I think like someone’s mother. And now it’s permanently affected the way I see the world.
The most obvious example:
I never used to think about food. Except in the most pleasurable terms.
Now, food anxiety invades and overtakes my mind at least 10 times a day. What to make my kids for breakfast that will keep them full until recess without any sugar crashes?
What to pack for lunch now that every other kid has an annoying nut allergy?
What to make for dinner so I won’t have to listen to a constant whine about how gross dinner is?
How to go to Costco without wanting to slit my wrists?
How to go to Whole Foods without hyperventilating over the price of organic grapes?
I cry sometimes because I fear that no one ever again believe I was capable of thoughts beyond this one basic need.
Now I’m just like Donald Trump – trying desperately to prove I still have good words.
I have this bizarre compulsion to plan and prepare for every possibility. I know it’s annoying and totally uncool, but etched into my psyche are the scars of every past disasters from the last 10 years. I still suffer PTSD symptoms from the time when I took my son to work and remembered to pack toys, blankets, food, bottles, even a fully-loaded iPad. But forgot to pack extra clothes. So he shit his pants and totally fucked me over.
Or the time I remembered to pack every possible thing everyone else would need for a 5 hour flight to Mexico – only remembering I should have packed something for myself AFTER my daughter barfed AND shit all over me. On the airplane. Half an hour into the flight.
I carry the scars of every public meltdown caused because I forgot snacks or public scolding because I forgot a kid at the grocery store.
Now I get my grandmother who lived through the Great Depression and two World Wars and so could never be convinced to throw anything out. Not. One. Single. Thing.
After she died and I helped clean up her apartment, I discovered her enormous ball of tinfoil made from every recovered gum and butter wrapper from the last 60 years. She also had a similar collection of rubber bands and wax paper pieces. I rolled my eyes then. But I understand now.
Last weekend, it stopped raining for a few hours and my husband had this fun, spontaneous idea that we should all go for a short hike. Everyone – kids, dog, husband – were ready in 5 minutes.
But not me.
I was still in my pajamas, racing around like an asshole trying to find water bottles with matching lids (who threw those fucking things out?) and packing protein-rich snacks into a backpack. If I could only find a backpack in all this chaos. (who threw that fucking thing out?) I’m thinking of the scenarios that might call for extra socks, a change of underwear, sunscreen. While my family waited impatiently by the front door making impolite coughing noises.
I got myself into such a flap that I forgot to wash my face, brush my teeth or put on lipstick.
Turns out the “hike” was just a walk around the seawall – no need for water or snacks – as my husband lovingly pointed out. He also directed me to a store window, so I could catch my reflection. I looked like a washed out, heavily lined crazy person – with dragon breath and a very bad attitude.
But I’m beginning to understand that this is just something that happens to anyone who’s given birth to another human being. Or even to anyone who has ever owned a particularly demanding animal.
I went to meet my friend JoAnne for coffee at her office downtown. She has two grown sons who long ago left home and now have families of their own. I waited by her desk while she gathered up her mug, coat and purse. As we walked towards the elevator, she turned and asked me,
“Do you need to use the toilet?”
I would like to take this moment to apologize to my friend, Alice for insisting she put on a sweater.
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