Saturday, December 31, 2011

A Year in Pictures

High hopes

Birthday bouquet

Sibling rivalry

I'll love you forever, my monkey boy.

Put it in ink

Summer green

Miss my beautiful boy

Oh, Michigan.

New York rain


Close to my heart

December - How to capture an image of a year that ends this way? engagement ring in its dusty, black box? pillows, smudged with mascara from the gallons of tears I've shed?

Maybe it's something that can't be snapped in a still frame.  Maybe it's the hope that 2012 will be better.

Thursday, December 29, 2011

Rue the Day

I had dinner at my brother's place the other night, while I was upstate for Christmas.  We listened to music, deciphered the strange noises coming from his fridge, and after three glasses of wine apiece attempted to convert a Jamie Oliver risotto recipe from metric to...American?  Whatever is the opposite of metric?  The risotto turned out deliciously, I have a whole list of new artists to listen to, and we talked.  A lot.  About girls, relationships, and life in general.  We talked about having our hearts broken and about being dumped for reasons that we don't understand.  We also talked about what to do in the aftermath.  How to pick yourself up and get on with your life.  I'm scared, I told him, of falling apart the way I did after my first serious relationship ended.  I literally came apart at the seams: I drank too much, I drove too fast, I skipped class, I was late for work, I had hangovers that lasted for days, I lied about why my assignments weren't done - in short, I made a lot of really bad, unhealthy choices because I felt like, fuck it, my life is derailed?  Might as well be the runaway train heading for a crash.  I was lucky.  Nothing too disastrous happened and I made it out of that dark period intact (ironically or not, meeting Alix played a huge part in getting me out of the mess I was making of my life).

But what do I do this time around, to make it different? I asked.  You tell yourself this, he said.  You say, six months from now, I am going to be a better person than I am right now.  I am going to make changes that make me happier, healthier, and better for myself.  And - you are going to make her rue the fucking day that she let you go.  I smiled.  He smiled.  We ate risotto, had a bit more wine, he hugged me goodbye and told me to keep my chin up.

I got home tonight to Boston.
I went for a run.
I took my vitamins.
I ate dinner.
I'm going to bed early so I can run again in the morning.
I have a job interview at 10 AM (3-month-old twins - squee!).
Me?  I'm going to be okay.  I don't know when, but I know that I will.

So yeah, go ahead.  Rue the fucking day.

Friday, December 23, 2011

The End.

When broken bones heal, so it is said, they are stronger than the original bone.  The new growth, the knitting together of tissue and fibers that seal a fractured limb is supposedly more resistant to future breaks.

Not so with hearts.  A healed heart, one that has relearned how to trust, how to love, how to beat in concert with someone else's heart is no more resistant to the pain of breaking again than a taped-together photograph doesn't show where it was ripped.

The scars open, the pain pours in, and your body is flooded with the aching, numbing sensation of wretched familiarity.  Ah yes, you remember.  This is how I fall apart.  This is how it feels to lose it all.

"I love you, Cait, but I just can't do this anymore."

Thud, thud, thud.  The blood pounded in my ears as I heard these words, the words I never thought I'd hear again, the words she swore she'd never say, the words that ended it all.

"Why?" was the only thing I could think to say.

Because I didn't support her enough, I didn't do enough, I couldn't be what she wanted or needed or hoped for, especially over the last five months of incredible difficulty, sickness, and loneliness (for both of us).

I want to fight for this, I told her.  I'll do whatever it takes.  I made a promise to you when you asked me to marry you, and that promise was that I would always, always fight to make this work between us because there is nothing that means more to me than being with you.  I've been fighting so hard for us these last few months, she said.  So have I, Alix.  So. Have. I.  Every day that I got out of bed when I didn't feel like I could, I was fighting for us.  Every time I ate a meal when the demons in my head were screaming, telling me not to, I was fighting for us.  Even when I made the incredibly hard decision to move to Boston in order to surround myself with a support network to help me grow stronger and healthier, that was me fighting for us.  I won the battles but lost the war.

I asked if she loved me.  She said that she did.  I said good-bye.
I hung up the phone.
I grabbed a pillow, clutching it to my heaving torso and called - who else? - my mother.
"Mama," I gasped.  "I need you.  I'm coming home."

Eight hours of empty highway stretched before me.  Dry-eyed, I drove and drove and drove, until, shaking, I collapsed into my parents' warm bed.  The dam broke.  I cried like I've never cried before until, finally, I was able to get the words out as I tried to explain what I couldn't (and will probably never completely) understand.  "I tried so hard," I told my mama.  "I tried so hard.  I did the best I could, every day, to support her, to be there for her, to be what she needed.  Why wasn't it enough?  Why wasn't I enough?"

"Sometimes," she softly said, holding my hand with both of hers, "sometimes, there are needs and voids in people that nothing and nobody can fill."
It hit me then - "I can't bring back Alix's mom," I said, "and I can't change the hurt in her family, and I can't take away her sickness."
"No, you can't," my mother said.  "No one can."

A wave of peace washed through me.  This isn't about me, I realized.  This is not my fault, I realized.  Everyone has demons.  And we are all, every day, fighting like hell against them.  I will fight my fights, I realized, but I cannot fight hers too.

I gave it everything I had, and then some, and when push came to shove, I was ready to keep fighting for what we had.

I will mourn the future that she and I had planned.  I will grieve for the children that will never be ours, the dreams that will never be fulfilled, and the love that could have grown over the decades to come.  I will cry when I hear our songs, when I see old photos of us, and when I see my engagement ring tucked away in my nightstand drawer.

But I will also get up, every day, and keep fighting.  My feet will hit the floor and the fight will begin.  Because in the end, what matters is this:

I am enough.

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Labels are for jars, not people

The conversation started off innocently enough.  You seem more down, lately, my boss told me over the phone on Monday.  Well, it’s nice of you to be concerned, I said, thank you, but now that I’m moving into my new place, hopefully things will start to even out.

Caitlin, we know you have bipolar.  (Well, yes, of course you know.  You also know I have an eating disorder, given that it was relevant for you to know both of those things since I leave work early on Wednesday to get to therapy on time.  You also know that I see doctors regularly, take medication, and work actively and conscientiously to remain in control over the demons I fight.  I never felt the need to hide any of this from you, given that it has no bearing over the quality of care that I provide for your daughter.)

Would it be alright with you if I spoke to your doctor just to make sure that you’re fit to take care of Birdie?

Translation: Would it be alright with you if I blatantly invaded your privacy, insulted you, delegitimized the excellent care you’ve provided Birdie over the last three months, and stomped all over any self-respect you might have shakily built for yourself?


No, it is not alright.

A question for you, J.: have I given you any reason to be concerned about how I care for Birdie?  Anything you’ve seen or heard or felt uncomfortable with?

No! she vehemently replied.  No, no, sweetie, we adore you, we think you’re wonderful and that you do a fantastic job with her!  It’s just that I asked my doctor about bipolar and he told me that I should speak to your doctor to make sure you’re okay around kids.


So let me get this straight:
You asked a doctor who has never met me, seen me, or potentially heard anything about bipolar disorder since his psych residency thirty years ago about bipolar.  He gave you an off-the-cuff answer. 
His answer and advice became law?
It takes precedence over the last three months that you have seen and witnessed first-hand how well I care for your daughter?
It takes precedence over your own feelings that I do a fantastic job?
It takes precedence over the fact that you can’t think of a single instance where you’ve doubted or questioned my abilities?

Apparently.  Apparently the job I do is less important or relevant than the advice of a “trained professional.”  Unless, of course, I acquiesced to her request to speak to my trained professional who could vouch for me.  Got it.

Well, no.

Leaving the expletives out of this: it’s none of your business what I talk about with my doctors.  It’s none of your business what I deal with, because I don’t bring it to work with me and it has never – by your own admission – affected how I do my job.  And it is a choice, your choice to place more importance on this doctor’s advice than on the last three months’ effort, energy, and love that I have poured into caring for your daughter.

That’s your choice.

And here’s mine:


No, because it’s not relevant.

No, because it’s none of your business.

No, because I respect myself too much to let you walk all over me like this.

No, because I am more than a label that might describe me and if you can’t see that, then I don’t want to work for you.

No, because when I went and spoke to my trained professional last night, you know what she told me?

That she was proud of me for standing up for myself.  That she would have been more than willing to vouch for my ability to care for children, but that I was absolutely, irrefutably correct in deciding that it wasn’t necessary and was blatantly disrespectful of someone to ask for that validation.

Who lost in this situation, my doctor asked me.  Them, I said.  They lost the best nanny they’ll ever have and they lost my respect.  That’s right, she said.  And who wins in this situation?  Me, I said, and I smiled.  I win.  I get to live in one city, not two.  I get to find a new job, one where I am respected and valued for the work I do, not the words that fill my medical chart.

I win.

I win because in saying no to someone else, I said yes to myself for the first time in a long, long time. 

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Confessions of a Chronic Bus Rider

The idea of putting mayonnaise in guacamole makes me sick.  I'm in shock that there are people who actually do this.

I drink at least twelve cups of water a day.  Usually closer to sixteen.  I am aware of coffee's diuretic properties which inspires some of the excessive water consumption, but honestly, I am always thirsty. 

In order to consume so much water, I am never without my Nalgene.  I am also never without a book of some kind, in the event that I might have to wait for something for more than two minutes and need something to occupy my brain.

At a pool party when I was eleven, a girl made an off-hand comment to me that my toes were hairy.  I have since become incredibly self-conscious about it - despite the fact that I am so blonde that my body hair is practically translucent - that I take care to shave the tops of my toes every time I shave my legs.

On several occasions I have had dreams about things that have then happened in real-life.  They're mundane things, like conversations or sightings, but I will have seen or heard them the night before in my dreams and then have ridiculous deja vu because of it.

I never remember to bring an umbrella.  Even if it is visibly pouring rain as I am preparing to leave the house.

If I'm not within driving distance of the ocean, I feel claustrophobic.  The summer I lived in Kentucky, I routinely had nightmares that I was going to be swallowed by the mountains because I was so landlocked.

There are few foods that I don't feel are improved by a generous dose of Sriracha hot sauce.

I develop guilt complexes about accruing library late fees.

I have all of my children's names picked out - three boys' and three girls', with a couple of sidelined possibilities in the event that I have more than three of either one.  Better safe than sorry.

I never swear around the kids I take care of, but I doubt that I will heavily censor myself around my own children.

My all-time favorite nanny memory is of the way that Monkey used to reach his hand up to hold my face turned towards his while I fed him his bottle.  If I looked away for even a second, his pudgy left paw would be on my cheek in a moment, pulling my chin around so his eyes could find mine again.