Waking up to baby

Early last year, after a long string of miscarriages and unexplained infertility issues combined with my ever-advancing maternal age, I accepted that I wouldn’t be giving birth to anymore babies. I wrote a post titled Baby Sarah which was an opportunity for me to acknowledge my acceptance (and sadness) as well as give voice to the hope that our family might grow in other lovely and unexpected ways:

Perhaps our family will expand to include animals (rescue pets? chickens?! goats!!), or neighborhood kids, or my daughter’s friends, or adult friends, or people united by a cause, or wise elderly folks, or amazing teams of people working on creative projects. My sweet friend told me, “you will be surprised at the ways souls come into your life to fill up the spaces in your heart.”

The spaces in my heart are waiting to be surprised.

I was very sad. I was increasingly grateful for my daughter and our little family. (You know what’s awesome? First graders are awesome.) And then I moved on. I didn’t get goats or chickens, but I felt myself expand as I incorporated new surprises and experiences. I quit my full-time day job. I took on freelance projects that felt scary and challenging and exhilarating. I finally got my passport and researched exotic beachy destinations with great cocktails. I took Zumba classes and yoga classes with the zeal of the newly converted. I began to cook meals from scratch (a big deal for a professional microwaver like me). And I gave away or sold ALL of the ten tons of baby paraphernalia in my house. Space. Freedom. Strength. Growth. Gratitude.

Then…a happy accident? An unexpected development? I got pregnant.

Surprise! I’m pregnant.

There is an actual heart-beating baby in this old belly. Surprise, Me! Surprise, Everyone! Surprise!

In the Baby Sarah post, I wrote:

I’m casting out trust into the universe, into the cosmic web of connection. At this juncture, I’m trusting that if our family grows (if we even have the time and space to grow!), then it will grow in another, surprising way…

To me at least, being pregnant again qualifies as “another, surprising way” for our family to grow. I didn’t believe in that possibility anymore. Indeed, the spaces in my heart have been amply surprised by this development. Good one, Universe. Well played.

Now, almost half way thru this pregnancy, I am almost ready to accept that this baby might actually happen. After failed pregnancies, non-pregnancies, and a lot of tangled up feelings, it seemed emotionally safer to be in a state of relative denial over these last months. Every doctor’s appointment was a gauntlet to be run, every ultrasound had me on tenterhooks. It has been a hunkering-down, harrowing, contracted kind of time for me. And truth be told, I have been rather overwhelmed by this huge change in my life course. This was not what I expected! I made other plans! I’m on a different track now with space and freedom and creative possibilities! Must I be banished again to those yearning early childhood years in Motherland? GAH!

However.

Today, I woke up. I woke up again to my life. To the life inside me. To the life around me. I built a bridge, got over myself and my bullsh!t, and joined again the land of the living where sometimes surprises are good and can be welcomed and embraced. Like now.

Today, I am laughing at this great surprise. Today, I am hugely tickled by the machinations of the universe, by my wacky biology, by the timing of the bun in my oven. Today, I am accepting and open to this possibility. Funny, I wrote about possibilities in Baby Sarah last year:

We can fill those spaces in our hearts in surprising ways. This is possible. There are possibilities I’ve never considered before.

And I love possibilities.

That’s still true. This is possible. I love possibilities. Of course I love this one and what it means for my life. How could I not? Yes, I don’t know specifically what the arrival of this baby means for my always-fledgling career as an art maker, or my dreams of exotic destinations, or my Zumba classes. Either I will carry on with them as planned (my hope!), or I will create new experiences of space, freedom, strength, growth, and gratitude in my life. Because that’s what we do… if we can, right? Accept, adapt, and love. My friend told me, “Children don’t restrict our creativity. They add creativity to our lives because they demand that we live in a new way. They demand that we live creatively.”

Well, I don’t know about that, friend. Sometimes it seems that way and sometimes not so much, but it’s cool. I don’t need to make any predictions at this point. I’m just going to hang on for the ride and do my best to keep smiling all the way. Wheeeeeee!

As you might imagine, my daughter was thrilled-out-of-her-mind to find out she was having a little sib. Although after years of exaggerating the truth (lying!) about it, no one believed her when she made the announcement to friends and family. A funny lesson in crying wolf, I guess.

When my husband and I sat her down to reveal that she was going to be a big sister, she promptly burst into tears. “What’s wrong?!” I asked (Geez, sibling rivalry, jealousy, already!?), “Why are you crying?!”

She said, “These are happy tears. I’m just so happy.”

Her face was shining. My heart was melting.

She might not be crying happy tears in a few years when her toddler brother* is hitting her in the face and pulling her hair. However, today, I’m relishing and reveling in her sweet words and our beautiful gift and crying some happy tears myself.

Cross your fingers for me, will you? Wheeeee!

*My advanced maternal age and previous preg issues required some additional testing, so we did find out early that this next child will be a boy.

Baby Sarah

My daughter is telling everyone that I am pregnant with a baby girl named Sarah. (I’m not.) After the third person at her school congratulated me on this fictitious pregnancy, I asked her why she was telling people this. She replied, “Because it makes people happy when I say that.” Yeah.

My daughter loves babies. She draws pictures of them all the time. Her second word, after ‘hi’, was ‘baby.’ When I told her I wasn’t having anymore babies, she cried big fat tears and asked angrily, “How would you feel if you wanted a baby sister and someone said you couldn’t have one?”

I told her I would feel sad.

So. There won’t be anymore babies in my belly. The how and why of that is long, complicated, and personal, but unless a baby arrives Moses-style on our doorstep (speaking metaphorically), my child won’t have any siblings who share her last name. I feel grief about this. I feel relief at finally being able to let go of the two tons of baby-parphenalia in my house. I feel down-on-my-knees-heart-swelling grateful for my daughter and the life we have together.

So, I’m working on trust right now. I’m casting out trust into the universe, into the cosmic web of connection. At this juncture, I’m trusting that if our family grows (if we even have the time and space to grow!), then it will grow in another, surprising way — perhaps even in a way that doesn’t include babies. Perhaps our family will expand to include animals (rescue pets? chickens?! goats!!), or neighborhood kids, or my daughter’s friends, or adult friends, or people united by a cause, or wise elderly folks, or amazing teams of people working on creative projects. My sweet friend told me, “you will be surprised at the ways souls come into your life to fill up the spaces in your heart.”

The spaces in my heart are waiting to be surprised.

I’m going to trust that my daughter will find her ‘soul sisters’ and ‘soul brothers’ in her lifetime. I’m going to trust that she will find and choose a ‘sister’ like my sister and a ‘brother’ like my husband’s brother. She will find and choose a sibling-like relationship if she needs one, and people will find and choose her. Already, she is lucky to have some wonderful (though faraway) cousins.

We’ll just have to wait and see how she creates and lives into her extended family TBD.

These days, as I’m trusting-trusting-trusting,  I’m also working with the notion that we create our families. I’m considering the idea that the families we are born into, the families we chose, and the families who chose us, are a construction built by the people involved.

And I am comforted by the thought that there is some latitude in thinking about how this will work for us — for the current three-people-in-a-household-family that I have.

(Yes, I know I’m really late to the party on this.) These days I’m percolating on the idea that my-little-three-person-household might loosen up our narrow thinking around what a family can be. We can make the rules; we can tell the story. We can identify the players and the relationships and the boundaries. We can choose the words we’ll use to describe each other. We can make a compact (explicitly or implicitly) to love and care for those souls in our extended family of choice, as well as in our ’traditional’ family. We can locate our village (“it takes a village”) and choose to participate in that village-life too.

We might still have a ‘baby Sarah’ in our lives — she just might be someone else’s baby we love or she might not be a baby at all (see above). We can fill those spaces in our hearts in surprising ways. This is possible. There are possibilities I’ve never considered before.

And I love possibilities.

What possibilities do you see? What is the composition of your family? What kind of a life have you created together?

One more thing:
This post is a meditation for me and a challenge to confront my blind spots. It’s an effort to dive deeper in my Year of Clarity and dig into the life I want to actively create for myself and for those connected to me.
Currently, there are legal and cultural definitions of ‘family’ that constrict and impinge on people’s freedom to fully, legally realize the families they have created. This post isn’t meant to compare my family’s situation to families who are facing shameful laws such as  NC’s constitutional amendment banning same-sex marriage. My family and I are privileged in many ways — in this case, my husband and I are legally recognized as a married couple and we receive those associated rights and benefits (including parental ones). It is wrong and deeply disturbing that these rights/benefits/legal recognition are not extended to all consenting and committed adults. Hopefully, 2014 will see that change.
 

Click on it

My child has been playing a lot of (too many!)  Sesame Street computer games, and watching too many (ehem) intellectually stimulating TV programs, and eating cereal for dinner on a regular basis. This is what happens when I’m in a show. And, you know, I’m cool with that. She’s fine. I’m fine. We’re all fine. It’s temporary, and when I get really honest about it, it’s not that much different than when I’m not in rehearsal.  Less TV, but probably the same amount of iPad or Sesame Street computer games and cereal for dinner…and yet the world still turns on its axis. I am a nicer and happier mom when I am making art and to me that’s more important (and that’s another post).

Anyhow, the over-saturation of computer games has become really apparent recently because the phrase, “just click on it” is now part of almost every make-believe game she creates. In a Sesame Street computer game, Grover might say, “if you see a green star, click on it”, then my kid will mouse over the green star, click the button and fireworks will appear on the screen. Magical technology! Or Elmo says, “if you want to see Elmo dance, just click on Elmo”.  Now, when my daughter and I play Babies and Monsters (a new favorite make-believe game), she’ll say, “If you want to hear the baby cry, just click on her” or “If you want the monster to stop scaring the baby, just click on it.” Full disclosure: I might be encouraging this behavior because I laugh every time she says that stuff.

It is true that I felt guilty the first dozen times she mentioned ‘clicking’ on something. Now there’s proof that I let her have too much screen time! Everyone will know that I am a terrible non-nurturing beastly mother! But I have a new rule about guilt that I’m trying to follow: I refuse to feel guilty about things that I do not intend to change. If I feel guilt coming on, then I make the decision to do something about it or make a decision to let it go, but I don’t want to carry around a backpack full of guilty distractions about stuff that I don’t really care enough about to fix. Know what I mean? Either I’m going to choose not to eat the brownie for breakfast because I know I will feel like crap an hour later or I’m going to choose to eat the brownie for breakfast and enjoy the daylights out of it. I’m not going to eat the brownie for breakfast and feel terribly guilty about it too. That feels like a waste of time and energy.

‘Click on it’ falls into the category of stuff that I have decided not to feel guilty about because really I don’t care if she plays age-appropriate games on the computer. I care what other people think about that, and I worry that I’ve been more tired or distracted than usual during our ‘quality time’ (issues that I am actively working on), but www.sesamestreet.org is not going away in our household. Sometimes I need to take a nap, and God bless Elmo. So click on that.

Actually, I’ve begun to appreciate ‘click on it’ as a way to signal decision-making points and active opportunities in my life. Now, I have Sesame Street voices in my head: “If you want to drink another cup of coffee and stay up all night, click on it.” “If you want to show your kid that you are paying attention, click on her.” “If you want to have stronger abs, click on some sit-ups!” “If you want to waste another 30 minutes spacing out on the internet, then just keeping clicking on it.” I often convince myself that I am a kind of passive victim of circumstances, that I have so little agency, but when I break it down, I begin to realize that I am clicking on things every moment. I am making little choices to do or not do all the time.

Other reasons I’m embracing “click on it”:

*’Click’ is such a great word so saying it often is aurally and orally satisfying.

*Telling someone to “CLICK ON THAT!” (even if it’s just in my mind) makes me smile.

*The idea of ‘clicking on something’ feels like a discovery or opening a present. Like, “What’s behind Door #1? Open it and see!”. When playing a game on SesameStreet.org, kids don’t always know what will happen when they press the button — it’s a great surprise for them. I like the idea of carrying that over into life. Oooo, what will happen when I click on that?

*And finally, I’ve come to the conclusion that everyone needs to be ‘clicked on’ sometimes – to be intentionally seen, recognized, chosen, touched on the shoulder, paid attention to – even for a moment. “If you want your employees to be happy, click on them.” “If you want your friend to think you care, click on him.” Maybe this is something that only works in my brain, but the days seem happier when I intentionally set out to ‘click on’ everyone. I’m happier on those days too.

So, what about you? Thoughts about the guilt rule? Thoughts about clicking on things? Just click on it. Come on, really, click on it.

I want pizza: Losing ourselves in the Atlanta airport

The mother of all tantrums. You know, the one when you and your kid totally lose it? The one that you fear as a parent?

THE GIANT LENGTHY EXTENDED RE-MIX OF ALL THE PREVIOUS TANTRUMS TURNED UP TO ELEVEN ON THE VOLUME KNOB — THE MOST PUBLICLY HUMILIATING SCREAMFEST COMPLETE WITH VIOLENT FLAILING TO HIGHLIGHT AND UNDERLINE YOUR INEPT PARENTING – IN THE AIRPORT AND THEN ON THE AIRPLANE WHERE YOU CANNOT ESCAPE – DURING WHICH YOUR USUALLY LOVELY CHILD GIVES HER BEST IMPRESSION OF THAT KID FROM THE EXORCIST WHILE SCREAMING “GET YOUR HANDS OFF ME. DON’T TOUCH ME. I WANT TO GET AWAY FROM YOU. I DON’T WANT AIRPLANE. NO NO NOOOOOO AIRPLANE” – AND YOU TRY ALL SORTS OF CALM AND LOVING SOOTHING MOM-TRICKS BUT NOTHING THAT YOU TRY WORKS TO CALM YOUR CHILD AND STOP HER SCREAMING —  PEOPLE STOP AND STARE AND WONDER IF YOU ARE KIDNAPPING OR HURTING THE KID AND THEN THEY WONDER WHY YOUR FOUR-YEAR OLD CHILD WHO IS NOT A BABY ANYMORE IS COMPLETELY LOSING IT AND THEN PEOPLE GET OUT OF YOUR WAY AND LET YOU CUT IN LINE SO YOU CAN HAUL YOUR CHILD (WHO IS KICKING AND HITTING YOU) INTO HER SEAT AND YOU HOLD HER DOWN AND BUCKLE HER IN. AND SHE KEEPS KICKING YOU AND SCREAMING UNTIL YOU GRAB HER LEGS AND ARMS AND SAY IN YOUR SCARIEST MEANEST TEETH-BARED SQUINTY-EYED MOM WHISPER, “STOP THAT RIGHT NOW. STOP IT.” And then your kid stops screaming because you scared her speechless with your violent-sounding whisper. Then she starts quietly crying with very sad eyes. She says, “Mom, you scared me. I didn’t like it when you said bad words to me. You hurt my feelings, Mom. You broke my heart, Mom.” You unbuckle her seatbelt and she climbs into your lap for a hug. And everyone feels like crap.

You know that tantrum? Yeah, that was last Saturday. Apologies to the people in Terminal A of the Atlanta airport and to my fellow passengers on the flight from Atlanta to Raleigh-Durham. I would have beamed us the hell out of there if I could have. And I tried everything I could think of to stem, re-direct, or wrap up our mutual misery, but this tantrum was a boulder rolling down hill — it kept picking up speed until it hit the bottom.

Upon reflection, on the scale of No-Big-Deal to Completely-Awful, I’d say that experience was 100% Completely Awful. Yes, she’s had tantrums before. God knows, ‘the year of living with a two-year old’ was full of fits, but this was definitely the biggest. And it was the second part of a horrible tantrum double-feature because the night before she had a massive meltdown during bath time. So, on airport-day we were starting with a rather depleted emotional reserve.

Next time we are in the airport, I will miss our connecting flight so that we can buy pizza for lunch instead of opting for the snacks in my back-pack. The decision to get out of the Pizza Hut line (which wasn’t moving at all and they didn’t even have the pizza that we wanted in the express area so they were going to have to cook a fresh pizza just for us and our flight was boarding!)…um, the decision to leave the Pizza Hut line was the precipitating and unacceptable incident that set us on the wild ride to Crazy Tantrum Town. Thanks for nothing and screw you, Pizza Hut.

Right, it wasn’t Pizza Hut’s fault. We’d just had a wonderful and exciting trip out West to see cousins with lots of fun activities and little sleep. We were both off our routine, tired and sad to leave family. We’re both introverts who’d engaged in a lot of extroverted behavior, and we both have some challenges transitioning from one thing to the next. Can you see what this adds up to in the Atlanta airport when we were starving for pizza but we didn’t have time for pizza because our flight was boarding and one of us is a four-year old who doesn’t understand the concept of time but does understand the concept of not having food? Yeah. I totally botched the transition from pizza line to airplane and then botched trying to explain it in a way she could understand and then it was too late so I had to drag her onto the airplane and scare her into silence. Bad bad Mommy.

My experience of parenting = one humbling experience after another.

On the airplane, in a calmer state of mind and firmly buckled in once more, my daughter began to repeat, “But if I got lost, then I’d miss my mommy,” and she’d cry a little. I couldn’t figure out what getting lost in the airport had to do with the hell we’d just gone through, so I asked her about it, and she’d cry and repeat again, “But if I got lost, then I’d miss my mommy.” [One handy thing about my kid is that she just keeps repeating herself until I figure out what’s going on. She gives me lots of chances.] Finally, I got it. “Oh, you were so mad at me in the airport that you wanted to run away, but you didn’t because you were afraid that you’d get lost.” She nodded.

Oh wow, even four-year olds want to run away and get lost…and are afraid that getting lost means they will not be found.

“Honey,” I said, “if you get lost, I will miss you right away and then I will find you. Don’t worry about that. It’s ok to be angry at me sometimes. And if you get mad or if you get lost, I will find you.” The the airplane took off, and we were on our way home.

Sigh. I don’t know what the hell I’m doing.

I get lost a lot and it’s scary. I don’t know if I find myself or she finds me or if I just wander around until things start looking familiar again.

My experience of parenting = losing and finding myself, my kid, my mind….over and over and over again.

My heart is haunted: silent, spoken, sung

I’ve been haunted by a story all week.

The story sits in the room with me, trails behind me as I walk, hovers over my spooned-in oatmeal, perches on my nightstand as I sleep. When I wake in the night I see it gazing at me hazy and shimmering. Waiting. My neck-hair prickles. My fingers feel numb. It’s wonderful. Wonder-full.

This is a true story, heard on a recent NPR podcast, Krista Tippett’s On Being. Tippett interviewed Terry Tempest Williams, an author of creative nonfiction, activist and naturalist. Before this week, I’d never heard of Terry Tempest Williams. Now I am obsessively reading her book, When Women Were Birds: Fifty-Four Variations on Voice. Me, caught up in her writing and her stories, the way I was caught up in Jeanette Winterson’s Written on The Body (oh, so many years ago). I feel feverish, tasting words as I read like blood in my mouth or ash or tears.

In When Women Were Birds, Williams explores the gift of her mother’s journals. Here’s an excerpt of the podcast transcript from On Being:

Ms. Williams: When my mother was dying, I was in bed with her, rubbing her back and she said, “Terry, I’m leaving you my journals.” And I didn’t know she kept them. And she said, “But you must promise me one thing: that you won’t look at them until after I’m gone.” And I gave her my word. She passed. A month went by. My father was gone, my brothers were out of the house. I was cleaning and I thought, “Today. Today’s a good day to find my mother’s journals.” And I found them exactly where she had said they would be, hidden in the closet. Three shelves filled with journals, each one handpicked, each one bound in cloth, gingham, denim, flowered, so on and so forth. And I took a deep breath — my mother was such a private person — and I thought, “Finally, I will be able to know what she was thinking, where she was.” And I opened the first journal and it was blank. I opened the second journal; it was blank. As was the third. All of my mother’s journals were empty.

Ms. Tippett: How do you understand that?

Ms. Williams: I don’t. And that’s the mystery, that’s the, you know, I don’t know. And that’s what’s got me thinking about voice. You know, what is it? How do we find it? How do we keep it? How do we use it?

Does that blow your mind or what? Does that make you feel faint? Your imagination is off running and spinning in all directions, struggling to make meaning? Me too! Oh, me too! Less than half-way thru Williams’ slim book (on variation twenty-four), I already find her journey into voice to be broad and deep enough for diving, and refreshingly, without answers. We are left only with questions like the ones she mentioned in the transcript above. She doesn’t know the meaning behind her mother’s gift. No one living ever will. The beauty, the gift, is in the struggle to make meaning, to understand, to frame the concepts of voice and legacy and relationship – to find the meaning we make for ourselves and to position ourselves in relation to that.

We know her mother gave her a gift. The way you explain that can tell you a lot about yourself.

I think often about my voice in relation to my daughter — how I express myself to her and in her presence, how I define myself as her mother, as a woman, a person, an artist. What am I saying, why, and how? What do I share and what do I keep private? Do I need to document my life in order to make it real, to be remembered, or I can trust my friends and family to remember me as they will? How do I encourage, stifle, ‘manage’ my daughter’s own voice? What is she learning about speaking and about keeping silent? How do I make myself known to her — is that something I even need to do? Can I let my child make her own decisions about who I am? What legacy of self-expression am I leaving behind? Is this all-consuming effort to nail down and declare who we are really a worthwhile endeavor? Maybe the worthwhile endeavor is looking out rather than looking in – spending time in relationship and letting others define the edges of ourselves, and what’s ‘inside’ is simply a mystery? I don’t know. I really don’t know.

The not knowing feels heart-breaking and beautiful.

This book makes me dream of a series of short performance pieces – variations on voice – inspired by When Women Were Birds. Perhaps drawn from multiple performance mediums – visual art, dance, film, theatre, music. Perhaps as a result of collaborations between multiple artists. Perhaps framed as a festival. Perhaps an opportunity for a community to come together to explore voice and silence, legacy and relationship.  I’m dreaming about all of this accompanied by the haunting of Williams’ story. What does it mean? What will it mean?

I’d love to hear your thoughts and reactions…

Yearning for all

You’ve likely heard something about the article in The Atlantic Magazine by Anne-Marie Slaughter. It’s titled Why Women Still Can’t Have It All. It received so much attention that the website crashed. Cool. If you haven’t read it, then please do. It takes awhile because of the length, but it’s worth it. After my trek through it, I feel like I’ve been dowsed with a bucket of ice water and handed an open can of worms. Whew! Periodically, I’ll be dropping in posts that have been stirred up as a result. (Don’t worry, in between, my posts will be just as random as ever). Here is my first musing related to “Having it All”.* (see little footnote below).

Since I’ve become a parent, my creative life has suffered. My professional life and my relationships have suffered. My identity and the opinion I have of myself have suffered. (Perhaps, I should say they have all ‘transformed’ or ‘decelerated’. The fact that I judge these as ‘suffering’ is telling anyway.) I’ve declined exciting opportunities because of the way the world of work and theatre-making is structured, and because I want to be present and available to my child and my husband. When I tried to maintain the pace I’d set before having a baby, my parenting and my marriage suffered. I couldn’t figure out ‘how to do everything’ so some things had to go. That’s what moms do, yes? That’s what people do when their life circumstances alter dramatically, right? That’s life.

I’m grateful I still have a job. I’m grateful for what I can do. I am always aware that this is my choice. It was my choice to have a baby. It has been my choice to spend time with her that I could have spent making art, making money, advancing my career (or going to the gym, visiting friends, taking a shower, dating my husband).

And yes, it has been worth it. For me, being a mom is mind-blowing, soul-shaking, beautiful, awe-full, and metamorphosing. I haven’t exactly transformed from a caterpillar into a butterfly over these last few years, but I do know that I am not the person I was before I had my daughter. And all of that is my choice. So, yes, I chose that and I’ll stand by it because opportunities will come again and when a door shuts, a window opens, and it’s all worth it and suck it up and take responsibility and make the hard choice and get over it and be grateful and all those other things that I say when I don’t think I have the right to complain about whatever it is that I’m complaining about. I know to do all of that. And, thankfully, as my daughter gets older, the work-life balance becomes easier (hence, the blog!). In many ways I am finally coming up for air and re-entering my creative-work-groove. That’s great.

However, for the last three years, I’ve felt terrible guilt as I alternated between blaming myself, blaming my husband and blaming my child when I couldn’t do everything that I wanted with my life since becoming a mom. I still do this, and it feels terrible. And I tell myself that I have no right to be upset and no right to complain about anything because I am so lucky to have what I have and to be a mom and etc. I still feel that way. And I remain uncertain about how to sort out ‘my rights’ from this tangled mess.

But after reading Anne-Marie Slaughter’s article, I’m questioning the way I think about this. I’m tweaking my assumptions a little. Is it really complaining when I say “I wish I could be part of that creation/conversation/project/opportunity/experience”? To say, “I want to participate, but I don’t feel like I can”? To say, “I’m sad because I can’t figure out how to be the mom I want to be and the professional I want to be, by my definition, on my own terms”? Because that’s really what I’ve been saying. I want to be at the table with the movers and shakers. I want to indulge my creative imagination and make more art faster, higher, harder. I want to accelerate, not maintain. I want to be included in the things I was included in before I was banished to Motherland — banished by the choices I’ve made. Because like many women, I believe I have something to add to the conversation, creation, experience, project, opportunity, and because I enjoy the work. Oh, and I want all of that in addition to building, nurturing and participating fully in my family life. Sigh.

Is this yearning really the same thing as complaining? Is it acceptable to feel gratitude for what I have and to yearn for additional fulfillment at the same time? Can I have compassion for the way I feel about this complicated situation?

As a community, can we have compassion for moms, dads, women, all people who feel the pain of giving up what they love for something else they love? Saying yes to one, means saying no to another. That choice-making is painful no matter how much it feels like the right choice. We all know sacrifices must be made as a part of life. That is reality. But I wonder if we could offer compassion, tenderness, support, and dare I say it, make accommodations for people confronted with the reality of choosing between their family-life and professional-life, rather than offering what they already offer themselves — “You can’t compete. It’s your fault. Suffer the consequences.” I wonder if I can do that for myself.

To be continued…

How do you talk to yourself around choice-making? What’s really underneath the ‘complaining’ you do? What comes up when you must “say yes to one, and no to another”?

*Anne-Marie Slaughter states very clearly in her article that she is writing from a position of privilege. Although not nearly at her level, I am aware that I write from a position of privilege as well. My husband and I are a dual income, middle-class family. My friends, co-workers and family support me in the work I do inside and outside the home. I feel grateful for those things, for the luxury of choice that I do have given my circumstances, and for the opportunity to have this conversation.

The role of a lifetime

My grandmother died last Friday. She was my last living grandparent. Now I have none.

Three grandparents were living when I got married five years ago, when I had a baby three years ago, when I was at Christmas two years ago. And now there are none.

There’s been a shift in our family as my parents are now the grandparents, my sister and I are the parents, and our children are….well, they are who we have always been….the kids. So I am not one of the children, the kids, the youngsters. No place for me at the kids’ table anymore — my daughter’s sitting there.

This weekend, I traveled back to the Midwest where I grew up. I traveled with my daughter and introduced her to some family members she’s never met before, including my deceased grandmother in her casket. My sweet daughter said that G.G. (Great-Grandmother) was “beautiful in her bed”. She especially liked her beautiful glasses and her beautiful white hair. She asked when G.G. was going to wake up. I said that when people die they don’t wake up. She asked if she could see G.G’s feet. I said no. All of the little kids wanted to touch G.G. I said no to that too, but couldn’t figure out how to answer their questions about why not. My daughter’s thoughts about her G.G. (a woman she’d never met before): “I love her. I miss her so much.”

As you can imagine, it’s been a crazy few days. Crazy-fun, crazy-beautiful, crazy-sad, crazy-confusing and just plain crazy. It was nice to see my extended family, some of whom I haven’t seen in a decade or so. They are good people.  It was strange and sad to say a final farewell to my 93-year-old grandmother, who’d been telling folks that she’d “lived a good long life and was ready to go.”

I wrote “final farewell” above, but that’s not really accurate because there is no final really for me, I think. The people I know who have died, well, I’m still working out my farewells with them, which have turned into extended negotiations of “I’ll see you later.” And I don’t even know what I think about that really — I don’t even know what I think about what happens after we die, because nothing about it makes sense to me, but I often say to myself, “I can’t wait to tell her about that. I have to ask him about that. I wonder what she’s doing these days.” Like those folks-who-have-passed-away are all functioning happily in parallel lives or somewhere in another town. Just like when they were alive, but I don’t see them as much anymore.

So this is hard, and I don’t have a ‘take-away’ this week other than to offer what I struggle with these days. A strange gift to give, yes?

My friend and I have often joked that “This is not a play. This is really happening.” We aren’t playing characters in a story. We can’t stop the action, re-wind, re-do. We don’t get awards for Best Dramatic Performance 2012 — “the role of a life-time”. This is the role of our life-time, the only one we’ve got. We are all marching forward in the same direction — for real. The choices that we made or didn’t make, the missed opportunities, the mistakes, the triumphs, the peaks, the valleys, the moments and the moments and the moments ticking by….the moments have ticked by…disappearing like smoke… all marched by like little tin soldiers, many of them not even noticed by me.

And my questions for myself, the questions that keep me up at night, become “What does that mean? Knowing that, what do I do? How do I respond? What do I say, how do I interact with those around me? Now…what?”

What do you think? Now, what?

A letter to my daughter after the passage of Amendment One

Look up! There’s a video of me reading my letter. Below, you’ll see the transcript if you’d prefer to read instead. What are your hopes and expectations for this next generation? What’s next for you?

A letter to my daughter after the passage of Amendment One

My darling daughter,

You gave me a sweet memory the other night. You were all snuggled in your bed. We’d just wrapped up our ritual of ‘a lotta kisses and a lotta hugs’.

“Wait, Mom,” you said, “Say, no matter.”

“Oh, I love you no matter what.”

“No, Mom. Say it with your eyebrows up.”

“Like this?” I said, with my eyebrows raised. “I love you no matter what.”

“Yes!” You said.

And I thought you are so funny and I love you so much. And then I went downstairs and watched as Amendment One was passed. And I was shocked and distressed and really sad. I thought, how could I explain this to you? I mean, you’re only three now, we can’t have an in-depth conversation, but if you were older, how might I begin?

So I’m writing this letter to you and to some future version of you kind of at the same time.

Here’s the deal, kid. Right now, we don’t know if you are straight or gay or somewhere in between. We don’t know if you will get married one day or not, get pregnant one day or not, get divorced. We don’t know what choices you will make about who you partner with and how you live your life.

But I want you to know that these are my hopes and expectations for you… I want you to be happy and safe and kind and true to yourself. I want you to treat others with respect and with a generous spirit. Be responsible. Love yourself and lead a life filled with compassion, wisdom, authenticity, possibility and creativity. Those are the family values that your father and I are trying to instill in you.

Althought it’s hard to imagine now, one day you will be a grown-up person, and assuming we don’t back-slide as a country, you will be able to make grown-up choices alongside other grown-ups about your grown-up life. Love who you love. Create the family you define for yourself. Don’t let other people take control of your body. Never let anyone tell you that you are worth less. You are worth everything.

But here’s the important part… you are worth-full, and so is everyone else. All your little friends, all the grown-ups, all the people you know and do not yet know — all people are worth-full. You and everybody else.

Since you were born, I’ve been thinking a lot about how I live my life, how to live out the values that I profess to have. When I look at your sweet sleeping face and I think of you or one of your little friends being discriminated against, my blood boils.

As your mother, it’s my job to protect you and fight for your rights always, and as your mother, it’s also my job to lift my head up out of our beautiful family bubble and not just think about your future rights, but also the rights of all people now. To advocate now and to walk this talk I talk to you about freedom, about choice, about equality, about love.

And this is how I’m doing it: Repeal Amendment One. I voted, now what’s next?

I love you, Mom

Sign the petition on Change.org.