21 January, 2010

Parasymbology

I want a job, but I still haven't found one. In order to add to my piddling, hideously inadequate paragraph of qualifications, today I spent eight hours learning CPR and first aid by practicing on Red Cross manikins of varying sizes. The course covered infant, child and adult methods, so we got to practice pressing on little baby Claire's (apparently that was her name, according to my instructor) chest and creating a seal over her tiny nose and mouth in order to fill her minute lungs with air. It took only the slightest puff of air from my grown up lungs. The video instructor kept reiterating, ludicrously, I thought, to always keep in mind that "babies are very small." Yeah, duh, I thought smugly as we watched the video. But then when I really had to practice resuscitating an infant, it hit me--holy majoly, babies are really, REALLY small.

Also--and this is so pathetic I hesitate to write it, but it's important--I have forgotten how easy it is to let my mind and body assume that a plastic doll is an actual infant. I loved dolls as a kid, and played with my baby dolls in secret long after my friends had ditched them for make-up. While we were listening to Judy's instructions on infant CPR, I was unconsciously holding the manikin the same way I would hold a normal baby of about four months--back resting against the crook of my elbow, head leaning forward on my breast, my other arm circling the opposite way supporting her legs. Next to me, the cute nineteen year-old boy who had come with his father, twice stricken with heart attacks, started absently bouncing the baby doll on his knee. I looked around the room and everyone else was also holding his or her baby doll as if it were real--the burly mid-forties swim teacher, the mother of four who is hoping to start an in-home daycare, the woman about my age, perhaps younger, who is going to adopt a child. The only one who didn't seem to get in the spirit of holding Baby Claire was the security guard immediately to my left, who I think might have been mildly handicapped.

The really bizarre thing, even more bizarre than a room of reasonably educated adults playing with dolls on a Thursday afternoon, was how much I (consciously or unconsciously) enjoyed holding that manikin. I tried to send a text to Brooke explaining the scene and how it made me feel, but I couldn't whittle it down to 160 characters so I gave up. She is accustomed to me unloading my broodiness on her more often than I unload on anyone else I know, for she is one of the few people on this earth who doesn't think I'm freaky or obsessive or sad or pathetic or demented for liking children, for wanting children. Actually, she might think I am all those things and just hide it very well.

Here is the truth. I love babies. And not the way I love giraffes or penguins, although God knows I like those too. I have no illusions about how exhausting infants can be, and how terrifying and dangerous it is to be responsible for eight pounds of organs and nerves and skin that could go limp at any moment when you might have to use two fingers to pump oxygenated blood through their lilliputian body while trying not to break their little ribs. However, there are only two things I am good at. At least, good enough to be able to admit in public that I am good at them. Good enough to be able to say yes, I think this is one of my gifts. These two things are writing and taking care of children. This is a poorly written piece so please ignore the former, for now the latter is my matter of subject.

From the time I was about eight years old, when people asked me what I wanted to be when I grew up, I never had any fast opinions about it. Because, to be honest, the only thing in my head was who cares? I just want babies. Even amongst Mormons, it is not considered hip to like babies too much or talk too much about wanting children. Not because it's not expected, but rather because it's not really under your control, when or if it happens. Assuming too much about when you will get married and have children, or whether you will get married at all is dangerous. I have recently, in my old age (psh), come to the conclusion that in many ways, it is better to plan for the worst, a life of spinsterhood, and then be surprised when you somehow end up fulfilling your duty to the universe along the way. Better that than to sit on your hope chest all your life. Also, to tell others about how much I have disappointed myself in the past quarter century of life, how far my life is from what I had expected and hoped for, always sounds too sad to explain to others, especially when it connotes being somehow unwanted.

How did this end up being a post about being angry at God? It always comes down to that, though. I know God, and I know that He can deal with my anger just fine, so there are times when I just can't help throwing a little bitterness His way. I have never literally shaken my fists at the sky (that I can recall) but always my reaction, when I see a picture of another friend's baby or read another article from a parenting blog I still follow even though I am no longer a nanny (Embarrassing true confessions galore!). Sometimes I'm even jealous of my acquaintances who are stuck in miserable marriages because hey, at least they have kids. It's times like that when I can really let God have it, with words (in all caps) along the lines of HEY BUSTER HAVE I OFFENDED YOU IN SOME WAY? I MEAN REALLY? HOW IN THE HELL IS SHE MORE DESERVING OF CHILDREN THAN I AM? And so it goes. Of course, I am able to recognize the many ways in which I have been blessed. But that doesn't make it any easier when people I know, especially people I don't particularly like, kvetch about the difficulties of parenting small children. That's when I look up at the sky and say (again in all caps) SO THAT'S A CURSE HUH? WELL, SMITE ME, B*TCH!!!! Also, when people I know with children try to comfort me with words like Hey, it's not all fun and games. That's when I say OH WOW I KNOW THAT OKAY? Usually though, I just sort of grimace in response.

I can throw platitudes about patience and the Lord's time and all that jazz at myself even faster than other people can throw them at me, but the fact is, reassuring myself that someday MAYBE I will have children feels about as effective as telling a sick person about Heaven. Soothing in theory, but in the thick of the moment more frustrating than anything. It's much preferable to be cool--and oh! I really want to be cool!--and pretend that it doesn't bother me. That I have better things to do even though I am not sure what they are. One more shaken fist at Heaven for that, if you'll permit me.

If this is starting to sound like thousands upon thousands words worth of bitching, that's because it is. However, I don't think I have laid out my feelings on the matter in such an honest way before. It feels good. Still pathetic, but good.

You know what I was intending to write about tonight? This movie. I saw it at the Admiral and it was pretty good. Not what I expected, and I little absurd for my taste, but definitely enjoyable. Here is a quote from tonight's film that struck me, patched together from my memory and the internet:

“Your life is like a river. If you’re aiming for a goal that isn't your destiny, you will always be swimming against the current. Young Gandhi wants to be a stock car racer? Not gonna happen. Little Anne Frank wants to be a high school teacher? Tough titty Anne. That's not your destiny. But you will go on to move the hearts and minds of millions. Find out what your destiny is and the river will carry you. Sometimes events in life give an individual clues as to where their destiny lies."

It would, given everything I have just written and my mindset and the line about Anne Frank, who I assume wanted to grow up and have adventures and die in her sleep as much as I do, be easy for me to remember that quote and think to myself: OH SHIT*. Perhaps being a mother is not in the cards and I should just buy a tract of land and raise dalmatians.

I choose not to interpret the quote this way. Rather, that there are missions for each of us to fulfill in life, and sometimes things work out differently or not at all, and it all turns out OK. You recall my botched trip to Thailand. There was also the time in high school when I tried out for the school dance team and I was good, really good. Good enough, I thought, to make the team. Then I botched the audition and got rejected and hated myself. But a few weeks later while I was in Hawaii, I went swimming during a thunderstorm and busted my knee when a wave threw me onto a rock. So I wouldn't have been able to dance, anyway.

I still get notices from that hospital in Hawaii every once in a while informing me that my bill is paid in full.

I am currently choosing to believe that everything that has happened to me so far will eventually lead to all the things I have wanted all my life, but perhaps will be better or (certainly) more appreciated because of all the time I spent anticipating them. Like getting to eat ice cream for a week after getting your wisdom teeth out!

My mother made terrible analogies, my children will say.

*I know I've been working on the cussing thing. It's a process. Allow me this one indulgence, will you? Thanks. Also, please note that I starred the other cuss because I only wanted to do eight minutes of abs tomorrow. I have a busy day planned.

6 comments:

Brooke said...

Elisa...maybe it is your calling to be that really cool aunt, or the awesome hip after-school aide. You can establish a positive influence in the lives of young people without being an actual "parent." Maybe you can sometimes volunteer in elementary schools or something--SAME THING (I promise!).

But actually, kid's are hard work anyways. They poop and stuff. It's not all fun and games. Why do you want babies?
Without babies you can do whatever you want. You can be free.

And ultimately, don't worry-- you can have babies when you're dead!!!!!!!!

(did I do a good job of infusing that comment with all the vaguely insulting, non-comforting platitudes possible? I hope so.)

Real comment: Elisa, I love you.
and I promise I am not suppressing any secret attitudes of disdain or disbelief.
I don't have much that is comforting to say. Except that I know (a little bit) how it feels to live with disappointed dreams and frustrated life-expectations and it kind of sucks. I'm sorry.

Ashley said...

You know what's sad is that because I'm (happily) married and am a mother, that I have absolutely no right to even try to comfort you. But then again, you might not want any, anyway.

I do think that what you're feeling is normal, though. I experienced it many, many times. Sometimes I see a mutual friend on Facebook commenting on an ex's picture with his family and I embarrassingly remember how desperately I wanted it to work out with him at the time that it didn't (and sometimes to my chagrin to admit for ridiculously long thereafter--and I'm only saying that because none of them know you and will ever read this blog) and I see them with their own families and I can't help think to myself, "Would either of us be happy with each other as we are with our spouses? What about our spouses...would they be happy, too?" I suppose in the grand scheme of things that God is truly all-powerful and had all of us exercised our agency differently and would have made sure we all did turn out as happy as possible...but would it have been the same?

And Elisa, having to wait longer than you thought you would DOES make you more grateful for marriage and motherhood when it comes. That's worth something, especially when you realize how many people take it for granted.

Y'know, if I had married anyone else I wanted to--I almost certainly would not have served a mission, which means I wouldn't know you. There are a million other things that wouldn't have happened, either, but let's stick with that one. Dude, seriously, the heart break of getting dumped and rejected like that was SO worth it because I got to go on and have you in my life. There's probably a lot that you wouldn't have the opportunity to see or do or have if things had worked out earlier along with way with someone else.

Kinda like that deliciously cheesy and yet wonderfully touching and heartfelt song by Rascal Flats, "God bless the broken road that led me straight to you."

Anyway. Szeretlek.

eden said...

amen, amen, amen.

i have felt so many of those things so often. i also really just want to be a mother. so anything else that i choose to do is at best second choice (which is why it took me so long to finally decide on a master's program).

you have put into words so many of the thoughts that have run through my head multiple times.

Melanee said...

You love babies, I love kids. I am thinking ages 4-8. When I see them I just want to hold them, look into their faces, and listen to everything that is on their mind. Good luck with the job search/resumes/interviews. It was hard on me last year, but things have worked out. Thinking of you!

Rachel. said...

Amen. And thank you.

On my birthday last year a sister from my mission wrote me that she was jealous of me for living in Boston and going to grad school. All I could think was, "I'd rather have a husband and a baby"--both things which she has. This is also maybe why I can't be married yet, so I will do more school.

You highlighted one of the hardest parts, which is simply the uncertainty. A lot of times I feel that if I could just know if/when it would happen I'd be fine. But alas.

Anonymous said...

Elisa - you have PLENTY of time to have children, and you will be just as great a mother for waiting as you would be today (if not better - think of all the adventures you can have! I think those are great bedtime stories). Women today have children all the way to age 40. breathe. don't be too hard on yourself. have faith. :)

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