This is life
The last three days were brutal. Any single thing on it’s own was no code red crisis, but the culmination of events left me exhausted and emotionally unable to engage.
It started with work chaos – the kind you expect when literally every single person involved in a cross-functional project made a small mistake, compounded by another small mistake, that had a glorious domino effect on a Thursday that left us all wanting a stiff drink by 2pm. Protests, defensive posturing and apologies all around and on the house. But no stiff drink because we still had the rest of the day and Friday to get through; and poor communication and rash emailing wasn’t quite over yet.
Fine. A bad work day. It happens.
So Thursday afternoon, as I’m giving up on staring at the laptop screen for one second longer, I realize I am still in my pajamas. Now, the benefit of working from home is the comfort of my pajamas. But the downfall is trying to remember if I took time to brush my teeth.
In this moment, all I can think is that it’s a beautiful evening for a run and I could sorely use it. Sometimes, you just need a good run. To air out your muscles, your brain, your emotions. To be completely uncontained in an environment where you are completely unjudged. But as I head upstairs to pull on running clothes, my son intercedes with the plea to take him to urgent care. And he’s bleeding. Now, I won’t get into the details of his particular issue – it was not life threatening at any point and let’s leave it at that – and in exchange I will confess to the most un-parent like thought. It went something like, “He’s 18… he’s old enough to take himself to urgent care.”
I know, I know. I had a really bad day, remember?
And it was just a passing thought. So no running clothes, but actual clothes to leave the house in. Only as I come downstairs now fully dressed and teeth brushed (just in case), he says, “Maybe I don’t need to go.” We debate, we devise a homemade remedy. We apply the homemade remedy. I go upstairs and put on running clothes.
Now that I am in running shorts and a sweat-infused hoodie over the unforgiveable but necessary uni-boob bra (ladies, you know what I’m talking about), he proclaims we must go to urgent care anyway. I am watching the sun start to descend on the horizon and thinking, a night time run may not be bad…
Like any urgent care clinic, especially one that is completely empty, we were in and out of there in an hour and a half. Yup. No one ahead of us. No one behind us. But an hour and a half. I did mention it was never life threatening, right? Still…
I ran anyway. It went about as well as my day. Couldn’t catch my breath the first mile. Thought with the second mile I was finding a rhythm. Mile three brought stomach cramps. I went home. If you ask me to my face, I will tell you I never have a bad run. Even the uncomfortable ones are good ones – because I did it. I ran. But I lie. It was just a bad run.
Fridays are usually easier days to manage. This Friday was not yet done with Thursday, however… so more glorious miscommunication ensued, along with a dressing down from the boss, and then a very sick dog. The dog, King Leonidas, has been part of this family for ten years. About 18 months ago, we discovered he has cancer – inoperable and untreatable, as it’s a tumor that is essentially growing inside his heart. The vet – two vets, actually – gave him three weeks to six months. Well, 18 months later he is showing signs that the cancer is winning. If I sound flip, then I hope you understand – especially if you have a dog you love – that there’s a dark space you enter into when you realize you have done all you can and a core member of your family is at his end. And there’s only so much time I can dwell there right now.
Leo is currently more comfortable than he was – that’s about all I can say at the moment. As I am leaving the vet, my son calls. Yesterday’s medical emergency is contained but today’s emergency is a new one – Ursula is uncooperative.
David borrowed my car – Ursula – for the day. He was coming off his work shift, started the car and heard a “flapping” noise under the hood. The very smart dashboard flashes the message, “Generator Failure” then a bright red battery icon. Then it says, “Shut off engine immediately.” So he did. And he called me.
Leo and I head straight to the Publix parking lot where my son is stranded. We trade cars. Dave and Leo head home and Dave hands me a buffalo chicken wrap for my dinner. Bless that boy. I am scouring the driver’s manual and using my phone-a-friend option to figure out if I can drive Ursula home or if she needs to be towed. The phone-a-friend option is just the right amount of sympathy I need, but the Googling of potential issues is as helpful as WebMD… could be a hangnail, could be malaria. So I start Ursula, see the same flashing red messages David saw, and shut her down again. And I call roadside assistance.
Saturday had to be better, right? It started with a phone call to the dealer, whose service department has Ursula. No, they can’t tell me anything. Yes, they’re very busy. No, they don’t have a loaner. Seriously? You have a lot FULL of cars!
I sat down to write a blog. May as well use my home-arrest time to work on something I love. I have been struggling with this one particular them – on love and values – for weeks. My half-written blog is there on the screen. Finally, I finish it. I save it. I edit it. I save it. I make some final tweaks before sending to my editor. But now the save button seems frozen. It’s not “clicking”. No problem, I have been saving it all along, so I get out of the program, go back in and… no. No, I have not been saving it all along, apparently. Silly me. Ninety minutes of writing time vanished into the cybersphere and I am back to the half written blog I had left there last week.
You know, sometimes anger can fuel motivating energy. The git-her-done kind. In the next thirty minutes, I finished that blog, better than the original, and sent it off to the editor before anything else could happen. Then using that same forceful energy, I called the dealer and told them I was coming down to get a loaner car, so have one ready. And they did.
Cruising up to my house on Saturday afternoon in lovely loaner, (I call her Millicent), I get a call from my youngest son. “You might want to pick up some drywall while you’re out.”
“You know, drywall. Wall stuff.”
Yes, why… why else? Because Liam and Dave got into a fight and his fist “accidentally” punched through the drywall. The new drywall in my kitchen. Why were they fighting? It doesn’t matter. What matters is that the next place Millicent took me was to Home Depot with two #sorrynotsorry teenage boys who were now learning how to repair drywall.
So while drywall repair work was occurring in the kitchen, I went to my room. I was just done. With Life. My hands are up, I give up, you win. Take whatever else you can, Life, because I am not fighting anymore. I can’t. I can’t talk, I can’t think, I can’t be engaged right now. In anything. I did a little yoga and took a nap.
Saturday night, curled up on my sofa, indulging in a bag of Sour Cream and Cheddar potato chips (the worst, I know… and yet…) I am thinking to myself, “The past 48 hours have sucked.” My victim mentality is in high gear. I can’t really focus on TV, can’t stare at my phone, I am just sitting and feeling mentally and emotionally drained.
Suddenly, my friend Liz pops in my head. Liz is a coach as well as a soul sister, and she looks at everything in life as a learning moment, an opportunity. I love that about her. Usually. But in that moment, she whispers in my brain, “So, in everything that’s happened, what can you be grateful for?”
Oh God, Liz… I shove my head under the sofa cushion. Shut up.
But then, I thought… actually, I can be grateful. For a lot. I am grateful that everyone at work plowed through our series of miscommunications and misfires with as much grace as they could muster and everyone went home still friends on Friday. I am grateful that David’s medical emergency was indeed not life threatening, not even a little bit, and two days later he’s healing well. I am grateful that we have had ten years with Leo and we are able to care for him in his illness, despite the pain. For both of us. I am grateful that David was safely in a parking lot when Ursula decided to throw a fit, rather than on the side of the road or mid-drive. I am really grateful for the buffalo chicken sandwich. I am grateful that my boys care enough about each other that they do fight. And I am grateful that my 15 year old now has a life skill – drywall repair. I am grateful that all of these things are the challenges of someone who is indeed fortunate in her life and life choices.
So this is life. We get through each blow that’s dealt just as we get through the thrilling times, the joyful occasions and the “meh” moments. We look around us. We evaluate our resources – our physical as well as emotional ones. We breathe. And we are grateful for the breath.
Natalie Hahn is a principal at Dirty Girls Consulting, focused on helping men and women tackle the challenges of communication and life transitions. We explore breaking free of traditional standards, how we communicate between the sexes and redefine the “midlife crisis” to accomplish professional and personal goals, creating an authentic, fully loved life. Read more Dirty Girl Consulting blogs here.