( Selichot )( Rosh Hashanah )
It's genuinely disorienting to encounter all these spaces where I don't have to educate anyone or fight to be seen for who I am. Other people have already done that work, and leaders have clearly been receptive to it. (Rabbi Lippman is queer, but I don't assume that cis queer people will be welcoming to or understanding of trans people, especially nonbinary trans people.) I get to just show up and be a human being in human community. What an immense privilege. What a gift. Honestly, that might be the thing that gets me to stick with this—just the pure pleasure of being in a place where I didn't personally have to claw out a space for myself.
Josh met me and Kit in the park and we walked for a while (GMaps Pedometer says I walked 3.2 miles today, most of it pushing a heavy stroller with a heavy toddler; my feet and arms are very tired). I teased him that he should be glad I didn't make him meet the rabbi. But this is my thing, really. Maybe it's my latest three-month hobby. Maybe it'll be more than that. We'll see.
No 18-month Kit update yet because they've got a fierce UTI and the antibiotics have only just started kicking in, and I've been sick all week with a weird stomach bug or something, and assorted other things have been going on. But there will be one as soon as they're better. They're holding up like a champ, but they are also still a wee baby and being sick is rough. I'll be so glad when their fever is gone and their tolerance for things going even slightly not their way comes back.
Recently I've found myself thinking in religious terms a lot more than I used to. Not sure what to do with that. It's odd to feel my own sincerity when I describe Kit as "a blessing" or think "God willing, I'll be well enough to do laundry tomorrow". It feels very natural and reasonable, and I wouldn't look askance if I hadn't been agnostic/panentheist my whole life. Also, given my OCD and anxiety, I am generally suspicious of things appearing in my head that feel reasonable but have no rational basis.
I wonder, too, how much of this is about my Jewish identity mattering a lot more, politically, than it used to. If I'm going to be endangered by the fact of being Jewish, then I'm going to double the fuck down on my Jewishness.
But I don't feel a stronger inclination toward ritual or ceremony (or not much of one... though I have gotten more interested in celebrating holidays and learning about Jewish traditions, hm). I'm just more conscious of a... sense of a benevolent deistic presence in the fabric of the world. I mean, I've always had that sense, that's what panentheism is, but I feel it more strongly now, and I'm more inclined to invoke it.
Well, if it's a fun new kind of mental illness, it doesn't seem to be a harmful one at present. Mostly it's about joy and gratitude. I think sometimes I just feel so humbled and glad for all the things in my life that are due to chance as much or more as my efforts, and there's no real personification of chance to direct my gratitude to.
So all right, little beneficial brain worm, I'll keep you around for now. Just don't get too big, okay? I've only got so much brain.
This evening I managed to eat some soup AND some bread, AND I drank ginger ale. This is an improvement! It has been a pretty w/retched week. Now I'm kind of energized and of course it's nearly 1 a.m. Maybe I'll burn it off by sorting some laundry. Amazing how fast it piles up when I'm sick.
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.
This is a compilation of things I tweeted today about not poisoning the social media well with anxiety and panic. It's primarily aimed at Twitter users, but I expect it's probably useful for Facebook too.
As a person with an anxiety disorder, I really understand the urge to conflate being ANXIOUS with being MOTIVATED. The reason I understand that so much is that it is a lie anxiety whispers—or sometimes yells—in my ear every day. "You need me!" anxiety says. "Without me you wouldn't notice or accomplish the important things! Without me you'd be a useless lump!"
This is a LIE. L I E pants-on-fire lie.
For one thing, anxiety often paralyzes. For another, it occludes judgment. "Fight, fly, or freeze" is the choice anxiety presents to you. These are immediate, adrenaline-powered responses to immediate threats. They are USELESS in the long term. Their only purpose is to keep you alive long enough to HAVE a long term. Panic consumes all your energy in a single explosive burst and leaves you exhausted. It is very bad for your brain and your body.
Right now, what we are facing is a very large, multifaceted set of threats, short-term and long-term but not immediate. Panic will actively impede our ability to respond to those threats. It will not motivate us. It will only harm us.
If you have been feeling anxious or panicky about the news, please take a moment to make a PLAN for how to prevent and treat your anxiety. "I will go on social media and say I'm scared and everyone will reassure me/be scared with me!" is not a plan.
's #DailyCoping threads
(that's a roundup link on a blog for those who don't read Twitter) for some really good specific pointers on dealing with different kinds of stress responses.
Right now, my primary anxiety prevention strategy is CLOSE THE TAB. Anything that makes me panic is harmful and I will move away from it. This doesn't mean cutting myself off from all sources of information—only panic-inducing ones. I get a lot of political emails. If they fearmonger, I unsub. I keep the ones that are about concrete action, like http://tinyletter.com/resist
I unfollow even dear friends who only post about being angry and frightened. I love them, but I need to protect myself. And I reach out to them by email and IM instead so that we can connect in other ways.
If I am feeling anxious, I take anxiolytics. I make myself do this even when the anxiety is screaming that I need it to survive. It is very hard to treat anxiety. Sometimes I envision it as a living entity that wants to survive at any cost. I even feel bad for it. But I need my brain more than my brain parasite does. So I take my anxiolytics, and breathe and meditate, and do other #DailyCoping things.
For longer-term treatment of anxiety, I work with my therapist and my family on various strategies. In the past I've taken SSRIs.
So that's my plan. I really strongly encourage all of you to make one too. Especially if you haven't been anxiety-prone before now.
I spent yesterday in crisis mode. I spent today having the belated panic reaction that would have kept me from functioning yesterday. So I am SUPER AWARE right now of the difference between panic and responding appropriately to a crisis. We are in a crisis. We can't let our totally understandable anxiety about that prevent us from taking appropriate action.
And please, if you feel anxious or panicky, DO reach out for help. But DON'T just broadcast your panic; it's infectious. Call a friend or a hotline or your therapist. Email or IM or DM someone. Enact your plan.
Twitter has been our collective id for nearly a decade. It's very vulnerable right now. Please take care of it.
BTW, I'm really pleased to see a lot of people returning to LiveJournal/Dreamwidth. That's a great place to write about big feelings! You can filter them, and cut-tag them, and let people opt in to them, all while expressing yourself at length. Dreamwidth accounts are free and it's a wholly user-supported company with great community aspects. I recommend it highly.
Comments are off to discourage trolls. Please feel free to share this link around.
Poor Kit had night terrors last night, or something like it—sudden screaming, out of nowhere, red-faced, inconsolable. X and I were quite shaken by it. Eventually Kit came out of it and then played with their hairbrush for a bit and went back to sleep. Babies. ¯\_(ツ)_/¯
For the last few weeks they've been coughing in their sleep sometimes. It's not a productive cough, they haven't had a fever at any point, and it only happens at night, so we figure it's from accidentally inhaling their copious teething-drool (that molar is taking its sweet time coming in). The first couple of nights they'd wake up but now they sleep right through it, which is a little disconcerting. How quickly children adapt. It seems like a strength at first but I see it as a vulnerability too; they can adapt to things that aren't okay and shouldn't be normal, and adaptation can take a toll. Nothing I can do about the coughing, but it's a reminder to be mindful about the other ways I shape Kit's experiences and teach them what "normal" is.
I'm going to try to post more slice-of-life things here that aren't baby anecdotes. X and I sat down together tonight and wrote things by hand! The timing didn't work out for us to do it by candlelight, as the Hanukkah candles had already burned down, but I still felt very old-fashioned using my lovely antique lap desk. The angled surface made writing much easier on my arm, even using a skinny pen. I wrote the last of my notes and cards for holiday_wishes
, and X wrote thank-you notes to people who'd given Kit birthday presents.
One of the people on holiday_wishes wanted cross-stitch supplies for teaching Ukrainian embroidery. I have a TON of evenweave fabric, some of which I've had 20 years or more. I also have a lot of unfinished and unstarted cross-stitch kits, and if my arms ever heal and strengthen to the point where I can do embroidery again—which I'm kind of skeptical about, though it's a good goal to have—I'd start with the kits rather than designing my own. And I'm pretty sure I'll never have the arms for doing knotwork with silk floss again; that was hard even before I developed the tendinitis. So I took all the silk I bought back when I thought I could make money making jewelry (what was I thinking
) (well, okay, my head wasn't very clear at the time), and all the fabric, and put it in a box that I will ship off this week. An immigrant will get to preserve her culture and heritage, and there's more room in my crafting dresser for
all the yarn I keep buying and not knitting with. Everyone wins!
I just left this comment for a friend who made her first LJ post in a year and a half, about needing a refuge from Twitter:It's good to see you here again.
A lot of us are looking for the same thing, and looking for it here (or on Dreamwidth). Twitter seems to have hit a toxicity tipping point, and the recent political news has sharpened our ideas of where we put our effort. Even for those of us who still have the wherewithal to shrug off trolls, we've got more important things to do with our energy and attention than fritter it away on shrug after shrug after shrug.
I locked my Twitter account for unrelated reasons and I'm really glad I did. The one time I unlocked it recently, within 24 hours I needed to flee back to privacy.
Back in the day when LJ was booming, I would compulsively refresh and refresh and refresh until it was late at night and for a little while no one was posting and I could free myself from it and sleep. Before that I did the same with Usenet, and before that with IRC. Twitter doesn't feel very different to me, except that, like IRC, it refreshes itself. But I suspect my usage patterns are unusual and most people get more of a dopamine firehose from Twitter than they ever did from other sources. Having been drinking from dopamine firehoses for a long time, I can tell you with some authority that they are really, really bad for you. And Twitter is unique in what you so beautifully call its "kaleidoscope of contexts"—where one rapidly scrolling IRC channel still only contained maybe two or three conversations, Twitter has dozens all happening at once. It's utterly wretchedly exhausting.
I hope we see a return to longer-form thought, threaded conversations, more order, less chaos. LJ or DW or Wordpress or Medium, doesn't much matter to me, but something better than the noise machine.
There's been lots of talk about LJ's servers moving to Russia
. I will continue crossposting from DW, as I have been. If I were still giving money to LJ I would stop, but I've had a permanent account since forever, so there's not much I can do there. I suppose I'm actually a net drain on their resources. I don't have the sense that they make money off my data. I don't think I'm putting myself in danger or making anyone else more vulnerable by continuing to use LJ. So I'll continue to use it for now, and see what happens. If you're aware of reasons I should discontinue crossposting or delete my data from LJ altogether, please do share.
I was looking for a book tonight and realized a friend had borrowed it. So I checked my "borrowed books" list and ended up emailing a whole bunch of folks to say "You borrowed books from us ages ago, can we have them back?". Many of them have moved house and gone through other upheavals and I will be pleasantly surprised if they even still have the books or remembered that they got them from us, but it'd be nice if it happens.
I immediately got an email back from one person saying (very nicely) "Didn't I already give those back?" so apparently I have not been so diligent about updating that spreadsheet. I'm pretty sure most of the books I emailed about weren't stealth-returned, though. Pretty
sure. We'll see. At any rate, it's an excuse to get in touch with some folks I haven't been in touch with for a while, maybe make some lunch dates with the local ones, and that's no bad thing.
Vosges finally started making a dark chocolate version of their bacon bar and tonight the stars were right for me to have
half of it (oops). I'm impressed with the crunchiness of the bacon bits. The smoky flavor is very strong, which somehow I wasn't expecting; it's the first thing you smell when you open the package and the last note of the aftertaste. It's good.
Of course, having had that much chocolate, I now shouldn't have hot chocolate before bed. I'm tired enough that it probably wouldn't wind me up too far, but better not to take chances. It's so annoying to have to make these calculations. But it could have been one of those nights when I can't have any chocolate at all, so I will count blessings etc. and maybe make some mulled cider for a hot bedtime drink instead. Or ginger honey drink; my mother brought me ginger cookies from England and they are the sort of thick hard cookies that are intended to be dipped into tea or equivalent, and if I can't dip them into hot chocolate (which would be awesome) then ginger honey drink is the next best option.
Or I could just go to bed. But I want to write up Kit's 12-month post (!) (!!!) so I'll be up for a little while yet.
- thinking about:
behavior.parenting, body.arms, food, food.candy, livejournal, mind.wiring, mind.wiring.anxiety, people.groups, people.groups.dreamwidth, people.groups.twitter, people.kit, projects.crafts, stuff, stuff.books, stuff.gifts, words.letters
Hilarious 3 a.m. baby anecdote time!
Kit's been really into clapping their hands lately. When they're sad they clap to cheer themself up. It is amazing. They've learned that when they clap the adults all clap back, and they get DRUNK WITH POWER and lead call-and-response clapping for quite a long time. Sometimes if you say "clap" they clap but that's not consistent yet.
Tonight they woke up just as I was going to bed. X is back on overnight duty (which is why I can go to bed at 3, which feels like absolute luxury) and got up to cuddle the baby back to sleep. I finished my nighttime ablutions and went into Kit's room for a quick snuggle. I had been reading a parenting book that was interesting and useful but also contained anecdotes about kids younger than Kit who can do things Kit can't do yet, and some part of my brain always freaks out about those comparisons. The best cure is to spend time with the actual baby and marvel at what a wonderful tiny person they are. I had been hoping they would wake up precisely so I could do this, even just for a moment.
Kit was sleepy but happy, and indeed, seeing them was an instant balm on my poor anxious brain. I kissed their forehead, tucked the fuzzy go-to-sleep blanket around them, and told X that I had finished all my chores and was going to bed. X held up their hand and we high-fived.
Kit looked interested. "That's a high-five. It's like clapping but with someone else's hand," I said. They had their right hand out of the blanket, so I gently tapped my palm against theirs. "See? Like that. High-five."
X high-fived them, and I high-fived them, and then they pulled their left hand out of the blanket. I held my hand up near their left hand. "High-five?"
They tried and missed.
It was the tiniest, funniest little limp-wristed attempt at a high-five that I have ever seen. X and I laughed so hard we couldn't breathe. Kit laughed along with us because people who are laughing are also funny, at least if you're a baby.
When we all recovered, I gave Kit a few more gentle high-fives, and then we all clapped for a bit because it's fun. Then I said goodnights and left the world's best and most hilarious baby to fall back asleep on X's lap, puzzled but pleased. And now I can go to bed suffused with joy at my child's accomplishments and eagerness to learn new things... even if it takes a few tries.
Today Kit had their first real playdate! ( It went great! )
Yesterday was one of those days where you have to say "Everyone is fine" before talking about how the day went. ( But don't worry, everyone is fine )
I am trying really hard not to think about the election. Really really hard. I have plenty of other things to think about. But it intrudes constantly.
I have phonebanked and texted and done everything I can to get the vote out for Clinton. I will do a little more tomorrow and Tuesday. I have researched all the down-ballot candidates (including the one who's on the judicial ballot by mistake
). I have a plan to vote
. I just need to remember to wear white
I will be so glad when it's Wednesday and we can at least stop waiting for the results, whatever those results are.
The Brooks Brothers shopping trip consisted of me walking into Brooks Brothers, saying "I don't belong here", and bursting into tears. The way Brooks Brothers does masculinity is really not the way I do it, for all sorts of reasons. Also, I couldn't bear the idea of letting their tailors anywhere near my body. On the way to the store I'd gotten really tense trying to figure out how to project the "right" sort of masculinity and when I realized that was impossible the tension kind of went boom. So we walked out again, and J will find some way to sell the gift card, and then we'll spend the money at Bindle & Keep or on getting good tailoring for the shirts I already have. In the meantime, I went to Express and got some really nice curve-hugging turtleneck sweaters in gorgeous colors. And then I ordered more sweaters from the Express website and a couple other things from H&M (they were on sale!) so now I have a fall femme wardrobe and am very pleased about that.
Ever since I decided not to go on T, I've been feeling very femme. I don't think it's coincidence.
I'd hoped to use the DST change to get myself back on an earlier sleep schedule, but X was totally wiped today because of being up with the coughing teething baby all night last night after the whole ER happy fun times, and I'd gotten plenty of sleep, so I said I'd take the overnight shift. Staying up until 5 is much harder when 5 feels like 6. But J has just woken up, so I'm going to hand off the monitor and go fall asleep a whole lot.
- thinking about:
behavior.activism, behavior.parenting, body.body clock, body.sleep, experiences.disaster, experiences.dst, experiences.hospitals, ideas.politics, mind.wiring, mind.wiring.gender, people.kit, people.xtina, stuff.clothes
Hi. It's been a while.
J's job rather unexpectedly ended at the beginning of October, and he's been pounding the pavement looking for a new one (and getting lots of interviews because he's awesome). I was sick for a week with a horrid intestinal thing and then had to put my annual best books lists together, which is always quite an undertaking. X has been in work crunch as well, and has been bringing their new boss up to speed. The baby has been absolutely lovely but also, well, a baby—and teething a lot, poor thing, which is no fun for anyone. The cats all needed their annual checkups and so did we, because last October was when we did the whirlwind round of all our doctors to get it out of the way before the baby arrived. I've barely been finding time to breathe, let alone chronicle all the busyness. But October is nearly over, and we're in the calm before the winter storm of holidays and birthdays and anniversaries.
The Story Hospital patron drive was a smashing success. I'm at 54 patrons, and it's not even the end of October yet! So I am definitely going to do NaNoWriMo posts and am very excited about it. I love this project so much. It just brings me pure joy.
I'm having one of those precious evenings where everyone is asleep and the washing machine is chugging away and there's nothing I need to do except keep an ear out for the baby. I could even go to bed early for a change, except that X has been fighting off the 24-hour cold virus I had on Thursday—it quite literally hit at 4:30 p.m. Thursday and was gone by 4:30 p.m. Friday—and really needs a full night's sleep. So I'll stay up until J gets up, just like old times.
A couple of weeks ago I spent a weekend in Boston with emilytheslayer
. It was my first time away from the baby. And I slept
. Oh, how I slept. I entirely ignored the deadline looming over me. I hung out with my hosts, we went shopping at Goodwill for fall femmewear (a previously unnoticed deficit in my wardrobe), I did some knitting, I phonebanked a bit, and I slept. The second night there, I ran out of things to do around 1 a.m., so I decided to start getting ready for bed. I was in bed with the lights out by 2:30. And then I slept until nearly noon. It was magnificent.
Of course then I came home and stayed up until 10 a.m. meeting my deadline. (I am very pleased with my selections
.) And since then there have been a few up-until-6 nights. But I think it's gradually getting better. It was so good to be reassured that I can
still go to bed that early. Apparently I'm much less anxious about needing to be awake in case something baby something something when I'm a few hundred miles away from the baby. And the baby was perfectly fine while I was away (though my spouses were extremely happy to have me come back and resume my share of babycare duties). So on those nights when I feel the anxious urge to stay awake, I remind myself that if I were in Boston everything would be fine, and therefore I can sleep.
I joked today that six months from now I'll be writing a clickbait article called "How Sleep-Training My Baby Cured My Sleep Disorder". It's kind of true, though. Every time I say things like "Your bed is a nice place to sleep" and "It feels good to rest" and "The clock says it's sleep time now" I feel like I'm talking to myself. I've also been feeling a lot of regressive urges to have someone tuck me in or cuddle me to sleep. Maybe it's time to finally replace my dear departed teddy bear, which the cats kneaded into threadlessness. I try not to entirely indulge my parenthood-induced regressions—and incidentally I am so glad
my therapist warned me to prepare for those, because otherwise I'd be totally baffled by what seem like random bouts of feeling like a little kid—but when they don't require anything from anyone else or do me any harm, why not?
On the more adult front, I have killed an unexpected amount of time contemplating tomorrow's long-awaited shopping trip to Brooks Brothers. I'd been meaning to get a suit, and have a $900 gift card that will very nearly suffice for that purpose. (Brooks Brothers suits: not cheap.) But I hardly ever have a reason to wear a suit, and for $900 I could get a sport coat, a waistcoat, a pair of very nice trousers, and two or three shirts, all tailored to fit me, all of which I would wear frequently. I already have a sport coat, a waistcoat, trousers, and shirts, but they're nearly all secondhand and the fit is far from perfect, so upgrading is not a bad idea. I'm also undecided as to whether to present as my indefinable self or as a trans guy. Probably won't wear a binder, but probably will bring one with me, though the very wise ifthenelsa
pointed out that a shirt or jacket that fits me at my bustiest will also fit me if I'm binding, whereas the reverse is not true. And I should bring my elevator shoes, because if I get a suit I will want the trousers tailored for the 3" lift. So many factors to factor in!
The thought of hauling around my elevator shoes (which are somewhat heavy) is enough to put me off of getting a suit, actually. I guess that tells me where my priorities are. And when I was wandering around the Brooks Brothers site, I liked the look of the sport coats and trousers much more than the low-end suits. (I also started coveting a $300 skirt, but I can get skirts anywhere.) Okay then, waistcoats and shirts and sport coat, and maybe trousers if I find some I really like. No binder, no lifts.
The baby woke up just now and needed to be cuddled back to sleep, and that is beautifully simple. I nearly fell asleep myself as they snored on my lap. The need to teach Kit good sleep habits (and to spare my neck the ache from sleeping in the rocking chair) won out over the urge to stay like that until dawn, but it was a close call.
I was going to knit for a bit, as a thing to do to stay awake, but I'm too sleepy now and it would be all dropped stitches. And it's 4:30, so J will be up soon. I will do my bedtime things, and by the time they're done he'll be awake and I can actually go to bed. And then I will sleep a whole lot.
- thinking about:
behavior.parenting, body.illness, body.sleep, experiences.work, ideas.gender, mind.wiring, mind.wiring.anxiety, mind.wiring.gender, people.kit, projects.story hospital, stuff.clothes
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
Tonight my therapist made me cry in a good way. I was talking about the cycle of "I gotta do the work/chores" "but I don't wanna" "but I gotta" "but I don't wanna". He said, "That's the cranky kid and the authoritarian parent, but where's the third voice? The compassionate parent?"
"Oh," I said. "That's the one I call my wife." (I've decided I'm not going to poke at why my wife is still my wife even though I'm NB-identified now. It's just how it is.)
"...I forget to look for her."
"Well, try inviting her into these conversations."
Oh right, being kind and compassionate to myself, I forgot about that.
So, some things my brain is telling me lately, and things I can say back to it with kindness and compassion:
I don't want to do work right now.
"I'm sorry it's hard. It needs to get done, even though it's hard. And once you start it will be easier and go faster than you think, and then you'll be free of the burden of needing to do it."
I have so much to do and I don't want to do any of it because there is so much.
"It sounds like you're tired and need to go to bed. When you're rested you'll be more confident, more efficient, and better able to prioritize."
I can't go to bed. I have too much to do.
"Right now, while you're as awake as you're going to get, do anything that has a real serious deadline between now and noon tomorrow. Then go to bed. You can do the rest after you get some sleep."
I can't sleep. Something bad might happen to the baby.
"You're not on duty overnight anymore. X has the monitor on and reliably wakes up when the baby makes noise. J is getting up in a few hours. The baby is very healthy and will be totally fine. Also, it needs to be normal and okay for you to sleep while Kit is sleeping instead of hovering over them and fretting. Let's practice that tonight--just do it once to see how it goes. Remember that the last time you went to sleep before J got up, everything was fine."
I don't think you understand. SOMETHING BAD might HAPPEN to the BABY.
"The vanishingly unlikely worst-case scenario is that J wakes up, discovers something is wrong, and wakes you and lets you know. And that would be horrible, but you have survived other horrible things and you would survive that too."
There was another two-voice scenario that should be three. When I'm getting things done during the day, I feel like "This is very challenging and I'm totally on top of it!", but when I'm flopped on the couch after dinner, all I can think is "There's so much to do and I feel it on top of me like a weight". The third voice there isn't agitated or despondent but calm and relaxed, both capable of doing things that need doing and fully present for times of rest and fun. I'm not sure what to do to get there, though. Having less to do would help, but isn't going to happen anytime soon. I will think more on that.
In the meantime, I'm going to pet my cat (I've been home from the office for three hours and she just came into my room yelling WHERE HAVE YOU BEEN because she is oblivious) and then talk myself into going to bed. Maybe even before J wakes up.
- thinking about:
behavior.kindness, behavior.love, behavior.parenting, behavior.procrastination, behavior.responsibility, behavior.self-care, body.sleep, experiences.love, experiences.therapy, experiences.work, mind.feelings.compassion, mind.feelings.stress, mind.wiring, mind.wiring.anxiety, mind.wiring.negotiation, people.my wife
I have been tweeting only a bit, and posting here not at all. I have some draft posts saved as text files, which is very unusual for me, but I've been too wiped out to finish any thoughts that are longer than a paragraph or two. So here, have some random catch-up blather.
The baby's great--eight months old now and much more interactive, so I'm enjoying time with them a lot more. Story Hospital is going really well and I'm really enjoying doing it. (Ask me questions!
) My arms are doing super duper great and I have officially graduated from occupational therapy; I can stir pots and write by hand and carry shopping bags and fold laundry and all sorts of exciting things like that. I have been hoping to try knitting again but haven't managed to find the time. The weather is finally cooling down, which means we can cook in our kitchen and eat in our dining room and stand to touch one another for more than two seconds at a time. This is doing wonders for our feelings of family togetherness.
J and I have started shared therapy for some longstanding issues around physical intimacy that we just were not managing to tackle successfully on our own, and it's going fantastically well, but it's also bringing up a lot of feelings I have about my body that I had been mostly ignoring. One outgrowth of this is that I'm hoping to make an appointment for a consultation with Zil Goldstein at Mt. Sinai Hospital's new Center for Transgender Medicine and Surgery
to discuss low-dose testosterone supplementation. I also bought some shiny new men's shoes, including a pair with lifts in them, which I've been wanting for years. They are fancy shoes for fancy occasions, same as my femme high heels, so don't expect me to be 5'7" all the time--my knees would never forgive me--but I'm really glad to have them for when I want them.
I am, as always, struggling with workload and time management. I keep staying up until 5 a.m., or even later (today I went to bed at the appalling hour of seven ack emma), even though I don't need to anymore; months on that schedule got it into my head that 5 a.m. is when I stop being responsible for the baby and am allowed to go to bed, and even though I'm now permitted to turn X's monitor on after either Kit's mid-night feeding or 2 a.m. (whichever comes first), I still find myself staying awake way past that. I am so tired, all the time. I want to go to bed earlier. I want to sleep more. I don't know what to do about this. I keep rejiggering my schedule and setting up alarms and nothing works.
And here it is 3 a.m. and I haven't done any work yet tonight. And I need to take the trash out. I will go do that first, and hope that moving around helps me wake up enough to do at least some editing and then go get a lot of sleep.
- thinking about:
behavior.planning, body.arms, body.body clock, body.body image, body.sex, body.sleep, experiences.work, mind.wiring, mind.wiring.gender, people.family, people.josh, people.kit, projects.story hospital, stuff.clothes
We went to Readercon and we are home.( Things that went wrong (a partial list) )
And yet despite all this, we had a genuinely very good time. J's mother came to the con and was immensely helpful with Kit. J and I both did several panels that went well, and I got to have the baby on my lap for part of the "Writing While Parenting" panel. My "Story Hospital" experiment was largely successful, though there are definitely ways it could be improved. X remembered how much they like socializing (sometimes) (with the right people). I got to tell Tim Powers how much Last Call
means to me. We got to see old friends and meet internet friends, most especially the luminous mrissa
; it wasn't a year for making new friends, but that's fine, there will be other years for that. We finally introduced Kit to roddenberrypie
, who absolutely lit up. Lots and lots of people cooed over the baby, who smiled at everyone despite teething pain and crowds and loudness--I was especially charmed by ninocipri
's gasps and exclamations over Kit's cuteness ("How DARE that baby!"). Our usual little room party was a little subdued because we were so tired, but we still got to introduce some of our friends to one another and hear some tasty industry gossip. The drive back was very smooth. And on the way home, we went to the Mystic Diner again and Kit discovered that a plastic packet of oyster crackers makes an excellent rattle. I immediately sent photos to my New England–born mother. :)
Notes for future years:
* The drive can be done with two stops. One of them should be the Mystic Diner. It has a changing table and a kids' menu and food all of us can eat, everyone there is really nice, service is quick, there are lots of families with kids, and it's right off I-95. Not sure where the other stop should be, but it definitely should NOT be the Fairfield highway rest stop. Look for another diner somewhere around Stamford, maybe.
* The "take I-95 until the end of time" route works pretty well other than the twisty bit through Providence getting kind of hairy. Might be worth trying out I-84 and I-90 as alternatives.
* Pack two big ice packs for post-drive use when we get to the con. Leave the other two in the freezer for when we get home.
* Do a better job of packing the things we might need for the baby where we can get to them at rest stops.
* We never use the carrier or the car seat cover. We use the stroller and the bouncy seat a lot.
* The natural foods store in Quincy is A M A Z I N G and we should stock up on things from there for room snacks etc.
* X and I both really like driving the Prius.
* Sleep more. Eat more. Have more fun!
- thinking about:
body.digestion, body.sleep, events.cons, events.cons.readercon, experiences.disaster, experiences.driving, mind.wiring, mind.wiring.anxiety, people.josh, people.kit, people.xtina
I was weeping on J and X tonight about how hard it is having my empathy cranked to maximum so I can try to understand what the baby wants/needs and do the right thing. J pointed out that the consequences of guessing wrong are really pretty minor. Oh no, I fed the baby even though they weren't all that hungry! I put them down when they wanted to be held! So what?
Then he said, "But you have a hard time around people who aren't in control."
X and I both whipped our heads up.
People who aren't in control. People who are volatile. Worrying about doing the wrong thing and not making their distress go away. Staying attuned to the tiniest shift in their behavior and leaping into action. Telling myself stories about what they're thinking. Oh yes, I know exactly how that one goes.
Kit's had a cold for the past few days and I've been a total wreck. When they get sick, my anxiety goes through the roof. I think this is part of why. They need something I can't provide, and in an abusive situation, that's doom forever. And I begin to see the illness as the abuser that I desperately need to appease or it will take the person I love away from me. It doesn't matter that all Kit has is a very minor cold and they're in zero danger. It doesn't matter that there is absolutely nothing I can do to speed the healing along. The fear is bigger than reason. It's big enough to swallow the sun. My world has been very dark recently. I can't stop hovering over the crib, can't make myself sleep, can barely eat--the moment I stop being vigilant is the moment something bad will happen, I just know it. And I berate myself for my deficiency, my anxiety, my lack of cheerful calm (my lack of a protective mask, my failure to protect Kit from my feelings), my failure to make everything perfect, while hardly realizing whose voices I hear those words in.
Not the baby's voice, though. The baby can't say those things and doesn't think those things. The baby is maybe thinking something like "I don't like the way my body feels" or maybe just "Blaaaarh". The baby doesn't blame me; they don't even have the concept of cause and effect yet. And what baby hasn't been cried on by a parent at one time or another? "If running out of cope makes you a bad parent," X told me tonight, "there are no good parents."
So I figured I'd post this for other parents who have also been in abusive relationships and might find this dynamic familiar. Because as soon as I realized that was what I was doing, I realized I could stop doing it. The baby can't hurt me. They're a baby. I have all the power in the relationship. I have to behave responsibly, but for moral reasons, not because I'm scared. If I try to do the right thing and sometimes get it wrong, the baby won't rage at me, or punch the wall, or spit cruel words, or shut me out. They won't take my wrongness as a sign of my deficiency or think I don't love them anymore. They'll just do their best to communicate that they still have unmet needs, and when I figure out the right thing to do, they'll go right back to smiling at me and trying to grab my glasses.
I have been holding the baby and whispering "I've got you, you're safe" a lot. Maybe I needed to tell myself too.
I went to see a new occupational therapist today. She instructed me to look at everything I use my arms for and figure out how to do it more ergonomically. If I'm not sure how to make improvements, I can have someone take photos of me and she'll help me troubleshoot.
* Using my laptop. I just bought a very clever folding standing desk that hooks over a door
, which means I can use it in my bedroom where there's a/c but no room for a desk or table, and will set it up with my laptop and ergonomic keyboard; hopefully that will help. Nothing to be done about using the laptop when I'm out and about, unless I want to spend another $300 on a ZestDesk
. (There are much cheaper folding standing desks, such as the $25 Oristand
, but they're hard to tote around.) I'm also going to try OS X's built-in voice recognition; it doesn't work for InCopy, but it's good for social media. I am, in fact, dictating this sentence right now. The selection commands don't seem to work very well within this Chrome window, but I'm impressed by the speed of it and how well it understands my commands when I'm speaking at a normal rate.
* Using my phone. Holding it is hard and swiping on it is hard. I don't know what to do about this. Just use it less, I guess. I should definitely use the voice recognition more, since it's surprisingly good.
* Folding laundry. Ergonomically it's okay, I think; I stand at a table that's a good height. It's just a strain.
* Reading books. I downloaded Moon+ Reader, an Android e-book app with pretty decent auto-scroll functions; it can do continuous scroll on epubs, and for PDFs it'll do this wacky thing where it starts unrolling the next page at the top of the screen while you're reading the bottom half of the current one. If I can prop up my tablet and auto-scroll a book, that gives me something to do while putting ice on my arms, and is generally easier on me than holding a physical book. I've been using auto-scroll in Chrome to read books on Gutenberg and it works really well.
* Driving. The OT recommended changing hand positions frequently, doing upper back stretches (bringing my shoulder blades together) while driving, and taking breaks to rest and shake out my arms and shoulders. I also plan to bring our giant ice packs in an insulated bag. They won't be frozen solid by the time we stop for a break, but any cold is better than nothing.
* Picking up the baby. The OT suggested scooping from the side (one arm supporting the baby's head, the other supporting the bum), which uses my upper arms, rather than lifting under the armpits, which uses my forearms.
* Pushing a stroller. Hard to change the ergonomics of that, but we just bought a lovely shiny 10-pound Maclaren Volo that will be much easier to push and lift than our splendidly feature-rich but heavy Graco Modes; the Volo even has a carrying strap to use when it's folded up. We also got an Ergobaby 360 carrier that's better ergonomically for both us and the baby than the Baby Bjorn. X would rather push a stroller than use the carrier, especially in the summer, so they'll bring the baby to daycare in the Volo, and I'll pick them up with the 360 and either push the Volo home empty or fold it and carry it with the strap.
What the hell else do I even do with my hands these days? X and J have been taking over a lot of my chores so I can rest and recover. And I already know not to stir a pot or chop vegetables or carry grocery bags by hand. I suppose this is enough to change, anyway. Just another way that I'm shaking up my life. Might as well do it all at once. (I am very glum today, but that always happens on my first day of physical therapy or equivalent; it brings up a lot of miserable feelings about how long I've been in pain and how hard it is to believe that I'll ever really get better. I'll be okay once I've had a chance to get some rest.)
Someone just wrote to me asking for advice on getting started building a dapper wardrobe, and of course I have LOTS of advice. I figured I'd share it here too.
Style inspiration: I love looking at portraits of the original dapper dandy, Beau Brummel, and his fellow Regency-era men. A quick Google search for "Regency men's clothing" will give you a ton. If you like more flamboyant styles, researching the fops and fribbles who predated him is also a lot of fun. In the modern era, try looking up drag kings, who have fabulous style and do interesting things with the basics of menswear. Or flip through the catalogs/websites of high-end butchwear companies even though you can't afford anything they make.
Buying clothes: EBAY EBAY EBAY. I'm a boy's size 16/18 in shirts, and it turns out there are a lot of teen boys who wear very nice shirts once and outgrow them, and then their parents put them (the shirts, not the boys) up on Ebay for pennies. The best thing is that many of them are posted with measurements as well as size numbers. Buy a few different brands and see what fits. You can also go to a big department store and try on things from the boys section. Men's trousers are more difficult to find unless you're skinny all the way down; I have a small waist and a big butt, and I do pretty well with Old Navy men's jeans as long as they're a tapered fit. Don't shy away from fitted clothing. Baggy pants won't hide your shape--they'll just make you look shlumpy, and you won't feel good about yourself, which hampers the self-confident attitude that's the true hallmark of the dandy.
In one word, I teach you the secret of success in dapperness: ACCESSORIZE.
The most obvious accessory is the tie. If you have a short torso, regular men's ties will be much too long for you, so get pre-tied clip-on or zip-up ties for kids (very easy to find on Ebay in a wide range of colors and sizes) or wear bow ties. You can also try bolo or string ties if that's your style. I like wearing a vertical pin on my shirt placket to give the suggestion of a tie without the formality of one.
My favorite way to dress up a button-up shirt is with a vest; it can be hard to find one that fits if your chest is big, but a little subtle tailoring can turn a blocky square vest into something smooth and glorious that also hides your waistline a bit. Sweater vests stretch to accommodate your shape and are great for autumn. In the winter, wear suit jackets. In the summer, wear a white cotton undershirt (I like Hanes men's small) to soak up sweat and keep your thin cotton shirt from wrinkling or going transparent. Use shirt stays--they're like suspenders that attach your shirt to the top of your socks and keep it tucked in and smooth. A neatly folded pocket square or a pair of suspenders can also do wonders, though I find that I have to wear a binder (gc2b is an excellent brand) if I want suspenders to lie properly on my chest.
And hats! Hats are great! My preferred hat shop is Goorin Bros. even though they inexplicably started dividing their collection into "men's" and "women's"; ignore those artificial distinctions and get yourself a fedora (we can reclaim them from the whiny bros) or a flat cap. If you have long hair, either tuck it up into a hat or wear your hair in whatever long style is associated with men of your race/culture (single ponytail, single long braid, tidy dreads, loose and all one length--there are a surprising number of options even if you don't think of there being long hair styles for men), with or without a hat.
Get shoes from Tomboy Toes, or from Payless, which has some decent men's shoes in very small sizes for very cheap. My first pair of shiny captoes in size 5.5 came from Payless and cost something like $20. I still have them and love them, even though the soles have cracked.
Pay attention to detail. If you're wearing a jacket, shoot your cuffs. Shine your shoes. Wear silk socks and boxer briefs, even if no one but you will know. Iron your handkerchief. Wear earrings that match your cuff links. Wear men's shirts rather than masculine-styled women's shirts so that the buttons are on the correct side, and never ever wear a men's shirt with a women's jacket or vice versa. The little touches that pull an outfit together are really what give the impression of dandyness.
I had a total meltdown tonight over needing to be the perfect parent so that the baby will love me and believe I love them--so that I can make up for my lack of biological link to them. Kit has a cold (the first time they've ever been ill) and has been so snuffly and feverish and sad. If Kit is sad and I don't fix it, what the hell kind of parent am I? And that triggers the doubts and fears about being no kind of parent at all.
This wasn't helped by someone asking me about my Mother's Day plans with my mom and assuming they didn't include the baby, because that person doesn't really think of Kit as my child or as my mother's grandchild. I've lost count of how many times people have erased my various identities--seeing me and J as a het couple, getting my pronouns wrong all the time, assuming X mattered less to me than J because of gender and distance, to name just a few--but oof, this erasure hurts the most, because on some level I believe it. (And also because the whole idea of being a parent is new, I think. I'm still not really used to it at all, so if someone says or implies I'm not one, I don't have that rock-solid identity certainty to brace myself against.)
I vented on Twitter, as I do, and oh_also
sent me to First Time Second Time
, a blog by two queer parents who each gave birth to one of their kids. They write a lot about being non-gestational parents and it's really good. Their non-bio mom manifesto
is exactly what I needed to read tonight, and the last two paragraphs in particular:
Even though I really hate the “Different but Equal” refrain, I’d be hard-pressed to say that my relationship with Leigh wasn’t different than Gail’s, at least during early infancy. So even though I get annoyed by such statements, I also sort of agree. But if I truly believe I do have a different and equal relationship to Leigh, even though she didn’t grow inside me, even though I didn’t nurse and nourish her as a baby, and even though she does not look a bit like me, there must be something else that I offered her. What is it? What is the “something extra” that I gave to her, that she wouldn’t have gotten in a family with only Gail as her parent?
This has been eating at me for years. Sure, I can see my influence in her mannerisms, the clarity with which she expresses herself, her bull-in-a-china-shop quality, her overt enthusiasm, and her love of connecting with all kinds of people. But none of that seems quite like the answer. The other night, though, I realized Gail had finally figured it out. What I offered to her, that only I could offer her, was my choice. I chose to parent her, and chose to love her deeply, despite a multitude of pressures that said either that I shouldn’t love her, or that I was unnecessary. Some of those pressures said explicitly that I’d damage her by my mere presence (those coming from, say, the religious right). Some of those pressures were more subtle, like the ones that said it wasn’t important for me to take leave to spend time with my new infant, or the ones that said if I pushed too hard to feed her or spend too much time with her, I’d take away from her all-important “primary” bond to Gail, resulting in some sort of vague but longstanding psychological damage. It is precisely the central challenge of being a non-bio-mom, the need to choose to parent your child, that makes the bond special. To spin something precious out of what looks and feels like nothing at the outset — no pregnancy, no genetic link, no nursing link, no overt need on the part of your child — is truly a gift to your whole family, and it is a gift that only you can give them.
I will clutch this to my heart forever. For-ev-er.
I will quibble only to say that each of us made a choice--each of us and all of us made many, many choices over a period of several years--to be Kit's parent. J chose to father the child and X chose to carry the child, and their biological contributions don't make their subsequent choices to be devoted, attentive parents any less important or essential. But my lack
of biological contribution doesn't make my choice any less real or meaningful.
I write this from the rocking chair in Kit's room, where I plan to sit all night. Their fever's broken--it never got above 101.2, so we were never super worried, but any kind of fever is no fun--and the congestion is easing, but they're still snuffly. My anxieties are soothed by listening to them breathing, and if they wake up fussy I want to be right here for them. They slept on my lap for a while, and when I stood up to put them in the crib, they woke a little and turned their head and pressed their face against me in the purest gesture of trust and comfort-seeking I've ever seen. They chose me too. I choose to believe them.
It's coming up on a year and a half since Valour Advances the Man
started kicking around in my head. I still want to write it. I haven't put any new words on the page since last fall. And yes, we had a baby, all of that, but there's other stuff in the way too.
I've been poking at this in various places, and today I did the thing where I ask Twitter to solve my problems
mostly so that I can see what I dislike about people's suggested solutions, which in turn helps me define the actual
problem.( Definitions )
=====( Analysis )
Realistically, it seems very unlikely that anyone is going to hire me to write a novel that I haven't already written. First novels are nearly always written on spec, and I say "nearly always" rather than "always" only because I'm sure there must be exceptions somewhere, not because I personally know of any. (Also, honestly, if I were an editor, I wouldn't hire someone with my résumé to write a novel sight unseen.) But I feel much better having come up with what feels like a plausible scenario for success. I'm going to set it aside for a bit and go get some work done, and let the back of my brain work on figuring out how to mimic or approximate those conditions.
A month and a half ago, I stumbled across this link
on changing habits, specifically with respect to nail-biting. I figured I'd give it a try, since I've been a lifelong nail-biter and absolutely nothing has gotten me to stop for more than a week or two at a time. I didn't bite my nails at all the week that Kit was born, so I knew it wasn't a stress response; it was something I could be distracted from, or too busy to do. Habit reversal training seemed like a good match for that.
I identified my nail-biting trigger: rough skin, corners, bits that stick out or catch or feel not-neat. I dug back in my brain for the self-observation techniques I learned from Headspace
and practiced observing myself as I noticed the roughness and felt the urge to gnaw it smooth. I redirected the urge into filing or moisturizing, or just sat there with it and experienced the feeling without judgment. I treated it the way I treat Kit trying to punch themself in the eye: "I see that you want to do that. I'm not going to let you do that. I will hold your hands as gently as I can while not letting you use them that way."
Within a month I'd entirely stopped biting my nails. Entirely. I wasn't even using my thumbnails as sacrifice nails. The urge itself is gone. Now I can put my fingers in my mouth or fidget with my nails and not want to bite them.
Two weeks ago I got a manicure, with beautiful iridescent beetle-wing-green nail polish. A week ago I got another one because I use my hands all the time and no nail polish is going to last for long--but I didn't gnaw any of it off. As I type this entry, my nails click on the keys. This is a very annoying feeling, so I'm going to get another manicure either tomorrow or Friday and get them filed a little shorter this time. I can see a near future in which I become one of those people with a fancy nail polish collection, though I will always prefer having someone else do my nails to doing them myself. emilytheslayer
has promised to put nail wraps on me at Readercon, and I might try making my own nail wraps with nail polish
or origami paper
, as it seems easier than painting directly onto my nails (which I am spectacularly bad at).
I'm very lucky that my nails grow very fast and are thick and strong and healthy. If my nail beds weren't so short, you'd never know that I used to bite them. I hope that if I leave them just a little longer than I actually want them, over time the nail beds will regrow--though it's hard to know whether that can even happen after 30 years of biting.
Meanwhile, on the front of forming a new habit rather than breaking an old one, I've flossed my teeth every single night for almost 28 weeks, with the exception of the night X was in labor. That one I did by keeping a tally in dry erase marker on the bathroom wall--dry erase markers write very well on shiny white tile--and telling myself that if I missed a night I'd have to erase my entire progress and start over. My goal was absolute compliance. (I feel entirely justified in giving myself a pass on the single exception; it was an exceptional night.) This is a pretty hard-line approach, but I'd previously tried simply tracking my progress as a positive incentive and it wasn't quite effective enough; it had worked for getting me into a twice-a-day brushing habit, but flossing eluded me. Obviously, the longer my streak went, the less I wanted to break it, and the combination of increased practice and increased incentive was very powerful. After meeting my initial goal of 26 weeks I stopped keeping the tally, but the habit appears to have stayed. It's now just a thing I do.
It feels really good to be the sort of person who works on self-improvement at age 37, and is successful. I'm glad I didn't give up on myself. And I'm really looking forward to bragging at my dental check-up on Friday. :)
Tuesday evening I went out to see Laura Miller interview Peter Straub (which was delightful) and when I got home the baby was bigger. It's so surreal when this happens. It's not just illusion, either. Kit has a favorite onesie (well, it's our favorite; the baby doesn't care) that only has snaps on one leg, and suddenly getting the other leg on is a lot more difficult than it used to be. I think we've got another couple of weeks left in these three-month clothes and then it's on to six-month ones.( Babbystuffs )
Every time a longtime friend visits and meets the baby, I say "Look at me! Look at all this!" with some bewilderment, and we agree that back when we met we had no idea this was where we'd end up. Tuesday was my 15th self-wedding anniversary and I had a similar conversation with myself.
I still vividly remember writing down those wedding vows in my dream journal, back in my slightly shabby room in the mint-green Jersey City house. It was two months before my nervous breakdown but I was definitely already feeling the strain. My lease was coming up in March, I was moving to California in June, in between I had grand and rather daunting plans to tour Europe with my mother and then take a train across the country for alt.polycon, my relationships were coming apart at the seams, my physical health was precarious, being prescribed the wrong dose of Zoloft had completely fucked me up mentally, and I had a job but no career and savings but no goals (other than the move, which ended up entirely consuming those savings faster than I could have thought possible). I knew a lot of things in my life were broken and I had no idea how to fix them.
Making vows to be good to myself--as good to myself as I was to my partners--was an essential first step on the road to making things better, the road to where I am now. I'm in a beautiful house with a wonderful family, my mental and physical health are the best they've been in my adult life, my relationships are rock-solid, my job and career are deeply satisfying, and we're almost done paying off our debt. I've had a lot of good fortune, no question, but there's also no question that I got here because I insisted on loving and valuing myself and continually reshaping my life into one that made me healthier and happier.
In mid-2000, as my mind and my life were slowly falling apart, I wrote this little ditty:
I am here and all is well
And all the world can go to hell
As far as I'm concerned
There's one thing that I've learned
Standing on your own two feet
You beat a path along the street
Sometimes you walk alone
I'm okay on my own
There are people in my life
Though I may never have a wife
But I think that's okay
I'm living day by day
Moderation is the thing
Though I may never be a king
But that's all right with me
It's better to be free
If I never have a throne
I will always have a home
I carry it inside
A place where I can hide
Someday I would like a cat
Perhaps a house and all of that
But that's a ways away
I'm living day by day
No matter if I walk on glass
Or concrete or green growing glass
Don't mind if I'm alone
'Cause I'm on my way home....
I've been singing it a lot lately, with a smile. Here I am, living in someday. It's even better than I dared to imagine. It's true that the particulars aren't quite what I might have predicted, a decade and a half ago. But I have a cat, and a house, and all of that. And even though it's nothing like what I expected, it's exactly what I wanted.
- thinking about:
behavior.accomplishments, behavior.love, body.health, events.anniversaries, experiences.history, mind.wiring, people.kit, people.my wife, places.home, words.songs, words.songs.day by day
When you have a baby (or are about to have a baby and are reading up on babies), you start to see the word "colic" everywhere. It's rarely defined but always made out as something dreadful, or at least extremely unpleasant--and worse, it's portrayed as incurable and inescapable. Some babies are just "colicky" and nothing can be done about it.
This turns out to be not at all true. As far as I can tell from doing a whole lot of reading on the topic, there seem to be two kinds of colic: indigestion, and emotional meltdowns. Kit's had both, and we were able to identify them pretty quickly and treat them pretty straightforwardly. Kit is a very easy-going and good-natured kid, so that may be a factor, but hopefully this info will still be useful for other parents whose babies are not quite so chill.
1) Indigestion. "Our baby screams a lot and arches in pain when fed breast milk or standard formula," we said. "Well, some babies are colicky after feeding," our pediatrician said. Aha!
, we thought. "Colicky" means "is upset about digestion pain".
And indeed, when we stopped feeding Kit breast milk and regular formula and started using a super-digestible formula (from Honest Co.
, and we recommend it very highly--Kit spits it up even less than the supposedly ultra-gentle Similac Alimentum, and it's half the price), and made sure not to feed Kit more than their tiny stomach could hold, the colic went away. Kit still fusses a bit about 10 minutes after eating, and then farts a couple of times and settles right down. If we give a teaspoon or two of Colic-Ease
every day, there's no fussing at all.
The pediatrician pointed out that since Kit wasn't vomiting up the meals, we could keep feeding breast milk (and the immunity benefits thereof) as long as we had a high tolerance for the screaming, until Kit got to be about three months old and the stomach developed enough to be able to digest the milk more easily. He did this in a very neutral way, which I appreciated--matter-of-fact, not pushing us one direction or the other. X and I stared at him with identical expressions of horror. It's not the screaming itself, but the idea of causing our child preventable pain, several times a day, for months. We considered dosing Kit with antacids, but our pediatrician shares our hesitation to put a very young baby on daily medication when there are non-medical options to pursue. So we switched to formula with some wistfulness but no regrets. That said, even if you're very dedicated to exclusively breastfeeding, there are ways of treating indigestion-type colic, and anyone (especially anyone not your doctor) who tells you that it's full-stop untreatable is probably wrong--any given attack of indigestion colic may just have to run its course, but a lot of those attacks can be prevented. Kit's always been an expert belcher and farter, so gas build-up isn't an issue, but if it were we could use simethicone drops and the Windi
. Some babies have allergies to things the breastfeeding parent is eating, and a change in diet can help. There are lots of things to try.
2) Emotional meltdowns. T. Berry Brazelton defines this type of colic very clearly in his Touchpoints: Birth to Three
, which is an excellent book that I think all new parents should keep on hand. Brazelton identifies it as coming from overstimulation during the day, which is why it reliably occurs in the evening. Since it doesn't have a physical cause, physical treatments (feeding, changing, gas drops, etc.) don't work, and soothing techniques like swaddling and pacifiers are of limited use. other_alice
pointed me to a site about "the PURPLE crying period"
, which looks like much the same thing.
Brazelton advises making sure there are no physical problems to address and then leaving the baby alone in the crib to scream out their feelings, self-soothe, decompress, and sleep without further stimulation; in his experience, this can reduce the average duration of a colic attack by half. The "PURPLE crying period" site mentions a study
in which babies cried less if their parents carried them around more often, as part of everyday life, rather than only picking them up when they were crying. So as with many things, the appropriate approach depends on you and your baby and your parenting style.
On Tuesday night, Kit had an emotional meltdown colic attack. It was pretty awful. But I realized that it reminded me of panic attacks, and then I knew what to do, because I have had many panic attacks and gotten pretty good at dealing with them. I held Kit gently and warmly, turned the lights down (installing dimmable LED bulbs and a dimmer switch in the baby's room is one of the best decisions I've ever made), rocked slowly in the rocking chair, and murmured quiet soothing things in a voice full of sympathy. I didn't try to offer a pacifier or stop Kit from screaming or thrashing, though I did loosely confine Kit's arms to keep either of us from getting punched in the face (and because Kit seems to find that sort of swaddling-by-hand very soothing, despite not liking actual swaddles). After a few minutes, the screaming and thrashing stopped and the baby fell asleep. Maybe ten minutes later, the cycle repeated once. And... that was that. All better. Pretty much the same thing happened when X was watching Kit Wednesday night while J and I were on our date night, and X did similar things and they were similarly effective. The key was that we both understood what it was like to feel overwhelmed and need to flail and yell, so we could stay calm and supportive while Kit vented. And we both know that while panic attacks feel
like they're going to last forever, they do eventually end, and then everything is okay for at least a little while; so we could hold on to that knowledge instead of falling into our own panic and ending up trapped with the baby in a feedback loop of distress.
Apparently some colic attacks can last for hours. We're very lucky not to have seen that yet. At that point I probably would put the baby in the crib just to give myself a break from being up close with the screaming for all that time. But I'm hoping that gentle soothing and sincere sympathy will be enough to help Kit escape the multi-hour misery cycle.
Obviously this is all our personal experience; I'm not prescribing anything. Do what's best for you and your child. Just remember, this too shall pass--possibly with some gas. :)
Today: a day without crying or panic attacks! Therefore a good day!
I did feel one anxiety wave hitting me late this evening, but it was clearly caused by hunger and I was already in the process of making food, so I finished cooking (without injuring myself!) and ate a great deal of food and asked X to bring me taurine, and 20 minutes later I was fine. I feel this somehow balances out my panic of... yesterday? the day before? It all blurs a bit.
Today is the first day without any "firsts" to note in the baby book. Kit continues to be Kit, and doing all the expected baby things. We're still learning how to deal with the eager gulping feedings that lead to spit-ups and discomfort. Dr. Brazelton recommends letting the baby recline at 30 degrees for 20 minutes after eating and before burping, so that the burp doesn't bring milk up with it; I'll try that at the next feeding.
I'm the on-call babyminder for the next four hours. I should probably spend them sleeping in my bed with the baby monitor on, rather than sleeping in the baby's room, but I can't quite bring myself to take that step yet. It requires trusting the monitor app, which is sound-activated, and it's never let us down but I'm nervous anyway. On Monday J will go to his office and get all the packages that have been piling up there, including a tablet stand that will let us set up the tablet right over the crib to give video as well as more sensitive audio than it currently gets from a few feet away. That should help. If it doesn't, I'll switch from the sound-activated monitor to Skype or something.
Today was a milestone day for the baby in several ways:
1) The umbilical stump fell off. X and J each independently said, "You're not going to keep that and put it in the baby book, are you?" I may have been somewhat obsessively updating the baby book. (I did not keep it, or even take a picture of it.) Kit's navel looks fine and healthy. Yay for our lovely healthy baby.
2) Kit managed to spit up through the nose as I was in the middle of changing a diaper. This was quite alarming for several reasons. First, I thought the sudden sneezing and drippiness was the first sign of a cold, and freaked out at the thought of our 10-day-old baby being ill and having trouble breathing. Second, babies generally breathe through the nose; Kit was very agitated at not being able to do this, and began screaming. Fortunately I had stocked our medicine cabinet with a Nosefrida nasal aspirator, and I kept a handle on myself long enough to direct X to grab it for me so I could suck out the milk-snot. J called the pediatrician, who said to clear out the nose with a couple of drops of saline solution and more aspiration, so we did that--I'd also stocked the medicine cabinet with saline and told X exactly where it was--and once it became clear that the nose wasn't runny and it was just a onetime thing, I handed the baby to someone and went off to sob.
I am very embarrassed that I reacted that way. I'm generally calm in a crisis. I keep reminding myself that I did all the right things and that I was able to identify the tools to use and tell people where to find them and make use of them. I didn't let the panic get in the way of responding quickly and correctly. And I know it's normal for new parents to be easily agitated about anything that might be the slightest bit wrong with the baby, especially when we're underfed/underslept. But still, I panicked, and I don't like that I panicked.
3) Kit drank four ounces of milk in one go. Turns out this is way too much for a ten-day-old baby. To my surprise, it all stayed down, but I spent about an hour doing tummy rubs and bicycle legs and diaper changes while Kit flailed around and strained and looked very uncomfortable. Poor wee thing. I finally induced sleep with a lightly swaddling sleep sack--it's warm enough in here that Kit was just wearing a shirt and a diaper, but apparently the baby has already formed the impression that that is daytime clothing and nighttime requires pajamas--and a bit of pacifier-sucking. (Apparently bedtime pacifier use significantly reduces SIDS risk
, including for low-risk babies. I'd been avoiding it because weaning babies off of a pacifier can be very difficult, but I shall avoid it no more. Kit has literally zero identifiable risk factors for SIDS, which is a very reassuring thing to know, but why take chances?)
Lesson learned: if Kit chugs three ounces and claims to want more, give a pacifier instead and wait for digestion to happen. Everyone will be happier.
I left this as a comment elsejournal, about helping kids to deal with anxiety, and figured it might be useful to a wider audience. This particular analogy helps me a great deal with understanding my own anxiety and finding healthy ways to deal with it.
There are two kinds of anxiety: the solid kind and the liquid kind. The solid kind comes from one-time things you can point to and wrestle with, like a deadline for turning in homework. That kind can generally be worked around with a little bit of attention to practicalities. "I'm worried that I won't get my homework done on time." "Okay, how can we make sure you have the time and tools you need to do your homework well and efficiently?" And some explicit practice trusting yourself and recalling your past similar successes can be useful too.
But the liquid kind comes from global, environmental, persistent things: brain chemistry, ongoing physical pain or disability, a life full of uncertainty, other people around you behaving in harmful or erratic ways. It's incredibly hard to look at those things head-on because they're so big and pervasive, so we try to bottle the anxiety up in the shape of something we understand. "I'm anxious that no one likes me" or "I'm anxious that I'll fail all my classes and be a miserable failing failure" or "I'm anxious that everyone I love will die" are bottles for liquid anxiety. And you can't address that anxiety by trying to address the bottle--saying "Of course people like you, you are very successful at many things, we will all live a good long time" will bounce off the bottle and never get through to the anxiety inside. You have to pour the anxiety out of the bottle, a little bit at a time if you can't manage more, and treat it as its own thing.
In the moment, you can say, "I'm so sorry you feel scared. It's hard to feel scared. Anytime you feel scared, I will do everything I can to help you feel safe." Or maybe, "Sometimes I feel scared too. Let's hug each other and promise to help each other through scary times." You can also practice large-scale calm, meditation, compassion, patience. But the bigger, harder, most absolutely necessary work is figuring out that persistent source of fear and fixing it as much as it can be fixed.
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
I did my week of not reading Twitter, with the exception of my mentions and the very small group of people I follow from my private account. It was awesome.
In fact, it was so awesome that I locked my main Twitter account.
Everyone who was following me still has access to my tweets. If I post something, people see it and respond. But I don't get followed by spammers, and I don't get trolled, and I don't hover over my RT and fave counts, and people can't embed my tweets in their blog posts and articles. It's everything I like about Twitter without everything I don't like. It's perfect
With 5300+ followers, I still think of it as public; of course anything I tweet can be screenshotted and passed around, and I have no idea who many of those followers even are. But I can still relax and unwind a little. I also took my professional affiliation out of my bio. That account is just for me now. In theory it always was, but in practice it was very hard to separate personal and professional. Locking it makes that separation clear.
I'm still not reading most of Twitter. (I glimpse it occasionally via my phone's Twitter app, because Tweetdeck on Chrome for Android is deadly slow and checking my mentions on the app is much faster.) I know there are things I'm missing. For example, I didn't hear about Ferguson Is the Future
until after the fact, and it sounds incredible. But even if I had heard about it well in advance, I wouldn't have been able to go. So I mostly don't feel bad about missing the news and gossip, because I wouldn't be able to do much with it anyway. And when I'm itching for a conversation, I start one.
I am sad about missing milestones in my friends' lives. But there's no way to filter Twitter for only those things, unfortunately, and I can't really expect people to remember to tell me everything individually in addition to broadcasting it. I guess I'll just have a lot of catching up to do once I'm ready to be social again.
What I'm doing with all this free time and brainspace:
Catching up on work. I'm taking a week off from work in October, which means I need to start working ahead now. And our annual Best Books feature is coming up alarmingly soon.
Reading books! I read a book last week and another one last night and another one tonight. I don't think I read three books in the entire month of August. It feels so wonderful to be gulping down books again.
Thinking a lot about my own book, and tentatively moving toward working on it again. I figured out how it ends! That was a huge relief, and knowing the ending removes a lot of my hesitation and anxiety around the actual writing.
Snuggling with J and X and X's belly (there are very definitely 3.5 of us now). Doing relationship maintenance, and savoring our last months of adults-only time. Getting the house ready for the baby. Being cozily domestic.
Cooking. It's cooking weather and I can't wait to cook up lots of soups and stews to freeze for January, when we'll have a tiny baby and be too exhausted to safely handle knives or fire.
Walking all over the city, loving the cool breezes. (Autumn at last, at last.) Going to PT. Trying to get back in the exercise groove.
Spending time with family and close friends. It's the high holidays and there's a baby shower coming up and J's mother is in town and lots of other people are visiting in the next few weeks. I don't lack for socialness right now, which makes it much easier to step away from social media.
I might even start knitting again. Today at work I spotted a book of one-skein knitting projects for babies. It literally had not occurred to me until that moment that the entire vast realm of cute baby knitting projects is open to me now. So that could be a huge timesink if I let it. I'm very tempted to let it.
There are definitely times when I feel like I ought to feel guilty for the way I'm using Twitter now. It's arguably very selfish of me to tweet things and hope for replies while not even reading most other people. But I don't feel guilty at all about this generally being a very inward-facing time for me. Everyone needs to focus on self and/or home sometimes. I'll come back when the pendulum swings the other way. By then some folks may have unfollowed me or otherwise moved on; that happens. And other folks will say "welcome back!" and pick up where we left off; that happens too. It's all fine.
- thinking about:
body.exercise, experiences.reading, experiences.work, food, food.cooking, mind.wiring, people, people.groups, people.groups.twitter, people.kit, places.home, projects.crafts, projects.crafts.knitting, words.books.valour advances, words.writing
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.
Yesterday was a wonderful wonderful day and I only cried once (though that once was not very much fun). Today was a wonderful wonderful day and I didn't cry at all
. I think my hormones are finally fucking off and leaving me in peace. I swear my PMS has been way worse since X got pregnant. They're offgassing hormones or something.
I got the crying over with early in the day yesterday, so X and I had most of the afternoon and the entire evening to spend on more enjoyable pursuits. (J was upstate visiting his mother.) X took a two-hour nap. I took a long soothing shower, got dressed, started a load of laundry, decided what to make for dinner, shopped, and cooked
. I also pasteurized a jarful of honey for X, using my awesome ThermoClamp
thermometer holder. It was cool enough in our kitchen that when X woke up they came out to hang out at the table and keep me company while I was cooking. HELLO AUTUMN I MISSED YOU.
I made a very mild coconut curry
that we both really liked, so that's a new thing on the list of known-good meals, which is always nice. I did the dishes and then we snuggled up and watched The Aristocats
, because we noticed that Alex had struck a pose that was 100% pure O'Malley, and once we identified it we agreed that watching the movie was required. If you want to know what Alex is like, just watch O'Malley strut around while singing about how great he is. All the body language is exactly the same.
After that, X went to bed, and I did... something. Read a book, maybe? Or maybe that was Friday. I can't even remember now. Anyway, I toddled off to bed around 4 with earplugs in.
I slept a full 7.5 hours, the longest sleep I've had in ages, and didn't remember my dreams at all. X and I had a leisurely early afternoon at home and then went out and got haircuts. On the train we read a couple of RIE parenting books and talked about the parts we liked and didn't; I think there's enough useful stuff in there to be worth inflicting on J so we can all discuss together.
Our barber has been on vacation for five weeks, so we had gotten very shaggy. It feels so good to be shorn again, especially on a gloriously breezy day. We exclaimed constantly about the weather. It was cool and cloudy and just perfect. We got rained on slightly, but didn't mind at all.
We decided to walk up to Bed Bath & Beyond, and on the way we passed the new outpost of Dylan's Candy Bar at Union Square. Half an hour and a shocking amount of money later, we staggered out, clutching sticks of rock candy and mentally apologizing to our dentists. That place is dangerous
. I'm pretty sure we should not ever bring our child there. (We probably will anyway.)
We eventually made it up to BB&B and got the one thing we were shopping for and the inevitable dozen other things we realized we needed. About halfway through, X started getting tired and achy, so they sat in the cafe while I went through the checkout line. By the time I was done, they were ready to go home, but I could feel my blood sugar crashing post–rock candy, so we ducked into a nearby Pain Quotidien and had a lovely quiet early dinner, aided by a charming but slightly addled (or bored) server named Titus who said things like "I hope I've been able to serve your needs" and "I can acquiesce that for you".
J texted that he had arrived at Penn Station just as we were finishing up, and we hoped we'd run into him on the 3 train, but we got home just a few minutes ahead of him. He heated up and ate some leftovers while we put away the things we'd bought, and then we all snuggled up together like it was going out of style. With the window open just a crack, my room was almost too cold. It was marvelous.
X and J went to bed; I did dishes and got some work done and snuggled Sam. I snacked on baguette with butter and honey, my own private little Rosh Hashanah observance. Eventually I had to close my window--it's all the way down to 59 degrees outside. Today might have been the last shorts-wearing day of the year. I've kind of forgotten what it's like to wear layers and have my legs covered, but if the weather stays like this I'll remember pretty quickly.
More like this, please. Lots more. Lots and lots and lots. May this be the beginning of a sweet, sweet new year.
- thinking about:
behavior.love, body.hair, body.reproductive system, body.sleep, events.holidays, events.holidays.rosh hashanah, experiences.joy, experiences.seasons, experiences.seasons.autumn, experiences.weather, food, food.cooking, food.cooking.curry, food.cooking.curry.coconut, mind.wiring, mind.wiring.anxiety, people.cats, people.josh, people.xtina
Today was September 11th. Every year is different and this year I was purely avoidant. I scrolled quickly through LJ and DW, and continued to live in my mentions on Twitter. (I am loving living in my mentions and might never go back to big Twitter. It's so peaceful and quiet.) When I put away the dinner leftovers I wrote "9/10" on the lid. I left my annual comment for fimbrethil
and otherwise I tried to just have a quiet day.
My pursuit of peace was greatly aided by yesterday's giant storms, which swept summer away and brought autumn in. A/C off, window open, glorious soothing breeze all day. Sam has been very snuggly over the last couple of days, I think because of the cooler weather. Hello, autumn. I missed you so much.
X and J have likewise been very snuggly, and the three of us have been having some really nice family cuddle time. We're doing our last big relationship maintenance/upgrade push before the baby comes and we have to put that all on hold for a while, so there's been a lot of processing and serious talking and emotional vulnerability and like that, but we're all handling it pretty well, I think--other than my hormone-induced daily sobbing fits of the past week, which have sort of put a crimp in my active listening--and I love that through it all we're just being so good to one another and to ourselves. My family is the best.
=====( A very peculiar nightmare )
- thinking about:
behavior.love, body.reproductive system, events.anniversaries, experiences.9-11, experiences.marriage, experiences.seasons, experiences.seasons.autumn, experiences.seasons.summer, experiences.weather, experiences.weather.rain, mind.dreamtime, mind.wiring, mind.wiring.anxiety, people.groups, people.groups.twitter, people.helen, people.josh, people.kit, people.liam, people.xtina
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
Note to self: when books feel like they're somehow too much, too intense or daunting or demanding, you might just be struggling with the idea that you get to have leisure time. You do. Don't fixate too much on the idea of reading, or of choosing exactly the right book, and turn it into something big and complicated. It isn't. Just pick up any good book--the house is full of them, your hard drive is full of them--and let yourself fall into it. It's not a commitment or a chore; it's a pleasure.
Don't do this at 2 a.m., though, or you'll be up far too late reading.
On the way to the doctor's office we saw the first pear and saucer magnolia buds of spring. They hadn't quite popped yet but were clearly getting ready to. I love pear blossoms so much and seeing them made me really happy. It felt like a good omen for new life and growth.
While X was being prepped, Josh and I signed the "yes, this is my child" paperwork. Josh's signature is the one that matters legally, but our very awesome fertility doctor encouraged me to sign my name next to his, "so it reflects reality". Did I mention she's awesome? So awesome.
J and I weren't allowed to be there for the actual embryo transfer, but it went quickly. As we were waiting, I realized that all of my "aaa not ready" feelings had been washed away and replaced with a serene sense of "yes, this is perfect". That was really nice. :) Then X emerged and we were all focused on them.
The doctor gave us printouts of the ultrasounds showing the beautiful thick uterine lining (thanks to progesterone supplementation) and the tiny little white spot that is the fluid surrounding the embryo. It looks like it's in a very cozy, happy place. I hope it makes itself at home.
We went out to the nearby Pain Quotidien for lunch--that's become our tradition, including a lot of jokes about eggs--and then we went home. We had second lunch around 4 and dinner at 7 and second dinner at 10. Apparently we all needed a lot of food to make up for getting up early to do an emotionally momentous (and, in X's case, physically taxing) thing.
Pregnancy test date is Sunday April 26 at home, confirmed Monday April 27 at the doctor's office. Thinking about that makes me jittery again, so I'm going to stop thinking about it and go to bed.
Ugh, got hit with a massive wave of insecurity today. I keep picturing the three of us out in the world with FutureKid, and everyone assuming that J and X are "Dad" and "Mom" and I'm a friend or something. Realistically I know that X and I will immediately look like the classic Brooklyn lesbians-with-baby couple (you should have seen us the day we showed up at the cat shelter in Park Slope and realized we were wearing matching rainbow jewelry... gayest moment of my life, and that's saying something) and people will probably assume that J is the "friend". Or because J and I are the chatty extraverts, we'll look like a couple and X will look like the third wheel. Or who cares what strangers think anyway. But I'm not going to be a biological parent, and we have to fight the state and jump through absurd hoops to get me recognized as a legal parent, and all of X's pre-IUI appointments are at 8 a.m. (so they can do same-day bloodwork) and I'm on a West Coast schedule that makes that feel like 5 a.m. for me and I really can't be there for them, and right now I just feel so disconnected from the whole thing and it hurts and I'm sad. And desperately, desperately insecure. Which is triggering my dysphoria too, because why only care that strangers won't see me as part of my family or as the parent of my child when I could also care that they get my gender wrong? Bah.
X promised me that on Saturday we'll go shopping for baby things together (not a whole lot, since they aren't actually pregnant yet, but just some onesies or something) and that will help. Unless I sit down on the floor of Old Navy and burst into tears. You'd think I was the one getting all hormonal.
I would really appreciate any words of support from non-bio parents and parents-to-be out there! Not just "once the baby comes you will absolutely feel like a parent" but sympathy/empathy from people who've been in an emotional place like this. Fellow-feeling. You know.
Bonus: I had a total foot-in-mouth day on Twitter (I think I managed to piss off four separate people, mostly without meaning to), and meanwhile Daniel has been totally splendid and fierce and eloquent, and so the insecurity says that he's the visible "parent" of Long Hidden and I'm relegated to a dark dusty corner or something. And I'm white and that cancels out all my queerness and transness and polyness so really who am I to talk about being marginalized anyway. And augh brain shut. up.
I haven't had to deal with insecurity this bad in ages. I have no idea how to deal, other than by maybe having a good cry (why couldn't I have cried while everyone else was awake? I hate crying alone) and going to sleep.
- thinking about:
behavior.being wrong, behavior.being wrong.on the internet, behavior.foolishness, behavior.parenting, ideas.race, mind.feelings.insecurity, mind.wiring, mind.wiring.anxiety, mind.wiring.body image, mind.wiring.gender, people.kit
- feeling:my own worst enemy
Rose: i'm going to be SUCH a helicopter parent
Rose: i pity our child in advance
Rose: "i broke my shoelace" GET ANOTHER ONE BEFORE YOU TRIP AND FALL AND CRACK YOUR HEAD OPEN
Xtina: oh boy
Rose: NO WAIT VELCRO FOR EVERYONE
Rose: IT'S THE ONLY WAY
Xtina: gigantic bubbles for all!
Xtina: imagine coming out to the other children's parents
Rose: okay, so, no lie
Rose: i IMMEDIATELY wanted to stock up on extra oxygen canisters for the bubbles
Rose: my brain is a special place
Xtina: i figure we'll just keep you on taurine for the first fifty years of the kid's life
Rose: that seems like a good idea
Xtina: here i thought i was gonna be the anxious one, all "just sit in a corner for the rest of your life, you don't NEED to learn how to cross the street"
Rose: meanwhile i'm shoring up the ceiling over the corner
Rose: just in case
This is a very long overdue post about gender and me.
Here are the things I'm pretty sure about:
* I'm part of the asterisk in "trans*". Transcendent, perhaps. Sometimes transmasculine. Certainly transgressive. But I'm not transgender; that term as it's currently used implies a whole bunch of things that aren't applicable to me.
* The best pronoun to use for me is "Rose", because it's always accurate. "They" is acceptable. "He" and "she" are both inaccurate in significant ways, and deprecated in this release. I'd rather be mistaken for male than for female, but that's mostly because the latter happens so much more often.
* My gender is inclusive, variable, situational, and complex. About the only things it never includes are being cisgender and being heterosexual. I am queer and genderqueer, and those things manifest differently from one situation to another.
* Broadly speaking, I don't identify as a woman or as a man. There are situations where I am... let's say "politically female", because as a FAAB1 person who's usually read as female, I get the short end of the patriarchy stick in many respects; but I'm also aware that by shifting away from being female-identified I am taking on some of the privilege of masculinity. (The simplest illustration of this is that I almost never get cat-called on the street anymore.) So when I say "we" to mean "people whose sex/gender is approximately like mine", I'm usually referring to trans* or genderqueer people.
1. FAAB = female-assigned at birth, i.e. possessed of a body that this culture thinks of as female.
* There are times when I feel and behave like a woman, a man, a sexless genderless androgyne, a dapper dude, a butch dyke, a gay boy, a drag king, or the belle of the ball. I really like employing and exploring aspects of binary sex and gender. Today I shaved my chin, went to the barber to have my head buzzed, and then stood at the ironing board in my jeans and white t-shirt, ironing a dress shirt to be worn under a vest. I did all these things as conscious performance of masculinity. But when my mother introduces me to people as her daughter, I don't correct her. In some ways this post has been waiting until I could work my way around to an understanding of my gender that includes the phrase "my mother's daughter". It is still tremendously important to me that I am part of my family's tradition of strong, smart, artistic, quirky, loving women. So that's what I mean by my gender being inclusive.
* My gender is also inclusive of my history as a female-identified, female-presenting person. I know some trans* folks have felt trans* since childhood. I... have no idea whether that's the case for me. Whether through nature or upbringing, I have always had a mix of what this culture thinks of as masculine and feminine traits, and that's all I know about that, really.
* I'm not planning to change my name, take hormones, or have surgery. None of that negates my sense that for the last few years I have been what might be called "in transition". And I still am. My gender is a work in progress.
* My identity shifts have not in any way undermined my romantic relationships. Josh and Xtina have been tremendously, tremendously supportive, going out of their way to appreciate me as I am, reassure me when I doubt my attractiveness, get used to uncommon pronoun usage, have thoughtful conversations with me about how their orientations intersect with my gender identity, and otherwise be awesome. There are no words for how grateful I am to them.
What this means for you:
* In print or in speech, please use "Rose" or "they" as pronouns for me, and refer to me in gender-neutral ways: as a person rather than a woman or man, as J and X's partner rather than their husband/wife/boyfriend/girlfriend, as someone you admire rather than as your hero or heroine, as neither "sir" nor "ma'am". I'm not going to death-glare you for slip-ups; I make them too. But please try.
It is perfectly fine to describe me to anyone as genderqueer or (in print) trans*. Please don't refer to me as trans or transgender. That asterisk is important. Update, 2015-01-26: my approach to this language has changed, and I'm now entirely comfortable being referred to as genderqueer, nonbinary, trans, or trans*.
* If you want to compliment my appearance, it's best to default to a gender-neutral phrase like "Wow, that outfit looks great on you" or "I love how you've tied your tie". If I'm deep in the dapper mindset, it can be very jarring and uncomfortable for me to be called pretty, or vice versa, and I don't expect anyone to be able to tell from the outside where my head is in that regard.
* If you feel tempted to divide the world up into men and women, remember you know someone who's neither/both, and adjust your worldview accordingly.
Today was a fucking epic rockstar day.
1) I slept. Not a ton, but it was good sleep and I got up feeling well-rested.
2) I did every single thing on my to-do list plus two things I had forgotten to list, and every part of the day that was about timing went like clockwork.
3) I bought plane tickets for the London trip!
4) I went to lunch with zia_narratora
, and ate spicy curry, and my ear unblocked! And the curry was yummy and the conversation was too. Tea is such a lovely person.
5) I had exactly enough time for a haircut between lunch and workout, and Yelp led me to a great barbershop. My head is finally fuzzy again! Five weeks between haircuts is really way too long.
6) At my workout I did PUSH-UPS. And TRICEPS DIPS. And they felt so good that I did them again. And I still had enough arm afterwards to high-five Chelsea, the awesome trainer I've been working with. (I also had a less fun moment when I was doing a lot of core work, which means tensing my abs--those very same abs that I have carefully taught myself to deliberately relax as an antidote to panic attacks--while leaning against a balance ball. Being literally wobbly amplified the emotional wobbly and I had to take a breather. Chelsea was lovely and brought me water and then stepped out of the room so I could center myself. I sat there and thought, Well, I have paid $85 to have this studio for an hour, and if I want to spend 20 minutes of that hour crying I can do that. But I don't think that's how I want or need to spend that money and time, so let's keep going.
We did and it was just fine. So I call that a net win.) Chelsea even gave me homework, so I can keep working out my arms in between sessions. I cannot even explain how exciting this all is. I never thought I would do another push-up, ever. Today I did thirty of them! From the waist, not full-plank, but still. Tremendous.
7) I edited 4000 words of the book I'm working on.
8) "At some point I must try Julia Child's chicken waterzooi," I said
, and tonight I did, since J and X and I were dining with friends who weren't interested in fish. The creaminess of it reminded me of many years ago when Mi Cucina on Hudson & Jane was a good restaurant and served utterly sublime pollo y rajas con crema with wonderful crispy cubes of potato (if there's a name for those in Spanish, I don't know it), so crispy potatoes became our side dish. We drank Thomas Henry chardonnay
, with which I promptly fell in love--glorious notes of caramel!--and sopped our bowls with French bread and it was very, very good.( Crispy potatoes )( Chicken waterzooi )
Both recipes supposedly serve four, so we doubled them. They just barely served six. Fortunately the waterzooi is intensely rich and we had bread as well as potatoes, so no one went hungry.
(recipes crossposted to omnomnom
Afterwards we went out for gelato. I am so full, my goodness.
Many thanks to our hosts d_aulnoy
(who shopped) and schrodingersgnu
(who helped with cooking) and our dining companion vschanoes
(who cleaned), all of whom made delightful conversation as we stuffed ourselves. What a marvelous evening.
9) I briefly entertained the Gnubaby and felt only somewhat awkward and at a loss. This is an improvement over my usual interactions with babies. I am not a native speaker of baby, but X is planning to have one in a couple of years, so I'm taking every opportunity to learn. (This is an extra reason why I'm really looking forward to hanging out with my friends in London who are parents, and especially the poly parents.) The Gnubaby was getting a bit tired-cranky, but I distracted him by tapping his shoulders in waltz time, which worked very well. d_aulnoy
says we can come over and practice baby anytime we like, and I think we may take her up on it once X is out of crunch mode at work and J and I are done traveling.
10) On the way home, J and X helped me sort out some of my feelings about charging for advice. More on that in another post.
11) I brushed the cats and now they are all sleek and soft. Well, Sam was already soft, but now she's softer. Java's getting lazy and arthritic in his old age and he doesn't always crane his neck all the way around to lick his back, so he gets mats there sometimes, and I like to brush them out. He tolerates it. Sam doesn't need the brushing, but she loves it and boofs the brush and purrs like a Harley and is all cuddly after. They are such good kitties.
And now I have stayed up far too late reading the archives of "Scandinavia and the World" because I sent the link to schrodingersgnu
, so I will feed the kitties and pass the out.
- thinking about:
behavior.accomplishments, behavior.planning, body.arms, body.ears, body.exercise, body.hair, experiences.joy, experiences.socializing, experiences.travel, experiences.work.freelance, food, food.cooking, food.cooking.potatoes, food.cooking.stew, food.cooking.stew.waterzooi, food.drinks, food.drinks.wine, food.recipes, mind.wiring, mind.wiring.anxiety, people.cats, people.children