Tuesday, February 8, 2011

February sucks too

I haven't been able to write lately, because a little over a month ago we suffered an Unfortunate Incident which all but ruined us.  As far as Unfortunate Incidents go, I suppose it was the best kind to have because in the scheme of things, we still have each other (so far, at least), and we still have our health (again... so far at least), we just have no money.  I am not going to write in detail about this incident because there is a slim chance that there might be some Legal Action taken someday in an attempt to recoup our losses and also because I don't feel like broadcasting the details to the world.

Ever since the Incident occurred, there has been a moratorium on anything remotely fun or joyous in our lives.  Everything is somber.  At first I couldn't eat anything for days (great for saving money) and got very skinny; then at some point I shifted and realized, you know, Schnucks brand tortilla chips are cheap, and eating half a bag of them sure makes me forget my troubles.

In the midst of all of this, winter rages ferociously around us at all times.  We experienced the Great Blizzard of 2011 last week, though honestly, it didn't end up as bad as they were predicting.  Wash U closed down campus during the worst of it (something which apparently happens next to never).  The snow here wasn't so bad, but the 8-some inches of ice we had made (and is still making) everything ridiculously treacherous.  Even now more than a week afterwards, we can barely get the car out of the driveway what with all the ice piled up at the bottom.

Did I ever mention that I hate ice?

Hate it.

Hate it.

Hate it.

I can handle snow and even cold weather, though I dislike it intensely.  But I hate ice.  Back in Urbana, we would always get an ice storm the first week of December, and the ice would persist until April.  I am not kidding.  I hated it, oh my god, did I ever hate it.  I had been under the impression that St. Louis experienced less ice than Urbana (being that St. Louis is always 5-10 degrees warmer), and thus moving here would be an improvement.  But I am feeling very, very gipped at the moment.  I walk to work, and the sidewalks are a solid slick of ice.  It is like walking on a glacier.  I hate it.  On my way in this morning, I actually started crying.  I hate this winter.  It is the third worst winter of my life.  (The worst was 2 years ago when I had hyperemesis and the second worst was last year  when I was home alone and iced in with a baby who cried 12-16 hours a day).

In terms of dealing with the aftermath of The Incident, I am doing so the only way I know how.  And by that, I mean, I am rereading The Mists of Avalon.  The history of this coping strategy is that the second time I was in Nicaragua-- when I was there alone to do my pilot study-- I found a tattered copy of this book in the night stand by my bed.  I had many difficulties and panic attacks throughout the duration of my pilot study, and I took to reading The Mists of Avalon to forget about my troubles.  It was a very effective strategy.  At the time, I found the book to be somewhat poorly written (the dialogue mainly, was tiresome), but the book's epic nature (it is almost 900 pages) kind of made up for that.  I got hooked, and I brought the book home.

After the Unfortunate Incident, I didn't know how to cope with it, so one night I went down to the basement and searched out my copy of The Mists of Avalon, now held together with duct tape.  Superb.  I am finding that the second time around, I am actually more forgiving of the over-the-top dialogue and unbelievable scenarios.  It is a great distraction.

All of this reading reminded me that at my core, I always wanted to be a writer.  Before graduate school sucked all the life and creativity out of me, I had written fiction, or at least attempted to.  The problem was, most of my ideas were too large and grandiose (like... the 900 pages of The Mist of Avalon) for me to actually finish.  And most of what I wrote was so cringe-worthy I couldn't show it to anyone.  But there is one particular story idea that I had about 9 or 10 years ago, when I was working in the Lab after college, that has stayed with me. While I was taking care of the frogs and tadpoles, I would lose myself in my thoughts, sketching out the plot and developing the characters.  I still thought of this story from time to time after I went to graduate school.  And then when i was in Nicaragua for a year doing my dissertation research, I actually started writing it.  No kidding:  I wrote the first chapter on a Palm Pilot while I was out in the forest while the monkeys were sleeping.  It was in the dry season, when they would wake up about 5am and then go back to sleep during the oppressive heat of the day from about 8am to 3pm.  It was kind of awful being out there in the forest all day with them.  So I distracted myself by slowly and laboriously writing Chapter 1.  I remember so well, typing it out word for word while the monkeys slept in the big mango tree that was the site of so many battles between the groups for access to the fruit.  It was exactly 4 years ago, February 2007.

On a whim, I opened up the file on my computer and re-read that chapter.  I realized (okay, this is very snobbish of me) that it was the best thing I had ever read.  The world needed to hear this story.  I was going to finish it, somehow, some way.

But now I'm kind of stuck.  I have next to no time to work on such an endeavor, and seriously, if I am going to do a good job of it, it will require a ton of research.  The kind of research that will make my dissertation look pale by comparison.  The story is all there in my head, but it will require a lot of work to make the details believable.

I am hesitant to pour that kind of work into it.  For starters, it seems like the kind of thing I would write but then never be able to show to anybody.  And that seems like kind of a waste.  Besides, even if I did somehow find the strength to show it to somebody, it is my impression that it is actually very hard to get a book published, especially for a nobody like me.  If I poured years of my life into this and it got rejected, how could I ever come back from something like that?  I don't know.

Something else that this entry was supposed to be about was how I have come to acknowledge (while not completely accept) the fact that my nursing days are over.  The last 2 or 3 months have been like hanging on to a rock wall with just my fingernails, and I cannot put up that fight anymore.  On Saturday, William will be 18 months old, and I'm going to call that the end of this.  In many ways, it makes me immeasurably sad.  I will soon be facing that moment when I am nursing Will for the last time, and I can't even think about that without getting all choked up and hysterical.  Yet on the other hand, I am so frustrated and sick of nursing him that I dread it to the point of loathing.  I dread nursing him to the same extent that I dreaded pumping any time that I ever pumped.  It is cold and insanely unpleasant, and there is no milk coming out whatsoever.  When the Unfortunate Incident occurred and I went days without eating, drinking, or sleeping, that pretty much sealed the deal on the approximately 2 drops of milk a day that I was producing at the time.  If I still was actually lactating, I think I could keep it up.  But I just cannot do this if my only function is to be a human pacifier, with no milk, nutrients, or antibodies coming out.  No amount of heroic effort is going to get me to relactate.  I have done everything and been unsuccessful.  I need to accept this and move on, but it is so hard.  My whole life has been centered around breastfeeding for the last 18 months.  At this point I don't even know who I am without it.


Time to read some more of The Mists of Avalon, I suppose, and try to go to bed.




Anonymous said...

my heart goes out to you,,,,,,, and if schnucks tortilla chips make the day better, THEN NEVER RUN OUT OF THEM!!! whatever works~~ I know you have enuf of your great grandma and your grandma in you, to see the BLUE in the SKY. and KNOW the SUN will SHINE again soon!! and WHEN iT DOES SHINE , let's hope it MELTS all the NASTY ICE AWAY!!! along with your troubles!!! Miss you all, especially Sweet WILLIAM~~~ hang in there, and KEEP THOSE WRITING THOUGHTS ! Don't ever GIVE UP on that ~~ THE WORLD IS WAITING TO READ YOUR BOOK!!! take care, find a little piece of "happy" in every day. it will make life much easier to deal with!! luv you, mama

Anonymous said...

i love you ...

Karen Joy said...

I'd like to read your first chapter. :)

The good thing about books and writing, is that you can work on it, in spurts. And, it seems like you would have at least marginally more time in the summer months in which to write, yes?

I am sorry for you and your Unfortunate Incident. It sounds awful. As does the ice. I think it's so ironic that so often, we (universal "we") get placed in locales which really don't appeal to our preferences. I'm the opposite of you: I'm in the middle of a desert, and have really struggled to not hate it, because this is where we ARE, and this is where we are STAYING, at least for the foreseeable future. In recent years, I have made a concerted effort to discover things about this area that aren't hateful. It has been a stretch, but it has been worthwhile. Sort of like, when I'm discontented with my husband, I sit down and write out all the things I LIKE about him, and it reminds me of why we're in this together.

I hope that doesn't sound preachy. You don't even know me, and I don't even know you!! But, I have enjoyed your blog, enjoyed your honesty, enjoyed your writing, your insight, your unfolding motherhood.

I totally understand you, about grieving the end of nursing -- I am 37, and a mother of five, and my youngest is 27 months, weaned for health reasons (against my will and my better judgment) since she was 15 months, and I still could easily weep when I think that I could perhaps (most likely, actually) never nurse another baby.

But, just from an outsider's perspective, I would say that you have MUCH to offer the world, MUCH of who you are, beyond or outside of nursing.

Blessings to you & your sweet family, from a stranger.

Rachael said...

Greetings from another stranger.

I just wanted to say that I am so sorry to hear how tough things are for you right now. I did not have an Unfortunate Incident in January, however, I read what you are writing... and I relate. Having something that is so important to you, to the well-being of your family, be so wholly out of your control. Sometimes you do everything right and still something vitally important goes wrong.

Truly, my heart goes out to you. Keep hope, and when you feel yourself slipping... well give Will a hug and a kiss and I bet, even for a moment, things will brighten.

I've enjoyed reading your blog so much. You are a wonderful writer and I identify with your parenting style quite a bit. You have given and are continuing to give so much to William. As he grows, his needs change, and his need for milk has lessened. So few women would have gone to the lengths that you did to nurse William for so long. Don't doubt for a minute: you aren't giving up, you are rightfully moving forward, and that's a good thing. It's easy to feel as if you can judge an outcome as being good or bad, but instead think about the process... at every step of the way, you have done *everything* for the sake of nursing your son.

I remember reading a story about a woman who wanted to wean her son and didn't know how. She took a trip for a week (the point being to physically separate herself from her son)... obviously now is not the right time for a vacation, but maybe even a few days of having William at a family member's house or something might make the transition easier.

Alternately, you could tell yourself that "this is not the last time". Just decrease in frequency, not knowing when will be the last time, even if you go a month between nursing and he asks you could let him. Eventually, when Will stops asking, that will be the last time. You won't know when that will be, so you can't dread it.

Best wishes to you and your family. Hang in there. Sometimes the silver lining of going through something so difficult is knowing (with absolute certainty) it *will* get better. It will.

Anonymous said...

Lissie ... i love the 'strangers' comments ... all the right words that i couldn't find when reading about your current disappointments ... you know you MUST continue to write!! love, auntie