Tuesday, March 08, 2005

Ten Weeks Down

I got on-line over an hour ago to post something deep about myself and my pregnancy. I made the mistake of trying to catch up on my blog reading first. (See, I've been out sick after lasting a glorious half-day at work yesterday. I keep having pep talks with Junior about letting me sleep through the night and operate with a passably normal stomach so I can go earn that silly little thing called money that will be very important for things like food, clothing, and diapers. Sometimes they take.) Sheila linked to a post by Patrick Nielsen Hayden about some crank's fun ideas about women and hard SF. The ensuing comments on the topic sucked an hour out of my life. It had its entertaining moments, lots of headshakers, but it left me with an overall thought that The Battle of the Sexes will be perpetuated forever, with women always having to prove something and men never having to do so. So that hour was a pretty sad hour.

But it wasn't why I hopped on-line. I wanted to post because I'm now a quarter of the way through my pregnancy. That's not the milestone I'm most interested in, of course, not when I still feel like a foreigner in my own skin. Not when I still can't guarantee I'll be able to get through a full week of work. Not when breakfast still decides to make a return appearance a couple of times a week (though thankfully not this week...yet). As I went through yet another day spent at home instead of at work because the thought of being more than twenty feet from my bed and my fridge makes me not only nervous but faint, I thought that I might be having a better time of the first trimester if I actually enjoyed my job. Wouldn't it be easier to work through my feelings of ickiness if I liked what I do for fourty hours every week? Maybe, maybe not.

Such thoughts lead me to consider why I don't like my job...and why I didn't like the one before that...and so on. I can make excellent arguments for why I haven't been happily employed ever since I realized that I didn't want to get my PhD. And all of these arguments skirt around a greater potential issue: the problem isn't the job(s), it's me. No wonder I skirt around it. But something about being pregnant at the same time that my brother's in Iraq, my mother's going through her own private hell at her job, my grandfather's been diagnosed with lung* cancer, and Mark's grandfather just survived a heart attack, really got me thinking and analyzing and taking a severe look at how I perceive myself and my life.

At some point during my childhood, I told myself that life would be "happily ever after" once I finished school and got married. I'd get a job and be successful, as would my husband, and we'd have a perfect nuclear family, and eventually we'd retire to go RVing through the country and harass our kids. But here's the thing: that "happily ever after" mentality led me to the grossly inaccurate assumption that life only required effort through school and finding a mate. That everything would be peaches and light with no active input on my part. Disney's probably the biggest culprit behind such a horribly flawed reasoning. I mean, we never see the "happily ever after". It's just assumed that everything will be OK from then on out. That just getting together was the hardest thing they'd ever have to face in their lives (sometimes worked in with another Big Issue that, miraculously, always resolved itself seconds before or after they got together; nice timing). This combined with my parents' big push for me to get a college degree before I got married (with the unspoken caveat of "or you'll end up like us"--which sounds way harsher than I mean; my parents did have it rough until my father became an officer in the Air Force, but things always seemed to be more or less average middle class after that; of course, I could be wrong, I was only 6-18 at the time :)), led me to the conclusion that life wouldn't be anything to get worked up about after college and marriage.

Gotta love those fun, debilitating delusions. Even though I just blamed Disney and my parents, it was a more or less conscious decision on my part at about the age of 12 to come to that incorrect conclusion. And then, genius that I am, I let that flawed logic rule my life until a few weeks ago. The logic hasn't been working so well the past couple years, always leaving me bewildered when I realized that I hated whatever job I had at the time and that I couldn't do the work I wanted to because life circumstances just don't allow me to not have a guaranteed income at the moment. That twelve-year-old inside me as been crying out "no fair" for a while now, causing a lot of hurt and confusion and depression and general ickiness. I never understood how I could be so unhappy with true love beside me and a successful education behind me and gainful employment to boot. I started to think something was wrong with me, that I was just a bad person. Mark kept insisting that this couldn't be true because he loves me and he wouldn't if I were a bad person. Since I trust his judgement of character pretty much implicitly in all other things, his argument made logical sense. But I wasn't buying it.

Then I got hammered with the reality of Life After School and Marriage over the past month. And one thing became very clear: "happily ever after" is not a passive thing that just happens. It requires the same effort that life required before. Even as light bulbs starting flaring to life in my noggin, so did a whole lot of frustration and shame. I couldn't believe that I had honestly deluded myself for so long that life could require anything other than my active participation to be a happy thing. How much of the past 2-3 years have been a hell of my own making because of one stupid mistake in reasoning in my childhood? I could really go on, railing away at myself, but I suppose that's something best reserved for my next session with my therapist. And, honestly, I know enough about myself that at least 75% of the diatribe would be more for the sake of drama than anything else. What can I say? I'm a writer with a long history of Drama Queen tendencies.

My big cathartic moment most likely came in the middle of a crying jag after a sleepless night and while my stomach was debating the pros and cons of retaining whatever I had just fed it. I had probably just missed a good day or two of work and gotten some odd comments on it. And the realization that my body, this vessel that I've known for more than 26 years, that I've grown accustomed to, that I know so well, is suddenly as unfamiliar as an undiscovered planet--all that combined to make me realize that Life Just Happens. You have to deal with it as it comes, preparing when you can, analyzing when you can. But you can't sit back and go "it wasn't supposed to be like this". For starters, it's hard to get anything done that way. And, the longer you sit around and look at something in dismay, the more new things there'll be to shake your fist at once you stop.

This realization took greater shape as I really looked at the way those I loved were dealing with their own unique events. My brother still cracks the same annoying younger brother jokes in his emails and calls. My grandfather insists he only knows he's sick because some doctor keeps telling him he is. My mother keeps "getting back on the horse" and doing what she has to do to make a bad situation better and she still manages to find the time to ease her daughter's "ohmygodwhatshappeningtome" fears. And then there's Mark. Taking all the cooking and cleaning and grocery buying in stride and always finding a way to make sure he has the right comforting things to say or do when things get rough for me. After I get over the initial reaction of "I'm a selfish twit of a person who doesn't deserve all this", I realize that I must be doing something right. No matter the silliness of "happily ever after" and how long a part of me clung to it, there had to have been at least one part of me doing the right thing and actually living my life instead of railing against the things I couldn't control. Otherwise, all these fabulous people in my life wouldn't be in my life.

I know that was a lot of personal junk to throw at you. It's worth it if any of my readers stopped and thought about their own "happily ever after" notions clinging to them from childhood. And I'm not exactly one to shrink away from airing my dirty laundry to the world. Probably part of that Drama Queen stuff again. Sometimes you just have to share those insights, even if they should have been obvious, even if they revealed a flaw you might be a tad uncomfortable with. Now the only thing I'm left to ponder is how long this insight would've taken were I not pregnant.

*I originally typed that as "lunch" cancer. This could be a sign of that other pregnancy sypmtom, something about reduced mental acuity. Damn horomones.

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