[Throwback Thursday — Originally published November, 2013]
My brain is fuzzy and my child is sleeping and middle-aged celebrities are busting myths on TV. I’m supposed to be writing about something substantial; my past my future my present; something real.
I stare at the screen for an unknown amount of moments until my phone bing-chime-beeps out the alert that someone has texted me. I instinctively get angry assuming it’s going to be a past drug dealer or buyer or someone else with nothing substantial to say. And then my computer bing-chime-beeps and I fear checking whatever Facebook notification awaits me because I don’t think I can handle another person with nothing substantial to say.
My friend’s almost 6-year-old daughter was just diagnosed with Acute Lymphoblastic Leukemia and has over two years of chemotherapy to endure until we know anything. And it’s making all of our minds fuzzy because we still can’t believe it’s real.
The first bing-chime-beep was actually a message from a political Facebook page stating they would be happy to promote the fundraising walk we put together though the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society. For a moment I regain some hope and think maybe the world isn’t so fuzzy after all.
The second bing-chime-beep was my best friend, Alex, responding to a comment I made asking what had happened to his newly-shaved head. He says he’s going through chemo. He’s not. One of the few people I still have faith in has made a joke about having cancer. Substance be damned. Maybe it’s just bad timing.
I search through my brain and memories and illusions of reality to find something that matters so I can send it into the computer. What could matter more than cancer? I feel like a cheat using someone else’s tragedy for my own personal gain. Kindness matters more than cancer.
Another bing-chime-beep tells me that Alex has responded to my response of “don’t even.” He lives in another state and tries to convince me to visit him daily. This time he tells me the doctors have given him a week to live and I better get my ass up there ASAP to comfort him. And I smile. And it’s a substantial smile. And just like that I don’t think he’s harrowing for mocking cancer, but sublime for using it to tell me he misses me; no matter how fuzzy the interpretation may be, the meaning is real.
I hear my son talk in his sleep through the $200 video monitor my father bought me when I was pregnant. I am still lacking in words and substance and now that my conversation with Alex has ended, I don’t know what to type. I check the monitor again to see Draven cuddling with his baby and I’d much rather partake in something substantial than try to convey it. Typically I would jump at the opportunity to write something, anything, but it seems I have lost the motivation to participate in my own life.
People don’t agree with the way I’m raising my son; they give us weird looks and make snarky remarks when they learn that he can’t sleep without his baby, or shop without his ‘girly’ shopping cart, or has fluorescent pink dressers. And I can’t understand why this is such a substantial topic to society. Is he not a real boy? When did stereotypes and gender roles become more important than personality and kindness and respect?
I can’t be a part of my own life; I’m too busy being the most substantial part of his. If I raise him to be nothing like the people who stare, I will have done my job. I clutch the fuzzy bear he left in my room and another bing-chime-beep sounds.
It’s another drug user, a substance abuser, asking me for the medicine that keeps me grounded, so she can get high. I thought I left this life with someone else but I’ve since learned it’s easier to embrace your past than to ignore it. I answer her disruptive bing-chime-beeps with a few of my own, and she takes it because she knows she has no other choice.
I continue about my business, putting aside important work to debunk the hundreds of chain stories, photos, and ‘fun facts’ my friends post daily. A slew of more bing-chime-beeps inform me they’re mad at me for correcting them; for actually taking the time to research before believing; for trying to enhance their minds instead of passing on false information. Comfort and ease are substantial to them. Clicking any more than is needed is not.
They’re not really my friends, anyway. Maybe I should write a letter to Facebook about this common misconception. They tell me they don’t want to lose my friendship over specifics. I tell them we’re barely acquaintances and specifics make all the difference. I make a lot of enemies this way. I’m often told I’m mean. But I’m a realist, and my substance shows that.
Alex calls and we confirm our plans for the weekend. Draven gives his baby its binky and falls back to sleep. Through her mother’s Facebook, not-quite six-year-old Christina updates us on her current tests and treatments and new haircut and informs us she is boycotting McDonald’s because, after the fourth broken toy in a row, she has come to the conclusion that “They don’t care about us. They just want our money.” The rest of the world continues about their internet searches for cute puppies and miracle cures and interesting myths.
Substance is in the fuzzy mind of the beholder. It’s so much easier to distort it, to ignore the bing-chime-beeping and close your eyes, and go to sleep, and dream about AIDS infected gas pumps and Pomskies and blind dogs with lifelong mates. I turn my volume up. I take another sip of coffee. I stretch my fingers. I don’t want to miss the chance to contribute something substantial.