College Cafes

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Is there a job where I can sit in an independently-owned local café, sipping decaf latte’s with soy milk, at a corner table with a good book and a perfectly-sized Moleskine journal and my one pen I like, surrounded by other bookworms with their open journals and well-worn paperbacks, a steady stream of “Kind Of Blue” on the speakers overhead? Would someone pay me to just do that:  Sit, sip and observe? Cause I would rock at that job.  I’d like to make a living killing time.

That’s what I’m doing today. That’s what I did for many hours during college, in a small café called Balducci’s or something like that right across from the Amherst College campus in the late 80’s. Reading Tolstoy and Foucault. Writing non-stop in a journal that I had hoped would reveal myself to me and instead, re-reading it years later, is just a never-ending whine about boys and fitting in.

Open on this café table is a notebook and a book, Anne LaMotte’s Operating Instructions, which I’m reading for the first time and thinking maybe this is a mistake. It’s brilliant. It’s a journal of the first year of her son Sam’s life (and so much more).  And it’s wonderful.  I love Anne LaMotte. If she is anything like she reads, my guess is we are made from the same stuff.  I don’t think we’d be friends, because I think we both have the same awkwardly vulnerable narcissism, the same writerly ticks. I mean, I think we’d love each other but I’ll bet I’d spend a lot of time trying to make her comfortable and not knowing if it was working and she’d just be, well, uncomfortable around me.  We have too much in common.  But I feel like she’s the older sister I never had and I fantasize that we are friends, we have tea together, she reads my writing and tells me what’s wrong with it, I’d take her to my Episcopal church with my barefoot female priest and she’d sing along with me.  I’d take her to my church basement meetings and we’d share drunkalogues.  She could be the mentor I’ve always craved. Which is why it may be a mistake to be reading her book because it’s making me think, why bother? She already wrote this book. And it was amazing. (I should also admit a kind of unhealthy obsession with meeting Rachel Maddow and being entirely convinced that we’d be friends and she would mentor me.  And maybe I might be creeping toward a similar thing with Sarah Silverman, Judi Dench, Meryl Streep, Elizabeth Warren, Megan Berry, the mayor of Nashville, Mavis Staples and even my own preacher, Becca Stevens.  I should keep my distance, I think.)

I’m also re-reading my friend Catherine Newman’s book Waiting For Birdy, which I read when it was first published many years ago and loved but thought it so distant from my own life and a mutual friend sent it to me upon hearing I was pregnant. It’s her memoir her pregnancy with her second child.  And it is equal to LaMotte’s book to me in humor and pathos. I laugh. I cry. I love them both so much. This time, I’m reading Catherine’s book wanting to reach across the years and say, “Yes! You too? Thank you! Yes!” and I know Catherine and went to college with her and she’s lovely and awkwardly perfect and always has been and, like with Anne LaMotte, I’m so grateful that they wrote these books as my navigational guide through this confusion, but I’m also terribly bummed, because why bother?

So maybe I should stop reading. I’m having that same feeling like when I hear another Darrell Scott record full of breathtakingly incredible songs that are simple and complex and take me on an awe-struck roller coaster ride as a fellow writer – from gratitude for his simplicity sometimes — “I could do that”; to complete despair — “Oh my god, there’s no way I could write like that. I give up.”  Yin: Let’s go! Yang: Why bother!?

But it helps that I’m sitting in a café on Boylston Street in Boston in the heart of the Berklee College of Music community. I’m here to teach tonight and I’ve got some hours to kill so I park my throbbing feet in the corner to read and write and sip a large latte and observe co-ed life from my perch, 25 years beyond.  I’m relieved that they still dress in flannel shirts, sweatpants, hair in top knots barely brushed, school sweatshirts. They seem like children. Was I ever that young? They seem like children posing as adults with their Apple laptops open and their books cracked on the tables. It’s raining outside. Late Autumn rain in Massachusetts creeps around my neck and down my back and I could swear I should start a round of antibiotics already, convinced pneumonia is settling in.

I flew up this morning. It wasn’t a long flight, but I had to pee about 6 times. I chose my aisle seat wisely, anticipating this. I stuck my belly out more than it naturally goes so that everyone could see the reason why I was up and down the length of the plane so many times.

I make a living travelling, basically. And as I read Anne LaMotte’s book, I think, how am I ever going to want to leave my house again with a baby? I’ve already fallen in love with the little dude, even though I continually think someone has played a prank on me, telling me I’m pregnant, and in reality, I just stopped going to yoga and running and I’ve just gotten fat.  But I feel his hiccups like popcorn and I’ve seen the ultrasound videos and one little photo of him giving a high five is my screensaver, and right now I’d give my right breast for a hotel room and to lie in a bathtub with my feet up, rather than kill time before this class.  Also: I can’t wait to meet him, my little boy.  But I’m already afraid of leaving him. And so here, in this café, I start the game of imagining myself in a different past.  What if I’d gotten my MFA? Could I be teaching at a university and then be home with a paid maternity leave? Could I get enough Skype students to manage staying home for the first year and still be an equal fiscal partner in our family? How can I monetize my entire career into the next stratosphere for the next few months so I can rest on my cash laurels and sit home for a year with the baby and for a few hours a day, he’ll nap and I’ll write my book?

But I didn’t think this through, like I haven’t really thought much of my life through. Which, even though it may sound like I’m complaining or angst-ing, has been the most adventurous, wonderful life journey that I wouldn’t trade for a 401K plan.  It took all of that to get all of this and there was no way to plan for this.  As Jamey has said to me, when talking about who we were before we met and the huge changes we both went through before our orbits collided: “You can’t get here from there”.  I love that. I had no concept of here from there.

Here is pretty sweet. Here with a bit more money would be sweeter. But isn’t that a tired song?

We may have just bought a house. I’m crossing my fingers because this whole journey has been the most stressful thing I’ve ever gone through and I’m sure Jamey would like a respite from the tornado of hormones that I have been the past week.  Yesterday was a tsunami. I have not felt so whiplashed in a long time by my own emotions and yet, while inside them, I didn’t think “Oh, this is just hormones, it will pass,” I thought everything in my head was real, was truth, and I would never escape from the pit of despair.  And then, like it does, the sun peeked her head over the mountain and chased away the rainclouds and I was smiling and laughing again.   Rinse. Repeat.

Jamey said, ‘man, this is reminding me of your first trimester’ and of course, I have amnesia and said ‘What? What was I like?’ because I honestly can only remember the nausea. ‘Was I moody?’ and I’m pretty sure he did a spit take.

Here’s a picture that is the perfect metaphor for my first trimester.  I was coming home from my part-time job, driving in the dark.  I’d promised to pick up dinner for us on the way home. I don’t remember what happened or what set me off, but all of a sudden, a wave of grief hit me so hard I was sobbing in my car, talking to myself, talking myself off the ledge, then I was laughing AT myself. Then I was crying AND laughing at myself. That’s when I had a moment of clarity and called my Sponsor.  She, the wise Yoda-like presence in my life with a healthy measure of no-bullshit, said, “You’re hormonal. Go get some cupcakes.”  I pulled into Kroger, wiped my face of tears, and walked in. Getting one of those plastic baskets, I found the 4 pack of red velvet cupcakes I knew would make it all better and put them in the center of the basket. Then I thought, wait…I’m supposed to get something else, but what?’ and couldn’t remember.  I thought I’d wander up the organic aisle, try to find something healthy, like artisanal almond butter for $15 and some gluten free bread, to counteract the cheeseburgers I’d been eating for every meal.  And then, in the organic aisle, which is only a few feet long, I got lost. Not as in really lost, as in directionally lost, but as in spiritually lost. And there, in the center of the organic aisle, in between the tofu burgers and the bins of beans and bulgur, I started to cry again.  A woman approached me, clearly pregnant, and asked me if I was ok. I explained, ‘I’m not sure. I’m 3 months pregnant and I don’t know what to do.’ She looked into my basket at the cupcakes and smiled and gently put her arm on my shoulder. Just then, another woman, this one extremely pregnant, like 9 months and about to pop pregnant, came down from the other end of the aisle toward us. She took one look at us, one 6-month pregnant woman holding a sobbing woman holding a basket with cupcakes, and she smiled, nodded in absolute understanding, and put her arms around both of us.

When I got home, holding a plastic bag containing cupcakes, overpriced almond butter and fake bread, my husband looked at me and said, ‘Bad day, babe?’ and ordered pizza delivery.

About a month ago a friend of mine bought me a ticket to an event at our Performing Arts Center in Nashville that was a kind of round robin conversation about female empowerment in the Age of Trump.  A few authors, a sports star, a monologist, a famous (but unknown to me) actress and my preacher.  The main attraction was a famous author, a fellow woman in recovery who writes about transformational experiences, who tells her own story with humor and honesty. I was moved by parts of it. I was bored by parts of it. But at the end, that author said something that transfixed me. Stop looking for mentors. Get quiet and still and listen. Be your own mentor. And that struck me as a kind of Truth with a capital “T”.  And so maybe, as I sit here at this cafe, ‘killing time’, I’m not really ‘wasting’ time. I’m spending time. Spending it in a curious kind of quiet, a furtively questioning space overflowing with men and women paging through books and writing in notebooks, hoping to seek some answers to the large question that haunts everyone in their 20’s. Who am I? What is my purpose?

Today, my purpose is to do my job. To listen. But my purpose is morphing and is now tied to someone I have not yet met.  Someone I already love.  And my purpose is to enjoy every ache and urge to pee because I’m pretty sure this is a one-way ride here. I won’t get another ticket on this roller coaster.   Good thing it has great snacks and the bathroom is close by.

 

Endive

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I am not adulting well today.  I’m just going to admit that before I write another word here.  I’m pretty sure anything I’m going to type/write/vent in today’s piece is not at all proprietary to the late 40-something experience being pregnant. In fact, it’s just about surviving being a human. And maybe that’s the point of this whole thing. That, regardless that I’m way past the usual age of walking down this path, in the end I’m a fallable, normal, flawed, beautifully alive human with a fallable, normal*, flawed, beautifully alive human kicking around inside my swollen belly.

We are 21 ½ weeks into this journey. All the books and blogs name my little dude a vegetable or a fruit of the week, a rough barometer of size.  This is the Endive week. Which I find strange and very very snooty. An endive? That’s not an average person’s vegetable. In fact, I’m pretty sure my mother never ever used an endive once during my childhood. Endives didn’t show up in my life until I moved to NYC after college and ate at fancy restaurants. Lovely purple and white swirly lettuces, leaves cupped around the center like a rose unbloomed, stretching tall up to the stars. A bitter thing, a cup that holds vinaigrettes of balsamic and herbs.  French, even. Very white.  He’s an endive. Next week he’ll be a coconut. They say he should be about 10.5 inches, but he was larger than that 2 weeks ago at our anatomy scan, where I got to see a video of his hands and legs and arms and feet wriggling and kicking. Where his spine was a clear skeleton ghost outline. Where the ultrasound tech outlined his heart, beating, his kidneys, his brain, his penis, which I didn’t see but my husband swears he did.  I have a video of the little guy, swirling around in that cozy space inside me that I watch when I get anxious that he’s disappeared. 2 weeks ago I couldn’t feel him yet. I thought I could, but it was gas. Painful bubbles at the top of my stomach after I ate too much Indian food.  Last week the real movement started, though, and I knew it. Little flutters. Bubbles, almost.  This week, at night, when I lay on my back, I feel soft kicks. Last night, Jamey put his hand on my belly and I hummed to the little guy, cooing, egging his kicking on until a soft bump happened and Jamey’s eyes lit up, ‘I felt it!’, he said, a red blush over his cheeks. I almost cried. Then I had to pee.

I am not adulting today. I want to play hooky and crawl into the corner of a womb with a blankie and my thumb firmly in my mouth. I want to sleep. I haven’t been sleeping. And I know the real Sleepwalking Days are ahead of me, so I’d like to not waste my complaints on small time no-sleeping.  Jamey brought me a breakfast sandwich this morning from Sonic, with bacon and cheese, and then got up to prepare for our meeting with our bank and I burst into a crying jag. “Would you just sit with me?” I blubbered over the bacon and egg toaster. Jamey’s been running at full speed, God bless him, as he works full time, researches his Master’s thesis, reading and writing in every spare second. And did I mention we are selling a house and buying one at the same time? And he’s handling all this for us. And all I’m doing is making a human inside my body. Things are moving fast right now and this morning, in the midst of my freak out, I said a piece of truth I hadn’t even thought to myself yet:

“Can we just slow down and sit in THIS moment. Just for a moment?”

We are moving.  And we love our house that we live in. It was Jamey’s and it was the place he first cooked me dinner and the place his beloved German Shepherd Gus protected me (until he protected me so much he bit a few people and we had to say goodbye to him, scratching his ears as his eyes closed forever in a Vet’s office).  It was a bachelor pad and he made it warm and inviting and I moved in with him and we had our “friends and neighbors” wedding in our backyard with our friends playing music for us and dancing and singing and eating hot chicken and ending in a circle, passing a guitar around.  And we are selling it because we need more space, not only for the baby, but because we both need more rooms to write, to think, to read. Separately.  We found a good house and we are in the buying process, which is scary and nerve-wracking, and there are potential pit falls (what if the inspection turns up Radon? What if that fireplace isn’t working? What if it’s a crappy house and we were fooled?), so we are spending a lot of time in the “What If’s” and it’s starting to make me crazy.  I get in trouble if I live in the What Ifs, if I “future trip” too much, because I can future trip myself back to the past, out of sobriety and clarity and sanity.  If something crazy turns up, we will just walk away and find something else. It’s simple. It’s not. I’m pregnant. He’s trying to do the right thing.  We are both trying to take care of each other and ourselves and it’s a lot of work.  And so I want to cry “uncle” and have someone else take care of it all right now.

Also: we love our neighborhood of musicians and families and artists and liberals and hipsters and the Tall Skinnies (we don’t love them) and the train that comes a few times a day and we hear it’s wail echo from a mile away.  We love that the high school marching band rehearses in the late afternoon and we know by the tuba bleating at first and then the trumpets fan-faring and the snares tip tapping and the leaves of the large Hackberry trees turn yellow and red and the air turns from humid Tennessee sweet grass to the dusky smoke from our neighbor’s chimneys and our best friends live quite literally a stone’s throw from us.  We live in bohemia here. And we are moving to a new neighborhood. And for both of us that is hard.  Not that anything isn’t close around here in Nashville, but I just watched a woman push open the door here at the Starbucks here on the West Side of town with a diaper bag that matched her own purse wearing overpriced Lululemon yoga pants and a cute, brightly colored jacket and I thought: “these are not my people” …or are they? Am I going to be that woman?  I’ve written about this, haven’t I? The fear of letting go of my own identity, aggressively independent and artistic. To become something I hadn’t planned on: my mother. These women have perfectly plucked eyebrows. They wear a lot of makeup. Their foreheads are tight. They look like they have money.  All the things I am not. I am still living a kind of post-collegiate style: slightly disheveled, semi-hippie, semi-vintage/rocker/oversized shirts and sweaters. Dresses over jeans with combat boots.  My hair is long and my jewelry is cheap and I don’t wear makeup. I don’t have stocks and bonds and a 401K plan. I’m not concerned that I haven’t picked out a pediatrician or a Lamaze class yet. I’m pretty sure, like everything else in my life, I’ll figure it out. And I’m sure I’ll be wearing mismatched socks and fail to brush my hair for a while. I’m ok with that. But I like living in a neighborhood where others do the same. Where I feel like I belong. And we are moving out of that neighborhood.

Which is why I’m not adulting well today. The truth is: our little slice of bohemia has been ‘gentrified’ and taken over by the weathy from LA and Brooklyn thanks to the NY Times and other media outlets who proclaimed East Nashville an “It” place, haunted by the likes of Jack White and Gillian Welch and no state income tax and low cost of living and cheap housing — well, cheap until the entire East Coast moved here about 3 years ago and brought artisanal oatmeal shoppes (spelling intentional). It’s a good time to sell in East Nashville. It’s not a great time to buy. So we are moving to another area.  And I want to stomp my feet and cry and stay where we are.  AND I can’t wait to move and further dig my feet into this new life I didn’t plan on having, this family thing, this baby, this husband, this ‘my own room to write in’, this house with a guest room (a real guest room!).

Change is a bitch when you’ve dug your heels into your own defined terra firma, no matter how low-rent it is.  I’ve been on this ground for a long time now. Almost 50 years. So I’m re-learning the skill of adaptability and spontaneity.  I have been letting go of the old expectations and allowing a new radical acceptance to take over. It’s just, well, uncomfortable. Kind of like how my feet feel today in the one pair of non-sneaker shoes that fit.  But last night I meditated and prayed and coo’d at the kicking human living inside me (I still can’t believe it’s real) and I played him the lullabye I wrote for him and sang my songs and then I got online and ordered a pair of soft leather boots in a larger size on Zappos that will arrive today, just in time.

Everything is just in time. If I’ve learned anything over the past few years, it is that: everything is right on time.

*…crossing fingers and very aware that the word ‘normal’ is charged with subjectivity and so ‘normal’ simply means ‘normal in all it’s abnormality’ in this case for me without judgment of any kind, or at least doing my best to open up to that in myself and others so that whatever kind of ‘boy’ pops out of me I will love fiercely and protectively and with permission for that being to create ‘boy’ the way they feel ‘boy’ arise…ok, this was a huge parenthetical, but I’ve been thinking a lot about this, considering I have more than a handful of people in my life who are not gender binary – hoping that’s the right term – and I’m learning (fast) from them about what it meant for them to grow up in between in a ridigly boy/girl world and I want to bring that awareness to my child and I know this sounds very much like I’m a heterowhitemiddleclassfemaleliberalsnowflake, but fuck it, I was once a very rigid, scared-of-otherness small town GIRL and I’d like to create a more fearlessly inquisitive world for my son, and it has taken me until I reached my late 40’s to be that myself, so I’m grateful for late-age-motherhood.

Swollen Feet and Uncertainty

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So how on earth can I bring a child into the world, knowing that such sorrow lies ahead, that it is such a large part of what it means to be human?

 I’m not sure. That’s my answer: I’m not sure.

                        — Anne LaMotte, Goddess of All Things True and Real

It’s the middle of November and the sky is grey and spitting chilly mists today and I’m feeling every creak in my bones.  I wake up 6 times a night to pee and no matter that I’m not even that big yet, it’s a chore to twist my heavier body and flop my legs over the edge of the bed onto the hardwood floor, narrowly missing my dog who sleeps down next to us, slamming my right heel on the ground with a sharp pain. I wince a bit, get my other leg untangled from Jamey and the duvet, and a charley horse in that calf starts to murmur. I’m balancing on one foot that won’t bend while reaching back to emergency massage this cramp out of my calf, already sore from the one the other night.  I don’t want to wake up my dog. I don’t want to wake up Jamey. I just want to pee. So I hobble like a 90 year old to the bathroom, cursing the day we decided to do this crazy thing called ‘Having A Baby’.  He’s back in bed, sleeping soundly, no foot pain, no extra 20 pounds. His part in this whole thing was fairly simple (so far). Pretty much, he did what any man knows how to do (and practices regularly) from the age of 14. For me, the commitment is holistic. Physical. Very very physical. As it is for all mothers. But there’s a special place for those of us in our late 40’s with late 40’s bodies concocting hands and feet and brains and inside our bellies while our aging joints ache with arthritis.

I am not complaining. I swear. I’m enjoying this ride immensely. Except at 3am when I have to pee and my feet remind me that we will be wearing orthodics and flat shoes for a long time to come.

This was not on my bucket list. Having a baby. At all. Sure, I baby-sat for spare change when I was in high school because that was what girls like me – Girl Scouts, Catholic Girls, Good Girls – did on weekends.  I hated it. I’ll be honest. I didn’t mind the money, for sure, nor the gig (refrigerators packed with all the food my health-food-loving Mom wouldn’t have in ours), but I wanted to be left alone in a borrowed home to read or watch TV. I didn’t want to play with some bratty 8 year old who would argue their bedtime. I wanted to scope out Showtime late shows on my neighbors’ cable offering because we were too cheap to have cable.  I certainly didn’t like babies and they didn’t seem to like me. Too many liquids coming out from top to bottom.  This didn’t change much as I grew up. One of my best friends in college couldn’t wait to get married and have kids. She was wicked smart, writing a thesis in French, but she was a nurturer and wanted a house full of snotty babies. I dreamt of lovers, not husbands, fancied myself a bohemian of the Edna St. Vincent Millay sort (less aristocratic and less rhyme-y). I wanted great academic acclaim, or to write a groundbreaking play or to work with Meredith Monk in the avant-garde edges of choral music. I wanted to live in Greenwich Village or a loft in SoHo and make love all night to a painter-poet-playwright and drink wine and talk about Big Ideas.  In short, I had no idea what I wanted to do.  But in my large, feminist, early 20 something dreams, I was alone and independent, I drank alone in bars and scribbled on napkins, and there were no diapers to change.

My sister got married and had a baby and, although I loved that baby so much that I could have spent hours rocking her in the bathtub smelling her baby smell, cooing at her until her voice matched mine and I could swear she and I were sharing a secret aunt-goddaughter language – I still didn’t want my own.  First of all, I was an artist with three dayjobs, living rent to rent, without any savings, eating Ramen noodles. I was dabbling, I was restless, I was unravelling. I didn’t commit to anything; instead, I tried everything and could fool myself (and sometimes others) that I was pretty good until I got bored and moved onto the next Thing. Acting. Grad School applications for Comp Lit programs. Ethnomusicology. Playwrighting. Auditioning for Real MFA Acting programs, like Yale and Julliard, to save myself from the the more-affordable (and less rigorous) one I got into that didn’t provide a Masters degree at the end, but took your money and gave you a Conservatory Diploma that is worth about the cost of a subway token.  I was no genius at anything. I studied the craft of playing the part. Of an artist. Of a girlfriend. Of a wife. Of a friend. I wasn’t truly any of those things in my 20’s. Or in my 30’s.  I spent my 20’s sitting in West and East Village cafes like Writers & Anglers and Café 9, writing my angst into journals until the prose turned to poetry turned to song lyrics turned into an artistic calling that turned into an accidental career. I spent my 30’s careening between acting in no-pay non-equity Way-The-Hell-Off-Broadway plays and playing small folk clubs downtown NYC, closing down bars with my fellow bohemians, leaving my first husband home as I’d lie about where I was spending the night and stumble in the next day like a co-ed on a walk of shame. I hadn’t found my feet yet. Nor my voice, nor any semblance of truth or direction. When I finally did find something authentic, it was at the bottom of a long fall, in a spectacularly quiet landing, in the deep loneliness of my own rented home in a far southern town from where I began, with the same bottle of wine at 3am and the same tears over the same unavailable man who was just like every available and unavailable man I’d ever chased since I first kissed a boy at 13 who was kissing another girl at the same time.  I was a train wreck in cool boots. Lipstick on a pig.   I was a 40-something year old woman, single again, with a trail of broken relationships, missed chances, miscarriages and choices to not carry pregnancies that came out of the dark forgetfulness of drunk without any significant savings or stability.  There was no shot at Motherhood for me. I’d thrown away all those fertile years. And so, as I was facing the wreckage of my past, newly sober, I adopted a traumatized runty hound dog named Flo, found shivering in the forests of Tennessee by a friend, and made peace with the fact that I would most likely never be a mother of a human but I’d be a really good dog mama.

One day in winter a few years ago, I said out loud to my friend Kim, also single and sober in her 40’s, “I actually think I finally love my life. I’m content. I have my music I have this house. I have my friends and community and I have Flo. I could grow old like this.”  And, thus, into that proclamation of newfound sobriety and contended solitaire walked Jamey, younger by 7 years, a fan of John Prine and Shakespeare (be still my heart), with a Kentucky-Tennessee drawl and a charm that undid me. We were friends for many months before he kissed me on the front porch of my house at about noon one sunny August day after we’d spent the morning at a vinyl record store, backed off my porch and said, ‘ok. See you tomorrow’ without trying to rip my clothes off and bed me immediately.  Within a few weeks, we were in love. By the following September, we were engaged. By May we were married. It was quick. It was certain. It was a beautiful story.

I’ve been writing around the bush here, because I set out this afternoon to write, not my love story, but about something different, something that’s been bugging me about this whole pregnancy thing.

I want to talk about my feet.

My beautiful, tiny, size 6 ½ high arched feet that have taken me so many places.  They backpacked through the Pennsylvania woods with a Girl Scout camp when I was 12 and got my period the first time and my counselors, two incredibly cool 20 somethings who, looking back, may have been a couple, thus, my first introduction to lesbians, handed me an O.B. tampon, clapped and said, ‘Welcome to womanhood, now stick this up your bleeding vagina and pop your cherry!’  My feet, which walked me all over Spain on my own on a summer long journey where I was supposed to meet a college friend and go to France but instead I followed two blondes from Connecticut down to Africa and up to Barcelona and drank enough Sangria to anesthetize an entire country. My feet, which helped me run two NYC marathons, one I even trained for; the other, I stumbled through with a raging hangover from the party the night before, puking out red wine in Harlem and crossing the finish line with tears of complete and utterly wrecked exhaustion and then didn’t run another mile for many years.

My feet, which finally left the first marriage and gave freedom to someone I’d shackled myself to for years, terrified of being alone.  My feet, which moved me to Nashville for all the wrong reasons, only to walk away from the wine bottles, drop to my knees and admit defeat, finding out that I had moved here for all the right reasons, just not the ones I’d originally thought were correct.

These damn feet I love so much have been swollen for weeks.  Not cute swollen. Ugly swollen. None of my shoes or boots fit, and I have an impressive collection that has gotten me into some credit card trouble.  Sadly, I have 3 pairs I can now wear and one of those is Uggs and I can’t possibly go out in public in those things.  My ankles have gone into hibernation; my knees aren’t cute anymore, they’re just filled with liquid.

My feet hurt. A lot. One heel is in constant, stabbing pain which may or may not be Plantar Fasciitis or Achilles Bursitis or Tendonitis or just a symptom from pregnancy-induced sciatica.  And basically, the only way to alleviate the symptoms, is to take a shit-ton of Advil. Or, get a steroid injection.  Which, because I’m pregnant, I can’t do. So, I load up those 3 pairs of shoes with gel insoles and arch supports and thick socks and try to limit my time upright. Which is hard.

Also, I’m crazy. Tonight, I just took a long bath because I could feel myself getting to that place where my husband has done nothing at all to me, but I hate him. Everything he does annoys me. Just right now. And I realize it’s not at all about him. This is THE HORMONES talking.  Lying to me. He’s not annoying; he’s trying to be helpful.  But my Hormones take over my brain, and release this little bitch inside my head who storms around pissed off because she’s not getting her way. “Don’t you hear his whiny voice? Isn’t it too loud?” And then he pops his head into the bath while I’m soaking in warm water, too afraid of my favorite kind of hot baths because I don’t want to cook the little dude inside me, and he says, “Honey, are you ok? Do you need anything?” and I growl, “Why?” and he says, gently, and patiently, “well, you seem…a bit…I don’t know…off?” And thankfully, I fire the little hormonal bitch, or just set her aside for a minute and nod and say, “I just need some time. I feel, I don’t know, fucking pregnant ok?” and he kisses my forehead and gently closes the door.

I love him so much.

But my feet throb, even in the hot bath. Even when I wrap every ice pack around that heel. Even when I try Icy Hot and Tiger Balm and anything I can get my hands on.

And I’m sure this is normal to every pregnancy, but, did I mention I’m an addict, and one of my key traits of my ever-challenging personality is the ability to take a level 1 problem and raise it in five-seconds flat to a level 10 problem? Chaos is my drug. I am really good at chaos (or so I think). Comfortable in the uncomfortable.  So, I like to imagine that my sore feet, and mood swings and bad back, and general unease are due to me being FORTY NINE AND PREGNANT.  I can’t just be pregnant-pregnant. I have to be the oldest person ever to walk down this path (hobble).  It’s a defect of character.  I’m working on it, ok?

So, who knows if I ever get to wear my $600 Fiorentini & Baker boots I bought at Barneys with the money that should have gone to rent years ago.  Or those $5 animal print spike heel booties that I’ve worn once, as a costume. Or those sky high heels I bought for stupid money because I decided I should start wearing heels on stage, to change my whole look into something more chic, a la Aimee Mann, clean lines, suits and vests and spike heels rather than short skirts and cowboy boots.  For now, you can find me limping around in Uggs, as my belly grows hard with this little boy inside me, and he doesn’t really care at all what I’ve got on my feet.

 

 

Weird

Ganesh

Whenever I witness or experience a kind of coincidence, which is often these days, like yet another cardinal (I have this thing for cardinals) flying right by me as I am praying, like a little wink from the universe saying “I hear you”; or just as I’m about to give up on something, a phone call from precisely the right person surprises me with encouragement, my response is a kind of awe-filled disbelief.  Then I call my sponsor and say “this thing happened…isn’t that weird“.*  She, being the ninja sponsor that she is, sneaky and smart, says to me “What if you replaced the word ‘weird’ with God?”  I almost want to punch her as I’m still sorting through my old agnosticism, still, 4 years sober and clearly walking the plank of my new life knowing full well I couldn’t do it without a Higher Power. But the word “God” still kind of stings (so does the word “Jesus”. Don’t know why. I’m working on it).  I grew up Catholic in a ‘a lot of my grandmother’s sisters and brothers were nuns and priests’ kind of family.  We Catholics can get a bit sideways with the whole God concept at some point.

Today, my God or Higher Power shows up as a mezcla of the cardinals, a bejeweled Ganesh, Patti Smith, my grandmother, Roro, who lived to be 104 and up until a few months before she died was extolling the virtues of reading Proust only in the original French, and either the river or the wind, depending upon the day.  I have this friend who has chosen as her higher power a ‘Council of Mermaids’. I love that.  Whatever gets you through the day.  But the word “God” is hard for me. Put a softened feminine “-dess” after “God” and I may buy it (or her). But yes, it’s all kind of weird to me. Especially that I’m here: pregnant. When most of my friends from college have kids in college. When my younger sister’s oldest, my own Godchild, is in her senior year in high school. I’m about to start the journey surrendering to the Goddess of Parenthood, who takes my plans, my control, my freedom and sleep and throws it all in the rubbish, laughing with glee at my folly for even thinking I could sail through this like I sailed through SAT’s and marathons, without studying or training (not that I did either well).  My own personal HP coughs ‘bullshit’ into her lovely henna-painted crone hand and then smiles at me like I’m still 6 years old living in my own personal black and white movie, the heroine of my own wonderland, and waits with open arms for me to fall into hormonal waves of grief and joy that feel sometimes like two sides of the same coin. I grieve where I thought I should be by now and that I’m terrified I’m giving all that up for burping cloths and diapers and that sweet acrid smell of baby poo.  Despite all that, I am joyful that I am getting to be who I never thought I deserved to be.  A mother. Geriatric as I may be.

20 weeks in and I’m not craving strange foods anymore. I feel actually pretty good. Here’s a list of the foods I desperately needed a few weeks back:

1. McDonald’sCheeseburgers.
2. Grocery store bought cupcakes, preferably lemon or red velvet. But in a pinch, a good Kroger’s sheet cake would do.
3. Brownies. The Betty Crocker chewy kind.
4. Pizza. A lot of pizza. Pepperoni and black olives.
5. Pineapples. Seriously. And the whole thing. Like the core and all. In our house, we can now laugh at The Pineapple Episode, which is the night I needed pineapple and it was about 9pm and Jamey was studying and was in his sweatpants and I started to cry. I needed pineapple right then and when he said he’d get me a whole pineapple tomorrow, I threw a temper tantrum and screamed, pointing at my pooch, “I’m the one having to create a human being in here; the least you can do is throw shoes on and drive 1/2 mile to get me a freaking pineapple!”  Jamey is a saint. He got in the car, bought me 2 pineapples and never complained when a few days later we threw out 1 and 3/4 pineapples, because I only ate a few cored slices. I’m an ass.
6. Coca Cola.
7. Pickles. For reals. And olives.
8. Cheese and bread. Bread and cheese. And honey.

What I couldn’t stomach? Everything else, and most especially any kind of meat like steak or chicken or (makes me gag even thinking about it) the pork loin Jamey made one night.  Broccoli. Well, really, any vegetable. Eggs. Practically anything healthy made me sick to my stomach. I never puked but I lived for the first trimester in a constant state of impending nausea.  Thankfully, that stage has come and gone and I’m happily eating everything I see.

My feet have swollen and are sore all the time. My ankles swell up if I stand for too long. I am a woman with an unhealthy attachment to shoes and I’ve had to box up my entire collection but for a few pair. It breaks my fashion-whoreish heart.  My boobs were already quite large but they got bigger (and sorer) and I’m pretty sure my hips are much larger. I’m not really looking too closely. I don’t fit into most of my jeans and I’m grateful to the fashion gods for good black leggings that don’t show my ass crack.  Most of them do, you know. If the woman stands in the light in the right way. It’s mortifying. I’d pay top dollar for a good thick pair of black leggings that don’t show my ass.  A few weeks ago, I went through a really selfish, vain phase where I was freaked out because I didn’t look pregnant, I just looked chubby. And I admit that I have a body image problem – have had one my whole life.  I lost 20 pounds when I got sober and started getting Hot Yoga obsessive. I ran and yoga’d my body out of the extra “Sad Amy” fat, got biceps and muscular thighs, and my stomach was, if not 6 pack flat, it  wasn’t poofing out over the top of my few size-smaller jeans. I would look in the mirror and love what I saw, imperfections and all. Then I got pregnant and ate an entire box of Crispie Creams in one sitting and was told I couldn’t exercise the way I had before to decrease the chances of miscarriage at my age and with my history (Hot Yoga was out completely), and my body began to change.  And as much as, theoretically, I was 100% on board with this whole deal, once I saw what was actually going on physically, miracle that it was, I wanted out. I wanted my skinny jeans and flat stomach back. I freaked. Oh, also: the hormones. They are real. Like, stupid real.  Like PMS on crack.

Now that I’m in my 5th month and completely comfortable in my overalls and leggings and mumu dresses, carrying around 16 pounds more than I had in July, I’m enjoying the ride. I had to let go of that fear of change. See, I thought I couldn’t talk about this: that it was pure vanity to want to cry in grief over my thighs. I mean, it was, don’t get me wrong. I know. But I also had to admit that this is what I was feeling, admit it on paper and out loud, cry until I laughed and, finally, move on from it. It’s how to let go. Not by NOT feeling the feelings but by abandoned into the feelings (with a timer set so you don’t wallow) and then really experiencing that “everything changes”.  Someone once told me that a real feeling only lasts 90 seconds. Everything after that is the memory of the feeling (good to know when you find yourself hanging onto a gripe from 9am well into your day. The feeling of anger passes in 90 seconds — by 3pm you’re just indulging in the memory, rubbing around in it like my dog who likes to rub her back on her own pee spot in the yard — it’s gross).  Now I love this bigger belly, not quite obviously pregnant, still at that stage where people are probably thinking, ‘she’s maybe had a few too many beers’.   I don’t care. I love it. I’m dressing for it, wearing comfortable, flat shoes with Dr. Scholl’s cushiony insoles and eating bagels with cream cheese.

Faith and surrender are what got me here and I guess that’s what I’m writing about today. I know that like I know a storm is coming when my knee, long ago sprained, creaks. I know it like I know that when I pass through a waft of perfume that smells a bit like rosewater and talcum that my long-gone grandmother has shown up again, a spirit in between, to say wordlessly ‘pay attention’. I know it like I know that the bubbles in my stomach I’m feeling every night after I eat dinner are my little boy, 20 weeks old, inside me moving around, getting comfortable in my hardening, melon belly.

Weird, right?

* I go to these church basement meetings and work certain steps to stay sober and sane-ish, and though I’ll be true to the anonymity of the program I work by being indirect about that group, I have no qualms making my sober journey part of this blog, as it’s honestly one the reasons I’m able to be here, pregnant, and married and facing all of it with honesty, hopefully some humility and definitely a lot of humor. The only reason I’m standing today is because there was a day about 4 years ago that I found myself on my knees in another crying fit over another man and another bottle of wine saying to a God to whom I had said a big ‘fuck you’, since I was convinced that God had long ago walked away from my lying, cheating, sorry, drunk ass, “I give up. Please help me.”

Pregnant At 49

A few days ago, I was searching for advice on what is annoyingly referred to as a Geriatric Pregnancy (any pregnancy over 35), and what I found were mostly posts by women 10-15 years younger than me. I felt a bit alone out there in my late 40’s.  Not to say those posts and blogs weren’t helpful, but it’s a whole different journey happening here in this 49 year old body and I needed to talk about it. Quite possibly I’ll hit hot flashes as my kid takes his first steps.  And I know I’m not alone out here.  When I began this journey with my Ob-Gyn, Dr. Storck (seriously, you can’t make that one up), with Chlomid boosts to see if I had any viable eggs left a few years back (I didn’t) and then a miraculously affordable shot at IVF, she waved off my concerns by telling me she’s delivered to women older than me and that I’m a very healthy 49 year old using a very healthy (and fertile) 20-something year old’s eggs.

Pregnancy of course is a profound physical, emotional and spiritual journey and every woman goes through it differently.  But when you’re growing a human inside a body nearing 50, it’s a different ballgame than if you’re 25, 35 even 40.  Also there’s a psychic challenge in getting pregnant after having lived a solo adult life well into middle-age and then, bam, you meet your soul mate (or, single, you go to a sperm bank – whatever) and the urge to procreate that was never there before shows up as deeply as the lines in your face and the grey in your roots.  It’s amazing, don’t get me wrong. I couldn’t be more thrilled, but as I sit on my couch at 5 months pregnant, with swollen feet, heels experiencing sharp jabbing pains my chiropractor says is due to pregnancy-induced sciatica, it would be nice to be in conversation with some others walking this path (or, since my feet hurt, limping this path).

Let’s get real: “Geriatric Pregnancy” is a shitty term.  Facebook already targets me for AARP ads way before I need them.  And I wasn’t near menopause, nor even peri-menopausal and I count myself ridiculously lucky because I have friends who hit that stage in their late 30s.  But the celebrity photos of younger women like Kim Kardashian teetering in sky high heels in skin tight black dresses with a huge baby bump make me wanna eat more donuts and stay in my sweatpants and Uggs.  I’m too old to work that hard anymore.

So I’ll write. It’s a strange, new world and I’m a snarky poetic writer, so I’ll just write my way through it and, maybe, through it I’ll find some others on the journey.  It’s gonna be real. Like really real. Gas and all.

So, welcome to my new blog.  Now will someone go get me a cheeseburger?