"Current toys are made of a graceless material, the product of chemistry, not of nature. Many are now moulded from complicated mixtures; the plastic material of which they are made has an appearance at once gross and hygienic, it destroys all the pleasure, the sweetness, the humanity of touch."
A new year really is nothing to be taken lightly, and yet, it is the exact sort of thing a person should take lightly.
It is, by definition, a milestone. As a matter of fact, let’s take a look at that word:
noun: milestone; plural noun: milestones
1. a stone set up beside a road to mark the distance in miles to a particular place.
2. an action or event marking a significant change or stage in development.
(I have a strong distaste for when people use dictionary definitions like this, probably because I started most of my high school essays that way, but, moving on, because I’ve done it.)
On second thought, is a New Year an Event marking a Significant Change? I’d say that changing a digit in the year is a significant sort of change. I don’t know that I’d agree that a New Year marks a significant change in development, however. Time is, after all, a rather arbitrary factor when it comes to development. Or, is it?
We can choose to look at time passing as us, say, dying, I suppose. Or, we can choose to look at time passing, years dropping, not as random, per se, but as conventional wisdom, i.e.: a preservation of the status quo.
New Years’ Resolutions are certainly that though, aren’t they? A way in for places like gyms and cook book publishers to exploit our obsession with—our dutiful internalization of—both the status quo and the clean slate.
The way I’m looking at it, this year, which is precisely how I chose to see it when the clock struck midnight, and I didn’t choke up or get all nostalgic or feel much of anything really, which is what I have done nearly my whole life prior, is that I came to the sort of brutal conclusion that a lot of my life is set.
And I think I’m finally good with that.
I can throw things up in the air: apply to graduate school at thirty, delete the Facebook app from my iPhone, log out of Instagram, and implore myself to be a stronger, much less lazy individual. I can do those things, and one of those things might even stick, but who am I to demand resoluteness at this stage in the game?
What I do know is that I started 2014 as a better writer. I spent the tail end of 2013 revising a story to life and reading more than I’ve ever read, and something, by golly, came of that. I engaged in a process and emerged the victor. That’s good for me. Of course, I’d like to get even better and read even more, but that’s just the next step in what I’ve committed myself to and should ideally come somewhat naturally, if I permit it.
I would still like to engage in the process of becoming a better mother; one who’s not constantly battered down by, dependent on, and at the mercy of technology.
I’d love to engage in the betterment of my physical self. I’d like to eat better despite this newfound dependence on the nutritional barrenness of the Midwest. I’d like to engage with other humans. I’d even like to shower more.
More aptly even, I’d like to refresh The Long Bonds into something that expects less, something that is more realistic, and something that is even a bit uglier. I’d like for The Long Bonds to become a conduit for all aspects of my life, not just the ones that depict a grateful and contented mother, but those other ones too that document a whole woman. This is, by definition, the story of The Long Bonds of one woman’s life, and I’d like it to start looking like that.
I started this blog as a new mother, an unhappily working mother, who pined for her child, constantly, and who was also luxuriating in the newfound creativity this planted within her. In that year or so, I started this blog and blogged often, I wrote and published a short story, I secured a paid freelance opportunity—I am not afraid to say that it was in this vibrant life moment that I became: a writer.
I owe a lot to that woman who took what she had been given and blazed a path for herself. I owe her my life. So, in honor of her, I’m breathing new life into this space. For 2014, The Long Bonds is a place for me to either stop in briefly, eloquently, sloppily, or maybe in a flash—an image, a moving picture—a slab of fiction, a poem, or someone else’s song. I’m struck daily, I think we all are, and since I have this beautiful, dirty slate to share it, I’m going to do just that.
Happy 2014, no matter how you cut it.
Here we are. About a month and a half to go before we leave this place. This place. Most of the time, this city feels like all I’ve ever known…
because I guess it is.
My world swelled and imploded and came to final, crushing blows here. I crashed and burned, held on tight, fell in and out of love with so many things, and took my first adult steps on the ragged path of figuring out what it means to be human and why it’s probably pretty worth it – despite it all – here.
I met best friends here, and my husband, and our baby boy. I grew out of friendships and philosophies and obsessions and into new ones, here. I discovered art here, and quite a bit of myself. I lived with and worked with and drank with and did stupid and beautiful things with all the key places and players in each of the many drunken, befuddled, spastically social and lowest of the low phases of my 20s, here.
Whether in Chinatown, Goose Hollow, Lower East Burnside, North, or finally, Nob Hill, this city ate me alive, and I, it.
In a lot of ways, this is where I landed. And now I’m leaving.
I’m comforting myself with thoughts that this place, my city, has outgrown its britches. The birthplace of so much dirty beauty, Portland is now a place of spit and polish. As storefronts change and neighborhoods gloss over almost into parodies of their former selves, I try to remind myself that if Bastian were to grow up in Portland, he wouldn’t be growing up in my Portland or the Portland before me. He’d be growing up in what Portland is now, which is maybe going to be like growing up in San Francisco or Brooklyn. These places that are still great, surely with hidden corners where one can still sorta get lost, but no longer grimy little beacons of bedlam with so many dark and exquisite secrets.
So, we many be uprooting him at an age too young to remember the great city he’s leaving behind, but the Portland we’re leaving isn’t the same Portland I came to be in, and Bastian’s journey will be a lot like the one I’ve encapsulated here, just somewhere else. And I’m okay with that.
When I catch the spark to take photos in this last Portland apartment of ours, I remind myself that these are some of the last here. These are photos Bastian will look back on, the ones that will mark his time as a baby born in Portland, Oregon, and that thought is a hard one. But I just try to feel proud that I’m taking the time and energy to capture his growth here, his beauty, and that this is one of many gifts we’re preparing for him to remember it all by.
So, this was your time in Portland, baby. In our teeny tiny apartment smack dab in the center of the city, where our days were filled with trips to our parks and our markets, to the library, the Children’s Museum, and to Friendly House. Where all of our living, even our eating, was done in that one cozy (ha!) room when we were the entirety of your world. This time was very, very special. Now blow it a kiss… catch!
It’s a special sort of painful joy, raising a boy. A boy who will grow and one day be, in a lot of almost inevitable ways, forced to see and exist in this world through the eyes of a man.
Having just finished Jack Kerouac’s On the Road, not for the first time, but this time, after experiencing something different and huge, I now have strong new thoughts on boy-rearing.
Around the middle of the book, I took note of this: “because here we are dealing with the pit and prune-juice of poor beat life itself in the god-awful streets of man…”
Moriarty and Paradise both fight restless souls in one of the same ways; they move. There is something of the two, something tender and festering, that won’t let them settle in any one place with any one person.
Whereas Dean almost comically but utterly tragically refuses to commit by way of committing his desperate and sour heart all over the place, Sal genuinely and mistakenly thinks he yearns to. Still, they are but two sides of the same coin – American boys saddled with itchy souls too heavy to do things conventionally. They are beautiful, compassionate, feeling thinkers who cannot help but wade thickly in the ways of hard-fought enlightenment and forever impending self-destruction. They are ruthless in living. They are savagely beat.
I want nothing more than for Bastian Wilde to grow into a man who is comfortable and dedicated to loving. A man who is comfortable caring for himself and his loved ones, a man who plants roots. I believe that there is nothing more important in this life than investing ourselves in what and whom we love, and that this is the only path to fulfillment.
But I also aim to raise a man who fights for life and drinks it all in, in this one and only ferocious gulp we are given, because when it’s gone, all is gone. It is a forever goneness that feeds and maintains the roots of our children and their children and theirs. It is an inevitable coming for all, and indeed, all that will be left is the consequence of our lives’ choices.
I intend to raise my boy into a man who chooses to live fully and robustly, and who, like his father, eventually chooses wisely.
The thing about having a blog that you don’t want to give up but that you can’t seem to get yourself to prioritize updating regularly, is that when you do sit down to post, you want to write about EVERYTHING, and you can’t very well write about EVERYTHING without rambling and eventually losing steam, so you get kinda stuck.
Hence, this. What’s on my (our) mind(s):
Finding an apartment in Madison that we can see ourselves enjoying for at least a few years because we MOVE there in, oh, three months!
Choosing a method of transportation for all of our shit; shooting for something that doesn’t cost a fortune or require Adam to drive alone and in a hurry (AKA, U haul)
Taking care of my damn self, ie: I’ve been in this weird funk where I’m craving crap and alcohol, which is strange because I had been eating so well and thinking that I’d come to the realization that alcohol is really wasteful and, quite literally, exhausting
Giving the iPhone the real and true boot because I genuinely can’t figure out if it enriches my life or if it’s a total mind-zapping waste of time and energy, and the very idea that I’m torn between these two incredible extremes is mildly terrifying
Biding time, man
Tensions have been a tad high around here the last couple of days. Adam is working so very hard to coordinate all the wants and needs for our move and subsequent lives in Madison, and I am seeing how difficult a task it is written all over his beautiful, tired face.
We’re all so excited – even Bastian asks us daily if we can go to “Medicine” – but this is one helluva limbo, and has been for a couple years now, so I think we’re all just ready to get where we’re going and be there a good, long while.
I think what I’m most looking forward to is meeting new friends. Friends from all over the place, different kinds of people, who I can cook for and just be comfortable with. It’s time for those good things.
I would also like to hit another stride with this piece I’m working on so that I can do something with it. I’m ready to publish again. I’ve only published once, and if it doesn’t happen again soon, I’m calling fluke.
So, that’s where I’m (we’re) at as of late. Oh, and we’re also at the park, swinging and stuff. A lot.
Work is hard for me. I get that work isn’t easy for anybody, that’s what makes it work, but man, even the idea of it makes me cringe. For me to perform it, like most other adult humans on the planet, work has to be disguised as something I really love, something that fulfills me from top to bottom. I do realize that I work every single day at being a good, solid mama, and that’s some 24/7 hard work that I do happily and willingly. But I believe – somewhere deep down – that it’s my duty to find fulfilling work outside of motherhood; for me, for Bastian, for my marriage, and for the other relationships in my life on which I hope to once again focus.
This is why, the other night, I was so surprised to read an article that opened my eyes to the possibility of pursuing and enjoying another kind of work.
At this time in my life, I feel like I have to be really careful differentiating between my heart and my impulses. I’ve always had a great deal of passion and very little resolve. Like, zero follow-through. For a long time, I had that syndrome of the young and the restless, where I truly believed that I could do anything, that it was just a matter of me deciding what that was. Now that I’m a mother and a wife, a single unit of three whose decisions affect the lot of us, those serious, time consuming, money costing decisions have to be just that: decisions. Not whims, not experiments, not phases – decisions – which also require a firm commitment. Eek.
Enter adulthood; upon which, my hopes and dreams have gradually yet designedly unraveled and almost entirely shifted, and I’ve finally come to realize that I’m just lacking intention. That it’s difficult for me to solve problems, such as the processes required to become solid at anything, and that I don’t really value work. That I’ve grown astoundingly fearful of commitment. That I’ve become startlingly settled.
But enough about that.
The other night, which I previously spoke of, I read an article on a specific birth doula in Brooklyn, and BOOM, I got that funny feeling. A funny feeling that I’m accustomed to but that this time, somehow, felt pretty tangible. Working as a birth doula aligns with my passions and my pyschic goals, while also presenting powerful challenges that I’d love nothing more than to meet and overcome. It also, by definition, has the potential to provide for my continuous, ferocious, internal urge to serve.
The thing is, it’s hard work. It will take money, time, and initiative to become certified. The certification process and subsequent work will require a lot of me, of my time, energy, and undying commitment.
I’m fearful of all of this, which is to say that I’m fearful of falling out of love with the work. Here, already. Just on the precipice of making the decision to go for it.
I also have a mightily supportive and trusting husband who happens to be (it’s no coincidence) the most intentional, hard working, committed person most people will ever meet. Hmph.
So here I lie, in the early stages of the process of committing myself to a kind of work, which is in itself already a commitment. And I’m fucking scared.
Last weekend, we celebrated my mother’s, Bastian’s meemaw’s, birthday. We took the bus out to our old ‘hood, North Portland, to a truly noteworthy little brunch place called sweedeedee. Bastian was still fighting the tale end of one of the many winter ailments he’s suffered this year – the worst of the lot actually – but it was still a good day.
I don’t know that I ever shared on here that Adam didn’t get accepted into any graduate programs last year. It was a crushing blow to us all. I was still selling my soul at my empty, empty corporate job, and Adam was doing everything he could to find something, anything, to get me out of it. Then, when what felt at the time like our only option was taken away from us, we actually dusted ourselves off pretty quickly. We made things work. Adam made things work. He went about the painstaking process of starting over. And he killed it.
This month, he’s received a flury of acceptances to graduate Sociology programs all over the country, including the absolute best. Out of the eight he applied to, he was accepted to six. This summer, we will either be moving our family from Portland, OR to Bloomington, IN, Madison, WI, or Providence, RI. The choice is impossible, so I’m glad I’m not the one making it.
This post started out as a recap of my mother’s birthday, so to tie it all up: my mother is an enormous part of Bastian’s life. He delights in her and she in him, in a way for which I don’t quite have words. Though we live in a culture where families are split all across the globe, and this has become the norm, almost the expected; when you have children, things change. It would simply be devastating to separate meemaw and Bastian.
So come summer, she will be joining us wherever we end up.
Because I tend to keep to myself, my mother is my help with Bastian. I rely on her probably a bit more heavily than I should. She watches Bastian every Thursday so I can write for a few hours – if I didn’t have that, I wouldn’t be writing. She helps this anxious, sensitive, introverted, weirdo mama feel a little less off, a little more productive. I wouldn’t be the mother I am without her.
A lot of blood-and-guts thoughts go hand-in-hand with this decision. For instance, I was away from my mother for one year, my freshman year of college at the University of Oregon. After that first year, I missed Portland something fierce and have been here ever since. This isn’t to say I haven’t been on my own. I’ve lived on my own and supported myself financially since then. And our relationship has almost always been a tumultuous one that has most certainly suffered its fair share of setbacks.
So, I sometimes do think about what kind of woman I’d be without the intense air of my mother in my everyday. What I would have done with freedom from that. I haven’t yet answered these questions, and probably never will. What I do know is that there is such an innate connection between mother and daughter that some of us go about unraveling it pretty early on, or some of us really only know how to cope with it from afar, on certain occasions and holidays, over the phone. My relationship with my mother is and almost always has been an everyday one. One that still has a long ways to go.
My mother’s relationship with my son is beautiful and crucial and not anything I’m willing to compromise, especially not with cavities of time in between when they can see each other next – not now anyway. Not yet. Not when he’s so young and so desperately in love with his own enamored, everyday world of three.
Happy birthday, meemaw.
I was my happiest when I was pregnant. Then, I was my happiest after I’d had him and was working Mon-Fri 8-4, pumping breast milk in an empty office three times a day, and writing in this blog about how happy I was, thinking constantly about how much I just wanted to stay home with him. I think I was writing honestly. It felt pretty honest at the time. But I was in a dream world where I was constantly reflecting on how it felt and what it meant to be a mother. Now I’m actually living it 24 hours a day, and that makes it different. For whatever reason, a lack of distance perhaps, it also makes it more difficult to reflect.
Now, I am finally back to my old ways of sometimes finding it difficult to get out of bed. Only now, I have this remarkable little human to snap my ass out of it most of the time.
It’s truly hard for someone like me to have to wake up, get out of bed, and get on with a day unless I absolutely have to get up and get on with a day – like, unless something with high, high stakes is hanging in the balance, such as a job or a flight or something. Like I ever fly anywhere; case in point.
This pisses Bastian off to no end, only now, he’s sort of adjusting. He’ll lie there sort of patiently and ask for a banana, then maybe doze off again. Hallelujah. Then he’ll nurse, which really can’t be offering much sustenance or magical sleep potion power as it once did. Then, he starts demanding that I get up. Literally. “Get UP. Get out of that bed, mama!”
When he starts tugging on me, that’s usually when I sluggishly oblige. I’m such an asshole.
So, naturally, the questions are: does this make me a lousy mother? Sometimes it feels like it. Does this make me a hopeless depressive? Well, there was a time in my life when I would have been more comfortable giving into my stupid feelings and my past and all that mumbo jumbo and saying, yes, I have strong depressive tendencies. But now, I am a mother. Now, I have a tiny human who depends on me to be a whole person. I’ve lost the opportunity to sink and wallow in my million and one feelings and allow myself the luxury of feeling all black and blue and tired all the time. But I can’t keep all of my mortal secrets from him – he will probably always know that I am not much of a morning person, unless I have to be, and that it takes me far more time than daddy to get out of pajamas. Oh, and that I have an unfortunate, nasty temper. He may even be lucky and human enough to inherit some of these awesome traits.
The thing is, as it so gracefully turns out, having someone of my flesh and blood and ultimate responsibility, who is relatively helpless and entirely dependent on me, suits me. I may have started having those first moments of morning again where my thoughts race a little for something worth functioning for – something worth life participation – but for the rest of my days, if all goes as planned, I will have that something, that someone. And the way my very nature seems to see it, when I became a mother, I ran out of stupid excuses to not be happy.
Sadly, I’ll probably always be flawed. I’ll probably always have more lazy mornings than not, and I’ll probably always think way too much about how I feel about shit. Oh, and I’ll probably always only be good for two things – writing (what I want to write) and being a mama. But at least it’s two things now and not just one, and at least the very core of me chose these things with great purpose. I’m proud that my mind, body and soul responded to motherhood in this way, and I feel so very fortunate that it happened like that. I was recently reading a vague and uncomplicated piece about Postpartum Depression, and all I could think the whole was how I can’t imagine experiencing anything resembling a state of depression upon the arrival of a newborn. Sure, I was weepy those first super hard weeks, and sure I went through a state of grieving the loss of what had become precious, amazing pregnant time with my partner, but I was also a new mama. All that weepy bullshit was constantly being overpowered by the fact that I had brand new tiny Bastian Wilde. This may sound totally selfish and irritating and not at all sensitive to this awful thing that so many women go through, and mostly silently, but it’s my honest response. It’s just true – I’m stoked that my entire being immediately agreed with becoming a mother and I’m really proud of my chemistry for that because I guess I’m just not all that used to it responding the healthy way.
I guess I felt the need to sort of apologize just then to cover my ass, but I do know in my heart that if another baby is in the cards for us, my future experience won’t necessarily follow suit. So, I suppose I feel that as a woman and a mother, it is my right to bathe in the glory of an enlightening, invigorating, inspiring postpartum experience and sort of also choose to forget that my nether regions felt like freshly ground hamburger meat for months. The end.