Category Archives: Stuff Sarah Says

My Monkey, My Circus

She is my daughter. My charge and my responsibility. I get to make the calls, decide the treatment, and set the course of action. She is my monkey. This my my circus. And there are days that I haven’t the slightest clue how to conduct the show.

There are a lot of things that they don’t tell you about being a parent.

That there is just about the most common thing you hear, ironically. So common as to be a cliché. I mean, with all of the parenting books, websites, blogs, random strangers giving you advice, friends and family imparting parenting wisdom — how could there possibly remain something that they don’t tell you?

I think I know the answer: they don’t tell you because they don’t want it to be true. The truth of the matter being that parenting comes with a big, heaping dose of shame.

Shame for different reasons, though. Maybe because you didn’t breastfeed, or because you use those awful, eco-disaster disposable diapers. Shame because you do (or don’t) ascribe to a parenting philosophy, like “the gentle parenting method” or “the Montessori approach”. People will give you stink-eye for just about anything: how you make your child’s food, where you buy your child’s food, organic versus mass-produced versus vegan, home-care versus day-care, TV versus no TV, et cetera.

The worst shame, the most taboo, is the shame of wanting a break. That is most common, most stigmatized, and most under-rug-swept dirty little secret that parents can harbor. Sometimes we are simply and completely maxed out.

Doesn’t seem that the world has a great deal of compassion for us poor bastards. There’s no chapter in any parenting book that I have ever picked up that gives you tools for how to keep on keepin’ on when you’re just about ready to throw your hands up in the air, say “fuck it!”, and let the little bastard have their third cookie if it will just shut him up.. There are no online support group for parents to talk, openly and without censorship, about how they just don’t enjoy parenting some of the time. (Except maybe this one.)

No one warns you that some days, you won’t like your child very much, and that’s all right. Nah, we judge the hell out of parents who have the temerity to admit their feelings, saying things like, “Well, you were the one who chose to have them! It’s not the kid’s fault — she’s only a baby!” and “Didn’t you realize what you were getting into? Parenting isn’t easy, after all.” “What on earth are you bitching about? Isn’t not that hard.”

But the thing is that yes, it really is that hard. Even though I knew what I was signing up for, even though I even anticipated a colicky, unmanageable child much worse than the one I eventually got, there was no way I could possibly have been prepared enough. And while I understand that M is a small child who lacks the ability to control her actions, she is sometimes a tiny, tyrannical sociopath and the truth is, it gets to me.

I can’t help it. I love my daughter absolutely and completely. I have never, would never, consider a life without her. Being a mother has been a gift unlike any I have ever known. That being said, I would like very much to be able to take a short break from motherhood, in order to reacquaint myself with, well, my self.

There are things I used to do for myself that I simply haven’t the time or money to do anymore. Parenthood has robbed me of my ability to self-care. I can’t tell my daughter that her screaming is giving me an anxiety attack. I can’t explain to her that I have been feeling very depressed and low-energy, so I need to return to bed for a day. I never expected that my feelings could be hurt so swiftly by her capriciousness, that her coy refusal to give hugs and kisses would stir my feelings of inadequacy and low self-esteem.

I was prepared be tired. I knew there would be tantrums. But I never fully appreciated how sleeping in two days a week was integral to maintaining my sanity. I never understood how much I needed those quiet, isolated hours spent underneath the duvet in my darkened room. It didn’t occur to me that once I started caring for my daughter, seeing to her every need, that I would no longer be able to care for my own, or that my emotions could be so heavily influenced by hers.

It feels somewhat trite to muse over all the things I don’t like about being a parent. As I said, it’s an amazing gift, and one that I jealously anticipated. My husband and I are already planning Baby #2 (A second one! My god!) because we have always known we wanted to have a nuclear family. I am also acutely aware that there are many, many people unable to have the family that they dream of, which throws my words into rather harsh light. Still, it is my truth, and the unspoken truth of many: our love is boundless and unconditional, but our patience is not. The fact of the matter is that we are only human, and repeated trials by a demanding two-foot-tall bully will deplete our mental stores. It can’t be helped. Sometimes, the ringleader of the circus needs to leave the monkeys to their devices and exit the tent.

Of the Worldwide Rape Epidemic

My brilliant friend over at Caffffeinated makes no excuses and gives zero fucks: rape is epidemic in our society and it needs to stop. Join the conversation, stand up for what’s right, and keep moving forward.

caffffeinated

I’m going to start by saying this is in no way going to be an all-inclusive commentary on the issues of rape. (It’s also not likely to be very well written, seeing as the subject makes me righteously and justifiably furious, which in my case can lead to incoherent writing.) I can almost guarantee I will be writing more about rape culture, abuse, etc. as it’s an important subject and effects everyone, worldwide.

However, I was prompted to write this piece specifically because of that last word. Worldwide.

A recent buzz about the rape rates and the feminist movement in India has emerged online. Women are dragging their attackers by the hair to the nearest police station, calling out the strange men slipping hands under their shirts on trains, addressing the 7.1% increase in rapes since 2010, supporting a new comic about a rape survivor and a goddess who…

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On the other side

It’s been a rough couple of weeks, mood-wise. Again, nothing in particular to blame except for my faulty brain chemistry. This is just another reminder that all of the work I do in therapy, the medicines I take, the personal development I devote myself to, is not always going to be enough to manage this disease. I sometimes get complacent in periods of mood stability where I think, this isn’t so bad. Then, without fail, I am surprised by the fallout, as if this hasn’t happened a hundred times before. As I’m bouncing between mania and depression, it can be really hard to keep my eye on something still, which is the most disorienting side-effect of bipolar disorder.

I’m pretty familiar with these ups and downs, but the preceding events to my most recent upheaval were new to me: I was in a very demanding interpreting situation and emotions were running high — not necessary in the assignment itself, but in me, because I wanted to do well. Ultimately, I think I did: I walked out of the assignment feeling that my team and I had faithfully represented and maintained the message, and that we were as unobtrusive as possible. Typically, I might suffer from a bit of nerves before or during an assignment, but it dissipates once I’ve the assignment is over (unless, of course, I mucked everything up while I was in the hot-seat, but that’s a whole ‘nother blog). On this day, however, I walked out of that assignment as jangly as a skeleton on a string. My whole consciousness pinged like a struck piano wire. The anxiety was so great, I didn’t know what to do with myself, and ultimately, I experienced something very akin to what I’ve read about sub-drop. With no where else to go, the adrenaline in my system caused wide-spread emotional and mental shut-down. I was so wiped-out, it was all I could do to just get into bed and throw a quilt over myself.

Of course, living in Hawaii makes this version of self-care a little sweaty.
Of course, living in Hawaii makes this version of self-care a little sweaty.

Since that day, my mood and my energy level has been rather variable. I know it will get better, but I have to carefully tiptoe around that mental trap: “happiness is on the other side of this despair.” Because it really isn’t. Happiness is a thing you experience intermittently in the best of situations, and if you’re lucky, even in the midst of a depression. Happiness comes and goes just like everything else — it is not a destination, and no one has the right to 100% happiness one-hundred percent of the time.

So rather than try to convince myself that my happiness is waiting for me, if only I can push through and endure these difficult days, I am going to alter my narrative and focus on appreciating these days for what they are: a natural ebb and flow of positivity, unfortunately made more burdensome by my illness, and nothing more. If that means that I need to decompress by listening to Metallica at prohibitively high volumes after demanding assignments in order to burn up excess adrenaline before coming home to collapse into a cocoon of blankets, so be it. I empower you to do the same, and to be gentle with yourself — you are doing the best you can.

Black Sheep

A wise person whom I very much respect once said that writers should write what scares us. Right now, I’m terrified. Because I have never in my life done what I’m about to do.

Oh Lord, here we go...
Oh Lord, here we go…

Being the black sheep of the family, in and of itself, is not a big deal. Many people feel as if they have fallen far from the proverbial tree, but still feel loved and appreciated (even accepted) for their differences. Unless, of course, they are summarily and shamefully cast out.

Some, myself included, are deemed too subversive to be allowed a pass. In certain circles, there are some who are simply too different to escape scrutiny. They are so egregiously in conflict with their kin’s time honored traditions and values, that they are simply removed from the picture. Sometimes the cataclysm comes with a whisper rather than a roar. One day, you look around and realize that your roots have pruned themselves back and disappeared. Some are flung out more dramatically, of course.

The fear of abandonment robbed me of the courage to speak the truth about my family and how in efforts to appease them, I have capitulated time and time again to their tacit demands for obeisance and silence.

No more.

To be fair, they started it:

Seriously, look at this chucklefuck.
Seriously, look at this chucklefuck.

Okay, so let me give you a little background. I posted a link to this article on my Facebook page, and added a comment that I know women who have experienced this kind of treatment. In response, some member of my family — I will tell you only that he is male — felt it was his personal responsibility (nay, his duty!) to come around and knock me down a peg.

How far? How many pegs do I need to be knocked down before I am worthy of my family’s love and acceptance?

This time, I have opted to get good and mad, and thus I have been driven to a point of hatred and malice previously unknown to me.

First of all, me “stop it”? YOU STOP IT. Who the hell do you think you are to try and put me in my place? I don’t need to shrink and make myself smaller so you will feel bigger around me. I don’t need to compromise my ideals, my morals, just on the off chance that you might find my words offensive. And I do not have to dumb myself down, be less articulate, or think less just so I can fit in with this “family”.

Why put me down? Why seek with every word to belittle me? Why does making me feel small fulfill you? Yes, ours is a family that likes to fuck with each other. And fuck each other over. And fuck each other up. Ours is a legacy of hurt.

I reject the notion that to be intelligent, articulate, and well-educated is a sin. I refuse to align myself with your white-trash morality. Intelligent, free-thinking, even feminist are not swear words, except among simple-minded, misogynistic sheeple.

Baaaaaaa.
Baaaaaaa.

My soul is not for sale, and I’ve compromised for too long, allowing my affection and loyalty to be bought and sold like a commodity. In the interest of maintaining ties with individuals who will only love me on certain conditions, I’ve offered up everything. But still, I have lost.

I’m done.


I am no longer a disaffected youth, though I remain a product of my upbringing. As a result, I am chronically maladjusted.

I always knew that I didn’t fit in. I was never thin and athletic – I was bookish and articulate. And I was always tapped into something greater than myself, something that the people around me had no concept of. I have been perpetually aware of my separateness.

I don’t mean to be divisive: I love my family, but I’m not like them. I’m not sorry about that, though I used to be. I used to feel sad that I couldn’t be the same. I made choices that were engineered to try and make me blend, each with disastrous consequences.

Because when your cool, older cousin asks you to do drugs with him, ya do it. Duh.
Because when your cool, older cousin asks you to do drugs with him, ya do it. Duh.

I feel as if I have never been congratulated without being simultaneously mocked for having achieved anything in the first place. When I was a latch-key teenager out drinking, having sex, and stirring up mayhem, the family shrugged and wrote me off. One such matriarch attended my high school graduation after having offered the following sentiment on the occasion: “What’s the point? She’s just going to move in with that boyfriend of hers and get knocked up.”

I can't exactly accuse my family of having high expectations for me.
I can’t exactly accuse my family of having unrealistically high expectations for me.

But when I started to alter my course, rather than inspiring pride, each action I took seemed to cause anger and paranoia. I left California and moved to Hawaii to go to college — no, I “abandoned by family and moved to paradise.” Never mind the hardship that I faced once I was here. Never mind how hard I worked to succeed despite my circumstances. Never mind that I did everything “right”: went to college, met a nice man, got married, started a career, bought a house, had a baby, and all in that order. When it was all said and done, the sum of my achievements is tantamount to looking down my nose at anyone who didn’t achieve in the same way that I did. I’m the only person I know with such critically low self-esteem to have been so regularly accused of being arrogant, even narcissistic.

I think the primary motivation behind those accusations is the fear of my potential. The fear that, once I realized that I was better than the muck that I came from, I actually would condescend to them. That I would disappear and never come back.

This isn’t to say that my family didn’t celebrate my successes alongside of me. Simply that their inferiority complex dictated that in order to be proud of me, they must also remind me to be small: Don’t you forget where you came from! To which I respond: How could I? How could I forget when the legacy of this booze-soaked, drug-addled, emotionally retarded family hangs around my neck like an anchor? My achievements become cannon fodder and I a laughing stock, when I have done nothing — nothing — but try and mold myself into the kind of person that would be worthy of love and respect.

It has become resoundingly clear that I will never get to that point. And what I stand to gain from giving up the fight is so much greater than what I will lose from letting go.

I just want the freedom to be and to live the way that I see fit, without judgment or scorn. I’m exhausted by the accusations of arrogance and selfishness. I don’t think I’m better than anyone else based on my smarts or my success. But I will say this: I have more compassion, more love, and more understanding than was ever granted to me by that family, and for that reason alone, yes, I am better. Better than my origins, better than my history, and I am not ashamed to admit it.

I’m not sorry that I’m smart. That I maintain informed opinions. I’m not sorry that I kicked up the courage to dream up a different kind of life. That I went to school and toiled for six years to get three degrees. I’m not sorry that this cost me relationships with people who are supposed to love me unconditionally, but instead focus all of that energy on the fear of their own inferiority. If I must be excommunicated from the family for defying these values, I will accept my fate. I own everything that has ever happened to me, and if someone feels incriminated by my story-telling, they should have behaved better in the first place. And as far as I’m concerned, it’s your values that are corrupt. Not me.

So yeah, I’ll be the Black Sheep. I’ll wrap myself up in this thick, black wool. It’s so cozy and warm, I can hardly feel the cold shoulder you’ve been giving me.

But I'll be damned if I don't make this look good.
But I’ll be damned if I don’t make this look good.

BP D-Day

So it’s World Bipolar Day, and I guess that’s fabulous. I see lots of my friends and colleagues sharing photos of themselves with words strewn across: “I am a mother, a business women, and an avid reader. I am not my diagnosis.” It’s incredible to see so many empowered individuals owning their experience with mental illness and couching it in terms of “this is something I live with, but it is not who I am.

I really admire that. I’m just not sure I’m there yet.

Certainly, I agree that I am not my illness, but I struggle to cast it off merely as a condition of living, like the flu or a bad back. Bipolar disorder is part of my identity, and I don’t make apologies for that. I am who I am, in part, because of the personality quirks and general weirdness that BPD has imbued me with — and when I consider it objectively, I really like myself. It would then be a terrible hypocrisy to hate on my diagnosis.

That being said, it’s not always positive. It’s not always endearing to be a hermit. It’s not always funny to lose my temper at the drop of a hat. Sure, those things often make for fun stories after the fact, but day-to-day, I wear my illness like a shroud: it colors my vision of the world and marks up my skin. Literally.

IMG_3916It is an amazing triumph to say that I have been able to grow my fingernails out past the quick, even if my cuticles continue to be ragged. I am proud of the fact that despite (or perhaps because of?) my illness, I am able to devote myself to truly fulfilling work. Still, I am constantly aware that burn-out is a tangible possibility, and I often worry that I’ve taken on too much.

IMG_3919If I were to create an image similar to one of my friends, to express my success in spite of my illness, I guess that would be it. I mean, I have enough titles and talents to take up FOUR business cards! Goodness! But I feel that to do so would be disingenuous. I’m not who or what I am in spite of anything. I just am.

Perhaps I would feel better about #bipolarpride than “I am not my illness.” Bipolar is just a small part of who I am, and gosh darn it, people like me! (Myself included… most days.)

Some days

One year, my brother sent our mom a birthday card that really made her smile. It wasn’t one of those Hallmark deals with corny poetry and glitter — it was just a cheap little card. It had a photo on the front of a little boy sitting on the steps outside of his school, with his lunchbox beside him and his head on his lap, as if he were crying. Inside the card it said: “Some days, I still just want my mommy.” I think she loved it because she loved feeling wanted.

I think about that card a lot, particularly the sentiment printed inside: I just want my mommy. That thought wandered into my head the other night, as it often does, when I suddenly realized the date. March 8th. March 8th, the absolute worst day that ever was, ever.

In the seven years that have passed since she died, I have never gotten into the habit of honoring the anniversary of her death. March 8th is not the day I choose to remember her. It isn’t the same as those birthdays, Mother’s Day, or Christmas. Or any of the other happy occasions that bring her to mind and make me wish she were with us. The anniversary of her passing is a black mark, a day that got knocked off the calendar in sheer repulsion. A day too sad to commit to memory.

A pattern has emerged in the last few years. The anniversary goes by without my paying any mind — no more than usual, that is, because I think of her every day — but I don’t think about holding her hand in the hospital bed, listening through the night as she struggled for breath and the morphine slowly stole her life away. I elect to avoid that place whenever possible. It is as if I am walking down memory lane, the branches pulled aside to clear the path ahead. The coast is clear and then smack! One of the thin, springy branches snaps back and whips me in the face. I often feel guilty for having forgotten: I mean, here I am years later, still locked in a prison of grief. Should I not have kept count of all the awful days that have gone by and how many times I have needed her? I am forever affected by her death, but somehow, I sometimes forget that she died.

When the realization hits me, I count on my fingers — how long has it been? Seven years? Seven. Years. How it that possible? How I am still walking around with this hole in my gut, like the umbilicus that once tied me to her never healed? But then, maybe it didn’t. What is the shelf life of a mother-daughter relationship after the mother is dead and gone? At what point do I cease to be hers?

When shall I no longer wish to curl up beside her warm, soft body, my head in lap as she strokes my hair? When does a child no longer want or need their mother? I can’t fathom it, and I don’t want to. I don’t want to let go, because she was mine and I was hers and whatever wrong she did — and there were wrongs — and whatever I took for granted — and I did so, regretfully — she is mine. And I am hers: a mournful child crying on the front stoop, waiting for my mommy to pick me up and make me feel good again.

Separation Anxiety

I have been blessed with a child who is flexible, pleasant, and joyful. She is also loud, opinionated, and relentless. So when Moira’s godmother and godfather offered to take her for the whole weekend to allow me some much-needed rest, I leapt at the chance, particularly when they offered to watch her over this weekend, as I have just had my last two wisdom teeth pulled and I fully intend to spend the next few days hopped-up on painkillers, eating Jello, and watching bad TV. Hey, you recover your way, and I’ll recover mine.

Jello: It's what's for dinner.
Jello: It’s what’s for dinner.

I’ve been looking forward to and dreading this weekend in equal measure. First of all, I’m not a real big fan of having teeth pulled. It’s painful and uncomfortable and it prevents me from eating solid food. On the other hand, SLEEP. I get to sleep in for two whole days in a row; a decadent, delightful vegetative treat. I’m really looking forward to indulging in that prolonged unconsciousness. On the other-other hand, though, I’m going to miss my baby. Since the day she was born and was whisked away to the NICU for the night, I’ve always been anxious when we are apart. So far, she has only ever spent isolated nights away at her grandparents’ houses and I have always rushed to pick her up the next day. When I’m home without her, I am at a complete loss as to what to do with myself. What do I do when I’m not acting as Mommy? While I’m anxious and troubled, however, Moira has proven to be as carefree and cheery as ever. I’ve never received a call in the night from a sleep-deprived Nani or Grampy with a screaming infant in the background. No desperate pleading for tips to get her to eat, or ways to decrease her crying — because she doesn’t cry. She is blissfully unperturbed. As always, my darling girl is too busy loving life to feel anything but elation.

Unbeknownst to me during my pregnancy, I had conceived the Anti-Sarah: a child so delightfully unlike me as to be persistently effervescent, filled with sunshine and happiness.
Unbeknownst to me during my pregnancy, I had conceived the Anti-Sarah: a child so delightfully unlike me as to be persistently effervescent, filled with sunshine and happiness.

This has confirmed something that I have always secretly believed about becoming a parent: by some miracle, there are times when neurotic, emotional people have kids and witness these children turn out far better adjusted than the parents have any hope to be. Hallelujah! Honestly, I consider it a triumph: so far in my daughter’s 16 months of life, I have not managed to imbue her with any of my anxieties or neuroses. She doesn’t have any trouble sleeping over at her Auntie’s house because she is loved and secure. My daughter has no worries. Score ONE for Mommy! I’m not sure how long this will last, of course. Right now, she is fairly unaware of my struggles and idiosyncrasies, but that will not always be the case. I will have to continue to monitor myself and wage my personal war in private if I am to avoid exposing Moira to my various insecurities. I know from experience how important this is — I see in myself so many of the same feelings and manifestations of self-loathing that my own mother had. That is not the legacy I want Moira to grow into. My mission in life will be to preserve my little girl’s outlook (sunshine and rainbows included), so that the only one who has to suffer separation anxiety — or any other sadness — is me.

I put a spell on you

I am always trying to become more of who I am. That is, trying to make my outsides match my insides. Compartmentalization doesn’t really work for me — I just start feeling like I’m starving one area of life while barely sustaining the others. I’m a much happier person when I allow myself to live all aspects of myself simultaneously and without shame.

The aspect that has most frequently been pushed to the wayside is my spiritual side. My psychic side. I am a believer in the truest sense, but I have dabbled in my practice over the years, having surges of interest followed by valleys of inaction. I’m trying now to undo that pattern and integrate my beliefs into my daily life. To that end, following the classes I have taken with her, I have accepted an internship with Sarah Chamberlain to help mentor other Seekers and support the development of my own practice.

What will this mean?  I will attend Ms. Chamberlain’s classes as a mentor while continuing to learn from her example. So far she has already taught me to embrace my intuition and psychic gifts, read tea leaves, and I’ve increased my knowledge of Tarot and pendulum use. I also recently expanded my knowledge of palmistry. My repertoire is really growing!

imageimageimage

 

I’m also continuing to learn more about Astrology and how to create and read charts.

imageThe reason I’m writing about this on The Real Sarah C is two-fold: one, I’m really excited, and two, I’m quite nervous! I’ve done Tarot readings and palm readings for friends for many years, but always privately. I’ve never come out in public and introduced myself as a psychic — I’m still not comfortable with the term and it feels hokey to refer to myself in that way. But I recognize the power of self-identification as part of the pathway to self-actualization. Five years ago, I was similarly abashed to refer to myself as an interpreter, and I had to force myself to do it. Now, that’s what I do for a living and I couldn’t be more thrilled. So I’m going ahead and start calling myself a psychic — maybe not the kind you see in movies or on TV, but still a sensitive, intuitive individual, able to use the tools of the trade effectively and successfully. I am taking this step, announcing myself and my intentions to my friends and the Universe, in order to make my visions a reality. And I really am thrilled to find my life so full and so rewarding.

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The terrible, inescapable joy of toddlerhood

I did not have rose-colored glasses on when I looked forward into the future and saw myself as a mother. I knew that there would be sleepless nights, unbearably disgusting messes, and futile tantrums.  During my pregnancy, I had prepared myself to give birth to a child much like myself — and according to family mythology, I was no picnic. I pictured myself nurturing a squalling mess of a newborn, overcome by colic; a disagreeable little potato-person who wouldn’t let me leave her sight without wailing, just like her mommy before her. I was pleasantly (to say the least) when M was born and she was perfect. Perfectly formed, perfectly darling, perfectly perfect in every way. She was a good sleeper, a good eater, and she loved people. The only time she really kicked up a fuss was when her FOMO (Fear Of Missing Out) kicked in. When she settled into a routine around 4 months old, I rested easy — maybe this wasn’t going to be so bad, after all.

Okay, so maybe I had some rose-colored shades hanging around my neck, but I swear, I really wasn’t picturing Maytag-commercial levels of parenting bliss. I was ready for anything — until she morphed, slowly but completely, into a tiny tyrant, willfully defiant just for the simple joy of watching me lose my shit.

We had entered the Toddler Zone.

100% of toddlers just want to watch the world burn.
100% of toddlers just want to watch the world burn.

All of a sudden it seems that my delightful, joyful little girl has become hellbent on making me turn into the worst possible version of my own mother, screaming admonitions through my clenched teeth and wielding an open palm, posed to strike a diapered butt. This is not the parent I want to be, but damned if it doesn’t come naturally.

Other mothers know what I’m talking about, but women are so damned competitive, most of us would rather floss with barbed wire than admit to our shortcomings. Not to mention the fact that parenting is an art that we all consider ourselves to be masters of: hindsight, it seems, is not exactly 20/20 when looking back at the first few years of your child’s life and recalling with perfect clarity the successes, but not so much the failures or struggles. Whenever I broach this subject with more “seasoned” parents, I hear “Oh, I know exactly what you mean. You really ought to try this…” followed by a stream of well-meaning advice that certainly may have worked for them, but doesn’t fulfill my immediate need of someone to commiserate with.

I mean, advice is welcome and it is typically well-intentioned, but sometimes I don’t want to hear about your parenting philosophy which has been vetted by child psychologists and is tried and tested and true. Can’t you tell me about the time you wanted to drop your screaming toddler and run in the other direction? Or about how you tried every approach you could think of or read about to discipline and redirect them, but nothing ever stuck? I want to hear about how you were at the end of your rope when your 15-month-old decided to pour juice over their head for the second time while watching you with an impish grin on their face, blissfully ignorant or apparently disinterested in your distress. THAT’s the story I need to hear, while gazing in wonder at your polite, well-behaved 4-year-old who, eventually, grew into a charming little person. I want to hear that all three-year-olds are assholes, and that toddlers are, by definition, tiny sociopaths who, like the Joker, don’t know why they need to do the terrible destructive things that they do, but they simply must. Those are the stories that give me hope that we really will survive this, and that my child is not actually trying to give me an aneurism.

She might just succeed though.
She might just succeed though.

This isn’t to say, of course, that I’m no longer enjoying myself. Even when M is being a tiny monster, she’s still pretty cute (God made them that way on purpose so we wouldn’t kill them, you see). I just find myself uttering the words “Parenting is hard” and “I’m so fucking tired” more and more these days, living for those moments when she’s exhausted and cuddly, before she becomes a little hellion again.

toddlernoun
She is equal parts lovable and maddening, and I wouldn’t have her any other way. Well, okay, maybe I’d have her be a little less interested in climbing the furniture, but that’s about it.

A story of choice

Alex asked:
What was/were the best decision(s) you ever made in your life? (Either because there were immediate benefits or it caused a chain of events that lead to something else you didn’t know you needed.)

Life is replete with opportunities to choose between two or more courses of action. Shall I turn left, or right? Should I take the long way home? Which will have the better pay off, Option A, B, or C? We make so many decisions arbitrarily, rarely considering how one such harmless and innocuous choice could alter our life forever. When you asked me what decision I made most changed my life, this is what I thought of: decisions that, only in hindsight, you are able to identify as life-altering.

Certainly, there have been times when I decided on a course of action, knowing in advance that it would result in complete upheaval. Every so often, you can see a singular moment, a choice that will alter your course irrevocably. The decision I made to move to Hawaii from California when I was 18 was one such decision. I made it during a visit to Hawaii to see my mother and stepfather, while sitting in the dark on their lanai, looking out at the ocean off of Kailua Beach and desperately trying to divine what was going to come next in my life. Many decisions are like that, you know? Made out of complete desperation. I wanted so badly for my life to start, but I was terrified of the prospect of severing ties with everything I knew in order to catapult my life out of torpidity. So reluctant was I to actually make that decision, I broke out my tarot cards and asked Spirit to tell me what to do. I don’t remember what cards manifested in that reading, nor what message they delivered, but clearly recall making that most momentous decision that very night. I flew home, packed my bags, and returned to Hawaii just a few months later, though I can’t say that I never looked back.

I knew moving to Hawaii from California was going to change things forever, though I certainly couldn’t have predicted in its entirety the complete magnitude of that decision. I had anticipated moving, going to college, graduating, and going back home. That last part, though, never came to pass. Part of it was my parents dying and the following sense of being truly marooned on an island, but there were other factors as well. A nondescript moment in my first semester of college where I sat down with my mother to choose next year’s courses and decided Sociology 100 over Psychology 101, for instance. An inane choice between the study of society and the study of the mind that had more to do with my dislike of Sigmund Freud than anything else ended up changing my life entirely — I met my husband in that freshman classroom. Had I not moved to Oahu, I never would have encountered him at all, and we may have missed each other, had we both not made an arbitrary decision to sit in Ms. Mann’s class on sociology at 9:45am on Tuesdays and Thursdays that fall.

I’ve made countless other life-changing choices since then — and clearly, the choice to become pregnant and give birth to Moira is at the top of that list. To be honest, though, I’m not sure any of the other decisions I’ve made in the last ten years have been quite so staggering as those first two. The reason being that each subsequent decision I made; to go to college, to become an interpreter, to marry William, to have Moira; all of them followed naturally after first deciding to up-end my life and move to the island, and then to meet my husband (unintended though that decision was at the time). I made a necessary, heart-wrenching decision to relocate to a strange place and live among strangers in order for my life to start — and boy, did it ever.