image_pdfimage_print

No plans

I like planning things. I’m reasonably good at it. I stay on top of what needs to be done, make lists to make sure I don’t miss anything, keep from leaving loose ends, and try to cover all the bases. It’s comforting to me to have lists. It gives me some structure; when things need to be done, they will be done, because they have been crossed off the list.

What happens when I have no control over events which will have a huge impact on my life?

We are waiting for the possibility of a baby. We have done everything we can from our end. At this point, we’re just waiting. If we get to the end of December without a match, we will reassess. Some part of me would love to make a room for the baby, set up books and toys and clothes, and start making sure we have a place that works when a baby comes home with us. Unfortunately, it isn’t a “when”. It’s an “if”. I know that, for my peace of mind, I can’t set up a nursery right now. It would be built on hope, not reality, and if it didn’t end up working in the end it would be very difficult to have to take everything down. I know this may not work, so not setting up a room is a protection of sorts. It keeps me from getting too emotionally invested when we haven’t even been matched with a biological family.

I can’t plan for this. I can’t make it work. I can’t fix anything or make it more likely. I am in limbo.

There’s another piece of this, too. We’re planning to move out of this town eventually, but the timeframe might be pushed up. It has nothing to do with me or my decisions. I support the idea, and I’m happy with it, but at the same time it is, again, something I can’t control, despite it being a life-altering change.

I, the one who likes making sure everything is lined up, can’t plan for anything over the next few years with any certainty at all.

I can adapt when plans change. That’s life, and I have become accustomed to dealing with change. I’m not always graceful about it, but generally I handle plan changes cheerfully and just shift as needed.

I’ve never really been without plans altogether.

Right now, I do not feel like I can reliably plan anything more than about a month away. Maybe a biological family will show up and be due almost immediately. I don’t know. I can’t predict that. I can budget. I can make sure that everything at home and at work runs as smoothly as possible. I have my own limited little area that is not completely without form or focus. If I look further than a month out, though, I end up lost and afraid to plan much of anything because the maybes are much too big.

I am learning to sit back and let the world go by. I am trying to accept the fact that I have no control. I am learning to run (not fast, but at least I’m doing it) and that is helping, because I am simply putting one foot in front of the other. I do not have to plan anything but my route, and that is simple. Once that is done, I just take one more step until I turn around, then one more step until I get home. The most important thing in flying is the next thing. I suppose I am learning to apply that to the rest of my life, though it is rather difficult for me.

Perhaps I will eventually learn to be happy with not planning too many things. I rather doubt it, as I have liked planning much of my life, but I don’t know. For the moment, I am working on accepting the present, enjoying life, getting enough sleep, making sure the animals are happy, eating good food, making sure we stay on budget, and not really worrying about the rest of it. Sometimes that’s all I can do.

Room to breathe

I spent almost two years working 70 hours a week between two jobs. It was grueling and exhausting. It was worth it, since Xander got to finish his degree without having to work, but it was a very long two years. One of the jobs was with therapy level foster children. I had children attempt to bite, scratch, kick, head butt, and one of them even tried to push me down the stairs. In addition, those years were extremely hard outside of work due to a lot of difficulties and sorrow we had to work through.

This past weekend I felt like I had finally recovered. I woke up energetic, happy, and interested. I spent the weekend working on the house and the yard and being very happy to have the time and the good weather to do so. Xander was at work much of the weekend (it’s the end of the semester, so I don’t expect to see him much for a week or two) so I had the days with Nyx and the cats to just get things done. I got rid of a bush that I’m allergic to, which I can only do early in the year before it blooms because if I wait too long I have to use my inhaler a lot and it has been easier to ignore it. I pulled out the dead canes from the rosebushes, weeded our strawberry patch, mowed the lawn (well, attempted to mow – we have a push mower that is not really great), cut back trees, and planted grass. I have decided that any tree with branches low enough that I walk into them, as short as I am, is a personal affront, so I fixed them. I moved leaves to the compost-heap-like-area in the backyard and spent some time working on weeding and cleaning back there, too.

The yards are not done yet. I have two more weekends before our yearly barbeque, and if they are anything like this weekend I expect to get a lot more done. It’s nice seeing everything start to look good again, though, even knowing that it will be a while before it is completed.

As I was weeding the strawberry patch, I remembered a line from The Secret Garden, which I haven’t read in years. The main character weeds a section of the garden to give the plants room to breathe. I feel like I have room to breathe again, like I just noticed it, and I am happy to be able to reach out and embrace joy. I will probably forget again, get busy, get stressed, but at the moment I am sore and happy, and both of those things are good.

Looking for the good things

I haven’t been writing much of anything lately other than Indie Ink Writing Challenges. I have been enjoying those, and I’ll keep participating. I thought, perhaps, that I should write something else once in a while as well, so I’m going to try to get back to posting twice a week, even if it is only snippets of things.

I’m not very good at waiting. The adoption process is going well, as far as we can tell. The home study is being reviewed and should be completed soon. It’s nice to have that done. Now, though, the wait begins. We have no idea how long we will have to wait for a match. We’re a little hard to match in a couple of ways. We are not religious, which is one mark against us. We also don’t want extensive contact with the birth family. We’re comfortable sending letters and pictures as often as they’d like, but we’re not interested in having the birth family directly involved in the child’s life. In this age of completely open adoptions becoming the norm, that is not a particularly politically correct stance to take. On the other hand, when I go to sites that list people thinking about giving up their baby for adoption, a lot of them say they want letters and pictures and don’t mention visits. I’m sure that someone will come along eventually that matches up with us. For the moment, we wait, and waiting is not something I have ever been very good at. I suppose it is good practice, though.

Overall, life is pretty good. We’re stable, have enough income, and we’re both basically healthy. I know that’s more than many people have in these bad economic times. There are days when I wish we had enough to relax about money, but we make enough to cover bills and go out once in a while, which is good. I still budget everything, and someday I’d like to not have to worry about that, but as long as nothing catastrophic happens, we’re fine. I have to remind myself of how lucky we are when I get frustrated at having been on a very, very tight budget for years. It’s okay to be frustrated, of course, but a tight budget means that we have enough, and that’s a very good thing. I have to turn it around and look at the fact that, for the first time in a few years, we can get some of the luxuries. Not a lot, but some, and that’s really nice. I get to buy new work clothes soon, which will be especially good since the ones I have are starting to fall apart. Someday soon we will have a stand mixer, which we’ve been talking about since we got involved. It’s one of the few things neither one of us had in our kitchens. We took a day off and went to see movies and eat out, which is very unusual for us, and it was a very nice day. There are a lot of good things going on in our life, even if sometimes I forget. I only have one job. I work forty hours a week instead of the seventy that drained me for two years. We have good friends and interesting jobs. We get to go to two weddings this year of people who are very dear to us.

I think I’ll have to come back and read this the next time I get into a funk. It’s important to remember the good things.

We’re starting to plan our yearly BBQ. I love this tradition. We started it the year we bought the house, and every year since we have had an Inauguration of the Grill. Xander makes excellent burgers, we provide beer, buns, and anything to go on the burgers, and everything else is a potluck. There are people we don’t get to see often who show up for this like clockwork, so we get to see them at least once a year. There are always new people, too, and somehow they always manage to fit in with the people who have been coming regularly. We have musicians, dancers, fencers, work friends, and a variety of other people. One of the neat things about having intelligent and interesting friends is that they can almost always find something to talk about with other intelligent, interesting people. I love hearing conversations ranging from childrearing to physics to card tricks. A lot of work goes into making the party go well, but it is absolutely worth it. I love seeing the interactions, feeding people good food, and getting to reconnect with people I don’t see nearly often enough. It makes me happy on many different levels, and I’m looking forward to it this year.

I’m getting my brain back on track. I try to be a relatively positive person, but the past few years have been a long, hard slog. The death of my grandmother knocked me back in some ways to the death of my brother, which was wrapped up in the infertility grief, which was also surrounded by working too much and a lot of stress. I just have to work on remembering the good things and focusing on what we are working towards rather than looking back for too long.

I’m taking a few deep breaths, looking around for a good thing to think about, and moving on. The only way in life is forward, whatever else happens.

A grey day

Sometimes the words just come. Sometimes they don’t. Today is one of the latter days.

I’ve been thinking a lot about adoption, of course. People keep saying that it will all be worth it in the end. I hope so. The process is not pleasant, to say the least. That isn’t helping my state of mind. The worst is almost over, though. I am feeling more often that everyone involved in the process is advocating for someone else, and that nowhere in this are our needs really being noted. We want a child who does not have fetal alcohol syndrome and who was not drug exposed. If we were capable of conceiving, neither one of those would have been an issue. I don’t want them to be an issue now, but the feeling I get is that we should cut some slack in that area. What if the biological mother didn’t know she was pregnant while she was drinking? We’re not passing a moral judgement on drinking. All we’re saying is that we don’t want to deal with that issue, because we wouldn’t have to if the child were genetically ours.

I’ve been thinking about Daniel, too. I still miss him a lot. Baseball season starts again in a few months, and, while I am very much looking forward to that, it is a little bittersweet because it is one of the things we both loved. Our team was the feeder team for his team, so we even saw the same players over time.

It’s a confused, emotionally messy kind of day. I’m not in a bad mood, or a sad mood, just kind of grey. I’m home sick today, which probably has something to do with it, and by tomorrow I should be a little more positive in my outlook. For the moment, though, I’ll spend the day on the couch, drinking broth and watching Netflix, and that will be good.

The Drunkard’s Walk

I’ve just started a book called The Drunkard’s Walk: How Randomness Rules Our Lives. It’s quite interesting. Very early on, there’s a discussion about whether yelling at people when they do badly or praising them when they do well works best. The people who do the yelling or praising are under the impression that yelling works better. After all, if someone does something they should know how to do but does it exceptionally badly and then gets yelled at for it, the next time they do it, they are almost always better at it. On the other hand, if someone does something they should know how to do but does it exceptionally well and then gets praised for it, the next time they do it, they are almost always worse at it.

Having worked with training dogs much of my life, I’m very clear that yelling when you are trying to train does not actually help, so it surprised me to see this, at least until I read on a bit. People vary around a mean, generally. On average, they get better with practice, but they will have good days and bad days as the skill level slowly increases. The average will increase very slowly, though, so very good days or very bad days are unusual.

Why does yelling seem to work and praise seem not to work? Because people will generally go back to their normal skill level, whether it’s above or below the notable performance. If they have a really bad day, whether or not someone yells at them, the next day is likely to be better. If they have a really good day, the same applies – praise them or not, the next day will probably be worse.

One of the ideas in the book is that human brains aren’t set up to handle random events. We try to see patterns even where there aren’t any. We’re back to “correlation does not indicate causation”. We may see something that seems to indicate that yelling at people improves their performance, but it doesn’t. The person being yelled at is simply coming back to what is normal for them.

If someone has a daughter, what is the likelihood that the second child will be a daughter? I would have answered 50%, but it isn’t. It’s 33%. The possible arrangement of children if one is female is girl-girl, girl-boy, and boy-girl. Once you know that one child is female, it changes the odds.

We aren’t good at randomness, and intuition doesn’t help us when we are looking at random events. It can hurt us, even, by giving us information that, if we could lay out problems mathematically, doesn’t make sense.

I’m enjoying the book. It’s making me look at the world in a different way, which is always interesting, and in some ways it is calming. I worry about things I can’t control, and this is helping me remember that I really don’t have any way of predicting things. It’s a little scary to think of the world as a random place, but I know it is; I jut haven’t wanted to face up to it.

The concepts aren’t necessarily easy at times, since they are counterintuitive, but the book is written so it is easy and fun to read.

Sick day

I’m home sick today – some throat nastiness that requires antibiotics. Wonderful. I’m planning to sleep, read, and possibly watch something on Netflix.

I do like having access to lots of movies. I didn’t have a TV growing up, so I get to catch up on things everyone knows about. Between lack of TV and being homeschooled for several years, I have some issues with simply not getting jokes that everyone understands. Why would anyone name a basset hound Flash? Apparently it’s from the Dukes of Hazzard. I didn’t have a clue. The list is pretty much endless. Many people have said “You never saw that?” with an expression of disbelief.

When I’m home sick, though, I tend to watch silly things. Zombie movies are good, as are cheesy B-movies. I may watch a Wallace and Gromit episode, since I found one I haven’t seen yet. I tend to like movies with Bruce Campbell in them. Deep movies, when I’m in this state of mind, put me to sleep. Well, almost anything puts me to sleep, but I feel like I’m missing something if I’m trying to watch a serious movie. If I’m watching something silly, it doesn’t matter much.

Sometimes silly is the best option.

Fresh food

We are part of the Great Basin Food Co-op and we get baskets from the Great Basin Basket Community Supported Agriculture (CSA). We have been getting the lite vegetable basket option and the fruit basket this year, and we sometimes have enough food that we’re not sure we can finish it in a week.

I wish I were good at food photography so I could show you what we got. A huge bunch of glossy, dark grapes. Plums with deep red flesh, sweet enough that I don’t mind the bitter skin. Nectarines that dribble down my chin when I take a bite. A watermelon, possibly red, possibly yellow; I haven’t opened it yet. Cantaloupes. Green beans, basil, squash, corn, and various other foods. We can come up with ideas for each food, but if we don’t combine some of them, we’ll never finish them by next week or even the week after.

I worry when there isn’t enough food in the house. I’m not sure why, since we always had enough food growing up, but it’s a worry. With the baskets, though, I don’t worry, don’t have to think about it. The question in the morning isn’t “What can I take for lunch” so much as “How many of these wonderful foods can I fit into my lunch today?”

It’s a very good problem to have, and the fruits and vegetables, picked this morning, lie in the fridge or in their bags, beautiful and tasty. I am drawn to them. Tomorrow I will take grapes and cherry tomatoes and eat them all morning, reveling in the sweetness and tartness of each. If I feel at all stressed, I will close my eyes briefly and bite into intense flavor, enjoying the sensations. If I can’t regain my composure after a bite of good food, I’ll take a deep breath and at least pretend that everything’s all right.

It’s easier to pretend that I’m fine when there is such beauty and succulent tastes in my life.

Patterns

I’ve been unable to write for a while, stuck in emotions too big to think about or deal with lest I get overwhelmed. It isn’t better, not by a long shot, but I’m beginning to move back into familiar rhythms, and writing is one. I will try to write, even if it isn’t particularly long or interesting. I think I need that piece of the pattern back again.

I’ve been thinking about grief and joy and venting and how I approach the world. I heard about a study that shows that venting actually extends anger rather than helping it, and I’ve been thinking about that a lot. Hitting a punching bag makes you more angry, not less. I’ve been thinking about how I talk when I am angry and how I can get myself wound up on the same subject again, even several hours later. I think I need to play with the difference between working through issues so I can let them go and venting, which just prolongs the frustration, irritation, and anger.

I get angry more often than usual these days. It’s almost a knee jerk reaction. My temper is much shorter than I’m used to living with and I have to take deep breaths and think through things that I used to be able to brush off. I’m slower than I used to be, too. Someone described grief as being like shoveling frozen molasses, which rings very true to me. It feels like an impossible task.

I am trying hard to look for joy, even if it’s in odd places. I sat and watched rain fall. I watch silly TV and relax. I play with Nyx. I clean and organize, and that satisfies something in me that desperately wants some order and some control over my environment right now. The good side is that the house is getting clean, at least.

It’s hard writing with no plan. I’m trying stream of consciousness, since writing with a purpose leaves me stuck, mired in complications and feeling like I should write something important or useful. I’m not sure I have anything important or useful to say right now, but just writing is good practice.

There are days I just want to curl up in a hole and pull it in after me. I don’t want to have to do anything except let the world go by and nurse my hurt. This doesn’t seem to help, though, so I continue to move. Work. Swim. Walk. Breathe. Eat good food. Work on the house. Now, write. Soon I will be dancing again. It isn’t much. It isn’t living fully in many ways; all I do is continue to move, even if it doesn’t feel much like I’m moving forward or in any useful direction.

There are nights I wake up paralyzed by grief, tears leaking out of the sides of my eyes. I am learning to go back to sleep and to get up the next morning and move on.

In flying, the most important thing is the next thing. If you screw up enough of those, you crash.

One step. One more lap. One length of butterfly. One piece of work done. One cupboard organized. One piece at a time. Nothing important. I can’t handle important or amazing or wonderful or tragic. All I can handle is the next step.

Working through

This has been a hard year, and I’m not sure what to do other than write.

First was infertility. We lost something then. Not a child, but the hope of one. We lost ideas and dreams and things we thought would be true. We grieved over it in some ways as if we had lost something more tangible. We’d tried for years, and suddenly there was a hole where all of our expectations got sucked in. It is hard to understand unless you have been through it, so many people could not understand why it was such a big deal. I am still fighting the feeling that I am not truly a woman if I don’t have a child. I know it is illogical, but it permeates our culture. Women with children have more status than women without. However unfair that may be, it’s true on some level. I get asked by women I’ve just met how many children I have, or when we are expecting to have kids, and when I say, “We can’t,” there is an often not-so-subtle movement away. The circle closes and they talk about their children and I am not welcome. That’s not true of everyone, especially those who know how much I’ve worked with children through my life, but it has happened.

I was working on healing, working on accepting the new way of thinking and approaching life, and the next piece happened. My grandmother, at almost 93 years old, stopped remembering people and places. She stopped being herself, in some ways. It felt to me like that hole from infertility got another part dug out, widening it a bit. I had always wanted to have a picture of four generations of my family: grandma, mom, me, and a baby. The baby was not going to happen, and now grandma was slipping, too. Another piece of grief, although for me this was kind of anticipatory grief because I had to face the likelihood that she would not live a whole lot longer. She might; I don’t know. I hope, if she does, she is enjoying life. It was another blow, but we were coping.

June 9, my younger brother died completely unexpectedly. He was 28 and had no health problems that would explain the blood clot that killed him. I still don’t really have words for what that did to me. It took the grief from infertility, the grief about my grandmother, wrapped it up in a physically painful grief, and dropped a bomb on me that opened up a chasm.

I have never had such a physical response to grief before. Food has always been a comfort when things got bad. Now food is necessary, but not enjoyed, and I often have to be reminded to eat. I don’t taste much, and my stomach hurts all the time. My back hurts, too, and sometimes my feet, and sometimes my head. The first three days my chest cramped up regularly. I have never had such physical pain related to mental anguish. I am tired all the time, too. I’ve been sleeping 10-12 hours a night just to be able to get up in the morning, but I’m not sure I am resting very well. I’m exhausted. I get through by focusing on one thing, one step, the next thing, on making sure I eat and drink enough, on sometimes just breathing deeply.

I don’t know how to talk about this. I talk around it a lot. I cry a lot. I talk to Xander, who is possibly the only reason I have gotten through this. He has been amazing. I spend a lot of time with Nyx. She has been very attentive and snuggly since this happened.

I have a really big hole inside me, surrounding me, engulfing me, and I don’t know how to heal. I know that all of this is normal, but it’s harder than I knew it could be. I’ve lost a lot this year, and every once in a while, when I’m just holding still, I feel like I’ve been hit by a truck. I want to crawl into a hole and pull it in after me, but I know that won’t help. The world keeps going. I can grieve, but I can’t disappear.

Having work to do helps. Having some purpose, the feeling that I’m doing something useful, is good for me. Dealing with people right now is hard, and by the end of the day I’m wrapped up in pain again, but I’m mostly making it through the days. Weekends are spent on the couch, reading or watching TV. I don’t have much interest in going out.

We went for a walk down to the farmer’s market yesterday. That was the first day I’ve been able to do anything even close to exercise since Daniel’s death without getting exhausted or cramping up within five minutes. It was a good, long walk. We got food for the week and picked up nectarines to eat on the way home, and mine actually tasted good.

It’s not better, though. I still can’t work through my little brother being a pile of ashes, never seeing him again. I had nightmares the first few nights, and one of them was just a voice, saying over and over, “There are supposed to be new lives in a family before the children start dying.” I was standing in the dark, listening to a voice. That was all. I woke up crying because it was true and I couldn’t make it better. There were others, much worse, but that one, I think, shows how all of this wraps up together in my head right now. On some level I can’t believe that I won’t see him again. He was the focus of our family from the time he was born. I knew that at some point I was very likely to be at least partially responsible for him again. We had talked about how to work him into our lives if it became necessary, and we knew we could handle it.

Daniel was incredibly important to me. It’s very hard for me to use past tense. I keep slipping. I woke up with him when he had night terrors. I could tickle him from across the room and bug him from hundreds of miles away. I could make him laugh, and he could do the same for me. We had nicknames for each other that other people didn’t necessarily understand. He gave really good hugs. We loved to sing together and we’d crack each other up when we sang certain songs because I’d be silly on purpose and he’d add to it.

There’s so much more to him, though. There was. I can’t explain who he was as a person because I don’t have enough words, or the right words. I am floundering. Our family was centered around him. He gave us focus and meaning. I would not be who I am without him, and I don’t think the rest of my family would, either. He changed how I look at the world. He made me more compassionate, more willing to look for the good in people instead of stopping at the differences. He showed me how frustrating it can be to know where the goal is but not quite be able to reach it, and also how angry it can make people if someone tries to help when the person wants to get there themselves.

I don’t know if I’m making much sense. I needed to write. I’m sure I will write more again, but I’m not going to be on any consistent schedule for a while. We’re going to go see family soon, and I don’t know how to write about that, either.

The world is a lesser place without him.

Walking

Reno isn’t exactly a walking kind of town. A lot of streets, even main ones, don’t even have sidewalks, and there are very few people out walking. If you do go out walking, sometimes you get funny looks.

This morning I walked for an hour. Having one car sometimes makes logistics rather complicated, and today was one of those complicated days. I decided that I’d get to work by walking part of the way, which meant I got there closer to on time (rather than an hour early) and got a really nice walk in, too.

The street I walked along had limited sidewalks. I often ended up walking through parking lots because there wasn’t anywhere else to walk other than in the street, and it was a busy enough street that I didn’t really want to do that. I got to wander through a park and watch ducks and geese, though, which was nice.

I used to live in the San Francisco Bay Area. A lot of people walk there. Walking to work, walking to the bagel shop on Saturday morning, walking to the library, or just going for a wander to see what you find was completely normal. Almost anywhere in Oakland, Berkeley, or San Francisco, you can just walk and it’s a normal thing. I liked walking, biking, and taking the bus, and I liked the camaraderie of others doing the same thing. I’d walk in the mornings and see the same people often enough to smile at them and say hello. Striking up a conversation was not completely unheard of.

In Reno, people who walk seem to be viewed with a certain degree of suspicion. Why would I walk if I could take a car? Am I too poor to have a car? Neighborhoods are often not particularly pedestrian friendly, and people give me odd looks when I’m walking with my backpack on my back. Clearly I’m going somewhere; just as clearly I’m not a high school student, so walking plus a backpack is just…weird.

We’re going to start walking to a pizza place this summer with Nyx. It’s a 2.5 mile walk each way, which means we might actually burn off some of the pizza by the time we walk there and back home again. I’ll keep walking at lunch. There isn’t a lunch place close enough for me to get to and back within an hour, which is somewhat frustrating, as I’d enjoy being able to do that. People will get used to seeing me and us walking, I’m sure, and I do enjoy walking, so even if it isn’t the most pedestrian friendly place to live, we can work around it.

I like just wandering sometimes. It’s nice to turn on the iPod and go, especially when I know I have a lot of time to get where I’m going. It’s time to space out a little, let my feet just go and settle into a rhythm.

How did we end up in a society where we’re in so much of a hurry that walking is a strange thing to do?