My eyes fly open, and I sit up. I look at the clock and curse. 2 AM. I’ve been asleep only for 4 hours. The only sound in the room comes from the monitor from which I can hear Daniel’s wheezing and coughing, sounds so weird that it seems he is almost speaking in tongues.
I listen to his labored breathing and hope he’s better by 7AM because I need to go to work for a two-day workshop after two sick days at home. Unable to go back to sleep, I surf on my iPhone, visiting blogs and trashy celebrity gossip sites.
My alarm goes off, and I stumble to the shower to start getting ready. Daniel wakes up, and I get him from his room. His forehead is hot, and his face is flushed and puffy. He’s whiny and crying, “Momma, hold me” while I kiss and hug him and turn on Super Why so I can finish getting ready. He begins to cry, and my heart breaks. He should stay home today. I should stay home today with him. Finally ready to go, I put on his jacket over his cozy footie pajamas and feel grateful that he is going to his grandmother’s house where I know my sick boy will receive lots of cuddles and hugs.
At work I make his doctor’s appointment, booking the only available time, a time that of course is the most inconvenient one. I exhale, pull myself together and go to my workshop, prepared to razzle and dazzle despite sounding like I swallowed a frog and having a scratchy throat and throbbing head. Calm and focused on the outside, twitchy on the inside as I await the verdict from the doctor’s office: an ear infection. I immediately replay the last 4 days in my head, searching for any clue that would have told me Daniel had an ear infection instead of letting him suffer longer than necessary.
Class over, I head to the required evening dinner and working session, checking in with Jimmy. Daniel is miserable: no nap, feverish, needy and clingy. He won’t eat or drink anything. Guilt, today’s constant companion, waves hello. I should go home. A good mother would go home. Previous generations of women fought hard so I could sit at that table and think about being at home. Should, should should. Always should.
The moment I swallow the last bite of braised lamb shank (while Jimmy is eating leftovers if he has even eaten at all), I make my excuses and fly. I race home, but I’m too late: Daniel is already in bed. Jimmy and I chat about the evening and how pitiful Daniel was. No longer racing anywhere, I slump, my body reminding me I’ve been awake since 2AM.
I get ready for bed and wonder why I do this routine each and every day. Why I go to work. I have good days during which I accomplish a lot and make a difference: I’m queen of the world. I have bad days during which I feel tied in knots and tripped up by processes and people, making no progress and feeling like it is impossible to make even the smallest impact. On those days I resemble that poor guy in Munch’s The Scream painting. He looks like he might understand the special hell that is working with bureaucracy.
Birth and death and sickness and health and change and carpet beetles cycle around and around. Lately I feel like I’m constantly moving and running and getting nowhere, especially during times like this. Exhausted, I wonder why I bother. I gave up ambitions of setting the world on fire years ago; I’m just a rat in a cage.
I go to bed, thankful that the breathing coming from the monitor is smoother and less labored than the night before.
Four hours later, my eyes pop open. It’s 2AM. Time to do it all over again.