I have what could only be described as a fantasy of going out somewhere to, say, Walgreens, or Target, and running into a friend. Someone I know and trust but haven’t seen in a while and they ask me how it’s going and I tell them. I tell the truth. I say I’m unraveling. I say I go to bed each night thinking about how lucky we are, this posh existence of clean, quiet air, of safe places to sleep, of money to spend on frivolous things and cats to keep us company, the luxury of having two or more of everything. And I am grateful for those things. I am grateful for how healthy we are. And yet I am never free from worry. She’s sick. She’s fine, but she’s miserable. She’s blooming, but she’s stressed. Her tummy always hurts. Her head almost always hurts. She never sleeps. I never sleep and my thoughts aren’t linear or even coherent and that I get lost and dazed in stores and any time I need to speak, but in the hours I am clear-headed and school hasn’t called and I’m not getting something for her, I don’t know who I am. I’m pretend to be an athlete and go to physical therapy so I can return to running, but I’m already wound tight and getting manhandled and then watched while I exercise is too invasive but I can’t turn my back on my mobility. I want to run or lift, but she’s home sick and I could only have made it to a class with a new instructor and frankly, I’ve cried and panicked in front of enough strangers already this month. I’ve out-done myself. I tell this person that I’m so, so tired.
Today is one of those days when I don’t get to escape into a few hours of oblivion while she’s at school, pretending that she’s doing just fine and won’t come home miserable and complaining of nausea, tummy pain and headaches. Today she was home sick with the flu. And while I’m grateful that she doesn’t have pneumonia, I have added another piece of kindling to the fire of worry—how much radiation has she already been exposed to? A CT scan and three X-rays. If each picture is about the equivalent of a years worth of sun exposure, and each appointment has two pictures….and a CT scan is supposedly about seven years of exposure….She’s got thirteen years on her tab already.
She’s asleep on the sofa now. She told me every twenty minutes, on average, how miserable she was today. In case I’d forgotten. Each time is like a dull stab in the gut. We finally have an appointment to see a GI specialist in six weeks. SIX WEEKS. A complaint every twenty minutes for six weeks is manageable, right?
I checked the weather just now and apparently we’re not due for more sunshine after yesterday afternoon’s little showing for ten days. That’s just before we leave to see the Grand Canyon, a trip, which I have been looking forward to for years. The thing is, I’ve only planned the beginning. I can’t bring myself to plan anything once we’ve passed the half-way point. I can’t plan the return home just yet. Dammitall that I’ve been in this very spot before.
I just spent a while checking out the UV index in New Zealand. It’s been a growing idea for more than a year now. A sabbatical or heck, just a life plan of picking up and moving there. Every time I think of it, which is often these days, but before I even think of the very real road blocks to such a plan (jobs and money, for example), I am reminded of that stupid saying about ‘wherever you go, there you are.’ Well, screw you, Clint Black and meditation guides and Confucius just to be safe. I am sure that if we cleared out and moved across the world our lives would change enough so that whatever we are doing wrong, whatever cause behind her stress and pain, would have to disappear. Is it school? Is it allergens? Is it all stress? Is it an ulcer or abdominal migraines or reflux or just a highly acidic system? It’s not Celiac or IBD, which we knew. We can’t call is stress until everything else has been eliminated. I see scopes down her throat and very specific diets in our future. Maybe one of those things will help. Or maybe…we should just throw up our hands and leave the country. UV index aside, it can’t hurt, right?
We could live in a town called Dunedin for crying out loud. A namesake of the capital of Scotland and just a matter of pronunciation away from the race of men from the west and King Aragorn himself. How happy we would be to live in a place that makes me think of Edinburgh AND the Lord of the Rings.
I digress. I do it a lot. It’s how I stay afloat. Because despite all the richness in our lives, including the very truth that we could in fact, uproot and drift or move to another country if we were brave/reckless enough, I can’t escape the basic truth that my identity is entwined with taking care of this little girl…and that I’m failing.
I ran in to a friend at Science Night. A fellow mom. A woman who looked me in the eye and reminded me that a whole tribe of moms have adopted me and us. And I felt it last night. Rather than stick close to the kids’ posters for long, or making small talk with my in-laws, I wandered about and took pictures of kids and their projects. I saw a lot of my tribe last night. Making volcanoes with the first graders, clapping for their third-grader’s cloud demonstration with sincere joy, asking my daughter just how should we take care of our teeth, pacing the overcrowded, over-loud gym and making time until we could go home. Those are my people. Near and far. Those are the ones I send distress texts and extensive missives to, the ones who watch my kids and feed them vegetables and make them play outside, the ones with a “chocolate here” label on a cupboard and an unlocked door, the ones who meet me for a swim or run or movie or nachos.
I keep telling her that she’s going to get better, that we’ll figure it out. It’s time I started believing that again, too.