Monday, August 15, 2011

The Black at the End of the Tunnel

When does an affliction become a way of life?  We've had fleas for 8 weeks now.  They've been fairly infrequent for the last 2 weeks, but nevertheless they are a daily office, appearing without fail in ones and twos and threes, lunging for us with every fiber of their tiny bodies.

My husband tried to engage my sympathies:  "Think about it.  There's the flea, just born, going about its business.  It's hungry!  It sees food!  It leaps!  Then, all of a sudden, pain and death  I mean, how wold you feel?"

I am unmoved.  I enjoy every thrashing of their tiny drowning bodies.  I'm tired, heartily, excruciatingly tired, of the vigilance, the white knee socks, the liturgy of vacuuming.  Nevertheless, three exterminator visits and eight weeks later, I've become...if not numb, then inured.  We've stumped the exterminator, who persists in telling me the fleas should already be dead.  I'm out of ideas, too.   I don't really have anything on my agenda except endurance.

There was definitely a grieving period.   A full-on, seven stages process.   I lived in denial.  I bargained with a God I don't believe in.   I got pissed.  I mourned my former lifestyle (bare feet!  Actually enjoying my home!  Unpacking! Having people over!  Mornings without vacuuming!  Yoga!  A sense of safety!).  I've come out the other end now: I can still feel the ache of my former life, the carefree, flea-free person that I was, but my life is what it is, and there's not much to be done but live it.

It occurs to me that I'm experiencing, on an infinitely smaller scale, what I've seen caregivers and parents and folks who are ill go through after receiving a diagnosis.  Autism, paraplegia, Parkinson's, aphasia, MS, dementia: you rage, you mourn, you wail, you keen.  You recalibrate your expectations, watch the world you believed in -goals, entitlements, priorities- crumple and fall away.  Then you get on with it, the whole dirty business of living.

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