When Life Gives You a Steaming Pile of Lemons…
Write About It
We’d finally drifted off to sleep when we heard a heavy thud in the hallway just outside our bedroom — followed by the sounds of an elderly man yelling “Hello?! Hello? Come in!”
My husband bolted out of bed and threw open the bedroom door. My 83 year-old father-in-law, sans walker, was slumped against the wall in the hallway. It was 2:15 am, he didn’t know where he was, and he needed to go pee.
My father-in-law has dementia: Late stage, doesn’t-know-his-own-name level dementia.
The movies and television, when they rarely depict this cruel and utterly fucked-up disease, paint a slightly different picture than what we’ve witnessed; the pretend versions parade elderly women who don’t recognize their husbands and who tell slightly fantastic, out-of-sequence stories or old men who think they’re late for a job they retired from 30 years ago — truly tragic, incurable, but generally fixated on one particular symptom: loss of memory.
For everything they get right, they can’t capture the depth of it: The loss of basic communication and lasting connection. The all-encompassing confusion. The slow, torturous, and lonely death of the mind.
Some time ago, my husband’s dad came to stay with us. We’ve taken on the 24/7 care that a once stubbornly independent man now requires. It’s not a particularly humorous topic and it’s never appropriate to find the humor in someone else’s misery… unless they’ve invited you to (or they deserve it, or I just need a good laugh).
Luckily, for my emotional survival, it’s becoming easier to find the comical moments in my own gloominess — a genuine goldmine of hilarity amplified by exhaustion, a bad attitude, and a few well-timed fart noises. Though I haven’t felt much like sharing anything lately since that would require I have the time and energy to sit still for longer than a minute and ruminate, in a funny-way, on this current situation.
And I’m not quite sure how to write about that specific portion of my life.
Mostly because it’s not just me complaining about my own silly, first-world “suffering.” I don’t want to drag others down to the gallows with me if they aren’t exactly of their right mind. Or wearing pants.
So rather than share tales of:
- Spontaneous denture removal — When in the grocery store, where exactly should one attempt to leave one’s dentures? Answer: The end cap near the beef jerky (this is borderline genius when you think about it).
- My lengthy experience posing the question “Do you need to go to the bathroom?” through entirely nonverbal, possibly offensive pantomime. Or,
- The time my father-in-law enacted his own version of Goldilocks: As I pulled back the covers of my bed, there he slept, dentures stacked neatly under my pillow (definitive proof that the tooth fairy is dead)…
I thought I’d write about something far more serious.
I recently found out that some people I know… have book deals.
That’s wonderful! I’m so…so… so…glad for them. But, if I have to be happy for all the successful people, can I least feel a teeny bit sorry for myself? Just this one time??
Did you feel that? It’s everyone who knows me collectively rolling their eyes.
Look, I stepped away from fulfilling any of my fleeting creative potential for the last six months, which — if the world makes any goddamn sense — means, no one else should have the time to fulfill their creative potential because HOW DARE YOU and they all make me feel like a big sack of useless, unfunny, cat shit.
Yup. I’m the creative equivalent of cat shit. Your cat may be impressed, but cats aren’t really my audience. Though maybe they should be and I need to finally embrace exactly what kind of a writer I am.
What I mean is: I haven’t been putting the work in and anything is possible if you try really hard.*
*BULL and SHIT. For example: You can’t marry Ryan Gosling just because you tried to, really hard. You can however, end up in jail for hiding in the bushes and scaring the bejesus out of a celebrity… one would assume.
Therefore, I’ve decided that the only solution to my current void of creativity is to explicitly promise to write something and post it within a specific and contractually-obligated time. That way, I have no choice but to write.
Because if I promise to write and just flaked-the-fuck-off again, then I’d be lower than cat shit and I might as well go post videos of myself “unboxing” new smart phones (before maniacally smashing them with my naked fist. And quickly losing my all-cat audience).
Or start writing patronizing, unfunny, life-lesson posts, aka “Plan B.”*
*Plan C is to lay in the gutter.
So I’m writing this here tirade as more of a promise to, well, write more — posting at least once a month, until the end of the year. Or until I lose interest. Whichever comes first.