Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

By trade, editors deal with the micro details of a work. I have come to realize that I'm not naturally a big-picture person in regular life either. I try to employ my little-picture methodology to monolithic issues (raising kids well, saving for retirement, etc.). I want the reassurance of knowing the exact order of operations that go into whatever goal I'm facing down beforehand. But that's cramming a square peg into a round hole. The big picture is a vision that requires faith, hope, and improvisation at the start. For someone like me who absolutely sucks at improv -- that's a huge hill to climb, just to get started on something.

I've thought a lot about big-picture events and quests with a capital Q since reading the book, Eat, Pray, Love by Elizabeth Gilbert. I'm probably I'm the last middle-aged American woman to read it, but for the benefit of the three other people hiding under a rock, it is a memoir that chronicles a year of traveling and spiritual exploration after the author's soul-sapping divorce.

I'm shocked at how much I liked the book. I was cautious going in, because I heard the author was on Oprah promoting the story, and that Julia Roberts will star in a movie version. The book's press gave off the faint stench of The Secret, which really is just Social Darwinism respun in less harshly Victorian language (If your life is awesome, it's because YOU are positively special and earned every last orgasm and gold ingot! And if your life sucks, it's because You are negative and dragged those problems right to yourself like a magnet. Got that?)

But by just a few pages in, it was obvious that Gilbert wrote a memoir, not a smug how-to book. She isn't holier than thou or rigidly dogmatic. She's funny, open minded, and as enthusiastic about food in Italy as she is about meditation in India. Reading about her path from lost to found really did inspire me.

And here I am, recently awake to the fact that I am relatively at peace with my dead-baby-and-pregnancy-calamities saga. It took two and a half years, so it's not like it was an overnight change. Yet it feels so markedly different. It's like I've been staring for eons at the random dots in one of those Magic Eye books, and suddenly the big-picture just popped out at me.

For anyone newer to their grief, I would hasten to add that "at peace" doesn't mean I want to turn away from my loss, or distance myself from others out there for whom this is not as settled. I've been struggling to figure out a metaphor that explains the difference between how I felt before and how I feel now. The only one that sort of fits is that of the leg amputee.

We've all heard the death of a child being referred to as similar to amputation, right? It's permanent and impacts every step. The underlying truth is that you would always prefer to have your old leg back, where that an option. And in the beginning, even as you make progress at adapting to being one-legged, the lost leg is always keenly on your mind.

Being at peace is not getting your old leg back. Instead, it's akin to receiving a high-tech prosthetic. After being in a wheel chair and then on crutches, it feels pretty magnificent to bound around as a biped. So you don't think about the fact that all things being equal, you'd still like that real leg back, please. You just enjoy the breeze in your hair, and maybe look to the road ahead.

For me, anyway, that's what peace feels like. For others who have got here (in any matter, grief-related or not) what does it feel like for you?

Friday, June 13, 2008


"Waiting is Painful. Forgetting is painful. But not knowing which to do is the worst kind of suffering." -- Paulo Coelho

This week is the two-year anniversary of my estimated due date for my angel baby. In a different world, I would be ordering a birthday cake and planning for my second daughter's official entry into the terrible twos.

The most interesting thing to me about the anniversary this year is that I forgot it. It was only when I logged into an online support group discussion board I'm a member of and saw my name listed under the "Special Days to Remember" thread that the significance of the date hit me.

Maybe part of the reason I forgot is that my healthier pregnancies ended no where near their due dates. Big A was supposed to make her debut a week before Halloween but stubbornly refused to come out until after Election Day. And Little A arrived in a whole different calendar year than her EDD. For me, due dates have not held true.

And of course, there are no real memories to associate with this. Unlike my angel day, which is burned into memory, the EDD was a guess of an assumption that never came to pass. It is ephermeal as a spiderweb made out of clouds and cricket songs. It casts no shadow. It floats away.

In years past I would have felt guilty for not holding on to my phantom baby bundle tightly on this day. So much of new grief involves fighting the disappearance of your child. We wait for these key anniversaries not only to get past the pain they bring, but to experience the jolt. Sometimes the white-hot memory is less disconcerting than the feeling of the fire going out.

But once you cross the line between forgetting and forgot, it's different. I have no guilt. It's ok. I'm glad to be set free in certain ways. To no longer be waiting, and to finally let the baby be lost.

Thursday, June 12, 2008

Whoever You Are, I Wanna Thank You

The Wabi family vacation equation is that time spent away will be less than or equal to the amount of days spent packing and unpacking. [ :) ≦ %$*#!! ] So even though we only camped last Thursday through Sunday, this Thursday I am still sitting in a house crammed full of sleeping bags, flash lights, coolers, and deflated swim floats. Curiously, I am also still wiping the red clay dirt of the campground out of the children's nooks and crannies. I'm starting to wonder if that stuff is the base for tattoo ink.

And so it was not particularly surprising that being off my routine this week, I forgot to put the garbage cans out to the curb last night. It is a little more surprising and pathetic that I failed to notice all the cans of the neighbors out at the curb this morning when DH wrestled the kids into the car to take them to daycare. I only realized it was garbage day when the truck was roaring away directly outside my house. I ran downstairs through the garage in a halfhearted attempt to chase after the driver, knowing that once they get past your house, all you can really do is cram extra garbage into your over-full can for yet another week. Garbage trucks do not go back in Oakland. Since the hot summer weather has finally arrived here, I knew that it was going to be a smelly and possibly maggoty endeavor for the next week. Yech.

But the cans were not in their corral behind the row of cannas. At first I thought, "Wuh ... who would steal cans full of garbage?" Then the garbage man came around the side of the truck, carrying one large empty can in each of his huge hands.

"I got it," he said congenially.

"You got my cans out of the corral?" I stared at him like he was an alien.

"Sure," he said, shrugging.

So I'm having a Geggy Tah morning, folks. Whoever you are, I wanna thank you, garbage man. Thank you, thank you, thank you!

Wednesday, June 4, 2008

World Through the Lens of a Four Year Old

When my camera refused to turn on, I counted back and realized it was eight years old. Digital cameras age quicker than big dogs, so that's not a bad run. Time for a zippy new model. I laid the old one to rest in the junk drawer and when Big A found it a few months later, there seemed no harm in letting her play with it. Surprisingly, it revved back to life when she hit the power button. So now it is Big A's camera (at least until she drops it on the sidewalk and kills it permanently).

Big A is not interested in learning how to frame a shot or work the flash. She just clicks away excitedly at whatever she likes. I find her photographs fascinating. Somehow they remind me of the smallness of her body in a way that the bigness of her personality sometimes makes me forget.

Do you remember the time when the world of your hallway and bedroom and pillows and sidewalk and street seemed so wide open and so huge?