2. Something nice

<< 1. The issue of breakfast / 3. Raising an adult >>

“Think of something nice,” the paramedic said. I was connected to the EKG machine, my muscles were trembling, and the friendly, helpful people in the orange suits had trouble deciphering the wonky readout. “Are you cold?” he asked. “You’re shaking.” I wasn’t cold, the weather was rather warm. I was warm, and I told him so. “Close your eyes,” he said. “Think of the holidays.”

What holidays? Who the hell knows if there are going to be holidays this year? We have to pass through five different countries to reach Greece from Munich, and nobody knows how long this Corona thing is going to last and which of those countries will open their borders until then. I might as well think of something else. But what?

The feeling of my son hugging me, pressing his baby-soft cheek against mine, his little arms around my neck, just didn’t cross my mind—I’m embarrassed to admit it, but it didn’t. Neither did the image of my daughter, who’s turning into an intelligent and beautiful young woman day by day, resisting the unfortunate example of body negativity and teetering self-esteem her mother is providing. I could have imagined those two hugging me and telling me “I love you, mommy,” like they do every evening before they go to bed. This is the most wonderful moment of my day—any day. But I was just exhausted, and I couldn’t think of anything fuckin’ nice.

I’d been at lake Starnberg that day, with my goofy friend Tyler, Tyler of the striking blue eyes. I tried to hold on to some of that, the serenity when standing on the shore looking at the Alps in the distance, the view of the boats sailing on the water, or at least the image of the pretty eyes—my brain was mush, no point trying to remember conversations, no matter how pleasant or enlightening—but all of those things, though easy to put on the something-nice shelf, still slipped out of reach of my probing mind and merged into the reddish darkness behind my eyelids.

The paramedics gave me a sedative and were on their way. It still took me a long time to fall asleep. Urban stayed with me the whole time, stroking me, soothing me. In the end, he fell asleep, poor guy.

I still made him promise he’d take me to the doctor the next day. I have little faith in his ability to take care of me. Earlier, when I was hyperventilating and my hands were getting numb and my blood pressure was spiking to a number I just don’t want to know, he stood there, frozen in place, staring at me, asking again and again, “What should I do?” It was Dimitra, my guardian-angel Dimitra, who told me “you’re having a panic attack, get help,” and damned if I know how she figured it out through chat messages. “I saw it coming on,” she told me a couple days later. Maybe this is how she immediately knew.

The thing is, I always, always have to save myself. Every single time. I dread the time when I won’t be able to, when I’ll be unconscious and he won’t notice because he’ll be spending the evening in the basement, in front of his computer, like he always does.

I’m kind of tired of saving myself. I’m also tired of being the default problem solver. But I suppose now that I’m sitting here, on the couch, my only activities writing, going to the bathroom, and asking for stuff, they have to learn to solve their problems themselves.

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.