Nothing says, Happy Holidays! like a full blown sinus infection.
I’m surrounded by tissues. And napkins. The napkins are here because I ran out of tissues. I’ve blown my nose at least three dozen times today and it’s only 10:30AM. This, kittens, is a major improvement over the experience of the weekend. In short, because who needs to hear about mucus in any detail, every moment was a challenge. You could find me by the trail of tissues. Hot compresses were my salvation. So was the half bottle of cough syrup with codeine that expired in March. Bahumbug – that stuff still worked!
For my cough.
My sinuses were so ticked off they sucked my teeth and left jaw into their bleak house of pain. No medicine I could find would take the edge off that. I awoke moaning. Seriously. And shivering. I stumbled to my closet and grabbed a sweater, my robe and wool socks. All this I donned over my flannel PJs. A second comforter was added to the bed. I crawled back in and rocked.
I prayed. I rocked. I breathed deep. My jaw was throbbing, the pain spread down my neck to my shoulder. I haven’t had to buck up and endure physical pain not associated with climbing in ages. (All pain associated with climbing is immediately transformed into shiny badges of honor.) Not since the birth of the little dude. I let my mind drift back to that time. The anticipation of holding our baby changed the meaning of the pain. I wasn’t in pain, I was delivering our child into the world. It wasn’t pain, it was my body doing what it needed to do in order to accomplish its goal. Complain? How could I when my body did exactly what it was supposed to do?
I snatched that mindset, and some Advil, and brought it back to my bed. I heard myself Om. A shaky, scratchy Om. This is my body healing itself. Om… Om… Om… The shivering is my body delivering a knockout punch to this infection. Bravo, body! Om…
Is there such a thing as a sinus epidural? Can I nerve block my nostrils? Would somebody get this cat off my face?!
While I was Oming the pain vanished. When I stopped it returned. So I kept Oming. And then woke up to the sunrise.
I was officially in the throes of a sizable infection on my festive holiday weekend with The Dudes. For less then five minutes I let myself be bummed as I emptied my nose only to have it fill up in seconds.
(How does it do that?)
And then I said,
Grow up, Cleo.
I had a slate full of merriment planned for The Dudes and me. This was our last opportunity before they left to celebrate Christmas to get all Ho Ho Ho. I wanted to plant seeds of memories – getting our tree in West Marin, decorating it, baking cookies, putting on our wet suits, grabbing our boards and hitting the surf. I wanted to be playful, uplifting, spirited and take them by the hands and frolic, wrapped in lights and garland and cookie sugar.
I, I, I…
Alas, the only wrapping being done was that of my head in towels soaked in hot water.
Every activity I had looked forward to was shelved one by one. During the week I cancelled all workouts. My body couldn’t do it. Friday night The Dudes slept as the Geminid meteors rained down. They had the sense to squash my desire to wake them after midnight, bundle them up, thrust hot cocoa in their hands and hit the beach.
Mama, let’s just sleep.
God, I hope so.
We hit the Bolinas Christmas Fair for 10 minutes. Back home. Couch. Hot compresses. Movies. I was a zombie. My Fairy Godparents took notice. They ordered me to their sauna, with my Fairy Godmother remarking – It’s nice to remember you’re mortal, isn’t it?
I didn’t hesitate to accept their kind offer. While I broke an intense sweat, breathing in eucalyptus, the dudes looked through binoculars at a coyote lounging on the lawn, soaking in the warmth of the sun. They popped in and out of the sauna to provide updates, pouring water on the rocks and sprinkling drops of eucalyptus oil, before they ran back out to see if he changed position.
On Saturday night, as I tucked them into bed, I thanked them for being flexible in light of my total lack of energy. We had a glimmer of hope that a tree could be purchased the next day. Which was shelved upon waking, like every other cool thing we (I) planned to do.
The only holiday activity that didn’t go up in flames involved the Elves, on loan to us from Santa. Each night they get into mischief, make magic, and leave behind a mess. Last year they were quite creative. Super playful. This year they’ve been struggling to find their groove.
One night they played cards.
The next night they strung up some garland.
Before the sinuses went all Darth Vadar on me they managed to put a thousand snowflakes on the massive chalk board in our kitchen with the message, Let it Snow, Let it Snow, Let it Snow.
Which I translated into, Blow the Nose, Blow the Nose, Blow the Nose.
Friday and Saturday night I begrudgingly assisted the Elves in making their magic. On Saturday I thought about blowing it off and leaving my used tissues piled around their stuffed little legs.
Elves get sick, too.
But that would have been gross.
Sunday morning The Dudes woke to find the Elves roasting marshmallows over a magic fire (paper, markers and all the energy I could muster), chocolate chips were scattered about. I could hear little whispers as I gripped my pillow, all of me wanting to stay in bed the entire day.
I dozed, and sometime later was reawakened by the dudes planning something with couch pillows, nerf guns and the cat. I felt it was my duty as an adult to intervene before the fur flew and the claws came out. And I had to bury the cat. They greeted me with big smiles…covered in chocolate and marshmallow.
How is it that children have no clue when their faces are covered with food?
Well, what did you boys have for breakfast? I asked.
Nothing, mommy! We’re not hungry.
I can see why.
Come see what the Elves did!
They ran into the kitchen. I followed, stepping softly so as not to piss off my raging head any more. Squinting, because even my eyeballs hurt, I saw a nearly empty mini-marshmallow bag and two Elves sitting next to a small campfire.
They made a magic campfire and s’mores, Mommy!
So we did, too! The little dude added.
The cover of the local paper flashed before my eyes…
Elf on a Shelf prank results in house fire as children follow the lead of stuffed toys without brains.
Disaster averted. Sugar rush in full swing.
I called my Mom to share the tale.
When I heard her voice I knew, even though she sugarcoated it, that she was in pain. Cancer was not just a word now. Something a doctor wrote on his chart, numbers on a lab report. She was hurting. Badly. And couldn’t hide it from me, no matter how strong her desire.
For the past two years my Mom, as many of you know, has been my guardian. I have relied on her to hold me up, set me straight, cheer me on and protect me. My former spouse’s affair has born many gifts, the most impactful being the strengthening of an already powerful relationship between my Mom and me. This blog, HGM, has added a layer to our relationship that is of immeasurable value. Every word I’ve written she has read many times over. Every word you’ve written she has read many times over. Never have we had the luxury of such revealing conversations with such regularity as we talk through each post.
Never have I felt safe being so vulnerable.
I don’t have a husband. But as that relationship died, the one with my Mom grew wings. California Condor sized wings.
While my head pounded and The Dudes jumped on the couch, the cat hid and the dog barked at the coyote incessantly, my Mom and I ended our first conversation of the day. She feared The Dudes would explode from the dozens of mini marshmallows they ingested, and I feared she would spend her time on the planet in pain instead of with joy. And ice cream.
At this point I could surmise that the lesson is to put life into perspective. Why did I have to get sick now? Why not in September? Half of my time with The Dudes is gone – this is my only weekend to create anticipation for the holiday! So not fair. Will The Dudes recall the one weekend I spent hacking and blowing when we should have been decorating and baking? Will they only have merry holiday memories of the time they spent with their Dad and memories of Mommy NOT decking the halls?
Before I answer those questions let us pause for a moment to acknowledge my Ego.
Only Meryl Streep can create more drama with less material.
Now onto the answers…
The only way they would zero in on what was missing from our weekend is if I created the target. Even with all my consciousness I was unconsciously teaching them to have expectations and then beat themselves up for not achieving them by apologizing each night for my failures that day. Failures only such because I label them so.
Goodness, Cleo! You have a freaking cold. Leave it at that. While you’re at it, lighten up! And most importantly, beware of the slow creep of trying to compensate. For your cold. Your lack of energy.
Contrary to my Ego’s belief, I am not essential to their happiness. However, I can spoil their fun if I let my Ego drive the sleigh. How about: Mommy’s sick. Totes sorry. Here’s a few flicks, some popcorn, and for goodness’ sake, please don’t burn the house down.
Then step out of the way and let them make their own fun.
Sunday night came. And with it a counter top mixer, thanks to a neighbor on the Calmmune.
The Dudes dropped a half-pound of butter in the bowl. Sugar. Egg yolks.
And watched it whirl.
My heart was with my Mom. My head was stuffed. My attention diverted. Hark the Herald Angels, sugar cookie dough was made without parental involvement. The Christmas Miracle? The fact that I didn’t stick my nose into every step of the action. I couldn’t. It was too busy being blown.
The Dudes are growing up.
While the dough chilled I sent The Dudes into the living room to read. I hadn’t checked email all day. I scanned the subject lines – they could wait till morning. But one…I had to click on it. And here is an excerpt:
“I had to email to add my voice to the many who comment and contact you as we follow similar journeys. I found your blog early in November, as I was steeling myself to experience my first wedding anniversary alone and googled and was led to your post about your lovely day at the spa alone. Well, I started at the beginning and over the past month have read every post and every comment, copied quotes I loved, laughed, cried and really just soaked up the support of you and your kittens.”
And then she said this:
“I particularly love your mom.”
She closed by stating her desire to get through the holiday season. My cheerleader pom poms came out… When I reply I must remember to urge her to let go of the outcome, to just let the holiday season come to life as it chooses, to be adventurous. And brave. To not resist it.
All things my Mom is doing right now. Letting go of the outcome. Not resisting. Being brave. Letting life just BE. All the things I should have been doing all weekend.
As surf board and star and stocking shaped cookies were frosted and painted and glittered, I reflected on the email from the kitten…out of all the words written, all the encounters…she particularly loves my Mom.
As her daughter, I am so moved by your words of love for my Mom. Many of you have fallen in love with a woman who deserves it. A woman I aim to emulate. A woman who has continuously, patiently helped me to grow up. We’ve been through so much together – all of us. She is such a presence here. When she does fly off, I will have more than memories. I will have her words, right here. And your words about her.
That is magic.
The Dudes and I were able to squeeze out one batch of overly decorated sugar cookies. The Elves made a mess, their faces and hands covered in cookie crumbs stuck to royal icing. I made my last hot compress of the night and reclined on the couch. The events, thoughts and emotions of the weekend floated around like snow in a globe just shaken. My mind was so covered in mucus, or so it felt, that I couldn’t analyze. The only things I wanted to excavate were my nasal passages.
Instead, I was drawn to watch one word that vied for my attention:
Maturity isn’t enamored with itself. Maturity deals with the facts without the need for creating drama. Maturity doesn’t resist, it doesn’t need to be right, or in charge. Maturity lets go. Maturity is able to look inward, and never points its fingers. Maturity doesn’t ask, Why me? Or why did they…? Maturity knows what a gift each day is on this planet.
Maturity is the new sexy. Hands down.
And that makes my Mom totally sexy. (She just spit out her steel cut oats.)
If I can find a way to balance playfulness with maturity I will have officially grown up.