I should probably be removing the many things crowding the kitchen counters right now–putting them back in their rightful places–but man, I’m just not sure that the changes this world needs will come from a tired sense of obligation.
I’m not sure the changes I need will come from a tired sense of obligation.
I mean, the counter isn’t going anywhere and, although tomorrow isn’t promised to anyone, if and when it comes, I will certainly be able to organize my corner of the world then. But until that time there’s now and there’s so many different words and there’s the relief that comes from describing the former with the latter. And though there’s also a certain kind of relief I get from having beautifully empty, decluttered kitchen counters–not even sarcastic here; that is some sexy, shiny, peaceful stuff right there–I just want to talk on paper right now, if that’s okay.
Let me put it this way: my sweet and garrulous little nephew apparently asks his teacher lots of questions. Which I think is probably fine, considering he’s at school and one is supposed to learn at school and how do we learn without all those questions driving us to find answers? I mean, right? But this teacher doesn’t have time to be interrupted with so many questions, I guess–what with all those teacherly activities that apparently don’t involve answering students’ questions–so she now gives Judah three sticks at the start of the day. For every question he asks, he has to hand over a stick. Once he’s out of sticks, he can’t ask another question until he gets three more sticks the following school day. With that said, I feel like I wake up with only so many sticks and once it gets to evening I have maybe, like, one left (if I am lucky. Read: if I got to sleep past five that morning and Christmas came early in the form of TJ taking Luna on her last walk of the day). So I look at the counter and I think about my precious one remaining stick and do I want to give my stick over to clearing off counters? Or would I rather save this stick for something else, something a little more LOOK MOM! I’M TIRED AS HELL AND CHARLEE POOPED IN A BASKET TODAY, BUT MY SOUL STILL SPEAKS!
And she did.
She totally pooped in Luna’s toy basket today. It was wild; potty training is LIT.
Yesterday afternoon, TJ and I went shopping for a dress.
(For posterity’s sake, the dress is for me.)
We went all up and down Newbury Street and I saw so many dresses I have no interest in. But I would sometimes linger over a color or fabric and TJ would ask me one question: “Do you love it, Jess?”
The answer was usually no. There are so many dresses I don’t love. There are so many dresses not worth my time trying on or hard earned dollars. And this is just a dress. I mean, there are things that matter more. Lots more. What I am saying is that as I get older, I realize that I only have so many sticks and so much precious, finite time. With that in mind, it’s good to pare down, to simplify, to say there is only one thing I can do this evening, and I choose to sit down and write. I will wake up with counters that are cluttered and it will be okay because look, my soul speaks and what it’s begging for is not necessarily to wipe down the counter for the thousandth time this year. (But I will wipe the counter down tomorrow, absolutely, because it is part of the beautiful job I share in managing our home.)
It’s easy to do the bare minimum. It’s so easy to simply do the things that have to be done. Like wiping the counters. I don’t necessarily have to take time to write. But I don’t want to look back someday and only see a neat home and spotless counters (I wouldn’t mind seeing that in addition to other things, though!). I want to see choices I make that line up with my goals (I want to write books! looks like writing a lot–even when you’re tired; I want to be fit! looks like working out a lot–even when you’re tired; I want to do the things I love! looks like choosing to invest in (i.e. DO THEM) the things you love–even when you’re tired).
Oh, and I found a dress that I love, by the way. TJ sure knows how to hold a high standard, and thank God he does this for more than just the dresses I buy.
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.