A lazy Tuesday morning in bed thanks to the snowlocaust blanketing most of the country. Outside the window, at least six inches of snow across the neighboring roof. Inside, the kids are curled up next to me—my daughter busily playing her Nintendo DS dragon game; my son stroking my hair.
“You’re the best Momma,” he says. “I’m glad you don’t have your procedure this morning.”
Procedure: a.k.a. kid slang for ECT, the electrified details obscured in the technical abstraction; but a word vague enough, formal enough to impart seriousness to their genuine fears.
My son runs his small, warm hand along my neck, down my arm, then pauses, when he reaches my forearm, uncharacteristically bared by my nightgown sleeve pushed up to my elbow.
“What are these marks, Momma?” he asks, his finger tracing the new red scars that ladder and criss-cross my skin.
“I don’t know,” I respond, ashamed, unable to substitute an acceptable excuse.
“You’re becoming a tiger,” he says. “You’re growing stripes!” He smiles at this understanding.
“Grrrrr,” I growl, and swipe a five-fingered paw along his tummy, tickling him silly.
And then the stripes are forgotten in the pell-mell scramble out of bed in the direction of Dad’s blueberry pancakes.
If only the bitter leavings of knives and razors could be explained away by some jungle-cat metamorphosis. But these days, I am certainly no tiger. Instead of stealthy ferocity and unflagging self-composure, I am consumed by shame and dread, bereft of self-confidence, my tight, perfectionistic stitches unraveling at the seams. After all, in a three week period, I lost my teaching job, was redefined as “disabled” (accepted even 2 years after the fact into my college’s Long Term Disability Insurance Policy), and was cast adrift by the longstanding Dr. B.. And to top it all off, I find out today from my nutritionist that I have somehow gained several pounds over the past 2 weeks, despite an intensive running and weight-lifting regime. Regular meals (no restricting) and no purging have let that scale creep back up, so I am in a panic: everything feels out of control, right now, and I’m feeling alone and desperate.
But. What I need to remember: I am, at least to my son, Tiger-Momma, brave and fierce, and most importantly, loved.