John has been gone much of the week at a library conference. And then most of the rest of the days he's been gone in the evenings due to campaign stuff. Just over a week left now!
I haven't been whining much, though, for three reasons: first, I'm just better about handling everything by myself than I used to be ... I like having help putting the kids to bed, but I don't need it. Second, I want John to win and so I can't begrudge him the time it takes to send out his mailers and what-have-you. And third .... Doctor Who. It's my reward: if I put the kids to bed all by myself, then I get to watch my current favorite show all by myself. It's a fair trade. John has offered me his computer to watch it when he is there (mine is just a netbook and too slow for Netflix) but I think it's best if I stick to the current system -- it gives me something to look forward to all day.
I'm through with the David Tennant episodes and on to Matt Smith. Man, it seems like every subsequent Doctor I like a little less! But perhaps I just need time to get used to the new one.
Some people don't like the way the Tenth Doctor faces his upcoming regeneration. He seems to dread it intensely and try to get out of it. Me, I empathized hugely ... because it was exactly how I felt leading up to Miriam's birth!
There's a bit in one of the Miles Vorkosigan books where Miles is checking over the commandos about to go on a mission, and comes across one who is shaking with fear. "Your first time?" he asks. The commando says, "No, it's my second." And Miles says that of course this is natural ... it's easy to be brave when you don't know what it's going to be like, but when you do know, it's terrifying. And that's how giving birth has been to me. Each time has been scarier than the last, because I know exactly what I'm in for. And even though you know you can't fight it, you still try.
And I imagine that's how the Doctor felt, knowing exactly how much the whole process was going to suck, knowing it was unavoidable, but trying to wiggle his way out of it anyway.
Always leaves me thinking, that show.
Finally, a smile caught on camera!
She looks particularly chubby in this photo. She isn't really that fat. Fat enough to have a rash in her neck folds, though! Makes me happy that I'm clearly not starving her, anyway ... though I'm doing all I can for that rash, poor girl.
She smiles a lot. This has been a nice side effect of her getting plenty of sleep -- there is now plenty of awake time for her to smile and interact with us! In response, the boys are also liking her more -- they spend some time most days trying to get her to smile for them. They're not terribly good at it, but sometimes they get a little grin.
Things are mostly going well. Sometimes I feel weepy, crabby, or overwhelmed. A friend asked me if I think I might be depressed (always ask your postpartum friends this!) but I don't think I am .... I think it's just legitimately hard.
Of course this puts me in a bind: I think my situation is extra hard and that's why I'm not handling it as gracefully as I would like. But the reality is that plenty of people have three kids spaced two years apart -- or more kids, spaced closer -- and don't find it super hard. That makes me feel like I must be defective.
But, of course, not everyone has kids as high-needs as mine. Michael is pretty needy right now and Miriam has the whole non-napping thing going on. And there's also my own sensitivity. My mom told me years ago she didn't think I could have a big family because I have such a low tolerance for chaos. Of course, because I was invested in my own plans, what I heard was "You will never achieve your life dreams because you are inadequate," and I naturally blew it off. But I suppose she was right, to some extent. Managing chaos is something I need to do to make my life possible -- through schedules, early bedtimes, encouraging quiet activities, trying to keep the house at least a little bit tidy.
Even so, there are some things about having a lot of small children that are naturally overwhelming to me. I was never overstimulated with just one kid. I distinctly remember the first time I was really truly touched-out. I was trying to write a text message while also nursing Michael, but Michael was struggling to latch on and I was feeling a little frustrated. Then Marko got behind where I was sitting and started fidgeting with my hair. I tried to ignore it, tried to keep doing what I was doing, and suddenly I couldn't take it anymore and just screamed. Not at anyone, I screamed like you had burned me because that's honestly how I felt. It's hard to describe this, because it sounds like nothing, and why didn't I just stop trying to text and get Marko off my back? And of course, that's what I try to do now, because I know now that I can't ignore it. At the time, though, I thought it was no big deal and something I should be able to handle -- and the reality is, I can't.
I still get moments that overwhelm me, though. Like I put the baby down to make something for the boys to eat, but she keeps squawking louder and louder because she didn't want to be down, and I know I can't take care of her until I finish making the food, but Michael is trying to wedge himself between me and the counter and saying "I want a bite! I want a bite! I want a bite!" and I step to the side to open the fridge and there's Marko sitting in front of the fridge blocking my way and I Just. Can't. Take it.
Only there isn't really another option other than dealing with it, is there? Of course I tell the kids to stop doing the things that annoy me, but that's still attention taken away from what I'm trying to do and more time I have to listen to the baby crying.
Sometimes I handle it fine. Other times it's a struggle. And it's a completely invisible struggle because I'm actually able to keep up on the house relatively well most days, I cook food, I get the kids to bed on time, I write this blog. But what I really want is some time every single day where no one is touching me, and that doesn't seem to be something I can reasonably expect. I usually do get a little before bed, but it's never quite enough .... and I stay up way too late just to get more of it, but that of course just makes me tired which reduces my tolerance of everything the next day.
John was saying I should find a mother's helper or someone who can give me a break once a week. And that would be lovely ... except there's a big part of me that feels that I am a failure if I do that. Because the whole point of my being home is that we don't have to have a babysitter, right? And because my kids don't want a babysitter, they want me, always. And because I don't even know what I would do with an afternoon to myself. I would feel like I should spend it on housework, but I am keeping up with that relatively okay and can do it anytime, or almost. What activity do you do when you want to recharge your soul?
One activity I have come up with that I find really peaceful is thinking about houses. I do it if I can't sleep at night ... just lie there, close my eyes, and think of a house I haven't been to in a long time. Say, my great-grandfather's house. I started in the basement and remembered, in detail, every single thing in that room. The ping-pong table, the antlers on the wall, the dessicated puffer fish, the fox pelt, the bird wings. What the room smelled like, how it was always cool, how my cousin bashed his head on one of the antlers and we stuck ping pong balls on all the sharp ones so no one would get hurt next time. Then the furnace room where G-gpa had all the wood blocks and the pencil marks for all of our heights. Up the stairs, past the recliner I slept in when I was four, past great-grandma's bowling trophies, into the kitchen which was the real heart of that house. In my memory we are having a huge salad with bits of salmon in it, and then G-gpa pulls a carton of vanilla ice cream out of the deep freeze, cuts a slice from it with a machete, peels off the cardboard, and pours raspberries over it all.
The rest of the house has a very heavy feel -- I guess it was just hot and stuffy, but in my memory it feels old and unused. I remember where the bathroom is, but I have to guess where the bedrooms are, and I don't know what they look like inside. I remember the front door, but I don't think I ever went through it; we always used the kitchen door. The living room had an ostrich egg on the mantelpiece, a tray with butterfly wings under glass, a bowl full of polished stones and little wooden acorns that you could spin like a top.
I last went there in 2002 for G-gpa's wake. I'm proud that I can remember it so well. And it just gives me a feeling of peace to walk through those old places in my mind -- I feel that as long as I remember them this clearly, they will always be mine, even though I can never go there again.
The two most interesting articles I read this week: I can tolerate anything except the outgroup and Five case studies on politicization. They're long, but definitely worth reading. Basically they are about tribalism -- our tendency to adopt the opinions and preferences of those we consider our tribe. Which explains why conservatives are more worried about ebola than liberals, while liberals worry about global warming, even though how worried you should be about either is a question of science, not politics.
It's kind of humbling to realize how much of this stuff applies to me. I think of myself as not a member of any tribe -- all of us prefer to think that way, I think -- but I define myself too much in opposition to the various tribes, rather than positively. Want me to take the anti-police side in Ferguson? Just share a link to a conservative fundraiser that is actually raising money for the shooter! I'll be so horrified I run to the other side. (Of course that's a bad example, because I've been following police overreach for about a year now and so I had an opinion on it before anyone I knew started sharing articles about it -- but the principle itself is something I'm guilty of.)
We all like to think of the ways we don't fit into the various tribes, invent subtribes for ourselves, criticize tribes we are connected to, but I think we all are guilty of tribalism to some extent. We trust some people's opinion and not others; some catchphrases register as catchphrases and others seem like pithy statements of the obvious. I always end up in the same Facebook debates, and I always know who's going to fall on which side, and what they're going to say. The Synod, for instance -- it's utterly predictable who was going to howl in anguish over the relatio and who was going to like it. And can I just say I'm completely unsurprised that now the final document is out, and didn't say any of the controversial things people didn't like, no one is talking about it at all? The more "progressive" crowd is disappointed, and since they were being triumphalist last week, it's embarrassing now. And the "orthodox" bunch was taking the relatio as proof that the Church is headed in the wrong direction, and they don't really like being proven wrong. The one comment I've heard from anyone on that side since the final document came out was about how our terrible Pope tried to pervert Church doctrine, but the brave bishops stood up to him and wouldn't allow it .... which is just about as inaccurate as anything I can imagine.
Apropos of this topic, but much shorter, is this Cracked article. I love Cracked.
If you've got time to spare, read this: Meditations on Moloch by the same author as the tribalism articles. It's long, and by long I mean even by my standards -- it is probably the longest blog post I have ever read. The whole first half I was nodding my head -- I absolutely agree that human society is not self-optimizing; that self-interest is not sufficient to get people acting in a way that is best for all.
It's the capitalist lie: that virtue is not required, because self-interest coordinates everyone perfectly anyway. I like capitalism because it is relatively efficient and allows for human choice, but virtue is always, always required. Without it, the author is right -- civilization goes on a constant downward slide.
However, virtue is, to some extent, natural to human beings. We have one impulse to look out for number one, and another to sacrifice for the good of others, and neither one is "the real us." They're both the real us. By working on it, we can strengthen our virtue and fight against the tendency to be selfish; and conversely, if we convince ourselves that selfishness is okay, we can silence our conscience. But in our natural state, we do care what happens to others.
Let me put forth an example: Imagine it was conclusively proven to you that God does not exist. There will be no reward or punishment after death for what you do, because after death you will cease to exist. And you are offered a choice: you can have a perfectly happy life, health, riches, friendship. But an hour after you die, the entire population of the Earth will die horribly. Would you take the offer?
I can pretty much guarantee that you, reading this right now, would not. Not because you think you'll be punished for making that choice, but because deep in your gut you know it is a bad choice. You know that your life isn't the only life that matters. And for my part, I feel confident that that knowledge we all have will keep us from disaster, if we let it.
Because yeah, the dude really lost me around the first time the word "transhumanism" came up. I don't want to be a cyborg, or an intelligent computer program, or ruled by a benevolent supercomputer. I'd rather just try to be a virtuous person myself and encourage others to do likewise. Yes, keeping humanity from destroying itself is an uphill job. I just don't think it's an impossible job.
How was your week?