Thursday, July 16, 2015

Waves

If I'm being honest, I've been a jerk plenty of times in my life. Who hasn't? Lately I've felt like more of a jerk than I had in a long time. I'm not sure anyone noticed my jerkiness, but if you did, well, it wasn't personal. Well, it was personal to me. The past several weeks were tough and I reacted to the stress by not reacting very well to the stress. Which is a valid reaction to stress. It's the most common reaction to stress, honestly. Still, it means there were times I felt like a jerk for being moody or short with people, but I was trying to work it out and just get through the damn thing and sometimes that took all the energy I had.

So what's the damn thing? My infant son had to have a couple of standard tests run over the last few weeks just to rule out something that, if it had been found on one of these tests, would have been really fucking scary. I'll cut to the great news - it was not found. Test results were totally normal. And no further tests are necessary, thank you very much. He's doing beautifully. He's a happy, healthy, smiling, laughing, rolling, scooting, crawling little 6+ month old baby. And so is his twin sister. So they're awesome. But...because a doctor ordered a test as a matter of protocol, we had to agonize over the results for a week. Because, you see, the doctor didn't know that the lab only ran this test one day a week. And I delivered the sample to the lab on that day, but apparently too late in the day for the test to be run. So we had to wait a week for them to run the test. Then once they did the test, both the lab and the doctor decided it was best to run another, very similar test, because the first test is really done for adults and this second test is much appropriate for an infant. So, why did we even bother with that first test? Good question. I have no answer. The lab seemed to insinuate the doc shouldn't have ordered it but instead should have only ordered the second test. The doc didn't give us any explanation and blithely moved on with her day. And we waited one more agonizing week to put this behind us.

The short version of all of this is that in the end it's all good. My boy's fine. And in our hearts and minds, his mother and I knew he was fine. He smiles at us all the damn time. He's such a happy baby it makes my heart burst just to look into his eyes and see the joy he's bringing into this world. So that, and mostly that, got us through the torturous weeks of waiting for test results. But during that waiting, I realized that I had fallen into that abyss again, that cycle of anxiety that rolls over me (and most people, for god's sake) when faced with really stressful situations. So I spent the better part of the past few weeks feeling uneasy, on edge, and just exhausted from worry. We still had some great times, don't get me wrong. Every night is a party in our house with the Wonder Twins! We can't help but be happy just from looking at those two gorgeous smiles every day and night. All of my awesome friends sent me encouraging texts or invited us over to hang or met me for lunch so I could vent. That helped more than any of you will ever  know. Thank you. Our families visited and brought positive vibes with them. But at certain points every day, I'd remember that this was my son's health, and I'd let the waves carrying stress and anxiety just roll over me again. Sometimes it's too hard to swim away, you know?

The wave metaphor popped into my head a week or so ago during all of this and I realized I probably got it from the Lou Reed song Waves of Fear, which used to terrify me when I first discovered it years ago during my deep dive into The Acerbic One's back catalog. It's brutal. I've never heard a panic attack described in such visceral detail in song lyrics before or sense. It's uncompromising and truthful in a way most songs aren't. I used to cringe at his depiction of anxiety's devastating impact. Then when things in my life went sideways about 4-5 years ago, and it seemed like every month brought a new challenge that was seemingly more insurmountable than the last, and this pattern continued unabated for a few years, well, then the song took on a new meaning for me. It didn't scare me at all anymore. It comforted me, in a way I never imagined it could. I was never as low as Reed was when he wrote that song (at least, I like to think I wasn't), but I could relate in very real and specific ways to not being able to carry on. Or at least not thinking I could. Because I did. Every minute of every day, somehow.

My favorite writer, Michael Chabon, has an essay about a particularly difficult period of time in his and his family's life. Everything that could go wrong went wrong for them, it seemed. One health crisis after another. I first read this essay last year, while Elizabeth was pregnant and we'd cleared the hurdles of the past several years and were living in a new golden age, feeling renewed and excited to be past all that and now focusing on bringing new lives into the world. So in reading the essay at that time, I saw so many parallels with my own recent past, and I was struck by how Chabon came to the conclusion that, basically, sometimes life just dumps one disaster after another on you and that's just the way it is. We seem conditioned to believe that it shouldn't be that way. That life is really about sunshine and roses and every now and then a thorn crops up and cuts you. But what if life isn't about just dealing with the bad times so you can move on to the good ones, but instead is about dealing with the bad times while the good ones are happening at the same time? Because the bad times don't go away as neatly and cleanly as we'd like them to. They come back whenever they feel like it. So Chabon was basically saying we have to learn to stop putting life on hold during those bad times because then we're missing out on some good times when we do that. A sentiment that I'll continue to try to live by. And fail every now and then, of course. But not always.




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