I don’t know about you, but I’ve crammed a few lives into this one. So far, by a rough count, motherhood is my sixth. My fifth life, as a journalist, only happened because it took my husband and me five years to get pregnant. (The stamina on that guy!) (I’m sorry, babe.) (Not sorry enough to backspace though.)
It was 2011, I was fresh out of grad school and broke, and I was supposed to be revising a book but instead was reading Le Carré novels and meeting Jeffrey at Subway on his lunch break to hold his hands and cry into my Honey Oat loaf. (So absorbent!) So when I was offered a staff position at the Texas Observer, a venerable news magazine where I’d published culture pieces for years, I accepted. I may not have known anything about anything, but I knew that folks with a fresh MFA don’t turn down steady work (roughly) in their field. The editor assured me I’d figure out how to do hard news, and I did.
But it was rough. The learning curve was exciting, but the content was brutal. I’m an artistic soul. I have written poems about seeing a moth drowned in standing bath water. PoemS. PLURAL. Being a good journalist meant really learning how badly state government and big business treat people who already have it worst, and how nasty, bad, callous, cynical, stupid, negligent, reckless, obdurate, contemptible, ignorant and unrepentant the people who run said government and business really are. It’s hard for me to say that I used to be a journalist because I think it’s like being an alcoholic in some ways. Being that thing changes you in ways that don’t reverse, the temptation to return is always there, and it takes years for your liver to recover. Quantifying the world’s meanness, and getting to know it intimately–not in a big “the president is a dick” way, but like, sitting across from the harm-doers, and then sitting across from the harmed–hurts. I cried every day of that job for the first six months. That’s not an exaggeration. Good days I only cried once. But it was every single day, including weekends. From stress, grief, rage, frustration with my ineptitude, frustration with theirs–every day. I had nightmares every night and woke up every morning drenched in sweat. I lost so much weight from stress that a friend asked in earnest whether I was doing meth. But I stuck with it, and one major reason was that I thought any day now, I would get pregnant and at some point in the process I’d know it was okay to quit. Not okay per anyone else, of course. Okay for me, to me. I would be justified in letting go of the beautiful job that was making me miserable but also teaching me about the world and giving me a chance to help and bringing in my first decent paycheck and giving me a good answer to the question, “What are you up to now?” and, most importantly, staying the hand of the taskmaster in my mind, the one on whose whip is printed, “What are you doing with your life?”
As you can imagine, my friends noticed the toll of all this, and also, they had to deal with hearing about whatever I was working on. So when my editor asked me to come up with a name and subject for a blog, my buddy suggested T.O.B.B., the Texas Observer Baby Blog. It was to be nothing but cute pictures of babies. For perspective. For mental health. Because while ignoring or denying suffering and injustice is an unbalanced way to view the world, so is ignoring kindness and goodness and well-being, the absence of suffering, the prevention of harm, the streets safely crossed, the planes landed without incident, the good dates, the just judges, the bad ideas quietly quashed and lovingkindness manifested out of habit.
So it took five years, but here we are.
What a nice place to be.