This Side of Paradise

the missing piece

#TerribleWritingClub

I decided to join the #TerribleWritingClub. Follow along here from my entries.

The first writing prompt: So, good, bad and/or ugly, how has the pandemic shifted *your* perspective? Are you seeing things differently these days? How is your personal TERRIBLE more or less pronounced in this new reality?

The pandemic is scary, that’s for certain. But being pregnant for the first time during nationwide lockdowns has made it a particularly scary time. However, it’s not without some benefits. That sounds crazy, right?

Before you turn against me, I’ll start with some of the ways COVID has made my first pregnancy tough. For starters, I don’t want to get sick! Not that I would want to even if I weren’t pregnant, but recent research out of Northwestern shows that the virus can cause damage to the placenta. And while the placenta can function at about 50% and cause no harm to the baby (news to me!), it’s still an alarming update to learn about. And, it begs the question: What else do we not know about COVID-19’s impact on pregnancy?

On top of that, my husband hasn’t been able to come to our ultrasounds with me. He made it to our first appointment at eight weeks, when we got to see a little bean on the monitor. But we didn’t get to hear the heartbeat yet. When I went back for our 12-week ultrasound, I went alone. The office allowed me to video call my husband, but reception was no good and the video didn’t come through on his end. And, for some reason, they don’t allow you to record in the ultrasound room. Bummer. This time, the baby actually looked like a baby. And I got to see him jumping around, trying to avoid the tech. Another bonus: I got to hear his heartbeat for the first time.

Next up, we have our 20-week anatomy scan. This isn’t for two more weeks, but it’s unlikely that my husband will be able to attend, even though lockdown restrictions are beginning to ease up in Chicago (for better or worse). I’ve been told this is the most fun ultrasound. The baby’s big, active and you just get to watch him move around for 30 minutes.

While I’m obviously disappointed that my husband hasn’t been able to be there, it’s OK. It sucks, but it’s OK. It helps keep me safe, the staff at the office safe and other expectant moms/patients in the office safe.

And, lastly, while I’m not due until the end of October, there’s no telling where we’ll be then. Will there be a second outbreak? Will lockdown orders be back in place? Will my hospital allow spouses/partners at deliveries? There’s no telling, and that unknown is incredibly scary. I know I’ll be OK if I have to welcome our son alone, but I don’t want to. I want my husband to be there to welcome our first child into the world with me—even if it’s a scary place.

Add to that, trying to navigate introducing a new baby to his family. Can my mom come visit? Should she? How do I tell my mother-in-law that she has to wait to meet her first grandchild? These are not conversations I want to have, but I will. Of course, the baby’s health is what’s most important. And I’ll follow whatever recommendations are provided by my doctor and the baby’s pediatrician come his birthday.

So, after all that, you must be wondering: How in the hell is there anything good about being pregnant during a pandemic? Well, for starters, I haven’t had to commute to work in more than ten weeks. Which, living in Chicago, is a huge stress relief! No jamming myself onto a crowded train to make it to that 9:00 meeting, or rolling my eyes when the young 20-something men are too absorbed in their phones to give up their seats to a visibly pregnant woman. No long commutes during a bout of morning sickness or following an exhausting day.

While we’ve tried to stick to our typical pre-COVID routines, I’ve been able to sleep in when needed and take an afternoon catnap when I’m feeling fatigued. I haven’t had to worry about showing and wanting to hide my pregnancy before I was ready to share. I haven’t had to make up reasons to skip happy hours or after-work drinks. I’ve been able to follow a strict business-on-top, comfort-on-bottom fashion routine. I’ve been able to avoid unwanted attention as news spreads across the office. And, so far, I’ve encountered zero strangers touching my growing bump (knock on wood).

So, OK, now that I’m writing this out, maybe there are more cons than pros when it comes to being pregnant during a pandemic. But I’ve been happy to live in my little bubble with my husband and our pup as we anxiously await this little buddy’s arrival. Even though we’ve announced to our friends, family and coworkers, it still feels like we’re in our own little world soaking up every moment of our last months as just us two (or three, counting the pup).

I do worry that being absorbed in this bubble for what’s looking like the duration of my pregnancy will make a second pregnancy much more challenging. Not only will we have a toddler to add to the mix, but contending with the chaos of the outside world during round two seems unimaginable right now. Yes, I’m already thinking about baby number two.

I Never Trusted My Own Eyes.

beer and work

November is National Novel Writing Month (#NaNoWriMo). To put a spin on things, yet still get inspired, I’ve chosen to work on re-launching my (other) blog: Chicago Beer Club. If you thought this blog was poorly maintained, my craft beer blog is way worse off.

My goal is to develop it as a portfolio for myself. While I enjoy sharing personal stories here, it’s not something I would feel comfortable citing in a job interview.

On top of that, #ChiBeerClub is much more than a blog. It’s a social presence (currently on Instagram and Twitter, with more platforms to launch in 2019). This fits nicely with my professional role as a social and digital editor. While I work at a content marketing agency in our financial services vertical, the craft beer industry is much more interesting and exciting (to me, anyway). But the beer industry hires from within, so I’m just looking for a way to get my foot in that door.

In deciding to re-launch ChiBeerClub, I considered making a greater commitment to Bee Sophia, as well. With an editorial calendar, getting ahead on my writing and automated social publishing for my other blog, I’m hoping both can be manageable. While I’m likely biting off more than I can chew, my goal is to continue sharing here. In the meantime, check out ChiBeerClub to see what I’m up to and to keep tabs on whether or not I’m living up to my goals.

Cheers!

Story Stayed the Same

To say that writing saved me would be dramatic. I’ve had a strong, supportive network of humans to help along the way. But I won’t let that diminish the role writing has played in my healing, understanding and acceptance throughout the years.

Time and time again, I’ve turned to writing for support and guidance. I’ve told journals things I wouldn’t dare tell another sole. Putting pencil to paper allowed me to work through emotions, understand my internal struggles and come out at the end of a page with the ability to move forward, or at least an idea for how to get started.

Historically, I’ve done all this through the form of poetry. I spent my high school years pining over the tragic life of poets Sylvia Plath and her husband Ted Hughes. I romanticized the stereotypical emotionally sensitive lifestyle of a poetic personality and threw my childish words into prose poetry. And it made me feel good. It made me feel excited and understood, even if I never felt quite like I fit in.

As a creative writing major in college, I spent many roundtable sessions editing my peers’ work and also had my own put on the chopping block. And, somehow, I always felt as though I was coming up short. Either I wasn’t eloquent enough, profound enough or “deep” enough… whatever that means.

So, following college graduation, I didn’t head back for a master’s degree in creative writing. I was far too inferior for that. My best hope was to go into publishing, but 2008 Chicago had other things in mind.

Instead, I found myself writing and editing for a plumbing and piping consultation firm and a trivia company. Research became both as interesting and important to me as writing had always been. And as my career continued, research would be the driving force behind it as I dove into content marketing—a field where I must become an expert in whatever industry my client is focused.

And while this was never a career I saw in my future, it’s where I’ve found myself excel. I get to write, and sometimes I can even weave in a little creativity. It’s also helped me find my passion and expertise in editing. While this is something I always had an interest in, creative writing is a tricky form for the editor’s eye. How can you correct someone’s poetry? That shit comes from the soul.

But through all this, I find that I’ve lost my poetry. I think I started this blog with the intent to draft from that poet’s mindset. But, instead, I find myself focusing on research-driven topics or drafting in stream of conscious. The digital disconnect is easy to blame; there’s just something about putting pen to paper and scribbling until your hand hurts—capturing every error, rewrite or addition along the way.

I’ve toyed with the idea of poetry challenges. Signing myself up for readings, workshops or just about anything to get the creativity flowing again. The thing is, I only want to write for me.

“Better to write for yourself and have no public, than to write for the public and have no self.” – Cyril Connolly

Day 7: Writing Retreat Wrapup

This afternoon I head back to Chicago. If there’s one thing I’ll take away from this week’s trip, it’s that I need to start making writing a part of my everyday life more consistently. Even when I haven’t had much to say, it’s been therapeutic to force the process. I sat for awhile this morning trying to debate what I should work on and decided to contribute to a new project I started yesterday, thanks to a friend.

So, was this writing retreat a success? I think so. I wish I had done more actual writing for my novel. However, I did complete two weeks worth of planning in just one week. So that’s something. I also got to spend time exploring a new city, taking in the culture, and listening to the locals on advice for where to eat, drink and people watch. It was inspiring and rewarding.

I also learned a bit about myself. Aside from work, I’ve never traveled alone. Not like this. I was a little anxious at the start of the trip. But, it turns out, traveling alone is pretty great. Don’t get me wrong, I love exploring places with friends and family, but a solo trip is something very different. You’re on your own schedule. If a shop looks cute, you can just walk in. If you’re ready for bed at 7 p.m., you go to bed. You can wake up 5:30 a.m., turn all of the lights on and start writing, without worrying you’ll wake someone up. I think I gained a bit of independence and confidence in myself this week, and I’m pretty proud of that.

Today, I spent time writing the first post for Chicago Beer Club, my new project. Head over to ChiBeerClub to check it out!

Day 6: Writing Retreat — Binge Culture Part 2

Almost immediately after publishing my last post, I realized I hadn’t answered my first question on this topic: Why do we binge?

What I really want to know is what the science behind it is. Why are we drawn to addictive behavior? Let’s find out…

Perhaps not surprisingly, it’s difficult to find research on binge behavior that isn’t dedicated to binge eating or drinking specifically. But there are parallels between these, including an addictive and compulsive personality.

Addiction is complicated. It is one of the most pervasive and least understood of maladies. It’s not that we don’t understand addiction per se, but our understanding is controversial. Is it biological? Is it inherited? Is it a disease process? Is it psychological, or psycho-social, or cultural? Is it a characterological disorder or just pervasive poor judgment?

The Continuum of Addiction and Addictive Personality

Personality traits of someone who is inclined to participate in binge behavior can include:

  • Obsessive compulsive
  • Stressed, lonely
  • Passive aggressive
  • Socially isolated
  • Deceptive
  • Anxious
  • Depressed
  • Ashamed

However, these characteristics are generally used to define an alcohol or drug addict, rather than someone who has an obsessive personality that results in compulsive behavior. So, is there even a link between different types of binge behavior? Is it even something worth exploring?

According to Greatest, yes. Binge behavior is the result of coping with negative feelings that are caused by either psychological, chemical and sociocultural factors. And you can binge on just about anything — food, exercise, shopping, sex and so on.

So, how do you cope with this addictive personality if it starts to become a problem? You should first solicit the help of a professional, who can let you know if it’s the result of a mental health issues. But if you’re using binging to cope with your stress and anxiety, you may be able to self treat. From meditation to writing to acknowledging, there are plenty of was to ensure you’re leading a healthy lifestyle.

Day 6: Writing Retreat — Binge Culture

From excessive drinking to “Netflix and chill,” binge culture is consuming a generation. But, what are the risks in a binge lifestyle? The term “binge” is negative, traditionally referenced to discuss those with binge eating or drinking disorders. However, with the introduction of platforms like Netflix, Amazon Video and HBO GO (the list goes on), binging has just become a normal pass time. Honestly, it might have actually started with DVD boxsets of our favorite television series: The Sopranos, Sex and the City. And, recently, even NPR got in on the fad with the release of their podcast S-Town, a seven-part series that was made available in full earlier this spring. (If you haven’t listened to S-Town, I highly recommend it. The great story telling from Brian Reed pushes the line between art and exploitation.)

So, what are the risks related to this binge culture we’ve created? From anxiety to depression, the introduction of smartphones have brought with them a plethora of health concerns, providing users binge access to anything, any time. And our binge-focused entertainment industry has it’s own set of health-related issues:

  • The lack of movement can increase your risk of diabetes, heart disease and obesity
  • Addiction: It gets in the way of our plans, much like people’s addiction to smartphones, drugs and alcohol
  • People who partake in binge watching are often isolated and more more likely to suffer from depression and loneliness; they are also likely to lack self-control

Our binge viewing is even changing television programming. Many consumers are now opting for “à la carte” television over traditional cable and scheduled air times. And Americans aren’t the only ones making this shift, people around the globe are embracing the binge culture. While it doesn’t look like binging is going anywhere, research does indicate better storytelling will be another result of this lifestyle shift.

Are you a binge consumer? Probably — 70 percent of us are. Netflix defines binge watching as consuming two to six episodes of a show in one sitting — generally this amounts to two or more hours. Smart TVs and streaming devices are making it easier than ever to binge, whether on your commute, at the gym or from your couch. And, Netflix has found that different types of shows are binged at different rates:Netflix Binge Scale

Don’t get me wrong, I’m a fan of binge entertainment — from podcasts to TV series. But, as someone who experiences anxiety when I can’t access information immediately (via my smartphone), I think it’s valuable to acknowledge and recognize the risks related to our binge culture. Are you putting off errands? Are you staying up all night when you have an early morning meeting? If so, it might be time to reconsider your habits. Or, at the very least, take a break and don’t remain sedentary during you next marathon viewing (that’s why I like Hulu, the commercials provide an easy opportunity to get up and move!).

Day 5: Writing Retreat Thoughts

Today, I literally have nothing to say. I spent the morning working on writing exercises that challenged my creativity and frustrated me. Character building is hard. In the afternoon, I read short stories and a book on the practice of writing. I read about the struggle of forcing oneself to write when the moment isn’t right; and now I’m feeling that pain. So, unfortunately, today I have nothing to say. Tomorrow, I’ll dedicate two hours to putting words on the page, regardless of a block, to see what comes out. Tomorrow, I’ll have something to say.