Today is a two nap day. We haven’t had one of those in ages. But Eli and I spent all day yesterday in the emergency room trying to get his asthma under control, and now he’s on steroids, which make him ANGRY. The kind of angry that makes everyone just want to go back to bed. Eli doesn’t really get ANGRY angry – I lucked out there – although he can pitch a fit with the best of them: he’s even in a published book as a result (and you should go buy it because it’s awesome and Eli is on page 35).
The steroid anger is something different than the run of the mill tantrums. It’s rage. Pure, unadulterated rage that WE DO NOT HAVE A GREEN BALLOON and THE BUS IS TOO BIG TO FIT IN THE CAR STORAGE BOX and WHAT IS THIS SANDWICH YOU MADE FOR ME AFTER I ASKED FOR ONE and WHY DO I FEEL LIKE CRAP AND YOU AREN’T DOING ANYTHING ABOUT IT and WHY DOES MY HEAD HURT AFTER I THREW THE BUCKET INTO THE AIR AND THEN IT LANDED ON MY FACE and WHY WON’T YOU JUST FIX IT – WHY WON’T YOU FIX THIS AWFUL WORLD IN WHICH I AM LIVING?! EVERYTHING SUCKS AND IF I KNEW SWEAR WORDS I WOULD BE USING EVERY ONE OF THEM.
I’ve had many people comment to me that they’re impressed with how patient I am with Eli. Patience is not something at which I excel in general. But I think with Eli – for the most part* – I manage to be patient because I get it. I get that feeling that everything is out of control and no one is doing anything about it. I spend six months weeping and screaming and being afraid and beating myself up literally and figuratively because postpartum anxiety is a thing and I DIDN’T KNOW. Someone parks with his windshield wipers halfway up his windshield and that is NOT how things are done. My student is murdered in cold blood because he tried to get out of his gang. I bang my knee on the steering wheel because I am too short and have to sit too close to it in order to drive. Ten thousand needy children lose their financial, physical, emotional, and spiritual assistance as a result of political grandstanding in the name of religion. The restaurant uses a pickle as a garnish for my grilled cheese and now the sandwich has a huge soggy pickle juice puddle right in the middle – IN THE BEST PART. I see that my house is a complete wreck and it’s too much to think about so instead of doing something about it, I just don’t; but God forbid things are arranged non-symmetrically on a shelf. I will in all likelihood be reliant upon anti-depressants for the rest of my life even though I don’t want to be. A snarky woman in the grocery store makes a passive aggressive comment about my using the handicapped stall when she couldn’t see an obvious reason why, because she didn’t know that I’d just spent six hours in the ER so I hadn’t gone to the bathroom all day and I really had to go but had finally gotten my sick baby to sleep by wearing him and I needed the extra space to maneuver so I could pee with thirty pounds of kid strapped to my chest. (And, by the way, she seemed not to need said handicapped stall herself but I didn’t say anything when she went in after me because JUST GO TO THE BATHROOM IN PEACE.) One of my students lives through the genocide in Rwanda. The Bagel Bites factory shorts me a Bagel Bite, and I needed ALL NINE OF THEM because I eat when I’m hungry and when I’m afraid. My inner voice says almost nothing but lovely things about my friends and family and almost nothing but hateful things about little old me.
We are sick and dying and broken and hurting and peckish and mean and wounded and lost and scarred and scared.
The little things are so big, and the big things are insurmountable. And I don’t have the words. Because there aren’t any, and it’s all just too much. All the things become the only thing: and it terrifies me. Some days thinking about ALL THE THINGS IN ALL THE PLACES FOR ALL THE PEOPLE sends me into an anxiety spiral. And then other days, just thinking about one thing in just one place for just me is enough to trigger a panic attack. I just want everything to be okay, for me and for everyone.
So what to do? What can I do when all the things are too much? As my dear friend** Glennon says, “Show up. Be brave. Be kind. Rest. Try again.”
That is it. THANK GOD, because I am quite sure I can’t do more than that. I can’t do ALL THE THINGS TO FIX ALL THE THINGS. But I don’t have to, for we are all in this together. This messy, beautiful world in which we live is the messy, beautiful world in which WE live: not alone, but as one. There is grace and beauty all intertwined with the ugliness and decay.
Some day I’ll be able to remember this and act accordingly. Until if/when that happens, I’ll remain here with all of my people and all of our things in our huge beautiful mess and know that if pain wins one moment, love still wins the day. And I’ll do my utmost not to rip off that guy’s half-up windshield wipers just to show him.
*Except for the times when he is taking SO VERY LONG to walk out the door because THAT TOY THAT HASN’T BEEN PLAYED WITH IN 27 WEEKS IS NOW THE MOST SINGULARLY INTERESTING THING. And, oh, look at this dust bunny! It is FASCINATING. At that point I resort to commanding him like I do the dog. “Eli! LEAVE IT! COME! Now STAY! Staaaaaay. No, LEAVE IT. SIT. Stay. No, COME!”
** I used to call G just my internet friend, but now that we have met once for five minutes and I cried on her shoulder, I am calling her my DEAR friend. Because whether she likes it or not, or knows it or not, she is.