Listen To Your Body

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Last night I fell asleep sometime between six and seven. I don’t know how many days it’s been—maybe a week, maybe more—but it feels like I’ve been working, procrastinating, and taking care of the baby all the time, every day, for a fairly good while now. Last Thursday I realized rather abruptly that I had worked for twelve straight hours, either teaching college students, working their grades into a spreadsheet, or tutoring younger students. I haven’t been able to dedicate myself to writing or reading in at least a week, and now I feel as if I can’t get back into that creative world until this fever pitch of machine labor comes to an end. I don’t know when this is going to happen. We’re going on vacation in America in two weeks or so, but we’re anticipating that the trip itself, the flight over the Pacific with a 13 month-old child, will be the most difficult thing my wife and I have ever done—rivaling the day he was born.

Both of us are going to take every precaution (I’ve done plenty of research and asked several friends about how to soothe a baby on an airplane), but we’re assuming, at this point, that he will scream at the top of his lungs for fourteen straight hours, all while punching, biting, kicking, and struggling to escape. The specter of this looming terror has been on my mind for several increasingly busy weeks.

From looking at this blog you might think I have a lot of time to spare, but the truth is that I pump out most of these posts as quickly as I can, fueled by morning coffee, before my son wakes up—sometimes even as he’s running around the apartment. There’s a period of grace that occurs for a short span of time after he has breakfast, where he doesn’t need to be entertained, but soon enough that comes to an end, and for the rest of the day he cries if there’s no one around to play with him.

This weekend my wife asked me to take care of the boy while she studied; on most weekends she grants me a few hours to write or split my brains open on the papers of my students. The weekend is over now, and although my son spent most of that time in my hands, he still napped for a few hours, and still spent an hour or two in his stroller, and was still taken care of by his grandparents for a bit, and was also cared for a lot by my wife.

Regardless, by six o’clock yesterday I found myself slinking off to bed, telling myself that I would just try to study Korean for a few minutes to take a break from the boy, but before long he had followed me into the bedroom and was soon up on the mattress, opening and closing the window, crying whenever the glass got stuck against the frame. I watched him for a few minutes, helped the glass get unstuck (most windows in Korea slide along these frames for some reason), and then found myself ceasing to care as he got bored and yelled at me because there was nothing to do. I simply covered one ear, pressed the other against the pillow, and watched him complain until my wife came in, picked him up, took him into the living room, and then very mercifully closed the door behind her. Like a velociraptor he understands the way doors work but he’s still a little too short and too weak to open them on his own, so once the door shut, I was safe, and within a few moments had vanished altogether into the formlessness and shapelessness of complete exhaustion.

I feel tired all the time, especially while I play with my son, and if I sit down, which I always have a powerful urge to do, I find myself swiftly sinking into unconsciousness, yawning, my eyes stinging, growing heavier, my thoughts sinking into a similar stupor, dwelling entirely on everyday mundanities. I find it difficult to complete complex thoughts, and I think that things are only going to grow more difficult once I get to America, where there won’t be any daycare to lessen the incredible impact of a toddler, and where my own parents will only be able to help for a short part of each day, if at all. My wife and I are both working two jobs (I’m a professor and a tutor; she’s a student and tutors as well), but we both know that these jobs essentially function as breaks from the unforgiving needs of our son.

Yesterday the Korean family and I watched a few videos of the boy when he was just a week or so old, and was so weak and helpless that he couldn’t even support the weight of his own head. The videos were pleasant because the boy resembles a large (loveably) swollen worm more than a person, but I remember that time as being among the most miserable in my entire life, fraught with constant conflict and self-doubt. The boy himself looked small and weak, but he was still capable of issuing the loudest blood-curdling shriek you’ve ever heard in response to even the slightest discomfort—powerful enough to stop a cavalry charge. For three or four months my wife and I drove ourselves almost completely insane taking care of him, and then finally we put him into daycare for about forty hours a week—horrendous, irresponsible, callous, but necessary. Eventually we forced him to sleep through the nights without screaming bloody murder, and then he learned to walk, and things seemed to calm down for a bit, but now life is remorseless again, and for the first time ever I could not keep my eyes open past six in the evening.


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