The Terrible/Terrific Twos


Lew is two-years-old now, and it’s like he received a text message on the night of his second birthday: Time to be terrible! Literally the next morning, his tantrums escalated from the occasional, short bursts of frustration that marked the past few months, to long, frequent, very loud full-blown screeching, in the morning, the afternoon, bed time, any time. The craziest things set him off, completely nonsensical to us but SO REAL to him, and then, as quickly as he goes off, he comes back. “All done crying now,” he said the other day, quite calmly despite the fact his little neck vein was still taut and his face still red and tear-streaked from screaming only seconds earlier.

But, the other side of being a terrible two is all the amazing developmental leaps. He helps with the chores (like, actually helps), talks nonstop, recognizes letters and numbers, even pranks us (seriously – he hides our keys! – which is funny when it happens to Dave but not so funny when it happens to me). We’ve got an actual boy on our hands who does all the things an actual boy should be doing, and that’s a good exciting thing.

At least this is what I tell myself. And, as you probably guessed, it doesn’t provide much comfort in the middle of an outburst. So here I am, blogging about the ridiculousness of toddlerhood so that we can all laugh at Lew’s expense and thus make me feel better about having made the decision to create a sweet, beautiful baby that turned into a Jekyll and Hyde toddler monster.

Mr. Hyde: Top Ten Reasons Why Lew Was VERY ANGRY This Week

10. He ate all of the blueberries in one sitting – literally the whole pint. When I said that we’d go to the store later to buy more, he lost it. “Noooo, I want Mama go buy bluebeggies NOW!”

9. The dog walked into the room and sat on her bed. The bed that was way across the room from where Lew was playing. The bed that Lew has never expressed interest in before or since.

8. I gave him banana/milk/water/puzzle when he asked for it. (This happens so often with so many things, and it drives me crazy).

7. We went to the park instead of riding the subway to nowhere.

6. I took a sip of my coffee.

5. After watching 28 videos of sea lions, YouTube loaded a dolphin video. “NO! I WANT SEAYIYON!”

4. I refused to eat the soggy, chewed-up piece of rice cracker he’d taken out of his mouth and thrust in my face.

3. He got cream cheese on his finger while eating a bagel. (This one was particularly pathetic because it happened every time he took a bite until he finally finished the bagel, which was a feat considering the amount of screaming/crying/tears/snot.)

2. I sang “pat your head” instead of “nod your head” during If You’re Happy and You Know It.

1. I took off his poopy pants and suggested that he put on pajamas. “NO JAMAS! I want sleep pants wit poop!”

Dr. Jekyll: Conversations With Lew

Cuddling in his bed on the night of his zoo birthday party where we spent over 45 minutes watching sea lions.

Lew: SEAYIYONS!
Me: Yeah, we saw sea lions at the zoo today.
Lew: Mama, seayiyons go poop.
Me: Yep, sea lions poop.
Lew: Seayiyons go poop make mess.
Me: I guess?
Lew: Poop on floor.
Me: A lot of animals poop on the ground, it’s true.
Lew: MAMA!
Me: What?
Lew: SEAYIYONS GO POOP IN AGUA!
Me: Yes, I suppose they do.
Lew: No no no, Mama! Seayiyons go poop make mess in agua!
Me: Oh, it’s okay. There are zookeepers, the people who work at the zoo, who take care of the sea lions and clean up their water.
Lew: People clean up mess agua.
Me: Yep, they clean it up.
Lew: SEAYIYONS GO POOP AGUA MAKE MESS CLEAN UP PEOPLE POOP SEAYIYONS MESS AGUA CLEAN UP SEAYIYONS –
Me: Lewis.
Lew: Mama.
Me: It’s time to go night night.
Lew: Okay. Night night.
Me: Night night, my love.

Six seconds later

Lew: Mama?
Me: What, dear.
Lew: Monkeys!
Me: No honey, it’s night night.
Lew: Mama, monkeys!
Me: Okay, fine, what about the monkeys?
Lew: Monkeys trees!
Me: Yes, monkeys live in trees.
Lew: Monkeys go poop in trees!
Me: Probably some of them do.
Lew: Monkeys poop trees.
Me: I’m so glad you had fun today. Happy birthday, baby.
Lew: Lewis birfday.
Me: Yep. And now, it’s time to go night night.
Lew: Time go night night.
Me: You got it. I love you, honey.
Lew: I wub oo.
Me: I love you!
Lew: I wub oo!
Me: You’re the best.
Lew: Monkeys go poop trees!
Me: Okay. I’m gonna get up now and give you a kiss and you’re gonna go night night by yourself, okay?
Lew: Okay! Night night, Mama.
Me: Night night.

I give him a kiss, walk halfway across the room.

Lew: SEAYIYONS!
Me:
Lew: Mama, seayiyons!
Me: Goodnight, Lewis.

I leave the room and close the door.

Lew: Seayiyons! In the agua!

We the People: Meet Whitney

whitneyName: Whitney Walker
Age: 23
Lives In: Auburn, Alabama
Ethnicity: European
Favorite Ice Cream Flavor: Butter Pecan

“Vet school is really hard but I like it, it’s interesting. Apparently, though, vets have a higher rate of suicide than any other profession. It’s Wellness Week here so they were handing out suicide prevention stickers today, and an email they sent said that one in six veterinarians will consider suicide. That’s nuts. An article popped up in my Facebook feed, I don’t know how credible it was, but it was talking about how when an animal comes in that’s really sick or can’t be cured and you can’t make it better, you euthanize it, you go ahead and put it out of its misery, and the article said that vets might associate that with their own life when they have a problem that they feel like they can’t fix. If I were an animal, this is how I would fix it. The article also attributed it to the stress. People don’t take the time out of their day to call someone and tell them they did a good job. People just don’t do that. They only call to complain, so if you’re taking care of someone’s animal that means the world to them and it didn’t go the way they wanted it to, that can be stressful. I luckily haven’t had to do it yet; it will definitely be the hardest part of the job.

whitneyelephants.jpgThe work I did in South Africa was kind of boring, to be honest. It was interesting to me because I got to do it in Africa, but the whole point of it was that trees were dying off and not coming back. I did preliminary research to see if it was worth investing more. Elephants can knock a tree down pretty easily, and they also smack their trunks against the trees and rip the bark off. If there’s a circle of missing bark, the tree will die. So, we set these traps to catch rodents to get an idea of what types of rodents were there and what densities, then we put them in enclosures to give them seeds and see if they would eat them because people were saying that rodents were eating the seeds and preventing new trees from growing. We mainly caught mice, rat and squirrels. It’s funny, when you think of Africa, people want to research lions, buffalo, rhino, not really the rodents. But what we found with the seed trials is that they do eat some of the seeds, so you can’t definitively say that they are eating enough seeds and that’s why the trees aren’t growing, but really it’s like, we did the research, they eat the seeds, it’s worth looking more into. It was really cool to be there. The first two weeks were not research, I was there on a study abroad course. We went around with a game capture specialist and caught buffalo, giraffe, we moved animals that’d been sold, it was really cool. Sometimes they relocate rhino, too, since they’re heavily poached. So, the first two weeks we were actually staying in tents. Sometimes you could hear animals walking around or a lion roaring way off in the distance. It was cool, but the scary part was if you had to go to the bathroom at night. But when I did the research, I stayed in a house. It was pretty cool to see everything and how they do it all.

whitneyvulture
Ideally, I would like to work in some type of wildlife rehab place or a zoo. At Auburn, experience with that is pretty limited – we don’t have a huge wildlife program, you have to get it in bits and pieces and then apply for internships and stuff like that. In one of my classes, we work hands on, one week we alternate and work with dogs and then the next week with cows. I was actually surprised by how much I liked working with the cow. It’s easier because whenever you’re working with cows, they’ve usually been brought up to a barn with their head in these metal bars so they can’t walk away from you. It’s more relaxing out in a barn, less stressful. With dogs, you can get an aggressive dog who tries to bite you, bite your techs, you sometimes have to muzzle it or even sedate it, so that can be dramatic. Cows can get stressed out, too, but it was easier. I liked it, but I wouldn’t want to just work with cows… It can be pretty hard to get into zoo medicine, so my back up is to work in a regular small animal clinic. I would want to get board certified in exotics so that I could work with birds, small animals like chinchillas; really anything other than a dog or a cat can be considered exotic. I mean, you don’t have to be board certified to see a rabbit, but if someone brought in a sick squirrel or something, that would be fun. So, we’ll see where it goes!”

~

Welcome to We the People, a column featuring stories and profiles of your fellow Americans because we the people of the United States need to meet one another. Click here to learn more.

Brain-Picking Becky #9: War

War. What is it good for?

Making rich people richer.

I’ve been avoiding writing this piece. The topic of war has been swarming around my brain so much this past week but I can’t seem to organize my ideas. The task of putting my thoughts into a cohesive essay feels impossible. I’ve decided instead to free write for most of the two hours I allot for a Brain-Picking piece, leaving about 20 minutes at the end for some editing. We’ll see what comes out.

greed.jpg“Greed” by Liz West / Creative Commons

There are so many facets to war, it’s easy to get lost on a tangent and realize that I only brought up thousands of questions without any clear concept of how we can end war. And that’s the thing. I want to end war, but it seems like most people actually don’t. I’ve been thinking a lot about the military-industrial complex and feel myself roiling with so much anger that it’s difficult to breathe. I even hate the way we reference it – the military-industrial complex – like it’s some kind of academic topic fit for a text book as opposed to the horrible reality that a handful of rich people, including many of our elected government officials from the past many decades, get richer and richer off of killing children. The whole thing is a gross business, yet we talk about it like it’s some kind of cerebral debate.

I don’t understand the greed, the rampant, bipartisan greed that seems to be ever-present in our country’s (our world’s) leaders. How do these people live with themselves? I don’t believe that our current Administration actually cares about the recent events in Syria. Trump’s prepared lines about the “attack on children” having a “big impact” were useless. It doesn’t matter what he says anymore. A, we know he lies and changes his mind so frequently that we can’t trust a word of anything, and B, his actions speak louder. A Syrian refugee ban followed by dropping bombs on Syria? The lack of care for actual human life is sickening.

There’s always some self-serving, underlying motive, for Trump, Clinton, Obama, all of them. A small group of rich assholes are currently running the world, they’re exploiting, hurting, killing anyone so that they can get more money and power, our politicians are working for them, and it’s all going unchecked. I get that the situation in the Middle East is more complicated and involved than this, but if we were somehow able to stop these money-grubbing, war-mongering pricks, we’d see major changes right away.

So how many pictures of drowned children do we need to see before we demand that our leaders show some kind of consideration for human life and make a real attempt to end war? God, the image of that man wailing over his dead wife, the videos of him burying their dead twins. Can’t get it out of my head. Tears in my eyes right now.

What the fuck.

And do not throw the fake news argument back at me. Yes, fake news is a real problem. But all of our masters, no matter if they’re Democrat, Republican, or Independent, are using fake news to their advantage while denouncing the other side for doing it. It’s like our livelihoods and our lives are all one big game to them. So let’s please not argue with each other over this. Whether you believe the images you see and the journals you read or not, the fact is: Syrians are dying every day and our tax money goes toward bombing them, toward bombing Koreans, Somalis, Yemenis, Afghanis. That’s right – America conducted tens of thousands of airstrikes in dozens of different countries under Obama, and Trump has already demonstrated his desire to follow this example.

Interesting how all of these people in power decided to stop using the word “war,” decided to control how our so-called free media reports on these bombings, decided to feed us lines about how our government is protecting democracy and how we Americans simply can’t stand for these war crimes. You know what all of this translates to? BULLSHIT.

We Americans are the war criminals.

quitwar.jpgDavid Owen / Creative Commons

So let’s not argue with each over who is or isn’t using fake news; they all are. In fact, let’s please not argue over the vast majority of absolute ridiculous shit we keep arguing over. Our masters are so brilliant, they have us all staring at these tiny little devices that track our every move while stripping us of our ability to communicate face-to-face. Then they use these devices to thrust advertisements at us that tell us how badly we need more – more clothes, more electronics, more money, more youth. They have us competing over minimum/unlivable wage jobs, they’ve convinced us that immigrants are the enemy of the working class, that black people are criminals who are killing each other and should be feared, that education is not a right but is actually some hoity-toity liberal bubble elitism, when in reality, we’re all getting fucked and WE SHOULD ALL BE WORKING TOGETHER. We’re sitting here in the same boat competing over trite nonsense like wrinkles and weight and hairstyles, judging each other’s lifestyle choices as if any of it matters, staking out our tiny bit of space and jumping to aggression the second someone dares to “threaten” it, instead of talking, listening, accepting, sharing. We’re doing exactly what they want, we’re fighting each other instead of banding together to fight the CEOs who are stealing our wages, the real estate moguls who are destroying our neighborhoods, the war hawks who are denying us healthcare so that they can kill, kill, kill while putting more money in their own pockets. I wish we could come together better, that we could stop being so angry at each other and instead work together and direct that anger at our masters. If everyone in America who makes less than $100,000 a year refused to spend money for a day, just one single day, it would have such a strong impact that this whole rigged system would implode. We have power, we just don’t know how to organize and use it.

And I’m not saying I know how to use it. I can organize on a small scale, and that feels good and rewarding, but I have no idea how I can convince people that race and ethnicity and whether you live in the city or on a farm shouldn’t be barriers, that we do have the ability to listen to each other, to heal wounds, to come together and demand something better. I also have no idea how to go about changing the capitalist greed that currently rules our world to a more compassionate form of ruling. Our election and voting systems seem set up against this, so while I do exercise my right to vote, I’m not positive it does much when I’m presented over and over with variations of the same shit. And I can’t just march into the president’s office, stomp my foot and say, “It’s time you give a damn!” Even if I did manage to get into that office, even if I were taken seriously, I’d just be given some lip service and sent home with no results.

We type our names into petitions. We post our repulsion on Facebook. We raise money for organizations that are doing good work (and this probably goes the farthest out of all these actions). But at the end of the day, we just don’t have the same level of power that the warmongers do. And this is the thing that really depresses me: good, honest people who want to end all of this killing don’t become President of the United States, of Russia, of Syria.

But this doesn’t mean we stop. We have to keep going. We have to make our small difference, for ourselves, our neighbors, our children, our future. Our small actions will spread and grow over time. They may never equal the actions of Trump or Putin, but that doesn’t make them any less important. In fact, that makes them even more important. And there are so many organizations and people doing good work. We have to support them, encourage them, let ourselves feel buoyed up by their existence.

Add this to your action list: call or email an organization or politician you support and let them know you’re grateful for their work. This is how we oppose war – through daily acts of kindness. Spread love. Put down your damn cell phone and smile at a stranger. Hug your friends. Tell them you love them. Thank your roommate or your mom or your husband for being around. Remind yourself every night of the good things you have.

gboweeLeymah Gbowee / Creative Commons

I’ve decided that I’m in it for the long haul. Like, the millions of years from now long haul. Those of us who support peace talks and compromise, empathy and compassion, building community and opening our borders to refugees, we’re the more evolved humans. I read an article recently about scientist Michael Wilson’s long-term study of chimpanzees, and it seems that human warfare actually isn’t a modern invention but rather goes back to our deepest ancestors. When I first learned in high school about the Locke vs Hobbes debate, I was immediately on Locke’s side. Of course people are born good, I thought. Babies don’t discriminate, they don’t care about race or religion, they say hi to everyone. They don’t use labels like rich or poor, they don’t pass judgment on others like we adults do. I believed that humans were taught to be evil, that badness came from our nurture as opposed to something in the fabric of our being. But now, I think it’s not even a matter of being inherently good or evil – this concept is yet another human construct that allows us to become too cerebral and judge each other. Humans are simply products of evolution, and it’s actually great progress that we’ve seen people like Martin Luther King Jr., Leymah Gbowee, Thich Nhat Hanh, it’s amazing that the UN exists and that so many people care enough to run organizations like the American Refugee Committee and the ACLU. When looking at the timeframe of the universe, maybe we humans are doing okay.

I’m reminded of a lesson my Granny taught me over and over: You always need to leave things cleaner than when you found them. She was talking about physical spaces, about cleaning up after yourself, but now I understand her deeper message and find great comfort in it. So, humanity, I’m going to try to leave you cleaner than when I found you, and that’s honestly the most any of us can strive to do.

granny-1My very wise Granny

Endnotes:
I edited for 45 minutes.

Regarding fake news, I sincerely hope you’ve done the research and can trust the sources you read.

When I say open our borders to refugees, I mean screened refugees. No one is saying, “Hey everybody in the world, it’s a free for all in America right now, run on in!” I hate how black and white these issues are often portrayed.

Brain-Picking Becky #8: This Extreme Love

20170327_185740

Dave and I recently took our first vacation without Lew, a glorious five days in Los Angeles in which our main concerns were things like how bad the traffic was on this or that road, if we needed a sweater or could get away with just a t-shirt, and if my new diaphragm felt better or worse than condoms. Yes, we missed Lew like hell, and we even missed our pets, our home, and our busy little New York life, to the point that by day four I woke up feeling melancholy, but that California sun, the crisp Pacific water, the happy hour cocktails and fresh fish tacos and the not at all worrying about things like nap time or diaper rashes or how many hours had passed since we last let the dogs out, was enough to dampen the longing. I spent the week relishing in my husband, in the beautiful, sexy ways he smiles, laughs, talks, and I let myself feel everything that bubbled up, the love and happiness, the angst and anxiety, the joy and the fear, and I thought, Whoa, it is such a luxury to just be able to sit here and think and feel. I’d never before considered ruminating to be a luxury, but in my regular life where someone needs something every thirty seconds, it’s nearly impossible to follow a thought through to its end. Passing all that time just breathing and thinking felt lavish.

~

Ever since I can remember, I’ve operated under the idea that I was supposed to make everyone happy. In order to do this, I had to be perfect. People loved me because I was pretty and nice and smart, and it was my duty to be all of these things so that they could be happy. I honestly don’t remember a time in which I didn’t feel this way. In fact, I distinctly remember being four-years-old, emerging from the basement of my childhood home into a kitchen crowded with family members, and delivering a serious but also sarcastic speech about the food we’d just eaten (yes, I was a hyper-verbal preschooler who used sarcasm). At that young of an age, I knew I’d said something funny and that I wanted to be funny, but even more so, I’d said something serious and wanted to be taken seriously. But when everyone laughed and no one engaged me in a real discussion, I burst into tears. Mom rushed over, gripped me in a tight hug, and said, “Honey, that was funny, we’re just laughing because you’re so smart, not because we’re making fun of you.” This made total sense to me, and I remember formulating the idea for the first time that it was okay if people laughed at me without understanding what I’d said, because laughing meant I’d make them happy.

BexVampy

This idea came to rule my life. Getting straight A’s, being first chair in band, memorizing verses for Sunday school, cleaning the house, learning to cook, reading college-level novels when I was 12 but also still playing with the dolls Mom had bought me – all of this meant everyone else was happy and therefore I was good. Sure, some of this was motivated by my personal likes (reading and cooking have always been favorite activities of mine), but there was a constant current of pleasing others that ran underneath all of it.

Of course it exploded. How could it not? I was primed for an eating disorder and it wasn’t anyone’s fault. It just was.

~

After years of working on the project of myself and my life, I’d made my way to the milestone of the first vacation as a new mom without the kid (two years later, parenthood still feels new). My husband and I were lounging in Topanga Canyon on a breezy spring day, surrounded by horses, donkeys, birds, and roosters, listening to our friend tell a story about walking his dog with a neighbor who he later realized was Laura Palmer of Twin Peaks. I laughed and then turned inward as he moved onto an anecdote about Gary Busey. I noticed I felt heavy, emotionally weighed down somehow, but also excited and inspired and eager to be creative, and I realized that all that hippie shit about California and its vibes is so real, like straight up totally for real. Somehow, the strange land of Los Angeles is genuinely healing, filled with an indescribable magic that vibrates in your bones, yet is also completely consuming, devouring, even devastating. No wonder people do so many drugs.

IMG_0456I couldn’t put these feelings into words and I didn’t even try (a rare moment in my life). Instead, I just sat in them and let the vibrations do their thing. I thought about my own healing process, my own magic and potential, my own ability to consume myself. Out of all the remaining pieces of “residue” (as I like to call my old bad patterns and habits), the idea that other peoples’ happiness is my responsibility is the hardest to kick. I’ve made progress with this, but it’s an ongoing struggle. My brain wandered on to how crazy it is to have a child, to have this part of yourself walking around outside of you, how being separated from it is so relieving yet also terrifying. I thought about how much parenthood has changed me, how it’s brought me closer to my understanding of humanity, closer to my core. I see so much of myself in Lew. The way we both move through an empty room, the way we love Dave, the way we need to talk. He’s got my boundless energy, my desire to help and please, my fast-paced brain, my passion to express and to learn. “I’m running in a circle, running in a circle, running in a circle!” he shouts as he literally runs in circles.

Oh dearest Lew, you act out the inner workings of my mind, I thought as a rooster crowed somewhere in the canyon hills. But I will teach you how to breathe and to meditate and to reign this all in. Our kind of mind is a power and a curse, and I’m going to teach you how to use it. The real gift is in accepting how the you and the now are always changing, and just letting that be.

~

The sunbathing, hiking, ocean swimming, sexing, thinking, feeling, breathing, all did me good. I left LA relaxed, refreshed, eager to tune in to the NYC vibes I love yet take for granted, ready to reunite with my family and bring this tranquility home to them. But then, within a mere three hours of picking everyone up from the grandparents, I found myself with Lew’s shit on my pants, a dog peeing in the house, my keys dangling from outside the apartment door, my shoulders tense and tight, Dave unreachable at work, and I thought, “THIS is what I missed???”

I took a deep breath. Yes, this imperfect life with its messy emotions, these constant yet gratifying responsibilities, this extreme love, this is what I missed.

Baz&Lew

Click here to learn more about the ongoing column Brain-Picking Becky.

Ella, The Man and The Dog

An original short story by Becky Fine-Firesheets

Motherhood filled Ella’s days with meaning yet also made them meaningless, made the whole world meaningless. How much this little creature needed her, how every task served a clear purpose of keeping him alive, yet how unimportant this actually was, how it absolutely didn’t matter to the greater planet or its billions of inhabitants if her baby lived or died. Late at night when she was awake despite the fact her baby and boyfriend were sleeping, this awareness of her own smallness and futility terrified her. But most of the time, it was relieving. Freeing, even.

snowmountain

— ◊ —

The sharp yip of the neighbor’s dog. Ella came to and immediately scanned the room for Dylan, found him on the floor nearby with his manic grin, his fat hand clutching a Lego.

“Oh my God, oh my God, honey.” She stood up – a rush of vertigo. Fighting through the dizziness, the fog, the fear, she stumbled to her baby and collapsed around him. He screamed and kicked; she’d interrupted his game. She released her grip and rolled onto her back, heart pounding so hard she could feel it banging against the hardwood floor beneath her.

It had been over a decade since she’d lost time like this, and then only once and only because of The Man.

— ◊ —

After it had happened, after The Man had leaned in for a goodnight kiss but instead forced himself into her apartment and then into her body, she dreamed of poisoning him. It would have been so easy, just a quick dash of almond syrup in his morning latte would have been enough to trigger his allergy. The key would be to fix her lips into the same tight food service grin she faked every day, to control her shaking hand as she offered him the drink, to turn to the next customer like nothing was out of the ordinary. But she felt sure she could pull it off – her anger gave her confidence – and she even came close enough once that she’d unscrewed the cap and gripped the bottleneck in her fist.

He was asking for it, she would say afterward, just like she’d overheard him say about her. But doubt rushed through her, and then she lost time and her job and never saw him again.

futile

 — ◊ —

The relentless barking. Her head pounded with it. The dog had barked all day long before the baby, but Ella was working a 9-5 office job then and hadn’t noticed. Now that she was a stay-at-home mom, her life split into blocks of play, eat, sleep, repeat, the barking was ruining her life.

My God, she thought, how much did I lose? Misty, her old therapist, had sworn this wouldn’t happen again, but here she was after all these years, and alone with the baby no less! If only the dog would shut up so she could think. Ella pulled back the curtain of her kitchen window and scanned the neighbor’s yard – watching the poodle shake in desperation, completely immersed in his own anxious hell, gave her some satisfaction (at least he, too, was miserable) – but she didn’t see him anywhere. So why the hell could she still hear him so clearly?

— ◊ —

Of course the original time loss had coincided with a double at the cafe. And of course she got fired for running off and never explaining herself. But she was okay with that; brewing the espresso, steaming the milk, pouring it out into the shape of a flower then handing it over to The Man with his reeking cologne and thick fingers was killing her day by day, and she knew that despite the holes in her plan (what if he spat it out? what if he had an Epipen?), she was going to do it one day. And then what? Losing the job was for the better.

Still, it took three months to mention the time loss to anyone. It wasn’t meant to be a confession, just a distant, asking-for-a-friend kind of thing during her annual gyno exam, but the doctor’s probing fingers, the questions about her sex life, the sticks and brushes twisting inside of her unleashed a flood of anxiety and suddenly she was rambling like a child about the missing hours. The doctor suggested she find a therapist then said that otherwise, she was well and healthy. Ella was shocked; she was sure the markers of her pain were glaring from her every pore, much less the inside of her vagina.

Another month passed before she mustered the courage to go to Misty. Their first appointment was strained, but Misty was naturally kind, and her cardigans and baggy pants, hoarse yet soothing voice, her wrinkled hands and eyes, made Ella feel safe enough to let it all out by visit number two. She hadn’t spoken about The Man to anyone, hadn’t even allowed herself to think of it as a rape, and the realization that this had actually happened to her was nauseating and exhausting. By the time she got around to the missing hours, she’d gone numb.

“This kind of thing is scary, yes, but also within the range of normal. Many people disassociate when they’ve experienced a trauma like yours. Together, we can work through it,” Misty said with so much certainty Ella almost believed it.

But later that night, as she rolled the word ‘disassociate’ around her tongue, examining its different parts and what they meant for her, Ella did not believe. She tried out the idea that her brain had become disjoined, dispartnered itself from itself, and now it was her job to bring it back together. But how? She stared at the two shitty choices splayed out in front of her – to get over it or to get lost in it – and the fear of succumbing to the latter while attempting the former left her paralyzed.

severedheadsintoaster

— ◊ —

A knock on the door, aggressive, urgent. Ella opened it to find the poodle’s owner, a well-intentioned but neurotic old woman, frantically turning a wrinkled napkin over and over in her fingers. “I can’t find Moxi she’s been missing for hours have you seen her?” she asked in one rapid question.

Ella felt high, fuzzy; only bits and pieces of the words reached her brain. She focused in on the patch of blue nail polish remaining on her thumb, tried to slow down her heart beat.

“Did you hear me? Moxi is missing!”

“That’s awful,” she replied, voice steady despite the knot gripping her throat.

“She’s never run off before, never. And the craziest thing is that I haven’t even heard a peep from her. For hours now! I just don’t know what I’d do without my dog.”

Ella opened then closed her mouth. The dog was still barking, she could hear him barking. What the hell was going on?

“Dog!” Dylan shouted from the floor, a word he’d never said before. “Dog dog!”

“I’m so sorry. I’ll keep my eyes open,” Ella managed to say.

“Please do, I’m just desperate. You have my number, right?”

Ella nodded and shut the door, leaned her back against it, slid down to the grainy welcome mat covered in ink from the pen Dylan recently broke.

“Dog dog dog,” he repeated. Then, “Mama. Mama dog, mama dog.”

— ◊ —

Eventually, Ella believed. She talked and sobbed and shouted her way through it, and even though the missing hours never came back to her, she emerged with The Man safely in her past and the shocking ability to fall in love with another man when she wasn’t even looking for it. Motherhood was similarly unplanned, but she was tough, a survivor, and her boyfriend was the good kind who massaged her feet and brought home flowers and cooked lasagna, her favorite, at least once a week, so Ella allowed herself to relax and balloon up with hope.

When Dylan first heaved out from between her legs, slimy and pruney and shrieking, Ella felt the strange twist of unconditional love deep inside her gut. Becoming a giver of this kind of love transformed her so intensely that she was positive everyone she came in contact with would also be transformed in its presence. But no one, not even her boyfriend, reacted to it, and the long stretches of motherhood with so much downtime yet also no break sent her mind on a freefall (thus the ruminations on meaningful meaninglessness), and then one day not so long ago, she found herself in a ball on the kitchen floor, absolutely repulsed by the fact that she’d still love Dylan even if he raped someone.

— ◊ —

Ella scooped up her baby and slid him into his high chair. She had no answers to any of her questions (how long was she gone? why had she gone? where the hell was the damned dog, and why could she still hear him barking?), and the anxiety was getting harder and harder to breathe away. She turned to the island in the middle of the kitchen, grabbed an apple from the silver fruit bowl and instinctively reached for her favorite knife in the block, but its slot was empty. She looked in the sink, the dishwasher, on all the countertops. Where the hell could it be?

Yip yip yip, throbbed in her ears. “Just shut the fuck up!” she shouted, then, turning to Dylan, “I’m sorry baby, I’m fine, we’re fine. I’m sorry.”

He looked up at her with an unfazed smile and said, “Mama dog, Mama dog, Mama dog.”

Photo credits:

  1. 39: Høgevarde by Norefjell / Creative Commons”
  2. Futile by ~Morgin~ / Creative Commons”
  3. “Toaster Oven” by Me 🙂

Quick Actions – Take Three Minutes Right Now to Resist!

Quick, easy ways to take action and resist right now:

piaraymond.jpgCall and email your state and national congresswomen and men. Don’t know who they are? Go to Find My Senator and Find Your Representative or just do a quick Google search. You can email or leave messages about specific bills and issues, or you can be more general and say something like, “I am urging you to vote for more money for public schools.” If this still seems daunting, follow me on Facebook for regular updates on specific reasons and ways to make calls/send emails.

Use the Resist bot – text RESIST to 50409 to contact your officials. “You’ll be prompted to provide your name, zip code, and a message you’d like to send to your senators. Once you’re happy with your message, Resistbot will format it to look professional and fax it to both of your senators.” (Thanks Aviva Buivid of #100Daysofgoodstuff for the tip – check out her site if you’re looking for some hope right now).

Share your ideas, opinions and ways to resist on social media. Don’t fall into the trap of keeping politics off your Facebook/Twitter/Instagram/Snapchat feeds. This is exactly where politics should be. We need to unite and spread the word, and this format makes it easy. Tip: When you want to share someone else’s post on your Facebook feed, copy/paste the message instead of using the sharing button – it reaches more people this way.

Get educated. Know your rights and spread this info. Knowledge is power.

Donate! Pick whatever organization you want (like Planned ParenthoodACLU, American Refugee Committee – you’ve got a plethora of choices when it comes to organizations under attack right now!), go to their website, and give some money. Even just $10 helps.

Host a fundraiser. If you’re an artist of any kind, turn your next gig into a way to support an organization you can get behind. The NYCLU even has a DIY kit! Obviously this takes more than three minutes, but it’s worth your time, it’s fun, and you’ll feel good afterward, I promise.

Participate in local elections. Do a quick Google search on your local government and candidates. Find one you like, support him/her, and vote in your local elections. Your voice is louder at this level and you’ll directly see more of the effects of your vote. If you’re in Brooklyn, let me make this even easier for you: vote Pia Raymond for City Council (pictured)She’s a badass activist, organizer, social worker, and mama, and she’s exactly what our government at all levels needs more of.

Stay strong and keep it up! We’ve had some important victories so far, including the latest Supreme Court ruling that shut down Muslim Ban 2.0, and there are only many more to come. 

“Too Black, Too Strong…”

Jeffery Renard Allen’sjeffrenardallen most recent essay is stunning. Urgently Visible: Why Black Lives Matter is a powerful and important must-read that masterfully combines thoughtful commentary on race, politics, and economics with well-researched, academic analysis and haunting personal narrative. It’s long yet I found myself rereading sections, my brain and heart rearranging themselves with each pass (yes, this essay is simultaneously cerebral and guttural), only to return days later to read the entire piece once more, eager to gleam new insights and understandings from Allen’s poetic, painfully honest prose. Original artwork by Anthony Young using bleach and gunpowder only enhances the message, the multiple messages, Allen is giving us. It’s a valuable read for everyone, but I urge all progressive white folk out there to read it, really truly deeply read it, and learn.