1. In the first grade, my teacher had us each write a “book” that would later be laminated and bound. From the moment I held the finished product in my hands and saw my name on the cover page, I knew with absolute certainty that writing would be my life’s work.
2. I feel like a terrible option as a friend to anyone outside of my family. I am devoted to my parents, siblings, husband and daughter and blessed for it, but I struggle with going beyond that. To be honest, I am very fulfilled by those relationships and often fail to see why I need more. But I do want to be a good friend to other people and so I work at it.
3. I have struggled with depression and anxiety since my early 20s. Probably long before that, but I didn’t have a name for it. I have never been good at reckoning my internal voice with the external world. That sounds deeper than it is, but what I am really saying is that the constant conversation in my head has led me toward some of my greatest fears and darkest moments.
4. I think my daughter’s sweet, chubby body is the most beautiful thing in the world. Witnessing her thoughtless comfort with her dimpled thighs and rounded belly has freed me in ways I never could have imagined.
5. I assign feelings to inanimate objects. I once pulled a stuffed animal out of a garbage can because I was about to throw something away when I saw his tiny teddy bear eyes staring up at me and I knew it was a cry for help. I may or may not still have him.
6. I don’t know if I will ever understand how there will be a day I will walk this planet without my mother.
7. I find something so comforting about fall weather –– the warm sunshine mixed with a cool breeze, the smell of leaves. It makes me feel hopeful and peaceful and dizzy.
8. Sometimes I worry I will never love my husband as much as he loves me.
9. When I was younger, I would fantasize about being locked in a bookstore overnight. OK, I still do.
10. I have never found another person who can simultaneously captivate and unnerve me quite like my sister. Here’s a for instance: I always give myself 15 minutes of padding when going anywhere. Amanda believes that as long as a person is less than 10 minutes late, then she is on time. It drives me crazy and, yet, she walks into the room and her smiling face leaves me struggling to maintain that level of annoyance.
11. Marrying my life to my husband’s has been my favorite compromise ever.
12. When Claire was just three months old, I was driving to my parents’ house and honked at a white worker’s van that nearly rolled through a stop sign and hit us. I immediately started to shake because even the smallest confrontations do that to me. As I neared my parents’ neighborhood, I noticed a white van in my rearview mirror and became convinced the two men I had honked at were following me. I turned down a side street and the van continued in the opposite direction. I should have known then that something was wrong.
13. During the first year of Claire’s life, I learned that postpartum depression and anxiety is multicolored. I became acutely aware that what I had known to recognize as signs and symptoms pre-baby (see #3) was not enough, and the same went for those we are told to watch for post-baby (e.g. feelings of wanting to hurt yourself or your child). I never wanted to hurt myself or my daughter, and instead deeply feared that someone or something would hurt us (see #12). Noises at night would eventually draw me out of bed enough times that I would eventually just sit awake on the couch, praying for the morning. I would rock Claire to sleep and stare at the window across her room, wondering if someone might try to crawl in and take her after I had put her in her crib. A pain in my calf was a blood clot, a bad headache was a brain tumor, heart palpitations were a heart attack, a weird mole was melanoma. I went to the emergency room twice and felt overwhelmingly guilty when they eventually told me there was nothing wrong, but also comforted by the presence of doctors and machines who could monitor my alive-ness for at least a few hours.
14. I turned 50 this year. Not really, but you know how everyone says that after 50 you just stop caring about what people think? Yeah. I turned 50 this year.
15. Never have I coveted and feared something as deeply as I do the act of writing.
16. I fell more in love with Dan this past year. Which is funny because our relationship was certainly put to the test. I cannot count the number of nights he reassured me and held my hand as I fell asleep crying, afraid there would not be a morning. I don’t know that I will ever be able to repay him in emotional availability and kindness (see #8).
17. Every single thing my grandmother does and says is magic. She is my heart. Even when she says things like, “That’s about as helpful as tits on a bull.” Magic.
18. I don’t always feel worthy of my mother’s unwavering belief in my ability to write. She has never, ever, ever faltered in her confidence, even at times when she probably should have told me to do something else. It blows me away.
19. I have always loved even numbers. For example, if something can fit into the palm of my hand, then it must be eaten in twos. Eight M&Ms, 12 peanuts, 36 chocolate chips –– whatever it is, it must be consumed in pairs.
20. My eating disorder started when I was 15 years old. I counted calories down to a stick of gum, over-exercised, took laxatives and even consumed ipecac syrup after one particularly hefty binge. By my early 20s, I had mostly righted the ship, but I still had terribly disordered habits that continued until my early 30s. But on the day I found out I was pregnant, something shifted in me in such a way that I never again thought about doing anything other than taking care of the vessel that would carry my daughter for the next nine months. And that continued after she was born, if not more so. Watching Claire’s body grow healthfully has been profoundly healing for me and the way in which I view my body (see #4).
21. I have always felt a deep responsibility to protect the feelings of the people I love. Even as I am writing this list, I am thinking, “Am I making it clear just how much I love my mom? Is it apparent that I adore my sister?”
22. Speaking of people I adore –– my brothers and my dad. Man, I am blessed to have men in my life who believe in women. My husband included. I am so honored to stand next to men who proudly call themselves feminists. To have a dad who was raised in a traditional way, but came home from work and brushed my hair or painted my nails. To have brothers who are appalled by things in the news about sexual assault and unequal pay, and who argue with people who shrug their shoulders at it. Oh, and those three boys –– how I love that they are never shy to hug me or tell me they love me. “I love you,” they say, just because or in front of a group of friends or as a reminder that they will always show up. They always do.
23. Holding my nephew Oscar on the day he was born was one of the most pivotal things I did during my recovery from postpartum depression and anxiety. At the time, Claire was nine months old and I was constantly fearing time. That time was passing too fast, that there wasn’t enough time, that I would run out of time. I was so scared to hold Oscar and feel crushed by the weight of wanting to go back and do it all again with Claire. But I held him and felt complete and utter joy that I had my baby sister’s little boy in my hands –– and that I also absolutely adored my nine-month-old little girl and did not want to go back. For the first time since I had given birth to Claire, I had a feeling of, “This is going to be OK.”
24. I’ve realized that this was supposed to be a list and I’ve turned it into a full-blown essay. I am wishing there was a #26, #27, #28 … Maybe it’s a sign that I enjoy this writing thing after all.
25. If I leave this life having been a writer and a loving daughter, wife, and mother, then I will be happily smiling from wherever the afterlife leads us.
P.S. When deciding what I would write about for my first blog post, I took a note from one of my favorite writers, Glennon Doyle Melton at Momastery. Her very first blog post was a list like this and it seemed like the perfect way to introduce to you the many things I will be writing about in this forum. More about my plans for this blog here.