Monday, November 09, 2015

village people

The other day at work, in an admittedly cynical moment, someone said: “Let’s start a drinking game at staff meetings—every time someone says ‘It takes a village,’ we do a shot.”

Let's talk about this mother of at least two and her 19" waist.
Today I brought Dash to work with me and asked one of my coworkers to watch him while I met with a foundation officer. He was cuddled by coworker after friendly, generous coworker, and when someone asked how he’d spent the past hour, I found myself saying, “It takes a village.”

I also used to joke that It takes a village to raise a Cheryl. This was during the time when I had two oncologists, a radiologist, a reconstructive surgeon, a physical therapist, a regular therapist, a couples therapist, a hypnotherapist, a nice lady at church named Margot and a couple of cancer pen pals, all working overtime to keep me alive and sane.

High five.
Three years ago today, an ultrasound tech told me the doctor wanted to do a biopsy on what looked like early stage breast cancer, and I nearly blacked out from fear. My memories from that day are impressionistic flashes, but I remember sitting in AK’s car, begging her to promise me we could still try to have a kid, one way or another, even if I had cancer.

Four years ago this week was the Squeakies’ due date, 11/11/11, although they would have inevitably been born earlier. I think of them every time the clock says 11:11, and also when it doesn’t.

Put a bird on it.
This is the month of the “Gratitude Challenge”—which can come across trite or even braggy, but is undeniably less obnoxious than the “Selfie Challenge” I saw making the rounds last month (isn’t taking selfies almost by definition the least challenging thing a person can do?). But trying to wrap my mind around my gratitude feels like looking at the surface of the sun, a thing not to be done head on.

Almost immediately I get tangled up in existential questions and survivor guilt. Or my good luck seems as random as my bad luck—and it is; oh, it is all so fucking random—and then what? The best thing I can do—the real Gratitude Challenge—is stay humble and realize that life isn’t so much a story you write as a giant Exquisite Corpse poem.

The other best thing I can do is make something useful out of my continued existence. On one hand, I think I’m a pretty decent person. I’m nice(ish) to my family and friends and I get grants from the rich to give to the poor and I recycle when it’s convenient. On the other hand, I feel like the world is overpopulated, and I’m not sure that any of my good deeds have made up for my carbon footprint. But I’ve done enough therapy that I can accept my tendency toward self-preservation for what it is: animalistic and just fine.

This was going to be a post about World Adoption Day, but I’m not sure what I have to say. I’m so grateful to be alive and in partial charge of a small friendly human that I could cry. And also: Various types of injustice are at the root of most adoption situations. And also: This week feels heavy with the weight of what might have been. If the village hadn’t stepped in. If I’d lived in a different village.

And I still don’t know what the future holds. My mantra—one of the few phrases that has ever felt semi-divinely planted in my head at the time it was first needed—is hold it lightly. I’m not even totally sure what I mean by that, but I picture cupped hands.

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