Thursday, April 21, 2011

How I Know G-d Wears Glasses and a Greasepaint Moustache

I truly believe that the universe gives you the challenges that are most suited to beating the stuffing out of your worst faults. Case in point: I currently live in Indiana. Fourteen years ago, when I was a freshman at Kenyon College, I liked to say facetiously that I didn't believe Indiana really existed.

"Don't you find it suspicious that there is no daylight savings time there?" I would say in my best X-Files conspiracy tone.

While I never truly believed that Indiana was a giant hole in the map, I did somehow think it was not a state I needed to really think much about. And of course, here I am. 1 point to the universe!

Similarly, during my senior year I told my advisor at Kenyon that it wasn't like I was going to end up working at a bookstore in the suburbs of Columbus after I graduated. Guess what my first job was out of school. (And third and seventh and ninth--I kept coming back for more). Oh yeah, and guess where that job was. I'll wait.

So, what have we learned, boys and girls? Clearly, EGB should never say anything negative about any place in the country. (I'm waiting for the other combat boot to drop regarding my view of Detroit as the inner-most circle of hell. I am married to an automotive engineer.)

However, it's not nearly that simple. Because even if you've never said anything negative about a place, that big Groucho Marx in the sky is bound to take a toke off his cigar and give you something that will challenge you anyway.

I saw this first hand with my own sister. Tracie as a high school student was on the track team--the first member of our family to show any athletic acumen whatsoever. (My aunt Paula was the most athletic prior to this, because she played piano). After a hard run, my sister would come home, collapse on the couch with ice packs on her shin splints, and whimper about her legs hurting. She hated pain. In fact, she wrote her college entrance essay about her hatred of pain. ("I know that no one likes pain," she wrote, "but I REALLY REALLY hate it.")

Then when she was 23, Tracie was diagnosed with fibromyalgia, a pain disease with no known cause or cure. Nice one, Groucho.

In the decade since her diagnosis, my sister has grown a great deal stronger than the teenager who would drape herself over our mother, saying in a tiny voice, "Mommy, it hurts." She lives with pain and she doesn't complain and she is a better person for wrangling with her nemesis. But seeing this still scared the crap out of me. It made me realize that the Comedian likes to mess with us. Since my biggest fault is impatience, I wondered what could possibly be in store for me.

Knowing that I am terribly impatient and knowing that patience is a virtue does not change the grand hurry that I seem to always be in. Once something is decided, it should be taken care of YESTERDAY! I know that my impatience has cost me opportunities, has alienated friends, has increased my stress and has allowed me to settle for some really crappy food on occasion, but that does nothing to help me remember that I am not in a race. After seeing Tracie be challenged so cosmically and significantly, I knew I had a doozy in store for me.

And herein lies Groucho's insightful brilliance. I waited YEARS to learn what my challenge to my impatience would be.

Oh, sure, I had my interminable waiting periods prior to LO. I mean, it took me a WHOLE three months to find my first teaching job. But never have I had such a consistent patience challenge. That's not to say that I'm impatient with LO. But the child needs what he needs when he needs it, no matter what my plans are for that particular block of time. For several months, our conversations would go something along these lines:

Me: LO, I just need to get this article finished and then fold the laundry. Can't you take your nap so I could do that? Please?

Yes, I can be slow on the uptake. (Isn't the definition of insanity doing the same thing over and over hoping for a different result?) Clearly logic, asking nicely, begging and jumping up and down in an extreme display of my advanced maturity did not work in getting LO on my schedule. But it took me until last week to finally get it. (I'm just glad I'm not figuring this out as we drive LO to college, because it would most likely be clown college or Joe-Bob's School o' Larnin' 'n' Stuff if it really did take me that long to grasp an easy concept.)

LO does not like to sleep. He has consistently told me that "Sleep is for Suckers!" and will actually stick his tongue out at Good Night Moon. The child went from regularly taking two naps without too much of a fuss (and one against his will) per day, to having the same number of naps (and level of ease) per month.

My impatience was frantic. There were THINGS to do! Articles to write. Dishes to wash. Facebook statuses to check!! How was I supposed to be on top of all of that if I had a wakeful and screaming child on my hands?

After a few days of this, it became clear that LO was willing to sleep, provided I acted as bed, pillow, beverage dispenser and nap buddy. I railed against this for a while--the siren song of productivity is never far from my ears--but I finally remembered that I was supposed to be a Stay-At-Home-Mother. According to LO, my first job is taking care of him. And if he needs a bosom for a pillow to sleep, then so be it. What on earth am I rushing toward? So what if there are no matching socks and we're eating dinner off of pot lids? LO is well rested and happy.

So, since I turned that mental corner, I have no doubt that Groucho is pleased. It's all part of my becoming someone who used to be impatient.

(J is waiting patiently for that day to arrive.)

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