Friday, January 18, 2008

My Dryer Just Buzzed

I know, I know. At best, you're thinking that's not especially exciting. More likely, you're thinking, "I hate when that happens!" But listen: this is big news in my life. You see, I bought a new washer and dryer back in September, after being without one for more than a year.

Being without a washer and dryer was already a high-frustration point in my life, because I had a perfectly good full-sized washer and dryer sitting in storage, but my new townhouse required stackables. I set out to buy stackables several times, and several times I was sidetracked, derailed or otherwise restrained by invisible forces. Then, in September, I finally did it.

Except when the unit was delivered, there was something wrong with the water valve and the delivery guys couldn't hook it up. So the next weekend, my father came over and fixed the valve and hooked up the washer...and every time I started the dryer, the breaker popped. Every time. The dryer would run for three minutes or so empty, but with clothing in it, a matter of seconds.

So I started hanging my clothes on drying racks in my living room. Let me tell you, this was a big disappointment. After more than a year of running to the laundromat just in time to duck in the door before they closed or doing some quick midnight laundry at my mother's house because my daughter had just remembered that she needed her gymsuit washed for the next day, I was SO ready to have my own washer and dryer again. And dryer. Of course, it was still better than going to the laundromat, but I had a backlog and I wanted to do a lot of laundry, and I was limited by the fact that I only have three drying racks. And by the fact that three drying racks was about all I could fit in my living room, anyway. And I was less than thrilled to have three drying racks in my living room at virtually all times--especially when people came over to visit and our underwear was hanging in the middle of the living room.

I know what you're thinking. It's been four months. You couldn't get the breaker fixed? And it seems like a reasonable question. But the insane fact of the matter is that I couldn't get the breaker fixed. I was leaving home at 6:45 a.m. and getting home at 8:00 p.m. or later. On the weekends I had such a backlog of things that needed to be done in and around the house, along with shopping, squeezing in some work, etc. that I was always getting to bed at 1 a.m. or so on Sunday night lamenting the fact that I hadn't accomplished nearly what I needed to.

I realize this is a very long and not especially interesting story, but I'm telling it (and will be telling others like it) for a reason: I had no idea how crazy this was when I was living it. I'm very familiar with that phenomenon; I once worked extensively with victims of domestic violence. There is probably no group of people on earth who so clearly illustrates the human tendency to adapt to consistent circumstances and begin to view them as normal. The trick--the thing people who have never been in that situation often have trouble understanding--is that knowing something is wrong and being able to experience it as wrong are two very different things.

For a year and a half, I've been literally killing myself. I knew I was killing myself. My doctors had warned me about the possible consequences of pushing too hard and not getting enough sleep and all that. I also knew that it was too hard on my daughter, putting in 12 and 13 hour days in middle school so that I could get her safely handed off before I went to work. And yet, I also believed that there was no other way. Truly, entirely believed that I was doing the right thing, and that this was simply what the life of a single mother looked like.

It was a good job and I really enjoyed it and I worked with fantastic people and if I were healthier and lived closer and wasn't a single parent it would have been the perfect job. But it was ruining my health and exhausting my child; I could count on my fingers the number of good nights of sleep I've had in the past two years, I hadn't seen my friends in several months, and my house was such a mess that I couldn't let anyone in it...and I had fully accepted that as simply the way life was going to be.

A solution dropped out of the sky for me. That probably doesn't happen very often. But it happened when I was so convinced that there was no solution that nothing else might have penetrated.

It's worth thinking about, how easily we get conditioned. How long we'll live with things we don't have to live with. How normal the unacceptable can begin to feel.

1 comment:

Kathy said...

I'm truly shocked how long you survived without a working dryer. But I do understand how "not normal" can start to look normal. You just deal with the circumstances at hand and soldier on. I often look back to that last year of college when I worked full-time and was a FTE student (12 courses in 12 months). I do not understand how I managed that without winding up in a hospital. We are capable of much more than we think.

Yeah on the dryer! A dryer buzz is VERY exciting when you've been without for so long.