Wednesday, January 26, 2011


Unit 4 Control Room, Chernobyl, 2001

I knew what this room was the very instant I caught a glimpse of its thumbnail in my Tumblr Radar. It was visual information retained from two years ago, when I became unaccountably obsessed with Chernobyl, and buried myself in articles, old news coverage and studies relating to it for weeks on end.

I tried to decipher the secret language of physics and nuclear properties described in the websites I found, I collected images of reactors from all over the world, like I had with wind turbines and flooded shipwrecks, and I tried to imagine the intimidation of standing next to their deep, quiet pulse of power. I created a series of more gruesome explanations for the disaster to amuse myself, and yet more gruesome outcomes, tip-toeing always on the border of the psychological and never quite breaking into blunt human light.

This is, perhaps, the only part of my personality that I truly love, these instant captivations by unusual things that seize me up in hands of curiosity, the adventures they take me on for days at a time, and always being deposited safely back at home when that screaming need to know, know, know dies down, with memories to keep me content once the obsession fades away.

It enables me to knock unexpectedly into a picture like this years after the fact and say, "I know you. I've walked through all of your corridors."

Friday, January 14, 2011

Down Here.

A woman told me recently, calmly indignant toward the fact that my life is enriched by avoiding the very things that enrich her life, that there isn't anything I'm afforded by being Childfree that a mother can't also take advantage of.

"I could move to Italy at the drop of a hat, too, if I wanted. My kids would just come with me," she said at one point, after insisting that there was nothing having kids could ever keep her from doing, and asking for examples.

I ached for her. I thought I might laugh, but I ached instead. I wanted to say, first and foremost, that she ought not to stick up for her life's ambitions simply because I disagree with them, that she should be content enough in her decision that it needs no explaining to a stranger. I could concede to her this much - yes, you may be physically capable of doing the things I'm able to do, but it wouldn't make you much of a parent.

I wanted to remind her that, sometimes, changing countries at 'the drop of a hat' leaves you penniless, it might even mean becoming a vagabond - some do this intentionally, and travel on foot and outdoors to experience life as a hobo quite on purpose. I could do that without guilt. If she subjected her children to poverty or homelessness to indulge her whims, however, she'd be a rotten excuse for a mother. Subjecting oneself to this experience at will is another story.

On the other, more realistic end, as romantic and fanciful as the idea of up and moving to a beautiful foreign location may sound, I wanted to explain to her that her children have their own friends and lives and loves, and while an adult can make the decision to abandon these things and move on, forcing a child to do the same so that you can prove they don't tie you down is an entirely different prospect. If a job was offered or an opportunity for a better life was made clear beforehand, I could get on board, but few things put upon a child simply so that the parent can prove they are adventurous are going to have positive outcomes.

I wanted to help her to realize that Italy is not the world's only destination; that I might want to spend a few months hiking through the mountains or the hidden cities, join a nudist society, become a troubadour and spend my life on the road, discover new ways of indulging sexuality with my husband in one of those shameless, hedonistic mini-societies in Sweden. What does she imagine she would do with her children on a nude romp through a crowded street, or in pitch-black canals groaning with earth noise? It's unrealistic to say that not having children doesn't afford me "anything" that she can't take advantage of.

Above everything, I wanted to tell her that it was not me she was trying to convince.

I have accepted that, by choosing not to have kids, I will miss out on a few things in life. I have been able to accept this because, by choosing not to have kids, I will be able to attain a few things from life that I absolutely would not be able to if I did have kids.

Most parents have accepted that, by choosing to have kids, they will miss out on a few things in life. They have been able to accept this because, by choosing to have kids, they will be able to attain a few things from life that they absolutely would not be able to if they did not have kids.

Some of them have simply missed the boat.

I stumble over these personalities all the time; they trip me on my progress to peace with the world's glaring diversity. They are unwilling to be comfortable with my comfort, they cannot stand that I derive daily pleasure from the very thing they've left behind, and it gives me so many questions.

More honestly, it leaves me defensive and harsh; when I know I'm being judged, I react, immediately and often without thinking.

At the end of the day, I suppose all that I want is my due. I've reflected and debated and wrestled and, eventually, fought for this life of mine, this Childfree life, I'm proud of my decision and I want to be able to say, as casually and simply and unthinkingly as parents, just exactly how deep that pride runs. But on the rare occasions I've done so, said as bluntly as they, "I love not having any kids!," out of nowhere, the way they say, "I love being a mother!," the reaction was tense at best, outright indignant at worst.

So many parents take my joy at the absence of children to be a stab at their lifestyle, to the point that I can't help but make it look as though it is out of my natural pettiness.

Forgive me for living down to your expectations.