5. Victory coffee

<< 4. The storm and the calm after / 6. To take, or not to take (the drugs) >>

On Sunday morning, I made coffee.

It’s not a big deal, you’d think. But the process of actually making it and deciding what to have for breakfast at the same time (always, always the breakfast issue) was just a little too much for my fragile state. Before actually making the coffee, I sat at the dining room table (we have an open plan kitchen) and pondered the coffee-making process for about two hours.

When my friend Elise and I met, I’d invite her and her kids over for playdates. Our children got along wonderfully, and the two of us would sit in the kitchen while I cooked one or two main courses, at the same time baking dessert and cleaning the kitchen. For years, I was unstoppable. Tired, yes, but unstoppable. Cooking and baking are two of my passions, and I’d cook at least two meals a day, plus something sweet on most days.

Two years ago, I was already stretched thin, but I carried my tiredness around like a badge of honor. Yes, I had a family and a job (in research—part time, still mentally demanding) but I wouldn’t just sit and let my body get flabbier. It was bad enough as it was. So, I dieted and started ballet, which helped bring my body to a halfway acceptable state (body image issues feature prominently in my life story, but let me go on with the more serious subject). Ballet did wonders for my mental health, too. But then I remembered I’d always been a language nerd, and I hadn’t even attempted to learn a new language in years. That wouldn’t do! When Arabic was offered in our local Volkshochschule, I enrolled.

So, are you keeping score? Arabic, ballet, diet, a mentally demanding work in research, while keeping track of the kids’ activities and tasks for school and kindergarten, shouldering the mental load of the household, including managing everyone’s schedule, and handling the emotional load of Urban’s dysfunctional family, while cooking and baking on a daily basis. And then I took up writing.

Yup. Those were the days.

So, where was I? Ah, Sunday morning, I made coffee. I was chatting online with Stevie, asking him what to eat (I did mention the overwhelming difficulty of breakfast, didn’t I?). He said, “eat the first thing you see.” I saw apples, tomatoes, and cake, so I supposed cake would be the sensible breakfast option.

And I made coffee.

Two hours into my day, that was my victory. By afternoon, I was exhausted, and had to ask my friend—who had kindly visited to see how I am—to leave, because a face-to-face conversation was just too taxing.

Strangely, writing is the only thing I can easily do.

1. The issue of breakfast

2. Something nice >>

What can I eat?

What should I eat?

Every decision is a pile of loose rubble I have to climb. It’s easy to get to the top, you naïvely think, because it’s not that high. Piece of cake. But when you set your foot on it, you find yourself sliding back. Others seem perfectly able to climb piles of rubble every day, though. Do they have superpowers? Or are you abnormal?

And, the big question: what should I eat?

It’s so hard to decide. I don’t want to be the one deciding anymore. But I can’t afford to stop either. Urban prefers to let issues resolve themselves. If I wasn’t here to put things to motion, my daughter would never go to therapy, she’d never get the help she needs. I am the one who fixes everything. God, I can’t be the only adult here.

Thank heavens I have Dimitra. She’s the one who guided Urban through my nervous breakdown—so they called it—last Thursday. Does a nervous breakdown cause high blood pressure? I’m sure something’s wrong with me. Everyone else insists it’s “just stress,” as if being unable to breathe and feeling that you should stop existing, now, is a problem that can be described using the word “just.” I don’t know if it’s just stress. I only know everything is hard.

I’m back from the doctor, and I’m hungry. What to have for breakfast is always the toughest decision. I keep chatting with Dimitra, and she asks me what I’d like to eat. Somehow, this simple question resolves it for me. Dimitra is magical that way.

PBJ sandwich, I tell her. I’m Greek, and I live in Germany, and in both those places PBJ is not a thing. Still, I tried it a couple of times—lots of American friends, you see, I wanted to know what the fuss was all about—and I developed a taste for it. I like peanut butter now—who would have thought?

“Do you have the ingredients?” she asks me. She always gets in problem-solving mode, and right now I really appreciate it. And I do have the ingredients, so I make myself a sandwich. But the Earl Grey is a little too strong. What can you do? I’ll use fewer tea leaves next time.

I don’t know why they didn’t see it coming. The kids are kids, so that’s okay, I suppose, how would they know? But that’s an old-fashioned, myopic point of view. Children are not dumb. They did know. They were irritable and upset. Mommy’s not all right. Is she having another meltdown? Why does she freak out when my brother and I talk? We weren’t fighting, we were just talking. “It sounded like you were about to start bickering again,” mommy said. But we really weren’t.

And why can’t mommy answer my questions?

I wish I could explain to them that answering is so hard. Just like everything else. Everything is just so damned hard.

The PBJ sandwich helped a little.