Friday, November 21, 2008



What does that word evoke for you?

Last weekend, while dining in a restaurant with Jason and our girls, I saw the personification of that word for me. Two couples were sitting at the table next to us. One childless, the other with a precious little girl, who I would guess was about a year old.

As I often do (with such unabashed delight), I eavesdropped. The dad and the childless couple were discussing all sorts of office issues and how the economy was affecting change in company policy and the delights (or not) of daily commuting. The young wife was speaking with a new sense of adulthood, proud of her maturity as a grown woman; a married, yet independent professional. Her husband was enjoying the social experience of dining with friends. Across the table, the dad was engaging joyfully in the conversation. Happy to be out with friends. Proud of his latest success in life: fatherhood. But, one look at the mom's face and I had to fight the urge to cry and take her hand and run with her to anywhere. Anywhere but where people had no idea what she was feeling and experiencing in that moment. She needed understanding. She needed to feel a sense of belonging. And it wasn't going to come from any of the lovely people sitting at her table.

Motherhood evokes blackness for me. A loss of self. Yes, there's joy too. But that's overrated (in the early years). The fact is, motherhood is the great divide between youth and experience, freedom and dependence. I do love being a mother, but those early years… well, you moms know what I'm saying. I wish someone had told me….

American society (as seen on TV, magazines, movies, and books) packages motherhood as an image of pastel cooing, quiet softness, and women who are transformed into warm, lovely creatures who give of themselves unconditionally. When I got pregnant I cheered. I had been hoping to start on life's grandest adventure. And everyone I knew beamed with anticipation. People were genuinely happy for us. Support for pregnancy could be found everywhere: the monthly OB visits, friends and colleagues who were already moms, neighbors, even strangers in the grocery store provided friendly advice. All cares were focused on "mom".

Delivery was an amazing, inspiring event despite the hard work (I was fortunate to deliver naturally-- no drugs, no interventions). I was well prepared. For two weeks life was grand. That hormonal high was wonderful, the baby was beautiful, and life felt like an exciting adventure. Then everyone went back to their routines, their daily lives, their comforts.

Except me. For me, life was changed forever. And no one seemed to notice. When visiting, all focus was on the baby. No one seemed to notice that I was no longer me. I didn't know where my pre-baby self went, but I missed her terribly. Because in her place was an exhausted, depressed, over-sensitive caregiving machine. Insurance paid for one post-partum OB visit. When I walked into my doctor's office she said the sweetest words that I had heard in all of my six weeks of motherhood: "I don't want to talk about the baby. I want to talk about you." But fifteen minutes doesn't last long enough.

I have since read and learned much about motherhood. How our society masks the truth about motherhood. How our quest for independence and small, self-contained nuclear families inhibits women from receiving adequate support in early motherhood. How we are considered a "container crazy" society that deprives our infants of necessary touch. How there are cultures in the world whose babies don't cry (not because their babies are aliens, LOL), but because of mothering practices. And how poorly we educate our children about the job of parenting (though those new computerized dolls sound great-- a far cry from the egg that my partner and I nurtured for 2 weeks in tenth grade!).

So I sat in polite silence, preserving the privacy of our neighboring table in that restaurant. But my heart has been with that mom all week. I hope she finds her "self" soon. I hope she holds her head high as her world focuses on diapers and sleep issues and daily routines that consist of a neverending string of 10 minute tasks. I hope that her friends and family don't leave her behind as they grow socially and professionally, all the while telling her that she's doing "the most important job of all." And I hope that she finds others who understand and give her a sense of belonging in the world.

Saturday, November 15, 2008

My First Meme!

Now that I've become a real blogger, it's about time I do a meme (isn't it like a rite of passage for blogging, or something?). I stole this from Vesper-- you know her, that chick with a quill… (thanks, Vesper!)

The question is “Have you ever…?”

Bold the things you’ve done and will admit to.

1. Started your own blog
2. Slept under the stars
3. Played in a band
4. Visited Hawaii
5. Watched a meteor shower
6. Given more than you can afford to charity (not sure what counts here)
7. Been to Disneyland/world
8. Climbed a mountain
9. Held a praying mantis
10. Sang a solo

11. Bungee jumped
12. Visited Paris
13. Watched a lightning storm at sea(I wasn't exactly offshore, but boating during a storm in the Chesapeake is scary enough to count, I think.)
14. Taught yourself an art from scratch
15. Adopted a child
16. Had food poisoning
17. Walked to the top of the Statue of Liberty
18. Grown your own vegetables
19. Seen the Mona Lisa in France

20. Slept on an overnight train
21. Had a pillow fight
22. Hitch hiked
23. Taken a sick day when you’re not ill
24. Built a snow fort

25. Held a lamb
26. Gone skinny dipping (does a hot tub count?)
27. Run a Marathon
28. Ridden in a gondola in Venice
29. Seen a total eclipse
30. Watched a sunrise or sunset

31. Hit a home run
32. Been on a cruise
33. Seen Niagara Falls in person
34. Visited the birthplace of your ancestors
35. Seen an Amish community (I'm not counting seeing them downtown shopping)

36. Taught yourself a new language
37. Had enough money to be truly satisfied
38. Seen the Leaning Tower of Pisa in person
39. Gone rock climbing
40. Seen Michelangelo’s David
41. Sung karaoke
42. Seen Old Faithful geyser erupt
43. Bought a stranger a meal in a restaurant
44. Visited Africa
45. Walked on a beach by moonlight
46. Been transported in an ambulance
47. Had your portrait painted (sort of)
48. Gone deep sea fishing
49. Seen the Sistine Chapel in person
50. Been to the top of the Eiffel Tower in Paris (been there but couldn't go up)
51. Gone scuba diving or snorkeling
52. Kissed in the rain
53. Played in the mud
54. Gone to a drive-in theater

55. Been in a movie
56. Visited the Great Wall of China
57. Started a business
58. Taken a martial arts class
59. Visited Russia
60. Served at a soup kitchen
61. Sold Girl Scout Cookies
62. Gone whale watching
63. Gotten flowers for no reason
64. Donated blood, platelets or plasma

65. Gone sky diving
66. Visited a Nazi Concentration Camp
67. Bounced a check
68. Flown in a helicopter
69. Saved a favorite childhood toy
70. Visited the Lincoln Memorial
71. Eaten Caviar

72. Pieced a quilt
73. Stood in Times Square
74. Toured the Everglades
75. Been fired from a job
76. Seen the Changing of the Guards in London
77. Broken a bone
78. Been on a speeding motorcycle
79. Seen the Grand Canyon in person
80. Published a book
81. Visited the Vatican
82. Bought a brand new car
83. Walked in Jerusalem
84. Had your picture in the newspaper
85. Read the entire Bible
86. Visited the White House
87. Killed and prepared an animal for eating (Technically, Jason did the killing, but I've helped with the butchering, etc. And I have caught and filleted fish on my own...)
88. Had chickenpox
89. Saved someone’s life
90. Sat on a jury
91. Met someone famous
92. Joined a book club
93. Lost a loved one
94. Had a baby

95. Seen the Alamo in person
96. Swam in the Great Salt Lake
97. Been involved in a law suit
98. Owned a cell phone
99. Been stung by a bee

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Connections (the first in a series about relationship...)

Recently, a friend reminded me of another song that was a favorite of mine when I was young: The Rainbow Connection. I haven't listened to that song for many years, and hearing it again brought back the sense of self that I discovered at eight years old. Connections. Relationships. That is how my view of the world is ordered. It is where I find meaning. And where I understand my self, my strengths, my weaknesses.

Now that I have learned so much about personality theory, I see how this way of being is a function of my personality type. As an INFJ, my dominant thinking process is Ni (introverted intuiting). Ni is the process that searches for connections and relationships, then uses that information to predict, enlighten, or transform (it is a future-oriented way of thinking). I find meaning and purpose in this structure or vision. Everything is interconnected, and once I can define the qualities of a connection I can intuit the future and understand the present. My Fe (the decision making process) uses the intuited info, passes it through the lens of extroverted feeling (considering others and the group, how can I best facilitate harmony and connection…) and I make a decision on which to act.

So, what is relationship? Listening to the Rainbow Connection reminded me of a common problem between people.

Rainbows are visions, but only illusions,
And rainbows have nothing to hide.

Relationships are illusions. They aren't tangible. We can't touch them. And the only way we know they exist is when a behavior causes a ripple. Everything and everyone that feels that ripple can be certain that they share a connection with the person that generated the ripple. So, a relationship can only be known with certainty when there is change. But what is the relationship? The definition or quality of a relationship can only be defined by the two who are connected. No one on the outside can precisely describe it. And even the participants' definitions can differ greatly from each other. So what is the truth of this connection if it can only be defined inaccurately by each side? The truth is different for each party (and many of those differences can be explained by personality theory). "Relationship" therefore, is an illusion.

So we've been told and some choose to believe it
I know they're wrong, wait and see.
Someday we'll find it, the rainbow connection,
The lovers, the dreamers and me.

I'd love to know what Kermit "knows" that gives him the confidence that there is a truth where there is a connection. I used to think I knew (my Ni in action!). But that was before I learned that there are ways of thinking that my brain would never have generated on its own. I was egotistical (in the sense that all children are egotistical until they develop enough abstract thought to see others as separate from themselves.)

Now I see how every relationship in my world (in the form that I believe it to be) exists only in my mind. But there are truly connections. That can't be disputed. I feel those ripples every day. And others around me tell me that they feel the ripples that I generate. Is it enough to believe that a relationship is what I believe it is? No, because that's only half the truth. How does the other person define our connection? And when they describe the connection, are they using words that hold different meanings in their way of thinking than in mine? When I hear their description I still have to decipher the meaning using my knowledge of their way of thinking, their personality type, their values and priorities. Ack!! This is hard work! No wonder there is so much confusion and disagreement between people.

How important is it to understand how someone else defines my connection to them? As long as it gives them meaning and pleasure (I'd like to not be the source of unhappiness!), maybe our connection can exist without further definition.

But, I think, when a connection starts to grow or change, it is important for both parties to understand the other's definition. Because if the change holds different significance, or alters each person's definition in a different way, then there will be confusion. So then what protects the connection? Should it be protected?

I am an Idealist-- one of Kermit's dreamers. I want to find that there is a universal "rainbow" connection. I think that our shared human desire to have connections or relationships is the universal truth. But everything else-- what the relationship means, how it is protected, the priority or significance that it is given-- are all illusion, created by each individual. And the best way to avoid confusion and pain is to share our thoughts, agree on a definition that works for both, and continually revise it together. In other words, we need to work together consciously to create and define a relationship that will be what both desire.

(Don't tell my fellow Idealists, but to quote Vernon Dursley from Harry Potter: "There's no such thing as magic!" Nothing just happens unless we make it happen. But it sure is wonderful when what we create feels like magic!)

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Proud to be an American!

I sent the kids off to school this morning with tears in my eyes and hope in my heart. How do you explain to a 9-year-old the impact of this election? Should you? Or should the kids just know that the best man won and America will continue to grow stronger, without any mention of race? That's what I dream of for my children-- that they will never give a second glance to skin color or background. That America's diversity and equality are precisely what makes us strong and good.

"What do you say? We are growing up!"
~Maya Angelou on CBS's The Early Show, November 5, 2008