This is a wonderfully candid piece about Hunt discovering her twin pregnancy. I love how unsentimental it is; she's the kind of writer whose language surprises. Read it if you have a second.
(And I'm slapping myself on the wrist for how rarely I blog and how this is the first post in so long. I'm blog-challenged, but I'm working on it. Not that anyone needs my opinions.)
I hope you'll let me know what you think of this: http://www.tabletmag.com/life-and-religion/56589/immersion/
Lick Your Babies
When I pause to think, it’s enough to make me question almost everything I do…
Am I spending too much time with the girls? Am I spending enough individual time with the girls?
Am I encouraging the girls to develop into individuals, separate and apart from their twinship? Could this encouragement drive a wedge between them?
Am I creating enough structure in their environment so they feel safe and secure? Or have I introduced too much structure so as not to encourage their creativity?
In teaching the girls to respect authority, am I hindering the development of an independent spirit?
I am reading “One and the Same”, a book on twinship by Abigail Pogrebin. She cites one study about epigenetic differences in identical twins – changes in genetics brought about by environmental influences such as chemicals or food.
The 2004 rat study illustrated that “affection, or the lack of it, may also have an impact.” “…rats who were not licked and groomed by their mother as often as their siblings went on to exhibit more stress.” “The offspring of the high-licking moms exhibited better response to fear.”
This is one by which I can confidently check “yes”, as I am positively certain that I “lick” my babies enough. They get more hugs and kisses and belly rubs and toe tickles than they know what to do with…
…and I guess I’m just hoping that makes up for any other psychological scars I may unknowingly be inflicting.
This piece in Sunday's New York Times' T Magazine is a moving excerpt from Allen Shawn's new book, Twin. Shawn is not only brother to actor Wallace Shawn and son of the legendary New Yorker editor, William Shawn, but a beautiful writer who wrote forcefully about his battle with agoraphobia in "Wish I Could Be There." I quoted it in the first pages of my book, One and the Same: “I wouldn’t be myself without her.”
Shawn's twin was sent away when they were very young, and as we in the twins world understand so well, he never felt quite whole again. .
I had a great time talking to a room full of good-looking Moms in a Chicago suburb last Wednesday evening. (I mention that they're good-looking because I found it honestly surprising that so many of them look to be so fit and bright-eyed when they're in the grip of twin-todlerhood.)
At least a couple of triplet moms asked me during the Q&A about whether their third wheel -- the one in the triplet set who isn't part of the identical twin set -- would fare in the intimacy run-off. I didn't want to paint a bleak picture because I know situations vary in each family, but I did recount my interview with a grown triplet who never got over the exclusion she felt from her fellow triplets: "The Twins." Despite the fact that she shared their triplet identity, theirs was the dominant intimacy. I will never forget how indelible her hurt was, and I came away realizing that, even in the uniqueness of triplets, there is still a hierarchy of closeness which can sting. My advice to the Glenview moms was, as it always is, to make sure that each twin spends separate time with the third sibling -- triplet or not. Bonds don't get cemented without time and experiences, shared apart.
I just ran across this heart-wrenching story of two 54-year-old identical twins in the U.K. -- both clearly strong spirits, positive-thinking, and very close --. who were diagnosed with breast cancer two months apart, but discovered only one will survive the disease. The other is terminal. They were due to walk down the runway for a charity fashion show, but only Judith was strong enough to make it; her sister, Heather, was hospitalized. It confirms what so many researchers explained to me: if one identical twin gets cancer, the other has a greater likelihood of having it, too, but no guarantee. It frightens me, certainly, to see that any illness Robin or I end up facing will be a harbinger for the other's fate. And it also makes me ruminate again about whether there's some cosmic equalizing for twins in the universe, so that one doesn't have to experience anything solo. so that we continue to empathize most acutely and be always in tune.
I never thought I'd say it, let alone do it: I'm keeping a gratitude journal.
It's hard for me to even write those words because I know they conjure a lemming-like embrace of the latest self-help stunt. We've all heard the guarantee: "Write about gratitude and you'll start feeling more grateful...which will then change your perspective on life."
Pablum, right? Well, this is one time I've embraced my inner pablum. Because that's exactly what happened to me. I started writing down sweet moments. And life started feeling lighter.
The journal experiment began by accident. Last July, my family and in-laws were browsing the quaint main street of Bolton Landing near Lake George after eating too much at a seafood restaurant called Son of a Sailor. My husband took the kids to an ice cream stand, and I wandered into a kitschy gift shop. Amid the miniature plastic canoes and bad photos of sailboats and sunsets, I spotted a small orange bound book, whose cover title read simply: "Gratitude. A Journal."
I picked it up and the first page introduction already had my number: "If you're anything like me, you probably spend more time thinking about your problems than you do reflecting on the good things in your life." It was true. I'd never call myself angst-ridden, but my mind does tend to go to what's wrong instead of what's right. It continued: "It makes sense - problems need to be solved, whereas good things are, well, good. So of course the bad stuff winds up getting more of our attention."
The brief introduction suggested a simple exercise: each day, write down something nice that happened; it offered blank space --18 lines --on each 3"x4"page, with a place to fill in the date on top. The limited canvas was reassuring: they weren't asking for a novel. Actually there wasn't room to say very much at all. Which means I'd only have to jot down a moment or two, the briefest snapshot of when I'd felt lucky or thankful that day.
I held the book in my hands. I liked the sturdy smallness of it. The plain orange cover with three sparse dandelion drawings. The plainness of the assignment. I put the book back down. I picked it back up. I put it down. The dialogue in my head was predictable:
This is dumb. If you want to keep a journal, start typing entries in your laptop.
Don't fool yourself. You'll never type a journal entry every day and you'll lose track of where it's located in all your hard-drive files.
Who actually writes in long-hand anymore? It will be a chore.
What's hard about writing with a pen? You once kept a diary.
I'd feel embarrassed to keep this by my bedside.
You can turn it over so no one sees the title.
Why write gratitude down? Just feel grateful and skip the gimmick.
But maybe there's something in the recording itself....
I circled the store, deciding finally to skip the purchase and join my cone-eating family.
But then I circled back to the book. And suddenly I'd bought it.
As soon as I owned it, I cherished it.
As soon as I started writing in it, something began to change. That's the surprising thing: the effect was immediate. I found myself noticing moments throughout each day when I felt good, and thinking, "That will go on today's page;" "<em>That</em> was the moment." But then there'd be another one. Maybe even three. And by the time I opened the book before bed, (now my inviolable evening ritual), I had more gems than I had space, and wrote in shorthand to squeeze it all in. But the greater revelation wasn't that there were more happy moments than I expected; it was that there was one. Every single day. Before I started the journal, if someone had asked me whether I experienced at least one kind of mini-joyful instant every single day, I'd have answered no. But I'd have been wrong. Because there they were. Page after page, moment after moment. Tiny or vital. Mostly tiny. Even if I'd had a "bad day," there was always a good hour or minute or afternoon shining from the mud.
The journal didn't become a date book. I disciplined myself not to simply recount activities or events. The prerequisite for inclusion was gratitude: if I wasn't particularly grateful for it, if a moment hadn't given me that jolt of well-being, then it didn't belong in the book. If I'd gone somewhere or had a conversation that maybe should have made me feel good but didn't, it shouldn't make the cut.
As the pages accumulated, I'd sometimes go back to re-read - which had its own powerful effect: it crystallized how much happiness I'd been having. I enjoyed reliving the highlight reel, and was startled by how instantaneously - and vividly - the moment came back to life.
Many of the snapshots are utterly mundane. Something I ate. A view. Something my daughter said. Watching my son do something he hadn't enjoyed in a while. A bike ride with my husband. Believe me, you'd be bored to read my little orange book. Only I know why these particular nuggets were exquisite. And I'm sure yours would be similarly specific and maybe just as inscrutable and dull. But I love that these jewels are now preserved in ink. So, unless I lose the little orange book, I'll never forget these pure, insignificant highs, and otherwise might have lost them, because they weren't important enough to retain. I've learned that the bricks of blessing can be haphazard, and surprisingly ordinary.
These days, when I'm about to turn off my light at night, I'm aware of feeling a certain buoyancy and calm instead of the old weight of the checklist - that tally of all the ways I'd fallen short that day.
I joke to my husband next to me, if he's been teasing about something, that he's about to get excised from my gratitude journal.
Zeroing in each night on that day's joy doesn't make me self-conscious when I'm living it, but it does make me conscious. Conscious of when "the moment" happens, curious about when one will next appear. And yes, it may sound too good be true, but my perspective has been torqued so that I generally see a brighter picture. When, at the end of each day, I might have focused on all its deficiencies and shortcomings, something reminds me to look at how much glimmers. I've now got the book to prove it.
I was so saddened to hear that Pearl Pufeles, whom I interviewed along with her twin, Helen Rapaport, passed away on September 2nd. I had the privilege of interviewing these remarkable sisters for my book, (see photo) and their love was as pure as any I've ever witnessed. Helen's daughter wrote me the kindest email to tell me the news, in which she said, "You honored my Mom and Pearl with you chapter and we are forever grateful and thought you'd want to know." There is no higher compliment. Pearl, your spirit was unmistakable and your endurance was a miracle. I know you were a treasure to your family and you will be deeply missed.
I hope you will read their indelible story here: http://www.thedailybeast.com/blogs-and-stories/2009-10-28/dr-mengeles-twins/
"I devoured it in two days..."
This week I finally got around to reading Abigail Pogrebin’s “One and the Same: My Life as an Identical Twin and What I’ve Learned About Everyone’s Struggle to Be Singular” after having first read about it in an article about a year ago. I devoured it in two days, fascinated at the insights she offered through her own experience, her interviews with other identical twins and her research and talks with experts.
- Reviews & Praise