Monthly Archives: December 2011

The Year of Living Joyfully: What Did I Learn?

I proclaimed 2011 the year that I would live joyfully. I even said I would try to write every day about joy.

Eh, I mostly complained.

I found that trying to live joyfully was not really practical. As my dad said a few weeks ago:

“Maybe joy just happens and you enjoy those few moments. But you don’t try to plan your day around it.”

I think that’s maybe the definitive word on the subject.

I did make five unexpected discoveries through the process of writing this blog which directly led to more happiness in my life.

1. Friends. I was really lonely in my SAHM life, and until this year didn’t have any real friends who understood the sort of strange hold infertility still had on me. They couldn’t comprehend how anxious I was to keep my twins safe and secure. They didn’t get why I was so devastated by my miscarriage, since I already had two kids. I pasted a fake smile on my face everywhere I went and acted the way I thought someone should. It felt like a charade.

But this blog opened the door to a whole secret society of women who wrote about similar feelings. About survival guilt, the need to always be grateful. These women were funny, bitter, real, optimistic and helpful. You all made my life so much better, richer, thoughtful and more fun. I really can’t thank you all enough.

2. The importance of making occasions special

I tended to slog through life as if everything was a chore to be gotten through. That is a natural tendency of mine. It’s probably some sort of genetic thing, plus a legacy of the pain and tragedy endured in my 30s. But this year we did a few things that were SPECIAL. We went to Disneyland, we saw my parents for Thanksgiving, my daughter and I saw The Nutcracker for the first time, I went to a concert with Esperanza and Bodega on my birthday, Darcy got a hotel suite for our anniversary. Those moments when I was able to break free from routine and enjoy either the wonder of others or be silly or live glamorously: those were joyful moments and I think I did a pretty good job of inhabiting them fully. It’s those moments that I remember as I look back on 2011.

3. The lessons of “Status Anxiety”

I tried to embrace different philosophies in my attempt to seek joy. Most of them didn’t help me, and a comment Lut Cass made stuck with me for the most part:

“I find that philosophy was invented by men who had too few household chores.”

Isn’t that awesome?

One book, though, I did enjoy: “Status Anxiety”, a prescient slim tome written almost a decade ago. Botton encourages people to not keep up with the Joneses, but to live a simpler, slower life devoted to more bohemian ideals. He also taught me that spending time with my peers in my area, who only really talk about working out, how perfect their kids are, remodeling and starving themselves is not good for me. Each time I would return from speaking to people like this, a little bit of my soul would die. That’s why the blogosphere is so necessary to me. Y’all are real and down-to-earth.

4. I love writing

Blogging, which some people consider writing and others don’t, is something that makes me tremendously happy. Everyone in my family is a published writer (my brother was nominated for a Pushcart this year, my dad is a well-known Bay Area journalist and novelist, my mother has won several major poetry contests) so I was the rebel who worked for the “man” and turned my back on my heritage. I so didn’t want to be a writer, mostly because I would never measure up to my lineage. Now I know that while I am by far the lesser writer of the Carrolls, I don’t really care anymore. I just love what I’m doing.

5. Laughing is really important

Whether it was:

– Texting with Esperanza about what cars are the douchiest. (Her: Audis. Me: Range Rovers.) And our bottom fives. (1. War 2. The Babble Top 100 Mom Blogs List 3. Social inequity 4. The Kardashians 5. Disease)
– Hilarious Tweets from The Bloggess

– Laughing at Darcy’s stories
– Listening to the epic tale of the time well-known, sincere, urbane Brooklyn musicians Matt and Kim played at a last-minute concert promoted and organized by my brother. The concert featured a buddy’s first (and last) performance as “Mr Hand”: he played samples of obscure dialogue like “I smell a rat” over loud, techno beats – and Caged Match to the Death. Talk about a mismatch of audience. “Kim looked really scared.”
Cake Wrecks

SO that’s what I learned. In short, laugh, have friends, enjoy the fun times and don’t hang out with douchebags.

What did 2011 teach you? What’s your current Bottom 5?

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It’s a Wonderful Life: A Study of The White Picket Fence and the Life Less Chosen

So, in case you didn’t know, I grew up with Christmas. My dad is even one of those Bill O’Reilly “War on Christmas” guys. I love everything about Christmas: the carols, the pageantry, the food, the eggnog and most especially the tree. Each year when I was growing up, just like out of some wacky sitcom, my family would pick out a tree that was too big. Too big to tie to the top of the car, too big to fit into our ridiculously rickety tree stand. My dad would swear a lot the day we brought home the tree. But somehow my mom would always make it work. She had a handmade skirt that she always tied around the tree as the first order of business. Then we would listen to a TERRIBLE record of Christmas carols by, I believe, the Mormon Tabernacle Choir, as we decorated the tree. The worst song was called “Christmas Tree”, a cheesy, 80’s style ballad, complete with a 40 year old woman pretending to be a six-year-old girl. “ChhhhrrriiissstttmmAAAAS TTTRREEEE!!!”, she would sing, in what was supposed to be the winningly off-key style of an adorable little girl, but in reality was a banshee wail which would send our family pets running into another room in terror. Ah, memories.

My husband is Jewish and one of the things I gave up for loving him was Christmas. I do get a few things: I get to take our children to The Nutcracker and each year I watch “A Wonderful Life”, which is one of my all-time favorite movies. Inevitably, it makes me emotional for several reasons: the first is the regret that I don’t celebrate Christmas anymore. But the second and more powerful reason is that I don’t know that there has ever been a more accurate depiction of the American Dream in all of its complicated glory and splendor and difficulty.

I mean, who better embodies the 1% than Mr. Potter? So much about the movie is timeless: the ideals of small town life versus the constraints of ambition; the desire to travel, see the world and make it on your own versus the pressures and the constraints of family and romantic love.

George Bailey is seriously flawed: he’s often sarcastic, he tells it like it is, but he’s an idealist ultimately who realizes his family is the most crucial element of his life. Honestly, he reminds me so much of Darcy and that may be what I love most about him. But there is nothing sappy about his eventual realizations and the movie has very, very dark moments.

I feel the closest modern-day equivalent we have to this movie is “How I Met Your Mother”, which honestly does contrast both the joys but also the boredom and sacrifice involved in choosing a traditional married life with the glamorous, fun, yet sometimes sad “life less chosen” path: Robin clearly won’t have children and it is doubtful now that Barney will either. Although I’m pretty sure they will have an awesome and “legen-wait for it-dary” life. Mostly.

Anyway, I envy George Bailey his beautiful Victorian house and his many children and his friends and relations who bail him out of trouble in the end, because he has helped them so many times in the past. But he would envy me too: he’d envy me for my travels and adventures. He’d envy me for going to Paris and living in London and honeymooning in Africa.

And in the end, that’s the movie’s great point. We all have Wonderful Lives. Just by being alive and being in others’ lives and trying to do good.

“Strange, isn’t it? Each man’s life touches so many other lives. When he isn’t around he leaves an awful hole, doesn’t he?”

Indeed.

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I’m Syndicated on BlogHer Today!

I am so incredibly proud that today my “Rashomon: The Ill-Fated Blogger Sleepover” post has been syndicated on BlogHer! It’s currently even on the front page. Check it out, here. I can only think of a few things in my life that I have felt more excited about.

Friends, I would seriously love and appreciate any commenting on the BlogHer post or tweeting love you could provide for this.

Thank you, all!

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That HIMYM Infertility Episode: Looking Into the Abyss

“As deep and poignant as the episode was, I guess there are some abysses you just have to look away from.”

Esse Quam Videri, poster on the AV Club discussion board

Monday afternoon, West Coast Time

A blizzard of tweets began to fly from my ALI twitter friends about something that was afoot on “How I Met Your Mother”. HIMYM is a show I watch religiously, in order: I have seen every single episode sequentially until this current season. Because like a dolt, I forgot to DVR my season pass and I want to watch it with Darcy, not online (it’s a rare show we both love), so I had consigned myself to catch it when the DVDs came out. I take a stubborn pride in watching all my favorite shows in order.

The reaction was pretty phenomenal, though, about HIMYM. I haven’t seen such a stir since PETA’s vasectomy campaign.

Well, I had to watch it now.

So I did. Holy crap on a stick. !SPOILERS!

The show begins with a twist: the conceit of the series is that Ted Mosby is telling his two children in 2030 the story of how he met their mother. Almost every program starts with Bob Saget (as the voice of the older Ted) saying something like, “Kids, you know I spent a lot of time in bars,” or “I did a lot of stupid things in my day.” Or “Kids, did I tell you about the time I got a butterfly tramp stamp?” Ted tells a lot of inappropriate stories to his teenage children. But this episode shows a different boy and girl than Ted’s usually pictured duo and Robin is doing the voiceover to HER future children. As the show progresses, Robin tells the story of how she thinks she’s pregnant, finds out she’s not pregnant, is very happy not to be pregnant (“Sorry kids!”) then her OBGyn calls to tell her (in blurred specifics we can’t hear) that she will be unable to have children, ever.

Robin, who has long proclaimed that her career is more important than her than having children, is absolutely devastated by this diagnosis. I assumed this meant that she would eventually figure out a way to have children or adopt, but as Robin sits on a park bench in solitude in present day, coming to terms with her infertile status, she starts speaking to her raven-haired girl and Neil Patrick Harris doppelganger. (He’s supposed to be their father, according to Robin.) Here’s the full speech:

“So kids, I settled in for a Christmas alone. I appreciated that Ted wanted to cheer me up. But honestly, it wasn’t necessary. So I can’t have kids. Big deal. This way there’s no one to hold me back in life. No one to keep me from traveling where I want to travel, no one getting in the way of my career. If you want to know the truth of it, I’m glad you guys aren’t real.” Cut to Robin’s children, who fade off the screen like ghosts, clearing the way for a shot of Robin sitting on that park bench alone, while it snows.

“Really glad,” says Robin who looks utterly bereft.

(The actress who plays Robin, Cobie Smulders, did a pitch-perfect job in this entire episode)

The show wraps up by Ted saying that Robin turned out to be many things, but she was never a “pole-vaulter”. (“Pole-Vaulter” is the show’s euphemism for being a mother.) But one thing Ted says she never was: alone.

I’ll admit that I started sobbing when her children receded slowly away the frame. I’ve been on two message boards (EW and AV Video Club) and most commenters (male and female) said they felt “kicked in the gut”, “devastated”, “sad”. Some reported their own troubles conceiving and received positive, encouraging comments (and not one of those comments said “Just Relax” or “Just Adopt” either) and some were just angry that the writers could DO this to Robin.

What I think this episode did is frame infertility for those not in the know. Robin is a beloved character, a friend almost to people, and to see her diagnosis, her reaction, and her goodbye to the dream of children was heartbreaking. I have to hope that some empathy was gained.

On the other hand: the abyss. When I was going through infertility, if I had seen that episode in the middle of the my treatments, I would have been very disturbed. Robin’s Abyss: the hole in her life where we know no children will be was visible. That empty, sad park bench haunted my nightmares last night. I know that my worst waking nightmare was that I would have to face that abyss. So I definitely sympathize with Starfish Kitty Dreams about her reaction.

What do you think of this episode? Educational and full of heart? Too difficult to watch?

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