On Motherhood: Grateful

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I am grateful for the dark room and the comfortable bed.  For the man who quietly enters trying hard not to wake me.  For the tiny blond girl following behind him like a little duck.

I am grateful for the tender conversation I overhear between them in the bathroom while the man gets ready for work.  For the small voice saying “Here Dada.”  For the loving way he thanks her for handing him his deodorant.

I am grateful for the slow steady breath of the infant on my chest.  For the sweet sounds of sucking from his lips.  For the total relaxation of his body against mine.

I am grateful for the sound of rain outside.  For the gray glow of light from the window.  For the smell of coffee in the air.  For the cozy blanket hugging my baby and me.

This morning was a good morning.  They aren’t always good.  They aren’t always calm.  Sometimes the baby on my chest is crying.  Sometimes the little blond girl is yelling.  Sometimes the man is frustrated.  Sometimes I am too tired to be grateful.

But this morning was good.  I am grateful.

Grateful even for the bad mornings.  For the mornings of defiance.  The rambunctious mornings.  The mornings of exhaustion.  The mornings that start too early.

I am grateful for this complex life-thing that unfolds anew every time I peel open my eyes.  It is precious to me.  As I lay quietly in the dark.  As I listen to the rain, and child, and the man and the breath.  They are so precious to me.  I am grateful.

 

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On Motherhood: Fourth

IMG_0607The fourth trimester.  The first 12 weeks with baby.  I always assumed pregnancy and labor were the hardest parts of becoming a mother.  Turns out, no.  The breastfeeding, the hormones, the sleep deprivation, the anxiety; the sheer physicality of those first 3 months with a newborn is more intense than 9 months of pregnancy.  I looked forward to meeting my sweet baby girl, but cut to 5 weeks postpartum and I found myself wishing I could put her back in!  I mean, just for a few hours so I could sleep!   It’s extreme in the most exhausting way.  Extreme in the slowest way, sort of along the lines of Chinese water torture.  I did things, thought things, felt things, said things that I would not normally do, think, feel, or say.  In an effort to explain I’ve compiled a list of fourth trimester things.  Things you, if you are a new mom, also might do, think, feel, and say.

  1. Check if baby is breathing.
  2. Try to devise some method for weighing your baby.  I put my daughter in a metal bowl and tried to weigh her on my baking scale.  No joke.
  3. Clothesline your toddler or partner or grandmother who is rushing toward your newborn.
  4. Feel really bad for clotheslining your toddler.  Not so much for clotheslining anyone else.  Don’t touch!
  5. Check if the baby is breathing.
  6. Think that the baby is dying, or that you have accidentally killed or harmed the baby.  The first time my daughter slept 6 hours, I woke up, realized it had been 6 hours and thought for sure that she was dead.  She wasn’t, but I couldn’t get back to sleep after that.
  7. Love breastfeeding.
  8. Hate breastfeeding.
  9. Wonder how your baby could possibly still be nursing after 45 minutes.  (Where does the milk even go?  Aren’t their tummies the size of a walnut?)
  10. Wonder if there’s something wrong with your milk supply.  (There isn’t.)
  11. Wonder if you are really good enough for your baby.  (You are.)
  12. Want to yell at your partner because “You’re not doing it right!”
  13. Want to have sex with your partner.  HA! Just kidding.  You won’t want to have sex, but you might feel guilty for not wanting to have sex.
  14. Check if baby is breathing.
  15. Sell your ever-loving soul to the devil himself to get your baby to sleep for more than 3 hours.
  16. After 3 hours kind of wish that your baby would wake up so you can cuddle and play.
  17. Compare yourself to other moms. Don’t.  You are the best mom for your baby.
  18. Cry in your car or some other painfully public place.  My first trip to the grocery store with my newborn daughter ended with me abandoning a full grocery cart and running to my car to cry and nurse her.
  19. Hate your postpartum body.  Don’t.  Give yourself time to not care how you look.
  20. Debate whether or not you should wake baby up from wherever they happen to be asleep: While wearing them in the grocery store (you will continue to wander around the wine section. Hopefully they have samples), in the car (you will circle the block 100 times), on your arm (you will lose all feeling in your hand, but you will not move.)
  21. Feel frustrated, even a little mad at your baby.  (You are not a bad mom.  You are human.)
  22. Feel alone and isolated.  You are not alone.  Reach out to your tribe and if you don’t have one, I’m here.  I’ll be your tribe.
  23. Have scary, anxious thoughts when you leave the house like thinking that dog down the street will attack you and the baby.  Or being afraid that a train will somehow appear out of nowhere and hit you while you’re driving over the train tracks.
  24. Never ever EVER want to have another baby and go through it all again.  (You probably will, though.)
  25. Out of sheer desperation end up purchasing every known sleep contraption available for babies. (Luckily Amazon has a great return policy.)
  26. Get a permanent crick in your neck from spending so much time staring down at baby.
  27. Spend more time trying to get baby to sleep than baby spends actually sleeping. For example, one hour of rocking, bouncing, nursing, lunging, dancing, back to nursing, pacifier, swinging, back to nursing, back to rocking will result in approximately 20 minutes of baby sleeping. (Repeat the whole process in one hour)
  28. Take lots of naps. Ha! Just kidding. There’s no napping in motherhood. But you will want to throat punch the next person that tells you to “just sleep when baby sleeps.”
  29. Feel more overwhelmed by love than you have ever felt before.
  30. Check if baby is breathing.

I could go on with these.  Because I am currently in the thick of the fourth trimester I’m experiencing the new baby madness every day.  But you know what?  They start smiling.  And then they start cooing.  And then suddenly they are giggling and running and growing way too fast.  The fourth trimester is hard, maybe the hardest part, but it gets better.  So much better.  Hang in there if you are in it.  I stand in sleepless solidarity with you!  We’ll get through it together.

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On Motherhood: Precipitous

When people ask me how long I was in labor, I like to tell them 4 weeks. – me

It was 8 o’clock on June 14th, 2016.  Sprawled on the couch was a very pregnant, very tired, very frustrated woman.  She was 39 weeks pregnant.  A tearful phone call to her husband earlier in the day summed up her state of mind precisely.  “I’m so tired of feeling like I could have this baby at any minute.”

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That woman was me and at that time I’d been dilated 5 cm for two weeks.  Before that, I spent a week 3-4 cm dilated.  Mentally, I was exhausted.  I didn’t know that it was possible to “hang out” at 5 cm for weeks.  That wasn’t how it was supposed to go.  There’s a natural sequence.  You start to have contractions.  You have enough time to be excited and call your family.  Then the contractions get closer together and stronger.  Then your water breaks.  Then you have a baby.  That’s the way it works.  That’s what I was expecting.  As I learned, that is not always how it works.  Dare I say, that is almost never how it works.

My birth journey began well before I considered having a baby.  A dear friend of mine shared her beautiful birth story with me.  She had her sons at a birth center.  She described a lovely comfortable room, similar to a hotel room.  She raved about the brilliant midwife attending her.  She emphasized the large garden tub she lounged in during labor.  Both of her sons came into the world in a peaceful, loving way, free of florescent lights and hospital gowns.  It was empowering for her.  I wanted that too.

A year before I got pregnant I stopped taking birth control.  When people asked my husband and I about kids, we’d tell them “we are not NOT trying” to get pregnant.  But after about 6 or 7 months of “not NOT trying” I decided to download a cycle-tracking app.  We were officially trying.   When 3 months of “trying” did not work, I started to feel anxious.  I needed to decide if we would see a fertility specialist.  Or maybe we should consider adopting?  Or maybe we just shouldn’t have kids?  Or surrogacy?  Or fostering?  I started to panic.

“Look, take that app off your phone,” my husband encouraged, “and stop worrying about it.  We’ll give it a few months and then we can decide what to do.”  I deleted the app from my phone.   A month later I stood in the bathroom staring down at a positive pregnancy test.  We were having a baby.

Feeling the pressure to go to a “real” doctor,  we made an appointment with an OB/GYN.  Like cattle we were herded through that appointment.   Here, fill out this paperwork.  Here, put on this gown.  First day of your last period?  Legs up in the stirrups, please.  Might be too early to see anything.  Oh, nope, there’s the baby.  There’s the heartbeat.  Here’s an information packet.  Do you want a flu shot?  We’ll see you back in 4 weeks.  It wasn’t personal or comforting at all.  I walked away feeling more insecure than I was before.  We tried another OB.  Same factory-line experience.  Those doctors made me feel no ownership over my own pregnancy.  Nothing about meeting with the “real doctors” was empowering.

We toured the Austin Area Birth Center shortly after those two perfunctory OB visits.  It was like going from a factory line, to a zen garden.   From the quiet comfortable waiting areas to the intimate and soothing birth rooms, the birth center appealed to us immediately.  We made our decision in the parking lot after the tour that we would have our baby at AABC.  It wasn’t a hard decision.

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After 39 weeks we were ready.  We’d been through the birth class (called Centering) offered by AABC.  I chatted regularly with the new mommy-tribe I’d met through classes at AABC, seeking encouragement and validation. We’d hired a doula.  We were ready.  Only, lounging on the couch at 8 PM on June 14th, I was utterly defeated.  My back ached.  My belly stretched to the limits.  I was dilated, but our baby wasn’t ready.  No contractions.  No signs of impending labor whatsoever.

Just as I resigned myself to yet another day of pregnancy I felt a pop then heard a gushing sound.  I leaped off the couch holding my dress to catch the water and hobbled to the bathroom.  I stripped and stepped into the tub intending to sit down but remembered (from Centering) that I shouldn’t take a bath.  So I yanked the shower knob up and jerked the shower head off its perch.  Only I jerked so hard that the nozzle separated from the hose spraying water all over the place.  Flustered and now soaked, I turned off the water and grabbed a towel.  No contractions yet.  I waddled into the dining room and mouthed to my husband who was on the phone, “my water just broke!”  Within minutes of finishing his call, I was feeling contractions.  We called the midwife and made a plan to meet her at 9:30.  My contractions were strong but 3 minutes apart.  There was still time.  We called our photographer (I’d decided to have birth photos made) and we called the doula.  It was all happening according to plan.  We could hang out at the house for a little while, then I’d labor at the birth center.  Maybe get in the tub.  Maybe sit on the birth ball in the shower.  It was all happening!  And in fact, it was ALL happening, only happening much faster than anticipated!  In the time it took our doula to arrive my contractions went from 3 minutes apart, to 1 minute apart, to right on top of each other.  Her first words, “Whoa! We need to get to the birth center!”

The car ride to the birth center was brutal, for lack of a better word.  I just knew I would end up having the baby in the car.  At 9:15 we parked at the birth center as the midwife, Leo, also arrived.  I slowly eased out the car and somehow we made our way into the birth center.  “Let me get the room set up,” Leo said, “You can relax on the couch or walk around.  Whatever you need to do.”  I limped over to one of the couches.  Before I could get comfortable another contraction swept over me.  “I need to push!” I yelled.  It was truly an indescribable sensation.  The only way to describe it is to yell I NEED TO PUSH!

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Leo rushed out to help me into the room and onto the bed.  Things get blurry after that.  However, there are several moments still fixed in my mind even through the fog of childbirth.  I remember laboring on my side.  Then I recalled reading that larger babies are easier to birth if you are on your hands and knees.  So I got on my hands and knees.  I also remember my doula offering to go let our photographer in the building and gripping her hand like it was my only tether to life while refusing to let her go.  I remember feeling the baby move lower as I pushed.  It was painful but strangely gratifying.  I remember feeling so tired.  So very tired and saying over and over that I was so tired.  I remember Leo saying “You can rest as soon as this baby is out, mama.”  I remember saying “I can’t do this.” and I remember hearing the response “You ARE doing it, mama!” EH_28 I remember screaming as she crowned and I remember Leo telling me not to scream because it stressed the baby.  I remember my doula whispering to me to take the scream and focus it downward.  And finally I remember my mom telling me that during her labor she had to tell herself that millions of women have done this and so she could too.  And so I remember calling out in my mind to all the women who’d done this before me, who were doing it at that exact moment.  Calling out to all the mama’s and grandmas and great-grandmas to help me.  To surround me.  To hold space for me.  I needed them.  And then, she was out and Leo was passing her to me between my legs and I was holding her and kissing her head and she was crying.  It was so much, so fast.  And yet, those two hours felt like an eternity.  The memories flash by me with such speed.  Two hours.  The longest shortest hours.

Then…it was just us.  My beautiful baby girl.  My wonderful husband.  A quiet room.  A soft bed.  We snuggled.  We kissed.  We loved each other.  It was perfect.

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Looking back, it was empowering.  But not because I did it without an epidural. Not because we didn’t need medical intervention.  That was maybe just luck.  It was empowering because of the women I met along the way.  Because of the connections I made.  It was empowering because the midwives foster self-reliance.  They trust Mama and that gives space for Mama to trust herself.

The word precipitous means happening in a very quick or sudden way.  I had a precipitous birth, indeed.  My water broke at 8:30 PM and my daughter was born at 10:25 PM.  A much different birth story than I’d envisioned.  But precipitous also means impassibly steep.  Becoming a mother, birthing a child, that can feel like standing before an impassibly steep cliff.  Writing the story now, I feel only gratitude.  Every birth is a fingerprint, unique and personal, but every birth should be empowered by a tribe.  In two hours I felt almost every emotion a person can possibly feel, but one thing I never felt was alone. 

Thank you to my husband.  Thank you to the midwives.  And thank you to my tribe for helping me through my precipitous birth.

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All photos by Treat Photography 

On Motherhood: A Series

IMG_1613 (1)For the next several blogs I’ll be writing about motherhood.   In truth I have been reluctant to write my “Mom” stories.  There is a part of me that feels like mommy blogs are low-hanging fruit and wouldn’t be challenging…and are cliche.  In other words, I resist the idea of being ‘predictably mommy’ on my blog.  I resist being defined by mommy-hood.  Now, before you mamas out there get defensive, let me finish.  Lately, the question I’ve been asking myself is–Why? Why does writing about motherhood make me feel this way?  As if it is somehow less challenging, less creative or less compelling than writing about books or movies or politics or any of the crazy shit happening in the world.  Why does writing about the world feel more noble than writing my own personal stories?  Is it because I think no one wants to hear mom stories?  Is it because I think I should just suck it up and pretend being a mom isn’t a huge part of my life?  Is it because I feel like art and motherhood don’t intersect?  Maybe…

If I’m really being honest, at times I resent the fact that motherhood is THE current event in my life.  At least, the only newsworthy current event in my life.  I feel like being a mother is not enough.  Not special enough.  Not impressive enough.  It’s lame.  Makes me basic.  There’s a nagging, small voice in the back of my mind whispering that I should be doing more.  Being more.  More than just a mother.  It’s a toxic voice.  It’s partially ego, I know, but there’s something else there.  Something about the way our culture regards mothers (and women) in general, maybe.  Whatever the reason, I need to examine that resentment.  Acknowledge it so that I can let it go.  I need a paradigm shift.  That’s what writing this series will be about for me.  Writing myself to a new way of thinking about motherhood.  Telling my story will help me understand who I am even as a mother.  It will help me to ‘let in’ motherhood.  To honor it.  To love it.

So mom-blogging here I come…without resentment, but with honesty.

 

 

 

 

 

If you do one thing this weekend, watch Nanette.

Preface:  It’s been a few weeks since I’ve written a blog.  During that time I had my son and have been tending to him…and by tending to him I mean spending lots of time on the couch watching TV, breastfeeding and dozing off while snuggling him.  They are long blurry days.  In truth, my sleep deprived state leaves me skeptical that I can put together a coherent blog.  Consider yourself warned.  This may not be my best blog, but it’s good to be writing again.

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In watching everything there is to watch on Netflix I came across Hannah Gadsby’s special called Nanette.  I’ve watched it twice now and I have it on again as I write this.  It is unlike anything I have seen recently and so I feel compelled to write about it.  I only wish I could capture with my weary words how special it truly is.  After weeks of mind numbing TV, Nanette woke me up.  Inspired me.  Made me feel like a human again (not just a milk machine).  And here’s why:  Hannah Gadsby takes her own brutal unflinching and personal story and gives it away.  Not for any reason other than to teach us how to connect.  To connect through our stories.

Story telling is what I do.  It’s why I write.  This is one of the reasons her special resonated with me so deeply.  But not just story telling for the sake of the story.  When I write a fictional piece it’s for the sake of the story.  No, in her show she tackles the stories we tell about ourselves and, moreover, the stories we tell about our culture.

I often try to remind myself to be careful of the stories I tell.  Both about the people around me and about myself.  It can be misleading, even harmful to believe some stories.  There are already many stories circulating about Nanette.  Is it really considered stand up comedy?  Is it more of a one woman show?  Is she really leaving comedy?  Should comedy take a lesson from this special?  Is comedy in the dire straits?  I would argue that these questions all entirely miss the point of her insightful and brilliant show.

Hannah ends the special talking about connection.  How we connect to each other.  She wants to share her story, all of it, the good and the ugly parts, so that she can connect.  It is through the brutal parts of the story that she can offer a connection, a lifeline, to others.  Hiding the heinous parts, masking them in jokes or sarcasm or, in the case of high art, painting over the damage entirely for the sake of reputation, does nothing for humanity because it offers no way for us to connect to each other.  And humans need connection.  Honest connection, not fictionalized connection.  Not punchlines. Not half truths.

Hannah Gadsby shares her whole truth with us.  You will laugh because there is humor.  You will feel tense because there is injustice.  You will cry because there is sorrow.  Hopefully though, you will connect with some part of her story.  As a woman, I did.  Even as a mother and a wife, I did.   I hope I can always share my stories with you as openly, as deftly, and with as much beauty.

“To be rendered powerless does not destroy your humanity.  Your resilience is your humanity.” – Hannah Gadsby

 

37 years

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I have now been on this earth for 37 years.  Not long enough to call myself wise, I don’t think.  Long enough to say for certain that I at least know a few things.  37 to be exact!  Here’s a list of 37 life lessons I’ve learned in honor of my 37th birthday.

  1. Every kid needs trees to climb.
  2. Never boil or steam vegetables.  Every vegetable is better roasted, grilled, sauteed or raw.
  3.  There’s no shame in selling really neat rocks that you found by a creek to neighbors when you’re 6 years old.
  4. Singing along loudly during a broadway show will get you kicked out of the theater, even if you’re a kid.
  5. Every child should have many loving adults helping to raise them.
  6. All children benefit from diversity.
  7. If the car door isn’t locked a particularly precocious child might just open it and swing out on the door like an action hero.  In other words, child locks are important.
  8. Falling down is not so bad, sometimes it gives you the perspective that you need.
  9. Getting back up can be hard, but it’s never impossible.
  10. Change is frightening but constant.
  11. Moving to a new place is frightening, but friendship can be found everywhere.
  12. Every kid needs a place to swim.
  13. Manners are important.
  14. Every kid needs music, sports, art and foreign language classes in school.
  15. Teenagers have drama.  They just do.  All the time. About everything.
  16. No 16 year old should ever drive a brand new car.
  17. Leaving the comfort of home is a crucial rite of passage.
  18. Church isn’t the only place to find church.
  19. Words, written and spoken, are like magic spells. They can transform anything.
  20. Sex can be exciting, weird, awkward, enjoyable and a mistake.   But it should never be scary or shameful.
  21. Young adults think they know everything.  They don’t.  They need to think they do so they can learn for themselves that they don’t.
  22. We can all learn from remembering what it was like to be young.
  23. Traveling alone to new places is life changing.
  24. Everyone should learn another language.
  25. Drugs and alcohol can be easy distractions from self, but they will never fill the hole.
  26. Some relationships are toxic.  Accept it, and move on from them.
  27. Some relationships are simple and beautiful.  Identify them and hang on tight to them.
  28. Falling in love isn’t so much like falling, but more like being lifted up.
  29. Any artistic passion still requires self discipline to maintain.
  30. Always give yourself the opportunity to be surprised.  Especially by your own strength.
  31. When things get tough, sometimes running away is actually the best option.  But running away doesn’t mean you’ll escape.
  32. Even a tornado can’t stop the people that love you from showing up.
  33. Gardening heals the soul.
  34. There is no formula for giving birth because it is as unique as a fingerprint.
  35. There is no formula for being a mother because it is an ever changing journey.
  36. Justice is not a universal aspiration.  It is a conscious choice we either make or don’t make.
  37. Never stop learning and never stop loving.

Thank you to all those that have helped me learn along the way.  I am always grateful thinking of the love I’ve known so far in my life.  I look forward to adding more lessons to my list.

Cheers all!

Dehumanize

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I spent a lot of mental energy yesterday thinking about what is happening right now on our Mexican border.  I couldn’t wrap my mind around it.  I couldn’t figure out how to process it or articulate my feelings about it.  Anxiety, helplessness, outrage, sadness all culminating in a paltry donation to an immigrant rights organization — A small band aid I tried to place on a gaping hole in my chest.

Then I decided to meditate.  Maybe give my brain some relief from the flood of emotions.  That didn’t really help.  My meditation turned first into a prayer for all the children suffering.  Then, as I pictured my own 2-year-old daughter standing in a strange place, around strange people, thumb in mouth, crying for me, it slowly morphed into more outrage, helplessness and hopelessness.  Back where I started.

Then, and this is totally true and may give you an embarrassing insight into my personality, I decided to take a break, lie down on the couch and turn on the Harry Potter series.  (Full disclosure: I’m also 36 weeks pregnant so I do a lot of lying around these days.)  That’s right, though, Harry Potter.  My annual (or sometimes even bi-annual) escapist kryptonite.  Whenever I need to shut my mind off, that magical world where plucky wizards and witches battle with evil usually does the trick.  Only this time, the kids using magic to defend themselves made me think of the real kids that sit completely defenseless just south of my home.  Outrage again.  And then, suddenly, the concept of evil manifested itself to me.

Evil is not something I typically blame when it comes to bad things happening in the world.  Generally, I don’t believe evil exists.  I find it’s too simplistic.  Ultimately, too religious to be applicable to most situations.  Even awful situations.  I tend to cite desperation, mental illness, drugs, poverty, lack of education, lack of resources, too many guns, greed, etc. before I will just flat out attribute something to evil.

This is different.

I’m betting that anyone who lived through the holocaust or was interned in a Japanese camp or was sequestered to live on a designated reservation.  I’m betting they could talk about evil.  I didn’t live through any of that.  Almost 37-years-old, I haven’t really experienced much by way of blatant human rights violations.  At least, not in this country.  Not during my lifetime.

It’s the dehumanization that really bothers me.  That’s what feels evil.  To take away a person’s humanity.  To assign them a category like “illegal alien” or “criminal immigrant” in order to justify treating them inhumanely…That seems, quite simply, evil to me.  None of my other rationales can explain this.  Not this.  None of the arguments given absolve this.  Not this.  Not when I can painfully imagine my own daughter’s terror if she was alone and afraid in a detention center.  I suppose though, that if instead of a funny, smart, two-year-old, all you saw was an “illegal alien,” you wouldn’t ever consider her feelings at all.  That’s evil.

I understand now.  Evil is not a human act.  It is an inhuman act.  When we leave humanity behind, deny humanity, willfully ignore humanity.  When we rationalize it away.  When we excuse an act that violates the very essence of person.  That’s evil.  It’s not the violating, it’s the excusing.  In other words, any attempt to condone the dehumanization of a child is evil.  I don’t say this lightly.  I am deeply saddened to say it, and to see it happening.

There’s so much more I could write about this.  So much more that I feel about it.  Feelings that I didn’t know I could have, truth be told.  The dictionary defines evil as “profoundly immoral and malevolent.”  At this time, that is the only way I can comprehend what is happening.  The only way I can articulate it.  It is an evil thing to deny a child the right to be with their parents.  It is an evil thing to round up and detain innocent children.  Taking away their humanity, rationalizing it, minimizing it, excusing it– that doesn’t change the fact that it can only be described with one word.  Evil.

Here are some organizations fighting to rectify this evil:
Las Americas Immigrant Advocacy
Refugee Assistance Immigration Services
Texas Civil Rights Project
Diocesan Migrant & Refugee Services

Why I don’t want Bernie Sanders to run for President

politics-2361943_640Bernie Sanders was on Bill Maher recently.  While I agree with most every issue for which Bernie fights; the need for universal healthcare, a way to bring more jobs/income to the working class– I suppose I agree with free tuition for higher education, although I’d rather address primary school education first.  All that said, I found myself thinking “I really hope he doesn’t run for president again.”

There are several reasons that I don’t think Bernie should run for President.

1. Bernie Sanders is an activist.  A brilliant and compassionate activist.  He is best served in that role.  A president though, isn’t just an activist.  Isn’t really an activist at all.  At least, that’s not the kind of president we need right now.  We need someone who will unite us.  Someone who will heal us.  Right now there are activists working for and against justice.  People from every walk of life staking their claims, shouting their opinions.  We are on fire with controversy.  We need someone that can better control that fire.  I don’t believe Bernie Sanders is that person.

2. There have been enough white male Presidents. It’s time to think about a different kind of person in the highest office. It’s why Trump won. Because “he is different” because he is “not a politician”.  Maybe we need someone that is not a career politician.  Maybe someone who was a farmer or a school teacher.  Maybe someone younger.  Maybe female. Maybe someone of Hispanic decent or someone who is black or gay.  Gender and race don’t matter as much as character to me, though.  Bernie has exceptional character, true, but he’s still considered an “insider.”   Whoever runs, if they are already working in Washington, they need to be new to the scene.  Maybe with less media coverage.  Someone that can think outside the box, convince others in Washington to do so and convince the American people to do so.

3. The pendulum always swings.  Donald Trump has pulled the pendulum pretty far to the right.  Bernie Sanders is an equal and opposite reaction to the right swing.  So maybe it’s inevitable.  But swinging very far to the left in the next election won’t help mend our increasingly tribal country.  It will exacerbate the division.  It will accelerate the swinging pendulum.  Swinging so far to the right has delegitimized our democracy.  Swinging too far to the left will have the same effect.  I do not see Bernie Sanders reconciling with republican colleagues.  I do not see him mending fractured relationships in government.  I see his presidency as another cause for republicans to dig their heels in and fight dirty against every single piece of legislation.  We need someone less indoctrinated into the leftist tribe.

4.  Honestly, he’s not dynamic enough.  I don’t mean outspoken or opinionated or intelligent because he is certainly all those things.  I mean, he’s not interesting enough.  Not intriguing enough.  The Trump administration has been nothing if not captivating.  I’m not saying that’s been a good thing, but it’s certainly been effective.  Trump uses sucker punches and negativity as his tactic for keeping things interesting.  I’m not saying that democrats should do that.  They go low, we go high, right?  There are ways to be intriguing and not sacrifice ethics, rhetoric, truth or goodness.  Being an asshole isn’t the only way to get attention, although it is probably the quickest.  I just don’t see Bernie Sanders capturing the minds of the majority.  We already know what to expect from him.  We’re familiar with his brand.  It’s not interesting and for that reason, I don’t think he can win.

5.  There, I said it.  I don’t think Bernie Sanders can win.  That is the final reason I don’t want him to run.  And in truth, if he did win, I don’t think he’d be able to accomplish much.  Mid-terms would swing the house and senate back to red (I am assuming a “blue wave” this fall) and the whole system would stall out again, just as it did during Obama’s 2nd term.  Then we’re back where we started with a large majority of Americans left behind and pissed because the government can’t accomplish anything for them.

I don’t know who the right person is to take up the democratic torch.  I’m reluctant even to throw out ideas.  My hope is that whoever it is, I’ve not heard of them or only heard a little about them.  My hope is that all the people in Washington respect them.  My hope is that they can put some broken parts of our democracy back together.  That they can right some wrongs.  Wrongs that have been afflicted on the American people by BOTH SIDES, not just republicans.  Whoever runs on the democratic ticket, I hope they are admirable, respectable and ultimately, I hope that they can win.

It’s Ok

I was planning to finish up and post a political commentary blog about Bernie Sanders today.   However, the news of Anthony Bourdain’s death prompts me to write about depression.

Other than a few transitional times in my life I have never suffered from depression.  But I believe that my father did, especially toward the end of his life.  He struggled with his weight, with a food addiction, and, I think, with the deep shame that often accompanies such a struggle.

He did love quite a lot of people.  Loved them well.  To an extent, I think he allowed himself to be loved by them in return.  But receiving that love fully was always hard for him.  Quick-witted and self-deprecating, he would laugh off compliments or just sort of skip over them entirely.   He was a talented writer and a gifted speaker, but I think the burden of that talent, the pressure to “do something with it,” was difficult for him.

Dad passed away a little over 4 years ago.  I know now that he quietly suffered from congestive heart failure.  His own ailments were not something he ever really discussed, especially not with his children.  His heart gave out and he died suddenly at home.  He was alone when he died.   I wish he hadn’t been.

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I’ve spent time working through the guilt.  I would guess that most people who love someone that struggles with depression feel guilt.  And helplessness.  Maybe even anger sometimes, which then becomes more guilt.  I did all the things that people who love someone with depression maybe try to do.  Talk to them. Write them letters.  Encourage them.  Ignore them.  Yell at them.  Cry for them.  Ask others to help them.  So many times I would think to myself, “What am I supposed to do?  He’s a grown man.  I can’t force him to be happy.”

 

It’s true.  People have to choose their own path.  There is no magic formula to save those that suffer from mental illness.  There is certainly no amount of money and no magic pill that can do it.  I don’t know what the answer is.  I wish I could finish off this blog with a resolution.  Some insightful, enlightening answer to the question “why do people suffer”.  I wish I could say that my experience with my Dad taught me some universal lesson I could share with you that might help you.  But as with most lessons in life, it just doesn’t work that way.  There’s no comprehensive way to overcome depression or anxiety or addiction or any number of other mental illnesses.   There’s no perfect way to avoid pain.

I would say to you though, that it is ok.  Whatever you are or aren’t doing to help someone with depression.  It’s ok.  If you are making yourself available, that’s ok.  If you can only call occasionally, that’s ok too.  If you haven’t spoken in weeks, that’s ok.  If you talk every day, that’s ok too.  We do the best we can for the people we love.

I can also say with absolute certainty that if you are suffering from depression, you are loved.  You deserve that love.  Nothing that you think about yourself can change that.  Nothing that you do can change that.

I love my Dad.  He knew that.  He loved me.  I knew that.  Sometimes that’s all there is.  And that’s ok.

 

Dear Humanity

IMG_1069Dear Humanity,

I see the goodness in you when you ask for compassion even when your instinct is to punish.  Even when it is clear that the person doesn’t deserve or even desire your compassion.   It is hard to stand up for people that you believe are wrong, but I’ve seen you do it and it makes me proud.

I see the goodness in you when you risk your life for another life.  When you travel across the world to help save people from war or disease or hunger.  You might even step in front of bullets to protect a stranger in a strange land.  I see the sacrifices you make for others and it rescues me from despair.

I see the goodness in you when you laugh.  When you make fun of yourself.  When you don’t take yourself too seriously and spend time being silly.  When you tell jokes.  The comedy of life is not lost on you and I love to laugh about it all with you.

I see the goodness in you when you explore.  When your curiosity takes you into space or into uncharted parts of the ocean, or deep into the earth just to find out how it all works.  I see your fascination with the universe and your drive to discover and it inspires me to do the same.

I see the goodness in you when you create.  Just for the sake it.   When you make the world your canvas or your song and let the quiet Muse guide you.  It is an inexplicable thing to be able to create something new, something beautiful and you do it so well.

I see the goodness in you when you argue.  When you are impassioned and scream your opinions.  Even though people shame you.  Even though people hate you.  Even though people disagree with you.  It is good to have passion.  It’s good to be fierce.

I see the goodness in you when you change.  When you are open to hearing the other side.  When you listen without judgement.  And then when you allow yourself to change.  To become different, better, wiser, more loving.

I see the goodness in you when you work hard.  When you buckle down and solve problems.  When you figure out how you can help and what to do to make it right, then you go out and do it.  Your determination is formidable.  Your ingenuity is admirable.

I see the goodness in you when you are afraid.  We are all born with fear.  You are afraid of death because you love life.  You are afraid of pain because you desire happiness.  Those are good things to love and desire.  I know that when you hide or hurt or lash out that you do so out of fear.  It makes me want to be brave for you.

I don’t mean to be naive or obtuse in saying all of this.  There are plenty of opportunities to acknowledge pain and suffering, but we don’t often talk about what makes us good.    We are what make the arch of morality bend toward justice.  Somewhere, even under all the drama and outrage, we are good.  We are getting better.  Sometimes it’s two steps forward and one step back.  Sometimes we stagnate.  Sometimes we circle back to dark places.  But even in those times there are stories of goodness.  There are humans being good to each other.

It is easy for me to slide down the slippery slope of negative thinking.  To criticize.  To berate.  To get on my soapbox.  It’s easy to want to give up on damned humanity and all it’s damned madness.  But I hear stories of people being extraordinary.  I read articles recounting amazing situations.  I’ve seen us do miraculous things.  That goodness is not lost on me.  It can’t be.  Sometimes I just need to remind myself.  Sometimes what we really need is just to be reminded of our goodness.