Thursday, 16 May 2019

Sharpening My Sword


There is a sickening sadness in me today. Two stories:

I had an abortion when I was 22. At 19, I had become prematurely engaged in the flush of romance, and I couldn't think of any reason I should say no. Later, I learned that the ring on my finger had partly come about from my prospective father-in-law's Catholic guilt about his son and me living in sin.

The engagement was abruptly broken off one afternoon, after my ex-fiance took me out for a burger. It was unexpected, and I was heartbroken. We started making plans to exit our apartment, and when moving day came, I stumbled across a pregnancy test I had purchased after having heard every responsible, sexually active adult woman should have them on hand. My period was a little late, so I went to the bathroom and took a test, not thinking much of it because I was on birth control.

Positive. The sounds of my friends dismantling my home outside the bathroom door, packing the remains of my relationship into trucks to take across town. My breath stopped. There was only one option.

In a quiet moment, I pulled my ex aside and told him. He said he would marry me, and we could figure it out. Standing in an empty apartment, in a shattered relationship, I said no, we were not having a baby.

At first, I tried to take care of it myself. I cried, and apologized to the little spark inside of me, and tried painfully hard abdominal massages and herbal suppositories. No change. Thankfully, no infections, either.

So, an appointment was made, and I went home after an exam with two tablets and a limited time frame, after which surgery would be my only option. At home, I cried some more, took one pill and inserted another, and then a few hours later had the prescribed miscarriage. I was relieved.

.....

This winter, I was trying to get my 18-month-old son settled into daycare so he could have his need for toddler company met, and so I could try to resume something like a life of my own. His napping was not yet synced up with the schedule of the older children, so I was spending my days walking to and from his daycare with him in a stroller, strategically, to coax him into sleeping at roughly the right times to ease the transition. On these days, I was walking about 7 miles per day, pushing a stroller up and down San Francisco hills in the rain, trying to do the best I could for my little one.

One day, while huffing and puffing uphill through mile 7, I did my mental math on menstruation, and realized that the unprotected sex my husband and I had could most definitely result in a pregnancy. I felt despair. My first child was not much more than a baby himself, still in diapers, and I was alone every day to structure his life. No help for 12 hours a day. No sick days. No family nearby, few friends that were competent with kids. Alone, trying to be my best for him, and losing myself day by day. I needed to have a plan for the next one, and I needed more time to invent that out of thin air.

I could clearly see what the next several years of my life would look like with another baby and more of the same, so I walked straight into my local pharmacy with my sleeping child in his stroller and bought a pack of Plan B. I took it before he woke up, and I texted my husband to let him know what was going on. I was relieved.

.....

These two stories are about the same two questions: What kind of life can I have, and what can I provide for any potential child?

If I had had that first child and married my ex, I would be a single mother now. That relationship ran its course, and in the process alienated me from other women as my fiance tried to sleep with my friends and broke my heart with infidelity. There is a high likelihood I would be living in poverty, I almost certainly would not have made it to university, and I would not have met my husband.

I wonder how that bitterness would compare to what I feel today. For a good primer on the pressures of parenthood that come directly from sexism and our dysfunctional economy, I invite you to read Elizabeth Warren's book, The Two Income Trap. If I recall, the odds of a woman living in poverty roughly double in the USA as soon as she has a child.

At 22, I had only just figured out how to get myself into community college. When I was in high school, I had zero assistance understanding how to get into college; at one point, in my junior year, I walked into the guidance counselor's office, and asked how I might start the process. She laughed at me and told me it was too late. Somehow, a few years later, I had the courage or good sense to just walk into my local community college and ask the same question, and they were kind enough to hand me forms and direct me to the financial aid office.

From ages 16 to 19, I was in an abusive relationship. That boyfriend had undiagnosed mental health issues, and took all of my paychecks. He was controlling and paranoid, actively preventing me from applying to university, saying I couldn't afford it, and he made sure that was true. I'm fairly certain I had a miscarriage in that relationship, and I am so grateful.

It is a miracle that I am living the life I am today. I completed university at an amazing school overseas, partly because my mother-in-law correctly identified at a crucial moment that my educational attainment would directly impact the outcomes of any grandchildren I might have with her son. Poverty nearly knocked me out of that race, but I got a last-minute stay of execution, and my ready supply of free birth control pills from the UK's National Health Service helped me see my commitment to my own education through to a degree with honours.

Statistically, I am an outlier, and it is largely due to the freedom to choose my life over an embryo.

I am from Missouri. This morning, I woke up to news that the state of my birth has slammed the door shut on girls like me making choices that could keep their paths open to university, less degrading relationships, and better futures for themselves and any children they might have. Instead, lawmakers seek to keep women and girls trapped in poverty, trapped in abusive relationships where they are made to co-parent with their abusers, and trapped in a cycle of despair that seeks relief in addiction and death. I hate them for this.

There is no nuance here. This is about controlling women and girls, specifically to prevent them from having the opportunities I had. My intelligence and willingness to survive have been honed and developed by critical thinking skills and exposure to the world, and I'm not going back. No one should go back to the world before Roe v. Wade, back-alley abortions, infections, hemorrhaging in hotel rooms and left to die.

When I think of the girls like me that will be deprived of the opportunities I've had, I want to ride into the fray with a fiery sword and liberate them all. They deserve so much better than the insanity of this forced birth extremism, misogyny codified into law to make women and girls second-class citizens and chattel.

Beyond sadness, there is a rage in me that will not be quieted.

Wednesday, 15 May 2019

Petrified


I am literally in tears right now, thinking of the rape victims and pregnant children who already feel broken and hopeless, sensing the world crash down on them, wondering where they can get help. 

And then these asshole old men and their apologists shut another fucking door, door after door. This is why people commit suicide. Why children innovate ways to escape from hopeless abuse, hidden in bedrooms across this country, isolated to death by their oppressors. Why women slice themselves apart to see if they can ever excise the brutal pain society keeps inflicting, in alleys and after dates. 

My heart just breaks open if I let it reach out for all of the pain there already is. And these creeps would amplify that?

They have no souls, these men. And not men alone. But so many men, who have killed so many women and girls, since longer ago than time can remember.

Let these perpetrators be gone. Force them to stop raping. Eliminate them. Let them be predators of the past, extinct, only sad stories we tell to remember the danger.

Sunday, 12 May 2019

Mothering

Mother's Day over here was spent visiting another family (with doggies and babies making chaos), playing with my husband and toddler, putting baby plants in the ground, and thinking about so many mothers I know.

My heart is feeling so open to the transformation and vulnerability of caring. Delia taught me to be a mom, but Dash made me a mother; so many little lives have come depend on me, at my invitation, and I feel so blessed to have a good partner by my side. This year has featured a lot of reminders of how delicate life can be, and how quickly the picture can shift. I am grateful for this moment, and working hard to keep it going.

Thank you to mothers for your essential work, striving to guide the young on their way through the world, even as we are all imperfect and figuring it out on the fly. Mothers alone cannot bear the full responsibility of stewarding new human beings in this world, but we still do the lion's share.

Lots of love to the mothers that are, the mothers that were, the mothers yet to be, and the mothers who could have been, many of whom feel the lost possibility acutely. Not everyone wants to do this, but those of us that do share in the exhausting love of pouring ourselves into those who fly beyond us. Something shifts in the soul and is never quite the same, I think.

Monday, 22 April 2019

A Heathen's Prayer

Church bombings and burnings, mosque shootings, synagogue attacks and swastikas in cemeteries...

My sense of god is no more coherent than a feeling of life's longing for itself, but violence in places of peace, death at the hands of hatred, is surely against my beliefs.

May we become better. May we establish some connection to the infinite that makes us wiser and gentler to fight the tide of bloodshed.

Tuesday, 12 March 2019

Cultural Topsoil Erosion

“They are vertically integrated, from animal genetics to grocery store. What they charge isn’t based upon what it costs to produce, and it’s not based on supply and demand, because they know what they need to make a profit. What they have done, through government support and taxpayer support, is to intentionally overproduce so that the price stays low, sometimes below the cost of production. That kicks their competition out of the market. Then they become the only player in town.

“Over time, it has extracted wealth and power from communities. We can see how that has impacted rural main streets. You can see the boarded-up storefronts. You can see the lack of economic opportunity.”

.....

I feel so many things about this. I implore you all to read this, and understand what's going on with our food production, and what's happening where there were once breadbasket communities.

I grew up in Missouri, outside of a small town of ~2,000 people, in the midst of cattle, soybeans, horses, and corn. In that small town, I was given a quality education, which frankly far surpassed the schooling I received when my family moved to the shinier suburbs of Denver. My classmates and I have mostly moved away, equipped with tools gained in a functioning community in a rural, agricultural area.

My family used to farm--not my parents, at least not during my lifetime, but certainly my grandparents did. My grandparents' farm is now part of a conservation area, which is a fairly happy ending as these things go, but it is surrounded by endless miles of fields to feed factory farms, dotted with wind turbines that light up the night sky with their red eyes blinking throughout. It feels very empty.

Visiting there last summer, my father recounted the places where the other families had lived, this house and that one, all gone. I listened to him describing the erosion of an entire way of life. He sounded a lot like the farmers in this article.

I am now the owner of some property in Trump country. When I was growing up in Missouri, it was more politically mixed. Now, so many of the towns seem to be drying up and blowing away on the wind. Sam Brownback hastened Kansas's version of this demise by sucking away the tax base for small-town schools and post offices, but the same destruction can happen more gradually and get to the same result.

Who wants to live in a town with no grocery store? What do you do if your kid can no longer go to school anywhere nearby? What if utilities don't serve your underpopulated or depopulated area?

The way of life my dad grew up with is almost gone, but I actually think the way of life I grew up with is nearly evaporated along with it. I don't know how the odds look for rural kids these days. This is part and parcel of why angry, poor white people voted for the goddamned monstrous administration we have now, which is only selling them out in the same ways faster than ever. These people are rightfully enraged, though their votes remain misdirected at the same economically ignorant Republican grifters that helped them shuffle into this death spiral in the first place.

I wish they could see this for what it is. Poor people in many parts of this country used to understand very clearly that voting GOP was not at all in their best interests.

The destruction is rampant, callous, immoral. Communities of small farms are being razed to rape and pillage our environment, to cram animals together in their own sewage, wages driven down so low that cheaper labor is imported to finish the job, and those migrant workers are demonized and subjected to wage theft, harassment, sexual assault, fear of deportation and family separation.

As ever, a few people at the top are getting very wealthy by demolishing every other living thing in their paths.

It matters how we get our food. It matters that we respect life and the quality of it, whether we're talking about people that do work we need or the creatures and lands that sustain us. And, heaven help us, we cannot survive a world that emulates and propagates this model.

https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2019/mar/09/american-food-giants-swallow-the-family-farms-iowa

Tuesday, 5 February 2019

Dash

Tonight, I nursed you down to sleep.
I held you in my arms, 
cradled your little elbow, 
your soft fingers holding onto my thumb, 
and I could feel how you are another part of me, 
glorious and unique, 
destined for the future.

Precious baby, now a boy,
little though you may be.
We've been holding hands since forever,
you one hour born and me but minutes a mother. 
Feeling the wonder of you,
the mystery and exhausting joy,
not knowing what would happen next
but along for the ride, all the way.

I live for you already. 
When day-by-day boredom strikes, you smile.
When my hands ache with the umpteenth wash,
I reassure myself that you have never had a bad belly as yet,
even with all of your adventurous eating and the rest.
When my heart aches with opportunity cost,
I can also feel how much it has opened in seeing just the opportunity
to see you,
glorious and new, 
destined for the future,
with your little old soul 
and wonderful big heart.


Smile,
Part of my heart flies on in you.
canines flashing,
white and careless,
baby belly laughs to silly sneezes,
theatricality at the fiber of this adventure.
Performing weird acts 
of life's explanation
even while flying blind 
in the dark.

Whatever little way this absorbs,
or profound,
I've held you close. 
How could you not absorb at least some of these 
hopes and dreams?
Some measure of my heart poured in,
wishing you love and ever-growing strength,
onward with your maniacal energy and destiny in the future.

I hold your hand.
I hold you close. 
You sigh.
I thank you for coming down from the stars
to be my baby.
I kiss your head.
Sleep.