I threw a bowl across the kitchen today.
That sounds more dramatic than it was. It was an empty plastic bowl that had toppled off the teetering tower of clean dishes in our drying rack. I had finally cleared the sink and this clean bowl had the audacity to follow its gravitational pull and land with a clatter in our empty stainless steel sink.
The Baby was refusing to eat- holding the food in his mouth for a moment before unceremoniously disposing of it onto his tray. Despite him repeatedly making his personal sign that tells us he is hungry or thirsty, he wasn’t drinking either.
So, I walked into the kitchen, the bowl fell, and I threw it.
I’m a thrower. Not out of anger, usually just frustration. I do not throw things at people. I might throw trash or ephemera that I’ve already asked to be picked up into a room but I do not aim for the person. My top three most dramatic throws are:
- 2010- throwing a soft-sided lunchbox across the dining room after sitting in Dallas traffic for over an hour
- 2016- throwing my phone (admittedly, not a soft or inexpensive item) across a hospital room after getting the news that we were going to be there longer than we wanted to be and we would be leaving with The Baby on more machines
- 2020- today’s bowl throwing
These are trying times, no?
This was Day 768 of our indefinite quarantine procedure, the one where Alex works from a desk in our guest room and I wrangle the children all day. Or was it just day 2? It’s our “Spring Break” but the schools are closed indefinitely and we weren’t going to let the boys go back anyway because of The Baby’s underlying respiratory issues. So, it’s just the four of us for the foreseeable future. (And if you’re one of those who want to tell me that we’re overreacting, I would tell you to kiss my ass but that would be difficult to do from 6-feet-away, so you are welcome to kiss your own.)
As a creature of habit, parenting at least one other creature of habit, throwing an empty plastic bowl in the response to losing almost everything that feels familiar is very mild compared to the amount of emotional upheaval that’s happened in the last five days.
I’m trying to impress upon The Kid that we’re living in a momentous time, one that will be in the history books. When I’m old and gray, I’ll chat with others about that infamous coronavirus quarantine. When people my age stockpile toilet paper, people will whisper behind our backs, “Oh, it’s because they lived through the corona quarantine.”
Why do I feel this pressure to be stoic?
The narrative in my head is that when hard things happen, you steel your nerves, buckle down, and get on with it. In my head, I hook my fingers through my belt loops and say those things in a thick Texan accent.
Some of this comes from toxic masculinity bullshit. “HEY CUPCAKE. WHY DON’T YOU CRY ME A RIVER, THEN BUILD A BRIDGE AND GET OVER IT?” I’m thinking about stories I’ve heard from other people who have lived through momentous times, World War II, for example. We saw Rosie the Riveter, who chewed through steel bars with her teeth. You think she threw plastic Ninja Turtle bowls across her kitchen? No, she did not.
We don’t hear about soldiers breaking down in foxholes. That video of the Chinese doctor crying went viral because we expect our medical personnel to remain calm, cool, and collected.
We have this narrative that we must take adversity “like a man” and I’m over it. Damn, this is scary and unsettling and anxiety-making. Nothing is normal, our routines have been completely upended. I do myself no favors by trying to pretend like everything is fine.
Everything is not fine.
Here’s the deal: we do all this pretending that we’re fine and what does it really get us? Okay, maybe we get our mean mugs on a poster and we go down in the history books but…the chances of me getting a poster are slim, even if I manage to go two weeks under quarantine without throwing a bowl across the kitchen.
So, today I was weak. I used my skinny chicken arms to throw a bowl across a room and then I cried a little while I cut some spinach. Do you know what happened? My 15-year-old, who had watched all this go down, walked by and patted me on the shoulder. My kid saw a need (see my last blog post) and tried to meet it, in some small way. Miracle of miracles.
If I’d been stern faced, pretending like everything was fine, that moment would not have happened and it was a good moment, friends. I let someone in and we had a moment of connection.
Later, I had finished swinging The Baby in the front yard and we were just sitting on the front step when he leaned into me and nestled his little head against my shoulder so that our necks felt like puzzle pieces that fit together perfectly. He just snuggled there for a minute or so and I held him and cried.
The Terminator doesn’t need human connection, but I do and that means letting it all hang out, sometimes.
May we look back on this event and remember how we watched movies and laughed at memes and loved each other and yeah, even threw some bowls or shed some tears. Let’s stay soft, friends.
And the people stayed home. And read books, and listened, and rested, and exercised, and made art, and played games, and learned new ways of being, and were still. And listened more deeply. Some meditated, some prayed, some danced. Some met their shadows. And the people began to think differently.
And the people healed. And, in the absence of people living in ignorant, dangerous, mindless, and heartless ways, the earth began to heal.
And when the danger passed, and the people joined together again, they grieved their losses, and made new choices, and dreamed new images, and created new ways to live and heal the earth fully, as they had been healed.