"Or not," he said.
"You're right!" I acknowledged. "It could go either way. I'll get better or I'll die."
"Yes," he said. "One of those two things will happen. You never know."
"But one way or the other, it'll resolve itself."
This is how we talk - you say "yes, and.." and keep it going.
We both laughed and continued talking about a book that he recommended that I'm in the middle of, about how throughout human history, mankind has made all of these changes to it's economic and cultural structure that have come under the guise of progress but that have actually altered the course of human history - and of the Earth's history - for the worse.
It's actually super-interesting and not depressing, though I know it sounds that way.
The conversation (both about potentially dying of a sinus infection, and the book) got me thinking about life in general, and how so much of what we do every day is in service to materialism, or to obligations that we are bound to because of our choices. We've created this mythology that allows us to believe that we are special and every minute is special and that life is to be cherished and every day is to be seized, and that we are not only entitled to happiness, but that if we don't feel happy we somehow aren't trying hard enough to embrace gratitude or whatever. Then we feel inadequate and stressed out because we're not approaching things the way we're supposed to be approaching things, so we're failures at the happiness game.
But the truth is, life is often cruel and throughout human history, people have lived their entire lives in miserable conditions and without any notion of happiness as we view it today - it wouldn't occur to them that happiness was anything to be valued or sought out. The point of living was to keep living until you died, and maybe propagate the species along the way.
Again, it wasn't a depressing chain of thought. It was just ruminating on something that's interesting to me and that I think about sometimes -- that the way our culture approaches happiness as a goal of life is both a totally artificial construct that keeps us going, and also a source of enormous stress and dissatisfaction because it's such an elusive goal.
The end of summer and the focus on a new school year reinforces the speed with which time passes. I sometimes feel old and like I'm approaching the end of my shelf life and that I haven't accomplished anything of note. Other times I feel good about where I am. But the number of my age is frequently in the back of my mind - I'm racing against a clock and it's ticking along but I don't know how much time is left on it. And the fact that my kids are getting ready to turn 7 and 9 is weird to me - on one hand, it feels like they were just babies, but on the other, the baby and toddler years feel like eons ago. They are such fully formed people now. The barely human little amorphous blobs who needed to be swaddled and jiggled and shushed in order to calm down or get to sleep are, at this point, as familiar to me as aliens.
What's fascinating is that they also are so cognizant of the blazing speed at which time passes.
The night I was thinking all of these Deep Thoughts was the night before the first day of school. The kids were excited and nervous and wired and anxious. I was trying to put them to bed and sing to them to soothe them (badly, because my voice is still froggy and fucked up - I have no sense of my range and can't control the way it sounds), but they couldn't calm down.
Zeke said, "I'm nervous about school, and I'm also sad about it being the end of summer. It felt like it went so fast."
"It did, honey. And the truth is, you're going to realize that everything feels that way. You're going to start school tomorrow and before you know it, it'll be your birthday and then Halloween, and suddenly we'll be at Mimi and Papa's for Thanksgiving, and it's going to speed by and you're going to be amazed at how quickly it feels like summer arrived again."
He nodded and was quiet, clearly thinking about it all.
"I know you're feeling anxious, and I totally get that. But tomorrow will be here before you know it, and once you get to school you won't even have time to be nervous because all of a sudden you'll be in the middle of greeting your friends and meeting your teacher and everything else. So the day will quickly be over and you'll have dealt with it. And the truth is, you do like school, so chances are it's going to be a great day."
He agreed that that was the likely outcome, but he and Josie were both restless and really wanting to talk through what they were thinking about, so I let them get in my bed so that we could talk quietly in the dark and fall asleep together.
We talked about the specific things they were worried about - would they make new friends, would their teachers like them, would they be able to learn new things and not feel stupid, would anyone be happy to see them. Josie in particular has an ability to be anxious about something and then talk herself into a state of extreme agitation until she ends up sobbing, so I was trying to keep things light and make jokes and be silly.
But they were both wound tighter than the strings on my banjo, and I didn't realize how close to the edge they were. And sometimes I forget how innocent and impressionable they are.
In the midst of all this, they asked me what were the things that made me nervous or anxious.
Half joking, I responded, "I worry that no one will ever love me again and that I'll die alone."
At which point, they both burst into tears and climbed onto me, smothering me with hugs and kisses and tears and drool.
"Nooo! Mama, why would you say that?? Why would you die alone? You have us! We love you so much! Why would you think no one will love you?? Aaaaaauuuuuugggghhhhh! We love you Mamaaaaaa!!!"
They were seriously distraught and it took a few minutes to reassure them that I'm fine and that I know that their love for me is boundless.
I realized I need to leave those comments for conversations with my brother, who will know to respond, "yep, it's a distinct possibility!"
I also realized (for the millionth time) that these beautiful little people fill me with happiness, as elusive as that feeling can be.