Eli's Corner


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temporarily possessed

I had an interview this morning.  The first one I’ve had in years.  I’ve decided it’s time to move forward with my life.  I’ve been in a major holding pattern with this whole fertility thing, and given the fact that I’m giving my ovaries some time off, I thought it would be a good opportunity to get back in touch with who I am and what I have to offer the world (aside from valiant attempts at procreation).

So no, I’m not getting a new job.  Prior to doing that, I’m going to have to have lots of meetings with accountants and lawyers, secure office space, hire at least two people and get everybody lined up with benefits.  In short, boys and girls, don’t go into business with your husband on a start-up; quitting is super complicated.  But this is not that story.

What I did do was finally submit a volunteer application that’s been sitting on my desk for about six months.  I mailed it off on Wednesday and by Friday already had a call back.  It turns out that my timing was good.  The local youth homeless shelter is desperately in need of English tutors right now.

I miss working with students.  And not just speaking to auditoriums full of them like I was for the past couple of years.  I miss the one-on-one interactions, investing in kids, helping them see their potential, trying to find a creative way to get them excited about learning.  I have limited experience with this demographic of student, but I figure, these kids are in need of nurturing.  And I’m in need of someone to nurture.

Don’t get me wrong – I get it that this is not about my needs.  And I don’t have a messiah complex or anything.  I’m going to be tutoring students, not saving them.  And being as how I am now old, have maturity and a good sense of boundaries, I was not intimidated in the least when she asked me to take a test to gauge the appropriateness of my responses in a variety of potential scenarios.  No problemo.

Most of the questions I answered easily.  No, I would not give a youth my phone number if he asked for it.  No, I wouldn’t confront a staff member about a decision he or she made in front of a youth.  Yes, I probably would go to a student’s university graduation if she asked me to years later.  Then question number four came.  I discovered that my brain could not formulate an answer to it, so I skipped that one, finished the rest of them and went back to it and stared at it for a while.  I was still sitting there staring at it when the woman called me back to reality.  I said I had answered all but one question.  She said, “That’s fine, we can just talk through that one.”  Then she proceeded to read it out loud:

“If one of the girls you worked with were pregnant and asked you to raise her child because she had no support, would you agree to?  If yes, why?  If no, why not?”

Um, this was unexpected. Obviously, in terms of boundaries, this is by far the easiest question to answer.  I see that now.  But in the moment, all I could think about was that hypothetical baby.  I sat there in what probably looked for all the world to be silence, but what was really going on can best be described in seconds 1.36-2.44 of the following clip:

When I came to, as if a spell had been lifted, I simply replied, “I would work with the staff to find the appropriate resources for the student.”  Seriously, it wasn’t that hard.  But you really wouldn’t believe how far that obvious conclusion was from my brain for several solid seconds.  Holy crap.

Well, assuming no expectant mothers are foisting their children on me, I think we should be fine.  And even if they do, at least I’ve already worked through my response.  Now I just have to remember how to write an expository essay without the gratuitous use of run ons.  And fragments.  And I have to remember how to stay on topic.  Again, should be fine.

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apart from this, i am

I spend a lot of time on here talking about who I am in the context of infertility, loss, endometriosis, chronic pain, a floundering career and various other issues. I appreciate this space, because I feel like it’s the one place where I can be as honest as I want to be about all of that.

But today, I’m doing something else. I’m taking some time to think about who I am independently of all of those things – as well as past pain and personal hangups –independently of any thing I would call an “issue.”

It’s so easy to identify with the hard things, and sometimes so hard to remember what’s left. So I just sat down and started writing a list, with general, timid terms at first, but they became a bit more confident and specific as the list progressed. Just for kicks, here it is:

So who is Eli, apart from all of this?

She loves to laugh.

She finds people interesting.

She’s compassionate.

She can be thoughtful.

She can be fun.

She’s good with words.

She doesn’t like conflict, but she enjoys a good debate (as long as nobody’s getting hurt or being super obnoxious).

She feels like culture is mostly crazy, and she wants to talk some sense into it.

She longs for truth.

She loves stories.

She loves to sing, mostly in private – although for a couple of years she sang lead in a heavy metal band because some boys at the high school where she worked as an administrator were looking for a lead singer for their band and asked her (possibly as a joke). She shocked them by saying yes. She always wore heels and a grey pantsuit when performing. The band achieved legend status.

She is the friend who will pay full price (even though she’s currently out of a job) to join you, your daughter, your unstable, recently-bereaved mother, and your alcoholic grandmother on a 2-week cruise when you have been ditched at the altar two weeks before the wedding and can’t get a refund on your honeymoon. She will go on that trip and sit in the middle of all that crazy with you.  She will sneak away with you to pound tequila shots.  If you eat 3 desserts, so will she.  She will even sing cruise lounge karaoke when you ask her to.

Frivolous beauty brings her joy. And makes her cry.

Mistreatment of the weak makes her angry. Like mama grizzly angry.

Sometimes she writes letters to celebrities she thinks are screwing up their lives and offers to let them come stay with her for a couple weeks. She thinks she could help. They never write back.

She likes nice things. And she likes to give nice things away.

She likes being around small children. She likes the purity of their interactions with the world, having not yet learned to stifle and mask everything they think and feel. She feels that children and very old people are lucky in that sense. They get to say exactly what they think.

Sometimes, she can be wise.

Sometimes, she can be funny.

Sometimes, she knows exactly what to say or do in a tough situation.

She believes people matter. She feels that especially young girls don’t know that they matter nearly enough.

She will stand in the path of a violent, heavily drugged man on the street (even though she’s very much expecting to be hit) because she doesn’t want to live in a city where people can be brutally attacked by a stranger in broad daylight and have their attacker walk away unencumbered while fifty spectators step aside to let him pass. She, in her heels, slacks and fluffy sweater, will be the one person to calmly stand in his way and tell him that he does not get to run away but must stay here and deal with what he has done. And for some strange reason, he will listen to her.

She’ll buy a homeless woman lunch because she really wants to buy her flowers but thinks it’s a jerk move to give a hungry person flowers and not also lunch.

She has little respect for people she thinks are phony, no matter what position they hold.

She just generally has a pretty low tolerance for BS.

She’s attracted to honesty, even if it’s honesty about unattractive things.

She’s attracted to humility.

She’s always been a sucker for a boy with a guitar, and she eventually married one.

She loves, loves, loves that she gets to see her quiet husband be crazy, goofy, brilliant, irreverent, and just straight up weird in a way that no one else on the planet ever does.

She is reborn every time she feels the warmth of the sun on her skin.

She likes the laugh lines she’s getting, but is not too fond of the sun spots.

Beautiful, clean spaces are balm to her soul.

She roofed houses to pay for college.

Every once in a while, she will embark on a crazy adventure that takes a great deal of courage. She hasn’t done this in a little while, but it’s in her.

She left a good chunk of her heart with a poor family in Argentina who loves her better than most people can probably love anybody.

She can pretty much quote entire Disney cartoons as well as chapters of the Bible.

She does a bang-on southern belle accent.

She thinks she looks good naked, if she’s very honest.

She’s willing to change when she learns she’s been wrong, even if it’s hard.

I kind of like her.

Who are you apart from this? I’d love to know.


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one year on

One year ago today, my nephew fell off climbing wall in what would turn out to be one of the defining moments of his life.  I remember that day.  I remember the call.  I remember we had found out we were pregnant the day before.  I remember seeing him in the hospital before they wheeled him in for the first of many surgeries, listening to him say that he couldn’t feel his legs.  I remember sitting with his mom, gently repeating the prognosis that she was having difficulty absorbing.  I remember sitting on such happy news, such wonderful news, in the waiting room until the wee small hours while the surgeons dug splinters of bone out of my nephew’s spinal cord.

A week or two later, when he was more stable, and while the family was still gathered, we shared our news.  It was earlier than we would have otherwise done so, but it seemed alright…we all needed some good news, and we were all together.  There was a lot of celebrating, but the kind of muted celebrating one engages in when one knows there’s grieving going on too.  It really does not feel like this could have been a year ago.

I remember how getting laid off suddenly seemed providential, that it seemed like a great idea to start helping my husband out with the business and then just transition into being a mommy while helping out here and there.  A good way to not have to leave the work force entirely, but to still get as much mommy time as I needed.  On that front, things were working out.

And then we had that horrid ultrasound.  I remember we found out the baby was dead the day before my nephew left the hospital.  My husband insisted that we go to the party they were throwing for him.  It was too soon.  I was raw with grief.  In hindsight, it might be good that some of them saw me like that.  Otherwise I think they might assume that this whole thing was fine.  I just don’t think they have any idea.  People said some well meaning but clumsy and hurtful things.  I tried to not look as though my heart had just been ripped out.  I smiled for the photos.

On the one year anniversary of the fall, my nephew is walking.  He walks with a cane.  He wears a catheter.  He has no feeling in his groin or backside.  His foot has been welded together in a solid lump of bone, and he has some brain damage.  He is in almost constant pain.  He has a sense of humor.  He’s the same charming, self-effacing, fun-loving, slightly lazy kid he was a year ago in many ways.  He’s adapted amazingly well to his new life.  But I’m still unwilling to accept that this is his life.  I still want more healing.  I want him to be able to use the bathroom and have a normal sex life.  I don’t want pain for him.  It’s such a mixed bag.  So much to be thankful for, and still much to grieve.

And in my parallel little trajectory, I’m getting inseminated tomorrow.  My husband came out of surgery ok and is expected to regain function of his arm after his accident.  So much gratitude that he is ok.  So much gratitude that I have him.  Some grieving over a career cut adrift for no reason and a year lost without a child.  Some grieving of our son who would be four months old.  Some grieving over the uncertainty of the future, the “what-ifs” that will come into play even if we are pregnant again this time.  Some distance from family and friends who have ceased to be enthralled with our struggles and are just waiting to tune in for the happy ending.  Some loneliness.

I guess life is a little bit like this.


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Job (not like employment job – like the guy God messed with)

If you grew up as churched as I did, which, well, you didn’t, unless you’re a Hasid or something (in which case you only had to learn the Old Testament, so I might still have you beat) – but anyways, if you grew up anywhere near as churched as I did, you know who Job is.  If you don’t know it, his story goes something like this: Job is an upstanding guy who’s got everything going for him.  Satan dares God to take everything away from Job to see if Job will stay faithful to God.  God takes the challenge.  He takes away all Job’s belongings.  Job stays faithful.  He takes away Job’s health.  Job stays faithful.  He takes away Job’s children.  Job, astoundingly, stays faithful.  In the end, Job is rewarded for his faithfulness with good health, lots more cows and camels and stuff, and a bunch more kids (the interchangeability of the kids in this story was always deeply troubling to me, but that’s not the point).

I’ve never much liked the story of Job.  It always made me feel like Job (and by extension, people in general) were pawns in a game of one-upmanship between God and Satan.  But the story does bring up what have turned out to be some salient questions for me recently.

Since September, I’ve lost my dream job (ok…it wasn’t my dream job…it was a job with my dream organization which I thought was going to lead to my dream job and which I passed up a graduate program to take), I’ve had a big ramp up with all the chronic pain issues as well as various hormonal/chemical woes, and I’ve had the incredible elation of finding out I was finally pregnant followed by the loss of that child.  In addition, I made the decision, while pregnant, to start working for the company my husband started out of our guest bedroom this year instead of looking for another job.  I thought I’d be doing consulting, but really, I’m doing bookkeeping.  I’m an ENFP.  Bookkeeping is ENFP hell.  It didn’t seem so bad when I knew that I would soon be a mom and this would be practical work I could help out with here and there while focusing primarily on being a parent for the next few years.  Now, however, I’m on the brink of turning 34, I have nothing to show for my career to-date, I’m doing a job that has nothing to do with my abilities or interests, working for my husband in the country that I moved to for my husband, far away from my own family, climate, and sense of place and history, and I am, again, childless.

Enter Job. (*Disclaimer* I realize this comparison probably sounds ludicrous, that this is whiny and I have lots to be thankful for.  Noted.  But I’m in this spot right now and I’m going with it, K?)  Like Job, I’ve lost my props – the things around me that tell me life is going well.  The physical evidence of a God who’s supposed to be good.  And it’s begging the question, who are you without your props?  When you’re stripped down and you’ve got no accomplishments or comforts to throw in front of yourself to show people who you are, what’s left?

I had always rather hoped, expected really, that I would be one of the generous, beautiful people if my life came crumbling down around me.  Turns out I’m falling kind of more into the curse-God-and-die category.  I’m becoming one of the bitter ones.  The ones who blame their spouses for their own decisions and are mean to call center customer service representatives and use their horns excessively while driving.  The ones who become the old people who no one wants to visit.  This is very disappointing.

We went down to the US for American Thanksgiving.  It was an odd time, since I haven’t spoken much with my family in the last few months, yet there was so much to say.  Consequently, I said as little as possible rather than spending the precious little time we had together sobbing.  One day over lunch we somehow got on the topic of this strenghtsfinder test we all happened to have taken and how our strengths lined up with what we’re doing professionally.  My brother’s a perfect match.  He was pretty much born to do what he does.  When it came to me it was clear that my strengths have nothing to do with anything that I do nowadays (which I almost certainly would not be doing had I not been pregnant at the time I got laid off), and in trying to sum it up and get off the subject, I just muttered, “Yeah, bookkeeping is not exactly my dream.”  My mom, not letting it go, asked, “What is your dream, sweetie?”  I was totally deer in headlights for a second.  I realized what I really wanted to say was, “I don’t mess with those anymore.  They give God too much leverage to fuck with you.”  Primarily on account of the various children present under the age of 4, I managed to instead say “Oh, I don’t know.”  Mercifully, my mom changed the subject.

But it’s true.  There’s a real bitterness working its way through me about having two of my fondest dreams (career and children) come so impossibly close only to be snatched away within moments of each other.  Hope is a cruel bitch, really.  And God?  I’m still working that out.

This is the point where I should come out with some brilliant conclusion to tie this all up into a lesson learned.  But I have only learned this: I don’t like who I am without my props.  I don’t want to be the old lady that nobody wants to visit.  I feel so effed at the moment that I don’t know what to do with these realizations, but I’m hoping this is a start.


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Layoffs and Inseminations

It’s been quite the week.  It started with me getting on a phone call along with everybody else in my division at work (about 30 of us) and being told by our VP that we’re all fired.  Just like that.  Mass execution style.  Of course they didn’t say it like that…something about “restructuring” and “redundancies” but the end result is the same: we are, all of us, jobless.  They’ve given us a chance to fight over the smaller number of jobs they will post in the new divisions they’re creating.  Naturally, this notion turns all of our stomachs.  This is an organization I’ve dreamed of working for since I was a little girl, but the sheen has worn off steadily over my 2 years of employment here, and at this point, I have to say I’m not sad to be leaving, although I am a bit sad about the sheenlessness.

I knew that I didn’t have another year of this job in me and had actually started looking around a few months ago, but the more I looked, the more I realized that my head was just not in the game.  Much as it seemed prudent to take the next step in my career, I found all I really wanted to do was have babies.  (By the way, if twenty-year-old me had seen me pen those words, she probably would have hurled herself from a precipice to save me from such a fate..it’s amazing how things change.)  At any rate, lacking the gumption to throw myself heart and soul into a new venture, I was kind of toying with the idea of lingering on in a job I was growing to hate in hopes of getting pregnant and still having benefits, mat leave, etc.  I have now been saved from that fate.  I feel like the air just got a lot cleaner.

So that was Tuesday.  On Saturday I got artificially inseminated.   When I got the news about being laid off, I was already well into my superovulation drug cycle and had been injecting myself with hormones every day.  It was determined that I would be doing my own injections after my husband dangerously straddled a line between puking and passing out during the orientation wherein the nurse was merely describing what was going to happen.  Bless him, he’s got many strengths, but biology isn’t one of them.  Fortunately, the procedure itself turned out to be a non-event compared to the lead up – for both of us.  It was nowhere near as bad as the HSG, and much quicker than the nurse’s description of it.

So now I wait.  And look to the future, which must include employment somewhere, and hopefully, before too long, will involve little follicles growing into embryos growing into fabulous little humans – and enough income to feed said humans.

I’m finding at the moment that I’m able to wait with a measure contentment and peace, for which I am thankful.  And I find myself currently in touch with the reality that my joy, my fulfillment, my raison d’etre, is not tied to any specific outcome.  That whatever happens, I will be loved, there will be cause for gratitude, and I will have the power to choose, even if it is merely to chose the direction in which I will turn my heart.  And that will be enough.