Forgive me, reader, for I have slipped, it has been nearly two months since my last blog post. I find myself staring out the window, waiting for the darkness to fade rather than looking at my screen. I want to write; I love my Saturday mornings. I made my coffee hot in deference to the 47 degree morning. Sitting on my couch, I watch the thin line of the cursor blink on a blank page, waiting for my fingers to move. Inspiration did not strike, so I pulled up another screen and started to let my thoughts flow. My brain moves quicker when I journal; reading back, it sounds as if it is spoken, packed with silence-fillers like “so,” and “ugh.” I typed away until I felt like I could write, brain pan emptied of the mundane and clutter. I pulled up the blank screen. The cursor pulsed, a patient heartbeat, keeping time. I feel like there is so much I have thought to be writing about that I just cannot access right now. We recently went back to Buffalo; an 8 hour drive with the baby, dog, and avoidance of public rest stops. I had wished more than once on those drives for a device that would simply pull the “written” thoughts from my head and record them without me having to do anything. My mind wanders to the days of tape recorders and a montage from Twin Peaks of the agent recording notes to Diane before I snap back. The cursor blinks back at me.
2020 has been a year of upheaval for me, someone who thrives on structure and consistency. That is not to say I’m not agile or able to adapt; I worked in EMS for 10 years. You never knew what you could be faced with next. Now that I work in an office setting where I am not holding anyone’s life in my hands, I have not kept up that level of high alert, but I am still able to adapt to changing situations and environments. Outside of work is a different story. I don’t live on the balls of my feet anymore; I did that for years, living in dynamic and sometimes volatile situations. That state is far too exhausting and stressful for me to be comfortable now, especially with a baby who stills smells new sometimes. I am not a spontaneous person, a fact that drives Hawthorne’s free spirit up the wall. I have recognized and accepted this about myself for a long time.
When things are good, I can keep a lot of plates spinning. I have the balance; I can keep an eye on them, making small adjustments, knowing when the next plate needs a touch to keep on course. I can handle things; just let me be, don’t approach too quickly, and refill my coffee often. When emergencies arise, I can focus on the immediate needs: pack the hospital bag, make childcare arrangements, respond quickly and calmly. You only need to worry if I’m worried, do I look worried to you? No ma’am.
But when the bottom drops out and my whole world tilts, the plates begin to crash. I crash as I desperately try to not only catch them, but keep them spinning. I grasp wildly for those threads of control as they tangle and escape, slipping from clenched fists and burning on the way out. I stand shattered in the wreckage, not knowing where to begin.
There are few acts that show off such vulnerability more clearly than writing. By the time of Oscar’s brief life, I hadn’t written seriously in years. A few poems here and there when I fell in love, a couple articles for work, papers for school. While pregnant with Oscar, I read Like A Mother by Angela Garbes. I sat in the river, my swollen belly keeping the book out of the water, his kicks and rolls adding turbulence as I devoured her words. The call in my head grew louder to write my own story as a queer woman navigating the overwhelmingly straight world of impending motherhood. I distracted the call with freeze pops and let my dream languish for Someday.
Then Oscar’s heart stopped beating beneath mine. The plates all fell as my world was irrevocably changed. I wandered the debris field for months, barely able to put the biggest pieces back together. I read a lot about kintsugi, the Japanese art of repairing broken pottery with gold. It was hard to focus on the striking beauty of reparative work when the hands piecing everything back together were also shattered. I spent a lot of time staring; looking, but not seeing. The blank space stretched on and on, the only thing left unbroken.
My soul had been wrenched out of my body to lay prostrate, soft underbelly vulnerable to a sharp word. My body recovered slowly, and I became pregnant with Lucy.
The first difference between pregnancies I noticed was the new and complete lack of serenity. Everything was jagged, the shards of our life Before now sharp with worry; panic pierced through worn skin and would be soothed temporarily by our team. I tried to keep healthy, but many times I wondered what the point was. I had done everything right with Oscar: kept the appointments, tried to lower my stress level. I did everything for him, and he was still gone.
When I stumbled upon the Pregnancy After Loss Support group, I admit, part of me wanted to look away. Yes, I had been lamenting the lack of resources for queer families; but there is something about isolation that can be comforting. Grief is an insular world that muffles the noise and dampens the senses. I wanted resources to be available, but I also wanted to stay wrapped in my heartbreak. I was scared to open up to other people’s losses. I was afraid to take on their sorrow, as if it would enhance my own.
As the weather grew warmer and his first birthday approached, I could feel the call again, louder, more insistent, an unrelenting drumbeat. I emailed the PALS link and wrote about attending Pride with empty arms. Within two weeks, I became a weekly contributor. And just like that, I was writing again.
It took some time after Lucy’s birth to be able to tell her story. My memory of the events is still hazy, and is not likely to ever become fully clear. Preeclampsia and the associated treatments will do that. I am content with the good things I do remember from that time, namely, hearing the first squeaks of my daughter in the operating room, and having her tiny burrito-wrapped body pressed to mine before she was whisked away to the NICU.
It wasn’t long after publishing her last update to PALS that I knew I couldn’t stop writing again. I had done it to help others and to help my soul heal; waking up halfway to dawn every night made me realize that I still needed that. I had spent my pregnancies doing everything I could for the life inside me. I had given up my autonomy and put myself solidly lower on the priority list. As a mother to a living child and as a wife, I continue to put others needs before my own. It’s something I have done my whole life; I’m a pleaser, and the worst feeling for me is that I have disappointed someone. I am good at doing what needs to get done. It has taken 10 years of Hawthorne telling me to take care of myself, and a new life depending on me for survival, to make me realize that I while I have been getting things done, I have been disappointing myself.
Once I had that tiny little revelation, I decided to become my own coach. Listening to podcasts and starting a daily writing practice, I have found myself in a season of self-discovery and development. I have started a daily writing practice, and I am starting to fill in the self-care and self-building boxes I’ve been making for years in my bullet journal. I’m reading the NY Times daily newsletters, following blogs, and have finally embraced the wonder of podcasts; I need to shoutout my two favorites, which have been instrumental to me these last few months. The Art of Speaking Up gets me to work in a mindset ready to show up for my career and my dreams and makes me look at myself through a critical yet supportive lens; EmpowerHER challenges me to get off my ass and own my shit. I’ve managed to read over 200 pages for pleasure (Stephen King’s The Shining – thank you, Hawthorne, for not making me read it in the winter) for the first time in years.
Oscar gave me another gift this year on his birthday. When I was driving and thinking about him, radio off for once, I had a future memory (I don’t like to call them visions). I watched as entered a small bedroom painted in a calm slate blue with a window facing the forest. Dark wooden furniture was brightened by large-leaf plants. I held my coffee, sat down at the desk in comfortable clean clothes with my hair pulled back, and I was at work. I was a writer.
That image has stuck with me, and I find myself returning to it. I don’t ever imagine myself giving up my day job; I love my work, its challenges and its impact. But why can’t I also write?
This blog has become extremely important to me, because writing has been a passion of mine since I was a child. I am extremely important to me. It’s taken me years, heartbreak, and immeasurable loss to get here. If I want to show up for my family – for my huswife, for my daughter, and for my starside son, I need to keep showing up for me.
I can’t say I’ll never falter, but I can promise I will continue to get up. I am no longer waiting for the right time, I’m not waiting until I’m ready. This is the time for messy action.
So I’m putting it out there, reader, universe, whoever is reading. Writing is important to me, because I am important to me. And I’m going to honor that.
Going forward, blog posts will be posted every other Saturday. They will cover a variety of topics, which will be categorized. Maybe I can even figure out how to color code them in WordPress. I will be migrating my PALS works here soon.
I am a writer, and I will be on the New York Times bestseller list. You read it here first, folks. Watch this space.