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On being over whether I want it to be over or not.
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Better words.
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The Mess Of Sochi
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SNAP
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Everything We Leave Behind

On being over whether I want it to be over or not.

So this is about the time I was at a conference and having a really good time talking to old friends and meeting new ones and then I walked in to a room and saw this. (That’s a link to a photo, in case it’s not clear. I am not making much sense right now.)

For a moment i was confused. Are these women wearing fake painted bellies? Do I need to try one on? Is this a contest? Is… oh. Then I realized. These were actual pregnant women, actual fecund people with live, large babies rolling in their bellies.

And I stood stone still for a moment, trying to appreciate what was in front of me, the bravery of these women to sit like this and be painted at late stage pregnancy… but in one moment, I knew it was hopeless. There it came, and I couldn’t stop it. My throat tightened and my nose did that weird tingly thing and my eyes filled up with salty tears because these women in front of me were pregnant, they were round and large and fertile and I… was not. I am not. And I likely will never be again.

And I did not wish to be inappropriate in front of these poor women who were just trying to, you know, be pregnant and not bother anyone, so I put my head down and I walked out the door, not even looking where I was going, just going somewhere else to try to make my mind think of something else instead of infertility. And because my life is an episode of an ironic sitcom I walked in to the room filled with dog treats and immediately flashed to the day we had to put our cancer-ravaged dog to sleep because hey, brain, when you’re already bringing up shit to cry about then why not bring up ALL THE THINGS AT ONCE so I turned around to leave that room and mentally bitchslapped myself and planted a motherfucking smile on my face and walked back out in to the hallway trying desperately to look like there was nothing wrong, maybe succeeding, maybe not succeeding, I don’t know.

But burying it didn’t help, because then I was morose and cranky the rest of the night and then the next morning the tears came out anyway, messily and embarrassingly and all over my cinnamon bun in front of a poor unsuspecting friend, so my strategy of dealing with it by ignoring it is clearly winning me lots of how’s-that-working-for-you points.

Let me be clear: Pregnant people don’t bother me. Other people’s pregnancies are things to be celebrated, even if it can sting sometimes and I keep that part to myself. I don’t begrudge anyone else their fertility, even though it can sometimes seem unfair and confusing. Later that same night, I found myself in an elevator with one of those beautiful women with the painted bellies and we had a nice chat about exactly how long it took for her to get that paint done (answer: hours!) and it didn’t even tweak me at all. So I can’t tell you why that particular initial moment hit so hard, why the sight of 5 beautiful swollen pregnant women filled with promise and sleepless nights hit me in the chest like a truck.

What I do know is that saying goodbye to even the hope of fertility is not a switch. It’s not a line you can neatly draw in your life where you say, today I can think about having a baby but tomorrow I will not, and that is what I shall accept. Reality is a difficult thing, it turns out. Realizing and acknowledging that everything you had believed about how your life would be when you were 12 is not exactly how it has worked out, those four kids you always thought you’d have and the house filled with chaos is not quite what’s happened. And who wants four kids, holy smokes, even the thought of the house filled with chaos is exhausting and being a good parent for four kids would be really hard because being a good parent for one kid is hard enough holy crap. So basically my brain is telling me that I would have been a shitty parent if I had any more kids, which, thanks brain, you’re a dick, and it’s not making me feel better. Having one kid is certainly easier than having two or three or twelve, but “easy” isn’t what I’m mourning. It’s that I never in my life ever up until this moment thought I would only have one child. One pregnancy. One go around. Even when I was pregnant, I always thought “next time I will do ______” because that time certainly couldn’t possibly be the last.

And yet, it appears that it was.

I still have everything. I still have a bassinet and a pack and play and three strollers and a bucket seat that is probably expired by now, bags and bags of baby clothes and a breast pump and bottles, slings and carriers, cloth diapers. It’s all still here, waiting for the child that is just not going to come.

So maybe what I need to do is find one of those almost-mothers and give them everything I have, give them all these things so that they will be used. That they will be slept in and drooled on and snuggled and washed and worn by a tiny baby smothered in love instead of rotting in the back of a closet. Because keeping them all there is not celebrating anything. It’s dried up and dusty and hanging on to a wisp of a wish that will never come true.

Life is linear, and we are so used to pausing live TV and rewinding things to double check that it is hard to accept that something is over when it is really, inevitably, yes, too late now, it’s not going to happen over.

But I have to face it.

It’s over.

Better words.

Fires.I don’t write much anymore.

I’m not sure why.

Sometimes I feel like the process of writing itself is unhealthy for me. I always just want to be done. I’m impatient to get to the next idea, the next word, the next paragraph. I rush myself in an effort to just get it done.

I write and just blauurgh out on to the page and press publish. I don’t want to order my ideas. I don’t want structure. I don’t want to review. I just want to do total stream of consciousness and then forget it. I just want it done.

But that’s not really a good way to write.

When I’m walking or in the shower or doing something with my hands, the ideas flow and the words form in my head, but translating them to the page seems difficult.

And yet writing has always been therapeutic for me. Get it out of my head where it just bounces around. Writing it down makes me form the idea, makes me make it cohesive, makes it gone so I can move on.

So maybe all I need to do is slow down. Use fewer words. Just better ones.

SNAP

 

I don't know whose arm that is. I can't remember. It was a long time ago. I do know it's Robin Plemmons' handwriting. She's a bad motherfucker too.Shaking oneself out of a funk is hard.

I think my brain is ready to be out of the funk. It’s really quite tired of itself and ready to move on. But my body isn’t. There’s ingrained, months (years?) long habits that are sitting there, weighing me down. Constantly refreshing twitter or facebook instead of doing something productive, let alone creative.

Creative. Creating. New, novel. Novel? Does that mean I should write a novel? Maybe I should settle for a short story. How about a blog post. Well, a paragraph. A sentence will do. Just a sentence. Subject, verb, object. Is that how you do it? I can’t remember. Well, try. Very good. Now two. Make them seem like they like each other. That’s how you do it. Now another one. Keep going. Talk to it like you talk to a toddler. Just one more! Keep trying! So good! Now one more! Oh, kaboom! Words all over the floor. That’s ok, try again!

The iPhone has been a crutch. I hide. I escape behind the screen. But god, that screen is small and limiting and exhausting. A great shield – when I needed a shield. And I needed one. When change and loss and new and weird and oh god what is happening stop this train stop it were overwhelming. This little screen is a little world. It’s small and safe. Ish. But I’m ready to deal. I think. I might be talking a big talk. I do that a lot. But as for that crutch, I’m kind of ready to cast it aside. It doesn’t seem to mind. It sits happily binging and blorping whether I pay attention to it or not.

But the old habit is there. Reach for it. What’s going on? Who said something funny? Is there something important in my inbox I can avoid? Which I inevitably would, because that’s what funks do. They are a never ending spiral of avoid seek avoid seek avoid. SNAP. Break the cycle.

All right then. Wake up, fingers. Get back at it, paper and pens. Start thinking. Scribbling. Dancing. Do it. It’s not getting any earlier.

Everything We Leave Behind

What do we leave behind us?

I’m not talking about leftover food or dirty laundry. I mean what happens when we’re gone?

20 years ago, if I died unexpectedly, the things I left behind would have been quite different than today. I would have left behind scribbles and scraps and other people’s memories. Old term papers. Half finished diaries filled with teenage angst. Tiny, poorly focused snapshots. Someone else’s stories about me. Signatures on office documents. Everything I left was either meant for a purpose outside of my own story or never meant for other eyes.  The picture of me would have been only through cobbled together images and words, eventually forgotten. Wisps of stories, memories left in time.

Now? Piles upon piles of digital trails. Tweet streams and Facebook feeds. Blog posts, Instagram photos, forum conversations and/or arguments. Tracks left behind me, tracing every step.  With every tweet or comment, we write what we are going to leave behind us. Because we most assuredly will leave it behind.

All this technology has created a wealth of stories, stories we never would have found 20 years ago. Stories that make us laugh or cry or catch our breath. Words that teach us and surprise us and make us better people.

We leave traces behind every moment. We get to write our own legacies, even though with every day and every tweet and every throwaway glib comment, that’s not what we think we’re doing.  But in the end, it is. In some ways, it’s all we’re doing.

What we’ve left is what we’ve chosen to put out there.  What have you chosen?

Think about it. Really think about it. If you are gone tomorrow, or even in 20 years, what are you writing or doing or publishing today? Someday, someone will read it. What will they learn about you?

 

I never met Amanda. I didn’t even follow her until it was too late.  Which teaches me: Pay more attention.

I debated whether to make this video and debated more whether to post it. It’s not my story to tell, and I don’t know if Amanda would have wanted it told this way. But ultimately, I’ve chosen to publish it as a tribute to her, and a reminder to all of us: sometime, we will leave it behind. 

I have attempted to find Amanda’s full name in order to contact her family to let them know about this project.  I have been unable to find any further information. If you have any information on Amanda,  please leave me a comment or contact me at zchamu at gmail.

I want to thank Amanda for sharing her story with us. I’m just the messenger.

Music: Let Her Go by Passenger. Tweets: Amanda @TrappedAtMyDesk.  Originally shown at @BlissDomCanada.

My challenge to you for 2014: Look at what you’ve left behind. What is your legacy? 

 

UPDATE January 17, 2014.

 

Wow. I wasn’t expecting that.

Thank you to everyone who viewed and shared the video. I hope that you have a chance to pause and reflect and send good wishes out there to Amanda and those she left behind.

I assembled this because I thought it was a lovely, touching story of a life lost too soon. I thought it was a good message, to be conscious of what you leave behind you and to live life to the fullest.  I shared it at BlissDom Canada and with some folks I knew and when I posted it here I thought maybe some Ottawa people who had interacted with her would share it. I was not expecting Jezebel or Buzzfeed or The Star or the Ottawa Citizen or Reddit or anywhere else that’s posted it.

Amanda’s story has obviously stuck with others as it did with me.

To answer a few questions:

I have not heard from her family. I would still like to do so. If I do hear from them, I will proceed according to their wishes.

Because I have not heard from them, I’d like to ask anyone looking for Amanda’s family or any information on her to please proceed sensitively. This is a story of a woman who died, after all, and those left behind her are grieving. Please, if you do find anyone connected to Amanda, please treat them with kindness and sensitivity and proceed according to their wishes.

I have had many people ask me if this is real or if I think it may be a hoax account. The answer is that I believe it is real, for many reasons, otherwise I never would have assembled the video. Sure, it’s possible it’s a fake, but I don’t think so.

 

Be good to each other.

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