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Sunday, June 28, 2009

Weaving a Story

Greetings, Coffee-Sippers!

This is Monica, thoroughly buzzed and reporting to you live from a cozy coffee shop in McCall, Idaho. Kevin and I are in the midst of road-tripping to various mountainous locales - some of which have - gasp! - no Internet connection. This is proving to be a source of faux-frustration. Not only does it prevent me from jumping online at every whim to Google pointless things like "sexy cowboys" and "cupcakes" - but also it forces me to do this thing called "living my life free of distractions" - something Kevin and I used to do all the time.

Last night, for example, we played Scrabble. There are way too many vowel tiles in Scrabble - especially the letter "i." Our balcony overlooks a turquoise blue lake fringed with pine trees. The people next door argue all the time. I have a hangnail on my toe. Kevin looks good when he doesn't shave for a week. I might not have noticed any of these things had I been Googling "sexy cowboys" and "cupcakes."

Oh, there is one big distraction I have that doesn't involve the Internet, and that's putting together the next issue of Exhale. You know, I realized this past week that one of these days, sometime over the next year or so, I won't be suitable for Exhale anymore. I'm already wondering if I'm still suitable for it.

Let me explain. Here's a big part of what "putting together Exhale" involves: kicking back with a cup of tea, reading through the heaps of submissions in my e-mail inbox, and doing something with them. That means either accepting them to publish, or rejecting them. Now, I love that people write things and send them in to Exhale. I believe in writing as a cathartic and teaching tool, and it always makes me feel thoroughly honored and glowing inside that anybody feels compelled to write about such personal things in their lives and allow me to read them. It takes such courage and involves huge risk; I know this because - in my search to put my OWN dead-baby story out there, I've had my share of rejection.

Yet, what I'm finding lately is that I'm having trouble...well...feeling anything anymore when I read these incredibly poignant and sad stories. They don't move me like they used to. More and more of these submissions end up in the "rejection" pile as time goes on, and this makes me feel sometimes like a bad person. I guess when I started Exhale, I didn't realize that accepting and rejecting sad stories would be a part of my job as editor. Not that I knew who on earth would be doing that if not me; it just didn't dawn on me that any rejection would be required.

When I do get a piece that brings tears to my eyes - which in fact happened just a few days ago (and you can bet this piece is going into the next issue) - here's what it has that the others don't: a deeper story.

What I mean is this: they don't just narrate the event in a minute-by-minute, hour-by-hour description, without any greater meaning or underlying theme (first I started bleeding, then I started cramping, then the doctor told me, then I started crying. the end.) They don't just tell me exactly what happened and assume that their story is naturally so different from the others, so dramatically and unusually poignant that it will stand out in a readers' mind as particularly enlightening and unique. They dig deeper than that, and look for some great greater meaning or lesson. Or, they provide such a strong voice that they convey that event in a way that moves me, simply by the way that it's told.

The truth is that pregnancy and infant losses - and even infertility journeys - happen in more-or-less the same way. Sure, there are medical and personal details that set one person's story apart from someone else's. But by and large, the physical and biological event itself is not a unique story. Which makes it especially challenging to write about it in a way that's unique and compelling, that teaches us something, that truly makes a mark on the world.

Really, isn't that what we look for in all good writing? Writing about anything? Take describing a battle, a death of a loved one, a bad break-up, a dining experience at a new restaurant. What draws you in as a reader and impacts you is the deeper story you can weave from it, and/or the voice with which you tell it.

That's what I look for in Exhale. The submission that brought tears to my eyes began like this:

One night not too long ago, my brother Dean and I were helping my mother up my front steps in the darkness, jockeying her suitcases, a get-well balloon, and her walker. She had endured a lengthy surgery to correct severe spinal stenosis, a condition that had caused her chronic pain, and would be staying with me for a couple weeks to convalesce. As a Vietnamese woman, she has always been petite, but I was shocked to see that the surgery had diminished her still. She seemed vulnerable and small, curled up on herself like a fern before dawn. I was tired too, nearly 12 weeks into my first trimester of pregnancy, and looked forward to the end of what had been a long ordeal of visits and consultations related to my mother’s care.

Inside my tiny kitchen, my father—my mother’s ex-husband, who had fallen for her when he was a soldier fighting the war—was helping out by preparing dinner. It was the kind of bachelor meal he was always preparing: store-bought rotisserie chicken, canned green beans, and instant rice. We sat and ate, silently. It occurred to me that this was the first time my family had been in the same room in more than 20 years.

Now, I wont tell you the rest. You'll have to read this issue to find out. But I will say that as I began reading this, right away I was drawn in, and compelled to keep reading. That's because - although I knew this story is about miscarriage - notice the total lack of anything miscarriage-related in the entire beginning of this story. That already told me this particular miscarriage story would be couched in something greater and universal. Something about family, about tradition, about food.

And sure enough, by the end of this piece, I was snivelling in the passenger seat of our car going 60 miles an hour down a mountain road as Kevin drove, wiping my nose on my wrist. Kevin reached over and touched my knee. He knew I was reading a doozy of an Exhale submission; didn't have to ask.

I don't know. Maybe I'm getting jaded and cranky in my ripe old age of 33. Maybe I'm reading too many sad stories and they're losing their meaning. If I were a person who really had clout in the world, like a political pundit or a world famous author, I'd put out some sort of "call to action" to all of the writers and talkers and thinkers out there: look deeper than the surface of the thing that happened, and ask yourself what more universal meaning you can draw from it. Spin that story out, because that's what will make a mark on the world. If bad things happen for a reason, there must be something we can learn from it. Find that thing and tell it well.

But, who the hell am I to boss people around - especially given that I'm about the furthest person from a "writing expert" (or an anything-expert, for that matter) on the face of the planet. Actually, I take that back. I do consider myself an expert on HUNKS. Knocked down hunks, that is.

If you haven't voted yet, get over there and do it! The hunk voting deadline looms large! Better yet, get me your picture for the next gallery.

Sunday, June 21, 2009

Ask a Dead Baby Momma: Sugar Egg Sensation

Dear Dead-Baby Momma,

Yesterday I was out with a bunch of people and slipped into a total dead-baby funk. Why didn't everybody sense that, drop what they were doing, and come over to give me a group hug, those insensitive fuckers?

Funked Out Amid Insensitive Fuckers

Dear Funked Out Amid Insensitive Fuckers:

Dead Baby Mommas understands. You, alone and funked-out inside your head while the rest of the world spins convivially and unaware. I call that the Sugar-Egg Sensation.

Remember sugar eggs?

A hard decorated sugar-shell surrounding an edible panoramic scene made of hardened frosting, usually involving something juvenile like bunnies or ducks (how often I have tried unsuccessfully to explain to others what sugar eggs are and why they are cool!). The Sugar-Egg Sensation is simply when the outside of your body is like a hard sugar shell, and the inside is a totally different hidden scene that few people can detect. And your inner scene isn't a pleasant one of ducks and bunnies either: more like grumpy little trolls eating handfuls of mud and glaring at one another.

And yes, Funked-Out: few people can - or will - detect that unsavory inner scene.

But there is hope!

Let me digress into a brief, related anecdote. Not long ago, I was at a happy hour gathering with friends from work. One guy's mucho-prego wife came along, her belly popping out at the seams. We were all drinking sangria and munching on Spanish tapas while sunlight poured through the tall open windows. From the corner of my eye, I kept noticing the mucho-prego wife having these contemplative, intimate moments that I recognized: those miraculous instances of feeling your baby kick you hard on the insides. She was in her own sugar-egg world, the mommy-baby-connection-world that nobody else has access to, stroking her tummy and gazing out the window with a slight smile on her face. I got that, remembered it.

When the entire group conversation suddenly drifted toward this woman's belly and the subject of "what it feels like to have a baby move inside you," everybody was instantly excited, because blossoming babies are a community interest, an intriguing and much-loved subject by all. The mucho-prego wife's eyes lit up as she explained the sensation, imitating it, punching someone on the upper arm to show what a foot or a knee or an elbow feels like against your inner walls. Again, I got that, and I couldn't bear to look in her direction, the reminder too visceral, sudden sadness too intense. I could almost feel a baby moving inside me, the magical "whoosh" that I'd felt so often during my drive to work that summer, two years ago, or standing up in front of students. A shadow cast itself instantly across my mood, consuming me with the barren sense of being alone inside my sugar-egg world. And yeah, my little funk went unnoticed to *most* people at the table (*most* is a key word here; keep reading).

Now back to you, Funked-Out. What to do about it?

Let's start with what NOT to do about it: expect those "insensitve fuckers" to change, or resent them for not seeing into your world. In their defense, allow Dead Baby Momma to gently point out: most people in the world are neither "fuckers" nor "insensitive" in the truest sense (and if they are, you shouldn't be hanging out with them anyway). Most people are rightfully too busy tending to their own psychological worlds to notice your internal (and totally valid) shit-storm, and quite plausibly may be wrestling with their OWN Sugar-Egg Sensations to which others are equally blind. So forget that.

Instead, let's focus on what you CAN do. Dead Baby Momma recommends a patent-pending, two-step strategy.


The first step is the hard part - akin to swallowing a vegetable that you hate while singing the Chinese national anthem: respect your internal world, while respecting others' internal worlds at the same time. That is: as you peer out at the world from your lonely hidden sugar-egg scene, you embrace your dead-baby funk (for fuck's sake, you lost a baby - or a baby-like entity- and funks are to be expected! If you didn't have funks, Dead Baby Momma would be concerned for your psychological health!) and - at the same time - be a gracious member of the human community, one with dignity, wisdom, and empathy for others' conditions. Say something nice to the prego woman at the table, even if it hurts. Fake a smile if you have to, or politely excuse yourself to use the restroom.

By practicing this skill, you learn to let go of the things you can't change; namely the fact that the world moves on, even as you still get stuck in your Sugar-Egg scene. Plus, you take your traumatic past and channel it in a positive and outward manner (okay, Dead Baby Momma has no idea what that second part means, but it sure sounds good).


This is a very important step, so listen up, Funked-Out. There are very likely one or two (or more!) keenly perceptive people who know you, who get it, whose sensitivity and ability to understand things beyond their own worlds far transcend what others are capable of. They sense your retreat into your Sugar-Egg world and try to reach you there (even despite potentially grappling with their own internal turmoil), letting you know you aren't alone. Once you know who they are, cull them deeper into your life and don't let them go, and be sure to let them know in clear, blunt terms how grateful you to have them nearby. They're a rarity, and they will help keep you safe and sound as you continue down this strange, lonely, funk-laden road of grief.

Dead Baby Momma recognizes steps 1 and 2 aren't always easy. Quick return to my happy-hour funk at the Spanish tapas bar, just to illustrate. I would give myself...oh...about a C+ in achieving Step 1. I tried to be a good sport - man, did I try - but this particular funk was more of a doozy than what I was used to, blindsiding me. Next time I'll do better. As for Step 2, I was lucky to have two such friends at the table - M and S - sensing my funky little retreat into my own head, and just being there for me in a subtle, real way: a knowing kick under the table, a hand on my forearm, a glance into my eyes, an abrupt and strategic attempt to change the subject. They got it, and they were with me in my universe when I most needed help. Although I couldn't bring myself react or jump all over their presence, being too consumed by my own self, I am ever-grateful to have such friends in my life. They're those hoard-worthy types you never want to let go of. I don't think I ever mentioned to either of them how much those gestures meant to me (which would lead to a grade of about B-), but I will.

So there's what you do, Funked Out. Oh, and there's a Step 3, too: go out and find a sugar egg and buy one, so that you can revel in the pleasure of breaking apart the outside, eating it and getting your face all sticky with pure sugar residue, and then biting the ass off the bunny on the inside. Zany pleasure!

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

The Hunks are Up!

Good Morning, Caffeinators!

I'm heading to our not-very-exciting state capitol today to sit at a table with a bunch of people in suits and talk about our college education system. Then I'm coming home to continue working diligently on tracks 2-3 of the KuKd Folk Series...coming very soon.

If you didn't just fall backwards out of your chair from pure envy, check out Knocked-Down Hunk Gallery #2 and vote for your fave! Next hunk-submission deadline is September 1st.

Saturday, June 13, 2009

A Tocophobia Sandwich

Greetings, Fellow Travelers on the Road of Life!

Today, this sunny Saturday in Seattle, I had a specific plan to take control of a specific fear in my life. But that original fear got trumped by another fear - fear of the plan itself - so I ditched the plan altogether.

Regarding this fear, have I mentioned my post-KuKd Tocophobia? Surely I've alluded to it, and of course know that that word means. But in case you don't, let me explain:

Tocophobia is simply another word for Maleusiophobia, which - as anybody with first-grade-or-higher vocabulary level understands - is a synonym for Parturiphobia, which - as even your Amish grandmother living in a rural cave with no TV or Internet will inform you - is no different from Lockiophobia. Which - as indexed in the bible of all bibles of phobia lists - means: "fear of childbirth or pregnancy."

Ahhhh, pregnancy. Remember the days when it looked like this?

Just a lovely ten-month journey fringed with foliage, a hopeful springtime breeze caressing your ears, a shining light at the end of the tunnel beckoning you. Come, Fertile Princess of Motherly Nectar! it said. Come to the Land of Ever-Flowing Breast Milk and Shimmering Sense of Purposefulness, Warm Rosy-Cheeked Child Awaits the Love Pressing Against the Walls of Your Soul! It looked like that for me the first time, and even the second time.

Then came my third stint at being knocked up. Gone was serene foliage, the peaceful silence, the safe and inviting passageway calling my name. Nuh-nuh-no. For me, pregnancy kind of looked like this:

Yes: like a strange acid trip, swirling with hallucinations and spinning unknowns, where nothing was as it seems. And in fact, it wasn't. Just a blighted ovum (Mother Nature's greatest mind-fuck).

So where does that leave me? It leaves me as a bona fide Tocophobe, certifiably and nail-chompingly afraid of looking up (or down at that pink plus-sign) and seeing yet ANOTHER ten-month pregnancy tunnel stretching out before my eyes, looking more or less like this:

That would be me, flailing around in the air, propelled through this shadowy tunnel of horrors with the evil Dead Baby Goddess's face floating in the background. And each of those doors off to the side represents a potential danger - a radiologist jumping out with a clipboard and a grim expression, relaying some awful news:

your baby has five heads and webbed feet!

Or: there is no baby!

Or: the baby is dead and seeping into your bloodstream, which has already caused widespread gangrene, which means we will immediately have to amputate all four of your limbs!

Or: you're pregnant with a thriving fetus, but it's not a human fetus; it's some genetic cross between a flying Mexican wombat, a platypus, a Tazmanian devil, and an ear of corn.


You think I must be kidding, but I'm not. I know it sounds crazy, and it is. But nobody ever said that phobias are normal and rational things.

* * *


Kevin and I both decided last week that my haphazard shrieks of "PULL OUT! MAKE A MAP OF HAWAII ON MY STOMACH FOR ALL I CARE! JUST PULL OUT! NOW!" would not be an effective long-term way to deal with this gnawing, nagging fear of pregnancy. No, no. The real way, the best way, the grown-up way, the responsible way, was to go on the pill. Not forever, ya know. Just for the next year or so, while I sorted things out in my head. Just a way to bide myself some time for deciding if I really want to embark down that tunnel again.

So, I told my doctor I really needed this drug to maintain sanity, and she wrote up a prescription for a few months' worth of low-dose birth control pills, the name of which I've already pushed violently out of my mind (keep reading). I was told to start them this Sunday. Today is Saturday. The pharmacy closes at 1pm. And the one, single meaningful errand I had to run today was to pick up my first pill pack.

But then, I made the mistake of Googling this particular pill, which - according to drug-review blogs apparently filled with ranty, hormonal women - comes with some side effects that made me pause:

-weight gain of 10 to 15 pounds
-sharp mood swings and depression
-acne outbreaks


Now, am I the only person who finds it difficult to justify popping a pill (one pill a day, actually) that could potentially turn me into fat, zitty person with an attitude problem? Believe me, I already have days when I perceive myself as such. So why would I want to inch myself even closer - quite literally- to that unwanted physical and mental state?

So I paced back and forth a bit, asking Kevin what he thought, feeling wholly unsatisfied with the polite, respectful-of-my-female-power vagueness of his answers that civilized modern-day men are trained to give ("It's your body, honey - totally up to you! I'll go along with whatever.") Seriously, sometimes I wish I had a dominant, caveman-like husband who bossed me around: "YOU WILL GO ON THE PILL." or "YOU WILL NOT GO ON THE PILL." God, that would make life so much easier sometimes. (Actually, "YOU WILL TAKE OFF YOUR BRA" might be something I could get into...hmmm.) Anyway, I digress.

So, tocophobia then got trumped by...what...Dysmorphophobia (fear of deformity or unattractive body image)? Badmoodophobia (OK, I made that one up). Whatever. I was caught in a conundrum, trapped between phobias. A "fear sandwich" of sorts!

In the end, Fat-Zitty-Bitch-O-Phobia took over, and I skipped the pill, opting instead to do something totally unrelated to fears: ride my bike to the market with Kevin. We sat out in the sunshine and gorged ourselves on stuffed cabbage rolls from the Russian ladies and strong Americanos with lots of cream. I also made some loud obnoxious animal noises that caused Kevin to glance around nervously to see if people were staring (I LOVE getting him to react that way!) Let me tell you, this was much more fun than taking the responsible path of dealing with my tocophobia. Just don't tell any BOGS I said that.

In the end, although Kevin doesn't know this yet (as an intelligent human, however, he probably senses it coming like a dark thundercloud on the horizon): the new Tocophobia-busting plan will probably end up involving the help of you know who:

Not that Kevin remembers what one of those looks like, or how to use one. My gut tells me he'll catch on pretty fast. Which means that the only risk involved would really be

Hey, I can handle that over the other "side effects" any old day.

Sunday, June 7, 2009

KuKd Theme Song

Hello, Janis Joplins and Bob Dylans!

I've always liked to sing in the shower, but I've never been a songwriter. At least, I wasn't until I got embroiled in the KuKd shit storm of 2006-2007, when I finally had something to write songs about.

One day, I began writing folk songs in my head. I don't even like folk music that much - I'm more of a bass-thumping-booty-shaking-hip-hop kind of person. Still, the words came to me during my long drive to work, gelling in my brain without much thought, as though propelled by some sort of cosmic force of nature. As green freeway signs and Mount Rainier and shiny Mini Coopers whizzed by, I began belting these songs out to myself while going 70 miles an hour - mouth wide open and eyebrows scrunched together - not caring if the person in the lane beside me thought I looked like was having a solo orgasm in the car.

Then, a few weeks ago, Kevin and I were in Portland, Oregon for a spades-playing-and-beer-drinking excursion with friends, when we passed by this:

Standing there outside the store window, I suddenly remembered my folk songs. I could see those songs hovering inside my head like dusty little blobs of music notes, bored and wishing somebody would pay attention to them. I had this fleeting image of myself as Janis Joplin, sitting up on stage with a spotlight on me, singing my little ditties with Zachary applauding wildly from the MTV Realworld Penthouse for Bitchin' Stillborn Babes up above. I knew right then and there: I had to buy a guitar.

Not that I had any freakin' clue about HOW to play a guitar, but still. That was a minor detail that I figured would work itself out later. So I dragged Kevin into that store and asked if they had any lefty guitars on sale, and they did. So out came the credit card, and boom - suddenly I owned this instrument that I had no idea how to play.

Now, I should say that I did take piano lessons growing up and sang in school choir on and off, and lord knows I love to talk and yell (loudly), so I felt that turning myself into an overnight Dead Baby folk sensation wasn't nearly as implausible as it might seem.

So far, I've learned three chords. And - surprise, surprise - it is those exact three chords (whatever they are) that I decided do turn into the accompaniment for my very first song, "For Sure." I'm going to give you a sneak peek of my song, which I'm calling this Track 1 in the Knocked Up Knocked Down Folk Series.


1) I just have to make clear that in real life, I don't have a lisp. NOT THAT THERE'S ANYTHING WRONG WITH THAT; I'm just saying that I personally don't have one. Because I made this video using not a video camera but a crappy regular old digital camera that happens to have a video feature, it sounds a little fucked up. I wouldn't even have put forth this disclaimer if Kevin hadn't burst out laughing while watching the video, that adorable jerk.

2) I suck at guitar. Seriously, I do - especially the rhythm of it. I'm taking lessons and working on it, okay? So cut this Dead Baby Momma some slack. Even if it's just because I'm a Dead Baby Momma (that is, under ordinary circumstances you wouldn't feel sorry for me at all but rather admonish me for daring to put my twangy, out-of-tune chords out there for the public to be embarrassed by), feel sorry for me and forgive the twang. If I ever get to use my KuKd Sympathy Card for some...yeah, sympathy (ding ding ding! I sense a new word for our Knocktionary!), it's now.

3) Apologies in advance for dropping the F-bomb. To all you stillborn babes listening from up there, it's only okay to do that if you're a grown-up, and only under appropriate circumstances. Got that?

All right, boys and girls. CLICK HERE for the video.

Oh, and in case you're the type of person who likes to read the lyrics on the CD cover and sing along, here you go.

"For Sure"

You might have been a bratty toddler,
Screamin' and throwin' your food.
You might have been a horrible speller,
With bad punctuation too.
You might have been a high school drop-out,
thinking school was only a bore.
You might have turned into a druggie,
living dirty and jobless and poor.

But I don't care what you might have been...
I just wish I could've known for sure.

You might have been obsessive compulsive,
counting every step that you took.
You might have been a Bill O'Reilly fan,
reading every one of his books.
You might have had issues with anger,
getting pissed off and slammin' the door,
You might have been a cleptomanic
stealin' money from my drawer.

But I don't care what you might have been...
I just wish I could've known for sure.

You might have been valedictorian,
president of your school.
You might have been a hottie like your dad,
making all the girlies drool.
You might have been a famous scientist,
discovering all kinds of cures,
You might have been idealistic,
Running off to join the Peace Corps.

But I don't care what you might have been
I'm tired of imaging what you might have been
I don't give a fuck what you might have been

I just wish I could've known for sure.

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Pollyanna Versus the Bitch

Greetings, Cheerfuls and Grumpies Alike! All are welcome here.

It's 2:04 AM as I begin this post - time hit the sack. But my brain and belly are full of chilled Sauvignon Blanc, a few sips of coffee, and lots and lots of handfuls of Fritos corn chips. So once again, Kevin snoozes while Tebow and I remain awake, the living room windows looking out over nighttime blackness and the occasional whoosh of a car going by. It's OK though. Right now, I'm in the mood to spew forth a stream of honest pieces of thought.

Don't get all excited; I don't have any over-the-top, shocking things for you today that will make your jaw drop. I am not knocked up with septuplets, nor did I suddenly discover that I have a penis tucked up inside my body (I do have a small third nipple, my proudest biological achievement, but that's a separate post), nor am I becoming a vegan, nor am I about to slit my wrists because my hunk didn't win first place (DAMN YOU, SNOWDUDE!). No, no, and no.

This is more like a general observation about different ways to think about death and life, and about how blogging can symbolize which conscious-thinking route we choose to take. I should warn you, before I explain myself further, that I'm going to have to take up the persona of

for a few minutes here. But don't worry; before long, I'll alternate back to

That's right: if KuKd doesn't lead to an identity crisis, I don't know what does.

Anyway, I remember at various points in my KuKd journey coming into a conversation, a situation, where I had a choice of two paths to take. First, there was what I imagined as the Low Path, the one in which I would turn into a big ball of pissed-off sentiment, a pregnant-woman-bashing, nobody-understands-me-and-my-wretched-problems, fuck-you-for-having-a-baby-without-me-and/or-not-asking-me-enough-times-in-quick-succession-how-I'm-doing kind of person. You know, just the kind of person you want to have over for tea.

Then, there was the High Path (the more difficult one, of course), which was the route of...well...civility, I guess. Grace, calm under pressure, strength, good things, forgiveness, Mother Theresa-esque. From the very beginning I saw this High Path - literally, I could picture it in the reddish blackness behind my closed eyelids as I was lying on the futon one day, feeling pinpricks of resentment toward certain friends for ridiculously petty things like not saying EXACTLY what I wanted to hear EXACTLY when I wanted it (how dare they not predict my needs with precision, showing utmost empathy for a circumstance they knew nothing about! Assholes!). I knew I wanted to somehow get to this path, escape the dreadful self-pity and anger that was lapping at my ankles, threatening to swallow me up (can you picture it? Like dark maple syrup, but with a nasty taste).

Brace yourself - here she comes:

So I had a conscious choice to make: high path or low path. It didn't necessarily have to do with what I said or how I acted around other people. Well, that was part of it. But it more a way of thinking about the world, about death in general, and about my place in the fabric of humanity.

Taking the High Path meant forgiving the people in my life for not achieving the impossible (ie: climbing inside my brain and going through this with me). It meant viewing my losses not even really as "losses," as "unfair" versus "fair," but as just a neutral part of the great cycle of Mother Nature. Death happens. Things don't work out. I'm no less deserving of this fate than anyone else. That was part of how I viewed this High Path thinking.

Here's another part of thinking along that High Path, the part that is perhaps the weirdest: accepting that my KuKd experiences have been good for me. I know how obnoxiously Pollyanna that sounds, so if you want to smack me right now, feel free. It's taken me a while to get to where I believe this: that as we go through shit in life, the stronger and more seasoned human beings we become, and the more we can therefore contribute to the greater good. We have more to say to others who face loss themselves. We get to feel something. There are a lot of people in their 20s, 30s, and 40s who never GET to experience real, hardcore sadness over something meaningful. They don't know what it's all about. And DUDE! Just admit now satisfying it is to have a good, hard cry over something meaningful, to have the world look at you and think: this person went through something and survived, and is therefore mad cool. They're so cool, I want to do shots of tequila with them right now. If they can go through a shit storm like that, I can too.

Arright, time to go back to:

Let me clarify: I'm not saying that I am Miss Queen of High Path Thinking. God no. There will be no preachy self-help book filled with bulleted Pollyanna points, my obnoxious smiling lipsticked face on the cover, with some overly long title like "Taking the High Path: A Positive Thinking Guide for People Who Have Been Bitch-Slapped By Mother Nature," or worse: "Time to Get High: A Fucked-Up Person's Guide to Making Your Thoughts Soar."

It's just something I strive for, sort of like losing five or more pounds, or eating more vegetables, or maintaining a clean car. Walking this "High Path" has been a constant, obsessive effort for me, and it hasn't come without a price. In my attempts to remain ultimately optimistic, I think I overreached - maintaining this forced wall of bravado that felt really fake sometimes. I swear, I told more dead baby jokes and dropped more F-bombs during the days and weeks after the stillbirth than I ever have in my life. I probably should have taken more time to actively confront my own pain. I should have blasted that one Aerosmith song I can never remember the name of ("don't know what it takes to let you goooooooooo") and had more emotional moments. But I was a late bloomer in that regard. It took me a long time to deal with my losses in a deeper psychological sense, to accept Zach's death as something involving a real human being, to give him a name other than "that baby."

To this day still, if somebody asks me how I am - not in a superficial way, but a deeper, "no REALLY, how ARE you?" sort of way with their eyes boring into mine, I tend to clam up and get nervous, stuttering "fine!" in a fake tone. I have trouble peeling back the layers of my own self and offering a deeply truthful answer.

* * *

All of this points to the difficulty of blogging about dead babies. A treacherous job, this is! I do write this blog - sometimes, anyway - readers in mind (that is, when I'm not just randomly, selfishly entertaining myself here with my own musings on what spooge smells like). I mean, it's about me (of course), but it's also about the people who bother to read this. When you put your thoughts out in public space, you have to have a wee bit of audience awareness; I think this just comes naturally.

So, knowing my audience, I understand that people come here at various stages of grief, at times in their lives when the last thing they need to hear is the hippy-dippy, Pollyanna shit described above. HIGH PATH MY ASS! That's what I would say if I were you. Sometimes, what you need to hear is not that somebody is doing oh-so-irritatingly-well, all lofty and sitting pretty on their High Path (or even trying to be), but that someone is just as down in the shit-filled trenches as you are. I was there for a looonnggg time, seeking out the gloomiest, doomiest, bitchiest blogs and books in the universe. Seriously, I wanted to start a KuKd goth club where we all wear black eyeliner and black KuKd t-shirts, pierce our tongues and labia and go around chanting some message of muddled negativity: "Screw you, world! You don't understand our problems, and we didn't want babies anyway!"

(Still looking into that - not sure it would fly)

Anyway. So on this blog, and in my life, and in the people I surround myself with, I'm aiming for balance. That is: balance between