December 10th, 2013 | Josie
“Pregnancy is a process that invites you to surrender to the unseen force behind all life.” ~Judy Ford
109 days. In just a little over 3 months, we get to meet our amazing little boy, this tiny human being that we fought so hard to make, so hard to keep safe, and I can still hardly believe it. Even as he stomps and rolls his way through my belly, making waves and wonder all the while, I still feel dumbstruck by the hugeness of it. We are going to be parents; the unexpected and oh-so-needed happiness I’ve found with Charlie, a happiness I didn’t even know I was looking for until it found me… in a short 109 days that happiness is going to take the shape of a baby boy, we’re going to give that happiness a name. It completely overwhelms me and fills me with such awe, I feel like I might break from joy.
2013 has been a rough year, one that has shaped our marriage, has shaped me, and one that has taught us so much. Just before we rang in the New Year, in the fading days of 2012, we found out we were pregnant. We hadn’t anticipated it happening so fast; in fact, with my health history, we were fully prepared for it to take a good long while, and had settled in to enjoy the process. When that little plus sign appeared, 2013 exploded into view with infinite possibilities. So much was going on all at once (new house, new studio, new baby!), and January flew by in a flash. Then we went for our first ultrasound, and as quickly and as unexpectedly as our miracle came into being, it was gone. The happiest 4 weeks we’d ever known came crashing to an abrupt and life-shattering halt: there was no heartbeat.
Even now, 10 months later, I still don’t have the words to explain our sadness. Our world, our faith in everything, had been rocked like it never had been before. Even when I nearly lost my life to a blood clot in 2010, I’d never felt so shattered. In some ways we were lucky; we got a diagnosis, a reason for our tragedy, which so many people never get. Our baby, tests revealed, suffered from triploidy, a genetic anomaly that caused her (yes, testing also showed that. It’s amazing what science can do, how much we can know and how little we can know at the same time) to have 69 chromosomes instead of the normal 46. It is “incompatible with life,” but even knowing that she couldn’t have survived didn’t dull the ache, the emptiness I felt. The doctors kept telling us that it was an accident of nature, that it was nothing we did or didn’t do, but I remember thinking that it was my fault. Not so much my fault as my body’s fault; for the second time in 3 years, my body had failed, had thrown me a curve ball, and I felt so betrayed.
The months that followed were some of the toughest on our marriage. I was lost, drifting in a sadness I couldn’t shake; I had completely lost hope. Charlie was a rock, weathering the blows as I railed against him and the universe as a whole, but even a rock will start to crumble under a constant onslaught. I was broken, and I didn’t know how to fix myself this time, and couldn’t let Charlie fix me. Still, we struggled through the storm and came out the other side whole as my heart began to mend. I still felt an emptiness inside that I knew would not be filled, but I was slowly able to feel something other than sadness or anger. Mostly though, I felt an overwhelming need to fill the hole in my heart, a need to have another baby to hope for and dream of. So we tried in earnest.
Trying to have a baby, really trying, with all the clinical timing and total loss of romance, is not a picnic. There is no “enjoying the ride” when you are all-consumed, when lovemaking becomes only about babymaking. Those months weren’t any easier on us, and looking back on them now I cringe a little, remembering what I put us through with my need. Every month I wasn’t pregnant I felt like a failure, and my newly mending heart would break all over again. The monthly heartbreak only hardened my resolve though, and we were on to another month of endless testing and timing. Everyone kept saying to me, with all the best intentions, that it would happen when we relaxed. But I didn’t know how to relax, couldn’t un-know what I’d learned about my body, about conception. Every month I would try to let nature take it’s course, and every month I was equally obsessed. I heard all the stories of people who would take a break from trying only to fall pregnant, the anecdotes that it was the stress of trying itself that was keeping our miracle from happening, but I couldn’t de-stress my thoughts or my life. I was a ball of determination and stress, and it wasn’t going to go away until I had that positive test in my hands.
In the end, I never did end up slowing down. For us it wasn’t a matter of sitting back and letting nature take it’s course. Stress consumed me right up to the day I got that magic little second line. I was able to calm down for about 5 minutes, then the panic kicked in: what if it happened again? I was so nervous, so scared, that I missed out on a lot of the excitement I’d felt the first time around, when I’d been too naive to expect the worse. I was a nervous wreck, even as the tell-tale morning sickness kicked in, a supposed sign that things were going well. Seeing that little flickering heartbeat on the screen at 7 weeks eased my mind a lot, I was so happy. But still I knew that we weren’t out of the woods yet, and I worried.
Fast forward 4.5 months, and while I still find myself worrying probably more than is healthy, I made a conscious decision months ago to love this little baby with all my heart and to try not to worry about things that may never come to pass. Instead of filling up his world with fear and doubt, I’ve been making every effort to let him know that he is loved every second of the day. Admittedly, it is easier not to let my mind wander into the land of worry as often now that I can feel him move so much, that I get that regular reassurance that he is there, that he’s ok and alive. Still, it sometimes happens, and I find myself doubting, fearing for the worst. At these times, I have to surrender my fears, my doubts, myself even, and trust that everything will be fine, that in a few short months we’ll be holding this miracle child in our arms. It’s not easy, but every day it gets easier to trust in my body and myself and know that I can do this, that we can do this. To trust that in about 109 days, happiness will be named Max!
September 9th, 2013 | Josie
“Nerves provide me with energy. They work for me. It’s when I don’t have them, when I feel at ease, that I get worried.” ~Mike Nichols
There is something wrong with me, I think, something totally, completely off with the way I think. I spend too much of my life worrying, planning and perseverating on the nuances of my worry. It’s become an actual lifestyle for me, this life of worry and doubt. I never think anything is good enough (especially not me), and I devote my energy and time trying to change the not-good-enough into enough. I think I realized a long time ago that this is probably an impossible task, and I think that very impossibility is what makes me continue to do it. This worry is a never-ending project, something to keep me busy even in my sleep.
The past few years have been marked by legitimate and illegitimate worries and doubts alike, but through all the uncertainty, I’ve also found the kind of happiness I never thought I would. That happiness comes most definitely in spite of my worries rather than because of them, so while I still find myself (often) slipping back into my old ways and tallying up my worries on some sort of perverse score card, I’m trying harder than ever to let the worries roll off, and to just take these amazing days ahead as they come… even though I’m worried I won’t be able to quell the worry!
April 26th, 2013 | Josie
“Sometimes I feel that life is passing me by, not slowly either, but with ropes of steam and spark-spattered wheels and a hoarse roar of power or terror. It’s passing, yet I’m the one who’s doing all the moving.” ~Martin Amis
I remember how slowly the clock used to tick, the minutes moving at a snails pace. From the time I was small, I was always looking to the next thing, the greater adventure just waiting for me to hurry up and embark, and I would impatiently watch the time trickle by in anticipation. Time was infinitely slow, an endless commodity, and there was always plenty of it to go around. Even at times that things seemed to speed up, times when I wanted to world to slow down to give me a few more precious seconds in a particular moment, I never felt like I was losing myself in its passing. I felt as if I had to find ways to fill the time with as much potential as I could cram in, until my life was bursting at the seams. Give me six months and I could visit four countries, make a fool of myself countless times, make ten new friends, and fall in love at least twice. I could fit more life into two years than some might expect to experience in fifty, and I definitely felt the emotional strain for compressing a lifetime into a moment. But I kept on going, because there was so much more to do and see and be.
My life has calmed down considerably in the past few years. I no longer feel the urge to burn the candle at both ends, to stuff experiences into my repertoire like a child hoarding candy. Now that I’m content to let life run its course, to stop forcing the issues at hand and just try to enjoy what time has in store, now that I’m comfortable with its plodding passage, time seems to pass by faster than I can blink, and before I can think to enjoy a moment, it’s gone. I turn my head and a month has passed, or five, and I can’t remember what I did with that time or how it flew by so fast. I feel as if all the big things in life are coming at me all at once. A new home, an exciting step. A miracle made and lost. Sisters grown and growing every day. A new endeavor, with increasing responsibilities and opportunities. Another birthday come and gone. These things all whiz by with a whir and a flash, and I’m left confused as I try to keep up with a life that won’t slow down to meet me at my own pace. The girl who once begged the clock to tick faster, for more to fill the days and weeks, she is now scrambling for purchase in a life that is overflowing with possibilities and coming at the speed of light.
August 7th, 2012 | Josie
“You must stay drunk on writing so reality cannot destroy you.” ~Ray Bradbury
It never ceases to amaze me how quickly we allow the worries and tedium of our day to day lives sap the joy of things we once loved. 7 years ago I retreated to writing almost nightly… sometimes just a quick sentence or two about a random thought-provoking idea I’d had that day, more often a long and emotional treatise on the melodrama that my life seemed perpetually prone to at that period. Whatever I was writing, be it understated or over the top, I lost myself in the words.
Lately, I don’t make the time to write. I find myself lost in the stressful world of the “adult:” I spend hours obsessing over numbers and figures, trying to make the pieces of the puzzle make a picture of financial stability. I expend untold amounts of energy on the problems of my friends and family, doing what I can to help and worrying about what I can’t do. I perseverate on my weight, my looks, my career, my relationships, my general lack of inner peace. I try to patch up the disharmony with buzz words like “yoga” and “date-night,” never taking a moment to realize that what I’m missing aren’t the buzz words, but the words themselves. I’m not suggesting that investing some emotional energy into a yoga practice or a healthy relationship is wasted effort, but it does warrant a moment of pause: why am I spending my time and energy to cultivate an emotional outlet for my stress while my ultimate outlet lies collecting dust at the back of my cluttered list of priorities?
March 20th, 2012 | Josie
“We turn not older with years, but newer every day.”~Emily Dickinson
My dad told me a story when I was young: when his own mother turned twenty-five, he bought her an old glass rose and gave it to her as a birthday present, because it was an antique, just like her. Twenty-five sounded indescribably old when I was ten, so of course I saw the logic in his childish thinking. I distinctly remember at that age being unable to really envision myself beyond the year 2000, which at the time was only three years away. Later, at the oh-so-mature age of sixteen, I had trouble grasping life beyond high school outside of the fantastical idea that was “college,” impossibly distant for an angsty teen. Even when I reached that echelon of adulthood that is college graduation, I really couldn’t wrap my mind around the idea of what came next. Sure I had plans, goals, dreams… but they were fuzzy hopes of what I thought the world could be, what I might be if I could just see the outlines a little more clearly.
Now that the monumental day has come and gone, I have to admit that twenty-five is distinctly anti-climactic. Aside from a few grey hairs (that I think I’m still to young to actually have, despite my husband’s insistence that they exist or the proof I see in my own mirror), I don’t feel any different than I did a year ago, or even five. Now that I have reached the age that my father once called antique, I realize how young I truly am… I look at my sisters, 18 and 20, and think how young they are, even though I know they feel so mature. They have so much more living, so much more learning to do, and I do, too. I’ve learned so much in the past quarter of a century… I’ve loved and I’ve lost, I’ve been hurt and I’ve hurt others beyond imagining. I started the career of my dreams, only to find I loathed the work. I took a job I thought had no future, and have found my future in it after all. I’ve done all the right things and been in all the wrong places, just to find that everything I never knew I wanted was waiting for me where I least expected it. I married a wonderful man, and faced the trials of terrible and unexpected illness with him. I’ve defended my decision to marry young, and struggled with the desire for a family versus the comfort of financial stability. Charlie and I have fought and made up, been silly and cried (sometimes in the same breath), and oft times I still find myself amazed to wake up next to him every morning. I feel as if I have grown into a woman so full of love and life I might burst, an amazing feat for a girl who once thought her heart broken beyond all repair.
Through it all, I’ve never lost those things that make me most essentially me: I still don’t believe in regretting my mistakes, and I still don’t sleep if I can help it. I throw myself into each new project fully, and cannot always find it in myself to finish everything I start. I try to find the good in people, though sometimes I struggle to be positive. I am my own worst critic, and often the worst enemy I have is myself. I approach love with caution, but don’t hesitate to show affection to those I do hold dear. Above all, I’ve learned to embrace my scars, to see beauty in my own imperfections, and to enjoy life for all of its infinite possibilities.
“And in the end, it’s not the years in your life that count… it’s the life in your years.” ~Abraham Lincoln
January 12th, 2012 | Josie
“Some luck lies in not getting what you thought you wanted but getting what you have, which once you have got it you may be smart enough to see is what you would have wanted had you known.” ~Garrison Keillor
Another year come and gone, and I find myself gazing longingly into the distance, dreaming of “might have been’s” and “what could be’s,” before I drag my thoughts back into reality and the solid “what are’s.” The funniest thing about the act of pondering possibilities, past or future, is that you wind up with this odd, bittersweet taste in your mouth. It is one of the few moments in life when you truly feel two emotions, whole and unaltered feelings experienced simultaneously. On the one hand, I can look back fondly on a point in time, sad that I’m not still in that place. Or, conversely, I can remember a moment of my life that was difficult or sad, and still grudgingly acknowledge the positives that were wrung from distress. I’m familiar with the duality of feeling that I can – and often do – experience when thinking back on my life…
I am, however, in fairly new territory when faced with the same parallel emotions as I brood about what the future holds. For so long the concept of ‘future’ was a bright, distant light, something intangible and out of reach. The world was full of limitless possibilities and my life was only a matter of choosing the right path on which to embark. While my past may be filled with doubts and regrets, I never saw my future as a place for worry… hesitation, perhaps, but never true distress.
As I do this thing we like to call growing up, I’ve settled into a life that I never would have envisioned for myself 5, even 2 years ago. Ask a younger me what I thought my life would bring in 2012, and I would have espoused the joy of travel, the thrill of adventure, and the excitement of the very unknown I was facing. Much to everyone’s surprise, not the least my own, I find that the life I’ve chosen, this decidedly safe and un-adventerous life, suits me well. I’m happily married to a wonderful man and gainfully employed. Not only do I have a job in an era when many are out of work, but I enjoy what I do and I love my co-workers… going to work in the morning is not tedium, but something that I can honestly say I look forward to most mornings. Still, despite the happiness and contentment I feel in this life of mine, I can’t help be feel there is something missing, that there is something MORE out there, just waiting for me. I find that, for the first time, I’m sad when I think about the future, afraid that I will never find that ever elusive something, always out of reach, just out of my grasp. It’s like dreaming in a foreign language, one where I don’t know the syntax or grammar… I wake up confused and unsure, worried that I will never be truly content, and that I am doomed to live my life chasing a dream that I can’t even understand.
I need to take a step back, a moment to recognize that some of this is just who I am, the worrier, the one who over analyzes life to a breaking point. I need to realize that life is not always about what might be around the bend, and that settling down doesn’t mean settling. I want to spend this year not thinking about the “what ifs,” but enjoying what I have, here and now. I think it might take all my fortitude, but I hope to live this yea with a resolution to worry less, laugh and love more, and to just simply… live.
September 28th, 2011 | Josie
“Consider the postage stamp: its usefulness consists in the ability to stick to one thing till it gets there.” ~Josh Billings
I’ll be the first to admit that my greatest fault (high atop the list of so many, for aren’t we all our own harshest critic?) is by far my inability to stick to one thing. In no place does this lack of “sticktoitiveness” make itself more apparent than in my crocheting: I see a project and fall madly in love with it, spending hours going over the pattern, plotting the yarn (buying more if/when my stash is deemed lacking in that elusive perfect yarn), and lovingly dedicating myself to the first stitches. I usually continue to adore the pattern until about half-way through a project, at which point I begin to get anxious. I grit my teeth and force myself through several more rows before I begin the search for another project, abandoning my half-done item in the back of the closet for a year or more, by which point I’ve either forgotten the pattern completely or pilfered the hook for use in another project and can’t remember the correct size. Sometimes I figure it out and finish it months and months later, and sometimes I scrap the whole thing as a lost cause (I’ve sacrilegiously thrown far more than my fair share of yarn in the garbage this way in the periodic purging of my castoffs). Regardless, I rarely complete what I set out to do.
My whole life is marked by this inability to finish what I’ve started. My writing, my health, my grand plans… all have suffered due to my seriously deficient persistence. If I can do one thing to better my life, it would be to exercise that particular muscle, strengthen it until, perhaps, I can make it through a whole week’s workout plan, or, *gasp* finish a blanket in less than three years! I have a nagging suspicion that if I could just master the art of finishing what I start, maybe other things would begin to fall in to place. Maybe not… but it’s a place to start!
June 7th, 2011 | Josie
“Boredom is like a pitiless zooming in on the epidermis of time. Every instant is dilated and magnified like the pores of the face.” ~Charlotte Whitton
I’m not a person that likes to sit still. Unless I’m sleeping, I need to be doing something. I have some sort of project in my pocket most of the time, knitting or crocheting away the moments in the grocery store line (much to the amusement of those around me). Sitting at a restaurant waiting for the food to come, I fold every available scrap of paper into a crane, leaving flocks of origami in my wake.
That being said, I’m immensely enamored of the idea of meditation. I think it sounds incredible, stilling your mind and body. Like most infatuations, this, for me, is completely unattainable. Sitting still and doing nothing for any span of time sounds like my own personal version of Hell. I’ve tried, so many times; I sit down, begin the process of quieting my mind… then my nose starts to itch. That traitorous itch, if I attempt to ignore it, will maneuver itself around my body until I feel as if I’m crawling out of my own skin, a feeling that will not dissipate until I finally satisfy the overwhelming need to scratch it. Of course, then my concentration is completely broken, I can’t stop fidgeting. I try to sit still and stop worrying every inch of my skin, and I grow bored. My fingers ache for movement, and I can’t stop thinking about all of the things I should be doing… bills, afghans, vacuuming… literally anything but sitting still. Sometimes I feel as if the thoughts in my head are screaming at me; I mean that quite literally – I sometimes feel the need to get out of my own head because it is simply too LOUD. So, I try to meditate, and the whole vicious cycle starts all over again.
I yearn for the ability to stop doing, and to just be.
May 24th, 2011 | Josie
“He who has gone, so we but cherish his memory, abides with us, more potent, nay, more present than the living man.” ~Antoine de Saint-Exupery
I think that, in a time and place where there is a vaccine for everything and medical miracles happen daily, we forget our own mortality. We forget how close death can be, how instantaneous and unexpected. Then, out of no where, something happens to remind us that we can, in fact WILL, someday die.
It has been a week since one of our students died in a tragic car accident. She was just 22, a month away from getting married… and now she is gone. Karin and Sam had been taking lessons at the studio for 9 months, preparing for their big day. Just a few weeks ago, I sat and chatted at length about her hopes for the future: pictures of the house they were in the process of buying, with space enough for her horse to run. All the girls in the studio sat, oohing-and-aahing over the photos of her wedding dress, which she’d had fitted just that week. Tuesday of last week, they’d gone to get their marriage license, excited and happy for the impeding day. Then, mere moments later in the grand scheme, her car crossed the center line and she was gone. We are all in shock, and I’m sick to my stomach when I think of her family, of Sam, and of all that they’ve lost. I begin to wonder what would happen if I lost Charlie, and I’m at a loss.
We never think about the fragility of life until tragedy strikes. Hope, however, can be gleaned from the wreck of tragedy. When we begin to think about how close, how inevitable our own demise is, we are so much more grateful for the days we have. In the wake of this calamity, I can’t help but think of my own brush with death, not a year gone. I think how, just a month before my own wedding, I wound up hospitalized for pulmonary embolism that, in all truth, should have killed me. I think of all the stress and fear that followed my diagnosis, and of the hell that we went through as I struggled to get better. It was a nightmare and there were days I was terrified, but the wedding still happened, we still got married, and I lived. I am healthy and whole today, married to a man I love, and so much more aware of how short life can be. When I think of how differently things could have turned out, how close we were to tragedy, I know that I’m beyond lucky, I’m blessed. And I will never, ever forget that.
May 13th, 2011 | Josie
“To be interested in the changing seasons is a happier state of mind than to be hopelessly in love with spring.” ~George Santayana
For me, there has always been a certain joy in the changing of the seasons; something is lost, but something else is gained. This is something that is especially true of spring. As the snow, become ubiquitious in the tedious and cold winter months, melts away to reveal the dead-but-awakening grass, I always feel this deep sense of anticipation. I have spent weeks (many of which involved uncharacteristic swings from snow to sweltering and back), waiting for my world to wake up.
Now that it has finally started to feel like spring, complete with torrential rains like today, I feel like things are starting to move again after months of winter hibernation. I feel as if my creativity, the part of myself that is most essentially me, is opening her eyes. She is stretching and yawning amidst a pile of rumpled bedclothes, hitting the snooze for just 10 more minutes. But really, I’m waking up.