I kinda feel like the ant, walking on August and Johann’s famous toy. There’s really no beginning or ending to my world, and I’m never really sure when I’m “done,” or even if there is such a thing as being “done.” My job contributes to this, as even when we send one test cycle to print, we are already in the midst of processing the previous one’s data and starting to create the upcoming one. Many moms feel like this as well, when faced with piles of neatly folded, clean laundry, only to turn and find a child with a stained shirt in hand. Same goes for cabinets full of clean dishes, with a dirty plate slipped onto the counter.
I’ve felt what could almost be described as a sense of panic at this realization, the dawning of the idea that it might truly never end. When you have kids, you sign on to care for them for 20ish years, and that’s totally cool with me. No matter what mistakes I’ve made, or decisions I’ve regretted, that is one that I have never second-guessed. If I had to do my life over again, I would change a lot of it. But that? No way. If I knew that making certain choices would get me my kids again, I’d jump in with both feet. It never bothered me to be in the midst of that chaos and stress, because I knew it was finite. At first, they’re totally dependent on you; you do literally everything. As they grow, the balance slowly shifts until they not only can care for themselves, but want to care for themselves. So on the path to their independence, I find myself walking nearly parallel to them as I reach for my own. As they leap into the adventures of their own desires, I will get that same chance. After going from my parents’ house to college, to marriage, my life will finally be my own.
Or will it? My mother’s health is declining, and there’s already enough guilt flying around to pave a highway. Having been dragged kicking and screaming through parochial school and the shackles of Catholicism, being selfish was beaten out of me at an early age, to the point that I started to see my own health slip before dealing with my own needs. I’ve gotten better at resolving that particular character flaw, but the guilt weighs heavily. My mother’s increasing dependence on her children wavers between genuine need and carefully crafted manipulation. (Interesting that while being selfish was a mortal sin for us, my parents were experts in the art of their own gratification.) Unfortunately, my sister bears the brunt of this, as she is the favored child and the oldest, not to mention being a nurse. My mother has little use for me unless there is a purpose for it, and then I’m her best buddy. But my sister is the one called at all hours of the day and night for everything from something bleeding to she can’t find her reading glasses. I have scratched and clawed my way to where I can back away a little, and prioritize my own family first, but my sister hasn’t. I feel for her, in that her stress level is sky high all the time, but it frustrates me to see her neglecting vital aspects of her life simply because she is ruled by my mother’s intricately woven, guilt-ridden remarks.
So now I wonder what will happen at the point when I reach my own familial finish line. As I triumphantly reach to embrace my freedom, is it going to be yanked back like Charlie Brown’s football? And to what extent will I allow that to happen? No way to tell, of course. Who knows what will transpire between now and then? But it does weigh on my mind sometimes. The idea that I would be trapped here, stuck indefinitely in a life I resent, makes it all the harder to trudge through the days. I know there are those, much better humans than I could ever aspire to be, who would relish the intrinsic spiritual value of fulfilling that familial duty. I’m just not there, and after the way things have been in my past, I don’t myself ever even coming close.
I suppose, to a point, I also worry about the Scientist and me. There are days when I’m pretty sure he will choose to remain here when I move to the islands. His own father’s health is failing, and I’m not sure how self-sufficient his mom would be if he dies. Plus, he is incredibly sensitive to the heat, much preferring the cooler temperatures that my islands don’t experience. On the flip side, what if he does decide to fly the coop? Do we sentence ourselves and each other to a life of celibacy, without romantic entanglements? At this point in life, I am totally fine with it on my side, but I worry about what it does to him. The last thing I want to do is deny him happiness, but sometimes I feel like he’s trapped in his own version of this never-ending conundrum. He wants the happily-ever-after with me, and that isn’t going to happen. Not like it does in the fairy-tales. I feel like I will wind up hurting him no matter what, whether we stay together or not. Times like these, I wish I could see the future to know what path would be best.
As I can’t, I suppose for now, I will try to keep my balance as best I can, as I walk the never ending spiral.