Monday, December 30, 2013

Chicago

My trip to Chicago was wonderful, despite my best attempts to convince myself that the end of the world was nigh.

I went to see Philomena alone on the Thursday I arrived. I enjoyed the experience, walking alone downtown in the snow. I had worried that I would find the viewing difficult. Parts of the film were irritating, such as when Philomena made up her mind to return to England when she thought that her son had never thought of her. Of course he had, but her feelings were so fragile. And oh, those nuns. The lies. The missed connections. But all in all, it was about finding a way home.

Friday I spent meandering around the Art Institute. I hadn't been there in nearly 20 years, so it was a lovely chance to rediscover its rich collection. I particularly loved this photograph of the painter Otto Dix and his wife, taken by the photographer August Sander in the 20's.


The focus, the gaze of Dix's wife, the strange vantage of Dix himself. What is this about, in terms of human relationships? I love German art of the 1920's and its enigmatic surfaces.

Then I found myself in the Greek gallery and drawn to the white-ground lekythoi, of course. I thought of my college friend, Rachel, with whom I memorized thick books filled with vases, and of my graduate-school colleague Richard, now a professor at the University of Chicago, who probably sends his students to look at these. I felt wrapped in the past, joyous, at home. I spent half an hour lost in the fine lines, imagining the painter, the story of the object, the life of the person commemorated. Thinking also about my father, since lekythoi are for the dead.


And it goes without saying that I spent an hour in front of Sargent's portrait of Tilda Swinton's great-grandmother, Mrs. George Swinton. Glorious. Flashy. Elegant.




Friday night I went to see an extremely thoughtful play at Steppenwolf, Tribes, that chronicles a deaf man not being heard by his hearing family. He is an excellent lip reader, and his family refuses to learn to sign. He does miss out on much, however, by their not including him. So much obliqueness, so much talking over. So much strife. The young man meets a young woman from a deaf family who was hearing, but who is going deaf. She introduces him to the deaf community, and of course conflict ensues. I found the description of the community you belong to through no choice of your own to be perfect, as well as the ideas of different tribes, and belonging or not belonging; what makes a tribe, and what is family? It left me with much to mull over as I slept before meeting my father's sisters.

On Saturday I woke up to more snow and a drive north. I made it to the beautiful small town and settled myself. I called my aunts, and they came to pick me up. Before long, we were hugging in the street and all my anxieties were dispelled. I belong. They took me to a bar for lunch where they said my father would have wanted me to go, where he took my great-grandmother every time he came home. A place called The Lantern, where the Bears and Cubs eat. We sat and ate burgers and looked at photographs and cried. I learned that my great-grandmother took my father and his siblings to the Art Institute to see the Thorne Rooms, assemblages of interior design, Gesamtkunstwerk. Sound familiar? Only basically the stuff my dissertation treats. My great-grandmother, the German one, the Baroness, was a character. Powerful and outspoken. She watched movies all night. Like I do. When she moved to the United States and the ship left the dock without some of her furniture, she demanded that it turn around so that the problem be remedied. And she was obeyed. She came from minor Prussian aristocracy and lived in Ehrenbreitstein, the castle at the confluence of the Mosel and the Rhein near Koblenz.



She met my great-grandfather when part of the castle was commandeered by Allied forces during World War I, and my great-grandfather was stationed there. I wish she were still alive so that I could ask her more about it. Apparently she was echt Deutsch and very much like my husband's family (no surprise there). My grandmother (yes, I met her) told me that she was fearsome. My grandmother has the most amazing sense of humor; she's witty and hilarious at 93. I adore her.

After lunch we went to one of my aunt's homes and talked and looked at more photographs. I was given a box that my father brought back from Mexico when he was 18. They had filled it with photographs. I particularly love this one, which he had inscribed to my great-grandmother.



I am guessing that she gave him trouble about his appearance from time to time, and they bantered back and forth.

My aunts also gave me a mug that my grandmother's best friend had given to my father in 1957, and that he had used until his death. I love holding it because he did. Over and over.

I was amazed by the amount of emotion that I stirred in other people. I am used to being verklempt myself, but on Saturday when my cousins walked in the door, they immediately teared up to see me. I am apparently definitely my father's daughter. I brought him back for them. They wanted to know about me--and I am like them. It was so wonderful to spend time with my uncle, too, who spent summers fishing and winters skiing with my father. My uncle has a beautiful photograph of my father in his office upstairs: Rick fishing at Pyramid Lake, silhouetted in the rising sun. To have these stories shared was priceless, and to have a sense of knowing that my aunts, uncles, and cousins see me as belonging.

On Sunday at a Christmas brunch I was also able to meet quite a few of my father's friends from high school. They would walk up to me, take a look, and I would see tears glisten in their eyes. These were men in their late 60's and early 70's. Successful. Powerful. Obviously very kind men, to whom my father had meant a great deal. They felt secure enough to show me how they felt. It was amazing to be around people who were so open and so comfortable in their own skins. I was welcomed, more stories were told, and it was lovely.

All too soon it was time for me to drive back to the airport, but I felt grounded. I had answers and photographs, and I look forward to meeting more people and hearing more stories. I am very, very sad that I missed meeting my father, but I like to think he was there in spirit. What a gorgeous soul.

Now it's nearly the new year, and I still have my work to do: work with Dr. Yalom on myself, facing some locked doors; I go back to work on Friday (I hear it's a fright zone with 10 RNs under baseline, and I am horrified); and work to see that 2014 is the best yet. There are still some journeys I still need to begin, more people to meet at Lake Tahoe. But I am very, very happy.








Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Edges

I have not felt this close to the edge for a long, long time.

It's scary as fuck putting myself out there. Scarier than I had ever imagined.

I don't feel brave anymore. I feel vulnerable and awful.

After being put through hell, I don't have much membrane left on my soul. That's what it feels like: I am rubbed raw on the inside.

I do pretty much nothing but cry.

I haven't processed anything recently because I haven't given myself permission. It's too excruciating, except that it's all coming out now.

I spent today walking around my old neighborhood, old, old neighborhood, shopping with a friend. I went into a cafe and saw a man who reminded me of the young Nearly Perfect Man on Paper, with whom I lived in that neighborhood, and I had to stifle a sob.

I had a very kind and solicitous e-mail from him after my surgery, nearly a month ago. After six months of silence. Why do people do this to me? I wish I could talk to him today as I am feeling extremely fragile: except that it's not his job to pick me up anymore. Some people just do understand me better than others, especially when my soul has no membrane left.

So it's off to pack. Wish me luck.

Friday, December 06, 2013

Control

I hate not having control over things.

I am a perfectionist. Not in all aspects of my life, but certainly when it comes to writing and trying to express things. I research meticulously. I wouldn't go to print with my ass hanging out, and I wouldn't interview someone about a medical condition I didn't understand and then MAKE SHIT UP.

I am being featured in Dr. Oz's new magazine, to debut in March. There will be an article about me and the importance of family health history. The journalist writing about me in several e-mail messages still couldn't spell spherocytosis (REALLY!) and was talking about how it made oxygen levels dangerously low. Which is true in a vague way, but not really. It causes anemia and hyperbilirubinemia. At the very least, people do understand anemia, and it's possible very quickly to explain that people with HS have red blood cells that are fragile and shaped like spheres, not concave discs; they have a much shorter life-span because the spleen cleans misshapen red blood cells out of the blood. That's why people with HS have enlarged, scarred spleens over time.

Ugh.

The fact checker called and said that the journalist wrote that in nursing school, in health assessment, that my spleen was enlarged and that I screamed when it was touched. I did NO SUCH THING. Yes, it was enlarged, and it was sore, but I have a high pain threshold. I did not scream. It being enlarged that fall was just the first sign that my spleen was at last giving up the ghost. People who know me in real life know that I don't usually scream when touched, and that I didn't even cry when I broke my arm. Fuck.


I want to say, "NO! You have it all wrong! I want to write the story myself. What was the point of a six-hour interview if you weren't listening?"

Do people have no standards anymore? Maybe read up on a subject that you're writing about if you're unfamiliar with it? Certainly, you shouldn't simply embellish someone's story if it's not a novel; my crazy life story is quite compelling enough if you stick to the facts. I don't want to sound like a hysterical idiot because the author doesn't understand the subject: either the medicine in it, or me. Ask questions! It's okay.

I am intensely frustrated because the content of the article is beyond my control. If it makes me seem like a dippy woman, I will lose my shit. I should ask to see it and make sure there's not any more lameness in there. I know it won't be perfect, and the goal is to open conversation about DNA and family health history, but bloody hell, I hate mediocrity.

Don't paint me to be some half-baked moron.

At least the photographs are fabulous.

Wednesday, December 04, 2013

Despite

Despite feeling completely undone, despite not knowing what to do when I am odd-girl out, despite all the burdens I carry, I still love people.

Being one of those for whom boxing up emotions isn't possible, I cannot just blithely trip away and pretend whole swaths of my life didn't happen. Sometimes I wish that I could. On the other hand, I don't have a lot to regret, and for that I am proud.

Nalini and I went to see Potted Potter, a delightful send-up of the Rowling series in seventy minutes. Including quidditch, believe it or not. We laughed and loved on the Englishmen playing the roles, who stumbled a few times when they realized out loud that some their jokes "don't translate for an American audience." Their Welsh accents for Dumbledore were lovely, but I am not certain how or if Americans picked it up. I even asked Nalini, "Why does Dumbledore have a Welsh accent?" She replied, "Because he's Welsh." I missed that memo completely. But as they said, "No worries. Probably most of the people don't even know what or where Wales is." It was uproariously funny, and they were certainly having a great time with all the layers that San Francisco might add to the mix.

I am taking the boys tonight because it was so fabulous. I cannot wait to see what they think as they are huge fans of the books and films. Nalini and I were also thinking that one of the characters in the show is very like Callum (the staid one who wants demands order) and the other one rather like Tobey (the one who creates chaos and hasn't read the books). I wonder if they'll identify.

The show is on for the next week in the Marines' Memorial Theater, in the Marines' Memorial Club.

I walked into the club to be surrounded immediately by memories of my brother. He was inescapable. For those of you who don't read my blog religiously, or at all, my brother is a physician who until recently was in the Navy. in 2010 he was sent to Afghanistan and was Chief Medical Officer for Camp Leatherneck, a Marine outfit. The Marines, Marines, Marines. I sent him letters and letters to his Marine address. I worried myself sick.

As I walked around the club, I heard my brother's voice telling his stories about deployment (and he is a fantastic storyteller); I remembered pictures of him in his flak gear. I was sent back to that horrible time.

I miss him, terribly so.

I sent him a photo of the signage for the Leatherneck Lounge via text. I wanted him to know he is on my mind.

I will always love him, and he will always be my little brother, despite everything we lost and will never have. And I know despite the mess that he loves me. It's just complicated. Very Intensely complicated.


Tuesday, December 03, 2013

Insights

I am very, very happy. I only cried once, and at the end. It was about my body and my health, where probably all or most of my fear lies. Makes sense. Funny (as in uncanny, not ha-ha) that my health went to shit at the same time that all this came to pass.

Lovely insight:

"It sounds like most of your sadness wasn't in not knowing, or in searching, but in the end result, in who you found and how you were treated. That being ignored, over and over, continues to reinforce your feelings of isolation."

He takes notes! He listens! He redirects and asks questions! He is appropriate! I laughed a little bit when he called C my "real" mother. That's what people do when they don't think about it. Because "real" families are what you're born into, right?

All this to say that he is definitely supportive of helping me with my adoption garbage: and yes, thank you, naysayers, it is adoption garbage: if one of the most eminent living psychiatrists believes me that it's adoption-related, I feel vindicated.

I have hope.







Sunday, December 01, 2013

Daring

I am going. To Chicago. On the 12th of this month.

I am meeting my father's family. I am excited and terrified at once.

I don't expect a replay of what happened to me before, but I don't know. One never knows what things one will stir up in people, despite one's best intentions. Despite being simply oneself.

As I said to Nalini earlier today, situations like this are my kryptonite, emotional and otherwise.

I was up late last night reading Sartre's Huis Clos again, for the first time in many years. The play about being in hell, stuck there with no escape. Hell being other people. It made complete sense to me when I was seventeen, and it makes all the more sense to me now. I look at all my little underlinings, chuckle at my not understanding the significance of the falsehood of Louis-Philippe furniture, cry at how little I understood then about people hobbled by their inability to love. It is such a brilliant play. "Can you judge a life by a single act?" Apparently many people feel they are able to do so. Still.

In Berkeley the other day I bought Sartre's book, Les mots, in which he considers the power of words on his discovery of existence; of course: he was a philosopher as well as a playwright and novelist. To read, to write; that's how we make sense of things, or try to, anyway.

Or maybe by talking, if we find the right people. I am completely nervous about Tuesday.




Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Thin Lines

It's insanity-inducing to try to understand something that will never be clarified, never be straightforward.

I read the stories of the transracial adoptees, or the international adoptees, most of whom were abducted, or stolen.

I read the stories of first mothers: some who loved their babies more than anything and were too young to keep them. Some who were single in the 60's and were pressured, either by self or family, into relinquishing. I see the fighting between mothers who insist that they are victims, and adoptees be damned, and those mothers willing to stand by our sides, by contrast. I constantly read, "stolen, stolen, stolen, stolen, coerced, coerced, coerced."

This was not my story. I am the outlier, as always.

I read the stories of the new(ish) first mothers, and some of their stories break my heart. They write of their own feeling that they wanted the baby, but NOT LIKE THIS. As in not being married, not having the man there. So heartbreaking. It takes a *man* by your side to raise a baby still, for some people. And reading those words make me both furious and deeply sad. I am furious that a woman in her late 20's cannot keep a child. Or an engaged woman. Or a forty-year-old woman with other children. Their reasons all seem so flimsy to me, mostly about protecting themselves and THEIR images, not about the child at all. Maybe their children will forgive them. Maybe not. Those are their stories. We shall read them in twenty plus years. There are some stories where I feel like it might be okay for the child, who is my main interest, after all. Isn't adoption supposed to be about finding homes for the *children* and making sure that they're okay? Not about starting over? What bullshit.

I have a friend who got pregnant and had a child at 19. Kept her. KEPT HER. In 1997. Went on public assistance, got help: even when her parents weren't thrilled. She was NOT giving up her daughter. When I asked why adoption wasn't an option for her, she told me that the thought never entered her mind, even though she was white and middle-class. Now my friend is married and employed and has two other children. She has two degrees. She works a high-powered job. I cannot tell you how much I respect her, and how much I love her daughter, who has never had to suffer with "I don't know where I come from."

Digression.

I read stories of adoptees who are loved by and have amazing connections with their nfamilies. This was not my experience.

I look like my families, but I am not like them. I am an alien among them. For some of my relatives my difference is a liability; others are proud of me. As someone wrote recently in one of my support groups, many adoptees end up feeling neither fish nor fowl. Who knows what I am? I never will. That was the path I, and all adoptees, were damned to follow. Some of us love our paths, others find them rockier, some negotiate them with ease. I saw Man of Steel last night, and I feel like Clark did, when overwhelmed as a child with too much information. TOO MUCH. I want to know, don't get me wrong. It's just that I haven't come to terms yet with being thrown on this path, and being pretty much alone.

Then there are the lies. Some mothers tell their children right away who their fathers were, and about the circumstances of their conception. No, not my story, either.

Truthfully, I feel like a huge science experiment. Nature, nurture. Certainly some parts of me are nurture; my experiences and education have made a large part of who I am. On the other hand, my temperament, and my anxieties, and my depression, and my clotting: that's nature. I look like my father, but he was taken from the Earth long ago. From what I understand, a large part of me came from him, but I am clawing at an impenetrable wall. I will never get through to him, only around him, to memories, and only so far as others give me access.

My dear friend Katie told me the other day that part of my problems are that my wounds are so deep. She witnessed me let the MDs have it on rounds at the hospital, and she said it was powerful, but the emotion behind it was volcanic. I was triggered and felt out of control. She told me that my brain works so fast, and that I am a perfectionist. That the world rubs me the wrong way most of the time, which is true. I get extremely frustrated when people don't live up to my high expectations (which I hold myself to, as well). It doesn't matter when it's small things, but when it's big things (such as being in the hospital, or being ignored by rude people, or trying to take care of a patient at work who is being ignored), it is painful. Beyond painful.

I am privileged, I know. I found my families.

I am not a love child. Fine. I dealt with that already, at least sort of.

But the sensitivity I have: when I witness emotional carelessness, a cavalier way of treating others and their feelings, especially when it feels like life and death (which the heparin was to me in the hospital), it releases all the pain from deep, deep, deep inside. It is a power, but also a liability.

I wept for my father-in-law, who wasn't invited to my brother-in-law's home for any part of Christmas, even though he lives 40 minutes away from him. My father-in-law is 89 years old, and while he says off-the-wall things sometimes, he is family. I was furious to hear this. He was abandoned. We are inviting him here. I am sure he'll refuse, but I want him to know he's wanted. Feeling that you don't belong is terribly hurtful. I vowed not to return to Germany, but I will go to protect him. And that's saying something.

I am looking forward to working on why I feel like being ignored or left is like death. It's not rocket science to figure out *why* I have this visceral reaction, but I need to work through it.

Too many people who don't matter have too much power over my happiness, when I can plainly see how dysfunctional the situations are, and that rationally I don't even want to engage.

I have to learn to LIVE MY OWN STORY. What do I want it to be?
















Sunday, November 24, 2013

Responsibilities

I am healing so quickly that it's hard to believe. That is a relief.

On the other hand, tears are falling more often and more quickly. Perhaps it's a positive sign that I am once again allowing myself to plumb the depths of many sorrows. I had been on autopilot for several years; I had little choice, or felt that way.

Nalini told me that this is the time, now, to do my emotional work: my journey to find my parents is finished.

I was rejected quite brutally by my mother several times; one doesn't quickly forget being told "I wish I had aborted you!" in a first conversation. We met several years later. I know we both tried. But apparently some differences are too troublesome to discuss. I accept that we are all on our own timelines for our own journeys, but this pattern of being ignored roundly after airing concerns, after being lied to again, is stale. I apologized, and explained why I had to take some space after being told that my name, as pronounced, was for someone of a different race. Don't ask. But it takes two to have a relationship, and it would seem I am on my own again. As in there is me, calling into a void. I am turning away now.

Some broken things cannot be put together again, and I refuse to be pointed at or ridiculed, and this last part about my father, whether it was hurtful or not, was a house of cards of lies that defies explanation. I don't know how many revisions or backtracks there can be, really. I say, "Take responsibility, and just tell the bloody truth." Be done with it. The truth does set you free. I am not even angry anymore. I feel sad for someone who has to imagine that such lies are necessary and sustainable in the first place. Oh yes, it goes back to what my aunt said, nearly two years ago: "C, you gave up the wrong kid." This one doesn't stop.

When I did find my father against enormously grim odds, I encountered a new family, new concerns, and another set of difficulties, including mourning a parent I never knew. I did know, or I had been told anyway, that he didn't know about me. It would appear that was among the truths that were told; apparently there were other contretemps that marred whatever did happen between my parents. One parent is deceased, and the other isn't speaking. I must make do with other sources. My father was a handsome man with lots of girlfriends, never was serious with my mother, and swanned off to Hawaii when my mother was about 8-10 weeks pregnant with me. But he loved kids. It's a tragedy he never knew his own though, and knew he was a father.

I was thinking about this particular opacity after reading a controversial post about healing over at Adoption Voices, and then Deanna Shrodes' follow up post at Adoptee Restoration. I agree that all humans, ALL of us, are responsible of taking care of our wounds so that we don't continue to hurt others. I know the past five years have been brutal on my young sons. I know my depression and anxiety take a huge toll on them. Enough already. I have to do some work.

In that spirit, I was preparing for my first session with Dr. Yalom by reading his enormously insightful The Gift of Therapy: An Open Letter to a New Generation of Therapists and Their Patients. He is warm and flawed. And clearly brilliant. In the first several pages, he referred to Rilke's Letters to a Young Poet, which I just happened to have been reading. I showed Mark, who laughed at the serendipity of it all. He said, "Yes, this man will understand you." I found myself agreeing with Dr. Yalom over and over as I turned the pages eagerly: work on yourself, repeatedly at different life stages, so that your relationships do not suffer. If there is a dysfunctional pattern, he will help you find it and give you the tools to cope or reframe your point of view. It's about finding your blind spots, but his incisiveness seems to go beyond that. He is a proponent of existential therapy, and there were thus requisite references to Sartre, including one of my favorites: "All introspection is retrospection," which is doomed to emptiness. Nostalgia will bring no fruit. It will trap you. It's worthwhile as a means to an end, but we must live, not dream life away. I am stuck. I need someone to help me see the signposts out of that illusory place. We shall see what Dr. Yalom thinks about adoption, although he did say he was supportive of a patient's New Age-y requests. I am hopeful that he will see it as a trauma and not pooh-pooh my anxieties.

With his help, I plan to study these cards in my hand, reshuffle them, perhaps learn to value some friendships that I haven't, and see what I *can* change so that my sensitivities/anxieties may be put to an active use that makes me proud, a use that leverages my full potential. I am beginning to see that I can be loved, despite so many rejections, so many lies: people leave me, hurt me, and always because "You are so much different." I am loved, but not enough: six months later, years later people pop by to say they think I am wonderful, but they're not there when I need them. Maybe I need them too much, or I am asking the wrong people to be with me in the trenches. I do know I push some people away while being very demanding of others, and it depends very strongly on how connected I feel to them at the level of the heart. Odd, I know. It's immediate: either I know we will be friends for life, or I won't ever let them in. And if those friends I trust screw me over, I feel almost physically wounded and will try to mend things far past the mending stage. Past the point of their abusing me. It's better, but not all there, yet...

I am hoping that Dr. Yalom will help me unpack the notion, repeatedly thrown at me, in vulgar and less vulgar ways, that I am intimidating. If you hang out with my college friends, if you went through my experiences, you'd see that I am actually quite pedestrian on some counts. Try spending a day in lectures at Cambridge University, and you'll see I'm not that special. And if I *am* exceptional, so what? Maybe Dr. Yalom can help me write that book that I've started and stopped fifty times.

But yes, responsibility is the name of the day. Every day. I am living, knowing that I have to try.


Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Taking offense, weight of the world, and caryatids

Recently, I was reading somewhere about someone being offended by something, which to me means taking great personal insult. Merriam Webster's definition of offend: "to cause a person or group to feel hurt, angry, or upset by something said or done."

I understand being offended by word or action, but not particularly by facts. In this case, a person was offended by adoptees being shown to be more susceptible to mental illness. It wouldn't even occur to me to be offended by this because I live with adoption and mental illness (with overlap between the two) and have seen too many adoptees affected by mental illness. Being offended about facts is a waste of time, in my opinion. Those are the same people who generally don't like me around because at dinner (since my childhood) we talk about the Middle Ages and how people were decapitated for state crimes and had their heads placed on stakes outside places of power. Just fact. My family finds history fascinating, and I don't bubble-wrap my kids, or fart rainbows. I love that my eight-year-old wanted to discuss Picasso's Guernica (which he came across in a book about Picasso for kids), and I didn't tell him "No, that's too dark, war is too dark, suffering is too dark." No, it's just life. The Spanish Civil War happened, WWII happened, and yes, Opa was a Nazi. Not a circus clown. Fact.

I am excited about a new chapter about to start in my life. Having at last fired that useless therapist, I am going to start seeing Dr. Irvin Yalom, the famous psychiatrist and novelist, in December. Now I will have someone to give me a run for my money intellectually, someone to push me, someone to stop me from diagnosing myself. Someone who won't let me hide in the sunny meadows of "I'm all right for now," someone who won't annoy me with useless textbook checklists (or call my brother a one-night-stand--yes, I hold grudges for years). I wrote to Dr. Yalom with a description of my problems, including adoption, and my current existential crisis (mourning the death of a father I never met; society tells me I have very little no right to mourn him), and Dr. Yalom was both solicitous and kind. I told him that I feel like a protagonist who has wandered been chucked meandered inadvertently out of her own novel and, being lost, has functioned far too long as a supporting character in other people's short stories or novellas. I need to find my way home. I need to stop defining myself by other people's narratives and to write myself back into my own. He thought that seemed like an excellent place to start discussion.

I am working with a psychiatrist! Who is interested in *me*! Who understands my health issues and my history, and who can listen! Who will be my therapist! Amazing. I won't have to draw him pictures (unless I want to), and when I make cultural references, I know he'll know them and raise me.

I've had the leisure time to read while recovering, and I've appreciated it no end. I took Ted Hughes' Birthday Letters with me to the hospital. While Hughes isn't my all-time favorite poet, I do feel warmed by his words in certain circumstances, and the tale Birthday Letters tells of his romance/life with Sylvia Plath is seductive. To be honest, I prefer his version to hers. Her poems have never spoken to my soul. There is one in Birthday Letters, close to the beginning, called

Caryatids (I)

What were those caryatids bearing?
It was the first poem of yours I had seen.
It was the only poem you ever wrote
That I disliked through the eyes of a stranger.
It seemed thin and brittle, the lines cold.
Like the theorem of a trap, a deadfall--set.
I saw that. And the trap unsprung, empty.
I felt no interest. No stirring
Of omen. In those days I coerced
Oracular assurance 
In my favour out of every sign.
So missed everything 
In the white, blindfolded, rigid faces
Of those women. I felt their frailty, yes:
Friable, burnt aluminium.
Fragile, like the mantle of a gas-lamp.
But made nothing
Of that massive, starless, mid-fall, falling
Heaven of granite
                             stopped, as if in a snapshot.
By their hair.

I remember learning about caryatids, or being a student of Brunilde Ridgway, karyatids spelled with proper Greek transliteration, in the spring of 1988: those impassive women carved in marble on the porch of the Erechtheion, tall, columnar, holding the weight of the entablature on their heads. Powerful, female. Showing a foot here, their 5th-century drapery deceptively like fluting. I found them enchanting. In 1990 I found the one that the British pilfered and displayed at the British Museum; I spent hours in front of her, examining each of her perfections and imperfections. Then in 1992 I visited Athens and saw the rest of her cohort.



I truly fell in love, however, in graduate school, in the fall of 1992, while taking a sculpture course on Rodin with the inimitable Jacques de Caso. Rodin's Fallen Caryatids were not tall, strong, columnar. No. They were sitting or crouching, nude. They acknowledged the weight on their heads or shoulders. They were psychological portraits. Not about physical strength, but of power despite it all. Of ambiguity. Of a bad day, even. Of not necessarily wanting the job of carrying whatever was on their shoulders: these are not tall, unbendable women symbolic of the polis. I could identify with Rodin's caryatids in a way I'd never identified with a statue before. I never asked to bear the weight of the secrets placed on me since birth, of the depression I struggle with, of the sadness of repeated rejections, of whatever life threw at me...and Rodin knew how to convey that weariness, that interiority, that inversion of the expected. Why is the caryatid crouching? There is beauty in the battle to stay yourself under the weight of life, under the expectations of others. Not in being "offended" by what I encountered, but in acknowledging what had to be my path, for so long.



I know my place isn't with people who cannot, or won't, go down the difficult roads with me. Those who would pat me on the head, or say, "Well, *my* experience wasn't like that, and I've moved on, I'm tired of negativity. Peace be with you." There will always be difficulty in the world, and the beauty lies in those who help you in the times when *you* need it most, when the weight is most crushing: not punishing you for asking for help, or retreating from you, or telling you at your moment of need that you have hurt *them*. Deflection, much? I am willing to have conversations about difficult topics, always, but somehow it ends up being me taking care of the hurts of others, making amends, and then no work on the other side. But demanding expressions of regret all the time, and then not reciprocating, is too much. As Nalini said to me other day, "You're not that woman anymore, to extend yourself for nothing. Let those people go."

We would all be better served by listening to others, with far less judgment, far less expression of those times we *are* offended. Take a moment, sit with your emotions when someone says you've hurt them, and see what happens. Perhaps they will transform you. Demanding mildness from all is not fair, either.

I have an article coming out in a national magazine in the spring, about adoptees, identity, health history, and DNA. The magazine did a formal photo shoot at my house the day before my surgery: it was great fun! And the interview--lasting three hours--helped me to clarify my ideas about myself and what I have been through. I am excited to speak out about my story, and potentially to help others. I am honored to think that perhaps my suffering may prevent someone else's. I will keep you posted!







Sunday, November 17, 2013

What hurts, what doesn't

I came home last night from the hospital. I survived the surgery. Flew through it, in fact.

They had me prepared for the worst. Two IVs: one 16 gauge, one 14 gauge fire hose. They were convinced I'd bleed out. I didn't. My total estimated blood loss was a completely unimpressive 5 mL. Although my gallbladder was swollen to three times the normal size thanks to portal hypertension, it came out easily, and when the collaterals were nicked, they clotted off appropriately.

The problems came afterward, when they took forever to start my heparin drip. They were supposed to get it going 8-12 hours post-op, but with poor communication and dilly-dallying and RNs expecting me to take a shit immediately post-op (no one does that, btw), I had to beg them. They finally got it going 12 hours after surgery, right at the cusp. I was about to call my hematologist and have him get serious. The Charge RN said she would do it "against protocol" since "it seemed so important to me." "Seemed so important"? Fuck yes. It was necessary. Read my chart, lady? How many clots do I have to throw before you think it's important?

Then to complicate things, they sent me to the floor with no orders for pain meds. WTF? Apparently my surgeon thought I was somewhat obtunded in the PACU on my 0.6mL of IV Dilaudid and told his resident to go easy on pain meds, but not to give me NOTHING. I went apeshit on them.

Six hours later, they gave me one Norco 5 PO, which with my history wasn't going to do much. Then 1mg PO Dilaudid, which helped some, and finally I got orders for IV pain meds. I was writing e-mail to my primary care MD and going crazy. It was a nightmare of sweaty writhing. I did have a great RN doing her best for me with a surgery service refusing to return pages.

At rounds the next morning, I let the residents have it. Of course, they wrote me off as crazy lady. They said that they had reasons not to give me pain meds (see above about the miscommunication). I said that if they'd decided to give a post-op patient no pain meds, the least they could do was come to bedside and explain why. They agreed. I was pissed off. I told them that there were other options, such as Toradol (which they may not have liked because of the GI bleeding) or IV acetaminophen (which they may not have liked because of it being processed through the liver) but that they had to discuss a PLAN with me.

I was a pain-in-the-ass patient. But you know, I was suffering. And I am tired of being treated like I don't know anything. I do. I felt so upset, so reminded of being patted on the head. My friend Katie  was with me and told them to give me Ativan, which was good and bad. Good in that it calmed me down, but bad in that it suggested that I didn't have a right to be upset, that my reaction was abnormal. Looking back, I was right, not hysterical. They did come up with a plan, but the plan kept changing without them telling me. It was horrible. Apparently transplant surgeons really hate giving out pain medications. Why could they not use critical thinking skills? I was on the transplant service because of my risks, but I am otherwise young and healthy. They saw that my liver was healthy. My enzymes were really pretty good (slightly elevated after surgery, but no big deal: they'd been moving it around!). The surgeon said my liver looked great; it's just the vasculature that's problematic.

Which then made me feel like I was fighting the same battle over again, with people who don't want to listen to me. CRITICAL THINKING. Where was it?

I am tired, so tired, of being around dysfunctional people who pretend that they're not dysfunctional, who blame me for their own bullshit. I have reached out and tried to have a relationship with people who are stunted. Tried and tried. Explained, apologized, admitted to being human, having made mistakes. I will meet them halfway, but if they want to be dysfunctional to such a degree, they are on their own. I refuse their labels and scapegoating. And now I refuse their silence. It's pathetic. Hiding in holes is pathetic. If you cannot communicate, you're not human. You're not dealing with anything. SAY it.

When you run out on me, when you tell me that my name is shit, when you dump me again and again and don't have the balls to admit you're wrong, or you've lied: you've lost all the high ground. And my respect. I can love you, but I sure don't like you.

You can be as important as you want in your own big picture. Have fun with it.

I am who I am, and fuck, I love myself. I'm a mess, I'm crazy, but I'm loyal and decent. I don't sell people down river, and I say what I mean. I am not lukewarm. I hate fake, lukewarm people: they're untrustworthy. Be in life to play and to love for real, or fuck off. If I scare you, then yeah, you'd better stay away. But that's on you, not me.

I have a great group of people around me who love me and accept me for who I am. My family is the family I've made. It's not the way I ever thought it would be; it may not be what I had dreamed or hoped for, but it's much more rewarding than chasing after unfriendly chimerae. The people who want to be with me are with me. My aunts told me that my father hated two kinds of people most of all: cheaters and liars. Go figure: like father, like daughter.

And for once, I am happy. Funny how when you find the right people, they don't tell you shitty things to make themselves feel better, or hide, or speak out of both sides of their mouth. They accept your difference, and love you.

Monday, November 04, 2013

Risks and Masks

It's November. Of course I am feeling empty, a shell of something that used to be human.

Why is it, though, that each year I come back to this month with a little less? That instead of being more resilient, I am more angry, more suspicious, more disappointed.

Possibility #1:

People lie to me about very important things. Over and over.

Why do people lie to me, set me up? People who supposedly love me? I don't think many people have integrity, I truly do not.

When I was younger, I used to believe that I had "sucker" tattoed in invisible ink on my forehead. I don't, I know. But seriously. WTF? Do you think I don't see what you're doing?

I found out that you lied. Not that you apparently care, but who are you? You should worry about your immortal souls, since you claim to believe in such things.

Possibility #2:

Other people want me to be perfect. I am not.

Why am I not lovable even when I ask for things that might be for me and not for them, just once? It's conditional, always conditional. Don't play games.

I was not a Cabbage Patch doll. I tried to do everything as well as I could. I got the best grades I could. I almost never got into trouble. I was the kid no one complained about.

Well, now I am doing things my way. Sorry. If your friends don't like it, fuck them. It's not about appearances, it's about trying to find happiness and some semblance of peace.

Possibility #3:

The surgeon told me that I could die next week. Not just as, "There's a small risk." No. As in, "There's a significant risk, and I am worried."

I couldn't just have surgery. No. It's not routine, it's never routine.

And because I didn't have my full medical history, everything was fucked up on August 10, 2008.

I will not stop speaking out about how secrets and lies kill adoptees.

I will stop protecting people, mighty soon. It's way past time to tell the truth.

Don't promise things you never intend to deliver. Don't say things you don't mean. Don't hide under rocks to make life easier for yourself. Most important, don't lie.

End of sermon.







Thursday, October 10, 2013

Want You to Know

My father's brother, my Uncle Jon, died on Sunday. I sadly never had the chance to meet him.

He was an accomplished musician and composer, and part of a Chicago band, Rotary Connection, that enjoyed modest success in the late 60's and early 70's. Minnie Riperton, mother of Maya Rudolph, was a member of Rotary Connection. She had a gorgeous, honeyed voice, and I love hearing her sing harmonies. Uncle Jon penned a song that made it to #96 on the pop charts in 1970, "Want You to Know." It's very simple, beautiful and poignant. The song has been much on my mind this week, drifting in and out of my consciousness.



It's complicated to grieve for people you've never met, but should have known your entire life: first my father, now Uncle Jon. There's no path for it, and people don't know how to guide you. It's awkward. I know my aunts are deeply in mourning. I have spoken with my cousins about Uncle Jon. I wish him peace. He is surrounded by love.




Friday, September 20, 2013

Shape-shifting

I was reading to Tobey last night from Ted Hughes' Tales from Ovid (retellings of selected stories from the Metamorphoses). We are lovers of ancient mythology, and we enjoy revisiting the same stories from different vantage points. We'd been talking about Achilles a few days before, and how Achilles' mother, Thetis, the sea-nymph, was the subject of a problematic prophecy: she was to bear a son who would be more powerful than his father. So neither Zeus nor Poseidon REALLY wanted to sleep with her, however lovely she was; they liked holding onto their power just fine. They had to find someone else to be Thetis' man, and that turned out to be Peleus.

Peleus was mortal, though (albeit grandson of Zeus). He needed help in catching the sea-nymph, who wasn't going to surrender quietly.

"He woke her with a kiss.
First she was astonished, then furious.
He applied all his cunning to seduce her.
He exhausted his resources. None of it worked.
His every soft word hardened her colder.
If they had been two cats, he was thinking,
She would have been flattened to the wall,
Her mask fixed in a snarl, spitting at him.
He took his cue from that. Where argument
Fails, violence follows. His strength
Could have trussed her up like a chicken
If she had stayed the woman he woke with a kiss.
But before he knew
He was grappling with an enormous sea-bird,
Its body powerful as a seal, and its beak
Spiking his skull like a claw hammer.
A bird that was suddenly a wren
Escaping towards the tangle of myrtles,
Bolting past his cheek like a shuttlecock
That he caught with a snatch of pure luck,
And found himself
Gripping a tigress by the shag of her throat
As her paw hit him with the impact
Of a fifty-kilo lump of shaggy bronze
Dropped from a battlement.
He rolled from the cave and landed flat on his back
In cushioning shallow water."

At first defeated.

He prayed.

The sea-god Proteus gave him an answer, telling him to bind her with leather thongs, and not to let go, NO MATTER WHAT.

"'...bind her, bind her tight with thongs,
Before she wakes. Then hang on to her body
No matter what it becomes, no matter what monster.
Do not let her scare you--
However she transforms herself, it is her,
Dodging from shape to shape, through a hundred shapes.
Hang on
Till her counterfeit selves are all used up,
And she reappears as Thetis.'"

Thus did Peleus, and thus he won his sea-nymph bride.

And I was thinking about being like Thetis myself: wanting someone to hold onto me, no matter what. Having that commitment, no matter what. Loving me, no matter what. Knowing that I am in there, and worth it, no matter what. I think more than a few adoptees feel like Thetis, and want (not necessarily to be bound), but to be held and loved, not matter what face we show, what mask.

Perhaps it's all about reframing the question. It's not that we aren't good enough for people to hold tightly: it's that we're like sea-nymphs, and more valuable than we even know.


Thursday, September 19, 2013

Scandalous

I was watching Joe Wright's "Pride and Prejudice" again, and was thinking about the scandal of Lydia running away with Wickham. About dirtying the family name and redeeming it.

And of course how some of us adoptees are relinquished for the same reason. To avoid family scandals. To rid the family of evidence of improper behavior, i.e., sexual, outside of wedlock. To tidy things up and rewrite narratives.

No matter how pretty we try to make the revisions, however, the truth remains. It burns, it stings. All the more so when it's denied (by denying us, or by treating us as less than, or by insisting that blood doesn't matter).

As physical evidence of something deemed awry, adoptees are convenient scapegoats for all that is wrong with our families, and receptacles for society's pie-in-the-sky imagined stories of redemption. I know this is old news, but it remains true.

In August I saw a Harold Pinter play, "No Man's Land," in Berkeley. It's all about perspective and unreliable narratives and scandals and harming others by secrets and lies. Whom do you believe, and why? Is there one stable narrative? No, of course not. We must take them all, sort them, review them, and decide what works. Usually in playbills, there's a summary of the plot. There was decidedly no plot summary in this playbill. Mark was stymied. "Why was there no guidance?" he asked. Pinter, unlike many writers, did not wish to dictate meaning to the audience (or the actors, for that matter--he hated to be asked to clarify). I understand, how I understand, especially the war metaphor.

It's difficult to live in a world where one's existence is tied exigently to unstable narratives about family, for those tie into one's core, one's innermost self. What is pinned onto us? Thrown away with us? Resurrected with us?

I was thinking about ways in which I courted scandals and created them, when I was younger, and not so young, as well: Is it just me, or is it being adopted? How do I know how to live, unless it is on the edge, challenging people's ideas of the status quo? I push boundaries, break societal rules, and act in ways that make people raise their eyebrows. Always have.

"Why can't you just leave that alone?" My answer: "Because I cannot. I have to know/do/go there." It's about being true to myself, not sacrificing myself on some artificial altar for a purpose dictated to me by others. And truth be told, I have been at my happiest when at the center of some things that society deemed scandalous.

People love hearing about scandals, but they are predictable about judging those living them (sometimes rightly, sometimes less so). Having been thus judged all my life, I don't like the censure, but I am at a point now where often I can shrug it off.

When the world doesn't know what to do with you, one way of coping is to wear masks, to play roles, to behave in ways that don't draw attention to yourself. I have responsibilities now that make me much less likely to act scandalously, but I will always be the product of a scandalous relationship and treated as such, if I out myself to people.

I do have people in my life who don't allow me to wear my masks all the time, and I am relieved that with them I can breathe, and take off my metaphorical corset.

The great thing has been finding my father; no one who sees him can deny our likeness, and people, even ones who insist that I am fortunate not to have ended up aborted, tell me what a pity it is that I missed knowing him. Too true. But again, my knowing him was prevented by scandal, by being unsure of his character, perhaps? I understand, but I mourn what might have been, the conversations we never had.

Yet I appreciate how imperfect the world can be, dirty hems and all.






Friday, September 13, 2013

Mirrors

I found my father this year, through 23andMe.

This will be a surprise to some, old news to others.

It has been a difficult journey, not to mention a long one. My father died in 1994, three years before I even began to search. I will never get the chance to speak with him, touch him, hear from him in his own words. My extended family, however, has been overwhelmingly kind and accepting, answering questions and telling me things that help me understand many things about myself.

My father did not marry before his untimely death, and I am the only child anyone knows about (now!), the surprise one. He never knew that I existed, but his sisters and my uncle, his best friend, tell me that he would very much have enjoyed knowing me. He adored his nieces and nephews.

I found out that my father played the flute. One of my aunts still has his flute. It gives me chills to think that I could hold it one day. I learned that my father was an avid fisherman, an extremely skilled one, who loved the rivers of California and Oregon, and sea fishing, too. That yes, indeed, he had lived in Hawaii for a year, and that he did not go to Vietnam. He was 6'4" with dark brown hair and bright blue eyes

My father was a night owl. He loved to read: books and books and books. He died with a book on his chest and his reading glasses on. Sounds like a good way to go, except that I am heartbroken that he was alone and so young. Maybe if he had been 95 years old! My father, by all accounts, was a charming, loving man. Messy, too. Oh, hell yes. It's in the genes. Maybe not so much the seven-year-plan for undergrad. It was the '60's, though. But I can see Tobey doing that (and Tobey looks even more like him than I do)! And yes, the zoology major.

Although he was born and raised in the Chicago area, he lived at Lake Tahoe for the last 20+ years of his life. On his way to Hawaii, where he lived during the time I was gestating, he stopped and fell in love with the Sierra. I can absolutely understand that feeling. Tahoe is one of the most beautiful places I have ever seen. He apparently lived for the outdoors: fishing, but also hiking and swimming, etc.

I realize that I could have crossed paths with him, maybe, up at Tahoe in '93 and '94. And maybe when I was in Chicago in the summer of '94 I may have brushed shoulders with my family. It's all so very strange.

It's also uncanny but wonderful to look so much like him. One of my aunts told me recently that she had dinner with one of her childhood friends who knew my father well. They looked at pictures of me, when I as a child and now. The family friend said, "Holy shit, she looks just like him!"

Here is my father, in his fraternity photograph from 1967, and a picture of me from my senior year in high school, in the fall of 1986:






I am definitely his daughter. I guess I have him to thank for all that eyebrow waxing I have to do!

I have also learned that I have other relatives' eyes and teeth and smile, etc. I love hearing about resemblances, no matter how small, probably because I never looked like anyone before. My aunts say, "We see these traits in you because we know our family. We will show you."

One of my great-grandfathers was a diplomat in Germany after WWI. He married a German woman from Koblenz. So I am German. No more making fun of Mark. My grandfather was Swedish-American. I am Scandinavian, although I wouldn't have thought so! I was also excited to learn that my great-great-grandfather came from Poland and was Jewish, so there's the Ashkenazi ancestry that my friends could see in me all those years. One of my great-aunts was a painter and graduated from the Art Institute in Chicago. They're a very artistic family. Sound familiar?

I have been able to watch short little video clips that the family had of my father from different vacations. Its amazing to see his sense of humor and posture and eyebrow arching and smile. I can see myself in him. I will be curious to hear what my family says they see of him in me when I meet them, in terms of gestures, etc.

My father's ashes were scattered in one of his favorite rivers for fishing. A few months before my father died, he asked my uncle to scatter his ashes there at the appropriate time. My uncle didn't give my father's request much thought; he was well (or seemed well), they were hiking and fishing. But when the sad time came, and my uncle lovingly carried out my father's wishes.

A few weeks ago, my family and I went to that river, which empties into a lake where we left flowers to honor my father. Tobey was especially moved and created a small tribute from the flowers and some pinecones and stones. We all spoke to my father on that warm, peaceful afternoon, and a breeze came up as we left, as if to say goodbye to us in return.



Having found my father is like looking in a darkened mirror: the image returned is similar to me, of me, but not me: mute and smoky. I still have to do so much work on my own. How do I even begin to mourn someone I never met, but who lives on within me? It's a constantly changing mix of odd, euphoric, and sometimes very painful feelings. It clearly will be a long process of learning about my father, and about myself. I am fortunate to have people who have chosen to walk alongside me as I discover, and who willingly guide me.




Sunday, June 02, 2013

The Deafness of Mortal Ears

I was watching a spooky film from from 2002, Till Human Voices Wake Us, with a title borrowed from T.S. Eliot's The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock.

There's a great short speech in which a farmer gives advice to a young man.

The farmer says, "Most people like to hide from things. It retards the growth of the spirit, and pretty soon their mortal ears cannot hear the soul, flapping its wings, wanting to fly in the face of life, to dare. You understand? You'll never be quite alive until you do."

Spoken by a true Scotsman, as well. Tailor-made for me, in an odd way.

I needed those words tonight.

I am doing everything right, or as right as I am able. People around me are hiding, blind, refusing to live. I am functioning as well as I can in the face of their dysfunction.

At least I can say that I am living. I am certainly not hiding from anything.

Maybe someday I'll find others who want to live, as well; to live with me, to walk beside me, and who can also hold me and not run away, or leave me in silence. Who aren't so much more damaged that they feel their only recourse is silence.

Perhaps I don't have to give up hope quite yet. This film somehow, which came to me accidentally, seems like a sign.






Friday, May 31, 2013

Limbo

I am in limbo, once again.

Oh, the lies, the weight of the unknown, the waiting, the burdens of others.

What to say?

I am proud of myself for remaining upright and not giving in to the forces that pull me down; that I am ignoring the voices that nearly took my life three years ago. I have no idea why I am on this journey, and why I am being tried this way, but borrowing again from Kurt Vonnegut, so it goes.

I am surrounded, as usual, by forces of the absurd. I went out with Nalini yesterday to get a pedicure. A woman ran screaming down the street as we approached the salon, saying something into a phone that approximated "Code Key" and "Poison," so we had her sit down. Nalini triaged her, we figured out that she'd ingested something that was making her feel ill, or off. Nalini figured out that there were also psych issues (of course, why not?) while I did vitals, and she was alert and oriented, just screaming and breathing fast. Apparently, she'd eaten a cookie laced with some controlled substance that she didn't know was laced with drugs. And there you go. She'd never been high, and she thought she was losing her mind. So we being good nurses, we stayed with her until the Oakland Fire Department arrived and took over. Always some excitement; then the cops arrived, and she was 5150'd for combative behavior. Better her than me, but I may join her soon. This world is insane. I don't really believe I'm the insane one anymore, just as my friend Thomenon said. It's them, not us.

At least Nalini and I were able to get our pedis, and our toenails look gorgeous (my janky one has finally grown back enough to merit painting).

I am trying not to ask "Why?", which is a tall order. Why are people so stubborn? Why do they stick their heads in the sand? Why are they so stuck in their ways, and selfish? Why can they not listen? WTF? If I were Buddhist, I'd say this is my lesson for this life, and I clearly, CLEARLY haven't figured it out yet.

I am not a hobgoblin (at least not in this life, yet). I am not disgusting to look at (in general). I am well spoken, and I try to be polite. I truly do. I respect boundaries (mostly) and am loyal. I may get upset and yell at my friends, but I do calm down and ask for forgiveness. Nalini and I had that thing in New York but she forgave me, and we have moved on, stronger than ever. We were talking about running away to Scotland, especially after she saw Black Watch, which I've been jonesing to see for seven years. (Maybe next week.) It's a play about the famous Scottish regiment's participation in the Iraq War. I am so interested to see it; the press has been amazing. It sounds profound.

I cannot stop looking at my father's face, so I will post him here. As that great line goes from Shekhar Kapoor's film, Elizabeth, starring Cate Blanchett: "I am my father's daughter."




Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Ideas

I love how ideas come. Sometimes scattered, sometimes tipping off one another. Setting off memories. Reminding you of a person, or another time, or another thought you've had. Shimmering like insects (butterflies? more menacing, like iridescent beetles?) beating against you.

Reading the newspaper, watching a film, having a conversation.

Today I was catching up on the NYT, and already I set aside an obituary for a friend I may not send; a friend who loves reading obituaries. This one about Alice E. Kober, who apparently nearly deciphered Linear B, just before Michael Ventris did. A brilliant woman, a classicist, who died at the age of 43. But she is forgotten and Ventris takes the honors, although he built on all she did.

Or reading a Modern Love column: "'Maybe you can tell her that you're a man, you're my husband, and your wife wants to cook for you?' I sighed. Everything Dawn said was true, but did I really have to say it to my mother?" Damn. Another woman sacrificed on the altar of the Sacred Mother In Law. Been there. How do people balance their desires, make choices seem so weak? Why is filial love so poisonous some times?

Or the OpEd piece about hurting children by helping them: "The study, led by the sociologist Laura T Hamilton of the University of California, Merced, finds that the more money parents spend on a their child's college education, the worse grades the child earns." Hold on! My parents spent a fortune and I did quite well. But I had inner drive. They didn't do my work for me; it was all on my own recognizance, all based on my own wanting to succeed. I agree that if you do the work for children, if you don't let them rise and fall on their own, they're screwed. Helicopter parenting protects in the short term while inflicting long-term damage.

Which makes me think of how they don't enforce proper spelling in our school, and papers come home with free-form composition that gives me hives. I don't sit back and say, "Oh, that's lovely!" I can appreciate the sentiments and ideas therein, while also becoming a Tiger Mother and make my sons spell things five times correctly. I explain patiently about how writing is about presenting yourself to the world. It truly is. And no child of mine is going to self-present as a poor speller, at least not now. They need to learn to spell and then become e.e. cummings. When they're in their 20's, they can invent their own styles. Not. Yet. Precision in language matters; it matters enormously.

Anyway, back to ideas. I was revisiting the filmed version of The English Patient, and was struck by some of Almasy's lines related to communication-by-cypher: "Maddox knows, I think. He keeps talking about Anna Karenina. I think it's his idea of a man-to-man chat. [sighs] Well, it's my idea of a man-to-man chat." Okay, a little cliché, I grant you that.

I am nonetheless fascinated by what is touched upon and understood but left unsaid; the subtlety of exchanges, especially in British contexts. The codes of shared meaning and experiences. Rebukes; numbness; disappointment; love?

How does one access the ineffable? Can one cast off the leaden shoes of the literal and make the leap? Understand the heart of the person who says, "I love you" but is culturally bound otherwise not to open up?




Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Words

I believe that my muse has taken herself on holiday. Perhaps to the Bahamas. Perhaps to Delphi. Who knows? She isn't here, though.

I've been reading about the DSM V and the debates about what was to be left in and left out. I've been rereading Moses Finley's polished words about the bronze age, brought to tears by this: "The profundity of the Greeks' kinship attachment, throughout their history, is immediately apparent for their passion for genealogies." Which led me to the Odyssey, Telemachus, and fathers, and the idea of home and strangers and return, and wishing that people might be a little more forgiving, a little less blind.

This weekend I went again to the Legion with Callum to see the second part of the Artful Animals exhibition. There was an engraving of Penelope, sitting before her loom, contemplating something: her problems; her handiwork; life? A chapter of my dissertation was titled "Penelope's Web" and dealt with the writing of the history of women's contributions to the decorative arts, in particular work in textiles (a feminist re-telling of women's needlework as profession, rather than enforced pastime). Perhaps I should resuscitate it and try to publish it. I loved that chapter as it allowed me to use my interests in ancient history and literature while honoring the women who were pioneers in British academia (for example, the archaeologist, Jane Harrison), who became designers through the Royal School of Art Needlwork, and were expert seamstresses before losing their eyesight and becoming garden designers (Gertrude Jeckyll).


Detail of Max Klinger's color etching and aquatint, Penelope, 1896.

Oh, she is a fin-de-siècle lass, isn't she? She must go to parties with the young women envisioned by Leighton and Alma-Tadema. And I love her for it.


Friday, May 17, 2013

Cynical

I am cynical. Resolutely. I embrace it.

Yes, Merriam-Webster. I am captious. I am peevish.

I am contemptuously distrustful of human nature and motives.

One of the examples: Cynical people say that there is no such thing as true love.

I used to believe there were such a thing as true love. I searched for it tirelessly, I gave myself up and over to what I thought it was. But c'est la vie, l'amour m'échappe. Humans are imperfect, hence there is no true love. Just love of the imperfect, as best we can.

At work last night, someone said, "I had no idea you were such a misanthrope." I said, "I know. I smile so sweetly; it's easy to be confused." One of my cynical coworkers said with a wink, "Oh, but she could never hide the truth from me."

I remember the way I used to be. I used to have faith in human nature. I used to believe that people would do the best they could; that they'd work to help others and had good intentions. Some people do. I don't distrust all humans, but we are a very self-interested lot. Myself included.

And even by ancient definitions, I am pretty cynical. The Cynics, whose philosophy developed as an offshoot of Socratic thought, worked to achieve arete, very roughly translated as personal virtue/perfection (there is no direct English equivalent) by overcoming distracting thoughts, emotions, and life circumstances. Cynics didn't give a shit about social conventions or prettiness. They were the original anarchists. Living on the margins and calling things as they were didn't make the Cynics too popular, either. They were too outspoken and frank for middle-of-the-road folk. Sound familiar?

I am trying to find the place, that place, my place in the garden where I am safe; where no one can fail me. I made the mistake of letting people in, and...uh oh. There is always the possibility of transcendence when you go out on a limb, but experience has shown that's highly unlikely. Very unlikely, indeed. And where do I end up when I try to see if people have changed? With an angry dragon. People are far too predictable, and I am far too easy to abandon. I even say, "Thank you!" for the experience. Damn that people-pleasing conditioning.

I was talking to Nalini this morning about being fucked up. Am I kryptonite? Does it come back to my existence being some horrid disturbance in the force? Why did the metaphorical condom break? What is it that makes me *too much*? Nalini, sagely, says again and again, and as always: although it's always good to consider the common denominator in all of this (me), there are also a lot of fucked up people who have issues of their own, compounded with an inability to deal with conflict, and terrible manners.

Which leads me to last night on the unit. I had a patient who was making great progress when I took report; six centimeters dilated, hoping for a natural birth. There were students around, and the clinical instructor asked me if I would accept one. I agreed, of course, as I expected to have a delivery, and students always want a delivery. I don't mind students, and usually students are eager and useful. They usually volunteer to take vitals and ask questions and comb through the chart and try to make the most of six hours on the floor. Not so this time. First words: "I am only here to watch." WTF? This is a clinical assignment. No, she wasn't going to chart because of EPIC, but what about thinking and doing some work, some assessment, taking initiative? She didn't volunteer to do anything, and strayed from the room and my side as often as she could, even when I'd try to get her involved. She was disinterested, and I didn't care. Normally I would say something and change up my teaching style, but I was over it. The student missed seeing the MD come to the room and perform an artificial rupture of membranes because she wasn't with me. The clinical instructor, whom I admire, told me that this student in particular was "upset" that in her three days on the unit she hadn't seen a delivery. I understand. In my three days on the unit for my Maternal-Child Health rotation, I also didn't see a delivery, but I persevered and made it happen, didn't only complain. And at the same time the student was complaining, she was asking to leave *early* to go study for an exam. I have no time for that shit. And when I was at the desk monitoring and charting, she told me she wanted to sit with her friends in the break room and study with her friends. I was horribly unimpressed. I wish I had said, straight up, "You scare me. I don't want you taking care of me, my family, or any of my friends should you ever get a license, which you shouldn't. Nursing isn't about exams, it's about paying attention to patients."

The student kept asking me when my patient would deliver. I couldn't answer that. One never knows, especially with a first-time mom; could have been one hour or four. The student ended staying over, however, and my patient did deliver. The student was useless, although she thanked me profusely for "giving her a delivery." I didn't do anything except my job. Again, gross for that false gushiness. I told her that I have shifts in which I will have two deliveries, and shifts in which I have none. Her concept of L&D nursing is strange and very self-focused: it was about *her* experience and not the patients'. Well, I thought: Maybe communicate and be polite and help, and things will happen. Ever hear of being a good politician? No. Of course not.

I am so disgusted today and want to forget yesterday, but experiences like that are haunting. I have such difficulty forgetting the bad things.

I am now set to be a clinical instructor in the fall, but I am anxious after last night's experience. I fear it's going to be just like teaching at UC Berkeley at San Jose State. Entitled students whining, just like my terrible cohort at Samuel Merritt who made our professors' lives hell without knowing what they were talking about. "We're in grad school, and grad students don't use Power Point." What?!?

I can write the best syllabus ever, set out my expectations, and there will still be those people, the ones who bother me like thorns. Only in nursing my concern is more pressing than in art history because these students can eventually kill people. Why go into nursing if you're not passionate about seriously taking care of people? Yeah, I know, the money. But nursing is back-breaking and humiliating at times, and our patients entrust us with their lives. I forget that nursing doesn't always attract the brightest, most thoughtful people, and that I ended up in the field by felicitous accident.

I despise entitled ostriches. I abhor humans who cannot put themselves in other people's shoes.

I also have to say that it's frightening now to know what goes on behind the curtain of health care. I know what to ask, and when to fire nurses and physicians. Average people don't. I feel bad for them. Ignorance can be bliss, but it can also kill you. Ask providers questions, lots of questions, and if they cannot answer them intelligently, or make you feel bad for asking them, get rid of them.

Now that's off my chest: I am glad to be on strike for a week. Sutter is claiming they don't know why we're striking. Umm, try reading our contract and looking at your "last, best, and final offer," and seeing how you're being incredibly disrespectful to us. And then give us our contract.

Putting on my red and going to the strike line! Go RNs!!!










Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Keys

I have not been able to get Before Sunset out of my head.

I was thinking about another line of Celine's: "I guess when you're young, you just believe there will be many people whom you'll connect with. Later in life, you realize it only happens a few times."

It's a gift, that connection with someone. When a person is able to see right through to your innermost self, or takes the time to, or cares to. Or all of the above. But then, having that power, they can also hurt you--they know your most vulnerable spots, and they can be scared away by what they see, or be disinterested in you, or any of a thousand other things.

I have had many relationships fail. I am not the easiest person to get along with, to be sure. Long ago, my mom was having a conversation with the mother of one of my exes. My ex's mom said, "He'll never marry her, you know." My mom's response? "Oh, I'm not worried about that. Kara always breaks up with them in the end, anyway." Ouch. I didn't think that was fair at the time since I always *felt* like the the one spurned, but now I see that Mom spoke the truth. So many non-connections, so very many.

Humans are searingly imperfect, aren't we?

Having recently come into possession of some powerful information about myself, a lost puzzle piece, another step towards understanding who I was (or who I had the potential to be), I've wanted to share that information with some of the people who have loved me the most, who have had that small but important key to the part of myself that's now so assiduously locked off in my fortress. The part guarded by the dragon. They know how to get past the monster and don't fear it.

When they've affirmed my news (and me), I feel a glow that's remarkable, incredible. I feel a little more alive, a lot less frozen. It's been like shaking out a limb that's been asleep for too long, hating the pins and needles but welcoming the return of the blood to weak, blanched tissue. I don't have to expend energy explaining or acting or drawing elaborate pictures. They are intuitive. When I am anxious or excited, my brain tends to move at 150 mph. If a person cannot keep up, I have a tendency to become very upset or angry. At times like that, I need people around me with emotional intelligence, or I must have space.

I wonder what it is (serendipity?) that leads us humans to one another sometimes. What makes us connect so well to some people but not to others? What is this elusive chemistry that we feel warming our veins; that we are fortunate to experience a few times in our lives; that impels our lives to intersect; that leads us to make one another stronger, better?

It's another one of those things I wish I could control, but I cannot.

At least I can say I have been well loved, although it might not have been how, or when, or exactly in the way I wish.

Back to my puzzle.



Sunday, May 12, 2013

Diversions

I am another of those who hates Mother's Day. I forget that I am a mother. It's great that the kids make things for me and wish to be kind, but I focus too much on the generation ahead.

This is the second year that I've been able to greet both of my mothers, and it's still overwhelming. For a multitude of reasons. I still feel connected/unconnected, mostly. There will forever be that cognitive dissonance, reminding me that I inhabit that space between two worlds and belong to neither.

That aside, I do have to work today. I will get to see babies born, and women become mothers for the first time, or again.

This morning my family took me to my favorite restaurant for brunch in Berkeley, La Note, where we sat in the garden and ate heartily. I could relax for an hour, drink my cafe au lait, eat my tartine, and pretend I was in Provence again. If only.

Then I was granted leave by the family to spend another hour in one of my favorite bookstores, and I only came away with only a few titles. Mark raised an eyebrow but made no comment; he hates it when I spend money on books, but today I have a reprieve.

I am going to take Callum's class on a sketching trip tomorrow, to the bay. I will talk about the process of drawing, and drawing for pleasure, and real versus imagined landscapes. Maybe about romanticism and landscape? I don't know. I am leaning towards Caspar David Friedrich in my present mood.



I just want the children to think, to be inspired. To see their home in a new way, and to express it in a way that is personally meaningful. So much of the "art" program becomes "craft" as in let's paste this here, which isn't quite the critical training that I'd like them to take away from a lesson. It's not too early for them to learn about how and why artists did things. Art shouldn't be rote doing.

Also while in the bookstore, I was struck by a line in a book about art theory for the uninitiated, by Cynthia Freeland, one of those down and dirty, give it to me in thirty minutes but yet thoughtful primers. It's a deceptively simple question: "Why has blood been used so much in art?"

And I knew that I was in the right place: here was the blood I was looking for. Here is something to dissect, something that might help me trace out my body, my mind, my place. How does one even begin to define "blood"?

And now I go to draw it, clean it up, watch its bonds, prevent its loss.

How tightly I am wrapped up in blood, how very tightly. From my blood disorders to my blood doctors to my job to my fascinations to my blood relatives to the insistence of some that blood doesn't matter, and shouldn't matter to me at all.


Saturday, May 11, 2013

Little Things

I was going over the events of the past week with Nalini again this morning, discussing the films encore, and she pointed me to another exchange between Jesse and Celine from Before Sunset. It speaks directly to a fundamental problem in my own life: namely, not being able to move on or forget people. I don't know how some people create such impenetrable fortresses of silence around themselves. And neither does Celine. Clearly the screenwriters understand that people like me exist, and the pain we feel exists, too, quite plainly and deeply, as a result of how we experience the world.

Jesse: I think my book was like building something so that I wouldn't forget the details of the time we spent together. Like a reminder that once we really did meet, this was real...this happened. 

Celine: You know, I am happy you are saying that. I mean, I always feel like a freak because I'm never able to move on like this...(snaps her fingers)

People just have an affair or even a relationship, they break up and they forget, they move on like they would have changed brands of cereals. I was never able to really forget anyone I've been with, because each person has their own specific qualities, and you can never replace anyone. What is lost is lost. Each relationship, when it ends, really damages me. I never really recover. 

That is why I'm very careful with getting involved, because it hurts me too much...or even getting laid--actually, I don't do that. I will miss of the person the most mundane things. Like I am obsessed with little things. Maybe I am crazy. When I was a little girl my mom told me I was always late to school, so one day she followed me to see why I was late. I was looking at...chestnuts falling from the trees and rolling down the sidewalk or ants crossing the road, the way a leaf cast a shadow on a tree trunk--little things. It is the same with people. I see in them little details so specific to each of them that move me, that I miss them and will always miss. You can never replace anyone because everyone is made of such beautiful specific details. 

You know, like I remember the way your beard had a bit of red in it and the way the sun was making it glow in the morning right before you left. I missed that. Shit, I'm really crazy.

Jesse: Now I know for sure why I wrote that stupid book--so you might actually show up at a reading in Paris and I'd walk up to you and ask, "Where the fuck were you?" 

The great thing is that in the films, neither Jesse nor Celine is one of those who can blithely forget. Lucky them, lucky dreams, wishes fulfilled (but not without prices and regrets, to be sure).

Wondering what is happening in that silence, in that space between, is awful for those of us who care. The truth is that probably most people don't spend a moment thinking about that maw of emptiness, what's unsaid and undone, and move on. As I've mentioned before, another friend has said, it take courage to confront the uncomfortable. The majority aren't going into that basement of their feelings; they don't want to remember, to take the risk of bumping into something, anything. "Eyes firmly forward, thanks all the same," I imagine they say to themselves, when someone reaches out to them. And they do nothing. Ignoring what is difficult is the path of least resistance for them, I guess. For me, it's torture.

I've never been one to settle for the easy route.

Even when I am angry about the pain of remembering, would I give up seeing and celebrating the little things, to avoid mourning the loss of said little things? No. The richness of what I see is too fulfilling.

All my love to Nalini, to whom I also owe great thanks for helping me get through lots of basement exploration.




Friday, May 10, 2013

Reflections

The processes of writing and self-examination seem to have been my themes for the week.

I worked Monday and Tuesday, and had two great deliveries, one each shift. I am slowly getting the hang of my delivery tasks on EPIC, although I don't know how I will admit the baby, get the orders up and signed, get stickers, get the cord blood drawn (and gases, if necessary), hang pitocin after releasing orders and scanning armband (and after closing the chart, because one cannot scan for meds while the chart is open, no, that would make sense) and med--that is, if the pharmacy has released it: all that, alone, in five minutes? Mmmm. Probably no time soon. I was still fortunate enough to have help at each delivery. And while I screwed up one of the cord blood orders (hold, not workup, for non O-type Rh+ mothers, geeze), I did okay. And my recovery on Monday only took, umm, four hours instead of the regular two and half, plus the extra hour of strip charting afterwards. Shit. So. Much. Charting. I was fortunate that my patients were not on pitocin or diabetic, or I'd have been even farther behind. I know that sometimes I am not the most efficient charter; I focus on tasks and my patient, and there's always something urgent to be done, not written about (although the rule is, that if it's not charted, there's no proof that you ever did it), so I end up charting later, when I catch my breath. But there's never time with EPIC. NEVER. I know this will change, when it becomes second nature, but it will take a while. All of us are struggling.

I haven't even been to the OR yet. That will be a nightmare of snail, and I will be in a pot of boiling water.

One delivery was a gorgeous midwife-attended, natural birth: beautiful, lovely, uncomplicated. I had graduated from high school long before this patient was born. I feel so old these days. The mother of the patient said to me, "Oh, I was a school teacher. It only gets worse." LOL But I loved working with the midwife, who is so kind and easy and nonplussed, and I am energized by seeing mothers do their thing without interventions (when possible). Birth is a natural act, not a pathological one. My patient was strong, and rocked it. Plus, she got a beautiful little girl, and seeing the joy in her and her husband's eyes healed my soul. Those are the days that make me happiest at work: births without complications, without maternal disease, without everyone rushing to the room to have to fix fetal heart rates or other things gone awry. My mentors say that 15 years ago, most births were like this, but now, maternal disease (primarily the trifecta of obesity, diabetes, and hypertension, sometimes maternal age) has made things far more stressful. I have seen a change in the acuity in the majority of our patients even in my five years. Sad.

Wednesday and Thursday I went with Nalini, my film friend and soul twin, to the San Francisco International Film Festival. On Wednesday, we attended a Q&A with Richard Linklater and Julie Delpy, who were in town to discuss their film, Before Midnight (and the previous two films in the trilogy, charting the relationship of Jesse, an American man, and Celine, a French woman, over 18 years). The moderator was awful, sadly, and as a screenwriter himself focused only on the workshop aspect of three people writing a screenplay. I was amazed at how many times he could ask the same question in different form, while the director and actor maintained their cool. Yes, it was workshopped. Yes, each of the three writers wrote for each character, and each had veto power over lines. But then, let it go! Talk about other things. Oy vey. I have been in university environments much of my life and am used to having better quality questions. One person asked, after all this, if there were ideas for the ending or other scenes that were discarded. Linklater and Delpy both smiled, raised eyebrows, and said, "Yes." I wanted to say, "Where are your critical listening skills, person? Have you not heard a word of what they said for the past hour? Is your degree from UC Berkeley?" Ugh.

Linklater discussed having an idea for an interaction, but not necessarily the lines, and having placeholders in the writing process; for example, the characters would hash out some topic, but they had to decide when and where and how that would happen. I liked the idea of placeholders. It's simple, and I do it myself when roughly outlining. "Oh, this should go here, perhaps," and I insert brackets with a few words to remind myself of what I might wish to say. It's also hard to know where to start, and who characters are, and what parts should be foregrounded. Fascinating stuff.

I fell in love with Before Sunrise back when it came out in 1995; yes, it's one of those Gen X cultural markers, and fuck, Linklater gets us. I saw it when I was 25, not quite yet 26, and remembered that feeling of traveling and being open to new experiences and people and getting to know them rather quickly (or not), and moving on. I didn't exactly have that kind of experience, of meeting for only one day, but I fell in love quickly and hard and still treasure the memories and words of one particular man I've mentioned before, whom I met when I was living in England when I was 22. He wrote me the most beautiful, articulate, self-lacerating, willing-to-be-vulnerable love letters I've ever received. On my worst days, I can read them and remember what it felt like to be loved right down to my bones, if only briefly. I watched Before Sunrise again when I got home last night, and that scene as he leaves her on the train at the end was something I lived. Oh, it was bittersweet and amazing. Even when I saw the film in 1995, it transported me to that place. Magic.

I saw Before Sunset in 2004, eager for the next installment, and it was jarring and fabulous. The exchanges, the anger, the guilt, the missed meetings, the desire to find something in that space between people: what a tight, nearly perfect screenplay! There's that great line of Celine's, where Jesse wants to know if she thought about him in the nine years after they parted in Vienna, and she says, "No, I didn't [forget about you], and it pisses me off."



I had been wondering how things might play out in the new film, Before Midnight. It was thrilling to see it in SF, in the majestic 91-year-old Castro Theater, filled to the rafters with cinephiles and people wanting to know about how love changes, grows, is challenged. I watched the dance of the middle-aged characters, bickering in ways so familiar to me from my own life. Knowing where to put the knife in your partner; knowing how they're manipulating you; hating that they know you so well that they have access to your buttons and know where you're going before you get there. It was raw and real. Some of Jesse's comments about Celine could have been made about me, such as "You're the Mayor of Crazytown." Precise, hurtful, pointed. I was impressed by the analysis of how love and expectations change over time, and how as we age, we come to accept imperfections because life is a mess. There is no perfect match, there is no perfect anything. We have those who love us, or who don't, and we love those we do for who they are, warts and all. Sometimes it's difficult to love, but the offer of unconditional love is rare. And how often do we set people up to fail? All the time.



Then speaking of unconditional love and commitment, Nalini and I saw a powerful, well made documentary, After Tiller, about four providers in the United States who do third-trimester abortions. What does it mean to work with women who choose this? How do you help them? How do they arrive at that place? One of the physicians in the film said that it was an enormous burden to have women tell their stories, and then to have to say yes or no to them.

One potential client called, wanting an abortion at 35 weeks. Not for fetal anomaly, or for maternal illness or hardship, but because of bad timing, it seemed. The physician ended up declining to perform the procedure. As an RN who regularly attends deliveries of 35-weekers who do just fine, it seemed hard to imagine choosing to terminate at 35 weeks. But then, it's not my body or my life. As Mark and I discussed afterwards, why do I think it's okay to abort up to 20 weeks, or even the edge of viability, and then get squeamish? What is my invisible moral line? As another physician in the film said, when you're delivering a patient at 28 weeks, what comes out is clearly not tissue; it's a baby. But what comes first in thinking about it has to be the mother's concerns. I get that. I also didn't know that they euthanized the fetus with digoxin, stopping the heart, before performing what's basically an induction and delivery. I wonder why they use digoxin and don't also use some fentanyl, or painkiller. I know that there's this idea that fetuses don't feel pain, but believe me, when 28-weekers are born and are in the NICU, we do pain assessments on them, IMMEDIATELY. There is no imaginary line inside and out of the uterus. The idea that newborns don't feel pain is outdated and disproved to all but the black box people. I need to research this.

During the film, I sat crunched up, regularly squeezing Nalini's hand. I know I wasn't wanted. I was told more than once by my mother that wished she had aborted me. I could have been terminated. I accept that. It's her body, her life that were messed up by a pregnancy she didn't want. But now that I am in a better place in my own life, I do see that my potential would have been gone, and that can hurt sometimes. Nalini said to me, "You were meant to be here. You have to know that." But I also know the truth, and that's the hardest thing to live with sometimes. As Jesse said in Beyond Sunrise, I am crashing a party, the party of life. I was talking about being an unwanted, mistake baby one day, and Tobey, my younger son, got very, very angry. "MOMMY! You were NOT a mistake. You were meant to be here." I told him that the truth is hard, but you have to face it. I am here, and he cannot be erased now, either. But that the circumstances of my arrival were not the sunny ones of his, and that's the way of the world. I understand how his whole existence is shaken by the contingency of so many cards, balanced tenuously on one another, and yet they held, and he is here, and loved. I am touched that he is unerringly loyal and hates to think of me as being unwanted and inconvenient in 1969. Another Coeur de Leon, chivalrous and eager for battle.

I was also thrumming with anxiety to see how adoption might play out in the film, or in the discussion afterwards, as adoption is often put forward as the opposite side of the coin to abortion. I believe strongly that they're not related: adoption is the decision to parent or not; abortion is the decision to carry a pregnancy to term or not. And the film actually didn't push adoption as a good alternative to these late-term abortions. Certainly, in counseling, the women were asked what brought them, and what other options they had considered: keeping the child; having the child raised by family; placing the child for adoption. But really, none of the women there considered adoption. They all said that if they carried to term, they would keep the child. It was refreshing. One young woman, very religious and plagued by regret, said that she didn't want to keep the child or have the child raised by her or her boyfriend's family, so this was the best option for her, out of three shitty options. And yes, I support her in doing what was right for her, and by corollary, for her child. At the same time, it sucks to be the child whose mother faces three shitty options, none of which include being happy about the pregnancy. 44 years into that life, yeah, it's not awesome to know this, but we all have our crosses to bear and must find our way.

As one of the characters said in Beyond Midnight, to paraphrase, "You stop looking for someone to complete you, and learn to enjoy life, to live."