It was my birthday on Apr 28. Twenty-eight on the 28th. Someone told me it’s called a champagne birthday.
I’ve felt reflective lately. It’s like that Ben Folds line, “They get nostalgic ’bout the last 10 years before the last 10 years have passed.” I feel like I am closing a chapter of my life that was ready to end. In a way I feel like I am just now entering adulthood and finally doing it without resentment. I am looking forward to “knowing better,” to being “responsible,” to finding out what it feels like to hold wisdom in your heart instead of in a quote by someone else tagged onto the end of your e-mail.
I read a great book recently called Notes To Myself by Hugh Prather (not a queer woman, but one of the valuable things I learned this year is that I can actually gain a lot from hearing the experiences of straight men). All of us should have a book called Notes To Myself that we carry around to record those little lessons we learn and then forget until the next time when we’re forced to learn them again. Sometimes I feel like a goldfish, taking the wrong turn over and over and over again with this infuriating sense of bewilderment. Sometimes I feel like an old dog who just won’t learn the new trick that could save her life. But here are a few lessons that I think I’ve finally learned.
l Everyone needs a therapist. This was the year I finally found a therapist who works for me. Someone who says, “I know, me too” instead of “Hmmm. Okay, now sit with that.” This was the year I recommended her to five of my friends and started to speak about my depression in an insightful way, instead of with fear. This was the year I read Anthony Robbins, carried around a polished stone and imposed affirmations on bangle bracelets. This was the year I really realized how often I don’t like myself and how often I beat myself up for the mistakes I make.
Planning to be a parent makes all of the things you ever wanted to change about yourself suddenly seem urgent and intolerable. I never want my child to catch me looking in the mirror and saying I feel ugly. I never want my child to see me pull my hair so hard that it hurts because I’m frustrated or angry or feeling guilty. But I also never want my child to hear me bitch about the Italian community or the queer community or other women without understanding the context of my complaints.
I won’t be able to say all the right things all the time, but my ego thinks I could if I tried hard enough. This was the year that I realized I often set myself up to fail. I am hoping to escape the I-have-to-be-a-superhuman-perfect-parent syndrome that I hear lots of queer mums fall into, but I have a lot of work to do.
l Family planning isn’t something you plan with your family, which is why they invented Dykes Planning Tykes. Andrea and I went through nine months of hard questions this year. Some we’d thought about years ago and some we wished we didn’t have to think about. We were exposed to the realities of family structures we could barely conceptualize, and ready to admit that what we want is simple and a little old school and actually possible to schedule without an administrative assistant. (For more on Dykes Planning Tykes turn see Happy Mother’s Day.)
We are on our fourth idea for a sperm donor. I told my dad one day before my parents came over for dinner that Andrea and I are now actively trying to get pregnant. He said he thought it best that he tell my mum. We haven’t spoken about it since. When I told her we were taking a parenting course she said, “Oh. For the dogs?” This was the first year I looked at her and really laughed at those hurtful things, the first year I considered how much worse our relationship could have been. She sent us an anniversary card this year for the first time. There’s been progress.
l We’ve all heard that it takes a village to raise a child. Well, when you marry the grownup, you marry the village. I unknowingly married a family, a history, beliefs and baggage, friends and exes, dogs and dark secrets. This was the year I realized how fortunate I am to have married into a good family that tries hard and loves me independently of my partner. This was the first year I missed a grandmother who wasn’t my own, and when I thought about family as something not fixed, as something I have control over, as something I can create for both myself and the child I am choosing to pursue.
Apr 28 was my birthday. I didn’t do much — watched a movie, ate a nice dinner. It’s been a busy year. I am hoping I will look back on these Notes To Myself with affection for the woman I was and gratitude for the woman I’ll be someday if the stars keep aligning to allow me such spaces as this for reflection.