Last night I dreamt I couldn’t sleep. That’s what you call a good news/bad news scenario. This is what crawled through my subconsciousness:
I was in my same bed, lying next to the same man, struggling to fall asleep. Hours dragged on; I tossed blankets, kicked cats, repeated the Lord’s prayer – the usual thing. As the sun rose, so did my dread of starting the day on empty. When the light entered my room I caught movement outside the window. I sat up and discovered a family of bears playing in the morning dew, just outside my bedroom window. Renewed – happy even – I rushed downstairs to get my camera. Hand-over-hand I dusted the shelf where my camera should be, finally landing on my zoom lens. I pulled it down only to discover it snapped in half, rendered blind. I suddenly heard children playing outside – had the day started? Frantic, I grabbed the next lens I could find, connected it to the camera and returned upstairs. Quick vs. quiet. The bears had been replaced by a family of foxes, all in profile, motionless. I couldn’t believe my luck! I pointed the camera on a kit but the lens wouldn’t focus, the shutter wouldn’t even click. “I am losing this moment deargodwhywon’tanythingwork!” I look down at the camera and see that it’s not even mine. It’s not my camera. It’s weirdly white and on the screen it reads “TWIST” as if that’s a normal camera setting. I look back at the foxes holding their position and I realize they’re motionless for a reason. I step to the side and see the biggest coyote I have ever seen, (and I’ve never seen a coyote so … Wile E. Coyote). What was the window in my bedroom has become the outdoors itself and there is no longer anything between me and it. Instinct tells me I’m an easier target than a baby fox, so I run. I find a cabin, bolt through the door, turn around and brace it with my feet.
I wake up. I realize I am in my same bed lying next to the same man but there’s no coyote. I was dreaming. I was sleeping. Sweet relief, I had slept after all! But now I am awake. I woke myself to reassure myself I had slept. Goddamnit. Now I have to start all over again.
I first heard this quote on Six Feet Under, long before I had kids:
Now that I have children I wish it was just my heart because I feel like my entire nervous system is outside of my body, day and night. Outside I’m like, “Yeah, I got two kids now and he’s already six and she’s three so yeah, I got this. I know this.” But then my head hits the pillow and I realize, “HOW DID YOU EVEN DO THAT? DO YOU HAVE ANY IDEA WHAT COULD HAVE HAPPENED? LET’S MAKE A LIST.” And then I play the day’s film: the traffic we biked in, the food they could have choked on, the slippery bathroom floor, swim class, all the chances I took. This is motherhood, right? Yes, they now sleep through the night but I’ll never really sleep again. And if I am lucky enough to fall asleep my dreams are peppered with fear.
With my heart and nervous system outside of my body, two giggling conspirators hand-in-hand, I feel tingly all the time. The exposure, vulnerability and unrelenting hyper-vigilence requires a sort of amplified consciousness; I now exist on another plane (and I can’t sleep there either). It’s neither higher nor lower, it’s just deeper, but that’s made all the difference. Parenting, not so coincidentally, reminds me so much of labor and birth; I’ve never felt more capable yet terrified, but also never more exquisitely awake.
Sleep on that, Dear Readers, if you can. I’ll be up if you want to talk.
It started when I found myself applying the “sharpening” tool to all my photos. I assumed my lens was broken. All three of my lenses must be broken because all my photos were blurry.
Then I could no longer color, but no matter, that was just a silly hobby. I set it aside.
The magnifying mirror on my make-up vanity? That was for precision.
What does it take to finally take care of yourself?
Your kid. My kid. My six-year-old got a splinter in his heel and I couldn’t get it out. I couldn’t get it out because I couldn’t see it. I couldn’t see it because I needed reading glasses. I didn’t own reading glasses because I couldn’t be bothered.
I couldn’t be bothered with seeing.
It wasn’t vanity that put me off buying glasses for so long, though admittedly dependence played a factor, it just wasn’t important enough. I often find that if it doesn’t benefit my children, it doesn’t get done. Are you the same way?
Now I look like this sometimes.
When my kids needs their fingernails clipped or legos separated or dollhouse furniture glued I look like this. My son said to me laughing, “Momma, you don’t look like a Momma!” the last time I wore my glasses. I wonder what he meant. I was too busy loosening his swim goggles to ask.
Looking back (way, way back, there, that’s good) it seems crazy that I delayed improving my vision. Where would I be without my kids? No really, where? I CAN’T READ THAT MAP. They make me a better person in so many ways but I never thought they would literally let me see the light.
Now, about my hearing …
Happy to guest-post for the good people of Le Lion et La Souris today. Montreal Adventurers Unite!
Building a wall
“EVIL VILLAINS ALLOWED”
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As I unpacked my clothes the other day, I thought about all the pieces I could eliminate if I employed The Closet Trick:
“Turn around all the hangers in your closet so the hooks are pointing towards you. When you wear something, put it back with the hook the normal way. In six months, any hanger still facing the wrong way is holding an item you haven’t worn, ready for the donation bag.” – Apartment Therapy
I haven’t worn half my clothes in more than six years because they are not breastfeeding-friendly. That’s a long time to pack, move and store stuff I don’t use and looking down at my six-year-old-milk-producing-yet-disappearing breasts I wonder if I made the right decision. Those clothes are never going to fit. Where have both my flowers gone, loooong time passing?
I had no idea – none – how dramatically breastfeeding would change my body, let alone my entire life.
I just read an article that made me feel bad. Wanna see it?
Top of the checklist? Motherhood, and how I’m doing it wrong:
“If you are wholly absorbed in bringing up children but find it a daily struggle, you obviously need to implement time for self-care. Add “me time” to your to-do-list.”
My kids have been wholly absorbed in breastfeeding. I have the breasts. There is no separation between a child who exclusively breastfeeds and his mother. There is no “me-time”. While my breastfeeding days are coming to a close (my 3 year-old now only asks to nurse before sleep), this has been a daily struggle.
A woman I know once wrote something and it made me feel good. Wanna see it?
“We can do hard things.”
I want you to know, Struggling Mother, that there is merit in hard work and doing things you don’t always want to do. I look at my kids and I don’t give a fig about my clothes. Breastfeeding has dramatically changed my life, but dramatically improved theirs.
That’s where all my flowers have gone.
We’ve been in our new apartment for eight days.
It’s a local move, just to the adjacent neighborhood called Mile End. The apartment is lovely for many reasons but mainly we were drawn to her light.
If you would have told me I’d be moving again in less than two years since arriving in Montreal, I would have slapped you across the face and pushed you in the St. Lawrence river. But you were right and I’m sorry. Since this is a move initiated by mutual desire rather than career trajectory, it feels kinder and gentler, and that had made all the difference. We wanted more light for the Montreal winters and we wanted less space for economy and we managed to get both! And here we are, eight days later.
I have gotten very good at moving but truthfully, I would prefer to hone this skill less often. I was thinking the other day while figuring out new … everything – appliances, key code systems, biking paths – that I’ll probably live forever. This constant adaptation to new environments and experiences is what keeps the brain sharp; “You may be old but you’ll be able to Snapchat with your teenagers!” is what I keep telling myself because I know that’s a thing. “Just keep going!” The idea offered solace as I cried over there being no outlets on that one wall and how I might never find my obnoxiously specific brand of chocolate now.
This is the third move for my three-year-old and the fourth for my six-year-old and I worry about that. My role as their Constant never shifts though, so I try and keep the crazy – and tears – in check. I must be doing something right because my children are happy surrounded by new walls that embrace their old things.
I’m so grateful for the foundation we built in this ever-changing address we share. I have faith that no matter where, I will always be their home, and they will always be the light within me.
“Do you know who could lift this?
“Do you know who could jump dis high?
Hulk! For real.”
“Red Hulk is stronger than Green Hulk but not as strong as Rainbow Hulk.”
“Hulk Smash could lift up the whole Montreal! It’s true. IT’S TRUE MOMMA!” My agreement is required.
She keeps asking me to draw Hulk Smash so I do.
If I talk about how much she’s growing or compliment her on a new challenge she’s conquered, she turns it right back to the Hulk:
“Yeah! I’m getting big just like Hulk Smash!”
“You know who’s not scared of jumping off trees? Hulk Smash.”
Despite having neither book, television show nor pajamas featuring The Incredible Hulk, my three-year-old is obsessed with him. Farrah talks about Hulk Smash every day and with great reverence – so much so that he is the one who reminds her to close the closet door.
He also gets her to eat spinach via these Hulk Smash Muffins so she too can become big and strong.
I know momentum when I feel it.
Like most things that three-year-olds latch on to, I find this obsession charming and adorable, baffling origins aside. Her older brother knows about The Incredible Hulk of course, but only mentions him occasionally and doesn’t give a fig about closing the closet door. He will eat muffins though, but knows they’re just regular muffins. He is six-and-a-half after all.
I think it was Mother’s Day when I re-read Farrah’s Birth Story (because if you’re gonna read a birth story, it might as well be on Mother’s Day), and was struck by these words:
“Our Midwife arrives. I can’t even acknowledge her. The screaming becomes insufficient. I am driven to destroy as my body is feeling destroyed. I send everything on top of the toilet tank flying into the shower wall. I smash the toilet bowl brush against the ceramic floor. I shake the pedestal sink from its base. I am the Incredible Hulk, caged.”
Farrah Star as Bruce Banner, summoning the Hulk so that she could be born. Incredible.
“My body throws itself from hands-and-knees to sitting back on my heels, clenching my entire backside. Then my body climbs itself up the wall to a standing position. I am screaming as loud as I can for as long as I can.
I feel the baby move down and out.
Then back up.
Then down and out.
Then back up.
Then I understand I can get her out and it will be done. I understand she is ready. I understand everything. I will bear my child.
So I do.”
The connection between myself and my daughter is undeniable but sometimes I forget there is also a magic between us; something indefinable. Currently, that something is a sparkling green and stronger than anything in the whole wide world.
I first heard “Darling Nikki” out of a boom box in a barn. It was Homecoming and we were working on the Freshman float at a classmate’s farm. A much freer 14 year-old than I had a copy of Purple Rain and played it; a musical romp in the hay, raunchy as hell.
I am not a Music Person. I didn’t develop that way. The few musical memories of my childhood include The Captain and Tenille, Tony Orlando and Dawn and The Statler Brothers, all from a portable cassette player reserved for 9-hour car rides to the Upper Peninsula.
Homecoming 1994 made me a Prince Person and in the years to follow I became a devotee.
Sign o’ the Times, especially “Starfish and Coffee”, blew my tiny teenaged mind. It pushed me and opened me: AIDS, romance, religion and freedom packaged in a golden double cassette that I could not afford but bought anyway.
I ran endlessly to Lovesexy in the dead of summer. I worked a day-shift at an auto parts factory and then went running in the salty afternoons. I went running because I was about to join the Army. Running to make weight. Running from having to pay rent to my parents. Running past cornfields and roadkill down Shimmel Road. Running and struggling to hold on to my Walkman as the sweat puddled in the palm of my hand.
Batman came out and I had a new form of media over which to obsess.
I became an adult real quick while belting out “Sexy M.F”. from the The Love Symbol album. Remember Kirstie Alley from The Love Symbol album?
The B-Sides in 1993 had “Pope”:
So, you can be the President (you can be the President) [kick it]
I’d rather be the Pope (rather be the Pope)
(I’d rather be, so happy)
Yeah you can be the side effect (you can be the side effect)
I’d rather be the dope (rather be the dope)
(I ain’t scared of you mutha fuckers) [kick it]
which sampled Bernie Mac. Bernie Mac. RIP.
I remember requesting “Seven” at my friend’s wedding reception and the whole floor cleared expect for the two of us. Who the hell doesn’t like “Seven”? I ain’t scared of you mutha fuckers. Kick it.
It has been a few weeks since Prince died and just more than a month since I saw him live at Place des Arts. It has taken me this long to absorb the loss. I’ve yet to listen to his music, alone and at home where it could hurt the most, but I have immersed myself in other people’s stories and tributes:
This D’Angelo cover of “Sometimes it Snows in April” hits the hardest:
and this story of Prince challenging Jimmy Fallon to ping-pong makes me laugh:
I finally took my ticket stub and unopened CD from that March concert and put them in my safe.
I can’t believe I hadn’t opened it yet. Some devotee. But now I think about how my kids will have that heirloom and the value it might possibly hold and I’ve made my Prince with it.
“All good things, they say, never last
And love, it isn’t love until it’s past”
Hi. My husband gifted me a ticket to “Prince and a Piano” and despite the performance being after 6pm and not in my living room, I went, and it was awesome. Here is the Montreal Gazette’s review: Prince Rules In Intimate Setting, and here is my experience:
This lobby smells like money.
If I had to guess by all the black clothing and absence of selfies, no one here is under 40. The wine glasses placed politely atop the recycling bin confirms it.
Is anyone else here alone? It’s cool. I’m cool.
Is anyone else going in? I feel like sitting down. I’m going in.
I am in the fifth row, on the aisle. JESUS MARY AND JOSEPH. Be cool. It’s cool. The aisle. Good. Yes. I can politely vomit in that direction.
Um. It’s after 7:15 and he’s still not here.
7:17. iPhone, iPhone, iPhone.
People are now taking selfies with his piano. A flash goes off. HIS PIANO IS PURPLE!
7:20. WTF. Is this “Prince and a Piano” or “Just Us and a Piano?” Amirite, Fifth-Row-Neighbor? Oh sorry, I did not see your hand politely atop your wife’s thigh. Date Night, huh? Nice. I saw your wine glasses earlier.
A single piece of hard candy is discovered and fished out of my pants’ pocket. Dinner!
I’m for sure gonna vomit.
7:29. The Coolest of The Cool appears in silhouette, 1/4 afro, 1/4 platforms, all soul. He is everything I want to be. I can’t believe I’m here right now. What a freaking privilege. He’s here. He’s here!!! All is forgiven. Crowd goes politely wild.
Where do I put my phone? Seriously. I didn’t bring a purse. I don’t know how this works.
Prince struts up to the piano then kneels at the bench in prayer.
He starts “U Got the Look” and is it so slow and tender it tickles, and suddenly I wonder if it’s just a build-up to OMGISSHEENAEASTONGOINGTOBEHERE?!?
Multiple security guards bob and weave their way through the front rows, clicking their tiny lights on and off incessantly. Is someone trying to record this? AND YOU CALL YOURSELF A PRINCE FAN?
During “I Would Die 4 U” the house lights come up and Prince asks everybody to stand up and — make no mistake — offer praise. Things get uncomfortable.
The security guards are getting real tired of your shit, Fourth-Row-and-Above.
I reapply my lipstick for the inevitable moment Prince spots me in the crowd and asks for a chaste kiss on the cheek. I do it eagerly but then start bawling over how my six-year-old cried when I left him to come to this concert. Prince hugs me, whispers a secret only we 2 can hear and dedicates his next song to me, The Most Beautiful Girl in the World.
Fuck. Security thinks my lipstick is a recording device and now I have their attention.
“STARFISH AND COFFEE. MAPLE SYRUP AND JAM”. I’m dying.
“This is the Ballaaaaaaad of Dorothy Parker.” It is done. I am dead now.
I wish “Prince and A Piano” would revolve. I’ve been staring at the back of his head this whole time – which is a joy, yes. It is a joy to be in the same room as Prince’s head but couldn’t this theatre figure out how to spin him around? Not so he gets dizzy, just enough so that he could see me above all others is what I’m saying. Damn. I don’t think that’s too much to ask. I haven’t been out of my house this late in years. And did I mention the crying child?
Annie Lennox Bob Marley’s “Waiting in Vain”. I know this song! And now it’s “If I Was Your Girlfriend”. I sure know this song! He is blending the two into some kind of anything-you-can-do-I-can-do-better spectacle because he can because Prince.
Hey Lady In The Front Row Who Shouts “THANK YOU PRINCE!” After Each Song – you speak for all of us. Literally. Why is this crowd so subdued? Is everyone here sober? I mean I am but I have to go home and breastfeed my daughter.
It’s getting late I’ll bet.
I’d be okay without an encore.
All these people are going to be in the coat check line before me.
What if I can’t get a cab?
It’s very late.
I need to leave this place.
What if I can’t leave this place?
I left. I was That Person who left before the end of the encore. The Only 1.
I finally looked at my watch as the cab drove away. It was 9:00pm. I smiled. No panic attack, no regrets.
THANK YOU PRINCE!
I am in between photo-editing software and laptops right now and it’s killing my creative output. Luckily I have my iPhone and motherhood.
How have you been? Is there ever a moment when you’re not doing something absolutely bonkers?
Do you manage long road trips with your family?
My kids resent being immobilized in a five-point harness for hours on end and I sympathize; I don’t think small bodies are meant to endure long travel. Everyone I know however, travels by car with little complaint or incident and I mean far, like seven-hours-there-and-back-on-Easter-weekend far. I know people who have taken a 13-hour road trip without screens and everyone reached their destination alive. My friend, her husband and two young children are on the road from Wisconsin to Florida as I write — that’s 20 hours direct – and not for the first time.
Everyone has it figured out except me. I don’t like that.
We tried it, sure. There was that one time we attempted seven hours by starting at 5pm, hoping to spend the last four hours asleep. One child did that. The other child refused and screamed “MOMMA” and cried so hard that she vomitted several times. As a bonus, her screaming kept waking the other child. Miserable does not begin to describe the experience. Hearing your nearly two-year old scream for you over and over while you can do nothing is sickening; traumatic even, for all parties. Long car rides were removed from our To Do List which is a shame when you’re also terrified to fly.
We’ll go when we’re ready and my kids are not ready and that is okay. Later is okay.
But we still have to drive around town and that too has its issues:
“Over the course of an average 16-minute trip, parents that had kids present spent three minutes and 22 seconds with their eyes not on the road.” – Kids in Cars 12 Times More Distracting for Drivers than Talking on Cell Phones
We take a lot of 16-minute trips. (Honestly, how do you do it for hours upon hours?)
Those trips begin and end with getting Farrah in and out of her car seat, which I do no less than seven times a day, so no less than seven times a day do I say “PUT THE TOY/SNACK/WATER DOWN. BUCKLE FIRST.” “HURRYHURRYHURRY! I AM ABOUT TO BE RUN OVER.” “GET SERIOUS FARRAH. A CAR IS GOING TO HIT ME.” I say these things because they are true. Farrah’s seat is on the driver’s side, the side that opens to traffic. City traffic. Montreal traffic. Seven times a day I am in a state of terror and anger.
That is a shitty way to be seven times a day looking into this face. That’s not who I want to be and she doesn’t deserve it just for being the fidgety, distracted, curious, 100% normal three-year-old that she is.
I stopped trying to change her and changed the seats instead.
Now Arlo has a little less leg room and he can no long fling open his door, but he’s not complaining because he gets to crawl through the car to his seat, much like a military maneuver, and much to his pleasure.
So that’s one car problem solved. Seems simple now, like I should have done it at the beginning of winter, but no matter. It’s done and our days are seven times’ improved. It feels awesome and I think my kids would agree.
Please share your tips for long car rides in the Comments below. I know we’ll get there one day. Lead the way!