So I think I broke my big toe yesterday in a fit of pique. Today, I’m limping around like Ratso in Midnight Cowboy – the Dustin Hoffman hobo character who spends most of that movie slowly dying.
Except in the general, unavoidable sense, I don’t think I’m slowly dying. But there is, I’m afraid, an ever-increasing volume of evidence that I am slowly turning into a lunatic. Exhibit yesterday: I think I broke my toe after kicking a door.
Like I said, it was a fit of pique. I don’t know how long your fits of pique usually last, but mine tend to be mercifully brief. Yesterday’s clocked in at about 15 seconds – just long enough, in fact, to kick exactly two things: said door, and a cushion. Boy, I really wish it had only been the latter. That didn’t hurt at all.
Perhaps you’re wondering: what made me do it? It’s a good question. After all, I honestly don’t go around kicking doors (and not only because it’s a very painful thing to do). I’m pretty sure the door I kicked yesterday was the first to meet such a fate and, if better sense prevails, I certainly don’t plan on repeating the experience.
A narrow reading of the situation might compel me to blame Isla, my seven-week-old daughter. The bare facts, indeed, are compelling: (a) I kicked a door mainly because I’m slowly turning into a lunatic; (b) I’m slowly turning into a lunatic mainly because I haven’t had a proper night’s sleep in seven weeks; (c) I haven’t had a proper night’s sleep in seven weeks mainly because Isla keeps waking us up every two hours.
However, let’s resist the narrow reading. Even as many of my other faculties escape me, thankfully I can still think rationally enough to avoid blaming a seven-week-old girl for anything – let alone my waging an unwinnable fight against a door. Little baby Isla is super-sweet and lovely: even if she were willfully capable of plotting my ridiculous downfall, she wouldn’t. She’s way too nice. (Plus, along with mom and milk, I’m basically one-third of her universe right now, and it would be terribly self-defeating. She’s also way too smart.)
Another reading of the situation might ignore my recent sleep-deprivation altogether and simply blame the straw that broke the camel’s back: in this case, not one but three smoke alarms simultaneously sounding as I innocently cooked a homemade pizza. It’s the kind of thing that can lurch – in a flash – almost any kind of temperament away from reasonable behavior and into the unfortunate realm of door-kicking.
One moment I was enjoying the blissful calm of two sleeping children (Isla, and older sister Colette); the next, furiously flapping at a screeching alarm with a tea-towel – and opening every window in sight, in the forlorn hope that windless conditions outside my home could somehow prevail against the storms raging within. Nothing quite did the trick, and, finally, one door and one cushion bore the brunt of my displeasure. (Likewise, of course, one big toe.)
Again, though, that reading is too narrow. The straw broke my back, alright, but only because it already bore too large a load. At the end of this sorry tale, then, let me tell you what really did the damage. Optimism.
I am and always have been an optimist. Maybe if you’re one too, you’ll already know that it comes at a price: disappointment. If you keep on expecting things to be easier and better, after a while it’s mighty tough when they turn out harder and worse.
Cooking a homemade pizza, see, was supposed to be restorative and restful – one of those remote shelters in which the haggard parents of newborn babies may sit awhile before the long night ahead. And through stretching out my dough, and slicing finely garlic, and stirring my tomato sauce, and tearing off strips of fresh mozzarella, and settling happily into the focused routine of it all, it was restorative and restful. All too briefly, it was joyful.
So, it wasn’t really my big toe: it was my optimism. And it wasn’t really a door: it was life’s rigid indifference to it. (Makes no odds to the Ratso limp, mind you.) I’d stop and learn a lesson, but figure… tomorrow will be better.
Today’s post soundtracked by: