Eli's Corner


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thank you.

It’s funny the things that stand out in your mind as anniversaries. The markers on this meandering road are different for everyone. For me, Halloween was a marker. It was a marker because last year, I was participating in the Pumpkin Smackdown Challenge hosted by Barren Betty and Fertility Doll. I was reeling between disappointments, still in the throes of the battle, and that simple pumpkin carving contest was seriously a lifeline for me. Feeling connected with other women who were in this with me, getting a chance to poke fun at my disease using the pumpkin as a medium and seeing the creativity and genius of fellow IF bloggers as they transformed simple squash into humorous, often poignant depictions of their frustrations, hopes and disappointments. Then there was the added thrill of winning in my category and having a proper certificate and prize mailed to me from another continent. As pitiful as it sounds, that really meant a lot to me. I didn’t feel like I had an awful lot going for me at that point, and it was wonderful to feel seen, acknowledged, and in a way, looked after by other women in this boat.

I was not in a place where I would dare to dream that this Halloween I’d be trying to find cheeky ways to dress up my bitty bump, but that I’d ultimately come home from work and just zonk out because of pregnancy tiredness and skip the parties and costumes, watching the Corpse Bride as a nod to what day it was and getting myself and my peach-sized baby in bed by 9. I still can’t believe that I get to be here.

Thinking back on last Halloween got me thinking a bit about what this community has meant to me. Like many of you, I came here not expecting to find a community but simply looking for a place to vent. What I found was the one place I could be truly honest about how I was feeling, how much I was hurting, how desperately I wanted this, and how weak I was in the middle of it all. What I never found – not once – was judgement. I did not find unhelpful advice or empty assurances that everything would be fine. I only found understanding. Only space to be where I was.

And I found you and your stories. With parallels to my own – stories and lives I could actually relate to. I found hope in all of you – that even if nothing worked as I hoped or planned, I could still be resilient and strong, still me, still awesome. I could grab life – even if only what was left of it – and make it my bitch. Because I saw you doing it. I saw you go through deep and painful things and get up and try again over and over and over. I saw you hold to your faith, to yourselves. I became involved. I saw you hurting, and I hurt with you. I felt your victories just as strongly.

I found the closest thing I’ve found so far to a silver lining. One likes to try to find meaning – anything redemptive in this process – and hearing from people now and again that my working things out on the page had resonated with or somehow helped them made me feel a little better about being in this shitty process.

Now I’m just going all intense here – but I didn’t grow up in a family that was super good at relationships, and belonging doesn’t come easy to me. But I think I found a little bit of home here. And I just want to thank you for the thousand little ways you’ve helped brighten my path and carry my load the last couple of years here. You are luminous, courageous, vulnerable, strong, and deeply maternal – if justice were the dominant force in the world, none of you would be here, but it has been a mercy to people like me to be here with you.

Much love,

Eli


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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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the internet is good, vol. 1

Here are some things I came across on the world wide web that made my week better:

Some of the most profound things I’ve ever read are in a pocket-sized book of Fred Rogers quotes called “You are Special.”  I’ve had it for years and only recently bothered to read it.  It’s all simple to the point of sounding extremely corny, but I somehow feel like I’d be a wiser, more confident, more whole human being if this guy were the voice in my head.  Here he is being all simple and profound before a senate committee: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=X_JPEWhV9N8

This mixed-message pep talk is actually more similar to the voice in my head: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qNDK7nLSL_Q

Jilian Burden is one of those people who has really beautiful, gracious words for things I didn’t know how to articulate.  After reading a post from an acquaintance (who is a successful mommy blogger) about the royal postpartum bump that was written in a very rah-rah-my-baby-weight-and-stretch-marks-make-me-better-than-you kind of way, this gentle, heartfelt admission of longing was a balm to me:  http://www.addingaburden.com/2013/07/when-you-would-die-for-post-partum-bulge.html

Over the past couple of years, I’ve become obsessed with storytelling podcasts, particularly This American Life, and more recently The Moth.  Here is a story I loved.  Take from it what you will.  My take is, “It is never too late to be awesome.”  http://themoth.org/posts/stories/the-case-of-the-curious-codes


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oddly, gratitude

My husband set off on Saturday to do his first (un)official century ride.  He’d trained and crosstrained and was so ready when he set out with his buddy in the morning.  An hour later, the landline rang.  Nobody has that number.  I glanced at my cell phone.  Dead.  I ran upstairs as quickly as I could to get to the phone.

Flash back to a few days after our honeymoon when my husband set out for a ride and I got a call from an unknown number on my phone.  I didn’t pick up at first.  The person called right back, and I dove for the phone, knowing instinctively that something had happened to my husband.  Sure enough, it was a stranger telling me that my husband was being loaded into an ambulance.

Flash back a few months before that to me coming home from a movie with my mom and sister who were in town to help me plan last-minute wedding stuff.  I glanced at my phone and saw several missed calls from my dad’s number.  I checked my messages.  It was a stranger’s voice.  Somehow in my gut I immediately knew that my dad was either dead or in a coma.  It was just a question of which one, and if he was dead, if he had died alone.  Somehow it was that simple.  (A phone call would reveal that when he fell, he never hit the ground, that he was caught by two young men he had mentored when they were in prison.  I was so thankful they had been there to catch him when his heart stopped beating.)

These are the calls that make the earth stand still.  I remember that rushed, interminable drive to the hospital to find my husband, my father’s death still fresh in my mind, my whole universe imploding, thinking how things don’t always end up ok now.  Everything is up for grabs.  I remember a calming presence enveloping my mind, telling me this was not that, telling me he would be alright.

Running up the stairs to grab the phone, I went through an abridged version of all of these experiences.  It was my husband’s voice on the other end of the line.  Thank. God.  Yes, he had been in an accident.  Yes, he was on his way to the hospital.

We spent Saturday in the Emergency Room.  His elbow is badly broken, his forearm essentially dangling there.  For some unfathomable reason, they have not been able to get us in for surgery yet, so it’s been an exhausting week of waiting at the hospital, being sent home, being ready at 6am to go in and being told not today, getting 5:30am calls saying we’ll call you again every hour on the hour until we know, and on and on.  Meanwhile, he is swelling and in pain and has a giant hunk of sharp bone floating loose in his arm.  It’s incredibly frustrating.

And yet, every time I look at him this week, I’m so thankful.  Yes, I’m frustrated that they aren’t taking this as seriously as I think they should, but when I compare this to when 20 doctors were gathered around my nephew in the trauma ward last year, I’m thankful.  And when tomorrow (yes, it will be tomorrow.  It will.)  they wheel him out to put him under, I will make sure I say I love you, and I will be a little afraid, but I will be thankful.  And just so very thankful when it’s done.


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Isabel Allende, she kicks ass

In an effort to not go insane this week, and in keeping with my mantra of “Distract!  Distract!  Distract!”, I’d like to share with you a couple of my favorite things.  They have nothing to do with baby-making.

I saw this Ted talk by Isabel Allende and became immediately infatuated.  Such that I took it upon myself to start reading her books – in Spanish.  Granted, so far the book reading experience is less revelatory than listening to the Ted talk, as every other sentence sends me switching out of my Kindle App into my online Spanish-English dictionary to figure out what the heck a juala is or some such thing.  But I trust that will get better with time.  (Like, for example, I totally know juala now.  It’s a cage.)

But yes, Ms. Allende.  She is the kind of woman I aspire to be when I am older: braver, more irreverent, more sincere.  (Also brilliant, hilarious, beautiful, wise, rich and published would all be great.)

I leave you with this.  It’s worth a listen.

http://blog.ted.com/2008/01/03/isabel_allende/