Mammoth tusks are cutting the swollen gums of my 19-month-old son. He screams in agony twenty-five hours of the day like he’s perpetually caught in the transformation from Dr. Jekyl to Mr. Hyde.
Our baby boy, our pride, and joy, the adorable blonde kid with an infectious laugh is now a wailing monster with more misery in his thirty-pound body than an auditorium full of Avril Lavigne fans.
And, I am exhausted.
I know. It’s not about me. He’s in pain. Still, I can’t help but imagine that his blatant anguish is at least an illustration of my emotional status sent to mock me in my personal darkness.
It’s been a rough couple of weeks. My depression has kicked me in the butt; then again in the side once I fell over, and anxiety finished me off with a steel toe to the teeth. It’s hard to tell how much of it is mental and how much of it is circumstantial. Either way, noticeably, I have had less patience and I am more easily overwhelmed as typical of these bouts.
Scraps Of Grace In Stupid Coping Mechanisms
Today, my son and I both reached our breaking points. He had no more tears to cry and neither did I, so, together, we crawled to the sanctuary of the living room like beggars for scraps of grace. I put on a nursery rhyme TV show for him–one that captivates him like a good brainwashing–and I found peace in the handheld flatscreen of my Android.
In a stressful moment during a stressful day in a stressful season, when all I could think to do in the chaos was weep internally and text my wife to say “It’s a really hard week,” I confided in something stupid on my phone. It gave me a moment of needed repose.
It wasn’t prescribed by a doctor or a therapist; it wasn’t a revelation or some mystery solved or a giant step toward healing. It was a crossword puzzle and as simple as that. It was my SCM, my stupid coping mechanism.
Not only do I enjoy the thought crossword puzzles require, the wordplay clues, and the simple strategy, but I bask in the opportunity to think of nothing else. I turn my mind off to the world and offer it to 35 Across.
Rest, Reflect, Reset
We all need these stupid coping mechanisms in addition to pursuing professional assistance. Video games, going for a walk, a puzzle, a show, wrestling the dog–I don’t know what yours is, but it’s not something that could be prescribed. It’s an easy, mindless, not unhealthy activity that offers a gasp of air when you’re swirling in the undertow of life. It’s a crossword puzzle, for me, or weird, computer-generated farm animals chorusing “Old MacDonald,” for my son.
I think of when I put him in a timeout, and I will often sing this song: “When you’re stressed out, take a timeout; rest, reflect, reset.” It gets stuck in my head, and it’s a good thing that it does. Maybe you can’t take a vacation right now or solve the mysteries of your mental misery, but you can take an occasional step away. You can put yourself in a timeout.
After about ten minutes into nagging nursery rhymes and puzzling crosswords, my son put his hand on my shoulder, as if he were the wise one, saying, “We made it, Dad. It’s okay. We’re all right.”
And, just like that, we had rested, reflected, and reset.