Hormonal Rage

Just to recap: I’m from Los Angeles, but I’m currently in the UK, two years into a very fish-out-of-water experience. Being an expat is no joke. I’m not exaggerating when I say that almost everything is different in England than it is in California, where in my homesick memory, even in the traffic is more tolerable.

I’m in England because I’m working on a PhD about childbirth intervention. Somehow, I managed to convince an academic department to fund my project, and now I actually have to DO this massive thing.

Finally, I’ve just had my first baby.

So: 5,000 miles from family + PhD student + new mom. I have no local family support, I’m working on a doctorate, I haven’t slept more than 4 consecutive hours in 7.5 months, I carry/cradle/pick up/put down/walk/dance/bounce my son all day long, I am still exclusively breastfeeding, I am ten pounds lighter than I was when I got divorced and stopped eating for three months, and until two days ago, when I passed my UK driving test, I couldn’t drive here and was walking/taking the train/catching buses with a child strapped to my body whenever I had to go anywhere. So, I’m fucking exhausted and sometimes I can’t think straight or make decisions or get through a driving lesson without coming home and losing my shit because everything is just DEMANDS CONSTANTLY.

Thus, I find it really offensive and dismissive when people tell new moms that it’s okay to feel upset because our “hormones are still settling.” As if not loving every second of our insane new lives could only be because us ladies are forever at the mercy of our hormones. We accept that a person who hasn’t slept well overnight or has a cold might be negatively impacted, but we feel the need to excuse mothers who feel bad. Don’t worry, Mom. You’re just hormonal. I understand that some women really do suffer from hormonal imbalances post-pregnancy, and I don’t at all mean to disparage them. However, patting a new mom on the the head and telling her that all her fears and anxieties and complete exhaustion are just by-products of her hormones does two things:

  1. Ignores that having a baby explodes a woman’s life
  2. Dismisses the very real and very visceral physical and emotional trauma of that explosion

I feel crazy sometimes because I’m sleep deprived and physically drained and walking around with eighteen pounds of squirming, grabbing baby attached to my skeletal frame all day long. I snap at my husband because as much as he loves us, he doesn’t understand what this is like for me. I am uncomfortable with the way I look because I look really different. I get angry or weepy or temporarily mean because I am tasked with something damn near impossible and I am just one human being and I am tired.

Being overwhelmed by a new baby is normal, because a new baby is overwhelming, not because women just can’t hang. I pushed a person out of my body and am now responsible for taking care of him. I think I’m entitled to have some real feelings about it.

Editors Wanted.

Hellllllo, darling readers! I have a favor to ask. I’ve been told by lots of people who love me that I should try to write about the last year of my life. However, they like me a lot and are probably super biased. I am terrified of doing this, because to sift through what happened, to really look at what those experiences were like, is torture. I was effectively an empty shell for most of the time, so I barely lived them as they were happening, and even then, as numb as I was, I was crazy every second. To think about it all again in any critical way is almost too much.

But it’s been months now and I’m hoping that beginning to write about it, really write about it, will help me rip off the blinders and the bandages and start to heal.

This is where you come in. I haven’t written in any real sense for ages and I think I may be terrible at it. If you don’t mind, I’d love feedback. (But be nice, because I am such a delicate flower.)

Behold, the first attempt:

It’s late Sunday morning, and it’s pouring rain. The clouds are heavy and low, but I can still see the island out in the harbour.  I feel, for the first time in my life, like I am outside my body. I’m not really here. This is not actually happening.

I know my brother is watching from a measured distance, and I am ashamed of myself. We’re in public, making a scene in front of countless strangers, but I am humiliated only because he is here. My brother, smart, carefree, blameless, is here, and I am hysterical with grief. I am dying.

“What happened to you?” she asks, frantic, tears and rain running down her face. “You were always so responsible. Jesus, Sarah, what is wrong with you?” My mother, with the gift shop bag full of Irish wool hats and scarves still dangling from her arm, is panicking.

“Nothing happened to me,” I say, trying to keep my voice down and my face low. I am aware now of all the people around us in the park – sitting on benches, riding the carousel.

I am lying through my teeth. Everything happened to me, but they won’t believe me. In an instant, I have lost nearly twenty years. I am not a grown up now. I am a ten-year-old girl, begging her parents to have faith in her. Believe me. Hold me. Save me.

They don’t.

My dad takes a step toward me, moving in front of my mother, blocking her from view. He looks right into my face and says, kindly he thinks, “You were always such a good person, Sarah. Be a good person.”

I am more myself in this moment than I have ever been in my life. I am free. I am alive.

And no one can see it. No one understands.

I was a good person, my dad said. But not anymore.

 

Dublin (Or: A Study In Low Light).

This will probably be my last post for a while, because tonight is my last night in Dublin and from here on out, my ability to access the internet is questionable.  I hope you can all survive my absence from your Readers (and/or emails).  Is there a way to schedule reposts of old stuff I’ve published?  Because that might be a fun way of ensuring that no one abandons me in my hour of need.

Anyway, I’ve had a whirlwind two days in Dublin.

I’ve been scoffed at and called a “TOURIST!” by a fat man with an American accent, which means that even Americans find Americans obnoxious in other countries.  (I wrote that sentence to mean that I found him to be intolerable, and just realized that it works the opposite way as well.  For what it’s worth, I was taking a picture of a church I had paid to tour, which is something I’m aware only a tourist does – however, I wasn’t doing anything overtly annoying or off-putting.  That Pierce was a b.)

I’ve walked on or about five gajillion miles, around and around the City Centre.  This walking was obviously entirely because I love to walk and not because I’m totally useless without Google Maps on my phone, okay?

I’ve seen taken a ton of terrible-quality photos with a seven-year-old digital camera I packed on a whim, back when I still thought I’d have my iPhone with me for photographs.  I know.  Right now you’re thinking I’m an idiot for using my iPhone as my primary camera.  Ahaha, friends.  You haven’t yet seen the pictures this shitty point-and-shoot takes.  Are you ready for this?

Trinity College:

DSC02149

The Long Room, adjacent to the Book of Kells:

DSC02147DSC02144

Christchurch:

DSC02169DSC02073DSC02075DSC02076

Dublinia, Viking and Medieval Ireland museum:

DSC02054

Oh, how I wished I had my phone for this. This is a Viking outhouse, complete with audio of a man groaning and straining on the toilet. It would have been my first Vine video.

DSC02055DSC02062DSC02067DSC02069I saw Bog People at the National Museum of Ireland, Archaeology Museum and walked through St. Stephen’s Green, and peered through locked gates at Dublin Castle, which is closed through July for government meetings:

DSC02091DSC02089

I found Viking ruins near Christchurch (and by that, I mean I followed some directions to see them, not that I discovered them.  That distinction totally had to be made):

DSC02176DSC02170DSC02175

And I toured the National Wax Museum,

DSC02122DSC02117DSC02138

where I took the highest quality photo of the trip thus far:

DSC02112

I discovered that today was Pride in Dublin:

DSC02160DSC02178

Most importantly, I got a wink and a smile and a “Pardon me, love” from a gorgeous Irish man who bumped into me on the street, which means I can pretty much just go home now, because my life is complete.

In all seriousness, I’ve had a great time and have seen a lot, but I’m finding I’m not a huge fan of traveling solo.  Trust me, I am a person who loves being by myself, so it’s not that I can’t handle alone time.  It’s just that in a city bustling with people doing things together, it’s odd and a little sad to not have at least one other person to share these experiences with.  Luckily, tomorrow I’ll meet up with about twenty field-schoolers and be plenty busy with company for the next five weeks.  And then my family comes to meet me!  So I’ll be fine.

I just miss my people.

Jack SpArrow.

Yesterday, my husband and I went to my parents’ house for dinner, so that I could see my parents and my brother The Baby and my grandparents before I leave for Ireland, and so that I could bogart a giant suitcase from my grandfather, in lieu of having to buy one.

Baby Bird was a popular topic of discussion.  My dad, who has been prosecutor for his entire career and who has worked in environmental law forever, taking down animal smugglers and oil spillers, had this to say about our nursing Jack Sparrow out of infancy:

“You know, guys, that’s really nice.  Did I ever tell you about the baby seal someone shot with a crossbow?  They shot it right through the neck with an arrow.  It took hours for the rescuers to catch it and take it to a rehab center.  The rehab spent six months getting the seal, named Arrow, healthy again.  We launched a huge campaign, with a reward, to catch the fisherman who’d shot it.  We put out flyers and misinformation and eventually someone gave us what we needed to find the guy.  When it was finally time to release Arrow back into the ocean, we loaded up a boat with the rescuers and a newspaper reporter and the guy who’d shot Arrow in the first place.  And you know what happened the instant Arrow was released?

“Eaten by a shark.  Immediately.  A huge Mako shark jumped right out of the water and ate him.  God, it was terrible.  The newspaper was there.”

That’s such a quaint, uplifting story, isn’t it?  Thanks, Dad, for the vote of confidence.

Father’s Day.

My dad is a badass.  He has, on occasion, been called The Man.  I absolutely would not be the person I am today without his hilarious influence and constant support.  My dad is the hardest working person I have ever known and has always been committed to providing my brothers and me with incredible, mind-melting opportunities.  As difficult and tumultuous as my post-college years have been, if I am honest with myself, I have never really been without a safety net, something that both comforts and humbles me.  My dad is convinced I am capable of huge things, even when I am convinced I am useless.  I am forever grateful to him for everything.  Literally everything.

Happy Father’s Day, Rodger Dodger!

532804_10101514702495876_1868529351_n

600381_10101514678738486_519171492_n

Screen Shot 2013-06-15 at 11.28.56 AM

261416_10100568347748376_4585292_n

Sharp Objects.

My family is full of super weirdos. My father loves Halloween and from September 1 until the middle of November every year, my parents’ house is filled with the life-size monsters he’s built, using PVC pipe and rubber costume masks and the oscillating motors from fans. Something gruesome greets you on the porch and in the entryway and on the stairs and by the bathroom. My mother has a soft spot for the Day of The Dead, and I grew up amidst a fairly sizable collection of small colorful clay skeletons, like for instance, the ashtray shaped like a bathtub with a lady skeleton reclining in it that she uses as a candy dish. My aunt wrote and self-published a book with a first chapter so upsetting it made me want to unread it (and I’ve actually participated in things more disgusting than what she wrote about). It’s really no wonder I turned out to be a failed forensic anthropologist. I never had a chance.

With this history in mind, in December, I read Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn, after having it recommended to me by coworkers and parents of students and friends and essentially everyone in my life. It was a dizzying novel that held me prisoner – I finished it in a day. It was the definition of a page-turner. It was also, however, really aggravating and despite the fact that it was dark and twisted and full of crazy people (read: all the things I am genetically programmed to enjoy), after reading the last pages, I knew I hadn’t liked the book.

So imagine my surprise when the other day, I left a store with two more Gillian Flynn novels in my hands, Sharp Objects and Dark Places. I’m not sure what compelled me to pick the others up, considering I had a pretty visceral, angry reaction to Gone Girl. Regardless of why, they came home with me and, yet again, the moment I picked up Sharp Objects, I could not put it down.

{7D707E98-533D-4E29-82FC-43180D44CC92}Img100

Sharp Objects tells the story of a troubled reporter at a small Chicago newspaper, who is sent back to her hometown by her editor after two young girls go missing from the tiny southern Missouri town. This book, like Gone Girl, has a lot going on. It is like a plausible psychological thriller, only wearing clown makeup and blinking neon lights. All of the horrors in this story are bigger and worse and more horrible than anything could ever possibly be, and in reading this book, I’ve realized that that’s why I really disliked Gone Girl. I feel like they are great, compelling, terrifying, creative stories that suffer from being overblown. I love how gross and upsetting and weird and bizarre Gillian Flynn is willing to go. However, at a certain point (like maybe all the time), her plots are enough. When you’ve got childhood trauma and Southern wealth and missing children and festering old friends and newspaper editors and personal mental illness, do you also need adults having sex with teenagers during murder investigations and doing drugs with thirteen-year-old girls? There is such a thing as TOO MUCH.

Having said all that, I liked Sharp Objects. I would recommend it. I don’t want to give anything else away, because I think in books like these, part of the experience is the shock of whatever grotesque thing happens next, but I will say that there is (some) resolution in the ending and some hope for the future, in spite of all the craziness that brings the story to a close, and in that way, it’s different from Gone Girl.

Apparently, I can forgive anything if it is tied up (kinda) nicely with a little bow at the end.

Easter Funday.

When you’re a mutt, like I am, and have ancestral ties all over the world, you sometimes have Easter brunch with your Jewish grandparents.

photo-1

And if you have grandparents like I do, after brunch, while having a conversation with your grandfather about how photos of deep space make you feel insignificant, you’ll overhear your grandmother talking about sex scenes on HBO and how she “doesn’t mind when the people are attractive, but when they’re ugly – no way.”

This will make you want to write about your day on your blog, for those tens of people who read it.  Now, since you’re at your parents’ house, you’ll decide you want some pictures to illustrate the inspiration for the blog’s title.  So, you’ll demand access to old photo albums, where you’ll find this,

photo 3

My aunt is dressed up like a gypsy to tell fortunes at my carnival-themed third birthday party, where my mother’s cousins were jugglers and my mom did the face painting, and I don’t appreciate it AT ALL.  

which is excellent proof that you were once a very whiny baby;

and this (in your baby book),

photo 2-1

Which proves you were kind of an asshole most of the time.

Happy Easter!

Clure.

When I was one month shy of nine years old, my littlest brother was born.  I fell instantly in love with him.  He was the first person in all the world I knew I would die for; I remember very distinctly feeling the weight of that burden so young – knowing that this person means more to me than I mean to myself.  Obviously, that’s not meant to disparage the love I have for my brother, The Middle Child, who is much closer in age to me.  I adore him and we grew up thick as thieves, blowing things up and melting the faces off of Barbie dolls.  I love The Middle Child and am insanely jealous of his olive skin and artistic talent and political genius.  However, there was such an age difference between me and The Baby and I was such an insufferably mature child, that the reality of how young and helpless The Baby was made me take our relationship very seriously.  I have always felt extremely maternal towards him.

292825_10100692225970426_1298625_n

Mid-90s. I was so much better looking then. Puberty is a cruel mistress.

The Middle Child, The Baby and I had lots of adventures, most of which involved dressing The Baby up in our great-grandparents’ hand-knit sweaters and caps, and calling him Ms. Marmalade, and directing him to hobble around the house like an old woman while we filmed him on my parents’ ancient video camera.  We did that for about three full years. Our town was pretty small.

As The Baby grew up, it became obvious that he was the most intelligent and thoughtful and adorable of all of us.  How he managed that with siblings like us (I once thought nothing of letting him watch The Silence of the Lambs with me when he was five), I will never understand.  It is a testament to how great he is.

The Baby is now a high school senior and applied to college last fall.  He’s been collecting acceptances from all over the country for months now, which is a surprise to approximately no one.  He just found out today that he got into UCLA, and I am so, so excited for him.  (And so, so sad for me – I got my college acceptances nine years ago, when letters still came in the mail and you didn’t find out you got into your dream school by checking your email on your cell phone.  In other words, I’m a fossil.)

Dear Baby Brother: from the bottom of my heart, congratulations on kicking so much ass.  I am SO PROUD.  Please support me when you are a doctor.  Also, I hope someday you can forgive me for publishing this on the internet.

I love you!

68862_10101869600023386_993703539_n

Ta-da!

407641_10101106361309886_1513454975_n

Mark Twain Riverboat Cruise. Hannibal, Missouri: summer 2008.

67_526317687996_7714_n

One of hundreds.

12641_914156800306_5062853_n

The Baby and The Husband, showing off a familial affinity for taupes.

166942_10100936247075176_1413953245_n

San Francisco, 2009.

561180_10101594868173216_709563798_n

Summer 2012.

Old Age.

Last Thursday, my husband turned 30.  30, people.  Sometimes, I’m still shocked that I have peers who are thirty years old and here I am, married to one of them.  To celebrate his old age, we had a lovely dinner at a local Indian restaurant, where the waiters call The Husband “Elvis” and I am “Elvis’ wife.”  It’s been a few months since we ate in (we order delivery more often than I’d like to admit), so when we walked into the place, which was packed, they all called out, “Elvis!  It’s been so long!  How are you?” and took turns shaking my husband’s hand and slapping him on the back, while all the other people wished they were as cool as us.  (This welcome was more exciting for him than my carefully chosen gifts were.  Figures.)

photo

To honor my husband on this milestone birthday, I put digital graffiti on some photos of him and spent some time pointing out his most impressive gray hair.

On Saturday, we met up with my grandmother, the great-aunts, my parents and my cousins at the great-aunts’ house for a belated pizza-and-beer birthday party.  I believe I’ve mentioned before that the oldest generation of my family is also the most awesome.  While we were waiting for my father to make an appearance with the food, we gathered around the aunts’ living room and told jokes.  My favorites were the following, told with impeccable delivery by my great-aunt Carole:

Three mothers are sitting together, discussing the beginning of life.  One woman is Catholic, one woman is Christian and one woman is Jewish.

The Catholic woman says, “Life begins at conception!”

The Christian woman replies, “Absolutely not!  Life begins when the child is born and you hold him for the first time and he draws his first breath!”

Pausing for a moment, the Jewish woman says, “You’re both wrong.  Life begins when all your children are grown and your last dog dies.”

And this:

A husband and wife are standing in line at the bank when an armed robber storms in demanding all the cash.  After he’s collected his haul, he announces that he will have to kill everyone inside because they have seen his face and may be able to identify him to the police.

The husband, thinking quickly, says, “Well, what if we couldn’t???  Would you spare us?”

The robber replies, “You’re saying you wouldn’t be able to identify me?”

I wouldn’t be able to,” says the husband, pointing to his wife, “but she would.”

If my husband and I live into our seventies, eighties and nineties and are half as engaged and hilarious as my grandparents and aunts are, I will gladly accept growing old.