Have you heard of a Chilean Rose-Haired Tarantula? I was asked to purchase one today (the new best friend candidate). I politely declined.
But this post is not really about Chilean Tarantulas -- or spiders of any nationality. It's about how we take care of ourselves. I'm referring to anyone, really -- not just parents of special needs kids, or parents of kids in general. How do we find a way, in this money-centered, work-centered, status-obsessed society, to simply be. To rest. To enjoy the things that give us pleasure.
I think in someways it's harder for parents than for non-parents, and harder yet for parents of kids with disabilities, to do this. The tarantula issue is a case in point: How many times must I field requests for animals, gaming systems, and other stuff (ten times a day? Twenty?) that will evidently fill Benjy's void, before I get to read a book, or a New Yorker, or write an email to a friend? To how many places must I drive Saskia each day (school and back, voice lessons, a friend's house, the library) before I can attend to myself?
Now, I'm not complaining. I love my kids immeasurably, and would do anything within my power for them, provided it's not icky or illegal. Okay, icky, but not illegal. But recently I've been thinking about things I would like for myself. (And feeling the usual guilt for thinking about myself. What a bore.) I have friends who work full time and don't have kids -- or have one easy, typical kid -- and they're thinking about the same thing. How can we take care of ourselves?
I think this question applies equally to men and to women, to stay-at-homes and to careerists. It's so easy to get buried in the mundane. You come home from work, or your partner does, if you have one, and suddenly it's time to shop for dinner/cook dinner/clean up after dinner. It's time to clean the toilets/litterbox/garage. And then it's time for bed, and you're too tired for anything but sleep. Add a depressed/behaviorally challenged/lonely/physically disabled kid into the mix and zowie! There's a you in there, somewhere, but s/he's MIA.
I don't have any answers to how we can find our MIA selves. For me, writing has helped immensely. I was a writer before I had kids (I've published a non-fiction book and articles, and short fiction under my real name) and I am still a writer. I will write until I die, and then I will write on the ceiling or in the basement, wherever I end up. I find it therapeutic, and whether I have to wake up at 5 a.m. or go to sleep at 1 a.m., most days I manage to squeeze some in. What I can't do, though, and feel sad about, are the following things: go to museums, concerts, the opera. Conduct literary research, travel, watch TV shows of my own choice (not usually, at least). Hang out with friends on a regular basis. Enjoy girls' nights out. Go to a spa. My life is too full of other things, some essential, some not, some accepted gracefully, some resented.
But I'm working on it. I may never completely get there, but I do have an outing to a craft fair with two dear friends and our three daughters scheduled for this weekend, and a Thursday evening dinner with my best friend. And therefore I am a very happy camper.
What do you all do to retrieve your MIA selves?