Find the happy, goddammit.

I went to spin yesterday. I hate spinning. There is not a moment– from the time I start pedaling until the last stretch on that godforsaken bike– that I am not miserable and angry. It’s just one of those things. I’ve tried the FlyWheels and the SoulCycles, the local places, and the classes at fancy gyms and shitty gyms. It’s not a class issue, it’s a sitting on a bike issue. It uses all the parts of my body that I try to keep still. I hate it so much. Just talking about it makes me more hateful. But I go. (Occasionally.) I went yesterday.

For a couple of weeks now, maybe bleeding into months, I’ve been… unsettled. I’ve been impatient and frustrated. I feel angry and constricted by simple things. I’m easily overwhelmed and anxious. I’ve gone from taking a Xanax once a month to taking one just to get into the car and make the drive to work. Traffic makes me insane. I keep thinking I need to do something, but I don’t know what. Maybe my medication needs to be looked at, maybe the weather needs to start behaving, maybe I need to change my diet– I’ve gone through all the possibilities in my head, and I keep coming back to the same thing. This is life. This is what it’s like (for me) to be 32, a mother, a full-time employee, a wife, a person who recently really hates cooking dinner. The older I get, the more knowledge I have and instead of being set free by all the knowledge, I’m crippled by it. I know too much about savings and retirement, interest rates, education, natural disasters (NEVER MOVING TO OREGON), job security, the vague possibility that my child will be killed by 100,000,000 random and statistically insignificant incidences. I spend so much time trying to look breezy and carefree when what I want to do is crawl in bed and eat Cinnamon Toast Crunch out of the box. (Because THAT is a fucking life plan.)

Don’t even get me started on getting old. I see the writing on the wall. Our society does not care about old people. We are scared and burdened by old people. Unless you have a private– fully paid for– private island or a couple million dollars in the bank, good luck getting old. I could stay in bed for six weeks just obsessing about how terrible it is going to be to be 65-years-old and still working full time because there is no way I can ever retire. EVER. (Cue screaming.) I could depend on my son to care for me in my old age, except for two things. 1. I don’t believe in burdening your children with your winter years 2. There’s just no guarantee I’m going to want to spend my last good years in the basement of my son’s house. What if he lives in a hovel and I hate his wife? (Or husband.)

But what now? How do you take a deep breath, close your eyes, and tell all your knowledge-based anxiety to fuck off? How do you live in the moment and not allow the creeping weight of death and responsibility to give you a panic attack in the shower? Being present is so fucking hard. It’s scary. But it’s also the only thing there actually is. Aut is only 2.75. He is not 3 or 7 or 35. He is only 2.75. And that will pass, but it will pass as quickly and as slowly as everything else. Because time only has one pace. Time is a bitch, but she’s fair. Almost to a fault.

So we’re back at spin. I forgot my shoes and there was a sub and because I’ve turned into an anxious time bomb, those things were enough to put me into a tailspin. The teacher was talking about beach bodies and pedaling so we can eat whatever we want and I’m getting angrier and angrier. I’m anxious and angry and annoyed and my shoes are wrong and this woman will not stop talking about bikini bodies, which is so far from my reality that I want to throw my $4 Starbucks bottled water at her face. But I keep pedaling. And I try to “find the happy.” (I’m actually on my bike, my body vibrating because the music is SO LOUD, and saying aloud “find the happy, Caroline. Find the fucking happy.”) And then it hit a boiling point. I looked at the clock and it wasn’t even halfway through class. I was going to die and explode and I hadn’t even made it halfway through class.

I slowed my pedaling and took a deep breath and asked myself (again, outloud), “what, Caroline? What is the big problem?” And the tiny voice in my head was sad and scared and she said “I don’t know. That’s the problem. I don’t know.” And then I started to cry. And cry. And cry.

I pedaled and cried and pedaled and cried. I climbed the hills and cried a little harder (because it was both self pity crying and just general crying). I cried because I felt so relieved and so silly and so annoyed and free. And then class ended.

If this story were about a different person, I’d be like “and then I walked outside and the sun was shining and I took a deep breath and felt completely renewed.” But it’s not. And when I walked outside it was raining and the barista at Starbucks fucked up my tea. So there was that reality. (Which I realize is nothing like, say, a third world or Syrian refugee reality.)

Here’s what did happen, though. I went to spin. And I finished. And I cried. And then I drove home and I started dinner. (I even cared enough to text a friend about how to cook my fish properly.) I still wanted to go to bed at 8PM, but I didn’t. (I waited until like 10:30.) I got out of my own way and my own head for a few hours and tried to enjoy myself. I made an effort. It wasn’t an overwhelming success, but, like spin class, it was an effort. Which is a start.

And nothing can begin that was never begun. Or something to that effect.

 

 

Potting training is a literal pile of shit.

Well, this weekend is going to be excluded from my memoirs.

Aut woke up on Saturday morning with a trucker-sized dump in his pants and the husband drew the short straw. It’s nearly impossible to sleep an extra two hours while your child watches inappropriate television shows in your bed if the child smells like poop. Eventually one of the parents has to sack up and change the diaper, and whomever gets stuck doing it ends feeling exempt from doing anything else childcare related for the rest of the day.

Usually we grumble about how terrible and inhumane it is that our child unleashes that kind of fury upon us first thing in the morning, but eventually we get over it and go have coffee and bagel sandwiches to make everything okay again. Not this Saturday. This Saturday, the husband marches up the stairs and declares, with the confidence of a Custer before his last stand, that he has changed his final diaper. THIS IS BULLSHIT. I am done! 

To be clear (and because he reads these posts and immediately sends me all caps text messages when he thinks I’ve painted him unfairly), I was not against the potty training. But I was committed in the same way you commit to a going on a diet with a friend when you can tell her entire commitment depends on you. You say yes, you have some fruit for breakfast, a salad for lunch, and by dinner you know that her self esteem will have risen just enough that you can both face plant into some tacos and Corona…light. I made some off-handed comment about how we would have to go to Target and then we’d have to pay attention to our kid all.day.long, and none of those things deterred him. Never again was he going to wipe shit from another human ass. So off we went to Target.

When Aut was about 18 months old we were those asshole parents who bought like 14 training potties because our gifted child was going to potty train himself before he could speak and we wanted to make sure he had the most appropriate, butt contouring surface on which to do that. So we didn’t have to get a potty at Target. Whew. What we did have to get were two packages of training pants– one with Mickey Mouse Club ALL OVER THEM, and another with all the different super hero logos.

Rather than read anything or ask any experts, we pieced together a “plan” based on hearsay and random bits of information we were pretty sure we got from other people with potty trained kids. Then we gave the kid the rundown.

These are big boy pants. Do not shit in these pants. Do not pee in these pants. Doing that is tantamount to shitting on Mickey Mouse’s head. Do you understand? If you shit on Mickey’s head, he’ll tell Santa and then your whole year will be ruined. 

Then we created an entirely too complicated rewards program that was supposed to span the entire weekend. For two days our two year old would stare at the most coveted toy in all of Target and somehow that would motivate him to not shit on Mickey.

Putting aside how fucking miserable it was to explain to a 2-year-old FOR TWO DAYS why he couldn’t have the toy on the counter, everything about our “plan” was flawed. For starters, we went through six pair of big boy underwear in under an hour. Three times we sat him on the potty, read, sang, did humiliating potty dances, only to put his undies back on him and have him immediately pee down his own leg. And insist that that was not what was happening. (Or insist that while his pants were wet, his big boy undies were, in fact, still dry.)

On Saturday night, we were frayed and bitter. I drank an entire bottle of Rose, got into an argument with my husband about something that probably didn’t exist, and then stormed up the stairs to go to bed. Sunday would be a new day.

That night I did have the good sense to consult with my friend Lauren, who did her best not be painfully smug about her gracefully potty trained daughter who basically shares a birthday with Aut. She also had the good sense not tell me all at once what douche canoes we were being by assuming our kid would be successful in a day. (She let those texts come to me over an entire weekend, culminating with a Sunday evening text that began “at the risk of sounding like a dick…”) She suggested instant gratification, which made sense. Come morning, I was giving my kid M&Ms for breakfast if that’s what it was going to take.

And come Sunday did. Kid slept til nine, woke up dry (in an overnight diaper, I don’t have a hole in my head), and we immediately did that dumb parent thing where you get SUPER EXCITED about something that makes young, single people think you should be shot.

YAY FOR BIG BOY PANTS! YAY FOR ANOTHER LIFE-RUINING DAY OF WATCHING YOU PISS ON YOURSELF WHILE WE CHEER FOR YOU AND GIVE YOU CANDY! THIS IS SO FUN! CLAPS ALL AROUND! YOU’RE GOING TO HARVARD! 

He was stoked. He peed on command and I told him to go tell Pups and then he could have one whole M&M. He went to the kitchen and in the time it took to walk the six feet from the bathroom to the kitchen he actually couldn’t remember why he was getting an M&M. We almost had a meltdown because he thought the husband was denying him his M&M, when all he was trying to do was get him to say “I peed, therefore I get M&M.” You know CONNECTING THE FUCKING DOTS. Fail.

Thirty minutes later, I asked him if he needed to potty and then watched him make The Face and turn red while telling me no. He told me “no” while simultaneously shitting his pants. In front of me.

The husband and I kept having to talk over Aut’s head, reminding each other to keep it positive.

Don’t yell! Encourage his progress! Clap! I know you’re holding a cloth Superman baggy of human feces, but don’t let him know you hate him! SMILE! Ask him if he needs to read the potty book for inspiration.

The real clencher was when we took him out in public. (I want for you to know that writing this all down makes our choices seem even worse, which I didn’t even know was possible.) We took him to a lovely baptism/birthday garden party at a friend’s house. He waited about 12 minutes before peeing down the front of his pants. The good news is that it didn’t get on their floor because it all pooled in his shoes. So, silver lining.

I immediately grabbed a pull up, went to the back door, and yelled across two quiches, a nice quinoa salad, about about 30 people at my husband that our child wet his pants and whizzed in his shoes and I was calling uncle. The kid was putting on a pull up and we could talk about this later. Like in a year.

To seal our defeat and humiliation, upon arriving home we had to give our kid the toy. Totally undeserved, but he had no idea. He probably thinks peeing in his shoes was bonus points that fast-tracked him to winning the game.

Then we revised our strategy.

This morning we dropped him off at daycare with a pack up pull ups and nicely asked the daycare to potty train him.

 

 

 

 

Tiny Velociraptors

Aut bit the shit out of the husband yesterday. Not like a precious 2-year-old love bite, but a full on, Hannibal Lector bite. On the tit. Through two layers of clothing. Flesh was affected. It was an ugly scene.

Biting does crazy things to people. It’s not like tickling or foot touching. No one likes to be bitten (sexual exploits aside; no judgments). If you want to watch a nice person turn like a junkyard dog, bite them. I once bit this guy at a gay bar. One minute we were drinking cheap Pinot Grigio and dancing to Cher videos and the next I was being escorted to the exit while a Nathan Lane-esque fat man was held back by two waif-like Twinks wearing eye shadow. It seemed fun and playful at the time. He disagreed.

Biting hurts. Even fleshy gay men. Lesson learned.

Biting is also a game ender– and that’s why it’s so tough to get biters to stop biting. Whomever finally caves and bites the shit out of the other person wins. Kid at daycare steal your truck? Bite him. It’s swift corporal punishment and it achieves everything that could otherwise take years of trust and relationship building. Want to be feared? Bite. (Full grown men are afraid of being bitten by three-year-old girls. They’re like lock-jawed, unpredictable piranhas.)  Some bitchy six-year-old block the slide? Bite her. She loses control of her faculties, slides down the slide, and TADA! it’s your turn.

But here’s what tiny biters don’t fully understand. When you’re on the receiving end of a bite, there is ZERO reaction predictability. Which means that if you bite a 34-year-old man on the tit, there is no guarantee that he will not “accidentally” throw your tiny body across the room with the strength of ten men. He doesn’t want to paralyze you for life in his fit of rage, but he’s in the middle of a post-bite seizure. He’s unpredictable, essentially blacked out. The most primal human instincts kick in when your brain realizes you’re being bitten. I’m no scientist, but I’m certain there is science to support my theory that the fight or flight instinct that governs biting actually can’t–in the moment– decipher whether it’s shark, bear, or tiny human. Jaw clamps, adrenaline kicks in, and bitee immediately starts poking at eyeballs and using stupid strength to survive. It’s only in the aftermath, when you’re toddler is laying slack jawed on the carpet, that you realize your mistake.

Oh fuck. You’re not a bear. 

And then there’s the parenting part. The part of you that knows you need to breathe, walk away, and then calmly reapproach the bear to teach a lesson about pain and biting. But what you want to do is rip your shirt open to reveal your tender and bleeding tit and make him understand on a deep and mature level what a irreversible human wrong he has committed. Your parenting brain is like heistwoheistwoheistwo and your human brain is like I don’t fucking care if he’s six months old. MY TIT IS BLEEDING. OFF WITH HIS HEAD. 

But what really kicks you in the dick is when your reaction to being bitten is so severe, like in the case of the husband and the bleeding tit, that your child falls into an uncontrollable and hysterical fit.  As if, for the first time, he realizes his father is not a human at all, but a North Korean dictator. And then, whilst clutching your tender, eviscerated breast you have to console the child.

And at some level, that’s kind of what parenting is. Having your tits ruined and then apologizing.

 

We are going to try something new.

This October marks 10 years of the Half Truth. For many of you, this birthday is meaningless. (Understandably.) For me, it’s maybe, sort of, kind of the most significant birthday/anniversary in my life. Ten years of blogging might be one of the biggest commitments I’ve ever kept in my whole life. With the exception of my husband and my love affair with mayonnaise.

When I started this blog, I was 22 years old and had graduated college with one of the top five least meaningful degrees available to a college student. After waiting for my phone to ring with an insane job offer–doing what, I had no idea, but it was going to be amazing and come with a HUGE paycheck– and eventually realizing the phone was not going to ring, I went to a staffing firm. Heather Harold (real name) was a tall, tanned, thin woman in her late thirties who told me, on no uncertain terms, that I lacked even the most basic professional skills and it would be a miracle if she could get me a job as an entry level secretary. And she felt she was letting me down easy. I wanted to be indignant, but she had a point.

I was married that September and returned to Boston from a whirlwind Napa wedding and Tahoe honeymoon to a tiny, air conditionless North End apartment, and a letter from my dad with my final rent check. With few-to-no-options, I called Heather Harold back and told her to do some Anne Sullivan shit. I needed a job. In 2006, title inflation was just starting to sweep the country. After lying on a typing test and inflating some filing experience from my father’s law firm the summer I was 14, I managed to land a temp job as a Corporate Services Manager at a corporate real estate firm. To clarify, I managed nothing and I didn’t even work for a corporate services department. Essentially I ordered office supplies and made sure the printers had paper. I was terrible at it and spent most of my days trying to get people to like me enough to 1. do my job for me 2. give me a leg to stand on when they inevitably tried to fire me.

And that’s how the blog started. I just needed something to do while sitting at a computer for 8 hours a day. I wasn’t a writer– in many ways I’m still not a writer– but it was, and is, the only thing that could save me. When no one else could make me laugh, I could make myself laugh. (A weird and not entirely enviable talent, but I do sometimes think I’m funny.) When I looked around at what a miserable failure my life seemed to be, there was comfort in knowing that 221 people I didn’t know were reading my words. The first time my blog got 500 views on a post, I drank an entire bottle of Cakebread at a Hillstone and nearly blacked out. It was silly. It still is silly. But it really did mean something to me. It meant that no matter how terrible my job was, how little I was contributing to the world, I still had my words. And 221 people who saw them.

And in a lot of ways the blog did change everything. When I didn’t have a resume to prove myself, I had the blog. When people didn’t know whether to trust that I could tell a story, I had the blog. It was the most unorthodox means for landing any civilized job, but it worked. If it weren’t for the blog, I’d probably still be lying about how much tabloid sized paper is in tray 6 of the Brother printer on the 14th floor.

And through it all, the blog itself has remained fairly insignificant. My commitment to it waxes and wanes, my confidence in sharing my stories and experiences here does the same. I worry that my becoming a mom has turn people off, or my boring suburban life has left me with nothing insightful to share. But my deep down desire hasn’t changed at all–I want to be a writer. It’s the only thing I’ve ever truly thought to be proud of. I’ve been a lot of things, a strategist, copywriter, creative director, content person, brand guru, and those things are wonderful (and pay well…) but I want to be a writer. And it turns out that there’s only one way to become a writer.

You have to write.

People constantly make suggestions to me… You should write a sitcom! Oh my god, you should be writing a book. Have you ever thought about a screenplay? Have you tried standup? But at the core of all of those things is material. Real stories about my boring, suburban life.

So I am going to try something new. Rather than think and stew and marinate on topics, I am going to try to just…share. I’m going to tell you weird stories about the husband falling asleep in the car on the ride to work and how I want to murder him by dropping tablets of rat poison in his open mouth (just kidding! sort of.) and stories about A putting on a suit and tie over his jammies and walking into the kitchen and asking me to dance.

And you may find that many of these stories are super fucking boring, but I have to write them down. Because they’re all I have.

And I’m going to be a fucking writer.

 

 

 

Successfully Failing at Motherhood

A few years ago I wrote a post called “But what’s it really like to have a baby?” It ended up getting picked up by the Huffington Post (front page) and for 24 hours I was the most equally lauded and hated woman on the planet. Mothers and childless women from across our great country gathered their spatulas and absurdly limited legal knowledge and campaigned (anonymously, online) to have my child removed from me. Why? Because I just didn’t think being a mom was the super greatest time ever. In equal contrast were the others– the mothers and childless women who were relieved to hear a version of the truth that, in some small measure, mirrored their own feelings. The feeling that children, while chock full of charm and adorable (sometimes), are also a full contact, full time sport. There’s no beginning and end to parenting. It’s not just a sacrifice of your vagina and lower abdomen (which becomes a sideshow), but your actual life.

In those two years, my baby has become a toddler. And frankly, my feelings about motherhood haven’t changed much. In the same way that I love cake and hate baking, I love my child, but I really don’t love motherhood. And as hard as it is for some people to reconcile this, or even accept it, I don’t really feel much guilt about it. My journey now has been about how to balance the choice to have a child and catapult myself into a role that neither comes naturally to me, nor gives me much satisfaction, and maintain my sanity as a human being who craves a life less consumed by the unending demands of motherhood.

For many, there’s a simple, vilifying argument. “You chose to have children. Your selfishness is disgusting.”  To those people, I say “fuck you.” If you truly believe that our society pays even the slightest of lip service to the reality of motherhood in a modern age, you are naive. We’re still taking a page out of a book that has men bringing home all the bacon, women who were groomed from a young age to become mothers and accept the role that was offered, and zero social media pressure or scrutiny. In a day in age where maternity leave is a luxury, leaving early to pick up a child from daycare causes both personal and professional duress, and the choice between children and a career is only possible if your career affords you incredible flexibility or cash, the “reality” of motherhood has been rewritten, but never published. (For example, on top of childcare, which can run about $1600/month [down from $2400 in Boston], I pay nearly $800/month to have someone pick up my child from daycare because I simply cannot leave work early enough to fetch him. I get home between 7:00/7:30 and begin the one hour sprint through bath, dinner, books, and bed.)

I was chatting with my mother on the phone the other day, relaying the plight of the modern mother– the guilt and balance and dissatisfaction. Thinking she’d have some insight (she did have THREE children), she replied, “I don’t really understand that. I was just so happy.”

Welp, there you have it. Thanks, Mother.

But then I got to thinking about it. When she comes to visit, she relishes all the stuff that makes me want to poke my eyes out. She’s on all fours, pretending she’s a pony, coloring Elsa, watching Mickey Mouse. She thinks letting him pick out ridiculous, mismatched outfits is hilarious and cute. (No. Just no.) She can build Lego towers and knock them down for HOURS. I approach Legos with a mind for building something elaborate. A color-coordinated palace with symmetry and functional exits. To A, that’s sacrilege. We build it high and then we knock it to the ground. Then we repeat that… for the rest of the week. I don’t want to be sitting there thinking about being anywhere else, but that’s what happens.

I hate that on weekends, I look forward to time to recharge, relax, and get things organized, and instead we are held captive by the whims of a 37 inch person. Rain strikes fear into the core of my being. I want to eat at a restaurant, but I’m gripped with anxiety about whether it will be a fun and worthwhile meal or an ill-fated nightmare that leaves me feeling like I wasted $100 and 2 hours of my day. Keep them indoors and they bottle up so much energy you will live to regret your decision for days. Take them outside and they’re hot, cold, hungry, wish you brought the bike and not the scooter, need to pee, don’t like the way the sun is shining, think the slide is too green, the other kids are looking at them, or want to be pushed on the swing. For the rest of the day.

And I fucking hate “mommy friends.” I don’t mean my friends who are mommies. I mean people in the world who are supposed to be my friends because we both have kids. What the fuck kind of sense does that make? I don’t like you, your husband, your politics, or your approach to life, but since we both have children born in 2013, let’s hang out and have some wine. I’D RATHER DO ANYTHING ELSE.

And mostly I hate that I’m always fighting with my husband about nothing. We aren’t even fighting with each other, we’re fighting with the invisible blob that is parenthood. The intangible piece of shit that is blameless and evasive, so you have to yell at your physical spouse. Because obviously the husband deserves to take the entire blame for the fact that I’m wound like a top because my child thinks it’s absurd that we don’t kick people in the tits, I haven’t been able to eat lunch without a chopstick flying at my face since 2013, every dollar we make is assigned to childcare, college funds, savings, mortgage and alcohol, and every time my kid finishes a bag of ANYTHING, he flings the crumbs around the backseat of the car. (WHATTHEFUCKISWRONGWITHYOU?! JUSTPUTTHEBAGDOWNLIKEACIVILIZEDGENTLEMAN!)

I miss energy and free time. I miss the gym. I miss extra cash flow. I miss investing in stupid shit like absurdly expensive sushi and shoes. Because as terrible as that sounds to other people, I love both of those things.

But the very, very worst part is that I know I will miss this. Because as much as I don’t love motherhood, I love him. I love his tiny face and his absurd lexicon. I love watching him learn things and his enthusiasm about damn near everything. I love that he thinks we are the absolutely greatest. (Though frankly he far prefers my husband to me. I’m sure you’re shocked.) I love that he wakes up first thing in the morning and asks if today is the day we get to spend the whole day together (weekends). I even love that he tells his entire swimming class that his Mups’ boobies are falling out of her bathing suit. (They weren’t.)

I know that there will come a time when motherhood does become me. At some point, some age, the winds will shift and motherhood will too. What my child needs and wants will be something I can offer. The sacrifices will become less physical and more emotional. And I’m sure that hindsight, that bastard, will be 20/20. I’ll laugh at what seems like petty, long-ago misery and cry as he walks across a stage or down an aisle.

This idea that we as humans are expected to sacrifice our lives for the lives of others isn’t sustainable. I want for “motherhood” to be a parallel journey to the bigger one that I am on, the journey of life. I don’t want to feel that choosing to have a child means choosing to jump track from continuing to become the person I should be to dedicating everything I have to someone else’s journey. I want to set him up. I want to help him find his path, but I want to stay on mine too. I don’t want to be consumed by motherhood. I just want to be a woman whose journey includes a child.

And I think that should be okay.

 

How I got almost obese

There are a lot of things that I am really glad I don’t ever have to explain to my 15-year-old-self. Among them? My current figure. (A combination of the Venus on a Half Shell and a Mr. Potato Head.)

This morning I “weighed in” to get an official number for my now very necessary weight loss. I weighed 197.4 pounds. To give you some idea, the last time I hit 197.0 pounds I was about eight months pregnant. So the last time I was this size it was because I was carrying around another human life. Like a whole ‘nother person.

When I got pregnant, I was by no means at my fighting weight. I had started to creep up the scale after “retiring” from running because I hated it. I had meant to lose some weight, but because I was about to get knocked up, I didn’t really care THAT much. I can’t remember exactly, but I think I was nearing 170.0 pounds. (Oof.) Previous to that, I had enjoyed a few years of being about 150 pounds. Too thin by some folks standards, but man did I look great. Hungry, but great.

As many of you know, weight is a tough subject for me. Despite every reason to be a normal and well adjusted gal with no body image issues at all, I instead opted to go down the path of being a hugely fucked up gal with lots of issues. I started throwing up my food when I was in first grade. I was at a pool party and I was eight years old. I ate too much cake and I felt bad about myself and for some reason my eating-disorder-preconditioned-brain connected some super fucked up dots and I made myself throw up. That was the start of a 17-year battle with bulimia. (Though I’d argue that was just the first outward manifestation of a life-long battle with food and eating.) Having my cake and throwing it up too was easy. It made sense. There are times even today that it still makes sense.

For starters, I do not eat bon bons. I don’t scoop ice cream into my pie hole while bemoaning my existence. In the traditional sense, I don’t use food as comfort. I know cake doesn’t love me. I realize that BLTs don’t care about me as a person. For me, eating has always been about seeking stimulation. When I’m bored or restless I look forward to eating. Maybe it will be fun! Maybe that feta salata will be entertaining!

Another important thing to know is how healthy I eat. Kale, sprouted nuts, salads, cottage cheese, kombucha, no red meat, lots of herbs, olive oil…. We spend hundreds of dollars a week at Whole Foods on really good quality food. I’m living proof that you can get pretty fucking fat on large quantities (accidentally large quantities) of healthy food.

And I drink. Again, I’m not guzzling growlers and slinging White Russians. But I do drink beer and wine. Usually 3-4 days a week I have a glass or two of wine and then on the weekends maybe more. Depends. But I’m not taking out a bottle a night.

But because I don’t have these crazy swings of totally out of control behavior, losing weight is nothing short of just plain annoying. Because I’m not saddling up to the bar and ordering cheese fries and bacon cheese burgers, the thought of having to lose 40 or 50 pounds seems cruel. I don’t deserve to be punished when I didn’t do anything wrong. But that none of that changes the cold, hard facts. I am 4.5 pounds from OBESITY. Those tiny weights you grab at a step aerobics class are all that stand between me and obesity. And I’m not the kind of girl who was supposed to be obese. Seriously.

But it goes like this.

You stop running after four or five half marathons because you hate running. Running sucks. And then you start having a few more beers or don’t reduce your carb intake even though you’re not running 30 miles a week. Then you get pregnant and you finally find something YOU ARE REALLY GOOD AT. I excelled at being pregnant in a way few can. I was SO good at it. And you’re pregnant so no one is like “why is that chick eating two entrees?” They’re like, “you are so cute and pregnant!” (Wee!)

And then your baby comes and he doesn’t latch so you’re pumping all the time. You’re pumping in a unisex, single bathroom in the hallway of an industrial building at 9AM and 1PM. You’re rushing home to pump again before your boobs explode and your nipples take someone’s eye out. You can’t jog because you wear a 40EE and any sudden movement causes pain and leaking. And no one likes a leaky jogger. Fortunately, breast feeding takes a lot of the baby weight off. (Not all, but a lot.) And you’re feeling pretty okay.

And then after about a year you have to stop pumping. Because pumping is a prison. And breast feeding is making you nuts. And you’re crying a lot. And something is totally up with your hormones. So you stop and you gain a few lbs, but it’s not the end of the world because you’re going to start exercising again because your boobs are no longer weapons of mass destruction. But then you get a new job. And it’s terrible. And you have to buy a Prius and you’re driving to work in the morning, crying, and then driving home in traffic, cursing the clock and trying to make it in time to let the nanny off. And you’re tired as fuck when you get home and your baby hasn’t seen you all day and you have about an hour before he has to go to bed. So you eat some cheese and olives and crackers and wait for your husband to get home. And you stress about money and feel guilty about your baby and your terrible job. And so you open a bottle of wine and you try to just breathe and relax. And then he gets home and you look at your baby and he has some wine and then you talk about dinner and then OH FUCK YOU TOTALLY FORGOT THAT YOU WERE SUPPOSED TO GO JOGGING. Maybe you’ll wake up at 4:45 the next morning and exercise before going to your terrible job? Maybe? (Answer: no.)

So then you leave your job. And that’s a huge relief but it’s not a relief to be without a job, a primary breadwinner, and panicked as shit that you need to do something. So you start hustling. Because the nanny has to get paid and the rent doesn’t pay itself and you’re arguing with your husband and eating cheese and crackers because it’s easy and dinner is a distant memory when you’ve got a little guy who needs to take a bath and go to bed. Maybe you’ll cook some chicken later. Or order Chinese. Or both.

AND OH FUCK YOU FORGOT THAT YOU’RE SUPPOSED TO LOSE SOME WEIGHT. So you don’t.

And then you move. Because you and your husband finally decide that something’s gotta give. So you move. And it’s great. But now you commute three hours a day and the baby has daycare and once again working out is going to have to be before 6AM or after 8PM and while that’s not impossible, it’s just not motivating. And you’re happy in your new house and you’re starting to feel like maybe being fat isn’t that big of a deal. And you take on a persona. And you get a little less beautiful to yourself. And your underwear get HUGE.

And then you get on the scale one day and between what felt like yesterday and now you’ve put on more than twenty pounds. And you feel a lot of sadness and guilt. And no matter how many times you say to yourself, “I am more than this number.” It doesn’t make it less humiliating. It doesn’t change that you can’t buy new clothes and you don’t want to see old friends because you know what they’re thinking. They want to know how you got almost obese. And you want to be able to explain it, but you know that at the end of the day the real reason is that you chose this over losing weight. I’m almost obese because I chose to be. And I didn’t even realize that’s what I was choosing. I was just trying to get through another day or season or situation. And ten extra pounds seemed manageable. And then twenty was only ten away from ten. But now…

Now I’m 25 lbs from where I started, 40 lbs from where I “should” be, and 55 lbs from where I once was. And it sucks so bad.

So today I got on the scale and I got the number and I wrote it on my fridge. (Which isn’t symbolic, just centrally located.) And while I know it isn’t about a number, I also know that’s what motivational people say to fat people. It’s about a number. It shouldn’t be about an unrealistic number, but these numbers are a necessary guiding principle. Girl got fat and she’s got to get un-fat. Before I get obese.

Because that, friends, is how I got almost obese.

What two years feels like.

The passage of time isn’t remarkable just because you have kids. Regular, child-less folk are on the big time-passage journey too, only they don’t have to compulsively (and obnoxiously) post milestone photos on Facebook to remind us all that we’re getting older. But when you do have kids, time means something… different. It doesn’t mean something better or deeper, but different. It’s consistently profound. There is a constant reminder— second by second– that time is marching forward. As a parent, you have a front row seat to one of the most incredible time lapse videos of all time. And it blows your fucking mind. And makes you feel so tiny, so helpful, and, sometimes, so sad.

Having a puppy isn’t so different in theory, only the visible toll and mark of time is condensed in a way that makes the emotion of it easier to grasp. Imagine having a 16 week old puppy for a year. And then a 20 week puppy for a year. All that puppy goodness stretched out for an incredible amount of time. You exist in the puppydom so long that when it finally moves on, you have to sit down and mourn. You have to pack up all those puppy toys and puppy foods and say goodbye to that puppy. It wasn’t a few months of puppy, it was YEARS. (Are you really thinking about how profound it would be to have a puppy for a year? Go Google something stupid cute like a baby retriever and imagine having that for a year. GO! But then come back, obviously.) But when it’s a tiny human, there are so many more layers. Heart swelling, soul crushing layers.

Today is Aut’s second birthday. The small boy, the one who baked in my belly during a bombing and came into this world silently, is two. Two is so tiny. Two is so big. Two is not enough cupcakes. Two is too many vaginal diseases. Two seconds are useless. Two words are devastating. Two is complicated and transitional and frustrating and hilarious. And that’s just for me.

Last week he suddenly looked big. My first reaction was to panic that he was losing his cute. I scrutinized him for a few minutes and then decided that he was still cute, but definitely taller. Less baby, more opinion and sinew. He’s starting to understand words as more than indicators. They have meaning and gravity and tone. He knows when he’s done something terribly evil and then makes a choice to apologize or laugh like a menacing sociopath. He feels scared when something isn’t right and he feels real feels when we are careless with our words or ambivalent to his deep, soulful need to hear the.same.fucking.book every night before he sleeps. But he’s also just two. He is insignificant in so many ways to the world. He doesn’t produce letters or numbers. In most third world countries he’s not even old enough to contribute to the child labor force. He thinks the most important thing in the world is throwing rocks in the beach and the most devastating is finding out Fi and Katie aren’t coming over. He thinks the big boy potty is a chair for reading books in the bathroom. He has no idea what hunger is. He doesn’t know what loss is. He hasn’t even been here for 1,000 days.

But then there’s me. I know what two years is; I’ve experienced two years on the bright side and the dark side. I know, logically, that time passes at the same rate no matter how happy or sad you are, but it’s an argument that holds no weight in times of either. Two years ago I was rolling on a ball at Brigham and Women’s Hospital willing this baby boy to get the lead out and join us. At that moment I couldn’t see past the baby. The puppy. I couldn’t see past being a new parent. I didn’t see a reality on the other side of being a mom for the first time. If I knew then what I know now, here’s what I would know….

Babies are the beginning of people and while that makes a nice quote, what it really means is something so heavy and burdening that if any of us took the time to really think about it, we’d realize what an incredible honor and responsibility that is.

Two years of anything can give you the kind of perspective that makes you ashamed you ever opened your mouth to say something rude on a broad range of topics. Like Birkenstocks.

Time will march slowing and quickly forward and somedays it will grip you with so much happy that you think the world is perfect. Hold on to that.

Most of the things that matter don’t matter at all. And you won’t ever be able to keep that perspective, but you have to keep reminding yourself. Potato chips can be good for you. Watching Frozen can be educational. Bedtime isn’t immovable. Tiny human beings need to be tended to day-to-day and moment-to-moment. Sometimes that means kale, sometimes that means ice cream and popcorn for dinner.

Be as hard on yourself as you think your child should be on himself. You’re someone’s child too, you know.

You’re going to be fatter than you ever thought possible. (Maybe I’m glad I didn’t know that then, honestly.)

Saying “fuck” in front of your child may not be appropriate, and might make your mother insane, but it’s not the worst thing a parent has ever done to a child.

No amount of Xanax will ever lessen the full-body anxiety of watching your child try to make friends. It’s a physical, all over kind of pain.

Two years is such a long time when they are screaming, but such a short amount of time when they are telling you about their day.

You’re going to lose sight of what you thought mattered and then you’re going to realize it maybe didn’t matter. And then you’re going to become indignant. And then you’re going to mourn. And then you’re going to rally. And that cycles over and over.

Everything is finite and that is so comforting and so scary.

Becoming a parent is terrible, but it opens you up to a 4th dimension. It’s not a better path, it’s not a preferable path, but it’s a totally different one. It’s immersive and total. It sets you on a different track than the one you started on. And there are always times you want back on the other. You watch a train pass you going faster and looking fancier and you will always take a moment to wish you were on that train, but you’re not. And there are people looking out of that train window at you too.

****

This morning on my way to work I was behind a car with a bumper sticker that said, “Today someone is happy with less than what you have.”

Two year’s feels like training for the next two. And the two after that. Two years feels like a beautiful, fucked up, anxiety-ridden, laugher-filled, angst-y trial period for trying to understand what matters to me and how to balance what matters with what’s necessary. Like dishes. And exercise.

Two year’s didn’t fly by. It plodded along at a metered pace. Somedays I wanted to last forever, some days I wanted to start drinking at noon. (And some days I did.)

Two years feels like a good start to feeling happy with exactly what I have.

The ones you know.

I’ve had a tough time blogging recently for a few reasons. “Lack of inspiration” is the blanket term, but it’s actually more complicated than that. When social tensions spike, I find myself with so many thoughts– many of which haven’t been vetted by my brain. It may surprise you to know what a complicated filter I actually do have, it’s just not the traditional filter. The point is that I want to speak, but I often find it’s just to say “HUSH UP! QUIT BEING SO STUPID!” But that’s neither helpful nor entertaining.

Moreover, while I actually love to write serious things, they seriously dent my readership. Like a lot. Folks get a little, “what the fuck? Where’s my laugh?” and then I’m all, “I’m sorry! I’m sorry! I’ll be funny next time, I swear!” But they don’t come back. And then I feel like I’ve lost someone because I really just wanted to rant on about racism and republicans and the chronic bullshit that’s inundating me every second. And what’s the fun in that? Nothing, apparently.

I also hate that all I have to talk about is mom stuff. Lame.

But recently I’ve seen so many “mom blog” pieces being passed around. Touching letters about a son with autism or a daughter with a skin condition. A kid who can’t eat anything but cotton candy and dryer sheets, or a little guy who’s different and both parent and child feel alone, sad, and overwhelmed. Like any human, I am touched by the stories of these people with serious hardship, but I also can’t help but feel like the desire to explain our own unique situations only deepens the gap between us. ADD, ADHD, Autism– these are very real and very tough things for parents, but at the end of the day it amounts to unceasing reminders that “my kid is different.” I fight the urge to remind many of my friends that if they didn’t keep reminding me, I’d likely forget and move on. In a good way.

Sometimes I lie on the bed naked and lament about all the parts of me that are depressing. I wiggle and jiggle and point at pockets of horrifying and shameless dimples. It enrages my husband. He recently told me that anything negative that’s ever occurred to him has been because I’ve insisted on pointing it out. To him, I’m a big delicious bowl of naked. It’s not exactly severe spectrum disorder, but there are some parallels. Sometimes we have to go out into the world as we are and just see what happens. Maybe we’ll be surprised.

I have a younger brother with one of the most obvious, obnoxious, and socially crippling syndromes around. You think your kid brother drove you nuts? I can hear a pen clicking six offices over and drive myself to insanity over it, and I was given a little brother who chirped, barked obscenities, and threw up the Nazi salute every second of every day. He blinks, he stutters, he trips, hops, yells, barks, and makes the stranges facial tics– and I stopped noticing about 20 years ago.

When I was in middle school, Oprah or Maury or someone else with a couple of couches and a microphone did a show on “freaks.” Four kids with Tourette’s were paraded on stage with their parents. Their parents then proceeded to speak for the kids, explaining to the audience (and the world) how their children would never be able to do the things every other kid could do: no movie nights, no school dances, no organized sports. They couldn’t take them to the grocery store or the mall. They worried their children would never find love or happiness.

My brother and I were both watching. The creeping sense of dread that came over me was too late. I realized that until that moment, we’d never really treated Charlie like a kid with a disability. (I don’t actually know if he knew it was….) As a family (and not because we had our shit together, or even a long-term plan), we simply held him to the same standard as we held ourselves. (Albeit low.) Tourette’s was never a reason for anything to be a non-starter.

He didn’t quit baseball because of Tourette’s. He quit because he’s a pansy and it was too hot outside.

He didn’t quit playing the bass because of Tourette’s. He still plays. We just told him he had to get a real job.

He didn’t quit archery because of Tourette’s. We just asked he not do it around… anyone.

He didn’t stop going to movies because of Tourette’s. He told people to shut the fuck up.

He didn’t shy away from social interaction because of Tourette’s. He made friends on the basis of his humor and alcoholism.

He didn’t avoid romance because of Tourette’s. He’s just not very good looking. (I kid. I kid.)

He didn’t quit law school because of Tourette’s. He bitched about it, took a few victory laps, and then passed the bar. To the surprise of even himself.

And while my parents did fight a lot of battles on his behalf, ultimately we all knew it was up to Charlie to fight the war. The greatest misfortune of being a kid with a disability is often not the disability; it’s cultivating the emotional and intellectual strength to be yourself and recognize that people are staring, people are judging, people are wondering, and simply not care.

I have stood at the ready many times over the years, waiting for someone to cast a stare I didn’t like or say something to him I could beat them for. But in all my years, I’ve never once had to pick a fight. There either wasn’t a fight to pick or Charlie was quicker to say, “get over it. I have Tourette’s.”

I realize that his battle is not my own. I realize (believe me) that the desire to clear a wide and painless path for your child is fierce, but I also know from my own experiences that we have to encourage them to accept themselves, not qualify themselves. Our children believe they are who we say they are and if we tell them they are disabled and different, they will believe it.

Aut could have Tourette’s. It’s too early to know, but we do watch him for signs. Do I think about how his life would be different? Of course. But I think more about how to cultivate in him a sense of pride and acceptance in himself no matter what he does or doesn’t have. After all, even if he doesn’t have Tourette’s, he’s got the Beaulieu legs and the Minton hairline. And those will take confidence to overcome.

And there are exceptions. But I encourage all parents to think long and hard about what you (we) do because we are scared of what other parents or kids will think and what we do because it’s actually best for the child. Bring your autistic kid to the birthday party. Bring your son with cerebral palsy to the pool. Kids will never stop staring, but your kid deserves a swim on a hot day. And they damn sure deserve cake and ice cream.

The African American from Jamaica who loves Kool-Aid

There is some serious shit happening in Ferguson. The serious shit isn’t really about this one black kid named Michael Brown being shot by this one white police officer named Darren Wilson. Truthfully, the serious shit isn’t even about a black kid being shot by a white police officer, or a kid being shot by a police officer, or, to be really truthful, anyone being shot. The shit in Ferguson is about racism and generation after generation of lip service to an ideology about racial equality that is nothing more than that: lip service. It’s about the difference between telling your child that the handicapped kid is just as worthy as they are and them believing it. Ferguson is the conclusion to a very long, very political experiment about whether you can force equality through legislation instead of education. 

Ferguson is also about white people like me, white people who are “totally not racist.” 

So you had a black friend in college, eh? Or maybe you had a black nanny or house keeper and y’all were totally tight and you loved her like a mother. You work with a guy who is black, right? I bet you’ve been to lunch and drinks once or twice. And you’d totally sleep with Taye Diggs or Zoe Saldana. Hell, even Djimon Hounsou gets your blood racing. Wait, fuck that. YOU VOTED FOR OBAMA. You’re a naturalized lover of the entire African American community. 

Except the part where calling someone African American references them being black by way of the continent of Africa, a general reference to American ties to slavery. Technically there is a ground zero ethnicity argument to be made, but it’s listed right next to “We’re all brothers from Adam” below the part about the Seven Dwarves. African American is a continental classification. Forget their country. Salma Hayek just became North American. Ryan Reynolds too. It’s not wrong, *technically* but it’s not exactly hitting the nail on the head. 

But putting aside for a moment the “totally not racist” white person’s inability to say the word “black,” or the underlying ignorance that fuels our nomenclature, or the fact that no one calls me European American hundreds of years after my ancestors left the continent (which, was actually the country of England….), TNR white people are actually a huge part of the problem. 

I read a great article on Quartz recently about racism, education, white people, black people, Ferguson– the entire cornucopia of buzzwords du jour was there. What struck me was how deeply my subconscious “me” vs. “them” feelings ran. Despite my “totally not racist” attitude towards the black community, I realized that I saw the entire Ferguson thing as another ignorant small town display of racism. Thank God I live in the city. Thank God I don’t have to worry about that shit here. Maybe I’ll go sit on a bench in Harvard Square and feel good about the number of white-looking African American kids I see roaming the Harvard campus! Yeah for me and my “totally not racist!” self! 

But then I had time to think about. (Because, as you may recall, I have taken temporary leave of my employment responsibilities.) I have this small boy, you know the one, and I am constantly thinking of the million and one things I don’t want to fuck up about him. It’s bad enough that he is showing unprovoked signs of being a sociopath, I don’t need him to be a homophobic racists too. But what does that mean that I have to do differently over the next 20, 30, 40 years? What does that mean the country has to do? 

Sometimes people of my generation celebrate the openness of the world we feel like we’ve helped to create for the next folks. We’ve fought for gay marriage and now my son can marry a boy and register at Bloomingdale’s and live happily ever after! THE END! But let’s take “the gay thing” and play it out like we did the “African American thing.” The constants are pretty much dead on. In addition to being “totally not racist,” I am also in the “totally love the gays” camp. 

So now what? Totally loving the gays is enough, right? Ehh… Nope. I don’t think it is. And that’s the problem. If thirty years from now I continue to introduce Author to men (or women) as gay, I’m putting a subconscious qualifier on my introduction and my feelings. As long as I tell a story and say “this black guy” when I would never say “this white guy,’ I am creating a division between people. If I refer to “the handicapped girl” instead of the “redhead” or “the girl who played the mouse in the Christmas pageant” I am subconsciously teaching my son to identify and objective people by attribution. A little by little he separates himself from them. If he is black, then I am white. If she is handicapped, then I am normal. And when he is asked to pick a team on the playground, he’s going to see that if he wants people “like him” he better choose white kids and normal kids. (Though to be fair, he’d have to be mature beyond his years to pick the handicapped kid to be on his kickball team, so I’ll let that one pass.) 

The Civil Rights movement (for blacks) marked an incredible advancement in theoretical social equality, but it didn’t mark an authentic chance in sentiment across the vast majority of “totally not racist” white people. We’ve continued to pledge our sincere devotion to anything that promises to eradicates racism, but we haven’t done the simplest things. We haven’t made an effort to confide in a black man or woman what we’re curious about, what fears we have, what we want to know. We’ve left questions unanswered and assumed that our differences are too great and our heritages too far apart. So while we are “totally not racist” we’ve created a divide so deep that we do nothing more than wave from a pedestal and feel intellectual outrage at a white cop shooting a black teen. 

And truthfully, I bet Darren Wilson was “totally not racist” until he confused his misunderstanding of the clothing, the walk, and the lingo of the unarmed African American kid with that of a thug. A dangerous gang banger. 

And he shot him. And it proved he was a racist. 

 

But what’s it really like to have a baby?

She asked me because she was on the fence about whether she should have them. I remember that time in my life. I think I’m still at that time in my life. Should I have kids? But she was asking me seriously. I was her closest friend with real baby insight. What was the deal? Do the heart melting moments outweigh the bad stuff? 

Well. Yesno. 

As usual, I am a focus group of one. There seem to be a lot of people out there who think having babies is The Most Fun Ever. They are all like, “Oh my god! And then I get to quit my job and FINALLY buy that house in the ‘burbs and make crafts All. Day. Long. and sing songs and OMG I cannot wait!” And I think those people are actually incredible. Those people have a different genetic make up than I do. I think my kid is awesome. All two hours a day I spend with him. And then I like to put him to bed and think about how I can’t go anywhere because it’s basically illegal to leave the house. JUST IN CASE. (There’s a lot of just in case in parenting. I want to tell people to go ahead and stop talking, just in case I get violent.)

But when posed the question, “it is totally worth it?” I really can’t answer simply. On the one hand, I have a tiny person– I own a 28 inch human being. He has tiny human pants and little New Balance sneakers and he thinks I am awesome. Like, really awesome. He sees me and he’s all oh thank god it is you I have been waiting on you since forever and i have no concept of time so that’s basically my whole life. And he smiles and makes ‘ahhoooohhh” noises that are pretty funny because he thinks I’m totally following what he’s telling me. Mimic him and his mind is blown. We speak the same language!

No, tiny retard, I have no idea what you’re getting at. 

But then other times he is a tiny life terrorist. He’s the biggest, most selfish dick bag in the history of the world. He wants what he wants when he wants it and that’s exactly thirty seconds before it’s humanly possible for you to have it. All the toys in the world aren’t shit compared to an outlet or a live wire. He stole everything I knew: my life, my professional life, my social life, my sex life. I put meat into a blender and then taste it. Pureed meat. Shit is fucked up. He’s turned my cat into a manic depressive who no longer stares out the window, but rather tries to throw his body against the screen in an attempt to break through to his death.

And really those things are not made okay by him being cute. When he loses his mind–straight from a deep sleep– right as Castle is starting, only to smile and laugh when I go into his room, I frankly think him a deviant little fuck. A tiny human who was sent to this earth to make me think long and hard about who I am and what I believe.

But that’s not an answer. “Is it worth it?”

So I answer like this:

Having a baby is like losing your leg and winning the lottery. Winning the lottery does not make it okay that you’re without your leg, but it does give you enough of a distraction that you don’t completely lose your shit. Your leg is missing, but you’re on a yacht. Would you rather be in a trailer with a leg? Who knows. Depends on whether you felt like going for a jog.

My leg is gone. Blown to smithereens. I have to relearn how to walk and dance and run and everything else I used to know how to do, but I won the lottery, so that’s going to help.

Of course I miss not having a baby. When people say things like, “I don’t even remember what it was like!” I cannot relate. I remember exactly what it was like. IT WAS AMAZING. I drank in bars on weeknights. I made last minute plans. I could get on an airplane without two Xanax and a booster brew and a sincere prayer that the small boy doesn’t lose his mind. When I made a decision, it was with very little than my own comfort and convenience in mind. Those things come dead last now.

No one can tell you whether you should have kids. And that whole, “waiting until we’re ready” thing. Right. You ain’t ever going to be ready. When the tiny human commeth, all bets are off, and the question of whether or not it’s worth it isn’t the question at all. The question is how you make it worth it for them.