Crusty One-Eye, my sweet, sweet boy, is 10 months old (and for the record, we no longer call him Crusty One-Eye, as we unblocked his tear duct by holding his arms down and squirting breast milk into his eye twice a day with a dropper after a doctor prescribed antibiotics and I balked THIS IS HOW IT STARTS ONLY NINE MONTHS OLD AND YOU WANT ME TO SQUIRT ANTIBIOTICS STRAIGHT INTO HIS EYEBALLS LET’S REVIEW THE HIPPOCRATIC OATH SHALL WE).
Only since about the nine-month mark have I started to feel normal, after not fully understanding I didn’t feel normal. I knew I couldn’t listen to or read the news (and I definitely couldn’t, even for a second, stand the sound of HIS voice). I knew I couldn’t read or watch anything that referenced, even glancingly, the trauma or death of children (try avoiding all fiction and nonfiction that references this and suddenly you realize EVERYTHING REFERENCES THE TRAUMA OR DEATH OF CHILDREN IT WAS LIKE WAITING IN A TAKE-OUT SUSHI RESTAURANT IN 1997 MANHATTAN FOR A WHITE CAR TO DELIVER OUR WEED REMEMBER THE PAGER SYSTEM ALL OF A SUDDEN EVERY CAR WAS A WHITE CAR WHO FUCKING KNEW). I knew I spontaneously burst into tears at anything that had to do with violence against or kindness toward anyone. (This part has waned but not stopped: Two nights ago I sat on the floor as the baby slept and sobbed about parents being separated from their children at the U.S. border. Yesterday at work I sobbed about a four-year-old hanging from a balcony four floors above the street before being rescued.)
To indicate my state of mind, recently I found myself gazing at my son’s head and thinking, Wow. Not a single gray hair.
Here’s the difference between last month and today: I can listen to the news (although I still crack my knuckles turning off the radio whenever I hear HIS voice). I can listen to podcasts. I don’t listen to “Karaoke” by Drake on repeat and sob all the way to work after dropping my son off at daycare. I’ve adjusted, which means I seem to have accepted that this new life — baby, husband, home ownership WHAT YOU THINK I JUST MOVED INTO HIS HOUSE FUCK THAT WE HIRED A LAWYER AND THEN WENT TO THE ASSESSOR’S OFFICE AND PUT MY NAME ON THE DEED BOOM — is my new normal, instead of feeling bewildered by all the changes and, sometimes, fighting against them.
What I’m trying to say is, at this point, my son has shat into my hand, vomited into my hand, and hocked a loogie onto my arm.
This is what defeat looks like!
During the past 10 months, I lost the ability to do the following things:
- Meet up with friends.
- Make phone calls just to chat.
- Carry out a plan.
- Return text messages, emails, and phone calls in a timely manner, if at all.
- Feign interest in anyone else’s life I’M SORRY ABOUT YOUR DIVORCE LOOK AT MY BABY ISN’T HE CUTE ISN’T HE CUTE.
- Get to work on time.
- Get anywhere on time.
- Keep my house clean or tidy.
- Wear a shirt or sweatshirt that does not have baby snot on the cuff or collar.
- Drink more than two glasses of wine at a time although I have tried really, really hard on this one.
But this is what I’ve been able to do for the past couple of weeks:
- Get ideas. Really. In my previous life, I got ideas all the time — for short stories, vacations, gifts, parties, home projects. I didn’t even know that “getting ideas” was a thing I did until I had a baby and I STOPPED GETTING IDEAS because I was only responding to an endless supply of immediate needs: making baby food, collecting things for daycare, feeding the baby, nursing the baby, bathing the baby, putting the baby to bed, doing laundry, keeping my son from prying the air vent off the living room wall and hurtling headfirst down the baby-shaped duct to the garage.
Recently, however, I dog-eared a page in Martha Stewart Living and brainstormed about a mirror collage in the hallway and thought, Ooh. This feels good.
The thing is, after having a baby, my life got very, very narrow. Whereas before I had a wide social circle and often engaged in “activities” such as “social outings” and “exercise,” now I spend large chunks of time doing what previously looked like doing nothing: lying in bed, sitting in a patio chair, sitting in a lawn swing, all holding my baby. And the thing is, I LIKE IT. After 41 years of closing down the bars you finally realize NOTHING INTERESTING HAPPENS AFTER ABOUT 11 P.M. FOMO IS FOR PEOPLE WHO DON’T YET UNDERSTAND THAT IF YOU DRINK MORE THINGS GET MORE BORING.
And I have to say this: I’m lucky to share these moments with my sweet, sweet husband. Oh, constant, patient, funny SJ, who is also my reader and editor (a common misconception, which I coddle and encourage, is that SJ is long-suffering at the hands of a ruthless woman who exploits his foibles for comic relief WHICH IS NOT UNTRUE BUT LISTEN “Lasagna and catching my new husband masturbating in the shower” WAS NOT MY IDEA SEE HOW AWESOME HE IS). SJ inspires me with his commitment to a stress-free life (except for his choice to marry someone committed to stress). Recently, I stood in our kitchen, where the dishwasher needed to be unloaded, breast pump equipment needed to be washed, groceries needed to be put away, and dinner needed to be made, and I watched for 10 minutes as my husband, age 50, stood in the back yard with a machete and attempted to slice open a coconut he’d bought at Grocery Outlet. Because priorities. And you know what? THAT GUY SLEEPS AT NIGHT.
This one-pan meal from Real Simple was REALLY GOOD. You need:
- 1 small head green cabbage, cut into 8 wedges
- 7 TB olive oil (WHO MEASURES OLIVE OIL BY THE TABLESPOON JUST KEEP POURING), plus more for greasing foil
- 1 tsp. kosher salt
- ¾ tsp. black pepper
- 1 small shallot, chopped
- 3 TB apple cider vinegar
- 2 tsp. Dijon mustard
- ½ cup chopped pitted Castelvetrano olives
- 3 TB golden raisins (NOPE SKIPPED THIS)
- 4 (6- to 8-oz.) skinless salmon fillets
You need to:
- Preheat oven to 425°F. Toss cabbage wedges with 2 TB of the oil on a rimmed baking sheet. Season with ½ tsp. of the salt and ¼ tsp. of the pepper. Roast until golden on the underside, 20 to 25 mins.
- Meanwhile, whisk together shallot, vinegar, mustard, and ¼ tsp. each of the salt and pepper in a medium bowl. Slowly whisk in remaining 5 TB oil until smooth and well-combined. Stir in olives and raisins (NOPE); set aside.
- Gently flip cabbage using a spatula and move to one half of baking sheet. Carefully line other half of baking sheet with aluminum foil and lightly grease with oil. Arrange salmon on foil and season with remaining ¼ tsp. each salt and pepper. Return baking sheet to oven and roast until salmon is just opaque, 10 to 14 mins. (depending on thickness).
- To serve, place 1 salmon fillet and 2 cabbage wedges on each of 4 plates; spoon vinaigrette on top.