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.