No, I Don’t Want Kids. No, I’m Not Sorry. No, You Don’t Need to Worry About It.

Next Life, NO Kids is doing this cool #Mommitment (dang, I have to get on the Twitter now, don’t I?) thing to end the Mommy Wars. Whether you have kids or not, the idea behind this movement impacts us all. Check it out–it’s smart and there’s likely going to be a lot of swearing, so you know I’m in. To that end, here is my humble contribution:

There’s no doubting the existence of the Mommy Wars. What I sometimes see and hear mothers doing to one another both online and in person turns me WHITE. Happily, there is a growing chorus of voices saying, in one form or another, that it’s time to cut that shit out.

I submit that there is a broader conflict, the Uterine Wars, if you will. Heated battles include, but are not limited to:

  • Who’s using theirs?
  • How?
  • Why or why not?
  • HOW DARE SHE?

I think we’ve all seen this, including smaller but no less nasty skirmishes about breast-feeding, co-sleeping, baby-wearing… the list goes on. But if you think you’ll avoid this kind of BS simply by not having any kids, think again.

After a great deal of time and consideration, my husband and I decided years ago not to have children. Making that choice has brought its own brand of shitstorm.

People think they can say the most amazing things to you when you are a woman who does not want children of her own. Here are just a few cherry examples:

“Well, what’s wrong with you?” (This immediately after I said to the woman, “Some people actually come out and ask what is wrong with me.” Brilliant.)

“Some of us never grow out of that ‘selfish’ phase.” (PLEASE don’t make me enumerate the reasons this is obnoxious, condescending, and simply wrong. I don’t have the bandwidth. Some other time.)

“You should have them anyway. You’ll regret it later if you don’t!” (1. No, I shouldn’t. 2. Now, THERE’S  a good reason to reproduce: fear of possible future regret. Way to possibly ruin everybody’s life there, genius. “I call this one ‘Fear and Regret Insurance’.”)

“Oh, that’s probably because of your childhood/broken home.” Not all women who don’t want kids are broken, PERIOD. Parenthood is not for everybody. Yes, I have a uterus; no, I’m not using it to have kids. I also have legs; I’m not using them to run marathons but no one’s giving me any shit about that. YET.

“I’m sure your husband would love to have kids if you wanted them.” Nope. No, he wouldn’t, not even a little. The man gets downright nervous about my motives when I show him cute pictures and videos of my friends’ kids.

I love my nephews and my friends’ children. I love seeing their pictures and hearing about school and their latest tot obsessions. I don’t have a problem with kids; it’s their parents who are sometimes insufferable.

My point is this: whether or not you choose to have children, there is enough insecurity and emotional baggage in the world so that everybody gets a turn in the Uterine War trenches.

But wait… what if we just… didn’t?

Bear with me for justasec. What if we decided to make an effort to just CALM OUR COLLECTIVE BALLS? Your decision to have kids or not, how they sleep, what diapers they wear, etc., actually has no bearing on my life whatsoever. The odds are great that the woman who is doing things differently than I would IS NOT HARMING ME. Or (and most importantly) her kid. So… how exactly is it productive for me to shoot my mouth off about how she’s doing it wrong?

Before we get too het up about another person’s life choices, let’s first pause and ask ourselves: Is this any of my business? If the answer is no, AND IT USUALLY IS, then don’t worry about it. Truly. It can actually end there.

I’ve got about a million other things to do besides worry about what the next person is doing, and how that somehow detracts from what I’m doing. It doesn’t. It’s time for us to cut the shit and keep our eyes on our own papers. Who’s in??

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Even My Filth Smelled Like Peppermint Yesterday

Yesterday was one of those days when everything just WENT: I got a lot of good work done; I ticked chores off my list much more easily and quickly than anticipated; I even shaved my legs (in January. WHAT?)–not for the husband, not for the yoga class, not for a massage! Just because it needed to be done and things were already ROLLING. I even remembered to drizzle a little peppermint oil in the bottom of the recycling container after I emptied it. (I’m certainly no Martha Stewart, but I was kind of proud of that last one.)

Then it was today, and “things” decided rather abruptly not to go. It is gray and drizzly and cold out there (duh, JANUARY), and it has seeped into my very cells. We’ve been fed, the animals have been fed; I even did the breakfast dishes!

But I don’t. Wanna. I had big (?) plans to make cookies today, and now, meh. I need to shower and wash my hair so that I can pass for a functioning human being tomorrow, and I’m mentally fighting it like a little kid. The sheets need changing, too… maybe tomorrow.

As a person who has a long history with depression, this isn’t it. I can tell. I know that grim-faced bitch like the back of my hand and she ain’t here. Maybe it’s hibernation behavior, maybe it’s laziness, maybe it’s just a raw Sunday that needs to be spent under a blanket with at least one snoozing dog leaning up against you. Maybe it’s just a mature (ha!) attitude of “Eh, I’ll get ’em tomorrow.” Whatever it is, I’m grateful that I know that today doesn’t have to look just like yesterday.

This is one terrific lesson I learned from yoga. Some days, I show up strong and energized and balanced; others I fall constantly, sometimes literally on my face. Often, what I can manage with my right side is a far-off dream for my left side. I know I’m in good shape, mentally, when I can just accept this and say, “Well, sir. That’s not going to happen today because my left hamstring feels like a Slim Jim. No big whoop.” I’m not paying attention to what’s happening on the mats around me because what matters is happening on my mat, right now–not what happened yesterday or last week.

Slowly, very slowly, I’m becoming quite good at not comparing myself to others, or, even more powerfully, to other “versions” of myself.

Theodore Roosevelt said, “Comparison is the thief of joy.” I freaking love that guy. And in that spirit, I’m not comparing today’s lazy, spacey, kinda funked out sloth-me to yesterday’s energized, obsessive-compulsive, achievement-junkie-me. Today, I’m just going to lovingly let them both be.

C’mon, give it a try. Don’t you want Teddy to be happy?

All of the Exactlies.

You know what it’s like: You meet someone new, or find an organization that just nails it, or you read something by a person who not only gets it but also expresses it perfectly, and you go, “EXACTLY.” (If you’re like me, you’re reading and nodding and possibly saying this word aloud repeatedly.)

I have plenty of acquaintances and friends I like very much. I also have a small but powerful gang–all very different, all flung over many states–who I could go to war with. They have loved me through my worst, and celebrated with me at my best. The rest of the time, they just are: there’s no drama in this posse. We’re all too old, and life is challenging enough, for pot-stirring. Many of them have never met. Come to think of it, there are a couple whom I’ve never met in person, either. I got to know them either on Facebook through mutual friends, or I read their work (“EXACTLY!”) and over time we struck up a correspondence.

The point is, these people get allll of my exactlies. Their brains and senses of humor (paramount), their values and work ethics and abilities to question themselves and their own motives. Their HUMILITY. The older I get, the less time I have for people who don’t practice turning a cool, appraising eye to their own behavior. I need to surround myself with people who can look at a rough situation or an unpleasant exchange of words and ask themselves, “Was that me? Did I cause that? What was I trying to accomplish there?”

This is hard work. I try my best to practice this, and by no means get it perfectly, or even every time. The most important thing is that we TRY. I can no longer be a person who crashes her way through life, certain that I’m right all the time. It is exhausting and destructive and Sisyphean. It makes me tired. It makes my buddies tired, too. Many of them figured this out way before I did; in fact, one or two seem to have been born knowing this.

Having humility does not equal being a wuss. Not even close. It just means that we hold ourselves to the same reasonable standards we hold those around us.

Here are just a few things and people that get allll of my exactlies, in no particular order:

Ricky Gervais and his animal welfare activism–all of my exactlies.

When I read something written by a person who clearly just gets it–all of my exactlies.

When I meet a new person who shares my interests, but also has respect for the opinions and interests I don’t share with them–all of my exactlies.

Fellow clumsy people–all of my exactlies.

Yoga pants–ALL OF MY EXACTLIES.

People who can laugh at themselves and others without being cruel… you get the idea.

Everybody knows by now that it’s a good, healthy thing to count our blessings, not just around the holidays. During these short days of winter when the sun can seem like a blurry memory, I’m counting my exactlies.

Getting Bounced from the Unicorn Discotheque

I’m writing to you from the sidewalk outside the Unicorn Discotheque.

Try as I might, sometimes I just can’t get into that place. It is damned hard. I can see the lights, hear the throb of the music, sense the “zero fucks given” vibe from inside… and this mofo bouncer won’t let me in.

For those who have never heard of it, the Unicorn Discotheque is where I go in my head when it’s all. Too. Much. It is a fine place.

The UD is home to feel-good, funny TV. It can be smart, but not heavy. Parks and Recreation gets played a LOT in there. Ditto The IT Crowd, Peep Show, 30 Rock, The Good Wife, Seinfeld, etc. The show may deal with less-than-funny issues, but not so serious they can’t be tidily wrapped up by the end of the show.

There is no world news in the UD. Not even local news, come to think of it. We walk a fine line between keeping ourselves sane and burying our heads in the sand. It is a tricky line to navigate.

Facebook usage is severely limited, DUH.

Texting is permissible. Between very funny and smart people, it is actually encouraged. No gossip, though. Not a single one of us is an angel, but the UD is not the place to feed our baser impulses. If it makes you feel icky, or icky about yourself, pass when you are in the UD’s hallowed halls.

Por ejemplo: So I got my nails done yesterday, a rare treat. The color looked okay in the bottle, kind of a neutral violet hue. The tech was a few nails in when I noticed that, uh, this shade looks kind of terrible on me. Out of the bottle, the violet is more of a beige…. But who cares? I was in with a dear friend who was visiting from out of town, and we decided to get manicures on the spur of the moment because we weren’t quite ready to say goodbye yet. I think the shade is godawful on me but now I’m kind of perversely into it. So into it that I spent much of last evening texting with a different buddy about what horrible names this color should have been named. They were exceptionally rude, I mean, so bad that I’m not totally sure I want to publish them here. The nicest and most PG name I came up with was Corpse Mauve. You get the idea. We had a LOT of fun with this.

I still haven’t fully realized that my buddy is gone again. (She’s not dead, Brown. Get a grip. Jesus.) It won’t be pretty when I figure it out, and maybe this is why I just can’t get past the UD’s velvet ropes today, no matter how I try.

Here’s why getting into the Unicorn Discotheque is sometimes a real bitch:

How dare I get  a manicure when my good friend is in town? What about Paris, and puppy mills? What about the dogs at the animal shelter that I didn’t save? What about the people who don’t have a warm and safe place to sleep while it is so Christing cold? How dare we indulge ourselves?

Don’t I owe everybody an explanation?!

No. No, I don’t. I know that today, and believe me, I’m working on it. But that noise, right there, is what makes it so hard to get into the UD sometimes: Guilt. Worry. Sadness. Powerlessness. I can’t always make it through the doors, and that’s okay. I don’t think the feelings are quite done with me yet.

The difference is, today I know the Discotheque is there. Tomorrow, I might even get in. And while it might be juuuust out of reach, I have you guys here with me. I never have to be alone again.

So… who’s got a cigarette?

January Gratitude

Welp, it is about a bazillion degrees below zero here, like it is all over much of the country. It is face-hurting cold, but I’m not here to bitch about it. (Give me a few more weeks–you might get a kvetch out of me then.)

I love winter, and am not surprised when, you know, IT GETS COLD. Winter will do that in a lot of places. There are plenty of reasons why I think winter is great; here are a few of my biggies:

1. I’d much rather be too cold than too hot.

2. The clothes are cuter.

3. And let’s not forget BOOTS.

4. My dog loves the cold, and watching her play and run around in the snow like a maniac makes me smile every. Time.

5. Winter is VERY important for gardening. On the surface (at least around here), everything looks dead and brown and blah. Underground, though, my beloved plants are gestating and sleeping and getting all fat and strong for the big spring push. I LOVE THAT. I have to remember that it can be the same for me if I keep my eye on the ball and don’t let myself simply hold down the couch all season.

But when it gets very cold like this, I am especially grateful for the fact that I have a warm, safe home and food in the pantry. My animals have a warm, safe home and food in their bowls. It is such a basic thing and so easy to take for granted.

A young woman went missing from a nearby town on New Year’s Eve, and the colder it gets the more I worry: Is she safe? Did she just do a rebellious, teenaged runner? Is she at least warm enough? I cannot begin to imagine what her family must be going through; somehow the cold just makes it seem that much more bleak.

I don’t have to worry about being warm enough tonight. I hope you don’t, either. Let’s all snuggle a little closer under the blankets tonight, AND decide what we might do to make someone else’s winter a little safer and warmer.

Action, action, action. That’s the ticket.

Could we give our old blankets and towels to an animal rescue? Can we donate our sleeping bags to a homeless shelter? Can we put in an afternoon of volunteering here and there? Maybe we can write a check, however small it may seem to us. Taken separately, yes, these are small things; but they add up, and they all matter.

The holidays are over (you can’t see me, but I’m jumping up and down a little bit. There might be clapping.), but winter seems to be just getting underway. So let’s all keep an eye out for one another, shall we? It could be another long one.

It’s National Let’s All Just Get Back on with Our Lives, Shall We? Day!

Congratulations, everybody, you made it to January 2nd! It just might be the most wonderful day of the year.

Speaking as someone who treats the holidays with as low-key an approach as possible, I still feel like I have just hauled myself across some invisible finish line. There was no Christmas whirlwind, no New Year’s bash. It was incredibly quiet and peaceful by design… and I’m still exhausted. How you people with a bazillion parties and commitments–even the ones who love it!–do this is beyond me. My hat’s off to you, for sure.

But I am a person who gets overstimulated and overwhelmed in the GROCERY STORE, so there’s that… we are a strange and varied species.

Goodbye, incessant Xmas music. See you in a year, hideous, excessive, crappy decorations. Bye bye, forced jollity, caroling (just creepy–there, I said it), anxiety because we don’t feel how we “should.” Ditto hideous travel conditions, sleeping in airports, obligations that can’t possibly all be met.

For YEARS now, my husband and I have almost completely stayed put during the holidays. We choose instead to visit and hang out with family and friends for no particular reason, at random times, when there’s no added pressure. I know that this wouldn’t work for most people, but it works beautifully for us.

And still, I feel almost impossibly emotionally and mentally hung over. I’ve done plenty of navel-gazing (maybe why I’m so tired); maybe it’s the holidays, maybe something else. The point is, LOTS of people feel this way now, and now we get to GET BACK ON WITH OUR LIVES! Let’s combat the post-holiday letdown by thinking about what we get to enjoy, lo this magical season that starts today, hallelujah and can I get an amen?!

  • Places are more or less open regularly, YAY! We can actually conduct our business, YAYYYYY!
  • No more insane looping of Christmas music (see above), much of which is just damn sad if you ask me.
  • Spending “normal” evenings at home means comfort clothes. My comfort clothes include, but are not limited to, yoga pants (duh) and a wide assortment of my husband’s T-shirts and hoodies (poor bastard).
  • Getting back to healthier, more normal eating. Even as people who avoided many commitments this season, holiday food still managed to wangle its way into our house. Let’s just say we’re both feeling a little… puffy… from extra salt and sugar.

… to name but a few. I know, I know, the sun hasn’t been seen in weeks, but check it out: we have an enormous amount to be grateful for all damn year, guys, even when we’re not feeling especially wonderful.

Today is National Let’s All Just Get Back on with Our Lives, Shall We? Day! So let’s go get it.