Author Archives: Tabby
Ten years ago, I was changed.
There was the Before Me, and the After Me.
I am not the person I was in December 2001. There are elements of who I was that are a part of me now, and as time goes on, I reclaim more and more of the pieces of me from before that time that I want to claim. But there is still a huge chasm between Before and After.
He was tiny, born still at 22 weeks.
January 17, 2002. Forever changed.
I discovered strength that I had no idea was there. I discovered a drive to live and to feel joy again. I embraced parenting my living children, then 2 and 12, as best I could, while battling deep grief. I discovered what grieving looks like and feels like, and how important it is to be there for those who are hurting. I discovered how the internet can link us to others who are experiencing what we are, and in doing so, discovered an amazing group of mothers who were also grieving and we survived and thrived together.
I went on to have another healthy baby, 2 1/2 years later. That was and continues to be very healing. I discovered a lot about fertility and pregnancy loss (I also went through several first trimester miscarriages) and about how grateful we all should be for every healthy baby and child in our lives. It’s not as simple as it sometimes seems. I learned a lot about how to be sensitive to people around me who may be hurting quietly as they long for children of their own, or who may be grieving the loss of much-wanted pregnancies.
We just never know what someone else’s path has been…
What are some of the Before and After moments that have forever changed you?
At the risk of sounding supremely grinchy, I’m not a huge fan of the daily thankfulness posts that circulate on Facebook and elsewhere during the month of November. I’m pretty sure I participated a couple of years ago and I *do* get the point, I just like the idea of implementing that kind of thankfulness throughout the year, not just in November. And I think it’s tempting to really go all out every day in November and then feel “done” for the other 11 months.
It’s a little bit like my parenting philosophy, or even my friendship philosophy. I don’t like overdoing it on holidays or other special events as a way of making up for lackluster participation throughout the rest of the days. Ideally, I think we should be thankful on a regular basis, and we should be eagerly and actively involved in parenting, in partnership (if applicable) and in friendship and other important relationships all of the time, not just on birthdays and anniversaries, Thanksgiving and Christmas/Chanukah/Yule/Whatever December holiday(s) you choose to mark.
I certainly fall short of that on a regular basis, but it is what I strive for.
I know for myself, I would rather have my partner kiss me sincerely and show that he cares about what I have to say whenever we are together than to neglect me for other interests until it’s a holiday or some other jewelry-buying occasion and then make a big deal of it. Luckily, I have someone in my life now who does both (the everyday stuff and the holiday stuff) but if I had to choose, I’d take the everyday good stuff over the holiday make good every time.
Similarly, I know it means more to my kids to have me there helping with homework, giving hugs and offering encouragement every day in their lives than if I were less available but bought them really expensive gifts to make up for it.
I do think that marking holidays and having traditions is a worthwhile part of family life (and human life!) so I don’t mean to sound down on holidays. It’s just that I think a little bit goes a long way. And I really don’t think there should be Christmas music and decorating going on the day after Halloween. It’s more special if those things happen after Thanksgiving (thank you, Nordstrom).
And I think that thankfulness is a very healthy practice. We all have so many things for which to be thankful. I just prefer to make that an everyday practice instead of a November-only practice.
One of the uncles I happily inherited in my former marriage used to say (in a delightful Philly accent), “Honey, I’m so old now, I don’t even buy green bananas anymore.”
I thought of him this morning as I pondered the banana section at the store. Buying bananas these days for me is not as straight-forward as it was for my uncle in his later days. I have to use a fairly complex algorithm in order to land on the right quantity and degree of ripeness in order to make this “simple” produce purchase. Firstly, I have to think about what day of the week it is and what the co-parenting schedule for the week is in order to determine how many more banana-eating opportunities there are going to be for my boys before they go over to their dad’s. If, for instance, it’s Wednesday, and they are going to his house tomorrow afternoon, then at most, they are likely to eat 2-3 bananas. But, these bananas have to be ripe enough to eat right now in order for that to happen. So, I need 2-3 perfectly ripe bananas for the children. But after they head to their dad’s, I will be heading to my partner’s house, which is out of town, for a couple of days. So if I want to get in on the banana action, I either need to eat these perfectly ripe bananas before that trip, or buy two different sets of bananas: 2-3 perfectly ripe ones for the children, plus maybe 1 perfectly ripe one for myself, and then a separate, less ripe bunch that will be perfectly ripe by the time I return from my time out of town. Or, I could consider another trip to the grocery store when I return. Just for bananas. Or, I could travel with the remaining bananas so as not to waste them and then buy more when I return. Or I could buy one bunch, let them over-ripen in my absence and make banana bread when I return.
All this thinking and planning required to purchase the right bananas is enough to drive me…well, you know.
I’ve been feeling stuck for awhile now. What is most relevant to 40Questions is my feeling of stuckness as it relates to what’s going on in my head and in my life and how that translates to my fingers being stuck in the absence of motion above my keyboard.
I’ve been a writer all my life, but not consistently. I have often gone through long stretches of time where the only actual writing on paper or computer is grocery lists, essential emails, and in recent years, Facebook posts. It’s true that I’ve always been a mental writer (ha) in the sense that even long complicated assignments were often composed entirely in my head for days before the deadline and then flowed out, nearly in finished form. But in this case, that’s not what is happening. Or, at least, I don’t think that’s what’s happening.
Instead, I’m dealing with some harsh, unkind demons. I’m dealing with the critical voices that live in my head that cause my shy and private self to self-protect against exposing myself to others. When Mina kindly asked me to join her in writing a blog, I felt honored and…terrified. I love to write, and I love the feeling of connecting with others through writing, but I hate exposing myself. My life thus far has included some really great people around most every bend, but there have been some very judgmental and critical people in important roles too, and they have done some damage to my sensitive self.
I wish I could be more kick-ass, and just say “screw you” to the people who would judge me, for whatever reason. But that’s not my nature.
I guess, in a small way, agreeing to blog, is a whispered, “screw you.” Small steps.
So, why the stuckness? Why now? The why doesn’t matter so much to me as the how. The how to move forward from here. What helps you when you are stuck in your writing and/or in your life?
This image from Irene’s aftermath is moving and heartbreaking and reassuring all at once:
I’ve been thinking a lot about intimacy this week. No, not just *that* kind.
What is true emotional intimacy? How do we establish it? How do we nurture it? How much of it do we need in our daily lives in order to feel connected to other people and not just like an island adrift? How do we decide who our intimates should be? How does intimacy change naturally over the lifetime of a relationship (whether it’s with a friend, family member or romantic partner)? And how do we know what needs to be done in order to reestablish it if it fades or whether we even should? And if it dies in an important relationship…how should we grieve and then move on?
I entered parenting in a somewhat non-traditional way. I became a new (step)mom at 25, to an adorable 7-year-old girl. And my life was forever changed.
That adorable 7-year-old is now an equally adorable, 22-year-old, newly minted college graduate. Her graduation ceremony (at the same university where I attended graduate school for a short time) was last week and I can’t put into words the joy I felt sharing that day with her. Her path has not been an easy one. She has dealt with family crises and significant health issues, as well as the more typical drama that young adults face, and she has persevered. She has her degree, she has her health, and she’s happy in her relationships. I now sigh, with relief and pride and joy.
It’s exciting to be 20-something and to be on the cusp of “what’s next.” It’s a little scary too. She’s saying goodbye to friends and trying to find her first job (she’s working now but not in a Job with a capital J) in the middle of a recession.
How is it that nearly 20 years have passed since I was in this same situation and yet it seems like just a couple of years ago?
As exciting as it is to be at the beginning of it all (and to have a 20-year-old’s metabolism), I wouldn’t trade with her for a minute. I’m not one of those people who ever says, “Oh, if I only could go back to x year or experience, knowing what I know now.” Nope. I am very satisfied to be where I am right now, with the perspective I have gained through slogging through all the life stages that have come my way since then.
In some ways, I’m in a very similar boat to hers. During her last year of college, I’ve moved, I’ve divorced, I’ve started over. I’m trying to figure out what might be next for me creatively or professionally, and how to balance all that with the responsibilities that already exist within my life (especially single parenting two highly spirited young boys). But at 40, I recognize that what’s meant to be, will be, and that there really are no “wrong” paths, per se. I worry less about what’s next, because I recognize that what’s meant to unfold, will, as long as I remain open to the possibilities…
Where would any of us be without our friends? Whether you are a person who has one best friend who is like a sister or a brother but even better, or you’re a person who has dozens of friends, or somewhere in between, everyone needs at least one great friend.
Friendships at 40ish are different from friendships at 20-something. For me, one of the key differences is that I have grown to accept the natural ebb/flow of relationships and I don’t fight so hard to keep all of my friends close all of the time. When I was younger, I was a collector of people. I felt responsible for keeping in regular contact with anyone I considered a friend. And then, when friendships faded or changed, I felt like I had failed somehow. But now I realize that there is great truth in the saying that some friends come into our lives for a reason, or for a season, or for a lifetime. And even though it can be sad to realize that a friendship is changing, and that the close bonds you once shared are no longer there, it’s freeing as well to recognize that change is a constant in life. And not all of us are meant to be intimately connected with all of our friends from birth to death.
That said, it can be more of a challenge to maintain those close ties at this stage of life. Many of us are juggling parenting, marriage/partnership, working, caring for aging family members, or even our own health issues, and we lose sight of the importance of staying connected with the very people who can help us to stay sane during these demanding times. Some of us are more gifted at this than others. I have one friend in particular (you know who you are!) who still manages to remember birthdays, and other important dates, and she sends cards and picks up the phone to call on a regular basis, despite the demands of her own life. She’s a treasure and I am grateful that she is patient with me as I am not so good at picking up the phone to return her calls!
So I think the trick at this stage of life is to figure out for ourselves which friends (and family members who are also friends) fill us up, and how to balance our lives in a way that allows us to maintain closeness with those people. What do you do to stay closely connected with the people in your life who fill you up?
I’m no stranger to attention-seeking ploys. I have, after all, taught both preschoolers and first-year college students and have been parenting for 15 years. I’ve also had more pets (from cats and dogs to birds, fish, a rabbit and a green anole) in 40 years than some people have in a much longer lifetime. Seeking attention to have our needs met is a natural part of who we are, whether we are a 3-inch lizard or a fully grown person.
However, I did not expect that my own body would choose to go to such lengths to get my full, undivided attention.
It shouldn’t have surprised me, really. I do live in my thoughts a lot of the time. It’s a pleasant, exciting place there, and is absent of mundane chores like unloading the dishwasher for the 5,432nd time, or paying bills, or feeding the animals, or remembering to bring the van in for an oil change. Unfortunately, if one is attempting to do one of those mundane things that adult life demands of us, while lost in thought, bad things can happen to one’s body. Trust me on this.
But in the past year or so, it hasn’t been so much a case of being lost in thought as it has been being in survival mode. Since my last birthday (I turned 40 earlier this week), I’ve moved, divorced, adapted to single parenting, maintained a long distance relationship, secured individual health insurance for myself (I deserve a medal and a trophy for that one) and helped my children adapt to their new two-household lifestyle. It has been a very busy time. It is possible that I was not taking care of my body as well as I should have been. In fact, it is likely.
And now, my body is letting me know that it will NOT be ignored. Instead of a nice little note though, it has sent much louder signals, like the severe sprain and bone bruise that took forever to heal, and the dentist mentioning for the first time (EVER) that my gums are inflamed and now, much more seriously, significant digestive problems that have been going on for months. I *must* pay attention now. My body was right to seek that attention.
Dear Body, I’m listening. Let’s work on this together, okay? Thanks for all you’ve done for me and continue to do for me. Love, Tabby