My day typically goes like this:
Morning: obsessive googling with keywords “when is this baby coming out” and “is ______ a sign of labor,” coffee, procrastination
Afternoon: Activity, OCD, long doggy walk, pregnant? I’m not pregnant, I can do EVERYTHING
Evening: Crying, exhaustion, everything is horrible, why isn’t this baby out yet
And looking at those keywords aloud, I realize: as an ambitious person, I’m constantly asking myself, “what’s next?”
- What’s next, in terms of today, and how do I get through the rest of the day?
- What’s next, in terms of life, and what goals do I want to accomplish?
- When’s the next time I can go to the grocery store and replace the yoghurt that we ran out of?
- When can I finally replace my glitching phone with a newer one with more harddrive space?
- When am I going to finish my damn book so I can re-submit it already?
It’s a double-edged sword, of course. On the one hand, it’s great to be ambitious–after all, isn’t this how the world’s problems are solved? Perseverance and obsessive-compulsive disorder? On the other hand–it’s also a symptom of never-enoughness. Which–despite everything I have in life–is difficult to distinguish in terms of whether things are really never enough or whether I’m just imagining it.
And that becomes a question of “need” vs “want”–something I’ve always struggled with. Do I need to buy yoghurt because I’m out of it? Not if there’s other food in the fridge. Do I need a new iPhone because mine is glitching? No, I just need a way to communicate with people.
Our dishwasher broke a few weeks ago. Did we need to replace it? No, but we could afford to, so we did.
Most people in a capitalist culture would say–and have said–to not worry about it. To not feel guilty about replacing a dishwasher, or buying a new phone, or replenishing the damn yoghurt. If it’s within your budget, why not make life easier? Why not indulge in the comforts of life?
And on some level, there’s nothing wrong with this thinking. It’s annoying for things to not work, or for them to be inefficient. But I think for the past few years, inefficiency has become something that eats at me so much that correcting it has become a need and not a want–or at least it feels that way in my head. And as granular of a concept as that sounds, it’s significantly affected how I’ve been handling this pregnancy and life in general.
As someone with an anxiety + OCD combo, there are times when I feel like I can’t function unless things are in order. Therefore, I’m constantly looking at the world as something to be fixed–as opposed to something that simply is.
When we went through our miscarriage last year, I kept trying to fix the pain. Which–as anyone who has ever watched someone go through substance abuse knows–is the absolute worst thing you can do. When you look at pain as something to be fixed, as opposed to a part of life to be experienced and endured, you’ve automatically placed pain in the “wrong” category. That turns into a need to fix it, instead of a want.
Pain becomes unacceptable.
A word that’s used in pregnancy a lot is “discomfort.” I think this is bullshit because pregnancy is a 40-week marathon that involves creating an entire human from scratch and that shit is fucking emotionally and physically painful, and women are historically so used to their pain being undermined that I think people overuse the word “discomfort” to minimize the concept of the pain that goes into creating a new generation, which is typically only physically felt by . . . well, women. It’s also possible, though, that “discomfort” is used so that women don’t get too used to the relatively minimal types of pain they experience during the bulk of pregnancy as compared to the excruciating experience of thinning and ripening the cervix, which is a mostly passive thing that happens to women, much like plenty of other painful things that happen to women that we chalk up as “inconvenience” moreso than outright wrong or unacceptable. So perhaps this is another reason why I classify “pain” as “unacceptable” in my brain–because I’m tired of the historical tendency for women predominantly experiencing it and no one recognizing how agonizing that can be.
But if I’m looking at pain in the history of human existence, and I’m looking at it from a survival perspective:
Pain is necessary.
Pain is how humans learn and grow. Pain is how we gather lessons from our ancestors and develop new technologies and civilizations and methodologies of living longer and better, and it’s how we figure out how to have less pain in life. And perhaps this is why older generations look down on newer generations as time goes by: because the newer generations don’t experience the same pain the older generations do. Of course, in actuality, it isn’t necessarily a lesser amount of pain; it’s simply a different kind of pain that the newer generation experiences. It’s a new pain that the older generation isn’t used to, and therefore it’s discounted as insignificant.
But everyone experiences pain. It’s the great commonality of the human experience. And we discount our own and others’ pain because we spend so much time focusing on how to not have pain and being jealous over how others aren’t experiencing the same pain that we are.
But really what we’re doing is focusing on lack.
It’s what I’ve been doing, anyway. And I’ve been doing too much of it.
Today I choose to focus on the glass being half-full. Today I choose to focus not on how uncomfortable pregnancy is but how that discomfort means I’m closer to labor, and closer to meeting this kid–this stinking, wonderful, wanted kid that we’ve been waiting for for such a long time. Today I choose to focus on how making a human is fucking magic, how nature is fucking magic, how crazy and awesome it is to be able to feel this other human prodding along the walls of my uterus and be all nestled and comfy but also learn about the world around herself. Today, when people ask me “how are you?” I won’t focus on how much I hate that question but on how grateful I am that people care enough to ask, regardless of whether they mean it or not–because when people take others’ words seriously, regardless of how they’re intended, that’s where human connection can ignite.
I mean, my dog gets it, and he’s not even human.