The Sick has been around for the last two weeks. It hits us all differently: Dan is slammed right away with a headache and a fever, which he is in and out of for days. Even now he is coughing and has the occasional persistent headache. Eliza slumped her way into a fever and the aches and progressed quickly to a cough. Ani is just pink, pink cheeks and no energy. No appetite. Now coughing. And me, at the tail end of the two weeks, you'd think I'd have it down, the elderberry syrup and the ginger elixir, the mushrooms (yes! mushrooms!) and the chopped garlic on everything, but when it is you, you don't really want to have to think about all of those things, you just want someone else to do it, don't you? Mama, can you come back for a few days?
I had the lovely and uncomfortable experience at my last birthday of having my friends, young and old, go around the table and say something that they appreciated about me. I heard you bring me little gifts, like acorns and small felted things, tokens of friendship. I like how confidently you sing, how beautifully. I like how alike we are, and I like how whenever I find paper I love, I think of you and how much you would love it too. I like spending time with you, I like how you are crafty and fun! Wow. It was, as I said, lovely. And uncomfortable. I wanted to reassure everyone there by telling them they really didn't have to do it, that it was ok if they couldn't think of anything to say, but I made myself sit there and listen and take it all in. Over and over, as our young host who offered the game also suggested that everyone repeat all the statements of love along with their own, which also left me, at the end, having to say all of those things about myself. Out loud.
I was thinking of this game today because one of the things said about me was not immediately easy for everyone to remember or understand. My friend Molly said something like "I appreciate how you are able to set up boundaries to protect your family." This became paraphrased in all sorts of ways from: you are so protective, like a mama bear, to: you are careful of what you let in to your family life, but if I understood her correctly, which I think I did, she meant: you protect your family's time and space and aren't afraid to make decisions that support that.
I was thinking about this because of the decision I made, with Dan, to follow my instinct and stay home with Ani this weekend, to not join him and Eliza at the golf tournament taking place right now in West Virginia. You know, the one with the fabulous costumes and talented characters, the party that blows all other parties out of the water.
Never mind that my instincts were right - Ani spent much of yesterday on the couch, restoring her energy and staring into space, and I woke up this morning with a burning throat and little energy - I still feel like I am missing out on something stupendous. It wasn't until tonight, talking with Molly, that I thought about what she had said about me protecting my family's space and realized that it is just what I do. I am hard-wired to follow those instincts and it often looks like a huge struggle is taking place inside of me, because we humans are social creatures and we seek community and connection and yet the stronger part of me is the one that wants to be connected to myself and what I feel I need. It is so easy to get cloudy about that, and even after being left behind I spent a while last night brainstorming who I could borrow a car from so we could drive there today if we felt better, or even tomorrow, to catch the finals and the crowning of the new champion. I am sad to not be a part of the story, to not see the mountains in their late-autumn bareness, to not be with my whole family.
I asked Ani what she thought about my idea, of us driving there, and she said, "Mama, we made a decision, and I think we should stick with it." Good for her, to not be so easily confused. She usually is very clear on what she wants and needs. Earlier this week we stayed home from homeschool coop because of her cough, but partway through the day she told me we really needed to get outside for a hike and "you never say no to a hike, Mama, come on," so out we went. She didn't last long, but she wanted to feel the wind and smell the leaves, and I imagine she was also feeling my empty cup after days and days of being the caretaker. She helped me spy some fungus as we shuffled along the path. It was just what we needed, and we came home full of wind and leaves and the smell of autumn and it made hunkering in and resting again a little easier.
I'm trying to follow Ani's lead and not feel regret about this weekend. She woke up in my bed this morning with an I love you, Mama! which will always be my favorite way to wake up. In between naps and stories and art-making and tea drinking we are finding our groove (and making a large mess - don't I get a break from cleaning up when I'm sick?) and are working on filling our cups for our family's return.
I'm challenging myself to write something here every day this month. I love October and I'm sorry it's over, but it's also been so goldang busy that I haven't had time to write here or anywhere, so it's a gift to myself, in the form of a challenge! Eliza is participating in NaNoWriMo, and that's what gave me the idea, so Happy November!