Anniversary

Eighteen months ago, I was in a pretty low place. I was still posting to the blog about the girls, but there were also a lot of ‘private’ posts where I vaguely wrote about how much my life sucked. About how worthless I thought I was.  About how I was depressed with no good reason for it and if I would just be a better person I would snap out of it. I was depressed. Really depressed. Days when continuing to breathe in and out seemed like too much effort depressed.  You know, I threw 18 months in there just to give it a number.  Looking back now, I think I can say I was depressed for years.

I was seeing a therapist. There were plenty of side-shows that I could bring up in our discussions, but most of my issues came down to my job.

“I can’t decide if I’m depressed because I hate the practice of law, or if I hate the practice of law because I’m depressed.”  This conversation circled around and around, week after week.

“It’s that office,” my therapist finally said.  “It’s that office and you need to start becoming open to the idea of leaving.”

“Oh, I’m open to the idea of it,” I would laugh.  I was so, SO open to the idea of leaving. I would envision myself skipping through my office, gleefully dropping letters of resignation on all the partner’s chairs.  And then I would explain why none of it was possible.  “It’s not fair to my family for me to take a pay cut. I don’t think I even want to practice law any more and if I’m not practicing law then I’m a disappointment. That office is so dysfunctional that I can get away with being a bad employee there and no one notices. No other firm would hire me. I don’t do good work. I’m lazy.  No one in their right mind should hire me.”

Depression.  It’s such a filthy liar.  It will stare you right in the eye and confidently tell you any lie that keeps you stuck.

We spent a lot of time discussing change. About how you start small.  “If you start with ‘I need to change careers,’ you’ll become paralyzed by the size of it,” she explained. “Start small.  Just one change.  It doesn’t even have to have anything to do with your job. Just change something. Anything.”

She would give me homework each week.  Little changes. Some would stick. Most would not. But the point was that I was shifting things around. Testing and preparing for something bigger. One week my homework was to schedule some time off work that didn’t revolve around the girls being sick, or a quasi-required visit with family.  Just time off work because.  Just because.  The next week I told her that I had booked a flight to visit my best friend in Seattle. I even scheduled it around my birthday as a gift to myself.

“That’s great,” she said.  “I think that will be really fantastic for you.”

It wasn’t.  And yet, it was.  That night in a Thai restaurant in Seattle happened one year ago today.  That night, as clichéd as it sounds, changed my life in ways that only something like that can. It brought home that life is short. So, breathtakingly short.  And it can be over long before you are ready.  As I came home from Seattle and struggled to get back into my old routine, I realized it was way, way, WAY too fucking short to spend any more time languishing in my own unhappiness.

Change, like falling in love, is one of those things that happens slowly, and then all at once.  I’d been putting in the hard work with my therapist to get ready, but that visit to Seattle was my tipping point.

I still thought the job at the firm was something I was supposed to want, but I didn’t.  So the problem behind my depression had to be that I hated the practice of law and needed to find something else.  When I came back from Seattle, I started talking to everyone.  “What do you do? Do you like what you do? Could I do it too?” Seriously. Everyone. I was practically asking people about their work in the checkout line at the grocery store.  Going through all of that on the blog seemed like a good way to get fired, so I stopped blogging.

Along the way, through a friend of a friend of an acquaintance’s friend, I met an attorney who had left her big-firm job to sell real estate. She and I hit it off.  Her work sounded appealing. I thought I could make it work. It was the ticket I needed to give me the okay to walk out the door of the law firm job I still thought I was supposed to want.  I was going to quit practicing law and become a real estate agent.

As it turns out, this idea scared the shit out of D.  For some really practical reasons that involve keeping electricity running to our house.  As a compromise, I reluctantly agreed to keep a reduced law practice going, just out of our house, just enough to help us make ends meet, and just until the real estate thing really started going.   By New Years Eve I had left the law firm, started a solo law practice out of my home office, and was going through the steps to get my license to sell real estate.

Here’s another funny thing about change when you’re depressed: Even when you don’t get it right, you still end up better off than where you were.

One year later, I can tell you that it wasn’t the practice of law, or that I am a horrible person who just needs to get her shit together  – Turns out it was that office after all.  Turns out, I actually like practicing law when it’s on my own terms.  Turns out I’m actually pretty good at this whole lawyering business and that every single one of my clients from the firm wanted to come with me. Turns out selling real estate is fine, and I’m enjoying trying something new, but, turns out, it was also just a crutch that I needed to get me out the door of my firm.  Turns out, I’d probably be happy doing just about anything that is not in that office. I never would have known any of that if I hadn’t just taken the leap and started making the scary changes.

It seems insulting to say that it took my best friend almost dying in a restaurant half a continent away to make me realize that I had the power to effect my own happiness.  But, there you have it.  It is what it is. Twelve months later and I barely recognize the person I was a twelve months and one day ago.  I’ll let Amy tell her own stories, but I think she feels similarly.

I was texting with her this afternoon:

Me: “It was awful.  But, maybe part of it was okay, too?  I don’t know. Maybe it just was.”

Amy: “I think it was one of those awful things that strengthened and empowered us. Let’s never do that again.”

Agreed.  I’m so grateful she’s still here.  I’m so grateful that I’m not where I was any more.   I’m grateful.  But I get it now.  Let’s never do that again.

Posted in history, Uncategorized | 1 Comment

Meow Meow

The Peanut has always had an active imagination, but for a good six months or more now she’s been operating under the unshakable belief that she is a cat.  She’s remarkably committed: if left to her own devices she would only ‘speak’ to us in ‘meow.’  This has resulted in some ridiculous conversations.

Me: “Peanut, do you want milk or juice with dinner?”

Peanut: “Meow Meow.”

Me: “I need you to tell me, Please.”

Peanut: “I’m a kitty, Meow Meow!”

Me: “Well, Kitty, I need you to use your words to tell me what you want, meow meow.”

Peanut: “Milk, please, meow meow!”

Rinse. Repeat.  When we fix her hair, she won’t let us put it in a pony tail, but a ‘kitty tail’ (which is the same thing, by the way) is completely acceptable.  It recently came to my attention that the kids at preschool don’t call her Peanut; they call her Kitty.  I kind of love it. I’m not really a ‘cat person,’ but I’m perfectly happy to let the Peanut be Kitty all day long.

Last night as I was driving the Peanut home she said, “Ms. Katie says there are no kitties allowed at school.”  I’d admittedly had a really long day, but my first response was to be furious. Not allowed?  I had to tamp down a completely inappropriate response, like, “Well, you can tell Ms. Katie to suck it.”  Probably wouldn’t have been my best move. The Peanut was probably doing something like refusing to use her hands while she was eating lunch because kitties eat with just their mouths (this has happened before).  But it still makes me a little angry.  Who are you to tell my Kitty she’s ‘not allowed.’

As of 1:45 this afternoon Ms. B. will officially be a Freshman in high school.  I think I’ve been too busy to have a full-blown freak out over this, but whenever I stop to really think about it, my head spins a little bit.  A Freshman? I’m not entirely sure how this has happened. Time.  It just moves so breath-takingly fast. Age 3 is over and in the past before you can even really process it.  If, when she’s ready to start her own Freshman year of high school, the Peanut still believes she’s a cat and wants to wear a tail and ears to school, then we’ll have a talk about was is and is not ‘allowed.’  For now? Just let her be a cat, meow meow.

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“Maybe you have mono…”

Last Sunday, mid afternoon, I went from feeling maybe a little tired from cooking and cleaning all day, to feeling seriously ‘need-to-lay-down-now’ ill. It felt almost instantaneous. I could actually feel the precise moment the fever rolled in through my body. A sudden crushing weight of fatigue and body aches. Throughout the night I would wake up alternately sweating with fever and shaking violently with chills. Weirdly, by morning, the lymph nodes under my arms feel so swollen and tender that it hurt to move my arms. My throat hurt, but not in that streppy way. I can’t really describe it. Really, everything hurt.

I stayed home Monday. Went in to work on Tuesday only because it was my last day (more on that later). Bare knuckled it through a New Year’s Eve/Anniversary dinner with D hopped up on a triple dose of Advil, Tylenol, and DayQuil which probably did dreadful things to my liver (not recommended for those of you at home), but I was desperate and nothing I had taken so far seemed to be working. On Wednesday I was back to sleeping all day through ocean waves of fatigue, body aches, fevers and chills. The thought of getting up even briefly to use the bathroom made me consider death a viable alternative.
In other words: I’ve been kind of sickly.

Every time I’m feeling sick, I’ve always been able to think back to Christmas 2003, where I was the sickest I’ve ever been, and take solace in the fact that whatever I’m feeling right now could feel a whole lot worse.

What happened that year was a combination of extreme fatigue and shitty timing. I was taking 18 hours that fall semester, 6 of them with a delightfully sadistic studio instructor, and I was only making it by limiting my sleep to every other day (have I told this story on the blog before? I don’t remember. Bear with me. I’m kinda sickly at the moment). Knowing that I was setting my body up for certain derailment, I had actually gotten a flu shot for the first time that fall. Hahaha. Ha. Like that was going to save me. The flu shot is not a miracle worker, kids. Stupidly, I refused to get a flu shot again for five years. Because the flu shot was clearly what I was doing wrong that semester.

As finals week kicked off, I got hit with the flu. Due to clinical levels of sleep deprivation, my body was too tired to put up any sort of fight. I hadn’t realized anyone could be that sick. I lost days (over a week?) in a fever-induced haze of miserableness. I must have gotten Ms. B. off to my mom’s before the worst of it set in because I don’t remember her being there, but truth be told, I don’t remember.

What I do vaguely remember is D coming in and out. He was in that sadistic studio with me and we were partners for the project that needed to be finished that week. Thank God, he must have loved me, because he carried a work load carefully designed to kill two people across the finish line all by himself. And he did it from my house so he could keep me in Popsicles and chicken noodle soup (assuming I was actually conscious long enough to consume either).

D grew up in a family that thinks you go to the doctor when you’re sick (Amateurs). I also remember, after I refused to vacate the couch voluntarily, him picking me up, carrying me to the car, and taking me to the student health center. I remember thinking, “Aw, it’s kinda sweet that he’s so concerned he’s being pushy about this whole taking care of me thing,” and also, “Geez, D. So. Annoying.” Because after a humorously short examination, the doctor (premed major?) said, “Well, I’m guessing you already know this, but you have a particularly nasty case of the flu. You really should be home resting. And make sure you drink plenty of fluids.”

No. Shit.

This. This is exactly why I hate going to the doctor. Think of all the time I spent feeling miserable sitting in a waiting room when I could have been feeling miserable at home on a soft horizontal surface. I think I could go to the doctor with my arm actually detached from my body and, after dropping a small fortune on an X-ray and blood work, the doctor would say, “Well, it looks as though your arm has become detached from your body. What you need to do is rest it. And make sure you drink plenty of fluids.” Someone give me a white coat and a stethoscope. I’m ready.

I’ve gotten off topic (see reference to illness, above, for further explanation). The point of that whole detour was to say, I usually can say of any subsequent illness that it is not as bad as that semester. But by Wednesday night I was feeling very shades of 2003. And when I woke up Thursday morning still feeling horrible, I thought (1) Seriously!? Who has time for this shit? and (2) perhaps I should go to the doctor just to make sure this isn’t something more serious.

I don’t go to the doctor. I don’t. The only time I’ve been on an antibiotic in my adult life was for a sinus infection that has gotten so bad it hurt to move my eyeballs. I hate going to the doctor. But I’ve been married to D long enough that I guess he’s starting to rub off on me, damnit, so I decided I would go.

I looked up the hours for the urgent care clinic near my house, spent several hours working up my energy levels for the trip, and drove to the clinic. Only to discover it was closed. Lesson learned. Don’t let the sick person Google clinic hours. By the time I got home, I was exhausted and determined that I was too worn out to go back again when the clinic was actually open.

So I decided to Google my symptoms instead. Which is usually a sure way to learn that you have polio or scurvy and only have a few days to live. And I probably should have learned my lesson with the whole clinic hours mishap. But I did it. And the top search result that came up, the description that sounded pretty spot on, was Mono.

“Crap,” I thought.

Not, “crap, I could feel this way for upwards of a month.” But, “Crap, D is never going to let me live this down.”

The winter before we started dating, D had mono. It must have been really traumatic for him because throughout that first year, every time I felt a bit tired or puny, he became really concerned and we had to go through this conversation:

D: “Maybe you have mono.”
Me: (snort) “Shut up. It’s not mono.”

I think he just didn’t realize how much I loved sleep. It happened so frequently that the line “Maybe you have mono,” became this relationship in-joke to be trotted out as a suggested diagnosis whenever one of us got the hiccups or a paper cut.

I can’t have mono. Not because it is a medical diagnosis given to me by Google. But because I really don’t have the time to be sick right now and if it’s mono, it’s just one cosmic joke too far.

Shut up. It’s not mono.

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Growing Up

Oma (commenting on Halloween costume number three for the Peanut): “I love your wings. Can I wear them?”

Peanut: “No. You’re too big.  Maybe when you grow up little you can wear wings and trick or treat and get candy!”

—–

Peanut: “When Nana grows up, she’s going to be a teacher and that makes her a Princess!”

—–

Peanut: “When I grow up I’m going to be a mommy, and that mean’s I get Mommy’s Nook and I get to sleep in Mommy’s bed with Daddy.”

D: “Well, that’s kind of…. weird.”

Me: “I feel vaguely threatened….”

——

Peanut: “When I grow up I’m going to be a cheerleader, and I’ll get thrown in the air and have a great big belly button!” (Not sure where this giant belly button thing comes from. Maybe because the cheerleaders she’s seen, at the KU football game, had bared midriffs?)

——

These are all just in the last 24 hours.  Growing up and the future has been a hot topic of conversation with the Peanut.  And what I love about all of these conversations is that the idea of what the future can hold is so malleable and vast for the Peanut.  She might grow up to be a Mommy, but sometimes she says she’s going to grow up to be a Daddy. She’s a cheerleader, a teacher, a fairy. You might grow up big, but you can ‘grow up little,’ too.  These visions of her future might be possible, or they might be a complete fantasy.  But right now the Peanut doesn’t know that.  In her mind, there is no difference.  We’re all still growing up, even Oma.  It’s a beautiful, hope-filled way to look at the world, and one I hope she can hold on to for as long as possible.

Posted in Conversations, family | 3 Comments

Changes

When was my last blog post? (Checking) August 28th.  It’s not that I don’t WANT to blog. Its that finding time is hard (stupid excuses).  But it’s necessary.  Because when I logged in today I found this forgotten little conversation between the Peanut and D saved in my ‘draft’ folder.

D: “Peanut, say ‘goodnight.’ It’s time to go to bed.”
Peanut: “No, sorry, I need to be a bear first.” (Holds up bear ‘claws’ and stalks out of the room).

There’s so much going on right now.  Too much.  And I’m having a hard time juggling it all.  I keep dropping balls. Phone calls I forget to return. Email chains dropped. The wrong thing said because I’m not taking the time to think things through. To think about other people’s feelings.  Issues left unresolved. Questions unanswered.  That conversation with the Peanut would have totally been absorbed into the inaccessible chaos of my memory bank if I hadn’t written it down.

Since my last post we’ve moved to a new house, leaving behind the house that I suspect Ms. B. will always associate with her childhood. Where we brought home the Peanut. Where D and I got married.   And with that move has come problems with the new house and problems with the old house as we get it ready to rent and things don’t seem to be proceeding the way they are supposed to at either house.  Money money money. Everything’s hemorrhaging money.  D traveled to Russia and France for work, and took the Peanut to visit his grandmother in southwest Kansas who is nearing the end. My car, that fucking car, has needed more and more repairs (more money).  The Peanut was moved to a new classroom at her Preschool because the teachers were worried she wasn’t being challenged in her old one. Was that the right move? I still don’t know. Ms. B. has been struggling with her own health issues that probably deserve their own post, probably a private one.

On top of everything else, I’ve decided to make some career moves, which probably shouldn’t come as too much of a surprise given the tone of my last post. But it’s still requiring a huge shift in my thinking.  I’m sorry, I have to be vague about it for a moment.

The question is: Do I go through Door A? Or do I stay where I am? D wants me to give him answers. He wants to be supportive, but Door A goes against everything he thinks is safe. How does Door A work? How does Door A provide security and stability for our family? What if Door A isn’t the answer?  I don’t have the answers to those questions yet, and its scary and makes me nervous, too.  But I’m content just knowing that whatever is behind Door A is better than continuing to stand still. And if Door A isn’t the answer, then I’ll look for Door B.

That’s not good enough, and it’s not fair to D. But neither is it fair to me to stay somewhere I’m miserable just so everyone else feels ‘safe’ and ‘comfortable.’ To me, leaping into the unknown is much less scary than staring down the barrel of forty years spent crying in my car every morning because I can’t pep-talk my way into making a twenty-foot walk into an office building.  Maybe leaping without a parachute is suicide. But just because I’m standing here breathing doesn’t mean I’m living.

But maybe its too much? Maybe, put on top of everything else that is going on right now, it’s too much. It’s too much change and chaos. Maybe I should just stay put for a little bit longer. Wait it out a little bit longer. Or is that just the fear talking?

Posted in Randomness | 1 Comment

In Progress

My therapist says that I need to keep writing, to keep writing and writing, even when I don’t want to, because something about that process helps make everything that happened become a memory, instead of something that I keep viscerally re-experiencing on a constant replay loop through my head.

This sort of makes sense: writing as release valve.  I think I was doing better in Seattle because, one, I could turn to my friend and see she was alive, but, two, and more importantly, she was someone I could turn to when I was quietly replaying everything and just say, “Jesus.” And she would know what I was thinking about and would immediately get it because she went through it and was thinking about it too, and together we could stop and move on to the next activity.  No one here gets it.  In Seattle, it was my release valve that kept things manageable.

Instead, I come here, and go back to a job that on good days I found to be a mildly tolerable way to make a living until something better occurred to me.  And, I just… I just can’t anymore.

A client calls complaining about some small bank fee she has to pay that she thinks should be her ex’s responsibility. Or another calls to see if we can change the parenting plan to deny the father overnight visitation of their child because she’s learned that he doesn’t have a bed – he only, God forbid, has a futon.  People angry about calendars and time and bills and affairs. And while on the outside I’m calmly explaining options and talking people down, on the inside I’m shaking every single one of them and screaming, “Get over yourselves!”

And I wonder how much longer I can keep this up. This job is hard, but I used to be able to say, “At least I’m helping good people get through what is one of the most difficult times of their lives.” I’m finding it hard to say that right now.  I used to think my job was challenging because I had a front row seat to all of the different ways people find to hurt each other.  And I suppose that is still true. But now, I would add that this job is challenging because you get the privilege of seeing just how creative people can be when it comes to finding ways to be unhappy; And just how equally stupid they become when it comes to finding their way back out again.  This job is draining. And, currently, I don’t have anything to give.

I was on the phone with opposing counsel and said, “I’m sorry it’s taken me a few days to call you back. I was out of town.”

“Oh!” she said. “You were on a vacation! How lucky for you.  You’re just so lucky you get the privilege of a vacation. I would love a vacation, but I never get to take one.”  I don’t know this attorney well enough to know if she meant it this way or if it’s just the way she speaks and she was being genuine, but everything she said, every time she emphasized the words ‘lucky’ and ‘vacation,’ it felt like she was oozing sarcasm. Like she was pissed it took me three business days to call her back because I had the nerve, the nerve!, to be away from my desk for anything other than a trial. 

“Aren’t you just so lucky to have taken a vacation?” she asked.  She wasn’t going to let this go.

“Yes, I am.” I said in a monotone.  I visualized slamming down the receiver, getting in my car, driving to her office, going inside and punching her in the face. Hard.  Instead, I put my receiver on mute, so I could hear her, but she couldn’t hear me, and I cried through the rest of that phone call.

I’m a mess.  But all things considered, I’m honestly less of a mess today than I was yesterday. And I think tomorrow I’m going to be even less of a mess than I am today.  And in the meanwhile, I’m just going to keep writing until this time just feels like a memory.

Posted in Uncategorized | 9 Comments

My house is not on fire, but things are not ‘fine’

A few years ago, I was chatting with an old friend about this and that and the weather and other little bits of every day nothingness when, fifteen minutes into the conversation she said, “Well, I’m actually not looking for a new job anymore because I have lymphoma and am starting chemo soon. But, you know, maybe when that’s over I’ll start looking again.”

“Woah, woah woah,” I said, throwing my hands up. “Wait a minute. Back up. You have lymphoma?” After we established that she did, in fact, have lymphoma (she’s fine now), and yes, it was serious, but, yes, her doctors were on top of it and her prognosis was good, I advised, “You really gotta work on your delivery with that little bit of information.”

“Yeah,” she admitted. “I haven’t quite figured out how to say it yet. Too soon, and it feels too much like, ‘My house is on fire!’ But if I wait too long, then it’s weird that I didn’t say anything sooner.”

Yesterday I came home from a trip to visit one of my best friends in Seattle. Naturally, people keep asking me, “How was your trip?” I’m not really sure what to tell them. My house isn’t on fire. But to just say it was ‘fine’ seems wildly inappropriate. I haven’t figured out how to say it yet.

My best friend almost died on my first night in Seattle.

On the other side of the experience, I’ve realized how often we use the phrase “almost died” in our culture, but don’t really mean it. One person my friend told her story to immediately started discussing his ‘near-deathys.’ It just pissed me off. “First of all,” I wanted to say, “The very fact that you are using the phrase ‘near-deathy’ means that you’re not getting it.” People say “I almost died,” or “She almost died,” or any other variation without fully realizing how utterly untrue it is.

I really mean it. Almost died.

My first night in Seattle, my friend and I had decided on Thai food for dinner.

“There’s two places close,” my friend said. “There’s the hole in the wall place that’s cheap but good. Or there’s this other place that is less ‘hole in the wall,’ but is outstanding.”

“Let’s go with ‘outstanding.’ This is a vacation, after all.” I said.

We were seated in a booth in the back corner, nearing the end of our meal. I was looking down at my plate, pushing my food around and telling some stupid story that I don’t remember now, when I looked up, mid-sentence, and saw my friend’s face. Her hands were clamped over her mouth and her eyes were wide and watering. My first thought was that she had accidentally gotten a bite of something screaming hot.

“Jesus,” I said, “Are you okay?” She shook her head ‘yes,’ hands still over her mouth, but then started shaking her head ‘no.’ When she dropped her hands, her mouth open wide, it was obvious that she was choking.

We both jumped up from the table and moved out to the aisle. I grabbed her arm and started alternately pounding and rubbing on her back. (Rubbing? Why rubbing? I guess to be comforting? It’s what I do for my girls when they’re upset?) “Help! Help us!” I cried out, but I mentally I was thinking, she’s going to cough this up, and it’s all going to be fine. Denial.

She was not going to just cough it up. And this was not going to be fine. I moved behind her and, summoning everything I remembered from my high school CPR class sixteen years ago, started to do the Heimlich. “Please!” I screamed louder, “Someone! I need help!”

I’ve been obsessively watching Heimlich videos on YouTube since coming home. I actually think I was doing it right, although maybe not forcefully enough? The videos are all laughably calm. I don’t know that anything can prepare you. But, it had been sixteen years and it didn’t feel right and it wasn’t helping and I was panicking. “I don’t know what I’m doing! Help her!” I screamed. I’ve never felt more completely useless.

By that point a waitress had scurried up to us. As I turned to her and said, “Call 911,” my friend stumbled away from me to the table across the aisle from ours and slammed her fist down, hard. She later told me that she was angry they were just watching her. After a shocked moment, a man at the table stood up and started pounding my friend on the back as well. Somehow I could tell: He didn’t have any more idea what he was doing than I did.

I noticed the waitress had stopped only two steps away from us. “CALL 911!” I yelled at her again. She still didn’t move. My friend was still stumbling forward, the man from the neighboring table pounding her back when a man in a blue t-shirt pushed past me, grabbed my friend’s arm to stop her from moving, and slapped her back. Hard. I immediately felt stupid. “THAT’s how I was supposed to do it,” I thought.

“You need to call 911, NOW!” the man in the blue t-shirt said, and the waitress finally ran off to make the call. The man in the blue t-shirt started doing the Heimlich, and again I was assured. Everything about him said, “I know what I’m doing, and I’m not going to quit.” He never quit.

“He’s a doctor,” a woman beside me said as I mentally repeated variations on, “This will all be okay soon,” and “This is not really happening,” and “This can’t be it.” More denial.

The doctor in a blue t-shirt was working hard, but things weren’t getting better. He kept pounding her back and doing the Heimlich and every few thrusts my friend would stumble forward a little more.

“She’s fighting him. It’s not going to work until she lets go,” the woman beside me said. And then, “Try it against a table, Nate!” Was she a doctor, too? I don’t know. I became vaguely aware that, bizarrely, the guy in the booth next to me was narrating the entire event on his cell phone. Maybe I shouldn’t be surprised.

My friend’s body went completely rigid, her arms thrown out and fingers spread wide as she made a terrifying inhuman sound that I keep hearing in my nightmares. She stumbled forward one more step and then she and Nate fell face-first to the ground. The whole restaurant was silent. “This can’t be it. This can’t be it. This can’t be it.” I thought over and over. I could see Nate, the doctor in a blue t-shirt, leaning over my friend. His hand on her forehead, pulling her head back, two of his fingers buried deep in her mouth, doing something back in there.

It was only a few seconds after she fell, but it felt like a lifetime. And then suddenly Nate was standing up, saying “I got it. She’s going to be fine.” I fell to my knees beside my friend and, once I saw her eyes and heard her speak I started to sob from fear, and relief, and helplessness, and joy, and love for my friend, and anger at the guy who was back to narrating everything to someone on the other end of the cell phone.

I don’t know how long it was from the time I first asked, “Are you okay?” to my kneeling beside her. Maybe five minutes? It felt like an entire lifetime. We slowly got up, cleaned ourselves up, and eventually went home. Just like that. Everything was fine. Except for I don’t think either of us were really fine.

We went on with our weekend as though nothing happened, crammed full of hiking and shopping and movies and museums and lots and lots of just walking around the city. My friend was, obviously, in a lot of pain. She has a sore throat that I suspect can’t compare to anything most people have ever felt. Her ribs were sore. There were bruises on her back. Residual fear. I continued to feel useless and kept replaying things in my head. Could I have gotten there faster? Done something different to end it sooner? I should have hit her on the back harder, done the Heimlich better. Our hugs were a little tighter. There was some very dark humor followed by comments of “Too soon?” And every now and then we would just stare at each other over a cup of coffee and say “Holy shit. THAT happened.”

It’s worse now that I’m at home. I think because I can’t just turn to her and see that she’s still with me. I keep randomly crying today. I’ll be in the middle of folding a load of laundry or putting some flowers in a vase and realize that tears are streaming down my cheeks. I’m distracted, can’t finish any task that I start. I spent a good amount of time this afternoon just aimlessly wandering around my house. And then I feel guilty for feeling anything because it didn’t happen to me. It happened to my friend. And how dare I make any of this be about me. More guilt. Which as I type I realize is a little dumb. My feelings don’t take away from hers. But, I don’t know. Feelings. My house isn’t on fire. But I’m not fine.

I keep trying to think that maybe this bad thing happened to prevent something worse from happening. Or that it was neither good nor bad, but just something that happened. Neither seems particularly helpful and, I suspect, it’s just going to take some time.

When my friend dropped me off at the airport, we gave each other a tight hug and I said, “I’m so glad you’re here.” An twist on what we usually say to the person visiting at the airport. But so, so fitting: I’m glad you’re here. I’m glad you’re here. I’m so, so glad you’re here.

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Fantasyland

The Peanut is deep in the world of pretend this summer. This morning, I couldn’t get her out of bed and ready for school unless I addressed her as “Baby Dinosaur” and squawked questions like “Do baby dinosaurs eat strawberries for breakfast?” “Do baby dinosaurs want their hair in a pony tail or pigtails?” She would chirrup her answers at me while holding her elbows in close and hopping around the house. This is the Peanut’s morning routine lately. The creature may differ, but it’s never the Peanut first thing in the morning.

One day I noticed, as I was loading her into the car after preschool, that the Peanut had acquired a band-aid on one of her fingers. “Oh no!” I said. “What happened here?”

Peanut: “A wild animal bit me!”
Me: “What! A WILD animal bit you?”
Peanut: “Yeah! A wild animal was in the class and it was running around and it BIT me!”
Me: “Your story is highly suspect.”
Peanut: “It was four monkeys. There were four monkeys in my class today and they were crazy and biting!”

That night, when the band-aid came off at bath time, I couldn’t see any sign of even a small injury on the Peanut’s finger. The next morning when I asked her teacher about the band-aid, she said that she was never able to see that anything was actually wrong with the Peanut’s finger. The Peanut was just so adamant that she needed a band-aid that the teacher decided to give her one so they could move on with their morning. This is what I like to call the Peanut’s version of the ‘long con.’

Her teacher then shared that the day before she’d been trying to get the Peanut to finish eating her lunch (by way of background, the Peanut is always, always, the last kid finished with lunch every day). The teacher asked, “Peanut, do you think we could hurry up a bit?” “No,” the Peanut answered, “I can’t hurry. I’m a princess.” Apparently it does not befit the throne to ‘hurry.’

One night while Facetiming with her Grammy and Granddad, the Peanut was telling them about our recent trip to Minneapolis. “There were crocodiles there!” She exclaimed, as I mouthed in the background, “There were NO crocodiles.”

On another afternoon the Peanut and I had this conversation:

Peanut: “What’s Daddy’s name?”
Me: “Well, as far as you’re concerned, It’s ‘Daddy.’
Peanut: “No, it’s not. It’s Gary.”
Me: “Gary?!”
Peanut: “Daddy’s name is Gary. Your name is Bossy.”

Later that same afternoon, I was watching the Peanut fingerpaint. As she spread green paint around the page she screamed “Oh no it’s a dragon! Who will save us?!” She chose her next color and then said, “I will paint a princess. She will save us…. Princess, will you save us?… She’s nice, so she’s going to save us.” Phew. Disaster averted. All is well in Fantasyland.

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I will finish this post.

Blogging. I did pretty good there for about a month, and then I just fell off the wagon. I feel like nothing has been happening, while simultaneously running around like a maniac because I’m so busy. It’s a failure of my own imagination, really. I’m probably not as busy as I think. My life is also probably more interesting than I’ve stopped to pay any attention to.

Can I be vague for a minute? I’m going to be vague.

Life has been feeling very “almost, but not quite” lately, if that means anything to anyone other than me.

I almost figure out a workable exercise schedule, but there is always something that seems to get in the way of making it work. And I try to work around it until I’m just tired of manhandling time for myself out of D’s schedule and the girls’ schedule and my own sleep and work and parenting schedule until I just quit because I’m tired of fighting it. Until the next time I decide that I loathe my body enough to give it another go. (Also, I need to stop with the body loathing – it’s starting to rub off on Ms. B., which is just one more thing for me to feel horrible about).

I don’t know. Exercise is just an example.

We’re shopping for a house right now. We keep finding houses that are almost what we want, but there’s water in the basement, or the price is wrong, or the schools are wrong, or the neighborhood is too far south, or…. This past weekend we found a house that we both love, in our price range, on one of my favorite streets in town… but it’s on the Missouri side of the state line and sending both girls to private schools feels unworkable. I’m having a hard time not feeling discouraged about it. I wish I’d never seen that house. We can almost make it work. Except that we can’t.

Exercise and house shopping are just examples that I feel comfortable talking about in this public forum. Lately I feel like I have 8,000 problems that I can almost find a solution to. Except that I can’t.

I have a bad habit of always telling myself, “I’d be happy if….” If I was in better shape, if I had a job I actually cared about, if I had more time with my kids, if I didn’t have these goddamned student loans, if my laundry room wasn’t spilling out into my kitchen, if my car wasn’t having one catastrophe after another…. And the problem, of course, with that kind of thinking is that I get so bogged down by the mountain of shit that I feel I need to get through to make tomorrow better that I forget to stop and realize that today really isn’t so bad. And that just because one solution didn’t work out, doesn’t mean there isn’t one at all.

These are simple truths, but I’ve been having to remind myself of them a lot lately.

I didn’t blog for over a month, but I still had four posts that I started and never finished, just sitting here half-written, hidden from you in ‘draft’ form. I would start them with a vague idea of where I wanted to go, but the words wouldn’t come, or the idea wasn’t as good as I originally thought it was, or I got distracted by something else going on in my life. I almost blogged, but not quite.

This post is a mess, where I don’t know quite what I’m trying to say (something vaguely about moving through difficulties while still enjoying the moment? I’m not even sure), but I’m going to finish it anyway. If only so I remember what it feels like to finish something that wasn’t easy. I need that kind of tiny victory today.

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Conversations with the Peanut

Peanut: Soooo, Mommy, how was your day?

Me: My day was good! How was yours?

Peanut: No! ….. Soooooo, Mommy, how was your day?

Me: … It was good. How was yours?

Peanut: No!!!! ….. Soooooo, Mommy, how was your day?

Me: What am I missing? It was good? How was yours?

Peanut: NO!!!!!!! (Visibly working hard to keep herself from completely losing it)….. Soooooo, Mommy, how was your day?

Me: What do you want me to say? Why don’t you tell me how my day was?

Peanut: No! (sigh) …. Soooooo, Mommy, how was your day?

Me: I’m so confused. I thought it was good, but now I’m rethinking…

Peanut: NO! ….. Sooooo, Mommy, how was your day?

This seems like it would be an effective form of torture. Someone contact the CIA.

I identify a little too closely with this video.

Also, one of my most favorite ways to annoy Ms. B. currently is to call it THE YouTube. As in:

Ms. B: So, Mom, how was your day?

Me: It was good. I spent all day eating ham and watching cat videos on the YouTube. How was yours?

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