Archive for April 2013

I Am Sarai

My gorgeous sister carrying twins.

In the bible, Sarah is the first of the three Mothers of the Old Testament. She gives birth to Isaac late in life and spoiled him as older mothers tend to do. That’s why he thought he could get away with marrying two women. But that’s another story.

Before Sarah gives birth to Isaac her story is defined by a single fact: She is barren. In fact, she transitions from Sarai “the barren” to Sarah “the fruitful” when God promises he will give her Abraham’s son, just as long as her handmaiden Hagar gets to have one of his sons first. Sarai agrees, that’s how desperate she is to become a mother.

My husband and I were never sure we wanted to have children, even before we met each other. We both grew up with some impressive examples of couples we envied whose lives seemed complete and exciting without them. But it seemed inevitable that I would one day be a mother. Maybe it’s that I played with dolls until I was so old I had to play with them in my closet. Or maybe it’s the fact that when presented with a room full of people, I gravitate almost immediately to the youngest person in the room.

But even when I had a punk-rock short hair cut and a nose piercing and would walk around going, “I’m never getting married or having kids,” people would almost always roll their eyes and reply, “Yes you will.” Meanwhile, when my cool best friend said the same thing they’d just sort of nod and shrug. 

I did end up getting married, so I suppose it goes without saying that I might begin to consider having children. For a long time I set the fall of 2012 as the deadline during which we would sit down, draw up pro/con lists, interpretive dance it out and make our final decision.

Delicious baby Addison.

As fate would have it, we skipped the reasoning portion and instead discovered that I was pregnant. But there was a caveat: I had recently been diagnosed with a series of extreme internal gastric varices – like varicose veins in your legs, only throughout your digestive tract. They were part of a bigger genetic condition that will someday end my life if the meteor doesn’t get here first – or I don’t step blindly into traffic. I was told that having the baby gave me a 40% mortality rate. The fetus didn’t have much of a fighting shot either. What’s worse, the odds were even greater that I would grow sicker more quickly, even if I survived the birth.

However, there was a little glimmer of good news winking like a hooker on Sunset suggesting that I might be eligible for a procedure that would take the pressure off those engorged veins and diminish the mortality odds significantly.

The pregnancy did not end up viable, so when I was able, I  had the surgery. I did not have it so that I could have a baby. As I mentioned, we weren’t even certain we wanted to be parents…But we wanted the choice.

That’s pretty much the thing about life. When you are told you have to go to school, there is no place you’d rather be less than school. But after you’ve graduated you consider taking evening classes, studying Spanish in your free time, listening to books-on-tape about the fall of the Roman Empire or tulips – for no other reason than that it is your choice to do so, because tulips are not that interesting.

I once co-authored a book with an expert who focused heavily on the notion of “agency” or allowing people to have a sense that they have chosen their path – be it at work or in life. It’s a fundamental tenet of happiness. When you start to feel trapped on the paths of have-to or obligated-to, misery must be close by.

This guy is the main reason I am still the luckiest girl.

The procedure to take the pressure off my insane vascular system was a failure. Two subsequent tries proved equally useless. And I found myself sullenly eating way too much green jello – Why is that a thing at hospitals? My husband and I learned that while I am not significantly worse off than I was before, I had lost the vital option to choose.

My path is now bound by the probability that I will impair my health substantially and endanger the health of a child if I try to have one the “normal way.”

It’s always best to focus on what is within your control than to rail against what you cannot have, says the universe. If I truly want a child, perhaps like Sarai, one will be granted me and then you can call me Joselah – or Joselin’s fine, maybe with some kind of jazzy arm motion.

Or maybe I’ll get my nose re-pierced and get a funky hair cut and try to believe that this is my chosen path. I have at times believed I had chosen this very one.

But I didn’t. Not anymore. Now this is and always will be the path that has forced its way beneath my feet. Now I am walking, but the roadblocks are everywhere and all I can see is where I cannot go.




A Women’s War

Now that the marathon bombers have been identified, I’m sure the usual string of questions will begin popping up beginning with, What kind of person does something like this? Their religion and political affiliations will be categorically dissected, their race, explored – especially by my husband who does a really good George Carlin-esque bit about the trials and tribulations of the white man.

But one thing that I keep thinking about, one thing that is irrefutable whether the bombers turn out to be deer-eating, Monopoly-loving,  Metallica-listening junkies or yuppies – is that these people are men.

I know, I know. I love men. In fact, I have some really good friends who are men. But isn’t that the thing every time? When newscasters talk about the “men” the police are looking for, no one goes, “Why do you think it’s a man? Maybe it was a that old lady over there brandishing the machete!” Because, let’s face it. That old lady is way more likely heading out on an Amazon expedition with that machete than killing people.

There are still a few old school feminists who like everything to be all-things-equal, and will kick up a ruckus over terms like “actress” and “waitress.” But the fact is, a lot of us new school feminists like that men and women are not equal (except when it comes to getting paid. Then we don’t want equality, we want more). But in the case of Boston and in terrorist attacks worldwide – Women rarely mass murder.  Unless they are part of a larger male-lead movement that uses violence as a viable means to an end, women are just not killers in the same way that men are.

I once started a novel in the spirit of George R.R. Martin about a little boy who grows up in a tribe of 1000 women and ultimately leads them to war- a women’s war. I wanted to figure out how women, separate from men – little boy character aside – would do battle. Would they even do battle? I haven’t officially written the war yet, but one thing I wrote is that women move toward birth and life – men toward death. It is the yin and yang of everything. We are moving in different directions and therefore would always live, battle, even hope differently.

But I decided soundly that a woman’s war would be about living. It would be a quest for life and freedom – not it’s opposite, which is what this terror war is about – death and fear – forced shackles and bondage – You WILL bow down to Zod. A women’s war would be about a turning toward the light – a saving of the bad so that it turns to good. Not a destruction of the bad so that it breeds even worse.

I know how fundamentally flawed my argument sounds. On top of the fact that there isn’t enough patchouli in the world to contain this idea, of course there are women who kill. There are entire female prisons filled with these killers. It doesn’t matter that the majority are there because they were defending themselves or their families – because I’m sure a lot of them are there because they are just plain old garden-variety assholes. Just like there are plenty of men who are vegan pacifists who hate Metallica.

But the fact remains, statistically these people who bombed those kids and mothers and fathers and brothers and sisters – they were going to be men. If any of us had money on it, we weren’t gambling on a woman.

But I am hopeful, even if I hope like a woman.

I hope that every new now brings with it a chance for change, a movement toward goodness and life and light.

I hope to see women leading us all out of our sorrow, fear and devastation over this senseless attack on sweet innocence – those beautiful children, all of their families and us all.

I hope that women, every one of us, will stand up and lead our men and each other to a place of calm and love and life.

I hope that when our mourning ends, we are moving more strongly toward birth and away from death than ever before.

I hope…but I am a woman.

I hope like woman.

At the dog park this morning I was telling my friend Julie about my women’s war. She asked if I had read Y: The Last Man, a graphic novel about the world after all men but one is dead, leaving only women. She told me about one tribe that cuts off a breast in order to better aim her bow and arrow to shoot and kill.

No, I told her. I hadn’t read it. “But it’s written by a man, right?”

“Yeah,” she answered.

I think he’s wrong. Women wouldn’t getting better at killing. There are far too many things in this world to heal.