My neighbor is an amazing cook. I don’t know this because I’ve ever tasted her food (I wish!); I only know this because the aroma of dinner wafts through our shared wall every evening and reminds me that smell and taste are two of the best senses we have. Oh, she also eats dinner late. Like, she-clearly-doesn’t-have-a-toddler-late. (It’s nine o’clock, and I’m breathing it in. Also, Charlee has been in been for two hours already.)
These past two weeks have been ridiculous. And I keep thinking if I were an animal in the woods, I’d be dead by now. But I don’t know if that means this particular situation has been especially dangerous, as there are probably many scenarios that would find me dead, were I an animal in the woods.
A little over two weeks ago, I went into the oral surgery clinic at MGH to get one wisdom tooth removed. It was supposed to be no big deal. Soft foods and ice and some Tylenol afterward, sure, but should be better within a few days.
Fast forward a few days, and an infection had developed, meaning the fine oral surgeons of MGH had to install a drain and put me on some strong antibiotics.
When that didn’t work, the pain was so intense, I was back at the hospital–this time in the ER–getting a CT scan. The infection was low in my jaw, right above my neck, and if it moved any lower, it would prohibit me from swallowing, and essentially cause me to asphyxiate. (That’s why I keep thinking if I were an animal in the woods, with no preventions, well–there you go!) Another surgery, an IV to administer antibiotics and really effective pain meds, and a few days in the hospital had me feeling better.
Now I’m home and I’m getting better every day, but to be honest, I’m not normal yet (Hahahaha roll in the jokes about “BUT WHEN WERE YOU EVER NORMAL, JESS?!”). The surgeon says that a full recovery just takes time and in the meantime I’m still on antibiotics–happily off the opiates, though!–and having to do these excruciatingly painful jaw stretching exercises. Because now I can’t open my mouth very well…
So as you can see, these past few weeks have been an absolute BALL and if you need your wisdom teeth out, run–don’t walk!–to the nearest oral surgeon and have at it. No actually, what happened to me is a-typical and simply unlucky. It shouldn’t have happened and I suppose the moral of the story is that I am incredibly grateful that I am not simply an animal in the woods (God rest my soul, because you know what would’ve happened THEN).
The good part of all this: So many people have reached out with kind words and prayers; I was even sent soups, smoothies, juices, milkshakes, and a book of smoothie recipes. My mom flew up here and she massaged my neck a lot (it’s amazing how two weeks of straight up face pain will really put a creak in the old neck). My friend took Charlee for an entire day and never even hesitated when TJ asked her if she could while taking me to the ER. A dear friend visited me in the hospital (which, I realized, is HUGE. When you’re stuck in the hospital, it’s amazing to see a kind face and just talk about life for a second with someone who isn’t preoccupied with your vital signs). Every client was a thousand percent understanding, and my employers were too. My friend took Luna on a long luxurious hike and my dog walker (who has become a friend) took Luna for a couple of nights without a word of protest.
So what does all of this mean?
It means that I am squarely in some kind of amazing community. I live in a beautiful city. Like, the buildings and streets and water come together in a magnificent way. But man, the people here in Boston take my breath away.
I’m either a convict with an electric anklet ID, or I’m back in the hospital.
(Or I suppose there’s always a chance that I’m both.)
(Okay, so I’m *just* back in the hospital and my anklet ID is not electric, but rather a way for the nurses and doctors to know that, “Yes, you are who you claim to be, so let’s draw some more blood!” *Now sing I JUST WANNA DRAW SOME BLOOD/DRAW SOME BLOOD/DRAW SOME BLOOD to the tune of Ingrid Michaelson’s Be Okay; it’s a real fun hospital diddy guaranteed to lift your spirits like THAT.)
By Saturday night, the pain was rushing back, outnumbering my ability to cope by a long shot. So by Sunday, TJ brought me here so I could writhe uncomfortably in a chair at the ER instead of writhing uncomfortably in our bed at home. They gave me two rounds of morphine and it didn’t touch the pain, so finally they gave me something that routinely puts morphine down as being weak and it worked. It worked so well, that I was like, “Listen, I’ve already had TJ’s baby, but if you like, I can have your baby, too. I mean, really, it’s the very least I can do considering the way you’re making me feel.”
I got a CT scan and that’s when the doctors decided to perform another operation (I JUST WANNA OPERATE/OPERATE/OPERATE..by now you know the tune…thanks, Ingrid, for the endless amounts of fun this morning). That went well, and I will gloss over what and how much they took out of me.
I now have two drains on my body–one in my mouth and one through my mouth under my chin, so get ready for a steady flow of gorgeous selfies coming your way from this girl right here. Also, if I was in a marvel comic book, I’d be Drain Girl and you would be very, very afraid.
I’m getting a lot of good stuff through an IV and they even gave me broth last night, a nice departure from the “nothing, not even water” diet all day Sunday, and even the “okay, now you can have water but that’s it” Monday diet.
The big guns arrived yesterday (aka my mom), and the doctors will be doing something called advancing my drains today. I asked if it hurt, and they said not much, so we’ll see. And advancing my drains does kind of sound like a promotion, so that’s cool.
So there you go. Happy Tuesday and I’m pretty sure I haven’t rested this much since Charlee was born.
Dr. Peacock tells me a whopping 2% of people who get their wisdom teeth out end up with an infection roughly the size of the Prudential Center as a result of it. (Which probably means I should start buying lottery tickets, because: lucky.)
This past Friday I got the procedure done, and by Wednesday was wondering if the hot, hard, swollen jaw, extreme pain, inability to open my mouth, and *SKIP THIS LAST PART IF YOU’RE EATING DINNER, HAVE RECENTLY EATEN DINNER, OR ARE A FAN OF DINNER IN GENERAL* pus on my pillow after a night’s sleep is what you call “recovery.”
After relating this to a nice nurse named Debbie, she calmly told me to go straight to the ER. Don’t even stop and charge your phone. (It’s bad enough to be in the ER alone with a big, hot face and neck–but it’s a little bit worse to be there alone with a big, hot face and neck–AND a dying phone.) That is when three male handsome oral surgeons found me. They took me to a small room that was lacking in anesthesia. No really: NO ANESTHESIA. It was like a scene from the Civil War. I’m pretty sure that, had they not actually had to go *in* my mouth, they would have given me a bullet to bite while they irrigated my wound. Instead, one offered me his hand to squeeze. I would have preferred some anesthesia, but I took the hand, because unless you’re talking a mouth infection, I think we can all agree that something is better than nothing.
What I will say about what happened next is that in 10 hours of natural labor I didn’t cry once. In a few minutes of my mouth being cranked open, prodded, suctioned, squeezed, etc., I was crying hot tears. Okay, I was sobbing.
They told me to come back the next day. “Will there be anesthesia?” I asked, trying and failing to sound casual. To not sound like the starving person asking if there will be food at the party.
Thursday I was back at MGH. TWICE. The second, time begging for drugs, because I’d never felt pain like that before. It’s hard to describe, but it drove me out of my mind and I may or may not have sounded like a wounded animal while holding my face whimpering and rocking back and forth in the surgeon’s waiting room.
It’s been a rough week. There are a lot of people I’m in debt to. It not only takes a village to raise a human; I’ve found it takes a village to BE a human. I’m grateful for mine. I can’t say that enough. I’m on some strong antibiotics and some ridiculously strong pain meds and a drain in my mouth is doing it’s wonderful job.
Oh, and in the past 2 months I have collected 2 different surgeon’s personal numbers, “should you need me for anything at all,” they said (read: you’re a hot mess, Jess). But I don’t actually think y’all should be jealous of those numbers😬Anyway, that’s what’s up with me these days, lolz, TGIF, and all that jazz.
I think that our desires matter (I think freckles on noses matter less). And I also think that expecting God to be some Western idea of a juke box or a McDonald’s dollar menu cheapens God’s role to that of simply doing whatever we want. Like a genie or something, held captive to our whims.
I think we should dream hard and we should never settle. And I don’t think it’s mutually exclusive to, at the same time, allow that maybe, just maybe, God is planning something better than we can even ask or imagine. I like that idea. My life is proof of this idea. I never thought I’d marry a guy from New Jersey. A guy on the radio. A guy who is such a complex mix of hilarious and kind and brilliant and inspiring and quirky and hard working and wonderfully self-possessed and quiet in groups because, unless he’s behind the mic, he’s not drawn to the center of attention. I never thought I’d marry someone who’s earned my respect with every single day I’ve known him. He challenges me to live my best life and he’s from New Jersey, and I know now that’s a lovely state, but I always thought of it as a turnpike and I never would’ve put New Jersey on my list as a kid dreaming up her husband.
But man, God knew something I didn’t.
(Okay, so God knows a lot of things I don’t.)
With September in sight, the weather has been just about perfect. You know, way too pleasant to stay indoors. So Charlee and I have been setting up camp under a particular willow tree that happens to be right next to where the duckboats are in the Charles River.
Charlee likes to tell me what color whichever duckboat that happens to be passing us is and I like to cheer for her when she does.
Then we do her favorite thing. She finds a stick and points it toward me. I grab one end while she holds onto the other with all her chubby might. Then we run. I run with her flailing behind me, the stick between us and her laughter all around us. I can’t help but join, because I can’t think of a more appropriate response to a toddler cracking up.
That’s right, I managed to land all those spills AROUND the napkin. WHY AM I NOT A GOALIE? WHY DID MY PARENTS PUT ME IN BALLET? WHY DID A STRANGER TELL MY DOG LUNA, F*#% YOU DOG! TODAY?
Okay, sorry, I’m getting carried away. I started asking questions, and then they all just tumbled on out. Kind of like the time as a kid when I was supposed to clean my room before my grandmother came over. I shoved everything into my closet and closed the door, satisfied. Then when my grandmother asked to see something in my closet (I clearly hadn’t thought of that prospect!)–well, she saw my closet and then everything else, too. I’m sure there’s a life lesson there.
(Ps I was very upset on behalf of what the stranger said to Luna. I still am, actually. I’d like to have a conversation with him. I’d like to ask him if maybe his parents didn’t give him consistent consequences for bad behavior while growing up and that’s why he’s acting like an ass today. I’d say it kindly, with all due respect. Namaste and all that.)
Anyway, my jeans are in the wash and my dear Luna is none the worse for the verbal abuse. I love Saturday nights because we all wake up together on Sundays and there’s no rush out the door for any of us (Charlee’s day off, you know).
Knowing that a slow bed-heady Sunday morning is right around the corner fills me with a version of that warm anticipation December brings for Christmas.
Happy weekend, friends. May the strangers you meet be kind and your bed head awesome.
This weekend went too fast, but every weekend does lately. Something for which I’m grateful for. I remember when weekends crawled by and they hurt more than weekdays because of the unwritten and unwanted expectation that just happens when it’s Saturday. Expectations for life to be better than Wednesday, for some reason. To stay out late with someone you love; or even better, stay in with someone you love and fall asleep together on the couch. And then it hurts when it doesn’t happen, I guess.
Monday comes quick with its own rush of work and deadlines and I’ve decided I’m gonna like Monday. There’s no way around it, so I think the best course of action is to discover what’s good about Monday and think about that. Kind of like a family member who’s just there no matter what and when I tell my pop how very deeply irritating they are, he asks me if I pray for them because you can’t pray for someone for very long without starting to care about them, too. And you can’t stay one thousand percent irritated with a person you care about.
Touché, pop (and I am praying for this person now!).
Anyway, this weekend was a blur. But I remember the part when TJ told me lots of things he loves about me with all the excitement of saying it for the first time (even though it’s a lot of times past that now). And I remember Charlee dancing and laughing to music that is fifty times older than she is. I remember listening to Morgan James sing with such precision and power that I actually didn’t mind being out late to hear her (and I usually mind that a lot). And I remember having dinner at Fenway Park, way up high with the dugout far enough away to make it seem small. And then listening to Billy Joel with a flower in my hair and a totally rapt TJ to my right.
It was a lovely, speeding by weekend.
Monday, I know you’ll do just fine.
(And I’m not mad at you for not being Saturday.)
When people ask me about it–
What to get,
What to expect,
I want to take their hand
And guide it over the stretch marks
That ridge my heart.
This is what happens.
You don’t know a heart can grow;
Not like this, anyway.
But it expands,
And sometimes it hurts,
But it’s growing pain.
And the point is you’re growing;
Just as much as the baby that was so small
When you first held her.
You’re growing a child up;
She’s growing a mama up.
You help each other get there;
Neither would exist without the other.
There are a thousand
different strollers to buy;
They all work; they’d all be just fine.
There is one precious heart within;
It will not only change for the better,
It will change for good.
Today I got to volunteer with a team, conducting mock interviews for young adults with disabilities, helping them to practice and hone the skills needed to land a job. I enjoyed the work. I really never mind talking and connecting with people; it’s an honor to glimpse somebody else’s precious life.
I also left feeling like I’d swallowed a heavy stone and it sat unmoving deep in my belly as TJ and I walked along the narrow streets of the North End on our way home. Life is not fair and I guess I could spend just about all my time on this earth sitting here and wondering why.
I interviewed a young man who is proud of having been “the only kid with autism in high school to play football.” His name is Matt (“spelled with two T’s,” he told me, “M-A-T-T”). He wants to earn enough money to help his family because they’re broke, he said. He wants to have a house of his own and doesn’t work so well in teams, he also said. His brothers are lazy and don’t contribute nearly as much as he’d like to. Matt has a beautiful heart. I wanted to tell Matt that he’d be okay. That he’d have that house and help his family. My guess is that he already does help his family, even if it’s not the kind of help that pays bills.
Like I said, I don’t know why it can feel like life plays favorites. I don’t know why so many of my friends have stayed in one simple, beautiful marriage while my first husband was an asshole (I’m sorry; that is rude and not entirely true. People are always people; they are never assholes. They can however, ACT like assholes. Which is all I’ll say about that). I do know that going through what I did changed my heart in ways that happiness alone never could. I feel pretty positive that Matt’s family (whom Matt clearly adores) wouldn’t trade him for anyone. I also know that everyone has something to give and when we do that, the world not only becomes richer for it, we do too.
Think about it. When you start to love someone even a little tiny bit, that love grows and multiplies and you find yourself in a situation where you can no longer love just a little. It takes over and your whole heart is colored with the stuff and it gets to the point where you cannot even go shopping for yourself anymore because all you want to do is buy every single thing that reminds you of them and wrap it up and not even wait until Christmas to be like SURPRISE I THINK YOU’RE AWESOME SO I GOT YOU THIS! It becomes harder to be selfish when you love someone and that’s never a bad thing.
Same with giving away your time. Your knowledge. Your help. Your money. You give it to someone else, but it always comes right back and changes you, too.
My point is that we could sit around bemoaning the fact that life is not fair (though we cannot see everything; people call me lucky from time to time now, and I often think nobody would’ve used that word for me five years ago… We just never know the depth of people’s stories, is the thing; we may think someone has it all, but they’re crying themselves to sleep, or their father is a cold hard man, or they’re living with a whole world of unrequited love within, etc; or conversely we may see a person and think they have nothing, when their heart is full of peace, or they have an assurance that God loves them, or they were raised by a mama who loved them well, so what’s more than all that?).
We could sit idly wondering WHY we aren’t all given what a lot of this world would call the exact same advantage, or we could give what we do have away, hoping to grow some more of that advantage for others along the way.
At the end of the interview, I had to adjudicate how well the participant conducted himself. I rated Matt’s eye contact (not a lot), his posture (I suppose we could all work on that, considering how hunched over our devices we like to be), his ability to speak clearly. Matt has things to work on, just like you and me. He just probably has some different things to work on than you and me. At the very end, I had to answer whether I’d hire him or not, based on our interview.
“I’d like to give him a shot,” I scrawled in blue ink at the bottom of the page.
Tonight, I’m praying that Matt meets someone who can really give him that shot.
It’s almost always easier to stay than go.
Let me get a little more specific.
Yesterday, I met with a client and then got stuck in some of Boston’s finest traffic, making the usually fifteen minute trip home stretch to about an hour. I was tired and hungry and would’ve enjoyed just sitting down for a minute. My wound hurt. Yes–my wound. I can say that now, because I have one under my right arm. My surgeon put it there. Speaking of my surgeon, he is awesome. He gave me his personal cell phone number to call him, should anything need his immediate attention (when my arm was feeling numb a few days after the surgery, I did call him. But I chickened out on calling his cell. I just felt like that was too personal or something, and dialed up his secretary, instead. I would never ever want to be accused of abusing the absolute priviledge I have of walking around with an amazing surgeon’s digits in my pocket. So therefore I will probably never actually use that number. But I still have it, which counts a lot).
Dear friends of mine here in Boston and I had scheduled a dinner about a month ago. Do you know how often this kind of thing happens for me? Let’s just say it happens a little bit more than going to the movie theater, which says absolutely nothing because the last movie I saw in a theater was…(I’m drawing a blank, so just wait a minute as I think…)–it could’ve been the first Hunger Games (which is the only Hunger Games I’ve seen; but I’ve read all the books and am just as creeped out by President Snow as you). No wait, did that How We Killed Osama Bin Laden Movie come out after that? Because I saw that one, too.
(Speaking of Osama Bin Laden–when everyone first started talking about him, they always reffered to him as Bin Laden. So I actually just thought it was Ben Lawden. Like one of the most American sounding names in the books. Maybe even Amish. Turned out he wasn’t American, and was certainly not Amish.)
My point is, that I hardly ever go out–and even less so with a group of friends. And you guys! I LOVE friends! I love sitting down and lingering over a menu and then finding that rhythm of talking then listening then laughing, etc. And it’s all so different when you’re alone with your friends, as opposed to when you’re with your wonderful toddler who hates to sit for very long (very long being anything more than five minutes) and loves to shriek and wants more than anything to GO! and WALK! and that is about as different from lingering as one can get.
So last night I did something unusual. I had my sister watch Charlee when I wasn’t even working (so luxurious, I know). I got home from a long day and turned right around to go back out. I put on a top and didn’t even consider the Great Nursing In Public Dilemma before doing so. I got home later than normal and was tired when I did. But what happened in between all that was worth it. Because my friends and I sat on a patio off Newbury street in the no-longer-as-stifling-heat-since-the-sun-went-down and took our time eating and talking. Nobody threw their food off the table (on purpose, anyway). Nobody screamed because they were sitting when they wanted to be walking. And man, we talked about so many things. Shoes and DIY projects and motherhood and wedding planning and the pain we’ve survived and whether or not we’d choose that pain again (in case you’re wondering, I would, for good reason; in case you’re still wondering, my friend would not, for good reason, too). We talked like words were on sale, so why not grab a little more than normal; we talked like friendship mattered more than who any of us will vote for in November (and I have no idea who any of them even are voting for).
I loved the evening. It was worth paying a baby sitter. Worth turning right back around and leaving again as soon as I got home initially. Worth going to bed a little later. Worth shaking up the routine. Which is why I need to keep reminding myself that the easiest thing is oftentimes not the best thing (unless we’re talking slip-on shoes verses laces for a toddler, AMIRIGHT?).