Monday, September 21, 2009

Reflections on Connections

Shea recently asked us to send her envelopes and stamps, which in the end we did in a package of other goodies we were packing up for her. I’ve been thinking about this, as I don’t really understand why we did that and why it didn’t fall in the category of you’re-on-your-own-now-you-handle-it. There are many things that go in that category without a second thought: she’s responsible for her money, her supplies and clothes, her food, her laundry (which has been her job since grade school), etc. I’m positive they sell both stamps and envelopes in her immediate environs these days. We’ve always sent her to camp with stamps and envelopes and so maybe that has something to do with it? It’s a puzzlement, as we just reflexively did it, while there are other things that we wouldn’t dream of supplying for her. I’m still trying to figure this one out.

That got me to thinking about other puzzles in connections and boundaries. I’ve been, since the beginning, everlastingly grateful that it was me that got the tumor and needed brain surgery, for example.

It’s unthinkable that it should have been either of the girls.

A place that it’s possible, barely, to imagine, is what if it had been Michael? That would have been rough going for all of us, for a lot of reasons. Primary among them is what this blog represents: I’ve been spilling my guts here every day or so since the beginning as well as in other places. Michael, on the other hand, when he’s sick, tends to withdraw into himself. His idea of not feeling well is that he goes alone into a dark room and stays there until he feels better. Not for him is the soothing of fevered brows. While his self-containment is admirable in many ways, it does tend to make the rest of us surplus to requirements.

Because I always feel excluded--and because I am so irrationally frightened when he’s at all compromised physically, given his centrality in my universe--his under-the-weather periods (few and far between, thankfully), are trying for both of us. I get cranky and he disappears into the interior, which causes me to get crankier and him to withdraw more. It’s not pretty. We’ve both gotten better at managing this over the years, but it seems unlikely that our respective coping mechanisms would have ramped up enough to encompass something of the magnitude of the medical adventure. While it’s plausible that we would have evolved some more given the demands of this experience, I note every day when Michael is pre-reading and editing my posts that it’s a major source of conversation and connection for us. It’s hard to imagine him either articulating or sharing in these ways. Maybe that’s a good thing, and maybe my sharing has been too much. That part is open to interpretation and at the same time doesn’t much matter, as it’s helped me process and manage the experience, so I mark it as good and try not to judge it at all. (There’s a growth point for you!)

The connections, then are, as with most human relationships, complicated and contradictory at times. We expect our girls to be independent in so many ways and yet not necessarily in others, in ways that are not always consistent or especially principled. Why do we think Shea writing her own thank you notes is her problem but we’re willing to supply the envelopes and the stamps? Why do we expect the girls to be self-sufficient (within reason and with the constant family safety net) and yet match their savings? Dunno. It works for us, but it does bear some thought. Usually, I give up and say “well, that’s how we do it.” The challenges we’ve faced so far are enough without adding more imponderables....

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