Monday, January 29, 2007

It only took 37 years...

Hi Mom,

I found this picture of you the other day. I thought it was appropriate to look at it again today.
Remember when you were this age?

Well, I just thought I'd drop you a little line. Since you've gone, I've thought a lot about our relationship. I know it wasn't what you wanted. Every time I see your photos of how beautiful you were, I wonder how hard that must have been to have a daughter that didn't look anything like you or behave in any manner as you wanted. Our troubled relationship wasn't what I wanted either. But I'm learning forgiveness and moving on. I wanted you to just accept me for who I was.. an irreverent, feisty tomboy with average (maybe less than average) looks and with an unusually strong will. In your eyes, those were not qualities befitting a young woman. You never thought I behaved much like a lady. But I have forgiven you for making me feel like I was too strange and not feminine enough.

Of course, I'm not quite at the point where I've forgiven myself for not being what you wanted. I suppose that will come in time.

But I'm sure you know now that I've gotten the one thing you really wanted for me. I have a wonderful man who's everything Dad wasn't. And now, I'm pregnant too! I'm sorry you're going to miss the birth of my child in a few months--miss he/she growing up; miss me learning how to be a mother.
It's funny to me that after all these years of thinking I could learn nothing from you, I've finally arrived someplace where I wish you were here to help me through it. It only took 37 years for me to get there but, I'm here now if without you.
Motherhood and babies were always so to you, while it was the last thing I ever imagined for myself.
I finally managed to become the kind of woman that you'd be happy with, mom. It's just a shame that the cancer couldn't hold back for a few more years. You died just before I met him; before my entire world changed.

Still, I hope you have a great view of us.

So there you have it, mom: I'm finally living that dream of yours--happily married and pregnant.
That's my gift to you, mom.
Happy Birthday.

Monday, January 15, 2007

Reminders vs. Resolutions

It's 2007 and unlike most people, I'm not bothering with resolutions. Rather, I'm about reminders.
Resolutions always have that undertone of "a fresh start"-- as if starting from scratch with your life. But that's never been me. I've always known what's important, what I should be working on. Usually, my goals are struggles that I face throughout the year; one day at a time.
For example, I don't believe in dieting, at least, not for me. If I want to be healthier, that requires a dietary change to my lifestyle--not a scheme that has a shelf-life of several months or until I reach my desired weight (only to have it ricochet back to fat in a matter of months). So, eating better, exercising more is constantly on my mind, whether I achieve that goal for the day. But it's a lifestyle change that I've been doing for years now. Vacations and holidays tend to detour me, but I quickly remind myself what's most important.

Lately, I've been feeling pretty depressed about writing my dissertation. Writing a dissertation is unlike anything I've ever attempted in my life. I can see why so many students and young professors end up on "the couch" or taking anti-depression pills.
I feel such enormous pressure to create, not just "an original body of work" but to write the next Pulitzer. Luckily, I have some wonderful professors that are just about me getting the job done and producing something worthy. But on the other hand, sadly, I do have some professors that are expecting me to write the diss. THEY would have written, rather than what I should write. They are quite sadistic in their "pep talks" to me. It's just like something from one of those competition-based reality shows. I really think they get an erection by making me feel like shit.

I spend 6+ hours a day, in front of the computer, writing. But now, my writing has gone from what I think I want to say to what I think "those professors" want to hear.
I stopped sleeping well; I started having twinges of anxiety attacks. So, feeling like I was swimming in quicksand, I had a minor breakdown on Friday and had to regroup.

And then I got a reminder of what is important: I didn't feel my baby move most of that day.

My baby has been doing gymnastics every day now for the past month and Friday, I felt nothing.
Was everything ok? Is he/she sick? Dying? What?!

Besides Andy's supportive pep talks that always begin and end with "Ok, so fuck that professor! You know they've got it in for you!" I also received some reminders from friends about what's really important.

Reminder 2:
My health
My family
My husband
My future son/daughter
My friends
Love for them all

Reminder 3:
"It's just a dissertation, Peggy. This does not represent you who are no matter what the outcome."

Reminder 4:
An email from a dear friend and colleague who's a young, brilliant professor in the US South. Her husband was struck with immense back pain that left him bedridden and paralyzed in extraordinary pain for days. Because of the wonderful US health care system, he can't afford health insurance and so, my friend spent every day for the past week driving around between campus to teach, and write grant proposals, AND drive back home to take care of his every need until she could FIND a doctor who could make a house visit.
She knows that while he's fine today and able to walk now, this will be a recurring episode for the rest of her life--one she voluntarily takes because of her love for him.
"I know why I get up in the morning and it is not to do anthropology," she wrote me.

And that was a dosey of a reminder!

So, after putting myself back in the real world of what's truly important, I got up, finally took a damn shower, made some dinner, baked a large loaf of banana bread and settled back into my better self.
And hey, guess who was up doing somersaults and high kicks in my belly again? Since I'm no longer black and moody and crying, my little Haitian Highlander is feeling better too.

My final reminder: what affects me, affects my baby...for better or for worse. When the damage is done, it can NEVER be undone.

So let those reminders continously take heed in me.