There Was Joy

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There are so many things I had to refuse her.

I was newly a mother of two when a doctor – a kind doctor, a thoughtful doctor – told me that my new daughter would almost certainly end up in the hospital with every respiratory infection she got. Not a great idea, he said about twice-a-week daycare. Probably not, he said about baby-and-parent music classes. No, I don’t think so, was his answer to my hopeful questions about baby swimming, a smaller daycare, a playgroup. After two hospitalizations in her first five months, I believed him.

Through that first winter watched through front windows into an empty courtyard or through car windows into big sister’s preschool, my new daughter and I eyed the world with suspicion: me because it contained too many germs and her because nothing in it made her feel quite right. There was no sleep, no break, no time apart for the two of us to learn the beauty of missing each other and being reunited. There was just us, with the world outside the window a mystery.

The winter turned into years, isolated and treading water. Continue Reading…

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What I’m Listening to This Summer

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Someday, they tell me, the midwest will begin summer. For now, we’re in what I imagine mid-spring Seattle is like, with buckets of rain and temperatures in the hoodie-and-jeans range. However, I’ve lived in the midwest for decades now, and I know that we’ll go right from this to scorching summer. As soon as the cottonwood fluff clears from the air and my lungs calm down, I’ll be back outside, running along the lakefront, the same routes that have taken me out of my worries and onto another spiritual plane for the last eight years.

Moving my body in the early mornings past gardens and parks and not-yet-open cafes has always been a salve for me. I often say that I don’t like running but I like having run, but that’s not entirely true; I also like seeing and feeling the world on my own feet and at my own pace, alone, in the quiet.

But sometimes it’s too quiet. And sometimes it’s too early to listen to Salt-n-Pepa. That’s when I find podcasts to be just the thing. Continue Reading…

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There Are No Adults

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“I beg you, to have patience with everything unresolved in your heart and to try to love the questions themselves as if they were locked rooms or books written in a very foreign language. Don’t search for the answers, which could not be given to you now, because you would not be able to live them. And the point is to live everything. Live the questions now. Perhaps then, someday far in the future, you will gradually, without even noticing it, live your way into the answer.”
― Rainer Maria Rilke, Letters to a Young Poet

I used to think there was such a thing as an adult.

At first, the adults were my parents and my teachers. They gave me answers in absolutes; this is the right thing and that is the wrong thing. That made me feel safe, and also freed me from my own opinions. If mine didn’t match theirs, it must be wrong. They were older and smarter and more experienced.

Then I got older and met more adults, and some of them seemed even more expert than my parents and teachers had been. Some were as sure of themselves as my former “adults” had been. It was terribly confusing to learn that the things I’d taken for gospel were, in fact, debatable. Some of these adults were gentle in sharing their wisdom, offering it alongside the wisdom I’d held before, calling it not the choice but a choice. That made me feel unsteady; how could I choose the adultiest adults, the rightest choices, the smartest smart people? If they all disagreed, did that make my original parents and teachers right? wrong? neither? WHO WERE THE REAL ADULTS?

It wasn’t until my youngest daughter got sick that I realized that there is no such thing as an adult. Continue Reading…

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I Can Hold It

Photo by Matt Lingenfelter, Taken at The Moth

Photo by Matt Lingenfelter, Taken at The Moth Chicago

 

That’s me.

I was on stage at The Moth, a storytelling event that happens several times a month in Chicago. I was telling a story about mistakes, the story about how a host of people missed the right diagnosis for my daughter when she was a baby. I felt confident, telling this story. The lights on stage were so bright that I couldn’t see the crowd, and I didn’t feel anxious or wrong or awkward. I just told it, calmly, always always always hoping someone in the crowd will come to me afterward and say “your story compels me.”

Compels them to what, I’m not sure.

What surprises me about this photo is how my fists are clenched. They’re tight. I didn’t feel tight or clenched. Continue Reading…

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Thank you, Mothering.com

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In 2005, there was no Facebook.

In 2005, there were no smart phones or tablets or ways to send audio and video to anyone.

In 2005, if you were like me: alone with your preschooler and your baby and your empty house and almost no friends with children, the only way to connect to parenting wisdom, camaraderie, and a stolen moment of sanity several times a day was Mothering Magazine’s online forums. They were called the “Mothering Dot Commune,” and, for me, they served the purpose that smart phones and social media and texting serve now. They were, in a lonely world, a lifeline of support and connection. I relied on them for everything from pregnancy support (August 2005 Due Date Club!) to toilet training ideas to vegetarian recipes. I was steeped in gratitude during my pregnancy with my second daughter, but never more so than after she was born, when a regular user of the site who I’ll call Shanti helped set the course of my parenting in a way I’ll never forget. Continue Reading…

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