The oldest man in the world is doing laps in front of us. As the boys bicker over whether or not to play ping pong I watch him bob forward. I am both impressed and alarmed. I imagine he wouldn’t mind going this way…but I’d rather not be here for it. His loose skin, having lost the elasticity of youth is half a stroke behind him, dragging in the water like a peach parachute.
The boys have moved on to a tickle/taunt game. Right now giggles. Coming soon shrieks. The pool area is pretty empty, our fourth visit all summer and the first where friends haven’t swarmed. I’d call it relaxing except of course it isn’t.
The boys swam for 4 minutes and now drape their wet bodies over my chair. Asking “aren’t you bored just sitting here mama?” If only they would be quieter or further away I might be bored. Instead I am waffling between overly sentimental and disproportionately annoyed.
I’ve been thinking today about how I can feel myself lifting out of my bad weeks. A project pitch interested me. The firing of nerf gun bullets at my neck while driving upset me about the right amount. (Cheap refill here if you want to give them more ammo.)
I’ve been gifted the secondary view of my boys at our afternoon dentist visit. It isn’t that I care what the hygienists and office managers think about my kids, it’s just that I can see it through their eyes.
Like that diagram of the eye lens, where the image is first upside down then corrected. This is my boys at the appointment. I know about their flossing (non existent) brushing (1x/day for a length measured in nanoseconds) and their eating habits. Sugar=totally allowed.
Instead the office staff comments on their hair, manners (?!), honesty (genetic), and collaboration (fostered by lack of choice.)
The cascade of compliments keep coming. It’s not that I feel uplifted, just that I remember both/and. Poor flossing, and asks his hygienist how her day was. Not a bad blend really.
“Ok, now you try…like this? Yeah, like that. Try to drive into me. The pool side lounger is a race car. They are at “driving school” the chair car an imagined weapon/training tool. “Ok” “back to simulation stage” I’m not sure at what point the game left the simulation stage but they have returned.
Now they are gone and I am alone for a minute.
The post that has been in my head all day is about how to know when a bad mood is part of mental illness. I only know for me. It took a while to be able to know the difference.
I would sit across from my therapist telling him that I could manage. I could. It wasn’t like I spent the day in bed with the shades closed. I just WANTED to. And that’s normal, right?
His raised brow told me I just needed to suck it up and stop sucking it up. “If you are at a 6” his hand patting an imaginary horizon above his waist. “and you could be at an 8. Why wouldn’t you try?” Here his hand is shoulder height. I want to criticize his spatial parsing, but instead I focus on the numbers. He’s trying to improve a 6. I dream of 6. I’m at a 3 faking a 5. And my main complaint is the faking. I’d rather just claim the 3. Shower weekly, honestly answer the question “how are you doing?” See my kids 30 minutes a day. Preferably while they are napping.
I mean either I can roll with things or just decide I don’t care. Which is totally true. This is what I realize at the same time I am picking a cat hair off of my shirt, and thinking that the six needed to be higher if the eight is shoulder height in my therapists man sized measuring stick.
I really don’t care. And I could just go. I could leave this couch and go to some other couch and sit there. Or not. I wouldn’t even really mind if I wasn’t able to sit. If I could just be gone. Some little piece of me said that that would be easier…no the big piece said it would be easier. The little piece said. Your kids can’t have this as part of their stories.
So I took the prescription.
And now, today, 4 years later my bad weeks aren’t like that.
When my kids ask if I am bored I say sort of. And remember that boredom is a feeling of someone who cares, who wants to be in this life. Even if it is poolside, rather than swimming laps.
He is finished now.
The kids have come and gone, come and gone. And I might swim. It’s unlikely but possible. But either way I am here.
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Anna Rosenblum Palmer is a freelance writer based in Denver, CO. She writes about sex, parenting, cat pee, bi-polar disorder and the NFL; all things inextricably intertwined with her mental health. In her free time she teaches her boys creative swear words, seeks the last missing puzzle piece and thinks deeply about how she is not exercising. Her writing can be found on Babble, Parent.co, Great Moments in Parenting, Ravishly, Good Men Project, Sammiches and Psych Meds, Playpen, Crazy Good Parent, and YourTango. She also does a fair amount of navel gazing on her own blog at annarosenblumpalmer.com.