children · legacy · mortality

Yes: Jump. But Where?

1.29.19.jpgAt a women’s meditation retreat a decade ago, the question of “legacy” was posed.  In answer to, “What do you want your legacy to be?,” a trend emerged around the circle: the women who had children nearly all said their children were their legacy.  Done and done.

At the time, I felt that was such a cop-out.  That’s not a legacy!  Where’s the “you” in it?  Where’s the manifestation of the gifts and talents that only you can bring to the world?  That’s about your kids, not about you!

Clearly, I had/have some issues with judgment;P

But, as I consider kids myself, I’m brought up short on what I want my answer to the legacy question to be.

As I pondered yesterday the idea of not having children, suddenly it made the idea of death seem all the more looming and permanent.  That’s it.  Out, out, brief candle.  Poof.

So, what do you do with the time that you have?

For the first time, I began to see things the way J had before we’d met, before he’d considered having kids: a life of far-flung adventure, outdoorsiness, travel.  A life — as it was looking to me then — of filling the hours.

To me, as I imagined it yesterday, it looked like a manic, pell-mell careening through my years.  A “must do before death” muttering below my breath.  A panicked, gobbling up, blind and blindered race against the clock.  It didn’t look balanced at all.  It didn’t seem intentional at all.  It looked like it may often look: a willful dervish to drown out the immediacy of death.

Because kids or no kids, I’m gonna die.  (SPOILER!)

I’m in the habit of pouring my days through the hourglass unmet, unnoticed, unintentional.  Kids or no kids, that’s no way to live life!

I know that sending my progeny into the future is in itself a legacy.  But I also see that I need an answer to the question of the worth and effect and meaning of my life, whether or not they’re there.

What do I want the sum of my days to mean?  In what activities, and to what end, do I want my hours to be spent?

Being intentional with these answers will offer me solace, ground, and purpose, regardless of my uterus’ status.

 

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children · ecology · quandary

To be or not to be?

1.28.19.jpgAt the risk of getting pulled off course (whatever course that may be!), my thoughts have been returning lately to the question of whether or not to have children.

There are many detractions or concerns that, written in a “no” category, could persuade me toward not procreating.  Reasons such as financial concerns, time concerns, fears and worries about the physical, emotional, and mental health of potential children, concerns of how my past chemo treatment and my and J’s moderately advanced ages might affect the genetic viability of children, awareness that we both have mental health and addiction issues in our family trees…

So, Yeah!  There are plenty of reasons to feel trepidatious about having kids!  But none of the above is the one that really brings me pause right now.  It’s a crap shoot, and yes, those kinds of challenges could possibly be real, but the one that I know IS real is the possibility of bringing a child into a planet that is not going to be able to meet the needs of the people on it.

I was reading about the melting “permafrost” after watching an episode of “Madam Secretary” (which I love) where an eco-warrior was infected with smallpox after doing work in Siberia.  And while the smallpox infection wasn’t based on true events yet… anthrax was.  A person was infected with anthrax after the thaw exposed an anthrax-infected reindeer!  The melting of this layer of frost will release more CO2 and methane than humans have produced in all of our history.

Add to this: the insect apocalypse, polar vortex in NY, drought in CA.  Draining the (literal) swamp for human building releases CO2 that plants had been holding on to; continued degradation of the rainforests that keep our planet stable; increasing hardscapes that reflect heat back into the atmosphere… and I begin to feel increasingly selfish about having children.

Do you bring an unwitting person into a planet that is not doing so well?  Do you place this burden onto another generation?

Of course the optimists around (or within) me say, “Well, maybe you’ll produce a scientist who will help forestall the inevitable.”  Yeah, maybe.  But what about that inevitable part?

There are many reasons to have children, some more selfish and selfless than others.

Is.

It.

Fair.

to ask a new human and potential line of humans to take up the mantle, too?

 

children · joy · mortality

Creating a Life Worth Living.

Salted-Caramel-Ice-Cream-3-527x794.jpgPerhaps it’s my status as a cancer survivor, but I think about my own mortality a lot.

On Sunday, J and I walked to the Punjabi Burrito place in Fairfax (which, yes, is as magnificent as it sounds!!!).  We were having the, “So if this is really happening, what about kids?” conversation.

We’d discussed having kids before.  Within the first month of dating, I let him know that I wanted to have children if I could, that it felt really important to me.  Two years later, it still does.

Sitting eating a pumpkin basmati rice enchilada(!), I said my reasoning was still partly about sharing this awesome thing called life.  As I’d put it then, “Yes, the world is f*cked up and falling apart and dying… but it’s also amazing and fascinating and rich.”  As I said to my friend on the phone last night, “Only humans get to experience salted caramel ice cream.”

But I noticed on Sunday something new within me, a new reasoning.  I told J that the idea that once we’re gone, that’s it, there would be no one to remember, no legacy to live on, no lineage to carry forward, that it felt empty to me, or sad or like an absence.  That, with us, the branches of our family trees stretching back millennia would just end felt … like an incompletion, a void.

I said it reminded me of Macbeth: “Out, out, brief candle!”  (To which J replied wryly, gamely, “Yeah, that’s totally what it reminded me of, too.”);)

J’s concerns about having kids are typical ones: the expenditure of time and money.  Which, of course, are real, relevant, and not miniscule.  But.  So what, frankly?  All of life’s endeavors require time and money.

I told him that I wasn’t “Closed Book” on the having kids subject, that if he were truly able to lay out a vision of a life together that felt fulfilling (that really did include the pieces he wants that he’s afraid he won’t have if we have kids), that I’m honestly open to listening.

I want fulfillment, too.  I want him to feel fulfilled, too.

Our visions are not at odds, but whichever way they go will require openmindedness on the other’s part.

So: We’ll see.  This life thing is so good — and I’m so awed it includes salted caramel.

 

adventure · authenticity · children · equanimity · laughter · love · shame · vulnerability

Prerequisites

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I’m still wading through Brene Brown’s Daring Greatly. I can only take mind-blowing awareness in small
chunks! The latest chunk being:
The important thing to know about
worthiness is that it doesn’t have prerequisites. Most of us, on the other
hand, have a long list of worthiness prerequisites [most of which] fall in the
categories of accomplishments, acquisitions, and external acceptance. It’s the if/when problem (“I’ll be worthy when…” or “I’ll be worthy
if…”)
Sound familiar?
To me it does. And yet. I have other quotes to help combat this if/when thought habit.
One of which is on my fridge, and comes from a book on
auditioning, actually: “There are no mistakes, only misinterpretations.”
Brene talks a lot about the difference between shame and
guilt. Shame = I am bad. Guilt = I did something bad. With guilt, your inherent
worth and worthiness is not called into question, and she encourages us to use
“guilt self-talk” instead of “shame self-talk,” if we have to use anything at
all.
Which, we usually do, because… we all make
misinterpretations!
It’s interesting. Yesterday, I got the chance to spend some
time with a coworker’s 10-year old daughter who was home for the summer, but
didn’t have anywhere to be this week. After way too many days watching t.v. on
her phone, I asked her if she wanted to go for a walk yesterday. And so we did.
We walked to the nearby park, and when we got to the water
and I encouraged her to touch the cool, lapping stream, she was surprised
and delighted, and asked if we could walk in it.
Well, I wasn’t expecting to do that, but SURE! Off come the
socks and shoes and into the shallows we go.
On our walk back to civilization (a whole block away), she
was reporting a story to me about something that had happened with her father
the day before. A story that would likely be categorized as one of Road Rage. As she told the story, I experienced many reactions and opinions. Aghast, sad,
worried, judgmental, superior.
But what I said was, “There are many different ways to handle
situations, and that was one way to handle it.”
I’m NOT the person to tell her her father was wrong,
inappropriate, endangering, or negligent. I am the person, in that little short
hour, to tell her, Yes, we can play in the water, and you are safe with me. I
am not going to pile my opinions onto you, because I know you’re making your
own.
You go ahead and love your dad. You observe him, and make
your own choices. You be influenced by who and how he is, and you’ll have the
chance to work through any of that if you need to.
But for right now… I didn’t even say, “That sounds scary,” because she wasn’t telling it that way. She was reporting, to see how I’d
react, I think. Was what he was doing appropriate? Wasn’t that funny or awful?
No. It was neither. It was human.
(As I write this, I realize that I can use this lesson and
aim it in a parental direction in my own life.)
It’s slow-going through Brene’s book, because there’s so
much meat to her observations and suggestions.
But her lamplight to guide us and offer hope on this journey of misinterpretations is as follows:
Those who feel lovable, who love,
and who experience belonging simply believe they are worthy of love and belonging. I often say that
Wholeheartedness is like the North Star: We never really arrive, but we
certainly know if we’re headed in the right direction.
By not attaching my own value or values to this little
girl’s experience, I get to let her have her own North Star and continue to
follow mine. No ifs, whens or buts. 

authenticity · children · deprivation · friends · fun · laughter · self-love

Dive In

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I never actually go in
the pool. For years, 6 of them, my friend and her family and our friends’
families go out to the east East Bay for Memorial Day weekend and Labor Day
weekend. 

There is a pool there. I attend by the side. Perhaps I’ve gone in the
hottub, but I can’t even remember doing that. I lay on my towel or a pool
chair, slathering in sunblock, catching up, chatting, sharing with these women
I see only occasionally, and it’s
wonderful, this catching up chatting and sharing, but I never go in the
pool.
On Saturday, before I left for the weekend, I made a
commitment to a friend that I would actually go in the pool. I made a
commitment to let myself have fun. To enjoy what was being presented to me, to
not literally be on the sidelines of my own life.
It’s hard – or it has
been – to let myself take part. I’ve been so reserved, analytical, watching,
the consummate wall-flower, when in fact I
feel anything but.
And so, at some point soon after the sun had soaked far
enough into my skin to want relief, I walked into the water.
I’m a slow pool-acclimator, as I am a slow band-aid puller.
Later that night, the women-folk stayed up to play a board game, and my
strategy was to move slowly but eventually around the board. I admitted, laughingly,
that it’s the same way I play chess with my brother: I move pawn after pawn.
One little square at a time.
After my first timid entrance into the water, and a few laps
across the pool, my heart rate up, the water refreshing, my second entré was
different. I was inspired by my friend’s daughter, who lay over an inner
tube, head back, dousing her hair in the water. Only nine, I watched her
luxuriate in the tactile and sensory pleasure, the instinctual joy of just
letting the water carry her hair out into the water. Of soaking the top of her
head, running her fingers into her scalp to get each follicle up and satisfied,
eyes closed, in the moment, in the sensation, in the freedom of doing what felt
wonderful just for its own sake.
My second time in, all the others were under the shade by
the house, and I waded in. About half-way wet, I just dove in. I let my body be
strong and carry me to the bottom. I borrowed some goggles, and played the same
game of fetch I’d watched the kids play, throwing plastic sharks to the bottom,
and diving down to retrieve them. Seeing under water, holding my breath in that
suspended moment, moving quickly and gauging the time I had left before I had
to surface. Running my hands along the bottom, and pushing against it with my feet to
shoot up through the clear water. I laughed.
It was invigorating. It was fun. It was entertaining and
special and out of my ordinary. And on my way out of the water, I lay back into
it, soaked the top of my head, however briefly, and luxuriated too. 

authenticity · children · confidence · fear · motherhood

Maybe Baby

Here’s the subtitle of the book of the same name: 28
Writers Tell the Truth About Skepticism, Infertility, Baby Lust, Childlessness,
Ambivalence, and How They Made the Biggest Decision of Their Lives.
You can imagine there are a lot of thoughts about and sides
to the story. I haven’t yet read the book, but I plan to. Because I fit in
there, somewhere along the Skepticism, Ambivalence, and the unlisted Fear of
Regret.
Yesterday, I attended a baby shower for a friend of mine.
It’s the 2nd I’ve attended recently, but skewed very differently from the last
one.
The first one was held in a yawning mansion in Russian Hill
or Pacific Heights, some “you will never afford this” neighborhood. It was
hosted in a home that would not be out of place in Dwell, or Architectural
Digest, and peopled by beautifully draped women who would be staged in such a photo
shoot.
The conversation was all about babies. When you were due,
how many you had, getting into preschools, Diaper Genies, the best nappies,
where you take your toddler.
The striking thing, to me, is that all of these women were intelligent, obviously savvy, had or have a career. And they were all talking about poop.
I was (very obviously) one of two women in attendance who was childless, and
I felt so fish-out-of-water, I was relieved to leave and call a single,
childless friend to … not commiserate, per se, but to, I don’t know, vent,
maybe.
Yesterday’s event was entirely different. A baby shower,
yes. Held in a gorgeous home with a catered lunch, yes. Obviously savvy, intelligent,
careered women, yes.
But somehow, the conversations were completely different.
Sure, there was some “helicopter parent” talk, a few “we’re trying to get
pregnant” comments, and a story of a friend who bought a racecar, and by
default, because of the cost of the car, decided she wouldn’t freeze her eggs. But mostly,
these women were talking about themselves, their interests, and random wordly
gossip; about new restaurants opening, the surprisingly inviting nature of the L.A. community, and, in one instance, syphilis.
Why was this event different? The two guests of honor would
be at home talking with one another, smart, hilarious, worldly. I don’t know.
But, I know I left feeling a hundred times different than the last time. I felt
like a person who’d attended a party, not a single, childless oaf who didn’t
fit in.
I have two friends back east in very different stages of the
spectrum. One I spoke to in New Jersey last weekend told me she’d
looked up freezing her eggs recently, as she’s back in her on-again-off-again
relationship with a man in his 40s who’s already been divorced and has two
school-aged kids. He does not want more.
She just turned 33 and doesn’t know what she wants, but is scared that if she enters this
relationship again, she is making a decision by default to not have children.
And she definitely does want them. Just not now.
My other friend is 6 months pregnant, living in suburban
Long Island in a new house with her new husband, having gotten pregnant on her
honeymoon cruise through the Aegean. Really.
She is 35 and this is her first child, and because she’s one
of the most straight-shooting women I know, I get to have all kinds of “what is
it like” conversations with her—like, are you still having sex?
I called this friend yesterday while driving home from the
baby shower, having been acutely aware after leaving the party that I probably
won’t get to go to her shower. That I won’t really be there to be Auntie Molly
to this child. It was a very different phone call; it wasn’t really about me,
because I didn’t feel that my value as a human was called into question over
the “Do you have children?” line.
My friend and I spoke about how the 30s are just this
minefield of all this information, questioning, and decisions. I am imminently
grateful that the parents I respect most are friends of mine who didn’t have
their children until their late 30s and early 40s, and they are by far the most
fully-formed mothers I know—with lives and interests and hobbies and careers.
These are my role-models. And they help take the pressure off the ticking eggs
in my womb.
My friend in New Jersey is surrounded by women our age who
are in the depths of baby-land, and she gets the “you better do something soon”
message mirrored back to her daily. The suburban life will do that more than city life, I think.
But I didn’t feel yesterday, after the party, after speaking
with my pregnant friend, that I had to make any kind of decision. It felt like,
Wow, this is a lot of information all we women have to wade through in our 30s.
More observational than judgmental.
I don’t know if I want kids. I know I don’t want them now. I
feel like in 5 years I might be ready, and may try then. I know for sure I
don’t want to intentionally become a single-mother through mishap or I.V.F.
I know that I feel very
selfish with my time and my life right now. I feel like the 5-years-from-now
mark is one that caps the “trying to be an actress” portion of my life. In 5
years, I will hopefully have done something around all this, and I won’t feel
that by having children I’m “giving up” myself and my dreams.
Because, despite my role-model moms being super and
self-possessed and interesting, their lives still revolve around the upbringing
of their children. And I am still just rearing myself.
I feel extremely grateful to not feel the pressure my NJ
friend feels to make a decision now. I feel proud of my friends who’ve made the
decision to have children.
BUT. I know many women, too, in their mid-40s who regret
terribly not having children. And I know that option stands for me too. But,
I’m also not willing to have children, to bring a life into this world under
the shadow of longing, desperation, fear, or simply, “I want a legacy, and someone to visit me in the nursing home.” It’s the same selfish motivation.
So, back to Maybe Baby.
For now, Maybe Breakfast. Those eggs, I’m not ambivalent
about.