Thursday, August 30, 2007

What it's Like for a Girl

Today I had a quintessential female day.

I felt frisky, so wore heels and a bustier under my clothes. Being nipped in here and pushed out there was feeling all nice and happy until I went to the federal courthouse to do my twice monthly grand jury duty (more on that later). There, my undergarment set off the metal detector. Hoping to God this was not the case, I submitted to a wanding by a US Marshal. Finally, he asked me gently if I could lift up just a piece of the hem of my blouse so he could see what was setting his metal detector off there. "I won't tell your boyfriend or husband," he said.

"It's got to be this thing," I sighed, piching the bottom edge of the garment in question.

"OK, ma'am," he said, letting me through. Whereupon I retrieved my high-heeled sandals from the metal x-ray conveyor belt and made a note to myself never to wear a bustier in an airport.

One of the cases we heard today was a proposed indictment of a child pornographer. Some of the evidence we had to hear included graphic descriptions of the images found on this fellow's computer. The FBI agent who testified tried his best to be tactful, but there really is no nice way to describe photos of children being violated. I listened to one. Then I felt coated with bile from the inside out. Then I stuck my fingers in my ears.

I felt overcome by the vulnerability of children, and suddenly couldn't bear the thought that my son was about to enter kindergarten. To imagine him being shepherded by one teacher along with 17 other five-year-olds for 6 hours a day, and succumbing to playground injustices, and just being without me all day, gave me such a heaviness in my gut that I wanted to lay my head down on my yellow legal pad and cry.

At the end of the day, a few of us lingered around in the jury room chatting about what we heard that day. There's a sweet woman there from Rhode Island who is always telling me I look nice and that she likes my drawings, and that day she had given me a graphite pencil to sketch witnesses with. So we stood at a table talking about art (she also draws) and by and by other subjects came up. Two other women drifted over, and pretty soon we were holding a summit conference on the vulnerability of stay-at-home-moms. I mentioned the horrifying spectacle of a column of zeros on the Social Security documents I receive yearly.

"The really scary thing is the disability," Rhode Island interjected. "I work with women who are going through divorce, and what I see over and over are women who stayed home with their kids for years, they get divorced, and then at some point need to draw on disability. It's just not there if you haven't worked for a long time. It takes much longer to accumulate credits for that."

"...!" I said.

Another woman piped up. "That's why it's important to always have your own 401K or CD, and stay connected to the work force as long as possible. You need to have financial independence, and you need to be getting those Social Security credits. I had four kids and my husband and I were both in the military but we made it work."

"...!" I said.

The gut-heaviness increased. It lasted all through my wax appointment afterward, where I lay on a cot in a shorty white terrycloth robe and submitted to the pain of hundreds of leg hairs being ripped out by their roots. This quelled the heaviness for some time. But by the time I'd paid and tipped the esthetician, it was back.

At home, while stirring a pot of simmering vegetables and a whole chicken for stock, I felt a deep need to smoke. Smoking, I realized as I sat in my little side-of-the-house smoking roost, also alleviates that heavy feeling in one's gut. Why was I having that heavy feeling today? I wasn't quite sure. One of the side effects of the drugs I'm on is that it can be hard for me to distinguish mental/emotional disturbances from physical ones. Which is to say, if I'm feeling sad, the sadness may manifest itself as a stomach ache rather than tears.

Over a glass of wine on the back deck I told Matt about my conversation with the jury ladies. "If you divorced me and decided to be a jerk about money, I'd be screwed," I said.

"I wouldn't stress about it too much," he replied.

Easy for him to say.

I finished making dinner, served it my family, and took the kids on a walk afterwards while Matt settled into a long night of World of Warcraft. Jonah pedaled ahead on his little training-wheel bike, while Audrey walked beside me, her hand in mine. The August light was draining from the sky quickly, and as we passed a neighbor's burgeoning front-yard pumpkin patch I noted that her fat green pumpkins were turning orange. We passed a row of lettuce that had gone to seed. The small stand of corn looked dry and ready to harvest.

How did this woman keep a kitchen garden, a four-story house, and three children?

Did she have a long column of zeros, too?

I herded the children home and observed that the feeling in my stomach had not faded. Well, I though, if it's something to worry about, it'll be back tomorrow.

Meantime, I'll go home and pop some more Advil for the menstrual cramps. Bathe the kids.

Sit with this feeling and see what it's about.

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Communicating With Your Shadow Self, Exercise 4

In this exercise, I'm asked to imagine a day without consequences. What would I choose to do if there would be no repercussions and I didn't have to make anybody else happy?

I wrestled whether to record this on the blog. One's deepest fantasies are (a) not always interesting to others, and (b) private and meant to stay that way.

But this exercise blew my mind, so I can't leave it out. It is edited to focus on work.

First, I imagine and record the fantasy:

Wake up alone, drink coffee in bed while reading a book. Get up when I'm hungry and eat a sausage and a fruit yogurt smoothie.

Go for long walk or do yoga practice. Shower.


Eat hot meal while writing. Maybe a nice grilled panino. It's still only 10:30 in the morning.

Read and write some more.

Nap or go for walk.

Go out to dinner with fun girlfriends.


Now I have to characterize this person who does all the things on this day of no consequences:

A person like this would be a little bit mean and a little bit ruthless. She would put her art first before anything. She would have to be mostly free of responsibilities. Her name would be Susan or Sarah or Sharon, some "S" name, and she would have red lips and brown hair and be in her 40's.

When I talk to her in my mind, the book says I am to tell her it's safe for her to show herself and that I'm not going to act on her impulses.

The thing is, she's not actually dangerous, and her impulses are really a way of life. That is to say, my way of life, or the one I want to have some day.

I want her life.

What she feels and says about my life: "Just wait, Honey. You need to do all the things you need to do now, and this life awaits you. I am right here and I'm going to live this way until I die. I want you to live right, so that when you get here you are clean, free and deserving. Earn it, my Dear, and it'll be yours."

Sunday, August 26, 2007

Identifying Your Inner Critic, Exercise 3

In this exercise, I was asked to think back to the earliest creative effort I can remember sharing with an adult, and what happened.

By the time I was about eight years old, I needed a teacher. I had a lot of talent and passion, but everyone around me saw what I did (drawing, paintings, little sculptures from modeling clay, illustrations, calligraphy, lettering) as parlor tricks. Adults would lean over my shoulder and say, "Are you an artist?" They were asking me? What did that mean? I didn't know what to say, so I said maybe someday when I get paid I will be. They all thought that was hilarious.

The only time I came close to getting actual instruction was when I plagiarized an entire book by Russell and Lillian Hoban, creators of the "Frances" series. One night I sat at the dining room table of a house we were renting on Comanche Drive in San Jose and recreated the story and drawings about a little hedgehog. He was rather full of himself and gave himself a gold star on a calendar every day, just for being his wonderful self. (In the end, his parents take him down a peg in some loving storybook way.) I had read this book at my cousin's house, where I spent every day after school until my mom got off work. I set about recreating it, page after page, and when I was done I stapled my plagiarized pages together. I did not intend to show it to anyone. I just liked the story, and I was possessed by the artist's drawings. This book was unlike any I had at home. I wanted a copy for myself. So I made one and had a blast recreating those drawings.

My mother wandered in to refill her wine glass or something, and saw the booklet. She looked through it. She went nuts. She said it was amazing. She said if I had that kind of talent, she'd a find a "write a story" class to put me in. Would I like that?

Does a bear shit in the woods? I nodded. Visions of me and some other smart kids huddled in a class room after hours danced in my head. I thought my heart would explode.

But, aside from nodding, I said nothing. I felt very weird. She rushed into the other room to show her TV-watching boyfriend. Finally she asked the dreaded question: "Did you make this up all my yourself?"

I shook my head. I confessed it was a copy of a book I'd read at my cousin's.

"Oh," she said, adopting her usual tone of world-weariness. She gave the book back to me. "For a minute there I thought I was going to have to find you a special class or something." The subject was dropped. I wasn't going to get the class. Obviously, my mother was disappointed.

Here's the thing she was not: curious. From whence did this irrepressible need to create come? ("Her dad's an artist," she would tell people, her voice dripping with irony. "I guess it's in the genes.") What could be done to shepherd it? That was a question that never seemed to keep anyone up at night.

Looking back on this now, it strikes me that I was just looking for something to do with my hands. I wanted to make things, I wanted to write books and illustrate them, but I needed to figure all of this out on my own. That's a lot for a little kid in my circumstances. My dad was just an occasional visitor. He was an artist, but his lifestyle was not too appealing to anyone. He drove a Frankenstein VW bus, had long hair and a long beard, and lived in a group house with people who gave themselves wheat grass enemas.

It's a classic step to take as an emerging artist - you copy other people's stuff to figure out how they did it. It's totally normal. The work of other artists and writers were the only teachers I was going to have for a long time.

As this all relates to my current feelings about my work, I find it interesting that even as a kid I thought I wasn't going to be a "real" artist until I got paid. And that I didn't have a direction all my own, just a strong need to make art.

My mother will never understand what I do. And that's getting to be okay, and I'm getting to the point where I don't have to scold her in my mind for it. It's just my thing now.

Oh, and p.s. Much later in life, I wrote a short story called "Stars" about a 6th grade tomboy who is spending her summer before entering junior high trying to rid herself of her bad habits. She and everybody around her feels it's time for her to become a proper girl. For every day she doesn't smoke, look at her step dad's Playboys or hit anyone, she gives herself a gold star. Naturally, this doesn't altogether work and the day she karate-chops an annoying neighbor boy in the testicles she decides to give up the campaign completely.

I used this story to apply to a creative writing program at my college.

I got in.

Saturday, August 25, 2007

Unleashing Your Inner Wisdom, Exercise 2

In this exercise, I'm asked to picture myself in a safe place that has some meaning for me, and imagine that out of the mists walks a benevolent person who has something important to tell me. This person is, more or less, my mentor. I listen to this person, and write down everything she says to me.

I'm at the Sleeping Lady Retreat Center in Leavenworth, WA. I'm sitting alone in a cabin, resting on a bed made with down blankets and pillows. My yoga teacher Denise appears. She says to me:

"Work with your vanity, your pride, your egoism. They are a part of you. They are a part of your practice as a yogini and an artist. Don't fight with them."

"Apply principles of yoga to making your art. Use yoga to drop down deep, to listen to your natural self."

"Cultivate neutrality instead of judgment."

"In the end, it all comes down to compassion."

I could meditate on each one of these statements for a lifetime. In them, I see all the things that have held me back, and all the things that will release me.

Thursday, August 23, 2007

Girls Should...Exercise 1

I'm posting from Freeland, WA, on Whidbey Island. Last family vacation of the summer. As a bonus, I am staying an extra day...alone. To write and read and walk on the beach. The beach condo on Mutiny Bay that I've rented from a friend has no Internet service, which is a lovely blessing.Thanks to the Island County library system, I am able to reach you.

Here is the first of the exercises from the book, Getting Unstuck Without Coming Unglued by Susan O'Doherty. She asks me to draw a picture of the person who was my primary caregiver when I was a child, with a dialogue bubble starting with the words, "Girls should..." At first I had an image of my mother, but then I had an image of my husband! Instead of freaking out, I went with both. Here is what I wrote:

My primary caregiver then...

[drawing of my haggard mom with a cigarette hanging out of her mouth, a frazzled perm, and a dialogue bubble]

"Girls should be pretty and well groomed. You want to be able to attract a man. It's important to be sexy. Iron your clothes, make sure your hair's clean, and use proper English."

Both of my mom's parents had come from homes with no stability or safety. Together, they raised a family that tended to be one paycheck away from broke, but strived to be clean and respectable. It was a point of pride to have a spic and span house, to owe no favors or debts. They were quite strict about boundaries and limits, even when it came what one was allowed to ask for in life. Especially then. About being so strict, my grandma told me, "My mother didn't know what all I did when I was girl. I rode the street cars all over Oakland and San Francisco when I was ten, twelve years old. When I had children [at 16], I wanted them to know that someone gave a damn about them."

My primary caregiver now...

[drawing of my husband with a mild expression and dialogue bubble]

"Girls should enjoy being wives and mothers."

His mother was quite stoic and I don't believe he had any idea how unhappy she was. They don't complain in his family. When I'm with them in Boston I pick up on their sense of duty and repressed conflict. It's one of the things I actually found refreshing when I met them.

In the interest of fair representation, I must point out that my husband is supportive and wonderful. But we had to work to get to a place where it was okay for me to blow off steam about the kids or struggle openly with postpartum life. I don't think he witnessed this kind of thing as a kid.

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Getting Unstuck

There's a ghost from my past who visits me often. I'll call him Curtis. Curtis and I had a relationship during an impressionable period in my life. He introduced me to an expanded world of art, books, and music that proved to be a marvelous jumping-off point for me. His influence in other areas, however, has lasted in a way that I would rather it didn't.

More often than I care to admit, I still look at things from Curtis's perspective. This is too bad, because in the end, Curtis found me inadequate for his purposes. Curtis and I had the kind of relationship you hear about when two "creatives" get together. If one finds success and the other doesn't, things don't altogether work out. While I struggled to earn a living and find relevance as a writer, Curtis was hired by a newspaper as an editorial assistant, then moved on to critic and editor. I got and quit lame job after lame job. From my perspective, he got to do exactly what made him happy, for enough money to pay rent and buy beer. He followed his dreams and desires, and seemed to find opportunities everywhere.

I didn't. It was a frustrating exercise for me to analyze the reasons behind his success and my failure. He felt he deserved what he wanted, and didn't question the motivation to go for it. He took risks, was willing to look a fool, elbowed his way into things when necessary. The best reasons I could conjure for his easy sense of entitlement were that Curtis had supportive parents, a financial cushion through them, and had gone to an Ivy League school. He'd travelled. His parents travelled. He also had a lot of good dumb luck. This is the story I told myself.

I, however, had substantial barriers to being a real, paid writer. I was often depressed, chronically broke, and struggling mightily to break free from my family. I had a silly education from my four years at The Evergreen State College. I had not done internships, had not sought out extracurricular writing opportunities in college, and had not really learned any skills. I wasn't qualified to do anything. I had no support and no connections.

This is the story I told myself. I tried my best not to believe that there was any more going on in this scenario than my external circumstances. I was a good writer. I was just starting at a deficit and needed a lucky break.

This little story worked moderately well for me, most of the time. Every so often though, I broke down. It was too hard shoring myself up all the time, hoping that Curtis would not lose respect for me, hoping that my life would change somehow and I'd get out of the deep hole I was in. It was also pretty hard not to believe that I was just a fraud, a hobbyist, a hanger-on; in short, a loser.

Once, when Curtis hung up the phone after making plans to visit a friend in New York, I fell into a deep funk. We were at my apartment, and I'd been listening to his excited phone conversation with increasing bitterness. Once again, he was doing something interesting and glamorous, and I was still toiling over my little stories and drawings and striking out every time I tried to improve my life.

"You always get to do cool stuff," I blurted after he hung up the phone. He looked at me like I was nuts.

"I don't GET to do cool stuff," he replied with irritation. "I just DO cool stuff." From which I inferred, "So could you if you would get your head out of your ass."

"It's easier for you," I sniffed. "All the people you went to school with are doing interesting things. Your parents know people all over the place. They give you money for stuff like this. There is no way I could do what you're doing."

He looked like he was about to explode. "It's not all about money!" he said. "I see interesting things to do and I do them. Nothing's stopping you!"

A lot was stopping me. And reading Susan O'Doherty's new book, Getting Unstuck Without Coming Unglued; A Woman's Guide to Unblocking Creativity has helped me see what it was.

My blockages have not so much been related to money, as Curtis suggested. They are, however, deeply rooted in the culture from which I sprang. I came up in a world of certain expectations for life. These were, more or less, (a) finish high school, (b) get a job, and (c) shut the fuck up. Getting by was the most you could hope for. It was foolish and even sinful to want anything else. If you were female, even more so. People in my family do not travel, pursue creative work, or go to college. I won't say it's a bad life for all my cousins who stayed, it's just a very particular life that doesn't lend itself to supporting dreamers, drifters and creative types like myself. To leave it, I had to reject everyone from home.

Still, their ideas about life followed me, especially the harder things got. Curtis would seem, on the surface, to have been a perfect influence for me, but he turned out to be a terrific snob and I turned out to be pathetic. I absorbed his disdain. He started wishing for a different kind of girlfriend.

I continued to not know how to do much but survive.

It's many years later. I am no longer stuck. Still, the very title of O'Doherty's book brought up such a wave of Curtis-like disgust that I had a hard time opening my mind to it at first. But through doing the exercises, I began to look at my past behaviors and habits of mind in this area with much more compassion than I had before. O'Doherty, a therapist, does such a good job of getting right down to what matters - the creative lives of women and our specific issues - with great compassion for what we are up against.

My therapist, Joan, once told me after I apologized for boring her with my dithering, "I'm never bored with you, Susie. I only try to understand." O'Doherty gives this impression, too, on nearly every page, about women who do creative work. She tries to help us see and understand.

I first wrote a review for this book in which I tried desperately to distance myself from the book's intended audience. "I am not one of you," I seemed to say. "I do not have your silly problems." If I needed to read a book like this, I must not be a real writer. I must be just another whiny female with too many excuses.

Oh, Curtis. Do shut up.

I have to thank O'Doherty for getting me to see that my drawn swords and plates of armor caused me to write a review that was not only dripping with bitterness, but was not a good read. I was trying too hard to protect myself to develop a thought.

In case you are interested in reading Getting Unstuck, doing the exercises, and comparing notes with me, I am going to post my written exercises in future installments of the blog. Please tell me about your progress! I recommend it to any female artist or writer who has an immediate distaste for the title, like I did, or for one who feels the mystery and mechanics of getting one's head out of one's ass have become overwhelming. As a companion, I recommend Pema Chodron's fantastic, funny recordings on a similar subject, also called Getting Unstuck. Download it, plug it in to listening device, and watch your experience on the bus become something altogether different.

And thanks for listening to my story about Curtis's ghost. It feels good to liberate it.

Monday, August 20, 2007

Hang On

It's probably no coincidence that my latest break in posts coincides with the closure of my yoga studio for a long summer holiday. I just ran into another student from the studio who asked, "How are you doing with the closure?"

"It sucks," I admitted.

"It totally sucks," she agreed.

The other thing I've been doing is reading and doing the exercises for a book I'm reviewing for MotherTalk. I can only do this at half-hour increments. Such is life with two small children. I'll be posting the review on Aug. 22 as part of a "blog tour" to support the author.

Please come back and visit.

Monday, August 06, 2007

Kindergarten, Again

A psychiatrist once told me that as mother, I would be reliving my childhood through my kids.

"Whatever ages they are, those are the ages you get to experience psychologically once again," she said.

Oh, shit. No wonder I'm on medication.

My disinclination to go back to early childhood typically manifests itself in a heavy heart and even heavier feet when it comes to matters involving my kid's schools. This all came up again last week, at playground meet-and-greet for Jonah's incoming kindergarten class. The kids went for the Popsicles, my husband went to meet the other parents, and I went because I had to.

On the drive over, my carcass pressed deeply into the seat. Movement felt barely possible. We parked. We unbuckled. We admonished Jonah and Audrey to stay close in the parking lot. I walked heavily behind my family toward the massed grownups and scattered children. Within seconds, I was staring at the ground and digging my toe in the dirt. I felt like I had felt every day of my life as a kid: like my insides were being sucked out.

Meanwhile the kids wandered off to the playground equipment. Matt chatted up an old college classmate and a mom he'd met at a kiddie birthday party.



To disappear.

But I got myself together and weakly greeted some other moms. Many stood around in little gaggles, or followed their children through the park. There didn't seem to be much to say. Those not in a gaggle seemed, like me, a little wary. So I wandered alone. I observed how the diverse body of children came together and split apart. Particularly, I noted those kids who simply played by themselves. I remembered that in kindergarten, one doesn't always have a stable group of friends. The social scene shifts almost daily. I marvelled at how much we were left to our devices during play times and recess.

For me, this meant that I curled up inside the bottom of a tall climbing tube. It was just me and the wood chips and darkness in there. Circles of sunlight blazed through the foot holds, and I played with running my hands across them, making shadows on the wood chips and illuminating my skin. I sang little songs to myself to hear the way my voice echoed in the tall chamber.

When other kids invaded, kicking up dust and shouting for me to move out of the way, I left.

Maybe I was a bit of an oddball.

My son is an oddball for sure. He doesn't play like other kids play. He's passive. He doesn't understand the first thing about aggression. Also, he can amuse himself for a very long time following the progress of a beetle across the blacktop. I think this is a lovely quality and desperately don't want it to get beaten out of him on the playground.

It's like Lord of the Flies out there.

At the meet-and-greet, my husband and I wandered back to one another. "Where's Jonah?" I asked. I'd been tracking Miss A, who is more apt to get into physical peril, and had ignored Jonah completely.

"Last I saw, he was at the top of that slide. Uh, oh, there's a line forming behind him."

My heart leaped. Indeed, there was a bit of a jostling mob at the top of the slide. I bolted over there to find my sweet innocent boy hanging from a bar, wailing, tears and snot streaming, and running his little feet on the plastic slide to back up. But his Crocs wouldn't stick, and so he was trapped there, unwilling to go down and unable to go back up. Five or so slightly older boys stood behind him, one in particular shouting, "Go! Go!"

I elbowed them out of the way. I rescued my child.

"Oh, Honey, I'm here, I'm here."

I rescued myself.

"Why didn't that boy help me?" Jonah wailed, while I cradled him on my lap. "I kept telling him I didn't want to go down and he just wouldn't listen!" Oh, the injustice. I knew. I understood. My heart bled all over the both of us as we sat in a desperate embrace on the ground.

"He needs to listen!" Jonah cried.

The mother in me had overtaken the child by now, and I began to get an idea for how to turn this into a skill-building experience. If I can't protect my babies from everything, I can teach them some ways to deal with what happens. Especially Jonah, who can hang onto a perceived injury for a very long time, and remain offended and upset. So I asked Jonah if he wanted to air his grievance to the boy who wouldn't help him off the slide. He said yes.

"We should tell him that I wanted him to help me, and that next time he needs to help me when I ask."

"Absolutely right," I said, getting to my feet. We spotted him on the swings. We began our approach. I just wanted J to get this off his chest, and maybe the boy would say sorry, or maybe the boy would tell him to shut up, I didn't know. He was only, like, seven. But it was worth a try. Unfortunately, our little rapscallion dashed into a game of chase with about ten other kids, and Jonah and I decided it wouldn't make sense to try to get his attention now.

"Are you feeling ready to go home?" I asked.

His face clouded, then brightened. "Um, I would like to go climb on those tractor tires."

I went with him. I didn't want either of us to be alone.

Saturday, August 04, 2007


From time to time I'll pass my URL onto people who I think will like it. I'm wrong as often as I am right. As many people that say they like it never mention it to me. That's fine. At least it didn't cost them any money.

Two people who didn't enjoy reading my blog made comments to me that I have been puzzling over ever since. One, a friend of my husband's, said he felt uncomfortable reading such personal things about someone he knew. He felt he wasn't sure how to respond, or why I would want people to know these things about me.

Okay. Noted.

Another, also a friend of my husband's, told me last night at my kitchen table, over a plate of my food and a bottle of my wine, that he read it once but stopped because it stressed him out. "It's too deep," he said, smiling. "I mean, everyone has issues, but you don't always want to know all your friend's issues. It's like how we all go to the bathroom, but we don't talk about it because we don't want to hear that part of each other's lives."

Okay. Sort of the same as above, though relating what I talk about to bathroom issues is a new twist. The fact that this friend entered college without knowing that women menstruate may inform how I receive that comment.

My friend Jane, who has been very positive about the blog, asked me how I can be so bold about putting such personal things out there. We were standing on a dark corner of Capitol Hill digesting the beers we'd shared at Smith.

"It's not personal," I blurted. "I never put anything on there unless I think a bunch of women are going to identify with it."

"But how do you keep your family from having opinions about it?" she asked. She has something like nine brothers and sisters.

"My family doesn't know my URL," I said. "And when they ask for it, I tell them no."

"YOU TELL THEM NO?" she gaped. "That would never have occurred to me." She stared out into the night. "Huh."

I shrugged. "I can't write the blog if I think my family's going to read it."

"But how can you report what you report knowing that you have no control over things?"

This question perplexed me the most. Perhaps I misunderstood it. As I see it, I have total control over what goes on this blog; I write the damn thing. I do not have total control over the happenings in my life, but it wouldn't occur to me to include everything in my life. Maybe Jane meant that I have no control over the material once it leaves my desktop. She's right. I tend not to worry about that. I have a 12 stepper's attitude about it: "Take what you like, and leave the rest."

The whole point of this blog is not so that my intimate life can be known by many. That would be a skeevy impulse, at least for me. I just know that the lives of a good many women are too full; of self-doubt, irritation, hormonal-related illnesses and health issues, outright depression, huge mental and physical burdens, daily kid-induced insanity, confusion about who they are supposed to be, and very little real understanding from their families, communities or partners. In fact, the general sense I get from talking to a lot of women is that they are perpetually in a struggle of one kind or another, made intractable by motherhood. So when I get an e-mail from a woman telling me that I am the only mother she knows who has ever said it like it is, well darn it, I feel a little bit more sane. So, I hope, does she.

In any case, if I'm doing this blog right, it isn't really about me. So whatever you think about it is fine. Really.