The Purple of Life

She told me to hold on to the purple in my life.

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Location: Chicago, United States

I'm a 37-year-old editor and city dweller, wife and mother, moderately liberal and radically optimistic. I would fill my perfect day with a cup of coffee and the Op Ed section, a flea market and the playground, a run along Lake Michigan, a walk through the neighborhood with my son and my greyhound, a Cuban dinner and a bottle of red with my husband, and an evening flight to some European city. I wouldn't be picky about which one.

May 11, 2011

There were bells on a hill

Yesterday I read an article about a new study showing that South Korean children seem to have much higher rates of autism than American children.

Yesterday I got home from work, looked in the mirror, and saw a ladybug clinging to the collar of my jacket.

That’s pretty much how life seems to be going these days, swinging on a pendulum from fear/worry/angst to excitement/joy/hopefulness. I mean, it’s not like every day is a rollercoaster of emotions, but they crop up pretty regularly. It’s strange how you can want something so badly and be so afraid of it at the same time.

We’re entering the timeframe when our referral could come. Still a bit early, yes, but it could conceivably come anytime between the end of May and August. We could travel anytime between September and December, I think, if the current agency timeframes hold steady. This stage of our adoption process—which started in November 2009, when I mailed our first agency application—feels the most “real” yet. Our child is most likely born. We are eyeing every stroller we see on the street. I’m trolling around local message boards that discuss child care. We’re going to register in June. I’m going to tell my boss this month, and after that, we won’t have a reason to keep the whole thing secret any longer.

I’ve been having lots of big thoughts—about nature versus nurture, what we can control and what we can’t, about personal courage and strength, about what makes a strong marriage. What it means to be happy and just how important that really is. (I think we Americans place a higher emphasis on personal happiness than some other cultures do.) I think about those studies that say childless adults are happier than adults with kids. I wonder about that, thinking about things like getting good sleep, lounging with the newspaper, running four or five days a week, meeting friends for dinner, lingering and laughing with John at a bar or over a meal. Those things make me happy, and I won’t do them as often once we’re parents.

The thing that is taking their place will make me happy in a whole different—and, arguably, deeper and more fulfilling—way. I know that. But it will also bring worry and frustration and fear, and that’s going to mean a new way of living, a new way of feeling. Right now, we’re fortunate enough to not have any major stressors, other than the usual mild work or family challenges. I want this new life, but I also like my current, simpler life (even though sometimes it feels like something is missing, like I’m ready to move on to the next chapter). So I guess I’m just thinking my way through all that right now.

Of course, it’s not like I spend all my waking hours immersed in deep thought! Spring is finally springing in Chicago. I’m back to running outside, and I’ve decided to attempt my second half-marathon this summer, so I’ll start training for that soon. We’ve started planting in the backyard, and we’ll get our deck flowers planted soon. After almost three years with us, Stella has suddenly noticed the existence of squirrels, making our walks much more amusing. I’ve signed up for a four-week photography class, and I’m copyediting a friend’s first novel. John just learned to play “Till There Was You” on his guitar, which I’ve decided will make a great lullaby. We recently went to Michigan to meet my perfect little nephew. And we spent a fabulous weekend in San Francisco, celebrating the end of tax season and just enjoying a few days of doing whatever we wanted to, together, in one of our favorite cities in the world.

Last weekend we had brunch with some dear friends who live in the suburbs. We were standing on the sidewalk, waiting for a table at a restaurant. I was holding my friend’s blond-haired, blue-eyed nine-month-old, and a woman walking by wished me a happy Mother’s Day. “So funny,” I told my friend, “it’s not like she looks like me at all!” Then I realized, um, yes, neither will my actual child, and we all laughed, me feeling grateful for the woman's assumption. I pressed my cheek against the baby’s soft head and pretended.

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