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8:38 a.m. - 2012-04-08
the plan
Polly-esther says I'm a whole new person. She's been listening to me rant for 10 years now, so she should know.

I used to wake up in the morning and realize who I was and where I was and think, "I blew my life."

And now I wake up in the morning and think, "I can't believe it, I get to do everything I always wanted to do!"

I if I could have any life in the world, I'd learn to speak a half-dozen languages fluently, live in as many totally disparate countries as I can, never live in the same place for more than two years, work for Doctors Without Borders, save lives, open medical clinics, write stories that make world hunger impossible to ignore, change the future -- and, oh yeah, have kids and be a perfect stay-at-home mom.

This is what I wanted to do when I was a kid, and when I was a teenager, and when I was in college, and when I got kicked out of college with my 4.92 GPA for being anorexic and pigheaded.

How do you become a doctor and work for Doctors Without Borders if you get kicked out of college? How do you go back to college if the college says you have to gain weight and the only thing that allows you to function, tolerate yourself, to have any self-worth at all, is being thin? Impossible, game over, BZZZTTTT!! Add in a husband who might as well be anchored by his tighty-whities to New England soil and you can shelve the Doctors Without Borders dream along with The Secret Garden and Pollyanna.

My turnaround moment was the day I was reading the Doctors Without Borders Web site (just in case they had suddenly decided to recruit news reporters, right??) and it hit me that they recruit registered nurses. It has probably said that for the past 10 years and I never noticed; all I noticed is that DWB recruits doctors (and sanitiation experts and logisticians, whatever the hell those are) and does not recruit journalists. (Nobody recruits journalists. There are precious few places that want us here in the states...)

So, now I'm working on that nursing degree. Won't get it till 2014, which is a damn long time, but in the meantime I get to be a stay-at-home mom and work on those languages. (Which I do. Every. Single. Day.)

After I get that degree I figure I'll work in the US and do pay-to-volunteer trips until I have enough experence to do that kind of thing full time.

I'm very happy with this plan; I am happy with the right-here-right-now of my life because I feel like I'm exactly where I'm supposed to be. I have come to see my decade in journalism not as wasted time but as part of my training, just like nursing school. It might turn out that I can get a lot more done as a nurse/journalist than I ever could have as a doctor.

And being the perfect stay-at-home mom? Well, I don't feel so hot about my performance in that area right now. For a long time I felt like I was on vacation -- years -- and then all of a sudden -- and I don't know when -- I started having fantasies about duct-taping them to the ceiling or selling them on Craig's List.

(Maybe it was when they started talking ... )

Seriously, though, I am not too pleased with myself right now. It hit me the other day that I could not remember the last time I said, "Cashy, I love you," to my 2-1/2-year-old terrorist son. My daughter is like a little egg timer; she goes off every 15 minutes or so -- "Mama ... I love you. Mama? Mama?" But he just opens my refrigerator door and starts throwing food on the floor, or flushes something down the toilet, every 15 minutes. I think what I say most often to him is, "AAAAAAH! CashEE-EEE-EEEE!!!"

So I started hugging him every time he came near me a couple of days ago. I chased him down and put him on my knees and told him as he squirmed and giggled, "Cashy I LOVE YOU and I'm going to give you a KISS on your NOSE and I gotcha so THERE!!"

And all of a sudden his behavior improved. Not a lot, but a little -- a noticeable little, for me.

And I felt (and feel) horrible, just horrible, that I must have been starving him for hugs all this time, because I couldn't look beyond the mayonaise smeared all over my kitchen wall or the waterfall pouring out of my overhead light to see how much he needs to be loved.

Small encouraging thing in the kids department, though -- it occurred to me that although I am failing at making our house French-only, I am doing a damned good job at giving my preschoolers daily language foreign langage instruction... aim high enough and you'll succeed at something, right?



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