i have a lot of feelings

feelings

Ever since being pregnant, and birthing a baby, and being a mom, there’s a lot of extra hormones raging around inside my body. I cry a lot. I’ve always cried– like at the movies or on the NYC Subway. But now I cry more, and from the faintest hint of any commercial involving babies (the first time Giles successfully put Cheerios in his mouth I cried retroactively at every Cheerios commercial I’ve ever seen). When we first brought Giles home I cried every evening at 5:00 sharp. For two months.

Sometimes I am crying about more than what it appears I am crying about.

Luckily, Greg often seems to understand exactly what it is I’m really upset about. Sometimes he doesn’t know, so he asks. Sometimes he puts a bowl of cereal in front of me because he knows I am actually just hungry.

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2016

This is the year my baby was born.

Everything is connected to that: I quit my job, became a full-time artist. Let go of a lot of things. Learned to make do with very little sleep, accepted that I will probably never get all the things done that I want to get done. I pushed my body to the furthest physical extreme possible and I am okay. I learned about pain. I fell in deeper love with my husband, learned more about intimacy and partnership. Bought a house. Made that house a home. Made new friends. Friendships I already had became closer and deeper. My body changed. My mind changed. Everything changed.

I am 31-years-old.

I’m anxious about where things are going politically in our country, and doing my best to make revolution in my own small ways. I’m recognizing that these problems have been here a long time, and we are all responsible for making them better. I am a feminist now more than ever.

I am trying to be better. But also kinder to myself and knowing that where I am, who I am, is enough, is good, is wonderful in fact.

I am trying to say “sorry” less.

I am cooking more.

If something scares me I am doing it anyway.

I am ignoring parenting books/articles.

I am grieving.

I am reminding myself how to live with uncertainty, how to be open, how to let the light in.

 

november, dia de los muertos

Everybody’s gone away.
They think there’s nothing left to see.
The garish colors’ flashy show is over.
Now those of us who stay
hunker down in sweet silence,
blessed emptiness among

red-orange shadblow
purple-red blueberry
copper-brown beech
gold tamarack, a few
remaining pale yellow
popple leaves,
sedge and fern in shades
from beige to darkening red
to brown to almost black,
and all this in front of, below,
among blue-green spruce and fir
and white pine,

all of it under gray skies,
chill air, all of us waiting
in the somber dank and rain,
waiting here in quiet, chill
November,
waiting for the snow.

~ The Fall Almost Nobody Sees, by David Budbill

As it gets colder, the trees get bare, Giles sees his first snow, I think about death and life and cycles. Bringing pain into joy, carrying both. You can see a lot further around here when the leaves are gone, and it’s comforting. Beautiful in an introspective kind of way. Lonely. But good lonely. Greys on greys on greys.

I miss my mom. I dress Giles in a skeleton outfit. I wear all my skeleton clothes and jewelry.  I think about how my bones are different now after pregnancy and labor– my ribcage is wider, my hipbone too, my foot bones longer and flatter. Last year Giles’ bones grew inside me. Greg and I make sugar cookies decorated like skulls and we eat too many. I make an altar in my art studio.

She walks these hills
in a long black veil

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i am tired

I don’t know how to explain just how tiring it is being a stay-at-home parent. Being a working parent is tiring too, but that is not what I am doing so I can’t say what that is like. All I can write about is my own experience.

I am tired. I am so much more tired than I have ever been in my life. Physically, emotionally, mentally, existentially.

What if I am not as good at this as I thought I would be?

What if I am not as good at this as my mom was?

I can’t ask her if she was this tired. I can’t ask her if there were moments (or days) of doubt. I can’t talk to her about any of this.

Other people give me advice or tell me I’m doing great, that everyone gets this tired, that my mom would be proud of me, but I don’t want to hear any of it.

I only want to talk to my mom. I only want to talk to my mom.

Really, please, do not respond to this with comments of advice, or compliments, or “sleep when the baby sleeps.” (“Sleep when the baby sleeps” is bullshit.)

I am not trying to get sympathy or advice. I am just sharing. Because maybe someone else will read this who is feeling the same way and there will be a tiny light in their dark room. Or maybe I don’t know why. Maybe just because I am the only one who can be me and so I am the only one who can tell my own story. Maybe because one day my baby will be a parent and I will be dead and he will wish he could ask me these questions. I hope I will be alive to answer them, to tell him that yes I was this tired, and it was okay, and I loved him in every tired second, in the joyful seconds, in the most difficult seconds. That being his mom is the best thing in my whole life.

I am at the brink of the limits of my exhaustion.

Or there might be further limits I don’t know about yet. I probably can take more of this than I think I can. Exhaustion will probably stretch me and bring me into deeper holes. I will go into them and I will be okay.

I want to savor and enjoy this time with my baby while he’s still a baby. It will go by so fast. It will be so short. But I am tired.

I am tired.

I am tired.

I am tired.

I am not asking for help. I am not asking for advice. I cannot repeat this enough. That is not what I am looking for. I am just sharing. I will figure this out for myself. Giles will help me figure it out. Greg will help me figure it out. But mostly I will find the way my own damn self, because that is how I am built. Even if it’s harder that way or takes longer, or I do things that seem wrong. I will find my own way to do this.

I am fine. I am okay. I am truly in love with my baby in a deeper way than I have felt any feeling before. With this deep and extreme love comes deep sad, deep tired, and deep longing.

Deep missing.

Deep doubt.

Deep dark circles.

Deep joy. Deep self. Deep deepness.

I am tired.

 

 

my body, 4.5 months

Four and a half months postpartum, my body feels strong but in a completely different way than I’ve ever felt strong Before. Arms and legs. Baby lifting above my head, squatting to feed the cats while holding that squirmy fifteen pounds against my chest. Pushing the stroller uphill. My breasts heavy with milk. A kind of heavy I couldn’t have understood Before. Before is my old country. Where I lived with a flat stomach and no stretch marks and only my own life in my own body.

My belly squishy and soft and proof that a baby grew in there. The linea negra a bit lighter now but still very much present. My hips back together but still a bit wider than Before, perhaps forever. My feet longer. My face more tired. My face more beautiful.

My hair is falling out, all the extra pregnancy hair collecting in the shower drain and on the bathroom sink and the pillows and sticking to my shoulders and everywhere else too. I get cramps in my lower abdomen, my period coming back already? I don’t know. Phantom contractions? Everything in my lower region feels just slightly different.

Heart full. A new heart, on top of the old one. More tears. More farts. More love. Deeper intimacy. More cracks. More light.

unnamed

 

singing to you, the song my mom sang to me. in a sports bra and your dad’s sweat pants, in our bedroom, late at night. 

this is our life. us and you. “hello best friend” your dad says when he gets home from work and takes you in his arms.

my arms are full, so is my mind, so is my heart and all the secret tucked away places of my body that carried you and moved my organs all around and held more blood and more bones and where those extra cells of yours will live inside me forever.

 

my mom

Giles is crying again. That scream-crying of yesterday, a sound we haven’t heard too much yet, in these four months of his life outside the womb.

So I walk him around the house and stroller him and nurse him and talk to him and sing and try and try to figure out what is wrong. Finally I sit down at the computer and I put on this video and we listen to my mom’s voice.

Giles falls asleep. I hold him, trying not to move.

My mom talks about the breast cancer playing cards she made. She talks about how there has to be something positive to come from the fact that one in eight women has breast cancer.

And then we watch this video.

What do you have and what do you need? 

Seeing me and my mom together both heals and breaks my heart. This video takes place at a really lovely time in our relationship. December 2012. A time I am so very grateful for and need to be reminded of.

I wish she could see the life I’m making now. Maybe she does, in her own ghost way. But I have to do it without her, with only the memory of her to guide me. Memories of my childhood. The photo albums, notes and emails from her, conversations that are only recorded in my mind and have faded and changed as I take them out again and again to examine and mine for her presence. There is so much longing.

 

 

today my mom would be 58

Today my mom would be 58.

Today my baby is 4 months old.

Today I am drinking coffee, cuddling Giles, having feelings. It’s not okay that she’s dead. It’s not okay that she isn’t here to be a grandmother to Giles (Meme, as she wanted to be called), and to help me paint and arrange my first house, to see Phoebe’s land and paint there, to make her art, dance in the kitchen, roast chiles, take walks, ride her bike, talk loud and fast, to “bricolage” her way through years and years. It’s not okay that she’s not getting older.

Giles just wailed for about an hour. Full on scream-crying and nothing I could do calmed him down. I looked him in the eyes as tears poured down his little face. I feel like wailing. I feel like scream-crying out of my broken heart.

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From my mom’s blog, vimorpainter.wordpress.com (which you should check out if you miss her, because her words are there, her voice, some little piece of herself, and you can visit it anytime):

Sketch Yourself in Words, 2007
My name is Viola Rose Moriarty. It’s not the name I was born with—except the Viola part, that’s my grandmother’s name that died long before I came into this world. The rest of my name I chose myself after a brief, failed young marriage in college. I didn’t want my husband’s name, but I had no name to go back to since my father had been absent from my life since I was six years old and my mother had remarried with a new name. I didn’t know who to be so I chose my favorite literary character, Dean Moriarty from Kerouac’s On the Road. And in a small Denver courtroom, for the reasonable price of thirty-two dollars I started to become the person I am now.
I am bilingual, an artist, a retired educator, a parent, a lover, a friend, a palm reader, a lifelong learner and a wife. I have loved my adult life, seizing the majority of days with pure abandon, humor, moxie and chutzpah.
When I was diagnosed with cancer I began to work it into the mix: the surgeries, the appointments, the emotions—all with help from my therapist, family, friends and most of all, from my husband.
People usually see the upbeat and adventurous and creative side of me. It’s only Jon who knows the skid marks and scars underneath, the billion ways I’m afraid. That I’m an enigma.
So, I did pretty well through the first wave of cancer, drafting my comic book The Adventures of My Left Breast and making paper dolls with new hospital gown designs. I took photos of everything and I saw myself doing pretty well in those pictures.
Then I went to chemotherapy. First day: Treatment okay. I sketched through it. Second day: Jittery but okay. Days three, four and five I have descended into a staticky evil fog filled hell that I can never adequately describe. Like trying to pay attention through a vibrational band of intense, angry static. Everything hurts. Reading and listening are so hard—so, so hard. I’ve never felt anything like this and I don’t feel strong enough to cope with it. It’s day six now and I’m a little better, but still unable to go to drawing tonight. I’m still unable to focus enough to get my art supplies set up and begin a painting.
I’ve got to grab onto something that will break through here—a different way to work these days. Come on, help me out Max Ernst, David Park, Alice Neel, Mr. Rauchenburg—–anybody? I pray to the dead and to the live painters to help me….help me work.
I have raised my girls and they are spectacular—they’ll be home to help me with my haircutting soon. I want them to see me able to do this; I want to be a good role model. I want them to see me work when working feels impossible.
I don’t want my daughters to ever suspect the terror of being separated from one’s own self.
I don’t want my husband to see me defeated in this way, bumbling about like a babosa instead of the sexy, arrogant, often insane woman he loves (and slightly fears).
But this is where cancer—no, not cancer, but the treatment of cancer—-has me by the breasts and by the balls, so to speak. It’s taken over the airways and it’s screaming at fever pitch. Static and black chaos are filling the room around me, slurping into and over the rims of my eyeballs and nose and around my fingernails.
There’s no escape……and I have never, ever learned how to surrender. 

Viola Moriarty, April 2007, After Chemo #1,
(From an assignment in the Moving through Breast Cancer class with Anastasia Nute)

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