Mirror, mirror

My neighbors, who happen to be a saintly young couple, deserving of all the world’s blessings for their gracious tolerance of the pesky toddler antics that our flimsy common-wall does nothing to protect them from, are currently out of town.  In their absence, I have been taking care of their saintly feline, unenthusiastic beneficiary of the clumsy adoration of said toddler.

While scooping out a generous helping of a crunchy substance that my neighbor assures me passes for cat food, I happened to notice that they have a full length mirror.  I am ordinarily savvy enough to know that nothing good is likely to come from a direct encounter between myself and any mirror.  Ignorance is functional.  But today something told me that I was being silly and perhaps it is time to just suck it up.

And so I faced my nemesis.

Yikes.

I have put on a considerable amount of weight in the past year or so and it has distributed itself in the most unflattering of ways.  The drastic changes in my reflection are without question a sucker punch to my vanity but they also serve as a massive obstruction in the already windy road to reconquering my sense of self, a reminder of just how far away my “before” is.

I can’t remember feeling this ill at ease in my own skin since my tween years, struggling to adapt to the havoc that puberty wreaks on an adolescent girl.  I would have expected a little more resilience by this point in my life.

For now I’m trying to take all this as a reminder of the better parts of my former life that I should fight to retrieve: the long walks, the healthy food.  I am perfectly content with the knowledge that no diet will restore me to the person I was before all of this began.  As I sort through all the pieces of my life, new and old,  I remain hopeful that I have the power to build something functional using the better among them.  But sometimes I am reminded that some of my favorites may be so damaged as to be simply unusable and I must learn to let those go. To adapt and move on.

Oh yeah, and to stay the hell away from mirrors.

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On this day

3 years ago I underwent an epic transformation.  I left the house a superorganism, my former body drastically rearranged to support the growth and development of a tiny human.  I returned emptied and bloodied, not entirely sure that my body was still capable of sustaining life, particularly if the life in question happened to be my own.

Only 4 months had passed since my quiet evening in a local coffee shop, spent drinking lemonade and beaming, keeper of a secret that, in that moment, was mine alone.  I hadn’t POAS yet but I was several days late and I knew.  I remember marveling at just how easily, how quickly, it had happened, despite my understanding that my aging eggs owed me nothing.  It felt so perfectly appropriate, springtime just barely upon us and me giddy with the promise of new life.

But on this day I remember lying in bed, wounded and unmoving but oblivious to the physical pain, watching the late afternoon sunshine as it streamed through our bedroom window.  It was the bright light of high summer, the color of kickball games and block parties, intolerably cruel in it’s cheerfulness.  I begged for mercy, and the swift arrival of nightfall.  Yet the suns rays were steadfast and beautiful and for so long they continued to taunt me with images of watermelon juice as it dripped from so many tiny chins, reminding me that they were not, indeed might never be, mine to kiss.

Oh please let me die in the wintertime.

Today I can once again invite the sun’s warmth to linger.  Today I allow us to play outdoors a little longer than responsibility dictates and kiss my little chin a little more than its tolerance allows.

And today I’m grateful to have this place where it is safe to speak this out loud.  Even if only for a short time, he was here.  Three years ago, he was my springtime.

O teacher, where art thou?

In the more fortunate moments of our lives we encounter those singular people who give the illusion, at least in retrospect, of having come into our life at just the right moment.  They are role models, mentors, people from whom we have something essential to learn.

I was lucky to have had one professor in college whose influence helped me to stop bouncing around campus like an errant ping pong ball.  When it came to making a decision about graduate school, his encouragement was meaningful but I realize now that his example was far more important.  He seemed to live life without all of the categorical distinctions we commonly build for ourselves: research, teaching, work, home life.  It was all important to him, blended naturally to form a mixture that was simply his life.

I have long preferred the long and windy path to the express lane and so in between undergrad and grad school I spent some time wandering in the desert.  I met a women there, about a decade my senior, who lived in a hippie trailer community in what was then the dusty desert town of Moab.  She walked a remarkable balance between living on and off the grid, rebellion and conformity.  She welcomed nearly everyone into her bus, disheveled bearded types and wide-eyed recent college grads alike, and she showed me for the first time in my adult life what it meant to be part of a community.  She cared for the many children of the park as if they were her own and, although she had no biological children of her own, she was one of the most amazing mothers that I have ever met.

I’ve been thinking lately about how wonderful it would be to come across just the right person at this time in my life.  If by chance I could be lucky enough to meet one of those women who has learned to navigate motherhood so that she never wonders whether she has gained more of herself than she’s lost. Or even to find any of my previous mentors again, to learn those lessons all over again.

But then it occurred to me that a true mentor is much more than someone who teaches solutions or models right behavior.  The greatest of teachers is one who shows us an entirely new way of looking at the world.

And then I realized, I may have found my greatest teacher yet.

And to think, he is only two.

Two Worlds

We decided to take g to the zoo last weekend.  Somehow, the obvious only struck me somewhere in between the monkeys and the tiger: zoos are places for families with young children.  There is, of course, nothing remarkable about this observation but on closer inspection I was reminded that families typically consist of more than one child.  Siblings were everywhere, arguing, adoring, often just coolly ignoring one another.

And pregnant women.

Lots and lots of pregnant women.

I felt like I was watching from afar, removed enough to make mostly unimportant comments to myself about maternity fashion or the way that genetics plays out in the visages of the next generation.  Sometimes I walked casually among them, bolstered by the joyful observations of my own small primate, perched high up on his father’s shoulders.

The topic of having a second child seems to have permeated my existence from every angle as of late.  Several close friends who have toddlers g’s age are expecting their number twos in just a few months.  Others are plotting the logistics of making their move.  Some are torn.

We talk about it often and I feel comfortable enough to dispense my shallow version of childmaking wisdom in regards:

Listen to your heart, I tell them.  The finances will fall into place.  Deciding to have a first, second or any other child is not a decision based on reason.  You are not looking for extra hands to help with harvesting the potatoes or milking the cows.

I say these things because I believe them to be true but I don’t see them applying in MY world.  While THEY live in a world where children are planned for and pregnant women are lovely, I live in a world where children die and being pregnant means a series of long, terrifying weeks of counting the days until the next milestone: the end of the first trimester, the big ultrasound, viability…….

In THEIR world I can imagine how wonderful it would be to give g a little brother or sister.  I can believe that we could be so lucky to have another amazing little one.  In THEIR world, I could be ready to do it all over again, armed with my experience to make this time a little easier (under normal circumstances, the second is always easier than the first.  It’s a truth that has been tested so often that it has moved from theory to law, I tell THEM).

In MY world, I remember that I have conceived three sons but only one is here with me.  I know that things don’t get easier as you get older. I don’t know how I could weather another loss, how I could ask G to assume such a wearing risk.

It is also true that in MY world, I look at this boy, this one delightful toddler, and I can hardly believe that he’s mine.

In MY world, I feel very blessed indeed.