Category Archives: anxiety

So Prepared. So Very Prepared.

Let’s Panic About Babies!

So far, my main preparation for birth has been playing lots of word games in the hopes of keeping “baby brain” at bay & reading Bad Mommy memoirs like Are You My Mother? and the chilling Why Be Happy When You Could Be Normal? to get some ideas about what not to do.

But time is creeping up on me. I’m 8-and-a-half months along now; I look like a beach ball with limbs and feel like I’m lugging a five-and-a-half pound octopus around with me everywhere I go. Squee is a very active presence who seems to have way more feet than is possible. Especially when I’m lying down, it can feel like a toy store has exploded in my midsection — something’s vibrating, something’s whooshing side to side, something’s jutting out in a repetitive fashion, all at once. If this child, when it emerges, is as inexhaustible as it seems, there’s going to be trouble.

The problem with following Jewish superstitions about not having showers or setting up a nursery before there is a real live infant on the scene is that it can leave you feeling a bit out of control. (Or, as someone astutely put it, “So … Jews believe in being unprepared?” For babies, yes. For medical school, no.) To help remedy the situation, a friend suggested that I start putting together a baby registry even if I’m not buying anything off of it yet. I could still do the research now rather than later, and, when ready, only need to press “Add to Cart.” It seemed like a great plan — and then it spun out quicker than a Geo in the rain. There are so many damn different kinds of everything, and it’s overwhelming to add one thing to the list and have Amazon immediately suggest three more.

After I closed the site and collected myself, it seemed like this might be a good time to ask the Internets for advice. Just, you know, general, helpful tips. If you have any experience with newborns, or with life on the other side of the threshold I am soon to cross, I’d appreciate your sharing some pearls of wisdom — ideally less of the “OMG Youll never sleep again!!1!” variety, and more like “I really wish I’d known [X].” Even if [X] is, for whatever reason, quantum physics.

Thanks, friends!

Can I See Some ID, Please?

I’ve been trying to create mini business cards for myself courtesy of Moo. (Hat tips to ShulieBryan for the inspiration.) The trouble is, the text on the cards, underneath my name, says “Writer.” That is the whole point of creating these cards, so that I have something to distribute to people who, after some prolonged conversational interaction, ask what I do.

“Why, here you go!” I’ll be able to say, passing them a card with all relevant information neatly packaged in one place.

“How professional you are!” they’ll exclaim. “How organized! How seriously you take your what-could-be frivolous artistic pursuits!” They will squint down for a moment, then look back up at me and ask, “So you’re a writer?”

This is where it all falls apart. Despite the fact that I have been putting word after word after word since I could hold a pen with my stubby, childish hand, that writing is the only dream I have ever had and the only identity I have ever pursued, I have a hard time saying aloud, “Yes! I am a writer!” It feels boastful and naive.

Unless you are Margaret Atwood or something, anyway.

And yet, people go around saying it all the time. Friends, relatives, strangers commonly tell me they’re writers like it’s the most natural thing in the world. My brother, a lawyer, who joined the ranks of us word monkeys about, oh, five minutes ago, turned to me recently and sighed, “Do you think we’ll ever make it as writers?”

I glowered at him and replied, “Let’s get this straight. I’m Charlie Kaufman and you’re Donald.”

“Harsh,” he said after a moment. “But fair.”

Really just harsh. But it’s hard when other people traipse in and out of my playhouse uninvited, especially since I haven’t yet figured out how to monetize my playhouse or even to claim it as mine, despite how jealously I guard the entrance. And why do I bother? It’s not my playhouse at all, and that’s a good thing. Life is better with company: people to commiserate with, to talk to, to read with. There should be MORE writers, especially smart funny ones like my brother.

How do you know how much confidence is too little and how much is Just Right? Some people seem to have too much; but what if the amount they have is the amount a person needs to have to succeed?

Eventually I sorted through the jumble and I did it. I wrote “writer” under my name on the business cards and I pressed “Submit.” Even now the order is winging its way through cyberspace and in a couple of weeks, my self-confidence — or hubris, or whatever — will be immortalized in 100 little business cards I can give away, networking-style. Hopefully with a straight face.

To Bear or Not To Bear?

When I get too many writing rejections in a row, I often return to one particular despairing thought: “Maybe I should just give up and have kids.”


Perhaps not EIGHT of them and perhaps not all at once. But I could have kids! Then I’d be too tired to think about writing, and agents, and publishing, and whether Katie Roiphe would hate me if she knew me (Team Chabon/Waldman!), and should I be heartened or threatened by the success of Sarah Vowell, who is who I want to be when I grow up (also: Margaret Atwood), and is 28 young or old, really, when it comes down to it?

Everyone has ideas for me. One agent suggested I turn my first novel into a Young Adult book because kids, unlike adults, wouldn’t be turned off by magic realism. Another agent suggested I write essays because fiction doesn’t sell. A third agent said essays don’t sell, and have I considered turning memoir into fiction? So round and round we go.

Unless I give up! In which case, I could live here, in Barbie’s Southern Dream House, complete with arbor:

Wouldn't you visit to sit in that arbor?

Or here! Look at that kitchen:

Mmmmm kitchen ...

I could get involved in local politics or something, and garden, and raise the kids with one hand while I read with the other. (Do the kids deserve better? No! Entitled brats. Unless they’re Tina Fey’s kids, in which case, duh, yes, of course. I will be extra-nice to Tina Fey’s kids. They will get to eat sugar and meat while my own offspring will be raised on veggie burgers out of the box which they’ll be lucky if I bother to thaw.)

Or I could redouble my efforts. Grit my teeth and get the IUD I am scheduled to get on April 9th, which I expect to be about as traumatic as that time I got my wisdom teeth out but not quite as bad as Scientologist home-birth. If I succeed in not passing out from the pain, I could go shooting, and then come home and write more of whatever I am moved to write, whether it be YA, fiction, or memoir, and keep on hoping.


PS — If you have any stories about getting an IUD that do not involve you going all swoony and unconscious, please share!


My DVD player / VCR conked out while I was cooking. It gagged on and then tried to spit out a video of the Apartment. One thread of film got stuck in its teeth while the rest lolled out like a great black tongue. I guess I should snip the thread and try to extricate the carcass, but what’s the point? For now the movie continues to hang there, suspended from the broken mouth of the VCR, and serve as a fabulous metaphor for life these days.

Over and over again, I pick up a book only to discover it’s about death and have to put it down. Finally, in frustration, I decided to reread the first Harry Potter. HEY, GUESS WHAT THAT’S ABOUT?

I can’t win. Authors, weren’t either of your parents ever seriously ill? Didn’t you ever need solace, comfort, humor, diversion? There are only so many Jane Austen books to reread.

Can anyone recommend something cheerful but still intelligent, please? I was hitting myself in my sleep last night; I woke up sore and sad. And this is just the beginning of what looks like a very difficult fall. My friends have been wonderful, as has Mr. Ben. Now I just need some support from art.

Post #1400

Wow. That number is either impressive or depressing; I can’t decide. That’s how I feel about most things these days. Some mornings I wake up in a cold sweat imagining that I’ll have to arrive at my Swarthmore five year reunion with nothing to show for myself but a ring on my finger.

I’ll have stories to tell, God knows, some of which will appear in my upcoming book Never Marry a Short Woman: Narratives by ester, featuring the one where the priest died at the wedding, the one about being left in a coffee shop in Amsterdam at closing time with no money to pay the bill, and the one about how I lost my first job in New York because I was taken to the ER with a kidney infection.

Ha ha ha!, everyone will say. What delightful anecdotes you have, you pointless but amusing little sprite who got married at 25 (isn’t that sweet). Have you heard about my advanced degrees and how I am living in a third-world country making my own tofu and biking around digging wells to provide indigenous people with safe drinking water?

They will present me with a copy of their prize-winning thesis and I will bow my head in submission before retiring to a hidden spot under one of the many labeled trees to read it, weep tears of envy, and shield my inferiority from their eyes.

“You know, you don’t have to go,” my mother pointed out. “The people who attend are a self-selected group of those who have something they want to brag about.” True, O king, but to *not* go out of fear would be the real failure. The coward dies a thousand times before his death; the valiant only ever tastes of death but once, or so said some guy I once met at a bar.

Better to face up to my accomplishments, or lack thereof, with good humor. Also it would be good to stop comparing myself to other people, like my brother, who was sworn into the NY State bar yesterday, and my dearfriend Tamar who “matched” this week into her first-choice for residency, and the myriad other successful folks I feel I am surrounded by. Excelsior, my lovelies! Onwards and upwards! Don’t worry about me; I’ll always have Jesus.

My mother the brigadier general was here for three days to organize our initial packing-and-moving effort into the new place. Paid movers will be coming next weekend but we got a huge amount done in advance with the help of a small volunteer army. Maybe once I’m done being obsessed with boxes’n’bins and bubble wrap and tape I’ll feel better about everything, because stability really does tend to help.

It would also help if some publisher realized that my poor little novel is NOT a satire. If it needs a label, call it a koala, okay? Publish it and put it in the koala section and I will kiss your feet.

Mark your calendars

On March 20th, you will hear from me as to whether I have good news to share. If I have bad news, you will find me beating myself to death with one of Mr. Ben’s African drums, or perhaps trying to slide behind the refrigerator to die unnoticed like my hamster did when I was little.

My book, my crazy beloved stab at a book, is going out to editors at 13 publishing houses today. This means, I am told, its fate will be decided in a month, if not before then. I can’t tell you which houses, in case I’m not allowed to, but YOU’VE HEARD OF THEM. Oh mercy. Perhaps I will fall apart at the joints while I wait. Today I’ll lose a foot; tomorrow the tip of an index finger.

Sometimes my brain rushes ahead of me and I can picture the New Yorker‘s short, disdainful blurb in its May 2010 edition: “Although this young author’s premise shows some originality and imagination, ultimately the book fails to live up to the expectations generated by the idea. Not mean enough to be satire or absurd enough to be farce, A,AoG lingers in a kind of limbo of its own making.”

This is for real!

I will try to remember to put on pants today. Let’s see if I can do it.

who’s holding the other shoe?

I have a decent amount of generalized angst at the moment. Yes, it’s all manageable and under control; travelling to & from DC this weekend didn’t unleash the torment, for which I am grateful. But I’m beginning to marvel, myself. Shall I count the ways?

– My dad is sick. He has [the word] — I hate saying the word. It’s such a babyish word, too, full of such straightforward, primary-color letters that, rearranged, spell DEATH. Except, of course, that they don’t. My dad is fine. What he has was caught early. He was artfully disemboweled then put together together again, the evil removed. Even his staples have now been taken out. His doctors give him an excellent chance of full recovery after they finish applying their strategic poisons. (Medicine is a bit scary, isn’t it?)

– Someone else very close to me is going into the hospital for a procedure as well. Shhhhh. I think it’s supposed to be kept under wraps.

– The wedding is a mere three months away and it turns out I can’t carry lilacs, because in this modern age of instant gratification, of narcissism and conspicuous consumption, of the internet and QVC, in this 21st century Westernized globalized capitalized world, you can get absolutely anything anytime except lilacs in August.


– Mr. Ben is about to graduate from Law Skool. Graduate! I am so excited for him, so excited and so proud. Considering that I shared one room with him through the entire three year ordeal, I also feel somewhat accomplished myself, even though I am chagrined to realize that while he has achieved a JD (and others of my friends have rounded up or begun to round up other letters: MA, MS, MD, MFA, MBA) all I have to show for my post-college life is a savings account and an MRS.

– My grandmother seems wonderful. There’s something so infinitely inspiring about her. At 94.5, she still lives by herself in her own apartment. She walks, she talks, she laughs, she reads, she does physical therapy, and as far as I’m concerned she flies in the face of modern science. She still has her own teeth!

– My mother and I got some very good wedding planning done over the weekend and it wasn’t onerous in the least. Everyone we worked with, from the hair guy and the Russian makeup lady to the French dress shop clerk and the florist, was sweet to me without being didactic or overbearing. We made decisions — good ones! As the ceremony gets increasingly concrete, I find I like it and can handle it better. Maybe it’s just that as an abstraction it was frightening.

– It’s springtime! New York is in bloom. I can never be sad when there are trees to admire. And, thanks to Katie, I’m reading this really fun book about zombies.

tentative of stomach

Home sick. Again. Lately, what “sick” means is that I’ve recently had a panic attack that kept me up all night and I’m in intense recovery.

Even though I’ve been having the damn things semi-regular for over six months now, I’ve resisted medication. Why? That’s a good question to ask yourself when you’re shivering on the bathroom floor at 3:00 AM. The trouble is, you won’t be able to answer it, since the cutest thing about a panic attack is how you can’t make any decisions at all. My poor older brother — who had flown in from UCLA for my grandma’s birthday — kept patiently asking me: “Do you want a blanket? Do you want some Tylenol PM?” To which I reasonably replied, “Um,” and then, again, “um.” And they say white people are articulate.

The funny thing is, my brother was supposed to be the sick one. The same airlines that won’t let you take more than three ounces of shampoo on a plane let him fly with gastritis AND mono. You figure it out. He, as it turned out, looked and acted relatively normal; I was the one still in my pajamas the next day at 1:00 PM, shrouded in the blanket he’d finally coaxed me into accepting.

All of that is to say, I went to DC for the weekend to do some wedding stuff and celebrate my remarkable grandma’s 94th birthday, and I succeeded in thoroughly freaking out my family. For my brother’s various ailments, he has resorted to acupuncture, doctors in Beverly Hills who require valet parking, and a nutritionist; he’s insisting I too try every option. Of course, since he’s in LA, he’s just doing what the LAkers do. But now that my family’s seen my crazy up close and personal, they agree.

I finally made it back to Brooklyn and was prepared to sleep forever. Three hours into that plan, I woke up and realized: Mr. Ben wasn’t here. Mr. Ben, who had decided to go yuppie for the weekend and ski/bond with law review folks in Utah, was due into JFK at 12:30 AM. Surely then by 3:30 AM he should be home; and yet he wasn’t.

I checked the JFK website and no shampoo-related airplane crises to report. Not having any more detailed flight information than “he gets in at 12:30 from Utah,” I couldn’t get much help from anyone including Mr. Ben himself, whose phone had mysteriously died. There was nothing to be done but stay up all night, occasionally watching NYOne or old Grey’s Anatomy episodes for company, and try not to panic overmuch about ending up one of those pre-widows on the news.

At 7:15 he came stumbling in, smurflike from the cold. Had he said a 12:30 arrival? Oops – he had meant he was taking a red eye, getting in around 5:30. Oh god, had I really waited … ?

The remarkable thing is after all that I got dressed, put on my heavy coat, and actually left the apartment to go to work. Then I remembered two important details. One, I’d forgotten my Netflix envelope inside. And two, I had hardly slept now for four nights running; hadn’t eaten in 36 hours; and if I even made it to the subway, I would doubtless end up falling onto the tracks and having to be saved by a future State of the Union attendee.

I made it back inside and slept past noon. Now I have to figure out how to make my life better.