Friday, November 14, 2008

Physiological Change III: Babies

I think I am unusual, or at least in the minority, among women my age, in that when I think critically about having children, my mind sort of recoils.

It's not that I don't have a biological clock. I do. It ticks at me as sporadically as one might expect given I still have a good ten years in which to populate my immediate area with squirming, diaper-soiling, ear-piercing, time-suckers who require me to serve their every whim, entertain them, and pay for their every need for 18 years, all the while contributing to the swelling of the human population and the razing of the earth's resources.

See? Recoils. If it sounds like I'm being harsh on children, let it be known that, cerebrally, biological clock aside, I am. Anyone who requires me to spend all my time with them gets at automatic veto from me. Boyfriends included. I require wind-down time greater than or equal to time spent socializing, and having a child pulling at my sleeve requiring me to entertain them when I'm trying to read just screams torture.

Babysitting was always the most uncomfortable experience when I was a teenager - not because I was responsible for another human's well-being, and I guess their survival, but because of the constant outward-turning of my brain and its resources. I had to constantly think of things that would be entertaining to another, alien person, and engage with them on not a daily but a minute-ly basis. It was like having responsibility for the stimulation of another's brain.

Since I wasn't wild about people stimulating my brain very often when I was young - I preferred reading or drawing in solitude - I don't actually understand what it feels like to be the kind of child that children seem to me to be: demanding, hungry for stimulation, with a super-short attention span and neverending energy. I don't know what they want from me and I don't know how to give it to them, whatever 'it' is. I still have nightmares about teaching preschool-age kids in Indonesia even as I have the same dreams about missing my older students.

So that - coupled with my firm belief that we as a race need to stop creating so many babies and start taking care of the unwanted babies already in existence, and then start controlling our numbers to a number appropriate for the size of the earth and our neighbors on it - makes me a prime candidate for either abstinence from pregnancy or adoption. There's no argument for me having children and every argument for me adopting an older child. Older children are the most in need. I like older children. Therefore...!

But my body will not listen to such reason. It's like,

BODY: You want to have a baby.

BRAIN: But I don't even think babies are cute. I see them on trains and buses and just think, that poor mother, carrying all that baby shit around all the time everywhere she goes. I don't even look at the baby.

BODY: But you want to have babies. You love babies. In fact, you want to have one right now.

BRAIN: But I don't have the income for a baby. And I don't like babies. I don't want babies. Everyone's having too many babies as it is.


And then, something shocking happens: my brain loses the argument! It starts waffling and hemming and hawing. And it starts searching for logical reasons to have a baby. It starts thinking about how differently it'll be forced to view the world when it's teaching everything to someone new, and how that might be kind of cool and freeing. It starts thinking about getting to relive all sorts of nostalgic things like first-grade projects and dressing up for Halloween. It starts thinking about who the baby might look like, all the different kinds of beautiful combinations that could happen.

It starts turning. It starts changing. It starts wanting a baby, not just being okay with it, or accepting it grudgingly, but really wanting a baby. My body wins. It wins! Despite the best logic in the world, and the true and sincere desire to contribute to the decline of the human population, my body wins the argument. All the debating and logic in the world can't help me to help be a part of the change I most want to see in the world - depopulation.

I can't imagine what it's like for people who actually want children.

Let's go back to the fill-in-the-blank, shall we?

Change is hard when you're fighting billions of years of biological programming.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

The Obvious Post

There can't be a blog about change without mentioning Obama's election! I mean, I'm sure there is one somewhere, but it's probably run by someone lazier than me who started neglecting it way back in 2006 or whatever, not just last month.

Change being the buzzword of the campaign, I'm surprised my blog didn't suddenly get a politically-crazed stream of visitors demanding to know how I linked my ideas about change and Obama's plans for change. In fact, as I am a politically crazed visitor myself, I'm surprised I didn't encounter my own blog when I obsessively googled and blog-hopped for election updates in the weeks leading up to November 4.

But there was nothing out there giving me inspiration to write, instead of read, until Obama's victory speech. I thought that he said something really brave and probably prescient. And risky. It was:

"This victory alone is not the change we seek; it is only the chance for us to make that change."

Buried as it was amongst barely veiled correlations between his election and the end of slavery, the New Deal, WWII ending, Martin Luther King's rise, a man walking on the moon, and the fall of the Berlin Wall, it stood out. Nobody I know agrees with me on this evaluation, but I did think the speech as a whole was a little bit overselfcongratulatory; not that this achievement wasn't an amazing step forward, but, I don't know, maybe just let someone else congratulate and praise you, you know? Especially if you're going to bring World War II and the Berlin Wall into it. However, that one lone sentence showed that he knew that just getting elected wasn't the end. That he didn't have the mindset of, well, I got elected, now I can relax my rhetoric and go back on all my promises, or at least pretend that everything I've said has already come to pass.

It would have been easy, and would have relieved, at least temporarily, much of the enormous pressure that's on him as president-elect, to simply imply that getting elected WAS the change America sought. People were ready to hear it, because they'd been reading about it, knocking on doors for it, volunteering for it, and generally using it as a goal. People probably wouldn't have called him out on it. They were all ready to rest after an exhausting campaign.

But instead, he chose to remind everyone that the actual change would take place only once he took office, appointed officials, started vetoing/approving bills, etc., only he put it in much more daunting terms, painting the picture of his coming presidency as a challenge that would be filled with obstacles to overcome and big, messy problems to solve. This only served to remind everyone of the heavy load of expectations resting squarely on Obama's shoulders, and made the load even heavier (or at least more towards the forefront of people's minds).

I thought that was brave, and not at all the easy way out.

I sort of liken this stage of the Obama presidency to New Years Resolution time in the life of us regular people (or you regular people anyway; I tend to make my resolutions at random times throughout the year). We've taken the time to get a piece of paper, find a working pen, and think about a list of resolutions are most important to follow through with. We have the paper hanging on our wall, decorated with curlicues. We've bought our gym membership, we've signed up for dance class, we've primed our abusive boyfriend's stuff for its new home on the front lawn, we've drafted the letter of resignation to the job we hate. But January 1 hasn't come yet, so it hasn't gone any further than that. We can't yet exactly say we've made a change. Per se. But we've made something.