Discover more from Jessica Slice writes about disability, poems, and waterfowl
On not being well-rounded
This winter has felt long. Khalil agrees. I think in future years, David and Khalil will take a mid-winter trip somewhere tropical. I am starting to get the hang of dressing for the weather, though. I have new taller boots, knee-high wool socks, and glove liners. I still need to figure out my neck. My scarf feels like it’s strangling me, but without it, I’m freezing.
Any expert advice? How do you stop the wind from tunneling down your collar?
I’ve felt guilty on and off lately because my days aren’t particularly well-rounded. I look back at seasons of travel and adventure with wonder and longing. Remembering my twenties and early thirties and the revolving door of friends and parties and creative socializing, I feel both nostalgic and like maybe I’ve dropped some ball I should have kept in the air.
My guilt has made me think a lot about that common illustration of life balance: that we have four stove burners — one for family, one for health, one for friends, and one for work. According to the theory, one burner will always be broken. It’s kind of a sloppy analogy, but part of it does ring true for me. Having a perfectly balanced life is impossible. We are human and limited, and no amount of adjusting and perfecting will change that.
Yet, we are surrounded by messaging that when we fall short, it’s because we didn’t try hard enough or work smart enough. There is an ambient push to achieve, be more, and accomplish greater feats than we thought possible. Writing Unfit Parent has forced me to contend with just how much of U.S. and Canadian parenting culture is about telling parents that they should be able to do more than is possible for one person or one family.
I’m increasingly convinced that this mindset, regardless of its manifestations, emerges because we want to convince ourselves that we aren’t mortal. That we can optimize ourselves out of death. We spend so much of our lives denying that our bodies are fragile.
My life right now is small. Between writing, parenting, keeping my body safe, and being a kind partner, I don’t have much left over. I am putting my whole heart into these books and into my little family. My days look the same as each other.
A year in review slideshow of the last twelve months wouldn’t impress anyone. In many of the photos, I’d be in my adjustable bed snacking from a bag of pumpkin seeds, leaning against ice packs, and writing. There would be a sticker on my forehead to stop me from furrowing my brow for 12 hours a day. In most of the others, I’d be sitting on my folding chair on the floor of Khalil’s playroom, setting up dominoes or a marble toy.
The last few photos would show David and me on the sofa, nearly five seasons into Yellowstone. David would be telling me exactly what show each actor has been in before and where they were born. I’d be pausing to point out continuity errors. Together we’d joke about the obvious Republican messaging and plot holes, and still, we’d never once consider not watching.
The scope of my days is small right now, and at the same time, I am so proud of the work I am producing. The lessons I’m learning as I write Unfit Parent are transforming how I see the world. The conversations I’ve had for Dateable with brilliant disabled people about their creative and affirming relationships have shifted how I think about love and partnership. Sometimes I think there is no greater satisfaction than watching myself change — to realize that the world is still interesting and that I am still growing.
When I can accept that there is no such thing as being well-rounded, I’m doing something vital — I’m admitting that our bodies and lives are finite. Somehow, and I mean this, that acceptance is hopeful. Our mortality means that everything we choose to do with our days and our energy is, by definition, precious. It makes me love my family more. And my books. And, when I let this truth sink in, I can even love the barbed February wind.