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

A Lost Article from the Archives of GOOP

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We could all be a little more beautiful, cosmologically. Where beauty is in the eye of the beholder, and the beholder is the divine argument of nature, only an internal/external healing balance will help us to achieve perfection: diaphanous skin, a preternatural dew, zero blackheads.

Heed the advice of my chemically-sensitive skin guru, Tina, who goes by Juniper, and avoid allergens like dairy, wheat, nightshades, eggs, shellfish, peanuts, tree nuts, space, and time. As a part-time freelance actress, philanthropist, activist, server, and geisha, T.J. understands how day-to-day living can bombard the skin with powerful radons and electromagnetic ions that deplete your body of it’s elasticity and radiance.

“Every morning upon rising, I mix together an organic potion of organic honey, housemade guava, scratchmade avocado, local hemp, pure macca, matcha, and sweet holy basil by stirring 16 times counter-clockwise with a single sprig of rosemary. The ritual of stirring awakens a powerful force within my red and green chakras, connecting me to my higher spirit, a rare breed of lithe and pithy impala.” Once stirred, she coats her body in the brownish mixture and sits in the sun to let it set on her skin. “It feels rather like coating yourself in God’s almighty excrement; it’s a daily reminder to be humble and face the day as one with the privilege of the universal aesthetic.”

“Beauty is spiritual,” T.J. wrote in her best-selling magnum opus Being Metaphysical. “In order to be free, we must first actualize our a priori cosmological argument.” Juniper achieves this by dry brushing the skin with an organic horse-hair brush before her evening herbal bath. “It removes deceased skin cells without irritating.”

Tina Juniper does not approve of coffee or other “heavily magnetized” beverages. “Drinking these types of chemicals, such as caffeine, has been proven in several studies to pull your essence downward towards the earth’s core, resulting in premature sagging and wilting of the body’s essential essences. “I prefer hot water with lemon,” she wrote.

Juniper practices a custom blend of Wushu (military arts) and jogging. “Because I run with a Qian long sword, I can discourage evilism from entering my joints and muscles. The knees are particularly sensitive, but a continuous twirling of steel wards off any weakness.” She refreshes apres-jog with an ice bath and more hot lemon water. “The opposing temperatures confuse the body into being young again.”

In the evenings, T.J. realigns her intentions with a pore-minimizing masque. “It’s time to reflect,” she wrote in an email to our Celebrity Consciousness editor, Janeth Wilber. “The pores expand throughout the day, due to heat, light, and fractal ions. They need to be closed every evening, to obstruct the aging process. While aging is natural, we should never do it.” T.J. paused to reflect. “That, and eat hot dogs,” she added.

Sometimes, I Just Don’t Want to Mom Right Now

At some point, without my permission, my baby turned into a toddler. Now, instead of carrying her around, I’m following her (unless there’s something I really need to do involving two hands, in which case, she absolutely must be held at that moment or it’s power tantrum time).

My one-year-old’s main interests include the following:

  1. Pulling tissues filled with snots out of the bathroom garbage can and trying to eat them (and if you take them away from her: power tantrum).
  2. Trying to get into the dishwasher to play with knives.
  3. Dipping her hands in the toilet.
  4. Throwing 100% of the food you give her at meal times off her high chair tray and onto the back of the dog (think “spaghetti comb” because that’s what I have to do after dinner).
  5. Pretending not to understand what “no” means.
  6. Attempting to fling herself head-first off the couch.
  7. Insisting that you read the same book to her 18 times.

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sharing used toilet paper with mama – so thoughtful

There are moments in our days that are really nice, like when she cracks up about something, or figures out how to put a puzzle piece in the right spot (GENIUS), or makes adorable sounds. But also? Having a toddler is really, really hard, and exhausting, and it caught me by surprise.

Now, in addition to the having to feed, clothe, bathe, care for a baby thing, there’s also a constant battle of wills. She does NOT want you to wipe up her nasty boogers as they slime their way into her mouth. She NEEDS you to let her eat that applesauce pouch right this second or she’s gonna lose her shit. She will look me in the eyes as I say “Lucy, No” and fling spaghetti onto the dog’s head.

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spaghetti

So, I’m tired.

And honestly, if I didn’t have the luxury of part-time daycare (to cover my part-time work schedule), I would be looking for a full-time job. Because honestly, I don’t know if I’m cut out for this all the time. I love every squishy, boogery ounce of Lucy, but doing this for 12 hours a day 5 days a week? Nope. I couldn’t do it.

Admitting this to myself isn’t easy. I still operate under the (incorrect) default assumption that the parts of me that are wrong are just things that need to be fixed, so that one day I can be perfect. It’s like I want to take my 1997 Honda Accord to the mechanic and have him turn it into a Tesla and then not charge me, just because I’m so great. I just want my therapist to boop me with a magic feelings wand and all of a sudden I’m an infallible mom machine.

But instead of doing everything right all the time, I get exasperated a lot. I get impatient. I look at my iPhone.

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here she is feeding printer paper to the dog

I know better than to feel guilty about this. If any of my mom friends admitted to me they felt guilty for this shit, I would tell them they’re nuts. This is totally normal! So what if you look at your phone! So what if you want nothing more than an hour alone after a 12 hour day! That is NOT WEIRD.

And yet.

The internet is a place full of faerie moms, who breastfeed their 11 year olds, and cosleep with their 12 year olds, and whose 1 year olds gleefully slurp kimchee without ruining their clothes. They have faerie babies who never get sick, and all they do all day is run around together holding hands in fields of wildflowers.

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don’t ask me about the last time I vacuumed

By 5pm (or, ya know, noon) I am desperate for reprieve. I am counting down the minutes until my beautiful girl is tucked into that crib, and I can finally sit on the couch with a cup of decaf and watch Top Chef totally alone.

Sometimes I miss it; being alone.

 

Bits and Pieces

I feel naturally unaccustomed to the phenomenon of things coming together in my life. I lived in chaos for so long; waking up every morning sick and groggy, doing the bare minimum at whatever job I hated, seeking refuge against myself and any feelings I had with socially sanctioned numbing agents. I both hated myself and wanted to control everything. No thing or body could help me, because of my devastating uniqueness. I was a very special piece of shit.

Unfortunately, I still feel. Fortunately, I get to feel things now like the sensation of being five and someone tells you a huge chocolate cake is right through that doorway and you can eat the whole thing by yourself, which is what it feels like every day at 4 o’clock that I pick my daughter up from daycare. Mostly, the feelings are good, and sometimes they are absolute magic.

But in allowing myself to be present for all of it, I’m learning to sit with the stuff that is more bitter lemon than rainbow sprinkle. Sometimes, there is the piercing shame of an old stunt remembered. Sometimes, it’s just a feeling in my body, a dark wave that rushes through me before my brain gets the heads up that we are now remembering what it felt like to give birth. I’m not having fantasy contractions, but there’s a peach pit in my uterus that says, “Remember when you felt the pain of everything that’s ever happened to you all at one time? Remember how you clawed your way through the dark? Remember how it felt to hold your baby for the first time and understand what light is?”

I still don’t understand it, because I can’t. I have to feel it.

I hardly recognize myself anymore. My skin is different, particularly where the belly used to be. My breasts hang low. I look more worried.

Lately, I’ve been so productive. I’ve been working almost all the time that I’m not taking care of Lu, or cooking or cleaning the house. It feels good.

But this is old behavior; this is me wrapping my fists around my tiny universe and saying, “I can control you, I just need to work harder at it.” Don’t rest. Keep all of the balls in the air, master juggler. You can do everything all at once, just keep holding your breath.

I can’t maintain it, because as soon as there is a hiccup (an unexpected event, a tragedy, bad weather), it’ll all come crashing down on me. I’m not taking care of myself, I’m working, taking care of other people. (Not because I’m a saint- because no one else will do things right. Because I need to do everything. Because I can’t ask for help. Because don’t you see how much I sacrifice? How much I do for you?)

Yesterday, I took the whole day off. I talked to friends on the phone, ate Pho in Connecticut, told my husband that I appreciated and loved him, and I made art, because it helps me ride the terror of an emotional wave.

Today, I’m committed to loosening the reigns. I will not check every box on the list today. Today I will admit that I am still fucked up from giving birth. Today, I will pick Lucy up at daycare at 4 o’clock and feel the Willy Wonka anticipation. I’ll see her face light up when she recognizes mine, and her crooked, stumbling run for my legs. I can feel it already.

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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!

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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!

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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!

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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!

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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!

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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.