Notes from the Road
Part ONe: Seattle
I kept Monty home from school on Wednesday because he was complaining of a sore throat and had been coughing throughout the night. He absolutely could have gone to school, but my feeling is, if you can afford (time and/or money-wise) to keep your kid out and prevent the entire rest of their class getting sick, do it. It’s a courtesy to the other parents and, eventually, to yourself again… I’m painfully aware that most American parents don’t have the means to do this because our system is garbage. But if you can, you should. Also, I’m leaving in less than a month, so a day with Monty was welcome.
I was worried that keeping him away from screens was going to be a challenge. Play time activities are not my forte. But we did all kinds of nifty things. We spelled words. We played with blocks (he got upset with me because I asked him not to knock the affordable housing complex I was building down. I can be SUPER unreasonable). We listened to music and jammed out. I tried, unsuccessfully, to build a fire. We took out all his stuffed animals and counted them, and jumped on them, and buried ourselves under them.
At one point he took out his favorite rabbit, Rabbit, another rabbit, Dotty, and a small mouse and said it was a family. The mouse was the baby, and Rabbit and Dotty were the “Parentmates.” Parentmates, you guys. In this case, Rabbit and Dotty were sitters, presumably raising the mouse baby together.
I have been trying to figure out the right terminology for my relationship with Kurt. “Baby Daddy” is… let’s say problematic; Reductive, to say the least. “Co-parent” is okay, but also kind of reductive. But “Parentmate?” Sure, it sounds like a term used in a science fiction novel. Like the person to whom you’re assigned to raise offspring with in order to repopulate the nuclear war ravaged Earth. But, it’s also kind of perfect. Kurt is not just Monty's Dad to me. He means more to me that just the identity of being Monty's Dad. He's my Parentmate.
Parentmates, people. Get on board.
Notes from the Road
Part One: Seattle
I was listening to my news podcasts while making breakfast just now, yelling at my phone every two minutes in response to the horrific GARBAGE going on in the world, and I felt compelled to sit down and write. I don’t know what I want to say, necessarily, but considering I call myself a writer, I figure I should heed the call to write when it strikes, regardless of cohesive ideas. Especially given that I have seven rounds of Words with Friends waiting, and a new Nintendo DS (Thank you, Liza Walter!!) with a handful of games I’m eager to play, the compulsion to write is unusual. As Dorothy Parker said, “I hate writing, I love having written.”
And yet (or and so?) here I am.
I don’t know how or where to begin with the state of the world. It is honestly terrifying. If I were unemployed right now, I’d probably head down to Alabama and help Doug Jones. I don’t know much about him besides headlines I’ve seen in passing, but I do know this: He’s not a pedophile. Jesus Christ.
Al Franken resigned today. Democrats have generally taken the high road when it’s come to dignity and morals, not stooping to levels many republicans will to win votes, or calling on fellow democrats to do the right thing in light of accusations or scandal (Bill Clinton notwithstanding), and sometimes we (I) wonder if we should go ahead and play as dirty as the other side does. These are scary times and sometimes it seems like we’re moving backwards, but all in all, haven’t we, as a country generally moved forward in terms of civil rights? I’m talking about the larger picture. Yes, our record is still deplorable in many, many ways, and we have a long way to go in terms of granting every human being basic human rights, not to mention equality, but we have been moving forward in incremental steps and I wonder if that’s because we have refused to get into the mud with the other side. We take a few steps forward and a few steps back, but I think the momentum is generally in the right direction. So as scary and as important as the loss of Franken is to the Senate, it may be the right thing in terms of the way this country deals with abuse toward women. Zero tolerance is zero tolerance.
It seems like the GOP’s long game is about securing money and power for a very small group of people so that when the shit does inevitably hit the fan, they imagine they’ll be shielded from it (perhaps they should ask the French how that worked out for them…). Maybe our long game is securing basic rights and dignity for everyone so that life gets generally better for everyone. And that means sometimes falling on our sword?
I don’t know. I’m overwhelmed and sad and California is burning.
But. Monty asks to cuddle with me every morning. So, I have that. I don’t know what I’ll do when my time in Seattle is up. I may end up Tindering my way through the country just for cuddle-buddies. (TBH, full disclozsh: Monty is the only person I actually want to cuddle with.)
He’s a bit obsessed with my belly. I think it started last spring when he learned that he was in there when I was pregnant. He asked to get back in. I explained that he was too big, and he curled himself up into a ball to try to be small enough. Ever since then he wants to look at, squeeze, and sleep on my belly whenever he can. He likes it when I push it out and make it big. Last week I told him that someday he’s going to meet someone with a big, fat belly, and they’re going to fall in love, and he’ll get to cuddle that person and their big, fat belly. This morning he made me tell him that story again.
When I dropped him off at school this morning, his classmate, Kennedy, who was seen yesterday morning sobbing in the corner because her breakfast plate was blue and not pink, announced that she was going to marry Monty. She going to have to stop worrying about the color of her plate and start eating what's on it if she wants that to happen.
I'm really good at parenting.
Notes from the Road
Part one: Seattle
When Monty was about a year and a half, a friend with a kid the same age asked what she should do about her kid trying to climb out of her crib. I suggested she put her kid back in a sleep sack for a while to discourage her from climbing at night. Another mother with a kid around the same age as ours said, “No, no, no! She needs to learn how to sleep with a blanket!”
She needs to learn how to sleep with a blanket.
Take a moment and imagine an adult who never “learned how to sleep with a blanket.”
“Where does this thing go?! Do I sleep on top of it? Do I throw it in the air and somehow position myself so it lands on me? Do I wrap it around my neck? How does this work?! WHY DIDN’T MY MOTHER HELP ME LEARN HOW TO USE THIS THING?! CURSE HER!”
Kurt and I recently went to a parent-teacher conference at Monty’s pre-school. Monty’s teacher was a bit concerned because Monty brings his stuffed rabbit to circle time every day and always uses her for show and tell. She also mentioned that he’s having trouble putting letters in the correct order when he’s writing words. Also, he holds his fork in a fist.
In his defense, he’s four.
I went to his class for a Thanksgiving lunch and saw the posters all the kids made. In true American schooling fashion, they all made exactly the same damn thing. A collage turkey with the words “I’m thankful for” written at the top, the things they’re thankful for written in the feathers, and at the bottom “Happy Thanksgiving.” I told Monty how proud of him I was and how impressive it was that he wrote words. Then I saw the other kids’ posters and realized, Monty’s was really a mess. I mean, it was truly a collection of letters in a mish-mash. Two feathers had the words “mom” and “dad” which he never calls us, and the third was just scribbles. At the bottom, as best I could make out, was written, “THAXXXX4Y HAL,” in a variety of font sizes. The closest another kids’ writing was to Monty’s was one that said,
Which, at least, is decipherable.
So, yes, we need to pay some attention to Monty’s writing skills. And it’s a good reminder. Sometimes we get so wrapped up in how good he is at drumming, or how comfortable he is around adults, or that he’s doing pretty well with reading, that we forget there are other skills he might need in life that require our focus.
That said, he’s four, and I’m fairly confident he’ll figure out that letters need to be written in order from left to right to form English words. I’m pretty sure he’s not going to walk into his freshman orientation at college holding his stuffed rabbit. And the chances are good that eventually he’ll develop the dexterity to hold his fork in an “acceptable” manner.
THAT BLANKET THING, THOUGH.
Notes from the Road
Part One: Seattle
I was talking with a castmate and friend the other day about my co-parenting situation with Monty’s dad, Kurt. It’s too complicated to explain, and since I’m interested in keeping readers, I’ll skip it. Suffice it to say, I’ve been living in NYC since May while Kurt and Monty have been in Seattle. It’s largely due to finances. It sucks and it’s far from ideal, but it was the only way we could find for me to continue pursuing my career. We didn’t know how long this arrangement would last, only that it wasn’t permanent and that the end goal was to get to a place financially where all three of us could live near each other in NYC.
I told my castmate that it may be we end up finding a three-bedroom place. It would be more affordable than getting two two-bedroom places, and certainly more livable than the both of us living in studios with Monty shuffling back and forth between us. That shit ain’t cute.
No one is suggesting that this is an easy solution. For instance, it would make dating difficult, to say the least, but frankly neither of us are at a place right now where we’re trying to find partners. It turns out I love being single. Also, between my career, my child, and the tornado that exists in my head, I don’t have time for anyone else. And whoever we both do end up dating, they’re going to have to be 100% on board with our arrangement. Kurt and I are close. We get along really well. And we’re raising a human together. And that’s that. Neither of us have room for jealousy, possessiveness, or insecurities.
My castmate asked if I thought maybe we were setting Monty up with false expectations about the way the world works; That parents who separate usually don’t live together anymore. It’s a fair question. But here’s the thing, I think the way the world works now is pretty terrible. Extreme hetero- and gender-normativity, along with virulent misogyny and homophobia have created a system in which most families can’t function in a healthy way. Parents stay married “for the kids,” or because it’s financially impossible to separate, and if they do separate and make their kids deal with the logistics of their failed relationship. People marry who never should have. People have kids who definitely never should have. And MOST of the time, if one parent has to sacrifice their career in order to raise the kids, it’s the mother. No one sneezes at the thought of a father working so much he’s rarely home. But people ask me constantly if I feel guilty for not being with Monty. (The answer by the way is “yes,” but I’d be suicidal if I gave up my career.)
So, what’s the false expectation? What’s the damaging lesson we’re teaching Monty? That two people who love each other in many ways and have a kid together can figure out a way to make it work so that their child grows up with both parents around? That making enough money two have two separate places big enough doesn’t seem to be in our wheelhouse? That people don’t have to be romantically involved in order to make a relationship that is “supposed to be” romantic work? That people are capable of all kinds of different relationships? That his parents love him so much that they decided to buck tradition and figure out what worked best for their family?
I told my castmate that when Monty is old enough to understand the concept of romantic love we can explain to him that his parents used to feel one way for each other and they’re relationship changed, and they figured out how to make it work. God forbid he learns that people are complicated, and relationships are nuanced. What if he grows up to be the kind of person who doesn’t blindly accept what everyone else tells him about the way his life should be? What if he learns that men and women can have relationships with each other that don’t involve sex or romance? What if he learns that even after we stop loving someone romantically we can still care for them, be kind to them, and carry on with them in our lives? What if he realizes that he can choose to keep people in his life based on how they enrich each other’s lives, and get rid of the ones who are damaging? What if he comes to view relationships as living things that change and grow and require maintenance and attention?
I left my castmate and met up with Monty and Kurt at the playground. I asked Kurt what he thought about how we would explain things to Monty when he’s old enough to understand what romantic love is.
“Daisy,” he said, “I’m almost 50 and I still haven’t figured out what romantic love is.”
Amen, Brother. Amen.
Several times now I have posted a blog here declaring I would begin posting more often, only to then fail to keep my word. I’m like that friend who keeps saying, “Let’s tooooootally get together soon!” but never actually makes a plan to see you. Yeah, I’m that guy.
I’ve been trying to figure out what’s keeping me from posting more often, or even, in truth, from simply writing more often. (I say “simply writing” as if writing were ever simple. As if sitting down to write wasn’t excruciating.) A conclusion I’ve come to is that I tend to write with rigorous honesty which is exhausting and scary even when you don’t plan on sharing what you’ve written with the world (and by “the world”, of course I mean the modest handful of people who read this blog).
We are supposed to project and air of success. People want to work with successful people. Our persona on social media is supposed to be one of cheery optimism. No one wants to work with a drag. But I suffer from depression and anxiety, as I’ve made abundantly clear in previous posts, and I tend to share the world as I see it, through blue-tinted glasses. It turns some people off, I know. It may cost me some jobs. But I believe it a) is more interesting than being Sally Sunshine (which I couldn’t be if I tried), and b) can help others who experience depression or anxiety. The more we share our struggles, the more normalized they become and the more likely people are to reach out for help if they need it.
When Monty was born I was given a clean slate. A fresh start. I was able to forgive myself my regrets and “bad” decisions. Every step of my life brought me to Monty. It was and is the ultimate lesson in gratitude.
I left NYC in 2003 because I was restless. I left because I wasn’t disciplined enough in my career and I felt I had developed a bad rep among casting directors for giving less than terrific auditions. Whether this was true or just a paranoid perception, I can’t say. But I was auditioning very seldomly and getting cast even less. My heart wasn’t in the game anymore. I felt beat down and tired. So, I escaped my life and went to Los Angeles.
When I moved to L.A. I was in the middle of what I now call my “20 Year Lost Weekend.”
I did not spend 20 years in a drug-induced, blacked out stupor. I worked. I made a few movies. I was on Broadway for a third time. I played a variety of women in various states of duress on TV. I got married and divorced. Bought and sold a house. Quit the business. Finished school. Got back into the business. I lived my life. But generally, when I look at the time between when my mother died when I was 13 to the time I had my son, almost exactly 20 years later, I don’t recognize that person. It’s as if a stranger was living my life for two decades.
And suddenly I had a human life I was responsible for (“Suddenly” means 41 weeks of pregnancy, of which I was only away of 30 weeks…). I had a white, cis male that I had to raise to be… better. Better than a lot of the white, cis men I have known. Better than the toxic representation of white, cis men that he will be bombarded with from every corner of our culture.
Better than me.
I take that responsibility very seriously.
The great weight of that responsibility, coupled with depression that was now hormonal and chemical, meant I have spent much of the past four years feeling as though I were treading water. True, I’ve managed to make huge strides in my career. I wrote and produced a one-woman show before Monty was a year old. I won awards for my writing. I made the gigantic (and terrifying) leap to move back to NYC. I have managed to turn a corner in my career with regards to my discipline and my abilities. I have worked hard. (Success! Success! Success!) But, if my achievements were taken away, what would be left? I am Monty’s mom. I am an actor. I am a writer. But who am I beyond that?
I have made the agonizing choice to leave Monty with his dad in Seattle while I pursue my career with a focus and discipline I’ve never had before. I feel like a monster most of the time for doing this. It feels incredibly selfish. But my other option is to move to Seattle and, what? Try to make a living doing theater in Seattle? Give up acting again? Be miserable? I would be with my child, true. But I would be giving up my dream and who would that make me? What kind of mother could I be? How can I teach my son to follow his heart and never give up on himself if I am doing just that? How can I teach him to be better if I’m not being my best? How can I teach him how to be better than me when I don't know who "me" really is?
How can I stop being a stranger in my own life?
I’m hoping he will forgive me for not being there. Hopefully he will understand this sacrifice. Hopefully he won’t resent me for too long. I am his mother. He will resent me. Just hopefully not for this or just hopefully not for too long.
I am incredibly lucky that Kurt, Monty’s dad, is a superhuman with a massive capacity for understanding. I would not be able to do any of this without his seemingly endless support. There are times I worry that all I’m doing is traipsing around New York City, seeing shows and schmoozing, while Kurt works full time and raises our son day in and day out. He is there for all the stubbed toes and ear infections, the bathtimes and bedtime stories, breakfasts and dinners, tantrums and nightmares, hugs and kisses. All of it. And I’m here. And he never fails to remind me that what I’m doing is vital. He reminds me that in order for me to be the best mother to Monty that I can be, I need to be here. And he does this despite the fact that we aren’t together romantically anymore. He does this while knowing that I’ve been falling in love with someone else. He does this while being the world’s best dad.
Monty is in the best hands possible.
But he’s not in my hands, which torturous. And necessary. At 37 years old, I finally get to figure out who I am. I have to figure out who I am.
I recognize that this is intense navel-gazing. So, feel free to move on. I hear there’s a great piece about single, working motherhood on Goop…
One of the good things about suffering from panic attacks (Not that there are lots of good things about it. There are maybe two. One is getting out of ladies nights or yet another invitation to an Arbonne spa "party".) is that eventually you come to know the early warning signs of an impending attack and can take measures to dampen or stop it all together. The same is true of depression. If you live with chronic depression (as I do) you learn what the signs are that you're headed for another tailspin. For example, hypothetically, it may be fantasies that you'll get T-boned by a semi. You gleefully imagine that after impact you and your car spin serenely, and in slow motion, through the intersection before you lose consciousness completely and forever. Or, just say, it's a persistent and bizarre intrusive thought of getting shivved in the right kidney; an image that increases in frequency until it dominates your thoughts and you can't even jam out to "Hunger Strike" by Temple of the Dog with your three-year-old without thinking about it. Or maybe it's that you start thinking about what a loser you are and that no one loves you and you'll never be cast in another show because you can't screlt and your voice generally is just okay, and then what will you do because you already quit the business once and you don't want to be that guy that's always quitting the business, and do you really think you can be a successful therapist as a fall back if you are this crazy, and what will your child do without you and you shouldn't have had a child in the first place, what were you thinking? Just, as an example. So, when you start having these thoughts you know your meds aren't working and whatever you're talking about in therapy is probably garbage. And hopefully then you can head it off at the pass. Because if you don't you'll end up under your covers for days and you have a child (or a job, or just basic adult responsibilities), so that's not exactly an option.
Last December I had a panic attack in the produce section of the C-Town in Park Slope. It came out of the blue. I mean, my life was far from stress-free, but I had just booked a big gig I really wanted, my kid's father had landed a decent job, and we were finally going to be moving into our own place on the first of January. But, as I stood in front of the lemons I suddenly got very hot. I took off my jacket. I peeled off my scarf. I took off my sweater. I just kept getting hotter. I sat down on the edge of the dairy fridge and put my head between my legs while keeping an eye on Monty. My chest tightened. My breathing got really shallow. Quickly I was hyperventilating. My dad came back from the cereal aisle. Monty gasped.
"Look, Mama!" He said. "Cheerios!"
"Awesome!" I said, my head starting to swim.
"Uh huh." I turned my head to my dad. "I need help." I mumbled.
"What?" He asked. And then, "Are you alright? Your face is white as a sheet."
Thankfully the brave men from FDNY Engine 239 were doing their shopping at C-Town, too, and it didn't take long before I was surrounded by firemen (a personal fantasy, by the way.) taking my pulse and giving me oxygen.
One ambulance ride of three and a half blocks later (for which I was billed $600, which is remarkable when you consider that most EMS workers make about $11-an-hour.) I was sitting in the Methodist Hospital E.R. waiting to be seen by a doctor. Two hours later I was still waiting. I asked a harried nurse for an anxiety med. He said he we would to get the request approved. An hour later I realized that I had my own anxiety meds at home that I wouldn't have to wait for the request to be cleared on or pay $250 for and also I still hadn't seen a doctor, so I left. What was the doctor going to possibly have to say to me anyway ("Try to reduce the stress in your life.")?
In the following seven months I had some near misses, but always managed to head my anxiety off at the pass by taking half a Clonapin and removing myself from my child's presence whom I love immeasurably and would die for, but who sometimes makes me regret being alive. And once I took myself to a nearby bar for a double scotch, listened to a true crime podcast (www.swordandscale.com, by the way, which if you haven't listened to it go now and start at episode one and I'll see you back here in a couple of weeks), and played Candy Crush until I was ready to rejoin my life.
A couple Mondays ago I was in the city to teach a class. Monty's dad and I are separated, and I have Monty most of the week while his dad works. We're staying with parents of a friend out of the city for reasons that are too complicated to delve into now. So, I had Monty with me. It was easily 6000 degrees out. I had my suitcase and Monty. On Metro North on the way in, Monty had a full on melt down, screaming and hitting me repeatedly. Hard. I'm doing this weird thing where I don't hit him because I believe people who hit their kids are monsters. And I try not to scream at him unless he's about to run into the street or put his hand on the stove. So, I'm hugging him and telling him I love him and that when he hits me it hurts me emotionally and physically. I'll admit that finally, out of frustration, I told him if he hit me again I would leave him on the train which I KNOW is basically just as bad as hitting him and I'm officially the worst. I'm sure the threat of abandonment is just as scarring as actually scarring him. But you know what? It worked. And then I apologized for saying it and explained that sometimes I get so frustrated that I say things I don't mean. And then I gave him a peanut butter and jelly sandwich and all was forgiven. Or maybe it wasn't. I don't know. It seemed like it was, but he'll probably bring it up in therapy when he's in his twenties. Also, I called him "Mein Fuhrer." The worst.
I'm well aware that my problems are nowhere near as bad as most people's in the world, but they are mine and pain isn't relative and I'm not trying to belly ache about how hard my life is. I'm just trying to set the stage. So, the stage is set, right? I'm stressed out.
My friend, and hero, Eve, met us at Grand Central to watch Monty while I went to teach. When I got back from teaching I knelt down to give Monty a hug and a kiss and got extremely light-headed upon standing. I chalked it up to old age and not the fact that I hadn't had much to eat or drink all day (except for a 32 ounce mocha coolata from Dunkin' Donuts which, in my defense, I was told was the "yummiest value."). Monty and I parted ways with Eve and headed to the shuttle on our way to Grandma/Grandpa's place in Brooklyn. Near the beginning of the tunnel to the shuttle my head began to swim again. My chest tightened and I started gasping for air. I knew there was a newsstand toward the shuttle and decided I just had to make it there and get some juice. Pushing Monty in his stroller and pulling my rolly suitcase, I managed to get to the newsstand where I stumblingly bought an apple juice and some almonds and then collapsed on the ground next to Monty. I considered taking a Clonapin, but I had to weigh the option of completely fogging out from anti-anxiety meds against being awake enough to still parent my toddler.
I called my father. I wasn't sure what else to do. He told me to call 911 but that felt a bit dramatic. I chose, instead, to flag down an MTA worker who said they would go get the police. And then I waited there for 20 minutes hoping to god someone I knew wouldn't walk by and see me being all anxiety-y. Though don't think for a minute that I didn't compliment a woman walking by in her fierce two-piece outfit. No doubt she went home and burned it. No one wants to wear something a crazy lady from the subway floor complimented.
The only person I alerted, besides my dad was a friend whose brother is a cop. Basically I was just like, Uh, can I go up to a cop and just be like, I'm having a panic attack? He called. I didn't answer. He texted. I didn't answer. I know people who call friends at the slightest hint of a rough time. Everything constitutes a crisis. I, on the other hand, having an actual crisis, didn't want to bother anyone.
Monty asked for gummy candy which he NEVER has, but at this point I would have bought him a bag of sugar to distract him from what was happening. He finished the gummies and asked for more. I got him another pack.
"Are you sad, Mama?" He asked me.
"No, baby, I just don't feel well." I told him.
"You want a gummy? It'll make you feel better."
He gave me his candy. Then he emptied the rest of the bag into his hand and said, "That's it!" and gave them to me.
My son is a god damned champion.
The police finally showed up. But not before I folded and called 911. There were cops all over Grand Central Station and I had to call 911. It's like the one time you actually want Starbucks and there is nary a Starbucks to be found. That said, the two officers who eventually showed up were helpful and brought me out to the ambulance. While one EMS worker, who looked exactly like Alan Arkin (He got it all the time), took my information, the other, suggested they take me to the hospital. Apparently I didn't look so good, which, I know, weird, right? My dad suggested that the EMS guy was compelled to tell me to go the hospital as part of his job. Like he works on commission. An extra 10% for every sucker he actually brings in. I figured giving Monty a ride in an ambulance would be better than passing out in the back of a cab and waking up somewhere deep inside Queens, hog-tied in a basement. I may have some trust issues.
So, Monty got a ride in an ambulance to NYU Langone. He pushed all kind of levers and buttons that I'm sure I'll receive a bill for somehow.
Emergency Transportation $850
Entertainment of Toddler $6000
Total $10,436.72 (including composition of bill, time, and postage)
I was attended to immediately by both a nurse AND a doctor, as well as a tech who gave me all kinds of beepy boopy tests. When I gave my pee sample Monty asked if it was apple juice. When a nurse gave me apple juice Monty asked if it was pee. Another patient walked by with her pee sample which looked like pomegranate juice. I felt fortunate to only be sick in the head. Two orthodox Jewish men walked by and Monty said,
"Look, Mama! Jingle bells!" Really loud.
My doctor was cute AND Jewish. Unfortunately he was wearing a wedding ring, which, honestly, how would we have told the story of our meeting at our rehearsal dinner? "She was a broke, harried, crazy, single mom. I was a successful doctor. She came to see me for a panic attack. It was a meet cute!" Clink clink.
Anyway, he made me drink two buckets of water and told me to try to reduce the stress in my life...
So, here's the conclusion, I have had to write and re-write much of this piece over and over because of bugs with the app. Monty and I fought about 10 times today. Let me break that down for you. I, a 36-year-old MOTHER fought with my three-year-old son. Because I'm an adult. And he is threevil. He is currently in the other room watching complete garbage on my phone because I can not bear the thought of fighting with him again right now. And it gives me five minutes to "end" this piece. And it prevents me from completely breaking down. Again. Although tonight, when I'm trying to go to sleep, I will lay there wracked with guilt over fighting with my child. I'm supposed to be an endless source of joy and enthusiasm for him. I should be happily giving up my life to play train tracks with him. Or watch him "perform" The Dream Police for the 7000th time. I just can't.
And tomorrow it will start again first thing in the morning. He will throw a tantrum because the banana has a bruise on it. Or I won't let him watch Mickey Mouse Club House or I'll ask him to take his diaper off. And I will try to remember to breathe and try to remember that he is still a baby and won't be able to fully reason for another 23 years. And I will spend the day debating whether or not to take a pill or part of a pill until it's finally the end of the day and he screams and yells for me to sleep in the bed with him which I'll do because I'll just be too tired to fight him again. And anyway, going to bed at 8pm is highly underrated.
I haven't posted in maybe six months. I was having trouble with the Weebly app and got frustrated with not being able to post from my phone, Also, I got very busy with holiday stuff, looking for a place to live, and prepping for the concert of The Secret Garden at Lincoln Center in February, I got sick with a cold on the first day of rehearsals and here we are, two months later and I'm still sick. Pretty sure I'm dying but everyone else is like, "Get over yourself. You have a cold."
Kurt got a job in December working for the Devil's spawn and his dung beetle of a wife. He is a war profiteer and she used to be the head of a major cable network, though how anyone ever stood being in a room with her for more then two minutes is beyond me. They have three children whom they're raising to be just as shitty as they are.
He was hired for a specific job, with very specific duties that were expressly laid out before he agreed to take the position. They wanted to make sure he knew what he was signing on to do. Then, maybe two weeks in, the Mrs. decided she really wanted a butler and was angry that Kurt wasn't one. She was like, "Ugh, were you raised in a barn?" during his first dinner service when he served the water from the wrong pitcher. She texted him at midnight on his day off demanding that he go to their Connecticut residence in the morning (also his day off), pick something up, and deliver it to their Greenwich Village residence. And what was the item that needed to be delivered? Like, a really important flash drive, right? Or an envelope with a ton of cash. Or a fucking Faberge Egg that they were auctioning off that day. No, no. It was a white, crew neck tee-shirt. To be fair, those are a very hard item to find. Especially in New York City. So, I get it. Their oozing puss stain of a daughter, who was all of 11 years old, ordered him out of the kitchen when she went in to get a snack. Because that's how you treat people.
Anyway, he lasted two months before being summarily dismissed for not doing the job he wasn't hired to do. So, that was a two month respite from nearly two years of unemployment. You know how on the news you hear about people who have been out of work for two years and you're like, how is that possible? Or you're like, how are they feeding their children? Yeah, that.
Monty is going to be three next month. He is still an amazingly terrific kid. But, man oh man, that boy can be a dick. JEEEEEzus. I'll say, "Hey, how about we go in the backyard and ride your tricycle?" and he will scream at me like I suggested we cut his penis off. And that will go on for a half an hour until we somehow finally manage to wrangle him into clothing and then he'll go, "Can we go to the backyard and ride my tricycle?" all happy-like, like he's just coming up with the idea. OH, MY GOD, WHY DIDN'T I THINK OF THAT? SOMEONE GET THIS KID A FULBRIGHT SCHOLARSHIP.
He's in school three days a week because that's what we can afford. Honestly, if I could have him in school seven days a week, I would. And I KNOW that he's an easy kid. I have met other three-year-olds. Generally speaking, as a group, they are fucking awful. Snot-nosed, scowly, screamy little shitheads. And most of them have the personality of a bowl of oatmeal. Their just like, "Look at my Thomas train!" and you're like, "I'm in my mid-thirties. You really think I have any interest in your stupid train?" But of course in real life you have to be like, "Wow! What a cool train! Oh my god. Amazing!" At least Monty's interests center around things most adults can get into, like David Bowie and The Hives. On the other hand, he's really into that awful Mighty Mighty Bosstones songs right now. You know, their one hit. And he's found that god awful "I would walk 500 miles song." Sometimes, if I catch it early I can convince him a song is garbage. But it really has to be the first time he's hearing it.
Honestly, I think most parents can agree that for a lot of years, their kids are really only tolerable to them. Anyway, my point is that I know Monty, compared to many kids his age, is relatively easy. He has never thrown himself on the supermarket floor because we won't buy him some crap with Elmo on the box. His tantrums are fairly mild and usually, if he does need to throw something, it's more like he's placing it firmly. Sometimes I use his tantrums as an opportunity to remind him that "no means no" and if someone asks you to stop doing something to them, you have to stop. Even though I'm fully aware that his brain is not functioning normally during a tantrum and he can't really process what I'm saying. But, you know, consistency is key. Or something.
So, Kurt is unemployed, I'm unemployed, and Monty is a toddler. I would say we have our fair share of life-stressors right now and some measure of depression is to be expected. The problem is that I suffer from chronic depression. So, when a normal person gets depressed they feel sad, tired, angry. Maybe a little hopeless. I think for most people a course of talk therapy or a low dose of anti-depressant will help them through it (Although I take issue with people taking anti-depressants for situational depression. Emotions are normal. Sometimes they suck. Work it out.). For me, because my base-line is depressed, when I am dealing with major stressors my depression becomes almost unmanageable. And that's where I've been for the past couple weeks. Constant spiraling thoughts of failure and shame. A conviction that I will never work again, everyone hates me, I am a terrible mother, etc. Panic attacks. And not your cute "Oh my god the line for Star Wars went around the block. I swear I had a panic attack" panic attack. Like, hyperventilating at the grocery store and being taken to the ER panic attack. The kind where you wait in the ER for two hours and no one helps you and you ask for an Ativan but have the wherewithal to realize that when and if they finally do bring you an Ativan they're going to charge you $500 for it, so you just leave and take the Ativan you have at home and then you get a bill for $608 for the ambulance ride from 9th street and 6th avenue to 7th street and 7th avenue. Fortunately I've been dealing with it for so long in my life that I know what the signs are for when I'm headed into hospital-level depression and I can do things to keep it at bay. For example, one sign that my depression is getting bad is when I find out a friend is in the hospital with pneumonia and I'm like, "Oh my god, they're so lucky." Because, like, mandatory vacation from life, am I right? Or near-constant fantasies of being stabbed in the kidney. A coma sounds like an awesome nap.
I worry about sharing this level of detail about my illness because I'm afraid it may hinder me from getting work. I can understand someone being hesitant about casting me because they're worried my mental health might be a liability. The truth is that my depression only affected one job in that I had to turn it down because the subject-matter was gruesome and I had just gotten out of the hospital after a major depressive episode. I'm healthy enough to know when I'm healthy enough to work. I tend to be pretty emotionally healthy when I'm employed. Because, like everyone, my self-worth is directly tied to getting a paycheck. And also, if we continue to keep the truth about mental illness to ourselves we perpetuate the myth and shame of it. So, I guess if it costs me a job, so be it. I know that when I've been honest about my situation before, people have thanked me for my honesty because it helped them feel less alone in their own illness. So, you see, I'm sacrificing my well-being for YOU. You're welcome.
This morning I managed to get up with Monty at 7, make him breakfast and lunch, and get him out the door (with Kurt's help) by 8. I realize this is, like, bare minimum parenting, but for me, it felt like a victory. Now, here it is, not even 9:30 am and I've earned myself a nap. Right?
Kurt got some bad news on the job front yesterday. It was extremely disappointing and puts us back in panic mode. Mild panic. Not full on running around like maniacs panic. But, you know, how-are-we-going-to-pay-the-bills panic. We were very confident about his chances on this one. The CEO TOLD him he wanted to "move forward" after Kurt's FOURTH interview. He said we would hear by the beginning of this week. So "move forward" meant "not hire you" and the beginning of this week meant Friday, I guess. It's as if hiring someone for a really well paying job with benefits for their family isn't something that person might be, you know, waiting to hear about. It's been a long week.
Monty woke up in a terrible mood and stayed that way all day. We're trying to do the whole "no time outs" thing because it's sort of a terrible thing to do to a kid who doesn't understand feelings and isn't fully capable of communicating his needs. "You're mad, therefore we'll abandon you!" So we do a lot of redirecting. We do a lot of looking at the sun coming through the clouds. We do his Frozen puzzle. We listen to music.
Today we went out to the apple orchard (by orchard I mean four trees in a field) to pick apples and clear out some saplings that my father said were encroaching on a few more apple trees. The axe we found in the garage was basically a large hammer. God knows when if it was ever sharp, because it sure isn't anymore. I decided that taking down the saplings would be my job. I needed to swing an axe at some trees pretending that they were the CEO. It was that or run into traffic.
Turns out the saplings aren't so much "encrouching" on the apple trees as apple trees are growing in the forest. It was a forest. I set out to chop down a forest with a dull axe.
Here's what I learned about chopping down trees:
1. It's hard.
2. Like, hard.
3. Check to make sure the axe head is secure to the handle or it might fly off and narrowly miss hitting your toddler who is innocently standing by eating an apple and insisting, "No. Monty can cut da trees!"
4. If you ever come across a handsome lumberjack out in the woods chopping trees while you're on a camping trip with your girlfriends like that chick from the 1970s-era porn, Bad Girls, skip going down on him because I guarantee you he has a cup or so of sweat accumulated in his underwear. It smells like a bucket of chum down there. Just steer clear.
5. Wear gloves.
Three years ago I went in for my yearly Well Woman exam and found out I was 10 and a half weeks pregnant. I was single and unemployed, with health insurance that was set to expire in two months. My ex-boyfriend, Kurt, half of the reason for the unexpected pregnancy, and I were still living together as I hadn't yet found a place of my own, but we had split up a month earlier. I called him. I called my sister. I called my therapist. I called my parents. And then I called Planned Parenthood. I had a little over a week to decide what I wanted to do. I made an appointment for an abortion in one week in case that was what I ended up going with.
It was a rough week. Kurt and I cried and fought. We yelled and made accusations. My sister offered whatever support I needed whether that was a ride to the clinic and care afterward or someone to raise the baby with. My parents were far more measured with their support, mostly offering up reasons why having the baby would be the wrong choice. I had my career to consider. I was just getting going again with an acting career I had put on hold for four years. I was booking work and things were looking hopeful. I was having more success than I had had for many years. A baby would certainly put a giant kink in that trajectory. And how would I afford the labor and the subsequent baby without insurance or a job? What about my mental health? Would I be able to continue my meds while pregnant and nursing?
I was raised pro-choice. I always believed abortion was a woman's decision. I believed a woman shouldn't be forced to put her own goals on hold because she happened to get pregnant. And I always assumed if I got pregnant before I was ready I would have an abortion. I was 33. I didn't want kids. My career was important to me.
And yet. There was this nugget of an idea that kept making its way to the front of my brain. What if you did have this baby? It was a radical idea. Crazy, And yet. The nugget got louder and louder. Seriously. What if you did have this baby? And I started to think about what if. And, of course, I had no idea what if. I didn't know what having a baby would really do to my life. I couldn't possibly know. It could be the worst thing that ever happened to me. On the other hand. What if I had the baby?
Kurt and I took a weekend apart to think (and so I could stop throwing shoes at him), and when we came back together that Sunday, we decided to go with the terrifying unknowable future of the what if. I canceled my appointment with Planned Parenthood.
Seven months later I gave birth to a boy I never thought I'd have. And he is perfect. I mean, for real, the kid is a perfect specimen, I won't bore you with the details of how perfect he is. If you want to know, read the rest of my blog. But I challenge you to talk to a person on this earth who has spent more than 10 seconds with him who won't back me up.
And yet. I suffered major postpartum depression. Six months after Monty was born I found myself laying on my apartment floor barely able to breathe. Our financial situation made it nearly impossible to hire any kind of help. The only respite I got was from friends who would offer a few hours here and there for "date nights". We made too much money to get any kind of assistance but not enough to afford any childcare. I was hardly able to produce milk anymore because of general anxiety and anxiety about losing "the baby weight" in order to be skinny enough to get work in my industry. Monty was the easiest, happiest little guy and yet there were days when I didn't know how I would possibly survive 'til Kurt got home. I was sure I was a failure. I strongly considered hospitalizing myself. I went back on my meds and switched Monty mostly to formula.
Once my meds were stabilized I was able to think a little more clearly. I was better able to distinguish reality from the lies my sick mind was still whispering to me. You're a failure. Okay, maybe, but not today.
I am so glad I didn't have that abortion.
A year and a half after Monty was born I found myself once again unexpectedly pregnant. Six weeks after a slip up and a prompt ingestion of the morning after pill, my chest started to break out for the second time in my life two weeks after I should have gotten my period. This time I was employed (temporarily) and still had no insurance. Before I took the test, Kurt and I talked about the possibilities. If I was pregnant, we decided, we would downgrade to a one-bedroom apartment to save money. We would move back to New York. My family would help. Yes, we would make it work. I stood in the doorway of our bathroom staring at the two little lines on the pregnancy test in my hand. I looked up at Kurt and literally couldn't find the words. He reached out for me and I laid down next to him. We lay there in silence for 15 minutes. And then I burst out laughing and Kurt burst into tears, How had we let this happen again? Did we not know how babies were made? Did we miss that day in Health class? What were people going to say?
I called Planned Parenthood and made an appointment in one week in case that was the way we decided to go.
It didn't take us a week to make the decision. We knew right away. We had already taken risks having Monty and those risks were paying off in spades. He made our lives infinitely better.
And yet. We were barely getting by. I was still mostly unemployed. Turns out the nearly yearlong break my pregnancy demanded of my career made it harder to get back in. We managed to feed Monty well but at the expense of our own down time. We still had no child care help. We never got a break. Our situation wasn't quite dire, but it wouldn't take much to put it there. And people kept telling me every baby is born with a loaf of bread under its arm. But a loaf of bread doesn't pay the rent. And we all know where a loaf of bread landed Jean Val Jean.
And there was my mental health. We considered ourselves lucky that I had made it through my postpartum situation relatively unscathed. We didn't know if we'd be so lucky again. I honestly didn't think I could handle a second baby. What if it was colicky? What if it was sick? What if it was one of those babies that has no personality?
A second child would mean a significant downgrade in our quality of life, such as it was. Unless we came across some kind of financial windfall, we didn't see how having a second child at that point would be fair to us or to Monty or to it. We just didn't have the financial or emotional resources to spare.
So, we kept our appointment with Planned Parenthood. We went in on July 5th, 2014. We got there before the clinic opened. The only protester there was a small guy with a graphic poster, speaking in spanish. But Kurt got called a coward and a murderer on his way out by a woman who had decided that she understood his life better than he did. The three other women in the waiting room were all mothers, too. They seemed fine with their decisions. We all felt fine with our decisions. And yet. We found ourselves defending our choice to each other as though we had anything to defend. We didn't. We were four loving mothers who were making the best decision for themselves and their families. The nurses and doctors who cared for me were extremely compassionate and kind. The doctor told me my last name means "good" in Hungarian. Or Polish. Or some language. And then I woke up in the recovery room and it was over and I felt relief.
I am so glad I had that abortion. It was absolutely the right choice for myself and my family. I have never once regretted it. I have never felt sad or mourned for "the baby that never was." Instead I have loved the baby that is. And all of our lives are infinitely better for it.
I've been thinking a lot about wheat. (It's a fascinating party in my head all the time). Remember the food pyramid we grew up with? I would post an image of it but the new Weebly app has this neat feature where it crashes anytime you try to add a picture to a blog. Anyway, in the 90s the entire bottom level of the pyramid was wheat and grains, in other words, the bulk of our caloric intake was supposed to be that straight carbs. 6-11 servings a day. They were all, "Eat all the cereal, rice, and bread you possibly can! It's great! It turns right into sugar in your system!" And we were all, "Duuuuuuuuuuh okay!" Then, at some point recentlyish they decided fruit and vegetables should be at the bottom of the pyramid and wheat was moved up a scootch to the second tier. So now it's 4-8 servings, which is sort of less then 6-11?
So, I have this small human I'm trying to, you know, keep alive and make smart and stuff, right? At breakfast it's oatmeal or Cheerios and fruit. So, there's one serving. At lunch it's a peanut butter and jelly sandwich or pasta or whatever the hell we happened to have remembered to stock our pantry with. That's got to be at least a serving and a half. Then there's crackers or whatever for a snack. Now we're up to, what, 3 and a half at least? And then dinner? Jesus. Pasta? Rice? Some sort of grain? I already give myself and Kurt kudos for giving him homemade food three meals a day almost everyday (You should see the pile of dirty dishes.) and largely organic and blah blah blah. So, I can't really get on my own case for not being Paleo or Macro or whatever gluten-free, grain free thing the kids are into these days. But it does feel like I'm dumping a bunch of empty calories into him for a couple hours of non-hungeryness. And it is only a couple of hours. Feed the kid oatmeal and an hour later he's asking for a "Peabudder samwich!" And I know we're still within the guidelines, but in five minutes they're going to say no wheat or grains EVER AT ALL EVEN FOR YOU NORMAL-EATING PEOPLE! And then I'm the asshole feeding my kid quinoabread.
Fucking wheat, man. And don't even get me started on sugar...