Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Honeybunch and Stinkbug (warning** contents slightly mushy)

Sacrifice, bah. I don't like that word. Many people use it to denote a grand gesture of giving something up for someone/something else. To me, that word means giving up something that you don't want to for someone else, but you do it anyway (usually for an ulterior motive). I especially don't like the word being used in terms of seems somehow demeaning to the child, usually used in a way to make the child feel like they owe their parents something besides respect. My "sacrifice" has been my body. Anyone who has had children understands the physical toll it takes on a woman to carry and have a baby. But my "sacrifice" actually started several years before my girls were even a twinkle in my eye.

It all started on an ordinary day four days before my 20th birthday. I was working a typical crappy job like most kids my age at a bookstore, as a barista in the coffee shop. Everyday I was required to go to the stock room and gather the necessary supplies to replenish the coffee shop and restock. It may seem pathetic that I remember this in such detail, but on that ordinary day I had gone to the back to retrieve more raspberry flavor syrup and some more pump chocolate.  The raspberry syrup was buried under two other syrup boxes, so I moved them out of the way and boodled over to retrieve the two stinkin' bottles I needed. This is when I heard a THUNK in my back, and then felt the pain, with an intensity I didn't that my body was capable of. Being a naive girl, I had no clue there was such a thing as worker's compensation, so I just scooted to the office and told them I had to leave. I spent the next two days sitting on a heating pad and taking ibuprofen and pain pills, hoping it would all go away. It didn't and I had to quit my job (I had been ready to do that for a while, anyway). After healing up for a couple weeks, I went to work for a mom & pop bookstore, that I still miss sometimes.  I didn't realize until two years ago that I hadn't just pulled something, but that I actually had a herniated disc. Considering that I didn't have health insurance at the time (which is why I never went to the ER), it comes as no surprise that I had no clue. All because of two stupid syrup bottles.

For the purpose of not having to call my children by oldest/youngest, let's just call them Honeybunch (the oldest) and Stinkbug (youngest) from here on out. Moving on, let's skip to December 2008. At this point, I had been married for a little over a year, had a steady office job, and Honeybunch was one month old. Over the years I had learned how to cope with this back injury and thought it was mostly gone, except for days that I used my back a lot. Having just had a c-section, I had absolutely no usable core muscles, but in my rush to prove that I was a superhero, I insisted on trying to care for Honeybunch as much as I could without assistance. What a dumb idea, to ignore the advice of the doctor to take it easy. One morning she woke up for her typical reasons...needing a fresh butt, some liquid refreshment, and some rocking and I got up with her. Just like always, I opted to change her butt first and put her on the changing stand. As I (once again) boodled over to do something mundane, I heard the THUNK again. After several months of wait-and-see and doctor visits, I finally got the MRI I needed to confirm that my lower back is in fact, screwed. Yeah, that second thunk exacerbated the original injury and has never quite been the same. Over the past two years, I've had several flare-ups, but I've *powered through it, knowing it's just a permanent part of my life now. As I write this blog entry, I am currently in the middle of a flare-up, just trying to take it easy. All because of a dirty diaper.

My husband and I like to talk sometimes about what we would do if we could go back in time and change some things. This is not to be mistaken for regret so much as wondering what things would be like if we made small changes. Kind of like the "What If machine" on Futurama. There have definitely been times that I've wished I could go back and tell myself not to get the syrup, just let the next shift get it. Or let my husband change Honeybunch's butt that morning, but those decisions would come with consequences that would probably (over time) lead me to a very different life. Perhaps I wouldn't have quit that job and the timing of my next jobs, if I ever snagged them, would have been off. Then I wouldn't have had the job that I did when I met my husband, which was crucial to the timing of our relationship...he was a customer at the store I worked at. If we hadn't met, I would never have my Honeybunch and my Stinkbug. And if I hadn't re-injured my back in 2008, there's no telling how different things would be now, just for not having gone to all those orthopedist appointments and such. Stinkbug might not even exist if I hadn't changed that butt two years before!

Besides my back, there's also the humongous change I've made in terms of my personal sense of more makeup from the counter, $300 clothing excursions, maintained hairdo. Or weekends shooting pool and having drinks till the buttcrack of dawn. No more spontaneous day trips, sleeping in til obscene hours of the afternoon, or reading a whole book on a rainy day. Quiet dinner with my husband? What's that? Watching what I want on TV? Only after everyone's in bed. Having anything resembling privacy in the bathroom has ceased to exist. The list goes on forever. Parenting is hard, and you do lose a lot of the little freedoms you took for granted when you were younger. However, most of the things you lose were never really that important to begin with. After all, looking nice 24/7 is what single women do to attract a mate, as well as the going out (which leads to the sleeping in). Reading all day? Although one of my favorite past times, it's something I don't miss as much as I thought I would, since I have people in my life to share the rainy days with now.

Although parents give up a lot for the sake of their children, I would hope that most don't regret it. After all, I get the opportunity to help change the world just by the fact of having my babies. This isn't to say that I, as a human being, have ceased to have needs and interests. Of course I still recognize myself as having value separately from what I offer my husband and children. But there is a little thrill in realizing that a child is pure potential and as a parent, you can hopefully raise them in a way that influences them to be amazing people and go on to do great things. We all have heard the "you never know if that kid will cure cancer" thing, but I'm not even worried about that. If I can just raise my girls to be decent individuals with respect for themselves and other people and their earth, they will make their own positive mark by the fact of their own existence. If my husband and I can achieve that, all of the so-called sacrifices will seem like a drop in the bucket. Besides, I'm not sure if there's anything I wouldn't do for my girls...they bring me so much joy, I'm just glad to have them in my life.

* By powering through, I mean laying around feeling sorry for myself, eating hot pockets so I don't have to cook, drinking coffee, and watching Ghost Whisperer because I can't tolerate anything loud/bright with my nerves being shot. Yeah, I'm pretty much a wuss for pain and discomfort and tend to get whiny. I'm...just bein' honest. (Hey ya!) ::end randomness::  

Monday, September 12, 2011

Longest Delayed Reaction Ever.

I've known for a substantial chunk of my life that I tend to have a delayed reaction to overwhelming emotional events, but have never known any other way to cope. When the 9/11 attacks happened, I was 17 years old and living the typical jaded, brooding life of a teenager (I had my own tribulations in my personal life that I was dealing with at the time). I had left second period and took an extra couple minutes between classes in the bathroom to attempt to combat a particularly bad hair day and was slightly late to class. When I walked into the room the tension was palpable, and the whole class was ignoring our teacher, who was trying desperately to get everyone to quit talking. I had no idea what was going on and thought that maybe some bad classroom-related news had been delivered. Being the distracted person that I am, I pulled out my book and notebook and pen and looked around, waiting on everyone to hush and start the lesson. Then the whole class started a mutiny to turn on the TV in the room and that was when I realized something was wrong. Of course some of my classmates saw that I was obviously out of the loop and started in with the "didn't you hear?" and "there's going to be a draft!" When I was informed that the WTC had been hit by an airplane, I didn't believe it and thought that a rumor mill had started up at the school to freak everyone out. You know there are always those people who like to start an outrageous rumor, just to see how quickly they can get it to spread and frankly, mess with people. Then I looked up at the TV and realized that it definitely was not a joke or a ploy to get the student body's drawers in a wad. As I was watching, my pen rolled off the desk and  I bent over to pick it up and while looking down heard the whole class gasp in unison. By the time I looked up, the second plane had hit, but I missed the entire thing and the news was not doing instant replay, so I had to ask what happened while everyone shushed me so they could watch the news. It was so frustrating, feeling so out of the loop in the midst of such a profound attack on not just our physical country, but our sense of security as Americans. Due to a rather busy schedule, I didn't have the opportunity to watch the news in the following weeks and never really heard all of the story, so my mind only registered the obvious feelings- fear of war and subsequent attacks, disbelief that this could happen on American soil, shock that the terrorism plot got as far as it did (I was wondering if our intelligence community had decided to take a vacation), and the vague realization of how many people must have lost their lives. There was so much going on in my life at the time, I didn't have the time or energy to devote to letting it all sink in and really "feeling out" the event that had occurred.

All of these years, 9/11 has been an event in the back of my mind that I acknowledge happened, but didn't personally affect me and thusly was put into storage in my brain, to be brought back out at a later date. Another reason it was hard for me to connect with what had happened was having to be submitted to the barrage of "We will never forget" bumper stickers, billboards, bus ads, magazine covers, and rally cries of politicians on both sides using this sentiment to try to gain voter sympathies and in my mind, it was absolutely revolting. How disgusting, to take advantage of others' loss for political and/or financial gain. This turned me off from wanting to know more and I moved on. Yesterday was the tenth anniversary of this tragedy, and being an adult now, I felt it was time to finally open myself to what had happened, now that I am more mature and emotionally capable of understanding and dealing with the magnitude of what happened. Like many others, I watched a couple of the tribute shows, especially the ones featuring firsthand footage and old news broadcasts, so I could basically "catch up" on what I had missed ten years ago. For the very first time, I watched footage of an old event and it felt brand new. Suddenly it felt like discovering a wound that I didn't know was there until the scab was ripped off. Even though it was sad listening to the stories of the of the people who had lost loved ones that day, that wasn't what struck me. It was watching the structures crumble and the ensuing dust cloud (which to me looked like a pyroclastic flow) and watching the reaction of the people seeing it happen on the news in Times Square that made my head spin. That was the first time I truly felt the immense sadness and loss of the attack. For the very first time, I cried about it and felt ridiculous at having taken so long to experience these emotions. Maybe it's because I'm an adult now with a family of my own that I can empathize with those who lost their loved ones. When I was younger, I couldn't even conceive of loving someone that much and the possibility that they would be taken from me someday. There's also the fact that to this day, I have never lost anyone that I'm close to, and all of the people I care about are still in my life. Never having dealt with loss, maybe it just didn't affect me as much. Now that I have children, my job as a parent is to constantly be on alert to things that could harm them, whether it's a tiny toy they could choke on, touching the surfaces at the doctor's office, smarmy looking strangers, or possible emotional traumas from well-intentioned family members. Being on the alert is part and parcel to recognizing that there is always the possibility of losing the people I love most in my life and that I must do everything in my power to ensure that that does not happen. I believe that this aspect of adult life has very much-so impacted my faculty for empathy and my value for human life. Even though it may have taken ten years for me to register what happened, I guess it's better late than never.