to sleep – per chance to be adequate

Today I fell asleep with my forehead pressed against a doctor’s exam table. My daughter was seeing an allergist – a first time visit but the umpteenth attempt to try to figure out what’s wrong with her breathing. We arrithe-sleeper-1932ved in a flurry – always late, always in a flurry – me having rushed out of a pickle of a work day and her sliding out just before Spanish. They put us in a very warm exam room and after the first go round with the nurse and a longer one with the doctor – who was as perplexed by my daughter’s case as I’d hoped she would not be – Bella was given a skin test and we were left to await the results blooming on her skin:  Here – dust mites; there – molds; here – trees; there – pollens.

Bella laid on her belly and half dozed, half played on her phone. My chair was pulled up right next to the exam table and I pushed my forehead into it. I love pressure on my brow – supported forward folds with your forehead pressed into a block or even with your thumbs pressing into your brow are just about as gravy-licious as my world sometimes gets. (And hot baths. Yes, hot baths are worth a longer time on this earth.)

The room had that close, clingy too-warm feeling of a retirement home. I was wondering how I could possibly locate some caffeine … or whether it would be too weird to lay down on the floor … when a loud noise from the hallway jolted me awake. I couldn’t have been out long, but it was still unexpected. Had I drooled?

When my kids were very young, I once fell asleep while getting my teeth cleaned. Given how sensitive my gums are, this is akin to dozing during a gynecological exam. My kids are older now – so much so that I sometimes count years and then even months as to how long I still have with them. A large part of me thinks this is neither helpful nor true. Our relationships will simply continue to evolve, we’ll always be together in certain ways. Just last week, while I was out of town for a swim meet, my son and I co-edited a paper he was writing about Pompeii via Google docs. “This is a blast!” I typed – earnestly charged by the experience – and he typed back: “LOL.” That was not something we’d have done when he was younger and it seemed like an activity that could extend into the future.

They’re still exhausting – these people I birthed. It’s different. Not that crawling around on the floor exhaustion. Not that constant watching exhaustion. But the exhaustion that comes from criss-crossing across town in a car and sitting for 50 minutes in various waiting rooms. The exhaustion that comes with managing and remembering three people’s calendars – medical appointments, camp sign ups, teacher conferences. The exhaustion that comes with holding space for life’s ever larger aches. Boredom from life’s repetitions. Sadness at being left out. Frustration with school.

I can’t fix any of this. I can empathize. But it turns out that empathy is way more exhausting than the satisfying hammering of fixing. It means staying with someone even if your hands are empty. It means accepting the unknown. It means “good enough” and definitely not “perfect.”

It’s cold here in Iowa. So cold. And the part of me that counts how much longer until my kids are done with school also calculates if we could move some place warmer when they’re done. I keep towns in Northern California on my weather app and so I know that it’s been in the upper 60s and sunny in both Healdsburg and Inverness for weeks on end. Easy to dream of the next phase or life elsewhere. Harder to stay. To be good enough.

Tonight when Tobey tells us how frustrating it is that the good athletes in his PE class will never see him slay competitors in Dota, Bella and I look at him and agree – each of us sharing our own experiences of inadequacy and our quiet desires to be seen for the sparkling successes we are. Maybe in Healdsburg they’ll see me! Maybe in high school they’ll see me. Later, I’ll get chosen. 

“Good enough” is not a sexy chant. It’s not about being sparkly or fabulously improved. It has a work-a-day plainness to it. But I sense it’s all we’ve really got. One definition is “sufficient for the purpose or to satisfy desire.” I can live with that.


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