Saturday, March 28, 2015

Restlessness and Pregnancy

'Cause I'm a ramblin' man
I ain't ever gonna change
I gotta gypsy soul
And I was born for leavin' 
-"Colder Weather" Zac Brown Band

So now I am older
Than my mother and father
When they had their daughter
Now what does that say about me?
Oh, how could I dream of
Such a selfless and true love
Could I wash my hands of
Just looking out for me? 
-"Montezuma" Fleet Foxes

We got engaged on a Friday night
I swore on the head of our unborn child
That I could take care of the three of us
But I've got a tendency to slip when the nights get wild
It's in my blood....
At night I come home after they go to sleep
Like a stumbling ghost I haunt these halls
There's a picture of us on our wedding day
I recognize the girl but I can't settle in these walls
-"Runaways" The Killers

Maybe I just don't watch enough female-, mother-, and/or parent-centric movies or watch that kind of tv show or listen to that kind of music but I rarely see / hear things in popular culture about ambivalence from mothers about having children and/or being settled down. At least not after they're already pregnant. Sure there might be the comedy aspects of a movie like Knocked Up, about not being prepared for what pregnancy is, especially when it is an unplanned pregnancy, but I can't think of anything like the songs above, only for or about a woman. 

I don't mean to sound like I'm ambivalent about my pregnancy, because, at least at this stage, I'm really not. I know this is what I want, what I have wanted. I know I'll keep working hard to keep it. I know that we're all going to try to make this work as a family and I really do believe that we can. 

But there is a certain unease with all of this. The restless in my soul didn't just go away when I found out I was pregnant. Of course, it should surprise absolutely no one that I'm restless. The defining characteristic of my biological father for much of my life has been the simple fact that he wasn't there. While my mom was more settled, her answer main method of clearing her head was going for long drives or trips out of town. And we moved more than most people I've known when I was a child.

I remember playing this song for my husband, to help him understand that restlessness:
Leaving - Indigo Girls
Jet fuel and traffic lines
Pulling up to the delta signs
Distant shape of my hometown
Black stain where the wheels touch down

I pick up the morning news
I pass the man who's never shined my shoes
Through security and to the train
That will take me to the aeroplane

Count the miles on the highway
The sum of all my days
There's a postcard, there's a call
And there's a picture for your bedroom wall

But do you ever wonder through and through?
Who's that person standing next to you?
And after all the nights apart
Is there a home for a traveling heart

But if I weren't leaving you
I don't know what I would do
But the more I go, the less I know
Will the fire still burn on my return?
Keep the path lit on the only road I know
Honey, all I know to do is go

A cup of coffee and my bags are packed
The same vow not to look back
Familiar emptiness inside
As the distances grow wide

And though I vow to memorize
The last look in your loving eyes
It's here dusk and there dawn
Oh it's like a curtain getting slowly drawn

But if I weren't leaving you
I don't know what I would do
But the more I go, the less I know
Will the fire still burn on my return?
Keep the path lit on the only road I know
Honey, all I know to do is go

But if I weren't leaving you
I don't know what I would do
But the more I go it seems the less I know
Will the fire still burn on my return
Keep the path lit on the only road I know
Honey, all I know to do is go

Early on in the dating the Professor, after a trip to St Louis was leaving me feeling particularly restless, I remember sitting outside on the bed of my step-dad's truck, smoking, texting with him about what he calls my "itchy feet," which he has too and understands but also knows never really leads you anywhere new, since you're still there no matter where you go, and that is what you are really looking for. 

I think one of the issues when we all lived together was a sort of trapped feeling that I couldn't shake. No matter how much I did want to create a family and didn't mind what I took on by being with them, there was still that restlessness. 

But nobody writes songs about pregnant but restless women, about the dialectic between wanting to settle down/raise a kid/have a family and that restlessness. 

Saturday, March 07, 2015

Growing up and Showing Up

When my uncle passed away, he was living in a trailer. It was a fairly nice trailer, though it was out in the country so there were mice and the like. It was a double wide with three bedrooms, a decent sized bathroom and a good sized kitchen. There was plenty of room for his boat, travel trailer, and all his cars. It was on property owned by a friend from work and her and her boyfriend (now husband) lived in the trailer while they took care of an older family member who lived in a house on the property. When they moved into the house after the relative passed away, they sold it to my uncle. My grandmother visited him once there. Even though he was really proud of the place and all the work he'd done on it, and he loved being out in the country, I think he was also a bit embarrassed. My grandparents had worked hard to give all of us a better life. He is still the only one of us to have a Bachelor's Degree. Living in a trailer *gasp* seemed like a step down or a step back. But he was really happy there and living more within his means than when he'd had a house in the suburb my grandmother lived in, so was it really that bad?

I've been doing a great deal of thinking lately about how I grew up, what the good parts were, what I wish I could have changed, how things might have been different if I or my parents had done things differently. I think that's probably pretty natural for the state that I'm in. Yeah, I'm knocked up. Yesterday makes 17 weeks. I know I haven't written at all lately and that's largely because I either didn't have anything to say or I didn't want to give words to what I was thinking. Yes, it was unplanned and unexpected but not unwanted. It is the Professor's (well, I'm 99.9% sure it is, though I've been honest with him about that.) While he freaked out a bit at first, he's really excited now. Ginger is also on board. I still feel guilty that it happened like this, that she didn't get to go first, but she seems to be rolling with it and not very upset.(As I'm writing this, the Professor is also nesting. He went into the kitchen for something and decided that everything was entirely too dirty. He's currently using the broom to clear the cobwebs off the ceiling. It's super cute. Take my word for it.)

I started a new job last week. It is through a temp agency, though the company does hire on when their HR decides to make people permanent. It's a long-term assignment. Some of the temps there have been there for six months or so. It's in the warehouse for a mail-order pharmacy. Right now, I'm working in shipping but I'll be moving to the dispensary as soon as they get the paperwork finished to register me as a technician with the state. It's full-time hours, with overtime that is sometimes mandatory and sometimes voluntary. I worked 9 hour days since I started and I'm planning on working 9 hour days next week too. While it's not mentally taxing, it can be rough to stand on your feet in largely the same spot for 9 hours. I'm still trying to find shoes that won't hurt my feet, though I'm starting to suspect now that my feet are just going to have to toughen up.

It's also the highest paying job I've ever had. I'm making 50% more per hour than I was making at my last temp gig. I'm making what Ginger used to make at her last job before the shift differential. But there's a part of me that feels like my uncle did when my grandmother came to visit him in his trailer. This job only requires a high school education. Generally speaking, it is working in a factory or plant environment, complete with conveyor belts and rolling lines. While it is probably cleaner than the airplane manufacturing factory my grandfather worked in all his life, it's still the same.

I've been wrestling quite a bit lately with what to tell my kid as s/he grows up. Mostly, I'm glad I went to the amount of college that I went to, even if I didn't graduate and am doing a job that doesn't require a higher degree of any kind. My biggest regrets are that I couldn't manage the depression well enough to finish and that I currently have a larger debt load than was necessary. But I have always loved learning and I wouldn't trade the knowledge I have. On the other hand, like many people in my generation, I feel like I was sold a false bill of goods. I was told that all that mattered was that you went to college, not what you studied, because any degree was worth it, would increase your earning potential and open up new fields. Now, even basic call center jobs will sometimes require a four year degree. Why? It's not like anyone ever learned how to work in a call center from going to college. It shows you can show up someplace for 4-5 years and finish something. That's all. But now that so many people have degrees, it's become the equivalent of what a high school degree was for people my parents' age. The market has been flooded with degrees and it has little meaning anymore.

I've been thinking that what I want to tell my kid (kids, if you include the child Ginger has sometime soon that I'm sure I'll co-parent with them) is that what's important is showing up and finding what makes you fulfilled, whether that fulfillment is in your job or in your life outside of your job. I grew up hearing that you should do what you love. What is that quote? "Do what you love and you'll never work a day in your life"? Yeah, I kinda think that's bullshit. You can choose to work in an area you are passionate about, like Ginger does working in the mental health / social work field, but it will still be work. That's why they pay you. Sometimes you go into something you are passionate about, like The Professor and computers, and grow to hate this thing that you used to love. Maybe you just take a job that doesn't kill your spirit or your body too fast, be a good worker and show up, and walk the line your whole life between working enough to have money to do what you enjoy outside of work but not working so much that you don't have time to do those things.

Look, this job is fine. It provides good money. I'm not doing a job that's reprehensible or kills my soul. While I might not have much energy when I get off work, I am able to get up early and do stuff before work and I have energy on the weekends to do stuff. Yeah, it's not a big career. It's not glamorous. It's not something bigger or better than what my grandparents or parents did. But right now I don't care so much about that. I care that I can be with the people I love and not still be miserable from work when I do it. I care that I can pay my bills and save up a little bit for moving and the baby. I think that younger me, the one who got so upset with her parents who complained about their jobs but weren't actively doing anything to change it and wouldn't move to a new profession, would probably be disappointed in that. Hell, I think my grandma would be a bit disappointed in it too. But a better life is about life being better, no matter how that looks. And the most important part of all of it, whether it be showing up to finish whatever degree you're getting and learning all you can from there or showing up to a job you hate so your resume looks good for the next one or showing up with your family, That's always been the hardest part of the depression- it's so difficult to just show up. You know you'll feel better if you do, or at least that you'll feel worse when you don't and the more you don't show up the more difficult it is to ever show up, but showing up is also a huge part of making it better. As this is something that both The Professor and I struggle with, I know it will probably be all the more important to impart on a child that is half of each of us. I think if anyone is disappointed about any of this, it should be that it took me this long to figure this out.