Introducing…

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Okay, so I’ve been holding out on you.

This is Little Bean. He will be joining us in early December. I don’t anticipate that we will put that on his birth certificate, but until the whole family agrees on something definitive, I like having something to call him other than “tiny, magical being who makes me extremely nauseous.”

So yes, I am about three-and-a-half months pregnant. And very excited. Also very impatiently waiting for the early pregnancy boat-travel symptoms to wear off.

I don’t know what to say, you guys! I anticipated writing a very long and thought-provoking thing about the reflection that goes into having a child in conjunction with commitments to the Dharma. It’s an interesting subject with so many angles. And yet, I can’t seem to sit down and be academic about it all because I keep glancing at this photo of this person who I am getting to know right as he’s entering this life, and I sort of just get dazed.

I also thought about writing a clever, semi-snarky article about all the essential pregnancy foods that don’t exist in France. You’d think a country known for its cuisine would be more on top of it, but I guess the demands are so personal and specific that I can’t really take them to task for it. While getting all my culinary/nutritional gripes down on paper still does sound like a whole lot of fun, I am currently having the same basic mental reaction.

I kind of just want to keep pointing at my tummy and being like, “Guys. There’s somebody in there!”

What does it mean?

There are so many reasons to have a kid or not. You get x-amount fewer hours a day to devote to all the rest–meditation, study, volunteering, personal projects, your partner, sleep. You become a slave to a being who, for most of its existence, could pretty much care less about all you’ve given to feed, clothe, educate, and entertain it. If you have particular time-consuming plans like long-term retreat, you deliberately delay them a good twenty years, and with full knowledge that all your friends and study buddies may go off together while you’re busy with somebody’s angsty adolescence.

And at the same time. You get to experience the unconditional love that naive new beings feel for their parents. You get to experience the unconditional love that being the parent of a naive new being gives rise to in cynical, old beings. You get the joy of bringing a being into the excellent conditions of a human life connected to the Dharma and the challenge of being as generous and kind to that being as possible. You get a watertight, irrefutable excuse to watch animated movies, eat Goldfish (if you live in a country where they actually exist, sniff), go to the fair, and decorate the house for every holiday ever.

Basically, as far as I can tell, there is no math for deciding to have a child or not.

I think it’s quite simple in the end. We wanted to have a kid. Like any choice on the path, there is no objective algorithm that determines whether or not it will take you in the right direction. All of the reasons that we can cite are just our reasons. Now, there’s somebody in there. And so we just get to do our best to give him the best conditions possible to make use of his precious human life while continuing to work on doing the same ourselves.

And, of course, go on being giddy about the whole thing. Because well, on a relative level, some choices are still more exciting than others, and this one rates pretty damn high.

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Cats In Trees, Moons, Leaky Ceilings, And Choices

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This is a picture of a cat in a tree, taken by my love at twilight yesterday, in a friend’s garden.

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This is me on a swingset, same twilight, same garden.

Last week marked the beginning of downtime at Dhagpo. The period of the year when paperwork gets done, when it’s not a crisis to come down with a cold, and when you can take a day at home (occasionally, if truly needed) and only venture out to pick up the kid in the evening from a friend’s house and snap a couple kitten shots in the process.

Life isn’t a pressure cooker like it is in the summer time. It’s more like endives braising on the simmer burner; the heat rises slowly so you almost don’t notice, but every once in a while a bittersweet smell floats through the room. It’s the time of year when all the work you haven’t done because you were busy running around taking care of urgent things comes back to the surface. When all the inconsistencies and ambiguities that the overbooked-ness of summer allows for start to suddenly seem a lot more uncomfortable, simply because you have the space to notice them.

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The full moon (taken with a flash, thus the disco-Kandisky effect) probably doesn’t help. Sometimes it seems like everyone is asking for clarity and nobody knows how to furnish it. Me first, of course.

I started my morning with the discovery of a two-meter long fissure in the Lama House ceiling, from which a parade of water drops was permeating the dining room table, the seat cushions, the carpet, the old parquet floor. Fortunately, the source of the leak is easily fixable (a broken part in a toilet reservoir); remains to be seen if the same is true of the ceiling (this is my makeshift leak solution–post chair and carpet removal).

photo 4I had planned this morning as a comm department day–for tying up loose ends of old articles on Dhagpo’s blog and getting on schedule with new ones. Suffice to say the ceiling took the lead in the list of priorities. In the meantime, got some news about developments in the comm department. It’s funny, or maybe not that funny, how somebody just asking for a clear description of what I can and cannot do feels like an ultimatum (especially when it comes in the form of a mile-long official e-mail). I kind of just want to say, “I’m trying to do everything that needs to be done, but sometimes the ceiling starts to leak, or the sheets needs to be rematched, or my team, who have patiently gone four months without a regular monthly meeting, sends me a polite e-mail proposing we all have tea.”

And I have to ask myself why it feels like an ultimatum. We’re volunteers after all; we’re here because we choose to be and not because some one makes us or pays us or threatens our kids. Maybe it’s just the other person’s stress seeping through the computer screen in their typed-out words. Or maybe it’s me, realizing I’ve spent nine months investing in an idea and projecting an idea of what I can do that doesn’t match up with what I can actually do. Or what I want to do, after all. Or also what seems right to do. In any case, ain’t nothing worse than a good dose of self-awareness.

So I’m trying to get clear and get calm and get on board with the changes. Be gentle and patient and not whine too much. It’s just that the ceiling is leaking. And I stepped in the puddle, so now my socks are wet. And it’s the full moon and I feel like a cat in tree who got herself up but isn’t sure how to get down or even how far down she needs to go.

It’s not, um, very comfortable. But I think it’s probably the best place to be. The moments when you’re stuck, and all you can do is look, are also the moments when you maybe start to see something clearly. So if you need me, I’ll be busy working my way around this tree.

Meow.