My husband is attaching my daughter’s new bike, with its pink and white glittering handlebar streamers, to the bike rack of the car and I realize I’m missing something that’s been part of my life for as long as I’ve dated men, which is a long time. “Anxiety! My heart is not pounding, I’m not in soul crushing agony! I am doing this. I am in a family doing a family thing and not having a panic attack! Am I no longer afraid that this is going to end in disaster as soon as my husband loses his temper and storms off right after mortally breaking someone’s heart for no apparent reason other than that he’s having trouble with the straps on the bike rack? None of those things happen because my husband is not the type to lose his temper. Ever. He’s so kind that I am often suspicious of his kindness. I start to suspect that I can trust this feeling Is this happiness? Is this how most people feel? Maybe this whole happy family thing is real, or maybe I’m feeling this way because I went to a meditation group this morning and my usual defenses are down. Whatever it is, I’ll take it. During the meditation group I hurt my right leg because I pretended to know how to sit cross-legged and thought that somehow I could endure the pain or the universe or whatever would take it away since I was doing a good deed by practicing loving-kindness. But after a few minutes of trying to ignore the intense physical suffering and attempting to force the pain from my body by sheer conscious effort, I switched positions even though it meant that, besides the woman over 70, I was the only one not sitting cross-legged.
But I’m not thinking about any of this as I’m standing next to our Japanese maple tree in our landscaped front yard watching my husband and allowing myself to feel what I think people call happiness (“Happy? What are you so happy about?” My grandmother, my father’s mother, would say, not ironically). We are about to get in the car when my husband turns to me with a smile and says “Wow aren’t we the perfect suburban family!” I smile feebly. Uh oh. I think. “Suburban” is not a good word. We never use “suburban” in a happy context. I’m confused now. I thought he was happy. I mean, I know he’s looking for a job and maybe feels frustrated by having spent the entire day entertaining my daughter instead of at his computer while I was in the meditation group trying to let go of whatever issues are making me sit on the paperwork that will allow my husband to become the legal father of my daughter. Ugh. Damn. I thought I had it. I see now that the happiness thing goes both ways. I’m not yet solid enough to stand in my happiness alone. It feels like in a cartoon when one character takes a pin and bursts the dream bubble above the other character’s head. I’d like to make a more clever reference actually, like something about Agamemnon being on his way home from the Trojan War and looking forward to returning to the comfort of his family when he’s brutally murdered by his wife’s lover. But, that would be false because Agamemnon only randomly came to mind and I had to look up on Wikipedia who he was and why he would have anything to do with this story because I never studied Greek mythology the way I wanted to because my father thought it was a “stupid waste of time” so now of course it’s too late because I’m in my 40s and no one lolls about studying Greek mythology in their 40s, meanwhile my father makes fun of me for never finishing anything when it’s actually all his fault. I know I need to own the fact that my fragile sacred moments are so easily shattered by sarcastic remarks, but I decide to say something to my husband right then because I want that sacredness back, that slightly drowsy, happy, feeling I had until he said “suburban.” He says he’s sorry and that he didn’t mean anything by “suburban” and that he’s very happy. I decide to believe him.
We arrive at the trail and my daughter’s bike is slightly too big for her so that she needs help getting going. My husband, who practiced with her in the driveway, makes an abrupt turn on his bike to help and gets his foot stuck in the pedal harness, almost falls and twists his right ankle. I think, “If we have to go home now my daughter is going to be devastated.” So, I decide to believe him when he says he’s ok and we continue on. My husband rides down the path, my daughter follows and I walk-jog after them with the dog and my camera. I don’t see them for several minutes then my daughter comes into view and I aim the camera at her. This causes her to veer off the path and fall into a patch of poison ivy. I don’t say anything about the angry red welts that start to form on her leg immediately and casually suggest we stop at the store for some Calamine lotion. But, by the time we get home she is in full floor-writhing pain from what looks like a run-in with an angry mother cat protecting her kittens (which reminds me of the time I was attacked by such a cat when I was pregnant with my daughter while I was looking for a place to live because I’d just been dumped by her biological father and went to the hospital alone in a foreign city to get a tetanus shot.) I smear the putrid pink lotion along the inside of her right leg which briefly makes it worse but with an ice pop an audio recording of Pandora’s Box (we limit cartoons, so that she has a chance of making legitimate references to Greek mythology some day instead of drawing on metaphors from Bugs Bunny) is soon forgotten.
Later that evening, my husband is sitting on the couch with his leg up and asking me to get him a bag of ice, while my daughter is crying out from her room for more calamine lotion. Plus, I will do all of the dishes, which my husband usually does no matter who cooked the meal. I decide to feel grateful that I’m needed because I usually feel like a big incompetent slacker who lacks the basic skills to be a wife and mother. My husband apologizes for sitting injured on the couch, and I wave him off with the kind of smile I think a generous and understanding wife would give to her wonderful husband.
At 2:30 am I am awoken by my husband’s snoring, which the CPAP machine usually quiets but when the snoring does leak through is amplified like the sound of a baby screech owl. I have no idea what a screech owl sounds like though I’ve heard people use it to describe an unpleasant noise and am about to look on the Cornell Lab of Ornithology web site to see if the sound of a screech owl in fact matches the sound of my husband snoring through his CPAP anti snoring device. It does, sort of (though I couldn’t find the owl on the Cornell site, but YouTube delivered, as usual). My right leg meditation injury is now throbbing and my mind racing in that peculiar ungodly hour way. No one ever had a reasonable thought between the hours of 2am and 5am. I am sure someone famous said that but it doesn’t seem worth looking up, it’s common knowledge to anyone whose tossed and turned in the wee hours and conjured every last resentment they’ve ever held against their relatives or imagined a new blog that will change the world. My thoughts turn to our three injured legs, all in the same day, all on the right side. This, and thoughts of the blog that will change the world, keep me awake until 4am when I decide to get up and go downstairs (I have a downstairs! I live in a house that is not my parents’ house. There’s even a private washer and dryer that we don’t share with other tenants) and dig out “You Can Heal Your Life” by Louise Hay. I picked it up on the recommendation of my Reiki instructor several years ago. (I sought out the Reiki instructor because I was willing to believe anything after above boyfriend ditched me while I was pregnant with his child. So, say what you will about Louise Hay and Reiki, but that’s what the universe offered up when I was stranded 8,000 miles from everything familiar, and brought me back from a brink of sorts.) In the back of the book Louise lists every dis-ease, it’s negative thought pattern, what it means and how to get rid of it with a corresponding incantation. Under LEGS, Louise says, “Not wanting to do things will often produce minor leg problems.” In the handy chart at the back of her book she says that the right side of the body corresponds to “Masculine energy. The father,” and something about “giving out and letting go.” I wish I could sum this up with something clever, or something useful learned or at least an analogy from Greek literature. Perhaps some day, when I learn to let go of the “thought pattern” that I never finish anything.