Rose is delivering school lessons to Polar and Tabby. Right now it’s Spanish, which sounds more like a mash-up of the first five languages you hear on any random street corner in San Francisco. No matter, Tabby and Polar are rapt students. Now—sleeting outside—Rose is in pink sundress, working at her store, The Chocolate Carrot, where you can put a 2 cent massage on a credit card that she keeps on file for you.
I am at
my desk the kitchen table writing a script on American food waste for NPR (yes, I’m name dropping. Also, in typical NPR cheeriness, “food waste” is coming out just before Thanksgiving. Rejoice!). Col is at Mathew’s, where Mathew’s mother Melanie is craftily crossbreeding remote control helicopters with bar graphs so the boys get a little education with their fun. A pot of deer and beef bones simmer on the stove, secret nutrients peeling off in layers.
Rose is staying home with me on Thursdays. This is our current compromise to her current request to never leave my side (her school is Tues/Thurs; she now goes just Tuesdays). On Thursdays, I work from home, and she is free to engineer her own day. This also means she’s free to wipe her nose on her skirt ten times with no comment from me, and I am free to get my work done without feeling guilty that I’m ignoring her. It’s a strange compromise, I mean how about you forego kid-friendly school activities all day to stay home and play alone? And I can hear the accusing voice of the spokesperson of “We Are American and We Value Independence!” in my head: how is she going to develop strength and resilience at home by your side?
Life is surprising. I really value clarity and direction, like if I could just figure out The Right Approach with my health and with Rose’s anxieties, we’d be sprinting across our own personal finish lines, leaving discomfort back at some forgotten mile marker. But this hasn’t happened. There is much discomfort. My hope for myself these last 2 1/2 months on this healing diet was that I would reach ground zero, symptomatically speaking, then unveil my superhero cape and announce how I triumphed over mainstream medicine and its bogus “cure the symptoms, ignore the cause” approach. Yet, I keep folding up the cape for another day. These days my intention is more about showing up. And then, showing up again. And again. As Anne Lamott says in Some Assembly Required, “I had two slogans to guide me. One was: “Figure it out” is not a good slogan.
I feel a little self-consciously Oprah-like saying this, but the act of showing up is allowing me to see (with my tiny flashlight in the forest) the blessings of all this discomfort (mine and Rose’s).
1. Learning to be with discomfort. Discomfort can be physical or mental. Allowing it in without judgement deepens your capacity for all emotions. Brene Brown says “You cannot selectively numb emotion. You can’t say, here’s the bad stuff: vulnerability, grief, shame, fear, disappointment. I don’t want to feel these. I’m going to have a couple of beers and a banana nut muffin. When we numb those emotions, we numb joy, we numb gratitude, we numb happiness.”
2. Self care is a necessity. If there’s a choice between taking a small hike or fitting in a little extra work, the choice for my well being is clear; I am lacing up my boots. I don’t have the luxury of ignoring stress; it shows up in my body. It has been more nourishing to nurture my body and mind than to push it to produce.
3. Who’s to say what’s right? For example, Rose is typically a person who’s looking for the next party, the next stimuli, treat, excitement, playdate. And on these Thursdays, she entertains herself brilliantly for five hours. She works in her store, teaches her stuffed animals, makes alphabet sheets and writes and illustrates books. She dresses up, dances and sings. She gets to know herself. Who’s to say this isn’t the exact education she needs right now?
4. Love is better than chocolate. It’s also bigger and more sustaining than recognition, praise or achievement. Last weekend we played monopoly while eating snack-a-dinner. It was loud, chaotic and maybe there was a little cheating. At one point Rose bungeed her legs together and hopped around the house when it wasn’t her turn, and Dan was trying to listen to the football game while I was playing my Pandora melancholy mix, and Col was hoarding money and I felt this strange expansive comfort of belonging, of being loved as the greatest gift.
So, basically, I don’t know what I’m doing. One foot in front of the other. Shining this very small flashlight through the very deep woods. Showing up.