot of blogs. Sometimes I’m successful at this, sometimes I’m not. Please know that I’m doing my best, and every day I think I get a little bit better.

– I was supposed to see a really funny comedian tonight with a friend from work, but at the last minute the show was cancelled. I’m super bummed about it, more because I was looking forward to the chance to hang out with the friend from work, than for missing the comedian.

– Lately I’ve been experimenting with the idea that I don’t have to be attractive. If I could detach myself from my desire to look differently, I’d be a much happier person. I’m trying to determine why exactly I feel the need to look good, or why I define “good” so narrowly. This self-exploration has inspired some interesting trains of thought. I hope to write more about this soon.

I have to head to bed now. It’s late and I’ve been getting very little sleep this week. I can’t wait to sleep in all next week. (By sleep in, I mean get up after 6:30am.)

What thoughts are swirling around you head of late?

The Loss to Come

I just recently started reading The Fault in Our Stars. My mom lent it to me ages ago but when she told me it was about kids with cancer I promptly left it on my bookshelf, with no real plans to pick it up again. I mean, who wants to read about kids dying of cancer? Even if it is fiction, that is some morbid subject matter.

Then I heard a few reviews about it on other blogs. All good. Glowing actually. My mom’s review had been similarly positive. That is why she gave it to me to read.

But I still wasn’t all that interested in reading a book about teenagers with cancer.

When I went back to work last week I noticed a few girls devouring the book. I asked them if it was good and they couldn’t stop raving about it. I decided to read it when a girl in my study skills class, who I’ve been trying to win over, recommended it. You could tell she was excited, the next day, when I had it on my desk. (She and I just might make it through this year.)

So I started reading the book. And you know what? It’s funny. A book about kids with cancer and it cracks me up. Talk about cognitive dissonance.

{And here’s the part where I seem to go off on a seemingly unrelated tangent but you keep reading because you believe me when I tell you I’ll tie it all up at the end.}

I realize–now that I don’t have any big life changes or transitions to look forward to–that I depended on those big events to jump start personal growth and self-discovery. Without those challenging moments I worry I will become stagnant, and eventually bored. How do I learn more about myself, how do I grow as a person, if every day looks the same?

When I read books like The Fault in Our Stars, I’m forced to consider the possibility that my children might be diagnosed with a terminal illness. What would that feel like? How would I react? It’s terrifying to imagine the devastation of losing my child at the age of five, or fifteen or twenty-five. The sad fact of the matter is, though, that tragedy and loss are now the only big transitions I have ahead of me. In a few short years I will cross from that time in my life where I’m celebrating people’s big, happy events like marriages and the birth of children, to supporting them through the sorrow of divorce, sickness and death. The big transitions that still loom are mostly negative (or viewed as negative by our culture). And while I will try not to let the fear of divorce or sickness or death cast dark shadows over my days, it’s unrealistic to believe that loss will never touch me. At the very least I know my parents will eventually die and while I can hope that I’ll be very old myself before they pass; the only way I can avoid morning their deaths is if I die myself, before them.

I don’t mean to be morbid here. I guess I am just trying to remind myself to be grateful that things are kind of monotonous right now, because the only way they will be different and challenging is if they are also tragic and sad. I mean, I’m guessing I would undergo profound personal growth if I had to deal with my daughter’s cancer diagnosis, but I sure as hell don’t want to experience that.

I used to think that mid-life crises were about getting old and facing one’s own mortality. Now that I’m in a prime position to experience my own, I wonder if it’s just a reaction to moving from the first half of you life, which is a work in progress, to the second half of your life, in which the masterpiece is (hopefully) revealed.

The first half of you life you spend painting the canvas, making it look exactly the way you’d hoped. Sure you don’t always have the paints you wanted, but you are creating something with what you are given, with what you work for. There is at least some creative license involved, even if it doesn’t always feel that way. The second half of your life is about enjoying that masterpiece. You may get to make some touch ups here and there, but it’s hard to paint over large parts and even harder to start over, so most of us just move through the painting, hoping it doesn’t fade too much in the sunlight of our lives (or get ravaged too much by the storms).

I suppose, in the middle of one’s life, it’s easy to take the completeness of that masterpiece for granted. It’s convenient to forget what the future holds, the ripping away of huge swaths of canvas. Even if you only ever experience the death of loved ones in their old age (and you’d be incredibly lucky if this were the case), important parts of your canvas will be torn or faded beyond recognition. Death will leave it’s mark on the artwork of my life; I better appreciate these moments when my painting it complete.

I promise I’m not sitting around all day, having morbid thoughts about the possible (and in some cases eventual) deaths of the people I love. I’m just trying to use a book like The Fault in Our Stars to remember what I have, to not take the completeness of my life for granted. I am so lucky to have experienced a relatively small amount of loss so far. That won’t always be the case, and I’d hate to look back and think I squandered my easy, mostly loss-free life, when I was living it.

What are you thoughts on life and death at this point in your life? How do books that stare death in the face make you feel?