February: a month intentional in its pronunciation and annual final day inclusion – to leap or not to leap is never a question, it’s a plan. For me, this has been a month of mis-intentions, so I feel as though February and I are out of sync. I was sick, and sick again, then sick again. I repeatedly entered into spaces and moments quite different from what I expected. And upon work to reenter my own spaces of comfort, have felt disembodied, or out of focus, or unfamiliar to myself and my surroundings. Here is to writing it out, and to welcoming the next moments of discomfort, in an effort to define what is uncomfortable, to again find what is.
As we sit down with our chai, I would share an incredibly kind gift a friend sent out of the blue. Claudia Rankine‘s Citizen has been on my reading list for a while now, and finally I find it within my grasp. EC had hands on it before me, so I haven’t actually delved in, but I’m on my way this evening after writing this post (and perhaps another emotional one before I close my eyes). My reading has been stalled of late, distracted by many an other activity, but I am hoping that Rankin’s language pulls me back into the world of lyrics and knowing and life. I also hope I run into her on the streets of Chicago, and perhaps fancy myself a writer of culture in some small way alongside her body of work.
So… a few words about feeling rocky on my feet, and not in confidence-boosting ways… which, if this were a play in my mind, I will pull out the chair on which I sit and rant out loud to all the caffeinated to facilitate my need to be heard and my own possibility of process-via-rant…
Last night, as I cleaned out my car, I found my chai cup from Zingerman’s, a relic of a recent trip back to Ann Arbor with a friend (now my best friend) I met there over 10 years ago. That trip back to A2 was one such out-of-body experience I referenced above – the music festival we went to see was different from anticipated (sit-down, in the dark, minimal dancing by attendees), my and my friend’s schedules did not quite align and thus our experience in the city was slightly separate, and my time in the city was missing the flair of familiar faces (though I did get to see one for a second – hi Maggie!). For a town that for four years was my home, that trip it felt foreign, and I felt the foreigner. And I questioned what it means to go back to a place I once called home, and feel unknown to myself and others for a few days.
Earlier this week, a friend I have known since I was 15 called me and asked if I had the time and space to receive a “knowledge bomb” she needed to drop on me. I was neither prepared nor could have anticipated what that meant, but I feel so thankful that I did not assume nor did I presume anything prior to allowing her the moments she needed to share as much as she was comfortable. Again, the space of friendship, shocked with an unexpected truth, relished in the history of love and support. I must, however, acknowledge the change in my own space that her truth affected, that though the change in space was made only by her bravery and her power and her personal growth, my space needs a second to adjust.
I continue to take call shifts at hospitals other than my usual, one of which is at the local university, and another at a separate community hospital in town. Now 2.5 years into practice, I still find myself fumbling with words, in spaces where I am the same, as a midwife, but where my role is constantly different. In one, I regularly find myself in reverse culture shock, working in a largely birth-positive and midwife-positive community, and in the other, questioning frustration in a midwife-as-laborist-and-minimized-as-midwife role. As someone who finds comfort in the solace of quiet and introverted writing time, or in spontaneous extroverted sharing of language as community, I struggle in my own defense in times of professionalism. I realize that this is part of a learning process, but when my political-correctness leads to not only a guttural and lingual stop, it takes moments, if not hours, if not days, to realize what I could have said differently in that moment. I become increasingly frustrated at my acute inability to speak my mind professionally, where otherwise I am proficient socially.
A few weeks ago, I was honored to speak twice in topics related to midwifery, and close to my heart. The first was a CEU presentation for midwives and students related to female genital cutting. A close friend and colleague, founder of forma and co-facilitator of a pregnancy support group I have helped to organize and hope to continue to, presented on the background and psychosocial effects of FGC, and then I presented on midwifery care of women affected by the practice, specific to clinical practice in the United States. Again, this is a topic that once was a regular part of my life, about which I had the utmost comfort in discussing and facilitating discussion, but many years away from direct care or support of these women found me feeling like an outsider to the topic. One such participant gave that feedback on their presentation, commenting that it would have been better to have a presenter who currently provided care to those women giving the talk. I felt called out, and rightfully so, but called out on something that in what feels like a previous life would have been a part of my everyday work. (The second topic was around providing woman-centered/humanistic care in busy settings, about which I have written separately, and I felt right at home with that one, thankfully.)
I have had a few work meetings where when I sat down I immediately felt out-of-place, and conversations and discussions during the meetings only validated that concern. Perhaps as my midwifery confidence increases, my surprise at still feeling out-of-place as a midwife in my work environment also increases? My solid-feeling feet stumble on an ever-changing rocky foundation, where my jello-ed feet in my first few years molded and rolled along?
How has February either felt intentional or mis-intentioned in your world? Is your foundation rocky? Do your feet mold to it, or stumble even in their strength? Where are you feeling confident and validated, but even sometimes uncertain? Have you returned to a familiar place, only to find it out-of-place despite its geographical permanence? In what ways have others defined something for you, and thus felt like you yourself were redefined? And how do you continue to create confidence in spaces where others seek to make you feel like you do not belong?
Unsettled rant over. Let’s finish this chai and chock this month’s date up to a worthy and important ranting. On to March.
Also, a note to all the wonderful things in my life, as I work hard to recognize everything amazing as I struggle with my own micro-experiences. I have an incredibly loving family, and three nieces I get to spend time with and shnorgle in about one week. My partner is incredibly supportive and loving, and moves back to Chicago this month after six months on contract out of state. My best friend is in town this weekend, and will hug me more than I initially think necessary, and for that I am eternally thankful. My dog will lick my face and keep my feet warm through food poisoning at 3am. I have friends who will tolerate my mental distractions over dinner and my musings on women’s healthcare in public settings. Music brings me breath and solace. Poetry paints the illustrious whitecaps on my soul’s wind-swept waters. Snow feels cleansing and real and an end of a spectrum, and for that I appreciate its presence. And goodness am I thankful for the privilege to be alive and healthy and educated and financially stable and in community with so many amazing people.
In writer and human news, I’m on a journey toward discovering the definition of intimacy, personally and professionally. Share your thoughts as they come.
Chai with you again next month, ideally from a place of stronger balance.
PS: Do y’all know this song? It’s what has hit home most recently, and, unsurprisingly, came on my Pandora ‘Alexi Murdoch’ station while writing this post.
PPS: During spell check, I realized how many times I wrote out-of-place in this post. That says it all. C’mon March.