Sometimes you don’t realize how charmed your life has been – or at least how generously mundane – until you are wallowing in difficulty for so long. I keep waiting for a sunbreak in the downpour, or even a let up. But it’s been a slog for months now.
Of course, I’ve had my share of challenges. I grew up with an alcoholic/addict and it’s impossible not to inherit some trauma from that. I also grew up fat in a world built for thinness, and that too gave me a layer of sadness to contend with. Thanks to those things, I was in a manipulative and abusive relationship and had to dig myself out of that both logistically and emotionally. I also seem to be biologically predisposed to an anxiety best managed with SSRIs.
So difficulty is not foreign to me, maybe it’s just so far in my rear view that it only seems that way. And of course, in the grand scheme of tragedy, mine is squarely in the ‘first world problems’ camp, though feelings don’t play well with reasonable comparison.
All of this prelude boils down to this: Life still feels immensely difficult in general. Today, right now, it’s not too bad. Partially, this is just luck. Partially it is thanks to some concerted efforts on my part to get myself unstuck. I am hopeful those efforts will manifest into a longer lasting impact. But I can’t say for sure.
As has been the case for months, there is no single thing – no trauma that is precipitating this. There is just a mountain of small difficulties that loom precariously over my head and regularly land slide into me, knocking me off my feet.
I am exhausted, chronically so. Years of not sleeping through the night (I think I can count on two hands the number of times I’ve had uninterrupted sleep) but also something else that a sleep doctor hasn’t quite figured out yet. I use a CPAP despite having basically normal breathing numbers from a sleep test, and I take a medication often used for narcolepsy as well, but still I am just a single long blink away from falling asleep almost anytime.
My children are incredible and brilliant and funny and dear. They are, as well, demanding and thankless, prone to meltdowns, deeply impatient, enjoy throwing toys at each other and me, and despite their impressive capability will still whine for us to do things for them that they have proven able to do. Ansel’s ASD amps a lot of this as well, making the come down from any meltdown or tantrum take much longer or have more intense consequences.
Thanks to exhaustion and the difficulties of raising children, my marriage has devolved into part executive management team, part sadness/anger/hurt/resentment mud pit. We are both aware of our failings here and on Monday, Laurie sent a message to the people who love us the most, asking them to hold us accountable to the promises we made when we got married. Reaching out has been good in and of itself, and I think it will reap some other rewards as well. This might be the most distressing part of this mess. L and I aren’t used to sniping and arguing, we spent the first years of our relationship basically conflict free and even after that, it was rare and isolated. To experience days in a row of conflict feels heartbreaking and scary.
Weighing on this all is my health which isn’t in the best place. The ankle I severely injured in college and, after years of chronic re-injury, had surgically repaired three years ago, continues to cause me a lot of problems. The surgery increased my stability, but a lot of the arthritic damage was done by then and I’ve developed a host of other issues in the intervening years. I can’t walk without pain and running is out of the question. Three weeks ago Angus ran into the street a few steps and without thinking, I darted after him. He was fine, of course, but I kicked my pain up about 10 notches from those three steps. My ortho is kind but at a loss. I’m too young for a replacement ankle, which would only last 15 or so years before I would have to get another, assuming I even could. My other option, a fusion, might help with the arthritis pain in my ankle joint but would exacerbate the pain in my talus and cause arthritis in my hip and knee. I recently found a hybrid orthotic-brace available only at a clinic in the next city over. It’s not covered by insurance and costs $9K out of pocket. The office suggested setting up a GoFundMe and I’m desparate enough to do it right now.
The inflammatory osteoarthritis that, thanks to genetics, I’ve been waiting for has come, causing my hands to curl into stiff claws in the night and ache all day long. Unlike other forms of arthritis, there isn’t anything I can do to stop the progression of the disease, though the pain will likely stop when, like my mother, I reach my 60’s and develop the nodes that disfigure the hands but strangely alleviate the pain.
But still in the middle of all of this, there is still joy and love and beauty, still things that make my heart sing. Ansel returning to school and loving it so much, Angus dancing with abandon and very excellent rhythm, the return of the fall to the Pacific Northwest which brings deep green and cleansing rain and the smell of wet cedar and the proliferation of all shades and textures of moss, my tiny funny urban church and the connections I am building there, a newfound passion to a political candidate (I am all in for Warren and I plan to convince you and all of Tacoma to be as well!) I am doing what I can to cultivate this joy: starting a book group at church, signing up to canvass, investing in some tools to journal and create, carving out and asking for time to do these things and trying to make room for this for my partner as well, looking for the ways in which my children’s demanding need and intensity of feeling are assets to them and me.