Category Archives: Life

Forever Gold. . . in memory of a memory

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“Do not look sad. We shall meet soon again.” “Please, Aslan”, said Lucy,”what do you call soon?”
“I call all times soon” said Aslan; and instantly he was vanished away.”
― C.S. Lewis, The Voyage of the Dawn Treader

For the first four months of the pandemic, I could not read.

I mean, I could technically read. But I could not sit and enjoy a book. This was somewhat concerning to me, but I took it to be symptomatic of my anxiety, overwhelm, and general distraction. It wasn’t terribly concerning and anyway, I had other things to which to attend.

Recently, I happened to pick up Villette, Charlotte Bronte’s last and often most acclaimed novel. To my delight, I’ve been not only able to read, but to enjoy the lush and complex Victorian prose.

I’ve read Jane Eyre over 20 times. It’s my favorite novel of all time. Each time I’ve poured over her pages, I’ve found new meaning, new truth, and deeper love for the gothic romance. I still have the copy I used my senior year in college, when I was taking a class called “Justice in Literature.” I’d taken the class because the professor teaching it had grown quite beloved to me. It was because of her I developed a passion for Victorian literature.

Dr. Gold (not her real name), was a diminutive woman in her 50s who had a voice like a tittering fairy. She had a shock of red hair and sparkling eyes. Her face was blessed with the loveliest laugh lines. It was like her entire body would crinkle with delight when she giggled about something. Despite her enchanting outward appearance, there was a fire in her for truth, mercy, and compassion. She adored children’s literature, especially the Chronicle’s of Narnia which she quoted often and from which she drew great comfort.

She walked with a lopsided gait from a number of incredibly severe health issues, an autoimmune disorder among them. But her thrill for life and her ability to love entirely whatever she was doing at that particular moment, would never have given away her disabilities.

When I think of the humans who have shown me truest compassion in my life, Professor Gold is at the top of the list.

To say I fawned over her a bit is not far from the truth. In fact, it is probably more truthful to say I absolutely idolized her. I spent as much time around her as humanly possible, learning not only about literature, but about her life and her gift for love.

When I tried to end my life in my early 20s, it was June Gold I called from the emergency room. It was a horrible thing for me to do, an imposition, a boundary violation, but I needed her support and she was there for me. The memory of that time fills me with deep shame to this day. June was stern with me and she made it clear she could not be my therapist, that she would continue to support me as long as I got proper help, which I did and which she did.

Several years later, after I graduated college and was floundering in the “real world,” I sheepishly called June and asked if she’d write me a letter of recommendation to get into grad school for my MSW.

“Let’s talk about this,” she said. “Tell me more.” Instant terror flooded me at the thought she’d think I was too damaged and wild to ever make a good social worker.

I explained I’d been working with kids with autism and I wanted to go back and become more professionalized so I could make a life for myself. She not only wrote a letter to the graduate program, but also sent me a copy.

When I read the letter, I wept. She told my graduate program-to-be that their greatest regret in admitting me to their program would be that they could not have me as a student forever, and that they would long to have me in every class for my enthusiasm and a bunch of other nice stuff.

I remember reading her letter and feeling deep disbelief anyone could feel that way about me, knowing what they knew about how tragic and flawed I could be.

Turns out understanding flaws and tragedy make me a decent therapist.

I think that was my last interaction with June. I might have sent her a thank you card, but we are going back about 20 years now, and I don’t really remember.

Over the years I’ve certainly thought of her from time to time. I’ve attempted to channel her belief in me, and as I’ve grown out of a bunch of my 20 year old dysfunctions, I’ve wondered if she’d be proud of the little pod of humans I’ve managed to assemble and call a family of my own.

Picking up Villette brought June back to the front of my mind with a sudden and visceral reality. It occurred to me I might write her a letter or send her a card and let her know how she’s shaped my life. It seemed like good timing, being the pandemic has us all connecting or reconnecting with friends, family, and significant people from our past.

Google churned up her obituary front and center, dead first in my search results.

June Gold died a year and a half ago after developing a rare cancer on top of her other dire health concerns.

After an hour and a half diving through dusty boxes in the 90 degree summer heat of my attic, I could not find the letter she wrote me for grad school.

I did find my senior thesis for her on which I’d gotten an A. In her tiny, delicate script, she’d written “This is very fine!. . .” The topic of the paper was Themes of Injustice Toward Women in Jane Eyre and the Tenant of Wildfell Hall. In her comments, she went on to praise an oral presentation I’d done as “splendid!” although in all fairness I have zero recollection of that.

No matter.

It’s a weird thing, discovering someone you loved so deeply once upon a time has slipped beyond the veil and you didn’t even know about it.

Why do we grow so far from people? I think part of me was still ashamed of my younger self and didn’t know how to go back and face June, was scared that after so many years maybe she’d see me differently or with colder eyes. It’s entirely doubtful that would have been true, and yet it kept me from connecting with someone who meant a great deal to me, who shaped a huge part of my life.

Part of me wants to cry. But another part of me hears June’s favorite literary character, the lion Aslan from the Chronicles of Narnia, roaring, “Courage, Dear Heart!”

It’s a weird thing, discovering you know exactly what someone you loved dearly would say to comfort you 20 years after your last interaction with them.

What If We Die?

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Over the past few months, I’ve been very conscious about limiting my exposure to and intake of the Covid 19 coverage. I stay informed enough to understand what’s going on in my state, and how I need to protect myself and my family, but I also impose firm boundaries in order to maintain my sanity.

My husband on the other hand seems to thrive on information. He voraciously consumes the science of it all, and is always eager to fire off statistics and new factoids at me. I frequently have to tell him to stop because it makes me super anxious. We all deal with stuff differently.

But this past weekend, he mentioned a new trend in the health crisis that really made me stop and think, and that I have not been able to let go of. He told me about how relatively young and asymptomatic people are dying suddenly of severe strokes. This stopped me dead in my tracks (absolutely NO pun intended).

We’ve been following our state’s stay at home order to the letter of the law, and so far we have presented as healthy. The fact we could be going about our business and randomly drop dead without even a clue it was coming, is absolutely terrifying.

Anyway, I’ve been thinking about it a lot. What if I die? What if he dies?

We are in our second decade of marriage and we have discussed death as it pertains to when we are much, much older, and usually with an atheistic sense of humor around how we can access the cheapest option for body disposal. In these future-oriented discussions, our kids are grown and independent.

In my more rational moments, I’m pretty sure we are going to be okay. But what if we die? I’ve got to tell you, my irrational moments are a lot more frequent these days.

I don’t really have any answers and the hubs and I are yet to have a discussion about what the actual fuck would happen if one of us dropped dead right here and now. To be completely honest, it actually pisses me off that I have to think about this question, let alone plan to have a nuts and bolts conversation about it, but it seems like the responsible thing to do because we have two children who would be lost without us. . .

What do you guys think? Do you have plans for this? Is this something that any other parents in their 30s or 40s are thinking about? 

 

What Are You Grieving?

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92423AB4-92CD-46BA-BC35-F29338DB7AC7In the midst of the general death and destruction wrought by Covid-19, a grown woman took the time to complain on social media that she would not have a birthday party this year. She was devastated there would be no restaurant, no margaritas, no tapas, no cake, no friends to make her feel special and celebrated.

My first thought? What a selfish brat! 

This is a grown up we are talking about, not an eight year old who already picked out unicorn party favors. Has she not read the posts written by traumatized, sweaty ICU staff who are actually risking life and limb to care for victims of this pandemic?

I was angry, but not just with Birthday Girl. I was angry with our country and all the interlocking systems that have failed in keeping us safe, in working cooperatively, and in providing resources to treat us humanely. The more I thought about it, the more depressed I felt. Then, like many have already observed, I realized I was bouncing around in the cycle of grief.

We are all grieving different things right now.

Some of us are grieving celebrations in which we cannot partake. Others are grieving loss of employment, or income needed to stay afloat. Some bear the palpable loss of a loved one to this pernicious disease, while others suffer isolation, and the grief of loneliness.

It made me stop and realize what a judgey twat I was being.

It also made me question what I was grieving.

I’m certainly wandering around in a haze of sad uncertainty that feels a lot like grief. I miss simple structure, routine, consistency. I’ve lost all the ways I typically “do” life. I’ve lost being able to see and embrace my friends and family. I bear witness to my children’s pain at separation from their grandparents (who they typically see daily), their friends, and routines of school and activities.

I definitely miss leaving the house and listening to music really loud in the car on my way to work. Who’d have thunk it? And I miss sitting with my clients, face to face. I miss the things you see on people’s face that you can’t experience in their disembodied voices, or in pics, or in ticktoc vids.

So, maybe it’s a bunch of things? Maybe I really just miss being able to race out to the market to fetch that one thing I’ve forgotten without it being a big HAZMAT issue that puts all our lives at risk?

Maybe I miss when life wasn’t such a hyperbole and I could use hyperboles in fun and actual hyperbolic ways?

Yeah, I guess, I’m not grieving anything greater than a birthday party either. We all know the horrors that are right outside our doors (or at least the ones of us choosing to stay in and socially distance do).

I’d like to tell you that the nice thing about this grief is that it will be impermanent. A vaccine will be developed, treatment will come, and we will be free to roam about the world again. Things will get better. Those are all facts.

But will we go back to normal?

If I’ve learned one thing about grief, it is that grief, when traumatic enough, has the potential to change us, to alter us right down at our DNA level. Don’t believe me? Google the epigenetics of trauma. I swear to you it is an actual thing.

So, the good news is if we stay kind, supportive, and connected, we have a far better chance of surviving and getting back to our baselines. If this situation has taught us anything, it is how much we need one another, how essential the embrace of humanity is to our health and existence.

I’m so sorry I forgot that, even for a moment.

What are you grieving? Please feel free to share in the comments below. I try to respond to any and all who take the time to share their time and thoughts with me. Thank you for being here. 

STOP “Looking For The Helpers” /Avert Your Eyes or Get Busy

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Photo by Markus Spiske on Pexels.com

If I NEVER see the Mister Rogers quote to “Look for the helpers; there are always people who are helping,” when something goes dreadfully awry in our world again, it will be too soon.

Unfortunately, in the mist of our latest and greatest (by greatest I mean completely camel shit dick ball sucking craptastic) international disaster, I’ve found this platitude of the famous children’s TV show personality almost everywhere I look.

Sure, on the surface, it’s sweet, kind; it offers hope in the midst of despair. Hope is a good thing. I have nothing against hope.

What I DO resent is the bastardization of a sentiment intended to comfort children and reassure them their adults were in control of dangerous, traumatizing situations.

While it is natural this quote might comfort adults of children to whom they might offer it, it is often held aloft by adults instead, a sort of shield against their own anxiety.

In a way it pretends nothing more need be done than utter those magic words, and presto! Instant comfort and hope. All better.

Mister Rogers has had a moment over the past couple years. Our frenetic, mean world seems to crave his slow-spoken kindness. But with any figure who becomes pop icon, there is a sort of revisionist hagiography, a blurring of flaws so only goodness and purity shine through.

On a lot of pages and sites online, I see people asking, “What would Mister Rogers tell us about Covid-19?” And the invariable answer is, “He would tell us to look for the helpers!”

I didn’t know him personally, but I guess he might tell you that if you were in the four to eight-year-old demographic his show targeted.

But an adult?

I have to believe a man with his intelligence would have challenged us a bit more than just to look for arbitrary people doing important jobs in order to comfort ourselves in the paralysis of our own helplessness, or worse, our laziness.

If I am to continue having ANY respect for Mister Rogers, I must believe he would not encourage us to simply look for helpers while the world literally falls apart around us.

Here’s another reason I truly resent the use of that phrase: I’m a helper myself.

I’m a therapist. This time has been unbelievably unsettling for my clients, my colleagues, my profession.

Within a couple days, we had to figure out how to do our jobs completely differently to continue helping during this time of unprecedented challenge.

Anxiety, isolation, depression. Addiction. Abuse. Hunger. Homelessness.

Loneliness.

In a world with billions upon billions of humans, people are lonelier than ever.

I also have a family. My kids are scared. They are schooling at home. I am helping them while juggling my entire caseload. The idea people would look for me as a helper and not see the entirety of my humanity agonizes me.

I’m only doing telehealth from the comfort and safety of home. Doctors, nurses, grocery store workers, bus drivers, pharmacists, and millions of other people who can be considered “helpers” don’t have that luxury.

One thing we all have in common? Fear.

You want to look for us? Know this: We are burnt out. Terrified. We are scared of getting infected, but even more than that, of infecting our families. We carry the weight of our clients and patients every waking moment and into our dreams. We experience vicarious trauma that keeps us up at night.

Right now, the usual boundaries we set for ourselves to stay balanced and healthy are askew. We are being asked to do more, take on more, be more flexible. It comes with the territory, but damn it feels dirty and unfair.

Being a helper gives me chest pains and raging shits. Sometimes I shake. Being a helper leaves me with very little for my own family. Being a helper makes me cry and feel hopeless. Often, my heart races. Being a helper makes me angry, full of rage. Being a helper makes me so tired, but doesn’t let me sleep.

Does this mean I shouldn’t be a helper? No. I don’t believe so. I believe it means I’m human.

Watch the clip of Fred Rogers, in the 2018 documentary, trying to address the nation after 911. He felt it too. He wasn’t perfect. He didn’t have endless reserves of compassion or patience. He despaired just like the rest of us. You can see it in his eyes, the slump of his shoulders. The rest of that documentary was dross to me for its desire to propel him to sainthood, but that one scene felt so real to me. It was the one moment to which I could relate to his actual humanity.

We are all of us squishy, stupid, flawed, fucking human beans.

We are imperfect, but we have a gift of being able to connect with people. If I didn’t care so much, I wouldn’t be this tired. If I didn’t truly care, I wouldn’t bother speaking out right now.

Here’s the other thing: As a helper, I can’t help anyone who isn’t willing to help themselves. You depressed? You got trauma? Cool. Let’s work. But let me be abundantly clear, you will be getting busy. My job is to open a door. It is your job to get up and walk through it. I can point to the thread that might start to untangle your messy web. It is your job to start pulling.

The reductive idea helpers exist to endlessly help is not only tiring, it is quite frankly offensive.

I don’t expect anyone to agree with me. That’s fine.

When pain, fear, or sorrow trigger us we tend to go where we are familiar and feel comfort. For many, Mister Rogers provides such refuge, and has since they were young. Do what you need, but I beg you, if you want to look for me as a helper- look at all of me.

Look for me with my greasy hair and baggy eyes. Look for me with the ugliness of my stress acne. Look for me falling asleep watching TV with my kids. Look for me taking walks and trying to crawl out of my own skin because the world scares me and I want to fly away.

Please don’t just look for me hanging up after a telehealth session when I’ve said something wise to create connective tissue with a client, massaged an old scar with clinical theory, helped someone establish safety. Please don’t just look at me when I am “winning” at helping. Helping is hard, fucking drudgery.

And for the love of milkshakes, please don’t just stand there and look! Spring into action!

None of us can know what Mister Rogers would say if he were here. Honestly, I can’t imagine he’d have any point of reference to say anything remotely cohesive about the horror happening on our planet. It doesn’t really matter what he would say.

I wonder if he would want adults to be more proactive with helping children and each other, as opposed to just sitting back and “looking” around.

What words of comfort or motivation can you offer?

There are a lot of ways that start within ourselves and have nothing to do with looking for others.

Reach out to someone to see if they are okay. Reach out to a helper to see if they are okay! I promise you, they are almost certainly not okay even if they say they are.

Draw, journal, listen to music, dance. Infuse the brilliance of art into the bleakness of trauma. Take walks. Sing. Nurture your body and soul.

Make cards and send them to a nursing home for the residents, or even to the staff to pick up their spirits during this time.

Start a gratitude journal. Studies show that focusing on things about which we can be thankful, as opposed to concentrating on the negative, helps encourage positive feelings to take root.

Take time and talk to the children in your life. Check in with them. Read them stories. Allow them time to ask questions about what is going on and to process their own feelings.

Focus on facts, not feelings. Consume social media and the news in smaller doses so you don’t fuel your own anxiety. This will allow you more energy for helping others.

If you are able, donate to a food pantry or to a shelter that is helping the most vulnerable of our citizens during this time. There are so many who don’t even have the luxury of what many of us take for granted every morning.

Together we can do so much to lift each other up during times of trouble, but only if we move beyond our comfort zone, past the shallows of familiar platitudes to the places where authentic connection can truly heal.

 

 

ABORTION- Writ Large

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Twenty years ago today, I had an abortion.

The thought struck me as I drove home from work, or rather, as I drove to my seven year old daughter’s science fair at her elementary school. The thought came again, once I went home and made supper for my eleven year old son, my daughter and her dad still at the science fair.

Twenty years.

Somehow, I am at a point in my life when I measure things by decades.

Trauma has a way of either binding or erasing memories from our memory. It is an actual chemical process that happens in our brains.

On that particular day, twenty years ago, moments were seared into my memory as if someone held a tattoo gun to my grey matter.

I wore a pink sweater and black pants. I carried an alpaca shawl with me that I’d been sleeping with for years and named Mr. Snuggly. Even after the nurses made me change into the johnny, I still had Mr. Snuggly draped around my shoulders. They made me take it off when I went in for the actual procedure. I felt so suddenly cold.

Have you seen the Netflix show Sex Education with Gillian Anderson? There is an amazing abortion scene in that. My abortion was partially like that and partially not. I watched that series not too long ago and found myself thinking wow…  they got it right...  but then when I thought about it today, about my experience, I thought about all of the ways it was different for me.

The strange, awkward camaraderie of the women as they waited their “turns” in the show was totally resonant with my experience. I’ll never forget the women who told me stories and tried to comfort me. But I got suddenly sick to my stomach and a nurse made me go into another room by myself to wait on a bed with bleached, white sheets. Maybe the nurse thought the other women, who had been through it before, scared me. They didn’t, to be honest.

To this day, I remember those women and feel the wave of comfort they imparted to my pale, conflicted soul.

Ask me anything.

Ask me if I was scared; the answer is yes.

Ask me if I was sad; the answer is yes.

Ask me if I felt certain; the answer is yes.

Ask me if I cried the entire time so hard, the nurses threatened me that if I didn’t stop the doctor wouldn’t do it and would make me come back another day. Yes.

Ask me if I wanted to die along with whatever bloody tissue they scraped out of my uterus that March morning. Yes. 

Ask me if I regret what I did. . .  the answer is no.

At the time, my boyfriend, and I use the term loosely because I learned later he cheated on me during our entire relationship, was a Marine. We had been together for a little over a month when I found I was pregnant. He was menacing, and became even more so after I told him I was pregnant. He doubted the pregnancy was his. He accused me of being unfaithful and deceitful. He told me I was ruining his career and his life if I continued the pregnancy.

Then he decided we would make great parents and he said he would allow me to keep the baby. That lasted for about two days. When I couldn’t make up my mind in the market over something minor, he berated me. He told me I’d make a horrible mother. He brought me to tears with harsh words, then soothed me, as he proved his point I was an unstable human, unfit to have a child.

But that was not all.

Statistically, abuse increases for pregnant women in domestic violence situations. I was part of this statistic.

He’d squeeze the tender flesh above my knees or my elbows, then scream at me when I recoiled in pain.

I found a grenade in his closet one night when I was hanging my clothes for work the next day.

A grenade.

He told me not to worry about it. It wouldn’t actually kill me; it would just create a shattering force to concuss me and render me unconscious.

Then there was the night he dumped a gallon of ice water on me in the dark. Out of nowhere. I wasn’t expecting it, so I screamed. I swore. He grabbed me by my hair and dragged me into the next room and told me to get my filthy mouth out of his house and to never come back. Soaking wet, he threw me out of his house.

At that point, I realized I could not have a child with this man. I was terrified for my own life, but even more for the life of an innocent infant that I might bring into the world.

Of course all the pro-life people will rail against me and tell me what an evil harlot I am. I should have considered so many other options. I should have worked it out. I should have left.

Well, when you are being dragged by your hair and when you are staring at a grenade sitting above your freshly ironed blouse, options seem rather scarce.

You may not understand or believe my reasoning, but at its crux, my decision to have an abortion was about being a parent.

It was about being a parent to that little cluster of cells that had nested in my gut way back then in that unfortunate winter, and about the world into which I did not want to bring it.

And it was about being a parent to the children I would eventually have– to Jack and to Emily. I shiver to think of how my life would have been irrevocably altered had I carried that pregnancy to term. In some subconscious part of me, I knew to become a mother at that part of my life would have subjected me to unspeakable trauma that would have ruined not just my life but the life of an innocent. I never would have been available as a human to parent other wonderful, spectacular, complex, humans.

He was thrilled. He promised he would stand by me. He became unspeakably kind.

I made the appointment. He drove me there.

He drove me home and made me a sandwich. He left it on the bedside table, and then he left me. I saw him maybe one or two other times again in my entire life. It was a blessing in disguise.

Ask me if twenty years later I still feel such a profound mix of emotions that I am reluctant to admit I had an abortion; the answer is yes.

Ask me if any day of any week I can tell you how old it would be. Yes.

Women are shamed for all sorts of choices.

Women are shamed for having sex. Women are shamed for not having sex. In extreme cases, women are subjected to violence for their choices.

Today as I drove home from work and realized it was the twenty year anniversary of my abortion, I realized I no longer felt shame.

It took me a long time to make peace with the images of that day imprinted on the coils of my mind. It still makes me feel a bit sad to think of the rainbow socks of the woman in the recovery chair next to me, how they were those socks with the individual toes.

For so many years I sanitized my abortion with euphemisms. I’d say, oh I lost a baby. Or, I had a pregnancy loss. Maybe those things are true. But it is also true that I had an abortion, and it is no less shameful.

You know, many years later, some time after becoming a mother to my son, I got pregnant again. The pregnancy was not viable. I tried to miscarry at home, and I ended up hemorrhaging in a grocery store because some tissue got stuck in my cervix. It was violently ugly and utterly traumatic.

The so called miscarriage was nothing more than science to me. I was only eight or ten weeks pregnant and I understood that the fetus was not biologically sound. But the horrors that my body endured as a result of that event was just not expected or safe. I wound up on an operating table having what they call a D and C. Basically, it is the exact same thing as an abortion. They scrape out the contents of your uterus and you go on your way.

At that point, it had been 13 years since my miscarriage, but I remember feeling triggered by the procedure. It brought back a flood of feelings and thoughts that were unpleasant and unwanted, unlike any of the times I’d discovered I was pregnant. I’ve been pregnant four times and I have two children. All of my pregnancies were wanted; they were all just not tenable.

So.

Here I am. Twenty years after my abortion. No longer scared. No longer ashamed, but still feeling things and still wanting to hug those crazy, generous women who were there with me that awful morning.

Abortion was a gift to me on that fateful day, just as it was 13 years later when it saved my life during my miscarriage. I didn’t know it at the time in 1999. It took me a lot of years to be able to see it for what it was and to get past the trauma, not of the abortion, but of the circumstances that brought me to that point.

Abortion should not be a dirty word. Nor should it be a gift. Abortion should be a right for every woman who needs or desires one. If you don’t want one, don’t have one. If you want to adopt unwanted children, go do it- there are plenty. But please, do not judge, blame, ostracize, or malign women who need or want this medical procedure.

This is my story. It is mine.

There is so much more to it. This is just the tip to the iceberg.

But this is what I wanted to share today, on this anniversary. Because I am no longer ashamed or afraid, of the word abortion, or of my story.

Compassionate and thoughtful comments are always welcome here at Momaste. Please note comments on this post will be moderated. Anything hateful, bigoted, or obviously written from troll land will be deleted. Take your Pro Life agenda elsewhere. If you have sincere questions or need support please feel free to connect here in the comments. Much love and thank you for reading. 

 

 

Butts and Privates in Art, or, the Joy of Visiting a Museum With My Child

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Over the weekend, I took my six year old daughter to the Museum of Fine Art. She wanted to go on a mother/daughter outing and who was I to argue when she suggested one of my happy places.

I allowed her to lead me through the galleries. She pulled me along at just under breakneck speed, and I surrendered to the experience of viewing the museum from her perspective.

Paintings and photographs swirled past us, everything melding into a sort of impressionistic blur.

Every once in a while she would stop to admire something.  A portrait of a baby.  A painting of a sunset.  A sculpture of a dog.

We found ourselves in a replica of a 14th century chapel. My child stopped short and gasped at the enormous cross on the wall, and the strange sensation of being in a small room of its own within the giant museum.

We are not religious people and my kids have almost never been to church. But my daughter has a weird fascination with Jesus, maybe because he’s like a celebrity baby and she loves babies. Anyway, there was a serene and sacred vibe in the chapel. We whispered to one another to look at this and look at that.

There were some relics in a glass case. My daughter pointed to a small statue of the Virgin Mary nursing baby Jesus. “Look Mama!”

It was indeed a sweet little artifact and we spent a moment admiring the tenderness of the mother and child bond.  I snapped a pic with my phone at Emily’s command.  As we wandered through the rest of that particular gallery, I noticed several portraits of the Blessed Mother nursing Jesus.  I pointed these out to Emily who found them charming.  She also enjoyed the bare butts.  In one, Jesus was full frontal and she gasped, “OMG Mama, I just saw the private!”

“Yes, Dear,” I said indulgently.  “There are a lot of butts and privates in art. It’s sort of a thing.” So for the rest of our visit, she pointed and laughed at butts and privates.  I felt like I had sort of done my part at educating her on art, reinforcing the normalcy of breastfeeding in everyday culture, and joyfully normalizing all different body types (including their privates) without any shame.

Either that or I was totally irreverent and set a really bad example.

Could go either way I suppose.

As we got into the car to drive home, I asked Em if she had a good day.  “Oh Mama, it was the best day ever,” she replied.  I was somewhat surprised that our little jaunt to an art museum was her best day ever, but that’s cool.

I asked her what she had learned about art.  “I learned that there are lots of butts and privates in art,” she stated.  Gotta hand it to my kid, she pays attention.  I guess our next lesson will be about the reasons behind all the nudity in art (pun intended).

Hey, Remember That Time I Casually Mentioned Breastfeeding to My Spirit Animal?

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It’s been over two years since Emily weaned. I don’t write about breastfeeding or nursing anymore, unless it is in response to a comment on my nipple trauma post, still my most popular post on this blog.

It gratifies me to know I’ve left even a tiny mark on the world of breastfeeding health and lactivism.

I miss nursing, but I don’t really feel the urge to write about it anymore.  And unless I am doling out obnoxiously unsolicited advice to a new mom, I rarely talk about it.

Well, that’s not entirely true.

Since I nursed Emily until she was a little past four, when she naturally weaned herself, she remembers her time at the breast.  She occasionally mentions it to me.  She reminisces, and even wishes she could still be a cozy little nursling.

It is also gratifying to know my daughter has happy, safe, sweet memories of nursing and will hopefully grow up with positive attitudes about breastfeeding.

But I digress. . .

What I really wanted to tell you about was meeting my all time musical idol a few months back.

Anyone who knows me, knows that I am a HUGE Regina Spektor fan.  My obsession for her cannot be stifled.

Regina is a Russian immigrant who came here as a child to escape religious persecution for being Jewish.  She is a classically trained pianist who writes insanely creative songs in the indie-anti-folk-alternative genre.

You might know her as the singer who wrote and performed the Orange is the New Black theme song.  She also recently did a cover of While My Guitar Gently Weeps for the animated movie, Kubo and the Two Strings.

Her presence in the world brings me joy and hope.  It’s no hyperbole to say her music changed my life.  It may have even altered my DNA at a molecular level.

Regina toured this past year, and I got to see her three times.  THREE TIMES you guys!!!

I saw her in my home state, and in New York City at Radio City Music Hall in March. Then I got to see her in November in Northampton, MA. Through a confluence of rare and unusual events, a friend managed to obtain  backstage passes to meet Ms. Spektor after the show in Northampton.

OMGOMGOMG!!!  I know, right!!!

It was going to be really hard to play it cool, but that was the plan.  The entire show was like an out of body experience, and she sang Loveology and Pound of Flesh and Flyin‘ and a bunch of other oldies I’d never heard live before.

Oh, and also my friend and I were in the second row, just so, so, so close to this woman who has more artistic energy in a fingernail clipping than most people can imagine in their entire lifetimes! The show was unreal, and even if I’d never met Regina that night, it still would have pretty much been a perfect experience.

So, we stuck our backstage passes on our lapels after the show and waited in the appointed spot for the tour manager.  There were people hanging around who didn’t have backstage passes, and they didn’t even try to hide their envy as they asked how we got “on the list”.

Finally the tour manager came to get us, and he led us down some stairs to a chamber that was all brick and basement and lacking in any glamour or glitz.  And there she was.  Regina Freaking Spektor.  My spirit animal.

She greeted us with genuine warmth and kindness that set me instantly at ease.  She was soft spoken and almost shy.  We chatted about this and that and fuck tRump!

I got to tell her how I’d seen her at RCMH and how I heard her speak about Purim and the importance of resistance and how meaningful and prescient this had been to me at the time.  I shared with her that I worked for a Jewish agency and she seemed truly delighted by this little fact about me.

While we were talking, her tour manager came up to her with a bag of lentils.  She thanked him and turned back to us.  “If you ever need to make a heat pack in a pinch,” she said. “Lentils work great!  Stick them in a sock in the microwave.”

“Rice in a sock works good too,” I added.

“Oh yeah?”

“Sure,” I offered confidently.  “Came in handy during breastfeeding.”  As soon as the words were out of my mouth, I was sure I’d said the most flagrantly awkward thing on the planet.  Who meets their idol and starts talking about breastfeeding?  I apologized with a little laugh.

“No!” Regina said with a pleasant and unflappable grace.  “That’s so real.  Breastfeeding is real.  I remember. . .”  Somehow we got on another subject and then she signed my poster for my daughter and me.  Love and peace and fun.

She gave us hugs and we took photos together.

The whole encounter didn’t last more than ten minutes and then my friend and I were on the road back home.

I haven’t posted here in a long while, and I haven’t posted about breastfeeding in a longer while.  It occurred to me that this was a sharable little nugget.

I’m always searching for ways to integrate all these random bits of myself; to reconcile all of the parts of who I am to make something whole and awesome.  There is me as an artist, woman, mom, wife, worker, and friend.  There is me as someone who hopes and hurts and heals and hides.  There is me as a sexual goddess being, created of life.  There is me who is very private.  There is me who is very proud and enthusiastic.

In a way, it is so totally perfect that I managed to casually weave a thread of one of my life’s greatest passions into my tiny interaction with my greatest hero.  It felt awkward and crazy and just right.  To me, that’s what my integration is all about, and it was received with gracious humor that night.

https://dailypost.wordpress.com/prompts/stifle/