Still

I’m sweating.  It’s 6:40 in the morning and I’m literally sweating.  Yesterday it was sunny and in the mid-60’s….. in February, for crying out loud. Today it’s not even 7 and I am waking up five minutes before my alarm because I’m sweating beneath the covers.  I throw them off of me and ease myself out of The Bean’s unconscious too-warm hug, seeking a cool spot on the sheets.

I wiggle around for a few moments, but there’s no cool spots to be found.  It seems I used them all up as I clawed my way to consciousness.  I give up on sleep, sliding tired legs out of bed, groping for a robe.  I stagger to the bathroom in an uncoordinated wobble, willing energy into my barely-functioning limbs.  I haven’t jogged in days.  In fact, I’m edging closer to two weeks of no jogging.   It’s not a “I wanna look good in a bikini” thing, although I wish it were that easy to look good in a bikini.

The thing is, my body’s natural state seems to be wooden, kept at bay by regular movement. Every day I don’t exercise finds me returning to petrified…  glue?  I dunno.  Petrified wood is like a rock, and rocks seem sturdy, strong.  Useful.

My body feels like glue.  Thick, ropey, wiggly strands of useless glue.  Moving feels like swimming through mud, thinking feels like peering through a fog, and it’s my least favorite part of rheumatoid arthritis, or lupus, or MCTD, or whatever the heck is going on with my immune system. The blood tests were inconclusive, so they need to be interpreted by a specialist.

I consider making a return appointment with the fancy rheumatologist in Portland I’d been referred to… but I dismiss it almost immediately.  I still haven’t forgiven her.  Three months of waiting for my appointment, and she turned me away for being 9 minutes late.  I know it’s not really her fault.  I should have left my house earlier, should have left time to be stuck in traffic, waiting on the world’s slowest train to cross.  I tried explaining, but the receptionist was firm.  I may have been 9 minutes late to the appointment, but check-in time was 15 minutes prior to appointment time.  This seems silly to me.  If they wanted me there at 2:30 rather than 2:45, why didn’t they just make the appointment for 2:30?

After wasting years of my life in waiting rooms, something about the whole scenario is incredibly insulting.  I know it’s just business, but I can’t help feeling snubbed. I’m not ready to get back on the waiting list yet.  Soon, maybe, but not today.

So, I waddle through the house on my glue-thick limbs, yawning, battling an exhaustion which constantly clouds my limbs, thoughts, body, brain.  At least I’m not flaring anymore.  I’m pain-free right now (or as close as I come) so that’s a plus, but it’s small consolation when you’re left driving a body that resembles something closer to overcooked spaghetti than it does a useful bit of meat and bones.

I suppose I should think better of my body than that, but right now we’re like two angry roommates forced to share a bedroom.  We’re barely on speaking terms.  If we were siblings, we’d have the cereal box between us so we didn’t have to look at each other in the morning.

I stagger into my muddy work boots and head outside in the early morning light to let the chickens out of their coop.  This morning they’re cross, and their disgruntled clucking mirrors my own feelings.  I agree, ladies.  Morning did come too early, didn’t it?  Sorry I wasn’t here before dawn. After years of safety I grew complacent, leaving their coop unlatched at night…. and yesterday I got a worried text from my neighbor while I was dropping the DragonMonkey off at school, having missed the bus.  Had I checked on my chickens yet?  They were acting weird – huddling together, quiet, subdued….and there were feathers everywhere.

It took almost 15 minutes to get home to confirm:  Goodbye, Moaning Myrtle.

It feels a little dumb to mourn a chicken that I was considering giving away next fall to someone’s stew pot.  Chickens stop laying regularly around 3-4 years old but can live for almost 10 years….  I love my chickens but I love regular eggs more.   Moaning Myrtle was approaching her eggless years, and while the plan had always been to treat our hens like farm animals,  who can eat a chicken they’ve named?  Not me.   So even though the plan was for them to end up in the stew pot, I’d always planned for it to happen off-screen.

Besides, there’s something more than a little macabre having to spend a morning picking up little bitty chunks of your pet all over the yard – feathers with bits of friendly fowl and fond memories still attached. The other chickens had followed me as I cleaned up, clucking quietly.  Itchy.  Scratchy.  Martha Stewart…. even fat, clueless Tanesha.  They circled me, pecking at the feathers I scraped up with a rake, courage returning with my presence.

It’s not love, but there’s something soothing about the consistency of a hen’s greedy hunger.  Chickens are hardly sentimentalists.  If they thought they could get away with it they’d happily eat me.  Still, I feed them, and in exchange they bolt towards me in an ungainly sprint when I call, making me laugh.  It’s a relationship which works for us.

I head back into the house, kick off my boots and heading upstairs, flinging open the boys’ curtains. Wake up.  Time to hop in the shower.  No, I’m not carrying you downstairs – you’re too big.  No, whining won’t change my mind.  Hush – you know better than to complain before I’ve even had a sip of coffee.

By the time they tumble downstairs and are stripping down for their shower I’m working on remedying my coffeeless state – emptying the coffee grounds while holding my robe closed with an elbow.  Why does it keep untying itself? The Bean passes by me as he heads into the boys’ bathroom.  He reaches for the light bulb, preparing to unscrew it and bring it back to our bathroom, but he’s met with a chorus of cries from the boys.  They can’t shower in the dark – the bad guys will eat them… or something.

The Bean sighs and returns to his bathroom for his shower, and I promise to hurry the boys along so he can have the light bulb by the time he needs to shave.

I echo his sigh as he leaves, frustrated at myself.  It’s 2015.  We should not be huddling over our house’s only light bulb like it’s 1915.  I need to get to the store.  I really, really need to get to the store.  Maybe I should go instead of jogging today?

I lean forward to pick up a toy and feel some kind of ligament pop in the back of my knee from the motion.  No.  No, I need to jog.  I’m going to turn to stone if I don’t get some exercise soon.  I need to remind my body how to circulate, or whatever it is that running does for me.  Besides, my eyeballs feel like I’ve coated them in itchy, hot sand.  I don’t know why jogging helps with my dry eye, but it does.  If I don’t jog today I’m going to end up with red, itchy, burning eyes that make me look like I’m high on pot.

The coffee is percolating, releasing a scent which improves my spirits, so I go hunting in the fridge for some kind of breakfast.  We’re almost out of almond milk, which means we can’t have cereal…. and after three weeks of being passionately in love with zucchini omelets, the boys have suddenly decided they hate zucchini.  Figures.  We’re out of anything easy to make – no microwaveable-this or toaster-that.  We’re out of bananas.  In fact, we’re out of fruit.

I tap my fingers on the side of the fridge, conscious of the time crunch, and finally decide on a loaf of bread, a carton of eggs, a bit of butter and the last swig of almond milk.  I’ll make french toast – who doesn’t like french toast?

I start the pan heating on the stove, to cut down on the cook time, and rummage through the washed-but-not folded laundry.  A pair of pants…. a sock…  the boys’ outfits emerge one at a time, crackling with static electricity.  We’re out of dryer sheets.  I really, really, really need to get to the store.

I whip up the eggs, vanilla almond milk, and a bit of cinnamon, soak the bread and toss it on the sizzling butter in the pan.  Then I begin the rapid-fire breakfast dance – drying skinny little boy bodies, flipping the bread, helping an arm find a sleeve, soak a new piece of bread, button the pants, switch out the toast on the stove, hoping the boys don’t notice the blackened edges.

Somewhere in the middle of my whirling ballet of busyness The Bean steals the light bulb, and the boys gravitate out of the dim bathroom to the kitchen with its fluorescent lighting.   I slap the french toast onto colorful plastic Ikea plates and comb their hair while they eat.

“This is really good!”
“I love my Mama’s cooking!  You’re the best cook in the world!”

They’re still trying to mollify me for the way they reacted to the Ruined-Chicken-Nugget incident from Valentine’s Day. I’d messed up the crock pot carnitas. Just so you know, you can turn on a slow-cooker all you want, but if you don’t plug it in it won’t actually accomplish anything.  The only meat I had left was chicken breast, so I tried to make gluten-free chicken nuggets from scratch.  They looked good, but who knew Lawry’s seasoning salt would be so salty?

The worst part is I couldn’t even serve them with ketchup to mellow the taste – man, I really do need to make it to the store.  The boys were disgusted at the idea of a too-salty, nearly inedible dinner, but I was too tired to try for a third round of culinary failure and called it quits.  A little salt never hurt anyone, right?  DragonMonkey and Squid were horrified that I wouldn’t cook anything else and there was nothing for them to make on their own, so they complained how horrible their dinner was until I almost broke down into tears.

They’re only 4 and 6 but they know when they’ve pushed too far, and they’ve been making an effort ever since.  It sounds forced and fake, but I figure learning how to give fake compliments is good training for the future (who knows if they’ll marry someone who can cook?) so I don’t call them on it. You’re welcome, future spouses.

The coffee finishes brewing right as I’m shoving a snack into DragonMonkey’s lunch bag, and The Bean emerges from the bedroom – freshly showered, starched business clothes, bright-eyed and brushed teeth.

I retie my frumpy robe for the 17th time and pour myself my first cup of coffee, clearing the mossy cobweb-feeling from my mouth with the first sip.  I close my eyes, finding a moment of stillness in the morning chaos, letting the aroma of coffee swirl around my brain as I count backwards from 10. I can afford ten seconds to myself, right?

10.  9.  8.  7.  6.  

“DON’T TOUCH MY BACKPACK, SQUID!”

5.  4.

“I said leave it alone!  Don’t touch— MOM!  HE SPIT ON ME!  SQUID SPIT ON ME!”

Six seconds.  Apparently I can afford six seconds.  I set the cup down and intervene, eyeballing the clock behind me.  The Bean offered to drop DragonMonkey off at the bus stop this morning, but if they don’t leave in three minutes, they’re going to miss the bus.

I let them know this, and both the Bean and DragonMonkey grow visibly anxious.  They’re cut from the same cloth – both loving schedules, and order, and rules, and the idea of being late makes them leak an anxiety that’s almost palpable.  I’m throwing shoes on DragonMonkey, fishing discarded Superman hoodies off the porch, stuffing take-home folders into Angry Bird backpacks, kissing, hugging, waving, and they’re finally out the door.  The Bean returns for a quick kiss – he smells like soap and tastes minty fresh, which means I don’t.

Man, I really need to start brushing my teeth first-thing in the morning.  I hate feeling self-conscious about goodbye-kisses.

“If you miss the bus bring him back and I’ll drop him off!” I pause, wondering if I ought to add something more romantic.  It’ll be about 14 hours before I see The Bean again, and that’s only if I stay up late to greet him, otherwise I won’t see him until tomorrow morning.

I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again:  Friends don’t let friends become public accountants.

“Love you!” I holler as they head out the gate.  Hey, it’s not exactly a Shakespearean sonnet, but I’ve only had one sip of coffee.  Speaking of which….

I pick it up and take a sip, making a face.  It’s lukewarm, edging towards cold, and I cross to the sink to pour it down the drain.  I hate wasting it, but I’ve never gotten the hang of microwaving coffee.  It always tastes… well, microwaved.

I ditch the robe and find jogging clothes, tripping over dogs that circle me in quiet adoration.  Squid is standing in front of the couch, staring wordlessly at Caillou. I grimace at the sound of it.  I hate that show – it’s like they’re deliberately teaching children how to be whiny little ingrates, plus the main voice actor was a 17 year old girl who died in a car crash, so I can’t even feel right about hating it.  Still – it captivates Squid, and he’s still for the first time all morning, staring up at the TV with his scruffy hair spilling over the back of his shirt in a little mullet.  I wince.

“Squid, come here.”  What he needs is a haircut, but what he gets instead is a quick trim on the back of his hair.  We don’t have a lot of standards in this house, but I have to draw the line at mullets.  It’s a bit crooked, but hopefully nobody will notice.

I glance at the clock as I gather up the plates from the kitchen table, noticing as I do that in the excitement of getting DragonMonkey out the door on time one of the dogs has somehow managed to countersurf the baggie of leftover Valentine’s Day candy off of the kitchen counter and is now hiding with it in her kennel.  Well, I say “one of the dogs”, but I know exactly who the culprit is.

“ARTEMIS, COME.”

She slinks toward me, all apologies, and I glance inside her kennel – it’s too late – it’s already gone.   There’s nothing but empty wrappers and slobber.  She stares at me, guilt-ridden, and I sigh.  Yelling won’t bring the candy back, and at this point the only thing that’s going to stop her counter-surfing is getting the mouse traps someone suggested…. but again, there’s that trip to the store I keep putting off.

I help Squid into shoes and walk him over to daycare, realizing as I do that I’ve forgotten my coffee on the counter again.  By the time I get back it’ll be cold.  I think I managed two sips out of this cup. We go through creamer at a horrific rate, but the truth is that I feed most of it to my kitchen sink.  It’d probably be cheaper to pour myself coffee one sip at a time, but that just feels dumb.

I glance at the clock, mentally ticking off the errands still left on my plate.  Let’s see…. make sure the chicken water is filled, let the dogs go potty, check the cat food…. find my keys and squeeze in a sanity-saving jog before heading to work.  Pick up the DragonMonkey on my lunch break, make lunch for both boys, drop both DragonMonkey and the lunch off at the sitter’s, and return to work.

I want to see Caspian today – it’s been too long – but do I have time?   How much work is on the docket today at the barn?  I love the fact that I’m making money working at a horse barn, but I can’t seem to find as much enjoyment as I want to.  There are no set hours, and I find myself unable to relax.  While I’m there I keep thinking of all the unfinished tasks that are waiting for me as soon as I’m done, and I spend the whole time weighing the decision of thirty more minutes of paid work versus thirty minutes of unpaid chores at home.

Speaking of unfinished…. I wince as I remember the still untyped dictation I owe… no, no Caspian today.   Again.   I need to finish up the dictation so I can get my time card off to my job.  I need the check for board, so it’s a non-negotiable item.  I can do it after work,  before I pick up the boys at 5…. but by that point it’ll be dinner time.  Should I chance a trip to the store with hungry kids, or try to go after dinner? I keep trying to go after dinner, but by that point I’m so tired I don’t even feel safe behind the wheel, which is why we are living a life of One Shared Bathroom Lighbulb. What I need to do is cancel the jog with my friend and just go to the store now.  It’s makes the most sense.  Maybe I could make my body learn how to release itself by writing, instead of moving?

Speaking of writing….my blog – my poor, un-updated blog.  I need to be blogging more than ever now.  If I’m really taking this whole “writer” thing seriously, I need regular posts.  I need pageviews, and likes, and a ready-made audience to better “sell” myself to agents and publishers….

But seriously.  Whose stupid idea was it, anyways, to brand myself as a humor writer?  I think of the dozens of partially-finished stories in my drafts box, and find myself shaking my head.  I’m too tired to be funny today.  Today, walking up the front steps of my house is as much of an effort as I can handle.  There’s just nothing left in me to make other people laugh.

I’m so lucky – most of the medications for auto-immune diseases have side effects like “cancer” or “death”.  Don’t get me wrong, it’s better than living a life of crippling pain, but still scary as heck.  I’m so lucky that thus far I’ve been able to keep serious flare-ups at bay… but I really do need to make an appointment with that rheumatologist.  This last one took it out of me.  I’ve been mostly pain-free for almost two weeks, but I’m still caught in that flare-up fog.  I’m only 33.  Walking to my front porch shouldn’t feel like this big of an accomplishment, but it does.  A trip to the rheumatologist might give me some answers.

But seriously, I was only 9 minutes late.  Between gas and baby sitting and time off of work it cost me over $30 to make it to that appointment, only to be turned away for being 9 minutes late.  I search my feelings and realize I’m still a little too angry to make the call, so I shuffle inside, searching for my keys.

I glance at the clock  It’s not even 8 in the morning and I’m already exhausted.  Of course, is “already” the right word?  I haven’t stopped being exhausted, not for days.  Still.  There, that’s a better word. It’s 8 in the morning, and I’m still exhausted, but that’s okay.  I’ll feel better after I jog.  I don’t have time for a jog, but I can’t afford not to.  The store can wait.

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7 thoughts on “Still

  1. Hi Becky,

    As always, you're a great writer. I could see you in my mind's eye – using 8 different arms to dress, feed, and cook all at the same time – no wonder you're tired!

    I was just diagnosed with RA 2 weeks ago, and started taking the (terrifying) medications that the Drs seem so happy about, yet don't touch the pain. I cringe when I read the list of side-effects.

    I have the names of 2 Portland Naturopaths recommended to me by another RA sufferer/horsewoman. They helped her get it under control, and she has no flare-ups. I am not brave enough to go only that route, but I have an appointment with one of them next week. If you want their names, I will get them to you.

    Thank you for writing about your experience with RA; I'm sorry it happened to you.

    Like

  2. Thanks for your honesty. I know you didn't post it for our thanks but it's nice to read the truth sometimes. Not everything is sunshine and roses. But i do wish i had a solution for you. 😦

    Like

  3. This blog hit me in the guts. The feeling of walking through deep water both in your mind and in your limbs is very familiar to me. I don't have RA. I have fibromyalgia. I know, so over used. As a single parent raising two boys I thought I would not make it. Your right, exercise helps a lot. Keep moving or freeze up into a block of pain. Maybe AR and FM are more similar than I though. Right now for some unexplainable reason my feet hurt so bad I can barely walk. Makes posting very difficult. Sigh Next month/week?/year? it will be my shoulders or hips. Just keep moving. Never give up. Just get over it. (the jumps of course)

    Like

  4. oof.

    I know this doesn't help right now, but trust me, someday those two little boys will be older and you can send them to the grocery store, and they might even come back with what you asked for… but raising a family is hard work, and it's way harder when you're feeling like that. Trust me, it'll get better. Then worse. Then better.

    And eventually it'll be funny.

    Like

  5. Thank you for posting this. It's hard to recognise myself in someone else, when what I recognise is something I would never wish on another person. The physical ailments are frustrating and terrible, but the tiredness and fog scares me beyond reason.

    Like

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