Thursday, August 12, 2010

Flipping the switch

Fifteen and a half years ago, Andrew's dad lay dying in the hospital. We went to visit him daily, because each day looked like it was going to be his last. Each time the phone rang, whether at work or at home, it triggered the thought, This could be it! We lived in a state of high alert, constantly poised for the next stage of bad news.

After about two weeks we were exhausted. So one night we gave ourselves permission to skip going to the hospital, forgiving ourselves in advance if it turned out that Dad chose that day to die. There's only so long you can live in a state of crisis, after all. At some point your coping-with-emergency system starts to fizzle, and it occurs to you to flip on the switch labeled "It's Gonna Happen When it Happens, And in The Meantime I've Got to Live My Life."

About a week ago I gave myself permission to move out of crisis mode with the Big Guy issue. I decided that -- even if each of us is still toting around an emotional elephant or two -- I would be stronger for the next stage of potential catastrophe if I gave myself a break. (What did you do for summer vacation? I chose not to stay in a state of red alert.) This was a good thing.

This week I scheduled all kinds of appointments that need to happen, but for obvious reasons haven't. It's refreshing to check off mundane errands and tasks. Mundane feels good.

I've worked intensely on my book. What a pleasure to have a big project to focus on! I relish reading excellent work -- I have three or four writers who are terrifically good -- and I'm learning to enjoy the mental challenge of fixing (or suggesting how to fix) mediocre pieces.

I've pared down Eldest's going-off-to-college supply list to manageable proportions. I've comforted Snuggler when she sobs and sobs about having Eldest move away. (I'd been doing that, but as the reality draws closer, the sobbing grows louder.)

I've realized the house hasn't been properly cleaned in two months, but I haven't gotten around to that. I allocate an hour or so a day to it, but my kids' rate of creative chaos (especially while I'm working) exceeds any effort to make substantive progress.

This morning we're temporarily back in the trenches, as we take Big Guy to a pivotal appointment to get an expert opinion of what's going on. I have no specific hopes or fears this morning, other than the hope that the expert is insightful... and correct in his evaluation. We won't know the results for another week, maybe two.