Monthly Archives: February 2011

The arts of wordless mindfulness and mindful words

Between pregnancy canceling one set of plans and a miscalculation of the number of elective credits remaining needed to graduate, I signed up at the last minute to take an especially woo class1 this past weekend, one I had never intended to take at all.

Part of what we do in massage (both giving and receiving), and one of the reasons it is so beneficial, is to have a time when the mind is not the focus of the self. It is the body that is the focus — my hands and arms and how I stand and move and dance to touch the body before me when I give, my skin and muscles and fat and blood and flesh and fascia and the wholeness of me, my pain and pleasure and the simple feeling-ness of being touched with love when I am receiving. My mind still babbles — of course it does — but I breathe, and let it go, and return to my body and the work I am doing2.

Reiki is that aspect of massage distilled. Rather than the body being the focus as in massage (or the mind as it is in most of our lives), now it is, whatever this means to you, spirit3. Most of the 18 hours of class was spent in the stillness of motionlessness as well as the silence of voicelessness — I cannot speak to anyone else’s experience, but mine was hardly silent otherwise. The brain, so skilled at formulating thoughts, continues its work regardless of our intent or desire, and so sitting in “silence” is anything but. Grocery lists, to-do items, old memories, projected worries — these I can let go of. These I am happy to send on their merry way, to let slip down the stream as unneeded creations of a mind only doing it job, not knowing when its production is unnecessary. But what comes to me in that stillness and silence that I wish to cling to, wish to grab hold of and jump up and run for pen and paper and the scritching sound of my hand moving one against the other, is the words. Post ideas fully formed, phrases finally perfectly turned, eloquence and persuasiveness and emotions given voice. How do I let go of these, when I know in a few hours — at most, a few days — I will be sitting here yet again begging for them to come?

There’s a writerly saying that the first 500, 750, 1000 words of the day are crap, but you have to write them, write through them and past them, in order to get to the good stuff. Some nights I feel like these are my 1000 words, and if I could just stay up longer, could sleep in tomorrow, could avoid insanity and instability on an irregular sleep schedule; if I could do this during work hours, could get out the first 1000 words when my part of the planet is facing the sun, could sit and write revolution instead of agitate in spurts of 140 characters or fewer in the few minutes’ attention that is all my child will allow to deviate from him: then I could get to those gems that pester at my brain, that beg to be heard and recorded after the 1000 are tossed up on the blog with mutters of “good enough”, which are not becalmed by the couple times a week I am able to sit here, laptop earning its name, but are instead bestirred by them — only to fade or flee when I, exhausted, say no, stop now, I have to sleep, I have no time for you: come back next week, next month, next life.

They never do.

So when they come in the silence and the stillness, in the midst of supposedly-good-for-me meditation — I am supposed to let them go? (The pain of doing so was one of the many reasons I found myself in tears more than once this weekend.) Perhaps a Buddha or a Hallmark card would say they are butterflies and are crushed with the clinging, or that if they love me then they will return, but I, with a few stolen hours a day a few fought-for times a week and but a few months until even that, perhaps, is impossible, cannot convince myself I have the time for such patience, for such woo and trust and surrender.

Likely the prudent path4 would be to take the time to meditate before writing — instead of poking around Twitter, say. And perhaps, one day, I will do that: after all, tonight I showered before sitting down5, so here I am at only 10pm with my nearly-1000 words. Perhaps one day I’ll be that disciplined and evolved and mature. Perhaps one day I won’t be so surrounded by kids and chaos and an overflow of needs unmet that I’ll have the time and the space and the ability to sit and be before I sit and attempt to do this work.

Or perhaps one day I’ll realize that I cannot afford to waste my time struggling to create through all that stuff when I could, instead, take a few minutes first to let it go, set it aside so the words and I don’t have to fight to find each other.

Perhaps one day.

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  1. Reiki, which was simultaneously less and more woo than I’d expected. Keep your eye-rolling to yourself, please.
  2. For receiving massage is its own sort of work — not work as in labor, but as in the work of being alive and present, the beautiful work of the breath and of being.
  3. A perhaps ridiculously-simplified statement of my beliefs is that mind and spirit are not separate from but arise from — are functions of — the body. I am, still, a theist, but an independent “soul” is unnecessary to my experience of the spiritual or the divine.
  4. 10 year old philosophy of ethics paper on Aristotle for the win. Thanks, Professor Marya.
  5. While my kid screamed he didn’t want to go to bed and he did want to stay up and shower with me, and while my mind flooded with variations on “please come, words, please, for me, please come, please” so loudly and rapidly nothing else — except my child’s yells — could squeeze its way in. So it wasn’t quite the peaceful and productive experience I might have hoped for.

Naked Pictures of Faceless People: Yes, Tinkerbell!

Welcome to RMB’s Naked Pictures of Faceless People, a series of guest posts from diverse anonymous bloggers. (Read more about NPFP’s origins.) These are the posts that are jumping to get out of us, but for whatever reason — safety, embarrassment, conflict of interest, protection of loved ones’ reputations or feelings, or so on — we don’t or won’t or can’t post at our own blogs. Anyone, whether blogger or reader only, is welcome to submit or discuss a potential post by emailing me at arwyn at raisingmyboychick dot com.

Yes, Tinkerbell!

I am the mother of a toddler boy (or apparent boy, but I’m going to stick with the male pronoun since as best we know it applies), and recently he had his second birthday. We took him out to do several things. Including pick something (modest, not huge) out at the toy store, and get a toddler pillow for his new bed.

At the toy store, we were wandering with him in his dad’s arms (where he had chosen to be), trying to spot things to offer him as choices. As we strolled through the books, he lunged down to grab at a book on a shelf that was waist-high to his dad (ie, down around his feet) and clung to it. Well, then. The book in question was a Tinkerbell book, an oversize board book with a little keyboard that played some pre-set sounds related to the story. My husband was briefly concerned but, to my relief, his concern was whether or not the book had small parts (our son still tries to eat his toys and books) — it was age-suitable, and my husband relaxed.

Our son loves this book. He punched buttons all the day he got it, and he comes back to it frequently. One button is a pink sparkly heart that makes a sound I can only describe as sparkly, and the first time I heard it I said “Awwww!” (in that sappy voice you do) and now my son says that about every fifth time he hears that button.

That evening we went to get him a second pillow for his newly-converted bed (he already had one I made him). There were a number of options, but once we offered him the Tinkerbell pillow he rejected all others in the “this one or that one?” game and clung to it throughout the store. So Tinkerbell came home again.

When we got home, he poked the pillow in Tink’s nose and frowned. “Bwoken!”

“No, honey, it’s not broken. The book makes music. That’s a pillow. It’s still Tinkerbell, but it doesn’t make music.”

He set the pillow down on a chair and went back to playing with the book. I left the tags on the pillow, waiting to see what would happen (and to give him time to forget the disappointment), and he appeared to ignore it for the most part. Two days later I asked him if he wanted the Tinkerbell pillow in his bed (the Tinkerbell book stays downstairs; we try to keep loud toys out of the bedroom). “Tinkuhbell upstairs!” He hugged the pillow. I took the tags off. He’s cuddled it many nights since.

I don’t personally understand his love of it: it’s very pretty, and the back side is soft, but the Tinkerbell side is scratchy because of the fabrics and threads she’s done in. All the same, he does love it.

To those of you who, when told this story, give a sigh of relief when I describe his disappointment to discover that the pillow didn’t make music, and to whom I never tell the ending: fuck you. The Tinkerbell pillow is cute, my son loves it, and I probably ought to tell you that but I also refuse to pull him — a living breathing person you know — into a battle he doesn’t even realize exists.

To those of you who are neutral: thank you.

To those of you who visibly bristle when I say I left the tags on the pillow (often before I say why, because of how I normally tell it, feeling out my audience), and who relax or smile when you hear why, and that he did keep it? Thank you. Thank you for caring enough to be ready to tell me off (or at least be contemplating it) if I was squashing my child. I remember, and I appreciate it.

Thank goodness, none of the people who disapprove of his love of Tink are close to him so far. (At least as far as I know; maybe someone hid it better, but if they hide it, it’s their problem, not his or mine.) Because if it were someone who would bring it up to him, I’d have a Conversation to have.

A few things for you to think about, if my son’s love of Tinkerbell bugs you:

1. He’s two. Just barely two. Nothing about now is permanent, unless it is. There’s no way to know.

2. What is he supposed to do, hate girls or fairies? I’m not too worried about him being antisocial with faeries (the Tinkerbell kind, not using this as the modern slang, thanks), but he does have to attend school and work with girls and women as he grows, and I’d rather he liked them than not!

3. If you’re worried he’ll grow up feminine, or gay, or…let me just say that if he turns out to be a lesbian when he grows up? My one hope would be that he’ll be a happy one. Which means that if you disapprove of this kind of thing, you’re not the person I want much involved in his life, in case I’m using all the wrong pronouns now.

He’s young, and he’s a person, and he’s finding his own way. I won’t push him to like or dislike Tinkerbell — or trucks, or dragons, or roaring, or anything else that isn’t harmful to himself or others. And if I can help it, I won’t let others, either.

Because I want him to grow up whole and strong. Whoever he is, whoever he will be, he is my child and I love him. And I expect you to at least respect that he is and ought to be his own person.

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From Arwyn: For more posts on this topic which, serendipitously (or unsurprisingly, given my known interest in gender and parenting) I recently ran across, see Tinkerbell Valentine of Much Consternation and And Another Thing! at Pax (Ro)mama and My Sons are Gender Conformists at Blogging When the Baby Isn’t Looking.

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Fat and pregnant: week 13

First — the belly pics!

Week 13 -- belly has definitely "popped", breasts may be larger

Compare with week 10:

10 weeks. Subtle changes, but uterus hasn't yet risen out of pelvis.

Next: I talk technology and the (yes, I recognize the amusing juxtaposition here) invisible pregnant person.

Last weekend, we had our first prenatal visit. Our midwives come to our house, and we basically sit around and chat for an hour1 and it is pretty much The Best Way To Spend My Health Insurance Company’s Money Ever.

Also, we heard the heartbeat.

As a rule, unless indicated, I don’t do imaging ultrasound in pregnancy2, and besides the blood tests I get to monitor my thyroid (and the basic prenatal panel3 because hey, if I’m gonna get poked anyway…), the first Doppler search for the heartbeat is about as high tech as I hope to ever get in pregnancy.

And I gotta say — it was amazing. And awesome, in both colloquial and original meanings. When we tried at 12 weeks with the Boychick, the placenta was anterior and blocked us from getting at him, so we didn’t bother trying again, and didn’t hear his heartbeat until it was late enough we used the good old fashioned fetoscope. But this time, though it took a couple minutes as Child Number 2 kept giving us the slip and Child Number 1 kept trying to “help”, we heard the machine’s reproduction of the oh-so-fast thupathupthupathupthupathup of the little protoperson’s heartbeat.

As is typical for many people in I-would-bet-most pregnancies, I’ve been in something like denial about the reality of this. Or, more accurately, I go through phases where I’m convinced it’s all in my head, or really I have a tumor not a fetus, or the pregnancy died two months ago and my body just hasn’t flushed it yet, or, or, or… So hearing that heartbeat was Really Big, and made those crazy voices that much easier to ignore.

And yet…

Why?

I question a society that, rather than giving me space to voice my fears and let them go as I am able, expects me to use technology to “prove” myself wrong (or right). I question a society that says pregnancy isn’t really-real until the urine stick or the blood test or the ultrasound or the Doppler says it is. I question a society that demands direct access to information about the being I carry, through ultrasound and amniocentesis and even the fetoscope, rather than viewing me as whole and solid, as a person in my own right, and this pregnancy as a function of my body. I question the deification of the “objective” and the derision and dismissal of the “subjective”4.

I’m not questioning prenatal technology per se, nor anyone’s use of it: it, itself, is a tool, and as all tools is neutral, and capable of great benefit. There are times when a near-direct look at an embryo or fetus is exactly what is called for, and I am so grateful we have the technology available for those who need or desire it. Further, I am happy to celebrate with someone who is thrilled about the first ultrasound pictures, or benign amniocentesis results, or, yes, hearing the first Doppler-reproduced heartbeat. No curmudgeon, I, out to tell anyone Yer Doin It Rong.

But there’s an important, if subtle, difference between celebrating with a person, and exalting or idolizing the information. I experienced both, when I told others about hearing the heartbeat, and one felt great, as sharing good news with friends should, and the other felt… jarring. And erasing. What is the difference? Those celebrating with me were happy that I was happy; what my news was barely mattered, only that I found it something worth a grin or ten. The other comments focused on the information and what it “meant”: that — finally! — there was evidence that the pregnancy was healthy, that the fetus was fine, that my body, surprise!, hadn’t fallen down on its job. Because those things can’t be assumed, can’t be trusted based on my experience of nausea and exhaustion and food aversions and tightening waistlines.

Part of it, I know, is that some people have experienced losses, or difficulties conceiving, or risky and traumatic pregnancies, or undesired outcomes. Some people have learned not to trust the pregnant body, to rely on the outside look that technology offers. And I understand and sympathize with and am happy to hear and hold the space for that perspective, because it’s no less valid or worthy than any other experience of pregnancy.

But so many of us have, instead, been taught not to trust pregnant bodies, not to trust our own bodies, not to believe anything unless an MD or a machine says it is so. So many of us have learned not just to embrace the “objective” view, but to reject the “subjective” — and that’s what I have a problem with. That is the function-and-formation of kyriarchy, of a system that devalues women and women’s bodies and the typically-female role in pregnancy, that says my opinion and my experience is meaningless because it hasn’t been and can’t be confirmed or controlled by authority, by expertise, by privilege, by power.

I don’t want to reject technology wholesale. I really don’t wish to go back to a world without the options we have now. But I would give so much to exist in a world where a pregnant person was recognized universally as a person, capable of making the best choices for them given full information and uncoerced options; where the subjective was as valid and accepted as the objective; where technology was a tool available when called for; where we didn’t slice up the pregnant body into Vessel and Object, Uterus and Fetus but honored the breathtaking complexity, intricacy, and interdependence of the pregnant system.

I hide away in that world with my midwives for an hour once a month, but then I step out into the rest of humanity, barely-pregnant belly just beginning to jut before me, and I am reminded that what should be a fundamental right for all, regardless of desired place or mode of birth, is, in my society, the rarest of privileges.

  1. And then they take my blood pressure, whilst I’m sitting comfy in my favorite recliner. Anyone surprised it’s ten points lower than when perched on the exam table five minutes after defending my right to decline having my weight taken to my fatphobic primary care provider? Anyone? No?
  2. Just because this is me and I have to, I’m going to take this moment to bust the myth that Doppler technology is somehow “less” intense than imaging sonography, for those concerned about ultrasonic radiation. Rather, Doppler uses continuous waves, compared to imaging ultrasound’s split-second waves. Although I couldn’t tell you which creates a more irritating uterine environment, the pulse or the constant, in purely number-of-waves terms, there’s probably about as much exposure in a minute of Doppler use as in a 20-30 minute imaging ultrasound. There are other reasons to avoid imaging sonography, not least because the American College of Radiology discourages its routine use in pregnancy without specific medical indication, but I gotta say I have to try not to roll my eyes when people avoid it over concerns about the long-term effects but happily use Doppler to hear the heartbeat at every appointment.
  3. Not the tripple/quad screen or aught, just the “Do you have HIV?” stuff.
  4. Both in scare-quotes here as every experience — including the act of observing — is inherently subjective to some extent. Though the subject/object duality is a sometimes useful shorthand, I reject the notion that there is any such state as “purely objective”.

5 steps to creating a blog post and/or nervous breakdown, or, why I don’t get more work done

For Holly, who suggested the topic “All the things you can do to avoid going to bed. ;) ” This is not that. But I was inspired.

Step One: Send Child to Bed.

This is a 2-57 step process usually involving food, one dozen hugs minimum — all of which must be proceeded by “Look at this run! Are you watching? OK, watch this run!” followed by being tackled, aka hugged — more food, watching the child get naked, sending him off to bed with his father, sending him back to bed with his father, sending him back to bed again this time with a water bottle which must be filled up because it was two whole millimeters below completely full, and approximately one thousand exchanges of “good night! sleep well! you too! YOU TOO! MAMA SAY YOU TOO! Good night! Work well! Good night!” after which any thoughts of ideas for writing topics have been replaced by fantasies of what getting really drunk must be like1.

Step Two: Check Twitter and Attempt to Write

Check @ messages. Wonder why no one has @ messaged me, or, get overwhelmed by number of @ messages and ignore. Open New Post file. Send out test balloon tweet. Write 1-3 sentences on topic of choice; decide I need more inspiration, go read links on Twitter. Retweet most interesting articles that happen to have been tweeted within past half hour. Think “Crap I need to go read that article by Summer Minor I Fav’d last month.” Don’t. Return to post; change dash to semicolon. Comment on people’s humorous parenting/bad day/new baby/rant of the hour/outrage of the day/cause of the week tweets. Return to new post only to be distracted by incoming @ messages. Engage in witty exchange with 1-20 people. Think “Hah! My brother’s not the only one in the family who can make people laugh.” Squash ominous feeling that all tweets will seem 1/100th as funny in daylight. Click over to WordPress, try to remember topic of 1-3 sentences and why it seemed like a good idea. Become overwhelmed. Realize three hours have passed, child will be waking up in seven hours and all creativity has been discharged in medium that will not remember said wit in two hours, much less next month. Reconsider addiction obsession relationship with Twitter. Proclaim lack of productivity, declare good night. On Twitter.

Step Three: Close the Computer

The length of this step is directly proportional to how overtired I am, and also to certain-persons-who-will-remain-nameless2‘s proximity to a chat program, and can take anywhere between ten minutes and two hours.

Step Four: Prepare for Bed

Take pills, tidy up3, check pets, turn off lights, take shower, have post idea and fully formed paragraphs take hold of my brain while rinsing hair, curse, proceed to step 5a or 5b.

Step Five A: Go to bed

Swear that this time post idea will remain in brain overnight, read fanfic on the iPhone to get words to stop cascading, fall asleep, forget topic much less gorgeous turn of phrase by morning. With luck, also forget said loss of words and thoughts.4

Step Five B: Write

Concede that topic and/or words and/or need for publishing post is, tonight, more urgent than sleep, spend one hour writing, two hours editing and adding links, [one hour back on Twitter gathering encouragement to finish and/or publish], bite nails, hit post, Tweet link, check Facebook and Twitter for reactions, reload Facebook and Twitter, check bit.ly stats for number of clicks, check WordPress for new comments, wonder why no one is commenting, reload Facebook and Twitter again, curse universe for making me post when no one is awake, check bit.ly stats, comment queue, Facebook, and Twitter one more time (and one more time again), close computer, turn off lights (again), stumble to bed, calculate sleep debt, and swear unto all the gods, goddesseses, demons, sprites, fae, and pink fluffy unicorns5 that next time I really, truly, really will actually start writing when I first sit down.

  1. I don’t drink… alcohol, as a rule, and never have. I’ve been drunk once in my life, and The Man still hasn’t forgiven me for it being at a time when he wasn’t there to witness.
  2. Kareena.
  3. This step optional.
  4. I am not lucky.
  5. Dancing on rainbows and otherwise.

Quick hit on parenting, play, and power

Pregnant + school + sick = series of short posts. Drop me a line if there’s a topic you want covered.

All of us are at various stages of sick. I’m on the tail end, The Man is on the just-after-the-worst day, and the Boychick has just spent nearly four hours completely stationary in my or his dad’s lap with the first-stage fever.

But now he’s done sitting.

Having declared no more Doctor Who and somehow survived the following ten minute wobbler, we’ve moved on. So, because this is the kind of day it is when we’re all sick and low on coping skills anyway, the Boychick has gotten up and is hitting — bopping, really, but he’s calling it hitting, and it’s got to be annoying either way — the back of his dad’s legs, laughing every time. The Man is standing with his back to the wall to avoid the not-that-tiny fists, and they’re both getting more and more frustrated.

Me, trying to figure out how we’re going to get out of this without yelling: “Hey kid, are you wanting connection? Do you want a hug?”

The Boychick, laughing: “No, I want to hit him!”

Me, and it feels like an epiphany: “Do you want to play?”

The Boychick: “Yes!”

The Man, exhausted: “Do you want to play reading books?”

The Boychick, offended at the obvious parental attempt to get out of real play: “No!”

The Man: “Do you want to roll a ball?”

The Boychick: “I want to play catch!”

The Man: “Alright, go get a soft ball, we’ll play catch.”

And so he does, and so they are. No one’s stressed, no one’s yelling, no one’s frustrated from unmet needs, and parent and child are enjoying each other’s company.

Parenting doesn’t have to be a power struggle.