So, there I was with an ice cube in my hand laughing and laughing. I was pregnant with my first child and I excited to do the all-natural thing. My boss/friend Kim let me borrow a bunch of books, and one of them had a chapter on how to prepare for pain. It said to figure out how you deal with pain, and to figure out how your partner would deal with you in pain. The suggestion was to put an ice cube in your hand and see how long you could last through the sensations, while noting what you and your partner did to cope.
I really tried to take it seriously. The rest of the book was helpful. The first minute wasn’t bad. Then it became surprisingly painful. I hung in there. My husband watched me like I had lost my mind. He supported my choice, but I think if he became pregnant he would immediately ask for an epidural (like right after reading the pregnancy test). The more it hurt, the funnier it got. I couldn’t keep it together. I busted out laughing and threw the ice cube in the sink. When I did go into labor I cracked jokes all the way through transition.
My next birth was different. I joked and joked until a pain I had never felt arrived. I was still. Quiet. Inside of myself. It dawned on me that one day it would all be over and I would die. The pain, my whole life, it was meaningful, but not forever. That thought brought me peace.
I get what the book was going for; it was looking for a way to fill in the unknown. If you can predict how you will feel/react, you have some power. You can know how you’ll be.
Most of us were totally unprepared for the pandemic. If I asked myself last year how I’d be if I faced fear and isolation for weeks on end while powerlessly watching people die and the ones trying to save them suffer, I don’t know what I would have said. I can’t even say now. I react differently every day.
Sometimes I laugh at the things people are saying. Sometimes I get so angry I have to pray to God to make me a nicer person. Sometimes I leave care packages at friends’ houses (or cry when they send me something). Sometimes I treasure my children. I kiss their tiny feet, and sniff the baby to get those good baby-sniffing brain chemicals going. Sometimes I fantasize about daycare. Sometimes I write something. Sometimes I delete it. Sometimes I try to cheer my students up. Sometimes I just agree with them that everything sucks. Sometimes I clean the whole house, and reorganize the pantry. Sometimes I eat four cupcakes. Sometimes I get sad that my job was cancelled, and I tell myself it is okay to feel my feelings; sometimes I tell myself to take a look around and recognize how cushy I have it. Sometimes I check on other people; sometimes they check on me. Sometimes I hide from my children, and I just sit at the top of my stairs and sigh like four or five times.
I’ve never understood the mantra, “One day at a time,” because…obviously. We don’t have any other option. You have to do this day to get to the next one. I’m getting it now. I’ve always been a planner. I’ve always thought ahead, set goals, and systematically achieved them. My therapist told me overachievement can be a coping mechanism, and I just nodded along like, yes, I have the best coping mechanism, hooray for me. If you keep yourself busy with the next step, your current reality becomes background noise. Now, everyday I am forced to be right here in the present. There are a few things I can plan, but not much. I am “in the now.” Why do I not feel enlightened? I feel exhausted. This is not what I’m used to. It is not something I could train for. It is a sidebar from my life, a forced reckoning and accounting. What matters? What is essential? Who are you? What values do you want to pass on to the next generation? I am overwhelmed, but unable to get around this need to assess. Doing laundry, watching mindless TV, making peanut butter fold-overs, I am accosted: What matters? What is essential? Who are you? What values do you want to pass on to the next generation? I guess if I cannot get around it, I am getting through, and writing has always been my way to get through.
How am I? I’m going through it. One day at a time. Thanks for asking.