(I have been thinking about writing this post for quite a while.)
There are possibilities everywhere, and it is hard not to let the mind wander toward exciting uncharted territory. There are the possibilities we actively seek out, taking their shape in goals, cover letters, bruised wrists, and brazen moves out of state. Then there are the possibilities that we can only wish and pray into being. We all wished to win the lottery (it helps to buy a ticket though), we wish natural disasters don’t occur, we wish for lovely weather when our far away friends visit; and I wished that I said the right thing in the right conversation that would have landed an offer of employment.
The HR rep greeted me warmly, and reminded me to “just breathe,” which I brashly shrugged off.
I could have used another breath.
I sat down parched, then thankful to see paper cups of water in front of each place. As the deputy director was going over some initial details, I gratefully sipped my cup. It slowly dawned on me that, in fact, there was no paper cup of water for me. I had just touched my lips and tongue to the executive director’s cup. Burning with apologies, I tried to move on from my error as the interview trio politely shrugged it off. There was probably a way I could have recovered from that egregiousness, but whatever it could have been was beyond me. Those interview questions I should have practiced would have come in handy then.
I walked out of that interview more defeated than I’ve felt in a very long time. I wallowed for the evening, and the next day. I perked up here and there, convincing myself my errors really weren’t all that bad. But they were. Oh reader, they were heinous.
This was April 1. For many reasons that I hope to go into with another post, I joined an instagram yoga challenge. So when I finally got that email that said, “thanks, but no thanks,” I had something else to think about. It was a moment of unseen, though very deliberate, creation, and it has re-ignited my buried passion.
I’ve done more yoga in the last two months than I have in many years…maybe ever. It has helped me realize that job was not my dream job, it was just a job. Looking back, I see my hesitations.
Self-sabotage of the best sort.
How did that spark inside me that trained to be a yoga teacher five years ago get so obscured? It is a little strange for me to be on the cusp of the next decade of my life, and still not know precisely what my career will look like. But I’ve been opening to new possibilities that I never would have seen if I got this 9-5 job I lusted after. Teaching yoga. Getting a 2nd Masters. Going to the beach every beautiful day with my son. Volunteering with the troubled local school system. Going to France and to live in a little cottage by the sea. Meeting and celebrating my new niece this summer.
Anyways, I felt like I needed to document this episode of my life, and thank you for reading. It is reassuring to know there is no such thing as a dream job, for me, right now. That position for included zero discussion of creativity. And yoga, definitely no yoga in the job description. So I’m settling in for a summer of possibilities manifesting, and setting the stage for a happy next decade of my life.
Surely Hafiz can’t be wrong:
“This place where you are right now, God circled on a map for you.”
As I’ve written before, grocery shopping in South Carolina is quite different from how I used to shop in Maine and Massachusetts. It is not just the fact that it took three markets to find kimchi, and it was not hard to adjust to the lack of dedicated organic and Asian sections. The produce is generally plentiful and varied, and I know where to buy half gallons of rice milk and sprouted tofu.
However, I was completely bewildered yesterday by the interaction I had with the young man bagging my groceries. He picked up a container of tofu, and stared at it, shook it, then looked at me and asked, “what is this, some kind of soup?” Besides that one video I posted to social media earlier this week (Holocaust on a Conveyor Belt,) I generally try not to proselytize my vegetarian beliefs. So I responded, “no, it is tofu.” Realizing as soon as the words left my mouth how it probably sounded pretentious. The kid looked at me, and shook his head while he continued to bag my items. But what should I have said, “oh, that is a food made by coagulating soy juice and then pressing the resulting curds into soft white blocks.” ?????
“So you must be some kind of vegetarian or something, huh,” he continued the conversation.
“Correct. I do not eat meat,” I replied.
“Oh man, you would hate to come over to our house, we have meat everywhere!” I suddenly remembered I’m in the deep south, and that guns and hobby hunting are popular here. I’m envisioning mounted animal heads, bacon toothpaste, leather sofas. “Not even chicken?” the kid asked.
Now I was getting testy. He was not trying (I don’t think) to be rude. But I felt interrogated. Here he was, looking at an intimate portrait of my life (thank goodness I do not purchase tampons at the grocery store), and questioning my lifestyle. I wanted to reply “especially not chicken” but I just smiled, and shook my head no.
Of course I did not open up the conversation with him further by telling him about my recent conversion to veganism (still in its infancy, there are animal products in everything!) but I was so shocked that here we are in 2013, and some people in this country do not understand a vegetarian diet.
Welcome to the South!
Earlier this week, I was chatting with a friend who has a 6 month old baby. She returned to work after her maternity leave just as I left my job to move away, and though our circumstances are very different right now, we have a lot of sympathy for each other, mainly because having a child is hard work no matter how you spend the day.
When I went back to work, leaving my infant made me sick to my stomach if I thought about it too much. However, I was unquestionably fulfilled, stimulated and excited by the activities I did at work. But in the lulls of the day, especially when I looked up and saw a parent with a child my son’s age heading into story time, I longed to be that parent. Now that I am that parent, I look longingly at the librarians working behind their desks, busily involved in something greater than themselves. This is a big flip from my mindset six months ago, and I’m having a bit of trouble forgiving myself for taking my job for granted. At the time, my job so often felt like a means to an end, it gave us financial security, health insurance, professional credence. But now that my job is staying home with my child, I’ve been longing for the intangibles that a career provides. I miss the random witty chats with my co-workers and patrons, the grown up routine I created (involving 6am gym sessions and 9pm bedtimes), the healthy balance of time with my family and time away, dedicated lunch breaks, quiet moments at my desk, adult conversation, professional growth.
There is a lot of angst from American women that our country has unfairly short maternity leave policies. I might get chastised for being anti-feminist, but if we women want to be treated fairly in the workplace, how can we ask for our job to be held for 6 months or a year off while we care for our new family members? I think instead of longer maternity leave, we should be pulling for the fathers to take paternity leave–6 months is a very reasonable age for a new person to be cared for by others (mom takes 3 months, dad takes 3 months). The world will keep going. If we choose to leave our jobs for a while, that is a perfectly respectable choice, but more than 3 months, I think, is asking too much. I’ve heard confessions from lots of new mothers about how they were ashamed by how excited they were to get back to work after their leave. And that is where I am right now. Not on maternity leave per se, but itching to get back into the world of big ideas and projects and meaning.
In a perfect world, of course, I’d job share with my friend in Silicon Valley. We’d each work 20 hours a week, and spend the other 20 hours with our little boys. Maybe we’d even share child care duties so we could avoid the inexorable costs of nannies and day care. I can’t imagine I am the only one who feels like I need to be contributing to the turning of the world’s gears to feel value. Yes, raising a child has its rewards, but it can feel stagnant on those days he wants to go down the slide 50 times in a row. People have bad days at their job, too, but at least you walk away at the end of the day to something else.
Related: What would Betty say?
I am confused! I used to love living in Boston, the construction and the sirens were a charming white noise, and the hot stepping industriousness of the masses excited me, even if I was just pretending to be part of the pack on my way to Neimans. I loved living in a 874 square foot apartment stacked neatly above and beside other square living spaces. It was liberating to go to the grocery store and keep my head down, not making eye contact was part of the game (judge people based on their walk and their shoes, not their facial expression, I learned). I rarely got upset by traffic, I began to appreciate public radio and audio books, I walked everywhere I possibly could, and I outsourced all my errands that there was a market for.
Living in the city, we started to hold hands when we crossed the street, not for safety, but to feel a connection among the multitudes of people we were surrounded by all day. I shared tables at the library, knew where all the free dog bags were, sat rubbing elbows with strangers at bars, and discovered the easiest route across Mass Ave during rush hour. I learned to strip my pants off at the gym mere inches away from other women (it is much more efficient to forgo modesty when you’re changing into a bathing suit).
But something about my attitudes towards city dwelling has changed in the last three months. I guess I’ve gone soft in my new state of semi-retirement and stay-at-home motherhood. I have an expectation that people will return phone calls, & emails, especially when one spends 45 minutes composing the latter to a fellow new mother with solicited advice on things already learned. I have little free time, and believe me, I would have preferred to spend it working on my nano project, taking a bath and eating chocolates, bouldering, or playing with my toddler; not recounting my days with the nightmare inducing medela pump, or reliving my first days of returning to work after maternity leave. Sure, we’re all busy, in the city and in the suburbs, but what is it about some people who have such colossal stores of disregard for other people? Boston traffic illuminates this clearly: try driving near the city on I-93 between 3 and 5 in the afternoon, and please, try to find me one example of someone who isn’t entirely offensive and self-interested. The dudes driving the new mercedes or giant SUVs are on the ultimate ego trips, if you ask me.
Anyways, I recently returned from a ten day trip to New England. We flew in and out of Boston in favor of convenient flight times, and though I had moments of awe as I looked up at the skyscrapers, I was mostly disappointed by what I left behind. I spent six years of my life running in the city rat race, though I didn’t really realize it until going back. I joined in on restaurant week fun, tried not to be appalled when a friend’s husband nonchalantly ordered $100 bottles of wine, shopped for cocktail dresses at overpriced boutiques I’ve only ever worn once, attended various bridal and baby showers at over-hyped trendy cafes. I guess I did a fine job of feigning interest, but I have no desire to take part in those activities anymore. Don’t get me wrong, Boston is beautiful, and I loved my time there, but looking back my attitudes were all wrong and much of the time I was helping to perpetuate the Masshole stereotype. I was pregnant during our last seven months of living in our little apartment on Beacon Street, and in that time my husband and I nested, lived quietly, walked the streets and observed small marvels of life existing there; we grew kinder. It was quaint, and I had as much fun in those months as I had when we were regularly meeting people out on the town.
Living in the South, I think I am starting to understand what the Dutch (and Europeans in general) meant when they said that people get colder the further north you go, and friendlier as you travel south. I don’t know if it is the cold weather in Boston that gets people going on the rude train, but it is a lifestyle I am so glad I am no longer perpetuating. I wish I could go back and apologize to all the friends I cancelled on last minute, all the times I snagged a taxi when someone else five feet away was looking at it hopefully. I want to take back the crappy tips I gave to delivery food drivers for being half an hour late with our dinner because of traffic, and I forgive the pedestrians who walked out in front of me when my stoplight changed before they could halt their stride.
I’m not saying that people in the South are superior. I am sure I’ll find their (our?) faults soon enough, but the common sense of decency, gentility, and genuine kindness here is downright intoxicating. Definitely a pay-it-forward kind of society, whereas in Boston, I look back and see all the times kindness stopped because it was more convenient for someone (myself included) to hang on to it to get a leg up.
Whatever happened to a quick chat over tea? Or shows of thankfulness and appreciation? This is the season for gratitude, and I definitely saw very little of it in Boston. It was barely discernible in Maine which was disappointing to me, Massholes be Massholes, but I expected more from my home state. I had a wonderful trip, all the family and friends I did get to see were amazingly kind and generous, and spoiled my son with more love and attention than I ever thought existed.
But I’m not eager to go back. Family and friends have promised visits here over their cold winter, and this way I can avoid the rude stewardesses who gawk at me shuffling down a narrow airplane aisle with 3 bags and 26 pounds of dead weight. I miss the birch trees, but I think palm trees are a great holdover until we go back.
your ever loyal bloggess
P.S. In case you wondered, I’m taking a little social media (read: twitter and facebook) hiatus for the rest of the year. Time to focus on the family I have here, my projects I want to finish, and the new goals I want to get started on.
I’ve tried not to preach my morals, but I have been giving a lot of thought to my vegetarianism, (excuse me: pescetarianism), of late, because I decided to raise my son as one.
Side note: I apologize deeply in conflating the two terms, which are obviously very different. I will address this soon, but I have to explain a few other things first.
I choose not to eat land animals for many reasons. It started off because I did not like the taste. I’d bitten into too many chewy tendons and inedible globules of adipose tissue to be able to look at my plates with a healthy attitude. Meal times were filled with fear, seeming to radiate the negative energy that went into putting the food on my plate. Just for a second, imagine you’re a hen. You cluck around the yard, peck at grains, lay some eggs, cluck some more. Maybe you have chicken thoughts of providing a nice life for your offspring, maybe you just cluck. You definitely feel pain though. A chicken is not going to willingly let its head get cut off. Think about how scary it must be for a simple little farm yard animal to get plucked up by its legs and flung around into tiny cages, eventually getting its neck cut off. Now, I am sure there is some science out there that can claim that chickens and hens and ducks are all killed in very peaceful and humane ways, that they didn’t feel pain. Those are undoubtedly rare cases, if they even work. I believe that the moment before a chicken dies he is horrified, the passage from life cannot be painless–or at least, fear-free.
Think about the last time you were scared. I can remember easily–a loud bang from downstairs that terrified me. I knew no one else was home, and my body tensed with nervous adrenaline and blood cooling fear. This was passive though, only sligtly akin to what that baby cow, or mother goose, has in its body when its life leaves. She yields her physical body for our nutrition. No thanks. I’d rather go hungry than have that poison energy as fuel for my body.
Ahimsa, a yogic doctrine of this idea, encourages you to stay away from “tamasic” food–mushrooms, for example, because they’re grown in darkness; blue cheeses, which are really molds and putridity. Of course, I love mushrooms (did you know you can put them in the sun to absorb vitamin D?), and cheese features prominently in my diet. But if you think about it, and really believe in a life force, it is a rational argument and makes even more sense when you apply it to flesh.
So that brings me to my side note from the beginning. I feel lucky that I’m now able to fully enjoy my meals and food, because it helps me to appreciate life. I pinpointed the aspects that were causing me anxiety, and now thrive on a highly vegetarian, often raw and vegan, and undoubtedly nutritious and wholesome diet.
However, I do eat fish, and the reasons are twofold:
- Though I feel sorry for the sea animals I eat if I consciously think about it, they are far enough removed from me as a mammal to give me the justification to eat them. They don’t breathe air or walk on the earth, mollusks don’t live in family groups or nurse their young.
- It is 100% easier and more enjoyable to go out to dinner if I have half the menu to choose from, instead of just one or two options.
I know these may be poor reasons, but that is my truth.
Eating fish (and eggs, and cheese) is one very small sacrifice I make to keep my marriage happy. I would never ask my husband to be a vegetarian, just like he would never ask me to eat a steak. I’m happy to enjoy a plate of mussels or calamari on a date, we eat grains, and beans, and a lot of meals at home with our own protein additions. I make my husband turkey sandwiches, buy his hamburger at the grocery store; he brings home new micro greens from his vendors, and has taught me how to cook perfect lentils. I enjoy telling people that my husband is a hard core meat lover, I feel like it humanizes what many view as a foreign and nonsensical diet.
Primum non nocere. Ahimsa. The Categorical Imperative. Treat others how you want to be treated. Love thy neighbor. All these terms and phrases get at the heart of one of my favorite maxims. Who can justify an action that does not bring good should everyone choose to act the same? Now is the time when I could on one hand spout off all the ecological goodness that it would do the planet if everyone ate broccoli instead of hamburgers, and on the other cite articles that warn us against eating rice. I’m not suggesting everyone should do what I do. I just like to draw attention to the possibility of latent energy inside things.
True story: one night many years ago, my husband offered to cook me a grilled cheese sandwich after a long day. Maybe he didn’t really want to and was just being nice, or maybe we got in an argument part way through, but when I went to eat it, I couldn’t. It was inedible. The cheese tasted like putrid plastic, and I nibbled around the corners for a minute until I threw it out. The yogis will tell you that the mental state and emotions of the cook go into the food that is being prepared. At the ashram I lived at, whenever we worked in the kitchen we sang bright chants and everyone was smiling. No wonder the food tasted beautiful. Like when the full cow wants to be milked, and when apples fall naturally from the tree, there is a goodness in eating food that is abundant naturally and peacefully.
Oh, how life is sweet! I used to be a horrible sleeper. Not only was I unable to fall asleep on my own, I would keep my dear partner awake for hours with incessant questions, complaints, kicks, sighs, and tears. It seems Karma has caught up with me. My sweet baby boy, whom I have dreamed about for years and years, is giving me back a exactly what I used to give to his father. Only, the infant version, which is just slightly more irrational and irreducible than the 25 year old woman version. I don’t even remember what it feels like to not be able to fall asleep anymore. Sure, I have five minutes here and there after getting up for the 6th time with the baby during the night (usually my iPad is to blame, at 4am its really just an expensive night light), but I have not experienced true sleeplessness in months and months.
An ambivalent state. I’ve always wanted to be one of those people like my husband who can fall asleep instantly. But now, in the few moments I have before I fall asleep, when I want to read just one more page, instead the baby cries, so I neither get to sleep nor to read.
Its a fine balance.
Here are the things we’ve tried in the last week to get baby Rex to sleep longer:
- Rice cereal
- Cry it out
- Not crying it out
- Daddy’s soothing
- White noise
- Fisher Price’s musical sea horse
- Sleeping in just a diaper
Nothing has worked consistently.
And yet, despite my agonized cries that join in with the baby’s chorus, I still feel profoundly lucky, special, and happy. He is my son.