The honey heavy dew of slumber

For Cathy

I went to a meeting this morning, and because I was told to do this when I woke up at 29 years old suddenly sober, naked and terrified, I shared: I am in pain.

As it were, I’m not the only one. 

Living a sober life can be like sinking to the bottom of the ocean, a black, unknowable, blind pit, in a one-woman submarine, only there’s no release valve for the air pressure, so you go up and down in the water, you can’t see a thing besides what the dinky lamp attached to your craft shoots out, miserable and too small a light, and the pressure just builds. You want to open a window but it’d kill you. Gin is the window. 

So what you’re supposed to do is get on your knees and say, please god release this pressure so I can go help the next one-woman submarine who looks like she’s 5 minutes away from drinking the window. Or you meditate and learn to quietly tolerate the sensation of drowning. Lighten up, as they say.

And if you learn to stop obsessing over the fact that you’re alone in a tiny tin can in huge, unknowable, dark ocean, if you can shut up for long enough about how we’re all dying down here, maybe you notice a fish. Maybe it’s an ugly fish, and you curse at it’s weird lips like two stacked lumbar support pillows and it’s eyes which, due to bad placement (who invented these things?) can only see you with one eye at a time. Fuckface. It swims away and now there’s nothing but plankton, little flakes of white cascading in whirls and whooshes, directed by some kind of physics, I’m sure.

Another fish, less beautiful than the first.

And then you think, fuck, how can you guys stand it down here? This is terrible. It’s dark, it’s wet, it’s boring. The pressure is killing me. An ear pops.

More fish. A school! Numerous slimy silver bullets. Man, what I wouldn’t do for a Coors Light.

The way the light catches them, the little flares like stars on a space highway, it’s not bad. Groovy sci-fi stuff. A moment of grace punctures how sorry your feel for yourself, because suddenly: you’re there, you’re noticing what’s right in front of you, some mundane thing, numerous and circular and bigger than you. 

So you stare out your window and watch them move. After a minute they swim away again, and everything goes dark outside your one woman submarine. For this instant, you’re not so angry. The pain dissolves. Like everything else, it’s fleeting.

You glance down and notice a button. It says SURFACE.

It was always right there in front of you. 

You press it. Up you float.

You remember that you know how to swim. You move towards the light. 

There’s a prayer: It is in self-forgetting that one finds. You die all day to understand what it is to be alive. 

Lucky for us, nothing is solid. Not death, life, feeling, memory, truth, gin, fish, ocean, air. 

For my dear friend who is dying: thank you for showing me the SURFACE. Thank you for helping me find the light.

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Bless This Mess

There’s something wrong with me. Lungs on fire, acid stomach, twelves hours of sharp, jutting pains through my midsection that came and went. I went to the doctor after a quarter of a yogurt made my esophagus light up like a Duraflame. He called for a nurse to be present while he dug his fingers into my midsection: Where does it hurt you, baby?

Maybe an ulcer. I bought $80 worth of prescription drugs at Walgreens on 23rd street and went back to work.

My colleagues asked me how it went. Their eyes clapped shut and opened wide in disbelief when I told them what it might be. How old are you? None of them have children.

The days are so long now. I used to have time to breathe. I remember when weekends were for recovery, when rest was possible, when sleep was more than the gulp of air needed to dive back underwater for another 15 hours. When I find little pockets of space now, a few minutes on the train where I’m not answering emails, half an hour after my daughter finally falls asleep before my face hits the side of the pillow with a splat, I am numb. I play Candy Crush. I have nothing left.

Feeling Things is not my forte. Feelings are messy, uncooked. I’m a planner, an organizer, a doer. I will acknowledge them only when they press me, or are not my fault. They get hurt and I will ask for your repentance. There now, it’s been handled. Keep swallowing.

Feelings have a way of rising up. They do not appreciate being ignored. I drank them down. When that stopped working, I spent hundreds of hours stroking and fondling them in recovery. I opened the door and let them in. I decided we could all live in this body. They settled in, despite hating the furniture.

Now, I’m a mother. There isn’t time.

I leave for work at the crack of dawn, before the sun or my daughter is awake. I walk the dog in the pitch dark freezing night. I pick his steaming shit up with a black plastic bag and feel it warm my hand. I sit on the commuter train with business men in suits with mouths like parentheses who skim quickly through the Wall Street Journal so they can watch Family Guy on their iPads. They wear wedding rings and don’t smell like anything.

At work, I think about cancer. One guy has six kinds of cancer and half an arm. He is not old. My heart breaks open. My brain says, “You are going to die, too.”

There is nothing I want to do more than this work. To keep the anxiety at bay, I walk to the water machine and push the button. Cucumber seltzer. It’s a good prize.

I leave a meeting early and hustle to daycare to pick up Lucy. She doesn’t want to leave. I bribe her into the car with a two-pack of Saltines. At home, she throws a tantrum when I put her down, pick her up, give her milk in the wrong plastic cup. I offer TV and she is happy. She doesn’t want dinner. I microwave something. I eat it out of the plastic tub on the couch while Lucy sits engrossed in cartoon mermen. I love her so much in this moment, where she is happy and my attention is not required.

I try to read her books but she’s impatient. We look for everything in her room that’s yellow. She wants banana, a yogurt, sweet things. She refuses pajamas. She smells like pee. I bribe her to change her diaper. Once the lights are out, she clings to me with force, won’t let me put her down. I sing Baby Beluga over and over again in the dark. When she’s almost asleep, she shoots up, realizing how I’ve tricked her eyelids into heaviness. She shouts for Dada, who is more fun. I leave, and they throw all the monsters out of the bed.

My bedtime routine is 5 things, and I hate them. I do them anyway, and crawl into bed. I play more Candy Crush. I look at Instagram. Women are wearing bikinis and cooking beef short ribs from scratch. I compare myself to them. I click the lamp to black and let a podcast lull me to sleep, filling my brain with someone else’s story.

I take it back. I feel constantly. I feel guilt and shame about not spending time with my kid, and then guilt and shame about being so tired that when I do see her, I want to check out. I am sleepwalking through a room full of people shouting, “Wake up! You asked for this!”

I did. I want all of these things. I love Lucy, how she puts all of the monkey things together in one pile, how she grits her teeth for the camera, thinking that’s what a smile is. I love my job more than any work I’ve ever done before. I love the man with 6 types of cancer and half an arm and I want his suffering to mean something in the larger context of research and fighting and fixing and curing.

Here it is, everything you asked for. Job, daughter, husband, house. Meaning.

I love it. Please don’t take it away. Just tell me: how do I not self-destruct?

I took the day off today, my first day off. I didn’t need to. I feel okay. I am not shitting blood.

I’m reading. I’m lying in bed in a sweatsuit listening to Arvo Part with my dumb cats, feeling stuff. I’m moisturizing. I’m waiting for this aromatherapy diffuser I ordered to be delivered from Amazon. I haven’t decided yet which smell to experience first.

I think they call this a mental health day.

Tomorrow I’ll commute into the city for an endoscopy. An invasive medical cherry on the proverbial cupcake. As a former drunk, I am not not looking forward to the procedure’s required black-out. Sounds like rest, to me.

Bless this mess. Good things are rarely easy.

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via @taprootdoula

Nursery Decor: It’s All Lies

Back when I was still figuring out what kind of nursery I wanted to create for my first baby (you know, a perfect one that represents every aspiration I’ve ever held for my child in furniture form), I did a lot of Pinteresting. Pinterest is great, but also I hope you are a billionaire who is obsessed with baby grey, yellow, and chevron because that is what you will find there.

There is also a lot of word art. Kyle and I decided to go ahead and make our own art for her walls, because we (I) wanted her to stare at Carl Sagan quotes all night long and then grow up to be a badass woman scientist and win a Nobel prize.

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But mostly what you see on Pinterest are the same 5 quotes, which really are very cute, but also pretty saccharin and hopeful and so now I’m going to make fun of them. Because what if instead of putting our hopes and dreams onto their nursery walls, we actually told the truth?

little but fierce

Yes, my daughter is both little, and fierce. But little is relative. And fierce mostly when screaming for things all day long.

shit in pants

move bowels

Just once I would like to see the word “bowels” gold-leafed.

dream big

My next kid is getting these. (Unless it works, and Lu becomes a tiny science scholar, in which case my next kid is getting a math room with chalkboard-theorem walls like that high-five montage scene in Good Will Hunting).

Pregnancy Myths, REVEALED! (An Illustrated Guide)

People say a lot of weird things about being pregnant, and it mostly comes from those who are a) not pregnant at that moment, b) are a man, and c) should shut up. People need to stop giving you advice because it’s starting to cut into the 15 hours per day you have allotted to not sleeping and fanatically googling.

Here are some things you might hear around town that are wrong.

  1. You’re glowing!

pregnant

Unless “glowing” now means “fucking exhausted” and “bigger than Donald Trump’s ego” and “more terrified of what’s about to happen than a cat of a cucumber” then no, you are not glowing. Maybe you were glowing, like right after you had sex 9 months ago, or in your second trimester when you finally stopped puking and ate something other than fries for the first time in 2 months. But now? The only thing glowing is your attitude if you run out of Haagen Dazs. (Do NOT run out of Haagen Dazs).

  1. Eating for two is a myth; you’re actually eating for one plus a few extra calories, like in a light yogurt!

eating 2

Okay, this one might technically be true, but shhhh. The only way to describe the unquantifiably enormous amount that you will love your babies to a pregnant lady is in saying, “Imagine a platter of cheeseburgers that goes on for infinite, and then add coffee, various cakes, and sleeping.” You will love your baby a lot. Also, light yogurt is not that delicious. Also, lettuce is a vegetable.

  1. Don’t pet cats!

cat lady pregnant

That is, if you even WANT to pet cats. (If you don’t, feel free to use pregnancy as an excuse to avoid them like the plague). But you can actually pet cats, you just can’t change their litter boxes, which you shouldn’t be doing anyway, because that is why you got married.

BONUS: It is also a myth that any pregnant woman alive who is not insane would wear a button-up shirt and just casually only button two buttons and then let her giant stomach hang over a blanket while she pet a cat. But I’m trying to illustrate a point here, which is that you can touch cats, if you want to and are pregnant.

  1. You have to take at least one picture of your giant stomach with your partner’s hands in a heart framing your cavernous belly button!

hands heart

Myth! Feel free to take this picture, or feel free to ask people to NOT take pictures of you while very pregnant, like when you’re stopping at Dunkin Donuts for the second time in one day and people are giving you sad, sympathetic looks, even when you chuckle nervously at the lady ringing you up and casually mention how much everybody at your office loves donuts. Instead of staging photos, you can also just lie around in bed in a sweatsuit and demand that nobody touch you. Ever again.

  1. Your lopsided bump is indicative of your baby’s gender!

girl or boy

Is your baby sitting a little to the left? Is your belly awkwardly misshapen? Did you do a special little dance during getting-pregnant sex? Did you google that weird “what sex is my baby” birthday chart that a million people swear works and IS REAL? Nope. Sorry! Your physical symptoms point to the condition of “being pregnant.” You’re going to have to wait to find out just like everybody else.

BONUS TIP: This one’s important: if anyone ever says to you, “wow, I can’t believe you’re still pregnant!” or “wow, you are HUGE” give them a black eye.

Now, go eat a pizza in a pair of sweats. Dribble a little tomato sauce down the front for me. If anyone dares enter your nest(flix), start screaming at them in Elvish and crying, alternately, until they fear for their lives.

19 Things I Said I’d Never Do Which I Did Within 3 Months of Becoming a Mom

  1. Think that 5 am is a reasonable time of day to get up

  2. Consider a sweatsuit to be a practical, flattering outfit

  3. Own 3 strollers, because they all serve very different purposes, ok?

  4. Have someone else’s poop touch my body and not run screaming into a bathtub full of Lysol

  5. Consider four hours of sleep in a row to be “a real improvement”

  6. Sing Daniel Tiger songs in the shower, and occasionally hum them in public

  7. Have an Instagram feed of entirely pictures of a bald wrinkly blob with eyes

  8. Let a human being drag their hands around on the floor gathering dog hair tumbleweeds and then stick them in my mouth

  9. Memorize a mental checklist of 47 things I need every single time I leave the house

  10. Bite a black bean in half and feed it to someone

  11. Have porn star boobs

  12. Join a bunch of Facebook groups and participate in thoughtful discussions about what kind of rash that is

  13. Get peed on

  14. Post photos to the internet of someone covered in disgusting foods and sauces

  15. Eat dinner in restaurants at 4:30pm

  16. Invent a song about a washcloth

  17. Go to Starbucks with barf in my hair

  18. Tweet a cute garbage can company

  19. Think that one hour alone with a book and a breadbasket is afterlife-level paradise

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