Monday, January 10, 2011

Mommy Angst

A few days ago, I thought my daughter was having a seizure.  She's a teenager.  Perhaps those go together, perhaps not.  We were having dinner at Applebee's.  I glanced up from the menu to look at her sitting across from me, but her eyes were out of focus, pinging bing bing bing, up down, sideways in a complicated trajectory.  I stopped breathing for a moment and envisioned her on the floor.  Waitstaff calling 911 while she flailed in my arms.

Then she looked at me.  "What?"

"I thought you were having a seizure."

She laughed. "Really?  I was just rolling my eyes at the stupid song they're playing."  I listened. It was a stupid song. So stupid I don't even remember what it was.

Two summers ago, I was going through a bad time with my novel-in-progress.  I had recently read it through, and it wasn't good. Worse, I didn't know how to fix it.  I took to carrying the manuscript around with me in a pink plastic binder in case I should be seized  by answers and needed to scribble in it, fast.

It was a broiling hot July day. I had arranged to meet a friend for coffee in Philadelphia.  I was running late, I didn't want to be carrying stuff, and I decided to leave the manuscript in my car.  So my friend J. and I met, we were drinking iced coffee, she was talking about Virginia Woolf. I distinctly remember that, but I don't remember what she was saying because I had been hit with a moment of panic.  I thought of the pink binder containing the book I loved & had been struggling with for 8 years. I thought of the extreme heat of the enclosed car.  "Oh, my God," I realized.  "I didn't crack any windows and there's no air in there.  It can't breathe."

I caught myself before J. could notice my panic and ask "What?"  I was the one who started laughing, and as soon as I'd told her about my lunacy, she was laughing, too.

So here's the thing: Embarrassment aside, these moments count for something.  There's a touch of insanity in the loves we bear.  After all, we're vulnerable.  Mothers are not omnipotent; nothing in my power could prevent my child from having an unexpected seizure if that's what her brain was up to.

I think it's one reason people write books and read them--they let us explore our feelings of helplessness in a context over which we have some control.  They help us pinpoint what we can change--and how to handle the things we can't.

As far as what might be considered a lapse in sanity, chalk it up to artistic license.


Lisa R. said...

Yes, amazing how the book really is like a baby! My son set a dirty plate on top of my manuscript. I yelled. He wondered why it was just sitting on top of the table like!
Hope the writing's going well.
Lisa R.

HelenQP said...

A dirty PLATE?! Has he no human feeling?

Thanks for visiting!!