“It Was at Times a Long and Difficut Road…”

Farhampton

…Ted Mosby, hero of “How I Met Your Mother”

HIMYM Finale spoilers

I have dreaded the end of my favorite show, “How I Met Your Mother.” For some reason, the end of the show signaled to me the end of an era – the end of a pleasant nostalgia for my own days of freedom and choice when my only worry was determining what time I should meet Darcy and my wonderful friends after work. (We had our own “MacLaren’s” in London.) It’s hard to close the door on those fun times, and I sympathesize with Ted’s tendency to live in his stories. I figured the point of the finale would be that embracing maturity is rewarding, since that was a constant point the show made over the years. But I was wrong.

I have always admired the show, by all accounts a mainstream sitcom on the most banal of networks, because it never trod upon the easy, well-worn paths of normal half hour comedies. It dared to show us the ugly, uncomfortable truths most adults face. Broken romances with no villans, the shifts and alienations in friendships, difficult and bitter choices husbands and wives make for the sake of relationships and children. And of course, it offered one of the most realistic depictions of the heartbreak of infertility. By the way, Robin’s infertility storyline was called “one of the unwelcome times the show got too f****** real” by someone on a forum I read. HIMYM definitely did make forays sometimes into the dark side of life.

Yes, the show was unafraid to take us there: to the dark side. I think the way the creators and writers got away with it with it was because they were, well, f****** funny. And then there was the nine year mystery of the titular Mother. How would Ted Mosby meet his dream woman? That kept viewers (mostly) coming back for more.

I’ll confess I didn’t like the last season much. I was tempted to skip past it and just watch the finale, but in the end Darcy and I crammed much of the entire season into just two nights of viewing so we could watch the finale in real time. We knew the spoilers the next day would be too many to resist.

And so we finally reached the final episode, which unlike the last 23 episodes (all of which tediously focused on 48 hours), fast-forwarded 16 years in one short hour. The twists and turns were punches to the esophogus, and by the time we reached the absolutely gorgeous meeting of Ted and the Mother under that yellow umbrella, I was pretty spent. But of course there was that last final twist, which, well. If you watched the show, you know what I’m talking about. Turns out, the Mother was long dead, and Ted Mosby’s story was all about Robin anyway, not the Mother. Robin, his first love whose own life led down a difficult road filled with infertility, divorce and loneliness. The point was not that Robin was his true love all along. It wasn’t that simple. But she was the point of his story. He would resume his quixotic quest of her, 20 years later.

Here’s where I confess I loved the ending. I know, you probably hated it. Most of Twitter did. (Someone I didn’t know yelled at me on Twitter and implied I sucked for liking the finale.)

So, here’s why I loved the ending. I thought it was true to life. Life has triumphant moments for sure – the meetings under the umbrella, the legendary times you steal a shopping cart from a stuffy British grocery clerk on a dare and wheel your best friend away in sheer exhilaration (allegedly), the rush to the hospital when you’re nine months pregnant, the beautiful wedding ceremony surrounded by friends. The road to those moments CAN be long and difficult, and the road can contain disappointments, defeats, brutal compromises and boredom along the way. And life can, no, WILL be marked by terrible moments too. The devastating diagnosis of infertility, the loss of your loved ones, a broken heart. And we don’t control when the road stops, we just know it will.

The ending acknowledged all of this. And yet, in the end, Ted chooses to fight, to continue to fight to be happy.

In other words, we can’t control fate. Terrible things will happen to us and eventually the curtain will go down on our own story. But we can choose to fight to be happy.

I hope like Ted Mosby, that I always choose to fight.

Thank you, Craig Thomas and Carter Bay. It’s been real, and I thank you for that.

Did you love or hate the finale? And if you were not a viewer, were there other shows you have strongly identified with?

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Filed under Infertility, Parenting After IF, What Say You?

Opportunity Costs

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There is an evergreen concept I return to time and time again, and ironically I lifted it from a college course that was mostly incomprehensible to me. When I took the midterm for Econ, the course in question, I remember actually filling out the scantron in a random pattern of mostly “Cs,” because I had heard from an RA that “C” was right more often than any other answer on multiple choice tests. Amusingly, a guy behind me kept peering over my shoulder, trying to cheat off me. Sorry, dude.

The concept is “opportunity cost” and it’s pretty simple in theory. It means the value of an opportunity you pass by because of circumstance or limited resources. In more poetic terms, it’s the worth of the road not taken.

And I think we can all relate to that.

***

I can’t speak about my job, but I can say I love it. Mostly, I love working with people. For years, the only face-to-face interactions I had were with other moms at pick up and drop off, or at a few scattered playdates here and there. As a result, I imparted those brief encounters with tremendous weight. And that had a negative effect on me. I thought of myself as an introvert, but the truth is I have both introverted and extroverted sides to myself.

I could talk all day about how domestic work doesn’t have enough value in today’s society. Obviously there are situational variances in today’s world. The value depends on circumstance – where you live, what your family thinks about SAHMs and how your significant other regards the work that is done in the home. All I know is the work of cleaning, cooking, reading, teaching: it never ends. There was never a goal completed. And that was unnerving to me. My freelance work was of a similar nature. I hungered for a few words about my job performance. But none were forthcoming. It was an endless hamster wheel.

***

That being said, because I am human, I worry. Am I a good enough mom? Although my immediate “village” supports my work, and actually elevates me for doing this work (Status! Love! Support! It’s intoxicating!) I know there are others who frown upon it. And like so many who read me, I worked darn freaking hard to have my kids. They are my world. I love them beyond measure and reason. And my work helps pay for a school that values kindness and education above all. This school is like a coccoon for the twins: it loves, shelters, feeds, nurtures them. And there is no question that they are enveloped in a protective silky casing helped them to grow and thrive since starting kindergarten. They are showing signs of being smart, inquisitive, justice-obsessed, empathetic people. I know in my heart that my decision is best for everyone – all of us in this little family. But that doesn’t mean that I don’t occasionally pick at that scab of doubt and condemnation that unfortunately seems to live, eternally growing new scar tissue, within each woman’s heart.

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So I think of the opportunity cost – the value of what was not pursued because of limited resources. Unlike a lot of people, I think, I am not haunted by goals I never achieved. I’m not an achievement obsessed individual, at least not on a personal level. I mostly don’t worry about the non-fiction book I never wrote or the novel I halfheartedly started but then walked away from. I don’t stay up nights feeling depressed that I missed the boat on working for some great start-up with an excellent exit. For me life has always been an obstacle course to mostly just be negotiated – a great (mostly) meritocratic race to a finish no one wants to reach. Death. What a bummer.

No. What I think about, my opportunity costs, they are experiences.

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How do you value an opportunity cost? A road not taken? I don’t know.

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Do you?

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Filed under Parenting After IF, What Say You?

Trying to Rock It, Maturity-Style

Well this is just a simple song
To say what you’ve done
I told you about all those fears
And away they did run
You sure must be strong
And you feel like an ocean being warmed by the sun

I’ve had this recurring nightmare.

You may not know that I love the show “How I Met Your Mother,” and not only because of the considerate and accurate way the series handled Robin’s diagnosis of infertility. I haven’t really been able to pinpoint why the show has resonated so strongly with me. But it has.

In my recurring nightmare, Ted Mosby is finally about to meet the mother. I do everything I can to twart this inevitable event (we know how, why and even when they will meet at this point in the series). I find this dream very, very odd.

I’ve been reading articles on the AV Club about the series, and they have identified (accurately, I believe) the overarching theme of the show: accepting maturity and the struggles this involves. Essentially, maturity means accepting that you no longer have endless choices. Maturity means you narrow your focus, you do what’s best as opposed to what’s fun or intriguing or may appeal to you in the moment. Maturity is not about the moment.

When I was just nine years old
I swear that I dreamt
Your face on a football field
And a kiss that I kept
Under my vest
Apart from everything, but the heart in my chest

“How I Met Your Mother” handles the discussion of what maturity means and what you lose when you embrace it. There are obvious benefits to maturity: security, stability, roots, a purpose. The American Dream is all about maturity. But very few cultural touchstones we watch or read handle what happenes when the obvious paths to maturity are lost, for reasons deliberate or not. That’s why this post is so interesting.

For so long, because my own path to maturity was blocked, I didn’t really consider what maturity represented and the losses that result once you are, well, mature. But since I started to work full-time again, I’ve started to consider those losses more fully.

I know that things can really get rough when you go it alone
Don’t go thinking you gotta be tough, and play like a stone
Could be there’s nothing else in our lives, so critical
As this little home

My life in an upturned boat
Marooned on a cliff
You brought me a great big flood
And you gave me a lift
Girl, what a gift
When you tell me with your tongue
And your breath goes in my lungs
And we float over the rift

Living a live purely for the virtue of others is appealing in many ways. In order to provide the life we want for our children, both my husband and I have to sacrifice dreams of our own. I know this may sound incredibly selfish, but the truth is sometimes I just want to go get a pedicure, or work out not worrying about the health benefits but fully exerting myself, risking injury. Sometimes I want to have seconds of a delicious dish. But I know I must not.

Instead of weekends seeing friends, I rest and spend time exclusively with my children and husband. The work of the week has taken its toll and I’m tired.

I know that things can really get rough when you go it alone
Don’t go thinking you gotta be tough, and play like a stone
Could be there’s nothing else in our lives, so critical
As this little home

Well this would be a simple song
To say what you done
I told you about all those fears
And away they did run
You sure must be strong
When you feel like an ocean being warmed by the sun

We went to Bend, Oregon over Christmas, and in the car, on the way home from the slopes, “Simple Song” by The Shins came on. All four of us listened along, stunned by the song’s beauty.

At that moment I realized what my nightmares about trying to prevent Ted Mosby from meeting his wife meant.

I’m afraid of the overall embrace of maturity. I’m afraid of living life purely for others. I’m afraid of losing a part of a silly, fun yet essential part of myself.

The end of The Shins song is an actual end to “How I Met Your Mother”: the footfalls of the mother’s (admittedly cute) but heavy boots arrive to the sound of this tune at the end of last season. Those boots symbolize the end of many choices for Ted Mosby: we know he immediately marries the mother, and has two children (a boy and a girl) in short order.

I’m kind of dreading the end of the show. I like that a major popular series actually tackles a peroid of life so many don’t.

Remember walking a mile to your house
Aglow in the dark
I made a fumbling play for your heart
And the act struck the spark
You wore a charm on the chain that I stole
Especial for you
Love’s such a delicate thing that we do
With nothing to prove
Which I never knew

The Shins, “Simple Song”

Of course, as The Shins song states, there is great comfort in “not going it alone” and much, much happiness is to be found in the idea that our “little Homes” are the most critical part of our lives.

And sometimes, we just have to cling to that.

Do you sometimes find maturity to be stifling? Or are the rewards so great that you don’t mind being stifled?

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The “Breast is Best” Campaign is Evil

Yes, you heard me right.

Three weeks ago, I rushed to the hospital. One of my best friends in the world was battling a life-threatening infection. The diagnosis? Complications from breastfeeding.

She had been dealing with medication-resistent thrush pretty much since her son was born. What does this feel like? Let me quote her:

“The pain is getting so intense that I am starting to get very anxious about feedings.”

Translation: every feeding was so painful she dreaded the next, and still she continued on. First trying a natural solution, Gentian Violet, and when that didn’t work, she began taking Diflucon. Her symptoms did not improve. She continued seeing lactation consultants and doctors, but nothing worked. Friends and family members implored her to quit, but she wouldn’t. Why?

“I suppose some of the “breast is best” campaign has seeped into my psyche and maybe that is part of the reason I want to keep going. The truth is I haven’t done much of my own research into formula vs breast milk, though I’ve read the thoughts and opinions of lots of people on both sides of the argument. I have personally never liked the ‘breast is best’ campaign or any message that declares breastmilk’s superiority over formula and I have argued for formula feeders time and time again. Still, I feel almost certain that subconsciously I do believe that breast milk is better.”

One week later, she would be in a hospital bed with sepsis.

How Being Able to Breastfeed is Like Being a Range Rover Owner

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Giselle, our modern day Marie Antoinette, wants to jail those who can’t breastfeed. She’s a clueless airhead, so it’s easy to dismiss her comments.

But there’s something in the analogy of a super-priviledged celebrity telling everyone to do something that they, in many cases can’t physically or financially do, that is telling with this issue.

What many breastfeeding proponents don’t seem to understand is the physical impossibilities for many. Just like some women are blessed to be fertile, some are blessed with the ability to breastfeed. For many women, they are blessed with neither of these capabilities.

Like Mel, who does not produce prolactin. Or me, someone who was unable to increase her supply after pumping every three hours around the clock for four months and taking an experimental drug (domperidone) that led to a chronic acid reflux problem I am still grappling with 6 years later. I wish I had not taken that medication in retrospect, but I was so desperate to breastfeed. I was so convinced my children would NEVER BE OK if I didn’t breastfeed.

It’s so stupid.

Yet, the breastfeeding police (from La Leche League to members of a twins club I belonged to) descended upon me as I struggled, prescribing all sorts of pseudo science explanations to increase my supply, and they guilted me into continuing.

When I asked those policing me about their OWN struggles around breastfeeding, what was described were problems so much more minor than what I was dealing with. Yet, they felt justified to look down their noses at me and say: “Breast IS Best, you know.”

You KNOW WHAT? It’s NOT.

How is this reaction different than someone who can afford a Range Rover looking down on those who can’t?

The ability to breastfeed is a PRIVILEGE. You are LUCKY you have the physical ability to do it and you are lucky to have the financial resources to be able to do it. That’s all.

Sisters Doing It For Themselves

Most of the people I know who breastfeed are, of course, not like this. For those who are lucky enough, for whatever reason, to be able to breastfeed? I support you. I have your back. I will fight for your right to the resources you need to make it happen. I admire you.

And I know you too, in turn, have the backs of those who are not able to breastfeed, for whatever reason. You know that you are fortunate and priviledged, and others are not, and you would NEVER make mothers feel bad for not having the resources to do this.

But society has not caught up with this sisterhood. We need to stop with the “Breast is Best” propaganda. Because this propoganda can kill.

I am furious that it almost killed my friend.

No. MORE.

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Music and Memories and Journeys

Thanks to so many of you for pinging me and saying you wondered what was going on with my job. In short, I love it and am enjoying my profession more than I ever thought I would.

But I have missed writing here.

Tonight, the story of “Peter and the Wolf” came up, and Darcy told a gruesome and untrue version of it. I have a distinct memory of seeing the San Francisco Symphany “tell” the story, via a famous actor whose name unfortunately escapes me. I loved the introduction to the orchestra’s instruments: the flighty and foolhardy duck who meets a terrible fate, as portrayed by the oboe, the clever and small bird (the flute), the scary wolf (three french horns), stolid Peter (the strings).

Many years later, when we were traveling through Provence, (nerd alert) I was working my way through “The Lord of the Rings” series. This was six months before the movies came out. I decided I needed to finish the trilogy before I saw the films. The books were terrifying to read in parts – I remember in Avignon, we stayed in a lone cottage in the forrest, and I was so unnerved by the description of the Ringwraiths that I stayed awake all night, jumping at small noises.

The next day as we drove through a beautiful sunflower populated road, filled with flowers leaning towards the solar rays, we randomly turned the car radio to a classical music station and listened to a French version of “Peter and the Wolf.” I struggled to understand what was transpiring, as the narrator took us through the action.

The music became my own internal soundtrack as I made my way into “The Return of the King.” As I finally reached the crucial section when it is clear Frodo has completed his mission, the strains of the triumphant procession of Peter and the wolf, on their way to the zoo, echoed in my brain. I was in a bathtub in the villa where F. Scott Fitzgerald had written “The Beautiful and the Damned,” the hobbits had won, and I felt magically immersed in literary destiny.

Tonight I showed my already blasé children a YouTube video of “Peter and the Wolf,” and to my surprise and delight, they watched every moment of the 30 minute clip in suspense and wonder.

Tonight was a truly wonderful and resonant moment, where a tradition was passed simply from one generation to the next. And this is as miraculous as a duck alive in a wolf’s belly, quacking its own tremulous tune.

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Filed under Discovering joy, My Favorite Things, Parenting After IF, writing