Chickenshit, Part 3

November 23, 2017

My non-chickenshit openness about infertility went beyond the opportunities from parts 1 and 2. Not only have I talked about it anytime it came up, but I’ve even volunteered the information when it was optional. For example, recently a woman I’d never met before at synagogue, upon meeting me and hearing that I have twins, noted that there are many sets of twins at our synagogue. I replied, “That’s because infertility is more common in the Jewish community than in most other communities.” Which neither she nor the others around us had heard before. Beyond non-chickenshit, to proactive, perhaps depending on your perspective bordering on oversharing. Maybe not. I’ll stick with proactive.

Chickenshit, Part 2

November 22, 2017

I ended up having the exact same opportunity to educate a (different) large group of people about infertility, after Burrito and Tamale came along. And being on the other side of things, that time I took the opportunity. It was much less of a big deal than I’d imagined, and there weren’t any “how do you know so much?” questions — but if there had been, I would have been fine with answering. Those babies made all the difference. No more chickenshit.


Chickenshit, Part 1

November 14, 2017

(Taking a break from catching up on bigger life events to change topics for a bit, we’ll catch up with catching up later.)

In 2008, there was a blog post I meant to write, about how chickenshit I was being around infertility. But, I was too chickenshit to write it back then.

An opportunity had presented itself to educate a large group of people about infertility. The whys, the hows, the whos, all of it. A topic I knew better than almost any other.

But it was too raw for me and I didn’t. I just didn’t. I didn’t know if I could get through it without bursting into tears. So I made a choice to protect my (already fragile) emotions and skip it. Which is not actually chickenshit, it’s wise, but it certainly felt chickenshit at the time. It felt like not only could I not make babies, I couldn’t even talk about not making babies. Even though it might genuinely benefit some listeners — based on the odds, there had to be a bunch of infertiles or future infertiles in that audience.

So I didn’t do it, and then I didn’t blog about not doing it. And that felt awful.

But the title of this post says Part 1, so you know there’s more coming.


Catching Up, Part 7

November 3, 2017

Another event while I was away was Burrito’s emergency hospitalization for several days. It was a bizarre thing, out of nowhere, and it’s totally fine now, but it was really scary at the time (even for me, and you know me, notoriously hard to fluster). As in, when I took him to the pediatrician she said go to the emergency room immediately, you can stop at the house to get a couple of things but only for 5 minutes. As in, life potentially in danger (it wasn’t actually, but they didn’t figure that out for a few hours).

One thing Burrito’s sudden illness brought up is the difficulty of living in a city with no family within a thousand miles. We very purposefully chose, long ago, not to live near anyone from our families. It was on purpose. Even so, when one child is in the midst of a literal emergency and would never let you out of his sight, and the other child is about to be let out from school but the other parent is away on business, it brings home the difficulty of being isolated.

Which, in part, was why we got the au pair.

Which, as I mentioned, really didn’t work out.

So once again we remain isolated. Certain relatives or friends can be called upon to swoop in for a true emergency, but I’ve also been working on building our local network, slowly, slowly. A babysitter picked up Tamale from school when I was stuck at the hospital and kept her until my husband could fly back. There are a couple of friends that I can ask in a pinch; they may or may not be able to say yes, but I’m able to ask. But honestly, for someone like me who is wired to be profoundly self-sufficient (sometimes a strength, sometimes to my detriment), it’s a real effort to even think of asking. Even when I know people want to help, I don’t like to ask. I don’t like to burn social capital (though if I can’t use some capital when a child is in genuine danger, I don’t know when I’m supposed to use all of the capital I build). I also don’t like to depend on anyone else.

If you don’t ask, you won’t get any help. But, if you don’t ask, you can’t get turned down.

I still haven’t figured that one out, but I’m getting there.

Catching Up, Part 6

November 1, 2017

Another thing you missed while I was away: the death of a close friend from graduate school. By his own hand.

I actually hadn’t spoken to him in several years, because he withdrew from everyone when he dropped out of grad school due to his mental health issues. Despite the ongoing issues, he ended up having a really nice life (career, same steadfast wife, beautiful children)… until he left it.

But during grad school, he was a profoundly delightful friend to have. One of my top 5 most enjoyable people to be around, ever in my life. It’s hard to wrap my mind around someone being depressed enough to upend his life by dropping out of grad school, let alone to end his life, yet almost all day every day having the most dazzling smile, the sweetest twinkle in his eye.

Out of everyone in my life with whom I’ve lost touch over the years, which is a long list, even before his death he was the person about whom I’d most often thought, “I really miss him.”

I commiserated with our mutual friends via phone, email, text, even snail mail, but I didn’t make it to the funeral (in the city where we went to grad school, a thousand miles away). I don’t have a lot of regrets in my life, but I do regret not going. The logistics didn’t make sense, friends coming in from out of town that day, school field trip I was scheduled to chaperone the next day, blah blah, but I should have dropped everything and gone. I will go next time. I wish there wouldn’t be a next time, but I know there will, because welcome to getting older. I will go next time.

Instead of going to the funeral, I listened over and over and over and over to an album that he and I both loved when it came out, Hot Fuss by the Killers. It was still on my regular rotation (including heavy rotation during all of my hours alone in the pottery studio all those years) for the next five years, until my twins were born and I stopped listening to music. But out the album came again when he died, and I’d cry and cry, even to the fun dance songs.

What breaks my heart the most is that as a young child, he was bereaved in exactly the same way that he bereaved his children. That, and the subsequent shitty treatment by the replacement stepparent, were sources of pain always hiding right behind his smile. He talked to me many times about the evil stepparent (who was still making his life difficult, even though my friend was in his mid/late 20s when we were in grad school), but we never once talked about his late parent. That pain was too great, even more than 20 years later.

I know that his mental illness was a disease. And I know that the disease makes people not think straight, including about taking their own lives. I know these things, but I do not understand them. I have a fundamental belief about the world that if you love your children enough, you would absolutely never leave them. Obviously we don’t have control over every kind of disease, accident, natural disaster, etc., but in my heart I believe that to love your children fully means that you will not allow anything to make you take yourself away from them. That if you love them enough you would never abandon them to go live without them, and you would never abandon them to stop living. I get that my fundamental belief is not true for everyone, and I get that my dear friend’s pain was so great that he did what he did even knowing who he was leaving behind. I get it, but I don’t get it.

And to think that his young children, one at an age where he will remember both the joy and the grief but the other so young that he may never have any memories of my friend, may go through all of this pain, and then in 20 or 30 or 40 years could possibly choose leave their family behind just like their father and grandparent, it tears me up inside. Even now, with some time having passed, it just breaks my heart. It also breaks my heart to think of my friend’s surviving parent, losing a spouse this way and then decades later losing a child the exact same way.

And it breaks my heart to think of my dear friend as a little kid, bereaved in this exact way, and then for the rest of his life harboring a pain so great that he’d end up doing the exact same thing, despite being the most fun person in any room, despite being universally adored, despite having the best smile of anyone I’ve ever known.

I really miss him.

Catching Up, Part 5

October 31, 2017

Another occurrence during my hiatus is that our family had an au pair, for half a year. It was supposed to be a full year but it, uh, did not go well. Nope.

Major, unforeseen personality failings on her part were the problem, plus those failings were a dead-on conflict with Burrito’s personality quirks. It did not. go. well.

I’ve known people who are thrilled with having an au pair. When it’s good, it’s wonderful. But when it’s bad, it’s a nightmare. Even when you fire her, often for days, or weeks she’s still stuck in your house. While you and your children hide in your bedroom all day, too paralyzed by the possibility of seeing her that you can’t go to your own kitchen so you just wait a few hours to eat until she leaves the house. See? Nightmare.

All of that caused me to step back from work and double down on parenting. You wouldn’t have found me volunteering in the classroom before the au pair, because I had work to do. After she left, I was in the classroom every week all semester, twice a week actually, because, you know, twins.

I also became a fierce mama bear… at one point, I thought she had physically injured Burrito. She in fact hadn’t physically abused anyone (only verbal abuse), but when I thought she had, I snapped into a mode I’ve never shown before. Fierce. I didn’t like that any of us had to go through that, but I like what I became.

It also reminded me that, as longtime readers will recall, I have remarkably bad judgment when it comes to hiring nannies (at least this time I didn’t have to call the police). Thankfully, especially after this experience, we’re now past the stage where we need nannies. In fact, we’re not far from being past babysitters.

It also reminded me that 18 to 23 year olds often don’t have the best judgment themselves. Au pairs are by definition young, but even when we sought nannies years ago, I’ve never wanted an older person. Older people do things the way they already know how; younger people can be molded to my (admittedly opinionated) way of doing things.

You know who’s older/mature and does things exactly the way I like? Me.

So despite my philosophical feminist beliefs that women with young children should be able to work as much as they want and should be facilitated in pursuing their career ambitions, I scaled back so that I can leave the office by 3 every day. I put my career in holding pattern mode rather than advancement mode. And unless I have an imminent deadline, I don’t work on the weekends or after school while they’re awake.

If I only had a kid like Tamale, it might be fine to still have nannies or au pairs or after school programs, because she likes everyone and everything. But Burrito doesn’t mesh well with, frankly, most other people.

When they were in preschool, the children made little holiday ornaments with their wishes. Instead of wishing for a baby sister or a light saber or a puppy like other kids, the wish that Burrito had his teacher write on his little ornament was, “I wish to spend more time with my mom.” It took me a few years, but now he gets his wish.



Catching Up, Part 4

October 28, 2017

So the biggest effect of the concussion? Jealousy. All-consuming, up all night in fight or flight mode, total personality change jealousy. Anger, also, but mostly jealousy. Magnifying glasses and fine-toothed combs and dirty bombs trying to find evidence that my jealousy was justified. After more than a decade and a half of jealousy-free marriage, I was consumed.

Until one day I wasn’t.

The weirdest thing about this personality change is that it took me some time to figure out that it was related to the concussion. I’d been without concussion symptoms for several weeks, and except for the jealousy I still felt like myself. Once I put it together, ohhhhh, that’s where that came from.

Yet another thing I didn’t know about concussions to add to the long list in Part 2. I didn’t know that symptoms could be delayed by weeks, and I didn’t know that it could change a major personality trait even though most of the rest of you was exactly the same.


Catching Up, Part 3

October 26, 2017

(continuing from last post) When my headaches and wooziness went away a few days after the accident, I thought that was the end of it.

Then we went on a long, exciting trip. I was totally fine the whole time. Absolutely fine. Truly.

Then we came home. Fine for a couple of days.

Then I developed a total personality shift. It still felt like me, and cognitively I was totally all there, so it didn’t occur to me for quite a while that it might be related to the concussion. I also didn’t know that concussive symptoms can have delays of weeks or even months. (How do I know so little about concussions?) Without knowing about delayed symptoms being a possibility, how could I possibly have linked the two?

I was me, except I wasn’t. Impulsive in word and deed. Doing things I wouldn’t normally do. For example, one day I declared that I no longer gave any fucks. We happened to be going out with some acquaintances (unrelated to the concussion), and during our evening out I drank and drank and drank and drank and drank and drank. Six, I think — but the count could be off, because, you know, drunk. Six isn’t insane except that I’m not allowed to drink because of one of RA medicines, which in combination with alcohol can cause liver damage. Except for that night, I haven’t had any alcohol at all since RA started, because I am prudent and an obedient patient. Usually.

Six also wouldn’t be insane except that even when I was allowed to drink, I really barely ever did. In my whole life the number of times I’ve been drunk is in the single digits. Most of my pre-RA adult life, I had a single drink maybe once or twice a year.

I declared to the acquaintances that I wasn’t allowed to drink, but that I was “ALL OUT OF FUCKS TO GIVE” (triumphant swig). Cue excited wooing at the table. Except that were not in the kind of bar where anyone shouts or woos. We were at a bar where grownups act like grownups and calmly sip their fancy $17 drinks. Wooooooo! OUT! OF! FUCKS!

That is not me. That has never been me. Even when I was young enough to act like that, I didn’t.

Unfortunately, that woooo night wasn’t the biggest personality shift.

Another cliffhanger? Yes. I told you the first day I returned that I’d be writing in short, consistent bursts.


Catching Up, Part 2

October 25, 2017

One of the biggest things that’s happened since I saw you last was a car accident.

Headed to work one morning on icy roads (very rare in this city), I was sitting waiting at a red light. A car going too fast skidded on the ice. Even before he started to skid, in slow motion in my mind I could see the trajectory. Then he started to skid and I knew that I was trapped, that he was coming right for me and I didn’t have time to do anything to stop it.

He hit me head on. While I was sitting at a red light. Talk about being easy to prove fault to the insurance companies.

My bumper was cracked, but you couldn’t even see it from some angles, and no other damage to my car. It was the teeniest, tiniest car accident. Seemed like not a big deal. We exchanged insurance info and went on our way. Staying in the same spot where someone else might possibly skid into me seemed unwise.

By the time I got to my parking lot a couple of blocks away, I was a little woozy. But well enough to call the insurance company.

By the time I finished the call and walked into the building, I was very woozy.

I sat for an hour at an annual performance review. The reviewer offered to reschedule for a day when I wasn’t woozy, but I was already there.

Then I decided I should go home and lie down. So I did. As the day progressed, not only was I super woozy, but my neck was seizing up.

The next day I drove myself to the chiropractor. She said, “You have whiplash, plus a closed head injury.” I did not realize that a closed head injury is a concussion. I did not realize I should not be driving myself around. I did not realize I should have gone to the emergency room immediately after the accident. I did not realize I should not have gone to bed when I was woozy the day before, even though throughout my childhood whenever I’d bump my head my mother refused to let me sleep in case it was a concussion… because I did not know I had a concussion.

My neck took many, many months of chiropractor, acupuncture, and massage visits to go remotely back to normal.

The car was fixed a couple of months later, on the other guy’s insurance company’s dime.

The concussion was back to normal in a few days.

Except that it wasn’t.

Another cliffhanger for you. Tune in tomorrow.


Catching Up, Part 1

October 24, 2017

Before we get to the present, a couple of events have happened in the 3.5 years since I disappeared that you should know about.

Work went from bad to worse, to worse than that, to ok, to worse, to fine but weird, to sometimes good, to mostly good.

Because of that, I ran out of fucks to give. I practiced my old Zen non-attachment on my career, which disengaged me but also made it infinitely less painful. Disrespected in a way that has actual impact on me? What else is new, I’ve lost count. Cut out of projects despite being more qualified than anyone else? Just like last time. Huge pay cut? As long as I still have health insurance. Nice new boss fired in major scandal for things I’m pretty sure she didn’t do? Awful, but doesn’t really affect me. A further pay cut? I don’t care if I work here, really, I mean it.

But I do still work there. I love my actual work so much… when the bullshit doesn’t get in the way. The bullshit was getting in the way almost constantly for a couple of years, but now it almost never does (though I still watch my back with almost everyone). The proportion of lovable work to pay-the-bills work has decreased, but I am tremendous at both. I have gotten a little better at making time to work on things that benefit me long-term; I have a long way to go to prioritizing it the way that I should, but getting there.

tl;dr I hate my job, I love my work.