March 26, 2015 by Julia
I haven’t been inspired these past few weeks. I’ve been in the middle of non-normal crap, the stuff that sideswipes you and makes you forget all your plans and well-meaning intentions for your life and makes you scoff at all that extra stuff – the projects, the memory-keeping and yoga, the playtime, the fun – as just window dressing. None of that stuff can go very deep until the core is okay again. Life has to be normal for any of that stuff to happen. Those joys cannot be felt until order has been restored and you feel your roots going back into the ground. We’ve been in the middle of our out-of-the-ordinary trial, and when you’re in the middle of it, the only way out is through, I suppose.
I have a tiny spark of fight in me, and I’m trying to fan the flame with a bit of writing. Don’t take this as me being strong, or staying positive, or any of that – this is me trying to get myself motivated and encouraged. Pulling myself up by my own bootstraps, if you will – which, you don’t have to, because really, isn’t that physically impossible? But I’m gonna try.
When a pipe in our living room ceiling burst back in February, it messed with all of our heads. Our main living area was torn apart for weeks, and we were in limbo – about how long repairs would take, or how much help we’d get from our insurance, about how to make our home functional with temporary fixes. I moved furniture and everything else around to make room for the plumbers, repairmen, painters, flooring installation, and the whole time I was tired, so tired. My “daily goals” were thrown out. The happiness that I’d begun the new year with was dried up. When you’re in the middle of it, all that matters is survival.
I’ve had a vague hope that this too shall pass, but the present is what I was living with, and there is no way around it. The anxiety, exhaustion or sorrow of the present moment can overcome anyone, no matter how mature or strong they are. That’s what I think. I am still young-ish, but I am guessing there will be moments even in my old age where wisdom and experience will fail me, and I will only feel the bad feelings.
It’s good for us, isn’t it? I do feel compassion expanding inside me. I keep envisioning the word “forgiveness” as a tattoo on my arm, because I believe in it. For myself and humankind. I will forgive myself and others for complaining, because sometimes that is the only we know how to reach out. I will believe people when they say things are hard for them. I forgive myself for snapping at the kids, and I forgive them for screaming at me. We have all been stressed out, and I scream less than they do because I have about thirty years of experience on them. I’ve had less to give them, and more often, mean comments get away from me. But the forgiveness always moves in both directions; that is the beauty of it.
Last week Dennis was on a work trip for four days, after weeks (and months) of working late. While he was gone, the kids got hit with a stomach virus. Not to get too graphic, but when Jack woke up with it in the middle of the night, I had to sit him on the toilet and give him a bowl to hold in his lap. Of course, the first time I caught the vomit in my “hand-bowl,” aka my hands. By the next evening, Jack was curled in a ball, crying, which is unusual for the toughest member of our family, so I anxiously dragged him and Fiona to urgent care, where he had to dry heave in the parking lot upon arrival. By the middle of the next night, Fiona was throwing up. Jack was begging for water and then throwing it right up seconds later. I called my mom and she said, “Do you need help?” Thank God for mothers.
My mom nursed Fiona at home while I took Jack to the ER. As I drove him there, I marveled at the coincidence of this happening while Dennis was across the country. Of course, I was tempted to think. Because when it rains, it pours. I don’t want to be a person who goes, “Aha! I told you so!” every time something goes wrong, though. There is so much going right at the same time, and I don’t want to blind myself to it.
I was also reflecting on the privilege of parenting and loving a child. It was painful to watch my son suffering, but to be the one who gets to take him to the hospital, the one to carry all forty pounds of him and hold his hand and sit by him on the hospital bed while the IV filled him up with fluids for hours…I was keenly aware that to love a precious, vulnerable child in their time of need is a privilege. My house was falling apart, I was struggling, but the tenderness between us was a blessing. Once again I was grateful to be a parent, and aware of those people all over the world who have lost hope that they can ever be one. To them I say: if you want to be a parent, you will be. It may not be through the process that you’ve imagined, but your longing and love will find a way to a child, whether they were born three years ago, or ten, or are not yet conceived.
After seven hours in the ER, Jack was like a new boy, skipping to the car, saying “I feel SO much better, Mommy!” and eating pizza the second he got home. It’s amazing what fluids and some anti-vomit medicine can do. Also, my mom had finished my laundry, done my dishes, given Fiona a puppet show, hot tea with honey, and watched her latest favorite movie, “Rainbow Rocks,” featuring the Equestria Girls. (Knowing Fiona, my mom was not allowed to look away from the screen the entire time.) Mom then hung out until bedtime so she could put Jack to bed while I snuggled with Fiona in her bed. To say I was grateful would be understatement. Dear friends also dropped off groceries and a surprise bag of fun stuff for us, and texted to check up on us, and it was the sweetest. I am reminding myself right now of their kindness.
We are healthy now. Dennis is back from his trip. And today the final repairs were made on our house; our wood laminate floors are in, our area rug arrived, our walls freshly painted and coat hooks hung. Jack’s bedroom has been switched from a baby’s to a kid’s, which has been a long time coming and was a whole different headache that I for some reason decided to undertake while the rest of the house was in disorder. I tend to be all-or-nothing that way. Might as well get all the work done at once.
Anyway, I think (I think) today we are back to normal. At the beginning of these trials, a few days after our living room flooded, I said to a friend, “You know, it hardly seems right that normal life is hard enough, and then when something knocks you down, normal is all you want to get back to. And you have to claw your way back to normal. But normal is hard enough!” So I’m not going to put normal on a pedestal, here.
But damn, it feels good to have a floor under our feet again. And damn, I want to help the sideswiped people around me, while I can. Until I get knocked down again, and have to ask the same of them.