Tuesday, November 29, 2011

sanity-retrieving rituals

I came home tonight from a long stressful day of work on the verge of a nervous breakdown. I'm a nervous kind of person - that's what they used to call nearly-insane people before they had titles for them like "bipolar" and "manic" and "depressed."

I haven't felt myself lately. I can always tell when I'm out of my element because I stop writing and read fewer books and get less sleep and become agitated even more easily. This occurs when I feel I can't be myself because of social pressures: the requirements of lying and talking and listening when you don't want to.

I am constantly doing things and saying things and listening to things that I don't want to because it's what is expected of me. And it's making me crazy. My kind of heaven would be a place where everyone is free to be themselves without judgement and prodding from people to be someone else. A place with no such thing as obligation. I don't think there's anything I hate more than obligation. And I hate a lot of things.

I came home and ate dinner and told Steve I love him but I was just going to be alone for awhile in a hot bath. So I sat in the warm water and began to read one of my favorite books, The Bell Jar (also about a nervous young woman). I never feel so much myself as when I'm in a hot bath, I read. To me there is no greater cure for a full mind than solitude. So I sat in the water with my book about a girl as crazy as me, if not more so. I didn't listen or talk to anyone. I let the solitude wash me clean and back to myself.

I must be a less resilient person than most, because I know of quite a few people with much more stressful lives than me that handle it all with ease--god damn grace, nearly--with seemingly no sanity-retrieving rituals of their own. But not me. I'm not graceful or poised or resilient. I'm frantic and moody and stressed. So I do what I can to reclaim a little bit of myself when I no longer recognize my own reflection in the mirror.

Then I made my way back downstairs, prepared a cup of hot chocolate, and sat down to write. That's how I knew I had returned.

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

giving thanks

Since every blogger in the world is writing about what they're thankful for, maybe I should, too. Not because I'm a band wagoner, but because I never really do stop and think of what I'm thankful for. I'm much more likely to bitch about what I'm ungrateful about. But in the spirit of holiday cheer, I'm thankful for:

1. My loving husband. I've often heard that I'm lucky I found Stephen because I'm a hard person to love. Screw them; I'm awesome. But I really am lucky I have Stephen. He is my other half. He makes me complete, as cheesy as it is.

2. My family: immediate, in-laws, and extended. Although we've got our fair share of crazies, I'm a part of a family who wants to best for each other. We celebrate triumphs and milestones together and encourage one another to become better people. Some succeed, some fail, some don't even try. But the point is, if you are motivated to do something with your life, you will have plenty of cheerleaders telling you you can do it along the way.

3. Gracie's parents. I'm grateful every day that they love my daughter as their own, provide for her what I couldn't, and give her a childhood in a happy, loving, complete family. I'm grateful for their unconditional love without judgment. I wish there were more people like them: more people whose family bonds extended beyond biological connections.

4. Our future son who has been kicking me to remind me he will be arriving soon.

5. Our house that we will become a family in. Our house that is our home.

6. My job that provides me a way to pay the bills and go to the dentist and deliver a baby in a hospital. I bitch about working a lackey job and will always hope to become a writer, but I have to admit that having a regular paycheck I can depend on is nothing to sneeze at.

7. Friends that I can bitch to when I'm feeling ungrateful, who will remind me there are things to be grateful for.

8. Hobbies that make me smile and realize I've been frowning.

9. A whole slew of other little joys that arrive in life, and make me realize how lucky I am.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

our baby has an identity

Since the day we found out we were expecting, Steve and I began picking out boy names. But let me back that up even further: since I was a girl, I didn't imagine my perfect wedding, instead I imagined my perfect family which consisted of a loving husband and me and two boys. The only other scenario included a girl as a third child if we got crazy and wanted a big family.

Little boys who like football and wear Miami Dolphins jerseys on Sundays while watching the game with their dad. Little boys who are rambunctious and like to run around and get into things and play rough. Little boys who wear polo shirts and sweater vests and adorable shoes. Little boys who push around a toy lawn mower next to their dad and ask for cars and Legos for Christmas. Little boys who love their mommy and idolize their daddy. Those are what I always wanted.

I am not girly. I've always gotten along better with boys. The girls I'm friends with are fine with me not being girly. They don't ask me to get manicures. They don't expect me to keep my hair looking cute. Some of my best friends have been boys. My dog is a boy. I'm more comfortable around testosterone than estrogen. Estrogen makes me nervous and fidgety. Steve is a man's man that likes sports and beer has learned to do handy tasks around the house. We would have nothing in common with a little girl.

I was interested in those wives' tales that claim to accurately predict your baby's gender. But the Chinese calendar said I was having a girl. My cravings said I was having a girl. My face breaking out said I was having a girl. The only thing that pointed to me having a boy was my own wives' tale that if you don't have morning sickness, it's a boy. I quickly gave up on those stupid wives' tales since they wouldn't tell me what I wanted to hear (if they had predicted a boy though, I would have believed them as seriously as some do a religion).

Everyone who knows I'm pregnant has asked me if I want a girl or a boy and I always reply without hesitation and with an exclamation point: "BOY!" I know I'm supposed to only want a healthy baby and the gender shouldn't matter, but I'm much too honest of a person to give a fake answer like that. I mean, I want it to be healthy of course, I just prefer it to be a healthy boy.

The last couple weeks, I tried to mentally prepare myself for the possibility of this baby being a girl. I asked Steve last night, "what would be fun about having a girl?" and he said, "everything."
"You can't think of a single thing!" I moaned. I always think lack of specifics means nothing specific. Everything means nothing to me. I tried to come up with some girl names that I liked, and nothing stuck. I have one bizarre name that I would consider for a girl, but no one else likes it and maybe it's better no baby gets stuck with it. My list of boys names just gets longer.

Today was our Ultrasound day. Today was finally the day we found out the gender. Steve and I both took the day off of work in excitement. The Ultrasound tech busied herself with dull shit like measuring the head and making sure our baby was growing at a normal rate, blah, blah. I tried to act interested, but the whole time I was trying to interpret the spots into private parts. At one point, I saw the outline of the pelvic bone and my heart leaped as I thought it looked like a male pelvis.

"Do you want to find out the gender or do you want to wait?" she asked. "Tell us! We want to know!" I blurted out uncontrollably. I looked at Steve and he nodded in agreement. She found the baby's butt but couldn't see between the legs. A lump formed in my throat as I prepared for the answer. What if it was a girl? I wasn't ready for that to be her response. I only wanted her to tell me the gender if the gender was male. After what seemed like an eternity, she got a shot between the legs, and there it was in all its tiny glory: a scrotum.

Steve and I smiled widely at each other. It was like the day we found this house and couldn't stop smiling. It was just what we'd hoped for. We immediately texted everyone in our contact lists. Everyone who knows us at all knows it's what we wanted. So here we are: it's getting dark out and I still haven't stopped smiling. I'm just so thankful that we're going to have a tiny Steve running around here soon. It definitely beats a mini-Holly any day. He is the better half of us, hands down.

The first woman a little boy falls in love with is his mom.

Saturday, November 12, 2011

Upgrading

It's that time of year again: the time when I read The Catcher in the Rye and start saying "god damn" in every god damn sentence. Every year when I read it, I want to start writing in J.D. Salinger style. So tonight I wrote this:

Up until a year ago, I drove a yellow 1990 Honda CRX. I loved that car. I bought it when I was 18, right before I moved away to college. I have always liked yellow cars, even though I really do hate the color yellow. But a yellow car, I thought that meant something: like its owner was real unique or special in some way.

In college, my friends would mock my yellow car and call it stupid names like the taxi or the banana-mobile. They were so creative, calling something that’s yellow a name of something else that’s yellow. I have terrible taste in friends, I really do. If you want to know the truth, I wouldn’t have any friends at all if I didn’t get so lonely by myself all the time.

But even though they mocked it, they still all wanted me to drive them around in it. A lot of them didn’t have their own cars on account of being from out-of-state and all. I guess they thought it gave them a free pass to not have to be responsible and provide their own transportation, but I didn’t buy it. I just thought they were lazy.

I bit my tongue hundreds of times when my classmates would be in the passenger seat while I drove them around on their errands, and would say they had a car back home. I'm surprised I have a tongue at all anymore, with how much I chewed it up. No they didn’t. They were just talking about their parents’ car they drove around. The only way any of these people would have a car was if their parents bought it for them. I was the only one out of all my friends who was already a responsible adult capable of paying for car repairs and holding down a job that required working more than 10 hours a week.

If I didn’t bite my tongue, I wouldn’t have any friends at all. If I told people what I was thinking every time I was thinking something, I would offend a whole roomful of people. I really do have an opinion about everything. And no one wants to hear your opinion if they don’t have the same one.

Last year I traded in my yellow CRX. I really didn’t want to. I guess I knew the day would come at some point, but I wasn’t prepared for it. I thought I would drive that car until it was smoking and a spark plug sparked and I had to jump out of the cab before the entire engine exploded. But it never came to that and I traded it in anyway. The car salesman was a young pimply boy about the age I was when I bought that car in the first place.

He offered me $800 for it and I looked at him like he was crazy. “You know that will be the only thing that still exists after the Apocalypse,” I said. He looked at me like he didn’t even know what the Apocalypse was. He probably didn’t. He looked like a real moron.

“Well, most people would offer you less than that, it’s pretty old and it’s got a lot of miles,” he said. I wanted to tell him his mom was old and had a lot of miles, but I thought better of it. 'Just keep your mouth shut and buy your responsible, dependable new car,' I told myself. Plus, his mom probably wasn’t all that old, any way; probably just a couple years older than me. Now that was a depressing thought: that if I got pregnant right after I had my first period, I could have a kid almost the age of this pimply car salesman. I kept thinking about that while I signed these thousands of documents they kept shoving in my face.

I left my yellow car in the lot next to all those shiny new models. It looked so sad and dirty and old next to its showoff neighbors. No one was going to buy it. The car dealership was probably just going to sell the parts or auction it off. I felt like I betrayed my car that had never betrayed me. My loyalty was only worth a measly $800. I was real emotional about the whole thing. I even cried while I drove off in my new car.

Not the feeling you’re supposed to have when you get a new car, I suppose. I suppose you should be busy setting your radio presets, because everyone who gets a new car immediately sets the radio presets. But not me: I’m a nostalgic kind of person. If I see moon pies at a gas station, I’ll buy twenty of them. I didn’t even set my presets for a whole month. I would just drive in silence while mourning my CRX and hating the new car smell everyone else is so crazy about.

(To read the real-life version of my car-selling story and see how I can't write about anything I don't know about first-hand, click here.)