Bluebird Down

The pursuit of domestic bliss, one glorious debacle at a time.

Enough. Enough now. January 19, 2015

It just recently happened that I put a name on emotions I’ve been feeling for the past few years. I slouched in the chair across from the man who taught me how to be a therapist and announced, “I think I’ve been grieving.” His response: “I know.”

Until I scrolled through my blog looking at past posts, I had no idea it has been three and a half years of grieving. Grief is funny like that.

In the Spring of 2011, Z came back after three years in Iraq. In the Summer of 2011, we found out that we couldn’t conceive our own baby. There were doctors and procedures and rolling waves of anticipation and disappointment. There were adoption seminars and background checks and financial wizardry. And there was a meltdown coming. I was on a mission and it took me too long to notice that Z was struggling to find his way back. Back to life at home. With me. With a kid that is already too much trouble.

2012 and 2013 weren’t good.

We at least had sense enough to know that you can’t bring a baby into that.

We fought for each other. We fought against each other. Foughtfoughtfought because it was uglyuglyugly. What wrung out after the sweat and exhaustion and anger was us, refortified.

And yet, I was sinking in the grief for the family that never was. There are two philosophies when it comes to therapy (well, there is more than two, but for the sake of simplicity…). There is the pro sports trainer version where you come to the sidelines with a sprained psyche, we wrap it up, give you some meds and send you back out into society to keep pushing. Then there is the deeper psychotherapy where you let the client come to their own realizations, in their own time, with your support. The first version is easier, but it doesn’t truly fix anything. The second version is more painful and you can sacrifice a chunk of your life to the greater good of your existence. That’s when you make the grand announcement and find out you were the only one that didn’t know.

In the midst, you have to live your life. You have to go to work, because the mortgage company doesn’t recognize existential crises. You have to make dinner. Do laundry. Be a wife, have friends, contribute to your community, when all you want is to be.left.alone.

I avoided babies. It’s embarrassing to admit now. I avoided babies like the plague. It wasn’t easy. While my ovaries were imploding, my friends’ reproductive organs were shooting off like fireworks. Why did I avoid your baby showers and first birthday parties? Because I didn’t want to be the weirdo crying in the corner. Trust me, it would have been uncomfortable for all.

I’m not even sure why I took it so hard. A blend of ego and mortality, for sure. Nothing like being told a major organ system has aged out to make you face your impending doom. And everyone was getting pregnant, why not me? What’s so wrong with me that the universe has decided to pass on me? How is it fair that I can’t have babies, but my job is still to sit down an 8th grader and explain to her that going to the doctor is kinda important when you are pregnant? Plus I really do think Z would have been a great dad. It’s my fault he doesn’t get that experience. Add guilt to ego and mortality, with a heavy dose of emotional exhaustion.

There’s not a good answer. There is only reality and how you face your reality.

And then someone goes and plops a newborn baby in your arms. I did not want to go on the family trip last summer. Babies were going to be there. In case no one was noticing, I avoid babies. Absolutely no respect for my neurosis. So here’s this baby, in my arms, wrapped up all baby-like, looking soft and sweet. I’m holding him at my shoulder level, presumably to chuck him back at his father the first second he threatens to expose me as a fraud. Instead he wiggled his itty bitty butt and settled in. Well, that’s unexpected. I tried to give him to other family members to hold. Nope, you hold him. He likes it. He slept. I relaxed my arms. Appears the coast is clear. I even fed him a few times. I told his mom that I hoped I was doing it right. She responded, “I’m never sure I’m doing it right,” and walked out of the room. Hmmm, how about that.

The second reality check came when someone asked me to write an article about being over 40 and childless. Hand to God, it shocked me that someone identified me as “over 40 and childless.” I suddenly had to focus and face the past three and a half years (that timeline still floors me). I haven’t gotten that article out, because this one needed to come first.

So I’ve been grieving. The sheer acknowledgment has made such a massive difference. Owning it makes a difference. Maybe the real difference is when a baby trusts you with their nap, you trust the baby. Thanks, baby.

 

Be good. Be glad. Be brave. August 14, 2011

Filed under: Public Service Announcement — Teri @ 8:43 pm

4th Grade, 1980-81

“I have never let schooling interfere with my education.” ~ Mark Twain

I’m a horrible student, but I’m a pretty active learner. I wouldn’t say quick learner. More like a I’ll-come-around-to-it-in-my-own-time learner. But I’m open minded, I have a good imagination and I don’t mind busting through the boundaries of the proverbial box. These are all things I came to appreciate about myself as I grew. These were not things that were particularly appreciated while I was in school.

I probably started making school year resolutions when I was in 4th grade. It was the year I laid down a set of expectations that I would rekindle every year until I finished my first round of college. How old was I in 4th grade? 10 years old? Either I was a genius for being so reflective at a young age or an idiot for continually following the desires of a 10 year old. Or maybe what we all want in life is simple enough that a child can articulate it. I kept the list simple:

Goal 1: I will do my school work. I had good intentions of being like the kids in the ABC Afterschool Specials. I would sit at the kitchen table after school, with a snack freshly made by my mom, and finish my homework before dinner.
Reality 1: My homework was always done on the bus or in the hallway before class. And forget about getting it done in class. I don’t know what I was doing in class, but it wasn’t my classwork. I was the “not working up to potential” kid.

Goal 2: Make more friends.
Reality 2: This resolution had limited success. I did have friends and a wide variety of friends, but I would have had better friendships if I were kinder. My house was a sad place to grow up and that created an angry child. I could be cruel. But not in a Queen Bee way. I wasn’t Benny Hanson or Caroline Mulford. I didn’t have the social status for that. I was more like Molly Ringwald‘s hostile sidekicks — minus the smoking and cursing.

Goal 3: Be cute – dress fashionably, comb hair.
Reality 3: I started out as a tomboy, transitioned into awkward and went straight into chubby. Nothing says that you can’t be cute at any of those stages, but for the most part, I was not. I was uncomfortable in my own skin. And I didn’t really have anybody to tell me that I shouldn’t be.

I carried around these resolutions from year to year to year to year — probably right up to grad school. [OK, so it really was up until grad school.] Now that I work for a school system, I still have the same old “This year I’m going to…” notions popping up in my head. I’ll ignore the Mean Girl Teachers (oh yes, they exist!). I’ll get my reports done on time. I’ll get up early enough to put on make-up. And this is after several years and thousands of dollars of therapy. I’m not so hard on myself anymore though. And I try to tell the kids that I work with not to be so hard on themselves and each other. It’s not easy to convince a 12 year old that you know what you are talking about. They can’t see outside of their heads, outside of their situations. Life will get better, I tell them. You are not and do not have to be pigeonholed into a stereotype. I tell them that my favorite quote is “Be good. Be glad. Be brave.” They wrinkle their noses at me and furrow their brows. I keep going… Be good: Do what you need to do, because believe it or not, life is easier that way. Be glad: There is just as much good in the world as bad. Focus on the good. Be brave: Dare to imagine yourself as great. Dare to be nice. Through bravery you will find integrity. And if you don’t remember your math equations, then remember this. This is your education.

 

Intruders Be Warned August 5, 2011

Z's embarrassed of the yellow magazine. Don't judge him.

 

The kids in our neighborhood are getting restless. There has been a rash of car break-ins recently and an attempted home invasion. One night not long ago a young man knocked on a front door at 10 o’clock at night. The owners didn’t answer [because in the South, no one visits or calls after dark]. The boy went around to the back of the house, unscrewed the light bulb in the porch light and tried to kick in the back door. The owners scared him off and called the police. Reportedly, the police arrived 20 minutes later and didn’t take a report. Our rabid neighborhood watch is going nuts. Don’t try to outsmart a bunch of old Special Forces guys. Things will get real in a hurry.

Z and I were talking about the attempted break-in over breakfast. Z said he would get anyone that broke in our house. That’s dumb, I said. He looked up from his bowl of Fiber One and went on a rant. I’ve heard it all before. When I asked him if he wouldn’t feel bad for hurting a kid, he said let that be a lesson to his friends. It gave me a headache trying to reconcile what I was hearing.

Z and I have opposing views on gun control. We basically vote down party lines. My opinions about automatic weapons make him groan in disgust. His opinions on concealed carry make me think I’ve married a nut. I can tolerate it because Z is a fanatic about gun safety and the weapons stay out of sight. It lets me live in my Happy Place where guns don’t exist.

Z insisted that we go to the gun range today so I could practice. No, I’m not going, I said. He persisted. Z doesn’t get adamant about much, but he was adamant that I practice with a pistol. I fumed the entire way to the range. In one respect, I get that, if there are guns in the house, you should know how to properly handle them. It would be ironic if someone did break into our house and harmed me when I had a means to protect myself within reach. On the other hand, I honestly can’t see myself doing it. When I lived alone, and in highly suspect areas, I kept my old aluminum softball bat under my bed. I know, rock-paper-scissors, a bat is no competition for a gun. Then again, if you get close enough, I could smack your eardrum into the next county. I mean, I didn’t get married until I was 37 years old. That means I dated for 20 long, hard years. I have enough repressed rage in me that I’m pretty sure I can unleash a wild fury on any man trying to hurt me. He’d cry then he’d call his momma to apologize for being a problem child. Who needs a gun with those skills?

 

We won't talk about the ones that aren't on the target.

 

Z went easy on me and only had me shoot one magazine from each pistol. Z refreshed my memory on how to load the magazine, turn on — and off! — the safety, and line up the sites. The 1911 was the heaviest and easiest to shoot. I actually hit the bull’s eye with that one. The Glock 34 was lighter, but I wasn’t as accurate. I still hit the target though. The Glock 19 was a beast to shoot. It was the smallest and lightest and I couldn’t hit a barn with it. Well, I hit six shots in the target [barely] and six outside of the target. If I try to shoot someone in the foot, he’s definitely going to get it in the liver. Sorry, Mr. Intruder.

 

Policing the "brass" from the cheapy Russian practice ammo.

 

Really Liking: The Help by Kathryn Stockett

Training Log: Yesterday I cycled and ran. The hip/foot affliction seems to be gone. Had my first migraine in three months today, so slept about six hours this afternoon. Back to cycling and running tomorrow.

 

The Good, the Bad and the Ugly Just Got Uglier July 12, 2011

Filed under: Public Service Announcement — Teri @ 4:42 pm

A few weeks ago I told you about having sun damage removed from my precious cheeks. One of the areas was deemed abnormal, so I went back today to have the larger biopsy done. Wow. When Mike the Cat became Mike the Toothless Cat, I provided him with a cover story. The bar-fight-in-Tijuana story is always a good one to fall back on. I may have to reclaim it from him. Or I’ll have to tell folks that I was really at a MMA Championship last weekend and totally kicked the other chick’s butt. Or I’m a super spy and the data chip holding international secrets was hidden in my cheek. (You didn’t really think that was fat, did you?) Either way, I’m left contemplating the changing landscape of my face. Once again, I should have listened to my mother. I should have worn a hat. I should have reapplied that sunscreen. I should have avoided going out in the heat of the day. She has a pretty good case for an I-told-you-so. And now I’m going to nag you like a momma: Get a skin cancer screening, please. Do it for yourself. Do it for your family. Do it for your cute little pudgy cheeks.

 

Do not be alarmed by my crazy eye. I was trying to turn my head and take the photo. What should alarm you is the hole in my face.

 

Are you appropriately grossed out yet? Good. Call your dermotologist.