all posts, miscellaneous, parentings/things about baby and kids

napping success (procrastination elsewhere)

Cuz I am a champion

I got the little one to nap today (and finally in a normal leg-in-crib position) so I am celebrating by doing procrastinated chores! Yay adulthood! Since I have nothing more to talk about I will just share my to-do list so you can all revel in my adultness.

To-do list of today

  • check internet bills (pretty sure I paid it and the physical mailed copy is a redundancy, but I’m paranoid so I’ll check again)
  • print death reads (I’m trying to avoid being on my computer when the little one is awake, and instead read more physical things around her, so I’ve got to print out all my articles)
  • check mail for USPS shit (change of address stuff)
  • send friend a package (super behind on that…)
  • say hello to baby neighbors (need to make some mom friends!)
  • fix blue bookshelf (the trim is falling off)
  • fix Goodnight Moon (little one keeps aggressively turning the pages and ripping them. Such is her passion for this book)
  • set up pediatric appointment (cuz we moved)
  • dental filling (because apparently fillings don’t last long in my mouth)

I’m sure there’s more I’ve forgotten to put on my list, but those will do for now. The problem is, after the more pressing ones, I just want to slack off and read. Welp.

Things on the internet that amuse me

So I was looking into my local area to see if there were any writing opportunities, and I got led to a job listing site where I saw this:

I’m sorry, but you want a ghost writer to get your (their*) work into some of the top business magazines? Why would someone take that offer…? Unless you are offering BANK.

Also isn’t my tiny one cute?

My mom was watching the baby a few weeks ago and apparently the little one got all messy so my mom needed to change her shirt but only had this tight lady’s t-shirt:

I don’t know, it seems like, when you are that tiny cute you can wear anything and look adorable. I mean look at her decked out in the early fall in the northeast (before we moved):

She’s just a stunning tiny blob. Everything she does is cute to me, like her wearing her dad’s slippers (even though anytime an adult tries to wear them, she ferociously demands that none of us wear them so that they are hers and hers alone):

Okay I am done spamming you all with my little one’s photos. I just looking at them.

all posts, miscellaneous, parentings/things about baby and kids

the nap wrangler

December 4th

I’m optimistically waiting for my toddler to nap so I can too, guilt free (also I hate being woken up two seconds after I’ve fallen asleep when it took me 45 minutes to get to those 2 seconds). In the meantime I’m hiding in my room reading The Bloggess’ blog. Like all of it. From the beginning working to the more recent stuff. Still in 2007 at the moment. And so, responding to her statement to try this:

SUPERHERO NAME: (”The” + 2nd favorite color, favorite drink)
The Green Kombucha

STRIPPER NAME: (the name of your favorite perfume/cologne/scent, favorite candy)
Lavender Twix

SPY NAME/BOND GIRL: (your favorite season, holiday/ flower)
Spring Marshmallow

CARTOON NAME: (favorite fruit, article of clothing you’re wearing right now + “ie” or “y”)
Blackberry Sweatshirtie

HIPPY NAME: (What you ate for breakfast, your favorite tree)
White Chocolate Chip Flax Seed Oatmeal Willow (which is literally the perfect name for me).

My takeaway from this is that my interests and habits haven’t changed in years. I’m not bummed by that. Also I want to grow most of those things in a few years (lavender, marshmallow, willows, blackberries… kombucha… white chocolate chips… you know, garden staples).

December 4th, a little bit later

The little one didn’t nap long at all. So no sleep for mama. UGH. In the words of Cristine of Simply Nailogical, “drink slave!” (the context being that her boyfriend always bring her Starbucks during her videos so they started calling him drink slave… so I am wishfully thinking that my husband who is currently 500 miles away will surprise me with a peppermint latte in two seconds).

Also I imagine most of my posts will be posted very much after the fact of when I started writing them. I get distracted by my mini me a lot as she is both cute and demanding of attention (both literally and through her general disregard for common sense safety).

December 5th

It’s a new day! Jake is home from his business trip (yay).

Again I am waiting for the little one to take a nap (surprise surprise). She just gets so self destructive when tired… like she yell more and be increasingly clumsy and when it gets to a point of no return she’ll start biting clothes in frustration of her impending siesta.

However today, I might have been able to get the little one to nap earlier (maybe…). In a past life, she used to have a nap that started between 9am and 10am and lasted ’til like 1230pm but since we moved she’s been an anarchist to that schedule. Alas.

December 5th, even later

Update: So she eventually did nap! But… she fell asleep like this:

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Which led me to worry about her leg circulation so after attempting to cover her for a bit in this fashion:

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I snuck back into her room to push her leg back into the bed. Naturally she cracked open an eye to see what the fuck I was doing and then promptly became full scale alert, so I tried to breastfeed her to get her to sleep (successfully) but then as I slowly put her back into her crib, the degree of downwards sloping in my movement triggered her no-nap-this-is-bullshit-o-meter. So now I am listening to the sounds of a groggy, grumpy toddler-ite and hoping she will slip back into sleep in a minute (but am not optimistic).

all posts, mental health, miscellaneous, parentings/things about baby and kids

late night tangential rants of insomnia

Middle of the night

I tried my hand at cooking.  I won’t say proper cooking because I winged most of it and have no culinary finesse, but I had some successes. Not the intended ones but whatever.

The spur to cook came from starting Susan Herrmann Loomis’ book last night called On Rue Tatin and it reminded me why I keep falling in love with the French language. The provençal love affair with the harvests of their lands feels so wholesome,  so hobbit-y, which is my constantly reoccurring aspiration. So I tried to dabble. I won’t say it was fun but if nothing else, I got a better diversity of vegetables in me than I have in months.

My goal is to learn how the south-of-France French prepare dishes, and then twist the dishes to be inclusive of native seasonal plants growing in my home state. Step two is to prepare to grow some lovelies for ourselves this coming year. And step three is to work towards sustainable harvests and/or local buying. These steps can be simultaneous.

I feel as though every action and thought I take these days is all just a step towards becoming a hobbit because as Tolkien’s (or Peter Jackson’s) character of Bilbo says, “it is no bad thing to celebrate a simple life.” As I get older, I feel it more and more in my bones, that all I want to so is live a simple life. But defining what that means in a modern era proves to be endlessly frustrating.

I also feel like I have to keep discovering mentally myself because I don’t know myself at all. Pretty clear that I do in fact have some form of OCD given the increase in intensity of certain habits (getting bursts of dopamine from picking my skin of “impurities” when I have severe eczema and doing so instead of sleeping, scrolling back through years of content to start at the beginning of blogs, my aggressive aversion to sticky things touching my hands, my tendency to ruminate on my future “path” ad nauseam to the point that I have notebook after notebook of unfinished plans of what I will do with my life starting since before college.

I definitely also suffer from anxiety, but at a more manageable level, given how often I freak out that my little one will die from my negligence (the newest edition today being that she somehow manages to break her own neck in her carseat while we are driving home). I lose sleep over trying to figure out how to make a successful career and balance being a stay-at-home mom, and also how to not become part of any pyramid schemes.

And given how much happier I am since the move, I fear I did in fact have postpartum depression. It got to the point where trying to muster energy to leave the apartment at all felt like a chore, and really the only time I did it was to take baby to her toddler music class or to drive Jake to work. I didn’t want to cook for myself, I didn’t want to  make plans with others, I didn’t want to do anything really. Which naturally triggered my anxiety for Fi because I knew I was doing her wrong by being a recluse.

Thankfully it seems that era of my life is over. Maybe I needed to be back in a familiar territory. Maybe I needed to be near my parents who know when I need to be dragged out of the house, and/or when I just need help. Who knows. Either way, I’m glad that mental hurdle is lessening, and wish I had caught it earlier.

I think my other issues are that I undervalue any impact my mental health may be having on my actions because I blame everything on my skin, which probably is part of the problem, but at the same time addressing my anxiety and compulsive picking would definitely help the skin heal as well.

Also my other constant struggle is that I still love blogging but I don’t like how it became so trendy. Now I can’t disentangle myself from thinking about my standing in the interwebs, how to get more likes, comments, followers, etc. I don’t want to follow a theme, but man it would be sweet to make a career out of just spewing my thoughts. Dream job? “Yes, yes” (said in the voice of Eric Foreman from That 70s show).

Also I feel like at some point I have to accept that nighttime and sleep don’t work for me. I think I oscillate between 2-5 hours most nights and the causes of disruptions vary. Lately, I stay up because it’s the quiet time when I have the world to myself, so I usually stay up reading. Other times I wake up (or stay up) from anxiety (or recently fear of my new home), and sometimes it’s due to itching or sweating that I wake up/can’t sleep.

Also sometimes I make typos that crack me up. Like robin –> ribib3. I’d blame the autocorrect (because it doesn’t work… or I may have turned it off on my phone) but honestly it’s usually that I don’t care to correct myself anymore if I think my point still got across. This usually applies only to texting. For blog posts I care a lot and will randomly go back and read posts from months ago and find mistakes to fix. But not systematically in a way that actually gets anything done. Oh no. Just randomly here and there.

I feel like Maury the hormone monster is yelling at me, saying “Rage, rage, fucking rage!” But instead replace rage with rant. I bet I’m feeling so ranty because I didn’t get to chat with Jake as much as usual since he’s out of town for tonight for work and apparently I dump most of these thoughts in him or else they spill over into the blog. Oops. So you should all be happy for the dam that is Jake to the diverted water flow that is my mind.

Maybe I should have stuck to google’s blogspot. They didn’t charge for changes like wordpress does. And  I want to change my url all the time. But wordpress looks so clean and pretty and now I’ve got years of posts on it, and I love chronicles. Ugh.

I should drink more water.  That’s not a tangent but just a stand alone thought I have multiple times a day. And yet, I never quite achieve a moderate amount of consumption. Hmm.

The next two paragraphs I had to delete because in my infinite sleep wisdom, I copied and pasted a previous two.

Another OCD tendency: I start a notebook with one thing… say it’s things I need to do. Then after a little while I realize I want to write about something else say books I want to read, but I don’t want to use the same notebook for this new topic. So now I either have to start a new notebook, which seems wasteful and excessive, or rip out the original pages which seems needlessly destructive. Or I share the notebook with both ideas and over time the book becomes a crazy incoherent ranting pile of all kinds of ideas and lists and notes to self.

This is a complete tangent but I just wanted everyone to know that it is possible to breastfeed on demand and still have a baby that sleeps through the night.  Pediatricians I encountered all told me I’d have to at least night wean to get my little one to sleep through the night but they were wrong. Haha!

Andddd I’ve got less than 2 hours before the little one wakes up. Fuck.

Later

Posted much later. I breastfed the baby in bed and put baby shark on repeat to gain me another hour and a half of being horizontal. Life hacks.

all posts, community, mental health, mortality, nature/the environment

death as my guide

Death studies

I have been reading books on books about death. Death from the perspective of the dying, death from the vantage point of medical professions, death from philosophers, death from people who have lost someone. It’s weird to say, but I love death stuff. Not because I am morbid and have a weird fascination with the idea of being dead (frankly that scares the bejeezus out of me and sends my head into terrifying loops trying to conceptualize it), but because outside of being born, dying/being dead is the only thing I will share with all humans/living things on earth (except maybe tardigrades, and I’m still not convinced they aren’t aliens).

It’s a strange place to be in, being a student of death. I began by systemically reading the most respected books on the subject, am currently looking for a hospice place to volunteer at, and I begin my formal death doula study work in January. In other words, I have jumped down the rabbit hole and am going full speed into embracing the world of mortality.

My shift into this new paradigm of living probably has heavy roots from a topic I mentioned in a previous post. If one lives in a culture obsessed with youth and our early years (think of all the adages we use: “age before beauty”  “you are young, live a little”, etc) having a condition such as eczema/TSW/gene mutation that causes you to have “aged” and sensitive skin to the extent that it alters how you live day to day… eventually you are bound to reflect on the life you are living. The serendipity of ending such a reflection ending up on death’s doorstep is when you look around, you realize everyone will eventually join you. When someone loses a loved one, they are faced with their mortality. When someone grows up able-bodied and becomes disabled, they reflect anew on their mortality. When one grows up in a society that values/develops around intrinsic factors that deviate from one’s own, the forced recognition of not being/having the “in” qualities caused mortal reflections. In every scenario, at some point everyone will be faced with accepting their mortality, so when you do, you are just accepting what makes you innately human, knowing you will die, and the company it comes with is surprising sweet.

I have also been plagued with the urge to try and communicate what I learn from my deep dive into death, and struggle to decide what medium works best to do so. My issue is that I prefer the written hand, but how can I reach others to connect with when the written world is dominated by themed bloggers with deep followings, pay-for-ad bloggers, lifestyle bloggers, and other algorithm-based advantaged bloggers. I miss the early blogging days where it was unique enough that getting your words out what enough to provoke communal responses, before it required hashtags and search optimization. Or maybe I am simply not as compelling of a writer or communicator or thinker, and so my words as mostly unheeded from the larger populace. Either option has the same result. I am stuck learning so much but unable to communicate it with mostly anyone other than my lovely husband, who can patiently decipher my meaning even when my words are obscured by months of sleep deprivation.

I recently also contemplated podcasts, despite my obvious inability to (compelling) speak aloud. My logic was that I would improve in the former, and that most people don’t enjoy reading long form anymore, unless it is streamlined directly into their subset of interest. But who knows, maybe I will return to this idea in a few months or so. It could be fun.

Speaking of months…

Ours flew by and we are finally all moved into our new home. It’s a lovely little 3-bedroom we are renting that is shaped in such a way that our baby’s room doesn’t receive much noise from our upstairs TV room, despite us being able to hear her from said bedroom. As a result, we have been able to talk above a whisper and host friends/my parents after the baby goes to sleep, despite her habit towards light sleeping.

It’s good to be home. I missed this neighborhood, with its friendliness and quirky characters. I am excited to see our little one grow up in this town that is not a town (actually though. I googled it and it is apparently a census-designated place or an unincorporated area with no definitive boundaries). We also have vultures…? I mean, yes of course. I’m studying death so a bird of death must appear!

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At the same time, the transition here hasn’t as smooth as I would hope. Having lived away for years now, I have developed a plethora of bad habits that I need to break (like feeling trapped in a city and thus emotionally eating to the point that I gained 20+ pounds in a year!).

I also need to learn to balance my time in a whole new way now that I have more freedom (including the stress reduction of not being able to get myself and my little one forest bathing/into nature). The flip side of this lovely return to a land with trees and fewer cars is that I have been so inundated in environments that always have a heavy amount of ambient light that I no longer know how to sleep well in the deeper darkness of my childhood town. And at night, every sound this house makes sets me on edge (but that’s the case with almost all new places).

In lieu of sleeping

So now I’ve constructed this post to clear my mind. I also re-read many of my older posts. Since getting into death as a subject of interest, I have been reflecting a lot on myself. I have, and continue to, expend so much energy trying to conform to fit in with models of how I have been trained to believe the world needs to work. Many of my posts reflect this as I oscillate back and forth from trying to get my entrepreneurial start to trying to conform to a cookie cutter career; both in an attempt to fit in with this world model I have internalized from my years on this earth. I’m not saying that reflecting on my mortality has rid me of this tendency, but more so that it has helped me highlight the neuroses of it, which in turn is letting me better chip away at the anxiety that comes from it. Though I am no longer to having the ultimate job/career smoothly going, I have gotten better at trying to figure out what my self-decided purpose is with the time I have on this earth.

all posts, community, eczema, mental health, miscellaneous, mortality, parentings/things about baby and kids, women's health

old plans meet new horizons (aka what I do when the little one sleeps)

In the past, I may have mentioned how I am obsessed with the fourth trimester and all things postpartum, or how when I was in my physical therapy doctorate program, I was interested in going into a women’s health specialty.

After I left the program, I searched for ways to slowly transition into the women’s health field from a different angle. And so from April through October 2018, I worked as a women’s health information specialist for Dr. Brianne Grogan, a women’s health PT and health and wellness coach and the creator of FemFusion Fitness. It was one of those random connections that seems fortuitous- in fact I had contacted her years ago after reading her book (way before I even had applied to PT schools) because I was interested in learning more about women’s health.

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My job for her entailed handling email inquiries from women trying to understand

  • what was going on with their bodies
  • what content Bri had out, and
  • who they should see (doctors, PTs, etc).

I also worked on various projects like helping make distributable content for bone building exercises, and I collected research for her new topics. On occasion I did some help with audience outreach to get her free content out into the world.

In time though we amicably went our separate ways. She moved on to focus more on holistic health practices and less on women’s health physical therapy and rehabilitation specifically, and so I continued on in my own direction, which at the time mostly included prepping for my baby’s arrival into the world. Working for Bri was an awesome opportunity because not only is she the nicest, but I got to brush the cobwebs out of my brain about women’s health rehabilitation and really delve into the subject (if you haven’t checked it out already, her youtube is full of free videos of explanations and exercises that cover a gambit of topics like prolapse, diastasis recti, pelvic pain, etc. Check it out here).

Afterward having my baby, I had not lost the love for the fascinating field of women’s health, I merely needed time to rethink how I could enter the world as a professional, no longer coming from the physical therapy realm.

I had been contemplating the idea of becoming a postpartum doula for a long time, and I finally realized what I was missing in that thought process. My objective couldn’t be simply to become a traditional postpartum doula because I would always have to explain about my skin condition, that I’m not contagious, what that means for my services, and work around my own flares and down time. But in reality when I was thinking about my own limitations, I should have been thinking about who could relate to having them. This led me to thinking about those expecting, new, or seasoned moms that have to live with eczema or other chronic conditions (shoutout to all the spoonies out there!) while growing/raising a babe or two (or three or more), and what their needs might be.

It’s not uncommon for people with chronic illnesses to have higher rates of depression, and it’s not uncommon for moms to suffer from postpartum depression, so what about those unlucky ladies that get hit with both? How do they find a support system that bridges both gaps, knowing that some of their depression comes from living with an incurable condition, and the other from being steamrolled with new hormones and emotions as a new life blends into theirs? That is a demographic I feel has not been studied or served enough. And so, I have begun to slowly pull my own experiences (both personal and professional) to better understand and then serve this group. I have been working on merging three of my interests to accomplish this:

  1. postpartum education (e.g my postpartum doula course and my position researching and writing postpartum mental health pieces),
  2. community engagement projects (two in the works: one to help educate mamas of color who may face discrimination from the medical/healthcare world or not have access to it at all, and one about how to train churches to better serve new moms in their area), and
  3. volunteering more with the National Eczema Association. This helps me to be in the know about what policies are being created (or challenged), as well as what new treatments or practices are out.

I use these three directions to help understand my own struggles, as well as figure out how I might work to help mothers out there like me (or other parents/caregivers!). It also gives me more reasons to continually I brush up on healthcare policies, systemic support options, familial/community building techniques, measurable outcome scales, all manner of recent research and studies, etc, which I tend to like to peruse anyway.

I have also been exploring the other side of my interests- traditions and cultures around death. Soon I will be taking Alua Arthur’s End of Life training and learn how to best serve individuals and their families around their time of dying. I think it’s such a taboo thing that we really need to talk about more. The amount of people with traumatizing stories and feelings of regret around their loved ones times of dying is astounding, and historically many cultures prevented this by being present and accepting death as nature, not some scary thing never to be spoken about. As Alua says “talking about sex won’t make you pregnant. Talking about death won’t make you dead.”

I think talking about mortality brings up some important conversations (even just with oneself) about the relative value of our day to day decisions. Interestingly enough, many of my postpartum books now overlap with my study of death. I recently read Overwhelmed: Work, Love, and Play When No One Has the Time by Briget Schulte and it had multiple mentions of how mortality was regarded over the years, and how that was reflected in how we approach our day to day lives, including our aggressive work-above-all work culture today. The logic is, if you think about your mortality to a normal moderate amount, you make choices that are more centered around your mortality. We aren’t talking about the “YOLO” ideology, but rather decisions such as ‘maybe you don’t need to take that extra late business call that’s not really mission critical in lieu of spending time with your loved ones’, and that kind of logic.

Oh that reminds me- I did recently finish a class through Mothering Arts about how to create a community supported postpartum space that I really enjoyed. It offered lots of insight in how to welcome in new mamas as well as community “grannies” and draw-in local professional women to offer their expertise to the moms. My only rub is that I want to create a larger scale space than that demographic (though not necessarily a large number of people at one time). I want to create a space (maybe a physical community shop) that welcomes everyone is to have discussions, seek community, find aid… almost something that mixes time banks, death cafes, postpartum meet-ups, with a part-time bartering system, all wrapped into a welcoming looking shop. I get inspired by places like HausWitch though my target audience is slightly different.

Obviously my long term goals are still being constructed, but I think one day I would like to own this type of shop with my sister (who is paving her career in graphic design/UX and my best friend (who is a social worker), offering classes and discussions, innovative tech, and community services centered around the biggest times of change (birth/postpartum, and death). We also want to raise families together so working together would give us the time and space to figure out how to make it all work. ❤

On the book front, I’m currently reading Witches of America by Alex Mar which I’m finding so inspiring. It’s not that I want to be a witch per se, but I love learning about different routes of beliefs and what draws people to them, and Mar explores this topic so well.

Anyway, as the colder months approach, I’m in the hibernation phase of life again. Lots of reading, snuggles with the little one, obsessions with soups, teas, and decaf lattes. My family and I are moving soon, which is a new adventure on its own because we are finally leaving Massachusetts, but is a lot of mental overload on how to move across multiple states (any advice is welcome). The move might be hugely impactful on my skin too because I think my condition gets worse in the fall due to a mold allergy (and fall here is pretty moldy!). I’m actually friggin’ psyched to be moving- but more on that another day.

 

all posts, community, mental health, miscellaneous, nature/the environment

the night school (part 1)

I like finding free things to do online (21 days of yoga, weekly journal prompts, etc). I don’t always carry through with many of them, but I enjoy the challenge and the game of setting up something to do, and usually am drawn towards things that involved a lot of self reflection.

This particular project is called The Night School by Maia Toll. I am doing the “part-time” option, which means I will be focusing on the weekly writing prompts (because I don’t have the time or attention span to watch the discussion and ritual videos… I’m still not super into watching videos that require intense focus). But even so, just doing the weekly prompts includes readings from her book (see below) and some general context and discussion points. I look forward to seeing what comes of doing it for the “semester”.

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This week’s assignment was: What in the world feels alive to you and what feels lifeless? Why? Examine your preconceptions.

What feels alive to me? I think I define aliveness too literally, but the email also goes into detail about the energies of things which I find easier to relate to. When I was growing up in Maryland we lived near a small woods. The woods were cool because you couldn’t really get lost in them (it was fairly easy to run out into some neighborhood), but if you knew your way, you could walk through the woods to get all the way to the C&O canal without having to pass really anyone’s homes. I often went into these woods when I was annoyed or upset, or just when I wanted to bike/run through, and if it was getting later in the day and darkness started creeping in (as it always did in the woods before the neighbors since there were so many trees) I remember at some point I started talking to the woods asking for safe passage. I specifically would say the same phrase every time, in French, because I thought the language was older and thus more likely that the trees would know it. Now it’s also interesting because I never had the feeling that the woods were hostile or required me to ask for safe passage, but I always felt it deserved the respect of the question anyway, and that more likely the woods would protect me from something else. In other way, I never had anything bad or shady happen to me in the woods and I continue to visit it when I visit my parents.

Now living in the city where I do I have become much more anxious than I used to be. Part of it was working through my own neuroses of being a stay-at-home mom in a culture where that is very unusual (I am also a young mom in this particular city culture). But even as I work through that hurdle, I realize the city itself makes me anxious. It has such haphazard energy all the time. It is alway noisy during the day (July and September seem to be when all the road construction happens), but it’s also a tiny city that has narrow streets and crazy road patterns, and yet the same 1/4 mile strip of street will be shared with 3 separate road construction projects, 50+ cyclists who have to weave into car traffic to pass one another or to turn, pedestrians that no one can see due to parked cars, standing aside cross walks that have varying degrees of visibility (from electronically lit up to make shift single cones denoting the spot on the sidewalk where they should start to cross). The energy is impatient. People are constantly walking around, no smiles to spare (I often try to say hello to humans on principle and get a range of results). Though the speed isn’t always fast, the tempo varies abruptly as though the very act of having to engage with one another is a burden. And the chug of cars is never-ending. We have driven at all times and find that 3am to 8am is a pleasant time to drive on a weekend in the city. On a weekday, it’s more like 3am to 7am. The weather can be obnoxious, from sun beating down at all angles (it’s literally always directly in our faces when we drive in any direction in the morning) and the winds pick up strong enough to blow away our baby on account of the various wind tunnels created by lots of buildings and few trees. It feels chaotic and it often makes me agitated to encounter it. It took me a long time to realize that this pulse of energy existed and how it impacted me but over time it has become more clear.

Now that is not to say there aren’t pockets that are more peaceful. I keep finding some but the problem is they are hard to get too or fleeting in nature. For example, I jogged through the tree-part of the city to get to an open house for a toddler music class, and minus the fear of being late, the whole adventure was quite relaxing. It had the iconic early fall feel and the class was very cute. That kind of energy emitted a peace that I crave often, and as such, I’ll definitely be taking Fi back, but always by foot if possible.

Examining my preconceptions… well in a nutshell it would seem to follow the standard assumption of city = bad energy, and woods = good energy. But it could be argued that the reason I enjoyed my parents’ woods was because it was near enough to civilization that I never had to feel lost or in real danger. And it could be argued that there are cities that can exude a good time of peaceful energy, particularly ones that are not so jammed with traffic, have more explicit community, and dedicate more time to their green spaces equally across their land. And I know I personally wouldn’t enjoy living in a large woods all alone. I like people- or well, I like community. I think both extremes: alone in a large wood and emotionally alone in a dense city have the same energy to me, fearful. There is something I find primally terrifying about being alone. And not in a “I’ll have to do things for myself kind of way” but in a “no one will have your back if something goes wrong” kind of way. So resonant energies that feel good to me have to leak some kind of energy that feels communal. A crowded Boston T train doesn’t feel communal because everyone is looking out for themselves, usually annoyed to be on the train, and avoiding eye contact with one another, pretending they are alone while sandwiched like sardines. The idyllic memoirs of people traveling in European trains not so long ago had more of the communal feel, with older adults looking out for young children traveling alone, with space on trains to sit and eat, with an impetus to reach out and connect to your neighbor if for no other reason that to pass the time (and that was not unique to Europe, I just happened to have read a French memoir more recently).

Anyway, I’ll stop there for now. My brain has travelled off on to other things.

all posts, community, mortality

let’s talk about death

I seem to be drawn to fields of study that general society deems taboo. From talking about vaginas and all things women’s health, to my desire to talk about death, I really seem to have no boundaries. And so, with that, let’s talk about death.

I recently came across the profession of death doulas, and if I have a calling, I think it’s to become a death doula one day. More on that in a bit. First, look at this nifty, relevant journal that I had to buy for my future death doula training:

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And now back to the topic at hand.

So what is a doula?

I believe a doula is traditionally defined as a woman who serves, and is used to denote women who work with other women, specifically in a birth and postpartum context. Both birth and postpartum doulas work as support people for pregnant women/moms, helping them to navigate various systems and life changes. Historically, communities were stronger and so the need for doulas was not so defined (women generally were supported by other women of varying ages, from friends to skilled midwives, and this support could start during the pregnancy and continue through childrearing years). But as we’ve become more individualized and modernized, this communal support has seen rapid decline, and so the doula profession developed to help remedy the lapse of the support.

So then, death doulas?

Well, another consequence of the rapid modernization and aggressive individualism has been a shift away from dealing with death. We don’t tend to our deceased personally, we often have family members in homes that we don’t visit, we see more and more people dying in hospitals alone, or dying after enduring unending painful medical attempts to save/prolong their lives. More and more people are starting to feel that the way we treat the dying, and the lack of support around the times of dying are wrong, and it was from this belief that the profession of a death doula was formed.

The first formalized death doula I believe was Henry Fersko-Weiss. Inspired by the birth doula model, and disappointed by his own experience with his father’s and many of his patients’ deaths, Ferkso-Weiss wanted to create a profession that would allow for people to die better.

I know this is a weird and uncomfortable thing to get around

How on earth does one die better? Dying is miserable! It’s the end of life, etc. It’s hard to wrap one’s head around it, but that doesn’t make it any less important. A consequence of our culture’s death aversion has been increased fear. I distinctly remember my own personal existential crisis around age 7 or so when I confessed to my best friend that I was terrified about dying and becoming nothing. She replied back that this is why many people turn to religion, because it gives us something to believe in (very wise words for a 7-year old). This led me to years of trying to decide whether I believed in something or not (jury’s still out) and if not, how did I make sure I had a meaningful life until my time was over. The culmination of years following show a web of confused choices as I tried (and continue to try) to figure out what is important to me. As a result, I personally come across as erratic and fickle because I seem to change my mind instantaneously when in actuality I am constantly weighing my choices via long term projections, and thus constantly tweaking my day to day behaviors.

Now many people think that thinking and talking about death will get you depressed and worried. I believe the results of the death doula profession are seeing the opposite. Many people find that understanding that we are mortal and working towards accepting that allow them to appreciate life more. And people draw to being death doulas seem to be extreme lovers of life. My personal role model is Alua Arthur. She has an amazing video called I Plan People’s Death For A Living, which so distinctly highlights why she does what she does, and how it’s not as morbid as you think.

To fill the time between now and when I start actively studying to become a death doula (so after the baby (babies?) is (are?) in high school most likely), I have begun the process of reading all there is to read on dying, death, and how we as humans think about it, and how we process and deal with our/our loved ones’ mortality. It’s a fascinating field. And yes, it definitely can provoke the waterworks, but that’s just part of being human.

It’s also interesting because having the skin condition/autoimmune issues I do has made me much more aware of my mortality. If everyone is going on about how your 20s are your magic years, your skin is still great and you are super healthy, yatta yatta, than I already identify as someone who is past her prime. And I don’t feel negatively about this, but I do believe it influences the way I see the world and makes me think about the future in a more concrete fashion than many of my peers. Like when I said I wanted kids before 30, I realized I was 26, that it takes 10 months (ish) to create a baby, and so if I want to be done having kids by 30, it was time to start (and luckily my partner felt the same way).

I’ll end there for now, but this will probably be a running series of posts because it helps me get things out of my head if I write them down.