Friday, October 19, 2012


A few years ago, Petra sent me a postcard from New Zealand of two fiddleheads formed into a heart. I always keep the postcard on my desk, tucked into the painting I did of an enso. It is a strange, otherworldly image, like two Shinto embryo bowing to each other.

I honor the sacred in you. In the honoring, we become love.

That feeling of unfolding, or unrolling oneself, branches curled inward, aching from the only position we think we must keep, I know that feeling. Those future leaves like hands praying to soon unfurl, to soak in the shadows of forest. To protect me from garden pests.

I curl up in a fetal leaf position. There is a distinctly different part of me, the part you cannot see, that is mired  in the bog underneath, the dark and cold, moist and uncomfortable. I believe I am depressed, but I don't know. I felt this way when I was pregnant with Thomas. Not the same way, but similarly. My head and body contort into the painful clawing of allergy and celiac attacks. I eat wheat to be definitively tested for celiac and rheumatoid arthritis, but it affects every part of me now. I feel soul sick and body sick. Not with a touch of extra mucus, but a dying kind of sick. My whole body aches. I don't want to walk. I want to sleep all day. It sounds dramatic, but it feels dramatic. So, I trudge on, making breakfast, watching movies, ignoring the pain, grumbling. Always grumbling.

I listened to Comedian Tig Notaro on This American Life the other day do a set three days after she found out she had cancer. I am telling you this because I bought the whole thing for $5 on Louis C.K.'s website and listened to it, and it is profound.*

Deeply, overwhelmingly profound.

It isn't simply that she had been diagnosed with stage two breast cancer, it came on the heels of a devastating intestinal bacterial disease that almost killed her, then her mother died, and her girlfriend broke up with her, then she was diagnosed with cancer. When she speaks of this bad news, you can feel it. And yet there is the feeling that you are listening to her unfurl herself, slowly rolling those branches out, even as she is rooted in swampy darkness. She is changing as she is performing her set. I can't quite explain it. You have to hear it, laugh with her, tear up with her. And there is this point, she keeps talking about a joke she had written before her diagnosis that seems stupid now. And I kept flashing back to this point when I sat in a prenatal yoga class and I said, "All you need to give your baby is love. Everything is going to be okay."

Remember that? Remember when you felt like the first thirty some odd years you thought babies lived? You were stupid, but you meant well, Angie.

I barely recognize that woman. I am in this huge unfurling process right now--figuring out who I am, what I want, who I need to be. I like who I am becoming. I can feel her, see her, embrace her. Sit with her. But the becoming is a bitch.

*Ironically, I have been writing this short post all week, and TracyOC wrote about this piece too on her blog.


  1. So many people have recommended that Tig piece. I'll have to watch it. Perhaps this weekend.

    I know what you mean about not recognizing your past self. I looked at a picture of myself when I was about 24 weeks pregnant the other day, and tried to remember how happy & carefree I felt. That if you get past those mysterious first 12 weeks, into the 2nd trimester, that everything would naturally be okay. I'm not to the point where I like what I'm becoming yet. I'm still so sad, so confused, so angry that this happened. But what a thing to work towards.

  2. I lost my daughter during childbirth last August. I write to keep sane, just like you do. I find your words to be very powerful and honest. Beautiful. I heard Tig's performance as well. She is incredible. Her fearlessness to speak the truth and her ability to find the humor in her situation (as if to comfort us as well as herself) was one of the most profoundly inspiring things I've ever witnessed. You both inspire me <3

  3. I feel like I've been hiding for 2 years. But maybe it's time to find me again. I'm trying.
    Thank you for this.

  4. Great minds...

    I think that the big challenge of 'becoming' isn't so much the old me/new me dichotomy. It's that the new me is full of ideas inspired by experiences that are so unfamiliar to most people. New me has a whole lot of stuff that has nowhere to go. If I just had to interact with myself and other club members, the path would be so much clearer. And, I know that I have my own whole blog post referenced here...but there's so much more to say about this.

    Tig Notaro is a goddamn genius. But why did she have to have all of this awful stuff happen to her to get the recognition she deserves for the talent that was there all along? Also, when she's still talking about this time in her life and how it changed her four years from now, will the average audience still be as accepting?

    I also think that you're a genius, especially when it comes to writing about grief and transformation (and soup-making and art-making and community-building) but, even talent and recognition and community can be cold comfort when you're really down in it and digging your way out.

    Time heals but it also wears you down, you know? Four years of daily 'becoming' is hard on a body.

    Alrighty--I'll stop hijacking your comments section now.

  5. I think all I can ever say when I am done reading your posts is, yes and thank you..


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