Grief

Last Sunday, my freshman college hallmate died.  And I rocked my baby to sleep that night and cried and thought about her. Thought about how it was her who introduced me to my husband, who arranged for outings with me and him so that I could spend time with him, who arranged for him to come over to our dorm when he wanted nothing to do with me, and invited me to hang out with them.  She was absolutely delighted when we got together and she got me through some really difficult times.  We drifted apart and hadn’t seen each other in a long time, but I thought about her sometimes and hoped she was happy.

There are a lot of things about losing somebody suddenly like this that are absolutely gutting.  There is the sheer suddenness of it all.  There is the feeling like perhaps you should have seen this person more.  But the thing I was utterly unprepared for is how absolutely horrible it is, as a parent, to consider the possibility of losing a child.  I can’t read things about toddlers who die anymore, it just wrecks me.  But there are no words for the horror of thinking about a parent having to take their child off life support and letting them go.  I’ve been rocking my daughter to sleep at night all week because right now I can’t even bear to have her cry.

In times of grief, I find myself rereading The Year of Magical Thinking, by Joan Didion.  It is a study in grief, written after she lost her husband and while her daughter was suffering from serious illness.  And she phrases well what I have learned about grief.

“Grief is different. Grief has no distance. Grief comes in waves, paroxysms, sudden apprehensions that weaken the knees and blind the eyes and obliterate the dailiness of life.”

I have days, even now, where I feel the loss of my chosen godfather, a surrogate parent, a man who embodied everything I knew to be good, so fiercely, so harshly, that I simply need to take a minute. And he died five years ago.  I have days where I still think to myself that we simply must have him and his wife over for dinner.  And it stops me in my tracks.

Time helps, but I know that I will never fully heal.  And that is okay, because I let the loss fuel me.  It drives me to prioritize making time to see my friends, to say what I feel and to thank people for the things they do for me, to apologize when I’m wrong and to work to not take people for granted.  I still do it a lot, but recognizing the importance of not letting things go unsaid, of, as Four says in Divergent, “let[ting] the guilt remind us to do better next time.”

The life that I have right now, with a kid who is really close to counting to ten and can speak in whole sentences and loves books and fishies and elevator buttons and revolving doors, and with a husband who is funny and charming and works hard and makes me want to be the partner he deserves, this whole life of mine is because of one person.  And I hadn’t thought about it in those terms until now and I never fully thanked her for it.

So yes, as you start off this week, think about the people who have made your life possible, or worth living, or who brought you where you are, and thank them. Kind gestures, kind words, or an afternoon visit in which you make time for them; these will not be things you regret.

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Old job, new job, red job, blue job.

I still think of my job as my “new” job. Even though I’ve been at this job almost as long as I was at my last job.  In nine months, I will have been at this job longer than I’ve been at any job ever.  And yet, I still think of it as my new job. I say things like, “my new job is really low litigation”. I say things like, “at my last job I did x” and I talk about it was yesterday and then I remember that was 2 years ago.

The thing about general practice is that you are constantly learning.  When I first started, I had a case and my coworker asked me if I had ever defended somebody in this kind of case and I said, “yeah, I mean, I think I’ve only done it ten times.” And she said, “I don’t think there is any kind of case I’ve done ten times.” And I have been there two years and I can see what she meant. I had three hearings this week.  They were each my first of each type of hearing. They were each different. One was state administrative, one was federal administrative, and one was landlord-tenant.

So, two years in, I continue to feel like the new kid.  Which is really great, because I love a challenge. I love learning new things and new areas and I love that part of my job. I am never bored.  I am often anxious, tired, stressed out, and hungry, but I am never bored.

I miss, frequently, the simplicity of my old job. I miss practicing in the same courthouse, in front of the same judges, who I knew, who respected the work I did.  I miss working in a coalition of people working towards common goals.  Ultimately this has been the right move for me, for now, but I think I would like to specialize again someday. I’m just not sure in what, and it’s hard to figure it out when you don’t do that many of any particular kind of case.  I think, ultimately, that I may be more interested in specializing in a specific type of lawyering than in a specific practice area.

When I first took this job, I told myself I would give it two years and reassess.  Did I want the same things? How would the commute wear on me? It took me an hour and eight minutes to get home today, so yes, it’s wearing on me. But at the same time, I was thinking last week what a relief it is to go to my neighborhood pool and not worry about clients seeing me in my bathing suit because my clients don’t live anywhere near where I work.  That distance has been surprisingly nice.  I did expect by the end of the first two years to know what I wanted to specialize in, but so far, I’m not significantly closer to figuring it out. I’ve managed to figure out what I don’t want to do, but there are a lot of practice areas and crossing one after another off a list isn’t really the most efficient way to figure out what I want to be when I grow up.  But I figure if I keep practicing and keep learning and keep enjoying the challenges, eventually the answer will find me.

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All I wanted to do was go to the pool.

Subtitled, a conversation with myself.

Listen, self. All I wanted to do was go to the pool, maybe get a few laps in because it was a gorgeous day.

I didn’t need you to start talking.

“Man, this is the easiest first long swim of the season that you’ve had in years. You’re not choking, you’re not clinging to the side, you haven’t had to do a resting stroke for a lap yet.”

Great. This will make that sprint triathlon I’m registered for a piece of cake.

“What is the swim for that, like, 300? You’ve done that already. See, you’re finishing up your tenth lap right now.”

Yeah, but my knee is totally messed up still whenever I try to run.

“That’s temporary...There is THREE MONTHS between now and October.”

Lalalalala I can’t hear you.

“You’re on your fifteenth lap right now! You’re going to do twenty like it’s nothing. You could definitely be ready for an October 1 race.”

The last international distance one was so much work and so exhausting.

“You were growing a whole other person. Think how easy it will be when you aren’t pregnant!”

I have a child. I don’t have time to train for a race that long.

“SHE LOVES THE BICYCLE.”

Let’s just…let’s just see how the summer goes. If I’m comfortably swimming 30 laps by the end of the summer, we’ll talk about signing up.

“That’s all I’m asking.”

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Summer.

We picked up our CSA share yesterday, so summer hath officially begun.  Then we went and played in a baby pool at my sister’s house and went to the playground and hung out in the alley between our houses with our next door neighbors. (A couple with twins our daughter’s age moved in earlier this year and it’s been really great.)

I have harshed on summer in the past, because summer running is the worst. But summer workouts? At 7:30 with the light still going? Outdoor swimming? (Yes, the pool is finally open 7 days a week!) 9am free Barre workouts on the waterfront? Yes. Please.

I often feel like my seasonal affective disorder, which is self-diagnosed, is a bit of melodrama on my part. And then summer shows up and I’m like, “YES LET US DO ALL OF THE THINGS LIFE IS WORTH LIVING THERE IS A REASON TO GET UP IN THE MORNING.”

I’ve been trying to put together a summer to do list, a goal list. But I just keep landing on:

  1. Enjoy every minute.

Anyone else?

 

 

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Body Back

A few friends who follow me on Instagram requested I write a review of Body Back, a program I have been doing through my local Fit4Mom chapter.  It’s a boot camp and meal plan program that meets twice a week for classes and then there is a lot of support during the program. The best part for me is the meal journaling you can do, with instructor feedback.  It’s very helpful to me to know that somebody else is going to be reading what I’m recording, because it helps me make better choices.

It’s also helpful to me to know that somebody else is going to see whether I’m exercising.  Knowing that I need to either put something in the exercise block or leave it blank spurs me to actually do a DVD or a workout or go to a class or walk somewhere I might otherwise drive.

There is a meal plan that comes with the program, and the meal plans are a little bit dated – they recommend low fat cheese, etc. but the portion sizes and the meal suggestions are still pretty good.  It’s a tough program to do if you have to cook for an entire family, which is why the journaling support is so helpful – I don’t worry as much about adhering strictly to the meal plan if I just write down what I’m eating.

There is also a BodyBack DVD. As workout DVDs go, it’s annoying but tolerable and it’s 3 total body workouts and 3 abs workouts. The abs workouts are great and they are only 10 minutes. The total body workouts are also really good workouts and they are only 20ish minutes.  There are modifications on the DVDs as well so its good for a lot of levels.  They work well in a small space (I have about 5 feet by 8 feet in my living room) and you can modify the jumping if you live in an apartment.

You also get a resistance band, since most workouts just involve your band and a mat.  My class is also great – our instructors are fantastic women who are super creative and always come up with interesting workouts. Most classes are either a circuit, a traveling class (where we do four stations around the park), a stationary class with things like runs out from the setup spot, or a “novelty” style class like partner workouts or tabata.  Most of it is bodyweight exercises or it uses a resistance band.

In comparison to my old New Rules of Lifting for Women or Stronglifts 5×5 workouts, Body Back doesn’t feel like it focuses as much on strength training as say, doing squats with a 135 lb barbel.  But right now, where I am in my life and my exercising, this is what I need.  First of all, I need the core help.  My core was wrecked after having a baby.  Building it back up has been hard.  Secondly, I need the cardio.  When I was biking to work and running around the courthouse all day, I was good with just strength training at the gym. But my life now is so much more sedentary – 2 hours a day in the car, etc. so I really need the cadio aspects of these workouts, and the workouts do a great job of picking cardio exercises that are also strength or core exercises (burpees, plank jacks, push ups, etc.)  And most importantly, I need the exercise that I’m doing to be at a regularly scheduled time, walking distance from my house, with people that I like and want to see on a weekly basis.

I think the most important part of any exercise program is to be reminded that your body is so much more than how it looks.  That it is capable of doing amazing, awesome things, and that you should feed it good food that makes you feel good.  Which I really, really, really like about this program.  I didn’t lose as much weight on the last round as I had hoped for, but I developed new and better habits and I’m working towards getting myself to a happy place, both weight and exercise-wise, where I feel like I am strong, capable, and ready for any kind of challenge I want to embark on.

This review is unsolicited and uncompensated.  If you want to check out whether there is a Body Back program near you, you can go to their website for more info.

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A few thoughts

My queer friends have expressed sadness at the lack of posts, and outrage, and public anger by their straight allies in the wake of Orlando.  If you haven’t called or texted your friends in the LGBT community to see how they are doing, it’s not too late.  Just do it.  Just ask if they are okay. They will appreciate it.

I try to process the shooting and I can’t. I hear things on the radio and they make me deeply sad.  My daughter was sick all week and while normally her toddler-y illnesses enrage me because of the time spent away from work, and the increased whining from a small human, this week I minded less than usual.  We went to stroller strides and the art museum and the splash park and simply focused on the things that are beautiful and wonderful and interesting to a 20-month old.  And I think about how hard it is to be raising a child right now, and to be raising a daughter.  And I try not to think about the fact that I will have to send her to school and to the movies and that she may go dancing at clubs and all of those activities, done in America, increase the chance that she will die at gunpoint.

A friend shared this poem and it helped me start to feel the mission of the collective parental subconscious.

clfcpjjwmaq-qli

And so let us together raise small humans, whatever role you want to play in that, to believe that the world could be beautiful and that they could make it so.

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Parenting Crow I Have Eaten

Parenting, much like pregnancy, is a super humbling experience.  And I think the more judgmental we were pre-kids, the more likely you are to have charming and humbling experiences where you realize that the distance between how you thought things would be and how they actually are is just a gulf of experiences you hadn’t had yet.  These are mine.

  • Sleep.  I was soooo judgmental of parents who didn’t sleep train and then whined about not getting enough sleep.  I’m still pretty judgmental about some aspects of this, like your kid should have a consistent bedtime, and you should do cry it out if you have to, but sleep training did. not. work. on my kid.  I mean, it did eventually, but it was a 7-8 month process.  We tried really hard.  Hours and hours and hours of cry it out. Much googling. Many books.  It really sucked for awhile. Eventually things got better.  But I saw a friend recently and her 20 month old wakes up 3 nights a week at least.  My coworker’s 2.5 year old doesn’t sleep through the night. I no longer assume the parent is doing anything wrong.
  • Eating. I was a really picky eater growing up and I was like, “picky eaters are made, not born, so I will feed my kid all the things and she will eat them.” Ha. My child eats like, four things, and that’s it.  I cater to her a lot more than I planned to.  We still offer her everything that we are eating, but we also offer her one thing she likes so that she will actually eat something.  (Because it turns out that if she’s not hungry, she sleeps better, and I would rather have to cater to a picky eater than never sleep.)  I also find that catering to her tastes helps me to be much more relaxed about mealtime and less likely to turn it into a power struggle.  But I will definitely be that mom sneaking vegetables into her kid’s meals.
  • Licensed Characters. My child right now hates all shoes but her ridiculous gold Mary Janes with a pink flower on them, and it’s summer, and I want to go to the splash park. And Stride Rite girl’s shoes shrink when they get wet! So she owns a pair of crocs and a pair of navy blue sandals, which she will wear, but only with socks, so I think they rub her feet.  So I’m searching for possible other sandals that do not cost a million dollars and my child likes fish, and I saw Finding Dory shoes and was like, hmmmm I wonder if she would wear these since they have fish on them! And getting dressed is such a battle right now unless I offer her one of her two Octopus shirts and then she gets very excited and wears that.  So I can see why parents, worn and exhausted by the work of parenting a toddler, lean into their kid’s obsession and buy them batman shirts or whatever because it is so much easier than fighting with them every day.  A lot of licensed stuff is still poorly made and overpriced so right now I’m holding out, but I get it now.
  • Girly Clothes.  I planned to dress my kid exclusively in gender neutral stuff and try to avoid the gendered clothing and boxing her into everything being pink and ruffly.  Except I shop a lot from the girl’s section of the store. And I grumble about there being too much pink and I don’t buy her a lot of pink, but she wears much girlier clothes than I ever planned on.  And she still ends up with a lot of pink, because other people buy it for her or that is the only color that something comes in. (Her bike helmet is pink because literally all they had at the store was pink and we needed one ASAP.)  This season I bought her a ton of clothes from the thrift store that were mostly t-shirts that were very gender neutral, and the reality that I’m realizing this season (our first summer with a walking kid) is that “boy’s” clothing is more practical. I buy her mostly “boys” swim gear because it covers more than girl’s bathing suits, and boy’s shorts are longer and better for sliding.  I don’t want her to be unable to go down the slide because she’s wearing a skirt. But the rest of her clothes are flowers and ruffles and glitter.  For some reason it feels very unfeminist of me to dress her in a way that conforms to gender norms.  But I also don’t really want to use my kid to make a point to society about clothing and colors and assumptions.

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