When life gets tough, I’m not really like a coffee bean.  Coffee.  Bean.  That’s right.  According to some lengthy anecdote I read on the internet (it was trending on Facebook) it’s a food I should aim to be like when the going gets tough.  For instance, when someone puts a fire under my ass—so to speak—do I get all soft and gooey or do I perform well under pressure?  Do I make the troubled waters around me richer and more aromatic like a coffee bean or do I get all soft on the inside like a boiled egg? Well, neither.
I’ll tell you what I do.  I watch Netflix.  I binge on it.  It becomes, briefly, that fulfillment people say women need outside of the home—but, get this—it’s inside of my home, everything I’ve ever needed or wanted: my son, my husband, and instant streaming.  I can finally stop worrying about that parenting article I read arguing that parents who have a hobby outside of their kid(s) raise less wimpy, more independent human beings.
I’d like to say I forget about my problems when I’m watching, that the vast options offer a plethora of storylines to lose myself in.  Sometimes I can't help but apply what I see on screen to my real life, though.  You’d think I’d never heard of escapism.  Pttf, most days I want to live escapism. 
Some little known documentary on happiness, aptly titled Happy :), that I’ve queued-up plays while my son plays with his Superhero figurines.  The interviewed experts, who are wearing jeans and sitting in folding chairs under the shade of a maple, say that people who suffer trauma or hardship actually have a higher capacity for happiness than those who don’t know hardship; in other words, humans are hardwired to perform well under pressure.   It makes sense, what they’re saying, about the sliding scale where having enough just isn’t enough (camera pans to an assortment of Americans on the street of NYC who are asked what would make them Happy—money, money, and money).  The contrast between these interviews against the one of a man living in India, who drives a rickshaw for a living, is heartbreaking.  What makes him happy?  To return home (to a cinder-block-and-sheet abode through which the rain sometimes blows) at the end of the day and see his son sitting on the curb, just waiting for him.  This unflappable man, who, at first glance, seems to have so little actually has everything I want. 

         Normally, I am content to zone-out, really forget my corporeal self in the company of Netflix.  I don't try to stay a step ahead of the plot (Prison Break, anyone?), either, because that would require too much consideration and precious brain-power that I've spent during the day on more important things like worrying.  But something about the documentary Happy :) forces me to ask myself: Why are Americans more likely to consider what would make them happy as opposed to just what makes them happy?  Which then begs the question, what would make (I am American, after all) me happy?  I consider each story on screen from a Danish commune to an idyllic island community in Japan that boasts the world’s oldest woman.  I realize that there is one thing that all these happy people have in common: good health.  There is the interview with the very beautiful woman whose face was run over and who had 30-some reconstructive surgeries.  But she is happy, the story goes, just to be alive—so, a version good health.  Perhaps, these are just two words that are constantly on my mind.  Good. Health.  Like a mediatation or a plea.  Yes, that's it, the thing that would make me the happiest gal in the world: good health.  Not for me, but for my son.
       Worrying about a child's well-being is like a right of passage in parenthood.  Even when a parent is blessed with a child of relatively sound health, they will inevitably invent things to worry about: something's off with the color and consistentcy of Johnny's poop,  Suzy only knows her colors in English, why can't my son master the shape-sorter yet?!  It often seems, to me, like a luxury to worry about these things. 
Everyone’s got problems, I often tell myself to avoid lashing out at the person who has unknowingly gotten on my last nerve.  But my son's breathing, or the difficulty of it, often feels insurmountable.  In the last month we’ve seen six doctors in four different specialties (and many more than this since my son was born).  I’ve noticed that the doctors always say “be well,” when we leave their offices.  I take it (bear it, really, as I’ve become very superstitious lately and feel like they’re hexing us)  as part friendly reminder and part worried hope that they won’t see me and my son next week with yet another virus, another ailment, another thing-a-ma-jig that causes him difficulty breathing.  It never gets easier, no matter how many times this year, this month even, I’ve awoken to the sound of his characteristic rasp emanating from the baby monitor.  Will this be the night we go to the E.R. (again)?  Will we make it til morning?  And if we do make it through the night, will I be able to soothe his labored breathing—after a hard night’s sleep— in the morning?  Will I stand in front of the open freezer after naptime fanning cool air into his pale face and thwacking his back (as if to thwack the rasp right outta him)?  What’s the air quality today?  Yeah, I have steroids and neb treatments and Pepcid and Claritin and Nasonex.  I even sleep with a bra on at night now, so I can maintain a shred of dignity in case of an emergency.   
        So, the appeal of Netflix is the escapism (after these sleepless nights it’s a little respite from the medical) even if it forces me to realize the sometimes challenging and unexpected path my life has taken.  Motherhood was, of course, expected in this case; it’s just that no one (or at least not me) really plans for the less pleasing—that’s putting it gently—parts like NICU stays, hospitalizations, etc.   Sure, there are things I have given up in life because of the Lesspleasings.  Is there a mother who hasn’t?  And for now, when it’s best to stay indoors, away from the offending weather and the germy general public, I have Netflix. 
Netflix takes me to Alaska, to NYC, to a small-town with a comedic cast of obese charlatans. And if that doesn't peak my interest, there's always the strange Foriegn Films.  Netflix shows me people who are happy and people who are sad.  It tells me stories of hardship and also stories of redemption and hope.  And when I lay down to sleep at night—in my carefully orchestrated pajamas, you know, just in case—I even dream of other lives.  Sometimes I've acheived a small amount of fame, often I'm tanner and beefier (maybe I’m a good cook in an alternate reality) and I always travel!  But my subconscious has a way of reminding me that the grass is not always greener.  Because in these dreams I am also alone or have some neglectful, absentee husband.  There’s no one to share my alternate-life adventures with. 
     But I, luckily, get to wake up in the morning with my sweet and attentive husband’s arm around me (or, more often, in the middle of the night with my beautiful son’s hand curled tightly around a strand of my hair) I reminded that this is my life.  It is here—be it in front of the freezer— and it is beautiful, but most of all: we are together.  All my eggs are in this here basket and I don’t care.  Because I’m in it to win it.    

1 comment:

  1. I totally get this, and I love the term "The Lesspleasings". Much more refined than saying "The things that suck." Life does take unexpected turns, doesn't it? But even with the unexpected turns, I'm a happy person overall, and that makes all the difference. Nice post!