I Wish I Was…

14 12 2009

When I was a kid I used to play this little “game” with myself where I’d invent the person I wish I was. It went something like this. I’d decide I wished I was the most popular girl in my class. But then I realized that I liked my hair better than hers, so I’d want to be her but with my hair. Oh, and as long as I’m fixing things I may as well want Brooke Shields’ face. And Einstein’s genius, and the ice skating talent of Dorothy Hamill and the singing voice of Eartha Kitt and…you get the idea. Actually, as long as I’m confessing this silly game, I’ll confess that I didn’t just do this when I was a kid. I’ve wished to be a pastiche of people basically my whole life. Things seemed to have changed since Azita was born though. I’m pretty happy being myself. I still wish for different life circumstances at times, but I basically like who I am at the moment. It only took me 36 years. Maybe by the time I’m 40 I’ll be really happy with me.


Anywhere But Here

9 11 2009

I haven’t written anything in about a week, mostly because life kind of sucked last week. In addition to both Azita and me being sick, work really, really sucked.  I mean,  it sucked as in I kept trying to remember why I took a massive paycut to work more hours with less meaningful work. Hours that are often filled with busywork that someone else is supposed to be doing if she could do anything right. Hours filled with annoyance and well, more annoyance and yet some more annoyance to top it off. It sucked so much that I really just wanted to become a hermit. Interacting with the world was just too much for me to handle after being required to do so during the day. It was physically exhausting, and my language skills were completely depleted by the time I left work.

Yeah, it sucked like that.

And, whenever life sucks, I’m all flight and no fight. I’ve been this way ever since I was a kid. When times are tough, I want to run away to Shangri-La. I mean that literally. I had a really big Paradise Lost obsession.

I had a lot of literary obsessions, actually, and there have also been many times when I want to move far, far away. For a long time I wanted to move to Prince Edward Island, thanks to  Anne of Green Gables. In my high school years, Faulkner convinced me that the deep south was where I needed to be. Edith Wharton made me yearn for New England. Actually, I still yearn for New England. This past week, I’ve put some serious thought into New England. And, North Carolina. I know they seem disparate, but my sister is in North Carolina. She is my closest confidant, the person I’ve loved the most for the longest. My nephews are there. My niece. I really want to move to North Carolina.

I’ve lived in the DC metropolitan area for my whole life, minus a brief stint in Baltimore.  I’ve always loved living here. In spite of wanting to run away here and there, I’ve never really wanted to leave. Not REALLY. Lately though, the hustle and bustle of this metropolis just doesn’t hold the allure it once did. It’s all rush, rush, rush, get stuck in traffic, claw your way to the top, never sleep, never stop moving, etc., etc. It’s all of that minus the really cool stuff that comes from being in a big city like New York or London, and I’m just over it.

Yesterday when I had my nearly daily phone conversation with my sister, I mentioned that I was starting to feel less competitive than I’ve always been. Competition has been a way of life for me for as long as I can remember, and it’s made life exciting and rewarding at times. Then this morning I wake up, and  it’s still dark outside. I have a long day ahead of me, and as I’m trying to get out of bed, my baby reaches out and puts her arms around my neck so I won’t leave. Yeah. Then that happens, and I don’t care anymore about being competitive. I really just want a slower and quieter life. I want to spend more time with my baby. I want to be present in the moment when I’m with her and not worrying about the million things that need to get done just to make it through a day in D.C.

Maybe trying to be anywhere but here is not so selfish as I think.  It’s not just trying to get away from my troubles. It’s also trying to find a place where Roger and I aren’t always rushing around and just getting through life, dragging Azita along with us. I really don’t know where I’ll be a year from now, but I hope it’s somewhere more placid. If anyone knows where that place is, let me know. I’m on the next train there.

Wondering About the Wonder Years

28 10 2009

Years ago I clicked through on an email from Classmates.com and out of curiosity I signed up for an account. Since then I receive an email just about every day with updates on my former classmates. They write notes, they upload pictures, they post new events, they update their bios. They do lots of things, and I get emails letting me know that I can login to Classmates.com and see what’s going on.  Here’s the thing. I have no idea who most of these people are.

I was not exactly a popular person in high school, and it went beyond being a member of the freaks and geeks. I was so beyond freak or geek that even they didn’t really accept me into their crew. As a very young child I was painfully shy, and I wasn’t much better as a teenager. So I hung out alone, and I phoned it in. I really just wanted to get out of high school and get started with college already, so much so that I registered for the summer session and got started with my first couple college classes a good month before I graduated from high school. You can’t be more eager to leave a place than that.

I’m not saying I had no friends. I just had very few, and I’m not in touch with any of them now. But hey, life goes on, and I can’t say I have any deep regrets over my high school experience. In spite of this I can’t help sometimes seeing these emails and wondering what my life would be like if I was popular or if I did make friends that I’m still friendly with today. If I wasn’t such a geeky loner, maybe I’d know how to work the system a little better now and make more money. And maybe I’d have more friends as an adult. On the other hand, I probably would be so…well let’s just say I probably wouldn’t be such an “individual.” After so many years I’ve kind of grown to like my “individuality.”

Really, no regrets, but I was always a sucker for those Choose Your Own Adventure books and I do have a very geeky obsession with the time-space continuum. So I wonder almost obsessively at times how the different decisions and actions we make in our lives ultimately affect the outcome.

I think what I mostly wonder about however is what Azita’s high school experience will turn out to be. I know she’s not even a year old, and I’m already thinking about her teenage years. This is the point where Roger usually rolls his eyes at me, but I swear I’m not worrying or being compulsive in any way. I’m just being curious. Will she be a nerd like me? A cool kid like her baba? A jock? A theater geek? Maybe she will defy categorization.

I don’t know, and I don’t know if I wish for any of the above. When I think about Azita in high school, I hope she has a different experience than mine. I hope she’s well-liked, but doesn’t feel or give in to the pressure to be popular. I hope she can enjoy high school and make some life-long friends but continues to form lasting friendships afterwards. I hope that those years are just the launching point for a wonderful life and not the high point. I hope that she learns to love learning but that she also picks up the skills to be comfortable in social situations. I hope so many things, but most of all I hope that when she reaches the ripe old age of her maman she can look back on her youth with fondness but so very glad to be exactly where she is.

The Birth of My Dreams

2 10 2009

When I got pregnant, like most women I had hopes and dreams not just about my future child’s life, but also about the pregnancy itself and the early days after the pregnancy. I knew that I wanted to get cute maternity clothes and to look like a petite woman with a little bump tacked on in front. That didn’t happen, and I’ll admit that I knew it wouldn’t. I mean, starting off the pregnancy with an extra 10 pounds doesn’t exactly put you on the road to success, where success is a achieving the adorable, you hardly look pregnant, Hollywood pregnancy look. But really, that was the least of my dreams. I’ll admit that I realized at the moment I saw the two pink lines that I was one of THOSE women that other mothers laugh at.

Yes, I’ll admit it. I wanted a natural, drug-free childbirth (I know everyone is thinking I’m crazy already). I wanted my baby to latch on within minutes of being born and to never taste a drop of formula. I wanted these things, and none of it happened. My darling Azita was born thanks to a scheduled c-section, and her first drop of formula passed her lips at just 2 days of age.

I had good intentions, but the universe had different plans for me. It all started at my 20-week ultrasound. I discovered I was having a baby girl, and I discovered that her butt was planted firmly down in my pelvis. She twisted and turned a lot, even during the ultrasound, but she always ended up butt-down. Of course, most breech babies end up turning around, sometimes even right before the birth itself. But, I could have told you Azita would end up being a stubborn little girl before she was born. She just wouldn’t budge, and due to the position of her umbilical cord she couldn’t be turned without posing some serious risks to both her and me.

It turned out that I couldn’t have the birth of my dreams, and there was nothing I could to about it. See, I understand that a drug-free birth hurts, and that it hurts a lot, more than I can imagine. But, I looked forward to it. In my mind it would be the first bonding experience between me and my little one. I wanted to be fully present, and I didn’t want to be tied down to a table unable to hold my baby until an hour after she was born. And at the risk of sounding sappy, I just knew it would be a sort of mystical experience.

To make matters worse, since they had to do the c-section a few weeks earlier than her due date, Azita’s mouth was just too immature to latch on. So, I never got to nurse her as I had imagined either. Thanks to the best technology Medela has to offer, I did manage to feed her lots and lots of breast milk, but I missed out on yet another bonding experience that I really, really wanted.

My perfect birth didn’t happen the way I imagined it, but it was still perfect. I still ended up with a perfect baby, the love of my (and Roger’s) life. I know this, and I am grateful. But, I can’t help but feel pangs of regret and sadness over the loss of the experience I had hoped for. And sometimes when I’m gazing on Azita’s beautiful, sleeping face, I think maybe I should try to convince Roger that she needs a brother or sister. Maybe there’s still hope for me to have the childbirth of my dreams. I mean, I definitely have enough love to share, and Azita would be a great older sister.

Girl on Girl Crime

1 10 2009

Most nights of the week I watch TV while getting caught up on work after Azita falls asleep. Since I work a lot, I end up watching a lot of TV, and since I’m not always watching pre-recorded stuff (although I usually do) I end up watching a lot of commercials. And, lately I’ve noticed that many commercials geared toward women seem to feature a woman hating another woman for achieving something as the punchline. Seriously. Next time you’re watching TV take a good look. There’s the diet product commercial where a group of women hate another woman for being thin. There’s the beauty product commercial where a group of women hate another woman for looking prettier or younger. I think you get the idea. Women supposedly hate other women for being prettier, thinner, younger, smarter, more successful and so on. You can substitute any superlative in that list, and it will work.

I would say that this is just an assumption made by the male-dominated advertising industry (and if you think we’ve come a long way since “Mad Men”, you’re sadly mistaken. I worked in the advertising industry not too long ago, and women’s lib is unheard of still.). However, as much as it pains me to say it, this is no assumption. It’s the truth. I hear it all the time. “I hate her. She’s so skinny.” “She’s so pretty it’s disgusting.” Women hate Martha Stewart because she’s so perfect and Gwyneth Paltrow because she’s so skinny after giving birth to two children (and she does manage to do it all also). You get the idea. Women hate other women for excelling at something, for being born with a little something more than we have, for working hard to achieve something. And, I have to say it’s not just a crying shame. It’s downright criminal.

Whatever happened to girl power? I’ll admit to the occasional pang of jealousy when I see a woman who can fit into skinny jeans. What I wouldn’t give to be in her place, I think, but I honestly cannot understand feeling negatively toward that woman. Rather, I see them as inspiration. “Wow, she looks great! Maybe if I run an extra 15 minutes a day and eat just 100 calories fewer, I too, could look equally great.” When I see a woman who does it all, I see them as a role model, someone I aspire to be like. Yes, I know that Martha Stewart has a ton of help, that people don’t see that and that they think “If she can do it all, why can’t my wife/mother/daughter/sister/etc.?” But really, who gives a damn what people think?

This past year, a woman came pretty damn close to being elected President of the United States. Irina Bokova became the first woman chief of UNESCO. Ursula Burns became CEO of Xerox, becoming the first African-American woman to run a large U.S. corporation. And, that’s not even a drop in the bucket of women’s achievements in the past year. If we’ve really come such a long way, why are we still playing that same old game?

When I gave birth to my daughter this year everything did change, but one thing that remained the same is my feelings on this issue. Actually, it didn’t remain the same, my resolve has gotten stronger. I want my daughter to have female role models, to look up to women who have accomplished things, and not to think “I hate her” but rather to think “I can do that too.” And, I’m going to do my small part to make this change happen. I’ll celebrate the achievements of women, big and small, in my life and in this blog, and my daughter will never hear me put another woman down. I hope that other women who read this can do the same. It’s time we put a stop to this girl on girl crime.

Crickets and Beating Hearts

2 09 2009

It’s almost here. My favorite time of the year when I was a child….the start of school. I’ll admit that I’m one of those freaks who actually really loves school. I consider myself a lifelong learner (can you tell I’m in the education software business?).

I enjoyed college. I enjoyed it so much that I kept going and going, until the bills just go to be too much. While I didn’t enjoy the social aspects of my K-12 years, I did enjoy the academic side. Every year around this time I start to get excited and wistful, especially when the weather turns, as it did this week. The air has the smell and bite of autumn, and I know that kids will soon be starting new classes, hopefully in a new grade. They get a fresh start, a fresh chance to excel, to make new friends, to discover a new favorite subject, to read new books.

Just thinking about it I start to get butterflies in the pit of my stomach, to feel the same way I used to feel when I was a child, lying awake on the night before the first day of school with the windows open, listening to the crickets chirping to the rhythm of my beating heart.