Yesterday morning I had to take Charlie dog into the vet. There was some unusual coughing this weekend and then there was a bit of a whistle when he breathed. He’s starting to show his age (almost 12) and I wanted to make sure that if there was a health issue happening that we were on top of it.
When I made the call last Friday for the appointment I was asked if Charlie was up to date on his shots. Simple question. Yes or no. But I couldn’t let it be simple. I couldn’t let it only be answered with the word “no”. Because it wasn’t just a flat out no – it was a no with a reason. A reason that sucks and is hard to talk about, but a reason nonetheless. Charlie was not up to date on his shots or vet visits because we could not afford it.
I needed the receptionist taking in our information to know that we are not neglectful pet people. Except we were. In times of family financial crisis everyone’s health care suffered. So I babbled on about my Grandmother and about Mother looking for work and about how much we had to lean on friends and about how now we were hoping to be on the other side of our awful…and oh my goodness I had no idea how much shame I carried.
Everything I said was being spooned into what was clearly a serving of apology – to a stranger. Because I could not stomach the thought that this person would possibly hang up the phone and think that I was a bad person. I was a person that had waded through bad times, but NOT a bad person. I neglected one year of shots and vet visits for Charlie but not without thought – instead it was something that weighed heavily on me.
This kind of over-share extends to other parts of my life. Even parts that I am not apologetic for.
W’s story, for example, is something that I give away far too early and easily. I know that I do this and I just can’t seem to stop myself. Of course part of my desire to tell W’s story is because it is such a HUGE part of us. At least right now it is. He exists because of five years of a battle against the odds.
But oh I watch the faces of new people that I meet and before I can pull back the words I’m talking about donor sperm and fertility clinics and this is all in response to someone asking me what my husband does.
Being honest with myself I know that I go into all of this because I am assuming that someone will judge me. And being judged!! Oh well we can’t have that.
There is also the information I spill out to strangers because I don’t want them to think badly of W. This, oddly, has happened several times recently. W is tall. Tall is his normal. His height begets conversations or situations though. People either want to ask how tall his “father” is (Which I find ever so amusing as you would think a Mother over six feet would sort of explain some things), or they wrongly assume W’s age. His height might be on par with another child’s normal for an older age, but W is not older.
Can you believe that people have actually argued with me over W’s age? “Oh he’s CLEARLY older than 2.” Nope. “Are you sure?” Yes. Quite positive. [luckily I don’t use this moment to go into the sharing of how I can tell you EXACTLY how old W is thanks to modern science and IVF, scratch that. I think I did that once.]
W’s behavior is that of a 22 month old toddler. Spot on. But his size, in a group setting, makes him appear like an asshole 3 year old. For every look from a helicopter parent in the play area of Ikea I am quick to say, “He’s 22 months! He’s a little guy!”
Explaining, and explaining, and explaining.
Do I do this turning inside out of my life story because I want to connect or is it because I live so much of my life with anxiety over caring what people think. Mother says I suffer from “give a damn” syndrome. It’s one of the few ingrained traits that I have had since forever. I always seem to put the opinions of other people ahead of, well pretty much everything.
The idea that someone would think I didn’t love my dog, or that W was unplanned, or that I was raising W to be a bulldozer…it all points back to a sort of sad, sad need to be accepted. Please don’t hate me. Please don’t think I am bad. Please don’t think I am unkind or selfish or mean. I turn my skin and soul inside out to show the world the entirety of who I am and where I have been because I just want it to all be ok.
I wish I didn’t give a damn.