Thursday, January 19, 2012

Don’t Worry About Flies

I’ve had a weird couple of days. I started writing several different posts but none seemed to stick. I had writer’s apathy. Then yesterday happened:

I woke up sleep deprived, downed some coffee, started to get Lennon and myself ready for our new-mom exercise class—sort of Pilates-light where you can stop and breastfeed or change a diaper as need be. The lack of sleep, among other things, had my mind behaving disgracefully. I was fixated on all the things I wish I could buy but cannot. It is unlikely I will ever make enough money to buy them. This is true not only because, at present, I’m a stay at home mom, but my profession, at best, is a labor of love. This made me feel regretful and I ruminated on this as we walked to our class. Somewhere over the bridge to Prenzlauerberg, my thoughts spiraled to turning forty this year and the expectations of what someone my age should have achieved. It’s so late, I thought, for me to be getting my PhD. Most people probably get one at thirty. If they do get a PhD at my age, surely they already have an acclaimed body of work behind them. My body of work to date is so scrappy and uneven.

“I suck,” quoth I.

How come I don’t own my own house yet? Why do I live in a place where I can’t even speak the language; where the sun doesn’t even shine? Thus began a List of Envy in my head for everyone I knew (and some famous people I don’t know, also) who own a house, who have a lucrative career, who live someplace sunny, who speak German, who never experience envy, etc. At new-mom Pilates, things only got worse. The course is instructed in German, which normally isn’t a problem as I just look around and copy what all the other moms are doing. Today, the fact that I couldn’t understand the instructor created more self-punishment. Communicating poorly with the other moms in the class made me feel inconsequential and invisible to them. I felt dark blue on the walk home. I looked down at Lennon, hoping he would offer some support, but he had gone to sleep. Not even his pretty face cheered me, I’m ashamed to admit.

Finally, I got groovy, turned outward, and asked The Universe for help: Please help me see better—because clearly I’ve lost sight—and get me back to grateful. That The Universe always listens, has been my experience.

Home again, I took a nap with Lennon. A long, two-hour nap. Then, Nicholas came home from work and I told him all about the bad day I’d had. How it occurred entirely inside my head. He told me that I should have called him at work and let him know. He wanted to be able to help while the bad day was in effect. Later that night, we sat as a family and watched a television program that includes the singing of popular songs set at a high school and which shall remain nameless. During a highly auto-tuned rendition of a 1970s love ballad, I looked down at Lennon nursing in my lap and started to cry. He gazed up at me and smiled. The most amazing person I have ever met was married to me and curled at my side. Flooded with joy and glowing with grateful, everything else washed away.

And just when I was certain The Universe had outdone itself, today Nicholas sends me this, cementing my joy:

In 1933, renowned author F. Scott Fitzgerald ended a letter to his 11-year-old daughter, Scottie, with a list of things to worry about, not worry about, and simply think about. It read as follows.

Things to worry about:

Worry about courage
Worry about cleanliness
Worry about efficiency
Worry about horsemanship

Things not to worry about:

Don’t worry about popular opinion
Don’t worry about dolls
Don’t worry about the past
Don’t worry about the future
Don’t worry about growing up
Don’t worry about anybody getting ahead of you
Don’t worry about triumph
Don’t worry about failure unless it comes through your own fault
Don’t worry about mosquitoes
Don’t worry about flies
Don’t worry about insects in general
Don’t worry about parents
Don’t worry about boys
Don’t worry about disappointments
Don’t worry about pleasures
Don’t worry about satisfactions

Things to think about:

What am I really aiming at?
How good am I really in comparison to my contemporaries in regard to:

(a) Scholarship
(b) Do I really understand about people and am I able to get along with them?
(c) Am I trying to make my body a useful instrument or am I neglecting it?

With dearest love,


Source: Lists of Note by Shaun Usher on 1/19/12 via F. Scott Fitzgerald: A Life in Letters.
Photo: F. Scott Fitzgerald with his daughter, Scottie, in 1924.


  1. The identity shift that came with motherhood was extremely difficult for me, and I offer empathy and love. The Universe gives us what we need when we are open to receiving it, and you're open. Love you.

  2. Thanks so much, Kim. Wise words. Love you right back!

  3. Amy, I would love to give you a big strong hug right now! Berlin can get to you and Berlin's winter, especially at the beginning. You stop recognizing yourself you feel so lost. And you are going through so much change right now on so many levels - be gentle with yourself. oh, and I meant to leave a comment for ur last post about motherhood and being an artist, but i still can"t remember that painter"s name, so I couldn't find her blog. But here is another one. Her parents are both artists, and she tells about her childhood a bit here:, and then go to "Childhood paintings." one thing is sure from her story - kids really benefit in a family of artists. ;)

  4. Anja, Thanks so much...I could have used a hug the other day, for sure! It's been really good to hear that other people have felt the same way when they first move to Berlin. I'll definitely check out the link you posted. Always looking for inspiration/kindred spirits! xox

  5. Thanks for your transparency and your pithy reminder. I enjoyed reading how you used your awareness to separate the wheat from the chaff .... to separate your insidious time based mental monologues from your inherently joyful and rooted physical presence. What a bonus to have two males dedicated to reflecting your love back when you need to see it.