Palimps, palimpser, palimpsest

Chani’s been all over my case lately:

At first it was nice for my ruins to be acknowledged FOR THEY ARE LEGENDARY but she just kept hammering on it, day after goddamn day. (You can stop reading after that part though. The anxiety thing is bullshit; it’s called homeostasis — your living system seeking a dynamic equilibrium — NOT pathology. The only unstimulated/unsoothed nervous system is a dead one.)

Uhh I mean, astrology is bullshit and so am I for reading it, but maybe not all of neuroscience is, says the person with a large brain tattoo on their arm.

Anyway.

Yesterday, I started noticing. Fading pasts, futures birthing, etc.

On the way to lunch.
At lunch.
Even the lunch itself, which was advertised as this…
…then was served thus. And tasted fantastic. I let the counter guy pick my fry sauce and he went with Miami, which turned out to be…half orange pudding, half mayo, a little onion powder and a lot of celery salt?

And then the Chief looked even worse, immediately after, in the WC. Ahem.

There are no pictures of that phase — pre-use! jfc — even though I DEARLY wanted to take one: it was the first time since arriving that I’d finally encountered one of the classic German shelf toilets.

I’d restarted my no-cell-signal phone while dining, forgetting that the SIM PIN lock would then be on — and that my SIM PIN was 45 min away at home. So no phone, for the next 5+ hours, until I returned.

My past might be fading*, but doing stupid inconvenient shit will always be here for me.

*It’s not. I fully agree with Faulkner’s oft-quoted observation that “The past is never dead. It’s not even past.”

And also with Bessel Van Der Kolk’s longer version:

We have learned that trauma is not just an event that took place sometime in the past; it is also the imprint left by that experience on mind, brain, and body. This imprint has ongoing consequences for how the human organism manages to survive in the present. Trauma results in a fundamental reorganization of the way mind and brain manage perceptions. It changes not only how we think and what we think about, but also our very capacity to think.”

Happy Anonymous Donor Day

My children don’t have a father. They have two moms, and an anonymous-for-now  sperm donor.

(They also have amazing aunts and uncles and cousins and neighbors. And I hope one day they’ll have some donor-siblings, but today I’m thinking specifically of their donor.)

The information we know about the donor is a strange mix of intimately detailed and hopelessly limited.

Some of things we know: some basic physiological characteristics and measurements, some resume fluff like education and career, some self-reported interests, a few generations of family health history. One small picture of him as a toddler. Some impressive sperm counts and morphology from a thawed sample.

What we don’t know could fill many a book. We don’t know if he has dimples, or if he needed braces as a teenager, or how much he likes to sing in the shower or dance in the kitchen. We don’t know if he was ever afraid of thunderstorms, or when he got his first passport. We don’t know if he ever thinks of the children that he helped create.

I don’t know how much it matters. The boys are so much their own people — arrived on the scene as completely their own little people — that maybe it doesn’t matter one whit about the meatbags and middlemen that mixed some body fluids to get them started.

I can surmise the donor is pretty smart. I mean, he figured out how to get paid to masturbate, and if that’s not a sliver of the Manly American Dream come true, I don’t know what is.

But half-kidding aside, I can also surmise that the donor is major-league generous. His contribution — however anonymous, or pleasant, or lucrative, or not — made us mothers, the kind of gift that nobody can put a bow on. Not even one of those Lexus-sized Christmas bows.

I can thank KK for making the leap with me, for all the once-in-a-lifetime-ness and the relentless daily grinding of it all. For being brave enough to let her heart burst open, so there’d be room to hold us all.

I can thank our friends and family for the support and patience and love they show us every day, that they show the boys every day.

Sometimes I get a little sad that I can’t thank the donor for his role in the gift, too, for helping me finally find my life’s work.

What I saw of the donor on insemination day - the bag from the lab that held the thawed sample
What I saw of the donor on insemination day – the bag from the lab that held the thawed sample

It’s been real

just passed a wreck on the interstate. Left lane, at least one car totaled, responders on the scene.

Simultaneously, saw a CBS46 news van chugging along by that same spot, and they slowed down, looked at the remains of somebody’s terrible day, and sped off.

“This is nothing new, no television crew / They don’t even put on the siren” — “Star Witness” by Neko Case

Why I Take Lots of Bad Photos and You Can, Too

I started to comment on ktmade’s recent post The Montreal Botanical Garden (or Why I Take Photos) because I admired her both willingness to listen to the voice inside as well as the stunning photos from her visit to the aforementioned Garden.

But when I hit, say, 250 words and still hadn’t finished, I figured it’d be more neighborly to retreat to my own soapbox to finish up.

 A snap from my current photo challenge, #instamarchlove. Details at Elegance and Enchantment.

Aside from a couple of elementary school photo projects, I never took a lot of pictures until I got my first iphone, about 4 years ago. It was so easy because I always had it with me, and not having to develop film meant there were zero barriers to clicking away and seeing what came of it.

Then a few months after I got my phone, I lost most of my vision for most of a year. AWKWARD.

In the time since, I’ve really come to appreciate how taking photos (1) validates that I can see something and (2) helps frame and focus my attention in the moment.

That photo lacks composition? The lighting’s off? TOUGH. I came, I saw, I snapped.

And since my sight could go again at any time, I’m going to darn well keep snapping away until then. And maybe after then, too. We’ll cross that bridge when we come to it and stop to take a picture.

Taking pictures often and in quantity also pushes back a stubborn perfectionistic streak that I’ve been trying to snuff out since elementary school. I think of the koan about the art teacher who tells half the class that their only assignment all semester is to make one single vase. The other half of the class’s only assignment is to make as many vases as they can during the semester.

What we’re to believe is that the quantity-over-quality kids — through dint of practice, repetition, iteration — also turned out the best vases, while the single-vase kids either just made one shitty vase or (more likely) ended up rocking in a corner somewhere, paralyzed by the pressure.

Sounds plausible, anyway, and not just if you’ve ever seen my stunning paralysis skills. I read in a best-of National Geographic issue a year or two ago that “A photographer shoots 20,000 to 60,000 images on assignment. Of those, perhaps a dozen will see the published light of day.”

Well, shit.

If even bumbly-old unartistic ME took 60,000 photographs, surely at least 10 or 12 would be decent. At least 30,000 of them would probably even have the lens cap removed!

I’m not great at math or photography, but it sounds like it’d be impossible to shoot so many photos and not come up with something decent. Just by chance.

And you know what? I think it’s true. I take dozens of photos on an average day, sometimes over a hundred. The more I take, the more I can edit out. The more I can edit out, the more strength I see in those allowed to remain.

Even if nobody else sees the cutting room floor fodder, I know that I’m keeping, and sometimes sharing, my best. The Best of the Best, even.

Finally, the flow of life these days is just too deep and wide and swift to stop and verbalize, to tell and retell. So photos have become my favored alternative. It’s still storytelling, just different, and sometimes better. I love that my boys will have more memories to look back at than I do/did.

So yeah, ktmade, don’t start apologizing. I promise not to, either. Now, say “cheese!”

A Gentler Look at Postpartum Bodies

The intimacy I experienced with my body and my developing baby during pregnancy ….became, in a way, a metaphor for how I feel about parenthood—a striking awareness of loss of control, simultaneity of surrendering to change on a moment-to-moment basis while experiencing more joy and more fear than the heart can contain. Pregnancy and parenthood invoke an unprecedented heightening of anxiety—excruciating awareness of vulnerability, altering one’s perspective on the fragility of life, as well as a depth of love that redefines the concept. Why would we erase all of this complexity—the physical and psychological makings and markings of pregnancy and parenthood?

[via Smaller Than Before: The Politics Of Postpartum Bodies | Role Reboot]

Sixteen months postpartum, I thought that I haven’t been driven to “erase all of the complexity” (ie lose 20 pounds, or 60, Spanx up the twin skin belly, and so on) because even before kids, I didn’t have the standard sexy Barbie body.

I didn’t have even a healthy body before.

And I’ve been a radical feminist since forever, and to hell with the male gaze.

And frankly, I’m just too tired to take on the project of improving my projection.

Today I was reminded that while those ARE all reasons, they’re not ALL the reasons. Zucker’s post, quoted above, struck a gentle chord. It reminded me that the body-and-soul pregnancy experience I lived in and through — in and around and with my children’s bodies — was an Experience. Capital E, and it deserves to be remembered and revered as such.

Carrying and birthing the twins truly was the most carnal and sacred Experience of my life. Never before have I participated in a miracle, at once so engineered and so wild, and I never will again. I treasure it.

I’d never let anyone take the Experience away from me, and I sure as hell am not going to be the one to brush it off, minimize it, or forget about it. So yeah.

Classic monuments get chiseled from granite, cast in bronze, erected in steel, encased in glass.

My mama-ment is flesh and blood, muscle and sweat. It wiggles when I walk or laugh or work. It wraps my babies up in hugs, squeezes and shushes and sways. It’s mere mortal meat, an ephemeral expression of one genetic milemarker in human history. It’s just one of the latest in a line of mama-ments stretching back forever, and forward farther than I can fathom.

Erase THAT?!

I don’t share C.S. Lewis faith, but I return again and again to his apt living house metaphor from Mere Christianity:

Imagine yourself as a living house. God comes in to rebuild that house. At first, perhaps, you can understand what He is doing. He is getting the drains right and stopping the leaks in the roof and so on: you knew that those jobs needed doing and so you are not surprised. But presently he starts knocking the house about in a way that hurts abominably and does not seem to make sense. What on earth is He up to? The explanation is that He is building quite a different house from the one you thought of—throwing out a new wing here, putting on an extra floor there, running up towers, making courtyards. Уоu thought you were going to be made into a decent little cottage: but He is building a palace. He intends to come and live in it Himself.

Monuments are purposely built big, hard to miss, and impossible to forget. Why should mine be any different?  I’ll be proud to rear my children in a “decent little cottage,” but they deserve to remember that they came from a palace.

2013.10.05 EJ at 37 weeks pregnant
37 weeks. Like that’s NOT going to leave a mark?! (For scale, my boobs were H+ cups.)