Enough. Just enough.


This week I had two people mention that my work calendar was a bit behind. This actually isn’t that unusual since I frequently forget to change over weeks into any given month. But January. You guys, I’m not sure I worked more than five full days in my office.

I worked from the hospital while I watched my dad uncomfortably shift around, without any arm or leg strength. I worked from the ER while they checked him for broken ribs from yet another fall. I worked from the ambulance even, on my phone, emailing what I thought was a “be in tomorrow” but turned out to be a “be in next week. probably.” I worked at the Rehab center while he lied to the physical therapists about how and how often he falls, while my mother alternately refused to care for him anymore and tried to leave on a vacation, while biting my tongue as he ranted about his roommates, the conditions, life.

I worked in between putting our remaining and beloved cat to sleep and cleaning the house, trying to rid it of the smell of sickness. I called HR while picking my daughter up that day, hammering out some long-standing and stagnating issues, and then sat with her while I explained that our cat wouldn’t be coming home. On the way to the car, I held her hand and mentally ticked off the list of things I needed to get done the next day. “We’re all out of cats!” she proclaimed from the backseat, eyes welling up and so we cried a bit together while I ignored the constant pinging of chats from my staff.

I worked while I talked to her school that morning, jotting notes while hearing that she maybe had lice. Or maybe it was awhile ago. But probably there was nothing alive there, now. I dictated an email to my computer while scanning my phone for a lice solution and texting my wife.

I worked with a broken finger, crushed by the car door I thoughtlessly slammed on it. The nail is destroyed, the tip shattered, but now I have a new split, which makes typing emails on my phone easier. It’s still my dominant hand though so showering takes much longer, giving me ample time to decide which issues to push forward and which interpersonal dilemmas to handle first.

I stopped working, momentarily, when my phone fell in the parking lot and the screen broke into a million pieces. And then when I was at the gym, for about 30 minutes, until I tried to dismount the stationary bike at the front of the gym and fell flat on my face, banging my splinted finger. I was thinking of the evaluation I had yet to turn in and how to frame my accomplishments in a way that would still merit an increase but not oversell.

I also did not work while bandaging my wife’s finger, after she cut the tip off and passed out on the floor. She and I are both bandaged now and are significantly more knowledgeable about wound care.

It may look like I haven’t been working. But I’ve been bending the limits of my own multi-tasking and every bit of technology I have, often at the same time, in order to not fall behind. My staff are understanding but I’m exhausted. I hope I’m hiding it. I’d like to actually work*, from my office, during actual working hours.

*I am aware, of course, about family and medical leave, and the importance of self-care in general. But my boss is pretty understanding and so I had the time I needed. The self-care I need is a series of uninterrupted, boring days, not punctuated by my mother’s outrageous behavior, my father’s debilitating illness, and my everyday woes. I am also not a workaholic (which my wife would confirm wholeheartedly) but I am responsible and diligent and refuse to let life get the better of me.




What’s Next

These are the things that have happened since the new year.

My mother decided to move with my dad to town.
She signed a lease.
My dad sort of signed the lease since he can no longer hold a pen.
My dad had a nose bleed that covered the bathroom in blood, according to my mother.
My dad fell, so many times.
I packed some of her essentials.
Debra packed more of her essentials.
Debra changed all of her utilities.
This made my mother cry.
My mom packed things like a double boiler she only uses for candy and most recently used to scoop up sewage.
Because the plumbing failed again,
And the heater. Again.
Both need major replacements.
They moved to a hotel.
My dad spent 15 minutes meowing like a cat.
My sister informed me that her therapist told her to check-out since she is stressed, and pregnant.
We had to take in my parents large dog. Now we have three. She is not potty-trained but our new rug is pretty absorbent.
It snowed and the car got stuck on the ice.
And then the heat stopped working.
Because the heating coil failed and the oil pan cracked. And I don’t have $2400.
But that’s okay, since they can’t fix it until Friday.
So we have to rent a car to go pack more of my mother’s things since the movers come tomorrow.
And my mother, well, she blamed me for “taking her husband” and “taking everything” but you know that I didn’t.
The next appointment is today, four weeks early, to see what’s wrong.
Something MUST be wrong.


Rampant privilege ahead.

I’m not a social media junkie but I have accounts with the big companies. I use them all differently and some of them infrequently. Twitter is useful when I’m working at a conference, but I use Facebook to keep up with the lives of hundreds of friends. Many of them were only close colleagues for a month or two but the intimate quality of the Foreign Service means I knew their children, had dinner at their homes, and helped them drink the whiskey from their bottom desk drawers on the hard days. It’s a delight to see their lives all over the world and a window to a former life. Mostly, these days, I use Instagram because it’s the pictures that matter most to me and is less of a political platform for the obsessed, irrational, and uninformed.

I also own a smartphone and on it the apps that keep me connected. I am embarrassed to admit that I actually spent time ranting to my wife when Facebook split out the chatting messenger function to a different app. I have changed my tune. I’m incredibly grateful for the change. Because I can’t be there anymore. I can’t see all of the terrible, horrible news my friends share. I can’t see the terrible, horrible bias of their friends. I can’t do anything but crack the door to peek out at the bullshit that is life right now. Call it self-preservation. Beyond the email notifications I get for a few close friends, I don’t see a single picture or hear interesting anecdotes. My larger circle is altogether gone and I miss them. But not enough to endure this world. Not right now.

Emergency Turkey

I have a lot of rage about my mother. And my father’s latest downslide. And our recent trip to North Carolina where my wife changed her shirt for fear of being outed as gay. I have a lot of anxiety about all those things, in addition to anxiety about The State of the World and how every one of my friends reacts to it. I have anxiety about going to work. About holding my wife’s hand. About, frankly, everything. It’s a terrible mess.

Things that aren’t a mess (yet) or are a delightful mess to be in include…

that Tuesday where your Thanksgiving guest list jumps from 17 to 21.
and subsequently you are beyond grateful that the new Wegmans is offering turkeys for a song.
and you realize you actually have a table cloth long enough for a table of 17 as well as enough plates and silverware.
and you are relieved that the Foreign Service taught you one thing, which was how to have a large dinner without panicking.
and to have enough plates.
but also that your wife is an event planner, who has been around the catering block, and who also makes spreadsheets.
so you can cheat off the one from last year when you though a mere 16 was a feat.
but that, for some reason, you didn’t take Tuesday off even though you took Monday and Wednesday.
and that you scheduled meetings all day until 5.
but then you canceled them.
all of them.
and came home to thaw the emergency turkey instead.

I Never Want to See Another Safety Pin

Those safety pins make me mad. I feel my stomach tightening as if it is squeezing into a compressed, knotted, sickening stone. Perhaps it is different where you are. Here, my workplace is handing out tiny pins. Here, the straight white males are proudly displaying them. Women, too, I’m not leaving them out. But this is my paragraph and I’m not mad at women right now. Except the women who told my daughter that it was okay for her to be sexually assaulted. I have plenty of feelings about that. How long will you wear them? Is it like changing your facebook profile pic? Is there some fucking etiquette where we’re all going to culturally agree that we’re not furious anymore? And when is that going to be? A month? A month to mourn? And what are we saying? You, marginalized one, come and tell me your woes that I, as someone with the emotional capital, can help you to bear? Why then is your safety pin so SMALL? Why should someone who needs…what…space?.. have to hunt for it? If you have such room to speak, can you not yell? And not into the void. At those who are in office. Even the ones you elected, all of them. Just because you may have voted for them doesn’t mean you agree with everything, right? And don’t think, because you didn’t vote for hate, you are off this particular hook. You aren’t exempt for not voting for those people. You don’t get an emotional high ground to stand on. You, too, have to YELL. Pins are not yelling. When I was standing, swaying, in a hallway, stifling uncontrollable sobs, I wasn’t looking for pins. In fact, had I seen one, I might have actually avoided you. Because your pin tells me exactly one thing about you. You know how to work a safety pin.

(Rage and sorrow status: blinding)

Here are two links with more thoughtful safety pin perspectives. I think the first is persuasive (spoiler: safety pins, yay). The second is notable for this:

‘Ask yourself what wearing the safety pin means –and if you will sincerely stand up for targeted individuals. Vulnerable communities do not need any more silent, ineffectual “allies.”’

Should You Wear a Safety Pin – Say Something Sunday
Beyond the Safety Pin: The Work Begins Now

Sister Mothers

One of RR’s most favorite things is to have or do the same thing as I do. She does it more with Debra than she does with me and I suppose that could be because of some complicated birth/non-birth mother thing but I’m going to assume it’s more because she’s at a stage of taking joy in finding commonalities. She loves that our hair is the same color. If it touches as we read or cuddle (I KNOW, RR cuddling!) she slyly looks at me with a giant grin and says “sisters!” This comes out more as a growling, troll-under-the-bridge sissssterrrsss but she’s a friendly troll, and I’m a friendly troll so there it is. Sisssterrrsss.

Neither Debra and I went through that my mom is my best friend period, and no one would say we look so much like our mothers at our age that we are just like sisters. I don’t want to cast myself in the role of RR’s sister since I know someday in a fit of rage she’ll probably play the “you’re not my real mother” card. So now RR says sisssttterrr motherrrsss as much as she says sisters. I’ll take it. Examples of other things that make RR say it: singing in harmony, saying the same thing at the same time, saying jinx as soon as we do it, having the same cold, ache, or ailment, liking the same ice cream flavor, and wearing the skirts at the same time. She’s a little disappointed when she hopes we’ll have the same something or other and we don’t, but she handles it gracefully.

(Rage and sorrow status: so ashamed of feeling privileged enough to have panic attacks that I’ve mostly stopped having them publicly)

Clearly Crisis

Such a terrible moment to write again.  It has been so long and there’s always so much to say about RR that often life runs away with the keyboard. I’m not saying much of anything this week. I’m trying to find coping mechanisms for what was, to me, a shambles of an election – one in which the popular vote did not (yet again) reflect the electoral vote and one which decided that a man who was primarily known in popular culture for being an extravagant, gold-plated-toilets and gilded ceilings reality TV star could be president more effectively than a seasoned female political professional. The decision itself being awful but the aftermath, for me, being significantly worse. Coming to work to face the tyranny of respect, bullying, and asking marginalized people to seek out allies instead of the other way around is panic-inducing. Knowing I sit in rooms every day with those assholes – the women who hold a double standard for women, the bullies who are demanding we all respect the decision they made to vote for a platform of racism, sexism, violence against women, and every other flavor of bigotry and hate – it’s crippling. I can’t even open my inbox to do basic tasks without facing some well-meaning call to silence in the guise of unity and the public good. I’m paralyzed. I’m becoming acquainted with the sudden, embarrassing, humiliating, uncontrollable panic events which leave me breathless and sobbing without warning. I’m facing a constant inner argument between belittling my reactions as a privileged, could pass for straight, well-off, white person and desperately seeking some sort of self-care that will allow me to do my job, leave my house, care for my child, and keep a shred of self-respect. I’m losing both sides. It’s awful, humbling, and frightening. I can’t get a handle on it.

As one of my efforts to pull my brain back, I’m writing here, hoping that a short paragraph or two daily will help recenter me around what’s actually happening rather than what could, or did happen. I have always loved your comments but, like much of the rest of my life, I’ve turned them off and will leave them that way for the time being. Tune in or not, I wouldn’t blame you if you turned out the lights on the world.

Re-reading Your Childhood

So I have ANOTHER link for you.  This one was Freshly Pressed on WordPress (so she already has a ton of traffic) but it’s such an awesome idea that I’m totally stealing it and, in exchange, linking.

Dear Diary by Andrea Badgley.

Like Andrea, I started keeping a diary when I was a mere pocket child.  It was pink and purple (Hello kitty, maybe? Unicorns?) and had an itty bitty lock on the side.  The whole thing was palm-sized and the pages were pink.  I think I started writing in it when I was seven.  I know it was given to me as a way to handle my own stress and creativity as I was prone to worry and constantly dodging my own imagined catastrophes.  I know.  You’re totally surprised.

First my mother tried giving me a tiny box of trouble dolls.  Did you ever have those?  Now that I think about it, passing your troubles on to tiny effigies and stuffing them under your pillow sounds a little worrisome.  That said, I don’t think I actually ever whispered anything to them.  I did take them out and wondered what sorts of games they were getting up to at night and whether or not THAT was why my hair was always so tangled in the morning.  I know.  You’re totally surprised.

So the diary was step two (or maybe 2,000) in my mother’s arsenal of sanity saving devices.  I don’t think I filled the pages completely, being entirely too skeptical about the point of writing without an audience.  But I did write some, in big bubbly handwriting, and apparently my skepticism wasn’t enough to stop me from continuing.  By the time I was in my twenties, I’d filled a book a year.  In rough years, more.  Now they are stuffed into a childhood box (perhaps the perfect place for them) and I’ve ignored them outright since putting them there.  Ignored but not forgotten:  do you know, if asked about the first thing I’d save in a fire (excluding my wife and kid), it would be those journals?

I didn’t have plans for them until I read this the post above.  I think re-reading is brilliant idea for catching a glimpse into the mindset of a child.  RR is her own self and my experiences (and worries) will not be hers.  However, I’ll take any peek into that world I can get and, if it doesn’t apply, at least it’s good fiction.