Life as we knew it

I am 32 years old. I remember growing up with a lot of television. We did not have cable, ever. I was a child during the time where the rich kids had cable and the rest of us didn’t. Now, I still don’t have cable, but I am in the margins of the population. I know “we” are evolving past Netflix and Amazon Prime but my point is that television is a GIVEN, and has been since my own mom was born in 1957.

The memory of Non-televisionary life does not exist for me, or for most of you who are reading this.

But, if you are of a certain age and older, say-30 and up, you remember a technological time that will never exist again. A childhood  with no devices.  The time when the internet didn’t exist. I imagine that our historical counterparts are the generation  born before cars were invented but came of age right as they became available to consumers. So there was a clear memory-line. Before Car and After Car.

I have been coming across instance after instance where I tell my 12 year od daughter to listen to me and change her zombie-like attachment to her technology because she will turn into a new, semi-robotic human slasve-species if she keeps this up.

That is incredible “Dinosaur Talk”. But there it is. Call me Dino.

On NPR’s “Wait Wait Don’t Tell Me” this week, a guest of the show, comedian Bobcat said that he hated when people his age acted proud that they didn’t know how to operate a phone or computer. His clincher of a joke was saying “If you don’t know how to use a computer, just DIE ALREADY!”

And that’s been haunting me, especially when I see old people driving boat-of-a-cars, knowing that as they die, and our parents generation dies after, WE (older Millenials) will be the last frontier between the Old Culture and the New Technorapture.

It will be our duty then to preserve some memory of human function without machine.

I am trying now, but I see the futility. Yet, of course, I refuse to die. I will and have adapted, swept into the internet with the rest of you, almost without  a choice, yet achingly, knowing that it is a choice…Because I know better.

I knew better. I knew different. What I am struggling to define now is what about MY CHILDHOOD is so different from the technology infused childhood of my daughter. What of those differences is the most important…

Thats a post for another day. Right now, I’m writing about this because-and I guess this is a quintessential component of child-rearing, I feel all too aware of my own mortality.

In parenting, we prepare a new generation to take over once we die. I guess what sickens me in my own selfish way is that my childhood cannot be replicated. Society can never go back to the pre-internet era, and therefore, perhaps the wisdom of the pre-internet era generations will not be valid anymore. I’m of course arguing the case that it should be even more valid, but I have my doubts. And I have the sinking feeling that this is what everyone thinks, regardless of the century they are in, as they get older.

“What will be left of Me when I am gone?”

 

 

 

Book Reviews and Psych Blues

Wow. I just finished off Marya Hornbacher’s 2nd memoir, “Madness: A Bipolar Life”  last night and thought it was worth reviewing.  Firstly, I met her through a series of other books, and found her first memoir, Wasted, only a month ago-which was all about her serious anorexia and bulemia that haunted her from childhood through her 20’s.

Madness takes place right after Wasted was published. Evidently, becoming a rich, famous memoirist does nothing for your inner psychiatric ailments, because she went full-blown into mania and depression.

This resonates with me.

She has a passage about going completely crazy with “crazy Sean”, driving out into the dessert and leaving life behind her (including a university teaching position), to get completely shitfaced, paranoid, delusional, lost in the desert, stuck in rancid motels…

It reminded me of a time when I disssapearred for a while. If only I had written a memoir beforehand…But the energy was the same. Just completely going off the map and going on a complete alcohol binge. Maybe I will discuss that in detail another time…”Just ask me about the Pit”. #HarvardSquare

She gets admitted to the hospital for alcohol poisoning.

I can relate.

She goes to a mental hospital.

She goes to a partial day program.

Jazz-hands. Relate.

But……

But….

She goes back, and back, and back, and back, and back.

For a thin book, the amount of hospitalizations she recounts is just unbelievable. It just takes a turn from relatable, to OH MY GOD, I AM SO SO SO DEVASTATED FOR YOU.

She gets sober.

I can relate.

She gets the horrible depressions that urge her to “Drink herself manic”.

I can relate.

The more I read, the more I realized how lucky I am.

I don’t have to take mood stabilizers. I don’t take anticonvulsants. I have remained sober for over a year…thank god for Wellbutrin for not being a “fat drug”…Those kinds of things. But most of all, I finished the book in shock and grief, for Marya is possibly NOT better. She was so so so sick. The amount of ECT she had, the amount of hospitalizations she had, and the fact that her first book precipitated, well, Madness, just devastated me in a way  thats hard to explain.

The incurableness of mental illness is its biggest struggle.

 

homebirth

Pregnancy lasts so long that by the 9th month, I was convinced that actually giving birth wasn’t for me. Pregnancy seemed interminable. So when my water broke, 10 days after my due date, I was convinced I had just wet my pants. For the first time since I was a little kid. But, the thought that I was actually going into labor was not the first thing I thought of.

“Tanya, I just peed my pants. Is that normal?”,  I asked my midwife, a fairy of a woman with copper hair, freckles, and a distinguished look. A good decade older than me, she was. I was 20 and, she told me, my water had just broken.

“I think your water broke”, she told me. “Call me back if it happens again.”

On the phone with her 5 minutes later, with the same mortifying tale. She was sure of it. I was officially in labor.

It was about 10 or 11 am. All of the usual suspects were still over from the night before, sprawled around my tapestry-covered living room like diapers soon would be. Henry Street was a house where pot was plentiful, the smell mixd with constant community-style stir-fries and body odor. There were some professional dumpster-divers in my clan. Trader Joe’s had just opened in Hadley, and they had not taken measures to protect their “not the best but still good but still thrown away” food from the hippies, the vegans, the anarchists.

We took a hike, cutting up past the power lines behind Henry Street that I prayed would not give me a brain tumor each day, and into a steep woods trail, where I also hoped I would not be mistaken for a deer. This was Amherst. My good girl friend hung back with me, while a few boys walked ahead with my partner. No doubt smoking a very last bowl before being shoed out once we returned home.

I had heard walking and hiking was good for labor so, with that off my list, I did what else I had heard was good for labor. I rested, watched a movie and napped. Then a new mama came by with some food, and her very own 4 month old dark-haired baby girl. Was the  baby there? I can’t really say I recall. The food I recall well. It was “chinese rice”, likely some leftover rice with an egg stirred into it along with some soy sauce. Scratch that, it must have been Bragg’s. You know we are talking about Amherst counterculture when Bragg’s enters a birth story.

It was now getting dark, and all the visitors but my partner’s best friend had gone, to the great stir-fry beyond. Or to Northampton. Same thing.

Finally, things started getting pacey. To the bathroom, to the bed. To the yoga ball, to the bed. To the yoga ball on the bed.

My midwife finally came at 8pm. She had called to check on things and was confident that I was able to get to this point on my own. I called her back, asking, “Are you sure?”, more than once.

Was she there, my midwife, when I threw up every bite of food my friend had prepared for me? I don’t recall. I just recall the heaving. By 9pm I was in the zone. Perhaps that euphemism has been used by too many sports figures to be applicable here without corruption. I was beyond help and beyond words. I recall the color yellow vividly. The feeling of being molested, assaulted or sexually tortured casted shadows in my mind. As if I could just say “No” and this shattering pain would stop, this pain that so clearly was not caused by me. It was an hour I spent enveloped inside every dark thing that has ever happened to me.

My partner had long since become useless. I asked his best friend, a de facto good friend of mine, to leave. He  did leave, although an eternity later, he would be back, saying goodbye as I left henry Street on a stretcher, bleeding to death in the way that women do when they have given all they can, and the device that gave all, the placenta, refuses to come out. As if to say, “I am not done giving. I am not done being connected to my child. Bring her back to primortality where I have everything she needs.”

Did I know that my baby was a “she” when  the 7 minute mark, the 10 minute mark, the 20 minute mark passed by post-birth, and I lay bleeding and attached,  umbilically, to her, and fiercely to my inside, with my placenta? I did wait, wait, and just until I couldn’t bear it, did I richly hands tentatively to the newborn’s privates, to determine what they were. I waited so long under the advice of that friend, who had given my the fried rice that had been my gastronomical undoing hours earlier, but this advice rang deeply in my soul:

“Wait. Wait to find out ‘what’ your baby is. Wait until you have  had a moment, the only moment you’ll ever know, of loving the child you have just had. The one that all too soon will be admired as a boy or girl…”

When I had waited long enough, and I felt around down there, I announced that it was a boy.  My first error as a parent. It was, indeed, a girl! My girl. Raven-haired and fiercely nursing, attached again to me, like only the most insignificant of changes had occurred.

Her father did get to hold her next. I should mention that this postpartum nest in which I was bleeding out profusely was my bed. I had the baby in the bathroom and she and I were carried, processionally, to the bedroom, still attached, me hanging like Jesus on a cross, the cross being the shoulders of midwives.

Maybe her father had his turn to hold her at the 25 minute mark, when it was clear to everyone but me that I was dying, hemmoragging, in dark, hot  weeping blood. I remember he tried to walk away with her, the stoner forgetting that she and I were still attached.

I remember the midwife telling me to keep my eyes open, as her midwife associate called the ambulance that saved my life.

“Keep your eyes open. Talk to us. Talk to us. Stay with us,” she ordered from far away, from far below. I remember floating to the top of the ceiling, my whole body levitating above the bed, and my mind bumping into the paved concrete lines in the ceiling.

I stayed. It was so peaceful up there, and it was only for a few minutes, or seconds, but I had the feeling that I was simply not in my body, the voices were heard as if being spoken to someone else, perhaps that blueish corpse on the blood-soaked bed. That feeling lasted only as long as I did, and then, my consciousness shifted again and I was no longer bumping into the ceiling with my whole face, but there in bed, feeling again-the bite of a small mouth latching to my nipple. And there I stayed, long enough to get to the hospital, and receive the lifesaving surgery and subsequent blood transfusions-multiple- that separated me, and my birth experience, from the ghosts of…IMG_6611the dead,

from the past,

who never got up from the childbearing bed again.

 

 

 

 

Writing tips from Erica Jong

  • “I think writing elevates my mood because it’s a way of imposing order on chaos.”
  • “In order to tell a story you have to find sequence in experience. Sequence is a way of understanding an experience that has previously been obscure.”
  • “If you want to be a nice person, don’t write. There’s no way to do it without grinding up your loved ones and making them into raw hamburger.”
  • “No one ever asks for a new book, but you need to write it. And your need will eventually infect your reader.”
  • “Whatever is not fixed in language drifts away.”
  • “All autobiography is fiction and all fiction is autobigraphy…”
  • ^Erica JongIMG_7691
  • “All fantastic literature had only 4 plots: The mingling of dream and realty, the double, time travel and the book within the book.”-jorge luis borges

Henry Street

IMG_6371.JPGThe coldest January in a long time. On record? On my record it was. It was only my first January in Amherst. I, we, lived in Belchertown for 6 months beforehand and it was cold, but it was also March when we got there, and March has hope. March, you could catch a bus. January, you would not be dreaming about taking a bus, once I had the baby. The cold was that much colder, because I was locked inside from it, with nowhere to escape from.

Oh, I had a few outlets. I had “my lady”, as I think of her now. Susan Saltmarsh, a name that by the mere sound of it, is absorbent. Absorbing me into her SUV once per week to take me food shopping, or to a medical appointment. She was from “Healthy Families”, an organization whose nitch I fit. Young, and mother. Qualifying for “Healthy Families” was somehow a small brag. Look how young I was. I am “Program-Young”.

Susan would get me out of Henry Street, which was a former chicken coop, my sister claims to remember, and take me to grueling recertifications at Food Stamps and things like that, but more often, to The Big Y. A supermarket new to me then, and a question in itself that was also new to me, and yet familiar…the big Why.

And more vitally, the big How.

How? How!!! How was I supposed to have a baby and not have a car, and live in Amherst. Days before my due date, and days after it had passed, to no avail, I had hitchhiked home from my hotspots, which included the Amherst Survival Center. Often, I had walked. Sometimes, we walked. We were a couple. We would not last long, not past our second winter in that house on Henry Street.

The house on Henry Street was where we ended. Where we started I might never tell, but it seemed so romantic at the time. If only I had known how consequential choices were, even at 19 years old. How much more permanent and paved the road became under my feet.

“My feet…is my only carriage. And I’ve got to push on through.”

The Henry Street house was comprised for me in those Marley lyrics. My feet were my only carriage, although shortly after, I employed my brain to get me places, namely, though UMass and the fuck out of Amherst. But in those Henry Street days, my feet were it. And when my daughter was old enough, the sidewalks barely clear from snow enough, her baby carriage was my upgrade. My first wheels, they were. Our first wheels. And with those wheels, I pushed through. Or despite them. In those days, the Big Why wasn’t answerable, so I pushed on through with the How.

The Big Why’s never went away, but those questions were a luxury, and there was no room for luxury. Only, How?

How would I get a college degree with an infant?

 

 

 

 

One more time

I want to  know you one more time, again.

I want to remember that you’re my best.

I want to look you in the eyes again,

As I lay upon your chest.

There’s another version of us, babe.

We’re together all the time.

I want to find that place, babe,

The map is blazed upon my mind.

I want my kisses to say sorry, babe,

If we should ever meet again.

Our universes are colliding,

And I know if we touch,

They will spin.

Out of my control, I love you

Though I don’t remember why-

My memories of you surround me

Like the clouds and sun and sky.

Is the new better than the old? That’s the goal.

Its New Years Day, and on the radio I heard about some research to do with why we make resolutions on New years. Turns out we also make them on milestones and birthdays, too. It’s a human instinct.

So although we are all making resolutions for the Year today, we can also make them when the new week starts, or the new month, for example. That excites me, especially when added to the next thing I learned today:

That people typically rate their “current self” as higher/better than their past self.  This surprised me personally because I have a very specific memory of the “best me”, and a very specific weight and shape. If I could get THAT body and this Brain, I’d be in heaven. So clearly I can’t go back 7 years, but I CAN make a body that gets better week by week. I basically want to hijack self-improvement theory and make it perform miracles for me.

I’m just shocked that most people like themselves more now. I must have some issues. What’s new. Therefore… I am trying to be more joyful this year and appreciate myself as I am (Gasp this is getting so corny.) I danced with my dog tonight to entertain my kid and her friend, and then my random celebration inspired them to dance with each other and the dog to the radio. Silliness is contagious! I am so busy being grownup/singlemommin’/self-critiquing that I have little time for joy. I’m really a free spirit pretending to be an uptight- “Mom’s Mom” I swear.

I was envying some one’s perfectly highlighted hair today, and I had my usual thought: My hairs too short, too dark, too poor looking, and therefore I suck and should wear a hair burka. (Quick thought, not to worry. Really). BUT THEN I HAD A BREAKOUT THOUGHT: which was:

God fucking damnit, woman! You used to have DREADLOCKS. Unchecked armpits. Now you are as bare as a spring lamb from pit to crotch (THANK-you very much old job with lasers involved) I mean, things have changed, ad by societal standards, I’m not a bad looking betch. So I fantasized about those olden-times in the hippy-ghetto and summoned some unfathomable source of self-esteem from that time and told myself to take it easy on the hair envy. I mean, just because someone else can afford $200 highlights doesn’t mean I am less of a person.

THE COMPARISON is NOT the WORK.  That’s the point. I can look at pics of myself at 114 lbs and compare myself to my weight today in the 130’s. (not adjusted for seasonal depravity). I can compare my energy to when I worked out every moo day to now. But that brings me no where.

I can recollect the “tofu days” of yore, where I had such great willpower and made great food choices, like, most always. AM I STILL that person? Yes? Well than I can be myself again. First step is to stop dwelling on how I used to be/comparing that supermodel to my washed up current inner self, but thats actually a horrible procrastination. SO is.

So, like Louise Hay says, :

“As I begin this new year, I let go of the past and become a “now” person”.

So, maybe I do like I did. Maybe I do something different. But my goal is to get into incredible shape again. I miss the endorphin high. I miss the high so much. I miss running, and feeling so light that I could just fly up in the air a little bit with each step! I may not become a new person, but i will become a “Now” person!

Writing more often is also a new years goal, and so far so good. Music as well, I brought up my keyboard from the basement today and got lost in playing to some Little Big Town. Music had been missing from my life the past year. And I am a natural musician, so making time to fuck around on the piano and guitar is such a obviously “being awesome to myself” activity.

I do have to mention that I have been listening to some broody music from my past…love-blog to follow soon I am sure…