Selfish

You guys, I am so selfish. I know this about myself and, because I’m also fairly crazy, I do a fair amount of checking my thoughts, words, actions, and privilege. This results in a lot of personal adjusting. That, in turn, feels like self-criticism. That results in frustration which makes me angry because have a right to be a little frustrated and, I think, to be at least a little selfish. All that makes me unpleasant. Fun for everyone.

And sometimes you just don’t get to be selfish. That’s fine, for awhile. For me, awhile is a about two days. To be clear, I’m not talking about those sometimes miserable days when the kids cry all day, have to be fed all day, aren’t able to be put down for a shower, and so forth. My brand of selfish is pretty much okay with that. Keeping my human alive was always mostly okay, even when it made me cry in frustration. It often felt like a solitary endeavor. One person screaming at another is something that creates a bubble where it’s just the screamer and screamee, no matter how many other people are in the room.

It’s the other people thing. If you want to skip the incredibly boring details of my life (assuming you got this far) come back in a few days.

It started sometime last week. Swimming lessons ran into gymnastics sending my wife and I into an argument about whether there was enough time to shower which left me simultaneously angry that I had to compromise and that she was drawing attention to my frustration. I felt like it was entirely my fault for not getting my timing right, after all, it’s not her fault I didn’t want to spend more than half a day in sweaty gym clothes. Or to have people be quietly noticing I am wearing gym clothes and then thinking things about those clothes. On Sunday, I had to visit my parents and it’s hard. Every time. It was harder this time and involved putting out a lot of energy instead of just hanging on. On Monday, a board meeting featuring not only grown-up decisions but also a whole lot of tiny people who make me feel like a giant on a folding metal chair. On Tuesday, a professional dinner with someone I’d only just met. On Wednesday, an all-day high-energy event followed by staying out of the house entertaining my kid while my wife had band practice in our basement. On Thursday, chatting with the babysitter and going to hear my wife play, smiling at all of her friends, hugging people I barely know. Today, a lovely breakfast with dear friends then two days with my wife’s family. Who make her so happy.

You see, it’s not just the hard time commitments, it’s the really wonderful things, too.

With even one break any one of these things would have been more okay. Four days passed this week when my commitments didn’t allow me to go to the bathroom when I wanted to. You should be able to pee when you have to pee. It’s a terrible cycle because the longer it lasts the more my faults start bursting out. For example, I truly dislike being noticed. I don’t want anyone to comment about anything I am doing, being, saying. And they do. Because people do that and because I’m odd that way and it’s not their fault. It’s a fault. It sucks. I’m sorry. It’s who I am. I am so busy trying to fix all kinds of other things about myself I’m certainly not going to add that in. And so I skip peeing, eating, moving, because I don’t want to hear a goddamn thing about what I’m doing.

“Oh, are you working today?”
“What are you having for lunch?”
“Are you still [doing/being whatever in a non judgmental way]?”

The longer the pressure to be on lasts, I’m even more unwilling to hear the good things.

“It’s great to see you!”
“You smell so good!”
“I’m happy you’re here!”

I’m lucky I hear those things. Most of the time I either don’t notice or am just slightly uncomfortable. This week, I’d rather be invisible. Please, please don’t notice me.

I didn’t claim to be sane and, as I said, I’m totally selfish. But you know what? My three hours off (spent working) are up and I’m due to take my child to the trampoline park and to have dinner with my in-laws. And I have to pee.

 

Ways Cancer Doesn’t Sucks: Getting Mom Back Edition

logo

See Ways Cancer Doesn’t Suck: Fox News Edition for installment one of Silver Linings.

When I wrote the first silver linings post I figured that it would be the only one. After all, cancer fucking sucks and there is nothing, nothing, good about it. Turns out there’s another sort of slush-grey lining.

My mom is trying harder.

I admit that I rely on Debra more than I should. A lot more. I think in most relationships there is some give and take. For instance, I think she is only sort of aware of where the toilet cleaner is. My faults are too many to mention. My mom checked out of almost everything years ago. She used to pay the bills, buy groceries, drive, have primary care responsibilities for my sister and I, work full-time, etc. And then…not. Perhaps her mental health got the better of her. Perhaps it was just easier to focus on hobbies. I think the former is what prompted the latter.

My dad was diagnosed in June with a 15 month life expectancy. When the doctor said that, I think we all, to some degree, managed to forget that it wasn’t 15 months of perfect health. We didn’t get perfect health from day one. The decline hasn’t been all that gradual. It’s like the bandaid that you slowly pull off – not fast enough for a clean break but not slow enough to spare you the worst of the hair and skin tugging.

He and my mom have wills, powers of attorney, financial plans, insurance. Unfortunately, they are not the most savvy with money-based decision makers so I’m not so certain that there won’t be money-related tears in the end. Still, my mom has begun to turn a corner. She has started to email the nurses using full sentences. It sounds less like she’s typing while running away and more like she’s remembering how to be polite, firm, specific, determined, involved.

Involved. She’s tuning back into the details of life. I don’t think she’ll ever be comfortable but this in-between time, the can’t-rely-on-my-daughters-yet-because-my-husband-is-still-alive-and-we-are-still-independent time is helping to shift her into the person she was before. I’m proud of her for facing her aversion to making and receiving phone calls, her ability to remember that diplomacy sometimes helps, even in adversity, and that it’s still important to be kind to the people that are helping you.

So that’s the slushy, ashy, gravely silver lining brought to you by 8 months still alive.

 

 

Ways Cancer Doesn’t Suck: Fox News Edition

logo.pngI think we can all agree that cancer sucks. There’s not actually a strong enough word for what cancer is. I am so tired of cancer, so exhausted by being a cancer spectator, so…just…flattened by the day to day of it that the silver lining is sometimes all that keeps me from…

Giving up? Being defeated? Falling apart? None of those things, probably. That doesn’t happen (pity). I wake up every day whether I feel like it or not. So what? Being miserable? Laying down with my arm over my eyes and moaning? Doesn’t seem like my job would continue to pay me if I did that.  Fucking cancer. It won’t even allow you to get properly checked out. Maybe if I bought a fainting couch…

woman-laying-on-green-fainting-couch-images.jpg

So. Silver linings. Know what? My father can be a bigot. He has racist moments that make me cringe. His inability to think critically about what he hears is ridiculous. I want to lock him in his house on election day. I don’t know whether he’s utterly oblivious to my political views or whether he thinks the offensive, not-at-all-grounded-in-facts, comments that he makes are going to change my mind. Either way, it makes family dinners (every Sunday, note) uncomfortable.

Cancer has rendered him harmless. He doesn’t seem to take in what he watches on television. I’m not even sure he watches conservative TV anymore. I don’t know what he thinks about Trump or Sanders. How thrilling! He hasn’t made a single political remark in the entire election season. I don’t even know if he’ll be alive to vote. Problem solved?

This is gallows humor, right? But it’s a physical sense of relief. I don’t feel constantly tested to remain level-headed, calm, reasonable, loving in the face of uninformed, inflammatory opinions. And, to be clear before you hit that comment link, I don’t need him to agree with me. I want him to be able to sort through propaganda – no matter where it’s coming from. I want him to fact check. I want Sunday dinner to be about the delectable roast beef, not politics.

quote-it-s-partly-true-too-but-it-isn-t-all-true-people-always-think-something-s-all-true-j-d-salinger-36-91-05

So thanks cancer? I guess?

 

 

 

 

Milestones

It feels like we’re so very far away from the days of wondering whether or not she’s sitting up on schedule, or when teething would begin (or end already for god’s sake); waiting for her to talk, to eat solid food, or for her hair to grow in (and we waited, and waited); checking off the first steps*, first somersault, first swim. Now one milestone bleeds into the next with far less anticipation or comment.

Oh look, honey, she’s showering alone!
Did you hear? She just sang that whole song and she only heard it once!
Shh, listen, she’s telling a story to herself!

I suppose I could feel guilty that we don’t chronicle milestones anymore. We notice. We even marvel. But the accomplishments come so quickly and we’re self-conscious about making her self-conscious so we mostly keep our amazement and wonder to ourselves. But I can tell you guys, because come on, it’s either that or cancer.

We recently finished Marvel’s The Wonderful Wizard of Oz, the original Oz story told in graphic novel form. I wasn’t sure she was up for the grown-up language but she paid rapt attention. Emboldened, I decided to take on a book without many pictures – Neil Gaiman’s Fortunately, The Milk. She got through it, but wasn’t bowled over. Which she should have been. BECAUSE IT’S AWESOME. I decided to dare Alice in Wonderland. Our version, which was my mother’s, is falling apart, is daunting to look at since it includes Through the Looking Glass, and has only a few line drawings. Surprisingly, she has stuck with it even though Alice is kind of a pain in the ass.

I read Alice in Wonderland to her while Debra was still pregnant. I rested my head on Debra’s belly and RR kicked me each time I repeated “Who are you?” My baby is old enough to understand Alice in Wonderland. My baby!

Tonight she hit two more milestones. She stormed away from the dinner table shouting, “AND I’M NEVER HAVING SUPPER WITH YOU AGAIN!” and, while we did take it seriously, it was a teensy bit amusing to hear her try to leverage her delightful presence at the table in order to get a popsicle instead of pot roast. She also took a scissors to her own hair. Fortunately, she’s so proud of herself when she does something new independently, that she cut one piece and immediately went to find Debra and show off her new skills. Even more fortunately, she cut a lovely face-framing piece rather than shearing a clump off at the scalp.

Tonight she read Where is the Green Sheep to me. She got it. She gets the concept of the silent e and how it changes the vowel before it. She’s reading. And this milestone, like so many of the others, sidled up on me and slid right past. She has been reading, hasn’t she?

I remember sending her to daycare and thinking (okay, sobbing) that I was going to miss her first rolling over, first crawl, first everything. But the milestones are so fast and furious that all I’ve ever been able to do is hold on tight and watch. It turns out, I haven’t missed a thing.

 

*how on earth did I not write about first steps? Oh that’s right because 2011 kicked my ass.

 

Tonight, at Bedtime

I’m itchy, mama. And sure enough, I turn around and she has got both hands stuck into her pull-up clawing away at god knows what. I try to remember when we washed her last and it doesn’t seem that long ago. Rather, when she washed herself last which, apparently, wasn’t adequate enough. Body washing, like teeth brushing is a learned skill. However, instead of sending her back to the sink for a simple swish, I’ve got a tiny person in a flannel nightgown up to her elbow in, well, herself. And since we’re those “it’s your body you can touch it however you like” parents all I can say is, well, should you take a bath?

And yes, she says, I should. And so she strips off the nightgown and pull-up and stands starkers (itchily, I presume) in the hall while I puzzle over the fact that our drain stopper has failed (forgotten before I made the the offer unfortunately) and the fact that there is no way in hell I’m putting her into a shower midway through lullabies at 8 at night. To her credit, she also isn’t keen on a shower and together we stand there (one of us more wiggly than the other), pondering.

And so…

Tonight I put my kid in the sink so I could use the dish sprayer to spray her business and then bent her over and directed it at her butt while she howled with laughter. Welcome to 2016.

IMG_4764

I Thought it Would be the Chickens

We narrowed our choice of schools for first grade down to two – our public school or the up-to-8th-grade Montessori school in town. We’re huge Montessori fans, finding that it provides a beautiful trellis for RR to send her shoots up and wind her roots around. While I’m not deeply knowledgeable about Montessori in the elementary years, I know my child, at least right now, and, for now, the method fits her.

But. I’m a tremendous fan of public schools and public school teachers and, after all, there is no tuition for public school. So off we went for a tour.

Depending on the angle, I could probably list dozens of pros and cons for RR about the public elementary. This is one of those touchy things, right? Like how you choose to diaper and feed an infant. The reasonable folks live and let live (or at least keep their gentle judging to themselves) but the important part is that it’s right for your family. After the tour and a lot of soul searching on our end it just isn’t right. Except the cost. The cost is right. I love my paycheck. I wish we could see each other more often.

Here’s what I think RR will take from continuing in Montessori. She will be able to continuing learning the way she has begun. Her pace will be individual to her. She will work in a garden or feed the chickens as part of her day. She will learn to be a mediator. She will have an art studio and music studio. As she gets older, she and her peers will plan their own field trips related to their work, make their own reservations, arrange their own transportation. She will bake and deliver food to retirement communities, do community service, participate in city council meetings.

I thought it would be the chickens that won me over. It wasn’t. It was the capable children running a store, tending a row, baking bread. It was the first grade classroom learning geometry and building complex paper boxes. It was the little girl who muttered to herself I want to draw now… what will I draw? and then thumbed through a tremendous pile of how to books. It was the Head of School saying we let them learn the hard lessons…we don’t step in to save them. It was the little boy who was having a moment and when the only visible adult briefly removed him to gather his composure it was inconsequential to the rest of the room. No one stopped working. No one paid any attention. No one leaned over to giggle and point with another child.

That’s where I’m sending my paycheck. You know those fairy tales where the price is always your first born child? Well, turns out in a way that’s true. It also turns out it’s a price we’re willing to pay.

 

Things I Didn’t Expect To Say

Whose pee is that?

And honestly not know.

Because there are multiple culprits.

And I’ve said it more than once today.

urine

 

 

 

 

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 1,032 other followers