Wednesday, February 5, 2014

Life is Hard

"It shouldn't be this hard," I said to my friend.

Balthazar and I had hit our roughest patch on life's road. We were, more or less, living apart, he in Vegas, and I with the kids, in Iowa--since Vegas had a job for him and we couldn't sell our house in the Midwest.

This lasted for two years. Funds, too, were tight and, playing the role of a single mom, I could barely find the time I needed to write my thesis. I'd committed to a very expensive, low-residency program, less than a month prior to Balthazar's job troubles. Oh, and our house was for sale throughout the ordeal, so I was frantic to keep it clean, lest we lose the one buyer we were desperate to find to make everything right, again. 

I was stressed out. Balthazar was stressed out. And the kids suffered, too, for our stress--which made us stress all the more.

"Why not?" my friend asked of my complaint about life.

"Because. Because. It just shouldn't."

"Why not?" she repeated.

"Because life is supposed to be fun. It's meant to be enjoyed." 

At least, that was what I had always believed and because, for me, life had, for the most part, been roses and lemonade. Even when things were difficult, which of course they sometimes were, there was wine to swirl in our glasses, once we'd clinked them together--"Here's to better days." Love to be made at night. Morning doves cooing outside our window, come sun up.

"But it's also hard," said my friend, candidly. 

I stopped being her friend that day. It was an act of defiance.

But life stayed hard for us, anyway, despite my protests. Really, really hard. 

At first it was little things: A freaky flood in our basement in Iowa to scare off our first real prospect; a scorpion infestation in the new house in Vegas. One thing after another to keep our foreheads perpetually wrinkled: the constant vomiting of the dog who was allergic to the Vegas heat; a car accident; another car accident; an infestation of  lice that lasted forever; bad teachers; bullies at school; and always there were the bills we were expecting; plus the ones we weren't. 

And these were in the years when things were supposed to be getting better: Balthazar and I were working desperately to put things back in order. I'd graduated from school, we'd sold the house, found another in Vegas and we'd begun the long slow climb out of the debt that the previous years had set us in. 

"We have a roof over our head, food on the table. We have our health and we have each other." I encouraged Balthazar. 

But the roof wasn't ours, really; it was rented. And the food was bland, or takeout, because, I really didn't feel like cooking much, anymore. This led to wider waistbands, less energy, less will. It led to less each other. Less of ourselves. More stress. 

But, we are fighters, Balthazar and I, so we got up each day and did what needed to be done, tackled whatever new challenge showed up at our door. Then, at the end of the day, we squeezed the kids, as if to soak in some of their youth and optimism, to replenish ours--which was vastly diminishing. 

We hugged each other, in consolation. 

"It has to get better," we both said. Over. And over. And over again.

Then, "Are you fucking kidding me?" when the next blow would arrive. 

"Are you fucking kidding me?" I railed at our rented ceiling.  

And the blows were knock-you-on-your-ass mighty. Sometimes because we'd had yet to get up from the last. And sometimes because they came from left field. And sometimes because they just were.

"We still have our health," I said to Balthazar. "The kids are healthy. We're healthy. We're gold," I said, "As long as we have our health, we're gold."

It was, in all honesty, the one thing, I was desperately afraid to lose. I could battle the rest of it, as long as we stayed healthy, I thought.

"I'm sending you to a specialist," said my doctor, on a routine checkup. "It's your thyroid."

I didn't go. "Life is not supposed to be this hard!" 


Then, just over five years into our rough patch, five years living in a perpetual state of stress, a flu sent me to bed. For a full week. A week I couldn't afford. I missed four deadlines. My anxiety levels skyrocketed.

And then I gave in. I laid my head on the pillow and I slept. For days. 

When I finally awoke, recovered from the virus, a numbness took over my lips and face, my hands. And then my brain. I couldn't follow a simple movie plot. I certainly couldn't write. My hip joints ached. 

"Are you fucking kidding me?" I said, that first morning when it hurt to walk.

I suspected multiple sclerosis. My new doctor (naturally, I'd ditched the other) suspected multiple sclerosis, too. She scheduled tests. 

"Are you fucking kidding me?" Balthazar didn't say it. Instead, he poured over the bills.   


"Seriously?" I said, when the receptionist asked for an exorbitant co-pay upfront. 

"Forget it," I said. "I'm not sick. I'm only stressed out." 

I went home.

"I'm sorry," I said when Balthazar began complaining about bills, that week. "I'm sorry that you're stressed out. But I can't worry with you. If you have to worry, you'll have to worry alone. I won't worry anymore, not about money nor whatever shit should arrive on our doorstep tomorrow. I can't live like this. We can't live like this. It will kill us."

"I love you though," I said. "And I'd love to just go for a walk and hold your hand."


The blows still come, but less frequently, it seems. And, somehow, they land with less force. Even the big ones:

"Epilepsy," said the neurologist of Sunshine's episodes.

To her, he said, "Everyone has something."

"That's true," I said. "Think of Hollywood's allergies."  They arrived like a sucker punch, during our second spring in Vegas and have been hassling him ever since. 

"Chronic sinusitis," said his specialist, last month.

Balthazar's high blood pressure is genetic; he's careful about what he eats.


I'm careful about what I eat now, too. I'm cooking with enthusiasm, again. We exercise regularly.

We smile and laugh, a lot, as often as we can, really.

And these joyous occasions chip away at the pall that has hung over us for so long.

To make me smile all day long. And I value our good days more than ever. 

I'm smiling now, as I write this post.

And my symptoms have all but disappeared. And we bought our own house, and there are no scorpions, and the dog stopped vomiting....

Life is hard. A lot of the time. And it's bound to get harder still, but when it's not, Oh!

When it's not, it's pretty damned great!

I think I'll call my old friend. I owe her an apology. A drink. We'll swirl our wine in our cups, once we've clinked them together.