So at the risk of bringing everyone down, I’m having a rough day. Couple of days. Actually, make that a couple of weeks.
Even if you know me personally, you most likely have no idea that I’ve been having a rough time. Because that’s what I do. I just power through. I take the kids to school. I cart them to their activities. I go out to lunch. All the while feeling like crap.
I usually don’t like to talk about having chronic pain because it feels very “woe is me.” Plus, the last thing I want is to have people talk about what I consider to be a boring subject rather than something fun like what happened last night on “Glee” or how one of the kids went to a birthday where they only served soda and beer and the party favor was a gun. No, this is something I generally keep pretty locked up. Besides, everyone has their trials and tribulations that they’re going through. And mine — at least this particular one — has been going on for so long that it really feels like old news.
My husband, Tenzin, unfortunately, is the lucky recipient of my old news in it’s entirety. Or at least the entirety that I share. He gets to deal with my moodiness, watch me lying on the couch while pressing on various part of my body (usually my head), and feel helpless as he watches me take pain meds. And he gets to hear me complain — something I think I do a lot less of these days than I did years ago since it’s kind of pointless by now — it’s more like a status update. But he puts up with a lot. Has put up with a lot.
I go through these “down cycles” periodically, but honestly, in addition to this just being one of my normal deals that I have to “get” through, I think I’m having a particularly hard time because Tenzin is working so much. See, I’ve been extremely spoiled for the last eight years or so. For one thing, Tenzin has been able to have a relatively light work schedule, so he’s been taking on a good part of the load at home. Add him to my parents being around whenever he was gone for the first four-ish years of my son’s life and you can get a better picture of how things looked for me at home. Again, I always say “spoiled,” but the situation was somewhat born out of necessity due to the fact that 1) I’m not all that healthy, and 2) we had an autistic kid. So I suppose “spoiled” is a relative term.
Anyway, now that Tenzin is working like mad, I’ve suddenly become a 1950s housewife. Which is both odd and nowhere near what I ever pictured for myself. Short of me walking around in high heels and getting him a martini when he walks through the door, we’re slowly but surely splitting the life-load into its traditionally sexist camps. His life is sucking because he works so much and never sees the kids. My life is sucking because I suddenly do everything around the house and always see the kids.
Truth be told, since summer ended, I’ve had a lot more time to myself (obviously) and haven’t been nearly as close to needing psychological intervention. And Tenzin still somehow manages to make a lot of our meals (because as the years have gone by, I’ve unfortunately forgotten how to cook — not a joke). But back to the why I feel even crappier than crap. . .
When you have kids, especially little kids, there’s this feeling of working without a net. When your husband goes to work (keep in mind that I’m speaking from the point of view of a stay-at-home mom here) you’re all alone with no one to “rescue” you. Maybe other moms don’t feel this way. Maybe everyone else has it all pulled together. Me, not so much. I live in constant fear that I’m going to be feeling terrible and will have to push through a ton of pain and fatigue in order to get dinner on the table or baths done or books read.
For years, when Tenzin didn’t work very much and my parents were coming over all the time, I was rarely alone. I didn’t think about this until recently. And when it dawned on me, I understood why I’ve been feeling so lost and lonely. Here’s the list: My mom is dead. My husband is gone. I don’t have either one of them to unload on (one for obvious reasons and the other because I can’t bear to give him more to worry about). One of my best friends who was my sort of “last resort” now has two babies of her own and is in worse shape than I am. I’m in pain all the time. And things always get worse in the afternoon, right when it’s time to pick up the kids and drive them all over creation.
For the first time, I’ve been working without a net.
So that’s how things really are around here. The other day, I realized I was singing this over and over in my head: “There’s a smile on my face. . . it’s just another day. . . for everyone. . . it’s just another day. . .” At first, it made me really sad to think that I’m walking around, pretending to be happy when I’m not. But thing thing is, this is how I get by. It’s how I’ve always gotten by. If it weren’t for all of life’s distractions — the soccer games, the coffee with friends, even the housework — I’d be a colossal wreck. A doctor friend of ours once told me that I wasn’t the typical fibromyalgia patient, and he wondered why. I guess the only thing I can come up with is that the alternative to doing something is nothing — which I’ve found to be so much worse (And incidentally, if you have chronic pain, are reading this, and in fact can’t opt for something over nothing, trust me, I get it. I’ve been there, too. It totally sucks.).
So if you do know me, please don’t stop calling and inviting me to lunch. Or bitching about your job and your kids. Don’t stop sending me funny videos or calling to chat (even if I don’t pick up — don’t take it personally). I need a reason to put the smile on my face. I need the distraction. I need the something instead of nothing.
Because if I don’t have anyone to catch me anymore, I could at least use someone to remind me not to look down.