I'm having one of those "parenting is so hard, when does it stop being hard, oh right, never" days.
I was watching Kit play on their own and glumly thinking that happy Kit is independent and only wants parents when they're sad. Then they toddled over and handed me a stuffed fox, just because. So I know that what I'm feeling is just a feeling and has very little to do with reality. But it's still a big feeling.
Relatedly, having a tantruming toddler scream directly into your ear for several minutes is really quite challenging.
"Kit is so chill," I thought, once upon a time. "Maybe they won't really get toddler tantrums." I was so wrong. Soooo wrong. Tantrums aren't about personality. They're about cognitive and emotional overload. A scream into the void.
(My right ear is the void, apparently.)
(But was I going to stop cuddling my screaming child? Of course not. My ear can cope.)
And now I feel like the worst parent in the world because I couldn't really help my kid, even when they were bottomlessly miserable. There is no cure for the tantrum because it's an existential crisis. You just hold on and say "I'm here" like it means anything. And eventually they stop crying long enough for you to get some calories into them, which almost always helps. It turns out that kids are always basically one minute away from a massive hunger crash, and that rather exacerbates the existential angst.
You could not pay me enough to be a child again. No way. It's genuinely a wonder that kids are ever happy at all. Their bodies do weird things, the world is baffling, everything is too big, they have no control, safety is elusive and fleeting. It's like a fucking horror movie, 24/7. And yet my child comes over and smiles at me and puts their head on my knee for sheer love.
I guess maybe they wanted to say "I'm here" like it means anything.
I guess maybe it does.
It's rainy and cold. Perfect fireplace weather.
I spent a lot of time in upstate New York when I was growing up, and our house had a fireplace. In the evenings I would sit in front of the fire and cross-stitch and drink hot chocolate and listen to my mother's records. And then I would go down to my room and dial in to AOL so I could telnet to my BBS and get on IRC. (Calling the BBS directly would have been an expensive long-distance call. Remember those days?)
Right now I have a fireplace video
going, and I'm playing one of the albums my mother used to listen to a lot (Keith Jarrett's Köln concert), and I'm on IRC, and I'm drinking hot chocolate. And I'm knitting (or would be if I weren't typing), which is not cross-stitch but scratches the same itch. It is basically 1997 over here right now.
My brother's birthday dinner was tonight, just him and me and our mother and her gentleman. I misread the reservation email and got there half an hour early, so I found a quiet place to sit and knit. I'd had a really stressful day of feeling extremely anxious for no reason whatsoever, and that half hour of knitting was about the best thing I could have done for myself. Dinner was delicious, and we managed to have good conversation despite the noisy restaurant; we teased one another about old jokes and talked about politics that we could all agree on. When I pinged the household Slack to say I was on my way home, I found a message from X saying "we did all your chores, hope you had a good time". And it's Friday so I have no work deadlines. So I'm full of happy warm family feelings and relaxation, and have walloped myself with massive nostalgia on top of it. What a lovely way to end the day.
Thanks to a link from tgstonebutch
, today I learned about queerplatonic relationships (a term coined in 2010
) and spent several hours going "WHY DID NO ONE TELL ME THERE'S A NAME FOR WHAT I DO". A good primer is here
and a post on QP not being "romance-lite" is here
. I want to quote both of them at length. I want to hug them. This is amazing.
I'm not aro or ace. But there is absolutely a third category of relationship in my life, in addition to partnership and friendship. I've been calling it "partner-level friends" or "my [name]" because I didn't have a word for it. And now I do. Wow. I haven't felt this seen
since I read the relationship anarchy manifesto
. (Which is very relevant.)
While discussing this with a friend, he asked how "romantic" was being defined, since both "aromantic" and "platonic" were being defined in opposition to it, and I realized I didn't have a good answer. (Merriam-Webster doesn't either. Their definition of "romantic" points to "romance", which points to "love affair", which points back to "romantic".) After some discussion on Twitter
pointed me to this piece by a possible aromantic who asked a romantic to define romance
. The definition that came out of their conversation was: "Romance is a natural high that occurs in the presence of certain people, without obvious connection to sexuality, 'good company', or emotional intimacy." That jibes pretty well with my experience, which I described as follows:
When I look at people I'm in love with, my body responds. My heart swells—that's literally a feeling I get in my chest, not a metaphor. My heart rate goes up and I feel a little breathless. My pupils probably dilate. I want to be physically touching the person in some way. I'm SUPER touchy-feely with X and J. Constant small touches as I walk past them. Always sitting as near as I can get.
When I look at people I'm in QP relationships with, I have a different set of reactions. Hardly any physical reaction at all. I do like hugging them, but I don't feel the same urge to be in contact. I get much more of a squee reaction. My brain lights up. It's still something I would call chemistry, but a different kind of chemical reaction.
Things romantic and QP relationships have in common for me: I feel a profound sense of safety. I can relax around the person. I say "I love you" and it's never by rote. I want regular communication of some sort. I feel more myself in the person's company.
All of this is shaped by my tendency toward feeling very definitely like I "click" with certain people. Often upon meeting them. A little alert box pops up that says "You and this person could have something amazing together! Pursue it!". I can tell you the exact moment that happened with both X and J, and with all four of my QP people. So I don't know what "romantic" looks like for people who don't have that zing or sniff test or instalove or whatever you want to call it. I spent literal months knowing I was going to fall in love with J and waiting for it to happen. Had to WD40 the "in love" switch. But it finally flipped hard and has never flipped back. <3
This is also not what my romantic relationships looked like when I was in my teens or 20s. Much healthier now. :) Twenty years ago, desperate longing to be loved and valued was part and parcel of romance for me. Now I love myself.
Some of the useful links that came up in conversation (h/t tgstonebutch
):Sexuality and romance as pet elephants that are invisible to ace and aro peopleLimerence and "platonic attraction"How to write about queerplatonic relationships in fiction
(lots and lots of useful links there)Various concepts of greyromanticism
I was amused to choose "oblivious" as the userpic keyword and have this userpic come up, because at first it seemed totally inappropriate for a post discussing nonsexual relationships. In its original context (Sluggy Freelance, if anyone remembers it), it's being said by a guy who is very into topless women and sad that he missed a chance to ogle some. But I've always used it because I am genuinely the sort of person to not really notice that an attractive woman is topless, because we're too busy talking about other things and connecting on other levels. So maybe it's appropriate after all.
I wrote this last year
, on October 2:All the fans and air conditioners and open windows that noisily let us survive the summer are quiet now. The dryer and dishwasher have finished their tasks and fallen silent. The laundry is folded and stowed. The people and cats are asleep, except for me. There is such contentment in this moment of stillness.
My brain promises me that if I do enough, and if I do it well enough, I will reach a moment of the house being perfect, at which point I can finally relax. My own work on coming to terms with my brain has helped me to expand my definition of perfection. There are little untidinesses around me, to be sure, and I'll tidy a few of them before bed; but those untidinesses also make a house a home. I don't want to live in a museum exhibit. I want to live in a place where the stray bits of cat fur and scratched-up furniture remind me of our adorable cats, and J's shirt draped over a chair and X's water bottle abandoned on the corner of the table remind me of my marvelous spouses. Soon there will be toys underfoot, and parts of bottles scattered over the kitchen counter, and tiny mismatched socks in inexplicable places, to remind me of my beloved child. And I will sit in this battered but extremely comfortable chair, and put my mug down on the fluff-attracting but gorgeously vibrant red tablecloth, in my beautiful lived-in home, and it will be perfect.
Tonight I turned off the ceiling vent fan for what is probably the last time this year, and such a beautiful hush fell. I tidied just enough to make the morning easier for J and X, and did a load of laundry mostly out of habit. Now all the machines are silent, and I'm sitting at the table in the comfy broken-in chair, and there are candles casting shimmery golden light on the red tablecloth, and everyone is asleep. There was even a tiny unmatched sock in tonight's laundry.
I was right: it's perfect.
- thinking about:
behavior.domesticity, behavior.parenting, experiences.housework, experiences.seasons, experiences.seasons.autumn, mind.feelings, mind.feelings.calm, mind.feelings.contentment, mind.feelings.joy, mind.feelings.relaxation, mind.wiring, mind.wiring.ocd, people.kit, places.home
The Brexit news is wretched and I can't pay too much attention to it or I fall into this sort of stupor of grief. Fortunately we had a lot to distract us today: our first-ever car trip as a family, the minimum-three-hour drive to visit J's mother upstate.
Prior to this, the longest drive I'd ever done was the two hours between Boston and New Haven for last year's Readercon travel Rube Goldberg machine
. And my arms have been very cranky, as noted elsewhere, and my knees have been a little cranky, as I think I haven't even bothered noting because there's so much other stuff going on; highway driving is fine for my knees but stop-and-go is awful, and anytime we drive out of NYC there's going to be stop-and-go unless we leave in the middle of the night, which we can't do because baby. And X has their learner's permit but their driving test isn't until next week, so they can't spell me as the driver when we're renting a car. So we were all concerned about how that was going to go. I had a tiny little additional anx over never having rented a Zipcar before, but at least I'd seen other people do it and basically understood the process.
Kit does great in cab rides but has never been in a car for more than an hour. They've also never slept overnight anywhere other than our house (not counting the hospital where they were born). So we had no idea what or how much to pack, and had no idea how often we'd need to stop, and had no idea whether Kit would abruptly run out of "happy to be in the car" before we reached our destination. Plus I was nervous about the responsibility of being the driver with the baby in the car.
Given all of that, it's a wonder we only all snapped and griped at each other a few times over the course of getting ready and getting on the road. And then it went totally fine
. We planned the fuck out of it, and 98% of the plan worked, and the 2% that didn't (Kit's folding crib not fitting in the rental car trunk; me packing all the burp cloths in a duffel that we put in the trunk) were things we had a backup plan for (I remembered that you can see a Babies R Us sign from I-87 in the Bronx--I've gone by it a million times in Chinatown buses--so we stopped there and bought a super compact folding crib/playpen that juuuuust fit in the back with the rest of our stuff) or coped with well on the fly (X noticed the lack of burp cloths and grabbed a few more before we left the house). My knee was kind of murderous after the two hours of stop-and-go traffic that got us to the Bronx, but traffic was much lighter the rest of the way and it recovered quickly. X was a superb navigator and deejay in the front seat while J entertained the baby in the back seat. Kit slept, ate, complacently tolerated being changed in the Babies R Us bathroom, slept, ate, complacently tolerated being briefly extricated from the car seat at a rest area where I stopped to eat a sandwich and have J jab the pressure points in my shoulders, and then cheerfully babbled and watched the sun-dapple through the trees for the last 45 minutes of the drive while J sang them silly songs and cracked us all up. We started the trip grumpy and anxious, but I think we all ended it feeling much more relaxed and content.
After nearly five hours of travel, we arrived at Glory's house, where she was standing out front waiting for us so as not to miss a single minute of her grandchild. We set up Kit's folding chair right in the driveway and plunked them in it, and they looked around wide-eyed at their ecstatic grandmother and all the glorious trees and then gave us a huge beaming smile. I have never felt so good about my life choices as I did in that moment. All the stress, all the fretting, all the physical discomfort was 100% worth it to see my baby smile like that.
While I iced my arms and knee (which all felt pretty good, but why take chances), J and X unloaded the car and Glory doted on the baby. J brought all the heavy bags in and then swung right into cooking dinner while X took point on feeding Kit, which was a bit of a challenge as we were sitting on the porch and they kept getting distracted by all the trees. So many trees! All moving constantly with wonderful breezes that smell so delicious! Kit happily sat on Glory's lap, happily let X take them inside and finish feeding them away from the distractions, happily had their diaper changed and put on pajamas, and happily lay down in their new crib (on their familiar mattress, with familiar music playing and a fan for white noise--we wanted to take as few chances with sleep as possible). More than an hour after their usual bedtime, they were still wide awake. But we all said goodnight and turned the lights down and left them to settle, and after a few minutes of babbling quietly--to themself? to the house spirits? who knows? it's not a thing they usually do--they conked right out. That was four and a half hours ago and they haven't woken yet.
Friends, I don't know what we did in a past life to deserve this baby. I think we were a trio of saints.
I'm already trying to figure out how often we can come up here. A five-hour drive is no picnic, even once X can split it with me; we all took today off to make it happen. I can't imagine doing the trip on a two-day weekend. Even a three-day weekend is pushing it. But Kit is so happy
here. My little elfling. :) At the very least we should take more walks in Prospect Park. Trees! Trees are the best.
I'm so glad we have this trip as a trial run before going to Readercon in two weeks. By the end of the weekend we'll have a much better idea of what we need to bring with us and what's overkill. We'll know what to pack where we can reach it during the trip and what can go in the trunk. (I'm still embarrassed about the burp cloths.) We'll know the car; we've already reserved the same one for the Readercon trip. (I'm not sure I'd rent it a third time, but it's good enough that familiarity trumps wanting a car where the gas pedal is not set so much further forward than the brake pedal that it's literally impossible for me to find a comfortable seat position.) We'll know which of our travel gear works and is useful, instead of just having to hope. (Static cling car window shades: amazing. The thing that goes under the car seat and protects the upholstery: probably not necessary until Kit's old enough to be dropping Cheerios everywhere.) We'll know how often we need to stop and take breaks. We'll know that my "quiet and mellow" playlist is something the baby can sleep through--though frankly I wouldn't be surprised if Kit slept through Darude's "Sandstorm", Hamilton
, or Beethoven's Fifth--but not so mellow that it puts me to sleep while I'm driving. We'll know that our baby is an amazing travel baby
. And we'll know that we're a pretty amazing travel family: we may be a little irritable as we're getting on the road, but we can recover from that and go on to have a decent trip and a good time at our destination. Plus there should be a lot less irritability on the next trip, now that we have any idea what we're doing.
I didn't mean to type so much; I should go do my OT exercises, ice my arms a bit more, and get some sleep. I'm just so glad that at least in our tiny little corner of the world, everything went okay today. I needed that.
- thinking about:
behavior.planning, body.arms, experiences.driving, experiences.travel, mind.feelings, mind.feelings.joy, people.family, people.josh, people.kit, people.xtina, places.us.ny.mosswood
It has been a long time since a Kit update! Mostly because this has been the week of no sleep, for baby-unrelated reasons having to do with stress and illness and other sucky things. But! here is what's going on with our absurdly long baby.
Kit started daycare on Monday, at age 11 weeks exactly. It's gone pretty well.( Baaaaaaby stuff )
It's strange having the house empty when I wake up. I've been feeling very lonely this week. I'm used to having X and the baby at home, and instead X is at work and the baby's at daycare and I'm all by myself. I have been getting a fair amount of work and housework done, especially tidying things in Kit's room, but it's hard. This has been compounded by all the stress and illness; having panic attacks is even less fun when there are no partners around to hug you and there's no baby around to cuddle. But we'll adjust.
As mentioned here
, I recently read Thích Nhất Hạnh's The Miracle of Mindfulness
(which had a very gratifying focus on mindfulness in daily life; for a taste of that, see this shorter piece by Nhất Hạnh
). One of the things he suggests is taking a mindfulness sabbath every week--you do your ordinary daily things, but you do them at about a third your usual speed, with full attention to the thing you're doing in the moment that you're doing it. I like that idea so much better than a day of rest in the traditional Jewish mode, and have been thinking about implementing it in some way.
I tried it yesterday (beginning with lighting candles on Friday at sunset, which was very pleasant in the winter dark) and only sort of managed it. At one point on Saturday night I realized it was dark out and that meant Shabbat was over and I didn't have to be mindful anymore. Then I thought that was a sort of silly way to look at it, and did my best to be very present with whatever I did next (washing my hands, I think). If it were easy, I wouldn't have to make a practice of it.
One place where it was very effective was doing work on Friday evening. I was proofing my pages for the week, which I usually get very distracted from and take ages to do because of the distractions. But I focused on it not in a furrowed-brow kind of way but in a presence and mindfulness kind of way, and it went very quickly and painlessly. Unfortunately I have not yet managed to apply that to the work that I'm currently procrastinating on by writing this, because in order to be present with the work, I have to actually start doing the work, and I don' wanna. But once I actually start it, I will hopefully stay focused despite being incredibly tired, and it will go quickly and then I can sleep.
Today I was taking my meditation walk in the park, and caught myself getting distracted, and thought, "Be here now." And then I thought, "I am
here now," in the sense of, why do I need to instruct myself to be here now? I don't need to actively try to be here now; I'm already here now. I just need to stop being anywhere else (in the mind-wandering sense), and then being here now is the thing that's left. That little moment of enlightenment lasted maybe twenty seconds, but it was a really good twenty seconds. I am here now. No effort needed.
Today I:( did a lot )
I'm making this post because I still feel like I didn't get enough done today, and X suggested I write it all out to prove to myself that I did. I guess the real problem is that there's still so much to do. We have a plan for doing it, and that helps a ton, but the bulk of it won't be done
for another few weeks.
J was an absolute hero today. In addition to making the pot roast and doing all the dinner cleanup so I could rest my arm, he hauled book boxes out of the baby's room and into his room, moved all the flatpacked pieces of baby furniture into the baby's room so our library/hallway no longer looks like an IKEA warehouse, and took two more boxes of giveaway books down to the curb. I'm hoping that having the furniture out of sight will help keep it out of mind until friends descend upon us on the 25th for moving and building things. Having it heaped in the library was definitely stressing us all out.
Hopefully my arm will be better tomorrow and I can do laundry. That always makes me feel calmer. Who knows why.
- thinking about:
behavior.accomplishments, behavior.domesticity, body.arms, body.hands, experiences.driving, experiences.housework, mind.feelings, mind.feelings.restlessness, mind.wiring, mind.wiring.anxiety, places.home, stuff
Thus ends my lengthy streak of TMBG subject lines, but this Tom Lehrer quote is too perfect to resist.
I haven't cried since Saturday afternoon, so I think the PMS is finally gone. In its wake I've been astonishingly productive and contented. All the parts of my brain that were hormonally offline have come back with a vengeance.
Dishwasher filled, run, emptied, refilled, run again. A load of laundry done. Work to-do list complete. Baby shower prep complete. Work inbox zero. Personal inbox 1, and that 1 is a chatty email from mrissa
. Writing to her is my reward for getting everything else done.
When my OCD gets wound up, I have this feeling like if I just do enough things then I will reach a mythical state where everything is done and I can relax. Tonight I feel like I've actually attained something like that state. It's wonderful. I could list all the remaining undone things... but I won't, because none of them need to be done tonight, and that's enough for me. I have regained my ability to set them aside, to boomerang them out of my mental inbox (how fucking great is Boomerang for Gmail
, by the way? I don't know how I lived without it) and trust that I'll remember them when the time is right. Hello, brain, I missed you. Welcome back.
I really want to savor this moment, when the house is clean and my belly is full of good homemade food and the work is done and everyone is sleeping and soon I will be too. This is a good place to be.
I'm going off public Twitter for a week. I'm PMSing like whoa, August was even more stressful and unpleasant than Augusts usually are, and the thought of being on social media with the upcoming anniversary is just more than I can deal with.
I'll still be posting, and reading replies, but no home stream, no faves, no RTs. Poof, gone. It feels good.
I'm playing Viridi
, insofar as one plays it. Mostly that means "singing" to my plants (click on a plant and zoom in to focus on it, and the program will sing to it and improve its mood). It's soothing. Soothing things are nice.
Things I could do instead of Twitter:
* snuggle my partners
* knit, in small doses (arms have been feeling good but don't want to jinx it)
* cross-stitch, in small doses
* do my PT exercises
old family photographs
interesting bits of my baby book
* do housework
* get ahead on work
* watch a movie
- thinking about:
behavior.self-care, body.reproductive system, experiences.seasons, experiences.seasons.summer, mind.feelings, mind.feelings.overwhelmed, mind.wiring, mind.wiring.anxiety, people.groups, people.groups.twitter, stuff.games, stuff.games.video games