Sunday, October 27, 2013

The New Normal

The new normal is not that fun.

Did you ever have to pivot around a point in time, as if you'd been thrown onto the merry-go-round and been thrown off in another direction?

There are five or six times I've been spun in a different direction in my life. Three of them were happy events, but surprising nevertheless - when I graduated college, when I got married and when I gave birth. The other things have not been as pleasant - death and illness.

My illness haven't usually done that, but three times, now that I think of it, I have flown off on a tangent. I remember how, when I spent the night alone on the floor of my bathroom, too weak to crawl into bed between bouts of vomiting, I knew I would die some day, most likely alone. I was twenty-five, living on my own in my own apartment with a bad case of stomach flu. I knew if I couldn't keep water down soon, I wouldn't make it through the next 72 hours.

I don't really want to go into the details of the other illnesses that changed me forever. I'm still living with them. Don't you hate when old people start telling you about their gout and how they had diarrhea last night? Well, there's a reason they're telling you about that shit. It hurts. It's frightening to feel your mortality. You, being the young punk that you are, may not want to feel your own mortality, but it's there, just waiting for that moment when your body starts failing you. By listening to grandpa's woes, you just might be teaching yourself something about life. Be patient with him. You, if you don't grind your skull into the asphalt in a motorcycle accident, will be there some day and it will be a balm if some young punk cares about you enough to hear you out as you talk about your aches.

It's the same with crying babies. I hate this trend people have of wanting crying babies off of airplanes and out of restaurants. I want to ask of the people who complain, 'Were you never a baby? Did you never cry for comfort as an infant? Did you never dirty a diaper?' Those people, the ones who want to eliminate children from restaurants, are infants themselves.

So, the next time your great aunt Elma tries to tell you about her sciatica, try to be patient with her. She knows you don't understand. She doesn't want you to feel her pain. She just wants someone to care about hers.

I'm still not going to tell you about my two other serious illnesses today. You can listen to grandma's aches another day.

The surprising thing is how my family's illnesses have spun me in circles and thrown me into a different trajectory. I get how having a kid with medical problems can put you into a different world, a world that most people don't understand or don't want to. How do I know? My kid, a kid who looks pretty normal most of the time, a kid who argues about doing his homework and his chores, is one of those kids who has medical issues. You've probably heard me go on about this - viral-induced asthma, anaphylaxis, pneumonia. Mike and I are experts about these diseases. For the most part, people don't understand how vulnerable that has left us. Nick, at the age of five, had to understand his own mortality. Most kids don't get that lesson until much later. Most kids don't have to have that lesson repeated over and over until it's their new normal. Nick knows what it's like not to be able to breathe. Most people take air for granted. Nick knows how to slow it down, how to exist in the crisis when anyone else would be begging to go to the emergency room.

And now Mike.

Mike had a heart attack. He's only fifty, but it's where we are now.

We have a new normal, a new sense of mortality. I've learned that I'm more afraid of losing Mike than I am of dying myself. Well, shit. Didn't I know that already?

A little, but not really. Now, I know it. It's seeping more deeply into my bones. I live with two people, people who drive me crazy, people who leave their shit lying around, people who want me to feed them and entertain them and clean up after them. Yet, when you pose the picture of what my life would be without those two people, I'd rather not go there.


Mortality is easy. Living without these two annoying and loving people is not.

Thank you for listening, jules

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