Bad thing, good person. It happens.
My friend Jennifer is one of my favorite people. Mostly because she’s awesome.
She sat in the waiting room until midnight while Carl was in the ER and came back at nine the next morning with sticky buns and kleenex to sit with me during his surgery.
That kind of awesome.
So I’m always happy to see a text from her in the mornings, because it almost always means she has a home visit in my neck of the woods or a half day or some other excuse for stopping by. We eat snacks, go for walks, play with Iris… and process, which is a nice way of saying we talk a lot and complain about life and try to figure things (ok, and ourselves) out. And it’s good because we have a lot of similarities and a few key differences: Jenn, who never really planned to have a career-type job, is a social work manager who testifies regularly in court and carries several phones (all things I find terribly appealing). And I, who always planned to have a career-type job, never have and now also have a baby and wander around in pajamas all day.
It’s nice to have someone who can knock a little of the glamor off the whole career thing for me, and I hope the dark circles around my eyes can do the same for her. Life has it’s challenges no matter where you are. As well as it’s rewards.
We were having one of those four-hour rant fests the other day about work, politics, people, religion, and other common irritants when I said sometimes I don’t even know where to begin. It’s like I want to process all the experiences and challenges on my mind recently, but I don’t even know what that means. What does it mean to “process” something anyway?
Because most of my issues feel like hamster wheels, and I give them a good spin every now and then, but it doesn’t seem to get me anywhere new.
Jenn said it all goes back to Kübler-Ross for her. Processing is a lot like grieving, and anything that changes or threatens or otherwise has a major impact on your life requires the old 5 step hip waders of grief… which seemed hilariously morbid to me.
And also true.
It perfectly explains, for example, why the first few weeks of sleep deprivation with Iris were so easy (denial). Why the frustration only showed up six weeks later (anger). Why I worked my way through a whole stack of baby books in order to “fix” Iris’s totally normal infant behaviors (bargaining). And why, when Carl asked me what I was thinking about last week during yet another looooooong night I said: killing myself (depression).
[Dark humor alert. Please don’t petition me to a psych ward.]
It sounds weird to say you’re grieving the entry to a new stage of life, but death is really just an extreme form of processing. Even the very good things in life, if they change everything, require processing.
With Iris’s infancy, the stages have been quite linear and efficient. At three months, I rarely cry or sneak addictive looks at baby care books anymore. I’ve learned new ways of working around Iris’s particularities (with the Boppie pillow, she can nap safely on my lap while BOTH my hands stay free for desk work), and I talk to Carl excitedly about our “great night” when she goes to sleep at 8:30pm… and only wakes up 4 times.
Other issues will be life-long.
My response to the words and acts of misogyny ran the gamut. You can never fully grieve when the pain is ongoing. Sometimes I’m angry, sometimes I’m sad. Sometimes I plan elaborate and mostly unfulfilled forms of activism.
But it’s nice to have a little perspective, nice to understand a little of the pattern.
Anyway it gives me something clean and cerebral to think about at 3am. Chew toys for the brain, right?