Throwback

I was reading some old posts on My Divatales blog, and thought I would share one of my favorites.

(First published Sep 27, 2007 )

Psychosomatic Hypochondria and the Small Diva

Motherhood baffles me.  To this day, near 16 years later, this is a truism.

As a young mother, I thought about my mother, watched my sisters, one cousin in particular, and a couple of my friends.  They were marvels of patience, restraint, and creativity.  They UNDERSTOOD the small creatures they bore.  They kissed every non-existent boo-boo, gently dabbed away every crocodile tear, and seemed to enjoy every interminable story.  Their kids seemed to have come with operating manuals.

At first, my progeny scared the hell out of me.  I was more likely to blink in non-comprehension and incredulity than to smile knowingly.  Each new phase in each of my small daughters’ lives was a puzzle, but since I was not a puzzle connoisseur, my instinct was to stand back a bit and watch how things would organize themselves.  I quickly changed sides in the dim-witted nature versus nurture argument…these small beings were hard-wired from conception!   Navigating the adventure of their personalities was generally educational, often confusing and frequently entertaining.  Learning how to react was (and still is) always mystifying.  I often felt like I was doing something wrong.  One sister thought I was terribly unsympathetic…a theatrical flip onto the floor for a temper-tantrum once was not met with warm cuddles as my reaction only allowed me to tell the miniature drama queen to cut the crap and get off the floor.  I fussed on my sister’s criticism, until I realized there was not much floor slapping in my house!  I instinctively felt that drama must always be presented inventively.

My fear has evolved into a healthy respect for my dangerous daughters.  I have developed a life-saving humor so that my shocked blinking can be accompanied by laughter, or at least quiet amusement, as often as possible.  It seems to work.

This house vibrates constantly with drama.  Another young mom delusion I struggled under was thinking that it was my job to maintain a calm, quiet atmosphere to nurture the best in every soul in this family, including the husband unit.  But, slowly, I began to realize that the high-frequency hum that had me undone early every evening was caused by genetics not my ineptness.  They were all divas, my husband included.  The drama crackles constantly because they were all born with it.  Management of this melodramatic bunch has proven to be well-served by humor, sideways watchfulness, and a healthy dose of common-sense skepticism.  Sometimes I can only view the newest act in the dramedy of our lives by tilting my head and squinting my eyes. 

One of our most entertaining adventures involved the Small Diva and her foray into psychosomatic hypochondria…emphasis, most surely, on the “psycho.”

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Diva Dad was working from home. The phone rings, and he answers. He hangs up and yells, “Since when does Small Diva have allergies?”

I yell from my workshop, “Never.”

“Well, she’s been sneezing for the last 20 minutes.  They want us to come get her.”

Very perplexed, I head off to the school.

I open the office door and hear this explosive series of sneezes…fake ones. I walk in and am greeted by very concerned looks from the office staff. I look at my red-faced, sweating 7 year-old, working hard to sneeze her brains out, and, deciding that laughter would be counter-productive, I simply say, “Knock it off.”

And she does.

The office ladies are now scraping their jaws off the floor as I lead my cured child out the door for a chat. Something is up.

After a long discussion about how she really needs to go home ’cause her throat now hurts (from sneezing for half an hour) and she has a fever (elevated body temp from the sneezing exercise she has been engaged in), I start leading her back to class.

Gotta nip this one in the bud.

I keep asking if something is wrong…is somebody mistreating her, teasing her? Something freaking her out in class? Is she worried about something?

She just miserably says nothing is wrong…except for this attack.  Sneeze.  Sneeze.

As we near her classroom, she throws herself at me, grabs my leg and starts wailing about how she just misses me SOOOO MUCH! As I gently peel her off and pull up the pants she’s nearly yanked down, we discuss the fact that I am always home when she gets there and that when she needs me I show up at school, right?  Her shoulders sag in defeat.  She slowly follows me down the last 20 feet to the class door, refusing to let me hold her hand.

She trudges dejectedly into the classroom as her concerned teacher comes out to talk to me.

“I have never seen an allergy attack like that!” she says.

“It was fake,” I tell her.

After she blinks a couple of times, she bursts out laughing.

Small Diva likes her because she is funny, and I can see now that she has a good sense of humor. We discuss the testing that is going on and how Small Diva has a perfection complex that rivals my own, blah, blah, blah…

As I leave, the teacher is smiling and Small Diva is working though she manages one, last, pitiful glance to make sure I know how despondent she is. 

As I am leaving the building, I am asked several times about Small Diva’s attack and watch each jaw drop as I say it was fake. The school nurse laughs and says it was the most committed performance she has ever seen. And then she pats me on the back and says, “Good job, Mom!”  (And she should know as she has been an integral part of my divas’ lives the past several years, hypochondria and all!)

When I get home and tell Diva Dad why I am without the youngest diva, guess what his jaw does. And he says it is a good thing that I went because he would have believed her. Good divas always believe the inventive drama of other good divas.

Trying to think of a non-dramatic title…

…is that dramatic?

I have been contemplating starting to write again for quite a while now. Tried to come up with a nifty title for a new blog, but everything I thought of was either already taken (as in, really not that creative) or just embarrassingly silly. Then it occurred to me that I had a perfectly good blog that has been part of my life for ~20 years, and “Taoknitter” has become a part of me (not that I can knit the Tao any better than when I chose the name. It keeps me humble.)

So…

So…

I am still alive.

I write that for my own benefit…and holy fuck if I don’t suddenly feel tears making my eyes burn!

Not sure where to start. Just like everyone I know, life over the past 1 1/2+ years has been an unexpected, brain numbing, extremely unsettling experience. And then there is the continuing disaster that is the idiot-who-shall-not-be-named that “led” this country for 4 years. I tell ya, when Covid 19 hit, I was truly undone. I was terrified, immobilized, panic-stricken, overwhelmed, shocked and, at times, hysterical and unsure why I would want to remain on this planet. I did not actively seek to exterminate myself; instead I started drinking way too much, especially when there was no job to go to anymore because of Covid. This caused me to have an accident that required me to call an ambulance…and after being told that no, I was not in danger of dying, I sent the EMTs away and crawled into my bed in embarrassment (after I called my sister E at near midnight first). I woke up the next morning, called E, and announced that THAT was the end of THAT. No more drinking. She sighed in relief, admitting that she had resolved to tell me that herself.

That was well over a year ago now, and it really was the end of that. I can now clearly see that drinking was just a way of hiding from my extreme fear and feelings of hopelessness about not only my life, but my country. Fucking existential crisis of some magnitude (and here let me point out that I KNOW I was/am not the only one). I slept a lot. I read obsessively about quantum physics and the nature of reality. When my brain was roiling from trying to understand the incomprehensible, I compulsively read hard science fiction (mostly of the apocalyptic type) that led me back to more books on quantum physics…yes, I was trying to find a way to understand and control my concepts of the world, the universe, and my reality. Did it work? Dunno. I do know that I talked E’s ear off!

I do not know what I would do without my sister E. She is my rock, my voice of reason, my champion, my confessor, my sounding board, my collaborator, my mirror, my comedy partner, my unpaid therapist, my commiserator, my bullshit monitor, my shoulder to sob & lament upon…and I can only hope I am some of that for her. She deserves a medal for diving head first down all of those rabbit-holes with me.

There were also difficult journeys to be taken with my diva daughters: one that knocked me upside the head, one that found a new path, and one of which was absolutely terrifying and that still continues but seems to be on the upswing at the moment. I learned so much. So very, very fucking much. I am not who I was which is a damn good thing, but I also seem to have found parts of myself that I lost/ gave away/ buried/ annihilated during my marriage. (Yes, dramatic. I am trying to learn to accept the innate drama that is buried in my genetic make-up.)

There has been lots and lots and lots of therapy. And continuous reading. And I will admit to self-pitying navel gazing occasionally. I really never thought much about what my life would be like when I hit 60 years-old. It was never really something I worried much about until I got here, and then I was rather stunned by how shocking and violent its arrival actually was.

So, I find myself in a place I did not expect. I am teaching again. Not in the arts at all. I shall be tutoring 4-5 grade students in math. Full-time at the intermediate school literally around the corner. Such a wonderful, sharp turn in my life. Back in undergrad, when I chose my path in the arts over the one in the sciences, I told myself I could re-visit my passions in the sciences later in life…and here I am.

And I feel more awake than I have perhaps ever been.