What I won’t forget

standard April 16, 2013 3 responses

I remember lying in the OR, moments after she’d been extracted via c-section, and hearing my baby draw a breath and howl for the first time. I remember being flooded with relief that she was okay, and that, more importantly, she was alive. Joy mingled with relief as tears streamed down my face.

I remember feeling conflicting joy and jealousy as my husband and daughter played and laughed in the other room while I tended to my fussy newborn second daughter.

I remember driving like a bat out of hell towards daycare when they called to tell me the little one was having an asthma attack and was having trouble breathing.

I remember moments of great exasperation, great joy, great exhaustion.

I remember many of the little moments that make up motherhood, that make up wifehood, that, really, make up life. And for each of those remembered moments I know that I’ve forgotten 20 more.

I sat in my bed this weekend reading What Alice Forgot, by Liane Moriarty, my bookclub’s pick for the month, and I tried to wrap my head around the thought of forgetting 10 years worth of memories.

In the story, Alice, the protagonist, is happily biking away at spin class when she loses her balance, falls off the bike, and bashes her head in. She wakes up convinced it’s 10 years earlier and that she’s still pregnant with her first child and head over heels in love with her husband.

She quickly learns that she and her husband are on the outs and she actually has 3 children. Three children she doesn’t remember.

I wept at that point.

Imagine waking up and not only not remembering your children, but having been robbed of all those little memories that make up our lives, the memories that are the fabric of our relationships.

A first look, a first shared laugh, a first kiss, a first argument, a first shared secret.

I mourn my next child daily. I all too often think about how I’ll never carry him in my womb, will never nurse him for the first time, will never see his first smile, his first walk, his first day of school.

It’s something I struggle with even while having experienced and treasured all those moments with the two children I do have. Imagine waking up one day, being told you have three children, and having absolutely no memory of any of those moments.

As the story unfolds poor Alice not only has to deal with the fact that she doesn’t know her children, she also has to process the fact that somehow, over the course of 10 years, the husband who was as devoted to her as she is to him now loathes her and their break-up was at her instigation.

I wept at that point too.

If I look back on my life I can point out a number of relationships that I would have sworn would stand the test of time, but that instead have petered out, faded away, or spontaneously combusted leaving behind devastating bits of shrapnel that still smart today.

Today my husband and I have an amazingly loving and mutually supportive relationship. despite having lived through quite a few unexpected challenges along the way. But, what if, much like Alice, I just don’t yet see the hurdles that might eventually cause our downfall.

I think we’re smarter, better prepared, more mature than she was, but, as life has a tendency to enjoy demonstrating, we really have no idea what the future holds.

That scares me and makes me want to hold M and the girls tight.

I finished the book at 1am on the day of the bookclub discussion and I spent all day, after tossing and turning my way through an all too short night, in a book hangover state pondering the fleeting and intangible nature of memories all while mentally patting myself on the back for having journaled and blogged my way through my children’s early years. Even if I were to suffer a severe knock on the head, I have pages and pages of archives available to help me re-experience my life.

But reading about my life wouldn’t be the same as remembering it.

Some books are great for escaping the day to day grind of life. This book reminded me to stop rushing around, to really soak in the little moments, and to keep my eyes wide open for the big and little things that could trip us up and steal our joy away.

I can’t control and stop the really big hurdles that life throws our way, but I can keep working hard to make sure the important stuff doesn’t get buried and forgotten in the fallout.  And I can keep writing down all the little things in between, so I can make sure to never forget any of it.

Don’t ever stop touching

standard April 11, 2013 6 responses

The longer you go without touching someone the harder it is to start touching them again.

That little truism is pretty much all I retained from the movie Hope Springs which I saw this past winter, but it’s something that has somehow stuck with me since I heard it.

Think about it.

When you have a spat with someone the last thing you want is to be touched. Touch is intimate. It’s a form of language, and when you’re mad, you don’t want to talk, no matter what language it’s in.

But then, when you’re done being mad, when you’re done not wanting to be touched, it’s like an abyss has been formed between you and the other person, a gorge that’s hard to reach across to make contact again.

Same thing happens when you’ve been separated from someone or something you love for reasons out of your control. A vacation, an illness, a move, a deployment…  When you first see the person after a long absence, it’s hard to connect again.

The rather simple solution to it all is to just not stop touching the things that are important to you. But that’s neither practical nor always possible.

6 weeks ago I set aside my second novel so that I could focus on the rewrites of the first to get it ready for publication. I was on deadline and I needed to give the first book my undivided attention.

The setting aside of the first book was both intentional and necessary and yet I so wish I hadn’t done it.

I turned in the final version of the first book over a week ago. (10 days if we’re being precise.) And what have I done all week in regards to the second book?

Nothing. Nada. Zilch.

I’ve just procrastinated.

The file is right there. It’s filled with a book oozing potential, a book I’ve really enjoyed writing so far, a book that I’m not close to having finished.

And yet, I can’t bring myself to open it, to read back, to write forward.

I should have popped open the file every day. I should have read a few paragraphs or written a few hundred words before moving on to the necessary edits of the other piece. I should have at least touched it.

Every day I make a point of touching my husband’s shoulder when we dance around each other in the kitchen. I make sure to kiss him hello, hug him goodbye. Little nothing touches here and there that keep us close, keep us connected. It’s something that I never thought about before watching that movie, something that I never forget now that I know what could happen if I stop reaching out, stop touching him.

I should have realized that a relationship with a novel-in-progress needs the same kind of nurturing touch.

I’ve let the abyss grow and every day it gets harder and harder to cross.

It’s not a mistake I’ll ever make again.

Crazy movie about older couple who learn to touch each other again. Funny. Kinda.

What story do you want to change?

standard March 19, 2013 3 responses

“What’s your story?” they asked. We all looked blankly back.

What story do you share? Which story is relevant?

The one we tell the other moms on the playground? The one we reserve for interviews?

We’re human, right? We’re made up of stories.

So which ones should we share?

Did you know that stories are 22 times more memorable than facts?

Did you know that stories not only shape how others see you, but they can be a tool of power? You can use stories to influence your relationships and your interactions with others.

I learned all of this at a fantastic session on storytelling put together by the Stanford Clayman Institute for Gender Research. The wonderful people there have put together a series of short lessons designed to bring to everyone the knowlege readily available to the upper echelons of corporations.

I was one of the lucky beta testers for some of these sessions. It was at the last one, the one on harnessing the power of stories, that I stopped to really think about which stories I share with the world.

I thought I had a lot of stories and that it would be hard to choose, but there’s really only one I want to tell.

My grandfather was a writer. My father is a writer… and as for me? It’s taken me a while to get here, but now that my book is about to be published, I’m finally ready to also call myself a writer.

At the end of the class, the teacher encouraged us to think about our stories and to not be afraid to change them if need be.

Now, while I’m quite happy with the story about me, the story that I felt less sure about what the other story I share with the world.

Here’s how that exchange usually goes.

“Oh? You wrote a book? That’s awesome! What’s it about?”

“Oh, you know, it’s just a women’s fiction novel. It’s about this girl who goes to Hawaii to renew her wedding vows and gets to the hotel and discovers that her past love is there. She has to come to terms with her past so she can get on with her future.” I say it all while making desperate shooing motions with my hands and not making eye contact with the person interested.

If I said “Don’t LOOOK at me! Don’t ask about my BABY. Don’t JUDGE me!” any louder people would have to cover their ears.

This is the story I need to change. This is the story I must change. I have to, because I’m so proud of this book that I’m about to deliver to the world. I’m terrified to share it, but oh so excited at the same time. I want you to read it. I want you to love it.

So I really need to sell it better.

I need to change the story I tell when people ask me about my book.

I’m thinking of going with something like this.

“Oh! It’s awesome. It’s the story of a girl whose heart was broken and then mended. It’s the story of three friends, one love triangle, a kidnapping, a shark, and a mother/daughter relationship gone awry. It’s about love, life, and growing up and it all takes place in Hawaii.”

Better story, right?

Letter to my father

standard February 15, 2013 3 responses

My father and I haven’t always had the easiest of relationships. I think it’s because, at heart, we’re just too similar. (That doesn’t bode well for the Little L, the next generation of our carbon copy, but that’s a whole other story.) As pathetic as it might sound, I’ve spent a lot of time over the last 30 some years railing and ranting about why he drives me crazy. It’s only now that he’s been fighting for his life in the hospital for the last 9 weeks and is once again gearing up to do battle, this time against a potentially fatal hospital bacteria, that I’ve stopped to take stock of all the ways he’s been a blessing.

So, while this might seem a little last words-y, please note, this isn’t. I will tell him these things to his face as soon as he’s well enough to travel and to come see the life I’ve built for myself here in California, a life he’s never really had the chance to witness. You hear that dad? I have lots to show you, so giving up is not an option.

With no further ado…

Dad, thank you.

Thank you for always pushing me to try harder, to be better. It used to piss me off, but now I know it’s just that you always believed I was capable of more and over the years I’ve finally come to believe you.

Thank you for showing me that relationships don’t have to look like tv show relationships to be plenty good enough.

Thank you for showing me that parents are people too, that they make mistakes, that they don’t have a rule book to follow, but that love really can be enough to get everyone through the hard times successfully. (You have no idea how much that has helped me in my own parenting journey.)

Thank you for teaching me that sometimes it really is just about the joke and that the story line isn’t the only thing to obsess over. It was true when we watched Friends and it’s true for pretty much everything in life.

Thank you for showing me that while tradition and decorum are amazing and important in their own way, sometimes it’s more than okay to buck the norm and live your life how you want to live it, no matter what people might think.

Thank you for showing me that you can reinvent yourself as many times as you want.

Thank you for showing me that you can be passionate about any number of things and that it’s okay to move on from those passions when they’ve been exhausted.

Thank you for always being the voice of my inner editor. Go figure, he also often tells me that he knows I can do better.

I know that I’ve never said this enough, but I do love you and I’ll always be grateful for you.