I was writing what I thought to be a veeeeeeeeery witty post about how the food store moved all of the alcohol-related products to the convenience aisle at the front of the store and tying this in to what sort of heinous Thanksgiving experiences lurk in the deepest corners of America for infertile men and women. And then we had the tantrum.
The tantrum was a full-out, non-stop explosion that existed at its top volume for about 45 minutes and truly lasted for about three hours altogether. It reminded me a lot of a Thanksgiving four years ago--their first Thanksgiving--where the twins cried through the meal and had a complete meltdown because they were off-schedule and there was too much stimulation. We came home and finally got them to bed and I remember standing in the kitchen and sobbing because I had missed out on time with my siblings and now I was going to have to wait until G-d knows when to have a do-over with the dinner.
I spent the majority of my afternoon dealing with the meltdown and then collecting myself while I raced through thoughts, trying to shift the pieces of the puzzle together and figure out what kicked off such an epic cry-fest. Yes, I had said that we needed to take a rest, but that is usually met with some foot dragging and rudeness. This was the cry of someone who was so deeply wounded, who could not handle having one more thing not go their way.
They* woke up from the nap (who wouldn't nap after crying for 45 straight minutes) and began crying again, a wounded animal cry that shook their whole body. And it finally occurred to me: this was the cathartic release of someone who finally had a minor reason to cry and used it to let go of the huge emotions that had been rolling under the surface for weeks. I stoked their head and finally said, "it's hard to be you. It's hard to be little and have big feelings, isn't it. It's hard to have someone always tell you what to do. It's hard to not like to go somewhere and have your mother constantly tell you that you have to go. It's hard to feel alone. It's hard to feel overwhelmed every day. It is just so hard to be you."
And that was it--they just needed someone to hear them. Their tantrum ended and my anxiety began as my husband and I hashed out what we wanted to do. There was obviously a problem--a huge problem--and it was a problem that needed addressing because our child was carrying with them such a huge burden. Which kicked off the brainstorming, and then my own crying because none of the solutions felt right, and then more brainstorming and discussion and debate until we finally arrived at some semblance of a temporary solution with a Plan B if the solution proved to be only a tiny bandage on a huge bloody wound.
And this is what I took away from the whole thing and how it applies to Thanksgiving:
I focus too often on the big picture instead of the small moments and in doing so, lose the thankfulness. It is hard to be happy when there are major stressors in your life. It is hard to focus on the small things that are going right when there are huge things that are going wrong. I have to be frank--our child's problem occupies a large portion of my waking thoughts. It feels like a flume ride where I can't unclench my teeth and enjoy the slow moments because I know that I'm on a flume ride and there is always a big drop after the calm bits. I am not, as you have probably guessed, a fan of the roller coaster.
Because we are constantly worrying about this ongoing problem and it takes over a large portion of my energy and doesn't seem to have an end point in sight, I forget the things that are going right in the day. The new friend I'm making at their school, the party we had this week, Thanksgiving itself. Moving into the even smaller victories--the twins put on their shoes and coats without my prompting this morning after I mentioned that it was time to go so I emerged from the kitchen to see two children prepared to leave the house. The fact that we still have some leftover cookies in the freezer. That after I finish this post, I get to relax with a DVD.
And even smaller than that. I had a good hair day. I am breathing. I fell asleep without too much trouble last night.
And by turning to micro-thankfulness, I can somehow see the macro-thankfulness emerge as well. No, things are not going how we wish right now and our child's situation is painful for every person in this house. But I am married to this man I love with all of my heart. We have two healthy children that came after infertility and prematurity--a major feat unto itself. I am close with my siblings and parents and I love having all of us together for the holiday. We have a house. We have money. And when my instinct is to point out the problem even in the thing I'm feeling thankful about, I bring it back to the micro-thankfulness and begin again:
I am thankful that I thought ahead and bought ingredients for dinner so I didn't have to swing by the store again.
I am thankful that I cleaned the living room last night so I don't have to do it today.
I am thankful that there is a new episode of Brothers & Sisters this week, that I have new plates and silverware, that I've managed to keep the carpet stain-free for five years (please, please, please universe, do not let me mess this up today and ruin that streak just because I mentioned it).
And that's what I turn over to you if you are also finding it difficult to be macro-thankful this holiday.
And, in case micro-thankfulness isn't enough and you still need something to keep in your head when you're fighting back tears over the green bean casserole, I give you this Thanksgiving drawing from Uterine Wars which urologists should be starting a bidding war over for their office art collection.
Happy Thanksgiving, everyone.
*You may notice that I never use a gender in this post; use instead that absolutely incorrect pronoun to speak about our child. And that is purposeful--not sloppy English. I never want them finding old posts on the Internet and saying, "holy shit, you told the whole world about that!"