I asked for stories when I arrived. They told me a whole history passed through photo albums and anecdotes. Mixed in these were the stories of alcoholism. Over and over, the mean drunks beat their wives or spent the family grocery money or died early, everyone a little relieved.
Recently, a friend who had a baby last week reached out to me with some concerns that I recognized all too well from my own postpartum experiences. It got me thinking about how key facts of the first week postpartum hadn’t made it onto my radar before I had Eleanor, and how much of a relief it was to read articles like this and this and realize that I was totally normal and not alone.
I am telling the story of Nikki, and in Nikki's story she sews gorgeous hand-dyed clothes for her children and listens to NPR and does yoga at 6:00 AM every morning and relishes every second of it. That's a nice story, isn't it?
In story, we can cast ourselves as victims, nihilists, cynics, always on the sidelines with a critique. Or, we can choose the lead role, the heroic, or maybe even the quiet kindness that slowly progresses us forward to a better place. Introvert me, this quiet kindness is my favorite.
My niece, bless her, said to me recently that when she thinks of the perfect couple, she thinks of me and my husband. Morg's 12 and her parents are going through a divorce, so she should be forgiven for this erroneous perception of relationships. She has a long time ahead watching me and her Uncle Fester and thinking, "Holy shitballs, please don't let me turn out like them."
The exact moment that I became aware that my actions had a direct effect on the environment occurred on or around Earth Day 1996, when my fourth-grade teacher had us this PSA video about water conservation, which shows a little boy letting the faucet run while he brushes his teeth on the right side of the screen and a pond rapidly draining on the left, threatening to beach the fish that lives there until he calls the boy on the phone and tells him to maybe stop being such a thoughtless asshat and turn the water off.
Hi, I'm Jamie, and I'm a fixer. No, like a fixer. I will insert myself into every aspect of your decision-making process to tell you how you should do something even if you're not even thinking about how what you're doing might need to be done a different way. For years, I called this "helping." Because who doesn't feel super motivated when her mother nags her in that condescending, know-it-all voice?
To all of this work, both personal and professional, I brought a Puritanical belief that I was creating spiritual value for myself through labor. It became my primary love language--I showed God love by being the first to volunteer at the homeless shelter on Thanksgiving. I showed my roommate love by doing her half of the dishes without being asked. I showed my boyfriend love through elaborate handmade gifts. And when people complimented my work or told me I did a good job, I felt love in return.
[My] guilt was compounded by the fact that, not only was I a woman, but I was a cavernously hungry one. Voraciously, consumingly hungry. For food, for sex, for attention, for everything. My needs felt overwhelming, and my body was suddenly terrifying to me in both its existence and its want. My body had become a problem to be solved.
I am a grass is greener kind of woman. My husband, who will generally sing my praises as long as it's not about money, will tell you that this is my fatal character flaw. You and I can both order dinner a restaurant known for its delicious tacos, and I will look at your tacos and wish that they were my tacos.
I never in a million years thought that I would get to a place where I felt fine about ditching sugar and grains, and doing so has been my most significant takeaway from Whole30. I've been addicted--emotionally and chemically--to sugar for as long as I can remember, and daily cycles of cravings and crashes ruled my life until a month ago.
Most of us mean well. In the face of uncertainty, people want to offer solutions. This struggle is what it means to be human. There are sometimes no solutions.
My work life was going to change as a parent whether I liked it or not, and to weather it I was going to have to sacrifice a big ole chunk of my identity: my need to be the Hardest Working Person In The Room, and more importantly, my need to be seen as such.
This week, I answer a reader's letter about what was hard, amazing, impossible in early recovery. When I think back to those early months, I see myself as a raw nerve thrumming with the agony of exposure. By the time I'd made an actual decision to abstain, I'd been on the path toward sobriety for at least 5 years. I just didn't know it.
Sugar cravings have all but vanished, and I'm starting to find so many more things to do with my nights than stuff my face - write, take a bath, do a craft, listen to a record. All of these things alleviate the stress that I've been numbing with snacks, but in a way that's so much healthier for me mentally and physically.
I know that ever since you turned twenty-five, there have been questions. Well-meaning prods and probes about the current state and future plans of your uterus. More if you're married.
Today marks Day 8 of cutting out dairy, wheat, sugar, legumes, and preservatives in favor of fresh veggies, meat, fruit, nuts, and seeds. Here's how the first week of Whole 30 went for both of us:
Each week, Jamie and Nikki scour our laptops, phones, and bookshelves to share a few of our current favorite things. We'd love it if you did the same in the comments! This week is our Whole30, women's mixed martial arts, and Melissa Febos's ABANDON ME.
A golf-ball size chunk of soured milk plopped into my bowl, splashing milk all over me and the table. I would stink like rotted milk for the rest of the day as we sat in the ER, my sore throat actually strep. My mother looked at me, at the hunk of cheese in my cereal. She collapsed at the table and sobbed, a keening that made me feel complicit in the milk's souring and my strep throat.
By the time I came to terms privately with my own queerness and stopped trying to tell myself that I just really enjoyed the company of my female friends and didn't actually want to recite Sapphic poetry to them while entwined naked in silk sheets watching Gilmore Girls, I was 24 years old. I was also married to a dude.
For me, this year, it's all about excitement for change. Things that I've wanted to start for years suddenly feel doable. Things that don't serve me are getting easier to let go of. And since it's Mardi Gras season here, everywhere I look there's beautiful people in elaborate costumes celebrating life and community. I'm totally twitterpated on my world right now.
This day was one of my favorite rituals on Mardi Gras, my favorite day of the year. My first year sober, I feared losing the magic of this day more than any other thing about sobriety. What if I got out there and realized Mardi Gras was nothing but a bunch of hedonists degrading themselves in their own vomit?
The first time a doctor said I might not have children, I was a few hours old and had just come out of surgery for double hernias.
Cancer sucks. I’m pretty sure I don’t have to sell you on that idea! It’s certainly not something I would ever wish upon anyone, and yet, one night as I was doing a routine monthly self-exam on myself I found what felt like a frozen pea under my right breast.
We shun the full spectrum of human experience from public view when this particular beauty should be celebrated as its true gift. The more photographs I see of elders, the more voluptuous and sensual they look, sumptuous skin draped over in love and warmth. What could be sexier than that kind of surrender?
I imagined aging as a drawn out process of increasing complaint and dissatisfaction. At 17, I looked at my mother who was the age I am now, and I vowed never to give in to daily comfort over style and to wear a bra to bed for the rest of my life if it meant my boobs didn't touch my belly button by age 40. I was an idiot.
But for others it may have come as somewhat of a surprise, because vests or no vests, I’m still a thirty-year-old married mom, and thirty-year-old married moms don’t typically come out unless it’s accompanied by divorce papers and a drastic haircut.
Each week, Jamie and Nikki will scour our laptops, phones, and bookshelves to share a few of our current favorite things. We'd love it if you did the same in the comments!
I have never thirsted like that before and surely never had that thirst satisfied. But there in a park with little kids whirling and my family lingering close by, I experienced what it was like to be satisfied.
In a social climate that feels like it’s come completely unmoored, holding my second baby feels safe and secure. This, if nothing else, I understand. And I desperately need things that I understand right now.