My shit sandwich

Image: Elli O.

She coughed on my face. Repeatedly.

What really got my attention was the phlegm pelting my forehead…

She was sick. Again. I’d crawled in with her a few hours prior because, when she wakes up in the middle of the night — which she almost always does — she wants mommy or daddy to come keep the ghosts away.

Any parent knows that the life of a two-year-old is a perpetual state of cold and flu briefly interrupted by a good, healthy day here and there… As I wiped my brow, I took notice of my health. Part of me thought I might skate by. That I might get away with it. But the better part of me knew I was lying to myself. There was no way the health of my respiratory system would escape the onslaught of the germs flying from my daughter’s gullet.

The next morning, I woke up. I was fine. Fine! Rejoice! But she was not. Her fever stayed peaked at 103. And if you’ve ever seen a sick toddler, you know how miserable it can be to witness. They’re just so… Sad.

The doctor gave her some antibiotics, steroids, and sent for a nebulizer to be delivered to our home that evening at 5pm so she could inhale the magic steam to make her better.

All that day, she hacked, and well into the evening.

6pm came. Still no respirator. The hacking continued.

After a call to the doctor, delivery had been postponed until 9pm.

At 9, the medical device delivery guy showed up with the nebulizer. But he politely informed us that they no longer took credit/debit cards that time of night. Only cash or check.

We had no cash or check on hand. The only option he gave us was to have them come back in the morning to deliver it. Defeated and tired, we frustratedly submitted. Fine.

At 9:30 her hacking was worsening. She couldn’t even lay down. My wife hit a mother-bear-level of rage and got the medical device people on the phone, demanding they be there pronto to deliver the goods. We would go to an ATM and get cash. This was going to happen. Or we were going to the ER.

At 10:30pm, they showed up again. We paid them. Put the mask on my daughter as she inhaled her way to peace, and then, soon afterwards, to sleep.

But I still hadn’t written my daily post…

I was exhausted. I’d been caring for a toddler for two days. I wanted nothing more than to get in that warm bed with my wife and crash.

But I knew that this was the shit sandwich I’d have to eat after signing up on that cosmic line as a writer. I could have turned in. So easily. And you wouldn’t have cared. You would have understood. Hell, if you were a fly on the wall, you’d probably cringe to see me sitting there, laptop steadied, staring at the wall while urging those words forward onto the page.

The next day, I started coughing. The tiny cough increased through the day until I finally lost my voice around 8pm. I hadn’t skated. That little shit. She got me again. (Yes, she’ll pay when she’s 16.)

But the same thing happened that night. I had to write. All day, I was caring for myself and my kiddo. By the time she went to sleep, it was close to 9pm. And I wanted to sink into that California King again. So badly. But to the laptop, I grumbled.

I’ll stop driving this thing home here… The point (as you probably see by now) is, when we pick what we want to do, and we have the opportunity to do it, we also must take the pain that goes along with it.

This is an incredible time for writers like me. This internet thingy combined with these relatively cheap computers and these free blogging platforms mean I can write something that you can read from the other side of the world. Immediately after I hit ‘publish’.

That totally gets us off, does it not?

No agent required. No mass market book deal. No fancy schmancy column in the New Yorker (although, if you know anyone, ahem…).

Right there. In the middle of the night. In my sweats. Connecting with myself and, by chance, you. Staring at our reflections in the pool of human experience through the written word (and wishing I wouldn’t have procrastinated — damn it, one day I’ll learn).

This is my daily practice. And I hate it. But I love it. After I do it, and even sometimes while I’m doing it, I know I’m being fulfilled. I know I’ve won another day.

Everything comes with a shit sandwich. The best we can do is put ourselves in the position to choose which flavor of shit sandwich we eat.

For young geniuses, athletes, and musicians, it’s the non-existent social life — their childhood flying by while they’re at the keys or shooting free throws. For celebrities it’s the inability to run into Denny’s for a short stack without getting into a scuffle with the paparazzi.

This is the flavor of shit sandwich I’ve chosen. And I’ll take it any day. What’s yours?


(Credit: Seriously, please, read this article by Mark Manson)


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