Archive for May, 2011

Desperate for Inspiration

Wednesday, May 4th, 2011

Over the past two days I have been relieved to learn that I am not alone in my discomfort with all the celebration over the death of Osama bin Laden.  When the news broke I clutched GAP’s hand.  I was incredulous.  A smile started to spread across my face which I quickly stifled.  And as the news started to sink in my appreciation for the gravity of the situation increased.

Prior to President Obama’s address to the nation news anchors filled air with the few details that had been confirmed, and with coverage of the spontaneous celebrations that had erupted in Times Square and in front of the White House.  Those celebrations didn’t sit right with me at the time, but it took me a little while to articulate why.  Then, on Monday, I posted the following to my Facebook wall:

I’m bewildered by all the celebration over Bin Laden’s death. I feel relief. I feel thankful. And I feel a sense of closure. But I do not feel joyful.

This was out of character for me.  Most of my FB posts are limited to blog links and other articles I find interesting.  Rarely do I comment on my own opinions, the logistics of my day, or other minutiae of daily life.  And less than rarely do I comment on politics or other controversial topics.  But I felt strongly about my reactions to the celebrations; strongly enough to risk stirring the pot.  Also, I was curious about how people would respond.  I originally hail from a very red state, and wondered if my words would resonate with many of my Facebook friends, or if they would register as unpatriotic.

I was proud and relieved to find that many of my friends responded in affirmation.  And since then, as I have perused the web for other responses to this news, I have found that many people share my bewilderment.  In fact, another Facebook friend posted the following quote attributed to Martin Luther King, Jr.

“I mourn the loss of thousands of precious lives, but I will not rejoice in the death of one, not even an enemy. Returning hate for hate multiplies hate, adding deeper darkness to a night already devoid of stars. Darkness cannot drive out darkness: only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate: only love can do that.”

Upon reading it I commented on my friend’s post that I found the quote inspiring and that I thought a great number of people needed to read it as well.  Apparently I wasn’t the only person with this response to the quote because it was all over Twitter and Facebook on Monday.  I found this heartening until I learned from this brief article in The Atlantic online that the quote was contrived.  That is, the second, third, and fourth sentences of the quote were in fact spoken by Dr. King, although in an entirely different context.  (Mass killings such as we saw on September 11th did not occur during the civil rights movement.)  But the first sentence was wholly made up by someone else.  By whom?  I don’t know.  Why?  I don’t know.  But what I do know is that we latched onto it with incredible fervor.

Are we so desperate for inspiration that we’ll grasp at anything false just to feel something in our hands?  Are we so starved for eloquence and meaning that we are willing to fabricate them just to sate our unmet desires?  If the answer is yes, then let us embrace that desperation and turn our attentions to fulfilling it.  But let’s do it authentically.  The first sentence of the fake MLK quote is lovely.  Whoever wrote it clearly knows how to turn a phrase.  I wonder what else that person might have to say.  And I wonder why he would choose to hide in the middle of someone else’s words, rather than to stand up and let his own voice be heard.

I’m glad that there is a critical mass of people who find celebration over the death of another person unseemly.  And I’m glad that we’re looking for inspiring words to guide us during a time of great ambivalence.  I just wish that in our search we weren’t so eager to fill the void that we would choose to latch onto what is first, rather than what is real.

What I Wish I’d Known

Monday, May 2nd, 2011

I know that a number of you who read this blog also used to read my sister’s writing over at Life in Pencil, so I wanted to let you know that over the weekend she delivered a beautiful baby girl.  She and her daughter are both healthy and happy and settling into life as a new family of three.  In that vein, today’s post is dedicated to her.

As a new mother you do the best that you can.  Sometimes you get it right.  But sometimes you don’t.  You try to call upon instincts you don’t have yet.  But don’t worry – you’ll get there.  And in the interim period until you find your way, here are the 10 things I wish I’d known when IEP was just days old:

  1. When someone offers to hold the baby – whether it’s your husband, your mother-in-law, or your best friend – it’s okay to say, “Yes for the love of God please take this baby off my hands for 15 minutes.”
  2. If, when someone offers/asks to hold the baby, you don’t want to hand her over just yet, it’s also okay to say, “Not right now.”
  3. If you decide, at any given moment during your maternity leave, that the best way for you to spend the next hour is curled up in a club chair sniffing your baby’s head, then that is exactly what you should do.
  4. At some point you will have a breakdown.  It might be because your baby won’t eat, or she won’t sleep, or your yoga pants are on backwards, or you burned your grilled cheese, or you haven’t showered in four days.  Whatever the reason, this too is okay.  Cry for as long as you need to.  And know that every mother in history has shared this breakdown with you.  No matter how alone you feel at that moment, you are not.
  5. Everyone tells you to sleep when the baby sleeps.  If you can, you should.  But there will be times when you don’t because you need to feel like a regular person more than you need to sleep.  You may pay for it later, but forgive yourself.  You’ll power through it.
  6. Have some sort of a system for keeping the hospital bills organized.  It will feel like they just keep coming and you don’t know when they’ll stop.  So keep track of what’s been billed, and negotiate the balances with the provider offices.  Ask for a 10% or 15% or 20% discount if you pay the bill in full.  If they don’t offer you a discount, ask for an interest free payment plan.
  7. Your baby is crying because she is a baby.  It’s not anything you did.  It’s not because you held her this way or moved her arm or looked at her funny or had silent thoughts of exhaustion and bewilderment.  She is crying because she’s a baby and that is what babies do.
  8. From roughly 5:00 pm to 7:00 pm babies turn into tiny banshees.  They cry for no reason.  (See #7)  You think that they will run out of reasons to cry, but they will not.  Pour yourself a glass of wine and tag team with your husband.  You’ll get through it.  (And if you’re nursing, you might up the frequency of your feedings from every three hours to every two.  Supply goes down in the evening and keeping their bellies full helps keep them happy.)
  9. Eat sushi.  Or oysters on the half shell.  Or unpasteurized cheeses.  Or lunch meat.  Or mousse.  Or whatever else it is that you’ve been missing for nine months.  And pour yourself another glass of wine.  You’ve earned it.
  10. And remember (in the words of one of my good friends), the worst case scenario is that you’re a mediocre parent.  And even a mediocre parent can raise a reasonably happy and well-adjusted kid.  So don’t be too hard on yourself.

Congratulations, Annie.  I’m so happy for you and so proud of you and I can’t wait to meet my tiniest niece later this week.  I love you!