Moods

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I’m as unpredictable as a teenager these days. I cry daily, sometimes twice. I snap at Thomas. I snap at the dog. I am constantly having to stop mid-sentence to choose words that my child could at least safely repeat in mixed company. Pregnancy is tough enough, people say. Women keep telling me they spent their second trimesters crying. And other women tell me that having a two-year-old is a challenge they never expected. Pile on top of that the seasonal affective disorder that runs in my blood, though I’ve never noticed it affecting me too much, and the simple fact that my introverted self spends all day with a talkative, boundary-less, filter-less, clinging, needy, excited other person (perfectly normal for a toddler), and I know it doesn’t require blood tests or Freud to figure out why I can’t seem to find my feet.

I know the solutions. More time with friends. More yoga. Less junk food. More time outside. More compassion and empathy for my son, more trying to see things from his point of view. And more compassion for myself.

I train for the new job this coming week, and next weekend is my last at the coffee shop. No more job limbo.

I’ve lit a fire in the wood stove nearly every day this past week. Scraped frost off my car last weekend before work. It’s dusky at four o’clock, dark before five. I’ve barely begun to consider Christmas gifts, and I know I’ll feel better if I just write down the plan and get it done. I just want the lights and the candles. I want to string popcorn with my son and watch him choose favorite ornaments. I want to hear him warbling with Christmas music. I need some magic to fight the dark.

The novel tapered off. I can’t seem to find the line between autobiography and fairy tale. I’ll get back to it when I can. I flew through 12,000 words in two weeks and then, last weekend, lost it.

Meanwhile the baby kicks and rolls and wiggles. Nearly a pound now. At the ultrasound, the little one wouldn’t lay still. It (she?) covered her face, squirmed, shifted. I can see my belly move in the bath. The closer we get to April, the more thrilled I am. I remember the baby times. Tough as they are, they are also simple. Snuggle, feed, change, feed, snuggle. Repeat, repeat.

to keep in mind

“Ordinary Miracle”

I have mourned lost days
When I accomplished nothing of importance.
But not lately.
Lately under the lunar tide
Of a woman’s ocean, I work
My own sea-change:
Turning grains of sand to human eyes.
I daydream after breakfast
While the spirit of egg and toast
Knits together a length of bone
As fine as a wheatstalk.
Later, as I postpone weeding the garden
I will make two hands
That may tend a hundred gardens.

I need ten full moons exactly
For keeping the animal promise.
I offer myself up: unsaintly, but
Transmuted anyway
By the most ordinary miracle.
I am nothing in this world beyond the things one woman does.
But here are eyes that once were pearls.
And here is a second chance where there was none.

[Barbara Kingsolver]

Oh, how “two” is testing my patience. There’s a new job in the works and an old one to leave gracefully. There is a baby bubbling in my belly and the days are shorter all of the time. I’m doing what I’m calling a “half-nano” (writing 25,000 words this month, as opposed to the official NaNoWriMo 50k), plugging along successfully at least so far. It’s sort of a novel. Sort of an HD/Thomas Wolfe fictionalized memoir, mothering and marriage and the ocean. If nothing else, it’s exorcising some demons. Maybe just exercising them. Taking them for a run around the park. Reading more in the process, books stacked up and tucked away all over the house, books with bookmarks the little boy loves to emancipate from their cells. Reading about writing and art, about the sea. Rereading the novels that are the dearest friends.

And, as usual, a little boy is calling. Time to go out, catch the last of the dusk.

Plowing Under, Digging Up

“The truly creative mind in any field is no more than this: A human creature born abnormally, inhumanly sensitive. To him, a touch is a blow, a sound is a noise, a misfortune is a tragedy, a joy is an ecstasy, a friend is a lover, a lover is a god, and failure is death. Add to this cruelly delicate organism the overpowering necessity to create, create, create – so that without the creating of music or poetry or books or buildings or something of meaning, his very breath is cut off from him. He must create, must pour out creation. By some strange, unknown, inward urgency he is not really alive unless he is creating.”

– Pearl S. Buck

Autumn, and all of the sages say it’s the time for quiet, for mourning, for covering the beds with mulch and covering the body with wool. And part of me feels that, as temperatures threaten to dip down to freezing and I’m cooking with pumpkin, squash, cranberries, the last of the apples, all grown close by. I know as a pregnant woman I ought to be (and I feel that I should be) taking it easy, resting, sleeping a little more, running more slowly and more rarely, sticking to stretches and walks and self-care.

But another part of me is nesting not just with food (although, wow, have I been food nesting with this pregnancy) but with making. There will be another baby, another infancy, another year of sleep-deprivation and nursing for hours and my arms full, full, full of child, and all I can think of now is what I want to accomplish first. I want this novel to have a shape, to be done, nearly done, at least halfway finished before April (Tracy Chevalier allegedly was inspired to write Girl with the Pearl Earring just before she found out she was pregnant, so she researched and wrote the whole thing, finishing weeks before her child came). Though I’m not on instagram, I found this one through her blog and spend far too much time wishing I had endless hours and motivation to simply quilt, to dye good fabric with natural fruits and seeds and roots, to make beautiful patterns of it, then to stitch it all with beautiful, hypnotic sashiko quilting. And then there’s the knitting, the sweater I promised Thomas, the blanket I want for this new baby (though that could, now that I’m considering it, simply be the first thing I work on postpartum, something rather mindless and cozy during those hours of nursing), the socks I want to make for my husband. Yesterday I passed the last forty-five minutes of Thomas’s nap slipping tiny glass beads onto thread, something I haven’t done in (ten? fifteen? more?) years to make a bracelet, tied to my wrist, blues and greens and frosty whites, to remind myself of the novel, of the work, of the creating to be done.

I spend far too much time wishing I could be a single-minded dynamo, an expert, a specialized craftswoman. I know that plenty of amazing people have been well-rounded, fingers in many pies, exploring all of their skills and interests, but I confess I’m having some trouble with it.

Gestation

Not just one baby, but two.
Not twins. There’s only one tiny human growing inside of me, now the size of a lemon, now able to make faces, now growing hair, now one third finished.

But a different baby. Another novel.
I’ve been poking around this one for years, writing a few pages of it, then forgetting about it, abandoning it, knowing it wasn’t quite sure where to go. Picking it up again a few seasons later, trying it on the way you try on the dress you find at the back of your closet, and knowing that “not just yet…”
But reading an excerpt of someone else’s novel cracked open this little idea, and suddenly it’s three-dimensional. Suddenly I’m seeing connections and links and metaphors and plot lines. Suddenly I have a to-read list a mile long, literature that I just haven’t gotten to yet and scientific research and field guides. Note cards collecting on my desk with facts and references.
It’s not quite ready to be written yet. It’s gestating, incubating, invisibly forming parts all on its own while I continue to feed and protect it, trusting that when it does come into the world, whenever that may be, it’ll have the backbone it needs so that I can take full responsibility in bringing it to maturity. I’m excited and nervous and hopeful and hesitant and curious.

Two

two

He is two days and two years old. I didn’t even think about writing on his birthday. I spent it with him.
Two years and two days ago I was just starting to push, just starting to finish, on the verge of meeting my son face to face for the first time.
A year ago, he couldn’t walk. He knew a handful of words. He would climb onto things without knowing how to get down, find himself without sufficient language to ask for things or explain himself. He was waking every two hours at night, sleeping worse than he ever had as a newborn, and my husband and I were going more than a little crazy.
And now?
Running down the road, jumping, climbing rocks with an agility that amazes me. He recounts stories, makes up songs, tells jokes, plays tricks (still my Trickster). He sleeps through the night most nights, wakes with a smile, a snuggle in my bed, and demands for “oats!” “raisins!” “yogurt” or, for some reason this morning, “popcorn!” He no longer nurses, no longer needing my body for nourishment just as he hardly needs it to get around this world. He can pretty much recite “Good Night Moon” and a handful of other books to his stuffed animals and baby Nora.
Sometimes he doesn’t listen, blocking out my requests or my calls for safety. Sometimes he hits or pinches, grabs the dog’s feet or tail, and laughs, still not aware of the pain he causes. Sometimes he gets on a streak in which everything is just awful and he will whine and pout no matter what he is given. He is, after all, only two.
But he will also cross back and forth across the yard with his wheelbarrow to help us stack the firewood that got delivered this week. He loves to help me bake, to “wash” the dishes after, to help sweep, to wash his hands. He loves to carry the dog’s leash when we walk her, to carry a bag or an object for me, to help fold laundry.
He is coming along wonderfully.

And I? What about me, the mother, the Mama. While I have an unbeatable husband and in-laws who are close and parents who are insistent about Skype dates and visits and gifts, while I have friends and a sibling and brothers- and sisters-in-law who are all remarkably loving, I am the one present most of the time most days. I am the one trying to carry my patience through toddler-slowness and toddler-indecision and screaming rashy diaper changes. I am the one with the opportunity to make up songs about tunnels and trains and whales and caterpillars, the one to point out all of the things that we see when we walk, when we grocery shop, when we play in the backyard, when we visit friends.
I am the teacher, the cook, the laundress, the housekeeper, the nurse, the jailer, the emancipator.

I don’t give myself enough credit. Do most relatively new moms? Do most moms? Given what I’ve read and heard in my life, do most women? Do most people? I hem and haw that I’ve hardly written these past two years, that I’ve sewn so little, that it takes me months to make the amount of money many people make every paycheck, that I’m Not Good Enough. I’m too young, too sloppy, too selfish, too romantic. But I’m not those things. I am doing the best I can with what I have.

I keep talking about what I am to Thomas, or what I’m not. But I keep trying to steer myself toward what I am to me. I am figuring things out. I am making connections with friends, with people who could potentially help me find work in the coming years, with my community. I am percolating with and fermenting all of the ideas and emotions that go along with wife- and motherhood. I am plotting another novel. I reminded myself two days ago that I get the life I always wanted: I take walks and cook and bake and read. I linger outside. I listen to music. And I get to do it all with someone who is so excited and curious about so many things. The past few weeks have been about recognizing that, holding onto the awareness.

It’s been an impossible two years (and two days). But it’s also been pretty amazing.

lately

It’s tough to say what life has been like “lately.” I’m channeling my inner toddler/infant, I suppose, because everything seems twice as intense as it ought to, the highs higher, the lows lower, my mood changing so fast that I can never see the storm clouds coming before the downpour.

This morning I woke up in a beautiful mood, and in under an hour it was gone, no reason given. I felt raw until lunch time, the way you feel when you’re sunburned all over. Everything was painful, everything abrasive, everything obnoxious. The beautiful day, the ecstatic toddler, the beach, it didn’t make a dent.

The afternoon, on the other hand, was smooth as a worn seashell. A nap for me, then chocolate and coffee and quilting while he kept sleeping. We prepped dinner side-by-side, went running together, then I got to finish cooking while he and Dada ran around the backyard.

When I went upstairs to put him to bed after bath time, he leaned in to snuggle and whacked his head against my cheekbone so hard it ached off and on for an hour.

I can’t seem to find an even keel. Hoping the autumn, the fall, that starts in an hour will bring me some grounding. Hoping a more regular yoga practice and a little less sugar in my diet will relax the kinks. Hoping, trying, one day at a time.

Today

Today my son pooped on a chair in the living room.
He did then scramble down and finish in his potty, but, still. Poop. On my chair.

He also peed on my bed.

Transitioning from diapers to potties is not for the faint of heart.

Today I made a peach tart and a spice cake and failed at making grape fruit roll-ups.
Today my son helped me make my bed and helped me make spice cake and ate all of his meals and checked out my library books (with a little help) and learned about the button that opens the front door to the library so that now he can do it himself.

Today I snapped at my son more than once.

We all do things we’re proud of and things we wish we could undo.

So how ’bout that weather?

Ben Folds croons about Jesus on the Bose speakers as afternoon sunlight slips and trickles into the living room. Thomas is serving himself from this morning’s pot of oatmeal while finding the delivery trucks in each of his truck books, squealing as every new one is found. It is the kind of warm, thick day that we never saw all summer, not unbearable but insistent enough to make you stop and say, “yes, this is summer.” Iced almond latter weather – I’ve been cobbling together a homemade version every day this week. Mornings with toes dipped in the chilly Atlantic weather. Don’t go running until dusk weather. Sit out together on the patio after the toddler goes to bed and count the stars weather. No knowing where skin ends and atmosphere begins weather.

It’s easy to overlook these days, to cruise right by. The days when the double batch of banana bread (one with fresh cranberries, one with coconut) bakes up just right, when knitting projects look and feel like they’re progressing, when Ray LaMontagne follows Van Morisson follows that previously mentioned Ben Folds. Pillow fights. Made up songs about backhoe trucks. A half-naked barbarian child drawing scribbles in my notebook. Fridge and counters full of good food. Paychecks coming in.

In twenty days, he’ll be two years old. And I have been mothering for over 700 days. I guess we’re doing pretty well.

Pop

An Indian summer, it seems, as the heat we evaded and outran through June and July and most of August sneaks up on us, leaving all of the heavy vines and laden stalks wilting and wanting. And my own belly ripening, too, suddenly so very insistently visible, the baby already claiming her (his?) place in my body, in this world. I’ve pulled out maternity shirts and dresses, not wanting to stretch out my own usual wardrobe. I’ve told everyone. 

I am two, the baby and I. But I am two in so many other ways. I have told the husband that I can’t stay here forever, can’t grow old with shifting beach sands beneath my feet. But that is only one of my selves. The other knows we will stay, knows this place will be good to us, to our children, with farms and live music, with friends and bike rides and swims in the pond, with family nearby and the weather near spot on for what we dream. The first self wants wilderness and rebellion, off the grid, out of touch with society, in touch with dirt and trees and mountain bones. The second is still searching for the best way to pay the bills, to pay for the home birth in the spring and Montessori preschool in the fall and organic tahini and gas for the car. 

Twin sisters in my spirit, each grabbing handfuls of the other’s hair, scratching with sharp nails, biting, tattling. Neither can stand to lose, to give in, and neither knows how a compromise could even begin. 

I love my son. He drives me crazy. 
I’m thrilled to be pregnant. I’m terrified of what it will do to my soul to do this all again, the lack of sleep and financial worries and living always at baby/toddler pace.
I love the friends we’ve made here. I can’t stand the tourists, the sand, my coworkers. 

I wish I could sell my novel. Or two of them.
I wish there were reasonable half-time jobs, something at which I could earn more than minimum wage, something that wouldn’t mean 7-9 hours at a time on my feet, something that wouldn’t leave me smelling of mop water and Toasted Coconut coffee.
I wish, I wish. 

I’m knitting again. Making bread. Restless fingers, restless hands. Aching to work, to earn, to accomplish, without abandoning my son, without giving up all sleep. 

The scales shift and settle. There are so many good things. There are so many hard and frightening and worrisome and exasperating things. At least I am feeling. 
 

Tired

I am tired. 

Bone tired.

Muscle and mind and heart and hands tired. 

Tired like I’ve battled sea waves with only a breaststroke in my arsenal. 

Tired like I’ve scaled peaks, scraping limbs and carrying cargo all the way.

Tired like I’ve spent lifetimes under hot sun. 

Tired like we don’t seem to have stopped since I learned of this life within me. 

Tired like I shoehorn all of my work into three days of the weekend, 
all of the digging and carrying and standing.

Tired like I have not been on my own and awake, save in this moment, in as long as I can remember. 

Tired like I am creating an entire new life within my own humming, working, proud body. 

Eight weeks down, thirty-two to go. 

I am tired.