I was having SUCH a great day, Friday. The Christmas tree went up, the kids did a ton of chores, I was crossing things off my list like a boss, I had plans for everyone’s favourite dinner, a peaceful evening writing, and a lovely, relaxed Sunday with more writing.
Needless to say, the universe hates that shit, so when I got the big glass jar of icing sugar out of the cupboard at 5pm, it jerked out of my hands and right onto my big toe. All 2.4kgs of it.
Friends, the PAIN.
And, because we are a houseful of anxious empaths who I absolutely could not support at that time, the HOLDING IT IN.
Actually I didn’t do that last bit so well. When I could finally breathe again and was pretty sure I wasn’t going to barf, I began to sob and the kids heard. In a moment I was surrounded by loving care: CraftyFish on the floor, holding and soothing me, tasking Mr Pixel with fetching painkillers, ice, water, tissues, my phone. Then she looked up pictures of puppies and kittens for me to look at.
Eventually, as the toe turned blue and I still felt sick, I rang my sister, who turned up and carted us off to ER for an X-ray, because big toes are essential to balance. It’s fine.
Me, less so. Once the stupid floodgates were open, it turned out I had quite a bit of crying to do. 24 hours later, tears still feel perilously close. What a mare’s nest – an absolute gallimaufry of emotions.
Sheer bloody pain. Disappointment at such a rude end to a great day. Stress, trying not to scare the kids, who are particularly terrified of anything happening to Mama. Frustration at having my plans thwarted. Embarrassment at the accident’s cartoonish stupidity. Chagrin at having to interrupt my lovely sister’s evening and <choke> ask for help. (I don’t want help! I’M The Carer, dammit!) Embarrassment at being such a big cry-baby. Fear because even after paracetamol, ibuprofen, and two layers of ice, I could still feel that sucker throbbing. How would I manage? (Naturally, these things only happen when one’s partner is interstate.) Judging by how badly I wanted to go to sleep around the time we got to the takeaway, I guess shock eventually kicked in, too.
It wasn’t even all bad, of course. I also felt buckets of gratitude and love for my sister, who was not only genuinely happy to help, she made us all laugh as she drove us around for proper painkillers and takeaway, afterwards. Relief that we were in and out so fast, that medical care here is free, and there was no break. Grateful that we could afford unexpected takeout. Awe at my kids being so damn amazing, even though CraftyFish, bless her, was really clear that her outward calm masked a massive internal freakout.
Aaalllll that within two hours, dialled up to 11 because – sigh – my kids didn’t get their emotional intensity and their empathy from nowhere, no ma’am. We are like three badly positioned funhouse mirrors, endlessly reflecting everything back at each other BIGGER.
Stupid giant emotions. Stupid eight-track brains. Stupid empathy.
And then, there’s that wretched SAF gene. Even when I know perfectly well that resting and accepting help are the only sensible options, a bit of me wants to fight on through. A big bit of me. The bit impatient with tears because really, what do I have to cry about? And the bit that just plain hates crying. I know it’s normal and yes, even beneficial, blah blah, but I just hate it. Blocks your nose, gives you a massive stinking headache, and makes you look awful. Got no time for it. Or resting. I don’t wanna rest! I’m a busy woman! I wanna do all the things!!
My parents never shamed me for crying, but ‘being good’ was certainly their favourite trait, so I learned early on not to fuss. (Pity I never got graded on this; I’m AWESOME at it.) It’s not all their fault, though. Cultures built on the Protestant work ethic have zero tolerance for pain, and even less for big, complicated emotions, let alone their aftermath, even though these can be as exhausting and incapacitating as the injury itself. To see the black circles under my eyes today, you’d think I’d dropped the bloody thing on my face.
So when CraftyFish, watching me hobble down the hallway, said, “No more soccer for you, Mum,” (the little smarty-pants) she reminded me that my job is modelling the hard stuff.
“Nope,” I said. “Gonna have to spend tomorrow on my butt with my foot up, dammit.”
“Mummy!” she exclaimed. “You’re supposed to say, ‘I can if I want!'”
Which would be the traditional answer.
But one thing I’ve learned is that emotions don’t go away just because you keep yourself busy, do they? And if fighting through is going to bring you more pain and more exhaustion, then it’s a dumb idea, regardless of your internal monologue. So we had a long de-brief before bed, going through it all, and today I’ve sat around nursing my fetchingly blue toe. And the hangover. And while I sat there letting the sad and sorry flow through, I practiced saying to myself the things I would say to the kids.
I sneaked in a little Christmas shopping because I’m not very good at this, but I also took a nap when I needed it (two in two weeks; must be getting old) and I allowed myself to only read fluff instead of catching up on various thread of inquiry.
Baby steps. Baby steps.